Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

Anne’s Journal Quilt made when Mother Died

It is easy to fill our lives with our “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s. I suspect that most of us do this at some time or other in our lifetimes.

I was born in an era when women were still struggling to be women who had a lot of choices in life. When I was starting high school, my mother took me to register for my classes. There was a choice to choose a college route or the regular route. I wanted to go to college and become a nurse, likely a military nurse since I had grown up in a military family that went way back. My mother said no. She said I needed to become a secretary and find a man and get married. Really! It is hard to imagine, but that is what she believed. She had gotten married and I don’t think my mother or father finished high school. She had some problem with her mastoids when she was about my age, and in those days, was in the hospital for awhile and had surgery for it. So she and my father got married when she got well.

My father had come home from school one day when he was I think 16 or 17, and his family had moved away and abandoned him. He had other brothers and a sister who had killed herself. I really don’t know the whole story, but he lied about his age, because it was during the Great Depression, and he joined the military. He got his room and board, but in order to be able to join, he had to give all his money to a poor family who never ever thanked him.

That is most of what I know about my mother and father. So I did all the things I was supposed to and hated every minute of it. Secretaries in those days took shorthand, typed letters and used carbon to make copies and a machine I can’t remember the name of to make copies. They fetched coffee for their bosses every day and for meetings they fetched it for all the men at the meetings. And once in awhile, men treated women disrespectfully, touching them in ways that were inappropriate, and getting away with it because it was the times.

Then suddenly women’s lib came along, and so did wearing pant suits, and women were threatened with being fired if they wore those in the office. Gee, no more legs to look at or exposed body parts to be touched. But women persevered. I divorced an abusive husband, but I suppose in reality he was no more abusive than most men who believed their women should stay at home and have dinner ready for them when they walked in the door, raise their children and do their washing and ironing, and stay in the home except to take the children to the playground. Money was given to the wife to get the groceries, and sometimes the woman might get money to buy a donut or small toy for the children but there was no money for anything that might have taken care of things she might like to have.

I DID get to go to a University finally. And I DID get a degree in Archaeology. And I did work at interesting related work in Mexico and Arizona until I became ill with Valley Fever and Paratyphoid, and then I decided to do other less physically dangerous work. But I had a lot of fun along the way. One day somewhere along the way I grew up and became a bonafide human being who could buy things for herself, and who could dream of things she wanted to do and to become, and she could actually do them. She could say no to men who did anything inappropriate, and she could be her own person in general. I got married again a couple of times over the years and had some really interesting and accomplished men – an archaeologist and an anthropologist. And I learned more of the world and who I was as a human being. No more Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda. I grew into a woman who had exciting careers and who had her own businesses. And step by step, little by little, I became a fully evolved human being.

It has not been easy along the way, but that is what gives us strength in the end result. I am now 77, and I have a man in my life – my significant other, Richard – and he is none of those men I married before. He is a human being – a simple man with simple tastes and a really big heart. He doesn’t talk a lot, but when he does, what he says is real. And he has shown his goodness in so many ways without even saying anything about it. He is not a Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda man. He lives from day to day, happy with the simplest of things. I am free to be who I am and he is free to be who he is. Sometimes the simplest things are the best things in this lifetime.

I will never live in the Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda world again. I decided to get another degree at 74 and graduated in 2016, the same year I had breast cancer. It was Criminal Justice. I was going to be a mentor/advocate for juvenile delinquents (and I have worked with them before in other ways) but other things changed all that, so instead I am a CASA court-appointed volunteer mentor/advocate for foster children. I don’t have an assignment currently, but when I am not a caregiver for my Richard, I can do that if I choose. I am who I am and I am happy with that now. I don’t need to blame anyone else now for what I did not become. Perhaps that was never meant to be. Perhaps, just perhaps I was meant to be on the course of life I am now. It is all good, even on its worst days. I will look back on them tomorrow and be glad that I have seen many sides of life. I will be glad for the little things – a beautiful sky, a gentle breeze, a hand that reaches out and holds mine . . .

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Standing Tall

“Strength”by Anne Copeland

Life doesn’t always give us strength when we need it most. We may be ill ourselves and still have to take care of our significant other. Or perhaps we have to deal with legal issues that we are ill equipped financially or otherwise to deal with. Or a child has run away, or gone missing. There are as many things as we have to deal with as we could come up with, sometimes multiple issues at the same time.

