An Unexpected Gift

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Self isolation during this pandemic has given us the gift of time…something to savour or save for later. For me, it is to consciously slow down. It’s been an interesting exercise.

I am now aware of my speed when eating, I don’t rush when I’m cooking or baking, I try to focus on the job at hand and not accomplish two or three things at once and when I phone a friend I don’t multi-task. Most times I’m successful and when I find my mind wandering I try to rope it in!

This really isn’t in my nature so when I’m reading I now have a piece of paper close by and I attempt to write down whatever pops in my mind so I can concentrate just on reading. It’s an on-going difficult exercise because even as I’m writing this I am thinking of things to do and what I want to accomplish next.

My exercise of choice has always been walking. I enjoy walking with a friend and chatting as we go. The time passes quickly and I come home stimulated and happy. The struggle has always been… do I want to waste the hour on walking when I have so much I could accomplish.

My husband strongly believes that when retired one of our jobs needs to be our daily fitness. So if I can keep his mind-set I must work walking into my day. We live on the 16th floor of a condo apartment building and walking the stairs would certainly be advised even when I think …do I have time and how boring. Now, I have absolutely no reason to avoid the stairs. I have the time……

I’ve never been a movie or television watcher and when I do watch I play on my IPAD, sort papers, clean silverware, walk in and out of the room as I like to accomplish some other task. Now I am consciously trying to just concentrate on the show or movie. Not easy at all and I’m still not successful!

By nature I’m messy. Piles of things don’t bother me and so in our small condo I am trying to find places for everything. I have to consciously think if I take it out, it must go back. When a task is completed I am trying to clean up immediately. I know I have the time. I don’t have the excuse that I must rush off to the next event.

I’m not always winning this one as right now I have clothes that need ironing and folding draped over a living room chair…..learning new habits take 21 days and while we have been in self-isolation for 57 days I guess I’m still trying to change this life-long habit!

I am also thinking of new ways to connect with friends and family. Phone calls, ZOOM meetings and writing letters have become an important part of my day. I took the time to write all our grandchildren a letter.

I do wonder if our 17 month old grand daughter will think we live in the IPHONE! The other grandkids happily chat to us on FaceTime as they wander around the house so we get excellent views of the ceiling, floors and walls…sometimes I need a anti-nausea drug after these chats!

COVID is giving us all the gift of time. How are you using yours? What has been your biggest learning during this COVID 19 pandemic? How do you think you will change once we begin to venture back into our world?

Be An At-Home Hero

BE AN AT-HOME HERO

We have been home from our winter spot for 27 days and it amazes me how our time becomes filled. When the sidewalks aren’t slippery, we head outside for a walk.

My husband had saved his dumbbells from high school and I resented the fact that they were gathering dust in our closet. Now we are both happy to have them! He says he went from a zero to a hero in minutes! I suppose he did……

Being self-isolated gives us a whole new way of looking at our lives. I so look forward to FaceTime calls from our kids and grandkids.

Another friend has set up a weekly 30 minute happy hour on Zoom and it is reassuring to see the faces of the other 9 people and know they are all coping and even learning new things about themselves.

My husband has been phoning friends he hasn’t connected with for at least two years (in some cases 10) and that has been rewarding for him.

We play cards some days and are certainly reading more. We have even begun to watch a series on Netflix, now we have watched all the curling we missed over the winter!

Our groceries are delivered to our door. Today items from Costco arrived. There are certainly ways to cope with remaining safe and trying not to infect others.

Many of our friends were so connected with their adult children, babysitting, helping out where they could etc. We all enjoyed the role. What we are talking about now is how our adult children are coping just fine without our help!

In fact, we think that as this self-isolation continues they are slowing down and enjoying their families in a new way, without our interference. (help!)

We all say how relieved we are that we aren’t doing the home-schooling with our kids as we know how stressful being a parent as well as a teacher must be. Yet as the weeks roll on, routines fall in place and life goes on. We can be cheerleaders we just can’t be on the front lines.

Yesterday a friend said she had been transplanting seedlings in her greenhouse, one is meditating daily, another was making masks and one was finishing off long-forgotten knitting projects.

