All Worry and No Play

Lately, I’ve been having trouble keeping my emotional balance. I’ve felt as if at the ripe old age of Pushing Sixty, PMS has come roaring back in all its cranky, anxious, snarky, restless, un-beautiful glory. This is a function of dealing with a parent in hospice, coming up on the first anniversary of my mom’s death, traveling, looming tax season, and of course, our current political dramas. (Why must they be so plural and so endless?!)

I refuse to malinger in this uncomfortable state.

My first prescription to settle my nerves is beauty. I want pleasures for my eyes, ears, nose, and tummy to soothe and reassure me. I’ve bought myself flowers, ordered a few more Paddywax candles (jasmine, gardenia, and tuberose), donned my All Scotland cashmere scarf, and tuned in to some Brandenburg Concerti.

It helps. I can’t control the Big World, but I can decorate my little corner of it, and fortify myself accordingly.

My next step in the direction of keeping my emotional balance will be to play. As a foster care attorney, I’ve come across the little known fact that predicting which foster kids will succeed and which kids will fail isn’t complicated. Two things earmark the likely successes, and they aren’t brains, race, religion, grades, physical health, height, gender, or any of the usual suspects.

The first characteristic of kids who can succeed after early trauma is that somebody modeled for them a healthy definition of love. This person didn’t have to be under the same roof as the child, but they had to be a regular, reliable, benevolent presence in the child’s life.

Delray the Wonder Pony

The other indicator found in children who are likely to soar after a rough start is… the ability to play, to have a fun time without getting in trouble. As a society, we don’t make play a priority. We have one of the longest work-years in the developed world, with the fewest holidays. We are not the most productive workers, either. The French, who have a shorter work day, work week, and work year, are among the countries who out-produce us. This would be the same French who just passed a law that employers can’t pester employees with emails outside of business hours.

In the foster care system, there is no money for recreation, no such thing as a budget for play, though for very young children, there are play therapists. Experienced foster parents know to listen for laughter, though, because when a child can honestly, joyfully laugh, they are on the road to overcoming their challenges.

So I’m keeping an eye peeled for what it looks and feels like when I play. I suspect horses are involved or maybe a piano. Heck, I might even have to join a book club!

What are you doing to stay on an even keel these days? When was the last time you laughed out loud? To one commenter, I’ll send a Paddywax “Jane Austen” candle.









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37 comments on “All Worry and No Play

  1. I am reading books that have a strong hero that burden all her responsibilities and give her his attention. These books are usually in the days of powerful Dukes and Earls and are completely unrealistic but they are balm to my bruised and hurting spirit.

    • That’s one reason I enjoy historical. Yes, the gender roles were more rigid (though not as rigid as the Victorians wanted us to think), but honor was a clearly understood concept, and respected as such.

  2. I laugh out loud everyday. I learned long ago that when I’m feeling down, laughter works for me. I don’t know why. There may be some science behind it. All I know is, when I’m feeling down, I seek out things that make me laugh.

    Humor is subjective. We all find different things funny. There are episodes of SEINFELD (the festivas celebration at the Costanzas’) that still would have me rolling on the floor – if I thought I could get back up again.

    My go to authors for humor are Joan Smith and Barbara Metzger. There sections in books by Julia Quinn and Eloisa James that I have bookmarked. Just reading them brings more than a smile to my face. They bring laugh out loud laughter.

    • Good on ya, for keeping it light. I notice in the courtroom that we have a variety of humor that only that group of people understands. It’s not always polite, but it’s funny, and lordy, do we need some funny in the halls of justice from time to time.

  3. In my defense, I’m a)not a morning person and b)my current wardrobe consists of things that are too big or not big enough. Several weeks ago, I got dressed and noticed that I was having trouble zipping up my slacks, but because of defense b) above, didn’t worry about it. Finished dressing, drove to work, sat down at my desk and looked down and cackled out loud to realize that my pants were on inside out. Still don’t know how I did it. The receptionist said she’d never heard me laugh so loud. Don’t recommend public humiliation as a source of humor but being able to laugh at myself has helped a lot over the years.

