Empty Nexter: How to be remembered fondly — and often

By Carrie Perrien Smith

Sometimes someone enters your life and weaves himself into it. That’s the way Jim was. He married my long-time friend, Kelly, eight years ago. He was a kind, cheerful, easy-going, helpful guy. That’s what she needed to help raise her three young men.

We attended their parties, and they attended ours.

And they weren’t those socialite kind of parties. They were the kind where we laughed long and loud, where there was always room for one more. Jim put tons of thought into the party menus. Not even my mom can remember my long list of food allergies, but Jim did.

He always proudly announced what they were serving that I wasn’t allergic to. I reminded him it wasn’t necessary, but it always made me feel special.

carrie and friends

Our band Paper Jam before we played at the 2012 Walmart Shareholders meeting. Jim is shown third from the left.

When we went out for an evening of live music, Jim couldn’t wait to dance. When he wore out his wife, he’d dance with me or the bar owner’s wife or any other female he could coax onto the dance floor.

He was my copier tech too. I work from home so a service call to my office included greeting my dogs, Midgieboy and Jazmin. Midgieboy loves almost everyone. Jazmin loves almost no one — except Jim. She loved him, and he loved her because she loved him. He always stopped what he was doing to vigorously rub Jazmin’s ears and neck like she was the only dog in the world.

My husband, Tom, deejays and supplies audio/visual services for business meetings. Jim was a technical wizard so Tom hired Jim when he needed assistance. Even when Tom volunteered his time and services for a charity event, Jim offered to help too. He gave generously of his time to help others.

Jim considered himself a handy type of guy. He assembled my wood filing cabinet in my office. I remember how hard he tried to fix our oddball-brand toilet in our fixer-upper. It still had problems, and I eventually called a plumber. I didn’t tell him though. And I’m sure his wife Kelly will never forget the time he was decided to fix the heater core in his truck himself because it would just take him a few hours. It took a few days instead. He would try to fix anything whether or not he had any related experience. It sometimes made sense not to mention something was broken.

Jim had been in a living-room/family-party band for years. Most of the band members had been copier technicians. One day, he asked my husband to come jam with them. Tom had begun to play guitar again after decades away from it. It was a better than practicing on the couch with his unplugged electric guitar. When the occasional family gathering called for a band, I can’t remember my husband smiling more heartily than when he was playing with them.

The guys wanted to play beyond the living room so they started practicing more often. And when we bought our fixer-upper, it offered enough space for the band to practice. Jim was always the first to arrive to help Tom set up the garage for practice and didn’t leave until everything was stowed again.

And that’s how I ended up in a band called Paper Jam.

When they lost their backup singer, I offered to help out. I didn’t have any experience, but I was willing to learn. I wasn’t all that good back then, but he taught me what he knew. He was the first to encourage me. The band evolved, and we launched our “playing outside the garage” tour of local smoky night spots. We had a few personnel changes, but Jim was a constant influence as a founding member.

Things changed for Jim in 2012. He got downsized at work, and it opened the door for him to launch his own technical service business. Being a longtime business consultant/coach myself, I cheered him on. I also played devil’s advocate just to make sure he had the “running the business” part down right. He did really well.

While he was pouring his heart and soul into his growing business, some long-time health issues were starting to slow him down. He juggled the demands of his business, family, and the band before that. But now, he commented frequently that he didn’t have the time to commit to the band. There were a lot of times where it was obvious he didn’t feel well enough for two-hour practices, let alone the physically demanding four-hour shows we played. Those included three extra hours of schlepping heavy audio equipment.

It was difficult when we suggested he take some time off from the band to focus on more pressing priorities. He agreed, and we left his place open if things settled down enough for him to come back. That was late 2012. By then, I was singing lead more so we split up Jim’s songs between our bass player and me.

We invited Jim and Kelly to our shows after that. They came a few times and stayed for an hour or less. We were always glad to see them. Jim looked much weaker and thinner each time. There were even a couple of narrow brushes with death.

Just two years younger than me, it reminded me that our days on earth are sometimes fewer than we expect.

