Wednesday, February 25, 2009

For Me, It's the Simple Things

Several years ago a friend of mine from high school and I were talking over lunch at a nice restaurant in Atlanta. She was wearing a lovely diamond tennis bracelet, and I commented on it asking her if it was new. No, she answered, she’d had it for several years. She then went on to say - maybe because she’d had a glass of wine and was a little too relaxed- that she had never worn it in front of me because she knew that I couldn’t afford nice things like that, and she didn’t want me to feel bad or envious of her.

For some odd reason, this conversation came back to me last night as I lay awake in the middle of the night, gazing at the stars through our skylights, and relaxing in the quiet darkness of my cozy home. The simplicity of my life stretched out in front of me in my mind, and I began thinking about what I consider valuable. True, I don’t have a fancy diamond tennis bracelet, and I don’t live in a big rambling house as my friend did the last time I saw her. My mind drifted as I thought about all the things in my life that I treasure and hold close to my heart. None of them involve diamonds, gold, or other sparkly things.

I reflected on my walk yesterday afternoon when I noticed how blue the sky was, and watched the shadow of Diamond and me stretching out in front of us as we walked down our country road with the late afternoon sun behind us. I reflected on the furniture in my house, which I have often dubbed as “contemporary divorce.” Most of the furniture we have comes from my previous marriage, Phil’s previous marriage, or miscellaneous pieces that came from my parents’ home after they died. Phil and I have been talking for several years about buying a sofa, but just haven’t yet seen the need to get one. We do just fine with things the way they are. I drive an old car that’s been mine for years, and I try to pay for things I buy with cash.

And now with the current economic downturn and all the financial uncertainty facing us, I try not to fret over the evaporation of much of my meager retirement savings. I realize that the things I value most are my health, my family, my friends, and my home. My life is a simple one, and my wants and needs are also simple. I now talk to my friends about “going off the grid” and becoming more self-sufficient in my life. I am looking forward to springtime when we’ll plant our garden and jelly-making season will begin again. I continue to tithe from my income as a demonstration of my faith, and I know where my happiness and peace comes from.

I wonder about my friend and her diamond bracelet. We’ve lost track of each other, and I haven’t heard from her in several years. I hope that she is happy with her diamonds.

I know that I don’t need or want them.

Friday, February 13, 2009


It is quiet here in my home tonight. Phil is visiting his cousin in Costa Rica for five days, and I’m holding down the fort, so to speak, while he is away. It is cozy here in my barn home, and with Diamond here to protect me, I feel perfectly safe and secure.

This morning I was awakened at 4:30 by my big cat, Tom, licking my face. He is accustomed to Phil getting up at 4:00 and feeding him and little Rocky. I can’t say that I’ve ever been given a kiss by a cat before today. Diamond gives me kisses freely, but Tom – well, this just wasn’t something I’d ever expect from him. I obeyed his command, got up, and filled up the cat dish. Within fifteen minutes, both he and Rocky were back in bed with me, sound asleep.

Being alone brings back memories of graduate school days sixteen years ago. I was separated from David and living in a little one-bedroom apartment in Greensboro, North Carolina. My family worried about me living alone, but I thrived that year in spite of the pain of going through a divorce, and I loved my privacy and solitude. After living in a parsonage for fourteen years and always having people around me, I found aloneness very welcoming.

Nobody is worrying about me tonight as far as I know, and I am glad. I spent a very busy day in my home office, ate a bite of supper when I got hungry, and am now winding down for a quiet evening with my pets. I may turn on the television later, but then I may not. I have a couple of books I am reading, and I might snuggle up in the bed with one of them. I miss Phil, but I am enjoying his vacation as much as I hope he is!

I am content, and if I were a cat like Tom and Rocky, I’m sure I’d be purring.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

25 Things About Me

In Facebook, there is a note that is circulating where friends are asked to make a list of 25 things about themselves and then pass it along to 25 friends for them to do the same. My son, Wade, responded to this invitation with “This is about 24 too many.” I enjoy reading these lists, and I’ve learned a lot about my Facebook friends. While I am not going to jam up my friends’ walls, I decided to write my list here in my blog. This way, those who read my blog who aren’t on Facebook can get a glimpse of Jennie that may not have been revealed yet. Here goes:

