just myself transplanted and still blooming cinthia milner

No, I’m Not Crazy; I’m Just Not You

When I was pregnant, I felt like superwoman. I thought I could conquer the world. I was creating a life. Step back. My hormones were in perfect sync. (Please don’t hate me. It’s the only time they ever were.) I am one of those women that was happier pregnant than not. I wish I could be pregnant all the time, but without the arrival a baby in 9 months. While I was pregnant, something clicked inside of me, and it was a click I’d been waiting on my whole life.

I knew my brain was short one screw (or several) toward normal. I felt I lacked clarity, sureness of self, confidence, social skills, and worst of all, decision-making abilities. Then I got pregnant. and felt like really, what’s the big deal? When my husband called me at work and asked if I’d stop by the grocery store on the way home (and it was quite literally on the way home), I didn’t want to weep. I went to the store. It was so simple.

I was able to keep this oh-so-not-a-big-deal attitude going straight through breast feeding. But then, I quit breastfeeding, and I was back to weeping at the grocery store.

Does anyone know what I’m talking about or is it just me? Why would a trip to the grocery store make a grown woman weep?

I felt the same way when I took Prozac for a day. A psychiatrist prescribed it for me and he said, “It’ll take six weeks for you to notice a difference. For it to get into your system.” Heck no. It took all of 24 hours. And again, I felt that click. Only this time, I was not pregnant, and the kids were 5 and 1.

Here’s what happened:

My then-5-year old asked if we could stop on the way home (from work and day-care), and get a video (back in the day). His brother was under 1. Which meant, you already know this, getting the baby out of the car seat, and keeping up with the 5-year-old in the video store, while jiggling the baby that wanted to go to sleep but could not, or it would mess up the night’s sleep routine. (And every mother knows, you don’t mess with the sleep routine.) And, this with dinner still to be made, baths given, and monster checks done (a billion times), and the hope (the desperate hope) that somehow I might-maybe, just might-maybe, get 5 minutes to myself after the kids were in bed.

Here’s the take-away: I said yes to the 5-year-old that wanted to stop at the video store. I felt like, I can do this. So, we got the baby out of the car seat, and got our video, and got back in the car, and then I had a 10 on a 1-10 scale anxiety attack, and had to sit there deep breathing with the car door open, and the children screaming. It seems Prozac can cause massive anxiety attacks in certain people, especially people who react to it as quickly as I did.

I handed my prescription back to the psychiatrist, and wondered, is there anything else? No more breastfeeding. No more Prozac. What was going to make my brain click and me normal?

Normal being a mom (or anybody) who could go to a grocery store and not consider it a death sentence, or pick up videos for the night and not contemplate leaving for Utah or Idaho, or wherever Sundance is, in hopes of becoming one of the privileged people who have other people buy their groceries.

Though, let’s face it. I’m not an adventurous girl. If I can’t get to the grocery store, chances are slim I’m heading out at sundown for Sundance.

But I wondered. So, what was that click?

Or, why am I not the Mom who loves being in charge of the booster club? Surely, she grew up with a clicked brain.

Then, I met a man at The Cove (the Billy Graham Training Center) this past fall. He was a Coastie like my son, and so we spoke through-out the weekend. I do not remember his name (it rhymed with crouton), but he said something wonderful. He explained that he believed communication was messed up along with creation, and mankind, and the universe when sin entered the world. “Think of it,” he said, “Communication in the garden was perfect. They weren’t comparing themselves to anyone or feeling misunderstood, because communication was such that they could completely understand each other. And, in that understanding, completely love each other.”

I wanted to kiss Mr. Crouton because my brain clicked for the third time in my adult life, and without benefit of hormones or Prozac to force it. I knew the problem. It was communication. That’s what was missing.

My ability to say, no, I can’t be you. I really can’t. But, I can be me.

Comparing myself to others had created what I thought was the missing part of my brain. The only gauge a kid has is what others are doing and how they are doing it. And, in the world I lived in, people showed confidence and go-get-em attitudes, exactly how I felt while pregnant or during the 12 hours Prozac was my friend.

Pregnancy hormones super-charged me and for 9 months I had more energy than I’ve had the other 642 months of my life. Prozac boosted me, and for 1 day I wasn’t overwhelmed by life’s overwhelming nature. The rest of the time? I was just me. And, I’m beginning to understand that me is okay. Click.

 

 

fireplace transplanted and still blooming cinthia milner

Introverted Snow Days

I like winter and I like snow. No, I’ve never lived in Minnesota or upstate New York, or I might be making a springtime playlist about now. But, right here, in Western North Carolina, snow means snow days. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a day off. This past February, it meant 2 weeks off. One of the best parts about living in a place with curvy, windy, mountain roads? It doesn’t matter what kind of snowplows you have, some roads will stay inaccessible. For school kids, that is happy news. I was that kid once, listening for the blessed proclamation on my transistor radio (with case), that Buncombe County Schools would be closed due to snow. And, I’m still that kid. I still love a snow day. I did when my kids were little, and snow boots and leg warmers littered my kitchen floor, and I do now when it means I’ll spend the day indoors alone, staring out the window at a world of white.

Is there anything more blessed than being stuck indoors, with a foot of snow outside, and nothing to do?

I realize that some of you might not approach a snow day as we introverts do, with utter happiness that absolutely nothing is expected of us for an entire day. It is truly a day we excel because there is no party to be the life of. As the girl at the eye doctor said when I told her I was looking forward to the upcoming snow storm, “Oh, you’re one of those.” Yep. I am.

