Month: May 2011

Laughter ~ Balm for the Soul

Laughter ~ Balm for the Soul

Click on photo for article about humor and children.
You don’t stop laughing because you grow old.
You grow old because you stop laughing.  ~ Michael Pritchard
~~~

What would life be like without laughter? One of the many gifts of aging is acquiring the ability to take ourselves a bit less seriously. While some people are just born with the ability to laugh many are not. Most of us, however, can learn. My brother-in-law (my husband’s twin) happens to be one of the funniest men alive. I think of him and I laugh. I replay stories he told in my head or with my husband and we just giggle until tears run down our cheeks.  The facts of his stories are not unlike our own. It’s his perspective that is different and he’s honed his delivery to the level of an art form.  One by one he turns life’s little displeasures into anecdotes that make his listeners roar with side-splitting laughter.  I have learned so much from his ability to look at the humor in a situation and subsequently “lighten up”!

My family of origin was deadly serious. They had very little sense of humor, nor did they seem to get comedy in general. Some people are just like that. Have you ever tried to casually joke with a cashier that just stared back at you blankly? It’s not easy to feel as if you were the one with the problem. It could, however, that your wit  just fell on deaf ears and the next person may laugh right along with you.  Humor is a slippery animal, so much of what is funny depends on a mutual point of reference. But, it is oh so important. In fact, researchers tell us that laughter is right up there with tears for cleansing the body, mind and soul. It will lift your spirits and heal your body like magic.

Fortunately, I married into a family with a great sense of humor and I have gained so much from spending time with them over the years. They have had no small part in helping me to laugh at myself and hone my sense of humor and story telling skills.  I’m happy to say that my husband and I, and our two sons, laugh a lot. Life has been hard, but laughter has become a balm for our souls and a way of making each day a little brighter.

Some of you may be familiar with Perrie Meno-Pudge. I have been following them for a couple of years now and I love that they are seeking to find humor in midlife angst. If you need a laugh now and again, you might want to follow them on Facebook or Twitter or visit their website now and again.  Here’s their Facebook post from yesterday:

‎”MIDLIFE TEXTING CODES EXPLAINED:

ATD ~ at the doctor

BFF ~ best friend fell

BTW ~ bring the wheelchair

BYOT ~ bring your own teeth

FWIW ~ forgot where I was

GHA ~ got heartburn again

LMDO ~ laughing my dentures off

OMMR ~ on my massage recliner

ROFL&CGU ~ rolling on floor laughing and can’t get up

TTYL ~ talk to you louder!

                                                        ~ Perrie Meno-Pudge

AMAZING GRAYS ~ A Woman’s Guide to Making the Next 50 the Best 50 (Regardless of Your Hair Color!) by Maggie Rose Crane

AMAZING GRAYS ~ A Woman’s Guide to Making the Next 50 the Best 50 (Regardless of Your Hair Color!) by Maggie Rose Crane

ARE YOU CONSIDERING GOING GRAY?

Maggie Crane tackles the going gray issue by going beneath the surface and getting to the “root” of amazing graythe issue.  In her book AMAZING GRAYS, she explores the sometimes complicated path women often travel as we grapple with the aging process.  Gray is a woman who is traveling this road and understands.

We may start our journey with hot flashes and concerns about going gray, but our generation is doing more. Boomer women are redefining what it means to be over fifty in the twenty-first century – in all aspects of life.  We are not our mothers and our perspective on aging is growing and evolving every day.  We are in the process of shaping new ideas about aging.  The 50’s and 60’s of a woman’s life are more apt to be about new beginnings than endings.  Crane explores the deeper issues of aging as she wrestles with her own decision to go gray.

WHAT COLOR ARE YOUR ROOTS?

