Friday, December 25, 2015

The Best Gift Of Christmas

Last night I received exactly what I wanted for Christmas:  all my kids (including their spouses/significant others and grandkids) at home.  It has always been important to me to spend Christmas with my family.  The first year my husband and I were married, his parents took us and his siblings on a train trip to visit his grandparents and extended family in North Dakota.  That was the first (and last) Christmas I spent away from my parents during their lifetimes.  Since having a family of our own, we have all always been together with the exception of the year our oldest son moved to Texas.  I didn’t like being in North Dakota for Christmas and I didn’t like having our son in Texas for Christmas (even though he eventually came home with an awesome bride).

This year, our oldest daughter and her husband have spent the year teaching English in South Korea.  Their contract runs through the end of the year, so we were warned they probably would not be home for Christmas.  However, partway through the year, they realized they could save enough vacation days to actually make it home on Christmas Eve.  My husband and I were the only ones who knew their plans, so it was a lovely surprise for all the others when they walked in the room during our Family Christmas Program last night.

Our kids are growing up, getting married, and starting their own families and I know the time will come when it won’t be possible for us all to be together Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Even though I have always treasured our times together, as I get older the desire for family time and the enjoyment I take from it continues to increase.  I looked around the room last night, listening to the banter and laughter, and felt awe at what we have created.  Warm and fuzzy doesn’t even begin to describe my joy.  So, even though in my heart I know this will not last forever, for now, for today, I will relish this joy and enjoy the best gift of Christmas.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Senior Discounts and Putting on Your Pants

I am not one to bow down to aging.  While I plan to age gracefully, I also plan to keep aging issues at bay for as long as possible.  I recently listened to the book, Goddesses Never Age by Christiane Northrup.  It is, in my opinion, a life-changing book, but there are a few ideas I disagree with.  One is not acknowledging aging by declining “senior discounts”.  I’m a thrifty person and I take great pleasure in asking for my senior discounts whenever one is available.  Besides, I usually receive a comment about not looking old enough to be a “senior”.  That won’t be the case forever, so I might as well reap the compliments while I can.  It’s like when you were 28 and were carded when ordering a glass of wine.  At first there’s a feeling of irritation about having to pull out your wallet, but then you realize, eventually they’re not going to card you at all.

As I think about aging and what I accept (my senior discount) and what I don’t (societal expectations of someone my age), one area I will acquiesce to is the need to sit down while putting on pants. All my life I’ve stood up while putting on my pants, but recently I’ve had a couple of times when my foot has gotten stuck in the pants and I’ve found myself hopping all over the floor to regain my balance and get my foot out.  That doesn’t sound like such a big thing, but getting one’s foot stuck in the pants while putting them on in a standing position is actually a fairly common cause of in-home injuries.  In 2001 the BBC reported nearly 6,000 people in Britain were hurt after tripping over their trousers.  Yes, seriously, someone actually took a count.  I know a woman who fell down when her foot got stuck in her pants.  She broke her leg, had two surgeries, and months of rehabilitation and physical therapy – all because she didn’t sit down while putting on her pants.

So, be it ever so slight, I will bow down to this potential hazard of aging and I will sit while putting on my pants.  I’m still going to run races, do burpees (even though they’re not pretty), and do whatever else I can to feel and stay young, but I will sit down to put on my pants.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Picture of My Life

One of my cousins posted a picture on Facebook of her seemingly messy family room.  She then went on to describe away the “mess” – books out because four of her children stayed up an hour late to read to her the night before, a hot pack that eases her daughter’s sore shoulder which is not a torn ligament so she will be able to continue competing as a swimmer, random drawings by little girls, etc.  She ended the Facebook post by asking, “What does the picture of your life look like?”

Meeko camouflaged on the chair
and Fen sprawled out on the floor.
My immediate response was mine would include four dogs, but I think the question calls for more thought than that.  Surely the picture of my life would be neat and tidy; I am an organizational freak, after all.  There are times, of course, when clutter happens, but that’s something I’ve always fought against. – a place for everything and everything in its place.  My picture would look inviting and comfortable: furnishings chosen and arranged to indicate they’re to be used, not just viewed; toys, blankets, and high chair all within easy reach; multiple dog beds; stacks of books and magazines; my laptop always nearby, an end table for every seat – what good is a place to sit if there’s not a place to set your coffee?

