Rhonda Cagle

Ten Gifts for Myself on My 47th Birthday

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2014 at 8:11 pm

Like death and taxes, birthdays are the only sure thing in life. And, like death and taxes, they come around whether one likes it or not.

Photo: BirthdayPartyBabble.com

Photo: BirthdayPartyBabble.com

Me? I don’t mind Birthdays. And, unlike some people who try to hide their age, I have no hesitancy in disclosing that I turn 47 this week. The truth is, I am relieved to be turning 47. There is a lot of water under this bridge and it feels more congruent to have my chronological age reflecting all that life has brought, all that I have endured, and, in some part, what I have learned, lost, fought for, and sometimes won.

The truth is that I am a middle-aged woman. This is a glorious, shocking, humbling, breath-taking, and often humorous reality. But it is my truth and I choose to own and celebrate it fully, knowing there are lessons I have learned that wouldn’t have come at any other age or stage in life. These lessons are the gifts I am celebrating on this, my 47th Birthday.

  1. Begin each day with the end in mind and live each day with the purpose, clarity, and conviction of this point of view. At 47, it takes more than two hands to count the loved ones I have already lost. Life is hard and time is often shorter than I realize. Knowing what matters, what is truly important, helps me get the most out of living each day.
  2. Not everyone is going to like me. That’s okay, as long as I like myself. It is cliché, but really is true. I have to look myself in the eye as I gaze into the mirror each morning. It’s important to like the person I see staring back at me; the person I see myself becoming. At this age, the shape of who I will be at the end of life is beginning to show. It’s more important to like who I see than to worry about what others think.
  3. Kindness really does matter. So do good manners. With age comes the realization that life brings seasons of harsh bitterness that are unavoidable. A kind word can serve as a pumice stone to a calloused soul. Good manners remind me to look for civility and beauty in what is sometimes a horrifying and often uncivilized world.
  4. Good wine and dark chocolate are usually the best remedy for a bad day. Just go with it. Seriously. Deprivation and a smaller dress size won’t make up for an unhappy soul.
  5. I don’t have life all figured out. No one else does, either. Some people are just better at faking it than others. There is a relief in being with people brave enough to admit they don’t have it all figured out and yet are still trying. These are the people I want to surround myself with.
  6. It’s okay to say no. No to what is expected or obligatory. No to what I know I am fully capable of doing. Sometimes, saying no is really a way of saying yes to something else; something different, new and perhaps important, something that will take the time and energy created by first saying no.
  7. Never turn down the opportunity to take a nap. Also, eight hours of sound, uninterrupted sleep is better than the best sex or drugs. This is a truth that only a middle-aged, menopausal woman can fully appreciate.
  8. Say yes to the chance to do something unexpected. Impulsive. Adventurous. Much of my life is spent trying to be a responsible grown-up. Too often, I am so busy trying to make a living; I forget to make a life. Saying yes to the chance for unexpected exploration or an out-of-the-blue opportunity makes me – and life – more interesting.
  9. My true friends are scarce and worth their weight in gold. I can count on one hand the number of people who are close enough to tell me when I am wrong. Selfish. Too stubborn. They are also the first to run to my defense and fight for and with me. These are the people worth keeping in my life at all cost.
  10. Someone wise once said an unexamined life is not worth living. But it is equally true that an unlived life is not worth examining. Life is meant to be lived. Out loud. Arms wide open. Messy. Complicated. Pure. Unadulterated. With a passion so intense, there is nothing left unsaid or undone when it ends. In God’s hands, and with God’s grace, this kind of passionate life is one that brings pleasure to Him and is a gift to others. And to me.

Gifts of Comfort and Joy

In Uncategorized on December 10, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Recently, my husband and I found ourselves packing for business trips to the East Coast that coincided in the same city at the same time. Pulling out my wool coat, scarves and gloves, I was reminded of the business trips my father used to take; remembered watching him pack his fold over garment bag with suits and ties and stock his briefcase with pads of paper, pens, and lots of business cards.

As a teenaged girl, my father was frequently on business trips that took him to the Midwest and East Coast. He would brave the snowy cold of city streets with only his suit coat to keep him warm. Being the sole provider for our family, there were better things to do with his money than buy a coat that wouldn’t be used on a regular basis.

