Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The (Sometimes Surprising) Power of Connection

Have you ever been in a situation where an important connection or affiliation made a huge difference in your life? If you think about it, there is virtually no aspect of our lives that isn’t touched by the power of connection, or sometimes the loss of it. This realization can come on fast and can show up in some unlikely places.

Any young person with their nose stuck in a cell phone is actually devoting a ton of time to maintaining and expanding their circle of connections, even though they are doing it in a solitary fashion. We can grouse about how much they’re missing, but these high-tech connections may be as valuable as the “low-tech” activities that we value like reading, talking to friends, even connecting with a spiritual community.

How we connect is far less important than realizing how meaningful connections are.   

As I’ve aged, the significance of what I will relinquish after leaving the physical world has been on my mind more and more. Some of what I’ve thought about are material things: my written words, endowments, and my stuff. But lately a new thought has been creeping into my spirit about something far more valuable than any of my stuff:  the idea that connections aren’t just experiences; connections are our LEGACIES. Connections we establish during our lives can influence families and communities, and these influences may live on long after we're out of the physical realm.

The three primary things that connect us are family, friends, and shared experiences. These can be good connections or bad connections. They can be joyous, sorrowful, or stressful. They can be thrust upon us like family that we don’t get to choose or they can be connections we seek out, like taking a class where our love for art, cooking, gardening or some other subject puts us in the company of “fellow travelers.” If we attend the same spiritual home or church, share an occupation, or have a close sibling, we’re part of a group and therefore connected by what we have in common.

Connecting with others

Aren’t some of the most powerful experiences in your life those you shared with others? Knowing you’ve done well is enhanced by sharing your experience with someone who has perhaps gone before you. 

As humans, our connections can represent the difference between a healthy outlook based on constructive emotional development and being vulnerable to pessimism and painful isolation. Our connections with others add support and perspective. Sometimes connection looks and feels like love. Only the test of time will tell if a connection is truly the deeper feeling of love. Sometimes the connections that come on fast and end just as quickly, catch us by surprise. And we are different than we were before.

Connecting to yourself

As we age, we bear witness to the loss of parents, spouses, friends, jobs, and sometimes homes. That’s why making sure we’re connected with ourselves is one of the most important connections of all.

But what does that mean?

It’s almost easier to define by looking at the opposite end of the spectrum. You’re not connecting with yourself when you move through your day in a fog, without the full awareness of what you’re doing; you’re distracted, feel out of touch with reality, like something is just missing. And maybe it is.

The thing to remember is that connecting with yourself can come in both big and small ways. Thinking back on an experience or a relationship may create an “Ah-ha!” moment where some larger meaning is revealed for the first time. But connection also comes from just walking as mindfully -- literally and figuratively -- through the minutes, hours and days of our lives. What’s critical is to have the same enthusiasm for connecting with ourselves as we have in being connected to someone or something, and to never limit our imagination as to what form self-connection can take.

My connections.

Because I’ve never had children, I’ve developed strong connections with the women in my life. Many of these connections have turned into lasting friendships that have shaped my experience profoundly. In addition to these individual connections, I am thankful for the many group connections that have been a large and loving presence. These range from connections with the people in my spiritual home to those with whom I share hobbies, books, and the love of our pets.

You can certainly move through your life with a minimum number of connections. As seniors, however, this can be especially unhealthy. If anything, getting older should precipitate more and stronger connections. We can become more dependent on family, friends, and strangers, and durable connections will make those interactions more joyful for everyone involved.

I truly believe the connection of elders within our community provides the backbone of positive growth for the future. Who better to share with and learn from than those who've been in trenches? We can provide some of the best connections around!

Perhaps now that I’m older, I can see connections as the most powerful and meaningful influences in my life. I’m beginning to see that, rather than tangible stuff, what I leave behind in the form of strong and meaningful connections may serve a wider arc of community. And I know I’m not alone.

The more we think about our lives, the more we’re likely to uncover about our connections.

Is there a time that you’ve been surprised by the power of connection? Don’t be afraid to share your comments!

Contact me at antonia@thejoyofaginggratefully.com 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Senior Moments: The Best IS Yet to Come

For many years, society has said don’t trust anyone over 30.

The senior population has historically been shoved aside and told “It’s all downhill now, baby!

You’ve lived your best life, had the most fun, amassed your greatest wealth, enjoyed the most rewards life has to offer and had the best sex you’ll ever experience.” However, this is changing and advertisers are seeing the potential with the older crowd. More and more we hear comments like, “Sixty is the new 40 and 80 is the new 50.”

If I ever doubted at 67 the best is yet to come, all I have to do is think about Louise Hay.

Metaphysical teacher and motivational author, Louise Hay is currently 89 years old. She was born into a poor and abusive family and ran away from home at 14. She dropped out of school and married at 15 and was pregnant at 16; she gave the baby up at its birth whereupon her husband left her for another woman. In the late 1970’s, she found she had cervical cancer but refused conventional medical treatment and began a regime of forgiveness, coupled with therapy, nutrition, and reflexology. She claimed in an interview that she rid herself of the cancer by this regime. While many would have boohoo’d that the best was nowhere in sight either then or in their future, she saw the positive and turned things around. She studied the New Thought works of authors and spiritual teachers including Ernest Holmes, who taught that positive thinking could heal the body.

Louise Hay has, among many other things, written 27+ books on affirmations and the power of positive thinking to heal anything that needs healing, mind or body. In 1984 she established the Hay House Publishing firm and has worked with the likes of Deepak Chopra, Ester and Jerry Hicks, Oprah Winfrey and Wayne Dyer. Her bestseller, Heal Your Body, has sold more than 35 million copies around the world in over 30 languages. She loves to sing, dance, paint and sculpt, endeavors she didn’t even start until well into her 70’s. She is a true representation that the best is ALWAYS yet to come. There are many other celebrities like Louise in the news every day.

I appreciate positive role models in my life.

While it’s nice to see well-known people who remind us that life can always be very fun and rewarding, I find it particularly heartening to personally know some seniors who epitomize the positive attitude that attracts more of the same, regardless of age. 

