Running Wild

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I was talking to a friend today, and he was telling me that he met a man that hiked the Appalachian Trail. Pretty cool, huh? What if I told you that he did this when he was twelve years old? With no adult supervision… just a bunch of Boy Scouts on their own, hiking the Appalachian Trail.

It got me talking about my childhood. We all tend to romanticize about the “good old days”. And, maybe that’s just what I’m doing. We lived in a house in upstate New York. I lived there from age six to age eleven. We had a big tree with a tire swing and a big side yard that my parents made into an ice rink in the Winter. On the other side of the house was a hill that was perfect for sledding.

In the more temperate seasons, my friends and I would leave our houses in the morning, and go off on adventures. Sometimes we would come home for lunch, and sometimes not until dinner. If our parents ever worried about us, they never let on.

We would play in the apple orchard, climbing trees and throwing apples at each other. We might decide to go to the pond, and see what creatures we could find. When we got tired of that, we would go to the farmers field, up to the place where there was a bunch of old tires. Sometimes we saw snakes there. It was scary, alright. But worth the risk to climb on those tires.

Some days, we would stick closer to home and stomp down the field of high grass into a “fort”. This was a maze of rooms and we would sometimes accessorize them with treasures from home. We were always building forts and off on general explorations all summer long.

My husband grew up in Scotland. He was taking the tube (subway) around London when he was twelve. When he was seven, he would take the bus into Glasgow and go to the cinema… by himself. Can you imagine allowing something like that with your kids or grandchildren?

The point is, these days we have to watch kids like a hawk, it seems. I was strict about where my kids played when they were little, and wanted them to stick close to home. Now, people might say that they did not have proper supervision. I wouldn’t let them go off to a pond, or across a field out of view. It’s a different time.

 
Or is it? Do we have more danger and treachery in the world these days? Is it possible that the people that prey on children have expanded in number exponentially? Or do we just hear about it more? Does the internet that makes it easier for evil people to commit crimes against children? Or, does the internet just keep reporting these crimes so much that we become desensitized at some point?

When we recall these childhood days, are we longing for a place… or a time when catching a frog was the highlight of the day? If I had to pick the happiest time in my childhood, it was when we were running wild.

– Cat

Leaps of Faith

Why should people feel forced to choose between science and religion? I’m going to say that I like a little religion in my science, and a little science in my religion. Lots of people feel that they are mutually exclusive.

 
I believe in God. As I age, my relationship with God has changed. I find that I can easily accept other points of view. It makes me wonder though, even the people who believe in God believe in different interpretations of God. It gets back to putting people in boxes. So, you’re a Christian… are you Methodist, Lutheran, Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Orthodox, Mormon, seventh day Adventist, Jehovah’s witness? (Sorry if I left your church out) Why do we need God in so many versions? Is it so we can fight over whose God is better?

 
I take this point of view. If you believe in something…good for you! If you don’t believe in something…good for you! The nice thing is, you get to choose. I don’t understand why we have to judge and shame people who have different points of view. We have, throughout history, as humans, managed to kill millions of people because they don’t believe the same things that we do.

 
I want to share a passage that I read tonight in an old self-help book that I bought in the nineties. The book is called Life 101, and the authors are John-Roger (died 2014) and Peter McWilliams. I’m finding myself appreciating the wisdom in this book more and more these days.

 

The doctor who gives a vaccination and says, “Thank God, this child is safe from smallpox,” and the doctor who gives a vaccination and says “Thank Pasteur, this child is safe from smallpox,” give the same vaccination. Some may say that the doctor who gives a blessing is a better doctor, and some may say that the doctor who sticks to medicine is a better doctor, but in either case– thank God and/or Pasteur — the child can be safe.

 
Over time, ideas about religion change. But, at the same time, ideas about science are ever-changing and evolving. The thing that doesn’t change is people. Do we have a compulsion to view everybody with an “us” or “them” mentality?

 
So, these days, my faith is in the belief that everything will work out exactly the way that it’s supposed to. Like my grandson, I’ll stick with believing in God and Evolution.

