Tag Archives: reflections

The strange ‘in-between’

Firstly, I hope everyone managed to have a good Christmas, despite the less than ideal circumstances we all find ourselves in. We had a lovely time, but it was hard not meeting up with family and friends. All I can say is, thank heaven for Zoom!

This year, the ‘in-between’ week from Christmas to New Year is a strange one. The normal things that happen during this period aren’t taking place. Here in the UK we are basically in lockdown. So there has been no trips to the post-Christmas sales; no outings to the cinema; no festive evenings with friends… There’s a kind of stillness in the air, a flatness in the the lead up to New Year. It’s as if the world is holding its breath in the hope that better things are coming.

This week always finds me in a reflective mood (I suppose it’s the same for most of us). I think about the year that’s rapidly coming to an end and take time to look back on the good things… what went well, what goals I managed to achieve, etc. Also, the things that didn’t go so well, the goals I didn’t achieve, and the things that didn’t get done. I tend not to dwell too much on the later, except to resolve to do better in the future.

While I’m extremely grateful that my loved ones have come through the year and have remained virus-free, there has been one major family health challenge that came out of the blue and has left me reflecting on the fragility of life. It has certainly put things back into perspective, making me realise that my distinct lack of writing focus in 2020 (caused by major procrastination issues – no excuse) is really, in the bigger scheme of things, not that important. I failed big-time in meeting the goals I set, but there’s always next year.

But regardless of meeting goals or not, it’s always a good idea to set them. It is our goals that can help keep us rooted when life is especially challenging. They push us forward into the great unknown where all kinds of possibilities exist. I’m reminded of the wonderful Desiderata with its instruction to “keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.”

As the New Year approaches, I wish you everything that you wish for yourself. Stay safe, my friends. We’re getting there!

Be More Dog…

So, I was sitting having coffee with AJ this morning and we were pontificating on everything that’s happening in the world and bemoaning the fact that ‘things ain’t what they used to be‘. Watching the news, everybody seems scared or angry or just plain tired of it all. The news is filled with doom and gloom.

Then, from across the room came a small contented moan and a happy little yip. We looked over to see this:

20200827_114411Flat out and happily exhausted. She’d been walked, had enjoyed a game of ‘chase the cat’ and a bark at next door’s dog in the garden She’d been fed, watered, was safe in a warm, dry home where she’s loved, adored and thoroughly spoiled.

In that moment, the message to us was ‘chill out’ and focus on the good stuff. As always, our girl manages to help us put things back into perspective.

And we can always switch off the news…

 

Going at your own speed…

So, I had a pretty lazy weekend and spent most of it catching up on reading and watching TV.  That’s not the norm for me, but I felt my energy levels needed a recharge.

Something I did notice while watching lifestyle shows, was that they all seem to be time-sensitive. I saw programmes on how to renovate a house in a weekend, plant a garden from scratch in a day, and cook up a feast for twelve in under two hours (okay, I might be exaggerating, but you get the gist). Participants are put under enormous pressure to stick to the time limit.

It seems that everywhere we look there’s a pressure to do things fast. Even the writers among us aren’t immune. There’s write a book in a weekend, plan a seven-part series in one evening, or release a book every month (or a week in some cases) if you want to be really successful.  Okay, most of us see this for what it is and do our own thing (thank goodness), but the inherrent pressure (which is often subconscious) can sometimes be debilitating.

We all bloom at different speedsThis pressure to do everything fast can lead to a kind of comparison-itis. That feeling that if we’re not doing things as fast as our peers we’re slacking off. If we can’t renovate our garden in record time, or write 12,000 words a day, we’re somehow less-than those who are doing these things.

I’m a plodder, always have been. It takes me a while to plan, to think around things – whether it’s what colours to use in that new garden bed I’m planning, or the names of the characters in the new book I’m outlining. For me, that thinking process and having the time to sift around ideas and possibilities is a huge part of the fun. As a writer I like to spend days getting to know the characters, researching the setting, and any one of the other myriad things that go into developing a story. My characters become real to me, and I think a big part of that is spending so much time with them. I’m not sure I’d get the same satisfaction if I was banging out books at record speed.

I realise not everyone is like me and some people can write really fast and publish very regularly. I’m certainly not saying that quality is affected by speed either, and I could name several writers I love who write super fast and their books are great. Part of me envies them, but at the same time I’m not about to beat myself up for doing it differently.

