Don’t Ask Me About Sports – I Don’t Care

I grew up in a reading family; Mom and Dad and I either read, watched TV, or did things together like camping. I didn’t know one thing about baseball, basketball, volleyball, football, or any other kind of ball. When I started school, I had to take physical education, which in my town meant softball in the warm weather and basketball inside when it was cold. It seemed to be an assumption that everyone knew how to play and what the rules were except me; I had never played a sport in my life.

When my teacher put me up to bat the first time, I did not know which end of the bat I was supposed to hit with; both ends looked equally complicated to me. All around me, kids were booing and laughing. The teacher finally pulled me off the field and angrily explained the basics. She seemed put out that I hadn’t come to school knowing a thing about sports.

It bewildered me that anyone would want to play this game; what was the point? I finally figured out that the point was to do what I was told, and shut up about it. I couldn’t hit a ball for sour apples, but I could run fast; my one saving grace. I had the same problem with basketball and volleyball. I just couldn’t figure out why this was fun. I would have been a lot happier with a good book, but that wasn’t on the physical education schedule.

When I got to high school, there was still physical education, but by then I had learned to act as if I liked it. I took up field hockey, which wasn’t all that bad as sports go. For some reason I ended up on the varsity field hockey team, and in one game I scored the winning goal–sheer luck on my part. The next day, it seemed everyone knew my name and people who had never spoken to me before slapped my back and said, “great game!” I guess if you are raised in a family that plays and/or follows sports, that’s fine. It just wasn’t what I was used to, so it meant nothing to me.

Although my one second of fame was flattering, it still didn’t make me fall in love with sports. My attitude was ‘it’s just a game,’ which, if said out loud to any sports nut, makes them swear at or hit you.

To this day, any sport bores the butt right off me. I still have zero interest in sports. I also resent the fact that, when a “big game” is on, many of the shows I like to watch are pre-empted. As there are so many channels completely dedicated to sports, I wonder why they have to suck up my channels. But it’s a free country, so there you are.

Sports is just not my thing. There–I said it. That’s part of the grace and blessing of being this age–no one makes you play softball anymore. Yay.


The Things That Are NOT in Heaven

I’ve done a lot of thinking about this over the years. As long as I can remember, I have felt in my heart, mind and soul that Heaven is indeed a real place where we go after we leave this Earth. Our unique and magnificent souls are eternal, and I believe that we are the most comfortable in our original spirit form. Once we slip into our human bodies, we are Earth-bound, heavy, complicated, with either good or bad health, issues and problems that are unique to our circumstances, and so on.

I believe that in Heaven we choose our parents; we choose those who will teach us those things we must learn in order to go forward. We may also choose parents who will help us right a wrong made in a prior life on Earth. Or we may simply decide that, after living many lives, that we need a real challenge in order to move to the next level. So we choose the parents best suited to help us.

Think about it: if our parents were strict, tough on us, even uncaring or hurtful; we chose them to help us become stronger. Many people have had hard upbringings or have even had to raise themselves. Often a person raised in a tough family will acquire skills to help them be strong and self-supporting.

Here on Earth, we can count on death and taxes, of course, but also emotions, family, friends, education; also light, dark, good, bad, easy, difficult, heart-breaking and so much more that we just didn’t see coming. A sudden illness or house fire or job loss or new baby or new circumstances; so many things can shake us up. We have to pick up the pieces, re-shuffle the deck, and try to adjust.

Then there are our bodies–frail, subject to cold and heat, disease, age, and so on. When we are young, we imagine that life will go on in the same way–that our strong, healthy, vigorous bodies will live on and on and on. We think that we will always be fit and strong, never thinking of all those bogeymen like cancer, heart trouble, worn-out joints, devastating injuries, aging; in short, “…*all the ills that flesh is heir to.”

