I would love if you could drop by and visit this site and check out my post. While you’re there, be sure to browse some of Sue’s great articles. And, if you could leave a comment there, it would be greatly appreciated.
Here’s a teaser from that post:
I don’t know about you, but the Chinese character for happiness (Fu) has always reminded me of someone (gold) pushing a grocery cart (blue). A box of something (green) is falling into the cart followed by a loaf of bread (light blue). It turns out I was not that far off–at least in terms of satisfied bellies!
The actual Chinese character represents happiness as a full stomach. When the mouth (green) is united (light blue) with a cultivated field (blue), we are blessed with the abundance of heaven (gold). Source.
Please link on over to Sue’s site to read more!
I hope to see you there!
What would you do if you believed you had less than five years to live? I now have a realistic answer to this question.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m lousy at the yoga pose, Downward Facing Dog. I mean REALLY LOUSY! My shoulders and upper body give out quickly. I lose my breath and my heart races. I happened to mention the ‘breathlessness’ part to my doctor. I had visited her to discuss some inexplicable random pains in my upper arms. “Hmmm,” she said. “Let’s order a chest x-ray just to be safe.” That was May 3. On May 10, my doctor called me back in and asked my husband to join us. That did not appear to be a good sign. The words “loss of mass in your upper lungs, thickening of your lung walls and a three-centimeter shadow at your lung center” stung in my brain. “Suspected Pulmonary Fibrosis” was written on the x-ray report. That definitely was not good news.
A CAT Scan was ordered as the next step. In British Columbia, it’s currently a minimum two-month wait for that type of exam. I was given an appointment date of July 6. In the meantime, my husband and I prayed and read. What we read was not encouraging. It was the opposite of encouraging.
Pulmonary fibrosis is the scarring of the lungs. It is a progressive disease which makes breathing difficult. Treatment options are limited as this disease currently cannot be reversed. The survival rate for most patients is less than five years. Source.
My husband and I met with our doctor again. She was kind and sympathetic but did not try to placate us about the potential road ahead.
Instantly and simultaneously, my husband and I knew how we wanted to live the rest of our lives, regardless of how much time either of us had. I wasn’t experiencing any symptoms (unless you include breathlessness from my least favorite yoga pose)! Richard and I wanted to get out there. We wanted to live our lives as fully as possible. We wanted to remain active and adventurous for as long as we could. Truthfully, we wanted to be even more adventurous! We wanted to relish in our family and friends and be there for them, without burdening anyone. We wanted to remain grateful for every single day that we had. And, we wanted to be in it together.
We decided not to share this information with anyone until we knew more. After we received the scan results, we would decide how to proceed from there.
With incredible good fortune (and a bit of cash), we were able to get a private scan done in Vancouver. Remarkably, we were able to do this in May instead of July. There were exactly two weeks between receiving the original x-ray report and my CAT Scan in Vancouver. There were then two more days before we could find out the scan results. (Total time span: May 3 – May 25).
So what did we do during that time? Mostly, we did what we usually do. We walked dogs for the SPCA, went to the gym, spoke with our sons and my niece on the phone/Skype, hung out with friends and attended local events. We continued our planning for our Camino Trail hike this coming summer. I went to book club and yoga (and yes, I kept up with my attempts at the dreaded Downward Facing Dog). I was also extremely fortunate to be able to spend the week of Mother’s Day with my parents (which was amazing). Oh, and I also wrote a guest post on ‘Happiness’ for a blogging friend of mine. Lying underneath all this was a heightened appreciation for all that Richard and I have, and for all those whom we’ve been blessed to hold so dearly in our lives.
And, I have never felt so loved. Richard was amazing. How could I selfishly want more?
I quit reading about the disease. I would make a plan with my doctor once we had conclusive information. I continued praying. In prayer, I fully believed that everything was okay, even though my recent chest x-ray suggested differently.
“I believe in miracles,” I told Richard. “A single lab report is not going to get me down. It does not have my consent!”
