Me Time

Even when I was a little kid I understood the value of time spent alone. Family life, for me, seemed confusing and chaotic. I struggled with my place in the dynamics of everyday life. I knew that I was less-than my older brother who was revered by my mother. When my sister was born, now I was less-than both of my siblings.

I loved being by myself. As a small child, it meant being out on the front porch, standing there, do nothing other than watching whatever transpired in the neighborhood. I didn’t play with dolls, probably because the only ones I had were kept stored in my parent’s closet on a high shelf.

I didn’t read yet and no one read to me. I didn’t go to school until kindergarten-age, and only then because my parents thought I was dumb. Interestingly enough, school reinforced that opinion as I was the most backward kid in the class, even through fifth grade.

The one toy that meant the most to me, that allowed me precious “me time” was my mother’s cookie tin of mismatched buttons. I played with them for hours, day after day. I sorted them by size and color, by shape and by how many holes in the center. Then I’d dump them back in the tin and start all over. I spent hours doing this, day after day, all year long.

In the winter I played on the kitchen floor while my mother napped. I the summer I took them outside and sat on the grass. It’s amazing that I am still not sorting buttons today as I found it both comforting and relaxing.

I have progressed from those early days it terms of what I enjoy doing in my free time. I love shopping. I can spend an hour easily roaming through stores, buying little to nothing. I am a great sale-shopper and almost never buy something that isn’t discounted.

I love looking at styles, brands, colors. I love trying on clothes, especially now that I have lost a significant amount of weight. I love feeling the fabrics and imaging them against my skin. I can tell by that action alone whether or not I would like something.

I love reading. I mostly read contemporary fiction, but I also branch into fantasy, Young Adult, and on rare occasions when a book is recommended by a friend, nonfiction.

What I love about reading is that it takes you into stories, into characters’ lives, into places where you have probably never gone and never will. It allows you to follow in another’s skin, seeing, feeling, tasting all the things that they experience. It’s an out-of-your world journey. I can spend hours reading.

I love exercising, especially swimming. When I am in the water swimming lap after lap, my entire body relaxes into the feet of water streaming over my body. The ritual of traversing the pool, turning, doing it again and again and again is a special time for me. It is something that I do alone. Well, not entirely as there are other swimmers in the pool, but I am unencumbered by family, by needs, by demands. It is just me.

I get the same rush from the elliptical, the stationary bike, the machines. It is me challenging myself to do more, to be stronger, to last longer. And it gives me time to think, if I want, or I can watch whatever TV program is available.

If I didn’t love writing, I wouldn’t have this blog. There is something calming about putting thoughts into the written word. It gives me an opportunity to analyze where I’ve been and where I’m going. It often gives new perspectives into my past which then form my present and future.

At times, when I am writing fiction, it brings me deep into my character’s life. I get to see what she sees, hear what she hears, feel her emotions. Her confusion as she navigates her world. Her delight when something redeeming occurs. Her perceptions of where she fits in her world. Yes, I can alter those dimensions, and often I do, but I also allow her to take charge of my fingers.

Me Time is important to me. It allows me to pause, evaluate, and reorganize myself. It gives me a sense of peace in what can be, at times, a disorderly world. It reinforces who I was, who I am, who I will become.

I cherish those moments.

I also love being with my family and with friends, but those experiences are different. There you fit into a mold, one that sometimes others have crafted for you. You play the mother, wife, friend game, participating in conversations that sometimes move past your realm of experience. This is where Me Time comes in handy, for when things are out of my control, even in a crowd, I can step back and allow my thoughts to roam free.

My trust in Me Time was formulated when I was quite small. It has sustained me ever since. It is a treasure that I hope everyone shares.

Thoughts on a Beautiful Day

Another day awakens

Promising calm winds

Sunny skies

A touch of clouds

That guide me through

The hectic times of my life

 

I stretch, drawing in

Energy to replenish

My weary soul

To revitalize desires

And strengthen interests

A healing, needed balm

 

The day beckons me forth

Greeted by the early

call of morning birds

Filled with bounteous joy

That fills my soul

With unbounded joy

I burst into expectant smile

 

The day is mine to conquer

I shall vanquish foes

Destroy doubts

Eliminate naysayers

While rising to the peak

Of my talent

 

Ah, the dreams of a new day

A day of joyous victory

To fill my sights.

