PUT ON YOUR GLASSES!!

glasses4

A few years ago, while looking at pictures from a trip to Colorado, there was a gray-haired woman in a red sweatshirt who I didn’t recognize. I knew it wasn’t me. My hair is not that gray and I don’t own a red sweatshirt. Finally, I asked my husband.

“Honey, who is that?” I prodded. “That woman in the red sweatshirt.”

He looked at the photo then looked back at me.

“Are you serious?” he said as if I were wacko.

“Yes, that woman with the gray hair. I don’t recognize her at all.”

“Wow,” he said. “Put on your glasses.”

It WAS me. I had borrowed someone’s shirt because it was cold.

            This also happened some 30 years ago when I received proof sheets from a photographer who had taken my headshots. At first, I thought they sent someone else’s photos: someone infinitely younger and prettier. Nope. They were mine but all were shot at the perfect, flattering angle under great lighting with a plethora of makeup!

          Last week, a 60-foot tree fell in our yard, brought down the power lines and ripped out a portion of our roof. THAT I saw clearly. What I missed was, ‘the fine print’ in our homeowner’s insurance: “You are responsible for the first 6,000 in damages accrued.”

        There’s an old adage that says, “Believe NONE of what you hear and HALF of what you see.” Maybe whoever wrote it realized that things aren’t always what they seem, no matter how they appear. Or maybe he was looking through a pair of squashed glasses like mine above.

       When Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals, he didn’t patent them. His feeling was that, “As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously.”

      Now the most common eyesight problems over age 60 are: macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts. So, visit your eye doctor! Then, put on your glasses! Remember, you don’t have to be old to miss the fine print or not get ‘the whole picture.’ It just means you’re human.

      Tonight, my husband couldn’t find an entire head of lettuce staring at him from the fridge shelf. (Normally, the ketchup eludes him). So, I said, “Put on your glasses, Dear. It’s not like the lettuce is disguised and wearing a red sweatshirt.”      

 

HAND OVER YOUR HEART

 flag

I hung our flag outside today. The older I get, the more memories it carries. My first was at age 10, when I became a ‘naturalized citizen.’ Since I was born in Australia, this was something that I needed to do if I wanted to be a ‘real’ American. I did. As I timidly walked inside the Phoenix courthouse, the flag flapped briskly outside.

 My first question was, “Who is our current US President?”

“John F. Kennedy,” I answered confidently.

 Then, they asked me to recite the Pledge of Allegiance with my hand over my heart. My grandmother, perhaps worried that I might flunk, had also insisted that I memorize the Preamble to the US Constitution, “just in case.” While I can quote it to this day, they never asked.

 10 years later, that same flag was draped over the coffins of all, those soldiers coming back from Vietnam. 10 years after that, our flag waved mightily over the 26 baseball stadiums as I sang, “The Star Spangled Banner.” Never have I felt the awe and humility of being an American as deeply as that summer. 20 years later, I watched our flag go up in flames in Kabul.  

 Real freedom has nothing to do with color or country, gender or age. It has little to do with a piece of cloth sewn with stars and stripes and everything to do with how we think. Since psychologists say that we are prisoners of our own thoughts, we need to choose them carefully. I believe that there are two kinds of freedom: ‘freedom from’ and ‘freedom to.’ If we have the first, we must use the second wisely.

 Now my dog’s idea of freedom is to bolt from the leash and head straight into oncoming traffic. I have known many people just like her. They’ll take that inch so impulsively that they never make it a mile. So, on this July 4th, don’t take after my dog. Remember the words of a great man who understood what freedom really meant:

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”  Nelson Mandela

 

TOP TEN CLUES YOU’RE NOT A KID ANYMORE

smiley face2

 

  1. Everything hurts and if it doesn’t you’re just waiting for it to.
  2. “Your Body is a Wonderland,” in every sense of the word. Skin has gone south from your forehead to your ankles leaving a series of tiny, folded wrinkles that you can move around willy-nilly.
  3. Instead of tanning, you become covered with a splash of brown spots right out of a Jackson Pollock painting.
  4. Your teeth get bigger but your mouth gets smaller. (This is likely purposeful so that you will chew better and eat less).
  5. Everyone you see driving is entirely too young to be behind the wheel.
  6. You ask people on the phone to “speak up,” often more than once, and you still don’t know what they said.
  7. Complete strangers routinely ask if you have grandkids.
  8. Your mailbox is filled with ads for retirement homes, nursing facilities and funeral companies.
  9. You’re always looking for ramps.
  10. You can actually make a smiley face with the extra skin around your knees! (Test this by lying on your back and raising your leg in the air.)

 

REMEMBER ME IN BLOOM

 

 

Magnolia bloomI am now at the age where I attend more funerals than weddings; a time more defined by loss than achievement. And while the years have crept slowly they seem to have passed overnight. One moment I was running barefoot for miles along the beach and now? Climbing a simple flight of stairs is agony for my knees.

 A friend of mine recently passed away. As I entered the church for her visitation, she was lying in an open casket at the far end of the room. Her face was translucently whiter than it had ever been in real life and her lips were pressed together as if just about to smile. They had dressed her in a blue suit and wrapped rosary beads delicately around her hands. She seemed so lifelike that I stared at her chest thinking any moment she might possibly take a breath. The longer that I looked, though, the more it bothered me. I did not want to remember her like this.

