Little Square House

cottage

I once lived in a little square house.  Downstairs it had a kitchen, dining room, and living room.  Upstairs, a bathroom and bedroom with a makeshift closet along the hallway that connected the two rooms.  It was sturdy and brick.  When I had the shingles replaced on the roof, the carpenters exclaimed over the hardness of the oak boards underneath.  I replaced the old “shutter style” windows with new, vinyl windows and had one opening done in all glass block.  No more snow getting in on the inside like it used to!  So this house was nothing fancy, but I kept it clean and cute.  

The yard was nice and big with trees and a half circle drive.  The back yard led down into the woods where a trail opened up to a large, fast-flowing stream.  If you followed the stream up, you would find yourself in a graveyard.  This led to much speculation on my part as to whether the stream itself could be haunted (haha) ~ just par for the course of my wild imagination.  But it was a pretty setting.

This little square house was old.  I imagined that it could have been the carriage house for a much larger and grander house that stood down the road.  At one time, in the past.  Maybe.  Either way it was a pretty place even though it was small and old.  It was the first house I ever owned, and since I was only in my early 20’s, I was pretty proud of myself.

So it was with some dismay when I heard a guy I was dating describe my house to others as, “she lives in this BOX….” said with a mild hint of disgust…as if I was living in a cardboard box under a bridge or something.  In fact, he lived in what can only be described as a “U” – which was actually a small, generic-looking, U shaped apartment in a building with lots of other U shaped apartments.  So okay, I may have lived in a square and he in a U, but you didn’t hear ME knocking his U!  In fact, I’d never have thought to do so.    

But I always remembered him saying that, and the look on his face, and it made me feel insecure and self-conscience about my little square house.  It shouldn’t have, but it did.  I wondered if, since he felt that way, is that what others thought, too?  Should I have cared?  No!  But at that age, I did very much care what others thought.  In fact, this was just one of several places I lived that was good for me, but that other people I knew criticized.  What’s funny is that the people who usually criticized me didn’t really have any room to talk.  They weren’t doing any better or more fabulously than me!  It shouldn’t have bothered me.  

Eventually I moved, as I always knew I would, and I sold the house after a few years.  When I think of it, that little square house reminds me of some of the tiny houses that are so popular now.  It wasn’t exactly that small, though, but it really was super efficient and a perfect place for me at the time.  I don’t have an actual picture of the house – the image is from google but hopefully will give you the gist.  The actual house was a little bigger and had windows on the second floor with dormers.  But that’s the general idea.  The house is still in my family.  I sold it to my dad who rents it out.  

A Night Time Stroll

metal-couple-2haunted-house

In honor of a night time stroll

I won’t let you down; you should say no more!

Here, take my hand.  Let’s walk out this door

to be young again, like we did before…

The air will be warm, a balmy night

We’ll grab beers to go and a smoke to light

As we make our way down an empty street

moon light, flood light, crickets on repeat

At the end right there an ancient house stands

old as can be and many times changed hands

I dare you, you dare me:  should we go inside?

But we both know we will, we’ve nothing to hide

It’s a sinister place, though, and shadowy too

you win some, you lose some – and this place was through

We make it as far as the front drawing room

creaking and cracking; apprehension-filled gloom

Spiraled stairs wind their way to where no one should stay

dusty spirals looming in historic disarray

we don’t dare ascend as the floors may give way

our hearts beating faster; shadows tremble and sway

A moment to kiss, take a swig and a smoke

the excitement we share from our spooky little joke

We keep quiet for reasons we don’t even know

it was fun while it lasted, but it’s time to go!

A blood moon is calling, a lunar rip tide

Hold my hand, hold on tight – an excitement filled ride!

Ride the waves with me, kiss the stars

The night time is ours!

Be my scary little darling; my night time delight

May the morning never come, make it last all night

We want to live in it, breathe it in

You make everything all right.

couple

When Your Job Is Just…a Job

Passion, meaning, purpose, fulfillment etc. – all words that have haunted me for at least the last 10 years of my working life.  Why?  It seems like everywhere I go, everywhere I read, these are the words that in some way we should be able to use to describe the work/career aspect of our lives.  That’s right – it’s all about doing something we love, doing something that gives us purpose and fulfillment, doing something meaningful.  And the real doosie:  it should be our PASSION!

