It takes courage to love

I am reading a book called “One Month to Live” by Kerry and Chris Shook. The idea is to read a chapter a day in a life-changing month. I’m on day 11 and so far some of the chapters have been good, others just so-so.

Chapter 11 was one of the good ones. It is about overcoming obstacles in relationships. Because this topic is close to my heart at this particular time, I found this chapter had some very profound sentences and it made me REALLY stop and think.

It takes courage to love. Normally, I would read over that without giving it much thought. Today I read it slowly and the words really sank in.

Courage to love? Yes! Courage? Yes!!!

I looked up the word courage. The dictionary says courage is the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous. Why would love be difficult or dangerous? Because you don’t know what the other person is really thinking or feeling. So you have to be willing to take a risk. You have to let yourself be vulnerable. You cannot hold back, for if you do, the love will be lost.

You have to love passionately, without abandon. There’s another powerful term…without abandon. It means that you are going to go for something no matter what the cost and regardless of the obstacles.

Yes, it takes courage to love. Relationships are not for wimps.

Relationships are full of miscommunications and misinterpretations, and misconceptions. No matter how well you communicate with each other, these things are bound to happen. We are all human and these are things that happen to humans. All of us, every one. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes. The best relationships are built on forgiveness, because all relationships involve imperfect people who make mistakes.

We have to learn how to compromise and discover creative solutions that meet the needs of both people in the relationship. We have to value the other person enough to seek to really understand them. If we don’t, the relationship could be forever abandoned on a mountain of mistakes and misunderstandings.

The essential for a strong relationship is found in those small loving actions, all the seemingly insignificant things that can mean so much to someone else. When you are inconsistent, telling others how important they are but never following through with loving actions, then the relationship will falter. The clarity and security your loving actions bring to the people around you can’t be underestimated.

How do you communicate your commitment to those you love? Psychologists say that most of us tend to favor one method over the other – we say how we feel but may not show it as much, or we show it consistently, and assume our actions speak for us. I think it is important to discover which way we communicate, understand how our partner communicates, and then practice the other style for a time for extra measure and to show the commitment is strong.

Yes, it takes courage to love. Not to mention hard work.

Living in a 55+ Community

When we decided to downsize and return to California, we had hoped to purchase a single family home when the housing market took a brief dip. But the dip didn’t last long enough and by time we were ready to make the move prices had already begun to escalate.

We searched out some of the houses on the multiple listing sheet we acquired from a broker. We drove around and looked at the exterior of numerous houses. And we quickly discovered that the houses we could (barely) afford, were not houses we wanted to live in.

So….on to Plan B. Plan B was to look at manufactured housing options in 55+ mobile home communities. In my mind there has always been some kind of negative stigma about living in this kind of community, but in the city where we wanted to live, the mobile home parks were quite nice…clean, quiet, and well maintained.

We settled on a nice park that had an empty lot and only 3 miles from the beach. Perfect! We took a tour of the plant where they manufacture the homes and we were sold. These homes are built better than stick built homes and we could even get home that resembled a Craftsman-style house. What could be better?

It took much longer than expected to work out all the details on the home and for it to be built. But the day finally came when our new home arrived to our lot. It came in two parts and had to be put together. It caused quite a stir in the community here, with lots of onlookers watching as it was delivered and set into place. I guess there’s not a lot of excitement around here, so watching the home being delivered was cause for celebration!

Now that we are finally living in our new home, I have to say that for the most part I love it. Our previous home in Pennsylvania was a 4 bedroom colonial with a full basement on .75 acres. We now have a three bedroom home that is all on one floor. There is no yard to speak of. The main regret for me is that there is no garage, but only a driveway wide enough for a single car. So we have to park the cars one behind the other and that means a lot of juggling the cars back and forth.

Overall, yes its nice here and its very quiet. I think some of the more elderly folks who live here are very set in their ways. We haven’t met too many of them yet. They have a tendency to stay inside their homes.

We went to a couple of holiday dinners in the clubhouse. We discovered that most of the folks are rather cliquish and don’t seem to be too welcoming to new faces. So we may forgo any more of those social events unless we know some of our more friendly neighbors are going to be attending too.

