Things I want to keep in mind.

Month: February, 2015


My first thoughts, this morning, were of my mother.  Yesterday, I came across a picture of her from 4 years ago.  The difference in her facial expression between then and now is prodigious.  You don’t realize the change as much when you see it happen gradually – but when you haven’t seen her for awhile or when you see an older photo of her, it is much more pronounced.

I try not to think about the way she used to be – it is too painful.  Even though we were not close, she was still a force in my life.  I am sad for her, for the woman she was and for the trials she endured.  I understand so much more now than I ever did before.  She loved her family.  She did the best that she knew how.  So much of her talent was never fully realized.  I wonder if she felt fulfilled?  Did she know how important she was to the rest of us?

Today, I will go feed her lunch and do a little cleaning and laundry.  There are times when I’m not sure she recognizes me when I first arrive.  Eventually, she will make the connection and ask me something about my kids or grandsons.  It is difficult for her to speak – hard to find the words she wants to say.  Our relationship has always been a difficult one – we’ve never really visited much.  It is hard for both of us to find the words.


It’s not the tailor that makes a man (or woman, as it were)

Remember the movie “Titanic”?  I have been thinking about it a lot and not because I’m worried our ship will go down;  not because I think I might meet Leonardo DiCaprio on our cruise; and absolutely not because I plan to pose nude for an artist drawing!!!  I’ve been fretting about what I will wear on my cruise and how I will be perceived if my clothing is not “appropriate”.

I am not a clothes hound or a fashion plate – I never have been.  In the early days, we just didn’t have the money to spend on a “wardrobe” and as money became more fluid, I usually could think of better things to spend my money on.  I generally only shop the sales racks and try very hard to “imitate” those lovely garments I see in ads with a knockoff at 1/3 the price!  Sometimes, I am successful; sometimes, not so much.  It is like a game and can be enjoyable UNTIL I am in a situation where it might matter – like going on a 7 day cruise.

In addition to not really having a stylish wardrobe, I also have the angst over my social graces or lack thereof.  I must confess, I am much more comfortable in a smaller setting, out in the country where everyone talks about the local gossip or the new walking trail along the highway.  And I have to say I worry about that whole “talking” thing I mentioned in an earlier post.

That little 13 year old girl is hovering and that old fear has a good strong hold of my leg!

The truth of the matter, as I re-read this diatribe of my fears and insecurities, I actually feel pretty good in this old skin of mine.  I may not be a socialite but I like to have fun, I like to meet new people and try new adventures (once I finally allow myself to step out of my comfort zone).  I love to laugh and to make people laugh.  I will pack my suitcase with the clothes that I normally wear and go sit in the sun with the man that I love.  We’ll tour new places and, yes, even try ziplining!  (I’ve already started thinking about what to do if the line breaks midair…).

Worrying about all of this brings to mind the unsinkable Molly (Margaret) Brown.  She was the American Socialite played by Kathy Bates in the 1997 version of the movie Titanic.  She was portrayed as the rather direct and brash woman who had “new money” meaning she didn’t inherit it but earned it (eewww!) after being born “poor”.  In the movie, she was a strong character even though the others looked down their noses at her.  I had thought that she was a person who was tacky and uncultured but in reading a little about her, she was “well-immersed in the arts and was fluent in French, German and Italian”.  She used her fame to promote issues she felt strongly about – “the rights of workers and women, education and literacy for children, historic preservation, and commemoration of the bravery and chivalry displayed by the men aboard the Titanic”.   She, indeed, pulled herself up by the bootstraps.  Who cares what she wore?



My son and I went to lunch yesterday.  He was his usual chatty self – even moreso after his 2 day hospital stay, all alone in that big hospital room.  We had a good visit.  A couple of times, the topic of conversation was about “talking”.  He has the gift of gab and can talk to anyone.  He will talk about anything at anytime.  He told me that he KNOWS he talks a lot and he has even read articles about body language so that he can observe when someone is getting tired of his conversation.  Too funny!

