My Dream Job

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“Hello… Hello… Is anybody there?” I often hear this refrain from my Mom who just can’t seem to figure out ‘call waiting.’ I put it on her phone so that she would never miss an important call (from me) while chatting with her friends. I might need to tell her that I’ll be home late or that they didn’t have the library book she asked me to pick up for her and is there a second choice on her list. But if she’s going over the crossword puzzle answers or debating politics for the umpteenth time with her friends then I better just give up and come home (of course then she’ll tell me she was worried sick and why didn’t I call).

There’s been a fairly contentious TV battle going on in our home, too. We have several TVs (one in each room not including the bathrooms) so it’s not like you’re outta luck if one of them goes dark. I have repeatedly shown my mother the art of HD and explained that the HD TV does not respond as well on standard channels so just add 500 to all your favorites and the TV will be your new best friend. Simply waiting for a service call is, obviously, not an option.

I’ve long since lost the ‘computer’ war with my folks but that doesn’t mean they don’t see the good that my having one does them (in full disclosure, I don’t actually have one either because I do all my business on my phone). 

For instance:

  • “Ellen, what is 10 across and 29 down – can you look that up for me?”
  • “Ellen, can you deposit this check for me and check my bank balance?”
  • “Ellen, can you get me a digital coupon for this week’s shopping?”

And so on and so on…

The bottom line, clearly, for them is that THEY don’t need to have a computer because they have ME!

 

My Greatest Accomplishments

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When I made the decision to not only have children but also to raise them myself, I took a lot of criticism from people who had no qualms about letting others raise their own kids. I never voiced my opinion about their decision to work full time and hire strangers to look after their children and I expected at least that much in return.

It’s funny how people view the same situation in such different ways.

Be that as it may, I consider myself lucky to have been able to devote all my attention to my sons and I never regretted that choice.

When I decided to take care of my aging parents I could do no less than that. My parents gave me life just as I gave life to my children. The choice was a no brainier. I am fortunate that, even in their eighties, both my parents are still in my life.

Loving and caring for someone is not a part time job – it’s a lifetime commitment. 

Not that it’s been easy, by any means, but the benefits of this unique living arrangement far outweigh the difficulties we’ve endured. Living with and caring for elderly parents is not a choice to be made lightly. It may not be the right choice for everyone. It takes a lot of hard work and a ton of patience but it can also be one of the most rewarding and selfless things you will ever do!

High Blood Pressure

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Few things in life naturally lower our blood pressure – but plenty can raise it. Between worrying about our health, our families, our pets, our friends, our careers, our finances… there’s little time left over to just ‘chill.’

There are numerous drugs on the market that will help keep BP at an even keel. Doctors tell us to give up almost all of the things that give us the most pleasure. “Everything in moderation,” they tell us. Yeah, and we’re also told to ‘just say no’ and ‘you can’t eat just one…’

But these are, literally, words to live by.

We should eat right, exercise, do yoga and/or meditate and all our troubles will magically disappear. Really? Just like that? Yet we continue to abuse our bodies – putting chemicals and additives and artificial coloring and preservatives into our system on a daily basis. We have little if no self control and, when we feel poorly, we blame everyone else but ourselves.

I, for one, do not have high blood pressure. I’m as stressed as the next person but I don’t keep things bottled up inside. I yell, I complain and… you know what? I feel better.

So, do what your doctor tells you and take meds if they’re recommended but the rest is up to you. Find something that calms you – I knit and I color. It relaxes me at the end of a long and stressful day. So does drinking a cup of hot tea and eating a whole lotta chocolate!

The New Normal

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There’s nothing wrong with getting older. It’s almost as if the ‘over 65’ crowd is ‘the new normal.’ Aches and pains aside, more people than ever before are living into their eighties, their nineties and even living long enough to hear Willard Scott read their names (not as part of a memoriam but) on a Smuckers jar.

One noble aspect about aging is that it doesn’t discriminate – all races and genders, if they’re lucky, can be members of this inclusive club. The only rule is that you do it right… the living, that is, not the dying.

Old people are constantly portrayed as those suffering from incontinence, heart disease, arthritis and memory loss. They’re seen as cranky, unattractive, frail and forgetful. The fact of the matter is, today’s elders are actually computer literate, taking classes, starting new jobs and finding ways to improve their lives.

It’s no longer enough to just sit back and enjoy your retirement. You must keep an open mind and not be afraid to fail. You have to be open to discovery and appreciate life – especially knowing that your time may be limited.

Always remember this… You don’t get to choose how you’ll die but you sure can choose how you’ll live!

High School Reunions

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Reunions are a great time to take stock of how fortunate you really are. A lot of people use these occasions to see how well (or not) their ‘friends’ fared. We take pride in looking thinner (women), hairier (men) and less wrinkled (both) than our contemporaries. It doesn’t matter the circumstances that brought them to that state – we’re always quick to ‘judge a book by its cover.’

Abraham Lincoln wrote: “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” Elderly people understand this sentiment. The rest of us, sorry to say, do not. Or at least not yet…

Older people rarely regret things they did. They only regret things they didn’t do. When you’re younger you feel invincible and think there will always be tomorrow. But, sadly, sometimes tomorrow never comes. What then?

