Archive for the ‘leading by example’ Category

How can I ever Thank You?

Am I the only person who thinks a gesture deserves thanks? What about a full-fledged gift? What about the time to shop for the gift, the money to purchase the gift, wrap the gift, package the gift, and ship the gift? Does that deserve something in the line of ‘thanks’ or am I being too old-fashioned and stodgy?
People I dearly love are aggravating me. They do not know they should take the time to write me a note, acknowledging my time, my money (I am on social security), and my love.
I feel hurt. I feel dismissed. Are they taking advantage of me? Yet I am the one hoping that someone appreciates the gift that I shopped for, selected, wrapped and shipped. So, am I nuts?
My peers raised the kids in question. People just like my parents raised them. People just like me raised them. Except they do not thank you. “Thank you for taking time out of your life to shop for me, to spend money on me, to spend your valuable time on me, to go to the post office for me, to wrap gifts for me”. Nope. Absolutely nothing.
I sent 6 gifts last year. One cost over $100 to ship. Nothing. I sent a gift card to a youngster. $45.00. Nothing. I wrote. I sent toys. Nothing. One of my favorite relatives said she had been too busy to thank me. This, after I inquired if the huge box had been received. It had been 3 weeks. Yet, nothing more. Still no note.
Another said she had been busy and was ‘behind on thank you notes’. Uh huh. That set of gifts cost me about $65. That was Christmas. It’s April. I am now due another gift for the birthday. I am really rethinking all of this. For some reason, as I slash my personal budget and see my ‘gift’ budget consistently too high, I am questioning the logic of sending things to people who don’t feel a need to thank me for my time, my trouble, my money, my love and caring.
What in the world is happening?
When I discuss this with my friends, they say, “cut them off”. I understand that thinking. I have thought that so many times. My issue is that the kids are paying a price because my peer group, my relatives, did not bother to insist on the kids learning this important lesson.
Please. Thank You. Remember that? It is as old as “Dick and Jane”.
My step-mom called them ‘bread and butter notes’. You owed them within 3 days. Even ‘within a month’ would thrill me these days. My mom taught us that we did not use the item until we thanked the sender.
I know generation after generation complains about those following us. We think they are spoiled. We think they are entitled. I think we are right. What do YOU think? What do you do?

It’s Valentine’s Day. Let’s be nice.

I love hearts and I love flowers
I love women with equal powers
I want people to live in kindness, to exist in harmony, not in blindness.

To celebrate a loving day is empty if you can’t display the goodness we are meant to show,
The acceptance of what we really know.
To offer words with candy and hearts doesn’t matter if you don’t offer smarts.

So all this thinking has gotten me down. I suddenly realize my smile is a frown. I feel so hopeless that our world is not well. I wish the politics would all go to hell. I swear to Heaven things ought to be better. It’s all up to us, not just this dumb letter.

About Face

I am in my 60’s. Not terribly long ago, a woman told me she ‘bet I used to be attractive’. I can handle that. I DID. Now, I am older. I am not as upset about that, as I am that people are unaccustomed to what we should really look like as we naturally age.

I saw Goldie Hawn on TV today. Face-lift. I remember when Mary Tyler Moore got hers. It broke my heart. I watch some cooking shows. Sandra Lee suddenly looked very odd. Honestly, I thought she had been in a fire. Nope. Face-lift.

As I see women changing their entire facial structure, I question for whom they do this. I used to wonder the very same thing about men who wore toupees. Did they sleep in them at night with the person they loved most? Probably not. They wore that stupid looking fake hair or did a ‘Donald Trump’ every morning for the people who do not really matter. Why is that?

We are the baby-boomers. We are supposed to have more answers than our parents had. We are supposed to be more perceptive. Why in the world are we afraid to be ourselves? Why are WE pretending to be younger than we actually are instead of showing how well we can age? I am perplexed.

I stopped coloring my hair a year ago. I know it ages me. I look so much better with my hair hi-lighted. Now, there is no mistaking that I am an elderly woman. Nevertheless, I AM an elderly woman! I recognize that 60’s isn’t the end of the path but when we start retirement, get our social security and have problems remembering and falling and driving, why should we be trying to look like we are a decade or two younger? If we were acting this way in our 40’s we would seem daft or drunk. If men could really see what a woman is SUPPOSED to look like as she ages, maybe they would stop trying to date women 20 years younger than they should. Maybe. Ok, bad example.

