Retirement, But Not On Golden Pond!

Back in 2010, my husband announced that he wanted to retire. He had enough time on the job and, with his age, it totaled what he needed, but he was still fairly young. My frugal mind lurched in terror of what that would mean to our finances, but he reassured me that with his pension, we’d be ok. We began dreaming of the possibilities for travel and attending more cultural events. We thought about the time we could now spend with family wherever they were at the time. It just seemed like so much to look forward to. We were never able to be savers though and as far as our investments went, we’d never gotten super serious about them. That was our first big mistake.

Life with hubby home 24/7 isn’t all that easy. We’ve been surviving it, but I have to tell you, when a husband retires, it’s a lot different for the wife. Even a woman who doesn’t work outside of the home never really retires. She usually maintains what she always has minus the kids, except in cases where she starts looking out for the grandkids. When he retired, he basically lost his purpose in life. He had a few interests over the years, like hunting, but as he got older, he did that less and less. He hasn’t golfed in years even though I try to talk him into it. He’d be the first one to admit that I raised the kids because he was always working so hard. The man did provide. He has nothing to be ashamed of in that instance. It’s just he had no time for the types of things that would carry him in life after he retired.

 I imagine this is more of a generational problem. I hope our kids find it goes a little smoother for them, but my husband worked all of the time. He barely had time to take more than a few vacations over the years and when he was at home, he was busy working on one of our homes. He’s a project guy at work and at home. No projects = unhappy man. It’s one of the reasons we moved fairly frequently. He’d run out of projects. He does great work, but eventually, there’s nothing left to remodel or change. Retirement forces one to think about settling somewhere and staying put. We did downsize. We moved to a lake house with the thought that the kids would bring the grandkids out to play in the water and for the guys to fish and boat. Making memories and having fun. It’s a peaceful spot in a quiet area. Maybe too quiet. There’s not a lot of excitement around here and making new friends has been difficult. We really cherish the few that we’ve made. This is really the first time in our lives where we were making friends together. In the past, it was mostly he had work friends and I had “mom” friends or church friends. Now, we share our friends. More togetherness! The kids have busy lives and we don’t seem them as much as we’d like or anticipated. The grandkids are either too old or too young right now to enjoy hanging out with us.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m complaining. I enjoy my husband’s company and we do like many of the same things. We love road trips and work well together.  But, even good friends can get on each other’s nerves and I guess we do with each other at times. There are times I run away to the grocery store or he runs away to the lumber yard just to be alone.  Winters are the hardest because there is less to do outside. For years, I cleaned the house, did the laundry, did the cooking, and managed the bills, the yard, and the kids, made business phone calls and appointments. I didn’t want to bother him with the trivial stuff when he was working so hard. It was my ‘job’ and I did it well. I was a stay at home mom most of the time because it was something we agreed on. Sometimes I envied him going off to work to see other people and do different things. He even did some traveling for work, while I stayed at home with the kids keeping the home fires burning. I worked hard at home because I felt it was my fair share and I wanted to be the best wife and mother anyone had ever met. There was an upside to it though.  I also had time to watch my soaps, read great books like my Silhouette Desires or lengthy period pieces, and go where I pleased with whomever I pleased. Dinner was always on the table, the laundry and housework done, and everyone was happy.

Now, I admit I get a little touchy when he steps into my territory. The poor guy doesn’t know what to do and I keep telling him to leave my jobs alone. If he does them, I have nothing to do. I did try working outside of the home a bit. He doesn’t care for that because he gets lonely and doesn’t really want the responsibility of any of my jobs. He wanted to be supportive of me in that way, but it was so foreign to how he grew up and how we spent most of our married life that he tended to make me miserable trying to hold down a job and keep things the same at home. I do miss my alone time and I can’t remember the last book that I read. There are no more Tupperware parties (it’s not like I need anything like that anyway), I fight for the quiet time to write my weekly blog, and I would like to have casual conversations with other people too. The finances haven’t held up because what you start out believing you’ll get, ends up being chewed up by the government through taxes and insurance and things that just cost more every year. That eliminated the idea of travel or even weekends away. Heaven forbid anybody get sick and hospitalized!

Add into the mix the unexpected return of the youngest daughter and her three small children into a house meant for an older couple to retire in, and well, let’s just say, things aren’t always copacetic. We all do what we have to do to keep our sanity. Not exactly the way we pictured our retirement, but none of it was going the way we thought it would anyway.

So, here’s a few things I’ve learned along the way…

1.     Make sure hubby has a hobby that will keep him busy and entertained that isn’t you! You aren’t joined at the hip and you do need time alone sometimes. There are days I feel like I have a puppy following me around and I can’t breathe. He probably feels the same way at times.

2.     No matter how much money you have put away, it’s not going to be enough. Adjust your lifestyle in advance and plan for increases all of the time. Live within your means, but live!

3.     Expect the unexpected. You may think you have it all planned out, but someone or something is going to throw a monkey wrench into it. It’s not always something you can control. Be like a Boy Scout and be prepared.

4.     Don’t give everything up thinking you are going to fill your life with adventure. Adventures are costly and boredom sets in if you sit at home watching tv all of the time. There’s a happy medium. You have to be able to get out and see other people and do something different every once in a while. Maintain your interests while you find new ones that won’t deplete the bank account.

5.     Hold onto those old friends even if you are making new ones. Good friends are hard to come by and they can be a great support system when you need them.

6.     Stay active. The worst thing you can do is to cut yourself off from contact with the outside world. Volunteering is a great way to spend free time. Take advantage of programs and events meant for retired folks. You’ll live longer too.

7.     A little time apart does wonders. Even a few hours can get you over the hump of too much togetherness. You may be a couple, but you aren’t conjoined twins. Do some things on your own. It gives you something to talk about when you meet up again.

8.     Don’t leave your spouse behind too often. It’s tough on the spouse that isn’t as involved as you might be, so do what you can to avoid being over involved to the point of neglect. If you can include your spouse in your outside interests, you might really enjoy it together.

9.     Don’t get depressed at the same time. That might be easier said than done, but it’s crucial that you aren’t both feeling down at the same time. Misery loves company, but marriages don’t love misery.

10.  Remember why you love each other and think back to the times when you just couldn’t find enough time in the day to be together. Try to stay ‘in love’ with each other and remember to laugh. You are still the same people, just in a different situation. Act like kids sometimes and do silly stuff. There’s plenty of time to be old. You’re retired, not dead. You’ve made it this far, don’t give up now!

