Milestones and Stages
We tend to measure our children’s lives in milestones and stages. Often we are wishing for a certain stage to conclude (think terrible twos) or hoping the current stage never ends. However, it is the milestones that we really celebrate. Events like the first day of school or getting a driving permit or when they take their first step, start using the toilet, and lose their first tooth are all celebrated in a big or small way. There are the “big” birthdays; 1, 10, 13, 16, 18 and 21 that have a bit more weight or importance than others. However, we put our heart and soul into making every childhood birthday special and memorable. Finally, we celebrate graduations from kindergarten, sometimes eighth grade, high school and college. When you get to the college graduation you realize that this amazing child of yours has made it through all of the childhood stages and milestones. From now on the milestones are adult level: marriage, turning 30, first house or first baby. This may make you feel old, but don’t let it make you act old!
Sugar River in Shirland, Illinois
A Big Milestone to Celebrate
On May 14th we celebrated our oldest son’s college graduation. It was a big milestone and worthy of all the pomp and circumstance. I didn’t even mind that it took center stage to Mother’s Day. This was Rikley’s day and a day for his parents, grandmother, aunt and brother to cheer him on as he strode across the stage and accepted his diploma. All of his success has been a direct result of his effort. As a side note, for Mother’s Day, I was given a fabulous new cookbook. I’ve tried three of the recipes and would make them again. Run Fast Eat Slow is written by two runners and is full of nourishing recipes. The recipe for their Superhero Muffins is reason enough to buy the cookbook. They promote it as “nourishing recipes for athletes” but I would consider the recipes to be nourishing for anyone who is wanting to add delicious real food to their diet.
Kale & Radicchio Salad with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts. Recipes came from Run Fast Eat Slow.
What? No Waterfall?
Back to graduation. Before the ceremony began Keaton asked me if I was going to cry. It’s a fair question because I’m known to cry over everything and anything. Any emotion, whether it is sad or happy, can cause tears to well up in my eyes. Shoot, I’ve even cried watching coffee commercials. My guys just laugh, shake their heads and say, “Mom’s crying again.” But, back to Keaton’s question. The tears clouding my vision on this beautiful spring day were from the joy I felt as Rikley took his diploma in his left hand and shook the college president’s hand with his right. Then I wondered why it was so different from his high school graduation?
The Difference Between Then and Now
Four years ago I was wiping tears from my eyes for two months. All at once it came to me. High school graduation is the end of a big childhood stage. It’s the stage that most parents never want to come to an end. Have you ever wished that you could go back in time and do it all over again? I would repeat the last 19 years in a heart beat if I could. This is the stage that starts with your child’s birth and ends when they’ll no longer be living full-time in your home. College is a short four-year stage that flies by. Nonetheless, college graduation is a triumphant milestone that proceeds new beginnings and adventures as your child begins a new stage of adulthood. Additionally, it is the end of tuition payments and that is certainly worth celebrating, right? Perhaps one other small factor to the absence of a river gushing down my cheek is knowing that my boy is coming back to Oregon where he will pursue his doctorate degree in physics at Oregon State University. One hundred thirty miles away is so much better than two thousand seventy-eight miles!
Age is Irrelevant
I wonder how it is possible that I am old enough to be the mother of a college graduate? Of course age is “just a number.” What is important is how you feel inside and out, and this comes down to the choices we make every day. I refuse to think myself “old”. Think young and stay young. Some people stay young at heart, playful and physically active. They keep their brain and body engaged in activities they enjoy. Furthermore, they participate in social engagements and belong to groups. I seriously believe that this is what has kept my mother so young. She chooses to stay socially engaged and to keep herself mobile.