Barbara with another friend
My friend Barbara was one of those people.

I met Barbara when, at age 75, she came to volunteer for me doing some research when I worked at the Sheriff’s Department. She and I became friends and when the project she worked on for me ended, she went to work for another department where she completely organized an in-house library of many thousands of books. She acquired and cataloged the entire collection and eventually the library was named after her. We had lots of fun together, playing cards, going out, even traveling abroad.

When Barbara was 79 she met an 80-year-old British man on a Windjammer cruise. They corresponded and visited each other for a year and ultimately, when Barbara was 80, they married and she moved to England. I attended her wedding overseas and, on the last day of the trip, we took the Euro Star speed train to Paris for lunch. The last time I saw her she was wearing a bright red beret and a brilliant smile. She and her husband had a lovely time enjoying each other before she passed away a couple of years later.

Think for a minute, and I bet you’ll realize you know someone just like Barbara. 

They’re not famous or necessarily rich and they’re probably older than you. What DO they have that makes them open and receptive to the best when it appears? If I were to guess, I’d say a significant factor is attitude. Sure we all have our bad days but, in general, these people are fairly upbeat and positive. They’re sure there’s good stuff ahead regardless of their age or financial circumstances or marital status, etc. I think, when given the chance, they’re the ones who’ll see the glass as half full, that the grey and rainy days are good opportunities to stay in and read and that the actions of others don’t dictate their happiness.

I’m grateful there are outstanding role models to keep me knowing the best is yet to come! I believe like attracts like and the best is now and forever. I aspire to this way of life and I enjoy working on it. 

Contact me at antonia@thejoyofaginggratefully.com

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Third Anniversary - Changes Ahead

Antonia’s Senior Moments has been a thriving blog for three years. During that time, over 200 posts have been published, which have been viewed over 36,000 times by readers in 10 different countries including Poland, Ukraine, Russia and China.

Now Antonia’s Senior Moments is growing up, hitting the big time. Early next month this blog will be changing its name to The Joy of Aging Gratefully, and will become a full on website that will grow and expand to meet the needs of my senior audience.

Did you know older women are the largest demographic in the world? I'd like to continue to grow a community of readers who are interested in making our seniordom a vibrant and joyous time.

As a result, you'll continue to see myriad age-related information and subjects that hopefully strike a chord with you. We’ll also be open to any suggestions you have for subjects you’d like to see or issues you’d like to share.

It’s going to be the same, but different. That's how I've felt about getting older … the same as I did in my thirties but different in my older body. I bet I’m not alone in this feeling.

As I go forward, I’d like to thank all my friends and readers and specifically the following people for motivating me to keep going:

Ruth Barnhart
Jane Beach
Fran Bolduc

Debbie Butterfield
Randall Friesen

Lorna Johnson
Chris Michaels
Norma Miller
Barbara Stafford
Christine Sullivan
Rod Sverko

Edward Viljoen

Contact Antonia at antonia@thejoyofaginggratefully.com  

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Death Part 2*, or The Momentary Joy of Being Curious

I was sitting on the deck with my friend, Effie, taking in the cool beginning to what was forecast to be a warm summer day. The jays were squawking, the hummingbirds were fighting over the standing-room-only feeder at the end of the house, and Effie and I were solving all the world’s problems. I enjoy solving world problems with my friends. We were laughing and having fun but then…

…uh-oh, I mentioned the “D” word.

I’m not sure how the subject came up but, given Effie is my age, I probably just out-and-out asked her. I cringed after kick-starting the conversation and clutched my mug of coffee a little tighter. She, however, did not flinch a bit -- in fact, she kept right on smiling and said (wait for it...):  “I’m really curious about what’s on the other side.” She spoke without fanfare or angst or hyperbole; she was just being honest.

The moment she said those words I got goosebumps. In a flash, I saw and felt a different aspect of death than I ever had before. It was fleeting but my thought was, “Wow, can I actually be curious about what’s on the other side?” And immediately the answer came, “Yes, I can be curious,” and that got me excited.

For a moment I felt open … really open.

Standing strong, arms spread wide, face lifted to the brilliant sky, eyes closed I saw an alternative to the dreaded logistics of the death experience. I transcended the rigmarole of illness or accident, saying goodbyes, getting things in order (if I’m lucky), and found myself in a place of inquiry and sheer wonderment. This led me right into, Maybe it’s good, maybe it’s not scary, maybe it’s bigger than me and my emotions and even the physical plane of the entire universe.”

I’ve tried to express to my husband and friends the exact feeling of that brief awakening, but it just doesn’t translate. Perhaps I’ll never find the words. Perhaps it’s just too new or unfamiliar. Perhaps I dreamt it?

Like I said, that moment was gone just as quickly as it had swept its way through my being. I can sort of remember what it felt like, as it seemed to leave a spiritual thread behind in my soul.

Since that morning on the deck with Effie, I’ve been on a quest … a quest to recapture that ephemeral feeling of curiosity. It’s not a subject that can be Googled or easily tracked down in literature. And even if it could, it wouldn’t be the same.

But I’m hopeful of what I can learn and that I’ll have that feeling again. It has opened me up and made me a smidgeon less fearful of a situation no one can control. When death happens, it happens. My prayer is that I remain curious, even until that last moment.


Thanks Effie!

*Note:  I talk about death for the first time in my blog post of October 1, 2013, which you can read here.

Contact me at antonia@thejoyofaginggratefully.com

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

In The Know - October

~If you're like me, music from your younger days always lifts your spirits and takes you out of the everyday hum drum to a place that makes you smile. This article takes a look at how YouTube can bring a lot of no-cost, no-calorie, no-guilt pleasure to your days.  

~This 100-year-old athlete, Don Pellman, is still breaking records. He is truly inspirational to me ... especially on those days when every joint in my body aches. Check him out here.

~It's humor, not politics. Cute article about how people are posting pics of their cats and other pets that look like Trump and other candidates. Cute! 

