Good Grief Charlie Brown…

Welcome back to Solo at Sixty…

Warning… this week’s post is NOT going to be lighthearted. I had planned to discuss this topic much later in the year, but recent events have forced it front and center. I lost a friend one week ago today, suddenly and unexpectedly. On March 1st, a friend, a very special young mother lost her hard fought battle with cancer. Another friend lost her first born son a month ago. I have been to 2 funerals this year and am going to another one tomorrow night. These families are heartbroken. Why were these adored mothers and this precious child taken from their families? I have no answers. How will those left behind pick up the pieces and go on? Because as callous as it might seem, life does go on.

I remember being in the ICU with my Dad back in 2000. My sisters and I were dealing with the pain and sorrow of knowing we were losing our Dad, and yet when we looked outside the hospital window, people were going about their daily lives: going to lunch, going for walks, laughing and talking. Their lives were going on in normal fashion while our lives were at a devastating standstill. My dear neighbor called to check on me and I told her how hard I found this. Her wise advice? “Let this be a comfort to you – life does go on.” It is true. I have been so saddened by these recent losses, yet I have continued to go to work, to run, to get my hair cut – all everyday occurrences. My life was carrying on while my friends’ families have planned funerals and tried to figure out how they will go on.

“When someone you love has passed away, never look down to the floor with sadness. Instead, keep your head held high and look to the heavens, for that is where your heart has been sent to heal itself and those who have passed will live inside our hearts forever.”  Dave Hodges

Young people think they are immortal. When death enters their world, it is nearly impossible for them to comprehend. Each of my three children lost friends in high school due to cancer and car accidents. They and their friends were affected by these tragic, unimaginable deaths. And as I witnessed the extreme emotional pain of the young people at the recent funeral of my friend’s college aged son, I wondered how this loss will affect them. Will they appreciate life in a different way? Will they seek to help others? Will they strive to make the world a better place?

“Grief is the price we pay for love.” Queen Elizabeth II

When you attend the funeral of a family member or a friend, don’t you always say to everyone, “let’s not wait until the next funeral to get together?” Yet we don’t make that effort to get together. Why do we wait? My high school class now has a reunion each year. I am not missing these. We have lost too many of our friends and classmates. I want to spend time with these dear “old” friends from my carefree high school years, if only for a couple of hours once a year. Besides, we then keep up via social media, and I treasure that connection.

“Grief is really just love…it is all the love you want to give but cannot…All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”  Jamie Anderson

Grief is not limited to losing the people we love. It also extends to pets. This week alone, 3 of my “Facebook” friends’ pets crossed over the “Rainbow Bridge.” As I understand it, this is a special place just this side of heaven for those pets who will wait for their owners so they can cross over into heaven together. Honestly, I do not know first hand the pain of losing a pet, but I have witnessed this pain with my sisters and several very close friends. Their grief was gut-wrenching. My younger sister is downsizing her stable of horses, finding good homes for 2 of her beloved friends. She is grieving this loss. My heart breaks for her. Not all loss is the result of a death.

Grief is the response to the loss of someone or something beloved. A marriage, a friendship, a job, a home. Becoming “SOLO” so unexpectedly put me in a state of grief. I read somewhere “One of the hardest things you will ever have to do is grieve the loss of a person who is still alive.” Today should be my 37th wedding anniversary. It was not meant to be. It is also the wedding anniversary of the friend I lost last week and her dear husband. Again, it is not to be. And again, life goes on.

“Grief never ends, but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith. It is the price of love.”

One corner of my bulletin board at work is dedicated to the memory of some special people who are no longer with us – a dear friend’s son, my “adopted dad” (special father of a special friend), his granddaughter (young mother mentioned above), and another friend’s husband. I keep these there to remind me daily to never take life, nor anyone for granted. Because, truly, we never know what tomorrow might bring. Several years ago, my sweet childhood friend lost her battle with cancer. She was told she had 3 months to live when her only child was getting married in 4 months. How unfair is that? Believe me she battled that cancer and lived to see him get married plus another year. However, she did not live long enough to experience the wonder of becoming a grandmother to her 2 precious grandchildren. Where is the fairness there? She would have been a wonderful grandmother! There are no answers. Only heartache and again the realization that life goes on. We must have faith in tomorrow.

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My Memory Corner…

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” Vicki Harrison

Do we ever truly get over these devastating losses? The times when we doubt we will be able to make it through the next hour, much less the next day? Yes. I believe that one day we will find that we are smiling again. Enjoying life. I truly believe that we will recover and find our way back, but that we will never be the person we were before. We will be better versions of ourselves. More caring, more compassionate, and more loving. It is the circle of life. I had the opportunity to visit with my college friends yesterday, their children, and their beautiful grandchildren….the circle of life.

