Spring Forward, Look Back

Spring is a time of hope, when promises unfold and the world is fresh and green. It’s also the time when I reflect on life-changing milestones and special memories.

Every April, I celebrate the evening that I reluctantly attended a barn dance outside Lawrence, Kansas and met my future husband. I also remember the time, four years later (to the day) when he defended his thesis and we prepared for our move to the Netherlands (the next day!). An overwhelming cascade of memories mark the flight to Holland, arriving in that unfamiliar village that would become home, and meeting a friend who would instantly become family. I also think of young daughters searching excitedly for brightly colored Easter eggs hidden among the daffodils or scattered throughout the house.

It was quiet this year, and a college visit took the place of the traditional Easter egg hunt.

My friend sent photos of her home – a beautiful farm in Holland, ready for friends and family sharing a festive holiday brunch.

Image

Image

Resurrection and Light

The last few months have been a quietly busy time of slow transition and transformation.  A former employer’s “reinvention” (and reductions) motivated me to do some reinventing of my own and I’m still working on it.  Energy focused elsewhere, I found it difficult to blog.  But with spring comes renewal and the desire to re-energize, engage and connect.

After recently authoring a business book, I’m ready to take on more personal projects and the whole concept of reinvention has me thinking. I’m interested in stories of people who have found purpose and passion, changed for the better and are making a difference. As I connect with others and share my ideas and vision, they tell their inspiring stories – each like a luminaria, lighting the way forward. I’m not sure where this path will lead, but I’m hopeful.

luminaria

Especially interesting are people in the “third age” of life who are transforming dreams into reality and moving from retired to “rewired”. Instead of “old age pensioners,” these people are active elders, vital mentors, community builders and trailblazers.

When I was doing some research for an article, I was looking for a synonym for “elder.” I wanted some variety and didn’t really like the word “senior.” Thesaurus.com offered few alternatives, so I looked up “old.” Synonyms such as decrepit, tired, broken down, debilitated, enfeebled, exhausted, grizzled, hoary, impaired, inactive, infirm and wasted made me realize the contempt with which we view aging and those among us who are well-experienced. Instead of wisdom, we see irrelevance. Instead of venerable, we see obsolete.

My research is taking me to a re-imagined world where the journey leads to connection, learning, teaching, growth and renewal. I have some time to go before I am well into that third stage of life, but I’m looking for alternatives to the typical retirement and plan to share my findings with others.

Do you have stories of renewal and reinvention? I’d love to hear about it!

 

Letters from the Front

Collection at the WWI Museum in KC

Collection at the WWI Museum in KC

Museums don’t always thrill me, with their guards and heavy silence and collections of objects trapped lifeless behind glass.  But I was pleasantly moved and surprised by a visit to Kansas City’s World War I Museum during a recent trip to my hometown.

Housed in the Liberty Memorial, this is the only museum in the U.S. dedicated solely to World War I.  Featuring exhibits and interactive displays that engage all senses, the facility appeals to history buffs and those who aren’t so enamored with conflicts and hard-to-remember timelines (like myself).  I always enjoyed living history, oral history and first-hand accounts that told individual stories.  Primary resources like diaries and letters speak to me and I like candid photos, music and letters that describe the laughter, love and pain absent from textbooks.

A collection of envelopes that had encased letters from a father on the front to his son in San Antonio caught my attention.  Skillfully drawn and addressed to Private Walter L. Myers, these miniature works range from comical to patriotic and capture remarkable everyday experiences, from one soldier to another.  The sketches carry a message through time and space, so that a century later we understand at first glance.  Connection in the face of conflict.  Textbooks document the dates and timelines, victories and losses, nationalities, maps, destruction and casualties.  But a comical sketch sent from “somewhere in France” or a photo of the artist drawing in a distant combat zone soars above boundaries like the hot air balloons depicted by Myers, an artillery scout.  It doesn’t matter if the soldier is French, American, German or Russian – he’s a man and a father, far away from home.

After touring the museum, I visited the post office and bought 2 books of “vintage seed package” stamps.  I haven’t written to my daughters in awhile – maybe I’ll get out the colored pencils today and get drawing.

