New Year Love Letters to me

At the end of every year, I write myself a love letter. It’s filled with all the wonderful things I did that year. I list trips, achievements, improvements and setbacks. I write about the jobs and volunteer positions I worked, people I met and roles I filled.

Happily After Retirement while cross country skiing, in Fort Collins, COFor me, the best part is going back and rereading past love letters to myself. I read about the year I had the shed built, the house painted, the dishwasher replaced as well as the sad saga of the new fridge being replaced by another new fridge just 2 years later (sad face.)

I also include a list of things I want to accomplish in the new year. Those letters are fun to read too because I get to read what I hoped for and what I actually achieved. Dreaming about far away trips, getting in shape, finding my mate, making amends, and other such plans. Some happened, some did not, some still might (Right?)

This year’s letter will list that I attended two family weddings, traveled to see my granddaughter 3 times, served as a Senior Counselor at a youth leadership camp, experienced ‘Peak Colors” in the NY Adirondacks in October, and feasted on all the memorable foods from my youth (apples, half-moon cookies, fried fish, clam chowder.) I went camping, hiking and kayaking. I made new friends and said good-bye to others.

These letters become my shorthand form of journaling – I can explain the present, report the past and plan the future. It is a  succinct way of wiping away the past and leaving a blank canvas for the new year.

I feel like going back to the past love letters that I wrote and placing a star on my accomplished goals. My trip to Ireland (STAR), camping trip with friends (STAR), life in the mountains ( sad face), visit granddaughter (STAR)…

I began writing these letters to remind myself that the things I did really did matter. It was my time to acknowledge my accomplishments. There’s no boss to give me a raise or a pat on the back. There are no colleagues to remind me that I really did take that trip or climb that mountain or learn that software.  Often times when I am feeling low and lonely especially during the holidays, it’s easy to forget the strides I’ve made. And so, I read about my past and write about my present. 

In a strange way, I can hold myself accountable as well. If I read past letters and they continue to list the same thing over and over then I need to take a look at what’s holding me back and how to get beyond the wall. Is it something I really do want or is it something I think I should want?  For goodness sake, these are my hopes and dreams  — SHOULDS are not allowed.

My letter this year, as I enter a new decade (and a Leap Year!) will be filled with outrageous GOALS & WHAT IF’s and WHY NOT’S? Nothing to lose, everything to gain and a letter that will surly bring me smiles next year at this time either way! Twenty-Twenty – Here I come!

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Good bye stuff: Hello memories!

I’ve been going through my closets and looking at the pile of things I have accumulated over the past year. Someone gave me a baby doll to give to my granddaughter but she’s into goats and sheep and horses. No dolls in her bed (thank you very much.)

In another room, on another shelf is a package of Leggos and some action figures still in their original boxes. I also have some Christmas tea towels, soaps and lotions.

These items were bought ‘just in case’ however, now I have a surplus of items that need to be regifted, rehomed, recycled and used. Here and now.

So, I logged on to my Freecycle.org account and posted the item ‘Offered: Baby Doll: still in box’ for someone who maybe needs a gift for a little girl or boy. I will list the other items and post them as well.

In my room, I have a wonderful candle that I light every now and then. I decided to burn what I have and order more.  I went to the Henri Bendel website to order a new supply of Vanilla Bean candles only to find that HENRI BENDEL has closed up shop and all my candles are no more. It’s actually the smell and the memories they evoke that I’ll miss the most.  

Maybe that’s why people hold on to so many things – forgetting that it’s not the THING but the memory behind it that matters.

There are some smells that take me right back to another place and time. Old Spice, Jean Nate cologne, Ambush perfume, cigar smoke, Chanel #5, lilacs, cinnamon sticks – all have a place in my memory bank.

But not on my shelves or in my closets. Time to release, let go and plan to make more memories!

 

Snowshoeing

Bold, beautiful steps

Happily After Retirement - joy & spirit bannerMy friend Donna is making a huge move in her life. She put her job on hold for a year. She rented out her house. She sold her car. She downsized her belongings. She gave away possessions. She made the big announcement. She is almost on her way.

