Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Age Should Be Ageless

The often quoted line, "Age is only important if you're a cheese" is one that has always applied to me.  I have difficulty remembering my current age.  When someone asks, I have to pause and subtract my birth year from the current one before answering.

I may have broached this subject in my blog before but, if so, it bears repeating.  Too many mature people allow themselves to be defined by their birthdate.  Their habits, what they wear, read, watch and talk about all combine to present a human picture lacking in life.

Life: that's the keyword here.  I'm drinking my tea from a mug this morning that bears the saying, "Enjoy Life....this is not a dress rehearsal."  And it's true. I try to face each day with the attitude of someone who will never stop pursuing new things, engaging new people and making sure I keep myself healthy and active to permit me to go after whatever I can dream about.

My friends help in that regard because they are of all ages and level of pursuits.  Just a simple conversation with one of them can spur new ideas and adventures.  And I never think about the difference in age between me and them, whether they are twenty-something or eighty-something.  I just know I can learn, love and grow from all of them - and I do.

Admittedly, I don't have much patience with those of my own chronological time who refuse to engage in the current world and surround themselves with like-minded contemporaries.  To my mind, they just "exist" - and I have to ask: why would you want to do that?

I plan to keep at this for quite a few more decades, and I'm working to be sure my body and brain are up to the challenges.  And to anyone, of any age, I recommend you do the same.  It's a great ride.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Roses For Motivation

Roses.  I love them.  When we moved into this house last year, I inherited five mature rose bushes and have been delighted with their abundance.  I can view red climber blooms just outside my study window.  Yellow roses, my favorites, are in profusion just across the yard.  I have one other climber that needs a bit of coaxing, a dark red near my front door that wants to be a climber but really isn't, and next to it, the palest of pink blossoms on my smallest plant.

I suffer thorn pricks, the hot sun, and never-ending battles with insects and disease to cultivate these gems of the garden.  I fully understand why a lot of people don't grow roses because of the constant care they require, but I rationalize that the rewards are worth the work.  Filling our home with vases of fragrant flowers makes every hour of gardening worth the time.

My mother taught me a lot about raising roses, and even as a small child, I remember helping my grandmother cut blooms for bouquets from her large rose garden.  In every home I've owned, rose bushes have always graced my yard, and I have plans in the works to expand my current beds.

Besides the beauty, myriad of color and fragrance produced by it, the very essence of how a rose plant can prosper for years and years in spite of all that can threaten it inspires me somehow.  And, when I'm pruning, feeding, harvesting and protecting all my bushes, that process inspires my writing discipline.  Because whether I'm puzzling over why my one bush, in the same soil next to a prospering cousin, just grows leaves and not many blooms, or delighting in the best reward of my efforts as I walk room to room and view the many bouquets, I equate what focus is required to get to the worthwhile satisfaction.

It was wisely said that nothing worth doing is easy.  Having those roses in constant sight, as I toil at my computer, never fails to prompt me to keep at it.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Our Enchanted Cottage

Last night, my husband and I toasted the fact that one year ago, we moved into our Enchanted Cottage in the Chicago suburbs.  We find it hard to believe it's been twelve months, but we agree that this has felt like home since our first day in residence.

In October of 2008, I wrote a post titled, "What Makes A House A Home?"  At that time, we had just moved into what we hoped would be our final "home".  I reread that post this morning and recalled how certain we were then that we would never move again.  But, alas, three years later, we were searching for a new place to live because of circumstances beyond our control (the house needed major repairs which the landlords were not willing to do).

When we found our present domicile, we had been looking in vain for weeks, determined to not only find something that "worked" for us physically, but would have owners who understood we wanted to remain there long-term.  "Enchanted Cottage" (which we named after one of our favorite classic movies from the forties - and it fit because the house is cottage sized) is just that perfect place.

Shortly after we moved in, both our children told us that they felt like this was our long-time home in Florida, where they had both grown up (talked about in that 2008 post).  My husband and I agreed whole-heartedly.  We are so comfortable here and feel blessed that we really do feel like owners, not renters.

Having a place to call your own, where your memories reside on shelves and in photo frames, where you can create new memories with family and friends, and, most importantly, where you are grounded and content, is a blessing we never take for granted.

I look forward to many years here in our just right cottage, discovering those avenues of new memories.

