Family & Relationships

Oct
09

A Lesson In Humility And Halo Pin Care

by Christine

Want to know something that really annoys me? Bloggers who disappear with no hug goodbye, see you in the funny papers or explanation of why he or she went silent. I mean, I thought we were friends, I signed up for your newsletter, laughed at your jokes and even tried that high calorie dessert that you said was fabulous and then puff, you were gone. My attitude toward that blogger was less than charitable. I am here to tell you I got an attitude adjustment the hard way. 

During the wee hours of August 17th, I got THE phone call that stops the heart of every parent. My son, Matthew, had been airlifted to the Atlanta Medical Center. AMC is a Trauma One facility that is in the business of saving lives and my son needed the expertise of its doctors and surgeons. He had been training for the Lake Tahoe Ironman by cycling through the Appalachian Mountains near Dahlonega, GA. As Matthew descended one of the mountains, a local man hit him with his car, breaking 4 or 5 of his vertebrates, 7 upper ribs, both clavicles, right scapula, his C1 and collapsing a lung. 

The moment I heard that Matthew had been airlifted, I stood straight up and starting packing for a flight to Atlanta from New York. Marty and I received the call at 2:15 AM and by 8:00 AM that same morning I was by his bedside. I have not been home since. I sat by his bed in ICU for 6 days and watched him go through one surgery and the installation of a Halo. I caravanned with Marty and Matthew to Brooks Rehab Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida and witnessed him learning of his limitations for the next 12 weeks. Since being released from Brooks, I've been with Matthew and his 4 children at their home, washing clothes, caring for Halo pins and generally doing whatever I can to support them during this time of recovery.

I tell you all this as part of the explanation for my silence. I am not the only one to help my son and his children during this time. It has truly been a family and community effort but this event changed my life.  I had grand plans for Footsteps this fall. My energy level was high after my sabbatical year and I was ready to blog about my new raised herb beds, fall in the Hudson Valley and my training schedule for Run the River 5K in October. But to quote Allen Saunders: Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans. My son and grandchildren need me and I love them, so here I am.

I am still going to blog about the raised bed but I will now be sharing with you the ins and outs of coming back from a major health trauma. Some of the lessons I learned I want to pass on to you with the prayer that you will never need them. 

Hugs to you all,
C

Jan
31

Intentional Loving Series: The Month Of February

by Christine

 

February is called the Month of Love. Historical facts, legends and folk traditions all conspired to make February, particularly February 14, a time to celebrate love. As with many of the holidays in the U.S. today, Valentine's Day evolved from a Christian tradition.  One legend has it that around the year 270 A.D. a priest named Valentine was persecuted and eventually executed because of his effort to convert Roman Emperor Claudius II to Christianity as well as performing clandestine Christian weddings for Roman soldiers who were forbidden to marry.  It was written that he miraculously healed a blind girl, the daughter of his jailer while waiting for his death sentence to be carried out. Since multiple Christian martyrs were also named Valentine they were lumped together to be honored on February 14. The thinking was similar to the thinking behind creating President's Day in the U.S.

The tradition of gifting giving, sending cards and chocolate is said to have originated in the UK. "Jack" Valentine would knock on the backdoor and leave candies and presents for children. Children had a similar relationship with Jack Valentine that many children today have with Santa Claus; they loved the treats that Valentine left but were afraid of this stranger bearing gifts. Today Valentine's Day ranks 4th on holidays with the highest candy sales and 2nd on most popular holiday to dine out. (Though some sources I read said it was #1.) Once you add in flowers, cards and gifts, Valentine's Day is an $18.6 billion holiday in the US alone. 

During the month of February, I am going to write about love. I will be exploring what love is and how to show love. Yes, I will be looking at romantic love or Eros but I will also be looking at the other types of love too. This won't be a how-to guide on what to buy your love or loves on Valentine's Day but how you show love each day. As I mentioned before this will be a marathon, I will post everyday. I hope you find this series engaging and that you will share with me your thoughts and ideas on loving.

Until tomorrow...

Hugs,

Next: What is love?

