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An Older, Wiser Christmas

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I swear I saw Christmas decorations on the shelves in October right next to the Halloween costumes. Before I could stay “pass the stuffing,” it was Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and half the neighbors already had their decorations up outside!

Yesterday we had quite the snow storm and today that blanket of snow ( a foot in some spots) looks like a Christmas card. It reminds me of how I made the decision to downsize Christmas last year, or, more to the point, downsize my expectations about Christmas. The older and, hopefully, wiser I get, the more I search for quality over quantity and that goes for my experiences as well as my possessions. The beauty in that scene outside of my window says more to me about what can be a beautiful holiday experience than a bargain on something that will be tossed to the side or broken within a week.

Last year I bought a sweet little artificial woodland tree and decorated it with handmade ornaments and small, cherished keepsakes. As the grandkids get older and develope more in the way of hobbies and interests, I keep my eyes open throughout the year to find just the right thing for them rather than what they see all of their friends coveting. I don’t make as many gifts as I used to due to the arthiritis in my hands, but I do what I can. The older kids get gift cards that will provide them with an experience when I can find it (and some nice, warm, new socks just because that’s what Grandmas do).  For my own adult girls, who will always be little girls in my heart, I try to find something that speaks to who they are. Every gift is thought out with love and not purchased out of guilt.

Now my Christmases are once more filled with the love and joy of the season that I remember from my childhood instead of the stress and frenzy of its poor commercial replacement. When we get together to make cookies this year, my daughter’s house will be filled with love and joy along with those good cookie smells that tell anyone passing by that this home is filled with the Christmas spirit.

This week over on the Home Page, our assignment will ask us to find a cherished holiday tradition that needs to be brought back, or an idea for a new one. As always, have fun with it and remember to just keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

Turkey, Stuffing, And A Helping Of Self-Forgiveness

 

 

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The turkey is ready, the pies are cooling on the rack, the parade has just finished, and there you are waiting for your family and friends to arrive … and that familiar knot in your stomach starts to form. You can already picture the uncle that talks yet again about Thanksgiving when he was in the war, the aunt that criticizes everything in your house (including you), the neighbor who can’t eat meat (honey, let me tell you about Tofurky …ok, that’s a whole different blog post for another time), the kids yelling over the TV remote and that young adult who eats with one hand and texts with the other. Yep, it’s holiday time again!

This year, along with the food and all the fixings, why not dish yourself a healthy plate of self-forgiveness with a side of self-compassion. It serves no one, least of all you, to start the same old dialogues or try to stop the same old disagreements. This is your family, for better or for worse. You know that underneath all that bluster are people who would be there in a flash if you needed them, who have been there since you were born, and who may raise your blood pressure a few points but who are probably not even aware of it. So forgive yourself for dreading the day and instead be thankful that these folks are in your life. They are all “spiritual lessons” sent from above to teach us about love, compassion, and kindness. One day you will be old, have a foggy memory, and tell the same old stories that you’ve told every Thanksgiving for the last 20 years … and be thankful in advance for those that will still listen and cook your string bean casserole just the way you like it!

I’m giving  you a week off from your writing assignments. Instead, take a moment to write down the names of all those who drive you crazy at Thanksgiving dinner and, beside their name, write something positive about them being in your life. Then give yourself a pat on the back and be thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving. Peace and blessings!

Flying Under The Radar

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Sometimes you just have to fly under the radar. Like this last week. I was blindsided by some sort of huge allergic episode that resulted in swollen, leaky eyes, swollen sinuses, and a constant headache that wouldn’t take no for an answer. For someone who hasn’t had the flu or even a serious cold in 6 years, this was the equivalent of the plague in my mind. I had to admit that Super-Grandma not only couldn’t do it all, she couldn’t do much of anything except take her medicine like a good girl, run a humidifier and an air purifier 24/7, put my feet up and ride it out. So instead of putting up a huge fuss about how I had to get up and work, and how I had to write my blog and do my networking even though I couldn’t even see the screen with my swollen eyes (let alone even put complete sentences together through the drug-induced fog), I decided to shut it all down and fly under the radar for a week. I accepted the fact that if I didn’t do it now, I’d end up being sidelined during the upcoming holidays which would affect not only my plans but the plans of those who had to take care of me or fill in for me. So as painful as it was, I let it all go

What is it about we older folks, especially women, that we have such a problem admitting that:

  1. We are sick, tired, hurt, etc., and need to ask for help
  2. That no one else can do what we do
  3. That we’re the only ones that will do it right.

