It Took A T-Shirt and A Scottie!

For those of you that know me, know that I am not a lover of T-shirts! Look at my wardrobe. 

The only place I wear T-shirts is to walk or exercise. That’s it.
OOPS! Well I am required to wear Conscious Discipline T-shirts when I am a helper for their workshops or institutions. And that’s the reason I have so many t-shirts!
Too many for me. 

I moved to the Lowcountry in July 2004 after 19 years of directing an early childhood center that was based in a church in Northern Virginia. The early childhood center was accredited by the National Association For The Education of Young Children. That’s a big deal for me. I was on church staff which brings blessings and burdens. I’ve taken a 17 year sabbatical from the church since 2004. Trust me that I’ve been looking. For sure I’ve been looking, however I believe that my faith, my beliefs have transformed in these 17 years. Sabbatical means that one is still studying.

In the beginning of my tenure at the weekday preschool, I saw and heard a lot being at weekly church staff meetings. I experienced mean people in the church; folks that called themselves Christian. Yes, I needed a break beginning in 2004.

Mike and I decided to attend a church late in the fall of 2004 and I commented to the pastor as we left that I was on church staff for 19 years. Here’s his response. “And you’re vertical?” And that got me to thinking. Is the church truly there to support and love each other? So I began to look, observe and reflect, thus the sabbatical. 

And then the country and the world began to change from 2004 to our current date. Dare I name them? I think I will pass. I can tell you what is important to me and my spiritual identity. It’s easy; love and accept every human being on this earth; no matter their gender, color. their political persuasion, their sexual identity, their religion, their country. Have I missed anything? Some days are easier than others when referring to political persuasion.

It’s simple! Love each other! Didn’t you sing that song in church growing up? I did.

I continued to look for my people. Where are you? I know that I live in the South but I continue to believe that I will find someone!

The Pandemic brought stuff. No judgements! I walked 569.54 miles in 2021. Every step of that way Bailey was with me. She’s a Scottish Terrier and she’s a Wheaton color not the typical black. So we are frequently stopped for either of these comments, “Is she a Scottish Terrier? OR Oh look, it’s a Westie!” These comments are always welcomed as they invite a conversation. 

Bailey looking her best!

And then it happens! It was Sunday, January 2. It was a beautiful day for the Lowcountry. Bailey and I are walking our 3 miles. A person stops us and asks, “Is this a white Scottie?” “Yes,” I respond! Good for you!” And then the usual pleasantries are exchanged and then I notice her T-shirt. Thankfully it’s a beautiful day and no coats are needed. 

Her T-shirt is a pretty pink with the Circular Congregational Church logo on the left. My heart literally skips a beat and I immediately ask her about it because this is the church that I have been researching for the past 4 months.

Here’s the T-shirt! 

Here’ the back of the T-shirt!

Let me be clear that this is from https://www.circularchurch.org/about.

And right like that I’m in!

I’m walking away after exchanging our information and immediately call JWF and exclaim,
“I have a friend and maybe a faith community!”

Three days later Bailey and I are out walking and a lady exclaims to me from across the street, “Are you Jessica?” “Yes, I respond?!” as I wonder how this person knows my name. “There’s a person walking looking for you and your Scottish Terrier and she went that way! She has a red shirt on.” And just like that Bailey and I light out running. I think I know who it is. My people! It was my T-Shirt person, PW! How lovely to share a bit of our walk with a new friend. It was a first.

Fast forward and it’s the next Sunday! PW has put me on the mailing list for CCC and I’ve downloaded the app. Yes they have an app. Have I mentioned that it’s an historical church on the peninsula since 1681? That’s just really cool!

The church decided for safety reasons AND reasons unrelated to the Omicron variant to record their Sunday service, January 9. I watched it via YouTube and found tears rolling down my cheeks. They tell stories that are authentic and then link it to Scripture. I’m home. I’ve arrived home. I’ve been waiting for this moment. The pastor ends his sermon ( it didn’t feel like it should be the end) with this song as he is recalling exiting the MUSC COVID testing center. And maybe just maybe this is the sweet spot!

What’s your story? Where did you find your sweet spot in a time of famine?

Or maybe the sweet spot is being thankful for T-shirts! What do you think? Or just maybe it’s a Scottie!
Sing With Me! Can we just get on the Love Train and change our world? I’m ready and yes I am a young 70 and embracing that number, finally!

The O’Jay’s Love Train

People all over the world (everybody)
Join hands (join)
Start a love train, love train
People all over the world (all the world, now)
Join hands (love ride)
Start a love train (love ride), love trainThe next stop that we make will be England
Tell all the folks in Russia, and China, too
Don’t you know that it’s time to get on board
And let this train keep on riding, riding on through
Well, wellPeople all over the world (you don’t need no money)
Join hands (come on)
Start a love train, love train (don’t need no ticket, come on)
People all over the world (join in, ride this train)
Join in (ride this train, y’all)
Start a love train (come on, train), love trainAll of you brothers over in Africa
Tell all the folks in Egypt, and Israel, too
Please don’t miss this train at the station
‘Cause if you miss it, I feel sorry, sorry for you
WellPeople all over the world (sisters and brothers)
Join hands (join, come on)
Start a love train (ride this train, y’all), love train (come on)
People all over the world (don’t need no tickets)
Join hands (come on, ride)
Start a love train, love train
Ride, let it ride
Let it ride
Let it ride
People, ain’t no warPeople all over the world (on this train)
Join in (ride the train)
Start a love train, love train (ride the train, y’all)
People all over the world (come on)
Join hands (you can ride or stand, yeah)
Start a love train, love train (makin’ love)
People all over the world (’round the world, y’all)
Join hands (come on)
Start a love train, love train
People all over the world 
Join hands 
Start a love train, love train
People all over the world 
Join hands 
Start a love train, love train
People all over the world 
Join hands 
Start a love train

It Was Worth The Wait

The last Yaya Camp was in Boston, July 2019! We had a grand time and we were both looking forward to the next summer and then the Pandemic hit! No Yaya Camp for 2020! Hello disappointment for sure. For both of us! 

