BooWho

Things I want to keep in mind.

Month: October, 2015

Retirement – round two

He has the cutest little round face. He is very expressive, so many faces has little Ollie. Soon, he will be living in my neck of the woods. I can’t wait! The countdown begins for his arrival! Just a couple more days. I hope he likes me.

All four of my kids will live within a days drive! This news brings much joy! I can visit grandkids anytime! I can “borrow” little Ollie for the afternoon! When he is ready, I can have him for sleepovers! All three grandsons will be here during the holiday season!!! I’d better get to work on their little play room!

I’ve always understood that my kids have their own lives. That is as it should be. Since my retirement, I’ve been focusing on developing my own life, finding new interests, keeping busy. Holidays are meant for family BUT as families grow, they have other obligations – other families with whom to share holidays. My husband and I have made a pact that we will always keep our holiday traditions – even if it just happens to be the two of us. Of course, we will be open to traveling for the holidays – since that is easier than others having to pack up kids and bring them to our house! We’ll be ready, suitcase in hand, for that likely eventuality. We’ll also have an open door for the wonderful times when they can return home for a day or a week, at any time of year!

This stage of life is so very different. There are sad moments when I miss seeing the kids and having them under my roof. I still worry about them. I suppose I always will. But there are also moments that feel wonderfully liberating. If I want to sleep in past 6:30am, I can. If I want to spend the entire morning writing or looking at Pinterest, I can. If I want to go to Missoula and just meander around different stores, I can.

In just 16 days, I will have been retired for a year. Finally, I am learning that I don’t have to rush. I can start a project and not have to finish it in a day. I get to CHOOSE what I’m going to do every day. There have been a few days of boredom but not very many. I’m settling in. I’ve realized I do need to maintain a “plan” for my days. If I don’t, I tend to feel useless. I also need to force myself to spend time with friends. It is far too easy for me to just stay at home – I am a homebody – but I also need to feel connected. I’ll need to work on that one.

For my second year of retirement, I will continue to grow and learn – right alongside my children as they grow and learn. This time, none of us are in the bleachers, we’re all out on the field.

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Take the reins

When you ride a horse, you control direction with reins. A well trained horse, can be controlled easily just by a gentle pull, by feeling the reins on his “neck”. A stubborn or spirited horse may require a stronger pull or a different bridle bit which puts more discomfort onto his mouth. The horse will learn that either he turns or his mouth is pinched. The whole process depends on the horse and on the training the horse receives.

My father taught me that the horse goes where his head goes. You control the horse, by controlling his head. Once when we were riding, my horse got caught up in some brush and I didn’t know how to get out. My horse was getting anxious and nervous. Dad said, “Give him his head” – so I released the pressure on the reins and he relaxed and found his way out.

It is the same with people. We go where our head goes. Sometimes, we are stubborn and we continue down a path that is not our best choice. We refuse to turn and just keep going no matter how much pain or how much pressure we feel to turn. Other times, we get stuck somewhere and feel the pressure to go deeper into the brush even though we’re scared and anxious. We feel the thorns poking our skin and the darkness of the overgrown shrubbery and we begin to panic. Either we begin to fight the reins and go wild – thrashing around getting scratched and jabbed by branches – or we just sit down and tremble in fear.

“Give him his head”. Take a breath. Pick your way through the thorns and underbrush. Step over the downed logs and sidestep the mud bog. Once you are clear of the brush – give a good shake (just like a horse would) and hold your head up. Take a look at your surroundings. Decide which path is yours.

Hokey Pokey

Parenthood is not an easy job. You love more than you ever thought you could and you sacrifice even when you don’t want to…you just do. I was a very immature 23 years old when I had my first child. Like most girls in my era, I dreamed of having a precious little baby to love. Of course, in my naivete, I dreamed of blissful days of a beautiful baby napping in the sun – me in a white flowing dress sipping on lemonade. Little did I know those days were few and far between (and I’ve never owned a white flowing dress!).

