Living Every Day

Last month marked the one-year anniversary of my dad’s passing.  I gathered with all of my brothers and sisters at my mom’s house to share stories and memories, laughter and love.  What a blessing to be a part of such a wonderful family.

My dad fought cancer for several years.  There were surgeries, treatments and periods of remission.  But, in the end,  it always returned.

He battled to the end, refusing to allow this disease to rob him of productivity during the days he had left.  He needed daily oxygen treatments.  Rather than accepting this passively, he bought some hand weights and worked out his upper body while attached to the machine.

He spent a fair amount of time daily praying for his family…his wife, five children, their spouses and children, and several great-grandsons.  He held onto his faith as he fought.

He continued reading, studying and learning new things.  During our telephone conversations, he would discuss politics, scientific advancements, religion and anything else that was on his mind.  Until almost the very last moment, he did not take large amounts of medications, so that his mind would be clear.

He continued to keep his routine, washing and dressing every morning, puttering around the house and yard as long as he was able.

On his 82nd birthday he passed peacefully; in his own home, surrounded by many loved ones.  We were sad, but comforted by the fact that he had lived every day with purpose.  What a wonderful legacy to leave behind…that one has truly lived, fully and completely, for whatever time he is given.

One day, when my turn comes, I hope to be able to tell him I did the same.

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Planting Peas

A bit more than a week ago I planted some regular peas, some sugar snap peas and some spinach.  Today, I saw a few little plants poking their heads up when I went out to water them.  So exciting!

There’s something very satisfying about connecting with the Earth in such an up-close and personal manner.  Sure, it’s a bit of work, especially when your “soil” is clay.  My husband built some raised beds.  We filled them with a mixture of plain old dirt, manure and other organic materials, including wonderful home-made compost, and mixed well.  Cool-weather crops were sown in February.  Now, we water and wait.

I don’t know if anyone else feels these almost maternal stirrings I have toward my little garden brood.  I tend to them every day and rejoice when they thrive.  I am devastated when they don’t.  I watch their stages of development with fascination…the first little shoots, the growing stalks, stems and leaves, the beautiful bursting buds and finally the fruits.  They feed me as I have nurtured them.

This really is the circle of life.  In this day of technology and invention, I find it a necessity to personally interact with nature.  It gives me perspective and provides an order to my existance.  I see times and seasons come and go, each stage necessary and beautiful in it’s own way.  I watch and I learn.  And it helps me to grow.

How to Stay Married for a Long Time

My husband and I have been married for more than 33 years.  Since today is Valentine’s Day, I was thinking about how we have managed to stay together for so long.  So, for anyone who wants to know, here are a few of our “secrets”.

1. Choose the right person.   My husband is usually a very patient, kind man.  He loves babies.  He changed diapers, held them through the night and played with them.  He can cook.  He doesn’t mind the occasional “chick flick”.  He gets along with my family.  He loves the Lord, prays with our family, and is very involved with church.  He is always helping other people.  And I could go on.  I chose very well.   

2. We schedule time alone together.  We have date nights, ususally nothing fancy or terribly expensive, but by ourselves.   As the children got older, we also tried to get away for a weekend near our anniversary each year.  While we lived in Florida, it was usually to the beach.  Last summer, we spent a couple of days in the beautiful NC mountains.  The location doesn’t matter.  Even swapping kids with friends or family for one night and staying home alone would work.  It’s great just to relax and focus on our relationship.

3.  We each have our own personal interests and activities.  Not every waking and sleeping moment has to be spent together.  We don’t always enjoy doing the same things, and that’s ok.  Sometimes spending a few hours apart makes us appreciate each other even more.

4.  Find something to believe in and be involved.  We love our church.  We attend services together and serve in various capacities.  Our faith in God binds us and gives us a basis for the way we live our lives.  However, I realize that not everyone wants religion.  There are many worthwhile causes and organizations that would welcome your participation.  Serving together is a wonderful relationship builder.

5.  Laugh.  Sometimes our family has the most ridiculous dinner conversations that cause us to laugh so hard that no one can eat or drink.  We secretly wonder if everyone is this crazy, or if we’re just “special”.  These are moments that cement relationships and create memories. 

6.  Discuss boundaries, and then respect them.  We know that there are certain things that the other will not tolerate.  There are lines that we do not cross, ever.  Sometimes it would be so easy to say, “I couldn’t help myself”,  but that is simply untrue.  Every day we manage not to do things (like jumping off tall buildings) that would kill us.  We can also choose not to do things that would kill our relationship. 

7.  Don’t quit.  Really, that’s probably the most important “secret”.  Life is hard some days.  Marriage takes work, a lot of work.  We have moments of anger, hurt feelings and misunderstanding.  We’ve wondered if it’s worth it at times.  But we decided early on that we planned on forever, and we are doing our best to make that happen.

