Eileen's Life Lessons

Archive for the ‘Me time’ Category

In front of our first house stood a tall, proud walnut tree. We hung a rope over its lowest branch and the kids spent hours in the shade of the tree swinging on the rope. Sounds idyllic, huh? Except in the fall when the walnuts started to drop! The big green fruits would stain the driveway with their messy brown oil and startle us in the quiet morning hours when those baseball-size nuts hit the roof. They’d fall in the yard and trip youngsters trying to play in the  grass and leaves. So I’ve never been a big fan of walnut trees, going so far as to tear out any saplings I find in the easement behind this house.

I was remembering those falls we spent in the “little” house today as I was walking along the canal path, taking in the fall scents. My nostrils filled with the wet leaf scent and a wonderful citrusy smell I couldn’t place. Then it dawned on me: it was the smell of the walnut fruit. As nasty and messy as they were, they always had a fresh and clean scent to them. So now I’ve found something to appreciate about walnut fruits, other than the obvious brain food inside.

Oh and the nuts attract squirrels, which provide hours of entertainment for my crazy dog.

Maybe I can find something to appreciate about every one of God’s creations. Except mosquitoes. I think they came from the Devil.


What do you want people to say about you at your funeral?
She always looked nice.
Her house was always clean.
She never picked up her kids late.
She knew how to find a great deal!

While these things seem to matter to me on a daily basis, in the long term, those are not the traits I want to be remembered for. I want people to say, she lived her life generously.

Now if you take a look at my checkbook, you’ll see I cannot afford to write large checks for every fundraiser I’m asked to support. But there are other ways I can be generous.

I can be generous with forgiveness, cutting people some slack, giving them the benefit of the doubt—even if they haven’t earned it.

I can be generous with my praise. I easily recognize when I’m not feeling generous with my praise. It’s when I note something worth complimenting a person about but then decide to keep the positive comment to myself.

I can be generous with my appreciation, my gratitude. I can go out on a limb and give someone a hug, even if I’m not sure she will be receptive.

In my mind I can stop keeping track of the favors I’m owed.

I can give of my time, not just volunteering but also doing the small things that matter, like truly listening to someone who needs to be heard and validated.

Generosity is not taking my turn every time,
not complaining about someone else’s work,
not doing what’s best for me but what’s best for everyone, 
not pointing out someone’s mistake,
taking the blame even when it’s not my fault, 
letting people interrupt my day that is already planned out,
pulling all the weeds—even those across the property line,
offering a ride even if it’s out of my way and I know the favor may never be returned,
doing anything that will enable someone else’s happiness, even if it doesn’t benefit me.

Feeling generous is not a state of financial surplus; it’s a state of mind. And I want to live there.

I love my pedometer today. Yesterday I did not love it.

Yesterday I had 3,300 steps, which is pretty short of my 7000-a-day goal. 

The days when I meet friends to run or walk are usually 10,000-step days. I get a pretty red square on the program’s calendar for those days. Green appears on the dates when I’ve hit my 7,000-step goal and the square’s blue—as in sad, I guess—when I’ve had a day of mostly driving kids around and working on the computer.

My highest day so far was on vacation in NYC—I hit more than 18,000 steps in 12 hours that day!

I’m not sure that I like what wearing the pedometer has done to my way of thinking though. You see, I am a super-efficient worker. I naturally combine trips up and down the stairs to avoid wasting time and effort. Now I find that I’m OK making multiple trips to the basement because it adds to my step count.

I might be  a little competitive about it too. I regularly ask my husband what his pedometer says and lately he refuses to answer me, just shakes his head and says that he’s “created a monster.” (He signed me up!)

Today my pedometer measured 7,011 steps. What’s impressive about that is I only had 3,152 at 10 P.M., having spent most of the day either folding laundry or editing on the computer. So the dog and I hit the dark streets of our semi-safe subdivision to clock the additional 3,800. The rest were added by walking in place while brushing my teeth, one of the many tricks I’ve learned to get my count up.

Other tricks include dancing while I’m on the phone and leaving the package of cookies in the pantry so I have to get them one at a time instead of bringing them all to the office with me. Ha!

Maybe I shouldn’t call them “tricks” because that makes it sound like I’m cheating, and I’m not. I’m not tricking the device into reading higher than it should—I’m doing all kinds of movements to reach my goal, and after all, getting us moving is the whole idea behind the pedometer program.

And I’ll love my pedometer even more when I get that first incentive deposit!

I love to exercise. I don’t love to sweat. See a problem here?

Every once in a while I need to remind myself that, indeed, I am not a runner. Today was my most recent validation. I felt good, dragging the dog with me, coaxing him and myself from corner to corner, turn to turn, meeting each goal with ease. Encountered the Brebeuf cross country team at one corner. I’m sure they were impressed that Jake’s mom runs too. But shortly after waving to them I stopped to walk and the sweat started pouring–yuck!

Did I mention that I’m not a pretty sweat-er? Women are supposed to “perspire,” right? That’s sounds more dainty. Not me, no “glistening” for me.

