#20 – CELLPHONES

I thank God soooo much for CELLPHONES.

When they first came out, they were too expensive to buy, and the cost for air time was horrific, so I couldn’t afford one. 

Then, I had a car breakdown in 2002, in the middle of a factory/warehouse area – at night.  Someone stopped when they saw me, and let me use their cell phone – for which I thanked them profusely.  When the tow truck driver heard that I had to borrow a cell phone, he gave me the side eye and sternly said, “Lady, there’s no excuse not to have one for emergencies.  Now, when you get home, you check the internet and find you a phone for about $35 a month, and it will be worth it to you.” 

I didn’t have the heart to tell him I couldn’t afford the internet at that time, nor a home phone. What I knew was that there was email at work and at the library, and I found an advert for a phone for just that $35/month.  Texting was extra, but I had 150 minutes and that was more minutes than I needed for any emergency I could think of.  I let friends and family know I had a phone now (couldn’t afford a home phone back then either), and told them we had to keep discussions brief. They were great with that, and I only ever went over during the holidays, which was ok by me.

About two years later, I had added texting to use with my younger son and eventually his brother. By this time, long distance became free; but I still had to be wary of roaming fees.  Already I was finding out that I liked being able to answer my phone while I was away from home. That way I could go straight to the caller’s location without pause, unless I needed to go home to put away some groceries.  The thing is, I didn’t HAVE to go home to find out who wanted to talk to me, now.

I loved being able to talk to my sister in GA for more than an hour, and not have to worry about the cost of the call.  We did more talking about everything we’d been missing out on for the passing years! Just that feature alone could bring me to tears about why I appreciate that cell phones that came into being.

I got a phone with a camera, and was astounded to find out it could take videos, too!  I have been able to record so many great things ever since I have had those features, and I’ve never looked back.  I always put the pictures and videos on my computer, too.  So I’ve never lost any that I valued.

As time went by, I found that I enjoyed being able to text when I had a quick question or needed to know sizes while buying gifts or just out looking at rummage sales.  Getting pictures from folks via text messaging was frustrating until I got my first smartphone, though.  I was late in getting one, but when I did in 2016 – a whole world opened up for me, and I mean that literally. 

I have used that GPS app more than 100 times (no exaggeration) because I moved to a new state, city and county.  I also worked in a city I’d never been to for much, so now I needed to know how to get around in my new hometown and in my new job town.  Sometimes I’d know how to get somewhere from my home, but I worked an hour away from home. So I’d need to know how to get there from work, instead of home. My son had given me his old GPS a year before, and I had already loved using it, but I have to admit – it was an extra thing to keep in the car and to hook up.   The phone is much easier and simpler to use – as well as being more accurate since the updates happen pretty much automatically.

I love distinctive ringtones that let me know who’s calling, when I have a phone that allows for it, too!

I especially like being able to connect with friends when we go to places that we can get lost in, but we send each other texts and find each other so much more easily than we did before there were cell phones.  I like being able to get recorded messages without having to go home to hear them, too.

It’s a bonus to use it to access the internet. So many of my friends do that, rather than own any other kind of computer.  That means that my currently homeless friend and I can still keep in touch, as long as no one steals her phone from her. I like that it makes their lives work well that way, and it doesn’t have to cost more than $50 a month in fees.

Really, there’s not much I dislike about a cellphone – as long as I still can visit with your face when we’re together.  Huggerz.

#19 – Music!

It began when my parents would sing in the car, and we children would learn the songs and join in. It was a family tradition that I am sad to admit I didn’t carry into my children’s lives so much.

When we got to school ages, we joined various children’s choirs (some you had to audition for at tender ages like five and six). As we grew up, there were school chorus classes and still church choir opportunities – and always singing in the car.

Once I was an adult, singing times were more and more limited, and I can’t seem to hold those notes very well anymore. Damaged hearing has played some part in that loss of expression as well.

Some days I really wish I could sing like I used to; but I still thank God for the thrill of hearing music and letting it sing for me when I hear it. There are so many tears that can’t spill out of my heart or mind, until the right blend of sounds comes to help. There is also nothing sufficient enough to express the gladness of a heart that is overflowing like a song does. Let the music help your body to sway as well as your legs to jump! There is such a wealth of expression that I cannot live without – if there was no music for my soul.

