Relaxing in Key West

Mike and I have been traveling to Key West about once a year for many years. We usually go in mid to late September, when there aren’t as many people, although that is hurricane season. Only once has our trip been cancelled because of a hurricane. This year we left a few days before a hurricane, Hurricane Ian, was expected.

Key West is a place I had to develop a liking for. I often say it is somewhere I am never really excited about going until I get there. The attraction is the sun and pure relaxation. Since I do not enjoy the drinking lifestyle, some parts of Key West are wasted on me. But there is wonderful food, you can walk most everywhere, and it is a place where one can totally relax.

Mike introduced me to Key West. He went there for the first time in 1975, taken there by a fraternity brother who lived in Miami. It was on that first trip that he heard musician Michael McCloud for the first time. Michael McCloud is a Key West icon, still playing and singing at seventy-five years of age, the last more than thirty years at the Schooner Wharf bar. He has recorded some wonderful songs, and if you can overlook his irreverent mouth, an afternoon listening to him is time well spent. As my readers know, I do not like profanity, so I am somewhat conflicted by Michael McCloud. But I recognize his talent and suffer through his choice of language. I also abhor the profanity on t-shirts in store windows. Call me a prude and tell me that is the way things are these days. But I do not agree with it, and question why I support it by my presence. But so far, I have overlooked those parts that I do not like for those that I do.

There are two wonderful bookstores in Key West, one, Books and Books, owned by Judy Bloom. There is also one of the best antique shops I have found anywhere, Duck and Dolphin Antiques. There is a plethora of restaurants, many with Happy Hour meals that replace an expensive dinner.

One of my favorite pastimes while in Key West is walking. Every morning around nine AM I head out and take my walk, past storefronts and restaurants. It is different than walking at home, where I listen to podcasts so as not to be bored. I do not even use my earbuds while walking in Key West, enjoying the scenery of the city. Before I realize it, almost an hour has passed, and I am back where I started.

Key West. A beautiful city with some less than desirable aspects to it. I suppose like many cities and like some of us.

Stay safe, Key West, and all of Florida and South Georgia, as Hurricane Ian passes through.

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Dignity, Grace, and Faithful Service

The world has mourned the passing of Queen Elizabeth II since her death on September 8th. Her funeral, on Monday, September 19th, which was planned by the Monarch herself, was watched by many people worldwide. Never has a world leader been so revered. The adoration for ninety-six-year-old Queen Elizabeth II, which was present for many years, reached an all-time high with her passing. Many accolades have been written and spoken about the Queen. My favorite is these words used to describe her: Dignity, Grace, and Faithful Service.   

While I do not really understand how the Monarchy continues to be an important part of British society in the modern world, they undoubtedly do. How this family can still be financially supported to the degree they are is amazing to me. In spite of their ups and downs, the support for the Monarchy continues. I recognize, of course, the tourist attraction of the royalty, and understand that attraction. But this tourist attraction continues at a significant financial cost to the British economy. Even so, this fact in no way diminishes the attraction. Of all the royals, the Queen has been revered. Perhaps this has something to do with the Queen’s behavior. For many years, and through several major crises, her behavior has been steadfast. Perhaps the adoration for the Queen, and consequently for the monarchy,  can be explained by this fact. Queen Elizabeth II led the monarchy and her family with Dignity, Grace, and Faithful Service.

Dignity is defined by Oxford Languages as “the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.” The description of Dignity continues to include “being valued and respected for what you are, what you believe in, and how you live your life.”

Oxford languages describes Grace as: “simple elegance or refinement of movement, and courteous goodwill.” The definition continues by stating “Grace is not about perfection, and that you give yourself space to be flexible with your perceived reality with acceptance and kindness.” Queen Elizabeth II certainly had opportunities for displaying Grace in recent years considering the behavior of some of her family displayed on the world stage.

The Reverso Dictionary describes Faithful Service as “remaining true, constant, or loyal.” The definition continues to include, “consistently reliable, truthful, and accurate in detail.” The word Service is described as: “an act of helpful activity.”

Considering these definitions, Queen Elizabeth II epitomized Dignity, Grace, and Faithful Service. It remains to be seen if King Charles and other royals will continue her legacy.

While it is interesting to consider Dignity, Grace, and Faithful Service regarding Queen Elizabeth II, it might be more instructive to consider if these same words would be used by others to describe us. If not, where is the gap?

