Sunday, January 27, 2013

If You Want My Advice #8

Make sure that some of your best friends are younger than you.

We all need fresh eyes and new perspective.  We start to think that our way of doing things is the only way of doing things.  We get set in our ways and get into ruts that are impossible to get out of.  But when we associate with younger people, either by a couple of years or many years, we see the world in a new and different light.  We see that our way isn't the only way.  We see that our perspective is just one perspective. 

I have a friend who is nine years old.  She has a hope-filled look at life that I think I once had.  Her joy and excitement are contagious and when I've spent time with her, I walk away with that same excitement.  She helps me not to take myself too seriously and see things as new and thrilling.  When we go someplace, everything is new in her eyes.  The zoo is gives us something new to learn.  A restaurant gives us something new to eat.  Once we went for ice cream.  She added gummi bears to her cup of ice cream and as she would take each bite, she would try to guess what color was the gummi bear in that bite.  With excitement she would pull the bear out of her mouth to see if she was right.  And she was ALWAYS excited, even if she was wrong.  For her, everything is a thrill.  What a wonderful perspective to have!!   

I have a friend who is twenty-one years old.  She's new in her job and just finished getting her college degree.  She thinks of paying off her school loans and getting a promotion.  She reminds me what it is to struggle, but to look ahead with certainty that everything will work out.  She asks for advice but also asks for confirmation that she's on the right track.  I know that she will make her own path, just like I did.  I know that she will do her best to do the right thing for herself.  She has her life in front of her and she takes that seriously.  She undoubtably will make a few mistakes along the way, but each step is hers to make.   

I have a friend who is fifteen or so years younger than I am and still raising kids.  I see her consistency and firmness with her children.  I see myself in her sometimes, as she hopes that she's being the right kind of mom.  But I also see that she will have no regrets, because she understands that she is doing the best she can with what she has been given and with who she is right now.  Some days it's all she can do to just put one foot in front of the other, to do the next thing, whatever that thing is.  And she does, because there is no other alternative.  Her job is hugely important.  She recognizes that and she's up to the task. 

All of these friends of mine help me to keep a young perspective.  I'm able to look at the world through their eyes and realize that I don't have to have all of the answers all the time.  Most days I'm not even sure of the question.  But I know that I get so much more from my young friends than any of them could possibly know.  I love and appreciate each of them for their uniqueness and for how they keep me young. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

If You Want My Advice #7

Purpose to keep up with people.
We all get busy.  There is so much daily-ness to life.  We all have people whom we want to keep up with but time gets away from us.  Before we know it so much time as gone by that we've lost touch with important people.  Find the special people in your life and purpose to keep up with them.  Make dates.  Don't let time get away from you. 
I once worked for an incredibly kind and generous woman.  While I was working for her, we became good friends.  When she closed her shop, we decided that we didn't want to be those "Yes, we need to get together but then we never do." people.  So we agreed to get together every Monday for dinner.  Even after she moved an hour away, we still get together for dinner every Monday.  Sometimes I drive to her, more often she drives to me.  We've missed some weeks for various reasons.  But those weekly meetings are balm for our friendship.  We don't talk on the phone much, almost never email.  But we have our dinners.  We laugh, we cry, we share everything.  Nothing is off limits.  We make sure that we go someplace that isn't too expensive and where we can sit for a couple of hours without feeling like we're taking a table away from someone else.  We've changed locations severals times.  But the connection is important to both of us and we know that this is the best way for us to do it. 
My husband and I are friends with a wise and caring couple.  It's the kind of relationship where we're all friends - the wife and I are friends and our husbands are friends.  It isn't like we wives are friends and the husbands just follow behind us.  We all are friends.  Their lives are very busy with four active children, so getting together is often a challenge.  We love their children but we also like being adults together.  Actually they like being adults with us.  I mean, after all, they have four children.  So we have purposed to get together on a regular basis.  For awhile we met at our favorite restaurant every other Saturday.  But then we decided that we didn't want the expense and Tom became a fabulous cook.  Now they come to our home every other Saturday for dinner.  It keeps our friendship moving forward.  We get to share what's been going on, without interruption. 
I have been fortunate enough to marry into a wonderful family.  Not only did I get to marry my best friend, but I also get to have three "sisters."  We all lives in different cities.  At some point we all realized that we each may talk to one of the others, but we wouldn't all necessarily hear all of the news from everyone else.  So we now each email the other three every Sunday or Monday.  We only have to type out the events of the previous week once and then hit "Send."  It keeps us all connected.  These women are special and important to me.  I don't want to lose that connection. 
There are other things you can do.  These are just some of the things that I do.  I know that too much time will go by and I'll wish I had kept up.  Stop wishing and just do it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

