Sunday, October 01, 2023

I Hung the Halloween Wreath

September flew by and I'm SO EXCITED that it's October. Bring on the cool weather! Today I did something small, that is actually quite huge. I hung this Halloween wreath, that my daughter made, on my door. 

Most of you may look at this and wonder why it's a huge step for me until I tell you that I've never decorated for Halloween in my 53 years of life. I've never put up a wreath like this, announcing to every person that comes to my door that I celebrate Halloween. 

Even though I've posted photos of myself in costume, at my friend's house giving candy to kids and such over the years, there's something more personal and significant about me hanging this wreath on the door to my home. It's a message to everyone that I will never be a part of my old religion again and that I don't care who knows it. 

I struggled even saying that this is huge, because by saying it, I feel like I'm giving my old religion more importance and power than I should. It suggests that I'm still controlled in some way. I told my daughter this and she pointed out that there's nothing wrong with acknowledging it, because the religion was such a big part of my life for so many years. It's natural to feel something.

She's right. 

“I love my past. I love my present. I'm not ashamed of what I've had, and I'm not sad because I have it no longer.” - Collette

Everything in my past shaped who I am and by leaving an organized religion I learned how strong I was. I didn't realize how strong, until I had to discuss it with my elderly father. As the youngest daughter, and the last, to leave the religion that was a hard conversation to have. 

So if I could have that conversation with a person I loved, if I could disappoint him, and stand by my decision, I can hang this wreath on my door. 

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Celebrate All the Things! Happy Half Birthday to Me

This Thursday marks 28 years since my sister Hilda passed on from this earth. Last week while my daughter and I were cleaning my upstairs room we found an old card she gave me. I was 24 when she wrote these words to me. She was 41 and was diagnosed with leukemia four months later.

What a great reminder from her that I need to keep working on my fitness and eating right. What got me was the "Love you always and forever" part. It reminded me of the quote, "Love transcends time and space." Thank you Hilda for the reminder!

I'm going to wear her earrings on August 10 to celebrate her spirit. In her 30s and 40s she always wore big loud earrings, bright colors and cool shoes. I told myself years ago that I would celebrate every year that I live past 42, the age she was when she passed away and I can't lose sight of that promise. I recently told a friend that we have to #celebrateallthethings, because she wasn't acknowledging her victories, and I need to practice that too. 

Me wearing Hilda's earring in 2016. 

This week is also my half birthday. Tomorrow on Friday the 11th I'm halfway to 54 and it's the time of year when I review my goals and how I'm doing. It's also a good excuse to celebrate!

If I choose to concentrate on the positive I can say that I've gotten a lot of things done lately. I cleaned out half of my garage and I finally cleaned out the extra bedroom upstairs with the help of my children and my son's good friend. I'm getting my son's doctor's appointments done before he has to go back to school in New York in September. 

I finally got my mammogram and extra ultrasound done and I had all my yearly physicals. All is looking good across the board, from my breasts, to my cholesterol, A1c level, and heart. I've even dropped 16 pounds in a year, which is always a win. 

I've made a morning meditation a daily habit, but I will have to revise my overly ambitious goal of either 400 or 500 Peloton rides by 54. I'm thinking that what sounds more realistic and cool is 354 rides and strength workouts by 54. #354to54 is being sensible. 

I've also done a good job of editing my novel right before each Central Nebraska Writing Group meeting, so I can read for the group at our bi-monthly meetings. Goal is to have a portion done for each meeting, so I can have the whole book edited in approximately 9 more months or less. It's a marathon, not a sprint and I want to do it right this time. 

On another note, at my day job of selling advertising and doing my part to defend the free press... I'm so happy that I can bring my whole self to work and that I can follow things I'm passionate about. We have an awesome DEI training called Hearst Conscious Inclusion and when we complete the training we become "Change Agents." I'm now working with a group called "Change Agents in Action." I'm leading a group of Hearst employees from other divisions and our focus will be on external projects for Women's Rights. I can't wait to see the work we all do and I'm so grateful for the opportunity! I was also asked to do something else, but more to come later. 

