Responding to inappropriate comments

Have you ever been dumbfounded by something someone has said to you? It’s usually something inappropriate or insulting, and you are so surprised someone would say it, that you stand with your mouth open, not knowing how to respond. You eventually come up with a pithy retort, but it is an hour after the fact. Here are a few examples of what I have heard and how I learned to respond accordingly.

Since I have become a woman of a certain age, I notice that many of the unfortunate comments concern age. My husband and I were at a restaurant for breakfast. There was a bowl of creamers for coffee, but they were all hazelnut, and I am allergic to it, so my husband asked the waitress for regular creamer. She replied, “Oh, I know. When you are older, you don’t want the fancy creamers.” When I decide how to respond to comments, I ask myself if it was mean-spirited, or if the person didn’t realize that a comment was offensive. In this case, it was obvious that the waitress did not realize she had insulted us. We still make fun of that moment each time we are out and need creamers.

Another age-related comment elicited a different response from me. My friend Sally and I were looking at the results board at a race, and There’s Nothing Holding Me Back by Shawn Mendez was playing. I said to Sally, “I love this song.” A young lady next to me said with shock, “You like this song?” I replied, “You don’t?” She said, “I love it.” I asked her why she was so surprised I liked the song, and she hesitated and then said as she gets older, she likes younger songs too. I asked her, “Are you saying I’m old?” At this point, Sally and I just started laughing, and the girl walked away. I want to remain kind if I can, but I don’t have any patience with hatefulness.

Pregnant women have to deal with many unfortunate comments too. Comments like “Are you having twins?” “Wow, you are huge!” and many other comments should be kept in our heads.

The last type of comments I’ll mention are the ones truly meant to hurt someone. I think the best way to deal with this type of comment is to confront the person who says it, and let them know it was inappropriate.

Finding another way

No matter what your current roadblock is, you have a choice to stay stuck in front of it, or you can find another way around it. I want to encourage you to be creative, don’t give up, and find another way to make things happen. Let me give you a few examples.

If you are an athlete and you are injured, there are a few things you should do. First, make sure you have whatever medical plan you need to become strong again. Don’t do what I did and wait a month before seeing a doctor, while you hope the injury will heal. I now feel like I have a whole team trying to heal my knee so I can run again. Decide who you need to see to take care of yourself, and don’t forget that rest must be part of the plan.

Next, depending on what your doctor says, decide what activity can you still do to stay strong. I had a pity party when I first hurt my knee because running is very important to me, but I then decided that even if I couldn’t run, there were other activities I could do.

Finally, you must have a strong, upbeat attitude. I decided that not only was I going to be healed, but I was also going to come back stronger.  

If your roadblock is a relationship and it is one that is important to you, you may have to take a different approach than what you have been using. I have a family member who has become distant, and we are not sure why. I worried and stressed myself out about what I could do to make it better, but one day a friend said to me, “Sometimes, all you can do is let him know you love him.” I thought that was good advice, so I no longer mention that I miss him, or ask why he doesn’t want to attend family gatherings, instead, I just tell him he is loved, and hope that eventually, he will feel comfortable with us again.

Do you have colleagues at work who make your workday feel toxic? What can you do to change the situation? Don’t suffer in silence.

What are your roadblocks? We all have them, but the difference is some of us refuse to be stopped by them.    

Staying out of your own way

My husband was telling me about an interview with an athlete. The athlete said that he struggled with his identity, and he would do crazy things to be noticed. His girlfriend told him he was wonderful just the way he was, and he didn’t need to do crazy things. He said it was as if a weight was lifted from his shoulders when he realized he could be himself and be accepted without so much extra effort. I said to my husband that when it comes to our mental health and many other aspects of our lives, we often cause the most problems ourselves. We started to equate the situation to being the driver of your life. Here are a few of the ideas we discussed.

Stay in your own lane

We all know someone who wants to help by giving advice about everything from parenting to doing your job. Advice is great and often helpful but wait until someone asks for it and until then, focus on what you can do and what you are responsible for in your life.

Don’t honk too quickly

I am guilty of being judgmental, but judging someone doesn’t help anyone, and we have no idea what another person might be dealing with in life.

