Crash and Climb

We all have a vision of how our life will be, who will be a part of our journey, our plans and dreams for the future.  Sometimes that plan goes untested.  Sometimes it has twists and turns, and those can lead to the ultimate crash.

When you crash you have two options — Crash and Burn or Crash and Climb.  If you crash and burn you have allowed circumstances to take control of your life.  Instead you need to crash and climb out of the rubble, rebuilding your life.  Remap your life, make new plans and dreams.  Great things can happen that would never have occurred before you hit that wall.comfort-zone-adventure-out-of-it-to-grow

During the climb you will learn new skills, new relationships will form.  People will enter your life and impact you in ways you never before imagined.  They may influence the way you conduct business, handle finances, travel, view life, invade your mind or leave a mark on your heart.

I hit a brick wall fourteen months ago when my husband lost his battle with cancer.  I have spent the past year climbing out of the rubble and rebuilding my life.  A good friend has knowingly or unknowingly guided me in the process.  They have pushed me beyond my comfort zone, asked questions to inspire my thought process.  Not judgmental, but thought provoking inquiries such as “How do you plan to do that?”  and “What are your plans for the future?”

I am happy with my life.  It isn’t what I originally planned, but that is okay.  I have climbed out of the rubble and embraced the change.  I have done things I never would have done prior to the crash.  I have developed friendships I never would have made before I hit that wall.

No matter how good life was before the crash, embrace the change.  Value the friendships.  Enjoy the journey.  Believe that the best is yet to come.

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Shedding Skin and Learning to Walk

Two steps forward, one step back.  The circle of life can make you feel as if you are repeating a vicious cycle and the only hope is that you will somehow break free of the rotation and get on the straight path to success.

Such is my life this past week, which I have spent shedding skin and learning to walk.  Sound strange doesn’t it?  On the 15th of November I had surgery, an ankle fusion.  It was a three-month, non-weight bearing recovery and when you are living alone that is enough of a challenge, not to mention isolation.  On the 10th of February I was told that my ankle is completely healed, I can’t hurt it.  The hard cast was removed and I am free to walk on it.walk-fly-crawl

I was warned that the foot would be very sensitive.  They weren’t kidding!  Walking is agony.  I am so glad I still have the medical cane from the original accident six  years ago…the kind that has four feet and stands on its own.  The ankle doesn’t hurt – the foot itself does.

How bad is the foot pain?  I hate shoes, they are generally the first thing I shed when I walk in the door.  However my tennis shoes provide padding, much needed padding.  I wore shoes inside my house all last weekend, and I am wearing tennis shoes to work this week.  Once I take the shoes off inside my house I haven’t been able to walk on the cane; I have had to use my knee cart.  Things are improving though.  This morning I was able to walk, barely, with my cane when barefoot.  Tonight barefoot meant the knee cart.  I am hoping by the weekend I will finally be able to make it up the stairs and into my own bed.

At least I have stopped leaving a dead-skin trail, sort of.  I had never been in a hard cast before, and after three months the leg and foot were extremely dry.  I felt like a crocodile that was shedding it’s skin.  I discovered moisturizing shaving cream was the best thing for washing it; better than a moisturizing soap.  I now treasure my 24-hour body cream more than I ever have.  I’m still slightly flaky, but not as bad — no comments from the peanut gallery please.

So I am now shedding my skin and learning to walk.  I haven’t bounced back as quickly as I had hoped, but I am seeing progress every day.  This morning I was able to walk out the front door and onto the porch by myself, but needed my bag carried.  I hope that after a few more days I’ll be able to carry my own things in and out of the house and start driving myself to work.  That is if they don’t kill me in physical therapy, which begins on Thursday.

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The Dog Ate My Homework

It was spring, sunshine streaming down, making everything warm, drawing me outside.  The smell of freshly cut grass made me stop, pause and breath deeply, enjoying the clean scent.   Someone had their windows open, I could hear a baseball game blasting on a TV.

My left arm wrapped around my textbook, American Government.  The page of questions to answer, sheets of loose-leaf paper and a pencil lay on top of the book.  At least I could enjoy the beautiful weather while I did my homework.

I saunter through the grass, enjoying the feel of it on my bare feet.  I pick a spot under the weeping cherry tree, its branches full of pink blossoms flow back and forth in the breeze.

I let go of the book and supplies in my arm and they drop to the ground, disturbing the green grass around them.  Not having been mowed yet, the blades of grass bend and curve around the folder and paper.

I cross my ankles and plop down beside my homework, landing in the grass in a cross-legged “Indian style” position.

I flip open the book and begin answering the questions…Name and define the branches of government.  What are the fundamental goals of political parties?  What is the Due Process Clause?  On and on through twenty questions.

I throw my pencil on top of my answers, lay back on the grass and stare at the sky.  The warm sun envelopes me and I slowly relax, closing my eyes.    I feel the breeze grow stronger, I hear the papers in the grass beside me rustle.  I open my eyes and sit up just as a gust of wind whips by, grabbing the sheet with my homework and whipping it up into the breeze.

I spring to my feet but I’m not quick enough.  A dog goes running by and before I can move he catches my homework paper in his teeth as if it were a toy and continues running!  homework-in-dog-mouth

That little homework thief runs like mad, zig zagging down the road, through lawns, around bushes, dodging my attempts to catch him.  Panting, I stop to catch my breath and so does he, just far enough down the road that he can make another get-away when needed.   He watches me as if to say “ha-ha, beat you!”

I take a step toward the dog and he immediately takes off again.  Entering the park he continues at a full run until he gets to the edge of the river.  Dropping my homework at his feet, the dog stands guard over it, tongue hanging out as he pants.

The wind swirls around us, the paper flutters then lifts and before the homework thief could snatch it back I watch it fly out over the river, floating on the breeze.  The speed of the wind slows, the paper drops toward the water, then by luck it lands on a log floating down the river.

As long as the homework stays on the log and I can figure out a way to catch it and retrieve the paper it will be saved.   I walk along the water’s edge, keeping my eye on the log, watching it carry my homework farther and farther down river.

I hear a humm, and it is getting closer, louder.  Oh no!  This is not going to be good.  No, not that!   Hmmmmmmm, and sure enough, two jet skis come flying up river full throttle, zipping back and forth, creating a huge wake.  The water sloshes back and forth, rocking everything in its path.

The log that is transporting my homework rocks back and forth under the pressure of the rolling river water.  The log spins, twists, and my homework flies off the log and floats down into the cresting waves.  Soaked with water, it spins and twists in the beating waves, slowly sinking into the water until it is no longer visible.  Gone forever, wrecked and sunken at the bottom of the river.

So, that is why I don’t have my homework.  It was caught in the wind, stolen by a dog, carried to the river’s edge, blown out over the water and onto a log that got caught in the tossing and turning wake of jet skis and then sunk to its death in the bottom of the river.

The teacher looked at me in disbelief.  Eyebrows raised, lips pursed, and a grin slowly kept across her face.

“That story is so farfetched it has to be true.”

Now what do you think, did this really happen or do I have a very vivid imagination?


Homework: Bring Your Kitty To School.  'My dog ate my homework.'

Author’s Note:  I received a writer’s prompt in my email, which is something designed to get your creative juices flowing.  Usually they don’t inspire me because I am normally a non-fiction writer, but this one intrigued me and I thought “why not?”  After all, it is a well-known excuse and the challenge was to come up with an elaborate story as to what happened to your homework because the teacher didn’t believe the typical “my dog ate my homework” excuse.  A fun break from my normal type of post.