In my little libraries world. I am so happy to report that an organization is donating two bookshelves for my little libraries and a local art organization wants to paint them for me. I'm so excited to see what they do! 

In my historic cemetery world. I'm looking for a corporate sponsor who will do matching donations for Giving Tuesday for the Historic McDaniel Street Cemetery. If you know of anyone who is passionate about historical cemeteries send them my way!

Life is definitely not boring and I have a lot to keep me busy. I'm grateful to be making it to 53 and a half and let's see what I can accomplish in the next six months. #354to54

Sunday, July 16, 2023

The Fools Who Dream

"A bit of madness is key

To give us new colors to seeWho knows where it will lead us?And that's why they need us"
So bring on the rebelsThe ripples from pebblesThe painters, and poets, and plays"
Song: Audition (The Fools Who Dream) from La La Land
La La Land poster owned by Lionsgate

I love this version of the movie poster because it's the scene when Emma Stone goes into her audition for her big break and Ryan Gosling is sitting outside in the waiting room. This is the scene that did it for me and the reason I keep listening to the song "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)."
A couple of weeks ago my son encouraged me to watch the 2017 movie La La Land. I'd never watched it because I just never got around to it, and honestly I didn't think I would enjoy it. I was curious to find out why it had it touched him so much. I suspected that it was because he's a creative song writer, a lyricist, an artist. 
Imagine my surprise when the movie really spoke to me, a 53 year old woman. I especially love the audition scene and the emotions the song evokes. It's a message of hope for the dreamers and inspires them not to give up because the world needs them. I know others have felt the same and it was a topic of discussion on Vulture as the pivotal final number of the movie. 
I love stories about people who don't give up on their dreams, especially writers. A few days ago I came across an essay by the writer Andre Dubus III in the New Yorker about the first time he went on a spending spree in New York with his family, including his blind aunt, the guest of honor. He planned this trip to celebrate her birthday. I Googled what book he had finished before the summer of 2001 and I found that he had published House of Sand and Fog in 1999 and Oprah had chosen it for her book club in 2000. By 2001 it had probably already been optioned for a movie because the movie debuted in 2003. That explained it.
The New Yorker article is a story of hope. It's the kind of story that gives writers hope that they will have a New York Times bestseller one day. It reminded me of La La Land and the "Audition" song again. 
The way the article is written I didn't read it as a successful author boasting about his success and money. It's much more than that, because it tells the story of a little boy who grew up poor and didn't have a lot of money as an adult, before becoming a successful published author in his early 40s. It's a heartwarming story about freedom from poverty. 
As an aspiring writer this essay gave me hope too, because I am a "fool who dreams, crazy as that may seem." At the age of 53 I still believe in so many things and that is what keeps me writing and dreaming. 

Friday, June 30, 2023

Changing the Narrative for Working Moms

I am so in awe of this new generation of working mothers who demand to be seen and taken seriously. I admire how candid they are about raising children while working. One influencer on LinkedIn posted that she will over-share what her life is like as a working parent. "TMI is my default until the default becomes the norm." I love that. I love that she refuses to shrink to make others comfortable.

With my kids when they were babies, 18 years ago.

I know I am incredibly lucky to have worked for a company that was very flexible and made it easy for me have and raise two children, while working full time. But that doesn't mean I felt okay discussing the challenges of being a working mom, especially when I became a single working mother. 

In fact, I even stepped back two years after the divorce to stay home and work contract, until I could work through my son's ADHD diagnosis. Coincidentally my elderly father had to come live with me during that same time. 

Recently I listened to an older woman speak about her career experience and it was very inspiring for all of us to hear her stories and experiences.

However, when it came time for the questions from the audience someone asked about being an older woman who stepped back when her children were young and if it was possible to get back onto the same career path. 

