Posts Tagged With: life lessons

20 Years Without Him …

Three older sisters welcomed him into the world August 12, 1934. They had great dreams for him, as all doting sisters do for their baby brothers. His life would come dangerously close to ending when, on October 18, 1935, during a 6.2 magnitude earthquake in Helena, Montana, a chunk of the wall fell into the crib where he had been lying just moments before. (Years later, his then-wife would miss the 7.4 magnitude Hebgen Lake Earthquake on August 17, 1959, as she had been camping there the previous night.)

He grew up in rough and tumble Butte, graduated from Boys’ Central in 1952, and made his way to Carroll College where he studied to be a teacher. One of his best pals was Maurice Mulcahy, a police officer in his adult life, and the pair could find trouble at every turn. When they were just wee lads, during World War II, between 19940 and 1942, Wings cigarettes were being sold in the US. Each pack contained a trading card with the photo and information for US fighter planes of the day.  The boys, being fairly industrious, were ambling down Park Street when they came upon a distributor truck making deliveries to the grocers on the street. They found the truck open and inside, they discovered a case of Wing cigarettes. They were crazy about collecting the cards and while they were not interested in the cigarettes, they could not pass up the temptation.They took the case and stashed it in their cave, a hole in the ground above their homes in Dublin Gulch at North Wyoming Street. A smidgen of guilt riddled them, though, so they went to St Mary Church to confess their sins. During their confession, the good Father told them, “It is a sin to steal, but it is also a sin to waste.” After performing their penance, the lads discussed their dilemma and arrived at the only logical conclusion for eight year old boys at the time. They went to the cave, opened the case, and started smoking the cigs! (According to my calculations, at twenty-four cigs per pack, ten packs per carton, and ten cartons per case, that’s 2,400 cigarettes.) While Moe admitted that it took some time, they managed to smoke every cigarette. Neither was a smoker before that incident. Both became smokers thereafter. And no. It did not occur to either of them that the priest would have happily collected the cigarettes FROM them and smoked them himself!

At Carroll College, he drank Hires Orange pop with rum. He was a fun-loving guy who, upon meeting his soon-to-be wife, met his match. She was quiet, studying to be a nurse, and not the least bit impressed with the Butte boy and his ways. No one can really say what brought them together. And thankfully, they got together. They were married in Butte on December 27, 1958 after a most romantic (insert sarcasm here) proposal. The proposal? In a letter to her in October that year, he offered that he would be home for a few days over Christmas from the Army and there was probably time to get married if she wanted to do that. And so… They did.

As a teacher, he served in Wisdom, Ramsay, and Butte. His career was really based at Butte High where he was the typing, general business, and driver’s ed teacher. While not a coach, he was the coaches’ coach. They turned to him to keep stats, score books, the clock, or anything else that was needed. No one was too enamored of the pole vault in those days, so he judged the pole vault. The teams always needed extra chaperones to travel, especially to Kalispell and Libby, so he chaperoned. When he kept the score book, he always edited the information, keeping it colorful, literally. He used purple and green felt tip pens only ~ and usually added some witticism to the details of the game, whether the location, the date, or some other mundane piece of information. He was always behind the scenes, taking care of whatever was necessary to ensure that things ran smoothly. On Friday during Lent, he boarded the bus and asked all the team to bow their heads for a blessing. He then delivered special dispensation to the Catholics on the team from not eating meat on Fridays during Lent, a blessing endorsed by then pastor Father Kevin O’Neill.

He had a rather eclectic sense of humor. He allowed Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In and Monty Python’s Flying Circus. He loved Hee Haw. He never allowed Three’s Company or One Day at a Time. He reveled in the non-sequitur and each member of the family had a line that would set off the stream of all the other lines. His favorite joke at the dinner table, especially when there was new company, was: How many tacos does it take to shingle the roof of a doghouse? It depends on whether you walk to work or take your lunch.

He and his loving wife would raise nine children, five girls and four boys. They celebrated their 36th wedding anniversary in 1994, not knowing it would be their last. Just two days after the dinner celebration at the Uptown Café, he had a stroke. And two days later, after all those children were able to say goodbye and release him, he died on December 31, 1994 at the tender age of 60. The youngest child was 13. The first three grandchildren were under the age of four. And his wife was left in shock. Her partner, confidante, and best friend was gone.

