Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Quality of Life - guest post by Randall Friesen

Randall Friesen
          Each New Year I choose a quality that will be the focus of my life for the next twelve months. I write the quality down on a few index cards and place them in some strategic places—next to my bed, on the refrigerator, in the money section of my wallet. Then I make it a point to apply this quality to every aspect of my life as much as I can throughout the year.

          Last year I chose zest. During the year, I approached every activity in my life with a sense of zeal and enthusiasm, even when the task was onerous, such as filling out my taxes or sitting in a traffic jam. It wasn't always easy; I often forgot and had to “remember to remember.” But now, at the end of a year in which I brought a zesty attitude to everything I did, I find that the quality of zest has become an integrated part of my personality. I have become naturally zesty, even when I don’t consciously choose to be. Now, it is simply who I am.

Habits Make the Person

          To a great extent, who we are can be attributed to our habits. The good news is that we aren’t stuck with them. We can break or make habits as we wish. It does, though, take concentrated attention and consistent practice.

          Choosing a quality you want as part of your life at the beginning of a new year, and consciously applying that quality over the course of twelve months, is a sure way to create a habit that becomes a permanent part of your life.

Loving More

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

True Gift

          All year long I focus on the happiness and abundance in my life. Every morning and every evening I silently acknowledge all the peace and joy and fulfillment I have created.

          During the holidays I’m particularly reminded that I choose to spend my time and resources on that which brings contentment to me and people who interact with me.  It’s not only about being a happy senior citizen or financially solvent or living in a place of beauty and nature. It’s about connecting with others, striving to always grow and expand, letting go of judgments, and it's about incorporating forgiveness regardless of where I am and what I’m doing.

The light in your eyes

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

11 Holiday Myths to Rethink

          It's easy during this time of year to turn traditions and ways of doing things in the past into ruts that no longer serve us. Here are 11 holiday myths that you might want to rethink:

          1. Being with family is a must during the holidays.

          2. Buying ‘the perfect gift’ is required.


          3. You’ll upset your hosts if you
               don’t imbibe at their parties.

          4. You’re really a slouch unless you
                craft a gift or make some food
                gifts,                       


         5. You’re not a spiritually contributing member of your
              community unless you work in a soup kitchen, visit
              seniors in convalescent homes or volunteer to carol…with
              anyone, anywhere.


         6. You have to be the one who drives all over to visit family
               and extended family.

         7. Being alone is a no-no.

         8. Complaining about the cost of gifts, the commercialization
              of the holidays, the bad weather or how much weight 
              you’ve gained is required daily.

        9. If I don't do it, it won't get done, and it must get done.


      10. You are responsible for making others happy at this time of
              year.


      11. You can start to take better care of yourself right after the
             holidays.
(don't wait, start now)

     The real message here is to do what works for you. Look at what you've always done and see if it still creates a warm glow of joy within you.

You might also enjoy:  Celebrate What? A Gift for You at Christmas
Contact Antonia at antoniasseniormoments@hotmail.com or
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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Should You or Shouldn’t You?

          “Should” is one word I think should be eliminated from our vocabulary. Oops, guess that isn't so easy to do! Every time I hear it, I cringe. My experience has been that “should” is usually accompanied by some standard established by “them,” you know, those faceless people who we allow to run our lives.

Where did 'should' come from?

          What is this ‘should’ and where did it come from? My guess is it came right from our childhoods, both at home and in school. And didn’t we do just a dandy job of incorporating it into our adult lives? Don’t we so effortlessly go about setting myriad standards based on these “shoulds”?

          “Should” is the simple past tense of the word “shall” but do these two words seem as far apart to you as they do to me? I “shall” do something sounds so purposeful and elegant while “should” sounds slightly angry and parental.

STOP!
          I’m here today to say “No more!” It’s time to let go of

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Antonia's List


          Over the weekend I went to the mall … to visit with Santa and let him know what I wanted for Christmas. I waited in line with all the other excited children – and a few not so excited ones. When it got to be my turn, I gingerly climbed up into his lap, and you know that took some doing! But I got there and smiled brightly into his sparking light blue eyes.
          Then I began to tell him exactly what I hoped he’d bring me this Christmas. You might guess I asked for world peace and an end to hunger and strife everywhere, plus I asked for a termination to debilitating diseases and poverty. Indeed I joyously requested these good things for the world, but my "want" list was long and very personal. It was mostly about me.
I asked for:
     - Patience:  the thing I lack the most and need unequivocally 
     - The ability to forgive unconditionally, without consideration 
          for the magnitude of the wrong
     - Loyalty to my friends so they know they can always
          count 
on me
     - The vulnerability to show my transparent, genuine and
          sincere side without worrying about how I'm coming

          across
     - Loving kindness for all living things

     - An abundant generosity for random acts of kindness 

          as well as giving for the more visible needs
     - Loving friends who accept me as I am, foibles and all

     - And, finally, that which I continuously seek:
  self-love 
          and respect for all my imperfect perfection.