Others are busy making bread, resurrecting comfort recipes their mom and grandmothers made, and some are finishing off long-forgotten knitting projects.

Perhaps we are all a little more mindful or our time. Instead of rushing from activity to activity we can now take time to think about what is important. We sure don’t have any pressing time commitments!

Before you post something negative on social media, think about your reason. Whose need are you filling? We have 24 hour news channels that torment us minute by minute with conflicting messages. I, for one, don’t need more.

It’s time to focus on what is right with the world instead of what is not. Leaders, who are making huge decisions, are under significant stress. Let’s try to understand that most of these people are doing the very best they can. While we won’t agree with everything, let’s give them a chance.

I believe that as seniors one of our jobs should be to remain positive about what is happening. We have life experience. We know life has many ups and downs and we must continue. It’s time to stop with negative talk, focus on what is right with our world instead of what is wrong and make a difference in the lives of those you love.

Slow Down and Enjoy…give yourself permission

We are now on our 11th day of self-distancing. Our condo is cleaner than it has ever been. Most of our drawers are tidy and our fridge, freezer and pantry cupboard are finally clearing out.

The graham crackers I took out to make squares were rancid but I found out-of-date yeast still worked. It just took a little longer….don’t we all as we age?

While we always go through social withdrawal when we journey back from Palm Springs. This time it has been Cold Turkey!

Thank heavens one good friend started a journal titled “14 Days of Self-Isolation”… it seems to be going ‘fairly well’ for them with the exception today’s instalment which is titled “14 Days of Incarceration!” The updates have kept us laughing.

We have plenty of time to think. What we have noticed is how we have been forced to slow down and contemplate what really is important.

If you are finding that you too can fill your days and you are thinking about ways to incorporate some of these new habits into your daily life here are

10 Tips for Slowing Down

  1. Control the Controllable
  2. Notice the Small Things
  3. Do Not Compare
  4. Choose 3 Things to Accomplish Each Day
  5. Breathe
  6. Single Task
  7. Take a Day a Week Off
  8. Eat Slower
  9. De:clutter
  10. Count Your Blessings

When we slow down we make a conscious choice to embrace a healthier lifestyle. We can nurture our close relations and feel a sense of self satisfaction with life. Begin your guilt-free slow-down today!

The Urge To Purge…things to do while in self-isolation

We are home from our winter spot and are on Day 6 our our self-isolation. What better time to begin to purge? As I put clothes away I decided there was no time like the present tackle jobs I have been putting off.

I went on various websites and blogs for information on how to transform our closets. We now have a carry-on sized suitcase full of clothes that can go to charity once we are out of isolation.

Here are some tips if you have the time and feel the urge to get rid of some of your closet clutter.

  1. Pick up a piece of clothing and ask yourself:
  • Have I worn it in the past year?
  • Does it fit properly?
  • Is it out-of-date?
  • Do your clothes fit your present lifestyle?
  1. Have a pile for charity, a pile for consignment, a pile for the garbage and a pile to keep.
  2. Most sites said that 2-3 purses were quite enough and the same with shoes. Shocking isn’t it – until you think about what you have actually used in the past year.

There is more to purging clothes than the simple act. Clothes are very personal and some bring us guilt, when they no longer fit, remind us of happy or sad history and even reflect our personalities. Be gentle with yourself.

I liked the idea that once you are done that you arrange your remaining clothes in colours. It gives you a sense of whether or not you have a coordinated wardrobe. When we were selling our home this was also a tip the ‘home stager’ gave us.

Sorting through closets isn’t just for women – children and men can usually find things they no longer use. Check out your dresser drawers as they might be overflowing with items too.

Now when I look in my closet and see room between the hangars I actually smile. It feels good and even gives me some peace of mind.

Tomorrow I will begin on the kitchen drawers……

How are you doing? Any tips you’d like to share?

Capturing Your Memories

After my parents passed away there have been times when I have wondered about the story of a memento or thought I have had.

If only I had asked them, I think. I was at a huge advantage as both my parents lived until they were 92 and were excellent at reminiscing.

Still there are times when I wish I had just a little more information. I bet many of you think the same thing.