    • I’ve done this too, changing at the horse barn to put on the lawyer clothes. I was all ready to switch hats, storm the to-do list, Katie-bar-the….
      Somebody pointed out that my pants were on inside out, the tag flapping in the breeze.
      Yikes! That would have really impressed the clients.

  4. I am in the overwhelmed not sleeping phase, too.

    Last Monday, I was overwhelmed.We had 14 inches of snow over the weekend and the commute was awful. Have a new job and am learning 2 new clients. It was a busy and stressful day. I got home, said Hi to my husband and Molly the corgi and took a shower. Brewed a pot tea, had dinner and fell asleep at 7:30 with Celeste on my lap.


    Usually, a cup of tea and a good book help. Have been reading two series that I am really enjoying. And am trying to head up to bed by 9:30 — no late nights. I remember that when my daughter was little we had a routine- bath book and bed; I am trying to follow that routine!

    Am heading out to dog class which helps me with the winter blues. We haven’t been in 3 weeks and am curious to see if Greg remembers his long sit and if Celeste behaves! I thinking getting out of the house…meeting with friends, going to lunch or dog class…helps to break up the week and the long winter! I need to concentrate on something else, not work or housecleaning!

    Have a fabulous week…stay warm and cozy.

    • You know, I’ve been sleeping like hound after opening hunt. Utterly zonked, though I’m not being all that active. I’m reminded AGAIN that I don’t bounce back quickly. Being in different time zones, going without solid sleep, not in my own bed… I got worn out. I don’t think I can quite do 9:30, but I can do lights out at a reasonable hour.

  5. I am a political junkie, but to be totally honest the system has wore me down. So, I have stopped reading the political blogs, stopped watching the news and eased off from CSPAN. Stress and aggravation exacerbates my pain and winters in the south don’t help it either! Sometimes, you just have to give yourself, me time. So, for me, I shut down the tv and power off the computer, and read.

    Right now, I am re-reading the lonely lords book and have not decided to read the True series after reading Becks story or just move on to the next book in the series. The reason I stopped on your website to look around and decide which book to read on. I love how you bring your characters to the other books. It’s like meeting friends in unexpected ways and having a good chat. I read a lot, partly because I enjoy it and when the pain won’t go away with painkillers. Trying to concentrate is hard, so a good book sometimes help a little bit and I don’t concentrate on the pain. I am not sure if that makes sense to somebody that hasn’t dealt with chronic pain.

    Block some time off for yourself and do what makes you happy. Life is way too short!

    • I’m glad the books help–writing them does for me what reading them does for you. Makes the world go away for a few hours, and restores my perspective.

      I found a bucket of bulbs that I hadn’t planted this fall, and we’re having the January thaw right now. Nothing like planting bulbs while wearing your parka and jammies!

  6. Hi Grace. You forced me to think about my life and how I manage it. This year I will do more poetry writing, plan out a prettier garden and list ,every day, a happy memory from the past. I especially want to focus on my kind, loving, funny husband who I miss so much. No more moping about it….just gratitude that we celebrated fifty years together, shared four sons and six grandchildren. Smile a lot more!

    • The last thing I do before shutting down for the night is list five things I’m grateful for–and BE grateful for them. Sometimes, it’s an empty exercise, other times, it can kick my mood out of rut. I truly am grateful to have a clean, warm, safe, private place to sleep. I am grateful for running water–this time of year, you leave the cellar door open by accident, and all heck can break loose with your pipes. I really am grateful for writin’ buddy to have lunch with… and so on.

      The Undertoad is too much with us lately, and the best Undertoad repellent I know is genuine gratitude.

  7. I am revisiting things I used to love. After our contentious election in November, I began to watch an old favorite TV show (Seinfeld)almost every evening instead of the nightly news. That got to be a bit much (as much as I loved it), so now I Ti-Vo “Jeopardy” and watch it every evening instead of the nightly news. It takes my mind away from things as surely as Jerry and Elaine did, but it also has made my brain snap back into action.

