Sixty Things (41-60)

41. Think twice before you say someone “beat cancer.” For one thing, it can imply that people who die of it are somehow losers who didn’t fight hard enough. And for another, no survivor is ever quite sure the disease is actually beaten, and having had certain cancers makes it more likely you will develop certain other types.

42. Sometimes surviving just means you were lucky.

43. And, sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good.

44. If you can be both lucky and good, it’s even better.

45. Gratitude has a powerful effect on mental health.

46. Deep love is not the fizzy, exciting feeling you experience when you first click with someone. It’s the warmth you feel inside when you look at your partner or friend or family member with new appreciation or old affection for a trait they possess.

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47. Love isn’t selfish. Sometimes it requires sacrifice. But if you find you are sacrificing everything that makes you uniquely you, then it’s not love.

48. On that note, not all sociopaths are serial killers. There are plenty of them around, devoid of empathy and willing to do whatever it takes — without shame or remorse — to get what they want. They will gaslight you, lie, and make you think you’re crazy, all while professing to love you or be your friend. Yes, I speak from experience.

49. People have different ways of saying they love you, not all of them verbal. The Engineer is not one for unprompted compliments or cards and flowers, but if I break something, he usually fixes it, often without me even asking. And he lets me sip his beer when I don’t want a whole one, even though I know it annoys him. That’s love.

50. When someone does something for you, or makes your life easier in some way just because they can, try to appreciate it.

51. Likewise, try to be that person. Especially, when you can do someone a favor at no great cost to yourself, do it.

52. To quote the song, “say please, say thank you.”

53. If you can afford to, overtip. If you can’t afford even a decent tip, don’t go to full-serve restaurants. In some ways, this is not an issue during COVID-19 since carryout and delivery are the rule. But tipping delivery people is more important now than ever.

54. There’s a difference between surrounding yourself with things you love and being smothered by them. I’m at the point in my life where I’m trying to learn to discern between the two.

55. Every day above ground is a good day. I’m “happy to be here, happy to have hair,” and the second is still optional.

56. Sometimes I think the Golden Rule shouldn’t be “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” but “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them” because what makes me happy may not make someone else happy.

57. It’s important to find joy in little things because in the end, that’s what you will remember.

58. Referring back to #49, find a way to express love so the ones you love know you love them.

59. “When you’re going through hell, keep going.” Supposedly Winston Churchill said that, and it makes sense. When you’re in hell, that’s not a place to break down and stay.

60. Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules” = words to live — or at least eat — by.

Bonus: #61. And because it bears repeating, this is my reminder to myself for my 61st year: Try to be kind.

Happy Birthday to me!

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Sixty Things (21-40)

21. Life is short. Don’t hold grudges. (I know this. I’m just not good at doing it.)

22. Live below your means if you can. If you can’t do that, try very hard not to spend money you don’t have.

23. Everyone was someone’s child once.

24. From F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby: “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.'”

I have had the great advantage to be born into a family with two parents in a stable relationship (at least until I was a teen) with a stable income in a nice neighborhood in a town with good schools. Those same parents raised my siblings and I the best way they knew how. I never went hungry or without proper clothing. My family valued education and expected us to at least try to get a college education.

Also, I’m white, and whether or not you agree, I believe that fact means my reality is vastly different from someone who isn’t, even if all the other conditions are the same.

Admitting this doesn’t take away from my achievements. It doesn’t mean The Engineer and I didn’t work hard for what we have, nor does it negate the decisions we have made to keep us safely on the paths we have chosen.

It just means we were born with a few advantages not everyone has. In some cases, these advantages were provided by our parents. Other advantages were simply by luck — being born in a first world country, for example.

Fitgerald’s words ring true for me, and I think it’s important to remember them.

25. Even now, the US is a good place to live. But I do not believe we have any right to claim it’s the only good place to live.

