Life Continues……So Let’s Plan!!!

The hurricane season has not ended, debris is still to be picked up from many streets, some parts of Florida are not back to normal and other storms have hit the Caribbean with unprecedented destruction. Seems like a new day has dawned and it doesn’t look promising.

Mother Nature has being more cruel and active than in many years, on the other hand we have a global sense of complete breakdown of humanity and values. There is so much hate, so many hurtful messages. What can we do?? We must give better examples, less extreme opinions and we need to remember, that if we want it or not……life goes on and we need to live with each other!!!

At this time in our lives, we have a clear vision of what we want, how to achieve it and how to enjoy it. Our generation of women has their lives well in hand. We are well rounded and navigate the waters of our lives with ease and determination. We stop at all ports that bring us joy…..the way it should be.

Every time we do, we must share those joys and those experiences. We must be aware of the fact that no matter what people think……women are the ones that can change the world. All of us, but specially the older generation: the Crones, the Wise Women of Old, the Keepers of Memories and the Givers of Hope……

Many would think me naive and even stupid. That’s alright, I am not looking for accolades or acceptance. I am just trying to make, my corner of the world a bit more livable. Let’s plan, let’s look ahead and make it so.

Photo 1: courtesy of Alan Maduro…..crack of dawn in Curaçao

Photo 2: Dreamtime CCO

Something has Changed……..

There comes a time in everyone’s life when a discovery, a piece of news, a flash of understanding changes it forever. That is what happened to me in 2015. It has been a long 18 months, a time of adjusting, of accepting and of working on moving forward. What I have to share, in the hopes that it could help others, is about living with a chronic illness.

For months, years even, I experienced all sorts of odd symptoms seemly unrelated: low-grade fever, joint pain, unexplained cough, upset stomach and on and on. Everyone told me that we all get some aches and pains as we age and we should not over think that. What do you do? you begin to doubt yourself, you begin to think everyone is right and you are just not accepting your age or the changes in your body.

I kept trying until finally, I found a doctor willing to run tests until she found what was wrong. This is most important. A doctor that listens and is willing to go along until the reason for your symptoms is found. I have been lucky with that and are doing better because of it.

Just before Christmas 2015, I received a call from my doctor’s office. She wanted to see me that afternoon. I immediately thought: this cannot be good. It wasn’t. The tests were back and the doctor said the four words that have changed my life: You have Rheumatoid Arthritis. At the moment, I was not familiar with what all that meant. Arthritis didn’t sound good, thought. Well, it was worst than that.

RA is an autoimmune disease that presents many symptoms and causes untold damage to the human body. It is in the same group as Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Crohn’s Disease and other illnesses. It causes the immune system to attack healthy tissues in your body. There is no cure and produces painful inflammation not only in the joints, but the heart, lungs, liver, stomach, kidneys and any other part of your body.

Pain is your constant companion and fatigue is ever-present. Insomnia, brain fog, dry-eyes, forgetfulness are just a few symptoms. Left untreated can be deadly, but known treatments can slow the progress and help with symptoms. Unfortunately, they could also cause untold damage since they involved chemotherapy and steroids. There most be a balance so you need to research and read, inform yourself. Ask questions and go for second opinions. When you find a doctor that understands you, keep her!!!

Most of people suffering from RA have a hard time explaining the illness. It is difficult because most of us do not look sick, we continue our lives as normally as we can and try not to complain. Besides, not everyone is comfortable  to sharing everything with everyone.

Each day brings new challenges and we deal with them as best we can. We can make plans and cancel them unexpectedly. There is always a possibility of a flare that will take us to bed and keep us there for a while. A day of activity can render us useless for many days afterwards. So understanding is an important part of what our friends and loved ones can do for us.

Taking care of ourselves is a priority, more than ever. Becoming selfish is a most. You cannot help anyone if you are not fit to help yourself. You learn not to feel bad about standing your ground and saying no when needed. RA is something that will shape your days for the rest of your life.

Each one of us deals with this in our own way, but it is important to realize that we must have a plan. Make changes in our way of doing things, our diet, anything that needs changing. Keep active as much as we can, don’t give up on what we enjoy. Also we must accept that we might need help to do the smallest things and must learn to accept it. Finally, love yourself and take care.