Jan
21

This May Seem Out Of The Blue

by Christine


{Hout Bay, South Africa}

January is the month for making plans. Sales teams, teachers, wedding planners and people partial to making New Year's resolutions are working hard putting together plans for 2014. This may seems like it is coming out of the blue but January is the time to plan your vacation. Yes, we have just come off a season of holidays, parties and days off from work but that is not the same as taking a vacation. For most of us the end of the year is tons of fun but it can be overwhelming and tiring. That's why we look forward to returning to the routine in January, we need the rest. Additionally, you may be thinking about that American Express, MasterCard or Visa bill that is coming you way next week; the holiday's can be expensive fun and February is the month to pay the price. I hope you avoided a financial hangover by intentionally planning for the holiday season. 

Vacations are important to your health and your relationships. Here are three reasons why you should take a vacation this year.

1.) Taking time away from work and the busyness of your life reduces stress and allows your body and mind to recharge. If you resist the urge to over schedule and over plan, taking some time to decompress can improve your overall physical and mental health.

2.) Time away gives you the opportunity to spend quality time with your spouse, friends, family or if you want to be alone outside your everyday environment. Sharing vacation time alone or with others can deepen relationships or allow you to get to know yourself better.

3.) The biggest reason I think we need to take vacations is that it makes you more creative. Getting out of the day-to-day routine gets the creative ideas flowing. Every time I visit an arboretum or famous garden, I come home with one new idea for my garden and 10 more ideas for different areas of my life. I find vacations help me open up my mind to new ideas. 


{South Africa Wine Country}

You're now convinced you should take a vacation but why plan it in January? I have three reasons why you should be planning now. 

1.) Your time can get away from you if you don't declare a date and plan. Before you know it, the calendar will reads August and you still haven't taken a vacation so the default time is at the end of the year. A time of year that is already jam packed with expectations and requirement. 

2.) The planning and anticipation is part of the fun. Whether traveling overseas or staying in your own backyard, doing your research will enhance your trip. Marty and I had an opportunity to go to South Africa for work. We decided to take some vacation time after the project was completed. Because the project came up so quickly, I didn't have enough time to research Africa and as a result didn't plan time to see Victoria Falls in Zambia. We had flow 7800 miles to the continent of Africa and yet, we missed visiting one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World because we didn't have time to do our research and plan.  

3.) It saves you money to plan in advance. Airline tickets, hotel rooms and travel tours all give price breaks to those who plan early. Scheduling early means you have more options when you redeem your reward points. You will have more choice and better financial options. 

Take the time now to visualize and plan your vacation. You won't regret it. 

Hugs,
C


{Hippos in Botswana}

 

Jan
14

The Year Of Firsts

by Christine

It's been two weeks since the ball dropped and 2014 was officially ushered in. It didn't take long for me to get back into my routine; I love routines.  My New Year's routine includes exercise, a more wholesome diet and dedicated work hours. I traded in my flute of Champagne for a bottle of water. Even though I've stepped it up at work, I've taken some time to decompress in the evenings from the busyness of the end of the year holidays. I've had some quiet time and I've been thinking. (I can hear Marty groaning now. Next she's going to want to talk.)

Two years ago was the first Christmas after my mom died. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's were tough. I was sad. My family was sad and it felt like the holidays weren't ever going to be fun again. Fortunately, we came through the sadness of grief to once again joyously celebrate the holidays. But this got me to thinking about my friends who experienced the loss of a parent or a spouse this past year and how they are going through The Year of Firsts. The first snow fall without his or her loved one, the first St. Patrick's Day alone and many other firsts that sneak up on you and drape you in sadness.  

I am suggesting that if you know someone who is living The Year of Firsts that you reach out and connect with them. Invite them to lunch or dinner, plan an outing to a museum or go to an Oscar nominated movie. Any activity that helps you connect and be available to your friend or family member.  If they live out of town, send a card, give them a call or better yet, set-up Skype and look them in the eye. Being available may not take away all their sadness but they won't have to go it alone if you are with them. They may want to talk or just "be" with you. but as the tidal wave of grief comes upon them, you will be there to help them ride the wave. 

So start 2014 by intentionally reaching out to those going through The Year of Firsts. The world will be a better place for your thoughtfulness. 

Hugs,
C

 

Oct
08

Can We Make It New Again?

by Christine

Last year as my mother's life was ending, my son's marriage of 12 years was ending too. I have not blogged about my son's divorce for various reasons but I will say our entire family grieved over the death of his marriage. Sadness is and was the main emotion surrounding that milestone. Today I watch with pride and in awe as he successfully cares for and nurtures his children. He is doing a good job.

