Arrival – A Wonderful Welcome

The only person in the building when I arrived was my Senior Host, Cory Marie Podielski and she did a wonderful job welcoming me to my home for the next four months.

A Colorful Welcome

I had happy flashbacks of my days as a Resident Assistant when I saw how she decorated my door.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Mug, Bag, and Nametag

In my adorable room I found a mug and bag both with the Folk School emblem.  And most importantly, my nametag.  Everyone at the JCCFS has one – students are one color, instructors another, and the staff has the ones you see here.  Here I am – on staff at this place I love so much in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina.

.

 

A Brain of Soap

And then there was this – a gift from Cory that combines 1) my interest in handmade, all-natural products 2) my former life as anatomy instructor and 3) my new life as arts and crafts student. This, my dear friends, is a brain made of soap – which Cory made herself here at JCCFS:)

Hope

According to the article I was reading, the first gay couple to marry in Manhattan on Sunday have been together for 23 years.  The women are 77 and 85 years old.  I did the math.  This means they met when they were 54 and 62.  So I figure, at 34, I’ve got plenty of time to meet the love of my life:)

(Note to God: if you want to send him before I hit 54, please do!)

 

On Leaving Jobs

“I hate my job,” she said.

“So quit,” I said.

“People would think it’s ridiculous to leave a job in this economy,” she said.

“Um…you realize you’re talking to someone who does things other people think are ridiculous all the time, right?”

“Yeah,” she laughed.  “But if I quit, I’d lose my retirement benefits.  Maybe I’ll just put 10 years in so I at least get part of them.”

“How much longer is that?”

“Four more years.” She laughs.

Mind you this is an educated woman with many skills and a great social network.  She could do whatever she sets her mind to.  She has enough money socked away to live for at least a year.  And that’s not counting her retirement funds.  There are people with less that have done it.  She could do this.  So why doesn’t she?  Well, I can only speculate.  In my experience, it’s a little scary to leave a job without a new one on the horizon.  But now that I’ve done it so many times, I have faith that it will all work out.  Because it always does.

A Week Off

I am happy to report that there are still places in the US that have no cell phone coverage.  And even happier to report that I am sitting in one of them.

Back porch dining on the Hiwassee River

I’m currently in a log house on the Hiwassee River in Hayesville, North Carolina.  For an entire week, no less.  The idea for renting this place came from a friend from my first writing class at the John C. Campbell Folk School.  Four of us bonded quite nicely in that class.  We started an on-line writing group, had a reunion at JCCFS last March, and this week find ourselves together again with the sole purpose of writing.

Here’s the nice thing about going away for a week to write with three retired women over the age of 65: if you don’t want to write, you don’t have to.  Actually, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.  The retired have a perspective on life that fits quite nicely with mine.

Lest you think I’m stuck in some place with three crotchety old women, let me point out that in the past year one of them got a tatoo on the back of her hand (it’s her first – she’s 69).  Another claims to be a bit behind the times when it comes to technology, but has with her 1) a Kindle 2) an iPad and 3) a Nintendo DS – and she’s 79.  And there is no shortage of talk about sex.  I find the topic can bring insight and laughter no matter what the age of the women.

Yesterday, we spent a few hours at the home of our first writing teacher who has an adorable place up on a hill in the woods.  Then, we had one of the best dinners I’ve ever eaten.  If you’re ever in Western NC, you MUST try the Copper Door.  Food that melts in your mouth.  Food that, with every bite, makes you close your eyes and moan in ecstasy.  I’ve read that some things are better than sex.  This food comes close.  We knew we were in the right place when we found they serve a wine called Writer’s Block.  And then there’s the service.  Imagine a very good looking older man with a deep smooth voice and bedeviling smile meeting your every need.  The parallels between food and sex are many….

And to start the whole week out on the right foot, I got a sunburn on my nose on Sunday – isn’t that just splendid?  (As only someone who spent this past winter in the Northeast can say.)

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to.  I wish all of you the opportunity to get away for week.  Not just take a trip – but to a place with no cell phone coverage (and only one wired internet connection).   And if you spent the winter in the northeast, you deserve it this year more than ever!

29 Gifts – Mission Accomplished:)

They say it’s better to give than to receive.  But last year, the pressure of giving the “right” gift got to me…that, combined with the fact that I feel I own all I need as it is, led me to bow out of our family holiday gift-giving last Christmas.

But since then, I’ve thrice attempted the 29 Gifts challenge.  And I finally completed it on the third try – 29 gifts in 29 days.  But this was nothing like Christmas.  There was no  single day on which the giving was done.  It was done every day – for 29 consecutive days without missing a single one.  And these gifts didn’t have to be monetary.  In fact, the best ones usually didn’t cost a thing.  I gave compliments, encouragement, second chances, time.  I also gave away things I no longer needed.  Or things someone else could put to better use.

If you’ve never tried this, I highly recommend it.  There’s nothing quite like the challenge of waking up every day wondering what that days gift will be.  Sometimes you have it planned, and sometimes an opportunity presents itself.

Yes, indeed, it’s better to give than to receive.  And better yet to give when there is no date on the calendar telling you it is a day of giving.  When, instead, every day is a day in which you give. So try it.  Just one day.  Or more.  Give something.  A smile, a thank you, a helping hand.  And relish in the joy it brings to both giver and receiver.

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.

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?

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:)