That’s all well and good, but it also seems to be extremely difficult to attain.  For me, work has mostly been something I do to earn money.  Maybe it’s the way I grew up or was raised, but to me, a job involved being realistic and practical.  It wasn’t supposed to be fun; it was something you did to make money.  Passion?  What passion?  There has rarely been any “passion” involved.  Sure, I’ve enjoyed some jobs more than others, but I can’t think of one job I’ve had that I would consider particularly meaningful – at least not to me.  In my younger years, it hadn’t really bothered me too much.  As long as I had extra money for the things I liked to do (like travel and go to concerts), I was okay with the daily grind of going to work to simply earn a paycheck.  But as I’ve gotten older, there’s been this constant nagging feeling that what I do every day should have more meaning behind it.  In addition, the internet is flooded with articles about following your passion and discovering your ideal career.

support-group

With ideas like this in my head; well, I’ll be honest – I’ve been miserable.  Each day at work felt pointless.  I would count the hours until I could go home and do the things I really loved; like reading, writing, taking long walks, riding my bike, growing plants, etc.  I love life itself, but this idea that I needed to be passionate about my work left me feeling depressed.  Most of my jobs have involved accounting in some way, shape or form.  This is something I’m good at, but it’s certainly not something I’m passionate about, nor is it something I find particularly fulfilling.  Even so, I had resigned myself to it.  Counting beans was just something I did, so that in my free time I could do the other things that I love to do.

So, it was with a sense of real relief that I stumbled across an article on Forbes that put a whole new spin on the idea of finding fulfillment at work.  While grammatical errors are a pet peeve of mine (I wonder if even the author himself had read this over), the article itself put forth an important message: “stop thinking you need to find fulfillment from your day job”.  Here’s an excerpt:

“But, here’s a benefit.  The moment you stop thinking you need to find fulfillment from your day job, you are going to be at least somewhat happier.  No, nothing about the job will have changed, but your attitude about it will. You will no longer expect that your day job to provide you with fulfillment. That’s a small step in the right direction. It’s totally within your reach and it costs you nothing”

http://www.forbes.com/sites/actiontrumpseverything/2012/06/19/why-work-does-not-have-to-be-fulfilling/#7dd5094970c8 Paul B. Brown

What an idea!  This goes against everything I’ve been reading and thinking, and you know what?  I love the idea!  It has made me feel much more relaxed and at ease than I was before.  Here’s what I take away from it:  I think for some people it’s achievable and they really do find work that they are passionate about.  Good for them!  If you’re in that group, you are a very lucky person.  Then there’s the rest of us.  Maybe we are good at something, it earns us money, it keeps us busy, and it’s at least tolerable.  BUT it’s not “fulfilling”, it doesn’t involve any one of our passions, and getting up in the morning to do it doesn’t exactly thrill us.  If that’s the case, then I think what needs to be done is this:  we need to focus on what our passion or passions are and still make sure they are a big part of our life.  Just because we aren’t completely fulfilled at work, doesn’t mean we can’t feel that way outside of work.  We must still focus on our passions because they are what make us who we are, and they are what makes us happy and gives us purpose.  For example, if writing is a passion of yours, continue to set aside time to write – even if it’s during a break, or here and there on weekends or after work.  Continue to do the things that motivate you outside of work.  If our personal life is fulfilling, that feeling will spill over into our professional lives; especially if the pressure is off in trying to find what isn’t there at our jobs.

And who knows what may happen if we continue to explore and get better at our true purpose!

 

Good Will Pile

It’s about three weeks into my minimalizing, simplifying, decluttering, and reorganizing project for my room/house and my life – and I’m discovering many things, and figuring out many more.  One of the first things I’ve discovered is that it’s not easy letting go of some things, especially if you have gone through periods of your life when things were hard to come by.  For me, that was much of my younger life when I was first starting out on my own; and other times, like when I didn’t have a job when my daughter was very young.  There were some tough times there when I honestly couldn’t afford to just go shopping.  I had to be very frugal and get by on very little.  If someone gave me something I could use, I was very grateful for it.  Times like these make us value things in our lives much more than when things are easy to come by.  So, this is something I must keep in mind as I’m deciding what I can or cannot live without.  There are those moments of, “maybe I should keep that just in case….”, and that feeling can be hard to overcome.

