I’m still learning from Mom

Java Joint 4-11-17While we were out for a walk on Monday, May 15, my Mom fell and fractured her hip. We found out later that, during the fall, she also had a heart attack. After 24 hours in the ER she was moved to the ICU, where she stayed for 5 days as the medical team worked to stabilize her heart, lungs and kidneys. May 15 was another example for me of how quickly your life can change and how important it is to never take anything for granted.

For the first 6 days I spent 8 hours a day at the hospital – 4-5 hours in the morning and another 3-4 in the evening so that I could go home and let Liberty out of her crate for a couple of hours. Mom was in a lot of pain but could not be cleared for surgery on her hip because of her heart and overall condition. By the middle of that week I was afraid she was going to die and then, miraculously, she slowly began to rally. Her strong character began to surface and her condition improved to the point where she was moved to PCU and was finally cleared for surgery, which she had on May 23. Three days later she was moved to a rehab facility to begin the long process of recovery. She has been there for 10 days now and has made amazing progress in her daily physical therapy sessions.

Mom at Jump Off Rock, Hendersonville 5-2017

Mom on a recent trip to the mountains

Throughout my life Mom has taught me a lot, not only with words, but also by her example, and I’m continuing to learn from her in this new situation. She is an independent person who prides herself on being in control of her life and she lost all of that in an instant. Aside from a couple of rough patches, she has shown cheerfulness and gratitude to all her caregivers and to me. She has kept her good sense of humor. She has accepted her current situation but, is not resigned to it – and that’s a big difference. She has shown determination in her physical therapy sessions and, as a result, she is growing stronger and more confident each day.

As soon as she’s ready, she’ll be coming to my house for the remainder of her recovery. I feel very blessed to still have my Mom and be able to care for her but, I know this new situation will be a challenge for each of us. She will be dependent on me for many things and I know this will bother her because she doesn’t like to be a “burden” to me. We’re both people who need to have our own space and alone time so I’ve been making my guest room into a comfortable escape for her. It will be a big adjustment for me, not only being her caregiver but, also sharing my home with her because I’ve been living alone for so many years. I’ve become accustomed to doing whatever I choose and coming and going as I please. I think the best way for me to deal with this change is to follow Mom’s lead – with cheerfulness, gratitude, humor and strength of character.

Youth is a gift of nature. Age is a work of art.

Liberty & Nanny 4-11-17

Liberty and her “Nanny”

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

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Perspective

Ocean dreaming 001More about my “retirement” journey. After I retired in 2011 I bought a 6 month subscription to Ancestry.com with the intention of researching my maternal grandmother’s family. One of my cousins in England has researched my father’s family so I wanted to go in a different direction. I was born in England and, as far back as I know, both sides of my family are English so I was pleased by the vast number of UK records that are available on Ancestry.com. I plunged into my research with great enthusiasm and quickly became immersed in it – it was like solving a puzzle or investigating a mystery. Unfortunately, I reached a wall that I couldn’t break through and I gave up on the research.

I like to read mysteries and, during the past year, I discovered a relatively new sub-genre – genealogical mysteries – and I’ve read quite a few different authors. The feature character in these stories is always either a professional or amateur genealogist who, while doing family history research, becomes embroiled in an unsolved mystery that is still affecting people in the present time. While reading one of these mysteries recently I remembered how much I had enjoyed researching my family history. As I read about all the tools and methods the character used in his/her research, it occurred to me that there is a lot more to genealogical research than I had realized and I decided I should give it another try.

This time I want to study the tools and methods of genealogical research. I bought another 6 month subscription to Ancestry.com and joined the National Genealogical Society so I would have access to the educational resources they offer to their members. Ancestry.com also offers excellent information and tutorials. I’m studying an online “basics” course that NGS offers in order to become familiar with the terminology and validation requirements of this type of research. NGS recommended joining a local genealogical society so I was pleased to discover that there is one here that meets monthly. Who knows, maybe I’ll  do family research for other people at some point. Maybe I’ll write a genealogical mystery! I’m not thinking too far ahead; I’m just following my interest.

