The Song Remembers When

As I approach my sixth decade, I’ve come to realize the music I enjoyed growing up means more to me than ever. Songs that I listened to as a teenager seemed to hold a profound significance to my past.

I think this is true for all of us. The power of an old song can trigger vivid memories and can transport us back in time. Those songs we quickly turned up the volume to hear are woven into a neural tapestry and can entwine us to people, seasons, and locations we’ve encountered throughout our lifespan.

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Researchers have uncovered evidence that suggests our brains are bound to the music we listened to as teenagers. We are tightly bonded to those songs as opposed to what we hear as adults, and the connection to our youth doesn’t weaken as we age.

A series of recent studies have found that listening to music engages broad neural networks in the brain, including brain regions responsible for motor actions, emotions, and creativity. Interestingly, it appears that if you haven’t heard a song in years, the neural tapestry representing that song stays purer and the song will evoke stronger specific memories, while memories linked to overplayed songs can become diluted because the neural network is constantly being updated.2017-06-18 (4)

In other words, musical nostalgia isn’t just a cultural phenomenon, but a neutronic command. And no matter how sophisticated our tastes may grow; our memories remain attached to songs we obsessed over during adolescence.

An example:

1973 my family, best friend, Linda, and I took a trip to California. Back then, taking a two week vacation from work wasn’t unheard of, and Dad liked to do an extended road trip along the western coast.

My parents had just purchased a new car, a gold Ford Maverick. We were ready to cruise. The drive and the beginnings of the journey are pretty fuzzy, and the visit doesn’t become clear until that brand new vehicle started to “cut out” during mid-trip.

Instead of an afternoon, oohing and awing over movie stars homes, we spent the day at a Sears Automotive Center in downtown Hollywood. Linda and I remained in the backseat while my parents went inside. They were kind enough to leave the radio on. Linda, I believe was either reading or taking a nap. I watched people.

The opening cords of the Sounds of Silence, by Simon and Garfunkel began to play—I realize this song was released in the 60’s…but to this day if I hear the tinkling intro, I’m transported to 1973, and I’m sitting in the backseat of a Ford, marveling at the city.

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The day was sunny, but the air possessed a dark sheen, smog maybe? We were surrounded by a mass of buildings that seemed messy and unbalanced, but I was fascinated just the same. Movement was all around me, but everything appeared to slow down as the first strains began.

Hello darkness, my old friend,

I’ve come to talk with you again,

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Probably my writer’s imagination, but that’s how my memory works.

I tried to think of songs past 1979 and connect them to a memory, but I couldn’t. Even though I married and had my first child in the 80’s, I can’t recall the music I listened to in my 20’s, unless I hear it played. And although the emotional relationship isn’t as strong, it doesn’t stop me from bouncing to all my favorites.

What songs bring back emotional memories from your past?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Debra Jupe reads and writes romance suspense-thrillers that are sizzling, dark, and fun. Her favorite authors are Sandra Brown, Linda Howard, and Lisa Jackson, and she aspires to join them on the best selling ranks some day. You can find her books at http://wwwthewildrosepress.com and http://www.amazon.com

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The Last Day

Who remembers the last day of school? Yeah, I don’t recall much either. I began reflecting the other day, because that’s what we authors do, reflect, during dismissal at the school where I’m employed. I searched the outgoing faces, mainly the fifth graders to see if it had hit them, yet. That moment that smacks square in the heart.

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This is it. I won’t be coming back here.

My finale at Robinson High School occurred, strolling across the football field, (which is no longer used, by the way), happened in late May, back in 1976. Forty-one years ago, if you’re not inclined to do the math.

My graduating class was small compared to today’s standards. Everyone knew everyone. We were considered a good group of kids, and in spite of the normal secluded social circles and cliques, we were a fairly close knit bunch. IMG_3010

I wasn’t considered a good student. Most of the classes bored me, and I found myself daydreaming instead of paying attention, and my grades showed my lack of interest.

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Nor I did I participate in a lot of activities. I did join band in the sixth grade and stayed throughout my time at RHS. Yep, I was a band nerd. I also made the color guard team, and those two organizations took up a bulk of my spare time.

As far as popularity went, I wasn’t considered a part of the “in” crowd, although I don’t think I was unpopular, either. I had friends, many good ones, and yes, I even went out on a few dates.

