Fresh and New

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, mostly because I can’t seem to keep them.  I used to resolve to lose a little weight, spend less time worrying about things I can’t control, take better care of myself, and eat a healthier diet.  Secretly, I’d also hope that the new year would be the one where my writing career finally took off, and I’d get a nice big contract for one of the children’s book manuscripts I was trying to get published. 

Sadly, none of those things actually happened, at least for very long.  I’d diet for week or so, and then go right back to my love affair with all things sugary or fried.  I’d still worry far too often about far too many things.  The only children’s book I ever managed to publish was sold to an educational publisher for a one-time payment of $2,100…..and the check came three months late.  (If you Google “rich and famous children’s book authors,” my name does not appear on your screen.)

Still, there is something about a new year that feels like a fresh start.  It’s not that the previous year was a bad one, because in my case, it wasn’t.  I was able to travel again, which meant visiting friends and family I haven’t seen since before the pandemic began. My husband’s scans and blood tests revealed the wonderful news that his cancer is still gone.  We finally got the floor in our back family room leveled, and my husband began his partial retirement just last month.  (Never mind the fact that so far, he seems to believe that being partially retired means working lots of overtime.)  

But whether the previous year was good, bad or a mixture of the two, starting a new year always seems like a good thing. I see my house with new eyes once the Christmas decorations are packed away, and I always recognize a few things I’d like to change.  And while I might not make major changes to my diet, once the holidays are over I do stop having Christmas cookies for dessert after every meal.  I no longer write children’s books, but I do write a blog (yes, the one you’re reading) and I’ve come to enjoy that very much.  I don’t get paid, but it is a creative outlet and it’s put me in touch with some wonderful people from all over the world.

So instead of resolutions, I’ve decided to start the new year by simply appreciating whatever gifts the previous year brought and being willing to make at least small adjustments that could result in a better year ahead.  It’s my way of trying to embrace the best of the old and carry it on into the new year, while letting go of the things that it’s time to leave behind.  Because a new year can represent a chance to look at things in a new way, without all the baggage we accumulate through the years.  I guess that’s what “seeing through the eyes of a child” means….  

Happy New Year, everyone!

A Fond Farewell

IMG_0358I’ve never been very good at saying goodbye, especially to someone I really like.  So when I heard that one of my very favorite staff members at the animal shelter where I volunteer was planning to retire this month, I didn’t react well.

First I tried to convince her to stay.  When that didn’t work, I tried to convince management that she wasn’t really old enough to retire yet.  Sadly, I never did figure out how to forge a fake birth certificate that would back up my claim, so that didn’t work either.  All I had to fall back on was denial, but as the day of her actual retirement crept closer, that stopped working as well.  You can’t help plan someone’s retirement celebration without also recognizing that they actually are going to retire.

I know my friend deserves to retire and that she is ready for this new phase of her life, and I also know I need to support her in this decision.  That’s what friends do.  But the problem is that knowing she won’t be at the animal shelter anymore just makes me incredibly sad, and even a little bit lost.

She taught the volunteer orientation class I took when I first started at the shelter over fifteen years ago, and I still remember what a great job she did of preparing us for the realities of volunteering in an open-admission animal shelter.  It wasn’t long before I, along with most of the other volunteers, learned that she was an excellent source of advice, guidance and support when we needed it.  I saw how protective she was of the animals in her care, and how compassionate she was towards the people she worked with, and how helpful and patient she was with people who came in to adopt a new pet.

Lots of people are good at their jobs, but my friend was one of those who always went the extra mile, both for the animals and for the people around her.  She sent regular texts and emails, letting volunteers know that a favorite dog had finally been adopted so we could celebrate the good news even when we weren’t at the shelter.  She listened to us when we needed a sympathetic ear, and cheered us up when we were down, and was rather well known for her habit of breaking into an impressive “happy dance” when she thought the situation called for it.

My friend was a fixture at the animal shelter and her departure is going to be felt deeply by all those who worked with her.  I suppose our grief over her retirement is the proof of what a terrific job she did during her time there and what a wonderful friend she was to all, of both the two-footed and the four-footed variety.   We only miss what, and who, we truly value.  And we will miss her very much.

I still can’t quite imagine what the shelter will be like without my friend, and I know that the next few weeks are going to be a major adjustment for many of us.  But we will continue our volunteer work, doing our best to help the animals, celebrating the successes, and offering support to each other when we need it.  And I can’t think of any better way to honor my friend’s legacy than that.

Thoughts on a cold winter morning….

DSC03771Lately, I’ve been thinking that one of the best things about being middle aged is knowing that the retirement years are finally on the horizon.  My husband’s, that is, not mine.  But if all goes well, he should be able to retire sometime in the next five to ten years.  And that means we will finally be able to spend the entire month of January in Florida, enjoying the sunshine instead of battling the cold, snow and ice of a typical midwest winter.

I’m tired of lying in bed for at least ten minutes after I wake up every morning, trying to work up the nerve to get up and face yet another frigid day.  When I finally do drag myself out of bed,  I bundle up in several layers (long underwear has become my new favorite piece of clothing), warm up the car and head down to the Humane Society to help the other volunteers walk the forty-some housebroken dogs who are patiently waiting for their morning potty break.  In my weaker moments, I think about just not going.   But I know that only means that the other volunteers will have even more dogs to walk, and I don’t want to do that to my friends.  Plus, they know where I live.

So for now, I take comfort in hoping that it won’t be too many more years before I’m spending my January mornings in Florida, where I belong.  I’ll wake up, hop out of bed immediately, put one some light-weight clothes and go for a stroll on the beach, stopping now and then to pick up a pretty seashell.  I really believe that time is coming, and dreaming of it is what keeps me going through this long, cold and dreary month.

In the meantime, if anyone knows how to make an indoor dog toilet, please leave the instructions in my comment section.  Seriously.