“Will You Still Need Me…?”

This week marked a momentous occasion–  my 64th birthday.  Were you humming along?  Those of a certain age immediately recognized this classic Beatles tune which continues on to say,  

 “…will you still feed me, when I’m 64?” 

I am delighted to report that I am not yet in need of someone to feed me.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow. (Let’s just keep singing, okay?).  I am, in fact , thriving; content with my lot in life and grateful that I’m still here on earth to live it.  

My actual birthday began with  hot coffee delivered  by my dear husband, followed by a delicious free birthday breakfast at Good Stuff,  a complimentary beverage at  Starbucks, a massage courtesy of my friend, Paula,  a free dessert from Buca De Beppo and several  beautiful bouquets of spring flowers.  I was showered with good wishes all day long.  By way of the blessing/curse of  social media, texts, voice messages, actual phone conversations, birthday cards and  meals shared with friends and family, I received birthday greetings from over 100 dear friends in more than 10 states.  I am a rich girl.  Obvi.  

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Birthdays are for celebrating! 

I rejoice in every birthday and have never been able to grasp why thoughtful, intelligent people avoid them like the plague.  There is such disdain for birthdays, growing older and letting go of youth that we have become a culture that fails to appreciate that every birthday is a blessing.  They mark another year of life we’ve been given-another year to love and live and serve and grow. They also mark a new beginning, another trip around the sun ahead of us.  So, why, pray tell, do we view that as a curse and not the blessing it is? 

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It’s your birthday.  Make a wish and then make it happen!

I say it’s time to rethink this whole birthday thing.  Instead of wincing at the thought of another year we’d rather not admit to, why not celebrate the fact that we’re still here–the fact that we’ve been  given the opportunity to do better than we did before.  We’ve been given another year to right wrongs,  reconcile division, serve our communities, love our family and friends  and share the wisdom we’ve gained.  We’ve been given an opportunity to let go of the things that don’t matter so much and focus on the ones that do.  It is, in effect ,  a  personal New Year’s celebration.  So, let’s stop bemoaning the fact that  we have more lines and fewer smooth surfaces on the gloriously made bodies we travel around in.  Let’s  own who we are and how old we are and claim the blessings that come with aging.  Yes, there are many.  If you are hard pressed to come up with them,  you might need to look a little harder.  ‘Just sayin’.   

For many years I worked in the Assisted Living field.  While there I came up with a theory that something happens to our vision when we reach the 4th quarter of our lives.  We look in the mirror but we no longer see the actual reflection.  Instead, we see the person we are inside.  Hence, 90% of the people who visit  an Assisted Living community leave with the same response to their families:  “All those people are OLD.”  But inside each of those “OLD” souls is a person with hopes and dreams still yearned for.  When we dismiss ourselves or someone else because we or they are aging, we fail to acknowledge that there is still a heart beating, willing and quite able to contribute to the world around them.

I am quite blessed to be a part of a faith community that doesn’t merely tolerate the over 50 crowd, but, embraces it and  endeavors to utilize the gifts and abilities of those who have over half a century of experience here on earth.   Intergenerational gatherings and  activities are the rule,  not the exception.  Young women actively seek out the wisdom and counsel of  more mature women who have lived lives, had careers, raised children, made mistakes, maintained relationships, endured hardship  and learned their way around the block.   I walk with a group of  both young and old women  every week.  Our conversation is always lively, often deep and sprinkled with laughter, counsel and prayer. The older bring life experience and the younger help us olders keep up with current trends, jargon and perspective. It’s a great mix. 

When we stop trying to hide our age and instead celebrate it, we are choosing to  live more authentic and joyous lives. That doesn’t mean we won’t occasionally look in the mirror and bemoan the wrinkles around our eyes or  the awful truth that our chins are multiplying while our necks are  disappearing, but, we cannot allow the passage of time to define us.  We still have work to do and have been given the time to complete it.  Let’s roll up our sleeves and like the woman in Proverbs 31, smile at the future.  There’s still a lot of living to do.  

As for me, I’m not being fed myself,  but feeding someone else this afternoon.  I’ll be delivering homemade, hot bruschetta soup to a young family going through a hard time.  Because I can.  It’s a great way to begin my 65th trip around the sun! 