Yes – music is Awesome!

“I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever!” Psalm 80:1

#18 – FLEXTIME!

I am SO thankful for FLEXTIME!

For most of my working life, I have had to be at work before the time I begin working, so that I could start working right on time; but not anymore, thanks to flextime.

I began my adult work in factories. They treat you like a “squishy machine” that needs to be protected from injury (hence the “squishy”), but otherwise just part of the production line. If you can’t be there when the line needs you there, then you are expendable and fired. Someone else will be given the chance to be a new cog in the process. There’s always someone waiting for your job, so you have to be careful not to let anything keep you from showing up every day, and always on time.

Production line duties are usually repetitive, often physically demanding, and mind numbing work. The only real hope was to have races with your rate time from yesterday; or to pay attention to whatever causes trouble for the parts you work with, and find a resolution for, so you can get a bonus or promotion. It was what I referred to as “drone work” that wore on your soul if you had a restless mind. I couldn’t work in those situations for very long unless there was some variety. The factory jobs I enjoyed the most were the ones that had me working with my hands (not just a machine) at my own pace, and using drawings to fill circuit boards. Sadly, automation got rid of most of those.

I was “between jobs” (aka unemployed and looking for work) when I was given the stunning opportunity to attend college at no cost to me. I was considered low income and had dependents, so I qualified for federal and state programs that were available in the 90’s. There I acquired new skills that got me out of the factory production areas and into the offices. This is when I began to find out about “flex time”.

Different places will have a different name, but the benefit is the same: you can arrive at any time (within 2 hours of start of business day), and leave at a different time than usual, as long as you put in your full week’s hours – because the workday is flexible (ergo: flextime). So if you wanted to arrive at 6 am, and leave at 2:30 (with 30 mins for unpaid lunch) – you could, as long as you supervisor approves and your work is completed before leaving. Or, if you wanted to arrive at 9 am and leave at 5:30 (same lunch), you could do that, too.

The only person who couldn’t do that was the one who had to answer the phones, since that is dependent on business hours as customers will call. Sometimes, that was my role and I couldn’t enjoy the benefit of flex time so much. The thing is, if I was 15 mins late for work at the factory, they deducted that from my pay, and I couldn’t make it up. It would also get me a write up that could lead to my termination/firing. In the office I can – and do – make up for lost time. I can even leave for a 1 hour appointment and then return to work! UNHEARD OF in my earlier life.

As long as you’re not meeting customers in a fixed schedule, or working in a process that has to rely on each person performing a task so the next person can do theirs, flextime is possible for even people not working on a salary. I’ve always been an hourly worker, or commission paid. I’ve mostly been the person answering the phone for a business for the first 15 years after graduation (1996), but this flex time has been impossible for me to experience until fairly recently. It’s still something I can’t take for granted when I get to invoke it.

When I’m running later than usual, I don’t get all tied up in knots like I used to do – I can just keep moving and know that I’ll get there and my work will wait for me. I just won’t be able to leave when everyone else is, and that’s no fun. I don’t hurry through traffic like I used to, because I don’t have to. When the weather is really bad, I’ll even call and tell my boss I’m waiting for the weather to slow down or the crazy drivers to find their ditches before I’m willing to venture out, and he’s ok with that. I’ll just stay later, and it’s ok.

On top of that — get this: I had to miss a day of work this week, because I was sick. I was able to make up the time by working longer hours the rest of the week, and make sure my paycheck will STILL have 40 hours on it. BOOYA! I haven’t had THAT benefit at other jobs, well, one of them allowed that, but it didn’t last long (temp job). I’d rather get sick pay, being honest. But if I can’t have that, I’m grateful that I can still work out a way to get a full 40 hour paycheck. [I now get sick paid days off, as of 3 years ago – yaaayyy!]

There are SO many differences in my life now that flex time is available to me, and I can’t shout my thanksgivings loud enough, now that God has given me a job with that benefit. I thank God SO much – for FLEXTIME.

Work life balance is achieved!

REPEAT#10 – AUTUMN!

Alla da FUN!

I felt like I didn’t say enough about this season. Anyone who’s known me for a few months knows that my love for autumn is no secret. I just love nearly everything about it. Some folks call it Fall, and I think that they just lack imagination and miss what is really going on during this season. Things aren’t just “falling” things are HAPPENING!

