Cleaning and the Spark of Joy

Downsizing to a New Home? Think Delightful, Not Depressing

Cleaning, joyful? There is a connection says Marie Kondo, whose New York Times best seller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up provides those of us who want to declutter with a method she has tested and believes in. I agree with Kondo on many of her basic principles: life is more enjoyable when it is not full of clutter. That applies to your home, your office and your car.

CLEANING WHEN A KID

And like Kondo, who at the age of five found herself tidying her parents’ house, I was straightening rugs at the age of two and have always enjoyed cleaning and organizing over grocery shopping and cooking. My blog post, The Art of Cleaning with Some Zen Help, recommends that cleaning involve the five senses, that it increase love for your rooms and that to make it even more fun you should collect found or purchased items to ADD to your decor once the dusting and vacuuming is done. Plus if you can involve your partner in the process, research shows that men who help with cleaning have more and better sex. (Apologies to my male readers if you already are the chief housekeeper.)

THE FANATIC ORGANIZER

But back to Marie Kondo. When she was fifteen, she read every book she could find on organizing cabinets, shelving, drawers. Then she began to apply some of these concepts, gradually perfecting a process of tidying up that is the message of her book. She calls herself A FANATIC ORGANIZER, but whether you follow all of her ideas or just sample some, the basic KONMARI METHOD is well worth considering.

THE KONMARI METHOD

Here is the first principle which Kondo shared on a recent You Tube:

TIDY IN ONE SHOT AS QUICKLY AND COMPLETELY AS POSSIBLE. But beware. You will need time to do this, because Kondo suggests that if it’s clothing you are working with or books–that you take every article of clothing, every book, and pile it all in one location. This helps you realize how much clutter you have in your life. Underlying her principle of sorting is that once you have divested yourself of things that you really don’t care about, there is less to wash and iron, or in case of objects–dust and store. Less becomes more.

Once you have categorized everything and it is all in piles, you sort. Some you keep some you don’t. But here’s where according to Kondo, the method is magical. You touch each item and wait for it to communicate to you. How does your body feel when holding this item? Do you feel down–your entire body responding negatively to this item? Or DOES IT SPARK JOY? That’s the key. If it sparks joy, it’s a keeper. And Kondo acknowledges that you might be skeptical. But she believes in her method saying IT WORKS. Try it! 

Still skeptical? This next part of Kondo’s process makes some sense to me, because as you apply the above technique, you will learn how your body responds. And in order to learn that, Kondo provides the order in which she suggests you sort and toss. (it’s below) Follow this order and you are more likely to respond to the DOES IT SPARK JOY concept.

Technique   Order Of Tidying

Clothes first; Books second; Documents third; Miscellaneous items fourth and

finally Mementos.

Why mementos last? Because over time your body will learn how to respond to an item, and in her mind, clothing and books won’t immediately spark joy. But as you learn about how you are responding, when you get to mementos, like a photo of your grandmother–you will understand what the spark of joy is. You will feel it. That part makes sense to me, except that I am probably in love with some of my books too. But Kondo states that mementos stop you from organizing. You can’t work quickly when sorting them, because you are taken back in time with a photo or souvenir or a work of art. I agree again. I wrote about that last week in my blog post Adjusting to New Developments–What Photos Mean to Us.

MARIE KONDO SPECIFICS 

There definitely is a little fanaticism involved in Kondo’s work. I cannot fold a contour sheet to save my life. I know Martha Stewart can, but mine always ends up in a messy bunch that I somehow shove to the back of the linen closet. Not Kondo. She has methods for folding many clothing and household items. Check out visuals here: KONMARI METHOD on Pinterest. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Kondo’s book has arrived at the right time. A recent article in TIME MAGAZINE, Are You on the Verge of a Clutter Crisis, addressed again the issue of over-buying, that many of us have too much stuff, that garages and basements are crowded with things we will never use again and that an over-abundance of clutter just adds stress to our lives.

Even before I made a major move from a four bedroom, two car garage, basement and roomy shed house to a smaller footprint, I always had a large cardboard box in my basement for household items to be given away. Then four to five times a year I made a trip to the Disabled American Vets and donated my items. I made lists and deducted my offerings at tax time. It worked for everybody, but especially me–it kept the clutter down. My daughter Carrie told me about Kondo’s book. She’s intrigued and using some of her organizing principles. So I just had to share with you. After our move, I’ve done all the downsizing I need to do for quite a while, but I’m going to keep that “spark of joy” in mind!!

Cleaning and the Spark of Joy

How Marie Kondo organizes a drawer.

Thanks to Marie Kondo and Google Images  

 

Adjusting to New Developments: What Photos Mean to Us

Adjusting to New Developments: What Photos Mean to Us

Ah, so seventies. Would I have shared? It means much to me, memories of writing.

Photos of the meal you are eating, the dress you might want to buy, the garbage cans left out on a neighbors’ driveway, a car crash on your street, the rash developing on your face–all examples of photos that will probably be deleted from your phone after they have fulfilled their purpose. Because in our age, the ability to carry a camera has changed the way we think about photos and use them. It’s a new development in our society. But is it always a good thing?

A BOOK ABOUT FACEBOOK PHOTOS and MORE

In his new book, TERMS OF SERVICE, Jacob Silverman, referred to as a “thoughtful critic of our evolving digital lifestyles,” points out the negatives (excuse the pun) in our picture-snapping culture. “Photos become less about memorializing a moment than communicating the reality of that moment to others.” He develops this idea by claiming that often the purpose of the picture is not to live in the moment, capture the moment, but to deal with the anxiety we may feel that others are doing things more interesting and more fulfilling than we are-at that same moment. The photo has entered into some timeless competition. He claims that some party goers forget about experiencing fun as they angle to get into a Facebook Photo that tells people YES, I’M HAVING FUN. LOOK AT ME!

I do find it interesting that in this current time (which probably will become even more frenetic and not go away) we feel the need NOT ONLY to send photos of all that we do, BUT ALSO to go somewhere and practice MINDFULNESS, listen to our breathing, so we can learn to live in the moment. REALLY? How ironic.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PHOTO

So let’s all take a step backward, because before all of THIS, the constant need to capture an action or a prop in time and shout it to the world–there was the mind, the thought. Let’s try to sort it out this way:

1. The purpose of a photo, of taking a picture was to PRESERVE a human’s image so we would know that person and remember them. Previously, those with wealth sat for a portrait painted by either a really good artist or an itinerant one–but in any case the job got done and so we know what Elizabeth the First of England supposedly looked like as well as George Washington etc. You get the picture. (oops, pun)

2. The purpose of a photo also became its ability to record history. Yes, there are paintings of battles, coronations, but they took months. Photographs was more immediate and allowed for a variety of views. Thus we have Mathew B. Brady (May 18, 1822 – January 15, 1896) a photo-journalist, one of the first American photographers, whose name became synonymous with photos of the Civil War.