Badges and Treasure

Girl Scout Badges

Self discovery takes many forms.  Assessments can be helpful to uncover your strengths, interests and abilities. You can be a tourist in your own home and examine bookshelves and spaces, music and tools.  But I found the most helpful clue hiding in my closet and discovered that my interests and passions were there all along.

My mom had kept my Girl Scout sash for safekeeping and I was a little startled when I looked more closely at the collection of badges.  It was all there.  The hobo bandana (it’s called a bindle – there’s an official term) hinted at my inner vagabond and the footsteps and tent foreshadowed my cross-country walk and many camping adventures.  There is the dutch oven and grill, different than my titanium cookware and compact camping stove, but with the same function and simple pleasure.  The sculpture, palette and brushes, tools, basket and yarn doll bring back memories of craft-making with my daughters and a forgotten love of drawing, painting and clay.  The treble and bass clef are a nod to my enjoyment of music and the ingredients are evidence of the beginning of a lifetime of cooking and culinary exploration.  I don’t experience much of the four seasons down here in Texas, but remember watching in anticipation for the first spring flowers and loving Indian summer, cool weather and autumn leaves.

What are your badges?  What activities do you enjoy?  Look closely and find the treasure of you.

Entering the Neutral Zone

Night Shining Clouds

We’re not talking about the space separating the Romulans or Klingons from the Federation.  It has nothing to do with outer space all.

Instead, the Neutral Zone is inner space and it’s not an easy place to be.

In his book, “Managing Transitions”, William Bridges outlined 3 stages that people go through when experiencing change.  As opposed to your typical story structure of beginning, middle and end, the initial stage of the Transition Model is Ending.  This stage is marked by resistance and upheaval and involves loss and letting go.  Stage 2 is the Neutral Zone, a time of confusion and uncertainty.  The final stage of this model is one of New Beginning, when one has finally accepted the change, has a new sense of energy and experiences rebirth.

As its name implies, the Neutral Zone is neither positive nor negative and can feel more dark than light.  The Neutral Zone feels something like a forest; a symbol used often in ancient mythology and fairy tales.  In “The Uses of Enchantment,” Bruno Bettelheim writes, “Since ancient times the near-impenetrable forest in which we get lost has symbolized the dark, hidden, near-impenetrable world of our unconscious.”  In our 24/7 world focused on productivity and doing more, it’s difficult not to get impatient at this point and to want to just get on with it. 

But that would be a mistake.

This phase is a bridge between the old that we’ve lost and the new that is not yet clear.  As Bridges points out, change is just something that happens – a situation.  However, transition is internal.  It’s important to stop, acknowledge that transition is not easy and to fully feel it before moving on.  Otherwise, we’re not fully open to the new beginning that lies ahead.  Transition and transformation share a common root which means “across” or “beyond,” but also implies that we must move “through.”

So I enter the forest unafraid and with no expectations.  I stand on the bridge with open heart and beginner’s mind.  And I trust that I’ll emerge in a better place.

Mothering

We have mothers, we are mothers, we’re connected no matter where or when by the common experience of mothering or being cared for.  I’m thankful for a mother whose love, acceptance, creativity, sense of humor and encouragement shaped me as a person and a parent.  And the joy that motherhood has brought me for all of these years leaves me lost for words.

I’ll just show you what I mean.

Mom and Grandmother

Mom and Grandmama

Me and Grandmother

Me and Grandmama

Young Family

Young Family

Me and Mom

Me and Mom

By 25 my mom had three!

By 25 my mom had three!

My mom and sister

My mom and sister

3 Generations

3 Generations

Long Day

Long Day

Family Portrait

Family Portrait

Signs of the Times (& VW Vans)

These landmarks, signs and vans caught my eye on a recent trip to Austin.  My husband says that if I had my way I’d live in a VW van.  He may be right.

Johnny's Bike Shop.  Classic.

Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop. Classic.

What's Your Favorite?

What’s your favorite?

Hut's Hamburgers

Totally Austin

Totally Austin

Lucy's Retired Surfers Bar & Restaurant

Where retired surfers go to eat

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