Tuesday, April 7, 2015

How does my garden grow?

But each spring...a gardening instinct, sure as the sap rising in the trees, stirs within us. We look about and decide to tame another little bit of ground.
~Lewis Gantt

I'm not really much of a gardener. My backyard is small and slopes dramatically into a creek where vegetable-loving deer abide in large numbers. Besides, my indoor pursuits consistently fill the daytime hours; I am not beckoned by the great outdoors the way some people are. But I do enjoy ripe-from-the-vine tomatoes, fresh herbs, and the pop of color that summer flowers offer. So every year about this time I find myself at Home Depot filling a cart with flower pots, potting soil, and plants of all kinds. 

Last Saturday, I started with some house plants to fill the colorful pots I purchased at IKEA several months ago. 

I also bought some tiny pots and saucers that just fit on the little white stepladder my children used when they were small and filled them with chives, lemon thyme and parsley. 

Then I ventured outdoors. I set a bright pink geranium on the porch next to the front door

and filled the two large planters on my deck with more flowers in my favorite colors, pink and purple.

Here is my black cherry tomato plant with a pot of marigolds next to it for pest control.

The jalapeno pepper plant is sharing its pot with cilantro, just as I hope they will combine flavors in a bowl of homemade salsa one day. Last but not least are the rosemary and basil, culinary essentials.

I look forward to nurturing my little deck garden through the spring and summer, feeding and watering the plants regularly, speaking kindly to them and encouraging them in their growth.

What kind of gardener are you?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Myth of Balance

We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be.
― Anne Lamott

I wear a lot of hats in this life. I am mom, daughter, sister, aunt, friend. I am business owner, pianist, teacher, adjudicator, speaker, colleague. I am reader, writer, blogger, walker, knitter, seamstress, jewelry designer. I am cook, housekeeper, laundress, house painter, home decorator.

Some of these are technically non-essential. Reading a book or knitting a scarf doesn't help pay the bills. For that matter, neither does making a piece of jewelry, because while I do sell my wares on Etsy, I spend far more money buying jewelry-making supplies than I earn selling the occasional bracelet or pair of earrings. But reading books and making things with my hands satisfy needs that bubble up from deep inside me. In this respect they are, in fact, quite essential.

There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life. 
― Alain de Botton

I have spent hours creating daily schedules, planning my weeks, writing down short-term goals and long-term goals and pushing myself to meet my self-imposed deadlines. I will even admit to occasionally making a list of things I have already done just so that I can experience the satisfaction of checking them off. But then life happens and my carefully drawn plans fall completely by the wayside. I get sick or one of my kids is in crisis or my dog gets sick or a tumultuous relationship ends or the car breaks down or the lawn mower won't start. What choice is there? I take a deep breath, deal with the situation, and regroup.

Then I make a new list.

I want to caution you against the idea that balance has to be a routine that looks the same week in and week out.
― Kevin Thoman

Last weekend I accompanied a number of home schooled students in a musical theater vocal competition. During the two weeks prior to the event, I spent every minute I wasn't teaching, eating or sleeping learning the music, making recordings of the piano parts so the students could practice with them, and attending rehearsals with the students. The competition itself was a two-day event. Reading, writing, crafting, even my personal piano practice were necessarily shoved to the back burner. Now the competition is over and next week I will have a greatly reduced teaching load on the heels of the piano festival most of my students are performing in this weekend. I will take advantage of the downtime to clean up the mess I made in my craft room over the holidays, pack away the Christmas tree, scrub the bathrooms and mop the kitchen floor. Never-ending circumstances such as these result in the complex meters and syncopated rhythms of my days, weeks and months.

There is no point in fighting. So I might as well give up striving for balance in my life. It might be possible to achieve it if I were content with less, if I could just take care of my daily business and let go of my dreams. But I can't. I won't. And while I remain convinced I can do it all, I understand I cannot do it all at once. Instead, I will focus on one thing at a time. While I am practicing piano, I will not stop to check text messages on my phone. When I go outside to walk, I will leave the ear buds behind and pay attention to the sights, sounds and smells around me. As I eat my lunch, I will focus on the tastes and textures of the food in front of me instead of checking out the latest on Facebook and Pinterest.

Nothing worth having comes easy, but I am willing to work hard. I will play the piano on many stages, I will see my fiction writing traditionally published, I will build wishing towers on beaches all over the world.

But I won't waste another moment of my precious life in pursuit of balance.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Dreaming of Books Giveaway Blog Hop

I am participating in the Dreaming of Books Giveaway Blog Hop, hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer. This hop is scheduled to run January 16th-26th . To enter, all you have to do is follow my blog and leave a comment at the end of this post letting me know you are a follower and sharing a little bit about the last book you read: title, author, and a brief synopsis. I am looking forward to a great list! For additional entries, you can follow me on Twitter (click HERE), "like" my Facebook fan page (click HERE) or friend me on Goodreads (click HERE). Leave an additional comment for each additional entry. At the end of the week, one lucky winner will be chosen by a random number generator to receive a $10 Amazon gift card. Be sure to leave your email address with your comment so that I will know how to contact you should your name be selected. Click HERE for the links to the 150+ other blogs that are also doing book-related giveaways. All contests begin at midnight Eastern time tonight (Thursday); any entries received prior to that time will not be included in the drawing.

Happy blog hopping!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

One Zentangle A Day

There are no mistakes in Zentangle.
~ Beckah Krahula

As much as I enjoyed the Zentangle class I took in September, I was so busy making music in November and getting ready for Christmas in December that there was no time to tangle. Besides, I was getting frustrated. It didn't seem that my skill was improving and tangling began to feel more like a tiresome chore than a creative outlet. But one of my Christmas gifts, the book One Zentangle A Day, has me excited all over again.