Overall, I would recommend living in this type of community if you want to downsize and simplify. But unlike living in a single family home, there are lots of rules to follow and it is very high density. There are plenty of friendly folks around, but you have to be assertive to find them and get involved. Otherwise, it could be a lonely place.

Life Transitions

My blog! My blog! I had forgotten about my blog! That is until this morning when a kind soul stumbled upon it and decided to follow me. Getting a notice that I have a new follower has spurred me into action. My blog! How could I have forgotten you?


Life transitions. I haven’t written a blog post since last May. And, oh my, how my life has changed since then. Here are some highlights. Perhaps some of them are worthy of a blog post or two on their own.

* Sold the house, retired, and drove across the country from Pennsylvania to California.
* Lived temporarily with a relative and her family for 7 weeks.
* Moved into the new home, which is basically half of the size of the prior home (if you count the basement).
* Traveled to Eastern Europe.
* Traded in the Ford Focus (only 2 years old) on a new Honda CR-V.
* Reverting back to Protestantism from Catholicism.
* And finally, adjusting to the new life.

Life transitions. They are as natural as the changing seasons. Some transitions are more easily managed than others. And some transitions are an opportunity for a fresh start in life.

I guess I realize I am at a juncture now. I have decisions to make about how I am going to move forward in life. I want to try new things, meet new people, travel, and experience things I have only up to now dreamed about. I wonder where my journey is going to take me next.

Life transitions. They can shake you and bring you to rediscover your core identity. I think that is happening to me. Moving back to California has put me back in touch with my roots…back in touch with my family and the familiar area where I grew up. Distant memories from childhood come flooding back. I question if who I became when I lived elsewhere is the same person I would have been if I had never moved. And who is the person I want to be? Now is the time to explore, brainstorm, consider the make-over before my life begins to naturally solidify into new patterns.

Writing this blog is a step towards becoming who I want to be in this stage of my life. I welcome you to come along for the ride.

It’s like “Living in Macys”

The other day, I was lamenting on FaceBook about how hard it is to live in a home staged to sell. There is no longer anything personal out on display. The stager has provided appropriate decor in place of personal momentos. Some rooms have been repainted in a more neutral “Pottery Barn” look to appeal to a young family…colors chosen by the painter and the real estate agent. The house is no longer my home, it is a commodity that is ready for the next owner to personalize.

When I mentioned living in a staged home, one of my FaceBook friends who has recently sold her own home, told me that her husband said that living in a staged home is like “living in Macys”. I like that and I pondered it.

martha stewart

Imagine living in Macy’s. Just what would that be like? Would Martha Stewart and Donald Trump stop by for a visit? You would have your pick of any style of furnishings that you like. Everything would be shiny and new and always on display. Always on display…those are the key words.

When you live in a staged house, it must always be in showroom condition, ready for a perspective buyer at a moment’s notice. When the call comes that an agent would like to show the home, there is the frantic rushing around to make sure everything looks just perfect. Tossing wet towels in the dryer, making sure all dirty dishes are stowed in the dishwasher, mail and papers are put out of sight, and general running through the house to make sure everything is in place and ready for the showing..including all lights turned on. Then a mad dash out the door before the visitors arrive. This is followed by ‘where should we go for an hour’ and bated breath waiting for feedback on how the house showed.

Thank goodness this is just temporary…at least I sure hope so! Although I love living in a clean and uncluttered house, there is a lot of stress in keeping it pristine and in show condition. I’m looking forward to the day the house sells, and I can go back to living in a more relaxed state. I think I would rather have visits from the dust bunnies than Martha Stewart.

Moving Home to California to Retire

Blogs should have a theme and should be posted on a regular basis. This is common knowledge. This is what I have not been practicing. I don’t know how to come up with a topical theme. If I write at all, it will be about whatever pops into my mind. I’m not looking for hundreds of followers. So if you happen upon my blog in your searching, I welcome you and hope you find entertaining reading. I hope you’ll come back and see if I have posted something new, but I won’t guarantee that I have.

I follow a blog that I really enjoy. The writer lives in London and she posts every (well, most) Sunday. I eagerly look forward to her blog. She is someone who is in the midst of a life change…changing where she lives and looking for new employment.

