Sunday, July 31, 2016


When I turned 50 one of my friends sent me a t-shirt that said, "50 is the new 30!"  I suppose that now that I am SIXTY, and proudly so, I should retire that t-shirt....NOPE!  The point to me of that t-shirt is not about, oh phoeey, I'm 50!  No, the point is that even as you move through life to different years...16, 21, 30...40, 50, 60, etc. etc. even if your body becomes old, it's essential not to let your spirit become old, dulled by the hardest parts of life!

I do NOT claim to always master this elusive art.  Sometimes these days my spirit feels even older than sixty.  The point is that on the days when I am able I keep my spirit young.  I do my best to never say, "I'm too old, I can't learn new things."  I NEVER want to say that!

A dear friend in her late 80's told me, "You're as old as the newest cell in your body, and your cells renew every 5 seconds."  She was taking computer classes to better communicate with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  She also was taking Spanish because she enjoyed the language.

My beloved Mama made over 80 quilts and sent them to Iraq in her 80's.  My nephew was stationed there and he would hand them out to children on the streets, or soldiers having a tough time.  She lived to be 95, and at that stage she could walk no longer, but she would sit in her wheelchair, put her feet down and move from place to place.

I love that image of her, she needed that wheelchair, her body was too worn out to support itself anymore.  Yet still, she found ways to move herself where she wanted to go! 

Esther, (can't remember her last name) went back to college in her 80's!  Yes, that's right, a Freshman in college in her 80's.  When people would question why she would do that she responded quickly, "Why not?  My children are raised.  My husband has passed.  Education is something I can take with me when I die.  Why wouldn't I want more of it, especially now!"

I have been so richly blessed with examples of women who continued living to the best of their ability until they died...and I believe that our spirits do NOT die.  They just keep growing and progressing when we pass.

My favorite example of a man who did not let age, or the progression of cancer destroy his youthful spirit is my beloved Papa.  Two weeks before he died, (he was bedfast at this point) a friend said, "Wendell, aren't you tired of fighting?  You've lived such a wonderful life.  Don't you just wish it was over?"  My Papa, and I can hear him in my mind roused himself and sang, "I LOVE LIFE, AND I WANT TO LIVE!"

With all of these remarkable examples I wish to share one more.  This one will make me a trifle tearful so it's a good thing I'm not writing this on paper.  My beloved Nyle died when he was 54.  In his very last days, when we knew that he was dying he was still making us laugh, still exhibiting the youthful spirit that was an integral part of him.  Our daughters brought a notebook and pen with them to the hospital to record any last words or messages.  The oldest said, "Papa, is there anything that you need or want to tell us?"  His response was, "No, I don't have anything to say."  Pause, pause..."Well write that down!"

I love life, and I want to live.  I know that there will be many more hills to clamber over.  I know that there will be dark days that threaten to eclipse my joy.  Yet I will do my darndest to remember yet another elderly man that I met in the dark days of my breast cancer.  He was dying, it was obvious just looking at him.  He gave me the brightest grin and said, "Every day above ground is a cause for celebration."  That line means a lot more when you're facing down the dark demon of cancer!  Yet, in his brief words he helped me understand that life is about more than merely surviving.  It's about THRIVING!  It's essential to find joy in even the hardest days.  (Feel free to remind me of that the next time I forget)!

I'm SIXTY!  I do NOT wish to live like I'm dying.  That is a foregone conclusion.  In the wondrous words of my Nyle honey, "Live like you're living!"  

Monday, July 25, 2016

Am I Old?

I had many times in my life that I was not certain that I'd live to be 21, and soon it will be SIXTY!  I'm excited for the new experiences, and the opportunities that remain open in my life.

Last week I realized that something in my perception has changed since I was young.  When I was young if I heard the words, "Something new is coming out..."  My heart raced, and I was excited for a new opportunity to learn, to grow!

Now I fear that far too many times when I hear, "Something new is coming out..."  I think, CRAP, something else to learn?  Why can't the world just stay the same!  This is a rather shallow observation in the realms of philosophy but true nonetheless. 

I have heard throughout my life the phrase, "The world is wasted on the young."  I disagree!  I'm grateful for their sharp minds, and the fresh eyes through which they see this old world.

Now, as I enter into years that most would title OLD, I also know that living this long gives you unique ideas and perspective. 

So the best yet, why can't we, young and old enrich each others perception of the world?

I like to watch "Just Dance."  Nigel Lithgoe is no longer a young person by virtue of the years that he's lived, but his youth lies in the vivacious enjoyment he gains from inspiring others to dance.  This year the program is spotlighting the dance talent of children from 8 to 13 years of age.  The young ones are mentored by adult dancers, and it's marvelous to see what happens when those two ages are combined. 

My Mother once said something to me about "Respecting my elders."  I was annoyed by that generalized pronouncement.  I responded, "I should not have to respect someone just because they're older than me.  I can respect them, IF they've earned my respect."

WOW...looking back on that statement I'm amused at the hubris I presented.  AND YET?  I do NOT wish to be respected by ANYONE simply by virtue of the fact that I have managed to stay alive for sixty years.  I want to be respected for having put life into the sixty years that I've lived!!!

In return I promise that I will not disrespect anyone JUST because they are younger than me.  I will listen and realize that they have lots to teach me.  I also will remember that there is still ever so much to learn.  There  is so much for ME to learn.  I'm excited for this opportunity.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

On this Day we Celebrate Freedom

The 4th of July is celebrated in America as a day when freedom in this country truly began.  This was freedom from the English governance.  The English had put restrictions on America that proved to be unbearable.  I personally believe that it also seemed foolish to the American colonists that England, ever so far in miles, was taking away all of the profit from America's labors.

