Category Archives: A Day in My Life …

I am NOT a hat person

I am NOT a hat person. I don’t wear hats for fun and I don’t wear them for fashion. Some people look great in hats. I’m not one of them. Hats just look goofy on me.

hatThe only two exceptions I make to the ‘no hats for me’ rule are when I’m working or running for exercise outside in the summertime. I’ll usually don one of my running ‘baseball’ style hats to keep the sun out of my eyes.

In spite of the ‘no hats for me’ rule I have found myself wearing more and more hats over the years, hats of a different kind. When I was still living with my parents I wore the ‘perfect daughter’ hat. Being the only daughter and the youngest child put some serious pressure on me to get good grades in school, play the piano, and learn domestic skills. Not that any of those things have done me any harm – I just didn’t like the feeling that I had to be perfect.

When I got married I chose to wear the ‘wife’ hat. Thirty-seven years with the same fella, with whom I am even more madly and passionately in love than the day we said “I do”, has made this hat more and more comfortable.

As we added children I wore more and more hats. I had no idea when we started out that I’d need several different ‘mom hats’ for each child. Some children needed me to have a custom-made ‘patience’ hat, others needed the ‘professional cuddler’ hat, not to mention ‘chauffeur’, ‘chef’, ‘nurse’, ‘soft-shoulder’, ‘firm-hand’, ‘confidant’, and the list goes on and on and on.

I’ve written recently about the ‘daughter of aging parents’ hat. While I love my parents dearly, I don’t like this hat one little bit – mostly because they get to make the hat, choosing the style, the color, the fit, and when I have to wear it.  Like most people who are in their ninth decade of life, they don’t want to admit, in spite of the numerous prescriptions they take, that their health is starting to break down. They express that asking for help is the same as giving up independence and self-reliance. It’s actually a lot like parenting young adult children all over again – they think they can handle everything, don’t fill me in on anything, then blind-side me when problems get out of control. I’d love to find a way to change the style, the fit, and the color of this hat to make it more comfortable and practical. I doubt that’s going to happen, so I’ll just have to let the hat they’ve created for me be while I look for my ‘perfect daughter’ hat to wear with it.

It was truly EPIC!

We are not a big, expensive, annual vacation kind of family. We mostly are just a big … family. Over the years we’ve managed to collect enough airmiles to take our kids to Disneyland three times. While those trips were fun, they were always budget-conscious trips … breakfast in our hotel room, pack lunches and snacks to eat during the day. The only meal we allowed ourselves to ‘restaurant’ was supper. The funny thing is, once we got home the kids never really talked about the trip.

epicThe one trip that does still get talked about was done when the last three kids were still at home. It has come to be known as The Epic Road Trip. It wasn’t all that big – but it was an epic amount of fun.

I spent hours and hours and hours doing research on campgrounds – and then made reservations.

I have to admit I don’t like camping. Sleeping on an air mattress that is just plain cold, and somehow not either supportive or cushiony, is not my idea of fun. Having to traipse across the campground in the dark (and cold) in the middle of the night if I need the bathroom also does not turn my crank. But this trip was different.

We took a utility trailer for all our camping (and my racing) gear. That meant we didn’t have to deflate air mattresses every time we moved, nor did we have to fully collapse and pack up the tents. This meant we had lots of room in the van! Kids weren’t stuffed between sleeping bags and tent poles – but our gas economy with pulling a trailer was pretty dismal. It was completely and totally a worthwhile trade-off.

We started in Calgary, headed down through Idaho, then west to the coast to end up on Whidby Island, where I raced in an Olympic-distance triathlon. This was one of the purposes of the trip – to get me to Whidby for the race. From there we headed up to BC to our cabin in Fairmont for a couple of nights, then home again. Aside from the two nights at the cabin, the rest of the trip was camping.

The first campground in Idaho had a little beach and an old dock to jump off of. We had so much fun cannonballing each other! Other campgrounds had great hikes along beautiful rivers, or were close enough to walk to the ocean. Being landlubbers and not understanding tides we nearly got caught on a sandbar as the tide rolled in. Who knew tides rolled in that fast? We spent time watching the tiniest crabs ever in little tidal pools, watching for dolphins (never did see any), and exploring little towns along the coast. Not once did we hear “I’m bored” or “Can we do something else?”

