A Sense of Place

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I am often asked how an old girl born and raised in New York City ended up in a little country town in upstate New York. My short answer sometimes elicits a puzzled look on the questioner’s face: “My soul kept telling me I was in the wrong place.” I usually have to follow it up with a longer explanation.

I was born and lived the first 21 years of my life in Queens, New York. When kids in other parts of the country took school trips to the zoo, or or a diary farm, or to see how apple cider is made, I took school trips to the Empire State Building, the Museum of Natural History (have you any idea what a giant dinosaur skeleton that takes up an entire exhibit hall looks like to a 7 year-old?), the UN, the Statue of Liberty, and Lincoln Center to see “some guy” named Leonard Bernstein teach us about the orchestra while narrating “Peter and the Wolf.” I remember that my mother’s jaw dropped when, a few months later, he did the same program on TV and I pointed him out to her as “the nice man I saw who told us the same story.” It was all great fun, and certainly stimulating to a young child, but my heart never got as excited as it did when I got the chance to spend a week during the summer in the Adirondacks at a place just like the one in “Dirty Dancing,” or when I got to spend part of my summer vacation at my cousins’ house out on Long Island before it was all built up and still had miles and miles of farm land. Somehow my soul knew before I did that I was not meant to live in the city, but to be a country girl.

Fast forward many, many years later and I got the chance to do what I had been dreaming of all of my life – I packed my car and moved to a little village in upstate New York to be near my sister who had moved up into that area a few years before. The first 9 years was a time of major adjustments to the way I lived and, more importantly, the way I thought. My own belief systems were put to the challenge and it was not unusual to find that I had been following paths that weren’t my own, but had been built by others. Financial necessity, aka gainful employment, forced me to leave the village after 9 years and move closer to the city of Binghamton, NY, in one of its suburbs called Endicott. I mourned my sweet little village for 15 years and when the opportunity to move back literally “fell” into my lap (my little accident with a patch of cracked concrete and my sneaker that resulted in a fractured hip), I jumped at the chance!

A funny thing happened during the first two years that I lived there. First, my sweet little village had changed a great deal while I had been away. There were empty store fronts all over the main streets, lots of folks I’d known had moved away, and that friendly sense of a close-knit, small community was no longer there. More importantly, I had also changed, way more than I realized. During the years I had been away, I had become a vegan, and living surrounded by dairy farms, beef cattle farms, chicken bar-b-ques, and the crowning of the Dairy Queen were no longer something I could support. It was then that I realized that it wasn’t so much the actual physical place I lived in as much as it was my sense of place. I needed to live in an inner place that felt comfortable, authentic, and essentially “me.” So I moved back to Endicott, this time in a different neighborhood that felt like a compromise between small town and city, and I’m loving it. I can still walk a few blocks and see where they make the apple cider, and go to strawberry festivals and maple festivals, but I can also go down the road about 10 or 15 minutes to the city of Binghamton and visit museums, art galleries, and even attend an opera. My sense of place is finally at peace.

We all need to find that place within us that tells us we are where we are supposed to be, that feeds our soul and helps us create our authentic lives. It is especially true when we enter into our Third Age, those years after 50 and beyond, where we finally have the time and space to answer the longings of our hearts that we put aside while we earned a living and raised a family. There is no better time to answer that call.

Our writing assignment for this week over on the Home Page is going to challenge you to uncover your sense of place, especially if you’ve been hiding it away, and find out what it’s saying to you. As always, have fun with it and remember to just keep writing. Peace and blessings!

 

 

 

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Practice Makes Perfect

 

 

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Today is the day for my yearly physical and I’m not exactly looking forward to it. In fact, I’m kind of dreading it. You see, I’ve been slacking. I haven’t been walking my talk yet again and now it shows, literally. It’s not like I’m the only one who wanders off the path from time to time, but that doesn’t make it any easier to admit when I do.