    I am between rehearsal cycles so I have a bit more free time as well….I read A LOT. And I am waiting for your latest rather impatiently!

    Giving my mind a vacation from all the stress and strain of this year (2017 should be interesting, shouldn’t it?) twice a day seems to be helping me get through all that and the recent Ice Storms in the Midwest. So far. 🙂

    • I’ve always liked Jeopardy, and wondered what lunch with Alex Trebek must be like. Does he remember all that stuff? Has the show ever been wrong?

      I’m sooo glad to be away from the nightly news, and yet, it was something my dad could watch without having to keep track of storylines, continuing characters, or cliffhangers. Sound byte, sound byte, sound byte, and I’m guessing as soon as he left the living room, most of it left his head.

      Which is a good thing.

  8. I’m still meditating daily, which isn’t as soothing or easy as a few months ago, but it is giving me a space to be with all the uncomfortable feelings & thoughts without ripping into loved ones who don’t see the political issues or solutions from similar perspectives. I may rant in my head, but not at them since it won’t help amything.
    Beloved cats are keeping laughter and play in my home. It also helps friends are circling around to launch me into imminent next round of training.
    Tea, fuzzy socks, audiobooks from library…the sex scenes seem to coincide with when I need to cook a meal, much giggling ensues there, then texts to share giggles with girlfriends.

    • I have never had the nerve to ask my audio narrator, “How do you READ that stuff OUT LOUD?” He might ask me how I write it…

      Flowers help my mood, as does starting the days when it’s not pouring down wet by sitting on the porch with a cup of tea and an empty mind. It’s appalling, how hard I have to argue with myself to just go sit and do nothing when I’d rather start the day by opening the Work In Progress and getting busy on a scene.

      The scene will be there, the morning sunshine is precious.

  9. I wholeheartedly agree with you and also face challenges that have over the past few months made me feel overwhelmed. I choose not to make a New Years resolution this year, but made a few promises to myself. First fresh flowers each week to brighten the house,secondly reaching out to new people and reconnecting with things I’ve enjoyed but haven’t had time for and lastly set a reading challenge for the year. So I’ve committed to teaching a class in heirloom sewing and English smocking with a group of ladies that belong to a different church. Great way to broaden my horizons and decompress.

    • I’ve been tempted to try another quilt. Something about working with fabric, making a tangible, hold-able bit of beauty, soothes like nothing else.

      Hope your classes are full of fun people!

  10. I feel you…pushing 60 (yikes!) myself, dealing with an empty nest and having lost both parents, I sometimes feel at loose ends. I adopted a dog and after training we are now a certified therapy team. We work with Head Start preschoolers and a classroom of multiply disabled students. It’s wonderful to see the kids interact with my dog in a way that’s totally different from how they interact with people. I also learned to knit so even when I’m relaxing my mind is concentrating on what I’m doing and not going off on its own twisty path! Good luck!

    • I’ve been hoping my daughter would wander into the animal assisted therapies. She’s a certified vet tech pursuing a bachelor’s in social work, who loves animals. Maybe she’ll come up with the world’s first therapy cat?

      And for me, it becomes increasingly obvious that I need to be around horses. They ground me bodily in a way nothing else does… c’mon spring!

  11. As I approach 62, ( next week) I’m reminded daily that the most important things in life are free. A smile, laughter and even my dogs running with a squeaky ball can turn a gloomy day bright.

    I recently had a young lady show up at my door that had run from her home. As I talked with her and waited for my daughter, who is a forensic therapist, and the police to show up I realized I’d put my goal of fostering teens on hold long enough. Your post reminded me that laughter is the best medicine and taking time to play is priceless.

    I work from my home and set my own hours. I wish I could tell you I feel bad that most of the people I know don’t love their jobs, but I don’t. I’ve learned that if you pursue what you love to do and it happens to be your profession, you are blessed indeed.

