Fifth Step: Always Do Your Best.

Imagine my surprise this morning, as I turned to The Fourth Agreement of the Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz: Always Do Your Best. We think we do, but we really don’t. My dad preached to all of us to do our best. Whatever we do, do it with every bit of our being; homework, building a science project, or as adults at work. Do it to the best of our ability. Why?

Ruiz says if we do our best, we live intensely. We’re more productive (I’m all for that!). You’ll be good to yourself as you give yourself to your family, friends, community and everyone else. It’s in the act you feel good. I can tell for myself, as I’ve rearranged my morning time spent, I’m creating more. I’m getting started on feeling accomplished. I’m getting things done. My stress is less. Yes, I can see the future I’ve been working so hard at for the past few years.

Most people have jobs instead of careers. They are miserable and can’t wait for whenever payday is, welcome the weekend with open arms, and dread Monday morning. During my single mom years, I suppose I was a bit of a workaholic. I’d work for the OT on Saturday mornings. My kids were old enough to stay alone, watch cartoons, and pour milk on their own cereal, while I worked 4 hours from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Once home, we’d start on cleaning, laundry, doing yard work, etc. I miss the energy but not the stress that came with it.

Yes, many people misuse those two days called the weekend. Chances are, deep down, we’re unhappy. The work is dull and boring but we need the benefits. When you’re unhappy, you try to escape; into more work, going to the bar, and the rest of the story isn’t pretty. Sure, I visited drinking establishments; I had to see what the hype was all about. It took about a year for the luster to wear off. I quit going out, looked forward to staying home with the kids on Friday nights, doing laundry, and being grateful.

Once we accept ourselves, learning from each mistake, we develop stronger personalities. We learn to stand up for ourselves. Things don’t bother us. We can say with total honesty of our word, “I did my best.” I can tell you, living a life with chronic pain and disability since 1995, many days, my best is disappointing. No one but me is judging, but I’m learning to know it’s nothing I’m doing on purpose, it’s simply the hand I was dealt at age 43. Yes I’m used to it; I know what to expect. About every five years, I become significantly worse. Part of it is aging, a lot of it is my condition. I remain grateful to God I can still walk, drive, see, and create beauty for my world.

Further, Ruiz tells us when we enjoy what we’re doing, it isn’t work, you’re doing it because you want to, not because you’re forced to do it. Sure, there are minor things required of us to live in society, living with others, we just do them. Laundry, cleaning, mowing the yard, they’re must do’s to live in a neighborhood with others. I consider them to be necessary evils. I thank God I have many nice clothes, a nice home, and we can see what we’ve worked for. The Babe helps a lot. It’s how his mom raised him. Thanks, Liz!

When we are in the process of action, we are living. We are experiencing living fully. Inaction is siting on the couch watching TV. Sure, I succumb to it now an then, but then realize how fruitless that is. I enjoy a good Netflix binge just as much as the next person. I just don’t allow it all day, every day. I can’t. If I would, I may as well cancel my website, my blog, my works in progress, give away all my fabric, art supplies . . .

Ruiz also says when you live, keep your word, never assume, don’t take anything personally, and do your best, your life will be happier, fuller, and reach further into the universe. Who could hope for more than that? What a great way to live.

Last summer, while our friend Lenny was experiencing declining health, I came upon the company, “Live a Great Story.” I have lots of their stickers, magnets, and shirts. It’s a motto I love, and it’s one that makes me remember Lenny. He was generous to a fault, and kept it hidden. He was somewhat of a curmudgeon until he saw a little kid. Then he lit up. At his funeral, I learned what a generous man he was. He lived a great story, that’s for sure. Dang, we miss you, Lenny. It’s so quiet at our table on Wednesday nights.

These four agreements are staying in a handy place. I will refer to this book often. It will certainly help me putting my kid book out and returning to my novel. I have grown to love my life, despite it’s areas of loss. We were not prepared how to live life older, less agile, and less energy. You cannot make a machine out of the human body, to defy it’s limits – whether the limits are age, accident, illness, disability.

We can conquer doubt and fear by learning to take risks – putting your art out there, your written word, your quilts, your creations. It is possible, and probably the best thing you can do for yourself. Art heals. Quilting heals. Writing heals. I believe it’s my purpose now. Write and help others heal.