Hug your loved ones. Tell them you love them. I never end a conversation with my kids without telling them I love them. And I mean it, more than they will ever know. Appreciate life, your friends, your loved ones. Be thankful for today. Keep your faith. Have hope. Be kind.

“Life is precious and when you’ve lost a lot of people, you realize each day is a gift.” Meryl Streep

I love and appreciate all y’all,

Best,

Leslie

Southern Speak…

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY! With school starting in a few weeks, I thought it might be good to have a language lesson – get ready to learn how to speak (or understand) the language of the South!

Hey All Y’all!  That‘s Southern for “hello” to a group of more than 2 of “you guys” for my Northern friends. April 1,1997 (no fooling!) we moved our family from Clemmons, NC to Charlottesville, VA, where we landed in a wonderful cul-de-sac of families with children about the same ages as our kids. Our next door neighbors (remember the dear ones who moved to KY?) had children that were the exact ages and sex as our kids: Girl, Girl, Boy. Ironically, our boys were both named Michael and thus became “the Michaels”. I digress…back to our cul-de-sac. Not one family was from Virginia (or South of the Border). We were the only “Southern” family. The other families hailed from California, Michigan, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Pennsylvania, and then there were the Madigans from North Carolina (proudly, I might add). I was very worried about us moving “up North” away from our family, friends, and roots, but we were welcomed so warmly you would have thought we were in NC! And our first “Hey Y’all!” was met with warm smiles. We were gonna be ok.

“Open your mouth only if what you are going to say is kinder or more beautiful than silence.”

It was a BIG adjustment for me moving from my hometown where I had lived all of my 39+ years, not to mention leaving all of my family and friends behind. I had to make this place in the upper hemisphere home for my family. We needed to fit in and find our way.

The kids and I started exploring Charlottesville and discovered Bodo’s Bagels. We had NEVER had a bagel – they were non-existent in NC when we left in 1997. NC had biscuits. Big biscuits. Lots of biscuits – Bojangles, Hardees, KFC. (By the way, also non-existent in the South back then: Field Hockey and Lacrosse. Had no clue what these sports were but signed the girls up to play. Learned on the fly.) Driving around town, I came across a familiar sight – a shoe store that I had loved in NC – Phil’s Shoes (precursor to Rack Room – remember this was in 1997), and when I told my neighbor that I found a Phil’s she kept saying “What? We have a Field’s here?!”  She was so excited! I guess Fields was some special Northern grocery store she loved and I kept saying “Phii—-il’s”…(multisyllables). I finally had to spell Phil’s for her to understand me! I never knew I had an “accent,” even though my godson from MD would say to his mom “Talk like Aunt Les,” until my neighbor could not understand what I was saying! Kinda like pen and pin, ten and tin… sounds the same to me.

“It’s not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”  Audre Lourde

I loved our new house up here and wanted to send pictures back “home” to my friends and family. After all, it was April and the previous owner had planted 1000 daffodils in the back of our house that were now blooming. I was on the other side of the lake behind our house when my neighbor yelled out to me – “What are you doing over there?”  To which I responded, “I am making a picture of the back of our house.”  “WHAT? Making a picture? With a camera? OH you are taking a picture!” I learned quickly that no longer will I MAKE pictures but will TAKE them!

We headed “over yonder” to the school to meet the teachers. We could walk to the elementary and middle schools, which my kids did daily. We also cut off the lights, cut off the TV, cut off the car… no one else did that! And we were always “fixin” to do something or go somewhere. “Hey, we’re fixin to go out to supper…wanna tag along?” “Supper” became “Dinner” up here.

That Christmas, Santa brought my son, then 6 years old, a UNC toboggan (among other things!). When our neighbors asked what he got for Christmas, he excitedly told them he got a new UNC toboggan and promptly pulled it out of his pocket and put it on – he was so proud of his toboggan and wanted to show it off. Yet everyone was looking around, confused. Where was his toboggan they asked? He told them it was right there on his HEAD! Yes, a toboggan is a WINTER HAT, not a sled!

“Don’t mix bad words with your bad mood. You’ll have many opportunities to change a mood, but you’ll never get the opportunity to replace the words you spoke.”