What about you? Do you like doing projects fast? Or do you prefer taking your time?

A Tale of a Tree

Jillian here. It’s June already. Can you believe it? Time is going fast this year even with a lot of places locked down and folks staying home. You’d think that would mean time has slowed,  but it seems like every time I turn around, it’s Thursday again.

June in my backyard means it’s hurricane season. There were two named tropical storms before June 1st which sometimes happens. The third storm, Christobal, hit the Louisiana and Mississipi coast this past weekend. We got some wind, rain and storm surge because of it. We’re about 2 hours from the Louisiana line and 1.3 from Mississippi, so when the storms hit there, we usually get some of it and vice versa.

We have this tree at the office that got struck by lightning a number of years ago in the middle and you can still see the stump of it inside. The cool thing is that the rest of the tree lived and thrived. I think I’ve blogged about it before here. It means a lot to me that this tree defied the odds and kept on going. It seems like our lives are that way. We get hit by bolts—sadness, illness, death of loved ones—yet we keep going. Our core may be hurting, but we keep blooming. Each time I look out my office window, I see that tree and think about it. I watched that lightning strike and worried about the tree, but it didn’t need my worry, it thrived without it.

Tropical storm Christobal did some damage to my little tree, but it’s still standing. We’ll clear away the debris and leave that lightning-struck core (Picture 4) and new growth as another reminder that when life’s storms come, we can weather them. Maybe not in a pretty way,  but weather them we shall.
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April Stress…Aren’t We All Stressed?

Jillian here. Happy?!? April. I’m sure we’re all worried about our loved ones and trying to keep ourselves safe and healthy. I know a lot of people are tired of being on lock down, but sadly, that isn’t me. I wish I could be home, but my profession is considered essential. If anything, my life is more hectic now than it was before- and add in the worries about elderly parents and friends- I’ve found myself in panic mode more than once. I have to  make an effort to breathe slow and settle down. I have a bad worry habit and it’s hard to let go and let God. I hate being a control freak, but I am and when things are out of my ability to control, I fret and sometimes say things I shouldn’t. Perhaps we all do that.

I feel tired all the way to my bones.  Not sick, but just weary.

We lost my dad’s younger brother (76) in mid-March- he had COPD and was cleaning his house with bleach and was found unresponsive in his bathroom and passed away four hours later. He will be very missed. My family is super close and we have a hole now where he was. My dad and he talked all the time and it’s been hard on Dad.

A dear friend lost her mother (78) – who I adored- she was a sweet, sweet lady full of love and laughter- she also had COPD. Neither have been counted as Co-vid deaths, but it’s odd that they both had respiratory issues and passed away in March- no autopsies for either. No funerals. My cousins got to see their dad but my friend didn’t get to see her mom. It’s incredibly sad.

Three out of the four people who work at my office live at my house so we’re def. isolating and staying away from others. We aren’t seeing any live appointments and documents are being left outside for us to bring in. The new normal?  Hopefully, not forever.

Now that I’ve depressed everyone, Here’s a picture of my sweet grandson, Benjamin, to make you smile. He is my heart.

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February Fun and a Bit of Sadness

Jillian here.  I was going to get this post done on the 6th and set it to go off on the 9th like I am supposed to but since I wanted to write about what I had going on the weekend of the 7-9, I figured I’d wait until I got home and share what happened. When I got home, I posted a picture on FaceBook and then was hurt and sad and lost all motivation to post about what had been a wonderful weekend.  Back to that in a second.

Friday night, I was happy to serve as a judge for the Regional session of the National Moot Court competition. It’s hosted by my law school and since I’d already committed to a book signing on Saturday with some friends in Alabama, it made sense to volunteer to do this as well as I’d be in the area (about a 3.5 hour drive from home).

It was a great competition and seeing these law students be so passionate and competent about the fact scenario they were assigned was wonderful. The law schools are doing an excellent job teaching advocacy. When I was in law school (In the dark ages) we didn’t do moot court until our last semester. Some of these students were second year and very well-versed in how to try a case. Makes me proud of the changes in legal education.

The next day was the book signing. It was the last event I’ll be part of in RWA. My membership expires in March and I won’t be renewing. I’d have resigned but I had this event with ladies I love and treasure so I stayed for it. I hate to leave the Birmingham, Ala chapter but I can’t countenance what is going on in the national organization.

