Monday Musings

Happy Monday world! This isn’t just another Monday. Here in the states it’s Memorial Day.

Yes many often view it as a three day weekend, a kick start to summer and a day to BBQ. The reality is, its a day of solemn remembrance for the men and women who served and gave their lives for our country.

I know if I made a trip to the military cemetery where my father is buried, a flag would be on his stone as well as the thousands of others who surround him.

My father did two terms in Vietnam. He was always immensely proud of his service to our country.

He never talked about his time there. It wasn’t until the last year of his life that he said some things that made sense to some of his ( we thought, idiosyncrasies) and I think it was only the advancing of his alzheimers that may have loosened the memories and let them out.

He always wanted the windows closed and locked. It made my mom crazy. He revealed in his later days that the enemy used to hide in the jungle and trees and then attack. ( we live in the country surrounded by some very dense terrain) he had never lost the worry that they were still out there.

Or more chilling how the sound of aircraft made him tense… the enemy would fly over and throw the dead soldiers from the helicopter. A reminder they could be next.

It was a roadside bomb exploding and causing the vehicle he was in to crash causing injuries that sent him to Germany to rehab and then finally home.

I’m not sure you or I can even begin to grasp what our service men and women go through, or how it makes a lifetime indelible impact on them physically, emotionally and spiritually.

On this day we remember those who sacrificed their lives. Those who left behind loved ones, dreams, and plans for the future.

I thought of how so many laid down their lives as…..

I passed a man selling fresh produce on the side of the road this morning.

I saw a bumper sticker proclaiming political views.

I drove by multiple churches.

I made plans for my business.

I recently voted in an election.

I shopped in stores with a great abundance of food and other items.

Freedom.

We have so much freedom in our country to use our voices, to run businesses, to move about freely, to worship as we choose, or not choose. We have freedom to vote for our elected leaders.

We have so many freedoms and it’s on this solemn day we stop to remember…to remember those who gave all so that we can live in the daily freedoms we take so for granted.

Thank you seems so small…..such small words for gratitude of giving and serving with ones life.

As you gather with your family on this day, I hope you take a moment to pause and give thanks for the precious gift of freedoms you have and for the lives of those who make it possible.

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Birthdays And Reflections On Another Year Older

A New year begins today.

New goals. New perspectives. New opportunities to love, laugh, play, and breathe life in.

I’m talking about another birthday to celebrate, specifically mine.

Humor me. I can do that since I’m the birthday girl today, right ?  😛

Birthdays get me a bit reflective some years. Not in a weird “OMG I’m getting OLD!!” way.  I’ve never really had “issues” with hitting any certain age… I’m just happy to still be invited to the party, know what I mean?

Chronologically, I know what the calendar says and it technically puts me somewhere between “getting old but not as old as dirt” status. That chronological thing is set in stone for all of us.

However, how I live my life and the things I do with myself determine how young I feel and to a great extent, how I age.

My reflections on the past year have made me smile and tear up almost all at once.

In this last year I welcomed a beautiful new granddaughter into my life, and lost my dad to a battle with Alzheimers a few months later. Only two months after that  I walked the path of grief with my daughter in law through the loss of her father.

In between those months of loss, my oldest son announced he would be getting married later this year.

There have been many “up’s and down’s” that also go along in a families life and a married life.

There have been  those “normal” kinda days that you realllllyyy cherish and appreciate on days that are hard. And there were days that were very, very hard.

Life and death.  Joy and tears. The past and the future. New goals and plans. Hope and anticipation. Excitement and disappointments.

And suffering. If I’m writing an honest reflection to you today, I will say there has been a lot of that in this year too.

Birthdays remind me that I’ve been privileged to experience it all…. the good, bad and everything in between. They aren’t a guarantee or a given to any of us.

This is my fourth one without my Mom and it still makes my heart ache to not have her with me for it, or have her make my cake ( although my daughter does a great job making me one 🙂 or receive the beautiful cards she used to give me.

I’ve embraced every new year I’m given. I don’t think about age as I find it irrelevant to whatever I want to do nor do I give much thought to it.

I have a fun group of young friends. They don’t see my age either. They like me, think I’m “cool” and give me a hard time about my athletic shenanigans ( as in, they tell me I’m crazy  😛 )

I find them refreshing and their enthusiasm and sometimes out right craziness makes me laugh.

We learn from each other.

They talk about their struggles and dreams, or family or whatever is on their mind. I’m old enough to offer life wisdom to which they sometimes ask for. Sometimes, we just talk about deeper things like…  music. 😛

I have friends my own age because it’s only those who’ve walked similar paths with you who can truly relate to some of  the struggles you may be currently in or offer advice that only a “older” person might offer.