It should be no surprise that I was a cheerleader in high school. Head cheerleader, actually! My fellow cheerleaders and I got together at the beach a couple of years ago for a mini reunion. It was great to catch up after 39 years! Somehow, we got on the topic of Southern Speak. Many of us live in different areas of the country now but still have our ties to NC. One of the girls shared the story of a time when she flew with Piedmont Airlines (based out of Charlotte, NC), back when they merged with US Air (based in Pittsburgh), around 1987. She and her fellow Piedmont “stewardesses” (before they became flight attendants) greeted each other with “How’s your mom an’em?” Well, the US Air stewardesses were looking at them as if they were aliens! Those Southern gals just wanted to know how the family was doing!  (Click on the video below to see how a real Southern “Stewardess” and Southern Cheerleader greets another!)

 

“When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves.”

When I go back and visit family and friends in NC, my Southern friends comment as to how my accent has become “Northern”, which is hilarious considering my co-workers sometimes look at me as if I speak a foreign language! And when I come back to VA after being in NC or SC, my language definitely moves south until it recalibrates. Our auditor from Chicago, who has worked with me for over 10 years and has often heard me on the phone with my Mom, comments that when I have a conversation with her, my Southern roots are out in full force. “Hey Momma…how are ya? Whadya have for supper? Whatcha fixin to do? Cut your tv on to the Hallmark Channel because there’s a right good movie fixin to come on.”  (Honestly, y’all, I really don’t talk like this anymore! Do I?)

All of my southern friends know there is only one unit of measurement: right. It drives my co-workers absolutely crazy. “How many more entries do you have to make this month?” “Right many.” “How many is that?” “I don’t know…I just know I have right many more to make.” “How long will it take you?” “Right long.” “How far did you run today?” “Right far.” “How was your run?” “Right good!” “What’s the temperature outside?” “It’s right warm outside but it’s right cold in my office Y’all and I am cutting my heater on right now!” I must tell you that I have proof that using “right” as a descriptive word is legal and right (correct) because it was used in this manner in the liturgical response in the New Philadelphia Moravian Church Order of Worship Bulletin on July 21, 2013! I happened to be in church that Sunday and brought the bulletin back from NC as proof to share with my co-workers. It stays on my bulletin board at work. That’s right impressive proof if you ask me! Oh my… maybe I do still talk like this!

 

Another conversation with my friends and co-workers – “Hey can you ski?” “ Well I used to could?” “HUH?” “I said I used to could ski. And I might could if I tried again.”  Right?!  Aren’t there things you used to could do? Or might could do again if you tried?

“Those who judge will never understand, and those who understand will never judge.”

Remember, no one ever retires and moves up North! Before we moved here, a family from NY moved to our Clemmons neighborhood. I got to know them right well, and the mom asked me one day, “Why are all these people bringing cakes and cookies to our house? Are they casing it?”  “No Helen, that is the Southern way of welcoming you to the neighborhood!” (I always made a Moravian Sugar Cake to take to new neighbors – yes, I might have been checking out their house, but not casing it.) Same neighbor also told me she had no idea when you were supposed to turn on your air conditioning – she did not have AC in upstate NY. (OK this could be considered a perk of living “up north”). She asked if the nightly news would one day announce “Today is the day you turn on your AC.”  I said, “No Helen, they would say – ‘Today is right hot so all y’all need to CUT on your AC.’ But seriously, if you are in your house and are sweating and right hot, it is time to CUT on your AC.”  Bless her heart!

Basically, we all speak the same language, we just use different slangs. But what is most important, is that when we do speak, we must think about what we are saying. Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? If you can’t be kind, then just be quiet!

Y’all have a great week! The weather has been right nice up here recently. Here’s hoping it is just as nice where you are. See you next week!

Best,

Leslie

I’ve Got A CRUSH…

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

“Open a new chapter in your life. Stop reading the old ones.”

I have to tell you about my secret crush. He is smart, handsome, tall, and very successful (he went to law school right here in Charlottesville at UVA!). We meet twice a year in the aisles of a bookstore, once in the Spring and again in the Fall when he comes to town. His words hold me over in between meetings. I have introduced him to my wonderful children and they, too are enchanted with him. I mean, how can you not be? He is humble, funny, entertaining and so very good looking. See for yourself!

dbald 1

That’s right, my crush is one of my favorite authors, David Baldacci, and every time he is in Charlottesville or Richmond, I go see him speak and get a few (bags full) of his books signed. I like to think he knows me by name by now (our relationship has been going on for 20+ years), or at least remembers the “bag lady” contributing to his early carpel tunnel with the load of books I always ask him to personally autograph. I give these as gifts – to my kids (building their libraries), my sister, my nephew, my friends, my boss. I used to give one to my Mom until I realized she was not reading books anymore. Which is so sad as my Mother is the one who instilled the love of books in me.

“We lose ourselves in books… we find ourselves there too.”

