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Life Not Fiction

No Chapter Two…or any other chapters for that matter. Now is not the time in my life for fiction writing. I’m not sure there will be a time for that. I love the idea, and maybe that is still in my future, but right here and right now is not the time. So, I will just write from the heart, the funny, the sad, the real stuff that happens to me. I’m just an ordinary woman trying to live life while keeping my neuroses in check.

Lately I haven’t been doing such a good job with the psychological stuff. I was on a roll and then circumstances beyond my control popped up and bit me in the ass. And there is a great deal of ass here to bite. Ever been where I am?

You know, that place where life just hums along and everybody who matters are just doing their thing, predictably and then, suddenly they change course and your like, “Whoa, wait a minute, you’re supposed to be doing this, living here, being this kind of person. What do you mean making changes in your life that affect me?” I know it sounds petty and childish, but don’t pretend you’ve never thought those things!

The problem is, they have every right to make changes and if those changes are for their good, who am I to feel this way? The word selfish comes to mind. I really don’t mind change…as long as I am the one doing the changing. I know, back to that selfish thing. I am baring my soul here, give me a break. Despite my advanced years, I still have quite a bit of growing and changing to do. I want to work on these things before I get so old and set in my ways I become that person no one wants to be around because she is always complaining. Back to my ample ass…I give you (and you know who you are) permission to kick me in it if I get too out of control and maudlin.

I’ve always reveled in being the unpredictable member of the family. The one that doesn’t do things according to family norms and lives life by my standards and enjoys being impossible to pigeon-hole. Anytime anyone tries to label me as any certain thing I am determined to prove them wrong and fly off in the opposite direction. There is nothing worse for me than my mom telling me “You’re just like your mother.” I detest that not because my mom is a horrid person, or because I don’t like her or love her. No, I detest it because I know I am like her and I accept that; what really gets to me is this sense that “Can’t something just be mine?”

“Mine.” This is a running theme in my life. I know it is a toddler like mentality, but why do toddlers behave in this manner? Control. They want something in their lives over which they can exercise control. Good parenting teaches them how to gradually handle this intoxicating power.

Please, for the love of all things good, tell me I am not the only sixty-something that is still dealing with things like this.

What I do know is that God is the ultimate parent. The all loving all knowing Father who does and allows whatever is necessary for our own good. I have more to say on the subject, but I’ll let you digest this and then tomorrow I’ll flip the page and we will talk about the positive side of this dilemma.

 

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Chapter 1

Voices swirled around me like a cacophonous fog descending over me until I disappeared.

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NaNoWriMo

I signed up to do this and had every good intention. I researched and wrote out several topics, but when it came to November 1st, 2017…I froze. Actually the cooling off process began several days before when I got distracted from my goal with other, equally valuable pursuits. 

You may or may not know that I have a second blog: The Woolen Hook. This is where I chronicle my love for crochet and all things wool, yarn and fiber related. The Woolen Hook is in the process of becoming a real brand with a real purpose in the world. There you will only find posts about those subjects. Where as here, you will find anything and everything that strikes my fancy at a particular moment in time.

So many people believe they have a story in them that worthy of telling. I believe that is true and I am one of those people. Ever since I was a little girl I loved to write. I still have poems and things that I wrote as a very young child. One of the Sheryl Stories that entertain my family is a sentence I wrote in the second or third grade. We had to use a vocabulary word in each sentence. I don’t remember what the vocabulary word was, but my sentence was “Kiss me you fool!” Surely it was something I had heard on television that just plopped back into the frontal lobe of my brain then onto the paper. Wherever it came from, I’m sure it wasn’t what my teacher expected.

The examination of my kindergarten report card indicated I did not start off well in the areas of making up stories and creativity. Something I found to be quite shocking. But then when I looked more carefully, it was grading verbal expression of such things. I have never been good at making stuff up on the spur of the moment and – I suck at improv. But putting things into writing, that’s a whole different subject.

So, back to NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – this is something to challenge oneself to actually sit down and write every day for a month and complete the draft of a novel in that time period. Well, as is usually the case, I’m doing it my way. So, every Monday until the story has been told, I will post another installment. My goal is to tell a complete story and then have the basis of something I can work on to be a full novel, unless it is so complete that I just need to write something else. 

In between these posts I will have my usual food, homemaking, decorating, grandchildren, and husband stories to tell. I’m not extraordinary, I’m just an open book. I write these things not because I’m special but because I find humor in in my humanity and hope that helps you do the same.