Don’t avoid regular maintenance

Taking care of your mental and physical health is crucial for your quality of life. Do what you can to keep your body and mind strong.

Yield to others

There are moments when you must stop working so hard on a relationship and either walk away or decide to let it take its own course. Realize that we can let others make decisions without our input. We are better off without drama or toxicity.

Beware of bright lights that blind you

We all are pulled in from time to time by something that seems wonderful but is not good for us. We are drawn in by the possibilities without being able to see reality.

Swerve to avoid potholes

Most people have those times in their lives when life knocks them down. Instead of staying down make a plan to recover and come back stronger.

Lessons from my daughter

I had my daughter Kait when I was forty-three. When I was deciding whether to have one more child, everyone told me it was a bad idea. I heard statements like “You are too old, why would you want another child at a time when you can have some independence?” I’m so glad I did not listen to those voices because Kait has been such a blessing. I have learned some important life lessons from her. Let me share a few.

Priorities

Before Kait was born, I had become too caught up in my job. When Kait was born, I had to slow down a little, and I realized that my two teenagers and my husband needed as much of my time as my new baby did.

Controlling time

I have always been time obsessed. I never think I have enough time, so I’m always trying to do three things at once. Kait would ask if we could do something, and I would say, “If we have time.” She would always answer, “Mommy, we have all day.” I use those words now if I start to feel the day slip away from me.

The meaning of anxiety

Kait has attention deficit disorder, but her main challenge comes from anxiety. I never really understood until the day I had her come to my school to spend the day, so she would be more comfortable when she attended the following year. We were in the cafeteria, and I was showing her what to do. She said, “What if I don’t do it right?” I said, “That’s o.k. someone will help you.” She was so nervous she started to shake. I know there are people who believe anxiety really isn’t a thing, but it can be debilitating.

Kindness

If I had to pick one adjective to describe Kait, it would be kind. She loves to help people, and she has made me rethink my judgment of someone when I think the person was hateful. She will give that look of disappointment and say, “Mom, you don’t know what she might be going through.”

Family values

Kait loves family first. She enjoys family dinners and anytime we can all be together. Her presents always involve showing her love for you.

I am grateful for all these lessons, and I’m sure there will be more.   

Planting a garden anywhere

I have always enjoyed being surrounded by plants, but until several years ago, I never considered myself a gardener. My parents had huge gardens, and those gardens helped defray food costs all year because my mom canned anything we did not eat in the summer. I always enjoyed eating the fresh foods that came from those gardens.

Several years ago, I began experimenting with gardening and my husband saw how much joy it brought me, so he built me a garden enclosure with some raised beds. My time in the garden gives me peace and a sense of accomplishment. The peace comes from tending to the plants while I talk to them and sing, and the sense of accomplishment is growing food that I can bring to our table.

Since I started gardening, several friends have mentioned they have always wanted to garden, but they don’t know where to start, or what they need, and they are afraid they will fail. I would love to see more people find the joy that I feel when gardening, so here is a very basic guide to getting started.   

My daughter used one of the excuses that I have heard several times for not being able to garden. She said she did not have a yard, so there wasn’t anywhere to grow anything. You can use containers to grow plants anywhere. I started my tomato plants and my mint inside containers. I have many containers in my actual garden because I don’t have any more room for beds. Make sure there is a hole on the bottom of the container so water can drain through, and if it is a bigger container, put the garden liner in first.

Experiment. Don’t worry about failure. If something doesn’t work the first time, keep trying. I tried potatoes, peanuts, and watermelon for the first time this year.

Ask questions. There are gardening experts all around you. Facebook has gardening groups, local gardens have master gardeners, and you can always find an expert at one of the local garden stores.

Soil matters. My husband likes to follow the rules and do things perfectly, whereas I’m o.k. with winging it. The only thing he insists on though when it comes to gardening is that I start with fresh soil. If you have compost, that is great too.

I hope you will give gardening a try, and I hope you have as much fun with it as I do.  

