Now that’s a great return on investment.

candleWhen we give of ourselves – whether it be through love, encouragement or understanding – it costs us nothing.

Yet, as with a candle that lights another, the light is multiplied with each new candle lit.

Now that’s a great return on investment.

Sunset Reset.

sunsetFrom within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things, and makes us aware that we are nothing,  but the light is all.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

I took this photo last night from my friend’s back patio.  Just looking at it again – even as a photo – makes me breathe easier.

Just as the setting of the sun helps birds all over the world to find their way, that same sunset can clear the way for what the new day holds for each of us.

When was the last time you watched the sunset?

What a friend makes.

hafiz

Handmade plaque by MB Art Studios on Etsy. http://www.etsy.com/shop/mbartstudios?ref=seller_info

I consider myself an extremely lucky person to have several true, genuine friends.  To me, this makes me rich beyond any dollars and cents.

Here’s how you can spot a friend of mine:

They don’t expect anything in return for anything they do for me – ever.

They don’t keep score about anything related to money – ever.

They don’ t keep track of who called who last – ever.

They don’t brag or make themselves feel better by putting me down – ever.

They accept me for all my flaws (and I have plenty) and they don’t want to change me or teach me a lesson of any sort – ever.

If they are worried or concerned about me, they reach out – beyond texts and emails or “I’m here if you need me” niceties.  They know when I might need to hear their voice, even if it’s just leaving a message with no expectation of a return call.

They are beautiful people  at their core, and being with them makes me feel better about myself and the world around me.

For these friendships, I am truly grateful.

Friendships are the sprinkles on the cookie of life.

Got any friends like this?

Goldilocks mission for Little Red Riding Hood successful thus far: The dreaded nursing home decision.

little redI haven’t written any posts for more than a week. I’ve been a bit numb from the drain of the last weeks with Mom, or Little Red Riding Hood, as I like to call her on my blog. And I know you readers enjoy my more light-hearted posts. So I’ve been torn about writing about Little Red Riding Hood for the last month or so. But it’s part of my Life on Wry, so I’m sharing a post I wrote today for my other blog, Laughing at Alzheimer’s (because laughing doesn’t’ make my mascara run).  So here we go.

Nursing Home selected. Check. (I’m tired … are you?)

The much anticipated intervention meeting with my Stepdad was successful. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy convincing a man that it’s best for his wife of 30-plus years to be in a nursing home because of the level of care she needs. But the hospice folks helped me get through this difficult conversation. It had to happen. I was losing too much sleep worried about them both.

We ended the meeting with him open to the idea and to hearing about my top choices after researching and touring area nursing homes that were a potential fit.

The next day when I came to help with Mom, I again explained to my Stepdad that I wasn’t trying to be pushy, but that I felt – for various reasons that I explained and probably over-explained – that it was the right thing to do for both of their safety and well being, as hard as it was to formulate those words.  He knew I didn’t take this lightly and that I had been researching options for when the next shoe might drop (after our infection in December sent Mom into a tailspin of decline). He knew my heart was in the right place.

In true Goldilocks style, I have been researching and touring various nursing homes of various sizes with differing amenities and programs. Small, medium, big homes, ones with lots of programming and little programming, ones close to my house and close to my parents’ house, in the lower, medium and higher price ranges.

I participated in these tours almost robotically, as if for a work project for which I was designing a features and benefits grid in order to write a brochure about their differences. I only cried on the way home from the tours a couple of times. It was a completely surreal experience. I wanted to have my sister with me, but it wasn’t an option. She’s been gone for 13 years. This was a solo mission. And she was with me in spirit, I really think she was.

After I went through all of my notes and all of the brochures with my Stepdad he agreed. He said it sounded like I had a favorite and he liked my rationale. I gulped and told him how much pressure that was to be the one to pick and he calmed my nerves and reminded me how much effort I had put forth. Was he really on board? He would go see it with me later in the week (last week) and bring his checkbook for a deposit if it felt right.

Was I hearing him right? Was he really on board? Don’t get me wrong, this took much time and many “come to Jesus” conversations, as I like to call them, over the last couple of years, and more angst than I can even explain. But he knew I seemed more serious this last few months since Mom’s decline. And he knew, in his heart, it was time. But was I actually hearing him agree with me on this subject for which I dreaded the very thought of? Indeed.

I explained to him how one of the nursing homes just felt right to me and I could picture Mom there. How natural it even felt with the Executive Director who gave me the tour. She reminded me of someone dear from my hometown. So many things made it seem like the right place. I drove away dabbing tears and pulling myself together, knowing that it was the place my Mom should be.

I took my Stepdad a couple days later. It was clear to me that he had taken some time to think about this whole issue, and felt even more resolve that the stimulation and care she could receive was what would be best at this point in her decline. I was still in shock that this was really happening and that I had steered our ship to this point.