Mom and Dad 2014

Most days, I talk with him. Some days, I go to the cemetery where he was placed in the frozen ground in his deep green shining casket. He was a simple, dedicated, industrious man with a memory for details, a sense of humor that few understood at first, and a reluctant Christmas figure, helping Santa out with visits to many homes and parties in town during the last third of his life.

And today, twenty years later, I can see his mark on each of us. We have his sense of humor. We aspire to his commitment to family and community. And we love, maybe not as he loved (without saying much), but with the same depth of care and concern.

It is a blessing to be his daughter. It is a curse to be without him. Love you madly, dad. How many tacos does it take ….

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After 48 years of abject fear, I finally learned to SWIM!!!

When I was six years old, I was spilled into the deep end of the Y pool intentionally during swim lessons. They wanted me to catch up to the other kids and tread water. It did not work. I had to be pulled from the water by my younger brother. As a teenager, I was taking a tippee test at Camp Tahepia on Georgetown Lake and was pulled from the water by our lifeguard. I was going down again.

Since then, I have not been in the water any higher than my chest and never when I could not touch the bottom of the pool or lake. I have always been afraid of the water.

Until today …

 

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On Monday morning, I got into this water at the Grand Velas Resort in Puerto Vallarta and spent an hour learning to swim. I discovered that I was struggling, even when the water was able to hold me. I found that I stopped breathing which made me sink faster … which did not help me to swim. I learned how to stand without scrambling for the bottom of the pool. I floated on my back, breathing, eyes open, enjoying the sun’s rays and the last glimpses of the moon. And I swam. For the first time in my life, I swam. On Wednesday, I returned for a further lesson. I am thrilled to report that I swam! On my back! On my front! Alone! And I have played in the water a number of times since… and lived to tell of it.

What I discovered is that my six year old self’s brain patterns were very successful in helping me avoid shock and loss … when I was six. And I found that I could alter those brain patterns. By shifting my breathing and my actions, my brain followed suit.

I am so thankful formy friend Christine Arbor for her patience and compassion as I worked through all of it. It is so shocking to me that after all this time, I could overcome my fear. Thanks, my friend, for opening up 70% of the planet to me.

What fear shall I conquer next?

Categories: Health and Wellness, Landmark Worldwide, Risk, Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Clean Bill of Health

Three short years ago, a doctor said words I never expected to hear. “You have a clean bill of health.”

After more than seven years of dealing with doctors, labs, blood draws, medication, therapies, treatments, shots, IVs, patches, and other things that I have thankfully forgotten, I was free. I was free to live. I was free to create. I was free to thrive.

During the past 36 months. I have marveled at the resiliency of not just the human body, but of the human spirit. I made my first trip to the gym in April of 2011. At a fundraiser for a local junior high trip, I won a year’s membership and ten sessions with a trainer at Fuel Fitness. On my first visit to the gym, I met my trainer, Brian the Brave (not his true name) who quickly told me I needed to get some endurance with the machines before he could start working with me.

The gym is about 8 minutes’ drive from my home, and it was common for me to spend more time driving one way to the gym than I was able to spend exercising. I use the term “exercising” loosely, as it usually meant riding the recumbent bike for five minutes or doing a few reps on a couple of the band machines. On more than one occasion when I was pedaling the bike, the machine would read “Paused” even though I was pedaling as steadily and quickly as I was able. In retrospect, I can only imagine that it was a little entertaining to the staff to see me arrive and leave in less than fifteen minutes. And, I kept going. Every day, six days a week, I kept going. By the end of July, Brian and I agreed that I was ready to start working out with him. By then, I was spending at least twenty minutes doing some cardio (bike, treadmill, or elliptical.) With Brian, I added weight lifting. My thirty minutes training session would be paired with at least twenty minutes of cardio, each day, five days a week. It became my habit. I was reliable for getting there every day, doing the work, and taking nothing for granted.