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Sins of Omission and Other Prisons

We all have  our secrets– the myriad of things we’d just as soon forget.  Airing dirty laundry is not our favorite thing.   So, instead we skirt around our past failures  and hide things in our present lives.  We wear masks so as to appear as if we have it all together.  In truth, we all hide scars and failure and  sorrows, but, more often than not, even when we’ve moved past them and maybe even made restitution, we are still prisoners to our own shame.  No one wants to shine a light on that muck, right?

 

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Shine some light...

I grew up in an extended family where many stories were swept under the rug.    If there was something that might be perceived as  dark or shameful, it was hidden.  Whether an unplanned pregnancy, a mysterious death, a divorce, or maybe even a college prank turned bad,  all were  swept under a massive rug.  Things were withheld because “it would kill your father, (or mother, sister, cousin, grandmother, etc.)  if they knew.”  Hence, we learned there were some things you didn’t share, own up to or ask about.  Failure was not to be discussed, but hidden away from curious eyes.  We had images to maintain.

I remember for much of my life, hearing others share of their own failures, wrong turns, foolish mistakes, etc, and being amazed at the openness of the one  honestly confessing their negligence.   It wasn’t until I grew much older and (hopefully) wiser, that I realized shame is a prison of its own making.  What we run from, hide behind closed doors,  or otherwise intentionally conceal, will ultimately control us.  It will hold us in bondage, causing us to believe that others won’t accept us and embrace us if they know the shame we carry.

The truth is, our failures make us human.  Olympic Skater, Scott Hamilton, said recently, “If I had to list the ingredients for success, the greatest single ingredient would be failure.”   Instead of seeing failure as  an inevitable bi-product of living, we see it as something to be ashamed of.  Some  failures ought to  bring shame, but, the story doesn’t need to end there.   As we walk through our lives, if we are truly engaged in life, interacting with others, learning, growing and taking on new challenges, we are going to make mistakes along the way.  Some are more consequential than others to be sure, but, we will all fall down  at some point and need a helping hand to lift us up.  Most of us, if we are truly honest, will admit to past and sometimes present behaviors that are shameful and we wish we could undo.  I know that’s true for me.  But, do-overs are not always possible.  Shame is a good thing, when we’ve done wrong.  That said, it should not hold us captive, and it doesn’t have to. Instead it should propel us to seek forgiveness and change our behavior.

While we can’t undo the cause of our shame,  there is always the opportunity to be redeemed.    No matter how far we fall, there is good to be found in acknowledging, repenting (which essentially means, making a u-turn and heading in the opposite direction) and even in sharing our failures.  To do so, is to take off our masks, to be real, unvarnished and unpretentious– to be human. When we share our failures with others, it gives them hope that they too will survive their indiscretions.  We look at others from the outside, thinking their lives are perfect, that they’ve never been wounded or scarred, but that’s a bold-faced lie.  When we allow others to see us as we truly are,  we give them permission to admit to their own deficiencies and to have hope that they too can overcome them.

I find it  very telling that my last post,  (One Good Decision) wherein  I shared the very rocky road that lead to  our 40th (sort-of, read it!) anniversary,  received more responses than anything I’ve ever posted on Facebook.  I didn’t share every intimate detail of our life together, but, enough that it was clear we  had made a lot of stupid mistakes that could have been fatal to our marriage.  I was so gratified by all the loving feedback from so many of you and the opportunity to be free of any notion of hiding it.   The proverbial cat was  out of the bag.  Such freedom! The weight is lifted  once you make that u-turn, seek forgiveness and accept your own frailty.  Only then can one move forward, unencumbered by the weight of shame.

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Set that kitty free!

If you are still carrying baggage that is weighing you down, drop it!  If you’re still imprisoned by past shame, behaviors and/or failures, consider letting your cat out, too.  Joseph,  in the book of Genesis, was sold to slave traders by his own brothers.    Imagine their shame and their relief when years later Joseph  said to those same scoundrels, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good.”  That is perspective, my friends.  Whatever you’ve done, whatever hole you’ve crawled out of, God can use it for your good.  So ‘fess up.  Set that kitty free.