Tomorrow the ‘assessment team’ from the nursing home will assess her at my parents’ house. To determine her needs, and that the facility is a good fit. Now that we’ve come this far, I only hope it will all go smoothly. I know it’s going to be a rough ride, but surely it can’t be more rough than the last couple of years, right? I’m probably wrong about that aspect, but I still know in my heart it’s what is best.

I’ve already picked out a comforter and curtains for her little room. They have flowers and the colors of pink roses in them like she likes, or liked anyway. And I have a list ready of what all that I will furnish her room with, from photos and knick knacks to her wall calendar and hand lotion. My stomach is wrought with unease, and I wake each morning consumed with guilt and wishing my sister were here to tell me I’m doing the right thing.

We’ll see what tomorrow holds. I’m going to think positively. Besides, that’s what I tell everyone else to do all of the time.

But being a grown-up really does suck sometimes. And it makes me tired.

Wish me luck.

Note to self: Shut your mouth.

mouthSo, my sixteen year old son got his first speeding ticket.

Before you judge, know that he was reprimanded sufficiently and that he will be paying the fine.  And that the ticket was reduced to a defective vehicle violation.

He also beat himself up about it more than sufficiently, as he was clearly upset and remorseful. Days later, as his remorse continued, I decided that the best way to make him feel better about the whole thing would be to begin recounting my litany of violations and mistakes with regard to automobiles when I was young.  I was on a roll and my stories kept getting better and better.

As the words rushed out of my mouth at full speed, MacGyver looked at me puzzled, as if wondering why I thought this was a good idea. But I didn’t get the hint.

Then at some point, thank goodness, I realized that I needed to shut my mouth.  But … as it is on many occasions … it was too late.  I have only my lack of caffeine that morning to blame for this lapse in judgement.  Duh.

Ever realized you needed to shut your mouth when it was too late?

Who’s making you crazy today?

openheartI urge you to let it go.

And you should urge me to do the same.  Because sometimes I’m great at giving advice, but horrible at listening to it for myself.

This is something that I’m working on. And it’s a tough one for me.

When people disappoint me, I have to remind myself that:

a) it’s rarely ever personal and who knows what  is going on in the other person’s life that I may not know about,

b) it does no good to waste my energy being disappointed,

c) negative thoughts just attract more negative energy,

d) it takes away from me being present and in the moment, and finally …

e) there is probably something I could learn from it.

So there you have it.

What disappointment or frustration are you going to let go of right now?

Painting my way to the center.

paint 3

I knew once I started noticing the birds outside the window and doing a mental inventory of my art teacher’s studio that I had learned about as  much painting technique as my limited attention span could handle. My instructor taught me how to paint with acrylics last spring (because it was on my 2012 bucket list).  She was wonderful and made me realize that there is no such thing as a bad painting and you can always paint over anything you think is a ‘mistake.’

However I started to notice toward the end of our time together that my teacher closely followed her own set of painting rules.  I’m not big on rules, and especially letting layers of paint dry which most artists do.  So by the end of our time together I couldn’t help but think about how many paintings I could crank out  in one third the time we were taking to do one in class.  Clearly I’m not big on details and patience is far from a virtue of mine, so it was time to fly the coop.  I now create paintings whenever I need a mental break or need to procrastinate.

As I paint sometimes I like to take progress photos.  With this large, 4′ x 2′ painting, my goal was to create my own interpretation of another painting (see bottom pic and photos of the three phases of its life).

It may be because my head cold is making me delirious and more reflective than usual, but some life lessons which were at work as I did this painting have come to mind:

-In the beginning I had no idea how to start but threw some paint on the canvas and started anyway without over thinking it.  (Over-analysis leads to paralysis. Just do it.)

-I had doubts during the  first phase, but powered on. I could always reuse the canvas.  (Gag the self-doubt gremlins and keep on keepin’ on.)

-I had to  level-set my expectations for the final result (it was going to be my version of the other painting, it didn’t have to look just like the inspiration painting).

-I’m pretty sure I was 95 percent relaxed while I did this painting (even though I was most suredly procrastinating something else like touring nursing facilities for my mother).  But for the most part, I set everything else aside once I got going. (I got out of my head and relaxed and breathed.)

-I could have easily said ‘I don’t have time’ to paint that day.  (But I made time because I was feeling out of balance … whether I realized it on a conscious level or not.)

The end result is a cool painting that is somewhat similar to the inspiration piece but I actually like mine better.

And you know that theory about finding a creative outlet to relieve stress?  It works.

In fact, the benefits of any kind of focused artistic creation (painting, collaging, gardening, photography, writing, you  name it) are said to include distraction, flow (getting completely engaged in something to the point of almost meditating) and  balance.

