I Told Myself….

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I am watching my sales report on createspace.com, the platform I use for publishing my books. I told myself I wasn’t going to do this.

I also told myself that if only one person reads my new book, “Sunshine Leads the Way,” and is touched by something in it, I would be satisfied. This has happened. I have received a wonderful review by a reader. I am happy.

In addition, I told myself I wasn’t going to get greedy, and that I don’t expect my little book to become a best-seller. This is still true, but as people read my book and share their satisfaction and enjoyment from it, I mentally pose the question, “Why not?” Then I pull myself back down to earth and remind myself the reason I write and publish. It isn’t for the money (although it would be nice to have a supplemental income to help me with my living expenses!), but for the joy of writing and for the hope that by sharing my life experiences, I may help someone else with theirs. By sharing my extraordinary days, I might light the way for someone else to take notice of theirs.

Collecting days is something I’ve done all my life, and I want to make this activity one that might catch on with people everywhere. We so often go through the daily routine of living that we miss the wonder and adventure that the most ordinary of days can bring. I try my best each day to find something worth remembering, worth researching, worth photographing, worth writing about. Yesterday, it was seeing a fairy ring of mushrooms in a neighbor’s yard and finding out what a hashtag is all about. One day last week, it was an unusual cloud formation drifting across the sky. Friday, it was a baby goat bouncing on and off of me in delight – a baby goat, who before that day, had been skittish and afraid of me. On Saturday, it was sitting in my living room with four fantastic young women surrounding me, enjoying an afternoon of friendship and love together. I have claimed these strong and unique women as “my girls”, and we were celebrating a job change and new beginning for one of them.

It isn’t so much about writing in a journal or carrying my camera or phone around with me all the time. It is all about being observant, grateful, curious, and loving. It is also about holding each day in my heart, caressing the present moment with a prayer of thanksgiving, and understanding that with each minute that passes a memory is born.

I invite my readers and followers to order a copy of my book and read it. If you like it, a nice review on amazon.com would be appreciated. But more than anything, my desire is that by reading it, your life may be changed, just a bit, and that you may realize that you, too, are a collector of days.

https://www.amazon.com/Sunshine-Leads-Way-other-stories/dp/154468438X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1498570616&sr=1-1&keywords=sunshine+leads+the+way

 

Goodbye 2016. Hello New Year.

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The New Year has a way of haunting me as January 1 draws nearer. I know it’s just another day, but for me it’s a time of looking back, taking stock of where I am right now, and gazing ahead for perhaps a glimpse of what is in store for me in the coming year.

The past few nights I have been awakened by dreams reminding me of my past and filling me with a mixture of regrets, feelings of accomplishments, and memories of pure joy, deep sadness, and even loss – all jumbled together in a sleep-depriving slide show of my history. As I contemplated all that is part of who I am, I reached out to God in gratitude for delivering me from evil, for walking beside me during trying times, for teaching me about what real love is all about, and for giving me my life.

And now, today, on New Year’s Eve, I turn the final page of 2016, the pages filled to overflowing with my words, thoughts, prayers, and wishes. I close the book, but I don’t seal it. I can always return to this year in my memories, and be reminded of this great and wonderful gift called life and of the year of 2016. A new book awaits me, its pages blank and ready to receive whatever each day decides to grant me.

Last year I wrote a list of things to NOT DO in the New Year. I didn’t accomplish my goals entirely, but I can report proudly that I have not put on a sports bra backwards in 2016. (See my blog from last year to read my list: https://jennielousdays.wordpress.com/2016/02/01/my-to-dont-do-list/ ). But I also have to admit that I fell off the chocolate wagon over the Christmas holidays, and I enjoyed far too much candy and cookies. The New Year is a good time to re-group, get back into good habits, and take a bold step forward.

2016 is waving goodbye as she approaches the door into years past. She is taking with her tender memories of dear friends I have had to say farewell to this year, of great personal accomplishments that at times seemed daunting and unattainable, of prayers for healing and those answered prayers, of fears over the fate of our nation during the most disturbing political race I’ve ever experienced, and a plethora of moments and days that brought tears to my eyes merely from the pure joy of being alive and acknowledging my small place in this remarkable universe.

