The $600 Washcloth

I like to crochet.  It is a great way to occupy my hands in the evening when I watch television with my husband.  It’s hard to eat popcorn when your hands are full of yarn.  I am also a “gifter.”  I love to give little gifts.  I like to gift what I make, as well.  For the past several years, I have crocheted warm scarves in the winter time.  Most of my family members have (at least) one.  I have at least 20 of them stacked on a shelf in case I need a gift for someone on short notice.  They are great to make in the winter, but when the weather gets warm, I usually stop crocheting.

This year, I discovered cotton yarn. I’ve discovered the joy of making face cloths, scrubbies, and dish cloIMG_6306ths.  I love to make them in bright colors.  They make me happy.

I can buy a perfectly nice washcloth at the store for $4.00.  I can buy a deluxe washcloth for $10 – $15. I can buy a handmade washcloth just like the ones I am making on Etsy for under $10.  Depending on the stitch, these washcloths take me 3-4 hours to make.  The materials cost $1 – $2 depending on which brand of yarn I buy and whether or not it is on sale.

When I am making washcloths, I can’t earn money as a lawyer.  I suppose, in that regard these pretty little pieces of hand-made fabric that will soon be stained with makeup or food are pretty expensive.  However, I’m a believer in doing more of what makes me happy.

Crocheting washcloths is almost a form of meditation for me.  I don’t have to think beyond the next stitch.  The feel of the yarn and the rhythm are comforting.  The bright colors are uplifting.  There’s nothing about this little activity I don’t enjoy, and it’s cheaper than therapy.

As I mentioned before, I’m a gifter.  If you find yourself the recipient of one or more of these $600 washcloths, you can be sure that I like you, and that I think you, too, deserve a $600 washcloth, and a whole lot more.

love,

~Be~

 

Comfort and Joy

Happy New Year!  I’m quite late for a New Year post, I know, and believe me, that’s actually a good thing.  You see, 2016 is the year when I make good on my promise to be good to myself.

“You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” – Eleanor Brownn

Historically, I have run in the new year and then spent hours poring over journal entries and blog posts from the previous year, decade, etc. to see where I’ve come from, and what track my life is taking.  This year was different – the clock struck midnight and my husband and I shared a sparkling grape juice toast with our youngest son before heading upstairs – together – and falling peacefully asleep.  There was no attempt to review the past – no tears shed at past hurts, and only one resolution:  to be good to myself.

2016 is the year of comfort and joy.  This is the year of self care and learning to say, “no,” when necessary.  I’m taking time (and making time) to do the things that bring me joy.  I’m allowing myself to enjoy the things that bring me comfort.

This is the year of silly songs at the break of dawn, loose leaf tea in fancy teacups, essential oils that smell like liquid joy or comfort in a bottle, and beautiful fibers that wind themselves into scarves and blankets while my eyes watch the television.

Thanks to the efforts of my husband and children, I once again have a “sacred space,” (named the Betty Room by my hubby) where I can sit quietly to read, pray, meditate, and contemplate.  I’m also getting a new bathtub with enough depth to soak – more comfort (and some joy, too).

My first bit of advice for 2016 is to make room for comfort and joy in your own life.  Experiences that comfort us and that allow us to feel joyful replenish the energy that we deplete when we give.  Although giving to others without expectation of receiving anything in return brings its own rewards, when people take from us without giving, over and over, it can take a spiritual and physical toll.  Seek out joy.  Seek out comfort.  Make your own happiness, and then share from that vessel that is no longer empty.

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” – Psalm 23:5

We can pray for comfort and joy, or we can seek it out. I had a difficult Monday with a difficult adversary in a difficult proceeding at work.   It was bitterly cold, and when I stopped my car for gasoline, I opened my back door to retrieve a hat.  When I went to shut the door, it would not latch.  Believing it to be frozen, I took it to a local auto repair place hoping they could quickly thaw it so that I could be on my way to a court proceeding.  It turned out to be a broken latch, not a frozen one, and replacement parts had to be ordered.  There was no way to fasten the door shut (except, possibly the rope and duct tape that my cousin suggested) for the 45 mile drive, so I had to beg for mercy from the party with all of the power in that situation.  The tone for the tense email exchange that followed was probably largely imaginary.  The tone of the voice in my head as I read the email response was set by the morning I had already had.