          My list is not small, as you can see. What is your list? And how will you be your own Santa?


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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What Can Happen in Borneo? A Thanksgiving Gift from Carole Peccorini, Guest Blogger

          In November 1988, I spent Thanksgiving in Borneo as a volunteer with the Earthwatch Orangutan Project at Camp Leakey in the middle of the rainforest.  Just to help you locate me, Borneo is the 3rd largest island in the world floating in the center between Singapore, Jakarta, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.  Thanksgiving Day was November 24 that year, almost mid point in my 3-week stay at Camp Leakey.

          By then I had learned what it meant to sweat through every pore in my entire body.  My clothes were all tie-dyed from being washed in a pail by the river with others.  No sorting of darks from lights in this wash-by-loving hands laundry with the indigenous Dayak women on the dock.  Mildew was setting in.  We reeked of DEET to ward off battalions of mosquitoes and other bugs without names.  The black water river with “harmless” crocodiles was our bathtub.

          There are some things about this Thanksgiving I remember very clearly.  That morning we walked in the rainforest.  Just before the next torrential downpour, it grew intensely hot and still.  Then there is the rustle of wind in the treetop canopy followed by a drop in the air temperature.  After that it is as though someone is personally pouring buckets on top of you until you are soaked through and through.  We trudged along in the sopping mess.  The birds were still singing and the drone of the bugs remained like a solid mass we were penetrating as we walked. 

          And, suddenly I had a huge awareness.  “I felt, my body felt so alive!”  The entire surface of my skin, every hair and every sense including all the sensors in my brain were in contact and engaged with my world of this rainforest path right now.  I remember thinking, “I can hardly believe it.  This is my Thanksgiving and I feel so utterly alive.”

          When we returned to camp, we were sitting in the guest cottage and Birute Galdikas was giving us a “college talk” about the plants and trees in the rainforest and also about the orangutans who were the subject of her long term primate research in the wild.  My clothes were still damp.  The intense heat had returned.  I was doing my best to take notes but my fingers were stuck to my pen from the fresh pineapple spears we ate. 

          Three orangutans, the amazing redheads of the primate world, were hanging on the screens observing us while brushing their teeth in perfect imitation with toothbrushes they had snatched while we weren’t looking.  Again, I thought.  “It is Thanksgiving.  I can hardly believe this and yet I feel so alive, so awake.”

          Later in reflecting on this experience, I had awareness that my world at home derives a lot of security from our comfort.  The room thermometer in my home and in my car when I go out allows me to keep the temperature in a narrow range of comfort.  It’s tempting with the holidays to place ourselves in the cocoon of the familiar where we feel comfortable ~ to be with people we already know and eat foods that are both traditional and ones we already like.

          I thought to myself,  “I’ve traded my aliveness for comfort and the idea of security.”  I also noticed that when I feel that peak of aliveness, I am filled naturally with the deep feelings of gratitude and thankfulness for life.  To me, it seemed that my question was answered. What can happen in Borneo at Thanksgiving?  I can have the experience of being totally alive and filled with gratefulness.

          I was 45 years then and one of my favorite volunteers with me was 80.  This Thanksgiving I am 71 years and reflecting on the possibility that to feel the fullness of the holidays may actually require us to shake it up a bit:  makes some changes, do something quite different, make some new choices, touch the lives of new people, go out in nature. 

          When we complain and find ourselves unhappy, sometimes we are bored and our heart and soul is actually longing for something new.  We don’t have to go to the other side of the world, perhaps just move out the familiar to truly be filled to the brim with the rich experience of Thanksgiving.