From the superficial to the deeply personal, Amazing Grays: A Woman’s Guided to Making the Next 50 the BEST 50 – Regardless of your hair color! is well researched and nicely written.  It offers midlife women an opportunity to challenge their preconceived ideas about aging and evaluate their options honestly.  She challenges her readers to stretch and grow and to make the most of the time that remains for each of us. Crane asks common questions and offers a few answers that she discovered through research and experience.  Whether you are wrestling with the color of your hair or looking for a new perspective on “roots of a different kind”, this book will give you food for thought and tools for action and self-discovery.

Crane’s honest and open style invites the reader in and makes her feel immediately accepted and understood.  You can’t help but think to yourself, “she knows exactly how I feel”.   I happily recommend Amazing Grays to any woman in midlife who is looking for an understanding friend or food for thought.  If you’re feeling, stuck, confused, or overwhelmed by the changes that are taking place in your body or your life, sit down with a cup of coffee and a conversation with Maggie and I guarantee you will feel better when she leaves.

CRANE’S SECOND BOOK

Maggie has just released a new eBook: HOW TO GO GRAY…and Love it!  Whether you’ve already made the decision to go gray and are simply wondering how, or are still on the fence wondering if you should – Maggie offers inspiration, support, and practical information to help you.

About Maggie: Maggie Rose Crane spent a decade crisscrossing the country, conducting leadership and life-skills workshops for women. Now, she is a leading-edge baby boomer on a quest to age with grace, gratitude and gusto. Through her writing, speeches and workshops she candidly shares personal experiences and insights that guide maturing women through the ups and downs of staying vibrant and inspired while aging in a culture obsessed with youth and manufactured beauty. At the core of her message, Maggie exposes the fears and anxieties that haunt many modern women – and reveals how to mindfully navigate the turbulence with wisdom, perspective and practice. 

Join Amazing Grays, where women embrace their age and believe the best is yet to come!  For more information visit maggiecrane.com

 

 

Accepting the Role of Caregiver to Your Aging Parents

Accepting the Role of Caregiver to Your Aging Parents

"Hydrangea" Photo by D Sander All rights reserved

Moving into the role of caregiver for an elderly parent can be a rugged journey along a treacherous path of frustration and indecision. As children of aging parents, we are often right in the middle of the busiest part of our own lives. We are not only juggling the demands of our growing children, we may be at the pinnacle of our careers, facing financial concerns as college expenses loom on the horizon and a whole array of other concerns that are likely to keep us awake at night, along with night sweats!

Becoming the responsible person for Mom and/or Dad is not something we are necessarily prepared to do. We still remember how hard we worked to move out of their lives and establish our own. It’s not uncommon to feel the tug of unfinished childhood business when the time arrives to hand back a piece of our lives to people who used to take care of us. It is uncomfortable and awkward to become the parent to a parent and it is likely to be as equally uncomfortable for the parent to give up their sense of control in the relationship, just when they are losing so much control of their day-to-day life.

It takes two people who are well grounded and comfortable with who they are to enjoy this journey. Most of us are not in that place! However, love allows for, and simultaneously demands, fluidity throughout life and caring for our elderly parent(s) is a practice field upon which we will hone a number of essential life skills.

Here are just a few:

Practice patience, not only with your loved one, but with yourself. Accept that we never have all of the answers, but we do the best we can with what we have.  We are always in a state of “becoming” and all will be as it should be.

Focus on the now. Today is all we have. Focus on the most valuable and meaningful thing in each moment. Consider that sitting with Mom and watching the birds might be just more important than spending an hour on the phone making doctor’s appointments.

Read. Reading articles, books and anything you can get your hands on that deals with the issues you are facing.  It is a very helpful way not only to gain a fresh perspective, but also to feel less alone in your difficulties.  When I was caring for my parents there was very little information or support available for the children of aging parents. Luckily, you can now find a plethora of information at your finger tips online. A few of the people I know personally are listed here in the Caregiving Section of my website  and any of them will gladly offer a hand.