If You Want My Advice #6

Teach your children how to be polite.
I know that sounds a little obvious.  And for the most part, conscientious parents do teach their children how to be polite.  But the greatest way that children learn is by watching others.  So while you may prompt your children to say "please" and "thank you,"  they will treat people the way that you do no matter how much prompting you give them. 
As someone who works with the public, I see lots of families and can tell a great deal about a person by how their children act when mom or dad isn't around.  I've had kids come up to me and ask for a book.  Some have impeccable manners.  They are the ones with parents who treat others with respect and honor.  They are the kids who know how to ask for something with an appropriate voice and respect for their elders.  Some kids ask for a book without uttering a pleasant or kind word.  I know that if many of their parents were standing there with them, they would be prompted to say "please", but without their parent, it just doesn't come.  And then there are the kids who interrupt, are demanding and ungrateful.  I can almost match those kids to their parents because the adults in their lives act exactly the same way.  They have adults in the lives who interrupt, are demanding and ungrateful.  And we all know that kids learn what they see. 
I know, kids are kids and they're still learning.  But trust me, they act just like their parents.  I'm often shocked at the manners of many adults.  I've been working with one patron and another will come up and stand so close, I'll stop and ask if they know each other.  And they don't!!  I've been working with one patron and another will come up and interrupt our conversation to ask their own question.  I've been working with a patron and when finished, he will just walk away without a word.  And in every scenario, the patron may have a son or daughter with him.  That is what the child sees and that is what the child does later.  I often find myself treating kids like my own and prompting them myself to be more polite.  I've said "I can only help you if you say it more politely."  Or "I'm helping this person right now.  You may stand over there and wait."  Of course, I haven't done this when their parent is present, but it has been tempting.  Don't get me wrong, I love children.  They have a eagerness and enthusiasm that should be encouraged.  I'm just hoping that parents will realize that their little ones are catching everything they do and emulating it. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

If You Want My Advice #5

Another way to be adaptable is to let things change.
When Tom and I were first married, I couldn't cook a thing.  Well, that's not true.  I could boil a hot dog.  But that was just about all I could cook without messing it up.  We were working different shifts.  I worked days, 8 - 5.  Tom worked evenings, 4 - 12 or later.  We didn't eat dinner together very often.  Most of the time I would fix a sandwich for myself.  It was easy and within the bounds of my capabilities.  After we had our kids, Tom went back to school and our schedules were pretty equal.  Because I still couldn't cook, Tom would take over that task everyday, while I would deal with the kids.  He had several things he made well and we were happy with the division of labor.  Then, after we had been married for 10 years, I lost my job and we decided that I would stay at home full-time with the kids.  Well, it didn't seem right to me to have Tom work all day and then come home and cook, so I decided that I would teach myself to cook.  At first, I just followed simple recipes, sometimes having to look up cooking terms in the dictionary because I didn't know what to do!  Gradually I started getting better at it and began to experiment.  I would take a cookbook and make as many things in it as I thought we would like.  I would make notes of how it turned out and how I might want to change things if I made it again.  I set a goal for myself to make something different every day of the month.  I enjoyed the challenge and was pleased when things turned out.  Of course, that didn't always happen.  I have made plenty of flops.  But the flops became fewer and farther between.  It was satisfying and gratifying.
A few years ago, my mom had an accident and lingered for three months before dying from injuries caused by that accident.  During that time, I was at the hospital every day.  As a way of being supportive, Tom took over the cooking.  His help was a godsend and I'm so grateful for the way he knew what to do to be helpful.  Then Tom because aware that for health reasons, he needed to change his diet and make it gluten-free.  Since he was experimenting with foods, he kept up with the cooking.  He started creating his own recipes and figured out how to alter some of our favorites.  Because of some other things going on in our lives, he found that cooking became a kind of therapy for him.  His cooking style is very different than my own.  While I tend to follow recipes, only changing them after I've tried them at least once, Tom will just experiment.  He rarely makes anything the same way twice.  He uses fresh herbs and lots of different flavors.  Gradually I let go of even going out into the kitchen to see if he needed any help.  He doesn't!!!  He is a really good cook.  We've adapted and changed our roles just a little bit.  I was happy to take on the cooking when we needed me to do it.  And now Tom is happy to do the cooking because he needs to do it.  We both win!  And right now he's in the kitchen making his delicious Pad Thai.  Definitely a win!!

So yes, we replaced the plaque that said "Debbie's Kitchen."