My picture pretty much describes who I am: organized, open, inviting with a penchant for children and dogs.  Oh, and the furniture is red, of course.

What does the picture of your life look like?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

There's Stuff and then there's Stuff

We’ve spent the past several months moving and moving requires one to go through all the “stuff”.  Stuff accumulated throughout a lifetime, stuff passed down from previous generations, stuff used for raising a family.  A lot of stuff is just that – stuff.  D├ęcor items that fit the whim or the period, dishes and appliances that seemed like a good idea at the time, pictures and pictures and pictures (With the use of phone cameras will today’s young people even have boxes of pictures?  Not now, that’s another blog topic).  So, there’s stuff, the stuff that goes in garage sales or gets donated to a charity, but then there’s also a different kind of stuff:  stuff that reflects a life, stuff that recalls a memory.

When my dad died almost 30 years ago, I asked my mom for a few special things:  his leatherworking tools, his black and yellow plaid jacket, and his wool Alaska-style sweater.  I hung the jacket and sweater in my closet and for years I found some comfort seeing them there.  Then the day came when I realized they were not my dad, they would not bring him back, and I donated them to a local charity.  The leatherworking tools are still in a cupboard in my garage and will someday be used – hopefully with his hand guiding mine.  The point is, the stuff wasn’t him.  My memories did not require the stuff.

As we’ve been sorting through our house, I’ve been pretty brutal about segregating the stuff we no longer want or need from the stuff we want to keep with us.  We have a lot of kids’ stuff and I’ve been setting that aside to give to each of them.  Items that, I believe, should mean something to them or to their future generations.  There’s a push in our society to live simply and some of my kids embrace the idea.  That’s great; I try to live somewhat simply myself (though you wouldn’t know it if you saw all my “stuff”).  As I’ve given over some of the stuff I think is meaningful, there have been some comments about not needing that, not wanting that.  I’ve felt a little saddened that some of the things I’ve saved that I thought were meaningful aren’t drawing the same level of emotional attachment from my children.  I have been, frankly, a little offended.  Then I thought back to my dad’s jacket and sweater and my eventual realization that they did not replace my dad.  I guess the stuff I’ve saved (at least some of it) doesn’t necessarily have the same meaning for my kids (at least for some of them) and I guess that’s all right.  It’s not the stuff, it’s not the house, and it’s not memorabilia that really matters.  It’s the activities we share, the memories we make that create the legacy and tell the story.

Still, I am using a Sharpie to write origin information on the bottoms of some stuff.  Maybe it will be meaningful to my children once I’m gone or maybe it will just make for interesting postulations at the Goodwill store after they’ve donated it.

Friday, June 5, 2015

38 Years!

People let me tell you ‘bout my best friend,
He’s a warm-hearted person who’ll love me till the end.
–Harry Nilsson
Theme song, Courtship of Eddie’s Father

I woke up this morning with the realization I’ve been married for 38 years.  My first thought was, 38 years! How can that be?  Then I reflected back to that beautiful day 38 years ago, when the sky was blue and the sun was shining on the Long Beach Peninsula.  It was one of those rare days when the sky was so clear we could see the Olympic Mountains way off to the north.  I married my best friend that day.

We were both 19 years old.  We’d just completed our first year of college.  We had summer jobs lined up, but our bank account was close to a big fat zero.  We rented a one-bedroom apartment on the upper floor of an old house next to the railroad tracks.  He was a night owl; I am a lark.  We grew into adulthood together.

How do you go from being 19-year-old newlyweds to 57-year-old-still-on-our-honeymoon elders?  Here’s a quick list of my thoughts on how to grow a marriage:

  • Our first rule:  Don’t assume I can read your mind.  My husband posited this to me on Day #1 and we developed our communication style with that in mind.
  • Never bad-mouth your spouse.  This seems to have become a societal norm propagated by sitcoms and reality TV.  Don’t do it – period.
  • Don’t keep score.  Do what you can to help and bolster your spouse without worrying about doing more than your fair share.  If both partners live with this in mind, the selfless giving of each will blossom into a strong union.
  • Keep romance alive.  I know; life gets in the way.  Careers and children consume time and drain energy, but remember you’re in this for the long haul.  Just as regular exercise keeps the body in tune, regular romance (date nights, kind words, love notes) keeps a marriage alive.
Not a big list and there are undoubtedly many more that could be added, but these are the big ones.  We’ve followed these guidelines, initially out of dumb luck and later with intention, and they’ve served us well.  Oh, and one more key item:  marry your best friend.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Which World?