 

P.S. “The beauty of life and the reality we live with” — perfectly captured in this photo of a Curaçao sunset by Neelam Melwani. Thank you!!!

 

 

Of Moving and Goodbyes

This past week my daughter moved again. Camille has lived in different cities, countries. She has studied here in the States, in Europe and has worked in both places. She adapts easily, as a third culture child, to circumstances and places. She makes friends and truly blooms where she is planted: the first rule of a happy expat.

For the last 4 years, she has been with us. Working and living in Miami, it’s never easy for a young single woman. Camille adapted, but was never in her element. This move will be wonderful for her. Not only is she moving to a Caribbean island, but she is moving to be with her fiancé. She already has friends there, a job and all she wants at this time in her life.

This makes moving sound very simplistic, but we know for a fact, nothing is this easy. Moving and uprooting yourself take a toll on you. It is not as if we pack, get there, unpack and we walk into our new life. It is not as if we just wake up in our new home and we feel at home, if you know what I mean. There are steps we go through and some of them are not easy.

I am not an expert by far, but I have moved a few times. It was hard the first time and was hard the last time. So, first thing: be prepared to deal with heartache, exhaustion, anger, denial, elation, happiness, excitement and so many other emotions. It is part of the game.

Then there are the situations you encounter: locating a good mover, packing or letting them pack, what to take, what to discard or donate or sell. This is followed by regretting not taking this or that once you get to your new home!!! Getting and filling countless forms and lists would make your head spin.

All along, you have been saying goodbye, promising to be in touch (much easier nowadays), trying to see all your favorite spots, accumulating memories. This part is emotionally draining, no matter the reason you have for moving. The last round of parties, lunches and such will help get you through the last days. Enjoy them, take photos,

Once everything is settled, boxes packed, container filled and tickets bought, there is a lull in the process. You are able to breathe. For some reason, when this all is done you’d feel you are going to enjoy the move. There is the emotion and excitement of going to a new place. In a way, it is starting your life again. Go with that feeling!!!

Finally, the day of departure arrives. Try to relax and concentrate on what needs to be done. Go over your lists and forms, get your documents ready, make sure all your bags are labeled and easily recognizable. Leave for the airport with plenty of time, it’s better to wait there.

Once you are in the air, look forward. Concentrate on the trip, the plans for arrival in your new home, then breathe and try to relax. Regardless of the lenght of the flight, take the time to rest. Close your eyes, listen to music, watch a movie.  You’ve made it, you are on your way…..goodbyes are part of the past.

Lessons Learned Led to Downsizing

For years I have been de-cluttering: donating, selling and throwing away. It has been a never-ending story. Still, things seem to reproduce in my home. I have to say, it’s discouraging, so I have finally decided to end this once and for all. I am downsizing!!!

Of course, this would seem similar. Isn’t it the same thing? I ask myself….well, not really. I have neglected to make some big decisions and it is time to correct that. So I have made a list of things that need doing.

First: asking my children to take their things and dispose of them. Take boxes out of my storage space and send them somewhere else, somewhere where they cannot come back. Could it be that simple?

Do not know for certain, but I have started. My son moved to Houston a couple of months back. With everything he was taking there, I managed to send some boxes that have been in my possession for more than 10 years. There could have been more, but I discovered that later. Still, it felt wonderful!!!

This week I plan to spend some time looking through boxes again, making sure I find those which escaped me last time. I am sure a couple of more will be on their way to Houston soon. 

While down there, I will make sure that boxes belonging to my daughter will be found. She needs to go through them and decide what she wants to keep and what she wants to get rid of. Going back into my storage is not a choice. These are their things and they should do with them as they see fit.

Second: being ruthless, concentrating on what I want to achieve instead of getting lost in the memories and the sentimental value of my stuff. This has been the hardest lesson to learn. To work through it, I do not dwell on it. I make decisions on the spot and carry them out right away.

Boxes are open and I follow simple rules. If I haven’t seen in years, I already learned to live without it. There are plenty of charities that would take them. If not,  throw them away. If there are papers older than 5 years, shred them. Clothes, shoes and accessories, handbags and hats. Do I really need that much? Donating is the best way to get rid of most of them. More space in my closet and drawers is a great reward.

