Category Archives: life improvement

Where Have I Been???

Standard

blog-where-have-you-been-all-my-life

“Sometimes the person who’s been there for everyone else needs to be there for herself.” S. Kim Henson

I’m funniest in the shower, like this morning. I asked myself a slightly revised question from the movie Sabrina, and in the same tone William Holden asked it of Audrey Hepburn, “Where have I been all my life?”

I laughed, and then, giving it a second thought, genuinely asked it out loud, “Where have I been all my life?”

By the time I wrapped myself in a towel, I sounded annoyed, “Where have I been all my life?”

An hour later, I scrolled through Christmas photos on my phone and found the one I shared above of my three-year-old granddaughter. Her self-studying picture reminded me I hadn’t answered my question, and to answer it gently.

A friend’s suggestion to evaluate my life in seven-year scenes, or thereabouts, seemed a good idea for coming up with an account of where I’ve been. Aside from specifics, maybe you’ll relate.

I spent the first eight years or so of my life – Scene One – growing up on military bases in New York. Mom disliked being away from her family in South Carolina, which meant Dad tried appeasing her until he could get her back to the South. Homesick wasn’t all that was wrong, so I set out at a very young age to figure out and fix us.

I confused a playful childhood with child labor – trying to be silly enough, cute enough, and obedient enough to give Mom and Dad reasons to lighten up, laugh, and be happy in place of her crying and him covering his pain with anger.

Dad was stationed in Vietnam the first year of Scene Two, around the time I turned nine. He moved Mom, my brother, and me to Mom’s childhood home in South Carolina, which also meant being moved in with my great aunt who raised my mom. I cherished Aunt Viola, but I think Dad felt differently. When he returned to the states, he bought a motel in a nearby resort town and lived there seven, then eight, and finally nine months out of every year.

By then, I was hiding out because we weren’t normal anymore. We no longer had a dad, a mom, and siblings living together while Dad worked 9 to 5. Being “not normal anymore” also meant my mentally ill uncle moved in and out of my great aunt’s house, so he lived with us on and off. His disturbing behavior left behind even more to hide.

During Scene Three, I graduated from high school, chose a local college since I was too anxious to move away, and attached myself to my future husband to help me escape the house I wouldn’t leave. We eloped at age 20. Mom gifted us baby presents because she was certain I’d run off to get married because I’d gotten pregnant. Our first child was born five years later.

I ran, although uncertain where I was headed. In retrospect, I was making a run for the metaphorical white picket fence, a place where I convinced myself I’d feel loved enough, taken care of enough, and safe enough.

For the next 28 years, the next four scenes of my life, I moved back to my hometown to live close by my parents who I eventually distanced myself from. I made up a fairytale marriage. I birthed and raised two children (who, by the way, are my two accomplishments that are “enough”). I worked determinedly and went back to school for degrees to teach, counsel, supervise, and write so as to increase my income and my self-worth, and to prove myself to people who weren’t paying much attention. I chose some wrong friends who made me feel important for the same “wrong” reason I picked them – their prominence, not their praiseworthiness. Most of my actions were okay, but my motives, well, not so much. I did a lot of what I did in hopes that I’d earn enough, buy enough, elevate myself enough, help enough, be seen enough, be needed enough, accomplish enough to ultimately persuade myself I was enough.

I immersed myself in other people’s scenes so I wouldn’t have to engage in my own conflicted ones. I lost myself in their lives because I wasn’t sure how to get my own.

