Inspiration, Life Lessons, New Year Resolution

Messing Up a Clean Page

“Happy New Year” shouts among those gathered in living rooms, party halls and in public streets and parks, wearing fancy clothes and party hats, blowing horns and whistles while clicking champagne glasses. The Time Square ball drops and musicians begin the haunting tune of Auld Lang Syne…

In my dreams!… Reality was I snuggled down in my cozy bed next to my sleepy gray-haired husband, with our lovable pooch at our feet, a little past 10 P.M. on December 31, 2017. Happy New Year, indeed, but it was barely a whisper.

“It’s a made-up-time anyway”, I told myself before I dozed off, feeling like I was missing the party. “You never see sparrows celebrating or squirrels or any part of nature, for that matter. It just happens: one season flows into the next into the next into the next and continues without fanfare or notation. Who started this hoop-la? Who said we needed to commemorate the ending of one calendar year after another, sing songs, click champagne glasses, stay awake past midnight and make resolutions? Hmmm, I bet it was that pesky Hallmark®️again!”

And just as sleep was overtaking my weary body and over-active mind,  I resolved to research the beginning of New Year’s celebration when I woke in the morning, even though I knew I had already done it at some point in my past but, alas, had forgotten like so many other things I think I once knew.

It all began in Mesopotamia, evidently, around 2000 B.C

Set in January to celebrate Janus, the god with two faces, one looking forward and one looking backward, resolutions were made to break bad habits and develop new good ones, and the celebrating began.  Eventually the Persians gave eggs symbolizing productiveness and even later, in 1788, a Scottish poet, Robert Burns, wrote the lovely words Auld Lang Syne, “times gone by” that has remained the song sung around the world every year since.*

The noting of the two faces of Janus, looking ahead while looking back, caught my attention and I realized how the celebration of New Year’s always stirs those two heads of mixed emotions in me, loss and nostalgia, sometimes regret, mixed with anticipation and hope.  And even though I love the anticipation of a new beginning and the first day of anything, especially the first day of a whole year, of 365 unused 24-hour periods of undesignated time, there is still the angst over the change from what was familiar to the unknown of the future.

It’s like that familiar feeling that always came with the first day of school when, as a child I often faced a new school, until I was eleven when my mother finally said to my career-Army dad that she was  not moving again.  But until then, I never was sure if I would like my new teacher, if the kids would be like me, if I would be dressed right, and if I would find a new friend. My hands would get sweaty with anxiety while at the same time I would feel the excitement over starting a new school year, and having new spiral notebooks and new pencils and all the possibilities that school brings.

I could always write my name on my new notebooks without any hesitation, but actually writing something on the first clean page of the new notebook, was more threatening. I didn’t want to mess it up. “This year”, I would resolve, “I’m going to keep really neat notebooks, use my best handwriting and no doodling!”

Of course, the newness didn’t take long to become the familiar. And at the end of each school year I would flip back through the pages of those spiral notebooks and see the year had unfolded with new experiences and knowledge and understanding, but the handwriting got progressively messy and the same old doodles as in the previous years’ notebooks filled the margins, even more so as the year moved on. It was amusing to read the side comments that defined, with only a word or phrase or doodle, what was really happening in my life.

Waking up to a bright new day when the day happens to be the first day of a new year is much like turning the page in a messy, well used spiral notebook to a clean, untouched new page. The possibility of making the day beautiful, being my very best self, free from “smudges and cross-outs, doodles” and messes, feels exciting and hopeful and possible.

The haunting tune of the old Scottish poem, “Should old acquaintance be forgot?” plays in my head and jolts my dream of perfection by reminding me there’s mixed experiences and feelings, in times gone by…The double head of yesterday and tomorrow are joined. “we two have run about the slopes and picked the daisies fine, we’ve wandered a many weary foot since auld lang syne…”  

There were the carefree times of our youth and the tedious days of responsibility, the somber moments of disappointment, the light hearted ones of love and pleasure. I resolve to break bad habits and create good ones, to reject sadness and claim joy.  But when I look back, at the end of the year, I’ll remember both…with kindness.

