Saturday, December 27, 2008

Older & Wiser

My mother-in-law is not doing well; she was admitted to the hospital on the 23rd. She’s about 2 ½ hours away from us, so getting there regularly is difficult. We had originally planned to take the whole family to see her on the 26th, but when we found out she would be in the hospital, we decided that the whole family would be too much. Our 16-year-old daughter did want to go as did our adult niece and nephew. We arrived at the hospital to find “Grandma” sedated and, though stable, not doing well. This really shook up our daughter and niece. They both had tears throughout the visit as we took turns being in the hospital room and waiting in the family waiting room.

When I first went in my mother-in-law’s room, I held her hand and commented on her long finger nails. Mine don’t grow well and I’ve had acrylic nails for the past 15 years. My mother-in-law slowly turned her head to me and, quietly and with difficulty, asked if I’d cut them for her. I carry nail clippers and a file in my purse, so my husband went to retrieve it from the waiting room. I clipped her nails, talked with her and, once in awhile, she’d respond. My daughter and niece also tried to talk with her through their tears. I felt old. Not in a creaky old-age sort of way, but in an “I’ve lived a few years; I’ve had experiences” sort of way. When my dad died, I was twenty-eight and I was totally distraught. I remember sobbing in my aunt’s arms and asking her how she managed to maintain her composure so well. She said to me, “Honey, as you get older, you just figure out how to handle these things better.” Well, here I am – older. There are both positives and negatives about growing older and, after yesterday, I believe that the ability to better handle life’s traumas is definitely a positive. It’s not a matter of being unfeeling or not caring; it’s simply a matter of learning, in some small way, to do what has to be done; to take the bumps in stride.

Friday, December 26, 2008

360 Degrees of Love

When I returned from Korea last week I was privileged to escort home a baby who was coming to meet her new family in the U.S. This trip to Korea is called a Gift Team Trip since we are supplying Christmas gifts and parties to children and adults associated with Holt International Children’s Services; as one team member pointed out, isn’t it appropriate that our final act on the Gift Team was to deliver the gift of a child?

Our journey together began at Holt Korea’s offices where the escorts (there were four on our Gift Team) met the babies and their foster mothers. While our hearts were full of joy at the role we would be playing and in anticipation of what the new families would be feeling, the reality of meeting the babies and their foster mothers was, in many ways, quite heartbreaking. The four foster mothers had spent months caring for these babies day and night. Even though they knew that their role in these children’s lives would be temporary, they still loved them and had become attached.

The woman who held the baby I was to escort was obviously full of grief. The other three women seemed more experienced and handled their sorrow with less outward emotion, but my baby’s foster mother was crying openly, even though I think she’d rather have hidden how she felt. I tried to comfort her with a gentle touch on her shoulder since language differences prevented me from telling her just how loved this baby would be. I hoped to somehow convey to her that both she and the baby would be alright; that her role in caring for this child would have a tremendous impact on the baby’s happiness and with how she would accept and bond with her new family. But all I could really do was gently touch her shoulder. Adoption is said to be part grief, part joy. For every loving family who receives a child, there is a birthmother who grieves for that same child. When a child has been in foster care, there is also a foster mother who grieves. I saw that grief at Holt Korea’s office.

As we traveled across the Pacific Ocean, I thought of the baby’s family and the great anticipation they must be feeling. I held the baby in my arms most of the trip; I slept intermittently as I tried to lie quietly so as not to disturb her as she slept against my chest. She cried quite a bit – perhaps experiencing some grief herself and I did my best to comfort her, to assure her, too, that she would be okay.

When we arrived at our final destination, tired and anxious to meet our families (my own family was waiting for me as well as the baby’s new family), I experienced such joy! First, I caught sight of my husband and four of our children – what a beautiful sight after being away for a week, then, shortly afterwards, I saw the baby’s new parents! They were easy to spot – Dad held a video camera and Mom held a sign with the baby’s Korean name written in both English and Hangul (Korea’s alphabet). I have been in those parents’ shoes and I know the level of joy and excitement they were feeling. My heart burst as I shared in this experience. I felt so privileged to hold this beautiful baby girl in my arms; I felt privileged to be part of her story; I felt privileged to have this small part in making these parents’ dream come true. I handed the baby to her mother and watched as a family was formed.

Our journey began with a foster mother’s grief; it ended with a family’s joy – we had journeyed through 360 degrees of love.

Monday, December 15, 2008

So Many Tears

This Gift Team trip is, as I’ve said, not a vacation; it is joyful, but it is emotionally draining. There have been so many tears this week. I started out crying before I’d even left home! I read through the schedule and, in anticipation, I had tears running down my cheeks. I wasn’t off-base; there has been a lot of tissue used this week. One woman said that she has a special pocket in her purse to stuff the used tissue so that she can empty it into the garbage every evening.

Yesterday, we visited an unwed mothers’ shelter and, after a small party and a lot of laughter, there was time to sit quietly as a group in order to let the young women ask us, adoptees, parents of birth children and adoptive parents, questions that are tugging at their hearts. Many of the young women were crying; they are making a monumental decision: to try to parent their child or to relinquish it for adoption. I think their tears were tears of sadness and grief at the enormity of this decision. As we all sat quietly on the floor waiting to see if any of the young women would have the courage to speak, many of them rubbed their bellies. It was a clear sign that, even before birth, they love their babies and are trying to take care of them. Finally one young woman spoke up, then another. The theme of the questions was “will my baby be loved”. As we parents and adoptees tried to answer their questions, we also shed tears – tears of joy when we told of our love, tears of gratitude when we tried to explain how much we honor our own or our children’s birthmothers, tears of sadness as we saw how hard this process is for these young women. So many tears, so many types of tears; sometimes the same tears come from so many sources.

When we finally left the shelter, I asked our team leader, with hope, if this process is therapeutic for the young women and he assured me that it is; that it helps them in part of the process they must go through to make the decisions they must make. Then, I realized that it was also therapeutic for me as well. I would so love to be able to reassure my children’s birthmothers that their children are, in fact, loved; that they are growing up to be wonderful, caring and loved individuals. However, I know that I will probably never have the opportunity to say these things to any of them directly, but I could say it to these women; I could attempt to reassure them. My hope is that there were other adoptive parents sharing their own stories of love when our children’s birthmothers were making this decision. My hope is that they had an opportunity to shed tears like this; that they had the chance to gain some reassurance.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Let Your Heart Rest

Normally, when I am ready to write, my head is spinning with ideas and, by the time I sit in front of the computer, my thoughts are pretty well organized and ready to be put on paper. Yesterday morning I woke up to an empty brain. I knew there should be so much to write about from the previous day’s trip to a children’s home. It was a wonderful day full of joy and happiness, but my brain couldn’t grasp the emotions and formulate them into thoughts. I set up my computer, logged on and then stared at the blank screen – nothing came. I mentioned this at breakfast and one of the other team members who is a holistic nurse, said this to me (I’m paraphrasing here and I hope I get it right): There are people who experience life with their heads and people who experience life with their hearts. (I’m definitely a heart person.) Sometimes when our hearts are full, it’s difficult for the head to get a grasp of the experience. Sometimes we just need to let our hearts rest and absorb.

Yesterday, Sunday, was a day of sightseeing and learning about Korean culture. As one team member said, “No tears today,” – nothing emotional, no children waiting for families, no simple gifts, no overwhelming love – just sightseeing. This trip is not a vacation; there is no relaxing time by the pool or luxurious hours to sleep in. We are up before dawn and back to the hotel well after dark. The schedule is hectic and the events are emotion-filled. I think my heart did need a rest. I think I’d hit an emotional wall and I wonder at how many other times in my life I’ve reached a similar point and haven’t figured out what I need to do. I love the analogy of the heart resting; sometimes we just need to take some time to regroup.

Yesterday I let my heart rest.

Pass It On Update

On November 28th I wrote about "passing it on" or "random acts of kindness". Since that time, my little red Camry and I have taken opportunities to do just that. Then, yesterday my husband took our children to the movies and the ticket girl said, "My manager told me to let one family in free today and you are that lucky family." Wow! Full circle. Pass it on!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Folks, This is Why I do This

During the holiday season in the United States, most of us are running around feeling a little crazy as we try to do everything for everybody to make this year the perfect holiday. Yesterday I experienced the perfect holiday. Yesterday our gift team visited Holt’s Ilsan Town, a hillside community located about 45 minutes NW of Seoul. This community was built by Harry Holt and currently houses approximately 300 mentally and physically handicapped children and adults. These people live at Ilsan in residential homes with housemothers, not in care facilities with a rotating staff. At Ilsan each person is a member of the family; each person does what she can, according to her abilities, to help as part of the family. At Ilsan, each person’s talents are drawn out and encouraged. Our visit is part of the residents’ main Christmas festivities. Yesterday was their Christmas. We delivered a Santa bag full of gifts to each home, one simple gift for each person, and then we participated in the annual Christmas party held in the gymnasium.

We were running late, so when we walked into the gymnasium the residents were already there, gathered around their family tables, Christmas music blaring from the speaker system. Housemothers, staff and dozens of volunteers milled around helping to ensure that each person was able to enjoy the party food. Volunteers maneuvered wheelchairs, helped with feeding those not able to feed themselves and provided additional company around the tables. As we entered the gymnasium, the level of excitement increased dramatically. The men at a table near me were so excited by our arrival that many were actually bouncing up and down on their stools. As I looked around the room, people would catch my eye, smile and wave enthusiastically.