I’ve found though that age is a number and that there is great maturity in many of my young friends, just as I’ve found great immaturity in people older than me.

Like a kaleidoscope it shows me different colors of life… beliefs, thoughts, opinions, and personal view points.

I believe you are richly blessed when you have a wide circle of people who care about you and who add a fullness to your life.

On the topic of learning…

I’ve made it a point over these past years to learn about the people who interact in my life.

The checker at the store, the baristas who happily serve me coffee, a random customer I engage in conversation ( ahhh maybe more than “a” person hahaha)

Why? People matter and my life seems richer when I do. Because I often walk away with a new perspective being around people from my “usual” circle. Different thoughts and views can be a good catalyst to make me really think about what I believe and why.

I’ve learned to freely give away a smile to a person I walk past, I have no problem dishing a compliment to a woman I think looks pretty or has something on I think looks like the bomb. I’ve had it done to me and I know what an unexpected “gift” it is to receive.

On social media I  comment on something they’re doing, especially if it offers them encouragement or support, like working out or losing weight.

I mean, why not?

I’ve tried to practice the art of not “withholding”… compliments, smiles, encouragement, praise, etc. because people NEED that stuff.

It makes me feel good to offer that back to others.

The older I get the more I embrace more of what life is… all of us twined together in some form or another…

I’ve realized more than ever this past year that my tribe is the most valuable gift I possess in this wild ride of life. My husband is strong, fearless, and the most patient loving, giving, generous man on this planet. I’m so blessed to have him.

My kids who are now all adults have turned out rather amazing in spite of some worrisome years in the past. It’s crazy to me they are getting married and having babies and living in their own houses and all that other stuff… I can’t be that old… can I ???

Ah yes, indeed I am, and it’s perfectly ok.

I’ve never felt stronger, more energetic, fit, or fierce in my life. I have no wish to be any other age or place than where I am right now. I’ve earned these years and all that goes with them… smile lines and all… and I don’t try to hide it.

My only desire is to age gracefully, love wildly, not be afraid to take on new things, and truly appreciate all I’ve been blessed with.

So I stand on the threshold of another year. To take on harder challenges, to stretch myself, and hopefully to be able to grow more in my thinking and understanding, to learn, laugh and love more.

I’m surrounded by people who love me warts and all, who celebrate my achievements and challenge me to be all I can be, there is no greater blessing.

So cheers to another year, another pure gift of life, for which I am beyond grateful.

 

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50ish…. again.

 

 

 

Thanksgiving And Norman Rockwell Expectations

In just a few days we will be celebrating Thanksgiving here in the U.S.

Let’s just call it a day full of food, family, friends and football.

And pie.

But pie doesn’t tie in to my cute list of “F” items 😉

But yesssss… pie.

I do plot and plan a week out, make my list and check it twice ( oops wrong holiday) and preparations are in full swing the  Wednesday beforehand ( someone’s gotta make all those pies!)

Anyway, without fail, every year I find myself admiring the magazines with the full color , glossy beautiful spread of festive Thanksgiving tables.

The perfect china. The spotless glassware. The glistening silver. The without fail amazing centerpiece crowning the table.

The entire, whole, perfectly browned turkey on the platter with lovely garnishes all around it waiting to have the matching cutting knife and fork taken to it.

 

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My turkey will never look like this…..

 

 

All that’s missing is the family in a perfect matching ensemble seated expectantly around the table.

And all I can think is…. “For Real?”

Oh, it seems so ideally perfect and lovely. You know… “Norman Rockwell’ish”.

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Are those stalks of celery on the plate???

 

 

I’ve had late night fantasies about it…. fantasies…. ’cause no matter what my intentions are I know that it will just never unfold.

Our Thanksgivings tend to be on the more ordinary bend and look a bit like this…

By that I mean, I’m happy if I have enough chairs to squeeze everyone around the table and wonder if there are gonna be enough dinner forks or do I need to break out the salad forks ?

I really want to have a super cool table centerpiece, but, well on years I’ve had something  clever it gets moved to make room for …you know.. the food.

The coffee is happily brewing but it’s not served in china cups.. my coffee mug collection has become a bit more eclectic over time.. kinda like me 😉

I usually have the turkey cut, wrapped and waiting, while attempting to keep my sons from grazing off of it.

My roomy kitchen starts to feel small as people arrive and hang out there.. I attempt to hold on to my organization of how things are running…

Football is already on, and the men in my family want it at levels to simulate being in a crowded stadium with 100,000 people.

It’s guaranteed I’m tripping over a dog who’s hoping I make a fatal move with some food that will land on the floor and they will be the clean up crew for it.