I don’t remember taking a vow that said I will sacrifice my health and well-being as part of my responsibilities to my family, my job, and my community. Yet somehow that became part of the culture that women especially find themselves in. It isn’t a sign of weakness to ask for help. It isn’t a sign of incompetence when we say “I can’t do it today.” It’s a sign that if we don’t make our own self-care a priority, there will be more and more days of “I can’t.”

Here’s the deal; we have spent a lifetime raising our kids, working our jobs, taking care of our homes, and supporting our community. We’re earned the right to take a breather once in a while. It doesn’t mean that we’re shirking our responsibilities. If anything, it’s the opportunity to refill the well. You can’t give someone a drink from an empty well, and you can’t help another if you can’t get out of bed. So let’s stop thinking of  “me time” as a sign of failure and start thinking of it as a chance to recharge and refocus our energy and our lives. Who knows? We might find we come back stronger and even better than before.

This week over on the Home Page, our assignment will be to look at those old beliefs that are robbing us of our energy and find ways to recharge our batteries. As always, have fun with it and remember to just  keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

Now You See It, Now You Don’t

 

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I’ve been putting off going to the ophthalmologist for a new pair of badly needed glasses. It’s the one health visit I dislike the most. It’s not just the whole “drops-in-the-eye” thing where you can’t see clearly for hours afterwards, or sitting there while endless lenses are waved in front of your eyes until you’re not sure which ones you see better through after a while. What I hate the most is trying to get used to a new pair of glasses. If you wear glasses you know what I mean. It’s that phenomenon where the curb you’re stepping off of suddenly looks closer and you take those dumb looking giant steps. Or when the world suddenly looks so bright and crystal clear that it’s almost overwhelming. I sometimes wish I could just go back to seeing only what I need to see to get by and letting the rest of the world fade away.

I truly believe that being made to see what’s really going on around us and in our lives feels a whole lot like change, that awful word that takes us out of our comfort zone and shatters our illusions about life. I sometimes wonder why we humans are so opposed to the idea of change, so much so that we will go to any lengths to avoid it or pretend it doesn’t exist. Let’s get real here: the person we are trying to protect, the one that is looking back at us in the mirror, is not the same person we were yesterday, or the day before, and certainly not who we were 10, 20, or more years ago. With every passing day, every passing minute, we are changing. Let that sink in for a bit.

One of my favorite Wayne Dyer talks centered around this idea. Some photos of him as a baby, a young child, a teen, a young adult, etc., were shown on a screen behind him as he described how he had changed over the years. We always think that the bodies we inhabit in this moment is the real “you” even though you have undergone many, many changes over the years, years where you  believed that who you were then was absolutely the true “you.” What is true for our physical bodies is also true of our inner selves, the ones who make all the decisions and choices. What we believed 20 years ago may not be what we believe now. What was true for us at 10 or 20 may not be true for us at 50 or 60. Hey, I believed in the Tooth Fairy, didn’t you? I also believed in Santa and Prince Charming. Who wouldn’t? What I have come to accept as truth is that, while I no longer stay up waiting for the man in the red suit to show up at my house on Christmas Eve, I do still believe in what he represents. As for Prince Charming, I’ve learned that I don’t need to wait for someone else to come along and tell me how beautiful/wonderful/ smart/ worthy I am. I can be as loving and giving as Santa, and love and accept myself just the way I am (and there’s no white horse to clean up after … have you ever noticed how that’s never mentioned in the whole “Prince Charming riding in on a white horse to save the damsel in distress” scenario?).

So I guess when I finally get around to making that appointment and getting those new glasses, instead of bemoaning the whole idea of having to readjust my sight again, I can choose to see it in a whole different perspective, one that tells me just how lucky I am to be able to see things more clearly, and to be grateful that I get the opportunity to do just that!

This week over on the Home Page, our writing assignment for this week will give us a chance to see our lives through different lenses. As always, have fun with it and remember to just keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

 

 

Life: The Eternal Classroom

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Along about this time most folks have heard me professing my love for Autumn for weeks and weeks. I’m sure some are tired of hearing it. I can’t help myself. It’s not only the amazing colors and the crispness in the air. It’s the eternal lessons that come to me year after year. No school of higher learning has as much to teach us as life itself.

For those of us with more years behind us than ahead of us, the idea that there is always something new to learn, to see, to understand, is cause for excitement. In Autumn we learn about things like change, letting go of what no longer serves us, planting new ideas to hibernate and see what comes up. Of all of them, change has to be the hardest thing, yet the trees do it seemingly effortlessly and manage year after to year to come back in the spring even better. Right there is a lesson we should review as often as possible.

