Age and Death

This is not an easy topic to tackle. Most of us want nothing to do with talking about death. Somehow thinking that if it is ignored, it would not affect us. I am not criticizing or mocking. Everyone deals with issues in their own way, but since this is inevitable…….we must talk about it.

Death happens at any age, that is true, but at our age we are bound to have more encounters with it. Nothing morbid about it, it is just reality. Friends and family are also growing in age and it happens. Life is terminal, someone said once, and she was right.

This week has been very difficult for me. One of my oldest and dearest friends is in her final days. It has been coming for a while, but is no less painful. Seeing a loved one deteriorate slowly, trying to keep communication open without touching on the inevitable is very hard. She knows, I know….but how to approach the subject. How to say goodbye? How to talk about memories and shared experiences without breaking down? How to be there when you are so far away?

I have tried to make it light, to bring up the best times we shared, to recall the times we laughed and dreamed. Still not easy, I do not have the answer and cannot impart wisdom, sorry. All I know is that it needs to be done, you need to talk and reminisce and laugh. You need to remember the good and the bad and cry if you feel like it. Do not hold back and pretend all is well.

Sometimes you feel you have not said everything, that you forgot something that is very important. You struggle to remember everything, but what is happening takes over your brain and your heart and you cannot. Still, do it, talk and laugh and cry, your loved one knows better than you what is coming and have accepted it. Do not make their parting difficult. Let go……

Let GO of everything that makes you sad and mad, everything you perceive as unfair. Cry, scream, yell. Blame the Universe, God or whoever……they can all take it, trust me. It is not the magic pill for grief, but it is healthy and necessary.

When everything is over, take stock of your life again. Make yourself a promise to live to the max, to enjoy everything that comes your way and to be grateful for the time you still have and for everything and everyone you have in your life. Dry your tears and look forward. There are still dreams to bring to fruition and memories to make and share.

Age and Water

As I said about food, water is indispensable. Our bodies crave it, need it and cannot function without it. The human body uses water in all its cells and tissues. It is the way to regulate temperature and maintain bodily functions. It helps flush out toxins and boots your metabolism. Naturally, the body also loses water constantly: breathing, sweating, tearing, digesting food.

In this time and age, most drinks are full of sugar or we add sugar to them. Besides, we take it upon ourselves to add sugar to our tea, coffee, smoothie or whatever we drink.Water is just plain and simple. That is why we must concentrate on intaking as much as we need.

As we age, our sense of thirst lessens and we forget to hydrate. We must make it a point to drink even if we are not thirsty. Dehydration can cause many problems to an aging body, from rapid heartbeat to headaches. Reading about all this, made me realize that water is my best friend!!!

Slowly, I have been drinking more and more water. I still take my tea with honey and the occasional drink, but definitely more conscious of drinking plain water. How much? Eight glasses or a liter? that is a matter of whom do you talk to. For me, I drink whenever I can, regardless if I feel thirsty or not. To help myself, I keep a bottle of water with fruits in the fridge. Delicious!!!

A glass of water first thing in the morning fires up your metabolism and gives your brain some fuel. I take mine with some raw apple cider vinegar and at room temperature. It wakes me up!!! Then fruits or a smoothie and I am ready to face the day.

Last, but not least, there is sparkling water. Be it natural or man-made, carbonated water helps in so many ways. With your food, it makes you feel full, thus you might eat less; some studies say it helps with inflammation and with high cholesterol and blood sugar. These studies are not complete, but still it wouldn’t hurt to follow the advice. Besides, it is refreshing and a better idea than sodas.

Food is essential and water is too. By deciding to eat healthy and drink mostly water, you are helping yourself stay and feel optimally.

Age and Food

Life keeps moving on whether we like it or not. Aging doesn’t stop and, as much as we wish for it, it cannot be reversed. Sorry!!! Those are facts and we might as well adjust accordingly. That means many things, but I want to start with food. Yes, food as the means to stay more active, more engaged and happier. It will be what carries us on, what will makes us healthy. So let’s talk food….