3. As the decades progressed, the daguerreotype and the tintype gave way to a process where a dry gel on paper, film, replaced the photographic plate so a photographer could take photos without the clumsy boxes of plates and the toxic chemical previously needed. Film was developed by George Eastman, of Rochester, New York, in 1884. As early as 1888, Eastman’s Kodak camera was available to consumers. His slogan: “You press the button, we do the rest.” By 1901 the public could take photos using the famous Kodak Brownie, a great little camera that took pretty decent photos. ( I owned one once.)

4. But that was truly the beginning–because now you didn’t need to hire someone to paint your portrait. Families framed photographs and hung them on the walls of their homes to honor grandparents and remember weddings and births or to help the aching heart that missed those who were miles away. In some cultures, people even took photos of their loved ones lying in coffins surrounded by flowers. But it was all about remembering. It was all about preserving and honoring the moment–BEING IN THAT MOMENT.

A TALISMAN OF MEMORY – MINDFULNESS ANYONE?

In some ways, you could say that holding a photo of your sweetheart as a GI during World War II or glancing at one taped to your flight deck as a pilot during any conflict became a moment of mindfulness. The photo carried you away from the trauma of where you were and for brief moments you could be present to the person that you loved. Photos were and for some maybe still are a talisman of memory. Photos ignite thought.

But not so much any more. The ability to take so many photos and of things that are truly worthy of remembering and of things that you might forget about in 15 minutes–has changed our attitudes toward the photos themselves. We take a photo and delete. We worry about how we look–we probably always did, but film was costly and you didn’t SEE the photo until after it was developed. Photo phones changed that whole process and thus truly changed what picture-taking meant in the moment. Because it’s not a moment–it’s a photo-shopped or deleted moment until the right moment comes along.

THE POLAROID OR LET’S GET NAKED

And let’s not forget the Polaroid! It saved folks from the following scenario: you take your roll of film to the local drugstore to be developed and when you return for it, you have to meet with a manager and maybe even a policeman. (This happened to a friend of mine as recently as the 90’s. She took some photos of her children naked in the bathtub and too much anatomy was showing.)

But the Polaroid allowed people to take such photos–because they developed right there in your home. Now of course, the concept of privacy isn’t even on anyone’s radar and thus some young people have been labeled sex offenders because they were not aware of the dangers of clicking without thinking first. Those images could hardly fit into some nostalgia category or talisman of memory or thought. Again–change change change.

MY PHOTO HISTORY

I have taken photos forever or been extremely grateful to my husband who is a great photographer. But why? Because I love my family and want to remember them at all there amazing stages. Because I treasure all the homes I have been privileged to live in–from the one you saw in my post When I Was a Kid to the bigger footprints we have enjoyed. But I didn’t take these photos so I could put them somewhere so everyone would say WOW. (well, maybe they wouldn’t say that anyway)

And I think photos of family should be protected and treasured. I don’t think everyone needs to see them and I don’t believe that we are that protected online. Silverman would probably agree with me. Jacket copy on his book reads: Social networking is a staple of modern life, but its continued evolution is becoming increasingly detrimental to our lives. Shifts in communication, identity, and privacy are affecting us more than we realize or understand…(the books discusses) the identity-validating pleasures and perils of online visibility; our newly adopted view of daily life through the lens of what’s share-worthy; and the…(ability of ) social media platforms—Facebook, Google, Twitter, and more—to mine our personal data for advertising revenue…(is invading our privacy)

So I treasure my old photo albums which I have been keeping since my marriage. I can show our children photos of them at any age and during any vacation. Weddings and graduations are definitely preserved–for me, for my family. If I share online, I am judicious in what I share. And I do it infrequently. Because when I look at my photos–they mean something to me. They bring about mindfulness–they create thought. The photo leaps beyond the photo to the smells and sounds and feelings of that day, that moment.

What do your photos mean to you? As a dear and wonderful friend of mine once told me in her practical and knowing way: if your house catches on fire, grab your photos albums. Everything else can be replaced. Well people, I guess you better take your phones!

Adjusting to New Developments: What Photos Mean to Us

IRONY: I could bring this old photo to you, because of my IPhone

Thanks to Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

My QE II Obsession

Elizabeth-II-Mid-1550s My QE II Obsession

Did you obsess about someone in your childhood or teenage years? A person in that time before the internet that you idolized using posters, newspaper stories or color photos from a magazine on the newsstand? Names that come to mind: Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Audrey Hepburn, Natalie Wood, members of the Rolling Stones, Jim Morrison, Bruce Springsteen. Or it could have been a sports personality–tennis, baseball, football–the list would be endless.

My obsession started with a photograph and it led me in directions that fed my love of history, my desire to read, write and ultimately travel. What? Not possible. No childhood obsession could do all of that. Yes it could.

My QE II Obsession

June, 1953. I was just learning how to read.

When this issue of LIFE magazine appeared on the coffee table in our home, I asked my mother about the queen on the cover. All little girls know about princesses and queens from having read fairy tales. I knew about Cinderella and Snow White–but who was this lady? When my mother told me her name was Elizabeth, that sealed the deal. She had the same name as I did and that sent me on a long and fulfilling journey.

And if you are laughing at this — I get it. Being super-interested in someone, reading about them, cutting photos of them out of the newspapers and making a scrapbook with those photos–it’s all part of the obsession. Most of my peers waited a bit and then fell in love with Elvis (his first recordings occurred in the same year as the coronation above). I never cared about Elvis and maybe I should have as my rock and roll dancing ability was awful. But I knew my history.

Searching the library for books on QEII led me to books on Elizabeth the First who ruled England from 1558 to her death in 1603. The flood gates opened and I read about Henry VIII and the Tudors, Spanish and French royalty and the wars fought, won and lost. Of course the role of our independence from England, the settling of this new nation figured in my reading. And when traveling anywhere or looking at a map of the U.S. I could easily find the names of English people and places: Jamestown, New England, New York, Maryland, Elizabeth City, Virginia.