I sold some books, met some new readers, someone who used to work for me here in Pensacola who moved up there, and also some old friends. My sister-in-law and her daughter live up that way and they came to see me as well. It was lovely for them to be there and supportive and buy a copy of each book I had.

Here comes the sad part:

One of the other authors took a photo of my sis-in-law, my niece and me.  I usually don’t allow pictures of myself as I am embarrassed about my weight. I never had an issue until my second child was born and no matter what I do, I can’t seem to lose. It’s even worse since I had my hysterectomy. I beat myself up every day about it. I am hungry a lot of the time- I don’t snack- I eat my three meals – even my son says he can’t figure out the issue since I don’t eat a lot.

Against my better judgment, I posted that picture on FaceBook. A woman I’ve known since I was a little kid commented with a rose emoji at first.  Then she must’ve thought about it a minute and came back with “You’re still pretty even though you’re fluffy.”

I can’t even imagine saying that to someone. Believe me, I know I’m fat. I see myself in the mirror every day- I am always beating myself up about it. I sure don’t need her pointing it out. I was so hurt, I couldn’t even think the rest of the day. I cried off and on- silently – and even almost didn’t eat dinner- which was just grilled pork and a cob of corn. I am still sad today. I’m embarrassed enough without someone calling me out on it. I want to hide. All the time.

I’ve always been a happy person with a love of laughter. I hate that she stole my joy. I can’t get her words out of my head.  All I keep hearing is, “You’re fat but still pretty.”

Guess what? I don’t feel very pretty.

 

Words: Misused & Misheard

Jillian here. Hope everyone is having a good April so far. Mine has already had some ups and downs but rather than focus on the downs, I thought I’d talk about word usage and misheard words that lead to some interesting conversations.

The reason I have this on my mind was a phone conversation this week with 7 people on the line. We were discussing selling some property. One guy kept saying he was “weary” of a certain kind of sale. It was clear to me he meant “leery” but he kept saying the wrong thing. He couldn’t be weary of the type of sale as no sale took place for him to be tired.

Anyway, the conversation stayed with me and I started thinking about other times I’d heard wrong choices. Lots were with children which is to be expected and lots are people singing wrong words to songs.

Both of my kids used to say “just appeared” for “disappeared”

My husband would sing “the gypsy with the gold “tattoo” instead of gold “capped tooth” – love potion song

One friend used to sing “A shy best man” instead of “a sharp-dressed man” – ZZ Top song

When I was a kid, I’d sing that walking in a winter wonderland song as “later on we’ll perspire as we dream by the fire” – instead of “conspire” – but it made sense, right? Lol

When I went to college, I was stunned to hear some people say “onliest” instead of “only”

Also in college, where I went to school, they pronounced “Jordan” as “Jerden” -thank goodness that wasn’t my last name or I’d be absent always. It took me months to realize what they meant.

You English ladies will appreciate this one. I know a guy here who is named Beauchamp. He pronounces it “Bo-champ” not “Bee-chum”

I could go on but I’d like to hear from you guys. What are some misused or misheard words/lyrics you’ve come in contact with?

Season’s Greetings!

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is all but over now and we’re nudging another new year. Where did December go? Let alone the whole year? But it’s once again the time for reviewing what has gone before and for planning what will be. To take stock of goals, aspirations, and what we hope to achieve in the coming year. Some of my goals seem to get transferred from one year to another, with not much in the way of progress being made on them. So this coming year I’ll be tweaking my approach to achieving them in the hope that next year they’ll be off the list! After all, didn’t someone once say that “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”? 🙂

I know that 2016 has been a tough year for many of my friends here at the Fence, as well as a challenging year for the world at large, so I wish everyone a Healthy, Happy, Prosperous and Peaceful New Year. I’ll end this short post with my favourite TV Christmas Advert this year, which is a reminder that despite adversity it is always possible to emerge triumphant and find our way back home.

Turkey Stuffing Makes Me Cry by Valerie J. Patterson

Who knew?  I mean it’s not something that’s ever happened before.  I had no idea that stuffing and I were so close it could make me cry.  But it did.  In a very big way.  And I was caught unaware right there in the aisle of the grocery store.  Unaware and unprepared for the force of emotions that washed over me and left me sobbing and left my husband bewildered.