26. Every family has problems. If yours hasn’t had any, you’re either a liar, or haven’t lived long enough.

27. Every country has problems. Some — climate change, COVID-19, income disparity, crime — are fairly universal.

28. I believe the earth will survive long after we have destroyed its capacity to support human life.

29. I also believe we need to do what we can to reverse, or at least stall, climate change and stop destroying our world. Obviously, I’m not claiming to be perfect in my own efforts, but I’m trying.

30. This one may seem like a radical notion, but I think the world was designed for men, mostly because most of our ways of doing things were designed by men, and therefore men are considered the default. But here’s a newsflash: Women aren’t men. We aren’t even smaller men. Our bodies are different so we react differently to drugs. Heart attack symptoms are different for women, and thus frequently go undiagnosed. We are 47% more likely to be seriously injured in a car accident (statistic from Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez) because seatbelts are designed to fit men. (If you’d like to read a good summary of Criado-Perez’s book, go here.)

Don’t even get me started about bathrooms and “potty parity!”

Here’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about: I decided to look up bladders to see if there was a difference in size between women’s and men’s, and look what I found: A diagram entitled “Picture of the Bladder” on WebMD. Spoiler alert: It’s a man.

Our lives differ because women are usually the ones providing unpaid care work including child and elder care. (For many women, this fact and COVID-19 has stretched them to the breaking point.)

Safety is always more of a concern because rape of women is exponentially more common than of men. And if you’re someone who still believes a woman shouldn’t have been in a certain place or shouldn’t have worn that outfit, I’d suggest you look at this exhibition of what women were wearing when they were raped.

This is not whining. It’s merely asking to be included in decisions that affect our lives.

31. Having said that, I believe men can also be hamstrung by society’s traditional expectations.

32. Honey bees are fascinating.

33. If you look hard enough, you’ll find something interesting about almost everyone.

34. It’s good to sometimes shut up and listen — another fact I find hard to act upon.

35. The more things you can do yourself, the better off you are.

36. But sometimes it’s cheaper in time and money to pay someone to do a task.

37. Being educated and being smart are two different things. And both educated people and smart people can act stupid at times.

38. There’s no excuse for willful ignorance.

39. A birdfeeder is a relatively cheap way to add joy to your life.

40. Many times when the world seems overwhelming, it’s because you haven’t eaten.

Sixty Things

I’m coming up on a landmark birthday, and at first I thought I’d share sixty events I’ve seen or experienced.

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I quickly grew bored with that endeavor. And, besides, who really cares that I am one of millions who lived through 9/11 or the first moonwalk?

Instead, I’m going to share sixty lessons I’ve learned in (nearly) sixty years on this earth.

The caveats are: I may discover I don’t have sixty pieces of wisdom to share, and if I do, you may not care about those either.

That’s okay. No one is forcing you to read my posts. Close the tab, and go back to watching football, reading your email, or whatever else you were doing before my blog flashed up on your screen.

1. It’s important to be kind. Some say it’s more important than being truthful. I don’t think that’s always the case. Sometimes you have to tell the truth, even though it might be painful, which raises the question: Painful for whom? And which will cause more pain in the long run? Which leads to #2.

2. As much as feasible, it’s also important to tell the truth, and think hard about the above questions before choosing not to.

3. If you choose to have children, it’s possible to avoid the mistakes your own parents made because you’ll be too busy making your own. Or maybe that was just me.

4. On the subject of children: Not everyone wants/needs them, and it’s not up to us to tell them otherwise. And, no, we don’t get an exemption from this rule for our children.

5. “Remember then that there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side. For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in this world.” — From Jon J. Muths children’s book, The Three Questions, based on a story by Leo Tolstoy

6. While we’re talking children’s books, here are three of my very favorites. All three are lovely stories, and each has something to say about life.
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney — When Alice was young, she wanted to see faraway places and live by the sea when she grew old, just like her grandfather. But her grandfather taught her she must do a third thing. This is the tale of how she did all three, becoming Miss Rumphius, and then the Lupine Lady in the process. How could I not love this book with its librarian heroine?