Early on, I think I loved autumn because of the new things that begin in autumn that brought me hope. New clothes for school, new classroom, new teachers, new books to read – all of it. As the scorching heat of summer left, the trees began to get colorful, and I loved seeing that happen, too. Summer was rarely a good season for me, and my birthday is in June!

As the leaves fell and turned brown, I LOVED shuffling through the places where they’d pile up. I get to watch my grandson enjoying the same sensation these days, and it blesses me like my cup is full. ‘Cause it is. When I was young, everyone burned their leaves after raking them. So there was a wonderful smoky tang in the air – an incense of the season. Though I understand it might make others very sick to deal with (including me, now), I still miss the way the air smelled on the walks home from school. When I get to drive through an area where they allow leaf burning, I hurry to open my car window so I can inhale some of that wonderful scent – though I have barely controlled asthma. I figure that’s what meds are for, right? Chuckle.

I really don’t enjoy all of the extreme heat during the summer, nor the sunburns I’d get when I tried to play outside. Add the itchy mosquitos at night, and nothing seemed right about summer. During the autumn, I could play to my heart’s content and even ride my bike further than usual, because I didn’t overheat so much. Jackets were neat to wear, or you could just tie them around your waist when it got too warm to wear it. Even an overcast autumn day is thrilling – with all of the colorful leaves swirling around and getting stuck to the windows – decorations! In my area of Northern Illinois, there were helicopter seeds from the colorful maples, and acorns and (if you were quicker than the squirrels), hickory nuts to enjoy.

Great foods like apples, pumpkin everything, spicy scented sauces, soups and stews with root veggies along with chili come to the tables during autumn, and decorative gourds would be on display almost everywhere. As a kid, my sisters and I would make elaborate plans on what we’d do if we could only get some help for Halloween. But even the lowliest costume got the same candy as the most elaborate costume – so trick or treating was always a thrill. We moved nearly every year, so there was always a new neighborhood to enjoy collecting candy in, as well as new friends to join us on our journey.

As I got too old for trick or treating, it was time for enjoying more bonfires and other cool night activities, now that it would get dark sooner. There are hayrides, corn mazes to tramp through, and wonderful trails to enjoy now that the mosquitos and ticks are hiding when the first freeze hits.

As a grown up, I still thrill with the farm harvests that begin around me where I live, and I have trees all around me turning delightful vibrant colors like crazy. The hot days are finally segueing into the cooler nights for sleeping and the warm sunshine for daytime activities of raking leaves into piles for children (and pets) to jump into. I still keep a wary eye peeled for smoke, so I can get some of that scent again – and relive great carefree days of my youth. There’s really no mystery to me that it’s the perfect season for giving Thanks, though it’s more than just the harvests we reap that bring me that wonderful feeling of God’s blessing in my life.

When I was dating a few years ago, I kept meeting these guys who would talk about moving to warmer climates like Arizona or Florida or some southern state like Missouri. Well, that was probably our last date, because I’m not interested in going to a place that gets triple digit heat! I’ll forever keep a home where there are four seasons, thank you – as long as autumn gets to happen without restraint, I can enjoy the other three that have to provide a stage for this grand season!

#17 – Orderliness

I am so thankful for ORDER and cleanliness, which should accompany it.

I am not a germaphobe or perfectionist, nor anything like that; but I really appreciate coming into orderly places, no matter where I am.

Part of my enjoyment of a neat and orderly home or office/desk, is because I want to keep from getting soiled or coming in contact with vermin, sure. But the biggest reason is just that I get mind flooded (google that) when I encounter a lot of clutter. Even when I enter a cluttered store, I can’t stay in it for long, or I will have to linger in sections of order, so I can keep going through the store in bits. It just overwhelms me and that’s not a nice feeling, though there are worse ones to get from badly run stores.

It’s one of the reasons I don’t do well all by myself when I have to make order out of disorder at work or at home. I can work well alongside of someone else while we make order from disorder; but not on my own unless it’s a repetitive pattern, like cleaning up the kids toys when they are toddlers. At that point, it’s following an order of repetition – see?

The best part of having something orderly is that I can find things when I want to use them. An orderly office or home invites me to start working on something or begin some kind of activity there – unless the area is so bare it’s sterile. That’s just uncomfortable.