We prepped snacks for the day as soon as breakfast was done – cut up fresh fruit and veggies, sliced cheese, packed crackers, and grabbed granola bars. When people are comfortably full they are happy!

We stopped every two hours for a stretch break and to switch drivers, driving no more than six hours in a day.

We kept the lunch cooler well-stocked. The first hint of ‘I think I’m ready for lunch’ meant we’d pull off the road, open the back of the van, and make submarine sandwiches to order. No one ever had to eat something they didn’t want. 

So this 10-day, no frills, budget-minded road trip ended up being the one the kids still talk about nearly 10 years later. That alone makes it epic.

Very Empty Nest – Test Run

It’s not often parents get to have a ‘test run’ at being empty-nesters, but it’s worked out perfectly for us to do just that.

empty nestBaby Girl has some big plans. Don’t most 19-year olds? Her plans could involve moving away from home, to a place not of her own choosing, to do volunteer work, for up to 18 months. Could be quite an adventure!

Don’t get me wrong. Baby Girl is resourceful, but she’s also Mama’s girl. We love doing things together. When hubby is away, BG and I watch the shows together that hubby won’t watch – animated movies, chick flicks, and the like. We’ll often grab a quick snack at the restaurant where she works when I pick her up on cold or dark nights or if I happen to be out and about when she’s getting off. I’m just not sure she’s ready for complete and total autonomy yet.

There is an elderly, but very capable, lady (EL) in our congregation at church. Her husband passed away a year or two ago, leaving her all alone in a massive 3-bedroom condominium. Over that time, various people have taken up residence with her – some renting, some not. I posed the question to her if she’d be willing to let BG live with her, paying rent of course, for a couple of months just to see if BG could manage. The arrangement was EL was only to provide a bedroom and access to the laundry facilities and kitchen. BG was to buy her own groceries, prepare her own meals, and keep her space clean. EL was agreeable, and so it was that BG moved out. BG is a few weeks into this test run of ‘adulting’ as we call it – and she’d doing really well. I’m so proud of how she is managing so far.

I love BG dearly, I really do. And our house is massive for just the two of us, much too big, really. Still, hubby and I are quite enjoying the empty nest.

BG is scheduled to come back to us in January, and with any luck, the experiment will have set her up to be successful should she embark on the adventure. If (and when) she does, you can be sure I will write a sequel to this post!

The smell of love

I love that smell …

They say our strongest memories are linked to smells from our past. I have to say I agree.

We’ve recently been on again, off again about selling our cabin. In the process dressers and bed sheets and towels have been carted out of the cabin when we’ve decided to sell and taken back again when we’ve changed our minds, like an exercise routine.

loveThis last ‘take them back to the cabin’ elicited memories. As I unpacked the towels and stacked them in the closet yet again, a scent wafted up that took my by surprise. Most people would call it a musty smell of an old house. They’d probably have thrown the towels in the wash with something artificially fragrant. I just kept stacking them in the closet. The feelings and images and memories those smells stirred up were of my grandparents’ homes.

Grandma and Grandpa Miller lived on a farm where the University of Lethbridge now stands – in a farmhouse that they built in the late 1930s, after leaving Saskatchewan with a whole mess of children and no real prospects for the future. They started with one room, which housed the coal-burning stove. They added one room at a time as they could afford to, and eventually had four bedrooms, a sitting room, and a large entrance/mudroom where the hand-turned milk separator stood. Last, but not least, they installed indoor plumbing – which they only used on the coldest of days in order to conserve water that had to be trucked in.

These times were hard. Grandpa not only farmed but also worked ‘in town’ at the flour mill. He walked to work, crossing a massive valley on the high level train bridge (316 feet high and one mile long – google ‘high level bridge Lethbridge’).