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Abusive Men are Bullies

I have never suffered from domestic violence, so I can not begin to imagine how those who have gone through it truly  feel.  However I have encountered numerous women and at least one man who have suffered domestic violence in the form of spousal abuse.  I can not understand what makes them stay for years in such a relationship, all I know is that they have a very hard time breaking free of the overbearing, controlling relationship they have been in far too long.domestic-violence-emotional

I recently had dealings with the abusive ex-husband of a client.  It gave me a bit of insight into the man’s conduct, and perhaps some of the reasoning behind their abusive conduct.  It was a bit of an enlightening experience.  I also had the opportunity to see him and his own mother together and realized he was controlled by his mother, and as a result he most likely needed to feel in control of something and satisfied that need by bullying women.

The second thing I noticed is an abusive man does not handle it well when they are unable to bully and intimidate a woman.   The abuser tried to do this with me on the phone 2-3 times and I refused to comply with his demands.  He was not our client.  He was not who I worked for.  So what happened?  When he couldn’t bully me on the phone he showed up at our office.

The first time he remained fairly calm.  He didn’t like my answers, he didn’t like that I would not comply with his demands, and he stormed out of the office.  The second time he was there with his mother, and after a verbal exchange during which I had the person I work for on the phone and relayed his instructions, they stormed out of the office.  But that wasn’t the end.

About thirty minutes later the abuser came back in alone.  By this time another man was in the building but was not visible to the front office.  The abuser was again trying to bully me, making demands, and didn’t like it when I refused to back down.  He was escalating.  He was getting louder and louder, and was puffing his body up to look bigger, more threatening.  I told him to leave.  He did not.

The abuser continued to escalate and the other man in the building heard it and came out to see what was going on.  The abuser was told that he needed to leave, but instead took a step toward my “rescuer.”  At that point he was told “You need to leave NOW.”   The abuser turned and exited the building.

domestic-violence-battered-woman-syndromAfter he left I looked at my rescuer and said “I was holding my own okay” and he agreed that I was, but didn’t like the fact that the man was standing in the lobby yelling at me.  He also felt threatened by the abuser’s body language, and wasn’t sure whether it would escalate into something more.

So what did I learn?  That the abuser is nothing more than a bully.  He didn’t like the fact that I was unwilling to cower and do what he demanded.  He was trying to scare me.  I refused to crumble and he didn’t know how to handle that.  The second thing is he is a bully and a coward.  He tries to control by instilling fear, and when he is unable to intimidate he doesn’t know what to do.  When he took a step toward another man and that person didn’t back away, he realized he had no control and and things were not going to be in his favor so he turned and left.

Since that day I have been jumbling around in my brain the fact that women live with people like that on a daily basis, for years.  Afraid to make a wrong move.  They are beaten and then told it was their own fault for doing something to make the man mad.  They are afraid to make a move, to have their husband/boyfriend find out they have gone somewhere or done something without his permission.  They are controlled by fear.

That is no way to live.  It is a serious problem.  Songs are written about it.  Movies have been done on it.  Years ago a book and movie “The Burning Bed” brought abuse into the public eye.  Songs continue to be written.  Independence Day by Martina McBride and more recently Gunpowder and Lead by Miranda Lambert are only a couple.  While I don’t condone killing someone, the lyrics to those songs convey the desperation and fear in abused women.

If you know someone who is being abused, or believe is being abused, they may deny or lie about it taking place.  There are shelters they can contact to help them when they are ready to leave.  The statistics are daunting.

domestic-violence-2emotionalWhat I learned in a quick internet search is that every nine seconds in the United States a woman is assaulted or beaten; and around the world at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime.  Children often witness the abuse, which can lead to a revolving cycle, both as men becoming abusers because they believe it to be “normal” and women being abused, because they believe that is the way all women are treated.

Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women, more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined.  Domestic violence occurs not just between husband and wife, but also in dating relationships, even in the teenage years.  Nearly one in five teenage girls say they have had a boyfriend threaten violence if the girl broke off the relationship.

The problem is, often women don’t recognize the early signs of abuse.  It can be verbal — demeaning comments, criticism, making the person feel they lack value.  Once a person’s self-esteem has been crushed, they are more easily controlled.

It can be controlling, always demanding to know where that person is, presented as “concern” for their well-being.  There is a difference between casual concern over a person’s well being, a courteous exchange of schedules/plans versus having to know where a person is every minute of the day, what they are doing and who they are with.

Whether is is you who is being abused or someone you know, remember:
1.  It is not your fault that they are abusive, it is their’s.
2.  Children who witness abuse are more likely to grow up to be an abuser or a victim.
3.  There doesn’t have to be bruises for it to be abuse.
4.  There are shelters that can take you and your children in when escaping an
abusive spouse
5.  Abusers are bullies, and bullies don’t abuse people who refuse to cower,
because most bullies are themselves cowards.

Some people are only subjected to verbal abuse, some to physical abuse, some to both.  There is a domestic violence hotline that can be accessed around the clock at 1−800−799−7233. There are local shelters that can take you in and keep you safe.    No one should live in fear in their own home.

 

 

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View Life Through The Eyes of a Child

 

Take a walk with a young child; listen to them chatter as you drive in the car, watch their eyes sparkle with excitement and exploration when dealing with everyday things.  Children know how to live.  They enjoy the pure, simple things in life and find joy and excitement in them.

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Photograph by Grace Grogan Copyright 2014

Take some time to step back from the routine of everyday life and learn to view life through the eyes of a child.  Once you learn to do this, you will experience life at a different level than those around you.  Anything and everything is open to exploration and joy if you allow it to be.

artistic-ambisions-means-viewing-life-as-a-childYou approach the railroad crossing, the bars go down, you are stuck waiting for a very long train.  What do you do?  Do you grumble about the delay, check your cell phone while you wait, or do you enjoy the train?   My six year old grandson is happy as a lark when you get stopped by a train, and the longer the better.  It is exciting, there is the engine, all the different kinds of cars in multiple colors, shapes, some have graffiti, some don’t.  They  rumble and shake and make various sounds.   Some go fast, some go slow.  It is exciting to see the different things about each train and car.  What a disappointment when the last car rolls by and the safety bars go back up, but if you are quick enough you can look down the track and see the train chugging away.   A train through the eyes of a child.

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Photograph by Grace Grogan Copyright 2014

Take a walk through the woods, but really “see” the woods.  As a nature photographer I have learned to look more closely at what is around me.  This was drawn to my attention a couple years ago when taking a walk around an uninhabited island with my cousins.  I was taking photographs and told them they did not have to wait for me.  When we completed the walk there were many things I spotted that they did not…a snail on the ground, a spider making a web, the beauty of a side trail filled with daisies, and more.

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Photograph by Grace Grogan Copyright 2014

So why did I spot those things and they did not?  Because they were walking through as adults, enjoying the quietness of the setting, the beauty of the large picture.  I was walking with a photographers eye, looking for the things to capture with my camera lens.  Look down, look up, look off to the side.  There is a whole world out there you are missing.  If you don’t know what to look for, walk through the woods with a child.  They will spot all kinds of interesting things you don’t notice such as leaves on the ground, moss on a tree stump, toadstools, bugs, anything small and at their level.  through-the-eyes-of-a-child-imagination-would-never-end

Experience life through a child — buy a jar of bubbles and blow them into the wind, hear the water lapping up onto the beach, notice the pebbles in the sand, bird feathers on the ground, the chirp of a bird, the hop of a grasshopper or the inching along of a caterpillar on a leaf or the sparkle of a beetle on a plant.   The simple things in life.  The beauty of the world around us.

There is a saying “Take time to smell the roses.”  When you do that, you will find life more relaxing, more enjoyable.  Stress will not have as great an impact on you. All you need to do is view life through the eyes of a child.

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Playing With Wine

I needed a still life photo for the monthly competition in the Blue Water Shutterbugs Camera Club.  and with limited mobility I had to utilize what I had on hand…a wine basket I received as a Christmas gift.   It was a fun time setting up and shooting the photographs, with both good and bad moments:

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Photo by  Grace Grogan, copyright 2017

The Good:  The French wine, Lindt chocolate, my wine glasses and fresh raspberries went together nicely to create a still life image.