How about you?  What is your advice for making marriage strong?

Attitude of Gratitude: Groundhogs and Love

Thirty-four years ago, on Groundhog Day, my husband and I became officially engaged.  What an incredible journey this has been so far!

We have welcomed many children into our home.  I gave birth seven times.  We have watched six of them grow into fine, responsible, loving, caring adults.  One waits for us in Heaven.  Others have come and gone at times when there was a need that we were able to help with.  Four have married wonderful people.  We have three perfectly precious little grandsons.  Wealth has little to do with how much money we have.  It has everything to do with the wonderful people who are forever part of our lives.

We have lived in several places along the East Coast…Connecticut, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Florida and North Carolina.  In each place, special people have touched us, inspired us, helped us and blessed us.  We are who we are in part because of fantastic friends and associates who have taught us so much along the way.

We have had moments of great joy, and others of profound despair.  We have struggled and fallen.  We have picked ourselves up and continued onward.  We have learned that there are great rewards in just sticking to it and not giving up.

So, today, I am thankful for the journey…for the trials and triumphs, for the people and places and events that have shaped me.  And I am interested to find out what new adventures await us.

Here’s to hoping that in 30, or 40, or 50 years I will be able to look back on the panorama of my life and be pleased with what I did with the opportunities I was given, and grateful for the gift that it was. 

Enjoy the journey!

Close Car Encounters and Cash Control

Whoops!

Our car was involved in a little scuffle with another vehicle. 

 Thankfully, no one was injured.  Unthankfully, the verdict from the insurance company was “total loss”.  This is probably due to the fact that the car was older and not worth a whole lot of money.  But it was such a nice ride…comfortable, large enough for family trips, easy to drive.  Nevertheless, we now have a super-slim budget of $6000 or less to find a replacement.  Pronto!

Situations like these would make it so easy to say, “Forget the budget!” and just finance something a bit nicer.  There were younger, less careful times when we probably would have given in to our immediate wants.  But we’ve made a committment to staying out of debt and rebuilding our savings and retirement accounts.  (They took quite a hit during the year + of unemployment.)  So we are determined to stay on track.

Does this mean I am finally maturing in an area or two?  I don’t really feel very “grown up” sometimes.  But maybe I have learned a thing or two along this journey so far…for example: I am not defined by what I drive, or how large my house or bank account are.  Meeting goals and staying the course, however, do shape and define me.  So, here’s to midlife moments and choices that make a difference.

They Make It a Wonderful Life…Betty White

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“Old-Lady” Folding Shopping Carts

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Soooo, I bet you are wondering what shopping carts have to do with anything…

Getting older is inevitable.  And our bodies change.  Does that mean we have to accept that we are just going to break down and start dying as soon as we pass the half-way point?  I had almost done that.  My weight was way up, my flexibility and endurance were way down.  Aches and pains had taken up constant residence.  I was trying, walking a couple of miles daily and doing some stretches/yoga/etc.  But it didn’t seem to accomplish what I hoped.  What to do…

Then, an epiphany!  It’s got everything to do with attitude.  And not giving up.  And not giving in.  I do have to be realistic.  I will never be 20 again, but neither am I 106, which is how I was feeling.  (And I’ve read some articles about some 90+-year-olds who are extremely healthy, athletic, strong and sharp.  I want to be one of them someday.)  I AM NOT HELPLESS.  I HAVE CHOICES!

I read an article in the Raleigh, NC, “News and Observer” (“Exercise: The Real Wonder Drug”, Jan. 8, 2012).  Apparently, recent scientific research is showing that exercise can dramatically aid and improve almost everything from arthritis to cancer to osteoperosis to brain function.  And everyone, no matter what their age or present health situation, can rev it up a bit and see some results.  So that is my first makeover goal…move more, a LOT more, every single day.

A young woman named Andie blogs about her journey losing 135 pounds and keeping it off.  She’s amazing, realistic and so positive. (canyoustayfordinner.com)  While studying in Europe, she walked everywhere she went, everyday.  It made a huge difference in her weight loss and her health. 

Hence, the “old-lady” shopping cart.  I have grocery stores, drug stores, dollar stores and other stores a couple of miles from my house.  I can choose to walk, instead of mindlessly jumping in the car every time I need something.  I have friends who live 2 or 3 or 4 miles from me.  I have parks, woods, lakes, churches, plant nurseries, restaurants, and a million other places that are within a reasonable distance.   How much better will I feel if I make more walking and moving a constant part of my day?

So, what do you think about the shopping cart?  If it’s in a cool color, I’ll bet I can make it rock!

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