I could relate to this question, because although I have done very well in my career and I think I'm well respected as an experienced employee, I don't see myself leading projects and initiatives again, partly because I took that time away when my kids were younger. 

The speaker's response surprised me. She said that women didn't need to step back because they should ask more from their spouses. I didn't have a spouse when my children were young so where did I fit in? What about single women who decide to have children on their own? What about widows? Where does that leave us? Where does that leave older women who want to return to the workforce?

My corporation has done such an excellent job, especially in the last few years, to train us on diversity and inclusion. I was certified as a "change agent" after completing all the training. Now I will be helping to lead an external working group and I'm thrilled to see that one of the three areas we are going to address is women's rights. I'm also on the team for the internal working group. I'm looking forward to those discussions and plans and I hope that this gives me an opportunity to address the needs of single working mothers.

Even though I'm not the mother of young children any more I want to help young mothers get to the comfort level of that LinkedIn influencer. I want to help change the narrative at work so women feel safe juggling both their career and their children. I want to pave the way to change attitudes so women can step away if needed, but then I want for it to be okay for them to step back in and continue on their career path, despite their age. It's going to take time, but I believe we've already made a lot of progress in recent years and we can make more.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

So What Ever Happened To That Peloton?

It's been a while since I mentioned my Peloton. That Peloton that I was so in love with in 2018... Yes, I still have it, but I don't know what happened to that loving feeling. 

The last time I mentioned it was in July of last year when I said that I knew that my blood counts were significantly lower when I was riding the Peloton and I said I was going to get back on it.  I didn't... 

Here is where I was on February 3, 2019, the day I reached my 100th bike ride.

Here is where I am today!

I've owned my bike since approximately August, 2018, that's almost five years! In that time I've worked out 803 times (I don't really count meditations as workouts but Peloton does so...) I've only ridden my bike 139 more times, but I've done 223 more strength workout and I've completed 63 runs. 

For the last couple of years I've been running with the Peloton app more and cycling less. I've also really gotten into the strength workouts, most recently trying the standing core strength workouts. I love those!

I know I shouldn't beat myself up about this. I know that 803 workouts is still something. 803 divided by 5 years is 160.6 workouts per year. That's 13.38 workouts per month or approximately 3.34 times per week. Or as some of the coaches point out, it's still working out more than people who don't work out. 

I can't explain why I haven't been on the bike and why I've been running more than cycling. I've written about how I self-sabotage and here. It didn't help when I logged on the other day and I received a warning about the bike seat recall. I'm yet to address that issue, but I know it has to be done. Luckily I've never had any issues with my seat thus far. 

Either way, I do have to call about the seat and I do need to get back on the bike. I still love everything about Peloton, especially the strength workouts and the walks and runs. My challenge is to get myself back on the bike, and loving the rides again.

I want to set a #400by54 goal for myself for both Strength and Cycling. I know I can do it for Strength, but can I reach the same goal for Cycling? I want to! 

New goal for the second part of the year and my soon to be half birthday in August!

Monday, June 19, 2023

I'm a Little Morbid, Just a Little, but I'm Also Realistic

Some people would find this morbid or maybe even negative. I find it damn realistic, especially at my age. 

A few years ago I started a list of people who I knew, who died before 50. Topping the list was my  sister, who died at 42. As I started getting older the list grew and I found myself adding co-workers and former classmates around my age to the list. These are classmates from Waltrip High School, the University of Houston and colleagues from the Houston Chronicle.

Facebook memories served up a memory recently about a trip I took with the kids to Marfa, Big Bend and Terlingua in June, 2021. I had a comment from a friend about how she loved staying in the Chisos Basin. She made this comment in June and she died that November. One morning she woke up, had a headache and passed out. She was only 52, one year older than me at the time.

I often see comments on old Facebook posts from friends who have passed and it always makes me smile to remember them fondly and then I feel a little melancholy too. I've started to think of these past messages as little whispers, reminders from them. "Hey live your best life! Life can be short."