Still, it bothered me to think of my father trudging through ice and snow without a wool overcoat. So, one Christmas, I decided to do something about it.

I took the money I had earned from my after school job and made my way to the stores. I looked through many racks of coats at several clothing stores to try and find a wool overcoat that would keep my dad warm and look professional over his suits. After finally finding one I could afford (sort of), I took the coat home, wrapped it in Christmas paper, and placed it under the tree.

It still makes me smile, remembering the look of complete surprise and delight when my dad opened that gift. It was unexpected. Extravagant. Thoughtful. And all these years later, my heart still warms with pride remembering the next trip my dad packed for, seeing his new warm overcoat draped over his suitcase and briefcase. Knowing he would be warm was comfort to my own heart.

Photo: zimbio.com

Photo: zimbio.com

I told my husband this story as I insisted he come with me and shop for his own overcoat in preparation for our respective business trips. My husband didn’t own an overcoat. Like my dad, my husband insisted he would be fine in the freezing temperatures with his suit coats and perhaps a sweater or two. And, like my dad, he was equally appreciative of stepping out into the winter winds a few days later, wearing the warm overcoat I had found.

What is it about the gift of a coat that warms my own heart?

Each year, I make sure our family adopts at least one Angel Tree child from a local charity. We make sure to purchase the items listed for the child. But I always add a warm coat to the pile of toys and clothing we return for the child.

In my professional life, I see many children whose names are often on Angel Trees in other parts of the country. I see the coats they trudge to school in; see the stains and rips in the too small or too large hand-me-downs they shiver in. Worse, I see the children who insist they are fine in only a sweatshirt or hoodie, determined to make due with what they own because they can’t afford more.

I am thinking of these children as I select my own Angel Tree child this holiday season. Life is hard for these Angels. Winter winds blow and the snow and ice comes.

I can’t change the weather or the storms. But I can make sure they have a coat that is warm and comforting. Unexpected. Extravagant. Thoughtful. It’s the best part of this holiday season – one I hope you will join me in sharing.

Originally published in print for The Arizona Republic, December 3, 2014

A Tribute Worthy of Life

In Uncategorized on September 29, 2014 at 7:15 am

Do me a favor, please. Hug the people you love, for no reason other than you can. Go ahead, do it right now. Pull out your phone and text your husband that you love him. And your mom. Or maybe your daughter. Perhaps all of them in a big group message.

Better yet, invite them to lunch or dinner and tell them how much they mean to you. Be specific. Don’t be shy. Let them know all the reasons, big and small, they make you and your world a better place.

Seven years ago on September 29th, my beloved husband Dennis lost his battle with pancreatic cancer just 18 days after he was diagnosed. Those 18 days were a flurry of doctor appointments, hospital stays, and precious moments with him, sandwiched in between all of the other medical stuff.

My beloved husband, Dennis Cagle.

My beloved husband, Dennis Cagle.

He intended to write letters to each of his children. To me. He never got the chance. Instead, we are all left with bits and pieces of affection and affirmation that were shared and spoken in between the endless parade of doctors and nurses, friends and colleagues.

I know I was loved – deeply and completely – by this man who was my own life and breath. He told me so, over and over, during those last days.

Sometimes, though, I wish he would have left me some additional parting words of wisdom, some advice on how to keep breathing in and out after he was gone. I have wondered so often what he would have wanted and hoped for me. For my daughter.

Somehow, I believe he would have said to me what I would now say to my new husband and my daughter – what I would hope for my family and friends.

Live your life. All of it. It is a gift; even the hard parts. You will be afraid sometimes. You will think you are failing, falling. In those moments, realize you are simply reaching down deeper into parts of you that you have not yet discovered to grasp onto courage you did not know you possessed.

Make room for the possibility of hope in your heart. Even when the shadows seem dark and foreboding, they offer evidence of a light that still shines somewhere, otherwise there would be no shadows; only darkness. Hope is there, waiting; shining. The light will come again.

Faith and doubt, joy and sorrow, spring from the same well. Drink deeply. It is the cup of salvation.

More than anything, know you are loved. Completely. Wholly. Joyfully. Surround yourself with those who both give and receive this same great love in your life.

On the anniversary of my husband’s death, I will read these words to myself. I will remember and honor his life by living my own and loving those who are in it.

Originally printed in my column for the Arizona Republic on September 24, 2014, but not published online. 

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