Is It Aging or Is It Wisdom?

Have you noticed lately that calm has finally come to you? You have no need to engage in arguments, you can walk away from unpleasant situations, you have no desire to change anyone’s mind and have decided that being right is overrated. I have too and I like it. This doesn’t mean I have stopped caring, it is just that I have found other ways to channel my energies that are more enjoyable.

Life is complicated enough and as we grow in years….well, you know what I mean. There are still things we want to do, places we want to visit and people we want to spend time with. Everything is looked at as an adventure and why not. We have time for our hobbies, for new projects and new feasts to achieve. Those are priorities we all have. Controversy is not part of what we want to be doing at this time of our lives. So we have striven to leave it behind.

As we changed ourselves, we have understood that for anything to work, there must be some harmony. We have learned that engaging with respect enhance understanding. Never mind that is good for our health!!! If we cannot have that, it’s not worth it.

Going back to my question, which one is it? A sign of aging some of you will say and you might be right. A sign of wisdom others will say and they might be right too. Each one of us have arrived at this stage by a different route. Now that we are here, let’s enjoy it.

Close Circle of Friends


At this stage of our lives, we have the friends we want, the friends we cherish and the friends who have stayed with us through thick and thin. It has been a process that involved weeding out the fake friends, the casual acquaintances and the leaving behind of all those who were never more than a presence in our lives. A natural process that we should be grateful for.

Like it or not, we have more years behind us than in front of us. Everything we do and everyone we have around us is more important than ever before. There is not time to waste in relationships that haven’t gone anywhere and probably never will. It’s a fact, nothing tragic or sad about it.

As we grew older, we discovered that some people around us were not what we thought, others were not really significant in the great scheme of our daily lives. Our circle became smaller and the people inside it became more significant, essential in some cases. Sort of a natural selection of relationships.

This usually happened slowly, but sometimes we just knew how to distance ourselves and one day the ties were undone and gone. No regrets in most cases. Meaningful relationships remained and continued to enrich our lives. Unfortunately, we also lost friends because they passed away. Life happens. Those we cherish and never forget.

Do not get me wrong, at any stage of our lives we can start new friendships. People we are drawn to for different reasons still come into our lives. This is natural too and we must be open to that experience. These new friendships enrich our lives because they offer us a new perspective and keep us connected to new things.

Still our circle will not be expanding as it did before. There will not be the new school, college, work and other activities that put us in contact with many. Even volunteering will not bring a rush of new friends. For these reasons and the ones expressed above, this friendship circle can be different for each of us.

Keep the friends you enjoy, the ones who are there for you, the new ones who bring new adventures and new perspectives. Go out, travel, volunteer, mingle, engage with them. Keep your circle manageable so you can enjoy each and everyone. That is the basis for your social life, the secret of a life well-lived and the reason to move forward.

P.S. The photograph above is my daughter’s bridal hairpiece, dried and preserved.


Letting Go of Perfect

Amongst our most irrational beliefs we can count the idea that perfection exists. Few of us actually come out and say it, but we brag about our perfect children, our perfect husband, our perfect relationship. Everything is just perfect: our vacation, our health, even our lives in some cases. We must be thinking about it, constantly.

Where does this come from? How did we end up thinking this way? Haven’t found the root of it, but my hunch is that we got it through our upbringing, our friendly competition growing up, the fact we rather present a polished image of ourselves, maybe pretending all is well, good is easier than explaining anything. Who knows? and in the end, it really doesn’t matter. We must just let go. It only bring us stress and anxiety because we are following a path that leads nowhere!!!

To be truthful, more times than not, I struggle with this. In society, we overuse the word. We tell our friends that the time they have chosen to meet is perfect, we tell our children that the painting they brought from school is perfect, we even say that the weather is perfect.

So look into the richness of the language, use other words, other adjectives to characterize whatever it is you are talking about. I have taken out my Thesaurus….yes, that antiquated reference book nobody looks at anymore. It tells me these words can be used instead of perfect: faultless, spotless, immaculate, impeccable, sound, intact and exquisite among others.

