I decided for Lent this year to try and remember, every day, things I am grateful for in my life. To try and reinforce gratitude, because although I've had a lot of ups and downs in recent years, I still have a pretty nice life.
I am most grateful for these two people, who make my life lovely:
What a joy it is to hang out with Mom and Michael every day.
I think about all those years I lived alone, and I wish I had been more proactive about sharing my life with others. I was so intent on finding a husband and doing things the "normal" way that I stupidly prevented myself from having a much richer existence.
Instead of spending so much time and effort on my outside, I wish I had spent more time and effort on my interior, my thinking.
I was required to read a book years ago called Who Moved My Cheese? It was one of the key components of the corporate mindset at a job I had years ago. The book, like most self-help books, can be reduced to basically one sentence: be flexible in your thinking.
If there is one thing I have had to learn and re-learn throughout my life, it's that simple lesson.
Mother and I were laughing this morning at breakfast, talking about my dad, and the fact that when he traveled he never changed his watch to the time zone he was in. Mother and I ALWAYS changed our watch to the time zone where we were. Otherwise, you are living completely out of sync with your environment. When I traveled to Russia with the choir in 2003 there were folks who were constantly saying "It's midnight back home" and they never adjusted to Russian time.
When your life circumstances change, you have to adapt, or you will suffer more.
Bruce Lee used to say that we should "be like water." Same idea. Adapt to where you are.Water can change form and be a roaring torrent or a single raindrop, and everything in between.
One of the advantages to getting older is the ability to look back at your life and see what worked well and what didn't. Young folks get so caught up in their own angst, they rarely are able to take the long view. They think about their hair, their next date, their test next week, wanting more money, wanting a new car, or a million other things. Years later they look back in disbelief at how self-absorbed they were.
I see things posted on Facebook all the time by people who take their own lives and their own problems far too seriously. They can't see beyond their nose.
I have a friend who is terrified about getting laid off from his job. So he is working 60-80 hours a week, to try and make himself so valuable to his company that they will never consider laying him off. I understand that, and yet I think it's a huge mistake. I think it's fine to work extra hours when necessary, but once you set up that expectation, that you will spend most of your waking life at that office, then when you want to step back it will be seen as slacking off.
He is younger than me. One day he is going to look back and realize he should've spent more time with his family. He is going to realize he missed important milestones in his kids' lives, because his insecurity drove him to slave away at a job like that for far too many hours.
I can't tell him that, though. He thinks he has it all figured out.
It seems to me that as they get older, men are more prone to burrow into their lairs, to hold onto their early views and ideas with a death grip, to refuse to change because they think it's a sign of weakness. They rarely will alter their thinking unless there is some huge life event that rips them out of their complacency, like a divorce, or death, or job layoff. Women seem to be much more able to adapt and learn and change.
I see things posted all the time on Facebook by women over 40 who are coming into their true selves, and realizing there is a lot of wisdom out there if they will just put down the makeup and curling iron, get their heads out of women's magazines, and really look into their own souls. Once you take vanity out of the equation, and go back to simply grooming to be presentable, not to try to "catch a man" or other idiocy, then you have time to find your real, authentic self.
I'm not saying don't spend time on your appearance, I'm just saying don't spend too much time on it. Simplify.
Look around at all the ideas floating around in the world. Talk to folks. Make new friends. Try new things.
I see the truth of this every month in my book group. The group is open to men, but they never come more than once. They find a group of very intelligent, educated, outspoken women who don't flatter or kowtow to them in any way. We say what we like, and laugh, and really engage in some very enlightening topics of discussion.
Of course, these are generalities. There are always exceptions to my observations. There are some very enlightened men out there. I just don't get to hang out with them too often.
Sometimes I look back and realize I have been alive for many than a half century and it's a bit scary to contemplate. Then I take a deep breath and realize, I have so much less stress in my life. I am pretty happy with who I am and where I am. Life is not ideal, but life is never ideal. There will always be issues.
Right now life is OK, even though it's not ideal
I am looking at the sunshine and listening to the birds sing, feeling the cool March morning air through the window, and I am grateful to have matured this far, and to be able to adapt myself to this age and this place in my life without fear, with faith. I see things more clearly.