It may be time to “Mind the Gap.”                

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Time Stands Still, Until It Doesn’t

Thinking about the recent death of Queen Elizabeth ll at 96 years of age (more about that next week) has me counting the years. At soon to be 71 years old, I wonder how long I will live. Probably not more than 20 more years, if that long. (Although we really do not know, do we?) I remember the last 20 years as if they were yesterday. On this side of those 20 years, they seem so recent. 20 years ago was before I had any grandchildren. It was right after daughter Tara’s wedding, and before we did a major renovation on our home. I remember that time with fond memories. It seems impossible that 20 years have passed since then. But they have. And the next 20 will probably pass even quicker.

We obviously do not know how long we will live. Unless we have a serious illness that we assume will end in death, we often act as if we will live forever. That is, until someone we know who we did not expect to die does. I had that experience this week. I read on Facebook about the passing of someone I knew, a mom like me with children and grandchildren. I had not seen her lately, although I kept up with her through (of course) Facebook. She was the mother of one of my daughter Tara’s best friends when she was in elementary school. Rest In Peace, Celeste.

I do not want these thoughts to be read as morbid. We all know that death is a part of life and that none of us outlives our time. What we do not know is how long our time will be. What we do know is that we can do our part to stay healthy physically, emotionally, and mentally. We can eat healthy food, exercise to stay limber, get enough good sleep, and keep our stress at a manageable level. We can avoid unhealthy habits, such as (especially excess) alcohol consumption. We can read to keep our minds active. We can spend time with those we love. We can focus on the positive in our life and do our best to rid ourselves of the negative. While we do not have any control over the length of our life, we can certainly influence it. Many diseases are due to or worsened by unhealthy lifestyles. Let’s be wise enough to do our part to remain as healthy as we can for as long as we can.

For time stands still, until it doesn’t.                  

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Just Take The Next Right Step

Long ago I recommended that we should not try to figure it all out, (whatever “all” is varies) or we will be immobilized since we can’t figure it all out, and probably if we try, we will not get anything done. Recently I have heard similar advice from two different people, worded a little differently.

The first person who I heard talk about this is Brianna West on a podcast, “101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think,” which is also a book by the same title. West says, “Focus on the next right step.” (A necessary disclaimer. I love this work, but I do not appreciate the occasional use of profanity.) This is also discussed in an article in Joshua Becker’s September 2022 digital magazine, Simplify, an article by Leo Babauta. In Babauta’s article, “How Healthy Habits Spark Healthy Success,” he states, “Just take the next step.” Although these two are similar, Babauta’s word “take” is more action-oriented than West’s “focus on.”  West’s “Focus on the next right step” places importance on “right.” I recommend we combine these two versions and “Take the next right step.”

Too often we are trying to figure out all of the steps involved in an action, when if we just take the next step, the rest of what we need to know and do will become clear. We need to trust the process and move forward by taking the next right step. We can think of the next right step as the most logical step. We can also think of it as the step we know we should take, even when we can’t figure out the steps after that.   

This way of thinking and behaving, taking the next right step when we don’t have a clear sense of what should or will come after that step, requires trust and faith. Faith that the unfolding of those next steps will occur. Trust in the process.

Given the rapid pace and unpredictability of change, being able and willing to take action when we can’t see clearly past the next step requires courage. Courage that we will have what we need when we need it; maybe not before, but at the moment we need it. Courage that we will be able to deal with ambiguity. Courage that we are up for the challenge.

Is there a message for you in this? Is there something you have been resisting doing because you can’t clearly see all of the steps in the process? Are you trying to figure it all out before taking the next step?

Are you able to trust in yourself enough to move forward, take the next right step, and watch the others unfold?

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Kindness Matters

The importance of kindness has been a common theme lately, probably since Covid. While kindness has always been important, I think it has become more so recently. There are signs of the focus on kindness everywhere. Examples are signs on restaurant doors, kindness written on t-shirts of servers in restaurants, and many other examples of this. I wonder, do we have a similar definition of kindness? Do most of us place the same priority on kindness as others? Important questions.