Over the past three weeks I have been facilitating a course here at Outdoor Resort Palm Springs called Preserving Memories.

The purpose is so that participants can capture their childhood memories for their families. Most of us our in our 60s, 70s and 80s and have begun to think about what is important to leave for our children and grandchildren.

Perhaps a grandchild asked about what we did for fun when there were no computers or our own kids were surprised when we talked about an important event in our life and they had no knowledge.

My role has been one of encouragement and supplying story prompts so that they begin. I’m a big believer that if we simply begin…interesting pieces of information surface.

What we have all learned is that when a member of our group shares a memory it often ignites our own thoughts and something we had long forgotten comes to light.

It’s also important to remember that our written memories don’t have to be long and detailed. Simple thoughts jotted down will delight our intended audience.

One of the first exercises we did was begin to write our own personal timeline. Don’t be overwhelmed simply divide it into ten year periods. I just label a page 0-10, another page 10-20 etc. You could also further break it down into school, family and work if you wish. Some people choose to use a different colour of pencil for each of those categories.

Write down all memories you can come up with during that time. Significant and insignificant things may come up that remind you of another thing and so on. Just keep it near and as you remember jot something down.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When you look at the hammer, can you smell your grandpas’ garage or your dad’s workshop? What did you do there? Were you allowed to help? Did you learn how to use tools? Did you ever hit your finger? How old were you?

How many of you used a rotary phone? For some of us this was a huge upgrade over the wall phone with no numbers. We used the handle at the side to ring or had to call an operator.

Think about your senses as you write and jot down memories including some of the things you saw, smelt, felt or heard.

Who can smell homemade bread after school? What about the feeling when you won a crystal marble during a game at recess? Who had school clothes and play or work clothes?

We have so many rich memories to capture why not start to today?

Travelling is Good Medicine!

We just got back to our winter home after a fabulous trip. We were gone from home from December 10th to February 1. We cruised around South East Asia and New Zealand and spent land days in Australia.

As we were on the last long fight I began thinking about the memories we were planting. I remember my parents sitting in their easy chairs reminiscing about holidays. Another aunt had kept detailed journals and she said they spent many long winter hours reading the journals and reliving the happy travelling days.

I’m not a journal keeper. When a friend said that she hoped I would keep a record of our travels I decided to take her advice. I only wrote a short page each day in a journal a friend had given me. It was a chore yet I was determined to be successful. Now I’m happy I did.

With cell phones we are able to kept photo records and my smart phone even tells us where the photos were taken. I find the written record record gives me that many more memory prompts…something I need more and more these days.

I also decided that travelling gives seniors confidence. We had to navigate large airports, Amsterdam, Singapore, Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland, Los Angeles and Vancouver before touching down in Calgary. And we made it!

We mostly mastered money exchange, reading maps as we walked and explored and found delight in new experiences. We ate food we had not before, went to places we had only read about and met people from around the world.

An added bonus was my brother and his wife joined us on the 13 day cruise around New Zealand. We found as children grow, parents pass away and life becomes more complicated plus energy wanes, we don’t spend much time together. This was a time to reconnect.

One of my uncles has always encouraged us to travel. He and his wife did some great trips and his advice is “Do It Now!.”

My parents went away each winter and I remember missing them and yet I also didn’t feel I should make time to see them or give a phone call. When raising kids and working I was busy and while I never begrudged the time spent with phone calls and visits it was a relief when I was in my 30s and 40s to have a bit of a break!

So I encourage my readers to pack their bags and explore. You will be building memories, gaining confidence and between you and me “Giving your kids peace of mind that you are happy and healthy.”

Memories of my Grandma

Grandma in her hockey uniform in the late 1800s.
Grandma in her hockey uniform in the late 1800s

I sometimes wonder what memories I’m planting for my grandchildren. Here are memories of my beloved Grandma Cora…

I could see Grandma out in her yard pulling weeds. Her sack-like patterned dress billowed in the breeze just like fresh clean shirts on our clothesline. Her stockings gathered up like loose skin of an elephant around her ankles and her hair was wound into a tight braided bun low on the back of her head.