Described as "a beautiful interactive book teaching the principles of Zentangles as well as offering fun, related drawing exercises," this book is perfect for beginners but offers me a good review of the basics while helping me build on my previous knowledge and take it to the next level. On Day 1, I practiced the patterns above; on Day 2, I learned three new patterns and combined several to create a "tile," or small square drawing.
Sometimes it takes me more than one day to master the new patterns and complete a tile, but that's okay.
Looking ahead, I see the book also covers more advanced techniques like shading and working with color.
If you would like to give tangling a whirl, this book is a great place to start. The only other things you need are a sketch pad and a fine point marker. Ready, set, tangle!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Enough is enough

Credit buying is much like being drunk. The buzz happens immediately, and it gives you a lift. The hangover comes the day after.
~ Joyce Brothers
Over the past ten years or so, I have accumulated so much credit card and student loan debt that fully acknowledging it throws me into mild state of panic. But enough is enough. And 2015 is the year I am going to actually DO something about it.

I discussed all this with my eighteen year old son several weeks ago and together we got the ball rolling. In December we researched internet, television and cell phone options and made changes to our current plans that will save us several hundred dollars a year. I also put together a budget that I implemented on January first and intend to stick with, no matter what. Then I cut up a pile of credit cards and determined that, moving forward, I will buy only things I absolutely NEED and not merely WANT and will pay CASH for it all. I will confess that I did hang onto a couple of credit cards, one that I use for groceries and gas and pay off each month and one that I can use in case of genuine EMERGENCY, at least until I am able to get an emergency fund in place. (Note to self: seeing a cute handbag at Tuesday Morning does not constitute an emergency.)

Rather than entertain myself with shopping, I will spend time with my piano, my beloved book and music collection, and the roomful of yarn and craft supplies I have accumulated over the years. I will not pay people people to cook food for me; rather, I will shop wisely for quality ingredients and cook healthy, affordable meals for my family and friends. I will get back to work on my fiction writing; I will diligent about listing new pieces in my Etsy store. If I keep my head on straight, I will be too busy making good use of things I already have to feel deprived.

I didn't get in this mess overnight, and it will take me several years to get out of it. But I am willing to do whatever it takes to achieve financial peace.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Make the Family Cookbook

I spent most of my Thanksgiving vacation putting together a family cookbook. It was hard not to blog about what I was working but since the cookbook was a Christmas surprise I had to wait until after December 25th. Now, finally, I can tell you all about it.

I started out with a boxful of loose recipes, a lifetime of photos, and no idea how to proceed. After spending several hours researching templates and websites to facilitate my project, I finally settled on this software (click HERE). It turned out to be perfect for my needs.

The process really was as simple as the website promised: I downloaded the software, chose my cover and section dividers, and began entering my recipes and adding photos. It turned out there were some compatibility issues with the Word for Mac version (and apparently that version has since been discontinued), but all it took was a few minutes on the phone with the company's great technical support person and I was back to work.

My cookbook ended up being 150 pages long and includes a heartfelt introduction and sections for appetizers, soups and stews, side dishes and salads, meat and main dishes, breads and muffins, cookies and candy, desserts, and breakfast along with pictures of everyone from great-grandparents my children barely remember to my brothers and me when we were small. When I thought it was finally finished, I printed a black and white copy and proofread and corrected it several times before accepting the fact that it would never be perfect. In the end, I submitted my Word document to the same company I purchased the cookbook software from; they sent me a PDF copy for approval before doing the final printing.

The finished cookbook appears in the photo at the top of this blog post. I gave copies to my parents, my brother and his wife, my children, and my niece. I even gave a copy to my ex-husband; peace on earth, goodwill to men, and all that. My sincere wish is that everyone who owns this little piece of family history will use it often and that it will become one of the most battered, soiled and stained cookbooks in his or her collection.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Welcome, 2015

Santa Pam wishes you a Happy New Year!
The last few weeks of 2014 were cluttered with worries and cares. Every time I thought nothing else could possibly go wrong, something did. I wanted to scream and cry and punch through walls and sleep until spring. None of these were options but something had to give. Finally, I threw my daily to-do list out the window. Beginning the week of Thanksgiving, I did only what I absolutely had to do and spent every other moment squeezing what joy I could from the holiday season. Some might call it denial but I called it survival. I decorated my house, made gifts for loved ones, wrote cards to faraway friends. I shopped online and baked snickerdoodles and listened to Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker and watched It's A Wonderful Life. I spent Christmas Eve with my children in metro Atlanta and Christmas night with my mom and dad and brother and sister in southern Illinois. Then I came home and hosted a dinner party on New Year's Eve, screaming "good riddance" to 2014 with friends, old and new, at midnight.

Welcome, 2015, and not a moment too soon.


This morning, I printed myself a new monthly checklist and revisited my bucket list, tweaked it a bit, and picked up where I left off in November. Although I am disappointed in the lack of progress on the bucket list - meeting, falling in love with, and becoming engaged to Mr. Wrong proved to be a huge setback - I am ready to let go of the past and get on with my life. 

First, though, I should myself credit where credit is due. I performed the first movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto in G minor in public (#24). I started 2015 ten pounds lighter than I started 2015 (#31). I updated my home and made a big dent in getting rid of everything I don't need or love (#33). I made a family cookbook (#45) and memory quilts (#46) and gave them as Christmas gifts. More on those two projects later this week. And yesterday I cut up most of my credit cards, put together a budget, and put together a plan for paying off all my debt (#63). It will take a few years but I plan to reward myself with that coast-to-coast drive across the United States (#14).

Time to get serious about making all those unfulfilled dreams come true.


I haven't decided upon my One Word for 2015 yet but I do have a motto.

All will be well.

It already is.