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Reality Check

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Reality check: new driver’s license.

My wallet was lifted from my purse at the end of September.  I had to get a new license anyway because of my 65th birthday in October.  At the driver’s licence place, I wrote down “brown” for hair.  It was automatic.  I have labeled my hair that color my whole life.  The nice young man at the DMV said “REALLY, what color do you want to put down for your hair?”  He was nice but I had to admit “Gray” was the color.

Reality check: going down stairs without a railing

I went to get my hair done and the railing was out for repair.  Going up was OK but the thought of going down the steps which are not quite equal or regular height made me pause at the top.  My friend, my beautician , simply asked “Do you want to use my arm?”  my answer was “yes”.  The next person coming in was older than I and did the steps just fine.  Fibromyalgia and arthritis and having Ehlers-Danlos has led to my hips and knees being older than I feel.

Reality check: putting groceries away in the car

I was at the grocery store and came out and was putting the bags in the 4 wheel drive pick up.  I was by myself.  A nice young man going into the grocery store asked “Do you need help?”  I said no.  I remember my granddaughter being 2 years old and we had gone to the basement to get a large box of blocks.  She was ahead of me and I was going step by step behind her putting the box up one step at a time.  She turned around and sat down and asked “Do you want help?”  I laughed as she couldn’t help me but then she asked “Do you NEED help?”  Maybe I am stubborn and independent and don’t think I DO need help.

Reality check: people opening the door for me

Lately, there have been many men – old and younger – and even some women that have opened the door for me.  I don’t feel old.  I still feel like I am 20.  I know I have slowed down some.  My husband and I went to a retired clergy function and my comment was “Boy everyone else is sure looking older!”

Fighting back: I do water therapy.  I am walking and taking the steps.  I am going to go to a chiropractor which specializes in getting people to move better and getting on with their lives – not just keep coming back to him.  He can’t repair damage but can help more damage not happening.  I don’t feel old.  I do, however, try to not do stupid things but I do have a bruise from a tumble last week (I lodged myself between the organ bench and the wall because I leaned too far on a slippery bench).  My life is good and I will do my best to keep it that way.

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Who Knew?

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I retired in 2014.  We drive through some of the most beautiful country scenes no matter which way we go from our home.  The fall of 2014 held the most spectacular views of the trees in the hillside.  I took my camera every place I went but as is sometimes the case, what I saw with my eyes never matched the spectacular beauty of nature I saw with the digital images I later saw.  I couldn’t wait until the next year.

I thought it was because I saw the world with new eyes being newly retired.  I was beginning a new and beautiful journey and thought the world just seemed a more wonderful place.  The next year the trees were not quite as brilliant and wonderful.  My life was fine and I was seeing and doing new things.  I was forever trying to recreate and see the fall foliage that I remembered.

This year the leaves are dropping and they haven’t even turned.  It almost looks like someone is teasing us with a paint brush and just lightly touching the trees on the Baraboo range.  “Maybe it will be better”, I thought.  Then came a bunch of news sources telling me that it would not be spectacular this year in my area.

I have always enjoyed the colors of the fall trees.  I have enjoyed rides to see the colors in our area and sometimes drive to other areas. I must not be the only one feeling their hopes dashed as the news kept saying why the colors came in the first place and not to be disappointed as there was always next year.

  1. Not all trees have the ability to turn vivid colors.
  2. Temperature, precipitation, and soil moisture from spring, summer and fall make a big difference in the outcome of the color. It takes the whole seasons to make a beautiful fall.
  3. The green of the trees – “chlorophyll” pigment – dies with the shorter days, the lack of water and reduced nutrients. The yellow and red pigments which have been there all along are no longer masked and can show their “true colors”.
  4. They said “In general, a wet growing season followed by a dry autumn filled with sunny days and cool, frostless nights produces the most vibrant palette of fall colors.” So you might way the stars have to alight just right to get the brilliant colors.

They say that the northeast will be brilliant this year. I don’t live there. They also say it isn’t going to be brilliant in our area.  It may be nice but not spectacular.

