Monday, February 29, 2016

Everything's Superlative!!!!!!

Does every sentence end with an exclamation point?

One of the big changes that happened during the time that I worked in a Preschool (from 1987-1997) is how simple went to complicated. Everything was a production. While our product was very reasonable (one of my jobs was to compare with other schools in the area), parents learned to expect more for their dollar. They wanted the big parties and projects and field trips.

I believe we taught the best curriculum available at that time. It still may be the best, I have been out the “business” for a while. And parents DID care about what their children were learning. But we went from simple Christmas programs in 1987 to full scale costumed productions in 1997. The teachers got COLA raises, but that was all. The costs of these productions came from the budget, which I managed, and in-kind giving.

Looking back, I think it was a symptom of society. While today the new movement is toward “simple living” to which I certainly try to ascribe, back then there was a movement of going from simple to complicated in everything. It was not just about preschool.

For the love of everything holy,
who really does this stuff?
Well, I’m not going to change history, but there is one thing that I have noticed today, especially on social media. Just about every other sentence ends in an exclamation point. If someone says “Happy Birthday, Denise” without an exclamation point at the end of it, I won’t be offended, but I do notice. I am happy to be noticed on my birthday, but this is not just about me.

Scroll down your Facebook feed this evening and count them. Outside of the recipes that fill my feed that I am gaining weight from looking at them, about every other post has some kind of exclamation in it. The post itself and then many of the comments beneath.

Nothing is ordinary anymore. Even in our communication. Everything is “the most.” Superlative.

I’m not going to change society and neither are you. I just want you to notice.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Who's Telling Us Who We Should Be?

My last blog was about getting used to being the “older generation.” This subject of this entry is about exercise and how we are bombarded with commercials and people in our circle of influence that imply if we are not working out to a certain level, there is something wrong with us.

I write this at the beginning of a new year and I am amazed at how many commercials are on TV about working out, selling this or that fitness organization, and guess what? They are all between 20-40 years old. Not for a minute am I suggesting that those of us beyond those years should not exercise REGULARLY and ALL YEAR LONG, but to watch the activities of what younger people are able to do does nothing to encourage me!

Where are the ads for older people and fitness? Yes, I read that article about someone 104 that ran a marathon. These are published because they are the EXCEPTION and are what we call NEWS!

I want some reality. Personally, I have arthritis and osteopenia. I want to stave this off as long as I am able and hopefully for life. A person in this situation simply cannot do what the ads show. What I would really like is a geriatric (oh, how I hate using that word) personal trainer. While there has been study in this area, there has not been much application that I can see.

News Flash! As I write this, the Baby Boomers are from age 52-age 70. We cannot all do burpees!

I realize that some who have been doing something for all these many years are at a different place. I’m thinking bike riding, as marathon running is a relatively new phenomenon. Even 5Ks used to be called Volksmarches. I may be erring in not using a copyright with that word, but I just don’t know. Volksmarches were in every community and people went around and walked them and got a pin or something to add to their collection.

Now, these walks would be nothing. So, there is nothing for older people, in general. Yes, there are the older people in fabulous condition, but they do not represent the majority of the demographic by any stretch!

What is there for people with arthritis that cannot afford a YMCA membership (or don’t have one close)? What is there for people who can’t run on a treadmill very long, or walk a significant distance? One thing I always recommend is weight lifting. I don’t care what the weights are, you need to lift as much as able. This can be done at home, while sitting or standing.

I’ve ranted enough about that, let’s turn to another topic. If you have lived as long as I have (62) you have seen eggs come and go as a bad food for you, just for starters. This is bad, that is bad, the other thing is bad, what is left besides nuts and berries? Not a whole lot. What we do eat in the good ol’ USA is processed and THAT is bad. Most of us can’t move to Idaho and live off the grid and grow our own food. So where does that leave us? Doing the best that our finances will allow us to do. Period. Do our best and do not be convinced that we are terrible.

We all hear the stories about people who smoked and drank and lived to be 94, and we all know someone who died of cancer at 35. My sister-in-law and I have a joke: her mother, my MIL, lived off the land and ate as healthy as anyone I know and lived to be 84, but the last 10 years of her life she had Alzheimers. It was terrible! S and I say, “Just give us chocolate, and let us die young!” None of us wants to go through what my mother-in-law did and none of us wants to watch another loved one go through it.

