A Successful Life

“As I was lying in bed this morning, I said to my husband, “How do you know you’ve had a successful life?:  When 80 people come out in a blizzard for your birthday party.”

One of my mother’s friends said this to me the morning after we threw a surprise 60th birthday party for my mother.  In a blizzard.  Of course, we couldn’t have predicted the weather.  In fact, Dad was sure that we were really over reacting to the weather reports.  “It’s not going to be that bad,” he tried to whisper to us when mom was in another room.  But as the time for the party drew nearer, even he wondered if people would come.

Our plan was this: tell Mom we were going to a prix-fixe dinner they were having at the banquet hall next door to the restaurant where we usually had a family meal during the holidays.  The problem: Mom wanted to stay home and cook Beef Wellington.  Well, she couldn’t really do that because dad refused to buy the beef – said it was too expensive this year.  So Mom, ever the diplomat in the family, begrudgingly agreed to go.

“I’m going to meet a friend at the bar for a drink before dinner – I’ll meet you there,” said my sister Meg.  She did meet her friend.  For a drink. At a bar.  But it happened to be the open bar for our party.  And the drink was had after she set up the projector and speakers for the slide show put together by another sister and brother-in-law.

I, too, was to meet my family there.  When I arrived, the events planner was stunned at the number of people who had already shown up for the party.   She told me, “but as I watched people taking off their coats, just about everybody said, ‘well, of course we’d come out for Jeanne.'”  Yes, we threw a party during the first major snowstorm of the season and only three people canceled due to the weather.

I don’t know that a successful life is measured by the numbers.  But if it’s measured by what your friends and family will do for you, then my mom has surely had a most successful life indeed.

Why no Winter Blues?

I find it fascinating that God sends the same messages to me over and over again – because they’re that good, and worth being reminded of.  I’m also impressed with his ability to send messages to me in so many forms – in the words of others, in the words of a song, in a conversation I overhear while standing in line at the coffee shop.  This time his words came through a friend.  And though he was talking about himself, I notice the same thing in my life.  “It seems if I let one thing slip, then everything else starts falling apart, too,” he said.

I think it important to find and know the things that “keep you going.”  I’ve written here before about what some of those things are for me.  But here’s the thing: Most of those things that keep me going have fallen by the wayside in the last couple months.  Surprisingly, though, I’m not on the floor in a fetal position crying my eyes out (which has definitely happened before).  In fact, I’m quite enjoying the few weeks I have “off” between semesters. And find it odd that I’m not falling apart at the moment.  Not that I’m complaining.  But it prompts me to wonder what it is that is keeping me up?  Is it the 29 Gifts? Is it the free feeling I’m getting by getting rid of so much of my “stuff”? Is it that I’m just so very much looking forward to moving to NC in July? Or to my Caribbean trip in two weeks?

There is something to be said for finding out the “secret formula” that makes you feel good about how you’re living your life.  The catch?  The formula for a happy life is different for every one of us.  Some of us never find out what the formula is.  Some of us never even try.

I can write on my walls!

Well, almost.  The paint is still drying.  What once was an (admittedly crazy) idea has now become reality.  My baby sister came over tonight to help me turn an idea into reality.  Soon this blue tape will be replaced by a border and the white will be covered with places to which I want to travel in 2012:)

Future home of a world map and my travel plans

29 Gifts – Day 8

One of my students had an issue with his homework.  The issue?  He never did it.  It was eventually decided that a call home was needed.  Oh how I dreaded that.  But thankfully, his father was very appreciative.  “He’s always been an A student, so we never had to check on his homework,” he explained.  “We were surprised when he got a B first quarter in your class.”  I explained how homework is the practice students need in order for the material to move from short-term to long-term memory – and that’s why he did poorly on his tests.  The father promised to take away some privileges and keep on top of him.

Well, it worked.  Since that conversation two weeks ago, he’s had his homework in on time every day.  So I called dad to tell him what a good job his son was doing.  Then, I walked in today to find him with an excuse as to why last night’s homework wasn’t in my basket.  Ugh.  Just when I thought it was getting better.  He swears he had it earlier.  Two classmates attest to this fact.  But he can’t seem to find it.  “I’ll reprint the worksheet for you and you can do it at recess,” I said.