Third: organizing what to sell is important. Why not make some cash out of this exercise? This has been tricky. We live in an apartment building……garage sales are not allow. Fortunately, there is always a friend with a home who does not shy away from helping you with that. Hopefully I think I have found mine.

Separating these items, then be ready to price them without getting involved with the way you feel about them. Be realistic when it comes to what you think they are worth and what they are really worth!!! This is another lesson that has taken some time to learn. Being objective is not always easy, it helps to put myself in someone else’s shoes. How much would I pay for this, if I was buying at a yard sale? Still working on it.

Fourth: books, CDs, DVDs, even vinyl records and VHS tapes is more exasperating than others things you want to get rid of. Books are slowly going out of style, no matter how I feel about that. There are too many books, apparently, and no more are needed. Finding places that would take your books and give you credits to get different ones has been relatively easy……but that is not my goal. I wanted to just get rid of them. Making sure I separate the ones I would keep because I love them and would read them gain. Donating to public libraries, school libraries, nursing homes, hospitals…..they are still accepting books!!! Will try to sell the others.

In these days when we can stream anything on you computer or television…..who would want these relics of the past? Well, I found out that there are places that buy CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes and even vinyl records, but not everything. They require you to go to them, they inspect what you bring and then pick and choose what they want. Do not expect to get too much. What is left, I am keeping  for your garage or yard sale…and hope for the best.

Fifth: big pieces such as furniture and appliances are difficult to get rid of. Especially if you do not have a vehicle to transport them. Getting any charity to pick up these items is easier said than done. We waited for weeks to get the Salvation Army to pick up some pieces of furniture from our son’s apartment. When they finally came, everything was inspected and a few things were rejected. Thankfully we had a Plan B……because you cannot just put them out on the sidewalk. City Ordinances say you must pay a fine and still end up disposing of the items yourself.

Once I have completed all these steps, I will have just what I want, need and find beautiful. I will have space in my home to make it feel bigger and more spacious than it is. Hopefully, I will also be reluctant to buy anything to replace what  I sold or gave away. This looks more promising that just de-cluttering.

 

Perfecting the Art of Wasting Time

Haven’t you felt at times that you should be doing something? haven’t you felt restless because you are just sitting enjoying a cup of tea? or coffee? I know I have, especially these days. Somehow, we feel we must be doing something productive at all times. We are conditioned to feel that way, aren’t we?

That may be so, but I am here to tell you, it doesn’t have to be this way. Nowhere is it written that we must do something indispensable at all hours. It is fine to just take a deep breath and figure out what you really do not want to do……and don’t!!!

The world moves on, with or without us. That we stop to just breathe and relax will not cause a major shift in its path. As much as we worry about what is going on, as much as we will like to change some things, we cannot do this constantly. We must stop and smell the flowers, we must make ourselves learn how to waste time…..in us!!!

I have read somewhere that nobody can pour from an empty vessel. If we do not replenish ours, how are we to give to others? The art of wasting time is all about that. We must step back once in a while and look inside instead of out. We must be ready to be selfish and replenish our vessel, so we can give again. Each and every one of us has the duty to ourselves to see this happen. It is the only way.

So sit on your balcony or porch with a cup of tea or coffee, a glass of wine. Go outside and walk in your garden, admire the flowers, look at the sky. Make sure your patio furniture is comfortable and sit there with your eyes closed. Put aside your smart phone, your computer and listen to your thoughts.

Take a nap in the middle of the day, just do it. Take your dog for a walk following a new path or simply let him run free in the yard while you sit in the sun. Go to a park and just sit while people watching. Go window shopping, go for a car ride without a destination. Read a self-help book. I love those and mostly I wouldn’t do anything they suggest, but it does make me smile to read about them. The whole point is to just do nothing you must do: no shopping, no watering the plants, no cooking or baking. Try it!!!

Just one more thought, this is about wasting time not procrastinating. It is refusing to be ruled by schedules and having a purpose for whatever you do, if only for a while. This is about slowing down, looking around you. This is about trying for a more balanced lifestyle. If we perfect this art, we don’t only become better persons, we then can help others do the same. So go ahead: Waste some Time!!!

photos: top by Julieta  Reyes Flores and bottom by Nancy Tripp

 

Goodbye, 2016!!!

