Inspirations; Part 8

It’s been more than a year since I’ve shared some bits of inspiration and since I’m really feeling the need for some positive thinking, I thought I’d share some this evening.

A conflicted heart feeds on doubt and confusion.
~ Emily Thorne; Revenge

Even if happiness forgets you a little bit, never completely forget about it.
~ Jacques Prévert

Don’t let the fear of striking out hold you back.
~ Babe Ruth

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr

A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.
~ David Brinkley

Moleskine inspirations

I write. In fact, I think it would be fair to say that I’m a writer. And as any good writer does, I carry a notebook with me everywhere I go so that when inspiration hits, I am prepared!

In recent years, I’ve found myself carrying small Moleskines with me—whilst leaving my larger notebooks (and journals) at home. I’ve found them useful tools for jotting down thoughts and ideas (many of which get transferred to my larger notebooks) but also for the purpose of shopping and to-do lists.

And to serve as a constant inspirational tool, I’ve taken to adding an inspirational quote on the cover.

Today I found myself calling a new book into service, which means a new quote.

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.
~ Sylvia Plath

Yes, I’m feeling inspired. In fact, I almost feel a poem coming on…

More than gifts

It’s Christmas Eve already. Wow! It seems to have jumped up out of nowhere. But, I am pleased to say that I have all of my shopping done. And I’m pleased to say that a couple of unsuspected gifts have arrived for me from America, too.

Yesterday was spent shopping and wrapping and truffle making—with a bit of time devoted to drinking mulled wine. And now, today, I am nearly ready for tomorrow. I just need to drizzle some white chocolate on the truffles.

But it’s not just about the shopping and the truffles and the wine and the gifts. No, Christmas is more than that. It’s a time to celebrate the birth of my Saviour, Jesus Christ. This is a very important time of year for me, and even though I may not speak of it often, I am humbled to walk through this life with Christ by my side.

I wish you all the merriest of Christmases—whether you’re celebrating the birth of Christ or just the gathering of family and friends. I hope your hearts are filed with joy!

For a child is born to us, a son is given us…
~ Isaiah 9:5

When sadness comes

Life is mostly good these days. It’s mostly happy and mostly bright and mostly cheerful. Mostly. Of course, the problem with mostly is that mostly isn’t always.

Sometimes, the sadness comes and I don’t know why. Sometimes, the sadness comes and it’s a real, legitimate cause. And sometimes, the sadness comes and it’s a silly little reason that I shouldn’t let get to me—it’s something that I should know better about getting upset over. But, sometimes, sadness has a will all of its own.

Today, if you haven’t guessed, the sadness came. It came and I knew why. It came because I let it though the door when I let a bit of laughter in. It came and I could have prevented it but I didn’t. I didn’t because I need to learn how to live in this world without letting silly things make me sad.

Knowing that this sadness is temporary helps. Knowing that the days are mostly good and happy and bright and cheerful helps. And I’m too cheap to buy a ticket for the entire journey, so at least I know there are smiles waiting for me when I alight.

The wings of sadness will lift you off the ground without warning. What of it? Don’t pay for your ticket and you will be returned to the ground safely.
~ Nipun Mehta

Inspirations; Part 7

Life is very stressful for me right now and I am feeling the effects in the core of my being. I have a sneaking suspicion that it will get worse over the next week or two as I finish up my time at the office and leave my lovely home behind in the hopes of a brighter future. And I hope that once that part of this journey is done some of the stress will fade away.

To get me through to that, however, I am in need of inspiration. So I’m back to finding wise words to ponder.

Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.
~ Pamela Vaull Starr

Your current safe boundaries were once unknown frontiers.
~ Anonymous

If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to it.
~ Jonathan Winters

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
~ Winston Churchill

Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.
~ Joshua J. Marine

For love of country

This weekend, families around America will gather for barbeques and picnics. Campgrounds and parks will be filled to capacity. Parties will be held; laughter will be had. Yes, Memorial Day Weekend has become synonymous with the start of the summer season!

But let’s take some time to remember why we won’t be at the office on Monday. Let’s remember why the schools and banks and post offices will be closed. Let’s remember why the flags will fly at half-mast and why cemeteries will be blanketed with mums.

It’s not because of the barbeques or the picnics or the camping and hiking and dancing and laughing.

It’s because of all of the men and women who fought and died to keep our nation safe and free. It’s because of the men and women who fought and died to ensure our rights—and the rights of all of those residing in the great United States of America.

They fought and died so that we could safely and freely barbeque and picnic and camp and hike and dance and laugh. So please, enjoy the weekend. Please enjoy your family. Please enjoy your freedoms.

And please, take a moment to remember all of those brave men and women who made those freedoms possible.

For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.
~ James Abram Garfield

[Photo is close-up of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Olympia, Washington. Photo credits to the amazing Missy Humphreys. Missy’s husband, an Englishman by birth and an American by choice, is currently serving in the United States Army. Thank you, Missy, for the photo. And thank you Neil, for serving and protecting our great nation!]

Inspirations; Part 6

It’s the second day of the second month of a new year. I’m convinced this year will be a good one, but I’ve got to keep myself inspired or I might lose sight of the dream.

You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.
~ Christopher Columbus

The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.
~ Theodore Roosevelt

The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.
~ Ayn Rand

Your life is your message to the world. Make it inspiring.
~ Lorrin L. Lee

First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.
~ Epictetus

Inspirations; Part 5

Nearly a week into the new year and I’m wondering if I can keep a couple of ‘secret’ resolutions I made to myself. So, I need a bit of inspiration to remind me of what I know I must believe in order to succeed.