An amusing story accompanies this last. We were reading about the colonies in grade school American history and I remarked to my mother that Virginia was named after Elizabeth the First, the Virgin queen. “But she was no virgin,” I told my mother who stared at what she thought was her innocent daughter. And I was, truly innocent of sex and all its ramifications. What I meant was my meaning of “virgin” garnered from my Catholic upbringing and the Virgin Mary. To me the word meant good and I knew QEI had waged wars and hung folks. But the comment almost immediately led to “the sex talk.” Ah, more flood gates opening.

And what did I want for Christmas one year more than anything? This book (below), a 250 page work of black and white and some color plates of QEII and her family. This is one precious possession that my mother found in the Marshall Field book department. I was one joyful kid.

My QE II Obsession

Undoubted Queen, 250 pages of photos!

My QE II Obsession

Prince Charles and Princess Anne – the kind of photo I would cut from the newspaper and put in my scrapbook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course the next step after reading and researching was writing. I was in middle school when I wrote to the queen. I addressed the letter to Queen Elizabeth II, Buckingham Palace, London, England. Of course her picture was on the stamp I used–and the letter got there. But there was a long waiting period–and what had I written about? I am sure I was not alone in my request–I wanted to be Prince Charles’ pen pal. (Not so much today!!) I got a lovely reply on beautiful Buckingham Palace stationery which I wish I could share, but it was ruined in a flood in our basement along with all my scrapbooks. But I remember who wrote it: Lady Rose Baring. It was a form letter saying no, of course, but she signed the note. I found this on the internet years later: Rose Gwendolen Louisa McDonnell, courtier: born London 23 May 1909; Woman of the Bedchamber to the Queen 1953-73;… married 1933 Francis Baring (died 1940; two sons, one daughter); died Swindon 2 November 1993.

It is also quite possible that my QEII obsession led me to major in English in college and to become a secondary level teacher of English. There isn’t much distance between British history and English writers who have influenced American literature–we speak the same tongue, though it’s always amusing to draw comparisons between what the Brits and we call things, like boot for trunk and lift for elevator to name two common ones.

Eventually I got myself to the gates of Buckingham. This photo taken in 2012.

My QE II Obsession

I hope I’m not late for tea with the Queen.

Through me, my husband also became a lover of London and the English countryside despite his Irish heritage. He recently found ancestors that were born in England, so now he truly has some claim to the “green and pleasant land.”

 

 

My QE II Obsession

This plate commemorates the marriage of Charles and Diana.

Of course I got myself out of bed in the middle of the night to watch Prince Charles marry Diana Spencer. And the confusion and sadness that followed kept me checking on the Royal Family so that I have remembrances of Diana tucked away with my QEII books. And a plate that commemorates her marriage to Charles.

In the end I’m glad that I’m me and not some princess trying to live my life in the glare of publicity. I did meet a woman online who actually had a worse obsession. She wrote a book about her journey from the US to England in the hopes of marrying a prince. Her plot failed. But I am guessing that I am not alone–that there are others like me who got on the QEII journey because of curiosity and interest and stayed there. If you are one of those people, I would love to hear from you. I’ve met you in English gift shops as we purchase a memento of the royal family–something that we can afford, something that smacks of a long and amazing history.

Some More History: The Cullinan Diamond.

My QE II Obsession

Queen Elizabeth the First of England

Captain Frederick Wells, superintendent of Premier Mine, one of South Africa’s most productive mines, near Pretoria, found the Cullinan diamond, during his daily inspection of the mines, on 26 January 1905. During his rounds he saw a flash of light, reflected by the sun on the wall of the shaft. As he got closer, he could see a partially exposed crystal, embedded in the rock, however he initially believed it to be a shard of glass, placed by one of the miners as a practical joke. Using just his pocket knife he managed to release the diamond. At approximately 1 1⁄3 pounds (600 grams), 3 7⁄8 inches (98 mm) long, 2 1⁄4 inches (57 mm) wide and 2 5⁄8 inches (67 mm) high the diamond was twice the size of any diamond previously discovered. Wells immediately took it for examination.

The Cullinan was split and cut into 9 major stones and 96 smaller stones. Edward VII had the Cullinan I and Cullinan II set respectively into the Sceptre with the Cross and the Imperial State Crown, (England’s Crown Jewels) while the remainder of the seven larger stones and the 96 smaller brilliants remained in the possession of the Dutch diamond cutting firm of Messers I. J. Asscher of Amsterdam who had split and cut the Cullinan, until the South African Government bought these stones and the High Commissioner of the Union of South Africa presented them to Queen Mary on 28 June 1910. In the photo below, on her sash, Queen Mary is wearing Cullinan III and IV. When Queen Elizabeth traveled to Holland meet with the Asscher family, she referred to this incredible brooch as Grannie’s Chips.

Thanks to Wikipedia, Google Images, Life Magazine, John Havey

Do Married People Live Longer? & Do You Need These Vaccines?

Do Married People Live Longer?  &  Do You Need These Vaccines?

Companionship, understanding, physical comfort, confirmation—these are just some of the positive aspects of being married—and for Boomers, as the years fly by, that can mean being married for a long time. In the ‘70s when I was married, many of my close friends from high school and college were also married, and to date those marriages are still going strong. As a result, the members of these marriages have had few health issues. Is there a connection? Will we continue to live long and healthy lives?

Marriage Keeps A Couple Healthy

  • Peter Martin, professor of human development and family studies at Iowa State University says YES. “Marriage, if you stay married, is wonderful social support. Being married is a big factor in survivorship.” His research published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine revealed that if one of the partners develops a chronic disease, the presence of a partner is protective against premature death. The study also found that people who never married were twice as likely to die earlier than people in stable marriages.
  • Another study done in 2013 that examined 15,330 cardiac events found that married people for the most part had a better prognosis than single folks.
  • The presence of a partner often means someone observing health changes. Examples: finding a mole on a partner’s back that looks dark or uneven, discovering a breast lump or noting in your spouse a lack of energy, appetite, stamina, or some mental changes. These concerns contribute to early cancer detection and thus reduce the chance of death from cancer.
  • And as we age, the presence of a partner doubles our chances of “keeping it going.” A partner is there if we fall, if we forget to take medications, need assistance with a device that aids in walking or recovering from surgery. A partner is there to keep the conversation going and provide a more stimulating environment. And being touched—the presence of another human being—contribute to wanting to wake up each morning and simply live. All humans need some form of love and human contact.
  • One of the things that Martin stresses is the symbiosis in a marriage—both partners benefit from this mutual relationship. And because they do, their interest is to protect the marriage—thus they will more readily improve a diet if diagnosed with diabetes, exercise if the doctor tells them to, stimulate their brains with reading or puzzles—because they want to continue to be a vital part of the partnership. Martin says that this formation of good health habits often continues even after the death of one of the partners.