When recess came, he came into my classroom to do his work.  Normally if the work isn’t in on time, it’s a zero.  But today I gave him a gift.  “I believe you when you say you had it,” I say.  “So I’m not going to give you a zero as long as you turn it in by the end of recess.”  “Thank you,” he said.

As he worked, he stopped once in a while to chat with me about random thoughts that crossed his mind.  “My sister took this course and she said it made high school a lot easier.”  “Oh, really?” I said, hoping he’d continue.  “Yeah – so I’m glad I’m taking it now.”  Did he really just say that?  The student who complained the first two months that he didn’t want to be in this class?  The one who said he wasn’t good enough to be in this advanced course?  I had noticed a turn in him the last couple weeks and it was amazing to watch.

That afternoon, he found his homework.  He had put it in the wrong section of his binder.  Organizational skills is one of the topics we’re working on, so I’m just happy it was in his binder.  And thankful that by believing him and beliving in him, he’s come to believe in himself.


To see what other gifts I’ve given as part of the 29 Gifts project and to read about others doing the project, click here.

Freedom from Stuff

“Ugh.  I have so much stuff,” I said to my mother on the phone this morning.  She laughed.  “You have too much stuff?” she said.  “You have the least amount of stuff of any of us.”  “I know,” I said.  “And it’s still too much!”

When I first told my parents of my idea to sell my couch my father said, “Oh – so you’re going to get a new one?”  “No,” I said.  “Well what will you do for a couch?” he asked.  “I don’t really need one.  I don’t have a lot of visitors.  And I’ve got enough chairs.”  He just shook his head.  I think it’s hard for him to adjust to the fact that his “pride and joy” is becoming so unusual by his standards.  I like to think I’m expanding his horizons.  As it is, I’ve converted him to be a lover of craigslist.  I don’t know that my parents will ever host a couchsurfer, but hey – a little at a time.

So today I finally did it.  I cleared off my couch long enough to get a picture of it, then posted the ad on craigslist.  Wow, does that feel good!  I love getting rid of things.  I’ve dropped off things at the new consignment shop in town twice already and it’s only been open for two weeks.

But you know what made me laugh today?  The fact that I say I’m selling all my stuff to fund world travels.  Because honestly, I already have the money I’d need to take off.  One is not dependent on the other – but they are connected.  I’ve wanted to pare down for quite some time, but not until recently did I have a definitive plan and deadline.

“Plan?  Deadline?” you ask.  Well, kind of.  I’m moving to the John C. Campbell Folk School on July 30,2011.  So my goal is to be pared down by then.  I’m thinking of going to Italy for a few weeks before that, so I might move up my deadline.

After I finish my term at JCCFS, I have some ideas, but nothing definitive yet.  My plan is to head for warmer locales in the states for January, February, and maybe March.  Then head off to Italy for a spell.  Maybe tend to the grape vines, or lemon trees or something like that.  Once I get the hang of living simply in a place where life still has “modern amenities,” I’ll venture out to places a bit more out of my comfort zone.

So here’s to wishing there’s someone out there who wants my lovely pull out.  If so, refer them to this post🙂

To Sell or Not To Sell: My Piano

“But maybe when you come back you’ll want it – but it might be too expensive to buy another one,” said my youngest sister.  She was talking about the regrets I might have if I sold my piano in my effort to fund a year of traveling.  I’d heard the argument before.  From my mother.  And my father.  And my former piano teacher.  But honestly, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve played it in the last year.  And have played it maybe 20 times, if that, in the last three years.  Probably less.  In fact, I think I played piano more when I didn’t own one.

Why is everyone else attached to the idea of my piano more than I am?  My youngest sister compared it to getting rid of her riding gear even though she no longer owns a horse – she just couldn’t do it.  But she only got rid of her horse a year ago.  I stopped playing piano with any regularity at least five years ago.

Yes, I may come back from my travels and wish I still had it.  But I doubt it.  And if so, well, then it’s my own fault.  And I’ll just have to start saving for another one.

I told my youngest sister that I’d still consider giving it on long-term loan to someone.  Maybe it would be a nice rental piece – a hundred a month I told her.  “But if you can’t find anyone to do that, would you still just give it to someone while you’re gone?”  “I guess so.”  “Ok.  Good.  I’ll put out the word and find someone.”  I don’t know.  That doesn’t feel right either.  What feels right is to sell those things I haven’t used in a while – and the piano definitely qualifies.

Thoughts anyone?