I have a book of meditations that were written and intended for “older” audiences.  I have used them since I was in my 20’s.  It had autumn leaves on the cover.  Now that I am in the “autumn” time of life, I need to find that book again and see if I read it with new eyes.

I think our lives are like the cycle of the trees.  You don’t just get brilliant in your old age – it is how your life was lived all along.  Your true colors were always there.  Some people notice about older adults that they aren’t so afraid to say exactly what they think.  They have spent a lifetime, many times, hiding their true colors.  Now they are ready to really show who they are.

Unlike nature, we humans only get 1 autumn time.  It is too late to go back to the beginning to try again.  It is too late for the middle part to be redone.  We are here.  We are showing our true colors.  Whether they are brilliant or not, they are our colors.  They are what they are and are to be celebrated and enjoyed. It isn’t over yet! Today is today. It is a day to enjoy. It is a day to see things with new eyes. It is a time to review and renew and share what we have harvested and gleaned over the years.

Where are you in your life? If you are at the beginning, find a mentor who can share with you.  If you are in the middle, take time to see where you have come from and where you are going – find a mentor.  If you are at the end of the journey, mentors are a little harder to come by – search anyway for fellow travelers and journey partners.  Enjoy your life.  Enjoy this day.

If you wish, share one of the things on your journey -wherever you are – that has made this day spectacular.  When we can name our “bright” spots for others, they can help them on their journey as well.

 

Go for it!

DSC01818The state parks in Missouri raise trout.  We were in the Montauk State Park feeding the fish.  There are 2 huge places that fish are raised for this park and for shipping to other places.

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You buy fish food and “feed” the fish.  They jump out the water to get the food.  The first photo is a trout jumping out of the area where we were feeding fish.  By the way, we saw the fish jump and jump – not sure if it was the same fish – and during the time the fish was trying to get out, it never succeeded.

The fish probably knew the limits of where it was but had no idea of where it was going when it jumped.  There are times in life that we are in a safe area.  We are being fed and cared for but something calls within us to “jump” into the unknown.  I am not sure which area this fish would have a better life.

In our lives there are times when you feel like you need to take a leap of faith.  I retired in 2014 and although I had an idea of where I was “leaping” to, I had no idea where it would actually land.  I am enjoying retirement but I am doing things like playing the organ at church and piano for the Praise Band.  Neither of these were on my “to do” list but I really, really enjoy it.  I joined Home and Community Education connected to UW Extension and am doing different things there. I didn’t even know this group existed when I retired.   Life is exciting and renewing and lively.

I have new ideas and plans of what I can do and what will bring joy into my life and that of life with my husband.  We are seeing plays and musicals and movies.  We are enjoying life here at our home and through travel.   The leap was worth it in so many ways.  Regrets? Well I don’t feel like I am “out to pasture” and the tug of knowing I have skills I am not using weighs on me at times. The truth is I just don’t have time to do much more.  I didn’t think that I would need a calendar and set goals and have check lists but I do need them desperately to get at everything I care to do.

Do you think that you need to take a leap of faith in your life?  Please share it in the comments.  Sometimes just writing it down gives you the boost to get over the top and have support on the other side.  What issues do you think you need to know before you take a leap?  Will it matter what the answers are?  We all need security but sometimes the “familiar” is really a box holding us back and we just need to “go for it” and take a leap of faith.

 

 

Adversity or opportunity

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We live on a “lake” which is really a dammed part of the Wisconsin River.  There are beautiful bluffs that line the river and even the lake.  We also canoe on the Merrimac River in Missouri where the bluffs are huge and spectacular.

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What happen with rain, ice, wind and flooding is that the rock becomes weakened and part of the bluff “sloughs” off into the river.

This can change where the fish can be caught if it is small or it can change the course of the river if it large.

I was thinking about this as we were on the river at home in Wisconsin.  Change comes in our lives whether we are ready for it or not.  Sometimes it seems to be a little adversity or sometimes it seems like a catastrophe.  Sometimes it makes a difference for the better.  For the later perspective, I love Garth Brooks’ song “Thank God for Unanswered Prayer”.

