Reflections – Who’s That in the Mirror?

Gayle_Cheyenne bookstoreThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

We all look in the mirror, some people more often than others. Me, I’m not much for mirrors because I generally don’t like what reflects back at me. I especially dislike full-length mirrors.

My husband and I attempted a lifestyle eating change in October, and we did wonderfully for about four weeks. He lost 8 pounds and I lost 9. We had good intentions of continuing our new habits, but the 15th wedding anniversary trip to southern Utah took place, and though we didn’t do too badly, our downward spiral began with this trip. Other trips, work-related, ensued for both of us, and by Thanksgiving we were toast (and eating toast – with jam even!)

Now that Christmas is around the corner and we’ve received gifts of candy and cookies, have eaten pie, and anticipate a large, yummy meal on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, our weight-loss plans are nixed until the proverbial New Year when nearly everyone in the world resolutes to “loose weight.” Boxed DVDs of exercise programs await being popped into the player on January 1st. I’m a planner, if nothing else (although I confess I bought those DVDs last January and they are still in their shrink-wrap packaging!)

Gayle with book buyerAlthough I may not like my physical reflection that stares back at me, aging, graying, and growing rounder, I admit I do like the reflection I see in my writing career. In 2014 I was blessed to work with a company that produces two regional magazines, and to write for both publications, eight articles for one magazine and four articles for the other. I also wrote regularly for the Casper Journal, and had a pet column every week for 12 weeks in one newspaper and a monthly pet column in another. All this in addition to my three to four monthly articles, including pet column, for Our Town Casper magazine … and my “day job,” at which I work 27 hours a week – and school visits, at least twice a month. I even conducted four regional speaking engagements plus booksignings and released a new book. It was a banner year overall!

In 2015 things changed a bit. One of my newspaper pet columns went bye-bye due to changes in the paper’s features, and one of the magazines gave me only four instead of eight assignments. However, the other upped from four articles to six. The Journal also decreased the number of features given to me. However, I picked up SEVERAL Vietnam veterans stories to write via the same publishing company, and they also ran one of my children’s books as a serialized story for more than 12 weeks. I also began writing occasionally for an online publication geared toward pregnancy centers. My school speaking opportunities grew, even though other types of speaking opportunities fizzled, and I revised a children’s book I had produced a few years ago and made it available on Amazon. That and the serialization lead to the local school district purchasing several copies for a school that wants to create an environmental education site on its grounds. I had a few book tours and signings and made in-roads with some of my works in progress, getting ready for 2016. Up and down, and back up again, that’s the nature of the writing beast it seems. Reflecting back, I can’t complain at all about 2015 and the writing and speaking opportunities that came my way.

One of the “ups” is being part of Cherley’s All About the Girls project. I have two stories in that book, one about my mother and another about her mom, my grandma Mardy. Those two women have positively impacted my life, and really, without them, their encouragement and love, I likely would not be a writer. Neither woman attended college, and neither of them were writers. Their gift is/was that of encouragement and also of selflessness. Grandma helped pay for my college and while in school, I studied journalism. That eventually led to becoming editor of the West Yellowstone News and to many years serving as a reporter. I also dabbled in magazine writing, which later produced wonderful offspring, including several short stories in various Chicken Soup for the Soul editions as well as the magazines I have written for and currently write for.

mom and gayleWhen I do garner enough courage to look in the mirror, I can see some of my mother and my grandmother reflecting back. Both women were/are courageous and persevering. I’m not as apt in those traits as the two of them, but I do believe I possess some of those characteristics. If I didn’t, I couldn’t have endured the past 25+ years as a writer. I may not be JK Rowling, Rebecca Mead, or Jeff Goins, or any of you, my fellow Writing Wranglers, but I do persist… even when I sometimes want to throw in the towel. At times, it’s very difficult for me to juggle so many assignments and so many responsibilities – in addition to the writing career and the “day job” at a medical clinic, I have work at home, including the care of four (aging) pets. Lack of sleep makes me cranky, and when I’m that mood sets in (or the 55-year-old female hormones kick in, making me EXTRA cranky!) I want to chuck it all. During those times, I conduct a soul-searching and have a good long (sometimes loud) cry.