I googled “kindness,” and found this definition: “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” It was also stated that kindness is more than being nice. While I would not have thought of “friendly” and “kindness” as the same, I can understand the connection, and I do believe that being generous and considerate are examples of kindness. There are many other examples. Other words used to describe kindness are compassion, courtesy, concern, gentleness, goodness, gracious, helpfulness, loving, neighborly, patience, thoughtfulness, understanding, and unselfishness. There are many other words used for kindness also. 

An exercise that is sometimes recommended for increased self-awareness is to fast forward to our eulogy. What would others say about us? While we still have time, we might choose to improve in areas where we think we need improvement. Kindness might be one of those. 

Years ago, I needed improvement in the area of kindness. I was sometimes described as “intimidating.” I do not see “intimidating” on the list of kindness behaviors! I decided to improve in the areas that others saw as negative, and that gave the impression that I was intimidating. While I am sure that there are times that I revert to being intimidating, I do not think it is common behavior.

I have had several expressions of kindness given to me lately. One was just last night at a restaurant we go to fairly often, Sawmill Tap Room. I had ordered a salad and did not finish it, so I asked for a “to go” box. The waiter brought me some extra salad dressing and a “go” cup of iced tea. That is an example of kindness. He didn’t have to, but he had a giving spirit. 

Also, a friend sent me a gift of a journal, lovely napkins, and a Starbucks gift card, with a sweet note, as appreciation for something I did for her. In all of the years that I have known her, she has always given a gift of appreciation for anything done for her. I wish I could say the same. 

Another friend recently gave me a gift of my favorite tea, which is Harrods from London. This was not found in a local store. She had to take her time to order it, and have it shipped. Since tea is my drink of choice, and Harrods is my favorite, this was so much appreciated.  

I felt like Cinderella recently when I was given a very special gift of a pair of shoes. Someone I have known for many years, who has become a friend recently, knew that I wanted those shoes, and that I had decided that they were not affordable for me at this time. She wrote me the sweetest note about how much she appreciated me throughout the years, and said, “with this gift, allow me to show my appreciation.” Wow! I was so touched by her act of generosity and kindness. I believe that this totally selfless gift is one of the best examples of kindness ever shown to me. I want to consider how I can pay it forward.

One way in which we can all show kindness to others is through tipping more than is considered “required.” While tipping may be controversial, it is a part of our American culture, and has become expected. Since staff in restaurants are often working without enough help, those of us benefiting from their service can show our appreciation by tipping more than we would otherwise. Yes, money is tight for many of us, but if we can afford to eat out, we should show some kindness to those who are serving us. How much more, you might ask? That is a personal decision. Just more. 

All gifts of kindness are not tangible gifts. How we treat others is also how we show kindness. Or not. 

Here are a few ways to show kindness. Let’s give others a pass, and not wear our feelings on our shoulders. Sometimes the kindest thing we can do is forget slights, manage our expectations, and appreciate others for who they are, ignoring when they disappoint us. This is hard for me, but that means it is something I need to work on. 

Let me end this focus on kindness by thanking my readers for your support. I write what I think is needed, for me and others. I so appreciate others reading my musings.            

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What To Do When Disappointment Sets In

Sometimes life gives us more disappointment than we are almost able to bear. Of course, there is plenty of joy also, and I do not ever forget that. That fact does not help, however, when I am having a pity party. I had one of those days this week, not helped at all by a gloomy weather day. Since I am by nature an optimistic person, those days do not throw me very often. This week, however, it did. I had a hard time pulling myself out of it. The purpose of sharing this with my readers is not to garner sympathy, but to relay what helped me get through it.

First of all, what does not help? When I am down, it does not help me for friends to try to help me focus on the positive. I know the positive. Nor does it help me for others to point out that this will pass, for I know that also, of course. It does not help me for others to tell funny stories or talk about what is going on with them. If I have been open enough to bear my heart with you, be caring enough to hang in there and do just a couple of simple things.

Ask me, “How can I help?” And listen to my answer. Be willing to stay in conversation with me unless you have an urgent need to be elsewhere. Don’t be prescriptive and tell me what I need to do to pull myself out of it. Please, I ask my friends to be able to walk through this with me. If you are truly my friend, you know I will not stay down long. Longer this time than most times, but still not long.

Do you know what you need the most from your friends and loved ones when you are feeling depleted? It is important to know what we need and to be able to ask for it if it is not offered, recognizing that in the asking, the other person may get defensive. We need to know ourselves well enough to be able to gauge how honest we can be about these things with others. With some people, we can have an open conversation that is safe, and yet not be able to have these conversations with others. What we do not need is to get into a conflict when we are trying to get support.

