A Cheesy Potatoes Conundrum

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A Cheesy Potatoes Conundrum

As I’m getting older I’m noticing two different issues in my life that are getting stronger. Yet, they each seem diametrically opposed to each other. A few weeks ago, an order of cheesy potatoes highlighted that conundrum.

On one hand, I’m getting better at defining what I want – and don’t want – in my life. Now that I’ve reached the magical 60-mile marker this year, it’s about time! You’d think I would have learned this valuable lesson long ago. Oh, I’ve flexed my muscles on it here and there. But overall, I’ve allowed too much to simply happen. I’ve also allowed too much in my life that I don’t want. And I haven’t pursued my dreams and true desires with enough determination.

I’m getting better at being clearer about what I want my life to be like. Is it because I sense a running out of time? A feeling that I’d better get life how I want it now because there aren’t as many years left on this side of the journey as what I’ve come through yet?

On the other hand, I’ve also gotten better and letting go of things. I’ve learned that too often many of us let unimportant details and events derail our peace.

That day I drove between two different stores that I had to visit for my day job. Passing by Taco Bell, I made a quick trip through the drive-through and ordered my favorite shredded chicken taco and an order of Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes. Yum! I could smell the aromas the two miles to my next stop. By the time I pulled into the parking lot my stomach was rumbling in anticipation of the tasty flavors awaiting my consumption.

I ate the taco first, savoring every morsel. Then I rustled in the bag in search of the next delicacy…the potatoes. It’s a little quirk of mine, but I eat my favorite thing last so that the flavors of the favored dish are the last thing I taste. Their potatoes are always toasted perfectly and swimming in a melted cheese queso, topped with sour cream. After pulling out the little container I started digging in the bag for the fork.

No fork.

I looked again, digging under extra napkins.

Nada.

What? How can I eat these with no fork?

I didn’t want to drive two miles back to Taco Bell, and then another two miles back to the store just to get a utensil that should have been provided in the first place.

This happened on a week where I was making a concerted effort to take actions that would enhance a life that is more in line with what I truly want. I wanted this lunch and I wanted a fork to eat with. Isn’t having a life that you want part of having small things consistent with your desires also?

I found myself starting to get agitated about them not putting a fork in the bag. I’d already crumpled up the receipt and thrown it in the bag since I’d paid with cash and didn’t need the receipt. As the riled-up factor started raising, I pulled the receipt out of the bag. I knew there was a sweepstakes entry on the back, so I figured there would be a customer service number somewhere on it too. By golly, I was going to email in when I got home and complain about this.

And then the ‘other-hand’ part of the conundrum kicked in. So, they’d forgotten to insert one little itty bitty piece of plastic in the bag. Yes, it was inconvenient. But, was it important? Was the world going to fall apart? Overall, in the grand scheme of life, where did this rate? On a 1-10…not even a 1.

I threw the receipt back in the bag and ate the potatoes with my fingers. Yes, it was a little messier eating than I liked. But once the fingers were licked clean, and then wiped off good – since they did give me plenty of napkins – all was well. My tummy was happy. My hands were still clean. I didn’t waste the time and gas to drive four miles to go back and get a fork. And my life went on with no differences.

Maybe four issues, not two issues, came into play that day: Creating a life that I want, letting go of what isn’t important, finding a balance between the two, and choosing your battles. No, this issue certainly wasn’t worth a battle. As I get older I find myself a little wiser in balancing between the two opposing sides and sizing up whether an issue warrants a battle, or not.

Life didn’t come with an instruction book. We have to write our own. And even though there are days where I’m not enamored with the getting older part of life, I’m thankful that I’m still here and daily adding to my personal Life’s Instruction Book. Even if it takes an order of cheesy potatoes – with no fork – to bring some of these lessons home.

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A Hat to Wear Proudly

Following is an excerpt from a current work in progress, Embracing 60.