Donna plans to spend a year in Europe. Alone. But not really alone. Initially she will be volunteering at International Volunteer Head Quarters or IVHQ.  Her plane will land in Italy and she will begin her position in January. After three months, she intends to travel and eventually walk the Camino de Santiago, or Way of St James in Spain.

Right now, with each release – of possessions, job duties and expectations, volunteer commitments, material items and her place in the community, she grows stronger.

Also, with each release, she questions her sanity, motives and actions.

In the anxious moments, are the bubbles of excitement floating over everything she does. The unknown paths, people, places and interactions keep her smiling and wondering.

I don’t want to be on her path but I love what it’s doing to her. Her energy is spiking and she’s so alive and living life like everyday is a snowday!

Another friend, Karen, is taking a painting class. When I talk to her on the phone, she sounds like a college kid. The ability to turn a white canvas into colorful meaning has allowed her to open up and breathe again.

I’m looking for my canvas too.

Happily After Retirement snowy mailboxI think it’s the dreary, drab time of year that makes me want to do something bold. But I’m drawing a blank. (Ha, back to the white canvas … right?)

It is often this time of year when I do most of my soul searching. The atmosphere forces me to pause and take stock. What am I doing? What do I want to do? Where do I want to be next year at this time?

Infuse your life with action.
Don’t wait for it to happen.
Make it happen.
Make your own future.
Make your own hope.
Make your own love.

And whatever your beliefs,
honor your creator,
not by passively waiting for grace to come down from upon high,
but by doing what you can to make grace happen…
yourself, right now, right down here on Earth. –

Bradley Whitford

Where do you want to be? Got any amazing plans, projects or experiences you want to share? Send me a link, a comment or photo. Challenge me. Entice me. Push me. Pull me. Kick me. Then we can laugh about it. RIGHT NOW …. is a good time!

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Peak colors on Rollands Pond, NY

The Social Suck

Its so easy to let time slip away, isn’t it?

An enticing Netflix series will suck away a ton of hours. I recently watched a whole season of The Good Fight in less than a week. Since I had a free week on CBS All Access I devoted my time to completing that task. I know when Game of Thrones Season 8 crosses my path, I will make time for all 6 one-hour shows.

And those are the magic words –Making Time

I have four very close friends in the area who I haven’t seen in a while. Why is that? Too busy to connect, to make a date, to do coffee, to take a walk? And yet, I KNOW that when Game of Thrones Season 8 crosses my path, I will have time – as in 6 hours – that I will conveniently set aside to devour the last and final season.

So, where do I put my time? If my friends are so important, why are they not at the top of my priority list? Prior to social media, I picked up the phone and called. Then, gradually, I picked up my smartphone and texted. It was direct and purposeful. Now, weeks go by with them on my list to call but not actually doing so. Hmm, why is that? If I do indeed value their friendship, why not treat them as a precious commodity and give them something I treasure – time. Time to chat, laugh, connect and reunite.

Choosing where we spend our time

I make time for my grandchildren, little kids, engaging books, local concerts (especially when there is a fiddle included), good movies, early morning walks, informational or inspiring podcasts, mountains trips, scenic rides to see the autumn colors, and good conversations.

Most likely, you have your own priority list whether you are aware of it or not. Those places where you arrive early are probably high on your priority list and when you arrive late – well that says something as well.

The social suck

And then, all too common is the social suck. Facebook, Instagram, texting, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and all those other online platforms that draw me in and hold me hostage.  Yes, I have freewill … however, in those weak moments when I click on a video of twins in a crib, or a toddler singing in the back seat of the car or link to some volunteer activities or visit Ted Talks websites… I am a victim of the social suck.

These videos and sites can be amazing and they can also devour a big chunk of my morning. And what is the gain for me? Ummmm. Not much, really.

I met a woman who told me that she won’t have a cup of morning tea until she writes something, either in her journal, blog or online.  Its her ‘carrot’ that keeps her moving forward. She did mention how much she loves her morning tea.

Another friend will only listen to audio books when she’s walking. It’s especially great when she has a deadline for an upcoming book group. She makes the time to fit in the walk so she can ‘read.’ Bam!

Long shelves of library booksTo be honest, I don’t think there is anything wrong with social media… As long as I know that when I venture into that realm, it will claim my time, usually more than I imagined. I often learn something online but most often, I lose time which I value and treasure. 