The story I am writing is loosely based on family members as they have been described to me and the rest totally made up. It is rooted in research I have done for The Woolen Hook and my maternal grandmother. I never really knew any of my grandmothers (I had two biological and one step) so in my story I am making up a relationship I would have liked to have had with my maternal grandmother – Willie Brooks Woodring. 

I don’t know who these women are. I bought the photo because it inspired me. I look into those faces and there is a story to tell. Though this story I’m writing now will be set in a different time, I will write their story as well.

I’m off to spend the rest of my day reading. H.G. Is literally off hunting and possibly gathering this weekend. The first weekend in November in these parts is a sacred ritual for deer hunters. For me, the television has been off all day, classical music, writing, drinking coffee, and now a good book will complete the experience. I am re-reading Little Women. I know this will be sacrilege to some of you, but I cannot remember how old I was when I first read it. Because of my friend at the time who read it as well, it was likely fourth grade. It is a timelesss story and one that fits nicely with the mood I am currently living in.

Until tomorrow…

Food For The Soul

I have had a love hate relationship with food my entire life. My family dubbed me “The Foil Package Bandit” for my unique skills at taking food from foil packages without leaving a trace. It was a symptom of something larger, but in the 1970’s we didn’t think as much about the psychological aspects of behavior like this. To my family it was funny. To me it felt like I was some kind of weirdo that even my family couldn’t understand. They still laugh, sometimes. I still don’t.

The Throwing of The Gauntlet

I am now three months and two days from officially being sixty years old. I think I am finally growing up enough to take proper care of myself. Hunter Gatherer is perfectly capable of caring for himself and Maggie, well, Maggie is a dog and she’s happy when she’s with me; I need to take care of me. Three things happened recently that jerked my food additcted butt into high gear.

First, my niece, in general conversation about her life mentioned how much weight she had lost. I don’t see her that often and last time I did she looked pretty much the same as I remembered. Then she sent me photographic evidence and, of course I had to ask what she did to drop the weight. No fancy diet plan. No extreme workout regimen. She cut out the white carbs and soda, took the milk and sugar out of her daily coffee, ate lean protein and veggies, walked her dog and went to the gym 2-3 times per week. Wow! That doesn’t sound painful or difficult at all! I could do that. I have a dog.

The second event was H.G. going for his annual physical. His doctor is very old school and runs many of the basic tests in his office then sends the rest to an outside lab. He came home proudly announcing that his sugar, cholesterol, and hemoglobin were all great AND, he had lost eight pounds since last year. Oh, great. Gee thanks universe. The man who has about the worst eating habits of anyone I know looses weight. 

The final straw was another man in my life proudly announces how he lost weight and clothing sizes in just a few days after going low carb.

The Gauntlet Picked Up

I don’t have a lot of faith in myself in this area. Too many years of making proclamations, great starts, and a week later I am right back to where I began. I am now almost two weeks into this challenge, and I must say, so far so good.

I started with the white stuff. I have already done lots of this, but I reaffirmed my intentions and looked at what was left that I was still eating that could be modified. And, I believe “modified” is the key word. There are things that I will occasionally eat…because I like them and I am human. I know that if I swear myself off everything all at once I will fail. By giving myself permission I also free myself to make choices. It is a weird psychology, but as long as it works, I am happy.

 
The Plan of Attack

I’ve got to navigate a meat and potatoes husband, Mexican food Fridays (a 26 year tradition), my every abiding love for starch, What-A-Burger (Texas folks know what I mean), and my favorite cocktails; sadly, bourbon and gin are not low carb. 

So, what will I eat? My daily menu includes many of my favorites – meats, cheese, vegetables, the occasional ancient grain and fruit. This is a good time of year for me to make the transition. I love roasted root vegetables and I can make a meal of just those. I prefer cooked vegetables in the cooler months and salads with my protein in the summer.

There will be some bumps in the road and hilarity along the way, so stay tuned for all the fun. I post lots of my food photos on my Instagram page (@sherylmeans) but be prepared for the husband and grandkids as well.

So, I leave you for today with some culinary inspiration. If I can do this, anyone can…stay the course.

Taco meat topped with egg, pico de gallo, queso fresco, with a side of guacamole.

Poached egg on a bed of ancient grains and spinach.


Salmon on bed of Romaine with seasoned cashews, pico de gallo, and honey mustard dressing.


A Well Dressed Bed

I am an all or nothing kind of person, who, when overcome by the sheer volume of anything, retreats into a shell of safety. The obvious result is that the volume of stuff that sent me into that shell, continues to grow exponentially while I blissfully hide, pretending to be unaware. 

