Choices

Last year at this time, I chose to resume writing my simple blog about my everyday life. I committed to taking what came my way and promised myself to accept what I couldn’t control. 2017 was filled with lots of new challenges but overall proved to be a pretty good year.

Although I’m not sure it would have been a good year without the ten years that preceded it. Living through ten of the hardest years of my life; when I suffered the pain of losing my precious daughter, two brothers, and several life-long friends, plus battling several strokes, bouts of cancer, and other illnesses and physical issues had taught me to look at life in a different light.

In the middle of every difficulty comes opportunity – Albert Einstein

Life hands everybody struggles with illness and painful times, the loss of people they love, and has them dealing with all sorts of challenging situations. Every year has its ups and downs; bad days, good days. Life isn’t always fair, but it constantly offers us opportunities to make choices.

Those choices are what keep us going, putting one foot in front of the other, day after day. My choices are slowly teaching me to simplify, live more intentionally, prioritize my life, not my stuff, and to keep my faith more childlike and simple, like my life. To appreciate those who have touched and changed my life for the better.

I keep standing, keep hoping, and keep believing that God is at work in my life. I remember the past but choose to concentrate on the journey before me. I choose to take one day at a time, focus on the important things, stay positive, try to give more than I receive, love those in my life who matter the most, and never forget who is truly in charge helping me make it through the difficult and changing times, and giving me more blessings than I am sure I deserve.

Ending on a Positive Note: 2018 offers a clean slate for all of us. Our lives today are what our choices have made it. We are always just one choice away from changing our life. Life is truly what we make it. Happy New Year!

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you.”

Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

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Simple Moments in Life

Yesterday, a friend was venting about their cable being out last week, and I was reminded of the last time my husband and I had a similar experience.  Losing power or access to any of life’s conveniences can be so frustrating.

May 2017, on a Friday night about 7:30 p.m. our TV shut down. Like so many others our TV is bundled with our internet and phone service. When we finally got through to technical support, we were informed there was a serious outage in the Greater Cincinnati area. It was indefinite as to when service would be restored.

Our biggest problem was not having an internet connection. Our youngest granddaughter was performing at a national dance competition in Tennessee. We had been able to see her solo and duet performances earlier in the day via the streaming connection.

It soon became evident we weren’t going to catch her group dances on Saturday or Sunday. I stayed close to my cell phone for text messages as to scoring results. The girls were doing well and had even been selected to perform in the Big Show on Monday. But, by 10 p.m. on Sunday night it didn’t look too promising we would see that performance either.

The convenience of watching the competition via the internet streaming option had worked perfectly for four or five years. As grandparents, we had come to rely on the accessibility. Want to upset me, come between me and watching my granddaughters do anything.

Tom and I told ourselves we could get through this. I finally admitted defeat and decided to finish the book I was reading. I felt bad for Tom. He was lost without his TV, so in an effort to cheer him up, I reminded him we could still watch our DVDs without cable.

Our habits regarding DVDs had changed over the years. We used to rent them from the video stores. Remember when going to Blockbuster was a weekend necessity? Then renting them from the cable provider became the latest craze.

For the last few years, a little gadget called Fire TV had kept us entertained. It is incredible how many ways there are to view a movie these days. Thinking about it, I realized we hadn’t watched any of our DVDs since we moved two years ago.

Tom headed off to peruse our limited collection. Returning with a handful of selections from the shelves in my office, he remarked, “Had trouble finding anything decent. Too much animation, science fiction. Too many musicals, and movies I’ve never heard of.”

Laughing, I reminded him of purging our collection before we moved, merging our DVDs with an assortment of our daughter’s eclectic DVDs. Sherry loved movies of all kinds, but she especially loved documentaries. Her thirst for learning never ceased to amaze me and she had won me over throughout the years, but Tom had been a hard sell. So naturally, he skipped right past her documentaries. In his mind, they were just movies he had never heard of. But I did find one capable of holding his interest and added it to his chosen stack of DVDs.