While I am on that subject, why do older men need to date younger women? Everyone knows how foolish they appear. They are trying to ‘borrow’ the youth of that younger woman to appear younger themselves. They are trying to appear more virile. They are trying. Trying. If you need a pill to have more sex than your body can accommodate, you are too old to be having that kind of regular sex. It is not the end of the world. It is just a slowing of a chapter in a section. We all live.

So, as I watch women I have admired throughout my generation, I am saddened. Too many of them have decided they cannot stand to be their age. They are pretending to be of a different age while all of us watch, distressed at how fake our generation is threatening to become. We do our daughters no favor.

Gloria Steinham had it right at one time: ‘This is how I am supposed to look’ or something to that effect. I felt the same way for ages. I let myself be what I was supposed to be. How sad that our society does not. How sad that again, men are telling us we are not ok unless we do ‘this or that’ and sadder still is that women do it to each other. When Marlo Thomas got a face-lift, I was heartbroken. Another woman who is supposed to be secure, brilliant, honest, talented, and beautiful. She used to be.

Yep, I used to be attractive. Looks fade. I hope I have managed to cull more than the skin on my skeleton for the next chapters of my life.

Joan Rivers aside, how often are you disappointed in the women you once admired because of plastic surgery? Plastic: doesn’t that say it all?

Walking in shadow

Another  November 11.

It is a day we honor our veterans.

I revere this day. My flag is out early. Beautiful. As I am having coffee, I begin my calls. It does not take long. Many of my veteran relatives have passed. We are losing such an important generation.

My granddaddy served in WWI. He was always so proud of his service. He was a very soft-spoken man. I have his casket flag in a case, on my wall; with a commemorative, ‘plate’ that was evidently popular at the time.

My step-dad, James Wells, passed last year. He served in the Philippines. I had always called him to thank him for his service. He was always embarrassed that I would even mention it. His brother, my uncle also served. Horace Wells was a diver, tasked with finding explosives around our boats, ships, and subs. He passed away 2 months ago.

My father, Frank Conway served in Germany, in the occupation and in Korea when the war was hot. He was an aerial gunner for a time. They had a very short life expectancy. The Army sent him to OCS (officer’s candidate school) and his entire platoon shipped to Korea without him. Enemy forces killed the entire platoon the day they landed. He has never come to terms with that.

He is proud of his military service. His very large family also had veterans. They were all Navy. Dad went Army. His father missed the civil war by less than 10 years.

When I look at this history, I feel awe and pride.

My brother, Larry Conway served 2 terms in Viet Nam. He came home wounded. He is proud of his service, but he will never be the young man we said good-by to in Jacksonville when he was 19. Larry holds himself responsible for a young man who did not come home from an air mission. The 2 crew -members were shot down, KIA and Larry felt responsible. My opinion was that a wonderful angel pushed my brother out of the way. I am grateful. He is ashamed.

Our wounded are coming home in record numbers. Now they include more women than our system is accustomed to accommodating. With that in mind, I now take ‘women magazines’ to the VA centers. I take them books that I have enjoyed, gardening and fashion magazines, anything I think they might have been missing during the last year or two. It is no longer a man’s world. It is our world. Everyone’s’ world.

We owe honor to so many.

Independence Day

I had a dream about my mom last night. She passed away several years ago. Any dream of her is a treat, even when the news delivered is not fun, I still had the opportunity to be with my mom again.

I dreamed that she was helping me pack. It was not a great time. I was moving to a small efficiency apartment, for the rest of my conscious life. She explained to me that eventually, as I already recognize, I would be ‘discovered’ and moved to full care. Alzheimer’s disease is rampant in our family. I have suffered 4 severe concussions. I know my limits.

The dream was daunting. I finally saw my future and it was not great. A small efficiency. That meant a one bedroom, one bath, small fridge and small stove, small living room. I have been here before.