 As my friends and I waited to speak with her family, I asked them what their own plans were for their services someday. What surprised me was that all of them had plans. One gave a detailed description of every song and Bible verse that would be played and read at her service. Another said she wanted a simple funeral but no cremation. The last not only described her memorial but also asked if I would sing her favorite hymn when the time came!

 I excused myself and returned again to my friend’s body. Instinctively, I reached into the casket and took hold of her hand. It was something that I had often done when she was alive. We often squeezed hands when greeting one another. This time, however, her hand was cold, so cold, that even when I let it go, my own remained distinctly chilled for several minutes afterwards.

 As I drove away from the church, I realized this: I want no memorial, no funeral, or even casket. Do not stitch my lips shut or lay me stiffly like a mannequin. Cremate me and scatter me to the wayward wind. Then, I will become a part of the good earth again and perhaps even bloom in someone’s garden. Remember me with a flush of color in my face, a big smile on my lips and a hand warm to the touch.

 

 

 

  

YOU’RE NEVER TOO YOUNG…OR OLD

Helen in locker

 Yup. That’s me, playing, “Hide and Seek” in the pool locker room this morning. Couldn’t resist. Two little girls had been hiding and finding each other as their mothers pretended to knock on all the doors in search for them. The longer I watched, the more that I wanted to play, too. Finally, I said, “Hey you guys, can I play, too?” They both looked at me with wide eyes and open mouths. Neither spoke. They just stared. Finally one said, “You’re way, too big.” I love a challenge.

 “Well, let’s see,” I said, stepping inside.

 “She fits!” the littlest one squealed with delight.

 Unfortunately, I rather filled the space and couldn’t close the door behind me. As I pondered what to do next, one of the mothers kindly said, “Go ahead. I’ll close the door for you.”

 As soon as it shut, one of the girls said in a voice that mimicked her mother, “Where’s the old lady?”

 The other one chimed in, “Where’s the OLD, OLD lady?”

 Both squealed and giggled upon opening my locker door.

 “Found you,” they said in chorus.

 I giggled, too. It is just as much fun hiding as it is being found. In all the trials and travails of aging, it never hurts to be silly now and then. Here is to you finding your ‘inner kid’ today. 

 

 

 

 

 

YOU CAN COUNT ON IT!!!

TENNIS

Did you know that out of the 5 million people who have Alzheimer’s right now, 3.2 million of them are women? By the age of 65, 1 in 6 women will get Alzheimer’s compared to 1 in 11 men. In fact, women over 65 are twice as likely to get Alzheimer’s as they are breast cancer. Does this give you pause?

 Now I’ve got to tell you, that’s weird. Why? Because when you look at the checklist of what to do to NOT get Alzheimer’s, the number one thing science says it to, “make friends & create social connections.” And guess what? Women do that WAY better than men! In spades!

 So what gives? Apparently, if you have the APO-E4 gene, which is linked to Alzheimer’s, and you’re a woman, you are very likely to succumb to the disease. If you’re a man? Not so much. There is some research that says it’s because women live longer and that estrogen loss contributes to the buildup of amyloid plaques, but really? The jury is out.

 So here’s my take: if you’re a woman, make friends and lots of them. I consider myself super fortunate because I do have friends, lots of them, from Australia to Arizona. I have a zillion more friends than my husband and considering the statistics, maybe that’s a good thing. My friends come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Even better, the ones I know that I can count on would be totally cool if I started talking to plastic tumblers. In fact, they would talk to them, too, just so I don’t feel so alone. Now, that’s a real friend.

So, in case you are looking for one yourself, here is a checklist:

1.  They accept you “as is” but they don’t let you get away with BS.

2.  They are ‘empathetic’—not ‘sympathetic.’ 

 3.  They encourage you to be your BEST self and kick your butt if you’re not.     

 4.  They listen and listen and then some.

  5.  They are ‘there’ for you even if you haven’t seem them for 40 years.

 In the pictures above and below, you will see some of my tennis girlfriends. I love them. I can count on them and know what else? They can count on me.

 tennis friends 1

 

 

 

 

MOTHERS NEST DEEP

mama robin

I never fully appreciated my mother until I gave birth myself. Looking into my daughter’s eyes for the first time was overwhelming. This breathing, beautiful baby had come from my own body! That sense of miraculous wonder has never left me in the 23 years since. Nor have I lost sight of the responsibility that comes from bringing a child into the world.

 That is the nature of a mother. She nests deep. It is not just the breath of life she breathes into you. It is the breaths that you also take from her; the ones she held as you took your first steps, the ones she used up giving hours of advice and encouragement, the ones you knocked out of her whether you stumbled or soared and the ones she continues to hold as you navigate your own life.

 Mothers endure as steadfastly as the robin I have watched for weeks in my garden. First, there were the endless trips for mud and straw and sticks to fashion her nest. Then she nestled deep and laid her eggs. Through several rainstorms and long days of gusty wind, she hovered over them until first one and then the others hatched. As each emerged from its shell, she carried the broken pieces far away to fool predators. For ceaseless hours, she remained, wings spread over their tiny, downy bodies to keep them warm, even as she shivered.

 Once a child is born, a mother’s life is never again just hers. She is forever tied like a mast to the ships of her children. Beyond all hope, she wants those ships to sail, just as the robin wants her young to fly. So, on this Mother’s Day, remember that the most joyous sound to her ears will be your voice. The loveliest sight to her eyes will be your smile and the greatest gift you can give her is a life well and honorably lived.