Addendum to Letter Writing Post

Last week, I wrote about my commitment to writing more letters and encouraged you to do the same.  I've just finished reading an article in "Good Housekeeping" magazine that I wanted to share regarding that subject.

It states that new research has found, in a study of soldiers recently returned from combat, that those who had received tangible letter from loving family members tended to have fewer symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder than those who had communicated by instant message and video chat.  They also noted that letters can be reread, which helps a person feel connected when they need support or are lonely.

So, just another reason to "say it with ink" as the article is titled.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Reflections On Mother's Day

My first thoughts yesterday morning focused on my mother; gone almost 17 years now (is that possible?) and yet still missed each and every day.  I found myself longing to hear her laugh, her positive voice and to look upon her face and wish her the best.  Instead, I had to be content with looking toward heaven and whispering, "Happy Mother's Day, Mom."

Enjoying the breakfast in bed my husband created for me, I wondered if our daughter and daughter-in-law were getting pampered in a similar fashion.  I doubted that our daughter was because she had to work a double shift (not fair was my reaction to that news).  She is working through some "teen-age issues" with her boys right now, so I sent positive vibes in her direction, knowing she would, as she always does, persevere until she had a solution for everyone concerned.  It's one of the hardest times to be a parent/grandparent; it's so difficult not to want to "make everything better" by intervening.  Instead, I just left a message on her phone letting her know what a great mom we think she is, and that we're here for her if she needs us. 

In the afternoon I received a visit from our son and daughter-in-law and our youngest grandson, who came with flowers and a handmade card from our grandson that delighted me with its original crayon and sticker message.  We gave our daughter-in-law a plant to add to her ever-growing garden, and a handwritten note that expressed our joy at having her for a second daughter.

The rest of my day was free from chores or  responibility.  I read, napped, watched movies, deemed myself lucky to receive several "Happy Day" calls and messages from good friends, and relaxed with my favorite guy as we indulged in food and wine.

I know I'm a lucky woman to have such caring and love, and to have had so many wonderful years nurturing and revelling in my children and grandchildren.  Of course, those times have not been without some heartache, anxiety, and pressures I never could have foreseen, but it's the rewards which have always followed that I dwell on.  I have that outlook because of  what I learned from my mother, and I hope I can leave a similar legacy to both my daughter and my daughter-in-law.     

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Letter Writing Lives Here

I have an old friend who calls me "the Hallmark lady" because I always remember to send cards, with personal notes inside, for the special occasions of friends and family.  It's an important habit for me, and another one is the subject of today's post: letter writing.

I will admit I don't write as many letters as I used to, but I've made a recent commitment to change that because I think it's a necessary part of living that needs to be preserved.  Plus, I get great satisfaction out of penning personal thoughts and stories of recent happenings in my life, and sending them off in a stamped envelope to people I care about.

I'm not alone in this venture, I've learned.  There are many others who agree with me that keeping the art of letter writing alive is worth the time.  Just do an online search of "letter writing" and read about all those who consider it a rewarding activity.  My favorite is a website called the Letter Writers Alliance.  It was started about five years ago by two women in Chicago; Kathy Zodrozny and Donovan Beeson.  Check out this site - their dedication to this effort, coupled with interesting history, anecdotes, photos, and blogs all combine to inspire.

This is an international movement as well.  As an example, the BBC did a story on "the importance of paper correspondence".  Now, I'm not - nor is the Letter Writers Alliance - anti-technology.  E-mail has its purpose and the LWA refers to its website as its "clubhouse".  But consider what a recipient receives when they open their mailbox and discover something besides junk mail and bills.  That's reason enough, even before considering the caring message such effort sends to that person.  Plus, it's just as rewarding to the writer of a letter; trust me on this.

One of my favorite examples of how sending a letter can impact a life focuses on Honor Flight Chicago, an organization that takes WWII vets to Washington DC by plane, gives them a tour of the WWII Memorial and other historic sights of our Capital and then, on the flight back, they receive "mail call"; handwritten letters from friends, family, and even strangers that the veterans say touch them the most about this experience.  Just imagine their reaction to words of thanks from so many; that's an image worth motivating you to take the time to sit down with pen and paper.

The book I'm working on now will take the reader from the present to the time of WWII.   One of my aims in the storytelling is to focus on the differences of the two societies and how our present can always learn from the past.  In that past were many elements of humanity that can be embraced still, and make us the better for pursuing them.  I think the time taken to write a letter is one of those.