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A Stressless & Delicious Thanksgiving!

00 clockTime marches on faster every year. It is already November, and I am still trying to figure out what happened to summer. Yes, summer is my favorite season, but there are some special things about the upcoming holiday. I never thought I was really a traditional person, but sometimes I surprise myself with traditions that I have grown to love over the years.

Thanksgiving was not my favorite. It came at the end of a working week, and required a lot of preparation. I was pretty clever back in the day. My sister, Judy, was an excellent cook. Nothing was ever ordinary on her menus. She cooked and served with the flair of a Martha Stewart. For more than a decade she and I were the only immediate family in St. Louis. Our mom had been gone for years, our dad relocated to warm Arizona, and our other sister, Marilyn, lived near Washington D.C. Thanksgiving and Christmas became the holidays we did together, adding our children and their expanding families to the mix. I convinced Judy that she needed to do Thanksgiving every year. She had the time to do all the prep work that I did not. I could do Christmas, because the company where I was employed shut down between Christmas Eve and New Years. I had plenty of time to prepare on Christmas Eve, and clean up during the long stretch off work.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat all changed in 2012. My sister, Judy, passed away after a very short and difficult battle with cancer. It was a super hard year. Watching my sister who had been healthy all her life slip away from us in her 68th year was heartbreaking. My holidays changed forever. Later that same year I met my husband. So not only did my holidays change without her, my new life the following year in a new community in the country, changed my holidays even more. Tradition is wonderful, but we have to be prepared for changes, and how to shift and adjust to these changes.

Now I was in charge of all my holidays. I like my life to be stress free, so I look for ways to do that even during the holiday season. I never liked cooking turkey. I thought it as a big super dry chicken! Ha! I started watching the Food Network and going online to find the best way to cook a turkey. I found that the secret was brining the turkey before 01 dinnerroasting. The first year I tried a brine that Alton Brown had on one of his cooking segments. He always gave the science behind what happens to the molecules while cooking, so I understood the brining process, but I wanted a brine that would be more my taste and style. I discovered a sweet and citrusy brine that worked to perfection. It is made with apple juice, brown sugar, kosher salt, orange peels, and a few spices. I will post the recipe below. The first thing I had to do was get a brining container. I went to the local Home Depot and purchased an empty 5 gallon plastic paint bucket. It cannot be one that ever had paint in it. I cooked up my brine days in advance, and when cooled, returned it to the apple juice bottles, including the peels and all, and refrigerated it until the night before Thanksgiving.

01 family festThe night before Thanksgiving, I remove my thawed turkey from the refrigerator. (Remember to take out all the stuff on the inside—you know that little bag containing the neck, heart, giblets, and liver). I got my paint bucket and poured in all the brine ingredients. (Another reminder: don’t forget to wash the bucket well with warm sudsy dishwater, and rinse well). I put Tom Turkey down into the brine. If the turkey isn’t covered, I add water and ice to bring the solution above the turkey. I cover the bucket with one of my very large Tupperware seals and place a pot on top to keep the lid on. If the weather is not freezing outside, I set the bucket out on the screened-in porch for the night. In my other home, I put in on my patio, which is why I needed a heavy pot on top, so the critters wouldn’t try to get in the bucket. If it was a freezing cold Thanksgiving, I put the bucket in the garage which gives it enough protection from the cold, because the last thing I need to happen is the turkey refreezing.

Another preparation I did in advance is all the chopping of everything fresh for the stuffing, and yes, I stuff the bird. My mother stuffed the bird, my sister stuffed the bird, I 00 buffetstuffed the bird—and, no one has died yet! The celery, onion, and any other fresh ingredients used in a stuffing recipe is chopped and in containers in the refrigerator. I don’t like stress. I don’t want to be working like a crazy person on the day everyone is arriving. I want to relax and enjoy my guests, and not spend my time in the kitchen while everyone else is enjoying each other’s company.