Carrie, Jim and Winston 8 72dpi

An old family photo from Jim and his beloved, long-gone Cocker Spaniel, Winston. My husband suggested that Winston ran back over the rainbow bridge to greet Jim and they walked back over it together.

The week before Christmas, Kelly called us. Jim had just learned he was in full liver failure. They arranged hospice care. Kelly was busy tackling those end-of-life details — signatures, final wishes, etc. She needed to handle a few more details but would call when we could see him.

By that Monday evening, he was well-medicated to ensure his comfort. He snored through most of the visit. We chatted with Kelly as we sat on the edge of Jim’s bed in their dimly lit bedroom. We listened as she updated us on all that must be handled when someone chooses to die at home. It was a nice visit. I kept thinking how much I wished we’d been able to visit two or three days earlier.

When it was time to leave, we got up off the bed. Jim snapped awake. Still groggy, he reached out his hands and said, “Let me shake your hand.” Tom and I each grabbed one. His jaundiced skin felt cool and taut. We held on and uttered things that wouldn’t sound like a final goodbye although we knew it was. And as quickly as he sat up, he resumed his rhythmic snoring.

Remember that scene in the 1997-version of Titanic where Kate Winslet is floating in the ocean on a piece of wood from the sunken vessel? When she awoke to realize that Leonardo DiCaprio had died, she releases his grip on her arm and she watches him sink into the dark ocean. That is what it felt like when I turned loose of Jim’s hand that evening.

So many times when I stood next to Jim on stage and looked out at the crowd, I thought, “I want to remember this moment forever.” I felt the same way about those fleeting moments when I held Jim’s hand that night.

Jim died thirty hours later in the early hours of Christmas. Over the coming days, Tom and I sifted through video, audio recordings, and photos for his memorial service. As I wandered through my daily routine, I realized I had a million memories of Jim.

Some will be silly, like when my copier is hopelessly jammed due to stupid human error or I’m referring to my dogs as the corporate security like he did. Others will hit me when I’m singing one of his favorite songs with our band.

He is missed, but he will always be with me. I hope people will remember me so often and fondly when I am gone.

Carrie Perrien Smith-51-Twitter-SquareCarrie Perrien Smith is mama to Darcie and a pack of black dogs (Jazmin, Midgieboy, and Chloe — in pack order), grandma to Robert, wife to world-traveler and Walmart-blue-bleeding Tom, daughter to Wayne and Phyllis, speaker bureau and publishing company owner, Business: Engaged! small business radio show host, community activist, singer in a party band called Paper Jam, and home improvement junkie. Follow her on Twitter @soarwitheagles or contact her at carrie@soarhigher.com.

Empty Nexter: Living with and letting go of tradition

By Carrie Perrien Smith

The holidays present so many challenges.

Probably my biggest one has been managing my daughter’s grandparents’ expectations of her appearance at their holiday meals. She is grown now and has a child of her own, and it’s still going on.

stocking3From the time I married her dad when we were right out of college, I felt the ominous presence. It was like a skeleton in the closet — the big secret that no one talked about. As a newly married woman who now connected two families, I felt the tug of our mothers. As young people who didn’t even have fully developed frontal lobes, we couldn’t articulate the problem or fully understand it.

Those first holidays provided my first lesson in negotiation. But no matter what I did, no one would feel she received a fair deal. And I was guaranteed a heaping helping of guilt because I couldn’t meet their expectations. I was caught between two moms who had family traditions to uphold.

As a child, my parents always hosted the Thanksgiving meal. My parents followed Old Testament theology, so we didn’t celebrate Christmas. Both of their families celebrated Christmas. Thanksgiving was the one holiday that wasn’t engulfed in a firestorm of religious controversy, where we could eat together and pray to the same God. In forty-eight years, I only remember one Thanksgiving that was celebrated anywhere but my parents’ house.

Hosting the Thanksgiving meal means a lot to Mom too. She starts planning it the first of October even though she’s served basically the same menu every year. The family is small now too. My brother’s family is too big and too far away to make the trek. All of my grandparents are gone. There is just an aunt or uncle here or there, but they are never part of Thanksgiving dinner.