I'm 53, eleven years older than my sister was when she passed away. The past eleven years have flown by and I think of all the things I wanted to do, but didn't, because I let life get in the way. 

I came across this blog about feeling like I was on the cusp of something amazing in April of 2021. It blows me away that it's been two years since I wrote that. 

I joined the Central Nebraska Writing Group the fall of 2020 and in April 2021, when I wrote that blog post, I started the first draft of my current novel. I was pretty much finished with the first draft by April of 2022. That's over a year ago! 

So the question is, "Am I done editing and revising it?" The answer is NO. Like I said in a current Facebook post about this, time marches on and when we put off doing things, we look up and the time has passed. So just do the thing. Time is going to pass anyway.

This is why it is so important that I take the time to write 30 minutes a day!  Life is short.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

How Things Are Going...

The kids have been home four weeks now. Seth got a job and he starts on Monday. Miranda is taking a gap year and is currently searching for her first job, post graduation. She's adulting! Confession. It's really hard having the kids back after being alone for five months straight. (maybe more on that later)

We've gotten into a routine, and although I ran a few times to train, leading up to our Memorial Day 5K run, I'm still struggling with getting back to a regular exercise routine. I have been diligently writing each day, even if all I can squeeze in is 15 minutes to be made up the next day with 45 minutes. I'm glad to report that with this blog post I'm all caught up. 

Collage by Me 

I have a daily/weekly To Do list reminder written in Italian on a sticky note on my bookmark inside my Franklin Covey day planner. 

It reads:

1. Mangia bene.

2. Fare esercizio.

3. Scrivi.

4. Imparare l'Italiano.

5. Fare arte.

Why is it in Italian? Because of #4. I also subscribe to Italian "Vogue" online so I can receive the daily email and read all the headlines. I also attempt to read some of the articles sometimes. #1 says to eat well, #2 exercise, #3 to write, #4 to learn Italian and #5 to make art. 

Fare arte. I've been trying to make art too. I greatly appreciate art and even though I've never considered myself an artist, I know what I like. So I've been going to a Scissors of Texas events, mostly at St. Arnold's Brewery once a month for the past few months and I've created four collages. I love it! I love making collages so much that I actually feel emboldened to say I feel like an artist. I mean, I know I'm an artist because I'm a writer, but now I feel like a visual artist too.

Another one of my passions are old cemeteries. Update on the Westcott Cemetery Association that I wrote about so many years ago. I sit on the board of this historic cemetery association now. This cemetery, recognized by Texas as a historic cemetery, is known as the McDaniel Street Cemetery and we have made so much progress! Check out our web site and please consider donating towards our restoration project. I write this as I head out to check on it and to pick up trash before sunset. It's been a labor of love for the sisters who are Westcott descendants and first messaged me about the cemetery so many years ago. 

Sunday, June 04, 2023

Can I Have a Do-Over? Writing Challenge Take Two!

I will not say I failed miserably at writing 30 minutes a day in May. I will say that I made an honest attempt and I was not successful. Therefore I am doing a do-over. Today is June 3rd and there's a full moon. I'd say that this is the perfect time to start again. I've already written the first two days of the month and I will continue to write each day, using this time for novel editing as well.

But first let's talk about the graduation and the road trip from New York to Houston. 

Miranda and I at Long Island University

The commencement ceremony was a success. I arrived just in the nick of time to see her march out to "Pomp & Circumstance." In my opinion there are only two important moments in a graduation. When the graduate marches out to that beautiful melody and when they call the graduate's name and she walks across the stage. Those were my two favorite moments. Then there are the photos afterwards. Here I am, a super proud mother with her first born child.

I was so touched by all of the family members who took the time and spent the money to go to New York to see her graduate. Her father and I were there of course. So was her father's partner and Miranda's big sister Amanda. Her brother Seth didn't have far to travel since he's a freshman at LIU Brooklyn. Amanda's son, my sweet baby boy got to partake in the celebrations, as did Amanda's partner. Two of my sisters were there, my nephew, my best friend who is an aunt to her, and her sister, who is like a second aunt. All in all, four states were represented- Texas, California, Oklahoma and Louisiana. Five if you count Seth in New York. 