Positive Vibes

Do you ever have days when you need a little dose of inspiration or motivation? I love reading something that speaks to me at the right moment, that speaks to something I am feeling, or that encourages me to keep pushing myself. Sometimes I am looking for words that give me a sense of peace. I decided if these words were so vital to me they could help others as well so here are some short positive vibes that I hope will lift you up, encourage you, and inspire you to do great things.

Always believe something wonderful is about to happen.

Frustration is a waste of time when you could be trying again to succeed.

Worry is wasted energy because you are stressing yourself out and draining your positivity on something that probably won’t happen.

If you need a great friend, get an animal. They will listen to you without judging, and if you feed them and scratch their bellies, they will be loyal.

You are capable of so much more than you think you are. Don’t let a negative attitude hold you back from doing epic things. Have you ever noticed that the word impossible says I’m possible?

Quality trumps quantity every time, especially with friendship.

Eliminate the toxicity in your life. If something or someone isn’t good for you, or making you better, walk away.

Be kind to yourself.

Realize that our imperfections make us more interesting.

Don’t let age define you and that includes both sides of the spectrum. Break through the notions of what is unreachable at a certain age.

You can change someone’s day with a simple smile.

Sprinkle compliments like confetti and watch people glow.

Give yourself permission to do nothing.

Keep a strong spirit and don’t let negative energy pull you down.

Dare to be different if that makes you happy.

A good sense of humor is a powerful weapon to yield against failure.

I hope this helps you. Make a list of inspiration you find here and there, and read it when you need a lift.

Why I love Paris

I was a French teacher for forty years, I lived in France during college, and I took eighteen school trips, as well as several family trips to France. I am in love with the language, the culture, and the people. My husband has only been to France three times, and they were all school trips with fixed itinerary, and the need to make sure that a group of teenagers was always present and safe. He decided that he wanted to go to Paris for our fortieth wedding anniversary. When I asked him why he chose Paris, he told me he wanted me to show him why I loved France so much. He wanted to see it the way I do. Here are a few reasons I love Paris.

The lifestyle

Life moves slower in France, and the priorities are different. The average French person has five weeks of vacation, but in The United States we value work more, and sometimes feel guilty taking those vacation days.

Life is savored, and family is a treasure. Families eat together and spend time together.

Food is one of the great pleasures in life, and its preparation is an art form.

Traditions

Change comes slower in France, and traditions are treasured.

Bookstores

I am an avid reader, and Paris has bookstores on every corner. They are the kind of bookstores with nooks and crannies where you can explore old books.

Side streets

I love that you can be on a street where you feel crushed by people, and you only need to turn down a side street to be in an oasis of quiet.

History

There is history all around you. You don’t have to travel far to see a famous monument with a historical story attached to it.

The literature

Les Misérables, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Three Musketeers, The Red and Black, Baudelaire, Georges Sand, the list of amazing authors is long.

The beauty of the city

There are so many beautiful spots to stop and enjoy. One of my favorites is the Luxembourg Gardens. There is so much going on in one spot. You will see runners, people walking their dogs, tennis, biking, ponies, miniature sailboats, a small lake, beautiful flowers and fountains, a playground, a food stand, pétanque, and even a small vineyard.

The Latin Quarter

This is my favorite part of the city. It includes Notre Dame, The Luxembourg Gardens, The Pantheon, St. Chapelle, and many other important spots. I love bringing people to St. Chapelle. It is a medieval church built by Louis IX. When you walk into the bottom level you will be underwhelmed, and maybe slightly disappointed, but walk up the winding, well-worn stairs, and you will see why St. Chapelle is so special. The stairs bring you out into a room of floor to ceiling-stained glass. It is breathtaking. I remember when my friend Bob saw it for the first time, and he said, “I’m going to need a minute.”

I feel like I have grown up with Notre Dame as my favorite monument. It is my symbol of both France and faith. I never thought it could be destroyed, so the day it was burning, people came streaming into my room at school as I watched French news on the big screen. They wanted to make sure I was o.k. as I stared in shock as something that I had visited so often was going up in flames.