~Leave it to the New Zealanders' to create a fashion-forward line of incontinence lingerie. Find out more about this underwear here

~A recent study showed for older adults the more you exercise the better shape your body will be. However, this was not true for your mind as well. Whether you exercise 75 mins a week or 225 mins, the test participants scored nearly the same in cognitive tests. Read more here.

~Money is a huge issue for retirees, especially women retirees. This article presents 10 tips for retired women on fixed incomes. 

~With the recent passing of Oliver Sacks' I reread his delightful piece on aging gracefully in the New York Times. It's definitely worth reading!

~Did you see it? Why is it that old people being affectionate is such an event? I don't know, but I thought "awwww" when I saw it too. Watch here.

~And finally, while we're speaking about affection, here's an interesting article about why sex scenes for the over-60 crowd are rarely shown in film. What do you think

~October Birthdays:

Roger Moore, 87 on the 14th
Angela Lansbury, 89 on the 16th
Catherine Deneuve, 71 on the 22nd
Chi Chi Rodriquez, 79 on the 23rd
Nanette Fabray, 97 on the 27th
Dan Rather, 83 on the 31st

Contact Antonia at antonia@thejoyofaginggratefully.com

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Do You Suffer From Action≠wordophobia?

Action≠wordophobia is the fear of not being able to match your words with your actions.

It goes something like this:

I’m “healthy,” but my diet is crap. I’m “nonjudgmental,” but I share my opinion like it’s the word of God. I think I live in integrity by not initiating gossip, but when it’s laid before me, I partake. 

And I’m always making suggestions for things my husband could do better but that I never do myself. Bazinga!

My actions don’t always match my words. 

That’s a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s the truth.

It’s easy to call out someone whose actions contradict their words. Parents are the worst. I remember my mom and dad castigating me not to smoke, but they both smoked like chimneys their entire lives. They’d tell me not to “yell at my sister,” even as they argued fervently night after night. It makes for confusing messages. What’s the old saying:  Do I say, not as I do?

Okay, but what’s the big deal?

Your husband tells you he loves you, and that you’re the most important person in his life. But, he’s late for dinner, changes your plans with him at the last moment and takes calls or texts during meals and other times with you. See the problem here?

When actions don’t match words, credibility is ruined. This is obvious in the business world where failing to follow through on a promise can make the difference between keeping and losing clients.

Your reputation at home is equally precious. It’s trashed when you, for instance, say you’re sorry but continue to behave badly. Kids pick up on this quickly and learn to disconnect words and actions as they grow into adults. Without stellar credibility, children and spouses will have a difficult time trusting you.

How much of what you say is, in fact, what you do?

I don’t believe people, including myself, say one thing and do another out of a conscious intention. It’s more likely a lack of awareness that our doing and saying aren’t jiving. So, don’t be too harsh on yourself right off the bat.

Take a moment -- heck, take a week -- and see if what you say coincides with what you do, both with yourself and others, at home and at work. I guarantee it’s worth it.

How to change.

Assuming you find that you need to work at doing more of what you say, there are things you can change. It’s safe to say that if any of our actions are going the opposite direction of our words, it’s likely we’re cultivating a well-embedded habit.

My first suggestion is to be honest with yourself. If your diet is crap, quit kidding yourself that you’re doing all you can to be healthy. Take a good hard look at places in your life where you give knee-jerk responses about what you do without really checking to see if you’re making an honest statement.  What about times when you say you’ve done something you really haven’t done completely? Being honest about what you say will help bring your words and actions into alignment.

Along the honesty lines, my next suggestion is to read Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements.  One of the four agreements is to “be impeccable in your word.” When you learn to be more honest with yourself and others, your voice will automatically flow into your actions. It takes practice.

Finally, a way to break this bad habit is to just share your word less often … period. You don’t have to make any statements about how healthy you are. Zip it! Take the time to just be a listener. The integrity of both your personal and professional lives are at stake. Don’t risk it. Be sure your actions match your words. 

As seniors in our communities, we are role models. Be sure those coming behind us see the value of what we say and that it matches what we do.

Contact Antonia at thejoyofaginggratefully@gmail.com or
  Antonia's Senior Moments on Facebook

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Looking Ahead With Glory Every Day

Sally Patterson
The minute I met Sally Patterson three years ago, I knew I was in the company of a genuinely trustworthy, compassionate and happy person. She exudes joy and easily says about herself “I wake up happy!” I was pleased that she took a moment from her busy life to sit down with me to share some of how she got to where she is today.

Antonia:  Hi Sally. Thank you very much for being here. Let’s start with you telling me when and where you were born.

Sally:  I was born in Los Angeles in 1936. That makes me just barely 79.

Antonia:  Tell me about your family.

Sally:  I met my husband, Hank, right after graduating from high school. We both fell head over heels and knew instantly that that was it for us. We’ve been married 58 years.

Hank and I have six children; three boys and three girls. And they’re fantastic! All really likeable! They range in age from 56 down to the youngest at 44.  I have ten grandchildren; a monopoly of boys, and there are three great-grandchildren; two boys and a girl. I had a brother and a sister, both of whom have passed away.

Antonia:  You say you grew up in Southern California. How did you get from there to here in Santa Rosa?

Sally:  After finishing college Hank was recruited for a teaching job with the L.A. City Schools. We knew we wanted a lot of kids and always talked about great places to raise a family. When one of our kids got pneumonia, the doctor said we should move out of smoggy L.A. A friend told us about Santa Rosa and what a perfect family community it was. Hank put in his teaching application and in 1964 we moved here. I worked in accounting here for the County. After 16 years I retired and Hank retired after 41 years.

Antonia:  I know that you currently volunteer your time at Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa. Why do you enjoy that work?

Sally:  Yes, this is my fourteenth year volunteering at the front desk. I love it because I like the people and I like helping them.
Also, after surviving breast cancer, I also volunteered for the American Cancer Society through their “Reach to Recovery” program for patients recovering from surgery. I was bound and determined not to let cancer take over my life. It felt good to give back something positive after a negative experience. I did that for 20 years.

