Embrace Your Differences

My column from the Albert Lea Tribune the week of April 9, 2018

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf

IMG_0300I was getting ready to meet my grandchildren, one of whom is a teenage granddaughter, and I wondered if I would pass muster and dress appropriately so I wouldn’t embarrass her. I know she used to enjoy my quirky and colorful clothes, but that was when she was little and wasn’t as aware of what her peers were doing.

To be fair to her, she has never acted embarrassed about introducing me to anyone, especially her friends. I happen to love her teenage friends because they are so respectful and fun to be with, but I wonder if silently she may question my choices.

I have toned down what I wear in the last year or two. I must admit, I haven’t felt as if I was myself in my senior adult clothes choice, which is what is expected of someone my age. I tried to conform again.

Recently with all the hoopla surrounding Kelly Ripa and Brooke Shields and the criticism for wearing bikinis at their age, I thought long and hard about my choices. No, I do not plan on trying a bikini — I never looked good in them, but I happen to think these two women looked beautiful. It is their choice to choose what they wear at their age and not our business.

When I changed my natural hair color and went red a few months ago, I did have to endure comments from people who thought the drastic changing of my hair color was terrible. I got many more compliments than criticism, but it is the criticism that stayed with me.

My mom wasn’t a dresser and did not take good care of her looks. I know now she just didn’t have time, and clothes were not important to her. Although recently finding pictures of her in her early 20s, I realized at one time she had style and her clothes were beautiful. Somewhere in her busy life, she lost all that. I must admit, at times I was ashamed of the way she dressed and the fact she had bobby pins keeping her hair in place long after bobby pins were fashionable. I was a teenager, and it wasn’t my friends who gave me a hard time about how my mom dressed. It was other adults such as relatives and neighbors. They would ask me as a teenager and especially as an adult why I didn’t do something. As a teenager, I didn’t know what to do and as an adult, instead of not seeing dementia taking hold, I tried to help, but to no avail. The bottom line is I should not have been ashamed. That was who she was.

Recently, I acquired some bright clothes with wild patterns, and they really are me. The first time I put on a wild pair of pants my husband asked, “You aren’t really going out in that are you?” I proudly replied, “Yes, I am.”

I was told to dress brightly for a small school play I was involved in by Retired Senior Volunteers. I wore my bright clothes everywhere that day. I smiled all day; I felt like me.

I have a cousin who I got to know when she was a teenager. She is now an adult, a mother, and a beautiful person. Her mother, who I love, lamented during her daughter’s teenage years that her daughter liked to shop at thrift stores when they had more than enough money to buy the best of clothing. This teenager went on to college and earned a degree or two and first was going to be a lawyer or a doctor and follow in her family’s footsteps. But she knew this life wasn’t for her, and now she works for the DNR at a lower wage than she would have made at one of the other careers.  She lives in a beautiful state, tracks wildlife (yikes wolves) and works on sustaining our environment. She followed her own path. She knew early on who she was. She knows her value and is happy with her choices.

This is my advice for the teenagers in my life and in yours. God made us all different. We come in all different shapes and sizes. We like different things and have different personalities. Embrace that. Why would God make us each different if he wanted us to try and all be the same?

As a teenager, follow your style and don’t wear clothes just because they have a certain designer label or because you feel you need to look like your friends. A true friend will embrace that. Be you. Be different because God made you uniquely you. Celebrate it. Don’t let anyone make you feel you are less smart or less beautiful because you are smaller, bigger, look different or have flaws. Those flaws are all part of the wonderful you. Live your life. Take it from an adult who didn’t learn these lessons until I got old. Making choices to accept who you are in the noise of the world will be your pathway to a more peaceful life. If we were, all the same, it would be a dull world.

Love Is Earned

Boris, our hulk of a cat at 17 pounds, came to us via a friend of my daughters. He had hidden somewhere in a vehicle and ended up at a home that couldn’t keep him. I took one look at him and knew he was for us. From a tiny kitty, he grew to be a handsome boy that has always loved to cuddle and be near one of us at all times. He is not a mischief maker but quiet and mellow.