What I really remember is the smell, the musty, old-house smell, in the bedroom I used to sleep in … and the way Grandma Miller always had fresh smartie cookies (Smarties were like M&Ms) in the cookie jar or a cake just going into that old coal-burning stove, with the beaters just waiting to be licked. They didn’t have a telephone – but Grandma always knew when we were coming.

loveGrandma and Grandpa Kesler started in Picture Butte and moved to Lethbridge when they both retired. Their house in Lethbridge was a war-time house, two-story, with a bedroom, kitchen, living room, and bathroom on the main floor, and two bedrooms that had steeply sloped ceilings upstairs. The bedrooms always smelled musty.  Grandma & Grandpa Kesler had a phone – so they always knew when we were coming. When I’d go to stay with them for a week over spring break or during the summer, our days were filled with making ‘boiled cocoa cookies’ (most people call them macaroons, my updated healthy version is here http://goodandnaturalrecipes.com/boiled-carob-cookies/) or making rag dolls. Grandpa would disappear to the garage and make little wooden boats, then take us to Henderson Lake or Park Lake to float our boats. In the summer we’d load up their homemade camper, pile into their old red pickup truck which was towing his homemade (he made a lot of things!) fishing boat and head out to go fishing for a few days.

When I smell that musty, old-house smell, I don’t think ‘old house’, I think Grandma’s house, cookies, rag dolls,  little boats, and fishing. It’s warm and comforting. It’s the smell of love.

Mirrors and Cameras

You might have noticed that I recently started shooting videos for my newsletters. I’m not using fancy camera and lighting equipment. I don’t have a make-up artist or an on-set hair stylist. I have come to realize there’s a huge difference between mirrors and cameras.

Hubby is an artist. Many years ago he used to do commissioned portraits. He gave that up in frustration after one particularly difficult client. She was a professional singer. She brought in her photo portfolio, and Hubby took more photos of her as well. It’s easier to paint from photos than from a live sitting. He painted what he saw in the photos, accurately, I might add. The portrait was  beautiful, and since I had met the client, I could vouch, honestly, that the portrait looked exactly like her. When she came in for the first proofing she said, “That doesn’t look at all like me. My nose isn’t that shape, my lips aren’t like that, my chin is definitely not that square.” In truth they were – but that’s not how she saw herself.

We often talk about holding up a mirror to evaluate ourselves. In fact, mirrors allow us prejudice. They allow us to not see things as they really are, to see what we remember or what we want to see.

When I look in the mirror I see me as I was 20 years ago – youthful, smooth skin, no wrinkles. I  see what I want to see. When I look at the videos I’ve been shooting I see the effects of aging – I’ll call them laugh lines and smile lines. It makes me wonder what else I should be seeing about myself.

As much as I prefer what I see in the mirror, I think the camera is a more truthful friend.

The Butterfly Effect

The butterfly effect … a principle theorized by Edward Lorenz in 1917. It stated that if all of the conditions were just right, the wind generated by a butterfly flapping its wings could be the start of a tropical storm.

Everything we do has a butterfly effect. I didn’t ‘get this’ when I was a child or a teenager, and truthfully, I’m only seeing the breadth and depth of this as a parent of adult children and the daughter of aging parents. Every decision, every action, every word has a ripple effect. By our decisions and actions and words we also choose our consequences and often the consequences other people will have to endure because of us. In our myopic human way we often cannot foresee the impact we have on other people.

We may never know how our seemingly small decision to skip a meal (usually makes people grumpy) or stay up late (also makes people grumpy the next day) will affect others. We may never know how deciding to drop out of school or graduate at the top of our class will affect others.

The older I get, the more I understand. Patience is a virtue. Words spoken softly (and/or a gentle, caring hug) are vital even when the recipient is behaving in ‘pushing away’ mode. Listening without interrupting and pausing before speaking are crucial. The majority of things to which I could take offense were done out of ignorance, not malice. Understanding these things has helped me to become more calm and to start my own butterfly effects.

My goal is to not create emotional storms, but to send out gentle breezes of love and peace and goodwill. I’m not perfect – but I am improving. I’m striving to create my own butterfly effect.

The New Normal

Green is the new black. 60 is the new 40. It seems there’s always something new replacing something we had just gotten used to.

