It’s not personal. Four agreements to remember – which one is your favorite?

personally

This quote is from the author of a book I always keep somewhere where I can at least see the hint of the cover at least daily as a reminder.

Don Miguel Ruiz is the author of  The Four Agreements which describes four principles to practice in order to create love and happiness in your life, and free ourselves from the incredible amount of baggage we all carry around.  They sound simple, but they are harder to consistently live by than you might think.

The agreements are based on the Toltec wisdom tradition which originated in southern Mexico thousands of years ago. It is not considered a religion, but a philosophy accessible to anyone open to its insights.

In a nutshell:

1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.  (Little Red Riding Hood always told me if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.)

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.  (This one is the hard to remember, but one that I have implemented in various areas of past conflict or hangups in my life,and it has made my relationships so much richer.  This one is huge.)

3. Don’t Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life. (Think how different the world would be if no one made assumptions. I need to work on this one.)

4. Always Do Your Best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.  (This one has come in very handy with my latest challenges with my Mom.  I have absolutely been doing my very best to ensure her well being and safety this last few years since her health has dramatically declined.  Thank goodness I can realize this without hesitation most days.)

My version of this , summarized:

1.  Keep my mouth shut if it’s not my business to tell or judge.

2. Most of the time, it’s not about me. Everyone has their own bag of issues.

3. Assumptions create problems, often where none exist.

4. My best is the best I can do.

Which agreement is your favorite?

A Different Kind of Moving Day

honeymoon

Moving Day in 1991: MacGyver and I were just married and Connecticut-bound. That little truck was full of hand-me-down furniture from our parents. We just needed streamers and cans tied to the back of our little caravan to make the picture complete.

So many “moving days” flash through my mind like a slideshow in an old Kodak carousel.

Up to this point, moving days that I recall have been full of happy memories.

My nervous anticipation as I unpacked my little red car to move into my first college dorm room.  And the bittersweet excitement I felt when MacGyver and I left my hometown in our little Budget rent-a-truck as newlyweds to drive 1500 miles away and start our life together.

My overflowing sense of pride as we moved into the first little house we purchased years later, and the unbound  joy we felt as we brought our babies home from the hospital and moved them into their newly decorated little rooms.

I can also envision moving my kids to their own college dorm rooms in the not-so-distant future, as hard as that is to believe.  Just imagining  how bittersweet that will feel puts a lump in my throat.

So many moving days filled warm, bittersweet feelings.

Then there’s tomorrow. A move-in day I hadn’t really ever imagined, mostly out of denial. The day I move my Mom into a nursing home.

A wonderful, safe and perfect place for her.  But a nursing home no less.

She doesn’t recognize me much any more and her head has started to hang lower as if  her little neck muscles are starting to give up, so I don’t think she will be sad about the move.  Correction: I pray that she will not be sad, or give me that far-away, but at the same time, not-so-far-away look in her deep, beautiful, soulful brown eyes.

Our roles have now reversed.  And as such, I have written her name in Sharpie on the labels of all of her clothes and towels as I have packed them for her moving day. As if I’m getting ready to take her to camp tomorrow.

It’s all very surreal in so many ways, as the snow spins in the wind outside my window this first day of May.

A new and different kind of ‘moving day’ indeed.

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?

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.

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?

Making a Splash of a Different Kind. PS: I take back every blonde joke I ever wanted to make about Daryl Hannah.

Daryl Hannah TransamAs MacGyver tells me when I get riled up about how unrealistic movies can be, “Honey, it’s only a movie,” I should know better. But back in the day, most movies I saw Daryl Hannah in depicted her in a way that did not make me think of her as a potentially intelligent and interesting person. I fell for her movie typecast, and she in turn raked in some paychecks with that role she was so good at playing.

Today I heard her in an interview on XM radio discussing her new movie project, “Greedy Lying Bastards,” which she produced.  I haven’t seen it yet, so I’m not promoting it.  But I liked listening to her and I was pleasantly surprised. (For those of you who want to quit reading now, you can skip to the best part of this post at the end – look for the asterisks.)

But before you quit reading, know that I am not an over the top liberal.  But I am open minded and I do believe that every action has a reaction.  And there is no way that we can keep increasing our pollution and not expect any consequences. (I did recently trade in my beast of an SUV for a smarter version with much better gas mileage  –  but that’s for selfish reasons to boot.)

