“Letters To My Younger Self”

A few years ago I was asked to contribute to a book about motherless daughters. I wrote an article then changed my mind.

For years I have swung back and forth about writing about losing my mother and my sister and being raised by an emotionally absent father and his dysfunctional 2nd wife. I don’t like to appear like a whiner or a victim or use my loss as a way to manipulate or get attention.

But the truth is that all that loss, tears, grief and pain left a hole. A hole that probably can never be filled. But it has also made me who I am today.

I have to function without the advantages a mother and an older sister can bring to one’s life. There’s a lot of wisdom, wisdom that could have been personally tailored to me, that is lost to eternity. So, I’m forever searching, listening and watching.

I follow an actor on Instagram, Matthias Schoenaerts

matthias2

and surprisingly he posted a photo of a book he’s reading, called “What I Know Now: Letters To My Younger Self.” It’s a collection of letters that women have written to their younger selves. Why Matthias is reading it, I don’t know, but I’m impressed, almost as much as some of the roles he’s played. Being curious, I looked it up and bought the kindle version.

The impressive contributors to the book include such women as, Madeleine Albright, Nora Roberts, Macy Gray, and many other successful and influential women.

It is a very interesting read and includes some very wise counsel like…

“You´re going to have to learn how to pat yourself on the back eventually. Start now. It´s not gloating.It´s taking pleasure in life´s goodness” 

I would recommend it for your late summer reading.

Peace,

Jill

55 Years Old Now!

I’m sorry I haven’t posted. I’ve been busy getting this and that done on my book. I had hoped that it would be ready today, but I’m worried that the release will be a few days later. Oh, well, stuff happens.

One stuff that happened is that I turned 55! I’m so glad that I was able to celebrate it with my kids and Grand boys.

I wanted to see what 55 candles would do to a cake and so we LIT IT UP!

IMG_3782

The husband wasn’t able to be with me so he sent some pretty flowers…

IMG_3781

I thought it would be funny to do a milestone facebook post like all the new moms do to mark the development of their babies. So, I did one and Little G helped me with a photo to go with it.

IMG_3779

 

I hope to be able to say that my book will be available later today or tomorrow, but we’ll see.

Raising Adults - Book Cover

Peace,

Jill

Clutter Control

StockSnap_U66FCTIMTH

I’ve been here visiting my kids and grandkids for almost 4 weeks now. I’m living in a spare room with my computer, camera and a plastic bin of clothes. It’s great!

A neighbor asked if I would be willing to house sit for them while they go on vacation. I agreed to do it. Not a problem.

That’s what happened which led me to write this post.

There was a time I would not have agreed to help them out for one stupid reason.

The junk in my house.

How does the junk in my house affect me housesitting for someone? How is it even connected, you may ask, dear reader.

I’ll tell you.

Clutter Control.

When my house was filled with clutter and stuff crammed in closets and under beds and there was no organization, I didn’t know where stuff was and I didn’t know what I had or what I needed. It was Clutter Confusion!

Most of the time I shoved the reality of all that clutter out of my mind. It seemed too overwhelming to tackle, so I just wouldn’t think about it.

So, I would keep cramming the clutter in my house and in my mind. I was never free from it. Even when I wasn’t at home I knew it was there! Nagging me.

It kept me in a state of uneasiness. I never felt in control. I was embarrassed that I was not in charge of my life, but my house was. I always felt there was work to be done, something to clean out, sort out, organize. It was a horrible feeling.

Whenever anyone asked me to do something, my mental to-do list popped up and all the work I needed to do around the house started screaming for priority.

Clutter kept me from doing things I wanted to do.

So, now that I’ve decluttered and organized my home I know what’s in every closet and drawer. I know exactly where important papers are and they are safe. There is nothing to do at my house!

My home is not in control of my life anymore! Hallelujah!

So, now when I’m asked to housesit and I think about what I need to at home it doesn’t weigh me down and stress me out! There’s no to-do list to pop up and smother me.

It’s so freeing!

Isn’t it crazy to think how a bunch of inanimate objects can control your life?

Stay free my friends!

Peace,

Jill

 

 

 

 

 

Feeding The Grandkids

providence-doucet-154365

When my kids left for college I had a bolt of wisdom hit my brain like lightning,

“I want them to come home.” 

You might say, “that’s not wisdom, that’s separation anxiety.”

No, it was wisdom. When they stepped out of that door our relationship changed. They were making decisions without my guidance, without the benefit of my experience – unless they asked.

They’ve made decisions I didn’t particularly like or agree with and I’ve had to stand back with my mouth shut and let the consequences happen, let them struggle, let them cry, my heart breaking knowing that they could have avoided it. I’ve comforted them and helped them out of the ditch all the while biting my tongue to keep from saying, “I could’ve told you that would happen.”