Create space for you. This skill might just be the difficult one you will need to practice, but it is also the most important. Your soul must breathe, your inner spirit must live, if you are to continue to give to others as life requires of you. Caregiver burnout is not a pleasant experience, having been there myself, and it’s not good for you physically, mentally or emotionally to give until you can give no more. Keep your well filled and you will have what you need before, during and after the period of time you are caring for your parents.  Create space in your day, every day, for quiet, do-nothing time, even if it’s only ten minutes.

Exercise. Physical exercise is an excellent way to burn off the excess adrenaline that bombards one’s body during stressful times. Just be alert to any tendency you might have to over exercise and honor your body’s need for rest and relaxation.

Fill your backpack with a few of these essential life skills and climbing the mountain ahead will be easier than you may imagine.

An Unfinished Symphony

An Unfinished Symphony

"Emerald Isle" photo by D Sander - all rights reserved.

Marriage at Midlife ~ Part 3

“The rhythm of life is when you experience your own body, mind and soul.”

~ The Yogi Tea Bag Mystic

The time arrived. The striving had ceased. My time to care for others with my whole being had ended. Midlife is a time of letting go, of saying goodbye to the dreams of our youth and grieving the loss of the childhood innocence that allowed us to believe we are eternal beings.  It is time to release our children, and dare to let go of their hand to allow them to fly free to choose their own destinies. It not only takes courage, but it takes trust in the processes of life to give wings to their future and our own.

Through the process of saying goodbye to my children as children, and goodbye to my earthly mother and father I removed the shackles of expectation and external demands and created an empty space within which to look for and find myself. The rhythm of life carries us forward, quite often not of our own volition.  The hands of time hurl us through experiences we barely see let alone comprehend and before we know it we have landed somewhere totally unexpected.

My arrival at the gate of midlife was abrupt and unyielding. I had covered my eyes for as long as I could and then I had to begin the journey to myself. It was time and slowly I began to release the deathly grip on my marriage that had led to unrealistic expectations and dashed hopes.  I had clung too long and too feverishly to my own very small and very narrow idea of how things were supposed to be. My husband could not soothe all of my pains, cure-all of my ills and wash away all of my problems. He was not the very narrow version of a man I thought he was.  If only, we could make that perfect connection that allowed us to transmit, one to the other, exactly that thing the other needed. We would be at peace. The illusion of love and romance lives on as long as it possibly can because the idea of it is so complete. However, it is only an idea, a goal, a lure to bring the connection and intimacy we all crave.

I believe in love. I will always believe in love. I will always believe that there is hope of finding love for those who are looking. The idea of love, and the bits we can fully accept from our loved ones gives us hope to face another day. It provides us with courage to acknowledge our fears and do it anyway. Love is the underpinning of truth and goodness and freedom. I believe in ever after. I believe in a one and only. It is and it is not exactly what I thought it would be when I was fifteen. It is more.

Love could not provide the reason for living if it were not complex. It is the simplest and yet the most complex of forces, stirring our hearts to ferocious anger and life sacrificing risk. Just as we set our children free, we must set love free.  We must allow it to live and breathe, to grow and expand and instruct us as to what its true nature and intent. Just as we can only truly be ourselves when we abandon our expectations of the outcome, so too it is necessary to set our beloved free, to release him from our expectations of who he should be. Then the magic will happen.

To release our beloved for his “function” and purpose in our lives we step away from an “I-It” relationship and into an “I-Thou” relationship (Martin Buber). It does not matter how our beloved performs, what matters is that we stand face to face and accept and appreciate the other for the miracle that they are. Standing together thus, we might just see the face of God.

And so, I released my children. I released my husband and I am slowly releasing myself from my own expectations. As a result, I have witnessed a miracle. I am day by day growing into the person I always was and am surprised daily by the gifts God has placed gently in my hands. My beloved has begun to break the chains that bound him to an I-It relationship with himself and with me and he too has begun to move into a new, unexpected, yet fully recognizable place.  More often than ever before, we stand together, ever so loosely bound by love and our commitment to one another, to embrace our destiny in an I-Thou connection.

