Day 365

Whew.

What a bittersweetness I am feeling. In fact, writing my very last blog has overshadowed and superseded the reality of turning 61. I truly nearly forgot.

When I am close to finishing a book that I have really enjoyed, I experience a homesick-thirsty feeling. If I have about 10 pages left, I dole them out carefully. I save those last few pages to read until I can sit quietly, not feel rushed, and not be interrupted. I want to cherish and be entrenched in the ending. Occasionally when I finish a book, I actually miss the characters for a period of time.

My heart is heavy as I write this blog. It feels similar to finishing a great book. 

A few of you have been with me from the beginning. You have been incredibly faithful. My gratitude is fathomless. I am deeply humbled by your kindness. 

I will miss speaking to you every day.

Though I am ready for a bit of a respite, this is not the end. My plan is to begin the tedious task of going back and reading through the nearly 138,000 words I have written and begin an editing process. A thought from the beginning was to compile this into a book. I will begin that journey. 

My website will remain the same and I will give periodic updates, so stay tuned. I have had many thoughts about if and how to continue. I may write a “Weekly Wednesday” blog to keep my connection.

To stay tethered to your hearts. 

What day is it?” asked Pooh.

It’s today,” squealed Piglet.

My favorite day,” said Pooh.

Losses and Gains

Today I feel like I am sending my kid off to college. I’m happy for them to have the experience and know it is part of their growth (as well as mine), but also feel a bit of a panic as I see that it is becoming real. 

Wrapping up this year of blogging feels pretty darn real and my emotions are mixed, for sure.

I want to write today of the losses and gains I have experienced over the last 364 days. As in every journey we begin, there are both. It is inevitable.

American politician, sociologist, and diplomat, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, stated “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” And friends, losses and gains are facts.

What I lost:

Sleep.

Relationship. I missed many a night sitting in bed eating popcorn and watching Black List or St. Elsewhere or Sherlock with my husband. Thank you for your patience and support, dear Mike. I’m coming back so get the popcorn popping. 

Socialization. In a previous blog I have mentioned my annual cousins retreat. Last fall at our gathering, I had to slip away for a couple of hours to write my blog. I probably missed some very meaningful conversations, or at least some great laughs. Whatever travel has happened during this year has involved me disappearing for a period of time to write.

Workout routine. Well, something’s gotta go. There is only so much time in a day. Along with sleep deprivation, my previous steadfast workout routine suffered as well.

A little pride. In the beginning of a project, no matter what it is, you have a Pollyannish bent. I assumed that thousands would flock to my site and Kathie Lee and Hoda would be sending me airline tickets to appear on their show in New York. Though that has not happened, I’m still believing it may. 

What I gained:

Perspective. A true definition of perspective is this: The art of drawing solid objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other when viewed from a particular point. In simple terms, the way we regard something; our viewpoint. I like the long version of the definition. “…the right impression of height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other…” Everything that comes into our lives has its own weightiness. It is in measuring and balancing those things that make or break us. 

Knowledge. I have done a lot of research and reading, which has been fun. Knowledge also includes new words. I hope you have learned a few new ones, too.

The “every day remarkable”, meaning I began to see, hear and observe every day things as blog posts. It opened my eyes to the extraordinary ordinary.

New conversations. When I met new people and they asked about my life, I told them about the blog. When I ran into old friends and they asked what I have been up to, I told them about the blog.

Discipline. That one is a given. If anyone ever asks me how I was able to keep up, my answer will be exactly the way we should approach life, one day at a time. 

More photographed time with Mama. I was mindful every time I was with her that I may write about her in my blog that day. Very often I would snap photos of us together. I didn’t use all of them, but I have them. And they will always be a treasure to me.

A larger heart (not literally) from the love and kindness and support of dear ones. You know who you are.

Eleven pounds. Yep, sadly that is true. It is quite possibly a combination of reasons; decreased sleep, a stressful year with Mama, the loss of consistent exercise, as noted in the “losses”, and perhaps too many late night chocolate milks and kettle chips at my desk. 

An important aspect of healthy living is embracing the good with the bad, the sickness and health, the gains and the losses. 

I embrace every moment and every day of the journey, and I am grateful. 

Passing Lanes

Sunday mornings have always been special because it has always (and I mean ALWAYS) meant church. I was five days old the first time I attended. I am grateful for the heritage of building Sunday morning church-going into the foundation of my life. It has never left me. 

However, our current church situation offers a Saturday evening service, which is an exact replica of the Sunday morning one. Our son, Noah, is a member of the worship band and we, of course, love to go worship with him. Also, a large percentage of our  beloved small group, The Wolfpack, as we call ourselves, attends the Saturday evening service. It has become a regular routine to have dinner with them afterward. Always a treat!

