Yes, I “Get to…”

When things are going well it can be easy to overlook the blessings in our life. Some days it is an effort for me to not complain about or dread even the simplest task, when in reality it is actually a privilege.

Sadly, there are some people who are no longer physically or mentally able to do certain things who would love nothing more than to have the opportunity to be able to “get to” do them just one more time.

My very favorite lesson from God Never Blinks is one I am trying to practice every day and it is really very easy ~ saying two simple words: “Get to” ~ an unassuming yet meaningful reminder to be grateful for everything.

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For example, instead of saying, “I have to clean the bathrooms this morning.”  I now (okay, don’t laugh) actually smile and say, “I “get to” clean the bathrooms this morning.” Instead of scowling and saying “I have to go to a boring, waste of time, all day county wide teacher’s meeting.” I now “try” to smile and say, “I “get to” go to a boring, waste of time, all day county wide teacher’s meeting.” (I know, pretty crazy huh?)

Some days, I admit, this can be a challenge!!  Especially when it involves something that I really don’t enjoy or something or someone I just don’t want to have to deal with that day.

This post features my concern about my upcoming retirement and I received some wonderful advice and reassurance from so many wise women. (Thank you all so much!!) Anne Merhling blogger at Merhling Muse – Life in the Mountains gave me some advice that is perfect to share in this post: “When the word “worry” runs through your head, shoot it down. God has promised to be with you forever, and He can see every minute of your future. Substitute “possibility” for “worry”. You are going to have possibilities of making new friends and doing new things from your present home.”  I so appreciate the wisdom in these words ~ don’t you?

I have been practicing substituting “get to” for “have to” as well as “possibility” for “worry” and I have to admit, these paradigm shifts are working! These simple words are really helping me change my perspective, attitude, and level of appreciation of all things in my life.  “Getting to” do something rather than “having to” is not only an honor and a privilege but a remarkable gift from God isn’t it?

Aging

Almost everywhere I look these days ~ as I flip through magazines, watch television or read through fashion blogs ~ I see them.  I also see them shopping where I shop, eating where I eat, walking in my neighborhood, and attending my church. They even go to the same doctor or dentist.  Who are they?

Beautiful, inspiring, aging women with their gorgeous gray hair, tasteful sense of style, and undeniable self-confidence. These ladies work hard taking care of themselves and some have invested $$ to keep sagging skin and wrinkles away. They are impressive role models and have set the bar pretty high. They make growing old look so glamorous and …. youthful.  Not a bad way to approach older age.

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But there is another group of impressive role models too.

A sisterhood of beautiful, inspiring, aging women who accept they are getting older.  I bet you already know one of these women ~ you just might be one of them yourself. You can easily recognize them because their faces are etched with a lifetime of laughter, stress, worry, and good times. (aka wrinkles)14925360_1300800556647690_7786808355584048423_n

They will occasionally give in and enjoy that second helping or a slice of dessert when the opportunity arises all while smiling through the tightness around the waistline until they get home. As they slip into something more comfortable they vow to try to exercise and eat less the next day.

Some of these ladies are just happy to be alive and share life with loved ones and friends. They might wish deep in their hearts they were thinner or had a more interesting personal life, but in reality they are pretty darned content.

They still want to be stylish but if they should wind up looking frumpy in the process they can handle it.  Sometimes they choose comfort over style when they wear flips flops and blue jeans with a ball cap or other covering because they don’t feel like styling their thinning hair just to run to the grocery store.

Aging is a personal journey of choices. Should you use Botox or maybe surgery for nips and tucks, or just let your body change as God intended?  Maybe a little of both?  Some of these ladies are blessed to have the opportunity to decide which of these paths to take ~ Unexpected health issues or financial constraints can definitely affect or alter a decision.

No matter how you approach aging ~ one thing is for certain ~ is it is a gift denied to many.  As I celebrated my recent birthday (which fell on Thanksgiving this year) I silently paused and gave thanks for every wrinkle, every bulge and even my thinning hair.  I reflected on how thankful I am for healthy food choices I have the privilege to make as I shop around for the best I can afford.  I am thankful for the love from my family and friends. I am also very thankful I have a husband who loves me and encourages me through this journey as we age together.

 

Possibilities

Early fall was tough. With so much going on my interest in the blogging world took a hit.  I just could not find words.

A former student of mine won her battle with cancer and is now in the presence of our heavenly Father.  A dear friend of 30 plus years lost her brother to a massive heart attack very unexpectedly as he was undergoing minor sinus surgery.  Another dear friend of 30 years lost her husband due to a series of strokes he suffered as he was recovering from open heart surgery. Not long after, a former high school friend also passed away due to early onset of Alzheimer’s disease that took over her mind and body at an alarming rate. To top it off, a great-niece revealed that she has been battling breast cancer since July.

