Each day this month, a few friends have been using their Facebook status to post one thing for which they are thankful. I haven't been doing that, but I like that concept.
I'm usually the first one up in my house every day. As I slowly stretch out the stiffness that's becoming more prevalent and ease into my day, I try to take time to be thankful. Sometimes, it's just simply the aches and pains and being able to get up for another day of life. I use my morning shower to pray and "talk to God" and I end by singing a song I taught my children when they were little, "This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it," (Psalms 118:24)
Often the rest of my family, who are not "morning people" ask me why I'm always such a good mood in the mornings. Well, why not?
My husband and I are blessed. We have a home, we have our health, we have wonderful children and grandchildren, friends, jobs and one another.
A couple of years ago when neither one of us had full time jobs, we "visited" our daughter's and then our son's homes, and we house sat -- because we did not have a house of our own. That was rough, but we made it through. And, it made us appreciate wherever we call home even more.
We might not be in the so-called "1 percent", but we are thankful for where we are in life.
My friends have mentioned other things in their daily status posts, such as rain, football games and snow. I concur and add, baseball season, newborn babies, technology, sunsets, sunrises, my pets, my vision...the list goes on.
Make your own list. Think about everything - even the simpliest things that make you smile, that make your life easier, that take your breath away - and be thankful not just on Thanksgiving, but everyday.
My husband and I have a cat. Marley is 16 years plus and has lived an eventful life. We acquired her while in college at the University of Missouri. I worked at the student newspaper and my husband and daughters came down to the office to meet me for lunch. I was running late. Big mistake.
Becky, the staff business manager for the paper, had brought a basket of new kittens to the office in hopes of finding homes for them. My husband was never really good at telling our daughters no. So by the time I arrived, we were the proud owners of not one -- but two -- kittens. One was Marley. The other kitten lived only a few months and died from an infection acquired at the vet's office when he went in to get nuetered. Marley thrived and moved with us after college to Texas, then back to Missouri, then Oklahoma, then Florida, then back to Texas. After our youngest graduated from high school, she officially became my husband's cat. She's traveled across the country at least twice and spent a few months with my son's family in Pennsylvania when we were traveling. Marley is part of the family.
Over the past few years, we've "sat" for a few months, our son's dog, Dixie. And, when my eldest daughter and her family lived with us for a while, Marley tolerated their beagle, Snoopy. So we've never been a household without pets.
Occasionally after emptying another vacuum canister full of animal hair, my husband would grouse, "After Marley goes to kitty heaven, we're never getting another pet." I, who suffer from persistent allergies including dog and cat dander and hair, wholeheartedly agreed as I popped another pill and reached for the inhaler.
That was the plan anyway. Then a few weeks ago, we were in downtown for a festival. I was heading to find the restrooms and we walked by the Humane Society's trailer. In each window, there were puppies of varying sizes and shapes.
I stopped to look -- I'm always a sucker for cute puppies, though I never planned to adopt one. Well, because we had a plan.
The I saw her. A tiny little brown Chihuahua. She was not a puppy, anymore, but I wasn't sure she was much more. She made eye contact. I looked away and oohed and aahed at the other puppies. "That dog is watching you intently," a man standing beside me said, pointing to the Chihuahua. "She's cute," I said. "But I can't have a dog. I have a cat, and besides, I don't like Chihuahuas."
He put his hand near the window. She backed up. I reached up and put my hand on the window, she came back and put her little paw up on the window. We made eye contact again.
My husband came up. He liked the little dog. "The dog likes your wife," the man said again. Then, he looked at me. "That puppy picked you. You at least have to hold her."
My husband said, well, let's just ask. Big mistake.
The woman from the Humane Society explained that these were dogs and puppies who had been in the shelter for a while. If not adopted, they would be euthanized the next week, so the adoption fee was cut in half.
I held her. I filled out the paperwork and paid the fee.
Sammy is now part of our family. She sits on a pillow on my desk while I write. She jumps for joy when I get home from work and she refuses to let anyone else walk her if I'm home.
My husband dotes on her and buys her gifts whenever he runs to the store. Marley tolerates the intrusion and soon realized that means she gets more treats too, because we can't favor one "child."
I find myself doing things I said I'd never do like shopping for a doggie sweater because she shivers in the cool morning air. I let her sleep on my bed. I'm head over heels in love with this little dog.