For 365 days a year, I am forced out of my shell, and out the door (actually a place I love to be–outside–if it’s in the garden), to be around people. That was stressful for me as a third grader, and while, I’ve honed my social skills and social graces since that dreadful year (the year Adam Bengle stapled my dress to the chair, and somehow I didn’t notice until I stood up), I am still that geeky, nerdy, shy kid who finds herself wondering why in the world she said THAT. I do not mix and mingle well. Parties can still unnerve me, and schedules–that be here, now be here, sort of busyness Americans thrive on, can cause such indecisiveness in me that I’ve been known to cancel everything out of sheer confusion.

I was horribly shy in a family of extroverts, and a school full of future terrorists. A snow day meant no chores, no teachers boring me to death, and no navigating the lunchroom or playground. It meant time was all mine, that there was no one dictating where I should be when for one whole day. Snow days were not only eerily quiet all morning (until the neighborhood kids were released from their houses for sledding), which I loved, they were blessedly free of everything. Mom never insisted that chores be done. Dad went sledding with the kids, and for once, in my extroverted family, I was given permission to either join in on the bonfire and sledding, or stay in my pjs and read. I mostly read. Sometimes. I joined the sledding. But, it was seriously nice to be given a choice.

My mom, the woman who never met a stranger, once asked me if I needed “help” with my introverted ways. She was politely suggesting therapy. She’s not alone. Many an extrovert has quizzed me on my introverted self, trying to discern if I were sad or troubled because I preferred to spend the day alone rather than at say, Disney World. It was unfathomable to my mom that anyone would choose not to be the center of whatever crowd was around. Fortunately, all 3 of my other sisters fit that role beautifully, and they can navigate people like my Coastie Son can navigate a boat. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I explained to mom that there were extroverts and introverts, and it was OKAY. Introverts did not need to be fixed. (FYI: Mom loved me anyway.) Unbelievably, I recently explained the same to a friend who was convinced that as an introvert she needed to change.

Our society screws us up in more ways than fashion and body size.

But, it is nice to have a few extrovert friends thrown into the mix. If they’re good friends, they help move you through the muddy waters of a world where interacting with people is a must and locking yourself in your room would likely have you committed. But really. Why do we all want so much attention?

Perhaps one reason I work outside is that I still get snow days (and rain days!). The announcement comes via text now, not a radio, and it says “You’re flexed off,” which technically means, I’m not paid for the day. But, sometimes, a snow day is better than money.

Being a kid is just plain hard. Being a kid in school is even harder. Being a kid on a snow day is awesome. Being an adult on a snow day is still pretty amazing. It’s one day out of everyday that I am not faking it. I’m not pretending to be whatever it is people need me to be. Everything shuts down, and I am quiet. It’s the quiet that works in me. The quiet of softly fallen snow quiets the fears and worries in my brain–those fears and worries that never really seem to go away. I’m in my pjs reading a book, and all is right with the world. For one blessed day.

If you’re wondering if escape is my life’s theme, I suppose it sounds like it, but it isn’t. It’s the need to hear myself think for a day. It’s the need not to hear the world for a day. It’s the need not to rise to meet the challenges of the day. Big decisions can stay big decisions until tomorrow. If it needs to be figured out, I can figure it out tomorrow. My brain is on vacation, while I spend some quality time with my pjs and a good book. Permission is given by the sound of a radio, or the ding of a text, to take the day and let things be. Don’t misunderstand, I am happy when I conquer a challenge or rise to the occasion and make the tough decisions. All those things make me feel pretty good about myself, but every once in awhile, a girl needs a day when there’s no need for a hero. Her pjs are on. She’s under a pile of blankets, and a good book is in hand, (or a nap is taking place).

I’m told I am an INFJ on the Meyer’s Briggs. Supposedly, there are less than 1% of my personality type in the world. Maybe. Who knows? I don’t know how they measure such things. But, surely, there is more than 1% of the population that would like a day off. Surely, there is more than 1% that is rooting for a snow day. I know I am. I bought hot chocolate just in case.

 

modern family transplanted and still blooming cinthia milner

Looking for My Own Modern Family

I long for a family again. This single mess has gone on long enough.

Late at night on my screened-in porch, I can hear a guy talking 2 screened-in porches away. Because I am a corner house, I have neighbors behind me, and beside me. This guy is behind me. I sit listening in the dark, sliding my glider back and forth, because as much as I love texting, I long for the sound of human voices. And man, does he have a lot to say. Especially in regard to his family. He has opinions about every single cousin, and after 2 years of late night listening, I must say I agree with him completely about his cousin Daniel and Daniel’s wife, Katie. Katie is no good. Daniel really should get the kids. Their court case is next week, and I am tempted to go to the courthouse and participate. I’ve been listening since she was first caught with her old boyfriend, who, by the way, is a drug dealer. I lack sympathy for her. Daniel has given her countless chances. I don’t know that there’s hope she’ll change, and I’m fairly diplomatic. In my own, eavesdropping way, I do feel like they’re family now, though I still do not know this mysterious night-talker’s name. As I listen to him in dark, I nod in agreement. He seems wise, and I feel he was correct on the subject of sidewalks in the town. We need more and wider. His wife never talks. She just shushes the baby, and likely enjoys the quiet of the night, and the sound of her husband’s voice. They leave their light off too, while soothing their little one to sleep.

If you watch much tv (that’s all I’ve done for the last 12 days–it’s the flu) every show seems determined to tell me what family is NOW. Okay, I’m listening because my own family has flown the coop, and I’m looking for a new one. From Modern Family to About a Boy, no one seems interested in a traditional family, but everyone wants to expand the definition. I can’t really say much on the subject since my present family is a voyeuristic, screened-in, eavesdropping experience that I feel is not sitcom worthy. But, I do think after the first little family of Adam and Eve, all other families have been pretty much a blur. So game on for whatever family you feel you might fit with, because isn’t that what family is? That one place in the universe where you just fit? Where everyone knows you and you don’t have to catch them up on the last, in my case, 55 years. They already know, and no they don’t want to hear it again.