Ever go to the store and NOT get the one and most important item you had on your list (usually, in this case it’s a mental list). That’s how I am when I get online. My intention is to get something specific only to be ambushed with other shiny objects.   

I love and adore podcasts and audiobooks in small doses because when I listen to them, I’m not allowing my own ideas and powerful thoughts to come through. I listen and I learn. Yet, there’s no space for my creativity to shine when I am giving my time and attention to others. 

For me, it’s like reading about writing, instead of writing. It’s having a library of books about how to write a query letter or resume or short story – but never taking the time to actually try it.

So, for the lonely and waning month of November, the focus will be on me. More writing, reading and creativity time. Making time for me. Imagine that!

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Welcomed with flying colors!

I took a trip back in time and something really wonderful happened… autumn colors!

Peak colors in Saranac Lake NY, 2019

I went back ‘home’ to upstate NY and to visit friends in the Adirondacks and I happened to be there when the colors were at PEAK. Can you say LOTTERY WINNER? Because that was how I felt. Around every bend were gifts – bouquets of red maples, brown oaks, orange elms, and gold birch leaves danced to their own lovely tune. It was temporary. Autumn hugged me like an old friend and the embrace reminded me of all I had missed.

Peak colors on Rollands Pond, NY

My awe continued as the view got even better – from the seat of a kayak. The reflection of the colors from the water made my heart skip and smile. Somehow, I happened onto the colors. They were waiting for me to arrive, I just know it. Everything synced up – just for me.

Going back … home is all about stories. Taking a drive to a long-ago camp (small cabin in the woods) my sisters reminisced about the good times they spent there. When I chimed in the conversation it was to say how much I didn’t like the place. I didn’t like the location, the damp and cold building with no running water and an outhouse. Nothing was nearby – except more woods, trees and little sunshine. And most of all, I didn’t like mice and the camp was filled with them. I was fifteen years old and had better places to be. The camp improved over the years and as running water, electricity and a toilet were added, I was more inclined to go but I was also older and moving on with my life. The camp was a touchstone for them and for me it was just a place in time… long ago.

For as much as I loved being on vacation and going back in time, eating haddock fish sandwiches, attending reunions and weddings, visiting family, picking apples, buying sausage pizza and munching on the most delicious Italian bread everywhere –  I also looked forward to returning home to my routine. To freshly-made kale smoothies, exercise, mountain views, friends, family and healthy eating.

Donut case filled with everything wonderful and tasty

For as much as I love to travel, I mostly enjoy returning home.

Cortland apples are so good!

Know what I mean?

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Happily after retirement , sitting in an Adirondack chair facing water early morning in Grand Lake, CO.

Kicking & Screaming into retirement

My friend Sara and I took a walk last week to get caught up in person. No texts, no phone calls just a walk and talk. Like we used to do. She is almost ready to retire. In fact, she can retire right now but she hesitates because if she does, she will be stuck at home with her husband.

Happily after retirement , sitting in an Adirondack chair facing water early morning in Grand Lake, CO.
There is beauty in every moment – we only need to take the time and breathe it in.

The man she chose to marry is not very nice. When she does something forgetful, he pounces on that and just rants and raves about what a loser she is. During our walk, she told me that in the past month she mindlessly clicked something on her computer and it was compromised. She took it to a computer tech and had to get it wiped and cleaned. She felt so stupid. Her husband won’t let her forget that she screwed up again. He demeans her and takes away any confidence she has in herself.

Sara is one of the first friends I made when I moved to Colorado. She and I have been though births, deaths, divorces and remarriages. When she told me that Eddie proposed and she planned to marry him, I asked her why?

I realized during our walk that she didn’t intend to take any action, she just needed to talk through what was going on, to list offences, to explain retirement possibilities and to unload.  Once I understood my role, I was able to shake my head when needed, offer condolences and some levity here and there.

Happily after retirement, enjoying life in the early morning in Grand Lake, CO.
To find joy where you are, in this very moment, is a thing of beauty.

I know of others like her who would retire tomorrow if they could change their home life. One amazing friend of mine worked to the age of 68 so that she could avoid being home with her unemployed husband. When she finally did retire, it was because she was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease.

