Category Archives: Age

Motherhood and The Duty of Family

Three Generations- Granddaughter, Grandmother, Great Grandmother

Duty: obligatory tasks, conduct, service, or functions that arise from one’s position (as in life or in a group)-i.e. was his duty to support his family. Source

It has been four years since I left my full time job to help my mom. In that time I have been through many things and learned much about patience, acceptance, and gratitude. I have started a small business, penned a book, experienced the joy of another grandchild, and spent consistent and overflowing amounts of time with my mom.

In this time with my mom, I often reflect about the two decades devoted to the raising of my two children. They are now beautiful young adults, responsible and contributing members of society.  They are good kids with big hearts. I couldn’t ask God for more and yet He gave me two amazing grandchildren as well.

I remember back to my child rearing days and I’m grateful for a husband who loves and adores his kids. Jim has always been a good provider, often working long shifts and weekends. Many times the kids and I were on our own, attending parties and functions without Dad in tow.

Though I deeply loved my children, I remember feeling at times the need to go to the top of a mountain and sit there for a while. Maybe I’d be quiet, maybe I’d scream, maybe I’d pack a lunch and eat it all by myself without interruption. Even as the kids got older and more independent, the responsibility of them continued (and really still continues to this day). It is a juggle to nurture and encourage our young and adult children without stifling them. I like to think of it as a balance to allow them to be themselves but within the social boundaries of society.

I see my duties with my mom as much of that same responsibility. Sometimes the nurturing and encouraging is on her part, sometimes it’s on mine. I am making the same sacrifices I did thirty years ago. Living on less financially, saying No to things I don’t have time for or basically cannot afford. As an oldest child, this is how I was raised. My sense of duty and responsibility to my family is deeply rooted.

My mother told me once that when I was in elementary school I often brushed my sisters’ hair and helped get them ready for school. I remember consistently looking out for them whenever we were playing or when my parents were not around. My dad told me I was the one they would look up to and to behave accordingly. I may not have behaved in my teenage- hood but I certainly did in my later years.

It is hard for me to describe my views on the caretaking of my mother to others who are not caretakers themselves or not “the oldest child.” I can see the lack of understanding on their faces and part of my acceptance is knowing that they simply cannot understand how it truly is. If you are the oldest or only child and/or the current caretaker of an elderly or aging parent (or even grandchildren), you do understand (and I’d love to hear from you). I am blessed in that I have a couple of dear friends who truly know what it is like. They are my saving grace.

With my mom’s 88th birthday fast approaching, I want to say how much having the experience of spending time with her has meant to me. She is my biggest cheerleader, best friend, and confident. Remember to spend time with your mom this coming Mother’s Day. If that is not possible then be with someone you truly enjoy.

“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.”
Donna Ball, At Home on Ladybug Farm

Read more of my writing at the Orthodox Christian Network. Click HERE for the link.

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She Believed She Could

This beautiful image courtesy of Artsy Pumpkin- Click HERE for the link.

“I thought such awful thoughts that I cannot even say them out loud because they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish.”
Anne Lamott

Happy New Year! How was your holiday? I can’t believe it’s over already. Now it’s back to reality and real life! I couldn’t resist the above quote by Anne Lamott. She makes me laugh, cry and smile, sometimes all at the same time. Reading her books and writing can turn around my whole day.

Penny on the beach, Summer 2016

When I look back on this year, I can consider it an amazing one. I did many more events than I thought possible. My church had a centennial celebration that I was blessed to be a part of. Penelope Katherine, my newest grandchild, was born on January 24 and brought such joy to my (and the whole family’s) life. I published my first book, Ordinary is Extraordinary and sold more copies of it than I thought possible (thank you!).

On the flip side, I was sometimes overwhelmed by too much to do. As usual I think I am managing well but then a dark cloud comes over me. That is why that quote above is especially poignant. I can really relate to it. Sometimes it is other people that bother me, sometimes it is the situations I create myself.

My word of the year for 2016 was Believe. It was a great word and I have kept it in mind all year. I hoped to use it to deepen my faith and I believe I accomplished that goal. I also know I will always keep building my relationship with God. I am never done and He will never be rid of me.