I’ve received an unexpected benefit from my research. I call it perspective. A strange feeling comes over me when I’m looking at old documents – birth, death and marriage certificates, military records, obituaries – a simultaneous awareness of both my importance and my complete insignificance. I’m important because I’m doing my part in carrying on a genetic chain and I’m insignificant because, in 50 years, no one will remember me. At my age, most of the things I’ve done in my life are already fading into the mists of history. I can imagine someone in the future looking at one of my drawings or reading something I wrote and wondering what kind of person I was. I like to think it will be a great-grandchild researching our family history – maybe even reading all the information I am gathering now.

Genealogical research gives me a much broader perspective on life than I usually have and reminds me that 99% of the things I worry about are not important. The only thing that really matters is how I experience my daily life – with gratitude, kindness, laughter, love, friendship, and prayer.

Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.  ~Omar Khayyam

matanzas-3-29-16

Life is good

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

 

Gently down the stream

Cozy homeIt took me a week or so to realize it but, for the first time, I have no aspirations or goals for the new year! I didn’t even think about it on New Year’s Eve, which is the time when I traditionally ponder what I accomplished during the previous year and then sketch out the things I’d like to accomplish in the new year to come. This is so unusual for me that I actually can’t remember EVER (as an adult) starting a new year without them. For many years I called them resolutions, then I changed to aspirations because I thought resolutions sounded too harsh and rigid but, whatever I called it, the bottom line was that I always had a list of goals for the new year. When I was still working the list was a combination of career and personal goals and then, after I retired, the list naturally became focused on personal goals – but I always had them!

Last year my main goal was to finish Liberty’s AKC training classes and have her tested to become registered with Alliance of Therapy Dogs, Inc. and we accomplished that. We have been volunteering for PAWS to Read at two elementary schools and, although that doesn’t require therapy dog registration, we’re all set for any opportunities that do require it. In other years I’ve had such goals as finishing a book and getting it published (done!) and passing the 100 design threshold on my greeting card website www.greetingcarduniverse.com/LyndaLinke (done!). I had wanted to visit Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello for a long time and I made it a goal for 2015 (done!)

Maybe it’s because I’m older and I’m just experiencing time in a different way than I ever have before. Maybe my perspective has changed because I’ve been learning so much about history and the bible over the past few years. At times, I feel like I’m floating on a stream and everything just flows in and around me and that feels good after so many years of feeling restless and discontented – and possibly too goal-oriented. I finally feel that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing exactly what I’m supposed to do.

I have some vague ideas about losing 10 lbs, writing a new book, adding more card designs to my website, seeking new volunteer opportunities for Liberty and me, and doing some small home improvement jobs, but those ideas don’t carry the same weight as “goals”. All I really want is to stay healthy and be grateful everyday for my blessings – I even have a new sign hanging in my dining room so I can see it every time I sit down to eat “Blessings … count them one by one”. I  actually don’t care if I accomplish anything this year or not … and there is an unexpected feeling of freedom in that.

PS/Ann – thanks for the card. So glad to know you’re still reading and enjoying my blog. Blessings to you and Ira 🙂

I think in terms of the day’s resolutions, not the year’s.”  ~Henry Moore

liberty-and-new-toys-12-25-16

What is this New Year of which you speak? My goals are always the same … food, love, walks, rides in the car, and TOYS!  

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My return to Christmas

family-time-at-christmasI remember trying to stay awake on Christmas Eve to see if Santa appeared and then waking up at dawn to rush into the living room and find a lovely pile of gifts under the tree. I was almost as excited to give my parents their gifts as I was to open my own and, bless their hearts, they oohed and ahhed over the bottle of Evening in Paris cologne or Old Spice after shave. In the afternoon we’d get dressed up – every year my Mom, who was an excellent seamstress, made me a beautiful dress to wear on Christmas Day – and go to my grandparent’s house. All my aunts, uncles and cousins would cram around the dining room table – with an overflow table for the little kids – and have dinner. After dinner the kids played with their new toys, the men sat in the living room smoking and talking and the women washed the dinner dishes and laid the table with traditional English holiday treats like trifle, mince pies, shortbread and fruit cake (this was the 1950’s – men rarely helped in the kitchen!). Inevitably, one of my uncles would drink too much and lead us in a raucous sing along. Kids got tired and cranky and were discovered sleeping in strange places and, finally, were carried out to cars that their dads had warmed up for them.

