Book Review-Becoming-by Michelle Obama

Joy here –

Loved, loved, loved this book.  So honest, from the heart, and real.  I knew I liked her as FLOTUS, but after reading her book I am totally a fan (and saddened that she isn’t first lady any longer!)

Michelle Obama didn’t come from money or status.  She was an average kid growing up on the south side of Chicago.  Her dreams and aspirations  were similar to those of many young people –  getting into a good college, making her mark on the world, giving back to her community. She accomplished all that and much more.

The book follows her divergent chapters in life, aptly titled, Becoming Me, Becoming Us, and Becoming More.  It’s refreshing to know that she too went through a period of doubt regarding her chosen profession, the law.  After working so hard to get into a top school, Princeton, and landing a fabulous job with the top tier law firm, Sidley & Austin, Michelle wrestled with the fact that she wasn’t feeling fulfilled.  She wanted to give back to her community, to feel purposeful, to do good works, not just for the sake of a great pay check.  At the end of the day, isn’t that what most of us truly want in life?

As I read her memoir, I felt as though Michelle could be my next door neighbor or close friend.  She speaks from her soul and isn’t afraid to be vulnerable.

The book is a wonderful read for a young woman starting out in life or even more so, several years out of college trying to figure out if the path she’s chosen is still what she wants.  I bought the book with my older daughter in mind — Michelle being a great role model, someone who you could trust.

Although Michelle marveled at the heights she climbed and although she savored her time in The White House, her most important role was (and continues to be) as Sasha’s and Malia’s mom.

At the end of the day, her dignity, grace, and fierce determination to remain an equal partner with Barack, holding the highest position in America, is an inspiration to us mere mortals!

 

 

Today’s Takeaway-

– “If you don’t define yourself, you will quickly be defined by others.” Michelle Obama in Becoming

-We are all in the process of becoming and there is comfort in that. If we don’t become, then we are stuck in a rut.

Enjoy the ride and read the book!

xox Barclay and Joy

 

Want a laugh?  Check out Michelle and Ellen in Costco!

 

De-Friending Procrastination

Hello, Retiree.   My Name is Procrastination.  We can be great friends.

We both know what you SHOULD be doing right now.

Emails.  Laundry.  Meditation. Jogging. Bill paying.  Bible reading. Writing. Facing clutter that would make Marie Kondo blush.

Your dog sits at the front door with a leash in her mouth.  And that yoga mat and weights aren’t going to get off the shelf on their own accord.

All I have to do is turn your gaze to Facebook, chocolate, another cup of coffee, the news.  You need to be informed, right?  Perhaps your IRA needs tending.

Did an hour just slip by?   Your dog sighs and returns to bed.

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In the absence of traditional work, retirees need strategies for sticking to daily disciplines, de-friending procrastination, and making first things first.

James Clear has written extensively on how to form good habits.  He recommends we incorporate the “Seinfeld Strategy” described as follows —

“Brad Isaac was a young comedian starting out on the comedy circuit. One fateful night, he found himself in a club where Jerry Seinfeld was performing. Isaac caught Seinfeld backstage and asked if he had “any tips for a young comic.”

Here’s how Isaac described the interaction with Seinfeld…

He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.

“After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.”

You’ll notice that Seinfeld didn’t say a single thing about results.

It didn’t matter if he was motivated or not. It didn’t matter if he was writing great jokes or not. It didn’t matter if what he was working on would ever make it into a show. All that mattered was “not breaking the chain.”

And that’s one of the simple secrets behind Seinfeld’s remarkable productivity and consistency. For years, the comedian simply focused on “not breaking the chain.”


 

Clear and Seinfeld are right.  The secret is the “every day” part.  Putting that X in the calendar square and not breaking the chain.

Want to incorporate a morning time of meditation and prayer?

Want to have a more grateful heart?

Want to get rid of those “hi Jane” arms?

Start building that chain today.  And say good-bye to Procrastination!

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Don’t worry if you skip a day. Just don’t skip two if at all possible.  Good habits have a way of evaporating.  And then Procrastination comes knocking at your door!

-Don’t feel badly about dating Procrastination -who is awfully cute and entirely familiar.  This post is late in coming because I have been VERY busy — spending time with Hannah, the controversial bachelorette.  🙂

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

 

 

 

HELP, I’m Having an Identity Crisis!

It happened again the other day.  Someone asked me, “How’s retirement going?  What do you do with yourself?”

I stammered a response.  “Oh, I’m busy….you know, tennis, errands, church stuff,  tutoring”.