Most of my personal occurrences were due to my choices, even if didn’t realize I made the decisions, and my lack of involvement had little impact on my life after I left school. Overall, my time in the classroom/hallways left a positive mark in the memory bank, and even if I don’t remember that final day, I do have many fond memories, especially with great friends. These were kids I grew up with. I unrealistically assumed these people would always be a part of my life.

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Only they weren’t. Once I moved from the area, I lost touch with most. I’m fortunate to have kept a handful for the last four plus one decades.

Social media, opened up a new way to reconnect, and I’ve resumed many alliances through FB and other venues. We’ve also held reunions and those were wonderful. We caught up, but after the few hours were over, and the buzz of excitement wore off, we went back to our busy lives. As one former classmate and I discussed after a reunion, we just don’t have much in common anymore.

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But that’s okay. We grew up, like we were supposed to. We moved on. Sadly, quite a few have passed on, and we are left holding onto what was dear, and the rest we let go.

I hope those who are going forward and into a new life, will take the time to contemplate and remember. Because some day they’ll understand. They won’t be passing this way again.

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Robinson High School

The Class of 1976
IMG_3003  My friends, I will remember you, think of you, pray for you.
And when another day is through, I’ll still be friends with you.

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My Year as a Foster

I’ve always had pets. Anyone who knows me can tell you I’m a huge animal lover. My furs keep me company and, they don’t bug me too much when I’m writing…yeah, they do, but it’s okay. They bring a lot of love and fun into my life.

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Since the popularity of social media has skyrocketed, I’ve become more aware the plight for homeless animals. This is a subject that breaks my heart and angers me. It’s an enormous community problem, and it happens everywhere.

Fortunately, my hometown humane society has evolved into a state of the art facility with a 95% exit rate. A year ago they did renovations and rebuilt. More kennels, a vet on staff, and they hired a director who is interested in the well-being of their temporary tenants.

While the overhauls were in progress, old kennels were torn down and dogs were kept in makeshift kennels, inside a tent. The area was hot with limited space. Unfortunately, because of the lack of room, many pups didn’t live long enough to find their forever homes.

It was heartbreaking. The Humane Society begged for fosters. I toyed with the idea, and a photo of a pretty girl named, Thina made up my mind. She only had until 2:00 pm that day or she would be put down. They’d destroyed a lot of dogs that week, and I had to save her. I filled out the foster form and sent the email.

Sadly, I was too late, but I vowed to save someone in her memory. In tears, I skimmed through the urgents listed, and picked out another girl, Becca. Nervous, I drove to the shelter. Daniela, a shelter employee met with me. We went through the regulations, she asked me questions about my dogs, then we got down to the real business, picking out my foster.

Before I could inquire about Becca, she asked if I would consider taking a fearful dog. I answered, sure, not quite understanding the level of fearful she was talking about. She introduced me to Bree, a shepherd mix, who’d been at the shelter several months. Bree cowered in the back of her kennel and barely moved.

Bree, Daniela explained, topped the urgent list and was next in line to go. Because she was so scared, she didn’t show well. The staff didn’t think anyone would adopt her, and she was a favorite. Would I be willing to take her?

Next to die?

Of course, I took her. (Becca was later adopted) Once home, she promptly did her business in the middle of my living room. I have floors, no biggie. Mess cleaned up, I put her in a room to decompress. It didn’t go well. She destroyed the room. Over the months, I lost three sets of blinds, sofa cushions, and window sills. I had many exasperating moments with Miss Bree. Eventually, she calmed. And I calmed. I learned her triggers, and how to avoid them.2016-07-10

My two dogs, Malcolm and Laynie have been essential in her training. They’ve showed her how to behave. She’s still shy, but Bree’s blossomed. She doesn’t tear up, although I keep a close eye on her during storms and fireworks, which tend to frighten her. She prances around, confident, and shows herself to be the gorgeous girl that she is.
My Other Fosters:

Bessie – I didn’t intend to foster more than one dog, but this girl caught my eye as I was leaving with Bree. Her expression was pleading. She was begging to be saved. I couldn’t get her out of my mind. Two weeks after bringing Bree home, I picked up Bessie. She’s the only foster I’ve actually requested.

Bessie’s a hoot, full of personality, and bigger than life. I called her Bossy Bessie because she liked to be in charge. Bessie stayed with me for five months before she was adopted. She has a mom, dad, a human and a fur sister. She’s doing great.