Also in April of 2011, I started participating in the Landmark Wisdom Course. My friend Ann Peterson had arranged for me to participate in the course by Webex, as she knew I was unable to travel or to sustain the time and energy of being in the course in person. By participating from the comfort of my Lazy-Boy, I was able to be fully engaged and still get the full benefit and impact of the course.

In August, I had the privilege of attending a vacation course in Sonoma, California (See? I was traveling!) I had the opportunity to look at failures in my life and see the opportunity for transformation. During the first days of the course, I got to see that I was well, and experienced for myself that well-being is a function of participation. I considered myself well at that moment.

I learned a few important lessons.

ELIMINATE ANYTHING TOXIC IN YOUR LIFE. I started with the easy stuff ~ the toxins under the sink, the bad food, and the harmful chemicals in some of the soaps I may have been using. The tougher toxins involved relationships, choices, and incompletions I had tried to sweep under the figurative rug. By completing and resolving those toxic things with love and compassion, first for myself and then for those I have loved and cared for, I was able to ‘cleanse’ my space. I learned to eliminate anything toxic in my life.

ILLNESS BEGINS WITH I. WELLNESS BEGINS WITH WE. Only when I allowed myself to receive the contributions of others was I able to return to life. The social commons held exponential opportunities that I could never amass myself. In the words of Groucho Marx, great American philosopher. “Learn from the mistakes of others. You won’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” I was learning, through struggle and effort, that I could gain strength, healing, and power by sharing and receiving. This is a game changer for me. Illness begins with I. Wellness begins with we.

WHEN YOU CAN’T AND THEN YOU CAN, YOU NEVER WANT TO NOT AGAIN. Many times during those first months, I was asked why I kept going back to the gym. It did not appear that I was getting stronger, slimmer, or healthier. Some days, it probably looked like I was struggling. The truth is I did not know whether it would ultimately extend my life or improve my health. What I did know is that I was not too far removed from having to use a cane to walk, nor from being unable to walk more than three minutes without sitting down and resting for ten minutes. Up to that point, I had taken for granted walking, dancing, and functioning in any way physically. Once I was able to start moving again, I knew I could not take it for granted. I learned that every day is a gift, and to use the gift to its greatest and highest benefit, I needed to do whatever I could. I learned that when you can’t and then you can, you never want to not again.

You are the reason. You are the gift. You are the possibility of a life well lived. I thank you for sharing yours with me ~ and I look forward to what we create next. What shall it be?

Categories: Health and Wellness, Risk, Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” ~ For 100 days?!

 

In honor of the beauty of the fall and after returning from London where I participated in “The World is Your Stage” I knew I had to take on something great! October 2, 2014, I took on a new challenge. In keeping with this Eleanor Roosevelt quote, I am seeking something to do each day that scares me. So far, it has been fairly simple to find those things.

Making unusual requests of people covered the first couple days. On the third day, we held our Board Summit, a first in some time for our Kiwanis club, and I asked questions and invited feedback that scared me. And we all lived ~ thrived, in fact!

The next few days, I invited my mom (then my sisters, then my brothers) to attend the annual dinner for the Silver Bow Butte Kiwanis where I would be installed as president. Used to be that I would do things and then tell my family, somehow embarrassed to tell them what I was doing. Mom and my sister came, bringing my nephew Thommy, a sweetheart and hugger! My niece said yes and came to be with us. My brothers were busy ~ and I may have had something to do with them not being there. I always worry what they think and what they might say ~ we can be a tad sarcastic in the family.

Thursday, the day of the dinner, I took a leap of faith and had my hair and makeup done. Now, makeup is a big dang deal for me as I rarely do more than a cursory blush of makeup. The makeup involved something I have never done before ~ additional eyelashes. While it was awkward to sit quietly for so long, I was happy that I tool the risk.

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The weekend brought a new and highly anticipated risk. I travelled to Missoula for a volleyball tourney, not really a risk, and clearly an unplanned excursion. On Saturday, I took another leap ~ getting a proper fitting for a bra. I have been talking about doing this for a few months and have been embarrassed ~ and concerned that I would make a fool of myself. I could not have been more wrong.