When my boys were small little bumpkins crawling and playing with toys on the floor Mom would get down there with them. She said to me, “I just want them to remember me.” You have to understand that she was 75 at the time. So, it was a justified fear of hers that she might die before they had time to accumulate enough memories of her. Well, she is now 94 and they have a treasure trove of memories to look back on and remember what a remarkable Nana they have. One memory they will never forget was the day they were playing golf with her and she got her first hole-in-one! It was just the three of them and they watched the ball she hit from the tee roll right up to and into the hole. Mom continued to play golf until she was 91, getting one more hole-in-one before she quit. She still gets out 3 days a week to play bridge with friends, walks up the street to get her mail, goes to Book Club once a month, drives herself to get groceries, goes to the library to check out more books, meets with friends for dinner on Thursday nights… She does all of this even though her knee aches, it takes more time to get ready and she tires more quickly. My mom is my role model.
Nana has been there every Christmas morning of their life.
Milestones to Come
This is why I want to stay healthy and fit. I want to be able to get down on the floor and play with my grandchildren. I want to take them on hikes, play games, and chase them around a playground. However, that stage is years away, so I think I will savor the stage my boys are in right now. I know that I am taking care of myself not only so I can run, ski and hike with my family now but to ensure that I can still do those things twenty years from now. Choosing to eat real food (not processed) and choosing to exercise is my insurance for a healthy future. Be thankful for the milestones and celebrate them. However, don’t forget that what we do now will determine how we will enjoy all the future milestones.
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I’m So Grateful For My Son
I have a lot to be grateful for in my life. As we head into Mother’s Day weekend I am fully aware of how lucky I am to be the mother of two brilliant boys. However this post is about my baby who turns 19 today. All parents will say, “Where did the time go?” and wish to turn back the clock. How is it possible that the cute little cherub who completed our family is 19 years old? So, while I miss my little boy I realize how lucky I have been to be present in his life and experience all of the changes with him.
I am excited because our family is together on his birthday. Not only are we celebrating the start of Keaton’s last year as a teenager and Mother’s Day, but we are in Beloit, Wisconsin for Rikley’s college graduation. So, I’m grateful that we get to be with our baby on his 19th birthday to celebrate him. Keaton, we would have missed out on so much joy in our lives without you. You have given me so much to be grateful for. Happy Birthday!
I am grateful for this baby who captured my heart on the 12th of May and slept in my arms all sweet and warm.
I am grateful for this baby with the dimple on his cheek and a spark in his eye.
I am grateful for this toddler whose laughter was frequent and filled our home with beautiful noise.
I am grateful for this happy little boy so full of humor and positive energy who loved to be silly.
I am grateful for this boy who adapted to change with ease and was eager to try new things.
I am grateful for all the fun moments we’ve shared that led to the beautiful memories I cherish.
I am grateful for every hug I received from this strong and lovable kid.
I am grateful for this competitive and skillful athlete whom I have been blessed to watch and call my son.
I am grateful for this secure and wise young man who loves his family.
I am grateful for this son of mine who grew into an ambitious, admirable and compassionate man. As I reflect back through the years watching him grow and change into the remarkable and confident person he is today, my heart is full.
Keaton, this is one of my favorite birthday pictures of you. It was your second birthday and you were so excited for your cake. You couldn’t wait to blow out the candles and once you did we had to relight them so you could do it again and again. Thank you for all the fun memories that I will hold onto forever.
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Live With Vitality
I want to share with you my 5 steps on how to live with vitality. However, first I’ll tell you a story. In February as I stepped off a plane the lady in front of me struggled to get seated into the waiting wheelchair. When she finally got herself turned around and sat down she looked up at me and, with a heavy sigh, said, “Don’t get old. Die young!” I tried to tell her that my intention was to live well, strong and vital until 100 (maybe even longer). She responded with, “That’s what I thought.” The thing is, she didn’t look that old. I don’t think she was more than ten years my senior, but I can assume that her choices have been different.
I truly believe that we all have the ability to avoid her pain and despair if we choose to live with vitality. Follow my 5 steps to living with vitality and let’s see what happens. Are you in?
Looking out over the Grand Canyon.
