insecurities · Just plain life · Uncategorized

August. What Am I Going To Do With You?

Just when you thought it was safe . . . August hits.

Oh, August. I used to really like you.

But that was a long time ago. That was back when I still had a whole month off before I had to go back to school. I still had a month to ride my banana-seat, butterfly-handlebar bike (with the basket adorned with colorful plastic flowers) to my friend Linda’s house. A month to take our bikes to West End Park and go swimming in Lake Superior, even though it was cold as ice. A whole month of root beer floats, penny candy from Ben Franklin, playing outside till the sunset late in the evening. Ah, life was pretty much a bowl of cherries back then.

And then “growing up” happened.  And that’s when I started not liking August.

I think the first time it hit me was when I first went away to college. (Maybe I have September to blame, but by the time September rolls around, I start to feel a little better.) That first year going away to college was pretty tough for me. It was only about 4 hours away from home, and I’d been there several times as my older brother and sister went to school there so I was familiar with the campus. And yet when it was my turn to be a student there, it was so not easy. I think I’ve since discovered that I just don’t take transitions very well.

I can remember sitting on the lawn of the student union building amidst my new textbooks and schedules and spiral-bound notebooks and feeling just plain . . . horrible. Like I was never going to “like it here.” I was a small town kid from a small high school and it seemed like everyone walking past me had the air of “I’ve got this” about them. I guess I didn’t know at the ripe age of 17 that people can cover up how they really feel. My emotions sort of hang out there for all the world to see.

Funny – I grew to love my college life eventually. All those wasted tears, watering the grass at the Davies Center at UWEC. (I should really have been paid for the lush grass that surrounded that building in August/September of 1978.) So, you’d think I’d learn that when those “Ugh-ust” feelings come round year after year, to just shake ’em off, as Taylor Swift would no doubt advise me to do. But, alas, they still get to me.

Obviously I don’t have college woes to consider each August anymore. (Yikes – I don’t even have any kids in college any more!) But starting each school year with the kids was a transition, for them, naturally, but for me, too.  A new school year meant new teachers, new schedules to learn, new personalities to get used to, new homework rituals,  new activities. Then, as the kids got older, transitioning to middle school, then high school. And don’t even get me started on how hard Augusts were when you have kids going to college. Thirteen Augusts have been wrecked for me by the thought of another school year with my kid away from me and my ability to keep him or her safe.

I always seem to like the way things were. I like comfortable. I like familiar. I like safe.

So here I am staring another calendar in the face and that word . . . “August” stares back at me. (Yes, I still use a paper calendar, dinosaur that I am.) The same old feelings are coming back. Again, I’m looking misty-eyed back at July like it’s my best friend moving away. I want to call August a bad name and tell it to leave me alone.

Thank heavens for Maria, our daughter. She was born August 22. I wonder if God knew I was going to have issues with August and so worked it out so I’d always have a reason to celebrate that month.

Isaiah 43:19 says, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Notice how there’s an exclamation point after “new thing.” It seems like God is all excited about this new thing He’s doing, like we should be, too. (See above. I like the way things were, you know, like old things.)

August always seems to be a month of new things. For me, it still means setting up a new schedule as I’ve had some time away from piano lessons and other “regularly-scheduled programming.”  Maybe what I need to understand is that today’s “new” is tomorrow’s “the way things were.”  What is uncomfortable and ill-fitting at the moment may be the thing I look back on next August and say, “Awww, I miss that.”

So, alright, August!  Let’s do this!  Bring on your “new” (pardon, “new!”) and I’ll try to look at you with more favor this time around.  Just be gentle with me, OK?  I’m new at this.

Heavenly Father – Will You help me see this new month with fresh eyes? Eyes that look for blessings and not disappointments? Help me know that You’re in charge of the whole calendar and whatever this new chapter brings, we’re in it together.  In Jesus’ Name – Amen


Grandmotherhood · Just plain life · Uncategorized

Menopause and the Miracle-Woman

I love when squirrels help us interpret our emotions.
I love when squirrels help us interpret our emotions.

Shortly after midnight in the wee hours of August 22, 1987, our trusty springer spaniel, Gunther, needed the rest room facilities, and so I got my very largely pregnant self out of bed and tended to my pup.  As I returned to bed, I felt the first of the contractions that would eventually lead Kevin and me to welcoming our first baby into the world, our Maria.  Because I write everything down and basically am a bit OCD, I kept track of these contractions on a notepad that I had next to my bed.  This went on for several hours, me sort of dozing in between contractions.  Kevin snoozed peacefully beside me, Gunther at our feet.  Just one big happy bunch of deep breathers.  After several hours of this “labor,” I had an incredible thought . . .

“Is this it?!?!  This isn’t so bad.  What on earth were all those other women complaining about?  Labor hurts?  Not for me!  Slight squeezes maybe, but intense pain??  Hardly!!  Maybe I’ll be that one miracle woman who births babies with nary a twinge of discomfort. I’ll show the world what I’m made of!!” I practically heard trumpets sounding from the heavens and saw the headline of the Star & Tribune that next day announcing, “Miracle Woman gives birth with NO PAIN!”

