The Summer Morning Goodbye

It was a summer morning like this, two years ago. The sun was just rising, the sky blue and flamingo pink, soft swirls glowing with that special back light only early sunrise brings sad eyes.

My mother had just passed away. It took me two days to get there, and I already felt guilty. In the movies, loved ones can always speed across thousands of miles in the nick of time. Real life is not so convenient. No matter; I had finally arrived. The sun beat down with oppressive glee, as I pulled my rental car into her driveway.

They were waiting; those watchers who had been with her in those last hours. Waiting for me with their pitiless eyes and judgmental smirks. They perched like gargoyles on the wooden bench, rustling their leathery wings in anticipation of the feast of grief to come.

We sat there, in a sort of fairy circle, while they took turns telling me of her fears, her slow gasping dance to death’s door. Their eyes glittered as they watched my face, soaking up every stray twitch of pain. But I was frozen. Frozen in sorrow and motion. I still had responsibilities; I still had my Job To Do. I had to protect her and do what she would have wanted, here in this strange place with alien people who seemed determined to chip away at me until I shattered into little pieces at their feet.

I slept on the sofa, unwilling to even enter the bedroom where she drifted away. I wasn’t afraid of spirits. I just didn’t feel welcome. I felt like the soul eater, required but despised.

The morning after I arrived, I was up before dawn. My mind churned around tasks to be done, people I must see and comfort. I struggled inside my frozen cage, only my mind alive with ache and anger. I sat on that wooden bench on the front porch, watching the sunrise and trying to feel something. Anything. My mind was trapped behind that glinting ice wall. I could hear the echoes of what I wanted to say, but the sounds bounced back on themselves, and the words would not stay in my mouth.

Two years have passed. The ice has very slowly melted. Drip, drip, drip the droplets of grief have trickled down my spine at odd moments, freezing me yet again. Mostly, they became absorbed by Mother Earth and daily life; noted but not powerful enough to stop my forward motion. But early morning hours, as dawn is breaking, I have closed my eyes and seen great chunks of the wall break off and plunge into my heart, stopping me and making me wonder: When will this end?

Grief passes when it is ready. We can’t hurry the process by sweeping it into dark corners and turning away. Sometimes, God is good, and we wake once more before dawn, to sit outside and watch the skies brighten. The memories come rushing back because the air smells the same, feels the same. And we find that forgiveness has come to our heart. We can finally say goodbye.

Posted in Aging, Death, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

I Wish I Had a Thunder Shirt

I never thought I’d say this: I am jealous of my dog. Why? Because she has a Thunder Shirt.

For those of you who don’t know what this is, a Thunder Shirt is this ingenious thing you put on nervous dogs when there is going to be a storm, or to help them with separation anxiety, or just about any reason why they are shaking, shedding and shuddering. It’s kind of like giving them a wearable hug. Believe it or not, these things WORK!

I have three dogs. One of them, Bonnie, is terrified of almost everything. She expresses this in various ways. When she sees people, she barks like she is the Hound of the Tuttlevilles, so you are confronted by 65 pounds of bristling white German Shepherd fury. She also is able to leap tall fences with a single bound from a standing position, so it can be pretty intimidating, like a big, furry, flying missile. In reality, she is absolutely terrified, and just wants you to Stay Away From Her. If you speak calmly to her, and act as if her behavior is nothing special, she will approach you, sniff you, and eventually decide that she wants to live in your lap forever. (NOTE: Do not let her get in your lap. We don’t allow it, and you will look like the Abominable Snowman from all the white fur…)

When there is a storm, she morphs into Scared Storm Dog. Picture the X-Man Storm: Feminine and powerful, white hair flowing, eyes glittering with energy. Then, picture this same character absolutely terrified, running in circles, trying to hide in every closet in the house. She is just as powerful, but she has no idea of her powers, and she is shedding all that flowing white hair in clouds as she hides behind your legs, your chairs, doors, and follows you everywhere, tripping you in her zeal to have you protect her. Bonnie is 65 pounds of scared witless furball during thunderstorms. No matter how much you pet her, she shakes until it’s over, while trying to climb into or under your lap.

The other two dogs are indifferent to storms. However, Bonnie’s antics get on their last nerves after two or three hours. Picture one black dog the same size as Bonnie, who just keeps trying to get out of her way, while Bonnie licks her teeth looking for reassurance. Then, picture 155 pounds of black fur, who has a very low nonsense threshold when it comes to Bonnie licking his teeth. Yes, you get the idea. Eventually, we have a Furnado in the family room, while the booming of the thunderclaps rattle the sliding glass doors.