You try to live each day as if it’s your last, you try to be kind and compassionate toward others and you never, ever (as my grandmother always said) go out without first applying lipstick and a little blush!

 

FYI… my Mom is the dark-haired beauty in the back row, second from the left!

Hurry… Slow Down!

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We’re in such a hurry all the time. We eat fast food, we get instant messages – we place too much emphasis on instant gratification… we do everything at top speeds from driving to speaking to shopping. Why can’t we slow down anymore?

Where’s the fire in our lives?

From the time we’re little we’re in this giant hurry to grow up. Then, when we’re grown, we wonder where all the time went. We have indigestion yet we eat some of our meals while driving to and from work or while standing in line waiting to catch a train.

My mother always used to say: “A watched pot never boils.” Sounds profound but, seriously, it ‘always’ boils. In truth, it only seems to take longer because we’re focused on it and, now that we’re all multi-taskers, who’s sitting around watching water boil?

So, give yourself a break. You don’t have to make every single moment count. Don’t go directly from one activity to another. When eating, don’t forget to chew and (maybe) even savor your meal… There will be plenty of time to rush when you’re done!

Round Of Applause

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While reminiscing with my son a few weeks ago, I recalled various moments from his childhood that I realized he, sadly, had no recollection of. As young parents, we clap for and record and retell all our friends and family about every single accomplishment in our child’s life.

Some people use the New Year as an excuse to send out letters to their friends describing events that took place within their family in the previous year. It’s sort of like a ‘highlight reel’ but on paper.

I’ve listened to so many of my Dad’s dream sequences in the last year that I could write an entire 4 hour movie script and still have enough material left over to pen several sequels. The problem is, while he’s seeking an eager ear to listen to all his rantings, I’m looking for an escape route back to reality.

It’s one thing to create and recount memories but it’s a whole other thing to expect others to respond positively or enthusiastically about someone else’s life (or dreams – events that never even occurred).

So, feel free to clap every time a toddler blows a kiss or shows you how big he is… SOOO BIG. And, by all means, clap at your teenager’s school concert – even though some kids are singing or playing instruments out of tune. But don’t wait for that elusive round of applause after your latest rendition of dream works!

At First Glance

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At first glance, you might think this plant is real. Clearly it’s plastic and will, therefore, never die. It doesn’t require watering or any other maintenance. It’s pretty to look at and reasonably inexpensive.

So why buy the real thing?

If you’re a gardener or have plenty of time and money to care for flowers and plants, your first choice would undoubtably be to purchase and/or grow them yourself. This goes for both indoor and outdoor varieties. But, if you’re not in the market for something fragrant and don’t really need the extra work, why bother?

I think there’s a fine line between personal gratification and the simple pleasures in life. Some people need to have a hand in everything. Others are quite content to sit back and enjoy the fruits of others’ labor. I’m a knitter and I prefer, whenever possible, to create or recreate (using someone else’s original idea) my own projects. It’s peaceful, it’s therapeutic and (in some cases) it’s even less expensive. Plus, more often than not – especially if it’s a gift for someone else – it comes from the heart.

And you can’t put a price tag on that.

So, next time you buy something that you did not make yourself, remember that someone else DID make it and maybe you’ll appreciate it even more!

Happy Holidays!

Note To Self

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It seems like such a simple and obvious notion – to make time for yourself. But how many of us remember to do it or make the effort to rearrange our busy schedules?

I often find myself, at day’s end, not having completed my mental ‘to do’ list. It’s partly my fault by becoming distracted by other obligations. But there are, after all, only 24 hours in a day. Moreover, 6-8 of those hours (if we’re lucky) are spent asleep so that leaves…

See? I almost did it again. I certainly don’t have the time it takes to do math. What matters most is the quality of our time spent – even with family and friends, it’s not so much the minutes or the hours but the actual together time – without preoccupation or interference from any outside sources.

So: “note to self” – I will always be at my best, for others, when I am at my best for my own self. And, sometimes, that means having to take a moment to look up at the stars or to smell the roses or to hear my sons voices on the telephone. Then, and only then, can I be my very best ME!

Old Wives Tales

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If your parents ever told you, “that’s just an old wives tale,” you aren’t alone. However, these ’stories’ can run the gamut from curiously helpful to completely whacky. Here are the Top 5 best ‘luck’ ones I’ve heard to date:

     1) A cricket in the house brings good luck – not to the person who can’t sleep through the noise.

     2) It’s bad luck to leave through a different door than the one used to come in –  ummmm, anyone ever hear of an apartment?

     3) If the palm of your right hand itches it means you will soon be getting money – that’s not what the nuns told my male Catholic school friends.

     4) It’s bad luck to leave shoes upside down – especially if you stepped in something outside.

     5) An apple a day keeps the doctor away – not a good thing if you’re married to the doctor.

So, all in all, as long as you refrain from crossing your eyes, making an ugly face, stepping on a crack or swallowing a watermelon pit, you should be just fine. At least until the next time you eat before swimming, sit too close to the tv or crack your knuckles!