The power of music

I just had an argument with my husband. Nothing terribly serious but enough to upset my equilibrium. I used to walk away, find a quiet place and sulk. I would listen to the “devil” side of me which grew my righteous anger and in the end solved nothing. It only served to make me more miserable.

I don’t do that anymore. I still walk away but now I go into the bedroom, gently close the door (that’s important) and turn on KLOVE radio, a Christian music station that plays modern, positive, uplifting music. (By the way, they are all across the country, not just in Southern California.) Within a few minutes I am feeling better. Soon the dark mood I was in has evaporated and I can go back to my husband and my day, forgetting whatever it was that led me to be irritated in the first place. Being a man, my husband  had moved on as soon as I left the room.

It doesn’t just work after an argument. When I am upset, worried or frightened about the things that haven’t happened yet but could, the “what if’s” of life, listening to this station affirms God’s love and  how He wants the best for me. The music reminds me that in these matters I have no control so I turn it over to Him.  Sometimes, when my human side wins out and the fear takes over, I reach out my hand to Him, knowing He will take it. Just as I reached out for my mother or father’s hand as a child. I am God’s child and He is always there.

There are other pieces of music that touch my soul, fill my heart and light my fire. As a child of ten and eleven I remember Sundays in our home were classical music days. That is where I learned to appreciate and love classical music. Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 2 in C minor (my most favorite piece) takes me to depths I am often reluctant to go. It is painfully beautiful and haunting as it finds its way inside of me, taking over my emotions as it takes me away. I can’t truly hear it without crying. For me it is the most incredible piece of music ever written.

Then there is Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe, another favorite. In this piece, Ravel uses human voices like instruments. Again, beautiful, soulful, dramatic music.

Now on to Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue. My father could actually play this on the piano. Amazing piece of music. You can get lost in it.

Jumping now to more recent music, I recently bought KC & The Sunshine Band’s greatest hits. I love them! As I play that music I am taken back to Tehran, Iran, circa 1975 and dancing at a club with my first husband. We did the “bump” to many of their songs. I can’t sit still when I hear that music. It makes me joyful and full of energy.

Many other artists’ music has the same effect on me. It’s wonderful! When I am in a certain mood I often choose music that I know will enhance it. Or when I am in no particular mood I may listen to music that creates one.

I love country, some jazz, show tunes, classical, rock, ballads, Christian – all kinds, depending on the day and time. What’s your go-to music? Whatever it is, enjoy. It is truly one of the many gifts we have been given as humans. God bless.

Free will can be annoying

I was going to write about the power of music this week but what is in my brain of late is a scattered mess. This morning I told myself to take a deep breath. When I try to discern my thoughts it feels like watching clothes tumbling around in a dryer. Ask me an easy question and it takes me twice as long to answer. Words are swirling around inside my head until it feels like my brain will burst. Have you been there?

I like to be settled. I like familiarity. I like consistency, security, structure, plans, etc. My life is anything but those things right now. Because of this I am floundering and trying to keep it together for people who are unaware of what is going on.  I pretend it’s life as usual but that is hardly the case. I am voluntarily ripping out my roots to make a big move out of state. Part of me is excited, the rest of me lies somewhere between uncomfortable and panic mode.

I mentioned it once before in another blog that we are considering a move to Portland, Oregon. Not a bad place, a place I actually lived in over 17 years ago. I’m older now and uprooting is more of a challenge. I love my life. I have an amazing church, a great trainer (horse), the best chiropractor (I’ve been going to him for 12 years) and the most talented and dearest friend for a hairdresser (15 years). I have a good health care plan that is not available in Oregon, wonderful and special friends and my sister whom I see every six weeks for a “sister day”. I have a son and daughter-in-law here plus three grandchildren and three step grandchildren although it is true that I have a son with a family in Portland as well.

To show you how much I resist change, I remember the moment I knew my first marriage was over. One of the first thoughts that came to me was, “But we have tacos every Friday night!” Routine, habits, tradition.  Walking away from them is not only hard for me, it is painful and scary. But is that a healthy way to live? Shouldn’t breaking away from routine and branching out be good for us? Can’t the change you’re afraid of end up being the best thing that’s every happened to you? Yes!

On the other hand, sometimes making a big change can turn out to be a huge mistake, right? Even disastrous! Oh Lord, help me please.

My husband also has mixed feelings. If he were more on board and optimistic, it would be different but he’s hesitant. He has his reasons, both of which I understand. But then he started the whole move conversation some time ago, making it sound like we had no choice.

