As I was brewing my coffee this morning, a rich peppermint mocha blend that isn’t “in season” but that I was in the mood for, I found myself wishing that I could take a picture of how it smells. I don’t have the words to describe how delectable the aroma filling my kitchen was.
That’s where I struggle the most as a writer. I want to be able to describe the scene so the reader feels as if they were there. The smells, the sounds, the feel of the breeze or the sun or the rain on your skin. I can take pictures with my camera, but they don’t tell you the whole story. Good writers draw a picture with their words. And I want to get better at that. To do that, I think a person has to experience it and then write about it.
Yesterday my friend and I went to the lake to look at the sailboats. She had never been, I had been once before. I had taken pictures once before. When we got out of the car, it felt like I was experiencing it for the first time. I had forgotten the sounds at the marina. You can’t hear them in photographs. If you had been around sailboats or marinas I suppose you could draw on your memories, but for those of us who haven’t had a lot of exposure, the sounds and smells are just as wonderful as the sights. The geese squawking. The bell clanging. The water lapping the shore. A fish jumping in the distance.
You can’t feel the stillness of the heron perched for it’s catch. Or the deer grazing in the meadow, never taking his eyes off you.
It’s true, video can help you experience those things. But what about the smells? I don’t even know how to begin to describe the smell of the lake. Or the clean air in the middle of nowhere.
What about the feel of the sprinkles hitting your nose? Or the crisp, cool breeze chilling your skin?
How do you experience all of that in a photograph?
The truth is, you can’t, unless you allow yourself to pull from memories you might have stored. But if you don’t have those memories, it’s hard to fully know the experience. It’s not the same as being there. Cliche, but true. All the photos and the words in the world can’t replace experiencing something first-hand.
By all means, continue to read books, look at photos, watch videos, take “virtual tours”, but most of all, get out there and experience it for yourself! Adventure awaits! And take a friend along to share it with!
It’s been a good weekend. Saturday morning I finished a book and then got busy getting things ready for Father’s Day today.
I received a text from a friend asking if I wanted to do lunch, so I went. The food was good and the restaurant was quiet. We sat and lingered over Dr. Pepper and conversation long after the food was finished and the plates had been taken. Connection.
After lunch I joined Mike at my in-law’s house. We started looking through old photos and the next thing we knew it was 7pm. A quick break for dinner, and then we opened another box of photos. We sat and looked and listened to stories from the past. Connection.
Looking through all those photos got me thinking that this is something that my children and grandchildren will probably never do. Everything is digitized now. People don’t have hard copy photos in boxes and those photo albums with the clingy protector sheets. We have zip drives and the cloud and social media. It’s just not the same as holding history in your hands. The same history that your parents and grandparents held in their hands. Your fingerprints merge with theirs on the paper. The oils on your hands, the scent…you just don’t get that connection with the cloud.
I brought home some old photos to restore. Yes, I will have a digital copy, but I will also preserve the original and the stories that go with them to pass down to the next generation. Connection.
Today the boys came and grilled and we celebrated Mike on Father’s Day. Of course, Mike and I were so tired from being out late the night before that we weren’t very good hosts, but it was good to have the boys here. Connection.
Tomorrow an old friend and I are going on a photo venture to Stockton Lake Marina to see some sailboats and look around a bit. Then another stop at Hulston Mill Historical Park. We’ve packed our lunches and are ready for exploring just like we used to do on Saturday mornings when we were kids. It’s great to have friends who have your history. Old friends who are as comfy as your old college sweatshirt. Connections that are as old as life itself.
The older I get, the more I want quality connections over quantity. Lingering over Dr. Peppers in the corner of a quiet restaurant. Looking through photos and listening to the stories. Sharing those photos and stories with the next generation. My adult children coming for Sunday lunches. Road trips with childhood friends. Those are the kinds of connections I crave. Those are the kinds of connections I will seek.
I sure know how that guy feels right now–staring out the window wishing he could go.
A little backstory. This is Copper. Copper is “grounded” because he didn’t come in the night before when it was time for bed. He loves the outdoors, but since we live in the middle of the woods and he’s white, he’s prime coyote bait. Or bear. Or whatever else lurks around out there after dark.
But I totally get the gazing out the window, wanting to go somewhere look in his eye. I’ve had it before. I have it now.