Later, after the official party was over, we all prepared for a group picture: wheelchairs in front of the stage, the rest of us behind the wheelchairs or up on the stage. As I maneuvered around to get in place for the picture, random hands would reach out to touch me; people would try to get my attention, to smile at me, hug me, sometimes even to kiss me on the cheek. I realized that, in anticipation of this trip, I had been hungering for this moment, hungering to be part of this excitement, this love, this joy. I, who had helped supply the simple gifts distributed earlier, had just received the greatest gift – the gift of pure Christmas joy.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bridge of Love

When we were waiting for our first Korean-born child to come home, we worried about the care she was receiving away from us. Was anybody holding her, rocking her? Was she experiencing any love? Would she be able to cuddle and love us? Well, we needn’t have worried. We quickly learned that, not only had she been held and loved, but by some standards, she was spoiled (though I don’t really believe you can spoil a baby). Contrary to our fear that she might not be receiving enough human touch, we learned that it is customary for foster mothers here to carry babies constantly. Our daughter not only welcomed our human touch, she expected to be held all of the time. She had been well-fed in both body and soul.

For the third year in a row, I am in South Korea at Christmastime as part of a Christmas Gift Team from our adoption agency, Holt International Children’s Services. Yesterday, we attended the 40th annual celebration for foster mothers who provide care here in Korea for babies waiting to go home to their adoptive families. The celebration honored women who have given five, ten, fifteen, twenty-five and thirty years of service as foster mothers as well as a handful who are retiring, having reached their 65th birthdays. I have seen these foster mothers in action. On my first trip to Korea, while I waited to meet my son, I watched as foster mothers, babies on their backs, came into the clinic waiting area. Many of them know each other and the chatter in the room was constant – and it was clear that the main topic of conversation was their babies. “See how he’s grown!” “Look at this new tooth!” “Watch her smile!” I didn’t understand the words, they were spoken in Korean, but the meaning did not require translation. Caring for these babies is not just a job, though they do it 24/7 with very little in monetary compensation; it’s obviously a passion. It’s my observation from watching the foster mothers and from hearing them speak at these luncheons, that they do this job, give their love because they see it as their part in helping these babies survive and thrive while they wait to go home to their new families – they are a bridge of love from the birth family to the adoptive family.

Two of our team members, girls ages eleven and twelve, had the opportunity yesterday to meet with their foster mothers for the first time since leaving Korea as infants. These girls had been with their foster mothers for a few short months, but the connection was obvious. The older girl, having seen her foster mother (and the entire foster family) in a different part of the room, could hardly wait to go to her. She had a small gift for her foster mom and as soon as there was a short break in the program, her mom told her that she could go ahead and take the gift to her foster mom. The girl jumped up from her seat and made her way in the crowded room to the place where her foster family waited. The girl greeted her foster mother and handed over the gift, but it wasn’t the gift in her hand that held meaning, it was the gift of the engulfing, mutual hug that showed just how much value both the children and their families put on that bridge of love.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

S. Korean Adoption

When we first adopted from Korea, I thought my husband would go to Korea to bring our daughter home, we’d finalize the adoption and that it would be that. Instead, he came home fascinated with the people and culture of S. Korea. We began trying out Korean restaurants, he took a cooking class and Korean artwork and books began to show up in our home. Several years later I made my first trip to Korea to bring home our third Korean-born child. I, too, came home fascinated.

Last night I arrived at Incheon Airport in Seoul, S. Korea for my fifth visit. As I prepared for the trip I anxiously anticipated the sights, sounds and smells of this country. While still in the airport, the smell of sesame oil reached my nose. The smell of Grandma’s apple pie baking in the oven certainly evokes memories and emotions of my own childhood experience, but now my nose knows two cultural experiences. The smell of the sesame oil was comforting and exciting. It’s the smell that wafts through our home when my husband cooks Korean food; it’s the smell that greets me at the entrance of the Asian market at home; it’s the smell that permeates this country.

I am thrilled to be back in S. Korea. I am not Korean; I have my own Finnish heritage (which I’m less familiar with than I am with my children’s Korean heritage), but when we adopted our children, in many ways, we adopted their birth culture and country. Being here I feel a sense of familiarity and connection.

Know Thyself

There are things I know about myself. I know what style of clothing I like to wear and I rarely deviate from that basic style. I know how to wear my make-up and the process of putting it on is quick and easy. I know that I like to have my life and home organized and I like that being organized lets me lead a pretty busy life with relatively few stresses. I know that I want my bed to be made each morning and I revel in the beauty of a picture-perfect room. I know my likes and dislikes, my quirks and fears; you’d think I’d know that there are some things that I’m just not going to do. On December 1st I wrote about gratitude and pledged to write daily about what I’m grateful for in my day. Even though I love the idea of writing in a diary, I’ve never been faithful about keeping one. Even though I’ve tried in the past to keep a gratitude journal, I’ve never managed to do so for more than a few days. Why did I think that now, during the busiest month of the year, I would suddenly change and be a dedicated journal-keeper? The idea of keeping a gratitude journal for the benefit of creating quiet time for myself seemed so appealing. In reality, the idea of writing daily about gratitude very quickly felt like a chore and was not so appealing. There are activities that I do daily that I don’t think of as a chore: making the bed, as I said before; early morning exercise; a shower, make-up and primping. Each of these activities are part of my daily routine, they please me and help me feel good about myself. Declaring that I would write about gratitude everyday did not increase my level of gratitude because I know that inside I am a truly grateful person. Internally, I take care of my feelings of gratefulness, so putting those thoughts down on paper, did not add to my satisfaction – it was just a chore. I know that there are limits to what I will do; now I know that telling myself that I will do something that isn’t natural for me pushes those limits uncomfortably. Sometimes it’s good to push those limits when it helps us to grow, but sometimes it’s better to just respect our limits.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

As I shopped today I was grateful for comfortable shoes, prime parking spaces and Christmas music on the store loudspeakers (and the fact that nobody looked at me strangely when I walked through the mall quietly singing to myself). I'm also grateful to the pseudo-son who followed through on his promise to put away all of the decoration boxes and leftovers.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I am grateful that I spoke with two customer service people today who actually provided customer service. I am also grateful that my husband puts up with my little nuances. Actually, everyday I am grateful that I chose him to spend my life with -- but saying that everyday would get a little sappy. I'll try to restrain myself.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Today I am grateful for my friends who allow me to rant and rave and then give me their support and uncensored opinions.

Monday, December 1, 2008

In the wake of news this morning of the tragic deaths this weekend of a family of four, friends of friends, I am grateful that my family is safe, sound and accounted for. Please use this tragedy as a reminder to equip your home with carbon monoxide detectors in addition to your smoke detectors.

Gratitude

I spent some time this past weekend catching up on my magazine reading. I’m sure it’s because of the season, but I was surprised to come across three separate articles about gratitude and happiness. I consider myself a very happy person and I certainly feel gratitude for all the blessings and joys in my life. However, even though I’ve tried, I’ve never managed to keep a gratitude journal for more than a day or two. One of the articles I read suggested keeping such a journal for at least a month with the idea that doing so might help to ease a specific issue that a person is dealing with. This article asked three women to name an issue that is a struggle; the women then kept a gratitude journal for a month and afterwards reviewed their issue to see if it had improved. Not surprisingly, all three felt better at the end of the month. Given that today is the first day of not only my favorite month, but also the busiest month, I’ve decided that I’m going to give this a try. In addition to any regular blog entries I write, I’ll also post daily what I feel especially grateful for. The issue I deal with constantly, and even more so in December, is taking time to relax, to take a breath and let the cares of the day fall off my shoulder. Just writing this blog helps me with that; I’m anxious to see if purposefully expressing gratitude daily helps get me through this month, enjoying it to the fullest.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Pass It On

Pass it on. Pay it forward. Random acts of kindness. Unfortunately, these little sentences sound a bit trite, but on this day after Thanksgiving, they can be a wonderful way to take the gratitude focused on yesterday and send some of it out into the world. Last year, our middle son was working at a retail store which meant he had to work on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. While the rest of us spent the day together shopping, watching football and eating leftovers, our middle son had to get up early and head to his job at the mall. He was feeling somewhat blue about this and decided to treat himself to breakfast at the McDonald’s drive-thru (culinary appreciation is not yet part of his persona). When he arrived at the window to pay for his breakfast, he found out that the person in the car in front of his had already paid for him. Our son was ecstatic! He called to tell me about it and said later that it changed his entire perspective on the day. And, I am quite sure that the person in the car in front drove away with a smile.

I won’t divulge my own plan for passing on kindness this holiday season; after all, anonymity is part of the fun, but my little red Camry and I plan to be busy. Pass it on!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Drew's Thankful Tree

I wrote this on Thanksgiving Day, 2003, but it seems appropriate to share it today.

Every year for Thanksgiving our family goes to our home away from home for the holiday. We usually pack the night before so that we can pick the children up from school and be on the road. Since most teachers send holiday art projects home on this last day of school, it has become customary to decorate our vacation spot with those art projects when we arrive for the Thanksgiving holiday. This year our first grade son’s class made Thankful Trees, a piece of brown construction paper with a tree drawn on it and the leaves made up of painted pieces of paper cut into the shape of leaves on which the children wrote short sentences describing why they are thankful. When we arrived and unpacked one of our daughters gathered the Thanksgiving art projects and began taping them to the dining room window. We have a turkey dressed as a University of Oregon Duck (Go Ducks!), another turkey with dangling legs and a bonnet, a mosaic corncob complete with raffia stem and the Thankful Tree. After the decorating was finished, I admired all of the colorful art that would brighten our Thanksgiving table and then stepped closer to read what was written on the leaves of the Thankful Tree.

Our son’s tree has seven leaves, a lot to be thankful for at any age. There are the expected, but still welcome, “I hav a dad” and “I hav a mom”. Every child needs to know that they have parents (or a parent, in the case of single-parent families) who are always there for him. My son and I have had our moments – he is one of those “spirited” children who pushed every button and sent me running back to the parenting bookshelves at Barnes & Noble looking for ways to deal with him. My husband and I have worked hard to steer his behavior down a positive path and our efforts, along with his emerging maturity, have taken hold and he’s a delight to have around. So seeing that he is thankful to have a mom made me feel especially good.

