I Formed My Habits; and My Habits Formed My Future. – j.t.

Wow! That must make me accountable for what I’ve done! Well, I guess we all are. Aren’t we? Yes, even before we knew better and learned what NOT to do. The sooner we accept that, the better outcomes we’ll have. After all, our habits, good or bad, are learned in our environment.

When we’re kids, we’re at our parent’s mercy. Really, we are. They can only do as well as they know how to do. And it goes on and on, until someone realizes the habits aren’t healthy and they need something different in their lives. The one who raises issue with “how it’s always been” is usually criticized unmercifully. But then again, they’re kind of used to it. Put downs sting, but you don’t let on people hurt you. You have a quick wit to answer all sorts of accusations. But inside, you’re dying. And it’s your family who can hurt the most. After all, they have the best ammunition to use. Old habits die hard.

Fifty-one years ago, I got married for the first time. He had a low draft number (bad reason to get married!), and it seemed likely he’d go to Vietnam, like every boy from high school who didn’t go to college. Of course, Mom was against it, but we knew better, as every 18 and 19 year old can tell you. Mom was 19 when she married Dad, and he was 25. If she could have explained why “you just shouldn’t,” I may have listened. Or not. She said if I was getting married, she would plan it or it wouldn’t happen. She planned everything. She is a person who must be in control, so she was in her glory.

In 1982, 11 1/2 years later, I told her I was getting a divorce. Her only comment was, “My grandchildren will starve.” I felt surer they wouldn’t. They didn’t. Her habit is controlling, and she reacts with anger when things don’t fall into place. I had one person, my Aunt Carol, who knew why I had to leave. I was becoming an angry person. I didn’t want to be like Mom was. I love her still, and she honed her habits out of survival in the home and environment she grew up in. She can’t help it, and may not want to at this point. I feel sorry for her inasmuch as she holds her anger like a shield, and is constantly in react mode.

The events of the last month have made an impact on her. She is no longer angry and confrontational about using her walker; she sees it as freeing, she can get around better with less physical danger. Finally! Some progress. Her habits can change. And it will impact her future by enabling her to stay in her beloved home longer. How much longer? I’d be foolish to guess, it’s whenever God decides she needs to go somewhere else.

I’ve had a lot of mindsets/habits to change in my life. Equality for women was a big thing I had to recognize and participate in. Luckily, I continued my education while working and entered the I/T field, where you are paid according to your skills. I personally disliked the old wives tale of analysts not being able to communicate effectively, I was able to show our internal customers I could communicate well and participate in problem solving while speaking to them in English, not tech talk.

I raised my kids with encouragement and support. I wanted them to be independent people, they all learned how to clean, do laundry, and cook. They also knew they would be punished if they did things that were wrong. They knew I would trust them until I couldn’t, and that would be on them. I know we were a good family. Now, we’re in three different states and rarely see one another. Sure, I miss them. I also remember I taught them to take care of themselves, and that’s what they’re doing.

What habits do I need to change? Several. We’ll talk about that another day. What habits do you need to change? Are you willing to do the work? It takes consistency towards a new behavior to change a habit. Working out, eating healthy, losing weight, lowering your blood sugar, all take a big effort. You can get there to do anything you decide you can do. Even change your life! I did. I’m so grateful for these last 40 years of not being married to the father of my kids. I would never have made all these good changes with him. He wanted everything to remain exactly the same as it was in 1970. And that just couldn’t be for me.

I’m grateful to those who are in this part of my journey. The Babe is very supportive of my writing. The kids are, too. I’m grateful for that. Yes, everything is going to be ok. I know in my heart it will. Just go to Plan B. I’m going to thrive at this time in life. You can too. Shall we go together? Let’s!

