Happy Independence Day, Whatever That Means To You

   Independence. If ever there was a word to describe the beauty of growing older, but never old, it is this. 

   You and I have been through many phases of personal independence and will likely experience a few more. Yet my thoughts for today started as I reflected on the meaning of shared independence, where together we experience a multitude of freedoms that were started with a written declaration of the 4th of July, 1776. 

    Most of our strongest and best freedoms, whether personal or collective, take place after similar actions. We get annoyed, then bothered, then incensed. We protest, first in small ways that only make US feel better, then bigger ways designed to fight back. Next comes the real fight where there are casualties and real, abiding pain. We feel wounded, yet brave. We find our strength in the victory of each battle, and we become stronger after the war is finally over. We declare our independence out loud, and we declare it in writing. Only after that do we achieve true independence. 

  Complacency, though, is the enemy. We have to guard our independence, whether personal or collective, and keep our hearts soft, yet firm, and our eyes open, yet focused. 

  What about you? Are you in one of the phases of gaining or protecting independence? Are you fighting a battle or are you ready to write your own declaration? Are you wiser because of it and now able to help someone else who is in the fight? Give it some thought today as you, too, ponder the meaning of the word and where it fits in your life.

And happy Independence Day, whatever that means to you and wherever you are in the journey. You are strong and you are beautiful. You will grow older, but it is your choice to never grow old.

Hugs and kisses,

Carol

The hardest post

It comes to everyone, yet I managed to live 63 years without it coming to me. “Because I could not stop for Death, it kindly stopped for me…” wrote Emily Dickinson. Death did stop at my door, and it took my precious mother.

On September 25, 2018, my mother took a brief break from cooking dinner to sit outside on the back steps, something she did regularly to get fresh air and listen to the birds. We don’t know how it happened, but she fell and hit her head on the concrete driveway. For the first five days in Trauma, she opened her eyes and responded to commands. She knew who we were and she responded to us, but on the 11th day, she left us for eternity. My brother, my father, and I were with her as she slipped away.

As we have traveled the road of shock and grief, I have had plenty of time to think of my mother’s legacy. I have uncovered thousands of scraps of paper with handwritten quotes she copied from books, bulletins, sermons, poems. I have learned that her life was not as easy as she made it look, and this brings me to the most enduring legacy she leaves.

Image result for suffer in silence

The scraps of paper I found have a common theme – suffering in silence. They tell of a woman who struggled with many things but who found her hope in the words of promise, encouragement, and prayer that she found everywhere she looked. She never complained, and her mantra was frequently “This, too, shall pass.”

My mother had what she called a “notecard ministry.” She was known for her kind and loving notes to everyone from close friends to people she felt deserved notice. I discovered that she wrote these notes in draft form first, then copied them onto note stationery. The last one she wrote was still in draft, addressed to a woman in her doctor’s office who had “so kindly helped me and spoke with gentleness when I asked questions.” These notes lifted the people who received them, but I have realized they lifted my mother more.

Suffering can lead one to isolation and bitterness, yet my mother did not share her own frustrations of aches and pains and despair. Instead, she lifted others, and in so doing, lifted herself. This is her legacy. Lifting others and taking time to notice and thank them can take us out of our own suffering and into a place of peace.

In my mother’s memory, would you join me in writing a hand-written note once a month to someone who deserves notice and gratitude? The purpose is not to send a copy to the recipient’s supervisor for a pat on the back; it is to simply say, “I see you. You are doing good things, and I am grateful.” Here is the first.

Dear Mama,

You lived a life of sacrifice for me, and I am grateful. From the times you said you “loved the chicken neck” so that we could have the best pieces of fried chicken to the times you updated your older clothes so I could have the newest style, I am grateful. For every time on your travels you went in a gift shop and bought something not for you, but for me, I am grateful. All of my prettiest things came from those trips. There are so many more times you sacrificed and gave to me, and I know that most of them I will never know. What I do know is that you were deeply loved by so many, and I count myself tremendously blessed to have had you for 63 years. I wish you could see me become a grandmother and spoil your great-grandchild, but I know how to do it because you were the perfect grandmother to my children. I promise to follow your model and carry on your legacy. You will never leave my heart, and I will always be your little girl.

Love you forever,

Carol

If you take my challenge and join me in writing one note a month, would you post a comment and tell me about it? My mother would love it so much. Her name was Ruth.