For two days, we watched a bunch of movies; some were okay, some we had seen countless times before, and a few were eliminated from our little collection. The two we liked best included an old favorite and a documentary we had never heard of. (Thank you, Sherry).

Our old favorite had been around for a while. The Last of the Dogmen, starring Tom Berenger and Barbara Hershey was set in the mountains of Montana. The movie paired a modern-day bounty hunter with a female Native Indian history professor. Together they stumble on a Native American Indian settlement thought to have been wiped out by white settlers a century earlier. Together, they fight to prevent the outside world from discovering the existence of the tribe and their way of life. We enjoyed seeing it again.

Standing in the Shadows of Motown was a documentary about the uncredited studio musicians that created the sound behind the Motown music. In 1959, Berry Gordy hand-picked the Funk Brothers as the house band to record and perform on Motown’s’ recordings from 1959 to 1972. We were quickly drawn into the captivating story told via interviews with surviving band members, old music footage and still photos. We were astonished to learn the group’s music had produced more hits than The Beatles, Beach Boys, and the Rolling Stones combined, their distinctive sound providing the brilliance behind the Motown sound. The documentary was fascinating. I absolutely loved it.

Tom’s comment, “The documentary was definitely better suited for you and Sherry, but I have to admit it was really good.” Sherry would probably have laughed and yelled, “Score!”

Although we were bummed about missing our granddaughter’s dance performances, we survived. Life has a way of reminding us, no matter how hard we try; we can’t always control every situation.

Sometimes we just have to go with the flow. Without the electronics we are so dependent on, we spent a weekend just relaxing and watching an unexpected movie marathon; talking, laughing, just enjoying each other’s company and even some popcorn. It was fun.

Growing old with each other isn’t always exciting, but it never ever gets boring. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of how lucky we really are.

Ending on a Positive Note: Life is what we make it. After fifty years, we have learned the simple, ordinary moments are the best, the most significant. Those moments are where we find the love and the joy!

 

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Happy New Year

Anyone on Facebook is used to seeing those posts that tell us how concerned Facebook is about us. Telling us Facebook thinks we would appreciate seeing a memory from some forgotten past date. The memories are usually happy ones; showing a photo of someone we love smiling or laughing. We’re always suckers for any photo of our children or grandkids when they were much younger. I don’t share memory posts very often because people sometimes don’t realize they are memories and get confused, or maybe it’s just me. My excuse is the same one I always use, old age.

Today’s memory caught me off guard with the reminder of how quickly life can change. Everyone I made reference to in the following post is gone. I don’t need a Facebook message to remind me they are no longer here. I still miss them every day, so bad it hurts. I still cry.  Just have to accept that life goes on even when we don’t want it too.

12-31-10 All the Christmas decorations are packed in bins (and back in the garage). Condo is returned to normal and my cleaning is done for this week, or should I say for the year. My daughter is coming for lunch and we going to make appetizers. Then on to a small get together with good friends. Great way to end 2010! Wishing everyone a healthy and Happy New Year!

This little post also is a prompt that life seldom allows us to truly forget the unhappy memories, but we do have the option of focusing on what is worth remembering. The people we loved so dearly. The wonderful times we shared together.

Since we no longer have a garage, our Christmas decorations are now stored in a closet. Most of the bins have been eliminated because we simplified where and how we live. I hope the folks utilizing my discarded furniture, my junk, my stuff, and my Christmas decorations enjoy it as much as I did. Our decisions to eliminate and simplify were good ones. We were ready to let it all go. Seldom even think about it anymore.

Our bins are accessible and only hold what I chose to keep. The only decision facing me now is whether to remove the ornaments from our little 2-foot tree or Saran Wrap it. If I can get Tom to hold the tree while I wrap it, the Saran Wrap may win out.

Every year is generally filled with ups and downs for all of us. We all face challenges, but hopefully, there will always be more happy times than sad ones.

2017 had some bad days, but it also was a year of learning, growth, and a new understanding. We celebrated happy times with family and old friends while making room to connect with a few new ones. Our lives have been blessed by the number of people who have touched our lives. Those are the moments worth remembering.