I have two things I didn’t like about being a “homemaker” cooking, and cleaning. Cooking makes a mess, though I enjoy eating and serving other people meals. Nothing makes me smile wider than to hear someone compliment something I make. I just really hate the mess of cooking: all of those pans, bowls and implements. So if I can use a pan to accomplish more than one action, I’m happier than you’d believe. Truth. I blame my birthmother’s bad habit of soiling the kitchen and leaving the debris for her children to clean up.

I dislike housekeeping because I really don’t enjoy the work of it – but I love the results. So, cleanliness and order are a joy for me, more than clutter or disorder, though I certainly had a home that was often cluttered or disorganized. Especially the closets (chuckle). Sometimes, when life is busy with onetime events, you have to let the stuff build up until you have a less active moment to get it under control. That’s just the nature of any life well lived.

So don’t you begin worrying that I ever come to visit you at home and I’ll be critical. I’m usually thinking, “How in the world do they manage to keep their home better than I could when I was in their life situation (wee children, working, going through a draining illness, etc)?” Trust me, folks. I usually admire someone’s home, and its distinctive contents, if I notice it at all. I usually come to visit YOU – not your home (Love and hearts).

But one of the best moments in life is after having a party. Why? Because once the debris is all removed – the house is cleaner than it has been for months, and that’s a blessing when I sit back with my feet up and a nice cuppa coffee in my hand. I really love the residue of memories after a really good gather, too.

#16 – Kindness

I want to thank God for KINDNESS.

Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Somehow that trait was diminished in my family of origin, and even overruled in some ways. It was diminished so well, that when I saw it being acted out in television shows I perceived it as phony and unreal. When I saw it practiced around me by others, I either thought of it as “someone trying to manipulate someone else” (because that’s how it was used in my young life), or something only weak people do.

Thankfully, God helped me find out that kindness wasn’t a myth, and that it was as real as the pain of stubbing a toe (that REALLY smarts and is utterly undeniable).

Learning to be kind to others was hard, until I learned that it really and truly had to begin with being kind to myself. I honestly didn’t really grasp that very quickly, having learned that the only way for people (myself included) would make enduring uncomfortable and foreign changes is when they are browbeaten (punished) into making them. So if I made a mistake or even just a bad choice, I’d beat myself up about it – harshly and without kindness. I thought that would make me better. I was wrong. Once I was able to be more kind to myself, it got easier and easier to be kind to everyone else I wanted to be kind with.

The real surprise was that I actually make more consistent changes within myself and my life walk when I am kind to myself. It has been a lovely gentle surprise in my life’s journey to find that to be a real thing.

How can kindness live while really bad things going on around you? I can only say that as we engage with kindness toward ourselves, it gets easier to see where kindness makes us feel better in bad situations, and punishing others becomes less important and certainly less rewarding. See how I did that? I showed how learning kindness helped me learn what forgiveness was: my ability to give up my right to punish someone else for something they did wrong to me. I don’t need an apology to forgive someone, now. I only need to be kinder to myself, and the world, by giving up my right to require punishment for them. Does that mean I have to let them repeat the injury? O HECK no! Forgiveness does not require that I lay down and be anyone’s rug, chuckle. Boundaries are healthy things for good relationships that last, after all.

This lifelong journey for the lessons of kindness drew me to a poem that I had as a bookplate when I was only 20 years old, and newly married. It’s a poem written by Stephen Grellet (1773-1855), and it still resonates with me. I use it as my illustration today. I hope it inspires you as well.

Finally, I want to thank God for being patient and tenacious (a kind word for stubborn) in teaching me that kindness is the better way to go, in spite of what I wasn’t given in life. Didja know Kindness is a fruit of the spirit? Means the more I practice it, the more God’s spirit can flow into and through me. A very good thing.

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

My life’s goal

#14 – The Reading Skills

When I was four years old, I was made to stand in the corner for a time-out. While I was bored and waiting for my release, I noticed my mother making a bunch of squiggles on some paper in neat lines.

“Why are you doing that?” Because when I scribbled on paper, I would get scolded.

“Because when I “write” something Grandma knows what I’m saying,” Mom answered firmly.

I thought she meant that Grandma would get that information “real time” by some kind of telepathy aided by the squiggles. My first thoughts were: “Uh oh! She’s telling Grandma I’m being naughty.”