One thing that helps me is starting a “Good Will Pile”.  Now, I’ve done this on and off for years, but this time I’m doing it to a much greater extent than ever before.  After all, I have been averaging a donation of at least one large bag per week:  full of clothes, jewelry, shoes, books, etc.  The way it works is very simple:  I start the “pile” with an item I am ready to give away.  Once the pile is started, I continue to add to it, and I’ve noticed something.  As difficult as it may be for me to decide to let an item go, once it is on that pile, I’m done with it.  There’s no looking back.  I never need to rethink it.  It really works for me to just get it on that pile!

One of the items on the pile this week is an old jewelry box that an ex-boyfriend gave me a long time ago.  It’s a large one, with a couple doors, drawers, things to hang necklaces or bracelets on, and a ring drawer that opens down with slots for rings.  I remember being so happy when he gave it to me.  I thought it meant he really liked me.  Well, he turned out to not be a very nice person at all, and he left me.  We had been sharing an apartment together at the time, and when he left he took the one and only TV we had – even though he was moving back home with his well-to-do parents (in a house with several TV’s)!!  For years, I have held on to this jewelry box, and when I would see it I would, inevitably, think about him.  Now that the jewelry box is on the Good Will Pile, I can already feel the idea of him slipping away!  In fact, I can’t wait till I go on my weekly run to donate so that I can get rid of the thing and never think of him again!  It’s very interesting – the effect material objects have on us.  And if we associate them with bad feelings or not-so-great people from our past, well then they certainly need to go.  It really is true:  out of sight, out of mind!

In the process of cleaning out the jewelry box, I found many items that I knew I would never wear again.  I also discovered something else:  I probably have enough earrings to last me for THE REST OF MY LIFE!  Seriously!  It’s unbelievable how many pairs I have, that I could never get to because everything was so chaotic as far as my jewelry storage.  I’ve got things narrowed down, and have gotten rid of a lot of stuff I didn’t want, and now I can actually see what I’ve got and start using them.

On a final note, it’s already getting easier to get myself ready in the morning.  While I still have a ways to go on the clothes, just the minimizing I’ve done so far has been a big help.  Everyday when I think about the lifestyle I am choosing to live, I get a little thrill from it.  It just feels really good – to know that I’m moving toward a simpler, yet more fulfilling life.  And in the process – getting rid of some old baggage.

Back to the Basics

My first full-time job was a secretarial position at a small lumber company.  My clerk-stenography teacher hooked me up with the job while I was still in high school, doing vocational training in her class.  My senior year consisted of going to school till about 11 am, taking a quick “sort of” lunch break, then arriving to work at the lumber company at noon and working till 5 pm.  I had weekends off which I thought was the schizdig, since my previous jobs had been part-time ones that always involved working on weekends.  Immediately after graduating high school, I became full-time at the lumber company.  “Real life” had begun for me.  I was 18 years old, living in a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate, and working 7:30 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday for minimum wage.  And I was broke.

I was living on the least amount of money ever.  I remember distinctly waking up late on a Saturday and being SO hungry.  I needed food – fast – and there was literally none in the apartment.  At the bank, I discovered I had $12 whole dollars in my account.  I took enough out to buy a value meal at McDonald’s, and seriously worried about what I’d do the rest of the week.  Yep – those were the days!  I had no choice but to be as frugal as possible, and I somehow made it through.

Back then, I stressed over how I would afford decent clothes.  The lady I worked with, who was also the owner, dressed beautifully every day – very professional and classy looking.  Being so young, I remember looking to her as a kind of role model for how to dress.  But there was no way I could afford some of the brands she wore.  So, my solution to this was – buy the very basics and make them work.

I bought two skirts; one was light tan/khaki and the other was navy blue.  I bought a couple button downs; white and pink.  I had a couple pairs of pumps.  There were probably a few other hand-me-downs in my wardrobe, but that was about it.  From there on, I mixed and matched like crazy.  I made things last and last.  Like I said, the things I bought were the very basics – to be mixed and matched in as many ways as possible.  It never took me long to figure out what I would wear in the morning, since there wasn’t much to choose from!

clothing-basics-2

Fast forward to today, many years later (haha!), and I open my closet in the morning to find this insane jumble of clothing.  Not much matches and I struggle to put together outfits for work.  Where did I go wrong?  Oh yeah!  I began to make enough money to buy more clothes.  Also, my younger years of having to be so frugal have made me want to hang on to things – just in case.  Something’s got to give!