Drawing a Line in the Cranberry Sauce

Because Thanksgiving was my parents’ big family gathering, my husband and I decided we’d celebrate Thanksgiving with my parents and Christmas with his parents. That solution sort of worked. We moved to Dallas after college and that meant traveling both holidays. After our only child was born, we continued to make the four-hour trek to Tulsa and the six-hour trek to Fayetteville for a few years.

That is, before we decided we’d like to spend Christmas at home. Our home. That is when it got sticky.

We made the rounds over the Thanksgiving weekend as Tulsa and Fayetteville were two hours apart. We carefully created a schedule where each family got equal time with us. It became obvious though that it mattered whose table we sat at for THE Thanksgiving dinner. Even after we relocated to Northwest  Arkansas a couple years later, we still faced some resistance when we had to tell my mother-in-law that we were having Thanksgiving dinner with my parents. I could tell she was unhappy about it just by looking at my husband’s face as he told her by phone. We were geographically closer and saw her more often, but it didn’t matter.

Just a couple years later, our marriage ended and my now-ex-husband remarried. Having the holiday visitation schedule pre-negotiated and lined out by the divorce decree made the holiday somewhat less complicated and guilt-filled. The schedule was the schedule. Everyone would have to live with it. And we did.

I eventually married a career retail guy who always worked through the holidays, so his parents didn’t have that everyone-home-for-the-holidays notion. They were just happy he finally married someone beside his career.

Letting Go of Something I Never Had

snowmanAfter years of dealing with two Traditionalist-generation mothers who established and enforced their family traditions, I realized I would never establish my own traditions for my family around traditional holidays. I would continue to honor their traditions.

I adopted the philosophy that every day was a gift and deserved to be made special. We didn’t need retail or greeting card holidays to get together. I don’t create those family gatherings as often as I wish I did, but that philosophy has given me a lot of peace. Regardless of our schedule and the time of year, we can create a special time that is unrushed and customized to our interests. I’m not sure whether to call them traditions or anti-traditions.

I was reflecting on this frustrating holiday negotiation process the other day. I once again got the guilt bomb because my daughter couldn’t be at the dinner table specified by tradition. She is grown and works in a nursing home and doesn’t always have the holidays off. I finally mourned the loss of traditions that I will never establish because I’m still honoring other people’s traditions. Acknowledging my sense of loss was like a rite of passage for me. I decided this would the last time I would mourn or accept guilt over this.

I suspect I’m not the only Generation X child who doesn’t have her own traditions because she is honoring those that a Traditionalist parent created.

I wonder if those traditions were the glue that held Traditionalist generation marriages together and the lack is why so many Generation X marriages fail. Regardless, I’m grateful that my Generation Y daughter still has grandparents in her life who care so deeply about her.

My Gift This Holiday Season

Here is the gift I’m giving myself: I’m removing myself from the negotiating seat. This means that I cannot shelter her from the guilt-bombs anymore. But I will defend her decision without feeling one moment of guilt.

And the gift I’m giving my daughter is the encouragement to establish some traditions and ground rules of her own, even if they don’t fit within everyone else’s traditions. It is time that she decides where and why she attends family gatherings. “Just because we always do” is not a good reason — for anything.

I want her to learn to live an intentional life. This will be good training for decision-making and determining how people will treat her. It will serve her well, and it may be one of the greatest gifts I’ll ever give her.

Carrie Perrien Smith-51-Twitter-SquareCarrie Perrien Smith is mama to Darcie and a pack of black dogs (Jazmin and Midgieboy — in pack order), grandma to Robert, wife to world-traveler and Walmart-blue-bleeding Tom, daughter to Wayne and Phyllis, speaker bureau and publishing company owner, Business: Engaged! small business radio show host, community activist, singer in a party band called Paper Jam, and home improvement junkie. Follow her on Twitter @soarwitheagles or contact her at carrie@soarhigher.com.

Empty Nexter: Two Tips for Preventing Fatigue and Performing Better

By Carrie Perrien Smith

The older I get, the more I need to know about how to make my body perform well. My peak at forty-eight isn’t what it was at twenty-eight. I am proud to say that I’m in better physical condition today than I was then. I can thank a healthy diet, cardio exercise, and weight training for that.