But that is our life on Earth. I imagine that it is quite different in Heaven, where we go back to our original and oh-so-comfortable spirit forms. The following are, I believe, those things that we will not find in Heaven:

  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Doubt
  • Worry
  • Pain
  • Hurt
  • Intolerance
  • Mean spirited-ness
  • Loneliness
  • Hate
  • Sorrow

Those things I am sure that we will find in Heaven are these:

  • Endless and boundless love and acceptance
  • Perfect joy
  • Reunion with those we have loved so dearly on Earth
  • Happiness beyond all reckoning
  • Pure knowledge
  • All our questions on Earth answered
  • The freedom to move in the blink of an eye, to travel anywhere unencumbered by a body
  • Laughter
  • The ability to see the whole plan of our lives and understand all the “whys”

I also believe that everything we have on Earth came first from Heaven. That includes books, music, TV shows, movies, dance, art; you name it, it started in Heaven first. The older I get, the more sure I am of this. I think that we are programmed to forget those things we once knew in Heaven; we require a clean slate in coming to Earth. I believe that, when we return home to Heaven, we will be embraced by all who love us, all our beloved pets will come running to jump up in our arms, and we will know that at last we are home.

*From Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” from the “To be, or not to be” soliloquy.

“Have No Regrets”

That one small sentence, “have no regrets,” has been a watch phrase of mine for years. It was my grandfather, whom we all called “Bumpa,” who told me this during a visit. We had said our goodbyes, and as he started down the foyer stairs, he put his hand on the wrought-iron railing, and looked up at me. He told me how he and his friends had visited his sister years ago when he was a young man. She had begged them to stay overnight as the weather was bad. But they were young and eager to get on the road. So they thanked her, but said that no, they had to be on their way.

They left, and later on, either something happened to her or perhaps they just didn’t see each other again–I don’t remember which. But it was always on his mind that he didn’t spend that time with her that he could have. He wished he could have gone back to that night and stayed at his sister’s house instead of leaving, but of course that wasn’t possible.

So that evening as Bumpa left, he said, “Have no regrets. Do the things you feel you want to do or feel you should do.” I have never forgotten this. He wasn’t one to get too close or reveal too much, and he was a deeply complicated man. I think that his gruffness was a cover to protect his feelings (too close to the surface, which bothered him). Even when I was young, I got that about him. We didn’t speak of it, but his emotions were clear to me. I never forgot his message, either.

I have tried since then to NOT have regrets. There were so many foolish and downright dangerous things I did when I was young that should have killed or gravely injured me ten times over. Heaven only knows how many bad decisions I made, too. For all I have been given, for all the kindness and generosity shown me, for all the love and support of my mother and father, my grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, and everyone who has crossed my path and brought joy to it–I am profoundly thankful and grateful.

I turned 64 this past July. I figure I have perhaps 25 or 30 more years in front of me, and in that time, I can do a lot of paying back and paying forward. Even if I had 100 years ahead of me and I did something good at least once a day, it wouldn’t be enough to balance out all I’ve been given.

So, call it a “bucket list” or fulfilling my dreams, or whatever you want to call it, that’s my purpose as I see it, now and for the rest of my life. It was and is governed by that phrase from so long ago, “have no regrets.”

What I’ve Learned From My Last Birthday

As some of you may know, I am a huge fan of *Jes Baker of Militant Baker fame. Each year she posts the things she has learned from her last birthday; I was pretty impressed by it and wanted to do the same here.

So, here goes–these are some of the things I’ve learned since my last birthday last month:

  • I got breast cancer with no warning, and I got through it.
  • My parents are older now and need my help. I find that there is nothing I wouldn’t do for them–moreover, it is a privilege and a pleasure.
  • I am finally taking myself MUCH less seriously.
  • I understand finally that I can’t do everything on my own, and I can now allow myself to lean back into the loving arms of those who want to help.
  • We are all teachers, believe it or not.
  • Money is not a lifesaver, but a means to an end.
  • Abundance (in everything) comes when it’s needed.
  • I have more strength than I ever thought I could have.
  • After surviving a bad first marriage, I truly appreciate the good one I now have.
  • My age spots have become a connect-the-dots game.
  • I understand now that I am in control of my moods, thoughts, body and mind.
  • Sometimes the things I need to learn come at a big price–but it’s always worth it.
  • My own needs are not the only needs.
  • It’s ok to lean a bit on friends; while they cannot fix what’s wrong, they definitely help and love you through it.
  • I’m ok–really, I am ok.
  • Work has finally taken its proper place; it’s a means to an end, and not the most important thing.
  • While the heart can break, it mends faster and better than you can believe.
  • I do not have to be the boss of everything.
  • The people in my life are meant to be there, just as I am meant to be in their lives.
  • As far as makeup goes these days, less is definitely more.
  • The vast ocean of love that surrounds me is endless, and even when I have to lose some of that love, the rest sustains me.
  • When you get older, your hair gets frinky–wispy, curly, slightly mad-looking with wild white hairs (yeah, I was going for that look)
  • It’s ok to be sad just as it’s ok to be happy.
  • Pain is necessary for growth, and if you were to stack up the small amounts of pain you have to experience against all the wonderful things you experience, the scale tips heavily on the wonderful side.
  • Love lasts, sorrow doesn’t.
  • It’s ok to be an idiot now and then.
  • Death does not mean the end of all things. Rather it is a transition, a cross-over to a new way of life. We don’t ever lose anyone in death, rather we keep them closer and firmly planted into our hearts.
  • Laughter heals.
  • Tears are necessary; temporary, but necessary.
  • I find I don’t have to take myself so seriously any longer. What a relief!
  • If it’s funny, laugh! We don’t have to be politically correct about every little thing.