When A Marriage Isn’t Working

  • For those marriages that are not working out and yet the couple is still together, researchers have found increased stress hormones in both partners blood.
  • Stress increases the chance of inflammation in the body and inflammation is the perfect milieu for the development of disease.

Marriage Benefits a Man’s Health More Than A Woman’s  

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that this symbiosis in marriage benefits the health of the male partner more than the female. The Terman Life Cycle Study found that divorced women lived about as long as their married peers, but married men lived quite a bit longer than their divorced or remarried peers. When a woman loses her husband, she is often able to go on—in some cases because she is no longer caring for an ill husband there is less stress. And she is able to get social support from her female friends.

Broken-heart-syndrome

Finally, research has given a name to those couples who die within days of one another. Broken-heart syndrome, which medically is really stress-induced cardiomyopathy, can be caused by the loss of this person who has been your other-half for decades. Medically it’s probably not a heart attack, but rather many stress hormones that cause the heart to temporarily expand and thus its ability to pump becomes limited.

Vaccines: Are you immunocompromised, over 65, traveling, a gardener? If so read below and TALK TO YOUR CARE PROVIDER. 

To support a happy marriage and stay healthy, check out the following list of adult immunizations. There might be one on the list that you definitely need to consider getting. Talk to your doctor.

 

Do Married People Live Longer?  &  Do You Need These Vaccines?

Immunization Schedule from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (these are from 2014)

  1. Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) This vaccine has prevented meningitis and other systemic infections in children. If you are immunocompromised or have a high-risk medical condition, ask your physician about Hib.
  2. Hepatitis A Spread through the fecal-oral route through poor personal hygiene Hep A is a source of foodborne illness. This vaccine is indicated for: adults with chronic liver disease, people receiving clotting factors, men who have sex with men, and people traveling to countries with high rates of hepatitis A.
  3. Hepatitis B Spread through blood and body fluids, Hep B can lead to chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis and liver cancer. People with liver and kidney disease should have Hep B.
  4. Human papilloma virus (HPV) Though many adults are infected with one or more strains of HPV, often the immune system can clear the infection. Pap smears detect HPV. A small percentage of women with HPV can develop cervical cancer. Gardasil and Cervarix are two different vaccines. Talk to your doctor.
  5. Influenza  36,000 people in the U.S. die of influenza or its complications every year. Get a flu shot, especially if you are 65 or older.
  6. Meningococcal disease College students living in dormitories and adults without a spleen should be vaccinated.
  7. Measles, mumps and rubella MMR is recommended for adults born after 1956, unless they have had these diseases and can document immunity.
  8. Pneumococcal disease Fights getting pneumonia. Adults 65 and older should receive one dose of PPSV23 and one dose of PCV13.
  9. Tetanus and diphtheria (Td) and tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) Pertussis is whopping cough and there has been a resurgence. Those 65 and older having contact with infants should be vaccinated. If you garden and cut yourself, you could be exposed to tetanus in the soil. Keep your tetanus up to date—every ten years it should be renewed.

My husband and I look out for each other’s health. We enjoy cooking inventive and healthy meals together and we walk together almost every day. Sharing articles or books that we have read, seeing a film or listening to music, debating any issue that we feel strongly about, traveling to new places–all contribute to communication, sharing and keeping our brains active. Life is a journey and sharing it with my husband and family makes approaching each day fulfilling and worthwhile. Wishing the same for all of you. Any other ideas for keeping us on the planet?  Please share.

Thanks to Getty Images

Thanks to TBO, the Tampa Tribune

2 Ways Walking Helps My Heart

2 Ways Walking Helps My Heart

A view from the trail going up to China Flat, Westlake Village, CA.

Heart health is something we all need. If our hearts aren’t pumping like they should–the quality of life recedes and overall health is affected. A heart muscle that is frequently exercised is a gift that spreads health throughout the body. And sharing exercise with someone you care about has its own rewards that also affect the heart.

On The Physical Side – A Quick Review

Regular walking or some other form of exercise that increases your heart rate is good because:

  • cardio exercise improves the ability of your blood vessels to dilate as they respond to hormones that flood your body during exercise
  • vascular wall function and the ability of your body to supply oxygen to your muscles as you walk, run, lift weights etc. is enhanced
  • the body’s ability to take in and utilize oxygen becomes more efficient and you can do daily activities with less fatigue
  • exercise increases your very tolerance for exercise
  • body weight is reduced, lessening your chance for developing type 2 diabetes
  • insulin sensitivity increases, thus your body uses insulin more efficiently
  • blood pressure and bad LDL cholesterol is reduced;
  • good HDL cholesterol increases
  • and exercise improves your balance and reduces your risk of osteoporosis by increasing bone mass.

On The Spiritual, Mental, Mood Side, This is what exercise does:

  • improves your mood
  • lowers your risk for some types of cancer
  • gives you more energy
  • helps ward off dementia or other memory problems 
  • helps you sleep better.

I have always been a walker–maybe because running didn’t appeal to me, maybe because over time I’ve developed a sensitive tendon in one foot, so running is really out of the picture. In my raising-children days, I did dancercize and I loved that, but when I went through a time with a back that protested, I added a Walkman to my walk and the presence of the music enhanced my speed and definitely my mood.

2 Ways Walking Helps My Heart

I walked through the neighborhoods of Homewood-Flossmoor, south of Chicago

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On my Flossmoor walk, I knew every house, watched as flowers bloomed and died, trees lost their leaves in a fiery fall blaze and winter snows brightened the lawns but sometimes made walking difficult. The terrain was totally flat and I needed to increase my pace to elevate my heart rate. Then in the late 90s, we moved to Des Moines, Iowa. Though we were still in the Midwest, Des Moines is very hilly and stepping outside my front door, no matter which direction I chose, a hill presented itself. So now, equipped with an IPod, off I went, my heart rate increasing within minutes of leaving the house.

2 Ways Walking Helps My Heart

Our DM house on a hill.

But when my husband retired and our son had moved back to Chicago, our daughters already settled–one on the east coast and one on the west–a big decision faced us. Our grandchildren were in California and though it’s crazy expensive, we thought about the warm weather and our ability to get out and exercise–not by joining a gym which we had done in both Midwest cities, but simply by walking out our front door.

