Long distance

How are things on your endI know that most people have some long distance relationships but I feel like they have been a central theme in my life. Some of them were caused by moves I made and some were caused by moves other people made but, it all began when my parents immigrated from England when I was 5. For the rest of my life I was 3,000 miles away from my father’s side of the family. Many times I’ve been restless and felt as if I didn’t belong anywhere and I’ve wondered if that is where those feelings started.

When I got married we moved 600 miles away from our family and friends. My marriage itself was a long distance relationship because my husband was a truck driver – he was away for 4 months of our second year of marriage and, for many years, was only home on weekends. We were married for 9 years and, in hindsight, I think the marriage would probably have ended sooner if not for all the time apart! Sometimes distance is a good thing!

After my marriage ended I moved back to my home state of NJ but, to a different area about 90 miles from where my parents lived. Believe me, that’s a long way when you have to drive on the Garden State Parkway to visit – especially on summer weekends! One of my reasons for moving back was because my ex-husband had moved back and I wanted my son to be closer to him and the rest of our family. Unfortunately, my ex-husband decided to move again just a couple of months later, which created a permanent long distance relationship between him and his son.

My next serious relationship was with a man who lived about 100 miles away so, we only saw each other on weekends. I’m sure this didn’t help to strengthen what was already a troubled relationship. After being back in my home state for 12 years I moved to FL, which, of course, placed me 1,000+ miles away from family and friends. My son was 16 and heading down a very bad path in his life. The move pulled him away from bad influences and forced him to make some changes for the better. At the time, I was in a relationship with a man who spent part of every month in FL and part in NJ – another relationship negatively affected by distance!

Thankfully, my parents decided to move to FL about 4 years after me – they built a house right down the street – so we’ve been able to make up for the years we lived far apart. My father enjoyed 9 years of living here before he passed away and I’m grateful that we were able to share so many good times together.

My son decided that he wanted to go back to NJ after 6 months in FL, which created a long distance relationship between us that has lasted, with the exception of a couple of brief periods, for many years. Over the years he has lived in Denver, then NJ again, then Boston and, for the past 3 years he’s been back in NJ where he’ll probably stay. He has an erratic work schedule and sometimes works long hours to meet project deadlines so I usually leave it up to him to call me. Unfortunately, he is not good at keeping in touch so the phone calls are infrequent and the visits even more so.

Seven years ago my best friend moved 1,000 miles away to be closer to her family. This left a big void in my life, but we both put effort into keeping in touch and she manages to visit two or three times a year, which helps a lot. The good news is that she wants to move back to FL and is hoping to do that sometime this year! I’ve been blessed with good friends who live nearby but, sadly, some of the people who are closest to my heart are the ones who are furthest away.

Now I’m about to begin the most difficult long distance relationship of my life. My son’s girlfriend is pregnant and they are getting married. Although it wasn’t planned, they’ve been together more than a year and seem to have a good relationship so, in many ways this is good news – he’s almost 40 and I was beginning to think it might never happen! I always hoped I’d be a grandmother someday but, the reality is that distance will prevent me from having the type of relationship I’d like to have with my grandchild and that makes me sad. Between the physical distance and my son’s poor communication skills this is going to be a real challenge but, I know people who are in the same situation so I’m going to learn from them and do my best to be a good Nanna. I don’t like Skype, talking on the phone or flying but I’m willing to do all those things just to be part of my grandson’s life!

Absence is to love what wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small, it inflames the great. ~Roger de Bussy-Rabutin

August 2014

Liberty’s always ready to hit the road!

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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

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Life is good

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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

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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

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Thanksgiving in Apalachicola

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Mom & Liberty in front of our guest cottage

As regular readers of this blog know, I take my Mom away for Thanksgiving week and another week in late spring. I started doing this the year after my Dad passed in 2006 and these trips have become special times for us. This year Mom, Liberty and I spent the week of Thanksgiving (and my birthday!) in Apalachicola, FL. I had never heard of Apalachicola – called Apalach by the locals – but a few months ago I heard someone talking about it on TV and thought it sounded like my kind of town so I read about it on the Internet. I found a comfortable dog-friendly house right in the heart of town that was perfect for us – The Apalach Guest House, which I rented through local realtor and property manager, Kathy Robinson (www.robinsonrealestate.com)

Apalach is a charming old small town with the Apalachicola river on one side and the bay of the same name on the other. It is a fishing village well-known for oysters and back in the days before trains it was a busy shipping port for all kinds of goods. There is a 17 block historic district with beautiful homes, with some built as far back as the 1840’s. We enjoyed being able to walk just a short block or two from the guest house to the main “downtown” area and we found friendly people everywhere we went, both working in the restaurants and shops and just walking along the streets. Also, lots of dogs everywhere! Early every morning Liberty and I walked along the riverfront and through the deserted downtown.