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Lacy – Lacy’s a ten-year-old lab, surrendered because her owner passed away. Her mom’s daughter actually wanted to put her down, because “she couldn’t stand to look at her,” but the Humane Society talked her into surrendering. Lacy was slated to go to rescue, but it was around the Christmas holidays, and they couldn’t take her right away. They needed a place for her to crash.

I brought her home. She was overweight and filthy, but she was the sweetest girl, and so loving. A bath made a world of difference, and winter was fairly mild, so we walked a short distance every day, until the rescue took her. I would’ve had no problem keeping her forever.

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Tipsy – Probably my coolest foster story so far. The foster FB page asked someone to take Tipsy. Due to anxiety, she kept trying to dig out of her kennel, and was tearing up her feet. I agreed and brought her home, but I hated the name. It sounded like the day after New Year’s. She didn’t answer to it, so I changed it to Torie.

Torie was adventurous and just the cutest, little girl. She didn’t like being alone,  though. She loved to be close to people. I had her about a month when I received a message from the foster coordinator asking me to bring her in.

A college student, Ryan, left the state for an internship, leaving his dog with a trusted friend, this past September. Ryan returned in December to discover she’d ran away in October. He happened to check the shelter pages, and he found his girl in foster. After a tearful reunion, Torie/Harper was returned to her dad, and she has moved to be with him in California.

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Dodge – This guy was the oddest of my fosters. He had no clue how to be a dog. He wasn’t socialized, and he didn’t trust people. My two pups had a real hand in showing him the way to behave. Besides being a looker, he’s very smart, and catches on quick. My other dogs took to him right away, and he’s been their favorite foster sibling.

He’s a quiet and unassuming guy, a real couch potato. Regrettably, he wasn’t cat receptive, so I had to return him before we found an adopter. He’s back in foster and doing very well.

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Jordy – Jordy was a sad, little boy. He came from a hording situation, and didn’t acclimate to the shelter’s noisy environment. They said he growled and barked in the kennels and shied away from human contact. He wouldn’t even wag his tail. Animal control wanted to put him down, but the Humane Society persuaded them to let them work with him.

His behavior at the shelter was total opposite of what I experienced when he came home with me. The tail never stopped wagging. He’s happy, energetic, full of kisses, and he loved to snuggle, all the time. A true Velcro puppy. His new mom graduated college and took him home to Missouri last week. He’s doing fantastic.

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Zeus – This fellow is one cool dude. He’s loaded with energy and personality. He was an adoption return, I suspect he was brought back due to his strength and stubbornness. Zeus was a quick learner and extremely alpha. This youngster tried his alphaness on my old boy, Malcolm, and Mal put him in his place.

His activeness kept me in stitches. Gotta love those ears! He has an opinion on everything and doesn’t hesitate to give it. He also has a gentle side. He’s a cuddler and gives lots of kisses. He’s been adopted by a young military couple, and he has a fur brother who looks and acts just like him, except he’s brown.

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Happy –Fearful doesn’t come close to Happy’s demeanor. This beautiful girl came into the shelter injured. They amputated her hind leg, but that injury doesn’t compare to her physiological problems.

She cringes in the corner, her head bowed, sometimes trembling. I almost have to carry her out to do her business. Today, I took her off lead, and let her loose outside. She walked around the yard and then sat. She seemed to enjoy the outdoors and the freedom that came with it. When I called everyone inside, she answered to her name, came in with the rest of the crew, and went to her room. Huge step, Happy girl!

When I took this girl, I was afraid I would have her a long time. But a compassionate, understanding family wanted to meet her, and after introductions, they decided to adopt her. Tomorrow, she’ll go to her forever home. I didn’t even have her a week.IMG_2976

People always tell me they can’t foster, because they wouldn’t want to give them up. It’s true, every dog takes a piece of my heart when they leave. The shelter keeps a box of tissue on the counter, just for me. But when they go, I’m left with wonderful memories  and complete satisfaction. Most wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t taken them. Yet, they are alive, and they’re thriving in loving homes. That knowledge makes every good-bye tear worth it.