A smile creased my face and heart as I ran towards her. I snuggled in for a hug and cuddle as I reached up and put my arms around her face. I loved the way her wrinkly soft skin brushed my cheek like crushed velvet.

I placed my hand in hers and we headed into the house. As the door opened I caught a whiff of something that brought tears to my eyes.

“Are you making lye soap Grandma?”

That noxious smell permeated the landing and up the two stairs into her tiny kitchen.

Mom stepped forward and gave me the evil eye so I knew better than to make a comment that might hurt Grandma’s feelings.

I felt like a pop bottle that had been shook. When was mom leaving so I could start my summer holiday with Grandma?

The table was already set for lunch. Cold tomatoes nestled in a little fruit dish placed at the tip of the knives, canned sausages, fried brown and crisp butter-fried potatoes. Relief flooded through me as I saw only two place settings. Soon Grandma Cora and I would be all alone. Then the fun would begin.

Fun for Grandma and I was different than with my other younger grandma. Grandma Cora told me stories about growing up in Quebec, playing on a hockey team with a long skirt and tobogganing on the snowy cold hills.

She didn’t talk much about packing up her steamer trunk, boarding a coal train and heading out west at 19 years of age to teach school in the prairies so she could decide if her love for my grandpa would last the prairie winters. One year later they were married.

We talked about politics, how I was doing in school, and stories of her youth. Then she would play the piano and I would sing. She taught me many songs and while I loved to sing I never had the patience to learn the piano even though my parents invested time and money in lessons.

Grandma Cora would often tell me the same stories and I loved to hear about the naughty little boy who when asked to say grace at a dinner party said “Darn dittie darn, dittie darn ,dittie dittie darn” and then was spanked all the way to his bedroom. The mother was absolutely mortified at her son’s strong language. Needless to say the dinner party was a much talked about event!

When I stayed with her I had to have a nap in the afternoon. Mom had given up on those for me when I was two. Grandma had a special grey bedroom suite with drawers in the headboard and a beautiful great dresser that “would one day be mine” and that was where I was to lay quietly and rest.

I would lay for a really long time, at least in my brain, then tiptoe toe into her room and listen to her breathing to make sure she was sound asleep. Then I would sneak back to “my room” and amuse myself by snooping through the dresser and headboard drawers drawers. I can’t even remember what was in them, it was just fun to do something naughty!

Even in junior high I loved to stay with Grandma. Her house had a Grandma Cora smell and I always felt loved and safe there. Grandma always had a twinkle in her eye and was quick witted. She didn’t suffer fools and her humour often was black.

My family moved and my visits were less frequent through high school and yet when Grandma came to our house I knew we would share laughter, great jokes and lots of fun. I would hear her favourite stories and bask in the traditions I loved.

When I was in university Grandma took a fall and broke her hip. She was transported to a city hospital and because she was malnourished and dehydrated the doctors couldn’t operate until she was “built up”.

She was in the city where I went to University and I went to visit her and was shocked at how tiny and frail she looked. I could also tell she was mixed up and emotional. She didn’t realize where she was or that she was hurt. She kept asking where Doug was – her bachelor son who she was living with when all this happened.

Eventually she had the surgery and was placed in a Calgary Nursing Home. I often stopped to visit on my way home from university. I would reminisce and remind her of the stories she had once lovingly told me. Sometimes I helped her to the toilet and often took her to her meals. I’d light up a a cigarette for a lady who sat in the hall so she could smoke with supervision. Grandmas eyes would glint and she’d say “Aren’t you the brat, I’ll not tell your dad or mom if you don’t!” We had another secret.

While I could see her fading before my eyes I knew she was a ‘grandma” and this was simply the way life evolved. At 92 she was moved to another level of care and spent most of her days in bed. I got married and had our first child and my visits to grandma weren’t as often.

When I did visit I would hold her hand and often sing to her. If she was having a good day I’d wheel her to the piano and request she play Red Wing or Oh Them Golden Slippers and she would play them by ear just as she had done since she was five years old. After one or two songs she would say “Enough Joanie, you’re going to kill this old lady, take me back to bed.” We’d both giggle and head back.