Here’s what I’m missing: connections.

I don’t mind chatty conversations about nothing. As these blog posts attest I can rattle on all day about nothing, but I miss human connection. I’m just not sure where to find it.

So, I’ve been watching all these shows on tv. (As if that’s going to help me sort out what family is now–sans kids.) But actually, it does make me feel a little less crazy, because the best shows, the ones you’ll actually watch again and again, are the ones where people connect. It isn’t Cam and Mitchell being gay that makes Modern Family such a popular show. It’s the connection they have with each other, and the genuine love they express. Every time I come away thinking, I want that. I don’t mean a guy and a girl thing, but a whole community of people. The goofy friend, the screechy wife, the bumbling adolescences, the player friend. I like a big mix of people. If you get tired of grandma, go play with a toddler.

I’m just looking for my own Modern Family.

But going out and adopting a family is well, not so easy, and even on sitcoms, sooner or later, the group separates. Maybe that’s why so many people my age move to where their grandchildren are, so they’ll feel as though they’re family again. But then, you risk your daughter-in-law’s ire for eternity, and who can blame her? It’s her turn now to build a family. Does she really want you five minutes away?

I haven’t sorted it out, but I suppose I will. I’ll either make my way down the screened-in porches and help shush the baby while giving my own thoughts on Daniel and Katie, or perhaps I’ll move at least a bit closer to the grand kids. Who knows? But one thing is for sure, its hard to live a life with only friends. Friends are a part of the glue in life, but nothing really beats family. With my kids grown, and far away, and the 70s still a good ways away (okay not that far away, but away), I guess I’m looking for my own Modern Family.

I Will Garden (Part One)

It’s been a feverish week. My fever has stayed around 104 without medicine. 101 with it. I’m alternating Tylenol and Ibuprofen every two hours like I did with the kids when they were little and ran high temps. It’s the flu. 7-10 days I’m told. This is day 6. I don’t hold out much hope for day 10 if I continue like this. But, we’ll see.

Amazing how resilient the body is and yet, how not.

I will recover from this flu, though I suspect it will lag on into spring with a miserable cough, but the day will come when I tell my flu story during the February that all the doctors shut their doors due to “inclement weather.” There is several inches of ice in my backyard. The roads are fine (I know, I drove myself to the store out of necessity), but I suppose even doctors need breaks, and seized the excuse of black ice to have one.

Here’s the skinny: my mom died, and I’m going to garden again.

I know. Wow. Random, right? Nah. Because when you’ve lost both parents, as my absentee doctor says, it changes your position in the family. In other words, my granddaughters had three barriers between themselves and death. Their Maurme (my mom, their great-grandmother, so minus one barrier now), their YaYa, me, the grandmother, and their parents. While they could die early, it is more likely that they will pass the years as I have, and one day be the generation whose turn is death. Admittedly, I probably still have another 20-30 years, but just as likely, I may not. A dear friend, for whom I’d move heaven and earth to let no harm come to her,  is facing the unknown of her health right now, and we’ve texted late nights about the “what-ifs.” This is the hard stuff. Flat out. It just doesn’t get any harder than this.

I’ve arrived at the age where friends, siblings, and myself must look death straight on, and ask ourselves this question, what will be my response to death?

I will garden.

Because truth is, I don’t know yet. Death is a different subject than life, and I’m still dealing with the hassles and yes, joys, of life, no matter where my biological age has landed me. Life doesn’t say to you, oh, you need a moment to sort? Catch your breath?  Okay. Go ahead. Take a moment. I’m not sure how to navigate what seems like the very precarious space between life and death right now. I have to work. Pay bills. Eat. Do the normal things of everyday life while feeling like someone opened a door and shoved my mother through it, and I’m waiting on them to open it back up, and push her back into my life again.

I will garden.

Until my mind calms and creativity and death have formed some sort of pact.  I will go to the garden. I always have. It’s one place where peace reigns, time stands still, and death must linger beyond my garden gate, even when I am killing plants I’d rather keep alive.

I haven’t gardened in awhile. Not since I left South Turkey Creek. I didn’t see much point in actively gardening in a rental property, so mostly, I got the yard cleaned up, uncovered some pretty perennials, got rid of a billion firepower nandina (there is no plant I loathe more), and a few scraggly abelia that were in too much shade. It was rather like taking a good set of pruners outside and shaping things up a bit. But not much more. That’s what I did the first summer I was here.

The second summer, the unfinished path by the white picket fence was finally too much for me, so I finished it. I used cedar mulch for the path and planted David Austin roses to climb the fence. I splurged on an Agapanthus for Aggie. The fence faces South, and forms a barrier between the sidewalk, the roses, the path and the house. A great place for sun-loving plants, and since Brevard is located next to Pisgah National Forest (a rain forest), water and drying out in a Western exposure wasn’t an issue for the roses. It turned out to be the least mildew-inspiring spot. I jazzed up the the sidewalk side of the fence for walker-bys. It seemed a gracious thing to do. I chose fun plants for the kids: Echeveria, paddle plant (Kalanchoe thyrsiflora) and Euphorbia Myrsinites (Myrtle spurge or Donkey Tail), and colorful plants for the moms and those driving by: Salvia greggii ‘Hot lips’ lots of echinacea, penstemon, even day lilies (not a fan), but I wasn’t going for what I liked. I bought off the sale table at work. The succulents wouldn’t live through our presently 6 degree winter, but they were cheap, and lively, and added texture among the lilies and fancy penstemon. It worked. Folks stopped during their morning and evening walks to admire and ask what this or that was.

