Things I want to keep in mind.

Month: July, 2015

Enter expletive here

Lord. I am so anal retentive. I like order. I like things to be “just so”, every day. I like to sit down at my computer and have everything at my fingertips. Windows 10 does not comply. It is so infuriating! I hesitated in getting my “free” upgrade and this is why!

The simple step by step method of adding your email addresses – did not work correctly. Then, when I tried to add my main email address via the instructions given – W10 could not find that email address. An email address that I’ve had for 20 years! So I have to go a different route to get that email. Upgrade my ass!

I’m thinking that the few of us who receive the free upgrade first are the guinea pigs – we help iron out all the kinks! Something that is supposed to run smoothly becomes an obstacle to my day! I can’t tell you how much this little glitch disrupts my routine. I was so angry yesterday that even after I walked away – I was still fuming and swearing. You would’ve thought it was a personal affront! Wow. I really am anal retentive!

My poor husband tried to assist me. He is very calm and methodical. He asked if I tried manually entering the login data. YES. Did I try restarting the computer. YES. Did I try deleting the emails and entering them again. YES!!! He backed away very slowly.

I keep telling myself that this will all work out, it isn’t a big deal, stop obsessing. Perhaps I should take this opportunity to go outside and read in the sun… In the grand scheme of things – this really isn’t that important. I’m just so grateful for expletives.


Random thoughts


I watch the sunrise each morning. I am fortunate to have my desk facing northeast, in front of a big window. I deliberately placed my desk here so I could enjoy the view as I write – maybe gain a little perspective or motivation as I look out over the green fields, densely forested mountains, rugged rocky peaks and the endless blue sky. Some days just sitting here can bring peace – words will pour out. Other days, it is enough to just sit and look.

I have been retired for eight months now. My husband and I have done a good bit of traveling. So much so, that when we arrived home the other day we were relieved to have a few weeks at home, doing nothing but cleaning, mowing and other maintenance activities!

We have one more trip planned with our family in August. We’re renting a house near the beach in Oregon. I hope everyone can make it. As our children age, it becomes more and more difficult for all of us to get together. Everyone has jobs, some have children, some live far away and it will involve a long drive or an expensive flight to get anywhere. Consequently, any time that we can all be together in one place is a time to be cherished!

As a mother of adult children, I can tell you that it is a mixed blessing to have your children grown and independent. You gain some freedom – you can take a bath or shower – without interruption. You can sleep in (I wish). You can come and go as you please. But no matter how old they are, how far away from “home” or how well they are doing – in the quiet times, when you are alone, your heart aches for them just a little. They are like missing ingredients in a recipe. You can still mix everything together and throw it in the oven. It will bake up nice and golden brown but it just doesn’t taste as good. Such is life in the motherhood kitchen.

Little pieces

Three piles; save, goodwill and the dump. We are cleaning my mother’s house so that we can sell it. This is a difficult job for two reasons. My mother was a “collector” (borderline “hoarder”). She would never throw anything away. She has closets full of clothes that no longer fit and are clearly marked with the last date she tried them on and why they don’t fit, “Too tight, 5/5/84”. Old socks, old hair dye, lots of stuff she purchased JUST BECAUSE it was on sale, book markers, small writing tablets, cough drops, broken jewelry, old plastic containers, the piles are endless.

The second reason? It is hard to go through her stuff.

She came from an era when money was very scarce and she learned to save and reuse EVERYTHING. Slap on some shelf lining paper and it was good as new.

She loved having her grandchildren visit. There are toys and little trinkets in every corner of the house. Something to have on hand just in case they stopped by – so they would have something to play with while they were there or a toy they could take home from “grandma’s house”.

There are also newspaper articles; programs from concerts, plays, graduation ceremonies; old photos and letters, copies of obituaries.

Little pieces of her. Every time I sort through her stuff, I realize, yet again, how little I really know about her. I know surface things. She worried about her weight and about money. She was devoted to her church. She loved to drive her car anywhere. Did she miss my dad? Did she still resent living so far from her family in Texas? What does she know and feel now?

