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A dear and longtime friend from Geneva sent me these wise words this morning.  Some of these lines make me laugh; they all make me pause and reflect. How well do I handle little frustrations and big obstacles? What can I do better; what should I do better to be my best self? 

Thanks you Suzanne for sending the email. And thanks to all my family and friends. I am grateful everyday for all of you.

I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.

I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as ‘making a life.

I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back.

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.

I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.

I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug or just a friendly pat on the back.

I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

… Maya Angelou

In case you are wondering …
I’ve learned that, as frightening as it may seem at the time, change can be more than good; it can be wonderful…and you can go home again.

But for now … I’ve got a bunch of aprons in the dryer that need to be untangled.

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What important lessons have  you learned over the years? I’d love to hear from you. Let’s get a conversation going. Just click on Comments below.

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Feel free to visit my food blog Susan Nye – Around the Table or photo blog Susan Nye 365.

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To subscribe to Susan Nye’s Other Blog just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive new postings.

© Susan W. Nye, 2011

Today someone asked me if I liked you.

I laughed, and I said, “Ha! That’s funny!! I freakin’ LOV that chick!! She’s funny, caring, crazy as heck, sweet, beautiful, she’s reading this right now & I love her!!”

Happy Thursday!

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor each morning the devil says~~”Oh Crap, She’s up!”

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It is a wet, dreary day in New Hampshire and I was delighted to find this message in my intray this morning. My friend Roberta sent it off to all her gal pals. How nice to be included in that list of  amazing women!

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Feel free to visit my food blog Susan Nye – Around the Table or photo blog Susan Nye 365.

© Susan W. Nye, 2011

Changing Traditions

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, way up there with Halloween and Christmas. When I was really little we celebrated Thanksgiving at my grandmothers’ houses. They traded off Thanksgiving and Easter every year. Eventually, the big feasts got to be too much for them. We had a couple of Thanksgivings in a noisy, overcrowded restaurant until my mom took over. She refused to spend another holiday packed in like one of too many sardines at the Red Coach Grill. She cooked Thanksgiving dinner for the next twenty or so years.

After I moved to Switzerland, I continued to celebrate Thanksgiving. I created my own traditions and gathered friends together for the annual harvest feast. I love to cook and entertain and Thanksgiving dinner became one of my trademarks.

When I moved back to New Hampshire, I was delighted to host the family. For several years, at least eight, and sometimes more, Nye’s joined me around my farmhouse table for a fun and festive feast.

Last summer my dad pulled me aside for a heart to heart. My parents spend most of the winter in Florida and he was reserving their flights. He candidly confided that he couldn’t quite handle a trip north for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Between Alzheimer’s and arthritis, travel is difficult for my mother and therefore very stressful for Dad.

I didn’t like the idea of them down there alone, having dinner in an overcrowded restaurant or any restaurant for that matter. I decided to spend Thanksgiving with them on one condition. Like my mom before me, I decreed that dinner would be at home. I would cook a turkey and all the trimmings for them and some of their close friends.

We had a wonderful time. Four of their oldest, dearest friends joined us. I knew them all, most for close to a decade and one for more than forty years. I got a little fancy with a couple of side dishes but did not mess with tradition when it came to the turkey and made my mother’s stuffing.

Sitting around the table with my parents and some of their nearest and dearest, reminded me of how thankful I am for their friends. I am grateful that these wonderful people love my mother and accept her frailties. I am thankful for the love and support they give my dad.

It looks like the start of a new tradition. Yes, I’ll head south again next year. I’ll improvise in my parent’s decidedly ill-equipped kitchen, debate how long to roast the turkey with my dad and suffer bad hair days in the steamy heat. But most of all I will rejoice and celebrate the time with Mom, Dad and their dear friends.

What about you? What are you thankful for this holiday season? I’d love to hear from you.

 

To subscribe to Susan Nye’s Other Blog just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive new postings.

Feel free to visit my food blog Susan Nye – Around the Table or photo blog Susan Nye 365. © Susan W. Nye, 2010

60 Years

In September 1950, two kids in their early twenties set out to make a life together. Those two kids are my now octogenarian parents. Last summer, we toasted them at a lakeside celebration. Sixty years is a long time. Quite frankly, I am in awe of my parents’ achievement. Although, I’m not quite sure if I should call it auspicious, pure stubbornness on both their parts may have had something to do with the longevity of their marriage. That and true love.