He also honored his other family members with “I hav brrtrs” and “I hav sisdrs”. Yes, he does – two brothers and three sisters to be exact. As an almost-only child myself I always wished for brothers and sisters to play with. Now that my husband and I have a large family I cringe when one of our children quite naturally complains about his or her siblings, the need to share or to help out a younger child. There are days when the bickering seems non-stop. Of course, I know that they each value the others. I see it when they stick up for each other on the school bus, share information about the latest music or movie craze or include brothers and sisters as something to be thankful for on a Thanksgiving art project.

The wider world is also acknowledged on his tree. First he includes “I hav a scl”. This one took me a long time to figure out. What is an “scl”? Then I tuned into my kid-spelling and it became clear. As a first-grader, our son is excited about learning to read and finding out about the oh-so-many things of interest to a six-year-old. I, too, am thankful that he has a school to open the doors for him, to touch his mind and draw out his interests. Second he writes, “Korea” – not “I am Korean” or “I am from Korea”, just “Korea”. I’m not a psychiatrist, but I think that’s pretty interesting. At six, he doesn’t know exactly how Korea fits into his life. We’ve traveled to Korea, we participate in Korean cultural events, cook Korean food, talk about his Korean heritage, but the information and experiences haven’t yet jelled for him. He does know, though, that Korea is important in his life and I am thankful that he knows that, even if he hasn’t yet put it all in perspective.

The last leaf on his tree encompasses all the others and really expresses the core of what a Thankful Tree is meant to be – “I m love”. Now, I know that what he meant by that was, “I am loved” because he had told me about that leaf the day they made the trees and all I can respond to that is, “Yes, he is!” But how interesting that he left off the “d” because, as a child full of intense feelings and excitement about his world; always ready for a huge bear hug or a simple kiss on the forehead; obvious concern for the people and even the animals around him; and a smile that can light up my heart, it is not only accurate that he would write, “I am loved,” but just as accurately, he could write, “I am love.”

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hello, My Name is Debbie and I am a Control Freak

A couple of nights ago I had a dream about something bad happening, but when I tried to scream, nothing came out of my mouth. I’ve had similar dreams before where I was helpless and couldn’t even notify anyone that there was a problem. The next morning I told my husband about the dream; he immediately said, “You don’t like to lose control. In the dream, you can’t scream, so you have no control.” I thought about that and knew that he was right. I like to be in control; I don’t like situations where I can’t control what is happening. Well, the reality is, in life we can’t truly control all that is happening to us and, one of the insights I’ve gained in recent years, is that I’m much more able to accept that occasional loss of control now than I was in my younger years. In the past, I freaked out when events happened that I could not control. My temper would flare, I would become exasperated. Now, usually, I am better able to handle those types of unplanned events. I have more patience, more understanding.

As an example, yesterday my husband and kids spent the day putting up our 12-foot tall artificial Christmas tree. Because of our holiday schedule this year, we decided to put the big tree up before Thanksgiving and then I will do the rest of the decorating after Thanksgiving. The kids had the lights on and about three-fourths of our massive amount of decorations on when the tree started to tilt and would have fallen completely were it not for my niece and future daughter-in-law catching it mid-fall. With the two of them holding it up, my husband and I worked for an hour trying to stabilize the base. The end result was that, after eleven years of use, the welding on the base is tired out and needs to be reinforced – something we’re not prepared to do. So, we began un-decorating the tree. All of the ornaments were taken off and laid on the couch, the light strings were removed and wound back up and the pieces of the tree were put out on the front porch with the hope that some Craig’s List reader will come to take it away to a new home. Today I will go purchase a new tree.

Throughout the ordeal last night I remained relatively calm. When it became apparent that we would not be able to fix the tree, I simply stated what needed to be done – “Take the tree down.” As I was going through the process, my husband’s comment about me not liking to be out of control rolled around in my head and I realized that, in maturing, I have learned (most of the time, anyway) that even in a situation I can’t control (a broken tree base), I can still be in control of my response. For a controlling personality like mine, it truly does feel much better to be personally in control during an uncontrollable situation, rather than letting go of all control.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Favorite Things

A few nights ago we went to dinner at a restaurant that was playing music in the background. As we were leaving, the song My Favorite Things came on. We all hummed along to the tune. When we got into the car, I realized that my youngest son was quietly singing the song, but inserting his own “favorite things” into the lyrics. That started me thinking about my own favorite things. Not the big life changing things, but the everyday things that warm our hearts and bring a smile to our faces. As I’ve thought about my favorites over the last few days, I’ve realized that just the act of thinking about them has made me feel good. We all know that keeping a gratitude journal helps us to be aware of our blessings, but I think that reminding ourselves of life’s little joys is also a good way to find good in each and every day. Here are just a few of my favorite things:

• Clean sheets
• A view of Mt. Hood, especially when it peeks through on an otherwise cloudy day
• Catching a whiff of jasmine or some other floral fragrance while out on a run
• A real hug from one of my kids
• Turning on the radio to a good rock beat
• The feel of the air on a crisp fall morning
• My husband’s smile when he comes in the door or catches my eye across a room

Monday, November 17, 2008

PMA Begins with Self-Care

After my post last week about being too tired, I received a couple of wonderful e-mail responses that helped me put my feelings into perspective. Those e-mails gave me the impetus to take positive steps toward helping myself. In an effort to get back my PMA (positive mental attitude), I took care of a couple of doctor’s appointments I’d been avoiding, I went to see my chiropractor about a pain in my neck (it would be fun to say that my children were the pain my neck, but the reality is, it was all my own doing – too much stress, not enough self-care) and I scheduled a follow-up chiropractic appointment that includes a pre-appointment massage. It’s amazing to me that those few steps put me back on the right path, the path to a positive attitude. I’ve slept better; I’ve breathed easier; I’ve been able to feel the stress slip from my body. I also changed my e-mail passwords to a positive affirmation; a little step, but it’s reinvigorating every time I log onto my e-mail.

I tell my children that they are responsible for their own moods and attitudes; sometimes I need a reminder that the same principle applies to me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Too Tired to Think

Where have I been? I haven’t written anything in weeks. Part of the problem is that my laptop has somehow been appropriated and is now the family kitchen computer. Previously, no one else used it and it sat by my writing spot, so that it was always there, waiting for me. That’s really not a good excuse for not writing, but the change in location has disrupted my routine. The real reason for not writing is that I’ve just been too tired to think. I’ve tried working out my thoughts in my head, but it all sounds like a jumble. The ideas don’t connect; the thoughts don’t pan out. My brain just feels tired. I bought a box of greeting cards recently; one of them reads, “Just when did having to juggle everything become a way of life?” I read that and I nod my head; yes, I understand. Just last night someone asked how our family has been. I said, “Busy,” and the person came back with, “Yeah, that’s pretty much how everything is now, isn’t it?” That’s sad.

What I’ve realized during the last few weeks is that I’m not really taking very good care of myself. I’m to the point where stress has me breathing funny on a regular basis; sleep consists of six hours a night, if I’m lucky; food is the comfort I give myself to get through the day. Not a very healthy way to live. But the question is: how does one change that lifestyle? Meditation is the answer that comes most readily to mind, but I’m not sure when I’m supposed to do that – stay up later to meditate? Get up even earlier? It would also be good to have fewer “have to’s” piled on my plate, but again, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to do that – what job, activity or responsibility do I forego? This sounds somewhat whiney and I don’t mean to say that my life is busier than anyone else’s. I know far too many women, and men, who are in this same boat with me. I just don’t know what to do about it and, while I try to figure it out, I just continue to feel too tired to think.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Red Hot Rockin' Mama -- Do It!


Yesterday was performance day. I was surprised that I didn’t feel as nervous as I expected. In fact, I didn’t feel particularly nervous until taking my seat on the stage. At that point, a few little flutters of nerves blew through me, but it was much more comfortable than I had expected. So, I got through the live performance in front of an audience and I felt good about it, but the real accomplishment of the weekend was not the showcase performance, but the act of actually signing up, attending, learning, struggling, overcoming and doing it at all. Thank goodness for the community of dozens of supportive women. John Bingham, one of my favorite running writers, says, “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” That’s true in so many areas of our lives and it was brought home to me this weekend. The Ladies Rock Camp was an enriching, enlightening, enjoyable experience. But the fact that I signed up and persevered throughout it is what gives me the greatest sense of accomplishment; the performance was just the icing on that cake – not necessarily the best icing I’ve ever tasted, but sweet nonetheless.

For information on Ladies Rock Camp or Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls, go to girlsrockcamp.org.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Red Hot Rockin' Mama? Yikes!

Yesterday I was pumped. Yesterday I felt successful. Yesterday I was dreaming of the wonderful performance my band and I would give on Sunday. Today? Today, I sucked! After a two-hour class on drum instruction, I had to go for a walk because I was so frustrated by my lack of ability. I couldn’t get my hands and feet to do what my mind wanted. This afternoon, my band mates and I had a great “quiet” practice where we worked on our song lyrics and the basic sound of the song. We then had a “loud” practice where we got to play. We worked and worked, but still I could not get back what I’d had yesterday. Then, we had a rehearsal where we had to get up in front of the other camp attendees and play our song. We were awful!! We stopped in the middle of the first verse and didn’t even finish our song. I would have liked to have walked out right then and there. We were, without a doubt, the worst band! But then we went back for another hour of “loud” practice and two things happened: first, one of the instructors took pity on us and came to our practice room and helped us out – a lot; then, second, I found the beat! I’d watched the drummer of the band that entertained us at lunch and I tried mimicking her movements and, suddenly, there it was – the beat! I had been ready to come home and post a blog saying that the venue had been changed to Seattle so that no one would show up, but once I got the beat, everything fell into place. We won’t be the best band tomorrow, but I’m sure we won’t be the worst. I’m amazed that, at fifty, I could tackle this, suffer frustration and humiliation, and still find my way to success. I’m pumped! I’m rockin’! And I can’t wait to get on the stage again tomorrow! This is really stepping out for me and it feels terrific!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Red Hot Rockin' Mama? Yes!!