My schedule is changed for today. The Babe called to meet for lunch. I’d adjust. It’s what you do when there are two of you. Someday, one of us will not be here. We need to enjoy each other now. No regrets. Have a beautiful afternoon, we’ll see each other tomorrow.

Dad with Grandpa Jewell. Had to have been after WWII.

What Were You Thinking?

Mom did not pose this phrase to us, I recall. Dad was the one who stressed thinking things through before we acted. “Use your head for more than a hat rack!” was his mantra.

We lost the spontaneity of childhood by thinking of consequences before we acted. Of course, if a situation was dangerous, it’s a good thing to pause before acting. Looking back, I’m glad Dad insisted we learn to think first, act second. And yes, we lost spontaneity. That doesn’t matter anymore; I think learning how to problem solve, anticipate an outcome, and weigh one option against another actually helped me. I was a business systems analyst/programmer/coder long before there were many women in the field. It was a sure way to achieve equal pay. Technical abilities are quantifiable. You can keep track and make an assessment of job performance.

I’d never make a good adrenalin junkie. Skydiving is out because of my fragile spine, but I’ll hold your coat while you go! And I’ll cheer you on. Skateboarding, skiing, water sports are all out. There are people who live for that kind of excitement. We know mountain climbers are big risk takers. Sometimes they suffer frostbite, become trapped in avalanches, or die. Success at a big climb is huge. The media is all over it.

When I attend a concert with the Babe, I get a big rush. I take hours to come down from the high. I appreciate the talent and skills our local musician friends all have. It’s hard for me to come down and settle in to go to sleep after we get home. Sometimes it’s 2 a.m. before sleep finds me. But that’s ok. It’s a good thing, an enjoyable thing.

I know I’ll get another rush today when I go to the local nursery to purchase some special geranium plants for the yard. The beauty, the smell of fresh plants, it’s all part of the pleasure there is in the world. I love watching things grow through the summer. The past couple of years, I’ve neglected some plants. I have to form a better habit about that, too. So far, it’s been too cold and rainy for me to even think about the outside. And summer arrived yesterday. It was about 95 degrees. Humid.

And now, I’ve returned from my civic duty of voting, and my mental health improvement project for the summer, purchasing plants for the yard, deck, and patio. Feeling the dirt on my hands, the scent of the flowers, and the satisfaction of watching them grow fills my days with joy. The nursery is in Gretna, and they grow geraniums for the summer, and plant poinsettias for the Christmas season. A small business, they do great things. They start all the plants from the seed. The header is a photo taken this morning.

And as I unloaded the car, I filled the planters by the garage. The four cardboard carriers are now in the entryway. Before I brought them into the house, I looked down and smiled. I smiled because the first photo shows my Mother’s Day bouquet is still alive; second photo shows the hen and chicks are returning for yet another summer, the third photo shows what I need to plant (“What was thinking?”), The fourth and fifth photos show the cute gnome bees at Mom’s doctor’s office last week. I’m doing my part for the bees. How’s that?

Sometimes, folks say it’s no fun being a grownup. Yes, there are bad parts, but there is a lot of fun involved, too. It’s all part of life. Choose to be positive during yours. It helps the bad things more bearable. Time for some lunch now. And off to planting. Unless I take a nap first. We’ll see. Have a beautiful day. See you tomorrow!

Thriving Thursday!

Just about the time we think we have life all figured out, God throws us a curve. Is He just messing with us? Is He offering us a challenge to keep us humble? Or is it a reminder of from whence we came?

I remember from whence I came. It was from a working class, blue collar family. Probably low to mid range income (that doesn’t matter), but I specifically remember many lessons about our effort. It didn’t matter if it was a coloring session with Mom at the dining room table while my brother was at kindergarten, or a lesson from Dad about not accepting a sub-standard science product with an obvious mistake covered by white-out. I struggled with that science project.

It was a great idea. I traced the skeleton of the human body on newsprint. We always had newsprint around for drawing, since Dad worked at the newspaper in the pressroom. When the rolls of paper ran out, they could take the scraps and use for scrap paper at work or at home. I covered a piece of cardboard and made a bootleg easel for my display. Each different kind of bone was outlined with yarn held down by glue. I was a mastermind of creativity!