Sharing these books as the ones I want to devour in the next month or so. Women authors, a couple friends, a couple Facebook friends. Supporting each other. I finished Tammy Marshall’s “Ticker Tape,” yesterday. It was great. I’ll go into more detail another day. And I love Rebecca Cooper’s FB shares. So raw. So real. And Carol Gino! She makes me think about things. I love her stories about angels all around us. Joy Johnson Brown’s The BOOB Girls Books! I do believe she may have been my older sister in another life. Go figure! We just need to be aware. Be aware today. Let’s talk about that another day. Thanks for reading, I appreciate it. Have a beautiful day, see you tomorrow!

My Fall Picks to Read.

If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes

Whatever habit we need to change, if we don’t change it, nothing will change. We have to put in the work. Henry Van Dyke said, “As long as habit and routine dictate the pattern of living, new dimensions of the soul will not emerge.”

If we want to lose weight, we need to cut calories and increase activity. No shortcuts. Yes, it’s hard. The Babe and I started Keto in October, 2020. We’ve lost 25 pounds each, and we’re happy with that amount so far. To reach the end goal, however, we need to get back to the habits we changed and implement them once again. We had a great weekend with some splurges included, and are ready to get back to work again.

If I want to write and publish books, I need to enact some different habits as well. All things considered, I need to build in some time to let my back rest during the day, so I can work longer at the computer. It’s hard to work around a disability, but I have to figure something out. I have books inside of me that need to be published and shared.

We have to be ready to risk the comfort of old ways for the prospect of a new tomorrow. The new tomorrow can be having a healthier body and extended life. The new tomorrow can be contributing to the happiness of others by writing entertaining books. The new tomorrow can also be modifying any part of your life that causes you distress; such as an addiction or unhealthy habit.

Often, the addicted person thinks they are in control of their world. That thinking is always wrong; they are not in control, nothing could be further from the truth. They are under the control of their addiction. Denial is at it’s best when addiction, enabling, or justification is happening. If we don’t challenge those bad habits, justifications, or enablers, we’re stuck. We’ll never get beyond the discomfort in our lives. Our negative behaviors continue. We find no hope. We mope that we’re unhappy.

We don’t sense we need changes in life unless we get very uncomfortable. We go through the same old motions day after day. We can’t produce anything else. Until we decide to change. We need to commit to lose the weight, stop drinking or doing drugs, quit smoking, let your kids accept the consequences of their actions, learn something new, do something we’ve always wanted to do.

Change. It’s usually for the good. Whether we want to at first or not. It’s so worth it. Good things are ahead. You will find more folks like you. You never guessed there were so many. Reach out, you’ll find them. You can learn and grow together. Life has so much to offer. Making the most of it feels so much better than being stuck in a rut. There is life after addiction, after kids, after the job. What do you want to do for the next twenty years of your life? Change what you need to, keep what works. Your life will change for the better.

Thank you for reading tonight. The morning was full of doctor appointments for the Babe; he’s fine, they were just annual checks on the carotid artery surgery from two years ago. All is good. Sometimes it’s a little scary, and we’re nothing but grateful things are good. We will see each other earlier tomorrow. Be Safe out there!

Memories – 2002

In going through some old writing I had from grief seminars with the Centering Corporation in Omaha, Nebraska, I found a couple things I’ve held onto. It would have been in about 2002, when I turned 50 years old. A huge mark in a person’s life, but for me it was the dawning of some premature events.

I went on disability at 48, I was unable to continue working due to the condition of my spine. I continued working for five years, and just couldn’t physically handle sitting all day anymore. My work place was more than accommodating. The Babe and I were married about four years. He told me I didn’t have to work. It never dawned on me to quit.

