“I’m convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they’re stones that don’t matter. As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to do some good.”
“She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her away, she adjusted her sails.”
~ Elizabeth Edwards
Who said retirementwas fabulous? Who said it would be easy? I want names and numbers (so I can wring their slimy little necks and give them a piece of my mind….).
Yeah, you read that correctly. I’ve had a bit of a struggle. For nearly 35 years, I’ve been part of a group, a dental group, and now, suddenly, I am not. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’ve said goodbye to saliva, bid my farewells to calculus (which often landed in my hair). I’ve also said adios to my achy back (and backstabbing as well). Yes, there are certain aspects of working in dentistry that I gladly left behind. But, then comes the “What’s next?” question and the identity crisis. Can I really find MEANING in dusting? Is there reward in a sparkly toilet bowl?
I’ve been reflecting lately, thinking about life, what mine means, how I now fit. While I don’t know yet where I’ll land, or whether I need to land anywhere, I’m reminded of a strategy I often used in the past when in the midst of turmoil.
When in doubt, do nothing.
Sometimes making decisions hastily leads to more turmoil. I’ve learned that taking my time, letting the answers come on their own–allowing due process to thoughts and feelings, quiet time, and all factors involved–brings peace.
Breathe. Be in the moment. Smell the roses. Stop fretting. Do nothing.
Yeah, I like that. Those. This thinking. Why must I be in a hurry to decide where or what is next? Why can’t I just be? Can’t I be good to me by allowing myself some latitude here? I have earned quiet time, I deserve to ponder in the quiet of my home, surrounded by things I love.
Certain things like simple beauty propel me forward:
Simple gardening, enjoying the flowers that I planted last year that have resurfaced, along with the new.
And, who can resist these:
OK, stop laughing! Yes, that’s my voice and my daughter’s over our astonishment that there are not four, not five, but SIX kittens in this bunch. (I said stop!)
We can only get so close to the “nest” while mamma is away. We are worried she’ll come back while we’re trying to take a look. (Mamma Cat is not ours; she’s feral but has adopted us. We do not feed her, or any cats, outside. Still, she likes our home and has decided to stay. By the time we realized she was pregnant, it was too late to catch her–the plan once she’s finished nursing–so she can be fixed and released.) In the meantime, I’m Mamma Cat’s self-appointed Mother-in-Charge of her and her babies.
I caught her in the act yesterday while she was moving her clan to a safer place. She hissed and growled at me. I’m dealing with it. I’ll be fine. Really. Sniff, sniff…
I also realized after I officially retired (on Feb. 23, 2016) that I had not been very good to me. Yep, that is correct. I had fallen away from good self care: enough sleep, enough water every day, the best food, enough exercise…..and so forth. As we moms often do, we rarely put ourselves first–and looking back, I’d put myself last again, for my family–but I hadn’t fully realized until I retired that I hadn’t helped myself one iota by the lifestyle I had adopted over the years.
I decided to start with some basics: food and simple nutrition. I cannot run this engine properly without the best fuel. I am Somersizing for those who are unfamiliar with this way of eating. After cutting out sugar and all processed food, it’s lots of fresh foods eaten in proper combinations to promote the best digestion. I’ve never eaten so well. I began April 1, and I’m down 6 1/2 pounds and several inches (I did not think to measure when I started). I feel so much better.
Other basics: I’m trying to push the water, make myself MOVE every day, and get enough sleep. It’s amazing how the body responds positively when it’s treated right.
Not to forget emotional health, I came across this book recently.
I have never been overly religious and prefer to keep my beliefs to myself, but I will say that I agree with many aspects of this type of thinking. I found the following in the back:
1. Seize the present 2. Love yourself, whatever faults you have, and love the world, however bad it is. 3. Stop talking and listen to what you really know. 4. Play soccer! (Or whatever team sport you love) 5. Accept the fact that our lives are only partly in our own hands. 6. Believe in the perfectibility of yourself and society. 7. Make your love visible in the world through your work. 8. Seek justice in the world, but not in your own life. 9. Look for the light of God in every person. 10. Let your life speak.