A little over a year ago, I had a cancer relapse but I found a great doctor and received good treatment that removed it all, so now the prognosis is good.

Antonia:  You’re a survivor! Your positive attitude shines through, Sally. Tell me how you feel about getting older.

Sally:  Well, I feel it’s inevitable (laughs). The alternative isn’t great. I’ve had a few setbacks but life goes on. You make the best of it. There’s no perfect life without bumps.

I’m so fortunate to have a partner in life who believes as I do that we do the best we can while we’re here. My personal faith, which has been developed over the years, also plays a role in my life.

Antonia:  What kind of advice would you give those of us coming behind you in terms of age?

Sally: Because you’re looking at the shorter end of your life at this point, I’d say you should have a very forward-looking thing about each day you wake up…that you should see the glory in the way the sun’s coming up, if there’s some pink in the sky. My husband laughs at me about this, but I’ll run out the door just to see a beautiful day. It excites me.

I appreciate everything outside of myself. It’s a glorious planet and we live in a beautiful place. It’s one of the most fulfilling things to see the beauty of where we are. I look ahead with glory every day.

Antonia:  Thank you for talking with me today, Sally.

After I turned off the recorder Sally said the most succinct thing about herself: “If you want to understand me, it’s that I’m happy.”I was struck by this aspect of her from the first day I met her. Her happiness draws people closer to her. It’s contagious.

Sally’s attitude and approach to life as an elder in our community serves as a role model to me. 

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

My Brush with "Les Beatles"! - Looking Back

It was my first experience with pandemonium.

When a girl started to sink down in the sea of hysterical humanity, someone caught her and helped her stay afloat. No one shared her picture on Instagram or Facebook. It was long before cell phones and social media, so it didn’t occur to us to worry about documenting our experience.

This was 1964, the day after my sixteenth birthday, and the event was one of the Beatles first performances ever, soon to be worldwide famous.

It was in Paris, France, and I had never even heard a Beatles song before.

Me and my hair in 1964

As an historian for NATO, my father and our family were stationed in Fontainebleau, France. Along with about sixty or so Americans, I attended boarding school in Paris, and every Wednesday evening we would be taken to a cultural or historical venue that would “broaden our European experience,” typically a museum or chateau. As it turns out, the Beatles concert overshadowed nearly all other culture I rubbed up against during my three years in France.

Supervision for the thirty of us American high schoolers who went to the concert was in the form of matronly dorm counselors. They were ill-prepared for the unique experience we were a part of that night, and security for the concert at the Olympia Theater was less than stringent.

The opening acts were French pop singer, Sylvie Vartan, and twenty-six-year-old, Texas-born Trini Lopez, who performed “If I Had a Hammer.” Our group loved Trini so much we would have been happy if he’d been the headliner. By the way, both Sylvie and Trini are still performing today.

Because we didn’t know a thing about the Beatles, we acted slightly less wild than the French teens. We listened and clapped and laughed at their jokes, but no one fainted or made themselves sick screaming. I believe we were more excited about seeing a band – any band – that spoke English.

The Beatles played eight songs that night: “From Me to You,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “She Loves You,” “This Boy,” “Boys,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Twist and Shout” and “Long Tall Sally.” At one point, Paul, who could hear us yelling (the venue was small), acknowledged our presence by asking if we spoke English and where we were from. We were beyond thrilled to be singled out.

It wasn’t until long after this experience that I began to understand the impact of an evening with “Les Beatles.” We were a bunch of American kids longing for anything outside the military lifestyle. We needed – and got! – the perfect thing for us to love and our parents to misunderstand. All of a sudden, we had a secret desire and un beau (in the form of George, John, Paul, and Ringo), a special song, a powerful shared experience, and a memory to carry throughout our entire lives.

[Surprisingly there exists a very short and not-so-great-quality You-Tube video of this performance on Jan. 16, 1964. Notice the suits and dresses worn by many concert-goers. My gang also was dressed up but not looking as sharp as these Frenchies. Check it out here.]

Contact Antonia at antoniasseniormoments@blogspot.com or
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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

One "She Shed" Away From Insanity

Have you ever missed alone time so much you went a little bonkers?

Virginia Woolf reminds us in A Room of One’s Own of the critical nature of solitary time -- to write, meditate or do whatever will support us in being happy, productive and better people in the world. Unlike Virginia’s thesis, however, which stipulates that it always takes money to get that room, we’ll look at a couple of ways to make that happen without it breaking the bank.

Before we look at the “how,” let’s remind ourselves about the “why.”

Time alone means different things to different people. If you live in a bustling household, time alone most definitely means no conversations and probably not sharing a bathroom or the remote for an extended period of time. If you already live alone, however, it may mean just a change of scenery … trading your four walls for some different ones, or replacing them with sky and trees.

In either case, peace and quiet gives us much-needed downtime. Solitude can help us trade multi-tasking for mono-tasking like reading, just staring into space, admiring things in nature, or other calming activities. Many of us aren’t able to do our best problem-solving unless we can spend quality time alone laying out all of our options and evaluating them thoroughly.

Quiet time plays a role in our health by reducing stress and relaxing our brains and bodily systems. It’s the pause that refreshes. It’s peaceful time that reminds us to slow down and be grateful for the bounty of our lives, to appreciate all that is right before us and to cease comparing ourselves or our lives with that of others.

Finally, in solitude we can see that the urgency of communication is over-blown. We’re texting, tweeting, and checking in by phone – constantly, anytime and anywhere. Is that necessary? All the time? Stop. Be willing to risk the feelings associated with being alone for a little while, especially if you can do so in the comfort of a space you call your own.

Then and now solutions

For many women, getting space used to be a matter of shooing little ones out of the house, closing the blinds and ignoring the phone. And that's still true for some. For me it’s always meant marking days on my calendar with big X’s and just saying, “Sorry, I can’t that day.”

