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!

DSC_0426

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

HELLO SUMMER!

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

June 21st… my favorite day of the year! Why? I thrive on sunlight and June 21st is the LONGEST day of the year! Also, June 21st is the first day of SUMMER (my favorite season). Bring on that heat and humidity! I will take the heat over the cold any day. As I said earlier, I have a space heater under my desk at work that runs every day of the year, and an electric blanket on the back of my chair for the times when the heater is not enough. Yes, I am cold. And I REALLY do not like winter and cold weather. So, every winter I promise not to complain about the heat and humidity once it arrives. And I wait patiently for summer. Ok, that is not true… I have no patience and I do not wait patiently. I LONG for summer and the LONG days of light. And here it is… and there it goes. Because tomorrow, June 22nd, we start losing minutes of light every day until December 22nd (right after the shortest day of the year)! It’s the great circle of light.

“BD” (Before Divorce) we made the most of those longer, lighter evenings. We would get home from work and go for a walk to reconnect. To talk about our day. To talk about our kids. To share some new exciting accounting regulation (we are both accountants). Our neighborhood had wonderful paved walking paths – around the lakes, the tennis courts, the pool, the basketball courts. We walked up to an hour on those evenings. And we held hands. (We ran in the mornings down the middle of the road, but walked on paths in the evening. Safety first!)

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.” Walt Whitman

Who does not benefit from the sunlight? That natural Vitamin D that we all need. (So why am I deficient in Vitamin D and have to take it in pill form daily?) Sunshine just makes everyone happier. Ever notice how grumpy people are after a day or two of gloomy, rainy weather? One rainy day every now and then is ok, but couldn’t we have rain at night instead of daytime? As the late, great Karen Carpenter (who I loved!) once sang, “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down…”  (sidebar: I know the words to every Carpenter song… several years ago, our club was having the Legacy Challenge – games between employee teams – and part of it was playing the game “Don’t forget the Lyrics” where the song plays, stops and you must finish the lyrics. I was just going to watch until it was a Carpenter’s Song. I thought, “I can win this for our team!” So, I volunteered to compete. The song started and it was one I LOVED: “Hurting Each Other.” There I was, hamming it up big time as if I was Karen Carpenter… well… I got SO into this role that when the music stopped and I had to give the next line…  I could not remember where the song ended… and we lost. Never participating again!)

“Be the light for someone in their darkest hours.”

I was in a very dark place for several months. Yet I had so many people who brought light into my life. When my husband said he was leaving me right before the movers showed up to move us into our dream house (Friday May 13th, yes Friday the 13th), I called my sister who dropped everything, including a trip she and her husband had planned that day, and came to me. She saved my life. Literally. She and I unpacked every box, hung every picture and mirror, and placed every knick knack, book and photograph (none with my ex in them) on my new built-in bookshelves. At night we sat on my new back porch and drank wine and ate cheese straws and the lemon pound cake she had baked for her trip. We stayed up late and got up early (because I could not sleep) and by the time she left Sunday morning, my house was beautifully mine. My children… oh my wonderful children. I cannot say enough about how wonderful they have been. We ruined my oldest daughter’s birthday by telling her. She calls me every day on her way to and from work. After we told my middle child, she left, and later came back to my new house and spent the night with me – we had a sleepover. She and I do a lot together as she lives in Charlottesville. My sweet son – we had to tell him via phone (he lives too far away)….He called to make sure I was ok and has loved on me and been there for me. I adore my kids! (can you tell?!?!?)

“True Friends are those rare people who come to find you in the dark and lead you back to the light.”

My friends were wonderful too. I emailed my dear “old” next door neighbor (we were neighbors for 16+ years) who had moved to Kentucky (yes the one in the last blog who helped me when my Dad had a stroke) because at that point I could not verbalize anything. Started my email with “Sit down and be alone when you read this…” She immediately drove from Kentucky to be with me and helped me tell some of my girlfriends. One of those dear girlfriends called, texted, and sent me prayers – she had known a deeper loss in her life. These prayers worked. Another girlfriend brought me a bunch of dresses to wear to my 40th high school reunion (3 weeks after my separation) because she knew I was not in a shopping mood. (By the way, I did not tell anyone at the reunion – I wanted the reunion to be about old friends, not a broken heart. But I did have a GREAT time at my reunion!) My boss made an appointment with his attorney for me – I told him first, after all, he has been divorced several times and I figured he would know what I should do because as I told him – I had no clue. My sweet co-workers, worried about my first SOLO trip to the beach house, sent me off with a sand bucket full of wine, dark chocolate, a book, and other goodies. Another girlfriend from work and I would walk to the bank every afternoon just so I could “unload” … we still do this. She is a great listener. And Advisor. Several other out of town girlfriends came and spent weekends with me. WOW I have come a LONG way in a year and am so thankful for all the love and support I have received!