Even though I am 20 years older than Matthew, we share a similar experience at this time of our lives. For each of us, one life chapter ended and another one began. Beginning anew required us to learn new skills and to think about our lives differently. Matthew is working to build a family for his children that don't include Mom and Dad sitting down together at the dinner table every evening. I am working to build family traditions as the matriarch instead of looking to my mother to do it. These are creative times for us.  

Last night Matthew and I talked about how to create something new as opposed to crafting a pale imitation of what you lost. After my father died our family attempted to host Christmas as we had in the past. Sadly, my father's enthusiasm for celebrating a family Christmas was the spark that enlivened our holiday festivities. Without my father, the holiday became a shadow of what it once was and mom was resistant to change. Our guilt inducing conversations went something like, "Can you "take" Mom for Thanksgiving and I will take her for Christmas?"  A sad reflection on how untethered our family was at the time.  

If you want to see how others create the new out of the ashes of the old, look to the world of art. Working artists strive to produce music, paintings or dance that evolves and grows as their skills evolves and grow. Pablo Picasso, probably the 20th century's most famous artist, moved from the Blue Period to the Rose Period to an African-influenced Period to Cubism using his extraordinary talent to build upon each period but creating something entirely new in each period.  While Picasso appreciated the art of Toulouse-Lautrec, Manet or Degas, his goal was not to imitate them but to bring about his own vision.  

After Matthew's divorce, he put the artist mindset to play in his home. When you enter his house, on the right, is a small room the builder intended to be a formal living room. During Matthew's marriage this room was only used once a year; an adult Christmas tree was put up while the "kids" tree was in the family room but the rest of the year, no on used the room. After his divorce, he was looking at how to use each room effectively and I suggested he set up a home office in the living room. I described how businessmen, lawyers and doctors in the early 20th Century used their "front parlors" as their place of business and I thought this set up would be much the same for him. Matthew loved the idea and ran with the concept. Pictures of the kids and other personal memorabilia decorate his office and it is a place for him to pay bills or work if he has to stay home with a sick kid. Also, the kids can use the family computer and printer for school projects without the distractions that were common in the family room.  Same room, different function, new life. 

As life changes, I move to change too. I believe it's important to cherish and hold on to traditions that enrich how I live but it is equally important to let go of traditions that weigh down the family. Maybe our family tradition is that we change up our traditions as we age. What about you? Are there any traditions or patterns in your life that you need or want to let go of? Or have you already done that? If so, how did you do it?

Hugs

Sep
25

Intentional Living Week Thirty-Six: Whose Journey Is It?

by Christine

"If there is not struggle, there is not progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle." ~Frederick Douglas

Week 35 was all about how a period of creativity can follow a crisis. This week I am looking at how teachable moments craft the journey of others. 

I have been caring for my grandchildren this past week. Organizing, feeding and listening to four children, ages 5 through 11 is rewarding and exhausting. I love sitting around the kitchen table after school helping them with their homework and listening to the stories of their day. ("Mayor, did you know there is a planet named Uranus...get it Ur-anus?" From generation-to-generation that joke never gets old.) And cooking family style meals once again is just plain fun. Boy, do kids tell it like it is! My grandsons praise my "killer mac & cheese" while eating mounds of the hot, cheesy pasta.  My granddaughter on the other hand said it tasted like dirt and had peanut butter toast for dinner instead. The boys were horrified but I was amused. I did make a mental note: work on Charlotte's verbal filter.

This is just a two-week gig but I take it as seriously as I did when I was raising their father and aunt. Life at home and at school is about teachable moments. I prepare balanced meals, make sure they clean up after themselves, treat others respectfully and get them to bed on time to make sure they are rested the next day. I do all this because I love them and want them to be healthy and happy. I am intentional about how I care for my grandchildren.

Yesterday, #2 grand boy was on his Gameboy before breakfast. I called everyone for breakfast and GB2 insisted that he "HAD TO FINISH THE GAME". I said, "Nope, it is breakfast time and put the game away". I will the save you the drama that ensued but once at the table he refused to eat. GB2 is the best eater in the family and I knew he was going to be sorry that he didn't eat breakfast. After offering him breakfast three times, I decided not to force the issue. This was his choice; this was his statement; this was his journey.

So many times we want to save people from themselves particularly our children and grandchildren. We steal the teachable moments in life from them. We don't allow them to see the cause and effect of their actions. I am not talking about allowing an inebriated friend to get behind the wheel of a car but we shouldn't cover for him or her the next day at work.  Neither am I suggesting you allow a child to come to physical harm because her or she needs to learn a lesson; that's just wrong. As you live your life intentionally, the struggle is how-to allow others to craft their own journey, mistakes and all. Yes, you may see the train wreck ahead, metaphorically speaking but maybe there is nothing you can or should do.

