Indoors or Outdoors?

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Wellness Wednesday

Indoor or Outdoor?

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Today we’re joining Wellness Wednesday, hosted by Natalie the Explorer, which takes place the first Wednesday of each month. The prompt for March is ‘Indoor or Outdoor Fitness?’

I confess to feeling a bit of a confusion in answering this question that seems so simple. My initial response is hollering out “Outdoors”, fist raised in the air in support of my favorite place to be. But yet, I truly don’t exercise outdoors all that much.

I love to putter in the garden, take hikes and be out in nature. But to exercise out when it’s (shudder) cold – or too hot – it’s not going to happen. I think I’ll save the cardio workouts for indoor facilities.

Besides, as I learned from my younger sister a year or two back, those gentle walks around the block, the hikes in nature where I stop frequently to bask in the glorious sights and scenery aren’t giving me the cardio work out I need. I argued that point with her when she first informed me that I needed a workout that gave me cardio benefits. But I’m on my feet all day at work, back and forth from the stockroom out to aisles, in constant motion. “I put on miles a day in the stores. I’m getting cardio,” I reiterated. “No, you’re not,” she argued back.

All it took was one 30 minute workout at a kickboxing facility. I had to concede that I’d lost that debate. I had to eat crow and admit that my little sister was right.

After I discovered that now in my (ahem) older years, I’m battling with blood pressure that switched from too low to now too high, I know that the cardio benefits are necessary for me. I am not a fan of strenuous exercise, but you’d be amazed what I will do to avoid taking medications. So, at least for this point of my life journey – indoors it is.

However…the question was about indoor or outdoor fitness. And, at least to my mind, fitness implies more than just physical health and wellbeing. To my thinking, fitness also includes the mind and soul components. And for those – a healthy and well balanced disposition and attitude, and a strong, personal spiritual practice – then outdoors is definitely my ‘drug of choice.’

Hmmm…so, 400 words later and I haven’t really answered the question. I guess my final answer would have to be:

It depends.

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Celebrating Early Spring

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The groundhog was right! I’m celebrating our early spring. Yesterday I spent an hour outside pulling weeds and enjoying some sunshine on my face. While pulling the weeds, which seem to be more delighted with this bout of early warm weather, I also found scads of sunflowers already sprouting and a three inch high sprig of lemon balm already growing underneath our porch steps. Don’t be a hater. I can’t usually be out doing yard work the last week of February. Usually I’m scraping ice off the windshield to go to work this week. I’m always happy to be able to start yard work by mid-March.

This year, I’m enjoying this early bit of sunshine after a week or two of early spring rains. It’s cool enough that we’re turning on little heaters once the sun goes down and I still need a jacket in the morning hours. But, I’m still doing a happy dance for being able to get my fingers dirty this early in the season. I love that little groundhog. (At least the years he predicts an early spring – and the year’s that he’s right about it.)

To celebrate early spring, I’m extending the February Memory Gardens sale through March. Regularly $9.99, it’s on sale through the end of March for only $4.99!

(This sale is only good through my author page, not through Amazon.)

Following is a snippet from Memory Gardens.

Happy Spring!

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Why Plant a Memory Garden?

To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.

Thomas Campbell

Planting a Memory Garden is a very special tribute to honor the memories of a loved one, or loved ones. It is a way to have a living reminder, where seeing the plant, tending to it and enjoying the beauty of flowers or fragrance brings your loved ones to mind.

Your Memory Garden can be anything you want it to be. It can be as simple as one plant or a single stepping stone to honor someone’s memory. It may be a small corner with a few plants and possibly a piece of statuary. It can also be a more elaborate, full-blown garden with many plants, possibly a winding path and perhaps a small bench or seating area to sit and reflect. Your garden can be any size you wish it to be, according to the space and land you have available, and the number of plants you wish to maintain.

A Memory Garden can be a place of solace, a place to remember and heal. It is a gift you give yourself, a living legacy of memories and love.

A memory garden is just that, a place to recognize and honor memories – those of our loved ones.

A garden is a living memorial for us, the living. It does not bring them back. It does not remove our pain or grief, although for many it does help soothe and soften the grieving.

The planning, the gardening, the caring for living plants nurtures our souls; it is a way for us to say — Here. I place this plant, or this stepping stone, or this statuary, in your honor and memory. It is a symbol. It is a symbol of my love for you. I cherished you in my life. I miss you. I will remember you.

I believe they see our tributes. I am a firm believer in the afterlife, and that our loved ones still know what is happening in our lives. I have too many unexplained coincidences in my own life and experiences that confirms it for me. Does it help to believe my brother is here, that he is sending a message, that he is still involved in my life, yet I can’t see him? Some days, yes. It is comforting. Some days, absolutely not. I want to see him. I want to give him a hug. I want to sit down and have a cup of coffee with him. But, I can’t do that. And sometimes I still get angry about that.

