Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, wherever you may be

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Do you ever wish a holiday would just drop off the map?

I do, because it’s that time of year again when I’m getting emails in my inbox reminding me to buy flowers or candy or some other type of present for my mom for Mother’s Day.

Is it just me or is Mother’s Day on steroids this year? It’s everywhere I turn – in the stores, in the newspaper, on the radio, on the Internet. Maybe it’s that way every year. Maybe it just seems so in my face because I miss her so much.

I recently moved near where my dad lives, and my mom didn’t live too far from him. For many years, when I came “home” to visit, I spent time with each of them. And now, she should be here. But she isn’t.

People ask other people, and people have asked me, “What are you doing for Mother’s Day?” Well, my mom died two and a half years ago. What are you supposed to do with Mother’s Day when you’re not a mother and your mother is no more? What do you do when you’re one of the Motherless Daughters?

Unbelievably, a distant family member swooped in and stole my mother’s ashes from the place that handled her arrangements after she “graduated” from medical school. (I had to fight distant family members to even make sure her body was donated to a medical school like she wanted, but that’s another story.) I still remember my shock when the guy said, “I’m sorry, we sent her to so and so.” Of course, they never contacted me to see if that was what I wanted, but instead just assumed that person was telling the truth when he requested it behind my back.

I felt horrible about that for about a week, until a good friend came to my house for a visit. When I tearfully told him what happened, he said one of the greatest things anyone has ever said to me: “Well, think about it this way. You got all of those years with her, and all of her love and all of those memories, and all he got was a box of ash.”

An overwhelming feeling of peace immediately came over me and I haven’t been upset about the theft since, because he was right: I got all the best of my mom during all of the years we had together. He also pointed out something else to me: She isn’t gone from me.

Throughout the week after that conversation, I really thought about what he said about her not being gone and then I realized he was right. She is with me every day.

I can hear her in my voice when I get excited or silly, or when I talk to my animals. I do the same higher pitch then.

I can see her in my hand whenever I sign my name. I worked hard when I was a teen to mimic her elegant cursive, and if you looked at our signatures, you would immediately see the resemblance.

I can feel her in my smile whenever I pose for a “good” photo. (My mom was a teenage beauty queen who taught me how to smile for “good” photos.)

I can hear her in the advice I give to friends – be kind, to yourself and others; do the right thing; love everyone, always.

I guess for Mother’s Day, I will remember my mom and wish she was still here. I’ll ache about feeling like an orphan. And I’ll hug my dad a little tighter, because he’s the only parent I have left.

Do you still have your mom? If not, what do you do for Mother’s Day? If this post spoke to you, please share it.

No one wants to be assaulted at work

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Photo by Pixabay

Sexual assault comes in many forms.

Of course, we all know what outright rape is, right? But what about all of the other forms and grades and shades of acting out in a sexual manner against another person? Are those assaults?

I was thinking about this when I read an Indianapolis Star story about an Indiana bar co-owner who banned a patron from his pub because the 60-year-old customer kept making sexual remarks to female staff members.

The man said his remarks would have been OK 20 years ago. But were they really? Or did men just think they were?

I’ve waited tables and have experienced many types of sexual behavior from patrons. When I was 16 years old, I was a junior waitress in a small-town restaurant. Being a junior waitress meant I did all of the other things the regular waitresses did, but I couldn’t carry alcohol to and from tables.

I can’t count the number of times men said or did sexual things to me. One man asked if I was “wearing underwear under that cute uniform.” Another grabbed my butt as I took the order of those at his table. Another patted me on the butt every time he came in. And yet another would lean back in his chair every time I squeezed by so his back brushed against my chest. And all of those things happened when I was 16!

I’m not happy with myself that I didn’t report all of those things to my boss. I’m sure he would’ve behaved like the above-mentioned bar co-owner. But I was afraid I would lose a job I desperately needed. My father had been laid off and I was literally helping pay the bills for a short time. (I didn’t mention those incidences to my dad either, so don’t blame him for anything here.)

People who wait tables are supposed to smile and be friendly, no matter what. Your tips depend on how you interact with the customer. And your tips are basically the majority of your pay. Besides, the customer is always right, right?