I rejoice.

Happy People

Gwyneth loved living at Euclid Retirement Home. It was clean, comfortable and she was well cared for. The staff was kind and helpful. Her room wasn’t large, but she didn’t have to share it with anyone, unlike friends she knew who lived in other, not quite so nice places.

Her favorite thing about Euclid, though, was how pleasant everyone was. There were no grumpy people among the staff or the residents. Everyone walked around with smiles on their faces. Even those whose communication skills were limited smiled all the time. It was as if Gwyneth had fallen down the rabbit hole and landed in the land of happy.

Before she moved in, she was sad and lonely. Her children lived in other states, far away, and seldom came to see her. Her friends had moved on, either through death or a lack of independence, so she had no one to pal around with.

Her days were the same: get up, eat, eat some more, read, watch television, go to bed. Sometimes she went to the movies, but it wasn’t the same as when she would go with her husband or friends. Who do you discuss the movie with when no one was there?

Sometimes she’d treat herself to a meal out, but then she was a sad, lonely old woman sitting in a booth by herself. She’d bring a book and read in order to have something to do, but it wasn’t the same as sharing conversation over a good meal.

Her life was one big lonely day after another.

Until she heard about Euclid. A friend discovered it first and moved in when an opening appeared. Nancy loved the place and spoke highly of the wonderful staff. Nancy bragged about how much better she felt shortly after moving in, that she no longer looked forward to death, and in fact, enjoyed every single day.

She invited Gwyneth over for lunch one day so Gwyneth could see for herself how happy everyone was. And she was right. The residents sat around the large dining room table with smiles creasing their eyes. The staff sang and danced as they delivered the food, and sang some more as they cleaned up afterward.

The atmosphere was so low-keyed that Gwyneth was surprised that anything got done, but the residents were clean, their clothes were spotless, and her friend Nancy’s room was dust free. The furniture in the common room was a bit dilapidated, but still comfortable. The walls and floors were clean, and when Gwyneth had her tour of the facilities, she was pleased with how sparkling clean the kitchen and bathrooms were.

It was so perfect that Gwyneth inquired as to whether or not there was an opening. There wasn’t, of course, but there also was no one on the waiting list. Gwyneth completed the necessary paperwork and that was it. All she had to do was wait until someone either died or moved out.

Meanwhile she sorted through the stuff in her home. She went through closets, drawers and cabinets. She got rid of clothes she hadn’t worn in years, blankets that had sat in cabinets waiting for company to need them, and excess silverware that she wouldn’t need. Placemats and matching napkins…gone. Tablecloths, even fancy ones, stuffed into giveaway bags.

Even the piles of cookbooks disappeared. Anything she wouldn’t be able to take with her to Euclid left the house. She kept enough furniture to live with, enough pots and pans to cook basic meals, and the clothes she wore every day. Well, a few good dresses, but that was it.

Her son helped her find a realtor and arranged for an appraisal of the house. Once she knew fair market value, she put it up for sale, thinking that if all worked out, an opening at Euclid would magically appear when she had no place to live.

And it did. No sooner had a buyer made a reasonable offer for her house, not just meeting the sales price, but adding an additional $75,000 as enticement, than a room became available. Gwyneth would move in her new place just as the buyers were taking over her house.

Even though she wasn’t sure she’d like living in a home, Gwyneth’s mood improved after the first meal. She felt calmer, more relaxed and happier than she could ever remember feeling, even when her husband was alive and her kids still lived at home. That night she slept well, with no nightmares chasing her thoughts.

She enjoyed being with those residents that were able to converse. Every night they had pleasant discussions about the current political mess in Washington or movies or happenings in the news. After dinner they competed against each other to get the answers on Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. Sometimes they played card games, which were rollicking bits of pure unadulterated fun.

Gwyneth knew she had made the right decision because every day was the same. Happy people, happy staff.

The only complaint that she had was that one resident, Lawrence, a grizzled old man of about eighty, seemed to have an unusual amount of company. Day in and day out people came to the door. Lawrence would take them to his room, and within a few minutes the visitors would be gone.

The staff seemed to like Lawrence more than the other residents, which was also bothersome. They also visited the man’s room quite frequently throughout the day, then would bustle into the kitchen. Amid the sounds of cooking would be giggles and loud guffaws.