A couple of weeks after we adopted Boris I saw Natasha at an adoption event sponsored by a humane society. It was clear she was part Siamese and also around 7 months old, the same age as Boris. We hadn’t planned on adopting another cat, but after seeing Natasha, I couldn’t forget about her, and a week later we contacted the humane society and Natasha came home with us.

It was clear from the start Natasha was a troublemaker. She immediately was able to unlatch our bi-fold door between the kitchen and the porch and enter the room. We had to put a hook on the door and then she tried to unhook the hook. We had to put child locks back on our cupboard doors in the kitchen, and occasionally we spend a good amount of time trying to find out where she is when she hides somewhere, including inside the back of our recliner. And any closed box is a challenge to her.

Where Boris loved to be held, Natasha was standoffish. She would only be petted on her terms, wouldn’t come out when we had company and mostly ignored us. In looking into her history we found she had been born and raised in the shelter. We thought that contributed to her not wanting to be held or not being very social. She loved Boris, and the two of them were two peas in a pod although he would look at her at times and we could only guess he was thinking, “What is she doing?”

We have had our two cuties five years. About two years ago, Natasha would come to me and sit for a few seconds so I could pet her. Soon she moved to sleeping down at the end of my bed. During the day she began to follow me around. As time passed, she decided she liked to sit up near my shoulder and she even began to purr, which was something that we heard very seldom.

And then about six months ago she began to sit on the arm of the chair where my husband sits when he watches television. She wouldn’t stay very long and wouldn’t get on his lap or shoulder, but we could hear the purrs when she was there. One day she decided she wanted to be picked up and carried on his shoulder like a small child. She looks over his shoulder just like a baby would and she now will meow when she wants him to pick her up and walk with her. The minute he stops or sits, she is done and gets down. She also enjoys a ride in the empty clothes hamper across the floor back to where it is supposed to sit. She will sit at the laundry room door waiting for her ride.

Before I go to sleep and right away in the morning she now climbs up on my chest and nuzzles my nose and then sits for at least 15 minutes purring while I pet her. She is the last thing I see before I close my eyes and the first thing I see when I open my eyes in the morning.

It took over three years for Natasha to give us her trust and love. During the years she was being standoffish she would sleep with and nuzzle Boris for comfort. I suspect other cats were the only way she was given love her early months. Not that the volunteers at the shelter didn’t give her love and attention but it wasn’t what she needed to bond and trust.

Her mischievousness didn’t always make life with Natasha easy. Loving her was not always easy. But we persevered, and no matter what trouble she got into or how distant she was, we always tried to let her know she was loved and cherished. We had patience and after three years we didn’t think she would change, but eventually our loving her won out and she is a loving, cuddly cat and she trusts us.

Maybe as humans, love can win out, too, when it comes to each other. We don’t make it easy for someone to love us. And trust has to be earned, especially after it has been broken. If we are hurt, we pull back. We become standoffish.

Or perhaps the other shoe is that we think someone is beyond repair, and so we give up on them too easily. We don’t understand their past or the hurts they have suffered. Maybe others have never had love and because of it find it hard to trust.

Natasha has taught me patience can eventually have its reward and it is possible to break through the barriers if we love someone through the muck of life. The outcome purrs are worth it.

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

Shop Til You Drop In Small Town America

Something About Nothing, By Julie Seedorf

This year I am going to pretend I am Oprah and name some of my favorite places and spaces for Christmas shopping and eating out. I like low stress when it comes to shopping, and visiting small independent local businesses not only take the angst out of shopping but I grab some fabulous finds.

For me, mellow started on Thanksgiving. I had a new book come out the week of Thanksgiving so I decided to be lazy and let Lacey’s Catering 22090035_1819744724983181_2499230896523968824_nin my hometown cook Thanksgiving dinner for me. We had turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green beans, cranberries and two different flavors of pie. I wasn’t disappointed, in fact, it was better than my cooking (you’ve heard about my cooking) and my family stuffed every morsel in their mouths.