When my mom left my dad, she left with one suitcase. Many in my extended family have never understood this. We were a military family, living abroad. The military person controls everything in the family unit. My mom and dad had been married 26 years. She left with a suitcase. Her allowance was 40 pounds. Think about that. Everything they had acquired together was under his control. As I look at my bleak-seeming future, I sense her immense fear. My mom never faltered. In my eyes, in my brother’s eyes, she never faltered. Privately, I later learned, she cried into her pillow.

Once she left, she went to the city in which she had spent most of her life. She got 2 jobs. She lived at the YWCA. She took the bus. She walked to work. She saved every penny.

We would have appeared to others to be wealthy. We lived in a 4 bedroom, 3-bath house, based on my dad’s high rank. We had a housekeeper, a cook. At one location, we had had a housekeeper, a cook, a gardener, a repairperson, and a nanny, on staff. It depended on where you were stationed. Therefore, we had a good life.

I joined her after a few months. Life with my dad had become difficult. She was thrilled. She bought me a ticket to fly from Europe to New York, to Florida. She met me in New York. I can only imagine the huge amount of money she spent for this. My dad did not help with the costs. He was angry that I was leaving. I had to leave.

When I arrived in New York, I had to clear customs alone, 13 years old. It was way over my head. My mom was standing in the upper levels of that most incredible terminal, JFK, watching, and dying for my inexperience. In those days, nobody helped kids alone on flights. Unheard of today but this was 1966. When we could finally embrace, it was lasting.

We got on a flight. Amazingly, it was an Eastern Airlines flight. I later flew for Eastern and had never put the two together. After a few years, my mom reminded me that we had come to Florida on Eastern. I just remember the flight attendant being so kind. We were in first class. Holy moly. The only tickets left on the flight. Mom not only had to pay to get me from Europe to the US, she also had to pay for 2 first class tickets to get us to Florida. A huge expense for a woman working 2 jobs, no car, no place to live.

We spent our first night in a relative’s home. The next day we moved into our own place. My nose could not have been higher in the air.

We lived in an efficiency apartment. It was dreadful. In my spoiled life, I had never shared a bedroom. Now, my mom and I were sleeping together, in one bed. We had a small bathroom, a very small living room, and a ‘kitchenette’. I was blown away. I am sure I was not grateful. She had worked so hard to start a new life for herself, then to add me, at my request. She was killing herself to make something for us both, and I was haughty with disrespect. Spoiled.

I began high school where she and my relatives had gone to school. I walked. I had been driving in Germany. You got an international license when you were 14, so driving at 13 was typical. We were poor. I did not remember ever having been poor. It was very hard to accept this new life. I was a teen, attending my junior year of high school.

Women do it all the time. Women are financially bereft by divorce. It is a government statistic that women never fully recover from the devastation of finances after divorce, unless they re-marry, gaining financial stability. Incredible situation. It still exists.

My mother was killing herself working, walking, and paying for an apartment because I could not live with her at the YWCA. The sacrifices she made were lost on me. I was a junior in high school and suddenly poor. This did not bode well for me becoming popular. Spoiled.

When my mom retired, at age 52, she was almost a millionaire. She and my step dad had amassed a great retirement. She was a whiz at investments and she saved every penny. I appear to have inherited that trait and I am so grateful. They had no debt. They owned 15 acres and a custom home. They raised cattle and had an active solar home. It was 1978. She had done it without help from my dad. He kept all of their furnishings, all of their money. They split a piece of land. She did it alone. Grit and determination should be named Marguerite. She did it. When she married my step-dad, he had never owned a checking account. He lived on a cash basis, renting a room in a woman’s home. He and mom loved each other dearly. She was in charge of the finances and served them both very well.

On this day of our country’s independence, I think of my mother. I think of my future and the way she would have had no nonsense about my next step. Living in an efficiency apartment, a trailer, on your own terms has no shame. You have earned your independence. Embrace it.

high hopes?

I want to eat what I like
I want a drink when my long day is through
I don’t want to gain any weight
I want to look just the same as I do

I want to play in my garden
I want to watch “too much” tv
I want to fool with my computer
I never want to run out of money

I don’t want my parents to die

But I want to be brave if I must

I try not to obsess about so many things

But try as I might, it’s a bust.

So these are my hopes and my dreams

And I don’t think my list is that awful

My dreams run me crazy but I don’t really mind

’cause at least what I love is still LAWFUL!