Several years ago I became intrigued with the Blue Zones while watching an episode of the Dr. Oz Show. Dan Buettner was on the show sharing the research behind his new book, Blue Zones: 9 Power Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. He studied five areas in the world with higher than average centenarians, areas unrelated geographically. Buettner concluded that there are nine common themes that contribute to longer lives, regardless of where one lived. As you can see these five Blue Zones are located in four different continents.
Becoming A Centenarian
Each region has several lifestyle components in common that Buettner has identified as contributing factors to longevity. In fact, experts say that if we adopt the right lifestyle, we could add at least ten good years to our life and suffer a fraction of the diseases that kill us prematurely. These lifestyle choices include what the inhabitants choose to eat, how much physical activity they get, how they socialize, how they handle stress, their connection to a community and their purpose in life, all of which influences their quality of life and wellness. As a result of his research he identified nine lessons for longevity:
- Move Naturally; be active without having to think about it.
- Hara Hachi Bu; painlessly cut calories by 20%.
- Plant Slant; avoid meat and processed foods.
- Grapes of Life; drink red wine (in moderation).
- Purpose Now; take time to see the big picture
- Down Shift; take Time to relieve stress.
- Belong; participate in a spiritual community.
- Loved Ones First; make family a priority
- Right Tribe; be surrounded by those who share Blue Zone Values
A trail marker keeps us on course during a hike in Red Rock Canyon.
5 Steps on How to Live With Vitality
After reading Buettner’s book Blue Zones: 9 Power Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, I consolidated the lessons into 5 steps on how to live with vitality.
Focus, Nourish, Energize, Recharge & Relax, and Regroup
First, find your purpose. Why do you get up in the morning? What motivates or inspires you. It’s hard to be happy when you don’t have a “why”, a destination, or ambition to your life. You can’t live with vitality without happiness.
For 18 years my “why” was to take care of my family. From making breakfast, packing lunches, planning menus, buying groceries and other necessaries, laundry, house cleaning, carpooling, doctors’ appointments, managing schedules and the list goes on. My purpose was to be a stay at home mom. I loved it and I am so thankful that I was able to focus my energy and time to this role. Since both children are now in college I am finding a new purpose with my blog and living an active, healthy lifestyle.
Juniper tree at Guano Point in the Grand Canyon West
Secondly, eat to live. Replenish your body with foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Eat a variety of fresh vegetables. Cut out the heavily processed foods. Michael Polan, author of Food Rules, calls those products “edible food-like substances.” Polan’s advice is “Eat Food, Mostly Plants, Not Too Much.”
I like to think that with every meal I have the opportunity to nourish my mind, heart, and body or deprive them of the nutrients they need to thrive. Sharing this knowledge with others motivates me to continue to learn and experiment.
Thirdly, make room for activity each day. It can be a 30 minute brisk walk, taking the stairs a little faster, a yoga session…something that makes your heart beat a little faster and makes you break a sweat. To have more energy you need to energize with exercise. For many of the Blue Zone inhabitants exercise is part of their daily life. They don’t spend an hour at the gym or train for marathons. They tend gardens, herd goats, or go on nature hikes.
For me, exercise includes trail running, hiking, skiing, yoga, and walking my dog. I also know that as soon as I become sedentary I have more headaches, shoulder and neck pain. Without exercise, I get the blues and brain fog. My goals for leading an active lifestyle are not just to keep my body in shape now. It’s so I will maintain my mobility, balance and strength as I age.
mountain stream in the Eagle Cap Wilderness of Eastern Oregon
4. Re-CHARGE AND RELAX
Next, take time to unwind and have fun. Most of us live with some degree of stress in our lives. Stress causes inflammation which is a contributor to many diseases. For that reason it is important to find healthy ways to de-stress. This is done by taking time for yourself. Find things that you enjoy doing that help you unwind like reading, engaging in a hobby, or taking a bath.