It was an epic celebration and we had a wonderful weekend celebrating. I took one day for fun, Saturday when I walked along a small piece of Central Park with my sister, then we went to see the Starbucks Reserve location on the first floor of the Empire State Building, because she was dying to try the olive oil coffee. After that we went to see a musical, "New York, New York" and we had dinner in Little Italy. A perfect day. 

I won't go into the stress and chaos of getting Miranda and Seth packed and ready to leave because it will take too much time. Let's just say, it took a good two days to get Miranda's things sorted, packed, given away, or thrown away. I was so happy we could give one of the ladies, who was cleaning the dorms, Miranda's almost brand new winter coat, perfect for the really cold New York winters, and her snow boots. Seth took less time but we had to get his things packed into a storage facility because he's going back in the fall. We finished that on Tuesday morning, so I should really say it took two and a half days total between both children.

Miranda and I began our journey on Tuesday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. and my 7 p.m. we had made it to Hershey, Pennsylvania. No, we didn't make it in time for the tour of the chocolate factory, but we drove by the building and through the picturesque town with a very interesting history. It reminds me of the history of Sugar Land and how the company created housing for their employees around the factory.

By 11 p.m. or so we'd made it to Virginia and we spent our first night in Winchester, Virginia, the site of many battles during the American Civil War. We were exhausted so we didn't wake up early. We would start our journey closer to noon. 

Thank goodness the weather was perfect and it wasn't hot yet. Wednesday we drove all day until we made it to Nashville, Tennessee. I wish we'd taken the time to see something that morning but I really wanted to make it to Memphis to go to the National Civil Rights Museum. I'm so glad I did!

The drive through Tennessee was beautiful by the way and the Natl Civil Rights Museum built around the Lorraine Motel where MLK was shot is a must see when you're in Memphis.

We were extremely lucky that the only really bad weather passed over us while we were in the museum and at dinner. By the time we got back on the road that evening the road was wet and there was just a slight drizzle as we left Memphis. We pushed forward and we made it to Texarkana by 11 p.m. 

On Friday morning we had to go see the post office and federal building on the state line of the city. We also had an awesome breakfast across the street in an adorable cafĂ©. 

Onward and forward and it was a beautiful drive through our beautiful state. We took Highway 59 down all the way to Houston. I pointed out Goodrich and Seth's favorite chicken place as we drove through. I showed Miranda what road I take to the Yellow Rose Cabins, where I hope to take her on the 4th of July weekend. 

All in all we had a wonderful mother-daughter road trip.  It was cool to learn that the highway between Nashville and Memphis is called the Tennessee Music Highway.  If I could do anything different I would have taken an extra day so we could have made time to stop and visit places in Nashville and a couple of spots in Memphis. We are big fans of  Johnny Cash and June Carter so it would have been  nice to see some of the historic places. I would have loved to have stopped at the Sun Studios in Memphis. Alas, for a future trip. There are so many places to see in America and I hope to live a long  life to see as many as I can. 

Big shout out to my little 2012 Honda Fit, that not only drove up to New York in September 2022, but also drove my girl all around Long Island all school year, to and from rowing practice. THEN it drove us safely back down to Texas. 

Monday, May 01, 2023

Where Is 2023 Going? And Back to New York

May 1st. May. We are almost halfway done with this year. Half! I wrote in January that Miranda was graduating in May and I never wrote again. Here we are. It's May and time to go to New York again.

Me in New York on the terrace of the Whitney Museum in September

I'm kind of cheating... I went to New York and stayed on Long Island three weekends ago to see Miranda race. She's been on the LIU Rowing Team since the second semester last year and she's worked so hard. She says it's been one of the best things to happen to her and I was so glad I got to see her in action with her team.

