What do you do all day?

People often ask me what I do all day these days since I don’t report into a daily job. It’s understandable. I tend to ask people the same question. What you do for your job tends to tell something about who you are and where you’re headed.

Dane and I smile at the question because honestly, our days are full of life…but when you go to tell someone what we do all day long it’s hard to explain or put into words adequately. He likes to joke that we sit around watching soap operas and eating bonbons…not true by the way :). Although occasionally we’ve been known to get into a good Netflix series (right now Hell on Wheels).

So here it is…for those of you who might be curious about what it is that a person does all day when they’re not going to a job outside there home. (at least for us…)

1. I still wake up fairly early. Ok maybe not as early as I would if I was going to school. I believe I used to get up around 5:30am and I no longer do that. Closer to 7am.

2. I lay in bed for a bit with my husband and we just enjoy the beauty and silence, the awakening of the day together for a few moments. That time is worth far more than expensive jewelry or flowers to me. It’s sweet conversation. Talk of the latest crazy dream I’ve had or an idea for us to try. Dane is quiet in crowds…but with me in these moments…we talk freely about anything and everything. And honestly, we just hold each other for awhile. Might be more than you want to know, but I think in most marriages there could be far more ‘holding onto’ one another than usually occurs. When I had a job to run to…there wasn’t time.

3. We get up after a bit and go to the gym. Since January we have worked out with weights or swam 5-6 days a week consistently. As in, I’ve probably never been more consistent. 3 mornings a week I swim a mile. I’m not saying it’s fast. It isn’t. I side stroke and back stroke my way to a mile…but I do it and that’s what’s important. And I keep upping my weight and reps when we do weights little by little. I feel healthy. I am strong and taking good care of myself. And I’ll be honest…my husband is 67 years old so I have huge motivation to go work out every day with him. I want he and I to stay healthy and active for a LONG time. Working out together is life to me. Life to us.

4. Two days a week Dane goes and picks up his grand daughter Lexie in Troy and she comes back to our house to homeschool with Lydia. I do exciting things while he’s gone like empty the dishwasher, make soap, write, and drink a cup of coffee :). (Lydia homeschools every day, Lauren goes to college 3 days a week)

5. By the time he gets back we usually have some area of the house we are working on going through stuff, decluttering and making small changes to. We are getting closer all the time to the finish line on this. For example, today we are taking on the basement shelves. We regularly cart stuff off to goodwill or easier yet just put it out to the curb and it’s gone almost as soon as we put it out. The reality of me moving to a new house in September and then moving Dane’s house to our house this fall has been a seriously big job. Imagine going through your parent’s house and all of their accumulations and then multiply that by 2. That’s what we’ve been dealing with. I’m happy to say that we are easily almost done. Mainly the basement and garage/yard to finish once the weather breaks. We work at making a home daily. At combining two lives and families into one.

6. I make lunch 🙂

7. And then we might take a break or do more work if we feel like it.

8. And then I have lessons on two afternoons a week. I’m up to 12 and a half lessons that I teach weekly at this point.

9. We also are involved with our church, The Alton Mission and part of a Restore group.

10. We also go around to the two shops where I sell products, take inventory and restock shelves.

11. We also play games.

12. And take naps.

13. And make dinner.

14. And watch netflix.

15. And play trivia crack together 🙂

16. And when the weather is good…oh what great times we have playing tennis, taking bike rides, walking in our neighborhood, etc. We love to be outside. We also love to have campfires in our side yard. We have so much wood in a pile at this point I think we could have one every night all summer long :).

And of course there are always errands to run, groceries to buy and meals to make, house cleaning to be done and cars to maintain…all of the stuff that everybody has to deal with.

The main thing these days is…Dane and I do life together for the most part. We work together. We play together. We rest together. We stop and hold each other. We often dance in our kitchen for no reason except that we felt like it in that moment.

We are starting to go to a swing dance class tomorrow night and for all of March. Four lessons in all…that’s our new adventure. A valentine’s gift to each other.

We just enjoy each other. It’s a very unique season in my life. I’m not bored. Life is full, but it’s full of stuff that breathes life back into my soul. I go to bed at night tired, sleep well and rise ready for the most part to face each new day. I don’t count down or dread certain days of the week.