This is why I love the Thunder Shirt. Once it starts to thunder, Bonnie runs to the basket where we keep her Thunder Shirt. She waits patiently for me to strap her into her canine Cloak of Invisibility. The shuddering stops. The manic shedding stops. OK, she still is underfoot and so far up my backside that if I stop suddenly, I could fall backwards and end up with a concussion that an NFL linebacker would avoid at all costs. Clad in her Thunder Shirt, she is mostly able to lie down, deal with the sounds and ride out the storm without burying me in fur. It’s magic of the best kind!!!

After seeing these results, I started to wonder how it would be if I had a Thunder Shirt that I could put on when I encountered scary things. Something that would make me feel safe and wrapped in comfort. For example, a Thunder Shirt that I could wear under a cocktail dress so that going to social events was less traumatic. OK, it would probably look like I was wearing antique long underwear topped with sequins. Not a good look at any age. But you get the idea.

There are a lot of life experiences where I wish I had a Thunder Shirt handy. Armor against fears, insecurities and things that go Bump in the night. Or, in a pinch, things that go bump in the middle of a wedding and spill their beer on my new cocktail dress.

I think that we all have our own Virtual Thunder Shirt deep inside our minds. I think we keep it hanging on a mental hook, and reach for it when we confront stressful situations. Unfortunately, it isn’t something we are born knowing we have in our emotional wardrobe. We have to learn that it is there, learn how to put it on, which straps go around the neck and which ones go around our middle. We have to practice putting on our fuzzy armor, wrapping it around our hearts and vulnerable areas, securing it properly so that we are ready to brave the peril.

It would be a lot easier if we could just buy one and follow the diagram to fasten the Velcro in just the right spots. Unfortunately, we aren’t as lucky as our dogs. We have to put their Thunder Shirts on first, and then figure out where we left ours.

Maybe someday, some designer will come up with a human Thunder Shirt that will make us think we are safe in any loud, scary situation. Until that time, I am going to practice putting on my Virtual Thunder Shirt, and keep Bonnie’s handy in case it rains.

Posted in Coping, Dogs, Humor, Self Confidence, Self Improvement, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Age Making You Feel Old?


AGE – that three-letter word that is a four-letter word to so many people! But what does it really mean?

When I was growing up, back in the Stone Age, anyone over 30 was considered old. No one even believed they would live that long. And, considering I grew up in the late 60′s, it was an unfortunate premonition for too many.

When I was in my 20′s, I didn’t realize I was mortal. I never thought about it. 50 was old, completely over the hill, and I wanted to be a big executive by the time I was 35. Or, if I couldn’t be an executive, I wanted to be married and have a nice row house with a yard and driveway. I wanted to have a dog and a couple of kids and live Happily Ever After. I thought I had all the time in the world.

In my 30′s, I was a single mom. I hoped that I lived to see 50, because I was exhausted all the time. I was worried, confused, angry, frustrated and already regretting that I hadn’t taken my father up on his offer to pay for me to go to college. Even it if meant I had to live in Canada. (I never knew why he said that – probably because he knew I would never take him up on it.) I was tired of starting at the bottom in every new job because I had no college education. I had no self confidence and was convinced that I would never, ever get married again. I wasn’t precisely bitter, but I was definitely bitten by the commitaphobic bug. When I wasn’t working, I was trying to figure out how to be a good mother, considering I didn’t have a whole lot to fall back on in the role model area. My relationship with my family was distant by my own choice, and I have never regretted it. But the world was a very harsh, lonely place. Still, I didn’t think about age or mortality or even getting sick. Age was something old people worried about.

Turning 40 was not a traumatic event for me. I knew a lot of people who freaked out about it, but I didn’t really care. I was happily remarried, which I thought would never happen. I was a stepmother to twin girls who were only 3 weeks younger than my daughter, and that pretty much consumed most of my worry time. Dealing with pre-teens and then teenagers was enough to make me feel older than dirt, even as I said that 40 was not even middle aged… I still never thought that there would be limited choices in my world. I made a lot of really bad choices, and started realizing that I couldn’t run away from myself forever. My forties were packed with a lot of emotional breakage and growth, even as the girls were growing and learning. I was un-learning and re-learning, while trying to have enough answers so that they didn’t figure out how clueless I really was! And when I felt old, it was because of fatigue rather than truly related to my years. I just didn’t think about age.

