Putting the Pencil Down (figuratively…)

Well, as it’s the end of the writing challenge, I think I’ll reflect on that for my final slice.

Anyone who has done the challenge probably felt the same way I do now on Day 31. I did it! And I’m proud of myself.  Because it wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be.

When my teammate told me about the challenge, I was in before she finished explaining. I can write every day for 31 days! EASY! And I can empathize with my students, and get them writing every day in the classroom challenge, and get back to my own writing again! Looking back, I realize I didn’t know what I was in for.

Every day, I had to search myself for a story. I had to dig deep. I had to go beyond the little trivialities of my days and find something that I felt was worth my writing time. Time isn’t something I like to give away freely. There are so many things I HAVE to do, that when I have time to myself, I want to use it for something I WANT to do (who doesn’t, right?). And it wasn’t that I didn’t want to write. It’s just, once I got started, I had to decide if I was okay dumping my past, my present, my feelings, and my thoughts into words that anyone could read. Some days were easy. Some slices just poured out of my fingers like water out of the faucet, and I actually cut them down so they weren’t so long. Other days, I stared at the computer screen for 15 minute chunks of time, several times a day, and couldn’t think of anything to write. I even missed a couple of days because the days quite literally ended before I ever got around to slicing. And I would wake up the next day remembering that I didn’t write and I was disappointed!

In addition to my own slicing, I spent a lot of time reading others’ posts and commenting. So many people’s writing, so many stories; some laughs and even a few tears came from reading what others shared. And reading other slices made me feel like my slices were lame, or too long, or too short, or too similar every day. They made me look at my writing and think that I could be better, my content and my writing should be better. They made me think that people would find my writing shallow, or simple, or just plain dull.

But then I remembered I wasn’t doing this challenge for anyone else. I was doing it for me. And what started as a way to earn some credit hours and have some fun writing, turned into an accomplishment, of which I am really very proud. You will definitely find my name on the list for next year’s challenge. And I will hopefully have been writing a lot more in the meantime.

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Reflection

Among other things such as the incredible weather, the beach, the delicious food and drinks I’ve consumed, and the progress we were able to make on the house, I’m so very thankful for good friends. I consider it pretty remarkable that I was able to connect with three sets of very good friends while on vacation.

Monday was my back home, travel buddy friends. Wednesday was our Michigan cottage neighbor friends. And tonight was my very good friend Shawn, with whom I used to teach.

Shawn was the first person I met when I got hired as a summer school teacher in 2004. We instantly became friends. We were both married at the time, and even when our spouses met, we didn’t draw gender lines where I became friends with his wife, nor did he become friends with my husband. I mean, sure, we were all friends. But Shawn and I kept our friendship the common link. When Shawn and I both went through our divorces, we were there for each other. We shared tears, we shared laughs, and we shared a lot of beers. And we just kept each other going.

It’s not easy to keep up with friends. Not when everyone works, everyone has kids, everyone has times where they just don’t feel like doing anything. Friendships change, and grow, and even fizzle out. Sometimes, you meet someone who just had a place in your life at a specific time, and that friendship may become like a fading apparition. But my relationship with Shawn was never like that. We’ve been friends for nearly 14 years, and it’s one of those friendships that has dug in and held on for the long haul.

I am blessed, lucky, honored and humbled to have some pretty incredible people in my life; some I’ve known my entire existence, and others just a few months.  I wish it was easier (and cheaper!) for my other friends to get down here. I wish I could get down here more often so I could have more friends come. I wish life didn’t get in the way of having more awesome experiences with friends, both old and new.

But you know what “they” say: Wish in one hand………

Making Do

I brought my Chromebook on vacation so I could continue writing my slices. My Chrome won’t turn on right now and I’m not sure why. So here I slice, from my phone.

My second favorite thing about Florida, behind the 300+ days of sunshine a year, is the wildlife. We spent yesterday meandering along highway 41 through the Everglades. Saw alligators in the wild for the first time! And the canals are just alive with so many different types of birds and fish.

Again, 1100 miles is worlds away. Maybe I wouldn’t think it was so cool if I grew up here, or lived here full time. But I didn’t, and I don’t, so I continue to be amazed at the little things. The lizards running all over my yard. The pineapple plants and orange trees in my yard. The slithering snake hiding in our bags of pond pebbles. Even the fire ants, that I do not love because getting bit by fire ants is, well, like being burned by fire.

Off to meet up with our Michigan friends tonight. Had to slice from my phone. I hope I didn’t make too many mistakes…

Making Do

I brought my Chromebook on vacation so I could continue writing my slices. My Chrome won’t turn on right now and I’m not sure why. So here I slice, from my phone.

My second favorite thing about Florida, behind the 300+ days of sunshine a year, is the wildlife. We spent yesterday meandering along highway 41 through the Everglades. Saw alligators in the wild for the first time! And the canals are just alive with so many different types of birds and fish.