Money is less. But it’s alright. For me in this season…time is the greatest thing that matters to me. I’m soaking in every day fully.

I guess that’s about it…maybe not much, but plenty at the same time. We also try to connect with Dane’s kids as much as we can when their kids have special things they are involved in, sports…dance…music programs…etc.

We are forging together two families…two homes…two lives into one and that involves 5 kids, 3 in law kids, and 9 grand kids…loving them well keeps us active and happy.

So there it is…the life of the retired and self employed…in a nutshell, at least here on 6th st.

Too good to keep to myself

Yesterday I made the decision. I turned in my official letter to resign from a pretty secure position in my local school district’s music program. A music program that is great by the way.

I turned down some major things…like a steady pay check, health insurance and a retirement plan.

But…I said yes to loving my life. I said yes to living it in different ways than most might. I said yes to being in tune with myself and my family. I said yes to not knowing exactly how things will all turn out but trusting that they will.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been praying that God would make it completely clear. This decision. I knew what I wanted to do. But I wanted to be really clear that I was making the ‘best’ decision for all concerned and not just a selfish decision on my part. I wanted to be sure about what God would want me to do.

Don’t get me wrong. I think He would be fine with me going in either direction as far as that goes. But I wanted to have His input since He knows me better than I know myself and can see farther down the road than I.

It’s always a little tricky trying to know clearly where and how God is leading. Rarely is it absolutely crystal clear. So I tend to throw out a fleece or two.

I can tell you…purchasing a new home this summer was absolutely crystal clear. I still can’t believe how clear it was. And marrying Dane…couldn’t have been clearer. Not going back to teaching after one year out…crystal clear. So I figured that this decision would be nice if it was that clear as well.

Dane and I have both of our old houses on the market to sell. I put mine on in December. Not a great time to sell a house…but it was finally ready so I put it out there. We just put Dane’s house on the market about a week ago.

It was unrealistic…but I told God that if one of our houses sold by the end of February I would be more clear on the decision I was to make about teaching. In some ways the two issues aren’t connected and in others…well yes, they are, financially speaking. I just felt that it would be a fleece.

Yesterday I turned in my resignation letter about 1pm. No house had sold yet. But I knew it was time and I decided to go for it. By the afternoon about 3pm I got a text from Dane telling me he had an offer on his house. A house that was only on the market for 1 week!

Granted…it could still fall through. The closing date isn’t until March 19. But it sure looks promising…all of the right ducks are lined up and in order.

I had a few shivers…I had stepped out in faith and resigned…and literally at the same time offers were going back and forth on Dane’s house without me realizing it.

There are moments when I think I’m just one person in a million, just a cog in a big wheel and then there are other moments when I realize how loved and noticed I really am by the God of the Universe. Not so much because the circumstances turned out how I would like, although that’s nice :), but just because I feel His presence clearly. He seems to be aware and not only aware, but interested in my little life. He knows the details. He knows the concerns I have. He knows my desire to follow Him. He knows my faith, my trust in walking forward and gives me a sure place to put my foot almost before I even realize I need it.

I don’t want to encourage the idea that God is a person who gives you everything you want. He doesn’t. But I do want to encourage the fact that God’s presence is astounding, amazing, overwhelming, and available to every person on the face of the planet no matter what your life circumstances are.

For me that just meant selling a house on the same day I resigned from teaching in a pretty large step of faith.

Praise be to God. I am grateful and at peace.

Exactly where I am

I’m making a pretty large decision in the next week and a half.

I have a college degree in music education. I have 14 years of public school teaching experience. A multitude of years in leading or helping with church music and a few years of private lessons thrown in there as well. I’ve put on many concerts, gone to contests, professional development and music conferences over the years. I’ve taught in the country, in the inner city and half way in between. I’ve taught youngsters as young as preschool all the way up through 8th grade. I don’t think I’ve ever taught any high schoolers since student teaching. I’ve taught black, white, poor, rich and every other kind of division you can think of.