On the plane on our way to Boston! July 2019

So fast forward and we’re making plans. He decides on Gettysburg over Monticello! Secretly I was happy! I wanted to revisit Gettysburg with IGF!

I’ll be honest about this trip! I was a bit anxious because the Pandemic has not only kept us apart geographically but let’s face it there was little to no contact. No judgements! He’s a teenager and he was living primarily with his Dad! Read that story!

IGF is back at home with his Mom for the 2021-2022 school year! I’m picking him up and just like that there he is! My heart literally skips a beat! He walks Remington, the beagle, grabs his suitcase and off we go! My heart is pounding. Is this going to be an epic fail or continue to be an amazing journey with my oldest grandson? I’m hopeful!

We are literally one block out when IGF asks, “So Yaya, what’s it been like for you during this Pandemic?” And just like that it’s all good. 

It’s raining! No really, it’s raining and we’re making our way from Winchester, Virginia to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It’s only 1.5 hour drive.

Did I mention that it’s dark? 

We’re driving into Gettysburg and the phone rings as we are literally pulling up to the front of the B&B! It’s the Bed and Breakfast calling. “Do I still want that roll away?” I hastily reply, “yes please” and inform him that I am in front! Did I mention that now it’s raining cats and dogs? The manager actually comes out to the car to help us unload our luggage. There’s no way around it for IGF or me. We step into probably 2 inches of water. Thankfully I have a rain slicker! Yes I have my Tieks on and yes they survived the ordeal.

We hastily get our luggage successfully stowed upstairs but find out we have to park the car in the back. Ugh! That means making our way outdoors again and finding the parking lot! Yes, it’s still raining! We’re hungry! And yes, it’s still raining! OH! I’ve already said that! Our feet are drenched! We did it! We successfully parked the car! We had dinner and came back to our room and no it’s not the Hilton Garden Inn. Not even close. That was by choice because I wanted to be in the middle of Gettysburg. 

Have I mentioned that the B&B was built in the mid 1850’s! This is important to know at this point! It’s not that pretty B&B that you imagine! 

Have you noticed all the exclamation marks? I have! 

So let me attempt to describe the room and reduce the number of exclamation marks! 

Thankfully, it’s necessary to have a key, a real key, to get into the three story house. Remember that we’re in Gettysburg and the house was built in the mid 1850’s! We have to walk up to the second floor and turn left to find our room at the end of the hall. 

Are you ready? I’m not sure that I was ready! The roll away is there. ( I so want to insert an exclamation mark.) All our luggage is there with all of my camera paraphernalia. I’m quickly surveying the room. Breathe. There’s hardly any room to walk. Small pathways to make one’s way between the roll away, my bed and the bathroom. And there is no door to the bathroom. There’s really no door!

Breathe. We are in the heart of the historic district. 

Back to the bathroom. There is no door! (This one deserved an exclamation point.Right? A teenager and a young 70 year old?) 

It is an accordion door that probably worked 50 years ago. But now this door has the most amazing and terrifying  gaps and a tension rod with a flimsy curtain. I’m not making this stuff up. 

So I decide to pay no attention. That’s right. I am giving no energy to the no door. Thank you Mom for teaching me this lovely skill. I can make it work. And you know what? I do believe we did it and made some modifications along the way. 

So the first morning IGF chose to be first in the shower and he literally shouts to the universe, “It’s either lava hot or Arctic cold.” I shout back, “You’ve got it.” He exits and informs me that it is a no shower day for him and he’s loaded up with deodorant. Well that’s a good thing. 

I’m next! Is the accordion door closed? Please! And I find that the flimsy curtain is a relief! Hello lava hot or Arctic cold! Unbelievable for sure but I did it with research. How can I make this better for IGF and me? 

You know what I’m going to say, right? Play with the nozzles. So each morning was a teaching session, from my bed, to say to IGF, “turn the left nozzle three turns and the right nozzle, five turns.” Hooray for research! It worked! Everyone had showers during Yaya Camp! 

So where’s the Sweet Spot? What do you think? I covet your feedback. Here’s what I think.

IGF and I did our usual “thing” of soaking up history and discussing what it may have been like if we had lived during that time. But here’s the thing. This visit was different because of the room and especially the bathroom. Don’t get me wrong. These experiences are memorable however who would have ever thought to have a heart of gratitude for these annoying things and then begin to wonder about their significance to IGF’s growth. Here goes! 

I’m under the impression that most folks would complain about the room and especially the bathroom; complain either to the owners or to each other. We didn’t do either! We made it work for us! On the ride back to Winchester is where we began to reflect our our 4 days and that’s where the two of us laughed out loud about the accommodations and we opined about the accommodations. We were able to find the absurdity and yes, find gratitude. There was no complaining. Now that’s the sweet spot! And more importantly IGF may be able to navigate situations in his life a bit more smoothly because of this experience. I can only hope!

What are your thoughts? Do you have similar experiences?

Enjoy the photos! 

I love the few sunflowers on such hallowed ground.
IGF took photos with my camera. This one’s good isn’t it?

I Lost My Rudder!

Yep, my rudder is gone! No I didn’t loose her. She died in June and I am still in shock!

That was hard to write. Writing it makes it real! 

My person has died. 

Not COVID!

Cancers sucks! 

I do lots of trainings for Infant and Toddler teachers about the importance of attachment and the importance of healthy attachments versus anxious and avoidant and dare I say disorganized attachment style!

.
I ask folks in these trainings, “who do you call when you are in distress?” Many folks respond that they call their Mom. Oh how I wish I had that for me! Really, I wish my Mom was “my person!” Sadly she wasn’t! The good news is that I’ve been able to re-write that story. OR folks respond, “ I call my husband!” Again, the same response! Back to “my rudder!”

So SKW was my rudder! 

SKW saved my life in 1997! No really! 

I’m breathing! 

I’m closing my eyes. 

I’m remembering with tears rolling down my cheeks!

I want her back!  

Now! 

Where’s the sweet spot? I wrote out many sweet spots and this one seems the most authentic and most appropriate for this week of giving thanks. Giving thanks that I found my “person!” Not everybody gets a person!

My Rudder!

I Had A Feeling!