Then, late last evening when I was leaving a Newcomers’ meeting, my doctor called. The CAT Scan of my heart and lungs was ‘completely normal’ for my age, height, and weight. The three-centimeter shadow was a benign air-cyst that posed no danger. The loss of volume frequently happens with age. I was given a clean bill of health!
I hung up the phone and relayed my doctor’s message to Richard. We were filled with intense love, gratitude and the unwavering knowledge that miracles, both big and small, happen every single day. It is this knowledge and emotion that I wish to keep at the center of my life for however long my life may be.
良言一句三冬暖 “One kind word can warm three winter months.” Chinese Proverb
I’ve been feeling yucky. Nothing specific. As colds, flu and many other ailments have been going around this time of year, my mind became overactive with possible causes for my affliction. I woke up this morning completely sapped of energy, despite a full night’s sleep. “Perhaps I should skip yoga and simply stay in bed,” I moaned aloud.
! quickly checked my iPhone. (Heaven forbid I miss any late breaking news, despite my misery). What I read changed the course of my day completely.
I received a message from a colleague whom I had worked with before I retired. She was a teacher when I worked with her, and she was now a school administrator. In her letter, she clearly articulated the type of leader that she had worked so hard to become. She remorsed about words and actions that she wished she would have done differently along the way. She spoke about the difficulty of staying positive in climates of toxicity. For her, the first school that she worked at as an administrator, bore such a climate. There she met a young teacher who struggled personally and professionally. She worked hard to build trust with him, inspire him and help him to feel safe.
To make a long story short, that struggling teacher got it together and had just been offered his dream job at his top choice school. The first thing he did (after accepting the position…and perhaps phoning his Mom), was to write to my former colleague to thank her for all that she had done for him. She then immediately wrote to me and passed on her own appreciation for me inspiring her, especially in terms of investing in relationships. Her kind words touched my soul and instantly soothed and invigorated every fiber of my being.
It is a commonly known psychological principle that kind words have the power to heal, while a single derogatory statement can remain negatively trapped in our brains forever. It is no surprise that research has continued to produce increasing evidence regarding the incredible power that our words have on each other. In Words Can Change Your Brain, the authors argue that positive words strengthen areas in our frontal lobes and promote healthy cognitive functioning. Such words propel the motivational centers of our brains into action and build resiliency. (Newberg, Waldman, 1994). Taking this concept even further, Massaru Emoto’s The Hidden Messages in Water discusses research that gives strong implications on how our words, and even our thoughts, can profoundly impact the earth and our personal health. (Emoto, 2004).
After reading (and I confess, rereading) my colleagues’ letter, I quickly got up and got dressed for yoga. I was invigorated and was now ready to take on the day.
Words. They have the power to hurt or to heal. How will you use them?
Full Proverb: 良言一句三冬暖,恶语伤人六月寒
“One kind word can warm three winter months, while vile talk wounds like bitter cold in June.” ABC Dictionary of Chinese Proverbs (Yanyu)
Editor: Rohsenow, John S.
There are endless quips regarding marriage and retirement.
“When you retire you switch bosses – from the one who hired you, to the one that married you.” (Gene Perret)
“When a man retires, his wife gets twice the husband and half the salary.” (William Mitchell)
“A married husband is often a wife’s full-time job.” (Ella Harris)
“Warning: Retired person on premises. Knows everything and has plenty of time to tell it.” (Annonymous)
And the title quote (also from Gene Perret).
I’m sure that you can add others….
A year before I retired, I diligently began to read all that I could on the emotional side of retiring. The work that I read on marriage and retirement stopped me in my tracks. Much of this research hammered out the frequently mismatched perceptions of couples once retiring (ranging from different opinions on money, time together/apart, chores, daily activities, travel, family commitments, etc., etc.). According to this research, this misalignment can lead to marital breakdown where, as several studies found, a quarter of American divorces take place with couples who are fifty-years or older. (Yogev, 2012) It can also apparently lead to such strange phenomena as
“Shujin Zaitaku Sutoresu Shoukougun,” literally “One’s Husband Being at Home Stress Syndrome.” (BBC News, 2006-11-29) The more I read, the bleaker the news. I quickly quit reading.