My stuffing recipe is a pretty basic one, which is actually pretty much the one my mom made. There is something about eating food that tastes like my childhood to bring back warm fond memories of my mom and our family feasts. Once I am ready to stuff the bird, I retrieve it from it’s hiding place—the bucket. Hint: I put a couple bath towels on 3 piesthe floor around the sink because I have not found an easy and clean method to pull a big (18-22 lbs) bird out of the bucket and lift it to the sink. There will be a brine mess on the floor. My sink had been washed out so I can lay the bird in it, and I start rinsing it off. One of the secrets about brine is that through osmosis, the salt gets absorbed into the meat. Having too much salt on the skin surface is not what I want. I rinse and rinse and rinse. I make sure the crevices and interior of the bird is well rinsed. It will not take the salt or added moisture out of the meat. I pat the bird dry, set it in it’s rack. Side note: I have the best turkey rack in the world. I bought it years ago from QVC. This rack comes in three pieces — the two sides and a long pin that forms a hinge that holds them together. When I lift the rack with the turkey in it to the cutting board, the rack will wrap tightly around the bird so I have a stable grip. Once on the cutting board, I pull the pin out, and the sides of the rack slip off, and the bird is safely, without fuss ready to set and be sliced. Roasted meat should set for 20-30 minutes for the juices to settle in place before slicing.  I cover the bird with aluminum foil to keep it warm during the setting time.

What is amazing about the brine, is that the turkey is moist, like no turkey I have ever eaten, and it has just the right amount of salt—no one has to salt their meat. I cannot describe what is like, but if you don’t like turkey because it is dry, worry no more, brining is the answer. My 99 year old mother-in-law does not like turkey. When she came to my first Thanksgiving four years ago, she politely took a small serving of turkey, and then proceeded to ask for more. She said it was the most moist turkey, and the most flavorful turkey she had ever had! Now that’s saying something since she at that time had 95 years turkey experience!

00 assembly lineI have grown to love making Thanksgiving dinner. I do as much prep as possible ahead of time. Last year I had 30 guests for Thanksgiving. I made the turkey, stuffing, and pies. I actually made two turkeys, because it is all about the leftovers!  Everyone brought sides and more dessert, because you can never have too much dessert! My pies were even prepped ahead of time, so that the evening before, they assembled and baked. All my side dishes are prepped in advance, and the table is set the day before (except when having 30)! Some tables have to wait!

This year I am making Thanksgiving dinner, but I am not serving it at home. I will roast my turkey a few days in advance, and prepare the sides. We will drive to St. Louis on Thanksgiving morning and stick the sliced turkey and side dishes in my son and daughter-in-law’s oven to warm up. We are leaving the next day for a long trip out west. I don’t want the mess or all the leftovers. It all stays with them!

I miss my sister and would much rather be celebrating the holidays with her, but I have learned to enjoy entertaining on this special holiday. I have so much for which to be thankful. My cup overflows, and I could not ask for more for which I have been blessed.

Everyone, wrangle up your family and your friends, and have them come to your place for a delicious Thanksgiving dinner. The most important ingredient for the dinner is gratitude! We should take time on that day, like the Pilgrims did in early America sharing their harvest with the Indians who taught them to farm, and be thankful for all the blessing our God has given us. Don’t forget why we have this holiday—it’s not about gorging yourself and watching football. It’s about being with those you love and being grateful for them and the life you have, even in its challenges. Happy Thanksgiving!

Ultimate Brine For Turkey

Brining a turkey results in an incredibly moist and juicy (not “watery”) bird every time.

  • 1 1/2 cups, KOSHER salt (not regular, use Kosher)
  • 1 1/4 cups, brown sugar
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 3 teaspoons, black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 gallons (6 quarts) apple juice or cider (non-alcoholic)
  • The peel 3 oranges (colored part only – not white pith)
  • Optional: 3 teaspoons, dried thyme and/or 3 teaspoons, dried sage

Note:  I don’t always put all the spices in if I don’t have them.  It’s really the apple juice, brown sugar, kosher salt, and oranges that make the brine so good.

Combine all ingredients in a large pot.  Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes (partly covered). Allow brine to cool completely.

Rinse turkey under cool running water, inside and out (remove giblets from body cavity – but reserve them, if desired, for giblet gravy).

Pat turkey dry with paper towels, then immerse turkey in cooled brine.* Turkey should be COMPLETELY submerged in liquid (place a plate on top of the bird if necessary to keep it covered with the liquid).

Cover the pot and refrigerate for at least 8-10 hours, up to 24 hours.