Over the past few years I’ve realized an urgency within myself.  A realization I have a limited time to do what I want to do – and there’s so much I want to do.  As I’ve been pondering goals for the coming year, I find so many ideas popping into my consciousness always accompanied by so little available time.  How does one get anything done when there are so many choices and so little time?  I become stymied.

I’ve been reading a book (Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor) that calls to me.  It, like so many other books, has been sitting in my “to read” pile(s) for I don’t know how long.  When we were leaving the house the day after Christmas, I grabbed it and stuffed it in my bag.  When I began reading, I felt the hand of fate was involved as page after page left me feeling as if this book was written for me.  While many ideas and passages have resonated with me, two related lines have directly addressed my concerns about how to do all I want to do.  One is a line from the poem Sweet Darkness by David Whyte:

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

The other is an observation by Sue Monk Kidd:

Turning fifty involved making a severe peace with the fact
that I cannot give birth to every egg in my ovaries
or every potential in my soul.

The David Whyte line show up early in the book and I’ve been pondering it for a few days; the Sue Monk Kidd line I just read this morning and, suddenly, I realized why I’ve been struggling with goals and resolutions:  I have not acknowledged I cannot do it all and I cannot or have not figured out that dream which is dearest to my heart and should be at the forefront of any goals made for the coming year, the next five years, the remainder of my life.

This realization isn’t an answer, but it does open a door leading, I hope, to a path of self-discovery.  I have always felt secure in my person and I thought I left the period of self-discovery behind years ago along with adolescent pangs and twenty-something explorations.  Yet, here I am at fifty-six feeling as if, once again, I need to explore, plan and dream.  I’m excited, but my brain already feels the strain of expansion.  I always stretch my body after exercising; now I also need to figure out how to stretch my self-knowledge.  I need to figure out to which world I belong.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Reflections, Omens, and Resolutions

It’s January 5th and I’m floundering. I haven’t made any resolutions for the New Year; I haven’t even had, or perhaps taken, the time to reflect on the past year.

I’m not a New Year’s Resolution fanatic, but I’ve always used the season to look back, reconsider, and then look forward. Some years, my husband and I have even taken a short sabbatical to formalize our review and planning. This year I did none of that in advance of the changing of the calendar and, except for a few short conversations brought on by my increasing frustration over my feelings of purposelessness, I haven’t come up with much that’s definitive in the last five days. As I’ve rolled around in my mind thoughts about goals, dreams, and needs, I’ve realized one of the reasons I’ve struggled with the idea of resolutions this year is I’ve achieved (or am traveling the path toward) two of my resolution regulars:  lose weight and become more fit. These have been at the top of my list of resolutions for as long as I can remember. This past year, I made progress on both and I have a plan for continuation. Check those off my list (or at least relegate them to the “in process” list).

What, then, should be on my true, active list of New Year’s Resolutions for 2015?  I asked myself that question out loud yesterday as I walked the dogs. I thought having a verbal conversation with myself would spark ideas, prioritize dreams, perhaps even conjure miracles. Walking through the trees next to the Deschutes River, I said out loud, “So, what do I want out of this new year?” The path, covered in snow and ice, felt a bit treacherous so I walked carefully, watching ahead for every step in an attempt to stay upright. As I asked my question, I looked up momentarily and there above the river, flying straight toward me, was a bald eagle. I have this spiritual thing about bald eagles (and Mt. Hood and saguaro cacti) and I’ve only seen one near this part of the river once before, so seeing one then, as I asked myself this introspective question, filled me with awe, delight, and hope.

Have I made my list of resolutions for the coming year? Not really, not formally; however, I am sitting with my coffee and writing this morning…