Every since taking on my new job (which I love, by the way), I’ve thrown myself so completely into it that the part-time position has become anything but part-time. When I’m not actually at work I’m working from home. If I wake up in the morning with an idea floating to the surface of my mind, I jump right on it. As a result, my morning yoga and stretching practice has suffered greatly. In fact, I’ve missed more morning practices than I’ve done lately. Add to that running here and there for family stuff and just plain household needs, and the result is that I’ve not been very kind to my body lately. I spend way too much time sitting at a desk or computer and then try to make it up by pushing myself physically. The result has not been pretty. My already challenged joints are now screaming for attention and my stamina is way off. I have been putting myself last and my body is letting me know in no uncertain terms. The final straw came over the weekend when I attended a local outdoor event and pounded the pavement for four hours without preparing myself first as I used to do with a little morning yoga and some stretching. After weeks and weeks of more sitting than practice and then trying to make up for it by pulling a cardio-marathon, I am reduced to swollen joints, a back that is in rebellion, and dreading today’s doctor visit.

What is it about human beings that, despite knowing better than to put ourselves last, we do it anyway and then wonder why we don’t like the results? They call it yoga practice for a reason. Our parents and teachers were not wrong when they used to tell us over and over, “practice makes perfect.” When I put myself first and make the time to do my morning practice every day, no matter what else is going on in my life, I feel better, I hurt less, and I do less damage to my body as well as my self-esteem. In fact I’d probably be able to do my job even better. Now that’s something to wrap my mind around!

So today I’m going to walk into that doctor’s office with my head held high – or as high as I can stretch it at the moment – and bare my soul, confess my lack of good judgement, and promise to do better. As my meditation teacher always tells us, our power rests in the sacred, present moment, and that’s where I need to roll out my mat every morning and be present for my body and my spirit. When I put myself first, practice really does make perfect.

This week over on the Home Page, our writing assignment will ask you to look at where you aren’t putting yourself first and where you can make healthy changes. As always, have fun with it and remember to just keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

Life In Slow Motion

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As we enter into the month of August, I think it’s pretty safe to say that we are smack dab in the middle of those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer with the dog days of August about to commence. In fact, the past few days here have been hot and humid enough to quality as August-type days for sure.

I know some folks look at summer as a time to get out and do all those things they don’t do the rest of the year, especially if it entails beaches and water. They carry around this mental picture of themselves laying in the sun sipping a cold drink and watching the waves all year long only to live that dream for a week or two. Before long they are back to living life like a high-speed internet connection and start dreaming again for next year. I ask you, is that any way to live your life?

Part of living in this Third Age of life is knowing from experience that life lived at that speed is not only not sustainable, but it’s not authentic either. A life that’s truly lived from a place of self-worth and self-love is one that honors all of our needs including the need to slow down and enjoy it instead of just trying to survive it. It means that we can make the time to slow down and savor the simple things in life that nurture and fulfill us in every season, not just summer. It’s like filling a glass with water once and expecting it to quench our thirst all year. Sooner or later that glass will be empty and then you’re running in drought-mode! We shouldn’t deny ourselves the gift of rest and renewal. If anything, it makes our connection to the rest of our lives even better.

This week over on the Home Page, our writing assignment is going to ask you to find ways to “fill your glass.” As always, have fun with it, and remember to just keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

The Big Numbers

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Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.” 

David Bowie

As much as I have spent the last 6 years writing and preaching about conscious aging and shattering cultural norms about getting older, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I fall prey to the same limiting beliefs as anyone else when faced with a big number … like 70. Tomorrow is my birthday and it is the Big Seven-O. And, yes, it bums me out.

I thought that I’d be better prepared for this. After all, I’ve read all the books – and written a few myself. I’ve taken up yoga, I eat a healthy, mostly plant-based diet, I have work I enjoy that challenges me, and spend time with people who love and support me. So, what’s the problem? The problem is time, or at least my concept of it. I’ve fallen into the dark void called: “How much time do I have left to do all that I wanted to do, and why didn’t I do it sooner?” As if anyone knows the answer to that one.