My wish for 2018 is still the same as the one from 2010 with a few additions. Don’t let life get too busy. Slow down long enough to show people how much you appreciate them, how much you love them. Take time to check on them (even if it’s only a brief call or visit). Life is really pretty short and most of it flies by so quickly until sometimes those we love are gone.

May the New Year bring you good times and good health. Don’t be so hard on yourself or others. I hope 2018 is a year when we all smile more, laugh more, forgive more, hug more, love more, be kinder, fill our hearts with gratitude, and create moments that are worth remembering.

Happy New Year!

Ending on a Positive Note: I don’t know what 2018 will bring, but I am resolving to take the New Year one day at a time. To continue to simplify, live more intentionally, give more than I receive, and focus on the people who matter most.

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Christmas Poem

 

What is Christmas? What can it be?
Can I feel it or is it something I can see?
Is it in the air? Is it something I can hear?
Is it magic? Is it really everywhere?

Is Christmas tall, green, scented trees of pine?
Is it tinsel and stars that twinkle and shine?
Is it snowy streets all blanketed in white?
Is it church bells ringing in the still of the night?

Is Christmas the songs that the carolers sing?
Is it the silver bells on city streets that ring?
Is it candles all aglow with flickering light?
Is it warm hearths glowing with fires crackling bright?

Is Christmas each heart that is filled with cheer?
By greeting cards and phone calls sent far and near?
Is it visiting old friends, or somehow finding a way
To be home with your family if only for a day.

Or is Christmas quite simply the happiness and joy,
Found on the faces of each small girl or boy?
Faces filled with both eagerness and glee
While opening gifts beneath their Christmas tree.

Is Christmas just a holiday celebrated once a year?
Do we only seek its spirit as the season draws near?
Is it really only a star on a tree, a wreath on a door?
Maybe! But, something tells me it is so much more!

Christmas is shepherds and wise men traveling far.
Guided on their journey by a bright Bethlehem star.
Christmas is a tiny baby lying on a humble bed of hay.
His birth the true reason we celebrate Christmas Day!

Agnes Spurlock – December 1985

A friend called Thursday asking for another copy of this little poem I wrote over thirty years ago.  She wanted to use in a Christmas program. “Aggie, I’m so embarrassed. I’ve lost the poem again; can’t find it anywhere. Please post it on your blog so I’ll always know where to find it.” I sent her a new copy for her Christmas program, but am posting it here, as well. She wishes to remain anonymous.

To my wonderful friend and to all my readers. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy 2018!

Posted in Christmas, Faith/God, Friendship | Tagged | 8 Comments

The Right Moves

Tom and I attended a Holiday Dance Recital on Saturday afternoon. We thought we were going to watch our youngest granddaughter dance, but Jess explained the recital had a different focus than usual.

It was going to be a fun afternoon with the spotlight shining on some of the smallest dancers, tiny little kids brand new to dancing. They were a joy to watch. No two were in sync with each other. In the spotlight, some froze, shyly looking out at the audience. Some swayed from side to side, trying to move their feet in time with the music. One little girl spent the entire recital in danger of losing the tutu around her waist. She was adorable.

Another little girl with hair askew dancing with every fiber of her being showed no concern she wasn’t in time with the music. Simply didn’t care she was on the wrong foot most of the time. As her group finished their dance, she ran back on stage. Obviously, she was having a blast and wanted more. An older dancer came and led her off stage, but she didn’t leave without a giant smile and one more enthusiastic wave to the audience. Her exuberance brought smiles, laughs, and a big round of applause.

The audience enjoyed the lively, toe-tapping Christmas music. They snapped lots of pictures to preserve their kids’ performances on film, clapped along with the music, and applauded enthusiastically for the sweet, precious, little kids performing for the first time on center stage.

The music was loud and featured fun selections like I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas; Do You Want to Build a Snowman, All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth, Jingle Bell Rock, and Let it Go.

Sandwiched in between the younger kids’ dance numbers, the older girls performed a few lyrical and ballet numbers, but mostly their role was to assist the younger dancers. The day belonged to the little ones.