I have suffered some very painful things. I have done stupid things on occasion. I have missed out on some things. I have regrets, but I've never buried my head in the sand.
I am still here. I am still trying on new ideas and looking for new friends, and trying to really live. Without fear or shame. I can't control what happens to me but I can control how I react to it.
My message to everyone, no matter what your age, is this: Go out and do the same. Embrace it all, without fear. The most important thing is to not wallow in the negative. Get up every morning grateful you can get up, grateful to have people in your life you love, who love you back - if you don't have them, find them. Keep loving as much as you can, including yourself.
“Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” - George Bernard Shaw
I started thinking about houses after reading What 50% of Women Would Choose Over a Big Engagement Ring. Choosing a simple ring and putting the rest of the money towards a down payment on a house is very wise, IMHO. A house is an asset that [usually] appreciates, and everyone in the family benefits from it. Nobody really benefits from a rock on your hand.
The older I get, the less I care about material things.
I am planning to simplfy my life radically in the next couple of years. I have many many books I've read and will never read again and have no sentimental attachment to, and they need to go. Ditto for clothes I will never wear again. Ditto for shoes.
I have a feeling that once I go through my entire house and ask myself these questions, there will be a lot less stuff to deal with: Will I need this in the next year? Is there any sentimental reason to keep this?
I am fascinated by the Tiny House movement. I think I could handle a tiny house if I lived alone, but not sure how it would work with 2 or more folks. If you want to see a fascinating number of these places check out tiny house listings. I so admire the ingenuity of people who build tiny houses. They have to make every inch of space work.
What appeals to us about tiny houses? I think it's simplicity. Less time spent in cleaning and maintenance. Fewer complicated repairs. The world has gotten way too complicated. Mortgages, taxes, regulations - are we better off now than we were 50 years ago? I don't know. Obviously the medical advances are great, but what about simple human interaction? I am so tired of seeing kids just bent over their phones or ipads, not interacting with each other. Michael is not really bad about it, but a lot of the kids are. I encourage him to get outside, and he does that happily.
Books have always been a great source of entertainment, education, and comfort to me. I hate the fact that the internet is tempting kids away from books, a lot of them.
Anyway, just some rambling thoughts.
When I was a kid we spent a lot of time at our own "tiny house" at the lake - no internet, no phone, no TV - and we had a great time. My dad always said those were the happiest times of his life. We were all together and we could relax...
I wish there were something interesting to say about the day but there's not. I spent most of the day working on taxes and meeting with my accountant. Not a happy project. Let's just say I owe money and leave it at that.
It was freezing cold, windy and rainy all day. After Mike took Lola to walk this afternoon I spent 10 minutes drying her. The entire under-carriage of a basset gets wet.
I also got a haircut. So now my hair can be fluffed. My mother told me she was not happy with the way my hair was looking non-fluffy. I had a funny discussion with a friend about this the other day. Women who were young in the 1960's cannot deal with anything other than fluffy hair. Not just beehive hair, but fluffy hair. FLAT HAIR IS SEEN AS AN AILMENT OR A CURSE.
I know ladies in their 70's and up who still won't leave the house with non-fluffy hair.
Lookit Dolly's hair! She was stylin...
Anyway, I don't use product on my hair and I really don't care what it looks like as long as I don't look utterly insane. When I was young I would spend something like 30-40 minutes a day on hair. The older I get, the less time I spend.
Years ago I sang in a church choir with a lady who not only had perfect fluffy hair, she packed her entire body into foundation garments, and she was only a bit chubby. You could've bounced a tennis ball off of her. The first time I noticed her undressing to put on choir robes, I thought she had a medical issue. I told Mother about it later and mother explained "foundation garments."
They were the ancient predecessor to Spanx.
Go back further and you have a corset.
Thank God those days are over...