Happiness: Giving Yourself the Gift

I’ve been guilty of expecting my happiness to come from other people or other things. If I could win the lottery… If I could just get all my ducks in a row… If everyone would just cooperate… It’s always someone else’s fault when I think I am unhappy, right down to the state lottery system for not selling me that winning ticket.

Of course, that’s as ridiculous as it sounds. No one has been assigned to follow me around and make things go my way to make me happy. Not even my husband of 41 years. Oh sure, he promised to love me forever and on a side note, he promised to always keep me warm because we dated during a very cold winter in the U.P. of Michigan, but that aside, it’s not up to him to make me happy. He could be absolutely perfect and it wouldn’t guarantee my happiness. Happiness is a state of mind. My state of mind. I must choose to be happy. It’s also a state of being. One minute I’m happy, the next I’m not. My attitude about everything dictates how I will feel and what I will do.

People don’t make us happy. They can make us laugh. They can make us cry. They can’t bring us to a place within ourselves that screams happiness. Only we can do that. In the same vein, things don’t make us happy either. Some of the most miserable people in the world have everything they could want and still are unable to attain a state of happiness. Why is this so?

In order to be happy, there has to be an acceptance of the way things are, a hope for the future, and a belief that we deserve to be happy.

You can’t erase the negative aspects of life, but you can decide how those things will affect you. Not only is it a healthy approach to life and longevity, but it makes life easier and more fulfilling. Facing how things truly are in your life and accepting the responsibility for that, allows you to make changes and improve your situation. When you stop fighting and blaming the unseen forces that are making you miserable, and understand that it’s all up to you, positive and good things will happen. Where there is hope, there is love. Hope gives us the reason to love ourselves and to love others. It says there are good people in the world, good things to enjoy, and that change is a good thing. You deserve to have a piece of that delicious happiness pie. It’s yours for the taking if you allow yourself to partake. It’s not a diet. You don’t have to live in denial. It’s all right there within your reach.

Start small. Think about the things that give you that sense of happiness. We view puppies and kitties on the internet and it makes us feel good. Watch a video clip of a baby laughing one of those deep belly laughs and I guarantee you’ll be smiling if not laughing yourself. There is even a new craze of watching people shave soap that is supposed to have a calming effect on us. How can such simple things make us happy? Because we allow it into our subconscious and it momentarily erases the trash we’ve thrown over our happiness. Stop making it just tiny moments in your life and keep adding in the good stuff to get rid of the bad stuff.

Take a look at the people in your life. Decide if they are toxic to you. Toxic people suck the happiness and good energy out of us. Sometimes they just can’t help it, but you don’t have to keep exposing yourself to it. You can love someone and not have them be good for you. You don’t discard people like yesterday’s newspaper, but you can ease yourself away enough to put some distance until you are prepared to handle being around them. If they ask what’s going on, be honest in saying that you are working on yourself and your coping skills. They might feel inspired by your changes enough to do that for themselves too.

If you expect things to bring you happiness, you’re trying to be an emotional hoarder. You keep bringing things in believing it will turn your momentary enjoyment into long lasting happiness. It won’t work. Objects or belongings only hold the power over you that you allow them to. Being sentimental about a handkerchief that belonged to your grandmother is ok, but it’s not bringing you happiness. It’s giving you a memory, a touching thought, or a reprieve from what’s really going on, but it’s still just a handkerchief. Piling up possessions to prove your worthiness to others will not make you look successful or present a picture of happiness. Try giving some of those things to those less fortunate. Better yet, spend your money on those that can’t even supply the basic necessities in life. That will make you feel good.

Everybody gets down. We all have those moments when things just seem crazy and out of control. Even in the midst of chaos, there can be calm and with that calmness comes peace and joy. A bad day doesn’t have to turn into several. Each day is a new day to make something different happen. When you choose to do the things that make you feel good, take care of the things that are overwhelming you, and allow your body, mind, and spirit to be filled with positive energy, it can turn your life around. You do deserve it. We are all entitled to be happy. Even the Declaration of Independence says the pursuit of happiness is the right that you have to live your life in a way that brings you joy. It’s not out there in the world. The pursuit is a self-examination and acceptance of who we are, where we are, what we are doing, and what changes need to take place to bring us happiness.

So, don’t worry, be happy. Don’t let negativity take you over. Get control of the things you can, learn to let go of the things that make you unhappy, and be open to the possibility of living a happy life. You really do deserve that gift to yourself.

Rich or Poor

It may sound strange, but I believe I grew up poor. If you compare me to other kids who had it worse off than I did, I suppose you could argue the point. I do know that there were a lot of families much better off than we were. I am not sure I actually knew we were at the time. So, does it count then?

Why didn’t I know? Money wasn’t something we talked about in our house except to say we didn’t have it for something. Mom handled all of the money and the bills and if we asked questions, we were told it wasn’t any of our business. In 1975, the year I graduated, Dad made $5,500. That was his total income in a year when the average family was making $10, 531. He received a 3 dollar allowance from my mother each week to cover his gas and his tobacco and cigarette papers. Dad liked to roll his own. Mom bought a machine to make her own to save money. Groceries were the same every two weeks because we never deviated from the menu right down to specific days unless it was a holiday. The meals were simple ones. There were a few times I did go to bed hungry, but I knew not to complain. I remember when we pulled up in front a gas station and gas had gone up to 27 cents a gallon and my mother thought that was horrible. I got 3 new outfits for school each year and a new dress for Easter. Usually shoes were bought for those two events too. If you outgrew them in the meantime, it was a problem. I loved it when I was older and had clothes passed down to me from my sister who was quite fashionable. As soon as I was able to make some money of my own, my wardrobe improved greatly, although my nicest outfits came from St. Vincent De Paul’s thrift store my senior year or carefully purchased on a shopping trip into Pittsburgh with my oldest sister.

Toys were simple. I did have the Barbie with the black afro hairdo and eventually got her friend, Midge and boyfriend, Ken. I always wanted a doll house but cardboard boxes decorated from the Sears catalog had to do. My doll furniture was made out of paneling scraps that my dad had left over after paneling our living room walls. I know we all hate that paneling now, but it was the thing back in the day. I made all my own Barbie clothes from old socks or material from old sheets.

My birthday was only 6 weeks before Christmas, so I always wondered if I got shorted every year. But, Christmas meant 3 new items to call my own. I admit to sometimes loving my brothers’ toys more than my own. I remember one particular Christmas when my younger brother got a vibrating hockey game and I was so jealous. I am sure that Mom made sure that our gifts cost almost exactly the same though.

