Posts Tagged ‘books’

I moved here a year ago. I started a new job that I thought I would stay with for, say, four more years and then I could retire. I had it figured out.

But “it wasn’t a good fit,” as they say euphemistically when a job sucks the life out of you. I totally respect the organization, but this type of work, especially in this place, is no longer healthy for me. So I’ve resigned, effective at the end of August, without a next job lined up. #stepoffaith or #desperation.

When you’re burned out, you don’t look for the same kind of work that burned you out.Therefore my search now is as much about a change of direction as it is about finding new income.

I believe in calling. I also believe mine is changing.

I crave a whole life. Not compartmentalized. Shalom giving and growing, for myself, for those I love, for the world.

What needs to happen to get there?

First, a lot of prayer. Also, trying to tap into the resources God has made available to me.

I’m doing personal work with a career coach and a counselor, which involves homework. Meditative, thinking, feeling, writing homework.

I have books I want to read or reread and actually do the exploratory exercises they recommend. In case you’re interested, they are:

One thing Michelle, my career coach, is helping me with is the workup to an Etsy business. This involves a line-in-the-sand date by which to research, write a business plan, create more of the products that my friend and I want to sell, set up the account and all the social media marketing pages, and write an editorial calendar and some blog posts to get us started.

Pretty exciting, because my creativity wants really badly to come out and play.

But I also have to support myself in the process. And by support I mean both income and self-care. My days don’t seem to have enough hours to do it all, but taking a step or two every day toward my new life is part of supporting myself in both ways.

So what did I do today, this Sunday, this day of rest? I paid attention to my spiritual health. I bought some luscious peaches, ice cream bars, an avocado, and a gorgeous red pepper. I had some conversations with family members. I texted with a couple of friends. I worked the Chicago Tribune Sunday crossword. I watched an episode of The Gilmore Girls. I filled out a job application. I did laundry. I made notes on potential blog topics, which is part of homework. And here I am, writing this one.

Finishing this job well is important, but I am looking forward to being free of it so that I can move more fully forward, even if I can’t see all the steps yet.

Steps. Onward.





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I need another bookcase.

Here are two, full.


Yes, they are in front of the fireplace. I never use the fireplace and consider it a waste of valuable space in this 699 sq. ft. apartment, so at least this way I regain a smidge of floor space in the living room.

I can hear some of you now, thinking, “If she would get rid of some of those books, she’d regain even more room.” Believe me, I got rid of lots of books as I downsized to move here. Maybe someday more can go, but not now. They are my friends. And actually I keep finding new friends. A hopeless case, I guess.

Back to bookshelves. These are not the only ones I have. But they’re all full.

The one tucked under the tiny bar in the kitchen holds cookbooks as well as glass jars with dry staples and some vintage mixing bowls.

The bedroom has three, one on each side of the bed plus another that is actually two old wooden crates, stacked. They hold kids’ books that belonged to all three of my children, my collection of French books, Bibles, my high school and college yearbooks, and other miscellaneous books.

The hallway — yes, the hallway — has one that holds books related to my  job and various work-related 3-ring binders, collateral, and office supplies. That way they’re all within easy reach of the table in the tiny dining area that serves as my home office, sewing room, and yes, dining space. Some day I can clean out the job-related stuff and gain back at least one shelf for books.

You will notice that I do not group my books by color. I tried that once. It lasted about two weeks. I couldn’t find anything. My books are not decorative accessories. I know them by name. I’ve read most of them and sometimes refer back to them. The rest are in the to-read queue. My friends belong near others with something in common: topic or genre or author.

Now if you look back up at that photo, you will also notice that besides the color thing, these are not staged-for-publication bookshelves. I didn’t pretty it up for you one bit. Because this is not a decorating blog. It’s a life process blog.

And my life is not primped and polished.

It’s still a rough draft.

And right there, I think I mixed my metaphors. But for now I’m okay with that. It’s my life that’s real.



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Never one to jump right on a book trend, I just finished reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo.

I have not yet taken each item I own in my hand and asked myself whether it sparks joy for me. I may or may not do that, but I did take a bag of clothes out to the car today to drop off at a donation bin next time I go that way.

A couple of observations.

One, Kondo is a tad bit obsessed. Has been since she was a wee child, apparently.

Two, her obsession indicates her super power, to quote a life coach I know. She is gifted at not only tidying but its sister, organization, and at seeing that our relationship to our stuff indicates the orderliness or lack thereof of our psyches. I totally respect her for finding a way to turn loose her super power to help others, to spark joy in herself, and to make what I assume is a rather decent living.

Three, her personification of belongings and dwellings at first struck me as over the top. But then something about it started to feel right, as an expression of gratitude and respect.Maybe the child in me relates, the same child who felt that if I didn’t play with one toy for awhile, it would feel left out, like I loved the others better.

So I’m asking: Where does my apartment want my sewing supplies and fabric to be stored? Big mystery right now.

And I’m also asking: What are my super powers? How can I turn them loose for good in my life and in this world? Can I trust them to take care of me?

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Deep thoughts these days, about many things.

