All my Christmases have a different story

Merry Christmas Across the MilesAll my Christmases have a different story, generally reflecting the state of my life at the time. My childhood Christmases – when I still believed Santa brought the gifts – were full of excitement and anticipation. Those were also the times when I still enjoyed going to church services and even sang in the choir when I was 13 and 14. I’m an only child but my mother had 6 siblings so I grew up with plenty of aunts, uncles and cousins and we all went to my grandparent’s house for dinner on Christmas. I have happy memories of those years. In my early adult years we all started moving away and then I got married and entered a new phase.

Our relationship was a rocky one with lots of ups and downs during our almost 9 years of marriage but, I have good memories of some of the Christmases we spent together. He had a great sense of humor and was very quick-witted so he could usually make me laugh, even when I was mad at him. Some stories only became funny in later telling; like the year he came home drunk from a work Christmas party and fell onto our little 4′ tree that I had just finished lovingly decorating! He was almost 6’5″ and about 230 lbs so you can imagine what happened to the tree. Then there was the year our dog got into a whole tray of gingerbread men and spent the next few hours puking and pooping (this is a companion story to the year my son’s cat got into his Easter basket and came walking across the floor the next day with a long strand of green cellophane trailing from her butt!) In the fifth year of our marriage our son was born and we had some nice Christmases together as a family – until we didn’t.

Then there were all the single parent Christmases. Except for the first Christmas in the first house I owned, all those years blur together in my mind. The stress, financial anxieties, and pressure (mostly self-inflicted) of doing everything possible to give my son happy Christmas memories. The sadness and feelings of failure despite all the effort. The difficult relationships. The loneliness of not having a partner when it seemed that everyone around me was part of a couple. The awkward social gatherings with my ex-husband’s family – he there with his girlfriend and me, of course, alone. Forced joviality for the sake of my son, when inside I was seething over another year of late child support payments and neglectful behavior.

After I moved to Florida, my feelings about Christmas gradually changed. I let go of unrealistic expectations and began to take responsibility for my own happiness instead of thinking like a victim. A few years later my parents retired and joined me and I had a lot of really nice Christmases with my parents and my son, who arrived from wherever he was living to spend Christmas with us. Gradually, and privately, I began to find my way back to God and reconnect with the meaning of Christmas.

This year marks another big change in Christmas. My 40-year-old son finally got married and had a baby so his life is completely different from when he came here last Christmas. Naturally, they wanted to celebrate Christmas in their own home and with her family so they came for a visit a couple of weeks before Christmas. We had a wonderful visit and my mother was thrilled to meet her great-grandson but, Christmas this year has been very different.

Matthew with his Nanna Catton 12-8-17

The new great-grandmother!

On Christmas Day Mom and I had a nice dinner and then we opened Liberty’s gifts – 2 new toys and lots of treats and chewies!  We exchanged our gifts and then watched “A Christmas Carol”, as we always do. My son called from his home a thousand miles away to wish us a Merry Christmas and thank us for the gifts we sent. It was so nice to hear his voice but, his presence was certainly missed. I had some sad moments this Christmas but, I’m thankful that my feelings have mostly been of happiness and gratitude. That is a gift in itself.

If you’re struggling with feelings of unhappiness during this time of the year I have two suggestions – find a way to be of service to others, and read “Happiness is a Serious Problem” by Dennis Prager. (I’m not talking about clinical depression or any serious mental health issue – if you fall into this category please seek professional help). I’ve mentioned this book before because it was such an eye opener for me – I’ve read it all the way through three times and I periodically re-read sections. He also has a YouTube video in which he lectures about happiness – one of his favorite topics!

Liberty - Christmas portrait #1

Liberty’s Christmas 2017 portrait

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

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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

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!  

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

Dream Tweaker

A Star to DiscoverA friend, who recently turned 70, made the comment to me that it was difficult for him when he realized that he’s not going to be able to do all the things he once dreamed about, or live all the lives he wanted to live. I don’t like that thought either but, I understand what he means. He’s not saying that you can’t have adventures or new experiences, it’s just that, at some point, the awareness seeps into your mind that time is no longer on your side. Possibilities are no longer endless and some of your dreams will probably never come true. We’re so used to thinking that we have plenty of time ahead of us to achieve our dreams – when the kids are grown, when we have more money, when our  responsibilities to elderly relatives are fulfilled – but eventually we’re confronted with reality.