As I sort, it is impossible not to think about each item – when I last saw it, if I ever saw it, why on earth did she keep THIS? I am sorting more than just the stuff she kept.

Such luck

Today is my wedding anniversary. It was 29 years ago today that I married my dear husband.

Yesterday, we took a celebratory trip to Philipsburg – a small tourist town in Montana that has a huge candy store and an ancient opera house (among other things). In the old days, it was a mining town. As luck would have it, they were having a celebration – Flint Creek Days – with a car show. We looked at all of the “muscle” cars and my husband showed me the engines – not that it made any difference to me but he was almost drooling. If money were no object, I’m sure he would own a 1970 Chevrolet Super Sport (whatever that is) with a such and such engine blah, blah, blah. Yes, I glazed over. Suffice it to say – he is much more pragmatic than that but he can still dream.

We also bought a bag of dirt at a gem shop and searched for sapphires. We actually found quite a few – one that was big enough to have cut and set in a necklace or ring…now it was my turn to dream. A beautiful anniversary ring with a light blue sapphire. If money were no object.

When my husband and I married, we had very little. We had both recently divorced and came away with the minimal of old furniture, he had an old Chevy truck and I had a little Nissan Sentra station wagon. At the time, we were working shifts – him as a policeman and me as a 9-1-1 dispatcher. Our house was a mess, someone was always sleeping or working, and our kids were trained at an early age to be very quiet. Those were the days.

We have had our share of struggles as most people do. We have 6 children total – “yours, mine and ours”. The best I can say about it is that we learned a lot as we went along. I think every parent wishes for a do-over in some areas but, honestly, I wouldn’t go back. The kids are strong, kind, smart and loving people. Each has their own strength and character and they are all a great source of pride.

When I met my husband, I was just coming into my own. He was a tall, handsome guy with a kind face and a very sexy voice. I know the phrases “love at first sight” and “soul mates” are cliché but, truly, that is how it felt and still feels. Even with the struggles of our lifetime and after all of these years – he still melts my butter. I still look forward to seeing him at the end of the day. As we age and move into our “golden years”, we are grateful to have each other. We like spending time together. We KNOW that we are very lucky.

Float quietly

For the last several weeks, I have felt as though I were floating in murky water – I couldn’t see the shore and didn’t know which direction I should swim. Tread water – tread water – tread water. I was getting waterlogged and needed to get out, get clean and get dry.

The breast stroke – it is an easy, slow stroke that doesn’t require too much energy. Stroke, glide.

I just want her to say she loves me and really mean it. That’s all. Now she can’t, even if she wanted to. Maybe this is how we heal. We are FORCED to either let go or go crazy with sadness.

If you think your world is going to stop while you process your grief – you’re wrong.  Everything continues moving even if you’re stock still so you need to get back into the current.  Stroke, glide; stroke, glide. When you get tired, roll onto your back, float quietly and just breathe.

Really, really, really cranky Jim

How is it that children become mean? Are they born that way? Is it environmental? Is it part of certain personalities?

Recently, we took my grandsons to play in the park. The oldest, Jack, is 3 and he is very smart (of course his grandma would say that, but it is really true. His language skills are easily that of a 5 year old). He loves to play with older kids because the games they play are much more fun. Every time they go to the park, he gravitates to the older kids. It doesn’t matter if they are 5, 7, or 10 – he wants to play with them. This would be fine except the older kids – being “older” – usually have trash mouths OR they don’t want to play with a 3 year old.