The Bad:  I had to open a bottle of wine to put in the glasses for the shoot (well, maybe this has some secondary good to it).

The Good:  I used Leelenau Cellers Raspberry wine instead of the higher alcohol content of the French wine I received as a gift.

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The Spill:  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2017

The Bad:  I had to drink the opened wine after the photo shoot, and with little food in my stomach I was feeling pretty good (maybe that isn’t a bad thing, a little buzz can be fun).

The Good:  I really like the raspberry wine, which smells like fresh raspberries when you uncork it, and at least had the forethought to put some dinner in the oven.

The Bad:  While doing the shoot and re-arranging the set-up one of the glasses tipped over, spilling wine on my table.

The Good:  It was the glass with the least amount of wine in it, and the spill gave me an alternative set-up to try.

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Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2017

The Bad:  With red wine there is always the risk of it staining, and I was leaving it spilled on the table to take the additional photos.

The Good:  No stains!

The Bad:  I was having so much fun I took way more photographs than I needed.

The Good:  I enjoyed the time spent shooting and ended up with a usable photo for the competition.

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The Selected Entry: Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2017

 

 

The Bad:  I drank the entire bottle of wine….do I have to count the calories?

The Good:  The photo was well received when judged.

The Bad:  Now I’m itching to go out and shoot more pictures, which wouldn’t be bad if I wasn’t so grounded waiting for my ankle to recover.

The Good:  It is in my future!

 

Motto of the Story:
Have a Good Day, Drink a Little Wine, Shoot a Few Pictures and Enjoy Life!

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Remember The Good Ole Days When People Talked To Each Other?

Have you ever looked around at people when out in public?  Have you considered your own conduct when socializing with others?  What about the way you make and maintain friendships?  We have become a society in which a large portion of our social interactions are electronically based.

I think there is both a positive and a negative to this development.  Social media…blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, Stumble On, etc. are all great places for exchanging information and keeping in touch with others.  Social media is especially helpful in allowing families to stay in touch when they reside in various spots around the country and/or world.  I spend a fair  amount of time on Facebook and Pinterest so I am not at all opposed to it, but I do have some concerns.social-interaction-pay-attention-on-twitter

People are losing the ability and/or willingness to deal with people on a personal level.  They are unable to tuck their cell phones away and simply have a meal or conversation without repeatedly checking their phone.  Not because they are receiving phone calls, but because they are viewing their media feed, texting, posting articles, or other such activities.

I will admit to on occasion doing the “check-in” post letting my friends know where I am at and/or what I am doing.  Pictures of meals, selfies of people and who they are dining with have become common place.  People don’t sit at a table and converse with each other, they sit across from each other, each on their phones a/k/a social media.

social-media-strap-phone-to-foreheadA couple years ago my husband and I were in a restaurant that was quite busy and we had to wait for our table.  I was looking around the restaurant and I  mentioned to him that he and I looked very out of place.  The reason being we were the only two people in the entire restaurant, both the dining and bar areas, who were not on our phones.  We were talking to each other instead!  That is sad….people are losing the human connection.

It has gone so far that some restaurants have pads attached to the tables for games, order placing, paying bills, etc.  No human interaction.  What kind of message is this sending to our youth, and what will the overall affect be on society?

There is nothing on social media that cannot wait.  If your family really needs to reach you they will call.  The jokes, posts, news articles, photographs, and more that are posted on a regular basis do not have to be reviewed every ten minutes, thirty minutes, or hour.  If you miss a few the world is not going to come to a screeching halt.  Heck, people have become so self-absorbed they probably won’t even realize you are missing.

So what should you do instead?  Take a break.  Go to dinner, have a conversation, go for a walk, and don’t check your phone and/or post for at least an hour or two.  At first it may seem difficult, depending on how much of an addict you are.  However I would be willing to bet that you will find it refreshing and strive for more unconnected periods of time.  You may end up like me, wondering why people can’t just step away at least a few hours a day.  social-interaction-human-more-important

Look at it this way.  Life is meant to be experienced live, not through the power of electronics.

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Realities of Racial Profiling

I am and always have been a reader.  On occasion I will read something which has a profound impact on me.  This is the case with a book I recently finished,  Native Son by Richard Wright.

Native Son, a novel published in 1940, tells the story of “Bigger”, an African American boy who represents the oppression of their race during that era.  A lot of progress has been made in the past 75 or so years since the book was written, but the treatment of  persons of African-American decent by the white race during that time period is disgraceful.EPSON MFP image

While we all know that there are prejudicial attitudes in this country as demonstrated in recent times by the brutality shown against black men by those of law enforcement without just cause, we at least have progressed to a point where derogatory terminology and failing to recognize the race as having intelligence on the equivalent with others is no longer accepted.

The novel takes place twenty years prior to my birth.  Growing up in the 1960’s I remember racial riots, derogatory references to the race in general, and other such behavior, but not to the degree which I encountered in this book.  What I found most disturbing was the de-humanizing of the race in general.  They were compared to apes, considered to be so lacking in intelligence that they could not plan anything.  After being arrested they were rushed through the judicial system without sufficient time for proper trial preparation and were tried in front of a jury panel of all white men.

racismIf you research racial injustice for the 1940’s you will find that the treatment of “Bigger” portrayed in the novel is a very accurate representation of the mindset during that era.  Lynchings were common for anything and everything considered inappropriate.  NAACP members campaigning to get those of African American decent the vote where removed from their homes and lynched.  A 26-year old man was lynched for failing to address a police officer as “Mr.”  If a white woman was attacked it was assumed that a black man had committed the crime and the “suspect” would often be captured and lynched.  Justice did not prevail.

White workers would strike or riot against any black man that received even a minimal promotion at work.  A 15-year old boy was lynched for writing a card that revealed his crush on a white girl.  A 14-year old was sent to the electric chair after being accused in the disappearance of white girls and a 16-year old went to the electric chair after being convicted of killing a pharmacist; he was not properly represented at trial.  The list goes on, but this sampling gives you a taste of what life was like for those of African American decent in the 1940s.racial-profiling-we-were-all-the-human-race

In all fairness I must mention that those of black skin tone are not the only race the white Americans have discriminated against.  President Roosevelt issued an executive order after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and all of Japanese decent were gathered and placed in camps that were the equivalent of prisons.  They were surrounded by barbed wire and conditions were deplorable.  Latinos were beaten by soldiers because it was assumed they were the cause of crime in California.   The discrimination continues to this day.

Even now many white American’s behave in a discriminatory manner against those of other nationalities.  It doesn’t matter whether they are of Mexican/Spanish decent, Asian, African, Calderon, or any other nationality, if they do not have white skin they have most likely suffered some form of racial profiling and/or discrimination.

Why do the white Americans think that they are better than others?  The white man invaded this country and then forced the Native Americans away from their territory. From the time they set foot on this land white men have forced their way into control and oppression of those of a different cultural. religious or financial background.  The white man has proven himself to be a race of bullies.

racial-profiling-we-are-the-human-raceWe have come a long way in the acceptance of others since the 1940’s when Native Son was written….a book in which a 17 year old boy was sent to the electric chair for the murder of a wealthy white girl.  Although the book is a fictional writing, is is a very good replication of the era in which it was created.  Although those of African American decent are now given the same rights of due process as all others, discriminatory behavior continues to exist.

Every race has persons who have good behavior and persons who exhibit bad behavior.  The realities of racial profiling are evidenced in the behavior seen on our own TV screens and the treatment those of non-white race are frequently subject to…and far too often by those who are supposed to uphold the law. When will the American white citizen learn to treat all other American citizens as equals and not make assumptions on the way a person will behave based on the color of their skin?    That is a question that will likely remain unanswered for a long time.