This is where dream tweaking comes in. I’ve had a dream for a while about traveling all over the country in a small RV with my dog, Liberty. I’ve spent many happy hours over the last few years looking at maps, researching different types of RVs, and doing lots of armchair traveling on the Internet. I’ve planned the routes I would take – hop scotching across the map from one national park and historic site to another. I’ve had a lot of fun with this dream but recently I’ve started to look at it through a more realistic and practical lens. For one thing, this dream can’t become reality as long as my mother is with me. I treasure her presence in my life and hope she lives many more healthy years but, the reality is that I will probably be quite a bit older by the time I’m free to roam. I’m 65 now – is it realistic to think that a woman in her 60’s (or 70’s) with no mechanical abilities could travel the country alone in an RV? Maybe, but I’m beginning to have doubts. I haven’t completely abandoned the dream but, I am tweaking it. I’m thinking about alternate ways to achieve this dream, like doing my wandering in a comfortable car and staying longer in places I like.

Back in 2009, when I adopted Stella, I began renting dog-friendly homes on Homeaway.com for my vacations with Mom and we have stayed in many affordable, comfortable places. I have also rented smaller places for solo trips with my dogs so this might be a more practical way for me to achieve the dream of a cross country trip. There are many expenses involved in RV ownership – maintenance, extra insurance, increased gas costs, and storage fees (my town doesn’t allow RV storage on my property) – so, driving a car and staying in vacation rentals might be financially comparable to traveling in an RV.

Dreams are enjoyable and I happen to believe they’re good for you – let your imagination soar and then do what is possible at whatever stage of life you’re in. If you’re 85 and you’ve dreamed about learning a new language or taking up painting – do it!! You probably won’t become a famous artist and it might be too late to become an interpreter at the UN but you can enjoy the fulfillment of your dream even if you have to tweak it to make it work. It’s reasonable to accept the limitations of age or disabilities but don’t completely abandon your dreams just because the original version is no longer practical. Be a dream tweaker!

Cut not the wings of your dreams, for they are the heartbeat and freedom of your soul. ~Flavia         

Washington Oaks-Matanzas River 5-22-15

Life is but a dream

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Freedom works for me

In SympathyI try to never criticize or judge the “low information voter” because, up until 3 years ago, I could  be counted among them – and I’m 64 years old! I know what happens to most of us. We are trying to make a living, raise our children, take care of aging parents, spend time with our families, and attend to the myriad of every day responsibilities. We also like to be able to escape from all that responsibility by spending fun time with friends. We might skim the newspaper or online headlines or catch the evening news on TV but who has the time to really investigate their news sources to be sure they’re truthful and accurate in their reporting? Besides, it’s all so complicated, isn’t it?

That brings me to another problem the average person has when it comes to being informed – media bias. I don’t know how long this has been a problem but, in my short 3 years of paying attention, I have noticed that the majority of the so-called “mainstream media” outlets seem to have a left leaning or progressive bias. Naively, I always assumed that the job of the mainstream media was to be our watchdog but I guess I was mistaken. I don’t know about you but I just want to be given truthful information; I don’t want to be told how to think. Also, the 24-7 news cycle of the Internet has created a lot of sloppy journalists who, in trying to either create a story or be the first to break it, do not take the time to check their facts.

Paying more attention to news and politics awakened my interest in American history and that, in turn, has led me to a deeper appreciation of the principles upon which our government was founded. I have been reading about our founding fathers and I have learned about the roots of our Constitution thanks to KrisAnne Hall, Constitutional attorney, author and speaker KrisAnne Hall. Last year I attended her 5 hour seminar “Genealogy of the Constitution” (you can watch a condensed version on YouTube and she also has an excellent lecture called “State Sovereignty) and learned way more than all my high school history classes combined. I also learned that during the past 100 years progressive ideology has gradually chipped away at our freedom until we have reached the point where most of us don’t even realize how much freedom we have already lost. I wanted to understand this ideology so I read “Progressivism: A Primer on the Idea Destroying America” by Libertarian James Ostrowski and I learned that progressivism exists in both political parties. That explains a lot!

This has been an interesting and unexpected part of my journey and my self-education has helped me to better identify who I am and what is important to me. On September 12th I’m going to the FreedomWorks  9/12 Grassroots Summit in Orlando, FL. There will be many well known speakers – politicians and activists alike – and I’m sure I’ll learn something new. If you had told me 3 years ago that I would be attending an event like this I would have laughed.

Recently a friend said she doesn’t like to get into conversations about politics or religion and I agree with her, especially if you know your companion has very fixed ideas that are different than yours. It’s not worth the stress or the possibility of ruining a friendship. On the other hand, whatever your ideology, I urge you to be educated and informed about your beliefs. Ask yourself what you want from your life and how much of a role you want government to play in it. How much freedom are you willing to give up, knowing you’ll never get it back?