I have to hire a sitter, or call ahead to the hotel to make sure she can travel with us when we head out of town. I get up earlier than I'd like on the weekends to walk her. Yep, our lives are more complicated with another pet. And, we love it.
I'm sitting on my bed in my pajamas and my house is screaming at me. "Get up! Clean me! Organize me!" I'm choosing to ignore it right now. And, that's likely what got me into this mess in the first place.
I envision my house to look like the pages of those beautiful rooms in Good Housekeeping or the Ladies Home Journal. I certainly tried to create a zen-like retreat in my bedroom. Calming color on the wall, plush bedding, no t.v., check. It was going well, then my closet exploded.
I don't know how all the shoes and clothes that once fit into the organized space that was my closet just don't fit anymore. The run-off has found a corner in my bedroom. My husband dragged one Rubbermaid tub into the corner and filled it up. Then two tubs. It created quiet havoc and I promised to sort through those and put things up and throw things away. Then my home office exploded.
I dragged home T-shirts for a community project, and contained them all neatly in a basket. I brought a few files to work on and put neatly in a file box by the basket. Some how things got messy and now the files are in two boxes, some are in stacks on the floor. It's been hot upstairs in the office, so they are in my bedroom, next to the overflowing basket that now contains remnants of the T-shirt project. But that was OK. Half of my bedroom was still "zen." Then my living room exploded.
My once magazine-perfect living room has toys scattered here and there in corners from the grand kids recent visit. I'm currently "babysitting" my daughter's two small dogs and they manage to leave crumbs and drag in souvenir sticks from outside that also have found their way under the coffee table by the fireplace. Is that a rock on my couch? My brother is visiting, and he casually throws the pillows on the floor here and there to spread out on my couch.
So, I have a plan today. I have to respond to all these little explosions. I have to sort my closet, get it organized and throw out things. The office is next, and then the living room. That was the plan this morning anyway. I empty one plastic container, feel pleased and drag it out to the garage. Wow. There's no place to put it. The garage exploded.
I think I'll start with coffee first, then check groupon to see if they have any deals for maid service. I have to make a plan, so I sit at my computer, staring at an empty screen, trying to decide where to start first. I think my head just exploded.
Breathe it in. Summertime. Late nights at the ballpark. Burned hotdogs. Burned you. And, ice cold watermelon on a hot afternoon.
The summers I remember from my children were filled with adventure that we found ourselves. We went to church camp and vacation Bible school. We often made the summer trek from Lubbock to Fort Worth to spend time with cousins and Aunts and Uncles. When we got older, my brothers and sisters and I worked on the farm, helping my dad by "chopping cotton." It was hot, and it was hard work. But it meant we would have money for school clothes. We still had fun.
Summer has changed. It's changed, not just because we're in the middle of a record-breaking drought and on our 30+ day of triple digit temperatures. It's changed because we're grown-ups. No more summers off. Most adults in the country maintain a manic pace at work year round.
I took a vacation recently and enjoyed a bit of summer. I read two books. I got up earlier than anyone else and found a beautiful lake to fish. I enjoyed doing nothing. I caught fireflies with my grandkids. I went to the neighborhood pool and let a bucket of cold water drop on me over and over again. I learned new knock-knock jokes. I watched a lot of baseball. I ate ice cold watermelon.
For a short while, I loved summer. Now, I'm once again fighting traffic and trying not to feel like I'm suffocating in my work clothes as I make a mad dash from my car to the oasis of an air conditioned building.
My grandchildren are now back home. But I don't want to let go of the joy they find in a summer day. So, I'll have to fight the urge to scream when I see the temperatures climb higher and I worry about my electric bill.
I need to go to the community pool and stand in the middle of a fountain, take a wild ride down the slide again or just let the bucket dump the water.
I just need to act like I'm on vacation any time I get a chance. I need to embrace the little kid that still lives inside me.
I wonder what my neighbors would think if I used the slip and slide on the front lawn after work tomorrow?
I'm in the midst of a two-day middle-of-the-week "vacation." I needed some time to deal with personal things. On the top of my list today -- cleaning out my closet. I really hate to part with clothes. But sometimes you have to take off the rose-colored glasses and take a close look in the mirror.
"Whoa, whatever made me think that looked good on me?" -- Into the giveaway pile goes my once favorite pink jacket.
Going through the closet makes me wonder what those two self-proclaimed gurus of fashion on "What Not To Wear" would make of my fashion choices. I shudder to think, but would likely welcome the advice.