There was only about a block when I was afraid I might die, then I caught my breath again. I thought for sure that I’d gone about a mile and a half, but I was disappointed to measure just under .9 miles.

Everyone in my family runs–even my 13-year-old Molly is training for a 5K in July, and she’s up to 2 miles within a week. Many of my friends run too, wearing those great light-weight outfits. I want to be in that crowd, talking about my time in my most recent race, about routes I like the most, about how my toe nail has turned black and may fall off soon. OK, maybe not that part.

If you see me out running any time soon, you’ll know that my short-term memory is getting worse and I had to try it again.


I love to laugh. You’ll see me smile a lot but I don’t laugh out loud very easily, not like my friend Ivette. Her laugh is boisterous and contagious.

When I want to make myself laugh–real tears-rolling-down-my-face, can’t-catch-my-breath kind of laughter–I call to mind one incident in particular. (Unfortunately for my husband, David, it’s at his expense.)

A couple of years ago, I was on one of my many vitamin kicks, strongly encouraging everyone to consume a multi-vitamin after dinner. Always last in line, David took his and started chewing it–but it wasn’t a chewable vitamin. I think he confused it with the chewable vitamin C tablets that were the same color orange. The look on his face–see, I can’t even write about it without getting hysterical–was priceless. It’s an incident we joke about it our family on a regular basis.

A close second to the vitamin face in its power to make me laugh is my mother doing aerobics: At the height of the aerobic craze of the ’80s, my mom and I took classes at Peak Performance. I can picture her trying to catch up with the class, going the wrong direction, just like in the movies–that was my mother. Jazzercise in the ’90s was just as hilarious–she would always be a move behind. And when we’d exercise at home, we’d usually both end up on the floor convulsing with laughter.

If laughter is the best medicine, I guess those closest to me are doing their best to make me healthy.

Here’s wishing you a big belly laugh today!


I love Bradford pear trees in the spring, covered in white blossoms, perfectly shaped and full. I don’t love seeing them in pieces after a strong wind has blown through. But they serve as a reminder to me to shape up or risk losing a limb.

Today I saw the remnants of a pear tree standing in someone’s yard, one of the major branches broken from the crook of the trunk. Apparently this type of tree grows so rapidly in our climate that it becomes top heavy and is easily broken in strong winds. It’s in its nature to be beautiful yet weak.

It’s in my nature as a perfectionist to spend way too much time writing a blog entry. It’s in my nature as a control freak to take charge of a situation if I don’t like where it’s headed. It’s in my nature to interact with the people around me at the grocery store, to console a crying child, to return a stranger’s smile.

It’s also in my nature to overreact to anything I consider a personal slight, to get overwhelmed when my due dates get too pressing, to yell at other drivers when I disapprove of their maneuvers (not so they can hear me—I don’t want to get beat up). Thank God it’s in our human nature to learn from mistakes, to change our less-than-desirable traits.

That poor pear tree couldn’t stop its own growth, just continuing in the same direction until it became top heavy and weak. Becoming top heavy isn’t my problem—ha!—but I might want to change my ways before I get weak and embarrass myself, snap at my husband just because I’m stressed about work, or ostracize my friend.

And after each windy night, I’m reminded again.

I love checking things off my to-do list, clematis covering my mailbox, and almost any shade of green, which I attribute to my Irish roots. I don’t like running late, mosquitoes, or poison ivy, which makes me itch just thinking about it.

When my teenagers were wee folks, I forgot that I had hobbies. I never made time for them, but I have rediscovered there are lots of things I love to do. Some of my hobbies are productive, and some are just indulgent, but they’re all beneficial.

Gardening is very productive. I really appreciate a well-designed flower bed. Can’t say that mine are “well designed” quite yet, but they will be some day.

Working out or walking with friends is productive—maintaining health, right?—and so exhilarating. It ranks right up there with bargain shopping, something I find very rewarding—in more ways than one.

Reading kinda falls in both categories: If I’m reading self-help, nutrition blogs, or even historical fiction, I feel more intelligent, more educated. The novels I read—like Jan Karon, Phil Gulley, or Anne Tyler—lift my spirits and take me to a place with new and interesting people. Not really producing much of anything, except a happier me.

Lunch, coffee, or movies with friends is totally indulgent. But I’m good with that. I’m an extrovert so I know I crave interaction.

I’ve come to realize that as a mom, hobbies are important. They provide an escape from one role of life and a connection to another, reminding me that there’s more to my day than work and cleaning. They give me a chance to meet other people who share my interests and help me appreciate my God-given talents and blessings.

Some hobbies have provided a connection with my kids: music, running together, catching a play at the theater, baking. Plus they see the things that I value in life, and maybe they’ll come to value them also.

Here’s to hoping that this blog becomes a hobby—both productive and indulgent—too!

Mid-Life Realizations & Reflections

43 years of life experience,
19 as a wife,
16 as a parent,
15 as a writer
= thousands of mistakes made,
lots of lessons learned (some learned more than once), and immeasurable amounts of grace received

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