My friend Janet and I with her red convertible. Notice the basket of wine and chocolate.
A friend of mine owns a red convertible. She got it over 18 years ago and it still looks great. She is now in her late 70s but as vibrant as her car. Her license plate is Joy 4 All, and she lives that every day of her life from her vintage clothes and hats, to her thoughtful gifts and notes. This friend recently lost her oldest son to early dementia so it’s hard for her to have that joy all the time. In fact, as she feels her grief and experiences her body aging, like all of us, she has occasional meltdowns. But not for long, for something will come along that not only delights her but delights someone else.
Recently one of her neighbors was celebrating their mother’s 94th birthday party. One of the things on her bucket list was to drive around in a red convertible. The son of the birthday girl was trying to figure out how to make this dream come true. He called several rental car companies to no avail. No one had an available red convertible for rent. He thought of borrowing one from a car dealer, but unless you put a down payment on the auto, you are out of luck. Then an idea came to him. He said to his wife, “ Doesn’t our neighbor own a red convertible?” Light bulb idea!!! He called my friend and said he had an out-of-the-box favor to ask. Could he borrow her red convertible? My friend, joyful as can be, thought this was a great idea and would be happy to let him use the car for the day.
On the day of her birthday, the son surprised his mother by picking her up in the morning for a day of celebration and driving around in a red convertible. She was so delighted and could not believe her dream came true. They had a day out to brunch, then took a ferry ride to Maysville and toured the home of Rosemary Clooney followed by a celebration dinner.
Later that day they returned the car, full of gas, with the utmost gratitude. My friend told me this story with a smile on her face -“Oh! It was so much fun to make someone’s dream come true!”
I have another friend who recently celebrated her 77th birthday in hospice. Two weeks ago she was walking my neighborhood and now has weeks to live due to a malignant and aggressive brain tumor. I went to visit her. It was 11:30 in the morning and there she was sipping a small bottle of Sutter Home Sauvignon Blanc. I said, “ Are you drinking wine?” I was smiling as I do love wine and thought, why not? Glad they let you have it here. I think I might want to do the same thing. She turned her head to me and said, “Yep! All day long-that and chocolate. What else can I do?” She explained that she chose not to have any treatment, but rather to take the path of palliative care, which assures comfort and allows her to spend what time she has left with her family and friends and enjoy her wine and chocolate. She said if anyone asks what to bring-wine and chocolate!
A group of us put a basket together for her. Each person contributed something based on the theme, wine, chocolate, and comfort care. We brought her a basket full of wine, chocolate, cookies, books, and more. I think she appreciated the thoughts as well as the things. She died about 10 days later at peace and surrounded by her family
One never knows how much time we have left to age and then to die. We don’t all have the same dreams or the same joys. We don’t all have the same experiences, but what we do have is a choice to live as full a life as we can and to be there when someone asks for an out of the box favor and to give with an open heart. It is healing for all.
It has been awhile since I wrote this and I want to add that we all should imagine just for a day that we are in hospice with only 6 months to live. How will you live those days? Angry? Afraid? At peace? Have you had those important conversations with loved ones and friends? Don’t wait to suddenly be told you only have weeks or months to live. We all are on a time line. Life is precious.
Enjoy these two interviews I conducted 6 years ago for my Blog Talk Radio show, The Middle Way Health. Now that I am retired these two interviews were even more meaningful to me today. If you plan to retire within the next 5 years, I highly recommend these books.
Retire With a Mission by Dr. Richard Wendel.
Listen to my Blog Talk Radio interview with Dr. Richard Wendel on Retirement. Dr. Wendel is a retired urologist who has both written the book Retire With a Mission and has given many lectures on retirement.
Your Retirement Quest by Alan Spector and Keith Lawrence
Listen to my Blog Talk Radio interview with Alan Spector and Keith Lawrence. Alan and Keith are retired P & G executives and enjoyed writing the book Your Retirement Quest and have given many seminars on retirement.