Did I feel the lack of money while growing up? Not as much as you might think. For one thing, I never compared myself to any of my friends whose families had more money. It never occurred to me to be jealous. We had enough food most of the time and clothes on our backs. I had a lovely, tiny bedroom at home to call my own since I grew up with two brothers at home. I had toys to play with on rainy days, friends to play outside with all summer or go sled riding with in the winter, and a nice home to grow up in. My parents didn’t act like we were poor and not once, despite only getting a 3 dollar a week allowance, did my father ever say no to me about going to a school dance or roller skating, or going to a Saturday job where I made as much in those few hours as his allowance for the week. My folks paid their bills on time, never bought anything on credit unless it was absolutely necessary and only one thing at a time. Once something was paid off, then they would consider credit again. My dad never had a new car and did all of his own repairs. I would see my mother panic when someone would show up around dinner time unexpectedly when she knew we barely had enough for ourselves. Yet, she was gracious. We were taught to take care of everything we did have and to know the difference between wanting something and needing something. By the time I was 9, I was an avid reader. My parents would come home once a month from their big shopping trip with a new Bobbsey Twin book for me. It gave me a great love of books. Treasures for the mind. I was given a 50 cent a week allowance. Our house was always clean and our good times usually involved family.

My parents were children of the Great Depression and they knew how to make things stretch and to do without. I am not sure how they actually managed some of the things that they did.  I learned so much growing up like that. Later in life, when my husband would be laid off for extended periods of time, I knew how to keep us going on very little. It did make me tighter than bark on a tree when it came to spending, but when I knew we had it, I could relax a little. I got immense pleasure out of looking into our freezer when it was full of food. We paid our bills on time and did whatever it took to keep a roof over our heads and our bellies full. Our children never wanted for the necessities in life and we were able to do things for them that my parents would never have thought possible. They learned many of the same lessons that I did.

So, was I really poor? Not in the things that truly mattered. Monetarily, there was not much to go around, but as a family, we did well enough. My dad worked hard every day of his life until he couldn’t. He was a smart man. If he didn’t know how to do something, he read a book to find out how. He built an entire house himself that way. My mom worked just as hard at home keeping it all together. She said there was never any excuse to be dirty because soap was cheap. You could eat off of my mother’s floors and everything had its place.  They made more than their share of sacrifices, many of which I will never know. I was never ashamed of them and admire them for what they accomplished now that I am older and have raised a family. I wonder if I ever showed my appreciation enough. I hope I thanked them along the way in ways that made them feel it was all worth it. Dad has been gone 41 years and Mom 7 years this year and I can still hear them reminding me what’s important in life.

Just One Voice

As a former youth minister, I can’t tell you how proud I am of the young people across the country for their courage to take a stand. Either for a cause very close to their hearts or in an effort to show support and solidarity. We find many articles about kids today and how they seem to be disappointing the adults in this world, but this is one time I wish the positive would be highlighted enough to erase some of the negativity. All of our teens are not eating Tide pods or participating in every ridiculous, harmful challenge that comes their way. The recent showing of passion, intelligence, and strength on behalf of students across this country is awe inspiring. It makes me sad that it had to come after so much tragedy in our schools, but better late than never.

Let me make it clear that I am not saying this to make a political statement. I am one of those political contradictions in that I believe in our right to bear arms. I just don’t believe there is a single household in the U.S. where owning an automatic weapon is necessary. I hunt, I shoot, and I enjoy it. I also learned to shoot a handgun for the sole purpose of learning to protect myself. My husband is going for his concealed weapon carry permit. I grew up in a house with guns and continue to live in one. That said, we have a very serious problem on our hands and these students want to be heard and want action taken now. They don’t care about the party line or who is lobbying who. They don’t want to wait for common sense to prevail.

Concerning all students, none of our children in this country should have to fear going to school. I remember the practice drills in school for fire. There were the ones we had for some sort of attack that involved going deeply into the bowels of the school basement in order to survive. There were the dreaded jumping out the back door of the bus drills, too, that left this short girl in a panic attack every time, worrying that no one would keep me from falling when I jumped. Those older boys just didn’t seem to be strong enough to me. And of course, we girls were wearing dresses. We understood the reason behind these drills. I don’t know that any of us believed we’d survive something like that, but the likelihood of an attack seemed distant and unrealistic. It was still frightening. The idea of some outside force, whether it was accidental or on purpose, that could trap us or kill us, was enough to make us do what we were told to do.

 It still didn’t make me afraid to go to school. I felt safe. I felt there were people in charge who would save us all. Between the teachers, the bus drivers, the staff members of the school, I thought they had us all covered and they probably did. The drills made it appear as though the process was all worked out. Thankfully, we never did have to perform any of the drills for real.

 Kids today are experiencing a different kind of drill. The kind that makes what’s been happening fairly often very much a reality. They know it’s not a game. They know there are way too many kids that don’t make it even if they do exactly what they are supposed to. It isn’t fair and it isn’t right. Our children are afraid. I imagine our teachers are too. No one has the feeling of safety anymore.

The difference in the events of the past, and the current ones, is pretty clear to me. When we had a fire drill, we would go immediately into it knowing we were going to be led out. There were alternate routes and even though we were told to move quickly and silently, we understood what fire was and that chances were we had time to get out safely. There were alarms that went off for either a fire or an evacuation. There were warnings and there was time. That’s two things you don’t get with a school shooter. The shooter is already inside. When the shooting begins, only those closest to it will even know it is happening and not everyone will recognize it for what it is. With all the repetitive drills, no one knows how much time anyone will have to take action or how anyone will react. Humans react with the fight or flight reactions. Until we are in the position of having to react, we never know what we will do. Part of the reason time to reach safety isn’t measurable in these shootings is the prevalent use of automatic weapons. There’s not much that will stand up to a barrage of bullets or repetitive shooting. Certainly not the bodies of our young people. How do we protect them from that?

These kids deserve better than to live with this fear. I have a granddaughter graduating from high school this year and a little one that is in preschool. Both schools have very different protective measures in place. Even though they have them, there is nothing really that would stop a shooter from accomplishing his mission if he is familiar with those safety measures. These shooters have all been people who attended those schools or had access to them for various reasons. They know the lay of the land. I know our schools have a police presence. It’s not enough. One person cannot protect an entire school. I don’t know that any group of people could, other than a whole squad of either police or military. I remember the objections in the past for metal detectors or backpack and locker checks. Parents felt their kids’ privacy was being invaded and their rights being denied. You can’t do that and expect your children to be protected when they are away from you.

