ten things I’ve learned along the way

Random lessons…some of it wisdom shared from others…

Obviously, not a comprehensive list of what life (and my dad) has taught me, but here are ten thoughts:

  • Whether times are good or times are bad, they always change.
  • Listen when someone you respect tells you another person is not to be trusted.
  • Every generation thinks they invented sex and swearing.
  • You cannot save the world, so choose your obligations wisely.
  • Life is better with a loving pet, and the most loving pets are rescued animals.
  • Breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day.
  • It’s wrong to always need to be right. You wear people out, lose friends and anger those forced to be around you.
  • You are known by the company you keep.
  • Quality, classic clothing is worth the extra money. It lasts longer, looks better and is more honorable for worldwide humanitarian reasons.
  • No one wants to listen to you do all the talking, no matter how fascinating you think you are. They would rather talk about themselves.

sing to me a lifetime song lr

Image Credit: (hourglass) © kuzmafoto – DollarPhotoClub.com; (sky background) © Pakhnyushchyy – DollarPhotoClub.com

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what the pen reveals

Sometimes, when I start to write, I’m surprised, even shocked, by what comes out.

I’ve learned something about myself I didn’t imagine was true. I work through those thoughts, and maybe I realize I’ve been holding on to some foolish beliefs without even realizing it. Other times I laugh at my words. I may only believe what I’ve written for as long as it’s taken me to write it. It rings true until I finish typing.

If I’m lucky, I find I’m wiser than I knew. Over time I’ve discovered the truth is easier to write than what I want to be true, even if the truth is painful.

I write to discover what the pen reveals. I write because it’s a part of me, a talent I was born with that needs to be honed and refined. I feel better after writing, even if what I’ve written isn’t all I think it should be.

I write because it fulfills me.

Image Credit: (typewriter) Denis Topal — Fotolia; (background) flas100 — Fotolia

on aging — don’t make me say it — gracefully

I’m glad fall is near for one simple reason: I look so much better in fall & winter clothes.

I’m not particularly thrilled my ego is that sensitive, but at the same time, I dread the day I no longer care about my appearance at all.

time and tideIt would be nice to start caring a little less as a I get older, and I think I probably already do, or I’d be in a panic as I watched the signs of aging creep in on me. I don’t recall ever believing I’d get this old. Not that I thought I’d die young, I just didn’t think I’d ever age. Yes, logically I knew I would, but my mind generally wouldn’t go there.

It still doesn’t, until I look in the mirror and can no longer deny it. I’m in my 50s. How the hell did that happen so soon? It’s not going to get better, so I need to figure out how to deal with the disappointment. Just why does it bother me?

Part of it, I suppose, is being single. Like it or not, how you look affects your ability to captivate the opposite sex, and I’m not feeling the same power I used to. Not that I ever felt powerful, but still, on a good day I felt competitive.

So to keep from getting lonely, I need to look good? I don’t think that’s a truth I want to start believing.

But here’s the other thing: aging gracefully is a requirement for people older and wiser than I (believe I) am. The driver’s license isn’t letting me get away with thinking I’m any younger, but wiser is harder to assess, and I just don’t know if I measure up.

I don’t want to be an old fool. I know a few of those, and becoming one probably scares me more than anything else.

There is one piece of wisdom I’ve acquired. All the plastic surgery in the world isn’t going to keep you from looking older. It has its benefits for some, but it’s not likely it will ever be something I’ll consider. I’m looking for other alternatives, including attitude, to take its place.

Attitude, and hair color.


 

Image Credit: (clock) © Jakub Krechowicz; (water) © JulietPhotography; (sky) © Kirsty Pargeter; (wood) © Filip Miletic

how to pretend you care about football

Cesar and me are ready for the game!So you’ve been invited to a friend’s house to watch the football game on their ginormous TV. Everyone is going, and you don’t feel like sitting at home alone.

I’ll never be an expert, by any definition, of any sport, but I do have some expertise in pretending to care.

First, a little insight into my own level of knowledge of the game of football, and then a few tips for getting through enjoying the game, or at least letting your friends think you do:

Some years ago,

I was late for my first date with a man who ended up being my boyfriend for an eternity. “I’m so sorry,” I said as I sidled up next to him at the bar (classy date, huh?). “I just had to watch the end of the football game. I know it’s only pre-season, but so-and-so is back from injuries and I wanted to see how he’d do.”

Condescending look. “That’s okay,” he said, “How did he do?”

I went into a two-minute recap of a game it turned out he’d watched in its entirety at that same bar. As I spoke, he had a look of increasing surprise, and when I finished he said, with a tone of incredulity, “You really do know football!”