Why didn’t I step in? They needed to learn, they needed their own experience. And I knew that if I jumped in and told them what to do that we would’ve had World War Three or at the very least it would have been an insult to their pride. And like I said, “I want them to come home.” Oh, I’ve spoken up when the danger or risk was greater than the possible conflict. That is how “Pick Your Battles” works. For the most part, though, I treat them as educated, reasonable adults able to make informed decisions for their age. And I let them do it without always having to give my advice – unless they ask. 

And I am applying this same modus operandi to feeding the grandkids.

I mean, to be honest, I have to recognize that I haven’t been the parent of a small child for 27 years. There’s a lot of research and data that’s come out. There’s a heck of a lot of information at my kid’s fingertips than was never available to me. They are making informed decisions, they don’t really need my advice.

Not to mention that if they did take my antiquated, albeit “good enough for you when you were a kid and you survived” advice, they would stand out like a freak show among their peers. I mean, even if granny used to let me suck on a chicken leg bone that’s just not done nowadays. And if my kids allow their kids to eat some of the stuff I gave them to eat, their friends would report them to the “horrible and dangerous parent” police. I just found out last night that corn was on the list of dangerous choking hazard foods. Corn.

So, as I’m navigating this new grandparent land and wondering how to deal with feeding the grandkids, I’ll amend my previously successful guiding star of wisdom: “I want them to come home and bring the grandkids.”

I mean, is it really so important to me to push some foods on my grandkids that their parents don’t want them to have just to prove some kind of point and cause an argument or worse still, cause them not to trust me enough to leave my grandkids with me?

Heck to the no!

I want to be around them so much that I will lay down my pride and ask, “What would you like for them to eat.” Not a problem.

And I solemnly swear that I will not feed them any of the “danger foods” in secret. I do not want to lose their trust.

Relationship is more important than my pride.

But I would like to say for the record that I did raise 2 kids and we all survived. I do know what I’m doing, really. And I was allowed to do it my own way – so I guess I should allow my kids the same freedom.

So, give me that list of “danger foods” the avocado and quinoa and let’s do this!

Hope you all have a great weekend. I will be blasting you with blatant bragging 1st birthday pictures soon, just get ready to skip that post!

Peace,

Jill

This Was The Goal!

pan-xiaozhen-252162

 

Of course there are many factors, many purposes and many reasons because life is not that simple. But one of the goals of freeing up, lightening up and streamlining my life was to do just what I’m doing right now…being able to spend A LOT of time with my kids and grandkids who live half way across the country.

I packed up pretty much all of my clothes in a plastic bin- because I’ve cut down the size of my wardrobe, remember – and threw them in the car and drove 15 hours to my kids to stay for a month.

It’s okay. The husband is okay with me leaving. Not jumping up and down but okay especially when I reminded him he’ll have control of the remote and he can cook all the crazy, spicy, weird foods that stink up the house he wants to.

But let me tell you, it was a breeze leaving the house. Back in the day it would have taken me a week or so to get ready to leave. I would have had to wash a ton of clothes and dig out a suitcase. I would have probably gone shopping because I never really had stuff to wear because I hated most of my clothes in my closet. So, thank you KonMari!

I would have cleaned the house (because I hate coming home to a dirty house) which would have led to the sorting and cramming and the frustration of realizing I need to throw stuff out but I’m too stressed because I have to go on this trip to stop and do that right now which leads to the guilt of having just crammed all my crap into weird places just to make the house look neat and clean and putting discarding and organizing on my to-do list for when I get home. Whew!

Then I would have to pay the bills which would lead to the same ordeal only in the office and file cabinet followed by the guilt of feeling unorganized and worring if we have enough insurance in case there’s a flood or the apocalypse and knowing none of my important files are in a fire/water safe safe and then feeling guilty for not really knowing where those files are, in fact not knowing which files are important. Whew!

But since I’ve done all the decluttering and organizing, leaving for the trip was easy. I paid the bills, filed the necessary papers which took me 20 minutes max. I had one small, and I mean small load of laundry to do. I didn’t have to pick and choose what clothes to take because I only have like 4 pair of pants, 2 shorts, and several shirts. I threw in my sneakers for walking and sandals. I wear my hoop earrings almost every day and my fitbit so I didn’t have to figure out what jewelry to wear with which outfit. I slimmed down my every day grooming routine, so I just threw everything I use everyday in my toiletry bag. I didn’t really have to clean the house because the house stays pretty clean everyday now that I don’t have a lot of clutter.

So, I put all my clothes in a plastic see-through bin so I wouldn’t have to dig through a suitcase for a month. I packed a tote bag to take into the hotel with me for my one night stay halfway there. One basket of snacks and water and I was on my way!

I didn’t leave with that uneasy, guilty feeling of having left things undone or unfinished or out of order. I left free.