Miss Rumphius

7. My Great Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston, illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb — Based on a true story, Arizona is born in a log cabin in the mountains. Like Alice, she also dreamed of visiting faraway places, and though she never made it, she was confident the children she taught would. My father’s family came from the mountains, and my grandmother taught in a one-room schoolhouse. When I read this book, I think of her. I’m also reminded it’s possible to inspire others to achieve what we have not been able to.

My Great-Aunt Arizona

8. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes — Written in 1944, this book is a lesson in compassion and empathy as taught by a little girl named Wanda Petronski.

The Hundred Dresses

9. Learning your family’s history can enrich your life and can, I believe, teach us resilience. Unfolding the story of Sarah Jane Daugherty Feathers Scott (also this post) taught me that those who came before us also lived in divisive times and sometimes suffered loss almost beyond comprehension, yet still managed to somehow continue living. My family’s history includes other tragedies, as well as some tawdriness, and wonder, all adding to my own sense of who I am and where I came from. This leads to one more children’s book, which I bought for my father after he began to succumb to Alzheimer’s to remind him of where he came from. Written by Cynthia Rylant, one of my favorite children’s authors, who also came from the mountains, it’s called When I Was Young in the Mountains, and the prose reads like poetry, ending with
“When I was young in the mountains,
I never wanted to go to the oceans, and I never wanted to go to the desert. I never wanted
to go anywhere else in the world, for I was
in the mountains. And that was always enough.”

When I Was Young in the Mountains

10. One of my favorite quotes, attributed to Ghandi: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

11. Most of the times, when I didn’t get or achieve the thing I thought I wanted most in the world, it led me to a path that turned out to be better for me in the end.

12. Also, the stupidest and most painful mistake I ever made opened my eyes so I could appreciate it when someone better (The Engineer) came along.

13. That said, nothing is a complete mistake if you learn from it.

14. And, if you can, it’s better to be able to learn from others’ mistakes than to make all of them yourself.

15. Loving someone doesn’t mean you always like their behavior.

16. Family members sometimes make choices you may not agree with. They are still family. Robert Frost said, “Home is the place where, if you have to go there, they have to take you in.” I think that’s probably the best explanation of family I ever read. However, if that family member is addicted and/or abusive, all bets are off.

17. The older you get, the more important it is to try to be open to new experiences.

18. The older you get, the more important it is to learn new things — a language, a skill, a hobby.

19. Being outdoors can soothe, heal, and bring joy and contentment.

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20. Exercise can also soothe, heal, bring joy and contentment. If you can exercise outside (#18), even better.

Kiss, Marry, Kill — 2020 Version

By now, you’ve read a variety of posts/newspaper articles/columns on what the end of 2020 means — what we lost through the year and what we may have gained.

I pondered the year’s events, searching for an apparatus to enable me to coherently articulate my feelings about these events.

The game “Kiss, Marry, Kill” seemed to fit the bill. For those unfamiliar with the activity, this is a “social¬†forced choice question and answer game” (definition courtesy of Wikipedia, which refers to the activity by its more profane moniker).

For the record, I’ve never played this before, but the rules are simple so I felt confident I could handle it. Players are given three names, and must say which of the three they will choose to kiss, who they would marry, and who they would kill.

Admittedly, Wikipedia also notes “The game has variously been described as ‘tasteless’ and ‘juvenile,'” and that may well be true. But since many events that occurred in 2020 (especially in the US political realm) could also be described that way, let’s just say I’m not overly troubled by that possibility.

In my version, I have outlined a series of lists of three items that reflect my 2020 and choosing which I would

KISS (continue my flirtation with),

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MARRY (keep as a permanent part of my life),

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and KILL (get rid of as soon as I can).

Photo by Brett Sayles on

Ready? Let’s go!

Round One: The easy ones.

Options: Masks, Social Distancing, Vaccine

Kiss: Masks — I don’t love them, but will happily use them as long as needed to protect myself and others.

Marry: Vaccines — I’ll take any injection as often as necessary to be able to hug my mom and daughter again.