It wasn’t until my most recent scene, preceded by Dad’s death and when I was coming up on 50, that I began showing up the way I believe we’re supposed to – for me, for my life’s purpose, and for my God. I stepped back from being confused, hiding, running, and immersing myself in others. I’m excited you’re still reading because this is the scene with the hashtags, the ones that help us focus on ourselves. #selfcaringin2017 #gettingyourownlife #whilelovingthepeopleinit

But first, before I worked my way up to wondering Where have I been all my life?, I wondered where all these people, places, and things in my life came from. At half-a-century-old (that’ll get your attention), I was no longer able to disregard uncomfortable questions that kept surfacing.

questions-1922477_960_720

Questions like …

Why am I living in this big house? In this town? Why do I do for others what they can and should do for themselves? Why do I spend time with people I discern aren’t friends or even kind, for that matter? Why’d I spend money on that? Why do I tolerate disrespect? Lying? Others calling me crazy when they’re the ones driving me there? Why don’t I feel emotionally safe? Why don’t I fit in at church? Any church? Ever? Why do I rise to others’ expectations, but not my own? Why am I avoiding the gym? Why do I sidestep genuine friendships? Why am I procrastinating when productivity makes me feel good? Why don’t I pick up the phone when I need someone? Why don’t I like to cook? Why do I make writing difficult? Why am I eating a third Reese Cup?

Nine years of “cleaning house,” sometimes literally like the time we downsized from 4,000 to 1,000 square feet, and I’m finally asking the foundational question that undergirds the rest, “Where have I been all my life?”

 … and how appropriate for it to pop into my head at the start of 2017, the year I’ve committed to self-care … and how appropriate during a shower because water is a big part of my self-care.

shield-1784661_960_720

 So, where have I been all my life? Answer the question, already.

I’m where most of us are right now, no matter our ages – I’m right here (like on the map in a shopping center: “You are here”) and doing all I can to make my story better. Aren’t we all? Isn’t “being better” what most of us attempt daily in our lives? We try to look younger, eat healthier, get wealthier, promote louder, work harder, act calmer, help further, workout longer, treat others kinder, connect deeper, pray profounder, feel stronger, and all so we’ll be better.

We just want to “arrive,” and though arriving is impossible this side of heaven, I believe one inroad to being better is self-care. I hope you’re with me since it’s easier to get better together. #selfcaringin2017

In This Together,
Kim

I’m inviting you back next week to read about acceptance and tolerance. #selfcaring2017 #whilelovingthepeopleinit

Advertisements

One Foot On a Banana Peel, the Other at Kentucky Fried Chicken (a post about answering our calling at the age we are)

Standard

“The days you work are the best days.” Georgia O’Keeffe

Four blog posts ago, I wrote “Choose Well” about sitting still so as not to miss the magic. This week’s post is about working, and for the same reason … so we don’t miss the magic.

A phone conversation gave me the idea for this post when a friend almost half my age said, “I’m afraid I’m going to be in my 40s, look back, and realize I haven’t accomplished my goals.”

I wanted to interrupt, but I didn’t, and say, “And your problem is? You’re not even mid-thirties.”

They finished, “I’ll end up feeling like a failure.”

kfc-1574389_960_720

Before I gave into lecturing about accomplishments and age and having time on their side, my thoughts jumped to fried chicken. You know, the fowl that was fried up by Harland Sanders, the colonel of chicken and founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken at age 62 (after he retired and drew his first social security check). He may have something to say about purposely planning not to work and being without purpose at any age.

I wanted to lecture because, like my friend on the phone, I’m afraid of getting too old to accomplish what I want. If I’d started on my spiel, I would have been talking to myself. I’m happy Colonel Sanders stopped me, and even happier he’s a reminder we’re never too old to dream and live it. We’re never too old for magic. 

In the meantime and because I’ve been back and forth on this topic for several years, I met with my financial advisor to review our retirement plan and several options for moving forward with retirement faster. Even though friends who recently retired from teaching said they’d absolutely find something to do besides sit around, I figured my husband and I needed a plan in place for full retirement. I secretly held onto the idea of wanting a lot of time off until I wrote last week’s blog post, “Called to What?,” about finding work we love and working it to the end. We can’t be irresponsible about getting older, but it’ll undoubtedly make our “retirement” plan easier to save for if we don’t plan to retire.

old-people-616718_960_720

 

All that said … 

We’re rethinking everything. We want one week off a month for the rest of our lives, and, once in a while, two so we can travel. We want something to do, and we want to love it daily. We want purpose. We want to spend time with kids and grandkids, but not end up poster parents for codependency. We want to tap into creativity and maybe tap dance. Wait, I meant line dance. We want to continue most of what we’re doing now. I want to write. John wants to work on our houses.