In the past two months, I lost a good friend to cancer. Another friend of mine, who was to be a first time grandmother, experienced a stillborn loss that I am still struggling to believe. Both of these were deep losses that I felt (and am still feeling). This is the hard part of growing up, getting older. You lose people that you love, bad things happen and we don’t understand them.

I remember when my father died almost nineteen years ago. We didn’t really see it coming although he had been sick for quite a while. The day after his death the sun came up. Time waits for no one I thought. Despite the awful loss of my dad, the world did not stop. People came and went. Friends showed up.

Isn’t this how we get through life? We plod along and sometimes there is deep mud to walk through, rain that beats down on us, and the occasional lighting strikes. Then there are those days when the sun comes out, someone gets married, a baby is born, a new friend is made. These events are what makes life worth living.

May you go forward in 2017 with a renewed attitude, a motivation to learn something new, and an awareness of the grace that will surely come your way.

I wanted to share some highlights of my year. These moments were especially wonderful. xo

Penny’s Baptism

Meeting an old friend, Dreama after many years.

Watching my son John and his entrance into Fatherhood.

Our visit to Nantucket.

Watching Penny adore my mom.

Meeting Vivian Howard of “Chef and the Farmer”

My sisters, mom and I at the kick off party to the Centennial of my church.

Penny and me on Christmas Eve.

Siesta Key Florida March 2016.

Backpack Feeding Kickoff at FOCUS West Central PA

Last wedding of the season- Ashley and Eli, Photo by Michael Will

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On Being a Strong Woman

Strong Women in my family! From top left- Sisters Cally, Mary, Daughter Michelene, Penelope's Mom Jess, Penelope, Mom, and Moi.

The Strong Women in my family, taken on Greek Easter 2016. From top left- Sisters Cally, Mary, Daughter Michelene, My son’s partner Jess, Baby Penelope, Mom, and Me.

“One by one she slew her fears, and then planted a flower garden over their graves.”
John Mark Green

In my younger days, I often noticed how older women would brazenly speak their mind. They seemed to have no filter. Saying what they wanted, not caring whether it hurt someone or not, they barrelled over others with unbridled words. I envied this at times when I wasn’t blushing with shame for them.

Fast forward to my (now) mid life wisdom days and it’s amazing the bravado I have. I’m finally in that category of saying what I want and doing (well, mostly!) what I please. I can look people in the eye and not really care if they like what I’m saying. Attempts at diplomacy work most of the time but sometimes they just go flying out the window.

https://www.pinterest.com/explore/fierce-women/

A few years ago, my friend told me a story about her steak eating, beer drinking, ciggy smoking mother who horrified her one day. Her mom was sitting on a bench outside a big retail store with a couple of other large women (yes, complete strangers). As my friend came out of the store, her mom nonchalantly proclaimed, “Where did all the fat people come from?” This while sitting there like it was just a regular day. I asked if the other women bopped her mother with their purses and my friend’s answer was “no”.

Where does the midlife bravado come from? And speaking of which, why does unresolved anger have to come with it? After scaring myself a few times with my own lack of ceiling on my wrath, I confided in an older friend of mine. She said, “If you have any unresolved issues they will come out in menopause.”

This answer provided me a measure of relief. Here was an explanation that made sense. In my first book, I talk about the realization that with my deepening relationship with God, I knew I was loved to infinity. What became the challenge was not to abuse that love by engaging in mean, angry comments to others.

http://quotesgram.com/stronger-quotes-for-women/

http://quotesgram.com/stronger-quotes-for-women/

This is still true now. Lately, I’m using the three A’s approach- Awareness, Acceptance, and Action. To stay in awareness and acceptance but not take any action (on bad behavior) implies an egotistical, self centered way of looking at things (or plain ignorance). Of course I should look at myself. Of course I should attempt to tape my mouth shut occasionally. Of course I should rein myself in. Deep down I do not want to deliberately hurt people.

I have a lot on my plate lately. There are many beautiful relationships I’m currently engaged in with family, friends, and clients. I’m trying to use my new bravado in the way that will suit me best. It helps me be more honest. I feel more open to sharing feelings that previously I might have bottled up. Channeled properly, this bravado helps me make a point and keeps me from stuffing it down deep. Reining myself in when it will do no good (or only hurt others), I’m learning to share unhappy feelings with “safe” friends, those who will love me no matter what. Unleashing unbridled anger at others- worse yet, projecting it onto innocent people- is a big fat no no.