How did I get on these topics? Who knows. Better than taxes and cold rainy days though...
above, me with almost no hair and Mom with gloriously fluffy hair...
above, my grandmother and some of her sisters, Atlantic City 1921. I don't think Mamaw was wearing a corset but I wouldn't swear to it... she wore one every day of her life
The past few days have been busy, and there hasn't been much to blog about. So since I have nothing noteworthy to blog about, I'm going to mention all the things I won't blog about because they aren't that interesting singly, but all put together? With bullet points? Who knows.
I have revised my resume to have bullet points. I was informed by a recruiter that reading actual sentences takes too long.
For some reason, when I think bullet points, I hear Pat Benatar singing Hit Me With Your Best Shot...
Michael and I were finally able to get the final season of Breaking Bad on Netflix and we watched all the episodes in the past few days. When it was finally done, Michael said "Wow, that was cheerful!"
I made tuna salad for dinner. Don't judge. It was a really busy day.
Lola shredded an entire box of Posh Puffs kleenex today. Why? I don't know. I don't think they have any flavor.
If you know of any places that sell wholesale dog chewies in Atlanta, let me know. Rawhide. Those vegetarian chewies last all of 5 minutes.
Michael and I have discovered a shortcut to school. So now the 35 minute trip down Briarcliff in the morning only takes 10 minutes. This is huge.
Wildlife is fascinating. I know I am going to have nightmares of this snake killing a crocodile however.... YIKES. Happened in Australia. They also have kangaroos there - hate those!! I will never go to Australia.
Not often, but every once in a while, I read something and it makes me think. Sometimes it makes me cry. Sometimes it makes me want to write. Sometimes it sparks so many memories that I just sit back in my chair and they come flooding into my mind, and I can only sit still and watch the slide show.
The new story over at The Bitter Southerner has just floored me this morning. It's about a singer/songwriter named Jon Dee Graham. I urge you to take a look at it. I also love the audio files in the story, because reading about music is too disconnected. Actually hearing it is great - makes the story more real.
This is my favorite part of the story:
“It’s like, if you live long enough, you will be asked to do the unthinkable. It touches every man in a different way, and it comes at different points in their lives. Your father’s dying and you have to stay there as it happens. Or you have to surrender your child. Or you have to go to the pen. Whatever it is that’s unthinkable waiting for you, what defines us is how we handle the unthinkable.”
Amen to the 10th power.
I've had to deal with some unthinkable things in my life, and each experience has changed me and made me stronger, even though I also felt very heartbroken when the unthinkable was happening. Leaving my friends and family behind and moving away from Augusta as a kid. The death of my beloved grandfather. Seeing my grandmother in a nursing home. Watching my dad die. Getting laid off from my job. Having a hysterectomy. Dealing with my daughter being estranged. [Those are just the ones that come to mind immediately, not all of them.]
I don't know anyone over the age of 50 who hasn't had to deal with the unthinkable. You can either give in to the terror and the heartbreak, or you can reach inside yourself and hold on to your faith in God, leaning on the people who love you, and remembering the truest words ever written, "this too shall pass."
Right now it's 36 degrees outside and my yard is full of daffodils. They haven't bloomed but they are there. My neighbor down the street has about 300 blooming daffodils in her yard.
The kids in DeKalb County have to make up about 8 snow days they missed this winter. Everyone is wondering where those will get made up - most likely extra days tacked onto the end of the year. Michael asked me yesterday if he will have to attend school on make-up days. OF COURSE, was my answer.
I have started my seeds. Should've put them in the window weeks ago. These represent 20 plants I won't have to buy at the store. For less than $5 in seed packets, I will have seedlings to plant in about 6 weeks of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, and melon. If I wait until April or May to put in my garden I will have to go to Home Depot and pay $3-5 per plant. No thank you.
I am just hoping that we don't have a cold spring...
Can't wait to get my garden going.... [this shot is from last year]
I started watching the Oscars when I was 10 years old, in 1972. I remember it vividly because they awarded Charlie Chaplin an honorary Oscar.
I knew Chaplin because I grew up eating at Shakey's Pizza in Knoxville, and they had movies going all the time, old silent movies. I saw a lot of great silent movies while eating pizza with no tomato sauce. (I refused to eat any tomato product - ketchup, sauce, etc. - until I was a teenager.)