By the way, still no adopter for Bree…if no one steps up, that’s okay. She’s good staying here with me.IMG_2720

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Close to my Heart

Like many published authors, I don’t earn enough to pay the bills penning books, so I need to have a day job to supplement my income. Currently, I am employed at a local elementary school. I work with special needs students, inclusion, which is where I go from classroom to classroom spending anywhere from fifteen to forty minutes, either helping with assignments, or I bring work equivalent to their academic abilities.IMG_2689

This week the third, fourth, and fifth grades are taking the bulk of the state issued standardize tests. The fifth grade have already tested, and those who didn’t pass are retaking make-up tests. The fourth graders have taken one exam and will complete their tests this week, but this is the first round for third grade students.

These tests are specifically designed to measure individual student progress in relation to content directly tied to the state’s knowledge and skill essentials, meaning every test question is aligned to those standards.

During test time, hallways are quiet, guarded by paraprofessionals to ensure no one enters. Teachers read the instructions, and after, must stay silent. They cannot read the questions unless the child has accommodations which state otherwise. (Most of my students.)  Faculty and staff members may not sit during the four-hour duration, but must walk around and observe. They cannot read or write, only actively monitor to make sure students are honest, stay awake, and bubble in their answers.

Are the stakes too high?

Most diametrically connected with education and parents cry foul when it comes to these cookie cutter assessments, the weight that they carry, and rightly so. I’ve witnessed so many students and teachers struggle with this material, either teaching or learning.

One problem is the exam language is written beyond the child’s grade level. Current tests are devised three language Lexile’s higher than former standardized tests for the same grade level (a Lexile measure is the numeric representation of an individual’s reading ability or a text’s readability). Students may know the subject matter, yet not understand, because test questions are phrased in language beyond their comprehension ability.

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Oh, no they didn’t…

The State Board of Education decided in 2015 to “push down” fifth grade math material, which was originally taught in the seventh grade. What else does “pushing down” imply? It means teachers must teach the material during the school year, pilfering valued time needed to teach basics.

This practice makes math harder to learn, student’s are more rushed, and the material is developmentally inappropriate, which means students are held to higher performance standards on unsuitable objectives with the threat of grade retention held over their head if they fail.

Until 2014, my state has never included standardized test scores for final grades. Under state law, local school districts awarded final grades as classroom teachers are in the best position to assess a student’s knowledge and academic progress.

 

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All is fair, or is it?

Studies also show standardized tests are more challenging to students who are hampered by less fortunate circumstances. Low-income pupils typically begin school less prepared as opposed to their affluent counterparts. Schools in lower-income areas often have a greater employee turnover, intensifying the instability by the state’s current policy of further destabilizing campuses with low standardized test scores.

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Should they or not?

Research shows standardized tests are not a true measure of what a child knows, and tests certainly do not measure a child’s worth.

Should children take state tests? Absolutely! But let’s be real. Children shouldn’t be over-tested and should not be judged by their scores. State test ought to be used as a measuring stick to target needed improvements, not as a weapon against kids doing their best against challenging odds. Children aren’t standardized, and they shouldn’t be evaluated as such.

They deserve better.

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My Journey With Mom

I have an amazing mom. Over the years, she’s been my biggest champion, my rock, and as I grew older, she’s become one of my closest friends. She has a huge heart, and if anyone is in need, she’s first to step up and help. My mother is an example of a selflessness. She’s a true giver, and she does it for pure joy.

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In 2016, she turned 80. She loves to tell people she 80, because everyone says she doesn’t look 80, nor does she act 80. She eats that up. But it’s true. She’s a progressive thinker and open minded. It took me a while to get brave enough, but now I send her my books to read before I email them to my publisher. I value her opinion, and let me tell you, she doesn’t hesitate to give it.

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She’s gone through a lot of tough times in her life and weathered those storms with grace and dignity. But a few weeks ago, she was dealt with probably one of the greater challenges she’s yet to face, only this time it was different. This strong, fiercely independent woman had to accept she was the one needing care.

At first, she went into a bit of denial. She did, but I didn’t.

I suspected the news wouldn’t be positive when she revealed to me that her recent mammogram showed a mass, and her doctor wanted to do a biopsy. She preferred to keep it quiet, and I agreed. No use worrying until we had something to worry about.

I insisted on taking off work and going with her, although she was adamant that she could drive herself. According to her, this was no big deal.

Except it was. The results showed a malignancy.

Again, she didn’t want anyone to know. I get it, and so do family and friends. One of her biggest complaints is about “old” people whining about their ailments, and she didn’t want to be classified in that category. Except this wasn’t whining. She had cancer.

