“What’s Love Got To Do With It”

Valentine’s Day.  The only calendar day of the year designated exclusively for love, stamped on the 14th with a red heart. Whether you are celebrating a new love, an old love, a hope of love yet to come or a long lost love, it is a time to reflect on or affirm our love for another person.  It is a holiday to remind us that we are both lovable and capable.  Lovable, given all our flaws and misfortunes and capable of loving, given all our skepticism and insecurities.  We hold cupid’s arrow in our own hands.  Yes, the key to our hearts is between our own two fingers.  To make ourselves more lovable means loving others more easily and so it is, the circle of love.

Ahhh,  your first love.  You know, the one you may have discovered in the worn back seat of  a ’67 Mustang, or during a KISS concert listening to “Beth”, or maybe behind the stadium sporting a letter jacket and sweaty palms.   Wherever it was and whoever it was are etched in your heart forever.  It was electrifying.  Selfish feelings of love that came crashing over you, knocking your head and heart into polar opposite directions. But you didn’t care. You were swept away and it felt amazing. And now you had your blueprint.  Maybe.

And then there is the love you feel like you have known forever. The one that swept you away and landed you in debt and parenthood, in dirty socks and shared coffee, in lost identity and gained teamwork.  The big one.  The one that shows our best and worst sides but still keeps us saying “I’m glad you’re my Valentine” year after year. The love that gives us security, a place and a purpose, a reason to continue life’s journey of milestones.  The one we hope endures forever.

Now, for lost loves and hopeful loves, I offer this advice.  First, never erase the memories of a once love.  It has enriched you and enlightened you in ways never to be explained or repeated.  Keep the cards, read the letters, look at the pictures.  It is part of who you are today.  This intimacy influenced and shaped your understanding of love, teaching you how to give and receive love more easily.  Look at it as a step to being better at love and, a beautiful memory.  Now, for those of you dreaming of a love yet to come, dream big.  Know your desires, understand your limitations, offer your whole heart. Be willing to adjust and adapt without settling or sacrificing too much. Love is a mutual respect.  Picture this.  The front of a large building is held up by two single ornate columns.  The columns are architecturally spaced perfectly to support the structure.  If they were erected too close together, the roof would cave in.  If built too far apart, the roof would collapse.  Either way, the building would no longer be strong enough to stand.  Look for the kind of love that is both strongly shared and strongly supportive. Oh, and be patient.  In life, timing is a matter of the heart.

So in the song lyrics of the great Tina Turner, “What’s Love Got To Do With It”?  Only everything.

Happy Valentine’s Day my friends!

 

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Choking Down Reflections of the Jean Dance

Warning: Lose weight FIRST to avoid these potential health hazards!

The Dressing Room Spot Light.  Ahhh, the dreaded dressing room stage…where we break our ego, and maybe a leg too. The fitting room transforms most of us into sweaty, bitchy, hulk-like creatures determined to NEVER “try before buying” again. No matter how sexy the dress, or how flattering the jeans nothing, and I mean NOTHING can remove that haunting high beam effect. This confining house of mirrors, equipped with a heated x-ray lamp, has absolutely nothing to do with picking a perfect outfit. It’s a trap. A deliberate means of sending even us with a decent body image straight to the Amish clothing boutique. Because oh no, we’re not revealing white golf ball like dimples to strangers, much less our lovers! Yes, dimples. The cute kind most of us want on our face….not on our butt, arms or legs! Florescent white, dimply legs and an extra 10lbs produced by the mega mirror are not making buyer’s remorse any easier. Seriously though, am I delusional, or did my lower limbs look much better last night? I swear I could have passed for a midsummer night’s dream in my glowing 40W nightstand light, complete with a lovely medium brown lamp shade. The dressing room spot light should know its limits…..before we break the mirrors. Really.

The Jean Dance.  The attempt to pull on clean, no stretch jeans is an individual art, made up of crazy moves in every direction with hip movements that would make a belly dancer jealous. Go ahead, turn up the tunes! The Jean Dance could serve as a perfect blackmail video for most of us. Your yoga poses like Warrior or Downward Facing Dog suddenly ooze with inexplicable determination and unconstrained energy. The area around the so called dance floor should be labeled “danger zone”. Nearby structures like chairs, tables, beds and other human bodies provide surface space, becoming sources of leverage for the Jean Dance and enhancing every move. These surfaces offer super power because your own personal strength just isn’t enough to manipulate this size body into those size jeans. Like you, I was determined not to go up a size in my blingy, butt flattering Miss Me jeans. That would be suicide worthy. I WILL move in more directions than Atlanta traffic, pouring myself like overflowing batter into the same ol’ size jeans for the sake of pride and, creating even larger muffins tops. Go figure. The Jean Dance makes Seinfeld’s Elaine look like a “Dancing with the Stars” winner. And, why should I ever be freaked out by contortionism again? I do it at least once a week.