I am sure we all agree that this year has been full of surprises, heartaches and uncertainty. From the political world to the world of entertainment, from our personal lives to the state of humanity, things have tossed and turned all year round. It is also true that there has been some good news here and there. Harder to find, but not less true.

Let’s accept what happened that changed our lives, the ones we could control and the ones that are out of our hands. This would be the hardest part. It is only human to just go out and try to change the world when we have witness things we cannot comprehend. Now, we must remember that some people will find those same things to their liking. We must not judge them too harshly, not everyone is wicked, racist, misogynist and evil. Good people exist in every group, as do bad ones. I want to stick to that premise. It gives me hope!!!

When it comes to accept each other, I am unapologetic. Never would say it’s easy, but also never would completely give up on people I like and love because we have disagreements. What I see missing is the willingness to talk to each other. To listen to the other side, to present our arguments without insults. To try to agree to disagree is not simple. Some opinions are so deeply felt, we cannot pretend to change them in one wave of a magic wand. Unfortunately, this is what I see: if you do not agree with me, I will disown you, break all ties with you, even if you are family. Sorry, not me!!!

Life has taught me that things rarely remain the same. Opinions change, circumstances change, the world keeps moving no matter what. Whatever is going on today, will end at some point, nothing is eternal. So I am not willing to give up on my friends and family because we disagree. I say, let’s concentrate on making the world around us a better place. There is no way we can changed most unpleasant things that happened, but there are many small things we can make better and should!!!

The fact that we lost so many wonderful people this year is a sobering thought. I lost my mother and my most favorite cousin, my brother, in a matter of months. Most difficult months I have had in years. The experience left me thinking that there is more to the world than politics. At the same time, it taught me that family is not always the group you were born into, family is also the friends that are there when you need them. I have been blessed with many.

Then there are the people that we always saw as part of our world because we saw them in movies, television, read their books, saw them performing, sang their songs. They made the background of our lives and we are definitely going to miss them. It gave me hope that every time one of them passed away, the world mourned regardless of political views.

Humanity has been specially cruel to itself this year. We only have to look to Aleppo. Famine and disease, terrorist attacks and senseless murder have been in the news seemly every day. It was so hard, I stopped  watching television. Books offered me a calmer, happier and more sensible world. As you can imagine, I read many books this year!!!

Uncertainty is part of what 2016 leaves behind, but it’s up to us to try and make sense of that. It is our duty to ourselves and our families and friends to come together and work for a better year than 2016. May 2017 give us that chance!!!

Being Thankful!!!

disney-s-citizen-kid-november-media-thankfulness-shaping-youth-ecqbsb-clipartThis has been a very contentious year and we all can agree with that. So many instances of intolerance, so many insults thrown without thinking, so many hateful actions have taken a toll on all of us. Usually, after an election, everything is colored by who won and who didn’t. That is not a surprise. This year a lot more was involved than differences of opinion and ideology. We find ourselves facing the fact that some of our friends and family voted one way and others voted another. Nothing to do about that since I believe you cannot change people’s mind unless both sides are willing to engage in civil dialogue.

That is what I find disturbing this time around: the unwillingness of either side to extend a hand, to try and heal relationships or to just talk politely to each other. It has floored me!!! I come across as very opinionated and very forthcoming and, in many ways, I am. I am also a firm believer in trying to find common ground and to be thankful when it’s found. We should be able to speak out, but also to listen.

Having lived here and there, I have developed friendships with people of diverse backgrounds, religions and ethnicity. What I have discovered, and I am not alone in this, is that we all have more things in common than we believe. That is the point. We have more similarities than differences, but I am finding that goes over people’s heads nowadays. It worries me.

Still, I am thankful for each and everyone in my life. They have all contributed to make it better, have taught me lessons, have share my good and bad times, have been there when I needed them, have allowed me to be there for them. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Never give up on each other, we are better than we even imagine. Differences of opinion should not make us forget how we really feel about each other. Let’s agree to disagree and enjoy our similarities. It’s Thanksgiving and we all have so much to be thankful for!!!

P.S. The picture used above belongs to Disney’s Citizen Kid. Thank you!!!