I hear the impassioned pleas of these kids. I understand their fear. I feel the depth of their pain over the loss of friends and family. I have told kids in my ministry that they can make a difference and that their voices can be heard. My words fell on the ears of young people full of doubt over that idea. They would say to me that no one would listen. No one would care. They truly doubted that anything they could do would promote change. Now they see that it can. Hear them. We tend to listen to whoever makes the most noise, instead of who is making the most sense. Those quiet voices in the background do have something worthwhile to say. They don’t want to be in the background anymore. They are standing up for what they believe in and it’s a personal issue. You don’t have to agree with everything they say, but please let them have their say and think about it.

I don’t have the answers. I am not equipped to decide what’s best. I just know that our children have a right to an education that isn’t tainted by fear for their lives. I don’t believe in leaving our children vulnerable to people who don’t think or feel that shooting innocent people is wrong. They are at the mercy of any person who has a vendetta or wants to make a name for themselves.  I hope we can figure out a way to let our children go off to school knowing that we will see them again at the end of the school day. I hope we can take away their fears. I pray it’s very soon.

What to Do About an Elderly Parent

I have several friends going through the same experience right now. They are trying to figure out what would be best for their elderly parent. One is watching their parent slip away with death inevitably close. There is a couple I know who took in the parent dying from cancer in an attempt to make her last days more comfortable and among family. Another is dealing with an obstinate parent who doesn’t want to give up living on his own, but truly would be safer and better cared for in an assisted living home. Still another, is caring for his mother with dementia because there are no other options in his area. None of those situations are easy to cope with and come with a certain amount of anxiety, guilt, apprehension, and sometimes anger.

Back in my grandparents’ day, there weren’t any adult foster care homes or assisted living communities. Either you died alone, in a poor house, or you moved in with adult children. The care was whatever they could provide with their resources and the knowledge of the medical community at the time. At least now there are options of types of care. None of the choices for placement come without some guilt for not being able to do it all yourself. I stepped in to take over at home care of my in-laws and did my best helping my mom out in her later years, even moving out of state to her town to be closer. I had to decide what I could or couldn’t do with no idea of what was coming down the road. The lack of hesitation came from wanting to do the right thing, give loving care, and to keep everyone in their home as long as possible. Neither case ended up in assisted living or a home. We were lucky that way.

It’s definitely not for everyone. Taking care of my in-laws was the toughest one of the two. It almost killed my marriage and I came close to a total breakdown. There were no outside sources that could help us. There wasn’t even a Council on Aging at the time. The family was burned out and the ability for any of us to offer the kind of care needed was dwindling. When you realize that you are getting sicker than those you care for, you know something has to give. It was a myriad of emotions. I felt honored. I felt needed. But, I also felt anger and frustration. I felt guilt over being exhausted, for being angry and hurt over the lack of concern and assistance, but most of all, for not being enough. I was tired of going up against relatives and for losing my freedom to do anything. I was still raising two teenagers, babysitting my infant granddaughter at the time, and managing two households. There were better ways that it could have been handled. Better choices made for their care and for my own wellbeing, but I do not regret what I did for my in-laws who were good, loving people. They deserved the best care we could offer. I just regret the fallout from it all.

When it came to my mom, I was prepared to take her into my home also, despite my previous experiences. Maybe I was glutton for punishment, but this was my mom. We didn’t have the healthiest relationship, but she was always there for me and I was intent on doing the same for her. She lived in a senior complex in her own little apartment and she was happy there. We were very fortunate that she managed quite well as long as she did, but the last 4 or 5 months were not good. She was no longer willing to take care of herself and, despite everyone’s best efforts, ended up ill and in the hospital where she passed away. I was thankful for the time we had, but yet, I still felt guilty for not doing enough. How do you measure enough? Maybe that’s just par for the course. It’s possible that you can’t avoid a certain amount of guilt no matter what choices you make.

So, getting back to my friends dealing with all of this. No one can tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. Your circumstances are completely different than anyone else’s. It might place a financial hardship on your family to choose to care for someone yourself. It might take an emotional and physical toll on you and others around you due to extended care. It could become inevitable that no matter how much you might want to care for them, it’s beyond your capabilities. You must weigh the pros and cons of your decisions. If you are able to involve the person you are helping, it makes things easier on both of you. My mother always said she never wanted to be a burden and that we should put her in a home if the need should arise. Some of us were never quite comfortable with that. I know when she felt good, she meant every word of that. When she became ill, I doubt she wanted the same thing. My in-laws considered assisted living a little too late to make that change. None of us wanted the alternative.

The choices are hard. No matter which way you go, it’s difficult. The way may seem really clear in the beginning. It gets muddied with time. Between trying to listen to everyone that has an opinion, even those who shouldn’t, and doing research with which to make good decisions, I doubt it will remain clear. The situation can change day to day. All that I can recommend is when you are faced with making these decisions for yourself, or for a loved one, you always lead with love. It doesn’t matter what others say. It doesn’t matter what you feel obligated to do. It’s not about easing your guilt. It’s not about being praised for what you do. It’s about what your loved one needs and wants and whether or not you or someone else can provide it. You do what you have to do. We’ve all heard horror stories about nursing homes. We’ve heard about elder abuse. Some people are left alone in neglect. This parent, or elderly person, needs to keep their dignity and deserves the best care. It’s a basic human right. You can still be involved in their care even outside of your home by visiting often and staying on top of things. Abuse cases are often reported about folks that had no one stopping in unannounced or on a regular basis. Include them in family events and outings whenever possible. Think about how you would arrange care for your child and apply the same thinking.

Not everyone is cut out to be a caregiver. Sometimes, it just gets to be too much. You need to know when you’re reaching your limits. I sat in an office while a friend of mine made arrangements for her mother to go into care, crying throughout the process. She felt ashamed that she was making this choice. I had to remind her that she’d been caring for her mother for some time and could no longer do that. Even her mother knew it was time and that she was just following through on what was going to give her mother the care she needed. It wasn’t until her mother had been gone a few months did she realize that it was the right choice.

There are ways to make this process easier. Let them know that you love them, that they are still important to you and others, and that you are not abandoning them. This is usually their biggest fear. Remember that they are giving up the life they have known and change is more difficult at an advanced age. Have the conversation early with your parents or with your children. When you lead with love in your decisions, you won’t go wrong. Talk about it, pray about it, and do what’s best for your situation. It will keep the guilt and regrets to a minimum. The decision is up to those that it affects the most.