Ok, this is the part where I let my naiveté show. Why not stand up and say no? No more abuse? No more put downs? No more hostility? These women and many others are actually the breadwinners and yet, they allow themselves to be pushed around at home – whereas in the workplace they are given the respect due the position.

Do I have to walk in Sara’s shoes and take the verbal abuse in order to speak honestly to her? And if I were in her shoes, would I have the strength, determination and financial means to walk away? And could I walk away … from yet another marriage?

My marriage had none of the negativity and toxic environment that she is exposed to on a daily basis.  In the past, I would speak freely about what she could do, and suggest steps and actions she could to help her move away, or forward depending on what she needed. I send her links to podcasts, youtube video suggestions and books that would help with self esteem, financial information and know-how.

So, this time when she shared her world with me, I understood that she only needed to vent. She wasn’t ready to act and maybe she would never be ready.  I decided to be a good listener and give her the safe place to speak freely.

Is that all she needs?

My heart is heavy because I am so happy in retirement. I am hiking, taking drives to see the beautiful autumn colors, taking daily walks, visiting libraries, reading, making friends, traveling and enjoying my space.

What are your thoughts about this? Know people like Sara? Any words of wisdom for her or me?

Many thanks.

************

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sunset over rocky mountains
To be at peace with yourself is a true and wonderful gift.

 

 

 

Ten Years Later … still blogging away!

10 year wordpress anniversary
Happy anniversary to me! I’ve been blogging for 10 years!

Let’s put on the music and toast my accomplishment. Cheers!

Over the past 10 years, I’ve written then paused. Why? Maybe some tragedy, maybe some overarching excitement. Who knows? Then I restarted with gusto and vigor then paused. Who knows why? But, then I came back recharged and ready to bust a new one. I’ve created challenges and made friends then paused… again. I guess the PAUSING was a need to recharge and reframe me and what I wanted to share.

Consequences of pausing?

Each time I paused, I put my blogging friends and readers on hold and eventually they fell away.

Every time I returned to blogging it was with a clear reason. I was ready to write again. I was eager to share my world as a way to record my how I spend my time. I wanted a roadmap of how I spent my time over the years.

What Now Marge Katherine?

CURRENTLY, I am retired and I want to record how I spend my days. What is it I do  —  all week, all month and with the passing year? Hmm?

Some days I am really lonely and those are the days I search the internet for other people who are retired and have it figured out. OK, I haven’t found them yet but when I do, I will be sure to link to them.

Why Bother Marge Katherine?

In the meantime, by blogging I can record what’s going on  – right here and now –  for next year or a decade from now when I am yes… ten years older. Will there still be blogging in ten years? If not, what will replace it? Podcasts? Videos and youtube? I wonder…

— Other inspiring blogs —

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Boomer Cafe 

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sitting on a long doc with my sister, happily retired

The tail end of life: Why wait?

Family isn't always blood...Last week I sent the article link titled The Tail End to my siblings. I read this article years ago and wanted to revisit it. Once I read it, I wanted my long-distance siblings to read it and absorb the message as well.

The ‘tail end’ is used often enough to explain the end of something; a concert, a speech, a football game, a movie. I’ve heard it and used it many times. However, I never applied it to me.

