I’ve maintained for some time now that the older I get the longer I get to celebrate. This year I’m pushing that edge with everything I’ve got. I’ve got a lot to celebrate!
I feel good. There have been many years where I haven’t. Two years ago I was recovering from surgery. Five years ago I couldn’t move. 25 years ago (or was it 26) my birthday party felt like a wake because I was in chemotherapy. Feeling good, willing to go out, having fun finding dress-up clothes, those are all worth celebrating.
I still have family. I started celebrating my birthday at the beginning of the month when I made a cake and packed it up to my parent’s house. My Mom and I share a fondness for german chocolate and a homemade cake is particularly appreciated by both of us. At this point neither of us needs a cake to ourselves so we share. Her birthday is in December and mine is the end of February so there is usually a freezer involved along the way. Having her around to share and appreciate the cake she taught me to make is definitely worth celebrating.
My kids seem to like spending time with me. I got Orion buying me flowers for valentine’s day and Karina’s “step-son” picking out roses for Oma’s birthday. We all went out to dinner (restaurant week falls close enough to my birthday to make that easier). Karina has also just said “hey, want to go out for drinks” and swept me up late night just because it’s my birthday. Orion and I have been to the movies, twice, and he’s also joined me out to brunch with friends. All worth celebrating.
My friends are finding time to “catch-up” I’ve had three brunches this month. I’ve had lunch and a trip to the Swedish Museum. I’ve had dinner with some old friends, and am still making plans into March. I’ve spent a lot of time on the telephone. Birthday presents have appeared unexpectedly. I have acquired a significant amount of birthday cheesecake. It’s really nice to know that people I care about are thinking about me. It’s great to touch base and reconnect. I’m not good at reaching out so having people reach out to me is very much worth celebrating.
I know that extending my birthday celebration means sometimes I decide it’s about me when really it’s not. Today (Monday 27th) I’m having “birthday breakfast” at Gilda’s Club. It’s really the monthly “Euro-Cafe Social”, but hey for me it’s birthday breakfast. I’ll get to visit with people I work with and when I call it birthday breakfast they’ll all say happy birthday.
It feels good to be acknowledged and it gives me a lot of reason to be grateful. I have places to go, things to do and people to do them with. I have generous friends and family. I have enough energy to go out and enough control to bring home leftovers. Extending the celebration means I get to really spend time with people rather than being overwhelmed by a crowd at one big bash. I am truly blessed.
Happy birthday to me.
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions for a lot of reasons. The biggest is that I don’t keep them, so why make them. Not that I object to having goals and dreams, but that success builds on success.
I’m much happier with big dreams and small achievable goals than with the notion of creating a resolution for change at a time of year when I’m already reeling. I find it difficult to start something new at the same time that I’m trying to re-coop – (physically and financially) from the holiday hoopla.
This particular year, this particular “cultural transition” from 2016 to 2017 has been filled with a lot of public angst. The notion that 2016 was “so bad” that 2017 “has to be better”. I’ve always been reluctant to tempt fate that way.
There’s a lot of fear going into 2017. I’ve written about a shift in tone in human interactions. I’ve talked about the disenfranchised who feel particularly targeted and threatened by the new political climate. I’ve got personal fears as well, with aging parents and tightening purse strings. My “safety nets” are not what they used to be.
Sometimes I think I talk because I need to hear what I am saying. I talk (and write) a lot about practicing gratitude to fight depression. Fortunately I got to spend New Years Eve with some lovely people who chose to apply that practice.
It was an event designed to set the tone for 2017. The dinner guests were chosen specifically to suit our host’s preferences. No one was there “just because”. The decor was elegant, the food abundant, exotic, and heart warmingly delicious, and the atmosphere both festive and a little nostalgic. There was warmth and laughter and acceptance and I was grateful to be included.
When the champagne was poured we went around the table and each had to talk about something wonderful that happened for them in 2016. There were several people who had milestone moments that they could point to. A few of the guests spoke of unexpected opportunities that had become available to them. Clearly, Facebook memes aside, not everyone had a horrible year.
I didn’t have a “horrible” year either, but I did have a really difficult time finding something to be grateful for. Then I stopped going over the events of the year that I recalled (most of which were attached in some way to a funeral) and looked at the room.
I got to have a night out. I got to have a few days without Orion in tow. I got to have a beautiful fancy dinner that I didn’t have to pay for. I got to have an opportunity to dig up the dress-up clothes. I got to reconnect with a friend (our host) and acknowledge that connection with hope to deepen our relationship in the future. I got to have fun. I got to be in the room.
Then I looked back at the year at all the other friends I’ve connected with. I looked at the new friendships I’ve worked at strengthening. I looked at all the “rooms” where I’ve had the privilege of being included. There have been a lot. Even those funerals provided opportunities for me to reconnect.
