Happy New Year!
Before diving into the new, it's not a bad idea to review the last. I'm not saying to dwell on the past, but to just take stock, make notes, cry a few tears if needs must, and hopefully enjoy a few smiles.
Last year, our house was hit hard by the historic deep freeze and subsequent bursting of pipes. But it also got renovated and we love the improvements. And during the renovation period, we enjoyed bonus time with our children and grandchildren.
There were a few other things that didn't go our way, to say nothing of the precarious world situation and politics. We had cause to worry about some of our loved ones -- still do -- particularly my beloved, elderly father-in-law. But there's a beautiful new baby in our extended family, and we are more grateful than we could ever express that everyone made it through the year without serious illness.
Travel was limited, but we did get away. New Mexico's mountains were beautiful last summer. We visited Turkey's Mediterranean coast and paraglided in Oludeniz.
We watched our grandson play baseball. We saw our granddaughter bloom as a young artist.
I signed a contract with The Wild Rose Press.
For me, looking back has reminded me that things can change very fast and made me realize that last year wasn't all bad. Not at all.
So, what of this year? I have so many ideas! Remember that I said some things didn't go our way? Einstein's quote has lodged itself into my imagination.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
I've resolved to do things differently this year. I always make resolutions and review at the end of the year. I didn't do badly last year, but my resolutions were too broad for them to be truly effective.
This year, they're more specific.
I'd like to mention one because I think you will be interested. I hope to read at least 12 self-development books and share about them with you.
I wasn't going to sign up for any reading challenge but Goodreads. I weakened and signed up for Cruisin' the Cozies again because that was just fun and I'd like to read 40 more cozies this year. As for my Goodreads' Challenge, my goal is 130 books. That's approximately two and a half books a week. I hope to more than meet that goal. Working with that number, I've created my own subdivisions, one being 12 self-development/personal growth books. I'm excited!
In the few quiet times during the last days of December, I listened to Deepak Chopra's The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. I liked it so much that I want to study it further, memorize a bit, so I've ordered a hard copy. This week, I will be reading that and listening to Oliver Burkeman's Four Thousand Weeks, Time Management for Mortals. I will review, update, and generally keep you posted.
I have a new day planner and wall calendar. I trust them more than my phone app, although it certainly has its uses. I have new hopes and plans and dreams.
Is there anything that you'd like to share?
All the best in 2022!
We returned from vacation and hit the ground running. I had known that we needed the break. I wasn’t even in denial as to how much. And when we got back, that realization was doubly-confirmed. And that’s okay. Life is good. Life is hectic. Life is full. Thank you, God.
I’ve sort of fallen in love with short road trips – especially if the destination is the mountains. I’m not sure how keen I would be to drive cross-country anymore. We did that a lot when our boys were small. But a day’s drive, even a long one, gives us more control over our trip and it’s just a lot easier to toss everything into the car and go.
I didn’t post much while on vacation. For one thing, we had no internet at our mountain cabin. We couldn’t even watch tv because the setup depended on streaming and the line had been spliced. It wasn’t repaired during our stay. We were a bit alarmed initially because Joseph had a little work to finish up, but it all worked out. We had one or two bars near certain windows and usually we were too tired from hiking to want to go online, anyway. We sat outside, cooked some great meals together, and relaxed.
But now I’m home. I have internet. 😊 I can share thoughts, photos. How about this sunset?
Wishing you a wonderful weekend.
Lucas van Valckenborch (1535-1597)
Do you like grocery shopping? If you don’t, you might think I’m being a little, um, let’s just say… a little dramatic.
Where do you buy your food? I realize that in many parts of the world, even here in the states, groceries can be and usually are purchased from small shops and markets, not gargantuan grocery stores/supermarkets. I’ve often thought how much I would enjoy shopping that way, buying high quality goods from local merchants, enjoying a chat, picking up a bouquet of fresh flowers on my way home.
We have farmers markets in the greater Houston area, but not that many. Most aren’t near our neighborhood and the few that are aren’t open daily. On the other hand, our closest grocery store is really close and at least it carries some fresh, Texas produce.
I’m not a fan of shopping, but I’ve always appreciated grocery stores. Does that sound odd? Who doesn’t, you might ask? But I think my view of them is not so common. I sort of see them as modern versions of medieval markets. Food is a necessity. We all have to obtain it from someplace. We always have. Holidays and seasons add fun and interest. The people working there also often add fun and interest. Something’s always going on. Supermarkets are dynamic and necessary.