The restrictions from England continued to mount.  England truly was greedy and foolish in their handling of the young colony.  These were people loyal to their homeland.  If they had been restricted less, rewarded more, well who knows what might have happened?

Jail, penitentiary, restriction, guilt, limitations, exclusion, bullying, all these are words referring to a different type of lack of freedom.  We all understand that certain behaviors can result in consequences beyond our ability to control.  If we cause harm to others, chances are that we will be caught, tried, and put in jail.

What about having your freedom removed when you have done nothing wrong?  Elie Wiesel was a Jewish prisoner in a Concentration Camp during World War II.  He has written about the realization that came to him one miserable day.  Inspiration taught him that although his German captors could inflict all sorts of horrors on his physical body, he still owned his soul.  He was able to make active choices to act, not react.  He decided that he would not let the squalor of the camp, or the cruelty of the guards decide who he would be.

Corrie ten Boom was a Christian.  She, her elderly Father, and her Sister were hiding some of their Jewish neighbors when someone told the Gestapo about them.  Corrie and Betsy never saw their Father again, and Betsy also died in a Concentration Camp.  Corrie was released through a miraculous mistake in paper work.  She later discovered that she had been scheduled for execution.

After the war she traveled the country speaking about forgiveness, and healing.  One night after teaching a class a man came to her and said, "Your speech was very moving to me.  Thank you so much.  May I shake your hand?"

Corrie looked up and realized that she was in front of one of the cruelest Concentration Camp guards that she and Betsy had faced.  She realized that he did not recognize her.  She had nice clothes on, and was about twenty pounds healthier.

Her speech had been about forgiveness.  How could she forgive this man who had been especially cruel to her frail Sister, Betsy?  Several times she attempted to pull her arm up to shake hands with him.  Her arm would not move.

In her mind she prayed, she asked that she might feel God's love for this man because her mortal love was not strong enough to forgive him.  She describes feeling a warmth that flowed from her shoulder to her hand.  It propelled her arm upwards until she shook his hand.  At that moment she also saw God's love for this man.  She realized that in a way he had been a prisoner just as she was.  He was imprisoned by a horrendous war that brutalized soldiers into doing things they would never have done in peace times.

What prison are you in this morning?  Does your appetite imprison you in a body that is overweight and unhealthy?  That is also one of my prisons.  Maybe you endured some version of trauma in your tender childhood that has left you with eating issues.  When I was nineteen and in fabulous shape as a dancer I was cruel in my mind towards others with weight issues.  I could eat anything that I wanted and never gained a pound.  I thought, "Why don't they just exercise and eat better?" 

AND THEN...along came multiple car accidents that left me with severe chronic pain.  I have bone, muscle, and nerve pain.  My back has too many issues to try and repair it.  The issues are not severe enough to put me in a wheelchair, yet...but someday?

I gained ninety pound over five years time.  I still had the voracious appetite but I was either in a recliner or my bed.  Walking was very painful, and sometimes I would drag one leg.  I developed severe central nerve damage.  My feet quit knowing the difference in floor or ground levels.  I would walk from a wood floor to a carpet, and I would fall because my foot did not automatically shift for the different level.  Several falls made the back, knee, and wrist pain and damage worse.

I repent daily for the foolishness of my judgment towards heavy people in my youth.  Now that I have joined the ranks I understand that when somebody is living with constant pain, often the only pleasure that they feel is food!  I wish that when my pain was terrible that I craved broccoli.  Not really, not so much...nope, bring on the sugar and wrap it in something chocolate!
Even if I eat next to nothing my body still doesn't want to lose weight.  I'm in constant fight or flight mode and my body tries to hoard weight to protect me from starvation...except that I'm NOT starving.
When I married I carried with me the foolish idea that it was my husband's duty to make me happy.  How is this a prison?  My moods went up and down like a roller coaster depending on my husband's moods.  I was trapped, unable to develop and maintain my own emotional stability.

My poor husband was trapped trying to keep me happy.  I'm certain that he was often exhausted from the effort.  I do know that he was grateful when I finally matured enough to realize that I, ME, MY, was responsible for my own happiness, nobody else.  I also learned that you CAN be happy even when somebody that you love is unhappy.  Oh you feel empathetic towards their pain, but letting it pull you down doesn't help them, and it certainly doesn't help you.

One of the most important things you can do in life is to objectively try and determine if you   
if you are in prison.  Sometimes it's necessary to have a therapist help you.  There is no shame in getting help to improve your life.  I believe that everyone could benefit from education and therapy.

To end this post I wish to share a little story.  My husband criticized me one day for something that he had observed.  I did NOT accept his version of the experience.  I immediately became very angry.  I walked to the kitchen.  I began slamming the cupboard doors as I prepared dinner.  I stomped, and fussed, and fumed as though I was five years old instead of thirty-five years old.

In my mind I thought, "If you continue this behavior you will make your entire family miserable!"  I responded in my mind, "He makes me SOOOOO angry!" A thought returned, "Nobody can force an emotion on you without your permission."  "Wait, back up, what he said MADE me angry!"  "I understand that his words were hurtful.  On the other hand, nobody can force an emotion on you.  You always have the freedom to choose NOT TO BE HURT OR ANGRY!"

WOW!  I was dumbfounded at this idea.  I walked back to our bedroom and said to my husband, "What you said really hurt my feelings.  On the other hand, I choose not to let it ruin my day or make me angry."

My husband had a look of wonder on his face that I will never forget.  He said, "Good for you!"  There was no sarcasm implied in his words.  He was genuinely happy that I had begun the journey of determining my own happiness.

Today, this very day, choose to be the owner of your own emotions.  Do not let the actions of anyone else imprison you in negative emotion.  To sum all of this up I remember a very wise saying from my childhood, "I'm rubber, you're glue.  Anything you say bounces off me, and sticks on you!"