They pledged to love and cherish each other in good times and bad, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer. Like all marriages, they’ve had it all, the good, the bad, the ugly and the absolutely wonderful.

There were times when, if they weren’t broke, they certainly felt like it. The year we moved back to Boston from Connecticut for my dad’s new job, comes to mind. The move and the job were cause for joyous celebration until the Connecticut house languished on the market for months and months and months. For almost a year they juggled two mortgages. In rosier times, my mother used to laugh and tell the story of my dad’s first order with his new firm. As delighted as they were with his success, they couldn’t go out and celebrate because their bank balance was teetering around zero.

There was the very scary summer when my mom developed thrombophlebitis and suffered a pulmonary embolism. She was one month pregnant with my brother at the time. In the end all was well and our family of four became five. My sister, brother and I are three delightful, now grown children. Mom’s grandmother bracelet jangles with two more generations, six beautiful grandchildren and two terrific great-grandchildren.

More important, there were many, many idyllic days on New England beaches and ski slopes. Plus lots of fun evenings with family and friends. We have shared jokes and stories, argued, ranted, raved and laughed. A lot. My parents are enthusiastic people and they live life with enthusiasm.

While I can’t guarantee it, I think the secret to my parents’ marital success was their ability to create a true partnership. (That and their feistiness. Both of them.) My mother stayed at home but she was no meek and mild sitcom mom. I don’t ever remember her uttering in a threatening tone, “Wait ‘till your father gets home.” She just took care of her sometimes naughty children then and there. She also handled any and all crises when they happened, called contractors, plumbers and electricians when she needed them, juggled the social calendar and entertaining, watched over everyone’s health and wellness and managed the family finances. About the only thing she refused to do, was get the car serviced. She always said the guys at the garage treated her like an idiot. And she was nobodies’ fool. She was smart, opinionated and funny, held her own in any conversation and never wore an apron. We all knew she loved my dad (still does) but she never gave him that adoring Nancy Reagan look.

Because she was so good at taking care of the home and family, my mom freed up my dad to do his job and do it really well. Dad was in sales, he was good at it. He was away a lot; traveling on business. Neither ever had to worry, they were both confident that everything, and then some, was covered. Of course they were lucky to be raising kids in a time when families could not only live but live well on a single income. And I guess we were pretty lucky to be raised that way. (Although, I must confess, when I was a teenager, I didn’t get why my mom would willingly stay home.)

About seven or eight years into their retirement, a few tables started to ever so slowly turn on my mom and dad. Maybe we didn’t realize, or maybe none of us could admit to realizing, that my mom was beginning to show the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease. The disease’s progression has been slow, steady and sure.

My dad now takes care of all of those things that my mother used to cover. He handles everyday things like laundry, little things like keeping track of birthdays and big things like managing their finances and healthcare.

Their old division of labor has disappeared. But in their own way, they are still partners and their partnership is as strong as ever. Of course it could be stubbornness but call me a romantic, I’m betting on true love.

What about you? Is there a special couple or person you admire? I’d love to hear from you.

To subscribe to Susan Nye’s Other Blog just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive new postings.

Feel free to visit my food blog Susan Nye – Around the Table or photo blog Susan Nye 365. © Susan W. Nye, 2010

Significant days and events are sprinkled through our lives. Some are highly personal. I remember the morning my brother was born; the green-eyed monster was sitting on my shoulder and I was not convinced a baby brother was a good idea. I remember my first day of college, my excitement and nervous anticipation for a new adventure. I remember my fortieth birthday party when I enthusiastically embraced the new decade.

There are also monumental world and national events. My parents have clear recollections of the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Americans share a proud memory of the summer night we sat spellbound watching grainy black and white images of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon. After waiting for 86 long years, Red Sox fans will forever remember the joy of winning the World Series.

And then there is September 11th.

