Category Archives: friends

Dinner with Friends

Last night we had some friends over for dinner. Nothing big. Ed smoked a roast. I made some rosemary roasted potatoes and green beans from the garden with bacon. A little red wine was provided by Karen. Ed made a cherry pie. The star of the show was watermelon. Ed and Tim had a very deep conversation about watermelon the day before, and Ed told Tim he could make him a watermelon snob and we’d have them over to try it once a watermelon was ready. That happened to be the day after the conversation.

We sat on the deck under the umbrella festooned with lights, which turned out just fine because we sat there talking till after it got dark. Saw a few bats swoop by. Lightning bugs dotted the yard. A slight chill was in the air. All in all, it was a lovely evening.

Dinner with friends is one of the nicest slow things you can do. It drops the blood pressure (except for the moment when someone, while trying to root the limes out of the fridge for G&Ts, knocks over your glass of red wine, spattering your new capris – thank heavens for Spray & Wash). It slows life down. It’s a good thing all around.

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A few months a go I found a book titled The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down: How to be Calm in a Busy World. It is a book to read in little doses because each page or two gives you something to ruminate upon. It is not a book to read cover to cover. It is meant as a treatise on the mindful, thoughtful life. Haemin Sunim, a Buddhist monk and teacher, decided to publish it because so many people craved the kinds of nudges toward mindfulness that he provided in his Twitter feeds and Facebook page.

How to slow down? Dinner with friends. A slow evening where the rest of the world doesn’t matter, even if you do talk a little politics. So next time the world is driving you crazy, take a deep breath, pick up the phone and call a couple friends to have them over for dinner. Don’t fuss. Just make something simple. Simple is best anyway. Uncork some wine, take a sip, and relax. There’s no better way to spend a summer evening.

Cheers.

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You Can Call Me Colonel

Well, actually, I prefer you don’t. But I did earn that title last week at the World Wide College of Auctioneering. (WWCA) I am now an auctioneer!

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So, after last year being a year of loss (an uncle, and aunt, my dad, my dog), this year is turning into a year of firsts and a year of new things. At age 52, I feel like I am finally getting my sea legs (I know – in the middle of land-locked Iowa?).

As you may recall from a previous post, I signed up for classes at WWCA on my dad’s birthday in January. From then until the middle of June, I practiced tongue twisters and number scales all the time. When I started, I practiced a little too much and nearly lost my voice (I thought in teaching 7th graders I talked a lot – I didn’t know the half of it).

Orientation started on a Saturday at noon. Our guide through this journey, Mr. Paul C. Behr, had a phrase we would hear often: “Get ’em  up, get ’em up, get ’em up.” This was the directive to our instructors, meaning to get us students up and practicing as much and as often as possible. Daunting? You bet. Paul said we would be pushed out of our comfort zones. Yes, yes and yes! But get up we did. All 71 of us. There were a few seasoned students in the crowd, and even a few who had already been auctioneering for a while, as well as a two-time Junior Champion! If you don’t think that’s more than a little intimidating, think again.

But the other thing I learned at WWCA was how supportive they are. One-on-one instruction also means one-on-one support. Add to that the support you get from the other students who become dear friends by the time the ordeal is over and you’ve got a brand new, really big, family. We are staying connected via Facebook mostly, and it’s so amazing to see where everyone is going and how excited and passionate we all are.

The big job now is to go out into the world and do something with what we’ve learned. Without the instructors here with us, now we have to push ourselves out of our comfort zones. My dear friend, Emma Jay, has already gotten to work an auction (her brother’s an auctioneer, so that helps), and she was great! I love being able to see videos of my friends (like my two new sisters, Emma Jay and Kylee) and grin from ear-to-ear with pride.

Maybe the most important things I learned at WWCA are the important life lessons: stay positive, be a person of integrity, take care of your business, and know that you can do anything if you set your mind to it. Oh, and have fun and practice, practice, practice!

I never thought I could do this, but now I know I was wrong. I can do this and I will continue to do this. Because I am strong, and because it’s so much fun! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some tongue twisters and number scales to run through before some bid calling practice.

Cheers.