This is what I’m grateful for and what I hope to find more of in 2017. Connection.
Happy New Year!
Gratitude is difficult when the world seems to be falling down around our heads. It is difficult to find gratitude in crisis. It is difficult to find gratitude when we feel threatened. It is difficult to find gratitude under stress. But it is especially during these challenges when we need gratitude the most.
Practicing gratitude is uplifting. Even seeing people who seem to have less than we do being grateful can be inspiring. Knowing what we have to be grateful for is like finding a lifeline in a troubled sea. When we most need something to hang on to, an active practice of gratitude gives us just that.
Thanksgiving is a highly charged holiday. There are the family dynamics. Mixed families, blended families, new relationships create conflict over who gets to be with who when. There is finding table talk that doesn’t push buttons, make judgements, and generate huge arguments. There is the food both, expectations and execution, and issues of tradition versus lifestyle.
Thanksgiving is also highly charged politically. Not just with the family table, but the actual nature of the holiday itself. What we celebrate is the coming together of the European settlers and the Native Americans. The reality of that relationship is not nearly as peaceful or generous. Even now at Standing Rock Native Americans on their land with their supporters are being treated in ways that have the United Nations, the ACLU, and Amnesty International making statements against our government’s actions.
I am reminded again about the power of gratitude, and so I write reminding you. Let’s all take a moment, many moments, this week and dig deep into the things we do have to be grateful for.
I am grateful for all the people who work peacefully and diligently to preserve my civil rights, my breathable air, and my drinkable water.
I am grateful for all the people who work to ensure I have good, healthy food available to me especially all winter long.
I am grateful for all the people who are actively kind to others, who help those in need, who work with populations (in prisons, the mentally ill, impoverished families etc.) that I am not equipped to help.
I am grateful for the small opportunities I have to do my part to bring kindness, and caring, and loving support into the world.
I am grateful for the support I receive (from family, friends and strangers) just to be able to function in this world.
I am grateful to have a platform and readers who support my work. – Thank you!
What are you grateful for?
It has been raining on and off all week. That puts more than a little damper into our plans. There is flooding. (We’re fine, but there have been road closings just 10 minutes north of us.) Power has been a little unstable. (I haven’t had long outages, but there have been several rounds of reset the clock.) My allergies, especially mold, have been acting up.
The part that’s hard is that Orion and I had weekend plans that involved being outdoors. The weekend was actually mostly quite lovely. The sky cleared, the sun peeped out it was pleasantly cool, but not cold. All things that make for a great time in the outdoors. Unless you are in a wheelchair.
I struggle to push Orion when we’re “off roading” under the best of circumstances. When the ground is firm, when there aren’t a lot of fallen obstacles or rocks, when the grass is short, when he could push himself for at least a short distance that’s ideal. This weekend, given the amount of rain, was not going to be ideal and could be really horrible.
We skipped through several versions of our plans. We did make an appearance at the Richardson Nature Center. They had an event called Party in the Park. Most of the party was spread out into the park, and not accessible. I got help from a stranger to go up a small hill. We visited the bee keeping exhibit inside. We played with a bull snake, made a seed bomb, and had some sumac popcorn from the Tatanka Truck. Then I was done in.
Our “time in nature” was mostly spent shopping at the co-op. Even there we didn’t load up as much as we often do. Prices are high and the budget is not.
I ended the week on a note of gratitude. We did a ritual for the harvest season. There is a lot of bounty in my world, even if I don’t have full access. It’s good to take some time out to recognize what I do have, to be grateful.
I spent several days last week out sick with a summer cold. You know the kind you tell yourself is allergies until you can no longer deny you’re miserable through and through. As I’ve just past the two-year anniversary of my bariatric surgery, this was another opportunity to really notice how much has changed.
For starters, yes I was sick enough to not go to Gilda’s club. People dealing with cancer are often immune suppressed. They didn’t need to be exposed to whatever I was carrying. The decision to “tough it out” or not was a no brainer. What that meant is that I was taking care of myself from the beginning of the cold, rather than waiting until it totally knocked me on my ass to acknowledge it.
Then there’s the odd thing that happens with bariatric surgery and stomach flu. My whole body felt like I should be laying on the bathroom floor. But I wasn’t. In fact I never got that kind of sick. The physiology just doesn’t work that way anymore. What an odd feeling, especially for someone whose history is that once I got started I didn’t stop. No sore abdominal muscles. No cramps. No dehydration. No shear exhaustion from all that effort. More energy to apply to feeling better.
And most importantly there are all the things I did manage to get done last week. Orion got dressed, bathed, on and off the bus and fed regularly. Time cards got delivered, groceries were bought. I had my allergy shots. Orion had injections as well, and a tune up of his wheelchair and AFO’s. We had lunch and a visit with friends. I found time to do dinner with a friend. I had coffee with another, along with a walk to and tour Gilda’s Club – several blocks down the hill, and back up again.