Remove turkey, rinse, pat dry, and roast as usual.

Let the roast sit at room temperature for at least 1/2 an hour prior to carving.

Note: *Be sure that the container for the turkey in brine is non-reactive: use enamel, glass, crockery, stainless steel, even a plastic bucket – never cast iron or aluminum. The pot should be just large enough to contain the turkey (so the brine will be sufficient to cover the bird).GIVE THANKS.jpg

Are you like them? Are you not?

I have been retired a little over four years. I love retirement, and I love I get to do it with my very sweet husband. Although I am retired, every so often I get to dip my toes back into Human Resources. As I am writing this, I am sitting in my hotel room in Wisconsin killing time before I have to drive to the airport to return home.

i_love_hr_mugThe past two days I have conducted five sessions of Diversity and Inclusion training to a company in southern Wisconsin. This was mandatory training for this company. I met their Human Resources Manager about 15 years ago when I was her professor at Lindenwood University. We have kept our connection over the years, both serving on the board of the St. Louis Chapter of the National Human Resources Association. We called it NHRA, but not to be confused with the National Hot Rod Association, who actually owns those initials! Paula moved to Wisconsin several years ago, and when the opportunity to have diversity and inclusion training came up, she contacted me and asked if I wanted to come to Wisconsin to present. I jumped at the chance. I love being retired more than being employed, but I also truly loved my career in Human Resources, and I jump at the chance to occasionally serve as a consultant and/or trainer for some company that needs a bit of extra help.

As these employees filed into the training room, I could tell that they were there to check off the box of the required training. What they didn’t know is that I would involve them to participate and connect with their fellow employees. I also promised them that I would not be boring, and if I became boring and they were on the verge of falling asleep, they should raise their hand to remind me to pep up the session. I did two training sessions of shift workers who had just completed their full shift and were being paid to stick around an extra hour for training. They were willing to do so, and I could tell that they had less energy than the participants of the other sessions.

What they didn’t expect is that I would share with them that everyone sitting in this training room was special and unique, and not one person in the room was exactly like the other. We bring our whole selves to work, not just our outer appearance. We have cultural differences, and whole life experiences, be it education, another country we were born, values, religion, and personalities which make us different and unique individuals.

passportWhat they also didn’t expect is that I would tell them about myself, and how I probably don’t fit the picture they have of me in their head from just meeting me. I showed them a few photos on my PowerPoint presentation. The first was the photo my dad’s passport picture, and I explained where he was born, and the language he spoke, I showed them a photo of my sisters and me with our great grandmother, who came to America when she was 73 years old, was deaf and only spoke German, and yet we communicated with this 011language barrier with much love. Then I show my great grandparents on my mother’s side. I told about them coming to America. I explained I had grandparents who spoke two languages, each side a different first language. I am also different and unique, just as everyone in the room is. I am sure they had a different view of me from their first impressions when the session began.

I then kicked into an exercise in which everyone, and I mean everyone, participated. They got into groups, but I made them count off to work in groups so that they might be with Completed Diversity Flowersomeone they didn’t know as well. I figured they were sitting with their friends, and it was time to expand their horizons. Everyone moved around the room to their designated groups. The first thing was to figure out what they had in common with everyone in their group. Some found these similarities easily, and some groups really struggled to find something that all 3-4 of them had in common. Nevertheless, they did find something and usually a few things. Then I had them each share with their group what was unique or special about themselves. Some were quick to share those things, and others had difficulty finding things to say. I helped them with ideas, hobbies, where you live, what you like to eat, family, sports interests, etc. All this information was written on a big flower. The middle was everything they had in common, and the petals were things that were distinctive about each person—they each were one petal of the flower. I wanted them to see that without those unique petals on the flower, that flower wouldn’t be that pretty flower we see. We need the center to the flower, but we also need the petals.

Throughout this exercise, there was a lot of talking and laughter as they were trying to find those things they relate to. When they were complete, each group shared their commonalities. There wasn’t a group that didn’t have something in common outside of work! That is always our starting point. We always try to find a connection to start a conversation. Then we can start to learn about others as we see them as unique individuals with different, backgrounds, culture, interests, and thoughts. We learn to appreciate them for who they are, not for just their outward appearance that we first see.

