My octogenarian parents live in the middle of Wyoming. They are 23 miles from a hospital and 900 miles from their children. They moved here in 1990 when hiking and cross country skiing were their passions. Ten years ago, my folks thought they would move closer to us kids, but not finding any place they liked as much as Wyoming, their window was missed.
Now, my mom has become forgetful, and my father is not very ambulatory. With icy roads and walkways, 3-4 feet of snow accumulation, sub-freezing temperatures, and long, very dark nights, it is definitely no place for old men. (I'm looking out the window at a country lane where 2 vehicles spun out of control into a snow-covered gully and red lights of an emergency vehicle are flashing.) I have spent the past month trying to find a safe situation where they might actually be happy. It's a tough task.
This has brought up a lot of issues regarding responsibility in caring for elderly parents. I've heard non-committal "if it works in my schedule" and "we'll do what we can do." I also learned of a woman with dementia whose family has deserted her but always comes sniffing around when money is discussed. I met a darling hunched up woman in an assisted living facility who said her son says the place is too expensive and she needs to move. I doubt he will find a cheaper option. The home has at least a dozen residents with one harried caretaker.
It's funny how some make it a gender thing. I was talking to a friend who mentioned his sisters caring for their parents. I asked why this was the case, and he said women are stronger than men. Not long after, an elderly friend mentioned how attentive her daughter has been as she has aged, but added her son has been useless. She said daughters always seem to take the responsibility. I further read an article about long-living men and how they often had a daughter caring for them. So, why have so many men eschewed this shared responsibility?
I honestly do not know the answer, but I do know we get to choose who we are in this world. Part of that is doing the hard work of caring for those we love. Do we really want our parents, who have given us so much, to be alone? I think not.
When I was a second-grade teacher at Top of the World Elementary, Sharon was the school principal. She was a kind, empathetic, and talented administrator, somehow finding the delicate balance between teacher expectations and parent concerns. Sharon brought innovative ideas to staff meetings and introduced "collaboration" before it was fashionable, creating time in the week for teachers to share ideas and develop their craft. Children were always central in her choices and decision-making.
Missing the kids, her true passion, she returned to the classroom as a creative, inspiring, and gifted educator. One year, we shared a contract, and I got to see her in action. She created a fantastical dragon named Dudley, who made the children's imaginations soar. For Halloween, we dressed as M and M candies (her idea) because both our last names started with M. And report cards, the bane of every teacher's existence, were fun! We sat at our computers laughing until a neighboring teacher complained about the noise, thinking we were students goofing around in the classroom. The stress of the task gave us the giggles, but we found two points of view were very helpful in creating a full picture of student progress, and were both proud of the results.
When I got sick, she volunteered to take me to the doctor. Upon hearing the diagnosis, she burst into tears, and the poor doctor gave us instructions to the nearest bar because I said we needed a drink. When she asked if she could accompany me again, I told her, "You can come, but you can't cry." It became a joke, but I appreciated her tears. They validated my own fears, and I did not feel so alone. Honestly, everyone should have someone to cry with them in the doctor's office.
Sharon is not only a gifted educator and a true friend; she is also an exceptionally talented artist. She works in a variety of media and is always trying new techniques. She jokes about her struggles to get her ideas on canvas, but don't be fooled. I have seen her work. She created a painting that so beautifully captured the sky, I became emotional with tears welling up in my eyes.
Now, when we start missing each other, we meet at the harbor for a scone. She's that friend you can tell your deepest darkest secrets and know, you will not be judged, and they will never go any further. She's vulnerable and shares her own struggles, so one does not feel alone. Her thoughtful input is spot-on, and I always come away from our get-togethers energized and ready to get back out there.
Having a friend like Sharon is definitely part of a Life Well-Lived!
Happy Belated Birthday, Sharon! (Your birthday always sneaks up on me!)
Photo by Daryl Baird on Unsplash
Happy New Year!
As we all know, resolutions never seem to work. We all go in with the best intentions. Some of us last a few days, some a week, and the strong-willed may go a month. (I’m in the weak-minded 3-day camp.) Creating significant change and making it stick is tough.
James Clear, in his New York Times bestseller, Atomic Habits, points out how micro changes in daily habits can create a huge impact.
He suggests the reader try habit-stacking. One takes an established habit and pairs it with a desired one to create a new, better routine. I drink coffee every morning and want to implement an exercise routine. I do my upper body exercises while the coffee is brewing. My reward, when I am finished, is the coffee. Simple.