Realizing that I had lived a half century when I turned 50 was more than a little startling. I began to think about the things that I would never do. But I spent more time thinking about the clothes that I couldn’t wear any more because I was too old. That was, stupidly enough, something that I found shocking. I never wanted to look like that creepy old lady in the mall wearing too much makeup and booty shorts, but I started to find that other things just looked out of place against my face. In fact, when menopause brought reality crashing into my life, I found that I was all too mortal. Not only could I simply NOT eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, but I misplaced my waistline along the way and it was gone forever. It started taking a little longer to stand up straight in the morning. My neck looked like crumpled newspaper if I moved my head the wrong way. Instead of being able to go out and drink and listen to music all night, I found myself wanting to eat dinner around the time that the Early Bird specials were posted… except that now there were a whole list of things I couldn’t eat any more. So going out to eat was more of a job than an adventure. The children were all grown, and living on their own, which made me happy. I found that I was so proud of the smart, vibrant, powerful women they had become that I didn’t have time to miss them. And I threw myself into new projects because I believed, somehow, that this was what I was supposed to do now. I still joked about age, but I began to take it seriously. Let’s face it: When you look in the mirror in the morning and actually don’t recognize the face staring back at you, it’s time to be a little serious!

Age didn’t make me feel old until very recently. I became a grandmother for the first time in January. My adored little lady bug, Sophia, is such a jewel of a child. I was never one of those people who nagged my children to “make me a grandmother”. I still resented my mother and father for dumping that nonsense on me. I also never thought about having grandchildren as being an aging moment. I look at it as an incredible blessing, a bigger treat than shopping, or anything else in the world. Watching my daughter being an amazing, wonderful mother while juggling going back to work and gracefully managing the inevitable shifts in her relationships is thrilling for me. Seeing the new dimensions that fatherhood has brought out in my son-in-law is a huge treat. Having a little baby gnaw on my shoulder again is heaven! But it has made me stop in my tracks and actually think about my age, and how my age makes me feel.

I will be 60 this year. I don’t feel 60. True, I can’t stand hip hop music, but give me some AC/DC and I will still rock out. I hate admitting it, but my feet just won’t agree to be squeezed into high heels any more. I remember how I used to smile and ignore the elderly ladies I used to work with when they talked about how they missed their high heels, and one day I would have to give them up, and I feel like an idiot. I don’t sleep like I used to either. But I think that is because my mind is racing at warp speed, thinking about small things and big things I never took the time to look at before. I don’t have the stamina I used to have, but no one seems to miss it, except me. Besides, three big dogs are enough to wear out a young person, if they want to play. It’s like having over 300 pounds of three year olds under foot all the time. I think that excuses me when I get a little worn out.

One thing I didn’t expect was the expanding sense of freedom. Freedom from the tyranny of fashion, shapewear, and all related expectations of coolness. I don’t live a life where it is necessary for me to look “a certain way” any more. In fact, I could wear jeans and button down shirts 7 days a week and no one would notice. There is a blessed sense of fresh air in knowing that you don’t have to keep up with the Joneses, or the Kardashians, any more! I no longer worry if I am the thinnest, or if I have the coolest shoes, or even if I am wearing makeup. In fact, it is rare for me to bother with makeup any more. When I think about how I used to be so paranoid about how I looked I would never leave the house without makeup, it makes me glad to be almost 60. (I probably would have stopped to put on makeup if the house was on fire, that is how insecure I was…) I can feel the sun or wind or rain on my face now, rather than the mask I put on.

Another blessing that comes with age: You don’t WANT like you used to. When I was younger, I wanted things. Really wanted them. Sometimes, they were things. Sometimes, they were less tangible. But I wanted them. And wanted. And wanted. It was like a metronome beating in the back of my mind, never letting me truly have peace. Somehow, age has stopped that relentless ticking, pounding beat in my brain, and left me with the ability to see my life in all its glory. When I have my glasses on, I can look at myself and I no longer take out the mental scalpels and cut myself to pieces with criticism. And, if my wrinkles bother me, I can take off my glasses – I can’t see a thing then! Pretty freeing, huh?