001 toolboxOf course, we went into the dynamics of bias, prejudice, stereotypes and generalizations. What does one do when they hear something that is hurtful? What does one do when they put their foot in their mouth and say the wrong thing? We put together our toolbox of skills one can use in these situations—what to say, with respect, in these situations.

The training sessions were fun for me, and I think everyone took away practical skills they can use everyday, not only at work, but everywhere they go. I was pleased to hear that as the HR Manager was walking down the hall, she overheard in someone’s office a conversation where they actually tried out one of these toolbox skills.

Not everyone will go out feeling inspired to practice these skills, but it is there for them. We don’t live in a perfect world, and every one of us will, at some time or the other, put our foot in our mouth and say something that may offend or hurt someone. We also discussed the skills to acknowledge and apologize.

I would love to think everyone will go out holding hands and skipping, but this world is real. We will always have something we will disagree about with someone. We will always be put in situations where we have to interact with people who are nothing like us. The key, though, is respect. We accept that there are those who are different than us, and it is okay, and we learn to respect and value them.

Once again, I go back to my personal ignition statement (the thing that catches me on fire), and a vision statement for my life:

I want to enjoy each day to the fullest, show love to others, be a light to those who want direction, accepting others where they are, being their cheerleader, showing passion, forgiveness, love and connection. My Life Vision is: To let others know they are not alone in their challenges, they have value and worth and a voice. I want to be surrounded by those I love and enjoy the grace of their love to reach out and share it with others.

What a privilege it was to share how we can love, care, respect, (you fill in the word that works for you), everyone on this planet—all were created in God’s image, and deserve our respect.00 Verse

 

Are You Grateful?

Yesterday I took out some time to reflect on my life. I couldn’t find a single thing to complain about, instead I found a whole lot of things for which I am grateful. I know, it’s not Thanksgiving yet. It never hurts to be thankful any time of year.  As Thanksgiving is approaching, maybe I can inspire you to think about the things you that make you grateful. Here is my list:

Men in My Life
I have four sons, and four years ago, I got to add a husband and step son to the list. They are all very different. Now granted, four of them kind of look similar, but they are definitely distinct individuals. My oldest son was born in September of 1972, and my youngest son was born in June of 1978. Yes, that’s four little boys in less than 6 years! (My Image 3mom said I was a bad bookkeeper)! As I had these babies, I expected they would all be born looking alike. How wrong I was. They all looked different as newborns, and even though they have many similar characteristics, they look alike and they don’t look alike. They definitely look related. They differ, from one being a risk taker and another being risk adverse. The youngest (like his mom who is a youngest) knows no strangers. He is the ham in the family—loved being on stage and in the action, although the oldest is that way also. Numbers 1 and 2 were in a rock band together in their youth, and number one son was the lead singer—no surprise there. Number 3 son was the quietest of them all, maybe because it was hard to be heard within the buzz of numbers 1 and 4! He is the one who thinks everything through. He doesn’t work without a plan, and he is successful in working out his plans. Even though he is the quietest of them all, people love him because he is genuinely sincere and loyal.

Four years ago I got married, and added two more great men to my life—my husband and his son. My husband who I wrote about before, so I won’t go into details, is so kind IMG_1062hearted. He cares for his 99 year old mom (okay, she’s not 99 until Saturday), and he loves his two brothers. He cares and treats my sons with love. His son, my newly acquired step-son, is so much like his dad. They look alike. He is smart, caring, and goofy just like his dad. How could I not love him when I see his dad in him! He and my sons just fit together like they have always known each other. They have much in common and have a great time when together. (They even get together when my husband and I are not around). Are any of these men in my life perfect? NO! They are real. They try their best. They admit when they are wrong. They work hard. They are full of life. They all enhance my life in ways that are beyond explanation. I love them all so much.