“Where Does the Time Go?” says the parent. Replies the Universe: “It goes…”

There is a universal truth that the older you get in years, the faster those years go by. Every time I see a young parent post a picture of a child with the caption “Where does the time go?” I want to respond this way:

It goes away. The measure of time doesn’t change, but what makes it fly is the amount of things you fill it with that you then try to balance. If you want to slow it down, you take some things off the schedule. You take the phone out of your hand and you talk. You go outside and you play. You go to the beach or the woods or the lake and you sit around and play games and tell stories. When your children are grown, they will remember these times, and they will come home to relive them and bring their wives and their children to experience them. This is the joy of being older, never old.

As I write this, my grown children are home for us to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday. I am blessed at age 63 with still-living and fairly healthy parents. I know how unusual that is, so it is that I am STILL in my role as a child to return home to visit my parents. I know what this means to them, and what it means to me. I know that the desire to go home does not happen automatically, but it comes with the investment of time in the life of children when they are young.

My paternal grandfather was old for the entire time I knew him. He sat in a chair, and that’s the only way I remember him. My maternal grandmother would get on a bike and ride with me or put on silly hats and play dolls. She showed me what it means to keep the child alive inside, and it is that child that attracts other children.

So, if you are wondering how to keep the time from flying or your children from getting away from you, I’d say it very simply: nurture the child inside of you now so that the children want to come and play with YOU.

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

59th Stree BridgeSong coverIf you’re in my generation or love Oldies, you sang that title and followed it with

“You got to make the morning last – just – kickin’ down the cobblestones – lookin’ for fun and feelin’ groovy!” (and if you need to follow THAT with a sing-along before you continue reading, then by all means, click here and take a little song break!)

I spent so much time playing this whole album as a teen that I cannot just sing a phrase. It’s the whole song before I can move on with even a thought – and that’s only if I can remember what I was thinking before the song started playing.

These words by Simon and Garfunkel came to my mind today when for the third straight day, I stayed in bed instead of teaching school as I’ve done for 34 years. It’s because of the fever, body aches, sore throat and cough — but, still, the take-away lesson for me as I look at this unexpected interruption in a pretty peculiar year of interruptions, is that the time is coming when each day will present the choice to get up or not.

For now, I love teaching high school seniors, although I admit that I have to move very fast to keep up. Sometimes it’s good to be forced to slow down, to stay in bed, to catch up on a favorite TV show, to read a good book. When you’re in full career stride, you move fast all the time, and even though most people think teachers have the whole summer slowing down, I don’t. I move just as fast, if not faster, during the summer months.

what-i-did-on-my-summer-vacation
The teaching may stop in the summer, but the learning and training and sharing begins.

I wonder if I might have been healthier and been able to resist the flu if I’d been a little more rested. I wonder if a three-day break would be good for all teachers between winter and spring breaks (no brainer: the answer is yes!), but I wonder most of all what it will be like when the words “Slow down, you move too fast” are no longer relevant to my life.

When that day comes, I hope people won’t be telling me to “Hurry Up, You Move Too Slow,” but, if they do, I plan to sing my reply…

Got no deeds to do,
No promises to keep.
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep.
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me.
Life, I love you,
All is groovy.

Products that helped me lose 60 pounds, Part I

There’s just something about peanut butter that makes me happy. I can eat it by the spoonful or, if I know nobody’s looking, run my index finger around the jar or dip it straight into that sticky goodness.

How many times have I don this? About 30 pounds worth...
Yumm… How many times have I done this? About 30 pounds worth…

Giving up peanut butter to lose weight was never a lifetime commitment, only a temporary sacrifice in the ever-repeating quest to get back into a normal size. Everything changed this time when I discovered a product called PB2 from Bell Plantation. Here’s what the company says to describe their amazing product:

“PB2 has the same consistency as full fat peanut butter with all of the natural roasted peanut flavor, but with nearly 85% less fat calories. PB2 is made with high quality peanuts that are slow-roasted to our specifications and pressed to remove the oil. All natural with no artificial flavors,sweeteners, or preservatives.”

PB2
I think this discovery ranks right up there with cheese!

I eat PB2 every day, and it is one of the keys to my weight loss success. If I can eat peanut butter every day and still lose weight and keep it off, it’s not much of a sacrifice, is it? I eat it on celery; I eat it on crisp, juicy apples, I put it in smoothies, and I’ve even spread it on top of a protein bar and topped it with sugar-free whipped cream.  I know your next question is where do you get it, and I’m thrilled to report that it is much easier to find than when I first discovered it a couple of years ago. I’ve ordered it from Amazon ($11.65 for 16 oz or you can get it in a 6.5 oz jar for less) and directly from the site, but locally I’ve found it health food stores. Sadly, neither GNC nor Vitamin Shoppe carry it, but the good news is that Wal-Mart, Kroger and Publix do!