P.S. Did I also mention that I am also a certified bilingual auctioneer? Si amigos y amigas!

bilingual diploma

Illness and Contemplation

Okay, so to start with I’m not really sick all the time. It may just seem that way because when I am sick, I have more time to sit down and write. Which brings up the dilemma of finding more time to write during those times when I’m not sick. Sigh.

I guess that means that while I am feeling, generally, pretty good about the resolutions I began a month ago, and I do feel like I am making progress in a lot of ways, writing is one area in which I need to do a little reboot, rethink, and reorganization.

Overall, I have been pretty excited with how I have been progressing on the no-sugar/no-alcohol front (and the being very careful with what I eat, measuring and weighing and pre-planning and all). I did make one exception yesterday for the Jilted Kilt keg tapping event at Great River Brewery, but only because: 1) I got to meet up with my friend Brent for a drink and a chat, 2) I got to hear a bagpipe and drum band with the ever-Scottish Derek Grant, and 3) I got to wear my kilt! So how can a girl say “No” to that!

But, I was very steadfast. I had one beer and one beer only. I did not eat the Scotch egg (I did have one bite, and it was good, but I wasn’t going to break all the rules, just one). So I was pretty proud of the fact that I stood my ground. And when I got home last night, I was tempted to finish off the one remaining can of pear cider, but told myself that one meant one. If I want the cider, I can have it at Spring Break. I am determined. I am a Badass! (See my earlier post if this part does not make sense.)

And I am also quite proud of the fact that when I left school on Friday, after a rough last class, I was tempted to have a beer or something sugary. But being mindful, I knew that I really didn’t want that, no matter what my stressed brain seemed to say. I knew I had to stay the course. And I did! Yea, me!

Welcome to my stream of consciousness! Sorry if this is too revealing for you, but I am trying to make myself public so that my friends who read this can hold me accountable, and I can hold myself accountable to them.

And now for something completely different!

If I had to pick a day to be sick, this would have been an excellent choice, aside from the fact that I had to miss coffee with a friend and miss church and miss a Superbowl party (which is not so much watching the Superbowl as it is having pizza, wings, and beer with friends). But I am not missing school, which is better. Plus it is snowing, off and on, so it’s nice to be snug inside with a mug of tea occasionally watching the fluffy white stuff outside, knowing that no matter how cold it is, I don’t have to go out.

I’d love to be able to watch it from my window as I write, but the window is covered in plastic and the shades are closed, so it’s just a white wall or plastic-covered shades. We are hoping to replace a couple windows, including the ones in here, next summer. So a year from now, I ought to be able to look out upon the backyard as I write. But maybe I need to put something on the wall to look at when I am trying to think up a synonym or fix a sentence (believe it or not, I do edit, despite how it might look – really).

My writing desk used to be in the basement, but I never used it there. Instead, it just collected detritus and dust. So I decided to put it in my bedroom and have my laptop set up so that whenever the urge to write hits, I can take advantage of it. And, with it being in a more accessible spot, maybe I can get in more writing time. Perhaps not always on the blog, but more frequent writing in general. Practice, practice, practice and all. I do some writing with a fountain pen in my leather journal, but those bits are usually more just for me and not the general public (believe it or not, there are things that I don’t put in here for you to read!).

My sun lamp is also on my desk, so I can get the much-needed rays to fend off SAD. I find I need it a little less this year, mostly because the classroom I moved to last spring has windows with some natural light. Granted, I cannot actually see outdoors, but the skylights from the hallway make it feel less like I’m buried in a shoe box beneath the ground. That and my classroom now is roughly twice the size of my old one. So even though I may have some kids who give me fits, I feel better equipped to deal with that. Of course, a new therapist and some books that are really striking a chord help as well.

Well, this is likely one of the most aimless posts I have ever written, but it just felt like I had to write something today. When I first sat down at the keyboard, I had all kinds of big ideas and a lot of meat to put on the sandwich. But I had not been on the laptop for so long that downloads ensued (and ensued and ensued). So all the more noble and meaningful ideas flew clean out of my head.

So sorry, but that’s all I’ve got for now. This is one of those days when just writing is something I felt the need to do. And you, poor reader, have been patient for this journey to nowhere. For that, I thank you. I promise that the next time you stop by, I’ll have something with a little more oomph and substance.