Alexa

what did that cost?

I am selling everything. Ok. Almost everything.

I consider myself to be ‘divesting’. It is all very odd and different since I spent much of my life ‘collecting and holding’.

I wrote once about letting things go that you hold due to love and memories. I still adhere to that lesson. I recognize that ‘things’ are not people and ‘memories’ are not ‘things’. Therefore, I get the fact that by letting things go, I have not let go of people and memories that are important to me.

I am in new territory. Things I have owned and used for years and still see huge asset in owning. Point here is someone else should own them. I have had my time.

I have a shelf unit. My husband hated it from the get-go. During a time of particular stress in our family, I moved in with a relative to help him save his house. This shelf unit was almost our “un-doing.” The fight about this dumb thing was huge and scarring. My dad came to me one night, explaining that he could ‘cut the bottom of the unit’ to make it go to the basement and fit. That was heartbreaking to me. Nevertheless, I was the intruder. Saving the house did not mean I was welcome. We cut the poor shelf unit. Nobody would ever know it had been changed. I lamented. It was my custom-built shelf unit.

When my husband realized I was bringing it along to our marriage, he balked. I was surprised to recognize his dismay over my shelf unit. It has a drop down desk in the center, beautiful oak, cubbyholes, and all of the shelves fit onto dowels so you can mix, match, and create any design you desire, with your changing needs. What’s not to love? I just did not understand his upset. It ended up in our daughter’s bedroom. She could use the desk. She had lots of books and stuffed animals. It worked. We moved again and it was too tall for the ‘basement’, which we refer to as the ‘lower level’. I allowed it to be cut, again. Again, I am the only person aware of the cut. This thing has been impervious to pain.

In one place I lived, no wall was long enough for this unit. Therefore, I disassembled it. I put the desk into my bedroom and used the two rectangular shelf units in the living room, on each side of my picture window. Worked just fine. Perfect. I do not see the problem with this unit. Every time I move, and I have moved 6 times since I got the unit, I just work the puzzle of the thing to manage my new space. However, in the meantime, since it goes together immediately, sitting on dowels, I can get about 16 boxes off the floor, to create space. When you move, that is a huge deal. I love this unit.

Now, I am divesting. The shelf unit no longer suits my life. I know I will miss having the ability to get so many boxes off the floor in my next apartment or house. That was always a lifesaver, making a pathway through so many boxes. But. I have grown. I do not use 70’s shelf units anymore. The fact that this is relegated to the ‘basement’ of several houses says everything. I am letting the shelf unit go.

Someone looked at it and suggested $80. I almost threw up. A contractor came over, looked at it, and said there was probably $200.00 of good wood. Well, now we were talking! The problem, he explained, was how the wood was tied up with this shelf unit. Oh.

It took me another 6 weeks to digest this. I am now asking $80 for the shelf unit. Someone will get a great unit, or a bunch of good usable wood.

Am I crushed? No. I finally saw the light: I have had use of this shelf unit for 34 years. If I get ANY money for the wood or the unit, I am way ahead of the game. It is like selling a house. When you are leaving, you need to disengage yourself from what the next people might think or do. It is not longer important because you are ‘selling’, “divesting,” moving on.

I am moving. It is time. I am ready. Moreover, whatever anyone wants to buy, I will be willing to part with so that I can move forward. Looking into my past has not served me. Looking forward, to what I might create next is the only logical step I can take.

I love a bargain.

can you change the ending?

A friend of mine is not in great health; his time is short.

I have lost so many people in my life and my family. You begin something of a routine. It becomes necessary to continue in your daily life while you monitor the person who is leaving theirs. Routines help us cope. Knowing the ending is difficult but you still must keep moving forward, toward that difficulty.

It’s almost like a movie you love, but cry when you watch. You enjoy the good parts yet you know the worst is to come and regardless of many repeats, you will still cry. You love that movie.

Family and friends gather in a hospital. It is a kindness for them to come to a grim place like this. They want to pay their respects to the family and the friend. It is true respect. That respect carries through a funeral service. You do not attend a funeral for the person who is gone. You attend for the family to see how valued their beloved member was in life. It is respect.