May you have a rich holiday wherever you are.
Carole Peccorini

P.S.  Something that might delight you as it does me ~  I fell in love with those redhead orangutans with their hair sticking up on top.  They grabbed my shampoo and from watching they knew just how to lather their hair.  Also, I learned later at the San Diego Zoo when they completed the new outdoor natural enclosure for the orangutans, these most curious creatures had watched the construction project with great interest.  The first night in their new home they escaped having watched every screw and how to unscrew it.  They are called the mechanics and construction engineers of the rainforest for a reason!  Orang means person in the indigenous language and utan means forest ~ so they are the persons of the forest ~ with a knack for tools and imitation.

Contact Antonia at antoniasseniormoments@hotmail.com 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Five Ways to Ensure Holiday Happiness

          The holidays are just around the corner, and I don't think it's ever too early to remind yourself that you can shape the overall outcome of these days. Don't you want to look back in early January and feel good about how you handled yourself? I do, so I'll share some things that have benefited me.

1.
Make it Work for You

          If you hate decorating, don’t. You can always appreciate the gala trees, bright lights and larger-than-life ornaments at Macy’s or cozier and homier decorations at friends’ homes. 

          If eating poorly during the holidays is a problem for you, compromise. Take it a day at a time and a party at a time and agree with yourself what you will and won’t consume. You don’t have to completely deprive yourself, but you don’t have to gain 10 lbs between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, like I’ve done before. 

          If you hate driving all over town to shop, don’t. Consider this year the beginning of your online foray into donations made in behalf of another or at least shopping and having the online retailer deliver the gifts directly to recipients.

2. Commit to No Distractions
          I do this one day a month all year ‘round but it’s particularly helpful during the hectic times of the holidays. On this day, I do my best to go completely without tech products: phone, computer, TV or any other electronic gadgets I falsely believe I can’t live without. Obviously, go for a non-work day when you can just relax, commune with nature, read an uplifting book or visit with family and friends.

3. Family - let it roll

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Is There a Labyrinth to Your Longevity?



          Who is the oldest person you know? What are they like? Are they cranky and scrooge-like or upbeat, active and pretty optimistic? In spite of the fact you don’t have to live your life perfectly to live a long life, I believe your attitudes, beliefs, moods and overall personality have an impact on longevity. I started thinking about this in terms of myself and my friends and I came up with some interesting observations.

          We all know people who are either excessively younger or older than their years. Do their general moods and personalities differ from those of other people? It goes without saying, if you’ve been overweight and/or smoked or been stressed most of your life, your longevity will significantly be affected as you age. In addition, several studies going back to the 1920’s show that other non-lifestyle factors may significantly affect how long some people live. See if you agree that the following four traits can lengthen the lives of older people.


Socialization

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Campaign Spending Reform: Are Our Hands Tied?

          The mid-term elections are upon us, and one of the glaring take-away messages from any political election is the amount of money spent on passing or defeating propositions and candidates. It’s been estimated that approximately $6-BILLION was spent on the last presidential election alone. That kind of money could have gone a long way to reducing the national debt or ending world hunger or cleaning up the environment, etc. In addition, there’s no proof that the more you spend, the better your chances of success.
         
           Over the past 20+ years I’ve often thought that politicians and lobbyists would do anything, including spending vast sums of money, to accomplish their goals. I doubt they even thought about the consequences of spending this kind of money. Then the elected officials are obligated to vote according to the desires of the contributor.

          While I’ve continuously espoused the need for limits on campaign spending, I hadn’t really looked into why something hadn’t been done about it. A couple months ago I began doing some research on the subject.

          I learned there are several reasons why, to date, we have not installed any significant limitations on campaign spending. These reasons were most succinctly reported by Steve Gillman (Huff Post Politics, “The Blog,” 10/23/12). As he summarized, we can’t significantly reduce the ridiculous spending because:

            -  It’s a First Amendment right to speak our minds and put 
                    our money where our mouths are.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Painfully Yours

In pain
        What does pain do to my overall well-being … besides the obvious, that is? When I stub my toe I jump around and moan … for about 20 seconds and then the pain begins to subside. But what about pain that lasts and lasts? There is a huge cadre of people, many of them senior citizens, who live with pain everyday of their lives.


          Yesterday, I received a new partial which replaced an old worn out one. The minute I popped it in my mouth, when it clamped around the two anchoring teeth with a vengeance, I knew it wasn’t going to be coming out anytime soon. Sure enough, now I can’t get it out. And it’s digging into my gum, and I’ve been in pain pretty fiercely since yesterday.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Two Year Anniversary

          Two years ago today I created my very first blog post on Antonia’s Senior Moments. I can honestly say it’s been one of the most creatively fun things I’ve ever done.         
          I’ve written some highly appreciated gems and some not so great, boring posts. I’ve taken a few chances to post slightly controversial as well as highly personal information.