I am a fast reader and come by this honestly as my mother and my late Aunt Jewelle (mom’s only sister) read books with one eye on each page. My best reading time? At the BEACH of course. I can devour several books in a beach trip. Read 3 books last week at the beach, plus the entire “Our State” magazine (wonderful, rich NC magazine) which qualifies as a book to me. I love it when I am at the beach with my kids and I look down the line of us in our beach chairs and everyone is reading. I consider myself the book mobile for our beach trips as I never go to the beach without at least 2 BIG bags of books. After all, you must be prepared for different reading moods. Mystery? Murder? Romance? Comedy? I love them all! The only types of book I have a hard time reading are nonfiction and self-help. UGH, maybe I should work on that!

“Don’t close the book when bad things happen in your life, just turn the page and begin a new chapter.”

Ever wonder why you can’t get the book you want at the library? Sorry about that! Right now I have 13 new best sellers and 2 audio books checked out from the library, and 31 book titles on reserve. I go online and reserve book titles as soon as I see a new book is coming out. Books are my friends and the library is where I go to meet them. “You wanna go where everybody knows your name… and they’re always glad you came.” (Cheers)  Yes, the librarians know my name (and I love that!). And I like the feel of the actual book – I never took to the Kindle. Not that there is anything wrong with the Kindle!

As I said, I usually get my books from the library. But there are some authors, in addition to my crush, whose books I will always purchase, like Dorothea Benton Frank. I LOVE her and her books! They are great summer reads and take place in the low country – Charleston, Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms, etc. Every May or June, Dorothea comes to Litchfield Beach to sign her books. My sister and I always try to see her there, but if we miss her, we’ll make the trip to Mount Pleasant, SC to get our copies signed – any excuse to go to the Charleston area. I also saw her speak at the Festival of the Book in Charlottesville several years ago. I got there early and had the opportunity to speak with her personally. Asked about her book that would be coming out the next month, “Last of the Original Wives”, and about the main character and she said the character’s name was Leslie Anne… Well… I about DIED right there as MY name is LESLIE ANNE! Leslie (in the book) was married to a man named Wesley. Sidebar: When I was in college, my brother in law set me up with a fellow teacher/coach at Bishop McGuinness High school. I had a good time on that date, but told the guy that relationship would not go far as his last name was Pressley and I would never be Leslie Pressley!

 

“Sometimes you just have to turn the page to realize there’s more to your book of life than the page you’re stuck on. Stop being afraid to move on. Close this chapter of hurt, and never re-read it. It’s time to get what your life deserves, and move on from the things that don’t deserve you. Don’t try to fix what’s been broken in your past, let your future create something better.” (Trent Shelton)

I always volunteered in my children’s classrooms when they were in elementary school. When they moved to middle school, I still wanted to volunteer, and found my home in the library. I loved our middle school librarian and learned so much working in the library. By learning, I mean that as long as I never looked up, never made a comment (like OH MY GAWD!), or gave any type of reaction, I could shelve books in the same area as kids talking right in front of me and they considered me INVISIBLE. I learned so much about what was REALLY going on in middle school. Now my kids will know that I did not have a sixth sense about things – I just heard it in the library.

My children love to read. I encouraged them to read as much as they could every summer. We visited the library weekly and they kept a list of the book titles, and number of pages they read. My younger daughter was a very early reader (due to soaking up everything her older sister was learning). Right before she started kindergarten, she and I had a special lunch at Cherrie’s Restaurant in Clemmons, NC. She was reading chapter books and told me about the book she was reading from the Babysitter’s Club – Little Sisters Series, where the main character had “Cereal Paisley” (Cerebral Palsy). And one summer, same child wanted to change her name to Violet and live in a Boxcar with no parents – she was reading the Boxcar Children’s books. Of course this is my creative child. Not that the other 2 are not creative, but they are more math/science kids. Still, they all love to read. I succeeded. As a matter of fact my younger daughter’s goal for this year is to read 30 books by her 30th birthday in November!

“Life is like a book. Some chapters sad, some happy, and some exciting. But if you never turn the page… you will never know what the next chapter holds.”

I love to read! Reading provides a wonderful escape from the realities of life. I lose myself in books. And truly, I want to be an author when I grow up. I want to be on the TODAY SHOW, interviewed about my best-seller. Hello, Matt and Savannah, Kathie Lee and Hoda! Then you all can come to my book signings and I will introduce you to “my characters” – Ivy Jean, Mary Martin, and Shelby Jane (all Southern girls have to have strong first and middle names just in case they are ever in a beauty pageant!).

Reading is definitely something you can do SOLO. If you love to read, you will always be entertained and will never find yourself bored. You will always have an “escape”, a vacation from reality. And who doesn’t need a vacation? Right?