Being able to talk is a gift (and a detriment) depending on how aware a the speaker is of his audience.  I am not as gifted as my son.  Oh, if I know you, I can most certainly talk all day long.  But if I don’t, I am not that comfortable making small talk.  As a child, I was taught to speak only when spoken to particularly around adults.  My mother was also pretty edgy a lot of the time, so we all walked on egg shells around her.  I was alone a lot and I talked to myself or if in public, I just talked inside my own head.  I still do that today.

My tendency as a child was to listen.  My dad talked a lot – he was a great story teller.  So when we were doing something together, I just listened and never really added anything to the conversation.  In school, I was a jokester but if it came time to have to actually talk about something of consequence, I just listened.  While I never learned to be a conversationalist, I did learn to be a good listener, to pay attention to body language and to watch quietly.  Because my mother was angry so much, I was hyper aware of the little queues, was she angry, sad or content?   Those skills have served me well in all of my jobs and in most other areas of life.  Of course, it also makes me a little paranoid in those moments of insecurity – is he/she mad? why is he/she so quiet today? have I done something? – etc. etc.

As an adult, I have tried to learn all the nuances of talking to strangers – at parties or events – both at work and socially.  It does not come easy but I can hold my own if I have to, I’m just not overly comfortable and I am very sensitive.  If I am talking to someone and I am asking all the questions and they ask none in return, I stop talking.  I have always used humor to break the ice and if they don’t find my anecdotes amusing, I stop talking.  In a big crowd, if I can’t find someone who will engage, I find myself drawn to children or to the working staff (waitresses, housekeeping, clerks).  In my mind, I always feel like they aren’t going to judge.  There are times when I feel like I am 13 years old – dressed in the wrong color, wearing the wrong shoes and with braces and a head gear – trying to find a place to hide.  Other times, I feel like most of the other adults in the room – counting down the minutes until it is over and we can take off our shoes, let our stomachs out and have a beer.  Chalk another one up to social graces.  Cheers.

Let go of my leg

My grandsons and I play a little game where they are trying to crawl away from me but I grab their leg and drag them back and holler something like, “NO, you can’t get away!”  We laugh and laugh.  I realized this morning that the old “fear” does the very same thing to me.  I will be doing well, feeling fine – happy as could be and fear will grab my leg and drag me back.  “NO you can’t go….”  I suspect it happens to most of us.  Remember the old saying, “one step forward and two steps back”?  It is along those same lines.

I love being retired – I love having all of this free time – I love traveling.  But fear is always just waiting behind the suitcase…

We just got back from a trip to Mesa.  It was beautiful!  So warm and relaxing.  Right before we were leaving for the airport, our youngest son texted that he was at the ER getting his ankle checked out.  We were a little nervous and anxious but figured he would be okay.  By the time we landed in Mesa, he was hospitalized and they were doing testing to try to figure out what was wrong.  The first two days of the trip – we worried about what was wrong, what was going on, if he was okay, felt we should be there with him…  He was very adult about it (he is 24) and said he was fine. He assured us he was asking good questions and being a good advocate for himself.  Our daughter lives close by and she was in the middle of her own work obligations – but was available…  By the second day, he was released.  His sister picked him up at the hospital and took him home.  There was no viral infection just gout brought on by too much protein supplements with creatinine and a couple of other factors.  He was walking with a boot but was going to be fine.  We enjoyed the rest of our trip but that gave us a little scare.  We both felt a little tug of apprehensive for the rest of the weekend (still enjoyed the sunshine and daquiries by the pool, mind you).

Now we have an even longer trip planned.  We will be flying to New Orleans and touring around, then going on a 7 day cruise.  We will be gone for 2 weeks.  While on the cruise, we won’t have contact with anyone.  What were we thinking?  What if something happens while we are gone?  What if something happens to us?  What on earth should we pack?  What if we don’t have appropriate clothing?  What if we get sick?  What if world war 3 breaks out?  LET GO OF MY LEG!!!

My husband did confess that he is feeling the same angst.  Maybe for different reasons. ( I don’t think he worries about not having appropriate clothing).  It is a long time to be away from home and our normal routine.  We are both a little on the anal retentive side so traveling and rolling with the flow does not come easy for either of us.  BUT we’ve been planning this for over a year.  We will have a good time – if we can just let ourselves.