I was nearly finished, and the ink I was using to make notations of the type of bones left a horrible blob on the paper. Foiled again! Dangit! My fifth grade mind told me, “Go ahead, use white out. It’ll be fine.” Of course, bright white on newsprint to cover an ink blob looks horrible. All that work! No! All Dad said when I proudly showed him was, “You’d better do it over again.”

“What? No. It took so long, I can’t!” I pouted. I wasn’t about to sit there for three hours again. Guess again. Deep down, I knew he was right. Dad was always right. I knew I could do better. It didn’t sit right in my young mind to turn in less than my best work. After dinner, I sat down at the dining room table, while my brothers watched television in the living room, and I re-constructed my masterpiece.

It truly was magnificent, the second time around. It was something I was immensely proud of. I used different colored yarn around each type of bone. The teachers praised me. Dad never said anything more than, “That’s more like it.” Those few words went a long way in teaching me something that has stuck with me for a lifetime. I kept that project until I was well into my 40s. I finally threw it away after telling my kids the story of what it meant to me. I can picture it in my mind, perfectly.

Competing with others isn’t something I’ve done well. Booker T Washington says:

Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.

Measuring success by how we rank with others is necessary in academic world, the work world, and sports. In terms of individuals who are finding and living their own truth, it’s detrimental. We need to only look inside to determine our worth. We don’t have the same abilities, interests, background and experience. How can we compare ourselves to each other? We can’t.

We should be our own heroes. We all know how much effort it takes us to achieve something. Even more when we do it again to do it better, just to satisfy our own feeling of doing our best. It has taken me far in life. When I think of the painfully shy person with no confidence who I was, compared to the extrovert, who loves meeting new people, who is eager to learn from every encounter, and the value I place on relationships, I don’t recognize her.

With encouragement, love, and kindness, I’ve begun to measure my success by the effort and desire I put into the projects I’m working on; whether it’s a quilt or a book or a fundraiser, my heart is in everything I do. I can only feel the satisfaction in my soul upon putting in the work, and doing my best for that day. Thanks, Dad. You taught me well.

Thank you for reading today. Do your best, whatever you do today. I’ll be assembling the Christmas tree, and putting the new Christmas quilt (I bought it – couldn’t make one in time, so I accepted that fact and purchased a cute one) on the bed.

Do the best job you can in your life today. We can have a deep sense of satisfaction for doing it well. It’s a great feeling to have. Don’t stress over your holiday to-do list. If you do, someone has stolen your joy. Let this day be your best. You’ll know when you feel it in your heart. Have a beautiful day, and I’ll see you tomorrow.

#800 Club!

As I’m sitting in our living room, fireplace blazing, dogs chewing on bones and napping, I happened to look at how many of these blogs we’ve shared. 800! Wow! That’s over two years! I’m grateful to each of you for reading. You’ve stuck by reading good blogs and not so good ones. You keep coming back, regardless of how you feel or how much time you have, and you check out what we have to say. I’m delighted with that.

Over 400 of you are following me; no, not in a creepy stalker way (I hope not!), but but you ask to be notified when we publish a new blog. I’m grateful for that! Feel free, please, to post a comment on the blog at WordPress, not just on the Facebook notification. I do appreciate a comment in the Facebook area; I believe others may open up and comment if someone will just start commenting on the blog itself. PM me if you’re not sure where to start. I’ll answer!

As the month of December is on the horizon, I’m looking forward to decorating our home for Christmas. Even without a lot of “company” during the season, I can still enjoy it. Why not? Sure, it’s a lot of work. Sometimes, we just need to do it and quit analyzing it to death. Mom and her sisters all went crazy with Christmas decorating. Mom still has more than ten trees, all decorated, in the various rooms of the old family home. Some she leaves up all year.

When I was a kid, it was an extravaganza when Mom decorated the house and tree. The fake mantle was always decked out, complete with the sequined Christmas Stocking her mother made for each grandchild. It was a nice thing of Grandma to do that. Mine didn’t have my name on it, so I let my daughter have it. I put her name on with glue and green glitter. She left it when she moved and got divorced, I think. Oh well. She can make her own!

