Discovering Who We Are, Faith

4 Steps to Resilience During Mid-Life Turbulance
Do you ever feel like your hair is on fire?
I don’t mean literally on fire – just so pushed  and so frazzled that your hair might as well be on on fire.Image result for woman with hair on fire
I used to look at women in the autumn of their lives and think that they had it so easy.  Now I know that aging is not for the faint of heart.  It requires a stability and resilience that, if I didn’t have  it before, I need to cultivate it fast. I need to bounce.  I need resilience.
So far I’ve had to have the following parts removed: my right eye, a portion of my left kidney, my uterus, and both my knees.  I’ve had my shoulder rebuilt which took  6 months to heal.  My husband’s Air Force Reserve activity activated him at 55 years of age early in the Iraq war.  He ended five years later  wounded of mind and body. All this was scattered throughout the last 15 years and in addition to the normal wear, tear, heartbreak and celebrations of middle age.  You know about that wear and tear; our kids grow and go, our adult kids end up needing more help that we think that we ever did, our parents age, get sick and pass, husband’s retire and become insane, and the money we gave to our adult kids reduce our retirement savings.   Normal wear and tear.
I found a method that works for me and my friends and can be easily remembered when I feel as though my hair is on fire and I can’t move another step. Like so many lessons it comes from elementary school.
The Four Directions to Bounce Back.
1. Stop
2. Look
4. Move if its safe, otherwise stay where you are until it is.
Although this was the mantra drummed into my brain when learning how to cross the street, it as done we well during the last 15 years.
1. Stop.
This one is tough because most of my life has been go followed by go faster:  small son is running away into the supermarket aisles- run after, boss has a deadline – work harder and faster, finish work , come home tired and need to make dinner and clean and help with homework – work longer, faster, harder.  A large part of our lives has been to move and keep moving but now I Image result for vintage photo of children at stop sign have needed to learn to stop.  What has  been happening is big.  I felt pulled by the hugeness of my parents’ needs, my adult family’s needs, my husband’s needs, and my body’s collapse  Each event involved life, death and well-being and as an adult there was no where to hide.  I couldn’t call Mom and ask for her wisdom anymore, she needed mine. The solution outlined in Eat,Pray, Love wasn’t an option, or even wanted.  So, I needed to do something else.  I discovered that I needed to come to a full and complete stop before I could go.  I needed to stop in order to look. I’m not advocating that we run away .  I’m not advocating that we climb into bed and pull the co
2. Look.
 Look at myself in the mirror and see that I my hair is not on fire.  Look around and take stock; what’s good and what’s bad and – here’s the toughest- what’s neither.   Everything can feel as though it’s an emergency, but when I stopped I could see that a lot was OK.  I wasn’t falling apart and neither was my life, even though it felt like it.
3.  Listen.
 When I’m racing so is my mind and the noise of the race  crowds everything out.  If I Image result for vintage photo of woman listeningtake small time outs and just listen to my heart I can hear where I need to go.  When the noise is just too loud, I sit and listen to the sounds around me, just listen and identify each sound.  It’s an activity that slows my mind, drops my heart rate and readys me for listening to my heart.  My heart, I need to listen to my heart and soul.  My heart tells me the truth.  My heart tells me what’s safe and what isn’t.
4.  Move if its safe and stay still if its not.
 Looking and listening gives me information.  I need to sort that information and decide my next move is OR realize that despite all my efforts, I need to stop.  There maybe nothing to do – and then it’s time for chocolate, or a bike ride,  or a pedicure; something that nourishes me.  If you don’t now what nourishes you check out check out my post, Scavenger Hunt for My Life.
When I follow my childhood instructions for crossing the street, I am better able to negotiate my crazy life.  I can figure out how to bounce back.
Family, Home, Relationships

