Self Awareness Does Not Have to Include Public Disclosure…..

I have a longer post that I will do one of these days about the subject of self-awareness, but I was in a conversation yesterday that reminded me of this basic point that I used when I taught a freshman college class in Self Awareness/Personal Development. Not to misrepresent myself academically, that was in my ROTC instruction days when I held the position of an Assistant Professor of Military Science. The title really just means that you’re assigned to an ROTC department, although most colleges and universities do want you to have a Master’s Degree. I did have thoughts of pursuing a PhD during that assignment, but that’s an entirely different subject.

Back to the point that I made in class of there being tremendous value in developing self-awareness. You cannot effectively make changes in your life if you are not aware of why you do the things that you do. Now, you may not wish to make any changes, but you cannot make that determination either until you have a grasp of your own personality, desires, strengths, and weaknesses. In the exploration of yourself, it is often useful and sometimes necessary to seek assistance in doing so. However, in discussions with others, you may indeed have an “Aha!” moment then, or it may occur later in the privacy of your own thoughts. Those moments that yield this important understanding does not require that you share the insight with anyone, although you may choose to do so. The recognition may be so deeply personal that you don’t want to share, and there is no overriding reason is that you should. A major element of genuine self-awareness is that you don’t require validation from someone else to recognize a truth about yourself. Granted, you may want another individual’s feedback, but that is not the same thing as needing the feedback.

Now, is there a nuance between truth and perception when it comes to self-awareness? There certainly can be, but that, too is the subject for another post.



Watching Fish, Catching Fish….

Winners in a local charity fishing tournament

A number of organizations here have major fishing tournaments each year as fundraising events; other tournaments are strictly for fun and profit. I grew up with freshwater cane pole fishing and mostly bass tournaments. I actually stopped fishing when I was 9 or 10, deciding that I had better ways to spend my Saturdays. (No fishing on Sundays because that was church and family visiting day). I didn’t mind putting the squiggly worms on a hook and there is something about reeling in a fish, but then you do have to clean them. Freshwater, cane pole fishing for eating-size bream, crappie, and catfish is different from rod and reel action and I never made it to that point.

You don’t have to make a choice between sport fishing (angling) and scuba diving, although most people do. The primary reason is because it takes approximately the same amount of time to do one as the other. As I discussed in my non-fiction book, Islands in the Sand: An Introduction to Artificial Reefs in the USA, I erroneously thought that the scuba community was on the forefront of artificial reef creation. I quickly learned that the sport fishing world had been at it as early as the 1950s and the scuba community were newcomers. Mixing divers and anglers together on the same reef can be a little tricky, although there are multiple ways to work it out. I cut this passage from the final version of the book, but one day when we were diving on the North Shore of Oahu, my husband and I were coming in from a shore dive, threading our way through the rocks, nearing the entry/exit point. I felt an odd tug on my right foot and couldn’t tell what was going on. I was having difficulty in moving forward and the tugging continued, so I paused, assuming my husband would look back and he did. He swam to me and  and despite his inclination to cut the line, he removed the hook from my bootie and tossed it aside instead. The woman casting from the ledge above us apparently was oblivious to the fact that she had snagged me instead of a fish.

Anyway, since diving and sport fishing are both huge activities here in South Florida, I’ve gotten to know several anglers and charter boat captains. The radio stations I usually listen to have a noon and 4:00 p.m. fishing report and it’s always fun to hear what they have to say. I still prefer diving to see fish, but I have gained a new appreciation for the sport. And yes, Florida has catch limits and regulations to help sustain the fish populations.


Now I Understand…..

I suppose that I may have been told this before, but wasn’t paying attention at the time. Everyone knows the story of course of how Francis Scott Key came to write the lyrics to the “Star Spangled Banner”, although the poem was orginally called, “The Defence of Fort McHenry” . Most people also know that with a range of an octave and a half, it is a difficult song to sing and when people at events first started singing it acapella, I thought that was a bit risky. Then I realized that in actuality it probably is easier because of not having to match the pitch of whatever instrument or instruments are used.