“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing…not healing, not curing…that is a friend who cares.”
Friendship is an art. We are born into families but we must cultivate our friends. A true friend is priceless- someone you can call when you are confused, have a problem, or when you are excited and want to celebrate. Sometimes we need a friend to listen and not fix our problems or advise us with the best solution. Yet, how many people have someone in their life who will listen and love unconditionally without an ulterior motive; without asking for anything in return; someone whose own spirit is lifted by allowing you to share your dreams, worries, fears, confusion, anger, and other emotions.
This is rare in today’s society because we are in a hurry and listening takes time. It is also difficult these days because much of our communication is lost in texting, e-mail, facebook, and lack of self-awareness and mindfulness. How can we understand what someone else is feeling if we never take the time to understand our own inner world? Make friends with yourself first and you will be able to open your heart to others.
Like doctors, we want to give our friend a solution. Often we don’t want a solution; we just want to talk it out. A true healer will listen until they don’t exist so the other person can come up with their own solution, but this takes time.
There was a time when I went to a doctor and I said to him, “You know, Doctor, I think there is an emotional component to this and I really want to heal at a deeper level.” He looked at me with a sense of helplessness, and said, “Well, get up on the table and let me listen to your heart.” After putting the cold stethoscope on my chest, he proclaimed, “You are just fine.” Isn’t that funny? Would he really take the time to listen to my heart and soul and mind? No, not because he doesn’t want to, but because he doesn’t have time. Listening to someone’s feelings and emotions is difficult. We quickly want to solve the problem, hurry the pain away, and heal the person. We can’t expect our doctors to be our friends, but if we had more friends we might not need as many doctors.
You may have a “ton of friends,” but how many of your friendships are open and unreserved allowing you both to expose your soul and unleash your feelings and emotions without fear. You are fortunate if among the multitudes of people you know, you have one or two trusting friends who will be there for you even when they don’t understand you.
Cultivating friendship takes time and thought and the ability to give and to forgive. It is the desire to want to be in a relationship with another human being for no other reason than the healing energy of knowing you can count on that person and they can count on you in life when it is challenging or when it is exciting. This kind of friendship is the best medicine.
Today is a day to open your heart and share love with everyone you know.
Today is a day to hug someone.
Today is a day to forgive.
Today is a day to live and love to the fullest.
Happy Valentine's Day
How I Spent Thanksgiving Day
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Yes, it revolves around food, but that’s just the backdrop. Really it’s about family. No material gifts-just the gift of family and the reminder to be grateful. Although this is a busy day for cooking, we watch Thanksgiving Day Parades and even go on an outing during the day. We definitely make sure we get a good walk in or some kind of exercise.
This year we had all of my children, grandchildren, my sister from Chicago and her family for dinner and for dessert we opened the house to my son and daughter's in laws. They love to nibble on my leftovers so we keep them out along with dessert. The house was full of laughter, the aromas of delicious food, and the feeling of gratitude we all remember at this time of the year.
I set two tables. One in the dining room and one in the kitchen. The two rooms are near each other so we can listen to the conversations at both. I let everyone decide where they want to sit and mix children with adults. I use my best china, and decorate the tables with autumn adornments.
I am the cook and love making the turkey. We keep kosher so I always order my turkey from Kroger’s kosher butcher a couple of weeks ahead of time. I order a fresh turkey and pick it up the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I know that a turkey gobbled days before I buy it, and I do thank him for giving up his life for us. This year I bought an 19 pound fresh turkey. I stuffed it and put it in at 9 just in time to watch the parade. I roasted the turkey covered and basted occasionally and it was done by 4:30.
The dressing I make is a recipe passed on through the generations from my grandmother. Grandma loved to cook. Her dressing always had lots of eggs and butter in the bread, onion and celery mix. I have lightened the recipe by sautéing my onions and celery in olive oil and moisten the bread with vegetarian chicken broth or bullion. I also sneak in extra fiber by adding wheat germ and ground flax seed. Nobody notices anything but the moist flavorful taste of the dressing. I do use several eggs, but throw out half of the yolks. I don’t use a lot of seasoning, just salt, pepper, and a bit of fresh rosemary along with lots of parsley.