I sit, in a new day in a new year and raise my morning cup of coffee. I resolve to go ahead, use my best handwriting but cross stuff out that doesn’t work, doodle to my hearts’ contentment and mess up the page!

“And here’s a hand my trusty friend! And give me a hand o’ thine! And we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.”

What do you resolve to put on your clean page this year?


*CNN.com New Years Fast Facts





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Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons

Reframing Limitations

My husband finally stopped dreaming about owning  an RV and actually bought one. It was an older model that needed some work. But after spending all summer fixing it, with the help of our handy youngest son, it was ready to use.

He was pretty excited. Me, not so much. It was never one of my dreams, always one of his. But his delight and enthusiasm was contagious and I was happy to go along and see how this might work.

We hit the road, going south…seeking warm weather and a place to park that would give us the feeling of freedom and leisure “where the livin’ is easy”. It was meant to be a trial run, a test, to see if doing the retirement RV-thing was really doable for us, and to make sure all the mechanics worked.

(I probably need to say that neither one of us is particularly mechanically inclined. In fact our most often used app is “OK Google…how do you…?” and our second is YouTube!)

We drove interstate highways, toll roads, and small county roads, through cities and around cities, rural towns and coastal resort towns. We saw beautiful Autumn colors on tree lined interstate highways and ugly cement road systems winding around city centers, large outlet malls, wind turbines around fields of snowy white cotton, and pecan groves and cattle ranches and dairy farms. We watched the sun go down on the Gulf. We heard the rain on our metal roof one night in Mississippi as we slept. We saw millions of stars in a dark Oklahoma night sky.  We “played house” in a tiny cozy space and drank our morning coffee slowly as the sun took its time rising.

Nine days later, sitting with a scared dog on my lap inside the RV,  on the side of the highway just 95 miles from home, waiting for the roadside help to come and fix our front tire that had just blown out, we began to scrutinize the happenings of the adventure and analyze the pros and cons.

We both agreed we had enjoyed the newness of this 3,000 mile adventure even though it brought with it a fair amount of stress and a little anxiety. Trying new things, whatever they are, always creates a bit of stress. But not trying leaves an unfulfilled longing and not knowing.

The tire was fixed eventually and we pulled back onto the highway, headed north to home. It had been another long day and we were tired but it didn’t take much to get back into the speed and flow of traffic.

But then suddenly! A slight swerve. We heard the loud noise of the rumble-strip on the side of the road. YIKES! The dog whined and sat up and I yelped! Another quick swerve and we were back in the flow. It was like a hiccup. No harm done.

Thank God for rumble-strips! It woke us up and got us back on track.

Recovering from the swerve heading towards home in the twilight of the day, I couldn’t help but think of all the times I had tried something new and discovered by hearing the loud interruption of a rumble-strip, of sorts, that I wasn’t going in the direction I really wanted to go. Something woke me up and I was redirected back on track.

But isn’t this part of the magic of old age, being able to look back and see the big picture, the process, the effect of one event or choice upon another, the beginnings and the outcomes… and to recognize the rumble-strips, the things that served to wake us up and redirect us?

Our families act as rumble-strips for us, if we listen to their opinions. Our years of experience serve as rumble-strips. Knowing ourselves serve as rumble-strips. Somethings we just already know what will or won’t work for us, because we know ourselves and we’ve-been-there-done-that, sort of thing! Our limited finances act as rumble-strips sometimes, as do our aging bodies.

Rather than limitations, I see rumble-strips that help to keep me on track and move me forward in this most interesting stage of life.

If I am listening, I can take the risk of trying something new and have the confidence that I will hear when I swerve onto the rumble-strip.

Not sure if the RV adventures will continue for me, but I’m thankful I had the chance to try it out…at least once!

Sometimes your journey

will take you off of your path. 

It’s all part of the same trip.

– Curly Girl Designs

How do you see the limitations in  your life, or do you? What are they? Do you reframe them?