We are used to attending competitions; where there is a more serious attitude in the air. As the snow fell outside on Saturday, the air inside the auditorium was filled with a bright holiday spirit. This dance recital was more about fun than being flawless. It was a delightful way to spend a cold, snowy December afternoon finding that the spirit of Christmas was alive and thriving.

We’ve been watching our granddaughter dance since she was three. She’s pretty good, works hard at her craft. She simply loves to dance and it shows in her every move.

I love it when she and her friends dance together, exhibiting such graceful, elegant movements that create beautiful, stunning performances. A close-knit group of hard-working young ladies that love to dance together, like to act silly, goof around before and after performances, take a million selfies. But hitting the stage as a duet, trio, or in various groups they become serious, their bodies performing in perfect harmony.  Arms, legs, feet all move in sync with one another.

They didn’t start out in sync. It took years to perfect their craft. Each of them has put hours of work into their dance moves, splits, cartwheels, backflips and unbelievable jumps. Practicing and rehearsing until the moves and the jumps became like second nature.

Funny, it’s the same in life; we spend years trying to land on the right foot. To dance in time with the music and learn all the right moves. We learn to take the good with the bad. We fall down and learn the importance of getting back up.

There are so many lessons to learn along the way. We face each test without answers being provided at the end of the book. We just begin to figure it all out, when our hair turns white and our bones start to creak when we walk.

We’ve perfected our routines, grown accustomed to doing the right moves. Just in time to realize we are once again out of step. A new generation is hard at work, practicing and rehearsing their moves until they become like second nature.

As they take center stage, I wish them good luck on their journey. I leave the stage with gratitude in my heart, a smile on my face, and one last enthusiastic wave to the audience. It was a great show. I had a good time.

My high kicks and jumps are safely stored in my memories. I have found a new stage where I don’t have to perform much anymore.

Life doesn’t slow down for any of us. Getting old is a commonplace experience, it happens to all of us. We learn to play the hand we have been dealt.

I find this stage to be a place of contentment that only requires an appreciation for life, an acceptance of the ailments this age brings and learning to be comfortable just being me.

Ending on a Positive Note: Life is a cycle. There is always someone entering and exiting the stage. Our job is to work hard and accept our proper place in the cycle. Try to be happy and live the best we can.

Posted in Awareness/Action, Choices, Christmas, Gratitude, Holidays, Letting Go, Life Changes, Life Lessons | 8 Comments

A Perfect Christmas

wreath

Last Sunday, got out my Christmas bins so I could start decorating our little apartment, knowing it would take me some time to accomplish the transformation. I’m so slow these days. Even the simplest of tasks zaps my get-up-and-go and my rest times are much longer than my energy spurts. A project that used to take a morning or an afternoon now seems to take forever.

This year, I decided to let go and buy a smaller tree. Smaller might be an understatement, it stands only 2-feet high. After spending about fifteen minutes fluffing the branches, I yelled to Tom to help me carry the tree into the living room. He laughed when he saw the size of the tree, said he wasn’t sure he was strong enough. When you’re old, you’ve got to find humor wherever you can.

After sorting through all of my ornaments, I found just enough small ones to fill the tiny tree. I was delighted to discover most of them had been a gift that brought back a lovely memory of the person who had given it to me. Memories of former Cincinnati Zoo volunteers, family, neighbors, and friends who are no longer with us crowded my mind making me smile, laugh, and tear up a bit. Seeing those cherished little ornaments on my tiny tree is a composite of my life. What a blessing!

We sit every night and admire our tiny tree. We love it and it just fits this season of our life perfectly.

On Wednesday, I agreed to MC the Norwood City Schools Alumni Association (NCSAA) Christmas Luncheon as a favor for a good friend.  I don’t MC much of anything anymore because my voice, and my eyes, don’t like to cooperate, and I can’t stand very long. So I sat on a stool the whole time, didn’t do a great job, but no one seemed to care. God bless old friends.

My brief message was about having a perfect Christmas? Several people suggested I put the message on my blog, so here goes.