Grief is not a static emotion. It is not a one-way path. We do not walk the pathway of grief, one step at a time, to the end, where we reach ‘non-grief’. We waver. We’re back and forth. Some days are good. Sometimes we drift along towards healing. We go on and live our lives. (We have to. We have no choice.) And other days, there will be one memory, one song, one fragrance, one thought – and we are suddenly back to a painful place that we thought we’d left behind.

Just remember this, on the path of grieving no one’s path is the same. None of our journeys are exactly like another’s. Don’t let anyone tell you what’s ‘normal’, or what’s ‘not normal’. Follow your own heart. Follow your own healing.

Yes, go on living. Definitely do so, as we are still alive. We can do that while keeping the memories sacred and honored.

I take comfort in the actions of caring for zinnias, believing that my brother knows that when I tend to them, I’m thinking of him. When I tend to the red roses, I remember Grandma Jones. When I clip the carnations, I think of Grandpa Jones.

For many years, families were the caretakers of loved one’s gravesites. The whole day was spent there, often with picnics. A celebration was created around the loving care of the final resting places. Nowadays, some people still do this, but not many. I loved to take flowers to the graves of loved ones at Christmas. Now, I’m too far from any of them to be able to do that. So tending the plants in my backyard is a way of making that connection. That is something I can do every day, not just on holidays and honoring special dates.

Why plant a memory garden? For our own healing. For our own souls. For a tribute to the ones we loved that no longer walk this earthly planet with us.

Remembrance is a golden chain

Death tries to break, but all in vain.

To have, to love, and then to part

Is the greatest sorrow of one’s heart.

The years may wipe out many things

But some they wipe out never.

Like memories of those happy times

When we were all together.

Author Unknown

Slip & Slide Means Something Different Now

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Slip & Slide Means
Something Different Now

That fall was a warning, Nance thought. You are old. You have only yourself to rely upon. Since then she had minded her body with tenderness. Steady steps on grass slippery with weather. No more reckless journeys to cut heather on the mountains when the wind growled. An eye to the fire and its crush of embers. A careful hand with the knife.

From The Good People, by Hannah Kent

 

“Come over and play after school. I got a new Slip and Slide!”

What glorious words those were to hear in my ten-year-old ears.

Fifty years later – not so much.

I was in the shower one morning, a few months after I’d turned sixty. You know – the same shower I’d stepped into for how many years? Doing the same sole showering activity I’ve done for goodness knows how long? It’s been more years than I can remember since I graduated from the bathtub to the shower. I couldn’t begin to count how many thousands and thousands of times I’d performed this same activity.

Yet, in an instant, in one split-second swoosh, there I was laying on my back in the bottom of the bathtub. One slippery step. It all happened so fast that I didn’t even know it was happening. One minute I was shampooing my hair, and in a flash I was looking up at the showerhead, seeing it in a viewpoint I never had before.

Fortunately, nothing was injured. Nothing was broken. Only my pride came out of the incident battered and limping. As I lay there and flexed all my fingers and joints, assessing the damage, I realized how blessed I was. I knew that the end result could have been much, much different.

Showerbay.com reports:

NewsUSA confirmed similar results found by a National Institute on Aging (NIA) study. Also citing slippery surfaces as a culprit, researchers determined that more than a third of seniors over the age of 65 slip and fall each year – 80 percent of those falls occur in the bathroom. “Knowing how to get in and out of tubs and showers properly and equipping homes with necessary safety precautions can reduce senior falls, keep them out of the emergency room and possibly extend their lives,” they remark on their website.

NewsUSA also cites research from the CDC that reveals that “1.6 million older adults seek emergency care each year for fall-related injuries, fractures or head trauma. In addition to potentially losing their independence, seniors 65 years old and up have a 25 percent chance of dying within six months to a year if they fall and break a hip.” …”

I knew that shower ‘grab bars’ are recommended to help the elderly get in and out of showers and tubs. But…I wasn’t elderly yet. Hey, I hit the sixty-year-old mark, and I’m still fluctuating back and forth between bemoaning the fact and embracing the milestone. But that doesn’t mean I’m old or elderly or a senior yet.

Does it?

However, even though I’m not ‘old’ yet, I still find myself gingerly stepping in the shower now. Once the suds are flowing, I stand still and don’t move those feet. A non-slip mat helps, but I still find a slight fear lingering in the back recesses of my mind.

When I was reading The Good People, I came across a paragraph where Nance, the elderly woman in the story is thinking about this being more cautious in the years where the body starts betraying us in ways we thought we’d be exempt from.