But, that was it really. Renter’s curb appeal. Being a good neighbor and keeping my yard ship-shape. The only true gardening I did was a test garden. As a horticulturist, the only way to know how it grows is to grow it.

But now, here I am. At this awkward and yes, scary place in life. I find myself wondering which friend, which sister is possibly next? Such morbid thoughts but death has that quality to it. So, this morning with dawn’s light creeping into my backyard, and prayers whispered for my dear friend who’ll spend her day chasing down doctors, I got dressed in boots and coat (leaving pjs on), and surveyed the back yard. Two cherry trees are the crowning glory, stretching their flower-laden branches between my yard and my neighbors. They need pruning desperately. 35-40′ feet tall and 25′ wide, that is a big job. Mental note to call Aaron, my handyman-soon-to-be-forester student. He’ll need to climb up in them for a proper job, but those lovely double blossoms will be blessed by it.

Second mental note: Weeping Snow Fountain Cherry must go. Horrible tree. Grafted and the trunk is completely out of proportion with the top. The blooms are slightly pretty, but not pretty enough, and besides it stands crowding a Hicksii yew. Who wants that? If I chose, I chose the Hicksii. It reminds me of my friend, Carol, who worked at the famous Hick’s Nursery on Long Island where it was developed. Plants that remind me of lovely friends are keepers.

And, out with a blooming crab tree in a corner by the picket fence. It looks like a jungle in that corner. Replace it Arborvitae ‘Emerald Green’ because the power line cuts right through there and with their max 12′ tall they’ll give privacy but not touch the power lines.

The cold felt good on my hot skin. I could breathe again momentarily. And my thoughts were my own, not crowded with loss, but planning a garden. I would have stayed a bit longer but my neighbor stuck her head over the fence and yelled, feeling better are we?

“No,” I said, “just making plans for spring.” My moment of reverie was gone. My brain was getting fuzzy again, anyway.

She threw up her hand in agreement, and disappeared behind her frozen walled fence that I’ve never gotten a glimpse behind. Perhaps for the best.

Yes, I said to myself, I am making plans for spring, and a garden.

My backyard has one large eye sore, a chain link fence. On a good day, those things reek of death, but on a winter’s day, with its shape outlined in ice, even more so. Something must be done about that fence, I pondered, but that was a problem for another day. Still, I could not go inside and let it win, with its glint-y iciness, so I spoke aloud. “Spring is coming. Spring is coming, Mr. Chain Link Fence, and you cannot stop it.” The resurrection of life is as sure as death. It is coming.

And, I will garden.

 

so this happened how will you respond

So, this Happened. How Will You Respond?

So, this happened. How will you respond?

I’ve been asking myself that question all week.

  • You really did get fired. How will you respond?
  • You’re alone, now. How will you respond?
  • You were lied too. How will you respond?
  • Your health is gone. How will you respond?
  • Your children have ignored all the values you taught them. How will you respond?
  • Your spouse is no help at all. How will you respond?

These are mild compared to some I could write. You just declared bankruptcy. How will you respond?

But, they’re also pretty heavy compared to some I could write. The shower is stopped up. How will you respond?

How about this one? You’ve gained weight. How will you respond? (I’m going to deal with it tomorrow, that’s how.)

A friend shared a Christmas letter she received from a friend. She wanted my take on it. It wasn’t hard to understand what the author of the letter was suffering from–bitterness. He’d had a full life, a brilliant career and great health, due to a healthy lifestyle. So, yeah, he was supposed to be that guy. The guy we want to be when our turn comes. His plans were to write his memoir during retirement, but his health betrayed him. Instead, he’s making daily doctor runs, and the pages of the memoir remain blank. He’s not jogging through old age. He’s pushing a walker. It happens.

So, who are you pointing the finger at? Because, can we be honest? The first response is always the tragedy staring me. Look what happened to me. (If you’re still on your parents, then Lord help you, please respond by saying thank you for giving me life, and move on.)

Having a fit won’t change what happened. It happened.

I’m taking a class in setting personal boundaries. Here’s what I’ve realized. I don’t need to learn to say no, as much as I need to learn to respect other people’s no. I seriously need to stop hearing their no as an attack on me, and instead hear it for what it is.

Just a plain, simple no.

Oh but, that is hard when it is a gut-wrenching no.  And, we all have at least one gut-wrenching no. That one we try not to remember because when we do, we feel it all over again. Rejection.

Years ago, I worked in a Community Rehabilitation program. We helped with repairs on low-income homes. I was assigned to an African-American woman, who I thought was younger than I was (I was mid-20s.) Turns out she was 42, just gorgeous and aging really well. But, she was, as the saying goes, bat-shit crazy. She talked about her husband. Her husband this, her husband that. The husband had been gone for 20+ years. He was married with kids. Her response? She was having none of his no. She believed he would come back.

That’s one response, I suppose. Denial.

But, like the guy frustrated with doctor’s offices, and blank memoirs, how much time are we wasting? That stunningly beautiful woman lived alone her entire adult life. The brilliant man knew illness happened to others, but believed he was exempt. She believed no one could leave her. He believed doing it all right insulated him. People leave. We’re not insulated from anything.

So, this has happened. How will you respond? How will I respond? I’ve been asking myself that question all week. My conclusion? Grace. Grace for me. Grace for whoever. What else is there, really?

 

 

 

biscuit with butter

Tell the Truth and Let the Lord Love You.

Tell the truth and let the Lord love you.