The Swiss Chard Curse.  What IS this if it’s not cheese, a knife, a bank account or Alps? The first time I heard it, I’ll admit I had serious questions. Being a meat and potatoes girl, all my senses told me this chard stuff could be poisonous. It looks completely safe for rabbits, not for humans. But, the greens have it and I do love most vegetables. So, I gave it my best taste bud try. I placed it in my Nutri Bullet with some colorful fruits and less scary vegetables. Now I’m no artist, but how is it that you blend all kinds of beautiful colors together and still get puke green? And then enthusiastically want to drink it? The color alone will make you want to do extra sets at the gym or run like Forrest, just to make up for NOT having to drink a substance with the flavor of fresh cut grass licked straight off a lawn mower blade. Yuck! I’ll just keep sautéing my spinach and steaming my broccoli and pass on raw, cold curses.

My Expert Advice:  First, pick your perfect new dress at home, in YOUR lighting with ONE mirror. Secondly, push your ego to the floor instead of your contortioned body and go up a size in jeans. And lastly, prepare your spinach, or your Swiss chard (if you so desire) the way you like it best.

There. No more health hazards.

February 1st New Year’s Resolutions

Let’s face it, we are all creatures of habit. But, it’s the old bad habits we resolve to break at the end of each year and replace with new, good practices. It sounds like a piece of cake, just as easy as the one we have to give up in our quest for healthier eating. Although it’s not simple at all, millions of people make these vows every year. They are honest but often aimless in their pursuit of betterment.

Habits are hard. They are hard to break and they are hard to form. They require mindfulness before action. We need to understand what we’re thinking before we actually perform the habit, good or bad. It is often easier to replace one behavior with another rather than suddenly stopping an existing habit. Then, regular repetition of a new behavior can eventually lead to an automatic response, producing a good habit. Experts believe it takes anywhere from twenty-one to hundreds of days to form a habit, depending on the complexity of the behavior. This transformation requires practice and patience.

As for me, I begin my new routines on February 1st and I work at them for eleven months. That’s right, I’m a cheater. Now, you might say, “She’s just a procrastinator!”, or “That’s not playing by the rules”, or “She must not be very serious about her resolutions”. Quite the contrary. I just hate failure. I believe it’s often the unrealistic, extra lofty goals in life that can lead to unnecessary disappointment. So, I spend the month of January preparing, actually practicing in my mind how I will give up my bad habits and begin new, good ones. I don’t attempt this during the month of December while I’m impersonating a possessed crazy woman who is spending too much, eating too much and traveling too much. No, I like January. I like this quiet, aftermath month for self-reflection and planning, hopefully leading to greater accomplishment. I like it for the time it gives me to pause, to engage in introspection and then, produce clarity. I just like success.

So, whether you pick January 1st, February 1st or some other date in between, don’t just set goals, set behaviors.

Believe. Behave. Become.

Happy New Year my friends!

53 Father’s Days

Today marks my dad’s 53rd Father’s Day. This letter is to honor him, to express my love and deepest appreciation for him, and to remind him of the beloved traits he so perfectly exemplifies.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

June 21, 2015

Dear Dad,

There is fatherhood and then there is responsible fatherhood. You had a choice and I am grateful you chose the latter. Your consistent commitment, self-sacrifice, integrity and unconditional love provided the best possible foundation to create a well-adjusted, happy child and then a confident, capable, content woman. I’m quite aware it could have all been different and I might not have known what I was missing at the time; but, I can assure you I would know it now. I continue to be proud and appreciative of the responsible father you exemplify.

