Things I want to keep in mind.

Month: November, 2015

Release the Kraken

Kraken is the definite form of krake, a word designating an unhealthy animal or something twisted. The phrase “Release the kraken!” became an Internet meme after the release of the 2010 trailer of the film “Clash of the Titans”.

Recently, I have been babysitting my youngest grandson. I was reminded of how much we, as parents, try to anticipate a child’s every need. We set him on the floor and surround him with pillows and soft blankets in case he falls over. He squawks and we start fixing food. He grunts and we prepare to change a dirty diaper. He learns something new and we are quick to praise him, take photos, and tell EVERYONE we know. We sing to him, we rock him, we love it when he falls asleep in our arms and we listen for his sweet voice when he awakens.

I was also reminded how much I still try to anticipate the needs of everyone around me. I’ve repeatedly told myself I need to let go, to release them to be on their own. In truth, I need to release myself first.

It isn’t easy. I want them to be happy, to live with fervor but to be responsible. I don’t want them to have to struggle in any way. If I could, I would prevent them any heartache or misfortune in their lives. I can’t. I want to but I can’t. Still, I try.

Now that they are becoming parents, they will begin to understand – just as I now understand my own mother’s struggles. I believe she couldn’t figure out how to release herself from that feeling of culpability. At times, she would feel resentment and withdraw in anger – other times, she would overcompensate and do too much. I want to gain a better understanding so that I can transition into an adult relationship with my adult children.

I’m learning – slowly but surely. I have no example to draw from so I am shooting in the dark. So – a little message to my children (who read my blog) please bear with me, if I seem distracted or quiet. I’m just trying to process my feelings and find my way to the promised land. I am a person as well as a mother and grandmother and my mind is constantly sorting, sorting, sorting.

Releasing the Kraken, in this case, does not mean releasing the monster so that it can devour everything in its path. It means, release the monster to the sea where it can swim freely.


Across the field

I remember the day she talked to me about tampons. We were in our teens and I was so naïve about that sort of thing. We were in our parents’ camper. She frankly explained all about insertion and the little string. I think I may have asked a couple of questions and I’m pretty sure we ended the conversation with a rude joke or two and a good long belly laugh. We used to do that a lot. Laugh to the point of tears.

We also used to do gymnastic routines in the living room or outside, over the fence in the yard. All kinds of flips, cartwheels and of course, more laughter.

We share a lot of memories. We lived in a small town and there wasn’t a lot to do but we spent a lot of time together. We became good friends and remained friends because we had so much in common.

Even though we are two years apart, we could be twins. People who don’t know us very well, often get us confused. I think some people may even think there is only one of us! There are times when we plan to do something together and we will wear similar outfits, just different colors. Other times, we’ll wear the same color combination. We are simpatico in many things.

We have children of similar ages and though our parenting styles are very different, we have similar views and can talk openly to each other about our children – our fears and desires for them, things that we can’t really share with anyone else.

In recent years, we have been dealing with the distress of our aging mother. She has dementia and we had to place her in a memory care facility this summer. It is a tremendous loss for each of us – all of my siblings respond differently. We’ve realized that we each had a different relationship with her and we will mourn for her as individuals. It has been a difficult time and my sister and I have felt the strain on our relationship too.

This week we will celebrate Thanksgiving at my sister’s house. She lives just across the field from me. My family will walk over carrying a crockpot full of sweet corn. Because she is a great hostess, she will cook LOTS of good food and we will talk, laugh and play a game or two. It will be a nice day with lots of warmth and kindness, as it always is at her house.

If I forget to say it, thank you dear sister. You have been a mentor, guide, and friend for all of my life. I am so grateful that you are just across the field — close enough to ask a question, share a quip and a laugh whenever I want…

Fight or flight?

The first time may have been when they were crying inconsolably as an infant. It may have been the first time they choked on something. Perhaps it was the first ER visit. The first time you had to pass them off to your ex-husband for a summer visitation. The first heartbreak, the first disappointment or loss (and every one thereafter). The first day at a new school. Dropping them off at the dorm. Receiving any number of dreaded phone calls about DUI’s, lost wallets, lost phones, lost loves. You are the mom. Your pulse accelerates, your stomach lurches, your heart constricts in your chest. Your mind goes into overdrive – fight or flight? Fight, of course.

My “kids” are all grown, all over the age of 25. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating – life is one big transition – ever moving, ever changing. Just about the time you think everything is rolling along smoothly, there will be a shift. Sometimes, it is a small change – easily navigated. Other times, it is like taking a step down off of two steps instead of just one. Your whole body is jarred and you feel disoriented for a time. In hindsight, we realize yet again, that the event is not ours to control or fix. Also, in hindsight, we realize that we’ve moved through the transition and things are back in order, as always.