 
– Cat

My Muse

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So, if you look up the definition of the word “muse” as a noun, it will tell you that a muse refers to “a person- especially a woman- who is a source of artistic inspiration”. If you look at the word “muse” as a verb, it means to “consider something thoughtfully”.

 
Thank goodness, we’ve thrown gender roles out the window, since my muse is a man. At the risk of sounding sappy, he is my verb and my noun.

 
Anybody that knows him would tell you that he’s not always the easiest person to get along with. Heck, he’ll tell you that himself. But, he’s usually right, and he is definitely the yin to my yang.

 
He is supportive of my choice to be a writer. In fact, he rarely reads anything I write. It’s not because he’s not interested. He doesn’t want his opinions to taint my writing style. He has confidence in my ability to get my point across, and will not proofread my work. My muse challenges me to get better every day, and that encourages me to work towards doing so.

 
He will help me with the organization of my business and my production schedules, which is so helpful to me. He is supportive as I navigate through the learning curves that are inevitable with any business. Although he has been dreaming of retirement, he has delayed that dream while I establish my career.

 
So, while other writers, artists, painters, and musicians may be inspired by whimsy and beauty, I am inspired by a strong and steady muse. And, I am ever so grateful.

-Cat

 

 

In Mysterious Ways

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My friend lost a child yesterday. Suddenly, unexpectedly, and sadly, gone. He would have turned two years old in a couple weeks. He was loved by his Mom and Dad, and his two sisters. He brought immeasurable joy into this world when he was born. He will leave a desperate sorrow with his passing.
As a writer, I pride myself on being good with words. When I saw the post on Facebook, I was stunned… at a total loss. I had nothing to say in response to the family, and the many others who had commented on this sad tragedy. Every response I can think of seems inadequate.
How can I say something comforting? I just cannot imagine or construct the proper response. Really… is there one? Is there the “right thing” to say to someone when their 2-year-old, the light of their life, has suddenly left this world?
We place so much importance on such ridiculous stuff in our daily lives. Road rage, sports, jobs, video games, new cars, sneakers, politics, organized religion, the latest technology, and fashion. We live like we will never die. We focus on achieving goals. Long term goals, short term goals, financial goals, college goals, retirement goals, career goals. We yearn for materialistic things.
This won’t change. It’s how we get through it all. We keep putting one foot in front of the other… walking through this world until our number is up.
Sometimes it doesn’t happen suddenly, or so we think. We know someone is older, and they are ill. It crosses our mind that they might not make it. It may be obvious that they are at the end of their journey. Why does it still shock us when they actually die? Is it our eternal hope that we can somehow escape this fate?
In the end, what’s important?  We each have a chance to make a difference while we’re here. Never underestimate that. What you do with the time you’re given can make all the difference to the lives of others. We can be a positive influence and encourage people to do their best.
I have to admit, I’m one of those people that has great faith in the resilience of the human body and spirit. It always shocks me when someone actually dies. I guess I’m the one that thinks on some level that we’ll all live forever in one form or another.
Some of you believe in God, mother nature, or some form of higher power. I do. I believe that we are under God’s care. We may not understand how events like these fit into the grand plan. The fact is, we are not privileged to know the big picture. We cannot possibly be granted foresight and volition. Because we get to choose our actions, we can only guess the outcomes. Some things are obvious, and some are hidden.
So, while we may not know tomorrow, we can live today. Hold your loved ones close. Call someone that you haven’t talked to in a while. Smile at a stranger. Take your chance while you have it.   If you’re the praying kind, please pray for my friend and his family tonight.