Step-parenting:  It ain’t Norman Rockwell’s Family
I have been blessed to have been a part of a truly blended family for decades.  Holidays, birthdays, vacations have been spent with ex-spouses and their spouses.  The children of my step-children have been raised with all their Grandparents together.   Weddings have been planned together and vacations have been taken as one family.  It’s been work.  My husband and his spouse, whom I affectionately refer to as my wife-in-law, had to rise above their personal issues to try to make whole out of what had been fractured.    After decades of the best of situations and many interviews with other step-parents over the last year, here is what I have learned….. and for the stepparent it isn’t pretty.
1.  You chose them, they did not choose you.
 This is the truth that underscores all others.
2.  You need to make a greater commitment to them than to your spouse.
 I made a commitment to my spouse, loving him totally and he felt the same way – not so much for the step-children.  Universally step-children have an internal wall built by an angry failed marriage and the abandonment by a parent (come on naysayers, one has to leave and to a child it feels like Image result for norman rockwell lonelyabandonment, no matter what).   In order to earn their love and trust, you are going to have to break down those walls. Walls that don’t want to come down.   You better be sure that you are going to be there NO MATTER WHAT.  Your spouses love is given, but theirs is won.  Don’t try to win it if you aren’t serious, the cost for them is too dear.
3.  Making that commitment means your heart will stretch and grow beyond what you ever thought.
 You become their parent, but they aren’t  your children and accepting this means that you will know what selfless love is.  There will be times of bliss but may more times of bruising, and it won’t matter to anyone but you.  They don’t have to love or even like you, but you need to love them, and you can and will.  I am devoted to my step-family despite the next truth.
4.  You are disposable.
But it is.  Your step children have other parents, their allegiances are naturally for them.  This shows up more and more as the step children age, whether or not you’ve been around for a long, long time.  It’s counter-intuitive but true.
 In the beginning, when they are young, you kiss their boo-boos, hold them through nightmares, and cheer  them on during soccer games.  However, as adults, they have full lives: jobs, children, friends, and hobbies. There is not a lot of time left over.  As adults, there is a natural inclination to heal wounds with the original parent.  As time becomes precious there is a reptilian pull for the adult child to gravitate toward the biological parent for whatever time is left.
 The step-parent, no matter how wonderful the relationship,  becomes the third wheel.  It just happens.  No malice meant.
 Also, because of the abandonment issues caused by the divorce, there has/will be a teen tiny part in the minds of the children that expects you to leave. There is also a part that feels treasonous.   The love given to you by your step-children by nature is conditional.
5.  Holidays can just suck for the step-parent, but they are worse for the step-child.  Holidays, with the Normal Rockwell  painting to fuel our expectations, can be just tough, tough, tough.  For our step-children, their hearts hurt.  Gone is the safety of Santa and a warm Mother/Father family. Image result for norman rockwell thanksgiving Which house?  Which parent?   Don’t make it worse for them with your failed dreams and holiday hopes.  Remember numbers 1 and 2.  This is life you chose, they didn’t.
     As the step-parent of adult children, remember number 4, it really shows up here.  At broader family parties, you’ll be referred to by in-laws as the other, the fake grand-parent, and lots of derogatory names,  always whispered with in earshot.  You may not be introduced as the step-parent, because your step-children no longer need or want an extra parent.  They may be confused over what to call you.  Suddenly, you might be dropped from family status during introductions to the spouse of the parent;  this is “my mother’s husband” or “my father’s wife” and you have become by introduction, an outsider.  Worse still can be the spouses of your adult step-children for whom the introduction, the step-mother of my wife’s father, seems too long or awkward.   After almost thirty years, I suddenly began to be introduced as a close family friend.
     Because of number 4, you might find yourself, alone with your spouse.  The children are with Image result for norman rockwell lonelythe other parent, or have traditions of their own to build.  Plan for that time.
6. Your best life is hurting someone else.
During those wonderful times, when your family is cooking with gas and love is in the air; your step-children, spouse, and yourself are in love and the house is happy, means that another parent is being left out.  No matter what you’re spouse says, in most cases, the “ex” is not that bad.  He/she is just a person trying to get by, like you.  Don’t ignore that his/her pain of watching their children love someone else isn’t gigantic.
7.  You need to be tough as nails to be a good step-parent.
The other six points might be making you wonder, if it’s so hard why do it?  Knowing what I know now, after almost 30 years, would I do it again– I don’t know.   I would always suggest that people stay away from step-parenting, even in the best of blendings there can be far more pain than not.  Getting the best has been so much work and hurt and love and delight and sadness., that I occasionally wonder what my life would have been like. That’s not to say that I don’t have a happy life and a good marriage, I do.   But being a step-parent  has made me grow tougher on the outside and softer on the inside, more so than I ever wanted.
  I can’t indulge in what ifs, because what is has to be good enough, and despite complications it is. The love and devotion I have for my step-family is a gift.