I keep waiting for the day when my stomach doesn’t lurch. When I don’t feel the angst and pain as if it is my own. I’m sure if I asked any mother, at any age, that day never comes. We do our best to detach, to let our children live their own lives and make their own choices – and accept their own consequences. What they don’t understand is that we FEEL everything they feel. We watch over their lives as if it is an HBO special series – living every moment with them. THEY are our favorite characters!

One day they will know. Some of them are parents and some of them will be soon enough. They will understand first hand. Parenting isn’t easy, is never over and worth every minute.

A mother’s holiday

The holidays are coming. Does that thought bring you pleasure or strike fear in your heart?

For most mothers, it can be a double edged sword. No matter the age of the your children, you look forward to this time. Rarely do you ever see such glee and happiness when they are young: the anticipation for Christmas morning, the joy of opening presents and the full day of play with new toys. When they are older, it is a time when there is the possibility of having them home, under your roof again.

Every mother I know plans for a FULL Christmas holiday – whether or not they have a full-time job, doesn’t matter. They accept responsibility for the joy and success of the season. That is a huge undertaking. Every one of us will read articles in magazines about simplifying things, buying less, spending more TIME with the kids. We may agree that it would be much more enjoyable to look at it that way. We may even PLAN to accomplish that THIS year. But we’ll get caught up in the frenzy. We’ll buy gifts from the “wish” list, have them all tagged and bagged – ready to put under the tree. Then, at the last minute, one of the kids will add something that they really, REALLY want. And we’re off…

We’ll stay up until midnight baking very special Christmas cookies, divinity, fudge, almond roca and popcorn balls.
We’ll make very special bows, ribbons and tags for the gifts.
We’ll put up special Christmas decorations and lights – all over the house, inside and out.
We’ll buy the same number of gifts for each child – and the same number of items for the Christmas stocking.
We’ll find a special outfit for each child to wear on Christmas morning.
We’ll buy special Christmas pajamas and slippers.
We’ll buy something special and over our budget for our spouse, even though we’ve agreed NOT to buy gifts for each other.
We’ll buy new decorations for next year and more Christmas wrapping paper than we’ll ever need.
And even though it is very stressful, and we feel so much angst, and we sometimes feel resentful at having to do everything, on Christmas morning and throughout the day (and the season) we’re glad we did it, all of it.

Cry me a river

Expectation: a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.

Naturally, we all have expectations. From the moment we are old enough to realize there IS a future, we start thinking, planning and building up our expectations. When we are very young, we have very lofty goals, to include but not limited to: fame and fortune. As we mature, we begin looking at more realistic pursuits – though in the back of our minds those expectations remain perhaps on a more reasonable level.

Eventually, we reach a point where we truly know that we are not going to be astronauts, movie stars and professional football players. Our expectations are more pragmatic: a home of our own, healthy children, a nice car, a dog.

Occasionally, we let our expectations get in our way. We may want to be very wealthy instead of just comfortable. We may want our children to have the fame we couldn’t achieve and we may get overinvolved in planning the future for our children – when in reality, the future is theirs to build. Our expectations encompass far more than is ours to anticipate.

I have long since realized, and was reminded again recently, family life rolls along like a river. Sometimes it overflows, like when multiple aspects are out of control: illness, relationship problems, financial problems, loss of some kind. Sometimes, it moves along slowly, peacefully with very few ripples: all are healthy and content. Mostly, it alternates between raging, flowing and trickling. If you are in the family canoe, you have to be prepared for anything. You can’t expect that the boat will never capsize, because that’s the nature of the ride. There are rapids, there are eddies, there are very deep pools – all along the way. If your expectation is that you will tame this river – you will be sadly disappointed, your struggles will be many. If your expectation is that you won’t fight the water, you will row, rest and hang on – you could discover strength and calm. What do you expect?

No day at the spa

I cannot imagine being in the armed forces. When I was in my early twenties, I was floundering. I didn’t know which direction to take. I had already tried college and failed. My grade point average reflected the number of times I chose to attend classes…AND the effort with which I applied myself to the actual courses. I was overweight and had a lot of self-pity going on. I considered going into the Air Force. Of course, I was looking at it as if it were some kind of spa I could visit. I would have some structure, I would no doubt lose weight and get into great shape AND they could teach me a skill! I wouldn’t have to worry about paying rent or buying food. Sounded fabulous. So what kept me from filling out the paperwork and diving headlong into a new career? I knew better.