-Cat

Working Without a Net

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As many of you know, I’ve been wearing two hats in my work life since the first of the year.  By day, I’ve been working for a large corporation.  In the evenings, and on my days off, I’ve been pursuing my passion as a writer.  I’ve built my business to the extent that time allowed.
The full-time job that I’ve worked at for almost 11 years ended today when my position was eliminated.  I was one of many that were affected.  I’m a firm believer that everything always works out the way it’s supposed to.  I’ve been through some stuff in my life that wasn’t fun and didn’t feel good.  But, I’ve always seemed to make a comeback.  That whole phoenix thing.
So… I now have more time to promote and work my business.  50 hours a week more.  I called this blog “Working Without a Net” because that’s how it feels.  Exhilarating and scary in equal parts.  There are a lot of things I couldn’t do to grow and work my business.  Now I will.
I’ve met a lot of good people at my job, and will keep a lot of friends in my new life.  I’ve learned so much in the past 10 years, and the experience has helped prepare me for this moment.
I don’t have any hard feelings.  I’m feeling bad tonight for all the people who depended on their job to house and feed their family.  It’s a shame that this had to happen today.
It’s amazing how your life can change in one day…
– Cat

 

How Did I Miss That?

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Sometimes, I contemplate experiences that I’ve had in my life. And, I wonder “Why did I take that for granted?”.  It makes me think more about being present, more mindful, in the moment.

Here’s what I mean.  As we age, we pass through different stages in our lives.  Friendships, family, and relationships tend to mutate as you move through the changes.  When you’re single, you tend to gravitate towards single people.  It’s natural to want to be with folks that are living the same lifestyle as you.  You like to do single people things.

When you’re married, or  when you’re a young parent, you will develop friendships with people who are at a similar stage in their life.  You don’t plan for relationships to change, they just do.  You may be close to a friend when you’re both single, going out, doing things together.  Then, when you become a parent, you find that you just don’t have much in common with them anymore.  It’s natural to form new friendships and for these earlier bonds to fade.

It’s a part of life, but it’s still a bit sad.  There’s the saying that some people are in your life for a reason, and some for a season.  Sometimes you’re lucky, and you can find a friend to drag through life with you.  Every once in a while, I mourn for a moment that I took for granted with someone.

In the break room exchanging views on life with Erin. Having lunch with Amy, and taking road trips with Catie. Having ice cream in Scotland with Scott, Lesley and Iain.  Seeing Diane talk in sign language with her customers. The time Travis caught that bird.  The time I laughed so hard with David that we couldn’t finish dinner. I miss all the great bosses I’ve had.  All the amazing coworkers I’ve been blessed with over the years.  Above all, the joys I had with my kids when they were little.  We don’t realize at the time how precious those connections are. 

 It’s not that you “break up”.  Erin and I are still friends.  We just don’t work together anymore.  She lives pretty far away, and is a young mother.  The opportunity to have lunch together and get all the problems of the world settled is just not there.  We don’t even get to talk much.  It feels like those moments are in an alternate universe now.

And, of course, we make new friendships, and connect, and adapt.  I don’t mean to sound so glum.  I don’t think that these thoughts are unique to me.  It’s just a realization that’s part of the aging process, I guess.  Maybe it’s just a case of reminiscing about “the good old days”.  We all do that from time to time.

So… life continues.  That’s beautiful, especially considering the alternatives!  Let’s not get bogged down in stress and schedules.  Let’s be aware of the people and good times in our lives.  We may miss them some day…

– Cat

Collared Shirts

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Relationships can be fun, and they can be hard work.  The best relationships are a little of both, I would say.  I’m lucky enough to have had two chances at love, and I’m currently married to my perfect match.  That is to say, the Yin to my Yang.

We are definitely different.  I sometimes explain the relationship by saying “He is retired military, and I am not”.  He keeps me grounded and I teach him to laugh at things.  He is common sense, I am whimsy.  He’s a few years older than me.

One thing about this journey we travel together.  It does not involve v-necks, scoop necks, or crew necks. He insists that women of my age should wear collared shirts.  I never saw this one coming 20 years ago.  All I can say is thank God that polo shirts count as collared.

Sometimes I am a real renegade and wear something without a collar.  I will wear a crew neck shirt, for instance, when I’m going to the grocery store by myself.  He’s horrified by what I wear to get a pedicure, my cut off sweatpants and t-shirt.  But when I’m with him, it’s a pretty safe bet that I am wearing a shirt with a collar.

People look at me funny when I say this.  Some roll their eyes, and say that they would never let a man dictate to them what they wear.  It violates a person’s individual rights.  It’s ridiculous! It’s a form of abuse.