The header photo is a collage I made of my feelings in 2002, depicting how I felt about being placed on LTD. It was very hard to adjust to. I’d been working for twenty years, got an education while raising my kids, bought my own home, and climbed the corporate ladder. I was approaching where I would get to have the time of my life. And my career ended. All the words dealt with my medical issue, which you “couldn’t see.” “Doing What I Love?” I hadn’t thought of anything. ” I am data,” spoke to there being no data on someone recovering from what I had. I was written up in medical journals, complete with a digital photo of my arachnoid cyst squeezing my spinal cord. The pain was unbelievable. And for the big 5-0? I went on MEDICARE, for crying out loud. Fifteen years early. I was embarrassed. I certainly did not look 65. I felt I had no control over anything. I finally learned to grieve properly about that loss, and adjust to my new life. Thank you, Joy Johnson Brown and Dr. Mary Hansen! You ladies have taught me so much about living.

There was a session about expressing grief. It was through poetry. As nearly as I can remember, I must have written a poem about My Dad’s Hands. I’ll leave you with these thoughts.

MY DAD’s HANDS

Big, Outstretched, and Warm

I always felt safe

When Dad reached down

and took my small hand in his.

Crossing the street

Into the Doctor’s Office

Upstairs a million steps to the dentist’s smelly office

I knew he would protect me.

As I grew, I noticed

the nicotine stained fingers,

the Pressman’s ink,

the Mechanic’s grease,

and I saw some of his many talents.

His beautiful signature

The thousands of books he’d read

The golf clubs he treasured

The grandchildren he’d held after

He was sure they wouldn’t break.

How cold and small they seemed

With the IV’s inserted

As that modern plague Cancer

Sucked the breath from his lungs,

But not the love for him from my heart.

Dear Dad,

Things are coming along here. It’s been a long time since you’ve seen how crazy this planet is, and especially the country we live in. I’d love to get your opinion on all the goings on, from the Pandemic to Politics, to our Military, to technology. I’d love to linger with you over a keyboard and show you what you could read, right at your fingertips.

I know how you loved Kaiser’s Book Store in downtown Omaha. You’d most likely still want to hold the books in your hands to read, I prefer that, too. It’s an option, though. As quickly as you read, you might enjoy it. Speaking of books, I’m writing several. Too many ideas that seem good. I couldn’t pick a favorite, it would be like picking your favorite child.

I’m also working with an attorney to establish a publishing company. I want to have control over my publications. I’m concerned if I publish traditionally, I’d may not recognize my work. If someone makes me an offer, I can’t refuse, great. Otherwise, I’ll go it alone. I think you’d be proud; I am. That’s hard for me to get used to saying; I’m not used to saying it. It’s not ego talking, it’s confidence. I’ve gained more of that since you died. I remember where we all came from. Humble roots. I thank you for all you provided; not just physical things, but also the example you set every day. It is one I try to follow, and one I hope my kids remember.

Writing a book or several has been a dream of mine for a long time. My Becky encouraged me to get going. She’s a wise young woman, married with two beautiful children, a girl and a boy. You would love them. Nick married and lives in Kansas City. Frankie still lives in Omaha, he’s still cooking. He’s quite good at it. They’re all good.

Today would have been your Happy 97th Birthday! What an accomplishment it would be! Maybe I’ll make it to that age. I’m hoping. You weren’t born yet during the Spanish Flu, and I can tell you, living during a pandemic is scary. I don’t need to tell you that. You always kept us away from harm, in your own way. Even though other kids went barefoot and wore thongs, oops, Dad, thongs now refer to underwear, I mean sandals or flip-flops. Yes, I’m serious, Dad. You wouldn’t believe some things people are doing.

We’re actually wearing masks when we’re around other people; I know with your medical knowledge, you’d be all for that. Masks, questionnaires, drive up testing sites, and people just staying home from March last year through December 31, 2020. It came from China, and I know you wouldn’t approve being friendly with them, or with Russia. Even North Korea. Yes, that god-forsaken place where you served your country during the “Conflict.” I know a couple Korean Veterans, and I tell them about you. I’m still proud to be your daughter. You left an imprint on my heart and my being, and I miss you, but not weirdly. I just wanted more good times with you. Conversations. Sharing. And you seeing your grandkids grow up. They’re up there in age now (but then I am too!)