Grandma Cora passed away at 94. Her aging process, as well as my maternal grandparents was simply part of life. I naively thought as my parents and in-laws aged, I was ready.

Importance of Friendship As We Age

Joan

As we age it is important to retain friendships. While some friends are meant to come and go, others last a life-time.

It is important to nurture all friendships. Reaching out, sending notes and listening. Even surprising friends with little meaningful gifts can create a bond that lasts a lifetime.

A dear friend found this note as she was going through her mom’s things. It was folded and tucked into her baby photos. A precious gift to find many years after her mom passed away. It rings true for me. I bet it will for you too.

  1. Time passes
  2. Life happens
  3. Distance separates
  4. Children grow up
  5. Lifestyles change
  6. Jobs come and go
  7. Love waxes and wanes
  8. Hearts break
  9. Parents die
  10. Careers end
  11. We all experience disappointment, disillusionment, and loss of hope one time or another

And still:

“Sisters” are there, no matter how much times and how many miles are between us. A girlfriend is never farther away than needing her can reach.

When you have to walk that lonesome valley and you have to walk it by yourself, the women in your life will be on the valley’s rise, cheering you on, praying for you, pulling for you, intervening on your behalf, and waiting with open arms at the valley’s end.

Sometimes, they will even break the rules and walk beside you…………or come in and carry you out!

Girlfriends, daughters, granddaughters, daughter-in-laws, sisters, sister-in-laws, mothers, grandmothers, aunties, nieces, cousins and extended family all bless our life.

The world wouldn’t be the same without women, and neither would I. We all have no idea of the incredible joys or sorrows that lay ahead. Nor could we have known how much we would need each other.

Friends are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait for an answer.

Ed Cunningham

Change Happens…how can you support it?

It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.

Charles Darwin

How do we let go of old habits? How do we accept change? Just because we always did ‘it’ one way does not mean that is the correct way. If we are going to continually wish for things to remain the same how will we grow?

I remember a person who was the treasurer of the United Church Women’s Group. People gently tried to get her to relinquish her position. She would not. Other members of the executive were the same. Within five years the group collapsed. If we can’t accept change, we become stagnant.

Too often I see young, enthusiastic employees or volunteers try to start a new program or do things differently only to be met with opposition and grumbling. Whether at church, the community centre or the spot you live, we seniors are sometimes seen as blockers or a negative force. “We always did it this way.”

How, as seniors, do we stay fresh and able to accept change and transitions gracefully? I feel strongly that our role now is to be a supporter and a sounding board. It’s our time to step back and let the young become involved.

Remember when you began a new job or started a volunteer position? Enthusiasm and great ideas flowed. Sure we made mistakes, that’s how we learned. Let’s be the wise ones who say “go for it.”

Instead of looking for what is wrong with the idea, let’s look at what’s right. Let’s be looked at as a positive, helpful senior not a grumpy old man or woman. Only we can change the way people view seniors.

They say it takes 21 days to change a habit. Beginning today if a negative thought pops into your head when a new idea is suggested, can you make a positive comment instead?

You can say, “have you thought about…?” or give an opinion, if asked. Let’s begin to be looked on as someone who is thoughtful yet progressive.

Can you go through a day without saying something negative? Challenge yourself to look for what’s right with the world instead of what’s wrong.

Over our lifetimes we’ve seen lots of tragedies and sadness. Let’s not be the cause of someone else’s sadness or stress. Let’s encourage and inspire.

Seniors and Driving…when do we give up our car?

One of the most difficult conversations my husband had with his father was trying to persuade him not to drive anymore.

We had the warning signs, dents and scraps on the vehicle and sides of the garage. He had macular degeneration and we could tell his eyes were failing.

At one point the family doctor suggested he stay close to home and for the most part he did. Our fear was that he was close to a school and had to back out of his garage over the sidewalk where young children walked to and from school.

He tended to do things quickly and what if he backed over a child? We felt it would be our fault if we didn’t suggest it was time to give up the keys.

His wife had also told our daughter (not us) that after cataract surgery he told the eye doctor he had a ride home. He did not. He drove home across the city and bounced off the median a number of times. That told us his decision-making wasn’t up to par.