When my mom passed away, I was determined to have a gathering of the fun and joy she created. Several people were kind enough to relate their stories of time spent with her, laughing or being amazed. Everyone in the chapel laughed, even though many of us had to give into our tears. My mom was always laughing. We said good-by in style and I know she enjoyed watching.

Because of my mom’s service, I do my best to attend those for my friends. I go because the family deserves to feel their loved one touched many lives. Respect.

I was talking to a friend today about respect. Specifically we were sharing the importance of being certain our next generation of women learns respect. So many lives change due to a lack of respect. Naturally, you cannot respect others until you respect yourself. Young women are especially in need. Our society still operates on ages-old routines. Many continue to make young girls obsolete in favor of young boys. Women will always be necessary because we give birth. However, young girls have consistently been pushed to the back. If these young girls do not learn their importance while they are children, they will have a more difficult time standing firmly for themselves as adults.

Our school systems believed that young women could not really grasp math and science. Astonishing. My father did not think a girl needed college. He pushed my 3 brothers to attend, even though none of them did well in high school. For me, it was not an option. He decided I would just find a husband. This idea is still alive and well in many families even though women are now more than half of the workforce.

Once a young woman values herself, she begins to expect equality in her life. Men do it so easily but women have to be taught by parents, teachers, and relatives. We need to change this. Once done, I believe many teen pregnancies will be avoided. When a young girl realizes she has more in life than to ‘catch a boy’, her options open fully. Once open, they rarely close. This has nothing to do with being pushy. It has everything to do with pushing yourself. Respect.

Being strong and respecting yourself means there is no sign of weakness to tears. Crying when your soul aches is a sign of love felt. You can only be as happy as you have allowed yourself to be sad. The valleys and peaks must balance. That is respect you owe yourself in life.

I wish for women. I hope for humanity. I pray for leaders who will make rules. I do not know how this will end. Movies and books cannot tell me. I have to play it out to the end. Nothing can foretell this.

How much do I wish I really knew? I wish I knew. Sometimes knowing the end isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

what are you thinking?

I live in Spokane, WA. The US Figure Skating Championships are here, and I am normally in a front row seat. I have followed skating avidly since the mid 80’s. Fortunately, for me, attending championship contests have been constant. If I were not able to be in a great seat, I would watch it on TV, never missing a second.

Last night a very nice friend of mine took me as her guest to the championships. It was wonderful to see again.

However, what I actually experienced was not what I was accustomed to seeing.

I’ve mentioned before that I suffered a TBI (traumatic brain injury) a couple of years ago. It really has changed my life, my outlook, and my future. Last night I recognized it has also changed my past.

My mom had Alzheimer’s. Horrible disease. She lived in Fla and I lived in Colorado, then Oregon, now Washington. Farther and farther away from her, needing to be with her, hating to see what she was.

I made a decision about my visits with mom: I would meet her wherever she was. Toward the end, she had no clue who I was. I would watch her before I approached, to get a feel for how she ‘was’ at that moment in time. she would look at me, blankly, smile, and ask how I was. that’s mom. the more ill she became the more she morphed back into her ‘hostess’ mode of making others comfortable. because she did this so well, most people had absolutely no clue she was so ill. she managed to fool people for almost 5 years, with this disease eating away at her memories, her being. Now, visiting her in the lock-down ward was always unsettling. I wanted to scream, I’m ALEXA!! I’m your DAUGHTER!!. that would have done no good. she simply did not know me anymore. so, I decided to try to get her to like me, every time I visited with her. she had always helped everyone, everywhere. huge volunteer, all of her life. I decided that whenever I ‘met’ her, I would try to get her to enjoy my company. for an Alzheimer’s patient, that is no small feat. they are angry, frustrated, isolated, and tired of being bossed around. they have no clue who anyone is and they want ‘out’. I would go to her, smile, call her by her name, and beam at her, “HI”. she always responded favorably.

Sometimes, rarely, she would chat, laugh, and almost manage conversation. Alzheimer’s robs people of their ability to use their words. I learned to listen to her cadence and her tone. Amazingly, I usually could converse with her, on her terms. All I wanted was for her to like me. just for that ‘time’.