I need some adventure. Not drama. Drama and adventure are two different things. I like the predictable-ness of my life. I love the safe space that I have where I spend most of my time.
Sometimes, though, I just want to get away for a bit. Take the camera and go for a drive. Pack up the camper and spend a couple days by the water. Try out a new coffee shop. Spend the day rummaging through flea markets.
Days like that are good for the soul.
I am the world’s worst daydreamer. No, really, that’s me. I can easily spend time just daydreaming about anything. Seriously, give me a topic and I can daydream about it for hours. Maybe even days if I don’t have to get up and go to work the next day. I think that’s why I love to read fiction…why I’ve always loved to read fiction…so much. It gives me permission to daydream. There is nothing like curling up with a good book and immersing yourself into the story. My mind is like a stream that flows on and on sometimes.
But in all that daydreaming, there’s a problem. I don’t like to admit it. I don’t want to give up my daydreaming. I don’t want to give up reading fiction. I certainly would like to write a fiction novel someday. So what’s the problem? Sometimes I get so caught up in daydreaming, that I miss stuff.
Important stuff. Real life stuff. I get so caught up in the daydream that I miss the reality that is going on around me. I’m there, but I’m not really present. My body is occupying space, but my brain is off in space. Emotionally I am somewhere else. Hello, are you in there? That’s a problem.
I miss some pretty awesome stories when I am not paying attention.
I miss some pretty deep connections when I am not being intentional about being present.
And because I want to experience life and deep connections, I decided to figure out how to be more present.
I started reading a new book today called “Present Over Perfect” by Shauna Niequist. A question posed in the book is, “If someone gave you a completely blank calendar and a bank account with as much money as you wanted in it, what would you do?”
I’m pondering that. Would I retire? Would I travel? Would I buy everything I ever thought I wanted? Would I give all kinds of crazy money away? I think a little bit of all of that. I’d do whatever I wanted. I’d go wherever my heart took me. I think I would build a house, but maybe just get a class A (or a truck and a big 5th wheel) and travel to all the places and see all the things and take all the pictures and read all the books. And write a book or two. I’d blog about all of my travels for sure.
I’m getting away from the reason I picked up the book in the first place, though. Daydreaming again.
The book is about ditching the frantic and embracing the simple life. My life isn’t that frantic. I’ve been practicing simplifying for a while, but I do struggle with being present.
As my friend expresses it, “keeping my head where my feet are.” I struggle with that. I daydream. I analyze. I overthink. I make lists in my head of things I need to do. Then I make more lists in my head of things I forgot to do, only to forget again. I’ve tried writing them down. I’ve tried putting reminders on my phone. None of those things help if my feet don’t go where my head is.
So how does a person practice being more present? No clue, but that is the journey I am on this summer.
It’s been raining here a lot lately. It’s cold for mid-May. And muddy. It’s been hard to plan camping trips on the weekends. It’s been nearly impossible to do any outside projects. And since I’m a preschool teacher, I have an even greater reason for disliking rain–inside recess. Ever tried keeping a bunch of 3, 4, and 5 year-olds contained in a classroom for hours? It’s not fun.
The end of this very challenging school year is in sight, and I’m tired. So despite the rain yesterday, I took a walk. I even had a couple furry companions go with me. We had no destination. We didn’t go anywhere special. We just walked up the driveway, trying to stay out of the mud and wet grass (I dislike wet socks and shoes).
I noticed this flower on my walk and had to take a picture. It reminded me that despite the consequences or circumstances we find ourselves surrounded by, we can rise up, square our shoulders, and stand tall.
Did you hear me? Rise up. No one can hold you down without your permission. No one can keep you down without your permission. Rise up and stand tall, whatever your circumstances. You got this.
It might be raining right now, but take a walk anyway. Let the rain wash away all the mud and the gunk. Let it refresh your soul.
We’re going camping in a week and I am so ready! This has been the longest year of my teaching career up to this point. I’m not sure why that is, but I need to get away to the forest and decompress.
Just because I am ready, doesn’t mean the camper is, however.
We have a small popup camper, so we don’t have to worry about a lot of holding tanks and water lines. So if you’re looking for a post about those things, I can’t help you there.
I did have some very specific things that I wanted to do in my popup before next weekend. I just had to wait until it stopped raining so that I could crank it up and get in there to work.