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The fitting was easy ~ and even though the shop was packed with shoppers, I was so cared for by the staff, getting right into a dressing room, making comments, making changes, changing my mind, changing it back, and ending up at the counter with a collection of products. Then, as if to endorse the risk, I got discounts, bonuses, and even a voucher for my next purchase. To my pleasant surprise, I now have proper undergarments that need no adjusting after I put them on in the morning!  (This will also be a relief for those who spend time with me during the days!)

Admitting mistakes publicly, acting even when I am unsure of my steps, and being willing to ask for support seem to be the underpinnings of my scary acts so far. Since I have some 80 days to go, I suspect I will learn much more about what scares me.

Perhaps you have a suggestion for something that may scare me. Perhaps I will take it on. Leave your suggestions here. Maybe it will bring me closer to you.

Who knows? Wanna play!?

Categories: Kiwanis, Risk, Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Playing Well With Others

I’ve learned two very important lessons during my life. This year, their importance has become more profound. Learning the lessons required unlearning some lessons from childhood. Don’t get me wrong. The childhood lessons were great and gave me access to an amazing life. And those lessons could only take me so far.

The first lesson I am learning (because I have to learn it newly, every time) is to make requests for what I want and what will forward my commitments ~ rather than making requests for what I think I deserve. The childhood lesson centered on two aspects ~ that I needed to earn what I got. That may have meant that I didn’t get to play if I didn’t go to school ~ or that I needed to work hard for rewards and recognition and that life would not hand anything to me. Through practice, I learned to work hard. I learned to do what was right. I learned that life was going to give me what I earned and not a bit more. It could be that I also learned to not believe in miracles; after all, how do you earn a miracle?

The second lesson I am learning is that I cannot do it alone. What ‘it’ is doesn’t matter. There are very few things in life that cannot be accomplished with only my effort. In the process of transitioning my career into something that inspires and moves me, I have been reaching out and building teams ~ getting people on the bandwagon, so to speak. As the oldest in my family, I learned to do for myself, and to then take care of others. While that has served me well in establishing my usefulness and ‘worthiness’, if you will, it has done little to support me in building partnerships ~ or even playing well with others. So, at my ripe old age, I am learning to play well with others. Projects are becoming team driven; I can contribute what I do best and allow for others to do the same. There really are things I don’t know how to do. There are even things I don’t enjoy doing that other people actually LOVE to do. By stepping out of the way, I am building teams for what matters ~ to US.

That is the kind of world filled with possibility. That is the kind of world worth creating. That is the kind of world where I love playing with others. Let’s do it well together!Image

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To myself in High School

Within the past few months, there have been 5 suicides in our small town. Please consider forwarding this to any young students you may know.

A letter to my high school self ~

Hey there. I am writing this letter to you, fully aware that you are going to scoff at almost everything I say. From where you are looking, none of this will make sense. In fact, you may accuse me of being full of crap and of looking through rose-colored glasses. That’s okay.

First and of most importance, thank you. Thank you for sticking out the tough times. You have taught me so many lessons and given me a foundation of courage, love, adventure, and endurance that has allowed me to create and live an extraordinary life.

I want you to know that you will grow up. The things that seem intolerable now will provide you with great lessons and alternate paths that lead to a great life. From your breakup with your first true love, you will learn to love people with your heart broken wide open. Because you got caught drinking, you will learn to manage your behavior to support all the things you are committed to accomplishing. Even though you were not asked to a dance until your senior year, you will learn to be satisfied with spending time with yourself; your happiness will not depend on what others think. That may be the most important lesson of all for you.

The teasing and bullying you experience now will make you a compassionate adult, seeking those most in need of care and admiration. And your willingness to confront your problems will suit you well when you move across the country by yourself to pursue college, law school, and your career.

Finally, you will learn to express yourself in a way that intends to communicate to others, especially young people. You will reach out, share, and be vulnerable, giving others permission to do the same. Your experiences will give you access to empathy and understanding when things seem intolerable for others. You can listen at my age because you stuck it out at your age. Even when things got very dark and you planned how to end your life, you sought out help and stepped back from the brink. You stuck it out ~ and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Thank you for hurting, for struggling, for suffering ~ and for living through it. We make a great team ~ and we are thriving.

Now, let’s support others to do the same.

All my love and admiration forever,

My present self.

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