Now to be perfectly transparent … that last part was fake news — I’m not tutoring these days and my church stuff has lessened during the summer months.

And did I really use the word, “errands”???   I may as well have said, “I watch Netflix” or “I’m into Hannah’s season on the Bachelorette.”  Not descriptors of a productive life.

Retirement for me has brought an identity crisis of sorts.  But It turns out I’m not alone.

Joy found this article from Forbes which compares the identity crisis of retirement to that which we experienced in adolescence.

The Second Identity Crisis: 10,000 Boomers Face It Every Day

The author calls it “Starting Older“.   We don’t feel old, but we are definitely not young.  We are asking ourselves,

Who am I anyway, after all this? What kind of work do I want to do now? What is the point of my life now? What kind of stimulation do I need, and what kind do I want to avoid? What have I had enough of and what do I still yearn for?

“The process of confronting these questions –and finding the answers–has all the disruptive hallmarks of an identity crisis.”

But let’s not forget the good news here.  Unlike the prior generation, we generally have 20 years or so post-work – we are living longer.  Plus, we are generally in decent health.  We GET to start older – which, with the proper attitude, can be exciting.

We just have to find our new-selves.  Did George Bush realize he would turn to painting or Jimmy Carter to house building?

Also, contrary to our adolescent selves, we have a lifetime of experience to draw upon and hopefully some great friendships. We are a work in progress.

Just don’t ask us that dreaded question, if you don’t mind!

 

Joy here –

I couldn’t agree more!  I hate when people ask me what I do with my time!  I try to structure my day as much as I can, but lets face it, there is a fair amount of downtime.  There are a lot of hours in between breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

In the beginning it’s fun to sleep in, not be listening for the alarm to go off, but that wears off rather quickly.  I haven’t slept late in years!  I’m lucky if I stay asleep all night without the help of Melatonin or CBD oil.  (check out my earlier post on insomnia)

Last year was my experimentation phase.  I volunteered at an equine center working  with disabled kids, refreshed my Mah Jongg skills, tried new recipes,  played Scrabble late afternoon accompanied by cocktails (this activity I kind of like!) I can’t say my life is meaningful or that I have purpose (lofty goals to be sure), but what I did accomplish is knowing me better, figuring out what makes me happy and, more importantly what doesn’t. We are on auto pilot for so many years that the abrupt halt is a hard one, and all this time that I was waiting to have is now put neatly on my doorstep with no instruction manual.

The good news, as Barclay says, is that we are in good company with many Baby Boomers to come.  My mission is to figure it out as I go along, to get to know this person I’ve been married to for almost 42 years, and to be available when needed for friends, for family, for neighbors.

The next time someone asks you what you do every day in retirement, throw them for a loop and tell them you’re working on a cure for cancer! Who’s to know and it makes your life sound oh so meaningful!

Today’s Takeaway…

Not everything we do has to be meaningful and important.  We’ve worked a long time and deserve a break!

Your plan for retirement is your own and if it doesn’t satisfy you in year 1, hopefully, you’ve got many years ahead of you to figure it out!

Enjoy the ride

xox Barclay & Joy

 

You know those funny old folks in the greeting cards?  This will be Joy and me.

 

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Once a Parent, Always a Parent!

I always thought I’d raise my children to adulthood and then they would be independent and live happily ever after.  Seriously, I got married at 23 so what did I know?!

What I have learned is that there is no magic number at which an adult child finds his/her way.  Each child is unique and reaches independence on a different timeline. (It’s not that I was so mature at 28 or even 30, but I had a husband, an in-house therapist, to vent to.)

Now I welcome the fact that my 2 adult children come to me with their problems, that they care what I think about anything!  I am blessed with 2 caring souls who value their mom’s opinion and advice (well, sometimes!)  They probably think that venting to me is better than keeping inside whatever is upsetting them.  Why feel like crap when you can lay it off on your mother?  You get off the phone feeling so much better.  Who cares that your mom wants to walk into oncoming traffic!

I am slowly learning that I can no longer jump into action mode, the way I could when problems were simpler to solve.  These  issues are beyond my expertise.  When a daughter is looking for a new job, I no longer know people who can set up interviews — as I did when my kids were fresh out of college.  I can’t get a bad boss off their backs or find new apartments.  My usefulness is limited, as is my checkbook!

I must remind myself  that my daughters are young women. They will learn by stumbling, getting hurt, being disappointed, not having everything they want or aspire to.  My job in raising them, in giving them a foundation from which to grow, is done.  It’s like sowing seeds in the ground, watering them, weeding them, and allowing them to grow. Every now and then, they may need a gentle touch, a little extra care, but for the most part, if I’ve done the job right, I need to let them reach for their dreams without me constantly being in their faces.  (I will reread that last sentence and maybe commit it to memory!)