Extended Family
I get blown away when I think about my extended family. I had two older sisters who mean the world to me. One passed away five years ago, and I still miss her everyday. I am connected to my sisters’ children (5 nephews and 1 niece). I love seeing them and have been blessed to get to know them and their families as they have moved into adulthood, and some have even become grandparents themselves. My extended family is huge. My dad was the oldest of eight children, and my mom was one of four children. I have only one aunt and two uncles still with us today, and I have dozens upon dozens of cousins all around the country. Some of these cousins I knew well because I was raised with them as a child, and we have kept in touch over the years. Some I didn’t get to know until I met them on Facebook, but I feel very connected to them, and I look forward to meeting them in person whenever the opportunity arises. Some i have met as my husband and I have traveled and ended up visiting in the cities my cousins live. I am very different from my cousins in many ways, but also very much alike. There is a strong tie with them. I also have extended family that includes my husband’s relatives. l am so grateful that I have two great brothers-in-law and two great sisters-in-law, and have gotten to know their wonderful children also. I also have dear family ties to those I was related by  previous marriage. These people are still special to me, and our friendships have lasted over the years. Nieces and nephews, along with cousins, related through friendship now.

Where I Live
IMG_5356I live in a big, beautiful home in the country sitting on a small lake (large pond) with a big in-ground pool, and a great screened-in porch that looks over the woods and lake. I haven’t always had a beautiful home like this. I raised four boys in a home that was only 800 square feet. To do that was difficult, and sometimes I had a difficult time paying the mortgage or the utilities. The kitchen was so small that If we were having dinner at the kitchen table, and one of the boys wanted another glass of milk, someone had to get up and push their chair under the table so we could open the refrigerator to get the milk. IMG_0026Over the years since then, I turned my life around, figured out how to have a career I loved that paid an excellent wage, and even had a modest 3-bedroom home built new from the ground up. I don’t need to have this large of a home, and one day we will downsize. Maybe because I lived without a lot in my younger days, stuff is not important to me. I don’t need to fill a home with stuff. I just need memories and love to surround me. But, I am grateful for this home in the woods, for the serenity it provides, the opportunity to have many guests, and for a whole new outlook on life away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Where I Have Traveled
IMG_2475In my last jobs before retiring, I did a fair amount of business travel. They weren’t always exciting places to be, but they were a new landscape for me, and I appreciated every opportunity I had to be somewhere new. Between work meetings, and career conferences, I traveled to Los Angeles, San Diego, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Washington D.C., North Carolina, Chicago, Connecticut, Iowa, and Michigan. Since I have retired and married to the king of road trips, I have seen southern states, western states, part of New England, and everywhere in between. Next year we have reservations to see England, Germany, and France. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get to see so much of the world. I am grateful for every short trip and every long trip I have taken.

What I Have Done For A Living

ajw typewriter

Yes, I photoshopped my head to this because she is typing on an IBM Selectric typewriter!

In college I majored in Sociology with a minor in Psychology. Nice fields of study, but what does one do with only a Bachelor of Science degree in these fields? The year was 1970, and I had no idea how to find a job. I went on an interview, and in the course of the interview, I was asked if I could type. Not realizing that this would put me in a box, I willingly took their typing test, and scored above 70 words per minute, and I was offered a job as a secretary. This was in the days before administrative assistants. I was required to have a pot of coffee with the Wall Street Journal on my boss’s desk when he arrived to work. I was a horrible secretary. I couldn’t figure out why these guys couldn’t do some of this work themselves—did they really need a mommy at work? I went back to school. I thought I would have to get a new bachelors degree, but fortunately the school I talked to thought that my 17 years in the workforce could prepare me to get my MBA (Masters of Business i_love_hr_mugAdministration), as long as I could pass the entrance exam (GMAT—Graduate Management Admissions Test). I enrolled and received my MBA, and tailored my learning in the area of Human Resources. At that time, there were no HR graduate degrees. I worked some really bad paying, entry level HR jobs, just to have it on my resume. My first HR management position was as a Manager of Human Resources for a credit union where the employees had just certified a union. I negotiated their first 2 union contracts. This position, although not a high paid one, gave me a background that led me to larger companies with larger pay. By the time I retired, I was a Senior Human Resources Manager at a Fortune 100 company. I loved my career. I still dip my toes into the HR world by doing occasional consulting with large and small companies needing some extra help. I am so grateful for this opportunity to have a positive impact in the lives of employees.

My Friends
I have never realized how much my friends mean to me. My friendships have deepened over the years. In the last 10 years, I have reconnected with many from high school. We are very different, but we care about each other—we celebrate when they have good news, and we grieve with together over illness and death. Every so often I will get together with a friend I have not seen in years or even decades, and we pick up where we left off, just like we never missed a beat. What a blessing to have these friends.