 Last week I sent the article link titled The Tail End to my siblings. I read this article years ago and wanted to revisit it. Once I read it, I wanted my long-distance siblings to read it and absorb the message as well. The ‘tail end’ is used often enough to explain the end of something; a concert, a speech, a football game, a movie. I’ve heard it and used it many times. However, I never applied it to me. Or my life. The tail end of my life? I never really put me and my lifespan into the equation. What began as an novel idea has turned into an “in your face” fact. Four years has passed since Tim Urban wrote and published this in 2015 and since then many things have happened in my world. I now I have a 2-year old granddaughter, my grandson is ten years old, my brother has died and so many other happy and sad life events have occurred. I read the article and then reached for the phone to make a call to my friend, I texted my sister and sent a card to my aunt. I checked the airlines to see when I can visit my son and his family. I’ve jotted down a note to contact Sharon to set up a monthly date to connect. She and I have been friends since 1979 and we live 35 miles from each other. I last saw her in June. If I’m lucky I see her twice yearly and that’s not good enough. We don’t have the excuse of huge time commitments, airlines, hotels, car rentals, etc because we live down the highway from each other. What it takes is to put a date on the calendar and honor it. I have other friends who need to be on my calendar more often as well. I can make that happen. I am happy to say my siblings find time to connect with me via video chat. We are able to have 5 of us chatting at the same time. It’s like being at the dinner table again. The topic is more about our grandchildren and their antics rather than us and our issues. When our brother died two years ago, he found a way to bring us together even tighter than we were before. Hearing a song that he loved, a phrase he used to say, attending his daughter’s wedding and so many other memories keep us touching base. He is the fourth sibling that I’ve lost but he was the most special in so many ways. We were two years apart in age and our children were best friends growing up. His death took so much from us and in a way, left fertile ground for us to grow closer. Being able to live in the same place as the people I love is a thing of beauty (there I am again, checking real estate options near my granddaughter…) and means I will get to spend much more time in the presence of those I love. However, living in the same area as my family and friends means nothing if I don’t reach out and connect with them. Sometimes it takes work to stay in touch but it’s so worth it. I keep asking myself, what really matters? You may have figured out that family means a lot to me. The ages 0-5 are the ones I adore the most. Children in this age range are innocent, inventive, wild and free at heart. Then they go to school and learn how to draw ‘in the lines’ and learn to spell correctly and become more regimented. But prior to attending school, they are genuine. Eliminate the crap. Life is too short, time is elusive and we can only do so much. Right? Spending time with people who I do not love, doing something that doesn’t bring me happiness and knowing that time is finite is the kick I need to focus on what I love above all else. What now? For me, in my tail end of life I plan to put another visit on my calendar to see my granddaughter. I can interact more readily with my grandson each day too. My siblings will continue to see me on video as we connect in a way that was never possible a decade ago. My local friends will benefit the most as I focus on setting up one-on-one time with them. I know they are busy and have families and all that jazz but they need me too. So, it’s time to pull out my calendar and make some calls. +++++++ Resources: Waitbutwhy.com: The Tail End by Tim Urban https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/12/the-tail-end.htmlThe tail end of my life?  I never really put me and my lifespan into the equation. What began as an novel idea has turned into an “in your face” fact. Four years has passed since Tim Urban wrote and published this in 2015 and since then many things have happened in my world. I am retired, I have a 2-year old granddaughter, my grandson is ten years old, my brother has died and so many other happy and sad life events have occurred. I am in the third of my life and more aware of my dear wonderful friend called ‘Time.’

I read the article and then reached for the phone to make a call to my friend, I texted my sister and sent a card to my aunt. I  checked the airlines to see when I can visit my son and his family. I’ve jotted down a note to contact Sharon to set up a monthly date to connect. She and I have been friends since 1979 and we live 35 miles from each other. I last saw her in June. If I’m lucky I see her twice yearly and that’s not good enough. We don’t have the excuse of huge time commitments, airlines, hotels, car rentals, etc because we live down the highway from each other. What it takes is to put a date on the calendar and honor it. I have other friends who need to be on my calendar more often as well. I can make that happen.

I am happy to say my siblings find time to connect with me via video chat. We are able to have 5 of us chatting at the same time. It’s like being at the dinner table again. The topic is more about our grandchildren and their antics rather than us and our issues.

When our brother died two years ago, he found a way to bring us together even tighter than we were before. Hearing a song that he loved, a phrase he used to say, attending his daughter’s wedding and so many other memories keep us touching base. He is the fourth sibling that I’ve lost but he was the most special in so many ways. We were two years apart in age and our children were best friends growing up. His death took so much from us and in a way, left fertile ground for us to grow closer.

Being able to live in the same place as the people I love is a thing of beauty (there I am again, checking real estate options near my granddaughter…) and means I will get to spend much more time in the presence of those I love. However, living in the same area as my family and friends means nothing if I  don’t reach out and connect with them. Sometimes it takes work to stay in touch but it’s so worth it.

I keep asking myself, what really matters?

You may have figured out that family means a lot to me. The ages 0-5 are the ones I adore the most. Children in this age range are innocent, inventive, wild and free at heart. Then they go to school and learn how to draw ‘in the lines’ and learn to spell correctly and become more regimented. But prior to attending school, they are genuine.