But here’s another idea:  You’ve heard of “man caves”?  Well now women are creating places of refuge -- “she sheds” -- where they can do whatever they want … alone, no men allowed, no kids allowed, (no one allowed if that’s what you want). Having a she shed means having either enough land and resources to build a new structure or enough patience to refurbish an existing outbuilding. The fun lies in making it your way whether shabby chic or pristine and modern. The point is, you get to decide. Check out these fabulous examples.

While building a she shed may represent the upper end of making time and space for yourself, you can also create a retreat in the basement, attic or even in your garage.

Sometimes identifying a physical place to call your own just isn’t possible. That’s when you look within your community and see what might work.  Perhaps it’s the park, away from the playground. It might be the library in the history section where there isn’t a lot of traffic. It might be as simple as fancying up the back porch with a comfortable chair, side table, planter of flowers, nice wall art and a rug. None of this has to be expensive.

I know you can use your creativity to identify possibilities that work for you.

Alone time for me is serious business.

Despite not having any little kids running around my house, I seriously could not function without alone time. Unfortunately, it took my new husband a long time to embrace my dire need for time away from it all, including him. Even some of my friends struggled with my need. It’s always been hard for me to say “no” without a valid excuse. I can just hear them now: “Say what? You’d rather be alone than with me?!”

For me, alone time means sequestering myself in my office in our home. Because I’m a writer, I’m in there every day for at least two hours and often spend up to twelve hours. I am fortunate to have a comfortable place to work where my cat, Kali, is never excluded, and where I can shut the door if I’m having a particularly challenging day. My husband, bless his heart, finally gets it. He goes out of his way to pass my office door with nary a glance inward. 

Every two to three months or so, I pack up and check into a hotel for a few days. I order in for most my meals and, although I have brought work projects, I’ve never done any work. I watch crap TV or read cheap novels and soak in the tub. I love it. I luxuriate in it.
At the very least I create outstanding quiet time by having one of my “no tech” days. These days mean no computer, iPhone, iPad, TV, car, microwave or anything else electronic. On these days I spend time in nature, reading or visiting with friends. I’m not always alone on these days, but they surely are quiet and serene, filled with lots of downtime activities.

What is your way?

While I don’t have a fancy she-shed, I am able to create great alone time, which is vital to my well-being and for which I am grateful. Is the need for alone or quiet time true for you as well? If so, what is your way of getting it?

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

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

In the Know - September 1

Baby you can drive my car!  Despite jokes to the contrary, senior drivers are historically safer drivers than young people. For this reason, the for-hire car service, Uber, is interested in partnering with AARP to enlist older drivers for its service. http://on.today.com/1MFmjUL 

Financial aid for older adults going back to school:  Thinking of taking some classes or going back to school? There are lots of options for baby boomers and retirees to receive financial help. http://huff.to/1h2mAoB

You are what you eat: Longevity expert Dan Buettner talks about the value of different foods to the health of seniors here in the U.S. and how those values compare to residents of other countries around the world. http://nyti.ms/1LaFdRb

Elder playgrounds:  Sounds like fun! Serving as a community gathering spot as well as a place to improve fitness, elder playgrounds exist all over Europe and are beginning to make an appearance in the U.S. http://huff.to/1Kc6JhX

Marrying your soulmate after 50:  The author shares her experience about it never being too late to find love.

An awwwww moment that's NOT a picture of a cat: The author shares what it was like to have her 89-year-old grandma serve as one of her bridesmaids at her recent wedding. There are pictures too! It's a truly awe-inspiring story.  http://huff.to/1M6wcvs

August and September Birthdays:
Martha Stewart, 74 on Aug 3
Barack Obama, 54 on Aug 4
Dustin Hoffman, 78 on Aug 8
Fidel Castro, 89 on Aug 13
Lily Tomlin, 76 on Sept. 1
Bill Clinton, 69 on Sept. 19
Michael Douglas, 71 on Sept. 25

Contact Antonia at antoniasseniormoments@hotmail.com or
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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Still Going Strong and Helping Others at 97

97 Never Looked This Good

“Keep busy. Keep Useful.” This upbeat outlook on life keeps Hertzel Harrison active, involved and very independent. (And still quite handsome for a man who’s turning 98 in December!) He drove himself to my home recently for our interview and politely refused any assistance from myself or my husband.

Antonia: Welcome Hertzel. Can you tell me a little about your background?

Hertzel: I was born in Peoria, Illinois in 1917, 10th of 11 children. There were nine boys and two girls. The girls were spoiled rotten.

I wanted to enlist in the military but I had to deal with a medical condition before I could get in. In my childhood I was poisoned from bad milk. This affected, among other things, my depth perception, so I wasn’t eligible to fly until I got well. I got down to 60 lbs. because of this illness!

Eventually, I proved I was well enough to fly as an Aviation Cadet. I went on to become a successful navigator and bombardier. My eyesight was perfect. I was stationed in Texas and served three years.

Antonia: Tell me how you met your wife.

Hertzel: It was during Christmas vacation in high school in Peoria. My buddy Don Heinrick and I were looking for something to do. We went to a friend’s house and that’s where I first saw this blue-eyed blonde, Virginia Steele. She took one look at me and that was it!

We got married and had two boys: Trip was the older and Bob is the younger. My older son passed away in his 60’s but the younger one, Bob, lives nearby.

Antonia: How did you get from Peoria to here in California?

Hertzel: I got into manufacturing. It’s kind of ironic that I got into designing a piece of equipment that dealt with food poisoning. It was a refrigeration/oven unit on wheels. I worked with hospitals and nursing homes.

Originally I did this work while living in Florida with my family. I had the factory in Canada where the parts were assembled into these units.

In 1980 I sold the company, retired and moved my family to Santa Rosa, California.

Antonia: Tell me about retirement life.

Hertzel: I started off by playing lots of golf and the other usual retirement stuff…enjoying life. I quit playing golf when I developed basal cell carcinoma.

Unfortunately, Virginia died of colon cancer in 1991. We were married 56 years! That’s when I began volunteering at the hospital. I found that volunteering was the best thing to occupy my mind. Keep busy. Keep useful.

These days I play duplicate bridge and spend time with my seven grand kids and their kids.