I’m too new at the blogging game to get product advertisements or endorsements, but honestly I would spread the good news about PB2 with or without their support. This is one incredible product, and I can say without hesitation that without it, traveling the weight loss road would have been much lonelier.

There’s Always a Spot You Missed.

True story:

I painted a small table to go in my remodeled kitchen to create a “keeping room.” I chose a dark charcoal eggshell paint instead of black, thinking that the dark black would be too dark. 

For a little table, there sure are a lot of surfaces!
For a little table, there sure are a lot of surfaces!

I put numerous coats of the gray paint on the table in all of the nooks and crannies, and being a wine rack table, there were many of those.  After I had covered the table with multiple coats, I decided that black would, indeed, look better. Back to the store for more paint and a new brush.

The black did look better, and for several afternoons in a row, I painted the legs, the sides, the undersides. I turned it upside down and painted the bottom sides that nobody would ever see. I made sure that every surface was not only covered once, but got a double coat.

Finally the table was finished and completely dry. I turned it, rotated it, flipped it – checking and double-checking to make sure I had not missed a section.

I did this for a week. It was right by the back door, so every time I went in and out, I checked it.

I brought the table inside, put wine bottles in it and a lamp on top of it. I stood back and admired it. I had a party. I had another party. The table was perfect.

Until today, when I discovered that I missed a spot. A big spot. A spot right on top, on the very first rung. 

That's a pretty big spot to miss!
That’s a pretty big spot to miss!

And then it hit me. This is a lot like life. You think you’ve got it all covered. You check, double-check, twist, turn, rotate and flip. You’re sure you covered everything.

But you didn’t. You missed a spot.

And instead of calling myself stupid, careless, idiotic, I pondered what lesson I could learn from that. As I’ve gotten older, I’m finding there’s a lesson in just about everything.

Instead of being annoyed because I’ve put the paint away and tossed the brush, I’m going to leave that spot just like it is. Maybe to keep me humble. Maybe to remind me I’m not perfect. Maybe to remind me that when I think I’ve checked all I need to check, to look one more time.

Because as hard as we try in life to cover all the bases, the chances are pretty darn good that we missed a spot. And we have to decide whether to start over, patch it, fix it, or leave it alone. 

I'm leaving this table alone!
I’m leaving this table alone!

When You’re Caught Off Guard

dusty-shelf-med
Which words on this shelf are more powerful?

Sometimes I just don’t pay attention because I don’t want to be bothered. It happens with the dust gathering in the corners of the floor of my house or on my bookshelves, the stack of things I set aside to get to one day and eventually moved to a drawer or “holding place” that is out of my daily vision, the bathroom scales, or even my bank account. I don’t want to deal with that work, those decisions, that number, those responsibilities.

When I ignore them too long, though, they have a tendency to jump up and bite me. You’d think that after so many years of living I would know this, and in the deepest part of me, I do. Yet I persist in my bubble, believing somehow that if I ignore them long enough, they will right themselves or go away.

That happened to me yesterday, and today I’m struggling with how to fix it quickly – even though I know there is no quick fix. Once again I hear a voice from my youth saying, “You got yourself into this mess, now you get yourself out.” I think that’s my mother, but it could be a teacher, my grandmother. (Those lecturing voices get fuzzy since I clearly ignored their warnings!) Yet, here I am. Figuring out how to “get myself out” of the current mess. Realizing if I had only paid attention along and along I wouldn’t be in this mess. Kicking myself for yet again ignoring something until it bit me. Frustrated that the “fix” will require the sacrifice of something I didn’t really want to give up.

When did THAT happen?
When did THAT happen?

Making it to the prime of life (and by “prime” I mean 60+) does not mean you get all of the answers. Sometimes it means you just kick yourself harder when you make the same mistakes. “You KNOW better! You KNOW how to avoid this!” And the voice lecturing in my head is not my mother’s or my grandmother’s. It is my own. The one I used to teach my children – my students – myself.

I wish I could say that when you reach a certain age, you don’t struggle and the answers are easier. The truth is, it’s just more frustrating when you make the same mistakes. All you can do is make the sacrifices, vow to do better, and then continue the work.

If you have a similar story, advice, or sympathy, I’d love to hear it. Right now my backside is a little sore from the kicking.

-Carol