This year I thought I would assign myself a more intense project. It wasn’t going to be enough to just watch the leaves change from a distracted distance. I was going to really, really watch them change. Day after day I would focus on one particular branch on one particular tree and watch as it slowly started to change from its usual pale green to a beautiful yellowish orange. It started from the outside edge of the leaf and slowly … ever so slowly … it spread to the center. It was almost as if it had a definite plan in mind, a definite journey that it had mapped out and was now following like a pre-ordained pilgrimage. It was awesome to behold.

As we get older the changes that come into our lives are not always welcome ones. Slowly, ever so slowly, we notice a change in our bodies, in our attitudes, in our awareness. Some of those changes we try and fight, as if deciding that we won’t age is as much up to us as the leaves changing is up to the tree. The tree simply allows what is meant to be to be, and in the end when the leaves fall to the ground, they become the compost out of which new and beautiful new things will be born in the spring. When we stop trying to fight the inevitable, and flow with the lessons of life, we let go of the way things “are supposed to be” and see what “could be.”

I’m certainly not saying that we should not do all that we can to stay as healthy and active, in both mind and body, as we can, but the fact that our bodies will change, and our lives will change, and our priorities will change, gives us the opportunity to see how we can look at those changes as a way to experience a new way of being in the world, a way that opens us up to seeing the world with new eyes and a new perspective. First, however, we have to be willing to drop those leaves.

This week over on the Home Page, our writing assignment for this week will ask us to drop some leaves and plant a few bulbs for the future. As always, have fun with it and remember to just keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

Living Small

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I’ve been a fan of the tiny house movement for several years. There is something almost magical about living in a small, cozy space that reminds me of childhood. I sometimes think of it as a grown-up’s version of a play house or a tree house. The real advantage to this type of living arrangement is that you spend less time working your life away to house and maintain all of your stuff, which frees up your time and your money for your actual life.

I was not surprised that whole Marie Konda de-cluttering idea followed on the heels of the tiny house movement. Why hold on to 40 years worth of stuff that may never see the light of day outside of your attic, garage or basement, and why work your life away just to pay for that huge storage unit called your house. Letting go of the things that no longer serve us and that are weighing our lives down is one of the most sensible things we can do to create an authentic life.

When I made the decision to downsize  and move into my sweet little studio apartment, I will admit that it was not an easy assignment to get rid of all the stuff that was cluttering up my living space and my life. Just cutting some of my collections down to less than half was a heart-wrenching challenge. Boxes and boxes of china and glassware that hasn’t been used in 20 years, clothes I saved for “some day,” enough books to open my own library, files going back 40 years … what was I holding on to all this stuff for? Did it bring me one moment of joy, as Marie Kondo would ask? No, it made me think of my poor family having to go through all this after I’m gone. Who wants to pass on that kind of a legacy?

The funny thing about downsizing is that, once you do the physical de-cluttering, there is nothing left to distract you from doing the mental and emotional de-cluttering. You have move time now that you’re not dusting, cleaning, and working to maintain that lifestyle any more. So what’s keeping you from finally creating that fulfilling, authentic life that we keep talking about? Maybe it’s those other boxes of stuff that live in your mind, those past traumas, disappointments, and beliefs that you keep maintaining instead of clearing that space for new adventures, experiences and maybe even some fun. A physical clearing out doesn’t do us much good if after we’re done, we stay stuck in that attic we call our minds. That kind of living small doesn’t serve anyone. It certainly doesn’t help us create a new, authentic life. It only keeps us boxed away in the old one.

This week on the Home Page, our writing assignment will invite you pack up some mental boxes and let them go. As always, have fun with your assignments and remember to just keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

 

Life Delivered To Your Door

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I was having a conversation with some folks the other day about the Holiday Bazaar my church is having in a few weeks. I mentioned that it would be a great place to get an early start on Christmas shopping. The others in the group looked at me like I’d suggested running barefoot through fire. “I do all my shopping online,” one of the women said. “You won’t catch me in a store any more these days. I can get anything I want with a click. ”

Isn’t that absolutely true these days? Our entire lives are brought to us via the Cloud, the Internet, and UPS. We not only shop for all of our needs online, but we shop for people and experiences online as well. We look for love on dating sites, we have conversations on Twitter and Skype, we read, get our entertainment, and can even workout without having to leave the house … or interact with another human being face-to-face. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that the art of human interaction has been reduced to a click of a button, and that sounds like an awfully lonely life to me.