I’ve not written for months! It’s not because I’ve not thought about it. On the contrary! I find myself searching for something that “speaks” to me! I think, “there it is,” with delight and then pull myself up short because I can’t find the “sweet spot.” That’s a must for this blog. So again, I let it go. And on and on it goes. I’ve even had friends comment about my silence. 

So fast forward and it’s almost October. I’ve been looking at the calendar and realize that it’s imperative for me to make a plan for Thanksgiving. I’m going to be alone, yet again, and I must develop a plan. I had fun on Airbnb researching small places that will take a dog and close to the mountains. I look at the price and wonder if I want to spend that money in a different way. Maybe I should stay put and make an appointment for a massage and manicure and pedicure. Maybe that’s the way to go? There is a Pandemic going on and the Delta Variant! Breathe!

Then I become aware that I haven’t had a “vacation” for years. I think the last one was to Sedona in the fall of 2018. Well duh! I really do need a getaway. Maybe something would bubble up to inspire my writing?

I’m in Spartanburg, SC, coaching in early childhood classrooms the first of September. I’m on a short break and find a text message from a dear friend that lives on Dewees Island. Check her out because she is brilliant. Nature Walks With Judy Anyway she’s inquiring if I would like to dog sit for a friend of hers. Now wait for it! On Dewees Island. For 7 days. What? I text Judy back to say, “yes, I’m interested. I don’t have my calendar in front of me. Please wait for my response.” Note to self. Get your calendar on your phone. I rush back to the hotel when I am finished and yes, I can do it. WOW is all I can say!
I had a feeling! 

So fast forward and it’s time to head to Dewees. I am scheduled to catch the ferry at 3:00. Of course I leave early because that’s how I roll. I decide to eat at Coconut Joe’s to remember Mike and the good times that we had. I have my journal, ear buds and phone and I’m ready. What a relief that the memories soothed me. It was just the best feeling. I checked the time and thought I should probably start moseying over to the marina. I ask for the check and boom. Look what appears! 
I’m getting a feeling!

Coconut Joe’s bill. Isle of Palms, SC.

I’m literally stunned! I look around for him and he is nowhere to be found. Thankfully I just sit there and let the, what feeling is it? I do believe it’s joy! “Well hello joy! I’ve missed you! Come sit with me for a bit.” So I sat there for a bit and just let joy wash over me. Fortunately I had my journal with my many colored pens and wrote him a heart felt note. 

You have to take a ferry to Dewees. Island. There are no stores or cars on the island. Only golf carts and bikes. Research it. . .I’m met by Carey!

Here’s the approach to Dewees Island!

The approach to Dewees Island!
I’ve arrived!
My transportation!

So I arrive ready for the adventure; to begin the new adventure for the next week! I think to myself that I have an open heart and mind. I really am open to what’s next! I’m not in a rush and I have 7 days to just be! 

So look what happened along the way! 

Love how she just sits still to take it all in!
Both puppies loved their beach walks! I did too!
Of course the angels came along!
My view everyday!
Look at all of the shells that I collected!

And then one morning I ran into the kindest man! Everyone calls him Lo! He walked with me and the pups for a bit and then pulled out a shell, a very special shell! It’s the South Carolina state shell! He had found it on his run that morning and wanted me to have it. It is the Lettered Olive. I will always keep it in a safe place, tucked into my heart!

Lettered Olive

And the time came to say good bye! I don’t think the island wanted me to leave. I had no cell service to ensure passage on the ferry. I’m not worried though! Just text Judy to have her call for me. And then, yes, the golf cart had no more power. Serious corrosion. Nothing that a coke can’t fix but I don’t have one and I really need to get to the ferry. I text Judy again and she comes to get me.

Good bye Dewees! You were good to me!

Good Bye!

Where’s the sweet spot?

I think it’s simple! Well it sounds simple.. Trust my feeling! Trust myself! And here’s the important piece; not judge it. Just accept it and then be curious.
Again it sounds simple but it can be tricky for a 70 year woman! This is where I covet your thoughts. Listening to my heart versus my brain wasn’t taught or even modeled when I was growing up so I can get into my head instead of following my heart. Any thoughts? Where is your sweet spot in these places of drought?

A Really Big Thank You!

I turned 70 last month! It turned out to be an amazing day only because I really worked at it. 

So let me catch you up in the story. Way back in January 2021, I posted a photo of my “fake” Chucks with pearls. Remember that was a thing to celebrate the inauguration! Take a photo of your chucks and pearls and post it on FaceBook. I can’t remember how it came about but my young friend RMW reached out and was horrified that I’ve never, ever owned a pair of chucks. I wouldn’t say it was an interrogation but there were hints and allegations. 

January 20, 2021
Fake Chucks and Pearls

So fast forward to my birthday. I opened RMW’s card and found a gift card to purchase some “chucks.” Gulp! Would I like them? I’m pretty picky about shoes. Maybe I am a shoe snob. I love shoes. Would they look cute? Would they look like Bozo shoes? Oh Dear! 

So for days I went online to Converse. WOW! What a line up!

And then I got curious about the term “chucks!” So here you go! 

Charles Hollis “Chuck” Taylor (June 24, 1901 – June 23, 1969) was an American basketball player and basketball shoe salesman/product marketer who is best known for his association with the Chuck Taylor All-Stars, which he helped to improve and promote.

Marquis Mills Converse founded the Converse Rubber Shoe Company in 1908 in Malden, Massachusetts. … After Taylor’s signature was added to the ankle patch as his endorsement, they became known as Chuck Taylor All Stars, the first celebrity-endorsed athletic shoe.

And then MY chucks arrived! I carefully put them on and immediately fell in love with them. What do you think?

My new navy blue chucks!

What’s the sweet spot in this story? Having a friend that can gently nudge me out of my comfort  zone and encourage me to just have some fun with my very own chucks! Thanks RMW! You are my inspiration.

Love that they danced with their chucks at their wedding!

It’s My Birthday!

I’ve been thinking about this birthday since 2020. I have to be honest. I love that it’s my birthday. Don’t get me wrong. But I just hate turning 70 years old. It hurts. How can it be that I am this old? When I was growing up, 70 years old sounded old, and I mean really old. White hair, old shoes and frumpy clothes. Right? And then I begin to wonder if I was subtly taught ageism? Was I? How can I be an activist to eradicate this? Maybe this is the first step! 