A few weeks ago I wrote about my upcoming Ladies Rock Camp weekend. Well, this is the weekend. Today was the first of three days of Rock Camp. I played the drums – I can actually play a drum sequence! Someone even asked me if I’ve taken lessons. As I wrote a few weeks ago, I was really starting to regret signing up for this experience, but I also knew that if I went I’d come out of it with a true feeling of accomplishment. So, I pushed myself today. I pushed myself to meet people; I pushed myself to “fit in” in a very diverse group; and, best of all, I pushed myself to perform! When they asked for volunteers to make up a demonstration band, I raised my hand and went on stage, in the capacity of a musician, for the first time in my life. I wasn’t very good; I was actually quite hesitant about making any noise on my drums, but I got up on stage in front of a room full of strangers and performed. Wow! It felt almost as good as finishing the half-marathon last weekend. Actually, I expect Sunday’s more formal performance to equal or exceed the half-marathon high. Speaking of Sunday’s performance, I wasn’t sure I was going to give anyone the details, but here goes: for anyone interested, the Ladies Rock Camp Showcase is this Sunday, October 26th from 3:00 to 5:00 at Satyricon (located at 125 NW 6th in Portland). There is a $5 or $10 charge to enter (I assume that’s $5 for children and $10 for adults); the entrance fee is a benefit for the Rock ‘N’ Roll Camp for Girls. Rock on!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

As Good As It Gets?

This morning my future daughter-in-law and I ran/walked a half-marathon. It was her first half-marathon, so she had a personal best; I’ve done several and this was not my personal best (2nd best, I think, but I was hoping for better). I have problems with my knees and, as in the past, they gave out before the race was over. I’ve had to stop running at six miles, eight miles and, today, at seven miles. I don’t quit the event; I just start walking…fast. I’d love to be able to run the entire way; I love the way running feels, but my knees just don’t seem to go along with my plans. I’ve tried to improve my knees with physical therapy, exercise and stretching, but long distances, specifically on pavement, just don’t work for me. I went into the race today knowing that I might have to again switch from running to walking and I felt okay about that. I felt bad about holding back my running partner, but I was okay with not being able to run the entire way. Since I love running, I’ll just keep going at it and, if and when necessary, I’ll switch to walking. I could easily walk the entire distance, but then I’d miss the thrill of running, even if I’m not able to do it for the entire race. Would I like to run the entire distance? You bet! But, if only running part way and walking the rest is all I can do; if that’s as good as it gets, well, that’s okay too.

Darn Crows!

One evening last week I went out to dinner with a group of friends. Before leaving the house, I went upstairs to my room to brush my teeth and freshen up my make-up. I dabbed on a little under eye cover-up and brushed some powder over my face to hide any shine. As it sometimes does, my make-up brush left a few stray hairs on my face; I picked one off from my forehead and tried to brush one away from beside my right eye. I brushed at it a couple of times, but couldn’t get it to budge. Thinking that this little hair was just stuck to my face, I went to the magnifying mirror to pluck it away only to find that it wasn’t a stray brush hair at all, it was a line, a.k.a. a wrinkle, one toe of a crow’s foot. If only we could just brush the winkles away like a stray piece of hair. I looked in the mirror and laughed at myself. What else could I do?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Red Hot Rockin' Mama?

If you read the sidebar, “About Me”, you know that one of my dreams in life has been to play the drums. When I was a child, there was never money for that sort of dream and, I admit, I never again voiced my dream until a few years ago. Once I mentioned the idea, my husband, being the wonderful person he is, gave me a drum set for Christmas. It’s a really pretty set – red, of course. It’s set up in an alcove of our upstairs hallway. My plan for each of the last several years has been to learn to play those drums – that hasn’t happened. Then, last year I read in O, The Oprah Magazine about a Ladies’ Rock Camp. This camp, offered two or three times a year, is a fundraiser for the Girls’ Rock Camps that are offered in the summer. And the best part is that the camp is located right here in Portland, Oregon. They claim that no experience is necessary, so, naturally, I signed up.

I initially found out about the class and began the enrollment process over a year ago. I had hoped that before attending I would actually gain some experience on the drums either through lessons or self-teaching videos. While I’m happy with my progress toward my goal of writing regularly this year, I have not done anything toward my goal of learning to play the drums. Now, the camp is two weeks away and I’m beginning to feel a bit nervous. Last week I confided to a friend that I’m really not very good at taking risks of this sort. I do a lot of things well, so I tend to stick with the areas in which I know I can excel. Now I’m set to go to a three-day camp with women from all over the country; many of whom are accomplished and/or professional musicians. On the first day of camp we have to connect with others and form a band and then on the last day of the camp we have to give an actual, public performance! What was I thinking?

I initially felt this same kind of nervousness about participating in walking and running events. I’ve overcome that fear by reminding myself of the exuberance I feel at the end of a race, regardless of how far back in the pack I finish. I have given serious consideration to canceling my participation in this camp, but I keep reminding myself that it’s just like walking or running an event. I’m not there to impress anyone else; I’m there to fulfill a dream of my own. I’d like to be able to say, “So what if I bomb on stage?” but, the reality is, I don’t want to bomb. I want to do well. Right now, however, the challenge isn’t getting up on stage; the challenge is getting myself to go to camp that first day. Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Slacker Mom

Our middle son graduated from high school a year-and-a-half ago. He stayed home that fall, working and attending the local community college. By spring, he knew he needed to move on and out, so he moved to Tacoma to work while waiting to start school at a four-year university there this fall. It was time for him to try his wings and we were happy that he was finally ready. He lived on his own for five months and then moved into the dorms at school. I had known when school was starting, but I hadn’t realized that the dorms opened up a week in advance for incoming freshman and transfer students so I was surprised when he sent a text picture of his room and then called to say that he had moved in and met his roommate. He jokingly told me that he and his roommate were the only new students without parents helping them move in. I hadn’t even known he was planning to move then. He ended that conversation with a laugh, saying that he and his roommate had decided that it was probably better that their parents weren’t there since, were we there, they would probably just want us to leave. How well I remember helping our oldest son move into school the first time. I tried to help him unpack boxes and make his bed. He finally looked at me and said, “Mom, you can go now. I can do this myself.” Then, child number two comes along and I’m not even there when he moves to college for the first time. Let me just say, as an aside, that I would have been, had I known. However, I hadn’t known and I felt like a slacker mom.

That was almost two months ago. Since then, we’ve been up to see our son’s dorm and he’s been home a couple of times. He’s home this weekend and, when he arrived, he went out to the garage to look for something. He came back in carrying a zip-front sweatshirt that I didn’t recognize. He said to me in a somewhat-joking tone, “Mom, I know you’ve had a lot going on, but do you remember when I called after I was here last and said I’d left a sweatshirt that belonged to someone else and asked you to send it to me? And, I don’t want to make you feel bad, but do you remember how you said you’d send it and you’d include a care package for me?” Yikes! Somewhere in the depths of my brain little bells were going off. I vaguely remembered this conversation, but I also realized that, since I didn’t write myself a sticky note about it, the entire conversation went to the recesses of my mind, taken over undoubtedly by some other more immediate, read “local”, need. It’s true that life’s been a little busy around here lately, but added to that is the fact that this son moved out so easily. He was ready to go, he had his plan formulated before approaching us, he stays in touch, but I think he’s enjoyed his new freedoms and independence. It’s been easy to just let him be without too much worrying. That does not, however, excuse my error in forgetting to send his package. I would LOVE to send him a care package; that’s such a new-kid-at-school kind of thing to do. I hugged my son and apologized profusely. He just chuckled at me. I said, “I can’t believe I forgot about that! I’m just a slacker mom!” At that he gave me his million-dollar smile and said, quite sarcastically, “Yeah Mom, that’s what people think when they think of you – slacker mom.” One smile, one sweetly sarcastic sentence and this slacker mom felt loved and appreciated.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

It's All a Matter of Perspective

This past year has been one of the more stressful of my life. Not because I turned fifty, but because life has just been Full (note the capital “F”)! Brian and I sat down recently and looked at the past year and it was astounding to see all that has been happening – no wonder I feel a little overwhelmed. There have been other momentously stressful years in my life: the year we graduated from college, started new jobs, bought our first house and had our first baby; the year my 16-year-old nephew committed suicide and a short six weeks later my dad died of a heart attack; the year my mom became terminally ill and we cared for her at home for several months before she died. Some stressful times are full of good things, some full of bad or sad, but the change in routine; the rising and plummeting emotions all take their toll.

This past year has been full of mostly good times: trips around the country and to Korea and Europe, a houseful of kids and young adults, activities galore. We had an adult niece spend four months with us while she settled in the Portland area. Our oldest son and his fiancé moved from Texas to also settle in the Portland area; they were here for eight months. Our middle son struggled to find his way out of the house and is now settled happily at school in Tacoma. We have an extra “unofficial” son still here who is also finding his way out. We are dealing with an aging parent and volunteer commitments. It has been wonderful to have the extra young people around. We know our niece and future daughter-in-law much better because of sharing a home with them. It’s gratifying to see our middle son and the “unofficial” one finding their paths and developing their own personal responsibility. The travel has been memorable and rewarding. Our younger children, their activities and our own personal goals and desires fill up most days on the calendar, but that’s better than boredom.