When I was growing up, you were an all-engaging kind of dad; always encouraging and supporting me in every aspect of my life. You were my play mate, my coach, my favorite comedian and my spiritual leader. You were my teacher, my protector, my disciplinarian, my story teller, my counselor, my provider and my rock. I knew I could count on you to always look out for my best interest. I admired everything about you….from your strong work ethic to your strong body, from your sense of humor to your sense of awareness and from your commitment to our family time to your vow to be your personal best. You were a valuable example in your spiritual life and in your service to others. The experiences you provided for all of your children to learn, to fail or to shine were both insightful and inspiring. It takes a selfless, determined parent to present opportunities while encouraging both persistence and patience. As a parent myself, I respect your diligence. These life experiences, coupled with your unconditional love, shaped and molded me into the person I am today. Because of you Dad, I appreciate the sunrises and the sunsets. I love the outdoors and the beauty of nature. I enjoy playing and watching sports. I take pleasure in family time and friendships. I value traits like genuineness, honesty, and integrity. I know the difference in materialism and spiritualism. I understand emotions like empathy, compassion and sympathy. I treasure a sense of humor, a spirit of adventure and a fun, light-hearted nature. You have always been a wonderful role model.

Dad, I admire the person you are and the way you live your life. I am forever grateful that you are my loving, responsible father.

I love you,

Karen

As He Comes Of Age, 21 Wishes For My Son

When I tell you I love you and want the best for you, I mean it. You have my heart. So, on your 21st birthday my son, I wish you some of life’s greatest moments because that is exactly what you give me.

1. Life is not fair or easy, but it’s still pretty awesome. If you spend your time comparing and complaining, you will never learn to appreciate where you are at this moment. I remember being passed up for a promotion I worked hard to attain and then believing the chosen employee was not nearly as qualified. I was highly disappointed. After more hard work and a change of attitude, I was later selected among more than 100 candidates for a position much better suited for me. That job paved the way to my future career path. Be patient. Be grateful for what you are doing at each stage of your life, knowing that your hard work will pay off. Then, you will experience contentment but not complacency.

2. Never turn your back on your parents; they are the only ones who will always have your back. I remember going through a difficult boyfriend break up in high school and thinking I just couldn’t go to school the next day. I was sure I wouldn’t make it through this devastating, humiliating, lonely experience. Driving up to drop me off at school, my dad said, “It’s going to be okay. Your mom and I are your best friends.” Those were some of the most comforting words I had ever recalled hearing from my dad. I knew my parents were on my team then. They always had been and they always would be.

3. Love without fear. You do this well with your family and friends, and my wish is that you continue. You haven’t experienced romantic heart-break at its worst yet, but when you do, it may feel as though your whole world is falling apart. Well, it’s not and neither are you. Give yourself time to understand, to grieve, to heal and to learn. Then, go love again. The risk is worth the reward.

4. Enjoy a good bourbon or whiskey drink once in a while. It won’t hurt you and, it just might help you.

5. Learn something new. Enroll in a class, go on an adventure or take up a new hobby. It will feel unnatural and uncomfortable, but in the long run it will be refreshing and rewarding. You can’t become more interesting if you never step out of your comfort zone. So, challenge yourself. You will be glad you did and so will your new friends.

6. Watch a sunrise or stand at the edge of the ocean at least once a year. It will remind you of your place in this world.

7. Attitude is everything. You can’t always control what happens to you in life, but you can control how you respond. Be positive, think good thoughts. People will enjoy you and good things will happen for you.

8. Read the newspaper. It’s hard to have an intelligent conversation if you don’t know what’s going on in the world. Make it a priority to keep up with current events.

9. Find a church home. Feed your spiritual self through worship. Give and receive, forgive and be forgiven, pray and be prayed for and, fellowship with like-minded people. A connectedness with God will give your life purpose.

10. Do something extraordinary. Climb a mountain, sleep under the stars, sing karaoke at your local bar, feed a homeless person, skinny dip in a lake or river, see a ball game at a stadium you’ve always wanted to visit, travel across the country, visit the children’s ward of a hospital…oh, and call your mom.

11. Eat healthy. Exercise regularly. You only get one body. Treat it well now and it will thank you later.

12. Know your talents and use them. You are unique and gifted. Some of your talents are obvious and others need to be discovered. Find them and cultivate them. You will be more satisfied when you work at what you love doing.

13. Make memories and record them. Go places, do things, meet new people, experience life. Take pictures and write in a journal. Later, these vivid memories will make you smile on a cloudy day.

14. Mean what you say. Be who you are. There is no one exactly like you. Take pride in being yourself. Be sincerely you in both words and actions. People are attracted to genuineness and appreciate individuality.

