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Looking for Good

Some years ago, I began to intentionally look for the positive things in my simple, everyday life. I found saying thank you for small kindnesses or letting people know I appreciated them for doing their job well, was very rewarding. Sometimes, it’s hard to spot optimism, but you can find it if you look for it.

I do most of my shopping online because health issues make it difficult to actually shop in person. Online doesn’t always produce a positive experience, but I am slowly weeding out the stores where I have encountered a bad experience. As my shopping outlets are shrinking, some are gaining my trust. Those stores have made it easier to find products I like, easier to maneuver ordering and return policies. And, make it easier to accept shopping online as my new way of life.

Whenever a customer service experience goes well, I thank the young rep (most of them are young these days) for making my order experience go smoothly. If there is a follow-up survey after the experience, I always take the time to complete it. It doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes and time is the one thing I have plenty of.

However, it’s impossible to do doctor visits online. This time of year brings annual visits to several different doctors for a mammogram, ultrasounds, scans, etc. Doctor visits are difficult and usually leave me exhausted.

I try to be punctual for appointments and have my insurance card (and co-pay) readily available. I try to smile, answer questions, and be pleasant with the staff. This week proved to be a bit of a struggle as I encountered several folks who were just downright rude.

I try to overlook rudeness, if possible. I remember having bad days when I was working; days when everything went wrong. Often, we can be rude without even knowing it, I’m sure my life has found me guilty on many occasions.

However, this week one incident sort of got under my skin. Checking in to see the doctor, a young lady was extremely rude to me and to everyone who came in after me. I noticed that most people came through the door with a pleasant expression on their face, but after a few minutes of being treated with no respect, they became irritated. Many lashed out in frustration with anger in their voices.

After seeing the doctor and stopping at the check-out station, the same young lady didn’t even look at me before she said angrily, “Is May 6th okay?”

Trying to keep my cool, I explained I would need to schedule the ultrasound before making an appointment with the doctor. The reason for seeing him was to follow-up to learn the ultrasound results.

It was obvious she wasn’t listening. After repeating my words three times, I stopped talking.

After an awkward pause, she looked up at me with a blank stare. I then said, “Miss, I don’t mean to be impolite, but you are not listening to what I am saying. I must schedule the ultrasound before scheduling the doctor appointment.”

She was angry. Her face was a dark thundercloud; filled with such pain that I somehow knew she wasn’t angry with me.

Her name tag read Susan, so I quietly said, “Susan, obviously you are very upset. I’m sure this isn’t the way you normally do your job. I’m sorry you are having such a bad day. I’m going to say a prayer for your day to get better.”

Susan sat and just looked at me. My mind was whirling, thinking I had said too much, gone too far. I could see Susan was struggling. Her eyes filled with tears. Finally focusing, she leaned forward and whispered, “I am so sorry. Of course, the ultrasound should be scheduled before the doctor’s appointment. In fact, why don’t I schedule your ultrasound and call you back to confirm the date?” I told her that wasn’t necessary, but she insisted.

In the parking lot, I sat for a few minutes praying for Susan; asking God to guide her through the issues that were causing her such pain. I prayed she would find peace in her life.

A thought occurred to me that if I could fill out a survey, I could take a few minutes to pray for people like Susan, even when they didn’t know I was praying. That thought made me happy and is certainly more productive than getting angry.

The next day, Susan called to confirm the ultrasound appointment just as she promised. As we wound up our conversation, she said, “Yesterday was really a rough day for me. Thanks again for your kindness in helping me get through it.” 

Whether we approach someone with positive or negative expectations, they will often (not always) tend to move toward fulfilling our expectations. Seeing positive possibilities in others will encourage them to bring out the best in themselves.

Look for the good in others, and you will likely find it. But encouraging them helps us grow and creates more positive thinking in our own lives.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Ending on a Positive Note: Sometimes God gives us the right words to say to help someone who is struggling with something we don’t understand (or need to understand). I am amazed at God’s faithfulness when we put our trust in Him.

Timing is Everything

“Everything is hard before it is easy.” -Goethe-

Life has been a little crazy lately, so my blog is short this week.

