Friday, June 27, 2008

Uncluttering My Life

Whenever I forget where I put something or forget to do something that is on my to-do list (which is often lost somewhere in my house or office), I blame it on brain clutter, which has a direct link to real clutter. This week I made a great list of things I needed to do. I can’t find my list (see photo) – can you imagine why? Phil says that I can always find what I am looking for in the third logical place. Sometimes this tactic works, but other times even the logical places aren’t where I’ve set something down and out of mind.

Actually, things aren’t as bad as they appear in the photo. This is my work desk at home. Right now it is very cluttered, but it won’t stay this way for long. It may get worse before the day is over! I’ve learned how to pile things up and make great stacks, and surprisingly enough, I am actually very productive at my little workstation at home. But once I close up shop at about 3:30 this afternoon, it will be neat and orderly, I’ll have a good feeling of all I’ve accomplished, and I’ll be ready for the week-end and then a brand new week.

All of this is to make a point (I think). I actually feel like I am making progress on uncluttering my life, although my desk isn't evidence of it. I am learning how to let go of both material clutter and the mental kind that keeps my brain in high gear in the middle of the night. I’ve learned some techniques for calming my spirit and quieting that inner voice in my head that yells so loudly at me telling me what I should have said or should have done while loving to replay past events on the inside of my eyelids for my amusement when I am in desperate need of sleep.

I’ve also begun work on cleaning out my closet and dresser drawers. Last week-end I attacked my lingerie drawer. I found panties in there that I’d had since my first marriage, which ended 16 years ago. Yeow!! Why I was keeping them, I don’t know. Out they went, along with a thousand pairs of pantie hose and knee high stockings from who knows when. Some of these stockings have found new life in my garden as tomato ties, and my old cotton panties are now in Phil’s shop posing as staining cloths. What was wonderful about this uncluttering task was the surprise I found at the bottom of the drawer after I had emptied it completely- a favorite pair of earrings I lost last year. I thought I had left them in a hotel and that they were gone forever! How they got into the bottom of that drawer, I don’t have a clue. Certainly wasn't one of three logical places!

I think it was the gremlin who takes my to-do lists and hides them.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Family Reunion 2008

The “Campbell Cuzzins” gathered at Laura’s lake house on Saturday for our annual family reunion. I can’t figure out which year this is for our group to get together. I think this is the 10th or 11th year, but I’m really not sure. The years are beginning to run together in my memory.

Cousin Sam and I looked at some of the old reunion photos, and recognized the shirt that he wore at the first reunion we had, but we can’t remember the year. I was wearing a t-shirt that year that I bought in San Francisco, which was in the fall of 1997, so chances are I wore it to our first cousins’ get-together in June in ’98. Whatever. Just proves that we’ve been doing this for quite awhile!

The focus on my thoughts this morning is the feeling I have toward my family. When I see my cousins, my nephews and nieces, and my brothers and sister each year, I am reminded of who I am, where I came from, and the family I am a part of. I realize how fortunate I am and how much I value my place in this group. It also makes me realize that I am not alone, but that I have others who are linked to me through the genealogy of the Campbell gene pool, and who share this wonderful bond of being our parents’ children and grandchildren.

Then there are the “no blood kin” folks who are part of our family. These include our in-laws, who have become Campbells through marriage. I don’t even think of them as in-laws anymore; they are us. I have wonderful cousins, sisters, a brother, and nephews and nieces, who are now mine because they married into our family. There was even a “kissin’ cousin” who came to the reunion this year – Art isn’t biologically related to us, but he’s part of the family through his relation to one of our in-laws, and I’ve known him most of my life. There are also no-blood kin who come into the family through other avenues, and they are just as much family as any of us. I love them all!
As I said earlier, WHATEVER! We are family. We make a trek to Lake Lanier every June to see each other, catch up on family news, remember our parents through sharing familiar stories, pass around photos of the past year, and talk about getting older. I am the youngest Campbell cousin at age 60, but I am by no means the youngest Campbell. I marvel at how fast the kids change from year to year as they grow up, and those who aren’t at the reunion are remembered as their photographs move around the room. We hug and kiss, sit next to each other and eat our favorite family foods, talk about our kids who aren’t here this year, and soak up the Campbell love.