My generation has been so involved with their children’s lives that when they grow up, it is hard to put on the brakes. We want what is best for them;  we want to see them happy, laughing, telling us good news  Duh! But our role in this phase of life is to be a sounding board, to be the person they come to for relief from whatever is burdening them.

But being a sounding board is tricky — the issues are bigger than someone not wanting to sit with them at the lunch table!   Recently one of my adult children needed to talk.  She is adapting to a new life style and adjusting to many bumps along the way.  She needed to pour it all out of her, even though all I could offer was a sympathetic ear — something I will make time for, no matter what else is going on in my life.  Till the day I die!

For we are Parents for Life!

And I for one treasure this role more than any other!   My ear is ready whenever the call comes!

With a glass of wine near by.

 

Today’s Takeaway:

. Parenting an adult child is drastically different than when our kids were little.  Don’t expect to be Supermom anymore, swooping in to save the day.

,Being a good listener and hugger may be the most important requirements for our adult children.  Never underestimate how much that can help when they call.

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay & Joy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Failing Better: Learning and Growing

Back in my 20s I held 7 different jobs in 11 years.  That meant 7 “first days” — finding the coffee machine,  meeting colleagues, imprinting names while shaking hands, signing forms, training, ever smiling, trying not to walk into a wall or closet.

One first day stands out.  I had to enter the trading room of Dean Witter, not only late, but also  wearing a large white bandage on my chin, having tripped while jogging along Chicago’s lakefront at 5AM that morning, certain that I was outrunning a mad rapist, which was actually a puzzled squirrel — it was a bloody affair necessitating a trip to the ER to get stitches.

Then there was a new job where I apparently slipped through the cracks of Human Resources.  I had been hired by a regional manager in Chicago and I thought it would be important to visit the NY office to meet the traders.  After my visit, I returned to Chicago where the manager who had hired me was no longer an employee.  And when I called the NY office to chat with my new trader-friends, those whose hands I had just shook were gone as well.  It gradually dawned on me that they had forgotten to fire me.  Paycheck or not, it was time to quit.

I hated first days and new jobs.

But I also knew that if I didn’t take risks, face challenges, I’d never find fulfilling work.  I would remain in my first role — not even a secretary, a secretary to a secretary.  (I took a mean short-hand, by the way – a skill set I am quite proud of!)

There is such a thing as good stress in which you stretch yourself.  You put on a brave face and take on uncomfortable challenges where you can learn and grow — even if you wind up being forgotten, fired, or embarrassed.

Failures are harsh but instructive.

The Swiss tennis player, Stan Wawrinka, has a tattoo on his left forearm that inspires him to take risks and learn from  life’s  failures.  It’s  a Samuel Beckett quote  that reads –

 

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No Matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

 

 

 

 

That saying, Fail Better, speaks volumes.  It reminds us retired folks that life still entails learning and growing. IF – and it’s a big IF – we take risks.

Volunteering.  Socializing. Reading. Calling friends and family. Writing notes.  Trying recipes.  Taking classes.  Traveling.   Even finding new work at Jewel, Starbucks, the Library (surely, SOMEone wants us?!).

 

So when failure slaps you in the face, remember Stan Wawrinka, and say, No Matter!  Fail again!  Fail Better!

 

You don’t have to get a tattoo, however…

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Stress can indeed be good, if it propels you to take a risk.

-Hey, maybe a tattoo is in your future… no judgement here!!

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

The World According to Winston-

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I think dogs are so much smarter and cleverer than many people think.  Winston, for example is wise beyond his years. My daughter, Morgan, doesn’t think so, but she’s wrong! He knows he is incredibly cute and charming and he uses that to get under your skin and make you do things that you would never do for any living soul (like get up at 5:15 to let him out and then warm his dog food up in the microwave!).

Human’s relationship with dogs goes way back in time, more than 10,000 years to be exact.  70 million families have dogs, so it must be a pretty good idea!  I truly can’t think of a time in my married life that I was dogless for more than a few months.  They are our confidants, the best keepers of secrets, and they know a thing or two about life.  So, here on a much lighter note than my customary reflections on retirement, are some of the thoughts of Winston…,as told to me privately!