I wouldn’t go nearly so far as call that person an enemy, but it nevertheless the terse nature of the exchange (real or imagined) created a drain on my joy.  I set my little table with one of my favorite teacups as I brewed a fragrant pot of tea.  I rubbed a few drops of my favorite essential oil blends on my temples, and I allowed the aromas from the tea and the oil to surround me with beauty, comfort and joy.  That’s probably not what the Psalmist had in mind, but soon I was singing again.

My husband said, “boy, you’re in a good mood!”  I explained my quest for comfort and joy.  Sometimes you have to “fake it until you make it.”  When you’re faking joy, though, it quickly becomes real as it infects others with smiles (or even laughs).

I’ve had a tough week so far, but my cup runneth over.  Being good to myself is my only resolution for 2016.  Actively seeking comfort and joy is the first step toward achieving success.

Happy 2016.

~Be~

Growing Up Gilliom – Memories of an Idyllic Childhood

This blog post was begun in 2011 or 2012 and sat, unfinished, on my PC for years. I would come back to it from time to time to try to finish it, but it just wouldn’t cooperate.  Finally, I posted it in its original form on my Facebook page last week.  My cousins told me, “keep writing,” so I did.

I’ve always said that I wanted to write a book. Between my adventures with my cousins and my many childhood neighbors, I truly have enough memories to fill a volume.  I’m not sure they would interest anyone who wasn’t involved, but they would truly be a joy to write.

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Growing up Gilliom

Once upon a time, a lawyer sat on the living couch, still in her pajamas at a time when all respectable people are hard at work, sipping her 4th cup of coffee.  Avoiding the land of “grown-up people,” she posted on Facebook, “I feel like writing a story.”  It seemed like a good idea at the time.

She’d had in mind a short narrative of a wooden box that held nothing but dreams, and the magical places that the box took its owner – but fate had another idea.  From a thousand miles away, an online voice invoked memories of real magic – and a childhood that few children in today’s busy world will ever enjoy.

A few lines of memories slipped out onto the internet, and an instruction to “write that story, cousin,” turned the task on its head.

The cold, gloomy morning slipped away, and the writer was transported to the countryside outside of the little town of Ontario, Ohio – near Mansfield – where sunshine lit up a hot Saturday afternoon in late June somewhere in the early 1970s.

My mother was one of seven children.  Roy and Esther Gilliom were blessed, during the Great Depression with six daughters…followed at long last by a son.  My mother was the third daughter, and the only one to have moved more than two miles away from the homestead.

It was always a happy thing on an early Saturday morning to hear, “We’re going to Grandma’s.”  We would start the hour-long journey in the family station wagon, anxiously anticipating the adventures ahead.  From the back seat, my brother and I would identify landmarks, such as the “hot pants station,” (a gas-station where the attendant in hot pants sold us ice cream sandwiches), or the narrow bridge/tunnel where the car horn would echo when Dad tooted it when we begged.

Summer or Winter, we would sing, “over the river and through the woods,” because, you see, to get to Grandmother’s house, we would cross over rivers and through woods in our trusty car, which, if it had only been a Pinto, would have been a perfect fit to the lyrics.

When we reached our destination, we were in little kid “heaven.”  Grandma and Aunt Betty lived in the first house.  Next door were Uncle John and Aunt Miriam and four cousins.  In the third house were Aunt Helen and Uncle Jim and their three daughters.   Not far away were more Aunts and Uncles, and more cousins… and we would often all end up together.

After running in to give Grandma a quick hug and kiss, we would be set free to run and play.  There were dogs and cats to play with.  For a while, there was even a horse.  We would play with Laddie or Dutchess, Reb or Tobie.  Behind the three houses ran a creek with a stone bottom where we would find crawfish, and build dams of stones that would wash away after an hour or two.  When our feet were blue from the cold, clear water, we would run to the top of the hill, where we would get a drink from the hose attached to the artesian well that ran day and night – and sometimes hose down an unsuspecting cousin or two with icy water.