Her words perfectly conveyed the emotions I found in myself. Now I find myself wrestling between the worlds of caution and fear. Yes, it seems safe to be more aware of areas of potential injury. ‘Better safe than sorry’ seems one of those adages that apply to this train of thought. But I find myself also wondering – when does prudent, wise, and cautious veer too closely to the realm of fear?

As in with most issues in life – it’s all about balance, walking the tightrope between two extremes. I don’t want to become so overly vigilant that I extinguish the joy and spontaneity out of life. I also don’t want to swing to the other extreme where fear smothers any action or sparks of vitality.

I know there are still many lessons that I’m learning in life. Despite the fact that somehow I thought that once I’d reached some magical point in life, I’d be older and wiser, and there wouldn’t be any more lessons to learn. I just never expected that one of the lessons I’d be learning would involve the skill of tightrope walking – although, after my little slip and slide in the shower incident, I think I’ll keep my tightrope walking to the metaphorical territory and not in the actual physical sense.

Just Call Me Goldilocks

Just Call Me Goldilocks

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Remember the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? Goldilocks wanders into the bear’s cottage. One chair is too soft. One is too hard. And one is just right. One bowl of porridge is too hot. One bowl is too cold. And one bowl is just right.

I was driving to work a few weeks ago, and caught myself feeling like Goldilocks.

There I was, cruising along in the slow lane, safely driving the speed limit. Cars in the fast lane (it’s only a two lane highway) were zipping along at a speed much higher than the speed limit. It was slightly drizzly, and some of those cars barely had a car length between them. There I sat in my car (oh, so self-righteous) berating the speeding drivers. Imagine, driving in such a reckless manner. So dangerous.

And then, I ended up behind a driver that was poking along, going much slower than the allowable speed limit. Can’t they find the gas pedal?

The speed I was going was just the right speed.

Thinking about how anyone that drove either faster or slower than I did was out of line, and my driving was just right, had me laughing out loud, alone in the car. Another instance in my life came to mind, where my way is the right way too.

That’s with the tidiness/messiness issue. In prior relationships, I’ve always been ‘the messy one.’ Oh, the house wasn’t horrid. It was usually fairly clean, and most often company ready. As long as they could ignore the not-quite-squeaky clean floor or the piles littering my desk. But my exes – two of them – that liked things neater and tidier were the ones in the wrong. They were ‘anal’ and ‘obsessive.’ They couldn’t just go with the flow, like I could.

But now, the tables have turned. After fifty years of being ‘the messy one’, I’m now ‘the neatnik.’ Now I’m the one wanting to have a living space that’s cleaner, tidier, and more sparkling than what I moved into. Now my better half, who has different cleanliness standards than I do, is ‘the slob.’

Just like my driving. Anything more or less than what I do is wrong. The way I do things is the right way. See – am I not Goldilocks?

By now I was only half laughing. Some of it was still humorous, but I realized that there was a lesson here I needed to learn. That part wasn’t so hilarious.

Then I got to thinking about age. How is it that with driving or cleaning, my way is the right way? Yet, with age, it isn’t so. With age, I am not content with my age. I find myself yearning for the energy, agility, and non-wrinkly skin from years past. Why can’t I take this attitude and apply it to my age – where the age I am is just the right age?

Yikes. More lessons to learn.

Here I am, 60-years old, and I’m still discovering how much I have to discover about myself, life, and living an authentic life of joy and fulfillment, leaving others to learn and grow in their own time and space.

 

I was reading a book and discovered that I’m not alone in this ‘just right’ dilemma.

In Poser: my life in twenty-three yoga poses, Claire Dederer has much the same attitude, although she mentions it in relation to parenting.

“I judged Lisa and any other mother who came within my range. The next-door neighbors put their kids to bed too early; the people down the street put their kinds to bed too late. The friend who lived near Green Lake was overly fussy about organic baby food; the friend on Queen Anne Hill was not fussy enough. Friend A dressed her baby in designer clothes, which was ridiculous. Friend B let her kids go around looking like slobs. I felt there must be a happy medium to parenting, and I felt that I was the very barometer of that happy medium. Anything that someone else did that I did not do was, to me, excessive and probably crazy…”

 

It always feels so good when I discover that I’m not the sole member of ‘The Just Right Club.’ It’s nice to know there are others.

The driver speeding along in the fast lane is probably griping about what a pokey, slow driver I am. Because their speed is just right. The one watching me approach in their rear-view mirror is probably calling me names, for being such a speedy, out of control driver. Because their speed is just right.

