Celebrating Early Spring

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The groundhog was right! I’m celebrating our early spring. Yesterday I spent an hour outside pulling weeds and enjoying some sunshine on my face. While pulling the weeds, which seem to be more delighted with this bout of early warm weather, I also found scads of sunflowers already sprouting and a three inch high sprig of lemon balm already growing underneath our porch steps. Don’t be a hater. I can’t usually be out doing yard work the last week of February. Usually I’m scraping ice off the windshield to go to work this week. I’m always happy to be able to start yard work by mid-March.

This year, I’m enjoying this early bit of sunshine after a week or two of early spring rains. It’s cool enough that we’re turning on little heaters once the sun goes down and I still need a jacket in the morning hours. But, I’m still doing a happy dance for being able to get my fingers dirty this early in the season. I love that little groundhog. (At least the years he predicts an early spring – and the year’s that he’s right about it.)

To celebrate early spring, I’m extending the February Memory Gardens sale through March. Regularly $9.99, it’s on sale through the end of March for only $4.99!

(This sale is only good through my author page, not through Amazon.)

Following is a snippet from Memory Gardens.

Happy Spring!

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Why Plant a Memory Garden?

To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.

Thomas Campbell

Planting a Memory Garden is a very special tribute to honor the memories of a loved one, or loved ones. It is a way to have a living reminder, where seeing the plant, tending to it and enjoying the beauty of flowers or fragrance brings your loved ones to mind.

Your Memory Garden can be anything you want it to be. It can be as simple as one plant or a single stepping stone to honor someone’s memory. It may be a small corner with a few plants and possibly a piece of statuary. It can also be a more elaborate, full-blown garden with many plants, possibly a winding path and perhaps a small bench or seating area to sit and reflect. Your garden can be any size you wish it to be, according to the space and land you have available, and the number of plants you wish to maintain.

A Memory Garden can be a place of solace, a place to remember and heal. It is a gift you give yourself, a living legacy of memories and love.

A memory garden is just that, a place to recognize and honor memories – those of our loved ones.

A garden is a living memorial for us, the living. It does not bring them back. It does not remove our pain or grief, although for many it does help soothe and soften the grieving.

The planning, the gardening, the caring for living plants nurtures our souls; it is a way for us to say — Here. I place this plant, or this stepping stone, or this statuary, in your honor and memory. It is a symbol. It is a symbol of my love for you. I cherished you in my life. I miss you. I will remember you.

I believe they see our tributes. I am a firm believer in the afterlife, and that our loved ones still know what is happening in our lives. I have too many unexplained coincidences in my own life and experiences that confirms it for me. Does it help to believe my brother is here, that he is sending a message, that he is still involved in my life, yet I can’t see him? Some days, yes. It is comforting. Some days, absolutely not. I want to see him. I want to give him a hug. I want to sit down and have a cup of coffee with him. But, I can’t do that. And sometimes I still get angry about that.

Grief is not a static emotion. It is not a one-way path. We do not walk the pathway of grief, one step at a time, to the end, where we reach ‘non-grief’. We waver. We’re back and forth. Some days are good. Sometimes we drift along towards healing. We go on and live our lives. (We have to. We have no choice.) And other days, there will be one memory, one song, one fragrance, one thought – and we are suddenly back to a painful place that we thought we’d left behind.

Just remember this, on the path of grieving no one’s path is the same. None of our journeys are exactly like another’s. Don’t let anyone tell you what’s ‘normal’, or what’s ‘not normal’. Follow your own heart. Follow your own healing.

Yes, go on living. Definitely do so, as we are still alive. We can do that while keeping the memories sacred and honored.

I take comfort in the actions of caring for zinnias, believing that my brother knows that when I tend to them, I’m thinking of him. When I tend to the red roses, I remember Grandma Jones. When I clip the carnations, I think of Grandpa Jones.

For many years, families were the caretakers of loved one’s gravesites. The whole day was spent there, often with picnics. A celebration was created around the loving care of the final resting places. Nowadays, some people still do this, but not many. I loved to take flowers to the graves of loved ones at Christmas. Now, I’m too far from any of them to be able to do that. So tending the plants in my backyard is a way of making that connection. That is something I can do every day, not just on holidays and honoring special dates.

