The Day I Remembered…THIS IS ME!

The day I remembered, there it was….staring me in the face, the memory of my ten year old self laying flat out on the ice cream parlor floor, in pain, after falling for the umpteenth time that week.

I was talking to a friend the other day and said I now understand why life always seemed like more of an effort for me than for everyone else and it felt like I couldn’t keep up. It was in that moment, on the floor, that I remember saying to myself….this isn’t normal….”no one else I know keeps falling down like I do” and there it was…I KNEW I was different….at, ten years old but more likely at eight…my earliest memory of feeling pain that I couldn’t explain. But, after that, I just pushed on, trying and doing, to be like most everyone else, in essence, denying my reality.

And, yet, because of my ‘denial’, I pushed out the pain, I achieved a lot, did so many wonderful things and have some incredible memories from my entire life of growing up, then marrying and living with the man of my dreams and raising his children and helping them reach their goals and dreams, and fulfilling many a dream of our own. I also had a very successful career of impacting the lives of elementary and young children, first in social work, and then in teaching for over 20 years. So, denial isn’t all bad 🙂

It was a few weeks back, when I had been working on some research, that prompted this memory to pop up.

I thrive on happy memories and try to grab the lessons in them but this research had been stirring things up in my soul that I had forgotten were there. I have never been a person to focus on regrets. But, yet, that is what I was doing as I continued my research. Regrets that maybe I hadn’t done as much as others in life. For me, it’s always been more about pushing through, working on, and achieving at life. Of course, that definition is different for everyone and, that is what I soon discovered when the memory resurfaced.

I think the memory made itself known now because I definitely can’t keep up these days. Today, it is about pacing myself, picking and choosing. The reality has finally set in as it is impossible to ignore and deny that I WAS ALWAYS DIFFERENT….and, always had a different journey to walk. And, that’s okay! It’s like the song ‘This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman. Some of us are born into bodies that are different than the norm. The ‘challenge’ is to be proud of ME!  Challenge accepted 🙂

About four years ago, I was ‘doing all things life’ by pushing my body on, doing and achieving as much as I possibly could. Even the voice of the doctor telling me I was living in an 80 year old body at a much younger age, didn’t break the concrete wall that held the memory at bay. Nor did the diagnosis last year that I had been living most of my life with a silent disease that decided to show it’s identity. But, I am glad that the realization hadn’t hit until now because what an amazing life it has been this far and continues to be and a wonderful discovery that I have done so much and probably a lot more than I realized because I overcompensated thinking I wasn’t doing enough. 🙂

There is also another positive side to all of it, with this new reality, I no longer feel inadequate in any way, I don’t feel inept or less than, because….I am different…THIS IS ME! I now know that I do not walk the same path as many who are able bodied and that’s okay, we all have different paths we must take. I walk MY path now and it is a joyous path where I am not taking anything for granted anymore.

We are working on our 3rd Act out here in the country, we are working on building more community time with family and friends and focusing on valuing others and my time I have with them. We are working on businesses that we will build on and enjoy throughout retirement years, and we are working on being better people each and every day because, in the end, it is not our bodies that will carry on, but our beautiful souls and the memories we have made and left behind.

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Veterans Day – A Time of Gratitude

Sending out a huge THANK YOU to all the men and women who have served in the military.

As I drive through our tiny little town, I see our symbol of freedom flying on many flag poles free standing in the middle of property and those attached to houses. One thing I have seen out here, is a strong sense of patriotism. This Veterans Day I also see a huge flag between two cranes waiting to be hoisted…waiting for a particular veteran who will be moving to our little town and will be celebrated today. He is a young man who came home from the war minus three limbs. His home was built specifically for his needs.

We are grateful to him and to all of our veterans in our town and in the U.S. for keeping us safe, for the sacrifices they and their families make, for helping citizens of war torn countries rebuild their towns, schools, and their lives, and for all the other things they do that we know nothing about.

My husband’s family has three generations who have served in the military and my dad and many of his brothers also served. One of my dreams from the time my daughter was 18 months old, was to serve in the Air Force. For me, though it was a pipe dream as I would never be accepted because of my birth defects. A girl can dream though, right?!