Super markets. Markets. Yes, they are markets and the people who work there are merchants, just like in medieval times, just like in many towns even today. And I, at least, am a villager, ambling down the aisles in lieu of a winding, village street, often seeing people I know, sometimes exchanging a few words with some of the store’s employees. A lot of them have worked there ever since I’ve shopped there, several years now. It’s where they earn their livelihood.
It’s all just so human. Things change over time, but not all things change completely. There’s a timeless aspect to selling and procuring food and dry goods. I like to be aware of the timelessness, to embrace the humanity, and be in the present.
So, am I way overthinking grocery shopping? Perhaps. But it’s not really all about the groceries.
So, there I was, pleased as punch that I'd consolidated my blogs. I'd feel more free to write about everything, share my interests, bare my soul.
But I have very specific interests. It didn't work at all. I'd had a garden blog for over a decade. I have a garden memoir on the back burner. But every time I wanted to write a gardening post, I stopped myself. I can't only write gardening posts on a multi-topic blog.
And how many gardeners love romance? Probably a great many, if I know romance writers -- and I do. But certainly not all.
So I've decided to keep Grains of Sand as a more personal blog, with book reviews, even a few interviews, for topics.
It's going to be fun! Rubbing my hands together...
Thank you for your patience! More soon!
I honestly haven’t dropped off the planet, but it’s true that my world has changed these past few weeks.
This month, repairs and renovations have finally gotten underway at our house, damaged a few months back during Texas “historic deep freeze”, one among thousands. Despite all our precautions, pipes burst. I’d never realized how much damage water could do to ceilings, walls, and floors.
In the meantime, we’re staying with our sweet children and having so much fun. What a spectacular bonus, not to mention a balm to my soul. I’m sure that I’ll have withdrawal symptoms, especially from our little grands, once we move the several blocks back to our own house.
In fact, I’ve gotten to spend more time with all my dear loved ones. We’re a close family, anyway (for which I am very thankful), but I always struggled with my daily routine. Now, I don’t have one. I LOVE IT. My brother is surely pleased because he can tease us all in one visit! And I’ve grown even closer to my sister-in-law, who is a natural with colors and decorating. My husband and I are not great (= terrible) at deciphering colors from those little squares at the paint store, nor would we be prone to paint samples on the walls. But Mich is dauntless, not to mention tireless, when it comes to paint, tiles, everything to do with homes and décor. She is also patient. I would have killed me by now.
It’s funny. Ever since we moved to our current, suburban home from a gorgeous, rural neighborhood, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with it. Worse, I’ve felt guilty about my attitude and rightly so. But I experienced sorrow at its devastation, which made me realize that I actually do like my house more than I thought.
And I’ve always thought of myself as uncomplicated!
In the midst of all this, my book Tremors was picked up by The Wild Rose Press. It really is a dream come true and my experience with them so far has only reinforced the dreamy feeling. Everyone I’ve interacted with has been warm, encouraging, and professional all at once. I am thrilled.
Under my new contract, I’ve had to pull Tremors from Amazon. It will be published under a new name and with a new cover. For now, edits have begun.
Strangely enough, I feel more like myself than I have in years. This last decade has been a tumultuous one in our lives. But now, with all sorts of work ahead, I feel calm and relaxed. My zen has returned.
That might change once we return to our house, layered as it is with construction dust, and our garden was the focus of improvements well before the freeze. But I don’t think so. I’m not sure if I’ve been revived or reinvented -- probably a little of both -- but it feels too good to give it up.
And that, my friends, is the proverbial silver lining.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
I am so ridiculously distracted. Our house and garden (= our home) are in shambles at the moment. We were already looking at a lot of garden renovation, but since the deep freeze and subsequent house damage, it’s a whole new ballgame. It’s okay, too. It’s just… even if I wasn’t a list maker, which I am, I would be making, arranging, and rearranging all sorts of lists! Also, I need to up my shopping game pronto! In my case, that pretty much means starting right above basic necessities.
I am finally beginning to comprehend that if you avoid shopping as much as possible, you really will never know what’s out there – and sometimes, you should know. Aaaagh.
So… what first? Plan? Research? Shop? I wonder if I can find articles on how to begin?
Garden plans, floor tiles, light fixtures, paint… closet. Closet! Our closet will be “torn asunder” – floors, walls, ceiling, shelving. How do I want it set up? I say “I” because, really, it might be the last thing on Joseph’s mind right now. But I love the possibilities and up till now, I only know of a few. We have simple tastes, but I would hope to maximize every inch of space. Pinterest, here I come!
The fact that our garden needs major work, especially now that it’s clear that some of the plants won’t return, is both exciting and alarming. I suppose that if we drag it on through mid-summer, it will be okay. No matter what, for the first time in many years, we won’t be able to host Easter at our house.