If we were really lucky, we would all get to cross the creek and walk back the lane surrounded by woods and wildflowers.  Not far down the way, the trees would subside into a giant clearing where we had a whole lake to ourselves.  Mom and the Aunts would take a picnic lunch to the pavilion by the water’s edge.

Piles of black innertubes from car, truck and tractor tires sat waiting for us to float the day away.  My favorite had a bulge where the rubber had grown thin.  One could never rest too comfortably, though, as a cousin or three was always waiting for the right moment to swim up under a tube and flip the unsuspecting occupant into the cool water.

We would swim to the little bridge that crossed over to the island (but I dared not go to the island – because my cousins had convinced me that it was full of snakes!)  Cattails grew by the water, and we would pluck them and tear apart the fuzzy heads.  Dandelions grew by the thousands, and we would dig the leaves so the adults could have their salads with hot bacon dressing.

From the beach, off to the left you could see the steep stairs going up the hillside.  Above them, a thick rope, anchored high in the trees tempted young and not so young alike to yell like Tarzan and plunge into the center of the lake.  On the opposite shore sat the diving bell (or as I called it, the submarine) that my cousins built to explore the depths of the lake.  My cousins could build anything.  I sat in awe of John, Rob and Rick.

When we had burned off our energy running, swimming and climbing, lunch would be waiting in the picnic shelter.  There was no shortage of food.  All of the Gilliom ladies were (and are) excellent cooks.

Between the houses and the lake was the creek lined with rocks of all sizes.  My cousins taught me to skip flat stones across the surface of the creek.  My record was 12 bounces.  I’m looking forward to teaching that trick to my grandchildren, but they’ll have to settle for Lake Erie on a calm day.

On rainy days, we might change locations to Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Jim’s barn, where we would build tunnels out of hay bales and try to catch the half-wild barn cats.  Only the bravest of the brave would attempt the feat of crossing from one side of the barn to the other by climbing on the metal rafters twenty feet or so above the barn floor.

We had the luxury of a large family.  My cousins were my first friends.  We didn’t have technology.  There were no text messages or snap chats to distract us from our games of statue tag or hide and seek.  Our imaginations were well-exercised.

Nick, Carolyn, Rick, Ted, Andrew, Joe, Shawna, Dawna, Melody, Jim, John, Bill, John, Rob, Kristi and Lori, I love you. Collectively we have travelled the world, raised beautiful families of our own, and had experiences we could never have dreamed of while we were eating slices of watermelon that had chilled in the springhouse forty-odd years ago.

How blessed we were.  How blessed I am, now, to spend a rainy Saturday morning recalling those times.

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Author’s Note: Dad, too, was one of seven. The Fulk cousins and I had other wonderful times.  That part of my family, too, is cherished.  The memories are no less fond – but deserve their own post.

All Stuffed Up [Learning to Let Go]

I have a huge job ahead of me.  I’m loving and hating every minute of it.  I have too much stuff.  Some of the “stuff” I have hasn’t seen the light of day in years.

My husband lived in this house when he met me.  He had stuff already when I moved here, and when I added my stuff to his “stuff,” the house was stuffed and we both had to give things up.  The years passed, and we each tossed some stuff and bought some more stuff to take its place.  Before long, he lamented to me, “we have too much stuff.”

I did my best to pare down the stuff.  I went through the boxes and tossed some stuff, but there were things that held too many memories.  I couldn’t bear to give up some stuff, so I stuffed it back into (fewer) boxes.

Some years later, my mom and dad moved from their four bedroom home into a two bedroom apartment.  They had to get rid of stuff, but they let me go through their stuff before they sold their stuff at auction.  I loaded up a car or four with more stuff.  I was opening my professional office, so some of the stuff went there, which made room for more stuff at the house.

More years passed, and the ‘rents moved into an even smaller place with less room for stuff.  Once again, I carted boxes of stuff to my house.  I couldn’t bear to let them get rid of the stuff that I had grown up with.   The stuff has sat, stuffed into boxes and untouched since I stuffed it into the garage, basement and attic.

Mom got sick, then Dad got sick and died, and Mom got sick again.  I was so stuffed full of feelings that I couldn’t bear to go through the boxes that stuffed the corners of my life.