I pray about it but no answers come. I try to turn it over to God but decisions have to be made, work has to done, people must be notified.

I’ve been living in limbo for months now not knowing what we will end up doing. Limbo is not my favorite place to be as you can imagine. A decision has to be made soon. We have people waiting in the wings, ready to begin the process.

Breathe, Sarah, breathe. No matter what you decide, you and Bill will make it work. You always have and you always will.  Stay tuned…..

Once upon a mouse

I bent down to pick up a blue pillow off the floor to put behind my back as I watched the news and ate my breakfast. There was something on the pillow. My brain chatter went like this – What is it on top of the pillow? It looks like a mouse! It looks like a toy mouse that my cats play with. Is it real or is it a toy? I think it’s real! What is a mouse doing in my house? Is it alive or dead? It looks dead. Oh my gosh, how sad!

I slowly picked up the pillow. Not knowing for certain if it was alive or dead, I was not going to throw it in the trash. Something told me to take it outside and place it in the soft grass by the pool, in the warm sunlight. It moved! It was alive! I gently tilted the pillow so that it fell onto the grass.  I’m going to say it was a girl.  She righted herself quickly and then did not move a muscle. She was terrified. I spoke to her quietly. I left her there and went back into the house feeling sad but hopeful that she might survive. I was pretty certain that earlier one of my cats probably had her in its mouth.

After about 15 minutes another thought popped into my head – she needs food! Yes, but what? I looked it up on the internet: grains, seeds, fruit, none of which did I have readily available in my kitchen. Cheese! I did have cheese! I broke off several tiny pieces and took them outside . She jumped as I slowly dropped them next to her. She picked one up in her mouth and then dropped it when more fell around her. I looked at her back. It was so little and furry and she looked so soft. I lightly petted her. She cringed. I could see her heart beating, like the wings of a humming bird. My heart ached. I felt like God as my huge body hunched over her tiny one. I looked down and my heart filled with love, for her and for all of God’s creatures.

I went back into the house feeling very emotional. I had to leave soon for the barn. When I got back, I went outside to see if she was still there. She was gone. The cheese pieces were gone. My first thought was that a stray cat came and grabbed her, eating the cheese as well. That was not a pleasant thought at all. I then decided that she had eaten the cheese, regained her strength and courage then left, looking out for other mice to be with. Or maybe she was with God.

This silly little mouse really captured my heart. I don’t think I will ever forget her.

Between a rock and a hard place

I have two grown sons who are both married with children. One lives here, in Corona. The other lives in Portland, Oregon. I love them both more than words could say. It broke my heart when my young son and his wife moved to Portland almost three years ago. But I adapted. I have visited them several times and they have come down here.  Like I said, I have adapted. One does. You have no choice.

Except you do. We are now talking about the possibility of moving to Portland. California is very expensive, high taxes, etc. We have a beautiful home with land that we purchased to build a barn and an arena for our horses. That never happened. And so we have all of this land and rather than bringing us joy it brings us (I should say Bill) challenges, blood, sweat and a smaller bank account. We are older now and really don’t need all of this land. He would argue that we don’t even need the size house we have but I respectfully disagree. He’s ready to downsize and leave California. We have each lived here consecutively for over 15 years. In my lifetime I have lived in California a grand total of 36 years. Maybe it’s time to live somewhere else?

This is not written in stone but we are going up there tomorrow for four days to do some exploring. We will be looking at neighborhoods and meeting with a realtor that I have been “working” with for about two years.

I don’t want to leave my older son and his family who live here. But it would be nice to live more cheaply and to be close to my younger son and his family. Thus the rock and the hard place. I will be sad either way. My young son and his wife are very excited at the prospect of having family up there. I have lived there before. It’s beautiful. It’s clean. There are four seasons. Yes, it rains a lot but six months out of the year the weather is spectacular. In the late summer it stays light until almost 10 o’clock at night. It snows occasionally in the winter but not so much as to be unmanageable. And I still have friends up there.

But then again, California has been my home for many years. I love my house. I love my life here. What to do? We are going to wait and see how we feel after this trip. Bill is not crazy about the weather up there. When it’s time to decide, we will decide. I am hoping the answer will be obvious. Maybe like it was for my son and his wife three years ago. They went up there to check it out and came home with an apartment lined up and two jobs! They have since bought a house which also fell into place quite nicely. Meant to be. Hmm.