When you are in the middle of parenting – it is hectic, busy, you are pulled in different directions, you’re keeping several balls in the air at once. If you are a working parent, it is akin to running a marathon – you hit the ground running and you don’t stop until you fall into bed at night.

I am an empty nester now but I remember those days very well. I have a few regrets. I wish I could have spent more time enjoying those years more. In a perfect world, I would have worked part-time so that I could have had more energy for my time with them. I wouldn’t have put so much pressure on myself (and on them) for perfection. I remember hearing the saying, “enjoy this time, it goes by quickly”. And it did.

Parenting adult children can be difficult too. You don’t really have much involvement, yet you still worry. The lines blur. Its like doing the hokey pokey – “you put your left arm in, put your left arm out, put your left arm in and shake it all about, do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around” — there is no logic? I’m still figuring it out. You have to have your own life – you don’t make decisions about theirs. You have to develop your own interests because you can’t live vicariously through them – it isn’t healthy for anyone. You try not to interfere but be ready with good advice, should they ever ask. You have to be mindful of their partners too – no one wants to be THAT mother-in-law!

A good day is the day when I hear from all of my children. Just a text, an email, a quick call, a message on my phone. A great day is when we are all together, I can hear them laughing and talking to each other. The grandchildren are playing at our feet. My wish is for our family to continue to grow up and out but to always remember what matters. We’ll live our own lives, do our own things, raise our own children – no judgments or criticisms, no perfection. Put your left arm in – put your left arm out…

Heal and then…

A wound heals from the outside toward the center – or toward the deepest portion of the injury. The tissue begins rebuilding and doesn’t stop until the all muscle, tissue, skin and capillaries are back in working order. Usually, all that remains is a scar of that deepest part of the wound that could not be made whole again because of the damage. The pain of the wound lingers but dwindles with the passage of time as the body heals itself.

It is difficult not to focus on the pain of the injury. We have to be careful not to bump the affected area. If the wound is on a limb, we may favor that limb out of reverence to the pain.

Emotional pain is very similar. It becomes the focus even though other parts of life continue to persevere. We limp and move very slowly while waiting to recover.

Depending on the severity of the physical injury, therapy may be required. An injured limb or muscle needs to be exercised and moved and stretched as it heals in order to regain strength and stamina. It is the same with emotional pain. Movement is required. A walk, a conversation, reading a good book, writing a long letter. Stretch and strengthen that resolve. Breathe.

Sidebar: I considered writing two posts today because my posts of late have been so dark and sad. I have days like that…sometimes its the weather (gray winter is the worst); sometimes there is a trigger that brings on the sadness and I just have to work through it. Right now, I am dealing with the gradual loss of my mother as she fades from view in a memory care facility. This is very difficult – as you might guess. It is grieving over a very long period of time. But I am feeling better – moving forward again.

The holidays are coming and that is a precious time. We’ll get to see family and friends. My son and his family are moving back to the area which is GREAT news. I will get to spend more time with my little grandson! My children are all doing well. My husband and I are healthy and enjoying retirement. It’s all good.

Talk to me Goose

Maverick was at the top of his class until that fateful day when, during a training exercise, he crosses the backwash of another fighter jet throwing his plane into a terrible tail spin. Unable to regain control, he and his co-pilot must eject. His co-pilot and best friend is killed in the accident. Maverick continues the downward spiral, even after he’s cleared of any fault. He loses confidence and isolates himself.

Just call me Maverick. I’ve had a long and tough week. I didn’t crash a plane and lose my best friend but I have been in my own downward spiral. It all started with my online writing class. I wrote some powerful but painful stuff. Dredged up a lot of old fears and insecurities. Spent most of the week flipping back and forth between being a sad little girl and a strong, grown woman. My fighter jet just kept spinning and spinning and I couldn’t get control or eject!

This morning, as I lie in bed in the dark, my mind started spinning – not out of control just booting up for the day. I thought of the final fight scene in Top Gun when Maverick is in his jet and they need him to “engage”. He’s panicking, sweating, so full of fear he wants to run, to leave the fight and abandon his squad. He whispers, “Talk to me Goose”, the music begins to build; his co-pilot continues to plead in the background, and then…..he re-engages. The music goes wild. Wonderful, motivating, exciting, powerful music. You know the rest. He wins the fight, saves the day, gets back into the game of life.