Of course, I do mean give me that chocolate in small doses. Weighing 300 lbs. has its own problems.

I am overweight. I need to lose 50 lbs. according to the charts. But I’m done with it. All I want is to wear my jeans again comfortably. I want to eat sensibly, but I am not giving up my roll at O’Charley’s or Red Lobster. I’ve given up pop, and that’s the biggest sacrifice I have made in my life! I’ll have a glass of wine once in a while and I’ll have a piece of dessert once in a while. 

I should quit watching TV, but it’s on the Internet and Facebook and all over the place. I must quit letting society and marketing define me.

And I will.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Circle of Life--Getting Used to being the Older Generation

I knew my father died young at 47. I felt like my grandparents lived long lives, from the standpoint of my age at the time; but I now realize that 61 is NOT old (brain cancer) and 72 is NOT LOOKING old at all (she had diabetes and heart issues, and is the one I most resemble physically. However, I do not cook with lard! I ditched Crisco© some time ago!) My other grandparents lived to be 79 and 82, and seemingly had lived a long, good life.

2014
My mother is still living as I write this, she is 84. So I am not “the old folks” yet on my side of the family. But we definitely are on my husband's; with four siblings and spouses all still residing on this earth. We range from 60-77.

It’s a process, accepting where we are in life.

We have had good childhoods and youth, the challenges of career and family and made our way out to the other side. It’s time to celebrate the things we have achieved. I am NOT talking about material things, they come and go, I am talking about the satisfaction in making it to where we are without completely falling apart.

That is not to say there are no physical issues, but that is not the subject for today.

At some point, we have to realize that we ARE in a continuum of life. This is where we are at present: doting grandparents, faithful partners, loving friends, and in my case, a loving and dutiful daughter. I do not wish my grandparents back at the ages of 110, 115, 116 and 125. I remember them fondly and have good memories, but they are in their “healthy” place. I have kept more keepsakes and God only knows what will happen to them when I am gone, but my memories are that. Just memories. Healthy memories.

This is not to say that I have never wished for a do-over, in some things, but then I look at my kids and realize that if certain things had not happened in a certain order, they would not be here. And, I FIRMLY believe that they were meant to be born! I won’t dwell on two miscarriages, sad as they were, but the persons that were born were meant to be! They were not just accidents of lust. The same can be said about the following generation and all that led up to my grandchildren’s births.

(The same can be said about my father not being shipped out during the Korean War because he had undulant fever. And so forth and so on….)

It’s nice to look at pictures and videos of “olden days” and I mostly wish I weighed 105 lbs. again, but that’s not going to happen either.

The past is in the past and it’s going to stay there and the sooner we accept that, the healthier we will be mentally and we will enjoy more the rest of the time we have given to us. While we may have photos around the house of loved ones, it’s the loved ones IN FRONT of us we need to focus on.

We will be happier overall.

My next blog will be about some of the influences that threaten that happiness and contentment.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Top Ten Reasons For Avoiding the 45th Reunion

I am not successful. As humans, we tend to define this in money. Hopefully, most of us have moved past that. As we watch our neighbors or extended family struggle in life, or maybe we ourselves have dealt with deep pain and hard stuff, the money thing is just not important. And when we look at that growing memory board, we are just happy to BE here. Please don't wait; life is too short to miss a chance to connect. Check your ego, and show up anyway.

You don’t remember anyone. Well you do and you don’t. If you think of your friends as 18 year olds, it might be hard to go back, especially if you have not been to another reunion along the way. But the best part is learning the NEW things about your friends. And you WILL find someone with something in common. It may very well surprise you! And we promise nametags with LARGE PRINT!!

I haven’t achieved my goals. You have a pulse? That’s good enough for most of us. We are not impressed anymore, believe me.

I am not in good health. This is a reality. This is why we now make sure we have handicap accessible venues. We are all in various stages of decline, or as I like to say we ALL have a terminal illness. This part is tough, but we still want to see you!