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The back cover of Native Son

 

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Rhetorically Resolving Resolutions

Every year thousands of people make New Years resolutions which they ultimately give up on within the first month or so.   The act of making the list is rather rhetorical, as the majority know that they will never accomplish those resolutions.  The list is made out of tradition, not with the intent to succeed.   new-year-resolution-fatter-and-lazier

A resolution is an action taken to resolve a problem.  Who wants to start the new year thinking about a list of problems they must tackle?  A New Year’s resolution is a cumbersome burden no one wants to bear.  Just the sound of it is overwhelming.

Throw those resolutions out.  You are not going to accomplish them anyway.  Instead list your goals for the new year.  Think positive, dream big.  These are things you want to accomplish over the course of the next twelve months.

new-year-goal-setting-6-steps-to-successAhhh you say, isn’t that the same thing as a resolution?  Well, sort of, but it is a mind game for motivation.  Which do you want to do?  Which makes you feel that success is possible?  You can only pick one of the following:

* List your resolutions for the new year — those problems you intend to resolve.

OR

* List your goals for the new year — those things you want to achieve.

Which phrase encourages you to take action?  Which phrase makes you go uggghhh?  Do whatever provides you with the most motivation.  If taking a slew of problems you have resolved to correct inspires you, then by all means go for it.  If setting forth a list of goals to complete inspires you, then take that route.  new-year-goals

The desired outcome, whether you choose to set resolutions or goals, is to cross those items off your list one-by-one as you complete them.  Every item you cross off the list provides you with a feeling of accomplishment.  The more things you cross off your list, the more encouraged you will be to keep working on that list.

What are my plans for 2017?  I have made a resolution to resolve problems by setting forth a list of goals to accomplish within the next year.

Happy New Year!

 

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Keep the Magic

Think back to when you were a child and the magic that Christmas held.  The excitement and anticipation of a visit from Santa.  The traditions that went with the season.

Remember getting toy wish books?  Once they arrived my sister and I would pour over them for hours, looking, looking again, and writing out lists of what we wanted for Christmas.  Inevitably the list was lengthy and mom would say we needed to shorten it down…the agony of it all!  children-become-a-child-at-christmas

Traditions of the holiday stand out in my mind.  Making Christmas cookies and decorating them, followed by eating them for breakfast as we opened gifts.  Decorating the house was always fun.   In the early years we would trudge through the snow at a Christmas tree farm to find the perfect tree, which Dad would then saw down.  Of course they always looked smaller in the woods then they did in the living room.  One year Mom kept saying the trees were too small.  The “perfect” one had to be sawed considerably shorter after Dad brought it in the house, not to mention the fact that it was so big around it stuck out about one-third of the way into the living room from the corner where it stood.  It was huge!

Dad would put the tree into a stand and then we would have to let it sit for 24 hours to let the branches “drop” as the tree warmed up.  After that the decorating could begin…lights, ornaments, garland, and icicles.  The tree decorating was usually stretched out over several days, as we were in school and Mom also worked during the day.  Evenings were spent viewing the tree, seeing a spot in need of an ornament and then finding the perfect one to fit that area.    magic-of-christmas-when-children-are-around

When Hallmark began their dated ornaments Mom started a tradition of purchasing a dated ornament for my sister and I every year.  Those were wonderful to have as we got married and moved out and many of those oldies hang on my tree every year.  When I had kids I kept the tradition, purchasing each of them a dated ornament every year…something I continue to do even now when they are 28 and 32 years old.  Of course I also purchase one every year for each of my grandchildren.  My daughter has also tried to maintain the tradition with her children.

Christmas morning when growing up was always fun.  The discovery of wrapped gifts under the tree.  Going through our Christmas stockings to see what small hidden treasures were there.  Then of course spending the rest of the day playing with new games, reading new books.  Enjoying a day of family fun.

Over time childhood moved into teen years, and we no longer believe.  Gifts become more useful.  Then we become adults and Christmas is nice, but something is missing, at least for a while.  All good things come to an end…or do they?

magic-light-in-a-childs-eyeEventually we get married, have children, and the fun starts again.  This time we hold the magic and enjoy watching a child’s eyes sparkle with excitement when they talk about their Christmas wishes, Santa Clause and the fun of the holiday activities.  We relive the magic through the eyes of our children.

Too soon our children grow, become teens, grow into adults and move out on their own and Christmas once again lacks the magic, at least for a little while.  Then the grandchildren are born and the cycle begins again.

No matter how old you are, keep the magic.  If you have no children or grandchildren, go where there are children.  Watch the lines for Santa, volunteer at organizations that cater to children, work at a toy give-away,  contact charity organizations and volunteer your services.   Keep the magic alive.

Keep the Spirit * Keep the Magic
Look at Christmas through the eyes of a child

belive-in-the-magic-of-christmas

 

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One Legged Living

I did it six years ago and I’m doing it again now.  Living life on one leg comes with its own set of challenges.   When living with such an inconvenience one must keep a positive eye on the future, for this will change and the future holds promise of greater mobility once again.

If you have been a reader for a while you know that six years ago I was riding my motorcycle when I was broadsided by a car.  As a result of that accident I had numerous injuries, including my left leg suffering three breaks and my ankle two breaks so severe they weren’t sure they could save my foot.   As time passed the ankle deteriorated to the point were it required an ankle fusion, which I had done on November 15, 2016.'As far as dancing goes, the doctor says you need to stay off my feet for 6-8 weeks.'

The procedure literally fuses my ankle at a 90-degree angle to the leg so I will never have flexibility in the ankle again.  The advantage, the ability to walk without pain. The disadvantage, it is a three-month non-weight bearing recovery.   I had to set up my house to live on the main floor for three months.  I have to depend on others to pick me up and drive me everywhere.

In my own domain I have mastered the basics of functioning on one leg within my own home.    Knee scooters are the next best thing since sliced bread.  My little scooter allows me to stand without risk of putting weight on the ankle while providing the ability to move fairly freely within the home, or any other building or surface where I am.  All I need is a transport person with the ability to lift my scooter in and out of their vehicle….and of course a vehicle that will hold the scooter!

I have mastered running my scooter with a hot cup of coffee in one hand, at least on most trips.  Carpet cleaning will be scheduled in the spring to remedy mishaps.  I can back up (frequently over my own toes, but we aren’t mentioning that), lift and drop the wheels to gain a better angle.  The scooter is handy when doing simple things like cooking and laundry.   I have also mastered locking the wheels, bending over with my knee on the scooter and placing my hands on the floor beside or in front of me to retrieve any item I may need.  This includes reaching to the back on the lowest level of cabinets.   I would give a safety specialist heart failure.

Now, all the wild maneuvers I have made which are outside the realm of safety have never caused me any issue.  Leave it to me to blow it when following all the rules.  Once evening I stood up to go somewhere within my own home I don’t know what happened but somehow I fell.  I thought I had my knee on the scooter when suddenly my body was tipping sideways.  I realized I was headed head-first into the exercise machine and grabbed onto the handle to avoid clobbering myself in the head while concentrating on keeping my leg bent and flat to the ground so as to lessen the impact and avoid putting weight on the ankle.  Once on the ground lifting myself back up using my right leg was a walk in the park.

That knee scooter is my lifeline to mobility and happiness no matter where I am.  It is wonderful for shopping, and allows me to easily navigate a restaurant when dining out.  I am held back only by my inability to manipulate it in and out of the vehicle and drive myself.