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Sunrise at the riverfront

One afternoon we toured the historic district and the town on an 8 person golf cart. Since we were the only two passengers (three if you count Liberty), we had our very knowledgeable tour guide, Judi, all to ourselves. Judi is quite an interesting character herself having retired from a 36 year career with the federal government and returning to Apalach, where she has 5 part-time jobs (including being part owner of the tour business and a connected shop) and serves on the library board of directors! If you go to Apalach, I highly recommend a tour with Judi (http://www.enjoyapalachicola.com/vacation-services1/historic-tours). That was Liberty’s first ride in a golf cart and, although a bit apprehensive of the open air experience at first, she quickly acclimated to it and seemed to enjoy herself. I think she realized it was even better than sticking her head out of the car window!

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One of Judi’s favorite homes in the historic district

As vegetarians, it is often challenging for us to find restaurants that serve dishes we can eat but, for such a small town, we did surprisingly well. We enjoyed very good wood-fired oven pizza at Slice of Apalachicola, one of the best veggie quiche I’ve ever had at Cafe Con Leche, and for my birthday Mom treated me to dinner at Up the Stairs (http://www.upthestairs.me/) where we enjoyed a delicious pasta dish and the decadent “Nonnie’s chocolate cake” (made with a recipe from Chef Richard’s grandmother). Funny side note: when we arrived for dinner, there was Judi at the door – it turned out that one of her part-time jobs is as a hostess at Up the Stairs, which is owned by her step-daughter! Small town life!

One afternoon we walked to the Ormon House Historic State Park, adding another one of Florida’s great state parks to the list we have visited. For a paltry $2 we were able to tour the beautifully restored house, which was built in 1838 and overlooks the Apalachicola River, stroll the grounds and enjoy the Chapman Botanical Garden. Also on the grounds is the Three Soldiers Detail, a bronze replica of the Vietnam memorial statue in Washington, DC.

I like Thanksgiving because it is such a uniquely American holiday and I hope all of you, like us, took a few moments to be thankful for all the blessings we Americans have. In fact, it’s good to take time to be thankful everyday!

If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily. ~ Gerald Good

 

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Good spot for a rest!

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October Musings

Opal - October birthday for herThere are many things in my life for which I’m grateful. I thank God every day for my good health, the people who care about me, my four-legged best friend Liberty and my home. Last week we were fortunate to make it through Hurricane Matthew unscathed – power was out for less than two days and the only damage my house sustained was one shingle that ended up in the yard. So why have I been so down in the dumps this week?

It’s a combination of things – the awareness that time is passing by, I’m getting older, and I still haven’t met my soul mate, the feeling that everything I’ve accomplished in my life is in the past and now I have no real purpose, and just general concerns about my future and the future of our country. I knew this was a passing mood because it does descend on me every so often. Most of the time I’m content with my life but the other day I was wondering why love has always been such a challenge for me. I’m sure I’m not alone in these thoughts and someone who is reading this has also thought that, although their life is good, something is still missing. I believe there is a reason for everything and that God has a plan for each of us but that doesn’t mean I’m always able to patiently accept the unknown!

I decided I needed to talk it over with a good friend so I stopped at her house after my yoga class. I know she has experienced the challenges and disappointments of trying to find love and self-worth. She was divorced, and then spent many years as a widow. She tried online dating, fix-ups, blind dates and had no luck with them, just like me. She decided at some point to put it in God’s hands and just make the most of her life. It didn’t happen right away but, a few years after she came to that decision, she finally met the love of her life in a totally unexpected way. Actually, I came to the same decision myself several years ago but, every so often, the old doubts resurface and cause me to question “what is”.