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Blog, Communication, Inspiration, Life Lessons

Just Say What You Want

More than a few years ago, my mother-in-law was coming up to her 80th birthday and had planned a big family get together to celebrate. She was excited and was looking forward to having all her family together. In the process of inviting everyone and relaying all the logistical information, she let it be known, “by the way, I want a sapphire and diamond tennis bracelet as my gift.”!

This was not out of character for my mother-in-law. She knew what she wanted and was never timid about saying what she wanted. And usually we loved her for it.

Her daughter was designated as the one to purchase it and efforts made to collect contributions. No one commented or questioned her request. That is, no one commented but I remember thinking, “why, at her age, would she want to spend money on a piece of jewelry?”

I guess I thought that at a certain age, desires and wants, and even needs, are lessened (I had not yet experienced old age!).  I was surprised that “just being together” wasn’t enough.

Well, it turned out the reason she gave as she opened her gift with a squeal of great delight was “I have always wanted this!”

Seeing the joy this bracelet gave her and later the fun memory it represents as her daughter now wears it was worth every penny spent!

Knowing what we want or need isn’t always easy to discern. It requires regular self examination and open hearted honesty and self-awareness, even in old age.

I’ve caught myself a few times lately entertaining the notion that because the end of life is coming closer into view I don’t need to do or have certain things…sort of a what’s-the use kind of attitude. It feels easier sometimes to adapt to the decisions others make for me, or not make decisions and just let life happen, than to figure out what I really want or need to have happen and then take action to make it happen.

Of course, there’s the other extreme of this that pushes me to think, “I might not have much time left, so I must have this or that or do this or that NOW” which also eliminates the hard work of good self-awareness that asks, “what do I really want or need?”. How do I want to live out these last precious years and make decisions from my own reasons and values?

Often what others think I need or should have is easier to accept and is what influences my own feelings to the point of clouding over my real ones. I end up going without what I really need or desire, thus opening myself to resentment, or self-pity, or isolation, or other negative emotions that eventually rob me of vibrancy and joy.

Unlike Grandma Georgia on her birthday, my needs and desires tend to be more emotional than material. However, emotional needs and desires are harder to name and talk about for many of us than the more material ones.

For instance, I carry my cell phone around in my pocket hoping one of my “kids” will call, for no reason except to chat or check-in on me. It rarely happens. I try to keep something baked on hand just in case a neighbor or friend calls and wants to stop by for coffee. It rarely happens. I shower and fix my hair everyday hoping I will get an invitation to go to lunch…BUT, who knows this? not my “kids”, not my friends, not my neighbors. I haven’t told them what I need from them. I haven’t asked them to come by.  I haven’t called them to chat. Consequently, sometimes my thoughts wander to that dark place where “no one cares, no one knows, no one will miss me when I’m gone.”

The reality is no one can read my mind! I need to tell people what I need and want.

I most probably won’t ask for a diamond bracelet for my next birthday, but my dear mother-in-law will continue to haunt me from time to time as I continue to learn to ask for what I need and want, whatever it is.

Something I found a while back that helps to keep me focused on my responsibility to myself:*

  • Missing Someone….Call
  • Want to meet...Invite
  • Want to be understood…Explain
  • Have questions…Ask
  • Don’t like something…Name it
  • Like something…Say it
  • Want something…Ask for it
  • Love Someone…Tell them

Rest In Peace, Grandma Georgia!

*author unknown




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Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons, Passion

PLEASE, Don’t Have a Nice Day!

Not my line. I would never say that to you. It wouldn’t be consistent with my temperament to say it, at least not seriously…jokingly, I could and might, but probably wouldn’t, at least not out loud!

But it is consistent with the character Shirley MacLaine plays in the movie, Last Word. In fact, this sassy, at times abrasive, old woman gets away with saying whatever comes to her mind, apparently throughout her whole life…until, she realizes she is in the final stage of life and is probably going to be remembered in a way that isn’t very complimentary, even by the people she cares about the most. So, then she sets out to change her legacy. The movie unfolds this process with a few surprises and a lot of heart.