After attending too many funerals my husband and I took a trip.  It was such a blessing to have this opportunity to relax, reflect and reevaluate our lives.

 

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Beautiful Sea Pines in Hilton Head, SC

We thoughtfully talked about how suddenly life can change and how quickly time spent with loved ones passes.

 

During that trip we talked about the possibilities that will be open to us when we retire in a few months. Minor traveling, spending more time with grandchildren, relaxing and enjoying some home activities we don’t get to fully enjoy due to our work schedule, as well as getting out there and meeting more people by getting involved in our community are all options.

We thought about buying a very small getaway home and even found one we really like in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  It was a perfect size for the two of us and maybe even another couple visiting us for the weekend.  But it just did not feel right.

Traffic and congestion is getting worse each year. We currently live in an area that was pretty ideal 12 years ago, but with all of the new growth it is not so ideal.  Relocating to another state is the current interest for several reasons ~ one of which includes being closer to other family members. We are, however, still weighing the mountain of pros and cons since making such a big decision is rather daunting at this time of life. Staying where we are and making a couple of updates to our current home is not a bad idea either and still very much on the plate.  After all, we can dodge some of the traffic issues with our new daily schedule in retirement.

Enjoying what we can in our retirement, maintaining our health, and enjoying the company of each other will make any decision we finally make – the right one.

Jessica

She was only 34 years old when she first felt the lump as she breastfed her four-month-old son. She thought it was due to the typical changes a woman’s body goes through after giving birth so she wasn’t really worried.

But it was cancer.   Stage II breast cancer.

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Pictured with her loving and supportive brother.

At Emory Winship Cancer Institute in Atlanta, GA she underwent eight rounds of chemotherapy, 32 rounds of radiation and surgery for a half mastectomy.  She was raised with three brothers so she had a natural “fighter” instinct.

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Several months later she celebrated the end of this journey by an emotion filled singing  of Amazing Grace in front of her husband, a few close family members and her nurses.

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“How sweet the sound” of her voice.

Unfortunately, less than a year later, the cancer spread to a lymph node in her right lung as well as one outside her lungs.

The cancer had a new name.

Stage 4 – Triple Negative Breast Cancer.

It quickly made its way to her hip and right ovary eventually moving into her spine and liver.

This past Thursday evening she won her battle and is now cancer free.

I will always remember her as a bright and happy third grader sitting at her desk in my classroom so many, many years ago.

Goodbye sweet girl, I can’t wait to see you again.

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Time Needs Time

“Sometimes you just have to give time, time.”

I have been reading the book God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life’s Little Detours, written by Regina Brett. If you are struggling with forgiveness or emotional pain perhaps sharing/summarizing her words (in this post) will offer some peace and understanding.

In Lesson #30, the author, Regina, tells a poignant story of healing and forgiveness.  She begins by speaking of a series of retreats she attended once or twice a year for 26 years. Life had thrown her many curve balls and she was in dire need of emotional and mental healing primarily in regard to her father whom she no longer loved.

A woman, who also regularly attended these retreats, befriended Regina.  As a result, Regina became comfortable sharing and confiding her deepest pains with her. The lady would listen to Regina, make her laugh, give her advice and always ended the conversation with the words: Sometimes you “have to heal in layers and not all at once”…. “Sometimes you just have to give time, time.”

Version 3As the years passed, she recognized her level of healing had reached the point where she was ready to try to reconnect with her father. Although she had been able to finally work through her anger, her feelings of fear and insecurity made it difficult to make the first move.  As a result the gift of time kept ticking away as well as the opportunity to reconnect.

One day she received word her father was ill and had been given a few months to live. This crucial news provided the opportunity to confidently make the first move so she immediately went to be with him.  They both experienced a much desired and welcoming peace.  They shared memories and were filled with much joy just being together again. As she left that day her dad waved goodbye for what was to be the last time. Due to his illness he fell unconscious three days later.

She went to him again and was filled with compassion as she lovingly caressed his hands and was able to say “thanks”.  As she sat at his bedside she reflected on the grace God gave her. How He enabled her heart to fill with the love that had been absent for too long. How He enabled her to remember the good qualities and special moments shared with her father and not the painful times.  As she wrote his obituary she “was able to tell what a great guy he was.”  Regina stated, “For years she had put the magnifying glass on the pain, now she was able to put the magnifying glass on the gifts, and there were many.”

“Time needed time” to bring her to this incredible moment of love, compassion, and forgiveness.

I can appreciate the wisdom in these words and through the years I have experienced the truth in these words.  How about you?

The Next Act is Just Months Away

I plan to retire at the end of this upcoming school year and the wind is certainly going to change direction ~ metaphorically speaking.