23754766_1371564572965476_4145206500419971528_nThe next place I would highly recommend is Bruss-Heitner Funeral Home. Yes, you heard me right. I am shopping at the funeral home and not for the perfect urn or casket but Christmas gifts. The Bruss-Heitner Boutique is now open for business after they transformed former offices into a gift bonanza and filled it with unique items from local artists and crafters. The wooden star you will see on my living room wall I purchased there was made from wood taken from my parent’s house before it was torn down and made into a piece of beauty by a gifted crafter.

We are lucky my hometown also has the Humble Heart, 23472374_1701478276551519_3230222304644100673_nanother venue for gifts. A glass angel I gifted to a friend was designed out of old glass dishes. It was hard to choose an angel because each one was different.

Other small communities have peaceful shopping for the holidays. The Quilters Cottage 10710730_955780407769267_3365013144510390678_nin Kiester not only has some easy patterns and fabric for someone like me who wants to make some gifts but is not an experienced sewer. Make sure you take time to smell the candles, try the lotion or take the time to see what else the cute store offers.

Not too far from Wells, located on the old Highway 16, is Antiques of the Midwest, 20264901_1537186343004760_656795874063435660_nhaving recently relocated from Albert Lea. I couldn’t pass up the cute cat vase that I didn’t need and if I can talk myself into parting with it, it will make a great gift for a friend. And they have a giant blue Mr. Blue from the M&M candy collection that would be perfect for your friend that collects unusual things.

My Christmas shopping wouldn’t be complete without buying a few books for my family and to find book gifts I will drive to File Nov 27, 10 39 20 AM.jpegSweet Reads in Austin. I love meandering through the store and watching the electric train traveling around a track near the ceiling in one of the rooms. This year I will be picking up another inspiration bracelet and a pair of mittens, which are made by another local artist whose items are carried by Sweet Reads.

There is nothing like stopping by the Interchange 11070394_968250563199729_5383895795576492739_oin Albert Lea to have a hot coffee drink, pick up a bag of coffee and browse the gift section and artwork on the wall. Be careful if you buy the toffee for a gift because you will want to eat it and it might not make it into the gift box.

When I am traveling around to the smaller communities there are a few places I love to stop at to have lunch or dinner. Buckley’s Bar and Grill in the tiny town of Walters, Club 569 in Easton, the Willows in New Richland or if you are in Bricelyn and visiting the Brush Creek Boutique, make sure you stop at Bud’s cafe.12484784_811421885670285_3670615173410327605_o.jpg They were voted as having the best pancakes in Minnesota.

Wineries are also a place to shop — and not just for wine. And Three Oaks Vineyard and Winery in Albert Lea is the place to find a gift of wine for someone special. Area wineries also offer various venues for shirts and other clever gifts.

15940568_671581753023139_7016903072361831703_nDon’t discount area museums. My small town museum, the Wells Depot Museum, has gifts for the history lover. Visit your community museum and learn about the history of the area and then give someone you love the gift of memories from the past.

If you are ready to shop until you drop, do it in small-town America. Look for those unique out-of-the-way places. They are out there to be discovered. If you have a favorite place, list it in the comments after I post this article on my blog http://sprinklednotes.com. Give yourself the gift of peace and tranquility shopping at the small, independent unique places and spaces. The adventure you find in rural southern Minnesota while shopping for the ones you love will be one you will never forget and keep you coming back time and again. And you can’t beat the customer service of a mom and pop shop.

After you have chilled out and experienced the tranquility of small-town unique, give your list another tweak. Stop and drop off a donation for a local charity to help those whose stress is not a rarity, the hungry and poor and those who will have no gifts at their door. You will have found another reason for the season.

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Now I want to put a disclaimer in this post. If you see my books in some of the pictures, yes, some places carry my books but that is not the reason these are my favorite spaces. These are my favorite spaces because of the merchandise, the ease of shopping, the ambiance of the businesses and the friendly proprietors. Shop til you drop. And if you have some favorite businesses be sure to comment and if you want to share a picture or something you bought with your comment. There might be a free kindle book in it for you. Merry Christmas.