Mom let me send for your military medals. You were a badass! Sorry, I know I shouldn’t talk like that. It’s true. Yes, you never called attention to yourself. For anything. I didn’t know you carried a black rosary in your trouser pocket every day, just like you did in WWII and Korea. You were deeply spiritual, and no one knew. It was between you and God. I like that. You always were a very “do it, move on, and don’t brag about it.” That is one of your best qualities. I hope to be that way, too. I don’t enjoy talking about myself and the Babe. He’s got to be the one you pulled strings for to meet me. It wouldn’t surprise me. He has a lot of your qualities, including loving me unconditionally. You’d love him, too. Thanks.

I’m going to keep writing in 2021. I want to publish some books. It would be so cool to hold a book with my name as the author. It’s not to make a living, it’s to make something in my life. It’s the achievement I’m going for. You taught me well; I’m just going to go for it. Doing my homework all along the way. Learning all I can. It’s enjoyable. I love it. Stretching, reaching, serving. Thank you. Happy Birthday, Dad.

The Babe and I Wish You All a Happy New Year!

Reading to Your Child

There is a meme out there stating something about the trees getting ready to show us how wonderful it is to let go of things. That’s a great thought. But with trees letting go, the process isn’t really over until we clean up the leaves, use them for compost, or putting them in our yard waste containers. Unless you live in a forest, then they leave things where they fall.

The sun rises much later, at least where we live. It sets much earlier, also, and we use the fire place on mornings it’s really cold. Not much, but we do in case it’s too cold. Usually, we warm up during the day, and it’s bearable. We’re hoping our furnace makes it through another winter. The house is probably ten years old, and HVAC systems don’t last much longer than that. Hope and Holy Water might help.

My writing coach Sam and I broke down the steps in writing a scene today. It made perfect sense. She may make me into an outliner yet. I have been a pantster, and it’s pretty unpredictable. Although some good stuff still can be written that way. I would guess an accomplished writer would be more successful at it than a rookie like me.

I am going to create some scenes, and build on more details later. It should lead me on a better path than what I have been on. There are so many words, sometimes it’s hard to pick the right ones. Keeping on task and staying in the scene will make all the difference in the world. Now, to just do it!

Isn’t this phenomenal?

One of my favorite things to do is read to little kids. They sometimes act as if they aren’t listening, but they are. They may have a favorite part of the book they pretend about, and do it well. Those are rich opportunities for their little minds, like little sponges, sopping up everything around them. I hope they are all good things. Our little ones deserve a childhood filled with wonderment, curiosity, learning, and security. Holding them while reading can instill most of this. Help your child’s life have a good start. Read often and willingly. They will appreciate it.

Isn’t This Fun?

Whatever you call it, it’s fun to read. Share it with your favorite young person today. You’ll be glad you did! I’m so glad to be working with Sam Tyler, my Writing Coach. We dissected a scene today, and really broke down all the elements to an effective one. It all makes sense when she talks about it, and it makes a huge difference in what I want to do. Thanks, Sam!

We all can be better at what we call our passion. We have abilities far beyond what we are using, we all do, be they physical, creative, scientific, or repairing things. If we all would use our gifts to their max imagine what kind of lives we could have. Not in terms of monetary wealth, but of satisfaction with our efforts and our lives. A good feeling could make our lives better, our interactions better, and our group of associates better. Not a lot is wrong about improving on what you do now.

I See You

Thank you all for reading today. I appreciate it so much. Be kind to each other, be patient. someone needs your kindness today. Be generous with it. You may need it someday. See you again tomorrow!