It is nice on Sunday mornings to awaken and know we have a day to go out to breakfast or do a few chores. Sorry, Mama. She forbade Sunday chores growing up. But the Lord is gracious and He gives understanding when Sundays sometimes become a day of catch-up in preparation for the new week ahead.

This morning, after breakfast out, my husband and I made a little jaunt to IKEA. We were on a mission for one item. Every time I go and the winding journey begins in the area of those set up little apartments, I want to go home and put a for sale sign in my yard and move in. They are incredibly cozy. Marketing genius. 

As we walked through the network of passages which, intentionally of course, direct the consumer through every department of the store, an idea occurred to me. We were walking briskly, a misnomer at IKEA. There are young couples pushing baby strollers and mid-age couples trying to corral their kids, and older couples shuffling through, in no hurry whatsoever. 

The thought came to mind that there should be designated lanes at IKEA, just like an interstate highway system. There could be a regular lane in the middle, a slower one on the right that creates an easy exit to a specific department, and a high-speed, or passing, lane on the far left. 

At one point walking through the labyrinth, an older couple (older than us, anyway) quickly moved out of our way as if we were the running of the bulls. We definitely got a ‘look’ from them. I guess I didn’t realize we were up in their business so closely. They probably felt our hot breath on their necks. I smiled, apologetically, and quickly moved on. This whole scene could have been avoided if there were proper lanes at IKEA. 

For a bit of trivia ~ you may not know that IKEA is an acronym. The name consists of the initials of Ingvar Kamprad (name of founder), Elmtaryd (the farm where he grew up), and Agunnaryd (his hometown in Småland, southern Sweden). 

If any of you visit Sweden and happen to run into Ingvar, please ask him about my *IDEA. I think he may like it. 

*I Desire Easier Access

Blog Grogg

This morning I was running errands and decided to swing into my local coffee shop for a Highlander Grogg. This can caught my eye. It took me a nano second to get it. Then I really liked it. I quickly snapped a picture while the window girl was getting my coffee. I didn’t want her to think I was a demented stalker trying to get a photo of her. 

The saying reminded me a bit of yoga. At the beginning of every class, the instructor says “Whatever is on your mind this morning, leave it on the mat. Lay it down and take this hour to focus on your breathing. Rest your mind and strengthen your body for this one little chunk of time.” To which I say to myself “Yes, please.”

Why do we fear change? I’ve been addressing this a bit in my recent blogs. I ran across a few quotes about change and want to share them.

You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending ~ C.S. Lewis

Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change ~ Stephen Hawking

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails ~ William Arthur Ward

There is nothing so stable as change ~ Bob Dylan

I so love that last one. Change is indeed a sign of stability. And the opposite of that, no change ever, is definitely an indication of shaky instability. It’s an irony, of course, but many truths are. 

So do you want to complain about the wind, expect it to change, or adjust the sails? 

Yes, me too. I want to adjust the sails and leave my fear of change in the tip jar. 

Hard Punches

World heavyweight champion boxer Mike Tyson, said: “Everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth.” Tyson is more known for his “punches as hard as iron” than his wise philosophy, but when he made that off-the-cuff statement, he was spot on.

That quote by Mike Tyson reminds me a bit of my year of blogging. Early August last year when the idea came to me to document my 60th year by writing a daily blog, I was enthusiastic. When the idea gelled and my friend, Marcelina, helped me create the website, it was like Christmas Eve. I could barely sleep with the anticipation of making this thing real and jumping in.

That was the plan and it worked, but there were certainly days I got punched in the mouth. Many a dark, late night I sat alone on my bedroom floor thinking of topics then tapping away at my keyboard until one or two in the morning, driven to stay true to my pledge. I have fallen asleep sitting straight up at my computer. However, not once did I get into bed without writing my blog. I’m not looking for kudos, I am simply stating the challenge of a commitment. 

It’s all fun and games until reality sinks in. We know, cognitively, that we are responsible for meeting our own goals. But for some reason, in the back of our minds, we think/want/need another person to help. At the end of the day, and on a grander scale, at the end of our lives, we are on your own, well, humanly speaking. Thankfully, we have a sovereign God who helps us daily and at the end, meets us.

I have never lived on my own. I went from my parents home to living with my husband and then children soon followed. When you are surrounded by those you love and who love you, it is easy to get into the mindset that someone is always there to help. That is 100% true except when it comes to personal goals. The support is there and it has been huge for me this year, for which I am grateful. 

However, the work, the grit, the sitting in the trenches, the end result, was on me, as it should be. I have learned many things this year. One of my biggest lessons was persistence.

When I was a personal trainer, I used to tell my clients that there is no secret formula. In fact, it is quite simple. Small choices over time add up to real change. Let the workouts pile up and soon you will see a difference.

Some changes are subtle. Some commitments are long. Some progresses are slow. But movement is key. It is where all things begin. 

