Jeannie Bruenning Author

I finally turned 60!

I turned 60 last month. I find this funny because my birthday was in February. 

I love birthdays, not for the gifts and celebrations, but for the milestones they represent. Afterall, I’ve worked my whole life to be this old…I’m going to enjoy it!!

That has been my mantra – that is until I turned 60. For some reason there was nothing remarkable about 60. Instead, it was an arrow pointing to – the rest of your life where you’ll be able to do much less than you used to.

After months of resistance, I had a serious talk with myself. “What’s the deal? You love birthdays, why is this one different?” It typically takes 24 hours for my other self to figure it out and spit me out an answer.

And spit me out an answer is exactly what my other self did. “You didn’t prepare for this one.”

WOW – sometimes my other self is brilliant!

I hadn’t prepared for this one, I was still living the crazy decade of my 50s. And in the last 5 years, I was so focused on caring for those around me that I forgot to turn 60.

What changed?

Well, that non-sensical dream of long hair got cut off. I got a wig for when I want to pretend long hair is youthful. Short hair is awesome!

I’m filling my closet with long sun dresses and cool shoes, cause this old lady on the hill likes the way they feel and look. 

I’ve finally figured out what makes my tummy happy and it’s not yogurt, whole grains, veggies, or almonds. NOPE, it’s tri-tip steak and hamburgers. 

I’m not waiting on others any longer. I’ve spent a lifetime waiting. Get in step or don’t – I’m ok with either choice, but I’m not hanging around waiting for you to decide. 

I’m also no longer going to hesitate to speak my mind (when appropriate). That’s the great thing about being old – you clearly understand appropriate and NOT appropriate.

Shaun the Jeep is for sale! Yep, she’s served me well, but my time has come to up-grade. And up-grade I did. Shaun is waiting for her new owner who needs new beach adventures. It’s not that I’m not looking for new adventures, they are just different now.

My new love is big-ass, Mercedes Benz 450 SUV. It seats 7! I was told it’s the perfect Neenee (grandma) car because I can take so many with me (meaning all the grand-kids). And they were right. But I don’t think that is why I fell in love with her. 

She is big, audaciously big.  She is more than I need, way more. She sucks gas like there is an endless supply. She floats down the highway like the tires aren’t touching the pavement. When I need to feel superior, I can beat anyone out of the stoplight gates. 

I love her because I don’t need her, but I really wanted her. I love her because there is nothing practical about her.

I love her because I’m 60 – and I’ve worked my whole life to be this old, and I’m loving it!!

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Who gets the…

What’s the secret to a long marriage? Answer: There isn’t one. 

Marriage is an adventure. It has ups and downs. Good times and dark times. Ruth Graham, the wife of most holy Billy Graham, said she never considered divorce – murder on many occasions – but never divorce. 

Jeff and I have made it through 41 years. Secrets? I don’t believe there are any. Lessons? There are many.  Here are my top four:

1. A marriage license has little staying power. The contract that I attribute to making through those crazy years of school schedules, careers, and not know exactly how you made it through each day, was this: Whoever breaks up the marriage GETS the house, kids, debts, and possible the dogs. No legal assistance needed. If a newer model was in one of our futures, they better be ready for 2 kids, house mortgage, credit card debt, and pets – it apparently worked. 

2. Protect your differences. Jeff and I are opposite. We are so opposite that he would disagree with that statement. It took me a long time to realize how important it was to protect our oppositeness. Opposites attract – but once the oppositeness goes away, so does the attraction -opposites may even find they really don’t really like each other. 

When opposites stay opposite, the attraction remains and their hearts still skip a beat when the other walks into a room – even after 41 years.

3. You will spend more years with your children as adults than as children – so raise great adults – enough said.

4. Never lose yourself. No matter the title; spouse, parent, child, career, that is what you do NOT who you are. The titles will change – and some may even go away – you have to live with YOU for the rest of your life. 

There they are – my top four life lessons on marriage and children. Be willing to let go, protect, nurture, and always work toward being the best version of you possible…it also helps to choose a great partner!

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Goodness it’s Friday

Here’s a glimpse into moments of real life when you’re generationally living…

It’s Friday evening and Jeff is at church for the Good Friday service.  I have just returned from the grocery store with food for Sunday’s dinner. I’m watching the clock because I’ve determined that I will sit down and watch the service live. It would be lovely if it were uninterrupted, but I did mention the generational thing. 

The service has started and in the movie scene in my head – I am sitting in my favorite chair with a glass of wine listening to the piano and voice I know so well and pausing to reflect on this important day. BUT Raun, our oldest, challenged me to make April a dry month and knowing it was a good idea I said, “YES”. So I sit in my comfy chair, listening to the harmonies and readings of the service streaming into my living room without a beverage in my hand. 

A short while into it, I realize that a two year old has joined me and is circling around the coffee table in the middle of the room. At closer notice, she seems to be quietly reciting something. I smile and turn my attention back to the service. I’ve attended a lifetime of Good Friday Services and of any church service this is a dark, heavy, sad, service and the music tends to be kinda durg-y . But it’s a service that remembers the darkest, heaviest, saddest day, so I understand the durginess. 

Now the two-year-old has climbed onto the round coffee table making it difficult to ignore her. She is still reciting something. She scoots her bottom to the edge, and carefully slides off landing on the floor and flops a round a little. 

Scripture is being read on the TV screen that leads into responsive reading about the arrest of Jesus. The two year old pops up from her floor flopping and begins circling the table again. There’s a lovely soprano singing a beautifully haunting song as candles are being sniffed and the two year old climbs back up on the round table, scoots on the edge, slides off, lands on the floor and I finally am able to hear what she has been reciting, “Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.”

“Are you being Humpty Dumpty?” I asked. 