          Through it all, I’ve felt the love and support of many people along the way. Without these people Antonia’s Senior Moments would not have been enthusiastically viewed by thousands and thousands of people all over the world.

Edward Viljoen, my mentor and teacher
Kris Oxford, my dear friend and voice of reality

Guest bloggers:  
          Gretchin Rubin
          Chris Michaels
          Jane Beach

          Margaret Stortz
          Carol Fleming
          Ron Donoho

          Suzanne Sackett
          Randall Friesen
          Thank you also to ALL my girlfriends and husband, Rod,  who spoke honestly and loved me in spite of some of my silly choices.

Contact me at antoniasseniormoments@hotmail.com or
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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Be Here Now: Cliché or True Wisdom?

          Have you ever spent days ruminating over something you did in the past or on a decision you made that can’t be changed? Have you ever noticed yourself so focused on something in the future that when you get home, you don’t remember driving your car there? The “now” in both of these examples is merely a fleeting concept, yet, for me, being in the now is the richest, most delicious place to hang out – in both challenging and fun times.

          When I’m inside, I wish I was outside and when I’m outside I’m sure there’s something I should be doing inside. Again, experiencing the now is nowhere in sight. It is also challenging to be in the now when I’m worried or in pain or stressed. This is the best time, however, to practice being still and calm and centered on what is right in front of me.


Monkey Mind
          My “monkey mind” – that incessant chatter that rolls around in my head – sometimes keeps me from focusing on being calm. I have struggled with this when I meditate and when I
consciously focus on what’s going on right now. This monkey mind isn’t the enemy, however, but if I treat it as such, it only gets louder. If I treat it more like an insolent child, shushing it with compassion and love, it begins to quiet immediately.

Letting Go
          When my spouse passed away a few years ago,

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Judgment Can be a Robber

          I was reminded recently just how bad it feels to be unfairly judged. Let’s just say I did something. It wasn’t a bad thing but it was a choice to do something different than what one of my friends would have done. My choice in no way affected her. And she didn’t have all the pertinent information as to why I decided to do what I did.

          This difference among friends might have been okay except, instead of reaching out to me to share her point of view, she just withdrew and stayed away… for a couple of years!  She pulled away even when I tried to communicate with her, asking if something was wrong and why she hadn't responded to my efforts to contact her.


What's the Take-away?

          All that doesn’t matter. What really matters to me is that I’m thankful this happened. I’m thankful I got a firsthand lesson in exactly how awful it feels to be judged for my actions. It is a huge reminder not to judge what others may say or do, but to remember that there’s much more going on than I will ever know about any decision made by others. When I don't 'get' it all, it's probably better just to stand by and continue to be the good friend that I am ... silently.


          I feel wholeheartedly that judging can be a good thing. We need to judge situations and people to make sure they are not harmful and injurious to our hearts, bodies or souls. Judging, or rather misjudging the actions, attitudes, and beliefs of others, however, is a villain, a robber of the human-ness of people. Unjustified harsh judgments that we might make can steal our grace by the diminishment of unconditional love that we have for others.


          Because we have to incorporate judgments into our everyday life, it’s easy to misjudge. Kind of like the difficulties of dieting because we have to eat some food. (Why do I equate everything with food???) Anyway, one of the traps of judging is that it usually stops there with no further information exchange. If we arrive at a negative judgment we don’t usually pursue the situation or person further to find out if we were correct in our assumptions (which we probably shouldn't have made in the first place).

What I Learned
          So, for myself, before making a judgment, I will:

- Listen to what is said with an open mind
- Ask a ton of probing questions
- See if my opinion and attitudes get in the way
          of seeing the clear picture 

-
Ask myself if it matters...does their behavior
          or decision affect me at all and, finally,

      - Convey my final decision to pull away or be upset in a clear
                and timely manner.

          I miss my friend and I forgive her. I wish we hadn’t wasted these years on a judgment that went off the rails.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Nearly 7 Things I’m Looking for in a Best Friend

          Disclaimer:  I will start off by saying that, in spite of the title of this post, I am well aware that you have to give in order to get. Thus, I need to be and do all that I wish for in a best friend. I have to treat both myself and another the ways I list here.