I’m great with change … as long as it is for the better. The year we spent sleeping in the construction zone we called the master bedroom was a change well worth the inconvenience. It was a fabulous change. There was positive value in it on many levels. It was a transition that was easy to tolerate because I knew what the end result was going to be, and it was a change that was easy to get used to once the renovations were done. The new normal the renos brought was good. Very good.

I’m probably like you in that I don’t like some changes. When a change is not for the better, like when certain unnamed politicians got voted in and the fallout of their agenda and actions affects the majority negatively, or when a loved one gets terminally ill, that’s the kind of change I don’t adapt to easily. It’s a new normal that I don’t want to accept. The new normal is not okay. It’s not comfortable. Still, with time, the new normal becomes just that … the new normal.

The older I get the more I realize that every day brings a new normal, like it or not. That’s life.

Best Laid Plans

I’ll admit – the hardest part of being pregnant was not knowing exactly when I’d go into labor. I couldn’t plan anything! For the first few I had my bagged packed two weeks before D-Day – because that’s what I was taught to do. It only took a few times through to figure out my babies had minds of their own (they were not going to come early – it was too comfy in there), and they could apparently read calendars, as they were always either right on due date or within 12 hours of it.  By the time we got to baby #4, I’d pack a few days before D-Day and all was good.

But there was still this planning thing. I couldn’t necessarily plan to meet up with a friend in that last week. Yeah, I understand that my friends would have understood if plans needed to be changed at the last minute, but I really don’t like doing that. Hubby and I couldn’t plan a date and book a sitter – because, again, it wouldn’t be right to cancel on a sitter last minute because Grandma was coming to babysit for the trip to the hospital instead. I couldn’t volunteer for anything because … you get the picture.

Yes, I do enjoy the planning process – and what pregnancy didn’t allow, family trips did. I still think road trips are the best. Our best family vacation – the ones the kids talk about more than the Disneyland trips – was a 12-day road trip. The planning that went into that was nothing short of epic.The ultimate destination was a triathlon on Whidbey Island. We camped our way down through northern Montana and across into Northern Washington, to end up on Whidbey Island, where we stayed in a lovely state campground for a few days. After the race we headed home through southern BC. Planning made all the difference – we never drove for more than two hours without stopping for a stretch, a snack, to change drivers, or to look at something. We never drove more than six hours in one day. We had plenty of time to take our time and to be spontaneous along the way. The only pieces that were really cast in stone were getting to our reserved campgrounds each day and getting to the race on time.

I guess, when you think about it, being pregnant is a bit of a loose plan. You know that baby is going to arrive sooner or later – one can’t stay pregnant forever, thank goodness! You just have to accept the baby’s spontaneity as to when! That’s pretty much like life in general! The best laid plans …

Happy Anniversary!

anniversaryJuly – not usually the month most people’s thoughts turn to romance – but it is for me. Hubby & I celebrated 37 married years together on the 10th of this month. Marriage is not necessarily easy, but it can be so totally worth it.

Here’s what we’ve learned about marriage in our years together – yes, hubby helped me write this a few years ago when we were asked to teach a workshop for our congregation at church about how to have a successful marriage. We still use this as our guidebook – because it works!

1. GOD’S MARRIAGE LAW – First and foremost, Heavenly Father has already told us how relationships are supposed to be run. “Thou shalt love thy spouse with all thy heart and shall cleave unto him/her and none else.” Sounds simple – Spencer Kimball explained it further – the word ‘all’ allows for no sharing nor dividing nor depriving. Your spouse is supposed to be preeminent in your life. ‘None else’ eliminates everyone and everything else, so no interest of any sort shall ever take precedence over the companion spouse.

If only we could all do that for our spouses … but … marriage, like life, is a journey. Maturity doesn’t happen at the start of the journey.

2. BE ONE – You and your spouse were commanded to be one. Stand up for and champion your spouse at all times and in all places, especially in front of your children. Have each other’s backs. Be able to count on your spouse and be counted on by your spouse.

Present a united front. Pay compliments to each other privately and publicly. Neither joke nor talk down about your spouse to your friends, other family members, or on social media.