    I know I’m not telling you anything new that we live in a crazy mixed up world and what some people do to their children is appalling. I’m willing to try and make a difference one child at a time and what you said about laughter and play resonated with me.

    Thanks for sharing your heart and thanks for all the wonderful lives you create through your stories. I can’t wait to read each book as they come out. My mom, who’s been gone for 20 years, used to reread her favorite books and I didn’t understand that until the past few years. I feel every time I reread one of your books I’m reading about friends, staying in touch at it were. To reread them reminds me of their joys and struggles and helps bring meaning into my life. You just gotta love fiction!

    Thanks for the confirmation that foster care is a significant giving of time where the rewards far outweigh the challenges.

    • Foster care is where transformation can occur–for good, but also not for good. The national statistic is that one out of four children are abused or neglected IN foster care, and that… I cannot wrap my head around that. Those are just the cases we know about, too. Some states have a much cleaner bill of health than other, but it underscores that you–who have the foster care calling–are much needed.

      The lawyers, social workers, judges and therapists all have a role to play, but it’s in the foster home that a kid can see the love, often for the first time.

      Best of luck–and love!

  12. I’ve made myself pull back from following the political world – had trouble getting to sleep with all the whirling thoughts & concerns. So I leave time before bed to read happy stories. I’ve also been more conscious of taking Vitamin D (since it’s been so gloomy many days this winter) & a multivitamin .

    • I think many of us have pulled back, started choosing our battles, and refining our social media connections. I’m on FB a lot less, which is sort of too bad. My rule of thumb now is to stay off unless I have something positive to post.

  13. I turned 60 a few months ago and WHOA! How did that happen? How did it get here so fast?

    I’m in the process of some big changes–retiring this year, selling my house. I want the word ‘fun’ to be a bigger part of my life this year, and the years to come.

    One of the ways I’m having fun is playing with makeup. I’ll wait for the laughter to die down….yes, women of a ‘certain age’ still like makeup. I watch youtube videos! Sometimes I try what I see posted. Sometimes I laugh. Sometimes I troll the makeup aisles looking for a particular product that is sure to make my skin glow, or make my lashes flutter like Bambi, or a lipstick that will make me look like a Hollywood vixen.

    Whatever. It’s fun, I relax for a while, and it keeps me looking ahead.

    • OK… This is the time and place to admit I don’t know how to use make up. I have early childhood memories of watching my mother apply eye shadow (blue!), and lipstick, but that other stuff… I’m not sure how my sisters picked up wearing make up, because Mom didn’t show us, but of the four ladies in the family, I’m the the only who never figured it out.

      And my face reflects this. I got Mom’s Celtic fair skin, but unlike my sisters, I haven’t been using an SPF-15 foundation on it for decades. Oops.

      So you play all you want. Why not?

  14. The best decision I made in recent months was to limit my time on social media. In an attempt to stay informed, I was spending a significant amount of time on social media sites and it was absolutely detrimental to my mental health. How can I expect my rage levels to decrease when the first comment on every news article is something ignorant or obscene or intentionally antagonizing?!?! I now limit that time and find other avenues to access news and it has been life changing for me!

    I have also begun spending more time with my like-minded friends. They are intelligent, caring women who also happen to be hilarious! I call that a win-win.

    • “Intentionally antagonizing,” says a mouthful. It really is click BAIT, intended to get us riled up rather than informed, and to me, that’s a betrayal. I’m riled up enough, thanks. Now help me make sense of it, and find a way forward.

      Social and media and news aren’t where I can find what I need. Your friends sound like the perfect answer.

  15. Hi Grace,
    I have not been here for a while! Happy 2017 to you and all the wonderful ladies that post here. Your comments really encourage me! Its funny how any time I came back I find that my life is reflected in so many others!
    I am really having a hard time trying to disconnect from politics and all the election horror we went through. I feel I have PTSD from it like many others in our country! It has never bothered me before. I am really not sure why I can’t just let go! So I have been praying that God really help me to move past that! That He inspire me and open my eyes to new opportunities around me! And one thing that always helped me is reading! Never fails! So I have been reading good books, I have taken a challenge of learning a new language and avoiding any politics news on TV and online. I have also started to learn embroidery! I think after reading so many historic romance novels I decided to try. Its actually really interesting and I am having fun! crazy quilting is really cool.