I don’t follow precedent, I establish it.
~ Fanny Ellen Holtzman

Your future depends on many things, but mostly on you.
~ Frank Tyger

The wise don’t expect to find life worth living; they make it that way.
~ Anonymous

The best bet is to bet on yourself.
~ Arnold Glasow

The only Zen you find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.
~ Robert M. Pirsig

I can do it! [So says The Kid]

My foster daughter is pretty excited about my plans to run a marathon. She thinks I’m an amazing runner and that I’ll do really well. In fact, she is convinced that I will be in the top 10.

Yes, really. Even when I explained that last year there were more than 2,400 runners. Even when I explained that the top 50 last year all ran it in less than 3 hours and I ‘hope’ to finish mine in under 6.

Her response was, basically: “Well you won’t win with that attitude.”

OK, there is no way on God’s Earth that I will make it in the top 10. Or even the top 100. Or even the top 1,000. But I do like her attitude about having a positive attitude on the subject.

So to add to her inspiring words, here are some words of wisdom from Steve Prefontaine:

Life’s battles don’t always go to the strongest or fastest man, but sooner or later the man who wins is the fellow who thinks he can.

Kid questions

Kids are great. I love the way they don’t mince words.

I called a friend on Tuesday to ask for help after claiming it “Ask for Help Tuesday”. Tuesday was a bad day for me. A really, really bad day. So I was crying as I asked for help. My friend had her young grandchildren with her at the time and was telling them to hold on whilst we spoke.

Anyhow, I called the same friend on Wednesday to let her know some fantastic news that I’d just received. And again she had her grandchildren with her.

I laughed when I heard the young boy ask:
“Is she going to cry about her dead husband again?”

And I smiled when my friend said:
“Yes, she will always cry for him.”

Even more, I love that my friend allows me to cry for him but that she also allows me to laugh and celebrate my life.

That’s it. No real point to this “Taking Back My Lunch Hour” post.

Happy Thursday!

The good, the bad, and the uncertain

I have a lot on my mind right now. The good, the bad, and the uncertain. I’m not willing or emotionally able to share the bad and uncertain and the good would all be memories, dreams, or made-up rubbish.

So instead of words today, you get art. And a couple of quotes that seem fitting for the thoughts weighing on my mind. (Sorry that the art is rubbish. But a lot of art is.)

If you wait to do everything until you’re sure it’s right, you’ll probably never do much of anything.
~ Win Borden

A ship is safe in harbour, but that’s not what ships are for.
~ William Shedd

Clay play

As part of my on-going mission to relax and find a bit of silly joy in life, I broke open a box of coloured clay this evening. I didn’t do much with it today, but I’m inspired now and have a great idea for some fun time with my foster daughter this weekend.

I’m sure you’re totally excited to see what we might create so here’s a wee flower to tide you over until I have something more artistic to entertain you with. Yay!

 

“The Earth Laughs in Flowers”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Inspirations; Part 4

I’m in need of bit of inspiration to remind me that I am working toward a brighter tomorrow. And in the process, maybe you’ll be inspired, too!

Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.
~ Samuel Johnson

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.
~ Henry David Thoreau

A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.
~ John Barrymore

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.
~ Walt Disney

Dreams will get you nowhere, a good kick in the pants will take you a long way.
~ Baltasar Gracian

Without inspiration the best powers of the mind remain dormant. There is a fuel in us which needs to be ignited with sparks.
~ Johann Gottfried Von Herder

Today will be a good day. Today will be a good day. Today will be a good day. Today will be a good day. Today will be a good day. Today will be a good day. Today will be a good day. Today will be a good day. Today will be a good day.

If I tell myself that often enough, I’m certain it will be true!

 

Hump day haikus

The Squeen, in her most noble and wise ways, has declared that: “Wednesdays, today and forthwith and here-on-after, are haiku Wednesdays.” I’ve thought about posting random things related to haikus (including actually writing my own) in the past but haven’t actually done it. And so now, by royal proclamation, I feel it’s time I address the issue.

I have a love-hate relationship with haikus. I love that it forces the writer to think in a pre-defined pattern, but I hate that school teachers throughout the western world (unintentionally?) don’t explain what that pattern is. As a child I was simply told that a haiku is a three-line poem consisting of a first line with five syllables, a second line with seven syllables, then a third line with five syllables again.

But the reality is that a haiku is meant to contain 17 moras (in the 5/7/5 format) which are not really the same as syllables. Now, I will admit that in the English language we rarely discuss sentence structure in terms of moras, but I feel that this is something that should still be brought to the attention of young minds.

Another thing I love about haikus is the seemingly obscure connections between lines. They are vague and sometimes challenging—especially to young school children. I remember being told to write a haiku (with three lines of 5/7/5) that told a short story or gave a description of some random object of my choice. Which was fun because it was a bit challenging to pick just the right words to get the 17 syllable cap right.

But the reality is that a haiku is meant to consist of a seasonal reference (a kigo) and a cutting word (a kireji). It is true that the English language doesn’t have a direct equivalent to the latter, but that doesn’t seem like a fair reason to not at least explain this difference.

I guess that my love is that haikus are fun and challenging (yes, I find challenging to be fun).