There’s so many place we can look at our lives and see where Claire Dederer’s “very barometer of that happy medium” comes into play. Saving money. Spending money. The foods we choose to eat – or not eat. The amount of fast food we eat – or don’t eat. The amount and way we exercise. Or don’t. The kinds of cars we drive. The kinds of houses we live in. The number of children we have – or don’t have. The way we treat our parents. The way we treat our friends. The way we treat our grandchildren. The animals we have – or don’t have. Oh, the list appears to be endless.

This is most likely a lesson I’m going to have to work on for a bit. After all, I have an attitude to correct that’s taken me 59-years to get set in place. But that’s alright. Because one thing is clear – tonight I’m going to bed knowing that I’m just the right age!

Running on 100,000 Miles

Running on 100,000 Miles

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I began dreading turning 60, oh, about 11 months and 29 days – give or take a few hours – before my odometer actually turned to the big 6-0. When I noticed that I was fretting about this upcoming milestone birthday, I actively began looking for ways that I could turn my attitude around and begin to embrace this golden marker.

It was a few months after I turned 60 when I was so proud of myself for how well I was accepting – if not totally embracing – this age, that I realized I needed a complete overhaul on my thinking. I not only had to learn to embrace the number – but the whole aging process. I wasn’t quite prepared for that.

Granted, it’s not like this was a total revelation to me. For many years I’d already begun the joking and mild complaining about aging. Wrinkles appearing. Skin starting to sag. Energy levels beginning to wane. Hair turning silver instead of a golden hue. But an unexpected diagnosis really brought this unacknowledged part of the equation to my attention.

For several months I’d started noticing some circulation problems in my feet. Rather than improving with time, it worsened. I passed it off to a secondary effect from high blood sugar or high cholesterol. About fifteen years earlier, the doctor wanted to prescribe medications for elevated glucose levels and high cholesterol. I countered with the suggestion to give me three months to see what changing my diet and adding exercise would do. It took me a little longer than that, but six months later a healthier diet and riding my bicycle twice a week brought my test results into the normal ranges.

But, the years passed. I moved to Texas – the nation’s BBQ capital – and I found myself eating more beef than normal, and not being quite as good with my diet as before. It had been several years since I’d been tested, so I presumed that one, if not both, of these, were probably running high again.

When our local Walmart promoted a free health screening one Saturday morning, I was there, bright and early.

Much to my amazement, my blood sugar and my cholesterol were well within the normal ranges – better than they had been for years.

However…the lady doing the screening took my blood pressure three times. It was high enough that she wouldn’t let me go until I signed that I would see a doctor about it.

WHAT?

I was stupefied.

My brain repeated the incredulous question. WHAT?

Where did this come from?

I’ve never had high blood pressure. In fact, it’s usually run low most of my life.

And it hit me. This was more than just a wrinkle, or a jiggly underarm, or wanting a short cat nap in the middle of the day.

This was ageing.

My body was changing.

My body was wearing out.

I was getting old.

Yikes!

This was more than just a number that kept getting bigger.

I had to learn to embrace more than just the number 6-0. I had to learn to embrace ageing in its entirety, which meant a body that could easily betray me at any moment.

I contemplated how this compared to my car that has over 100,000 miles on it. No, it’s not a brand new vehicle. It’s now considered a high-mileage vehicle and as such requires more care.

I make sure and get my regular oil changes done as scheduled. I’ve upgraded the oil to a higher grade, one meant for cars with over 100,000 miles. When I start it up, I let it run for a few minutes to make sure the oil is circulated throughout before I put it in gear and pull out of the driveway. I don’t stomp on the gas or accelerate at high levels of speed. I baby it more than I used to and make sure to soothe it with large doses of TLC.

Using my typical M.O. of ‘what can I do about it to avoid taking a prescription?’ I set about making a few changes.

When one kickboxing session lessened the numbness in my feet, and three sessions almost totally got rid of the symptoms, I knew that some type of regular cardio exercise was necessary. I noticed an immediate correlation between increased exercise and lowered blood pressure. That sealed the deal. I don’t particularly like to exercise as in physical exertion, huffing and puffing, and sweating. I prefer walking, gardening, or gentle yoga. But, if it comes down to choosing between exercise or medication – it’s a no-brainer. Exercise wins.

I also returned to my previous healthier eating habits. Less sugar. Less fats. Less salt. Less fast food. Less processed foods. More real food. More fresh fruits and vegetables. More whole grains.

I may be running in a model that has over 100,000 miles on it, but I’m going to take care of this vehicle and get as many more miles on it as I can. I don’t want to trade in this model just yet. I also want to enjoy the journey that I’m making in this body while embracing every moment of life –even the parts about the numbers getting bigger and the body model getting older.