Funny how this Gran Finale stage-of-life puts things into a different perspective! How will I be remembered is a question that pops up unprovoked at strange and curious moments. It’s a bit startling, and even haunting at times, capable of lingering in the back of our minds like a threatening rain cloud. I suspect this question is the reason I compulsively attempt to keep my underwear drawer cleaned out!

But the power of this line, in my opinion, is the follow up. “Please don’t have a nice day” Ms. MacLaine says, “Have a day that matters. Have a day that’s true, a day that means something.”

I live where the motto is Minnesota Nice. It’s a way of life to behave and be nice. But really, more often than not, it’s a way to be dishonest, to not voice our real feelings or opinions, to say what we deem is good manners whether or not it’s true. And “keeping the peace at all costs” often hinders us from learning how to be honest while being civil, kind and respectful at the same time.

My husband and I were standing in an exhibit tent in our neighborhood park during the annual art fair last summer, when a couple next to us turned to leave the tent and said to the vendor, “have a nice day”. The vendor turned to us and asked, “what is it with you Minnesotan’s always telling people what kind of day to have? What if I don’t want to have a nice day? What if I want to have a terrible, rotten, no good, horrible day?” He chuckled, quite amused at himself  but seemed to want agreement from us. So, my hubby obliged, “Yeah, I know what you mean! Sometimes it’s just no fun to have a nice day!” And the vendor kept it going with great glee, “And for sure, I don’t want someone telling me what to do with MY day!”

A fun exchange, and it left me with a bit of food-for-thought. What am I saying when I wish you to have a nice day? I want you to avoid calamity, to live in peace and be well. That’s the truth. That’s what I wish for you. And what’s in it for me if you do? I will be able to walk away from you and live my own life in peace without needing to deal with your crankiness, your illness, your need. I did my part by wishing you well. Easy.

But having a day that matters and one that is true and meaningful is a different story. It’s a lot harder than having a nice day. It requires me to be real. It requires me to be aware and receptive, to be open and generous.

How do I do it?

I do it by starting the day with gladness for another chance to get out of bed and see the sun rise, for a sweet dog who needs me and a husband who likes to be with me, for a cup of good coffee and a day with no schedule, open for possibilities.


How about you? How do you have a day that matters, is true and meaningful?



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Life in the Pink-Panther Zone or Not

I have to be in the right mood, but occasionally I sit beside my husband and we watch one of his favorite Peter Sellers’ films about the Pink Panther.  Typically, my husband laughs wildly at every turn while I sit tensely with a hesitant half-grin waiting for the next calamity. The Pink Panther makes me nervous. I anticipate his inevitable mishaps and catastrophes. He’s ridiculous on every level, but so easy to get sucked into the chaos and drama he creates. I cringe. I moan. I wait-for-it. And I’m not disappointed. The worst always happens, and then some!

These movies have nothing to do with real life! But there are times when real life can evoke some of those same feelings of anxious anticipation much like a Peter Sellers’ movie does of me!

For instance, there were similar periods of time in my life when my babies were little, then again when they were teenagers, and then again going off to college or the Peace Corps, or about to be married, or move away or have their first baby or buy their first home. There were similar times when my husband and I faced crisis in our relationship, or crisis in a family members life, when finances fell apart or health seemed precarious. There were many times I found myself tensely waiting for “the worst”, holding my breath and fretting… times when I felt like I was sitting on the edge of the couch trying to smile…

Now I’ve seen most of the movie of my story. I don’t know the ending yet and maybe it’s going to be a calamity, or not. But I’ve seen the ending to all those other calamities I witnessed over the many years. Sometimes “the worst” happened. Sometimes even worse than I expected. But sometimes the worst never did happen. But always, I dealt with it, whatever it was.

The beauty of being able to see most of the story now is that I’m still here for the ending. I made it through each circumstance. And from where I sit now, I can honestly say that my anxious anticipation, my holding my breath, my overall fretting did nothing to affect the outcome of any of those situations...nothing!

What I learned that did make a difference, instead, and continues to make a difference today, is when I bring my long-range perspective (wisdom) as well as my best self (character) to each scene.