Inspired, I have also implemented habit stacking in my evening routine. I took an enjoyable activity and stacked it with a desired one. I'm not fond of planks, but I love playing word games on my phone, so I habit stacked. At night I do 3 sets of one-minute planks. To make them more palatable, I play word games on my phone while I am "planking." The benefits are trifold: I’m building my upper body strength, my brain is being stretched, and I look forward to my evening ritual.
I hope you’ll try habit stacking and read James Clear’s book. After all, healthy routines are definitely part of a Life Well-Lived.
P.S. Do you have any habit stacking ideas? I would LOVE to hear them!
If you want to be happy, make someone else happy.
If you want to find the right person in your life, be the right person.
If you want to see change in the world, become the change you want to see.
In the 1946 movie "It's a Wonderful Life," George Bailey has big plans for his future: he's going to see the world and build skyscrapers. As he is saying his final goodbyes and leaving town, his father suffers a fatal heart attack. Knowing the family business, Bailey Building and Loan, will close without his presence, George decides to stay until circumstances improve.
As time passes, he attempts to leave again and again but is always thwarted by obligations beyond his control. Eventually, he marries, has a family, and becomes a prominent member of the community. When his bumbling uncle misplaces business funds, George is in danger of bankruptcy and prison. Frustrated with missed opportunities and believing he is better off dead, George decides he wants to die.
On the verge of ending it all, George is given a glimpse of what the world would have been without him: his brother, whom he saved from drowning as a child, would have died. Everyone on a military transport, saved by his brother, would have perished because his brother was not there to prevent it. The pharmacist's drunken medication confusion, righted by George, would have killed the patient, and George's wife, never marrying, would have become a frightened old maid. (I know...just go with it!)
He learns, although he did not pursue his dreams, he made a massive difference to the people around him, and maybe that was more important. George returns home to find the entire town, whom he has helped through the years, at his home, donating money to keep the Bailey Building and Loan doors open. His brother raises a glass to the crowd: "A toast to my big brother George, the richest man in town."
There are a couple themes in this classic movie which remain relevant today:
George puts people first. He never achieves his dream of seeing the world because his family and friends needed him. Still, he builds a rich life with deep connections to the people around him, and perhaps that was more important.
Life does not go according to plans. George's life did not work out the way he had hoped in his younger years, but he realizes he still has lived a "wonderful life" full of love and meaning.
Perhaps we can take away these lessons and apply them to our own Lives Well-Lived!
Happy Belated Christmas, dear Reader! "It's a Wonderful Life!"
P.S. Sorry for the late posting. I pulled a George Bailey and put my family and friends first! ;-)
Patti and I taught in neighboring classrooms for years. We shared ideas, asked each other for advice, and loved being teachers. Sometimes, after a particularly exhausting day, I would pop my head in her classroom, give her a look, and we would both burst into laughter. Often times we'd be the last ones at school, losing track of time in our continual pursuit of being good teachers. Together we'd walk to the darkened parking lot, wave goodbye, and meet back the next morning, ready to do it all over again.
Our friendship was not confined to the elementary school campus. Patti drove terrified me to UCLA for surgery. In solidarity, she did not eat or drink anything before noon because I could not consume anything before the procedure. She also filmed my Author Event at Laguna Beach Books, making funny faces and gestures so I would not be so nervous.
Now, we are retired teachers and don't see each other often. However, we both have "too close to Christmas" birthdays and every year get together to celebrate. We share our adventures, cheerlead the other's successes, and send each other back into the world nourished and filled up.
Traditions and a caring, loving, supportive, great friend are definitely a Life Well-Lived.
Happy Birthday, Patti!
Photo Credit: Patti Rabun
Sometimes life throws you a little surprise in the traffic-choked holiday season parking lot. Appreciating it is definitely creating a Life Well-Lived...
Down at the Dana Point Harbor, there is an independent coffee shop called Coffee Importers. Every holiday they hang beautiful red and gold star paper lanterns from the rafters in their patio area. The illuminated lamps create a bazaar of glowing color, and it is difficult to stop staring at them.
Last year, inspired by their beauty, I ordered a few, especially colorful ones, online. I hung them in a rather dull corner and sent pictures to a friend. She immediately requested the website and ordered her own. I draped them from the ceiling at my parents' home last Christmas, and they are now asking when I am coming back to rehang them. I put them up for my birthday, and my guests wanted to know where I got them. I've even seen them in neighbor's windows.
There is a unique and universal appreciation for these paper star lanterns one does not often see in life. Everyone loves them.
How can they not be part of a Life Well-Lived? Looking at a constellation of star lanterns, soaking in their beauty, and sharing your appreciation with others. How lovely.
Perhaps creating a star lamp garden might be a charming way to nourish your soul for the holidays...
P.S. My favorite lantern spots are: Whirled Planet and Quasimoon.