 

 

 

 

“One Good Decision…”

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all photos by hollykatephotography.com

“One good wish changes nothing.  One good decision changes everything.”                   -anonymous

Forty years ago today, the husband and I stood together in front of the fireplace of our living room, and said “I do”.    A small group of friends and family joined us that evening  to witness two woefully unprepared  souls coming together in the hopes of building a life that would endure.  Who knew then, that it would mirror the name of my favorite ice-cream?

Yep.  Rocky road.

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Four decades down that road, this merged life has never been sweeter.  Full disclosure:  it’s often been more bitter than sweet.  We’ve taken some pretty significant detours to get where we are today.   Back roads which took us through  infidelity, separation, divorce,  addiction, re-marriage, rage, sorrow, hopelessness, futility and multiple mountain ranges of frustration.  There have been hair-pin turns, comparable to the Amalfi Coast, where each curve left us gasping for breath, knowing one wrong move could plunge us over a cliff we might never come back from.  There have been potholes the size of Montana and some ice that sent us spinning into guard rails.  But, we are still standing on this side of those ledges.

I married an imperfect man and he married and imperfect woman.  He thought he could control me and I thought I could save him.  Obviously, we were both deluded.  So we went over the cliff and called it quits.  It was ugly.  I moved cross-country, seeking a new life as far away as I could get from the old one.  He stayed put, determined to salvage what was left of him.  By the grace of God, we both survived our mostly self-inflicted  injuries.

Then. one  day,   what had been legally pronounced dead, was resurrected.  It was miraculous beyond anything we’d experienced, before or since.  Twenty Six years ago, we stood in the garden of the same house and repeated vows much like those spoken forty years back.    We began the long journey  to rebuild what had ostensibly been destroyed.  It sounds like a fairy tale, but there was no “happily ever after” in the immediate future.

It has, in fact, been the greatest undertaking  of our lives.  We have struggled to know and understand each other.  We have failed to fight fairly.  We have been selfish and angry and struggled with bitterness and hopelessness.    We have forgiven offenses, large and small.  We have yelled and cried (mostly me) and have been silent for inordinate amounts of time(mostly him).    We have teetered on the edge of giving up.  But, mercifully, we did not give in to that temptation.    We have stood firm, believing  the miracle that brought us back together would hold us together. And, it has.

We made a decision and we have stood by it.  Through all the heartache, tears, grief, arguments, misunderstandings, lack of communication and sorrows,  we have slogged through them all.  Because,  we made a decision.    The miracle of reconciliation.  The miracle of forgiveness.  The miracle of life made new.  The miracle of redemption and grace.  We have learned a lot about patience and endurance.  We have pressed in and through, knowing there was something worth all the effort on the other side.  We have worked hard when it would have been easier to give up and walk away.

We are slow learners, for sure.  We took the long and winding road to get here, without question. But we are here and we are  standing.  Through wind and rain and sleet and snow,  (what are we, postal employees?) we have endured.  And we are grateful beyond imagining.

What if we had ignored the miracle?  Common sense told us that to reconcile was folly.  Many loved ones called us crazy.  We were still two dramatically different people who seemed to be  traveling in opposing directions.  But we chose to move forward,  a little older and a little wiser, knowing it would not be easy.  We counted the cost and decided  it was risk worth taking, and so we dove in.  We have weathered many storms to get here.  We are both older, wear a few extra pounds and have a few more wrinkles and rolls, but,  we are still together, stronger and more in love than we ever thought possible.

We made a decision.  The  conviction that it was a wise and worthy decision, has held us all these years.  We are still held by it. We rest in it. We rejoice in it.

“The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the Everlasting Arms.”  -Deuteronomy 33:27

The family the “decision” built.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fame Game

IMG_6088We live in the age of celebrity.  Where once we aspired to do good things, write great books,  make meaningful films, do admirable work, earn a good living to provide for a good family, care for the needy and maybe even create great art, now, instead, we seem to hunger for something much less noble.  FAME.

To be a celebrity in our time is a pretty heady thing.  An actor acts. A singer sings.  Their projects are released and we are able to enjoy their work in a theater,  or other venue or sometimes in the comfort of our own living rooms.  We are entertained.  The lucky ones make lots of money, get lots of press and then, a few months down the line, we get to see them gather together to collectively pat each other on the backs as the ceremonies are televised.    They wear beautiful gowns and sparkling jewels.  In the past, acceptance speeches were about thanking all those who had a part in their success.  Now, they are also prone tell us what we should think and how we should act with regard to the cause du jour.