Box of Love

There was something my mother did for me every year in elementary school that I still appreciate to this day. She was never artistic and said she couldn’t draw a straight line. She loved crafts, but our house wasn’t overloaded with homemade items. The night before my Valentine’s Day party at school, she would help me make my box to bring home my valentines. She always seemed to have cigar boxes or shoe boxes around. Out came the aluminum foil and the tape. Mom would carefully, almost artfully, cover the box in foil. I could never make it that neat. She would cut a slot in the top of the lid if it was a shoe box or fit it snugly to the lid of a cigar box, so it would still open and be covered on the inside. I would then be allowed to decorate said box in whatever way I chose. She showed me how to ‘write’ on the foil by pressing on it with the pencil. Of course, I would cut different sized hearts in pink and red and white and attach them to the foil. I would then sit and make out my valentines for my classmates, saving the best ones for the boys and girls I really liked, but filling one out for everyone. I would be so proud carrying that box into school. I was convinced that I had the prettiest box.

I remember helping to build a little post office in the back of the classroom ahead of time. We would learn how letters were addressed, how to mail them, and how mail was delivered. Our valentines were a way to keep us all busy learning the process from start to finish. I always wanted to be one of the volunteers who delivered because I could put off the inevitable.  Once everyone received their valentines, we would sit down at our desks and look at them. In those days, I am sure there weren’t that many different ones to choose from and they were all very similar in size. I do remember tearing up as I realized that I didn’t get as many valentines as everyone else who asked how many I got. I couldn’t understand why some kids would be so cruel, especially when I gave one to everyone. I would try to pull myself together and wait until I got home that night to cry it out.

Even at that age, there were the age old questions anyone would ask in that situation. What was wrong with me? Why didn’t those kids like me? What did I ever do to them? Why couldn’t we be friends? It was a hard lesson to learn. I was a bullied kid from first grade on. I have written about the little girl in first grade that managed to bully most of the class every recess in winter by making us lean against the brick wall and stamp down snow from the wall. I have no idea how she managed to get away with it and why none of us kids ever fought back or told. After my family moved when I was going into second grade, I was the strange new kid who dressed funny and had a darker complexion. I was teased on the bus everyday being called the N word, Spic, Dago, and any other derogatory name the kids in the back of the bus could think to call me. I had to go home and ask my mother what those words meant. When she told me, I was heartbroken. I was none of those things. I would cry until she told me that was enough. I was told to dry my tears. Mom taught me to say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never harm me.” I said them aloud. I said them silently. It became my mantra. It didn’t stop the hurt, only some of the teasing. She told me that if I didn’t react, they would stop. It didn’t really ever stop because there were always those kids who just couldn’t help themselves and they would find something new to pick on you about. I wonder now what kind of home life they had and where they learned such vicious things. Then, all I knew is that I wanted to be left alone. I loved school, but it became harder and harder every year.

And here we were in that potentially hurtful situation of valentines every year. I was just the type of kid that never understood what there was about me not to like. I tried to be nice to everyone. I was always kind. I gave parts of my lunch away or sat with kids no one else would sit near. I let kids cheat off of my papers if I felt sorry for them. I had no idea I was laying the groundwork for the rest of my life. At the time, I was just desperate to be liked and to have friends. I would gaze into the box and know exactly who I didn’t get a valentine from and was determined to make them like me, so maybe next year, I would hit a home run and get one from every single classmate.

I remember the nerves and stomach aches from the dread of getting on the bus.  I remember the name calling. I remember the pain and the tears. I remember just wanting to disappear, so that no one would notice me. I also remember the people who did become my friends. I remember the lovely valentine’s boxes and the times of making them with my mother. I don’t remember when the teasing and bullying stopped. I don’t remember when it became a non-issue. I do know it taught me a lesson about how tough I could be if I had to be. Finding that inner strength to get on that bus every day and go to school stayed with me and got me through more tough times than I can count.

My 4 year old granddaughter had her Valentine’s Day party at preschool today. She had made a list of her classmates with her mom because the school doesn’t send one home. She had decorated a paper bag in school the day before she said to bring her valentines home in. She remembered every kid in her class except one and she still took an extra valentine in just to be ready. She was so excited last night that she couldn’t wait to wake up and go to school. She even wanted to wear a dress because it was a special day. I almost watched in dread this afternoon when she asked me if I wanted to see what she brought home. Anxiety built up in me, hoping she wouldn’t be disappointed. She was so excited. There were little items like heart shaped erasers and a pencil. There were valentines, but not as many as she had taken in. I hope that it was a case that some parents just couldn’t afford or didn’t take the time to buy their kids’ valentines, although I would have had my children sit down and make them from paper and crayons if that were the case. She wasn’t upset at all. It hasn’t occurred to her that the number was short. To her, it was a wonderful day. I truly hope she always feels that way.

It’s amazing what that box or bag of valentines can say to us. We all want to be liked. We all want to experience love. Sometimes we overlook the obvious thinking there should be more or disregard what is being offered to us in the form of friendship or love. For some, Valentine’s Day can be a painful reminder that they don’t have anyone in their life to say I love you to. There are different kinds of love and someone in your life might need to hear I love you even if it’s not a romantic thing. Look around. Give love and you will receive love. I leave you with these words:

An “I love you” that is true and sincere can heal a broken heart, ease the worst fears, and fix a lot of mistakes. May the love in your life be enough for you.

                                           Happy Valentine’s Day!

If I Were Single Again

My husband and I have both agreed that if something happened to either of us, we wouldn’t shy away from having a new relationship. Considering I am 60 and he is 62, I don’t know how long either of us would have left to give to another relationship, but whatever time there is, it shouldn’t be wasted being lonely if you don’t have to be. I read that happily married people who become widowed usually do engage in new relationships. They enjoyed the wonderful relationship that they had with their spouse and feel they would be comfortable seeking out another one. I don’t think it’s the case for every couple. Just like not every person who was in a bad marriage swears off trying again, it’s definitely an individual thing.

My mother was turning 56 a few days after my father passed away. They had been married just shy of 40 years. Yeah, do the math. She was 16 when they married, not unlike her own mother. So, they were young, maybe naïve, but they raised 6 kids together. It wasn’t necessarily what I would call a happy marriage towards the end considering my mother talked a lot about a divorce when I was a teen, but she never did go through with anything. Dad always said there was too much of that in his family and he’d never divorce. I never quite understood their relationship because it seemed so contradictory. I would hear stories of their earlier years together from my older siblings and then I had my own memories of how they were, but no one ever really knows for sure what goes wrong except the two people involved. People of that generation kept things to themselves too, so there were no real hints as to the state of their marriage at any given time. I did wonder sometimes if they even liked each other, not alone loved each other. I guess I understand that better now myself after 40 years of marriage. Then Dad got sick. That changed a lot. No more talk of divorce. And then he passed away.

