ANONYMOUS VALENTINE

heart-leaf

 This lovely leaf appeared on my doorstep last Valentine’s Day. No tree in our yard had leaves like that, so I pondered its’ arrival. Did the wind blow it smack to the center of the doorstep? Had someone put it there? I picked it up and put it in the kitchen window and all day admired my anonymous valentine.

 Valentine’s Day has always been my favorite holiday. My love affair with Cupid began in 1st grade. I had abruptly been skipped from kindergarten the week before Valentine’s Day. I was the smallest, newest addition to the class and didn’t know anyone. The teacher had us make big, red, colored paper hearts with our names on them. Then she stapled them to the bulletin board with the tops left open. We were to slip our Valentines into each other’s open heart.

 My mom bought me a stack of valentines with sweet tarts already attached. Excitedly, I began writing the names of all my new classmates on each one. The next day, I arrived early to slip them into their red hearts. Some were too high for my reach, so the teacher gave me a little step stool to stand on. All week, I watched my classmates stuff their treasures into each other’s Valentines, too. A few of them even bulged at the seams.  I was so excited that it was hard to sit still in my seat.

 The big day came. The teacher pulled all our valentines off of the board and placed them on our desks. The kids around me were pulling out lollipops, bubble gum, and chocolates. I opened mine and reached inside. There was only one valentine and it was from the teacher. She had also put in a Hershey’s kiss, which was my very, best-loved candy!

 While the memory is bittersweet, it reminds me that it only takes one act of kindness to make someone’s day. I was thrilled to get a special valentine from my teacher with my favorite candy. In fact, all day I wondered how she knew. At the time, it never occurred to me that she gave ALL the kids a Hershey’s kiss! Sometimes I think it’s better not to know how something happens and simply appreciate it when it does, like finding a heart-shaped leaf on your doorstep.  

 

SO FAR. . .SO GOOD!!!

60-year-old-swimsuit-model

A girlfriend of mine just sent this picture to me with the caption: “When I see her, I think of you!” Whoa there. Me? Okay, I do, in fact, wear a bathing suit everyday. I do have long hair, (although it’s not quite that white yet) but I look at it and see a woman whom I might like to look like someday, you know, when I am HER age. Here’s the problem: I am already older than the Italian model pictured above!! Isn’t perception a funny thing? Psychologists say that we have a good sense of who we are by the age of six. Apparently, for some of us that view never really shifts!

 Einstein taught us that if you remain still, time moves rapidly forward. However, if you travel at the speed of light, time, in fact, does not move at all. Thus, if you stay fixed and unmoving, the minutes just tick on. Today, The New York Times published the results of a study, which correlated movement with happiness. Researchers found that people who moved more frequently–even simple walking–reported greater satisfaction and joy than those who spent most of their time in a chair.

 That’s why it’s important to keep yourself, ‘out there’ meeting new people, trying new things and avoiding stolid routines. If you’re just counting out your pills while sitting in your easy chair, you’ll get stale. Worse, your optimism may morph into depression. Recently, I saw a great cartoon that depicts a guy falling from a 20-story building. At each floor, he yells out, “So far, so good!” Now that’s a great way to live until we’re on that one-way train to infinity with no return ticket.

When I see friends that I knew 10 or even 50 years ago, they really do seem the same. Delusional? Maybe, but if you look at others from the inside out they don’t really change much. They are who they were. Mostly they are who you remember them as.  So if my girlfriend, whom I haven’t seen in 10 years sees this picture and thinks of me…I say RIGHT ON!! Perhaps I’ve been travelling the speed of light and didn’t even know it!

 

      

DYING TRYING

helen-on-a-bike

There is a reason I am on this bike for the first time after almost 15 years. Research says that if I really want to be a, ‘super ager,’ I NEED to feel pain. I need to get out of my, ‘comfort zone’ and really tax my mind & body. Otherwise, my brain tissue will merely be ‘thin’ and that is NOT good. Thank you science and the rest of you folks who are forever changing your mind about we should and shouldn’t do.