I don't know how I came to be "my age" without a clear definition of my fashion style. Unless comfort is a style. My clothing choices often would cause my daughters to look at me incredulously and ask "Are you wearing that?" Well, yes I am.
I'll never be a fashionista, and am fascinated by the whole concept of finding "your style" as the gurus say.
My little granddaughters are fun to watch as they develop their own sense of style. Their parents dressed them in pink and Disney princess style when they were younger. Then the older girls discovered Hannah Montana and High School Musical. But they've now outgrown that and don't want to wear clothes with "someone's face on it" as the 8-year old said. GD1 now likes to wear trendy clothes with lots of accessories.
GD2, now 7, is still trying to find the style she likes. Hopefully, she finds it before she's my age. She's still loving the princess dresses, but also wants to be like her big sister and wear cooler clothes.
The 4-year-old has always had her own sense of style. She loves to wear black...and leopard print...and princess dresses. Not all at once, of course.
My grandson is leaning toward the hip-hop style -- minus the saggy pants. He's reed thin anyway, so he's always having problems with his pants. But he loves the bling -- chains and such and caps that are way to big for his head. But he also likes polos versus T-shirts, unless the T has a logo for his favorite game, WWE or sports team.
Their fashion preferences will change as their interests change. I saw my son go from being a surfer/skater to wearing country shirts and tight jeans and then reverting back to his beach bum wear. My middle child dresses better than I do, but she's always been the conservative, go for comfort, with the occasional foray into trendy one. My youngest has always been the fashionista, and she always looks good. Of course, I do still have some blackmail photos of her wearing camo and stripes at the same time when she was about 8.
But whether we let our inner super model shine or simply wear the most comfortable clothes we can find, the most important thing is that we find our own sense of self. I think I've done that.
That won't stop me from trying to find the fashionista in me -- she's in there, somewhere.
Growing up in a small town in west Texas, I would often daydream of the day when I would leave and explore new and wonderful places. So I guess you could say I've always had a bit of wanderlust.
"Son, Papa was a rolling stone. Wherever he laid his hat was his home." Norman Whitfield and Barrent Strong might not have had me in mind when they wrote that song, but in a way, I've always understood the "papa" in that song -- well, maybe not the extra family and all, but definitely the ability to travel and call new places home.
I ran off and got married when I was just 17. Ran off from small town Texas to small town Montana. But everything about Sidney seemed exciting and new. I finished high school there, and then embarked on a traveling life. A job with an oil exploration company took me to exciting places such as Buffalo, Wyoming, where my son was born and Glendive, MT, where my eldest daughter was born. For 8 years, I roamed from Montana to Wyoming, North Dakota and Colorado. A two-month stint in Albuquerque, taught me that New Mexico was not the place for me.
Eventually, I headed back home to Lubbock. I was in the midst of divorce and pregnant with my third child, who was born in Lubbock. I found a job, enrolled in college and decided that I was home to stay. Fate intervened. I met and married my husband while he was stationed at then Reese Air Force Base.
He had his own travel past, having grown up in Kansas and lived in Oklahoma, Texas, California, England and Japan. Two rolling stones who kept moving.
A little more than a year later we were living in Japan. That became "home" since we lived there more than four years. The Air Force moved our family to Virginia, which quickly became another home for four more years. By then, my husband was ready to retire from his military career. Still in our 30s, we moved to Missouri and enrolled at the University of Missouri. Three years later, I graduated and took our family to Odessa, Texas. 10 months later, we moved to Amarillo. After another two years we moved back to Missouri until the newspaper in Oklahoma City lured me to the Sooner State.
Are you keeping up? We're not done.
OKC was home and still feels like home. As do Japan and Virginia. But my husband's job opportunity took us to St. Petersburg, Florida. We lived there for two months before the economy tanked in the state. Three years before the reality of not having full time jobs led me to come to Texas to work for my current employer. Back home again.
AARP recently transitioned into seven zones and I wasn't until I was talking to our new regional vice president that I realized, I'd lived in every state in our region, and had ties to Arizona.
I will always love Texas. But I know this is not where I will retire. We love Florida. We love the Pacific Northwest. We think about retiring in a foreign country or a tropical island. Every place is unique and has something great to offer.
Sometimes we feel guilty because our children seem to be following our pattern and moving to new states every few years. As we grow older the need for "roots" grows stronger.