In my personal crusade of de-cluttering and downsizing, letting go of perfect plays an important part. Striving for excellence is more realistic, I think. The same Thesaurus tells me: merit, greatness, distinction and brilliance. Of course, we must not take it to the extreme because we will fall again into the quest for perfection we are trying to shed

Finally, let’s remember that perfection can be an instant in someone’s life. Remember Nadia Comaneci in the 1976 Olympics? She got a perfect 10 score. That was a perfect moment, but it was hard and not easy to repeat. On the other hand, we all can maintain excellence throughout our lives by working hard, believing in ourselves, focusing our efforts, learning from those around us.

The Joyful Art of Useful Gifting

Here we are in the Holiday Season, decorating, preparing our home and shopping for presents. Every year we go through the same routine. It is familiar and comforting, makes us feel good and our first thought is to share the Joy. This time of the year this means: gifting!!!

Stores and malls, on-line shopping sites and just about everyplace you can think of is offering countless ways to share our Holiday cheer by buying gifts. The more the better it seems. It is hard to avoid the onslaught of adverts on television, online, on newspapers and magazines. The world just goes berserk during this time. 

As I have grown older, the whole idea of shopping for the Holidays has become overwhelming. I have recognized that we must exchange gifts, show everyone how much they mean to us…..but somehow the excessive commercialism displayed these days it’s to much for me.

A few years back, I started giving only what I thought my loved ones wanted or needed. Everything else became superfluous, no more piles of presents under the tree. It has been a success, at least in my eyes. So far nobody seems cheated in any way or has complained to me. I will leave it  at that!!!

This year, I am going a bit farther. Everyone is getting something meaningful, something that reflects how I feel about them and most importantly: it is useful. My loved ones’ hobbies and preferences, for example, were carefully selected. In some cases, I included things that will be kept for years. Hopefully, they will become part of the memories we are creating this Christmas.

This decision has made my shopping enjoyable, easy, and yes, joyful. It is a new tradition, a new feeling of peace and a new way to be remembered. After all, that is the point of gifting!!!

Respect Yourself First

 

Nowadays, in the middle of the negativity and the fake news, the insults, name calling and other non pleasantries we hear a constant call for loving each other. Love is promoted as the way to end all this. Somehow, it is believed that love will conquer all and things would be salvaged if we just understand this simple premise.

I am afraid I do not agree with this idea. Love is great, is all encompassing and can save us….but loving is not something we can call into existence at the drop of a hat. Sorry, if I sound too cavalier or too mercenary, whichever term you use. Loving is an emotion, a feeling, a wonderful thing that either happens or not.

Now, respect, that I can understand. According to the dictionary its meaning is as follows:  Definition of Respect. You can actually learned to respect, sounds just the thing. To come to this realization is one of the great inspirations as we grow older.

Now, learning to respect, as everything else in life, should start at home. It is a simple premise: learn to respect yourself first and then respecting others will come easy. As the years go by, more and more we’ve gained a healthy selfrespect. It is a feeling that well surpasses the idea of just loving oneself.

How to achieve this desired state? We must not complicate our lives on purpose, so follow simple steps, arrive at certain simple decisions that will make a difference in our lives, basically that is it: go simple.

We must start with taking care of our bodies. It’s the only one we have and must last all of our lives. Treat it well and keep it healthy. If we do, it will serve us well and help us enjoy life more. This is the most basic, solid way of respect.

Never aspire to normalcy, because, after all…what is normal? Be yourself, a bit sassy or flamboyant or even weird if that is who you truly are. There is no reason for being anything else, but yourself. “There is no one alive who is youer than you” Dr. Seuss.

Be honest with yourself. Sometimes the truth hurts, but we need to accept that. It will build your self-confidence. It is always better to know where we stand. Having the wrong self image will never help with respect. “Honesty is such a lonely word…” Billy Joel.

Accept your shortcomings. It is the only way to deal with them. Same with any situations you find yourself in: accept and deal with them. You are who you are, so learn to forgive yourself and move on. Never, never  compare yourself to others.

Be prepared to take a stand for your beliefs, regardless of their popularity. Life is not a popularity contest, never mind what people think. Learn to say NO, have boundaries  and learn to protect them. “Find a place to make your stand and take it easy” The Eagles. You do not owe anything to anyone.