Antonia: Why is volunteering so important to you?

Hertzel: It makes me feel useful, instead of useless. I also did some work at the Senior Center for a while serving meals to seniors. Now I just work at Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa, answering questions and helping people get where they need to be. I work about 8 hours a week and so far have contributed about 4,000 hours since I started.

Antonia: How do you feel about getting older? Do you consider yourself a role model?

Hertzel: I feel fine. I’m not angry I can’t do all the things I did when I was 21. No, I feel good about the age I’m at. No, I don’t consider myself a role model. I think of myself as lucky!

Antonia: Any advice for those of us coming behind you?

Hertzel: Eat red meat sparingly. If you’re gonna eat meat, eat white meat. I never smoked cigarettes but did smoke a pipe for maybe a couple of years but quit when I was about 35. As far as drinking, a bottle of wine would last me about a month. I don’t really drink.

My other advice is don’t go to sleep angry. Find a way to resolve any problems. Oh, and save your money!

Thanks Hertzel!

Contact Antonia at antoniasseniormoments@blogspot.com or
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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What if Today Was Your Last Day?

What if you only had 24 hours to do the things you want, see the people and places you are able to visit and get your affairs in order?

When I first contemplated this question, I started crying. 

I didn’t want it to be my last day. I haven't had enough time, enough good laughs, enough kisses and hugs with family and friends, enough wet nose bumps with my precious Kali or enough perfectly dry chardonnay or deliciously crafted Caesar salads. I haven't had enough days luxuriating in my bed-like-a-nest or being surprised by a new thing or having something in nature totally blow me away.

I had to force myself to think what it might be like…this last day.

Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have continued writing this post if it weren’t for wanting to share my fear and what came out of that fear. I found myself saying, “If I’m feeling this way, I bet there are lots of others who might have difficulty as well.”

I began with an exercise -- a blank piece of paper and the question, “What if today was my last?”

To immerse myself in the “last day” head space, I quieted down. It was hard to find the courage to get myself to actually feel what it would be like to have only one day left to live.

I squirmed and resisted. I did the dishes. I decided my craft closet needed some revamping. Finally when I was able to get serious about the exercise, the answers of what I’d do came swiftly. They poured out of me. I wasn’t surprised by what they were.

In order of priority my things were:

     - Be with my husband, my best women friends, and my 

          cat, Kali. (After writing this I’m crying again, so I 
          take a couple of deep breaths before proceeding.)

     - I’d write a few letters to extended family and friends 

           who I’ve gotten out of touch with, including a few 
          “Thank You” notes to people who have shown up 
          as teachers in my life.

     - I’d make arrangements to give some stuff away

     - I’d break out that $25 bottle of wine and enjoy it in 

          nature on my deck.

     - My favorite pieces of classical music would be 

          playing all day interspersed with some R&B soul 

     - I would apologize to a few people I have hurt, but 

          wouldn’t angst out over regrets or making amends.

     - I would eat an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s Phish 

          Food ice cream and perhaps some risotto.

     - I’d go to the ocean and let the brilliant sun ricochet 

          off the white caps 
          into my eyes.

     - I’d let someone read 

          to me.

     - I would smile all day.

One purpose of this exercise is to see what my priorities are.

For me, the value of creating this list is to compare what I do now with what I'd do if my time was limited. I believe the real takeaway for me is to incorporate more of the things on my list into my everyday life.

Now it’s your turn.

Do what it takes to get in that space of feeling it’s your last day. Write down what you’d do differently and then try to do at least three of those things every week or every day.

While I got all weepy when I started with this post, I think the value of the exercise far outweighed any discomfort. It's a great reminder for me to enjoy what's important to me, pursue my priorities and make time for the things and people I love. 

What do you think?

Contact Antonia at antoniasseniormoments@blogspot.com or
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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

In the Know - A New Feature!

Here’s your monthly roundup of fun and helpful tips and news about and for seniors. (If there are other topics you’d like me to cover here, let me know!)

Medicare Turns 50 in Good Health

From NPR: “Here’s a bit of good news for Medicare, the popular government program that's turning 50 this week. Older Americans on Medicare are spending less time in the hospital; they're living longer; and the cost of a typical hospital stay has actually come down over the past 15 years.” Click here to read or listen to the story.

Trash Your Muumuus and Get Some Jeans!

Great advice on how to look fashionable after 60 (even on a budget) with tips taken from the likes of Diane Sawyer and Susan Sarandon. Learn why you should wear lots of color, how to experiment with prints and textures… and see Helen Mirren rocking a bikini at 65. http://www.thebudgetfashionista.com/fashion-advice-older-women/

Preschoolers and the Elderly in Present Perfect

I was just thrilled to learn about this preschool located entirely inside a retirement home. The two groups at the opposite of ends of life meet to do activities, read, share stories, color, paint, sing songs and lots of other fun things. What a wonderful way to use the valuable resource of elders within a community. A documentary is forthcoming. I was deeply touched. Click here to find out more.

10 Things I Learned From Barbie

If you’re like me, you played with Barbie dolls. I loved Barbie but I was surprised at just how much I learned from my time with her. For instance, sometimes we get our hair all cut off or have ball point tattoos appear on our thighs -- life is capricious. Constantly standing on our tiptoes and wearing blue eye shadow are not always a great idea. For more funny and entertaining things we can learn from Barbie, click here.

The Surprising Benefits of Volunteering

Want to get out more, make more connections, do some good and feel great in the process? Here are four reasons you might want to consider volunteering and enjoy its “Happiness Effect.” http://www.helpguide.org/articles/work-career/volunteering-and-its-surprising-benefits.htm

A Few Notable Birthdays

Dalai Lama - 89 on July 6
Martha Reeves of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas - 74 on July 18

Tony Bennett - 89 on August 3
Wendell Berry - 81 on August 5

OK, that’s it for now. Like I said, if there’s something you want me to look into, let me know. I’d love your thoughts and opinions.

Contact Antonia at antoniasseniormoments@hotmail.com or
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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Coincidences – Gifts from the Universe? Or Random Events?