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So many questions/concerns – do we have enough money saved, what about friends ~ how do I go about making new ones at my age, should we move to a home with a smaller yard, will I get lonely, will we suffer a health set back, will my days feel too empty?  Retirement is a bet on the future and I don’t want the unknowns or imagined outcomes of what “might” happen to cause me to surrender to my fears and uncertainty ~ or become too overwhelming.

As an elementary school teacher my days are full of movement and ruled by the clock: 7:45 – 8:30 teach math, 8:30 – 9:20 teach writing and so the day goes. I honestly struggle with lack of structure during the seven weeks of summer break (just ask my husband) so I hope I can manage it better once I retire when daily life will not be so planned and rigid.

My friends that have already retired or are in the planning stages have made plans to either relocate to be closer to family or relocate to a region of the country they have always wanted to live, or relocate because they desire the lifestyle offered in the 55+ active adult communities. Not one of them is choosing to stay close by. They have a plan that include things like golfing, or traveling the world, or embracing daily life with family closer by.  At first the absence of these folks was gradual and it almost didn’t seem real, and I will surely (in two cases already) miss these wonderful people.  Of course we will talk and visit, but we also know the dynamics will change ~ that’s just the way it is.

I know you can’t and shouldn’t worry about the future, but for me, that is much easier said than done.  Part of the problem is I really don’t have a “plan” but I do realize whatever I plan and what I may actually get ~ are two different things.  I can fantasize about spending more time with grandchildren, or doing a little traveling, or even try things I have not done before.  But in reality 11 out of 14 grandchildren live out of the state not to mention all of our children and grandchildren are very busy with their own lives especially now that the grands are getting older and more involved in activities of their own interests. Next, neither M. nor I are big travelers any more (having visited many places on the North American continent as well as a few places beyond we now prefer destinations within a somewhat reasonable driving distance).  Finally, I honestly don’t know what I haven’t tried yet that I might like to do (skydiving and running a marathon will never be on my list).  M. will participate in activities with me to a point, but sometimes I want/need “girl-time” shopping, conversations and lunches. With my peeps moving away that presents a new challenge that will most likely push me outside of my comfort zone.  Plus no matter what the plans wind up being, our health is the overall key component. I recognize I am extremely blessed to even have this concern and for that I am very thankful.

If you have made it this far reading this post ~ thank you ~ I really need to start sorting this out.

In closing, I know one thing for sure ~ I have to trust.  Trust our financial adviser that we will be okay financially (not over the top just okay).  Trust myself that I can get through the adjustments during this transition and accept my new normal. Trust that opportunities will arise that will allow new friends to come into my life.  Trust that good health will prevail.  Trust that my days will be filled with moments that both challenge and excite me to give it my best.  Trust that my husband, our children and grandchildren and I will maintain our close bond and connection. And most importantly trust that God has a plan for me and trust that He is and will be with me in all transitions good and bad.  John 14:  Let not your heart be troubled…

I read some retirement blogs and many of you have made some major changes, keep busy with quality activities and are making the most out of the “Next Act” in your lives. You have given me inspiration and I will continue to read your advice and words of wisdom, enjoy your adventures, and pay close attention to your successes and failures. I value all that you share.  In the meantime, I want to take notes, make lists, whatever I need to do to get my head in the right place so when I walk out that door on my last day of work it will be with a smile on my face and joyful anticipation as the curtain rises on my “Next Act.”

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Remembering Names or How to Recover If You Can’t

Have you ever forgotten someone’s name?  I have. Even if we have just been introduced and I heard it only moments before, I sometimes find myself forgetting that quickly!

M. and I wanted to have some trees and bushes cut back and pruned as well as a drainage concern looked at in our yard.  We had several people come out to give us estimates on the cost of the project.  No sooner did the contractors give us their names when the words went in one ear and right out the other.  It was embarrassing to have to ask them to restate their name especially after they had been so professional and friendly.

I have tried a few of my own tricks such as repeating their name right after the introduction: “Glad to meet you, George” or repeat it silently to myself over and over a few times.  Most of the time these work, but only if I make the effort to do it.

This article in Forbes written by, Kristi Hedges, recommends the five best tips to remember names:

  1. Meet and Repeat.  
  2. Spell it out. Ask the person to spell their name for you.  This might work unless it is very simple like Mark or Ann.
  3. Associate. Conjure an image when you first hear a name or create an alliteration ie. Rita in Real Estate or Chet from Chicago.
  4. Make a connection.  Think of someone else you know with the same name.
  5. Choose to care.  Make a conscious decision to care enough to remember the name of the people you meet.

As I was searching the internet I ran across this unique way to recover when you have forgotten someone’s name.

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How do you remember someone’s name?

Also posted on #SeniSal