One day the police walked through the door, dressed in what Gwyneth thought of as combat gear. That caused quite a stir. The residents were abuzz as the police searched the kitchen, opening every cabinet and drawer. They went through the massive china cabinet that stood in the dining room. They opened the envelopes that contained residents’ prescription medications and examined the contents of every bottle.

The cops went down the hall while the residents were sequestered in the front room. Another hour went by, while everyone speculated about the purpose of the visit, what they might be searching for.

Eventually the cops conferred with the manager who had been called to the home. Shortly after that, Lawrence was taken out in handcuffs and all the police officers left.

There was great speculation as to why he was arrested. Someone thought he was running a secret gambling operation on the computer in his room. Another guessed that he was a pedophile who was collecting images of children.

But no one would ever have guessed the real reason for his arrest if the manager hadn’t sat down with everyone and explained what had happened.

Lawrence had been buying and selling marijuana over the Internet. The police found over $20,000 worth of the drug in his room along with a stash of money, hidden between his mattress and box springs. He was being accused of selling drugs to the staff, to residents and to those non-residents who dropped by to visit him.

Gwyneth had wondered why anyone as popular as Lawrence would live in a home. After all, he seemed to have a goodly number of family and friends that came by, day after day. Well, now she knew that they weren’t family, but customers.

The next day there was an account of the arrest in the local paper. The police suspected Lawrence after seeing him approach a red sedan at the corner of Thornton and Fremont Boulevard, a sedan that was under surveillance for possible drug dealing. They followed Lawrence home and staked out the house for several days. After witnessing the number of strangers who came and went, they sought a court order.

And that’s how they caught him.

Everyone at the home was dismayed. Lawrence was a happy man and a good conversationalist. The staff members that were arrested were also good people. One was a mother of several small children and another was a cook who babysat her grandkids on weekends.

It was a shame. Lawrence’s arrest brought a great sadness to the home. No longer were the residents happy. Long gone were the pleasant conversations. No more did they compete over the game show for answers.

And the replacement staff wasn’t nearly as happy, either. Many of them were downright grouchy and seemed to resent working with a bunch of old folks. Slowly the house fell apart. Things weren’t as clean as before. There was grime in the bathroom and dust built up in the corners. The carpets were seldom vacuumed and the quality of the food disintegrated.

Gwyneth and Nancy organized the residents in the writing of a letter of protest, begging that Lawrence be allowed to return once he had served his time. They saw him not as a drug-dealer, but as the catalyst of all things good about Euclid.

Months later, when Lawrence was released from jail, he returned, but without a computer and without his car. He was restricted to the home and no longer did countless visitors walk through the doors.

But the mood slowly changed. It began with the staff. All of a sudden they were happy to be there. They changed sheets and diapers with smiles and laughs. There was giggling from the kitchen and guffaws as meals were served.

And then the residents began to smile again. And talk again. And compete over game show answers.

And Gwyneth was happy to be alive.

My Happy List

  1. First, last and everywhere in-between, my husband

Who loves me no matter my size, my hair style, my interests.

  1. My grown children who bring me intense pride,

Who are all kind, gentle, loving people.

  1. Grandchildren, all seven of them, who are talented, intelligent

Loving beings who bring tears to my eyes when I have to say goodbye.

  1. Best friends who read what I write, who offer constructive criticism,

Who support my efforts and who listen to my concerns and interests

and trust me with their stories and concerns and interests

and who love me, always and forever.

  1. Music of many types and being able to sing along,

especially in the church choir where the words mean so much!

  1. Tempting, desirable chocolate as long as it is

without peanut butter and peanuts!

  1. Pizza: Oh! How I love pizza. I could eat it for breakfast,

lunch and dinner and never get tired of it.

  1. Traveling: to visit family, first and foremost, but also to

places I’ve never been to before and always dreamt of seeing.

  1. My cat and my birds, even though the cat is only cuddly when

he so desires and the birds don’t like to be touched, but I love to hear them

chatter and sing and watch them flit about when out of their cages.

  1. All the freedoms that we have as Americans. To be free to travel,

to attend meetings, to post my writing on the Internet, to worship as I please

and allow others to do the same, to be free to drive wherever I want to go,

to go to the theater and see movies and have open access to television that is not politically controlled.

I suppose if I had more time I could create an endless list, but these are the top ten things that make me happy. I apologize if I left you out!