Then my water broke.

OK, this is the point where I realized I was no miracle-woman.  After a quick drive to the hospital and about 6 hours of REAL labor, we met our sweet Maria.  (I know some of you are thinking “Six hours??  Is that all??  I was in labor for 6 days!!” I hear you and you have my utmost admiration.)

The point is this:  Denial is more than a river in Egypt, it’s a place I reside on a regular basis.  I took up residence there while charting my contractions and thinking I’d get by without it hurting, and now I find myself there again at another stage in my life as a female . . . . menopause.

You see, some of my friends are just a step ahead of me in this process and I’ve heard them talk about the hot flashes and the insomnia, the night sweats and the mood swings.  But that wasn’t going to happen to me.  Now it’s been a while (29 years, to be exact) since that night I sat up with paper and pencil in hand, and it seems I’ve forgotten I’m NOT miracle-woman.  Dang it, anyway. I really thought I was going to get away with it this time.  I’d even done some remodeling in my cute little apartment in “Denial Village.”

But then the hot flashes started.

Actually, I prefer to think of them as “warm surges” because (as of now) they are not the hot flashes I’ve heard others talk about that require sticking one’s head in the fridge or the like.  It’s more of a “Hmm, I guess I don’t need my sweater on anymore” or “Does anyone else feel warm?  Maybe I’ll turn down the A/C.”  See the difference?  Hot versus warm?  “Dinner is now being served in the dining area of Denial Village.  All are welcome.”

I heard talk of becoming more forgetful when menopause comes to call.  OK, there is NO living in Denial Village on this one. This one I definitely experience, to the point I sometimes worry I’m losing my mind.  A little foggy between the ears?  Dear God, I hope that doesn’t continue to decline or I’m in big trouble.

The crepey skin is a little alarming.  When you live in South Florida, it’s hard to wear clothing that covers all the flaws without causing heat stroke, so that crepiness is generally out there for the world to see.  Not a lot a gal can do about that.  But let me give you fair warning on something you should never do:  Never, and I mean NEVER assume “downward facing dog” yoga position when you’re just wearing shorts.  Your eyes will go straight to your thighs and that is enough to send you into a downward spiral of “oh-my-gosh-what-happened-to-my-legs?” I’ve made this mistake and by eyes still burn.  There’s no erasing that from your memory banks.

Insomnia is not something I’ve had to deal with . . . yet.  I have a night here and there when I can’t fall back to sleep if I wake up. Hey . . . do you think maybe I’m miracle-woman in this one small area???  “‘Denial Village’ . . . where you’ll live happily, albeit  delusional, ever after . . . ”  *sigh*  I suppose not.

If there’s something that gives me comfort in all of this menopause business, it’s knowing that we women all go through this.  Some of us have had babies, some of us haven’t.  Some have gotten married, some haven’t.  But we all have this place in common where we end up together:  MenopauseLand.  We may arrive at different times and some have harder times than others getting here, but when we share our stories, we don’t feel like we’re the only ones feeling this way, and it sure makes the journey easier.  And actually pretty funny.

But now I hear some women start growing whiskers on their chins?  Nope, nope, nope, not me . . . . I absolutely refuse to let THAT happen! “Denial Village would like to welcome back one of its longtime residents . . . Patti Thomas!  Don’t put those little scissors away too fast!  You might need ’em some day soon!”


Just plain life · Uncategorized

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

blurry car

Do you ever feel like the world is trying to run you over?  Man, I do lately.  And I mean that both literally and figuratively.

I think I must annoy most of Palm Beach County with my driving.  The whole of West Palm Beach and surrounding communities is trying desperately to get out from behind me whenever I’m out on its roadways. And may I say, though I’m by no means proud of this, that I’ve acquired two speeding tickets and a verbal warning during my driving lifetime, proving I’m no slowpoke.  At the very slowest, I drive the speed limit, but usually I’m in that “area of grace” above it – you know what I mean – fast enough to still be safe and react quickly, but not too fast as to get a ticket (well . . . . obviously I misjudged that once or twice.)

Maybe I’m noticing it more in the last few years because I drive a car with virtually no backside.  My VW bug has a tiny backseat and an even tinier trunk (one might actually call it a “trunkette.”)  If a car is right on my tail, I can practically reach back and touch it.  It can be a bit alarming when I look in my rearview mirror and see nothing but grill.  Still, I love my little car, named Imogene.  (Her full name is Imogene Camille Carlisle.  I really have no good reason why, just that it suits her.)  Because of the close proximity to the cars behind me, I can see each “oh my gosh, get out of my way” gesture going on back there.  There’s the “I’m going to swerve over a bit so I can see if there’s anyone in front of you to see why on earth you’re going so slow.”  This is usually followed by the “hands flying up in the air and then slamming down onto the steering wheel in complete disgust” move.  Sometimes I can even see the driver’s eyes rolling.  And sometimes, in complete defeat, after they realize they just can’t get around me for a while, there’s the “place elbow on the door and rest one’s head on one’s hand as though they could just take a nap” move.  This one shows complete and utter disdain.