These are the stand-outs for me now, and the things I will take with me to the next birthday. The wonderful Penn-Dutch folk have the perfect saying for this time of life: “We grow too soon old, and too late smart.” But still, nothing is wasted, no experience is for nothing. It all counts.

When my time comes to meet my maker, I hope that I can say that I did my best, that I helped when I could, that I gave of myself, my time and my talents, and that I did the best with all the gifts I was given.

* Check her out–she’s a most interesting and feisty young woman.

It’s Payback Time!

Yep, that’s right–it’s payback time; for me, anyway. Throughout my life I have been extremely fortunate in many ways. Just look at all I’ve been given over my lifetime so far:

  • Wonderful parents: My dad (non-biological) who adopted me at age four and is in all ways my one-and-only dad, and my mom who was and is an amazing teacher and my best friend
  • Wonderful grandparents and aunts and uncles
  • Amazing friends
  • Sweet and loving pets
  • A great childhood
  • Being an American citizen
  • Living in a beautiful state (NH)
  • Travel (Italy, Lisbon, Ireland, and in the states; Arizona, Texas, North and South Carolina, Massachusetts, Maine)
  • Being a Tae-Kwon-Do instructor to some great students (years ago)
  • The best step-daughters, step-granddaughter and step-sons-in-law
  • A first marriage that taught me who I really was
  • A second marriage that was Heaven-sent (the Crankee Yankee)
  • Many jobs doing what I love; technical writing
  • Many hobbies that I love: creative writing, reading, blogging, playing Scrabble (and with the best partner EVER–my mom), jewelry-making, hula dancing, playing the ukulele, cooking
  • Good health (I even got the least dangerous type of cancer!)
  • Becoming a Reiki practitioner (news: I will be taking my Reiki Master course this summer)
  • Taking and learning so much from my metaphysical classes with incredible *teachers
  • The privilege and opportunity to help my parents at this stage of their lives

It is an honor and a gift to me to be able to give some serious payback. Since I live with a kind, generous, and utterly good man (the Crankee Yankee), he has introduced me to his model train club, the Bedford Boomers. Through them, I’ve made some life-long friends, some who have become very dear to me. I would not have met them in any other way, and I am so grateful that they are in my life. Also, because my husband is more out-going than I am, I am encouraged to reach out to our neighbors in ways I wouldn’t have dreamed of before.

I was always a ‘mind your own business,’ ‘keep to yourself’ kind of person. I lived alone for many years before my first marriage, and really enjoyed it. But I wasn’t ever what you’d call a ‘people person.’ Oh sure, it was easy for me to donate to causes–money being as impartial as it is. You don’t have to look someone in the eye; you just send a check. Many times I did it anonymously–I didn’t want anyone to feel grateful to me. Animal shelters were my best “gives,” too–I donated gently worn towels and blankets, and brought cans and bags of food.

But the Crankee Yankee has been a good influence on me. Through him, I’ve gotten to know some pretty terrific people: Stephanie, one our neighbors and also one of the best gardeners I’ve ever known. She routinely gives us her extra tomato, onion, and squash plants and is a fabulous source of information on gardening. I’ve given her some of my handmade earrings and made her two beautiful little girls necklaces, but they seem pretty paltry compared to all the kindness and generosity she has shown us.

Then there is Alex, a lovely Dominican man with a family and grandkids who adore him. He also gardens and hardly a week goes by without him giving us some of his wonderful produce: lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, and summer squash. It was through him that we learned that an elderly couple in our neighborhood, John and Dottie, both in their 90s; needed a little help. Alex kindly walks their little dog, Joey, each day, and when Dottie was in the hospital with a cracked vertebra, he brought meals over as well. I asked him if he thought John needed any more meals and he said, ‘sure–he’ll eat anything.’