A brain, robbed of its use is not pretty. People do not act the way we expect them to or the way we are accustomed to them acting. When I injured my brain, my husband had his hands full. I had outbursts, my language went to the gutter, I was angry, crying, unable to do things and unable to figure out why. The doctors had warned us several times but until you live it, you really don’t ‘get it’. When I was going through this with my mom, I was still intact (almost brilliant, or at least really smart, IMHO). I just wanted her to like me. I loved her enough for both of us. I wanted her to like my company. So, we would chat. Sometimes we would hold hands. She had no idea who I was. I was careful not to intrude. I just wanted to be with my mom, or whoever she was at that time.

Sometimes I would visit her and it would go really well. So, I would stay longer than normal. Those rare times were golden and I didn’t want to miss a second of them. We would talk and laugh, her conversations would make little sense, But she liked me. She was happy in my company and I was thrilled to almost see a piece of her, coming through. If anything or anyone interrupted her, she was lost again. Sitting with a stranger. I would start from the beginning. again.

Brains are pretty interesting. she was ‘there’ in pieces. The pieces weren’t necessarily the good ones. My brain was here but not functioning very well. As a result, I was difficult and unable to care for myself.

Now I have the after-effects. my marriage is in shambles, over essentially. My brain has returned as much as it will manage we believe. If I am tired, I cannot form sentences. My spelling ability has completely vanished. I was an English whiz, math whiz, science whiz. Now, I cannot multiply. Sometimes I cannot add, no matter how hard I try. I spoke 4 languages, I seriously struggle with my English today. It’s just the way the cookie crumbles. I’m mobile, I can drive and run errands and cook and garden. I am just a bit more diminished. That’s life.

Last night I realized I don’t know a damned thing about skating. That was astonishing. My friend had gone with me as my guest years before. she evidently relied on my knowledge to help her understand the competition. It made me remember the first month I was here in Spokane, the championships were here (Skate America, I think) and I took my very best friend to every event all week. She was an athlete but knew absolutely nothing about this sport. So, I explained to keep her appraised. Last night, I could not answer the most basic questions. that was stunning to me. I simply don’t know anything much about this sport I have spent thousands of dollars on for 25 years or so. I’m a newbie.

So, just like my visits with my mom, I decided to just be ‘there’. I decided I don’t need to be in charge, don’t need to know the answers, don’t even need to know the questions. I could just be there, with my dear friend, watching a program of great challenge and superior athletes. I had been here the month I moved to Spokane, and now, 8 years later, as I am making my plans to depart, I was here again, but a different person, in every way.

And it was OK.

get a grip! no gripes.

horrible week. cannot imagine one worse yet I know another is bound to appear.

4 of my dearest friends have experienced huge loss of life. what is worse than that? before that, I was feeling very bereft, left, alone, frightened and sad. now, i recognize again that everyone has ‘something’. as my best friend said today, “you don’t have to look very far to see someone in a horrible position.”. she is so right.

3 of my best friends lost their pets in less than a week. one, is losing her husband. good heavens. I’m upset over my husband’s “stuff” and my pride and my money and divorce.  I need to get a grip.

I always say, ‘everyone has something’. when you are in the midst of it, you don’t remember that. just look around your own corner. someone is dying emotionally, spiritually or physically. someone is. I promise.

I have been helping a woman through her chemo. talk about a rude awakening. this is serious stuff. naturally, I keep my stupid stuff to myself.

so many of my friends and family are coping. we just didn’t dream things could become this grim. amazingly, spring will make all of us feel a little better. we will probably be missing someone but we will see more sunlight, watch new flowers bloom and realize that our world will trudge onward.

the most amazing part of this to me is the few people who still don’t ‘get it’. the ones who are completely caught up in their own drama, their own pain, not even seeing everything around them. that is heartache. name calling, bullying, pointing out faults, yelling, screaming, to no avail. we only diminish ourselves. I have been as guilty as the next. I keep trying though. I really do try. knowing that, I cannot discount that others are probably trying as well. we just see things at different times.

let’s pull together. please. let’s just row this boat in the very same direction. our time here is short. shorter than anyone knows. some of us feel we’ve been here, done this. possibly so. doesn’t matter. everyone is struggling with the very same issues and problems. we all deserve a break. we all deserve love. we all deserve a chance to improve.

I’m trying to improve. hard to imagine I could be better, but I’m gonna try!