“Yes”, she said proudly. “I can show you how to do it!” She offers with great excitement. 

“Well, I’m listening to Hoppy…”

“But you can do it…”

“I know I can do it, but if I fell off the table it would be a big fall.”

And now the final candle is snuffed, darkness fills the screen and the harmonies of “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” drifts out of the speakers and the little one climbs back up on the wall for her final fall.

Crosses, candles, Jesus, Humpty, tables, music, it blends together on this holy night and in a strange way feels as if it was destined to be this way.

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The wisdom of a two-year-old

Living with a two-year-old is something you take for granted in your twenties and thirties. Having a two-year-old around in your late fifties brings new joys. 

Amelia was six months old when we moved on the hill. It was no surprise when one of her first words was, “Hi!” With six adults living here, there wasn’t room she entered without someone greeting her with “Hi Amelia!”

Amelia turned two in September. She already had a mouth full of teeth and a full vocabulary. Five word sentences, understanding concepts that are typically reserved for four-year-olds, counting, and color recognition was well under way.

Her brilliant mom got her on a sleeping regiment after realizing that this was going to be kid who fought sleep. Now, a snuggle, a story, a little song, and sleepy time is moments away. La La Lu from Lady and the Tramp is always her first request. However, this Christmas Amelia switched it up a bit. She would say, “You sing La La Lu and I’ll sing Jingle Bells.” This wasn’t easy to do – but we all gave it our best.

Amelia doesn’t waist words. When I can’t understand what she is saying, she simply slows down and over annunciates until I do.

I took notice the first time I heard, “I need a hug”. Instead of crying when she feels scared, afraid, hurt, or sad, she simply says, “I need a hug.” If mom or dad aren’t near, one of the rest of us will do. A good hug makes all the sadness, pain, or fear go away. 

The morning she and Nana found a lizard in the kitchen, they put it in a bag and set it free outside – free to find it’s mommy and daddy. Now, anytime Amelia sees someone who looks lost or lonely, she says, “He needs his mommy and daddy.” This includes Ratatouille as he is floating through the sewers, Alice as she is wandering through Wonderland, and the Grinch – who clearly needs a mommy to give him a hug. 

Empathy flows from this kid. She can immediately sense when someone is frustrated or sad and she’s there by their side, rubbing a shoulder, snuggling in close, giving a hug, wiping away tears, and sweetly saying, “It’s okay, I’m here.” 

I’m not sure we need anymore in life than what Amelia has already discovered:

  • hugs take away our fears and sadness 
  • everyone needs someone like a mommy and daddy 
  • singing before bed is good 
  • take the time to make sure you are understood

It also helps to be able to sing different songs at that the same time!

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A Good Leader?

“Those dirty democrats.” That’s what my mom used to say. She grew up in Chicago in the 30 and 40’s so she came to this conclusion honestly. When Jimmy Carter won, and mom found out that my dad had voted for him, she was out of commission for 3 days. Turns out, Jimmy Carter is likely the most public servant president there ever has been. 

Mom passed a year ago, so I’m not sure how she would have responded to this election – except that I can see her wrinkling up her face, squinting her little eyes, and those same words would have passed her lips, “Those dirty democrats.” But she was in her 90s and earned the right to be a little loony.

I’m to a democrat or republican. Growing up I thought I was a republican. But that was back in the 70s when all the Evangelicals were on the “Moral Majority & Family Values” war path – this was at the same time when many Evangel leaders were – you know what-ing their secretaries – but as far as our country went, they held everyone else at a high standard. 

When it comes to election time, I look for leadership. Good leadership. A good leader will always have my best interest at heart. 

Last week someone posted a picture of our now former president. It said something like, “They don’t like him because they can’t control him.”

And that was it – it all made sense to me. Good leaders don’t need be to controlled, far from it. Good leaders are in control of themselves and thus can lead. If a spouse needs to be controlled – sorry to say, they aren’t a great spouse. If a parent needs to be controlled – they are lacking in their parental abilities and will likely raise children who will struggle in life – especially with authority. Good leaders are also not controlling -those who feel the need to control – lead out of fear.

I wasn’t a fan of Trump, never have been. Wouldn’t want to work for him, or be in the same room with him. Wouldn’t want my daughter to work for him either. He throws aways wives like they are disposable income. My husband always says, “You can tell a lot about a man when you meet his wife.” From the little I know, I believe this holds true in the Trump household. I am not sure about the men who thought Trump was the world’s answer to all it’s problems, my assumption is they must share some of his chauvinistic qualities. And my heart aches for the women who think his type of leadership is strong. You see, you can’t be a strong leader when you don’t respect most of those you are hired to lead. 

I cried when the news finally reported that we had a new president. I cried because I no longer had to be respectful of someone who was so disrespectful for so many segments of our population. During the last 4 years, I felt that I needed to be respectful even though I felt like an abused kid who still had to make weekly phone calls to their abusive parent. He was the sex offender who smiled and said, “It isn’t that bad…” I cried because I felt free. 

This is the second time in my life that I’ve had to overcome this feeling a abuse. I am an abused kid. 

I’m expecting to get responses that say I’m crazy, I’ve blown this out of proportion…but that is the same response I received  when I told people what had happened to me…so I’ve learned to not listen to those voices. 

This is my reality. 

I am grateful for the change in leadership. I’m over the moon that we finally have a cabinet of diversity. I’m excited to see what comes from a leader who isn’t afraid work along side and across from women. A man who boldly expresses his respect for what they bring to the table. I am excited to see how far our new woman leadership will take us. 

And in my head, I giggle when I think of all those men who raised Trump in high regards…cause they have to hate what is going on.

Ok – let’s be honest – I giggle out loud. 

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