And I guess that my hate is that while western school teachers seem keen to explain that haikus are a form of Japanese poetry, often combining the writing lesson with a lesson in traditional Japanese art form such as gyotaku (fish painting, basically), they neglect to fully give the lesson in how true Japanese haikus are formed.

I suppose that I wish I’d been given the full lesson as a child, which could have included how haikus in English evolved and are their own writing form—distinct from what’s found in Japan but certainly rooted in the culture and history of the original haikus.

But maybe when you were taught about haikus, your teacher went into all of this with you and so you’re at a loss to why I’m whining. And that’s OK.

Anyhow, as a reward for reading this far, here are the two haikus that I wrote today by orders of The Squeen as part of my silliness course, which are meant to address items in my medicine cabinet, which is more of a drawer than a cabinet, but let’s not split hairs…

Fall is in the air
Wood smoke making my eyes dry
Ah,
Visine, my friend

Summer is fading
Factor thirty nearly gone
Cat Crap is ready

And here’s a bonus one just for Just Frances readers:

Autumn is awesome
And Just Frances is awesome
And her readers, too

Thanking the anonymous

When I arrived home from England last week there was a happy surprise waiting for me in the post. It was a simple gesture: A short note and some cash directing me to do something nice for myself as a way of ‘paying forward’ the loving reach of a foster mom a couple of generations ago.

Since opening my home to my lovely foster daughter a little over a month ago, I have experienced much generosity from the fostering community. Volunteer groups called to see if we needed school supplies or new clothes. Others have offered to care for the kid for a few hours here-and-there so that I can have some much-needed time out. Still others have offered to have ‘baby showers’ of sorts to make sure that the kid has everything she needs*.

I’ve had countless people let me know that they are praying for us and I am continually amazed at the care and concern shown by the kid’s social worker and school administrators. Certainly, at every corner along this journey there is help and support available to ensure she is well. It’s extremely heart-warming.

So why has this gift touched me so much?

Well, I suppose because it’s not about the kid, but about me and the difference that I am making. It’s about acknowledging all of the successful adults in our society who were once foster children themselves—and whose lives were positively impacted by the caring reach of a stranger.

My first thought was to bank the gift because who has time to do something nice for themselves when they’re caring for an 11-year-old on their own? But that would have gone against the spirit of the gift and I’d have felt guilty.

But as luck would have it, the kid has plans for a few hours on Saturday which means I am on my own; free to do as I please. And what I please is to go and get a massage—a lovely, relaxing, hour-long massage.

Lucky for the kid, there’s enough money left for me to stop off at the craft store to get some art supplies for a fun art project for the two of us to do on Sunday afternoon. I’m sure that the giver of such a wonderful gift would allow for me to spend some of it for fun with the kid.

And so, dear anonymous friend (if you’re reading this), thank you from the bottom of my heart. Not just for the gift but for taking the time to thank me for my small role in this amazing child’s life in such a lovely way. Knowing that there are people out there who are so kind and supportive of me really is an enormous gift of its own.

How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it!
~ George Elliston

* The kid has everything she needs and more! And seriously, if we were the same size I would totally be borrowing from her way-awesome wardrobe!

Closer to a better tomorrow

Today’s quote from my “Be Good to Yourself” calendar came at just the right time. For a few weeks now I’ve been telling myself to get in gear and start working toward next year when I hope plan to attend graduate school in the UK.

Every day do something that will inch you closer to a better tomorrow.
~ Doug Firebaugh

I’ve been working on my applications and I’ve been thinking about the practicalities, but I’ve not actually done anything to get me closer to success.

One of the biggest hurdles (other than the required acceptance letter, of course) is the financial side of the issue. In short, I need to come up with about £24,000 ($36,000) for tuition and living expenses. That’s no small task. (In fairness, I’ll have about £9,000 of that once I finish filling out some tax refund forms for the UK, but that still leaves a £15,000 deficit!)

In an effort to curtail spending I’ve cut the cable and have opted to not buy a complete new wardrobe for the year (despite knowing that Paul would want me to) and will instead work with what I’ve got just adding a couple of pieces here-and-there.

I’ve also decided to trim my grocery budget drastically, which is going to be difficult because I’ve gotten used to buying higher-end foods over the past few years. But, I suppose that I need to get into practice if I’m going to be a starving student!

Anyhow, the main point is this:

I’ve just purchased a big container of Yuban coffee. The sale price was $2.99 per pound, compared to the $12 per pound I normally spend on fancy coffee. I have about three days’ worth of Pioneer Coffee left, and then I’ll have to start slumming it. I’m not really looking forward to this part of my higher education goal, but I suppose I need to cowgirl-up and get on with it.

Other money-saving plans include making more soups and casseroles instead of steaks and prawns; buying fresh flowers less often and instead finding pretty leaf-filled branches and other ‘free’ items from my yard to display on the mantel piece; and eating apples, pears, and other inexpensive fruits instead of expensive berries and exotic imported produce.

It feels a bit ironic to be taking the day’s “Be Good to Yourself” quote and interpreting it to mean depriving myself of lovely foods, but I’m playing the long game here so am happy to make the short-term sacrifice!

Tonight’s dinner: Left-over meat loaf w/ frozen veggies. Tomorrow: Beef stew made from a hodgepodge of left-overs from the freezer. Yum!

Remember yesterday

Woke up to the sound of pouring rain; the wind would whisper and I’d think of you. And all the tears you cried, that called my name; and when you needed me I came through.