I have wonderful memories of my childhood Christmases but there was no obvious connection to religion – we didn’t even say grace before dinner! As a child, I was sent to Sunday School and church services and even did a stint in the youth choir but, religion was not an important part of my upbringing. After I was married and had my son, I continued to celebrate Christmas in all the traditional ways but, it had no religious meaning for me. When I was a single parent it became a time of year that I dreaded because I was always financially strapped and Christmas just added another burden. I was stressed and overwhelmed by trying to make Christmas “perfect” for my son and parents. It was also a time when my disappointments and failures seemed to be magnified – at least in my mind. I imagined that I was surrounded by happy families, loving couples and people who were more successful than me in every way (it wasn’t until many years later that I realized what a mistake it is to compare your life to anyone else). The illustration I added to this post is one of the Christmas cards I drew this year. It depicts the type of happy, intact family that I longed for during all those years as a single parent. Back then, Christmas was nothing to me but financial stress and a reminder of all that I felt was missing from my life. I wish I could have found a way to enjoy those years more instead of being so self-absorbed and taking everything too seriously. I wish I could have found a way to relax and let my heart be light.

When I moved to St. Augustine, right after Christmas in 1993, I wanted to start my new life with a change in my attitude about “the holidays”. Since I knew I was going to be alone on New Year’s Eve, I volunteered to work the overnight shift at a shelter for victims of domestic violence. I made changes in how I celebrated Christmas the following year by using my relocation as an opportunity to downsize gift giving, decorating, and cards. I was working for Catholic Charities as an emergency assistance case worker so I had lots of opportunities to focus on the needs of other people and share the “spirit of Christmas”. I attended a Christmas mass at the old Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine with some nuns I knew from work and I went to a performance of Handel’s Messiah at the beautiful Memorial Presbyterian Church. These experiences helped to renew my appreciation for the things I liked about the Christmas season and, in hindsight, I think perhaps a couple of seeds were planted deep in my soul that took many more years to bear fruit.

It took a long time but, I gradually came to have different feelings about Christmas – feelings I don’t remember ever having. It’s not the anticipation and excitement I had as a child but, instead, is a much deeper feeling. It is harder to describe than the thrill I had waiting for Santa Claus. These days I experience Christmas as the celebration of a miracle that invites me to believe in something much greater than anything I can imagine or define. It encourages me to have faith. Now every decoration in my house, every ornament I hang on the tree, every gift I give, every kindness I share and every card I send is my own small way of celebrating that miracle. Oh, and my heart is light.

If you’re reading this and you’re feeling sad, lonely or overwhelmed my advice is to go outside tonight and look at the stars and the moon and take a deep breath. Forgive yourself. Then, go inside and give your kids extra hugs and kisses. If you don’t have kids, hug your significant other. If you don’t have a significant other, adopt a dog from a shelter! Most of all, remember to be kind to yourself.

I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year. ~Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol”

xmas-2016

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

Don’t complain, don’t explain

Complaint department is closedDon’t complain, don’t explain. I read this many years ago in a book by the late, great Dr. Wayne Dyer and it stuck with me because it felt true – I admit I still sometimes complain or explain but, at least I catch myself before I get on a roll! As with most mottos, it’s a bit simplistic. It’s really just meant to be a quick reminder to yourself that you’re not thinking or acting in your own best interest. How is this not in your best interest? Because they both reflect a weakness of character – in one you’re a victim, in the other you’re lacking confidence.