I had hoped that my mother would venture out and meet someone. I wasn’t really expecting her to get married again, although I would not have objected as long as he was a nice guy. I did hope she’d find a companion. I just wanted her to have a social life, someone with whom she could go to dinner or to the movies. I just didn’t want her to be alone. She loved to dance. She said eating by herself at night was the hardest part. Mom met a man in her apartment complex. She went out once on a date with him and found that to be an unsettling experience never to be repeated. No amount of cajoling, pleading, or insistence would budge her.  She told me that being interested in someone else made her feel like she was cheating on my dad. I resigned myself to the idea that she would remain alone. In spite of all that, I watched in amazement and amusement when she did become an outrageous flirt in her old age. I wish that side of her had come out 30 years earlier. It might have benefitted her considerably.

Hitting 56, a few years ago, made me think a lot about her situation. I realized that if something did happen to my husband, I would want to have someone in my life again to care for, to love, and to have look out for me. I didn’t want to depend on my children and their children to fill the emptiness in my life. I like my solitude at times, but living with it constantly would make me crazy. So, like most of our strange and weird conversations, my husband and I talked about things in bed with the lights off. We both agreed that we wouldn’t want the other to not enjoy life and if that meant a new partner, so be it. I finished the conversation with the notion that as long as my husband outlived me, it’d be a non-issue. I also promised not to come back and haunt him and his new lady.

I see nothing wrong with anyone finding love again after losing a spouse either through divorce or death. If you were the type of person who loved well, it’s denying yourself something very basic to your nature closing yourself off to the possibility of love again. Maybe you didn’t have that great of a marriage and deserve to finally find happiness. We all need love and affection. We need companionship. Even God saw that for Adam and made Eve. I realize that sometimes you have to be considerate of children. I am not talking about adult children, but younger ones that might struggle with the idea of mom or dad being with anyone else. Adult children should never dictate what their parent does unless there is cause for alarm. As for the younger ones, don’t introduce them to anyone you are dating until things seem to be getting serious and there’s a very strong likelihood that a marriage or co-habitation is going to take place. Then ease them into it. Don’t expect them to fall in love just because you have reached that point. Hope for like, then acceptance, and finally true affection, but in their time, not yours. Just be careful regardless of the circumstances.

Why proceed with caution? I have heard many widowers tell stories about women chasing them thinking they will find someone to take care of them and be their sugar daddy. I have heard of women who were targeted in their grief and lost every penny they had to their name. Let’s face it, if you’ve been married awhile, you are a little out of the loop when it comes to dating. Don’t dive in, but do get your toes in the water. If you are grieving either the loss of a marriage or a spouse through death, you might not be thinking clearly. You can easily become a victim. Don’t jump into anything without input from others. Don’t even think twice before doing a background check or find out about another’s finances. You worked hard for your money, your property, and for your belongings. No need to be the sacrificial lamb. Understand that there will be baggage or leftover feelings from the past for you both. Give yourself enough time to be sure, but realize how lucky you are to be given a second shot at love.

That said, here’s my thoughts on the subject of caution. If you are my age, you realize that there isn’t a whole lot of time to spend waiting it out. I suppose I’d be more willing to take a risk by moving faster rather than lose out on perfectly good time to spend with someone else. I still wouldn’t do it without checking things out and making sure it was all good. But every time I see something in the news about a 90 year old man marrying a 90 year old woman he met in the nursing home, I think it’s never too late for love or happiness. It gives me hope. It lets me know that it can and does happen. Just choose wisely!

Custody Fights Aren’t Just Over Children

I only have one question. Who gets to decide which one gets me in the custody battle? Ok, I lied. I have more than one. Why do they have to choose? Don’t they both want me? Let me explain.

Our neighbors had become good friends of ours. They have had an on again/off again relationship for several years, but even though things weren’t perfect, I didn’t imagine them ever truly breaking up. I also never gave a thought as to how that would affect our relationship with them. I mean, we are all adults. We had only known them for 3 years. We did a lot of fun things together from concerts to game nights at each other’s houses to dinner out. It was an easy friendship because everyone seemed to enjoy each other’s company. We had even worked on each other’s houses too, so it meant being together in stressful situations as well as really fun times. So, what went wrong?

They went wrong somewhere along the way and here we were, stuck in the middle, in a situation we’d never been in before. In all of these years, my husband and I had never known another couple to divorce with whom we were friends. It was awkward. We didn’t know what to say. We felt badly for both of them, although I admit to feeling more badly for one of them than the other. He stayed next door because it was his house, so that meant she left to live elsewhere in town. Knowing he wasn’t in good health, we became concerned when we didn’t see him or know that he was getting out and about. I made phone calls to him and left messages. No return calls. She needed time to get settled and to try to work out her feelings over the break up. When I did see her, I didn’t know if it was ok to talk about him or anything else that surrounded their relationship. We were like lost babes in the wood when it came to how we were supposed to be handling this. I couldn’t believe it was that hard to figure out.

One day he came by to discuss a position I was taking over for him at the end of his term and he asked if we could possibly take care of his snow removal this winter. My husband, always willing to help out, said sure. I told the neighbor not to be such a stranger and that we were worried about him. He, in not too many words, basically said we just needed to be good neighbors, not good friends because of my relationship with her. I said what did one have to do with the other? We cared about both of them and we didn’t want things to change. Apparently, that wasn’t his thinking at all. It took me about an hour to absorb what he had said to us. It just wasn’t sinking in and, even then, I had to ask my daughter and my husband if he actually said what I thought he said. I was confused. I was shocked. I was hurt. Then I was angry. I never had anyone break up with me either!

I waited a bit before I brought it up with his ex. I asked her if she knew why he would do that. Her response was that she was afraid that might happen. She didn’t want to come between us because we were next door neighbors. She thought the best thing to do would be to just pull away and let things play out. Wait a minute! This felt like high school all over again. We couldn’t be friends with either of them because they were angry or upset with each other? I was blown away. I didn’t want it to go down like that. I told her we could be friends with each of them and anyone else they brought into their lives. We didn’t have an issue with all of this and we really hoped they could get beyond it too. Fortunately, she ended up telling him that and after some difficult moments through the holidays, we are able to have friendships with both to an extent. I hope with time, it will improve.

Once again, a situation where there is no handbook, no guide. When you are friends with someone already who then becomes involved in a relationship, you try to become friends with the person they are seeing or marry. If they break up, chances are you don’t lose your friend. You will probably tend to side with the friend anyway. In this case, we met them as a couple and there was no previous history. I can only imagine that a child feels that way when the parents are fighting over custody of them and they aren’t old enough to understand the why and what for. I know I didn’t want to have to choose. I also didn’t want the awkwardness or lack of contact. I really hated the fact that all of it was happening and I had no control over it. Why couldn’t we just all be friends?