It was one of those ordinary, totally forgettable days.

Sal was at a print shop trying to pick up an order. It wasn’t ready yet. So he thought, “What the heck, I’ll just go grab a coffee at the cafe across the street.”

Sal’s life was about to change forever. 

He jogged across the street and stooped down to pet an adorable fluffball puppy that was tied up outside the cafe.

Just then, an attractive blonde woman dressed in a business suit, juggling a large purple backpack and a heavy briefcase, buzzed around the corner and nearly tripped over Sal. The two of them laughed and, after playing with the puppy for a moment, went inside, found a table in a quiet corner, and instantly bonded over coffee.

Today Sal and Megan are living together and plan to marry.

Everything changed in a moment… because his printing order wasn’t ready on time and a puppy was his path. How does that work?

Was it a Coincidence? Luck? Serendipity? Fate? Or something else?

I’m sure you have some stories like this. They happen all the time. You run into that person you were meaning to call today. Or you pick out the same anniversary card for your spouse they picked out for you.

When things like this happen, do you trivialize them as “coincidences” and say “I got lucky,” or “It came out of the blue?” Or do you wonder if something else might be going on?

If you’re like me, you believe that everything that happens, happens for a reason.

As Bernie Siegel, M.D., author of Peace, Love and Healing, so beautifully says it, coincidences are "God's way of remaining anonymous.”

My spiritual faith leads me to believe everything exists in the universe because of my thoughts and actions. So, when something happens I can’t explain, I can’t just shrug my shoulders and leave it at that. I have to stay open to greater meaning.

Look around at the house you are living in, the job where you work and your partner and children, if you have them. Do you really think all these treasures in your life came to you coincidentally?

It’s harder to think we might have some connection with bad things that happen.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer years ago, I saw nothing good in it. It was a horrible experience. Yet, only a year later, I looked back on this trying time and saw I’d received an amazing gift.

I discovered what is really important in my life.

The importance of friends and family became crystal clear. I couldn’t have gotten that valuable perspective without having had the trauma of a life-threatening illness. Coincidence? I thought not, but you decide.

Look at what happens in your life.

The next time you run into a person, out of the blue, you’ve been thinking about, stop and pay attention to the circumstances of this happening, or coincidence. Is it possible the energy you used to think about this person had them appear in your life at that exact moment?

Whether you believe what happens as completely circumstantial or definitely created by your energy, be sure to be grateful and acknowledge all the coincidences that have made your current life what it is. Our life expands because of them.

What are your beliefs about the coincidences in your life?

Contact Antonia at antoniasseniormoments@hotmail.com or
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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Most Inspiring 88-Year-Old I've Ever Met

Monique Purkett
Do you sometimes worry about getting older?

Meet Monique Purkett, still active, engaged and contributing to the world at 88.  When I sat down to interview her recently, I had no idea all she had been through and all that she contributed to the world. She is a role model for all of us in our later years and truly someone to admire. The story of Monique’s life could be a movie. In fact, it would be three movies!

A magical wartime love story

“Young 17-year-old French girl meets and falls in love with American soldier during the German occupation of France.” Doesn’t this sound like something right off the pages of a screenplay of a war love story from the 1940’s?

She was the oldest of three with a sister six years her junior and a brother 12 years younger. When the war ended French families invited American soldiers into their homes. At 17 Monique felt awkward doing so, but her 11-year-old sister felt no discomfort and found and invited Sam, the man who would eventually become Monique’s husband. She and Sam wed when she was 18 and he was 20.

Living abroad, then coming to America

After the war Monique and her husband remained in Europe for several years. They had two sons and a daughter. Sam worked at the military’s exchange system in Germany, Morocco and Spain.  It wasn’t until 1958 that Monique made her first trip to America, and the whole family came to live in the U.S. permanently in 1964. Monique worked hard and made sacrifices to assimilate into the American culture. She did this gladly.

Sam joined the V.A. Administration and his job took him to several locations throughout California including Santa Monica, Fresno, Pleasant Hill, and San Francisco. Monique taught pre-school for 25 years and she describes this time as some of the most enjoyable of her life. Sam and Monique eventually retired in Santa Rosa and their children live in Oakland, Placerville and nearby Petaluma.

An active life of family and service after widowhood

After 56 years of marriage, Sam passed away in 2002. Monique’s family in France encouraged her to return home. She resisted; “America is my home. My life is here with my children!“ she told me with quiet determination.

After Sam’s passing Monique got involved in her community to keep busy and to continue her ways of doing for others. She currently volunteers 15 hours a week at a local hospital and has set a goal to reach 8,500 hours of service before the end of 2015! She is an avid gardener and loves needlepoint, sewing and cooking. Her children are her best support and she maintains an exceptionally close relationship with all three.

Her beautiful character shines bright

Petite, gentle, with a welcoming demeanor and yet Monique can be described as determined and strong. Self-effacing yet self-assured. That’s how I viewed Monique after spending some time learning a smidgen of her life’s history.

Look at her picture again. Look into her eyes. Do you see all that she is? Do you see a life of challenges as well as sweetness? Do you see the strength of her life choices? Monique readily shared, “the care and support of all the people surrounding me is part of what I am today.”

We can learn a lot from Monique. I did. I learned you can be strong yet soft, lead a challenging life yet show no signs of it externally and give to others while taking care of yourself.

Thank you Monique, not only for who you are, but for what you bring to those of us who appreciate knowing your story. You are an excellent role model for those of us who are making the most of our elder years.

Contact Antonia at antoniasseniormoments@hotmail.com or

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Are you Thinking it Bad or Thinking it Good?

When I have a day filled with fear and uncertainty, it’s difficult for me to remember that this world works for everyone, including me. It's easy to feel it works when things are glorious and bright, but not as easily when the simplest of tasks become arduous, when friends turn against me and when overcast days seem to go on endlessly.

How often have you had a day when everything seems like it’s going to hell in a hand basket? On these days you're hardly surprised to watch the coin slip out of your hand and roll in slow motion, at the last moment dipping out of sight between the bars on the storm drain in the street.