Most people love food, many for the wrong reasons. Food is necessary, food is comforting, food brings us together. There is also the fact that food can make us sick or healthy. How many times have we heard the cliché: we are what we eat? More than we want to admit, the problem is that most of us ignore this. After all, whatever we are craving at the moment takes precedent.

As we age, what we eat becomes more important. Our bodies change and our nutritional needs are different. More than ever, eating right becomes a matter of longer life, better quality of life. Consequently, we must pay more attention to what we eat.

I suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis. https://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Rheumatoid-Arthritis. This is an autoimmune disease produced by your immune system attacking your body. Unfortunately it is so much more than arthritis and should not be confused with osteoarthritis.

Combined with age, eating properly has become more important now. Fruits and vegetables have become my best friends. I have said goodbye to red meat, pork and processed foods. At the same time, I have limited in my diet certain other things: gluten, nightshade vegetables, dairy and alcohol.

Since I have tried all my life to eat healthy, have to say so far so good. Not easy when you love bread, tomatoes and the occasional drink. To help me along, I keep a food diary. Everything that I eat gets recorded and then I watch for any changes in my body, such as inflammation, pain, fever, tiredness. Sleepless nights and fatigue are part of this cycle.

Of course you do not have to be sick to adopt this life style. Your body will thank you and the energy and wellbeing you will feel be more than worth it. Life is full of wonderful things we still want to do…….eat your way to a better you so you can enjoy them!!!

The No Fight against Stress

As much as we want to keep our lives stress free, it doesn’t happen easily. This is mostly because we are conditioned to take everything too seriously. To take things in stride, to accept what is happening with a measure of calm is hard. Consequently, we take a different route and stress more. We are to blame for this…….we let stress rule our lives and do little to manage it. Instead, we fight it.

We think of managing stress as a fight. This is not the way to a solution. Fight implies a struggle, a give and take that cannot be helpful. We must just get a hold of this struggle and make it softer, calmer, more reasonable. That is the only way to get a positive resolution.

Absolutely not easy, trust me. After all, we do tend to complicate everything, don’t we? At least most of us do, because there is always someone that can do this effortlessly. The rest of us must try and try and breathe…and finally learn.

Slowly and with determination, we should move forward with this idea. Taking one day at a time, one situation at the time, there is nothing else that will work.

This is what we should be doing these days: slowly learning how to get stress out of our life. Catching the rhythm, not going with the flow, of what everyday life brings. Nothing else….

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!!!

Batteries Recharged…..

It doesn’t seem that way now, but a couple of weeks ago, we were out to sea and disconnected from the everyday. Taking a holiday in the middle of planning a wedding did not seem like the best idea…..but it was!!! For 10 glorious days, nothing but enjoying ourselves was on the agenda.

We usually do not take trips in groups. It is better for us to just go with the flow and see what we want, leave if we are not enjoying the place or simple go and stay for a while in one place. This trip proved that we can do it, we can enjoy our friends and have time for ourselves, go with the flow one day and follow the group another.

A friend from the years I was active in the American Women’s Club of Curaçao and attended FAWCO conferences organized this trip. It was a way to raise money and have fun, spend time with friends and contribute to charity. The plan went smoothly.

Flew to Milan and then took a train to Venice/Mestre. Of course, we did have a couple of days in Venice before meeting our friends. It was relaxed and beautiful, just the two of us. Venice never gets old, but it is also too touristy nowadays and you need to take it in small doses. We walked along the least known places, had lunch away from the tourist crowd, got lost in the winding alleys, crossed small bridges and ignored the most-see tourist spots. Perfect!!!

For the first time, I allowed myself to be pampered and my friend ordered a wheelchair for me. Have to say, it was a fabulous idea. Our embarkation went smoothly. Once we were onboard, it became so hectic. I was not sure this had been a good decision. Too many people, too many children, too much food being offered as we waited for our cabin to be ready.

We sat and had a drink and some munchies…the sight of so much food can really cut your appetite. Still, the day was clear, the sun was shinning and we were looking forward to meeting our friends. I knew the ladies and was ready to meet some of the husbands. So far, so good.