It’s getting close to Christmas and who doesn’t love Christmas – the holiday itself centers on the most wondrous story ever told. The story of Jesus’ birth has inspired stories of classic holiday miracles such as O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi and Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Traditional movies help us get into the Christmas spirit. Movies such as Rudolph, Frosty; It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf, White Christmas and my favorite, the black & white version of Miracle on 34th Street.

Is a perfect Christmas the Better Homes & Gardens version? Does It look like the movie and magazine images of a 10-foot, beautifully adorned tree, garland down the banister, hundreds of twinkling lights transforming your home into a winter wonderland and the whole family dressed in their Christmas coordinating outfits singing carols around the piano?

For years I tried to create a beautiful image but found it usually looked more like a confused combination of shopping, buying, baking, partying, making lists, fussing at traffic, spending money, fighting crowds, and tolerating people who stole my parking spot at the mall.

Going to tell you a story of a lesson I learned about a perfect Christmas.

My mother was unable to shop for Christmas for many years because of illness, so I always did her shopping, wrapped her gifts and decorated her Christmas tree. In fact, I had been wrapping her gifts since I was about eight. As a little girl, I would sit at the dining room table wrapping gifts while my mother cleaned the kitchen after dinner. As she worked and I wrapped, she told me silly stories, we sang songs and laughed a lot. I felt so GROWN UP that she trusted me to wrap all of the Christmas gifts for the family.

Years passed, I grew up, got married, had two little girls of my own and I still loved to wrap her gifts. When she became ill, our tradition continued with daddy turning her brown rocking chair in the living room around so she could watch me wrap the gifts at the dining room table. We still laughed; she still told me silly stories.

In the early seventies, when my daughters’ were young, they would go with me to trim her tree. One Saturday, Daddy had brought the boxes filled with ornaments and decorations up from the basement of their little house on Ralston Avenue. Sherry and Stacy wanted to play for a little while before decorating the tree, so I ran out to get the last few items on Mommy’s shopping list.

When I returned and pulled up in front of the house, the living room window was full of twinkling lights. As I opened the door, the girls were jumping all over the place, so excited they couldn’t stand still. “Mommy, mommy, we decorated grandma’s tree. ALL BY OURSELVES! Isn’t it beautiful? Grandma thinks it’s the prettiest tree she’s ever had.” Sure enough, there was the tree all decorated.

Sherry had decorated one side and Stacy the other. Sherry, who was 6 years old and tall for her age, had evenly distributed her ornaments from top to bottom. Three-year-old Stacy’s ornaments were in little clumps that stopped about ¾ of the way up the tree because that was as far as her little arms could reach.

My mother refused to let anyone (including me) change anything, telling my girls she was sure it was the most beautiful tree in Norwood, maybe even in the whole world. Was it is the most beautiful tree ever? Well, probably not, but it was a tree that represented love. The love of a grandmother who knew the importance of allowing two little girls to do something that made them feel very special. I never forgot that day.    

What I learned was Christmas isn’t about perfection. It’s about love, joy, the happiness of being with family. It’s about singing Christmas carols, laughing, hugging, and giving to those we love. It’s about going to church to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. It’s about telling the same stories every Christmas, eating too many cookies, and every family celebrating with their own unique traditions.

This year, my hope is during all of the hustle and bustle we all can find time to slow down, hit the pause button, reflect, and just enjoy the most wonderful time of every year – CHRISTMAS!  

The alumni group then participated in a Christmas singalong led by my friend and former classmate, Judy White. She had been the director of the Norwood High School Silhouettes, the show choir that both my daughters loved being a part of, and the director of the Norwood Community Chorus group. Hearing her beautiful voice leading the group in beloved Christmas carols was a joy. Everyone left filled with a good dose of holiday spirit.

It was a lovely luncheon spent with old friends and former classmates. It was wonderful to see all of them and have time to catch up. What a terrific way to kick-off the Christmas season.

After finishing up my decorations today, I went down to get the mail. As I started back to my apartment, I stopped to chat with a new neighbor that had just moved in last week. “December is such a tough time to move. Are you getting settled in?

