Through The Eyes of Babes

Have you ever wondered what it is about babies and toddlers that captures our attention?

Of course it’s because they’re so darn cute. But, more than that I’ve discovered that it’s because they remind us of the things we take for granted.

I remember how in awe I was when I watched my own babies discovering life. But I never appreciated it to the extent I could once I became grandparent. I wanted to carry them away to place where they would never lose it. Where the ugliness of life could never enter into the pure joy of life’s discoveries. Now out of 9 my youngest grandchild is 8 and my oldest 26. I wasn’t ready to be a great-grandparent yet. But in becoming one God had a deeper level of pure joy to show me through the eyes of our 14 month old great-grandson Ryder. As he stands in the rain for the first time in his life. With a smile looking up toward the heavens he lifts his arms as if praising God. Opens his mouth to let the rain in while trying to catch the raindrops with his hands at the same time. He jumps, dances, and giggles as he plays in the pouring rain. If I hadn’t been so awe struck I would have joined him myself. But, I am grateful for the reminder to open my own eyes to the things I take for granted. For those are the grace-filled moments when we get a glimpse of heaven on earth.

”On Death and Dying”

My mother-in-law used to say that you start off going to the happy events in life like weddings, baptisms, birthdays, graduations. As the years pass by you find yourself attending more funerals and fewer weddings.

Soon you’re opening the obituary pages before you read the rest of the newspaper wondering who you’ll know this time. She got to the point where her classmates where dropping like flys. You wonder…why are they so obsessed with death?

But one day you find yourself on the other side of it and you begin to understand what you couldn’t in your earlier year’s. How can you not think of it? Death begins to feel as if it’s in your face all the time as parents, siblings, classmates and friends are dying. There’s always the painful few that are too young and unexpected.

Now my kids don’t like hearing their dad and me talk about death and dying same as we were at their age. I was reading that Americans are a death denial culture. We avoid the topic and when we don’t allow ourselves to talk about things we don’t understand it creates more significant fear around it.

There’s not much we can do to change the fact that we’re all going to die someday. Maybe the most important thing about facing this reality comes from the wake-up call it gives us. Like my dad used to say, ”I looked in the obituaries today, and when I didn’t see myself I was reminded I’m still alive.” Once that reality sets in we can actually use what we read to help us reflect and reevaluate our own lives. Am I living my life the best I can, being kind to others, fulfilling my goals, living my purpose, filling my soul with the best experiences I can show it. As long as we’re still breathing we have the opportunity to become better and better at what God created us to be.

We owe it to the people we care about who pass away to live our life to the fullest. Because when we do, they continue to live on in us.

This is dedicated to Kathy McDowell my husbands cousin, Baby Lucas Dicely our great-nephew, Rob Finger and Peggy Anderson our life-long friends who all passed away within the past year.

“The Gift of Socialization”

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Did you know in our senior years socializing is as important as eating a healthy diet and exercising?

I knew a guy who preferred being in the company of younger people. He said it was because they made him feel more alive than those of his own age. I love the various ages of the people in my life. They bring lots of new and interesting things to the table of life. But it’s my fellow senior friends that I feel the most at home with. As a matter of fact, I don’t feel old at all when I’m with them. I feel free to simply be me. I might notice my friends getting older at first glance. I do the same thing first thing in the morning when I look at myself in the mirror. The funny thing is once I focus in on my eyes everything else around me becomes a blur and I only see who I am on the inside. That part of me seems to be ageless and that’s the part I see when I’m with my senior friends.

If having a social life is that important. Then what are the things that get in the way? To each of us that will be different. Two of the things that get in my way is my anxiety issues and the other is my vanity. I’m not proud to admit to either, but I’ve been making an effort to work on them for a while now and it is getting better. Being a woman there is a part of me that enjoys looking the best I can. But sometimes I can be ridiculous. Like the other day when I was getting ready to go to my Silver Fit workout. Now that it’s getting warmer I put a short sleeve shirt on. Putting my arms out straight I think I could drift through the sky with the wings I have. Then I remembered where I was going, to Silver Fit with all the other ladies who’s arms wobbly-to-n-froe just like mine. Heck, even Jane Fonda has flabby arms. Accessories always help. So, I wore a pair of peachy pink earrings to match my short sleeve shirt.

Let’s face it if we want to swim with our grandkids then we’re going to have to put a bathing suit on. Let’s not forget the big brimmed hat we have to wear now to protect our skin. Then there’s the clunky shoes. I’d much prefer wearing a cute pair of sandals, but if I’m going to shop for hours with my friends. I have to wear comfortable shoes. But you know what I’ve learned? That the older I get the freer my spirits becomes, and that true part of me thinks nothing of saying, “who gives a shit what anyone else thinks.”

My anxiety has gotten so much better over the years. It’s the part of anxiety where I don’t want to burden others with what’s going on inside me. But often getting out and being in the presence of others is the very medicine we need to pull us out of our funks. This happened to me a few weeks ago. I was having some anxiety over the way I was feeling physically. I knew I was alright because my blood test came back normal. But why was I feeling so tired all the time? My friend came early to pick me up and we had time to sit and chat a little before leaving. All of a sudden all my woe’s and worries came pouring out, and with each complaint she said, “Connie, I feel that way too. It’s all part of getting older. You just have to keep pushing yourself through it. Some days will be good and some you will need to rest, but you never give up.”