I don’t want to end up an old lady sitting all day in front of a screen just to have someone to talk to. I don’t want to lose the chance to discuss a favorite book over coffee with a friend, or find someone to go for a walk with, or give up the joy of finding that perfect gift for a loved one while browsing through my favorite shop. Life wasn’t meant to be lived electronically, and an authentic life is certainly not going to be found on Facebook. We have to shut our devices off and walk out into the world where real people live. We have to rediscover the art of conversation that contain real, whole words instead of abbreviations like LOL. We have to re-learn how to be human beings in a human world again. If our generation doesn’t do it now, the next one won’t have anyone left to teach them how.

Over on the Home Page this week our writing assignment will ask you to come out of your electronic shell and find ways to interact with the world again. As always, have fun with it and remember to just keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

Much Ado About Nothing

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Yesterday I shut down my laptop and sat back with a hearty sigh of contentment. I had just finished the last thing on my to-do list, having answered all my emails, paid the monthly bills, set out the budget for the rest of the month, updated my calendar, and even spent a few minutes (okay, maybe more than a few minutes) on Facebook catching up with the goings-on of friends and family. Earlier that morning I had given my little home a decent clean-up before I hopped into the shower to start the day. Now, looking down at the time on the bottom of the screen, I saw that it was only 11:30 … and I had absolutely nothing I had to do. There was nothing of any importance that required my attention. I had a meeting later in the evening after dinner at church but that usually only lasted an hour or so (naturally, I was already prepared for it with the items already listed on my agenda that needed attention). So here I was with a whole afternoon with nothing to do … and I almost couldn’t handle it!

What is it about our society that says if you’re not productive every minute of every day, you’re a loser? Where is it written anywhere that if we find ourselves with any empty time, we must fill it up with something? I’m well-versed in things like the Constitution, The Bill of Rights, and The Declaration of Independence, and nowhere does it say anything about the “the right to be busy all the time.” It does, however, mentions words like: “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” So, I decided then and there that the pursuit of happiness was going to be my assignment for the rest of the day.

We spend our entire adult lives in pursuit of many things: a home, a family, a partner, a job/career, money, stuff, etc. When we reach an age where we can finally kick back and say: “been there, done that, got the T-shirt,” we instead scramble around trying to find the appropriate kind of retirement that falls in line with what society dictates. We’re either doomed to a future of rocking chairs, knitting needles, and church suppers, or shopping for condos in Florida and golf club memberships. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with any of those things if those happen to be what you really like doing (I got rid of the rocking chair and traded in my knitting needles – I was never very good at it – for crochet hooks at which I am more talented … and, yes, I go to church suppers). However, there is a certain art form that I cherish the way I cherish my favorite teddy bear and that is “the pursuit of doing nothing.” There was a time that if there was a blue ribbon for such a pursuit, I would have won it hands down. These days I find myself trying to retrain my brain and find my way back to contentment again.

The pursuit of doing nothing is not about sitting like a lump and staring at the wall, or taking naps that last until supper. It’s about sitting outside and watching the leaves fall, or listening to the birds sings, or inhaling the smell of whatever a neighbor is cooking for dinner. It is sitting by the window on a rainy day and just watching the water drip off the roof next door, and the fallen leaves floating down the curb. It is curling up with that book you’ve been dying to read, or writing to a friend or in your journal, or just daydreaming. It is recharging your battery and your life. It is, after food and shelter, probably the most healthful thing you can do for yourself. It’s called Self-Love, Self-Care, and just plain common sense.

So, I closed the laptop, made a cup of Earl Grey tea, pulled out one of poet May Sarton’s journals, “At Seventy” (appropriate reading for me at this time), and curled up on the love seat with a cat on my lap. I will stop for lunch, after which I shall resume my position on said love seat with said cat. After that all bets are off until I must make my supper and head out to my meeting. I daresay by the time I get there, I will be well-rested, focused, and ready to participate. I can almost guarantee that when my head hits the pillow later tonight, it will be with sigh of contented happiness.

This week over on the Home Page, our writing assignment will ask us when and how we participate in the pursuit of happiness. As always, have fun with it and remember to just keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

 

Why Worry?

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I Worried

I worried alot. Will the garden grow,

will the rivers flow in the right direction,

will the earth turn as it was taught, and if not

how should I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven

can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows

can do it and I am, well, helpless.