I’ve been exploring meditation. There is a lot research that credits meditation with a number of health benefits from reducing inflammation and curbing pain to improving mood and dropping blood pressure. I’m still in the exploration and learning phases of meditation. Finding a quiet distraction free space is a challenge as I’m living with three dogs right now. This morning as I tried to find my zen one dog was barking at cars, another wanted to sit in my lap and the third nudged in close begging for a scratch behind the ears.
Brown Mountain and Lake of the Woods; Southern Oregon
Finally, connect with others and cultivate relationships. This final step encompasses family, friends and community. Love, support and social activity are vital to our emotional health. They also help to reduce stress and therefore health problems associated with high stress levels. Stress can trigger migraines, body aches, and weaken the immune system. Persistent stress, when untreated, can lead to heart disease, depression, anxiety and diabetes according to an article written by Jancee Dunn in a special edition of TIME called MINDFULNESS the new science of health and happiness.
With our move to Bend I will need to stay connected to my friends while building new friendships. In the past our boys were a forcing function in meeting new people and being connected to a community. We established friendships under umbrellas on the sidelines of soccer games, in the bleachers at lacrosse games, on the sidewalk in our neighborhood, playdates and school programs. I will need to find other ways to meet people through joining similar interest groups. It won’t be easy for this introvert. I will have to face the challenge and step outside of my comfort zone.
Grand Canyon West Arizona
You now know that my intention is to live with vitality until I’m 100 years old. Or, at least live as close to 100 as I can feeling strong, well, and happy. In other words, vital. I won’t get there by accident. It is a challenge I have embraced, and I must live every day with the intention of taking care of myself. T
Consequently, this means making choices that support my current health and will provide me with long-term health benefits. Following my 5 steps on how to live with vitality will help guide me along this path. My hope is that it will help you as well.
What are you doing to stay healthy and strong? Which of these steps are part of your life? Is there something that you struggle with? Please leave a comment below.
Of all the things I’ve saved through the years memorabilia has to be my downfall. It’s a crazy obsession I have and one my husband will never understand. Memorabilia includes souvenirs I collected on trips, boarding passes, brochures, rocks, shells, foreign coins, postcards etc… My memorabilia was also programs, awards, report cards, certificates, team rosters and schedules, calendars, birthday cards, Christmas cards, art work, school work, more cards… it’s endless. It takes up a lot of space and during all of our downsizing, packing and moving it has created way more stress than it’s worth. Carting all the memorabilia from one place to the next is a burden.
Packing up my home office for the second time. Notice, in the foreground, I’m still filling a bin with memorabilia to recycle.
On the Move Again
At the beginning of February Rob and I were presented with the opportunity to lease a condo in Bend, Oregon. It is in the exact location we’ve had our eyes on for a couple years. It’s near the river trail we love to run. We’ll have a view of six mountains, and it’s within walking distance to shopping, restaurants and breweries. Skiing on Mt. Bachelor is about a twenty minute drive away.
Bend is an active outdoor community that fits the lifestyle we want for our future. As empty nesters and with both of us working from home, moving away from Portland was possible. However, it wasn’t an easy decision. Portland has been our home for most of the past twenty-five years. Our friends and community connections are in Portland, therefore, leaving is emotionally difficult.
Change is an Opportunity
Ultimately, we decided that change is an opportunity for growth, and new experiences are exciting. This one year lease is a trial period for us. We will see if living in Bend provides us with more opportunities to live the active lifestyle we want and to experience life with a smaller footprint. At the end of the year we can reevaluate and decide if we want to make Bend our home, try another location, travel around the country in a Sprinter van, hike the Pacific Crest Trail or move back to Portland.
We spent February continuing to purge even more of our belongings including some furniture. With this move we truly are downsizing. I wrote about our move and the process of getting rid of things after Christmas in the post STEPS ALONG A PATH TOWARDS CHANGE from January 19, 2017.