But then, the wanderlust returns. Son, "mama was a rolling stone."
Despite the fact that I no longer make the majority of my living as a writer, inside me lurks the heart of a reporter and the soul of a writer.
Maybe that's why every now and then I'm struck with a need to explore. Whether it's stopping on a whim at a historic marker or simply searhing who such and such person is, or was, to have a park or highway or building named after them.
Driving back to Dallas recently after a particularly long and not-so-fruitful day of business meetings in Waco, I glanced over and noticed a building that looks like a flying saucer followed only a half-mile away by a neighborhood of domed buildings that look more like igloos in Alaska than a house in Texas.
I drove on and at the next exit, got off the highway and turned back. Some things need exploring.
My explorations have taken me interesting places. I've loved the quirky Wall Drug in South Dakota; scoured the shelfs of a country store in Missouri then gone to the counter for a bologna sandwich wrapped in paper that tasted like a gourmet meal when eaten on the front porch sitting in a rocking chair. I've run through the jungle with U.S. Marines in Okinawa, watched baby sea turtles hatch under the light of a full moon on the beach, spent the night in a converted school house in Missouri, and sat around a campfire with civil war re-enacters in Virginia. I'm not discovering new worlds, but each exploration has a story and for a writer - a story stretches the imagination and feeds the soul.
So I drove back and took the exit to Italy, Texas off Interstate 35 between Waco and Waxahachie. I found a safe spot to pull off and took some photos of the "flying saucer," which I've since learned is a monolithic dome. Dubbed "Starship Pegasus" by its original owner in 2005 and operated as a family arcade, the dome is now a private residence. Curious, I thought and drove further down to learn about the igloo community. I stopped when I saw a sign on a few small domes that said "open." They were models open for viewing. The rental office -- a much larger dome -- sits across the street.
This was supposed to be the wave of the future -- 30 years ago. The domes are made of concrete with a polyurethane insulation sprayed on the outside. It is hailed as a "green" alternative by the company owners who say it uses less energy to heat and cool. The homes in the area varied from a large "home" of many domes constructed in a Spanish stucco style. Another was a fairly large dome and boasted a large front porch, a dome patio and dome storage unit, along with a three-vehicle carport. Most though were the studio or one-bedroom models that in reality were a little too small for me. My favorite was the grain storage grouping painted to look like a caterpillar. Domes can certainly be fun.
I got back in my car with a little more knowledge and something to think about beside the stress of a long day at work. I likely will never live in a monolithic dome, but if I ever see one in another part of the world, I'll know it's not an igloo.
I might feel an urge to explore on my next road trip across Texas. I'll let you know what I learn.
I've been spending much of my time this past month recruiting and meeting with potential volunteers to help with AARP's work in Texas.
I wish I could say that I have a really phenomenal method for recruitment, but my methods are similar to casting a net into the ocean. I send emails and mail postcards, then cross my fingers.
Occasionally, I'll hear nothing. Sometimes I'll get a hundred responses and then the process of calling and meeting begins.
As I finish yet another round of interviews, I'm overwhelmed by the quality and talented pool of people who respond. Retired doctors, parents who have raised their children, business owners, accountants, educators...the list of talent and experience is long. They want to give us their time -- for free.
This time the responses have been a little different. Almost 99.9 percent of those who raised their hand to volunteer are still in the work force. They don't want to wait until they reach retirement age to become passionate about improving their communities.
Without hesitation, the majority of people who sign up to be volunteers say they want to "make a difference." They recognize the impact and power of working on the grass roots level to raise awareness and educate others about issues being debated in the state and U.S. Capitols. And, even though many have never knocked on a lawmaker's door to discuss these issues our new volunteers embrace the challenge. They absorb the training and messaging provided and take time to learn even more on their own. They rise to the challenge.
People who volunteer give more than their time. They share their passion, their knowledge, their talents and their heart. One thing AARP -- long term and new -- have in common is the desire to make a difference and the belief that one person can make that difference. Because of that, I often find most are involved in other organizations or their church as volunteers. I'm lucky and honored when they choose to share some of their time with us.
In the past four years that I've worked with AARP, volunteers have made me laugh and cry and they've inspired me.
I'll continue to be amazed at the wonderful people this job allows me to work with and meet on a daily basis. To quote a current AARP commercial, "When I grow up..." I want to be just like our volunteers.