Tom and I are approaching our two-year anniversary of living with less. We are convinced we made the right decision to downsize and get rid of many of our things.

We don’t miss anything that is gone. We sold some, gave away more, and kept enough to fill our small two-bedroom apartment. We have what we need. We know we are where we belong. Our building is filled with nice people just like us, trying to grow old gracefully.

Yesterday, I was reminded our lifestyle is not for everyone. We made a choice that is working very well for us but obviously is not so easy for other people.

At the doctor’s office yesterday, I had a brief conversation with a gentleman struggling to find answers for a dilemma in his life.  For once, I didn’t initiate the conversation. He just started telling me he was trying to convince his wife to move from their house to a condo. He commented, “It is becoming difficult to keep up with my yard work. I’m ready to downsize.”

His comments were quite familiar. Tom and I had that conversation about 2 ½ years ago. Listening to this fellow, I’m just grateful we had arrived at the same place at the same time.

This guy was ready to move to the next level and his wife wasn’t. He wanted simple. His wife liked their current lifestyle. My heart went out to them.

As I listened to him listing pros and cons, I realized he was just speaking aloud a conversation that been swirling in his mind for some time. When he asked my opinion, I told him the truth as I knew it. “You and your wife will know when the time is right.”

When he asked my advice, I replied carefully, “Take it slow, be honest, talk (not argue), and treat each other with respect.” Making rash decisions never seem to work out well.

Hopefully, he and his wife will listen to each other and find a compromise that will work in their life. Life is hard, but treating the person you love with respect and kindness is always the right thing to do.

Ending on a Positive Note: My heart is full of gratitude that Tom and I are almost always on the same wavelength. I am reminded that much of life is working through the small details, but the right timing helps.

Sleep Can Be An Age Thing

Last night, I fell asleep while we were watching one of the late night talk shows. I awoke with my eyes blinking in the darkness at shadows peeking through the blinds. Struggling to stay asleep, but knowing I wouldn’t be able to pull it off, my eyes found the clock and focused on the time. It was 3:00 a.m.  Often, the clock reads 1:30, other times its 4, but at some time every night I am usually awake.

Sometimes it’s physical pain that keeps me from sleeping. Other times I think it’s just an age thing.

If this had occurred before I retired, my mind would have started whirling with all of the items on my “to do” list, mentally starting my day. Of course, when one’s mind enters that mode, sleep is lost. I was the world’s biggest worry wart. Always worrying about things I couldn’t control.

The last few years have been difficult, but retirement and having more control over my time each day have presented new options for my sleep patterns.

I have discovered napping. Tom tells me napping has been around for years. He ought to know since he has reached the rank of master class. As a novice, I’m just getting the hang of this wonderful remarkable sleep choice.

I learned a long time ago that when my eyes flew open bringing me to wide awake status, it was better to get up. Get my mind off problems for a little while and then go back to bed. It usually worked.

But, old age sleeping patterns are a bit different. Tonight I refreshed my mug of water, went to the bathroom, filled my weekly pill-box, read a few chapters, then closed my book and turned off the light. Knowing I would be able to go back to sleep. My eyes closed and the next thing I knew it was 7:00 a.m. My body was still tired, but wanted to get up.

This is where the new sleep option comes in. Sometime in late morning or early afternoon, I will drift off to sleep in my recliner. Sleep thirty or so minutes and awake refreshed. What a concept.

Slowing myself down, now able to relax my mind has made a big difference in my life. No, I don’t get eight hours of sleep every night, but who says my eight hours can’t be broken into smaller periods of time throughout the day? I’ve decided that it would be wonderful to sleep through the night, but it’s okay if I can’t.

Now, if Tom and I could only regulate our naps so we are awake at the same time.

Ending on a Positive Note: Accepting what we can’t change or what we can no longer do is the first step to freedom in our lives.

Everybody Has a Story

Several days ago, I walked down the hall to get my mail. I always check the bulletin board sign-up sheets for upcoming events scheduled for our building. Coming up was a breakfast, a chili luncheon, our monthly birthday party with one of our favorites scheduled to provide entertainment. An every other month trip to the Casino was planned, plus the usual exercise, bingo, dominoes, and card game nights, along with Friday morning Bible Study. Usually there was a pen hanging from the bulletin board to make it convenient for us to sign up. Looked all around, no pen in sight.