I’ve made some great music with kids over the years. I’ve given it my best. Even on days when honestly I didn’t have much to give. I’ve managed classes as large as 100 middle schoolers at a time. Sound crazy? It was. But I did it. I’ve had times when I shook my head in frustration and times when I wasn’t sure what to do to help students stay focused and on track. I’ve met with students after class. Delivered letters to homes of students (One year I drove around the week before school started and hand delivered letters to every student I had at the middle school level, about 300 kids!!)

I’ve had successes and I’ve times when it would appear that we failed. I’ve learned much along the way. Much about music, much about kids, much about myself, much about the public school system and overall life.

I’ve made some really good friends. Especially here in Alton. I love the music program in my town and the awesome teachers that keep it all going. I am proud of our music program!

But honestly, I’ve struggled for almost the entire time not really feeling like I was in my sweet spot. I remember all the way back to student teaching realizing maybe I had gone into the wrong thing. Of course I had a degree and student loans by then and what do you about that reality at that late stage in the game!

I’ve been a solidly good teacher. Really. I can do the job. I have the skills, the education, the experience, the talent to pull it off and I always tried to do my best.

And yet…I always had this feeling that if I left teaching and never returned I wouldn’t miss it. I could walk away without it causing me to feel sorrow. Not because I don’t enjoy the kids and my coworkers. Not at all. They are amazing. In fact, I still regularly run into students even after 2 years out and enjoy visiting with them. Just because of the pressure I guess. The pressure to keep everyone under control and pull off programs. To teach and have expectations of going to contests and getting first superiors everytime. And maybe even more just the feeling of being trapped by a schedule that felt grueling to me.

I realize that sounds ridiculous if you have a job that doesn’t give you weekends or summers off…so please forgive my insensitivity. I get it that the school schedule is the best one if you’re a mom. It’s a big reason why I chose the career I did. But it doesn’t make the schedule less grueling. I know of no other job that requires what teaching children does every day. That being said…when you have a teacher for your child that is loving it, coming alive by it, inspired and eager to get to school each day…you should realize what a gift that is.

I had moments…moments when I felt all of those things. Moments when I was alive and loving it, inspired and eager…and I truly cared about the people I was around each day. But far too often it felt like the daily grind to me and I was left with a pretty constant feeling of thinking there must be something more.

Sounds like I’m just discontented. I stuffed it for 14 years. But life shouldn’t really be about stuffing long term I don’t think.

I realize we have choices about our attitudes and I didn’t go to school and do a crappy job…ever.

That being said. In about 2012 I got brave, crazy, courageous, insane, whatever you want to call it…and took a year of personal leave. I had a small safety net…but honestly, not huge. I knew I could go back in a year if needed. So the school year of 2013-2014 I stayed home. I homeschooled my kids (honesty they do it pretty independently). I started teaching private voice and piano lessons and started a side business that came to me out of nowhere called Something Lovely, making cold pressed soap, body scrub, lotion bars, lip balms and perfume. My hours became flexible and out of my own home.

In the process my home became obviously not well suited for my new life and when I realized I was going to be able to take another year off of school due to some unusual circumstances I knew it was time to dream about a new place for us to live that would fit my new life. Granted, I still had questions about whether I could pull it off or not but sure hoped I could.

Along the way I had a few people…few…who encouraged me, really knew my life and encouraged me to go for it. The feeling was…you only have one life to live, if you can pull it off why not go for it. I had many others who were fearful for me. Understandably so, so I’m not judging them. I had my two biggest fans behind me all the way though…my kids. Lauren and Lydia watched me teach. They were literally in my choir classrooms all through middle school and they understood how demanding the job was on me. They knew how badly I desired to be free.

I found a different house and honestly every detail came together and I now live in downtown Alton in a house built in 1849 that perfectly fits my lessons, soap shop and my family (the girls even got to have their own bedrooms!).

And then came Dane.

I thought I knew the goodness of God…I thought I knew who He was but when Dane came into my life I saw the goodness of God in my life in ways I’ve never experienced it before.

I had been a widow for going on 8 years. I was still young but had come to the place where I didn’t expect anything to happen. I had not been approached for a ‘date’ with a guy the entire time I was single. And I didn’t go to singles places looking. The closest I came was signing up for eharmony for a year…a complete bust and waste of money. (Small disclaimor…if it worked for you…I’m happy for you :)).

