About hopesquires

I've left behind the daily grind to write full time and to figure out what my own flourishing tree looks like. I'd love to help you flourish and grow along the way, so that you, too, can cultivate a life that pleases God.

Reinventing the self and putting down roots

“You don’t let any moss grow, do you.” My new friend stated this more than asked it. If I hadn’t been the only one sitting across from her at her dining room table, I would have looked around to see who else she was addressing. I am, after all, the most moss-growingest person I know.

“I’m really very shy,” I told another new friend over chai at a quaint little coffee shop. We were getting to know each other, having giggled at first meeting that it seemed a bit like a blind date.

“You hide it very well.” I guess I do. I am shy, perhaps not as much as my younger self was, but put me in a group of more than two or three others, and I am perfectly content to listen instead of speaking.

I proved my shyness at a writers’ workshop two Saturdays ago, refusing to volunteer any answers to the larger group. I spoke up when we broke into small groups but only because it would have been completely ridiculous of me not to say anything. It was the kind of discussion intended for colleagues and friends who know each other well, an exercise in identifying each others’ voices in our writing. None of these women knew my name much less my writing. Part of me wanted to slide down onto the floor and slink out of the room at that point, but others would have noticed. Besides, my groupmates were so lovely about trying to draw me out.

I have not been in my comfort zone these past few weeks, having to stretch and reach out and introduce myself and combat my hermit-like tendencies. I don’t have the luxury of being my usual shy, reticent self here, and I’m trying to create opportunities to meet new friends instead of waiting passively for opportunities to find me. Some days bring more success than others.

As I reinvent myself, I realize I’m starting to establish new roots of friendship.

I wrote to thank a neighbor for a Christmas plant she had hand-delivered the day after I arrived here. As I wrote, I realized her gift was the only plant we had in our house, and I knew I needed something rooted and growing. Because of California laws barring plants from out of state, I had to give away all of my house plants before leaving North Carolina. Sweet family and friends took in my orphaned plants, including several jade plants I had started as a single plant at least fifteen years ago. Through writing that note, I discovered I was missing not only my human friends but also my little green friends. A trip to Trader Joe’s provided a solution:

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A new baby jade plant

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Another succulent that I may or may not be able to keep alive. I’ve tucked a jade plant leaf in the pot, just in case.

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A third set of succulents for good measure

These new houseplants bring me a surprising amount of giddy joy every time I look at them.

I’ve realized, too, that I’m benefiting from the roots others have put down. While my husband and I haven’t done any outdoor planting, or much weeding for that matter, we are enjoying the plants and trees someone planted before us, especially the three citrus trees keeping us well supplied with fruit. No scurvy for us! My husband frequently picks an orange to take into work, and I’ve been using the clementines on salads and as snacks. What a delight that someone before us planted them for us to now enjoy.

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Beyond the garden, my new friends have strong roots of their own here. This is home for them, and most remember a time of leaving “home” to move here and make this a new home. What a blessing they are to me as they introduce me to places they love and carve out time for a new friend in their own packed lives.

I know I’ll make some missteps as I reinvent my life to fit with this place, but I also hope to learn how to nourish new roots and create something worthy and flourishing here.

Have you ever had to reinvent yourself? What was the catalyst? And how well did you succeed?

NC2NC: Dog 0, Skunk 1

My dog and I stepped outside Sunday for her last potty break of the night. I had barely closed the door when she took off, chasing something and moving fast. Before I had time to react, she was on the far side of the yard, stopped in her tracks, shaking her head violently. She had met her first skunk, and the skunk won.

Until this point, I had only encountered dead skunks and their unlovely smell along the highway. What filled the air Sunday night was something acrid and burning and immediately horrible, beyond what I would have imagined possible from a skunk.

I had no idea what to do, other than to keep her outside. She had taken a direct hit to the face and right away pulled her green bandana off with her front paw. My husband scoured the internet and made a hasty trip to the nearest grocery store for peroxide. He had to go right back for more.

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“I got skunked.”

I’m not sure how many baths and partial baths she has had since Sunday night. Yesterday, when we got home from running (which felt more like running with a skunk on a leash instead of a dog), I looped her leash to an outdoor hook and got ready to give her another partial bath. She looked up at me and then lay down and rolled over in surrender. “Please not again.” I’m pretty sure that’s what she would have said if she could talk.

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NC2NC: Settling in (and contest winners)

A dear friend of mine sent me to California with a bundle of letters to open on certain occasions (like “something that makes you hum,” and “when you just don’t want to get out of bed”). It was such a sweet gift, and her letters never fail to make me smile when I open them. There’s one I haven’t yet opened.

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An envelope still waiting

I’m not sure when I’ll feel settled. Maybe it’ll be the morning I don’t lose 45 minutes searching for things that I knew exactly where to find in my old house but am struggling to find now (that was me this morning—first, looking for my pup’s vet records so I can keep her all legal here, and second, looking for the little state flags I bought to share with you on this blog).

Maybe it’ll be the evening I don’t have to try every single light switch to get the one I want, though I’ve almost given up on that, convinced that the electrician who wired this house was drunk or otherwise in an altered state of mind, and therefore, I will never make sense of what switches activate which lights. Never.

Maybe it’ll be the afternoon I don’t have to pull up Google maps to find my way to Target. I’ll be doing that later today, and I’d love simply to drive away from my house without a second thought about how I’m going to get to the store.

So I won’t open the letter today. But someday soon, I’ll stop waiting and declare myself settled, at least enough to open the envelope my sweet friend prepared for me.