I [re]discovered thrift shopping (thank you, Macklemore!) and brought home even more stuff.  Recently I needed to get something from the basement, but the floor was so stuffed full of boxes stuffed full of stuff that I couldn’t find the stuff I wanted.  I realized I had a stuff problem.

My darling, patient husband understands.  The stuff is stuffed full of memories.

When I hold my grandma’s old root beer mug, it ceases to be just stuff. It takes me back to Grandma’s kitchen.  I can see the Hires root beer bottle (the glass kind that you have to open with a bottle opener).  I can taste the vanilla ice cream that has crystallized root beer on the edges.  I feel the long-handled spoon she gave me with my root beer float.

The caddy of red-striped glasses stuffed with newspaper take me to the dinner parties my parents would host.  Mom’s fancy glasses would come out only on special occasions. I felt like a grown up when I could drink my iced tea or lemonade from those glasses instead of the jelly jar glasses or the plastic cups we used for every day.

There is the birch bark tee pee and the Indian chief doll that my Dad bought on a trip out west before I was born. I hold them and hear Dad tell about the steak dinner he bought in Texas for 10 cents with a steak that was bigger than the plate that held it.

It’s all stuff.  The real value is in the memories that are stuffed in this head of mine.  The older I get, the more my house looks like my parents’ home circa 1975. I have my parents’ coffee table, my Dad’s desk lamp, and the piano that Dad taught dozens of kids to play on.  I almost brought home the church organ that he had… but there was no room.  The place was stuffed.

My head is stuffed full of memories.  They are sweet and bitter. Each doo dad and knick knack triggers a mental movie. Dear husband brings the boxes for me one at a time. It’s like Christmas when I unwrap the stuff that was carefully stuffed in newspaper years ago.

I have to let go. There is so much old stuff – mine, my parents’ and my children’s that there is no room for new stuff to make new memories.  I have to part with my stuff.  I’ll keep the treasures that hold extra-special meaning.  The other stuff stays only if I would buy it if I saw it in a store.  As I send the other stuff on to other people who will appreciate it, I will savor the memories that I unwrap. Perhaps I will photograph the items that have the best stories.  As I stuff boxes full of stuff that has no place to be displayed, I should save those memories somehow.

Perhaps one day my children will receive an album stuffed full of photographs and words from their mother recalling moments from the years she spent collecting the stuff.

So far, all but one item has been unpacked intact. The lone casualty is a painted cookie jar.  I’ll admit I nearly cried when I saw it lying in piece.  I asked my husband to glue it.  He said he would… but I’m not sure it’s necessary.  As “stuff,” it’s not worth much.  There’s nothing special about it.  I have the cream pitcher, tea pot and sugar bowl that match. Any one of those things would evoke the same memories.  I’ll never use it as a cookie jar.  Now that it’s broken, nobody else would want it.  Instead of repairing it, I think it’s time to (reverently) stuff it in the trash.

When it comes right down to it, it is, after all, just stuff.  The memories are inside me, waiting to be shared.

Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Story

I didn’t come up with this title on my own.  It hit me smack between my eyes first thing this morning as I reviewed my Facebook feed.  I thank Kara Louisell for sharing it.  Check out her FB page for lots of inspiration.  https://www.facebook.com/karalouisell?fref=photo

dont be afraid

I shared this image on my own Facebook feed this morning.  I’ve made a lot of changes in my life in the past 10 months or so.  As a result, I’ve shed a bunch of weight.  I’ve run over 350 miles.  I’ve learned new ways to deal with sadness.  I’ve begun reaching out to others, learning to delegate, and being kinder to myself.  I’ve chronicled those changes and shared them here and on my Facebook page along the way.

I’m not normally an attention-seeker.  I’m a little bit uncomfortable being in the public eye.  I like to work behind he scenes.  I’m the person who doesn’t generally strike up a conversation, but I enjoy it immensely once given the opportunity to engage.  I’m naturally quick to discount a compliment and I still don’t like the way I look.  I’m my own worst critic.

I’ve become one of those annoying people who “checks in” at the gym on Facebook.  My nike+ app tells my friends when I start a run and how far I go.  I’ve posted pictures *eek* spandex, covered in sweat, painted up, covered in colored powder, and generally having fun while being less than necessarily “proper.”

