Celebrate Your Life

In four days, I’m having another birthday.  My husband, David is just five months older than me and once we hit sixty, several years ago, he took on a particularly disenchanted attitude about having birthdays, saying he just wanted to “forget about it.”  But I came back at him with, “You should celebrate every year of life.”  I’m not sure if I was just trying to be superior by taking the high road, or if I truly have a more positive attitude about aging.  I believe the older you become, the longer you should celebrate.

In my younger years, I waited on others to honor me on My Day.  I was especially ‘sensitive’ around that time, watching to see if folks would remember, hoping they’d choose gifts and paper products for my celebration that I liked.  But sometimes, I’d be disappointed because I have such a strong ability to visualize what I want, that nothing could match the perfection of my imagination.  Once I saw this pattern in myself, I almost dreaded the disappointment of the build-up, then let down, of my birthday.

But when I turned fifty, I took control of my own birthday happiness.


When David asked if I wanted a party, I quickly responded, “No.  I want a trip.  By myself.”  That was four years after my first Solo Journey to Sedona.  I’d forgotten how to slow down and be more intentional with my time—like I thought I learned when I went through breast cancer.  Instead, I’d gotten back into the over-busy, over-booked pre-cancer way of living.  When I turned fifty, I knew I needed to go away and try again to reset my life.

For that fiftieth birthday present, and five years since my cancer diagnosis—that point I’d been hoping to reach without a recurrence, I went to Jekyll Island, Georgia.  When I was there, I kept remembering that it was my birthday gift.  The entire trip was truly that as I relearned how to play— riding my bike, swimming in the hotel pool, and reading through a thunderstorm while sitting in a wicker rocker on the Vanderbilt cottage porch.  One morning before I headed out on my bike, I read Psalm 103:5 (NIV):

He satisfies my desires with good things,

                                         so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

 That seemed to be the perfect scripture for turning fifty, and perhaps it’s perfect for every year—no matter what age we’re turning.  Now I’m wise enough to see that I can go ahead and act on those unique desires of my heart—whether it’s for a certain design on birthday napkins, picking out my own cake, throwing my own party, or taking off on a journey.


This year, David asked me how and when I want to celebrate—since I’ll be leaving on my pilgrimage to Florida the day before my birthday.  I’ve decided that today will be my designated birthday and I’ve made reservations for us to eat brunch at Dame’s Chicken and Waffles— a combination that I’ve never tried.  By the evening, I’ll be ready to Swing Dance and will request my birthday song by Van Morrison, “Precious Time.”  It’ll remind me that “precious time is slipping away” — which sounds sad, but because I love to dance to it and love the part about being “queen for a day,” I will feel happy and energized, ready to take on another year.

I’m glad for the chance to Celebrate My Life and I hope you’ll do the same next time you’re turning a year older.


How about You?

How do you approach getting older?

What are the ways you like to Celebrate Your Life on your birthday?







Stepping Over the Threshold

One week from today, I’ll leave on my yearly pilgrimage.  For months those days have been blocked out on my calendar with very little thought about the actual journey.  Now that I’m almost one year into my retirement from school nursing, I find that my life has been filled with new activities to take the place of those forty-hour weeks in my middle school.  Just like the previous fourteen journeys, I’m working right up until the day I’ll leave for Florida.

Map Location Direction Location Remote Relax Concept

The beginning of my trip, I’ll travel by myself but stay with family.  The first night will be with my son and daughter-in-law in Charleston, South Carolina.  The next three nights will be spent with my cousin on the Gulf coast of Florida, and the final three days will be by myself on the Atlantic side—the truly Solo part.

Over the past few years, I’ve planned my trips so that some of my time is spent with family.  As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that as one of my favorite artist, Van Morrison sings, “Precious time is slipping away.”  Not only have I seen the value of being intentional about time alone with new eyes for sacred travel, I’ve realized the importance of intentional time with family.  With my son, Brooks, and his wife, Emily, we’ll have our last visit before they have their first child in May.  Life will change for all of us when our baby boy arrives.

With my cousin, Linda, I have a chance to know her life at her winter home.  I’ve written before in two blog posts, Second Chance to Know You (Nov. 19) and Distant Cousins (July 12 ), about the value of spending time with my cousins at a different point in life.  As I feel the rush of time whirling by, I want to grab onto those opportunities while I still can.


I’m glad I decided to focus this blog on getting ready because my life has been so busy with working part-time as a research nurse and completing my book proposal—that I’ve been totally absorbed in tasks.  Now I’ve pulled out my ‘guidebook’ for my sacred journeys, Phil Cousineau’s, The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred and I’m reminded of what I need to focus on before I head out next week.

In the book, Cousineau encourages the pilgrim to prepare carefully, believing that intention is everything.  In the chapter entitled Departure, he notes the importance of being able to completely disconnect from everything at home—the pressures, tasks, responsibilities, in order to leave.  Stepping over the physical threshold of your house is symbolic of leaving the known behind in order to encounter the unknown and divine in the journey.  There’s a natural resistance to doing that—we don’t want to leave the safety of the known.

