Life’s Pressures

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Everyone, I imagine, has their own unique set of pressures in life. I’ve come to realize that I’ve been under a few of them myself for the past 36 years. Granted, maybe the pressure was more of my own making than anything else, but it was there, regardless. In the olden days of my parents and grandparents, it was the men in the world who were the primary money-makers in families. It was all on the man’s back to be sure the family was cared for from a financial perspective. Perhaps the wife provided a supplemental income, but it’s been a primary role of the husband. However, I, as a woman today, so deeply relate to this pressure carried by the family’s financial caretaker. For so long, with my husband having had three back surgeries over the course of five years early in our marriage, and unable to work the way he would have liked to in order to relieve some of the pressure from my back (pun intended), I took on my career, full force. I fully believed that if something happened to me and my job, my children would be on the street. While I willingly took on this role, those years did take their toll on me.

Some may think it’s the pressure of the work required by the job itself that’s so stressful. For me, the work came relatively easily. It’s the personal aspect of things that becomes stressful. Thinking of the possibility of my children not having what they need tears me up. It’s what drove me to continue through the years. It’s what drove me to acquiring two college degrees at the same time as being a wife, mother, full-time business woman. It drove me to strive to be so much better than any ‘man’ I worked with that there could be no question about who would get the promotion. I became a group manager and earned a six-figure salary before I had a four-year college degree. This was virtually unheard of in the company where I worked. Everyone reporting to me as their manager was more formally educated than I. Talk about pressure to prove my worth.

Add to that, the pressure of feeling the judgment of other women who believe no ‘mother’ should be so deeply involved in a career instead of at home taking care of her babies. Do folks seriously believe I wouldn’t have chosen to stay at home with a houseful of babies if given that choice? I didn’t feel I had a choice, and I also believed that my children were in good hands with their father in my absence, however painful that separation may have been from my own selfish viewpoint. I believed someone had to do it, so I did it. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel the pressure.

In retrospect, there is so much that I have seen and learned because of my career. I traveled the country routinely and often by air, conducting business for my corporate ‘bosses.’ In the beginning it was glamorous and so much fun, I have to say. I’ve always been up for a good challenge, and a challenge this definitely was. However, as time went on, it became obvious that so much is given up in order to gain all of that ‘glamour.’ I made it to as many baseball games and school programs as I could, but certainly not all of them. These are my biggest regrets, but did I really have a choice?

Are there other women out there that have the same regrets? Would you make different decisions, if you knew what you know now, or would you do it all over again? My children are grown and productive citizens of the world in their own right at this point. I believe I would have to do it all over again, given the same situation, regardless of the hormonal ‘mommy guilt.’ Am I delusional? Perhaps.

Love You Forever

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Going Gray

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Wow. I’ve made it all the way to 55 years old and all of the ‘getting old’ stuff really never bothered me much. You know, it’s just a number, you’re only as old as you feel, you’re not getting older you’re getting better. But this dark hair turning gray is bothering me. The last vestige of my youthful vanity is on its way out. This really sucks. I look at myself in the mirror and I cringe. Bottom line, though, I’m heading out on the road to cruise and explore the U.S. in a travel trailer. I. Will. Not. Make keeping my hair colored a priority over hitting another mountain trail or walking another beach. Or. Will. I?

I recently made a visit to my local hair stylist and talked with her about how I could perhaps take baby steps toward going gray. You know, maybe put blonde-ish or caramel highlights in that are close to the gray color to kind of camouflage the nightmarish stuff? Or should I just bite the bullet and color it all gray? Her advice was that I should go with the highlights, as it would apparently be quite difficult to dye everything gray….she would have to get me white blond using dye to begin before the gray color would take hold well.

So I’m living with the highlights for now. My hair stylist friend tells me I may want to have her re-do it 2 or 3 times before I’m ready to let it go completely natural. Which, for the good news, doesn’t appear to be completely white just yet, but getting close. My intent is to keep the cut something modern and stylish, hoping the color becomes a little less ‘little old grammy-ish’ as long as I don’t wear it in a bun with horn-rimmed glasses??

Pray for me. Really. A lot. Please. Thank you.