The part that I either didn’t know, or hadn’t paid attention to, was that when the lyrics were set to music by Key’s brother-in-law,Judge Joseph H. Nicholson, he chose, “The Anacreontic Song,”a song that was already popular in this country, but was in fact British. Setting aside that ironic tidbit for a moment, the greater point is that the Anacreontic Society was a social club and the song was often sung in pubs. Aha – pubs, beer, drunk guys singing. Who cares or notices how difficult a song is to sing after you’ve hoisted a number of pints? Now, I mean no disrespect to our National Anthem, but I couldn’t help but wonder if there wasn’t at least some grain of truth in my thought. By the way, I genuinely admire those people who can sing, “The Star Spangled Banner”, and I always sympathize when someone struggles with it.  And yes, I absolutely do get choked up and weepy when it is played.



100 Years and Counting…..

When I did the recent post about turning sixty, I had no idea that a few days later I would meet a lady who was about to celebrate her 100th birthday. I did not ask her permission to use her name in a post, so let me simply say that she is what I aspire to be in my senior years. She still lives alone in a modest, but nicely kept home, drives her own car (whether she should still be or not, I don’t know), has no appreciable hearing loss, uses a cane, but is otherwise mobile, still cooks, sews, gardens, and is quite active in her church, a woman’s club, and has a circle of friends and five generations of her family. Not surprisingly, they were all gathering to have a huge celebration for her. She showed us some photos from her 90th birthday party and admitted that this time she wasn’t making her own cake.

She was a delight to interview with far more stories than I had time to hear, although the woman who served as our point of contact is hoping to capture her life story for a book. The woman was born in rural Georgia into a home with no indoor plumbing or electricity and the Model-T was not used for taking the children to school. That involved a 3-4 mile daily walk. I have interviewed a number of older individuals for various reasons, and this woman’s memory was as good as any of them and better than some. I do not know how much longer she has in this life, but she has a strong faith in God, family, and friends that I think will hold her in good stead until that time comes.

Spenders and Savers…..

Okay, this is a different type of post from the past several days, but it’s something on my mind because of a conversation over lunch the other day with regard to substituting a vacation due to leaner economic times. My friend’s plan for a cruise has given way instead to renting a condo in a popular beach town. They will also rent one a mile in from the beach because that will save them another 20%. As my friend explained, they were going to get a great price on the cruise, but when you add up all the other expenses that are involved – the drinks, excursions, etc., that put it out of reach of what they wanted to spend. And sure, you don’t have to buy extra stuff on the cruise, but that’s part of the fun and why put yourself in a position where you have to keep saying, “no”? The interesting part was that she acknowledged they technically could afford the cruise with the additional expenses, but since her husband’s job included compensation from commissions, they were trying to build a little more cushion into savings. While his overall commissions have been fairly steady, it is unpredictable and they will probably need to replace one of their cars within the next six months.

That put us into a discussion about spenders versus savers and how “hidden expenses” can easily trip people up. A number of magazine and on-line articles have hints for cutting expenses and most of them  start with that – the fact that we so often don’t really know what things costs. Brown bagging lunch is a great example that usually saves money and can also be healthier if you are in a situation where brown bagging is practical.

Then there is the refrain that many of us are familiar with of, “But I bought it on sale, so look how much money I saved.” While that is true, the “savings” is only true if it is something that you needed to buy to start with. And this is where the definition of “need” and “want” come into play. That dress/top/pair of shoes is something you can use, but do you need it? Well, who doesn’t? Except that maybe you don’t. I enjoy spending more than saving,and I am a big believer in supporting the economy, yet there are times when I decide that window shopping is a better idea. And one of the points about savings is if you have a specific goal like, “This is for the new car”, as opposed to, “I ought to save,” it can make it more emotionally palatable. Most of us know we ought to save more, but it does require a degree of discipline that we can have trouble exercising. That’s why using automatic deposits for 401K/IRA or even just a savings account can be a good approach. Again, I realize that a lot of people are in situations right now where they truly can’t save, but if you haven’t reviewed your financial plan lately, maybe it’s time to take a look.