So I know a little. However, I could have grasped only one fact about football — where the fifty-yard line is — and he would have been equally amazed. My point being, you’re probably not facing great expectations, and I can help you meet them.

50 yard line US Football s
Damn right you should be impressed.

Okay, that’s tip #1, illustrated. The fifty-yard line is smack-dab in the middle of the field going the long way. Once you’ve got that one down, here’s how to further pretend you love the game:

#2 Wear team colors

in some sort of tacky fashion. Mismatched socks will do. This will take a little pre-game research, but it’s important if for no other reason than you shouldn’t be wearing the other team’s colors.

#3 Bring a beastly yet delicious snack treat

and call it your “traditional football (name of food).” Don’t over-think this one. Remember, football fans love melted Velveeta cheese mixed with canned chili. The bar is not set high.

#4 Listen to the others gripe about the game,

and take your cues for shaking your head and saying, “you are SO right about THAT!” This tip is a little tricky since someone may ask a for a follow-up, so only do it if you dare.

#5 Every time you hear someone on TV say,

“it’s first and ten…”  yell, “FIRST AND TEN! DO IT AGAIN!”

(If someone points out the other team has the ball, smile sheepishly and say, “just another chance for our guys to sack the quarterback.” What that answer lacks in logic it makes up for with perceived quick thinking and advanced beginner knowledge.)

#6 Forget it.

You’re not fooling anyone. Take out your cell phone and text all your real friends about how bored you are.


Image Credit: (football field, w/o writing) © gomolach — Fotolia


back to school

This week the children in my area go back to school.

Of course that brings back memories of my own school days. Kindergarten, when we all had bird stickers to identify the cubby where we hung up our jackets and placed our lunch boxes. (My bird was a Baltimore Oriole.) Lunch boxes, perhaps with Barbie or Mickey Mouse, their thermoses and the way they smelled. The daily peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.

first grade
Me in first grade.

First grade and learning to read. “See Tag. See Tag Run. Run, Tag, Run.” I already knew how to read and zipped through that book in a flash. My teacher didn’t know what to do with me. It remained that way all through grade school.

Second grade, we’d moved cross-country, so a new school. Sixth grade, another new school. High school, going from our small K-8 to the very large school “in town.” College, first a community college, then away in the dorms, then at a local university at night while I worked full-time.

I miss it and I don’t. I miss the special day of shopping with my mom when I was in grade school, picking out patterns for dresses she’d make, choosing the new shoes I’d have to break in. When I was in college, seeing the syllabus and believing this semester everything would be done on time, the books read, the tests prepared for, the papers written, no last minute panic.

Yes. I have those dreams where I didn’t go to school all semester and now it’s finals. More often, I have dreams that no matter how hard I try, I cannot succeed in college. At some point in my sleepy state I stop getting frustrated and say, “why am I doing this? I already have a degree.”

(Probably a good thing I have no training in psychology or I’d be analyzing myself into a frenzy trying to figure that one out. The broad meaning might be clear to experts, but the application in my life would probably elude me.)

crayons lightstock_142210_medium_user_7579580 lr
© Alex Workman – Lightstock

I still like learning. I like being challenged. I take online courses, both credit and non-credit, whenever I can. I’d like to brush up on my French, or more practically, learn Spanish.

If I lived closer to my mom, I’d take her shopping for some new shoes and go to lunch like we used to when I was little. Those outings meant a lot to her, and a trip like that would do my heart some good.

facing loss

My stepdad died suddenly at the age of 51.

Initially I was so caught up in notifying friends & family, making sure we had enough soft drinks & water for everyone who stopped by, and convincing the pastor of the church Jerry grew up in she should allow us to hold the service there I didn’t stop to cry.

It wasn’t until the afternoon of the third day after his death I slowed down enough to go home, sit on my sofa and…let go. Then I remembered one more call needed to be made, to our friend Sue, who was also a top stylist at a local salon. Many of my family were clients of hers, including Jerry, and she’d grown up with my aunt as well as his niece. Sue was in a meeting, and I asked to wait, even though they tried to get me to leave a message.

spattered heartFinally, I said, “This really isn’t something I can leave a message about.” I hesitated. “Sue’s a friend of the family, and one of the family just died.”  I started crying. By the time Sue got on the phone, I had pulled myself together enough to tell her what had happened. She began crying and we said good-bye.