A Hat to Wear Proudly

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Last night I stepped into the closet to retrieve a birthday present I’d stashed on a shelf and spied my embellished ball cap hanging on the wall. It’s a hat I’ve only worn once, yet I keep it hanging there to remind me of a lesson learned later in life.

Hand painted letters proclaim a truth it took me a long time to learn. ‘I’m the quiet one and proud of it.’

The ‘quiet one’ part of the statement isn’t what I’d learned. I’ve always known that. It’s the being proud part that has been a recent revelation.

I learned to accept and be proud of that aspect of myself about five years ago, which puts the lesson closer to the age of 55, and not 60. Yet, while the title of this book is Embracing 60, it’s really about embracing any age we are and being grateful for our deepening wisdom and maturity – whether that wisdom comes to us at 60 or 55, at 80 or at 30. Any day we can wake up a little wiser than we were the day before is a good day, and should be celebrated.

Back a few years ago, just prior to my decorating the ball cap, my better half and I were working on a special project. It involved getting together with two other friends most Sundays for about two months.

One of the friends — or should I say ‘friends-at-that-time’, as we’re no longer on speaking terms – was a challenge to spend a lot of time with. The common saying about friends coming into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime is very true. This particular friend was one of the friends for a reason – to teach a lesson. But, that lesson is an entirely different and lengthy story.

This lady, who I won’t name for obvious reasons, tended to dominate conversations. She was very verbose, a bit (a lot) on the pushy side, and…loud. I’m…not as loud. I’m usually fairly quiet in a group, and the larger the group gets, the quieter I get.

This one Sunday afternoon, we’d been out together for several hours. I kept trying to speak up about my opinions on an issue and kept getting cut off. Later I’d try again to interject my views and would get cut off again. Again. And again. And again. I finally reached a point where I was fuming. But at that point, I’m afraid to say anything, because I fear if I start to speak up, the pressure valve will go off and I’ll explode instead of calming stating my frustration and anger. So, in an effort to prevent an explosive moment, I walked outside.

Nancy, our other friend who is another mellow and soft spoken lady, joined me outside. “What are you doing out here by yourself?”

“Trying to calm down.”

“Oh. (Unnamed ladies name here)? She can be a bit dramatic at times.”

Rustling footsteps behind us announced the presence of my better half and ‘the now-ex-friend.’ I spoke up. “The dramatic doesn’t bother me. It’s repeatedly being talked over and interrupted.”

Lady X tried to placate me. “But you never speak up. You’re always the quiet one and the rest of us are so loud we just tend to take over.”

“I can be loud, too,” I protested. “Next week I’ll be the noisy one.” I spoke with steely regard. I planned on being that person too. I vowed to myself that the next week I’d be the most talkative one in the group.

On the way home I was already contemplating the hat I was going to make that week. Maybe even a t-shirt. I was going to proclaim my noisiness to the world, or at least to those at our next outing.

My brand new plans lasted until I crawled into bed and picked up the book I’d been reading. In One Man’s Love Story, Jason Hughes had a statement that spoke to me. “…it is about feeling a oneness and unity between body, mind, and soul, and perfectly accepting ourselves just the way we are.”

Ouch!

Perfectly accepting ourselves just the way we are.

I am not the noisy one. To think that I could suddenly transform myself into a verbose, boisterous woman taking control of the group and not letting them get a chance to talk is disregarding myself. It means I am not accepting myself just the way I am.

In spite of my revelation, I did proceed with my plans and made a special hat to wear the next week. When we met at our usual parking lot the next Sunday, I was sporting my newest creation. Topping my head was a black ball cap, embellished with paint and glitter. “I’m the QUIET one and PROUD of it!”

If getting older, whether the next milestone is a 60, a 70, or even a 30, means we keep learning these valuable lessons, then I’m all for it. Bring on the years!

Losing It – Or Not?

Losing It – Or Not?

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“How long are we supposed to keep the cards up?” Mary, my co-worker was confirming our plans as we worked on stocking some greeting cards.

“Until January 20th.”

“Until January?” The puzzled look on Mary’s face matched the confusion in her voice.