I find myself without the words I'm looking for to express my feelings. I think Elie's hug on her dad, Steve says it all. So I’ll stop writing.

(Me, Molly, Grady, Bob- Henry and Jennie's Kids)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Diamond's Big Day

As soon as I walked through the door this afternoon, I sensed that all was not well. Phil was sitting on the edge of the chaise in the living room waiting for me. As soon as I closed the door behind me, he stood up and said, “Come here. I want to show you something,” as he headed toward the bedroom.

My mind was racing. Was it something I did before I left for work this morning, or neglected to do, like leave water running in the sink, or worse yet in the toilet? Had Kitty Rocky gotten into mischief during the day and destroyed something in our house? Or perhaps, Phil had been surfing on the internet and inadvertently loaded a virus. What could it be? I put my briefcase and purse down on the dining room table and moved hesitantly toward the bedroom. When I got there, I saw Phil kneeling beside Diamond, who was resting on the rug next to our bed, petting her. I moved closer and saw what he had to show me. Diamond had a long row of metal staples on her face, between her eye and snout. She looked up at me with dull and groggy eyes, and wagged her tail. What happened? Was she o.k?

Phil and Diamond drove up to Cherokee County in the morning to visit Phil’s friend, Bill. They were going to do a little fishing at Bill’s pond, while giving Diamond a fun time to romp and play with Bill’s German Shepherds, Maggie and Midnight. When they arrived, Diamond jumped out of the truck, greeted her friends, and took off running. Phil and Bill were walking down toward the pond when they heard a loud thud, and a dog yelping. They could see that one dog was down on the ground next to Phil’s truck, but couldn’t tell which one it was. When they got there, they saw Diamond laying on the ground dazed and bleeding. It seems that she had been chasing Maggie and ran smack into the corner of the truck tailgate, gashing her face and knocking her silly. Phil told me that he took his bandana and put pressure on the wound for a few minutes, and then loaded her into his truck to take her to the vet. By the time I got home from work, Diamond had spent most of the day at the veterinary clinic where they put her to sleep, closed the wound with eight staples, and gave her a shot of pain medication before letting Phil bring her home.

My heart went out to her, knowing that she probably didn’t understand what had happened, looking at Phil and me through glazed eyes with complete trust. I was thankful that her eye wasn’t damaged, as I sat down on the floor beside her to pet and comfort her. I thought back to the day that two-year-old Wade hit his face on the edge of a coffee table and split his eyebrow wide open, requiring a trip to the emergency room and several stitches. In many ways, Wade and Diamond were alike, both hurt suddenly while in the middle of play and having fun, and neither of them knowing what hit them.

How can I compare my child with my dog, you might ask. It’s easy. When you’re a mom, you’re a mom, and it doesn’t matter who your child is!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Another Big 6-0

Yesterday was truly an extraordinary day in this little girl’s life.

The day began in an ordinary way, but soon began to show itself as a day that would be different from the run-of-the-mill variety. Routine tasks took on a new look as I made my way through the day, and the way the day ended was truly extraordinary.

To begin the day was jelly making. I had two quarts of wild plum juice in the refrigerator ready for cooking and a gallon of the sweet fruit needing to be cooked for the juice to be filtered out of the pulp. In a couple of hours, the job was completed – I had twenty jars of clear, sweet jelly in jars, and I was listening for the familiar pop of the lids to tell me that everything was sealed and ready to share with friends and family. One of the things that made this task extraordinary was the Rocket Man Kitty. Little Rocky played at my feet the entire time, never leaving the rug in front of the stove until the jelly was made, the pots were cleaned, and the counters were wiped off. It seemed as if he had taken over Big Tom Cat’s job of supervising the jelly making process, and I felt Mama’s presence with me in the body of my little cat making sure I made jelly the way she taught me.

After jelly making, I went out to the garden to weed. I was amazed at the growth of the squash, beans, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. The rain the night before was like a magic potion to my garden. It looked as if everything had doubled in size since Friday, including the weeds! I marveled at the number of squash, cucumbers and tomatoes now almost at picking size, and thoughts of a road-side vegetable stand out in front of the house began to form in my brain. We are going to have more than we can possibly eat ourselves.