The bigger challenge now is managing my endurance. I work hard and often long hours. I also perform many of my home maintenance activities and sing in a band. It requires a lot of me physically, and I need my body to perform like that of an athlete.

I’ve struggled with fatigue for over a decade. I spent most of the last thirty years in deadline-driven career roles. I started speaking to audiences in 2001 and joined a rock band in 2011. All those activities expose my body to the stress of “fight or flight.” In fact, it went so far to over-exert my adrenal glands.

Adrenal fatigue is a slippery slope, and you don’t realize you have it until you hit the bottom. It takes at least six months to rebuild your endurance after that. I’ve learned to better pace myself and to recognize the signs. Click here to read more about the signs.

Spending four hours working in the yard, managing an event, or singing on stage (which includes helping with equipment setup and teardown) may not look like running a race, but my body reacts as if I am. And once the activity is over, my body shuts down the adrenalin release. I’ve come to recognize the adrenalin hangover I get the next day. I just don’t have time to waste feeling exhausted. With some planning, I can reduce feeling like a mental and physical zero for the twelve hours following the physically or mentally stressing activity.

I’ve borrowed two practices from athletes that help minimize the adrenalin hangover — carb-loading and hydrating properly with water AND electrolytes. Both also stock me with the energy I need to perform at my best longer.

Carb-Loading

Carbohydrate-loading is used by athletes to prepare for physical activity that will last ninety minutes or more (like a marathon or a football game). It increases the amount of fuel stored in your muscles. Basically, the practice involves eating meals of fifty to seventy percent complex carbohydrates in the twelve hours or more before extended exertion. Some athletes even start a week ahead. Click here for a more in-depth explanation of the process.

If I’m planning a day of landscaping work, I start the morning with a large bowl of oatmeal and an apple.

If I’m singing in the band, my meal will be a large serving of brown rice and steamed or sautéed vegetables at least five hours before I will be singing.

Digestion can use up to sixty percent of a body’s energy resources. I choose something quick to digest so I have more energy to devote to performing. You’ll find that most athletes don’t eat much in the hours before their workout for the same reason.

Hydrating with Water PLUS Electrolytes

On the day I plan to work or volunteer outside in the heat or will sing with the band, I drink an electrolyte-rich beverage to replenish my body in advance or when I stop for a break.

Hydration is important to our brain function as well as our physical functions. There are a lot of different opinions about how much water we should drink. We can’t go wrong with the rule of sixty-four ounces of water a day. If you are working outside in the heat, you’ll want to drink more.

waterI follow the rule of drinking eight ounces for every thirty minutes I spend in the heat. When I’m singing or speaking, I follow that same rule when I perform in an outdoor venue. Even in a cool, indoor venue, I require more water to stay hydrated. I drink at least eight ounces an hour.

It isn’t enough to drink water. We also need to replenish crucial electrolytes (potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, and sodium) that we lose through sweating and urination. These minerals regulate nerve and muscle function, the body’s blood pressure and pH, rebuild damaged tissue, and maintain the body’s acid-base and fluid balance.

You probably recognize Gatorade as a popular electrolyte-replenishing beverage. I’ve never been a big artificial drink consumer so I turned to natural alternatives. You can Google “natural electrolyte drinks” and find lots of easy and tasty recipes.

I like lemons, and they are a great source of electrolytes. My preferred drink is the juice of a lemon in a cup of hot water sweetened with honey. My other favorite is lemonade made with the juice of a lemon, sprinkled with a dash of cayenne pepper and salt, sweetened with maple syrup, and stirred into ice and water.

You can also replenish electrolytes through the food you eat. You’ll find sodium and chloride in foods like table salt, olives, sauerkraut, and bacon. Spinach, bananas, and sweet potatoes are rich in potassium. Leafy green vegetables, cereal, beans, and tomatoes are a great source for magnesium. Calcium is found in milk, yogurt, and eggs.

