“Inaction is not an excuse for failure to thrive.”


“Inaction is not an excuse for failure to thrive.”

I’ve noticed lately that a lot of people my age tend to simply stop. They stop doing fun things, they stop being involved, they stop thinking and growing intellectually. They just stop. Then they sit about and complain about how boring life is, how hard it is to do things they used to do, how much they wish they had done such and such before they got too old. They are failing to thrive in the late years of their lives. And there is no excuse for that- period.

I know, things are a bit harder to do when knees hurt,backs don’t want to bend, and the body gets tired much easier than it did at the age of forty. We all have to slow down,but that doesn’t mean we have to stop. It may take longer, but there is no reason not to at least try.

Years ago there was a movie entitled Cocoon followed by another, Cocoon Returns. If you haven’t seen them, I suggest watching them at least once. It starred a lot of “stars” who were getting quite elderly. All stuck in a nursing home, waiting to die, fussing at one another, etc. Until things change due to a visit from the aliens. Look, I know it is really a sappy story, but what I loved about it was the willingness of almost all of the elderly folks to embrace that which was different. If their youth didn’t return, their joy for life certainly did. And, at the end of the day, their inaction became action, and their lives infinitely better.

Another movie I loved was Driving Miss Daisy, a stellar performance by one and all. Again, another character that defies the tendency to just sit down and stop. Fried Green Tomatoes is a fantastic film. Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy were great together and the flashback between Mary-Louise Parker and Mary Stuart Masterson is equally dynamic. At the end of the day, we are still not sure which woman Jessica Tandy was as the elderly friend of Kathy Bates. Ambiguity saturates the film, while turning Katy Bates’ character from a meek doormat into a woman filled with confidence. And, of course, the character played by Shirley Mclaine in Steel Magnolias is just like I want to be when I get old.

I see many older folks off and doing things all over the world. They travel, explore, serve missions of compassion – regardless of sore knees and aching backs. They move, act, and they live every minute of every day. That is what I want to do too.

When our youngest son went off to college, my husband and I decided to work our way around the world. Eight years later, we finally returned to the US. As we were raising our granddaughter, she went right along with us. We lived in London, Hong Kong, and New Zealand, and only came back to the US due to health issues and the awful Socialized Medical care in NZ. We traveled all over each region and were enriched many times over by our experiences.

But I was in my forty’s when we did that. Now I am sixty, and it is going to become more difficult to do some of the things we did. So, we chose other things to do so we could travel. A cruise or four, a road trip across the US, and our big adventure this year is to travel across country by train. I don’t hike for miles any longer, but I sure can sit and enjoy the view from the train.

So there is no excuse not to thrive, people. Just get up, take a few steps, find a hobby that fulfills you, volunteer as a surrogate grandmother to rock babies at the hospital. Volunteer at the schools or libraries to help kids with their reading skills. Go help out a nursing home if you have a talent like playing the piano. There are a multitude of things you can do to overcome the lack of inertia and sedentary inaction. For me, being with my grandchildren is one of my greatest motivators. I write, I hang out on social media sites, I keep up with friends and work on my family history, and I am planning on taking art lessons. I have always wanted to learn how to paint. That will be so much fun!

So, you are old, so what? Inaction is not an excuse for failure to thrive. Just because your body is starting to creak and moan, it doesn’t mean your brain isn’t functioning. (Unless you have a serious condition, of course.) With all the medical miracles out today, most of us will live well into our eighties or nineties.

I have a friend who is ninety-eight. For the several decades, she has traveled the world following the performances of the operas of Wagner. All on her own, she would jump on a plane and off she would go to Italy, France, Germany, or any place in the world that the operas were being performed. What an amazing lady

who just kept on going like an Eveready Battery. She is running down now, but she is still in control of her life and decided to go home until the end of her days. It is heartbreaking, but at the same time, what a life she has had! Even now, she keeps busy with doing her family history and chatting with her friends and family.