I am in OK health for 63, but I just don’t look the same.  I’m fat, bald, have an embarrassing skin condition, {fill in the blank}. News flash! None of us do……and it is my personal belief that the older we get the more we look inside the person anyway, not at the outside. I am a woman and I am vain, and I want to present myself in the best light I can; but I can’t and won’t pretend that I am 18 again. And I don’t want to—I am a better person now!

I don’t have a “date”. Please don’t get me started on that one! I have been married 38 years and my husband refuses to come to reunions. Be MY date!

I hated everyone from high school. Everyone? Not buyin’ it! Not one single person you can remember with fondness? Check your e-mail contact list, I bet there is at least one faithful high school pal there. Email them and see if they are going. I’ll bet they would love to see you there.

Everyone from high school hated me. {Or, I haven't been in touch in 45 years, so if they didn't hate me then, they hate me now} And ignoring this problem will make it go away? Time to make amends. Show up at your reunion and I’ll bet that no one remembers. Especially if they are men, they don’t remember a thing! I am here to tell you that you will be amazed at how many people will be delighted to see you!

I'm afraid to see the one who broke my heart/whose heart I broke. (Or, I'm afraid I won't see them). They probably don't remember you anyway. See above answer if referring to a male.

I don't want my spouse to know what a loser I was in high school. They love you anyway. And how are we defining “loser?”

I can't go because someone very close to me is having a baby, I live more than 3,000 miles away, or just declared bankruptcy. OK, in those very special cases, you get a free get-out-of-reunion card.

See you at the Reunion! You have been doing something during these past 45 years. Come and tell everyone about it!

P.S. I have another take on this. It's in my head and when I get time, I'm going to write it down. Look for it!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Mary

Prom 1970
Mary and I became friends at the community private (club) pool the summer before our freshman year. We were there literally every day it wasn’t raining. Back in those days, people walked to each other’s houses and we were no exception. She had an older sister and niece who lived in the second floor of their “story and half” house with one bathroom on the first floor. And yet, we spent many a night at each other’s houses. I remember listening to lots of the current popular music with Mary. I remember going to many of the concerts of the bands in our town.

Mary’s mother was an amazing seamstress and Mary was well-dressed for her folks not being millionaires. It was enviable to young minds! We doubled dated for our junior prom and she had an incredible dress and coat to match. 

Eventually, her mother made my wedding dress, which at first glance appears normal, but it was amazing! It has NO HEM, the lining is sewn to the dress, flipped up and secured at the waistline, laying completely flat without any bunching. I have no idea how she did it.

It seems that my relationship with Mary was a bit separate from my other friends, as if she moved in a different circle. Her father went on TDYs (temporary duties) and Mary and her mother packed up the trailer and they lived in it for several months at a time. We wrote plenty during those times. As an adult mother, I can’t believe they did that—yanked her out of school for several months every year, going to another system which may have been ahead or behind her, who knows? Mary didn’t have the grades I did, and I firmly believe this instability was the reason, because in later years she surprised me in what she was able to accomplish.

After high school, she did the “young and stupid” thing, marrying someone, though nice, was not ready to be married. Neither of them were. They eloped. I liked him but they were just too young.

Later, she became involved with another man, and had a child by him. They did not marry, and who’s to say whether that was best or not? I went to her baby shower.

She completed her college education and got a Master’s degree and worked in counseling. This is something I would never have expected from her, and frankly, I am so proud of her. However, counseling gets to you, as I well know, and she left that in 1997 and became a quality assurance and quest relations/customer satisfaction representative at a company that has whitewater rafting and stuff you are never getting me to do! That’s in a neighboring state and I really should go visit.


Mary and I with Jean in 2011
Mary and I can pick up any time, be it in person, on the phone or messaging. We have no trouble understanding what the other one means. She is far more liberal than I am, but we respect each other’s right to have our opinion. I honestly feel that is unusual today—liberals and conservatives are always trying to fight and convert the other. We simply do not do this.

I am grateful for Mary’s influence in my life, in many ways. She challenges me to think and I hope I do the same for her. Looking forward to the next time. (Maybe I will go over there).

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Women Friends -- We KEEP in Touch!