Look for the Good in Every Day

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A new year is before us, ripe with opportunities and promise. I love the feel of ‘the new’, and while the slate isn’t totally clean that we start with, it still brings with it the feeling of freshness and new beginnings.

For several years I’ve chosen a word of the year to focus on. Last year I couldn’t make up my mind, so I chose three: authentic, action, and joyful. Towards the end of 2018, knowing this chance to pick new words to focus on was coming up again, I started writing down words that I was drawn to. I had a post-it note on my December calendar and when I’d run across another word I liked, I’d add it to my list. By the last week of the year I had several words to pick from – balance, peace, delight, nourish, healthy, grateful, blessed. I liked all of them. Any of them would have been a great word for me to laser in on. My life would be richer with any of those words magnified in my life. I couldn’t choose.

While driving between the stores I service in my day job, my mind usually wanders and drifts as I travel the familiar route. One day a phrase popped into my mind and I knew immediately that this was my 2019 focus.

Look for the good in every day.

Somehow I jumped from three words to seven. But I knew that I needed this whole phrase. I think I’m usually fairly optimistic – probably more so than many. But yet, I still see how I’m starting to fall back into patterns of grumblings and under the breath mutterings. Too much for my own peace of mind. So I need to regroup and notch up the positivity. Gratitude and thankfulness amplify positivity – as does seeing the good in every day.

As an aside, I thought of making the phrase – find the good in every day. That’s only six words, instead of seven. But it didn’t feel as spot on for me as the words I initially thought of. To me, ‘find’ implies a more passive thought. It seems like it’s recognizing the good that is there, but only if I happen to run across it. To ‘look for’ feels more action oriented, something I have to actively search for with the intent of finding it.

With that thought in mind, I’m thankful that the hours this week are a little lighter than the past few weeks have been. That gave me the time – and the energy – to be home this afternoon to write this post. While the past few weeks were heavier in hours than usual, I’ll be thankful for the larger paycheck. I’m thankful for the health that’s carried me through a hectic holiday season and all the loved ones in my life that I was able to send Christmas packages to. And I’m doubly thankful for the past few days that have been close to 70-degrees. Now, that’s my kind of January winter day!

AYes, life is good and I’m looking forward to a magnificent 2019 filled with family, friends, love and a multitude of blessings. Wishing the same to you all!

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The Sound of Silence

The Sound of Silence

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There was something about my new neighbors Genevieve and Elmer that I didn’t comprehend. They were nice enough in all other respects. But they had this odd little quirk or two. It would be about thirty years later, long after they’d both passed, before I understood.

When my oldest son was three months old, we moved into a new (to us) house. It was at the end of a cul-de-sac, and at a lower level than the street up above us. One day, shortly after we moved in, I heard sirens on the street above, so I grabbed Christopher and dashed up the flight of steps between the two houses at the end of the block that led up to the higher street. An older house was directly across the street and the empty, grassy lot west of them had a grass fire at the far corner.

As we watched the firemen quickly dowse the flames, an elderly man walked over from the house and began chatting. “Would you mind bringing the baby over to meet my wife? She had a bee sting and she’s allergic, so she can’t walk over this far.”

I followed him back to his driveway, where his wife sat in a chair with an ice pack on her leg, watching the action from afar. That was the day I met Genevieve and Elmer and it was the start of a friendship that lasted until their deaths almost twenty years later.

Some people thought it strange, a 26-year-old whippersnapper being friends with this couple in their late 60’s. But it wasn’t odd to me. I’ve always had a soft spot for the elderly. It was like gaining a new set of grandparents late in life.

But there’s two things that I never understood at the time. First, was when Genevieve mentioned making an appointment at the nail salon to go get their toe nails trimmed. That seemed really weird to me. Especially if you’re on a tight budget and being very frugal in every other aspect of living. Why on earth would someone pay someone else to simply trim their nails? All you do is plop your foot up on the sink and cut them. It’s only been in the last year or two, as I’m discovering that it’s not quite as easy to just plop that foot up there anymore, that I comprehended exactly why Genevieve and Elmer treated themselves to the nail salon for this cumbersome procedure.

The other thing that was a mystery to me was the early dinners and the no driving after dark. They always ate supper around four in the afternoon. And on the rare occasions that they would treat themselves to a hamburger out, or a meal at Denny’s (usually with a coupon), they always went that early, or earlier, so that they’d be home well before dark.

I admit it. I secretly thought they were just being scardey-cats. After all, driving in the dark is no different than driving any other time of the day. Fortunately, I never confided how I thought they were being needlessly overly cautious. Because about five years ago, before I even hit the 60-years milestone, I had to make a trip to the airport after dark and had a startling realization. I hit a stretch that was under construction. There were barrels out, restricting the number of lanes, and they all had flashing red lights going and my eyes couldn’t make any of it out. It all blended together and I literally couldn’t tell where I needed to go, nor where I needed to stay away from. I almost just pulled over, stopped the car, and waited for daylight. But that wasn’t an option, so I kept inching along at barely a crawl and finally got through.