1.  Positive Attitude.
          A positive attitude is one of the qualities I value most in a close friend. My ability to function hinges significantly on how positive and upbeat the people around me are. Negative people who complain a lot or who only have dire things to share bring me down. I’m not Pollyanna, however, I cannot give forth joy if all that is coming in is what’s wrong in the world.
2.  A Good Listener
          Part of being a good listener is remembering. When your friend says they’re facing a grueling test on Thursday, a call on Friday to follow-up is a sign that you were listening, both to the content and the emotion behind their message.
3.  Conversation
          Eye contact is critical in conversation. Your friends can’t believe you’re really interested if you’re fumbling with your iPhone or off in la-la land thinking of how you’ll respond. Don’t speak in order to one-up your friends with stories that look to out- due their experiences. Silence is ok too or, better yet, parrot back a shortened version of what they shared.
4.  No Judgment
          Know what is the biggest giveaway that you might be judgmental of your friend – from their point of view? It’s that you’re judgmental of others in casual conversation with your friend. If you can be snarky about someone else, you might easily be snarky about me.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Is Time Running Out?

           As we all know, time is more valuable than money, and you can always make more money but you can’t make more time. Time goes by whether you’re doing something productive or just sitting on your ass. It marches on if you’re listening to B.S. or being enlightened.

          Time can’t be bundled up and stored away in safekeeping for future use. It’s here now and then it’s gone. Today is today; it isn’t coming back.

Make the most of it

 
          The best way to honor the value of your time is to use it wisely. Today and every day is a gift to be experienced with joy and passion. Life as a whole is a gift to be lived with joy and passion. At bedtime, how often can you reflect upon the day and feel you have honored it? Or have you succumbed to hours of mindless TV watching, or gossiping, or being with negative or boring people?

           How much of your time is unfocused, unmotivated or unplanned? It might be a good idea to look at, on the average, how much time you spend online, planning meals, reading the news, missing or being late for appointments, commuting, gossiping, on the phone or arguing. How much time have you wasted being upset and angry? And for what? Being motivated and taking the time to plan much of your time will help you avoid many pitfalls of wasting time.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It's Time to Get Real

          As September rolls into October a whole new crop of reality TV programs will begin soliciting our time and better viewing judgment. I have my favorites, which completely bypasses the admission that I do, in fact, watch reality TV. Do you? Do you have your favorites?

          For every ten reasons psychologists say reality TV is bad for us, another ten say it’s healthy and we can learn a lot from it. I know because I actually Googled the question.

          Here are some of the reasons reality TV is stated as being good for us and, yes, I’m rolling my eyes at each one of these:
     -it prepares us for the real world
     -it reminds us just how bad or good things can be
     -we can learn from the mistakes of others
     -it exposes viewers to different perspectives and cultures
          In spite of them being pretty obvious, here are some reasons reality TV is stated as being bad for us:
     -there’s nothing real about them
     -they perpetuate stereotypes, including stupidity
     -the emotional and physical wellbeing of participants is

          manipulated for the ratings
     -some audiences view participants as celebrities and

          role models.
          I believe that kids are consistently the largest viewing audience, however, I sure have watched more TV as a senior than I did when I worked. And that viewing includes reality TV; Dancing With the Stars is a favorite.
          I gave myself a “come to Jesus” talk a year or so ago about watching reality programs that are based solely on fighting, cheating, and lying. Thus, I quite watching Housewives of anywhere and some of the cooking shows where a chef yelled constantly. I did pick up Big Brother, however. Did I say that????? I know, I’m disappointed in myself too.
          I don’t, nor ever have, watched daytime programs. Does that make up for the Big Brother admission? In order to feel not completely horrible about the reality TV I watch I established a couple of rules:
     -tape everything and watch it based on MY schedule without
           commercials that take up 20 minutes per hour
     -make sure at least 50% of the reality TV I watch is
          documentary in nature.
     -make sure reality documentaries are really just that and not
          soap operas made up to look like important reporting.

          So, there you have it -- my admission of succumbing to the sometimes mind-numbing activity of watching reality TV. That could be funny or sad -- depending on how you look at it.


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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ten Spiritual Lessons from One Slightly Enlightened Senior

  
        It's fun to get a glimpse of how majestically simple life can be. These ten spiritual life lessons have, over the years, helped me embrace this simplicity:

          1.   We are all one. Caring for and honoring    
                    others is caring for and honoring
                    ourselves.