That should be the title of a book. Or a movie. Or my life. Because if you tell the truth, you’re probably going to irritate someone, so you’ll need the Lord to love you.

I didn’t come up with the saying. I got it secondhand. From a friend’s friend. I texted my friend today to ask her if she was going to church. She texted back that she was going to tell the truth and let the Lord love her, so no, she wasn’t going to church. She was laying on the couch. I was still pretty cozy in my bed (At 10:55 a.m., church starts at 11:15, I made it!), so I had nothing on her. But, that comment soothed my heart. It was butter on a hot biscuit. Freshly baked, just out of the oven, butter dripping down your fingers, warming your belly like you hadn’t eaten in weeks, kind of comment.

Because how hard have you tried to get someone to love you?

Enough to lie? Enough to pretend? Enough to be silent? Enough to do what you thought you’d never do?

I wish the comment was, tell the truth and let your people love you anyway. But, it isn’t. There’s been a few times that my kids needed to tell me a truth. I could see the fear and angst on their faces just before they spoke it. I’m not talking toddler truth here. I am talking man-did-I-mess-up-adult truth. I became mom pretty quick, and let them know that NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING could mess them up with me. Tell me the truth and I will love you to death. I will hot-butter-biscuit-love you to death, because speaking the truth takes a whole lot of courage sometimes.

My mom wasn’t so easy with that. She was quick to give a lecture, or be shocked. It was easy to shock her, which resulted in me lying to her, when really, I just wanted to tell her the truth. She was my mom. I wanted her to love me, and be proud of me, not be shocked by my stupid behavior or outrageous truth. So, yeah. Lying was easier. Tell the truth? Not when your audience is going to have the proverbial hiss-y fit. If the cost of speaking the truth is the cost of love, who does that?

Not me. I won’t give up love for truth. Will you?

I know what you’re thinking. If they can’t handle my truth then I don’t need that kind of love. Okay, Oprah. We agree. But how easy is that? And let’s talk about the people we love who fear losing our love if they’re honest with us. Come on. Super Soul Sunday sounds good, but walk that stuff out, and let’s agree that it is hard to disappoint those we love.

How I wish we’d let others (and ourselves) mess up big time and still love the heck out of each other. How I wish truth produced hugs and loving on one another. How I wish it wasn’t a choice between our truths and the love of loved ones, but sometimes, it is. But wishing is just that, wishing, and while confession is good for the soul, there’s a reason it’s done in a confessional booth with a slotted wall between you and your confessor. We can’t really handle each other’s truths, can we? I mean, really? Can we? It becomes personal. We get all weird, and make up conspiracy theories–assumptions about why they lied to us. Never thinking for a moment it was because they couldn’t stand our shocked faces. It tore them up to imagine it, so they kept quiet for way too long. Hey, I’m guilty of it. Ask my ex.

But, tell the truth and let the Lord love you? That one you can bank on. And, shocker–he already knows your truth. He’s not shocked. And judgment? Well, you got a clean slate the minute Jesus’ hands were pierced, so put that one back on the shelf. Abandon you? Never gonna happen. Your friend? Maybe she left in a huff. But, the Lord? Never.

He’ll love you to death. He’ll clean your wounds, and tell you chin up. He’ll stick by you, while you speak the truth in your heart. Yes, that one. The one that’s been lurking in there for eons. The one behind the door marked private. The one you thought you’d carry to your grave. Hey, listen. It’s on the tip of your tongue, anyway. Has been for awhile.

So, maybe you can’t tell your mom, or your spouse, or your friend. Maybe it isn’t even appropriate, too. But the Lord, yes, tell him, and let the warmth of hot-butter-biscuit love fill you up.

sheep on a mountainside, old age, Jonah

Getting Old; Sigh. And, Jonah on the Art Loeb Trail

I decided to hike today.

I did the Art Loeb trail in the Pisgah National Forest, about two seconds from my house. It’s a 30 mile trail that mostly winds up ridges and peaks, but I only did an hour of it. I have no clue how far I hiked. I was having a massive, peak-10 panic attack, and I was walking it off, as they say.

I did that trail (pretty much straight up) instead of the old people’s trail (pretty much not-straight up) that follows the Davidson River. That’s what I call it, the “old people’s trail,” because it’s easy. Gentle incline. Nice views of the river. Kids riding bikes. Elderly couples walking side-by-side, doing their daily walk.

But, let’s stop there. With the elderly couples doing their daily walk. Because that’s when my panic attack started.

See, to get to the Art Loeb trail, I have to walk a ways on the old people’s trail. So, I was passing elderly couples in jogging suits right and dang left.

Elderly couples look like elderly toddlers to me.

Passing them, I could hear the doctor’s voice in the background. “I want you to walk every day, and do it outside, so you’ll get some fresh air. And, don’t forget to eat your heart healthy diet.” Like talking to children. With a sing-song-y voice.

That’s when the panic happened, because I am not so far away from the jogging suits, daily walks, and soft foods, myself. I’m getting old.

With the panic at mock-10, I took my right up the Art Loeb trail, telling myself, “You’re not old, yet. You don’t have to stick with the old people’s trail. You can do this trail.” Which is so much cooler than a jogging suit. Talking to yourself as you’re panting your way up a mountain.

What happened next, I’m blaming on Aggie, not the fact that I’ll soon be buying jogging suits. I fell across a tree-root. I’d probably walked about 25 minutes, and Aggie pulled too hard on the leash, and the tree root jumped out at me, and down I went. I was out cold, and when I came too, Aggie’s nose was touching my nose. I thought we were on the floor at home. Except we weren’t. We were on the cold, very hard ground of the forest. The movie, Into the Woods, came to mind. I had no clue where I was.