A Silver Lining

I am writing from a place of frustration at the moment. By this evening when I have gone through my day and found joy and hit the reset button, I will possibly regret writing from this mindset. But I stated from the beginning that I want to be transparent in this endeavor. If we cannot write from a place of authenticity, what is the point?

I am 60 years old, five days away from being 61. I seemingly cannot consistently carve out one hour a week to go a local yoga class. It is offered twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday mornings, but geez…let’s not get too crazy. I wouldn’t want to ask for the moon.

This morning I awakened early at Mama’s house. I browned a nice beef roast in olive oil and salt and pepper. I peeled potatoes then cut them into hearty little chunks and placed them in the bottom of a crock pot. I then put the nicely seared roast over the potatoes and sprinkled onion soup mix over the top. I set it to low so that it could cook for a solid eight to nine hours and be ready for Mama’s dinner. I told her she could smell it all day long and give her something to look forward to. She didn’t quite understand.

After that, I attempted to help Mama comprehend what the day would be like; the comings and goings. She shook her head (negatively) and asked why we were doing this to her. 

We found agreeable clothes to put on and headed to the kitchen for coffee. She sipped her morning brew, sweetened with French vanilla creamer and stared at me. “Were you here with me last night?” She asked. “Yes”, I said. “We made a good dinner and talked and even laughed a bit. Later we ate ice-cream on your balcony then came back inside to sing songs from the church hymnal until our voices gave out. Do you remember?” Her reply “Not really.” Sigh. 

Sometimes I wonder if it would make a difference if we sat and did nothing all evening. All efforts to fill her time and bring her joy seem to evaporate by morning. Although in my serene mindset I know that it is indeed worth it, if not for her, then for me.

Knowing I would need to leave her by 9:10 to make it to yoga, I quickly got myself dressed in yoga-appropriate clothing, side-braided my hair and packed up my overnight bag. 

As life goes, things happen. A bit of extended time comforting Mama. A washing of the searing skillet and cleanup. A conversation that was needed. And I’m not out the door till 9:20. I thought I could still make it, while maintaining road safety. About two miles from my destination was a lane closure with lined up traffic while two large cement trucks took their sweet time backing into a new housing development. That pushed the possibilities over the edge. 

I circled back around and headed for home, defeated. I walked into the house, finding Noah working on his school schedule and lamented to him about my morning. He understood, as much as he was able.

There are those pouting, toned-down temper tantrums we occasionally throw in an adult form. I tossed one right then and there. 

As the old adage goes when a young couple has a fight about who should take out the trash, it’s not really about the trash. And this morning, it wasn’t totally about yoga. It was more about being in a place where ‘things’ prevented a small staking of a claim for oneself. 

As stated in my first paragraph, by evening I will be fine. I will be smiling and grateful. 

I will realize that this extra hour in my morning allowed me to spend time at my desk, which perhaps was even more therapeutic.

Senioritis

As my one year anniversary date draws nearer, I find myself experiencing a touch of senioritis. Senioritis is a colloquial term used in the United States and Canada to describe the decreased motivation for studying by students who are nearing the end of their high school or college years. 

To some degree, that does not accurately define what I am feeling because I am 100% motivated to finish this project. I think where the term seniorities fits for me is in the sense of excitement about honoring my commitment, combined with a tinge of sadness. 

Seniors experiencing this malady want to skip school, blow off assignments, hang with friends, and party hearty. I believe there is another part of senioritis that is rarely discussed. A very real component of the ailment is uncertainty and unfamiliarity. There is a degree of fear when a senior realizes what they have known; their daily schedule, their safety net, even the seemingly-confining boundaries of home will soon be changing. 

I think that is where I am right now. I am ready to finish strong but a significant part of my day, my life, will change after August 21. Though we often balk at routines, we need them. We like them. We have an intimacy with them as our tethers to comfort and security. 

However, as in all things, time heals, smoothes, prepares, anticipates, presents, and acts. The wane is beautifully answered by the wax.

It’s Questionable

Margaret Thatcher was a British stateswoman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990. The Falklands War highlighted her most significant international relationship, which was with Ronald Reagan. Thatcher and Reagan, who together made the 1980s the decade of conservatism, shared a vision that the Soviet Union was an evil enemy who deserved no compromise. Their partnership ensured that the Cold War continued until the rise to power of the reform-minded Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985. 

In 1976, Margaret Thatcher, in keeping with her strong anticommunism stance, gave a speech which earned her the nickname “Iron Lady” in the soviet press.

She was quite an impressive woman.

One of Thatcher’s famous quotes is this “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” I love that so much.

Today when I was shopping for mousetraps and toothpaste and vitamins, I walked through the clothing section and ran smack dab into this T-shirt. It brought to mind Margaret Thatcher’s famous quote.