In the last few weeks, I have noticed that old nagging fear more and more.  I suppose it makes sense, I’ve gotten used to having my own time and retirement is getting to be the new normal.  I am starting to feel the old pull that I should be doing more than just hanging out at home.  All of this travel makes me feel a little bit guilty.  It is hard to have so much fun after so many years of other obligations.  Seems frivolous based on our old lifestyle of spending only when necessary and mostly on the needs of the family.  That frame of thinking is from the old days but it is still very prevalent.

I WILL go on my trip and I will enjoy myself.  I know that there will be moments of fear – grabbing at my leg and trying to drag me back.  I’ll do my best to laugh it off.

Obsession (not the perfume)

On a good day, it sits quietly and unobtrusively in its assigned space.  Don’t notice it or feel it really.  It is well behaved and stays within the boundaries set forth by the jeans.  On a bad day, it protrudes.  Takes on a life of its own.  If it had a voice, the voice would be raspy, like the old truck stop waitress who has been a chain smoker since she was 10 years old.  It resembles a 5 month pregnancy only flabbier.  To add to the reverie are the love handles around the back – together, they become this trio of chubby cheerleaders, bouncing around as if someone made the touchdown in the final moments of the game.  Totally out of control – breaking through the fence and running out onto the field!

Yes, I’m talking about my belly.  I’ve worried about this thing since I was 15 years old.  Before then, I never gave it a second thought.  A well-meaning teacher told me that if I lost a few pounds and I toned up my stomach, I could be a good gymnast.  Thank you Mr. Smith.  Then in college, a boyfriend told me something similar, not about being a gymnast but about losing some of the stomach, firming it up and then I would have a great body.  Thereby, cementing the thought that if I had a nice flat stomach – I would be perfect and loveable.  Lord, this has been a long row.

I’ve done sit-ups fairly regularly since that time.  And my stomach has been my mortal enemy – one I can “feel” all day long most days.  Here’s the really sad news:

“The location of fat, as well as the proportion, typically changes with age. In women, a drop in estrogen levels with menopause coincides with a shift of fat from the lower portion of the body (a “pear” shape), toward the midsection (an “apple” shape). This “belly fat” is comprised of both subcutaneous fat under the abdominal skin, as well as fat that accumulates around organs, called visceral adipose tissue, deep within the abdomen. ”


Here is a great article for what you can do during your aging process – as I was “researching” I happened upon it.  (Have no idea if the link will work – if not, you can copy and paste).  I am happy to report that I was aware of the things suggested in the article and am currently practicing most of them – i.e. walking, trying to eat healthy, staying active mentally and physically.  (Need to start working on the whole “stretching” thing though…)

I have realized over the years how unhealthy it is to obsess about weight and my “belly”.  Some of the time, I can forget all about it.  But when I feel insecure or worried about something – that old truck stop waitress will give a little chuckle and I’ll be thrown right back into the fray.  Hide it!  Buy something to cover it up!  Do more sit-ups!  Eat less bread!

I guess we all have our burdens to bear, even those that are self-imposed.

Being Gawee

My first thought this morning as I awoke was, “What day is it?”.  Kind of a nice feeling…  Fun thing about retirement – never knowing what day of the week it is and it really doesn’t matter!  Oh and it’s a three day weekend?  (EVERY day!) I’m lovin’ it!

I have really been missing my little grandson’s, Jack and Charlie.  When I get lonesome, I watch my videos on my phone.  It isn’t the same as being able to talk to them and hold them but it is a reminder of how damn cute and smart they are!  I get to see them in 12 days!

Being a grandmother has been a wonderful and surprising experience.  You forget just how much you can love a little being.

I witnessed little Jack’s birth and it is something I will never forget and will cherish always.  He is so much like his mother!  He has a very vivid imagination and loves to read books.  We have a very special relationship and there are days when I just miss him so much.  He calls me “gawee” and I usually call him “Jack Miller”.  He will just randomly say “I love you gawee”.  It melts my heart.