Accept your mistakes. We all make them. Apologize when you are wrong or when you have hurt someone. More importantly, do it without offering excuses. Once you go that route, you lost your ground and your apology is void.

There a so many people we need to deal with on a daily basis, if we respect ourselves, we will respect others…….and who knows we might learn to love them too.

 

 

Own photo: steps at Fort Nassau on a warm evening in October.

Declutter to Destress

Every time I see a rocking chair, I relax. Yes, I do not even have to sit on the chair or start rocking. It is definitively in my genes. My mother and grandmother were both great rockers, but that is something to explore in another post. Unfortunately, we do not make time for these small pleasures anymore. Simple, relaxing movement….slowly rocking your stress away. Nowadays, there is so much going on in our lives that when we do sit, it’s because we are exhausted and need a reclining chair. Have you felt like that sometimes???

I do, more times that I want to admit. Never mind all my good intentions, stress is never too far. What to do, where to turn to? It has been a simple discovery for me. I started getting rid of things at home. Cleaning closets, donating as much as I dare, selling, throwing away. Slowly turning my home into a simpler, decluttered space. Very much a labor of love: self love, that is.

I started by organizing papers, boxes and boxes of them. Doing this, I have discovered so many things: Christmas letters from friends, years worth of them; invitations to weddings, baptisms, bar mitzvahs and baby and bridal showers; letters from friends with good news and not so good news; thank you notes and sympathy notes; boxes of journals I have kept for years…..in longhand!!! My children’s awards, papers, report cards. It’s been like going over parts of my life, all over again. It kept my heart fit for weeks.

Then I started to organize my kitchen, living and dinning rooms. Now I am sure I don’t need to buy anything new for my house…well, maybe for the kitchen. Appliances can always be replaced, knives, pots and pans, too.  No cutlery or china, but maybe some wine glasses. No knickknacks or vases or silver of any kind. I actually sold all my silver last year. Wonderful feeling. No more polishing pieces that are only displayed and seldom used.

The linen closet was overhauled. Towels and sheets and throws, cushion covers and beach towels…I had more than my share. Kept was needed and will replace as I go. Felt fabulously and was a great opportunity to buy what I love…..should have been done years ago. Bought the perfect bed and it has been such a change in my sleeping habits. Will replace when needed.

We all have art pieces that we once loved. We also have some we inherited from family or friends, but we didn’t really like. We have pieces we can’t use anymore with our new decor or in our downsized home. There are just so many things you can hang on your walls or display on tables and shelves. They make wonderful gifts for friends and family and we know they will have a good home.

I discovered that the only things I must keep buying on a regular basis are: books, clothes and shoes……and handbags!!! Why not? My mind needs the constant infusion of knowledge and entertainment and I want to look good. One thing, when buying anything these days, I am visiting more vintage places. Looking for things that have a history and still look good, it is like a treasure hunt, exciting and surprising. Also I donate my gently used things in there.

There are benefits to decluttering and trust me, it’s a perfect exercise. Donating always gives you a good feeling. Selling what you do not want is liberating and profitable, so it’s a winning combination. Of course, throwing things away, has to be one of the best therapies….ever!!!

The biggest benefit of all is that while doing all this, you can keep your stress at very manageable levels. A great thing all around!!!

Wedding Planning should not be done alone!!!

After months of back and forth messaging, emailing, saving ideas in Pinterest, trips to Curaçao and Grand Cayman and untold stressful days and nights……I have finally slid into Wedding Planning Mode, and feel great about it.

The truth is that planning any event is not for everyone and that is why there are experts to help us. Some of us can do it because they can see the whole picture and then work out the details, unfortunately, most of us cannot do either…..see the whole picture or work out the details, that is. The sooner you give in and accept this reality, the sooner all will fall into place and you will sleep easier.

The selection of a Wedding Planner is the turning point. Yes, the person that can keep all the details of your daily ramblings and organize them into coherent plans. The person who can listen to all your ideas and put them together into a beautiful package, the person that can become indispensable. For me and to make sure all is fine: one in Miami and one in Curaçao!!!

Once that decision is made, all the planning you thought you were doing just takes a solid form. You see your ideas come together, you can make changes and feel fine about it. Now there is nothing too out-there, every one of your ideas can be worked into reality…or not. That is the beauty of working with someone who can understand what it takes to make dreams come true. Amazing!!