When I feel that quickening beat of a mouthful of wrath coming on, I pull my breath deep into my core and take a moment to center myself. I am a strong woman capable of empowerment and not prone to intimidation, negative thinking, or pity. This mantra will usually restore peace and tranquility. Small bits of these moments, savored like a good chocolate chip cookie, help me retain my sanity. This is a busy world. Let’s not forget to love ourselves in the process.

Latest Granddaughter Picture. Penelope helps me remember what's important.

Latest granddaughter picture. Penelope helps me remember what’s important.

 

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Sunrise, Sunset

Sunrise over Sewickley, PA.

Sunrise from Sewickley Bridge, PA.

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears

Lyrics from Sunrise, Sunset- Fiddler on the Roof

It’s hard to believe that next month I will be 58 years old. I kind of like that I can say I am pushing 60. Years ago, I thought I would be young forever. When I hit 30, I was excited about that landmark. When I turned 40, it was a bit different. I felt like I really began to feel my age. No wonder people buy red sports cars at that age.

Mom and her daughters- Photo by Karen Long Kern. (LtoR) My sister Mary, sister Cally, Mom, Me

Mom and her daughters- Photo by Karen Long Kern. (LtoR) My sister Mary, sister Cally, Mom, Me

My mom has set the example for me of accepting her age but staying young at heart. She stopped dyeing her hair in her mid – 50’s. She prefers to be around young people rather than join senior types of activities. She is really a trooper and her positive attitude about life continues to inspire and motivate me.

What I’ve noticed about this era is that I can’t do everything I used to do. I get tired. I have the desire to keep going but my mind and body can not always keep up. It’s been a difficult choice to slow down a bit lately. And there’s some things that this age has brought about for me that I’m truly grateful for.

Siesta Key Sunset

Don’t sweat the small stuff. I am losing friends these days to cancer and sudden death. It really puts things into perspective. What is really important? It’s not the latest handbag or hashtag. It’s all about family and friends.

Money is irrelevant. Yes you need money to pay the bills. Do I need the latest wardrobe or fancy shoes? No, I do not. And I’ve really learned that money does not buy true happiness. Who will be with you on your dying day? It won’t be Ms. Money.

It helps to have some spirituality. I don’t know where I’d be without my faith. I had hot flashes for several years that were so bad I don’t know now how I got through them. I survived and I credit my higher power.

A good partner is worth gold. I know I said it is not about the money but a good partner is priceless. My husband Jim is my best friend. Enough said.

Do what you love. I really love giving people unconditional love. How do I do this? I coordinate their wedding days. I send them little messages. I tell them “I love you.” I volunteer for a program that feeds the poor and homeless. I write blogs for my religion that people actually read. It’s mind blowing.

Put guilt into perspective. OK, this is a big one. I carried around way too much guilt about dumb stuff for too long. Life really is too short for guilt. The better my relationship with God, the less guilt I have. Remember that post I wrote on perfection? I will never achieve perfection; only God is perfect. I just try to do my best every day and apologize when I tick someone off.

Less clutter is better. If you don’t use something for a year, chances are you don’t need it and someone else could use it. Make three bags and go through your stuff. One bag is for keeping, one is for trash, one is to give away. Do one room or one area at a time. Drive to Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity ReStore afterwards and donate the contents of the giveaway bag. Take the trash bag to the garbage before you change your mind. Take the keep bag and actually display or use those favorite things.

Family is everything. Who will show up when you really need them? Who’s there for you when you need someone to talk to? Maybe you have close friends that are really like family. Those people count as well. Nurture those relationships and keep them going.

There you have it. All the above is where I’m at right now. Thank you God for this age and this perspective. Bring on the next year. 🙂

Sunset 2-7-15

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Mid Life – Schmid Life

Check out my "Racing Stripe!" Thanks to my buddy Joe Indovina for this pic.

Staying Happy in MidLife! Thanks to my buddy Joe Indovina for this pic.

“Most people don’t grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is aging.”