So I wheeled my walker into the manager’s office next door to get a pen. The manager was on the phone. While waiting for Sandy to get off the phone, I said good morning to a fellow seated across from me. I had never seen him before and was surprised when he told me he had lived in the building for years. His apartment was just a few doors from ours.

We struck up a general conversation. How long have you lived here? Do you like it? Have you always lived in Cincinnati? Informative, but pretty boring stuff. He spoke in a monotone. No smiles. No interest in our conversation.

I decided to try one more question. Even though I knew the answer, I asked if he was retired. He told me he had been retired a long time. So, I asked the obvious, “What kind of work did you do?” His whole body went through a transformation. He sat up straighter and in a voice filled with pride, he replied, “I was a newspaper reporter for the Kentucky Post.” I am discovering many older people only see their value in their former profession.

His question asking if I remembered the Kentucky Post made me laugh. He chuckled when I told him I remembered not only the Kentucky Post, but the two afternoon papers, the Cincinnati Post and the Cincinnati Times Star. I even recalled those two papers later merging before finally closing up shop leaving only the original morning paper, The Cincinnati Enquirer.

Bert went on to tell me his beat had been a mixed bag. “I was an investigative reporter so I handled everything under the sun, but occasionally got assigned a really great story like the opening of Riverfront Stadium.”

With that remark, we were off to the races. I was a huge fan of the Cincinnati Reds. I asked him his opinion of Riverfront the first time he saw it.

Bert replied, “Found it a disappointment. How about you, did you like it?”

I told him Riverfront had never done much for me either. Too much concrete didn’t allow room for much character. However, I did remember one fun fact I heard during a TV interview. Roy Rogers, who was born in Cincinnati, said his family lived where Riverfront Stadium has been constructed and joked he was born at second base.

He hooted when I told him, “I did think Riverfront Stadium was very appropriately named until they changed it to Cinergy Field. I retaliated by calling it Riverfront until they tore it down.”

I continued, “Crosley Field had such charm and personality. What wonderful memories were in that little ballpark; the sun deck, the moon deck, the terrace in left field, watching Ronnie Dale at the organ playing special songs every time one of the hometown players hit a home-run.”

He seemed surprised that a woman was a fan, prompting me to tell him my mother had also been a huge fan. He almost choked on his words. “Your mother was a Reds fan?” Yep, she had fallen in love with baseball when we first moved to the Cincinnati area in 1954.

“She loved the Reds and so did my mother-in-law. They never missed a game, listening on the radio or watching on TV. My husband and I took them to the last game at Crosley Field and then to the first game at Riverfront, two weeks apart in 1970.”

We agreed the best name for Riverfront was in the mid-70s when it was labeled the Home of the Big Red Machine. Many local Cincinnati fans referred to the Big Red Machine as the best team to ever play the game. Who doesn’t remember Pete Rose and his head first slides, Johnny Bench’s bullet throws to second, (little) Joe Morgan, Tony (Doggy) Perez, Davey Concepcion, Ken Griffin, Sr., George Foster, and Cesar Geronimo?  That team could hit, run, field and create excitement for fans, even when they didn’t win the game.

By this time, Sandy was off the phone. I left them to talk and I went back to the mail room to put my ‘John Hancock’ on a few sheets. As I was leaving the mail room, I noticed that Bert had a small box on top of the mailboxes, so I took it with me.

His walker was different from mine and couldn’t accommodate the box, so I offered to take the box down the hall for him. Arriving at his apartment, I found UPS had left a big box outside his door. Accepting my offer to take both boxes inside his apartment, he unlocked the door and asked me to put them in his library.

Assuming his second bedroom was his library, I put the two boxes on top of a hard backed chair so he could easily access them. I couldn’t help but notice he had books all over the room. Some were neatly arranged on book shelves circling his library while others were stacked on top of his desk, a little table across the room, and one small stack was on the floor next to a comfy chair.

Asking if I liked to read, we fell into an easy conversation about our love of books; briefly discussing favorite authors and a few favorite books.