At lunchtime, I spent some quality time on the deck eating my lunch and doing some serious cloud gazing. The air was clear from the rain, the sky was the bluest blue, and the clouds were the white puffy ones that drift across the sky forming the most wonderful shapes. For a little while I was lost in my own thoughts as I let my mind drift along with the clouds to the music of the breeze blowing through the pine trees.

If nothing else had happened in this day I would have been satisfied, but the best was yet to be. Mid-afternoon came, and it was time to begin dressing to go to our friend Herb’s 60th birthday party. As we drove down I-20 to the party, Phil told me to look behind us. There it was – a huge, bright rainbow arching above and across the interstate. We were driving west, away from the afternoon shower, but the view behind us was spectacular. Little did I know then that the rainbow was going to play a role in the birthday party we were going to.

Herb’s party – what can I say? What a fun evening, meeting the most interesting people I’ve met in a long time, and having a small part in celebrating our friend’s birthday. I felt honored to be among those invited, and soaked in everything that was going on around me. Conversations were lively, the food was delicious, and the music ---- WOW!! Herb’s wife, Wanda, sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to Herb in celebration of his birthday and their love, bringing tears to my eyes and a catch in my heart. I even got Phil to dance one dance with me as Herb sang. I was so amazed that Phil would dance that I can’t remember the song that Herb sang. There are many of us born in 1948 who are celebrating our 60th birthdays this year, but I think this party ranks at the top as the best yet!

Extraordinary day? Definitely!

Friday, June 13, 2008

These Hot Summer Days

We've been in an early summer heat wave this week. Not only is it hot and humid, but the wild plums are ripe. The heat can't keep me and Diamond out of the briars and brambles as I search for plum trees laden with their red and golden jewels, and she does her job of guarding me from unknown predators. We've picked four gallons of fruit, and there are now over forty jars of jelly in my pantry.

I've also been thinking about writing something lighthearted in my blog to add some variety to it. In keeping with the spirit of Jelly Season, I pulled the following "day" from the little book I wrote a couple of years ago. Here it is:

Summer Moon in Georgia

Hot, sticky, summer Georgia evening. Sun still shining in the Daylight Saving Time. Thickets of blackberry bushes laden with berries. The dust from a car passing by every now and then on the dirt road stirring up a red clay cloud. A light breeze carrying the cloud a bit before it dissipates in the air. Picture this in your mind, if you will, and read on.

This is the scene out in front of our Social Circle home. I am outdoors on this muggy evening with my shepherd-mix puppy, Buster, picking blackberries. Buster is wagging and sniffing and having a grand time in the brambles. I have a basket in one hand, the other hand busily fighting the briars and reaching for the plumpest berries. Buster’s thoughts are on wagging, panting, and sniffing. My thoughts are on how hot it is, feeling the sweat running down my shirt, how the brambles cling to my jeans legs and scratch my arms, and, of course, blackberry jelly. Buster and I have meandered our way across our five acres, and are now picking berries at the front corner of our property. My berry basket is almost full.

Suddenly, I feel a stinging on my legs, inside my jeans. Fire ants!! I am standing smack in the middle of an ant bed, and the ants have made their way up my sneakers, over my socks, and onto my bare legs. The berries and basket go flying high as I leap off the ant bed and begin the dance of slapping my legs with all my might. My attempt at pulling my jeans legs up is futile, as the humidity and sweat is making the denim cling to me. Buster is elated. He thinks we are playing a new game. He wags harder, jumps up on me for a pat, happy as he can be.

My plight is getting serious. I can’t get to the ants to kill them using the method I have attempted. The ants continue to bite as they make their way up my legs. As a last resort, I unzip my jeans, and push them down to my ankles. I can’t pull them completely off because of my clunky sneakers, so they bunch around my feet. Leaning over, I start smacking my legs with one hand while keeping Buster from getting too intimate with me with his cold, wet nose with my other hand. I only have one thing on my mind - getting the ants off of me. Everything else is forgotten for the moment. I finally kill the last ant, and realize the position I am now in. Here I am, my back facing the dirt road, my butt high in the air, as I swipe at the ants on my legs, mooning anyone who might be driving down the dirt road.