“… the dark side of this business is we run into some pretty horrible goblin people,” Black Acre Brewing Co. co-owner Jordan Gleason said in a Facebook post he wrote that has gone viral. “Folks who think that just because we’re serving, we don’t deserve any basic decency or respect…Here’s the thing though, women in this field get infinitely more disgustingly treated. The sheer number of times they get groped, or harassed, or treated like objects would blow your mind. The worst of it is how normal their harassers think their behavior is…

“Men, we often don’t see the level of filth that our friends, sisters, and mothers go through every day. We hope to surround ourselves with people who would never treat a woman like that. We live in a safe little bubble. But the reality of this thing? It’s an insidious disease that’s happening every single day…”

I’m so proud of this manager for standing up to this customer and for the female staff at his establishment.

It’s time for all men to stand up for women, stop treating us like objects and stop making unwanted sexual remarks and advances.

Don’t you agree?

If this post speaks to you, please share it with others.

You never know who’s watching and learning from you

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I was just at a CVS drug store with my 71-year-old dad, who asked me to come and help him do some shopping. He had a kind of long list and was going to use a credit card for the first time.

Now to those of us who have been using cards forever, that sounds like no big deal. But my dad has always been a cash-only kind of guy. He recently got the card, and he decided to try it out on this list of vitamins and medicine, which can get pricey really quick.

I hunted down the majority of the things he needed while he picked out one or two items. When we got to the register, I showed him how to slide the card through the machine. No luck there; it’s one of those newer chip cards. I could tell from the sigh he let out that he would’ve given up right then, when the message said, “Insert card below.”

But I then showed him how to put it into the reader and wait for it to approve the purchase. I then handed him the electronic “pen” and showed him where and how to sign. He paused after writing his first name and I knew what he was thinking.

“The signature won’t look just like yours,” I said gently, before he then continued to sign.

He put the pen back in the holder and I smiled and said, “See, that’s all there is to it.”

We headed for his car and I put his bags in the trunk. Before we left the lot, he asked me if I gotten an item we had put to the side because he wanted to pay cash for something. I headed back into the store to retrieve and pay for it.

An older woman was coming out of the store and said to me, “That was wonderful. I just told my grandkids to watch you, because I thought your patience was a beautiful thing to see.”

“I just love my dad,” I said, and thanked her for the compliment.

I grinned from ear to ear. I was just helping my dad do something he didn’t understand. But I made this woman’s day and taught her grandchildren a lesson in patience, she said.

That goes to show you never know who’s watching you and what they are learning from you. What are you teaching people today?

You aren’t what you eat; you’re what you do

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I recommend changing careers if you wake up one day and realize that the thing that has always made you happy is making you deeply unhappy.

Oh, it isn’t like it happened to me overnight. It was more of a wearing-down-over-time kind of thing. First, an unkind boss and then the company becomes less than caring paired with long hours and low pay and there I was wondering, “What am I doing here?”

So now I’m on one of the biggest adventures of my life. I made the best plan I could, fashioned a type of parachute moneywise and jumped out of the corporate plane for freedom. And I’m not looking back.

I decided that rather than write and edit for someone else to make them money, I would write and edit for myself to make me money. It’s exciting and fun and scary as hell.

They say you never know what you’re made of until you risk it all and find out. Well, I’m finding out, day by day. It’s been nearly five months since I left my job of 10 1/2 years. It was a job I loved, until it wasn’t.

The pay was never great; the hours were terrible. Sure, I could take a long lunch often when I wanted to, go to the office later in the day if I needed to and make up hours sometimes when I wanted to. Sometimes, I was even allowed to work from home.

But there were times when I called in sick and I would get asked, “Are you sure you can’t make it in anyway? What’s wrong with you? We need you here.” I once worked a 15-hour day, and workdays that lasted 10 hours or more were not the exception, but rather the rule. Some weeks, my dog walker saw my dog more than I did.

For years, I wasn’t allowed to take vacation when I wanted to, and sometimes not at all. There were years when I was told, “You can take one of these weeks here, or don’t go.” Honestly. I have the emails to prove it.

I missed events I had bought tickets to, family events, things I wanted to do with friends and even funerals of family members. I missed too many holidays to count because I HAD to be at the office.