Oh yeah, I’m totally remembering yesterday* today. It started with a text message from my 13-year-old niece who has found that she loves my music collection. Her text was letting me know that one of her new-found songs from my past put her ‘in high spirits’. The song was Good Love by Poison.

Well, that text made me set my iPod to play Poison. But then I felt the need for a total Hair Band** Fest.

So, I set up my “Hair Band” play list (yes, I have one) and hit play. (What a way to spend a Friday at the office!) Then I let my Facebook public know about my celebration of Hair Band Friday. And they quickly made posts of their own about the new celebration. (Yay! I love being a trend-setter!)

And because I know you’re dying for this information, my Hair Band play list includes:

Yay for music! And yay for Friday Hair Band Fests everywhere!

* The title and opening quote are from Skid Row’s “I Remember You” – in case you didn’t get the reference.
** What I call Hair Band, Paul called Poodle Rock. The ever-knowing
Wikipedia calls it Glam Metal.

Inspirations; Part 3

I’ve done a lot of praying this past week in the hopes of finding the strength, courage, and inspiration I need to accept a challenge facing my already fragile world. My fears are great and my confidence is weak but I have faith. And my faith will see my through.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
~Psalm 27:1

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?
~Psalm 56:3-4 

He gives power to the weak; and to those who have no might He increases strength.
~Isaiah 40:29

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
~Isaiah 41:10

For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you: Do not fear; I will help you.
~Isaiah 41:13 

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
~Philippians 4:13

A nice cuppa tea and a sit down

When I got home from work today, I realized that I’ve not enjoyed a nice cuppa tea and a sit down after work since my last work day before Paul died. And I realized that I sort of missed that little bit of down time between arriving home from the office and making dinner. So, I filled the kettle and set it to boil…

I’ve enjoyed tea in the past year – but on the weekends when I’m sitting on the couch watching television. This evening was not that. As part of my new cable-free lifestyle, I enjoyed my pot of oolong tea with a couple slices of homemade banana bread whilst listening to the soothing sounds of Miles Davis.

I realized instantly that it’s not as much fun to enjoy a cuppa without someone to chat with, but I’m sure that I’ll soon find comfort in sitting on my own.

In the mean time, I’m going to try to remember that I always enjoyed this part of my day. A chance to unwind and enjoy a nice, hot cuppa tea – and maybe instead of telling Paul all about my day, I can tell Schrodie. I’m certain that she will listen intently and impart words of wisdom when needed…

(Oh no! I’m starting to sound like a crazy cat lady!)

Come and share a pot of tea; my home is warm and my friendship’s free.
~ Emilie Barnes

Set in stone

I struggled with how to start this post, or if I would even write it at all because it’s hard to know what how to ‘announce’ that your husband’s headstone has finally arrived to mark his grave. It’s hard to know if it’s something that should be shared with the world, or kept as a silent occasion. I struggled to decide if sharing something so personal would offend readers of Just Frances or if sharing this part of my life would be well-received.

In the end, I decided that I needed to share with the world because I find comfort in writing and I’ve had several people contact me saying that they, in turn, find comfort in reading what I’ve written.

So, the big announcement is that after 15 months, there is finally a permanent marker at Paul’s grave in America. Whilst some may say that the delay was a sign of disrespect (in fact, one did!) it took as long as it did because I wanted to be certain that I was choosing something that would be a fitting tribute to Paul. And if I know Paul, he would be surprised that I didn’t take even more time to decide!

I was fortunate that no one pushed me to order a headstone when I was making funeral arrangements. I’ve read so many accounts from young widow(er)s who regret the decisions that were urged upon them in those frightening and confusing hours and days after their spouse passed away. Instead, no one asked me about a headstone at all. Certainly, I made dozens and dozens of other decisions in those early hours, and I don’t regret any of them, but I don’t know that I would have been able to make decisions on a headstone without later regret.

I think I knew what I wanted for Paul’s headstone early on, but it wasn’t until December – more than eight months after he died – that I was finally ready to meet with the monument company to make arrangements for its design. Of course, in true Frances style, what I wanted was not commonly available so had to be custom-designed. And my OCD-tendencies meant several back-and-forth sketches before I was happy with it; which meant that from my initial meeting with the monument company until its placement at the cemetery, it took about seven months to complete – partially because it required a lot of custom hand carving and partially because I didn’t want to rush myself.

I wanted something simple and traditional, but something that was fitting for both of our likes. Knowing that it would need to include a cross, I decided the main design would be Paul’s favorite cross: the St. Martin’s Cross from the Iona Abbey in Scotland. Paul always enjoyed talking about the island’s role in bringing Christianity to Britain, and we had been looking for a nice replica of the cross to hang in our living room before he died.

For several weeks, I’d been anxious and excited for the headstone’s delivery, but when I learned the date of the installation, it made me sad. Paul’s headstone was no longer a theoretical object sometime in the future, but a real, tangible symbol of my husband’s death. It was difficult to see our names* etched in stone; it was painful to see the stone standing there. But strangely, I found comfort in it, too. As I stood there looking at the stone and feeling the coolness of the granite with my hands, I felt good knowing that for generations to come there will be evidence of my amazing husband’s (short) life on this Earth.

Paul and I had always talked about making a trip to the Isle of Iona one day, and I now feel more compelled than ever to travel to the island and see the original cross standing where it’s stood for more than 1,200 years. I know it will be hard to do alone, knowing that it was something we’d planned to do together, but I’m certain that I’ll find a bit of peace standing there on my own knowing that Paul is in my heart.