Then I receive a card or a Facebook post, both of what I recently received … and, shockingly just last week a request to interview from a major corporation for a communications manager position (they “found me” via my LinkedIn profile) – each instance reminds me there are people who read my writings, who value my work, and who believe what I compose matters.

Grandma Mardy2I look at my reflection, at times with blurry red-eyes, and I see my Grandma Mardy At 85 years of age and a stay in the hospital for a blood hemorrhage, that woman took a plane a few weeks later and flew from Iowa to Montana to spend six weeks with my parents; I was fortunate to spend a week with all of them during that time. It was only her fourth plane trip and it would be her last, but she lived another six years, and she was able to remain in her own home until her death in August 1990 at the age of 91.

I see my mom, too, who, with my dad, lived without electricity or running water in a beautiful Montana mountain setting for nearly 12 years. They primarily hunted and raised their own food, had wood for heat, and solar for the minimal electricity they needed. It was not an easy life, but they lived like this purposefully and productively, pursuing a dream they created together.

Courage, perseverance – in my family, in my genes … and in my dogs.

Sage_Cody_PorchSitSage lived without sight for most of her life and she endured. Cody, at nearly 18 years of age, continues today despite many times being at death’s door. Sage died in 2012 from cancer, but she lived every moment, to the very end, with dignity and tenacity. Cody lives that way, too. I have to carry him up and down stairs and I change his bedding several times a day. But, his stubby tail still wags, he still snuggles with me on the couch, and he still pads around the cabin and mountain property, reminding me there is value even when it may be difficult and in spite of failing health … or low book sales and vanquished freelance projects. There is value because there is always something still out there to do, whatever that “something” is.

My mother, my grandmother, my dogs – they reflect back at me in the mirror. Some of that reflection is physical (well, hopefully I really don’t look like a dog, no matter how cute I think they are!). But mostly that reflection is experienced in the invisible – in their character.

I’m a writer, among so many other things, and I always will be… in spite of blurry eyes, a round middle, and graying hair which reflect back at me. That corporate job? I’m still not sure about following up – lots of factors to consider. But how honored and humbled I feel to be “courted!” And how thankful I am for the reminder that my writing is appreciated and valued!

How about you? Do you mind looking in the mirror, whether physically, emotionally, or academically/career-wise? What do you see in your proverbial (or real) mirror?

May you discover the value of who you are and the importance of what you do, and may you always see that special reflection — the one who is uniquely YOU!

MERRY CHRISTMAS, MY FRIENDS!!

Gayle_Mary_reading event

Gayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, Cody’s Cabin: Life in a Pine Forest, and two dog devotion books: Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God and Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. Visit her website at www.gaylemirwin.com.

SageBigAdventureFront-small    Cody Cabin_New Book CoverImage   Walking_FrontCover_small   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014

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24 Responses to Reflections – Who’s That in the Mirror?

  1. Joe Stephens says:

    I was born chunky. My mom shopped for my clothes in the husky department at Sears. I’ve always been self-conscious about it, even getting into really good shape a couple of times in my life. I’m getting to a point where I’m comfortable in my skin, though, I’m being forced to eat more carefully by a balky stomach and arthritic knees. I hope to lose some weight just to take some strain off my skeleton and not to look better. So I guess what I’m saying is that, while I’m not really excited by what I see physically, I’ve come to peace with it. On the inside, I’m still growing, but I’m happy with the direction I’m going.

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    • Hi, Joe — thanks for y our insights and comments. I think many of us, as we age, don’t really like what we see in the mirror regarding our physical appearance. I had lunch with college friends yesterday and we were all talking about how we’ve changed during the past 30 years. Yet, all of us were happy with our careers and other aspects of the “who we are,” and certainly, I’m grateful for the reflection of friends and family. Setting goals and pursing them — that’s important, as are the relationships that make up our lives. Merry Christmas to you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wranglers says:

    Unlike Joe, I’m not at peace with my weight gain. No matter how hard I try, I’m too weak. I’ve never had a weight problem until the last 10 years, and I’m miserable. I was very happy to finish editing, and writing my part on “All About the Girls”. There was a glitch, the book’s cover came out blurry. I have sold (at a discount)or gifted the copies that I ordered for myself. Then I worked on the cover some more, and this time I didn’t jump the gun. I ordered 3 more copies, this cover is clearer, but still I knew I could get it better, so I am now awaiting the proof one more time. Besides health issues, that’s the high and low of my year. As always I am happy for your progress. Cher’ley

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    • I can relate, Cher’ley — I caught a glimpse of myself in the glass door at work last week and it stopped me in my tracks, and not in a good way! I’m going to work on getting back on track in the New Year and attempt to be more serious about losing weight in 2016. I’m looking forward to the New Year writing-wise with some potential new opportunities … and lots of school visits to start! I pray you and your family have a very Merry Christmas!