In the 50s and 60s, we had the old antique looking glass ornaments. No plastic whatsoever. Chemically, I believe many of those had mercury and lead in them, but don’t know for sure. It blew my mind how you could see your distorted face in the glass balls. Yes, I was easily entertained. It’s one of the things the Babe loves about me.

Dad would wait until later in the month (probably mid-December) to get our live tree. Sometime as a kid, my grandma had a silver aluminum tree with the light wheel. A good friend of our folks, Alice and Jack, always got spectacular flocked trees, usually in white. Wow. Blew my mind. One year, she gave me a little mint green Kodak camera. I took photos of my little brothers, my dad, anyone who would sit still. Of course, the thrill came from waiting for them to develop from the camera store. You couldn’t just drop them by Walgreens. Click on the blue to check out the history of Walgreens, I found it interesting.

Grandpa Jewell had a Drug Store, Sundries, and Prescriptions. He had a pharmacist, Cliff Chase. Back then, much of the prescriptions were compounded. Mom said the Jewell family didn’t celebrate Christmas until she married Dad. Grandpa always kept the store open in case there was a sick child who needed medicine. Grandpa finally closed his store by 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve, then re-opened the day after Christmas. Quite a feat, I think.

So, just like the Dad in A Christmas Story, mine had to haggle with the salesman. He always went alone, and teased us unmercifully about not being able to find one. One year, he convinced me we had to put it up and drill a hole into the ceiling so the top would be in my closet. Of course, I believed him. He would never lie! He was the King of Dad Jokes, before there were Dad Jokes!

After much grousing, he would set the tree up in the stand, and let the branches fall. Sometimes, they fell completely off, since he was also the King of buying Charlie Brown trees. He’d drill a hold into the skinny trunk, then put glue in the hole. He’d whittle the end of the branch until it fit. Once it dried, you never knew. Well, Mom did. She never let him forget it. We laughed as we grew older. When the Grinch came out as a thing, his favorite phrase was, “Bah Humbug.” Truer stuff never happened. My older brother and him exchanged a gift wrapped in paper with “Bah Humbug” all over it.

As I return to my novel for today, I am warmed by the memories of Christmas instilled in us by Mom and her sisters. My cousins all know what I mean by Christmas addictions. They’ve all lost their mom’s, so if they’d like to have their memories jogged, I’m sure Mom would love a visit for you all to view her tree addiction. I mean collection. It’s from where we all came! Thanks for reading today, our #800 Blog! See you all tomorrow!

Happy Father’s Day, Dads!

Although this is a grainy photo, sent to me from a cousin in California, it’s a touching one. It’s my dad, with his dad. And I’m not sure of the story about the puppy. I wish I could learn the story behind the whole photo.

Thomas M. Jewell, Jr and
Thomas M. Jewell, Sr

Life is full of stories. They are carried through generations and shared, each adding their special enhancements to it. Unless it’s written down. Families of old have many nooks and crannies in them. Around the Depression era, many men left families to find work elsewhere. I have heard Grandpa was in an orphanage, the oldest of ten children.

With no father of his own, he took on the role of provider for his mother and siblings. As a child aged out of the orphanage, they returned home or struck out on their own. Back in those days, Father’s were the bread-winners, and they may be the disciplinarian. The “heart” of the family was the Mother, who took care of the family and home on her own. She worked 24/7.

My dad would change diapers, at the same time, he left most of it to Mom. He was a day sleeper and night worker, so we didn’t get a lot of interaction with him, really. I was always sure he loved me, though. He always took me to the doctor, always after school, and Mom made dinner so Dad could eat after the appointment, and go to work.

Dad knew I was scared of the doctor. He was a huge, tall man, with big hands, who didn’t enter the room, he burst into the room. I had a very badly infected ingrown toenail once, and it involved deadening the toe, and removing the infected flesh. It was so painful. I cried, Dad comforted me. At each follow up visit, he talked to me about the Army, and explained what all the items were in the room; what the gauze was for, the purpose of the swabs, and on and on. He distracted me from my fear and taught me a lot of things. That was my dad.