It also requires energy to transition from everyday life to a new pattern of physical, mental, and emotional preparation for the journey.  For me, that means reserving a rental car, pulling out spring clothes for what I hope is typical Florida weather, completing my paperwork at the research job, and finishing sections of the book proposal.

Meanwhile, I need quiet, meditative time to prepare for my journey, praying with intention for God to ‘bless me and the people in my path.’

Like Cousineau points out, a pilgrimage doesn’t have to be to a place far away.  Having that same intention with new eyes for seeing the sacred, can transform a trip around your neighborhood—if your heart is open.

My hope as I write this is those who read these words will feel the call to step over the threshold of the familiar and into the sacred unknown, finding blessing along the journey.


How about You?

What is the resistance you feel against crossing the threshold to the unknown?

How would setting an Intention help to move beyond that resistance?





Places in our Path

I saw the old church up in a field of broomsedge—or broom straw as we called it when I was a girl.  I wanted to go inside, explore the abandoned building that once had been so alive– maybe a hundred years ago.  When I walked to the edge of the property, there was a fence with a prominent “No Trespassing” sign.  Looking about the overgrown churchyard, I could imagine ‘dinner on the grounds’ like we had at Grandma Smith’s church with makeshift tables of sawhorses with large pieces of plywood placed across the top to hold the plentiful home-cooked food.

The unpainted church reminded me of dark buildings that dotted the countryside many years before, harkening to a different era or economy where costly paint was an extravagance.  It reminded me of how my mother had taken us back to her first home, that her family always called ‘the old place,’ her house that had long been emptied, unpainted and sitting back in a field of broomsedge like the church.


Seeing the sun shining on golden broom straw always gives me a feeling of being settled, grounded, whether it’s an entire field or growing by a country road.   It comes from childhood when I spent days playing in a field of broom straw on our farm.  Some of my best memories are of Saturdays spent tramping down the sedge to form playhouse rooms then hiding down beneath the tall grass.  Thinking about that, I can breathe in the fresh air and smell the sweet smoke of fall leaves burning at a neighboring farm.

When I ride through the country now I’m reminded of how these remaining vestiges of an earlier time and way of life are disappearing.  When we hiked through the woods to Mama’s home deep in the country, I remember thinking we’d surely come back and visit, maybe when we had more time to explore.  But not long after that, the land was purchased by a new owner and we no longer had access.  I wish we’d carried a camera with us that day.

I think now that I should be more intentional about paying attention to the places in my path– the natural environment as well as the buildings that have special meaning.  My Grandma Smith’s small Presbyterian church was one of those places that I thought would be there forever.  But while I was away, sometime between college and moving out of state, the church membership dwindled to such a small number that the church folded.  For years, I drove past the property trying to envision the dinners on the grounds and our youth group playing volleyball over a net strung between two water oaks.

Now when looking at an old, abandoned building, I imagine the way it looked when it was alive with people and purpose.  I wonder about their stories from the memories of the community gathered in those places whether a family, a congregation of faith or workers making their living.


Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina

Realizing that things don’t last forever, I have the opportunity to be present to all the places in my path.  I can step back and see what is unique and special about the land and the buildings that are important in my life.  Now I know that some places that seem so everyday, deserve a photograph.  I wish I had one of Mama’s ‘old place’ and Grandma’s church.

And when I feel that yearning to go back to the way things were, I can find a new crop of broomsedge and sit down in it, with the sun shining on me, remembering a Saturday morning being held in that place.


How about you?

What places in your path are significant for you?

What are ways you can return there?



Competitive Edge

The young mother told me about their family’s plan to travel to Europe during our upcoming Spring Break.  It wasn’t unusual in our affluent school community for students to travel to international locations.  But as she told about taking all five children to Spain, Portugal, and Morocco, I found myself calculating the costs rather than listening to her.  I wondered how they could afford such a trip for their family of seven.


Walking away from our conversation, I felt irritated, wishing our family could have afforded a trip like that when our sons were in middle school.  Later, when the noise in my head settled down, I heard that ‘still small voice in me’ asking, “What would you have said to her if you hadn’t been jealous?”

There was no hiding my envy, the comparison of my life to her life.  What would I have said if I’d just listened and not come from a place of competition?

I would have responded that she was providing a wonderful experience for her family, making rich memories.  My mind would have been engaged in listening to her descriptions of places they would stay, sites they would see, experiencing the excitement of anticipation with her.  But instead, I walled that part off, putting a barrier up between us during our encounter.  I missed that opportunity to share in her life.

Having been a school nurse for twenty years, I’ve thought a lot about competition.  Every day in the Health Room, I saw adolescents that competed in academics, sports, and social standing.  There was the constant comparison of height, weight, appearance, artistic talent, and on and on.  They compared themselves to one another in their name brand shoes and clothes, latest and greatest phones, computers, and other tech devices.  The comparisons didn’t end with those in their immediate community like they did in my middle school days.  Now students had comparisons with their social media communities that kept the noise going 24/7.