I suppose in a way I am like her in my current stage of life. I haven’t moved yet, but the house is up for sale and when the move is complete, I will be heading home to California. I’m living in a beautiful area of the East Coast right now. But it’s not home. I miss my family and the sunshine and the ocean. I do not miss the smog and the crowded freeways and the earthquakes. But home is home and that’s where my heart is.

I’m also going to retire when I move. That’s a big change. I’ve been looking forward to not having to get up and go to work everyday. But suddenly today, on Memorial Day 2013 when I’m home from work, I realize that there is a good possibility that I could find myself with SO much time on my hands that I could become….BORED! Oh, I’ve read so much about making sure you have hobbies and interests to keep you busy when you retire. You have to have a plan about how you are going to spend your time. And I’ve nodded and thought to myself  “Sure, that’s not going to be a problem for me. I have plenty of things that will keep me busy!” But today, I started to question if that is really true. I guess I’m going to have to come up with some goals and schedules.

Another big change is that this will be a big downsize. Currently, the house is around 2600 square feet. In this area of the country, it’s a medium-sized house. And with .75 acres there is a lot of wildlife and trees to enjoy. I love watching the birds and the squirrels and the rabbits. We have mockingbirds here that I particularly enjoy. They are so precocious and have a beautiful song. I am trying to really savor and enjoy everything about living in my little secluded hideaway here. But I will have no regrets when it is time to move. I eagerly look forward to my new life in California.

I’m going to have much more to write about this whole experience. So if you are interested, check back.


Seiged by Seacret

It’s been a long time since I’ve written here. But I had an interesting experience the other day and I wanted to share it. I have a feeling there are a lot of others who have stories like mine they might want to share.

I live near a very large mall…one of the largest in the United States. I rarely go there because of the amount of local traffic. And usually, I figure I don’t need to purchase anything bad enough to suffer through what it takes to get there, find a place to park, and then walk through the acres of stores to find what I don’t need. My alternative is a small mall near where I work and normally that suits me just fine.

At my local mall, there used to be a particular kiosk where the salesman was particulary obnoxious. He used guerilla tactics to track down his prey. Anyone who came within shouting distance of that kiosk was sure to get accosted by this guy. He would offer a sample and then ask to look at your hands. Well, no way! I would take long detours and go through department stores to avoid this guy. I would do anything it took to avoid that section of the mall corridor.

So how is it then that I found myself in this large mall being sweet talked by a saleswoman using the same tactics? I really can’t explain how it happened. I was innocently walking by, saw her and tried to pretend I didn’t. I tried to keep walking…really I did. But there was something about her that was compelling…so I took the sample and yes, I let her look at my hands. “Oh,” she says, “you wash your hands a lot! Look at those ridges. That’s why you have splitting nails. Let me show you how I can help you!”  I rolled my eyes…and let her carry on.

She was demonstrating one of those little buffing blocks that clear away your ridges and make your nails smooth and shiny. I love those buffing blocks and quite honestly was in the market for a new one. But I was planning on buying a cheap one at the drug store. By time she finished demonstrating all the nail care products, my hand was looking pretty good and I was just about convinced…except for the price. I knew she could see I was thinking of relenting, and so she pulled out all the stops. Looking at me very closely, like I was a close friend and confident and telling me she was going to make me an offer because she really liked me. I laughed and told her she was an excellent sales person. She smiled and carried on. She said, “Ok, I am going to offer”….and I interrupted and said…”Oh, I know, two for the price of one, right?”  and I laughed. She looked taken aback and DID offer that. And yes, I did buy. Not only that, but I also bought some eye serum she demonstrated too.

Guess what? These seem to be quality products and yes, I think they work. That’s why I bought them. They were pricey, but when I look at the website, I see that I paid less than the published prices…even the sale prices for the nail products.

Why did I succumb and buy these products?  The first reason is that I did like the results I was seeing from the demonstrations. But in addition, I liked the sale person. She was really very good, convincing, personable, and out to make a sale, no matter what. I liked her determination and her attitude. Just like all of us, she’s trying to make a living and she is good at it. Her winning manner really is what made the sale.

She didn’t exactly reel me in…I went willingly.


The Kindness of Strangers

There is so much negativity in the world these days. We are surrounded by it and it is constantly reported in the media.