The details hardly matter, as it is the freedom that we have both begun to feel in our individual lives and in our life together that tells the story. I would encourage all married couples facing a midlife marriage crisis to release the death grip of what you thought your marriage should or could have been and take whatever steps necessary to turn your attention away from the expectations you are undoubtedly placing on your spouse. Turn your attention for a time upon yourself and discover what gifts lie buried. There are tools, books, therapists, and life coaches to nudge you forward, but the truth is within you. While you are busy “finding yourself”, the miracle of life will be having its affect on your beloved. It is up to him to allow the influences to mold and shape his understanding of himself and your marriage. Trust the process and the miracle of a new beginning may just take root.

My marriage of twenty-nine years is an unfinished symphony. Our instruments still need tuning and we often struggle with the Director’s methodology. But in spite of, or because of  all of its imperfections, our life together occasionally produces sounds so sweet that one can’t help but recognize the dim reflection of eternal love.

Part 1: Aging Abundantly Through the Challenges of Marriage

Part 2: Challenges of Marriage at Midlife

Help! I Keep Spilling My Coffee!

Help! I Keep Spilling My Coffee!

Am I the only one who has this problem? Spilling my coffee on a regular basis simply adds insult to injury when it comes to my tenuous sense of control over life. I fear I’m not aging gracefully, let alone abundantly!

I used to consider myself a person of style and sophistication. Not that I believed it, but I worked hard pretending I was so. This illusion began at an early age when an old boyfriend told me in a moment of inspiration that I had “class”.  At nineteen or twenty I thought it was the absolute best compliment anyone could have given me. Poise, character, respectability. (I read all sorts of things into that one word!) I so wanted to own those characteristics and gazed for years upon those words, not wanting to consider that he was using such beautiful hyperbole to get a little action. I took the compliment and ran! As you can see, in spite of reality, I’m still clinging to the fantasy.

I digress. Spilling coffee has become an affliction! It may have something to do with the fact that I drink coffee, or rather carry coffee around with me, all day, re-heating and sipping, re-heating and sipping.  How much I actually d

rink is a mystery, even to me. I dilute it with fat-free half-and-half as the day goes on to kill the bitter taste of old coffee.

Our off-white carpet has a new look…lovely caramel colored spots in random locations, matched by random yet localized areas of caramel colored areas on the walls, particularly going up the stairs to my office.  It would totally suit the whimsy of a modern art lover.  Frankly, I am mystified as to how I manage to add to our decor without even being aware of doing so.

I picked up a couple of mugs at TJ Maxx the other day. I needed a lift and I’m not only addicted to coffee, I’m also addicted to pretty little mugs, particularly the bone china variety. Prone to chipping and breaking just as I’m getting attached to them,  I stock up on the least expensive ones I can find. I have a mood mugs…certain-time-of-day-mugs…mugs that I use only when drinking tea…soup mugs…and I-will-never-use-that-mug mugs.

The two mugs I purchased were wide mouth mugs. Big mistake. They are in the Goodwill box as we speak. My current favorite is a small, delicate bone china cup with a very even, steady pattern of tiny dark pink roses. It’s perfect size for my morning coffee and stays by my side until after lunch. Then it goes in the dishwasher and I move on to my afternoon mug, something solid and substantial, like the royal blue pottery mug I purchased while visiting the famed North Carolina pottery town of Seagrove.

All of the beautiful mugs in the world do not keep the coffee in the cup. They do not prevent me from unconsciously setting them on the edge of a book, subsequently launching them and their contents onto everything in sight, including my new Oprah magazine — which I still will not confess to buying…even to myself.

It seems I am less than aware of what I’m doing lately. I drop my makeup into the toilet almost daily. It irritates me to my toes. I get so tired of scooping make-up out of the cold (I tell myself clean) water and reminding myself that I could have put the lid down or, better yet, paid attention to what I was doing!

Today, as I sat in our living room working on an article, I set my coffee on the table beside me. Of course I was not paying attention. I was thinking about what I was going to say next. So naturally, Murphy’s Law being what it is, I set the cup not quite completely on the edge of the table.