More than one man broke up with me because I always had to put my job first. I never met a relationship that stood up to that test, at least not for very long.

But that is all behind me now and I’m working for myself. I can spend the day in my pajamas if I want to, watching episode after episode of “Star Trek” (The Original Series) and I have. I can also write all day, but do it in my pajamas if I want to, like I did today. I can play hooky when I want to, and I am spending a lot of time with my dad, my last family member. See, two years ago, I lost other family members, unexpectedly, in the space of a few months. That can really change how you think about your life and what it means to really live it.

After I grieved until I could grieve no more (although that never really ends), I took a look around and thought about the time I have left in life. After all, maybe I won’t live to be as old as I want to be. My mom didn’t. She had dreams and goals and things she was going to do. And then she was no more, and the dreams and goals and things were gone. Because of that, I thought about what I really want, and want I really don’t want. Lo and behold, that job was the first thing that I no longer wanted.

I’m freelancing now, and working on a few books. I spend time with my German shepherd and we go for a lot of walks. She loves chasing her tennis ball in a field near where we live in the little town into which I have disappeared. She’s snoring away at my feet as I write this. But it has been hard to find a groove, to set and/or stick to any kind of schedule, to get things figured out.

Turns out that when all you are is what you do, you don’t quite know who you are when you don’t do that anymore. That’s OK. I’m happy now. And that’s what really matters.

If there is something in this post that speaks to you, please share it with family and friends.

You can mourn someone you’ve never met

graveyard-celebrity deathsIn the past couple of years, I have mourned the loss of several people who I had never met.

Leonard Nimoy (yes, who was Spock of Star Trek but also had success in movies, television shows, in the recording studio and in the art world) died Feb. 27, 2015.

The mercurial, but nonetheless talented singer/songwriter Scott Weiland died Dec. 3, 2015. And even though his death was predicted and “expected” for years, that didn’t make it any less shocking, any less painful for me when it came. I loved Stone Temple Pilots, and I also loved all of Weiland’s side projects. I met him once and made him laugh, and I will carry that image of him forever – his head thrown back in true laughter at something I did that he called “delightful.”

The great David Bowie passed away Jan. 10. Just four days later, actor Alan Rickman died. Both men had cancer, and both were 69 when they died. In this day and age, that isn’t old. And both were vibrant and still performing amazingly well in their chosen careers.

I still recall like it was yesterday sobbing and dropping to my knees when I learned that John Lennon had been murdered on Dec. 8, 1980. I remember right where I was, who I was with, what I was wearing, how I heard the news. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I loved him and his music so much. My teen brain couldn’t make sense of the fact that he was a peace activist and he was murdered. I still want someone to explain that one to me. And there’s the snuffing out of all of the wonderful music he was making and would have made…

When Johnny Cash died, I felt like I had lost a family member. I wept bitterly the day I found out he was gone. My dad played his records when I was a child, and I followed Cash’s music career as I grew up and moved from place to place. Never saw him in concert, never met him, but I truly loved him. Maybe this won’t make sense to some people, but he was like a father figure to me.

Why do celebrity deaths affect us so much? I think there are many reasons. But, mostly, I think it’s that these people gave us themselves and their time, and therefore we spent time “with” them. I knew everything about Lennon, and as a teenage girl I had spent hours and hours talking with friends about him and listening to his music.

Bowie made me feel like being an outsider, a misfit, wasn’t so bad. It was fine to not be like everyone else. In fact, it was cool to be whoever I was, whoever I wanted to be, and I could change and change again and still be cool. I could just be me. And that was all right.

Cash spoke out for the downtrodden, the broken, the wayward people. I felt his music deeply, and felt like he was talking to me in some of the things he said.

As Spock, Nimoy taught me many lessons when I was a child and as I grew up. I also loved his music. And later his art. He seemed a noble person to me.

Rickman made me laugh, and cry. His quality roles are too numerous to list here, and I may have loved him for the ones that were not as famous as others. I wonder if he would find it funny that the first thing I thought when I learned he was dead, while I hadn’t even wrapped my head around Bowie’s death, was, “By Grabthar’s Hammer…” And then I laughed. I think he might have approved.