As she moves closer to that door, 2016 pauses to glance back at me and with thumbs up and a broad smile, she wishes me Godspeed into 2017.

I pull out my book with blank pages, and I am ready to write!

Merry Christmas Letter from Jennie

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Here is my annual Christmas letter. I am putting it out to the universe to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!

Christmas, 2016

The theme for my life and Christmas letter in 2015 was Grace and Gratitude.

As I look back at 2016, I search within myself for this year’s theme. While pondering my year, I realize that I have carried last year’s theme of gratitude with me this year; however, it has expanded through my daily devotionals and my learning the practice of contemplative prayer to bring me to a heightened awareness of the world around me – the people, the animals, all living things in nature, sounds and music, and the colors, smells, and the feel of this planet we call home, not to mention the awareness of God’s presence in all of creation. For me, God has not been a heavenly father looking down upon me from heaven, but a constant companion in my life and one who is present in every aspect of what I do and who I am, and is in every breath that I take.

Everyday in my journey through life, I thank God for all that has been given to me. I also thank God for taking care of my family and my friends. “Thank you” is something that I say out loud and silently many times during the course of a day. I have made a conscious effort not to make my prayers a grocery list of things I ask God to do, but instead to thank God for being with us all, guiding us, protecting us, and delivering us.

Christmas is now a few weeks away. For years I have struggled with Christmas, with getting into the Christmas spirit, with wrestling with the commercialization and greediness of the season, and with seeking to understand the nativity story and what it means to me personally. It has been elusive, just beyond my reach, leaving me frustrated, empty-feeling, and confused.

This year is different. In the spirit of my theme of gratitude, I am approaching this Christmas with a great big “Thank You” on my lips and in my every breath.

Thank you, God, for being with me through another year. Thank you for lighting my path when it was rocky and dark. Thank you for bringing people and animals into my life to show me your grace and love. Thank you for giving me courage to take risks and travel new paths. Thank you for teaching me how to be more generous, loving, and kind. Thank you for finally bringing a teacher my way to explain the concept of The Trinity in a way that makes sense to me. And thank you for loving me, forgiving me, stretching me, and teaching me.

For all of you reading this Christmas letter, I say “Thank you” for being a part of my life and for sharing a few steps of your own life journeys with me.

May the breath of God touch you in a very special way this Christmastime.

Peace,

Jennie

Reunion!!

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I did it. I almost backed out, but I didn’t. I went to my 50-year high school reunion last night. Thanks to a wonderful posse of long-time friends, I fought back my childish insecurities, sending them packing to the far corners of my brain, and I went.

I had a wonderful time. It was amazing.

It was a 50- year reunion for most, but for me it was 52 years, since I moved away from my hometown the summer before my junior year. And one of the best serendipities of the event was the representation from my elementary school. There was a bunch of us there who grew up and went through the grades together. It was more than wonderful seeing these kids again.

While some faces seemed to be ageless, I had to do a little bit of searching on others to discover the teenager that I remembered. But they were there, just beneath the surface, and once conversations began, they emerged in smiles and were easily recognizable. It was a night of remembrance, celebration, and yes, even healing of old wounds.

There were several discoveries. Among them was the realization that I still have no sense of rhythm and am a terrible dancer. But nobody seemed to care, and I was whirled around the dance floor a few times by a boy who grew up around the corner from my childhood home. Another good friend and I did our best to catch up on a half century, and finally concluded that there is much more to talk about, with a promise that we will keep in touch and find out more areas where our lives strike similar chords. Hugs were plentiful all night long, as I ran into people from my past, and as others searched me out.

I think we were the best looking group of grownups (I refuse to use the term “senior citizens”) I’ve ever seen in one place – the most interesting, fun-loving, and friendliest. Although I was hesitant about going, and even somewhat nervous upon my arrival at the registration table, it all evaporated with the first, and then the second, and followed by a quick third hug from old friends. And one old wound in particular found its healing touch in the form of a smile, a hug, and a warm greeting from one I was especially apprehensive, yet eager, to see again. From that moment on, all was well with me, a load was lifted, and I was able to fully enjoy the evening.

50 years – for some who didn’t make it this far with us – they were honored in a special display of remembrance. It was tough walking over to that board and looking at the photos of those who have passed on. How I would love to see them, to remember special times with them, and to embrace them one more time. It’s all a part of reunion, but not the part that we like or enjoy. They were truly missed last night.