I have written about several men that I was friends with in high school, lost contact with and then re-connected with later. Each story is different, because we are all different. However, I got to thinking about this and wondered, were there no women that I was friends with, lost track of, and then reconnected with later in life?

I gave this some thought, and the answer is this: women do not “lose track” of their good friends. There is one, Mary, who I will address in the next episode, but for now, I want to talk about others.

Jean has always been with me. We became friends in the 7th grade when we had boyfriends that were best friends. The guys went by the wayside, but we stayed! She was in my wedding and she married six weeks later. Her husband’s career took him all over the country, and there were several times that we went to visit them; twice in Florida and once in Texas. I visited her in Kentucky but that was not a “vacation,” it was just a weekend. Jean always had a place to stay in our town and she came several times. I’ve lost count. It doesn’t matter. Before the days that we had Facebook, texting and fundamentally FREE phone calls, we wrote, we called and we wrote some more. When I got my cancer diagnosis, I called my husband, I called my mother; but I texted a few close friends and my children, who were both working. Within minutes, there was a return call from Jean. That’s just how it is. I’m friends with her sister and sister-in-law on Facebook, and indeed, I have known her whole family all of my life! Today I would say that things are quicker than they used to be, but it was always there. Our friendship. Our sisterhood.

Debbie was my closest friend during our junior and senior years in high school and during college years. We met at the swimming pool. She had her driver’s license and picked up me and my little brother, who played with her two younger siblings. Later, we married the same year, and because of our husbands, took some different highways. She has lived in several different parts of the country and eventually returned to our hometown.

Debbie has been my private duty nurse. During three major operations, she was there for me. And MOST IMPORTANTLY, she came and took care of my children while my husband, brother and I went to Atlanta to see my other brother, who had been critically injured in an automobile accident. I couldn’t get aunts and uncles to come down, my one sister-in-law, who had to work, made sure that her parents (my children’s grandparents) came down to relieve Debbie so she could go to work. I do not know what I would have done without her. My mother and my aunt were already in Georgia, and this was not something that my children should have been a part of.

Later we worked together in a business she owns. It was suppose to be a temporary situation that turned into three years. During that time, and really all the time since high school, I was a part of her family. My folks used to joke that they were taking Debbie as a tax deduction and her parents joked that they were adding my name to their Christmas cards. Or maybe it was the other way around. I forget.

When my father died, Deb was there, fixing meals in our kitchen. She didn't have to ask where anything was. She just did it. I remember it was tuna fish sandwiches, nothing special, but she got lunch for us. Without a doubt, her gift is mercy and service. 

I didn’t meet Linda until we were seniors. We both were cheerleaders for the “Senior-Faculty” game and we used the same pattern for our costume, so back and forth we went, from house to house. While coming into the mix late because she was a military kid, she bonded with my other friends, while having some of her own that I met. We still hung around as we went to college, but two years later she decided to move to Virginia. She got a job there (there was a guy there, but we know how those things go!) and I remember helping her pack. It was sad, but I think we saw it as a passage.

Our fathers died the same year; 1977. Hers in March and mine in August. We supported each other in a way others could not understand.

Linda married for the first time about a year after I did. I was in her wedding. I liked her first husband, but I could honestly see where there were things that would cause friction. My husband and I visited them three different times. While he is still a very likable guy, it wasn’t to be. There were several years between her marriages and because of what she was doing professionally (she’s an architect), I didn’t see much of her or hear from her. We had a thing going on for a while, I would call her after church on Christmas Eve. I wish we still did that.

Linda and I primarily got back together during the aforementioned accident of my brother. Jerry and I stayed with Linda and her second husband in their apartment. He is a pilot and pilots have odd schedules. The following month I went down while he was on a trip and she took me to see my brother again. During that “girls’ weekend,” we bonded.

From that point on, we kept in touch regularly. Having a brother who lives 30 minutes away helped solidify our relationship. Linda and I have had our ups and downs, and at times reversed roles. There were times when she wanted what I had, and I wanted what she had. Over the years, we have accepted our own lot and the other’s and have been dear friends, accepting the talents and abilities of the other, and how we enrich each other’s lives. Today we text and talk regularly, and visit when we can. I wouldn’t go to my brother’s without seeing her, no matter what is going on.