God Who Loves Me Unconditionally
The thing I am most thankful for is my faith. I have gone through a lot of seasons in my life, some good and some bad. Some of those seasons I thought God was mad at me and had abandoned me. As I searched for my “higher power” as I was recovering from my codependent behavior, I realized, that God had never left me, nor was he angry with me. He was there waiting for me to come back. God has blessed me in so many ways since, with my family, my extended family, my career and my friends, that I am overwhelmed with gratitude and joy.

Gratitude has many benefits for us.  It affects us emotionally by making us more relaxed, more resilient, and less envious.  Our personalities are affected by making us less self-centered, more optimistic, and having increased self-esteem.  It affects our health with improved sleep and increased energy.  It affects us socially because having a grateful heart deepens relationships, makes us kinder, and increases our friendships.  Those who show gratitude make better managers at work, have increased productivity, and improved decision making skills.  In all these areas of life, when there is gratitude, happiness follows.  Gratitude is talked about a lot in 12-step groups, because it takes the focus off our dysfunctions, and puts the focus where it should be, and we start the healing process.

At the end of this month we will be celebrating Thanksgiving in the United States. It is a day where we feast with those we love, but it is really a day that we should take time out and be grateful for all our blessings. We get so busy doing life, we forget to just sit back and take in all the great things that have happened in our life. Now is the time. Start making your list. Who and what are you grateful for?

Andrea gratitude2

Tis the Season . . . .

00snowl was born in December. I came home from the hospital on Christmas Eve. I was the best gift to the family that year! Strangely enough, I never liked winter. It was cold and bleak. The sun goes down early in the day when you live in a place that has daylight savings time. I really disliked winter when I was working, and had to go home in the dark every day. I love sunshine. I tell everyone that I am solar. I have more energy on a sunny day.

00autumnAs autumn is upon us and I see the leaves changing on the trees, the flowers slowing down and about ready to wilt from the first frost, I am thinking about winter. Living in the city, winter meant icy streets. After a nice clean snow, it all becomes dingy and dirty snow as our cars drive through the slush and kick it up on the roadside. It used to make me sad to see autumn. It was a precursor to the end of warm and sunny. It was like the signal of things dying. Although I am not a fan of these colder seasons, I know it is necessary for new life to regenerate. The old must die, and new life returns. It is a life cycle that will always be there.

00birdsFour years ago I moved to the country after getting married to my sweet husband. He retired to the country after working his whole career in busy cities running a railroad. Our home sits on a little lake or a large pond, however one wants to describe it. It is serene. I have found the winters serene. We have three fireplaces in our home, but I love the one in the living room the best—it is a wood burning fireplace. The living room has 16 windows and a double sliding glass door, so the sunlight shines in, and nature is right outside the window. In the winter, when it is really cold, we will build a fire and sit in the living room and watch the beauty out of doors. Dennis put a bird feeder on this property right past the deck. I can sit in the living room on a cold, snowy day and watch the abundance of birds come to feast on the suet and seeds. Of course, a few rude squirrels will try to chase the birds off so they can feast 00poolalso. We have enough to share.

Summer is my favorite season, and that has not changed from when I lived in the city and moved to the country. I love the fact there is a pool out back and the lake behind it. I can swim, lay out, or paddle in the boat across the lovely little lake. In the summer, the abundance of trees make it is hard to see the neighbors’ homes that are around this small body of water. In the winter, I can see two of the homes.

As spring arrives, there are signs of trees budding, the spring flowers such as tulips, daffodils, and irises are popping out of the ground. Those flowers don’t last long like summer flowers, but they are some of my favorites. The April showers come, and bring moisture to the ground to allow the flowers to sprout to their beauty once again. It is a sign of new life. It is energizing. It fills my soul with hope for a new day.

00sprinklerWhen summer arrives, it is life at its fullest. Trees are rustling in the warm breezes, flowers are blooming, geese are swimming across the pond with their new babies. People are outside mowing their lawns, weeding their gardens, swimming, riding bikes, playing ball, and enjoying the warm of the season. Everyone is active. The bees are landing on the flowers sipping the nectar to produce the rich honey. You can hear children in the distance playing outside, laughing and just being kids.