I missed Charlie’s birth by an hour, we just couldn’t drive fast enough.  But I got to hold him when he was still new.  It is so funny how each of them have their own personalities right from birth.  Charlie is a “papa’s boy” and when he was an infant, he wouldn’t look me in the eye – he would look over my shoulder instead.  I used to worry that we wouldn’t bond but this last visit, I was able to spend more time with him and we fell in love.  He is still his papa’s boy but gawee is pretty fun too.  He has the bluest eyes and is such a happy boy.  He loves watching his brother and soon will be able to mimic everything he does.  When he starts walking, my daughter will have her hands full!!

We used to Skype once a week but now that Jack is older, he would much rather see us in person – he has things to show us that are out of camera range.  Charlie will sit there and smile though.  I’m sure he is wondering how we got into that box?  And why aren’t we coming out to play?  I can really understand why grandparents will uproot themselves and move to be closer to grandchildren…  I am so grateful for technology because we can see photos or videos of them everyday.

In May, I will have another grandson.  He will be born in California.  I can’t wait to see what he looks like!  Will he have blond hair or be bald?  Will he be a big baby like his dad was?  Will he be a peaceful, happy boy like his dad was?

Grandchildren remind you of your great capacity for love.  They make you want to live forever.


Valentine’s Day is a depressing day for people who don’t have a special “valentine”.   And if your special someone is not naturally romantic, it can be a difficult day for both of you.  My husband is very loving and can be sentimental, but he is not overly romantic.  It just isn’t in his wheelhouse.  He’s very detail oriented and can fix just about anything – a car, any kind of electronics, computer programs, water pumps, lawn mowers, etc, etc – you get the idea.  But if he has to go shopping for a romantic gift?  Just shoot him in the mall parking lot.

Years ago, we decided that we would always celebrate Valentine’s day because it is the day we first met (actually, he figured it out the other day, we met on the 12th – but it is just as easy to celebrate on the 14th).   For quite a few years, we would go away for an overnight trip and leave the kids with my parents.  The “trip” was our gift to each other.   At the very least, we go out for date night.  As you age, all of that romantic – rolling around in the sheets – doesn’t have the same appeal.  Oh its fun – but you risk injury!

When we were younger, I wished my husband were more romantic.  Now, I’m okay with it.  I don’t need flowers that wilt and die in a week.  Jewelry sits in a box except for special occasions.  When I have trouble with my computer or the television or the washing machine and he comes in with his tool belt – that’s plenty romantic for me.  When one of the kids needs help fixing something or doing taxes or moving – he dons his old jeans and jumps in, no questions asked.  Could he be any sexier?  He is my dear friend and he would do anything for me (or for our family).  That’s romance in purest form.


A friend of mine passed away this week.  She is someone I knew years ago when I worked as a 911 dispatcher.  We hadn’t really seen each other in years but I have some very vivid and funny memories of her from our old work days.  I am so sorry for her family and friends.  She had been ill for some time – complications from heart surgery.  Her liver was already damaged and after the surgery her body just couldn’t recover.  She will be missed.

Her passing is strange because I hadn’t seen her for so long.  We were close when we worked together but after I got a different job, we lost touch.  That happens often in our lives as we go in different directions and have different interests.  She was older than most of us and was kind of a mother figure – but she had a great sense of humor and loved to laugh.  I understand her family has chosen not to have a memorial service for her.  That will be even more strange – to have her pass without a send off.

It’s strange to be getting older and people you know (people your own age) start passing away from natural causes.   It makes you realize your own mortality.  People die at any age but you expect to die when you get “old”.   I don’t want to get too morose – so suffice it to say, I plan to take care of my health and well being and to do the things I’ve always talked about doing.  It is a grim reminder to keep going forward – don’t get stuck in the fear factor.  If we obsess about WHEN we’re going to die, we may not live our best lives.

I want to see my grandchildren grown, with children of their own.  I want to see the grand canyon again.  To see a play in New York City.  To write another play.  To laugh and love until the very day the light goes out.  I like to believe that my friend lived a very full life – I plan to do the same.


The best day

If someone asked you to describe the best day of your life – what would you describe?  Would it be your wedding day?   Graduation day?  The day you retired?  The day you saw the Eiffel tower?  How could anyone choose one “best day”?