“No matter how bad things seem today, or how awful the situation…. the sun will rise and a new day will give another chance to start again.  There will always BE HOPE!”

This is so true. I told myself if I could just make it through the dark of night, I could survive the light of day. I was not sleeping. Some days I just got up at 4 in the morning and went to work… My dear friend (from Kentucky) told me to ask for God’s grace every day. According to her priest, God’s grace has a short shelf life and we need to ask for His grace every day. Sometimes I asked for it hourly. And I received it because here I am – stronger, happier, a survivor.

And here I am today, June 21st, at my happy place, surrounded by my wonderful kids, on my favorite day of the year. I could not be happier! Also, I want to wish a HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to my dear college friends who are celebrating 37 years of marriage today! They know how to make marriage work. I should also be celebrating 37 years this August, but it ain’t happening y’all. And that’s ok.

“The Sun is alone too, but it still shines.”

I am blessed and lucky to be surrounded by so many caring, loving, supportive people from different areas of my life who helped me bring my “light” back. I have learned that I can find light in family and friendships which are the real prizes in life. And I have learned that sometimes the darkest times give way to the brightest moments. And even on those “dark” days, because I still have them, I know I can make my own light, SOLO. More on that coming up soon!

So get out there and shine. Share some of your light with others. And enjoy the length of this day… it won’t be light this long again for another year!

See you next Wednesday!

Best,

Leslie

Happy Father’s Day!

Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!

I took my mother out to lunch for Mother’s Day with my sisters and a dear friend at Cherries Café  in Clemmons, NC.  Cherries is a wonderful “ladies” restaurant  run by “old” high school friends, and in addition to great food, they have the BEST salad dressing in the world! (I buy many bottles to give as hostess gifts.) As we were waiting for our food, I decided to share my news: “I am going to be a BLOGGER!” My mother promptly exclaimed “You are going to be a FATHER?!?!?!” OMG we all fell out of our chairs laughing. Now granted, my mother doesn’t hear well (she passed that down to me!) and she has no clue what a Blogger is (or a blog, for that matter), but me? A father? Bless her heart!

Cherries Mother's Day
Pre-Mother’s Day Lunch at Cherries! You must have lunch here!

I posted my first blog the Wednesday after Mother’s Day, and since I missed that holiday, I am sending out some “Mom love” here. But I also want to take this opportunity to say Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there, old and new… especially my special first time dads: Matthew (Baby Jack), Scott (also a Baby Jack!), Joe (Baby Maddy) and my son-in-law Zach (for my Grand-Dawg Paige!).

“The greatest gift a Father can give his children is to love their Mother.” (Reverend Dr. Worth Green, New Philadelphia Moravian Church)

Our pastor, Worth Green, preached this on many Father’s Days. Most of my friends are still married; these Dads are abiding this advice. And yet, so many Fathers fail here. My father failed. My ex-husband failed. And after hearing from so many of you, I realize how many more have failed. My father left my mother shortly after I got married. I was in such a blissfully newlywed state that I had no idea anything was wrong. Mom always said I lived in a fairytale world – explains a lot! I mean, your parents will never divorce – right? And yet, mine did. And my sweet children’s parents did, again shortly after my daughter got married. I never wanted my children to have divorced parents – the possibility never entered my mind. No matter how young or old you are, divorce affects you. It’s a struggle to see everyone at holidays and birthdays and family events. I would have done anything to prevent my children from going through this. Doesn’t he remember what it was like for us with my parents? But I had no choice. “We’ve separated” implies a choice. The truth – my husband left me. And I filed for divorce. And luckily, I am in a better place. Solo. But are my children?

My dad was a man of few words. Then again, how could he get many words in with 4 girls surrounding him daily? He was a good looking man and he knew it. He LOVED being outdoors in the sun, especially the beach (like me – thriving at the beach!). He did not take aging well (unlike me – I am embracing it!).  However, Daddy had zero patience. Zero. Explains my lack of patience. I remember one time Daddy took me back to Chapel Hill after being home for a weekend. (I went home too many weekends to see a boyfriend who was still in Winston-Salem… not smart.) Anyway, Dad dropped me off, and as he left I sat on the steps of Alexander Dorm waving goodbye. Then I saw him drive by again… waved again… and again… then once more our family sedan was in front of my dorm. It stopped, and my dad yelled “How the #%&! do I get out of here?” That was the only time he took me back to college… he bought me a car to drive myself.