I know some of you will automatically be offended by the name of this movie alone and therefore never see it, which makes me question the naming because it would seem to defeat the purpose of getting people to open their minds to at least learning other views of what’s going on with our environment. And to consider why it might seem logical that efforts to change how we consume energy might be thwarted by those whose pocket book would be affected negatively by such change.  To me that makes sense, as does having an open mind to this concept – and to opposing concepts, quite frankly.

(The rest of you who have no problem with the name and are instead checking to see when it comes out and where — it opens nationally March 8.)

Lest I get all political, let me just wrap up by saying  that the best part of listening to that interview was to learn that Daryl practices what she preaches, she makes good practical sense and is she is realistic when she discusses the need to be aware of simply taking care of the world we live in a little better.

*******But the best of all….. I learned that Daryl Hannah owns and drives that TransAm she drove in Kill Bill.  She’s had it converted so that it runs on pure ethanol.  I wonder if she keeps her eye patch in the glove box?

Facial Fuzz Friday

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

My friend who I have known since grade school called me in horror yesterday, laughing and shrieking at the same time as I picked up the phone.

She had just been to her regular aesthetician for a quick eye brow shaping when the woman explained to her that it was time for a chin wax.  She was horrified.

After our call, I opened the community paper to a lengthy article by a regular humor columnist about midlife facial hair and her disastrous experiences with facial microplaning after her daughter told her that her face was furry like their puppy.

And then there’s Little Red Riding Hood’s  “fu manchu”  beard, as  I call it.  Mom’s Alzheimer’s is in full-on fast forward motion (so much so that it’s been hard for me to even think about writing about it lately) and I can hardly bear the frightened look she gives me when I come at her with the scissors to trim her little grouping of silver chin hair.  She would be mortified if she realized, but I’m not sure terrified is much better at this point.  Trust me, I question this judgement call for reasons I’ll explain later.

At my request, MacGyver installed a lovely 5000- power lighted magnification (I’m exaggerating a bit) cosmetic mirror in my bathroom.  And I’m telling you, if I catch my reflection too early in the morning at that strength, I’m convinced Sasquatch is in my bathroom.  I’m tempted to rip that puppy back off the wall, but it might hurt MacGyver’s feelings.

This midlife physical change thing baffles me.  And to be coincidentally timed right as we lose our near vision … so that we can’t even notice our facial fuzz and fur?  Now that’s just cruel.

I’ll add this post to my vanity diaries. I know I’m lucky to even have hair and to be alive to notice.

But I’m even luckier to have close friends who have sworn to me in blood that if I end up not realizing that I have fu manchu facial hair at some point one day, they will chase me down with tweezers in hand, no matter what.

Deep thought Friday … Is your compass in tune?

Katharine-Hepburn

“We are taught you must blame your father, your sisters, your brothers, the school, the teachers – but never blame yourself. It’s never your fault. But it’s always your fault, because if you wanted to change you’re the one who has got to change.”

― Katharine Hepburn

An old friend posted this on Facebook today and I had to share it because it is spot-on.

So many times in the world we find excuses and others to blame, when it is in our power to make a decision to change just about anything in our lives.  We are the ones steering our own ship, deciding how to take the waves – head-on or at an angle, with a course, or without.

We decide how to allow others to treat us. If we let ourselves get taken advantage of or treated like we don’t deserve, it’s because we need to look inside and figure out how to set boundaries. And better understand our self-worth.

We decide whether to allow circumstances to affect us in a negative way, or to use them to help spur our emotional our growth and move us forward.

We decide what excuses will impede our goals.  When we say we’re too busy or “it just won’t work,” we are making a choice.

We decide how that guy in traffic who cut us off will make us feel.  Or how someone who was dishonest, who hurt our feelings, or who was even downright creepy, will make us feel. We have a choice … to carry that around with us or throw it overboard.

Compassion and self-awareness are points on our compass.  And sometimes it takes a painful event or two in life to help us establish these bearings.

One thing is for certain, stepping out of ourselves and looking in objectively is the only way to chart our true course.

Here’s to another inspiring bad-ass of a woman who said it right.