So go visit one of the wonderful independent bookstores or Barnes and Noble or the library. Become a Friend of the Library. Maybe they will know your name! Just READ!

See you next week!

Best,

Leslie

Life is a Garden! DIG IT!

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

“Father, plant something new in my life, a sprig of hope that will set me on my new course. Help me to live in the present, spending my emotional energies ON THIS MOMENT rather than squandering them in regrets about the past or anxieties about the future.”  Always know that Grace will continue to rain down on you and that will take the little sprig of hope and turn it into a beautiful tree of life. My prayer for you today. (from my dear girlfriend last year)

I have a little garden! My new maintenance-free neighborhood may take care of my lawn and snow, but this 8×10 patch is all mine. I have green beans, okra, tomatoes and cucumbers. There are 8 plots – I am #7.

I have loved gardening for over 30 years, since our first house in Winston-Salem, when our wonderful, older, next door neighbor Ralph helped me till up a big area at the back of our lot and plant a garden. Ralph had a huge garden. Since this was my first garden, he taught me how, when, and what to plant, and when to pick. He also taught me how to can green beans and tomatoes. Sidebar on Ralph: One day, I looked out my kitchen window and there was Ralph shaking out this huge net. I went out and said “Ralph, whatcha doing?” To which he replied in his great Southern drawl, “Testing my minner net.” “Huh? What’s a minner net for?” “To catch minners.” (Minnows – Ralph was also a fisherman.) “Ohhh ok. Good luck!”  I loved Ralph and his wife Nancy. They were like a second set of parents to me. Now their hound dog, Duke, was another story. His name did not sit well with me.

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”  Audrey Hepburn

I harvested a TON of green beans, squash, cucumbers, okra, peppers and many other veggies from that first garden. It always seemed that the night before we were going on vacation (back when I only went to the beach for one week in the summer!), my “crop” was in and I was up all night canning beans and tomatoes, which we would then eat throughout the winter. I love green beans – my favorite vegetable (and zero points for you Weight Watcher Peeps!). My kids grew up eating whatever came out of my garden. My dear son in law won’t let a green bean pass his lips but he loves okra. And when my godson (from Maryland) was a little boy, he always loved “Aunt Les’s green beans” (he was not Southern then, though he became Southernized when he went to Wake Forest.)

Once we moved out of that first house, I did not have a garden for 10 years. Then, after 5 years in Charlottesville, my sister and brother-in-law gave me a raised-bed garden for Christmas. They came over in the spring, built the raised bed on the side of my house, put in great soil and got it ready for me to plant. Once my garden started coming up, word spread through the local deer population that there was a buffet at the Madigans! Shut that buffet down the next day with a fence!

“Learn to embrace the storms in your life…for without rain nothing would grow.”

I loved the time I spent working in my gardens, picking beans, suckering tomato plants, watering, and just being outside. It was very soothing. I would cook a dutch oven full of green beans on Sundays that we would eat all week long. Of course I cooked them the good ole Southern way – several hours with some oil and salt, unlike my mom who fried fat back and put that in her beans (shudder!). It always cracked up my “northern” neighbors who were used to crunchy green beans that cooked in minutes – what’s with that? I remember sitting in church on Sunday morning as a child, my poor mother worrying every time the alarm would go off at the fire station next to our church, afraid it was our house on fire because she had left a big pot of green beans on the stove cooking all morning so they would be ready for Sunday lunch. Ya’ll did Sunday lunch, right? Roast beef or fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, sweet tea, and pie.

“The heart is like a garden. It can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love.  What seeds will you plant there?” Buddha

Last weekend I experimented with Cauliflower Rice from, you guessed it – Trader Joe’s. I sauteed some onion, red and purple bell peppers, and grey zucchini from the Farmer’s Market. I had a handful of green beans fresh out of my garden, but I did not have a long time (aka hours) to cook my beans. I have a confession (forgive me Father, for I might have sinned against my Southern roots) – I chopped up my green beans and sauteed them for about 10 minutes with the other veggies and the cauliflower rice, seasoned them with TJ’s Everything Bagel Seasoning, and it was FANTASTIC! And my UNsouthern green beans were great and crunchy. Does that mean I am becoming UNsouthern?!? OH Lawd help me!