I did find the flags, though, and here they are:

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From time to time here, you’ll see NC2NC in the headline. That’s my move: North Carolina to Northern California. In each NC2NC post, you’ll see a flag for the state that wins on a certain point, like, say winter weather.

This morning, in my hometown of Raleigh, NC, an ice storm delayed schools. Now, I love a good snow day, but this was no good snow day. Ice is just a frustration and a danger, and I’ve grown to loathe ice storms more than any other winter weather. I heard through Facebook friends that it cleared up quickly, the kids off to school.

However, I didn’t have to experience it myself. Or last week’s chilly morning when my mom called to tell me it had been 14º when she and my dad left for their walk.

So today, I’m ready to declare a winner on the winter weather front: Northern California. Now, I know Tahoe isn’t far away, and I could get more than my share of snow and chains for my tires, but I admit: I’ve enjoyed being able to run in weather that’s warm enough to leave gloves at home and even occasionally take off my jacket and run in short sleeves. In January.

The other three seasons may have me singing a different tune and waving a different flag, but for today, it’s California. And that makes me feel one step closer to settled.

My question for you this week:

For those of you who have made major moves, what was the moment you realized you felt settled?

And now, a drumroll, please …
In last week’s post, I announced that I’d be giving away three copies of my book. Congratulations to John D., Chris B. and Vicky M.! I’ll be sending you each a Facebook message later today to arrange shipment.

For those of you who didn’t win, I hope you’ll consider getting a copy the old-fashioned way.

Asking for a favor
I need a little help. For all of you who have read the book or are reading the book, you would gain my undying gratitude if you would rate and/or review the book on Lulu.com, goodreads,  amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com or wherever else you like to talk about books. Books live and die by reviews, and right now, well … mine could use some TLC. Many thanks in advance.

Have questions about the book? Hop over to goodreads where I’m answering questions about the book and writing in general.

Loss and the fierceness of hope (and a giveaway to spread joy)

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

My husband and I spent this weekend unpacking the remaining boxes from our move, unwrapping the pictures that still sit on the floor waiting to go on the walls of our new house. I scrambled through reams and reams of packing paper already piled in our garage, waiting for a trip to the recycling center (The movers spared no paper when it came to packing—they even double-wrapped a single wash cloth. I kid you not.).

An irreplaceable treasure had yet to surface, and I fiercely hoped I had simply overlooked it among the remaining boxes.

In 1999, my mother painted a matching china vase and oval box for me in a beautiful rust color with two chickadees on each piece. The oval box had a lid and base, and Mom had drifted the leaves from the lid down one side of the base to connect them visually. I have loved it ever since she gave it to me and thought it was one of her finest works of art.

I was excited about where it would “live” in our new home, because the wall color seemed to match the set perfectly. But a sickening feeling began to fill me as we unpacked box after box, and even revisited other, already-opened boxes, until I could no longer deny it.

The lid is gone.

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The set as it is today.

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Settling in and a New Year’s wish

Happy New Year’s Eve!

It feels good to be back here with you after a four-week break to move across the country and start getting settled in to an unfamiliar new home.

I hope you’re enjoying some rest during the holiday season, though I know tonight may bring revelry and exuberance as we usher in 2015.

As I settle in to my new home and get accustomed to unfamiliar surroundings, I’ve been struck with how fortunate I am to live where I do, near a beautiful protected park along the river. From the first morning’s walk with my husband and dog, I was captivated with the surprising beauty and peace of the place.

I was surprised one morning to see this tree filled with vultures. I tried to look alive as I ran under the tree.

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How many vultures can you spot in this tree?

This isn’t even a very big tree. I was amazed at the numbers gathered there and was briefly unsettled, until I remembered my husband telling me about the salmon spawning here during his visits in November.

The vultures didn’t care one little iota about me. They were here for their Christmas dinner, and given the smell of rotting salmon coming off the river, I was glad for their presence. They still have work to do, and I find myself happily looking for them and counting them each morning. Today was breezy, and several circled the river riding the wind. They looked almost graceful in their enjoyment of the ride.

While I would never have thought vultures would teach me something about a new calendar, these birds have. Not everything can stay the same, nor should I want it to.

Not everything can stay the same, nor should I want it to.

Just as I don’t want salmon carcasses left to decompose along my running route, I don’t want to cling to the old things that are no longer meant for me. I need to let go, and I need to embrace the sometimes ungainly, unlovely helpers I encounter along the way.

While I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, there are things I have to let go of to embrace the year ahead. Can you relate?

My wish for you (and me) is this:

May we let go of what must be left in 2014. May we embrace the coming year. May we encounter gentle paths along the way. And yet, when we encounter the inevitable rocky paths, may we embrace those, too, knowing that they help us stay sharp, they help us develop compassion for others’ rocky paths, and they challenge us to become a stronger, better self than we would be if all our paths were calm. Most of all, may we flourish.

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I’ll leave you with a scene I’m blessed enough to see every day. The dog is settling in well, and we both enjoy stopping here in the mornings to watch the river teem with birds. I couldn’t ask for a better way to greet each morning, and I wish you many moments of calm and serene beauty as you start your year.

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My dog and I run the trails and stop by the river each morning, becoming more “local” every day. 

 

All the best to you in 2015!

PS—Thanks to some crazy VAT law the EU passed, the price for my ebook will go up tomorrow. So buy it today before the price increase! (I think it’s a steal at $3.99.)