Help for Aching Joints



Oh my aching muscles, or joints, or both.   It’s part of the deal – the growing older or getting in shape or doing  both deal.  And I won’t mention morning stiffness because a) just thinking about it makes me hurt all over again and b) just thinking about it makes me feel old.


In an effort to conquer those aches and twinges I’ve spent time in the drugstore aisles looking for a solution.  I have to admit too, that while I was in the drugstore aisle looking for a solution I felt old and embarrassed.   I am, after all too young to be here, thought I.  I was ready to answer any who asked, that I was there for an aging friend (because of course people ask perfect strangers in drugstores all the time “why are you in this aisle?”) anyway, back to the aisle.   It’s lined with ointments, unguents, rubs and wraps that ice or heat.  They often leave that telltale odor that I’m afraid just screams, “sore old person here”.   I would happily put up that if they worked, but they don’t.  Sure my muscle or joint is iced or heated, and that’s enough to distract me from the ouch, but really it’s just distraction not relief. And don’t get me started on the chemicals that my skin/body is absorbing for the pleasure of the distraction.


There are a few things about me that I should fess up to right now; 1) I’m cheap.  I don’t get pleasure spending money for flash.  If it doesn’t work, I won’t buy it.   2) I love research.  3) I’m stubborn as all get out.  Put these things together and I search and research for hours, days and well, as long as it takes, to find solutions.  I wanted a topical, healthy, sure thing solution.  After searching, followed by experimenting I found one – Magnesium Body Butter/Lotion from Wellness Mama.


Katie, the Wellness Mama, lauded this recipe as a sure thing.  I love most of her ideas and have never found anything on the site that disappointed so I thought I’d give it a whirl.


After I’d made it and it had set, I slathered it on and … nothing.  It didn’t smell, which was a good thing, but it didn’t ice or heat either.  No tingles.  No prickles.   Nothing.   Oh well.  Then 20 minutes later  I noticed, nothing,   No ache.  No pain.  Nothing.   Could it have been the result of the smell-less, ice-less, heat-less cream? I experimented the next day on an ache and 20 minutes later no ache.   It just seemed too simple.  Too gentle.  Too subtle.   It took a while for my mind to believe that this odorless, tingle-less, gentle cream worked.  And it worked EVERY TIME.


I began to make it for friends.  They reported the same experience.  The put it on, felt nothing and forgot about it until they realized sometime later that they felt nothing.  Their aches were gone, gently, subtly without notice.   At first they didn’t connect the cream with the relief.  It’s as if our brains have become hard wired to only expect relief with some sort of physical fanfare.  However, after the connect is made, they came back looking for more cream.



magnesium butter


So without further chatter here, direct from her wonderful website, is the Wellness Mama recipe for this miracle:

Magnesium Body Butter Recipe DIY


I’ve posted before about how to make your own magnesium oil, and I’ve seen posts on other blogs on how to make magnesium lotion. For summer, I wanted to figure out a recipe for a magnesium infused body butter that would also double as a mild sunscreen/tanning cream and I’m finally happy with the result. (Not sure why you’d add magnesium to lotion? This article talks about the benefits of magnesium)


This recipe uses all natural moisturizing ingredients and makes skin soft and silky. It is great for kids too and doesn’t have the tingling that regular magnesium oil has when you first start using it.


Magnesium Body Butter doesn’t have any preservatives, so I make in smaller batches and keep for up to two months without a problem. It can also be stored in the fridge for a thicker and cooling lotion that is great to use after sun exposure to help the body absorb Vitamin D.


Coconut oil and shea butter are both naturally SPF of 4-5 and magnesium is needed for absorption of Vitamin D, so this lotion is great for mild sun exposure. I use this or regular magnesium oil on my kids feet each night to help them sleep and boost magnesium levels. It is also great on sore muscles. You can add essential oils for scent, but be careful about essential oil use during pregnancy, and don’t use citrus oils if you’ll be using this in the sun as they increase sun sensitivity.