The people

I’m always sad when I hear someone say the French are rude. No matter where you go in the world you will encounter a few unpleasant people, but my experience in France is that the average French person will do anything to help if you need it. Once we had gotten off at a metro station I had never been to and I was a little turned around on our way to Notre Dame, so I asked a woman if she could tell me where Notre Dame was. Before she could tell me, her husband moved protectively in front of her and asked me what I wanted. I made my request again, and the husband told me. We followed them to the corner, and I listened as they discussed whether they had given me good enough directions. I had to stop to tie my shoe, so they got ahead of us. As we approached the bridge where they told us to turn, they were waiting there to make sure we turned the correct way!

Another time, I was on a school trip around Easter, and we had some younger students who were used to receiving Easter baskets. I went into a pastry/chocolate shop, told the clerk that I wanted to make Easter baskets for my students, and before I knew it, I was behind the counter in a French patisserie with the owner who was making me beautiful baskets and throwing in extra candy. She charged me very little for some very beautiful baskets.

There are times when you can tell that our stereotype has entered the room before us. I went one year with my daughters. Jess was twenty and Kait was six. When we entered a small café for lunch, our reception was slightly glacial. We were a bit tense already when Kait knocked her Orangina bottle to the floor and it shattered. Jess and I both said, “Oh, no!” Kait started to cry, and suddenly the owner was next to Kait telling her in French that it was o.k. that it wasn’t a big deal. I always try to understand why we might be received like we were initially, and I think it might be difficult when there is often a language barrier that causes frustration.

The food

I mentioned this in the culture, but French food deserves its own section. French bread is phenomenal, and you have over 300 choices of cheese to eat it with. When I sit down for a meal, I have to be careful not to order too much because there are so many amazing choices. The pastry stores are amazing which is why I gained twenty pounds when I lived in France.

I hope I can show my husband the wonders of the city, and I hope I can continue to make memories in this wonderful city.

Your mental attitude runs the show

My left knee is not cooperating with my need to run, so I began my first day of physical therapy today. During the time I was there, I was shown two important lessons. The first was whenever you have a pity party for yourself, (I have been a pity party animal!) you need to remember that there are other people with much bigger problems than yours. There were people trying to become stronger after surgery, a woman who could not stand up without feeling dizzy, and others who were there to improve their range of movement. I was hoping no one would say, “What are you in here for?” “My dog ran into my knee and it’s sore….”

The second lesson was about the importance of our mental strength. We can defeat ourselves with negative thoughts before we even have a chance to succeed. I was taken to a table in the corner, where I waited for my therapist. As I was waiting, I watched the lady next to me. Her body language was screaming her frustration, and she looked like she wanted to cry. She was being asked to pick up large marbles with her toes and put them in a box. I could tell that before she even started, she was convinced she could not do it. I hopped off my table, touched her shoulder, and said, “Don’t be frustrated. You can recover.” Later, I learned she was going to have surgery for plantar fasciitis. She had been suffering from it for a year and three months. She told me she used to be a runner, but she didn’t think she would ever recover.

Think about something you might have negative thoughts about, but that you would like to see change. What do you have to lose if you start manifesting positive change? Start saying that what you want to happen will happen. Say it every day, several times a day, and see what happens. You might have a pleasant surprise.

Ghost stories from the neighborhood

There are ghoulish tales told around a campfire, but the stories about real-life encounters with ghosts can be just as scary. Here are a few encounters from different places where I lived.

The neighborhood I live in now was a camp during the Civil War. Most of the people in the neighborhood have at least one story about odd happenings to tell. A psychic told me that there are ghosts coming and going all the time in my house. I have heard voices when I know that no one else is home. Lights and the television sometimes turn on or off, and the last dog we had would lie on my bed, staring at space, and growl. One of our cats often stares at the pantry as if something is there. The only scary thing I have had happen in this house is when I woke up one night and couldn’t move for a minute. I felt as if my body was frozen in place, and then I was fine. It was a very strange feeling. We once had someone spend the night to dog sit, and he told us he did not sleep at all because he heard noises all night.