Though I appreciate the ideology of the message and that “woman power”, “don’t think you can push me around” mentality, I’m still not a fan. 

If you have to wear a T-shirt that announces the message to not underestimate you, your value and admiration may already be in question. 

Would you Rather…

My sisters and I occasionally have a discussion around “rathers”. We will say things like “Would you rather have an infestation of fleas in your house or have 10 mice?” Or we might say “Would you rather have one large snake loose in your house or a thousand cock roaches?” Personally, I would always choose anything over fleas and bugs. I have encountered a flea infestation and it is pure misery. I could not walk from my bed to my bathroom (about five steps) in the middle of the night, without three or four of the little boogers attaching to my ankles.

But let’s talk mice. I have, for the last couple of months, seen ‘evidence’ of mice activity. The first I noticed was in my pantry. Horrid! So I emptied the whole thing and scrubbed every shelf with hot, disinfecting soapy water. I then saw ‘evidence’ underneath my sink and in the top of my trash can. I do not understand how mice can jump into a trash can, but honestly, I do not want to know. 

My son, Noah, has found ‘evidence’ in his bedroom, which is a large room, previously part of the garage. I’m wondering if perhaps the insulation is not as great out there or easier access or something…

Two nights ago one chunky mouse ran across the floor. I, of course, screamed as if it were an anaconda wrapping itself around my legs.

After putting out a sticky trap (which is an awful invention), the next morning we discovered a small mouse stuck in the thick, gooey gunk. It was still alive. Horrid! 

I will now be purchasing old-fashioned traps so that the unsuspecting (chunky) mouse, anticipating a late-night peanut butter snack, will not know what hit it. Though that is certainly an unpleasant thought, those sticky things are torturous, for mouse and human. 

My husband is a bit perplexed when I ask him if there isn’t a way to simply catch the mice and drive them far out to a nice field and set them free? In his oh so famous way, he says “Now come on, Beck. You know we can’t do that.” It is always worth an ask. 

These “rathers” that my sisters and I talk about remind me of another “rather” game that is often mixed into normal conversation of kids. It is those question of asking “Would you rather lose your hearing or your sight?” Or “Would you rather have an arm cut off or a leg cut off?” On a lighter note, I remember talking with girls on the playground and asking things like “Would you rather marry a prince or an astronaut?” And “Would you rather live on a farm with horses or on the top floor of a fancy apartment building in New York City?” When you are a kid, you just assume that one of those options will present itself.  

It is interesting how we formulate our “rathers”. It seems we continue those conversations throughout our lives, though when we are all grown up and sophisticated, they become internal questions.

For tonight, I would rather my mice go away. 

Couple Hair

I took Mama to church this morning. It was a good service and it was good for her to see old friends. She and I were a few minutes late because she got very upset about not having pantyhose to wear to church. We almost didn’t go due to that issue. I tried to tell her the Lord doesn’t mind but she insisted it was improper. 

We slipped in the second to last row and joined right in with the worship music. When the pastor began to preach, I noticed an elderly couple a few rows ahead of us. The woman had on earrings and a sweater with sparkling threads running through it. Other than those rather differentiating qualities, their heads looked alike. Hers looked slightly more coiffed but the color, the cut and the length were the same.

You know you are getting older when your head is interchangeable with your husbands. Thankfully, for now at least, my hair is long and dark. Mike’s is salt and pepper with a great George Clooney cut. I keep asking my hairdresser if she thinks I am too old to wear my hair long. She promises that she will tell me when that day comes. I definitely do not want to be one of those 75 year-old women with long, stringy hair clinging tightly to it as one last youthful hurrah. On the other hand, I do not want look-alike hair. 

Ironically, the pastor today was talking about how we worship. He mentioned how easily we can become distracted at church. For example, it seems so holy to have the Bible app on your smart phone and use it to look up scripture rather than carrying the old-fashioned ten pound family bible. However, is everyone really staying on task with 2 Chronicles or are some swiping over to Facebook to check the number of likes on their new boat pic. It’s a social issue. 

Needless to say, I felt a tinge of guilt during prayer when I covertly got out my iPhone and took a snap of this look-alike-hair couple, especially in light of the sermon topic. I asked the Lord to forgive me. For the last 11 months I see so many things through the eyes of my blog. 

It is 9:39 PM and Mama is in bed. We are both worn to a frazzle. But we made it. We had struggles for sure but we had joys, too. We walked hand in hand up and down the driveway and picked up sticks and those annoying spiked round balls that fall from the sweet gum tree. Mama thinks they are beautiful and collects them every time she visits. 

Life ends up being a series of inconsistencies; a concert of dissonance. Yet, there is not a more lovely sound than those discordant notes coming together at just the right moment. 

The push and pull is how we find that beautiful middle.