It was a very innocent trip to the store to stock up for Thanksgiving dinner.  Had everything in the cart and turned down the aisle with the bread crumbs and the premixed stuffing selections and the seasonings.  I looked up at the canister of bread crumbs and instantly, tears began to stream down my face as I choked back sobs.  Steve came beside me, placed a hand on my back and rubbed gentle little circles between my shoulder blades.

“What’s wrong?”

“S-s-stuffing…”

“I don’t understand.  What happened?”

“I saw the bread crumbs and it reminded me of my mom.”

“Okay…”

My mom passed away October 20th, and I’m in that phase of mourning where just seeing something or hearing something brings a flood of tears.  Mornings are the worst for me.  I’ll be getting ready for work, see the time on the clock and break down.  But stuffing caught me off guard.

From the time I was old enough to wield a knife, I sat in the kitchen with my mom and dad and–while they did other things–I chopped onion and celery into microscopic slivers for my mom’s homemade turkey stuffing.  Mom liked the flavor of both in her stuffing but hated biting into chunks of either one.  After I got married and moved away, my dad took over my dicing duties unless by some stroke of luck we arrived early enough for me to do the honor.

It’s been many years since I last chopped any onion or celery in my mom’s kitchen, which is why I was taken aback when, right there in the aisle, I was overtaken with emotion.  I guess I just never expected a canister of bread crumbs to affect me in quite a personal way.

Mom was an excellent cook.  She was the best friend I never expected, but was blessed to have.  She was strength and grace and beauty and charm.  She was warm and funny and loving and tough.  She was heart and soul and faith and light.  She was generous and giving and sympathetic and compassionate.  She and my dad were active participants in my life and I have equal parts of both of them inside of me–of the person I am.  And because of all of that, stuffing can make me cry!

I miss my mom.  I will miss her for the rest of my life, but we will meet again, and what a reunion that will be!

2016 has been a year of hard knocks and loss, but it has also been a year of great blessing, and I have much to be thankful for.  And I am indeed thankful.

Until next time, may you always be able to see the blessings in your life and may the memories you share add flavor to your days!

Being Bored is… Boring

While walking Vivvy last week, I met a woman who told me with great relish that walking her dog was the most interesting part of her day and if she didn’t have her pooch her life would be so boring that she feared for her sanity. Yes, she actually used the word sanity. It shocked me, particularly because this woman seemed fairly intelligent, had all her faculties, appeared in good health and was very attractive, having taken care with her clothes, hair and make-up. Don’t get me wrong, I love walking my girl and it’s a very special part of my day. But is the rest of my day boring? No way.

Cambridge Dictionary Online defines bored as: feeling unhappy because something is not interesting or because you have nothing to do. Okay, maybe I’ve bordered on boredom, especially when I was at work and involved in achingly dull meetings, but I’ll use the time to think about something more stimulating, and for the writer in me that iusually means pondering over a story plot point, trying to figure out my latest characters, or what new marketing technique I could access that would make my latest release a bestseller (well, better to dream big than be bored, right 😉 )

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I simply don’t understand the concept of being bored. Being bored is…well, boring.

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Dreaming of walkies, biscuits, and playing with my frisbee. Life’s too short to be bored.

There just isn’t enough hours in the day to explore, indulge and discover so many of life’s wonders – big and small. For me, there is too much to read for a start. I’ve got books on my shelves and on kindle, both fiction and non-fiction, that I fear I’ll never get around to reading because there is always a new book to add. There are projects around the home and garden that have been waiting for years to be tackled. Places to visit – near and far, histories to explore, cultures to discover, hobbies to try… I could go on forever.

Interestingly enough, the Guardian Online printed an article just last week asking “Why are we so bored?” According to this article, part of the problem is due to overstimulation. “The more entertained we are the more entertainment we need in order to feel satisfied . The more we fill our world with fast-moving, high-intensity, ever-changing stimulation, the more we get used to that and the less tolerant we become of lower levels.” Apparently, slower-paced activities tend to bore us because we are accustomed to these faster-paced amusements.

It’s an interesting article, but I still find myself with little patience for people who declare they are bored. Maybe I need to grow some tolerance. Guess I’ll just have to add it to the list of things to do 😉