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Eating a Whale

The last time I updated this blog, I logged #59 in a list of 99 things to celebrate about Summer. That was two year ago! While last year’s one entry contained much to be grateful for and yes, even celebrate, none of it was specifically summery. This leaves me with 40 items to finish out the list, so I am back to try to eat this whale. And that is my first suggestion for Summer 2016:

60. Eat a Whale. Not literally, but figuratively, as in Shel Silverstein’s poem Melinda Mae: take a big project (like finishing a list of 99 items) and take one bite — check off one item at a time. With 99 days (97 at this writing), Summer is ideal for big things done in small pieces.

61. Sign up for a Summer Challenge. Lots of bloggers and sites offer them — clean cooking, catching up on scrap booking, exercising everyday — on almost any topic for which you’d like to build a habit. Not one bite at a time, but rather one day at a time. They say it takes 21 days to build a habit. We have time enough for three new ones!

62. Convertibles and sunroofs: My very first car had a sunroof, my second did not. When I bought my third car, a sunroof was one of the “mandatory” upgrades I wanted. I imagine that convertible aficionados feel the same way about their access to overhead sunshine. Just be sure to wear sunscreen!

63. Screen porch: breezes, a respite from the sometimes-relentless sun, and (virtually) no mosquitoes — what’s not to like. Our little cottage has one and it is a lifesaver for my husband (Mr. Mosquito Bait) and for me (cooler than a deck, warmer than air conditioning. Even the cat likes it!

64. Reruns: Nowadays, reruns of favorite and not-so-favorite TV shows are all over the place, including on line, but it used to be that they signaled “Summer!” New shows were rare in the Summer, and the old ones (with their ads) kept network TV going (and rainy days sane) until the start of the new seasons in the Fall.

65. Now, of course, we have summer-only series on TV. My only personal experience with this is Royal Pains, but I know there are many more out there. And that’s only on TV . . .!


The Abundant Summer of 2015

I spent this Summer thinking about (but obviously not writing about) abundance. With 106 days, it was already an abundant season, but it was especially fruitful for my family. Many of the events, on the surface, seemed more like problems, but as they unfolded, I learned to see the Grace — the abundance –within. Here’s what happened and what I learned:

In early June, two of our cars needed a lot of work — so much work on one that we thought about trading it in. We chose short-term inconvenience and expense rather than the long-term pain of car payments. In late June, our cat became deathly ill, and by July we were frequent fliers at a specialty vet clinic an hour from our home. The bills came daily, in awe-inspiring amounts. The cat did not die, but our dishwasher and computer both did, and replacing them was not an option, given our other expenses. The abundance, besides the negative bottom line and the mileage on my car?

1. The prayers said on behalf of a beloved animal by friends, family, and anyone who heard about what was going on. Susu gave the surgeon such a tough time in the operating room that I expect he said some prayers as well. The frequent proof that those prayers were being heard and answered — daily improvements in Susu’s health — greatly strengthened my faith and encouraged my to pray still more.

2. Generosity: My husband’s response to the situation was a whole-hearted acceptance of just how much this would cost, and a graciousness about Susu’s need for care once she returned home.

3. Affection: Susu liked us just fine before she became ill, but afterwards she became a real love bug. Her purrs were more frequent and she cuddled for as many hours as I’d sit still. During July, this was hours and hours, literally, as I held our sleeping cat while she recovered.

4. Renewed empathy: Susu sometimes needed care in the middle of the night and needed help getting in and out of the litter box while she gained strength. Interrupted sleep and offering assistance in the bathroom are hallmarks of caring for both young children and the elderly. Whether you are caring for one or the other, and especially if you’re sandwiched between both, you have my sympathy and admiration.

5. Tech alternatives: Each of us has a tablet, and between us we have two laptops and two smartphones. Getting online and reading emails wasn’t as easy nor as comfortable as before, but it was doable, in lots of ways.

6. Service: For most of the Summer, my husband and our daughter, did the dishes by hand. To save them some of the trouble they were saving me, I practiced cleaning up as I cooked (an excellent system — I recommend it!) or just shooed them out of the kitchen and washed up myself.

7. Provision: I spent money on almost nothing but bills, utilities, and food this Summer, yet I never felt like I had to go without. My summer wardrobe, stack of books to read, stitching projects at the ready, even the contents of my pantry: all seemed more than abundantly supplied. I made plans for a “homemade Christmas” because I had plenty of gift-making supplies and enjoyed a lovely three-day sewing class that I’d prepaid before all our troubles began. I’m still finding personal care products tucked away in my bathroom: I guess I knew I’d need extra lotion and razors!