Today is a day to remember our members of the military and to remind ourselves how grateful we are for their service and how safe and protected we feel because of them. 🇺🇸❣️🇺🇸

The Raccoon Encounter

Arriving home late last night, we pulled into our driveway. On both sides of the driveway, there are culverts with a large hollow pipe running under the cement top. The culverts are there to help the excess water channel through the area.

As our headlights hit the culvert on the right side of the driveway, up popped the head of a tiny raccoon with a quizzical look on his face. Of course, I was probably just imagining the look that seemed to say “What?” Or maybe it was, “What are you doing, turn out the lights.” But, it sure seemed like he was telling us something. That, or he looked like he just got caught doing something he shouldn’t have been doing. Either way, whatever he was doing made him look so cute we both laughed. Small things give us such happiness out here.

It’s another one of the joys of living the country life. It’s also the time of year when the leaves start to fall and we can again see the barn in the back of the pasture across the street. It’s a beautiful, 100 year old barn with lots of character and I am sure, many a story to tell. All last autumn and winter, from our patio, we got to look out on it and listen to all the animal sounds from the woods and the sounds of chickens and peacocks from neighboring houses. It is one of my favorite memories.

Back to the raccoon, I am really happy that he came out to ‘say hi’ and that he is sharing his home with us. He was the first raccoon we have seen here and it was more exciting because we got to see him up close. We have been blessed by many animal sightings since we moved here and it’s always a treat to see them in their own environments.

With a country raccoon, or any country animal for that matter, there is this mutual respect we hold. We don’t shoo them off, we live alongside them, sharing the land, and enjoying what they offer to our lives. I think we can all learn a big lesson from the country animals and apply it to our lives as people. It’s the mutual respect and acceptance to allow each other to be free to be ourselves, follow our dreams, and live out our lives without judgement and criticism.  And…..that is this week’s lesson learned from Life On The Patio.

Welcome to My “Third Place”, a place to BE…

My son called the other day and was talking to me about the ‘Third Place’. Intrigued, I had to know more.

He was referring to the three places in our lives. It has to do with our localities. It is a phrase coined by Ray Oldenburg in his influential book, The Great Good Place. Oldenburg says that in the U.S., we do not value the ‘third place’ like most other countries do. I agree with him as it is something I have been longing to have most of my life but never truly gave it the priority it deserved.

As the ‘Third Place’ idea becomes more popular, it’s spilling over into the workplace. Companies have built their interior design around this concept as it promotes a more egalitarian atmosphere and provides a ‘sense of place’. It’s a place where people are free to be themselves and many workplaces are now seeing the value in celebrating and utilizing just that…who people are.

The first two places most prominent in our lives are work and home. Home is where we feel the most comfortable, work helps us feel productive and gives us the money we need to live, and, the third place, is crucial to enjoying a fulfilled life. The third place is where we go for COMMUNITY.

In other countries, their “Third Places” might be a local pub, a familiar restaurant that people meet up at many times a week, soccer or rugby game matches, parks, a local church, or for some…it can even be the family home where Sunday meals and family picnics and gatherings occur at least once a week. These “Third Place” traditions are rooted deep in the culture of those countries.

These “Third Places” are places people go to find the familiar, the like-minded, the acceptance, and the laughter and relaxation that sustains them through the week. It’s where relationships are formed and strengthened for years to come. It’s a place that gives us connections to others, a sense of belonging and acceptance where people celebrate each other and grow.

It’s kind of like Friday night pizza night or Sunday family dinner here in the U.S. It’s a constant, a gift of spending time with each other and a way of adding value to others in an otherwise very busy life.

I am finding a wonderful kind of ‘Third Place’ in our little town and our country home. We now live in a town of 3,500 people. And, from the moment we arrived, people were stopping by to say hi and welcome us.  We now attend and host neighborhood game nights, visit with others at the pier and boat ramp, and spend time with neighbors who have become close friends. It’s the “Third Place” i have dreamed of where neighbors stop and say hi while they are out on their nightly walks and where borrowing eggs, sugar, or other things from each other or sharing food we have made is no longer a thing of the past. It’s where we gather together for community events like the one last Saturday night where hayrides and golf carts come down the streets to all the houses decorated for Halloween. It’s where teenagers still love to trick or treat and where politeness and friendliness are still going strong. It’s where people sit around fire pits and look up at the stars in the dark country sky. It’s where the trees are as old as the land and the animals still come out of the wooded areas to make their presence known. It’s where the owl speaks at 3 a.m. and where the deer families come out at dawn and walk across the streets. It’s where the hawks and other raptors grace the sky with their beauty and the flocks of geese fly above our home to the lake. It’s where love is constantly growing. Love of people, love of the beauty around us and love, celebration, and acceptance of the differences in people. It’s a “Third Place” where when we disagree, we talk it out and agree that it’s okay to see things differently. Most of all, Our “Third Place” in our little town, is the place to BE me and that is what makes me feel so fulfilled and happy when I get to BE here.