Here’s the thing… This is not a battle that I care anything about.  If it pleases him that I dress conservatively, and wear a collared shirt, it is just not a big deal to me.  There are things that mean a lot more, and I will argue until the end on these topics.  Going forward, for the rest of my life, I will only buy collared shirts.

He does some things that irritate me, but not a lot of things, and not a lot of irritation.  I’m sure he would say the same about me.  Most people have qualities that we love about them.  Then they will have some traits or habits… not so much!  On the big issues, we see eye to eye.  We work together on most things.  We didn’t always, but we do now.

He supports my job, he supports my hobby, and encourages me to do everything I want to do.  He doesn’t send me flowers, except sometimes on Valentine’s Day and our Anniversary.   But, he pulled his back out to surprise me with a big, fat Christmas tree this past weekend.  I came home from work, and it was up with lights on it.  Magical!   He sometimes helps me see things from a different angle.  I think that is a big plus.  Two heads are better than one when it comes to a lot of issues.  I persuade him to my point of view on some things.

I don’t have a PhD in psychology. But, I know that when you’re in a relationship, you have to decide for yourself which points are the ones you won’t budge on.  If everything bothers you, and you’re fighting all the time, reconsider your relationship.  If everything is great all the time, you are living in a TV sitcom from the 1950’s. 

Editing this, it looks like a testimony to my relationship with my husband.  The point I am trying to make is that sometimes you have to stand up and make your feelings known.  At other times, you just put on a collared shirt and get on with things.

– Cat

 

Some College

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I started college early.  I was just sixteen at the time.  I graduated high school early, skipping my senior year.  In my junior year of high school, I was enrolled in high school and college concurrently.

Then, I had a fight with my father.  I dropped out of college, and moved out of the house at seventeen.  I was determined to make a go of it, and worked full time.  I was fiercely independent, but I knew I had made the wrong decision about college.  So, I took college courses in the evening.  That was difficult to do, and after a while it took a toll on me.

Once I married at eighteen and had a child, I tried to go back and get my degree.  I went to school three full days a week, with a great granny watching my son, Thom.  I had an 8:00 am political science class, which I approached with great enthusiasm.  Then… two things started happening during the 8:00 am class:  I would fall asleep or throw up.  You guessed it, blessed with a second baby.

I took that as a sign from God that I should finish up my degree “later”.  Two more kids later, college was no longer featuring in my dreams, let alone my life.  I wasn’t sad about it.  I was busy, with my hands full, and my heart full as well.  I would take a class now and then.

A few years ago, I was in a meeting at work.  I had a chance for an advancement program, and was nominated in front of a bunch of coworkers.  It was a great opportunity.   But I had to say, in front of everybody, that I didn’t have the required college degree.  I made the decision then to give college another try.  Enrolling in an online university, I was an exuberant scholar.  I got perfect marks in everything I did.

Then the day came.  I got some points taken off on a paper that I had written.  I was extremely mad about it.  My husband explained that it was actually okay that it happened, and it was good for me.  I let that sink in, and realized that he was right.  I took a break from school at the end of the semester, though.  We were moving to a new area after twenty years in our house.  This demanded more time and energy than I could devote while studying.

So, it’s still left undone. I’m a grandmother now, and I work full time, and I can’t say with certainty that I’ll ever finish.  Maybe when I retire.  When my daughter, Catie, was in college, she told me she was going to take a semester off.  I told her that she wasn’t.  We both felt like I was being too pushy at the time, but we’re both glad now that she has her master’s degree.  My father is in his eighties and still takes college courses, if they interest him.

Some college.  Well, that could mean anything.  It could mean two classes.  It could mean almost there.  Almost every job you apply for now states that a college degree is required, or at least preferred.  Since employers have you apply online, gone is the chance to dazzle with a first impression. You can’t show them your sense of style.  You don’t get to brag about all the things you can do.  You can’t wow them with your work ethic.  You never get to give them a firm handshake  and a confident smile.