I have not gotten the strength yet to get out the carpet cleaner…I’m tired of wasting all the time and energy it takes to keep up with myself.  I did my best to soak it up with a wash cloth from the stack of wash cloths my despairing husband purchased, in bulk at Costco, for just such occasions. The lovely white things are now tan. I told him white was not the best choice. The poor man is ever hopeful of getting me on the straight and narrow.

My deep fear is that I am getting “mad cow disease” to quote my beloved Denny Crane, who sadly will no longer be entering my living room on Monday nights. (Why don’t the networks let us have our good, decent dramas?) My brain is befuddled…just like Denny’s…and I’m denying it about as much as he did. If only there was a pill or a computer program to help me figure out where I’ve gone amuck….

It would be so lovely to keep my coffee in the cup, my makeup in my hand and to age with class!

Excerpt from “Caring for Mom” 

SPEAKING OF COFFEE:  Do you have a Keurig Coffee Maker? I recently signed up to give one a try. I’m went in as a total skeptic and have come away a raving fan. More on this later, but in the meantime, if you have one here’s a discount coupon you’ll love!

 The May K-Cup product of the month is Brew Over Ice!

Use coupon code: AM0013-3574 to save 15% on all Green Mountain Coffee Brew Over Ice K-Cup purchases now through June 10th.

Stay tuned for more “Your Perfect Cup” posts!

 

 

Telling Our Story

Telling Our Story

When I made the decision to take  my desire to write more seriously, I signed up for a class at Writer’s Online Workshop sponsored by Writer’s Digest, a website that seems to have morphed into Writer’s Digest University.  An early online class, it took place in a cyber class and the students benefited from personal critiques of the assignments by the teacher who herself was a published writer. I was fortunate to have a teacher who appreciated my work and didn’t mind saying so. The first time she said “you need to published this” I crumbled into a heap on the floor and cried. Once I overcame the shock, her words and belief in me were all it took to set me off and running.

The article I wrote for the class was “Caring for Mom”, and it was, to my amazement subsequently published in numerous Senior newspapers and magazines around the country and is still, as you see, on-line. It became the title of my first book and started me on an adventure of a lifetime.

I didn’t make a fortune, but I was paid for my writing for the very first time. A copy of the check remains on my bulletin board as a reminder that anything is possible.  It was a special moment in my life, not because of the money, (although that’s always nice!) but because I wrote and people listened. I wrote from my heart and it seemed to matter to someone else.

I did not create that article out of nothing. I created it by telling of my story. It was the only way I knew how to write. The class was on magazine article writing and while the rest of the class was busy researching and writing about things like gardening and raising dogs, I was feeling inadequate and clueless. I couldn’t think of anything I knew much about, nor did I care much for research. Just thinking about it shut of my creative instincts and drive.  I was in a quandary and quite certain I was on the path to proving myself a failure as a writer.

The night before the assignment was due, I still didn’t know what I was going to write about. I had just returned home from a weekend of caring for my aging mother. I was worn out and struggling with family dynamics that were percolating in my brain. How could I be creative and find the spark I needed to write my assignment?

I cloistered myself in my room with my laptop and just began to write. What came out was my story of caring for Mom. When I was done I thought, oh, well, no more time. I’ll just have to submit and take the heat. It was what was on my mind and in my heart and there was nothing else I could have written in that moment.

I learned a valuable lesson that night , one I too often forget.  We are our stories and they may just be the most valuable asset we have to offer to others. We may not have all the answers to life’s most perplexing problems, but we have ourselves and our stories and in sharing them we might just be gently weaving a new thread into the fabric of another person’s life.

Who are we, if we are not our stories, for they are the sum total of the choices we have made and refused to make, the love we have shared, and lost and withheld. They are the lines and creases of joy and sadness on our face, the shape of our smile and the look in our eye.  As we continue to write the story of our life, owe it to ourselves and to the world to set it free. Perhaps, just perhaps, that is what eternal life is all really about.