“No. No! July 20th. Not January. Don’t even ask me where that came from! We’re supposed to keep the Father’s Day cards up until then.”

“The Father’s Day cards?” Again, Mary has a look of utter confusion on her face.

“Ugh! No. Not Father’s Day cards. Graduation cards.”

Why did these wrong words keep rolling out of my mouth? It was starting to scare me. Now granted, we were both tired and had just finished a grueling holiday season that ran from Valentine’s Day, to Easter, to Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Graduation. We’d had more hours than either of us liked for the past four months and we were exhausted.

But, still…

I’d love to pass it all off as exhaustion setting in and my numb brain was feeling the effects. But what made it scary for me is my family history of Alzheimer’s, or Dementia. I know that there’s a medical difference between the two. I tried to look it up one time. I remember that one is treatable and one is not. However I don’t think many people understand the differences between the two and both diagnoses are used interchangeably in society in general, along with our own personal family.

One or the other, whichever one it is, all I know is that three of my four grandparents suffered from it, along with Papa Goss, my great-grandfather – Grandma Jones’ dad.

I was around eight years old when Papa Goss died. A year or so earlier than that, he’d had to be put in a home, because his mental condition had deteriorated so badly. Being so young, I don’t remember the particulars. I only remember the joking about it, about ‘going to Norwalk’, which was synonymous for ‘going crazy’, or ‘losing it’, having to give live in ‘the looney bin.’ When I think of it now, it seems callous and cruel, yet I know that wasn’t the intent. A devastating situation had intruded upon the family, unasked. There were two ways to react – we cry or we laugh. The family chose laughter. That was our coping mechanism to deal with something that none of us would wish on another living person.

Years later I heard stories about Grandma Cline, in her last years. I heard about the time there were guests in the house and Grandma entered the room stark naked. Now this was Grandma Cline we’re talking about. The woman who never showed more neck or arm than she had to. The most modest woman I’ve ever known. If it were earlier years, she would have been one that wouldn’t have dared show an ankle in public.

It took Grandpa Cline years to catch up with her. He lived until age 97. Unfortunately, his mind slowed long before his body stopped. I remember visiting Uncle Arnold’s house one weekend in Arizona, when Grandpa Cline was there visiting from Indiana. As I left the table to use the restroom, I overheard Grandpa asking Aunt Phyllis, “Who is that woman?”

Aunt Phyllis answered, “Why, that’s Patsy.” I wasn’t crushed, because I understood that Grandpa’s mind hadn’t been his own for quite some time.

And then Grandma Jones began to follow in her father’s footsteps. We could tell when Grandma’s mind began to slip. Fortunately it wasn’t in drastic ways and she was still able to live alone, independently, until her last stroke a few weeks before her death at age 85. But we could see the progression worsening slowly.

So, yes, when I stand there and mix up my months, and several minutes later mix up a holiday event, I panic.

I can guarantee you, when I get emails from my all-time favorite doctor, Dr. Andrew Weil, whenever they mention Alzheimer’s or Dementia…I open those!

I want to live to an old age – 85 to 95 sounds just about right to me. But I want to do in a healthy body, with full mental capacity.

So when a wrong word slips out of my mouth and I throw my hand over it, just ignore me. I’m trying to embrace life, all sixty years of it, and I want to stay sharp as a tack for the next twenty or thirty years too. Even if I end up joking about it ‘losing it’…because that’s the Jones family way…we’ll laugh ourselves out of anything.

Words from Holly

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In Memory of Holly Butcher

Words from Holly

This message popped up on my Yahoo page  as I went to check emails. I was intrigued and wanted to read this mysterious, moving message from a dying lady. The link took me to Holly Butcher’s Facebook page, where this post had been posted four days earlier. When I read the post –in a mere four days – it had already been shared 36,435 times. (As of today, this shared number has jumped to 161,583 shares with over 239,000 likes.)