At that time we only downsized by about 600 square feet, but this move to a condo will give us almost half of the space we are used to. To prepare for less space we sold furniture and decorations. We donated countless car loads of stuff we no longer need or have room for. I spent a weekend scanning and recycling twenty-two years worth of saved memorabilia from traveling, school, cards, awards, sports, and summer camps. Needless to say, moving twice within two months is exhausting. It consumed our time and energy in February.
These two bins were overflowing at the beginning of my beach weekend. What’s left are a few things to save and a little more to weed out.
5 Lessons I’ve Learned from Saving Memorabilia
I have learned some important lessons while sorting through my mounds of memorabilia. I’m not kidding about the mounds. The amount of paper I saved over the years was astonishing. I’m a scrapbooker. In fact, I sold scrapbooking supplies as a home based business for twelve years. I saved everything from birth announcements to teeth (eww) and ticket stubs to Christmas wish lists. Anything that I thought would help me tell the story behind my pictures when it came to writing about all of our picture worthy experiences was stuck into a file. I realize that not everyone has this compulsion. If you are one of those people who doesn’t save and hang onto things then you might laugh at my lessons. You will have no use for them because you were blessed with the ability to live in the moment and not attempt to hang onto the past. Your job to downsize someday will be much easier and less emotional than mine has been. Now that I’ve lived through the storing, organizing, filing, moving, moving again, digitizing, tossing, etc, here’s an enlightened approach that I wish I had figured out 22 years ago.
1. Make a decision right away
Don’t file everything thinking you’ll weed it out when the time comes. There’s an old adage; “Out of sight out of mind”. I think I was out of my mind for saving some of the things I did! Teeth? Really? Oh, well I have a laughable picture of them now.
The problem was, I knew how full my files were. I knew I had piles tucked here and there. I knew there were some bins in the attic full of memorabilia. Just knowing they were there was stressful. Thinking about the time I needed to organize and put all of these memories into albums with the pictures made my heart race and my chest tighten. I almost needed a paper bag to keep me from hyperventilating. I could have saved myself a lot of angst and time had I just been more selective to begin with.
2. Weed It Out Every Year
At the end of a school year pick out a few pieces of your child’s work to show their academic progress, writing, and artistic style. Keep a couple of pieces that touch your heart and remind you of your child at that age. Take a picture of large items and get rid of everything else! I kept school lunch menus and the teacher’s weekly reports from Keaton’s entire first grade year! Yes, I kept too much.
3. Don’t Save Every Christmas Card You Receive
Send the Christmas cards to the recycling bin in January! The stack of all the Christmas cards I saved could quite possibly have reached three feet high. This goes for most other cards as well.
4. Scan and Take Pictures of the Important Things
A good scanner can be your friend. Set aside a few hours in January to go through everything you saved the previous year. If you follow 1-3 there won’t be so much. Thin it out even more and then scan what you can. Save the scans in the folder with your pictures from the year or the pictures from that event if you sort that way. As I said earlier, I spent a weekend with girlfriends at the beach scanning some “treasures” that I pulled out from two big bins. I love my scanner. It is an Epson flatbed scanner that scans photos, documents, negatives with a high enough resolution to make enlarged prints. It also allows me to make color fixes on faded pictures. You can take pictures of three dimensional items or those larger pieces of children’s art work.
5. Don’t Save for Some Day
Don’t save something just because you think you might do something with it some day. I can almost guarantee that “someday” will never come. When it came down to it I never had the time to get to all of those scrapbooks that I imagined in my head. I have many completed albums that we enjoy now and then. It is fun to reminisce and look back at the photos and stories that document the events and adventures of our family. However, in the grand scheme of things how important is it to remember the price of a movie and when you saw it? I think that time spent in the present is more valuable. The experiences we had as a family are a part of us and important memories are there without the pieces of paper that show what we did. When you save it all the decision to keep or toss has to be made all over again. Of course, it is easier when you realize you don’t have room to save those things and you are exhausted from sorting through it all. Toss it! You’ll feel a little lighter and a little less stressed and more capable of enjoying the present.