Kill: Social distancing — Being unable to hug and touch Mom, visit our daughter, and share an occasional meal with friends was difficult. Cutting back on socializing wasn’t hard. Cutting out socializing was difficult.

Round Two: Not too taxing

Options: Budgeting, Spending Money on a Whim, Thrift Shopping

Kiss: Thrift shopping — I’ve always enjoyed it and think I can indulge as long as it’s for something that fits our long-term goals.

Marry: Budgeting — Confession: I’ve never actually lived on a “budget,” sticking to the idea of not spending more than I had and being sure to save some, but with our impending retirement, it’s time to get serious about limiting expenditures. I’m sure our budget will need some adjustments, but at least we’ve begun.

Kill: Spending money on a whim. No explanationi needed.

Round Three: A bit more challenging

Options: Doom Scrolling, Twitter, Instagram

Kiss (goodbye): Twitter — I gave up Facebook after the last election, and temporarily gave up Twitter after this one. That change is now permanent. Less wasted time. Less anger.

Marry: Instagram — Still enjoying taking photos of things that catch my eye, still avoiding selfies.

Kill: Doom scrolling — In the last four years, I’d gotten caught in an endless cycle of checking my Twitter feed and following links on all the horrible things that were/are happening. Although I still regularly read all my email news updates, I no longer feel compelled to share or dwell on it.*

Round Four: COVID Cooking and Eating

Options: Dining Out Because I Can’t Be Bothered to Cook, Carryout, Forcing The Engineer to Pick New Recipes to Try/Plant-based Meals

Kiss: Carryout — We’ve discovered we enjoy picking up carryout to take home or eat outside somewhere. Bonus: It’s cheaper too, even with a good tip!

Marry: Forcing the Engineer to Pick New Recipes to Try/Plant-based Meals — Involving my husband in recipe selection and cooking and choosing to eat meat a maximum of once a day has worked well for us. Bonus: I’ve discovered he’s a pretty good sous chef.

Kill: Dining out Because I Can’t Be Bothered to Cook — Twice now we’ve inventoried our freezers, and each time we’ve been reminded how wasteful it is to eat out as often as we were.

Round Five: Travel

Options: Camping, No Long Trips/International Travel, Short Trips

Kiss: Short trips — Occasionally escaping the walls of our home have provided nice breaks. These little getaways have mostly been camping, which leads us to the next choice.

Marry: Camping — This year, we got a great deal on a huge tent, which made our camping living space a lot more roomy. We also invested in a Kelly Kettle and a Dutch Oven, making our cooking results more interesting, if not more delicious.

Kill: No Long Trips/International Travel — Oshkosh and our planned trip to France were cancelled or delayed. I greatly look forward to when we can travel further afield once more.

Round Six: Exercise

Options: Hiking/Walking/Cycling, Short Dumbbell Workouts, Exercise Classes

Kiss: Short Dumbbell Workouts — A friend and I made a pact to do short arm workouts three times a week, and we’ve followed through for the most part. I’d like to add some short yoga routines to my efforts, but hey, no promises.

Marry: Hiking/Walking/Cycling — In past years, I’ve walked regularly with a friend, and The Engineer and I have cycled during warm weather. This year, we’ve added hiking during the colder weather.

Kill: Exercise classes — I found I do just fine without them.

Round Seven: Odds and Ends

Options: Homemade Gifts, Drinking/making Mead, Big Christmas Spending

Kiss: Homemade Gifts — As readers know, I made a lot of crochet stars to attach to include with Christmas cards and gifts. I hope to continue this practice.

Marry: Drinking/making Mead — In 2019, we invested in a meadery in Nashville and began exploring the world of “honey wine.” After tasting Darling Daughter’s Boyfriend’s first attempt at making the drink, Santa Kym chose to bring us supplies to do the same. Stay tuned for details on our efforts.

*Sadly, as I write this, armed protestors are swarming the capitol of our nation’s capital because the man who is supposed to be leading our country has encouraged them and is now refusing to ask the people to go home. No doom scrolling was required to see this.

I’m scared about what this means for our country and appalled and ashamed of my fellow citizens.