I thought of Genevieve and Elmer that night, and offered up profuse, silent apologies for the thoughts I’d had so many years earlier.

And time marched on – and night vision didn’t improve any. It kept getting worse. I found by the time I hit my 60th birthday that I was trying to avoid night driving as much as possible. It wasn’t as bad if I were on a familiar road, so if I had to come home after work in the dark, it was possible. I knew the twists and turns in the road and what to expect. It was the strange areas, where I couldn’t read the street signs at night and didn’t know where I was that was next to impossible.

One of my local libraries scheduled three presentations this year. One in September, October, and November. All from 7 pm to 8 pm. Although this wasn’t a route I frequently took, I was familiar enough with the area that coming home after dark didn’t concern me. It was the trip going that was full of craziness. At six o’clock in the evening the stream of cars headed west was bumper to bumper. All three lanes were full and it was a congested nightmare. But that was alright. It was daylight, and while it was an aggravating journey, I was comfortable making the trek.

Until November. A few days earlier, I realized that day light savings time had switched the time up an hour and at six o’clock it was now dark. Knowing how dealing with three solid lanes of red brake lights would affect my diminishing night vision, I knew that this wouldn’t be a drive I could make safely, not for the ten or so miles I needed to go.

What to do, what to do? I didn’t want to cancel at the last minute for such a seemingly insignificant reason. I also didn’t want to be an unsafe driver on the road – for my own good, and for the other drivers. So…I left an hour early and drove in the intense traffic during daylight – safely.

What surprised me is what happened when I got to the library – an hour early. I had a book in the car. I could have read. I was parked in front of a library filled with magnificent bound treasures. I could have gone inside and perused the volumes filling the shelves. I could have visited with the librarians inside. I had my phone. I could have checked email, browsed the internet, played games, or watched YouTube videos.

I did none of these things.

I sat.

In the dark.

For an hour.

Doing nothing.

It was amazing. I enjoyed the peace and solitude, spending time in reflection and thought instead of being in a rush of constant activity. I realized that even if I’m meditating or journaling, I’m still involved in an activity. I recognized how seldom I allow myself the luxury of just sitting.

I doubt when I was younger I could have simply sat in the dark for an hour and relished the stillness.

Ageing isn’t a bed of roses. There’s some prickly thorns in the process too. Diminished night vision and eyesight is one of them. But this unavoidable progression into years with increasingly higher numbers also brings with it the opportunity for growth and new appreciations. For this I am thankful.

A Cheesy Potatoes Conundrum

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A Cheesy Potatoes Conundrum

As I’m getting older I’m noticing two different issues in my life that are getting stronger. Yet, they each seem diametrically opposed to each other. A few weeks ago, an order of cheesy potatoes highlighted that conundrum.

On one hand, I’m getting better at defining what I want – and don’t want – in my life. Now that I’ve reached the magical 60-mile marker this year, it’s about time! You’d think I would have learned this valuable lesson long ago. Oh, I’ve flexed my muscles on it here and there. But overall, I’ve allowed too much to simply happen. I’ve also allowed too much in my life that I don’t want. And I haven’t pursued my dreams and true desires with enough determination.

I’m getting better at being clearer about what I want my life to be like. Is it because I sense a running out of time? A feeling that I’d better get life how I want it now because there aren’t as many years left on this side of the journey as what I’ve come through yet?

On the other hand, I’ve also gotten better and letting go of things. I’ve learned that too often many of us let unimportant details and events derail our peace.

That day I drove between two different stores that I had to visit for my day job. Passing by Taco Bell, I made a quick trip through the drive-through and ordered my favorite shredded chicken taco and an order of Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes. Yum! I could smell the aromas the two miles to my next stop. By the time I pulled into the parking lot my stomach was rumbling in anticipation of the tasty flavors awaiting my consumption.

I ate the taco first, savoring every morsel. Then I rustled in the bag in search of the next delicacy…the potatoes. It’s a little quirk of mine, but I eat my favorite thing last so that the flavors of the favored dish are the last thing I taste. Their potatoes are always toasted perfectly and swimming in a melted cheese queso, topped with sour cream. After pulling out the little container I started digging in the bag for the fork.

No fork.

I looked again, digging under extra napkins.

Nada.

What? How can I eat these with no fork?

I didn’t want to drive two miles back to Taco Bell, and then another two miles back to the store just to get a utensil that should have been provided in the first place.