I guess because we were reminders of good times. He didn’t want to be the odd man out when it came to parties or game nights. I imagine they both felt like they might be judged. I felt sorry for them that it had to be this way. I also felt sorry for us. We were missing those times. I keep making efforts with him and thankfully, my friendship with her is going ok. I hope the day comes when we can put them in the same room together for an event and not have it be a terrible idea.

So, if you find yourself ending a relationship, once you get over the initial shock, please consider the friends you left in the fall out from it. If they care about both of you, it’s going to be hard. They need explanations. They need to know where they stand with you. They need to know that you aren’t breaking up with them too. Don’t make them choose. Cherish the support they might want to offer you. Understand the awkwardness. Let them know it’s going to be ok. It’s still the same journey, just another fork in the road!

Lesson or Job?

I don’t remember a time in my life that I didn’t have chores or jobs to do. Since I don’t remember much before I was 4, one day that does stick out in my mind was my 5th birthday. I was told, because it was my birthday, I didn’t have to dry dishes. Thinking back, I remember playing with my new baby doll in the living room and being tickled to death not having to dry dishes! That seems terribly young to be happy about such a thing, so I can only assume that I’d been doing it awhile. I sincerely doubt that I actually dried any dishes. I was probably handed a tea towel and allowed to dry silverware that wasn’t sharp. What I considered “jobs” were things like pulling the eyes off of the potatoes my mother wanted to bake or to sprinkle the clothes with a bottle of water when my mother was ironing without a steam iron. I felt important. It was my mother’s way of giving us busy work.

 It just lends to the idea that in my house, people had responsibilities at any age. We were after all, a family of eight. We didn’t all grow up together. My oldest sister was married and had a child before I came along and my second oldest sister left for nursing school before I can remember her being home. I shared a bedroom for a brief time with my third oldest sister before she moved out of the house. Those three girls shared much of the chores around the house and during a time with few conveniences. They cared for us three younger kids a lot of the time. I have no doubt that they worked hard. I can only really attest to the way things were for me growing up between two boys in a house where boys did “boy” chores and girls did “girl” chores. That meant the outside stuff was theirs, inside stuff was mine. It definitely seemed like there was always something that had to be done.

Not that my older brother didn’t try to blur those lines once. He was responsible for feeding the dog. He wanted to go somewhere with his friends at the time he was supposed to feed the dog, so he offered me 10 cents to do his job. This was a big deal. It wasn’t my job, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do, and I was worried that I’d be in trouble if Mom found out. So, I held out for more money. He offered 15 cents and I still didn’t agree. In exasperation, he stomped off and told me to forget it. Apparently, anything over 15 cents was just way too much and not worth giving up for his friends.

I was given an allowance of 50 cents a week. That meant saving up for two weeks to go roller skating because it cost 75 cents to get in. I had my own skates, so I didn’t have to rent on top of that. It also meant that since I saved a quarter from one week and got my allowance for the second, that I could go two weeks in a row before I had to start saving up again. I did do some babysitting for neighbors, but that was often just 50 cents for the night, regardless of how many kids. Nobody was going to get rich like that. My mother would often offer me out to help elderly neighbors with things they needed help with at their houses. I wasn’t paid most of the time, but I remember once getting 50 cents for spending an entire, hot, blistering day cleaning out a grape arbor. I never complained though. It gave me a chance to do something different.

 My responsibilities at home included, but were not limited to, ironing on Tuesdays, because my mother washed on Mondays, cleaning house on Saturday, feeding my cat and cleaning the litter box because she stayed in the house, setting the table for dinner and drying the dishes afterwards. It might not sound any different than most households in those days, but my mother was stricter than most. Dusting a table meant examining the exact location of everything and putting all of those things back just as they were before. Scrubbing floors meant down on your hands and knees because she felt it was the only way a floor was truly clean. Harsh cleaners were used. An added duty in the summer, would be hauling the clothes out to the clothesline on wash day because Mom used a wringer washer in the basement and we had no dryer. Every day, all year, I helped in the general store we owned for quite a few years. I would run from the school bus and jump behind the candy counter to wait on the kids that would come pouring in from the same bus. I will never forget the prices of things like the pop being 8 cents a bottle with a 2 cent deposit and penny candy, the smell of the Coke cooler when it was opened, the rack of Wise potato chips, the containers of Slim Jims and pretzel rods, and the rack of Hostess pies for 29 cents that sat on the counters. Those were the days when general stores could be found out in the countryside every so many miles to service the smaller communities outside of the bigger towns. We carried everything from household items to food, to cotter pins and nails. It was nothing for the older girls or their moms to pop in early in the morning in their curlers and housecoats to pick up the milk or bread they ran out of the day before. I would walk up the long hill to Adamosky’s chicken farm to pay 45 cents for 12 eggs that my mother would sell in the store for 50 cents a dozen. My mother ran that store from 7 am to 11 pm, 7 days a week.  Our house, to which the store was attached, was still immaculate and dinner was always served at 4pm. I don’t know how she did it. They truly were not making money from the business. In order to keep from losing the commercial status through zoning, my mother kept that store going long past it’s time for making any money at all. When it closed, it was the end of an era.

I went on to spend many of my summers as a teen with my oldest sister, living with her, watching her two children and helping out. I loved being there and she paid me $5 a week. I saved some toward school clothes in the Fall and spent money on gifts for her or my mother. It made me happy to do that. She would do fun things with me and I hated to see summer end.

All of this, the work, the chores, the responsibilities, were meant to prepare me for life. The strictness taught me to be cautious, pay attention to detail, and to try not to make mistakes. There were lines that you didn’t cross. The responsibility of caring for animals showed me how others might come to depend on me. I learned how to keep an immaculate house, how to properly iron a shirt, and what it was like to smell clothes, towels and sheets coming in off of the line after a day in the sun and wind. I realized the importance of schedules and keeping them, being grateful for the things done for me, and that I didn’t have to be paid for everything I did. Some things you did because you were just part of a family or because doing something for another for free made you a good person. Not having everything handed to me kept me from being spoiled and made me appreciate everything I did have that I called my own. I learned patience and the value of waiting for something. It taught me that there are repercussions for mistakes or bad choices. I learned to give 100 % to anything I did. It wasn’t all good, but it wasn’t all bad.