15. Having everything you want is over rated. Having everything you need is under appreciated. Money can not buy you happiness. Plain and simple. If you constantly wish for what you don’t have, you will forget to be grateful for what you do have. Invest in things that fill your spirit, not your house.

16. Forgive easily. Everyone makes mistakes, including you. Don’t be quick to judge and don’t hold a grudge. I have witnessed these two things alone sucking the life out of people. Learn to give others the benefit of the doubt and forgive them for their wrong doings. Down the road, you will want them to do the same for you.

17. Hindsight is not 20/20. There is no point in having regret over decisions you made in the past. Trust yourself to know that the decisions you made then were the right ones for you at that time in your life. Yes, if you were making the same decision today it very well could be different because, you are at a new place and time in your life. Be smart enough to know that the decisions you make along your life’s journey are the right ones for you.

18. Read books. One day, you will no longer have a teacher. Books will be your continuing education.

19. Know that when people hurt you, it’s not usually about you. People are self-absorbed. They aren’t paying as much attention to you as you think. And when they do or say something hurtful to you, it’s usually because of something happening in their own life that has nothing to do with you.

20. Be at life’s milestones for your loved ones. Show up for family birthday parties, weddings, graduations, funerals, and reunions. It may not make your day but I promise it will make someone else’s day. It preserves relationships and if you show up for them, they will be there for you.

21. I will always want you to be happy. If that means moving far away from me to pursue your dreams or choosing an occupation that seems unfitting to me, or marrying someone different from the kind of girl I expected you to marry, don’t worry. Do what is right for you. My greatest wish is for you to be happy.

So, happy 21st birthday my son. I couldn’t be more proud of you.

Salon Seduction

“When blondes have more fun, do they know it?” I laughed at the bumper sticker in front of me, spewing my favorite Chick-fil-A sandwich out of my mouth like Coke from a shaken can. Thankfully, this happened at a long red light since abbreviated car detailing was now necessary. I was embarrassed by my over reaction, noting the gawking gaze in the lane beside me but, I was more disappointed that I lost part of my favorite weekly lunch treat. Chick-fil-A, Coke, long red lights and blondes – all Atlanta icons, some more famous than others. Now, being a natural blonde, I have never cried over stereotypical, harmless humor, unless it was tears of laughter. After all, most brunettes, from what I have observed, have wanted to be the “dumb blonde” at some point in their life. Go figure.

To maintain my golden look at this silvering age, I make semi-annual trips to my hair salon for happy highlights. “Happy” because they make me bright. They lighten up my face and smile, hopefully hiding my dulling skin tone and lifting the lines of time. And, of course they brighten my spirit. After all, we must be fighters on the field of fading. There I was on a sunny Saturday afternoon, committing hours to match my hair to the weather. Perched high in my chair and delivering every other strand of my dish watery, dull locks to my hairstylist, she began to paint n’ wrap. She’s an artist, a beauty artist. We attempted to share “stories” over roaring blow dryers and rushing sink water as she painted each of my hair sections with a “perfect”, but brighter shade to best match my natural hair color. Then, she wrapped them in shiny foils all over my head, just in case an alien showed up and needed a friend. It’s a ridiculous look but, totally acceptable in this safe haven for die-hard beauty divas. I looked around the planet, the large table where we all congregated with shiny silver heads and faded pink lips drinking fruity water, wine or gourmet coffee; attempting to achieve a new look or for some, re-freshen our “forever” look, or just take a “time out” and, I wondered. I was curious about what really draws us into the salon seduction.

My theory is this. Beauty is certainly an outward thing, a visible result of highlights or make-up or genetic favor. But, beauty is also an inward thing, a feeling we get when we experience touch, when we’re pampered, when all our senses are engaged. Let’s face it, we live in a world that doesn’t take care of us, we have to do that ourselves. When we take time to feel beautiful, somehow we are more confident; more worthy of giving and receiving love, respect, and admiration. So there I was, happily stopped in this place full of amazing aroma, experiencing relaxing touch and inspiring conversation, watching the fair weather day go by with a glass of wine in hand. Yes, I was attempting to be prettier, despite mirrors plastered on every conceivable wall to remind me that I was still in the alien stage. But I wasn’t alone. We the blondes, the brunettes and the redheads, all on common ground, all letting our Barbie guards down, all removing the plastic outer layer in order to feed our inner feminine spirit, knowing we’ll look and feel more beautiful when we leave than when we arrived. This is what it’s all about. Bettering ourselves for the sake of society, and for our own self-worth. Our attempt to feel worthy in an unworthy world. We want to add a little brightness to boost our spirit and the spirits of those around us. The salon experience lures us into this state of mind.