He was always there for me as I grew older. He suggested I re-do a science project once. I didn’t want to, but he said I’d be happier with it. He was right. He was always right. I loved watching him with my kids. He was such a good male figure for them. He had a bond with my Frankie that is still appreciated by my son. He loved my kids. And me. And he told me they were good kids, I was doing a good job. He always encouraged me. I miss him after all this time. I wish he could have met the Babe. They would have been fast friends. They will be, someday.

If you still have your dad, you are lucky. Even bad dads teach you something. Maybe it’s what NOT to be. Anyone who looks over you, keeping a protective watch can be a father figure. Many, many people who do not have Fathers in their home can turn out well. Sure, it helps to have two parents, sometimes that is not possible. Tell your Dad thanks today. Keep your memories fresh. They will be all you have someday.

Have a beautiful, sunny day today. It’s sort of breezy out, full sun. I plan to spend the day doing something fun. See you tomorrow!

Indy 500 Day in America

This weekend is one full of memories. Not just of the American Soldiers, who died for our freedoms, but for traditions in families to celebrate the holiday. No, it has nothing to do with the grilling, the parades, the department store sales, but how families remember on this day.

I fondly remember visiting the cemetary with Grandma Bobell. They would leave flowers for Grandpa. Grandma would say, “Just add this year on my side of the headstone. I can’t believe I’ll live much longer.” Kind of a drama queen, but that’s what she did. Mom told me it was because of the guilt she felt for arguing with Grandpa before he died. He had a heart attack and died on Christmas Eve. It was awful.

We didn’t go visit anyone else’s grave. We would go home, and Dad would be in the basement, in his workshop, with the AM Radio tuned in. Back in those days, the Indy 500 was broadcast on radio. This was before the wonders of Closed Circut Television.

Dad hoovered near his radio all day, until the race was over. He enjoyed having his time alone, listening to racing. He and his friend, Tom Sloboth, had their own little racing team back in the 1940s. Maybe even into the 50s, I’m not sure. Dad was the mechanic and body man, his brother Bob helped out, and Tom was the driver. I would guess they had a heckuva time. In the 1960s, Dad built a go-kart and we’d take it out on on Sunday afternoon to large, deserted parking lots. We never got to drive it alone, but it was fun to watch. Mom usually seemed bored or mad we’d have to do that. With two younger kids (baby and toddler) it was hard to contain them. Sometime his friend Tom and family would come, too.

Once Closed Circut TV was created, tickets were sold to the Omaha Civic Auditorium, where you could watch the live race via CCTV. Dad and Tom were in heaven! It was a miracle! Finally, in 1965, ABC started a 52 year long tradition of televising the race on National TV. A race fan’s idea of heaven! We knew all the names from listening over the years. AJ Foyt reminded me of Dad’s friend Tom. He seems like a mountain of a man, deep voice, and I wouldn’t want AJ mad at me. Right?

Dad held extreme dislike for Jackie Stewart. I’m guessing it was his long hair and hat. Dad was pretty conservative as far as haircuts went. Long hair wasn’t acceptable. America was changing, and I don’t think Dad liked it. When Cable TV came along in the 1980s, Dad loved watching NASCAR races. He saw so many changes to something he loved during the last twenty years of his life. He’d be amazed at the Internet, the vast amount of information we can access, and the ease of doing it all. I think he would have enjoyed this part of life.

We never were a family to have picnics or go to any body of water. Since Memorial Day was assigned to the last Monday of May, it was his normal day off. We just stayed home. I missed hearing that radio from the basement once the 500 was available on television. Some of the tradition changed. It was cool Dad could sit in his recliner and watch something he loved. But not Jackie Stewart. Ever.

What are your traditions for this weekend? Do you still honor them? Would you want to? Leave some comments so we can see what the majority of folks do. Thank you for reading, I appreciate it. Be Kind. Be Polite, we’re not used to being in crowds anymore. We need to get used to each other again. Be Patient! I will see you tomorrow. It will be Memorial Day at the Post. Beautiful tradition for the Babe and me.

We read a lot of books every holiday.

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!