- Fresh Coat
The first thing we did was give the outside a bath and put a fresh coat of paint on. I loved the vintage look that the faded paint gave the camper, and didn’t really want to paint it, but the husband had other plans. I’m ok with how it turned out. Eventually I would like to paint the whole thing, but that will be later on.
- A Good Cleaning
When I was finally able to get the camper popped up, I took everything out and cleaned. The camper was folded up tightly all winter, and things just needed some freshening. It smells lemony-fresh in there now.
- New Gear
All winter I have been collecting things to add to the camper. Not a lot, because it is a small popup, but I added some things and took out a few things.
I took out the carpet squares that had been thrown down on the floor. They collect dirt and dust from our feet, but I didn’t like them. They are harder to clean than just simply sweeping the linoleum. Eventually I would like to put some vinyl floor planks down and get rid of the linoleum.
I found a couple of welcome mats at the Dollar Tree that we will use this year. One on the outside at the step and one right inside the door. Other than that, we are going bare floor this year.
I covered the bench cushions. I’d been seeing a hack of how to cover the cushions without sewing. Since I don’t sew, this spoke to my soul.
I bought bedding to be used specifically in the camper. Pretty much the only thing we don’t like about the popup is that you still have to load up A LOT of stuff to take with you every time you go camping. Hauling around bulky bedding was the worst last year, so this year we have bedding that can be loaded into the camper before the departure day, saving us some room in the backseat of the pickup for other things.
I added an electric skillet to my camp kitchen. The camper has a propane stove that can be used inside or outside and it works great, but when we stay where there is electric, I can save fuel and use the electric skillet instead.
I also added a coffee maker. What’s camping without a cup of coffee in the peaceful morning air? Last year we used a stainless steel percolator on the propane cook stove. It makes good coffee, but it takes a long time. The coffee maker will be much simpler and I can make more coffee. You can never have too much!
Something else I’ve added to the camper this year is a small popup privacy tent. Most of the places we go have bathroom facilities, and that’s great. We won’t need the privacy tent that often, but we’ve scouted out some primitive camping sites that won’t afford us the luxury of flushing toilets, electricity, or running water. Those are the kind of spots I like to go camping…remote and peaceful. The privacy tent can be popped up and the port-a-potty set inside for a place to go to the bathroom.
The last thing we added were rope lights. This was my husband’s contribution. He loves rope lights! I’m not sure why, but he does, so I let him. They do look really cool and light up the outside of the camper so you can see when returning from the bathroom or a night of fishing down at the lake.
Another thing to check before heading to the campsite is the lights on the camper. When you plug the camper into the vehicle you are towing it with, make sure that all the lights and signals work properly.
Now we just have to throw our clothes and hygiene items in a bag and put the groceries in the cooler and we are ready to go! It’s too bad I have to work four days before we can leave.
Copper is living his best life
Living Your Best Life.
What does that mean? Living your best life? What does that entail? What do you need to have in order to live your best life? A new house? A lot of money in the bank? A spouse and 2.5 children? Do you need to be at the top of your career to enjoy your best life? Do you need to be retired? Sunbathing on a private island? Traveling and full-time RV living? All of those things sound wonderful, but not everyone aspires to them. What does your best life look like?
And how do you know? That’s my big question. How do you know that you are living your best life? You have a picture of what you think it is, but what if you get there, and it’s not what you thought it was going to be? Your new house has a house payment you can’t afford. Your bank account is full, but your heart isn’t. Your spouse and your children think you nag too much. Your career doesn’t afford you much time for anything else. Retirement is boring. Your private island is lonely. Your RV finds you missing community.
Too much of one thing can literally be too much. For me, living your best life means living a balanced life. You have enough, but not too much. You have a house, but you aren’t house poor. You have a little emergency fund, but not enough that everyone is asking you to give them money. You have a spouse and 2 (adult) children who still love you enough to put up with you. You have a career, but are content to let the younger generation claw their way to the top. You aren’t retired, but you get summers off (or vacation time). No private island, but you have a little corner of the world that is all yours. You’re not a full-time RV status yet, but that pop-up camper is ready to go for the first camping trip of the year in a couple weeks. That’s what my best life looks like.