I met Dane…we dated for 3 weeks before he asked me to marry him and within 3 months we were married. We’ve now been together for 6 months.

This school year has been far less about soap and lessons, although I’ve tried to keep those businesses up and running. It’s been far more about houses, moving, getting rid of stuff, settling stuff, going through more stuff, fixing up houses to sell and finally at this date, just yesterday, both or our houses are on the market to sell. We are done and able to focus purely on the one house we live in! Hallelujah!

By March 1st. I have to write a letter to my school board and let them know what my decision is. If I’m coming back next fall or not. It’s a major decision. In some ways…crystal clear. Especially if I consult my heart. In others…risky. I’m pretty sure which direction I’m going. Still praying for clarity though.

What’s been amazing to me during this time, is how much I look forward to each day. As in it’s become habit for me to enjoy every single blessed day that comes. Monday is no different than Friday. Morning no different than evening. Every day is a gift.

It’s been amazing to me to see how much I’ve gotten into a ‘sweet spot’ in living my life. I realize as a Christian we’re told to live out of our comfort zones and I’ve heard tons of sermons on the subject. I’m not saying I’m not stretching myself. I am. But it’s different than before.

I am a woman who is at peace. At the deepest levels. I am a woman who is full of hope…almost so thick you could cut it. I am a woman who is full of love…I always knew I had a ton of love in me to give but wow…I am even amazed at the depth of love I feel inside of me. I am a woman aware of God in me. I am a woman who has experienced blessed grace and is experiencing it daily…causing me to be a far more gracious person to others.

My life is not perfect.

I still have moments of insecurity, and other yuck stuff that comes with that burden I seem to carry…but the moments are less and don’t seem to rule me the way they used to.

I have the love of an amazing man. The support and love of not only my 2 amazing daughters…but 3 more as well and even grand kids.

Life is absolutely beautiful.

I am literally grateful every day.

Sometimes I hesitate to write these days because life is beautiful and I’m so deeply grateful and I know that life is probably hard for many right now and I don’t want to offend or be unkind.

All I can say is…the pain of losing Mark, the struggle of being in a job for years that was really hard for me to pull off, the frustration and weight of single parenting, and all of the other losses along the way (and there have been many!) have brought me to the other side…to a life of beauty.

He has turned my mourning into dancing…He will do the same for you.

I truly believe that the saddest thing we can do is to be miserable and know that there is something else out there for us to do or experience and to not risk or change anything to see if we can get to a better place.

One could spend their whole life and never get to a place where they experience the deepest joy, hope and love that are waiting for them.

I couldn’t foresee any of the things that have happened in the last decade of my life. I didn’t see the losses coming. I didn’t see how small decisions and large risks would turn out. I had no idea what would work and what wouldn’t. Somehow I just walked forward in the knowledge and faith I had day by day to get where I am today. And where I am today is outstanding.

And this journey is not done. I strongly believe that the best is always yet to come.

There will still be days when things fall apart in my future…I realize this. It’s life.

I just know for me in what is probably the mid point of my life…my life has taken an amazing complete turn. It’s not because of who I am or what I worked out or planned ahead of time. It’s simply the way that God has led me along.

No two journey’s will look the same. That’s one thing I’ve discovered in a big way in the last two years. Absolutely no two lives are the same. Granted…people will say things and look at you funny if you don’t conform to what everybody else seems to be doing…but I honestly believe that no two lives are the same in God’s plan.

We walk by faith….not sight.

We take risks and consider there are many ways to live this journey out. Not just one.

We open our lives to receive love and grace like never before and experience the radical healing presence of God.

And then…we find ourselves loving others and extending grace, living and moving and breathing with the very presence of God in us.

And this is Destiny.

This is where I am. Sometimes I’m afraid to write about it as I said earlier. I don’t want to hurt anyone, offend anyone, rub salt into any wounds. Just the opposite. I want to encourage. Extend hope. Give grace. I want to let you know that there is more than you might think to life. And it’s just waiting for you.