If nothing, it gives me food for thought, let’s me pause when I need time to reflect. I may not have a “job” right now, not one in the traditional sense, but I am part of something (letting go of dental hygiene is harder than I thought–until I recall plaque). I’ve peacefully rediscovered my sense of belonging. I am part of this family, this household, this blogging world, my genealogy friends, and with #7 in mind, those flowers and kittens out there.
Retirement is not an event. It’s a process. No one told me that; rather, it had been painted as glee and glory. It can certainly be glee and glory, but for some, it brings to a close something that was pretty darned good for many years. To me that was a devastating loss.
My daughter whispered today to my husband to buy ice cream. Hmmm. If the only crisis I now face is which delectable dessert to buy or make, I say, Bring it!
Shestood allof 4′ 10″ and weighed 110 pounds. She was my father’s aunt but was more like his second mother. When I recently found a box with her name on the outside I felt my heart twist. Dad became her power of attorney. He passed 11 years ago; now those records sit at my house. I sat down the other night to sort the papers. They are still there. I can’t toss them, not a single one of the three-years-worth of 37 year old cancelled checks, not yet.
I grew up mostly in awe of her, the woman so much like a grandma but who wasn’t. She was, in fact, my grandma’s sister whom we visited often. She had no children–I’ll get to that–and I always wished that had been different. Of the four sisters in my grandma’s family, only one–grandma–had children (my father). The other sisters either died young or had no children. It may have been a miracle we were born.
Hazel de Helen Butterfield Kasae, my great aunt, made me laugh as often as she made me tow the line. I nearly wet myself once when I stayed with her; I was about 10. I was with her while my sister was at grandma’s. We’d switch off so they each could enjoy our charm all to themselves, then we’d switch again.
She’d bought ice cream and after dinner, we both stood in her kitchen while she began scooping. Her freezer must have worked hard that day, requiring her to use some muscle. She stressed and strained, worked a bit more. Suddenly, a scoop of ice cream went flying into the air, over our heads, promptly landing on the floor. It was the funniest thing I had ever seen, and I lost it. Her belly hurt as much as mine for the laughter; it was written all over her face. She tried to refrain. Soon, we were both toast.
Once, when she visited our house in Oregon, she and my mother were in the kitchen preparing for dinner. Mom needed a can of something for dinner, but she’d run out. I was told to run up to the market three blocks away to buy said can. I reluctantly went and bought the desired can. I came home horribly glad THAT was over only to discover it wasn’t. I’d bought the wrong can prompting mom to ask me to go back to the store to get the right one. I didn’t want to go. I’d already been to the store. Couldn’t they do without? Apparently, not. It was Hazel who looked at me and, knowing I was upset and without saying a word, simply shook her head in the affirmative with her sweet smile, encouraging me to go. I will never forget her face, and how she looked at me then and when I got back. She was firm but kind. I loved her dearly.
Hazel was the third sister of four. Lillian, Lalla (grandma), Hazel, and Bertha were the four daughters of Orah Myrtle Smith and Elmer Hunt Butterfield.
I’ve written about Hazel before, but I’ve never written a post solely about her, in honor of her, or because of her.
I don’t know if she knew how much she meant to me, how much I enjoyed spending time at her house, and just being with her. That she tolerated her nieces playing in her basement–mixing the contents of old salt and pepper shakers until the whole room reeked of pepper–was beyond imagination in my book. She was the best.
And, isn’t that the way? We only realize certain things late in the game. Why is it that children are self-centered enough that sometimes people have to die before we realize what they meant? Did she ever know?
Hazel was every bit or more important to my father as she was to me. Dad, being the only child of the four sisters, was kind of like everyone’s child. He was the only, and being the only, was the center of attention among all the adults (that shifted a bit when my sister and I came along).
The house below is the first house my father lived in–he was born in 1929–but which was later purchased from grandma by Hazel and her husband. Here are pictures of the “remodel.”
About that purchase? When going through Hazel’s things I came across this record of the home purchase.