Another Debbie and I have been friends since 6th grade. We were good friends in junior high and high school, but for a while went our own ways. Our relationship has been remarkable in how we have “interwoven” our lives. We worked in two different organizations before our marriages (and during, the first years). Our daughters went to the same Pre-School, so we connected there. Her last baby went to the Pre-School during the time that I worked there. Our kids went to the same schools, after we moved into that district. Our girls played softball together. Over the last few years, we have gone to concerts that we know our husbands are not interested in. She joins us at whatever luncheons she can. I don’t see her enough. Our relationship has been an interweaving of the chapters of our lives, never that far away, but having our own lives too.

With the exception of Debbie #2, all of these ladies moved around the country while I stayed in one place. It didn’t matter. We still visited, wrote letters, and called.

And next, we’ll talk about Mary—one of my oldest and dearest friends, but how different we are!
Me and the two Debbies in 1970
Here we are in 2010
Me, Jean and Linda in 1984
And in 2011.





Thursday, February 11, 2016

Guest Blog from Jill-Becoming Minimalist

I am pleased that something that I have blogged about has influenced another person. Jill wrote me recently to tell me her story:

Way back in my "high school days" I knew Denise. We were not good friends, she was two classes ahead of me in school and back then, two years made a big difference! Fast forward several decades and we reconnected via Facebook. Our hometown upbringing and other common interests drew us back together. Now we are friends!

Something that Denise mentioned a couple years ago on Facebook inspired me. She repeatedly posted Joshua Becker articles on becoming minimalist. I read them and thought I might want to try doing this. After my kids were grown and long ago out of the house, I still had not only "our" stuff, but "their" stuff too.

What was I keeping all this for? When was I ever going to use this again? Why do I keep moving it from house to house? Most importantly, was any of this "stuff" bringing me joy?

I came to the conclusion the stuff was actually doing just the opposite. It was a burden. I was so occupied with the clutter that it took time away from the ability to have free time for fun. The next thing I knew I made a decision. I was going to get rid of this crap!

It was quite the project. It did not happen overnight. Little by little, I would tackle one area, then the next. I actually really got into it! It was hard work, but it was fun! I felt more and more inspired. I read books, I followed several different methods and at the end of the journey I found myself in a place that I hadn't been in years...I was free. I was able to have time to do things without feeling guilty. I was in a place that felt right. Being organized made me able to enjoy experiences. I had time to live!

Recently I mentioned to Denise that we were planning a move to a smaller place next month. I told her how the minimalist journey had made this possible. She inspired me to begin this journey, and she had no idea of the impact she made on me changing my life!

Denise again, here: the rest of the story. Jill was part of my life at the pool. I had a crush on her older brother--haha! She swam well and was on the swim team and I didn't. I was more into the social scene. Jill's best friend was a military kid and moved across the country. When Jill went to visit her, she met the love of her life. So little Jill, homegrown, hometown daughter of a dentist, ended up across the country, where she has made her life and home. And, she's still with the same guy!

There was no reason for Jill and me to keep in touch until we became friends on Facebook, and I don't even remember how that happened! However, as it is many times, you find things you have in common and establish an entirely new level of relationship.

I have seen her at her return to her class reunion. I didn't go to it, but we decided to get together for lunch. I'm pretty sure we'll do that the next time too!
Then

And now--aren't they cute?

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Fifth Anniversary of Connection Intersection

Well, it’s the fifth anniversary of this blog and I am going to direct you to what I wrote last year on How I Have Changed as a Result of Blogging. Most of that information is not new, so if you have not read it before, then you can now.

It has been interesting to see what people are interested in! Something I think is very normal just explodes! Then there are blogs that I think are good, but no one else does! I always say that the blogs are not all equal, and no person is going to be interested in all of them—except maybe my Mom.

The most read of all time is Sometimes, High School Just Isn’t Fun! The second most read is called Some Interesting Numbers. One Entry that I wrote, edited, found a picture and posted in 20 minutes is one of the most read, The Circle Won’t Be Broken. I think that title drew people in, but it’s a darn good story!