At this point, we semi-reversed roles, and she didn’t relinquish hers easily.

Thankfully, the growth was caught in the beginning stages. Her physician explained the risks were minimal, and she’d be just fine. She was given several choices: Chemotherapy, remove the breast, or they could take out the mass and later she’d have radiation treatments.

She chose the latter, saying Chemo was poison, and she didn’t want toxins in her body. She didn’t want to have the breast removed, because that required an overnight stay in the hospital, and only sick people spent the night in hospitals—her words, folks. She elected to get rid of the mass and do radiation.

The surgery was scheduled on Monday, March 13. They’d operate in the morning, and she could home in the afternoon. She announced she intended to go to quilting on the following Tuesday, and she had a meeting on Saturday she had to attend. While I know better than to say, you’re not going anywhere, Mom, I suggested she see how she felt before she made any definite plans. (She didn’t go to either.)

Once more, I had to wrangle my way into driving her to pre-register into the hospital. We both got a good chuckle when the attendants inquired about her medications, and she produced her only prescriptions, which are vitamin D and calcium. The look on their faces was priceless. One even commented, “You’re 80 and that’s all the meds you take?” True story.

IMG_2711                                              We stopped for one at the end of that day

Then she told me I didn’t need to take off work, she could drive herself to the hospital for the surgery. Umm…no…I took off work.

The surgery went smooth. They also removed a lymph node to make sure the cancer hadn’t spread. First words out of the doctor’s mouth after the procedure, was my mom was a tough old bird, and she was going to be around for a long time. I knew that, but it was nice to have a professional opinion.

I drove her home, then ran to the grocery store, picked up her prescriptions, and dinner. To this day, she’s only taken one pain pill, although recently she admitted that the incision did bother her, and ibuprofen had become her friend. She also expressed that the entire episode kicked her butt. She didn’t bounce back like she thought she would. Really?

She went for a checkup this past Thursday. Results came back clear. Yesterday, she wanted me to take her shopping. Of course, I did. We had a great time. She was feeling much better, and there was an added spring in her step that I hadn’t seen in a while. All a relief.2017-04-02 (3)

We’re not finished, yet. She still must see an oncologist, hear their suggestions, and decide what the next move should be, but she’s ready.

And she asked me if I would take off work and drive her.

Special thanks:

I want to thank our family and friends who’ve been great support and cheering for her on. I also want to express my gratitude to those who’ve been there for me, too. There were times I felt very alone and scared. Your encouragement and kind words helped me battle those fears and put on a brave face.

I want to give special, special thanks to my cousins, Mac, and Kathy for remaining by my side. The phone calls, texts, the wine, and hanging out at the hospital were just what needed. You rock! I love you to the moon and back!

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Dating: Times Have Changed

Inventing creative ways to introduce a hero and heroine to each other is a challenge writing in the romance genre. I suppose I can draw off my personal experiences, which are dull, or I could “borrow” my friend’s encounters, and spice them up a bit.

I could. But I don’t.

I prefer to conceive my own concepts. Experiment with different scenarios until I discover a method that works between the duo’s story I plan to tell. Like almost everything when writing a manuscript, forming future lover’s beginnings involves research.

My explorations led me to dabble in the latest way leading to coupledom.

Online dating: The internet has emerged as a popular way to meet potential mates. As a single, middle aged woman, I confess this approach doesn’t appeal to me, although I’m familiar with many who have met their soul mate through the internet. Either way, I thought it would make a great plot-line, and I decided to investigate.

I started by signing up on one of the more popular sites. My profile isn’t visible, but it allows me to view potential dates/mates. Warning: From here on, I’m going to pick on the guys, since their profiles are all I can see, but assessments insinuate women lack in this area, too.

So, here’s what I found:

The internet has made people lazy, my friends. I’m sure most people who use these sites are very nice, but little effort goes into constructing profiles. My initial wonder is, are they serious about finding their Ms. Right?

Think about the old days, spending Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights in clubs and disco’s. Everyone dressed up. We wore our nicest polyester, platforms gleamed, and shag haircuts were perfectly layered and drenched in Aqua Net.

I get it. Times have changed. But seriously.

Think I’m exaggerating? Look at a few pics I lifted from the dating site.

