Gift of Choice
Original Post 12/16/18 (updates added below as of 11/27/22):
How many choices would you say you make in a single day? Would it be safe to say we make thousands of choices between the time we wake up and the time we go to bed?
We have to decide what time to get up, what to wear, what to eat, and the list goes on and on. Much of our days are spent doing things we decided to do a long time ago.
Yesterday, our middle child graduated from college, following in her older brother’s footsteps. Needless to say, we are incredibly proud of all the hard work she’s put in to reach this milestone. The number of decisions it took for her to reach this point is almost mindboggling. All along the way, she had to choose whether or not to do the things she had to do if she wanted to earn a college degree.
As we watched the many graduates file into the auditorium, garbed in their caps and gowns, I couldn’t help but marvel at both the efforts it took for each of them to reach that point but also the endless possibilities stretching out before them. Most are at the very beginning of what will become their life
work. Some are charting a new course for themselves, making a choice to do something different.
I wondered how many of them knew what their next step would be. How many will find work in their chosen field? Would they like it once they were out there, working in the real world?
I have to admit, a tiny part of me even felt a twinge of jealousy. What would it be like to be twenty-something again, with nearly unlimited options ahead of me?
But it didn’t take me long to remember how scary it felt. Endless choices can be overwhelming and more than a little scary. Back then, the choices didn’t feel endless.
I also like to think I’ve learned a thing or two through the years since I last stood there in a cap and gown. Life teaches us all so much. Some of those lessons are best learned one time. Some are so painful I’d prefer never to have to repeat them.
So while I wouldn’t want to be twenty-two again, are there some things I wish I would have known then that I know now? Silly question, right?!
• I would tell my younger self to take more chances. To not always make the safest, least risky choice.
• I would assure my younger self I was smart enough and strong enough to take on big challenges and not settle.
• I would work harder to maintain those relationships in life that meant the most to me. I’d hug more and argue less. I’d let petty things go and find joy in the little things.
• I’d move more and sit less. And I’d definitely dance more.
• I would stress less about specific work tasks. It was never worth it.
• I’d warn myself that the endless list of tiny choices I’d make, day in and day out, would ultimately result in the quality of my life. It’s seldom the biggest choices we make, that seem so monumental at the time, that impact us the most.
Wow, I’d have been so much smarter if I could have shared all of this with my twenty-two-year-old self! But the reality is that even if that were possible, it might not have made any difference. Because until we live these things ourselves, and truly appreciate the impact of the choices we make, we won’t take someone else’s word for it. While the years may not always be kind to us, the lessons we pick up along the way will be invaluable.
We can’t go back. I wouldn’t want to go back. But we don’t have to. None of us are really much different from all those graduates standing in that auditorium yesterday. We all have endless possibilities before us. We just have to open our eyes to them. There are blessings in the hard-won wisdom we possess by the time we’re fifty-two instead of twenty-two. We know it’s better if we chose the wheat bread over the white bread and the vegetables over the chocolate. It’s better to find work we love than suffer through work that pays better. And relationships are worth fighting for, even on those days when you might not like the other person all that much.
It’s all about making better choices. And that’s hard to do until you have your own life experiences to draw upon.
Since I can’t go back and tell my twenty-two-year-old-self anything, I’ll instead remind my fifty-two-year-old self of a few essential things:
Having the gift of choice is a blessing. Choose wisely as often as you can, and when you stumble because of a poor choice, forgive yourself and chalk it up to some more of that hard-earned wisdom. Choose better next time.
Challenge yourself and encourage others. And please forgive me, but as a proud parent, I have to add one last note. As I finish writing today’s post, our youngest just popped into the room to tell us she got accepted into the top two colleges of her choice. Now she has a choice to make. The circle of life continues.
Speaking of the circle of life and how our choices impact us, here is a summary of some of the bigger choices my family has made in the four years since my original blog post in late 2018:
Some choices can be scary to consider and difficult to make, but hindsight can offer reassurances that the worst-case scenarios almost never come to pass. There is even more joy to be found when we bet on ourselves.
Always in your corner, cheering you on! Kim
Gift of Halloween Memories
It’s Halloween. The tiniest of the ghosts and goblins, the ones too young to even utter the infamous “Trick or Treat”, will start arriving soon. Their parents will hover close, fingers crossed as they hope their kiddos will remember their manners.
I know this because I was one of those parents, a quarter of a century ago.
The older costumed kids won’t be far behind. There will be big and small groups of them, holding out a variety of creative bags to collect their treasures. The overly ambitious will lug around pillow cases. Children of traditionalists will hold out plastic pumpkin bowls. Most will remember to thank us for the candy we toss in their bowls, and the lucky ones will have the door opened by my husband. He’s quick to toss in handfuls of treats for each kid, while I hover in the background and worry that we’ll run out of candy before we run out of trick-or-treaters. It’s like a snapshot of our vastly different personalities.
Halloween is all about the kids.