And so, today, I return to my home, my life, and my adult world. I feel different this morning. Tears well up in my eyes without my bidding, my heart is full to overflowing, and I am very, very grateful.

I want to thank my wonderful friends who encouraged me to attend, who stood by me and had my back, and who love me for the sometimes insecure, introverted adolescent who at times sneaks back into my life. You’re the best!!

Reunions such as this one remind us that history, and having a history, is a very good thing!

Sunshine Leads the Way

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I wasn’t much in the mood for an early morning walk this morning. I told Sunshine that we’d go around the block, and that would be it until later today. Sunshine had other plans for me.

Walking up the street towards town, we have three choices. We can go straight to the traffic light and turn right to walk up a lovely wide sidewalk lined with trees and old-fashioned street lamps – very picturesque. We can then either double back around the block to home, or continue on past the old textile mill, then make a wide arc through town, making about a two mile circle. Third, we can cross Alcovy Street and turn left before reaching the traffic light. This route leads to Childers Park, which I believe is the essence of heaven for Sunshine. My plan was for the shorter trip this morning.

Sunshine didn’t get my memo. When we got to the decision-making spot, she pulled to the left ahead of me, telling me in no uncertain terms that we WERE going to the park. I couldn’t convince her otherwise. She’d hear none of my complaints or rationalizations for a short walk this morning. I simply couldn’t force her to go the other direction.

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Sunshine led the way. She knows the route to Childers Park, and guided me as if I’d never been there before. I think that if I were blind, she would lead me there with no problem. We stopped at the four-way stop at the Baptist Church, where she looked both ways before leading me across. Stopping only once to pee in her favorite ivy garden, she was on a mission – ears back, tail down – not even stopping or yanking at the leash when a squirrel dashed by in front of us.

One-half mile down the street is the entrance to the park, and in we went. Sunshine was satisfied. Her ears perked up, and her tail took its “I’m happy” position. Sounds and smells galore for this young lass! Again, she led the way. The park has paths that zig and zag through trees, a dog park, a small meadow, a tiny creek, and park benches for an occasional rest. There were no other people or dogs in the park this morning. I let her take me where she wanted to go. While she paused to sniff, I listened to the birds singing. While she watched squirrels darting to and fro, I noticed the long shadows the morning sun was casting. While she stopped to examine a dead stump, I looked toward the sky and watched the puffy clouds drift lazily above. When she perked up her ears at the sound of a distant leaf blower, a prayer from my childhood bubbled to the surface of my thoughts.

“Thank you for the world so sweet,

Thank you for the food we eat.

Thank you for the birds that sing.

Thank you, God, for everything.”

It was time to go home. Again, Sunshine made the decision which exit to take out of the park. We went through the ancient grove of pecan trees,  past the little white church on the corner, up the hill, and back to the four-way-stop. In a perfect heel, Sunshine was now content and not pulling one bit. We strolled back down the street toward our house.

Sometimes I believe that Sunshine is my spirit guide.

This morning, I am sure of it.

 

My Friend, Big John

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I had to say goodbye to a very special friend today. When we were teenagers, he was Johnny, but when we reunited in 2008, he was affectionately known by everyone he knew as Big John.

I didn’t know that today was going to be the day. If I had known, I would have gone to his house for a visit yesterday. I’ve been going over to see him almost every week for the past two years. When his health declined, he asked me if I would pick up his mail at the post office for him. Of course, I said I would, and even during the times when he was better and able to drive, I still got his mail. I think he enjoyed my visits, and didn’t want them to stop. I enjoyed them, too, and never suggested that I return his mailbox key. Some afternoons he’d phone me and ask me to stop and pick up a hamburger or fish dinner for him, or something from the grocery store, on my way home from work. I was always happy to do so.

I found him this morning when I delivered his mail. The door was open, and his keys were still in the lock. I called out his name, with no response. I stepped into the house, wondering why the door wasn’t closed. He hadn’t answered the phone when I called him to tell him I was on my way, like he usually did. I knew something wasn’t right. He was in his lounge chair – asleep, I thought – at first. I didn’t want to disturb him. I knew he had trouble sleeping, and recently had been having problems with his breathing. I didn’t want to startle him, but then it sunk in. I gently touched his arm, feeling its coolness and knew he was gone.