Now it's time to go back to New York! The girl graduates from LIU Post on Friday morning. What a milestone for both of us! My first child is graduating from college. I am beside myself with pride and admiration for her. After graduation and packing her up we're going to take a road trip home. I'm really looking forward to that!

Today also marks the first day of May and a daily writing challenge. I've challenged myself to write for 30 minutes a day for the American Cancer Society. Today is Day 1 and I started very late in the day. I was exhausted after work so I took a little nap that turned into an hour and a half. Story of my life!

The plan is to use this as a kickstart to editing my novel. I'm committing to 30 minutes a day so it can be the novel or it may be this blog, which has been neglected for a very long time. Either way it's going to encourage me to stick to a daily writing schedule. 

Since this is all about self-discipline for me I've decided to double up and make it 30 minutes of writing and 30 minutes of exercise each day. Yes, I probably just made it more challenging but it wouldn't be me if I didn't. I love a good challenge!

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Where Did 2022 Go? Hello 2023!

At the end of each year I usually do a recap and talk about the blogs I wrote. I didn't do that this time. But if I had written one, it would have been the shortest one... I only wrote six blog posts the entire year. The least I've ever written. I wrote ten in 2021. So I'm not going to bother recapping a year that flew by. It was a year that I've been planning for a good while because I knew I was going to become an empty nester. I kind of just eased into this new lifestyle in the fall, doing more in the community, attending events, but I have big plans for 2023.

For starters, I began the year with 21 days of positive manifestation exercises. I wrote them out on these dashboards for my planner. I took out all the old dashboards and I started the year with fresh new pages. 

I was reading back on blog entries from seven years ago and I set six and seven year plans for preparing the kids to be ready to go off to school. They did in fact go out of state like I predicted, so I'm alone while they're in school in New York.

Now I'm setting new seven and twelve year plans for myself. In seven years I'll be sixty!! (That blows my mind!) And in twelve years I'll be sixty-five, retirement age. I'm actively working on all the things that I need to accomplish in order to be healthy and ready for retirement. I do not want to get to the end of this road of working my whole life only to find that I have illnesses that keep me from doing the things I want to do. 

Just to be clear, I am realistic enough to realize that sometimes the Universe has different plans for us and there are some illnesses that are inevitable. We can't do anything about those. I'm talking about the illnesses that I CAN avoid by being mindful and balanced about what I eat and how much I exercise. 

What are some of my plans for retirement? I'm going to yell some of my ideas out to the universe or the interwebs! 

1. I want to really give my writing the time that it deserves. I want to actively work on sending my work out to literary magazines and working on novels I want to write. These are things that I can start doing now that I'm an empty-nester and I've claimed back so many hours in my life. 

2. I want to buy a renovated vintage trailer and a small pickup truck for my retirement and travel around Texas and neighboring states with it. 

3. I'd like to live in a different European country three months at a time. Maybe three months there and come home for three months. This idea is still very preliminary. Ideas for countries? Spain of course, Italy, France and Greece. Maybe countries in the UK, but I need to visit first.

So what are the things I'm doing in the next few years to prepare for retirement? Some of the same old song and dance. Eat right, exercise and write. Write, write, write. I can only get where I want by writing, like a musician practices their instrument. 

I want to go visit the spots I'm thinking of living in and I need to start budgeting how much rent will cost, etc... Then start working on a plan for how I'm going to pay for my retirement besides social security, 401K and my pension. I'm sitting on a nice little nest egg right now (house and land) and that's a whole other decision in itself. 

My word for 2023 is "Balance." It's a year of practicing balance in everything I do. No overeating or overindulging, no overspending, taking care of myself, writing and traveling when I can, both domestically and internationally. It's also the year my girl graduates from college so there's a big New York trip in May for her graduation and to get Seth packed up for the summer. I love New York!

Always keeping in mind that, "life is what happens when you're making plans." Cheers to a great 2023!