We all have a “goose”. In the movie, we never did hear Goose’s voice so, of course, it was Maverick who pulled it together. He found his own strength and purpose. He motivated himself to stand back up. In truth, friends and family may bolster us, give us support so that we know they believe in us. In the end, we have to find our own strength. They may help throw us a rope, but we have to reach out and grab it. We have to pull ourselves up and out. Even knowing that, sometimes we feel weak and lost. Reaching takes effort. It’s so much easier to roll up into the fetal position.

So, my mantra for the day is “Talk to me Goose”. Get me back in the fight.

Please release me

Forgiveness is a difficult thing. We withhold our forgiveness because we expect some kind of apology and remorse. We also expect some sort of penance. If none of those things are accomplished, then we refuse to forgive.

We also hold our forgiveness as some sort of leverage. We can continue to shame the offender or try to force them into an apology and acknowledgement of their transgression. The success rate for such an endeavor is rarely optimal. We hold out and wait – digging ever deeper into a pit of anger and disbelief. The pain amplifies, we victimize ourselves and justify withholding our forgiveness for fear of giving the impression of condoning the offense.

In truth, we only torture ourselves. What is justice? The offense can never be erased or forgotten, regardless of the punishment.

When I was a young woman, I was much more pliable. I was a “people pleaser” and often, quite frankly, a bit of a doormat. As I matured and experienced many life lessons about strength and character – I became adamant about NEVER letting anyone take advantage or allowing myself to do something that I didn’t want to do for fear of losing favor. As a consequence, I developed a certain rigidity whenever someone discounted me or showed disrespect. My immediate response was to confront, to stand up, to lean in (all those clever catchphrases) and never let them question my resolve or capabilities. Sometimes, it was an overreaction, but in most cases my instincts were spot on and I felt strength and power with the end result.

What does that have to do with forgiveness? Sometimes, in my mind, forgiving without the apology/remorse/penance is reminiscent of being a doormat. Allowing the transgression to go unpunished seems too much like condoning. The line is muddled. How can we be strong and stand up for the weak if we allow these transgression to go unpunished? How can we look in the faces of the victims or, for that matter, the faces of the offenders, and not feel shame?

My dearest friend does not call it “forgiveness” but, instead, she calls it “releasing”. (She’s so smart.) Instead of forgiving, you release. You’re not just releasing them, you are releasing yourself. Letting go of that need to FORCE remorse and penance. If I think of the people for whom I am withholding forgiveness – I have no desire to forgive. I think it would be a greater injustice to do so. But I can release them.

(Thanks, Carla Ann)

Guts

Writing is a very personal thing. Think of cutting open your midsection and having all of your internal organs on display. The reactions can be devastating – “ewww, that’s gross”; “wow, you think the liver is supposed to look like that?”; “how long is that intestine?”; “I sure hope my stomach doesn’t look like THAT!”. And since you are the author or the one with their body splayed open, you can’t move or walk away or close up and pretend it never happened.

I am a quarter of the way through my on-line writing class. Two assignments in and had my first panic reaction. I received a response from the instructor about my second assignment. It was short and simple. There was a list of phrases that stood out. Then a suggestion for revision that might make the writing more complete.

After a long evening of feeling insecure and worthless; (which, in turn, caused a headache) and having a difficult time going to sleep, I awoke early with a clear mind. As usual, my brain purred into motion and as I was peeing, I had an epiphany. Something about emptying my bladder gives me pure vision. The instructor’s response was not a criticism and the suggestions for revision were just that, suggestions. I don’t have to make those changes if I so choose.

This morning, I read the instructor’s response again. Now that I was looking at it through a different lens – without the expectation of rejection and criticism – I understood the suggestion and I am ready to begin a possible revision. I can change it or leave it as is. The point isn’t to do it because someone told me I should but because I realize the impetus.