The foils are removed, my scalp and hair are washed in a relaxing massage manner and, my new golden locks are gently towel dried. I’m once again perched high in my chair to be combed, dried and styled, not to be confused with scattered, smothered and covered – another Atlanta icon. I peer into the large, perfectly Windexed mirror in front of me to see that I no longer look like just another extraterrestrial but, clearly and finally, I have a look all of my own. A brighter, shinier,healthier look to offer a little inspiration to others and, to be encouraged myself. So whether you’re a blonde, a brunette, a redhead or other, take pride in how you look on the outside and how you feel on the inside – both are beautiful you. After all, we never know who might need a little brightness in their life, including ourselves.

Now, to answer the age-old question, “Do blondes have more fun?”. I would have to say “yes”, and most of us know it.

Jack of Hearts

The number before my birthdate. The least number of days in the shortest month. The number of dominoes in a standard set. The number of Hebrew letters in the first verse of the Bible. Warrick Dunn’s jersey number. The maximum number of games for a team to play in an NHL or NBA playoff run. Guessed it yet? It’s the number 28, considered by mathematicians to be the second “perfect” number. This “energetic” number carries a lot of different attributes but, for the past two weeks, it has taken on a new meaning, a remarkable significance all of its own for the people who know Jack Enright. Jack is a 16-year-old Chapin, South Carolina high school lacrosse player who wears jersey number 28. A number being recognized and honored all over the state of South Carolina and much of the southeast. Jack, like many of our own, is an athlete, a student, a brother, a son. A normal kid fighting an abnormal battle. Jack is struggling to do what we all learn to do in the first two years of life; what he has already accomplished once in his childhood. Jack is trying to walk again.

Here’s the scene. It’s an early spring, high school lacrosse game night. A bunch of young, strong teenage boys playing their hearts out to win a game in the name of spirit and pride. Team spirit and school pride. Then came a hit, an injury, a chill in the air. The fresh, new season enthusiasm and excitement went down like a heavy black curtain on a decorated, live stage. Number 28, one of our own, was seriously injured with a broken neck. The next few days filled with fear and uncertainty brought this tiny southern suburb to a standstill, all in the name of number 28, all for the love of Jack. I recall that one time, the only time, I flew out of the bleachers, jumped over the coach’s bench and ran onto the field. A cheetah had nothing on me. No sir, I was the mother of a 10-year-old injured football player and nothing was keeping me from getting to my motionless cub. But, I was stopped in my tracks. “You are not allowed on the field, Mom”, the coach told me, with his arms extended straight out and his palms six inches from my face. “We will tend to your son”. I was scared AND helpless. In the end, my cub was fine. But, “what if?”, I asked myself over and over again. It was a bit of a fear that never completely went away for my next eight years in the stands.

Jack is our healthy reminder, our prompt to enjoy each day for exactly what it is at that moment. Life the way we know it can change in an instant, often causing agony, then acceptance, then action. This is exactly what the Enright family is experiencing as I write this blog post tonight. They are at the Shepherd Center here in Atlanta helping Jack learn to walk again. They are devastated but hopeful. Shocked but making strides. They are acting on doctors recommendations, living one day at a time, all in the name of hope and faith. God is good and, so is the uniting of a small community inspired by the spirit and smile of a 16-year-old injured high school athlete. The “Pray for Jack” phrase has become a recognized slogan all over Chapin and much of the Palmetto State, even stretching as far west as Louisiana and as far north as Maine. It is refreshing and heart warming to see us, you and me, human kind, doing exactly what we were designed to do; doing what makes us most fulfilled and invigorated – helping others. This unfortunate accident created a feeling of comradery (a bond created by a shared goal or experience), resulting in large numbers of friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers coming together to achieve a common goal. A desire to make things better for a family, a family like yours and mine, because that’s what we would want if the table were turned, because we can relate to sitting in those stands, because we have all had those border line “irrational” fears and, at the same time, we have also thought “this just couldn’t happen to my child”.  Well it can, it did. It happened to Jack – our friend, our neighbor, our teammate, our pupil, our opponent and most importantly, our son. We were stopped in our tracks; not because we couldn’t run on the “field” and help but, because we could. We stopped our normal routines to aid, to love, to support a teenage boy who didn’t deserve a broken neck playing a game he loved; a game he played for fun and health, for comradery and school pride. No, united as one, we are determined to make this better for Jack. Why? Because we can relate, we understand and, we want to make difference.