Here is the scenario: a group of kids ages 5 and 6 were playing a chase game. There were 3 or 4 boys and 1 girl. The girl was the odd man out so she was doing the chasing. They were running around and over the park gym/slide equipment, hollering, jumping and having fun. EXACTLY what my grandson LOVES to do. He joined in at the tail end – running, climbing, mimicking everything the other kids were doing and saying. The boys were taunting the girl, calling her name over and over so that she would chase them. (Changing all names to protect the innocent) “Lizzie, Lizzie, you can’t catch me”. Jack joined in the taunting calling her by name. This surprised her – she didn’t know him yet he was calling her name as if he did. Finally, they changed to a different game and they were playing close to where I was sitting. They asked Jack how old he was and he told them, they told him they were 6. They told him he was too young to play with them to which he replied, “I’m not too young, I’m 3!”. He then told “Lizzie” that he has another friend name Lizzie – which I confirmed.

At this point, they were jumping from a stand to a bar where they would hang and swing for a second and then drop to the ground and do it again. Jack just wasn’t tall enough to jump that high or far but he kept trying. The other boys called out to Lizzie and wanted to play chase again. They began running, climbing, sliding. Jack followed right along – he was so excited and called down to his mom, “I am playing with my friends!”

My daughter and I were watching and listening nearby. One of the boys playing the game, we’ll call him “Jim”, began telling Jack he couldn’t play. Jack responded that he could. Eventually, Jim refused to play until Jack stopped playing. My daughter, being concerned that Jack’s feelings were going to be hurt, tried to distract him and take him away from the “game” but he REALLY wanted to play. By this point, Lizzie and her twin brother, John, wanted to let Jack play. But Jim wanted no part of it. He began calling Jack stupid and being mean to Jack and the other two as well. He also tried to enlist support from a couple of the other boys. Eventually, the kids separated into two groups and everyone was getting riled up so we decided to take Jack and leave the park. He was very upset and wanted to stay – he really liked Lizzie and John and kept saying how Jim was just really, really, really cranky and mean. He just wanted to stay with his new friends. Throughout that evening and into the next day, Jack talked about his friend Lizzie and said he hoped he would see her again. She was a good friend.

As I watched the park scene unfold, it was interesting to me that (of course, the girl) Lizzie was the first to accept Jack. And, eventually, she was his greatest defender. John also defended him and kept saying to Jim, “Let’s just let him play.” Jim was adamant that Jack could not play with them. Jack was too young and was an “outsider”, they didn’t know him. I suspect Jack was taking Lizzie’s attention and that was part of it too. As we were talking to Jack and disengaging him from the fray, Lizzie told us that Jim is always like this, he is very mean.

Jack was a little trooper. He just wanted to play. And he was ready to stand up for himself. I think if we had let him, he would have taken on this mean little 6 year old! Every time Jim told him he couldn’t play, he simply replied that he could. Jim told him he was too small and slow and Jack would catch him and go chest to chest with him. Maybe that was what made Jim so upset – to be intimidated by a 3 year old. Or was he just mean in general?

On our ride home, my daughter talked to Jack about not being mean even if someone was mean to you. This was an interesting lesson for him. There is such a fine line between standing up for yourself and being mean in retaliation. We teach our children to be nice but what of the other children who are not nice? This was always a quandary for me when I was raising my own children. The truth is, there will always be mean kids, mean parents, mean coworkers, mean bosses, mean store clerks, etc. Mean people are everywhere. Jack will learn to be strong but not mean. His mom will see to that. Not everyone gets that lesson but he will.

Jack was not afraid of Jim and he was not sad about Jim’s rejection. The best part of his day was that he made friends. Wouldn’t it be lovely if he could live his whole life in these simple terms?

Aging with grace – can we do it?

The contrast between my mother and my mother-in-law (MIL) is interesting. My MIL is four years older than my mom but she is a totally different personality. She is also beginning to show signs of dementia but she is fighting it like crazy. She is angry at her body for betraying her as it deteriorates in ways she cannot control.

Currently, she lives in a senior living apartment building. She has fallen a number of times and has many health issues but she can cook for herself and take care of her own hygiene. She moves slowly and forgets what she is doing, but she can still maintain some semblance of independence. She has always been much more active than my mother was and has different activities during the week – bridge club, canasta, Newcomers Club, to name a few.