After nineteen months of being officially retired, what is my personal experience with marriage and retirement? Without being too much of a schmoopie, I couldn’t be happier. So much so that I went back to the research with fresh (but slightly more experienced) eyes. What did I find?
• Sixty percent of couples report that there is (ultimately) an improvement in their marriage after retirement. (Forbes, 2007)
• Compared with a matched sample of working men, male retirees
reported higher levels of marital satisfaction. (Kulik, 1999)
•Both wives and husbands tend to indicate greater marital satisfaction if they retired at the same time. (Forbes, 2007) Although, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, fewer than twenty percent of American couples retire in the same year.
• Married couples are twice as likely to save for retirement, often giving them more financial security in their retirement years. (Social Security Administration)
•Retirement reinforces the pre-existing quality of individual marriages, e.g. retirement tends to have a positive effect on marriages that were previously strong and happy, and a negative effect on marriages that were previously shaky. (Missouri Families)
I also went back to Yogev’s research. If I hadn’t quit reading her work so early, I would have realized that it was filled with practical tips and just plain good advice for starting retirement as a couple on a positive note. e.g. :
•Take time and think about what each of you would like to do during retirement
•Be specific by what you mean
•Be willing to compromise
•Find shared interests
•Ensure individual personal space
•Designate household tasks
•Allow yourself to take baby steps on new endeavors – you seldom need to rush
As I perused these strategies, I shuddered with gratitude. I am realistic about my shortcomings and am thankful to have someone who balances out areas where I am not naturally inclined. As in dancing, the moves are more effortless, and enjoyable, with a strong, steady partner. Someone who can both seamlessly lead, and follow, allowing you to find your own unique steps as an individual while maintaining harmony as a team. For this, I am eternally grateful.
Happy 17th Anniversary, Richard. There are no words to express my deepest love and appreciation.
Yogev, Sara. A Couple’s Guide to Happy Retirement: For Better or Worse …But Not for Lunch, Familius, Second Edition, 2012.
For those who have not seen Seinfeld’s take on schmoopies recently, you really should watch it now!
And if you missed my (slightly ‘schmoopied’) anniversary post last year, you can catch it here.
I was hesitant to fully engage in this holiday season. There were noticeable absences in our recent family photos. I forced myself to decorate. I forgot to download my Christmas music. I let Costco do my baking. The festivities that I had always embraced so naturally didn’t feel the same as they had before.
I continued putting one foot in front of the other. Faking it until I could make it. I knew that Richard noticed. Of course he did. He was doing the same.
And then it snuck up on us. In small increments at first. It began with friends and neighbours. Some came to call. Others invited us out. Understanding, empathy, and connection are deeply seeded needs of the human experience.
It then continued with our children. Spending time with our sons and their wives/partners brings pure contentment to my soul. Adding in grandchildren is a joy that I can never adequately describe. Reunited, we told familiar stories. We laughed at tales that had been retold a hundred times. We slipped into the comfort of not having to pretend. We luxuriated in the warmth of family. Our shared experiences continued to bind us more tightly than ever.
We hung our stockings near the fire. This year we hung not only our current ones…but also the stockings of loved ones who are no longer here.
During one family gathering, Richard and I looked at each other, simultaneously overcome by emotion. We both deeply felt the presence of those who could not be seen. The feeling was unmistakable. We now recognize that day as a turning point toward healing the pieces that have been taken from our hearts.
It is said that at the end of our lives it is not our careers, our money, or our possessions that we reach for. Instead, it is the gift of family that we yearn for and hold most dear. That gift, Richard and I have received in abundance. For this, we are most deeply grateful.
This post has been written in memory of our loved ones who have so immeasurably enhanced our lives. It is especially dedicated to our first granddaughter, Baylee Jade Kailuweit-Wageman who was born October 28, 2016, and sorrowfully passed away two days later. Rest in peace beautiful Baylee. You have enriched our hearts profoundly, as only an angel could.