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  3. Great post Gayle. I have three problems that really bother me – crooked teeth, extreme hair loss and my weight. It’s only been through the therapy I’ve had to undergo through the last three years for Bipolar Disorder that I’m learning some very important things. My folks didn’t have the money for dental care and it certainly wasn’t a big priority for those who went through the Great Depression. I have had an underactive thyroid for over 30 years that caused my hair to begin falling out. Add Bipolar meds and I’m nearly bald in some spots. The Meds also caused weight gain and my primary Doctor told me no exercise over the summer because of my back problems. In my 40’s I lost 50 lbs on Weight Watchers. My first back surgery followed and all that hard work dissolved as I lay in bed recuperating. I tell you all this because I’ve learned it’s not how nice your teeth look, how beautiful your hair is or how much you weigh that determines who you are. It’s what’s inside that counts and never more in my life has it been truer for me than it is right now. I’m very happy with me. You are such an inspiration, Gayle, that you certainly shouldn’t worry about your weight or anything else. Your kindness and purpose for good shines through your eyes and the work you do to further the love and care of dogs cannot be measured. The people who are blessed to work with you and read your books are very fortunate to have a “little piece” of you. You have a giving soul and I don’t think anyone thinks about any of your flaws – they are just happy to be around you! Merry Christmas!

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    • Wow, Linda, you have the great gift of encouragement — THANK YOU, THANK YOU! It’s hard to not reflect to when I was in my early to mid-20s and wore six 8 jeans and dresses… but you are so right. Although my heart isn’t where it should be most days (that crankiness I spoke about), my passion for pets is a gift I truly believe God gave me and I do indeed love to share and to help such a cause. Thank you for seeing that and for reminding me what is truly important. I am blessed to “know you” virtually. Merry Christmas to you and your family, and again, thank you for your sweet words of encouragement!

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  4. Doris says:

    Gayle, a beautiful and inspiring post. We all have that special something that makes us unique, but a commonality that we all share. We all have so many blessings, that when we are ‘down’ can lift us up, if we take the time to look.

    Here’s to a continued 2016 and beyond full of love, joy and so many blessings. Doris

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    • Thank you, Doris, for your words of wisdom and encouragement. I’m blessed to know you virtually and in person, and I hope for more opportunities to “meet high in the Rockies” next year! Merry Christmas, my friend! I treasure our friendship and your support!

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  5. Kathy Waller says:

    Gayle, this is a wonderful post, and I’m not thinking about the mirror. You and have done productive and worthwhile things that, to me, sound like adventures. Despite the downs, there are so many ups. And a major corporation wants to talk to you! Mirrors change–and have you noticed that what you see varies from mirror to mirror?–but what you’ve done in life doesn’t. I’m marking this post to read for inspiration periodically during 2016.

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    • Thank you, Kathy — I truly appreciate your kind words. I need to keep this post close to my office desk as a reminder as well. I may not be the “fairest of them all” but I know the passion I have for pets and the desire I have to write culminate in (hopeful) good for society in general and pet owners and pet rescues in particular. I hope to continue doing both writing and rescuing (or at least helping rescues) for years to come. Merry Christmas, Kathy!

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  6. Neva Bodin says:

    Well, I certainly relate about the weight. I have always felt I was chubby, hefty, etc since the teenage hormones kicked in, I grew a large bust, was short-waisted…etc. But now I look at my pictures and think, “I was actually just right! I wasn’t heavy!” So now I question, am I as bad as I think I am now? Unfortunately, my scale says “yes!” But, probably the only one whose mind this problem weighs on is mine, even though I think everyone else must be thinking about it as much as I do. And, truly, although weight is an issue because of health related problems it can cause, it’s your personality that I see when I am with you, it’s your giving and sharing nature that I love. And I am amazed at all you accomplish each year. You are an inspiration to those of us who know you. And, yes, a new year for resolutions. (I don’t intend to keep!)