My MIL feels herself fading but wants to be the center, the hub, in-the-know – she doesn’t want to fade away. She is angry and frustrated with what is happening to her as she ages – she wants everyone to know it and almost demands that we keep her in focus. Ironically, as she tries to grasp for last bits of assurance and comfort, she pushes everyone away with her overwhelming need for their attention. She does not like being relegated to the rear seat – she doesn’t want to “slow down” but if it is unavoidable, she wants everyone else to slow down right along with her. Of course, this is an unreasonable expectation but this is her way of fighting the inevitable – never realizing that the more she struggles to maintain her importance and value in the family, the more she creates a hostile environment, one that most of us avoid.

I’m sure my mom went through something similar in recent years but we just never knew about it. As she faded, she withdrew. I’m sure her desire was to see her family more often and to avoid all of the pitfalls of aging and dementia. But her main core belief is one of humility. She would NEVER ask for help unless she absolutely had to and, even then, it would have been very difficult for her.

Of course, I think they both felt (as mother’s often do) that we should KNOW what they need and we should be there taking care of those things without having to be asked.

The other complicating factor is that both of them are widows. If they still had spouses, they would not feel so alone in their plight. Even though my mom and dad had a very difficult relationship, I often wonder how they would have aged together? Would they have taken care of each other? Would they have fought until the bitter end? Would they have found their stride in making sure they were both dressed, fed and clean? We’ll never know.

Of course, all of these observations cause me to be introspective. How will I feel when my body and mind begin their decline (as they already have in some small measure)? How will I react? Will I be angry? Will I withdraw? Will I be able to maintain my good humor? Will I nag my children about how many times they’ve called or when they last visited? (I hope not!)

I am using this transition period between getting old and being old to look for ways to maintain good physical and mental health. It is my hope that I can also maintain an awareness as I dip into those darker, slower days. Awareness of my own feelings – my own desires – my own circus. I want to read, write and develop interests that are my own and that will carry me through as the long days approach. I love my children but I don’t expect them to entertain me – and I hope I never do develop that expectation. This is where the sign for “You’re doing that crone thing again” will come in handy. (**See previous post)

I think this is where talking to myself will be a major advantage. I hope I still do voices and accents as I venture into my golden years. (I’ll be the crazy cat lady, minus the cats!) I won’t need visitors as long as I can still speak!

Sign language

From the front seat: “He never was much of a dancer”
From the back seat: “What?”
Front: (louder) “He never was much of a dancer”
Back: “Cancer?”
Front: “DANCER”
Back: “Who?”
Front: “John”
Back: “Ron?”
Front: “No, John”
Back: “What about John?”

Recently, I’ve been considering the use of sign language with the aging and hard of hearing. I just need a few words – perhaps I’ll come up with my own signs for the following:

  • you’ve already told this story (twice)…
  • too many details to this story, people are glazing over – terminate…
  • wrong topic, abort, abort…

My husband has significant hearing loss but is in denial. He refuses to consider hearing aids because they are very expensive and he just doesn’t want to feel that old. Most of his friends, who are younger, have hearing aids but “they don’t work that well”. (Really?) I think he would be surprised to find what he is missing.

I am also having some hearing loss – but not to the point of hearing aids yet. (They ARE horribly expensive!) And I believe I’ve posted previously, I am pretty accomplished at reading lips.

I think “Signs for the aging” would be a brilliant plan! One of these days, when the opportunity presents itself, my husband and I will come up with some “signs” for each other. It will be good for a laugh. Then, at some future point, IF we notice a conversation going south – we’ll “sign” to each other. It will help prevent a few embarrassing moments AND it will bring a little humor into the situation as well.

None of us wants to believe that we are getting older. Our minds’ eye keeps us at a certain age – for me it is about 40. We see ourselves in the mirror each day so the gradual changes of aging are not as noticeable. We see friends from our youth less frequently, so we are shocked to realize they are getting old. Then, light bulb suddenly comes on, “do I look that old?”. Of course you do.