Don’t complainAre you proactive about your own happiness or do you expect others to make you happy? Is it easy for someone or something to ruin your whole day? Complaining is one the most pointless, wasteful, counterproductive things you can do with your time and energy especially if you’re complaining about something you can’t even change. Complaining let’s you be the victim because it’s a “poor me” mentality. It’s a way to get sympathy and attention but, chronic complaining wears on people and eventually they become bored or annoyed with you. They’ll probably start to avoid you. Everybody complains sometimes but, the chronic complainer takes it to a different level – it actually becomes part of their identity and creates a self perpetuating unhappiness. I don’t think I was ever a chronic complainer but, I’ve done my share of what I used to call “bitchin’ and moanin'”. Dr. Dyer and my late friend, Carol, helped me realize that you don’t have to actually complain out loud to have a victim mentality. If your thoughts tend to be a constant stream of complaints then you are allowing yourself to be victimized by your situation, the people in your life, and the things you don’t like about yourself. Complaining, even to yourself, is a form of resisting reality and an unwillingness to change the things over which you have control. (By the way, constantly criticizing yourself falls into the category of complaining) Sometimes the only thing you can change about a situation is how you think about it but that alone can make a huge difference. I want to be clear about the difference between complaining and sharing concerns with someone. We all have problems and fears and talking about them with a friend can help us find ways to overcome them. I believe the old maxim “A problem shared is a problem halved” has a lot of truth to it. On the other hand, complaining is when you just keep talking about the same problems over and over but never actually do anything to change them.

Don’t explain. Do you have a constant need to justify everything you do? Do you have trouble giving a brief and simple explanation for your decisions? I used to be like that far too often and I think it stems from shaky self-esteem and confidence. It was important that everyone understood me and I thought if I explained my thoughts or actions well enough, they would agree with me. I wanted to be approved of and liked and I took it personally when someone didn’t agree with me. Of course, I still want to be liked and agreed with, I no longer need it – at least, not from everyone. Reality is that as long as you’re not breaking the law or hurting anyone, you don’t have to explain yourself. When you have the strength of your convictions and confidence in your ability to make good decisions, you will do whatever you think is right and won’t need to justify your actions. You’re able to accept that not everyone in your life will understand or agree with you and you’ll be comfortable with that.

Complaining not only ruins everybody else’s day, it ruins the complainers day, too. The more we complain, the more unhappy we get.    ~Dennis Prager

New toys for Christmas-2015

Liberty refuses to explain her actions!

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Who I am and why I’m here

How are things on your endThat title sounds like I’m going to get all philosophical and deep, doesn’t it? Well, you can relax because that’s not what I’m going to do. I’m taking a WordPress “Blogging 101” online course and the first assignment is to answer a series of questions. For those like me, who have been writing a blog for a while, it is an opportunity to look back on what we’ve already written, think about why we started a blog, what we have accomplished and what we hope to do in the next year.

Who I am – I’m a 65 year old single (divorced) woman. I have a 38 year old unmarried son who lives in New Jersey and is a web developer for The Blaze media network. I retired after 22 years in social services (10 years in retail sales and management prior to that) and I have lived in Florida since 1993. I love animals and currently share my home with a 2/12 year old female beagle mix named Liberty. I live a quiet life – spend most of my time reading, writing, drawing, listening to talk radio, watching TV, doing some volunteer work and getting together with friends. I still haven’t met the love of my life but, I’m not dead yet!

Why I’m here (in the blogosphere) – I started this blog over 4 years ago, right after I retired. I got the idea from the instructor of a writing class I took (author, teacher, book coach and publisher Michael Ray King) – he said everyone who has a book they want to market should write a blog. I gave my blog the same title as my first book Try Lots of Hats (somehow it ended up with the url “take a personal inventory” due to a mistake I made while setting up the blog!). Aside from hoping to promote my book and greeting cards, I also wanted to document my “reinvention” journey. Writing has always been a way to clarify my thoughts and process my feelings so this blog has been a natural extention of my lifelong habit of journaling. When you’re blogging about your feelings, thoughts and experiences you don’t know if anyone will be interested so I’ve been surprised and honored to have gained 74 followers along the way. One of the things I hope to learn from “Blogging 101” is how to attract more followers and encourage comments. Writing can be lonely – that’s why authors love it when people buy their books (it’s not all about the money!) and bloggers love to get feedback from their followers.