Last week we sat down for a family dinner. For the past year, dinner has meant eight, nine, ten or more people around the table on a regular basis. Last week there was my husband, our four youngest children and myself – only six of us. My husband looked around the table and said, “Is this it? Is this everyone?” It felt like such a small, easy-to-manage group. Life is looking simpler. We mentioned this change to an acquaintance and he said, “Six! I can’t imagine how I’d deal with six people in the house.” I realized then that this busy-life thing, this stress is really a matter of perspective. While we had a busy year, we didn’t have the upheaval of a major life change like becoming parents for the first time, no loved one died this year – we were just busy. And now, with all but one of the “extras” out of the house and with some major events behind us, we are looking forward to having our household back to a more normal state. Less stress, more quiet. Did I mention that we’re thinking of remodeling?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

It's Game Day!

I’ve been planning to write this blog since Labor Day weekend. In fact, I even started it that weekend, but somehow life has gotten in the way and my brain has been too scrambled to put words to paper (or screen). There’s a saying that life is what happens while you’re making other plans… but that’s another blog. This one is about fall, fans and football. Not any type of football, but, specifically, college football. Twelve years ago, after a lifetime of declaring that I didn’t like football, I was coerced, at the last minute, into accompanying my husband and oldest son to a University of Oregon Ducks football game. We hadn’t attended a game there during our time at the UofO, but with great reluctance I agreed to go to the game more for the opportunity to spend the day with my husband and son than with any expectation of enjoying the game. Well, my life changed that day! I loved the game; I loved the stadium; I loved the fans! My husband gave me a four-seat package of season tickets for Christmas that year and life hasn’t been the same since. “It’s Game Day!” rings out in our home Saturday mornings in the fall. We’re referring not only to our kids’ soccer games but also to the college football games. We decorate the car with flags and pom-poms. We honk and wave at other similarly decorated cars on the 2-1/2 hour drive down I-5 to Eugene. The smell of fall in the air now evokes not only thoughts of pumpkins, scarecrows and trick-or-treating, but also thoughts of football, the roar of the crowd, the loving rivalries with our friends from other Pac-10 schools.

The day before the season opener this year, my husband and I went on a beautiful nine-mile hike on Mt. Bachelor in Central Oregon. My husband happened to wear a UofO hat on the hike. Several times as we passed other hikers, we heard the casual “Go Ducks!” greeting. Graduating from college makes us part of a group – the alumni of that particular school, but until I discovered college football, I didn’t really have much of a connection to the University of Oregon after our college graduation. Now, I proudly wear shirts that proclaim, “I am a Duck” and “I feel Ducky”. Today I will don my yellow and green, my husband and I will gather up six kids and young adults, park our car on the UofO campus and walk from campus to Autzen Stadium, crossing the footbridge over the Willamette River with thousands of other Duck fans. I’ll send “It’s Game Day!” text messages to a select group of friends and I’ll revel at the sight as I enter through the walkway into Autzen Stadium – the players on the field, the fans milling to the their seats stopping to greet people along the way, the student section already full – a sea of yellow. The air will be clean and crisp (this is Eugene, after all). There will be a buzz of excitement in the air and in my ears.

I read recently that as we grow older it’s good to have passions. Activities that we love help to keep us young and vibrant. I have several passions that I will carry with me as I age and one of them will be Game Day. I do feel Ducky today!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Simple Pleasure

W e are advised by “the experts” to be aware of life’s pleasures; to perk up our days be paying attention to what is happening in the here and now. It’s obvious that it feels good to give attention to a beautiful sunset or to the laughter of a child, but last month I realized another simple pleasure – washing one’s hands. At the Holt campout, I’m able to have a daily shower just as I would at home, but the reality of being outside at a campground all day meant that my hands often felt dusty and dirty. I found it such a comfort to be able to go to the restroom building to wash my hands with soap and warm water. What a wonderful feeling! Clean fresh water and wonderful smelling soap – it didn’t matter whether the soap was floral scented or just plain soap – both have a wonderful smell. Throughout the week at the campout I snuck away several times to wash my hands – a few moments of bliss.

This past Sunday, several of us ran a 10k and afterwards went to a popular local café for breakfast. As soon as we were seated I left the table to go to the restroom to wash my hands. I was exhilarated from the run, but sweaty and dusty. I had changed shirts before we entered the restaurant and had taken off my running shoes in favor of flip-flops, but I didn’t feel ready to enjoy breakfast until I’d washed my hands. Again, what a wonderful feeling: a body tired but happy from a good run, the odors of wonderful breakfast foods wafting from the kitchen, people I love waiting for me at the table and clean, fresh-smelling hands!

What simple pleasure can you identify for yourself today?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

It's a Rite of Passage, so Shout!

We are on vacation in Sunriver, Oregon. Last night, as part of our Sunriver summer vacation tradition, we went to the mall here to spend the evening reveling in the joy of a performance by a local entertainer, Michael John. We stumbled across Michael John some fifteen years ago and his performances have been a highlight of our summer vacations ever since. In fact, we count Michael and his wife, Kim as friends; they were part of the group that helped us celebrate our 30th anniversary in Disneyland last year.

A Michael John performance is not just a concert; it’s an audience participation event. There’s dancing, sing-alongs, the occasional audience member spotlight and lots of laughter. When we first started going to Michael John’s performances, he always ended the evening with You’ve Got a Friend. I remember many evenings, standing outside in the warm summer air, arms entwined with friends and family who were with us, swaying back and forth to the lyrics of You’ve Got a Friend. Twelve years ago or so, he changed the last song from You’ve Got a Friend to Shout! Now, there’s a lot of difference between swaying back and forth to You’ve Got a Friend and jumping up and down to Shout! Personally, I used to think I preferred the former, but, as with most changes, over time I learned to love the new ending. Part of what I loved was that our children really loved getting involved with Shout! They jumped, they lowered themselves to the ground (A little bit lower now, a little bit lower now), they threw their arms in the air and, the highlight of the acrobatics, their dad, my husband, would take them, one at a time, and throw them into the air while singing, “Shout!” The kids loved being tossed up into the air; they would jump around their dad waiting for their turn to be lifted high above his head.

We have a wide age range of children (ten to twenty-six) and, obviously, the oldest have been too big to toss for several years now, but the four youngest have always taken their turn at being tossed, even though the older of them had to help by putting in a good jump as they were lifted. Last summer, our four youngest children (nine to fifteen, at the time) still each took a turn at Shout! with their dad. Last night, none of them did. My husband started out the song on his feet, ready to take on the challenge, but as the song began and he motioned to each of them to come Shout! with him, they each, in turn, declined. It’s true, my husband is recuperating from tennis elbow and is wearing a brace on his right arm, but he was willing to forego the elbow recovery in order to continue this much-loved tradition with the kids; however, the kids (perhaps acting more responsibly than their dad), each declined, afraid of further injuring his arm. My husband eventually went and sat down, rubbing his elbow while the rest of us finished out the song on our feet. This morning, while we were out running, my husband lamented that last night was the first time that he had sat out Shout! He said that, while he’d known that eventually all of the kids would be too big to toss, that eventuality always seemed so far away, that he hadn’t really given it any serious consideration. Then, without warning, last night was the night – all the children were too big and my husband sat out the dance. I’m looking at this as a lesson for us for the future – when we can no longer do an event or activity, when something changes for us, do we just sit out the dance or do we accept the change and figure out a way to adjust? I’m hoping that next week when we go see Michael John perform, my husband will dance with me and Shout! – I don’t need to be thrown up into the air.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Consumed

The process of writing, for me, involves noticing something of interest and then mulling it around in my head so that, by the time I sit down at my computer, the words flow out as complete ideas. As usual, I have many ideas floating around in my head, but for the last week I have been unable to get any of them molded into coherent ideas worthy of being put down on paper. The words and ideas tumble around in my brain, but I haven’t been able to make sense of them because my brain has been consumed! Consumed with the music from Phantom of the Opera. I wake at night and the Phantom of the Opera is there, inside my mind. I put down the very-riveting book that I’m reading and the Phantom of the Opera is there, inside my mind. I pause for a moment during a discussion with my husband and the Phantom of the Opera is there, inside my mind.

The Phantom of the Opera is my all-time favorite stage-play. I saw it twice with friends many, many years ago and then took my oldest son to see it, followed a few years later by taking my middle son and a nephew to see it. I promised my two oldest daughters that it would be their turn to see it the next time it came through Portland. Almost two years ago the announcement was made that Phantom would be playing in Portland in August of 2008. My husband bought tickets immediately. My daughters and I have been talking about and planning our night out for months. Last Saturday was, finally, that night. Without giving away too much of the story, I’d given the girls a quick rundown on the basic story line and I had prepped them for an emotionally charged evening. Well, let’s just say that the evening did not live up to what I had experienced in the past. This particular performance was, simply, not very good. The characters weren’t compelling, the enunciation of the lyrics was so poor that it was difficult to follow the storyline; there were very few moments that brought a chill to my soul. We left the theatre somewhat disappointed – me, more than the girls, because I knew from prior performances just how powerful this should have been.