I could describe the day (night) I met my husband.  His beautiful blue eyes, the way he stood while we talked, the way he laughed, the way he looked right into my eyes when I introduced myself.  “Hi, I’m Loretta, remember me?”  He was chewing gum – he talked with confidence but was so humble and sweet.  What a wonderful beginning.

I could describe the day my ex-husband left.  The relief, the freedom, the fear, the meager beginnings of strength and resolve inside me.

I could describe the day of the births of all four of my children.  The excitement and joy, the fear of the unknown, the awareness of the heavy responsibility, the sheer thrill of seeing their faces.   All of them were born on Saturday.  For the first three, the labors were almost the same – my water started leaking early in the morning and they were born in the afternoon. With my last, I felt tired and a little sick. I labored most of the day with really sporadic pains but my water never broke.  I stayed at home until the pains were pretty close together (my 8 year old daughter was timing my contractions for me).  My youngest was born later that night – about an hour and a half after we got to the hospital.   I would say that each of those days were “best days”.

I could describe my wedding day – it was a hot day in July.  We were married in our friends’ back yard.  It was a very small ceremony with just immediate family.  I wore a simple white dress with a wide pink belt.  He wore a navy blue suit.  Our daughters, Jackie and Louise walked down the aisle together and Gabe walked with my sister, Paula, my maid of honor.  My dad wore his beaded leather vest.  It was a brief ceremony by a justice of the peace.  He said some nice things but I don’t remember a word.  I was so happy to be marrying my husband that I just remember feeling elated.  We played “our song”, There’s No Way by Alabama.  It was a glorious day that I will cherish always.

I have many best days involving my children – days of pride.  (listed in no particular order, just as they come to mind)

  • Graduation from college
  • The day Ethan stood up for a high school teacher who was being unfairly accused of assault
  • The day each of my daughters got married in our front yard
  • The day each of my grandsons were born
  • The day my daughters got out of abusive relationships
  • Any day that all of them are together under my roof, laughing, playing cards, reminiscing
  • Day to day pride over the jobs they have, the discoveries they are making, the people they love

So many “best days” its impossible to describe them all.  I could never choose any one day.  Could you?

Look beyond

This is my third month of my retirement.  It still feels really good.  The weather has been unseasonably warm, especially for Montana, and that makes me so anxious for spring and summer.  I am certain we will have more snow – it is only a matter of time.  Still, I will enjoy this warmth while it is here.  Winter is always harder for me – I think I’ve said so repeatedly –  I am anxious for what springtime brings now that I have so much more free time.

Here are the retirement lessons I’ve learned so far:

  1. You can sleep in if you want to – there really are no rules about that.
  2. You don’t have to rush to get things done.
  3. You don’t have to have a full schedule to feel as though you have accomplished something in a day.
  4. You REALLY do get to choose what you are doing each day.
  5. Your other retired friends (or your spouse) may have other interests than you do, that’s normal.  No obligation to do what everyone else is doing.  You get to choose that too.
  6. No guilt for number 5 (or any of the numbers for that matter!)
  7. You do have to make an effort not to isolate yourself – you do miss talking to people.

I find retirement very relaxing.  I’ve read more, and certainly written more, since my retirement.  I am finding my rhythm and path.  I can try something and if I don’t enjoy it in some measure, I can try something else!  There are so many FEWER things I “must” do – and so many more I “can” do.  I am slowly ridding myself of the “should” inner voice – I’ve been ruled by her my whole life.

I find myself looking beyond this moment.  Not like I am looking really far ahead to the future but looking beyond my lap.  I dwell inside my own head – a LOTt.  I am slowly learning to sit down and look up – beyond what I am ruminating about, beyond moment to moment things that can drag me down, beyond fear of aging (and possible dementia in my future).  I live in a beautiful place – views from my front porch are phenomenal.  I have a lovely home and a husband who enjoys my company and I, his.  My children are living their lives – making their choices and are truly good people.  I have the most adorable and loving grandchildren (truly the greatest gift).  I am smart, witty and loving — and I have a lot of life to live.