I’ve been rethinking my Christmas traditions this year. A bit like closet cleaning, I want to ensure that I thoughtfully keep what is meaningful, retire what no longer fits, and make room for new traditions that will add value and substance.
When thinking about Christmas cards, I researched the history of Christmas card sending. (Why? Because I’m me!) The first printed Christmas card, 1843 (shown above) depicted the importance of generations of family celebrating together, service to others, as well as symbols of eternity (sprigs of holly ) and of faithfulness/God’s path (ivy). Source I love the timelessness of this message. After all, isn’t this what the core of this holiday season is all about? Okay, okay…you looked closely! So, the card also depicts a child being served wine (while the other children dig into their plum pudding). Maybe this just means that we should never take ourselves too seriously. Or maybe the controversy caused helped to sell more cards! Either way, the timelessness of the message remains.
For many, many years I sent out handwritten cards with personalized greetings. Despite my best efforts, there were always people that I missed…and despite me sending early, there were often mail delays. For a few years, I tried e-cards. They did allow me to reach more people (and on-time), but every year several cards were left unopened. (With all of the confidence that I can muster, I am hoping that this is a statement of e-cards themselves and not of my friendship with those individuals!) Short of smoke signals, carrier pigeons or an insanely large banner in the sky, I tried to find a creative and heartfelt way to get my message out to you. You, who are so generously keeping in touch.
I wanted the perfect message. A message that would fully express how much I appreciate you. A heartfelt thank you for your extra efforts to keep in touch (and for following this blog!). And finally, a message that sends positive thoughts across the miles. I also wanted to send along some goofy Christmas photos…Yup, I dragged Richard out for another Christmas photo shoot….this time with a twist!
It was a tall order. My search through the internet at first trapped me in the ‘terrible toos’. The sample verses that I found were too general, too corny, too mushy or too artificial. Unlike many Christmas messages or letters, I don’t need to fill you in on key events in my life for this past year. By virtue of scrolling down, you have this information at your fingertips!
I then came across the following writing by Oren Arnold, novelist and journalist (b. 1900 – d.1980).
Christmas gift ideas / suggestions:
To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.
Arnold’s words completely resonated with me. They so eloquently stated the core of what I wish to express in this post.
And so, I have wrapped up Oren Arnold’s powerful message in my own heartfelt words. I send them with sincere wishes of peace, love, and gratitude across the miles. May we all be more like the Whos down in Whoville — loving life, rejoicing in what we have, overlooking insult and joyfully celebrating community. Our vision becomes filled with what we put in our focus. If we all keep our visions fixed on these values, we CAN tilt our world towards peace. Undeniably.
Thank you for following along with me during 2016. I greatly look forward to remaining in touch in 2017! And now for those photos…
I initially began this post not to write a full entry, but simply to thank readers for so generously commenting on my last write-up. The personal stories and advice that you shared got right to the heart of the matter. Your words were deeply motivating. So much so, Richard and I went straight out to our local tree farm, selected our treasure, and our holiday spirit began to pick up from there. Some of you suggested Christmas music/wine/appetizers by the fire. I must admit, that did work wonders! Many of you wisely advised not to get caught up in the stress of the season but to remain focused on what matters most and to let go of the rest. These words helped me to refocus. They also significantly brightened my perspective.
As I began to write this thank you, I realized something about blogging that I hadn’t really understood before. The main point isn’t actually the writing, or the posts, or the photos or the research. It’s the exchange–the dynamic interaction. It’s the debate and new ideas. Most significantly, it’s the connection and the deepening of relationships–both old and new.
It’s a bit of a conundrum to be a relatively private person with a public blog. (Duh to me, I know…but I believe that there are many others like this). Writing is cathartic for me. Pressing ‘publish’ is a leap of faith. As I sit and review the comments received in this past year, I am humbled. For each risk that I have taken in sending out my words, I have gained a hundredfold. Each post has been written for a different reason. On the lighthearted ones, we’ve shared a laugh. On the new discovery ones, you’ve shared your own adventures. On the difficult, most heartfelt ones, your outpouring of support not only comforted me but equally provided strength to Richard and my family.