In a week and a half I will make a major decision…I’m going to trust that God will make it absolutely clear. He has led me all the way. In this middle section of my life I have been able to turn around and see how every thing has made me the woman I am today and brought me to this place and I am deeply grateful. Not because it’s been perfect or all lovely. But because it doesn’t even really matter any more whether I succeeded or failed, whether I got what I want or experienced loss. It doesn’t matter what my circumstances have been. Not a single detail of my life has fallen through the cracks.

God is faithful. I can trust Him. I am trusting Him. It is enough. He will lead me. His presence is constant, never leaving or forsaking.

Whatever comes…praise be to God.

Valentine thoughts…

Every year at this time of year I hear a variety of thoughts on Valentine’s Day and all that it involves.

Those who have been married or in a relationship for a long time just tend to think of it as a ridiculous holiday meant to waste your money. Lots of couples do nothing special on Valentine’s Day at all. No cards, no flowers, no dinner out, or anything else special. It is a normal day just like all the others after all. And I get it. I do. Love is meant to be shown all year long on every day, not just on special occasions.

But…love shown specially on one day doesn’t take away from the rest. It just enhances it in my opinion.

Doesn’t mean that I buy into the commercial side of it all.

But an honest to goodness love note…yeah, why not? An honest to goodness expression of love through a delightful taste or sight, a beautiful smell like flowers or some quality time together…why not?

This is the first time in 8 years that I have a valentine. I can tell you as a single person, that people who were married always told me not to sweat it…they didn’t do anything special so it wasn’t like I was missing out on anything.

That’s not how I see it as a married person this year.

To their credit I’m sure they were trying to encourage me, and honestly maybe for them they had turned off any expectations long ago. But wow.

I realize that as we grow up birthdays and anniversaries, christmas and other holidays change. These are just normal days and if we want something we tend to just go out and get it anyway. So I’m not advocating for stuff.

But special moments…special words…special times when we stop and smell the roses…life is far more beautiful when we make space for these things in our lives. I suppose it can also be far more painful when these things don’t happen.

A year ago I would’ve never dreamed I would be happily married for Feb. 14 this year. To say it was not on my radar is the understatement of the century.

Having love enter my life this year through my best friend and husband Dane is nothing less than miraculous…no less miraculous than water turning to wine, or Jesus walking on the water. Honestly.

We celebrate our love every day.

In fact over our bed hang the words “Each day is a gift from God.” And together that’s exactly how we feel about each other and our life together.

However you celebrate holidays is your choice. I don’t buy into a one size fits all approach to these things. But however you celebrate it, even if you’re single…I encourage you to find ways to mark days and times as special, not just one of another 365. Life is far too precious to act as if every day is the same.

Love has continuity and steadiness…but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have moments of special.

This former widow is definitely grateful  to have a Valentine this year. There is no better thing in this world than giving and receiving love. Thankfully that act is open to every one regardless of life circumstance. (I gave and received love…even when I was single!) So get out there and get in on the giving and receiving love thing. Not because it’s on a commercial or expected…just because it’s beautiful.

Morning thoughts

I’m a people pleaser by nature.

I’m not totally sure why.

I’m married to a man who is not, in fact most of the men I know are not.

It seems far more healthy to live life with natural rhythms and experiences that cause me to live out of my sweet spot. I can say, with help…I’m doing that more and more all the time. But I am still prone to wander. Prone to wander towards working harder, filling more holes, getting more done. I’m prone to feeling guilt and shame if I at anytime feel as if I’m letting someone else down.

I’ve been a person who has signed on for far too many things over the years and then either drudged through or embarrassingly backed out on more than I care to admit. I’m a good drudger…something to be proud of, not really.

With the years I have left, however long or short, I don’t want to commit to things out of guilt or shame. I don’t want to fill my schedule and life to please others. I want to care a whole lot less.

Which looks really crazy when I type those words on a screen…but honestly I really do.

I’ve discovered that there is a richness and beauty that is lost in life when we spread ourselves far and wide. There is a deep peace and contentment that is sacrificed when we do too much.

But it’s hard. I admit, I don’t say no well. It sits on me longer than I wish it would. Especially when good people and good things want things to be done and given. Boundaries don’t come easy for me.