Two days later my husband and our oldest daughter came home with the 2004 Phantom of the Opera DVD. I have always been hesitant to watch this movie because, just as with a book, the movie version of a story is rarely as good as the original product. However, given our disappointment over Saturday night’s stage performance and finding out that the actor playing the Phantom is a recent favorite (Gerard Butler – watch the movie P.S. I Love You for a real treat), we decided to give the movie a try. The result? I’ve been consumed with the music – the Phantom of the Opera is there, inside my mind. So, I have other blog topics rolling around in my mind, but for now, I’m having trouble getting past Phantom – maybe I need to give myself a good dose of country music.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Know Your Spa

I don’t mean this as in, know the quality level and cleanliness of your spa; I mean, know what you personally find luxurious and relaxing. I know many women love “a day at the spa”. It’s a gift to themselves; a gift of relaxation and pampering. My husband and I are staying at the Coeur d’Alene Resort and the spa here has been ranked as the most romantic in the country. I’m not sure what romance has to do with a spa – maybe I’m missing something. Anyway, we’re here at this beautiful resort with a wonderful spa and I have no desire to make an appointment. Throughout the hotel there are posters and cards with pictures of beautiful women relaxing in the spa environment – they do nothing for me. While I’ve had several non-spa massages, I’ve only done a “day at the spa” once. It was a gift to me and, while I found it basically enjoyable, it’s not something that I would go out of my way to do again. However, I have my own “spa experience”; that is, an experience that I find totally luxurious and which sets the tone for relaxation. That experience is a room service breakfast. I absolutely love ordering room service for my breakfast. Not for lunch, not for dinner, just breakfast. The idea of having someone prepare me a wonderful breakfast and then bring it to me to enjoy in the privacy of my room leaves me feeling totally pampered. The tray with its linen napkins, the hot pot of coffee, the fresh flowers – what could be better? But wait, it does get better! Once I finish my lovely breakfast, I just leave the remains and the dirty dishes sitting where they are and, while I’m out, my used breakfast tray and dirty dishes magically disappear. No, I won’t be making an appointment at the spa; I know that my idea of luxury and relaxation comes in another form. I’ll have eggs Benedict today, please.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

An Anti-Aging Secret

A few months ago I wrote about the way our faces begin to change as we reach this stage of our lives (5/1/08 Changing Faces). There are, however, ways to fool ourselves into thinking that the years aren’t really showing so dramatically on our faces. For instance, after publishing that blog entry, a friend e-mailed me about a Joan Rivers’ interview she’d seen several years ago. Joan had said that, after a certain age, women should make sure never to let a man see her face from below. This goes along with Oprah’s suggestion that, when being photographed, always keep your chin up.

As wrinkles appear and skin begins to sag, we can begin to feel that the face in the mirror is a vision to be avoided. Well, I have discovered the secret to looking in the mirror and liking the reflection! Yesterday, I went into a restaurant restroom and immediately admired the mirror on the wall. It was a large oval mirror that was set fairly high and held on to the wall with a bracket at its midpoint. The bracket stuck out about two inches, which allowed the lower part of the mirror to rest against the wall, while the upper part tilted out. The end result was that, when I looked in the mirror, I had to look slightly up into the tilted mirror. Looking up stretched the skin of my face and neck taking ten years off my reflection. I think I’ll be tilting all of the mirrors in my home.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Holt Family Campout

We don’t attend our own families’ reunions. There are numerous reasons: timing, location, travel, but the end result is the same – we just don’t go and, frankly, I got over feeling guilty about it years ago.

Every summer, however, we rent an RV, spend a week preparing our camping gear, the food, the clothes and then making the four-hour trek to a state campground on the Oregon Coast for a family reunion of a different flavor. This is a reunion of more than eighty families who have adopted children through Holt International Children’s Services. We come together as separate families with a common bond – the love of our children and the miracle that they are with us. We come together as separate families, but we all claim the same “grandparents”, Harry and Bertha Holt, who began the mission that, decades later, brought our children to us.

We camp in two connecting “loops” within the park, electrical sites on the inside of the loop, tent sites on the outside. Children ride around the loop on bikes, blades, and scooters – anything with wheels. Parents, coffee cups in hand or dogs in tow, wander around the loop, stopping often to greet, to talk, perhaps to meet a new child or a first-time family. “I’m going around the loop.” It’s rarely a direct trip.

People accidentally driving through our loop all have the same surprised, questioning look on their faces. This obviously isn’t a place where eighty individual families are camping, each staying nicely within the bounds of their campsite, careful not to look through the invisible boundary walls between sites. Instead, small groups of people stand talking in several places, teens are gathered at the intersection of the two loops, children are everywhere – not a typical loop. And then there’s the diversity. Not the diversity of back-at-home lifestyles that would not be apparent to these accidental visitors, but the diversity of color, the diversity of ethnicity. These children that bring us together come from all over the world. Added to the mostly “vanilla” variety of the occasional birth child, they are a rainbow of color. Some have handicaps that might seem daunting, but they run, they ride, they play hacky-sack, they climb sand dunes – handicaps do not define the person. The accidental visitors cannot possibly understand the depth of what they are driving through.

Then there are the activities. Beginning with the ethnic potluck, the week’s activities are as diverse as the families who sponsor them. Each day includes a schedule of arts & crafts, outings and activities; each coordinated by a different family. Some are specific to children of certain ages, some specifically for parents, some open to all. But each has a special flavor, a hint at the interests or background of the coordinating family – diversity at its best.

This family reunion is a special type, a special time. There’s a warmth and a camaraderie that defies explanation, but that brings us back, year after year, to share the joy of our families. It reminds us of all that is good in our world. What would our world be like if we could transfer this atmosphere to the larger screen? If we could all forgot the invisible boundaries? If we all focused on what we have in common rather than what makes us different? At this reunion, we come together as separate families, but within hours we are a community.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Too Old?

Last night my husband and I attended “Last Thursday” in Portland’s Alberta Arts Neighborhood. We had a wonderful time, though we hadn’t even known that the event existed until a week ago. At that time, my future daughter-in-law asked if my husband and I were going to our nieces gallery show on Last Thursday. I didn’t know anything about the show and was surprised that our niece hadn’t invited us to it. When we asked her about it at dinner a couple of nights later, she turned a lovely shade of pink and said she hadn’t invited us because (and here she stumbled and stammered a bit)…because, well, let’s see….the people who would be there would be sort of like hippies….it would be an eclectic type of crowd…. At this point my husband and I both jumped in, smiling, with, “You mean we’re too old!” Our niece backpedaled a bit more, trying to assure us that she didn’t think us too old, so we wondered if perhaps she thought us too stuffy. The end result was that she said that she would, of course, love to have us attend her gallery showing and we let her know that in this teasing family, she will never live down not inviting us because she thought we were too old or too stuffy.

So, we went out to dinner in the neighborhood at an absolutely wonderful restaurant. We were joined by our not-too-old and not-too-stuffy oldest son, his fiancé and our nephew. We had a lovely Thai dinner sitting outside on a charming patio with great music blasting from the house next door. After dinner we walked down the street to our niece’s gallery showing. We enjoyed seeing her art as well as the other art on display. My husband and I then wandered down the street, looking at some of the art, browsing a couple of galleries, picking up a wonderful maple bar for our dessert at the local bakery. It’s true that the majority of the people attending the event were young and many could perhaps be described as hippies, but my husband and I noted that we weren’t the oldest people in the crowd; we were, however, amongst the best dressed. We had a great time! We wondered, though, at being categorized as not being the right fit for this event. We all have expectations about people based on what we see of them. I think I’ve written before about living with my 85 year-old grandma when I was a teenager and being surprised when she told me that she still had the heart of a young girl. Now, here I am, being classed as too old and I just don’t feel that way. This isn’t meant as any offense to our niece; we love her dearly! But I’m intrigued at the ways we label people, perhaps even how we label ourselves. Do we restrict ourselves and others by how we see them? Because of this experience I’m feeling a little more open-minded than usual. Bring on the eclectic!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Is Anyone Out There?

Is anyone out there? Does anyone read my blog? I know there are people who do and I truly appreciate anyone who takes the time to read what I’ve written and, especially, anyone who lets me know, either through the “comments” feature or by direct e-mail, that something I’ve written has touched them in some way. I’ve been asked why I write this blog and, while I love to know that there are people who read it, I really write it for myself. During the past six months as I’ve explored what it means to turn 50, to age in our society, I’ve found that the act of writing this blog has been my own personal insight into living in the moment. We’re all admonished by the popular self-help gurus to “live in the moment” and to “be aware of our daily lives”. While I’ve heard these messages for years, I’ve also lived a busy, hectic life that often makes it difficult to live anywhere other than on my calendar’s To-Do list. Writing this blog has helped me to look at what is happening each day, to think about how the people and events around me are affecting my life. Writing this blog has truly helped me to think about today, what I’m doing with my day and how I feel about what is happening around me. Sure, I still have dreams for tomorrow; dreams that have also become more cemented with the process of writing, but first and foremost I want to be aware of where I am today.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Campout Information Packet

A week from tomorrow our family leaves for a one-week camping trip with approximately 80 other adoptive families. We’ve been going on this trip since 1995, missing only one year – an omission my children will never let me forget. Last weekend the anticipated campout information packet arrived in the mail. When I was little, I’d watch for the Sears Roebuck catalog to arrive. I would spend hours perusing those catalogs, mentally redecorating my room with the items from the home section, picking out new outfits and new shoes. The reality was that our limited funds meant that very little was ever ordered from the catalog, but the dreaming was wonderful nevertheless. My children take the campout information packet and look through it in the same way. Where will we be camped? Who will be our neighbors? What is the schedule of events? Which events do I want to make sure not to miss? Yesterday, we went out to do errands and I told my kids to bring along something to keep them busy. What did they bring? The campout information packet. They went through the list of family names, remembering which children went with which family. They asked about the new names on the list. Asking if I know these people and what ages are their children. The difference between my catalog perusing and their campout information packet scanning is that when I looked at the catalog I was dreaming. I was dreaming of the red velvet bedroom drapes that I would never have. I was dreaming of the wardrobe full of beautiful dresses that would never be mine. My children are reminiscing about past campouts, but they, too, are dreaming. They are dreaming of the friendships they’ll renew and the new friends to be made. They are dreaming of the fun they’ll have in an environment that is different from home, but that is familiar from past trips. The difference is that a week from tomorrow, their dreams will come true – mine took slightly longer.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Olympic Dreams -- Life Dreams

The middle daughter of our very dear friends just finished competing in the Olympic swimming trials. After a tough freshman season complete with an injury, she ended up qualifying for five events in the trials. Over the course of the past week she made it past the preliminaries to the semi-finals twice and to the finals once. She won’t be going to Beijing, but I’m still so impressed with all she has accomplished. She has earned many awards throughout her swimming career but, obviously, The Olympics is the granddaddy that athletes shoot for. Even though our friend won’t be traveling with The Olympic team this summer, I’m still amazed by her and each and every athlete that makes it to the trials; amazed to realize just how hard they have worked, just how much they have accomplished. These athletes are young and at the top of their game, but I think their example is applicable to all of us – what can we accomplish if we put it all out there, if we actually give our dreams a chance? We may not win the big prize, but it has to be so much better to go through our lives knowing that we’ve tried and given all we have rather than to hope and dream without ever taking action. This 50-year-old woman is going to be taking a lesson from her not-quite 20-year-old friend.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

New York Pilgrimage

My husband has been a fan of the New York Yankees since 1966 when he was eight-years-old. When we started dating in 1976 I realized very quickly that I needed to learn about baseball and that The Yankees needed to become my team. We have six children, but only one of them, our oldest son, shares our love of baseball and The Yankees. My husband shared this love with his dad and now he shares it with our son.