Time, like age, is all in how you perceive it. If you see it as a threat, as something that is running out, then it is not your friend. If you see it as just another number, another minute just like all the others, then it’s nothing to get all bent out of shape over. If anything, it’s a precious gift to celebrate. This moment, this very precious moment that you are spending right now reading this, is a gift. It would still be a gift if you were washing the dishes, or reading a book, or going for a walk, or even working at your desk. How you choose to use it will define whether it’s a positive or a negative experience.

Maybe I won’t have time to do all the things I wanted to do with my life, or maybe I will. In any case, sitting here being bummed out about it won’t get it done either way. I may as well just get up and dig in, and celebrate the fact that, for now, I can, I am able, and I will. So be it.

Peace and blessings.

 

This week over on the Home Page, we’re going to explore how we feel about “the big numbers.” As always, have fun with this and remember to just keep writing

 

Letting Our Lives Speak

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A few weeks ago I was approached at church by a wonderful lady from my women’s circle. She is our resident social justice advocate and she was collecting signatures for a petition to stop cuts in funding to our local library. She is active in more causes than I can keep track of, from climate change and women’s issues, to clean water and local libraries. She is a shinning example of how we affect others when we let our lives speak. So it was a big surprise when she sat down next to me and said:

“I’ve been meaning to tell you how much you’ve inspired me by sharing how you’ve downsized your home and your life, and embraced a simpler life. I’ve made the commitment to do the same and have already put a big dent in all the stuff in my house.”

Me? Inspired her? This woman who rallies me every time I see her or read her monthly newsletter articles? I was not only awestruck but deeply moved.

We have no idea how far our ripples reach when we live an authentic life for all the world to see. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a big announcement with lots of fanfare. More often than not it comes from someone who watches and listens to what we say and do, maybe just a chance comment or response during a conversation with someone. Even an innocent comment on Facebook can spark someone to think about making changes in their own lives. It never ceases to amaze me to realize how far my own ripple has traveled when someone will say something like: “I used your example and it worked for me, ” or, “I didn’t think I could do it but you convinced me to try.” My favorite one was when someone said to me recently, “You’re my hero.” Wow! All I’ve done is make the decision to create an authentic life and live it the best that I can. Can you imagine what the world would look like if we all did that?

Create your authentic life and let it speak to others by living it out loud. Then sit back and watch the ripples go out into the world!

This week on the Home Page our writing assignment is asking you to let your life speak. As always, have fun with it and remember to always keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

 

Living Life As A Verb

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Ah, those lazy, hazy days of summer are finally upon us. For some of us it is an invitation to get out and get moving, to hit the beach, travel and see family or just visit a new destination. For others, it invokes long afternoons with a good book, a pitcher of ice tea and a shady spot. While there is certainly nothing wrong with the second choice, we need to remember that live was meant to be lived as a verb, not a noun. In other words, a stagnant life is not an authentic life.

Sometimes as we get older there is a tendency to slow down and live life at a slower pace. That’s ok if we’ve spent most of our adulthood running on all cylinders, from raising kids and holding down jobs, to going back to school while holding down both a family and a job, and so, so much more. Indeed, we’ve certainly earned the right to some much-needed downtime. The trick is to not let it lull us into a state of complacency. In other words, we become a non-moving, non-involved, member of the world. That is a prescription not only for an inauthentic life, it’s a path to being old instead of just getting older.

I, for one, refuse to get old. Sure, I’m aging by the minute as we all are (another birthday is creeping up on me this month!), but I refuse to live my life standing still. I still get out whenever I can, walk as much as I can, volunteer as much as I can, hang out with the kids as much as I can, and embrace life as much as I can. In other words, I’m living life as a verb – to move, to grow, to celebrate, to enjoy, this wonderful gift of life I’ve been given. So what are you waiting for? Get moving!

This week over on the Home Page, our writing assignment for this week will ask you to plan how you will keep your life moving. As always have fun with it and remember to just keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

 

Just Like Joe DiMaggio

Joe DiMaggio Topps Card

For some reason the topic of baseball keeps cropping up for me, so I guess this week we’re continuing with our baseball theme. I want to tell you a story about meeting Joe DiMaggio.