It is important to note that alcohol consumption dehydrates you. Alcohol increases urine output which depletes your stores. I limit or avoid alcohol when I’m working hard or performing. If I do drink alcohol, I match each drink with a glass of water or green tea. And incidentally, if you want to avoid a hangover after an evening of overindulgence, drink a glass of water after every alcoholic beverage you drink. The major cause of a morning-after hangover is dehydration.

Preparation is the Key to Prevention

Recognizing that ordinary activities were surprisingly physically demanding was the first step in preventing my mental and physical fatigue.

Carb-loading and proper hydration makes a huge difference in how I feel in the twelve hours after the exertion is over. I am still tired but I’m not a steaming pile of uselessness when I prepare in advance.

It’s been a long journey of discovery. But the most important thing I’ve learned is that preparation goes a long way to prevention.

Carrie Perrien Smith-51-Twitter-SquareCarrie Perrien Smith is mama to Darcie and a pack of black dogs (Jazmin and Midgieboy — in pack order), grandma to Robert, wife to world-traveler and Walmart-blue-bleeding Tom, daughter to Wayne and Phyllis, speaker bureau and publishing company owner, Business: Engaged! small business radio show host, community activist, singer in a party band called Paper Jam, and home improvement junkie. Follow her on Twitter @soarwitheagles or contact her at carrie@soarhigher.com.

Empty Nexter: No honey, you can’t retire yet

By Carrie Perrien Smith

The last thirty days have been full of milestones.

We just celebrated my husband’s sixty-first birthday, the fifteenth anniversary of his proposal to me, his thirty-year service anniversary with Walmart, and our two-year anniversary of moving into the distressed house we shouldn’t have bought.

In addition, I also quietly celebrated the ten-year anniversary of my company, Soar with Eagles. We even did our annual review with one of our financial planners, where each year, my husband asks, “Can I retire yet?”

All these milestone events make me ponder what is next for this pair of empty nesters.

The vision for the Empty Nexter series is to help empty nesters make the most of the years between 40 and 60. But like everyone else, I have questions. The answers to them aren’t black and white. Our future and the economy are unknown. However, we know we have much more to offer this world. Every day, I wake up and pray that God will help me make the most of the day ahead. I’m perfectly capable of wasting every single day on my own. Being productive in this attention-deprived world requires divine intervention.

I’m the big picture planner in our family. My husband Tom is the tactical, finish-it-and-move-on, done-is-better-than-perfect person. I think out loud in incomplete sentences, long-term plans, and variables. Tom is more of a “just the facts, ma’am” kind of guy. He just wants to know what the plan is so he can move forward to execution.

And occasionally he asks, “Can I retire yet?”

Tom is a few years ahead of me; thirteen to be exact. He’s a Baby Boomer and I’m a Gen Xer. I gauge our life plans based on his age.Our financial life was pretty sweet before Tom became obsessed with moving into a bigger house. The old one was the size house you retire into, and we had a small mortgage. He was afraid we couldn’t get financing once he retired — a valid concern. We didn’t want to move the business out of the house, but we used 22 percent of the old house for the business. We needed more space.

So we became accidental land barons.We bought empty residential lots, decided not to build, and then sold them. We also bought a fixer-upper after a nine-month house search. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a decent sales price on the original house so it is rented for now. Hopefully, that chapter will close after my tenants move on and the housing market improves.

But to be truthful, I’m not sure we shouldn’t finish this fixer-upper and move back to the original one. Tom loves the new house. It has a pool and it is beautiful even if every single mechanical item is at the end of its useful life. Just today, I realized the toilet upstairs needs to be rebuilt. And it’s a two-story house. It just doesn’t seem practical. I wish I had a crystal ball so I could plan better.

But if I’d had a crystal ball two years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it anyway. I didn’t know that I would ever want to run for political office or sing in a rock band but here I am. Both take a ton of time and that has sucked up the time that I allotted to fix up house we bought. I was unprepared for how much more my body would ache now and how much I would slow down. I don’t know how I juggled all the demands on my time when my daughter was growing up. I’m not really sure when or even if my ability to super-multi-task will return. And frankly, I don’t know if I want to run at that pace anymore.