A good resource for us is Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages. When we need something from others, we should remember their dominant love language, or we may ask for it in a way that will assure we will not get what we need.

What helped me to pull myself out of this mood this week? Getting busy physically, and getting out of my head. Also, thinking about how I could help others, and reaching out to them. Doing something for someone else always helps me focus less on myself. I needed to focus less on myself to get through that day. I walked some and read some. No, the problems creating the disappointments did not magically disappear, but my mood lifted, and I was able to deal with them in a healthier way.

An observation, not about this day of mine this week, but a general observation. I have noticed that many people are more self-absorbed lately than ever before.  There does not seem to be enough caring about what other people are going through. Not enough tangible ways that people are reaching out and helping others in need. I am sure this is true about me as well as others. I think we need to be aware of this and find ways to begin to come together more. Let’s not blame it on our divisive political climate, for that is too easy. If we show more caring to others, it is possible there will be less division in general.

I care less about your political party affiliation than I do your human affiliation. Let’s reach out and touch someone in a manner that is most meaningful to them. If we don’t know how, we can begin with a conversation and see where it takes us.

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Stay In Your Own Lane

Given the stressors many people are experiencing these days, the potential for conflict between people is ever-present. Even with good intentions, it is easy to get into conflict with others. We need to be careful to not involve ourselves in disagreements when we are not directly involved, not when we are bystanders with an opinion about what is going on or being said.  I am reminded of the quote, “Stay in Your Own Lane.” Other ways to word this are, “Not My Pig, Not My Farm.” Also, “Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys.”

A dear speaker friend, Elizabeth Jeffries, made the following statement many years ago, about the responsibility of speakers. “As a speaker, my responsibility is to comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comforted.” Most likely my readers fall into one of these categories, either needing to be disturbed or needing to be comforted.  Hopefully, the ideas below will be helpful.

  1. When hearing a conversation/conflict between others, stay out of it if it doesn’t concern you. This includes keeping your opinion to yourself unless someone asks your opinion, then be very careful how you word your answer. It does not matter how strongly you feel about what is being said, if you are not a part of the conversation, stay out of it. 

2. If you observe a conflict between two people, stay out of it. If you jump into it, you can be assumed to be taking sides, which is not a place you want to be.

3. If you ask someone’s opinion, listen to their answer without reacting, getting defensive, or aggressive. Even when you are hearing something that you do not agree with or that is hurtful. If you asked their opinion and they give you an answer, you do damage when you exhibit these behaviors. You do not have to agree with them, and their opinion may in fact be wrong. But that is not the point. The point is you asked, and they answered. Assume they are honestly answering your question, with no agenda other than that.

4. When having a disagreement with another person, keep your cool and act like a reasonable adult. Do not create a scene. It matters not if you think you are justified in your behavior. Act like an adult in control of your behavior.

5. Do your very best to not feel or act defensively. Remember Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements. Agreement #2 is: “Don’t Take Anything Personally.” Agreement #3 is: “Don’t Make Assumptions.” Living by these 2 agreements can keep us out of a lot of trouble.

6. Regardless of who is most in the wrong when a conflict has occurred, the responsibility to make peace falls on the one who is able to. Even if she is the one who has been wronged. Even when what was done or said is not fair. Even when every fiber in you wants to hold on to it. Even when you know you will not soon forget the hurt. Even when doing so gives you no guarantee of being able to repair the damage that was done. Relationships are complex and complicated. People are at different stages of emotional maturity and mental stability. If you are able to reach out and begin to repair the damage, do it. Just because you can. Because everyone can’t.

Where are you in this? Are you comforted by the points made, or are you disturbed by them? Do you think that if you model this behavior, you might have less conflict with others?

As often happens, I write for myself as much as for others. This one certainly falls in that category.

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The Leaders of A Pack

“You do a lot more good as the leader of a pack than you do as a lone wolf.” These words were spoken by Dr. Jason Bull on one of the last shows of this series, Bull. I have been catching up on Bull episodes while helping a friend recover from surgery. Unfortunately, Bull ended with the last season, which I regret, since I love the show. I missed most of the last season, so I am playing catch up.