29 Gifts – Day 2

I woke up happy today.  This hasn’t happened in quite a while – usually I want to go back into my dreams.  But today I woke up happy.

Or maybe I didn’t wake up happy, but became so when – in my groggy state –  I glanced at my phone on my nightstand to see what time it was.  Since my new fancy phone now has e-mail on it, I checked my e-mail, too.  (Ugh.  I can’t believe I’m one of those people who checks e-mail from my bed now.)  I couldn’t believe the number of new messages.  And guess who they were from?  Other people on the 29 Gifts web site.  Genuine e-mail from real people who wrote something from their hearts.  What a fabulous thing to wake up to.

So I’m off to start my day.  On a happy note.  Oh what a welcome feeling that is.


29 Gifts

I started a new book the other day that I can’t put down: 29 gifts by Cami Walker.  She is suffering from MS when a spiritual teacher tells her to give 29 gifts in 29 days.  It’s amazing what happens from the moment she starts.  She’s gone on to create a world-wide movement at www.29gifts.org

I just joined the site and gave my first gift today: fondue pots to my sister.  You can click here for the first blog entry, or I’ve posted it below:)

Check out the book and the web site – and maybe try it yourself:)


29 Gifts – Day 1 – Dec 8, 2010

I’m thinking of selling most everything I own and traveling the world. So when a new consignment shop opened in town, I took a look through my belongings to find things I no longer use that perhaps someone else would want to buy. At my mother’s house for dinner the other night, I told her I had packed up a few things to bring to the shop. “But I can’t tell you what they are, otherwise you’ll try to talk me into keeping them,” I said. Mom is a saver. I am not. “You can’t say that and not tell me!” she said. “Okay…well, I have a couple fondue pots. I used to use one of them, but I haven’t used either in a few years.” “Your sister just said yesterday she wants to have a fondue party but doesn’t have any fondue pots.” “Okay, so I’ll give them to her,” I said. “I also have a mini crockpot. Which I’ve never used.” “I’ll take that,” said my mother.

So today I gave my first gift. My sister lives in the apartment over the garage at my parents house. I went to my parents house to do laundry and I left two fondue pots on my sister’s dining room table. My sister’s laundry was still in the washer, so I moved it over to the dryer to start mine. When hers was done I folded it. I didn’t have time to wait for mine to finish drying – I had a couple tutoring students to see.

One of my students canceled last minute. That meant that I was free after 7:30. I called my sister to see if she wanted to help me decorate my Christmas tree, and she quickly agreed she’d be at my house at 8. Guess what she brought with her? The laundry I had left in the dryer – all neatly folded. We spent a wonderful evening catching up and decorating. And guess what? She went home with some Christmas decorations I no longer wanted. What a joy it was to be able to give to her twice in one day! And to accept her help – both with laundry and with decorating.

The Map

So if you could write on your walls (and you know from my last post that this is entirely possible), what would you write?  Or draw?  Or brainstorm? Or create?

Well, I want a place to keep track of all the places I want to visit.  And the world is kind of big.  So a notebook just doesn’t cut it.

I took the first step the other night and bought some paint that turns your wall into a dry erase board (how cool is that?!).

As I was fretting over the next step –  moving a piece of furniture that’s currently blocking the wall on which I want to write – my sister Meg was already three steps ahead of me.

“Why not put a map of the world on your wall?” she asked.  Now that was interesting.   I was saying how I didn’t want just a plain white box in the middle of my beige wall.  We brainstormed different border ideas, then she came out with this one.  Hmm…this could work.

“But what if I go outside the white and mistakenly write on the actual wall?”  Meg had a perfectly good answer for this, but I can’t remember it.  She then offered another option: What if you do a white box, but then trace a map of the world in permanent marker on it?  Meg assures me permanent marker can get wiped from a dry erase board with enough elbow grease.  She also has a projector at work that could hook up to my computer to get the image on the wall for me to trace.  And did I mention her friend with an artistic hand?  She offered his services as well.  You want a job done?  You get Meg on it.

“Your assignment” she said to me “is to find an outline of the world that you want to project onto the wall.”  Yes ma’am.  I’m on it.  Turns out it takes all of two seconds to find such an image.  Just type “outline of world” into google images.  Plenty to choose from.  So I’ll e-mail my image off to Meg, my new life manager, and will keep you posted:)