So, heart in my mouth, I took over a container of our homemade spaghetti sauce over spaghetti, and a few slices of my chocolate-ship zucchini bread. (Up til now, this just isn’t me; I always feel I am intruding on people; I’m more of a leave-something-on-the-doorstep-and-run person, but it being in the 90s and humid, I couldn’t do that.) John is very deaf, so I actually had to walk into his house to holler to him. He was very gracious, and thanked me for the food. I walked away with tears in my eyes, sorry that I hadn’t helped more and well before this time.

Now that my parents are older and have “outsourced” a lot of things they used to do, such as snowplowing, shoveling, cleaning the outside windows, etc., which makes things a lot easier for them. I feel privileged that I can help, too–I just started coming up every two weeks or so to visit and to do whatever needs doing; ironing, changing the sheets, etc. But best of all, I can cook for them!

This weekend I will bringing over curried zucchini soup, ratatouille over quinoa macaroni and cheese, American chop suey (with enough to feed the Crankee Yankee, of course–this is one of his favorites) and tabbouleh salad. It is a pure pleasure to me to do this for my parents. Mom is having some mobility issues now, and Dad has been doing a lot of the cooking and cleaning, so this is something I can do for them. I’m grateful for the privilege.

Please don’t think that I’m such a wonderful person, either. I have been given much (especially from my parents), and if I live another 50 years and do something good each day, it would never be enough to pay back all that I have received. I hope that by the end of my life I will have made a good dent in paying back all I have been lucky enough to receive.

In my case, payback is not a bitch; it’s a blessing.

*Noreen McDonald and Marilynn Carter

Are The Wantsies as Good as the Havesies?

Did you ever see something that you absolutely fell in love with and that you wanted just because you wanted it? I am talking about impractical, wonderful, amazing, one-of-a-kind things that just enchant you. You look at them and that little “I want” buzzer goes off right behind your eyes and your knees get weak, and you breathe ‘ohhhhhh, I want that!’

Now we all know that kids regularly fall in love with stuff that they think they want because it’s right there in front of them in the toy store. As soon as they go up another aisle, they fall for something else and forget all about that first thing. I’m not talking about that kind of “wantsie”–I am speaking of the kind of thing you fall for so hard and so fast that you want to marry it.

For instance, my weakness is jewelry. When something strikes me as a real “me” piece, I want it. However, I’m not a complete idiot; I can easily fall right out of love with something if it costs more than I’m willing to pay. I don’t buy diamonds, or platinum or gold; silver is my choice. But that aside, when the wantsies grab me, my legs get weak and my mind grows dim.

So–once you have the wantsie and it becomes the havesie, is it worth it? For me, I’d say about 50/50. I used to be hooked on one of those very popular TV buy-anything-you-want shows. Just the hype alone would propel me into an attack of the wantsies. Once I called my order in, I would be in an absolute fever to get the item in the mail. When it finally arrived, I would slowly open it to reveal the thing I felt I couldn’t live without. Sometimes it was a real WOW, other times, not so much.

You know how it goes: it’s late at night, you’re alone in the house, you are feeling a bit sorry for yourself, you had one more glass of wine than usual, you called in and hey! You ended up on the air, talking with a host who was only too happy to sell you the wantsie you wanted. When it finally shows up, you may think, “what the hell did I order this for?” That situation is called the “one wine too many wantsie.”

As the years go by I have learned to wait myself out. I look at what I want, think about it, look through all my stuff to be sure I don’t already have something pretty much like it–think some more and then sleep on it. Maybe for a week. I try to review why I wanted it in the first place, asking myself such questions as “Are you feeling neglected and want to make yourself feel better?” “Do you feel you deserve something nice for all the hard work you do?” which leads naturally into this: “Dammit, no one appreciates all I do! I’m going to buy myself something!” Or “do you want it just because you want it?”

So, the afore-mentioned wantsie, after passing successfully through the above routine, now can move forward to the actual purchase. When I can look at it on my finger, my wrist or on my ears and say, “Now that’s what I wanted (insert a chorus here of ‘I’ll tell ya what I want/What I really really want” here).” And then I am happy and content…until another wantsie comes along.

And oh, how those wantsies want to be wanted!