Chaplin, made in 1992 and starring Robert Downey, Jr., is one of my all-time fave movies:
Michael and I watched every moment of the Oscar telecast, and here are some random thoughts.
Ellen was the perfect host. Not offensive or weird, she was relaxed and gently humorous.
I still resent having to watch 3 1/2 hours when they could give out all the major awards in 2 hours, easily. I really don't care which animated short film wins.
By the end of the evening, Mike and I were both annoyed that Gravity won so many times.
The movies that win the most awards aren't the big special effects movies. The stories that resonate with voters are real human stories, the ones where the problems and foibles of human beings are front and center. Blowing stuff up and walking away? Yeah, those may attract the 15 year old boys, but those are not memorable stories. I took Michael to see The Avengers, and I fell asleep in that one.
I rented The Great Gatsby and we watched that a few months ago. Mike was excited that it got nominated for a couple of things.
What always strikes me as sad is that the films that win a lot of awards are usually projects that the actors or directors have been trying to get made for years, and it is so hard for those smaller, more personal films to find financing, because studios want to throw their money behind the big-budget stuff like Avengers.
We didn't watch the acceptance speech by Cate Blanchett. She is a terrific actress. I just refuse to watch Woody Allen's films any more. Even if he didn't molest his daughter, he married a teeanger who was, in essence, his stepdaughter. He has a penchant for teenagers. His first wife was 16, and years later he had an affair with a 17 year old. When he started the relationship with Soon-Yi, he was 56 and she was about 19. That's just repulsive. I am horrified by actors who implicitly condone that behavior by lionizing Woody Allen, when in my opinion he is just gross.
Lots happening around here yesterday. I started writing a blog late yesterday afternoon, and just then my friend Paul came in to fix my router and I just ditched the blog. It wasn't great.
Paul brought me a new router, so now Mom and Michael can access the internet from their computers. Both are much more contented now. It's amazing how dependent you get on a computer, and after a while you feel like a limb is missing.
Lola had her third doggy training class yesterday. She did pretty well. I have not been good about working with her enough at home. She is so smart, training her is not that bad, as long as you have treats in your pocket. I just wish we could train her not to "counter cruise." My kitchen counters are now much more clean, but it's amazing how inventive she is about chewing up, for example, cardboard boxes. I guess they smell good.
Now that February is over, I can look back and see what a wasted month it was, for me. I didn't feel good most of the month. I am not 100% certain about what was going on, but it had to do with hormones, I am now convinced. (I thought for weeks it was a virus.) I got to book group early yesterday and spoke to another lady, who is a bit older than me, and was telling her about the mini hot flashes, nausea, feelings of wooziness all the time, etc. She said that's a normal reaction to being post-menopausal, and it's no big deal. So my body, after the hysterectomy last summer, is still adjusting.
The good news is, I have re-trained myself to eat small, frequent snacks, not big heavy meals, I eat something every 2-3 hours, and it really helps.
I was telling her that my best "go to" food for alleviating these feelings is crackers, and she just nodded and says she always has crackers nearby. It's hard to go low-carb, but I am working on whole wheat wheat thins instead of Ritz crackers.
I ordered a calzone yesterday at Mellow Mushroom, because we always eat and chat before talking about the book. I was able to eat about a third of it, only. Brought the rest home to Michael.
So that was it for yesterday - pet training, book group, Paul, and then dinner. Doesn't sound like much but it was a VERY full day.
We started going to Children's Hospital of Atlanta, to the orthotics and prosthetics clinic, when Michael had been here about a year. Brian [the prosthetist] and Colleen [the physical therapist] have since become friends. They are wonderful to Michael.
Yesterday, we went back for a fitting of a new hand:
I like to take photos of Michael in that waiting room because you can see how much he has changed and how little the room has changed since 2008. See the corner of the train set?
It was an impossibly beautiful day yesterday, although colder than it has been lately.
When we got home, Lola was needing a walk. She hates wearing the Gentle Leader harness, but if she doesn't wear it she pulls too much. Mike was comforting her. I think it's such a sweet photo:
Not much else to report. I had my second rehearsal for The Atlanta Women's Chorus. Fun to sing in a group again.