A recent article in the New York Times says that, “In the United States, we are obsessed with happiness. But as people get older, research shows, they cultivate happiness by avoiding unpleasant situations. This is sometimes a good idea, as when you avoid a rude neighbor. But if people consistently sidestep the discomfort of mental effort or physical exertion, this restraint can be detrimental to the brain. All brain tissue gets thinner from disuse. If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

Dr. Anna Lembke, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Stanford has just thrown her hat in the ring, as well. She says that 100 years ago, doctors believed that some pain had a, ‘salutatory effect on the body, providing both a physiologic and spiritual benefit.’ However, in the time since, pain has become, “something to avoid at all costs.” Thus, the over-prescription of painkillers and the ensuing opioid epidemic.

Quite frankly, I thought I was doing OK by swimming a half-mile a day, playing a few games of competitive tennis, practicing my scales on piano and guitar and writing. Apparently not. Apparently, I am supposed to PUSH myself…not merely MOVE myself. Well, thank you very much, science.

Kudos also to my sister-in-law, Cathy, who keeps me posted on all things Alzheimer’s and aging! So, dear girl, this blog is for you. Thank you for personally whipping me into shape whether I like it or not. Right now, my knees are aching, I am winded from the hills and quite frankly, if this will help me be a ‘super-ager,’ I shall be indebted to you. If not, at least I died trying!!

TURN HEADS…CHANGE HEARTS

helen-tennis-t-shirt

About 15 years ago, an older fellow that I played tennis with gave me this T-shirt for Christmas with my picture on it. At the time, I thought the gesture was sweet but was too embarrassed to actually wear a shirt with my own face on it. Seemed downright silly.

 Fast-forward all those years and I’ve changed my mind. I love looking at that shirt now. I even remember the day the photo was taken: I had just emerged victorious from an arduous match of mixed doubles! In fact, that younger picture of me makes me so happy, that I want ALL of our elderly, particularly those in homes, to have one of themselves!

 I think that all of us should give the older folks in our lives a T-shirt with their favorite photo from ‘back in the day’ on it. If they can’t choose their own photo, do it for them. Plaster their younger self on it to remind all who come into contact with them that they were young once—that they had a life—and that they are not just the wrinkled, bent over creatures they may have become since then.

 Can’t you just see the changed look on the faces of all those caretakers in the nursing home when they see a picture of cranky, old, arthritic Doris in pigtails astride a galloping horse? Or hear the amazement in a kid’s voice when he says, “Gosh, I didn’t know Granddad could ride a surfboard!”

 If my Granny were still alive, I’d put that photo of her the afternoon she waltzed out into the backyard, tied on a pair of her old, tap shoes and started demonstrating the ‘time step’ for me. I wish all those who had only known her as an old woman could have seen that!!

 This is MY resolution for 2017: get a T-shirt for everyone over 60 with a picture of their younger self on the back! Add a slogan that says: “This is who I WAS and still AM!” It won’t just turn heads. It will change hearts. I promise you. Help me make it happen. SHARE this and send me your photos!!!!

P. S.  Personally, I would put a photo of me riding my motorcycle up Highway 101, wearing a red halter-top and shorts, with my long hair flying in the wind. Unfortunately, no one took that picture. It exists only in my mind.

THE SHADOW OF THINGS TO COME

shadow

We are born under the shadow and shelter of our parents. If we are fortunate, it comes with wide, warm and protective boughs. As adults, we step out from under that vast, verdant shade and follow the sun, creating our independent shadow. Hopefully, one day, it, too, will shelter and protect our own loved ones.

 That transition, though, can be a strange and gray one. Some of us continue to cower under the shadow of childhood long into old age, carrying resentments, fears and even vengeance. Aging happily takes courage, confidence and the ability to stand alone even if we can’t stand at all.  

 So, as we all move forward towards the uncertainty of 2017, may we be brave, bold and brazen in the face of what lies ahead and let go of what was. We are always just shy of the shadow of things to come and it can be scary.  But time is a well-worn road that many before us have already walked:

 We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.