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Valentine’s Day 2016

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Did you know that “Approximately 150 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually, making Valentine’s Day the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas.” The origin of Valentine’s Day is an interesting and controversial one as is discussed at the following link http://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day.

For me, all of the controversy aside, this day is quite simply a reminder of how very blessed I am to have a kind and loving man as my life partner; my husband; my best friend. Regardless of the actual holiday’s origin, this is a reminder worthy of celebration. I try to keep this day a lighthearted, happy, fun, loving day of play.

This year, we began the weekend with sleeping in, then together preparing a breakfast that included both of our favorites. My husband is a steak and potatoes kind of a guy whose favorite breakfast always includes a hearty serving of bacon, eggs, and toast (always with the grape jelly, go figure). I enjoy the hearty breakfast occasionally as well, but typically am more likely to partake in a lighter fare, perhaps an avocado toast, perhaps a cup of coffee and plain toast with homemade apple butter, maybe a simple tub of Greek yogurt, and the list goes on. On Valentine’s Day this year, I mixed up a pitcher of Mimosa’s http://allrecipes.com/recipe/23758/mimosa/ for myself and enjoyed it together with a few of the chocolate-covered strawberries my sweetie had brought to me the evening before from the local Russell Stover factory.

For dinner, I had planned in advance. The Texas State Railroad https://www.texasstaterr.com/ hosts an annual Valentine’s Dinner train ride running for about an hour and a half in each direction between Palestine and Rusk, Texas. We decided to try it, and what fun it turned out to be. After dressing up in our Valentine’s red and black, we took a road trip for about an hour and headed to Palestine. We sat at a table high up in the railcar with domed glass windows up high. The tables were dressed in white tablecloths and napkins with wine glasses and appetizers greeting us right up front. Our table was large enough that another couple was seated across from us. The atmosphere was all very elegant. After introducing ourselves to the other couple, we settled in with a glass of wine and had a friendly conversation over dinner.

This couple turned out to be from Venezuela. He was an oil well worker; she, a clergy woman. How does it happen that this international, exotic couple lands at the same dinner table as this simple hard-working couple from middle class America and we had so much in common? We were of similar ages, had children of similar ages, and had many of the same life experiences. They came across as very strong examples of working for specific things and learning how to make them happen. They had been married for 26 years compared to our 33. They, too, were looking at retirement options, looking at a stint in Alaska which is where my husband and I are headed later this year. It was amazing and inspiring to me, if for no other reason than to connect with another couple with many of the same goals, hopes, and dreams as ours.

When dinner was over, the two couples retreated to their own sides of the table with complementary roses and chocolates for hugs, kisses, and selfies — we even took pictures on each other’s cell phones as mementos of the occasion.

Thanks, Morty and Jeanette, for your contribution to a lovely evening. I wish you all the best in your travels!

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Russell Stover Chocolates

 

A Visit to Texas Hill Country

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To share a fun story from my early retirement, my youngest son and his wife invited us to their home in Austin, TX, to spend a little time with them over the past weekend. While they do not yet have any children, they do have a few dogs who are treated better than many children in this country, and their home always feels so very inviting and filled with love. We visited two of the most awesome vineyard/wineries in the Texas Hill Country area while we were there. Wow, so enjoyable.

While we were enjoying a tasting at the first vineyard, http://perissosvineyards.com/, my son’s best friend from his elementary years in Ohio stopped by with his wife and children. This was a surprise for my husband and me. Such a sweet gesture, knowing how much I love connecting with friends from the past, and especially with toddlers and young children who can then be sent home with their parents smiley-163510__180. These friends then joined us as we visited a second winery, http://torrnalochs.com/. This winery features a huge granite patio with amazing views over hill country including lakes and mountains. As we sat visiting, the owner came out to chat for a few minutes and to welcome us to his dream come true.

Overall, I was left feeling so very blessed and grateful for both the freedom to visit amazing places as well as for a son who has grown into such a fine and good young man, giving back so much to the world in which we live.

Do your grown children bring tears of gratitude to your eyes?

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“Fear not…”

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When my father was a young man, he left the church where he grew up, where his parents and extended family remained, and set off to begin his lifelong search for God’s purpose in his life. Regardless of being shunned by that extended family because of his different religious beliefs, he took his wife and children out of state to a new home and a new church. He never returned to the former church he no longer believed was headed in the direction of God’s salvation; although he did bring us, his wife and children, back to visit the place of his roots many times over the years.