1. One of my favorite places in the world is being snagged up in the blackberry brambles and wild plum thickets every summer as I pick fruit to make my jellies. I also like the blueberry and strawberry farms, but they are much tamer.
2. I eat very little of the jellies I make. I give it all away.
3. I love cloud gazing, and have been doing this since the lazy summer days on Winnona Drive in Decatur, Georgia, in the backyard hammock.
4. I grew up in Decatur, and moved to Safety Harbor, Florida, my junior year in high school.
5. I have two very creative sons: one is a computer animator and the other is a playwright/singer/actor. Both have more talent in their little fingers than I have in my whole body! Being their mom is an adventure.
6. I have a third son (my son’s partner), who is a singer/actor. He is always the first to call me on my birthday and Mother’s Day.
7. I was once married to a United Methodist Minister, and did a pretty lousy job as minister’s wife. I never really adjusted to parsonages or to the lifestyle I was thrust into.
8. I didn’t get my bachelor’s degree until I was 35 years old. I couldn’t decide what to major in, and then I majored in something that I really didn’t want to do. It was the accomplishment that was important at the time.
9. My teaching career ended abruptly when a student’s father came to school carrying his shotgun after his son had shoved me across the hall and I sent him to the principal. The principal did not discipline the boy and sent him back to my classroom. I realized it was now open season on me. I wrote my letter of resignation and walked out.
10. I was an orthodontic technician for a few years, and have cemented bands, bent wires, tied elastics, made appliances, etc. Loved it, but the pay was too low and advancement non-existent.
11. I earned my master’s degree in Library Science.
12. I have traveled to Japan twice, and I long to return to Kyoto.
13. My German Shepherd, Diamond, and I passed the AKC Canine Good Citizen test together. She goes with me to nursing homes, hospitals, and anywhere else I want to take her. We considered going for Basic Handling certification, but had a long conversation about it and decided we didn’t want to do it.
14. My photo was on the cover of a magazine (an association publication), and I was actually recognized on Peachtree Street in Atlanta by someone who had seen it. This was my true minute of fame.
15. I met my current husband, Phil, in third grade Sunday School Class. He’s a master carpenter, and the solid oak tree in my life.
16. I love baking cookies, and have an annual Cookie Baking Day every December for everyone in my family, and anyone who wants to be family for a day.
17. I am an eight year breast cancer thriver (I don’t like the word “survivor”).
18. I’m an early bird. I am up most days by 5:00 am, and enjoy the early morning hours more than any in the day.
19. Phil says I spend far too much time at the computer, but this is where I do my writing, and I have to write. At least, I’m not glued to the television.
20. I am a true introvert. It was a major AH-HAA moment for me when I read my Myers Briggs profile and recognized myself. I had thought there was something wrong with me.
21. I had twins who were born prematurely and died at birth. They are still in my heart.
22. I walk with a slight hitch in my get-along - I have a tilted pelvis and an irregular hip socket. It has never slowed me down.
23. I live in a barn that Phil designed and built (with a little of my help), on 5 acres outside of Social Circle. It is my sanctuary.
24. I love going out to eat.
25. I can roll my tongue.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Cousin Kate's Birthday Week-end

Last week-end four of us Campbell Girl Cousins, Laura, Betsy, Kate, and I met at Kate’s house in North Carolina to celebrate Kate’s twentieth anniversary of her 50th birthday. While I am unable to extract one day of the three that we were there to write about, I will jot my notes of things I learned over the week-end from my cousins.

A Few Things I Observed and/or Learned While With My Sister Cousins:

White hair is beautiful.

Cashmere is something to be valued far above polyester - and worth stealing from one another for!

There are lots of good things I could add to my daily nutritional intake: fish oil, turmeric, cranberry gelcaps, grape seed, Bio-Ear (for tinnitus), MUFAs, super foods, baby aspirin, Nite-trition (restful sleep supplement). All of this in addition to stuff I am already ingesting: calcium citrate, vitamin D, wine, whole grains, nuts, and dark chocolate (of which some of these are MUFAs- I repeat myself for those who may not have Googled this term yet).

Gin and tonic is very good to drink while playing Mexican Train Dominoes. Wine is helpful, too. Both take the edge off of losing or forgetting to remove your train when you can rejoin the game.

There is a brand of wine labeled “OOPS”. Included in this label are “Cheeky Little Red” and “Bodacious Blonde.” There is also a brand called “Middle Sister”, which we dedicated to Kate – “Wicked White” and “Voluptuous Red.” Very good stuff!

You can definitely overeat at the Sunday brunch at the Grove Park Inn.

While a boutique may have nothing I can afford, I love looking at the styles, fondling the fabric, and daydreaming about being a millionaire.

A Belldini blouse is something to be oohed and ahhed over, especially if it has bling.

There is a wonderful website for my single cousins,

Bamboo sheets are to die for.

Interior decorating is a Campbell trait I missed - it was reinforced that I wasn't in line when that one was handed out.

Men can’t resist the fragrance of vanilla.

I need to look into the Flat Belly Diet.

I wish I had a Fresh Market nearby. has better prices on books than

Some cousins need more luggage for a week-end trip than others.

The style of pajamas differs among cousins.

What one wears to bed can affect the sleeping arrangements.

I need to look into buying an Earthbox for growing salad greens and tomatoes on my deck.

It isn’t a smart thing to ask someone on her birthday if her diabetes is the “geriatric kind.”

I also picked up some wise (or not-so-wise) sayings:

A man is looking for a nurse or a purse.
Men marry for sex, women marry for security.
It is what it is.
Laugh about what you’ve had. Don’t cry about what you’ve lost.
Tend your own garden.
Life is an adventure.
Remember your first _____________.
In reference to Kate’s two husbands, both named John - It can take two Johns to make a Mr. Right.
And my all-time most hated one, but one Betsy liked – Bloom where you are planted.

It was a great week-end, and one that I returned home from exhausted but full of fun memories. We are now more than mere cousins. We have coined a new term, Sissins, a shortened term for Sister Cousins.

And that's exactly what we are.