Learning from Railroad Jargon

My husband, Scott, is a train conductor for Union Pacific Railroad. In any town or state that has a UP railyard, this sign is found all around the tracks.

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Know Your Red Zone.

In other words, know where the hazardous parts around the train are. Know where your blindspots are that might include pedestrians or other railroad workers.

I think that is one of the greatest attributes of growing older. I am more well acquainted with my strengths, but equally important, I know my weaknesses. For instance, I know that I tend to open up to just a few close friends, instead of a wide variety of friends. There is usually a wild, outspoken friend, a quiet, introspective friend, a creative, inspirational friend…parts of my own personality that I am drawn to in them.

I am absolutely certain (after trial and error), that I do not have to watch Meryl Streep decide which child she will give to the concentration camp and certain death. I do not have to know how Patricia Cornwell solved a particularly gruesome crime. And ‘It’s a Beautiful Life’? Uh, yeah…not if I watch that. But it’s an Academy Award winner, right?? Fabulous. But I can’t process it well. Watching particularly sad or ‘heady’ movies, sticks with me for days. I’m moody and unexplainably sad. Studying history is one thing. Watching a dramatization of it…something entirely different for me.

I know that if I don’t get enough sleep, I’m irritable the next day. I know that I have a tendency to want to go to bed early, but if I stay up a little longer, I will sleep better through the night.

I know that fake garlic kills me, but cooking with a garlic clove is totally awesome.

I know that I love salsa, but hate the feel of a raw tomato in my mouth.

I know that when I am feeling restless, it probably means I need a short day trip out of town somewhere. And after that little drive, I am a completely different person.

I know that I obsess. And by obsess, I mean ob.s.e.s.s. I get excited about something and I want to do it immediately and learn everything there is about it. I then can get really burned out so I should step away occasionally and let my brain settle down from its creative storm. But I also now know, that momentary interests in things that might not last a lifetime, is okay. It’s okay to enjoy something for awhile and then move on. It’s not inconsistency or flightiness. It’s simply who I am: not enough lifetimes to do and experience everything I want to see and live. I’ve learned to give myself a break about that.

I know there are toxic people with which I don’t need to associate closely. Some, even at all.

I know there are times I can run with vast energy, and other times that I am slow and methodical. Both states should be recognized and used appropriately. Just go with it.

As a person gets older, they begin to know their red zone. They recognize the whos and whats and wheres. They begin to embrace how their particular hard-wiring functions best.

Know Your Red Zone.

Troubles and weaknesses can’t always be avoided (nor should they be.) But knowing that you’re in a red zone puts you on full alert to recognize the typical pitfalls, allowing you to plan ahead for them before you’re in the middle of them and confused. Each time that we do, we strengthen our confidence in what we know. And what we don’t know. Building blocks of a functioning train – and a well-rounded human being!

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Project Life: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

My husband, Scott, and I were very moved the first time we saw the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I’m not even certain we could clearly articulate what it was that stirred us at first. We watch it often, still, as a source of fun encouragement as we continue to process the breadth of its meaning.

Scott and I are both 48 years old. The characters in the movie are in their 70’s and retired, yet they serve as a model of what could lie ahead. Each of the characters embody many of the strengths and weaknesses that each of us possess, so identification with one or more characters was not difficult. Scott and I have discussed many times how much we want to be more like “so-in-so” (I won’t ruin the plot for those who have not yet seen the movie) and less like “so-in-so” as we age. We both strongly identified with one particular couple that we hope to emulate more and more in the years to come.

Age does not have to define your sense of adventure…
…your sense of learning
…sense of evolving.
Age is not a handicap. In many ways, advanced age serves as a great source of freedom.

I have referred to Marigold as a coming-of-age movie because in so many ways it is not ushering a teen into adulthood but rather an adult into the magical period called retirement.

(watch for future posts about some of the sections of the movie that I particularly identified with, and why.)