As I headed for the door, I asked if I could do anything else for him. He said he was fine, but thanked me for bringing in his UPS boxes and for brightening his day with my smile and conversation. I had enjoyed my time with this sweet, old guy who had lived an interesting life.

Ending on a Positive Note: Our eyes cannot see the stories people carry inside. There has to be a conversation. An interesting conversation with a real person is always a fascinating pause in any day. Hope you are taking time to enjoy the people around you.

Do You Talk to Yourself?

Do you talk to yourself? I certainly do. I think everyone does it. Sometimes without even realizing it. We continuously carry on an inner dialogue about how we view life, people, and even ourselves.

Perhaps the better question to ask is not do we talk to ourselves but HOW do we talk to ourselves? Sometimes the most destructive relationship we have is with our own selves.

How do you talk to your friends? If you talked to your friends the same way you talk to yourself, you probably wouldn’t have any friends.

We tell ourselves things like ‘I should’, ‘I must’, ‘I have to’, ‘I’ve got to’, ‘Why didn’t I’, ‘I’m no good’, ‘I can’t do it’, ‘I won’t’ and  ‘It will never happen’.

Have you ever said to yourself, “I can’t believe I did that, I must be really stupid, or an idiot?”

Over fifteen years ago, we had just closed on our first condo in Mason.  My daughter, Stacy couldn’t wait to see it, so I took a card table and a couple of folding chairs so she and the girls could join us for pizza after we finished the closing.

My brother, Wayne stopped by so he could see the new condo or maybe just have an opportunity to see our granddaughters.  Jenna was three and Jessica was three months old. I really couldn’t blame him because they were at such a cute age.

After touring the condo, we were eating our pizza. Wayne was sitting in the floor with Jenna. He was yakking on about something and said, “I couldn’t believe I was so stupid.”

Immediately, Jenna piped up, “Uncle Wayne, you said a bad word. We’re not allowed to use that word at our house.”

Very confused, he looked at me and mouthed, “What did I say?” After explaining he had said stupid, Wayne apologized to Jenna for using the “S” word and she went back to her pizza.

Have you ever called yourself stupid, dumb, or an idiot? I am much better than I used to be, but I still struggle with my inner voice reminding me of my faults, failures and my short comings. I tell myself that by now, I should be beyond that negative self-talk. I should be stronger than I am, further along than I am.

Although I have learned to recognize and talk back to my destructive internal voice, sometimes it still gets the best of me.

“I’m wasting my time. I might as well give up. I can’t do anything right. I’m stupid (or ugly, or fat). I just made a fool out of myself. Everyone is laughing at me. Who do I think I am? I’m a miserable mess of a human being. I can’t do it. Why try? I’ll just mess it up again. No one likes me. I’m not good enough.”

Do those words sound familiar? If we want to get healthy and whole we must pay attention to what we say to ourselves and challenge it with the truth. I don’t mean simply replacing negative self-talk with positive words of affirmation such as:

“I’m so wonderful. I can do anything. I can do no wrong. I deserve to be _________(fill in the blank) ___________.

Our body hears everything we say and will pick up negative images from the way we talk externally or internally.

When I was still working, I found practicing difficult conversations in my mind helped me to effectively communicate about a tough issue, without anger.

I have heard professional athletes, before a big game, often mutter words under their breath to calm themselves down or pump themselves up.

I remember seeing my girls playing with their dolls and stuffed animals, playing pretend and talking out loud to make sense of their world.

Lately, I find myself having a little internal daily chat about my blessings and life’s confusions. I’m not sure it helps me solve anything, but it seems to clarify my thoughts and keep me focused on the important things in my life.

Recently, I was having a little personal chat about a sweatshirt I had purchased last summer. I was certain I had put it in my chest of drawers. As I was walking through the apartment saying to no one, “If I were a brand new Oak Ridge Boys sweatshirt, where would I be?” Then thirty minutes later: “Aha! Here you are. Right where I put you. In the coat closet.”  

Tom laughs at me, asking, “Who in the world are you talking to?”

I respond, “Hey, talking to yourself is a sign of genius. I read somewhere Albert Einstein was constantly talking to himself.”

Well, I’m surely not a genius, but maybe talking to myself is a sign of sanity helping me focus and keep things in perspective.