Still lying on the ground, I grabbed my phone to check the time and my compass, because knowing if I was north or south was so going to help me. And, because I am getting old, and my head was throbbing, I could barely make out the time. I had to ask Siri, who replied, “It’s 1:34 p.m. Cinthia.” (Thank the Lord for Siri.)

Good. I had time to figure out where I was before it got dark. I stood up. Everything seemed fine. Nothing major but a bump on my head. Then I remembered why I was on the Art Loeb trail, and promptly repented because being face down on a trail in the middle of a National Forest with no clue which direction you came from is a real reason to panic. The jogging suits were looking pretty good.

The good news is, Aggie was sick of hiking (it wasn’t the sort of outing she’d hoped for), and wanted to head home. She’s got good direction sense, so I followed her, my own sense returning as we hiked. Pretty soon, I remembered where we were and I said, out loud, “Oh yeah, we’re on the Art Loeb trail.” Which again, is so much cooler than the old folks in their jogging suits on the easy trail, if anyone heard me.

Then I got to thinking about some advice I got from a friend once I started living alone. He said, “You need a 2 a.m. person.”

That got me to wondering, if I had hurt myself, and couldn’t walk back to my car, who would I call? I checked my phone. Yes, I had full bars, but the battery was almost dead. So, who would I text?

My list was super picky. It went like this: My ex is the best choice because he’s a forester, would know where I was if I texted him, and would know what to do. He’s got com-MAN sense. But, who knows? If he read my text, he might think, oh good, no more alimony. So, he was out. Next, I considered my boss who lives just a few minutes away, and knows the area because he’s that rare bird, a native. But, because I text him all the time, there was the chance he’d figure it was a work thing, and decide to wait till Monday to read it, thinking, I’ll see what she wants later. Then he’d go eat sushi at the new sushi bar in town, and I’d die from exposure while waiting for him to finish.

My sisters were out, because they’re too far away, and besides none of them could hike up that trail even if they knew where it was. And, they’d think I had butt-texted them, and skip the whole text entirely.

A couple of my girlfriends were possibilities, but they all had family in town, and well, we have rules regarding family being in town. Don’t bother us while they’re here. So, they were out.

Finally, I remembered a guy I used to work with. He’s a bit like my ex. Knows the area. He and his wife are hikers. So, there’s a good chance he’d know the trail I was on. He lives close by. Perfect! And, since I never text him, unlike my boss, he’d probably read my text, which I envisioned as only saying, “Art Loeb trail.” (I am nothing if not dramatic.) I figured he would figure out my cryptic message, tell his wife, and the two of them would come find me. I think she went to medical school, so bonus! He was fast becoming my guy if I ever fell in the woods again, and ended up with a broken leg or some such.

Except, no, not really. Because after running the whole scenario through my head, I had to ask myself this very real question: Would I text him? And, then suffer the utter humiliation I would feel because I had to ask for help, or would I die on that mountain-top to avoid embarrassment.

Pride reared its head a second time in less than 24 hours. I don’t like asking for help, and maybe that’s one reason I don’t like the thought of getting old: What if I need help? What if I need to ask for help?

Here’s where the Jonah part comes in. If you’ve ever read the story of Jonah, you know he’s a big, whiny baby who sits on a hillside overlooking Nineveh, refusing God’s help. God just saved an entire city of evil people, but God can’t save Jonah because Jonah won’t let God. So, not only is he on a mountaintop, hot and miserable, he is helpless while refusing help. I’m going to call that pride, and sit down beside Jonah on the mountaintop to die.

I made my way back down the mountain (cautiously), while thinking that if pride hadn’t taken hold, and caused me to panic, I could have skipped the whole Art Loeb thing, and enjoyed a leisurely hike along the river, without the knot on my head. Which is the moral of this little tale. Don’t be a knot-head. When the time comes, buy the jogging suit, and enjoy the fresh air.

BatWoman, Cinthia Milner,

To My Granddaughters: Go Be BatWoman!

My darling grandgirls: Go be BatWoman.

Let’s start with boys. It ain’t about the boys.

We live in an age where women have more freedom than they likely have ever had, and sadly, I’m watching girls (ages 18-21), make idiots of themselves over your uncle. These are college girls that are old enough to know better. I asked one girl if she’d ever heard of feminism. And, I don’t mean the kind of feminism that promotes freedom of sex for everybody and their brother.

I mean feminism where women learn to treat themselves with respect, and to invest in themselves.

I’ll quote my dad (your Biggie) here: “Don’t worry if the boy is going to choose you. Are you going to choose him?”

Your personalities are developing, and I’m watching you become these ultra-cool girls (one day women) with specific characteristics that make you, you. But, I’ve seen it happen a billion times. Around age 12, you’ll disappear, and what will take your place is a boy-crazed girl who will do whatever it takes to get the boys to notice her. That disappearing act, it lasts a really long time. Sometimes a few years, sometimes decades, sometimes forever. And, it’s hard to make a comeback from that. So, fight for yourself. Fight for your quirky, smart, silly, lovely selves to stay present and open to the world.

Don’t disappear.

You’re beautiful, smart, amazing and wonderfully made girls. Go be BatWoman!

That’s enough about the men.

go be batwoman

 

Now for the women in your lives. Pick great women to follow as role models and keep good girlfriends close.

Preferably women who have suffered and survived. Because you will suffer yourselves, that’s a given, and you’ll need the inspiration to keep going. But more importantly, pick women who are humble. Arrogance, pride, haughtiness–the whole diva mentality our culture promotes–it suits no one. Skip the Kardashians, and look to women like your mom, or my mom (Maurme).  Aim to be like them. Aim high.