Magnesium Body Butter Ingredients:


1/2 cup magnesium flakes + 3 Tablespoons boiling water or 1/2 cup pre-made magnesium oil

1/4 cup unrefined coconut oil

2 Tablespoons emulsifying wax (Can also use beeswax, but it becomes more difficult to mix)

3 Tablespoons Shea Butter

What to Do:


Pour 3 tablespoons of boiling water in to the magnesium flakes in a small container and stir until it dissolves. This will create a thick liquid. Set aside to cool.

In a quart size mason jar inside a small pan with 1 inch of water, combine the coconut oil, emulsifying wax and shea butter and turn on medium heat.

When melted, remove the jar from the pan and let the mixture cool until room temp and slightly opaque. At this point, put in to a medium bowl or into a blender.

If in a bowl, use a hand blender or immersion blender on medium speed and start blending the oil mixture.

Slowly (starting with a drop at a time) add the dissolved magnesium mixture to the oil mixture while continuing blending until all of the magnesium mix is added and it is well-mixed.

Put in the fridge for 15 minutes and re-blend to get body butter consistency.

Store in fridge for a cooling lotion (best consistency) or at room temp for up to two months.”


Once you’ve tried this get back to me and let us know how it worked for you.

Discovering Who We Are

Are You a Diva’?

Diva: A diva (/ˈdiːvə/; Italian: [ˈdiːva]) is a celebrated female singer; a woman of outstanding talent in the world of opera, and by extension in theatre, cinema and popular music. The meaning of diva is closely related to that of prima donna. (

When I was little the only person associated with the term Diva was Maria Callas.  She was the ultimate prima donna.  An opera singer with an unmatchable voice.  A drama queen who’s on again- off again relationship with Maria Calls a Greek Tycoon, Ari Onassis, would rival any to today’s TV soap operas.  She was known for being temperamental and demanding; flying into rages if the orchestra made a mistake or Ari didn’t send the right gift.  She was a woman of presence.  She was a woman who demanded to be taken notice. She had sex.  The mothers who belonged to my suburban world scorned her.  She was held up as the opposite of womanliness…and yet, I admired secretly admired her.


Maria Callas knew her worth.  She knew what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to go after it.  She loved deeply and was passionate about life.  Her mistakes were very public but so were successes.  She was not shy about who she was or what she felt. To my eye she was what being a woman was all about; strong, tender, demanding, giving, sexual, loving and fearless- a conundrum to men but totally understandable to women.

In my teens and twenties I practiced different personae’s, trying them on like costumes.

In my thirties and forties it was about family.  As they grew, so did I.  I became confident in work and home.  I learned what I liked and what I didn’t, but most of the time it didn’t matter because I loved my family and what they liked came first.  They grew, got married, and grandkids came.  My parents died and I felt orphaned at 50.

In my 50’s, grown kids didn’t need me and I felt the pull toward invisibility.  My waist spread, I felt dowdy.  Men stopped looking and people in their twenties started calling my “ma’am”.   Maria Callas whispered in my ear that now was the time not only for my waist to spread, but also for me to spread my wings.

I knew what I liked.  I had earned my way, I stood tall and instead of drifting into invisibility I decided to demand respect.  When I looked into the mirror I was tempted to work hard a looking younger but after noticing how poorly my friends really looked with their collagen injected lips, their too skinny arms, and too young outfits, I decided to challenge myself to look healthy and strong. I began to like the look of everything about the aging me, except my colored hair that seemed phony.  I decided to go grey.  But grey didn’t happen, a glorious white silver did.  No, I am definitely not invisible.  I opened a store, loved it, it didn’t work.  I closed my store.   I cried.  I dusted myself off and started again.  I play with my grands.  My shoulders are big enough to cry on and my arms broad enough to hold the broken-hearted. Travel?  At the drop of a hat.  Friends? Many.  I laugh and cry.  I have found my passion and it’s living.


My mother and her friends were wonderful women, but in the end they questioned the value and choices of their lives.  My mom regretted never having lived her own life. Maria Callas lived her own life.  My family is still my North.  My husband is my great love.  I have been a woman of outstanding talent in the theater of my own life and I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I have grown into being a woman; strong, tender, demanding, giving, sexual (its gets better and better), loving and fearless- well, almost fearless.  I am living my own life. I am at last a Diva.