When my significant other came home from a major cervical surgery, I was ill and had been for months with chronic bronchitis. He was not ready to be released without some form of nursing care or rehab; he could not lift his own body up from bed as his right arm was paralyzed, and he could not cut up his own food to prevent choking, or to even bathe himself or use the bathroom by himself. I am sure there are others who have been in the same situation with loved ones.

Each day I dragged myself out of bed, and did whatever was necessary to help him. During this time, I also had to get him to multiple medical appointments and back to the spinal clinic in another town about an hour away. As we were about to enter the clinic one day, I suddenly remember the lights going out and falling on my face in the dirt. Luckily some good folks came and helped me back up; my significant other could not possibly help me and he was clearly upset and terrified. My nose still feels as though it was broken and I hit my head pretty hard, and hurt my knees as well. Other than going to emergency and waiting for perhaps 10 – 12 hours, I chose to just try to make the best of it all. I cannot leave my significant other at this time.

The fault is not that of his doctors or mine. It is the Medicare and MediCal insurance that is not giving us what we need. When I had a bad infection, even though the medication was prescribed by a specialist, I could not get it for two weeks because the Pharmaceutical Department of the insurance had to approve it as it was not covered. In my younger years, I was a Regulatory Compliance Specialist for a major pharmaceutical company that made plasma derivative products, so I guess I know a little bit about that issue. During the two weeks that I was ill, the infection got worse, resulting in my still being ill after a couple of months. I file grievances on both issues, and I will follow through on it even though I am still having a difficult time as is my significant other.

The point is not to tell my own story for others to feel sorry for me. The point is that sometimes we have to stand tall when we are feeling weak. We need to remember that even though it is not easy, we have to stand up for our rights, and for those of others. No one said this life would be a bowl of cherries; there are challenges every single day of one type or another. And we don’t need to lose our love of life and the world. We need to remember that when we have our worst challenges, there are always others who are far worse off. Try to help someone else who is worse off than you are, at least giving them words of hope if nothing else. And try to stay strong in the face of many barriers to everyday life. Remember that no challenge lasts forever. STRENGTH is our friend.

Writing Your Obituary

Courtesy Pexels

It seems an odd thing to think about when we are still alive and perhaps still young. Writing your obituary is a good idea though because if it is left to others to manage, they may write things that you would not have wanted to have written about you, or perhaps they would leave out things that were important to you.

It is a good way to remind yourself of all the things you have accomplished in your lifetime, and to remember people who others might not remember who were important to you in life. We don’t have to be thinking about dying, but we don’t really know what life has in store for us.

I often think of the story of Anne Frank, and how her story of her life in those last days was captured and has been an inspiration for so many people because it is the story of someone who lived a life with such meaning in just little everyday things. That is something I think it would be very difficult for another person, no matter how close they were to you, to capture your life the way you would have thought of it.

I think of my father, and I have not a photo or anything left of his life. He was not a role model for a father in some ways, but he did take care of us to ensure we had a roof over our heads, food on the table, and clothing always. He once got me a Ford Taunus, and I drove it out to White Sands Proving Grounds with him, and it went on the fritz out there. I could only drive the whole way back in 1st gear, not being able to shift at all. It seemed that drive was forever, and I never wanted to drive that car again. Tomorrow is Father’s Day, and I wonder how I might have written his obituary while he was still alive. I think the same for all of my relatives who are gone now, and those I particularly loved, and I so wish now I had captured their lives for my own children and their children and grandchildren.

Perhaps this is a good way to spend a bit of Father’s Day. If you can’t capture the life of your own father, perhaps you can capture your own growth from being a child to growing up and then becoming a father. I know someone will be glad someday to read about who you were as a human being and the things and people that were important to you in this life.

Art for Children

Slice Quilt by Cut-Loose Quilters for new Orange Children’s Library, Orange, CA.

Years ago I belonged to a small private quilt group in Orange, CA – Cut-Loose Quilters, begun by Jamie Fingal, a renowned art quilter for many years. We made a lot of exciting projects and did a lot of really fun and unique things, but this was one of my all-time favorites. This is called a slice quilt which means that each of us participated in making one of the vertical panels, and on the side panels, we each made a horizontal panel.