With Facebook, we all can have our own “15 minutes of fame.”  We can post our own photos (always looking our best, filters allowed) the highlights of our lives, those things we feel deeply about and all of our adventures.  I admit to being a tad bit guilty myself.  It’s a little addictive, isn’t it?  We check back to see who commented and how many “likes” our posts receive.  And if someone we admire, or even someone famous responds, we are over the moon.  Can I get a witness?  You don’t even want to know how excited I was when Lyle Lovett “liked” a comment I made on a photo he’d posted on Instagram.  Sigh.  I do love me some Lyle. But, I digress.

Once upon a time I had a job that required a wardrobe.  Retailer Nordstrom was my drug of choice when I ventured out to shop.  They had quality clothing, would price match other stores and had the best customer service/return policies known to woman.  I never had to hunt down a sales person to assist me.  They thanked me by name when I made my purchase.  They made me feel special.  And, as it turns out, because I carried their store credit card, at year-end, if I’d racked up enough points, (translates to spending enough $) I would be invited to their private, invitation only shopping event.

On the evening of the event, the store would close early. Hours later it would re-open for the gala event,  invitation holders lined up outside awaiting the doors to open and allow the throngs of faithful shoppers spenders to enter in.  When that moment arrived, we all got a taste of what the red carpet must feel like. Yes, friends,  there actually WAS a red carpet.  As we entered, we walked down a field of red wool, flanked on either side from end to end, with Nordstrom “associates” (high-end stores don’t have mere clerks.)  Said associates were applauding the incoming attendees as if we’d done something worthy of such adulation, when all we’d really done was come to shop.  But,  in that moment, we all felt a little more powerful. Yep.  It was slightly intoxicating. They offered champagne and appetizers and sweet desserts as we meandered around the store.   I called it dinner. Then I went home to my humble abode in my decidedly unpretentious neighborhood.

I had a similar experience a not long ago when my friend, Carlease Burke,  who actually IS an actress, had a big celebration for a big birthday. (She embraced it, people!)  She rolled out an actual  red carpet for her guests  to walk, proclaiming us the real stars of her life. She’s awesome like that.     As we strolled the red carpet, a cadre of paid  paparazzi pursued us, snapping photos  as if we actually were the stars Carlease said we were.   So we stood a little taller,  we sang and danced and ate great  food and enjoyed the company of lots of lovely people.   Alas, when we went home that night, we were still just us. We’d had our moment.

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My beautiful friend Carlease, her sweet Mom, aka “California Flo,” and I.

Imagine if you had a daily diet of that?  It makes you realize why so many celeb’s believe their own press.  Constantly surrounded by people who get paid to make you look and feel your best, feed your ego, affirm your every proclamation and make sure you want for nothing, it’s no wonder fame produces such a sense of entitlement.

It’s easy to see why our culture is  so enamored of fame and all it’s trappings.  It’s  more than a little intoxicating.  It’s not a bad thing to be famous,  but, I’m thinking, for folks like me, it may take a lifetime to learn how to be both famous and good.   As one clearly in the winter of my life, I am possessed by an earnest desire to be good, to do good. I’m leaning into  contentment,  a life that may be devoid of fame but hopefully overflowing with the riches of relationships, community and service.  I yearn for a life that has less need of self promotion and more focus on  lifting others up. A life that sparkles in the absence of the spotlight.

What kind of life are you living?  It’s the fourth quarter.  Famous or not, it’s time to double down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Am I Doing Here?

Aging with grace in a youth centric world.  Defining what it is to live boldly,  perhaps even extravagantly in the fourth quarter of our lives.  Is it just another game or do our lives have meaning?   What matters? What doesn’t? Who decides what is appropriate and what isn’t?  Starting well isn’t so important as finishing well.  That’s what’s rattling around my brain today.