Well I am here to tell you that my next decade will look different from what I witnessed as a little girl! I can assure you of that. I’ll go kicking and screaming into ugly shoes and frumpy clothes. Let’s hope that I don’t go overboard and dress inappropriately. Mon Dieu! 

Jessica Lee Shields born on February 24, 1951 in Jackson, Mississippi.

So here’s the truth! I’ve been grieving this past year. 

Thank goodness this is normal. Did you know that this is normal? Be honest! 

Here’s what I’ve done the past year to get me ready to welcome the new decade in my life. I have to credit the Pandemic with helping me to be successful. My commitment was to arrive on February 24, “ready” for the next decade instead of using 2021 to get ready. So I journaled about this at length and came up with a fairly short list. I was going to have set in place healthy habits. Hooray! I walk 3+ miles a day with Bailey weather permitting. I eat healthy. Thank goodness for Hello Fresh. I wanted to arrive on February 24 with a fit body and I think that I look the best and feel the best in years. I began a list of things that I will research and slowly add into my daily routine. Yoga and meditation is of great interest to me. I have to figure out my vertigo because when I lie down flat and get up, even slowly, I am really dizzy and feel lousy for hours. I will raise my hand and ask for help because this is number one for me. I’m going to continue to write both personally and professionally. I am on a journey of looking back into my southern ancestry hoping to be an activist for anti-racism and anti-bias with my memories and stories from the 1950’s and 1960”s. That’s important. 

So am I going to be ready for my birthday? I’m working on it. 

I love reading and I found an old friend, a book that I had bought way back in February 1997. A Women’s Book Of Life: The Biology.Psychology.And Spirituality of the Feminine Life Cycle  I fell in love with Joan Borysenko’s work. This book leapt into my hands last month and I found the chapter entitled Ages 70-77: The Gifts of Change: Resiliency, Loss and Growth. OUCH! I’m in that age bracket now? A gift? Really? 

And right there in that chapter was the proof that what I’ve been feeling the past year is normal. Whew! What a relief! This one statistic jumped out at me. Once a woman is widowed, she can expect to live another 17 years. I think that I am going to live way longer than 17 years because of my genetics. But genetics only account for 25%. Here are some of the thoughts from that chapter that are guiding my thoughts to create a vision for my next decade. 

Viktor Frankl, a survivor of Nazi concentration camps, wrote that “suffering minus meaning equals despair.” 

“Resilient people cope by some positive meaning in their suffering, whereas despairing people often feel victimized,” writes Borysenko. There’s that word again, meaning. 

It’s imperative for me to find the meaning in this crisis, and yes I do believe I’ve been in a crisis for the past year. That’s crisis with a little “c” and not all CAPS. I know from prior experiences in my life that I will find the meaning. It takes time though and I must be patient with myself. I loved the thought that Borysenko writes about the three “c’s.” Challenge. Control. Commitment. 

Well it’s obvious about the challenge. I’m going to add that I am going to be intentional. It’s critical to be mindful so that one day I won’t wake up and ten years are behind me. See that’s it! It feels like in the blink of an eye the majority of my life is behind me so this next chapter in my life had better count. I am going to be mindful and accept the challenge. I’m ready! 

Control. The good news is that I’m single so I’m in charge. I really don’t have to consider anyone else. I like partnering, harnessing my inner resources to manage the next decade, again with intentionality. And let me assure you that I can manage my thoughts and feelings. It’s time to take control of this next decade. I’m ready! 

Commitment. The good news here is that I am very comfortable with this word because of my profession in early childhood education and as a Conscious Discipline Certified Instructor. That being said I am committed to living the next decade with joy! I’m committed to being myself. Okay, the word joy is getting stuck in my throat but I’m going with it. I’m ready! It’s time to take that first step. 

And then I got stuck in how to end this blog. Where’s the “sweet spot? Where’s the meaning? I went for my daily walk on February 18 thinking about the ending. I arrived home and opened my computer and found that Joan Borysenko was holding a virtual training on February 20 on. .. . wait for it. . . .The Dharma of Aging. And just like that I have my inspiration from her and I found my ending because of that training. 

This is a transition for me. I’m celebrating that I am cognizant of this transition and writing about this event. I’m ready! 

So where’s the sweet spot for me in this moment? Where’s the meaning? I’m going to equate these two words.

February 23—- It’s the last day of me being in my 60’s! I just arrived home after 3.5 miles with Bailey. It a beautiful day on the island today! I chose to listen to the podcast linked below which inspired me with words like anticipation, and mystery. These words so resonated with me because I am a Seven in the Enneagram vernacular. Seven’s love an adventure. And that’s my sweet spot. I am going to embrace the rest of my life and allow the adventure and mystery into my life.

Here’s that podcast: Being Well With Dr. Rick Hanson: Radical Compassion with Tara Brach

I am going to embrace this moment with joy and celebrate.
So good bye dread!
Hello 70!
Happy Birthday to me! I’m ready!

Please leave a comment below for me! Oh how I love reading your thoughts! We’re better together.

I decided to post some photos to honor the past 70 years with the focus on the first twenty years. I am feeling grateful for a full life ; full of family and friends. Thanks to my parents for setting me on a path full of  great experiences. Here’s to you Jesse and Louise! Here’s a link to read about my relationship with Mom and the re-writing of our story.
It’s About The Connection

Jesse and Louise Shields

Kindergarten Class in Gallatin, Tennessee I am on the back row, third from the left.
First Grade Gallatin, Tennessee Can you find me? I’m in the middle row!

We lived on a farm in Gallatin, Tennessee! Love that photo of throwing snowballs with my Daddy. My Mom sewed all of our clothes. And yes, I won a dancing contest with Johnny! That’s my sister Aledia!

I love Girl Scouts! Really I loved it! I was a Girl Scout until I graduated from High School. I was a Girl Scout Leader when we lived in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

I loved the above photos. Hazel Margaret was my best friend from Owensboro, Kentucky. The tent is falling down and I am inside that tent. Oh my the laughter! What great memories!