The Yankees have been in Yankee Stadium since 1923. Yankee Stadium is known as The House That Ruth (Babe Ruth) Built. In 1993, the first time we traveled to Yankee Stadium, we met my father-in-law in New York and shared the experience with him. This year, 2008, is the last year for the original Yankee Stadium as a newer, more modern stadium is built next door. Earlier this year, given our love of baseball, the Yankees and Yankee Stadium, we joked about the need to make a pilgrimage to New York sometime during this season to say good-bye to the original Yankee Stadium before it is gone forever. This past weekend, we made that pilgrimage. My father-in-law passed away a few years ago, but this weekend we took along our oldest son and his fiancé (a new baseball recruit). We arrived in New York just before midnight Thursday, ran in Central Park for the three mornings we were in town, saw a Broadway play, walked miles around New York and went to two games in Yankee Stadium. It was a fun-packed, memorable two-and-a-half days.

The first game we saw this weekend was on 4th of July. My husband and I both had tears in our eyes as we listened to the singing of God Bless America – The Yankees vs. The Red Sox and all that means, 4th of July and all that means, God Bless America and all that means, sharing this experience with our son and future daughter-in-law and all that it means – it was almost too much emotionally.

There are times we think, or maybe even talk, about doing something special. Time and financial constraints sometimes make it impossible to follow through with these ideas, but when it is possible we should definitely take the time to plan, to make the jump into the wild and crazy idea, to do something that is really special; something that will be, without a doubt, a memory made. While wandering around the concourse at Yankee Stadium I saw a poster that said, “This Stadium won’t last forever, but your memories will.” We made memories this weekend; it may have been a silly, expensive idea, but sometimes it’s worthwhile to take a serious look at our silly ideas and follow through with them. The silly idea may not last forever, but the memory of making it happen will.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Lifelong Goals

Real Simple magazine posed the question: What are your top three lifelong goals? This is a fairly simple question when first read, but it takes on depth as you think about it. Two nights ago, sitting on the front porch enjoying the early evening warmth and sun, my husband, our 19-year-old pseudo-son and I discussed the question. It was immediately interesting to note that, at 50, my husband and I have goals that go beyond the routine; they are more in line with Maslow’s level of self-actualization. Our 19-year-old friend, however, had goals that were related to the more primitive needs of employment, confidence and resources. Our top goals, even lifelong goals, can and should change as we complete our education, advance in careers, tuck experiences under our belts. What was a dreamlike goal in our 20’s or 30’s might move up to a top position as other, more crucial, lifelong goals are achieved. Perhaps one of the benefits of getting older is that we have, hopefully, achieved the lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy and can begin to focus more on that which will truly enhance our lives; goals that we want to accomplish “just because”, not because they will pay our bills and put food on our tables.

As we discussed the question, we also wondered about whether these types of lifelong goals are the same as what you’d want to do if, tomorrow, the doctor gave you six months to live (as in The Bucket List). If I had only six months to live, I think the goals I would want to accomplish, would probably not reflect my top three lifelong goals. I’ve struggled with that conflict. If my lifelong goals are different from what I would do with only six months to live, does that mean that the lifelong goals really aren’t that important? Supposedly the activities I would want to partake in for the next six months would be those that are truly most important to me so shouldn’t those activities be my top lifelong goals? It’s a conundrum. I do know that my number one lifelong goal is to write and publish a book and, if I were given just six months to live, I would want to write, write, write – to my children, to my friends. The two goals aren’t exactly the same, but they’re close enough that, for now, I’ll just keep writing.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Mickey Mouse Day

I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again: It’s all about attitude! With school out last week, an out-of-town trip over the weekend and the beginning of summer camp schedules starting this week, I’m feeling a bit over-extended. I wake up at night worrying about how I’ll manage to fit in everything that must be done, which then leaves me feeling tired and lethargic during the day so that I don’t get as much done – it’s a vicious cycle. This morning, as I prepared for the day, I decided I needed to break this cycle, so I put on Mickey Mouse jewelry. I know, that sounds pretty hokey, but sometimes hokey is the push I need to get myself moving. I’d like to think that wearing a Mickey Mouse watch, necklace, earrings and bracelet will imbue me with some of that famous Disney Magic. I have to admit, though, I’m not feeling it yet. Maybe I need to take more drastic measures. If you see a woman driving around today wearing Mickey Mouse ears, wave to her because it might be me.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Fly!

Last week I flew to Denver to meet my husband for a business function and then we went on to Omaha to attend a Men’s College World Series game. As I sat on the plane in Portland waiting to take-off, I marveled that I should find myself sitting on an airplane, by myself, calm and anticipating a fun weekend when only a few years ago the idea of flying anywhere left me with shaky knees and runny bowels. Sometime in the last eleven years, when I flew to Korea to pick up a child, I have not only come to grips with the idea of flying, but I have come to enjoy it – or at least I enjoy the travel experiences enough that I no longer worry about how I get there. I think my change of attitude is probably because I’ve been able to overcome my irrational fears with positive repetition, i.e. repeatedly flying without crashing. If that’s the case, I want to think about other fears and imagined obstacles and figure out how I can overcome them with positive repetitions – I want to fly in all areas of my life.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mary's Mountain

During my 50th birthday luncheon Mary, a friend and family member who recently retired, told me of her plans to climb Mt. Shasta with her son the following weekend. I was so impressed that she was going to take on such a big challenge. The next weekend, I wondered off and on how the climb was going, if they were safe, if they’d reached the summit. Mary hikes, but she isn’t normally a mountain climber, so this was truly a big event for her. This was her son’s first attempt at being the guide and timing and conditioning were misjudged and the weather wasn’t as good as they’d hoped, so they didn’t make the summit, but they did go a long way up the mountain, achieving a secondary goal they’d set. I have no burning desire to climb a mountain anytime soon, but I am so impressed that Mary set a goal, worked toward it, adjusted the goal and achieved at the adjusted level without being completely disappointed. She says now that she wishes she’d trained more and had been able to go faster, but what I really love is that she’s now looking to next year and figuring out what she needs to do to make the next climb go even better. Way to go Mary!

Check out Mary’s son’s thoughts on the climb and some great photos by clicking here.

Monday, June 16, 2008

I Love My (blank) Life

Redbook magazine does this thing where they ask people to fill in the blank in the sentence, I love my _______ life. When I think of that sentence lately, my immediate response is: I love my over-extended life. However, when my life feels over-extended, I’m not sure that I actually love it. My other choices would be: I love my entire life. I love my full and wonderful life. I love my charmed life. When I feel over-extended, as I have for several months, I sometimes wonder why I would even consider loving a life filled with this type of crazy schedule. Yesterday, sitting at a Father’s Day Mariners baseball game with my husband and all six of our children plus our extra one and our future daughter-in-law, I realized that, while over-extended is a bit too much, for the most part, all of those descriptions are really one and the same. It felt wonderful to be able to look down a row of seats and see all of these great kids and young people and to realize that you can’t have that kind of commitment and caring without having a full and wonderful life, without sometimes being over-extended. I love my life!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Samantha Turns 50!

Last week my husband and I went to see the new Sex and the City movie. I won’t give away anything about the movie, except to say I enjoyed it while my husband would have preferred a root canal, but towards the end of the movie, the girls are out for dinner and the waiter walks up behind Samantha with a little birthday cake with “5-0” candles on top. The sight of that cake took my breath away and I made a little, audible, “Oh!” Having joyously celebrated my own fiftieth birthday less than a week earlier, I was taken aback by the thought of Samantha being fifty. For the last week I’ve been trying to figure out why this knowledge struck me so powerfully. Is it the thought of someone I thought of as younger actually being a peer? Is it that Samantha has a body I can only imagine in my dreams? Is it the lifestyle she leads that doesn’t quite fit with society’s image of a fifty-year-old? It’s a funny contrast that, at the same time I was shocked to learn that Samantha is fifty, I also felt happy for her and for the positive transition that I know this birthday can be. I still don’t know why I felt such immediate surprise, but I like the idea that this felt like further evidence that I’m now part of a pretty cool club – the “Wonderful Women over Fifty” club!

P.S. Yes, I know that Samantha is only a fictional character -- I haven't lost my mind completely.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

On A Wave!