Now that winter has hit I am inhibited by my ability to operate the knee scooter  on ice and snow.  It tends to be uncooperative when offered those challenges.   For that reason I asked my daughter’s boyfriend to drop me at the front door a grocery store with my scooter, only to have him step out of the vehicle and immediately go down on the slippery surface.  Luckily he was not injured and quickly sprung back up off the parking lot while saying “I’m good.”    Needless to say precaution goes to the extreme when your support person wipes out in the parking lot and your foot hasn’t yet touched the ground.

Weather always offers its own set of challenges.  My daughter and I learned that when one of the platform steps she built for me to hop up and down the porch was covered in ice.   She was holding the edge of the walker to make sure it didn’t slide as I hopped down.  The problem arose when I leaned forward too much and our heads hit.   Knocking the assistant out with a head-butt is not recommended.  Luckily she maintained her footing and was none-the-worse for the knocked noggin.

"It's just a sprain. But let me put a cast on it so you won't look like an idiot for screaming like a freakin' schoolgirl."

Work is always interesting.  An empty trash can turned upside down makes a great footstool under your desk, but confuses clients who ask if that thing under there isn’t blocking the way of my leg.  An office chair on wheels is wonderful when navigating in a small space near your desk.  Boarding house reach also works beautifully for retrieving necessary materials no matter where I stand or sit.

Being immobile does have certain advantages.  My mail is picked up and delivered to the inside of my house.  I don’t have to stand outside and pump gas.  I don’t have to take out the trash.  I can make a “to do” list and have someone else do the running up and down the stairs to obtain whatever I need.   Unfortunately all the paperwork I thought I would be tackling full-force is not getting done as quickly as I had hoped.    Don’t ask…I haven’t thought up an excuse for that yet.

So the bottom line is, living life on one leg isn’t the easiest thing, but it isn’t the most horrid thing that could happen either.  Life is a Melting Pot of adventures, and this is just one of mine.

 

 

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A Year Of Changes

learn-free-to-be-meIf you have been a reader for a while you know that my husband, Ron,  passed away December 7, 2015 and since that time I have been adjusting to living on my own.  In reflecting on myself now, plans for the future and introspection of the past I have learned a few things.

I am capable of living alone, and doing it comfortably.  When I met Ron I was 19 and living at home with my parents.  I got married,  moved in with Ron and had never lived alone.  I originally found the idea of living solo terrifying but had no choice.    What I have learned is that living on my own has its benefits.  I can set the thermostat where I want and it stays there.  I can blast the radio at 2 am if I chose without having to worry about disturbing anyone else.  I can eat what I want when I want and not have to worry about anyone else.  I can re-arrange and hang photos and other artwork on the walls, removing things that were never my choice to begin with and adding new items that appeal to me.   I can move, add,  eliminate or change anything I chose without wondering if another person is going to like the change.

learn-to-be-happy-aloneAlthough I never paid attention to our finances and had no interest in knowing about them, I am perfectly capable of paying bills, applying for mortgage modifications, listing property for sale, and making decisions on financial assets.   I’m not blindly doing what Ron told me to do as he was dying.  I’m evaluating my own circumstances and making a decision that I feel comfortable with.   My goal for the future is to learn how the stock market and investments work, to understand how to diversify and what everything means  so I can make informed choices.  Hopefully  I will get a grasp on this within the next decade.  I’m really walking in uncharted territory here.

I can now run a riding lawn mower, a weed wacker, call a plumber, take vehicles in for routine maintenance, find and hire repair persons for things such as air conditioning. However I have no intention of learning to run the snowblower.  That thing is just too big.  I’ll kill myself shoveling first.  I even look at the Harbor Freight and Tractor Repair sales flyers now in case there is something I need.  Okay, I’ll admit my big purchase this year was two tarps, but we all have to start somewhere.  learn-dance-in-the-rain

One big surprise, I like to cook.  I know that sounds funny after 34 years of marriage, but I thought I didn’t like cooking.  I have been cooking for myself for a year now and I realize  that I like it.  For the majority of our marriage Ron did all the cooking.  Over the years I told people didn’t like doing day-to-day rush home from work an cook a meal, but I liked doing the larger family meals.  I recently said those words to someone but later in the evening it occurred to me that the statement isn’t true.  I don’t mind cooking for myself at all.  I love grilling entire meals in the summer months.  So why the change in my thoughts?

learn-something-newWhat I have discovered is that it wasn’t the cooking I disliked, it was that Ron always had a criticism of some sort and tended to hover, questioning why I did things the way I did, telling me I should do things differently than I did.  Nothing was ever quite good enough, there was always a “why didn’t you…”  Basically, he thought I should cook just  like him.  After a while I tired of the negativity and simply walked away and left it to him.  He cooked, I cleaned up, and it worked.

Since Ron’s passing I have discovered that I enjoy cooking.  I like throwing foods together to see what I like, mixing different combinations.  If they are all watching from above there are three cooks in heaven that are probably surprised at what they see.

I would say Ron is probably shocked at the things I fix; that I enjoy the cooking and especially like grilling.  My Mother-in-Law is probably happy to see me not measuring, just dumping in many instances.  I learned early in my marriage that if you called her for a recipe she didn’t measure, it was  “till it looks right.”  My father was a great cook.  When he saw me go into the basement and gather an assortment of ingredients, throw them into a pot and end up with a soup he was probably going “hell ya, that’s the way to cook.”  One of my greatest memories is when he cleaned out the refrigerator and made “chili” with the leftovers.  How many people have eaten chili with spaghettio’s floating in it?  I have!learn-who-you-are

When it comes to traveling alone I have mixed feelings.  It is nice because if I want to wander around and/or make frequent stops to take pictures I can do that without any complaints.  Ron and I were both photographers and did that all the time, but the average person does not take pleasure in such activities or delays.

On the other hand, traveling alone can be lonely.   If taking in a tourist attraction, such as wandering a museum or park, you are always alone.  No one to talk with, share discoveries with.   You are always eating alone, and so I always dine with a book.  There is no one sharing your hotel room, no one to sleep with. Maybe we shouldn’t go there.  Let’s just leave it at that.

So learning about me happened by learning to live alone.  What a difference a year has made.  The good, the bad, the indifferent.  What have I learned? I had a fantastic marriage.  I will have a fantastic future.  Different than I planned, but that’s okay.  I have made decisions that a year ago I would not have made.  I have made changes in my life that a year ago I would not have made.  Life was different then.  I was different then.  I am happy with my life, and that is all that matters.  Whatever happens, whatever life throws in my direction, I am ready.  Bring it on!

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Filed under anniversary, Coping, death, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, Family, food, habit, home, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, Meals, memoir, mind, reality, time, vacation

Reflecting on the Reasons

On Thanksgiving Day my cousin, Michelle, who lost her husband to cancer about a month ago, had a post on Facebook stating how Charlie had loved Thanksgiving, had been the main meal planner, did the shopping, cooking,  and eating.  Not only was she grieving the loss of her husband, but their family tradition every year involves going around the table and each person saying what they are thankful for.  Michelle posted that she wasn’t sure how she would answer this year because every year she always said the same thing…her family, her job, the love of her amazing husband and that he continued to kick cancer’s butt.

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  Michelle and Charlie – Photos “stolen” from her Facebook Page

This year Charlie didn’t kick cancer’s butt, it kicked him.  Hard.  He was still working about two weeks prior to his passing.  He went down fast.  When I read her post I didn’t even hesitate, I just started typing.  My comment to her was:

“I know what you are thankful for, it is the same thing I am thankful for.  Neither Charlie or Ron are sick, nauseous, in pain, or in any way suffering from that horrid disease.  Maybe they have found each other in heaven and are getting acquainted by trading photography tips and stories.” 

After I posted the above response the reality hit me.  I may have used my ankle surgery as an excuse for choosing to spend the holiday solo, but the reality was I didn’t want to do the meal preparations alone, at least not this year.  Ron and I had always prepared it jointly.  I stuffed the bird and baked the sweet potatoes.  Ron did the potatoes, sometimes re-baked, sometimes mashed, sometimes both.  Ron made the fruit salad.  I did the green bean casserole.  One of us made the gravy, and the list goes on.