Love you, Dad

I don’t recall Pearl Harbor. I wasn’t born yet. In fact, I would be over a decade in arriving on this planet. We grew up having a great respect for our country, our Armed Forces; after all, Dad was a medic/support person in both WWII and Korea. I’ve told this story before, but please cut me some slack. Today is the day, in 1988, that we told him goodbye. Nothing has hurt that badly since. I wouldn’t let it. I retreated from everyone I loved; even my children. And for that, I’m sorry, guys. I just didn’t know how to handle what I felt. All I knew was I wanted nothing to hurt that badly again.

Not being unkind, my mom is like a Drill Sergeant. Very stoic. We never saw her cry. I’ve not heard her say she misses him, not even once. If my brothers and I were all together in her presence, she would get angry if we talked about him. We didn’t know what to do. We needed to grieve together, and that didn’t happen. They had taught Mom to be that way. It’s what got her through. We all had unhealthy ways of coping with those feelings of loss. It wasn’t pretty.

My oldest son was seventeen. They diagnosed dad with lung cancer on Frankie’s birthday. Cancer, the gift that kept on giving. Fifty-one days later, Dad died. He lost over fifty pounds. I’m glad he didn’t lose his hair. He had beautiful hair and was a handsome man. I learned to listen to Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Harry James, and how beautiful Lena Horne was from Dad. All significant memories. No one can take those from you. Dad spent a lot of time with Frankie, and taught him what to look for when you buy a used car, etc, etc, etc. Dad was the best male influence on all my kids.

My younger son, at thirteen, grieved openly and hard. He gets it all out of his system, and he’s done. He remembers funny things, and he tells us stories and asks questions. He was such a brainiac. Dad loved to tease him and his little sister, Becky. She was “Dolly” to Dad. He adored her, and I loved that he did. He told me what good kids they were.

I’d see him every weekday at the hospital, over my lunch hour. We talked about lots of stuff. We talked more in those fifty-one days than we had in my life. It was wonderful. The last thing he told me, on my lunch hour, Wednesday, December 7, 1988 was, “Sis, I just can’t fight this anymore. I’m tired.” I took his glasses, covered him up, kissed him on the forehead and told him, “Do what you’ve got to do, Dad. I’ll always watch out for Mom. Love you.”

At 4:20 p.m., Mom called me at work and said, “Call your brothers, you all need to come.” around 5:45 p.m., he passed. Quietly. Painlessly. No more pain. Thank God we had such a wonderful dad. He was tough, no doubt about that. You learned lessons, as we should have. The thing I learned most from him was “Do it right, or don’t bother.” I hear his voice while I’m writing. I feel his encouragement. No one can take that from me. I miss you and love you.

Dad’s Medals. I wrote to get them in 2016. He’s my hero, always. Two Bronze Stars? Bad Ass.

I learned a better way to grieve. I have told my kids about my mistakes and apologized. It’s a case of hoping they learn from your mistakes. It’s a gift when you do that for your kids. It’s a way to stop the craziness that travels from generation to generation. People always used to keep things to themselves. “Don’t tell your business.” Now, with social media, perhaps people share too much. We need to put aside the idea that we know everything, how to do everything. No one is that balanced; after all, we’re human and full of flaws! It’s a courageous act to admit it. And then learn a better way to do something. Ah, balance.

I know Dad would love the Babe. They have similar qualities. Deep sense of right, deep love and caring of others, firm yet fair. I was lucky my kids were good people; they have all turned out well. It’s the best thing you can hope for. It was hard to transition into being an empty nester. When you’re busy providing and working and studying and family dinners every night, you build up a momentum you keep on until you look around one day, and by gosh, they’re gone! On their own! You raised them to do that, now what?

You decide to write a book, and you write a blog, and you work with a book coach to learn. Life is good. We balance life. Life is the Babe and me, making the most of it; in sickness and health, in pandemic and wellness, in respect for the unknown and certain. We’ll make it. Together.

Thank you for reading today. I appreciate it. Spread happiness, not the Pandemic. Be Kind. Be Safe. Be Careful. Count your Blessings. We all have a lot. See you tomorrow!