This is a most wonderful time in your daughter’s and, consequently, in your life. So be open with each other, get everything out and discuss all. There will be times when you do not see eye-to-eye. That is fine, it’s in those moments when you will find how strong the bond that binds you is.

Be prepared for arguments,  for tears and for times when you want to just forget the whole thing. It’s fine, trust me. All will come together and it will be like a book you have written or a script you turned into a magnificent film. When the day finally comes, everything will be worth it!!!

 

Photo: Dreamstime Public Domain

Lessons Learned and Hospital Rules

I am back home. My trip was amazing and difficult. So glad I went and even gladder of all that we accomplished. That would be for another time, this is about what I learned while visiting. I am sure it will help others in the same circumstances, so I am sharing.

Hospitals, as we all know, are not the friendliest of places. They can be intimidating, scary, cold, detached in some ways. There are a lot of rules to follow. There are even rules made up along the way when someone is there for an extended period.

For everyone that has experience this, rules can help us and drive us crazy. We just need to decide what we take from them, how we can obey them and how we can tweak them a bit. Its only human nature, especially if we have someone dear to us in the hospital.

I spent almost all my waking hours for a week at the hospital with my friend. It was in more ways than one a bonding experience as I have seldom experienced. That is why, I feel I most share these observations.

First are visiting hours. How many people should be allowed in one room? How to control the level of noise? can visitors bring treats and share them? We came to visit, shared treats, laughs and tears. More than once, we were told to keep it quiet, but were not told to leave. At one point visits were restricted, but not completely forbidden.

Second, when doctors and nurses come in to see the patient…. who should be there? who has the right to know what is said and what is being done? Certain times are definitely private, there are moments the patient must be alone with the doctors and ask questions. Other times personal needs need to be attended to and privacy is most important. Still, at the end of the day, some patients will like a trusted friend or family member present when confronting the doctor with questions the answers of which they are no sure they want to hear.

Third, privacy is so important and relates to the above. It is controversial, I know, but not every patient needs complete isolation especially if visitors can bring much needed distraction, joy and that bond between friends and family that can be so helpful.

Fourth, how much is the patient told? Is it necessary to inform the patient of everything? would that affect the patient’s outlook or help in making decisions? Some patients want to ask the questions and stop when they feel they already know too much. Others just feel better knowing everything and making plans accordingly. Either way, the patient should decide, nobody else…not even the family or the doctor.

I know these rules are strictly enforced here in the States, but I found they are not so in other countries. I found the relaxation of the rules very helpful in this case. I cannot say if this would benefit everyone. So I guess I am open about them.

At the moment, all I have to say is that being flexible can mean so much to the patient….and isn’t that the ultimate goal? To have the patient relaxed, at peace, surrounded by people that truly love them? I am sure there will be many opinions about this, but all I am expressing is what I learned in my case. It made the whole experience with my friend so human, so wonderful.

She is now out of the hospital and even thought the diagnosis hasn’t changed, her body seems to have a will of its own. For that, we are more than grateful!!!

  • Photo Credits: 1- Nice Monkey – ID135548  
  • 2- Michal Wrozek – ID1488524

Lessons Learned and Decorating for Christmas

Finally it is time to start decorating for    Christmas. Thanksgiving is behind us and the Season of Giving is here. It is the time of the year when we do start getting our homes ready for the coming celebrations. Never mind that the world started doing this weeks ago…….it is now when we should apply ourselves to the task. I have started decorating just this past few days.

Every year, I haul out my well packed decorations. For years, they were in carton boxes, moved from one home to another, from one country to another. Last year, I bought heavy-duty storage plastic boxes. It was time to have more protection for our Christmas things!!!

They include mementos of our lives, small and precious made by the children when they were small. We added a special ornament every year on our trips.  We have figurines from birthdays, first pictures and small baby toys all lovingly wrapped and then displayed every year. There are real treasures in those boxes. Not for us a change on our decorations, a new color scheme or an artificial tree. That would not do.