It used to be I just avoided driving on 95 and all other highways were fair game.  Nowadays I avoid 95 like the plague.  I’m pretty sure there might even be notices at each on-ramp through West Palm that deny my access onto it.  “Congestion ahead, drive carefully.  Patti Thomas, don’t even think about merging on here.”  Used to be I could take the turnpike for a less crazy commute, or 441 for a downright casual drive.  Not anymore.  I’m blown of the road pretty much equally on all three.

I’m afraid the drivers of Palm Beach County have not heard “The 59th Street Bridge Song” by Simon & Garfunkel, exhorting people to “slow down, you move too fast, you got to make the morning last . . . ”  Palm Beach County, your drivers are definitely not “feeling groovy.”

The world around me is moving too fast.  Our kids grow up too fast.  The time goes by too fast.  “Didn’t this year go by fast?”  Do we ever hear the opposite?  If you take one step out of your front door and into the world, chances are pretty good you’re going to get swept along with the quick current.  It seems to be “normal” to be so busy you can’t keep up with everything now.  It might be normal but I just don’t think it’s good.

My prayer for anyone reading this is that you’d slow down for just a bit.  Savor the silence.  Embrace the quiet.  Don’t believe the lie that faster is better.  If someone blasts past you on the highway, let ’em. To quote another song, this one by the Eagles: “Life in the fast lane, surely make you lose your mind.”  Despite that poor grammar, I believe this wholeheartedly!


Just plain life · Trying new things

“My (nonexistent) Bucket List”

I love Ferdinand.
I love Ferdinand.

Am I a complete bore if I don’t have a Bucket List?  I usually like to keep “current” and be  “relevant” (it’s very relevant to be current, you know) but one bandwagon I haven’t jumped on is the formation of my so-called “Bucket List.”  I just can’t think of anything I want to do, or place I’d want to visit so badly  that I’d consider it “bucket-list-able.”  Perhaps that does make me a bore.  God knows I’m not the adventure-seeking sort.  Honestly, I had to talk myself into going to Target today; I was perfectly content to stay home.  Rock-climbing, sky-diving, mountain-conquering . . . . (but what happens if you need to go to the bathroom?  Huh?  Does anyone think about that?  I do, people, I do!)  I get dizzy just  watching people doing those things on TV!  (OK, sometimes I simply get dizzy walking from one room to another.)  No, I was not cut out to be adventurous.  (Though I did dye my hair really, really blonde once. Crazy stuff.)

And I just don’t have a great desire to “see the world,” though I have nothing against the world, generally speaking.  In fact, I really like to watch Rick Steves on TV,  jaunting all over the place and visiting those “out-of-the-way” places all the ordinary tourists would never in a million years  know about!  Oh Rick, how do you know so much about where to get the best cepelinai in Lithuania??  What could Rick Steves possibly have on HIS bucket list??  Travel to outer space??  Or has he done that already?  How much do you wanna bet he knows where to get the best moonrocks?  C’mon, you know he does!

When my kids were little, one of their favorite books was “The Story of Ferdinand” by Munro Leaf.  (Come to think of it, it might have just been one of my favorites, actually.)  While all the other young bulls ran around and butted their heads together (see, this does NOT sound fun to me) Ferdinand liked to “sit just quietly and smell the flowers.”  I’m with you, Ferdinand.  Make some space for me under that cork tree!

Maybe it’s because I know I’m living a really, really, really blessed life already.  I have a wonderful, loving, hard-working husband.  I have three grown kids that are my favorite people on the planet.  I have two granddaughters that bring me so much joy and another grandbaby on the way!  I live in a very comfortable house and really want for nothing.  I’m healthy.  And friends!  I’ve got the most amazing friends coming out of my ears!  (Figuratively speaking, of course)  To cap that all off, I know that God loves me (despite my boring ways) and I’ll get to see Him face to face some day when this wonderful life is over! (Let me point out that I would like to hang out on earth for as long as possible, but I know when it’s my time to go, I’ve got a pretty cool place to go to.)

A verse that hit me square in the face many years ago was this one:  “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11)  Did I pray that one a little too much over the years?  Shouldn’t I want to go to the grocery store when there’s nothing for dinner in the house?  Nah – I’ll go tomorrow.

I have been “not content with my circumstances” plenty of times (ungrateful punk that I can be – thanks, Christi, for the word “punk”).  It’s not a good place to be.  The weather there is always cloudy and everyone that lives there has a perpetual stomach ache.  Everybody wants what someone else has and by everybody, I mean “me.”  I’d rather not live there again.  I do go there from time to time, still, but prefer to see it in my rear view mirror than through the windshield.

So please don’t forget to send me a postcard when you’re off on your adventures! I really do love hearing about them!  And seeing the pictures!  I’ll just be here, sitting quietly and smelling the flowers.  Me & Ferdy.