A friend’s comment on last week’s blog post confirmed what we’d already envisioned for our lives (minus having a baby), but we started changing it up the more often clerks gave us senior discounts and the more often we thought about retirement looming. Sybil wrote, “The Bible does not use the word retire. Moses was 80 going strong. Sarah was 100, giving birth. Watch out world, there is a generation of great people wanting to fill their passions.”

Her comment reminded me of one of the quotes I shared last week. It’s by Howard Thurman, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

The world needs us to come alive before we retire and die. Once we’ve come alive, there’ll be no time to retire. 

Writer Richard Feloni put together an article about “People Who Became Successful After Age 40.” I thought it’d be fun and inspiring to share some of the personalities he wrote about.

Fun & Inspiring 

Jack Weil founded a popular cowboy brand, Rockmount Ranch Wear, and stayed its CEO until he died at age 107.

Rodney Dangerfield’s break as a comedian didn’t happen until he appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show at age 46.

Julia Child wrote her first cookbook that launched her career as a celebrity chef when she was 50.

Ray Kroc was a milkshake device salesman before buying McDonald’s at age 52 and making it into the world’s biggest fast-food franchise.

old-1553877_960_720

Vera Wang didn’t get started as a designer until she was 40. Gary Heavin was the same age when he opened the first Curves fitness center. Henry Ford was 45 when he created the Model T. My two favorites on the list are Laura Ingalls Wilder who published the first of her Little House books at age 65 and Grandma Moses who started her painting career at 78. Who is your favorite?

#GettingYourOwnLife can happen at any age, and it doesn’t have to be a fancy career like Vera Wang’s or a moneymaker like McDonald’s. It just needs to be work that gives us purpose. We can’t afford to get tired and retire before we figure it out, before we find our magic.

Where are you headed besides retirement?

In This Together,
Kim

I’m not sure it’s accurate about Colonel Sanders receiving his social security check, but I included it just in case it is since it makes a great story.

Thanks for the pics, Pixabay.com.

When’s It Going To Be My Turn? (Getting Your Own Life while Loving the People in It)

Standard

background-681969_640

“Healing is a small and ordinary and very burnt thing. And it’s one thing and one thing only: it’s doing what you have to do.” Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed, author of the memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, had to hike for months to get her own life. I have to write blog posts and a manuscript to get mine. It’s that simple and it’s that hard.

I blogged about my qualifications to write relationship posts in 2016 (What Qualifies Me? (writing about relationships)), knowing how unqualified I feel to write the second part of this year’s focus – getting your own life.

Mark Twain said, “Write what you know.” An unknown author said, “Teach what you want to learn.”

I’m combining the two quotes. I know I’d like to learn how to get my own life.

I also know my husband and kids want me to learn. However, they are three of my biggest distractors, but that’s because of me, not them.

Lots of events happen to bring us to the point of willingness. One of those things for me was a friend’s question, “When’s it going to be my turn?”

Anytime her husband, her three adult children, or her extended family and friends need something or they have anything go wrong, she’s on their speed dial. She said, “I feel overwhelmed by their needs and confused about when to help and when to say, ‘No.’ There’s plenty I’d like to do, but when would I ever have time or energy after dealing with them and their lives.”

I understood.

I would let the mailman derail my plans if he decided to tell me about his bad day. I’m not sure it’s because I’m compassionate. I think it’s more because I’m a coward. I am afraid to live my life.

I hated understanding. 

I wanted to scream at her, “Why don’t you stop enabling everyone you know and get on with your life? That’s what would be most helpful to you and to your family and friends … seeing you live your life.”

Like Carl Gustav Jung said, “Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.”