All of these things help you become more centered which really feels good.  Pretty cool concept.  I’m grateful that I’ve learned this.

What have you created lately?

paint1

Phase 1

paint 2

Phase 2

paint 3

My final painting.

patricia-quintero

Inspiration piece.

Because sometimes you need to make a wrong turn.

berthoud pass

This is one side of the pass. And this pic was taken while it was dry. During the white-out that I drove in, you wouldn’t be able to see the road from this vantage point because of the blowing snow.

I sat up in my seat as straight as I could, like there was an ironing board strapped to my back.  I barely spoke a word as my friend tried to ease the tension with idle conversation.  My eyes were peeled as wide open as I could get them and staring straight ahead as my hands gripped that steering wheel for life. The snow was blowing so hard that I could barely see the car in front of me as we traversed hair pin turn after hair pin turn.  I knew I had to keep up with that white suburban in front of me because his tail lights were helping me see where the road was.

This treacherous trek was the result of my friend and I missing a turn during the four hour trip home from the horse clinic in the mountains a couple weeks ago (What I learned from Babe).  We got to talking so much that once we realized that we missed the turn, we were far enough into the other route home that the gal at the convenience store said we should stay on course and probably end up saving time taking this route home from Steamboat anyway.

I knew this route home involved Berthoud Pass which terrifies me in snowy conditions and I usually let my husband drive it while I close my eyes and breathe deeply or look at my phone to distract myself until we get through it. I’m convinced the reason that mountain real estate is cheaper on the other side of Berthoud is because so many people like me dread this pass in the snow.

berthoud

Photo from The Colorado Highways Site.

But it was bright, sunny and warm as I got back into the car after asking the store clerk. If I had known about the snow storm that would be hitting just as we climbed the pass – just over 30 minutes ahead – I would have turned my car around at the convenience store lickety-split and paid no mind to the time we would lose in doing so.

Needless to say, it was a white- knuckle drive all the way up and back down this pass that terrifies me (all 24 miles of it).  Once we began our upward climb and the snow started to make it hard to see, there was no turning back.  We were committed.  All I could hear in my mind over and over was ‘just keep swimming, just keep swimming.’  (This seems to be my latest life motto.)

And we did it.  MacGyver gave me a huge high-five upon my return home because he knew what an accomplishment it was for me to get over my fears and JUST DO IT on that damn pass, and in a white-out no less.  Now when I drive it this summer I won’t even think twice about being afraid of it.  And that, my friends, ROCKS.

Once again — just as the trusty universe knows exactly when I need to take The Long Way Home — the universe  knew that I needed to make that wrong turn.  And for that I am grateful.

What’s the best wrong turn you’ve ever taken?

On mortality.

chinese proverb

A high school friend of mine died yesterday.  He was 43. Cancer won the battle with his body.

We didn’t stay in touch really other than Facebook and barely at that. And we talked at our last reunion.

But I can see his face.  And I can’t quit thinking about him, his family, and our own mortality.

He was one of the class hunks in high school, with a heart of gold. He will be missed by many.

I see death as a reminder to live, and to do so with honesty, intention and abandon that is even reckless, at least a few times.

How do you see it?

Photo from http://shop.holstee.com/

Photo from http://shop.holstee.com/.
This is framed on my kitchen wall.

Driving through a postcard everyday. Caution: Cheese ahead.

4run front copycheese signAs cheesy as it sounds, and maybe it’s because I’m not a Colorado native, I must say that I appreciate this state’s absolute beauty and splendor every single day.

This state has placed nature squarely in front of my face, giving my soul a little jump start each time I stop to notice.

Here are a few shots over the last few weeks from my life as I drive through postcards.

And I don’t even live on the side of the town with the views…

 

morning1

Across from school drop-off yesterday.

Deer grazing in park on way to Mom’s house yesterday.

View as I cross over the dam to go to Mom's.

View as I cross over the dam to go to Mom’s.

On the long way home afteer school as sun is coming up. (previous post about Long Way Home: https://lifeonwry.com/2012/09/19/the-long-way-home-gratitude-experiment-day-35/)

On the long way home after school drop-off yesterday. (previous post about Long Way Home: https://lifeonwry.com/2012/09/19/the-long-way-home-gratitude-experiment-day-35/) I love the long way home.

On way to school a week or so ago.

On way to school a week or so ago.

In the mountains last week.

In the mountains last week.

One-year old babies at the ranch last week.

One-year old babies at the ranch last week.

View from my bathroom last week.  For real.

View from toilet last week in mountains. For real.

Out of car window last week.

Out of car window last week.

My co-pilot.

My photography co-pilot on a bad hair day.

Postcards can be found wherever we live, if we keep our eyes open. Ever stop and notice?

What I learned from Babe.

