Well it is almost February 1 and the New Year has come and gone. For some, this was a joyous occasion filled with parties packed with horns, hats and lots of good cheer. For others, it provided a time of renewed hope after struggling through difficult times. For me, it was a time of reflection and goal setting.
I googled New Year Resolutions for 2017 and the following is the list of the Top Ten resolutions:
- Weight loss
- Better financial decisions
- Quit smoking
- Do more exciting things
- Spend more time with family and friends
- Work out more
- Learn something new on my own
- Do more deeds for others
- Find the love of my life
According to the source “statistic brain.com” 41% of American’s make resolution yet only 9.2% actually succeed, while another 48.4% have infrequent success. I wonder why we set ourselves up to fail!
Several years ago I decided to consciously set 5 goals a year. I don’t set resolutions. Call it splitting hairs if you wish, but the very word resolution to me denotes negativity and failure. You are “resolving” to change something, not because you want to, but because you have resolved yourself to the fact that something exists and you must change it. I prefer goals; they are something to achieve, positive and interesting in their very nature.
This year, one of my goals is to learn to play the drums. I love to sing, though I do not have a good voice. I tried the clarinet in fifth grade, what a boring instrument (at least to a fifth grader). I had to learn the recorder in college believe it or not. However, I do not know how to read music. What I do have is EXCELLENT beat. So yes, I think I can learn to play the drums.
To prepare for this feat, my husband, Joe and I went to the music store in Shipshewana in December. I found an inexpensive drum head and sticks that fit very nice in my arthritic hands. As I read the directions on the drum head I discovered that it needed a cymbal stand. Not finding any in the store, I sought out the clerk to see how much one would cost or if I had overlooked their location in the store. This was not an item they carried so she began to look in the catalog.” $250.00.” “No thank you.” “$180.00.” “No thank you.” “$120.00” “No thank you. I really would like an inexpensive one,” I replied. The clerk said, “Oh yes. You probably want to make sure your grandchild likes the drums before you invest more.” “Oh no. These aren’t for my grandchild. These are for me.” Here it comes folks, the punch line you have been waiting for…”Ohhhhh, aren’t you cuuutttte?” in her most adoring puppy voice. I shudder to think how many times you may have been treated to that voice, not meant to degrade, but certainly does feel like it.
We have the responsibility to show others through our actions that the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” became obsolete in the 20th century. Take an art class even if you can’t draw a stick person. Write your family history even if you are the only one who will read it. Join a book club and read books you would never have otherwise. Learn a foreign language even if you will never speak it. And then tell everyone you meet of what you have learned today! Shock them with your new found knowledge. Let’s make them speechless!
I will let you know how I do on the drums. I may have to have a recital later in the year. I hope you will join me with bells on.
My childhood memories of Christmas are some of the very best. Not only were they spent with my immediate family, but my cousins were always present for holidays. My uncle was a dean at Purdue University so his schedule permitted him to bring his family up the minute that classes ended, and stay through the New Year holiday. These were grand times and ones that cemented lasting relationships. My cousin Ruth remains one of my best friends.
Because they would often arrive days before the actual holiday, we children were relegated to the basement with shouts of “Go play” as my mother and aunt were busy in our very small kitchen preparing special treats or wrapping last minute presents. Lunch was even served in the basement to keep us from getting under foot or ruining a Santa Claus surprise.
To entertain ourselves, we would organize plays reenacting our favorite Christmas scenes. One of my favorites was the year we took the carol “We Three Kings” and made our own special play. The oldest kids got to be the Kings, Mary and Joseph, while the younger kids were the shepherds and stable animals. I believe we couldn’t trust anyone to be Jesus, so a baby doll took the part. Bathrobes and towel turbans were worn by all as we circled the basement over and over and over again perfecting our roles. The premier performance took place for our parents at noon on Christmas Eve. Every time that I hear “We Three Kings” I lovingly think of my family home, my cousins, our folks and the love we all shared. These were memories that have lasted my lifetime.
Memories are the thoughts that connect our history to today. Though they may at times get dusty, each time we claim them, we are bombarded with emotions, good and bad. What can we do to help keep our memories intact? Dr. William Bortz in his book "The Roadmap to 100, the Breakthrough Science of Living a Long and Healthy Life" outlined a few helpful things. First, stay active physically and get exercise. Second, challenge your brain, learn something new. Next, have a positive attitude, say yes to new experiences. And last but not least, minimize stress, which is according to Dr. Bortz, “the gateway to a broad spectrum of health issues.”
I hope you have a favorite holiday memory that will warm your heart and put a smile on your face this season. Enjoy each day of this magical season as you prepare for a new year that will be filled with new beginnings.