As he moved into a new church in a new location, he served as pastor for a period of time, believing he had been called to help bring the Word as he understood it to people in the church. Over the years, I remember hearing people in the congregation talk about his delivery of sermons and how much they appreciated his messages. I knew my father as a quiet man, yet he stood before his congregations in church and spoke with conviction and delivered powerful messages. He would stand behind the pulpit, take a moment of silence, then deliver the message trusting his God to guide him through it.

When his six children were all in the 5 to 15-year age range, my father took us for a six-week-long trip one summer across the United States, pulling a travel trailer behind a station wagon. He sold our home allowing him to fund the trip, and we traveled from Ohio to California and back, visiting many of the typical tourist attractions such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore, the California Redwoods, Pike’s Peak, Carlsbad Caverns, and many more. When we returned, he immediately rented us a new home while working to renovate another for sale. This family trip may have been the single most impactful experience of my youth.

My father passed away a few years ago, and as I think back on these memories, I wonder if I have the courage to live the way he did. What I hear so loudly as his life’s message to me is ‘Do Not Be Afraid.’ I hear a verse from the King James Bible, the book of Isaiah:  “Fear not for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” I pray that I may have, and be remembered for, this kind of trust and courage as I move through my own adult life.

 Holy Bible, King James Version

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Retirement: The First 5 Years

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As my husband and I prepared for my ‘retirement’ from the corporate world, we made a few hard choices. For the first 33 years of our married lives, we always had it all, so to speak. We had a house, two vehicles, a boat, an RV, a pool, an ATV, we raised our two sons, we funded college, we took vacations, we had fabulous Christmas’s, and the list goes on. And we had the debt to show for it. At the point of retirement, the only way we saw through to a happy ending was to sell the house, pay off our accumulated debt, and to live in the RV we already had, spending very little money on living expenses for a few years. By the grace of God, this plan seems to be working as intended so far.

We made a good profit on the house, the debt is gone, and while we wait for the next six months until the point when my husband will join me in retirement, I have decided to ‘gift’ myself this time to float with the breeze, so to speak. Other than the six weeks I took off of work when I delivered my youngest son in 1983, I have never had more than two straight weeks away from work over the past 36 years. At the end of the next six months, we will begin traveling, first to spend a few weeks in Ohio where we will spend time with family while at the same time re-habbing an old RV we will be using as our landing pad of sorts whenever we visit the extended family based in Ohio. Second, we will be sailing on a cruise vacation to Alaska. Third, we will be embarking on a road trip up the Pacific Coast Highway, pulling a third small RV we recently purchased (yes, we paid cash!) for just this purpose. Our intent, then, is to spend a lot of time over the next five years traveling across the United States. At least once each year, we plan to take a real vacation such as the Alaska cruise…a trip to the Netherlands…Costa Rica.

In the meantime, I cannot express the joy I feel in simply being free. Certainly, on some days I have begun to feel like my husband’s personal assistant as there is always some new errand to be run, another task to be completed, but how can I explain the happiness that greets me every day? There is no boss waiting. There is no co-worker looking on with skepticism, not understanding why I’m doing it the way I am. There is no whip waiting to be cracked. No group of eager corporate-ladder-climbers in a boardroom waiting for me to arrive to push them all through the latest project plan. Why did I not even consider doing something different with my life? How could I have survived 36 years of the pressure that comes with this kind of job?!

This RV we live in, while small, is a warm and cozy place to be. My husband and I catch ourselves just looking at each other and smiling. Our sons likely have a few questions as to the state of our sanity because of the enormity of the changes we’ve made, but there is always a cabin or lodge or beach house to be rented temporarily for larger family get-togethers when we can’t all fit into the RV. Our boys and their families continue to be the most precious things in our lives, but this new approach to life, will, I believe, turn out to be more interesting for everyone involved, including them! My excitement to see how this all turns out is growing. I can hardly wait! I trust that our sons will see that we have not let them down but have, instead, encouraged them to at least consider stepping outside of that darn box we’ve all been in for so long. The possibilities are endless, if the good Lord is willing.

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