The number 28 is a pretty ordinary number on most days. But on this day, it is extraordinary. Not as a stand alone number but, as the number worn on the lacrosse jersey of Jack Enright. Jack, the positive 16-year-old with a big smile and an even bigger heart. The student athlete, the friend, the brother and the son who we all know and love. Jack, number 28, the one inspiring us. Pray for Jack.

Get Picked, Not Plucked

I was picked, and then I was plucked. I was chosen, and happily so. Me, picked like a flower from a field among others but, then my petals were gradually pulled off. I was plucked. Not literally but certainly intentionally. I’m quite sure I didn’t hear the plucking chant, “we love her, we love her not” as each of my petals fell to the ground but, those words were definitely in line with the display of inconsistent remarks and actions. The future outcome felt as unpredictable as the petal plucking hope for true love! My petals were definitely numbered, unless I decided to take this dilemma (a problem offering two possibilities, neither of which is practically acceptable) into my own hands. I wanted to be pro active. I wanted a more certain conclusion, a peace-offering if you will. The fact that I was becoming more bare, more stripped of who I was as a person, wilting rather than blossoming was enough to make me leap into action. After all, I was determined to stay in full bloom, firmly rooted in me.

Okay, you guessed it. I’m referring to friends, good friends, BFF kind of friends. Ones you pick and ones who pick you. But, just like yourself, friends are a peculiar specimen. They come in all colors, not as in skin color but, more like the array of colors in a flower field. They may be like daisies, common and semi-colorful, blending in with all the other wild flowers in the field; or they might be unique, standing tall like the unexpected, vibrant tulip in early spring. They can be quirky with particular preferences, requiring different amounts of “fertilizing” or, they can be hearty, growing and blooming in almost any environment. Some change direction with the wind and others are firmly rooted in dense soil. Nevertheless, they are your friends and you have expectations….and so do they.

About six years ago, my assumption about what a true friend is crashed…hard. It was like a brutal, big wave washing over my happily naïve “always see the good in others”, belief. It knocked me down…hard. I was being “discussed” behind my back, and not so pleasantly. I was being made fun of publicly and it wasn’t funny. But, stop. Wait. Is this really happening among my BFFs and why? I thought this is what WE occasionally did to “outsiders”? I’m on the “inside”! They can’t be plucking MY petals! Little, seemingly irrelevant picks like how I wore my hair or, how I chose to spend my money or where I enjoyed dining, all became judgmental talking points. I was shocked. After weeks of trying to understand, I came to the realization that they obviously no longer enjoyed my company, and therefore I was no longer enjoying them. Our time together was not easy. It felt tense, sometimes competitive and often argumentative. It was no longer fun. In other words, I never parted ways with them desiring more time or longing to plan our next outing. Bingo! It was time to make my peace-offering.

In a nutshell, or should I say in a bud, I no longer trusted them and I needed to walk away (remember the definition of a dilemma), knowing it wouldn’t be easy. I explained my reasons, forgave them, sought their forgiveness and moved on. It was a difficult act but, a necessary one. I felt sad but not regretful. I felt lonely but not alone. People change and so do friendships. Relationships often adjust to the seasons of life. They change with priorities and wisdom. It would be unusual not to add or delete people from your “friend list” over the course of a lifetime but, it’s certainly not as easy as a social media click. It deserves great thought and consideration. If you can no longer be yourselves when you are together, if you have forgotten how to bring out the best in each other and, if you no longer wish for more time together, then it may be time to let go. And, that’s okay.