My first big job out of high school was working in the corporate offices of J.P. Stevens textiles in Manhattan. They created the textiles for everything from clothes and household items like rugs, sheets and towels, to industrial and military uses like uniforms and parachutes (they supplied the raw materials for the parachutes that brought down the Mercury 7 capsules). It was rumored that the movie “Norma Rae” about unfair factory practices in textile mills in the south was based on experiences in their mills. But I digress.

The first year I was there it was decided to introduce a new, washable type of wool that could be used in sportswear, both uniforms and golf pants, and what better way to promote such an item than to use famous figures from sports to do ads and try out the finished product themselves. Every few weeks some famous sports figure would either show up to meet with the powers that be or call on the phone. I thought it was enough that I’d actually had a live phone conversation with Howard Cosell, or met Arnold Palmer in person, but the one that really took my breath away was meeting Joe DiMaggio.

I don’t think I’ve ever met a sweeter, more soft-spoken or attentive man than old Joe. Already years out of baseball, with a full head of snow white hair and the telltale wrinkles at the corners of that famous smile (and with his infamous marriage to Marilyn Monroe behind him), Joe was the epitome of a powerful but graceful presence. His fame and notoriety did not for one moment affect Joe the Man vs Joe the celebrity. He smiled and shook my hand even though I was just a lowly secretary who happened to be covering the switchboard when he arrived. While we waited for the VP to come out and get him, he struck up a conversation with me, stating that he thought our product was a wonderful idea for men who loved sports, and that he never lent his name to a product he did not believe in. When we finally parted company, he came over and shook my hand again and told me I had a nice smile because it went all the way up to my eyes.

I have never forgotten that encounter, nor what I learned from Mr. Baseball himself … he showed me what it meant to age with grace. He was not a washed-up baseball player who happened to have married a famous movie star, he was Joe DiMaggio, a good sport, a good player, and a nice man. I decided that day that even though I was only a young girl and not anyone famous that I, too, could grow old with that kind of dignity, holding my head up high, speaking nicely to others – even total strangers – and finding a reason to smile. Joe, you were one in a million.

Over on the Home Page this week our writing assignment is going to ask us to take stock of our experiences with aging, either our own or that of someone close to us, and decide how we want to “carry it,” and live it, in our own lives. As always, try to have some fun with it, and remember to just keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

Stepping Up To The Plate

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One of my very favorite Tom Hanks movies is “A League of Their Own,”  the story of the women’s baseball league that took to the field during World War II when the boys were at the front lines and the country was starved for something to hold on to. What I loved about this movie was the concept of women stepping up to the plate, to use a baseball term, and doing what needed to be done. Today as we continue to come up against gender inequality, it doesn’t hurt to have a reminder of what all of us can do, whether we’re men, women, or “older” folks, when we step up to the plate and take control of our lives.

I have to tell you from a personal standpoint that one of the things I mind most about how older people are treated in this country is the way we’re constantly reminded of our age, as if we weren’t already more than aware of it. How could we forget it when the culture reminds us in oh, so many ways, why we can’t or shouldn’t do something … they pull out the age card. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they do it in a tone of voice one usually saves for a naughty child who just doesn’t understand big words yet. I genuinely loved Mr. Rogers, but I refuse to be spoken to in his voice!

In order to create the authentic life that we want and deserve, we sometimes have to step up to the plate and start taking a swing at the balls that are pitched to us. Discrimination in any form is intolerable, but as a generation that fought against war, in support of civil rights and gender equality, and are living longer and healthier than any past generation ever dreamed of, we need to start moving our agenda around the bases until we finally get our culture back to a new understanding of Home Base where it belongs.

This week over on the Home Page, our writing assignment is going to ask you to step up to the plate and take a swing at something that really bothers you. As always, have fun with it and remember to just keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

A Girl, A Cookbook, And A Dream

 

 

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My 12-year old granddaughter, Gabriella (affectionately and accurately called Gabby for short), lives to cook. A few years ago I found an old copy of the ever-popular Betty Crocker cookbook, that huge, red binder that all of us girls got from our mothers when we set up housekeeping for the first time. It was worn with use but still readable, so I gave the 40+ year old book to Gabby. She carried it around with her like a Bible. She read it from cover to cover. She begged her mother to let her try out some of the recipes.