Maya Angelou

I am 57 years old and feel like I am finally coming into accepting this beautiful, whole mid life thing I’ve been going through. I cannot believe at times, how I took my own youth for granted. I also can’t believe the things I worried about in my younger days.

They say youth is wasted on the young and ok, I get it. It would be nice to have a few things back right now, like a smaller waistline. But then I wouldn’t have all this wisdom and maturity I finally get to enjoy.

I can’t lie. It has been hard to accept certain parts of being over 50. Most of all, I can’t believe how naive I was about the changes my body would go through. I’d look at older people and make fun of the sagging skin on their arms or the fact that they couldn’t see or hear. It is pretty humbling when those same things start to happen to you.

I’ve struggled on and off with being ok about the sight and hair changes, the attention and focus issues, and the forgetfulness. Mostly I realize some of those things can happen to anyone at any age. My own 32 year old daughter couldn’t remember her banking PIN number when planning her work conference a few weeks ago. 🙂

So the thinking I’ve been coming into lately has been one of acceptance. Of loving my body and who I am no matter what. Of accepting who I am and embracing my age. (a mantra really for any age!) That’s why my opening quote is by Maya. She and my mother are really my role models for aging acceptance.

I quit coloring my hair a few years ago. It just got to be too much. Too much upkeep, too much trouble. The temptation to take it back to full on (dyed)color left me after the first year. This was one of the things I felt most strongly about- embracing the changes that were really mine, a part of my aging process. I didn’t take hormones through the change either. I had good role models who encouraged me to hang in there. I got better at deciding what I really needed to be emotionally healthy. I left a job that I loved because the drive was too dang far. For me, I have to do the mental work of healthy attitudes before any kind of physical work (like exercise or a career change) can really take root.

You know me pretty well by now to know that I’m a grace and love kind of person. I want to be the child of God who embraces unconditional love for all people. It doesn’t mean I agree with everyone’s viewpoint. It also doesn’t mean I condone unacceptable behavior when someone isn’t treating me well. It just means that I give others the right to have their viewpoint and I expect them to respect mine. And I love them pure and simple for who they are. This is the attitude I try and embrace every day. Aging and faith have taught me this.

When my silver hair grew out, it came in mostly on the sides of my head. I have darker hair down the middle and pure silver all along the edges. I call the darker part my “racing stripe.” And truly, I mean it.

Jo By Tree

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The Fountain of Youth

Photo- Carmine Sarazen

Photo Courtesy of Carmine Sarazen

There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age. Sophia Loren

Recently, I was reading a magazine article (Think Like a Guy, Oprah Magazine, May 2013) written by Gabrielle Reece who published a new book entitled My Foot is Too Big for the Glass Slipper. A thought provoking excerpt from that article really got me thinking about age and growing older gracefully.

Gabrielle writes “Perhaps the ultimate lesson of getting older is learning to check our egos at the door. Losing our dignity and independence is the fear beneath our anxiety about aging. It’s not so much the lines and sunspots on our faces; it’s more what the lines and sunspots sign; that life moves in only one direction. Yet every day the sun rises, and each day is our own. I’m reminded of the Emerson quote: “No one suspects the days to be gods.”

I looked up the entire Emerson quote and here is what it said: “Heaven walks among us ordinarily muffled in such triple or tenfold disguises that the wisest are deceived and no one suspects the days to be gods.”

When we are young we think we will live forever. We take daring chances more easily, we don’t break as hard, we push forward thinking we have all the time in the world. As I age, that time seems smaller and smaller, though with life expectancies what they are, who knows how long I’ll live?

I used to think retirement (kind of) meant the end. Done. Gardening, long cups of coffee in the morning, maybe a bit of travel, pans of pastichio for the church food festival. But lately I’m thinking there is more. I am starting to open my mind to think that the fountain of youth is in new challenges, new ways of growing. It’s also in “giving back”; passing along some help, friendship and wisdom to those who may need it at just the right time.

Faith can also provide the necessary ingredient to guard against age panic. I find that when I touch that grace filled spot within me, I am young all over again. Physical being can always be transcended; it is in our mind and heart where we can drink from the fountain again and again.

How do you feel about age? 

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