I’m trying to keep an eye on everything cooking on the stove, trying to remember what’s in ‘fridge that needs to go to table ( nothing like finding a dish or two still in there afterwards 😛 )

Somewhere in the midst of cooking and wrangling people, I’ve made an attempt to look somewhat put together and cute for the day. Given it’s usually warm on Thanksgiving it could mean I’m in shorts… sigh… no cute sweaters..

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I have a million thoughts running through my head one of which is… “If I eat a piece of pie now, will anyone know?” haha

Somehow though, it all comes together.

The food all makes it to the table, it’s still mostly hot, everyone has a seat and a fork 😉

it’s often loud, crazy, and a bit chaotic. The football game has been (temporarily) quieted  and I am grateful to finally sit down and enjoy the fruit of my labor.

My Thanksgivings might not look like the glossy pages from holiday magazine. But as everyone quiets down and we join hands and bow our head to give thanks for all the blessings we’ve been given and the plentiful amount of food before us I’m reminded again, it’s not in the trappings or how perfect I want everything to be that matters.

No. That’s not it at all.

It’s each and every person gathered around the table that matters and makes it meaningful to me, they are the gifts that I am most thankful for and grateful to have gathered  with me.

That to me, is the deepest meaning of Thanksgiving.  No matter where you are on our big planet, I hope you take a moment to give thanks for the blessings you have and the people who bless you, for that is what matters most in life.

 

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A Time And A Season For All Things

season

I saw her coming down the aisle. Shopping cart half loaded and small children hanging off of it. A baby carrier was nestled in the top portion.

A young mom juggling several small lives and gathering food for her clan.

We passed giving each other the polite smile. I contemplated her life and thought how very far away that all felt from me at this point.

I’m thankful to still feel young and energetic but my “little children” days are a few years back now.

My oldest just turned 27. My last pregnancy was in 1994.

I’m a grandmother.

I will be (again) as my son and his wife just announced they are expecting in October =)  Being a grandparent really is way better than you can imagine… really… it’s so different from raising your own kids.  And it’s kind of crazy seeing your children as adults, still your kids, but all grown up and you’re in this different place with them.

I’ve often been reminded of this truth from the writer of Ecclesiastes… “there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens”

When I was in my baby making days, ( I don’t participate in this activity anymore haha) it seemed like that part of life would go on forever. Well meaning people told me to savor and enjoy it as it would go by fast. Yet somehow, when you’re in the mix of diapers, lacking sleep, trying to keep your home orderly and make sure the baby doesn’t eat the cat liter it seems very far away indeed.

I gave birth to three beautiful sons, spaced nicely apart. I had good pregnancies and easy deliveries. I remember the nurse telling me I had a body perfect for having babies…I laughed and told her I wasn’t making a hobby out of it! 😉 I breastfed all of them successfully and loved the activity of being able to feed my sons. They were fat ( uh chubby) and healthy.

My husband and I had agreed three was our number… no matter what number 3 was… we were stopping. When my third son entered the world I was happy and joyful and had zero remorse that a girl hadn’t been born to me. He was tiny, perfect, and a total delight.

I won’t lie and tell you I didn’t go through my own season of grief realizing I would never experience those things again. Never feel life stir in me, that first movement, hearing the heartbeat, seeing that sono image, watching my belly grow larger as my child grew in me.

The anticipation of their arrival. The joy of seeing what I had when they were born ( We did not find out what any of ours were beforehand… super cool)

Not experience the joy of nursing them and the sweet moments that those times offered.  The sleepy times where they lay on my chest, the softness of their breath lulling me to sleep as I breathed in their sweet baby scent. The feel of that soft downy hair under my hand.

Those moments do go by all to quickly I was reminded as my 6’6 first born walked in and enveloped me in a huge hug before dinner last night.

A time and a season for every activity under heaven indeed.

I guess I’m at a point in my life I’m privileged? blessed? to look back and see those seasons, appreciate them, and know they are a normal part of the rhythm and flow of life.

Now, I see young moms and think “God bless them” followed by… “I’m glad I’m through all that!” And “I like having my body all to myself” haha at this season in life I’ll be honest and say I’m enjoying my freedom.

My seasons involve my children getting married, preparing for college, making future plans, getting blessed with grandbabies and watching my youngest approach her senior year of school.

Ahhhh my last one in school!

There have been seasons of change in my personal life, and my own childhood family.

There have been seasons of loss, and seasons of the celebration of life.

And for me, exciting seasons of contemplating adventures and new things I want to do.

I love the point I am in life right now.

Yes, I’ve moved through seasons that are done. Yes, some of them I’ve grieved. Some of them I’ve celebrated passing through! Some have been downright painful and full of struggle.

But what is rather amazing and awesome is the fact, we (all) will continue to move through new seasons in our lives.

I’m thankful to be where I am, to be strong and energetic and eager for the new seasons unfolding in front of me.

There are so many things to pursue!