Our children have come Home for the Holidays, almost every year since they went away to school, work.  So, I decorated the same every year. It was a ritual. This year is different. For the first time in years, I am not decorating in the same way. After all,  they have homes of their own and partners and new traditions to make. It is time to make changes, I realize that, and things have to change.

First, we will have no Christmas tree with hundreds of light, will not decorate every room or will haul out all those precious mementos. I have bought some new and different decorations. Of course, I might use some of those things I have bought through the years, but not the real sentimental pieces that always bring tears to my eyes. It’s about time, I have decided, to start a new tradition just for my husband and I.

I bought a small lavender tree and decorated it as a Christmas tree. I still made my wreath, but this year I used plastic decorations, a wire cloth hanger and shiny ribbon. It looks great against our black door. A few scented candles and the orchids that are in bloom will decorate the rest of the house. Looks wonderful to us!!!

Whichever Holiday you celebrate, hope your decorating will bring you as much joy. It is never too late to make changes, to move forward and to enjoy the process. That is the beauty of learning!!!

 

Lessons Learned and Facebook

In this time and age, I would be hard pressed to name a family member or friend that doesn’t have a Facebook account. My husband doesn’t count. Technology is not his thing and sharing personal information and opinions is not his thing either. Other than him, I cannot mention anyone else off the top of my head!!!

When about 11 years ago, my daughter convinced me to give this new Social Media outlet a try, I would have sworn it was not going to last. Well, that is how much I know. I also refused to even consider investing in it.  So much for my powers of observation. Not only is Facebook thriving, it is so influential that it will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Which proves again, what do I know???

I will be remiss not to point out that most of the time I enjoy what comes and goes and passes for information, the personal opinions, the photos of family and friends that live far and wide. The pages that post uplifting messages that somehow fit a mood, a feeling, a moment. It can be fun and informative.

Unfortunately, as the mood in the world has turn to hate and division and more and more people feel free to express those feelings, Facebook has turned into a minefield. You need to be very careful what you say and pay attention to the smallest of details when expressing an opinion, talking about your feelings on a subject or just wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Thanksgiving or Happy Easter. What pictures you want to share, what you would anyone thinks about a page you like, the quote you posted or the people you admire.

Never mind the kind of news sites you prefer, the people you are voting for or anything about a controversial public figure. Everything is black and white and you must be very careful. How exhausting!!! It seems we not only have the government censoring what we can and cannot see, write or express….now everyone you have friended on Facebook feels they should do it too.

I am not even going to mention civil discourse (a very much dead concept at the moment), or differences of opinion, I am talking about plain bullying and plain intimidation if you as much as express the notion that things can and do have two or three sides to them. “Mine, yours and the truth in the middle” is what I believe. Apparently I belong to a growing group that has learned the hard way to keep their opinions to themselves. How very sad…..it seems the only freedom of expression we are allowed is the one our critics spouse.  Both sides of any issue are guilty of this.

So, back to the lessons I have learned on Facebook. At the beginning, I joked about the four wonderful concepts that this Social Media community has taught me were: Ignore, Remove, Delete and Unsubscribe. We were provided with such choices and with cute little signs for : Like, Love, Surprise, Sadness, Anger. Seemed simple enough, not really anymore, things are now very angry, very insulting, sometimes even dangerous.

If we only want to see and want to hear what we believe, we are not improving communication among our friends and family, or the community in general. If only our opinion is true, if we only hear what we want to hear, if we only engage with people who agree with us, we are bullying everyone else into falling in line or just pack up and leave. A very sad state of affairs, especially when it is not doing any good to society as a whole.

I write a blog about things I have learned and things I am still learning, Facebook provides a wonderful platform for this.  My hope is that out there someone agrees with me and will share my posts. Never my intention to impose or to think I know better. I am not holding my breath, but will continue to do what I think is right. It gives me pleasure.

Life is short. Everyday there are new challenges we must face, new sorrows to deal with, but also new happiness to share, new experiences we want to talk about. I want to feel comfortable with my friends and family, so I can do just that. Having a Facebook account has taught me many things, the ones I mentioned here are not the best ones. Fortunately, I hold hope that the good things about this site will eventually win the day.

P.S. You have to have some rain to enjoy the rainbow: photo by my niece Ana Gregoria