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Background: Project Life is a scrapbooking method that revolves around page pockets in an effort to minimize and simplify the telling of your stories and the images that relate.

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I was so moved by many of the quotations in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel that I wanted to capture them in a Project Life layout. Just as we refer to our scrapbooks to relive and retouch our memories, I wanted to be able to go back and read the words that held such meaning to me as I viewed the movie. Some of the quotes are stand-alone inspirations while others are particularly poignant after seeing the movie. Faces and events within the story bolster the words with significant meaning.

This layout is very personal to me and Scott, yet it has served as an important part of our lives the last few months.

We are living and loving our lives right now.
Fear and anxiety for the future can either paralyze us or it can be a jumping board into a new world.

Initially, you’re overwhelmed. But gradually you realize it’s like a wave. Resist, and you’ll be knocked over. Dive into it, and you’ll swim out the other side.

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some stuff going on…

I believe strongly in the power of prayer.

Let me recap the past few months:

Two things simultaneously happened to me around the middle of February. My back started hurting which turned into a sciatic nerve pain that made it impossible for me to walk more than a few steps at a time. The pain was truly horrific. Sitting on the floor or a hard surface, thankfully, relieved the majority of the pain for small periods of time. Lying down was the worst position, making sleeping next to impossible.

Then a tooth that had a piece broken out of it developed an infection. Have you ever had a tooth nerve infection? Holy cow!, right?! Pain shooting to the front of my mouth or up through my ear. Unbelievable what happens when a small little nerve gets infected. Wow!

On February 18 I went to the dentist for some relief. He inspected my mouth, took some x-rays and determined that two teeth needed to be removed and put me on penicillin for the infection and hydrocodone for the pain. He sent me to an oral surgeon to have my teeth removed. Since I have a heart condition, they were concerned with the amount of bleeding (due to heart medications that thin your blood) as well as any stress to my heart. I had the extraction surgery last week. The recovery has been amazing! Scott has been a constant rule follower for me and a gifted and loving caregiver.

Over the course of the last few weeks I have been to a primary doctor, a physical therapist, the urgent care and the emergency room – all for my back. The pain in my leg was unbearable!

Eventually I ended up at a spine specialist. I immediately liked Dr. Trinh, orthopedic surgeon. He ordered an MRI for that afternoon. {Sidenote: Have you had an MRI? I was extremely uncomfortable and claustrophobic. A very uneasy feeling. I don’t want to ever have to do it that way again!! I would request an open MRI or some kind of anxiety something to calm me down. It lasted for a half an hour (did I mention how uncomfortable it was to lie down?!)}

The results from the MRI showed a sizeable cyst located in my spinal column and laying on my spinal nerve (which included my sciatic nerve.) All the exercising and treatments I had been going through would never have relieved my pain. The cyst needed to be removed in order to relieve the pressure.

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(looks like I swallowed a round marble!)

But first, Dr. Trinh wanted me to get cardio clearance for surgery. As a new resident to Omaha, we had not yet established our various doctors. I quickly found a cardiologist who was accepting new patients and met with her this afternoon (Monday). She was extremely thorough then ordered a stress test for me tomorrow morning at 10:30am as well various bloodwork tests. After reviewing those results, she will call me tomorrow afternoon to let me know whether or not she will clear me for surgery on Wednesday (everything we have done for the past few weeks has been back to back and puzzle pieces that had to fit a certain way and within a specific and short time period. So far, everything has fallen into place exceptionally well.)

Should all those tests come out okay, I am scheduled for surgery at 9am Wednesday morning. I refer to my first statement: I believe strongly in the power of prayer. I covet your prayers on Wednesday as they perform this delicate surgery of “messing around with” my spinal cord and spinal nerve. Of course two words are floating through my mind: paralysis and cancer. Dr. Trinh is very sure it is not a cancerous cyst. I will be happiest when we find that out for sure. But it is most likely a result from an injury to my back.