Lesson one: be open to learning. Don’t let anyone convince you that your liver doesn’t look right but be open to looking at it anyway.

Streaming – a whole new meaning

Have you ever given much thought to the art of peeing? I’m sure not. Take a moment out of your busy day and think about it… How many times a day do you frequent the restroom? When you are traveling, do you have to stop at short intervals? If you are on an airplane, do you find the need to use that little matchbox bathroom? Do you plan your shopping trip around when you will need to pee and which stores have the most convenient bathrooms?

I think about it all the time because, for years, I suffered from recurring bladder infections and doctor appointments trying to ascertain the cause. After much adieu, it was determined that I had a prolapsed uterus. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, “The uterus (womb) is a muscular structure that is held in place by pelvic muscles and ligaments. If these muscles or ligaments stretch or become weak, they are no longer able to support the uterus, causing prolapse. Uterine prolapse occurs when the uterus sags or slips from its normal position and into the vagina (birth canal).” Not fun, not comfortable, and not pretty. (If you want to learn more, you can google it but take my advice – DON’T look at the google images…) At any rate, after birthing four children, having the last two in two consecutive years, and having a hereditary propensity to prolapse – I was doomed to having a uterus that sagged and dragged.

Treatment? Hysterectomy – removal of the uterus and a neat little nip and tuck for the vagina. Too much information? Sorry. Back to peeing. After the surgery, you have a pubic catheter (a direct hose from your bladder just above your pubic bone – to a lovely bag that you must carry with you until you are able to pee by the usual method). I won’t go into any further details other than it is not a comfortable process. It took around two weeks for me to heal and have the catheter removed. Didn’t go out much during that time…

In the months following the surgery, I learned a lot about peeing. I figured out, all on my own, that my bladder – though it may feel empty – usually has a good 50 ml left. For years, my doctors would recommend that I pee when I feel the need (don’t hold it too long) and make sure that my bladder is empty. Who knew that it wasn’t completely empty? It must have a dip or a sag. So, when I make a trip to the bathroom, I pee until it feels empty; relax for a minute, then try again and sure enough, I go another 50 ml or about a 1/4 cup. Again – too much information. (If you get recurring bladder infections, this could be the cause. If the urine sits in the bladder, it is prone to developing some sort of bacteria or infection. Just FYI)

Also, since I am oversharing – my pee stream is like a little tiny trickle. It takes a long time to pee. I sit in a multi-stall bathroom and listen to others pee and think of how lucky they are to have such a fast and full stream. Sounds like a firehose on the right and a race horse on the left! In thirty seconds, they are done and washing their hands! Meanwhile, I am reading the graffiti and writing out my shopping list – waiting to finish! Next time you are in the bathroom – pay attention to the sound of the stream in your neighbor’s stall. Be grateful if yours is loud and fast.

My final advice – take care of your bladder, vagina and uterus. Do your kegels. Pee when you feel the need and MAKE SURE your bladder is empty. And if you are out shopping with a friend who takes a long time in the bathroom, cut her some slack, none of us has control over the power of our stream.

The power of undies

My grandson is the proud owner (and wearer) of superhero underwear. Depending on which pair he is wearing, he becomes that particular hero and possesses those particular powers. Of course, in order to realize those powers, you have to be able to SHOW the underwear to the greater public. Which is what he did – at the grocery store, at the festival, at dinner, walking in the park. It was adorable but mom and dad had to tell him, repeatedly, that he really shouldn’t show his underwear to strangers…

At first, I thought it was very cute and envied his imagination but then I realized, as adults, we do the same thing. Isn’t that why we buy underwear at Victoria’s Secret? Why else would we pay $14.50 for a little piece of stretchy, lacey material and a string? We look at those pencil thin, tan models, with their long hair and pouty lips and we just know that if we buy and wear that sexy little thong, we will possess those powers and we’ll look like that too!