The bottom line is this: Let people criticize us “commoners” when we mourn the passings of the famous. Love is love, no matter where it is found. Go ahead and love, and mourn, however deeply you need to.

If something in this post speaks to you, please share it with your friends or on social media.

You have two choices when you fall

danger-851895_1280I fell from a great height last night – the top of a ladder to be exact.

See, I’m a do-it-yourself kind of girl, and I decided to try to repair a bedroom ceiling light. So, there I was, on top of the ladder, when the bulb blew right while I was tinkering. Well, out went the light and with it went my equilibrium. Chandelier in hand, I flew backward through the air and landed between the bed and the dresser.

I knew immediately some things were broken, but thankfully none of them were part of me. The chandelier, which I have cherished for a number of years, is toast. So is a mirrored panel from the top of my dresser and a beloved candleholder. Once I got the lights on, it looked like a glass bomb had gone off.

But before that, there I was, flat on my back in the dark. My dog’s bed saved me. Yep, you read that right. Before working on said light, I was doing some rearranging and I had folded my German shepherd’s double-stacked memory foam bed in half and tucked it between the above-mentioned bed and dresser. (And for those of you who love to count, that is four cushy layers of memory foam.) I have never been so glad to have landed in a certain spot.

As I lay there, I almost panicked. I started to should all over myself. (I should have had someone else climb up there. I should have had another light on so I could see. I should not have climbed up there when I knew I was tired.) But then, even though I knew I was hurt, I stopped everything and took a deep breath. “You’re fine, I said to myself out loud. Yes, you’re hurt, but it’s going to be fine. You’ve been hurt before. Now let’s get up from here and figure out what’s next.”

I stood and ran a hand gingerly over one arm. I apparently tried to catch myself with my arm. It’s a natural reaction we have to falling, flail and try to break the fall. I got to a huge, pointy lump on my arm and thought, “That is the bone sticking out of my arm.” Again, I started to panic. But then, I took another deep breath and said out loud, “Well, if it is, there’s no use freaking out. What is done is done.” (But I do have to confess to being thrilled to see only a hellacious goose egg once I got a light on and my sleeve up.)

I immediately headed for the freezer for an ice pack and sat with it wrapped around my arm until it got warm. Then, I went back in my room, turned on a light and cleaned up the glass. I’ll glue the candleholder back together. It’s a glass elephant, part of a pair, and even though it won’t look as good as new, I’m a misfit toy and I love other misfit toys. (In the event you don’t know what I mean, here’s an explanation.) I took a big dose of ibuprofen and went to bed earlier than I planned.

Today, I am sore, in many places, but I am fine. I feel lucky that I didn’t get hurt worse than I did (although the bruise on my arm is literally more a foot long). The point in my telling you this is that you have two choices in life when you get knocked down – you can lie there and cry and whine about falling and then you can spend an infinite amount of time doing more of that OR you can get back up, brush yourself off, take a deep breath, be thankful it wasn’t worse and move on. I hope I will again choose the latter the next chance I get.

I’m not getting older; I’m getting better!

I have a birthday this week. For some reason, recent birthdays have me feeling nostalgic and contemplative like never before. A few years ago, it became clear to me that I likely have fewer years in front of me than I do behind me. John Cougar (Mellencamp) said it perfectly in the song “The Real Life:” “It’s a lonely proposition when you realize that there’s less days in front of the horse than riding in the back of this cart.”

It makes me feel sad, because I really love my life. It also makes me push harder to do the things I want to do before I die. Life seems to get more complicated as you age, and many things become harder than they seemed years ago. I’m trying to be bolder as I get older, but in truth things scare you as you age that didn’t scare you when you were younger.

I was in a car accident a few years ago. It didn’t seem that major when it happened, but it has had long-lasting effects. After a few years in physical therapy, I am nearly back to the condition I was before it happened. Unfortunately, losing the weight I gained during the time I was off my feet has proven to be more than difficult. It took much longer to heal from this accident than more serious things that happened in my past.

And then there are simpler things. Remember when you were younger and you’d sleep on the sheets or pillow the wrong way and then you’d wake up with those lines embedded in your face? Heck, they’d be gone before you finished your Froot Loops. When you get older, those lines can stay on your face until noon, or later. Nothing like being at the office at 11 a.m. and having someone come up and say, “What did you do to your face?” (“I aged,” you mutter under your breath. My mom’s secret tip to prevent wrinkles: satin pillowcases. Try them. You’ll be surprised how much better you look in the morning.)