Babe

I knew I was beyond “rusty” with my horsemanship skills. I had a horse when I was young for a few years, but I had only taken a few lessons here and there over the last few years. Horses had remained a staple in my dreams but not realistic for my life.

So I knew when I signed up for an intensive horsemanship clinic in the mountains led by a well-known trainer / “horse whisperer” that I would be learning a lot.

But I had no idea what I would learn about myself in the process.

Babe was my horse for the week, as she was when I came to this same ranch a few weeks ago. I remembered that she was hard-headed and we struggled a bit, and that I had much to learn with her.

As the trainer introduced the horses who the twelve of us students would be riding for the week, he mentioned that Babe was one of the most sensitive horses in the arena. A great horse, but very sensitive. I took a nervous gulp. I wondered why the trainers wouldn’t think a more easy-going gelding instead of a quirky and sometimes hormonal mare wouldn’t be a better fit for someone like me?  But I soon realized there was a reason Babe and I were together again.

All of the other eleven riders had more experience than me. Many of them had their own horses and were simply here to fine-tune their skills. I was intimidated from the start as I tried to rein in my self-doubt which began to run wild at the start of each new exercise.

But in the end, as I released Babe from her halter that last day and the snow was falling all around us and she nuzzled her head into my chest, I realized that I had learned much more than horsemanship that week. And that Babe and I had truly bonded and learned from each other. I smiled as I gave her a kiss on the cheek and remembered that I too have been called hard-headed and sensitive on more than one occasion.  It had all been part of the plan.

What I learned from Babe choice

– Sometimes it takes a while to connect.  Babe seemed irritated as we groomed our horses that first morning and would hardly engage or acknowledge me while all of the other horses seemed to be loving the attention. (We’re not all hard-wired the same and some things take time.)

– If you’re having trouble, it’s a good idea to look inside yourself before you blame anyone else. (It’s hardly ever the horse’s fault.)

– Positive energy is key to everything. (I knew this stuff, why had I forgotten that like attracts like, negative thoughts attract the same, positive attracts positive?)

– Horses are smarter than people, and way more perceptive. (It’s always beneficial to leave your ego at the barn door and be truly open to learning.)

– Overanalysis can lead to paralysis. (The brain simply can’t be open to learning new things when it’s bogged down and you’re not breathing and giving it fuel.)

– Everything is relative. (Comparing yourself to anyone is never a good idea.)

– Expectations have got to make sense. (Appreciate a little bit of  improvement so you can be thrilled when you experience more.)

– Know the direction you’re wanting to go and make it happen, even if you’re told otherwise. (As a quote I saw recently says: You have the power at any given moment to say “This is not how the story is going to end.”)  Babe just wanted to make sure I was serious first.

– Visualizing success before you begin calms your soul and primes the pump. (Wow does this ever apply to everything.)

– When you’re leading anyone, they must know you are in charge to feel secure. (They need your guidance and confidence. And it can be given with love and appreciation at the same time.  Balance is a beautiful thing.)

– Never end a day on a negative. Figure out a way to make sure of this with kids, spouses, employees, friends, and yes, animals. (The way we end a day has a lot to do with the way we start the next.)

– Relax.  (When you’re tense others can sense it …  and it affects everything.)

– When things come easily we don’t appreciate them near as much. (The strongest love is born from struggle and sweat.)  Ain’t that the truth.

– Sometimes we’re presented with just the exact challenge that the universe knows we need. (You just have to be open to seeing it.)

Have you ever learned about yourself in a most unexpected place?

E=mc2 Or better yet, a theory on miracles.

car view steamboat

There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle.

The other is as though everything is a miracle.

–Albert Einstein

What miracles have you noticed — or forgotten to notice — around you lately?  I took this photo from my car window on the way home from Steamboat. The whitest mountains follow the Continental Divide, which separates the water that drains into the Pacific and the waters that drain into the Atlantic oceans.  Call me a nerd (which I’m okay with), but that’s just cool.  Never-mind the fact that I can snap a photo that cool with my phone which is not much bigger than a deck of cards.Divide sign

Random fact: Albert didn’t like to wear socks.  This went with his overall disheveled look and uncombed hair. He thought socks were a hassle since shoes already seemed to serve the same purpose. Whether at the White House or out sailing, he went sockless.

  Now go find some miracles…

Level-setting expectations is half the battle.

lionquote
MacGyver often reminds me that not everyone lacks any type of duplicitous bone in their body.  And that my life would be much simpler if I wasn’t so completely lacking in this area (although he appreciates this quality in me).  And that not everyone is completely honest and upfront with their feelings, quite the contrary actually.   And that most suredly everyone’s priorities are quite different for various reasons, even if this is sometimes hard to understand.

That’s why I had to share this quote posted by a friend today.

So very true and such a great reminder…

Any expectations you need to fine-tune today?

Happy Hump day!