When you find yourself between a rock and a hard place sometimes the best thing to do is wait. Unless the choice is an obvious one, give yourself some time. Pray about it. Make lists of pros and cons. I am a big proponent of list making. Look at your possible choice from all angles. Do this when you mind is clear and your emotions are asleep. My father told me once that with very few exceptions. all decisions can be reversed. It’s probably not life or death. You will survive even if you made what you realize later was the wrong decision. Decide again.

Bill and I have decided not to decide just yet. We have to weigh all of the options, the positives and the negatives. And then we will commit 100%. One of my sons will be disappointed; one of them will be thrilled. One of my sons I will visit as often as I can.  A rock and a hard place. Maybe I should put a big cushy pillow over whichever one I choose. :))

I’m not in my right mind

Last night I took out my notebook with the intention of writing my weekly blog. It’s Friday, I thought to myself. I’m already a day late. I held the pen in my hand and waited for inspiration. And waited. Nothing came. I’m not in my right mind, I thought. Haha. That’s pretty funny. True, but funny.

I have bronchitis and a fever. Being clever and creative are not only difficult for me right now, they are downright impossible. I am thinking about the people who read my blog every week who are looking in their emails for the new one and not finding it. That bothered me. I have to write something! Maybe tomorrow. (Which is today.) So here I am, waiting for my muse. Maybe she’s on vacation. Maybe she has bronchitis and a fever.

I have written before that since retiring in 2011 I have been busier than I ever was during my career. My horse takes up most of that time. Then I have writing, friends, appointments, shopping, cleaning, etc. I don’t know where it all comes from, but my days are always full. Until I get sick. And then I have to clear my calendar, one event at a time. I have postponed a hair appointment twice and cancelled a few others. Can’t meet for lunch, can’t go to church, can’t even do my own grocery shopping. Thank you, Bill. It is beyond frustrating to just lie around all day being unproductive. Is there something I could learn from all of this? Yes – don’t get sick!

Today I feel like I might have the tiniest bit of energy, enough to write this blog anyway. And then it is back on the couch. A week from today we are flying to Portland for four days. I must be better by then. And so I eliminate anything short of life altering between now and next Saturday. That flight is booked and paid for. Can’t miss it.

What do you do when you are sick and have to put the brakes on your busy life? Do you let it frustrate you, depress you, anger you? Do you take it as a blessing, using the time to reflect, re-organize your thoughts, prioritize your life? Do you read more? Watch more television? Sleep more?

I’ve been frustrated, watched more television, slept more, slept a lot. I am trying to put myself in a positive place where I can appreciate what my body is trying to do (get well) and give it the time it needs to do so. It isn’t easy.

Being sick also means you need to depend on others, if there are others around. I had to ask my husband to take care of my horse and do the grocery shopping, both of which he did with love. I guess when you are sick you have to let go of your need to do, to be and to go. Listen to your body and get better. There will be plenty of time to do, be and go later, when you are well again. Did you hear that, Sarah?

Be well and God bless. :))

Down Time

When I was working, Sunday night would begin the depression over the weekend’s conclusion. Not that I had a bad job. It’s just that the weekend was never enough to accomplish everything that needed to be done. Laundry, grocery shopping, errands, etc. What happened to my down time? There was very little of it.

Now that I am retired, Monday has become my favorite day of the week. I give myself permission to leave my car in the garage. I take care of laundry, read my bible and do “homework” for my growth group,  check off items on my to do list for the week which includes appointments, grocery shopping, riding, taking care of my horse, de-cluttering the house, making a budget, etc. etc.

I answer to no one. My time is my own to do with as I choose. It is my one day a week where I am completely wrapped up in my comfort zone and feel very secure. Tuesday-Sunday I am out of the house every day running around. Monday is my sanctuary, re-group, soul refueling day.

It was great when my husband was working because I truly had a day to myself. He is taking some time off now before starting his next venture. Needless to say, the last two months have been a wee bit challenging for both of us. Don’t get me wrong, we love each other and have a good, strong marriage but I need at least one day a week comprised of several hours of solitude and complete freedom from anyone else’s needs in order to maintain my sanity.

The flip side of this, ironically, is that I get used to having him around and kind of like the company. The exception being Mondays, of course.

But he is getting antsy and looking forward to being out in the world again. He’s not a couch potato by any means. However, too much together time doesn’t work for either one of us. It keeps things interesting when we both go out into the world and come back with stories to share.

Spending so much time together lately has taught me more patience, consideration, flexibility, understanding and yes, more love. Some day we will have no choice. I think I will appreciate him more when that time comes and he, me. Until then, however; leave me alone on Monday!  :))


I want my Mommy!