However, I guess it can also make me look like I’m crazy. So far, I have been able to confine my external self-talking to the privacy of my own home, but if you see me driving or walking down the street yakking on and on to nobody, I guess I’m just conversing with the voices in my head or being my own therapist.

Ending on a Positive Note: If talking to yourself helps you make sense of your life, go for it. Who knows, you may be talking to the person who knows you the best.

A Brand New Year

For last year’s words belong

to last year’s language

and next year’s words

await another voice.

And to make an end is to

MAKE A BEGINNING.”

-T.S. Eliot-

___________________________________________

Happy New Year 2017!

Welcoming every New Year is a time for reflection on expectations, opportunities, and change.

I sort of gave up on resolutions a few years ago. I never was successful with keeping them. I got tired of feeling guilty, tired of beating myself up.

In the last seven years, my life has been altered so drastically I barely have had time to contemplate the changes. Frustration, pain, and sorrow often seemed to represent the only changes that were taking place in my life.

I retired, lost too many beloved family members; too many friends. Downsizing, battling health issues, getting rid of years of accumulated “stuff” and working to find a new purpose for living presented tough times.

The transition has been difficult and slow. Adapting to a new style of living. I have learned to prioritize my life, not my stuff. My faith has become more childlike and simple, like my life.

In 2017, I will not waste my days focusing on expectations. I will just take what comes my way and accept what I can’t control. If opportunities arise, I will take the ones that make sense and dismiss those that don’t fit. And change, well, change is what it is. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s bad. Most of the time, change is just different.

Regardless of the reason, changing your life can be overwhelming. Concentrating on the important things, staying positive, and never forgetting who is truly in charge helps you make it through the difficult and changing times.

I am in a good place.

 

Ending on a Positive Note: God’s promise in Isaiah 41:10 reminds me, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you.”

Time to Think

Stop. Slow down. Take time. Be still. Be silent. Listen. Hear. Accept. Let God help!

Stop. Slow down. Take time. Be still. Be silent. Listen. Hear. Accept. Let God help!

Thankfully, I am slowly recovering from a bout of the Noro Virus that is making the rounds this winter. For three weeks, this virus zapped all my strength and energy giving me plenty of time for sleeping and resting, but left me too weak to hold a book or my Kindle. So if you can’t read or watch TV, and trying not to focus on the fact that everything hurts, how do you spend your time?

My mother always told me to count my blessings when times were tough. So, I did. As usual, the blessings were there. I had a comfy bed, a warm home, plenty of food (which I didn’t want), and a caring husband who took great care of me. There are many that would trade places with me in a heartbeat. I am one lucky lady who has been richly blessed.

But, I found my mind drifting; thinking how I would have handled this illness ten years ago. My mindset then would have been to slow down a bit, rest for maybe a day or two and then push on through; getting back to my normal activity too quickly, going back to work before I was healed, telling myself I could overcome anything if I just worked a little harder (or perhaps a little smarter).

Ten years ago, my husband’s doctor forced him to take permanent disability due to his painful arthritis. The doctor said he would end up in a wheelchair within six months if he continued working. To compensate for the change in our income, I moved to a new profession because it paid a higher salary. I found I was quite good at it, but this new role came with loads of stress; too much work, and exhausting long hours that left me in constant overload.

During that time, my life felt a bit like Job’s when he was overwhelmed with adversities despite his efforts to live a good life. Many of you may relate to Job’s words, “I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” (Job 3:26 NIV).

Having the Noro Virus was not pleasant, in fact it was pretty darn yucky, but I am grateful for the time it gave me to think about how far I have come in the last few years.

My lesson learned is if we are not hurrying and worrying every second of every day, there will be plenty of time for us to think and reflect. There will be time to slow down and evaluate how we are living our lives; to simplify and make changes to improve. To take responsibility for what is in your control and let God handle the rest. To find joy in life’s significant moments with the people who are most important to us.

Ending on a Positive Note: The Bible tells us in Psalm 46:10 to “Be still and know that He is God.” Often, our busy existence in today’s world is lacking clear boundaries. I have learned setting limitations in my life is essential to good health and survival.