Holly’s words touched my heart and really made me stop and search deep inside. At this time I’ve been working on Embracing 60 for several months, off and on. As you’ve read by now, I started writing this in an effort to change the way I thought about my approaching milestone birthday. I wanted to begin embracing the new age on the horizon, instead of shrinking in fear and dread.

And here are beautiful words from a 27-year old lady on the eve of her death. She writes about how she longs for just one more Christmas, one more birthday. And I’m whining because I’m about to turn 60! Really? I’m already had 33 years of life that Holly never got the chance to enjoy, plus whatever years are waiting for me on the backside of 60.

I’m ashamed at myself. I’m ashamed that I even have the gall to bemoan this upcoming birthday. And I resolve to take Holly’s words to heart, to bring them with me into the approaching days as I instead embrace this gift, this beautiful extraordinary gift of life that I have ahead of me. And instead of cringing about the numbers ahead that end in ‘0’, be they 60, 70, 80 or higher…instead I vow to live each day with the fervor, appreciation and grace like the young woman Holly, who penned the following words did.

You can read her full post here.

Here are a few words from Holly:

A bit of life advice from Hol:

It’s a strange thing to realise and accept your mortality at 26 years young. It’s just one of those things you ignore. The days tick by and you just expect they will keep on coming; until the unexpected happens. I always imagined myself growing old, wrinkled and grey- most likely caused by the beautiful family (lots of kiddies) I planned on building with the love of my life. I want that so bad it hurts.

That’s the thing about life; It is fragile, precious and unpredictable and each day is a gift, not a given right.

I’m 27 now. I don’t want to go. I love my life. I am happy. I owe that to my loved ones. But the control is out of my hands.

I haven’t started this ‘note before I die’ so that death is feared – I like the fact that we are mostly ignorant to its inevitability. Except when I want to talk about it and it is treated like a ‘taboo’ topic that will never happen to any of us. That’s been a bit tough. I just want people to stop worrying so much about the small, meaningless stresses in life and try to remember that we all have the same fate after it all so do what you can to make your time feel worthy and great, minus the bullshit.

I have dropped lots of my thoughts below as I have had a lot of time to ponder life these last few months. Of course it’s the middle of the night when these random things pop in my head most!

Those times you are whining about ridiculous things (something I have noticed so much these past few months), just think about someone who is really facing a problem. Be grateful for your minor issue and get over it. It’s okay to acknowledge that something is annoying but try not to carry on about it and negatively effect other people’s days.

Once you do that, get out there and take a freaking big breath of that fresh Aussie air deep in your lungs, look at how blue the sky is and how green the trees are. It is so beautiful. Think how lucky you are to be able to do just that – breathe.

 

Thoughts for a new 2017

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Choosing to Embrace Life

It’s not complicated to embrace life. You just have to make the choice.

Faith Hill

Some days it seems that life is much easier when we pretend we don’t have choices. When we merely react to situations, not taking conscious thought that we have a choice in how we react, it’s easier to blame our happiness – or lack thereof – on external circumstances.

If good things come to us and life rolls along smoothly – we’re happy.

If appliances break, the car runs out of gas, children misbehave, spouses wander, or jobs threaten our sanity – we’re unhappy.

But I’ve learned that it isn’t so. I’ve met friends that have more misfortune and calamity in their life than I’ve ever wish for. Yet, they remain cheerful and optimistic, always choosing to see the silver lining that exists in every dark cloud.

I have other friends that consistently whine and belly ache about the horrible happenings in their life – never once realizing how blessed they really are.

It’s all a choice.

So, too, is our decision to embrace life. It’s a choice we have, to live life fully with exuberance and joy, despite the minor obstacles and adversity that enter our lives. We can awaken each day and deliberately choose to embrace life in all of its delightful aspects. Live life fully. Approach tasks and chores with energy and vitality. Follow your dreams, yet also live and enjoy each moment in the present. Fill your life with laughter, joy, and good friends. Love and appreciate your family. Love with an open heart and appreciate each day and the life you have.

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March 2019
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