What does this quote mean? What is the difference between the leader of a pack and a lone wolf? Well, hopefully, you know, and hopefully you find yourself as the leader of a pack and not a lone wolf. When Bull made this statement, he had been operating as a lone wolf, making unilateral decisions that affected others without getting their involvement or buy-in. Sure, he could do that, for he was the BOSS, the owner of the firm. But in doing so he ran off his star staff person, who was as important to the firm and its work, if not more so, than Bull. Some of you know what I mean, for you have worked with (“with” is a better word than “for,” although lone wolfs would think and would say, “worked for me.”)

In case you haven’t noticed, staff have had the upper hand since COVID. There are staff shortages everywhere, and that is affecting how we live and what we are able to buy, get, and have. It behooves management to do everything they can to keep the staff they do have happy. I am hearing too many disgruntled people who are at the verge of quitting, and unnecessarily so. Not because of money, not even because of lack of opportunity, not even because they do not like the work. What they do not like, in fact, abhor, is the politics! What is “politics,” you might ask? Haven’t we always had politics at work? What is different now?

“Politics” includes not involving staff in decision making, such as changing rules and policies without involving them, or worse yet, without even letting them know until they get caught in the change! “Politics” is not letting the staff know how important they are to the business, and how much the company and management appreciate them, that they are the necessary component of the company being able to stay in business. There is so much more, but that may suffice for now.

If you are in management, take heed. Don’t be foolish and let another staff person walk out the door for something you have the control to change. Understand that they can do without you, but you cannot do without them.

If you are staff, give management and the company the opportunity to change what they need to change, before you take your toys elsewhere, thinking the grass will be greener elsewhere; it often isn’t. Don’t be impulsive. Show respect. The same is true for management.

Someone wise (attributed to President Theodore Roosevelt) once said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Show how much you care.

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Southern Hospitality

In the form of southern hospitality!

Nothing represents southern hospitality more than food and fellowship. I have had a lot of both lately. As I thought about this week’s blog, it occurred to me that we all may need a reminder of the importance of reaching out and touching others with food and other ways we show neighbors and friends that we care.

Our family has had two events recently. The first was a baby shower hosted by my cousin Paula and her daughter Bridget for our youngest daughter, Chatham. Chatham and family, including husband Johnathan and son, Drew will welcome baby girl, Hayden Elise, to the family the week of August 15th. Paula and Bridget hosted a lovely shower with delicious food. While it would have been acceptable to some to have Costco hors d’oeuvres and pastries for the shower, Paula and Bridget (with the assistance of sous chefs friend Beth and our granddaughter, Mary Grace) prepared a lovely dinner. The star of the dinner was a delicious Ritz Cracker Chicken Casserole. I made a Ritz Cracker Chicken Casserole many years ago, but lost track of the recipe. While this is probably not the exact same recipe I had years ago, it is similar. I am so glad this recipe was resurrected by the shower hosts. Do give this recipe a try, and you will be glad that you did.

The other event has been the surgery and recovery of good family friend Maureen, known to us as MoMo. MoMo had a rotator cuff repair a week ago, and I have been her main caretaker. What that means is I have prepared her meals and have been her “wheels” while she has been unable to drive. She and I have both enjoyed the time this has given us to be together without all of the rushings around that seems to take so much of our time. MoMo requested the Ritz Cracker Chicken Casserole recipe for one of her meals. We have also enjoyed BLTs with fresh tomatoes and maple bacon on sourdough bread for several days for lunch.

The best and easiest salmon recipe.

One of MoMo’s neighbors brought her (us!) delicious spaghetti, salad, and mini chocolate chip banana muffins one evening. That was such a lovely gesture. I think many of us have gotten away from reaching out to our neighbors and friends when they have health issues or surgery, and I encourage us to get back to that. We should not be too busy to do so. Some of MoMo’s other friends brought her lunch of BLTs one day, (that is where our idea of having BLTs for lunch came from!) and other friends took her out for dinner once she was ready to venture out. These acts of hospitality mean so much when we are unable to cook and care for ourselves.

Apologies extended, if needed, to others outside of the South, for referring to these acts of kindness as “southern hospitality.” There are certainly many people outside of the South who show acts of kindness referred to here as “southern hospitality.” I will grant those people the designation of southerners, without the negative baggage that goes with it!

Bless Your Heart!

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