As part of this assignment I went back and read my first few posts and I was pleased to see that I have continued to change and grow in the last 4+ years. I’m glad to know that I haven’t stopped learning and having new experiences just because I retired from the “working world”. My biggest changes have occurred in the areas of political views and religion – something that would have amazed me 4 years ago. My goal from the beginning was to be as honest and authentic in my writing as possible and, dear readers, that is something I will strive to continue as I share my life with you. I’ve discovered that when I’m honest with you it helps me stay in touch with the “real” me.

Christmas 2015

Liberty in deep undercover mode

see more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions 

 

More about happiness

Whole and Perfect-The Love HatIn my last post I was writing about expectations and how they can make you unhappy. As mentioned in that post, I recently read”Happiness is a Serious Problem“by Dennis Prager, which led me to do a lot of thinking about the concept of happiness; what it actually means and how to”get” it. For one thing, happiness is not a light weight or simple idea. Pleasure is not the same thing as happiness but in our contemporary culture they are usually confused with each other. I’ve known people who had plenty of money and every material possession they desired and they were often unhappy and I’ve known people who were poor or who had serious health issues (or both) and were happy.  The most important thing I have learned from my own experiences is that this elusive thing has to come from inside yourself – no one can give it to you. That is a statement that can easily be misinterpreted because we all immediately assume that our happiness is derived from things outside of ourselves – relationships, family, material possessions, money, success, approval, etc., that hold great importance to us. I’m not trying to say that those things aren’t enjoyable or pleasurable or don’t add to your happiness; I’m saying that if you’re trying to find happiness solely from external things it will be fleeting or will often seem to be just beyond your reach .

I wasn’t consciously aware of it but, I used to be a person who was always waiting to be happy. Surely, if a certain man loved me or if I lost weight or if I made more money or if my relationship with my son was better or if I won the lottery or if I lived somewhere else – then I’d be happy!  When I was younger my mother used to say I was a “cock-eyed optimist” or that I saw the world through “rose-colored glasses”. Those are nice ways of saying that someone doesn’t see things clearly and is not grounded in reality – in fact, is emotionally immature. I’m much happier now because I have the strength and maturity to deal with negativity when it confronts me instead of trying to pretend it doesn’t exist. The truth is, if you’re happy within yourself, you’ll enjoy all life’s blessings in a more fulfilling way but you’ll also be strong enough to weather life’s storms and keep your balance. It’s not always easy to find your happiness and holding onto it through all the challenges and sadness of life is an ongoing task. Thankfully, I do have a much better understanding of what need to be happy than I did as a younger person and, yes, –  wait for it – self-love was my biggest discovery because it led to everything else!

In past posts I’ve shared my thoughts about expectations, gratitude and humility, which I think are all elements of happiness. Forgiveness is something I didn’t recognize as an element of happiness until I read somewhere that it is more about you than the person you’re trying to forgive. I was awed and humbled by the forgiveness exhibited by some of the families of the victims of the shooting at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston this summer and the Amish school in Pennsylvania a few years ago. Thankfully, I’ve never had to deal with anything like that and I honestly don’t know if I’d be able to forgive in that type of situation. I’m ashamed to admit that I have struggled to forgive in situations that were of much less significance. I know that forgiveness is a fundamental tenet of Christianity but, it can bring peace of mind and emotional well-being to anyone. If you harbor feelings of anger and hurt toward someone, who are you punishing? Even if you never again see someone who has wronged you, you’ll feel better if you forgive them for whatever they did and let go of those bad feelings. In the end, forgiveness is really about the type of person you want to be, how you want to think and feel.

I’m fascinated by the concept of human happiness. It is so much deeper and more nuanced than I realized. I just started reading “Happiness” by Randy Alcorn, a Christian pastor and author of more than 40 books, and I learned that the word for blessed in Greek, makarios, was used by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount and actually means to be happy or blissful but, it also means “a self-contained happiness”. I guess I’m on the right track.

It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.  ~Agnes Repplier

 

 

Liberty finds her bliss

Liberty finds her bliss

 

Happiness can be found at Lynda Linke Productions  New Christmas cards are available now!

Christmas Eve