Friends matter too. And yet, I have to make sure I make those calls and stay in touch. It’s so easy to let time slip away without making the effort.

Eliminate the crap. Life is too short, time is elusive and we can only do so much. Right?
Spending time with people who I do not love, doing something that doesn’t bring me happiness and knowing that time is finite is the kick I need to focus on what I love above all else.

 What now?

For me, in my tail end of life I plan to put another visit on my calendar to see my granddaughter. I can interact more readily with my grandson each day too.

My siblings will continue to see me on video as we connect in a way that was never possible a decade ago.

My local friends will benefit the most as I focus on setting up one-on-one time with them. I know they are busy and have families and all that jazz but they need me too. So, it’s time to pull out my calendar and make some calls.

+++++++

Check out these links!

Waitbutwhy.com: The Tail End by Tim Urban

Death 101: Homework Assignment

Empty Bowl becomes a Friendship Bowl

A sense of optimism about humanity

People will never forget how you made them feel

 

A Third Body by Robert Bly

I read this poem in a book yesterday and it made me pause and reread it. After several readings I decided to post it and share it here. What is so compelling about this poem?

Looking back, I can remember the gentle silences and the awareness that all was well. The feeling that life was good and feeling sorry for anyone who was not us. Such sweet words.

A Third Body

A man and a woman sit near each other, and they do not long
at this moment to be older, or younger, nor born
in any other nation, or time, or place.
They are content to be where they are, talking or not-talking.
Their breaths together feed someone whom we do not know.
The man sees the way his fingers move;
he sees her hands close around a book she hands to him.
They obey a third body that they share in common.
They have made a promise to love that body.
Age may come, parting may come, death will come.
A man and a woman sit near each other;
as they breathe they feed someone we do not know,
someone we know of, whom we have never seen.
                                                     –Robert Bly

 

5 Life Long Potty Training Lessons 

Potty training. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…And in a blink of an eye, it’s was over and done and quickly forgotten.

It’s that time for my granddaughter. She’s 2 years old and is doing amazing. She’s ready and is just learning the steps. In the meantime, we keep her close to the toilet.

Which means for the next week, we stay close too. With rewards, accolades and appreciation. We celebrate every time the deed is done. As a mom, this was a pretty exhausting time for me. As a Nana, it’s about reminding the parents of her progress and rewarding her as she steps away from being a toddler.

  1. Know this will be over in the blink of an eye. Done. It’s true. Ask any mother of a teenager.

It’s been over 40 years since my boys had to learn to leave the diaper behind and become ‘big boys.’ The thing is, I can’t remember that time in my life too clearly. I can remember a basket of ‘rewards’ on top of the refrigerator for each successful trip to the toilet. The treats were rubber balls, match box cars, balloons, suckers, stickers and other five and dime type gifts. They were individually gift wrapped and offered as if it were Christmas morning.

  1. Give rewards for every successful potty in the potty chair.

If you watch to see how dogs are trained, you will notice that with every successful action, they are rewarded. If rewards are not a big thing in your child’s life – then they will work even better. Potty training is a big deal. Live it up and make it a party.

  1. This is the hardest one of all – EMBRACE this stage.

Remember when you longed for the days when your newborn would let you sleep through the night? Well, now your newborn is potty training. You will get through this. Use all the positive words you can and then …

Poof! Over! Done! On to new tasks, lessons and challenges.

  1. Potty training and life are a series of baby steps.

My world of being the mommy, making bread, canning tomatoes, freezing corn and stocking up on sweet pickles eventually came to an end. When I was in the mist of them, I never saw the big picture. The daily picture was about dozens of mundane things stung together that tied us together. Eventually, bedtime stories were replaced by soccer, school, Little League Baseball and their father became more prominent in their world as coach and sports companion. As they moved through grade school, I returned to college to earn my Bachelor degree. Baby steps helped us all move on from one stage to another.  Going back to complete my university degree coincided with kindergarten and T-Ball.

  1. See the BIG PICTURE and know this is a teeny dot on the lifeline.

Back then, my life was bursting at the seams with children, family, classes, work …and now I struggle to recall those days.  Now my son is the one offering praise and clapping with pride every time there is potty in the potty chair. And I am the ultimate cheerleader to all three of them.  I like being Nana.