And here we are: living in Southern California and taking advantage of paths, parks, trails, elevations, ponds and arroyos, you name it.

2 Ways Walking Helps My Heart

At the top of Pathfinder, looking down the horse trail.

 

2 Ways Walking Helps My Heart

At the duck pond, about 2 and 1/2 miles from our house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Ways Walking Helps My Heart

Rushes around the duck pond. We found turtles too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Ways Walking Helps My Heart

Another view of the Santa Monica hills from China Flat.

Most days, my husband and I walk together. (I still have my IPod, but I only use it when I walk on my own.) Our walks help our hearts, because not only do they have a physical impact, but they also provide a time for conversation and sharing. Yes, we are sometimes silent when we walk, praying or meditating, mentally planning the rest of the day or working through some thought process. But at the beginning and at the end of our walk, we are always sharing what we see, making plans for the days, weeks–the life ahead, always grateful that we are together.

Walking can help your heart in two ways–physical and mental. So find a walking partner and get out there–whether it’s a mall in winter, or the snow packed sidewalks, your feet wearing Yaktrax, getting out in the air and sharing time while your hearts beat faster just has to be a really good thing!

Thanks to John Havey for all photos

 

2 Ways Walking Helps My Heart

Sharing a walk with three wonderful people–our grandchildren. “Let’s hike back to the play park, Essa.”

 

Why Do We Keep Things?

Why Do We Keep Things?

This is artist Arthur Lidov’s interpretation of the mighty mitochondrion. It’s a two page spread and I took a photo of the pages with my iPhone.

A jewelry box with a child’s name bracelet, a few baby teeth, drawings in a 3 by 6 inch notebook done in the 7th grade—why am I keeping these things? I asked myself that question many times when we recently downsized. But I kept everything except the baby teeth. And often I regret the haste in which I divested our bigger footprint of wedding gifts, linens, and furniture. Oh, I wish I had that or why did I give that away?

Amy Goldman Koss in her article When in doubt, throw it out? writes about recently cleaning out her parents home and being relieved that her parents followed that rule. But the question mark at the end of her piece underlines that even after she had disposed of her father’s tools and her parents coats, the image of those coats side by side in a closet somehow haunting her–there was a pang of loss.

We can’t keep everything or we will be hoarders!  But maybe there’s a fine line between those of us who keep every edition of the daily paper and those of us who keep old Valentines and college notebooks. (Guilty) Certainly there’s the element of I MIGHT NEED THAT AGAIN. After my teaching career ended, I saved every mimeograph sheet and lesson plan until a flood in our basement ruined them. That was all right, new tech had replaced mimeo anyway. But it also destroyed years of letters my husband and I wrote to one another and precious old books my mother had given me. But you know–you can’t take it with you.

Possibly we save things because something is going on in us on an unconscious level. That’s the only answer I have for saving much of the 1962 series on the human body that appeared in Life Magazine in 1962. I was a sophomore in high school, taking biology with an amazing teacher. She had us researching DNA, the spiral helix and Watson and Crick. We had to travel to the public library in downtown Chicago to do the research. All of it–the research, the intense writing to get an A–might have planted a seed in me that didn’t bloom until I went back to school in my forties to study anatomy and physiology, medicine–become a nurse. But I still have those pages.

Why Do We Keep Things?

I really didn’t know how important Watson and Crick were in 1962. Not many people did.

To expand on the above idea, we can collect things, hold on to things with various intents in mind.

  • Usefulness. When clothing is no longer ready for prime time, I keep some of it for my daily walks or for gardening. There isn’t a tool on this earth that my husband hasn’t examined and thought that it might be good to have. And for many years he was absolutely right–though often a particular tool was used maybe once, twice?? But it was handy.
  • Sentiment. Keeping things is similar to assembling a poem or creating a tableau. Every word in the poem and every item that is arranged on the table or every photo hung on the wall or placed in a photo album or stored on a computer carries some meaning. Note: those valentines? Cut them up and make a collage. You’ll have the memories, and also more storage space.
  • The great reveal. This concept is more a slippery slope. Amy Goldman Koss doesn’t mention finding anything shocking when she cleaned out her parents’ house. I found a few things of my mother’s very early life–dance cards and a photo of a gentleman I didn’t know. But that’s okay–it was her life and for some reason she wanted to keep  a talisman of those times. It certainly wasn’t the reveal in Robert James Waller’s The Bridges of Madison County, when after her death, Francesca reveals her profound love affair in a diary that her adult children find. Great stuff for fiction, but maybe not for everyday life.

This topic of things in our lives is not new to Boomer Highway. I have written about gifts from my grandmother, pictures on the walls of my home that keep alive the precious stages of my life. And I wrote about the angst of downsizing.

And though objects remind us of past experience, it is knowing and holding close our personal history that keeps us grounded. That’s truly what we can pass on to our children and grandchildren. The words and actions of those we love provide us with our best memories–an amazing vacation, a mother to daughter growing-up chat, the day Dad gave the ultimate driving lesson or grandma welcomed her first great-grandchild. These are only a very few of the highlight moments in life. Photos, entries in a diary, or just the pure and simple memory in one’s mind–these are the most meaningful things to keep. After all, they are marks on the timeline of our very lives.

Why Do We Keep Things?

This is part of the LIFE MAGAZINE cover. Note the date and the price!

One Winter Afternoon in Chicago: MY FIRST KISS

One Winter Afternoon in Chicago: MY FIRST KISS

Early college and we are inseparable.

 

FIRST KISS–1960’s style.

Picture a young teenage couple in the dining room of the girl’s home. There’s a record player there and she puts on a 45 and it begins to play HEY HEY PAULA. But there’s also a large bay window in this dining room and this is Chicago—houses are close together. So as the sun begins to sink in the western sky, Mrs. H, the girl’s neighbor and the best cook on the block, stands at her kitchen sink doing some food preparation. She has a great view of the girl’s dining room and is familiar with the young teenage couple. When she looks up from the chicken she is cleaning at the sink—she gasps!

The couple is there, in the window, dancing. They are very close together and the girl has nuzzled her face into the boy’s shoulder. After a while, Mrs. H realizes the water she is using to clean the chicken has become very hot, it’s burning her skin, maybe even cooking the chicken. She turns it off, but stays by her post. She can’t turn away. She needs to be a good neighbor and report to the girl’s mother everything she witnesses.