Honoring All Veterans
My father was a veteran of WWII; he served in the army in the South Pacific. While there, he contracted meningitis, encephalitis, and tuberculosis. When he was discharged, he was unable to walk and remained in a wheelchair for ten years. During that time he married and had three children, I was the youngest.
We were raised in a patriotic home. We knew and practiced proper flag etiquette. We learned to stand, remove our hats, and place our hand on our heart for the national anthem. We were taught to do the same for the first flag that passed in parades. We were NEVER to boo any soldier who served in our military forces but rather treated all veterans with respect and honor.
My father never spoke of his time in war. He would always say, “I was a baker and sometimes I drove a jeep.” Our entire family lived this illusion including my mother, until 2001 when Pines Village was preparing for their Tour of Duty trip. I needed someone to share their story with the press and all our veterans were reluctant. Finally with the charms that only a baby daughter can inflict on their daddy, he agreed to meet with the reporter. And the memories that came forward were of a magnitude that I was not suspecting. I learned why my dad slept with a radio under his pillow my entire life and I learned that the invisible scars of war are often the most damaging.
In recognition of Veterans Day this year, Pines Village is hosting a community conversation “Transforming our Communities to Heal Our Veterans” at Valparaiso University’s Harre Union on November 7, 2016 at 8 am. Our speaker, Dr. Edward Tick, is an internationally recognized educator, author and expert on veterans, post-traumatic stress disorder and the psychology of military related issues. Dr. Tick has dedicated his entire career to healing the wounds of our soldiers and leads his own not for profit, Soldier’s Heart. Soldier’s Heart founded in 2006, exists to transform the emotional, moral and spiritual wounds that often result from war and military service.
On Friday November 4, 2016 at 1:30 in the Celebration Center, we will view a documentary, “Healing A Soldier’s Heart”. The movie follows a group of courageous veterans as they venture back to Vietnam with Dr. Tick to face their former enemies, in an effort to tame their inner demons and heal their wounded hearts. On Sunday November 6, 2016 at 4:30 pm in the Celebration Room, Dr. Tick will meet with our Pines Village veterans to share stories and commune together.
The traditional Veterans Day program will be on November 11, 2016 at 1:30 pm in the Celebration Room. Our guest speaker is retired Master Sargent Kirk Brownson, the Survivor Outreach Service Support Coordinator for Northwest IN, Southwest MI. In addition, we will have our flag presentations.
I invite each of you to honor our veterans through your attendance at one or all of the events. Thank our Veterans for the sacrifices they have made. We will never truly understand what that means.
Quality of Life
August 2016 - Dad was a traditional 1950’s father. He worked hard so that he could provide a good life for his family. We lived in the country where he installed a swimming pool. The entire neighborhood had summers filled with swimming, Marco Polo, and frozen Twinkies for after water snacks. Our quality of life was simple, yet tremendous.
When it came time for me to go to college, the traditionalist said “Teacher or Nurse?” “What?” I responded. He said “Do you want to be a teacher or a nurse; those are your choices as a woman.” I had aspirations of journalism and traveling the world with National Geographic. He said, “I will pay the bill, teacher or nurse?” I responded,” NURSE!” And the decision was made!
I was good in science, but discovered one big problem. I had an aversion to blood. It made my stomach flip flop. Limits your choices in the nursing field don’t you think? I persevered and learned to draw blood, start IVs, and witnessed births and surgeries. But I knew I needed to find a career path outside of traditional hospital nursing that did not entail blood at every turn. Not long after graduation, I was introduced to home health care. Home health is designed to provide people with the tools they need to direct and empower their decisions so they can attain optimal wellness. I was hooked. The best of both worlds that my father advocated for, a nurse, who got to teach her patients in the place they called home.
This was 1981 and my first home health job was with the Visiting Nurse Association of Porter County. It was a ground breaking time for the home health industry. Physicians and payer sources discovered that people treated at home often recovered quicker and stayed well longer. Additionally, folks who had exhausted most forms of curative medicine could be supported in the home environment to spend the end of their lives surrounded by the things and people they loved. Elizabeth Kuebler Ross’s work with identifying the stages of grief was common reading in the medical community. And, Cecily Saunders, the mother of the modern day hospice movement, gained international recognition for her idea that “total pain” included physical, emotional, social and spiritual distress. The VNA studied this “new” concept, and started the first hospice in the county.
As life went on, my husband and I were named the medical health care representatives for all four of our parents. We learned intimately the concept of defining your wishes for your life, especially when faced with a medical crisis. Each of our parents had very different end of life journeys, but we were fortunate to have had the hard, difficult discussions and we knew what quality of life meant for each one.