Saturday, January 5, 2013

If You Want My Advice #4

Be adaptable.
I work twenty hours a week at a library.  I work four days a week and my schedule is different every day.  On Tuesdays I work from 3 pm till 8 pm.  On Wednesday I work 9 am till 2 pm.  I haven't always like closing on Tuesdays and opening on Wednesday.  But if fit the needs of our branch.  Today I was asked to permanently switch shifts with another half-time employee so that I would work from 9 am till 2 pm both Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  At first I wasn't sure I wanted to.  I like having a nice long morning on Tuesdays.  I can sleep in and take my dog for a long walk, work in the yard and take my time with getting ready for work.  But I decided to be adaptable and agree to the change.  When I got home and told my husband about the change, he was pretty happy.  Up until now, we don't have dinner or our evening together on Tuesdays.  He pointed out right away that we'd now have every evening of the week together.  I realized that in the six years that I've worked for the library, I've had to work at least one evening a week.  This is going to be a pleasant change for us.  I'm glad I decided to be adaptable to the needs of my fellow employee.  This will make her life a little easier and my husband is happy.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

If You Want My Advice #3

Be willing to learn something new. 
When my mother-in-law died, I was given the opportunity to inherit her sewing machine.  I had never been a seamstress, but when my sister-in-law offered to teach me to sew, I took her up on it.  I like to think that I'm always willing to learn something new, and I enjoy spending time with my sister-in-law.  She taught me to make some table linens.  And I wondered, "After I get these done, what will I sew?"  I mean, you have to sew things in order to get better at sewing things, right?  One day at a quilt shop, I saw some instruction kits for appliqued panels.  Each one was about 10 x 14 and depicted a scene related to a different month of the year.  I thought that would be perfect.  I could have something to make each month and theoretically get better as I completed each month's project.  So I bought six, for July through December.  Sometime in the last week of each month I would make the panel for the next month.  And I did get better at it each month.  I found that I looked forward to doing each new one.  At the end of December, I realized that I could either go back to the quilt shop and get more of these panels OR I could try to come with some on my own. 
For January I decided on a snowman.  I know, it doesn't snow where I live, but when I think January, I think snow.  I found a simple snowman coloring page and printed it out.  I then traced each piece on paper and transferred the pieces to material.  I use an interfacing that is double sided. I ironed the interfacing the pieces of material and then ironed all of the pieces onto my background.  I wanted the snowman to have a cute embellishment so I found a youtube video with instructions for making a flower out of a scrap of material.  After appliqueing the whole thing, I used buttons for the eyes and nose.
I have to say that as I was making this particular panel, I became more and more proud of myself.  I turned out much cuter than I expected.  And it is entirely my own creation!!  I'm already planning out my panel for next month!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

If You Want My Advice #2

I love giving gifts.  I spend time thinking about the person and try to find that perfect gift, the thing that they really need or have mentioned that they really want.  I try to find something that matches them.  I love getting gifts.  I love it when someone comes up with something just right for me.  Something that tells me that they have put some thought into the gift-giving experience.  But I am also convinced that the perfect gift can be something that isn't a thing at all.  We all have plenty of things, don't we?  How many times have you said "Why do we have so much stuff?!"  Last year for Christmas, I gave my Dad two tickets to a Harlem Globetrotters game, one for him and one for me.  We went to the game together.  And it was a fun time.  Just doing something together.  This year my daughter gave me and Tom two nights in Mendocino so we could explore the north coast.  That was the perfect gift.  Time away with my favorite person, seeing part of the state that we don't get to very often. 
So as I contemplated what to do for my Dad's birthday, I wanted something that would be perfect.  I was thinking about what I would want to tell him that would be special, other than "I love you."  He knows I love him.  But I've never told him what he has taught me.  So that is what I gave him.  His birthday is today.  Last night some family members gathered to celebrate his 77th birthday.  I got a nice birthday card and on a separate sheet of paper I wrote out some of the things he has taught me. 
My dad taught me to honor my commitments.  He and my mom were married for 50 years.  For the last several years of my mom's life, she was not able to get around or do much.  I never heard my dad complain about his world closing in as hers did.  Instead I saw him honor her by always being with her, by caring for her and by being a loving, attentive husband. 
My dad taught me to adapt to change.  He was a career Air Force man during the Viet Nam War and because of that, we would have to move often, sometimes with very little notice.  By his example, I learned to go with the changes without complaint, recognizing that this was the life we lived.  When my mom died, my dad grieved, but then accepted that he had to move on with his life.  He was 72 years and knew that he needed someone in his life.  So he told my brother and I that he was going to start dating, with the goal to find someone special.  And he found someone perfect for him.  Dawn was also widowed.  She cares for Dad and Dad cares for her.  They travel together, laugh together and share life.
My dad taught me to being accepting of others.  There probably are people that my dad doesn't especially like, but I can't really guess who they are because he doesn't treat people differently.  Everyone was accepted into our home. 
There are so many other things I could list that my dad taught me, but you get the point.  His birthday was the perfect chance to give my dad a special gift.