I tried to pass these things down to my children in a kinder, gentler way. I hated it when my husband’s mom would try to pay them to do little things for her. I would ask her how they were supposed to learn to do for others if she kept paying them.  I made them save money earned and to work for things. I taught them to treasure their belongings and to treat them with respect because not everything could be replaced. I showed that we could have a nice home by taking care of our things, not because we had money or because we were showing off. I rewarded them for doing well at anything with praise, but especially in school because that was their main job. They helped at home with the chores like any kids, but not in excess. They had pets or animals to care for, siblings or cousins to watch over, and birthdays and Christmas were still times to wish for bigger things, but knowing they couldn’t have it all. I told my children when we couldn’t afford to buy something, or that we would have to wait until we could. I worked at not saying to them, “We’ll see” like I heard growing up. It was a yes or no with an explanation. They aren’t perfect because I wasn’t perfect. They are good people. Responsible, dependable, and compassionate people. They have a good work ethic and are good parents.  I hope they learned life’s lessons in a good way. When I look at them, I think I did a bit of alright. I wonder how many of our younger people will ever learn those lessons. We don’t seem to be passing down much of anything in our effort to make them feel like winners at everything, looking for ways to praise them even in bad situations, and giving them instant gratification in so many ways. You can raise a confident child without giving them everything. Tough situations build character and strength. Taking responsibility for one’s own choices is important. No one else owes you anything. Maybe it’s time to get back to basics and teach it the old fashioned way.

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This

When my husband and I fell in love, I was 18 and he was 20. Just babes in the wood, but we didn’t think so. We were in the Air Force, both working in base supply, and had our whole lives ahead of us. I remember clearly the long talks, sitting in his pickup truck for privacy, and telling each other what we hoped for in life. We both had parents with long marriages. We both had stay at home moms. We wanted children and to raise them similar to how we’d been raised. It seemed so right, and if it was so right, how could it go wrong?

Our plan wasn’t to get out of the service right away. We were told that we were due for orders. Word had it that South Korea was likely for us. They could promise us same country, not necessarily same base. Still newlyweds in our minds, a baby on the way, so that idea didn’t appeal to us at all. Instead, we tried for a new option just being offered. The option was to put in for a 5 year tour on the base we were on. That would have suited us too, but alas, wasn’t meant to be. We knew we had to figure something out. I was honorably discharged in March, two weeks before the baby came. My husband finished his 4 year commitment later in August of the same year and we headed to his home.

Here we were, a new baby, no job, no home, and no idea what we were going to do. It was going to be ok. We would figure it out. My husband, Dan went to work as a millwright with his father, we looked at house plans to build on a lot beside his parents, and we lived with his parents in the meantime to save up money. Dan’s job changed and we ended up moving into an apartment next door to a field office he was put in charge of by the company that had been employing him. The bank turned us down for a loan despite the fact that our house payments would have been less than the rent we currently paid. We were young, no credit history, and no collateral. This was going to require switching gears. We needed more time to figure it out.

We found a company that would give you a construction loan if you built one of their homes and we jumped at it. We found some property some distance away. It was hard, back breaking work and took longer than we’d hoped. We spent many a weeknight driving the hour and half each way between the build site and our apartment, just to work on the house for a few hours. I’d make a one pot meal and grab some bowls and utensils and the three of us would head out as soon as Dan walked in the door. We talked and dreamed on every trip and while we worked. From the moment we stood inside the stakes and string trying to envision our little home to the last nail driven home, it was a dream. This would be our home and it would be perfect.

The house was going to be perfect for our little family, but we had to move out of the apartment to finish it. Dan’s dad helped us out by buying a single wide trailer for $500 that we could put temporarily on the property. No water, temporary electric, no gas, no heat, and the doors wouldn’t lock, but we made it as cozy as we could. Dan would have to leave at 4 in the morning to get to work on time and I would be out in the middle of nowhere in that trailer with a baby. To keep her warm, I made a sleeper out of an old quilt to go over her pajamas. I slept with a hunting knife under my pillow. I propped the broom, mop, dust pan, anything I could against the front door after Dan would leave so that if anyone opened it, I would hear it fall. One morning, while it was still dark, I could hear two men talking outside, but couldn’t see them. My heart was pounding. I was terrified. I prayed the baby would stay asleep. I opened a window, loaded an arrow onto my bow, and stood poised to shoot. It turned out to be my husband’s brother in law and I lowered the bow. He has no idea how close he came to being shot. I would have done anything to protect my baby.

We moved into the house finally and I was grateful for the belongings we had from my hope chest that I had put together for years to the furniture we had in the apartment because it wasn’t long before Dan was laid off from work. It wasn’t looking good for a return any time soon. This wasn’t part of the plan. We were told we could get assistance, so we went to Lansing to apply. It was one of the most embarrassing times of my life. They wanted us to give up the only vehicle we had because we owned it. The pickup with holes in the floor that we covered with cardboard in an attempt to keep the heat in and had to bring blankets along was worth too much. How were we supposed to get anywhere, not alone look for work? We walked out of there, dignity intact, never to return. We would figure it out.

We did whatever jobs we could find. There was a recession and jobs were too scarce, so we did house siding, roofing, and carpentry work, cut firewood and sold it. There wasn’t any kind of honest work that we weren’t willing to do. We had a child to feed. We never missed a house payment. We kept the lights on. It was a real struggle. I miscarried a child during that time. Definitely shaking up the dream, but we would try to figure it out.

Eventually, things began to smooth out. We had another child, sold the house, moved into town closer to Dan’s parents to help out, ended up staying with them while we remodeled a house, and work was going fairly strong. Life was good. A growing family, purpose in life, and good times. Maybe we really were figuring this out.

We had one more child, moved several times when our souls would get restless, each time setting ourselves up better than the time before. Our dreams were a little more earthly, not so pie in the sky. We were happy. We were still in love. The tough times were not over, but we grew together. We were stronger for it. We made a great team. As individuals, we learned what we were made of and as a couple, well, we felt we could handle anything that came our way as long as God was by our sides and we were together. We were figuring it out!

Life was never perfect, but there were perfect moments. Our journey was not written down in a planner. There was no way to plan for much of what we experienced. Our family’s address books were filled with so many crossed out addresses for us. We had road blocks and smooth sailing. We had huge crevasses to leap at times, but leap we did. The losses hurt us equally, the joys kept us going, and the in between times, we filled with wonderful memories. The journey is not over and we still face road blocks ahead. The way is not so clear anymore. We should have looked farther ahead. The dreams are now more of a wishful thinking approach. We did manage to live out a few.   42 years together. 3 beautiful children. 4 beautiful grandkids. I hope more to come (wink). And it’s ok that we didn’t manage to live out every dream. We hit the big ones, the important ones, and we did it together. And we’re still figuring it out!