Women tend to attend to others. It’s our maternal instinct whether we have children or not. Sometimes we want to help. Sometimes we’re expected to help. Sometimes we don’t know better; we don’t know we have choices.

I lived up to my title that I was voted in high school as “Most Dependable.” It’s not dependable, though, to throw up in the parking lot outside the door to my kindergarten classroom because I’m concerned about letting down my students. I ended up driving back home that morning feeling dizzier and weaker than on my way to school.

I lived this way for years. Stopping the insanity of being overly responsible for others was an initial step to getting my own life, but it wasn’t the end-all. Just because I stayed home when I was sick didn’t mean I was living my life.

Since the start of my writing career, I’ve watched myself like I imagine you’d watch yourself during an out-of-body experience. If my behavior weren’t so maddening, it’d be comical because of all the ways I distract myself from writing my manuscript.

After my daughter got engaged, I misinterpreted her busyness and fewer phone calls as meaning she wanted to plan her wedding without me. I felt left out. Who can write through these kinds of emotions?

When we straightened out our misunderstanding, we had a lot of wedding planning to catch up on. Who can write when overwhelmed with details?

When she got pregnant, she lived four and a half hours away. We agreed that I’d try to be there when the baby was born. When she got pregnant again, it was good that she had moved closer because my job this time around was taking care of their little one while she and her husband were at the birthing center. Who can write with deadlines more important than their own?

Our son’s wedding was the same year as our second grandchild’s birth. Who can write with this much going on?

My husband had two health scares the same year. He’s fine, but there were months of tests and stress. Who can write under this kind of pressure?

As significant as was each of these events, an abundant number of women live their lives and live out their purposes under circumstances as special, busy, and weighty. Being distracted from our lives doesn’t mean we love and honor others more. It means we love and honor ourselves less than we should.

Making my way back to my blog to write about distractions is an attempt at getting my own life and being more qualified to help others do the same.

What are you distracted by? What are you distracted from? What’s the first step you can take to getting your own life?

In This Together,
Kim

Image from Pixabay.com.

Self-Acceptance and the Stubbed Toe

Standard
"Self-acceptance is my refusal to be in an adversarial relationship to myself." Nathaniel Brand, Artwork used by permission from Cindy DeLuz

“Self-acceptance is my refusal to be in an adversarial relationship to myself.”
Nathaniel Brand (Artwork by Cindy DeLuz)

“I took off all my clothes and stood in front of a full-length mirror. I told myself, ‘You’re going to stand here until you love what you see.’ It took time, but I did it. I walked away with some self-acceptance.

This quote is from an overweight friend who was at her wit’s end.

I thought of her just after I stubbed my toe in a frenzy to make our bed. My husband was on his way home for lunch. Instead of working that morning, I played on Facebook.

My little secret. Even though his iPhone notifies him each time I post, and hundreds of friends view my activity. Not to mention, there is a committee in my head that keeps up day-to-day.

“On Facebook again? Really? It’s all the time, isn’t it?

“Nothing unusual, of course. You promise yourself everyday to set limits, but you don’t.”

“No self control whatsoever.”

“What a marvelous day.”

Huh? Where’d that come from?

I’m not certain what brought my friend’s story to mind, or why my thoughts changed for the better. Maybe the pain in my foot brought to focus how much pain I inflict on myself emotionally. Maybe it was like a good talking-to.

A wake-up call, of sorts. 

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – I’d stub my toe daily for a bit of loving reflection and self-acceptance.  How about you?

On the side: My friend and I believe her time in front of the mirror contributes to her ongoing weight loss.

Visit Cindy DeLuz’s website for more great art.

Below the Surface, yards and life require a bit of digging

Standard

“Instant gratification takes too long.”
Carrie Fisher

When there’s not enough time for an overhaul during yard work, my husband and I neaten the flowerbeds and around the edge of the lawn with the weed eater.

We chop the tops off dollar weed, crabgrass and Japanese clover till it’s ground level and barely noticeable.