Why plant a memory garden? For our own healing. For our own souls. For a tribute to the ones we loved that no longer walk this earthly planet with us.

Remembrance is a golden chain

Death tries to break, but all in vain.

To have, to love, and then to part

Is the greatest sorrow of one’s heart.

The years may wipe out many things

But some they wipe out never.

Like memories of those happy times

When we were all together.

Author Unknown

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Slip & Slide Means Something Different Now

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Slip & Slide Means
Something Different Now

That fall was a warning, Nance thought. You are old. You have only yourself to rely upon. Since then she had minded her body with tenderness. Steady steps on grass slippery with weather. No more reckless journeys to cut heather on the mountains when the wind growled. An eye to the fire and its crush of embers. A careful hand with the knife.

From The Good People, by Hannah Kent

 

“Come over and play after school. I got a new Slip and Slide!”

What glorious words those were to hear in my ten-year-old ears.

Fifty years later – not so much.

I was in the shower one morning, a few months after I’d turned sixty. You know – the same shower I’d stepped into for how many years? Doing the same sole showering activity I’ve done for goodness knows how long? It’s been more years than I can remember since I graduated from the bathtub to the shower. I couldn’t begin to count how many thousands and thousands of times I’d performed this same activity.

Yet, in an instant, in one split-second swoosh, there I was laying on my back in the bottom of the bathtub. One slippery step. It all happened so fast that I didn’t even know it was happening. One minute I was shampooing my hair, and in a flash I was looking up at the showerhead, seeing it in a viewpoint I never had before.

Fortunately, nothing was injured. Nothing was broken. Only my pride came out of the incident battered and limping. As I lay there and flexed all my fingers and joints, assessing the damage, I realized how blessed I was. I knew that the end result could have been much, much different.

Showerbay.com reports:

NewsUSA confirmed similar results found by a National Institute on Aging (NIA) study. Also citing slippery surfaces as a culprit, researchers determined that more than a third of seniors over the age of 65 slip and fall each year – 80 percent of those falls occur in the bathroom. “Knowing how to get in and out of tubs and showers properly and equipping homes with necessary safety precautions can reduce senior falls, keep them out of the emergency room and possibly extend their lives,” they remark on their website.

NewsUSA also cites research from the CDC that reveals that “1.6 million older adults seek emergency care each year for fall-related injuries, fractures or head trauma. In addition to potentially losing their independence, seniors 65 years old and up have a 25 percent chance of dying within six months to a year if they fall and break a hip.” …”

I knew that shower ‘grab bars’ are recommended to help the elderly get in and out of showers and tubs. But…I wasn’t elderly yet. Hey, I hit the sixty-year-old mark, and I’m still fluctuating back and forth between bemoaning the fact and embracing the milestone. But that doesn’t mean I’m old or elderly or a senior yet.

Does it?

However, even though I’m not ‘old’ yet, I still find myself gingerly stepping in the shower now. Once the suds are flowing, I stand still and don’t move those feet. A non-slip mat helps, but I still find a slight fear lingering in the back recesses of my mind.

When I was reading The Good People, I came across a paragraph where Nance, the elderly woman in the story is thinking about this being more cautious in the years where the body starts betraying us in ways we thought we’d be exempt from.

Her words perfectly conveyed the emotions I found in myself. Now I find myself wrestling between the worlds of caution and fear. Yes, it seems safe to be more aware of areas of potential injury. ‘Better safe than sorry’ seems one of those adages that apply to this train of thought. But I find myself also wondering – when does prudent, wise, and cautious veer too closely to the realm of fear?

As in with most issues in life – it’s all about balance, walking the tightrope between two extremes. I don’t want to become so overly vigilant that I extinguish the joy and spontaneity out of life. I also don’t want to swing to the other extreme where fear smothers any action or sparks of vitality.

I know there are still many lessons that I’m learning in life. Despite the fact that somehow I thought that once I’d reached some magical point in life, I’d be older and wiser, and there wouldn’t be any more lessons to learn. I just never expected that one of the lessons I’d be learning would involve the skill of tightrope walking – although, after my little slip and slide in the shower incident, I think I’ll keep my tightrope walking to the metaphorical territory and not in the actual physical sense.