Last year while attending a conference, we were privileged to hear Dr. Atul Gawande speak. He wrote the award winning book “Being Mortal.” Dr. Gawande became the health care advocate for his father, a surgeon, who was diagnosed with a massive spinal tumor. This experience led him to explore the world of palliative and hospice care and to learn that the “ultimate goal is not a good death, but rather, a good life, all the way to the end.”
I am so pleased that we are able to bring to Porter County, Dr. Gawande’s Frontline documentary “Being Mortal.” Hosted by Valparaiso University College of Nursing and Health Professionals and Pines Village Retirement Communities, and sponsored by the VNA of Northwest Indiana, the film explores what matters most to patients and their families who are experiencing serious illness. The film will be followed by a panel discussion led by a physician, family member, social worker and attorney, all whom have experience in helping to guide quality of life for those at the end of life. Please join us for this important discussion. See our website pinesvillage.org for details.
Dr. Gawande summarizes it best when he writes, “Technological society has forgotten what scholars call the dying role and its importance to people as life approaches its end. People want to share memories, pass on wisdom and keepsakes, settle relationships, establish their legacies, make peace with God, and ensure that those left behind will be okay. They want to end their stories on their own terms.”
I want to do that, don’t you?
July 2016 - I just celebrated one of those milestone birthdays. The ones that you aren’t necessarily looking forward to but others feel obligated to recognize. I do remember most. 21 was the largest party I had, as I married my dear Joe that day. At 30, he surprised me with my first “professional” camera and a pair of Linde Star earrings. At 40, he hosted the surprise “Over the Hill” gathering where my friends and loved ones gave me tubes of Ben Gay, Poli-grip and a walker with a horn. At 55, together we held a huge “Mullet’s Rock” party which featured a hog roast, live music and a raging thunderstorm! Here I am, the big SIX ZERO, a new season of life.
As I reflect on the previous generations of my family, there are significant differences in our life journey. At 60, my beloved maternal grandma Bertha was widowed, working as a live in nanny during the week, and sharing a bedroom with my sister on the weekends. Her husband had died suddenly in his sleep at 58. He had worked hard and long hours in the steel mills of Pittsburgh where they rented an apartment. Grandma was left with no home, no savings, a meager pension, and limited social security. Domestic work and living with family became her only option.
My mother Shirley was busy raising children at 60. She committed her life to creating a home for her husband and kids. At age 37, her family grew with the adoption of three sons and over time she became a foster mother to 45 more kids. She lived the post- World War II dream life, beautiful home, beautiful children, secure income and prepackaged foods including Jello.
Now, here I am at 60, an empty nester, working at a job I love. My life is even fuller with family, travel, and hobbies. I enjoy this stage of my life. I set goals and relish when I accomplish them. So why did I recently tell a sweet, teeny, tiny white lie when I told someone I was 59? Could it be that even I, (one who has dedicated a career to serving people over the age of 62) am an AGE bigot?
In 1969 Dr. Robert Butler, coined the term ageism when he provided an interview to a Washington Post reporter. “Ageism can be seen as a systemic stereotyping of and discrimination against people because they are old, just as racism and sexism accomplish this with skin color and gender,” Butler said.
Many scientists and social researchers have studied the topic of ageism. W. Andrew Achenbaum, in a recent article of the fall 2015 edition of Generations states, “Much since 1969 remains the same about ageism. Then as now, older Americans were a variegated group; their circumstances remain divergent in terms of financial resources and employment opportunities, mental and physical health, educational attainments, cultural diversity, marital status, religion, region…whereas most of us live long enough to become old, ageism is the only prejudice that can diminish EVERYONE’S quality of life.” As our world faces unprecedented population aging, we must actively address ageism.
Where can we go to find strategies to combat ageism? JoAnn Jenkins CEO of AARP in her new book entitled “Disrupt Aging” reminds us that first, we (the aging) need to look within ourselves and change the way we view ourselves and our inner lives. Collectively as a body of people, we must change the idea that aging is a time of decline, and prove to others through our actions that aging is an opportunity for continuous growth. It is imperative that we exhibit purpose, positive self-image and stake our claim as an integral part of society.
So how did I spend my sixtieth birthday? I hosted a sleep over birthday party with my two gran-girls. We wore Japanese kimonos, ate sushi and drank tea with our cupcakes. And I taught them how to make origami cranes, an art I learned in 1974 when I was an exchange student in Japan. My husband surprised me with five different courses from The Great Courses to support my love of learning and foster my interest in the bible, photography, nutrition and guess what, AGING!
Ok here goes…..I AM 60! There I said it, and I even have a smile on my face.