These gentlemen either look asleep, or they’ve been given bad news, or they’re mad, or they’ve photographed themselves gazing in a fun house mirror.

Speaking of mirrors, what’s this?  Selfie’s taken in the bathroom mirror??? Can I just say yuk!!!

Males also seemed to like to pose with dead animals. Polls show women don’t get too excited about pics of men and their carcasses. On the flip side, men aren’t thrilled over women who post snaps with their cats.

Pictures unfocused or sideways? Lazy. Flipping someone off? High school mentality. Tons of pictures in a bar embracing an alcoholic beverage? Do we have a problem? Numerous photographs at home. Never goes anywhere, and way too much into themselves.

No shower? No problem. Serial killer? Sure, why not!

And finally, a little mystery can be a good thing.

This is first impressions, folks.

I’m nitpicking, but the written bios are a big deal. The edit button was invented for a reason, take advantage. Complete sentences, capitalization and punctuation are important. Let’s talk about content. Anger? Next. Exposing personal baggage? Next. Wanting sex “all the time”. Next. Oh yeah, married but separated? Next.

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But by all means, write something!

Just want to spend time with someone

Okay, this part is especially for guys. I understand men don’t want some “ancient” unkempt lady on their arm. Trust me, women feel the same way, but let’s be realistic. Unless you’re Hugh Hefner, 18-35-year-old women are probably not going to jump at the chance to spend their lives (or even a second) with you. You’ll have a better shot in the real world.

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And this age thing goes on and on…

I confess, I only scraped the surface, but my observations are as follows. The premises of online dating has merit, except it also removes personalized accountability. It makes meeting others easy, but without much putting effort in the process.

Thoughts?

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Grateful

This week is my official birthday week. I’m prone to celebrate the month of March, because, why not, but Thursday is my actual date of birth. It’s not one of those “big” birthday’s, one that ends in 0. That’s another year away, but my age has climbed high enough to receive funny cards about saggy boobs, senior discounts, and laps in memory. And those are great. I truly love to laugh at my age.

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But turning a year older also has me reflecting. I have more years behind me than I do ahead. I’m not trying to be Debbie Downer, it is what it is. Instead of dwelling on the obvious, I’m going to be grateful.

Yes. I’m grateful for growing older. I’m thankful I’m still here, and for the experiences I’ve encountered and lived through. I’m grateful for the good times and the bad. Both have shaped and molded me into the person I am today.

I’m grateful for my amazing family. What a gift! My parents who instilled high standards, values, and they demonstrated what true commitment means. They taught me the meaning of unconditional love. They always supported me, even if they didn’t always agree with my choices.

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I’m also grateful for my children. They’re grown, and I couldn’t be prouder of the fantastic adults they’ve turned into. A bonus, they also married equally fantastic spouses. I don’t see them as often as I would like, but it’s comforting to know they’re just a text message, phone call, or video chat away.

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I’m grateful for my extended family and that includes my friends. I’ve been lucky enough to keep a few since I was a girl, and they are especially special. I’m thrilled with my new friends, too. Writer friends, bunko babes, work buddies and those in-between. Social media has provided the opportunity to reconnect with those I no longer see and quite a few I’ve never met. I appreciate each one of you.

 

I’m grateful for my job. No, I don’t make a ton of money and every day is trying, but I’m fortunate to work with brilliant people who teach, encourage, and laugh with me when things become too crazy. I also cherish the children we try to educate. Many come from dire circumstances, and yet they’re positive and resilient. We can all learn from them.

 

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I’m grateful for my talent and the ability to share it with others. My writing career began at the age of 12. I wrote by hand in spiral notebooks and hid them in the back of my closet. Fast forward 40 years and I’m a published author. Who’d a thought a shy, timid, introvert would ever get up enough nerve to allow the world to read her work?

 

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I’m grateful for the little things: chocolate, wine, stretchy denim, a haircut that fits my face, stretches of highway with the 75-mph speed limit, fresh sheets, silence, 80’s rock music, PayPal, my iPhone, vanilla scented candles, DSW, IDTV, spring, everything connected with the ocean, my laptop, and of course, my fur baby’s.

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Later this week as I stand in front of my cake, aiming a fire extinguisher, ready to douse the bonfire, I’m not going to make a wish. Nope. I’ll express my gratitude for the life I’ve been given, and hopefully I still have many years of gratefulness ahead of me.

 

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