Finally he went for an experimental treatment on his eyes, which did not work, and the doctor told him he could not drive anymore.

Bob had driven him to the appointment and had spoken to the doctor beforehand so knew the results. On the drive home Bob asked his dad what the doctor had told him.

“I’m fine to drive now,” was the answer. Bob said, “That’s not what I heard.” His dad argued so Bob said “Let’s turn around and both ask the doctor so we know the correct answer.”

There was a pause and his dad said “drive me home.” The good news was he did not drive again.

We knew how much his pride had been hurt. It meant loosing independence. We tried to be available when needed and drive his parents places because, like most seniors of that age, they simply refused to take cabs, UPBER or LYFT. “Too expensive.”

Now is the time to start the conversation with your future caregivers as well as your partner or spouse about how you will decide when it is no longer safe to drive.

According to the AARP here are ten signs it’s time to limit or stop driving:

  1. Almost crashing, or close calls
  2. Finding dents, scrapes on the car, fences, mailboxes and garage doors at home
  3. Getting lost, especially in familiar places
  4. Having trouble following traffic signals, road signs and payment markings
  5. Responding more slowly to unexpected situations, or having trouble moving foot from brake to gas, consuming the two pedals
  6. Misjudging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance and exit ramps
  7. Experiencing road rage or causing other drives to honk or complain
  8. Easily becoming distracted or having difficulty concentrating while driving
  9. Having a hard time turning around to check the rear mirror while backing up or changing lanes
  10. Receiving multiple traffic tickets or warnings from law enforcement

Some of these signs can apply to younger people or people with medical conditions too. It’s not just seniors that have issues with driving. One would hope we will self-police but if our judgement is comprimised we just aren’t capable. We might not notice our reflexes are slower as well as our thinking.

From the time dad was 70, he often had the conversation with my brother and I that we were to tell him when we thought he should no longer drive. He didn’t say it just once he repeated it over many years. We plan to do the same.

We noticed he was driving slower and sometimes holding up traffic. He told us if he became tired he would just pull over and have a nap then continue his journey. My mom thought that was just fine. At 89 years old he hadn’t had an accident and yet we decided it was time “to have the talk.”

My brother said he would do it. My husband and I took a meal out to my parents the next day. When we sat down for dinner, dad looked straight at me and said “Ken says I shouldn’t drive anymore.” I looked at him and said “I agree.” He then looked at Bob and repeated the same statement and Bob answered that he too agreed.

Dad looked sad and then we continued to enjoy the meal. He never drove again yet we kept his vehicle as it was easy for them to get in and out of and he could pay for the gas and upkeep and that seemed to help a little.

So begin to have the conversation with your future caregivers as well as your children or trusted friends. Give them permission to tell you when they feel it is no longer safe for you to drive.

I have researched the cost of driving as opposed to taking cabs etc. It shows that if you are only going to be going about 9655 kilometres (6000 miles) a year it is cheaper to cab it or use public transportation.

Here are some of the things to consider.

Add up:

  1. Cost of the care/5 years
  2. Cost of maintenance
  3. Cost of insurance
  4. cost of taxes etc.

Divide this number by the number of kilometres/miles travelled and that will equal the true cost per mile of owning a car.

I watched as both sets of our parents aged and they really didn’t drive all that far. So for them, it would have made sense to use other modes of transportation. It certainly would have been easier on my husband and I.

One friend, whose parents lived in the country, hired a young student to take her parents into town twice a week for groceries, appointments and a meal out. This deal was beneficial to both.

We hired a service to pick up our mom for her weekly hair appointment. What we couldn’t convince our parents to do was hire a cab for other trips.

“It’s too expensive!” they would say. Yet for me to drive out to my parents, a 40 minutes drive, pick them up take them here and there, drop them off and then drive home, didn’t seem to phase them.

I never minded, yet sure found it tiring. It also ended up taking most of my day. Let’s not do that to our kids. Let’s start talking to each other and maybe take a cab a few places just to get used to it.

If we have to give up driving we have multiple options. Let’s be wise enough to identify them now.