Oh how I loved my three years at Ole Miss. Yes, I graduated in three years. What was I thinking? I missed a year of fun, oh yes and of studies. My sorority was my family.
Alpha Omicron Pi, Nu Beta Chapter

Ole Miss Freshman Year 1969
Don’t you love my long hair? We are welcoming folks into our home!
This came out in the campus newspaper. That’s me leading our sorority in Sing Song Christmas 1969. We won!
I was known on campus as “Lamb Chop” because I could do my mouth like the puppet. Yes, this is what Archie Manning called me. He probably has no idea of my real name.
I adored this group of guys. They had the highest GPA of all the fraternities. What an honor to be their sweetheart!
Senior Banquet 1971
Rush 1971 The creative juices that we put into this 5 day event. This is a skit from My Fair Lady!

Remembering The Pandemic of 2020

Here’s my story that begins in March 2020!

Let me say this from the beginning! Posting this was and is hard! It may look easy but trust me. It took many of my friends along the way listening to me and encouraging me to write this. It’s hard to find the bright spots when looking on Facebook and seeing so many families, my perception, looking as though they are not physically distancing to say the least. It’s been a struggle as a single person with a dog. It’s just plain hard living in a very small bubble. Let me assure you though, I would do this over and over again for my country and for you and certainly for my son and his family.! But let’s get to the matter of the 5 months! I’m still working on the celebration of August to the current state of affairs. That’s another blog post!

I love to tell stories! I am a huge believer that stories help to enlighten, to bring my thoughts alive. I listened to a Ted Talk the other day and the speaker used this phrase, ” we are unreliable narrators of our own story.” I’ve given myself some time to think about this. I think she’s correct if, and only if, I’m not conscious; mindful. If and only if I’m not willing to face myself honestly. So here goes. Here are the facts.

I drove to Richmond, Virginia on March 5 to present at the Virginia Association for the Education of Young Children conference and then flew from Richmond to Fort Worth, Texas to train for a day. That Saturday training was the first of what was suppose to be 2 days of training. I then flew to San Antonio for 2 days of training. I love the travel and even more I love training new folks and getting to know their stories. Next I flew to Little Rock to train in Kingsland, Arkansas. Did you know this is the birthplace of Johnny Cash? There’s a huge billboard announcing this news and welcoming you to this very small community with no stop light. I’ve been training in this sweet community for three years and made some dear friends! The first case of the coronavirus in Arkansas was reported on this day March 13. After a full day of training I drove back to the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Little Rock. That was the first sign that I knew that something was changing. The entire hotel was pretty much shut down except for checking in guests and very little choices for food. The valet assured me that my car and the keys would be cleaned. Something was changing. 

Flying home to Charleston, South Carolina on March 14 was even different. Students from the University of Alabama were on my flight from Charlotte home. They were evacuated from their dorm and left most of their belongings behind. Something was changing. Oddly enough they didn’t seem phased. I think we were all hoping that this was going to be short lived. Right? 

I’m home and my youngest son calls me and we talk about the news and what’s happening. He thinks that the country is going to shut down and soon. “Mom would you consider flying to us in Morristown, New Jersey with Bailey?” Of course I said “yes” because really how long can this last! Right? Something was changing. 

So off Bailey and I fly to JWF and his family! 

Bailey and I at the Charleston Airport ready to fly to Newark Airport.
Bailey prefers the window seat!

The first 10 days were exhausting to say the very least. I walked into a home full of anxiety. No judgments here! It was all worthy of anxiety! It was imminent that New Jersey was about to lockdown. There is no traffic on the interstate! I had flown into the eye of the storm. Both my son and daughter in law were busy figuring out how they were going to go forward with their work; one is a doctor and the other is a real estate agent. My job was to hold the fort down with a five year old while they figured things out. Have I already stated that I was exhausted from not only the travel and training but the uncertainty that was ahead of me?

And then there was THE Zoom meeting at the end of March with my Conscious Discipline Certified Instructors mentor group. I was stunned with all of their responses to a question, “What is the adjective that describes where you are at the moment?” That’s the gist of the question. I was literally stunned at their adjectives. Now remember that the lockdown had only been in effect for maybe 3 weeks. Their adjectives were all positive until it came to me and I just remember exploding. “Are you f*c%ing kidding me? What planet are you living?” I immediately received a text from one of my friends that wonders if I am grieving. “BOOM” She’s right and what a relief to name it. That Zoom meeting helped to get my brain in a helpful place. I am grieving at what I left behind.

The next day was different. It was still hard but I was different. So everyday for 5 months I set my alarm for 6:30 AM allowing myself to hit pause twice; walk Bailey quickly and come back to shower and have breakfast and take over with my grandson, JTF. Structure was important for all of us. A favorite phrase of JTF’s was “is this Daddy time or Yaya time?” Every morning JTF and I would write out our schedule so that he could refer to it during the day.

I never ever entered a store or restaurant in that five months. JWF’s job was to keep me safe. I rode in a car 5 times. My world consisted of the following memories and photos.

I made sure that my grandson, JTF, had a healthy dose of left and right brain activities each day. I then became aware of my focus each day. I’m going to be honest. It was hard and yet I believed this to be critical for my survival. 

So here are the memories! 

In the beginning of the Pandemic!

JTF working!
The finished product!

Then there were gross motor skills everyday!

Playing hopscotch. Learning how to jump on one foot was an important skill to learn.
Do the crab walk on the blue tape!
Learning Yoga! Core strength is important.
JWF with JTF’s first time on his bike!
I would run with JTF for a mile each morning, weather permitting.
Thanks to Grandma and Grandpa for the new play structure!
Climbing up the wall!
Looking for trumpet swans!

Every Thursday afternoon was ice cream with Grandma!

JTF reads a story to Grandma!
Grandma read a story!
And there is always ice cream!

Shabat every Friday! An opportunity to see the overlaps in faith and to have gratitude for this. Did I mention Passover?

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Passover 2020

Jack had piano lessons every Monday and I got to listen to them practice everyday.

JWF and JTF practicing piano.

Bailey learned to walk on a leash. She did not like the NJ Transit train though. I learned to know the schedule and not walk that way if a train was expected. I’ve continued walking since returning to the island and walk 3 miles each day.