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“Keep Swimming…”

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I make my home in Southern California and if you aren’t already aware,  we are probably the beauty/fitness Mecca of the world.  I live very near a beach community and believe me when I tell you, we are bombarded on every side with images of young, beautiful people trying to convince us that the fountain of youth can be ours if only we take the right supplements, drink the right potions, use the right hair color, join the right gym, slather on  the right moisturizer, wear the right clothes, apply the right make-up and eat the right foods.  Whew!  ‘Sounds like a full-time job, right?  Because it is.

Before you  feel the urge to start defending any of these practices, let me assure you, I subscribe to a number of them.  I try to eat right, I have a  gym membership and I still throw a little paint on the barn once I’ve applied my moisturizer.  So, don’t get your hackles up just yet.  Although I no longer color my hair, I still pay regularly for a great cut, so,  be assured, I’m not advocating lack of self-care and/or looking your best. I still aim for that bullseye.

What has changed for me in the last several years, is my motivation.  For most of my life I did all of those things hoping to meet a standard that was mostly unattainable.  Sadly,  that didn’t keep me from chasing that rabbit. I’m pretty sure  I have been on nearly every diet known to man.  My hair has been every color in the rainbow.  Heck, I even went pink three years ago, for a  hot minute!  I worked out hoping for firm thighs and the end of cellulite.  That was never fully realized.   But, when I retired prematurely a couple of years ago, largely for health reasons, the impetus for self-care changed.

A couple of visits to the ER and Urgent care revealed that my blood pressure and cholesterol were  both crazy high and I was deemed “pre-diabetic.”  Predictably,  the docs wanted me to immediately go on medications to address my symptoms.  Fortunately,  I found a physician who agreed  that I would first attempt  to change those numbers by instituting new  habits pertaining to diet and exercise.  Overnight, my new goal was to be healthy!  I wanted  be able to live my life as long as possible without prescription drugs.  I did so under a physician’s care and had I not had positive results,  I would certainly have taken prescribed medications to address the issues at hand. I was very fortunate and for the time being, I still take no prescription medications.  That said, I will continue to monitor my health and respond appropriately in the future should medication become necessary.

Today my  weekly routine includes  two  to three low impact aerobics classes  and usually at least one Zumba or other dance class that I enjoy.   I also walk with a group of women one morning a week where we complete a 5K together, enjoying the ocean view while getting our heart rates up.  The coffee meet up afterward is icing on the cake, without the calories.  The husband and I walk our dogs together daily, too.   I seriously guard my scheduled work out times and  when I set aside time to do so, I aim to make it worth the time I’ve dedicated to it. I work hard.  I’ve also vowed to  consciously eat less  meat, sugar and fatty foods while consuming  more fruit, veggies and fiber.  I’m not a huge fan of cooked veggies but I’ve learned to incorporate them into hot soups and  eat more salads, less bread and fewer desserts. Diet sodas have been replaced with flavored mineral water and sweet treats are fewer and far between.

The results?  I am no longer pre-diabetic. My blood pressure has dropped substantially as have my cholesterol counts.   In the latter months of 2017 I shed 14 pounds with the help of  a great APP’ called LOSE IT. (Find it in the APP store!)  I am healthier than I’ve been in decades and I’m wearing an entire new wardrobe that’s been patiently waiting in my closet to fit me again and my husband is thrilled with my improved appearance.   My Apple Watch was a great investment for me, reminding me ten minutes before every waking hour if I’ve been sedentary too long.  It’s a gentle nudge that keeps me moving and shooting to “fill my rings” on the fitness application.

As new habits have become more routine, many of the lenses I once viewed life through have been adjusted.  I no longer compare myself to others who may be younger or thinner or don’t have smile lines around their mouths and eyes.  I now see those as marks of contentment.  When greater health became the goal, my appearance changed for the better as an after product.    I will never be a waif of a gal, nor will my waist ever compare with Scarlett O’Hara’s.  Today, I am more than okay with that.   I  recognize there is more to life than how I look.  Far more.  I am abundantly aware that I have everything I need and many things I don’t. There’s a lot of icing on my cake.   I am not wealthy by standards of our culture, but, I am rich.  Filthy rich.  (kudos to  Francis Chan for making that crystal clear)

This life is such an adventure and I don’t want to miss any of it.  I may fall off the wagon on occasion,  but,  like the main character in the animated feature, “Finding Dory,”  I intend to keep swimming!

What are you waiting for?  Jump in! The water’s fine.