It’s an instant gratification way to weed a lawn and for the moment, it’s good enough.

That’s until three days later, rain or not, and the weeds are green, healthy, and just about as tall as the weed eater that cut them.

Looking at a yard overtaken by everything but grass reminds me quick-and-easy is often not the best way to confront a lawn, nor life’s challenges.

I may want to take a weed eater to an unpleasant character trait, so it’s resolved by late afternoon, only to have it show up again within days.

Which is your preference? Cleaning up just the surface or digging in?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Well-kept lawns and lives require a certain amount of digging in and doing it right.

No Wonder: Head or Heart … which one decides?

Standard

“The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness, call it intuition or what you will, and the solution comes to you and you don’t know how or why.” Albert Einstein

“We bought this one because it felt right,” sounded like a lame explanation for why my husband and I downsized to a dilapidated fixer-upper instead of taking time to find more space at a lower price.

Our friend looked confused, and no wonder. Our decision was far from sensible.

Not sensible like the time we returned to school simultaneously, when our children were preschoolers, to earn our teaching certificates.

Not sensible like when I quit my career in education with no job in sight.

Not sensible like the time my husband started a home improvement business in a down-turning economy.

However, good outcomes came from each illogical decision, like travel time with our kids, a writing career beyond what I imagined, and a successful renovation and remodeling business.

There were plenty of times we also wondered if we were crazy, but we stuck with our decision to choose more often with our hearts than with our heads.

So far, so good.

Please share your heart stories. I love hearing from you.

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Sometimes we trade wonder for logic, and no wonder, since there’s no proof God is logical.

On the side: The photos of our home before and after.

47091_1453060403685_717922_n

People Pleaser on the Loose

Standard

“Yes.” “Yes.” “Yes.”
The Dog

Church seemed an unlikely place over which to have a breakdown, but nonetheless, that’s the place that prompted it.

My church friends also helped end my severe bout with run-on yeses.

Our family participated in three, four, sometimes more events each week. In fact, every single church-related activity I was asked to join, attend and lead, I did.

I said “yes” to every single one.

Eventually, I got up the courage to stop overdoing.

So, when a woman from church approached me about helping with our youth group on Wednesday evenings, I told her I couldn’t fit another thing into my hectic schedule. I explained the dilemma of trying to squeeze youth group responsibilities in between teaching kindergarten, mothering our two young children, planning and instructing four-year-old Sunday School classes, and attending circle meetings twice monthly.

Did I mention homework, supper and baths?

“It’s a good thing everyone doesn’t feel the way you do, or we wouldn’t have a youth program,” she said. 

“If everyone feels like me, we shouldn’t have a youth program,” was all I could think to say. 

My response was sincere, but still, by the time I walked through the front door of our house that evening, I reeled, cried and carried on like I killed one of the youth, instead of simply saying I wasn’t available to teach them. I pitched a fit about the woman’s  expectation, her accusation, and my need to please her. My need to please everyone.

Seems it was that full-blown hissy fit that put saying “no” into perspective and made it okay, although I still want everyone to like my answer. 

What’s your no factor? Is it easy to say “no” or does it seem more like a four letter word?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – God, help me to to more easily say “no” to others when that’s the right answer, even if they don’t like it, so I have time for me and you.

On the side: Proverbs 31 Ministries blog post, People Pleasing by Lisa TerKeurst.

Mac and Me: A Quality Relationship

Standard

“We think the Mac will sell zillions, but we didn’t build the Mac for anybody else. We built it for ourselves.”
Steve Jobs

I am back after an episode with my crashing computer, a frenzy over “What to do? What to do?”,  and the battle of “I want to keep my Dell so make it work.”

But my Dell didn’t work, and it had no plans to ever work again, so I purchased a MacBook Pro. It took more than a week to get comfortable. I had to get acquainted with Mac.

Relationships take time, you know.

Our son encouraged me to go with a PC, saying MacBook Pro was too different from the laptop I owned.