  1. Wake up in the morning after a good night’s sleep refreshed and rarin to go.
  2. Don’t let the weather get to you.  It’s only water and no one ever melted from it!
  3. Eat a good breakfast.  It’s the most important meal of the day and you know you’ve been thinking about it all night!
  4. Don’t let little things bother you, unless, of course, it’s a tick.  If it is one of those pesky things, have someone pull it out immediately!  Winston refuses to be a smorgasbord for those parasitic nuisances!
  5. Sniff, to your heart’s content.  The power of smell brings many memories to mind and you never know when something yummy might be lurking in the grass.
  6. Make sure you get your tummy scratched multiple times a day.  That’s the best part and behind the ears.
  7. Avoid baths at all cost.  You couldn’t possibly be that dirty! On the human side, you might want to ignore this one for the sake of your fellow friends and neighbors.
  8. Snuggle up to someone at night.  The warmth of another human being is very special and it makes for a good pillow or a little extra support for your neck.

Life is a beautiful thing and our furry friends make it complete.  Winston is eternally grateful for being rescued by his family and he thanks me for giving him this time to speak.

Today’s Takeaway…

-My husband David always thought (when he was a little boy) that his dog was a little person in a furry suit.  Just think about it!

-Dogs know our emotions better than we do ourselves. The next time you have a major decision to make, consult your dog, or if Winston is available, he’s more than happy to add his 2 cents!

Time for a walk in the woods with Winston!

Enjoy the Ride.

xox Barclay & Joy

 

 

Beware of Nostalgia; Live in the Present!

Remember that 1950s show, THIS is your Life?  The unsuspecting guest would come face to face with family and friends who had affected his life — a 2nd grade teacher, a long lost relative, a friend from summer camp, an army buddy.

I am in the process of decluttering our basement – where thousands of photographs overflow from shoeboxes.  These are the pictures  that didn’t make the cut for an album, but would never have been tossed.

The problem is that there are at least 50 photos of one single moment in time- Kacie as a puppy stuck in the grass that’s higher than her head,  Jared as a toddler in diapers playing with a plastic T-ball set in our bedroom, Alex as a preteen holding her first tennis trophy from a round robin with her grandfather.

As I pull each shoebox off a shelf, I  hear the voice of decluttering expert, Marie Kondo, Keep what gives you joy.  

OK, Marie, I will pare down 50 photos of puppy Kacie to 5.

What Marie didn’t warn me about though, was that a wave of nostalgia would soon wash over me.

Oh to go back to those summer afternoons  – with the turquoise plastic pool filled with water, our first dog, Jessie, rolling in the dirt, Alex giggling, Jared on the swing set.  Making sandcastles.   Playing tag.  Running the bases.

Graduations, birthdays, vacations, sports teams.

Halloweens, Christmas trees, visits to Florida to see grandparents.  That August afternoon on Lake Michigan when Brett and I got married.

 

Each shoebox triggers deepening nostalgia.

For there are no children giggling upstairs, no driving in the car listening to Barney songs, and definitely no wedding songs to ponder.

Kids have graduated and left.  Dogs haven’t lived long enough.  And trophies are not given out anymore.

So with apologies to Marie Kondo, I return each shoebox back to its shelf – lest  this nostalgia slip into depression.

 

Time for a walk with Codie.

 

Because all I have is NOW.  And those Marcell Christmas cards that boast of endless joy, are liars;   life has always had its struggles, not suitable for Nikon’s close-up lens.  Shoeboxes, unchecked, can lead our hearts toward sentimentality and romanticism.

 

Historian Stephanie Coontz wrote a NY Times op-ed called Beware of Social Nostalgia.  She says that “homesickness”, as nostalgia used to be called, at best, is a harmless self-deception that can  lead us to reignite relationships that have ceased being close.

But nostalgia is also dangerous.  It amplifies the good and minimizes the bad; it  paints an idyllic vision of days gone by that robs us of optimism for the future – a future which cannot compete with such a one-dimensional view of the past.

Memories, like witnesses, do not always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We need to cross-examine them, recognizing and accepting the inconsistencies and gaps in those that make us proud and happy as well as those that cause us pain.”

Nostalgia can distort our understanding of the world in dangerous ways, making us needlessly negative about our current situation.”

 

So I have a new plan with regard to the basement storehouse of idyllic memories.   Let the next generation deal with them.

For THIS is my life.  Present tense.  Present moment.

 

And the present is a gift.  Which no shoebox can take away.

 

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-When you feel nostalgia trigger sadness, cross-examine it.  And then tell your distorted memory to take a hike and your present self to take a walk- preferably with a dog,

-Be more dog-like.  Life for dogs  is always in the NOW.  And joy awaits with each meal, each time a leash is reached for, each new person to greet.

 

Enjoy the ride!  Present tense!

xox

Barclay and Joy