I thank my God for every remembrance of you.
~ Philippians 1:3

* For my UK readers, I realize that it may seem strange to have my name included on the stone at this point. Whilst not necessarily the ‘standard’ in America, it is a very common format and one that I chose to use because it brought me a certain amount of comfort. Which is weird. But so am I.

A cup of inspiration

in·spi·ra·tion ˌin(t)-spə-ˈrā-shən, -(ˌ)spi- (noun; 14th century)
1a: a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation b: the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions c: the act of influencing or suggesting opinions
2: the act of drawing in; specifically: the drawing of air into the lungs
3a: the quality or state of being inspired b: something that is inspired – a scheme that was pure inspiration
4: an inspiring agent or influence

The smallest things inspire me. I find it surprising at times because one little, seemingly-inconsequential thing can draw the most amazing ideas from my mind. A simple smell can inspire me to write a short story; the sounds of children laughing may inspire me to go outside and play after a long day at the office; a single word might cause my mind to begin composing the next chapter of whatever book I tell myself I’m working on.

I’m inspired to cook after a Facebook friend posts photos of their food. I make appointments for manicures and pedicures after someone I know talks about going to the spa for a day. I schedule golf lessons after hearing my boss talk about playing 18 holes over the weekend. And I go to the gym after my 11-year-old nephew phones to tell me that he’s just been on a training run for the 10K we’re running together in October.

But whilst I find these little inspirations everywhere – every day – I still find myself constantly searching for inspiration.

I search for the inspiration to motivate me to do the dishes. I scour the Internet for inspirational quotes to help bolster a failing smile. I read book after book searching for the inspiration for writing books of my own. And a seek inspiration to just get me from one day to the next.

It’s the searching for inspiration that I find strange. I never needed to search before. But then, Paul was my muse and I suppose I drew much of my inspiration from him – probably without either of us realizing it. 

The inspiration for this post? The side of a disposal coffee cup.

When I’m inspired, I get excited because I can’t wait to see what I’ll come up with next.
~ Dolly Parton

I SCREAM!

My nephew and I enjoyed a nice picnic dinner before spending two hours hiking Kamiak Butte last night. We’d decided before the trip that we would treat ourselves to ice cream after we were done. We’d also decided that licorice ice cream would play a role in our double-scooped treats. We were so excited about this that on the descent we kept repeating ‘black licorice’ in silly voices (pretending, of course, that it was the trees encouraging us to have licorice ice cream).

I can’t begin to explain how distraught we both were when we got back to town and saw that the shop had closed 20 minutes before. It was truly devastating. The kid tried his best to console me with the promise that “we can get ice cream tomorrow instead” but it just didn’t help fill the deep sadness I felt inside… (OK, I may be gilding the lily a bit there, but really I was bummed about this.)

So, to make up for yesterday’s let-down, we decided to have ice cream for dinner tonight. Two scoops, thank you very much.

I had licorice and cherry cordial for my two scoops. The boy, in his most boring-est way, had two scoops of licorice. I don’t know why he didn’t want two different flavors other than he’s weird. But that’s OK. So am I!

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

Inspirations; Part 2

Because we all need a bit of inspiration from time-to-time…

Learn to see things backwards, inside out and upside down.
~ John Heider

To reach a port, we must sail. Sail, not tie at anchor. Sail, not drift.
~ Franklin Roosevelt

Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.
~ Robert Collier

To climb steep hills requires a slow pace at first.
~ Shakespeare

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?
~ Vincent van Gogh

God bless the USA

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress of the United States of America signed the Declaration of Independence, announcing their departure from the rule of Great Britain.

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…

It was an act of disobedience; an act of war. Some would say war against an absent king; some would say war against ourselves.

It was an act of bravery; an act of independence. It was the first step in the creation of the truly great United States of America. And today, across the nation, we celebrate our freedoms.

In the words of the great Lee Greenwood:

And I’m proud to be an American
where at least I know I’m free,
And I won’t forget the men who died
who gave that right to me,
And I gladly stand up next to you
and defend her still today,
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land
God Bless the USA

Have a happy and safe Independence Day!

Heading east

About three months ago I wrote that I was getting ready to watch The West Wing. All of it. Seasons 1 through 7. At the time I thought I’d be able to plough right through and accomplish the task within a month. Well, that didn’t happen but I’ve finally watched the last episode this evening.

I was extremely excited when I first started the series because so many people I know told me how fantastic it was. In fact, one overly-enthusiastic fan informed me that (except for Season 5) “…the whole thing is the best telly on the planet. Ever. Period.” I received similar reviews from others – including the opinion that Season 5 was, essentially, rubbish.

Now, in an effort to not be overly contrary I have to say that the show was, on whole, very good. Not the best telly on the planet, but certainly very good. In fact, I even liked Season 5. (I will make no apologies for that statement.)

However, I think that I made a mistake in watching it all back-to-back-to-back. I think that part of the reason I wasn’t overly impressed is that I got a bit of West Wing Fatigue. It just seemed a bit monotonous after a while. Maybe if I’d seen the show one episode at a time over a period of years, I would have enjoyed it more. (This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it, I just didn’t totally and completely love it like crazy.)

I had originally planned to start watching The Sopranos next, but I feared that watching it all at once would cause me to become a bit bored of it, too, and I can’t bare the thought of being bored by one of my favorite genres: mob flicks. So I’ve decided to just watch a couple episodes a week and mix them in with re-watching a series I’ve already seen, and love, Black Adder.