I chose a woman at my church. She decided she would be silent no more. Women would participate in church. The pastor (male) agreed. They chose a Sunday and she served communion that day. Almost all the men ignored her. They would not receive communion from her–a woman. Twenty years later, I serve communion hand-in-hand with the men in my church, thanks to her. I never forget the road she forged for women in my tiny church.

See, that church is tiny. That community is tiny. That meant her friends and neighbors shunned her. But, she stood up anyway.

It isn’t always on a world level. It’s generally in your small world of friends and family, and girls that is hard.

And since I brought up Maurme, follow her example and cultivate good friends. She had such wonderful friends, and her life was so full because of them. Follow her example, and be a good friend. Choose your friends wisely. Don’t go for popularity, go for sincere. Go for the girl who’s got your back. Go for the girl you can call at 2 a.m. Go for the girl who doesn’t ditch you because she has a date. Go for the girl who would never utter the words, “I don’t have a lot of girlfriends because I really prefer a man’s company.” That girl. That girl is poison. Translated, all that means is, I like to flirt with men and prefer their attentions over trying to be a real friend. Avoid her. She’s the one who will seduce your boyfriend or husband. If you find a real friend, be a real friend to her. Be known for being a good friend.

You will need your girlfriends. Keep them close. Keep each other close. Never abandon your sisters.

go be batwoman

Find your passion.

Find something you love, and let that be your work. God created us for work. God gave us talents and skills. So, discover your’s, develop them, and use them. And, do not let dream-dashers destroy your dreams. There are so many dream-dashers in the world. Mostly, they’re people whose own dreams were dashed, and so now, they dash other’s dreams. Just skip telling those people anything about your dreams. You’ll end up second-guessing yourself. Instead surround yourself with cheerleaders. And, don’t forget to be a cheerleader for somebody. There is a center in the universe, and as much as you are the center of my universe, you are not the center of THE universe. Remember that.

You have an obligation that is hand-in-hand with your dreams. To help others.

There is a world out there, with women who don’t have what you have. They can’t study, drive, vote, own property, they are property. Remember while pursuing your dreams to find a way to help them pursue their’s.

And by the way, it’s okay to fail at your dreams, but it is not okay to never try.

Go be BatWoman.

Okay, I did a little man bashing, but really let’s do some real talk about men.

Let’s talk about the ones who are already a part of your life. How fortunate are you to have your dad? He adores you. He will protect you and guide you. Let him while he can. And, don’t forget the other men who love you, and will always be there to support you. Your uncles, your grandpas. Our society likes to make men look pretty stupid. Any sitcom will teach you that, but the men in your lives are awesome. You’ve been blessed with some of the best. Call on them for help when you need it. Anything from fixing your car, to making you laugh. They love you so dearly.

And then, when and if you’re ready for a relationship, remember how they treated you and expect no less.

BatWoman, Uncle and Niece, Cinthia Milner

Uncle and Niece

Finally, hold tight to Jesus. People will tell you he’s not real. But, your YaYa has been holding tight to him since she was 32, and she knows, he is real. Listen, sweeties. Life won’t be all candy and sisters, and Frozen and Star Wars and all the things you love. You will suffer and be broken.

Remember this, my darlings, your YaYa prayed for that very day when your suffering comes. She prayed that you would stand firm, and stand up under it. She prayed for that day while you were still in your Mama’s womb. Not that you would be protected from suffering, but that you would be fierce under it. You have strength you do not yet know about it, but it is there. Access it, and then give the glory to God. He has promised never to leave you, never to forsake you. Believe it.

Now go be BatWoman.

YaYa

 

cinthia milner transplanted and still blooming aggie lives next door to a hot dog truck

Aggie Lives Next Door to a Hot Dog Truck

My dog, Aggie, loves me more than any dog loves any pet owner, ever.

Because we live next door to a hot dog truck.

And, she thinks I moved here for her.

My neighbors own a hot dog truck. They used to own a hot dog restaurant. Just a little shack on the side of the road that made the most amazing hot dogs. They sold it for a small pull-along hot dog truck. And, I do mean, pull-along. It travels behind their Honda CRV with no trouble.

It has two windows for those wishing to purchase a hot dog, a small hot dog oven, a bun warmer and a tiny drink machine. Honestly, it reminds me of the Easy Bake Oven I got for Christmas when I was six, which made miniature brownies. They were darn good brownies, maybe not as fabulous as the neighbor’s hot dogs, but for an Easy Bake Oven that ran on a light bulb, they weren’t bad.

My neighbors and their hot dog wagon are on the road 24/7. They have kids in college, and while the college kids are home fairly frequently, the parents seem to spend their time peddling dogs. I’m assuming to pay tuition fees, which seems backward to me, but who I am to judge? My own College Son is currently enjoying sub-tropical weather while attending college classes in Costa Rica, and I’ve noticed, that while the college refuses to send me his grades, they have no qualms about sending me the bill. Woe is me. The worst of it is, I still haven’t gotten a hot dog, and I feel I should, since we are neighbors and all.

But, after the “Aggie incident,” I don’t think I’ll be partaking of the warm, mustard-y delicacy anytime soon.

It goes like this: I was ready for work, which means Aggie gets in the car for a quick trip to doggie day care, and Little Kitty goes outside (kitty door left open so she can come and go). Then, off I go. It was a Monday.

Only my tire was flat. Since I don’t change flat tires, I called Triple A, and began the hour wait. Back inside for Aggie and me, but I forgot something: the open kitty door, which Aggie fits through. Thirty minutes later, Aggie is not at my feet (her usual spot), and I hear a ruckus that sounds like a small earthquake next door. I panicked, thinking Aggie had gone outside, and was trapped in a neighbor’s garage, and being the diva she is, was tearing up heaven and earth to get out.