My husband agreed that I’d probably be frustrated with an Apple product, although I think he was anticipating his own frustration over having to train me.

I’m just now emerging from the Dark Ages of flip phones and a seven-year-old computer.

Our daughter just said, “Nuh-uh, you didn’t get a Mac?”

Truth is, I was a bit surprised myself.

The purchase was pricier than the around-$700 we set out to spend. What sold me, though, was listening to satisfied and virus-free Apple users (including our sales guy), their enthusiasm over quality and graphics, and the laptop’s compatibility for writers.

My husband’s pep talk helped also. He pulled me to one side and said, “You need a Mac for your work, and you deserve it.”

What upgrade is waiting for you? You know, the one you deserve, but don’t quite think you do?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – I believe we all deserve good stuff, even though I often get hung up on that word. We deserve quality relationships with family and friends. We deserve quality relationships with our career, with our home, with our car and, yes, even with our laptop.

On the lighter side: I recently added the photo to this post. I’m proud to say I took it with my up-to-date Apple iPhone.

Inside Job (are you talking about happiness?)

Standard
“Happiness is an inside job” William Arthur Ward, Artwork used by permission from Cindy DeLuz

“Happiness is an inside job”
William Arthur Ward (Artwork by Cindy DeLuz)

“I wish your parents visited more often. I like how you keep the house when they’re around,” said our daughter’s fiancé.

When she told me about their conversation, she said, “I wish that also. It’s because I’m trying to impress you. I’m trying to convince you I’m grown up.”

We thought she lived an orderly life all the time. Instead, when we weren’t around, she reverted back to ways she didn’t like.

I wanted to help, but believing in ourselves and becoming who we want to be is always an inside job.

Even when we fool others, we eventually have to face our choices. Since that conversation, I’ve watched our daughter keep a clean house because she wants to.

The same goes for most of life.

I write for an editor who likes much of what I submit and usually prints it as-is. For a while, I convinced myself that was the mark of a successful freelance writer – an editor with distinguished credits who valued my work. But the first time she didn’t like an article, I felt shaken. She was right – the story needed a rewrite.

The bigger lesson, though, came when I rethought who and what was driving my career.

Why do you do what you do? Are you driven by others or is your happiness an inside job?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Other’s opinions can enlighten and help us along our journey. The truth is, however, our talents and our lives are fully realized when we believe in ourselves whether anyone else does or not. An inside job.

On the side: For more artwork, check out An Artsy Chick by Cindy DeLuz.

Play on Saturday

Standard

“Play keeps us vital and alive. It gives us an enthusiasm for life that is irreplaceable. Without it, life just doesn’t taste good.” Lucia Capocchione

Play on Saturday with Jeanie.

It was an odd entry on my to-do list.

The list that runs down the length of my desk. Onto the floor. Curls past my office door and into the hallway.

It’s long.

Just then, while thinking about the length of my list, I remembered that Jeanie and I planned to attend a play at the community theater on Saturday evening. How could I forget between the five articles due next week, six classes I had scheduled to teach around the same time, and fitting in conferences and observations with interns?

Play. Who has the time?

My husband and I discussed needing more playtime just last week, so it shouldn’t surprise me the word began showing up serendipitously.

We’ve justified all work and no play for years, and understandably since our jobs are fun. We both agree we’re grateful to get up every morning and do what we love. We’d do most of it for free if we didn’t need money to survive.

Still, we came to the same conclusion, “We need to play more often.”

The kind of play that does not include enjoying research for a blog post. Play that does not involve mowing the lawn because I like the smell of fresh-cut grass. Neither is it the kind of play that has us tiling a bathroom floor because we can’t wait to see the finished product.

Play.

Unproductive in light of my to-do list. Unrelated to any of my three jobs. Earns no money and may even spend a few dollars. Not allowed to improve our house, our budget, our landscaping, or my weight.

Play. Just for fun.

What do you do, just for the fun of it?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – It was refreshing to see the word “play” on my to-do list, and I’m delighted to see it showing up more often in my life.