We lost my father November 2, 2000.  I had just been down to Winston-Salem to accompany him and my sisters to his doctor’s appointment. We wanted to know what was going on with his health. Evidently, a lot. After his appointment that Thursday, I went back to Charlottesville. The following Monday, I looked at my phone as I was leaving the gym and noticed a lot of missed calls. I listened to messages from my sisters and my dad’s wife – Daddy had suffered a stroke. Thanks to my wonderful next door neighbor, my kids would be taken care of and I took off for Winston-Salem to be with Daddy while he was in ICU for 10 days. Due to my younger sister’s connections to the ICU (she is a nurse), I was able to spend the night in his room. Plus, I did not have to be at work or take care of family. Dad perked up Saturday morning and was eating so I decided to head back to Charlottesville to see my family. I woke up Sunday morning with an odd feeling and decided I needed to be back in Winston. (I missed Halloween, but my dear neighbor again made sure my kids had costumes and she took pictures for me.)  We lost my dad that Thursday evening, November 2nd, around dusk. Luckily, we all had time with Daddy and said everything that needed to be said. We told him we loved him. We told him we would take care of each other. We told him goodbye. We loved Daddy. He had a very hard life as a child, steeped in poverty as he was the youngest of 9 brothers and sisters who lost their father at a very young age. He had no role model to follow. This does not excuse his actions concerning our Mom but he was still our Dad. However, I now look back and wonder how my sweet, gentle mother made it through my dad leaving her. I know first hand the pain and suffering she must have endured. And she still had my younger sister at home to get through high school. My grandmother was suffering from Alzheimer’s and was not a viable source of comfort for mom. But my mom had her sister, who was also her best friend, for support.  Geez… how history repeated itself with me. History must NOT repeat itself anymore in my family!

Mom taught her daughters to be independent and strong, and that we can survive whatever is thrown our way. And we have. I believe Mom got this from her mother, who became a widow in her early 40’s and never remarried. My grandmother, Isabel, was a strong, talented woman who lived ahead of her time. She drove a Peugeot and no one drove a Peugeot back then. (Do they even make Peugeots anymore?)  She was the head of the bridal department at Montaldo’s (an exclusive women’s store), where she bought all the bridal gowns and directed weddings. She traveled to New York often on buying trips and to Europe on vacations. Grandma Isabel was the only person I know who died probably wishing she had worked more! She was an artist (must be where my sisters get their talent). We all have some of her paintings in our homes. She took a wedding dress from Montaldo’s and transformed it into my dream wedding dress. It was difficult to watch such a strong woman succumb to Alzheimer’s. I remember in her last years when I would take the kids to see her, she would say to them “Who’s your daddy?” to which I would respond, “It’s not important who their daddy is, it is who their momma is!” And she would say, “Who’re your people?” “YOU’RE MY PEOPLE!” “Oh, that’s good.” Bless her heart. I come from a long line of strong women. Thank heavens! (and Alzheimer’s – scary!

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My good looking Dad on my wedding day & me in my dress by Isabel!

I read somewhere that “One of the hardest things you will ever have to do is grieve the loss of someone who is still alive.” Mom spent time with us in the hospital with Dad and I remember her telling me she had grieved the loss of my father so many years earlier. I too have grieved the loss of my husband.

Maybe men leave because they think the grass is greener on the other side… Maybe if they watered the grass on their own side, it would be greener! All I know is that I no longer have to mow any grass as I am living in a maintenance-free neighborhood, and I am so thankful. As my old neighbors will attest, I faithfully mowed our yard twice a week, alternating the direction of the “lines” in the grass. Imagine that – more routine! (I got a self propelled mower for Mother’s Day one year.  Oh and a backpack sprayer another year along with a hand truck to move kids into college!  This year I got a great tennis bag and 2 tennis skirts and all I ever ask for each year is for my kids to write a letter to me! Got the letters too!)

So for all of you Fathers out there (Mothers can remind them – we are good at that), set a good example for your children.  Raise strong, confident, and caring individuals and remind them that “Life is not fair but it does go on.” And we should all be thankful for that. And from Karon Waddell:  “Get busy watering your own grass so as not to notice whether it’s greener elsewhere.”

See you next Wednesday!

Best,

Leslie

LET IT GO!

Welcome back to SOLO AT SIXTY!

Time to LET IT GO!