Thoughtful Thursday 9/3/2020

Today is a bittersweet day. My cousins and I will gather to lay one of our own to rest this afternoon. Mom is not coming, I’m sure, due to her limited vision and hearing. It’s a very windy day today, and the Omaha National Cemetery will have even more wind. It just seems wrong to be grieving one of our own so soon. Sure, some of us are in our late sixties, but we’re hanging on. Truth be told, it’s amazing we are still all alive. When you think of accidents, illnesses, we have been fortunate. It is a whole different feeling to bid farewell to someone without our older generations present.

We have become the older generation, right now. How did that come to pass? It seems like I was babysitting younger cousins not too long ago. I suppose fifty years has gone by quickly for them, too. Looking back, it didn’t take long at all. We are parents, grandparents, partners, workers, who were all raised with a good work ethic, a sense of law and order, and concern for our fellow humans. I can only hope the children we all have will make the world a better place for all of our grandchildren. It’s quite poignant when you think of it. Our grandparents felt much the same sixty years ago.

Before the service, cousins and I talked about how old all the little kids were, and how dare they all grow up. We truly are the next group in the rotation. Those little kids have kids, and they’re not so little anymore. That’s what families do – they sometimes grow apart, they lose touch, and reacquaint during days like these.

Somber. Sad. Sober. But paying tribute to a man who, as a very young man, made a promise to his country, and kept that promise beyond anything else in his life at that time. I’m grateful to have been a part of his life as a kid, and I marvel at the beautiful carpentry work he could do as a grown man. He was a dad, a grandpa, a brother to his sister and brother, a son to his parents. The three of them will reunite in heaven.

His family has the loss, the empty chair to deal with at holiday dinners, the extra Christmas stocking to hang or not hang, the pictures to divide up. Cherish your people. Take photos. Apologize. Even if they were wrong, apologize. Reconcile while you still are able. Don’t let it be too late.

Clinging to a mistake, just because it took a long time to make it, is just not a good thing to do. Sure, it’s uncomfortably comfortable, you know what to expect, you don’t risk anything. Well, except your life, your future, your happiness. Breaking out of a bad place to stay is courageous. It’s to be admired. It’s unnerving to witness if you think your life is comfortable. When you leave the comfort of your life for the unknown, it is scary. Scary good and bad at the same time. Persistence and tenacity is what wins out. Over thirty years ago, I made an unpopular decision and divorced my first husband. We were married eleven and a half years. The last year and a half, I was very unhappy, unfulfilled, and felt unloved, more like the help than the wife.

I found out I wasn’t wrong. I made a mistake in marrying so young, and for picking the person I did. I believe that is the kindest way to put it. I outgrew him. He was contented at 31, to be who he was then, for the rest of his life. I felt stuck in a story I didn’t write, living a life that I didn’t really choose. I needed to grow and learn more than I knew. It was the best thing I ever did. Yes, I made mistakes. My kids and I were happy. We worked hard. We laughed a lot. I worried a lot about money and all of that, but it worked out. And we’re still standing.

I was very fortunate to find someone who is a fine man. He is smart, experienced in life, and has a loving presence that reveals how much caring he does for those around him. He is very motivated to do a good job at whatever he tries. We fit very well together. Timing was everything in our lives, to meet when we did. And God was good to both of us to put us together.

We are in the last third of our lives. Maybe less than that, maybe the last fourth. It matters a lot these days how we spend those we have left, for however long we have them. Enjoyment and happiness trump drudgery and misery any time. Break out. Find some help, it’s out there. Don’t stay just because you’re afraid. That’s exactly why you shouldn’t. No one should have to be afraid. Ever.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Today, Begin! Start towards a different path. Go a different way, learn something new. This is a perfect time to start. And keep going. I’m with you. Many will be right behind you. Just go for it.

Thank you for taking time to read today. I appreciate it so much. I will blog much earlier tomorrow, as we all begin a long weekend, the last holiday of summer. I’m ready for jeans and hoodies. How about you? Be Safe, Be Kind, Be Courteous, Be Civil.

And, Richard John Wheeler, Sr., RIP, Semper Fi!