NOTE: In case it didn’t make sense, my post about “The West Wing” was titled “The signs point west” and now, because the settings for both “The Sopranos” and “Black Adder” are east of the Pacific Northwest, I am heading east. I know, I know: If you have to explain it, obviously it wasn’t that clever…

If God used sticky notes

A woman I’ve never met gave me a small book a few days after Paul died.
If God Used Sticky Notes” is just a little picture book but I’ve probably read it 30 times in the last year. I don’t know if it’s my passion for sticky notes or my unwavering faith in God that makes the book so special to me, but every time I open it I smile and think about the kindness of strangers.

It’s going to be a good day today! ~ xo, God

Shaken, not stirred

My love for Martinis developed sometime in the summer of 2008. It was a drink that Paul and I spoke about trying for a long time, but we needed Martini glasses and it took us quite a long time to find ones that we liked. (We ended up with very simple Ikea glasses.) Once we had all of the supplies, we took on the task of mastering the perfect drink. It took a while, and we dumped a fair bit of failed liquid down the drain, but eventually we got there and developed our “RyanCentric” Martini.

A RyanCentric Martini is the perfect blend of vodka or gin with dry vermouth, a drop or two of bitters, and as many olives as you can fit on a cocktail pick. (Maybe a little bowl of olives on the side, too, because you should never drink on an empty stomach.) Oh, and a splash or two of olive brine, because I like it dirty… ::giggle::

I used to love coming home after work and Paul would be there waiting to greet me. He seemed to know if I was having a hard day at the office, because on those days he’d greet with with a kiss and a hug – and a freshly-poured Martini. (Hugs and kisses happened regardless of the quality of my day.)

And every four weeks, when the results of my blood work would come in, he’d be ready with a Martini. If my platelet counts were high, we’d have a celebratory drink. If they were low, we’d commiserate with one of those deliciously-salty drinks. (For those who wonder, my last counts were really really good. Tonight’s Martini is a belated celebration of that fact.)

We used to love being all “la-de-da” with our Martinis!

I remember sitting in the funeral home looking at urns a couple of days after Paul died. I knew I wanted something simple – and certainly not something etched and floraly and ugly (as most funereal things tend to be, apparently). The funeral director showed me a few options – one of which was a plain, silver, traditionally-shaped urn. As I held it in my hands, it dawned on me that it was shaped like a Martini mixer – right down to the top “lid” portion. I had to laugh. And for an ironic moment I considered it. But in the end, I went with the simple boxes. Two of them: A black metal one for his burial in the states (it reminded me of a monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey) and a simple wooden one for his burial in England.

I don’t know that I will ever be able to drink another Martini with at least a passing thought of Paul. But you know what, it makes me smile to think of him. And you should always smile when drinking an extra-large, extra-olive, extra-dirty Martini. They taste better that way.

And when it comes to shaken or stirred, I prefer shaken.

Fictional President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet once said:

Shaken, not stirred, will get you cold water with a dash of gin and dry vermouth. The reason you stir it with a special spoon is so not to chip the ice. James [Bond] is ordering a weak Martini and being snooty about it.

Snooty? Maybe. Pretentious? Probably. Smart? Definitely. In Bond’s case, he could enjoy an extra Martini or two and not be too tipsy for all his spy stuff. In my case, a slightly weaker Martini means I’ll have the steadiness of hand to mix more than one in an evening. (But only one on a school night!)

Funny forks

I love the way people can share the most mundane everyday details of their lives with the world thanks to the Wonderful World Wide Web. And I think it’s funny that so many people I know share photos of their food on various online mediums. There are photos on Facebook, Flickr, websites, blogs, and even multimedia messages sent between mobile communication devices.

But here’s the thing with food pictures: Most of them look funny. Well, at least the ones where the photo is staged with eating utensils in the shot.

I look at most of those pictures and I feel they’re off balance. There’s something funny about them. And today I realized what it is that bugs me so much: People take photos of their plates and bowls full of food but they put their forks and spoons on the wrong side! Certainly, the correct placement is the left side, as that’s the correct hand for using said implement. (Knives are permitted on the right side, however.)

I just thought I’d share that random little observation with you. My fellow right-brained ‘correct-handers‘ will understand, even if my wrong-handed readers don’t.

Everyone is born right-handed… only the gifted overcome it!

I like peanut butter

When I first began this blog, I jokingly commented that: “The content will be all over the place. You may visit one day and see a 1,500-word essay on why I think creamy peanut butter is better than crunchy and the next day there may be some random quote from some random song lyrics that I like.”

Well, today’s the day you get that 1,500-word essay and some random song lyrics all in one!

Peanut butter used to be just one of those random foods that I kept in the cupboard. As a child, it was a common lunch ingredient. On occasion, Mom would put it on celery for us to munch on – with raisins. Or maybe the raisins were enjoyed at friends’ houses. I can’t recall. I think we mostly had creamy peanut butter growing up. It was purchased in these large tubs – which is what you do when there are six kids (plus random friends coming and going all the time). Adams brand, maybe?

As an adult, I always kept it on-hand for making “no-bake” cookies. Some days, I would enjoy a big spoonful of the stuff just because I wanted something to eat and didn’t know what else to have. I rarely made PB&J sandwiches, but I used to make toast with peanut butter and a drizzle of honey. Sometimes I’d add raisins.