I leaned back on my sofa and turned on the TV. This was back in the 80s, when MTV and VH1 actually played music videos all day long. I turned the channel to VH1. Almost immediately one of my favorite songs of that spring was playing. It’s not about losing someone to dying, it’s about the loss of love, but at that point loss was loss. I didn’t stop crying for more than an hour. It was a good thing. I needed to cry.

Yet another friend of mine is facing the end of his marriage.

I saw him today, and the sadness in his eyes reminded me of that day. He said he hadn’t been sleeping much lately; I told him to take a Sunday afternoon nap. I wish I knew of a song that would help him sleep just as this video helped me cry.

To all my friends or anyone this blog reaches, I pray you find a way to cry when you need to cry, and a way to sleep when you need to sleep. God be with you.

Image Credit: (Weeping Heart, top) Spattered Heart © stoekenbroek — Fotolia; Sky Background © Pakhnyushchyy — Fotolia; Raindrops © Naeblys — Fotolita

where I am, who I am

(c) Belinda Ostrowski

Apparently, by modern definition, I am a cat lady.

I have two, and according to a recent New York Times article, that’s all it takes. Back in the day, it was somewhere in the double digits. Okay, maybe less than that, but having two cats then was called being a pet owner.

Walter Kitty
Walter, the cat who melts in your lap

So now, add “cat lady” to never married and avid knitter. Let’s not forget I lived with my mother for a time. Laughably, I fit a stereotype I can only hope is now as outdated as the former definition of “cat lady.”

If not, so be it. I fit it on paper only. I’m not to be pitied or mocked. Yes, I do get lonely at times. Everybody does. I remind myself then how many people my age are single for one reason or another, or worse yet, in bad marriages. Quite frankly, my situation is better than many, and not worse than most.

It took me years…

…to genuinely realize I’m valued and appreciated by others, and how essential true friendship is to contentment in life, how key it is to have people around me I can relax with and not fret about whether I’ve said or done the wrong thing.

I’ve learned to stay away from people who make me feel bad, whether or not it appears to be their fault. Sometimes I’ve taken the blame for things I’m not responsible for and find myself crashing and burning trying to right a wrong situation when the blame lies elsewhere.

In the past, and to a lingering extent still today, I tended to focus on the negative and be suspicious of sincere offers of friendship. What’s more, I always believed it was impossible for a man of worth to love me. Now, I apologize to any man out there who may have wanted to date me but didn’t because of the wall I put up. I never considered it this way before, but that’s a pretty rude attitude on my part.

I’m a bit offbeat, and happy about it.

There is somewhat of a dichotomy here, a flip side to that deeply held insecurity. On my best days, after a little mirror time, I’m confident in my appearance. I know I’m personable, kind, and empathetic. As one former boyfriend once told me (and although he meant it as a slam, I took it as a high compliment), I’m also a bit offbeat, and happy about it. In other words, I do have a fair amount of confidence in myself when I call on it.

That growth in attitude doesn’t change what I’ve done to get me where I am today. I can walk out the door, spinning on my heels with the belief I’m a brunette heartbreaker with the intellect and wisdom of, well, None Other, and thinking, men, I challenge you to be strong enough to take me on. (I have to clarify – I absolutely do not do that, and if I did, I can guarantee you with my next step I would, characteristically, slip on a banana.)  It wouldn’t instantly bring me what I may desire at that moment.

Here’s the thing:

I like cats, love mine, and I love to knit.  I wouldn’t give them up, the cats or the yarn, just because they might make me look laughable to someone cocky enough to think he or she will never be an object of scorn.

I am where I am because of who I am, along with the choices I’ve made and the choices made for me, twists and turns in life I have no knowledge of because they took place before they could be visible. I’ve made the life I have the way it is in part because that is the life I’ve wanted.

I believe in the power of subtle changes…In the meantime, I’m content.

A few years ago I had a glimpse of what it would be like to have someone in my life to be a support when I needed it most. I’ve handled sad and difficult situations on my own for so long that having someone by my side was new to me. It turned me around in the way I think about relationships, and I started to open up to the whole idea of something permanent.

Of course it doesn’t change the route I’ve taken to get where I am today, the reasons why and the consequences thereof. Being open to something doesn’t mean it will or even should happen, and I’m still not sure what I ultimately want. I have a comfortable lifestyle created from living alone.

Some of my family who have always been there -- and always will be.
Some of my family who have always been there — and always will be.

Yes, there are days when I sink into sad thoughts, but I know enough to realize a little time and maybe a good night’s sleep will bring me back to myself.

I believe in the power of subtle changes. In the meantime, I’m content with what I’ve been given, the friends and family who never fail me.

Just don’t expect me to ever change how I think about my cats. Only two, mind you, only two.