Now, think about yourself right now.Think about your friendships. What are they all about at this point in your life’s journey? Do they bring you mutual gratification and comfort? Are they encouraging and supportive friendships? For me, over 50 and desiring to spend my time wisely, they are both fulfilling and mutually satisfying. I strive to surround myself with people who make me better, who bring out the best in me, who allow me to be myself. My chosen friends, old and new, are genuine and accepting. Most of the time, they give and receive love openly, they laugh loudly and frequently, they are adventuresome and fun, helpful and happy. Since I have always been fairly comfortable with me and I am not typically an envious woman, I enjoy showing sincere appreciation for others’ uniqueness and taking time to build them up. Why wouldn’t I? When they feel good about themselves, they feel good about everything else, including me, including our friendship. I have never been quick to judge and can often see different perspectives (thanks Mom and Dad!). But frequently, close minded, less confident and often jealous people attempt to tear others down. It gives them a sense of power and place. My advice is to be aware of others’ needs. What feeds them? What scares them? We all have some amount of emotional intelligence and it is our responsibility to use it for better understanding of others. I know I get much of my enthusiasm for life from other people and I would bet my petals that you do too.

Now go bloom, uniquely but fully, remaining firm in your roots but open to all the possibilities of friendship. You just might be pleasantly picked without being plucked.

75 Candles

Today, March 5th, is my mother’s 75th birthday.  This letter is to honor her, to express my love and deepest appreciation for her, and to remind her of the beloved traits she so perfectly exemplifies.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

Dear Mom,

Webster’s defines motherhood as the state or experience of having and raising a child.  It could sound inevitable and predictable, but as a mom myself I’m quite aware that it is far from an ordinary, routine task.

I am proud and humbled at the same time to say that you gave me tough shoes to fill.  When I was growing up, you were an all-encompassing mother; always meeting my physical, emotional, social, spiritual and intellectual needs.  You provided many opportunities for small successes which often led to bigger accomplishments or learning experiences, both of which build character.  For your perseverance and awareness, I am eternally thankful.  It is both my life experiences and my childhood environment that shaped me into the person I am today.  Although I am not perfect, I have a desire to do my best, to care for others, to know God, to learn new things, to take care of my body, to socialize, and most importantly to be a good mom.  You have always been a wonderful role model and I appreciate the person you are and the way you live your life.  You have taught me about everything from reading and writing to living and dying.  You have endured disease and death in their worst case scenarios, and you have risen above it all with a spirit of love and acceptance.  I believe you have a deeper appreciation for life, for what’s really important, than most of us do. Hence, you truly understand unconditional love, not just because you’re a mom, but mostly because you understand quality of life.

Mom, take pride in your greatest accomplishments.  For two of them walk this earth as happy, healthy, well-adjusted adults and the other one walks the golden streets of heaven; mostly because we have always had a loving, supportive, encouraging, Godly mother in you.  So, this is my official thank you letter for all the times I “forgot” to say thank you for everything you have ever done for me.  I am forever grateful. 

I love you,

Karen

 

 

Planks, Preschoolers and Pulitzers

More than two years ago, my fifth decade drew to a quick, uncontrollable close. At that time, I reflected on my past year of life changes, or more like life exchanges. I began decade number six, middle life that is, realizing that my fifth decade of life revisions were not happenstances or natural occurrences. They didn’t just unfold with the passage of time. No, in fact, I believe they were calculated and carefully thought out, subconsciously maybe, but nevertheless, they were planned. Guilty as charged! Yes, I had been premeditating my desired milestones for some time, setting the stage for the second half of my life WITHOUT eyes wide open. I was doing all of this hoping to be fortunate enough to live to 102. Allow me to explain.

First, turning fifty. Remember when thirty was old? Well, it wasn’t. And when we are seventy, fifty won’t be old either. You get it. Aging is a team sport that I hope we all get to play. If we can ward off the evil genes, the risky temptations and the Negative Nancy lurking in all of us, we might be able to wear yet another party hat. Then, if we take it a step further and put necessary, but not always pleasurable practices into place, we just might be part of the winning team in the arena of aging. So, I go to the doctor, or should I say doctors, to learn what needs to be x-rayed, what needs to removed, and what needs to be rehabilitated. I avoid over indulging in things that taste good or give me a false sense that it’s okay to go streaking around my neighborhood. Chocolate cake and tequila are my friends, but only at an arm’s length, or more. Daily spiritual or motivational readings keep me grateful and positive. After all, gratitude is the key to a happy life and a positive attitude produces a winner. There are too many unhappy losers already. We need joyful winners! Seems overwhelming but these practices are all “Mother May I” giant steps toward making it to that next milestone. So go ahead, eat more yogurt than the Greeks, plank like a board, play harder than a preschooler and work at what you love doing. Then, as Tim McGraw sings it, aim to love deeper, speak sweeter and forgive frequently. I am 100% certain I engage in these habits so that I might enjoy an even brighter more flamboyant birthday cake each September, winning a trophy from Father Time. After all, it is just a number, right?