This happened on a week where I was making a concerted effort to take actions that would enhance a life that is more in line with what I truly want. I wanted this lunch and I wanted a fork to eat with. Isn’t having a life that you want part of having small things consistent with your desires also?

I found myself starting to get agitated about them not putting a fork in the bag. I’d already crumpled up the receipt and thrown it in the bag since I’d paid with cash and didn’t need the receipt. As the riled-up factor started raising, I pulled the receipt out of the bag. I knew there was a sweepstakes entry on the back, so I figured there would be a customer service number somewhere on it too. By golly, I was going to email in when I got home and complain about this.

And then the ‘other-hand’ part of the conundrum kicked in. So, they’d forgotten to insert one little itty bitty piece of plastic in the bag. Yes, it was inconvenient. But, was it important? Was the world going to fall apart? Overall, in the grand scheme of life, where did this rate? On a 1-10…not even a 1.

I threw the receipt back in the bag and ate the potatoes with my fingers. Yes, it was a little messier eating than I liked. But once the fingers were licked clean, and then wiped off good – since they did give me plenty of napkins – all was well. My tummy was happy. My hands were still clean. I didn’t waste the time and gas to drive four miles to go back and get a fork. And my life went on with no differences.

Maybe four issues, not two issues, came into play that day: Creating a life that I want, letting go of what isn’t important, finding a balance between the two, and choosing your battles. No, this issue certainly wasn’t worth a battle. As I get older I find myself a little wiser in balancing between the two opposing sides and sizing up whether an issue warrants a battle, or not.

Life didn’t come with an instruction book. We have to write our own. And even though there are days where I’m not enamored with the getting older part of life, I’m thankful that I’m still here and daily adding to my personal Life’s Instruction Book. Even if it takes an order of cheesy potatoes – with no fork – to bring some of these lessons home.

A Hat to Wear Proudly

Following is an excerpt from a current work in progress, Embracing 60.

A Hat to Wear Proudly

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Last night I stepped into the closet to retrieve a birthday present I’d stashed on a shelf and spied my embellished ball cap hanging on the wall. It’s a hat I’ve only worn once, yet I keep it hanging there to remind me of a lesson learned later in life.

Hand painted letters proclaim a truth it took me a long time to learn. ‘I’m the quiet one and proud of it.’

The ‘quiet one’ part of the statement isn’t what I’d learned. I’ve always known that. It’s the being proud part that has been a recent revelation.

I learned to accept and be proud of that aspect of myself about five years ago, which puts the lesson closer to the age of 55, and not 60. Yet, while the title of this book is Embracing 60, it’s really about embracing any age we are and being grateful for our deepening wisdom and maturity – whether that wisdom comes to us at 60 or 55, at 80 or at 30. Any day we can wake up a little wiser than we were the day before is a good day, and should be celebrated.

Back a few years ago, just prior to my decorating the ball cap, my better half and I were working on a special project. It involved getting together with two other friends most Sundays for about two months.

One of the friends — or should I say ‘friends-at-that-time’, as we’re no longer on speaking terms – was a challenge to spend a lot of time with. The common saying about friends coming into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime is very true. This particular friend was one of the friends for a reason – to teach a lesson. But, that lesson is an entirely different and lengthy story.

This lady, who I won’t name for obvious reasons, tended to dominate conversations. She was very verbose, a bit (a lot) on the pushy side, and…loud. I’m…not as loud. I’m usually fairly quiet in a group, and the larger the group gets, the quieter I get.

This one Sunday afternoon, we’d been out together for several hours. I kept trying to speak up about my opinions on an issue and kept getting cut off. Later I’d try again to interject my views and would get cut off again. Again. And again. And again. I finally reached a point where I was fuming. But at that point, I’m afraid to say anything, because I fear if I start to speak up, the pressure valve will go off and I’ll explode instead of calming stating my frustration and anger. So, in an effort to prevent an explosive moment, I walked outside.

Nancy, our other friend who is another mellow and soft spoken lady, joined me outside. “What are you doing out here by yourself?”

“Trying to calm down.”

“Oh. (Unnamed ladies name here)? She can be a bit dramatic at times.”

Rustling footsteps behind us announced the presence of my better half and ‘the now-ex-friend.’ I spoke up. “The dramatic doesn’t bother me. It’s repeatedly being talked over and interrupted.”

Lady X tried to placate me. “But you never speak up. You’re always the quiet one and the rest of us are so loud we just tend to take over.”

“I can be loud, too,” I protested. “Next week I’ll be the noisy one.” I spoke with steely regard. I planned on being that person too. I vowed to myself that the next week I’d be the most talkative one in the group.

On the way home I was already contemplating the hat I was going to make that week. Maybe even a t-shirt. I was going to proclaim my noisiness to the world, or at least to those at our next outing.

