Never Too Old to Carve Pumpkins

As I grew out of my childhood years and into adulthood, I carried with me a belief that had been solidly ingrained by having witnessed the course of my parents’ lives (whether the lesson was intentional on their part or not.) And that is the fact that as we age, we stop making time for certain frivolous, silly activities. Maybe it’s because our children have grown up. Maybe there’s simply no longer time. Or is it merely that the heart is no longer in it?

But my life … and especially my own offspring are teaching me differently. I am grateful that my parents reinforced the value of hard work and managing finances responsibly. They made big sacrifices so that their children might have an easier go of it. Still, it’s sometimes hard for me to shake the idea that the majority of my time should be invested in serious and important endeavors. Fun and relaxation are luxuries to be enjoyed only when all of the chores are done. (But are they ever done?)

This is exactly why I’m so thankful for the example my own adult children provide. They all possess a good work ethic. (Whew! We did our job!) But all three of them also know the importance of breaking out of the everyday routine. They remind me that making time for play has a larger purpose, that it can strengthen relationships, and even provide the reinforcement sometimes needed to reckon with the challenges that inevitably come our way.

My sons love the outdoors. Spring, summer and fall can find either of them with a buddy, in a boat on a lake, with a line dangling in the water just waiting for the biggest fish. Or in a field, dressed in camouflage, watching for a flock of ducks to soar overhead. All three of my kids enjoy sports, and in the summer, my daughter can still be found on a ball field. After years of youth and traveling softball, she’s now spending time playing in the local adult league. Movies, music, or simply an evening spent ’round a bonfire with friends are all regular aspects of my kids’ lives. I admire them for this and I’m reminded to stop worrying and stressing so much, and make a conscious effort to relax once in a while.

Growing up, I think money was just so tight that after bills and expenses were covered, and monthly donations made to the church, there just wasn’t anything left over for much outside of the ordinary. (Except during the holidays! Christmases were always wonderful. Probably financed with a credit card and paid for during the next twelve months. Our parents were so good to their four children, even if we didn’t always realize it at the time.) I’m beyond appreciative that there was always a roof over my head, food on the table, plenty of love, and a constant effort to ensure that we went off into the world as prepared as we could possibly be. But the lack of extravagance often translated beyond that which cost money, and as a result, I don’t always easily relax. Breathe.  Have some FUN!

Last weekend, my husband and boys went on a hunting trip. Chesney and her boyfriend spent the weekend with me. She worked on Saturday, and it was generally a low-key couple of days, but I loved having them around. I tackled chores around the house after being away most of the previous week for work. Then I took the “kids” out for dinner on Saturday evening to a local bar and restaurant. They wanted Juicy Lucy burgers, and we found a spot with a good view of a television airing a football game. Some old friends from Chesney’s younger softball days ended up at the table next to us and we had a great time catching up!

Afterwards, I settled in at home to read a book with the t.v. on in the background when I soon realized there was something going on in another room. From my comfy spot on the sectional, I peered around to the kitchen to see these two twenty-five year-old “kids” with a big hearty pumpkin. The table was being prepped with a spread of old newspaper, knives, and spoons big enough to carve out oodles of pumpkin guts.

Pumpkins

She hates how her hair looks, but she’s always beautiful to me.

It made me smile to hear them contemplate their design, and the way they joked and laughed together as they worked on creating a Halloween masterpiece. Most of all, I was proud of them for refusing to ever be “too old” to revel in the spirit of this “children’s” holiday.

I love these two! They remind me that life is short enough as it is. Make time for a bit of fun and play.

I’ll be carving my pumpkin this weekend.

 

 

 

Transitioning

It’s a beautiful time of year here in Minnesota. Sometimes, in the dead of winter, I ask myself why I’ve chosen to live in a place where it gets so cold and feels overwhelmingly dark for weeks and months on end. But when spring and summer, and especially fall come around again, I remember.

As I was running an errand a few days ago, driving a nearby road bordered by a stretch of trees and open space, the late afternoon sun provided a deep golden backdrop for the red, orange and yellow canopies atop the trees. No matter how often I witness this particular transition of nature, it never fails to strike me with a sense of awe. Momentarily, I felt bad about rejoicing in something that essentially equates to the beginning of an end.

Almost as quickly, I realized that this season is not about endings at all. There’s no reason to feel sad about the dimming of this period of life. It’s simply part of a recurring cycle. Fall plays its part in a bigger picture. Nature quiets this time of year, tucks in for a few months, before reinventing itself and bursting back to life the next spring.

I walked a lot this past summer. In the very early part of the day, bird songs created a morning symphony and the sunrises were spectacular. Walking has been a regular part of my days for years, but this summer was different, and I felt myself coming back to life each morning in many ways. I felt a sense of peace drifting over me that I’d been missing for far too long. The lingering sadness that seemed to permeate my heart for the past few years was finally starting to dissipate.

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The days have grown shorter over the past several weeks, and I miss those brilliant summer morning walks. But those days will come around again.  In the meantime, I’ll keep trying to appreciate what’s in front of me right now.

 

This is a reminder to myself to never stop embracing change

This blog site has been calling to me lately. I once couldn’t imagine  a time when I didn’t stop to write something at least a few times a week. Now months go by.  I guess once I really fell out of the habit, it just kept getting easier to let it be the thing for which I simply couldn’t find the time.