Again, 1100 miles is worlds away. Maybe I wouldn’t think it was so cool if I grew up here, or lived here full time. But I didn’t, and I don’t, so I continue to be amazed at the little things. The lizards running all over my yard. The pineapple plants and orange trees in my yard. The slithering snake hiding in our bags of pond pebbles. Even the fire ants, that I do not love because getting bit by fire ants is, well, like being burned by fire.

Off to meet up with our Michigan friends tonight. Had to slice from my phone. I hope I didn’t make too many mistakes…

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

It’s kind of funny that I head 1100 miles from home, and then meet up with my friends from home. Our place in Florida is in Port Charlotte, which is about 45 minutes north of Fort Myers. We got into town on Sunday, then early Monday morning headed down to Key Largo where our favorite travel couple is vacationing. I have traveled with these friends to New Orleans, Mexico, Nashville, Jamaica, and now Key Largo.

That was my first time in any of the “Keys” and I was not impressed. I had this preconceived notion of it being all beachy and tropical. However, most of Key Largo looks very poor. Now, I know there was a hurricane 6 months ago. But I don’t think Irma was responsible for making the island look the way it does.

We decided to do a little local island hopping. We went to Islamorada and Matecumbe Key. A little nicer looking than Key Largo. Wanted to head to Key West, but we had already spent  over 4 hours-spring break traffic is heavy down here-and we were not up for another 2 hours in the car.

We had lunch and key-lime coladas (I don’t know that I’ve ever consumed anything this tart, creamy, sweet, and delicious through a straw) overlooking the water at a neat little place called Lorelei’s. Then we went back to our friend’s motel and spent a few hours on the tiny little beach. The water was beautiful and refreshing, and I saw a stingray for the first time! Kind of eerie, though, to be standing in the water and then suddenly there is this shadowy figure gliding through the water towards you. I made sure to get out of his way quickly. We ended the day with more food and tropical drinks, and the beginnings of a perfect little sunburn.

Vacation is trying desperately to be in my rear-view mirror. But I’m holding on and sucking every last breath I can get from this elusive beast.

Sand and Sunshine

Just 9 hours ago, I was sitting on my couch, shivering, as I waited for my mom to arrive to take us to the airport. I was dressed in my Florida clothes: lightweight, flowy pants, sandals, tank top, jean jacket. Not appropriate for the weather in Chicago, that’s for sure. But perfect for the weather down here, sans the jean jacket.

I just love how you can be somewhere else in just a short time. There is something about being in the warmer air, seeing palm trees, and the promise of the beach tomorrow. I can walk around the house barefoot, and without a sweater, and be comfortable. The air conditioning may even kick on once or twice before bed.

I’ll miss my kids and my dogs. But come Friday, when we are heading back to the airport, I am going to wish we were staying longer. I am going to feel that drop in my wonderful mood as I feel the drop of the temperature when we get home. I’ll be shivering again, as we stand outside of O’Hare airport, in the arrivals area, waiting for my daughter to pick us up. Because I’ll be wearing my Florida clothes home, and they are not appropriate for the weather in Chicago.

Fear of Packing

Had to accomplish a daunting task today: I had to pack for vacation.

I’m leaving tomorrow for 5 days. Nothing crazy. Going to Florida. There will be beach time, casual dinners out, some house and yard work to do. But because there are all of these different activities going on within these 5 days, it’s overwhelming to me to figure out what to pack. That, and I just loathe packing.

I don’t know what it is. In fact, I can’t just decide to pack, and then get it all done. It can take me days to pack for a little vacation like this. I challenged myself this time and put it off until today. I think I was trying to treat myself like I was going to get over a phobia. Face my fear and I will conquer it!

Really it was just a tactic to put off the inevitable.

I’ve had my suitcase sitting on the bench at the end of the bed in the spare room since Wednesday. I wasn’t going to let it scare me. I looked at it every day as I got ready for school; every night as I got ready for bed. I imagined it full of the things I would need for my trip and told myself, “tomorrow I’ll start packing.” Well, tomorrow turned into today.

I started packing at about 8:30 this morning. The easy stuff first: pajamas, a couple pairs of socks, underwear. Then I needed a break. Went back up and put away all my laundry. It’s important that all my clothes are washed and put away before I really pack (still avoiding…). Took another much-needed break. Went back up, and my daughter followed me. “Mom, why aren’t you packed yet??” Well, I was BUSY.

This happened all morning. It continued throughout the day. I think I’ve packed too much. I may not have packed enough. I may not like what I have packed to wear once I get there. The outfits may not look good on me that day. The weather may change. I may need these shoes. Do I really need those shoes? I should probably bring that just in case.

I only worked on packing for small bursts within about 10 hours today. I can’t look at it anymore tonight.  I don’t know if I’m totally finished or not. But we don’t have to leave for the airport until 11:30 tomorrow morning.

And I will conquer the contents of that suitcase by 11:29.