Last year I did it all alone, but that was different.  Ron was too sick to participate in the preparations in 2015, but he was still here.  He came to the table, had a few bites of food, and went back to the couch.  Austin (our 9-year old grandson) spent most of the day sitting next to Ron.  Eleven days later Ron was gone.

I realized that regardless of how well I have adjusted there will be moments when things hit me, and sometimes I won’t realize it at the time.  What I posted to Michelle in the comments is true.  I am glad that Ron is no longer struggling to swallow, weak, or sick from the combination of chemo and the disease itself.   I have moved on with my life, I have made the adjustment to being alone.  How do I know?time-dont-rush-anything

Another question that Michelle had posed to me a week or two earlier was how I handled going through Ron’s belongings.  She was struggling with that step.  My answer, you will know when you are ready, because it will be just another task, not an emotional roller coaster.  I only recently started cleaning Ron’s clothes out of the closet.   I told Michelle that I hadn’t unpacked the bag of Ron’s clothes I brought home from hospice the day he died until a few weeks ago.  That bag had been in my closet unopened for 11 months.  I was finally ready.  No emotions, just clothes to put away.

Everyone is different and processes loss at different levels.  From time to time there will probably be something that triggers a memory or an emotion.  We are, after all, human.

So in answering my cousin’s post in an effort to help her cope with her loss, I gained insight into my own reasons for being so adamant about not preparing the meal this year.  Next year will be different.  If I don’t have people here I will be gone and doing something.  Possibly volunteer at a kitchen that provides meals for the needy.  Home alone will not become a habit of mine, of that I am certain.

 

 

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Thanksgiving Solo

Thanksgiving is traditionally a time when people gather with family or friends, enjoy a football game, a parade, fellowship and of course, food.  Over the years I have participated in large family gatherings, small family gatherings, dined with friends, or gone out to a restaurant.  This year, for the first time ever, I am doing Thanksgiving solo.  That was my choice.

A year ago I cooked a Thanksgiving dinner and had my daughter, her three children and her boyfriend over to join my husband and I.  Ron was battling cancer; a battle he lost eleven days later.  Ron didn’t feel well; he didn’t want my daughter and the grandchildren here but I insisted on having Thanksgiving with them.  Why?  Because I knew the boys, who at that time were 9 and 4, needed it.  Thinking back it may have been the last time they saw him.  thanksgiving-pumpkin-pie

So now we move forward a year.  I had surgery on my ankle a week ago, so I informed my daughter that I would not be preparing Thanksgiving dinner this year.  I let her know that my intent is to stay home and crash.   As it turns out my daughter has to work long hours on black Friday, so she and her boyfriend decided to stay home and do their own turkey.   Why am I not joining them?  For one I can’t get into their house.  Secondly I can’t go anywhere without a chauffeur.  Third I don’t want the hassles of the mess that comes with cooking, cleanup and three children in the house.   I prefer to go the quiet, solo route, at least this year.

So what will I do?  I purchased a stuffed chicken breast and will fix that with some sweet potatoes for myself.  It isn’t a turkey, but at least it is poultry!   I will read, do paperwork, write, or just put my feet up and watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV.  Time will tell as the day unfolds.

I hope all of you have a very Happy Thanksgiving, complete with turkey, stuffing, and of course pumpkin pie….in fact, eat an extra piece of pie for me!

 

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When the time arrived, I was fine

I had been nervous contemplating ankle surgery for the past two months.  The day finally arrived on November 15, 2016 and surprisingly I was very calm…well, except for a slight rise in blood pressure.  However that went down once they had successfully inserted the IV and I no longer had to fear a vein collapsing and causing problems.

I answered the name, birth date, and what procedure are you here for question numerous times — their way of making sure the patient is aware of what is going on around them.  My daughter had her three children with her and had to pick me up at 4:45 am to get me to the hospital on time.  Once we had me in my pre-surgery room I told her they might as well leave.  That would allow her to get the oldest two to school relatively on time and since it was 2-1/2 hours until my surgery would actually begin there was no purpose in her staying around.  My sister-in-law was scheduled to arrive and pick me up after surgery.

The time passed quickly and before I knew it they transferred me down to another pre-surgery room where I received a block on my leg from the knee down that would not wear off for 16-24 hours.    They had me place my initials on the appropriate surgical leg.  The block went in easily, but I am still wearing the wonderful iodine colored antiseptic they used before the procedure.  An ankle surgery and I have iodine up to the thigh.   When they placed the surgical hat over my hair I laughed and said “isn’t this wear I should have my cell phone to take the selfie of myself just before surgery?”

After that they must have run some good knock-out drugs through my IV, I remember them asking me to breath into a mask, and the next thing I know I was in a post-op room and everything was done.  I don’t even remember being in recovery.  I woke up about 1-1/4 hours after they had anticipated I would be ready to go home.  My sister-in-law had gotten lost and arrived almost right on the dot with when I was actually ready.

So how are things now that the surgery is done and I am home?   We discovered in the hospital that crutches are not my thing.  I also tried them at home and had difficulty as well.  I am very fearful of losing my balance on them and accidentally putting pressure on the leg, which is non-weight bearing for three months.  I am thankful that I have a walker I brought from my parents home, which is much more stable, especially for hopping up and down platform steps to get in and out of my house.  The knee scooter works very well for most things.

Getting dressed is tricky.  My ankle is bandaged/cast very thick.  Stretch sport pants stretch over it.  I’m not sure if I will be able to wear my dress slacks or jeans until after I have been re-cast at least once.  Dressing for work this coming Monday could be interesting.

I am doing well with pain control.  The block wore off in the middle of the night and I woke up in pain at 3:45 am.  A Norco and ice with elevation helped alleviate that within about 45 minutes and I was able to sleep again.  Pain pills are allowed every four hours as needed, I am only needing them about every five hours.

The next three months during which I am non-weight bearing and dependent on others to drive me will be frustrating, but once I am able to put weight on the leg things should get much easier.   I am looking forward to an active 2017 with a repaired ankle and no pain.

what-is-an-ankle-fusion

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Late, Early, or On Time?

I deal with a multitude of people every day, some who are almost always late, some who are on time, and some who arrive early.  Events that recently occurred in my private life got me to thinking about time.

Why is it some people are notoriously late for everything?  Is it their upbringing?  Are they disorganized and can’t seem to gather themselves together to arrive in a timely manner?   Do they think their time more valuable than others and allow themselves to become distracted?  Is it simply an inbred trait they are born with?time-person-running

I think it is all of the above.  Each person is unique and anyone that is habitually late may have any of the above factors playing into it, or a combination of several.  What does this do the the person who is habitually on time and going somewhere with a person who is habitually late?  It drives them crazy!  If you are an “on time” person and have to deal with an “always late” person on a regular basis, you have to learn to accept the fact that they are operating on their own time and not sweat the small stuff.

I was later told of a family arriving late at an event in which I was the center of attention. time-value-of-life One couple and their four children arrived late for my wedding and followed my father and me down the aisle during the processional.

I know one couple where the woman was notoriously late for everything, including her own wedding.  The couple was scheduled for a simple ceremony at the courthouse and all other weddings had been performed.  Lucky for them the Judge agreed to go ahead and perform theirs, even though they were beyond the appointed time.

How is it some people are always on time, meaning on the dot or 10-15 minutes early?  Have they been trained to be timely?  Is it a birth trait?  Are they by nature a courteous, considerate individual who value the time of others as much as their own?