My father and brother were in the Air Force. They both served during “peace time” and did not see any fighting. My brother was stationed in Great Falls working security at the missile silos the first three years and then was transferred to a US base in Incirlik, Turkey. I have a step son-in-law who is in the Army. He served in Iraq on two or three occasions. He is a Lieutenant Colonel and is currently stationed in Germany. I’ve seen plenty of war movies and documentaries. Even in my twenties, I knew that being in the Air Force would not be a day at the spa. You have to give up all of your freedom AND you begin answering to someone else for everything – especially in the beginning during basic training. I’m sure I would have lost weight and gotten into great shape, IF I could survive the rigid physical training! Your schedule is not your own. If you didn’t feel like getting up, you couldn’t just roll over. You would have to work hard, all day every day. I knew I didn’t have it in me.

And so, I admire the people who do. I can’t imagine being in a foreign place, far from home and in constant fear for my life. The sacrifices made by our veterans and our active armed forces are pretty phenomenal. From the time they begin training, they give up everything that is their own. They are often separated from home and family – for extended periods. Their lives are at risk on most days. At any time, they could lose their life or limb or their best friend. They must maintain good mental and physical conditioning. They’ve given up their right to choose their course of action – they are told where to go and what to do. They stand side by side and execute the strategy and tactics of their campaign as devised by someone else.

I am grateful and I do believe they should be given every advantage and benefit on their return home. Those of us who just roll over in bed in the morning until we are ready to get up; those of us who live in peace and security; those of us who can spout off all day long about our rights; all of us, owe a debt of gratitude to those who have stood on that wall watching over us.

30 seconds

Years ago, I had a lovely golden retriever named Chester. He was big and goofy and a little cowardly. Mostly, he was loving. He would do anything for any human and he just wanted to be with you, to sit by your side, walk a few feet ahead of you and sleep at your feet.

His favorite game was to run ahead of me in the field and hide in the tall grass. I would pretend I couldn’t see him and then he would jump out at me as I got closer. I would very dramatically act surprised and we would jump and run together. He was just like a big kid. (I guess we both were.) I loved that dog.

Even though I was not a very good master, he loved me. I didn’t groom him like I should have, his long hair would get matted. He would sit patiently while I cut away all of that rats nest of hair. I didn’t give him enough attention. I was busy with work and children. But he was always there, for a quick walk or a short little chat on the porch. When we moved to our new house, he was limited in his indoor roaming. Relegated to the mudroom and the outdoors, he would sit for hours on the deck, staring in the window – trying to get my attention. He would wait. When I would finally come outside, he was always elated to see me. Never once was he upset at having to wait for hours until I came. Never once was he angry that he could no longer join us in the TV room. Never once did he go looking for a new place to live.

At the end of his life, he developed seizures and some kind of brain tumor that effected his left front leg. We eventually had to put him down. One of the saddest days of my life. On that fateful day, as he hobbled into the veterinary’s office, he perked right up. He greeted the vet and his assistant as if there was nothing wrong with him, as if he was a teenage dog again. As we took him back into “the room”, he continued his playful manner – we helped him up to the table. The vet shaved his leg. He lay there on his side, wagging his tail as the assistant and I talked to him in soothing voices and told him he was such a good boy. The vet prepared the syringe. As the needle was inserted, Chester didn’t flinch. In 30 seconds, he was gone. He just fell asleep and his heart stopped. Tears were streaming down my face, snot was running into my mouth. I looked up at the assistant and her face mirrored mine. She and the vet left the room so I could say good-bye to my dear friend.

I leaned across the table and hugged him, taking in his dog smell one last time. Sobbing, all I could think to say was, “Thank you so much for everything.” He knew what I meant.

In pursuit of growth

When we choose growth over perfection, we immediately increase our shame resilience. Improvement is a far more realistic goal than perfection. Merely letting go of unattainable goals makes us less susceptible to shame. When we believe “we must be this” we ignore who or what we actually are, our capacity and our limitations. We start from the image of perfection, and of course, from perfection there is nowhere to go but down.     I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t) – Brene Brown

Have you ever been thrown into a tailspin but couldn’t identify “why”? It happens to me at least twice a day. My aha moment was (as usual) as I awakened and my mind began its usual sorting/processing/whirling. I believe in perfection. In my mind, after years and years of extreme self-delusion, I BELIEVE in perfection. It is a necessary part of survival. Any deviation from perfection causes panic – overdrive. Must attain perfection…..

Any time anything goes “awry” with anything or anyone in my life – my deepest underlying thought is, “Oh no, that can’t happen. That will totally screw up the perfection ratio!” I immediately do two things simultaneously – begin looking for resolution and begin looking at how I’ve failed. Sound familiar?