Our society glorifies youth. After a certain age, you become invisible to the young folks around you. It doesn’t matter what level of intelligence, success, beauty or ability you have attained up to that point – after about age fifty, you slowly fade from view. This is especially difficult for women because not only are we still fighting for our place in a world governed by the male whim – as “older/mature” women we lose ground on personal levels too. As a man ages, he becomes distinguished. As a woman ages, she becomes a crone. Not fair but an injustice as old as the ages. I already know the perfect sign for that particular situation.

There is such a fine line between accepting aging and just giving up. My mother never, ever wanted to be a bother. I know that I often feel the same. I want to be as independent as I can for as long as I can. But I don’t want to become a shut-in because I’m not willing to evolve into needing some help and being able to ask for it. Conversely, I don’t want to become a demanding old woman that everyone avoids for fear of hearing about every ailment, every grievance, and every judgment of the past decade. Please remind me not to become that woman!

Perhaps I need to come up with signs for that too – one that says, “I just need your help for a little while” and one for my children/husband/friends that says, “you’re doing that crone thing!”

The letter to myself

Dear Me:

I am writing this letter as a reminder. I will tuck it away to be opened when I’m 60, reviewed when I’m 65, 70 and at any time along the way. I may even frame it – just so it is available for viewing as a gentle nudge for myself. (Especially if, heaven forbid, I develop dementia.)

Remember that your children/grandchildren have their own lives. They ARE busy. Don’t make comments in an effort to guilt them into visiting or calling you more – that only makes them avoid you so they don’t have to hear it.

When they visit, ask them questions about their lives. Tell them about yours. Don’t make judgments about their choices. If they ask, then you can offer an opinion.

Do your best not to repeat stories. (Unless they’re really funny.)

Make sure your blush is blended and your eyebrows even.

Don’t talk about your hemorrhoids or vaginal dryness.

Stay as active as you can, for as long as you can. If you need a walker, use it. Don’t let vanity prevent you from getting out and about. Same goes for a hearing aid, cane, thick glasses or wheelchair.

There will come a time when you can no longer drive a car. Try to be gracious. Grieve a little then hand over those keys.

Be as pleasant as you can. Read, write and walk everyday. Wear appropriate clothing and shower at least twice a week.

As you slow down with age, accept that it is happening. You can’t fight it or change it.

Be loving to your children, grandchildren, friends and to yourself.

Love, Me

The man in the field

There is a man. I watch him in his fields everyday. He feels such pride that his fields are the greenest in the valley. He is a tough old rancher, in the rarest form of the word. Up early in the morning and to bed early at night. There are chickens and cows to feed, horses to break, fences to mend, irrigation pipes to move, hay to cut and bail, a garden to tend. Gone are the days of high school kids who need summer jobs and will work for a small wage, a good meal and a wealth of knowledge to be assimilated. He works alone.

He is aging, right along with the rest of us. In his earlier days, he dreamed of giving the ranch over to his son and grandchildren. Perhaps he thought of retiring somewhere in the wilderness where he could hunt, fish and ride at will. Maybe he would rather have stayed on the ranch, watching his grandchildren grow.

Alas, it was not meant to be. His son was taken from him in a freakish logging accident. He was a young man with much promise. The devastation was insurmountable.

The man works the fields. His body rebels. Years of hard physical work take their toll – there is pain and exhaustion but he powers through each day. Friends and family tell him he needs to slow down, cut back, rest more, have more recreation.

The ranch is his livelihood. It is like an old mother, pushing him, holding him, smiling up at him. If he slows down he would feel too much. There would be too much time to think and yearn for other things he cannot have. His strength is the ranch.

Those of us who love him hope that one day he will find his way to peace but we can’t bring it to him. Our suggestions and good wishes mean very little. In the end, it will be his choice, his path. He is a good man with such love and kindness and humor but he can be a hard man as well. If only he knew how much he is loved. If only he could slow the pace of his days enough to let someone else in. Then he could have the life we think he deserves.

There is a man. He lives his own life, always has.