There was laundry that got done, including bedding from our camping trip. There was a night the power went out, and all the clocks are set back where they belong. There was no “recovering” from our road trip to South Dakota. There is no feeling that I need another week to “catch up”.
Two years ago, last week would have looked like a “super mom” week. It would have taken me almost week to recover from a schedule like that in my “best health”. I couldn’t have imagined doing all that right after returning from a road trip camping with Orion, even without the summer cold!
People still ask me if I have any regrets for making the decision to have by-pass surgery. It hasn’t been all roses, but if I look at what I can do now that I couldn’t dream of doing then all I can feel is grateful.
I had the opportunity this weekend to participate in a rescue mission. That’s not as dramatic as it sounds. My daughter, Karina, has quite the extended family given the divorces, the friends, the steps, and all the variations on “you are family to me.”
One of these family members has been in a difficult intimate relationship for some time. There is a history of isolation, abuse, and attempts to leave the relationship. After a conversation with Karina where she heard, “I want to come home” she went into action.
She arranged for transportation (costs covered), housing, a potential job opportunity and alerted the built-in support system of family and friends. There will be a bus card, people willing to help with transportation in town, bedding and toiletries and probably anything else as it comes up. When another call came, “I need to leave NOW”, Karina went into high gear and hopped in the car.
I went along, not only because it’s a long drive but also because she wanted back-up for anything she might find when she arrived. I have family in the area where we were headed. I called ahead. Without knowing ANY of the actual players, they stepped in as well.
My family members met us at the home of the person we picked up. We were taken out for dinner. We were offered any additional support we might need along the way. I got the bonus of being able to see family I haven’t been in contact with (outside of Facebook) for years.
Karina’s family member will be fine. They are overwhelmed, not only by making such a dramatic change but also by the outpouring of support. We also talked on the way home about how much of a difference THIS family member could be in supporting other of Karina’s extended family members who are struggling. We made it clear that even when you may be needy, you can also be needed.
Very few of us expect to have real support when we are desperate. Asking for one small thing is hard. Asking for planning, organization, execution and a lifeline is humbling at best.
I think we all have moments in our lives when this is exactly the kind of help we need. I know I have. I have been fortunate, awed, and overwhelmed on the occasions when my friends and family have swept in and just taken care of business.
When I had cancer last year my women’s group stepped up and made sure that I had the post surgery support I needed. They came by to check up on me, made sure I had food in the house, ran errands, and washed dishes. One of them brought me home from the hospital. Another took me out when I was going stir crazy. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I had no idea what I was going to do, but they clearly did.
The last time I had work done on my house, to increase accessibility for Orion, we needed to move out for 6 weeks. Cleaning and packing was beyond me. Again, I had friends come in and just do it. There was no judgement, no need for instruction or supervision, just support. I could focus on what I needed to take with me to the hotel, they took care of everything else. I knew I needed help, but never expected that level of support.
I am grateful that I have been able to count on my friends when I truly need help. I am grateful that I have learned to accept help when it is given. I’m grateful for compassion that has no judgement, simply does what needs to be done. I’m grateful for the opportunity to give back a small bit of what I have been given.
Happy Memorial Day. Enjoy the weather, the family, the picnic – whatever you have planned. I’ll be gardening and taking a long leisurely bath.
Remember those who served with their lives. Remember that many have sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy. Remember the families of those who have served. And in remembering, think about all of those whose service was dismissed, or uncredited. There have always been women serving alongside the men, but because they were not “official” were not counted. There have been blacks and Native Americans in service for this country whose “special units” were often placed in the most dangerous situations. Japanese American families lost loved ones in the internment camps in the US during WWII. There are many kinds of service, many kinds of sacrifice. Let’s honor that in gratitude for what we do have. Let’s remember.
As I pack boxes, clearing out my kitchen so that “someday” I can get those cabinets replaced (and a few other things taken care of besides) I find myself disheartened. There is so much to do that it can seem overwhelming. There isn’t even a start date, much less and end goal in sight.
I’m talking to contractors, talking with bankers, packing boxes and still the day-to-day life goes on. I have a lot to be grateful for. Many of my friends have been sick with the spring crud. Several families I know are experiencing the family member in the hospital in critical condition trauma . It’s not as though my kitchen is entirely worthless. I’ve managed to deliver a few meals since I started packing things away.
I’m grateful that I have the time to be helpful to my friends in need. I’m grateful to be healthy enough to face the tasks of the day. I’m grateful it’s not Orion in the hospital this time, or me. I’m grateful for the unseasonably warm weather. I’m grateful for the blossoms on my jasmine plant.