My brand new plans lasted until I crawled into bed and picked up the book I’d been reading. In One Man’s Love Story, Jason Hughes had a statement that spoke to me. “…it is about feeling a oneness and unity between body, mind, and soul, and perfectly accepting ourselves just the way we are.”

Ouch!

Perfectly accepting ourselves just the way we are.

I am not the noisy one. To think that I could suddenly transform myself into a verbose, boisterous woman taking control of the group and not letting them get a chance to talk is disregarding myself. It means I am not accepting myself just the way I am.

In spite of my revelation, I did proceed with my plans and made a special hat to wear the next week. When we met at our usual parking lot the next Sunday, I was sporting my newest creation. Topping my head was a black ball cap, embellished with paint and glitter. “I’m the QUIET one and PROUD of it!”

If getting older, whether the next milestone is a 60, a 70, or even a 30, means we keep learning these valuable lessons, then I’m all for it. Bring on the years!

Losing It – Or Not?

Losing It – Or Not?

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“How long are we supposed to keep the cards up?” Mary, my co-worker was confirming our plans as we worked on stocking some greeting cards.

“Until January 20th.”

“Until January?” The puzzled look on Mary’s face matched the confusion in her voice.

“No. No! July 20th. Not January. Don’t even ask me where that came from! We’re supposed to keep the Father’s Day cards up until then.”

“The Father’s Day cards?” Again, Mary has a look of utter confusion on her face.

“Ugh! No. Not Father’s Day cards. Graduation cards.”

Why did these wrong words keep rolling out of my mouth? It was starting to scare me. Now granted, we were both tired and had just finished a grueling holiday season that ran from Valentine’s Day, to Easter, to Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Graduation. We’d had more hours than either of us liked for the past four months and we were exhausted.

But, still…

I’d love to pass it all off as exhaustion setting in and my numb brain was feeling the effects. But what made it scary for me is my family history of Alzheimer’s, or Dementia. I know that there’s a medical difference between the two. I tried to look it up one time. I remember that one is treatable and one is not. However I don’t think many people understand the differences between the two and both diagnoses are used interchangeably in society in general, along with our own personal family.

One or the other, whichever one it is, all I know is that three of my four grandparents suffered from it, along with Papa Goss, my great-grandfather – Grandma Jones’ dad.

I was around eight years old when Papa Goss died. A year or so earlier than that, he’d had to be put in a home, because his mental condition had deteriorated so badly. Being so young, I don’t remember the particulars. I only remember the joking about it, about ‘going to Norwalk’, which was synonymous for ‘going crazy’, or ‘losing it’, having to give live in ‘the looney bin.’ When I think of it now, it seems callous and cruel, yet I know that wasn’t the intent. A devastating situation had intruded upon the family, unasked. There were two ways to react – we cry or we laugh. The family chose laughter. That was our coping mechanism to deal with something that none of us would wish on another living person.

Years later I heard stories about Grandma Cline, in her last years. I heard about the time there were guests in the house and Grandma entered the room stark naked. Now this was Grandma Cline we’re talking about. The woman who never showed more neck or arm than she had to. The most modest woman I’ve ever known. If it were earlier years, she would have been one that wouldn’t have dared show an ankle in public.

It took Grandpa Cline years to catch up with her. He lived until age 97. Unfortunately, his mind slowed long before his body stopped. I remember visiting Uncle Arnold’s house one weekend in Arizona, when Grandpa Cline was there visiting from Indiana. As I left the table to use the restroom, I overheard Grandpa asking Aunt Phyllis, “Who is that woman?”

Aunt Phyllis answered, “Why, that’s Patsy.” I wasn’t crushed, because I understood that Grandpa’s mind hadn’t been his own for quite some time.

And then Grandma Jones began to follow in her father’s footsteps. We could tell when Grandma’s mind began to slip. Fortunately it wasn’t in drastic ways and she was still able to live alone, independently, until her last stroke a few weeks before her death at age 85. But we could see the progression worsening slowly.

So, yes, when I stand there and mix up my months, and several minutes later mix up a holiday event, I panic.

I can guarantee you, when I get emails from my all-time favorite doctor, Dr. Andrew Weil, whenever they mention Alzheimer’s or Dementia…I open those!

I want to live to an old age – 85 to 95 sounds just about right to me. But I want to do in a healthy body, with full mental capacity.

So when a wrong word slips out of my mouth and I throw my hand over it, just ignore me. I’m trying to embrace life, all sixty years of it, and I want to stay sharp as a tack for the next twenty or thirty years too. Even if I end up joking about it ‘losing it’…because that’s the Jones family way…we’ll laugh ourselves out of anything.

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