While I would not wish to repeat the events of this Summer, I don’t think I’d choose to have missed them, either. The sense of abundance in the midst of a season of extreme frugality and the lessons learned while pleading with God and the surgeon to save my cat’s life go beyond what’s listed here. I expect to be tripping over results from this Summer’s testing for years to come.

Gratitude, Take 5

Back on line to finish my list:

81. The chance to make a mini Thanksgiving dinner, just for the three of us.
82. My husband toting up the Christmas boxes from the basement
83. Two neighborhood social events that have become traditions
84. Hostess gifts lined up and wrapped for those events
85. A sewing client who is flexible about deadlines
86. The lovely, oddly pale colours of this morning’s sunrise
87. A routine that includes watching the sunrise
88. 24 shopping days until Christmas — I may need them all!
89. Online, emailed, and downloaded Advent devotionals to keep my head and heart in the right game this season
90. An online novena site to keep my prayer intentions on track (www.praymorenovenas.com, if you are interested)
91. The First Sunday of Advent and our little family tradition of lighting the first candle and reading the Annunciation from the Gospel.
92. Having my brother’s 46-year-old children’s Bible
93. A good night’s sleep
94. A library within walking distance
95. My Christmas card list: a chance to think of and pray for distant friends and family
96. Finding a stack of “forever” Madonna and Child stamps tucked in with the cards
97. Being able to request a new Rx without having to make an appointment
98. Mail-order pharmacy!
99. That we all like the same kinds of TV shows
100. Dinner as a family. Every night. For years now. So worth it!

Gratitude, Takes 3 and 4

Well, on our great national day of giving thanks, I was too occupied with family (there were sixteen of us here yesterday) to post, so I am trying for forty today. If I get to thirty and am interrupted, I’ll aim to finish up tomorrow.
41. My husband’s quick reflexes and our guardian angels that kept us safe both times drivers veered into our lane on our trip down here
42. Rain rather than snow for our long drive
43. The real possibility of snow soon, very soon
44. The way my niece’s face lit up when I brought out the cheese pie.
45. My MIL’s WI-FI
46. An email from my BIL on a sailing trip this week
47. Not needing to hit the Black Friday sales
48. Our cat seems to be getting better about being in the car
49. My MIL putting us all up so we don’t need a hotel
50. Sitting with my SIL as she planned her Black Friday shopping and I knitted
51. The Water Coach app to remind me to drink water
52. Finding a new app to remind me about medicines
53. That each of us have enough electronic toys that I won’t be shopping for those this year
54. Friends and family who truly welcome homemade gifts
55. Friends and teachers who expand my handwork repertoire
56. More than enough books
57. Knowing when enough is enough and not renewing two magazine subscriptions for next year
58. My daughter’s boyfriend joining us for Thanksgiving
60. Knowing where to go for a few quiet moments alone in a house with sixteen people
61. Verizon’s freebies on “Connection Day”
62. Several upcoming Christmas concerts (Yes, they are during Advent, but I love them anyway.)
63. Figuring out how to ride in our new rowboat without getting seasick
64. My new pretty purple floral life vest!
65. Bass Pro gift cards, probably enough to buy a small motor for the rowboat
66. The prospect of a trip to Bass Pro — this usually means dinner in their restaurant
67. A husband who fishes
68. My own pink fishing rod: Fish Like Pink, you know!
69. Apps that support my Faith, like Laudate and National Catholic Register
70. Blogs that support my Faith, like The Littlest Way and Devotionals Daily
71. Living where it’s not illegal to be Catholic
72. My husband’s 31 years of service to our country: 26 in the Army and now 5 as a Navy Scientist
73. My daughter’s dedication to her students
74. That my daughter shares my stitching hobby and goes fishing with her dad, too
75. That all five of our parents (I have a stepmother, too) are still alive and healthy
76. My in-law’s 50+ years of marriage and my father and stepmother’s 35+ years: such good examples in these days of throw-away relationships
77. My own 27+ years: blessings through thick and thin
78. That our daughter’s boyfriend is Catholic
79. Hot and cold running water (Do we realize how precious this is?)
80. This chance to count my blessing (Thank you, Jenny!): a great set-up for my day!