          2.  Life's most valuable lessons can be learned
                  from our pets -- like unconditional love and
                  lack of ego. Observe them closely, and you will see
                  this is true. If they stumble and fall or if you ignore
                  their attempts to garner affection, they don't walk
                  away all embarrassed or miffed. They just move to
                  the next thing in life.


          3.   Get in touch with yourself and listen to your inner   
                    dialogue. The reasons we’re feeling a certain way  
                    can be found inside ourselves, not in people or
                    things that surround us.


          4.   Learning to truly forgive ourselves and others will set us 
                    free.

          5.   The value of friendship far outweighs material wealth.

          6.   To honestly listen with patience and interest to someone
                    else 
is one of our greatest and most appreciated skills.

          7.   Good health is a precious possession. Treat yourself
                    accordingly.

          8.   Letting go of expectations will allow us to receive life’s 
                    greatest gifts. We can't grab all the good if our hands
                    are all tied up in what good we think we should be
                    getting.

          9.   No one controls us; we are free to be and do all that is
                    possible. Don’t squander your talents.

         10.  Invite others to join your path to happiness by being
                    a joyous person we want to spend time with. A
                    negative attitude is mentally and physically exhausting  
                    and is off-putting.

          I'd love to hear your own set of lessons that have proved to keep your life moving forward in a simple and loving way.

Contact me at antoniasseniormoments@hotmail.com or
  Antonia's Senior Moments on Facebook.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

On Being Human

        Oh, how I wish I could get it right. How I wish I could just wake up one morning and not do anything to hurt another, or frustrate them or make them roll their eyes. Have you ever had these wishes? It’s like waking up the morning of a new diet. “Today, I’m going to get it!” But I’m not talking about dieting. I’m talking about containing, managing and corralling my human side.

          My spiritual side is always perfect…whole….open….just the way it is. My human side, on the other hand, speaks without listening and, in an effort to be cute…or knowledgeable…or correct, says hurtful things to others. Why? Why am I not able to just keep my mouth shut? Why can’t I let another say and feel and do what they want, even if I know a better way, or even if I disagree with their process?  I’m pretty smart. You’d think I know to just listen.


          Intellectually I know that my spiritual and human sides are one, that my angst about being imperfect is just where I’m supposed to be. Knowing this, however, doesn’t raise me up, at least not today. I want to stop saying and doing hurtful things. I want to be that person that others emulate, that person people want to be with because it’s pretty predictable that I’m NOT going to be a jerk.


          Sound like a pity party? Perhaps so. But I know you’ve been where I am. I know that as we evolve and grow, moments like this feel harsh and a million steps backward.


          I guess that’s all part of the process of being human.


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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Do You Deserve an "F" in Retirement?

          I have failed to live up to the basic standards for retirement living.

          There is a well-marketed attitude that we should feel “less than” if we don’t pursue something productive every day….and yet, isn’t the definition of retirement exactly to feel okay about kicking back more often than not and enjoying the little things or the nothingness of a luxuriously loaming afternoon with a expansive blank agenda?

          Who sets these standards for us? “They” do, that’s who. You know, it’s the proverbial “they” that set the guidelines for a lot of what we say, do, buy, feel and express. I hate to admit it, but I am often gullible enough to accept what “they” say.  For example, I feel proud when described as “She’s busier now that she ever  was before retirement.” I wear this comment like a badge of creative and life-fulfilling honor. I’m no goof off, no slacker retiree who is relaxed, mellow and contented! Say what?????


          When people ask you how you are, do you respond rapid fire with a litany of all that you are doing in your busy weeks? A friend of mine would do this all the time but, once when I asked her again, more seriously, “Yeah, but how are you REALLY doing?” she’d almost burst into tears. She hadn't slowed down long enough to feel much of anything.

          Is your schedule always filled but your life isn’t fulfilling? Perhaps, like me, you’re buying into what “they” say we should be doing during retirement. To get a better handle on how my retirement is going I looked at the following seven benchmarks:

1)      Do I wake with enthusiasm, eager to enjoy what
             the day has to offer?

2)      Is there enough white space on my monthly calendar
             to make room for some serious goof-off time?

3)      Do I feel fulfilled for the most part with friendships
             and family fellowship?

4)      Do acquaintances feel I’m available for a spur-of-the-
             moment coffee date?

5)      Do I spend the majority of my time talking about positive
             things in life rather than the aches and pains, the
             weather or the economy?

6)      Do I feel like I'm living my  life based on what I want to
             do rather than what others expect me to be doing?