Nearly five months into my new life and I am, slowly but surely, coming back into my own. During the Yarntopia years I was gone, or preoccupied, so much that my sweet Hunter-Gatherer husband assumed many of the household duties. When I cooked, he did the dishes. He would do some of the light cleaning and generally kept things running. He even started doing the grocery shopping. I didn’t feel good about this, but fighting was futile, so I gave in. I’m good at that sort of thing. So, now I’m home and I want to take the reins of managing the household and let HG go out into the world to slay the beasts and bring home the bacon.

This is all I have ever really wanted out of life. As a girl I can remember telling my mom that all I wanted to be when I grew up was a wife and mommy. I had no loftier goals than that. My mom always worked outside the home and generally she had some kind of business. I was the cook and housekeeper. I think I did so much of that domestic stuff as a kid that I rebelled against it in my early adult years. Some of my apartments were nastier than a college frat house (or so I imagine). But now, in my so called retirement, I am enjoying relearning the pleasure that can be found in a well run home.


Bedtime Story

By the time I went to kindergarten I had learned to properly make a bed. Back then this meant folding the bedspread over the pillow and neatly tucking the bedspread under the pillow. Today we use comforters, duvets, and hide our pillows with shams. For nearly all of our marriage I have left for work before HG. Being a salesman whose office is down the hall, he has never needed to be up and gone early. It was always easy for me to ignore the bed as there was a man still enjoying his beauty sleep. A habit developed and I became blind. 

Now, once he gets his body moving in the morning I am in there tightening those sheets and making the bed. He noticed. The other night when we went to bed, he told Maggie (the dog) that this is just like being at a hotel. That felt amazing. Is that silly? Do I sound like a repressed 1950’s housewife who is being held down by her domineering husband? I hope not because that could not be farther from the truth.

The truth is that doing that one little thing makes life more pleasant for both of us. It is a simple thing I can do for my husband who supports all my whims and lets me do pretty much anything I want to do, and also works hard so that I can live this life. The life of a housewife…the life I have always wanted. It is a small thing I can do to nurture the man I love. I see nothing wrong with that at all.


Decorating The Bed

So now that I have established a good bed routine, I really want a pretty bed – and this is where HG rolls his eyes. He wants comfort and good sheets; pillows and fru-fru just get in the way. I struggle with this more than any other decorating decision in the house. Is it too many choices? 

Polyvore is an amazing tool. You can access it from their website, or like me the app is easy to use and you can save your collections and then publish them to Pinterest or other social media. I’m so visual that having a virtual mood board really helps me, plus it is portable. All the images come from the businesses selling these items, so if you find something you love…you know where to go to find it and how much it costs. For me Polyvore is a great way to shop without spending a cent!


The above choices are all from Pottery Barn. I currently have the one in the center – but didn’t spend the money on a duvet insert from Pottery Barn and the lesser expensive one from Target just didn’t fit properly. So, now it is folded up awaiting a new insert…or not. I love the red one above it as well as the neutral in the bottom corner. It seems to me from looking at these that I’m drawn to paisley. I’ve never thought of myself as a paisley person, but maybe it is a way to have a variety of colors without being floral. 


Color Inspiration

Currently our bedroom is painted a nice shade of brown and the blue green color palette was chosen to complement some of the things in the room that have meaning to us. In addition to the art inspiration, I’ve always loved blue and green together. It goes back to the blues and olive greens of the ’70s. 

These prints are from a Texas artist by the name of W. A. Slaughter. My inlaws had these in their den as long as I knew them and when my father-in-law passed, they became ours. I love them and am considering moving them to our living area. I think the gold frames would look great against the grey of that room. Bluebonnets against green grass – every Texan worth their salt has at least one bluebonnet picture in their house; we have three.

This is the corner nearest my side of the bed. We love books and this is just one collection. The Carmel poster on the right (sorry for the early morning glare) is from a family vacation and has hung in my home since the ’80s. I love it as much as I love Carmel, California.

And last but not least, this is a highly cropped version of what is currently on the bed. Three quilts which never quite work right. Something must change and I have $300 in Pottery Barn gift cards burning a hole in my pocket. 

This another selection from Polyvore. I just kept clicking on things that struck my fancy without editing as I did it. Interesting combination, don’t you think? I have moved to gray as the wall color in most of the house with a deep gold in the dining room. We had the bedroom painted about seven years ago and that doesn’t really need to change. I think any of these options would look great with the walls and several have gray in them which would tie our room to the rest of the house. What do you think? The top left is from Pottery Barn….and I do have that money just waiting to be spent…

I’m off to do my Monday grocery shopping and run a few errands, and who knows, I could detour through Pottery Barn!