Friday Facts, Just for Fun

The week is nearly over. It’s been a strange one. I’ve had a second COVID test, it’s negative. I’ve had swollen glands in my neck that turned into nothing, just a weird viral infection. Glad for that. We’ve had a couple of socially distanced dates this week, and they were nice. Tonight, we’re meeting up with the kids and grandkids for dinner to reconnect. Since Gavin got his own puppy, he’s been pretty busy caring for Josie instead of coming to visit Goldie and Lexie. We miss him, too! And Addison.

Cross Country is now over, so it’s back to picking our girl up from school to help out Mom and Dad. We love it. She’s full of stories to tell. I should think back to those ancient times and remember what it’s like. Your priorities are certainly different, that’s for sure.

This is 10,000 % TRUE!

There have been massive attempts this week to hack my FB page, my Twitter Account, my Instagram Account, and my email. I think it’s a coincidence. In the process of changing passwords 8,392 times, I got a little jammed up and the blog didn’t post Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday this week. I believe it’s been fixed now, and I re-posted to keep up. I couldn’t believe my stats went from 60 readers on Monday to 0 on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Technology can be a real bugger when it’s misbehaving. In case you missed them, here they are again: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

I am reading “Charms for the Easy Life,” by Kaye Gibbons. I picked it up at the used book store last time I took Mom. It’s a beautiful story, about three Southern women, who have their own family, with no men. The men folk left their women behind. Took off and never showed back up again. The Grandmother reacted very differently to the situation. She is a homeopathic healer, herbalist, and the like. She is very clear, however, she does not practice voodoo. And she will not use the power to maim anyone. She is a rock, the whole area in walking distance depends on her. It’s a fascinating story.

I’ve read 122 pages of the 254 in the book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. And I sort of forgot to see how the scenes took place in only one place at a time, the characters were solidified through dialogue for backstory (boy, were they!), and I can’t wait to see how the second and third generations handle being left by the men in their lives who are supposed to be reliable, steadfast, and kind. The grandfather and father of the girl telling the story were totally opposite of those characteristics.

The author uses a phrase to define the matriarch, “who is a self taught healer, treating everything from broken bones to broken hearts. They are protected by the eccentric wisdom and muscular love of the remarkable matriarch Charlie Kate, a solid, uncompromising,” I love the phrase muscular love. It sounds unbreakable, solid, and something you can count on always. We all need that kind of love in our lives. Unconditional love is like this.

It makes me appreciate my dad so much. He never wavered in working and taking care of his family. He loosened up and enjoyed his oldest grandson Frankie a lot. He took him on excursions to Hobby Town, to shop for used cars, and Frankie adored him. I think it was hardest on my 17 year old son when Dad died. I didn’t think anyone could hurt any more than I did, but I was probably wrong.

This morning, I’m feeling nostalgic. I’m listening to Glen Campbell’s last album, “Adios.” I knew it was a Jimmy Webb song, and previously heard Linda Ronstadt sing it. Linda makes every song lovely. When Glen Campbell sang it, knowing he had Alzheimer’s, it took on a new meaning. He really was telling his fans goodbye. It was beautiful. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if anyone with the disease could say goodbye? Usually it’s too late for that by the time a diagnosis takes place. We don’t get to choose how we go or when. It’s the biggest risk there is in life, is to live every day. Don’t count on doing it tomorrow. You never know what will happen. You need to lead your life as each day is the last. Always let your words with someone be positive. Regrets do no one any good.

The rest of the day? One thing I’m adding to the TO DO list is rewrite my “about” paragraphs. The one I wrote first is ok, but it needs some telling about me. That’s hard for me to do. Really. I don’t talk a lot about myself, believe it or not, because I had never thought I was that noteworthy. That’s not a lack of confidence, at least I don’t think it is. What do you say? What would you say about me, if you’ve been following me very long. Seriously, add it in the comments below. Maybe you can help me with ideas I need that are better than the ones I have. Thanks, it’ll be fun reading them.

If you don’t wish to add it in the comments below, add it in the FB comments under the blog when it’s posted. I’d love some ideas. Thanks. And thanks for reading today. Hope you get caught up with the other blogs through the links above. So writing the bio, doing a little writing, and finishing reading my book today are going to happen around Raabe Ranch this afternoon. I appreciate you reading, and will see you again tomorrow!