Sweeter Sixty……

A friend has that 60th birthday coming up, the one of so very many jokes and often a fair amount of trepidation. My sister has passed that milestone and I’ll be knocking on the door before too long. You can’t help but reflect as you look at that, knowing logically that you have reached a stage in your life that you perhaps only vaguely knew you would. After all, as a child your grandparents were sixty. I mean, really, your grandparents! And if you have children, you may now be the grandparent.

Each person decides on their own whether they wish to embrace aging, fight it with cosmetics/other procedures, deny it, allow it to be a stressor, be puzzled by it, or a combination of any of the above. In keeping with the whole, “How did I get here?”, view of turning sixty, I wrote a poem a few years ago for another friend’s birthday. I don’t do poetry for other than special occasions now, but for all of you out there at, or near the Sixtieth birthday, I offer these words:

Sweeter Sixty

Sweet sixteen has long past                                                                                              A twinkle of time though                                                                                                   To bring sixty sweeter still.                                                                                            The years of learning, of giving,                                                                                       Of finding love fleeting in youth,                                                                                        Of becoming the person you are.                                                                                    How precious the understanding                                                                                   That tears spent forged strength,                                                                                   And wisdom is not quickly had.                                                                                       We touch our glasses to toast you                                                                                   To celebrate this, our salute  to                                                                                   Living life in all its richness.

 Charlie Hudson

Camping As A Vacation…….

I was raised in a small town in Louisiana (well, actually a few small towns) in a solidly middle class family where fancy vacations were not a priority. Camping and cabins by lakes in the surrounding areas/states were what we did. We always had a good time, but I was never a die-hard camping person. Later when I joined the Army, I did eough field time that camping was definitely not an activity to pursue for fun. However with that said, we did send our son on one particular Audubon program at least twice and I think it was three times, where they spent a number of days on an island with no television, no electronic games, etc., – a chance to enjoy nature as the entertainment it can be when we allow it to be. They did have rustic cabins, electricity, and running water, but stories and songs around a campfire at night as their evening activities. Now, our son also attended Space Camp multiple summers so it was definitely a contrast, and in truth, he had a great time in both environments.

I was at a breakfast earlier this morning at a place called Miami Everglades Resort and Campground ( and it brought back a lot of memories. Florida, the tourist mecca of incredible theme parks, also has a large number of places where nature is the theme instead. With more than 1,000 miles of coastline, it makes sense that beaches are popular, but as with the incredible Everglades, there are other non-ocean spots as well. The Everglades Resort has almost 30 acres set within the area we call the Redlands, close to the Monkey Jungle that I posted about not long ago. While there is no water nearby, there is a large pool and lovely landscaping. There are cabins, RV, and tent pads, so whichever mode suits you is available. There is a club house with one computer and free WiFi, but the emphasis is on non-electronic past-times like horseshoes, shuffleboard, volleyball, trails for walking. The bird life is tremendous and there are of course geckos, butterflies, etc., It is not too far from the Everglades National Park, and as dark as it gets in the Redlands, I am certain that the stars must shine very brightly out there. Considering how “plugged in” most kids are these days, have these old-fashioned approaches gone by the wayside? Perhaps, but maybe not. There are a lot of RVing advertisements, but then again, I’m not sure how many families that speaks to or if it is predominantly retired and semi-retired people.

Anyone out there want to share experiences?

Mentoring Opportunities…..

I know that if you don’t have children, you sometimes think that you wouldn’t be able to connect with adolescents or teens. However, the dreams and concerns for today’s youth aren’t so very different than they have ever been. Certain societal and economic issues may be different, but not the fundamental emotions that drive us – the questions like, “Why are some people born lucky and others into terrible situations?”; “What if I’m never popular?”; “Why should I bother with more school?”, etc.,.