As The Light Shines Through The Window

As the light comes in this morning, I feel a renewed sense of hope. It has been raining here for many days with no sign of the sun. The ground is saturated. The lake is full and many of the shore trees and some of the boat ramps are underwater. The lake is too full as are the many other area lakes and rivers. We have received an abundance of the much needed rain in our area and I, and many others are happy and grateful to have it. The only thing is, now though, we have had enough.

We would all like a little more sunshine and bright days in our lives. I mean that figuratively and literally. And, today, we are receiving just that….a little more brightness, sunshine, and hope shining in through the window and into our lives.

And, so, this is the story of hope…of carrying on….of pushing through until we get to the point where we can see some light.

I HAVE HEARD we are not defined or judged by our problems, only by our response to those problems, tragedies, difficulties, frustrations, and hurdles in our lives and I believe that is true.  Our problems are not what make us who we are but how we deal with them speaks volumes on how we journey through life. I used to be able to respond with the ‘fight’ mode and grow through the experience and have generally been able to navigate through and to help those who are hurting or, in our case, rise up, and guide and pull and encourage all of us through. I have done just that most of my life but lately I am feeling worn out, I’m tired and feeling saturated by the overabundance of difficult things in our lives, in the lives of our families, and in the lives of our friends. I feel full to the brim just like the rivers and the lakes, to the point of flooding over and bursting at the sides.

And, then when I feel as if I’m drowning….there it is…a small sign of hope… In this case…the light shining through the window.

When the sun shines through the window and in the sky after some particularly dark days, I feel a sense of excitement, a sense of energy returning to my tired body, psyche, and soul. Maybe it’s just that it feels like a sign saying find the light, find the joy again, find the lesson to be learned, and always remember….as my son says….’YOU got this’!

It’s so easy to feel saturated when so much adversity comes at you and fills your life and, eventually, your soul. It is then that I long for and watch for the signs of hope. The signs are the anchor that slow me down and provide me comfort.

As I watch the light shine through the trees and through the windows, I look for other signs and to past lessons learned from ‘life on the patio’ and if one thing resonates through all, it is this….HOPE anchors the soul ~Hebrews 6:19~. And, with hope, we can always ‘carry on’ and persevere knowing that there are more lessons to be learned, lives to impact, and love to give and to receive.

And, there it is… this week’s lesson learned from ‘life on the patio’…..remember to keep on looking for signs of HOPE when life gets tough and we have been given an overabundance of difficulties. These signs will carry us through.

Wishing all a wonderful week from our little ‘little slice of Heaven’ here in the country.

When October Comes…

October used to be my favorite month. It brings with it some gorgeous colors. The tree leaves change into the vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds…each leaf, each tree, unique in its own way. The collective beauty provides a breathtaking feast for our eyes.

And, then it happens and the leaves start to fall….one by one…and, then more quickly until all that is left is the beautiful and sophisticated architecture of the branches and the trunk….each tree with it’s own uniqueness and in all their glory, start to show us their vulnerable selves and their amazing strength and brokenness all at the same time.

It reminds me of how people are when they truly let others into their lives. We get to see their beautiful and sophisticated patterns of branches. I am fascinated by all their branches….the strong, sturdy ones and, yes, the broken ones as we each hold a broken branch or branches somewhere in our bodies waiting, longing for someone to  come in and help us bring it back to health or help us break away the broken part so that the branch can heal. We all need someone…a catalyst…those sturdy ‘trunks’ in our lives to help us heal our broken branches so they may continue to grow into strong and healthy ‘trees’.

Yes, October used to be my favorite month and then seven years ago on the 18th of October one of my catalysts left this world…..no longer placing her feet firmly on the ground. Her wise words and advice had been preparing me and us for this very minute. But, we didn’t listen because she had always been there to pick up the pieces. Life got really messy, really fast with no time to prepare. I used to love October until the ‘trunk’ for so many of us left….never to return…leaving us all to pick up our broken branches and move on.