I have my pre-surgery instructions laid out and ready. My overnight bag is packed. It is impossible for me to communicate the level of love and respect and appreciation I have for my husband, my children, my family, my friends. I am hoping I will be able to play out those feelings of love and gratitude for many years to come.

Mostly, my soul is ready. It is securely scrubbed and packed and ready for the days of recovery ahead. For whatever lies ahead.

I am thankful for the deep support I have received from family and friends. Texts asking not how I feel physically, but how I am processing internally. Notes of encouragement. Words of love. Sarcastic jokes of norm.
I am grateful to finally have answers as well as receiving more answers shortly.
I am happy for the tooth surgery healing which was much better than the surgeon expected.
I am scared. I would be remiss to not include that reality. It has all been a little overwhelming. The chemical stress test tomorrow is not pleasant at all and a very scary feeling! The idea of spinal surgery……
I am anxious to be off pain killers. I have taken them every 3-4 hours since February 18 (increasingly stronger drugs as the weeks progressed.)
I am blessed – for too many things to express.
I am ready. All the i’s have been dotted all the t’s have been crossed.

If I cross your mind in the next few days, please say a prayer of healing. Say a prayer called Calm Down G’s Crazy Worried Mind (I’m not sure how many beads on the rosary necklace that would take up!)

I would love to hear from you on Facebook or however it is we communicate. I will be increasingly bored over the next few weeks of recovery. They predict 6-8 weeks. I am stubbornly hoping for much less than that.

As my old pastor, Tim Isley, would say: “God is good. All the time. All the time…” (…you finish it.)

A promise I never question and stand on securely.

My love to each of you…
g

no. 48

Yesterday was my 48th birthday. It was kind of an ordinary day in many ways, happy and pleasant – and a bit contemplative as well.

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I found this picture of myself at 18 years of age. 18…whew, I knew it all back then! I’m sure this picture was probably snapped before I went to school that day.

In looking back, I can honestly say there is nothing I would change. Truly. Without a doubt, I am certain that I would not be who I am today without the valleys and controversies of my past 30 years. It makes me curious to think that on the day of this picture, God might have looked ahead and thought, “Is she prepared for the life that lays ahead of her?” then I wonder how he answered his own question. It must have included the thought, ‘then I will prepare her the best that I can.’

At 48, I feel immensely blessed. I am living at an interesting time. I feel like I am moving into a reflective time; not necessarily a starting up time. I certainly don’t mean to imply I am finished and need to sit in a rocking chair and reflect back on my life. No! I have many more miles to travel and people to meet.

But there are changes.

I am a different candidate when seeking a new job.
I am a different clothes and apparel consumer.
Make-up is geared differently for me.
Transitions take a few minutes longer for me to react to.

I do believe, however, that I feel things deeper. I take longer to savor situations and people and experiences. I let them settle down into my soul before moving on to the next leg of the journey.

“My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.” – Colossians 2:6-7 The Message

There are patterns of thought which have been developed over the last few decades. There are some I would like to eradicate or at the very least make significant adjustments to them. Yet there are many for which I am thankful as well. I am entering an age and time in which I know what I know. I know the things I do really well. I know the things that I should always seek counsel on since they are not my strength or forte’.

I am…achem…a worrier. I am. I obsess. I over-analyze. I do pros and cons lists in my sleep and can tell you the worst case scenario far quicker than I can just ‘roll with it’.

Because of this I have been lingering around two words recently: trust and thanksgiving. Trust is difficult for many of us. And you know what? I have reason to distrust trust. Life has knocked me hard in ways that have raised the bar on my trust meter. But even though I have reason and can argue and justify those reasons, God doesn’t care. He says ‘trust me.’ I say ‘but here are the reasons I have trouble with that’ and he says, ‘yes, I understand. But trust me anyway.’