Our neighbors across the street have the most stories to tell. When Paul and Beth were looking at the house, the owners explained one of the pictures to them. Tricia told Paul it was a picture of her uncle who was a soldier. Paul was walking by the picture when it slammed down. Paul picked it up and turned away and the photo slammed down again. When they were moving in, the television turned on, so Paul turned it off, but it turned on again. He unplugged it and told Beth if it turned on now, they were leaving. My daughter recently slept there to babysit the dog, and the next day, she said, “Mom, there were weird noises all night!” I said, “Oh, I forgot to tell you the house is haunted.”

The most haunted house I ever lived in was in North Georgia in the Appalachian Mountains. I worked at a boarding school where the teacher’s housing were former farmers’ houses. In one house, there was an upstairs apartment where my daughter Jess stayed. She didn’t spend any more time than she needed to up there because she said the ghost didn’t want her there. There was an eerie feeling up there. When I had to go up to clean, I used to say, “I’m sorry to disturb you. I’m only going to clean, and then I’ll leave. There were a series of cupboard doors near the floor, and one night when Jess had a friend over, the doors all opened. One morning, I had gotten up and as I walked to the stairs leading to Jessica’s room, I saw the light on, suddenly, there was a loud bang on the floor as if someone had jumped, so I thought Jess was practicing a dance routine. When I went in to wake up her brother, Jess was asleep on his floor. I said, “Jess, did you just come back down from your room?” She said, “No, I slept here all night.” “Did you leave your light on?” “No.”

My colleague’s house was even more haunted. The third floor was so bad that they boarded it up. One day, her daughter came home from school and heard people talking in the kitchen. Sara yelled, “Mom, I’m home.” The talking stopped and when Sara walked into the kitchen, no one was there.

My oldest sister had a strange incident in her house. Her husband of thirty years had recently told her that he wanted a divorce, and he had never loved her. (There was a younger woman) My mother had passed the year before. She loved my brother-in-law like a son, and the divorce would have devastated her. My sister was folding some clothes. Several were my mother’s blouses. She picked up one and there was a large blood stain over the heart. She thought maybe her husband had cut his hand and then touched the blouse, but he said he had not gone near the clothes. The same day, I noticed the glass on a picture of my sister had broken in half, and there were water marks that looked like tears.

At my sister’s funeral, one of her friends came over to me and said, “I went over to Pat’s house and took a picture. When I looked at it later, I saw this in the window. When you expand the photo, it looks like a picture of my sister before she became ill.

Have you had any strange experiences in your house?

Pennies from heaven

I never thought much about the expression pennies from heaven, until I read a book about the signs that our departed loved ones leave for us. The book claimed that loved ones left pennies for us to find to let us know we are loved. After reading this I suddenly started to notice pennies in odd places. I picked one up and saw the date was the year my sister was born. I later read that the pennies sometimes had a significant date on them so you would know who it is from. The reason that pennies are the coin used is that they are light and easy to move. I researched to find out if there were other beliefs about the pennies.

Some people believe the pennies are from God.

Here is a story that can often be found on the internet.

A woman asked a man why he stooped to pick up a dirty penny on the ground. A smile crept across the man’s face as he reached into his pocket for the penny and held it out for her to see.

‘Look at it.’ He said. ‘Read what it says.’ 
She read the words ‘United States of America ‘
‘No, not that; read further.
‘One cent?’ 
‘No, keep reading.’
‘In God We Trust?’ 
‘Yes!’ 
‘And?’

‘And if I trust in God, the name of God is holy, even on a coin. Whenever I find a coin, I see that inscription. It is written on every single United States coin, but we never seem to notice it! God drops a message right in front of me telling me to trust Him? Who am I to pass it by? When I see a coin, I pray, I stop to see if my trust IS in God at that moment. I pick the coin up as a response to God; that I do trust in Him. For a short time, at least, I cherish it as if it were gold. I think it is God’s way of starting a conversation with me. Lucky for me, God is patient and pennies are plentiful! 

Pennies have the numerology value of 1, so they are a reminder that we are all one. They can represent God, creation, and new beginnings.

Pennies can represent unexpected good fortune.

If we see pennies on the ground, it can comfort us to believe they are from loved ones. They are sometimes found in odd spots like on a pillow.