It helps to remember people if I see where they lived, where they worked, and with whom they associated. Exactly none of those papers have been tossed. It feels like saying goodbye all over again.
Hazel began working at People’s Department Store in Tacoma in the late 20s. She worked her way up to head cashier and was well respected. You’ll recognize her below.
As mentioned, Hazel did not have children. The story goes that she was dropped as a baby resulting in an injury to her right hip; one leg remained shorter than the other. Whether from stigma or fear or both, Hazel did not want to risk having children born with the same affliction. Notice below that her right foot rests higher than her left. She would have made a fabulous parent.
Regardless, Hazel welcomed my sister and I with open arms, always. She loved my father and mother as her own, and it showed.
There were no holidays celebrated without her; each time we visited our grandparents, we saw Hazel.
Hazel and her husband were eventually able to buy a larger home, also in Tacoma, within a few blocks of grandma. Her husband added the garage, and they had a dog and raised chickens in the back for a while. They lived in this second home when I knew her.
Below is that new house when first purchased, and at bottom, you’ll recognize two little girls who gave their father a run for his money.
after garage added
When first purchased, early 40s
She may not have given birth, but Hazel did, in fact, have children. She had all of us. Dad did right by her. The journalist and “stickler for details” man he was, he kept records of all phone calls, all conversations, why and when. I have those, too. If something seemed off, he called and recorded the outcome. He followed up on anything amiss until it was clear. He did it all from out of state. He was POA for the youngest sister, Bertha, too.
It’s difficult to throw away those papers, the recordings of her life. It’s proof that she was here. Seeing her beautiful, showy handwriting again made me smile. She and I wrote letters when I was young. The direction of her sentences often took various turns such that she wrote upside down, along the side, or my favorite, in circles. She’d jump to the next, non-sequential page, conveniently leaving off page numbers. It was up to me to figure out where she was going next. It was sheer joy reading Hazel’s letters.
In the later years Hazel developed a form of dementia, particularly painful to me on one specific visit. Dad, Hazel and I had gone out for lunch, and while in the restaurant, she looked at me and said, “Are you Lynne or Karen?” It crushed me that she could not distinguish me from my sister, but I could see in her eyes that she honestly didn’t know. It broke my heart. I cannot recall how well I hid my hurt, whether or not she knew how her question affected me. I simply said, “I’m Karen,” and smiled. She smiled back and my heart swelled and broke all over again. It was my first introduction to dementia.
Her decline was also evident in her changing signature.
I’ve never met anyone like Hazel. I doubt I ever will. She was part of my life from the very beginning, even though she lived out of state. Below: Mom, me, and Hazel.
So, why all the fuss for my father’s aunt? Today is a very special day.
I wish I could make her a great big chocolate cake.
I wish I could scoop some ice cream on top and celebrate for days.
I wish she were here so I could say, “Happy Birthday!”
Born on this day in 1902, she would have been 115.
❤ Wherever you are, Thank you sweet lady, and know you will not be forgotten. ❤
“Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.”
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
Spring is finally here. We have color in the yard. I’ve been waiting.
I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy!
And, the best for last. Can you tell what this is?
My new garden clogs
They have been christened
These were just the ticket, the boost I needed, to get back outside. They are parked safely inside the kitchen door, ready for me at a moment’s notice. They bring out the funky in me. It’s been a very long winter, but I’m ready to get my fingers dirty.
“…it’s going to have diamonds, rubies, and emeralds….” I’d tell my mother, according to my childhood fantasy. Beyond that, there is a certain image I attach to my ship. But, I’ll get back to that.
When I was young, When My Ship Comes In is a game my mother played with us. There were plenty of card and board games, but this was one of my favorites. Mom’s eyes would light up and she’d start by saying, “When my ship comes in, it’s going to have….” and then list all the things she would love to have. Then it was our turn, and we’d tell her what our ship was going to contain.