Today’s weather has mirrored my state of mind. Early on, it was blah – damp, humid, muggy. Then the sky grew dark and eventually broke in a torrent. Now, midafternoon, it’s sunny and cool! I’m going out to the garden. I’ll work for a couple of hours. I might even take a glass of wine with me. Or a Guinness. Now, that makes sense, doesn't it? Cheers!
You can expect garden photos! I might post closet photos one day, but nothing’s happened yet. It will be a while.
I might fret and fume at times, but in my heart, I am grateful. I hope I am very grateful always.
I just love this stained glass image of Saint Patrick from Saint Patrick Church, Junction City, Ohio. The colors are so vivid and the saint looks so determined! St. Patrick lived a long time ago, in the fifth century. Myths and legends about him abound, but some of his writings have survived as well, and there are some beautiful poems attributed to him.
It is generally accepted that he was a missionary, that he converted Ireland from paganism to Christianity. I like to focus on this aspect of his life. Being a missionary could not have been easy. He would have had to be extraordinarily unselfish.
Can we do that? Dedicate our lives to our missions? And what would those missions be?
Of course, a little celebrating can do wonders! In Dublin, the Saint Patrick Festival has created a wonderful online event with days of videos portraying Irish food, music, and history. On St. Patrick's Day, 11:25 GMT, Pat Liddy will be tour guide In the Footsteps of Saint Patrick. I recommend the website. It's amazing!
Have a wonderful Saint Patrick's Day!
Not to feel exasperated, or defeated, or despondent because your days aren't packed with wise and moral actions. But to get back up when you fail, to celebrate behaving like a human -- however imperfectly -- and fully embrace the pursuit that you've embarked on."
-- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
We don't always see the good in ourselves. Too often, we focus on the negative. Granted, we're not always our best selves and that's where Marcus Aurelius' quote comes in. My favorite part, "to celebrate behaving like a human -- however imperfectly", is a call to both pride and humility. We are who we are, and we will make mistakes -- large and small -- but that doesn't mean we give up or give in.
I noticed the egret on a short walk this morning. I did not see the reflection, so I was surprised when I looked at it a little later. The bird didn't seem to notice her reflection, either, and it crossed my mind that sometimes we don't see ourselves at all, even when we're looking. And that's when we need to embrace a little calm, take a breath -- recall our unique humanity -- then pick ourselves up and continue. No one can walk our journey but ourselves.
Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday season!
Someone recently asked me what sparks my creativity. Two major sources of inspiration for me are being with people I love and nature.
Last week, I enjoyed a hike through some woods and a day at the coast. I loved it.
The hike was fun mostly because I was with our son Bashir, who also writes. We decided that a day in nature would be good for our writing. We headed to a state park.
Ridiculously, I hadn’t taken hiking into consideration, although I love it and we were going to a park. Interesting, right? Bashir, of course, hadn't considered not hiking. Of course, he wouldn't.
Neither one of us are exactly famous for our sense of direction. We struck off down a path with notebooks, pens, and our phones. No water -- I, genius, didn't think we would spend much time along that particular path. Again, what?
I was a little bit of a wreck, to be honest. I was wearing crop pants and no-show socks. Everywhere I looked, I saw poison ivy and poison oak. What had I been thinking? Probably not so much about hiking as sitting beside the river, under the old, live oaks, writing and nibbling on snacks.
I have an unreasonable fear of poisonous plants.
Bashir wasn’t bothered in the least. He marched confidently down paths lined with poison ivy while I held my breath. He made his way to scenic overlooks while I hung back doubtfully. He surprised me, too. He knew exactly how to return to the parking lot. He was paying attention to the trails and not focusing solely on groundcover!
We finally did get to my lovely setting by the river. A cool breeze blew over the water, leaves drifted from the trees, and we soaked it all in. We talked. We snacked.
It was beautiful.
“Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence or anything worthy of praise, think of these things.” Phillippians 4:8
Not a lecture. Not a suggestion to bury our heads in the sand. It's permission to take a mental break, an invitation to opt for peace, choose the high road. Sometimes, especially if we're under siege -- of any sort -- it might not seem possible to find anything positive or hopeful to think about. But there is something, and we should try to find it and ponder it as a gift to ourselves because that's when we need it the most.
Wishing you moments of peace.
Keep me away from the wisdom that does not cry, the philosophy that does not laugh, and the greatness which does not bow before children. – Gibran Khalil Gibran
From me to you with a smile.
You have successfully joined our subscriber list.