It was good to talk with my friend because, having had many of the same experiences, she understands my feelings and offers just the right balance of reassurance, encouragement, and sympathy. She reminded me that, even when you don’t think you’re doing anything “important” you may be making an unseen impact on someone’s life. She said I have no way of knowing how much I may be helping a child when Liberty and I participate in PAWS to Read. Hmm. I just do it because I enjoy the kids and it’s fun for Liberty so I hadn’t thought about it that way but, as soon as she said it, I knew she was right. She suggested that I write two lists – one being 10 things I think are good about my life, the other being 10 things I’m not satisfied with. She remembered doing that in the past and feeling that it helped to put things in perspective for her. I know the positive in my life far outweighs the negative but I’m going to do the lists because I always like the idea of gaining new perspectives. Meanwhile, I already gained some perspective and lightened my mood just by sharing my feelings with such a caring friend. As I drove home I thanked God for the blessing of her friendship. Later on, she gave me another blessing when she sent an email saying that our conversation had helped her, too. She has been going through a significant health challenge this year and, in helping me with my concerns, she realized she needs to reassess some things in her life, too.

This morning the temperature was in the low 40’s – I’ve been waiting for a morning like this for two months! The sun was shining, there was a light breeze, Liberty was feeling very frisky and we had a lovely long walk on a wooded trail. As I walked along, saying my prayers, I could feel the last of my heavy mood lifting and blowing away on the breeze. I stopped to get a fresh baguette at the bakery then went home, toasted it and slathered it with butter and raspberry jelly. I sat in the screened porch and enjoyed the baguette, Starbucks Cafe Verona and the beautiful morning. Life is good 🙂

So, you may ask, what’s the point of this post? I guess I just wanted to share my thoughts about how I deal with down moods in the hope that it will be helpful to someone out there who might be feeling sad or alone. Some suggestions: 1) talk to a good friend whom you can trust with your feelings; 2) focus on the blessings in your life; 3) do something nice for someone; 4) adopt a dog from a shelter!

Happiness is not the absence of problems; it is the ability to deal with them.

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Treats? Yes?

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My American Dream

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God Bless America

The “American Dream” is not a three bedroom house in the suburbs with a two car garage. It is not about accumulating vast wealth. It is not about achieving goals. And yet, it incorporates those things and much more because it is an idea. It is a very simple and very complex idea. The American dream is based on individual freedom – the most radical basis for a government the world has ever known.

Our Constitution was designed to protect us from government over-reach and tyranny so that we can pursue our individual dreams in peace. Our rights, as stated in the Declaration of Independence seem very simple on their surface – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – but they encompass everything we need to survive or succeed, according to our ambition and ability. Any thinking person understands that we are not equal in intelligence, attractiveness, physical strength, ambition, character or abilities and nothing can make us equal by those measurements. We are all unique individuals and we are equal only in the eyes of God and the rights He has given us, which are protected by our Constitution. Whether you believe in God or not is irrelevant, this is the foundation upon which our country was built. We are equal in rights and opportunity under the law, not in achievement or acquisition or ability. We have the right to succeed and we have the right to fail. We have the right to pursue our happiness as we choose, as long as we don’t infringe upon the rights of others.

The American Dream is what has made this country exceptional. In spite of corrupt, immoral politicians and the army of federal agencies and government bureaucrats that are constantly chipping away at our Constitutional rights with a mountain of regulations, I believe the radical idea of individual freedom is still alive – although currently on life support. These are discouraging times and, although I’m sickened by the presidential campaign, I haven’t given up on the American Dream yet. I’m ashamed that it took me so long to fully appreciate my country and my rights – I really just started paying attention 5 years ago but now I look for and support politicians and organizations who are interested in protecting the Constitution from those who want to undermine or destroy it. Some people who know me think they know my politics but, they really don’t.  In my life I have voted for both Democrats and Republicans; in fact I just voted for a Democrat to be mayor of my town. I have tried to vote for the person I felt was best for the job; however, the Democrat party as a whole has veered way too far left in the past 20 years or so to align with me. 

I’m a Constitutional Conservative (with libertarian leanings), which means I think that conserving the Constitution is of more importance and significance than any one politician or political party. I’ve recently been educating myself about a movement that is growing in strength across the country – Convention of States http://www.cosaction.com/ Whatever your political party, if you’re concerned about the direction in which our country is heading, I urge you to go to their website and learn about their mission. I have signed their petition and I’m considering volunteering in some capacity with my state group. We the people still have rights that are worth fighting for.

The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government – lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.  ~Patrick Henry (patriot, lawyer, and orator)

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Freedom is a beautiful thing!

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