I’m six years old, sleeping alone in my bedroom upstairs. I wake up from a very real nightmare. All I can think of is getting to my mommy as soon as possible. I don’t have to. She hears me scream and comes running up the stairs. She takes me in her arms, holding me so close that I become a part of her. “There, there,” she says soothingly. “It was just a bad dream. Everything is alright now. Mummy’s here.” I immediately calm down. All is right in my small world.

When we grow up and experience frightening, devastating or traumatic events, wouldn’t it be nice to be held once again in the arms of a loving mother, hopefully your own?

My mother has been gone for over fourteen years. I remember that as late as in my 50s I would go to her for a comforting hug when life got difficult. How wonderful that hug felt. When, as adults, do we outgrow that need? Never, I say. But not all of us have access to a kind and loving mother.

Some of us have dear friends, spouses or partners that offer open arms and loving hearts. Know that is a blessing, although it may still pale in comparison to your memories of mother.

When I am at the bottom, which doesn’t happen often, be it illness or depression, at the deepest core of my being I want my mother and the immeasurable comfort that her arms and soothing words brought to me. But she’s not here. What do I do? What do you do? I think about her. I imagine her. I hug my husband whose arms are broad and enveloping and ready at a moment’s notice. I have a sister who hugs me over the phone and a horse who lets me hug her and look into her big, brown, wise eyes for answers. I have two cats that I can hug and who consistently make me smile.

We all have our “go-to” people and/or animals in times of crisis. But to me, nothing compares to the original comforter, Mommy.  :))

Love is a four letter word

When she walked through the door of the upscale Newport Beach restaurant, she knew that someone was waiting for her just feet away at the bar. It was someone she had never met but hoped with every fiber of her being that she would like him and he would like her.

She caught his eye as she drew closer to the bar. He was handsome, with light brown hair and lovely green eyes. He stood up to introduce himself. “Hi Sarah. I’m Bill.” He motioned for her to sit down on the stool next to him. “What would you like to drink?” he asked. He was taking her in and memorizing her eyes, her smile, her hair. “A glass of champagne would be nice,” she said demurely. But this was no ingenue. She was in her early fifties and he in his late fifties. Is it even possible to find true love after all these years of empty relationships, bad dates and lonely Saturday nights? She would soon find out. Be patient, Sarah, she told herself. The evening has just begun.

That was August 16, 2002, the night I met my husband. I had been single for eighteen years, raising my son and taking care of my mother who had passed away just eight months prior. My son was getting ready to leave the nest. I would soon be alone, the dreaded “old woman with the cats”, grocery shopping for one. I could imagine the groceries as I laid them down on the conveyor belt: a bottle of champagne, one roasted chicken, some apples, oranges and berries, a few avocados, some kind of fish and of course, cat food. The image in my mind gave me the shivers. I didn’t want to end up like that. The thought was more than a little disturbing.

We started dating and getting to know each other. There were arguments as we each revealed the baggage we had brought with us. It took time. It took patience. It took the desire to believe in and accept another human being into my world. Did I mention patience?

I look back on that time and realize how much we have both grown. We are older now and I dare say considerably wiser. It’s nice that we have gotten to this point in our lives where the small stuff doesn’t matter anymore. The big stuff we handle together, as a team. There’s give and take, compromise and forgiveness. There’s being okay with imperfection, in each other and in the life we’ve built together. There’s knowing that we can withstand whatever confronts us, no matter how big or how destructive that monster may be. It’s letting the little disappointments fade and the special moments be etched into our memories.

When he comes down the driveway at night and honks to let me know he’s home, the butterflies invade my stomach. Knowing that I get to sleep next to him every night warms my heart and curls my toes.

My message to you? Love is real and not reserved for the lucky or the beautiful or the rich. It can happen anytime, usually when you least expect it. It is like a rare orchid that must be nurtured in order to grow and survive. It changes who you are into someone you never imagined yourself to be.

If you have it, be grateful for it and don’t ever take it for granted. If you don’t, then live with an open heart and never stop believing in the impossible. Impossible becomes possible every day. God bless. :))

Stepping off the treadmill

When I was working, I had this image in my head that Friday nights I would step off the treadmill for the weekend and return to it Monday morning at 7:00 am. Since retiring, the image has changed.  As long as I am doing the things I love, I see myself as fully participating in life. When I am forced to cease and desist due to illness, as I have been for the last seven days, the image is one of being taken out of the flow of life and made to sit on the sidelines. I don’t like the sidelines. I don’t know if you are like me in this regard but I love accomplishing, achieving and successfully stepping out of my comfort zone. Those things make me feel alive, excited and happy. Being stuck at home, either in bed or on the couch, trying to sleep, watching mind-numbing television or reading a book is okay for a day or two. After that I feel deprived.