Now, I’m here and we’re already having loads of fun. I think all those FaceTime sessions has helped make me a familiar face with the grandboys. They are sweet and social anyway, but they’re not looking at me like I’m something from another planet.

So, now to settle into a routine and try not to be an annoyance. You know, “the mother-in-law.”

Let me say sorry/not sorry if I write and post pics about my grandboys for the next little while.

Peace,

Jill

 

Hydrangea Cupcakes for Summer!

I grew up hearing them referred to as “Snowball bushes.”

Later I heard they were actually called hydrangeas.

Either way they are so pretty and they represent summer in my mind.

Since I already had my baking tools out from my Smash Cake frenzy I thought I’d try my hand at making some hydrangea cupcakes.

I read a few baking blogs I found on Pinterest and watched a couple of  how to videos about how to pipe buttercream hydrangeas, I thought I’d take a stab – or a spatula – at it!

I think they turned out pretty good!

hydrangea cake2

Peace & buttercream to you!

Jill

 

Why I Love Virtual Photo Walks

vpw postcard

I’ve mentioned Virtual Photo Walks before and I’ll probably keep mentioning it because I think it is SO great!

When I was in my 30’s my older sister was diagnosed with a terminal heart condition and given a few months to live. Being a stubborn, disciplined person, she did everything the doctor told her to do and she lived 6 years longer than they expected. I was one of her main caregivers. Having 2 small kids and caring for her was quite a challenge. My kids spent much of those 6 years in waiting rooms, hanging out with my sister as she gradually became housebound. We watched a lot of TV. We watched all of the O.J. Simpson trial. All of it. (Can you detect my sigh and eye rolling?)

Fast forward to 2015. My best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. Like my sister, I walked by her side until she passed. Again, I spent many hours and days in waiting rooms and hanging out at her house watching TV and dreaming of trips we could take if we could.

I don’t know how I forgot about Virtual Photo Walks, but I did. Too many things on my mind, I think.

I remember when I initially found it I thought, “This is the greatest idea ever!” And when I ever have time I’m going to volunteer to be a photographer for them.

Since I’ve “retired” I have started volunteering with them and I want to spread the word, that’s why I’m writing another post about it.

What Is Virtual Photo Walks? 

VPW is a non-profit organization run by volunteers who are passionate about giving those isolated by illness, age or disability the chance to “escape” their isolation and travel the world!

John Butterill, the founder, organizes the walks through a video conferencing app called Zoom. Photographers from all over the world work with John and plan walks and visits to sites from archaeological digs in Russia to volcanoes in Hawaii to sites in Japan. John sets up the video conferencing meeting and connects the participants who may be in their homes or rehabs, day care centers, nursing homes or are in the hospital and they connect with their computers to participate in the walk.

“The Secret Sauce” 

The magic of Virtual Photo Walks is the live, real time interaction the participants can have with the photographer and also the others who are on the walk with them.

virtualphotowalk_mini

The participants can talk to the photographer, ask questions and make requests like, “Can we see what’s to your right?” or “Can you take a photo of that tree?” Everyone laughs together and are amazed together in real time. It is a completely different experience than watching a video.

I joined a walk to Yosemite a couple of weeks ago from my office. It was so moving to be with the other participants as we saw the mountains and a beautiful waterfall together. On another walk to an archaeological dig in Russia we had participants from Israel and Japan. It was so interesting.

What VPW Can Do

I remember spending endless hours, days, months and years indoors with my sister and later, my best friend. Too weak to go out and sometimes even to leave the bed. Both of them had to restrict their exposure to germs so even though they might have felt okay, it was too dangerous for them to go out. It was isolating! They were lonely!

Virtual Photo Walks can give people who are isolated a chance to travel to another place and do it with a community of people! Nobody cares what you look like – you can cut the camera off to yourself so no one sees you if you’re worried. Everyone is just glad you joined. And away you go to some beautiful or interesting place together to get away from your bed or hospital room for an hour.

It really does carry you away for a while. It’s magical.

Please Share! 

Here is a great video about VPW. Please share with people you know. Share on social media!

As I said, VPW is a non-profit organization. It’s free to join. The participant just needs internet access to their computer.

You are required to make a request to join because John makes sure all the participants are safe and he protects their privacy.

If you or someone you know would like to participate in a walk, you can join here: 

http://www.virtualphotowalks.org/be-invited-to-virtual-photo-wa/

If you’d like to volunteer to be a photographer and share the beauty of the world around where you live or where you travel, you can volunteer here:

http://www.virtualphotowalks.org/sign-up-to-be-a-vpw-photograph/

You’ll need a smart phone, a good data plan and a tripod.

If you’d like to donate, that would be amazing! Please share with businesses who could possibly donate to help provide equipment and internet access. Donate here:

http://www.virtualphotowalks.org/donate/

Thanks for your help in this very worthy cause!

Peace,

Jill