A long-time friend posted something recently about people who stay the course without need for praise from others as opposed to people who do things half-way and seek applause.  I pray that I’m not the person that friend had in mind.  I share these changes because many have shared privately that I am inspiring them to change, too.

I am very uncomfortable being anyone’s inspiration.  I know how fallible I am.  I know how often I stray from my health diet and eat potato chips.  I am very aware when I skip a workout to go shopping or watch TV.  I’m imperfect.  I’m still overweight.  I mess up.  I don’t FEEL very inspirational.

Perhaps that imperfection – the humanity – is what inspires?  I have lost 75 pounds through sheer determination despite going through down spells, having injuries, and just feeling grumpy some days.  I’m not a fitness model.  I haven’t reached my goal weight.  I finish last at most races that I run.  My flaws are myriad – but my sincerity is real.

When people started telling me that I INSPIRE them, I wanted to tell them not to be absurd.  But, just as I learned to accept a compliment graciously, I’m learning to accept that I have no right to tell another person what (or who) is “good enough” to inspire her.

My story is complicated and colorful.  I’ve been through a lot of challenges, and despite it all I’ve managed to carry on. I’ve made decisions that I’m not proud of, but I am proud of where those decisions have brought me.  Perhaps that’s why I have been given the gift of being able to inspire others.

I’ve made a decision not to be ashamed of my story.  It’s mine to tell – all mine.  It’s different from your story.  Perhaps it will inspire you to change.  Perhaps it will inspire you to block me on Facebook.  I just write what I know.

Simple Gifts

Years ago I read a book called “The Five Love Languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman.  Through Dr. Chapman’s book, I learned several valuable lessons about myself and about my relationships, both past and present.  I learned that my primary love language is gifts.  I love to give gifts.  It is one of the primary ways that I show others that I love them.  I love to receive gifts, too.  When someone takes the time to find and give me something that they feel I would enjoy, it makes me feel quite cared for.

My husband is not naturally a “gifts” person.  He is an “acts of service person,” meaning he expresses his love by doing for others.  (He makes me coffee every morning and does all of my laundry for me).  He feels loved when I make him dinner or do work that benefits his office.

We recently had a conversation about our love languages.  Somehow, I had failed previously to convey that a gift need not be expensive or complicated to make me feel loved.  I gave him the example of the french-milled “real” soaps that I love.  While they may be expensive for “just soap,” in the grand scheme of gifts, they are a BARGAIN at $3.00 – $5.00.  I had a new bar of soap in my hands moments later, and I have enjoyed it immensely.

A sales rep that I had not seen in many years learned from my secretary that I can’t eat gluten, so her usual gift of bagels was something that I could not consume.  She took the time to ask my secretary what I enjoy.  My secretary told her that I love tea, and gave her some examples of the types of tea that I enjoy.  The sales rep came to our appointment with a beautiful gift bag full of some of my favorite teas.  I felt cared for.  It cemented my relationship with her company.

Speaking of secretaries…I have the best.  Knowing my love for tea, she lovingly trots across the parking lot to the little coffee shop across the street on a regular basis to bring me back a hot cup of earl gray or English breakfast tea.  Although I have a huge stash of tea here at the office, she brings me a cup that someone else prepared.

As our family has grown, a large part of our family Christmas has become the exchange of homemade gifts.  I’ve enjoyed homemade cheesecake, homemade vanilla extract, gorgeous plates of cookies, gluten-free brownies, handcrafted wine, and lovingly crocheted doilies and afghans.

There is no greater way for me to relax than to sit in the “zen den” that my husband lovingly created just for me and wrap myself in the loving hug of an afghan crocheted by my mother while sipping a cup of tea brewed from a gift out of a teacup chosen just for me.

Thoughtful gifts are becoming a lost art as gift cards become a common place item.  I’ve been guilty many times of dashing to the store at the last minute for a fistful of plastic cards.  This year I’m going to remember to keep it simple and give thoughtful gifts that my loved ones can enjoy throughout the year.

While there’s nothing wrong with presenting an elaborate or expensive gift if your budget supports it, I love the simple gifts. Kids… you’re off the hook!