Giving up the idea of having The Next Big Thing was a sign of age. In a good way. I finally accepted that I didn’t want to live the kind of life I would have to live to be that kind of success. I didn’t have the desire to go out and eat up the world any more. I didn’t want to spend the energy constantly being in other people’s faces, pushing and pushing. I like what I do, I even love it in a lot of ways. But I don’t love the idea of all that hustling any more. I did that. I don’t want to repeat old patterns, or old mistakes. I can allow myself to think about the quality of life I want, and I can give myself permission to live it. When you reach “a certain age”, you have failed at so many things that the word has lost its sting. The eyes of age can allow you to look with clarity at what you once saw as failures, and see that they were only things that you were never meant to continue doing.

I am starting to understand all the things I didn‘t understand about the old people in my life when I was young. I understand why they liked their routines. I understand why they loved to listen to the music of their youth. I understand why they preferred their comedians to the ones I watched. (OK – I will never understand why they didn’t get Monty Python. They are funny, I don’t care who you are!) I am beginning to understand why they liked more peace and quiet about them: They had lived through their own years of wanting, running, hearing the drumbeat of pressure, feeling the crushing weight of expectations. And they, too, found that they loved the thoughts that came to them in those new, fresh moments of silence.

With so few years left, you start to treasure the freedom of choosing the things you really want to do, and you start to make the most of the time you have to explore your life. Not having to raise a family, you can finally raise yourself up and choose who you want to be. I think that is freaking awesome!

Age doesn’t have to make you feel old. You just need to learn to appreciate it! Yes, you may creak when you get up out of your recliner, and you may feel invisible to the majority of the younger people rushing around you. But you have earned the right to enjoy the new discoveries that age brings. In between the moments when you hear grandchildren laugh and your children ask you  how you did it, you will find those little jewels of happiness in a job well done, a life well lived, and the world still waiting to surprise you with it’s beauty.

(Picture courtesy of More Magazine and Facebook)

Posted in Aging, Children, Marriage and Relationships, Parenting, Self Improvement, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Your Dreams Aren’t Coming True, Make New Ones

I haven’t written a blog post in a few months. I know this isn’t the most interesting opening sentence, but it’s what comes to mind.

I didn’t realize how far I had withdrawn from everything until this past week. I was looking at posts on Facebook from a couple of my very favorite indie authors. Both are wonderful women who I have grown fond of in the past couple of years. They were sharing a table together at a convention, and their happy faces filled me with joy. Seeing the additional posts made me feel wistful. Not because I had written anything to contribute at this convention. Not because I would have been there if I had written something interesting. Just because I wondered why I had put myself on the other side of the window looking in.

I am not really sure if there was any one event that was some sort of “lightbulb moment”. At the beginning of this year, I was really feeling charged up and empowered. Or so I thought. I was attending networking events. I was making plans for “getting my wraps out there”. I was on a new vitamin regimen that had me feeling very strong and healthy. I was doing all the right things. So what happened?

Well, life isn’t always a 60 minute drama that has a “cause and effect” storyline. Lots of little things happened. And didn’t happen. I spoke to my next door neighbor one day, and she was telling me how she really wanted a couple of new wraps. I told her I had perfect ones just waiting for her to stop by and look at. Months later, the Rubicon still has not been crossed and they are still hanging in my garage. Somehow I just couldn’t make myself chase my neighbor to make a sale. I know she has a life so busy that she should be cloned. I love her dearly, and don’t want to be “that annoying neighbor”. We have lived happily and peacefully next to each other for over 20 years, and I like it that way. But I had to wonder: If what I make is so cool, so nice, how come I can’t even get someone to walk next door to buy one? Hmmmmmmm…….

Even though I was attending networking events, it was getting to be more and more like being back in High School. You show up at some event by yourself, and you try engaging people in conversation. They fall into three categories. Category A is comprised of people you do know, who are very nice, but who really don’t want to buy anything from you, although they really like what you do. Category B is made up of people who are very pleasant, who want you to buy something from them and are polite when you try to give them your card but who don’t bother to pick it up. The third category is the group of people who you try to engage in an initial conversation and they look at you like you just interrupted them during Confession. They aren’t interested, they really wish you would go away, and they are trying not to just tell you to piss off. I may love what I do, and I may think what I do is great, but that kind of thing just makes me tired. Or makes me wish I had brought my dog with me as a conversation starter.

I have donated wraps to so many different causes and events that I have lost track of who, what and when. Not one of those donations has ever resulted in a new customer. I don’t regret making the donations. But after a while, it becomes one more hand in my pocket, just less intrusive than telemarketers from charities.

Even as I watched the bank account get smaller and smaller, I kept moving forward. I kept reading all those positive affirmations about never giving up, success is just around the corner, blah, blah, blah. I don’t doubt the sincerity of all those positive thoughts, but none of them were putting the money back in the bank. Neither was networking, attending events, or buying vendor space and bringing my products to sell.