I stood next to him for a few minutes wishing he would wake up, but knowing he wouldn’t. He looked so peaceful resting there, my heart sang and wept in harmony. Finally, I pulled out my phone from my pocket and dialed 9-1-1.

Soon a police officer arrived, followed by paramedics, and then the coroner.

I knew this day was coming. Just last week on my visit with Big John, I sensed something different – maybe a look in his eyes? Or was there something in his voice when I asked him how he was doing, and his reply, as always, was, “I’m doing well. What have you been up to?” Or the way he hugged me, and said when I got ready to leave, “I love ya, darlin’.” I stayed longer that day than I usually did; I didn’t want to go. I told a friend later in the day that I didn’t believe Big John would be with us much longer. But I’m not ready to say goodbye today.

Big John helped me through the toughest two years of my life. He listened, offered advice, propped me up when I was weak and frightened, and cheered me on during those dark days. I will forever be grateful to him for his love, his loyalty, and for the special bond of friendship that we shared. I think he was Big John because he had such a big, big heart.

So now, my friend, I must say goodbye. Soar with the angels on warm and gentle winds, free from the oxygen tubes and insulin needles that held you down.

Please check on me now and then, Big John. I’ll be watching for you.

My To-Don’t-Do List

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I’m a little late with New Year’s resolutions, of which I swore off of years ago. Instead I have decided to do something a little different this year. I am making a To-Don’t-Do list. This list doesn’t represent things in my past I wish I had done differently, of which there are plenty! My list consists of things I want to remind myself not to do.

  1. Don’t let hurts from the past keep replaying in your brain. Let them go, Jennie!
  1. Don’t make excuses for your daily walk, especially in the winter – you won’t melt in the rain or freeze to death in the cold. You have warm jackets, hats, and gloves, and a good raincoat and umbrella.
  1. Don’t neglect to thank God every morning for the brand new day and every night for everything! Remember the lessons you’ve learned about gratitude and grace.
  1. Don’t eat too much chocolate, and don’t reach for the Reese’s Peanut Butter cups in the grocery store. You don’t need them!
  1. Don’t neglect praying for your sons every day, several times a day.
  1. Don’t forget to play “toss the toy” with Sunshine when you come home from work in the evenings, even if it late. She misses you when you are gone.
  1. Don’t let housework get in the way of going outdoors to do something fun. You live alone – it can wait!
  1. Don’t procrastinate on sending someone a note, phoning a friend, or sending a friendly email when you get a mental nudge to get in touch. It could be an angel delivering a message for you to act upon.
  1. Don’t frown. Or even look solemn. People like to see your smile.
  1. Don’t forget to sing, at least once a day. You don’t have to do it in public. In the car is good. Also remember that you share a bathroom wall with your neighbor next door. Don’t sing in the shower!
  1. Don’t pick the last flower. Leave at least one for someone else to enjoy.
  1. Don’t walk when you can skip.
  1. Don’t overeat. You know you feel better when you aren’t stuffed.
  1. Don’t wish your life away. Remember to live in the present, prepare for the future, but don’t obsess over what might, or might not, happen.
  1. Don’t beat yourself up over past mistakes and failures. Focus, rather, on the lessons you’ve learned, the grace gifts you’ve received, and the person you are becoming.
  1. Don’t forget those lessons you learned! And don’t make the same mistakes again!
  1. Don’t worry about your looks. You are 67 years old. You’re not supposed to look like a spring chicken. Don’t fret over what time is doing to your body. Remember that it is your vehicle for getting around in this world. Focus on staying healthy and in good working condition. Again, think about gratitude!
  1. Don’t put your sports bra on backwards again. It is much more comfortable when worn the correct way.
  1. When picking berries, fruit, or vegetables, don’t stand on an anthill. This is another lesson learned that you know you don’t want to repeat – ever!
  1. And finally, don’t ever stop writing. You know you are more grounded and centered when you write. Even when you don’t feel like it, you usually have something that you can say. And maybe, just maybe, some of your words may reach someone to help them along their way. Who knows?