  • I Accept the Situation. It has happened. I can’t change it. I welcome it as another life experience and an opportunity to learn more about myself and the human existence. I keep my mind and heart open, by not blaming someone, or judging, categorizing or tagging the experience negatively, in order to watch it unfold. This is when I usually need to remind myself to breathe and keep the daily rhythm of my life going with the rituals of self-care and ordinary living.
  • I Name my Part. What do I need to do in order to cope with what has happened?  In order to respond the way I want to, what do I need?  What will it take for me to maintain my own serenity and add to the well-being of those around me? How can I help move through this in the most positive way?  This is usually the time when I take extra time out to pray, meditate and feed my spirit…and journal.
  • I Ask for Help. Who do I need to reach out to for support, encouragement, or resources?  There is always someone who loves me and cares. I try to remember that these times of need are joyful opportunities to share and are not burdens. I remember I am never alone. I ask God.
  • I Release the Outcome. I can only control myself and my response. I can not control other people. I can not control the weather, the universe or time. God is God, I am not.

The Pink Panther movie is no doubt way more entertaining and exciting than my Vibrant Old Woman movie. But living in the midst of high-level drama is no longer appealing. What I want now is to breathe steadily, experience a certain level of serenity, pleasure, and peace of mind assured that whatever comes, I can handle.

“Do not be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself…”                Matthew 6:34, Holy Bible

How about you? How do you handle anxiety and worry?



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Magical Thinking About Aging

“You’re growing up too fast!” I heard myself saying to my youngest grandchild recently.

Seems like a normal response from a granny to her youngest grandchild.  But as I heard the words and saw his somewhat shy and maybe embarrassed look, I wondered what I was really trying to say or what I was feeling when I said this. Did I really mean I was sorry he was growing up?

It sounded as if I thought he was doing something wrong, that he shouldn’t be growing! But in fact, he was right on schedule, growing taller and stronger each year and slowly turning into an adult…just like he was supposed to do, just like I wanted him to do.

It sounded like I wanted him to stay a baby, that I was disappointed that he was growing, maybe even that I liked him better when he was little and younger.

Unless you’re a cheese or a wine, growing older isn’t much valued in our Western society. We are told by marketers and advertisers everyday that we need to look younger and feel younger, indicating looking our age or feeling our age is unacceptable.

Even the word “aging” is used when someone is showing signs of defectiveness. “My, how she’s aged over the last few months!”, meaning she’s rapidly decaying, or not-so-good any more.

And here I was unintentionally adding to this cultural message that bodies must always be cute and pretty, young, small and un-pimpled.

Without consciously thinking about my intention and what I value, I slipped into an accepted cliche and popular response. Maybe I can magically change reality if I don’t acknowledge aging out loud and everything will stay the same and the fairy tale of happily-ever-after will truly happen…these beloved babies will always be babies!

Every once in a while, I too have been the reciprocator of this kind of magical thinking when a lovely soul says something like “You don’t LOOK 74! I would never have guessed you are that old.”  And I blush and take it as a compliment, like as if I’ve done something wonderful, and say “Oh really? Thank you!”  But in reality it only makes me more aware that I shouldn’t be aging, that I should try to look as young as possible, that it isn’t good to be 74 and look 74!

Besides when I view the process of growing old with realistic eyes, without magical thinking, I agree with Michael Caine: “To me, growing old is great. It’s the very best thing – considering the alternative.”

I’m not saying that I want brutal honesty or rudeness. But a more authentic evaluation of age would be welcome. Maybe something like, “My, you are aging well…such a vibrant 74 year old.”

I want my grandchildren to know that growing up is a good thing. I want them to know that each age and stage of life is good and something to be valued. I want them to know they are wonderful right now, just as they are, and I will love them at every age and every size.

But, one thing I know is I’m ready for the next time I see one of my grandchildren. I’m ready to say, “My goodness! Every time I see you, you’ve grown some more. And you are doing such a good job of it!”

What are some other ways we inadvertently contribute to the magical thinking about age? How do you feel about this?





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