We did so grudgingly. We did so by walking all over each other and all over our broken branches, trampling them until some became so broken they could no longer reach the point of healing. We did the exact opposite of what our ‘trunk’ had guided us and nurtured us to do. Little did I know then, but seven years later, we were to come full circle through a lot of messiness before we could see that WE had to become the ‘trunk’ for ourselves and for each other.

She was the ‘trunk’ that held all the branches close to the tree interwoven in a way no other could do. She asked us to be kind to one another, she asked of us to take care of each other, to help each other be happy, and instead, we broke our branches…her branches even more. Early on, she had singled out the really strong branches hoping to prepare us for all that was to come. But, we were stubborn and didn’t want the lessons we were to learn.

October used to be my favorite month….and then, all of the sudden, our ‘trunk’ was gone. She was the one we shared our vulnerability, our strength, and our brokenness with. She knew all of us best. She had that gift….our go to person that could help us heal our own bodies branches and also the branches of our own families. She was courageous, kind to a fault, and caring but, at her own expense. SHE was the gardener tending to and growing all her flowers but she forgot to let others be the gardener once in a while and tend to her and her broken branches. And, for that, she paid with the ultimate price….her life.

October used to be my favorite month and I am now finding that it still is as my broken branches have almost completely healed. I have learned lessons that will sustain me through life simply because of my gardener, my teacher, my sturdy ‘trunk’ in the family tree who took the time to help me with my broken branches. I have learned  from her and remind myself to keep my branches strong and to work daily to help heal any branches that are broken in myself and in others.

So that when October comes and the red, orange, yellow leaves begin to fall leaving the vulnerable, sophisticated, and beautiful branches in their wake to weather the harsh winters….the harsh realities of life, the harshness of others, the branches will come through more strong, more sturdy, more beautiful and full of life than they have ever been. They will become a strong, healthy and sophisticated pattern intertwined and sustained by their trunk.

And, isn’t that the purpose of life anyway? To grow, to serve, to be kind, to love and support, to help, and to be the ‘trunk’ and the gardener to others.

A Seat At The Table

I have been reading this book called Two Chairs written by Bob Beaudine and it reminds me of my growing up years. My parents were big on having family dinners and it was important that we all be there on time and ready to say the blessing.  I didn’t realize the importance and the significance of this until I started having my own family dinners, first with my small family and, now….while living out here in the country.

Both of these examples are about valuing our spiritual, emotional, and physical well being….the most important things in life.

In the book Two Chairs, the author talks about starting his day with God. The chair sits across from him as he talks, then listens and makes this his most important act of the day. And, when I read that, it ‘hit’ me….what a wonderful world it would be if we did as the author of Two Chairs does each morning. Each day doing what is most important to us.

I want to do as my parents did and recognize the importance and value of having  ‘A Seat At The Table’.  I also want to host more family dinners, game nights, nights with friends that turn into mornings, and backyard parties and I want them to be the most important part of my days, weeks, months. I want people to feel valued....by offering a ‘seat at my table.’ I want them to feel they have something important to tell me that I can’t wait to hear about. Because they do! They have amazing, sometimes funny, and even courageous stories to tell from their past, their present, and, dreams about their futures to share.

I did just that this past Wednesday and Thursday. We, here at ‘Life on the Patio’ had one of those wonderful times when ‘nights turn into mornings’ when a friend came to visit. We have had many people come and stay and turn the nights into mornings in the short time we have lived out here.

All the visits seem like something right out of the movies. They don’t seem real but, yet they are! And, I know that it is the peace and contentment that people feel when they venture out to the country that brings out the best in these visits and gatherings. Many times, it’s like watching a Hallmark movie. We have been so blessed by these visits this past year.

This particular visit was a friend that I hadn’t seen in a few years. And, her visit made me forget about the pain I’m in and the work that needed to be done and we loved the time we had.

I am so excited when we have people out as I want to hear all about each life, the impact they have made or are making on our world, and the fun they are having and have had.

I want everyone to know that no matter who they are in my life…that they will ALWAYS have A Seat At The Table’ anytime they should need it or want it.

This has become my new priority and those are today’s thoughts from my fun and happy ‘LIFE ON THE PATIO’.