Discovering Who We Are, Faith, Relationships

For the Love of a Dog
Do you have a dog?  Have you always had one or wanted one.  Are you the 1/2 of population that prefers canines over cats?  Me too.  But after our last dog had died, TH and I thought whew, no more animals to worry about.  Let’s hit the road without having to worry about kenneling or house sitting.
But I was wrong.
My house felt empty.  There was a hole.  I was ashamed of how much I needed a dog.  Ashamed that my family, my friends, my job, my hobbies, my faith couldn’t fill that dog shaped spot.  Ashamed that I was so needy.  I’m not the only one who feels that way.  There’s a reason that those God-awful ASPCA TV solicitations are mostly filled with abused dogs instead of cats or bunnies.  Dogs and man have a link. There has been an ancient bond between the two.  There is a dog shaped hole in most of us and a man shaped hole in them as well.

Why?  Why do we or I need their companionship so much?

Believe it or not this is a big deal question that anthropologists, sociologists and psychiatrists have been studying. Each field of study has come up with a different theory.

The sociologists say that the relationship was formed as a mean of social support.  Dogs helped us hunt and protect our families, while we kept dogs warm and fed.  We are linked historical.  We’ve evolved together.

Then the anthropologists believe in the biophilia hypothesis which says that dogs fulfill man’s need to connect with the wild and the nature that our evolution has us growing away from.

Psychiatry believes that our egos need the adoration and love that only canines provide.  

They are all wrong.
While walking with my new pup (of course we got another one) it hit me. The silence and fragrance of late spring all around us.  We were both delighted in the evening and each other.  As Buddie looked up at me smiling, which he does a lot, it just hit me.
I don’t need to be adored as much as I need to be able to actively adore. That sounds weird, I know.  I have family whom I love but all relationships are complicated.  Kids grow up and away. Parental relationships with grown children is the stuff of Shakespearian drama; wicked step-mothers, addled old fathers, tyrannical parents, murderous uncles, –betrayals, loss, arguments. Deep love- at best is complicated.  I hate to admit it but my care for those I love is too often muddled by expectations and strings.  I wish it wasn’t , but…
With a dog, I get to love absolutely without human expectation.  Just love. To cuddle and not be asked to stop because they grow up .  With a dog I learn how to to feed, train, teach, exercise- work hard for their advantage without the deep secret wish for gratitude or control.  A dog is sentient being to be watched over and adored.  A companion to share good and bad days, a companion to just be with.

It’s as if, dogs are here to teach me how to love fully, completely without expectation.  If I can love my family and friends with the same guileless wonder that I love my dogs, my family’s world will be a better place.

Then there is the God thing. While walking with Buddie both of us quiet and the late spring world, vibrant, it occurred to me that my absolute love for my dog was a fraction of how God must feel about me.

God had given us a companion to teach us how to love and to show us how much we are loved.

Dogs with their cold noses and warm hearts are miracles.
Discovering Who We Are

Scavenger Hunt For My Life


In the beginning, I knew nothing.
When I watch littles ones I’ve been imagining at what it must be like to feel so new, to have everyday filled with discovery.  When I was a tween and teen, those awful years of puberty everything was again new.  My bones ached.  I didn’t know who or what I was.  I tried personalities on as often as I change my clothes.  My life was on on shifting sands- frightening.  A world of discovery.
How do I get back there? Or am I so wizened to be jaded?
Much of my adult life has been service: cleaning my house, making whites whiter, making sure dinners were healthy and on time, shuttling family back and forth, being a good teacher, helping my students learn, and generally being the best daughter, wife, mother, step-mother, friend and employee that I can be.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a lot of fun and a lot of joy.  However I put lots of people, places, and things before myself for the greater family good.
What is it I like?  No, that’s not it.  What makes my pulse race and my heart beat with anticipation.  What foods make feel good at the same time as having my taste buds come alive?
I sort of know, but not really.  I don’t know what awakens that reptilian part of my brain anymore. I know what I enjoy but not what excites.
And so, I’ve begun a sort of scavenger hunt.  Looking for  those things – from smallest – well especially the smallest, because that will lead to the largest.
This Holiday season is such a good time to start.  The world is bigger than life and at the same time overwhelming.  It’s an amusement park and it can be mine for the having.