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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Aging and Ageism

A friend connected with my blog recently when it was titled "A Gift of a 70th Year" and said that she was surprised I was that old.  I said somewhat defensively that I wasn't 70 yet; it was my 70th year.  But I was motivated to change the name of my blog to "The Gift of Another Year" which what I was going to name it next year anyway.  Why did the number "70" scare me?  Am I guilty of ageism even for myself?

Hillary Clinton is almost my age and running for President.  Why does she want to do this at her age?  Joe Biden is even older and thinking of running for President.  This morning I gasped when I heard Diane Rehm say she was 79!  I admire her stamina and expertise as she interviews such a wide  variety of guests almost every day but I admit to thinking that was really old!

  James Bratt in the 12Blog wrote about his adjusting to a encouraged retirement from teaching at Calvin College.  I wanted to comment that it will be fine and you'll love it!   However, I have a colleague in adult education who "retired" a few years ago, and called our supervisor back after one weekend, asking what she could do to get back to work!

 So, once again it's worth thinking about what makes a good retirement and why it has been good for me.

Today's Here and Now on NPR had two guests who wrote a book called Staying Sharp.  I tried to examine my own life using  The Nine Keys to Staying Sharp that they recommend.

1.  A youthful brain loves movement.  I try to walk daily.  I certainly will take steps over the elevator any day--as they suggest.  I could do more.  I am not compulsive about 10,000 steps a day.

2.  A youthful brain is well rested.  This is a struggle for me.  When I sleep well, I am full of  energy and optimistic.  But I can't make it happen by trying harder!

3.  A youthful brain is well nourished.  They talked about eating less sugar.   I'd probably give up some of that youthful brain in order to have my rewards of sweets!.

4.  A youthful brain cultivates curiosity. I am curious.  I love sitting at my laptop and following various lines of research.  Today I will check out something about the time of partition in India and Pakistan because of a novel I am reading and my ignorance about that event.

5.  A youthful brain is flexible.  I am happy with the routines of our life--our usual Saturday morning breakfast; a Monday morning walk with a friend; our happy hour when Jim comes home.  But I also like change--a new place to walk, a new recipe to try, a new person to meet.

6.  A youthful brain is optimistic. I could work more on this one. It's too easy to over-think problems and worry.

7.  A youthful brain is empathic.  I try to think about others, encourage others and find ways to help..

8.  A youthful brain is well connected. Our children and grandchildren are many miles away from us.  Retirement has enabled me to spend more time as grandma-in-residence which is good.  Many of our  friends are retired and have moved away.  We are among the very oldest members of our church community.  But email, phone calls, texting, and Facebook have helped with connections--and we are happy to have younger friends as well!

9.  A youthful brain is authentic. Others would have to speak to this as they look at me.  I think the real me is usually obvious--my natural color hair, my comfortable weight, and minimal make-up, but I also don't feel a need to pretend to be anyone else other than who I am.  Other than thinking that 70 years old is pretty old--and I will be there soon!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


A few years ago, I was quite enamored with a flowering plant along a sidewalk in Ocean Grove, New Jersey.  Why did I notice it at night and not during the day?  I began to realize that it bloomed only at night.  Big white flowers glowed in the moonlight and were gone the next day.

Last year I found a moonflower plant at a nearby nursery.  I planted it at our mailbox and waited and waited wondering if it would ever bloom.  It did--but it took until mid-August.

This year I was unable to find any potted plants so I started seeds.  Only a few germinated.  I carefully took one little plant along on our vacation in May and nurtured it.

I planted it again at the mailbox and waited and waited--this time until mid-September!  The first few blooms were hidden among the heavy foliage but I have cut some of that back and there they are!   Maybe three or four big white flowers bloom each night and last until the early morning when they wither and die and fall off the vine. 

If any neighbors are looking, they might see me walking out in my pajamas last thing at night or first thing in the morning--just to take one more look. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Grandma and Alex at Disney World (not!)

My adventure started in Tampa where Laura was a keynote speaker at a Working Women's Conference.  My job as a "working woman" was to take care of Alex while she went to meetings,  gave her speech and signed many, many books. 