I’ve had a nagging thought lately that there are a very few things that I do just for myself, just because I really enjoy them, and just because they fuel me. Writing is one of those things. And it hasn’t escaped me how ridiculous it is that I have let go of it the way I have.

So … this is me, attempting to hold myself more accountable by putting in writing that I want to do more writing.

Moving on.

I just finished my fourth week in a new position at work. It was a fantastic opportunity and I have no doubt it was absolutely the right move for me. This job is an extension of what I was already doing, and opens a lot of new doors. The people in my new department actively recruited me and have completely rolled out the red carpet, constantly reminding me how happy they are that I have joined their team. “Thrilled” is the word they keep using, and I can’t begin to describe how grateful I am, and how fortunate I feel to have been given this chance. I’ve realized over the past few years that I simply like to work. I recognize that for most of my earlier years, I didn’t believe in my own potential, but once I got a taste of it, I began to truly appreciate having the chance to contribute to something meaningful, grow my skills, and keep feeding my mind. It hasn’t escaped my attention that I’ve been extremely fortunate to work in a place and with people who continue to help make this a daily reality.

I was very content with, not to mention confident in the work I was doing in my previous position, although I worked for a manager who created an atmosphere that felt much like being in kindergarten. To be fair, she allowed me a lot more breathing room than most – probably because she had little expertise in the work I was doing. So leaving me be was surely preferable to admitting her lack of knowledge. But I existed in her world every day, witnessing her micromanagement of the rest of the team, her inflated ego, and her utter lack of respect for the other very capable, intelligent adults under her direction. I have had good managers over the years, ones who know that empowering their employees is the secret to success. This one didn’t grasp that concept. Every day, I felt my coworkers’ discontent, listened to their frustrations, and was powerless to help. It was a toxic environment. And while I recognize that my old manager’s ways are likely rooted in her own insecurities, I, like many others before me, leapt at the chance to escape.

I’m still getting my feet wet in the new job. The department I’ve joined isn’t new, but recently reorganized, so I’m relieved to be coming in at a time when things are new and different for the whole team, not just me. One of my main responsibilities will be working in and helping steer the direction of a new system. Plus I’ll get to continue doing some of the work I most enjoyed in my previous position. I can work from home anytime I want, during any set of hours that suits me best. If I need to take time away for family or personal needs, I have all the freedom in the world. Because this is the polar opposite of my prior work environment, it almost seems too good to be true. But it is most certainly true.

So why have I felt so anxious lately? I haven’t been sleeping. I haven’t been able to shut my mind off at night. A constant set of worries seems to be streaming through my mind and every little thing annoys me. I’ve seriously begun to wonder if I’m not capable of being happy unless I’m experiencing some sort of discontent!

I should mention that I am now a “remote” employee. I have always worked in my company’s Minnesota office, but the rest of my new team is based in the home office in Wisconsin. This past week, I traveled to the home office to do some training and spend time with my new peers. It was my first solitary work-travel experience, my first time ever in the home office, and it all played out so much better than I could have hoped. I was able to make in-person connections, and work side-by-side with my new team mates for a few days. I can only describe the whole experience as one of being utterly and completely welcomed into the fold. I guess I have a certain set of expectations for what my work life should be, and am always pleasantly surprised when relationships there go deeper than work. And that’s exactly what happened. I found my new coworkers to be so genuine and warm. They are truly a caring group of people and I was amazed at how quickly we bonded and found things in common with one another. A million times this week I have marveled at how fortunate I am to have been awarded this position.

Now that I’m home from my first work trip, it’s become clear why I’ve felt so uncertain and worried lately. I’ve been with this company and/or its affiliates for thirteen years. I’ve survived several reorganizations and much change. But in the past, whenever I’ve moved into a new role, I’ve always continued doing what I know and do best, with a few new responsibilities and expectations. This time, I’ve taken a small bit of the familiar with me, while facing a vast amount of new and uncertain experiences and expectations.

No wonder I’ve been such a wreck! An old habit of not believing in myself has reared its ugly head. Oh how I wish I could be one of those people who charges into every new life experience with confidence and certainty! That’s just never been me. I’ve always required my experiences to prove to that they’re not so scary before I embrace them.

Thankfully, I’m now able to see that the past month has been a journey … one that I’ve had to travel in order to see that no matter how old I get, there’s always room to continue growing and learning. The past week has allowed me to prove that I can go to an unfamiliar city, find my way around, present myself as an intelligent and capable person, and start to succeed in a new role. More importantly, I’ve learned how important it is to actually believe that I can succeed rather than feed my self-doubts. I’m glad to be reminded that change can be a good thing, and that turning new corners is vital to keeping life from growing stagnant. And the past two nights, I’ve slept like a baby!

Never too old

My time away provided several team-building opportunities with my new department. Most revolved around lunches and dinners, but the best one was a yoga/mindfulness/meditation class. I was a bit skeptical and self-conscious at first, but tried not to let it show. I didn’t want to be the newbie who resisted anything different. And not surprisingly, the class proved to be an amazing experience … and much to my benefit, focused on dealing with stress and anxiety.

One thing I learned specifically from this class is the importance of self-care – those things we do for ourselves to keep us operating at our best so that we can be our best selves for those around us. Hence why I’m writing today, and hence (hopefully) more often from now on. Here’s to never standing still in one place for too long!