The couple is still dancing, slowly, barely moving, trance-like. And then the girl moves back slightly so she can look into the boy’s eyes. Mrs. H holds her breath. And then, and then—they break apart—only to carefully pull down the shade that covers the bay window. Back in each other’s arms the kiss begins, tentatively at first, then with more involvement, a little more passion, working on that learning curve.

Mrs. H finishes preparing her chicken.

When the kiss is over, there is laughter and hugging. They know they have something and it is thrilling and wonderful. Their first kiss! One of millions to come. So they remain as they are, holding hands, smiling into each other’s eyes as the sun goes down and the room grows dark.

But finally, with thoughts of homework and the routine of their lives calling, they turn on lights, he finds his jacket and she walks him to the front door. But it has begun. And those moments will be vivid and tender memories for both of them throughout their 44 plus years of marriage.

And Mrs. H? She went to their wedding, lent them her fancy car to get them to and from the church. She shared some of her furniture with them as they created a house and home. I guess you could say, Mrs. H was the first witness to a love that–though she didn’t see it–was sealed with a kiss.

One Winter Afternoon in Chicago: MY FIRST KISS

We’re married, cuddling in the back of Mrs. H’s car!

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

 

One Winter Afternoon in Chicago: MY FIRST KISS

A street on the south side of Chicago.

 

Thanks to WBEZ 91.5

and family photos!

 

 

Forgiveness: The Gift You Give Yourself

Forgiveness: The Gift You Give Yourself

“Aw get over it.” “Hey, let’s just forget this whole thing, okay?” “I’ve moved on.”  “Forgive and forget.” “Won’t you please forgive me?” “I just want you to know that I have forgiven you.”

The key to any of the above is that sometimes we crave forgiveness and sometimes we have to be the one to forgive. The latter can be very hard to do.

As a child, I often experienced the need to say, “I’m sorry.” Being a Catholic and thus experiencing Confession or Reconciliation from the age of seven on, the focus was always: what did you do wrong that you have to ask forgiveness for? Fortunately, those things on my list were minor. And when I had to say to someone, “It’s okay, I forgive you” —the hurt or the incident was also minor.

But as I grew into young adulthood and adulthood, either my thin skin got thinner or more likely, the issues on either side of the forgiveness question just got bigger and more complicated. They caused actual pain. Issues where forgiveness is necessary can weigh anyone down; they can create depression and rip dangerous holes in relationships.

So I was probably in my thirties when I heard these words: Forgiving is not for the one who needs to be forgiven—it’s for the one doing the forgiving. Where did I hear that—on Oprah. Yes, the amazing woman who in the 80s and 90s got people to read more with her Oprah’s Book Club, and to write, as she encouraged her viewers to journal, had offered me some golden advice.

But even so, we all know—the issue of forgiving is a very complicated one. And though I still believe that forgiveness is for the one doing the forgiving—those of you reading this who have been living in pain because of something someone did to you or to someone you love—you know that forgiving is a process and not an easy one.

I was recently reminded of this when reading Lewis B. Smedes book: The Art of Forgiving, When you need to forgive and don’t know how. A core debate in the text centers on the story of Karl, a German soldier during WW II who killed many innocent Jewish men, women and children in a Russian village, and then, before he was to be executed, desired the forgiveness of one Jew. He grabbed the wrist of Simon Wisenthal, who was then a young architect, asking him to represent all Jews and forgive Karl. Wisenthal writes of the incident in his book The Sunflower and states: The crux of the matter is, of course, the question of forgiveness. Forgetting is something that time alone takes care of, but forgiveness is an act of volition, and only the sufferer is qualified to make the decision.

Thus Wisenthal refused to forgive Karl and over the years wrote and struggled with his decision.

Smedes writes that after the publication of The Sunflower, distinguished men and women from many walks of life were asked to comment on Wisenthal’s ultimate decision. “Most of them believed that it was right and good for Wisenthal not to forgive Karl. Here are some of their answers:

You would never have been able to live with yourself had you forgiven him.

To forgive everything means that one is lacking in discrimination, in true feeling, in reasonableness, in memory…

One cannot and should not go around happily killing and torturing and then, when the moment has come, simply ask and receive forgiving.

I believe that the easy forgiving of such crimes perpetuates the evil it wants to alleviate.

When examining Wisenthal’s dilemma in her essay, The Ultimate Moral Question, Wendy Cooley ends with the following statement: They (the Jews in that village) were the ones who were murdered and brutalized and only they have the power to forgive those who have done them wrong. 

Smedes also presents that idea: that no one has a right to forgive someone unless he himself had been injured by that person. Something to ponder.

But the true purpose of Smedes book, and maybe Oprah read it, is to stress the following aspects of being able to forgive. As you read them, try to apply some of them to events in your own life. There may be readers who have even had to deal with the arrest and incarceration of the person who hurt you or your loved one. Some of you will only see in the list aspects of personal relationships that were hurt by abandonment or betrayal or other inter-personal issues. But each of the following are basic aspects of forgiving.

  • Forgiving someone who did us wrong does not mean that we tolerate the wrong he did.
  • Forgiving does not mean that we want to forget what happened.
  • Forgiving does not mean that we excuse the person who did it.
  • Forgiving does not mean that we take the edge off the evil of what was done to us.
  • Forgiving does not mean that we surrender our right to justice.
  • Forgiving does not mean that we invite someone who hurt us once to hurt us again.

This is heavy stuff, but it can lighten the load and it definitely leads to healing.

But then there are times when you hear: “Move on, move on,” and you just can’t. You’re stuck. Do the words get even come to mind? Of course they do.

Smedes writes: “Vengeance is the only alternative to forgiving. It is, simply put, a passion to get even. We have been unfairly hurt. … The scales are unbalanced. The only way to balance them and get life back to normal is to inflict as much pain on our abuser as he inflicted on us…”

But we can’t. As Smedes writes, “…we are doomed to exchange wound for wound…pain for pain forever.” And when we stay away from vengeance and forgive, we are expressing our true and best nature. Smedes: “..forgiving works on both sides of the street. It is a reciprocity. We do ourselves good only when we wish good for the other. And we do the other person good only after we have healed ourselves. Forgiving has to be both ego-centered and other-centered. Otherwise it cannot work.”

Finally, Smedes and other writers on this issue would conclude that forgiving is a journey. Like all things in life, there are stages: the initial pain, the anger that pain brings, the utter change in a relationship because of the pain, the relapses—one day the pain is light, the next it hits again like a brick—and the need for help from a friend or counselor. One comforting concept is Smedes approval of anger. He breaks it down this way:

“The enemy of forgiving is hate, not anger. Anger is aimed at what persons do. Hate is aimed at persons. Anger keeps bad things from happening again to you. Hate wants bad things to happen to him or her. Anger is the positive power that pushes us toward justice. Hate, by that token, is the negative force that pushes us toward vengeance. Anger is one of love’s good servants. Hate serves nobody well. So if you get angry when you remember what he or she did to you, it does not mean that you have not forgiven him or her. It only means that you get made when people do bad things to you.”

