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
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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.]

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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
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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

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