Our cabin was ready when they said it would be, kudos to the cruise company for this. We unpacked and I laid down for a quick rest. Then the expected routine: lifejackets drill, getting to our assigned deck. Nothing new, but found it a bit disorganized this time. Never mind, you need to know what to do and where to go…period.

Then came our departure from Venice. While on deck to see this, we met another one of my friends…..how absolutely wonderful to see her after so many years. Met her husband too and we stayed there looking mesmerized as the city was left behind and we went out to sea. Venice absolutely looks different from the water.

That evening we met the rest of my friends. During dinner we bonded. I know it sounds absolutely corny, but it did happen. We continue to have fun together, go on excursions and side trips, take pictures, act silly, learn more about each other. No other way to do this kind of traveling. You are assured company you like, which is just what you need.

It is not always that you can be on a cruise and be able to completely (or almost completely) ignore the rest of the people taking the same cruise. We had such fun just sharing with each other and taking breaks as we needed them. We met for drinks after dinner and went to all the shows, laughed out loud at the silliness of it all. We played Bingo and had a Chinese Auction to raise money for charity. These ladies really know how to put the fun in fundraising!!!

Bari was an absolute gem. Got a tour around the city with a fantastic guide, tasted some great pugliese products and visited too many churches. We even sang “Sinterklaas kapoentje” at the church of St Nicholas!!!

The Greek islands were fabulous. From the trip to Delos to visit the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, to the ride around Mykonos and drinks at sunset.

 

Knossos Palace, the real labyrinth of legend, was the highlight in Crete.

Corfu gave us Empress Sissi’s palace. Dedicated to Achilles, this was some second home!!!

Dubrovnik was amazing!!! Our guide took us high on a winding road to see the city from above. He was a war veteran and regaled us with stories of the war while driving up that road…..a bit scary!!! The view was breathtaking, no other word would do.

Down in the Old Town, we visited the oldest pharmacy in Europe located in a Franciscan monastery.

Then we visited the second oldest synagogue in Europe. It was founded by Sephardic Jews after the expulsion from Spain.

 

In no time we were back in Venice and ready to come home. Disembarking was again very easy. We had time to say our good byes while waiting for my wheelchair ride. Returning to Milan, we became convinced of one thing: leave train traveling for the younger set. Even traveling First Class, you have to lug your suitcases up and down. There is no help, no porters and not enough time to achieve all this without running out of steam.

Believe it or not, despite the abundance of food, we did not gain weight. Seems we took our three regular meals and did not indulge in snacks and sweets. We had a fabulous time and if this group gets together to travel again, we will join them without a doubt. Friendship were renewed and we are again in touch. I had my rest and I loved every minute. Life is wonderful!!!

Why Not? It’s our time…..