Is my eyesight fading or am I just

imagining it, am I going to get

rheumatism, lockjaw, dementia?

Finally, I saw that worrying had come

to nothing.

And I gave it  up.

And I took my body and went out

into the morning and sang.

~ Mary Oliver

Worry. It has got to be the most useless emotion of them all. It takes up valuable time that we will never get back and it achieves nothing except to rob us of the precious, present moment we could be using for something better. It ruins a sunny day, a walk in the park, time spent with loved ones. It literally takes away our happiness.

I won’t lie to you … I am a first class worrier from a long line of worriers. My Mom could worry with the best of them, and even threw in some imagined horrific outcomes to something as simple as going with my friends to a Saturday matinee at the local movie theater (“you could get hit by a car, fall getting off the bus, have your purse stolen when they turn the lights down, eat a hot dog that wasn’t cooked thoroughly, etc”). As a young mother, I worried about my daughters being abducted by horrible men in vans as they walked to and from school. Heck, I worry if one of my cats throw up – they are geriatric, you know. What I have learned as I’ve gotten older, however, is that the things that I worry about and stress out over never come to pass. The difficult conversation or event I am facing tomorrow or next week passes, as does everything else, and recedes into the “land of done and gone” just like everything else I’ve ever worried about. You’d think I’d get the message after all these years.

One thing that helps is writing it down. I pull out a notebook or bring up a blank page on the old laptop and have at it. I rant, rave, vent, play out the worst-case scenarios, and, after reading what I’ve written, I let it go. If I’m writing on a computer, I hit delete. If I’m writing in a notebook, I draw a vivid red line across the page. I’ve banished my fears, at least for the present. Do they come back from time to time? Of course they do. Does it get easier with practice? You bet it does. Not only do words on the page have power, but sending them packing has just as much power, if not more.

This week over on the Home Page, our writing assignment will challenge you to take those worries of yours and send them packing! As always, have fun with it and remember to just keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

 

A Lesson From Old Blue Eyes

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“Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention …. I did it my way.”

Frank Sinatra, “My Way”

One of the things I love about online music stations is that you can choose the type of music you want to hear, and even the specific singer or group, and it sets you right up without having to spin through dials on a radio or fiddle with changing DVD’s. That is one piece of modern technology that I do not regret having been invented. The other day I had a hankering to hear Old Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra. All I had to do was enter his name on IHeartRadio and there he was, still capturing my heart after all these years. I had a crush on him from the moment I first heard his voice on the old radio my mom kept on in the kitchen during the day while she worked. I remember that I was sitting at the kitchen table writing something (I was always writing something) and he came on singing “Night and Day.” I was hooked. Years later he played a sold-out concert at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in New York and, not being able to afford a ticket, I convinced a classmate that lived nearby to let me come over and hang out in her back yard so that I might catch a note or two floating out through the loud speakers into the night. Sure enough, there were other folks who had the same idea and a bunch of us gathered in a supermarket parking lot to sit on the hoods of the cars and listen to Frank sing. It was one of those decisions in life that I will never regret having made.

Listening to Frank the other day while I worked around the apartment, I was brought to a standstill when “My Way” came on. I can’t even begin to imagine how many times I’ve heard him sing it, and yet for some reason, the words touched me to the core that day. The lyrics tell the story of someone who may not always have made the best decisions over the course of a lifetime, but they were his decisions, his choices, and however they turned out, the most important thing was that he stayed true to himself, to who he truly was, and that was something he would never regret. I suppose that, as what I have come to call my “year of turning 70” continues, it would have seemed silly if my trip down memory lane, as well as looking up ahead to the path before me, did not include revisiting some of the things that I regret in my life. We all do it as we get older. The trick is not to live there.

I won’t bore you with my list. I suspect some of the items on that list would show up on yours as well, especially if the choices we made were due to the influence of others round us. or to impress someone else, or the culture that convinced us that our way was the wrong way. However, thinking back, I realize that there were many times when the choices I made were not only unpopular with those around me, but predicted to end in unhappiness and tragedy, to say the least. As it turned out, while I may have stumbled and even fallen flat on my face at times, what I learned when I got back up was the foundation to build my life on – stronger and more authentic than if I had listened to the advice of others. For sure I would not be sitting here writing this or anything else that I have written and published. And that regret would have been the biggest.

This week over on the Home Page, our writing assignment for this week will ask you to visit the land of regrets for just a little while and see if perhaps one of those regrets has actually turned into something that changed your life for the better. As always, have fun with it and remember to just keep writing.

Peace and blessings.