The quilt was designed on paper by our fearless leader with the help of one of our other gals, and then the panels were cut and each of us got one. Mine was the yellow one, and we each got to choose our colors for our panels and any lettering on our panels. The quilt was made as a donation for the new Children’s Library and the City of Orange gave us a very nice thank you talk and a plaque to remember our gift. Parts of the quilt were “sold” to raise money to buy more books, though the quilt still hangs in the library to this day. In 2018, we had a 10-year reunion at the site, and it was wonderful to remember just how much fun we had and how good we all felt about creating something that would be enjoyed by children for many years.

I have since made other cloth projects for my classrooms too, but never any as much fun as this. Here is a photo of all of us ladies who made the quilt.

Cut-loose Quilters from left: Terry, Joanell, Yours Truly, Tracy, Jamie Fingal (fearless leader), Cindy, Vicky, and Peggy

I will always remember so many of the wonderful adventures we had in this group. There are some wonderfully talented ladies among us, and I feel very honored that they included me. Thank you forever, Jamie and ladies.

Children and Music

Children truly LOVE music, even as tiny babies . . .

I wish that all children had an opportunity to learn some form of music. It is so good for the soul and I honestly believe it helps them to be able to learn other things as well more easily. If every child in every culture, every nation, had music from such an early age, do you think we might have a more peaceful world?

Blessed are the Poor . . .

As we enter this season with people rushing here and there to purchase every last thing they can for others, I think on what civilization has become.  And I think of the beautiful saying, “Blessed are the Poor, for they shall inherit the earth.” I believe that this saying is true for reasons that you may not have thought of.

So many majorly poor people struggle through life to glean the fields for food, and to eat foods that most people throw away. They find what clothing they can, or they create it from cloth or skins that are thrown away or left from some other use. In doing these things, they are, in their own simple ways, helping this earth to survive. They are not throwing away trash that pollutes the soil ultimately and creates land that is no longer fertile and perhaps a danger to health ultimately.

Free from materialistic needs and wants for the most part, they live simply from day to day. They are the first to share whatever meager things they have. I have seen this down in Mexico in the interior. The people we visited lived in a one-room adobe home with a dirt floor. They had no visible food in their home except for one jar of homemade preserves sitting on a shelf.  Perhaps  they had grown and made that jam, or perhaps that was given to them as a gift; I will never know.

As we sat in the early evening light, the sun shone on the fruit, creating a beautiful sight.  I inadvertently admired it, and the woman got up immediately to give it to me.  I was touched deeply by such sharing and simple trust in the universe to provide from day to day what little these people had. To refuse such a gift is considered impolite, so I accepted it.  As we continued on our journey, and I thought back on those people, I thought of how good it is to be happy with what we have and what the earth blesses us with.  I thought how we must return to living simply to help our earth to survive for our children, and our children’s children.  And it was good.

Thank You Forever . . .

army burial cemetery cross
Photo courtesy Pixabay on Pexels.com

You were there for me, and you didn’t even know my name.  You fought for me, and millions like me whom you never got to meet. And you fought for your wives, your children, and your grandchildren, and this country of ours.  You came back, alive but wounded, or you came back in a casket.  You did your best to preserve our country and our freedom.  You were terrified at times, and sick from seeing all the dead and dying and the wounded, but you kept fighting.  Thank you forever.  Thank you for all the children growing up in a free country, and for all those who don’t even realize how great was your sacrifice.  I don’t know your names either, but I know that you did the best anyone could have done for any of us.  And I thank you one and all.  I wish you could hear me say it.  I wish I could shake all of your hands, or perhaps make a quilt for you and your families, who still cry when they remember what you were willing to give.

I cry when I remember my little brother, barely a man at 18, and how he came back 100% disabled from a war we should not have perhaps fought.  His sacrifices, like yours, gave me the heart to forever on work with those with physical and other challenges.  It gave me the heart that when I see you missing a limb or more than one, or suffering from PTSD to want to hug and comfort you and to say that I will never forget one of you. I grew up in a military family and every male member fought in one of the wars through time; some never made it back home.

This day is coming to an end, but your day will be forever remembered in the hearts of many of us.  And again, I want to say to all of you, thank you forever.