Most days I don’t think about it.  Other days, I have to help the person that has a degree, and got the opportunity, to prepare their final presentation in the program.  I don’t believe that you must have a college degree to be successful or happy in life.  But I do believe that you limit your choices without one.  So, if you’re in school, stay in school until you’re done.  If you’ve got your degree, you have that accomplishment to be proud of, and I admire you for it!

I lead a happy life.  I have a big family, with four children, two stepchildren, six grandkids, with one more on the way!  They bring me so much joy!  I have found meaningful work to do, and love making a difference everyday.  My husband and I get along great and enjoy each other’s company.  We have a lovely home, and great neighbors.  I’ve still got both my parents.  Most days “some college” is just not that bad.

 – Cat

Forgive Me… I’m Trying to Forgive You

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One of my favorite quotes is:

“Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself”

When I was checking on the source for this quote, it looks like Suzanne Somers gets the most votes.  We had Tony Robbins in the mix, along with TD Jakes.  Well, it deserves deep consideration, no matter who authored it.

I’ve held a grudge.  I’ve fed it and nurtured it.  I’ve felt the burn. The person holding the grudge will always feel worse than the target of the anger and resentment.  If you are stubborn and slow to forgive, it will always hurt you more than anyone else.

I know it takes so much effort to forgive immediately and with sincerity, but the pay off is huge!

While we’re on the topic of forgiving, it’s okay to hold yourself to a high standard of ethics or morality.  But, we are human, and sometimes we hurt other people, even if we don’t mean to.  Be quick to forgive yourself in the midst of your guilt trip.

The usual form of an apology is:  “I’m sorry that I got angry, BUT….”  Make your statement and then stop.  Don’t qualify your feelings and take the argument to the next level.  If you have a fight with a friend, both parties should apologize.  That’s what friends do.  It’s called making up.

Resolving a rift between friends can put you right on the mountaintop.  It feels blissful to bring restoration to a broken relationship.  You’ll be wondering why you waited so long!

Just a word of caution.  Remember, that while your feelings of forgiveness towards someone may feel right to you, they may take time to bring a resolution.  Your words and gestures of apology may not be returned right away, if at all.  Forgive anyway. You can only control your side of the equation.  This is something that we must learn from.  It’s part of life.  This is what it means to be accountable; to accept the consequences of your actions.

Who can you forgive today?  Give yourself a gift and get started.

– Cat

My Struggle With Jazz

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I love the notion of sitting in a jazz club in Summer.  Hot and sultry, the music washing over me.  Back in my reality, I have a hard time enjoying jazz.  The slow, bluesy jazz isn’t so bad, but that snappy jazz just makes me feel confused.  I’m not sure why it bothers me.  Who cares?

I pride myself on appreciating all types of music.  When I listen to jazz, the first song is always good.  I’m thinking “I like this, it’s great”. The second song is just okay, and by the third song, I’m done.  I want to like it, but for some reason, I just don’t.

I brought this up one time in a closed Facebook group for an eclectic station that I listen to on satellite radio.  I commented “I’m not clever enough for jazz”.  I meant it as a joke, but the remark was not taken lightly.  The response was rapid.  “You need to have more of an open mind”, was the general consensus.  It was clear that these people cared a great deal about my impairment.

I talked to some people I know that love jazz.  My daughter, Catie, is a big jazz fan.  She recommended some pieces to me.  She talked to me about how jazz made her feel, and how it was such a wonderful musical genre to explore.  I wanted to get on board that train!  Some of the pieces she recommended to me were enjoyable at the beginning.  But, they soon melted into chaos, and that’s the part I have a hard time with.

My son, Tyler, who is a musician and loves jazz, took the time to explain to me the construction of a jazz piece.  I found it fascinating as we listened to a song together; identifying the different parts as they played out.  I think I liked having a stimulating conversation with him better than the music itself.  Although the technical aspects were interesting, it didn’t improve my appreciation.

Now, I know that in this crazy world we live in, with all it’s real problems, that this may seem trivial.  And it is.  It’s just something that I think about now and then.  Are there any other jazz skeptics out there?

 – Cat