–Buddha

 Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.

–Abraham Lincoln

 The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.

–Michelangelo

 This life is but a walking shadow; a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

–Shakespeare

 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff protect me.

–Psalm 23

 

 

OOPS, I DID IT AGAIN!

 

cropped-cropped-handstand1.jpgApparently the days of embarrassing myself are still not over. Getting in the wrong car because it looked like mine, or thinking someone said, “ass” when actually they said, “ask” was a minor gaffe. Wearing my shirt backwards all day in public was a mere oversight. But I’m not quite sure how to explain this next one.

 Every 6 months, I have my blood drawn for a cholesterol check. Just the thought of that, long, silver-pointed needle jabbed into my vein, sucking out my life force, gives me the Willies!! After years of phlebotomists having trouble finding my vein, I have come up with a surefire solution: I do 20 pushups, then using the arms of the chair in the waiting room, I lift my butt out of the seat 20 times. Finally, I do a handstand against the wall. Works like a charm.

 Recently, I was in the process of packing for a major move across country when suddenly, I remembered, that I had to have my blood drawn! Quickly, I threw on a sweatshirt and drove downtown. When I arrived at the doctor’s office, there were only two, young boys, in the waiting room. They looked like brothers in their matching khaki shorts. I guessed them to be about 10 and 12.

 “The nurse will be ready for you in a few minutes, “ the receptionist said, “So go ahead and do your handstand now!”

 I walked over to my favorite spot on the wall, put my hands down on the carpet and sent my legs straight up. Just as I did, I felt my sweatshirt slip down to my neck. It was only then that I realized that I had forgotten to put on a bra!!  Immediately, I came down but I could tell by the red faces of those boys that I did not come down fast enough.

 “Oh,” I said to them, “I am SO sorry about that! It was NOT my intention to shock you, so please forgive me.”  Shyly, they both continued looking down, though each was slightly smiling. Neither said a word.  Gosh,” I blurted as I made my getaway, “Let’s just pretend that never happened.”  Then I fled down the hall.  

 Well, on the bright side, at least I was upside down. At my age, that’s likely an improvement!

A TEMPORARY FIX

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 I was shocked today to learn that a friend of mine, fully 15 years my junior, recently had Botox. Granted, she does look a bit more relaxed and slightly more youthful about the face. But bottom line? It won’t last. It’s like wearing a pushup bra. You look pretty hot, until you take it off that is. Time marches on and despite our temporary fixes, we will indeed, age, infirm and die.

 Consider this: I have worked out almost every day of my life for the last 40 some years. Yes, it has paid off in terms of ‘staying fit,’ but really? My workouts have become shorter and less aggressive over the years. My rotator cuff is hanging by a thread and my knees are shot. So, though I swim a half-mile a day, and do yoga and play a bit of tennis, the decline is continuous and certain. I’ll be honest. I am watching myself go downhill piece by piece, although I am trying to stay upbeat about it all.

 Then you add the actual statistics. Right now, 1,000 people a day are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. 1% of us will have it by age 60. By the time we reach 85, fully 40% of us will have it. Not only that, the disease itself will begin a full 10 years before we even notice the symptoms! There is NO cure. There is NOTHING that will slow it down and even science says that at this point, “nothing can be done to stave it off.”

 Oh sure, you can exercise, eat well and get Botox. But frankly? That’s like getting a polio vaccine after you already have polio. If you’re lucky, you’ll be one of those,‘super agers,’ and the disease won’t even darken your door. If you’re an average Joe, though, you’d better get your affairs in order: make a Living Will, find someone you trust and make them your power of attorney, and if you want to spend your final years at home, keep your eyes open for a good caretaker!! I am ALWAYS looking—even at the supermarket!

 My advice? Close your computer right now. Turn off your cell phone and walk outside. Look up at the sky. Notice how cumulonimbus clouds merge into cirrus and keep on moving. Whether you see stars or mountains, sea or cactus, love the view. Realize that whatever you see before you right now, you will someday not see at all.  Be grateful for the moment, this moment. Now.