I was in Tokyo. It was already evening when I landed at Narita Airport and with the time difference, only minutes before the first plane hit the World Trade Center. But it was several hours before I learned of the horrible events in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. After the long trip from the airport into the city and a business dinner, I was finally able to call it a day and escape to my hotel room. It was late, I was jet lagged and exhausted.

I turned on CNN for background noise while I unpacked and got ready for bed. Watching the news, I was shocked and horrified. I barely slept; instead like millions around the world, I was riveted to the television for most of the night. Up on the thirty-something floor of one of those big, impersonal hotels, thousands of miles from home, I felt terribly alone. There was a hollow, empty feeling in my chest.

I was a few days into a two week business trip. My colleagues did not hesitate to tell me that I could certainly cut my trip short and return home. US airports were locked down so jumping on a plane and heading home was not an option. Work became a distraction. I met with customers and discussed IT strategy. I consulted with our local sales and marketing teams. All the while I could not help but feel an overwhelming sadness, a hollowness and a bit shell shocked.

When the airports reopened, I flew home to my little cottage in sunny California. It was good to be out of big hotels and in my own house, surrounded by greenery instead of concrete. However, I had been living in California for less than a year and it didn’t really feel like home.

The initial shock started to dissipate but within a week I knew that if I wanted to feel normal again I needed to hug a kid. Not just any kid, it was time to spend time with family.

I headed to New Hampshire for the long Columbus Day weekend. The leaves were changing color and the sun shone. I joined my family for walks down to the lake and hikes in the hills. We lingered around the table over leisurely dinners and long conversations. My nephews were big, gangling teenagers and indulged their auntie with hugs at arrival and departure. My then tiny nieces were happy to share lots of hugs throughout the weekend. The hollow in my chest began to fill. Thanks to the boys and little girls, I started to feel normal again.

On this weekend of remembrance, I hope that you too find normalcy, peace and yes even pleasure in everyday, ordinary events, time with family and friends and lots of hugs.

What about you? How did you heal and recover after September 11th? Feel free to share your thoughts and add a comment.

To subscribe to Susan Nye’s Other Blog just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive new postings.

Feel free to visit my food blog Susan Nye – Around the Table or photo blog Susan Nye 365. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010

It’s All about Me

For the past year I have been coaching a woman at one of New Hampshire’s many great nonprofits. I do it because I like Jane, because as the manager of a small organization she frequently feels alone and because I can learn as much from her as she from me.

A few months ago Jane sent me a message she had received from one of her board members. It was a response to an SOS she had sent requesting help at a couple of community events. While this particular board is more hands-on than most, one of the members took offence to the request as well as the tone of the message. Jane sent me her original email as well as Carol’s response which went something like this:

“You cannot possibly be this tone deaf or self absorbed. You owe the board an apology…”

Whoa, Bucko! Back up the train.
Carol’s response seemed harsh so I reread both messages and reflected for a minute or two. My conclusion? Jane’s request was a bit cavalier, rushed and yes, self-absorbed. Carol’s response was just as cavalier and certainly lacked tact. Jane’s email offered up a coaching moment which Carol didn’t take. Instead she stooped to name calling.

For my part I took the opportunity to coach Jane but not Carol. I may be making excuses but I care more about Jane, I like her better and there are only so many hours in a day. As we talked it through, I explained that while I did not find it over top or exceedingly self-absorbed, the message was indeed “all about her.” I saw two issues. First, she had asked for help without explaining that she needed a stand-in because she was double-booked. Second, she closed with a quick “gotta run” to her son’s soccer game.

In our discussion, I learned that the double-booking was not due to lack of planning or another soccer game but the organization’s commitment to project a statewide presence. Since it was all about her, Jane just assumed her board would understand her predicament. A few more words would have explained the issue and avoided the kerfuffle. Her closing remark may seem harmless and pleasant but it’s not relevant and provides too much information. Trying to excuse her hurried and somewhat sloppy communication on a family commitment hurt her credibility. She would have been better off to spend another minute on the message or wait until morning. Besides, her board doesn’t need to know how she spends her evenings.

For whatever reason, the incident has stuck with me. Reflecting on Jane’s gaff and Carol’s mini-tantrum, I came to the conclusion that we are all pretty self-absorbed. (Okay, maybe not Gandhi or Mother Teresa.) Stop and think about it. How often have you begun a conversation with “I need you to…” or “when can I get…”? On more than one occasion I’ve caught myself and followed that rushed request with, “Oh, sorry, hello. How are you?” But I’m sure I don’t always catch myself.