Caring for our Minds

books-1578589_640We are aging, there is no spinning this one. Yes, and if not we would be dead….think about it!!! I know not all my friends will appreciate the fact that I am calling us aging. I apologize. Life goes on, regardless of what we want to happen. We cannot stop time. Accepting is the best way because it allows us to concentrate in staying vibrant and involved and happy.

Never mind what we do to our bodies to keep healthier and younger looking, we are still middle aged. Looking great is fantastic, feeling good and being healthy is priceless, but keeping our minds alert and sharp is even more important. Unfortunately, some of us pay too much attention to our bodies and not enough to our minds!!!

I am sure everyone will say: well, that is not me!!! I would be willing to bet each and everyone of my friends feels this way…..but is it true? Do we all read, play mind and card games on our tablets, do jigsaw or crossword puzzles? Do we listen to music, attend the theater or have a hobby? Do we keep up with the news…..as awful as they are nowadays? You tell me.

I have friends that definitely do all of those things and more. They are on top of their game, as they say. They can talk about current events, enjoy a great book, keep up with life. They travel and visit different places, try new foods, entertain new ideas. They are good with social media and love having younger friends. Women in their middle years, but so involved and vibrant, they break stereotypes. More than worry about their looks, these women worry about not letting their minds go to waste.

These women have kept on learning, striving for a better self. Everything for them is an adventure. Some have literally drove around the country on their own, taken a volunteer vacation in Third World countries, have meditated in Bali and hiked in Machu Pichu. Never mind the ones that have started businesses after retirement or have become successful writers or bloggers.

Besides, they mostly look fabulous, dress impeccably and exude elegance and poise. Still, it’s the fact that they can talk about any topic, hold opinions that could be considered advanced, what makes them so interesting. Confidence is the best quality they posses. I am proud to call them friends.

Then, I have other friends who have so many things to complain and rant about. Who forget that aging is not a choice. They are the opposite of my other friends: they cannot stop telling themselves that this is it, life is not going to get better, old age is creeping in and soon they will be useless. Nothing seems to energize them more than talking about imaginary illnesses, aches and pains and feeling their age. A long life is a blessing, why waste these years lost in fearing the inevitable.

They might do some reading, maybe watch the news, but always with a sense of foreboding or a sense of I told you so. New things interest them little, so no new music talent, promising new artists, forget about  books expressing different ideas. Traveling is out of the question since it can be so complicated. They believe that: I know all I wanted to know, seen what I wanted to see and heard all I wanted to hear. Cultivating new attitudes is not even considered. I love them too, but I have been slowly distancing myself from them. Part of living in the moment!!!

Aging will happen, it matters not what you do or want. So cultivate your mind to keep feeling alive and happy. Make friends with younger people, people from other cultures. Engage in conversations about anything and everything, who knows, you might find new interests. Become part of a group that caters to older women, there a few out there. I belong to some and have made friends and learned about things I thought I knew everything about. It’s exhilarating!!!

Finally, just go out and try whatever you always wanted to do. You owe it to yourself, what is the worse that could happen? that it turns out it’s not as interesting as you thought? or you actually love it or you move to a small place by the beach? or your blog, business or whatever is a resounding success? At any rate, it will be fabulous, trust me!!!glasses-664078_640

Living in the Moment

cropped-IMG_0905.jpg

This year has been hard so far. I have lost my mother, dear friends and have seen others suffer with terminal illness. It is true that I am in no way unique. Everyone, everywhere confronts the same challenges everyday. Not one of us reacts or deals with these events in the same way, so I can only speak for myself.

I have done the crying, the denial, the anger, the acceptance. Grief has to be worked through for us to move on. In my case, there has been more than that. I am making a conscientious effort to live in the moment!!! Not very original and not the first time anyone has tried this route. The difference for me is that this time I am older, I know myself better and I want to spend as much time as possible enjoying life, living the moments that make it worthwhile.

Blogging has been a way of keeping my sanity, but also a way to complain or keep up with the past or think too much about what I am doing or want to do. I am sure that is the reason I cannot write more than a couple of posts a month. Why I don’t seem to find new and interesting subjects to write about, or why I seem to get lost in reading instead of writing.