When we were going through the house search, I was talking with my friend Rob Farinholt about challenges of finding a house that fit our needs. All the houses we considered felt more like a temporary residence or an investment property. In his typical way of sorting out the million details I’m evaluating, he says, “You’re right. It is just a temporary house. Everywhere we live on earth is temporary. Our true home is waiting for us in heaven.”

From then on, I looked at where we live through a different set of lenses. It doesn’t matter where I live but what I do with the time I have. The new house feels like a vacation home when I’m not dealing with something that has broken. And since I office from home, the days when I don’t have to leave the house for meetings or errands feel like I’m on vacation. That is a really, really cool feeling.

But now, I am staring the reality of my husband’s question, “Can I retire yet?” The extra $1,000 a month this house costs (mortgage, utilities, and maintenance) means that he cannot retire yet. And should we keep a house that we couldn’t fully utilize for the next thirty years.  We might want to move into something easy care without a yard to maintain. Maybe we will decide to ditch home-ownership completely. I’m definitely lukewarm on the idea of selling both and building something ideal after calculating realtor fees and closing costs. Once you factor in interest, home ownership is not the wise financial investment it once was.

So in the absence of the crystal ball, I’m finding myself exploring all the options. It’s fairly unusual for a forty-eight-year-old woman to consider these decisions so seriously, but my planning is based on my husband’s age. Our family gets old so it pays to really think seriously about the next few decades. We’ve got another six months at least to make a decision about selling the original house and we could always rent it another year while we finish the fixer upper.

In the meantime, my husband is content with going to work every day. But I still feel like I did when I told my young daughter she couldn’t have a cookie every time I tell Tom, “No, you can’t retire yet.”

Carrie Perrien Smith is mama to Darcie and a pack of black dogs (Jazmin and Midgieboy — in pack order), grandma to Robert, wife to world-traveler and Walmart-blue-bleeding Tom, daughter to Wayne and Phyllis, speaker bureau and publishing company owner, Business: Engaged! small business radio show host, community activist, singer in a party band called Paper Jam, and home improvement junkie. Follow her on Twitter @soarwitheagles or contact her at carrie@soarhigher.com.

Empty Nexter: The difficult decision to prune (your life)

By Carrie Perrien Smith

Each spring, my Japanese maple looks like a teenager with thick, wavy hair who is long overdue for a haircut.

It can manage that extra fullness, but it looks a lot nicer when the excess growth is trimmed. It is also healthier and more productive when its resources are dedicated to a few healthy branches rather than everything it grew over the year.

That’s true about our lives too. In fact, there is much to learn through this pruning process that we can apply to our lives.

Trees Require Occasional Pruning

pruningTrimming and thinning my Japanese maple gives me some time to reflect. I’ve often heard that still quiet voice while looking up from under a four-foot canopy of those delicate green leaves. I start at the base because the easy answers are located there. I work my way up to the tougher pruning decisions.

The beautiful thing is that you can recover from mistakes. If I trim the wrong branch too much, I get another chance next year. I’ve learned a lot about the tree’s growth habits too. Even though the smaller branches that grow downward are beautiful, too many of them drag the main branches down.

And those awkward ones that shoot straight up — those are where the growth is. Some branches look silly today but by leaving the right ones, I’m preparing the tree for a healthier, more beautiful shape in the future.

Pruning Our Life is Important Too

It seems like the first half of our life is about adding things — acquiring the education, the career, the spouse, the home, the pets, the kids, the community activities.

There are chances to prune along the way — the friends who didn’t fit our life after we got married; the old jobs, cars, and houses; the people we dated. We don’t realize we were pruning because those changes usually come in the form of replacements. We get new relationships, cars, and jobs. Replacing doesn’t teach us much about pruning or preparing for the challenge of it.

The First Cut is the Deepest

In what I consider to be the second half of my life, I worry that I will squander the time I have left. I want to not only make a difference but also have fun and take risks. The empty nest opened up the opportunity to do new things over the last two years but not necessarily the time.

Pruning my life was unfamiliar territory. Who ever thought that I would run for political office, host a radio show, or sing in a rock band?

Those opportunities came along after we accepted the time and financial commitment of buying a project house. Once we moved, I saw the need to serve for my community not visible from my vantage point in my old neighborhood. Joining my husband’s band came later that year.