Richard Rohr, a Catholic priest and author of Eager to Love, has also written about forgiveness and I find him an incredible thinker for everyone, religious or not given to some organized faith. He writes: “Forgiveness is a decision, but making that decision doesn’t override the emotional residue that often takes much longer to release. That feeling of wanting revenge or wanting to assert your rightness or your victimhood—depending on the depth of your wounding—can take days, weeks, months and even years to dissipate. On certain days, when you’re in a down mood, your psyche will want to grab onto that hurt. You have to go through that necessary period of feeling half dead, half angry, half in denial—this is the liminal space in which we grow for some reason.”

Many of us live in liminal space–the space of unknowing. It’s the desert and we desire the green land with flowing water. But moving through that space can heal us and as Rohr says–we grow–and that might be the very reason we are challenged by our neighbors, by our very living to experience the pain of hurt and to eventually known the peace of forgiving.

Thanks to Google Images

Forgiveness: The Gift You Give Yourself

 

 

 

 

Loving Those Images, Then–Loving Those Words

Loving Those Images, Then--Loving Those Words

Goodnight Moon

What is it about picture books from childhood that is so alluring? I think at first it’s the images. Children are stimulated by images that jump-start the imagination and help a child relate. Isn’t that the charm of GOODNIGHT MOON by Margaret Wise Brown? The red balloon and the three bears and the toyhouse are things a child knows and can point to. Then the writer adds those wonderful words that rhyme and a gem is born. The words on the page take the image and enlarge it–the child’s imagination begins to work–and finally, the child makes up her own rhyme with things in her world.

That’s how love of words becomes super-charged. What follows? A love of reading. The gears in that wonderful new brain are set in motion and reading and exploring books becomes a joy and a desire. 

Author Martin Amis says: I must have read GOODNIGHT MOON to my children several thousand times, and I was never bored by it. The book has its own soporific poetry–and it quite often worked.”

Books, Books and More Books 

Another wonderful aspect of starting a child on the reading journey is the trip to the library. There the world of books is broad and big and exciting. Children race to the stacks and start pulling books from a shelf. To guide them in their choices, here is a list from TIME of the top ten books for children ages 3-11. See how many of these you read as a child or you have read to your children and grandchildren.

1. Where the Wild Thing Are, Maurice Sendak, 2. The Snow Day, Ezra Jack Keats,3. Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown, 4. Blueberries for Sal, Robert McCloskey, 5. the LIttle Bear (series), Else Holmelund Minarik, 6. Owl Moon, John Schoenherr, 7. The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein, 8. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith, 9. Tuesday, David Wiesner, 10. Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein.

Others on the list include: Frog & Toad (series), The Lorax, Corduroy, Brave Irene, Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day, Harold and the Purple Crayon, Make Way for Duckings and Olivia (series).

Print Awareness

Emphasizing the importance of reading helps a child establish what educators call print awareness. The National Institute for Literacy states: Print awareness is an important part of knowing how to read and write. Children who know about print understand that the words they see in print and the words they speak and hear are related. 

It’s not difficult to encourage print awareness in children on a daily basis. In doing so you are helping them on the road to literacy. While shopping at any store, children can be made aware of print that shows where food items are. Children exposed to television often recognize products like cereal from the bold colors of the packaging, but stressing the words on the package helps underline print awareness. Working with alphabet letters you can show how letters work together to 1.) tell a story; 2) list choices on a menu; 3) warn of danger; 4) give directions. Print awareness can be emphasized and reinforced through daily living.

There’s nothing more exciting than receiving that first print message from your child or grandchild. They are totally proud and you receive their love and excitement about life through a medium of their own creation.

You might enjoy this You Tube that explains Print Awareness.

Books As They Grow 

Once a love of print and reading is established just watch them go! My granddaughter can get so involved in a book that she sometimes doesn’t hear us saying goodnight. In a few more years, she will be devouring the next list: the top 10 books for young adults ages 12 and up. They include: 1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, 2. Harry Potter (series), 3.The Book Thief, 4. A Wrinkle in Time, 5. Charlotte’s Web, 6.Holes, 7.Matilda, 8. The Outsiders, 9. The Phantom Tollbooth and 10. The Giver. Others on the list include: Are You There God It’s Me Margaret, To Kill a Mockingbird, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, Anne of Green Gables (series), The Chronicles of Narnia (series), Monster, The Golden Compass, The Diary of a Young Girl, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweller, Looking for Alaska, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Little House on the Prairie (series), The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Wonder, The Once and Future King (series).

Nonfiction writer Michael Lewis says: As a kid I lived on a steady diet of The Hardy Boys and Archie comic books, without the slightest sense there was anything better I might be doing with my time. 

All reading starts us on a continuous print journey. As we grow, more and more our ability to read and understand print is the difference between educated choices and confusion or the inability to progress in life. Facility with reading and understanding enriches our lives and helps us navigate documents, educate ourselves about jobs, health, travel, legal obligations, purchasing options–the list is endless.

How satisfying to realize that reading a favorite newspaper, magazine or book continues to increase our print awareness. Computer technology is changing so rapidly, it is said that what students learn in the first 3 years of computer tech will be outdated when it’s time for them to graduate. Speed reading, anyone?

Good News: How to Help a Child’s Cognitive Development 

Finally, the Institute for Education states that surprisingly, reading for pleasure was found to be more important for a child’s cognitive development between ages 10 and 16 than their parents’ level of education. “The combined effect on children’s progress of reading books often, going to the library regularly and reading newspapers at 16 was four times greater than the advantage children gained from having a parent with a degree.”

So love those words–and get thee to the library. Shakespeare would agree.

Watch: CBS News celebrates immortal children’s books. See how many of the books pictured you read as a child! Watch it here.

 

Thanks to Time Magazine, December 2014

Loving Those Images, Then--Loving Those Words

Print awareness–creativity and love combine.

So glad I have a granddaughter and I well-read copy of Goodnight Moon.

 

 

 

 

When I Was A Kid…

When I Was A Kid...