I prefer to focus on more positive things. I was thinking about this today at lunch. I was eating a salad in the mall food court near where I work. A young mother was holding her toddler son in her arms, while trying to position the stroller and place something inside it. The stroller lost balance and began to fall. A man sitting at a nearby table jumped up to catch the stroller. The mother expressed her thanks while her young son stared at the stranger with wide eyes. The man returned to his seat and the mother resumed what she was doing.

It was all over in a matter of seconds and I’m sure no one thought twice about it. It was just one of those every day courtesies that people do all the time.

But as I thought about it I realized how much we need other people to help us get through every day. And isn’t it true that it is the little things in life that really matter? Had the man not jumped up to help, the stroller would have crashed down, perhaps hitting the child on the way. All eyes would have turned to the mother and I can imagine she would have been somewhat embarassed. It was just a little incident that was avoided because of a man’s quick thinking, concern, and kindness. Not really a big deal, I guess.

But, in this season of gift giving, maybe the best gift isn’t a large expensive present, but instead the present of being present…and there to extend a kindness and a smile.

A Random Act of Culture

I was in the mall near where I live and walked past the entrance to Macy’s. I thought I heard a couple of voices singing and peered into the store. I saw a group of people standing around, apparently listening to the singing. Intrigued, I entered the store, only to soon discover that many of those I thought were watching had started singing too. It was a flash mob I had wandered into!

It was absolutely unexpected and totally delightful. I wish I would have had the presence of mind to pull out my phone and take some pictures or capture the sounds. But I was so enthralled and captivated that all I could do was stand there and enjoy the experience.

At the end of the ‘performance’, someone raised a sign that said ‘You’ve just experienced a Random Act of Culture.”  How wonderful!!!

Here’s a link to a flash mob that happened last year. It’s pretty awesome!!


Classical music for the masses

Andre Rieu

A few days ago, I attended a concert in the large city near where I live. It was held in the large venue where you will find major league sports and rock concerts. But this particular event was neither. It was a concert by Andre Rieu and the Johann Strauss Orchestra.

The tickets were acquired by making a donation to our local PBS station while they were airing an Andre Rieu concert. The music was enjoyable, but truthfully, I wasn’t overly excited about attending the concert in person. I was expecting it to be rather dull and hokey.

Our seats were on the floor level, I guess about mid-way back and off to the right side. I was comfortable on the padded seats until an extremely large husband and wife took the seats next to me. He was so large that he was partially on her seat and she was so large that she was partially on mine. Our hips and thighs touched during the whole concert. Makes me shiver to recall that part.

Once the concert began, it took me a couple of minutes to acclimate and just relax into it. But once I did, I found the whole concert to be exhilarating and lots of fun. Andre Rieu is a showman. He is an expert at engaging the audience and making the time you are there one of complete enjoyment and happiness. In fact, he calls his music ‘happy music’. Besides the wonderful music being played, my eyes were taking in the beautiful setting and the vibrant colors of the ballgowns worn by the orchestra. There was fun interplay between the orchestra members and everyone in the venue was having a good time.

I have always been partial to Johann Strauss waltzes. As a child, I remember playing them on our old record player over and over again. I would dance and twirl and pretend I was a princess dancing to the beautiful music. Several of those same waltzes were played at this concert and as I closed my eyes and listened, I thought back to my childhood happiness at this same music.  I hated for the evening to end and apparently so did everyone else.

Afterwards, I was reflecting on the evening and thinking about classical music as a whole. I am not one who typically attends classical concert events. I am mostly uneducated about this genre of music and find some of it to be complicated to listen to, unless there is a rondo refrain that returns the music to a theme and helps make it more cohesive to my untrained ear.

I have a suspicion that classical music critics do not like Andre Rieu. The fact that he makes this music enjoyable and fun and employs a few silly antics to engage the audience is not what one typically expects to experience at a classical music concert. This was no dour concert where you must sit quietly and listen and then applaud politely at the end. This was bold and boisterous and exuberant. Andre Rieu is making classical music accessible and enjoyable to people like me, who enjoy good music but who might otherwise feel out-of-place and intimidated.

Bottom line? If you have an opportunity to attend an Andre Rieu concert….GO!!!