“I didn’t know you felt this way too,” I said. “You always seem to have it all together.”

“So, do you most of time,” she said.

Knowing I wasn’t alone in what I was experiencing made all the difference to me. It reminded me of the years long ago when I’d talk with my friends about the different things going on with our kids or in our marriages. We’d say the same thing back then, “I didn’t know you felt that way too.” What a relief it was to know that what we were experiencing was normal. It’s no different as we get older. Who understands us better than those who are going through the same things as we are?

Feeling supported, feeling normal, feeling seen, recognized and validated and most of all having fun. That’s what having a social life is all about.

“Grow Old With Me!”

Love fail-funny old couple

Before Tom and I married we’d walk everywhere we had to go because we didn’t have a car back then. We’d walk the blocks of rowhomes where we’d see old couples sitting on their porches. What pressed upon our hearts was how miserable they seemed in each other’s company. We were young and very much in love with our whole life ahead of us. But, seeing this left such an impression on us that I remember saying, “Tommy if we’re lucky enough to grow old together. Let’s promise that we’ll never stop talking, caring and loving each other same as we do right now.”  

I’ve been reading the letters we wrote to each other when Tom went off to college. In this one he wrote, “You know Connie, we’re going to have a beautiful life together. People, will one day look at us when we’ve grown old and say what a perfect marriage they have.” As if I didn’t already love him enough reading those letters made me fall in love with him all over again. 

It’s easy to make promises when you have no idea what life will bring your way. Love is like finding a diamond in the rough but holding onto it isn’t enough. To find the real beauty that lies within it, you have to chisel away at all the stuff that hides it’s potential. There’s always been a sparkle that’s shined through our love. However, it takes a lifetime of trial and error chipping away and buffing before the true beauty of its light begins to reflect what we hold so dear.

We no longer let the way people choose to live their life make an impression on us. What we do see is the reality of what is ahead for us. We watched it as we lost our parents and now as we begin to lose more of our lifelong friends. There is no time to waste being miserable over the fact that we’re aging. There’s still so much living and loving to do whether it’s with our spouse, children or friends. It makes us hold onto each other a little tighter and appreciate the time we still have together. As long as we’re alive there’s still time to chip away at the diamond in the rough we hold in the palm of our hands. Maybe that’s been the mission in our life all along. To find the sparkle within ourselves and let it shine through us.

 

“The Dis-ease of Seniorities”

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I was working on my memoir and started a sentence off with the word senior. It was about reaching that final year in high school. I sat there looking at the word senior, thinking how surreal the moment felt. I mean, here I was a senior again going through some of the same feelings and emotions only this time it’s at the opposite end of life. But what could make two such different correlations of the word anything alike? It could only be that dreaded feeling that comes with the anticipation of the unknown. It creates a kind of dis-ease they call…senioritis.

So, I wondered, what are the symptoms of senioritis? Of course, it only applied to seniors in high school. But once again I couldn’t help seeing the correlation to those of us adjusting to our retirement and our senior years of life.

The symptoms:

Loss of interest in your appearance
Lack of motivation
Increased irritability
Difficulty reading things longer than a few paragraphs
A drastic increase in TV watching
Feeling rebellious
Feeling superior
Short-term memory loss
Sleep too much or too little

Oh, those years of youth when I had my whole life ahead of me to look forward to. Another symptom of senioritis comes with the wonder of what’s left to come. Barbara Hannah Grufferman’s in her book, “Love Your Age,” reminds us that, “We can’t control getting older, but we can control how we do it.” Understanding those words gives us our power back. It takes us out of that senioritis mindset. We realize life is no longer about looking ahead or back, but about making the most of the moments we have right now. I’m learning that you can live a lifetime in those moments because it actually feels as if time stops and all that matters is where you find yourself.

So, there we have it. Another way to embrace this stage of our life, take control and do it our way.

If you’re looking for more ways to find out how to make the best of this time in your life check out Gruffermans’s book. She has lots of great ideas and insight.

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“The Embrace”

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Turning 65 made me step back and take an undeniable reality check. I’ve reached the age of no return.

I tell my friend, “I want to embrace this time in my life, but I don’t know what that means.”

“Neither do I,” she says.

While I was on vacation recently I had an aha moment that put everything into perspective for me. I stopped to check out this big old tree that was over 237 years old. Standing beside it I looked so small in comparison. I was drawn to step within the fold of its draping branches. At first the clusters of Spanish-moss looked like ghost from the past swaying between the branches. Then it looked like beautiful long silver hair blowing in the wind. I’m in awe of the moment as if I’ve stepped within that place where the meaning of inner beauty lies. This big beautiful old tree with it’s wrinkles, cracks, and age spots still stands strong in a weathered region against all odds. Maybe it’s because she went with the flow of the winds, bending with a flexible heart to whatever God brought her way.

Nature teaching me how to embrace my age meant; to stand tall and proud for what and who I’ve become. That’s where our true beauty lies, and keep on moving so I can bend with the flow of life, with the gracefulness of Spanish-moss blowing in the wind.