Again, it can be one or all of the above.  Each person is unique and their life experiences affect their habits. I consider on-time people reliable.  You can count on them to be where they say they are going to be when they say they will be there.  Do they ever run late?  Of course, everyone does from time-to-time.  The difference is that it the exception, not the rule.

time-time-managementI am generally an on time person to slightly early person depending on what it is I am doing.  I work extremely close to home and generally arrive on-the-dot for that.  Other activities such as meetings I tend to arrive about 10 minutes in advance.  When did I develop this habit?  When I was a child.  In grade school I was at the building on the playground long before the bell rang to go in.  In Junior High (middle school) I was generally at the school about 15-30 minutes in advance, by high school I was there about an hour in advance, hanging with a group of other early arrivals.  We had authorization to enter the library through the librarians door prior to it officially being opened.  When I went back to college as an adult I was at the school at least 30 minutes prior to the start of class.  By arriving at work 10 minutes prior to my work day it was once commented on how early I was.  No, not early, on time!

So what constitutes early?  Early is well ahead of schedule.  These are times when the “on time” person gets way ahead of themselves.  It can throw a monkey wrench into the process, even if they are meeting up with a timely person, but it can also be fun.  Just roll with the punches and enjoy the toss up in the routine.  This happened to me twice in the past few months, both times with the same person.  One positive thing can be said, when an “on time” person uses their brain to rely on, they are generally ahead of schedule, not late.    So how early were they?

early-bird2The first time was when we had plans to go to dinner and were meeting at my house.  I gave them a time of 6:45 pm, which would allow me to leave work at 6:00, get home and do the normal “arrive home” things of bringing in the mail, putting away my lunch containers, then change my clothes, touch up make-up, etc.  So how did this go?  When I was approaching my driveway at 6:15 their car was also signaling to turn into my drive.  They were 30 minutes early!  The greeting was even funnier.  They exited their vehicle and said “are you late?” and I responded “No, you’re early.”

Remember, don’t sweat the small stuff.  They waited in my living room while I did what I needed to to get ready.   We left the house and were driving down the road when they commented that I was right on how long it would take me to get ready…it was 6:45!  Of course I was right, I’m an “on time” person.

Now when does early become “way ahead of themselves?”  That happens when they forget to check the calendar for what day you are getting together.  I had my day mapped out.  I knew what day they were coming over and the night before planned to do some standard tidying of the house — make sure the dishwasher is unloaded and no dishes are in the sink, vacuum,  check the bathroom and wipe down the mirror — the typical stuff to make a house look presentable.  So how did that go?

I left work about 15 minutes late, so arrived home around 6:20.  I threw my jacket over a chair and flipped through the mail.  Made a phone call regarding some repair work being done and left a message.  I was about to go run upstairs and take off my work clothes and throw on a pair of jeans and a top when my doorbell rang.  early-bird

I opened the door to find my friend standing on the porch.  Weather permitting I generally leave the door open when I know they are coming over, but I had it closed.  Their greeting to me was    “Did you forget?”    I responded that no, they are early — as in 24 hours early!   Oops!

So what happened?  The evening proceeded as originally planned just a day early.  The walls didn’t cave in because my house hadn’t been tidied up.   I laughed after they left and wondered how early they will be the next time around.  They get too far out there and I might not be home.  At the same time, we live in such a planned/scheduled society, that a little twist to the plans now and then keeps life fun and spontaneous.

So what does all this mean?  If you are always late, think about its affect on others around you.  If you are normally on time, it is wonderful that you are conscientious and considerate.   If you are early, as in well ahead of yourself, you are the type of person that keeps others on the edge of their seat and forces life to be spontaneous.

Life is a Melting Pot of personalities and habits.  Whatever kind of person you are dealing with, go with the flow.   Enjoy and have fun regardless of their arrival time.

 

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Mentally Strong Habits

I recently came across an article online titled “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do” by Dr. Travis Bradberry and wondered where I fall in the realm of things.  Do I fit the mentally strong?  Am I stumbling along at a pathetic rate?  While articles such as this can be great for self-evaluation, sometimes you just don’t want to know the answers.

Curiosity got the best of me and I forged forward in my quest for knowledge.  Depending on how far back you reflect, I can easily say the past six years have been stressful, but I feel I am doing well emotionally.  I just keep trudging along and don’t think about the conglomerate mess my life has been.

Six years ago I was in a bad accident when I was hit by a car while riding my motorcycle,habits-of-successful-people landing me in a trauma center for seventeen days, rehab for two months, and then a year of physical therapy and medical follow ups after that.  Two of my granddaughters were taken by Child Protective Services and put into foster care.  My husband and I applied to foster them and were denied, we later applied to adopt them and again CPS fought us and we lost.  Both girls have been adopted by strangers.

My son was sentenced to 6-22 years in prison for home invasion; his earliest possible parole date is in March 2018.  Two cousins passed away, as did a 19 year old nephew who had brain cancer.   Other deaths in the family included my father-in-law, brother-in-law, both of my parents (18 months apart), and my husband.  I spent about 1-1/2 years traveling back to my old hometown to work on cleaning out the house my parents had resided in since 1966.  While this was going on my husband was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, had surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy as he fought the disease for about 15 months before the cancer won and he passed away.   I am now scheduled for surgery on my ankle due to residual deterioration from my accident and am once again facing a lengthy recovery.

habits-things-to-give-upI look at the list of things I have handled in the past few years and in my opinion have coped well with everything life has thrown at me.   I have often felt that I have strong coping mechanisms but don’t really know why.   I am baffled when people have one issue on their plate and are falling apart at the seams.  I delved into the article hoping to discover what it is that makes one person successfully juggle a plethora of issues while another crumbles under the slightest amount of pressure.

What the article explained is that mental strength is a matter of emotional intelligence.  The article stated  “Emotional intelligence is the ‘something’ in each of us that is a bit intangible.  It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions to achieve positive results.”

The article consisted of a list of thirteen things emotionally intelligent people avoid.  This piqued my curiosity as I don’t conscientiously avoid much of anything.  What I found is that of the thirteen items listed, I do eleven of them naturally / subconsciously.  Two items I falter on, but what the heck, we all have areas needing improvement.

The two weakness I have were actually the first two items listed:

  • They don’t stay in their comfort zone
  • They don’t give in to fear

I feel these two areas are related and to a certain degree overlap.  While I don’t totally avoid these two behavior patterns, I don’t follow them 100% either.  I tend to operate on a certain level of caution which prevents me from venturing two far outside my comfort zone.  Fear is not a physical fear but an emotional fear of doing something, such as public speaking.   While I have taken on the challenge of completing  numerous things this past year that I never have in the past, the combination of my comfort zone and fear of unknown territory has also prevented me from fully tackling a few others that should have been addressed sooner and more frequently than they have.  My weaknesses, the areas I need to work on.

I was happy to discover that the other nine items listed are all areas where I meet the criteria for having emotional intelligence:

  • They don’t stop believing in themselves
  • They don’t beg for attention
  • They don’t act like jerks
  • They don’t hold grudges
  • They don’t hang around negative people
  • They don’t feel sorry for themselves
  • They don’t feel entitled
  • They don’t close their minds
  • They don’t let anyone limit their joy
  • They don’t get eaten up by jealousy and envy
  • They don’t live in the past

If you tend to let the stress of life get you down, if you are unable to roll with the ups and habit-secret-to-success-if-in-your-daily-routinedowns of life and have difficulty coping you may want to read 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.    Explore the areas you need to tackle so your life can move forward in a more positive direction.

If you are like me and feel you easily cope with the stresses of life, I still suggest you read the article in its entirety.  You may find areas in which you can improve.  As for me, I’m working on alleviating my fear and expanding my comfort zone.  Look out world….here I come!

