My dad's legacy published on strong-woman.com

Remembering My Dad and His Legacy

My dad, Wayne H. Ramirez, born September 28th, 1934, would’ve been 82 today. At the time of his death, he had five grown children and ten grandchildren – a big part of his legacy.

He died June 8, 1997 after a long illness and I’m certain that he intentionally held on past June 7th, my brother’s birthday. That’s the kind of man he was – smart and strong-willed.

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Wayne H. Ramirez age 26

Even though he passed almost 20 years ago, when I think about him now and wish him a happy birthday, I regret that I may not have done so with joy and love in my heart when he was alive.

We had some issues.

First, a little bit about my dad.

My dad didn’t like picnics because he said he was born under a tree and he’d had enough of picnics.

The youngest of 7 children, they were migrant workers and traveled from South Texas to Michigan to work in the fields.

His parents named him Wenceslao but somewhere along the way some one decided Wayne was easier to pronounce and spell, so that person or agency changed his name to Wayne.

A gifted musician, my dad played the saxophone and was drum major at Lanier High School on San Antonio’s westside in the early 50s. After that, he played with local orchestras all around San Antonio.

Legacy-Remembering Dad-published on strong-woman.com
Circa 1955

My dad worked for Civil Service at Kelly Air Force Base for more than 20 years, working with computers when one was as big as a truck. He programmed dot designs and would bring home printouts of Snoopy and other comic strip characters and he’d bring that thick paper from computer card cutouts that made the best confetti.

My parents loved to dance and my dad would spin my mom around on the dance floor for Mexican polkas and Cumbias. I’m so grateful that he dragged me out on the dance floor and taught me to dance even when I insisted I didn’t want to learn.

Legacy - Remembering Dad published on strong-woman.com
A night out – 1966
He had so much going for him, but something kept him down.

I could never really figure him out. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to literature, Shakespeare’s tragedies, and to 20th century tragedies. When I read “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller my senior year in high school, the similarities between Willy Loman, the main character, and my dad fascinated me. Protagonists with tragic flaws. The bigger the character, the more tragic the flaw. And my dad was a character.

There’s so much to say about a life.

My dad was smart, inventive, creative, fun-loving, witty, and funny. He was also tenacious, stubborn, and could be manipulative.

He liked to drink. And then he had to drink. And then alcohol became what he was and it motivated everything he did. When he had thoroughly ravaged his body, he stopped, but the damage was done.

Legacy - Remembering Dad published on strong-woman.com
July 1976 – Mom and Dad

Honor your father and your mother. I don’t think I did a very good job of that when he was alive. I was angry. I had a hard time not judging him for what he had done to his own body, not to mention all that we went through with his shenanigans.

I used to ask him to stop drinking. He always said it was between him and God. I’m grateful that God is in charge of my dad because I know for sure that God loves so perfectly no matter the flaw, no matter the vice and no matter the deed. His love is so perfect that He takes care of all His sheep, no matter what. I fall way short of loving like that.

My dad’s birthday reminds me of his life and how he lived: He married my mom and they raised 6 kids, built their life together, committed to send each of us to Catholic school, and took us on vacations. My dad taught us how to water ski even though he didn’t know how himself, loved the Dallas Cowboys, took us on adventures, and worked hard to provide for us. Until gradually, for some reason, he fell into the trap of alcoholism and that changed his life, relationships, health, and legacy.

Remembering my dad’s life and legacy has got me thinking about my own legacy and asking:

What legacy will I leave?

I’m creating my legacy every day. Just like my dad did and like every one does. How you live, what you do, who you help, your character, your words, and your actions determine your legacy.

Every day is a day to make that better. I know I still have work to do. As long as I live, I’ll be creating my legacy. All of us will.

Take care of yourself with a quiet commute published on strong-woman.com

Take Care of Yourself

Take care of yourself so you can take care of everyone and everything else you have to take care of. It’s a simple concept of course. It’s just like the safety directions when you fly on a plane: When cabin pressure drops, the oxygen masks drop from overhead. Put the mask on yourself first and then you can assist others.