At the tender age of 23, my husband and I had a couple over for dinner—new friends. When I started to say something about my mother, the woman interrupted me: “I don’t want to hear anything else about your mother. Don’t you know that not everyone in this world loves their mother?”

I was awestruck. No, I actually did not know that. Was I fortunate or just naïve? Actually both. Somehow we got through that dinner, but from then on, I appreciated even more how awesome my mother truly was. When I was a kid, I knew that every moment of my life.

WHAT MOM GAVE ME AND I HOPE WE GAVE OUR CHILDREN

We bring with us to adulthood so many small experiences that build and make us who we are. And now as a mother of adult children and a grandmother, I want to believe that when we raised our children, we gave them a foundation to help them love life, seek knowledge, succeed with struggle, use their brains and creativity to bring joy to their lives and others’ lives—and to always know that being kind and helping people supports both the body and the soul.

And it all starts at the very beginning, it all starts with one’s early life.

SNIPPETS OF EXPERIENCE 

Below are a few snippets from mine, things that I know without question, formed who I am. I could have written pages and pages, but then none would stand out. And I tried to choose from different phases of my early life and to represent family, friends, neighborhood, church, school, social development, exposure to a world that wasn’t perfect.

Some of what I experienced was normal for the time–but should not have been. And of course my early life experience is strongly connected to time and place—in the past.

For from generation to generation we have to and learn to adapt and change. Change is not always positive—it can sometimes morph into new challenges, and the question arises—did those very early experiences prepare us for such a challenge? Yes and no.

Yet change is often totally positive and  awesome, and in the process, we learn a major lesson that we then pass on to our children. As a result, they become better people than we were.

The events below are part of who I am. They formed my initial reactions to life around me. Then I grew. Like all humans, I was a seed that sprouted and changed. But what fed me in the beginning—what awakened questions, thoughts and fears will always be a part of me. It’s in there–somewhere.

WHEN I WAS A KID

When I was a kid, I had no father. He died when I was 3; I barely remembered him.

When I was a kid, I was afraid of all dogs, didn’t know any cats and once had a turtle for a pet.

When I was a kid growing up on the southside of Chicago, the milkman and the eggman came to our back door with deliveries on a regular basis. We had a telephone and radios. We got our first television when I was in grade school.

When I was a kid, we had indoor plumbing, everyone we knew did. But one family across the street let their little boys urinate under their front porch.

When I was a kid, the lonely wail of the Rock Island train sang me to sleep on many nights.

When I was a kid, my mother typed in our dining room to pay the bills.

When I was a kid, we had borders who lived with us and paid rent—a Sioux Indian from South Dakota, two Irish nurses from County Cork and a teacher from Wisconsin—not all at the same time!

When I was a kid, I was afraid of men; I was afraid of new things. When I started Kindergarten, Mom had my friend Greg walk me every day. He was my age!

When I was a kid, I had surgery on my left eye. I was five. After that I wore glasses and I had clunky shoes, pale eyebrows and thin hair!

When I was a kid, confession on Saturdays, Latin words and hymns, the smell of incense, and booming organ music were a normal part of my life.

When I was a kid, our cleaning lady walked to our house from the bus; she changed her clothes in the basement and sat by herself at lunch. I did ask questions about this.

When I was a kid, an infrequent treat was a chocolate bakery cake that sat on a hard cardboard circle and was decorated with one hard red cherry.

When I was a kid, I had to ask my teacher how to complete a form, what to put in the blank space that read FATHER. She said curtly: put deceased. What did that mean? She didn’t even tell me how to spell it.

When I was a kid, I didn’t like Daddy-Daughter breakfasts or dances, cause I didn’t have a daddy.

When I was a kid, I was afraid to answer the telephone and even in the 3rd grade I did not know the difference between a quarter, dime and nickel. My mother taught me about coinage and made me answer the phone.

When I was a kid, our backyard felt so big my brothers and I could get lost in it. A lean-to shed, a jumble of bushes, or the space behind the garage—all made great forts.

When I was a kid, my friend Jean and I pretended her mother’s rock garden was a vat of boiling oil and we would push imaginary witches and bad people into it. Or pretend we were pushing kids we didn’t like.

When I was a kid, there was a box of pennies in a cabinet in our dining room. My mother said my dad left it for us. It never ran out of pennies.

When I was a kid, my mother let me and my brothers walk a few blocks to the candy store for penny candy. Our known world was actually small, but we felt it to be big and bright and safe.

When I was a kid, we played hopscotch, Mother May I, Freeze Tag, and Hide ‘n Seek. When adding together the children that lived in the two houses across the street from us, we had 10 children of various ages to play with.

When I was a kid, I had a green JC Higgins two-wheeler bike that I pretended was a horse. Jean and I rode around the block numerous times a day. I wore handed-down clothing, except for the dresses my aunts bought me for birthdays and Christmas.

When I was a kid, I wrote a few paragraphs about a tornado. I was in 4th grade and decided that I would become a writer. I still have that piece of paper.

When I was a kid, Bing broke his arm on our back porch, Vinnie had to go to a special Children’s Hospital, and Charlene’s parents had her taken to the local hospital’s psych ward only because she was a teenager and acting like one. True story.

When I was twelve, my mother, in a very motherly fashion, told me about sex.

When I was twelve, I took over the task of cleaning our house. Mom helped. I also planted a garden.

When I was twelve, my mother went to work downtown and my younger brother and I became latch-key kids. We walked home from school for a lunch that I made. We did fine.

When I was twelve, I noticed that my future husband lived in our neighborhood. I also was allowed to ride my bike a mile and a half to my future high school to take piano lessons. The high school girls made fun of my bike.

When I was thirteen, a girlfriend told me a joke with the f-word and I laughed but had absolutely no idea what she was talking about.

And when I was teenager, life changed, opened up. I embraced high school, walking a long distance to school with friends, being exposed to new ideas, boys. I learned how to draw on my eyebrows! But everything above was still part of me. And still is.

Thanks for reading. Please share a snippet of when you were a kid. You might have a list of supportive, joyful memories and you might have a very negative one that caused you to go in a totally different direction when you were old enough to make your own choices. Joyous, sorrowful. Confusing, simple and embraceable–it is all still part of you, it’s still in there. We move on, we change, we grow. It’s life. It’s way beyond WHEN I WAS A KID.

When I Was A Kid...

Thanks, Mom.

When I Was A Kid...

Crinolines under our dresses was all the rage. That’s me, center right, in the dark dress and glasses, of course.

 

When I Was A Kid...

The 99th Street Station for the Rock Island was just a few blocks from my house.