My husband and I consider ourselves among the fortunate of Americans. We've always had health insurance, even during periods of umemployment. One of his benefits from a lifetime career with the military - we can buy insurance from Tricare. It's low-cost, affordable and has always provided us with good doctors and good care.
The biggest problem with Tricare is that like most managed care plans, there's the physicians within the system, and those outside - which means we pay more in co-pays, deductibles etc. So, we've moved and now have to find a new "primary care manager."
We go to the user-friendly Tricare web site and plug in our zip code. Unlike the handy-dandy star rating hotels get beside their name when you search for a place to stay, doctors listed on insurance web sites have no star rating. Over the years, we've devised our own system. I prefer female, but occasionally will let my husband have his way and find a male physician. Location and proximity to home is important, guessing that the majority of the time when we'll need to travel to the doctor's office will be when we're sick, we know we don't want to have to drive across the metro for an office visit.
Then, I call the office. Does he/she take new patients? How long does it take to get into see the doctor if I'm really sick? I ask about partnerships and hospital affiliations etc. This call also lets us know about how friendly and seemingly organized the staff is -- an important factor considering that you'll spend more time with the office staff than you will the actual doctor.
Enter Crazy Doc. He seemed ok in print. Graduated from a good medical school, licensed, couldn't find any immediate complaints online. Staff seemed ok. So I made an appointment and off I go to see the new doctor. I had a legitimate complaint. I seem to be acquiring more and more food allergies and wanted to get to the bottom of this. I had just had a physical a few months ago and everything checked out great, so I wasn't worried about my blood pressure, sugar levels etc.
I get to the doctor's office and notice I'm the only one waiting. Good sign, that means it's a short wait. I was wrong. I can hear a doctor -- or whom I think is a doctor -- in the back talking to a patient. Hmmm. A well-dressed woman comes into the doctor's office. She's with ABC pharmaceuticals and wants to meet with the doctor. She's informed the doctor only meets with pharmaceutical reps during certain days at lunch.
"Do you have a budget for lunch?" the receptionist asks, unabashedly.
She does, so they settle on a date and the receptionist kindly gives her a couple of suggestions for the food.
Wow. That's brash. Deduct some points for staff behavior.
I see a patient leave, and soon I'm called to the back.
I don't wait long before the doctor comes into the room. He's a big, bulking man. He's dressed in a rumpled white coat that looks two sizes too small. He looks over my chart and asks me why I'm here.
You get headaches?
Well, yes...but I'm under stress at work, so I just take aspirin and deal with it. That's not why I'm here...
So how tall are you?
I tell him.
How much do you weigh?
I tell him.
He repeats it, adding 10 pounds.
No, I correct. him. Look, I know I'm overweight, obese, I'm working on it, ok?
Working on being obese?
No, working on losing weight...
This conversation persisted for more than an hour. He didn't want to talk about my allergies, insisted I had high blood pressure, then looked at my chart and said it must be wrong. He went on to push me about lap-band surgery. I told him, no, I know I need to lose weight, I'll do it. He kept on. I remembered the lunch deal and then wondered how much he was getting to send patients on to the surgeon for lap-band surgery.
I got a headache, and put my hands to my temple, closing my eyes.
You have a headache?
Yes, you gave it to me. I need to go, do you want to talk about my allergy problem?
He changed the subject.
I got annoyed and told him I had to leave for work.
Did I mention that when he actually talked to me, he closed his eyes throughout most of the conversation?
I'm looking for a new doctor now. And, I still don't know why all of a sudden I'm allergic to food I've always eaten like fish, cantaloupe, eggplant, kiwi etc.
We could have called Pizza Hut or Papa John's, but "pizza night" is much more fun when you create your own delicacy.
Ask all three granddaughters what they want when we do order out, and they all say "pepperoni" or "cheese". Give them their own ingredients to choose from and they get creative and their own individuality shines through.
G1 - She chose marinara, cheese and loaded the pizza with sweet banana peppers, meat and olives.
G2 - She created a work of art. On top of layers of marinara, cheese and meet, she used red and green bell peppers to form a flower.
G-3 - In typical 4-year-old fashion, she had a little help with the sauce and cheese. Then she used olives to create a smiley face on top of her pizza.
While the pizza was cooking, they gobbled up the raw vegetables and cheese that they had not put on their pizzas.
The pizza? Obviously delicious. There were no leftovers.