Years ago we saw the movie, The Four Seasons starring Alan Alda. I don’t remember much about the movie, but I’ve always remembered one particular scene: Alan Alda and some other men are walking through a forest and Alan Alda’s character starts to talk about his theory of marriage. Basically, he states that the feelings within a marriage are like a wave, sometime the wave is crashing against the shore and the emotions are intense, other times the wave ebbs, the water is quiet and we don’t feel so worked up. Throughout the years of our marriage, I remember occasionally referring to “being on a wave” or “the wave is ebbing right now” and feeling that these highs and lows were okay and a natural part of the marital path. It gave me comfort to know that a low time in my emotions wasn’t the end of the relationship; that I could acknowledge the feeling and look toward the day when the wave would once again come crashing to the shore. And so the first 25+ years of our marriage went by with a flow of intense feelings and more emotionally quiet times. But somewhere within the last few years, we’ve noticed that we seem to be on a wave all of the time! There was something about preparing for our big 30th anniversary celebration last year that helped both of us acknowledge and appreciate the relationship we’ve developed, and now, a year later, the high of the 30th anniversary celebration has not waned. Perhaps we’ve gotten through the shallow water and now we’re riding the long wave.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

50 for 50

My 50th birthday was last Saturday and to help me celebrate fifty friends and family members joined me for a Ladies Luncheon at a local restaurant. Prior to the luncheon, I asked each of the women to think about how they would finish the sentence, If I knew then what I know now, I would/would not have __________. At the luncheon everyone received a small piece of paper on which to write their sentence and I read a few random entries after lunch. Eventually I plan to type them all up and send them out to those who attended. Last night I finally had time to read through all of the submissions and what I found was an amazing wealth of attitudes and advice. Here is a sampling of the entries:

· I would not have been so stubborn. –age 14
· I would not have been so cautious. –age 50
· I would not have been so mean to my mom. I love her. –age 36
· I would not have done things so late at the last minute. –age 9
· I would have enjoyed each day without any regrets from the past or worries about the future. –age 45
· I would not have lost touch with some very close friends. I would love to be sharing their lives. –age 42
· I would have worked harder and studied in school more. Taking time off to figure out what I would be passionate about. –age 49
· I would have started my own business 25 years ago instead of working for dorks. –“ageless”
· I would have cherished my family more deeply and told my mom that I loved her everyday. –age 49
· I would have been less stressed out over unexpected changes and events and more open to the adventure of not knowing exactly what comes next in my life. –age 45
· I would have appreciated my “young” body that was fine but that I felt wasn’t. –age 41
· And my personal favorite: I wouldn’t change a thing. My mistakes and achievements have been the building blocks of who I am – I just can’t imagine removing any of those building blocks because that would change the magnificent person I am because of them. –age 43

When I first came up with this exercise, I hoped that it would show the girls and young women attending that there is so much they can do. While I think the words can definitely be addressed to those in the 30-and-under category, I also think they’re applicable to all of us today. We can all use a reminder to enjoy each day, to stay in touch with friends, to tell those important to us that we love them, to appreciate who and what we are now rather than waiting another ten years to look back with appreciation. As one person wrote: Be happy. Be present. Live in the now!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

50 and Feeling Great!

My goal last fall was to be as fit as ever by my 50th birthday. That didn’t happen, but there are so many other aspects about my life that are better than ever. Internally, I am happier, more satisfied with myself and calmer than I was in my younger days. My relationships are more precious – my husband whose eyes still twinkle when he looks at me, my teenage daughter who I feared was pulling away but who surprised me with a declaration of how much she cares, the young man who sort of lives with us who gave me a birthday card that I treasure, my family who gathers around with witty conversation and laughter, my friends who will join me today to celebrate my birthday – all are relationships that are richer and more satisfying than I could have imagined twenty or thirty years ago. My work as a volunteer in the adoption community is more personally satisfying than my professional career ever was, even though I also enjoyed that challenge at the time. My commitment to exercise and health is strong and helps me start each day feeling good physically. Yes, it’s true that I didn’t reach my goal of being as fit as ever, but I woke up early this morning with an immediate awareness that I am now 50 – and I smiled!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Every Queen Needs Her Crown

Every Queen needs her crown. Those were the words written in a birthday card I received earlier this week along with a silver crown with the number 50 right in the middle. The friend that sent it addressed the package to “Her Royal Highness, Queen of Debbieland.” (For an explanation of this, see my February 12th blog, Six Word Memoirs.) Upon opening the package and putting on the crown, I stated to my kids that I would wear the crown all week in anticipation of my birthday that is this weekend. Stunned and worried, my eleven-year-old son said, “You aren’t going to pick us up at school this week; are you?” Obviously, he felt he’d be a bit embarrassed by having his mom show up at school wearing a crown, yet two days later when I came downstairs in the morning without the crown, he immediately asked where it was and went to my room to get it for me.

As promised, I’ve worn the crown all week – at home, to the grocery store, bank and post office, out to dinner and to see the new Indiana Jones movie last night. It’s been fun to watch people’s reactions. Most people don’t say a thing (my oldest son says that’s because they don’t want to engage in a conversation with a crazy lady), but many do and those that do say something seem to think it’s fun that I’m proudly wearing my crown and proclaiming my upcoming birthday. My dry cleaner even asked if she could borrow the crown later this year when she turns 50. Would I have done this at 20 or 30? I doubt it. At those ages I was still too worried about what other people might think and I didn’t have enough self-confidence to pull off being “different”. The crown is perhaps along the same vein as the “old” woman in the poem who proclaims that she will wear purple, but that’s okay. I’m happy to be at a stage in my life when I can wear a crown, feel like a queen and not feel foolish about it.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Soul Mates

The topic of soul mates came up this past weekend when my husband made a comment about us being soul mates and our 25-year-old niece asked if we really believed in one true soul mate. At the time, I said that I wasn’t sure about the one true soul mate idea, but that I do believe that there are people with whom we connect more closely and that a marriage based on that type of connection is a wonderful thing. Since then I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about soul mates. What does the term mean? Is there really one person amongst all those in the world that is best suited for another specific person? Do we put too much emphasis on the idea of finding the “right one”? I have a lot of questions, but not necessarily a lot of answers. What I do know is that I cannot imagine that there is anyone else who would fit with me as well as my husband does. As he said, “I haven’t met anyone that would,” and neither have I.

While getting ready this morning, I asked my husband if he thinks we would have connected in the same way if we’d met later in our lives or is part of our connection that we’ve grown-up together. He laughed and said that he could imagine us meeting at a Ducks’ football game. He said he’d be the person behind me saying, “Lady, will you please sit down! And quit that awful screaming thing you’re doing.” I like to think that my enthusiasm at football games is one of my traits that my husband somewhat adores about me; however, if he didn’t already love me, perhaps he’d find that trait (and many others, I’m sure) annoying rather than adorable. Then again, maybe the reason we’re soul mates is because we find even those little annoying traits to be somewhat adorable.

I read a magazine article recently that made the point: a good marriage is one where both partners feel they’ve gotten a good deal. My husband and I will celebrate our 31st anniversary next week and, one true soul mate or not, I got a great deal and I try to do all I can to make sure my husband feels the same way.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Yesterday Regrets, Today Gratitude

The one benefit to thinking about regrets is that you then have the opportunity to put them in their place, in the past, and look, with gratitude, at who and what you are today. Regrets give off negative energy, but gratitude fills me up with positive energy.

As I look at gratitude, I see two different types. One type is the more typical feeling of gratitude for what we have in our lives. For instance, I am grateful for parents who loved me and each other, who gave me opportunities to grow, to be independent and to gain confidence. I am grateful for the intelligence they passed on to me biologically and the work ethic to go with it that they passed on by their example. I was fortunate to marry my best friend at a relatively young age and I am grateful that we, as a couple, have been able to grow our relationship as we’ve grown-up together.

The other type of blessing for which I feel grateful is not for a specific person or event, but for a general attitude or outlook. I believe that much of what is good about my life is because of a basic positive outlook. Was I born with it? Did I learn it? I don’t know; however, I suspect that it’s at least a little of both. I remember having a fairly sunny disposition as a child, but I also know that I worked at learning how to stay positive, how to look at situations as opportunities, not problems. That outlook is now very much a part of who I am and maintaining it usually doesn’t feel like work. I am so very grateful that I have, at my core, a positive outlook.

My gratitude list could go on and on – it’s much longer, and a lot more fun, than my list of regrets. Sure, we’re all stuck with some regrets that we cannot deny or erase, but we can offset those regrets with an abundance of gratitude. When I think of the word regret, I think of slogging down into a muddy pit – it feels bad and it’s hard to make any progress. When I think of gratitude, I think of an upward spiraling air current filled with pixie dust – it looks and feels beautiful and I think I might just be able to fly on it.

I am grateful that I like to fly!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Regrets

With my 50th birthday quickly approaching, I can’t help but look back and analyze where I’ve been so far and part of that analysis must be a look at regrets. While I don’t have many regrets, I do have a few and the one that comes most quickly to my mind is a situation when I was in high school and I lied to my dad. No physical harm came from the lie and I don’t think he ever knew that I had lied, but, in a roundabout way, the lie hurt his feelings and that I truly regret. My kids read this blog so I’m not going to go into the specifics of the lie, but I will say that it was born out of self-indulgence and I learned then that a lie, even one that gets me what I want, simply isn’t worth the possible emotional harm it can cause.

That lie is really my only regret that involves another person. My other, few, regrets revolve around actions I did or did not take for myself. For instance, I regret that I didn’t push myself to write earlier, though I can rationalize that with the idea that I wasn’t yet ready for the exercise. That’s an okay rationalization with probably some truth to it, but I fear that it’s probably more accurate to say that I was too lazy (not normally a quality I associate with myself) to do the work. I also regret that I’ve spent so much time and energy dealing with the weight issue. I don’t regret the result, because I’ve been able to keep myself at a fairly healthy weight against the odds of genetics and environment, but I just wish I could have gotten a better handle on the issue early-on; just think of what else I might have had the energy for!

While this isn’t a complete list of my regrets, it’s all I care to go into. Thinking about regrets is pretty much a negative exercise and I’m not interested in expending much in the way of negative energy. I know there are people who have a long list of regrets and I feel fortunate that my list, even if it were complete, is short, but the good thing about a regret is that it’s an indication of growth: we did or did not do something and we’re now able to see that truth, allowing us to move forward and become a better person, acting in ways that, hopefully, spur gratitude, not regret.