“Don’t worry, just breathe. If it’s meant to be, it will find its way.”  Holly Kellums

Being outside in nature is such a great way to nourish your soul. If you cannot be by the ocean (where I am this week!) then just be outside. Two weeks ago, my daughter and I went on a “Big Woods Walk” at James Madison’s Montpelier, where she works. They have miles of free hiking trails up there! Montpelier’s horticulturist led us through the woods and I learned so much about the trees and nature around Montpelier. Do you have any idea how good breathing the air in a forest is for you? Even 5 minutes being in a forest lowers your blood pressure and your stress, boosts your immune system, and improves your mood. We hiked for 2 hours – I felt like a Million $$’s!

Before I end, I must remind y’all about the Christmas movies showing this week on the Hallmark Channel! I am watching one (no surprise there!) as I write this blog. It all ends this weekend. Don’t miss out!

And go find a forest or just go outside. It will improve your health and your outlook!

See you next week,

Best,

Leslie

HO HO HOLIDAY CHEER!

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

Let’s recap a couple of things you have learned about me from my blog: I am a sucker for a good Hallmark movie and summer is my favorite season. And anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE Christmas – the decorations, the Christmas Sweaters, the heavenly aroma of a fresh frasir fir tree, the Christmas lights that sparkle at night, the way life works out perfectly – wait, that only happens in a Hallmark Christmas movie. Good thing that Hallmark is celebrating CHRISTMAS IN JULY this week on the Hallmark Movie Channel and next week on the Hallmark Channel. Set those DVRs people! Yes, I’m in holiday heaven for 2 weeks! (Actually I am writing this as I sit on my back porch watching “Sound of Christmas.”) Oh and the Christmas music… ahhhh… I LOVE Christmas music. Ask my kids, come November 1st, it’s nothing but Carpenter Christmas in my CD player. Luckily, they don’t know it’s actually more like August 1st (or July to celebrate CHRISTMAS IN JULY)!

 

Christmas Sweater
100 degrees outside, freezing in my office…celebrating Christmas in July!

In the spirit of Christmas, I love to decorate – usually right after Thanksgiving (if not before!). I have 26 bins of Christmas decorations. This past Christmas I started thinking… a new house and a new life needed new decorations. I did not want to use the same ones I used in the past – that past was HISTORY. For the first time in 36 years, I spent Thanksgiving at the beach with my family and bought some beautiful new decorations at a wonderful shop in Murrells Inlet, Tweaked. (I love this store!) But first I had a problem… how to get my tree? This girl could not put a Christmas tree on top of her car, get it off and into the house SOLO… what to do? My son-in-law’s dear grandfather lives near me. He has a truck. So I called him and said, “Hey I need help getting my Christmas tree.” He responded, “Ok when do you want to get it and where?” I replied, “Well, how about now at Whole Foods. They plant a tree for every one they sell.” He said he would meet me there. Now, the funny part of this story is that he had no idea who he was meeting as I never said who I was and he never asked! Talk about Christmas Spirit! He was standing there at Whole Foods looking for a lady who needed help with a tree as I walked up. He greeted me warmly, helped me pick out a great tree (a frasir fir), loaded it in his truck, took it to my house, and put it in my new tree stand. What holiday cheer he shared with me. Little did I know then that he was surprised to see ME! He did not tell me this story until a month later. He is kind, in a wonderfully big way. My son-in-law comes from good people. My daughter is blessed. (As am I.)

“Being kind is more important than being right.”

The Christmas spirit brings out kindness in everyone. Just look at all the bell ringers for the Salvation Army. I have rung that bell many Christmases with my co-workers. And what about all the Angel Trees? And food drives? And family sponsorships? And what about those wonderful angels who anonymously pay off Christmas Layaways for families? Kindness… holiday cheer.

You never know what the person next to you is going through. Do they need a little “holiday cheer”? Look at me. Last year, few people knew that my life, as I had known it, had just imploded. I put a smile on my face and tried to get through each day. I searched for that “holiday cheer”. I consider myself a positive person. And a happy person. But it was hard to smile then. Yet so many people were so very kind to me – they showed me “holiday cheer”. Recently I was having a rare “down” day –  I have them every now and then, much less these days though. Unexpectedly, a co-worker said to me “Lester, you ok today?” (yes they call me Lester at work – don’t ask!) I thought I was hiding it pretty well. Guess not. But just the fact that he noticed I wasn’t myself and asked, put some “holiday cheer” in my day. The following day I was back to my positive self, smiling at everyone I passed running in the morning, looking for smiles in return.

“One kind word can change someone’s whole day.”

How true is this? Maybe you are the only person to speak kindly to someone all day. To share some “holiday cheer.” What a difference this can make in that person’s outlook. I encourage my children to perform a random act of kindness every day. It does not have to be anything major – hold the door open for someone, pay a compliment to someone who needs it, make a cup of coffee for a coworker, take someone’s newspaper to their door, share a smile. It can be small or large.