Pruning isn’t always a “cut and dried” decision. I’m self-employed and office from home, so my personal and professional activities bleed together. And is the band a hobby or a business? Community and family responsibilities require my availability at inconsistent times. That is hard to predict and challenging to schedule.

And now my time-management strategy is ruined: I’ve discovered that I can no longer wait to sleep when I’m dead. I’ve lost those extra late-night hours in my day because a woman of a certain age requires more rest. Bummer.

So reluctantly, I must prune. All these activities are worthwhile but time-consuming.

I must prune in my business too. I not only run a speaker bureau and publishing company, I host this radio show. To fully monetize it, I need to manage the radio show as a separate business. And that project house? Here’s the deal. We didn’t sell our original house so that meant renting it. We also owned three residential lots we purchased in a bankruptcy auction. We intended to build on one and sell the other two. The neighborhood sat stagnant for two years and we decided to buy a short-sale instead. That was five properties that needed mowing, repair, and marketing. That is not a passive activity. That is a business. So last year, I finally realized I run three businesses.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

The pruning process has begun. The economy is improving so we were able to sell all three residential lots last year — even the one we wanted to build on. Hopefully we’ll be able to sell our original house when the current tenants are ready to move in a year or so. The project house still bleeds my time and our bank account. It is a great investment but it’s not a practical house for a couple nearing retirement. I’ve shortened our six-year plan to repair and sell it to four years. At that time, we are going to build something that meets our specifications before we move in.

I reluctantly pruned a lot of my community activities too. I’m proud of my ten-year résumé of leadership roles with eighteen non-profits. However, retiring from most of the activities in the last three years allowed me to pursue serving my community as an elected official. Just the process to get elected required so much time to campaign, only to lose the election. I learned so much though, and I’m ready to try again.

I’m also pruning those hobbies. My aging knees are influencing my decision to retire the do-it-yourself/home-improvement hobby after this project house is complete. I’m not as young as I used to be. My life has changed too. It’s a safe bet that I won’t be doing handcrafts or art in the near future; maybe never again. I probably should give my art supplies to a young art student who can’t afford her own. I’ve accepted I won’t ever assemble all those quilt tops I’ve made into a finished quilt. I’m going to give away my fabric stash and pay someone to machine quilt the existing quilt tops for me.

My photography is digital now too, so I’m going to sell my old 35mm camera. I loved that camera and we traveled thousands of miles together and recorded twenty years of my life’s milestones. And as much as I enjoyed making Halloween costumes over the years, I’m going to get rid of all but a few of them. I might need a costume when the band plays for a Halloween party.

My kitchen is changing too. I’m getting rid of most of my cookbooks. With my food allergies, I have to develop my own recipes and there are so many resources online now. And I’m taking a hard look at what I really use. I’m admittedly struggling with turning loose of the complete collection of Muppet glasses I collected at McDonald’s in the early 1980s. Must. Let. Go. The same goes for the forty custard dishes that were old when I bought them at my great uncle’s estate sale. The only time they’ve been out of the cabinet is to move from house to house. Five times now. Someone surfing eBay will love them.

So Will I Make a Mistake in This Pruning Process?

Yes, I will make mistakes. I will give away something that my daughter will need eventually. I will return to a hobby and need some gadget I no longer have. But I will remember that what I gave away got another life with someone who truly needed it and uses it all the time.

And most likely, I will be able to find another one at the store. I can probably even find another set of Muppet glasses on eBay.

As hard as this process is, I’m reminded that pruning will prepare my life for a more beautiful and healthy future. What do you need to prune?

Carrie Perrien Smith-51-Twitter-SquareCarrie Perrien Smith is mama to Darcie and a pack of black dogs (Snappy, Jazmin, and Midgieboy — in pack order), grandma to Robert, wife to world-traveler and Walmart-blue-bleeding Tom, daughter to Wayne and Phyllis, speaker bureau and publishing company owner, Business: Engaged! small business radio show host, community activist, singer in a party band, and home improvement junkie. Follow her on Twitter @soarwitheagles or contact her at carrie@soarhigher.com.

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