When my grandson returned from school, he sheepishly said, "I ate half of my lunch for morning snack". I knew I had packed enough in his lunch for him to get though the day and it all turned out well in the end. But this was his journey and he needed to walk it. At times it may be difficult but as you ask others to respect the journey you are on, remember to do the same for them. 

Week 36 Assignment: Who are the people in your life that you want to "save"? How can you support them in their effort to craft their own journey?

Get caught up on the entire Intentional Living series:

 

Aug
14

Intentional Living Series Week Thirty-Two: Are You On Autopilot?

by Christine


{Whitefish, Montana: The Beginning Of A Quilt}

"We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aid but by an infinite expectation of the dawn." ~Henry David Thoreau

In week 31 I shared with you the difference between living in the moment and living in the future and how decisions made in the moment frame the future. This week I will discuss how to identify when you are living on autopilot.

As Marty and I were driving into the City this past week, when about mid-point through our drive, he looked around and said, "Where are we, have I missed the exit?". I chuckled as I assured him that we had not missed our exit and were headed in the right direction. Marty had been on autopilot and was trying to rejoin the here and now. 

Autopilot is when your mind is somewhere else and your body is going through the motions without conscious thought. A runner can flip the autopilot switch into the on position as she heads out for her daily run. Her conscious mind thinks through and organized various thoughts and ideas while her subconscious mind and body takes the 10-mile run. (Think about your computer and how you can be working on one program while another one is running in the background. It slows down the whole system but can be done.) The opposite of being on autopilot is being in "The Zone"; that is when the conscious mind, subconscious mind and the body are solely focused on the task or challenge of the moment. 

Autopilot is normally reserved for boring, uninspired tasks such as driving on long stretches of uninspired highway. Marty had driven that stretch of road hundreds of times so his conscious mind engaged with a work problem that had been vexing him. The danger of the autopilot mode is that you can miss out on the here and now. If you find you are spending your day asking everyone around you to repeat what he or she just said while your minds is engaged else where, you are living your life on autopilot.

How often you move into the autopilot mode may be an indication of how engaged you are with the life you have created. If you want to be any place but in the here and now, it is time to think about how to change your situation. As a cautionary note to those who run across someone moving through life on autopilot, be gentle. Sometimes he or she is dealing with a life challenge, a serious illness or the death of a loved one. For those folks, just putting one foot in front of another maybe all they can do and the autopilot mode is a safety value.

How often do you hit the autopilot button? Do you spend the day asking your family and friends to repeat what they are saying? Are you engaged in the here and now?

Week 32 Assignment: This week keep a record of how many times you ask someone to repeat what he or she said. If you find it is more than once or twice, explore if you are spending too much time in autopilot.

 

Get caught up on the entire Intentional Living series:

 

Aug
02

Foodie Friday: Cooking Together

by Christine


{Homemade Stir-Fry}

When Marty and I first moved in together, we spent one or two evenings a week cooking dinner as a couple. We enjoyed creating meals as a team and learned quite a bit about one another through the process of meal planning and cooking. Marty is the more adventurous cook while I rely on trusted recipes to guide me. Turning meal preparation into a couple's event kept the process fun and engaging particularly after a busy day at work. Cooking was not a solitary task for one but a time for us to talk and share our day with one another while preparing a healthy meal. 

If you find that you are avoiding meal preparation because there are "only" two of you at home, try engaging your spouse, roommate or kid(s) in preparing a meal together. After my father retired, he and my mother spent a good bit of time together planning meals, shopping for food and cooking. Of course my father's personality came through and he treated it like he did his job. I was amazed and truthfully amused to discover that my father was incensed over what he thought to be the high cost of bananas. He was a trucking executive during his carrier and he seemed to find the cost of bananas out of balance. 

Also, if you have a parent living alone and are concerned about their diet, plan one night a week where the two of you can prepare a meal together. It will give you an insight as to how they are doing on multiple levels. You will see first hand how their home is functioning and whether they can follow the steps necessary to create a dish. I found that cooking together makes conversation easier and more fun.

I am including a basic recipe for stir-fry that I developed. Stir-fry is a simple meal because it is easy to "assign" tasks. I encourage you to experiment with ingredients to personalize this dish to your tastes. Let me know how it goes.