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Filed under Coping, decisions, exploration, habit, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, mind

Up and Back in a Day

This past Saturday was emotional, enlightening, fun, and exhausting all rolled into one.  A couple weeks ago I wrote about my cousin losing her husband after a lengthy battle with cancer in Feeling Their Pain.  The funeral was set and I debated for a week whether or not to go.  I wanted to go, but I have a lot going on and I was juggling the loss of an entire Saturday to travel and attend v. being able to get things accomplished around home.  I didn’t want to later regret not going so I went.

It was a beautiful fall Saturday in Michigan.  The visitation was scheduled for 10:00 am, funeral for 11:00.  I set my alarm for 4:00 am and was on the road at 5:15 am for the four hour drive.  I watched the sunrise through the passenger side of my vehicle as I traveled north on I-75.   A quick fifteen minute stop in West Branch gave me the opportunity to re-fuel the vehicle and myself by way of coffee and pumpkin donuts.  I was in Traverse City at 9:30 am.  death

The funeral was held at the Reynolds Jonkoff Funeral Home in Traverse City, the same place my Grandmother’s funeral was held years ago.  A beautiful, historical home that lends itself to comfort for memorial services.  Photo boards and memorabilia of Charlie’s life were on display, and a slide show of photos played on the screen.  Always smiling, always clowning around and being silly, that was Charlie.

I was greeted by family I rarely see and met some I have never seen.  It is hard to maintain contact with extended family when we all live so far apart.  Facebook is a blessing in that regard for helping people to stay in touch.  Charlie’s widow, Michelle, and I had not seen each other since we were children, but we recognized each other immediately.    It had only been six days since Charlie passed and Michelle was struggling emotionally.  We held each other and cried together, Michelle because the pain was new, me because I was reliving the pain through the memories this setting brought on.  I left her a card in which I enclosed the poem I read at my husband Ron’s burial, If Tomorrow Starts Without Me (see below).

During the ceremony the Obituary of Charlie Jokinen was read.  Charlie grew up in grew up in Bobcaygeon, Ontario and the stories shared by his best friend from childhood were filled with humor; good memories of a wonderful person in his youth.   Michelle’s daughter, Nicole, talked about what a wonderful, accepting person Charlie was when he came into their lives, and how despite his struggles with cancer always attended her sporting events, concerts, and other activities of youth.  I learned that Charlie and my husband, Ron, were very much alike.  Both loved photography, being active, loved life and family, and were always smiling.   It was a wonderful testimonial to a life well lived and a person well liked and loved by all.

Following the ceremony was the procession to the Memorial Gardens where Charlie was laid to rest beside my Uncle Lee and Aunt Jesse Hilts, who were laid to rest beside my maternal grandparents, Ralph and Grace Hilts.  They are all located not far from the graves of my paternal grandparents, uncle and parents.  After a short grave side service during which Michelle lowered Charlie’s ashes into the ground, we proceeded to the Grawn Baptist Church for a luncheon and fellowship with family members and friends.

About 2:30 I hugged Michelle goodbye before getting on the road.  We promised to stay in touch and get together for a weekend.   We now have a common bond not shared by our siblings or other cousins.  I did manage to accidentally announce my departure rather loudly.  As I was walking across the lot to my car I somehow managed to activate my car alarm.  Nothing like a bright red car with the horn blasting and lights flashing to signal the end of a memorial luncheon.  I glanced around, thought I was safe from anyone having witnesses my blunder and got into my car.  Then a grey pickup pulled in next to me, it was my cousin, Iva, and her husband Milt.  I rolled down the window and Milt congratulated me on adding a bit of humor to the end of the day.

I took the more scenic, leisurely route across the state on my way home.  This served two purposes.  It allowed me to enjoy the beautiful northern fall scenery with an occasional stop to take photographs, and the climbing in and out of the car into the cool air helped to keep me awake as I drove.

It was not until I got on US-10, an expressway, that the length of the day made me drowsy.  I know that if I keep busy it helps me to stay awake and the singing and dancing in the car while driving wasn’t doing the trick.   I finally made a stop and picked up a highly nutritious snack at Speedway gas station of a spiced pumpkin cappuccino and a small bag of crunchy Cheetos.  I know, individually they sound yummy but as a combo it sounds horrid.  Remarkably it wasn’t, so go ahead and give it a try sometimes.  It did work in keeping me awake as I stretched that bag of Cheetos all the way to I-69, which marked only an hour more to go on my route.

I arrived home around 7:00 pm.  A tiring day but I am glad I went.  It was good for Michelle to have me there.  It was good for me to be there.

funeral-whentomorrowstartswithoutmepoem

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Filed under cancer, celebration, Coping, death, Family, Illness, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, memoir, travel

Accept Life’s Realities

I am a lover of quotes and sayings.  When I stumbled across one on open-minded open-minded-peoplepeople I snatched it up immediately.  It is so true in its most basic form.  How do people become open-minded?  Are they born that way?  Is it the way in which they were raised?  What makes one person open-minded and another close-minded?

I actually believe it is a combination of all those factors.  Some people are born or develop a belief that everything that happens for a reason and are accepting of that.  They view life as a fun experience.   They are willing to try new things, to listen to the opinion of others with respect, even if they have a differing viewpoint.   They are accepting of others and let most of life’s ups and downs roll off their shoulders.  Those are open-minded people.  They are accepting and kind.

Then there are those people who try to impose their beliefs on others.  They are disagreeable with anyone who shares a different opinion.  They are right and others are wrong.  They judge, criticize and try to change those around them.  Those are close-minded people.  It is there way or the highway.

acceptance-eliminates-drama

Are you open-minded or close-minded?  Evaluate yourself honestly.  If you are by nature an open-minded person, congratulations.  If you tend to be more close-minded try to open up your viewpoints, accept the opinion of others, relax, enjoy life.

Why?  What difference does it make?  A lot.  A positive attitude reflects upon others and their reactions to you.  It also reflects upon you and the kind of person you are.  Try to put forth a positive, accepting attitude.  When you do, positive things will happen.

 

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Filed under Blue Water Area, communication, Coping, Family, Life is a Melting Pot

Feeling Their Pain

It has been ten months since my husband, Ron, passed away following a fifteen month battle with cancer.  I am doing well, and moving forward in my new life.  I have a cousin…or actually a first cousin once removed if you want to be technical, whose husband has been battling a rare cancer for nine years and is now in the final stages, losing his fight as well.

thankful-for-every-momentI was reading Michelle’s post on Facebook yesterday.  Many notes of sympathy and prayers.  They know her, they know her husband Charlie, they know what a great couple and wonderful marriage they had.  I, on the other hand, have not seen Michelle personally in years.  We were together as children, but not as adults.  We are in contact only by Facebook now.  However, I can truly feel her pain.

As I read her post I could feel the helplessness at watching a man who has lived an active, positive life quickly deteriorate into a person who is lifeless, sick, unable to manage even the simple things in life.   There is no “fix.”  You are moving toward the end and you both know it but don’t really want to say it.  You are losing the person you thought would be there for decades more.   It is an emotional situation like none other you will ever experience.  You aren’t losing a grandparent, parent, sibling, cousin, aunt, uncle, or child.  You are losing a spouse.  It is different and only those who have ever experienced it can understand what a different loss it is.

I typed a reply, relying on my experience.  I had to cut it short.  I was sitting at work and almost started crying because I really can feel what she is going through.  What did I tell her?  Cherish the memories, remind him of those things.  Tell him it was a great marriage.  Tell him you will be okay.  Those are things that will bring him peace as he moves toward the end.

She is going through the hard part.  Then there is the adjustment period following the death.  But as time passes she will be okay.  She will live a new “normal” life without Charlie.  She has a positive attitude and her new life will also be positive and good.  How do I know?  Because that is what I am doing.   I’ve been there.  I can feel her pain.  I know she will persevere and move forward.  That is the type of person she is.

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Filed under cancer, Coping, death, Family, Illness, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, reality