We began our time together by taking a very hot walk (heat index maybe 101 degrees?) and discovering the Tampa Museum of Art with a special Andy Warhol exhibit.  We spent a wonderful 45 minutes in a cool museum looking at colorful art.  Alex mostly enjoyed the sound of his voice echoing in the high chambers.

That wonderful start boded well, but didn't last.  I developed an infection overnight and had to call my South Bend doctor to send a prescription to the nearest pharmacy.  I was glad to start the meds with some relief fairly soon.  This definitely added a source of tension to the trip.

After the speech, Laura drove us to "Fantasy," the rental house, in Kissimmee, Florida.  It is large, comfortable, clean and has a nice little netted-in swimming pool.  It also has scores of movie star photos and Disney statues and stuffed animals.  The house is one of hundreds that all look alike in a very sterile neighborhood where car access is necessary for anything you might want to do.

Laura and Michael and the three older children have four day passes for all the parks and have filled each day with as much as possible.  They come back with lots of stories about roller coasters, character sightings and other exciting rides and shows.

 Alex and I hang out at the house taking walks around the blocks, playing in the pool, and generally keeping out of trouble.  And trouble is everywhere for an 8 month old baby who crawls fast and lifts himself up on tables and sofas and wants to open all cabinets.  Fortunately, he takes good naps and is such a happy baby when he is awake.

I find I don't feel like reading, watching TV, or doing much of anything when Alex naps.  This is the most effort I have put out in the last two days!  But that's OK.  Tomorrow night I should be home with Grandpa and life as usual.  I'm glad I could sleep well at night and have the energy it takes to keep up with a baby--and his siblings who do raise the level of activity when they show up! 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Week at the Indiana Dunes

I wrote this post yesterday and somehow lost it.  I will try again. It is a good way to keep memories fresh.

I am writing while alone in a quiet room at home. There were quiet moments at night last week, but the days were hectic!

 Laura and Michael and their four children stayed in the Glass House at the top of a dune.  It was literally that--glass on all four sides with a great view of Lake Michigan.  The Guest House was about 30 steps down from there and was
less elaborate but also had a great view of the "big lake."   I stayed alone in the Guest House one night; Jim joined me for three of them; Dan was there for four; and Michael's sister and brother-in-law were also there with us one night.

During the week, Alex learned to pull himself up but not to get down.  There were a few bumps on his little forehead.  He needed constant watching and didn't sleep well at night.  It's a good thing he was so adorably cute and giggly!

I wanted to bring some toys from home for the children and was very proud of the success of my choices.  The Playmobil people which belonged to Laura 30 years ago were the impetus for lots of creative play and the marble construction set which belonged to Dan almost as long ago were used for elaborate trails and spins and drops.  Alex loved banging measuring cups together and Sam used them for his "magic trick" of using surface tension to have them stick together.

A trip to the Shedd Aquarium was another adventure for Laura and Grandma and the kids.  To our surprise, it was a day for seniors to have the "total experience" free.  The Sponge Bob 4D show was great with rumbling seats and spraying water.  We were glad we did not do the Sea Monster show in which sharks poking one in the back may have just been too much!  Ruth seemed to like the touch screens more than the fish tanks.  All the kids loved the submarine and created a rescue scenario that kept them busy for quite a while.  The stuffed animals Grandma bought in the gift shop made up for the free entrance fee!

Uncle Dan joined us en route from a bachelor party near Reno to his home in New York City.  He helped some of us try stand up paddle boarding and was great with sand play with Ruth and amusing Alex.

Kindles are an always present factor.  They can be a lifesaver and also a problem.  I was glad to see that the kids still know how to play imaginatively and physically.  Reading stories did not do well in competition with screen time.

Michael had to make an unplanned trip to South Africa during the time we were at the Dunes.  He knows how to travel but it had to be grueling.  Still he came back in time to go out for an anniversary dinner with Laura on Saturday and then drive the 10 plus hours home on Sunday.  It was probably easier doing the 24 hour trip to Johannesburg than it was the long van trip home!

Grandma Di, Michael's mom, was staying with her sister Janet and brother-in-law Butch at their nearby cottage.  They were all a big help with the kids and with meals.  Michael's cousins were often there to join the fun. 

I love being at Lake Michigan and this was my third week there this summer.  How great to be able to enjoy it with children and grandchildren--just as our parents and grandparents did many, many years ago.