Bailey always looking out to keep everything safe!

Did I mention JWF’s cooking? I think we had delivery 5 times in my 5 months!

Inspired by the movie, Ratatouille!
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Bison, mushroom ragout, sunchoke purée, grilled leek, roasted cherry tomatoes
Eating on the deck was a treat!
JWF always supplied good wine!

This is probably the biggest memory! Introducing JTF to chapter books!

Frog and Toad Series Both of my boys adored these three books and I was so excited to introduce them to JTF.

Frog and Toad Are Friends (Frog and Toad, #1)

From writing letters to going swimming, telling stories to finding lost buttons, Frog and Toad are always there for each other—just as best friends should be. Frog and Toad Are Friends is a Level Two I Can Read book, geared for kids who read on their own but still need a little help.

The classic Frog and Toad stories by Arnold Lobel have won numerous awards and honors, including a Newbery Honor (Frog and Toad Together), a Caldecott Honor (Frog and Toad are Friends), ALA Notable Children’s Book, Fanfare Honor List (The Horn Book), School Library Journal Best Children’s Book, and Library of Congress Children’s Book.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh

Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse with four small children, must move her family to their summer quarters immediately, or face almost certain death. But her youngest son, Timothy, lies ill with pneumonia and must not be moved. Fortunately, she encounters the rats of NIMH, an extraordinary breed of highly intelligent creatures, who come up with a brilliant solution to her dilemma. 

Loved this book. . . .Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nihm! It was the first book that JWF read all by himself.

Pippi Longstocking

Pippi Longstocking (Pippi Långstrump, #1)

Tommy and his sister Annika have a new neighbor, and her name is Pippi Longstocking. She has crazy red pigtails, no parents to tell her what to do, a horse that lives on her porch, and a flair for the outrageous that seems to lead to one adventure after another!

Stuart Little

Stuart Little

A paperback edition of E.B. White’s classic novel about one small mouse on a very big adventure! With black and white illustrations.

Stuart Little is no ordinary mouse. Born to a family of humans, he lives in New York City with his parents, his older brother George, and Snowbell the cat. Though he’s shy and thoughtful, he’s also a true lover of adventure.

Stuart’s greatest adventure comes when his best friend, a beautiful little bird named Margalo, disappears from her nest. Determined to track her down, Stuart ventures away from home for the very first time in his life. He finds adventure aplenty. But will he find his friend? 

E.B. White became a favorite author.

Beezus and Ramona

Beezus and Ramona (Ramona, #1)

Nine-year-old Beezus Quimby has her hands full with her little sister, Ramona. Sure, other people have little sisters that bother them sometimes, but is there anyone in the world like Ramona? Whether she’s taking one bite out of every apple in a box or secretly inviting 15 other 4-year-olds to the house for a party, Ramona is always making trouble–and getting all the attention. Every big sister can relate to the trials and tribulations Beezus must endure. Old enough to be expected to take responsibility for her little sister, yet young enough to be mortified by every embarrassing plight the precocious preschooler gets them into, Beezus is constantly struggling with her mixed-up feelings about the exasperating Ramona.

My Father’s Dragon

My Father's Dragon (My Father's Dragon, #1)

Elmer Elevator (narrator’s father as a boy) runs away with an old alley cat to rescue a flying baby dragon being exploited on a faraway island. With the help of two dozen pink lollipops, rubber bands, chewing gum, and a fine-toothed comb, Elmer disarms the fiercest of beasts on Wild Island. 

The Magic Treehouse

We loved this series. We didn’t make it through the 49 books though!

Mummies in the Morning (Magic Tree House, #3)
Jack and Annie don’t need another mummy. But that’s what they get when the Magic Tree House whisks them back to ancient Egypt. There they meet a long-dead queen who needs their help. Will Jack and Annie be able to solve the puzzle, or will they end up as mummies themselves?

Charlotte’s Web

Charlotte's Web

This beloved book by E. B. White, author of Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan, is a classic of children’s literature that is “just about perfect.” This high-quality paperback features vibrant illustrations colorized by Rosemary Wells!

Some Pig. Humble. Radiant. These are the words in Charlotte’s Web, high up in Zuckerman’s barn. Charlotte’s spiderweb tells of her feelings for a little pig named Wilbur, who simply wants a friend. They also express the love of a girl named Fern, who saved Wilbur’s life when he was born the runt of his litter.

E. B. White’s Newbery Honor Book is a tender novel of friendship, love, life, and death that will continue to be enjoyed by generations to come. This edition contains newly color illustrations by Garth Williams, the acclaimed illustrator of E. B. White’s Stuart Little and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, among many other books. 

This book really resonated with JTF, so much so that we went looking for pigs. He was adamant that there was a pig out there to find. We would go out looking for pigs with a bag to carry the pig home. There is a lovely film that we watched at least three times.
Charlottes’s Web

Trumpet of the Swan

The Trumpet of the Swan

Like the rest of his family, Louis is a trumpeter swan. But unlike his four brothers and sisters, Louis can’t trumpet joyfully. In fact, he can’t even make a sound. And since he can’t trumpet his love, the beautiful swan Serena pays absolutely no attention to him.

Louis tries everything he can think of to win Serena’s affection—he even goes to school to learn to read and write. But nothing seems to work. Then his father steals him a real brass trumpet. Is a musical instrument the key to winning Louis his love?

This was the last chapter book we read. We both learned so much about trumpet swans. Where they live and how they sound. What a lovely book to end our time together.

Here are books that we studied during the summer.
Thank goodness I knew about the book Story Stretchers. The author is Shirley Raines, my graduate school professor. JTF and I were able to “stretch” each of these stories.

Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Where the Wild Things Are

We loved “stretching” this story! New word was a sceptor!

On the corner of Bishop Court and Canfield Road! Where The Wild Things Are at this corner!
King of the Wild Things

At The Beach

At the Beach

This book was lovely to read. We learned about the authors. They have a daughter who carries on the tradition of lovely illustrations and text. I ordered shells from Amazon and we played in the sand. In addition JTF had fun painting with sand.