Things in our lives need perspective.  I saw on the news a man in his 80’s who had lost everything with Harvey.  I know if that happened to me, I would be devastated and it would take a long time – if ever- to recover.  Yet there are things in our lives which seem “huge” as they happen and when we look back they weren’t as bad as we thought.  Sometimes we look back and we wonder how we got through it all.  Sometimes we look back and wonder what our lives might have been like.

My prayers go out for people affected by Harvey and Irma and what other hurricanes or disaster will follow.  As a United Methodist, we support UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) with money because 100% of what you give goes to the disaster.  The cost of operation and administration is paid for through other funds.  We also go to the Midwest Distribution Center in Chatham, Illinois to help get the flood buckets and other kits together so that when disaster strikes, things are ready to send out to those needed.

As I deal with problems, I try and get a perspective of how to handle it and how to see it as an opportunity rather than a problem.  Nothing stays the same. We get into trouble when we try to cement our present reality.   Just about the time you think you have things together, you don’t.  If we look at life like canoeing down a river rather than have the bluff as a “stay-cation” place, we might be better off.  Life is a journey – not a destination point.  We are traveling down the river of life.

Change happens in our lives.  How we deal with it can bring disaster, adversity, or catastrophe.  How we deal with it bring opportunity, an opening or a good change of direction.  See what you can do to make the best future going forward.  Plan. Set goals. Then you need to be flexible and a change agent as life actually happens and you go with the flow.

Vision vs What you can see

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I am leading a class at the public library on how to take better photos with the camera on your phone.  There are limitations with that camera.  I love my digital camera.  The other night the moon was full and lite the sky.  I put my camera on the rail of the deck and low and behold a number of good images appeared!

Yet every time I “sees” something, it doesn’t come to be revealed in a digital or phone camera.  Our eyes and mind can see/not see/focus/not focus on so much more than any sensor on a camera.  It is amazing what I have been gifted and what I have not seen at all – that is between when I raise my camera and when I get the digital results.

Life can be like that.  We can “see” and “imagine” so much more than we can actually act upon or use.  It is good to be able to cast a vision.  There is the story about boats in a harbor. They are usually safe there in the case of some bad storm, the ships need to leave the harbor to be safe.  They throw out the anchor and winch OUT to safety in the seas.

In our lives we can find safety in the harbor or in a moon lit night.  During the day we need to throw our anchor out and be in the high seas – knowing that we can return to the safety of the harbor when we need it.

It was awesome to sit on the deck and watch the moon light dancing on the waters.  I hope you enjoy peace and safety in your nights and days and be able to live toward a wider vision than you can see or imagine.

 

 

Legacy

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My mother’s memorial service was Saturday June 24, 2017.  Church people came.  Relatives came.  Friends came.  People whose lives she touched came.  They all shared stories of why they came and what her life meant to them.  It got me thinking of what her life meant but also what all lives can mean.  Often we don’t know how we affect people so looking at what other people’s lives have done can give us direction and hope.

SMILE

My mother always smiled.  If we were angry, she would ask us to think about the other side.  If we said “I’m the only one not going”, she would ask who else wasn’t going.  Her smile didn’t mean she didn’t talk about or deal with conflict and tough issue.  Her smile was also part of her hospitality in making others feel welcome.  People I didn’t know from church talked about how the first time they came, she smiled at them and welcomed them.  Her smile was infectious that way.  I told them that in her memory they were the ones that needed to smile and welcome others and make them feel that this church was their home.

CREATIVITY

She was trained as an art teacher.  She was part of the banner ladies that made banners.  It wasn’t just banners in that they studied the symbols of the church and its seasons.  They tried to do different cloth and medium so that they never repeated themselves.  They designed the banners and fretted over them and then from their drawings made the patterns so that the banner became reality.

In 1951 someone shared that they remembered her doing crafts for Vacation Bible School – carving a Scottie dog from a bar of Ivory soap.  I did it as a child.  I taught that in different ways.  I did that with my children.

She was a 3 -4 year old Sunday School teacher with 2 others for 24 years.  She was creative in what they did and in the attendance chart which was actually making a bulletin board each quarter.  The kids would make pictures of the “people” they had chosen and dressed and other things on the board.  She worked with others as a team in many things she did.