As I go through my things and pack them away I find myself unpacking old issues that I apparently still carry around. There have been moments where I’ve caught myself in a memory vortex. I’ve run into out dated cans and remembered my parents moving out of their “forever” house into their retirement home in the North Woods. I’ve come across baby spoons and sippy cups and remembered both the child who used them and the one who didn’t. I dug up cookie cutters and remembered back when I’d bake for large events.
Packing is bittersweet. I’m trying to keep it reasonable with a one box a day goal. I’m trying to remember this is an opportunity to declutter. I can use this to bring more tranquility into my home. But right now it doesn’t feel tranquil.
I’m shopping this week with a friend of my parents. I chauffeur her around to run errands. Occasionally I pick something up for myself along the way. Now I have to resist. I can’t be bringing new things in, knowing I’ll just be packing them away. New things are for later. Right now it’s time to pack up the things I’m keeping and to unpack the things it’s time to let go of.
March is a long month, and this week is only half way through. Best wishes for more sunshine and spring awakening!1
Happy birthday to me! I started the week ready to celebrate. There were meetings, cake, cupcakes and not enough protein. I neglected to take photos. I’ve always believed that the older you get the longer you get to celebrate. I do have plans for high tea this week along with a dinner out with the kids.
There seems to be a gap, a gap between expectations and reality, a gap between celebrating and aging. I’m a year past my last brush with cancer. I’m celebrating. I’m grateful. I’m thinner, have more energy, get a lot more accomplished and have better general health. I’m also ordering off the senior’s menu.
I’ve chosen to apply my birthday celebration logic to bridge the gap. Every time this year I order off a senior menu I’m officially celebrating my birthday. WOO HOO! Honestly, the smaller portions make a lot more sense post bariatric surgery than they would have without it. Another thing to be grateful for!
Gap number two is the time vs money gap. There is a saying if you have the time you don’t have the money, if you have the money you don’t have the time. I have found this to be generally true, although lately I’m feeling like I don’t have either. Clearly I need another round of rescheduling and rearranging priorities.
I’ve started seriously working on my next book – about Daily Practice. You would think that if I’m writing about it I ought to be able to put some of those things I’m writing about into play. That helps with the time piece, but doesn’t address the money part. I’m afraid if I go out looking for the part-time job that would bridge the money gap I’ll lose the time I’m spending writing. Such a dilemma!
I could also write like a mad fiend and then work like crazy to promote the new book. I could create opportunities to speak on the topic, and get paid for it. I could invest in my new lifestyle vision. It sure sounds good on paper!
The time vs money dilemma runs me headlong into the third gap. Which is an actual gap – as my kitchen cupboards are slowly falling off the wall. I’m looking at a major expense, no two ways about it. My kitchen was “old” when we moved in 23 years ago. It needs a serious remodel. Lot’s of planning (and time) and potentially moving for a bit. Certainly there is deciding what stays out and what gets packed away.
Disruptions happen, it’s part of life. Finding the way to stay on our feet, keep moving forward, continuing our Daily Practice, that’s balance. It’s an active word. It’s about making choices. So I go back to the first gap and decide I’m old enough to have earned a new kitchen for my birthday.
Happy birthday to me!
November has been a very stressful month, and it’s not over yet. Some of the stress has been in a good way, so I’m grateful. I’m grateful for having the opportunity to speak at the Minneapolis Women’s Club at the Women of Words event. I’m also grateful to have the opportunity to speak to our local Ostomy Society. What a great bunch! I’m grateful to the people at both presentations who took the time to tell me exactly why what I have to say had such a strong impact on them.
I’m grateful, as always, for my time at Gilda’s Club. I’m putting in an extra shift this week, stepping in for another greeter. Since Thursday is my usually day I’ve got a “day off” so I suppose it’s not really extra. Besides, there’s a social event this morning so I would be there anyway!
I’m grateful that I’m not hosting Thanksgiving. The family I grew up in has two generations under it. I’m a Great Aunt. The crowd is getting too big for us all to be together in one space. It’s bittersweet to break it up. At the same time I’m grateful for the opportunity to spend a little more intimate Thanksgiving rather than all the noise and chaos. I’m grateful, especially after this summer, to still have both of my parents. I’m grateful both of my children will be there.
I’m grateful for all the things I say I’m grateful for in my speeches. Telling my story means I am revisiting points in my life where I had reason to be very grateful, for people, for circumstances, for support. It’s challenging for me to open up that way, but it’s also a great reminder of how blessed I’ve been.
I’m looking at the Syrian refugees. I’m looking at the shooting (by the police) of a black man just a few miles from my home that’s threatening to turn Minneapolis into Ferguson. I’m looking at the bombing in Paris. I have so much to be grateful for, so much bounty, so much privilege, even my stress seems minor in comparison.
So I give thanks and stand in gratitude and pray for healing around the world.