I think the final event that rocked me back on my heels was kind of funny – in a humiliating kind of way. I met a woman at a networking event. I didn’t get a brochure from her, but I did give her one of my cards. She seemed interested in buying a wrap from me. About a week later, I got a phone call from her. She was so friendly, so chatty. I think it must have been either misplaced hubris on my part or just lack of attention, but I never asked myself why this person was so interested in me. I just thought she was interested in buying a wrap and was a chatty person. I also thought she was some sort of life coach, which accounted for the conversation. I agreed to meet her for coffee a week later. Off I went to the meeting. When she arrived, she was a bundle of energy. Brochures, laptop, lots of stuff everywhere. She also was busy taking calls and apologizing for taking calls. I sat waiting to find out what she wanted, if she had someone special she wanted me to make a wrap for. (This isn’t that unusual. Lots of people who order custom wraps have a story to tell about the person they are buying for. It helps me to connect and make the perfect wrap.)

Then, she started asking me questions about how much credit card debt we had, savings, stocks, etc. Yes, by now I was thinking: WTF? Before I could ask, she made it clear that she sells life insurance. In fact, she is a star in her region, selling lots of life insurance. And because we must be woefully lacking in coverage and savings, I had been doing something wrong for A Long Time.

At that moment, it was like an out of body experience. Here I am, sitting in Panera Bread, head buzzing from way too much French Roast, and this perfect stranger is telling me I have screwed up my family’s future. Just what I had been thinking lately as I was trying to keep my business going. Was I wearing a sign? Did I have that desperate look in my eyes? Had I turned into one of those people who never give up chasing their dream, no matter the cost? Was I the female equivalent of that 59 year old guy who still thinks he is going to make it as a rock star, receding hairline groomed into a greying mullet and still playing Whitesnake to crowds at the VFW on a Saturday night? It made me want to throw up.

I will say this. She was sensitive. When I stared at her like she was a serial killer and told her I wasn’t prepared to sign a document promising to pay $150 a month for insurance and I had no idea that was why we were meeting, she started to say how cute the wrap was that I was wearing. She then asked me if I could mend the sweater she was wearing or make something like that for her.

That was my Wake Up Call. I wasn’t Shark Bitten by watching the TV show; although the comment that “If your idea is so great, how come you aren’t making any money after 6 years” kind of hit home. I just finally wondered what the Hell I was doing chasing this dream. It didn’t matter whether I put in too much or too little energy. Too much or too little time. The fact was, this was NOT going to be “It” for me. I needed to stop and take stock of my life and stop flushing money I didn’t have down that black hole.

There comes a time in our lives when we need to just stop and be still for a while. Breathe. Look around. Tend our own garden. Dust our own entertainment center. Go through our own closets and get rid of the things that no longer serve us. You can’t be open to what God has in store for you if you don’t make room for the message. Sometimes, this is humbling, painful and bittersweet. Sometimes, you have a whole room full of fabric that you bag up in case you may want to make something one of these days. Perhaps I will figure out how to make that room full of fabric work for me, or at least make it put a few pennies back in the bank.

So I have been spending time with me. Not pushing at things I stopped wanting to do a while ago. Not going to events to see the same people and ending up with the same empty wallet. I like those people. I recommend those who I think are really good. I buy from others when I need their services. That will never change. (And no, I did not buy life insurance or agree to make a wrap for Little Miss Epiphany.)

What I have learned in these few months is that we all need to just stop at some point and get to know ourselves again. Maybe for the very first time. We need to stop doing things and living our lives based on what we think other people want us to be. Yes, that means that people who used to comment frequently on your Facebook posts will forget you. It’s ok. You enjoyed them while they were around. But you need to be your own best friend for a while, and be comfortable letting go.

I know there are a bunch of memes floating around to support what I am saying. But I would rather spend my time improving than looking for them on Facebook. If you want me, I am here. And I am Becoming. When I figure out what that means, you will be the first to know!

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Age and the Average Superwoman

I hate telemarketers …

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Starting the New Year with a Bang!

OK all – the Average Superwoman is starting off the New Year with a bang, not a whimper! Tune in tomorrow at 2PM (EST) when the amazing Lynn Cusack Bardowski has yours truly as her first guest of the year! We are going to have a few laughs and see if we can’t give our friends some special energy for 2014! Here’s the link:

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The Average Woman and Snow

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