I don’t know if I would call it a bucket list, but each birthday after 30 I’ve tried to take a look at my life and determine whether I’m on course. Some years, I feel right on track. Other years, I feel like I don’t know who I am or what I want.

In the past year, I began downsizing my life. I recently moved into a much smaller home. I got rid of a lot of things before the move, but I still have way too much for the house I live in now. So as I unpack each box, I am taking great care to decide whether I really want to keep each item or whether it should go to another home to live.

(Instead of setting something perfectly good out with the garbage, call your local Salvation Army. They find other people who would love to have the things you cast off, if they are still in good condition. If you don’t have a Salvation Army near you, find another such organization. Many of them will even pick things up!)

I am also considering what I really want from my remaining years. You don’t think about those things when you’re younger, when you feel like you’ll live forever and nothing can harm you. But as you age, physical injuries take longer to heal. Emotional wounds last longer than when you were young and you would brush things off, knowing you had plenty of time.

Gretchen Rubin, the author of three books about happiness, said it best. “The days are long but the years are short.” Think about that for a minute or five.

We all want to be remembered. We all want to make it count. It’s never too late to start fulfilling your dreams. No one is promised forever, and you never know when your life will be over. You should make every day worthwhile. Figure out what makes you happy and go for it, no matter how old you are.

 

Resolutions are for quitters

I’m just going to go ahead and say it: New Year’s resolutions are for quitters.

Think about it. How many resolutions have you made only to find two months later that you don’t know what they were or when you stopped caring about them? Or worse, you get down on yourself for not keeping them.

Depending on what study you read, between 55 percent and 95 percent of people don’t keep the resolutions they set.

I can’t count the times I made resolutions (to lose weight, stop swearing, change jobs, spend less, save more, spend more time with family, go on a vacation, etc.) that I never kept. Sure, I would start with the best intentions, only to fail days, weeks or months later.

A few years ago, I decided to stop this cycle that only made me unhappy. I no longer remember the funny comment someone made to me about my love of cheese just weeks before the end of a year. But I clearly remember thinking, “That’s it! I’ll make one resolution for the coming year. I will eat more cheese.”

After laughing like crazy with my friends about the idea, I decided maybe it wasn’t so crazy. It was something I wanted to do and it involved something I loved. The resolution revolution was on. Over the next 12 (Yes, all 12!) months, I researched cheeses, read books and articles about cheese, visited places where cheese was made and even attended a cheese festival. And I bought some new type of cheese every week when I shopped for groceries.

I told friends about my “resolution” and I can’t tell you how many times people would ask me throughout the year, “When was the last time you had some cheese?” or “Have you tried any new cheeses lately?” People even bought me cheeses to help me keep my resolution. Maybe it was the novelty that excited them. Or maybe it was that I was actually succeeding long after the idea came about.

I didn’t gain weight that year, if you’re wondering. What I did gain was a better understanding of how I follow through (or not) on various goals I set for myself. I also gained a feeling of great satisfaction when I realized in mid-December that I was still eating more cheese than I had the year before. And I learned that I liked blue cheese, something I had always thought I hated.

Each year since, I have made one “resolution” per year. The year after cheese, it was to go to more movies. The following year, go to more concerts. The year after that, spoil myself. Surprisingly, I kept those all year as well. I also did the year before last, when I vowed to watch every Star Trek series and movie, in chronological order. I started Jan. 2 and finished Dec. 27. That led to me attending my first Star Trek convention and a new bunch of friends, but that’s a story for another day.

I do set goals all through the year and keep them. You likely do as well. But why set unrealistic goals, call them resolutions, and then set yourself up for failure and disappointment at the beginning of every year, just because everyone else does? Find something you love and go for it, no matter what time of year it is.

I tend to be more reflective this time of year, and I certainly think about my life and where I am in it. Am I doing something I love? Am I balanced? Am I happy? What do I really want for the coming year? I think those are the questions you should be asking yourselves instead of making empty promises you may not keep.

Happy New Year.