Do I wish that I didn’t have to get up and go to work on Mondays? Absolutely. Am I counting down the days until summer break? You bet I am. Do I dream about winning the lottery and quitting my job to take up traveling? Some days more than others. But the truth is, toward the end of summer break I am wishing for that familiar routine and my work people. My best life is one filled with all the things I love– my faith, my family, teaching, camping, reading, photography, etc. And there is room for so much more as I go! My best life is a full life with room for new people, things, and animals (always room for more cuddly animals). My best life is a balanced life with just enough of everything.
I really should have taken along my big camera instead of just my cell phone this weekend, but I didn’t. I thought about it because it is fall and the leaves are so pretty right now, but I knew that where we were going was notorious for wind and the weather was calling for cold and rain. We missed out on the rain, but man was it cold! The little pop-up did good, though! It has a furnace, but instead of using our propane, we run a small electric heater and it stayed nice and toasty the whole time.
Most of the weekend was spent sitting as close to the campfire as I could get without getting a lung full of smoke. Some of the guys we were camping with decided to throw up some tarps between the trees for a windbreak, and that did help with the cold, but we needed a smoke stack to divert the smoke from our eyes. Or an oxygen tank. Just sayin’.
All in all it was a great weekend with some great people! And the campground wasn’t bad. There were some negatives, like no showers and a flushing toilet for those of us who were not in a big camper with a bathroom. The trek to the bathroom was short, but filled with sticker bushes. I spent 30 minutes after using the restroom just picking stickers off my pant legs. After the first trip I just decided to drive the Jeep around the long way to avoid the headache.
It was a beautiful campground, though. Crabtree Cove on Stockton Lake is a peninsula with a view of the Stockton Dam on one side and a quiet cove on the other. The campsites were big and spread out to give ample room. We camped with three other campers and our group was 13 people. We had plenty of room to sit around the campfire and “chill”.
Of course, no camping trip would be complete without cooking over an open fire, right? Most of the time the cooking was done in electric skillets outside. No one really wants to cook in the fancy camper kitchens. This pot of green beans and bacon made it to the fire, though. It was a special request of my brother for his birthday dinner at the campground.
Tomorrow is a Monday and I will head back to work, but I did have a great weekend after a long, stressful week in the classroom. There is just nothing better than spending time with those you love, making memories and enjoying the fresh air. The camping season for us is over, and that makes me sad, but there are lots of things to do around the farm before the snow starts flying. Next weekend we are cutting wood. I’m already tired just thinking about it.
I’m up early today. Not as early as I should have been because I wanted to get some writing done this morning, but I did manage to get around at a pretty good clip, so that helped. Then when I was grabbing my flash drive to save to (I always do this just in case I want to write where there is no wifi—I like the peaceful country setting) I saw my mom’s flash drive setting on the table and remembered that I was supposed to download some pictures on there for her. I did that, and now my fingers don’t seem to want to type as fast as I’d like them to.
Another “perk” from cancer treatment is that sometimes now I can’t spell to save my life. That’s huge for me because I used to be amazing at spelling, and now I’m not. And sometimes I lose my words. I know what I want to say, but can’t think of the word I need. I’d say that chemo brain and what it does to you has been the hardest struggle of this whole journey for me.
Anyway, I wanted to write this morning. I had an urge to do it last night, but not until I laid down in bed and I knew that if I got out of bed and started it last night, I would never go to sleep and it would be impossible to get up for work this morning. So I told myself I would make time for it in the morning and I went to sleep instead.
I don’t know what I want to write about. Something. Everything. That’s the pull on a writer’s soul. You want to write about absolutely everything. Big things. Small things. A writer can write a whole chapter on the tiniest of details. Not me…I can’t do that yet. I’d like to do that, but my brain doesn’t analyze like that quite yet. I’m rolling an idea over in my head this morning of taking a creative writing course. I hate homework, though, so that’s what is holding me back at present. I love to write, but I love to write what I want and not what someone tells me I need to write. And certainly not on someone else’s timeframe. I work a full-time job as a preschool teacher…some days I don’t have any words left by the time I get home. I don’t want to be graded on that.
But surely there is something out there that I could do to hone my skills at creative writing. A “club” or something online…
There goes my alarm telling me that it’s time to feed the animals and get my butt in gear. I dream of the day when I can sit here as long as I want, crafting a story that people can’t wait to be released, much like the new John Grisham novel that just showed up in my Kindle library this morning…