Just Call Me Goldilocks

Just Call Me Goldilocks

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Remember the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? Goldilocks wanders into the bear’s cottage. One chair is too soft. One is too hard. And one is just right. One bowl of porridge is too hot. One bowl is too cold. And one bowl is just right.

I was driving to work a few weeks ago, and caught myself feeling like Goldilocks.

There I was, cruising along in the slow lane, safely driving the speed limit. Cars in the fast lane (it’s only a two lane highway) were zipping along at a speed much higher than the speed limit. It was slightly drizzly, and some of those cars barely had a car length between them. There I sat in my car (oh, so self-righteous) berating the speeding drivers. Imagine, driving in such a reckless manner. So dangerous.

And then, I ended up behind a driver that was poking along, going much slower than the allowable speed limit. Can’t they find the gas pedal?

The speed I was going was just the right speed.

Thinking about how anyone that drove either faster or slower than I did was out of line, and my driving was just right, had me laughing out loud, alone in the car. Another instance in my life came to mind, where my way is the right way too.

That’s with the tidiness/messiness issue. In prior relationships, I’ve always been ‘the messy one.’ Oh, the house wasn’t horrid. It was usually fairly clean, and most often company ready. As long as they could ignore the not-quite-squeaky clean floor or the piles littering my desk. But my exes – two of them – that liked things neater and tidier were the ones in the wrong. They were ‘anal’ and ‘obsessive.’ They couldn’t just go with the flow, like I could.

But now, the tables have turned. After fifty years of being ‘the messy one’, I’m now ‘the neatnik.’ Now I’m the one wanting to have a living space that’s cleaner, tidier, and more sparkling than what I moved into. Now my better half, who has different cleanliness standards than I do, is ‘the slob.’

Just like my driving. Anything more or less than what I do is wrong. The way I do things is the right way. See – am I not Goldilocks?

By now I was only half laughing. Some of it was still humorous, but I realized that there was a lesson here I needed to learn. That part wasn’t so hilarious.

Then I got to thinking about age. How is it that with driving or cleaning, my way is the right way? Yet, with age, it isn’t so. With age, I am not content with my age. I find myself yearning for the energy, agility, and non-wrinkly skin from years past. Why can’t I take this attitude and apply it to my age – where the age I am is just the right age?

Yikes. More lessons to learn.

Here I am, 60-years old, and I’m still discovering how much I have to discover about myself, life, and living an authentic life of joy and fulfillment, leaving others to learn and grow in their own time and space.

 

I was reading a book and discovered that I’m not alone in this ‘just right’ dilemma.

In Poser: my life in twenty-three yoga poses, Claire Dederer has much the same attitude, although she mentions it in relation to parenting.

“I judged Lisa and any other mother who came within my range. The next-door neighbors put their kids to bed too early; the people down the street put their kinds to bed too late. The friend who lived near Green Lake was overly fussy about organic baby food; the friend on Queen Anne Hill was not fussy enough. Friend A dressed her baby in designer clothes, which was ridiculous. Friend B let her kids go around looking like slobs. I felt there must be a happy medium to parenting, and I felt that I was the very barometer of that happy medium. Anything that someone else did that I did not do was, to me, excessive and probably crazy…”

 

It always feels so good when I discover that I’m not the sole member of ‘The Just Right Club.’ It’s nice to know there are others.

The driver speeding along in the fast lane is probably griping about what a pokey, slow driver I am. Because their speed is just right. The one watching me approach in their rear-view mirror is probably calling me names, for being such a speedy, out of control driver. Because their speed is just right.

There’s so many place we can look at our lives and see where Claire Dederer’s “very barometer of that happy medium” comes into play. Saving money. Spending money. The foods we choose to eat – or not eat. The amount of fast food we eat – or don’t eat. The amount and way we exercise. Or don’t. The kinds of cars we drive. The kinds of houses we live in. The number of children we have – or don’t have. The way we treat our parents. The way we treat our friends. The way we treat our grandchildren. The animals we have – or don’t have. Oh, the list appears to be endless.

This is most likely a lesson I’m going to have to work on for a bit. After all, I have an attitude to correct that’s taken me 59-years to get set in place. But that’s alright. Because one thing is clear – tonight I’m going to bed knowing that I’m just the right age!

February 2019
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