Simplicity, minimalism – these are things I admire very much, and over the past couple years I really have made an effort to simplify my life.  It feels great and it works, yet the idea hadn’t quite made it into my wardrobe – until now.  I recently learned about this movement called Project 333 – you dress with 33 items or less for 3 months.  Anything you haven’t used in that time can be donated.  I’ve only skimmed over the basics of it, but I thought – I could totally do this! While I know I won’t follow the rules exactly, just the idea of it has given me so much inspiration.  I think back to the days of buying those first-time basics that I bought so many years ago.  I already know this formula – I just need to follow it once again.  This time, though, I am not so broke and I will look for quality over quantity.  In getting rid of stuff, I think it’s safe to say that if I haven’t worn it in over a year and am still not very interested – well, then it can go!  Yesterday, I took a large bag of unneeded and unwanted clothing, shoes, and jewelry to donation.  I’ve always donated items in this way, but yesterday it was with a new purpose and determination, a determination to get back to the basics.  And it feels GREAT!

 

“That is when greatness will happen”

Ragnar: I’m not going to stand here all day watching you try to be normal when you never will be.
Ivar: I am normal!
Ragnar: No, you’re not. Once you realize that, that is when greatness will happen.

For those not familiar with the television series – Ivar, son of legendary Viking Ragnar Lothbrok, struggles to keep up with their band of warriors – despite being crippled since childbirth.  Ivar eventually goes on to become an extremely powerful and famous warrior.  In this scene, Ragnar becomes frustrated with Ivar’s attempts to be “normal”, telling him, “No, you’re not (normal).  Once you realize that, that is when greatness will happen.”

Powerful.  That was my thought as I let those words sink in.  And while they could mean different things to different people, to me they took on a highly personal significance.  Don’t get me wrong; I am extremely blessed with excellent health and no physical detriments whatsoever.  Still, I have struggled throughout my life with finding a niche, fitting in, finding acceptance, approval, etc.  I’ve often felt “uncomfortable in my own skin”, out of place, and have found it difficult to connect with people.  I’ve been unhappy in my employment and in relationships.  While I can get along with most anyone, I’ve had few friends.  I feel like I’ve constantly teetered on the brink of doing what I thought was expected of me versus doing what I really wanted.  I’ve been shunned by my own family for silly things, left out, been the “black sheep”.  And I’ve been badly hurt by people who I should have never let into my life.

Throughout, I’ve always maintained a positive attitude – there’s so much in my life to be thankful for, and some of these more personal things seem petty in the big picture.  Still…. I am often dissatisfied and find it an effort to determine what I truly want out of life.  And I wonder about some of the things that have happened to me.  Fortunately, age has a way of helping us figure out what really matters.  With the passing years, we care less about what people think of us.  Maybe that’s why Ragnar’s words had the impact on me that they did.  I think of them again, “Once you realize that, that is when greatness will happen.”  He’s telling Ivar to realize and accept that he is NOT normal – to even embrace that fact!

That is what I want to do!  I want to embrace my uniqueness, my differences from others, all those things that have made me not “fit in” with the people I thought I should.  I want to stop trying to be something I’m not so that I can become who I am!  I feel that once I let myself be ME – the person I truly am – perhaps that is when I will find that particular niche that needs ME to fill it.  I think what this is all about is staying true to yourself and embracing the person you really are.  That is when you will attract the right people for you, and will go to the places where you should be – that is when greatness will happen!

Déjà Vu

rainbow-eye-in-the-sky-800x600

Long, low rumbles emitting from a cloudless, blue sky

a sky as bright and sunny as the fourth of July.

The wind and the smells, temperature too

memories of a childhood summer, déjà vu…

the place has changed but the time is true.

Life abounds in mystery,

so much there that we can’t see

this doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

So much unexplained, and how do you feel

when someone tries to tell you what to believe?

Your god, my god; your book or mine?

When no one really knows, what is truly divine.

What we need to do is to look around

at the beauty and the magic as it abounds

expecting nothing from us but our admiration

and the contemplation of our good fortune

before it’s too late…

While those unseen predict our fate.