Her reply, “I’m okay except for Christmas. I just don’t know what I’m going to do. Knew my 7-foot tree wouldn’t fit. My son left my ornaments and decorations at the front of the storage unit for easy access. But, I still have to get a tree and time is running out.”

After telling her I had downsized to a tiny 2-foot tree, I asked, “Hey, I’ve got a 5-foot skinny tree that could use a good home. Would you like to have it?” Her face lit up with a big smile. It’s all settled, her daughters are coming to get it tomorrow night.

As I continue to redefine my Christmas traditions, it is becoming easier to let go of the myths and expectations. Today, I am considering what others, especially my children and grandchildren, will remember or learn from me about creating a perfect Christmas.

Ending on a Positive Note: Christmas asks us to remember the hope embodied in the birth of Jesus. To remember the joy His coming brings. To find a fresh sense of wonder, a new awareness of the love that comes every year at Christmas time!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Choices, Christmas, Faith/God, home, values, friendship, memories, Life Lessons, Value | 14 Comments

A Simple Thanksgiving

I am enjoying this stage of my life, trying to age gracefully by not complaining and being grateful for everything in my life.

I do have one regret, though. I miss not being able to cook for my family at Thanksgiving; basting the turkey, mashing the potatoes, and fixing all of their favorite dishes. But, what I really miss is baking pies, have made them for more years than I can count.

Yesterday, I had a chance to do it again, in a new way. My granddaughters came and made the family favorite, butterscotch cream pies, and a strawberry cake for good measure.  It was such joy watching them roll out pie crust and make the pie filling. It means the tradition will continue. Beautiful memories of making pies with my mother came to mind.  She had started early teaching me the fine art of baking pies.

I was about five or six when she let me kneel in a kitchen chair to roll out my first pie crust. Loved being in the kitchen with her, made me feel learning to make pies was important. Who knows, maybe it is an art. One that should be passed on to a new generation.

Learning to cook and bake with my mother are some of my favorite memories. She was a country cook, never measured anything. It was always a pinch of this, a tad of that. She would say about pies, “People don’t care if they look perfect, just want ‘em to taste good.”

It was a wonderful afternoon. I shared a few stories of my mistakes while learning to make pies, threw out a few hints of how to hide the mistakes, and tried to explain knowing by the smell that the pie crust was done. The hardest thing I did all day was put together a recipe for Jenna and Jess to follow.

Our apartment was filled with the unforgettable aroma of yesterdays. Memories of getting up at the crack of dawn, working non-stop to get the meal on the table, watching everyone eat too much, finally finishing the dishes, sitting down for the first time all day and feeling every bone in my body ache. Usually just in time to get somebody another piece of pie. I loved those days.

Several years ago, my daughter took over my job. I just couldn’t handle it anymore.

Today, my son-in-law and his brother deep-fried the turkey. The entire meal was absolutely delicious. My daughter had everything so organized, one would think she had been doing it for twenty years.

Dessert was pumpkin pie, my granddaughters’ pies, and strawberry cake. Their pies passed the picture test and the taste test with an A+.

Of course, there was lots of football. A few people nodded off for short naps, including the dogs. After the kitchen was clean and leftovers were packed into the fridge, Stacy sat down to look through all of the Black Friday ads. Even though my Christmas shopping was completed, I sat with her at the kitchen table and we caught up on a little mother-daughter talk.

Today is a milestone Thanksgiving. I have been replaced. The baton has been passed. Accepting change can be hard, but today I’m okay with letting go. I’m proud of my daughter and granddaughters for a job well done.

My only regret today was not being able to help Stacy clean up the kitchen. Oh, and sorry I forgot to snap a photo of the girls hard at work yesterday. But, I did find the above photo of a pie crust from some years ago.

It was a wonderful, laid-back Thanksgiving with family. Now all I have to do is thank the Lord for His goodness and many blessings. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Ending on a Positive Note: I hope wherever you are today, whoever you’re with, you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.

 

Posted in Family, Gratitude, Holidays, Letting Go | Tagged , , | 10 Comments