Why did I feel compelled to save it all?
Did I think I would forget without the memorabilia? Mostly, it came down to scrapbooking. I thought I could write a better story if I hung onto the details. My big life lesson here is that the time in our lives is precious and slips away much too quickly. Fill your time with what is truly important.
Are you a saver or a tosser? If you are a tosser I’d like to know your secret. If you are a saver what is the most embarrassing or ridiculous thing you have saved? For me it is my children’s teeth and school menus. Or, maybe it’s the bandaid from Rikley’s first shot and the sticks from the popsicles Keaton ate after his adenoid surgery. I told you I was a compulsive saver. One last take away, I don’t need the bandaid to remember how I cradled Rikley’s head and sang into his ear when he got shots.
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When children are young the focus of their birthday is on the party with friends; invitations, theme, games, decorations, cake, gifts….. And maybe a separate celebration with family. I always tried to make my boys feel special on their birthdays, but a lot of work went into the celebration.
When children get older and celebrate their birthday away from you it’s different. For me, I get more reflective and sentimental about their life. I realize how much my life was enriched by them, and I wish I could go back and do it all over again. That’s what I’m doing today on my first baby’s 22nd birthday. He is far away, but he is very present in my heart and mind.
This post is in his honor, but also for all the moms out there who are missing their children.
Cheers to My Son on His Birthday
Cheers to this day, January 31st, the day when I became a mom. It’s the day when my life was changed beyond my comprehension and in ways I could not believe possible.
Cheers to this tiny baby whose light head rested softly in the space between my neck and shoulder.
Cheers to this baby who snuggled in my arms and cried when I put him down.
Cheers to this baby who climbed before he could walk and who started walking at ten months old never to slow down again.
Cheers to this toddler who moved ever so quickly and whose hugs were given on a quick flyby as he chased after another adventure.
Cheers to this little boy who transitioned seamlessly when we moved to England. Cheers to this little boy who, without hesitation, let go of my hand to join a new group of classmates.
Cheers to this boy who learned to read and comprehend math so easily. Cheers to this same boy who loved baseball and soccer and always checked to make sure I was watching.
Cheers to this boys who cultivated strong friendships, loved his family and was a positive role model for his brother.
Cheers to this boy who embraced life with vigor and excitement and who played with such passion.
Cheers to this kid who had more than his fair share of scrapes and bruises. Cheers to this kid who announced so valiantly that he thought it was time to make yet another trip to the ER to stitch up the newest gash in his skin.
Cheers to this teenager who shares my love of skiing and who races down the slopes while flying, twisting and turning off jumps.
Cheers to this young man who has compassion for others and deep loyalty to his teams.
Cheers to this young man who graduated from high school with high respect from his teachers, family and friends.
Cheers to this young man who left home to pursue a higher education and continue his passion for playing soccer and lacrosse.
Cheers to this man who grew up much too fast and will graduate this spring with a degree in Physics and Math.
Cheers to this man whose hugs are now longer and stronger than ever.
Cheers to this man whose sense of humor warms my heart because it is so reminiscent of his grandfather’s.
Cheers to this man who will always be my little boy, full of spirit and action, love and dreams!
Happy birthday, Rikley, as you turn 22 I know your future is as bright as you. Always know that you are loved beyond measure and my pride for you is monumental. Thank you for all the joy and memories you have blessed my life with.
PS. Remember to call home.
As the mother of two boys I’ve had two fears. The first is for their safety as they fearlessly tackled physical challenges. If you have boys you know what I’m talking about. They’ll climb on counters and jump off, luge on a skateboard down a steep neighborhood road, or sail off of every jump they can find on a ski hill. The second is that they will move far away and never come home to me. Now that my nest is empty the second fear is becoming greater than the first.
What are some of your favorite memories of your children?
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