00 springIt is the cycle of life. We are born like a new spring. Sprouting into this world, receiving love and nourishment to become young, active people with hopes and dreams. We run around in life as if the summer of our lives would last forever. We feel the sun shining on us all the way to our souls and we feel refreshed. As the years go by, our autumn comes upon us. It is still beautiful, but different. Like the leaves changing, our hair color may turn to white, a few wrinkles come along, and we may have a little more trouble moving along. It is just the slowing down of nature. But . . . it is beautiful in its own way. We delight in the beautiful changing of the leaves. Why don’t we delight in the beautiful changing of ourselves? It is a wonderful time of life. Slowing down, retiring from our busy work schedules to enjoy life as we wish it to be. As the winter of our life approaches, we will lose many of our friends before it’s our time. We will see the pain of our icy roads and lost leaves in our bodies not working as well as they did in the past. There is still a quiet beauty in these days. Those peaceful, snowy days are like the peaceful later days as we prepare to meet the one who created these life cycles.

IMG_0724I look at my life in the different seasons, and I see how it all fits together. My first years as a child and becoming an adult are like the spring of my life. I was young and full of energy. I was nourished with love, food, education, faith, and friends that helped me grow and become strong. Everything I encountered was new and fresh and I was excited to move on to the next steps in my life. As I moved into the summer of my life, I became a mom. Four little boys ran around the house and I relished in the aliveness that was around me. I also had a heavy drought in the summer of my life. It was my hardest years, and I thought I wasn’t going IMG_3692 - Version 2to survive, but everything came back to being, and life continued to go and grow. I moved into my loved career and continued thriving as I have moved into the autumn of my life. There is a slowing down. I am now retired. My hair has changed colors (but not fallen out, as have happened to some of the men!). I enjoy the coolness of season. I can reflect back on the earlier years of my life (childhood, young adulthood, parenthood, and my career) with 00 birdfondness. These years have taught me many lessons and have made me the person I am today. I don’t know how long my autumn season will last. For some of my friends, the autumn and winter has taken them, for some autumn has been hard on them. But we will all be there. As I relish this time in my life, I know there will be a day, the winter of my life, when things will seem harsh and cold. I will not move around as easily as I do today. I will know that this is part of life as surely as the spring of my life was. As the winter of my life approaches, I will be looking forward to the spring of a new life for eternity, one that will be all the seasons and the best of all the seasons. I will have no regrets.

These seasons of life are all beautiful in their own way. Each cycle of life we encounter has its blessings and its problems, but it is what makes that season in life so special. I realize that I need to slow down and appreciate season I am in, and every season in my life as it comes and goes. Each season is so different. Just slow down and see the beauty in our lives as we go. Appreciate every encounter one has with others, what special times we have to connect and communicate. Appreciate the nature around us — the trees, every blade of grass, the animals, birds, flowers, even those pesky little bugs that run around on six legs. Embrace the creation we have been given. Understand that none of it is forever–it is ever changing in order to continually bring new life.

How are you enjoying and embracing each season of your life? What do you want to hold onto? What do you want to change? What beauty do you see as you think of the seasons in your life?00 Psalm 118

What Do You Expect?

What kind of expectations do you have? Are they realistic? Why do you have expectations? Years ago I learned to put expectations aside. That doesn’t mean I allow anyone to do anything or nothing and it is okay.

00 divorce 2When I got divorced, my children were pretty young. They were entering a whole new world with me—the world of a single mom, and kids with only one parent with them at a time. No longer were there two of us in a united front, ushering our children along.

Divorce is messy. I am always amazed when someone says they had a friendly divorce. Really? So, if you are so friendly, why aren’t you still married? Divorce is not natural. I believe in married for better or worse. But, sometimes things happen, people cannot adjust for whatever reason, and when divorce happens, many times there are two people at fault, not one. It has been so long since I became a single mom, that there is a lot of water under the bridge. I don’t remember everything, nor do I think I want to remember everything. Time has a way of healing.