And thanksgiving. I know I have trouble trusting, but when thanksgiving was brought before me, I was a little surprised to see that I had trouble with that one as well. I’m pretty good at sending thank you notes to people – for the big things and for the little things. I thank my husband, Scott, quite often for loving me and for how he loves me.

Yet I don’t do a very good job of thanking God for working that out. Or bringing that person into my path. Or acknowledging that the ‘accidental’ thing that just happened was not coincidental, but a very God-directed and purposeful outcome. I need to remember to give props to God. I need to change that thought pattern.

I recently read, ‘Trust protects you from worrying and obsessing. Thought patterns of trust become etched into your brain. Relegate troubles to the periphery of your mind, so that God can be central in your thoughts.’

Trust and Thanksgiving – those are the words running through my mind this 48th birthday. Changing the patterns and rhythms of how I think. My husband happens to be very good at both. I’m hoping some of that rubs off on me.

I was a happy 18 year old.
I am a happy 48 year old.

I am still surrounded by people who love me and care for me. I still enjoy creativity in various forms. I still believe that God desires to hang out with me on a daily basis – hanging together and talking.

I like 48. I’m curious about what the year will unfold. I am confident it will include mountains and valleys, confusion and certainty. I pray that I am malleable enough to bend and break where necessary; stay solid and true where needed.

It’s been 30 years since I left high school.
And I am learning more now than ever before.

my life as g…(refreshed)

The blog, My Life As G, has been in existence for 10 years (preceded by Vintage Life 4 G). If you have been following that long, I sincerely and deeply thank you. There have been pauses along the way for my head to regroup, but for the most part, we have become friends, don’t you think?

There have been just a few changes in the past decade for me. Wow! My head spins just thinking about the Then and Now of it all. Looking ahead to 2013 I see many exciting opportunities and experiences waiting to be fully discovered. Also, the reality of it all is that My (real) Life As G has morphed into a bit of a Mid-Life life. (Let’s be honest.)

I would like to take the blog in a slightly different direction…

I worked with a lady who was exceptionally good at explaining things to others. Her name was Carol. Carol was a gifted trainer. She articulated directions well and explained the short-term goals along with the big picture we were trying to accomplish. Her most endearing quality was a simple phrase that she attached to the pitfalls of doing a specific task. Not only would she elaborate on how a process needed to be done, she also told us about common mistakes we might stumble over and what not to do. She would end her warnings with a simple phrase: ‘Ask me how I know.’

In other words, she had been down that road herself. She was telling us that something wouldn’t work that way because she herself had tried it and failed. She was attempting to make our efforts more productive than hers had been.

Ask me how I know.

There are many times I look in the mirror and wonder, “How in the WORLD did I get here?!” Usually followed by, “When did THAT happen?!”

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Then there are the moments that I look to those younger than me and wish I could say, “Don’t fall for this (or that). It doesn’t work. Ask me how I know.”

I find myself seeking guidance from others who are a bit further down the road than me in an attempt to side-step some common mistakes and heartaches. This is also why mixed friendships of ages and ethnicities and opinions serve only to enrich our lives, not divide them.

I would like to look at some silly and outrageous and serious and time-worn oddities of becoming this strange age we are. As I stated in my About page on this blog, if you are younger…join us and take notes. If you are on the later side of Middle-Agedom…please advise.

If you are in this crazy, weird age of The Middle, then please laugh along. It is like being a Tweenager, no? Never quite knowing where we belong.

So with this blog post, I am drawing a line in the blog sand and am turning a bit to the subject of Middledom. (yep; made up that word on the spot.) I am not attempting to give advice (…the very thought of that is humorous…), but rather to just talk and point and share together. The good, the bad, the mundane and the triumphant. Aging is certainly something we cannot outsmart. Yet since it is an inevitable part of our lives, why not join hands and sing Kum Ba Yah with it around the campfire. Surely laughing will keep us younger. Oh…and add yet another line around our eyes and mouths.