I set them and then I second guess myself.

I’m a people pleaser, I admit it. Probably even a God pleaser…but I’m learning, bit by bit to simply be a God truster. He’s never been all that concerned about me pleasing Him or others anyway.

Last night my husband and I sat on a bench by the Mississippi River in a town just down the road from where we live. We sat there for over an hour watching the sunset. It was gorgeous. The sun went behind the clouds for a moment and we thought maybe it wouldn’t be that grand but then…it peeked back out and lit the sky with color.

As we sat there we talked about life. What we wanted it to be about. What we feel it should be about at this stage in the game of life. Honestly…as we sat there together doing nothing except holding down a bench and watching the sunset it felt like exactly what our lives should be about.

In some ways that seems incredibly small. No saving of the world going on here. In others…our pure love for one another, well it has a ripple effect on everyone we come in contact with. We have five kids to love and nine grand children. We have brothers and sisters and parents. Our lives are full pouring into our family and trying to show up for them in meaningful ways. We are involved at our church but trying to make sure we don’t turn that experience into a job. It’s so easy to do. Especially for people pleasers like myself.

In the end what will really matter? If I pay attention…I can tell already, because in the moments that matter most I am deeply at peace and aware of the beauty of life.

I will probably always struggle with people pleasing to some degree. It’s in my dna I suppose and a major part of my life experience especially growing up as a pastor’s kid, being a pastor’s wife and a life long church goer. But honestly, these days I think God isn’t nearly as concerned about my pleasing ways or my get ‘er done life. I think He delights in far simpler things like two people holding hands or watching a sunset. A surprise visit to a brother and sister inlaw on a Sunday evening. A game played with my daughter. Time spent sitting on our front porch. A walk down by the river on a beautiful day.

Is it enough?

My upbringing would tell me no.

But I think it probably is, probably always has been…I’m just having to reprogram the way I approach life.

It started back in 2013 when I took a sabbatical from teaching and has just continued through 2015…the shift from pleasing and doing to trusting and living. It’s a smaller focus, not the broad, out there, influencing tons of people life…but it’s richer in every way.

I am hopeful that I can release, let go of and stomp out my people pleasing ways and just live in tune with my spirit and body. God is in me…surely if I just listen, I will know how to spend my time, my days, my heart and resources.

New Year’s thoughts

It’s New Year’s Day.

A beautiful fresh clean start to another season of my life. I love fresh starts and clean slates. They just feel good.

This is my first full year to come as a married person, assuming that all goes well, in a long, long time.

I still remember when Mark died how each season and holiday, special day and memory came that first year and how hard it was knowing things would never be the same. The first year of ‘firsts’ when you have someone die is very difficult. Nothing feels the same. It can’t. It’s permanently changed.

Fast forward to 2015 and I am very aware that this is a year of firsts for me…but not firsts related to grief. Instead firsts related to love.

Today my love and I celebrated New Years by getting ready for the day and promptly going back to bed for a good part of the day. More information than you might want but I can’t help but be struck at the reality of all of the firsts we are both going to experience this year.

We’ve both done the firsts of grief. It’s rough. But this year for both of us…each day, each holiday, each season, each very ordinary day is a day worth celebrating and enjoying, soaking in and embracing.

I often have a ‘word’ for the year at this time of year. This year…I’m not sure exactly what that would be except to keep on the same path I’ve been on…soaking in life, living in the present moment, enjoying everything this day has to offer, being aware of the beauty all around me every day of my life.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been so wrapped up in love as I currently am. It’s love that’s not just about a man and a woman…it’s the very love of God. I can tell.

Not every year is like this one. I am very aware and not taking anything for granted. That’s probably what heightens things so much for me right now…nothing is taken for granted. A kiss, a held hand, a door opened, a look, a kind word, a text, an affectionate nick name, playing games together, watching tv on the love seat together, riding in the car (I don’t even have to drive much anymore :), eating, working, resting, playing…nothing taken for granted.

I look forward to my year of firsts in love. Not counting down, not rushing one day, just fully immersing myself in each day as it comes.

Heart full of gratitude.

2015 is already awesome. And I have a feeling the best is yet to come…