00 socksI do know that I had expectations. I had four little boys who were in my charge approximately 26 out of 30 days. We muddled our way through those days. I will not even try to convince you that I had my act together. To tell the truth, I was overwhelmed. I went to see a counselor, and I distinctly remember being in tears saying, “Whenever I eat a meal, I have five dishes to wash, whenever I wear a pair of socks, I have five pair of socks to wash, and on and on and on. I was overwhelmed that all this was on me only. I couldn’t turn to someone when I was tired, and ask that they take over if even for five minutes. My counselor said to me, “It would be overwhelming being a single parent with two children, I cannot imagine how overwhelming it must be having four.” Really? That is supposed to make me feel better? That’s supposed to give me hope to move forward? I changed counselors!

00giftAs I started my single motherhood journey, the holidays came, birthdays came. I took my boys shopping and had them pick something out for their dad (small, of course, because I wasn’t going to spend a lot), but because I wanted them to know they needed to continue to celebrate his birthday, Father’s Day, and Christmas. I assumed (expected) he would reciprocate so that the boys would know that is the right thing to do. You know what they say about “assume”! I never received a card or gift. When he remarried, I stopped, and decided if she wanted them to celebrate their dad, it was now the step-mom’s job. I think the real truth of this was that I was hurt, and was tired of doing something that didn’t get rewarded.

That most likely is codependent behavior. I acted in a certain way, hoping that someone will take notice and act accordingly. But, people don’t see those signals. People many times just don’t notice. Sometimes people just don’t care. I have learned over the years to state what I need, or what I want. I’m not always very good at that, but it is a work in progress. I will always be a work in progress. You would think that after 68+ years, I would have this thing called life all figured out. It’s just not that easy.

Over the years I expected that all my bosses and coworkers would like me. Why not? I’m a likable person. The truth is, not everyone likes me. I no longer take that reality personally. I am not going to relate to everyone, and not everyone is going to relate to me. I have always wondered why bosses end up not liking the person they hired. Do we have a tendency to see and hear what we hope for when we interview someone, and are they not being their true selves in the interview?

00 red flagWhat about when we are dating and selecting the person we want to do life with. When I was young, I totally ignored red flags. I was never taught to look for them, so if something didn’t seem quite right, I was sure I wasn’t understanding enough. Yes, codependents have low self esteem. It must be my fault, even though I know it’s not. Or, if I knew it wasn’t me, I was really good at making excuses in my mind for that other person. It’s a dangerous road to go down.

The serenity prayer states, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”  This is a prayer written by American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr in the 1930’s.  This prayer is used in 12-step groups to help participants realize that they can only control their own 9309cb2621bc670597eac2ad2bf52066 2actions, and not the actions of anyone else.  It is such a shame that most people don’t know the full prayer.  The prayer continues to say, ” Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as a pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever and ever in the next. Amen.”

I love this prayer.  It teaches me that I have no control of others, I can only control myself.  Not only that, it says I must live one day at a time, and that I should be reasonably happy.  I don’t have to be overjoyed constantly, but reasonably happy, or as I would word it, reasonably content.  I love the contentment much more than giddy happiness.  It is about accepting things as they are, the things I cannot control.

I was recently asked what I wanted for my children. Understand, that all my children are adults. We as parents have hopes and dreams for our kids. It surprised me when I answered that it was not a place I should go. I have absolutely no control over my adult children. For me to say the things I want for them, which I cannot do for them, and they must do for themselves, even if they want those things, just puts me in a place of setting myself up for worrying, bursting my way in to save, and many other things that would be harmful to either them or me. What do I want for my children? I want them to figure out life. I want them to be strong and independent. I won’t be here forever. I want them to be able to live life abundantly without me. And, yes, I want them to think of me, to spend time with me, to make me feel appreciated. The problem with that is that they have to do it the way they are comfortable. It may not be my way. I will not place those expectations on them because, 1) they may not be able to deliver; and 2) they may not do it the way I want.

I am thrilled if they call me just to talk. I am thrilled if they remember my birthday. I am thrilled if they want to come visit me. I am thrilled if they teach their children and nieces and nephews by example.

I want a lot of these things. I just don’t expect them. So, now when it comes, I am thrilled. I am thrilled to watch my kids relate to each other and care for each other. I hope they continue to have each other’s back when I am long gone.expect

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