Being one does not mean identical – if you and your partner always agree and always do the same things, one of you is unnecessary! You should have your own interests as well as joint interests, because both of you need to develop into strong, independent people who share common goals and values.

3. WE ARE UNIQUE INDIVIDUALS – Assumptions create problems. Your spouse is not you. Your truth or reality is not your spouse’s truth or reality. He/she perceives differently than you, processes the perceived information differently than you, and takes different actions on the perceived information than you would. There are two versions of every story that happens in your marriage. You know your version. What’s your spouse’s version? What does it feel like for him or her? You probably know how you are suffering. How are they suffering? What would happen if you really, really tried to feel things from their point of view?

4. COMMUNICATION – No man or woman is born knowing how to read minds. Don’t act out your displeasure and expect your spouse to ‘get’ it. Communicate what you feel and what you want. What you cannot communicate controls your life! Communication is NOT two people taking turns talking. Saying the same thing with more volume isn’t going to make your spouse understand it. Saying the same thing 100 more times isn’t going to make your spouse get it.

To communicate well requires you to study and learn how to do it. Even words and sentences that seem crystal clear to you may be completely incomprehensible to your spouse. Generally speaking, you have to start where the other person is, using that person’s frame of reference. You can’t start where YOU are if the other person isn’t in the same place. First, you have to enter the other person’s world and start with what’s familiar to him or her to get their attention.

How do you stop a speeding train? First, you harmonize, meaning you match speed and direction, then you can get on board and gradually influence the controls. Love languages really helps to understand this. When in doubt, give the benefit of the doubt. Express your love in a way your spouse understands at least 5 times per day.

5. THE PROBLEM IS ME – Marriage is sometimes described as two people who have agreed to try to change each other. The truth is – you cannot change other people. All marriages are based on two people. If one of those people changes, the relationship has changed; therefore, you BE the change you want to see. Whatever we resist, persists. Whatever we acknowledge can be changed. Whatever we focus on grows, even if only in our perception. Acknowledge that you are part of the problem, work on changing yourself, and focus only on what is good and awesome about your spouse.

You are completely and totally the source of your own reality. Choose to be miserable or choose to be happy. If there is a problem, it’s probably not that you don’t like your spouse. It’s more likely that you don’t like yourself. Your spouse is like a mirror reflecting your character back to you and you don’t like what you see. Change the only person you actually have the power to change – yourself.

6. IT’S OKAY TO BE ANGRY – It’s unrealistic to expect that you will never be angry. Anger means there is passion there of some sort. It’s okay to go to bed angry, as long as you have a solid commitment to resolve things in the morning. Tired or angry people do not solve problems well.

Children should see that it is okay to disagree, that the disagreement can be resolved, and that disagreements do not equate to lack of love. Sometimes the resolution is to agree to shelve the issue until both of you are wiser and can come up with a solution not presently attainable. Love should never be used as a threat or a weapon in disagreements – only the actual issue should be addressed. There will always be rough spots – keep working at it.

7. CONTROL YOURSELF – Deep breathing and mantras are better than knee jerk reactions. If your spouse does something and you get upset about it, say your mantra to yourself instead of blurting out hurtful reactions. Examples of mantras include:

– Patience and humility
– I loved her/him two minutes before this fight started. When this fight is over, I will want to love him/her again. Be careful what I say.
– I can be right, or I can be happy. Insisting that I am right will not make me happy.

Sometimes you’re too angry or upset to deal with the issue right then. Recognize it, and communicate to your spouse something like, “I’m really upset. I need some time to cool off before I can deal with this.” Remember your spouse can’t read your mind. If you just leave to cool off, what guarantees that they will correctly perceive what you are doing, if you don’t express it?