The other day I was thinking about how over regulated we are. Every new administration ads more federal agencies and they, in turn, churn out more regulations that affect every aspect of our lives. I went online to find out how many federal agencies are currently in existence and I was surprised to learn that, when you include sub-agencies and “Offices of …” there is actually no list that gives the exact number! On the bright side, in my search I stumbled across an interesting and well-written blog, which I’m now following – InvestingforOne. Just to give you an inkling of how all these regulations affect us, here is a very partial list (apparently, there are thousands) of things that were legal in 1975 and are illegal now, according to Richard Wenzel, a Liberty Movement blogger:

  1. You could buy an airline ticket and fly without ever showing an ID
  2. You could buy cough syrup without showing an ID
  3. You could buy and sell gold coins without showing an ID
  4. You could buy a gun without showing an ID
  5. You could pull as much cash out of your bank account as you wanted without the bank filing a report to the government
  6. You could have a phone conversation without the government knowing who you called or who called you
  7. You could open a stock brokerage account without having to explain where the money came from
  8. You could open a Swiss bank account with ease

Freedom + Responsibility = Liberty

Liberty

Liberty

See more of my artwork and writing at Lynda Linke Productions 

A new direction

book_thumbI haven’t been writing much on this blog lately. A friend asked why I haven’t posted anything recently and the only way I could explain it was to say that I didn’t feel like I had anything interesting to say.

I started this blog in August of 2012, a year after I retired from 22 years in the social services field (and 10 years in retail management before that) so I had recently experienced a big life style change. My purpose in writing a blog was twofold – 1) I wanted to look back on my life, “take a personal inventory” (the title of one of my first posts), process everything, and share my thoughts with anyone who wanted to read them and 2) I was taking a writing class at the time and the instructor told us that anyone who was trying to market a book should have a blog and, since I had two books and was working on another, I decided to give it a try. I also use this blog to market my greeting cards – uh-oh, time for a commercial break … if you’re looking for unique and reasonably priced greeting cards (you can even customize the inside verse if you don’t like mine – you can’t do that with a Hallmark card!) or would like to order my books please visit www.lyndalinke.com and go to Greeting Card Universe to order cards, Zazzle to order merchandise with my artwork on it, or follow the links to my books. You can also order my books directly from my Amazon author page http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B008YY4NHU.

Okay, back to regular programming. I told my friend that, after more than 55 blog posts, I began to realize that my thinking had changed and would probably not be as interesting for others to read about. I had spent a lot of time on self-reflection and analysis and worked through an important emotional process and I wrote some good posts over that time period. Other people seemed to like them, too, judging by the number of followers I picked up but, for the most part, I’m finished with that phase. These days my thoughts are not focused on evaluating my past life experiences and are more focused on my everyday life, what I’m learning and how those things are changing me and the way I think. I walk Liberty every morning for at least an hour, I say my prayers while I’m walking, I read, I watch and listen to programming on The Blaze (and I’m pleased to say that my son now works at their NYC headquarters!), I watch movies on Netflix, I spend time with my Mom & my friends, I write emails to far away friends, Liberty and I do pet therapy visits for Haven Hospice and I do all the usual household chores that everyone does. I said I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to read about those things and my friend told me that lots of people write about their ordinary everyday lives and many people enjoy reading their blogs so, here I am again except now it might be more like journaling.

This blog is titled “Try Lots of Hats: Making the Most of Your Life” for a reason – it’s because I think life is a journey and every day is a new opportunity to learn, grow and move closer to being the person you want to be. In hindsight, I see that August 2012 actually turned out to be a watershed month for me because I not only started evaluating my personal experiences and writing about them but I also began educating myself about politics, current events, and American history. I went from a person who rarely watched, read or listened to news to one who does all three every day. So, without even realizing it, I’m still being true to the title I chose for this blog almost three years ago.

As a formerly apolitical and uninformed person this has been a trans-formative experience for me. Up until just a few years ago, if pressed, I would have said I was a “liberal” but that word has been hijacked by far left progressives and doesn’t mean what it once did. Here’s a good definition: “Classical liberalism is a political philosophy that supports individual rights as pre-existing the state, a government that exists to protect those moral rights, ensured by a constitution that protects individual autonomy from other individuals and governmental power, private property, and a laissez-faire economic policy.” Today people who uphold this philosophy are called “Conservatives” or “Libertarians”. My self-education has led me to a love for the Constitution of the United States and reading the Constitution and American history seemed to naturally lead me back to exploring my Christian roots – another very surprising development for me and one that proves you’re never too old to open your mind to a new way of thinking. The change in my thinking during this part of my journey is probably best illustrated by the books on my bedside table today as compared to July 2012.

2012:

Dr. Wayne Dyer’s “There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem” and “Wishes Fulfilled”

Mike Dooley “Infinite Possibilities”

(and probably a Michael Connelly or Ann Cleeves mystery)

Today:

Boris Johnson “The Churchill Factor”

James Ostrowski “Progressivism: A Primer on the Idea That is Destroying America”

Walter Isaacson “Benjamin Franklin”

Smarty-pants

Smarty-pants