“Decisions, Then and Now,” Nov. 26, 2019

Why do some thoughts just seem to show up out of nowhere and keep you thinking about them for days?

Please don’t tell me that never happens to you.

My brain is like a mental play list set on shuffle that randomly picks an idea and says, OK, let’s see how she’ll dance to this one.

Are random thoughts really random, or are they meant to help us understand something?

Lately, I’ve been working on this two-part question that showed up in my head out of the blue: What are the most life-changing decisions you have made, and how would your life be different if you’d never made them?

It isn’t a hard question. The answers are fairly obvious. The hard part is trying to figure out why I’m even asking it.

The first big decision I made in life was what kind of person I wanted to be. To decide that, I studied people I admired: My grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, teachers and parents of my friends. On the whole, they were kind, decent, hard-working and God-fearing people. Best of all, they seemed to like me. So I decided to try to be like them. It was a decision I’ve not always kept as well as I should, but I keep trying.

My second big decision was whether (and how) to go to college. I liked school. I liked feeling smart. And I basically had two choices. I could find a way to go to college. Or I could go to work in a textile mill with my mother and older sister.

I decided to go to college. But how? My family had no money. My mother dropped out of high school to get married at 15. My stepfather never learned to read. We could barely afford to eat, let alone, pay for tuition.

But here’s a thing I discovered. Making a decision to do something important doesn’t mean you have the resources or even the slightest clue of how to go about it. It just means you’re willing to follow your heart and leave the rest to God.

Thanks to my best friend’s parents, who encouraged me to take a test, I won a scholarship. College taught me a lot. Mostly how to daydream. Other decisions would follow. Some were good. Some not so much.

But my next big decision — one of the most important I’d ever make — was to marry someone I loved and admired and could enjoy being with for however long we might have.

What next? Not everyone needs to have children. But I knew beyond a doubt that I did. The doubts came later after the kids were born (three babies in five years.) But those doubts never lasted for long.

Choosing to be a mother was the best choice of my life. It made me smarter, stronger, wiser, humbler and happier than anything I’d ever done.

Choosing a career after my children were in school was a big decision, but it wasn’t really a choice. I didn’t choose to be a writer. Writing chose me. Doors opened and I wandered in. But looking back, I realize that even then, I was following my heart.

When my husband lost a four-year battle with cancer, a friend offered me this wise advice:

“The challenge for you now,” he said, “having lost your loved one, is to live a life that is honoring to his memory, while at the same time, that life moves forward so that only one person has died and not two.”

The decision to follow that advice has been one of the most difficult and rewarding I’ve ever made. It led me, years later, to marry, once again, someone I loved and admired and would enjoy being with for however long we might have.

Looking back at the decisions we’ve made in the past, both good and bad, can help us decide how to live going forward. As my old college history teacher use to say, those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it.

What are the most life-changing decisions you’ve made over the years?

What are the ones you will make today?


  1. Kate Sciacca says

    Best decision yesterday? Heading over the hill in the morning…. the road closed in the afternoon 😉

    Best decision of a lifetime? Marrying a good lad who shared the same values and letting God be God… He’s very “fruitful” 😉

    Best decision tomorrow? Not thinking about the fact that whipped cream really does have, oh, I don’t know… a thousand calories in a cup or so? I like a little pecan pie with my whipped cream 😂😂

  2. Donna Glembin says

    WOW! It is nice to know weird, random thoughts invade the brains of others 🙂 Like all of us, I’ve made good and bad decisions in my life and I’ve learned from both. I hope to keep learning for many more years. Love the quote about honoring the loved one. I’m saving that in case I should ever need it.

  3. Diana Kellermeyer says

    I love your friends advice about honoring your husband’s memory yet living as though only one has died. WOW . . . deep and practical. Your writing pulls me in.

  4. One of the best decisions I ever made was to marry the boy I loved and liked and believed I could tell him anything in my heart and totally trust him with it. We married early (17 and 18) and most folks figured it wouldn’t last, but here we are after 60 years, still holding hands and walking through life together. Best friends and sweethearts. Lots of people think we are a little silly to still care so much, but I believe it is the way God planned married people to be. Loving, caring, interested throughout life. Maybe the worst mistake was to not go to college. But, fortunately we were able, with God’s help, to make a happy life with perhaps less money, but not less joy. Maybe we could have put ourselves through college, but instead we worked and worked until we were able to own a business and work for ourselves until we retired. Now we enjoy traveling, and just staying home and doing our own things. Would we have been happier with more money? I doubt it. Happy is happy and mostly money only makes some things easier, and gives you more choices. Maybe our influence would have been wider–maybe not. I am grateful for the blessings of family and friends. When you come to the end of life, after all, it is the people in your life that are the basis for joy–not the money or things.

  5. Jeannette Buck says

    Another one! Profound, simple and full of good sense. Thank you.

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