8. BOUNDARIES – Although this seems slightly contradictory to the last point, there must be boundaries in the relationship. Peace at any price is bad for the marriage. If the passive partner is always stuffing their feelings in the interest of maintaining peace in the relationship, the relationship is neither healthy nor growing. The only people who want to be in a relationship with a victim are either another victim or a bully. Healthy people don’t like the passive/aggressive behavior and the martyrdom that go with the victim role. And, it is not possible to bury negative feelings without also affecting the positive ones. So, my advice is this: don’t be afraid to rock the boat. Don’t BLAME your partner for problems in your marriage, but if you aren’t willing to put your foot down and occasionally draw a line and say “I will not go beyond this line and I will not accept you going beyond it,” then the sparks, the energy that drives your relationship will begin to die, to be replaced with things like resentment, depression, loss of passion, loss of sexual desire, loss of emotional intimacy, loneliness, apathy, emptiness, and so on. The opposite of love is not hate or anger, it’s apathy. Fighting, or disagreeing, usually means you really care about something. Refusal to fight usually means you either don’t care about the issue, or you don’t care about yourself.

There are good ways and many bad ways to fight. The key is to express your feelings in an appropriate way that allows you and your spouse to deal with them and resolve them. Feelings have to be acknowledged and dealt with, not buried.

Learn how each other fights so as not to misinterpret behaviors, express how you feel with correct words, keep the disagreement between yourselves and do not attempt to recruit other family members to ‘your side’, understand that your spouse’s feelings and opinions are important even if you don’t understand them, and remember that it’s easier and more gratifying to say “I’m sorry” than it is to defend your actions. Apologize quickly and sincerely. Accept responsibility for your part in whatever negative happens in the marriage.

Inappropriate ways to fight include expressing your feelings with negative actions like sabotage, withholding love, sulking, silent treatment, leaving, physically threatening, turning to addictions, name calling, keeping score, tearing down your spouse in public, and continuing to repeat the same patterns and behaviors that don’t work.

9. MAINTAIN CONFIDENCES – marriage is a sacred relationship. Treat it like your greatest treasure. Private stuff stays private. Intimate life, idiosyncrasies, arguments, histories – none of it is to be shared with family, friends, or social media. If you really need to talk to someone about what is going on in the relationship, seek professional help where you are assured that strict confidentiality is observed. Do not share with friends. Do not share with parents or siblings.

10. IT TAKES WORK – marriage is like fitness – you have to work at it regularly or it weakens. You don’t get to coast or it falls out of shape, just like you would. Another analogy: marriage is like a garden – without watering, weeding, and nourishing it, nothing good is going to grow. Put the marriage FIRST. As Gordon B. Hinckley said when you die all the work and stress and running around you did will not matter at all. The ONLY thing that will matter is the relationships you have built.

Did You Miss Me?

Did you miss me? I hope so!

If you’ve been with me for a long time, you might have noticed that I took the last eight weeks off from producing newsletters. It seems I haven’t yet learned to ‘not bite off more than I can chew’, and I had done it to myself LOL.

What with teaching two online iridology courses for which I was creating all original teaching materials (textbook, slides, videos), spending time on a regular basis with my aging parents who live in another city, and maintaining my client base – it just got to be too much. In the end, it was the newsletters that had to go – but just for a while.

Now that the iridology content is created and is in the refinement stages, I can start working out a few hours each week (I’ve missed that over the last eight months), spend time with my parents and help them get their house ready to sell, take excellent care of my family and clients, and prepare content for newsletters. Thank goodness I have three amazing assistants: Linda, who edits everything I write, then compiles and formats the newsletters; Jason, who does the video editing; and Howard, who edits all the graphics we use in newsletters and on the websites. I have learned to rely on them heavily – and they do an amazing job of catching and correcting my mistakes and offering suggestions to improve the end result.

Why do I tell you this? Well, some of us are prone (as in ‘genetically programmed’) to not be able to sit still and to overestimate what we can get done in a specific period of time. Some of us are not very good at creating boundaries and saying ‘no’. It’s one of those lessons that sometimes takes a lifetime to learn. I’ve learned it’s okay, and even good, to assemble a team to get stuff done. It doesn’t matter if it’s a work project like the newsletters or the iridology course, a health project like getting back into shape, or a personal project like getting the yard work done. As the old saying goes, many hands make light work – and add to that, it’s often more enjoyable to work alongside someone than to work solo.

Now that things are under control for the moment, we’ll get back on schedule and you’ll be hearing from me more regularly. I hope that’s okay with you!