Cheers.jilted kilt

Get Happy!

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to use the library more and spend less (I have a hard time saying “spend less on books” because that seems like blasphemy to me, but I do need to remember that while my husband built me a beautiful wall bookcase, it does have only so much room).  This resolution is always harder for me when my Bas Bleu catalog comes in the mail. It is full of wonderful new books, coffee mugs, cat items – in short, it’s as though someone had me in mind when they created it. It’s also like they truly understand my weaknesses and are ready to capitalize on them. Those curs!

Anyhow, I circled the books I would love to buy. Then, I wrote down the titles and looked for them at the library. While not all were there, many were, including my current favorite, The Little Book of Lykke: Secrets of the World’s Happiest People.

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After learning I’m about 1/5 Scandinavian, a book on happiness written by the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark should not be a big stretch. But that aside, it’s a really interesting and fun book to read.

My reading over breakfast this morning talked about a movement in Japan called shinrin-yoku, which translates as “forest bathing.” The idea is not just to hike around and get in the exercise, but to pay closer attention to the world that is the forest. Check out the leaves, the trees, the birds, the critters; the sights and sounds of the world around you. This concept has been studied and Japanese researchers have concluded that it boosts immunity. Researchers in the UK finds it also helps boost one’s mental immunity,  raising mood and self esteem. I could have told them that! But hooray for woodsy hikes, right?

While my friend Deb and I were going to hike over Christmas break, the sub-zero temps put an end to that idea. But, I am still going to hold her to that hike. And maybe we can practice a little shinrin-yoku! I want to generate those positive feelings, or, as the author of the book, Meik Wiking, calls them “outdoorphins” (this is my new favorite term!), and a hike with a dear friend would be just the ticket.

So, pull on your hiking boots and wrap yourself in your favorite scarf and get out into the woods, even in January. It can only do you good! Outdoorphins, people!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a full moon and owl spotting hike to sign up for with the Quad Cities Women’s Outdoor Club!

Cheers.

Speechless

This morning, part of my crazy day began when I read a copy of a reference letter a friend wrote for me for a job I am applying for. She is a former school board president and I had her son in my class about a million years ago. We are, as we both agree, kindred spirits. To that end, we get together for lunch or coffee sometimes, but not nearly often enough for either of us, I daresay, being kindred and all.

And her letter today left me speechless. Part of me was thinking, when I wasn’t crying, who is this person she is writing about? This shining pillar of a person who loves kids and who is good at what she does and really should get that English position at the high school, thank you very much. Speechless, except when I replied to her e-mail, between spots where I told her I was weepy with gratitude and stunned by her view of me, I said the principal would probably read that letter and hire me without the trouble of an interview. Yes, her letter was that wonderful.

Which makes me think about how I view myself. I have never been one to brag. I don’t like to do that, particularly. I know I’m smart. I consider myself nice enough looking (there are days when I think I am pretty, but then there are plenty of those other days). And that’s about where it begins and ends, unless I’m having one of those down days, where I get angry at nothing and anything. Where I have no patience with myself. Where I yell at myself and tell me that I’m so stupid. I know these are all falsehoods. But that’s where my head goes sometimes. Actually more times than I really like. Which is to say “never ” – I never really like it to go there, but go it does.

And then I read this letter. (sniff, sniff)

I told her that I struggle with how I view myself, which is true. I spend a lot of my internal time second-guessing myself, doubting I am good enough, and I tend to put other people’s thoughts into my head (“Oh, good grief, what is she thinking? She’s so stupid.” “Why is she wearing that?”). I have to remember, as I read somewhere, “Other people’s thoughts are none of your business.” True, so true. And yet…

And then there is this lovely, wonderful letter.

So, I think what I need to do is print out this letter from my dear friend and read it every morning when I get up, just to look in a different kind of mirror that I never knew was there. Or maybe didn’t want to think was there. I like this mirror, mirror. I guess in Snow White the mirror does reveal the truth. But I never knew which mirror to look in to see the real me, or at least the me my friend sees, which I would like to hope is the real me.