Is there anyone on this planet who did not see the movie “FROZEN”? Remember the YouTube video of the mother in NC who threatened to kill the Frozen characters after listening to her child sing “LET IT GO” for 3 solid snow days? What good advice. NO, not killing the characters, but maybe Elsa was onto something: “LET IT GO”!

snow day

If you are in a relationship, you communicate with your partner daily – texting, emailing, calling, and just talking. Maybe it’s about how your day is going, how late you are working, what’s for dinner, what Hallmark movie you are going to watch that night (ok, maybe not that). Now, imagine you can no longer talk to, text, email, or call your partner anymore. Cord cut. Severed. Done. That was one of the hardest parts of my breakup because we texted, emailed, called and just talked so many times during the day. Every day. And in one day, there was just silence…no texting, no emailing, no calling, no talking…I was SOLO.

Many times this past year something funny would happen, or something that was applicable to “us”, and my first reaction was to pick up the phone and make a call. My sister became a grandmother to sweet baby Jack; our dear college friends became grandparents; Princess Leia died (we watched all the Star Wars Movies together); and the topper – I won the Clemmons Courier College Football Bowl Contest! What is the Clemmons Courier you ask? Well… it’s a weekly, world renown local paper (the size of a hefty church bulletin) from our home town of Clemmons, NC. And the most popular part of the paper in the fall and winter is the contest to guess the winners of that week’s football or basketball games, which I religiously enter each week. Of course, I always pick UNC and the Panthers to win, but if I don’t know the records of the other teams listed, I make my picks based on team name, mascot, uniform color, or if I know someone who went to that school or lived in that city. But it works! (Sometimes.)

Not willing to give up my North Carolina roots when we moved to VA, I continued my subscription to the Courier, even though it cost $5 more per year to get it out of state. The problem? Contest entries were due by 5:00pm on Friday afternoon, and my copy wasn’t even in my mailbox until a week later. Now remember, this was 1997, long before everything was at your fingertips on the internet, so I emailed the Contest Director asking when the Courier would go online so I could enter the contest. Bless his heart if he did not begin emailing me a copy of the contest every Thursday! I even made the headlines the next week: “Lovely Leslie of Charlottesville, VA cannot enter the Contest” (what was I saying about needing to let things go??). So I was back in the contest and the pressure was on. And believe it or not, I have won. Three times! My most recent win was this year’s College Football Bowl Contest, and I won $20 (uh-oh, I forgot to report that on my taxes!). But more importantly, I, “Lovely Leslie” won the coveted CAP of CAPS! And I wanted to share this with my best friend… only, I didn’t have that best friend anymore. So I called my kids and my sisters, bragged about it to my brother-in-law (another contest regular), emailed my friends, and my “best friend” never even knew. He would have gotten a real kick of out that.

“The truth about your heart. Your heart will fix itself. It’s your mind you need to worry about. Your mind where you locked the memories, your mind where you have kept pieces of the ones that hurt you, that still cut through you like shards of glass. Your mind will keep you up at night, make you cry, destroy you over and over again. You need to convince your mind that it has to let go because your heart already knows how to heal.” — Nikita Gill

Moving on does not mean you forget what has happened… that will never be the case. It means you refuse to continue letting the hurt, anger, bitterness, and embarrassment control your life. It means you have found your strength. Trust me, there are still minutes, hours, days that I experience that horrible hurt again – the shards of glass cutting through my heart. Seems when I find myself in a really good place, something happens – I learn something, I see something, I hear something – and I am back in that hurtful place again. But I now know that I can claw my way back up. And I can LET IT GO!

How, do you ask? Forgiveness. I read somewhere: “I never knew how strong I was until I had to forgive someone who wasn’t sorry and accept an apology I never received.” So true! My decision to forgive was NOT for anyone but ME. And it took me a L O N G time to reach this point. Forgiving did not change the past – that will always remain. What it did was free ME, allowing ME to heal, to put the hurt, anger and bitterness that caused me so much pain in a box that I then buried. It allowed me to LET IT GO. Let go of the past and the past will let go of you.

“I’ve learned a lot this year. I learned that things don’t always turn out the way you planned, or the way you think they should. I learned that there are things that go wrong that don’t always get fixed or put back together the way they were before. I learned that some broken things stay broken, and I learned that you can get through bad times and keep looking for better ones, as long as you have people who love you.”  (Jennifer Weiner – though I could have written this one!)

They say letting go means carrying a permanent scar, not a permanent wound.  I am scarred but no longer wounded, because I LET IT GO!

So if you find yourself in this position (and I pray you never do), remember, it is best to forgive – and if the person who hurt you has not asked for forgiveness – do it for YOU. This transfers the burden to them. Because you have LET IT GO!

Elsa_Door
“Let it go, let it go, Turn away and slam the door…..”

Slam that door!  See you next Wednesday!

Best,

Leslie