As a very young child I was expected to take naps during the day. I remember struggling to sleep because I knew that I was missing out on something wonderful on the other side of my bedroom door. I think eventually my mother gave up on the whole nap idea as it clearly wasn’t happening. I rarely, if ever take a nap these days. I have to be very tired and already finished with what I wanted to do that day; i.e., it has to be timed just right so that I don’t feel cheated on possibilities. Is that neurotic? Probably, in some harmless way I suppose.

In my defense, my husband is worse! Although he does take occasional naps, he rarely rests. I am the opposite. I know how to rest and relax.

Mondays are typically my days at home. I try not to go anywhere. I do laundry, light housekeeping, bookkeeping and most important, re-group for the week ahead. I cherish Mondays and my time alone. I have learned that it is not only pleasant but necessary for my well being and general mood. The rest of the week I am on the go but Monday is my day without a schedule. Consequently I love that day of the week. Funny, I used to hate it when I was a working girl.

However, having seven “Mondays” in a row now is really taking a good thing to its ridiculous extreme. No thank you!

This afternoon I feel like my body has turned the corner and I am on the mend. (Fingers crossed.) I am ready to get back to living my life, riding my horse, visiting friends and participating in a soon to be book event and a trip up north.

How easy it is to take your life for granted until you are forced to sit on the sidelines. Some day I will be too old to do most of these things and then I will close my eyes to remember what it was like to have a busy, wonderful life. Until then, it’s “Wait for me ! I’ll be right there!”   :))

La Familia

When I hear the word “family” my mind sees a picture of my husband, sister, children and their respective spouses. And of course all of my grandchildren. (7) If I think about it long enough, the picture expands to include grandparents (long since departed), Aunts and Uncles (also gone) and cousins (only two left).

Not everyone thinks of relatives when they think of family. Not everyone likes their family or certain members of it. Their mind goes to close friends. Wherever your mind goes, I think you will agree that the word conjures up warm feelings. It has a positive connotation for most of us.

This past weekend my husband and I were in Chicago, Illinois for the graduation of our eldest grandchild, Alex, from Navy boot camp. We were there with my son, Alex’s younger brother Christian, Alex’s mom (my son’s ex) and her parents. You might think that it was uncomfortable being with the “ex family” but we get along quite well. In fact we spent the entire day together, going into downtown Chicago and sightseeing. Both sides of Alex’s family wanted to take advantage of the eight hour time allotment that Alex was given. He had to be back at the base by 7:30pm. He would be leaving early the following morning for Pensacola, Florida, his home for the next eight months.

That was Friday. Saturday we were on our own – me, my husband, my son and Christian. We decided to take a road trip to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (beautiful resort town) and Lake Delavan where my husband spent summers growing up. (He is from Chicago.) My son’s wife could not be with us because she is in her ninth month of pregnancy and could not fly.

Saturday night we met two of my husband’s sisters, their husbands, as well as two of his nieces and the husband of one of them. There were eleven of us for dinner. Two of them are not on speaking terms and so we placed them at opposite ends of the table. Another potentially awkward situation but everyone was on their best behavior.

We ate at an old Italian restaurant (opened in 1937) where the food was amazing even though for that particular night the service was not. No matter. I enjoyed two glasses of a delicious pinot noir and only felt love and joy. A wonderful time was had by all. It could have been less than enjoyable, given the circumstances, but it wasn’t. It was perfect.

It started me thinking about family and how special the times are when we can be together, considering that most of us live in different parts of the country. Even when we live in the same general area we don’t see each other often because our lives are so busy. That’s a shame. Hundreds of years ago it was not that way. Families lived under the same roof when the parents got older. This is true today in cultures other than our own.

I left Chicago with a warmth in my heart that I hope will remain for a long time. People aren’t perfect; families aren’t perfect but they are the families we were given.

We are sharing this life together and most of us do the best that we can with what we have. Learn to forgive, reach out, and embrace those family members you would rather ignore. If your efforts are rejected, bless them and let them go.

Cherish the family you have, whether it is the one you were given or the one you chose. Enjoy the blessings that follow.