The point is that for many youth, what they need is a mature adult who does realize you get through life’s tough times, and that doesn’t not necessarily have to be someone who is a parent. This is especially true of teens in foster home situations who are going to “age out”. In many states, 18 or completion of high school, is legally the point of departure from foster care. But if you think about the background of those who are placed in foster care, they may not be socially or emotionally equipped at 18 to be out on their own, and perhaps another year or two of mentoring will make the difference in them succeeding or falling into poor life choices that reflect the dysfunctional homes that caused them to be placed into the foster system in the first place. There are organizations that address this specific aspect of foster care and if you have ever considered becoming a mentor, it is something to look into.



Debates About Grilling Burgers……

Alert if I have vegetarians who follow the blog – this is a distinctly carnivorous post. This is one of the few Memorial Days when we didn’t grill burgers because we decided to go diving that day and we wound up having an early seafood dinner in Key Largo. However, we got into a discussion later about grilling burgers. My husband is a gas grill guy and a good friend still prefers the classic approach of charcoal. That is such a personal choice that there really is no question – you aren’t likely to convert gas to charcoal or vice-versa. Nor is seasoning an issue. We have a nice blend that we use – and a spicier version for those like us that prefer a bit of a “kick”. How big to make the burgers though and the correct mix of fat to lean were the real questions. Now, as much as I totally love a nice, thick burger, the problem with doing them by hand is size. You’re going to get a certain amount of circumferance shrinking and if you’re not careful, you have something more resembling a big meatball instead of a patty. On the other hand, if you pat them too thin, they cook faster than you want and don’t get all that “grilled flavor”. We haven’t tried it yet, but one of the cooking shows said that if you put a deep thumbprint in the center of the patty, that will help keep it from becoming a “ball”. We may give that a try next time and we’re open to other suggestions. Well, the “we” is husband since like many women, I have aquiesed to the concept that women don’t grill. (I acknowledge that is a terrible habit on my part.)

As to fat to lean ratio, we have long used 97% lean beef or even buffalo for our ground beef dishes, but burgers are the exception. The reality is that in order to get that juicy burger, you need to have no less than 90% lean and I can be talked into 85%. There truly is a difference in the taste and the really lean beef just doesn’t work well for a burger. Now, we do use buffalo sometimes to achieve the leanest type and still have an excellant flavor.

So okay, burger lovers out there – any thoughts on this?

Family Histories and Memoirs…….

Among my other endeavors, I thoroughly enjoy guest speaking – big group, small group, doesn’t matter. I have a page on my website, that lists the primary topics I speak to, and one of them is “Everyone Has a Story: Creating Family Histories and Memoirs”. While I have always had an interest in family history, it was really brought home to me during the period when I was coping with my first mother-in-law’s health crises that ended in her death and the settling of the estate. That experience, was of course, the background for my book, Your Room at the End: Thoughts About Aging We’d Rather Avoid, and in Part 2 of the book, I have a section about writing your family history or memoirs.

As a quick differentiation, capturing the family history may be guided by one person, but it is likely to involve multiple members of the family, whereas memoirs in general will be told by one or two people with perhaps input from others. Both are likely to contain old photos, maybe recipes, letters, etc., and perhaps portions from a professional geneaologist. The primary point that I make in my presentations is that in our mobile society, it is so easy to lose track of those stories and that as we (or whomever) in the family reaches later years, capturing those family memories and stories can be a wonderful project. Today’s technology and internet can be great resources and the project can be launched to coincide with a birthday, anniversary, family reunion, and so forth. One of the things that my father has mentioned (and even though he’s in good health for his age, he is having memory issues) is that when he was a boy, they didn’t have electricity or running water in the house. It existed, but not in the really rural areas and few people had vehicles. Think of the change between then and now from both a technology and availability perspective. Do you really think those are stories that should just disappear? And that is how I close the presentation. If you don’t capture these memories, who will? So, if you’re casting about for something interesting to do or have an older relative who is, this might be the time to get started.