I know that it is a leap of faith also to write comments. When I first began to read blogs, I never commented. EVER. I was new to the blogosphere, and I wanted to read anonymously. I preferred just to lurk. And lurking is okay. But as I ventured into both commenting, and receiving comments, a whole new world opened up to me. There is definite contentment in being a ‘regular,’ whether it be at your local coffee shop (where the barista begins to prepare your drink the moment that you walk in) or be it at a blog. As Julie Neidlinger of CoSchedule Blog so astutely wrote, “regulars can turn a blog from being a sequential posting of articles into something organic that references itself.” Regulars, and all commenters, help to create an extra layer that make a blog what it is. I am aware that there are numerous blogs that do not allow comments. There has been a heap of controversy regarding whether bloggers should disable their comment sections or not. For me, to remove comments from my blog would be like removing N-O-R-M from Cheers, or at least Uncle Leo from Seinfeld (not that any of you are Norm or Uncle Leo…but you get the idea)!
Energized by my new realizations on blogging and commenting, I tried to jazz up my comment section a bit by installing WPdiscuz. This plug-in allows commenters to edit what they have written, even after they have pressed ‘publish.’ It also offers an option for readers to give a ‘thumbs up’ to comments that they particularly like–sending the love to where it truly belongs! That and the promise of reduced spam sounded like a great step forward. Right? Wrong! I did have reduced spam. I actually had no spam…and no comments at all. According to people who have contacted me by alternative means, the ‘captcha’ feature completely blocked their comments out. If you use WPdiscuz (or are simply a whiz at this kind of stuff) and have a solution for my over-active captcha, please let me know. In the meantime, I have gone back to my regular comment layout (boring, I know)!
Thank you for reading, connecting, commenting and staying in touch. Your words and warm vibes have been greatly appreciated. And for readers who have never commented before, go ahead and give it a try. I would love to hear from you!
“Grief is love with no place to go.” Helen Macdonald
Less than one month ago, my husband and I sat atop a cliff in Mt. San Jacinto, just outside of Palm Springs. Surrounded by friends, health, adventure and each other, we were acutely aware, and immensely grateful, that our lives were deeply blessed.
Days later, we sat amidst a devastating family tragedy. We watched helplessly as the hearts of our children, as well as our own, shattered irreversibly. Mere days after that, our beloved husky, Cody, sorrowfully passed away. The final images were so painful that I have done everything in my power to block them.
Our souls went dark. My husband and I sat alone in our island home, sapped of all energy.
On the evening of Cody’s death, I picked up a pen. Unconsciously, my raw emotion began to drain. I did not self-edit. I did not polish.
I showed that post to my husband. I watched him nod. I hesitantly pressed ‘publish.’ I put my computer away and tried to distract myself through restless sleep, and robotic activity.
Instantly the outpouring began. We simply hadn’t expected the enormity of this. Kind words, heartfelt empathy and an infinitude of signs of love and support began to bathe us. Phone calls, emails, messages, comments, notes and gifts at our doorstep swiftly appeared. Across miles and time, family and friends gathered around us, both face-to-face and virtually. The strength that we received from this incredible generosity was truly incomprehensible.
We know that our healing will take its time. We are deeply grateful to each and every one of you for reaching out to us with your words, thoughts and virtual hugs across the world. My husband and I can never adequately express just how much your compassion and thoughtfulness means to us. We bear witness that kindness truly does prevail.
When I was cleaning up some of my digital photos this past week, I ran across the above baby picture of our dog, Cody. He is such a handsome dog (truly, see below) that I had forgotten what an incredibly adorable pup he was as well. I stared fondly at the photo, lost in nostalgia. Afterwards, my mood was noticeably uplifted for quite some time. Coincidence? Probably not.
Kate, at Views and Mews, often refers to herself as “waitstaff” for her four cats. I can totally relate. In fact, I often banter with my husband that in Cody’s eyes, my husband’s primary purpose in life is to provide exercise, entertainment and transportation, and mine is to provide food and drink. “What have you done for me lately?” I will often tease Cody, as he hangs out, rather impatiently, near his supper dish.