Mouse Paint

Mouse Paint

I can’t believe that I didn’t take photos of JTF’s foot prints. . .oh no wait! I would have to be an octopus to do this. So much fun for JTF. I think it was his first time to have paint on his feet.

Color Dance

Color Dance
The girl in red, the girl in yellow, the girl in blue, and the boy in black and white are all set to stir up the rainbow. Watch them create a living kaleidoscope, step by step by step.

This book provided so much fun for days and days. Look at the book that he wrote and yes I sewed the book together.

JTF knows the importance of the author and the illustrator at this point. We even read about their lives.
Love that he learned to tear construction paper and glue it very much like Color Dance.

I Want My Hat Back

I Want My Hat Back

Sadly I didn’t take photos of our hats as we had ice cream with Grandma!

Art was an important part of each day!

JTF painted this all on his own! This is from the book, Take Me To The Zoo!
Sand painting that went with the book, At The Beach.
JTF loved to paint with his water colors!
More water colors!

Painting outdoors and then there was a box!

This box became an integral part of our time outdoors.
It was important to decorate the inside also.
It was a great escape place to create.

Sweet Spot!

So where’s the sweet spot in this? I think that the photos speak for themselves! Right? All of the memories that were made are engraved on my heart for a lifetime.

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Thanks JWF for capturing this photo!

But I think there’s a bigger sweet spot! I discovered myself again in the midst of this! I’ve always loved reading and the past ten years I’ve been consumed by my work; coaching and training that I love so very much. I never made the time to read.So I re-discovered my love of books and my new love affair with podcasts. Click on over to Ripple to read about the books and podcasts that I discovered.

I did not mention this series of books that have kept me going each day since I was in New Jersey. Louise Penny has written a series of murder mysteries. I loved Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys growing up. So of course I would love Armand Gamache in her series of 16 books. I just finished the last one and have been grieving ever since.

So please comment below about your Pandemic thoughts. I’m curious to hear from you! No judgements here for sure! I’m still working on my thoughts since I arrived back on the island mid August.

Gratitude In The Small Places!

Loving Guidance dba as Conscious Discipline  asked their Certified Instructors to make a poster writing a personal gratitude for Thanksgiving with a photo! I immediately went into thinking of all the platitudes that my friends and colleagues would write; all the usual suspects! Right? Family, friends, food, blah, blah, blah! I missed the deadline to send in my photo and poster because I was just stuck in the story of what everyone else had and judging them for not being grateful; not really giving thanks for what they had in their life! I was stuck in all the wrong places! It took me some time to get out of that place. However, it took living in that place to find my way out. Let’s face it. If I had met the deadline that poster would have been full of snarky remarks! Thankfully I was able to find the pause button and find my way out! 

Living in isolation during a Pandemic brings its own set of rules. Living in a Pandemic brings its own set of insights! Since Michael’s death I learned how to do Thanksgiving on my own. It hasn’t been easy but Bailey and I know how to do it and we always find our way but this pandemic has brought an entire set of eyes of what to focus on in my everyday life.

Bailey looking her best!

So I’ve named this Thanksgiving; Gratitude In The Small Places! 
Here’ my list!

  • Becoming conscious of the amount of toilet paper I use! I can even give myself permission to use more if needed! 
  • Establishing a daily walking routine! 3 miles everyday!
  • Learning how to sip wine. It lasts longer and I can enjoy it longer.
  • Learning to manage financially each week on fumes. Did you know that Verizon has a lovely plan where you can promise to pay them an amount and day I choose? The electrical company has been kind when I call. They even restored my power within 3 hours so that I could successfully do a Virtual Training!
  • Making my bed everyday!
  • Learning to really and truly trust myself.
  • Leaving my kitchen clean every night!
  • Learning to shower and not do my hair. That saves on hair product! 
  • Figuring out how to be an extrovert in the pandemic introvert world!
  • Getting my hit of joy juice as I walk Bailey and greet other folks while being physically distanced! 
  • Getting more joy juice from waving to folks in their cars! Maybe it’s an Island kind of thing. 
  • A Zoom Birthday Party for my grandson that turned 6 in November; a small amount of time given to me by my Certified Instructor friends, a High School friend and Virginia friends from my earlier career.
  • Joining a Scottie Facebook private page that values our love of Scotties. They are located all over the world and help in crisis and send condolences when their fur baby crosses the Rainbow Bridge.
Just the beginning of the Scottie Christmas cards!
  • So Bailey and I went out for our daily walk before I posted this blog. We happened upon two Moms and a kid on his bike. They were stopped at THE TREE. Bailey and I noticed this tree when we first started walking back in August. There is a hole at the base of the tree. In that hole was a gnome. It was always a favorite place to stop and just notice and wonder about the story. One day the gnome was gone and there was a note posted to the tree. It was a notice of reward for whoever had kidnapped the gnome. A reward would be awarded and there was a website. Within days the gnome had been returned. Over the weeks, the treasures have multiplied. So here’s the story from the Moms! This is a neighborhood game by the children and this has been a real support to these children in this neighborhood. We exchanged stories and I shared that this tree has brought some joy to me as I walk each day. They had no idea.
Here’s THE TREE!

I began to wonder what my intention was to post this blog as Bailey and I walked this morning. I know that it is not to garner pity. I’m not that kind of girl. Ask my friends! I do want folks to widen their lens during this historic times.

So where’s the sweet spot in Finding Gratitude in the Small Places? Having my Conscious Discipline Family that nudges me to find myself in the midst of this historic time. Comment below with your sweet spots for this Thanksgiving!

Some of my Conscious Discipline Family!

Veterans Day 2020

It’s Veteran’s Day! In my family this day is known as my Mom’s birthday. 

My Mom had this unusual story that she told me of her uncle dying in France during WWI and how she “peeked” into his coffin when his body was brought home. She had to stand on her toes to gaze in and she was amazed that she didn’t get caught. I think she mentioned that horses drew the coffin to the graveside. He was killed at Verdun on October 15, 1918. My Mom would have been 5 years old.

From the History Web site: 

Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. Unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans—living or dead—but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime. Veterans Day occurs on November 11 every year in the United States in honor of the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918 that signaled the end of World War I, known as Armistice Day.

That’s sort of cool with all the elevens.