Secondly, an empty nester. Bittersweetly, I have spent the last 20 years fertilizing roots in order to open blooms. I have gone from hearing my kindergarten aged children ask such questions as, “Can we buy those yummy cookies like the girl who sits next to me at lunch? She says they’re called ‘homemade’”. And, “It’s so hard to be good ALL day!”. But today, as young adults, my children ask questions like, “Will you please send money so I can gamble on my spring break cruise?” or “The Arm & Hammer baking soda box says it’s for cleaning. This IS the same baking soda you bake with, right?” Hmmm. I must admit, from throwing base balls to throwing parties, from serving Rice Krispie Treats to serving others, and from changing diapers to changing behavior, I have stumbled and succeeded. I have helped write everything from the alphabet on broken dotted lined paper to paper lace Valentines, to questionable but necessary high school essays. And, I have helped right wrongs. I have practiced sports I had no idea how to play, and I have role played interview questions for jobs I could only imagine. I have conducted car driving lessons while mindfully driving acceptable attitudes all along. Through the years, I have cringed and celebrated. From fixing broken fingers to fixing broken hearts, from building Lego characters to building character, from borrowing books on how to be a good mother to borrowing time to be a good mother, I have endured and enjoyed. I have told my children over and over that their births were the best two days of my life and that I was not a mama until they were my babies. I have come a long way, and so have they. Now, I am like a mama bird alone in my nest. Alone, but aware that I am the one who bestowed them with wings of wisdom, capable of soaring solo.

Lastly, what do I want to be when I grow up? Ahhh, the question that seems to last a lifetime. I first heard this question during my elementary years. Grow up? Not interested. I’m having far too much fun building pine straw forts with mud mortar and riding my bicycle down ‘the big hill’ by the creek to catch crawfish. I never want to stop digging through ant hill tunnels to finally lay eyes on the queen, or stop performing endless hours of karaoke to Carol King’s “I Feel The Earth Move”, while standing on the top of my wooden toy chest. Life was good, and fun. Then, in middle school I had to write a story. Yes, my 7th grade English teacher, Mrs. Griffith, asked us to write and illustrate a book as an assignment. I decided on a mystery and wrote a story called “The Trenton Treasure”. I became obsessed with this literary work in progress, dying for it to be a masterpiece of perfection and possibly exhibited in the Hall of Fame for 13-year-old authors. I drove my mother to near craziness as I searched out and designed the perfect cover and artwork to go with what was to be a predictable production for a 7th grader. But hey, I received an A++. Wow, an extra +! Maybe an author is what I should be when I grow up! After all, if Mrs. Griffith thinks I’m worthy of an added +, then maybe a Pulitzer Prize is in my future. So, after writing more stories and lots of poems, I landed an editor role for my high school newspaper. I had made it. I had a byline for my featured articles and my name was in that small rectangle at the bottom of page 2. You know, the one that lists the all-important people in journalism, the editors. This was big. Then, somewhere between high school dreams and college graduation, I realized I must pay bills. I was finally a grown up and I could tell this was not going to be nearly as fun as riding The Himalaya at the Myrtle Beach Pavilion, or driving around town as a 16-year-old listening to REO Speedwagon and The GAP Band, or drinking keg beer at the fraternity house because well, we could. So, like the majority of other new graduates, not having a clue what they want to do or where their passion lies, I marched forward with all the other degreed soldiers to work in order to survive. My jobs have afforded me money to live, experience to understand and relationships to learn by. They still do, and it is well with my soul. But now, in this sixth decade of my life, over 50 and an empty nester, I want to be an author again. That’s right, I want to go all the way back to middle school, all the way back to Mrs. Griffith and “The Trenton Treasure”, all the way back to believing in a dream. Yes, I want to write again. Pulitzer Prize or not, this is a good start.

Now today, WITH eyes wide open, I reflect on my calculated life exchanges. I have moved into my sixth decade of life excited and assured. The same way a stage hand sets the scene before a performance, I have set the stage for the second half of my existence, assuming I live to be 102. I look forward to my new age, my empty nest and my lost but new-found passion. Won’t you join me?