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    • It’s hard to juggle so many things, and working out/dieting/weight, etc. is one of those things that can be difficult to manage with all else most of us have going on in life. Relationships, such as I share with you, Neva, are so vital to a person’s well-being, and having the commonality of writing and the cause (pet care/adoption for me) for which one is passionate allows those relationships to mature and maintain. Thanks so much for being my friend, my listening ear at times, and like so many in this online group, my encourager. Merry Christmas to you and Arlo!

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  7. Wow, I thought I was busy. Congratulations and good luck.

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  8. katewyland says:

    It’s funny, when I look at myself in a mirror at home I think “not bad.” But when I see myself in a store window or photo, I go “who is that?” In my head I’m still in my 30’s and I think I can still do the same things physically. I have to keep reminding myself that I now have limitations. While I haven’t made the writing progress I wanted to, I’ve had plenty of other things to take my attention this year. Cross my fingers 2016 is quieter.
    Good luck with all your projects.

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    • I can so relate, Kate! The other day I took a double-take when I saw my reflection in the glass door at work. I’m jumping back on the lifestyle change in 2016 — especially after all the chocolate I’ve consumed this past week!! 🙂 May we both make positive progress in our writing worlds in the New Year!! Merry Christmas to you and your family!

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  9. Mike Staton says:

    You saved the best for last — Sage and Cody. I can see why your dog books are popular. They’re wonderful animals and you’re good at capturing their personalities in your words. And I’m glad your freelance writing career has been mostly up, up and away.

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    • Thank you for your kind words, Mike. My dogs bring me great joy, even though sometimes they are a great amount of work!! I miss Sage a lot for some reason these past few weeks — maybe because of Cody’s declining health, I’m thinking of her more and more. Mary, our cocker/springer mix, is a good girl and I am in hopes of writing a children’s book about her very soon. I’m hopeful for a positive 2016 — I hope the New Year brings you great joy and success, too. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Mike!

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  10. I know I want to throw in the towel and give up so many times when I don’t feel that creative spark, am overwhelmed, or am just feeling rejected. But we’re all creative people here and we value sharing a part of ourselves with others, whether it’s through words, song, or painting. When things seem hopeless – like why am I doing all this again? – something positive or rewarding pops up out of nowhere when we least expect it. It’s these little magical moments and words of encouragement/appreciation that keep us going. We just have to trust that these magical moments will happen – because they always do! Inspirational post, Gayle. Thank you!

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    • You are so right in all regards, Sarah! There’s a song by John Denver that goes, “Some days are diamonds, some days are stone…” That, for me, rings so true! I had a very positive surprise just yesterday that I believe I’ll blog about next week to tie in with this post. I hope we all experience many positive surprises in life and in our writing careers in 2016! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, Sarah!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Nancy Jardine says:

    There are more of the “Oh, yuck,” moments than the “That’s fine” when I look in the mirror but in general there are more pressing needs to get in with in the day, so I’m mostly a get up and go person. Recently my ‘writing me’ has had to go on the slow burner, my immediate family commitments coming first – looking after my grand kids is a pleasurable priority. Reflectively speaking, I’ll get back on my writing track sometime when the time is right though in the meantime I’ll fit in what I can when I can.

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    • Nancy Jardine says:

      I hit the post button too soon! I was about to add that I think you’re doing a sterling job this year, Gayle! 🙂

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      • Nancy, you have great perspective about priorities. I admire how you’re balancing family, life, writing, business, etc. Sometimes the juggling is difficult, but your persistence and positive attitude toward life’s challenges, and opportunities, are all something to be admired — you are an inspiration! And, I truly appreciate your kind words and the opportunities and insights and uplift you give to all of us at Writing Wranglers. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family, Nancy!

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  12. S J Brown says:

    Gayle, Thanks for sharing. I think most writers suffer from a spreading middle. It comes from putting our butts in a chair for long periods of time. I really like your perspective on things. What we look like has a lot to do with our genes, but what we accomplish has more to do with us as individuals.

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