It was always fun to hear what would arrive on someone else’s ship. Sometimes it was kittens and puppies. Other times it was chocolate bars, pickles, or some load of silliness. Beyond that, it called for imagination, a slice of fantasy, for what may come. I suppose it helped me to envision the future, that there was one. It gave me a sense of possibility, that one never knows what life will bring. The sense of surprise was delightful.
My daughter works in a grade school where, lately, each day is a challenge. She’s been placed in charge of a young student whose home life has been disrupted. We’ll call said student Quinn, a non-gender specific name. From what we can gather, Quinn sleeps on a couch (does not have a personal bed). There appears to be no regular bed time, nutrition appears to be a non-issue, and the food that does come from home is sugar-laden, processed, or both. Quinn arrives each day with bags under the eyes, and has enormous trouble focusing. Flying off the handle and yelling and screaming are the norm. Having said that, there has been no diagnosis of any condition; therefore, there are no “services.” Attempts at academics have fizzled; Quinn is not allowed to sit among the other children due to disruptive behavior. A typical activity is throwing other children’s lunches on the ground, stealing items from a teacher’s desk, running out of class, throwing items at teachers and staff, breaking anything in sight. Quinn destroys; others clean up after.
Maybe due to school policy, personal preference, or just getting through the day, it has been left to my daughter to hold Quinn accountable. No one else makes Quinn say please and thank you or right a wrong; indeed, others walk away (for whatever reason). My daughter is the only one setting boundaries.
When the family is called to retrieve Quinn it’s often at the beginning of the day: it can be at zero minutes in class to an hour or more. Currently, Quinn is allowed in school only three hours on any given day unless a full week passes without incident. If so, more time for the following week is earned. This has yet to happen.
I sigh, and recall fondly a mother who played games with us, someone who genuinely cared and wanted to spend time with us. We were well fed, clothed, and loved, every single day.
When I remember that game we played long ago, I recall my ship out at sea, slowly making its way to shore. It was filled with goodies just for me. The images I associate with my ship–and mom’s for that matter–are all of a certain type:
The type of ship in my childhood fantasy was irrelevant; I recall images with still waters, clear skies, the bluest of sunny skies, and very little wind. It was calm. Peaceful. Serene. Beautiful.
What I did not imagine was this:
Never did my ship have to navigate dark skies, rolling waves, rough waters and the threat of death in a stormy sea. My ship sailed in still waters.
I imagine Quinn must feel tossed about on a regular basis.
There are no rules.
There are no boundaries.
There is improper nutrition.
It appears there is a diet of sugar and processed food.
There are no friends in Quinn’s world.
There is no discipline.
This child appears to be neglected (and is acting out for attention).
Did I mention Quinn is six years old? My heart breaks for this child (and mine who is tested to her limit every day and comes home exhausted). None of what I’ve described is Quinn’s fault; indeed, it appears to be a breakdown of the family unit. Mother is young and distracted, father is absent, grandpa picks up Quinn and helps when he can, mother’s boyfriend does what he can. It truly breaks my heart.
I lunched this past week with a college friend, a retired teacher who’d been in the system for over 30 years. As I described my daughter’s job, my friend looked at me squarely and said, “You’d be surprised how many Quinns there are.” I feel for teachers as well whose hands are tied.
Now, when I think back on my long ago childhood game with my mother, and as I recall her bright eyes at the start of our game, I create a new list for my ship.
When my ship comes in, I want it to head for Quinn’s harbor. I want it to have games, play dates, friends, and sleep overs. I want it to include special time with mom, dad, and grandparents. I want there to be vacations and holidays, filled with togetherness and love. I wish there to be nutritious meals, every single day. I wish for regular sleep, so the next day can be met with sufficient energy to learn and grow. I wish that the adults in Quinn’s life realize what this child is in need of and be able to meet that need. More than anything: I wish for Quinn to have barrels of time and attention and love.
I wish for the gift of time so that one day, Quinn can look back on the early days and recall a mother/father/aunt/uncle/grandparent who took the time, who made time, because nothing is worth more to our future than a child.
What’s on your ship?
Featured Image: Big photo dot com. Others: Internet, free images.