To make matters worse, I am wearing thong underwear.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Old Souls

One summer day in 1996 I had an appointment at the Atlanta Airport Westin Hotel with a conference services manager to talk about booking a meeting there for my association’s executive committee. When I arrived at the hotel, I went to the front desk to announce my arrival. A few minutes later, I spotted a smiling young Asian woman gliding down the escalator toward me. Instinctively I knew this was Marina Lim, the person I was due to meet. She walked straight toward me, introduced herself, and guided me toward the hotel restaurant where we would eat lunch and discuss my meeting needs.

As soon as we sat down, we began talking, not about business, but about all sorts of interesting subjects. Marina was in her mid-twenties; I was pushing 50. I was old enough to be her mother. There was no time spent on getting to know each other. We were immediately at ease and talking about our families, our lives, our dreams, our jobs. To listen to us, you’d think we had known each other for years! This day was the beginning of a friendship that has been strong for 12 years. At the end of our meeting, Marina had a contract for my meeting, and both of us had a new friend. Instead of shaking hands when the meeting was over, we hugged.

One day, when Marina and I met for lunch after not seeing each other for almost a year, she said to me, “We are Old Souls. We’ve known each other since before we were born.” This is the reason why we were instant friends when we met, and why we can go for months, or even years, between seeing each other, and still be able to take up where we left off whenever we get together. She now calls me Mom Jennie, and she is my Precious Daughter. Indeed, we are Old Souls. Marina is now the mother of two beautiful children, and she lives in New Orleans. She is as close to me, however, as my own heart, and I know that the next time I see her it will be as if no time has passed at all since our last meeting.

This kind of friendship is very rare for me, as I typically don’t make friends easily or quickly. I am a firm believer in Old Souls and those special ones who have come into my life over the years. There aren’t very many of them- I am not a person who has an abundance of close friends. If I take the time to count the Old Souls whose lives have crossed paths with mine, I could count them on my fingers without having to go to my toes. I cherish them, and each of them has a unique story to add to the extraordinary days of my life.

As a reader of my blog, you will probably get to know some of these folks.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Planning for the Future

“Plan your future as if there were an endless number of tomorrows.” I heard this the other day while watching a C-Span book review on t.v. Of course, this was something that began rumbling around in my brain as I thought about the statement and applied it to my life.

I like to think of myself as an optimistic person, although I tend to mix it with a dash of worry. I’m working on eliminating worry from my repertoire, but it’s been part of me for so long, it’s not letting go easily. I live partly in the future as well as in the present, so this author’s statement struck me as something to consider at a deeper level.

I know that I don’t have an endless number of tomorrows. None of us do. However, as I plan for the future, I don’t spend much, if any, time considering my mortality. It was difficult enough for me to write a will and designate who will get what after I’m gone. It was not a simple process to go through, and now that my will is safely put out of mind in the safe deposit box, I can concentrate on more fun and exciting plans for my future. I realize that Death will cancel any plans I’ve made, but that’s not a good enough reason to stop making them.

I love the anticipation of future plans and events. Today I am thinking about the coming week-end and my trip to Belmont, NC, to visit Grady and Martha. I can picture myself with an afternoon glass of wine in my hand in my brother and sister-in-law's living room, getting a buzz from margaritas at Monterrey Restaurant, and strolling through the rows of summer sales at the mall and irresistible shoes at the shoe warehouse with Martha. And to add to the picture, this time I will be traveling with my other sister-in-law, Ginger. I can only imagine the fun the three of us will have when we get together for a day of shopping. I am also thinking beyond the week-end, as I return home on Sunday. The wild plums are getting ripe, and I am excited about going back out into the briars and brambles Sunday evening to pick plums for jelly-making. Ahh, the thoughts of all the things I have planned for my future!

But I realize that I also need to be careful about ignoring or overlooking the present as I get ready for the future. I don’t want to miss something wonderful and noteworthy now because my head is in the clouds, looking ahead down the road and not on eye-level marveling at the flowers at my feet. At this moment, I am sitting at my desk. The hint of a spectacular sunrise is right outside my window, and my kitty, Rocky, is purring away while nipping at my feet. Wild plums that I picked last night are simmering on the stove, perfuming the air with their delicious aroma. This moment is spectacular. I don’t want to lose it dreaming about the future!

Savor the moment--------plan for the future. I think I can do both!