You’re not even supposed to assist your own child with his or her mask until you’ve already put your own mask on. It makes perfect sense. You’ve got to have what you need before you can help anyone else.

Taking care of yourself – body, mind, spirit – is not always easy. Women, especially, tend to put children, grandchildren, parents, even pets, before their own needs. Lots of things can get in the way, so make your self-care a priority and do what you can to make sure you stay feeling healthy and strong.

Here are 10 simple strategies to help you take care of your mind and spirit.

  1. Take at least 3 minutes of quiet time every morning. Find a quiet spot (closet, bathroom, shower) and turn off the television, radio, phone, computer, etc. Set a timer for at least 3 minutes and then be still, close your eyes (if you’re sitting) and focus on your breath. To help quiet your mind, say to yourself, “Breathe in. Breathe out,” and then deeply inhale and exhale. Feel the air fill your lungs and your chest, then exhale. Quieting your mind helps ease negative effects of stress.
  2. Prioritize. When you’re prioritizing your list of things to do, remember to put yourself on the list and then stick with it.

    Take care of yourself by prioritizing published on strong-woman.com
    Take care of yourself by prioritizing. Put yourself on your calendar.

  3. Say “want” instead of “need”. I read an article where the author (I can’t remember where or who!) said that changing 2 words shifts thinking. This was one of the words. Surprisingly, I said “I need to do …” a lot and changing it to “I want to do …” made me look at my to do list with a different perspective.
  4. Say “and” instead of “but”. If you’re like me and you say “but” a lot, this one might be tricky. Give it a try and see if it changes anything for you.
  5. Count your blessings. In the midst of deadlines and commitments, gratitude can shift your perspective. There’s a saying that goes, “A grateful heart is open for blessings.” Give it a try.
  6. Have a quiet commute. Turn off the radio, phone, podcasts, etc. Focus on your breathing for at least a few minutes and then have some quiet time with your own thoughts. You can pray, sing, laugh, or just be silent.

    Take care of yourself with a quiet commute published on strong-woman.com
    Take care of yourself with a quiet commute.

  7. Use your resources. Friends are often willing and ready to lend a hand if you let them. Hire help. Get referrals from people you trust. Consider getting help from your children or grandchildren. Be patient. Think of the time you spend instructing them as an investment. They learn and you get a helper!
  8. Push back. When you can, negotiate deadlines, more help, or flexibility to make things more manageable for you.
  9. Filter the input to your mind. Bad news, drama, negativity, and conflict sell. Be mindful of the mass media you choose and remember that the body goes as the mind goes. Click here to read a previous blog post about the mind-body connection.
  10. Surround yourself with positive, loving people. As much as possible, minimize exposure to manipulation and gossip and choose friends who lift people up.

Try at least one of these strategies to help you take better care of yourself.  Think of it as putting on your oxygen mask for the day so you’re better able to love and care for those you love.

Woman facing sunrise published on strong-woman.com

Book Review – Life Reimagined The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife

I was browsing the books at a local book festival when I came across Babara Bradley Hagerty’s book released in March 2016 entitled Life Reimagined The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife.

Life Reimagined Cover published on strong-woman.com
Life Reimagined

Being in my early 50s and having some midlife awakenings of my own, the title intrigued me. Written as part memoir, part feature story, part scientific study, Hagerty focuses primarily on the mental, physical, social, and emotional experience of people at midlife and beyond. She interviews scientists who’ve studied aging and people who are maneuvering through the challenges of midlife.  The questions about this life-stage are numerous, but here’s a sample: Is there such a thing as a midlife crisis? What determines if a person will thrive at midlife and beyond or simply survive? Is Alzheimer’s preventable? What about dementia? How can one make the most out of this stage of life?