It wasn’t until moving to Scotland that I realized everyone in the world didn’t grow up on PB&J. Paul seemed to almost turn his nose up at the stuff. He found it strange that I would always have a jar in my flat – and even stranger that I would eat it straight from the jar. He just wasn’t interested in the stuff.

About a year after we got married, Paul found himself in the kitchen looking for something to snack on. He found the jar of peanut butter and decided to give it a go. That small jar that would normally last 2-3 months was gone in less than two weeks. He was addicted!

Soon, I found peanut butter becoming a normal grocery purchase – and no longer the smallest jar, but the medium-sized one. And no longer creamy (my favorite) but crunchy. I still maintained my peanut butter habits of 1-2 spoonfuls in a month’s time, but Paul was going through 1-2 spoonfuls a day – sometimes more!

When we’d go to my parents’ house, he could often be found in the kitchen “testing” their peanut butter to make sure it hadn’t gone off or something. It got to be such a (funny) quirk that one year, Santa brought Paul a jar or peanut butter and a plastic spoon. And he started eating it right away!

Eventually, Paul realized that his addiction was getting out of control and he cut back drastically. I think part of it was because he knew that he needed to set a good example for the kids we were planning to adopt and eating straight from the jar wasn’t a good lesson to teach.

You know, I don’t think I’ve eaten peanut butter since Paul died. For some reason, I don’t seem to buy it anymore. Maybe because he’s not here to ask me to; maybe because he’s not here for me to make no-bake cookies for; or maybe because it’s one of those little mental foibles where I will always connect peanut butter with Paul and I’m just not willing or able to deal with it right now. But I digress…

OK! OK! What the heck is this all about?!

Well, it started because “Peanut Butter” by The Royal Guardsmen (Snoopy vs. The Red Baron album) came on the iPod today.

But I just can’t keep this up any longer so it won’t be a 1,500-word essay after all (yes, I hear you cheering that fact!). I’m including the lyrics to the song to help pad it out though.

Oh! And why do I prefer creamy peanut butter to crunchy? Because I once had crunchy peanut butter that either had a very very stale bit of peanut in it or a tiny rock and it chipped my tooth. With creamy, never have to worry about that.

Peanut Butter
The Royal Guardsmen
Snoopy vs. The Red Barron

There’s a food goin’ around that’s a sticky sticky goo
(Peanut, peanut butter)
Oh well it tastes real good, but it’s so hard to chew
(Peanut, peanut butter)
All my friends tell me that they dig it the most
(Peanut, peanut butter)
Early in the morning when they spread it on toast
(Peanut, peanut butter)
I like peanut butter, creamy peanut butter
Chunky peanut butter, too

C’mon now, take a lesson now
(Peanut, peanut butter)
Open up your jar now
(Peanut, peanut butter)
Spread it on your cracker now
(Peanut, peanut butter)
Chomp now
(Peanut, peanut butter)
I like peanut butter, creamy peanut butter
Chunky peanut butter, too

Well, I went to a dinner and what did they eat
(Peanut, peanut butter)
Ah-well, I took a big bite and it stuck to my teeth
(Peanut, peanut butter)
Now everybody look like they got the mumps
(Peanut, peanut butter)
Just-a eatin’ peanut butter in-a great big hunks
(Peanut, peanut butter)
I like peanut butter, creamy peanut butter
Chunky peanut butter, too
I like peanut butter, creamy peanut butter
Chunky peanut butter, too

Lap cat

It’s been a little over a year since I got Schrodie and the stupid thing is acting more and more like a cat every day. This is evident today in that she loved me for three minutes when I came home (right up until I fed her) then ignored me for the rest of the evening, moving back-and-forth between the love seat and wing chair staring at me all night – but not interacting.

That is, until I plopped my feet on the coffee table and brought the laptop onto my lap. Within moments, the cat bullied her way in. And now she won’t move. She’s got my right arm pinned down giving me limited use of that wrist and hand for typing and my left arm is draped over her meaning that wrist and hand have to type at an odd angle.

The stupid beast is now demanding I stop typing and scratch her under the chin… It’s true what they say:

Dogs have masters and cats have slaves.

Green with envy

I got a new toy today. It’s a lovely new, bright, and shiny 4 GB iPod Shuffle. It’s a pretty shade of green with a personalized inscription.

Just Frances
100% Awesome
 

I purchased my first iPod last October. It’s fantastic, but it’s also rather large. I got the Classic (160 GB) with a view toward the future. I wanted to be able to put all of my music in one place so that when (if?) I manage to make it to the UK for my master’s degree I could take it with me and not have to faff around with 100s of CDs.

I totally love the Classic. I take it to work and plug it into my office speakers so that I can listen to music throughout the day. I’ve found that since Paul died, the music calms me and actually makes me more productive. Not necessarily more productive than I was before he died, but more productive than days when I don’t have music playing.

The problem with the Classic, however, is it’s size. It’s just too big for use when I’m running. And that’s why I needed a second iPod.

The Shuffle is great! It’s super small and clips right onto my clothing. It doesn’t hold as many songs, but it will hold more than enough of the “right kind” of music for running. Whilst the Classic is loaded with everything from bluegrass and jazz to rock and classical, the Shuffle is pretty much just for rock, 80s pop, and up-beat country.

Off to create a new play list for tomorrow morning’s run now. I think I’ll start with Jackson Browne’s Running On Empty

Yay for me!

I hope this doesn’t make you too green.