We Create the Events in Our Lives

Would you believe me if I told you there’s a connection between our thoughts and what happens to us? What we think, be it positive and uplifting or negative and pessimistic, is what we create in our lives. What we think it’s going to be is ultimately what it turns out to be, “See, I told you so!”

Metaphysician Ernest Holmes liked to say, "Can you afford the consequences of the way you are thinking?" and "The way we think is the way we act, and the way we act is what happens. Law in the universe lets you have what you want -- disaster or delight."

Turning It Around

This is glorious news! If you can “think” it bad, you can “think” it good. We are powerful in that way. PLUS, it doesn’t cost a dime to shift it from bad to good.

Here’s what I do when I find it all looks and feels so awful I just want to crawl back in bed and dive head first under the blankets. First of all, I ask myself a couple questions:

          -Is there stuff that absolutely needs to be confronted, or can
               I put it off until I feel more positive?

          -Is life really as bleak as it feels like it is or is my
               talented imagination creating some situations (read
               “problems”) that don’t really exist?

Depending on an honest answer to these questions, I decide to confront or let go of the uncomfortable situation before me.

Next, I mediate and/or pray for clarity on why it all looks so harsh at the moment. There’s generally a reason why I’m focused on the negativity in my life, and knowing why brings an awareness of abundance about the true gifts in my life.

Then I move forward and seek out that place where all is well.
Often I spend time in nature or reach out to friends and family to deviate from the negative and focus on something else. Sometimes I just need some heavenly time alone where there is quiet and I’m my own best friend. From here it’s much easier to see all is well by keeping my thoughts on the ways I’m supported in my life.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

My Secret Garden – It Produces Much More Than Just Fruits and Veggies

A few days ago I followed my husband, Rod, to the garden. While he watered and pulled weeds, I hauled my lawn chair into a small center clearing, propped my feet up on one of the raised bed frames and leisurely enjoyed my morning coffee.

I must admit that we have a killer garden and Rod does 100% of the work. I’m so lucky he loves gardening because he grows a rich bounty of fruits and vegetables. Gardening has never been my thing. But I enjoy the harvesting and consuming part of the whole process. Thanks to Rod, we have already enjoyed plenty of delicious zucchini, radishes, tomatoes, snow peas, Japanese eggplant, three kinds of cucumber and apricots and peaches.

That morning after Rod got done with his upkeep of the garden, I remained behind by myself to finish my coffee and just hang out. And boy am I glad I did. I discovered a valuable commodity that didn’t come from any seed pack or seedling.

Spending time just hanging out in a garden brought me peace and tranquility.
It was calm, early morning cool, and bees were just beginning their day’s work, a low buzz signaling the morning’s progression. I had brought a book to read but quickly put it aside and closed my eyes. It felt meditative; I could practically hear the photosynthesis that was taking place! (Ok, that’s probably an exaggeration!)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Titanic Power of Tiny Books

When my life isnt going exactly as Id like, when its frustrating, confusing, overflowing with drama or just plain blah, I go to my ‘basket of toolsto help me shift to a better place. This basket includes meditating, praying, spending time in nature, seeking out friends and sometimes even enlisting professional help.

Tiny books are some of my most valuable tools.

Tiny books are smaller and shorter than regular books. That’s their beauty. You don’t have to wade through pages of complicated text to find the wisdom you’re looking for.

It’s right there in short, punchy paragraphs and blunt, bulleted lists.
Little books remind us to breathe, smile, love, be in gratitude and stop sweating the small stuff. When we’ve lost our way, they get us back on track in a heartbeat.

Some people find tiny books silly or overly simple. I, however, am in awe of how quickly they refocus me on the basics of life and how deeply that enhances my well-being.

Thats what I love about them! And that’s why I’ve acquired so many of them over the years, including these favorites:

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Why I'm Changing it Up This 4th of July

I don’t know about you, but holidays have taken on a new, more personal, meaning for me as I’ve aged. I noticed I’m re-focusing from partying to personal growth.

Take the Fourth of July.

Traditionally, July 4th has been an easy holiday for me. With my eyes closed, I can reach out to friends, plan festivities with the best food and drink and provide an atmosphere of fellowship and fun.

Why I’ve decided to do things differently this Fourth.

Last week, I sat down, turned off my monkey mind and settled into an open and receptive stillness. Then I let my mind re-live past July 4th celebrations and the activities associated with them.

I was surprised to see a pattern unfold.

The common theme that wove its way through almost all past July 4ths was the lack of any sense of what the holiday truly represented for me. It seems I’ve spent more time partying and less time on the significance of freedom in my life.

This realization led me to break with the tradition of hosting or attending a BBQ or other get-together this year. Instead, I’m going to re-connect with July 4th in an introspective, more personal way.

What does this mean? I’m going to personalize this July 4th by identifying and celebrating ALL the freedoms available to me, not by just acknowledging our nation’s breaking away from the motherland -- with food and drink in my hand.

In fact, by spending time consciously appreciating all the personal freedoms that our founding fathers fought so hard for, I am not only filled with gratitude for my life, I feel I am paying proper homage to them for their monumental sacrifice.

I will be celebrating the rich blessings of freedom in my life.

On a more intimate level, here’s what I came up with for a truer meaning of freedom in my life:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Unexpected Benefits of Being Quiet

Do you have this problem?

You’re with a friend, and all of a sudden there’s a momentary lapse in the conversation. Instead of just sitting with the silence, you find yourself immediately chattering on about some random thing neither of you cares about. Or worse, saying something inane you’ll regret later.

Being quiet is so uncomfortable you’ve just got to fill that space.

If this is you, be kind to yourself. Like most of us of a certain age, you were probably brought up to believe it’s the polite thing to do to not let conversation lag. That it’s up to you to keep the ball rolling.

Conversation (and words) were huge in my family. I was taught to be charming, show off my verbal acumen, my humor and my ability to engage others. As a result, I sometimes never shut up.

Being truly present with others

It has taken me years to learn to be comfortable in the silence.
In return,