 “Tis the Season, the season to consider the rest of our lives. It might not be the traditional Christmas giving, but it is something we must give ourselves. We have been daughters, wives, mothers, friends, lovers, caregivers. We have done everything required of us and more. We have put our dreams and our goals on hold for family and friends, husbands and lovers, aging parents and demanding children. What have we got in return? Well, some would say we have the satisfaction of having done our duty. Or we would feel at peace with ourselves.
 All that is good and personally rewarding, but don’t you feel sometimes we deserve better? don’t you feel we have the right to expect some palpable recognition? I do!!! Sorry, but we are human and there is nothing wrong with that. I am not going to get it from others, I will make my reward, my own Christmas present. Personal and wonderful and we deserve it.
From now on, let’s be realistic. Accept that we have more years behind you that we have in front of you. Unless there is a medical development I do not know of, we are not going to live another 50 or 60 years! Then, we have to put our foot down…we will live the rest of our lives as we want. It will be marvelous!!! Do what you always wanted to do. What a gift that would be……and why not?
Go places you always wanted to visit, even if it is the museum in the next town…….travel farther if it is possible. Remember when you wanted to take a cruise or walk at night along the Seine, or spend time in a Tuscan town, an English village or a Caribbean beach? Well, do it… why not?
Are you interested in painting, photography or pottery making? Do you think you want to explore your artistic side? Go for it! There are classes and groups and clubs that encourage all those things, right there in your city or town….why not?
Do you keep journals? why not publish your memoirs? We all have something to say, share  your experiences.  Do you think you can tell a story? or have you been told you are a storyteller? why not put that in writing? It is so easy today to get your work on the internet. I wrote a book and started a blog at an age when others are thinking of retiring. So, why not?
Have you been called the life of the party? do your friends laugh out loud at your witty comments? Start a blog, share your wit and your humor. Remember, laughter is the best medicine and is side-effect free! Gather your thoughts and start writing! People love to be entertained. So, why not?
Do you love to cook or have a knack for organizing events? are your parties always well attended because nobody wants to miss them? Do your friends ask you for advise when buying clothes? Do you get compliments about your garden or your home? Then consider doing this….a hobby that can bring an income! Besides, if you love it, you’ll be great at it. So, why not?
Most women my age have retired or their husbands have, they have no children at home…..at least not the ones that need care….they know themselves well, they know what they like and what they want. What they need is the will to do just that….and why not?
Now, whatever you decide to do, do with flair, with passion. These are the best years of our lives because the only person you have to please now is you. It is Christmas after all, give yourself the best present:  Go out and get the most out of the rest of your life!!! WHY NOT?
photo: @creativecommonsstockphotos
ID 85156331/Dreamtime Stock Photos

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!!!

 

 

What People think of Me is None of my Business

This is the biggest truth I have lived by. Nothing else can affect your life in such a negative way as paying attention to what people think or say about you. Not only is it a waste of time, but it’s a waste of energy. It cannot do you any good and can cause untold heartache.

When we are young, what our peers think of us is all important. Especially during your teenage years, nothing can unsettle you more. The sad truth is that peer pressure has become outright bullying. This is causing an epidemic of suicides among young people and that is scary.

Now, why is this??? Simple, everyone is too concerned about what people say or think about them. Everyone is very much involved in the lives and actions of everyone else. Bullying is just an expression of this preoccupation. Of course that is my opinion and many will disagree. That is fine.

People would think I am simplifying the issue. That could be true, but all I want is express this idea I have come to accept. It may help. Parents should teach their children that acceptance is not always a good thing. Being yourself, being true to what you like, love, enjoy and who you really are, is the secret of a life well lived.

From a young age, children should be taught to love themselves. Accept themselves because fretting about anyone’s opinion is not healthy.  It all start with parents, guardians, mentors, teachers.

Most importantly, we must lead by example. If you live your life according to your true self, your children (or any child in your life) see that and they could learn early that we are all wonderful in our own unique way. They do not need to succumb to the pressures of others to be happy. You can show them, please let’s all make an effort.

I believe we have let go of our children way before it is time. This applies to the children who are trying to cope and to the ones making it difficult. They are both paying excessive attention to what other people think of them, what they say about them. Let’s teach them this doesn’t matter as much as they think.

Psychologists are trying to find the cause, helping those affected deal with the problem. That is as it should be. Unfortunately, we forget that it is the people closer to them who are the first responders. They are  the ones that can see, act accordingly and save the day. They should be the ones being prepared and ready  to handle the problem.

I have never been one to pay too much attention to what others think. Most of my life I have marched to the beat of my own drum, dance to my own music  so to speak. I never belonged to school clicks, I got involved in what I loved, had little interest in what others did, had no patience for people who thought they were oh so important.

Growing up, I was lucky enough to have parents that accepted me for who I am. Doesn’t mean they agreed with everything I said and did…..far from it. I very often got into trouble. Still, they were there for me and I am most grateful. Looking back, I think I felt safe being myself, it was fine to be my own person. It made a great difference.

Finally, I want to reinforce this idea: “What anyone thinks of you, is none of your business“. Apply it to your life, work on living your life as you want without bothering about what anyone thinks. Believe me, it will make you happy!!!

Living in the Moment

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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!!!