Entering school for another day of competition

I look in the dictionary at the word competitive—not so much for the meaning as for the synonyms.  Sometimes that helps me gain a broader perspective on a familiar word.  From the list of synonyms, the one that jumps out at me is aggressive.  Is that what I’m being when I respond from a competitive place?  Is that the world around us as we compare ourselves, whether we’re middle schoolers or adults?

I check the synonyms for edge and I’m struck by the word ledge.  It fills me with that fear I experience when looking down from a steep point, that feeling that I’m falling.

Now I put those synonyms together and instead of Competitive Edge, which sounds acceptable, like what we aspire to, it becomes Aggressive Ledge.  That feels scary, a vantage point of attack, a place that I don’t want to live from.

What if we came down from that ledge and lived our lives, honoring our own path and allowing others’ to do the same.  We wouldn’t need to feel less than or greater than, just be ourselves and be thankful for our lives.  Then we could hear each others’ stories without building barriers.

Maybe then my first reaction wouldn’t be envy, but curiosity about that path that you’re traveling.  If I’m secure about the life I’m living, I don’t need to be looking for comparisons.  Walking that course, I can be present to the people along my way, thankful for my life and supportive of theirs.


How about You?

In what ways do you compare yourself with those around you?

How could you become more secure in your own path?


Finding the Funny

I rummaged through the cabinet at the Cancer Resource Center.  An older lady joined me looking through the wigs and hairpieces that had been donated.  I didn’t need one, since my hairstylist and cancer nurse-therapist, Darlene at Lovely Lady Salon had fitted me in my short platinum-colored wig.  It wasn’t the best—since it was an affordable synthetic, but it would do until my hair grew back.  Looking through the pile, I could see that other women were all too ready to get rid of their head coverings.

“My sister wanted me to find one for her,” the lady said.  She had a dark brown wig that came almost to her shoulders.

My goodness, I thought.  Sisters going through cancer at the same time.

“That must really be tough with both of you in treatment,” I said, empathy oozing from my voice.

She turned her head to the side, looking up at me with a curious expression and said, “Oh, no.  She doesn’t have cancer.  She just needs a wig.”


The lady continued, finally picking out one and adding a scarf for good measure.  I watched her walking away, pleased with her finds.

I can’t believe she’d take that wig from here, knowing her sister doesn’t have cancer.  Filled with indignation, I closed the cabinet and walked away, angry at the woman who’d taken advantage of the system.  The scene played in my mind as I walked to my car.

Finally, that still small voice within broke through my irritation.  Did you see cancer survivors standing in line for those wigs?  What’s it going to hurt for her to feel good about doing something nice for her sister?

 Eventually, I looked back at that incident and saw how senseless my anger had been.  I told myself I should ‘lighten up’ and not be so serious, let go of my harsh expectations of others’ behavior.  Finding humor in that situation was a healthier way of living.

Likewise, it had been helpful over my years as a school nurse.  There were days working in a middle school that the only way to survive was to laugh; sometimes with the students, and other times at myself.  The older I became the more I felt a divide with the middle school culture.  One day, a student reminded me of that huge gap.

She was an adorable sixth grader and was sitting in my office on the cot.  We were chit-chatting and she said, “I like your shoes.”  Not unusual for an adolescent girl to notice shoes.  I thought mine must look cool for her to say that.  Then she added with a smile, “My Grandma has a pair like that.”

Oh, I thought.  Forgot I’m the age of your grandparents.

Finding humor in growing older seems to be an essential skill for navigating those changes we face.  It has helped me through times when I’ve tried to be patient with my mother.  Like when Mama was eighty-five and I took her for a bra fitting.

The oldest grandchild was getting married and I thought Mama needed proper support underneath that pretty blue suit.  It proved to be quite an ordeal with Mama, and me, and Ethel, the Fit Specialist, in that four-by-four foot dressing room.


Later, I found the humor in that outing when I wrote my essay, “Pull Those Puppies Up!”  One of my greatest delights was reading it at the ladies’ luncheon at my home church with Mama sitting in front of the room, laughing until her body shook and tears streamed down her face.  If she could understand now, that it was published this week in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, she would chuckle that her story was in a publication named after a mule.

While they mistakingly posted it as Fiction, it’s an Essay, a true story, ’cause I couldn’t have made that up!

Here’s the Link:

 Growing up in the South, I developed a love for stories. 

Or go to http://www.deadmule.com/connie-rosser-riddle-pull-those-puppies-up-fiction/)


Now I’m glad that I’m learning to see the ‘funny’ in situations, laughing at life, laughing at myself.


Mule pulling tobacco sled at Duke Homestead’s Harvest and Hornworm Festival

What about You?

How has humor helped you through life?

Are there ways you could ‘lighten up’ and let go of some of your seriousness?