Pursuit of perfection is paralyzing. If we can’t have perfection, we shut down. We talk about our expectations for perfection but we know it is unattainable so we move into the “when” phase of thinking. WHEN I lose weight, I will feel better and have more energy. When I find a better job, I will feel more motivated. Worst of all, we never finish anything we start – because it won’t be perfect. I call that the Pinterest Syndrome. (Sure, all those things look fantastic in photos on Pinterest – but only a rare few can actually DO have that shit!)

According to my book (and Brene Brown), and I can actually FEEL the truth in this, “When our goal is growth and we say, ‘I’d like to improve this,’ we start from where and who we are.” “When we give ourselves permission to be imperfect, when we find self-worth despite our imperfections, when we build connection networks that affirm and value us as imperfect beings, we are much more capable of change.”

For me that means, when something happens (usually something totally normal in the course of living) I have to stop the tailspin by identifying that there is no perfect life, all smooth sailing with no bumps, no rain and snow, no leaky boats. The trials of life are just that – trials. My goal is to stop looking at things through the eyes of Chicken Little and start looking through the eyes of Mufasa – the circle of life and all that.

THE journal

Yesterday, as I was digging through my bedside table looking for my clock manual (trying to figure out how to change the clock for daylight savings time), I found eight journals.  In my closet, I have three more and in my office I have two.  Oh, let’s not forget the one I carry in my purse!  Most of these journals are blank – haven’t started writing in them yet but thought they were pretty, or they were on sale, or someone gave them to me as a gift.  The rest of the journals have a few entries – they all start with something like, “I usually have a difficult time writing a journal, but I will start this and try to write every day”.  Rarely does it ever last more than a week.  If I ever wanted to review my life, I’d have to sit in a pile of journals and jump back and forth between journals because I never did stay with any one journal in chronological order!  Obviously, I was not meant to be a “journaler”.  Most of my actual journaling is in my emails or letters – which I don’t keep!  There you have it.  All that history, lost and gone away.

My dad used to write in his journal each night. Most of his entries were short – he would give a brief weather report, the temperature mostly – then he would describe what he did that day. He might write about something he ate or someone he visited. Other entries were longer and more descript. It all depended on how much time he had for writing that night.

Since his death, we’ve enjoyed reading through his journals. His writing was more remarkable than you might think considering he quit school at the eighth grade. Now that I think about it, I don’t really know the full story about why he quit school. I think he was needed on the family ranch. He did eventually get his GED but it was when I was about 10 (I think) but most of what he knew, he learned on his own from reading or trial and error. He liked to learn new things and he was very “crafty”.

My mother wrote in journals as well, but not as regularly. She usually wrote when she as angry about something. I think most of her journaling was in the form of letter writing also. In recent years, she started writing in a journal as a means of remembering things.

I will try to write in a journal. I’ll have to pick one of the many. I will include the temperature, in honor of my dad. I will temper my anger, in remembrance of my mother. One day, my kids may want to read through them – to find out what I was thinking and feeling. They’ll have to sift through the pile of journals and try to put them in chronological order. Good luck with that.

Just blather

And fall finally fell. It has been in the mid-forties at night and very windy and chilly during the day. We had a very long and lovely indian summer. I loved it! (See photo) And so far, knock on wood, no snow on the valley floor!



Now it is November. In 13 days, I will have been retired for a full year. It has been quite a learning experience. And here’s an update on my technological advances: I just spent 20 minutes trying to figure out how to insert a couple of photos to have them display side by side and I couldn’t figure it out. Alas, I kept it to one photo. I will admit that I haven’t been as diligent at figuring out wordpress – or any other technology during my year of retirement. In fact, I’m still furious about my Windows 10 “upgrade”!!

So – what have I learned in my first wonderful year?

First and foremost, being a successful retiree takes effort. It isn’t like you fall off the work truck and just land in bliss. After being employed for so long you have a lot of “work” habits. It takes a long time to get your mind and body off of the conveyer belt. You keep thinking that you SHOULD be doing SOMETHING productive and before the allotted time expires. It feels decadent to do so little in a day. You have to fight the voice in your head that keeps nagging at you for being so lazy. It is a good idea to have a routine, to force yourself to get out and connect. If you are a homebody (like I am) you can tend to isolate yourself.

Relaxing isn’t easy at first. You have to practice. Start out in short spurts, 10 minutes and build your way up.

You have to work at not developing a rut – change it up. You don’t have the usual obligations so you just need to pay attention to your own emotional queues for once!

Even though it is so much more convenient to eat cereal – sometimes you should cook a real meal for dinner.

I’m sure there is so much more to write, but something just flew by my window and I lost my train of thought. That seems to happen more and more. Squirrel!!