I’ve tried to learn, to view, to accept, that seasons in our life are what makes life. I often refer to them as new adventures.

Sometimes they are hard. Sometimes painful, joyful, or confusing. They are what makes life.

What do you think ? Is life made up in this way, seasons that we pass through ? Where are you now ?  Have you learned to accept and embrace where you are ?

 

50Something

So in earth shattering world news, I turned 51 on Saturday. You know what that means ? I survived a year of being 50 and am now officially “50something” 😉

I can tell you…. being 50 was pretty darn ok so I’m kinda geared towards 51 being rockin’ too.

Last year saw me hitting some of the biggest goals and challenges of my life.

Athletically, I ran my second marathon knocking 33 minutes off my previous years time. I attribute that to harder training and getting my nutrition even tighter.

I moved from that, into training for a 50K (31.7 miles)  in March, doing that a little over 6 hours. I also did two half marathons in March.

By that time I had reached a point of being in the best physical condition of my life… at 50.

live your life

I had also increased time on my bike for cross training as well as challenging myself more with weights to build more muscle and make me an overall stronger runner.

Getting older ( I’ve learned) also means just getting down right comfy in your own skin and embracing who you are. I’ve allowed myself to pursue and do what I want to and not be hampered by the rules of others or the secret unwritten code of society that seeks to put women to sleep after they reach a certain age.

Shhh…  and ladies… it’s ok to keep your edge… really 😉

And the other thing I’ve learned (really in the past couple years) if you wanna do something…do it. What are you waiting for ? It’s your life…live it…do those things you think about… do something that’s been hanging out in your mind… dare to be different.

And in saying that…. I just got my second tattoo on Thursday and I’m totally in love with it. I’ve had the idea cooking for awhile in my head. When I contacted my artist and told him what I wanted I sat back to eagerly await what his rendition would look like. So when he contacted me for a Thursday appt and shot me the design to approve, it seemed like a perfect birthday present for me (there’s a good way to kick off birthday weekend )

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I’ve had a few people tell me that it fits me perfectly…like it belongs there….and it does.

My explanation? It’s like an inner piece of me revealed. It’s been a part of me for awhile… now it’s just visible.

I’ll share with you what’s behind it…. life… has been teaching me.

In the past year or so I’ve learned it takes a lot of courage to live… not just exist…but to live. To stand when you don’t think you can stand… to see beauty in life when the storms are crashing in. To have courage when you feel like hiding or running away.

The rose represents the beauty and fragility of life. The sword piercing the rose is a reminder that although life is beautiful, it’s often harsh and not always a bed of roses.
The sword is a powerful weapon, one that is taken up to stand and fight, to stand against the trials and difficulties that come. The sword represents a warrior spirit, courage, and a never say die attitude towards life. It represents the strength to endure. Spiritually it’s a reminder of the One who’s strength, courage and power rest in me.

Together, it all tells such a beautiful story.

You see, even though I had some amazing personal triumphs in my 50th year, I had some painful losses and life things that brought grief and struggle. Life takes courage to live.

I lost my mom in April and had to face my first birthday without her… a milestone birthday she should’ve been here to share with me. This year… as loved and surrounded as I have been by family and  friends I’m aware of her presence not with me. Losing her meant taking over with my dad who has Alzheimers and maintaining his home and trying to make the best choices for him. His condition has rapidly declined with mom’s passing.

My husband parted ways from his company after 23 years to take a new job that involved traveling and being gone from home all week, and sometimes two weeks at a time. I learned to step up even more handling and dealing with everything on the home front and then.. there’s just all the life stuff in general.

And of course, let’s not forget,  our most recent adventure with his thyroid cancer.

I don’t tell you these things to whine. Or to feel sorry for me.

I won’t negate my feelings though… it has been hard at various times… sometimes… crushing.

that’s when I started thinking about how life demands so much courage for us to keep living and finding beauty and laughter and joy in the dark places.

Courage demands I take a stand and fight back to live and appreciate life, even in the hard times.

So it was with an overflowing heart and fresh awareness through out my birthday weekend at how blessed I am.

To have an evening celebrating with all my kids, niece and nephew and their kids and other family… was wonderful. On the day of my birthday, just time being home and later dinner out with hubby for some one on one time was nice. I wrapped up the weekend on Sunday by picking up my gift I had asked for….. a new little road bike. Nothing fancy at all, but I’ve almost worn the wheels off the mountain bike I got a couple years ago. ( I’m slowly creeping along to becoming a cyclist… eek… THAT is a pricey hobby) but you know what? My body doesn’t know if it’s on a pricey bike or not… it’s just out there working hard 😉

new goal

So yeah, I’m grateful. Another year. New challenges and goals to tackle. New opportunities for growth.

Who wouldn’t be excited?