I feels as if a door has opened and I have walked through to find an exciting place. A place that was always there, but which I rarely visited. Some small things have shown up, though, like trying to post only positive messages on Facebook, changing the kind of books I read. Even started again de-cluttering my home, my closet, my life. Slowly, but surely I have come to this point. It is wonderful and I am most grateful.

There is no more time to waste in planning, it is time to grab what is offered and run with it. Take that trip, buy that handbag, go out with your friends, dress as you please, change your hair color, keep in touch with your loved ones. It is time to actually let go and live in the moment!!!

 

On Becoming an Orphan and Other Musings……

13119046_10154293342686802_7816716738816642024_nMy mother passed away at the end of June: not unexpectedly, but not less painful. After almost 10 years living after a massive stroke, battling fibrosis and old age, her body just let go. She died in her sleep, we should all be that lucky.

In November, my sisters and I made the incredibly difficult decision to put her in a home. We had battled this for years. She stayed at her home, looked after by nurses, by the woman who had been her faithful companion for many years. My sisters and I visited several times a year, everything was perfectly planned, executed. Slowly it became obvious that it was impossible to care for her without an expert staff, but getting anyone to work at a private home became a big challenge. Finally, we realized, she wasn’t getting the care she needed and deserved. This was not done lightly, it was not done with anyone in mind, but her……her well-being, her health, her comfort. That was always our goal.

Now, you would tell me that orphans are generally young children that need their mother’s care. I don’t think anyone our age would think of themselves as orphans, but we are. My mother maintained that an orphan is one who has lost their mother. It is ingrained in me, I believe it with all my heart and because of that, I am officially an orphan.

First things first, her passing also made me the eldest in our family. Have no idea how that works, but it feels sort of strange. My sisters and I are the oldest generation. We are those women who not long ago we used to consider: old!!! What does that mean? What has changed? It is definitely more than just that I have become the eldest. I have, but there is more to that statement.

As long as my mother was alive, I was still a daughter. There was someone higher than me in the hierarchy of life. There was someone before me when it came to longevity, someone ahead of me in the pecking order and that kept me happy. Why? because children are always children as long as our parents are alive.  We can convince ourselves that there is still time to do what we want, to change and enjoy new things, don’t we? This might sound strange, but I am sure we all have felt this way, at one point or another.

Jeanne Safer, a psychotherapist and author of Death Benefits, wrote:  “The death of a parent — any parent — can set us free. It offers us our last, best chance to become our truest, deepest selves. Nothing else in adult life has so much unrecognized potential to help us become more fulfilled human beings — wiser, more mature, more open, less afraid.” A very interesting thought, but one that I find I can completely understand now.

Didn’t we always look up to our parents? didn’t we listen to their opinions and tried, as we grew older, not to have arguments because we disagreed with them? didn’t we learn to avoid certain topics because it would just take too much time to explain we have changed, that our opinions were so different? or wasn’t it easier to just let them pretend they were in charge or that we took their opinions into consideration? I don’t know about you, but I am guilty of doing most, if not all, of the above.

I have expected the sadness and the sense of emptiness that would follow my mother’s death. I have gone through her things with my sisters and relived so many happy moments and so many sad ones as well. I cherish the visits over the last 9 years, the gifts I received from her, the interactions and the sharp comments she was capable of until her last weeks. I can feel my heart contract when I remember her smile, but I also remember when she rolled her eyes in disagreement with whatever we were saying!!!

What did not expect and surprised me is the sense of relief. Yes, relief. The sense that she is at rest is part of that. Her last years were not easy. She was very much aware of her limitations and didn’t like that at all. Deep in my heart, I think that she just let go, said enough, that’s it. On the other hand, there is the fact that now I have more freedom to do things I had put on hold for all these years: vacations with my husband, time to spend with my children, visits to dear friends. I can plan, never miss another important date, go to bed without fear that I can receive a call in the middle of the night. What does that make me?

I think it makes me human, period. If I have learned something these past years is that we must be kind to ourselves. We do all we can and it should be enough. We should never over think or doubt our decisions. What is there to gain by that? and can we do it? I am not sure yet, but I am willing to explore the possibilities. Right now, I am an orphan trying to adjust to my new role. I am myself, without parental boundaries……will see where this takes me and will share my findings.