Inspirations; Part 1

My sister gave me a little desk calendar with daily inspirations. The theme is “Be Good to Yourself” and features a short quote on each of the Post-It-size tear-off days. (You get gypped, however, because it doubles-up on Saturday and Sunday, which is silly because the weekends are the days when you’ll want to make notes of events and happenings, but whatever…)

In addition to the stupid quotes (“I love my money right where I can see it… Hanging in my closet.” ~ Sarah Jessica Parker) there are several that have really made me smile – either because they are things that are very true to my own beliefs or because they are truly inspirational.

And since everyone needs a bit of positive inspiration on a dreary Monday, I’m sharing a couple of my favorites with you!

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscience of our treasures.
~ Thornton Wilder

You were born an original. Don’t die a copy.
~ John Mason

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
~ E.E. Cummings

Retro mowing

When Paul and I bought our house two years ago, we decided that we wanted to continue our “hippy-granola-freak” lifestyle in our yard care efforts. So, I picked up the old (and I mean old!) lawn mower from my folks’ house the weekend we moved. The next weekend we spent the whole day out in the yard – and met pretty much every neighbor because people kept stopping by to offer use of their gas-powered mowers. Some offered to have their kids come by on the riding mowers, too. It was difficult for people to believe that we really wanted to use the relic mower!

Paul would tell people: “I asked my wife for a multi-gym and this is what I got!”

Last year the old mower never got used. Instead, in the days after Paul died the neighbors all started to care for the lawn. Every week or so, someone would come around on their riding mower and just take care of it for me.

I decided that I really need (and sort of want) to take care of it on my own this year. Between being sick and the bad weather, however, it was difficult to get out and mow. Luckily, someone has come by three times in the past several weeks to mow for me.

The weather was nice today, however, so I took out my trusty mower and mowed a good-sized section of the front yard. And – wow! – it was hard work! I think that I’ll have to mow a little bit each evening to keep up on it – or buy a new mower that’s easier to use.

We’d spoke about purchasing a new push reel mower last spring, and I think that I certainly need to do it this year. So… I think I’m going to check out Tri-State (Idaho’s Most Interesting Store) this weekend and see about buying a new-fangled old fashion mower. It will still be environmentally friendly, but it will be a lot lighter and a lot easier to use.

Here’s a link to the sorts of things I’m looking at. I am, of course, happy to listen to recommendations for which push reel is best!

(And yes, I know I’m crazy. But then, so does everyone else!)

Miss you much

It’s been a year since Paul died; a year since I became Just Frances again. I made the drive to his grave in Cle Elum today to bring him some tulips from our yard. He would have loved to see how bright they are in the flower beds and I wish that he was here to admire them on our mantle.

My sister took some tulips up for him yesterday – similar colors to those I brought – and Paul’s family took tulips up to his grave in England. Tulips are my favorite flowers, so that’s what he seems to get now. I hope he doesn’t mind…

Paul, you are always in my heart and on my mind. I miss you much, but I don’t regret an ounce of this pain because it means I loved deeply and truly. I love ya, luv. xx

 Miss You Much
The Clumsy Lovers

I miss you much, but I don’t regret
I sense your touch, that hasn’t left me yet
You know a mournful ending don’t ruin a precious start
A painful parting don’t mean a bitter heart
 

And gracious your beauty
Goodness your soul

Everything’s changed, and you’re not here
But you keep climbing into my dreams somehow
Your voice is strange, but the words are clear
You’re saying “Love me now, love me now, love me now, love me now”
and I do… I do love you.

Fortunes

I completely pigged out on Chinese take-away tonight. I mean completely pigged out. I’m sure it wasn’t a pretty site to watch me wolf down so very much monosodium glutamate laden food. But whatever, I have a happy belly for it so that’s all that matters.

Well, that and the fact that in my piggy-ness I enjoyed not one but two fortune cookies. Which means two fortunes. Yay!

Fortune #1:

You would prosper in the field of medicine.”

(Totally not buying into that one, sorry.)

Fortune #2:

Remember three months from this date. Good things are in store for you.”

So, Tuesday, July 6, 2010 should be a good day. I wonder what the good things could be?

I wait with bated (not baited) breath…

Music to my ears

I bought an iPod Classic in October because I was feeling down and shiny things normally cheer me up. I had it engraved with the last line from one of my favorite poems, Desiderata (by Max Ehrmann).

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Anyhow, the iPod will hold up to 40,000 songs and my goal is to fill it up. Well, today I noticed that I am at 10 percent capacity! How fantastic is that?

There are a total of 435 albums representing 24 genres. The top three genres are rock (102), alternative – which I define to include all new age and ska (76), and country (35).

I will slowly start working to digitalize (is that a word?) my vinyl collection (and my folks’ collection) which will certainly add to the number of rock albums and may even bring my jazz collection into a running for #3. (Now, if I would classify bluegrass, big band, jazz, and swing into one genre, it would certainly take the #2 spot – if not top billing.)

In addition to my amazingly eclectic music collection (Which, did I mention includes three albums from the Cle Elum Roslyn Elementary School’s Marimba band?) I have 416 Podcasts waiting to be listened to. They include 241 English language and grammar tips and lessons; 143 Scots Gaelic modules (I’ve been trying to learn for more than 10 years now); and 14 episodes of Johnathan Ross’ radio show. Yes, I really must get caught up!

I’m assuming you care about these little details of my life or you wouldn’t still be reading…