We always have lots of vegetable side dishes. I make a green bean casserole from scratch by sautéing mushrooms and onions and adding non-dairy mushroom soup that I thicken with a little flour or cornstarch. Then I add salt and pepper. I use either fresh or frozen green beans and mix all together with the fried onions you see in the classic green bean casserole recipe. I sometimes add some cut up asparagus and a little garlic.
Usually I make a roasted vegetable medley with Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and root vegetables tossed with olive oil, garlic, maybe some fresh rosemary, baked at 400 degrees. This year I made sauteed brussel sprouts and sauteed green beans. I had the traditional mashed potatoes but also made a turnip, cauliflower mash for those who don't eat white potatoes.
I made my sweet potatoes in the crock pot. I cut up the sweet potatoes and added three cut up apples. I seasoned with salt, pepper and a little Smart Balance butter substitute. Without any sugar added, the kids said "they tasted like candy."
I served whole grain rolls, white rolls and my daughter's whole made challah bread. I think next year I am going to make my own rolls. They are so much better when I make them from scratch with my own whole grain flours and yeast.
Can’t forget cranberry sauce. I confess, I bought the canned sauce-one whole and the other the cranberry gel.
I served a variety of desserts-cakes, pies and fresh fruit. We had coffee flavored with Baileys. We had an assortment of red and white wine with dinner. This year we bought our pumpkin and apple pies from Costco. We love the chunky apple pie, but the pumpkin was just okay. Next year, I may make my own pumpkin pies. I like to make a whole grain crust and use fresh pumpkin. We shall see.
I don’t worry that my house is immaculate. I just wanted everyone to come, relax, and enjoy the day, the meal, the people, the conversation and the experience of remembering the value of gratitude and joy. It was a wonderful holiday.
I hope you all had Happy Thanksgiving and I wish you a Season of Joy!
A mother bird has to take care of herself to take care of her babies. Love this photo from a Bed and Breakfast where my husband and I stayed while taking a break.
I just got off the phone with a friend who shared her recent trip to New York City. She went by herself, leaving her 7 year old with her reluctant husband and had the time of her life. She walked the streets of Manhattan, spending 5 hours in the original Macy’s. She talked to people, enjoyed the holiday decorations, and thoroughly enjoyed the city. She visited Soho, the East sides and Chinatown. I love walking and as I listened to her story I felt the joy of this walking experience. She spent hours, being in another world, away from home enjoying the moment. The weather was cold, but she had a warm coat, great boots and the heat of her own body from walking and going in and out of shops.
It sounded like so much fun! Sound selfish? This person works part time with her husband on a family business, is raising her sister’s daughter and may be gaining custody of her sister’s other children. Selfish? Or was she taking care of herself to replenish her energy to give to others.
Many people were upset with the author of Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert for her “selfish” journey to far away places in order to get in touch with her own soul. Should she have stayed with her husband, lived the life that appeared happy by most standards, and grounded her in a life not fully satisfying, but certainly stable? Or do we sometimes need to take a journey where we have time to get in touch with our inner person, our true selves, and the inner direction to live a life that is not just satisfying, but honest and full of the joy of living and the energy to truly love others. We then can share lessons and journeys they might not have the luxury or freedom to take.
When Robert Ringer wrote his book, Looking Out for Number One his message was not to take care of your own needs regardless of the needs of those around you, but rather to be aware that by taking care of your needs you will be able to be a more whole person to those around you.
My friend returned from her trip energized and ready to “get back to her real world” with a renewed spirit. Her husband, who had been a little bit anxious about her timing for going away, stated that he had a new appreciation for how she balances her day-to-day life.
We are not helpful to anyone if we are stressed, burned out, or stepping over our feet to take care of people. Most of us appreciate a gift when given with joy and from an open and healthy heart.