“The happiest of people don’t have everything they ever wanted in this life, they just make the most of everything that this life has given them. The happiest of people have known hurt, they have felt pain, they have cried so many tears, they never gave up, despite the knocks and they are always trying to make things a little bit better. The happiest of people truly understand that the sad times never last and that the good times will always last longer and will always be the ones worth remembering.” (Dave Hodges)

What if we shared some “holiday cheer”, not just in December, but all year long. Think how wonderful life would be if each one of us performed one random act of kindness every day. Think how happy our family circle would be… our friend circle… our neighbor circle… our work circle… our community circle… our world.

So go out today, and tomorrow, and the next day, and share some “holiday cheer”.  Perform one random act of kindness, even it if is just sharing a smile with someone. See what a difference it will make, not only in their day, but in YOURS.

Happy CHRISTMAS IN JULY y’all!  Only 165 days until we celebrate Christmas. There’s an app for that!

See you next week,

Best,

Leslie

Say HELLO to my Little Friend!

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

Ok, I know what you are thinking… But you are going to be surprised!

March 1, 2017… D-DAY – Divorce is final. It’s also the first day of Lent, a season of reflection and preparation before the celebration of Easter. So, what do I do? Celebrate? Cry? Or pull myself together and realize, Hey I am now totally free to do whatever I want, whenever I want, wherever I want, and with whoever I want? I chose the latter. I decided I needed a present to celebrate my new-found freedom. For years, I coveted my friend’s VITAMIX Blender (yes I remember the 10th Commandment: “Thou shalt not covet…”)  but I just could not justify the splurge. Now, however, I felt that I deserved a special gift just for me. So I broke down and bought myself a VITAMIX Blender! And we have been best friends since.

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on.” (Robert Frost)

Right after my separation, I could not eat. Could not sleep. Could barely function. As I said before, I was so thankful to have a job that forced me out of bed that first Monday SOLO, or I might still be there with the covers over my head. Food was the farthest thing from my mind. After dropping too much weight, I knew I had to get my act together and begin eating something, and if it was not going to be much, it should be healthy. HELLO smoothies! I became a smoothie QUEEN! (I am also a Dancing Queen – just ask my coworkers.) Using my old blender, I experimented with smoothies that included a big handful of spinach, frozen bananas, frozen strawberries (or whatever fruit I had on hand), dash of cinnamon, some protein powder, and Almond Milk. I figured that if nothing else, each smoothie would give me 2+ fruits, a veggie, and did you know that Almond Milk has 50% more calcium than regular milk? Plus, it is a good source of Vitamins D and E. Score one for me! (Sidebar: When my kids were growing up, I bought about 8 gallons of milk each week – Thank you SAM’S for cheap milk! I have not bought a gallon of milk since I moved into my new house. I buy a quart of milk each time my son comes to visit. And last week I bought a quart as I was making dinner for some friends and was not sure Almond milk would work in mashed potatoes and banana pudding. I only have Unsweetened Vanilla Almond milk in my refrigerator.)

Yes, the old blender worked (did I mention it was a wedding gift?), but I had to stop and start it too often because it would get “clogged” (like my marriage). Still, I used that old blender every morning until I brought my VITAMIX home! The other week I had all of my kids down at the beach with me (remember the longest day of the year post?), and I made them smoothies every morning. Just grab and go and take them to the beach (and be healthy!). I went to the Farmer’s Market down there and bought fresh local peaches and strawberries. I always buy a big bunch of bananas, (cheapest at Trader Joe’s) let them get overly ripe, then peel, slice, and store them in baggies in my freezer. This adds a perfect sweetness to any smoothie. And I promise you, unlike Pop-eye, you will not taste the spinach! A lot of people use kale but I have only used spinach. Did you know you can freeze fresh spinach? I could never use all of the spinach before it spoiled, so it was a blessing to learn that spinach can be frozen, which makes for a better smoothie anyway. My freezer is always stocked with ziploc baggies of bananas, spinach, and lots of different fruits for my smoothies. (I picked 17 pounds of fresh strawberries this spring – and did you know you do NOT have to cap them? Turns out the tops are really good for you… wish I had known that BEFORE I capped all those strawberries!) I make a smoothie every night and keep it in the fridge so I can have it for breakfast first thing in the morning. Starts my day off right!

strawberries

“I can’t control everything in my life, but I can control what I put in my body.”