She addresses all that and so much more, including resiliency, purpose, “generativity”, attitude, midlife marriage and friendship, altruism, and work. In all of these areas, she interweaves her own experience, the experiences of others, and the research. This intermingling makes the text flow easily and never sounds like a news report or clinical research paper.

Older couple romantic published on strong-woman.com
Romance is important at any age.

One note about the content –

The book has many, many footnotes, nearly 60 pages of very small print. They often include elaborations that offer additional perspective on the subject being discussed. Even with those details in the footnotes, the book is 378 pages. Lengthy, but loaded with memorable stories, characters and conclusions about midlife and well worth the read.

Takeaways

I had lots of takeaways, but the most memorable one touches on a topic that I blog about regularly: exercise. Specifically, exercise and mental acuity.

In the section “How to Build a Younger Brain”, the author spoke to Kirk Erickson, researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, who found that brain training and other mental exercises “help people preserve their cognitive abilities” but when he started conducting exercise studies, “He realized that nothing will keep you as mentally acute as raising your heart rate a few times a week. Nothing.” Exercise is good for your brain, from preserving brain tissue to improving memory. (p. 203)

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“…nothing will keep you as mentally acute as raising your heart rate a few times a week. Nothing.”

Fork in the road

Midlife feels like a fork in a road, but at this fork, I feel a little more urgency. After all, I’m not getting any younger. What if I wind up in the weeds?

I liked Life Reimagined because it explores midlife from lots of angles and tells stories about what others have done, how it’s worked out for them, and what researchers have learned about how to continue to be happy and healthy for all your days.

Woman facing sunrise published on strong-woman.com
Consider the possibilities.

Bette Davis once said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” In the end, it’s for each of us to decide our path and, by the Grace of God, live life to its fullest. Midlife is a good time to re-examine what that means.

Have you read any good books lately? Please share in the comments.

Picture downloaded from Pixabay and published on strong-woman.com

Group Exercise – Why it’s better than going solo

You’ve probably heard that exercise is good for you. Good for the body; good for the mind. Piles of research indicates that exercise improves mobility, mood, mental health, alertness, memory, sleep, sex, and overall well-being.

Right. You get it. Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. You may even believe it, but it’s still so hard to stick with it. Life gets in the way!

Picture published on strong-woman.com
Should I go workout?

Want help overcoming excuses? Want to make sure you get moving even when you really don’t want to?

Join an exercise group.

Fitness/Exercise/Running/Dancing/Martial Arts Groups can make a big difference in making exercise part of your healthy lifestyle for a lot of reasons. Here are a just a few:

Fun – Whether you absolutely love your workouts or dread them, it’s more fun when you’re surrounded by people who can relate to your struggles and celebrate your victories. Try different groups until you find one that’s a good fit for you. Keep at it. You’ll know it when you find it.

Picture downloaded from Pixabay and published on strong-woman.com
Cycling Group

Encouraging – Find the group culture that keeps you going. You may be struggling through a workout or really challenging yourself and then some one tells you, “Great job!” or “You got this!” Simple words of encouragement can really keep you going. You may be surprised to see yourself doing what you thought you would never be able to do.

Perspective – Groups generally have participants of all different fitness levels and you may be tempted to stay home because you “can’t do all that stuff”, but when you see some one who’s older, sicker, less-fit than you are and they’re out there doing their best, you’re more likely to think, “If they can do it, I can do it.” No matter what your level of fitness is right now, go out and do your best.

Picture downloaded from Pixabay for strong-woman.com
Sunrise group

Consistency – Nothing and no one can make you exercise, but finding a group and an activity you like will help you be more consistent. Stay committed and be consistent with your workouts and you’re more likely to realize benefits.

There are lots of options: boot camp, Zumba, Jazzercise, Barre workouts, Tai Chi, yoga, and so many more. Find one you like, show up, and enjoy the company. Make your workouts fun and they won’t seem like work.

Have you had a great experience with group exercise? I’d love to hear it. Share in the comments below.