According to Time Magazine’s Special Edition “Animals and Your Health” (July 2016), Cody definitely pulls his weight. Research has repeatedly concluded that owning a pet reduces blood pressure in stressful situations and pet owners tend to have lower heart rates than their non-pet-owning counterparts. In one of a myriad of examples, heart patients who left the hospital after treatment were much more likely to survive if they owned a pet. (Animals & Your Health, p 20)
More and more, pets have been used to help comfort survivors of terrible tragedies, revive long-forgotten memories for Alzheimer’s patients, sniff out cancer and detect harmful bacteria in water. They have also been found to lower the incidence of cardiovascular disease, help combat post-traumatic stress disorder, reduce loneliness, provide overall emotional support and ease the aging process…to list only some proven benefits of human interaction with their pets. (Animals & Your Health, p. 6)
In fact, “simply petting a dog generally decreases both blood pressure and heart rate and appears to raise levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness and well-being.” (Animals & Your Health, p. 10) In addition to this, ‘Emotional Support Animals’ are now common alternatives to traditional medicines. (Animals & Your Health, p. 8)
In the US and Canada, more households have pets than have children. (Animals & Your Health, p. 6) In fact, 57 percent of Canadian households have pets which equates to 7.5 million homes. (Source) While the figures of what many people spend on their pets can be staggering (in 2015, it was estimated that pet owners in the US spent over 60 billion dollars caring for their animals), the benefits of pet ownership may be incalculable. (Source)
As for Cody…he doesn’t chase balls, doesn’t fetch sticks, does not reliably sit on command (see last post) and is an absolutely lousy watchdog. Regardless, throughout the last eleven years, he has been intricately woven into the fabric of our family’s pack. He has provided countless adventures, endless stories, and unparalleled laughter. Daily, he has ensured that we have gotten off of the couch, out of the house and into the fresh air. When we moved back to Canada and into our new home, he quickly introduced us to more neighbors than we would have met on our own. Yes, Cody has definitely found his way into our hearts. Our lives have been forever enriched because of it.
What about you? If you have a four-legged critter in your life (or own a bird, or fish or reptile….) what has your pet done for you lately?
Bjerklie, David (Ed.). (July, 2016). Animals & Your Health: The Power of Pets to Heal Our Pain, Help Us Cope, and Improve our Well-Being. Time Magazine Special Edition.
I LOVE the idea of taking part in a blogfest (even if I only found out about it twenty-four hours in advance). I also LOVE writing about a wide range of topics. But writing about an object–and a most cherished one at that–well at first, that just seemed wrong.
I have previously written about some of the people in my life whom I deeply cherish (A Love Letter, Dear Son and Thanks, Mom). I have even written about our adored dog, Cody. How could any material object that I own inspire such passion?
To help with this endeavour, I imagined our house burning. What would I run to save? Most items that we own are replaceable. What wasn’t?
By engaging in this basic exercise, the task was now so simple. I instantly knew what I would rush to save: the guardians of my memories.
Memories become our life stories and our legacy. They define us and give our lives meaning and purpose (source). My memories remind me of my roots, ground me and inspire hope. They are not simply nostalgia or longing for the past – they are, as scientists have now discovered, a bridge to the future. The same brain processes that we use to remember the past are also the same processes that we use to imagine the future. When our ability to remember the past is compromised, so is our ability to envision different outcomes (source).
Through my material object (in this case, a collection of objects), I am quickly transported back to beloved people and places. Sadly, many of these people and places I can no longer access in any other way.
This most treasured possession, that is so priceless to me, is of little value to others outside of my immediate family. It will not be recognized as having artistic merit. What is this magic portal that is both old and new, faded and glossy?
My collection of personal photographs.
Thank you to the initiators of Cherished Blogfest for providing the platform, and the inspiration, for this post. Thank you also to my family for taking an abundance of photographs, and for passing on this trait (as well as family photo albums) to me!