BD (Before Divorce), my ex was the master griller, and as our old neighbors can attest, we grilled out steaks every Saturday night. Filets, medium rare, baked potatoes, salad, garlic bread. AD (After Divorce), now SOLO, I have become the master griller (I got the Weber Grill), but I rarely grill steaks – only if my kids are in town (which they were this weekend and yes we grilled steaks). Now I grill salmon. And it is not the salmon of my childhood (pronounced SAL-MON out of a can) that my mother fried in patties and served with pinto beans. (Don’t ask!) No…this salmon (wild caught) is so good…seasoned with a little olive oil and Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning. (I love TJ’s) I will bake a sweet potato and grill okra to go with it. Heavenly! Honestly, BD I never ate salmon. AD – it is on the menu every week! And speaking of food and dinners, last night we grilled turkey burgers, corn on the cob, gray zucchini (found at the Charlottesville Farmer’s Market Saturday), and roasted sweet potatoes sliced into rounds and seasoned with… yes… Trader Joe’s Everything Bagel Seasoning! (this is NOT a commercial for TJ’s). I also have to admit that most nights, my favorite dinner is scrambled eggs, grits and toast. It just does not get any better (or easier) than that.

If my summer ever slows down, I would really like to get to know my VITAMIX better. I want to make my own Almond Butter, guacamole, soups (yes it even heats the soup up!). There is so much more I can do with it. But for now I am happy with my special smoothies. And yes, I am happy!

“If you look for the good in life, you’ll find it.  CHOOSE to be happy, to be at peace.”

Do any of you make smoothies? If so, what fruits, combinations do you use? I am always looking for new recipes AND new ways to use my VITAMIX. Please share!

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Maybe we will talk about the OTHER little friend later on!

Off to make my smoothie for tomorrow!

See you next week.

Best,

Leslie

A TANGLED WEB…

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

“OH what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” (Sir Walter Scott – bet you thought that was from Shakespeare! I remember Andy Griffith saying this to Barney…or was it to Opie?)

I have to admit…I helped my kids cheat in high school. And I lied. I lied on my kids’ band practice charts. (Sorry, Mr. Thomas!) To fulfil their Arts requirement in high school, all 3 kids, 3 years apart in school, were in the band (9th – 11th grades). Two flutes and a trumpet. Yes, 9 years of band concerts, fundraising for trips, and the practicing. Oh, the practicing. Part of their grade was based on the number of hours they practiced. My honor roll kids were not going to let band wreck their GPA’s, but my house (and my patience – remember I have zero patience) could not handle all the practicing. So I told them to write down what would get them a passing grade and I signed the charts. (Did I mention they were also in band for 3 years in middle school?!)

Harmless enough, right? Everyone will lie at some point – it is human nature. Some lies are not a breach of trust. “Honey does this make me look fat?” “No sweetheart, nothing could EVER make you look fat.” That’s a lie… but an understandable lie. Sort of. Of course, there are people you expect to always be honest with you, even in hard times. As a mom, I try to play that role for my kids. Even when I had to tell my middle-school daughter that she should take off that Gawd-awful electric-blue eye shadow she SMEARED on her eyes before school because it did not look as trendy as she thought it did. Is that what they call brutal honesty? She thought so at the time. She thanks me now.

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” -Mark Twain

Of course, people you love are going to break your trust and lie to you at some point. And once that trust is broken, it is nearly impossible to restore. It can leave you searching for answers and explanations that you may never get. Why? How? When? Seeking these answers may seem like the only way to gain closure and move on, but it may also be the thing that is holding you back. This can be the hardest thing to realize: the reason you are not moving on is because you are waiting for “closure” – an explanation, an apology, the truth, anything. “If only I knew ‘this’, I’d be able to accept, process and move on.” We want to feel better. We want resolution. We want someone to blame. But this only holds us back.

Maybe the reason you are not getting over something is because you are waiting on these answers. But there will always be more questions. Ask yourself, do you really need (or want) the answers? If someone walks away leaving the door wide open, sometimes it is up to you to figure out how to close that door yourself. (Slam that door!)

“If you spend your time hoping someone will suffer the consequences for what they did to your heart, then you’re allowing them to hurt you a second time in your mind.” ― Shannon L. Alder

So, what do we do? We have to turn to ourselves and find ways to move forward. Collect inspirational quotes, maybe? Have those hard conversations in your head that you know will never be shared with the person meant for? Write a letter you know you will never send? Personally, I have found solace in this blog, and all of you. Truthfully, I appreciate all y’all reading my blog and sharing it with your friends and family. And I cannot tell you how much your comments on my blog posts and on my Facebook page, as well as your private messages and emails, mean to me. Please keep them coming! You have made this SOLO at SIXTY girl feel right special! (But remember I am NOT 60 yet!)

See you next week – get ready for some FUN!

Best,

Leslie