That story stayed in my back pocket for all of my life. I got really lucky when a cousin of mine reached out to me and gave me letters written to my Grandmother and the family from John L after he arrived in France. So I schemed up this idea with JWF to go to Verdun and pay our respects and gratitude for giving his life for our wonderful country.

JWF and I had lots of fun planning the first leg of our trip flying from Dulles into Charles De Gaulle Airport and then hopping on a train to Metz. It was a long trip and yet so worth it. I carried my Grandmother and all her sisters with me in my heart on this trip. They adored their little brother.

JWF and I have arrived in Metz! June 2002

The first leg of our journey is to Verdun by way of Metz! I had very little knowledge about this battle.

JWF wanted to use public transportation. The World Cup was also being played on this day with France in play! What an adventure just getting to Verdun!

I had a photo of John L.’s  tombstone with me; that’s what my family called him. I also brought two letters that he had written to my grandmother and other sisters and a newspaper announcement of his death and how he had died. JWF and I took the time to read these while in this sacred space of earth. Thank you Uncle John L.

John L Windham’s grave in Homewood, MS. I took this photo when I went researching family history.
John L wrote his Aunt Edna, my Grandmother after arriving in France.
Aunt Lois was one of my Grandmother’s younger sisters! This is from the Scott County News in Morton, MS.

I had no idea of the horror of WWI! No idea!

From Wikipedia: 

During the 300 days of the Battle of Verdun (21 February 1916 – 19 December 1916) approximately 230,000 men died out of a total of 700,000 casualties (dead, wounded and missing). The battle became known in German as Die Hölle von Verdun (English: The Hell of Verdun), or in French as L’Enfer de Verdun, and was conducted on a battlefield covering less than 20 square kilometers (7.7 sq mi)

The ossuary is a memorial containing the remains of both French and German soldiers who died on the Verdun battlefield. Through small outside windows, the skeletal remains of at least 130,000 unidentified combatants of both nations can be seen filling up alcoves at the lower edge of the building. On the inside of the ossuary building, the ceiling and walls are partly covered by plaques bearing names of French soldiers who died during the Battle of Verdun.

Douaumont Ossuary is a memorial containing the skeletal remains of soldiers who died on the battlefield during the Battle of Verdun. It contains the bones of 130,000 unidentified soldiers.

There were 6 towns that were literally obliterated; they are gone! The forest is gone. It was like it had just happened and yet it had been 86 years. The forest was gone and no growth. 86 years and nothing was growing back. We took a tour bus; she spoke French! I’m amazed that I was able to understand the enormity and the horrors of this war. 

I love post cards. Here’s one to my Mom. John L was her uncle.

I think of all the young men that died during this war and how it literally changed the communities after the war ended. Changed forever and ever. 

So where’s the sweet spot? It’s about the importance of parents sharing family stories. You never know where it will lead. This one small story to me expanded my journey to find his grave, interview my cousins that lived near my aunts. I loved finding his tombstone with his photo. That was a bonus for me. I loved sitting in their living rooms in Homewood, Mississippi listening to even more stories and sipping sweet tea. And then, wait for it, I get to pass down that one story to my youngest son and take the journey of where John L gave his life for our country. Sweet! Yes, very sweet indeed!

Election Day 2020

It’s Election Day 2020! I’m breathing! Voting is important; especially this year!

I’m a history junkie and and a fanatic regarding politics. I’ve been this way since I was about 9 years old. I vividly remember the presidential election of 1960. My 9 year old memories are of two things; JFK is Catholic and the chatter about JFK’s good looks! I always thought the chatter around the Catholic issue odd, even as an 9 year old. Folks were sure that if JFK were elected that the Pope would essentially be the President. Again, I thought this odd. 

This is a book that I have kept safe since 1960!
I remember reading this over and over again!

Growing up my Mom and Dad voted. I don’t remember going to the polls to vote with them. My parents weren’t overt in speaking about politics. My memory is vague but I believe that my vote matters was instilled in my DNA at a young age. 

So fast forward to going to College, University of Mississippi. I grew up in the time of Civil Rights and Vietnam. You had to be 21 years old to vote during this time. Yes, you could be drafted to serve in one of the armed forces at 18 years old and yet you couldn’t vote. You had to be 21 years old. This was changed on June 22, 1970. I was a rising sophomore at Ole Miss. I immediately began to calculate when I could vote for the first time; 1972. I could wait two more years! 

So vote I did on November 7, 1972 for George McGovern. Nixon won in a landslide. I still remember that sad feeling. It took until November 2, 1976 for me to feel that exhilaration that Jimmy Carter won that election. I took JJ with me. He was two years old. Taking my sons became a ritual with me as did crying during the voting process. I called JWF to verify my memory. “Yes Mom. You always cried as you were voting.” 

So fast forward to 2004. I am beginning a new chapter in my life by moving to Charleston, SC. Someone at the school where I had worked for 19 years gave me a fabulous book; Founding Sisters and the Nineteenth Amendment. I read it and was shocked at my utter ignorance of what women had done on my behalf to vote. It took 72 years of women tirelessly working for women to vote. 72 years! It began in Seneca Falls in 1848. In the end, women would be jailed, beaten and force fed. Read that again. Where was this taught in my history class? It wasn’t!

Totally LOVE this book!

I asked a friend the other day if women’s right to vote was taught in her High School history classes. She is 10 years younger than I. No, she wasn’t taught this. I can only remember photos of women in white. I remember feeling betrayed and mad after reading this book. And then I began to think about the young women of today. Sometimes I wonder if they take their freedom for granted. Ruth Bader Ginsberg paved the way for us. We’ve got to do better and tell our stories.

So today I voted. I believe this is the most important vote that I have ever cast in my 48 years of voting. Thank you to the thousands of women that worked tirelessly and never were able to cast their vote. May we never forget how we got here. 

And there’s the sweet spot! Living in the midst of history! Recording our stories! Yes, I cried while voting. My right hand was shaking! That one was new!

And I end with this. . .my Mother’s mother was born on October 19, 1888. In 1920 she would have been 32 years old. I wonder if she voted? I am going to make it up to be yes! Sure wish I could talk to her right now!

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