~Until Next Time


 

Fourteen Years of Joy

Two events, separated by six years, forever transform a family.

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I’ve Been Lushed!

I've discovered Lush...and it is luscious.

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The Freedom of Aging: Personal Style

Growing up in the sixties through the mid seventies it was not uncommon to wear home made clothes. In fact, I don’t even remember buying clothes other than under garments until I was a senior in high school. It is possible it happened, but I truly don’t remember. 

Simplicity…Butterick…and Vogue, Oh My!

Every year before school started, my mom and I would pour over pattern books and decide what I wanted to wear that year. I know I got to help plan but my memory is foggy. I wasn’t devoted to clothes and the times were just so different. Even in junior high, a time when conformity is mandatory for survival, I don’t remember comparing my clothes to other people or having to have a certain look. I continued this tradition of making my own clothes right through most of my first marriage. In fact, I didn’t put the machine into time out until after my divorce in 1987. Since then, an occasional hem or repair is all the action that machine has seen. It was time for change in all areas of my life.

Round Body In A Skinny Jeans World

I became a devoted watcher of “What Not To Wear.” I secretly wished that someone in my life would arrange for Stacy and Clinton to surprise me at work, whisk me off to New York and then teach me what to do with my this short, round body I inherited from my Scottish-Irish ancestors. I understand that this body type is designed to survive the harsh climate of the North Sea, but let’s get real…I live in tropical Houston, Texas, how do I make this look good? I watch Outlander and think to myself, in real life Scotland in the 1700’s Claire would not have been a svelte woman. But, then Jamie wouldn’t have looked that good either. But, back to me.

Of course I tried most every diet in the world, but it seemed that no matter my weight and the distribution of said weight, I never was able to dress myself in a way that I felt reflected who I am on the inside. This dilemma led to many different styles through the years until I finally just gave up. I gave up trying to create a persona via my clothing. I think there is something very telling in that last sentence but I don’t wish to dig through that psychological mess at the moment. It was in the giving up that I think I found myself. I had arrived at an age where I accept that I am who I am and I need to make the best of that rather than trying to be something or someone else. As I have said many times, I’m a slow learner.

My Pinterest boards Aging Beautifully and My Style are the places I record visual reminders of what I love and who I admire. I recently logged back in to Polyvore and designed my go to fall outfit.          

Polyvore, like Instagram can be a black hole where people like me fall never to be heard from again. But, it is also a wonderful tool to see what is possible and passively get the shopping experience without spending a dime or being woefully disappointed by what is looking back at you from the mirror. In this fantasy can look just the way I want to look.

You can see evidence of my 1970’s Southern California Boho taste in this ensemble. Somethings never change. In a world that seems upside down and backwards, I take great comfort in a little bit of status quo.

~Sheryl                                             

                                                                                 

                                                                                  

The Freedom of Aging: Acceptance

I am about six months away from a major birthday. Forty was fabulous; I freaked out at fifty; and now I’m staring at sixty. 

The Culture of Aging

The American culture is devoted to youth and perceived perfection.  It is an inevitable fact that at some point this earthly vessel will wither and die. So isn’t it a show of honor to the life we have been given to accept, relax and enjoy the journey? Now before any of you are tempted to jump on a soapbox, I am not talking about letting one’s health go to hell in a hand-basket filled with fried chicken, pizza and hamburgers. We should all take the best care possible of our bodies. Eat in moderation, be physically active, and keep our brain and spirit active as well. I’m advocating a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order for the outward appearance of the physical wear and tear on our bodies. Face it, the folks advertising anti aging anything do not have your best interest in mind. They are looking to make money from your fear. We have been given a gift, and I was taught to always say thank you and cherish what has been given to me. 

My Crowning Jewel

Ahhh….my hair. The one physical attribute that I have loved, cherished and obsessed over my entire life. As a third grader I desperately wanted a pixie. I have no recollection of why, probably because my best friend from the third through fifth grade had shorter hair. No amount of pleading with my mom could make it happen. Next I tried asking for bangs. Still the answer was no. My hair and how it was styled took on a whole new meaning in the my life. It represented power. 