RECIPE:

This recipe is very easy to prepare. I choose vegetables based on what is in season, whether or not it is reasonably priced and color. You can also switch out the beef for chicken, pork or seafood. You can also use a variety of oils. I am a big olive oil fan but if you are a traditionalist when it comes to stir-fry, you can use peanut or sesame oil.

Stir-Fry

Ingredients:

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds of top sirloin steak
2 Cloves of sliced garlic
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1 Red, yellow or green sweet pepper 
1 Red onion
1 Large head of chopped Bok Choy

Instructions:

1. Pour 1 tablespoon of oil into a wok and heat over medium high heat.
2. Add garlic and brown.
3. Remove garlic.
4. Add beef and cook until done. Usually three or four minutes.
5. Remove beef and place in dish for later use.
6. Pour 1 tablespoon of oil into a wok and heat over medium high heat.
7. Add onions and heat for about 1 minute or until they start to become translucent.
8. Add pepper and heat for about 2 minutes or until they glisten. 
9. Return beef to the wok. 
10. Add Bok Choy and heat until leaves are wilted. 

**Serve over white or brown rice. You can season with salt and pepper or soy sauce. Serves 4 to 6.

 

 

Jul
08

Is The By-Product Of Experience, Empathy?

by Christine



{Early morning at the Lake}

Until you personally experience the loss of a parent, the depth of that loss is unknowable. While I was genuinely saddened by the pain my friend’s felt over the death of their parents; I didn’t understand the magnitude of their loss until I experienced it myself. Today when I hear from a friend that their mom or dad is entering hospice or has passed away, I feel I know the journey they are traveling. For many the journey started months or years before with multiple visits to the hospital or an extended nursing home stay. My sadness for my friends is now coupled with empathy and knowing that I lacked before the death of my parents.

I also know that the funeral is not the end of the sadness. It takes time to move through the grief. The sadness and grief that followed me home did not release me until almost a year after my mother’s death. Candidly, I spent a couple of weeks sitting on the sofa staring into space. I am a person who is in motion all the time so it was a bit troubling to those close to me. It was also troubling to me because I believed the funeral should be the end of the sadness.

Wisely I made the decision to talk to a trained therapist. While my friends are lovely people and would listen to me for as long as I wanted to talk, a therapist knows how to actively listen and to ask pertinent questions at the right time. The sessions have been helpful because these directed conversations helped me see that my life was forever changed with the loss of my parents. What this has meant to me is that I don’t want or can’t go back to life as it was before. I am in the process of giving myself permission to make big changes.

Many an early morning I wake to find a cloud has come down and engulfed the lake. It is dense and the world feels mysterious. As the sun rises and warms the earth, the fog disappears as it evaporates and turns into invisible water vapor. The water has transformed from liquid to a gas but it is still in the air. After a period of upheaval a transformation may need to take place to remain true to who we are.

Hugs,
C

Jul
03

Admit Reality And Move On

by Christine

{Vampire Chase}

"The best laid schemes of mice and men go often awry." Robert Burns

The summer after my grandchildren turn five, they are allowed to begin a yearly sojourn in New York with Marty and me. This past couple of weeks my three Florida grandboys were here to spend time with us to swim in the lake, explore local sights in and around New York City and generally enjoy "sleepover camp" with Marty and The Mayor. We have movie night with a ton of popcorn, host swim parties for friends and work on our yearly "monster movie". It is a joy for me to have them here sans parents and we are all eager for adventure. 

During their visit, I had planned to rise early, write and post my blog and then begin the day with the boys we now call El Destructo. Sounds good so far right? For those of you who regularly spend time with 3 children under ten, you are smirking and chuckling about now but I really did believe that I was going to do this. First week, I was so tired that I was falling into bed at the same time the boys went to bed and only getting up 10 minutes before they did. By the second week I was just keeping ahead of the cooking and laundry duties that go with having 3 boys. Did you know that they really want to eat three times a day plus have snacks? 

We had such a wonderful time and I wouldn't trade that time for anything but I learned I could only do so much. I write about intentional living and I intentionally made the decision to spend time with my grandsons and let everything else wait until they were gone. But I did miss writing the blog and chatting with you...next year I need to rework the plan. By the way, the picture of me is from our 2013 movie Vampire Chase...not the first morning after they arrived. 

Hugs,
C


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