Gratitude, Take 2

My next twenty:
21. A family which does not complain when dinner is less than optimal
22. A day when I don’t have to leave the house
23. A husband who finds the file folder that’s been missing for over a week
24. A great gift idea for our daughter, decided upon and purchased
25. Only needing to make the pies for Thanksgiving — my MIL does the rest
26. A non-soy, lower calorie, very low cholesterol eggnog substitute
27. Being 1/3 of the way done with the second sock of the pair I’m knitting
28. A terrific diocesan newspaper
29. My husband’s quirky sense of humour
30. Already having enough Christmas cards and wrapping paper for this year
31. That my husband can work from home sometimes
32. A half day for our teacher-daughter tomorrow
33. The chance of snow tonight and tomorrow
34. Two ovens
35. Coupons
36. Finding a new hand cream for my winter-sensitive hands
37. A pretty wine rack for $3 at a garage sale
38. Books on CD
39. My crock pot
40. New jeans that fit just right

OK, it was hard to come up with a second set of twenty in the same day. Maybe sleep will reset my gratitude button!

Gratitude Challenge

Thank you, Jenny, at The Littlest Way, for issuing this challenge. My first twenty are:
1. A new (to us) cat
2. Our new cat is a lap cat. The last one wasn’t.
3. My own washer and dryer
4. Today’s Skype date with my accountability partner, study buddy, and friend
5. A good, gas-sipping car
6. A talent with needle and thread
7. So much papercraft/ scrapbook stuff that I can’t find the wreath kit I know I have. Somewhere!
8. A husband who drives an hour each way to work without complaint
9. My daughter being employed full time
10. Membership in 5 needlework guilds
11. A heavenly concert at a local church with just the right mix of music
12. Having a truly local sewing machine shop
13. The sewing machine shop offering free open sew sessions with on-hand assistance
14. An early December sewing retreat
15. Living only 2 hours from my college roommate
16. An easy reservation system at our library
17. A library app (!) to make reservations and renewals on the fly
18. Free libraries (they charge in Germany!)
19. Living in Germany for 5 years as an adult
20. The anticipated blessings of Advent

After Two Weeks

Look What 3 1/2 Hours Can Do!

Look what 3 1/2 hours of work can do! This picture was taken two weeks into this Summer’s 15-minutes-a-day project, and I think it’s amazing how much progress I made. Now that we are into the last week of July, I am a lot further behind, but this is the first update picture I took, and the first time I’ve been able to load it (thanks to tech help from Jgirl).

Ready, Set, Go!

This is the “before” photo of my scrapbooking pile. I am very ready to see what 15 minutes a day for 99 days produces. There are photos and memorabilia in there from our last three Army tours, our “post-retirement” life, and a special trip I took in 2008. All my supplies are set and I am raring to go!

Work In Progress

Ok, this is the project I’ve chosen to start working on 15 minutes a day this Summer. Very seasonal, yes? I love working on things in season, even though that often means I probably won’t get to use the finished product right away, because the season will have changed before or when I’m done. But that’s OK, because this feels like Summer and that will help to motivate me!

Summer 2014

99 days is a good long block of time, perfect for working on a large project in small doses. Doing a tiny bit of math, you might be surprised to discover that working for only 15 minutes a day everyday this Summer will yield just under 25 hours of work! That’s equal to spending a whole day and then some reading, sewing, catching up on what you have TiVo’d, stitching, doing yoga, or whatever else you like best. Yes, even eating chocolate, though I (and your doctor & your bathing suit) do not recommend that!

I suggested to several of my stitching buddies that this would be a great way to get a big project finished, and that’s one thing I’ll be working on (stay turned for in-progress pictures). It’ll be so satisfying to exhibit a “masterpiece” at the end of the Summer! What I’m really itching to work on, however, is my scrapbook pile. It’s overflowing, so I am aiming for a page a day, all Summer long. A page a day — so 99 pages — would result in a very large finished album, but since I have many already begun, I’m hoping for several completed books by Summer’s end.

Before I start, I’ll post a picture so you can see the “before,” and as I go along I’ll post progress reports, a tally, and even some of the finished work. To keep me honest, let’s stipulate that “a page” is one side for the larger albums (12×12, 8×10, etc.) and two sides for the smaller ones (7×7, 5×7, etc.). Some days I may get on a roll and finish multiple pages; some days I may not get any done at all (vacation, family outings — all days on which I’ll be adding to the memories instead “scrapping” them). Polite, pleasant comments and critiques welcome, and let me know if you are scrapping (or stitching, or whatever) along with me!