7)       At the end of the day, do I feel  okay about
              myself even if I don’t have something
              tangible to show for my day, like piles
              of clean laundry, pages of written text
              or a garden free of weeds?

          If I can answer “yes” to a majority of these, I’m on the right track in my retirement.  Hey, don’t get me wrong. I can feel like a real slug that has nothing to show for my time if I spend the entire day reading – even if it’s for research. I’m not always doing the best at retirement, but I keep trying to keep things in balance.
          I believe the best way to determine if you’re doing retirement right is to ask yourself if you are living a meaningful life. If the answer is “yes,” like it is for me most of the time, that’s all we can ask for. Like everything else, it’s a process.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What If ... ?


          What would it be like if for one day, one 24-hour period, you only allowed goodness in your life? What if, during that day, every single situation, thought, conversation, and action was viewed by you as positive?

          What if when you were cut off in traffic you gave thanks for no accident or for it not slowing you down? What if it DID slow you down and you acknowledged it as a reminder to make more for time for travel or to slow down in general?

          What if you didn’t take personally any off-the-cuff or out-wardly snotty remark that a friend, family member or co-worker made thinking they were just being cute? What if, when you didn’t meet your deadline, you were able to acknowledge yourself for being diligent and trying hard to do so, instead of kicking yourself and letting it ruin your day?

          What if for just one day, the goodness and abundance of life filled you to overflowing? How might your life be changed?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

It's Not Over 'Til the Centenarian Sings

          UnitedHealthCare recently conducted a study with centenarians, those people 100 years and older, along with a companion survey of baby boomers. The centenarians said that, on average, they felt like they were 83 years old, while the 65-year-old baby boomers felt a full 10 years younger at 55. 

My friend Judy's Aunt Rose. Closing in on 100.
          Expressing how centenarians felt about being 100, 35% felt “blessed,” 31% “happy” and  12% “surprised.” No one expressed feelings of sadness or of being burdened; only 3% said they felt lonely.  I found it very encouraging that 53% of centenarians lived independently without daily caregiver support.

          I’m cheered by these numbers and a little bit surprised about the positive outlook of older people who face more loss than any other group of aging adults. In spite of more significant and debilitating health restrictions and a greater loss of friends, family members, and spouses, centenarians remain upbeat and very much wanting to participate in life – “I can’t get around much anymore, but I’m still alive and that’s a very good thing,” is a point of view expressed often by these elders.

          I wonder how I’d feel about being a centenarian. It looks like a lot depends on attitude. Our youth-oriented culture paints a fairly drab and discouraging picture of old age. Heck, old age for many is anything 40 and older. That’s not even middle age for a centenarian.

          Whether I live to be 100 or not I know I better beef up my positive attitude, preserve relationships with friends and family, participate is healthy practices (my nemesis), and be as active as I can be.

          It’s not over ‘til it’s over and there is a possibility of you becoming a centenarian. What will your tune be if you make it to this ripe old age?

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

For the Love of Sammy...or Conzo...or Sweetie Pie

          I’ve heard many of my friends talk about the emotional impact pets have had on their lives, especially since those friends have become senior citizens. In most cases, the kids are gone and, unfortunately for some, the spouses have passed away. With crappy TV and often no means to get around or explore too far from home, the days loom large. Pets who depend on us and love us in return make a huge difference in the happiness of a senior's life.

Me and My Cat
         
I’ve admitted many times here just how over the top I am about my precious cat, Kali. Because I’ve never had children or step-children to spend time with daily, I’ve transferred many of my maternal instincts onto my pets all throughout my adult life. I’ve spoken here about how I unabashedly anthropomorphize my pets and imbue them with human feelings and emotional characteristics.

My friend Sue's dog, Toby
 
          And I am not alone. Go to the dog park, any dog park, and watch the pride owners have for their animals. They are proud of how Sparky or Bessy stays close by while off leash or runs away returning periodically to check in with their owners. See the love and admiration in their faces as Toby or Cosmo checks out other dogs with a friendly perked-up tail.
          And if, for some reason, our animals disappoint us by shredding the toilet paper roll, or chowing down on the corner of a kitchen cabinet during the frenzied noise of 4th of July fireworks, we manage to forgive them quickly. We know their behavior was out of boredom or fear and not meant to hurt or anger us. 