Or how about this one, have you ever begun a discussion in the middle of sentence or better yet in the middle or even at the end of a story? I know I have. If you are anything like me you have internal dialogues. I have them all the time and some, like this one, end up in print. When I have an idea, an issue or a question; my first thought is to tackle it, wrestle it to the ground, hog-tie it, formulate a conclusion and design a solution. I’m comfortable doing all that in my head. Of course I’m happy to present the final solution to you in a nice, neat package. I may even give you some, maybe all, of my reasoning. Unless it is a big or strategic issue or question, I probably don’t want a lot of input or a long discussion. Sometimes, but not always, I wouldn’t mind a few kudos or attagirls.

Why? Because it’s all about me, my agenda and my timeline. Like everyone else I’m overbooked, short on time and sometimes short tempered. I don’t have the time or inclination to revisit every problem. Especially if it’s solved! (Or at least solved to my satisfaction. Remember, it’s all about me.)

Hey, I’m happy to involve you, work the issue with you but I’m free at 4:00 today so that’s when I’m going to figure it out. I do some of my best thinking while walking around the lake and you are welcome to join me. If you’re not available or banged up you knee, well then, just back off because I’m on a roll.

What about you? When, if ever, is it all about you? I’d love to hear from you.

To subscribe to Susan Nye’s Other Blog just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive new postings.

Feel free to visit my food blog Susan Nye – Around the Table or photo blog Susan Nye 365. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010

I love to read. I always have. I read every day. Every day. Sometimes I manage a few minutes while I grab a quick lunch. During more than one blizzard and rainstorm, I’ve happily indulged in an all day binge. I almost never leave the house without a book. I can’t imagine a day without a book. Alright maybe I can, but it makes my blood run cold.

I inherited my love of the written word from both my parents. When I was growing up, they read every evening after dinner. For years we traded paperbacks back and forth. When I was a teenager it was history and historical fiction. My Mom was my key trading partner. When I got older, we shared best sellers, legal thrillers and crime novels. My Dad is now my book trading partner. Reading is one more thing that Alzheimer’s, the thief, has stolen from my Mother.

Along with crossword puzzles. Mom was a crossword puzzle fanatic. She did the Boston Globe puzzle everyday and both the Globe and New York Times puzzle on Sunday. We put puzzle books in her stocking, as well as paperbacks, every Christmas.

Mom hasn’t given up books completely. She can still read but it’s hard to follow plot lines or enjoy a good yarn when your memory is fading fast. I have seen her read and re-read the newspaper two or three times in an afternoon. Each time she fusses or fumes over some crime or other, laughs at a cartoon and smiles at the “good news” news. But she doesn’t do the puzzle anymore. And her grasp of current affairs is gone.

On the plus side, she must be my biggest fan. She can read one of my stories once or one hundred times. Each time she sees it with fresh eyes and she never gets tired of my tales. Of course she is more than a little bit biased. On the other hand, she doesn’t mind or miss them when my Dad packs up the papers and magazines and carts them off to the recycling bin.

Alzheimer’s runs in families. My grandfather had it, now Mom. I can’t help but wonder how well I might cope in my Mother’s faltering shoes. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that I am not a particularly fearful person. I’ve leapt into new and different challenges and adventures with hardly a quiver, shiver or shake. I’ve reinvented myself at least three times, lived abroad, traveled around the world, built an organization from scratch, rebuilt two broken teams, bungee jumped, gone a mile deep into the earth and skied glaciers. And had a ball doing it all.

But there is a hell of a lot about Alzheimer’s that scares the bejesus out of me, a long and growing list. Loosing the joy of curling up with a good book is definately on that list.

Does Alzheimer’s run in your family? I’d like to hear from you. Let’s get a conversation going – just click on Comments below.

To subscribe to Susan Nye’s Other Blog just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive new postings.

Feel free to visit my food blog Susan Nye – Around the Table or photo blog Susan Nye 365. Browse around my website for more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more. I hope you will take a moment to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010