I’ll never forget the first time I wore “thong” underwear. A friend told me that they were really comfortable, especially under jeans because then you don’t have panty lines and you don’t have to keep tugging your underwear out of your crack. I trusted this friend. She was blond and beautiful – so I figured she would know! I bought a pair, thinking of how sexy they looked. In my mind, just knowing I had them on would make me feel sexy and my husband would like them too! I put them on and, at first, thought they did look pretty cool. The string was a distraction but I figured it was like wearing flip flops, you eventually get used to having the little strap between your toes – you develop a “callous”. (In your ass though?) I put on my best jeans and went out the door.

Here’s a tip: never wear new shoes or new thong underwear until you’ve worn them around the house for a test run to make sure they are comfortable. The strap? The little string that you think you will get used to after a little bit of wear? Doesn’t happen. All I could think about was the placement of that little string. It was a vaginal infection waiting to happen. It itched and it was just not natural. I tried to imagine myself as a beautiful, thin model – walking sexily down the runway, flipping my hair. Couldn’t quite manage the sexy stroll because the little lacy string would not cooperate – any movement seemed to cause it to contract (or was that the muscles of my derriere?).

Needless to say, I did not feel sexy. I felt like a little kid who had just been given a wedgy (didn’t we try to avoid those things back in the day?). When I returned home, I removed the offending undies and never wore them again. Now, I know that thongs are very popular these days. My daughters both wear them all the time. But I’m telling you, the only powers you’ll possess are resilience and diligence because there is no way in hell any woman would choose to wear a “string divider” for comfort.

Remember

What if you could have selective amnesia? Just forget the things that continue to dog you – no matter how hard you try to resolve them in your mind. Wipe the slate clean with no inkling of what once was? What would you forget?

Would you forget the times a parent criticized you and the subsequent feeling of being a failure, a mistake, a bother?

Would you forget the time a teacher told you that if you lost ten pounds, you would be really pretty?

Would you forget all of the commercials on television and the ads in magazines that show only thin, flawless women?

Would you forget the myth we were sold that mom’s can have it all, successful, fun careers, beautiful homes with homemade goodies, elaborate meals, beautiful, well-mannered children and a nice little soak in the bath at the end of the day?

Would you forget the misery of a failed marriage or the difficulties of raising your children?

Chances are, even if we had the choice to forget, we wouldn’t take it. All of those things have contributed to the human beings we have become. Instead, we choose to remember. Remember that we have strength, we can withstand criticism by sorting through it. What is real and what is imagined? Remember that people, even well-meaning teachers, can be insensitive. Above all, we should remember that the media (a medium of cultivation, conveyance, or expression) has only as much power as we allow. Remember what we know NOW.

I now know that my mother had her own struggles, most of which had nothing to do with me. I will remember that whenever I hear her “mean” voice in my head. I don’t think she ever meant to be mean or critical, it just happened that way.

I now know that the hype of women having it all, was just that – hype. It is impossible to work 40 hours a week; keep a spotless house; cook healthy meals three times a day, seven days a week; read books to the kids each night; go to each game and concert and recital and track meet; maintain a workout routine; spend quality time with your spouse; and bring goodies to school parties; without feeling some exhaustion and, at times, (often times) feeling frustrated and stretched too thin. NO ONE can do all of that. Kids aren’t perfect. They don’t cooperate, especially when you really need them to – like at eight in the morning as you are trying to pack up their lunches and backpacks and get everyone out the door for the bus. Someone has to pee. Someone is crying because they didn’t want to wear this shirt. As you are going out the door, you notice that someone has smeared something on your blouse. No time to change! You get calls at work, one of them has fallen and chipped a tooth; or gotten into a fight, smearing dog poop on another kid; or someone is sick at daycare and you need to pick them up. You run and run and run. I now know that I did the best I could. I eventually had to choose between a clean house and less frenzy; a healthy meal or a boxed, 20 minute quickie that we could eat before the next event; exercise or much needed sleep. I would never choose to forget that part of my life – it is when my kids grew up.

I now know that my failed marriage is what brought me to my current marriage. I vowed never to make the same mistakes. It has been a long road but I feel good about the life I’ve made with this man, my soul mate.

We really don’t need a clean slate, do we?