Unconditional Love
         
I love Kali, unconditionally. I love her without question, and I know she is attached to me as the main human in her life. I’d like to think of that as her loving me back. While Kali spends so much of her time showing devotion to me, it just makes sense that I want to show her that devotion in return.  For instance, something that may be too expensive for me may be a necessity for her.
          I wish I could love people the easy way I love Kali. I wish I could suspend all other motives and emotions and love them purely, without question ALL the time. I wish I didn’t get P.O.’d sometimes or hurt by the actions of other humans. 

          In spite of my lack of perfection in the human love department, I can learn from Kali. She can teach me to strive to love others the way she loves me. I am made better by her love.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"The Sky is Falling!" Let's Scare Seniors Again!

          News Flash! Seniors are NOT responsible for the sorry state of the economy because of our use of Social Security benefits. That’s what some wealthy leaders and politicians would have the younger voting generation feel about our need and desire to retire and engage the benefits that were established for our use in 1935 under Roosevelt and for which we have contributed to our entire working careers. Personally, I have relied on these funds to support my life after leaving the work force. To withdraw or significantly reduce them after such a reliance would be devastating to many who need these funds just to make ends meet. There are millions of seniors who rely entirely on them just to stay alive and function within a bureaucracy that meagerly acknowledges the value and contribution of our elder communities across the U.S.

The impact         
         
As seniors, we don’t have the opportunity to earn more money to support ourselves. Thus, proposed cuts and changes trap many elders into further poverty and poor living situations without a way out. The younger generation, however…the generation being sold seniors’ selfishness…does have the opportunity to make changes now that will allow them maximum retirement benefits when their time comes. Keep in mind, Social Security is completely self-funded from contributions earned by members who have or will receive the benefits. It draws no funds from the overall federal budget.
          The closing of field offices and eliminating thousands of workers who help seniors navigate the system on a face-to-face basis is the current threat to not only seniors but to the disabled and children who also rely on these benefits. I’m not in favor of foisting our problems onto future generations, however, to significantly reduce Social Security benefits for current recipients is short sighted, politically motivated, and harmful to one of our most vulnerable groups of people. It’s bad enough that the closure of the majority of Social Security field offices forces non-techie seniors to use the Internet to communicate about their benefits with SS staff.
Lots of talk, little action
         
Both the government and the public have been complaining about the shortfalls associated with Social Security for well over a decade, yet no real changes have been proposed to date that would help alleviate the escalating shortages. As I’ve seen with many national issues, we’re better at complaining and scaring everyone than we are at doing the work to create viable solutions to the problem. 
          I'm confident you have or can find the resources to establish the best time for you to begin drawing on Social Security benefits. In the meantime, let's encourage the efforts of politicians and other policy makers to find solutions rather than finding someone to blame.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Get Over It" Packs a Punch

          When something goes wrong, get over it.

          When disappointment pays a massive visit, get over it.

          When emotional hurt becomes a burden upon your spirit,     
                   get over it.
          The bitterness from these situations takes root and will keep problems in your subconscious unless you get over them.
          Do you want to know what hanging on to grief, anger, stress, anxiety and general negativity REALLY does:  it kills you…. physically, emotionally and spiritually. That may sound harsh, but I truly believe it. I can just feel the life being sucked out of me when I’ve clung to something negative for well past it’s “Use By” date.
          Getting over it means really releasing all the power something – usually negative – has over you. Getting over it means moving on to the next great fun, creative, challenging, inspiring, motivating, uplifting and joyous thing life has just for you.

     I love to be reminded of what we can learn from our pets. I never see Kali (my beloved tri-pod kitty) hanging on to terror (like when a plastic bag accidently chased her because it was stuck to her one good back leg) or disappointment (“No snacks right now, missy.”). I can recall more than once when I’ve come waltzing around the corner only to smash her precious little face with my big foot. She darts off in fear and confusion but will return moments later, when I’m sitting down, for a love fest petting session. I may be anthropomorphizing just a tad but, the point is, she gets over it. It obviously does help that she’s not as highly evolved as her mom. Despite their lack of higher education, I still think we can learn from our pets’ actions.

          So, the next time:
     -          Someone cuts in front of you in traffic or
     -          Forgets to do something you asked them to do or
     -          Doesn’t invite you to the party, dinner, or other event 
                       or
     -          When your partner hurts your feelings or
     -          When you fail … at anything or
     -          Act harshly to yourself or others or
     -          If you relapse back into bad behavior

STOP
...and do yourself a favor…GET OVER IT and move on to goodness.

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