One comment from a school mate of mine was that my mom threw the best birthday parties.  I can see in what I did with my children and how my adult kids now work with others that this legacy continues in many ways.

LEADERSHIP

She was also a Brownie leader for 24 years for all 3 of us girls.  She “flew up” to Junior etc as we became older.  In those early days there were many trainings and she went to them all.  She was a continuing learner as well as teacher.  Her leadership was one of growing in learning as well as figuring out how to help the girls and people she worked with.

BEING PRESENT

She asked me if I would rather practice my piano or help her with dishes.  It never dawned on me that it took her 30 minutes every night to do them – actually I believe she would just keep clunking things at the sink periodically to make me think she was still doing them.

I know my middle sister would be talking to mom and every once in a while, mom’s mind would be off somewhere. Mom would say “uh huh” but to check and see if she really was listening, my sister would say something like “I went over Niagara Falls in a barrel and then went to the moon.”  If there wasn’t an acknowledgement, my sister would leave.  Mom would realize she was gone and say “not again”.  Yet we know that if we called her on the phone, she would talk and share and listen.  She would do that in person.

These are some of the things she gave me to help me know that I didn’t always need to be perfect.

  1. wooden wall hanging “Around here, “Normal” is just a setting on the dryer”
  2. Refrigerator magnet “This home is clean enough to be healthy and messy enough to be happy”

At this point in my life, “legacy” is probably already set in some ways.  There are still things I can do but I see that most of what I need to be doing is encouraging others to start their legacy to be in the lives of their children and family, other’s children and their families, the community and be a leader to all those around.  What is your legacy and how does your life impact others?  Smile, be creative, be a learning leader and be present to situations and those around you.  Doing just this will leave a lasting legacy in your life and in the lives of others.

That’s less than an optimal choice

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That was a comment my adult son made as we were playing Mancala.  We had played when he was in grade school.  Now he had made his own board and we were playing again.  When he was little, I would teach him strategy and show him all the options.  It wasn’t necessarily to win at all costs for sometimes we would help others in the game so we all won.

He had gone through the rules again of Mancala and helped me out so that I won several games.  Then he let me play on my own and I seemed to forget what I had just been taught.  As a result, I lost the game.  The next time when I would be making move that would not be helpful to me, he would say “That’s less than an optimal choice.”  He was giving me a clue and a chance to change what I was doing for a better play.

Sometimes we feel like we are out on a limb.  We can feel good about being there or feel like our future is very fragile.  Kevin had come up to help cut up the 40 foot Mulberry tree that had fallen in the wind.  That is what he is sitting on in the photo.  It was a good decision to get help and get to see him.  It was after all the work was done that we were playing games.  It was a good job done for both getting the tree cut and having fun.

After playing the mancala game, I kept thinking about that line “Less than an optimal choice”.  He was trying to get me to make a better choice that I was making.  He was trying to help me remember strategy just as I had been teaching him so long ago.  I thought about that phrase and how things might be easier for us in life if there was someone was on the sidelines to say to us “That’s less than an optimal choice.”  We make decisions in life and sometimes don’t really think if it is the best choice or what the long term consequences are.   If we would stop before we said something or before we did something and ask “Is this really an optimal choice for me at this time and in the future?”  Would this make a difference for us?  I think it might.

When I made the optimal choices in the mancala game I didn’t necessarily win but I gave myself the best chance to win rather than if I made “less than optimal choices”.  I have thought about that phrase as I was playing other games – Disney Emoji Blitz for one.  Sometimes in my haste I did make less than optimal choices.  The “stopping” and “thinking” and “looking at near and far consequences” may in itself be what makes better choices.  The questions we ask ourselves may be different and may actually be irrelevant to the outcome.

What about your life?  Are there cases where “less than optimal choices” were ok or damaging?  Would that question have helped you or would help you get to your goal better and faster and cleaner than if you didn’t ask that question? “Less than optimal choice” isn’t about winning but choosing a strategy that will work for you right now and in this place and point to a good place in the future.  It is a good question to ask.  It is a good question to think about.  It helps reframing our choices and our decisions in a positive light that makes sense.

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