Her passion for cooking was recognized by a co-worker of her mother’s, a trained chef in a local restaurant. He invited Gabby into his kitchen on a Saturday morning and taught her how to be a sous-chef, someone who prepares the ingredients for the day’s menu. He teaches her his own secrets, and even lets her experiment with her own creations. Under his guidance she learns from each failure as well as each success. He tells her that if cooking is her passion, then she should follow it wherever it takes her. She is planning on going to culinary school when she graduates high school.

Can you remember what it felt like to be 12 years old and excited about something? Maybe it was sports, or music, or art. Maybe we dreamed of becoming a fashion designer, or a rock star, or a writer, or an Olympian. Whatever it was, we were on fire with the passion of our dreams. Some of us pursued those dreams, some of us were convinced by our elders to let go of foolish ideas and live in the grown-up world. So we did, but the flame still smoldered inside.

I am here to tell you that not only is it not too late to fire up that flame again in our Third Age, it is the perfect time to do so. The job is behind us, the kids have left home, and there is nothing stopping you from taking that passion and following it wherever it leads. Like Gabby, we may need the help of a mentor, or a really good cookbook, but in this day and age of virtual learning, it is as close our your fingertips. Do you want to take up singing? Do it! Want to become the next DaVinci? Go buy a paint set and a canvas. Don’t be afraid to sit in that classroom with the 19 year-olds and learn technique. Do worry about being the grandmother in your culinary class. Go to the Y and swim those laps like Michael Phelps. Get  yourself a T-shirt that says: “Just Do It!”

This week over on the Home Page, our writing assignment is going to challenge you to “Just Do It.” As always, have fun with it and remember to just keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

Let It Be

 

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Last night, as I was laying in bed trying to finally relax after a very long and busy day, I did the one thing I advise folks never to do … I started worrying and planning about what I had to do today, the next day, and the rest of the week for that matter. Instead of practicing my own advice to just close my eyes, breathe, and repeat comforting affirmations until I drifted off to sleep, I recited my itinerary for the next 5 days! Eventually exhaustion finally took over and I fell asleep like the often- mentioned pile of bricks!

This morning when the first stirrings of wakefulness started drifting up through my consciousness, the first thought that entered my mind was not the usual “what time is it, what day is it, what’s the weather, what do I have to do today …etc). No, the first sound that greeted me this morning was my internal radio broadcasting Paul McCartney’s voice:

Let it, let it be. There will be an answer. Let it be.”

Don’t you just love it when our own inner-wisdom takes over?

Way back when we were younger and just starting this amazing journey into adulthood, we really did think we knew everything or, if not everything, certainly more than our old-fashioned, outdated parents. Now as we take our place in that seat they vacated and handed over to us, we realize that along the way we learned a lot more than we realized and that it’s all programmed in there somewhere. We just need to slow down, listen, and trust it when it speaks to us. Sometimes we just need to “let it be.” All the self-help, new-age, technology gurus out there have much to teach us, but the wisest teachers we have reside right inside our hearts. We know what the next right thing to do is, and often it’s just to let go and let it be.

After I woke up to Paul’s sweet voice (and fed the cats before those other sweet voices turned into wails of hunger), instead of scanning through my playlist of guided meditations, I went back to the basics and chose a basic Buddhist meditation taught by Lama Surya Das, one that doesn’t rely on mantras or chants, but a simple three-fold process:

Just sit.

Just breathe.

Just be.

Maybe that’s good advice for going forward in these years we refer to as our wisdom years: “there will be an answer … let it be.”

This week over on the Home Page, our writing assignment is going to ask you to find a place or situation in your life where a little Beatles wisdom can be applied. As always, have fun with it and remember to just keep writing.

Peace and blessings.