When our kids were young, we didn’t buy the fancy packaged costumes from Target or the Halloween stores. It was always more fun to take trips to a thrift store or our own closets, then we'd maybe buy the accessories or makeup that would elevate our handmade outfits from old clothes to one-of-a-kind creations.
I remember spending hours at my seldom used sewing machine, crafting a darling Humpty Dumpty costume and a colorful clown costume, complete with a red, curly wig for our first born (back before clowns gave me the creeps).
By the time child number two arrived, this busy momma no longer had time to sew, but we still worked hard to make sure our kids had fun costumes. Unfortunately, some years the blustery weather of a North Dakota Halloween thwarted our efforts, but the best costumes fit over winter coats and snow pants.
When the kids were young, our front bay window was our focus for Halloween decorations. We’d work hard to place carved pumpkins, blinking lights, and plenty of cobwebs just right, welcoming the neighborhood kids to our door. My decorating efforts dwindled once they were all out of the house, but this year was different.
This year, I pulled out all the old tubs of decorations again. Two things prompted this resurgence of excitement to decorate. First, I hosted our neighborhood Bunco group here on the 18th, and it was fun to set the ambience with orange lights and flickering candles. Plus, I needed an excuse to pull out the old gold lamp I picked up at an estate sale last year. It takes up way too much space in my basement for ninety-five percent of the year, but I love it.
This year’s decorating efforts were also reinvigorated by little Milo, our 8-month-old (first) grandchild. He loves the glow of the bright orange pumpkin lights inside Grandma’s curio cabinet, even if he doesn’t have a clue about Halloween yet. I can’t wait to see him in his Jack-Jack costume tonight. Too bad his wispy blond hair doesn’t stand up as well as it did when he was a newborn.
Years ago, October also meant watching classic movies with the kids. The “Halloweentown” series was always a favorite, along with “Twitches” and “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”. No one was crazy about the original “Hocus Pocus” in our house, but I admit to sitting down with our now 21-year-old earlier this month to watch the new “Hocus Pocus 2”. There were plenty of laughs, especially the scenes where the centuries-old witches discovered the promises of anti-aging “potions” in the drugstore! Maybe their delight hit too close to home for me.
Pumpkin carving evenings with our college-aged kids provide more recent favorite Halloween memories. I failed in our first attempt at a party, waiting too long to buy the pumpkins. I remember stopping to pick them up on my way home after a busy day at the office. Of course, I waited until the very night the kids would all be there to carve.
It must have been a tough year for pumpkins, because I couldn’t find a single one! After rushing from store to store, my panic rising, I got creative. If carving pumpkins is fun, carving gourds would be just as cool. Maybe even better, since they come in more unique colors and shapes.
If you’ve ever tried to carve a gourd before, you’re already smiling. Did you know that the shell of a gourd is much, much harder to cut through than a pumpkin?
Our daughter’s new boyfriend joined us for that ill-fated pumpkin carving party, and he was the only one in the bunch that refused to be deterred. Everyone else gave up. His tenacity to cut through that nearly impenetrable shell was telling. We are now proud to call that young man our son-in-law, and I’m still relieved his knife didn’t slip and sever a finger. I’ve never been a fan of Halloween gore.
Another year, we kept the pumpkins in the garage until the big night. You can imagine the stampede of six or seven big bodies, pushing and shoving to get to them first for the best selection. They came armed with big ideas, but didn’t always have the skill or patience required to see their imagined creations through to fruition. But it didn’t matter. The evenings would end with all of them sitting under the bay window we used to decorate together, showing off their artistic abilities.
For me, Halloween is about the memories we’ve made and the opportunity to make new ones with our expanding family. I know some people love Halloween, and some hate it. That’s fine. One of our kids has never been a fan, either.
There are aspects of Halloween I’ve never liked, either. I refuse to watch the gory movies and find overly sexy or gross costumes silly. I think of Halloween as a time for kids to play make-believe. It may be the only time in a child’s life when he or she can feel like a princess, or a pony, or a superhero.
I also love the warm colors of October, captured so beautifully by nature in crisp leaves, round pumpkins, and crisp apples. It’s the simple pleasure of sneaking a third (or fourth) miniature candy bar out of the black candy bowl on the one night we can cheat without feeling guilty.
Halloween is a time of transition. Where I live, we are leaving behind the warmth of summer and moving into the darker, colder months of winter. Soon we will thaw turkeys, make lists of gifts we want to buy for loved ones, and pull out the tubs of Christmas decorations. This brief holiday serves as a doorway from one season to another.
Wishing you a spooky good evening, Kim
Kimberly Diede Author
Hello everyone and welcome to my blog! My name is Kimberly Diede and I'm a fiction author and family girl. When time permits, I am happiest with a great cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. I love to alternate between reading and writing. Winters here can be long, dark and cold. Summers are unpredictable, lovely and always too short. Every season of the year, as in every season of life, is a gift. Let's celebrate it together!