My personal stories (all pre-approved!) have gone well, but Mike and Vicki’s stories have been the most compelling. Let me interject that I am ALWAYS open to guest blogs.

On Being Married to a Teacher was well read, as so many people wonder what it’s like. Well, it’s a job, but the most interesting part is being married to a teacher that was in high school when you were a student. I was not his student.

Learning to Let Go hit a few nerves, directed to moms of boys. Then there was the Letting Go--A Reprise and Twelve Days Before a Wedding, from the standpoint of a Mother-of-the Groom.

All the Christmas Letters draw well, as I send out emails to my Christmas list and Facebook friends check it out too. Those are a journal of our lives.

It will soon be time for some “reruns” with respect to the 45th Reunion. What they have to say doesn’t need to be rewritten. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Greg

Because we went to the separate junior high schools, I didn’t meet Greg until I was at least a sophomore. I don’t have a date or a reason. He was just always there.

Greg--unforgettable in "If I Were A Rich Man."
In our junior year, Greg was encouraged by his girlfriend’s mother, to try out for the choir. With his rich bass voice, very mature for a 17-year-old, he not only made the top choir but the “show” choir.

During our senior year, we were pals. We did a lot of choir traveling
together, but we each had many other friends too, so there was certainly nothing exclusive in this relationship. If I had one word to describe it, it would be “comfortable.”

He went to my church at the request of our school choir director, who also directed the church choir. I guess he needed basses. That year, my attendance at church choir was very sporadic because of other things that I was doing, and I don’t remember much about it. What I do remember, is that he and other school pals that did NOT attend my church, went to our senior high youth group retreat. I have movies to prove it, although they are very old and grainy. In the movies, we are all sitting around singing by the huge fireplace and this is a time I WISH we had video and audio together. So much of my childhood and youth is just a look-see only.

We were all having a very good time, I do remember that. It’s a fond memory.

Greg was involved with a group that put on dances after home games on Friday nights. I went to them often, although not every week. He claims that he danced with me at some time and I have no memory of it. He was and is much taller than I am and I bet it was awkward from that perspective. You know how high school kids slow dance, hanging all over each other. That simply would not have worked well in this situation, no matter HOW much I liked him or vice versa!

He went away to college and I stayed at the hometown university. The old gang broke up and we went about our lives. He married his college sweetheart and I knew nothing about this until I started doing the research for our tenth reunion and found him WIDOWED! How could one be widowed so young? His wife had died the year before, of toxic shock syndrome. Naturally, he was not interested in attending our tenth reunion and who can blame him?

What I know now is that he was employed by the same company for 33 years so, although there was some travel involved, his work experience was stable.

He was into the theater and did a bunch of plays and things, far too long of a list for me to quote, and even if I were to ask him, he’d have to do some research. There were that many! He met his second wife in a play (she had been a neighbor and friend of mine from school), married her and early on they realized that wasn’t a good idea. It was the “young and stupid” marriage that we all talk about.

Several years later, again he met someone in a show and that marriage has turned out to be the one. They are solidly together, with much history and many common interests. She is lovely and gracious. One thing I can say about Greg during these many years is that every time they moved, I got an email with his new address. (Oh, I wished, that others would do that!) I always knew where he was!

Us in 2010
After 33 years at his job, he was canned. Nothing new in the business world, trim the top of the tree. We reconnected during this time of him looking for another job, but having a lot of free time on his hands. He really enjoyed our luncheons, and came to many of them. He and I, and some others, developed meaningful conversations during these times. I’ll be the first to say that when he did eventually get another job, I sure missed him.

Unlike other relationships like Mike and Gene, Greg IS married and his first priority is to his wife and family. My husband trusts me with all of these guys so it’s not an issue there at all. (When you’re married to a teacher, who taught two of them and certainly knew about the other one, it’s like that). So, we are not able to see each other as much, but we do keep up with email.

Although Greg has ANOTHER job, with more demands, and at 62, I get being tired and I get family commitments, and I don’t hear from him as often. 

However, he is one of those friends that you can pick right up with as if no time has passed.

And it’s still as “comfortable” as ever.