If only.

Aggie had found the hot dog truck with the hot dog warmer wide open, and full of hot dogs. The little pull-along hot dog truck was bouncing on all four wheels.

I found her with, like, ten hot dogs in her mouth, and hot dogs on the floor, the counters, the driveway, the shrubs, up a tree. Hot dogs were scattered for miles. Aggie was sprawled in the middle of it, looking at me with pure adoration. Truly, how could she have landed a better home? She started howling with satisfaction, alerting all the neighborhood dogs about the dogs.

I tried picking them up, and wiping them off with my shirt, which only made the grass and gravel stuck to them worse. So, I went with option two: leave the scene of the crime quickly. I decided to get Aggie out of there, and hightail it through the hemlocks, back to my side of the brick wall, but Aggie was having none of it. Finally, grabbing her collar, and pulling her with yelps and squeals and clawing at the metal floor to stay where she was, I managed with brute force to pull her away from the truck. Just in time for Triple A to drive up.

I’m going to confess. I acted 0h-so-innocent to the neighbors. What? Hot dogs everywhere? My goodness what do you think happened? Aggie was already in the car, crafting her story for her doggie friends at day care. All about her morning in the hot dog truck. It wasn’t the idea of repaying them for the hot dogs. (How much can a box of hot dogs cost?) It’s them, my neighbors. They’ve intimidated me ever since I accidentally cut down their tree (so another story for another time). After the tree incident, I just couldn’t own up to the hot dog incident. Plus, I was already late for work due to my tire, and I saw no reason to compound the stress of the day (it’s called justification).

I climbed into the car and found this face waiting on me. Miss Innocent. The duck looks way better than the hot dog truck.

cinthia milner, transplanted and still blooming, aggie lives next door to a hot dog truck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Called Empty Nest & it is a Syndrome

  1. A syndrome, in medicine and psychology, is the collection of signs and symptoms that are observed in, and characteristic of, a single condition.

No wonder we have so many syndromes. Somebody is collecting signs and symptoms and giving that a name.

  1. Empty Nest Syndrome refers to feelings of depression, sadness, and/or grief experienced by parents and caregivers after children come of age and leave their childhood homes. (Psychology Today)

Note, it does not say feelings of exuberance, joy, relief or downright giddiness. This surprises me. I totally expected to just jump right into this empty nest thing, and soak it up. It has been 25 years since I was alone, as in, all by myself.

So okay, it’s been a DAY since the College Son departed for Costa Rica to do the student exchange thing, and I can officially claim the syndrome of an empty nest. “Hi, my name is Cinthia, and I have Empty Nest Syndrome.”

I realize, for those returning from Afghanistan with PTSD, it just loses something when said out loud. But, this dang house is too quiet. And, I swear, not making it up, someone just tried to open my back door, but they did not because it was locked, and I was screaming. So, instead they ran off, and are presently telling the neighbors, “Um, yeah, don’t try making friends with the lady in the house on the corner. She’s cr-ra-azy.”

Well, I feel a tad crazy. I mean, all the hubbub that goes into getting your 20-soon-to-be-21-year-old son ready to live in a foreign country is crazy making. (As in, in two weeks he’ll turn 21 in Costa Rica. He’ll have his 21st birthday in San Jose. I feel so good about that.) It was/is an emotional roller coaster for this family whose favorite place to travel is Jekyll Island for a two-week stay at the Hacienda where we speak English, and sleep on the beach all day. Adding stress to our lives by experiencing “another culture” is typically not our M.O. because life is stressful enough in this culture, why go looking for it in another one? A real global girl, here.

At any rate, I expect the College Son to come back all tanned, 21, immortal, and ready for the next big challenge. Because he is almost 21. But, me? Well, the Psychology Today newsletter that gives us the Empty Nest Syndrome low-down, says part of the dilemma for we women (and men) whose children are leaving home is that we are also facing  “so many other life challenges.” Like caring for a parent, or losing a parent, menopause (I cannot believe I just wrote that word in public), looming retirement or disabilities. Disabilities? I should be offended. But, as I type, I have my foot propped up because I am in pain equal to childbirth, and assume amputation awaits me. Adding insult to injury, this is not the result of an injury, so clearly, old age has arrived along with my empty nest.

Just a quick note: Let’s catch Psychology Today up with the times. Right after Empty Nest Syndrome is the now popular, I’m Never Retiring Syndrome, shortened to the Remember-When Syndrome.

All in all, first empty-nest-day down, put me down for a no. I preferred my children at age 3. They hadn’t learned the word no yet, were still in my constant care, and loved to snuggle. The problem? It seems that’s about the age I should have started the letting go process. Susan Newman, Ph.D., says in her article on the topic, that the first step into the kindergarten classroom is a benchmark for the first day of pulling back, preparing both child and parents for final departure day.  Okay, so I am WAY behind. Typical me. Now, it’s about the cram.

But, alas, I have no choice. The baby literally flew the coop, and the eagle has landed in a sunny, tropical spot, no less. So, what’s a mom to do? Costa Rica sounds like a nice place. I hear it is a great place to retire. If such a thing existed, I mean. Psychology Today also said I should embrace new adventures at this juncture of my life. So who knows? Maybe I could be a global girl.

cinthia milner, transplanted and still blooming, empty nest syndrome

The eagle in a tropical paradise. (Photo courtesy of SnapChat. Yeah, like those things work.)

FYI: this is a fun blog for empty nesters: Adventures of Empty Nesters