My very next thoughts were: “Magic! I want to learn how to do that!”

Since then, I have learned so many things thanks to being a voracious reader. Being that kind of reader taught me how to be discriminating on what the author is saying, and whether they took the time to learn before spouting, too.

Yes, dear Peeps, reading is AWESOME! Even if it isn’t REALLY magical – it still seems like it is, y’know?

You’re never alone if you can read or write!

#12 – A Comfortable Bed All to Myself

I thank God because I have an awesome place to work on going to sleep. Having a comfy place to sleep at the end of any day is a blissy indulgence for me, and I don’t take it for granted at all. Having been homeless means I haven’t always had a comfortable place to sleep. Living on tight budgets for decades meant that I slept on the best I could find at second hand shops, or thanked people profusely for their giveaways to me and my husband. They were better than sleeping on a couch or the floor, but most weren’t like the one I have now.

The bed frame is second hand but honestly so perfectly right for my taste and pleasure. I feel like someone I could admire when I come into my bedroom and see that bed. Truth. The mattress is new, and taught me something about how a mattress can be firm and soft enough to handle my fibromyalgia tenderness.

I toss and turn a lot because of the fibro, so I need really smooth and soft sheets on the bed. Then I need lots of room to move around, so this is a Double Bed, or Full Size. These sheets are cotton sateen, so they don’t abrade my skin from the tossing and turning, and the weight is perfectly comfortable to move within. Though I am happily sleeping alone, and adding that I have a really good internal body furnace, the cotton is perfect for my night sweatiness.

The quilt is a fabulous one that my younger sister made in 2009. It’s cotton, and perfectly weighted for me. I’m so amazed at the the colors in its design, and how wonderfully vibrant they are for my autumnal décor. Because it was made by someone I love and who loves me, I’m sure you understand that I feel like I’m hugged when I slide inside the sheets.

I LOVE spreading across the bed like a starfish, and no one to apologize to for tossing and turning so much, as well as no one to worry about bumping when I need to change positions. After sharing a bed with siblings and then a husband for nearly three decades, this is a HUGE luxury for me!

And for those of you with sharp eyes, yes, that’s a cpap machine next to the bed. It’s a bit of a challenge sleeping with a hose on the nose, but – it sure beats choking during the sleep cycle (which is what I was doing without it).

#11 – Laundry at HOME

If you can’t shoot, do laundry.

After years of doing laundry in an apartment laundry room or laundromat, being able to do laundry at home anytime I want is an amazing luxury.

Sharing laundry facilities has led to some of my wash not coming clean enough, because the person before me worked in mud or an engine shop. It’s a gamble you can’t do much to avoid, so you learn to wash the dark items first.

I like not having to make sure I have enough coins before I sort the clothes. I also like not having to leave my wash in a line as I wait for an empty machine. Add that if I want to wash a few items in a special way and not pay for a full load of wash – well, that’s where the feeling of luxury comes from.

I deeply appreciate getting my clothes clean, dry and put away never going out in the rain or cold, while slouching around in pajamas and drinking a freshly brewed cup of coffee – ‘cause I’m awesome like that!

(Maybe I’ll even try on a Star Wars outfit when I do it.)

#10 – Autumn!

Internet photo

I have a friend who said that she only sees October as the month when everything is dying. To me – it’s a PARTY! All the colors are out like Halloween costumes, and all the wood smoke and leaf burning is like incense wafting skyward. Wonderful leaves to scuff through that sing a whooshing sound as you go along like no dirt road can do during the summertime.

I don’t know if it has been the release from the heat, the fun of another school year of information for my hungry mind, or even new school supplies and clothing that made autumn so welcome in my life. Probably all of it.

All of the plants and trees begin showing their produce at this time of year, too. So many things yield their identities with the fruits, nuts, berries or even just fluffy seeds become visible and also add their colors. Busy wildlife gathering it all in (squirrels!), and even pelting me with some of it at times made for some hilarity for me as I enjoyed traipsing through forests or weeded prairie fields as a child.

All of the sturdy harvest foods begin replacing the fragile produce of summer, and it tastes so good because it was cooked inside the cozy home. The family gathers like they can’t stand to do during the summertime because it’s too dang HOT unless you’ve got a/c. Give me the cool, brisk, bountiful, and sassy AUTUMN days anytime!