Having a drop of Chinese blood in me is the genetic marker I associate with the appearance of my hair. It may not be true, but I’m sticking with the theory. My mom has told me stories of trying to comb out my hair after a shampoo and how I screamed and cried through it all. About once a year she would trim the ends, but that is as close as I ever got to a hair cut. I was stuck with long, thick, straight hair. By the time the early seventies rolled around and I was in junior high, my hair had become my crowning jewel. While friends with wavy hair were using giant rollers or ironing their hair, mine was wash and go fabulous. The length might vary from waist length to just below the shoulders, but that is as close to short hair as I ever got…until the spring of 1976.


I was a senior in high school, eighteen years old, had a job, money, and access to a car. After senior pictures were taken I took the first bold step of my fledging adult life. In one short trip to the JC Penney hair salon I discovered a kind of power I would never relinquish. Fortunately for all concerned I do not have photographic documentation of this step. It lives on only in my mind. The act was far more impressive than the hair cut itself. 

For over forty years my hair has still been the place where I exert control and authority in my life. When I perceive someone or something is trying to control me…I change my hair. Need a change in persona? Color the hair. Now that I am planning for the decade of being stunningly sixty, it is time for my hair to represent who I am today. I remember Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz from I Love Lucy) telling Johnny Carson one time that the secret to her looking ageless is that she never dramatically changed her hairstyle. That clearly has not been my philosophy, until now. Ageless isn’t the goal, authenticity is. 

For ten years I have said that when I turn sixty I’m going to stop coloring my hair. I’m not even sure what my real hair color is. I know there is some gray up there, but that is about the extent of my knowledge. At my current length and rate of growth it will probably take almost six months to have all natural hair again. This coincides perfectly with my birthday. I am ready to embrace reality instead of covering it up. This place in life can only come by paying the dues and doing the time. I am reaping the rewards of many years of life; some of it good, some not so good. So, if these good things come with age, who am I to deny it or hide it? It is time to embrace the freedom of aging. Unlike when I was fifty and I thought I could trick the world into thinking I was younger, I now know better. One look at my neck or hands and it no longer matters what color my hair is…I’m no kid anymore. 

My Hair And Life Lessons

Like everything else in life there are lessons that can be learned from my hair journey. Here are mine.

  • A hairstylist can make or break the next six weeks of your life…choose wisely.
  • There are very few things that a little time and really good product can’t solve. 
  • Hair grows out, life moves forward.
  • You are never too old for a pixie!


Until next time….

~Sheryl

Table For One, Please


When do we out grow high school? It took me a very long time to break free from some of the stigmas associated with adolescence. 

I did things kind of backwards. Junior high was a breeze for me. I had a strong circle of friends, got good grades and did well in band. Other than the occasional girl drama, life at Coakley Jr. High School rocked. My first year of high school was in the same town. I didn’t continue in band so I wasn’t as connected but I still belonged. 

Then we moved. We actually moved back to the exact neighborhood where had lived five years earlier. I had stayed in touch with at least one friend so I wasn’t terribly worried about fitting in. How precious and naive of me. 

It didn’t take long to realize that in those formative years I was no longer like the rest of them. I dressed and spoke differently. Apparently I had a Texas accent. Who knew?

Introverted by nature, I became quite insecure around all these super cool California kids. The group from fifth grade had now splintered into several cliques all dominated by one of the original quintet. They were the usual high school stereotypes: the cheerleader, most likely to succeed, band nerd, and the brainy one. And then there was me. I didn’t fit in anywhere. As a result nearly every lunch was spent alone. I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible. I think I was quite successful as even by graduation, very few people really knew I existed. 

For years I viewed eating alone in public as a sign that I am a social outcast; a person to be mocked or pitied. I always reverted back to that high school girl who just wanted to fade into the background. 

I broke this curse by forcing myself to go out to lunch by myself. This was in the days before cell phones and at first it didn’t dawn on me to take a book. I was exposed for the world to see. I hadn’t let myself be that vulnerable in years. I couldn’t eat fast enough. I just wanted to get out of there and into the safe anonymity of my car. 

Through the years I forced myself outside my comfortable cocoon and subjected myself to a type of  aversion therapy. 

I went out to eat by myself. 

This didn’t happen until I was divorced and having to learn so much about my grown up self. At first I asked for an out of the way table, so I could be pitiful in private. 
Soon I got to the point of looking up from my food to notice the people around me. They were busily eating and chatting. No one really seemed to notice me. It was then that I discovered a wonderful sense of freedom and some important life lessons:

  1. Most people are busy with their own lives and don’t notice that I am dining alone. 
  2. Being alone and being lonely are two very different things. 
  3. I am really quite good company. 
  4. Never leave home without a book. 
  5. Sheryl, you aren’t in high school anymore. 

And life moves on. 

~Sheryl