    I went back to gym for a walk in the treadmill today ( its horrible cold to walk outside and the gym was empty today) and while there I continued to read “Ashton” that made it bearable! Its really a hard thing for me to go to the gym…

    My dog Diamond is a big help! I really take time to play with her and it really fix my mood! Her love and dedication to me is amazing – Nature has always a way to also bring me joy – there is a flock of wild turkeys in my street – 33 of them and if Diamond and I are outside when they are crossing the street she goes nuts and they fly! oh its pretty funny to see them flying afraid of her ( she is Yorkie!) they fly and go to the very tall pine trees … first time I saw I could never believed in a million years that they could fly that high!!!! But the same turkeys are fearless keeping the deer away from my back yard! Its really funny!

    Grace I am really sorry for your family member on hospice. My heart goes to you and yours. Hospice is very close to my heart – I work getting authorization for hospice – making sure their insurances really honor the hospice benefits they pay for. So I read the nurses notes and my heart just goes to the families and patients. It gets to me every time! Big hug to you!

    • Sounds like you’re a one woman powerhouse of coping mechanisms. I enjoy knitting, quilting, and embroidery because I think there’s something beneficial about making and just HOLDING soft, pretty things. My kitties are my best buds, especially when I’m writing, though I also have a goofball dog who’s good for the occasional laugh.

      As for hospice… the people I feel sorry for as those who don’t have hospice, who have to go through heroic measures for no reason, or spend their last days in a clinical setting instead of with all the comforts of home. Dad loves his little house by the sea, and hospice lets him be there. That’s a good thing.

  16. Right now I’m listening to the Brandenburg Concerto No 3 – should be listed as an example of exuberance in the dictionary. 🙂 I love Bach.

    Thanks for reminding me of beauty. Next up, Pachelbel’s Canon.

    In return, you might like this. I heard the presentation on NPR today, and here’s a transcript. I think you can also listen to it. This pleases me but doesn’t surprise me. I grew up around forest.

    • I saw that article, and it makes me want to go stand among the sequoia and be amazed. I’ve always loved big trees, and now I have a better sense why. The next step will be when we learn that the animals and the trees can communicate…. Might be time for me to try my hand at some fantasy writing?

  17. Wow! What is it with all us 60+ year olds today. I hit my 62nd 10 days ago. Still can’t believe that I’m that old. How did that happen!! However, I got to fulfill a “bucket list” last year and go to Scotland with my best friend.It still brings a smile to my face when I remember all the interesting places we visited and all the fun we had. How wonderful to have a hubby that says “go and have fun” when I asked him if we can afford it. We need to play and we need to reach out when God puts us in a position to help one another. Just today a much loved, elderly lady confided her financial burden to me and I was able to help (anonymously). Be Blessed and Be a Blessing….(p.s. Thanks Grace for your generous goody box of books and more)

    • For me, each decade has been better than the one before. I hope to keep that trend up for a long, long time. I’m not prettier, I’m not stronger, I’m not richer, but I’m happier and maybe wiser. (Also spending more time in Scotland).
      Or maybe I’m keeping better company. Yes, I think that has a lot to do with it.

  18. I got a nice tax refund, my husband said I could do whatever I want with it. I got season tickets for Broadway shows that come to my town. Saturday, I saw “An American in Paris”. I really enjoyed it. I have a fun event this weekend, hanging out with my girlfriends. My birthday is in February. I have already planned a nice weekend.

    • Good on ya, Anne! For enjoying yourself, for supporting the arts, for hanging with your tribe, and for choosing a guy who makes the occasional smart choice himself–like telling you to enjoy your refund.