For one, I’ve been reading Dan Pallotta’s book, Uncharitable.: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential. I work for a nonprofit, so I find it especially thought-provoking. I’m just one chapter in, and so much is making me take a look at the whole paradigm anew. Even the way he defines terms by going back to their roots is revealing. If you have any interest in the nonprofit world, or causes, or social issues, just let these roll around in your head and see what you think:

Profit comes from the Latin profectus, meaning progress. What does that say about the meaning of nonprofit?

Charity comes from the Greek work charos, meaning love or grace . . .

The circles I travel in consider it inappropriate to talk about charity, yet we freely and even proudly identify ourselves as nonprofit — no progress. Go figure.

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Model for a day

I answered a call from one of my Facebook friends and signed up to model in a fashion show at our local mall today. This was my second modeling experience. The first was a staff luncheon where I worked at least four years ago featuring clothing from a thrift store. I enjoyed that, so decided this one with new clothes sounded fun, too.

Today’s theme was prom and spring. I was the oldest model, in years anyway, and my persona was to be The Mother of the Bride. When they sent me to Carson’s earlier in the week to pick out my outfit, they pointed out three styles most popularly chosen by brides’ mothers. My first impression: these were Grandmother-of-the-Bride dresses. I might be a grandmother, but I don’t dress like that. The one I chose was much simpler and, I felt, more elegant. Then they took me to choose shoes and jewelry, and voila:

Carol modeling a blue dress

Carol in a blue dress at the mall

My take-aways?

  1. It was fun to do all the girl things and get all dressed up, even just for an hour.
  2. I have fairly good style instincts.
  3. Those Anne Klein heels are surprisingly comfortable.
  4. There’s a used bookstore at the mall — who knew?
  5. It was true to my nature to do both: have this  modeling adventure and purchase a used book which I’ve already begun to read.



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I find myself this morning burrowing through boxes I thought would stay closed for a good long time. It all started yesterday when I found out that I need a new furnace.  The good news buried in that bad news is that a new heating/cooling system will be hugely more energy efficient than my current 1975 models and will save me money big time on my utility bills, but I still have  to figure out how to pay for this. I know God will provide for me. He always has, one way or the other, but I’m working with him here. I know my cushion won’t cover the whole expense. For some time I’ve been tossing around the idea of signing up with airbnb.com, offering my guest room to travelers for some extra income. Now the furnace issue is pushing me to get serious, and before I can actually do that I have to clear out the closet in there. Hence, going through boxes. Some I can just carry downstairs, but others maybe it’s time to weed stuff out. Again.

I boxed this stuff up during the year after my husband died. As widows do, I went through his stuff, got rid of lots, and saved some. I haven’t opened it again in two years. So far I’m one book box in. Already the process drains me. I thought I was done with this.

Just now I messaged a relative to ask if she and her husband, in seminary, want some of the theology/devotional books. I’ve put a Spanish-English Bible and a U.S. Constitution/Declaration of Independence booklet in my tote bag to take to work Monday, to put out for food pantry clients, because our experience shows that people are not just hungry for food, they are hungry for something that feeds their soul and mind.

Then I picked up a couple of my own books that I’d boxed up because I hadn’t looked at them in probably fifteen years: When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple and If I Had My Life to Live Over I Would Pick More Daisies. They’ve become stereotypes since I bought them, and I figured they were Goodwill bound. But when I opened one and read a random poem, it took me straight to my mother, who died by my side in 2001, and I think I may need to reread both books again. I go to another poem, and there I am, too. At least for now, they will return to my shelf.

I still don’t know if I’ll follow through on this airbnb.com idea, but I’m closer to it than before. I don’t even know if I’ll ever be done sifting through things — and thoughts, and memories, and emotions. This is what it means to be alive, right?

By the way, I’ve been reading Joshua Becker’s blog, Becoming Minimalist. If you want encouragement for simplifying your life, you might want to check it out. Just be warned, that the process of thinning out possessions will often take you to some important emotions. But that’s really a good thing, too, is it not?



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We had a meeting yesterday at work about how we’ll use space in the future. The five of us in the room knew the meeting was necessary, even wanted it,  but the longer we looked at drawings and talked, the higher our stress levels rose. There were simply too many moving parts in our heads if not on the table, and cost could not be one of them. “Do we still need . . .?” “But what if. . .?” “No, that’s won’t work because. . .”

We finally had to call the meeting, having identified a couple of questions that need answering before we can resolve anything. No one was comfortable, and some of us were downright cranky.

Creativity isn’t just about art, design, and architecture. Life is a creative process. The best solutions to problems are usually creative.  And results of creativity don’t appear on the first try, full-blown, a masterpiece. Whether you’re painting, or writing, or composing, or arranging your office, or fixing a meal, it’s a messy process. Anne Lamott has a whole chapter called “Shitty First Drafts” in Bird by Bird, her book on writing and life. It’s hilarious, and spot-on.

Anne’s one of my favorite authors. So is Malcolm Gladwell. In this short video, he talks about the need to embrace chaos. That sounds scary, but I think he’s right. Controlled chaos, probably. One can’t careen completely out of control and do much good at all.

So, let’s keep creating.

In the midst.

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