Even if you are homebound, unable to walk, unable to drive, so what? There are a million things you can do to keep your brain healthy and busy. Never just stop and wait to die. We all have a finite amount of time here in this life. I could spend it worrying about death, or I can just get on with living while I am still here.

The more we let inaction rule our lives, the less likely we are to live a long life. Not just because our bodies need to move to function well, but because our brains atrophy at an alarming rate. Inaction is not an excuse for failure to thrive. But it is only you that can take that first step. I can’t wait to become a feisty old woman who says exactly what she wants to say about everything.

Come on people, get up, find a cause, reason, purpose, or passion to fill your life. Go on!

 

Comforting Traditions


I have come to the undeniable conclusion that I am turning into a pack rat. (shudder) I figured that out by taking a look at the exterior of my refrigerator this morning. It had become, one bit of stuff at a time, the standard hoarding place for magnets. Under those magnets were photos, old phone numbers, ancient appointment cards from all sorts of places, bits and pieces of tools, keys, reminders, sticky notes, and plain old STUFF that should have long since gone into the rubbish bin. There were some great things on there too, like the drawings made for me by my grandchildren – two years ago, and a few of the awards Crystal got when she was doing martial arts, when we lived in Virginia – six years ago or more. But most of it was just stuff we all got too lazy to throw away.

What wasn’t on the refrigerator, was our yearly calendar – something that was a mainstay in our home for the past 41 years. Our lives went on the calendar, and when it got too busy, everyone ended up with a different color pen to write in their events, just to keep straight who I was taking to the soccer practice, and who was going to be dropped off to hang out with a friend. School assignments from the class syllabus went on there too, so I could stay on top of what next important project had to be finished first, or when a big exam was coming up. That way I could do the Mom thing, that makes our kids hate us, and nag them to get it done.

Calendars used to be important. At least they were when I was first married and then raising my boys. Now everyone has a smart phone, or PDA, or laptop, or an i Pad. Who needs something hanging on the fridge or bulletin board that has cheesy pictures or boring sayings leaching down the pages, when they can download, upload, tweet, text, FB, or set up the phone to ring an alarm to remind them of the things going on in their lives? Yet another casualty to the advent of the every changing tech world.

When I was a little girl, getting a new calendar each new year was a big deal. At first we got one from the garage where my granddad worked, but when we got old enough to know when the picture of the girls on each month were, shall we say, a bit saucy, my Grannie would get one from the grocery store for free. It was boring, and didn’t have many things worth looking at other than the food we knew we couldn’t afford.

The first time I got a calendar for Christmas, I was thrilled! I was allowed to put everyone’s birthday, important dates, and appointments in the blocks under the pretty picture. It was so exciting to be able to cross off days for big days and events. My first calendar was all about Pioneers who settled in Oklahoma and the west. Old photographs, drawings, and on the page for September, a map that I studied until the page fell out. That was when I realized the world was massive, and to find my way around I would need to understand maps. I am still a map junky. Forget Map Quest of any of the maps on line, give me a paper map with a million details and I go anywhere my dreams take me.

I’ve had calendars with cats, dogs, horses, Harley Davidson Motorcycles, cute kids, bratty kids, dolls, Scouting, guns, cartoons, castles, great writers, great artists, and much more gracing the months and edifying those who take the time to read the words on them. One of my favorites was a calendar that Riley made for me in Cub Scouts. Each month had a finger print or hand print turned into an animal on it. It was stapled at the top, and not all of the boxes were straight, but I loved that calendar and used it for the whole year.

So, this year, I bought a calendar with silly cartoon cats doing all sorts of obnoxious things. I wrote in everyone’s birthdays, added a few anniversaries, big events, and goals. Now that my refrigerator is DE-junked, I have put it on the front with huge magnets that will hold it all year. Now I feel organized and a bit more in control. Like comfort food, comfortable traditions can make our world right in the midst of change and chaos. All I have to do now, is keep everyone else from using it for the family bulletin board and a place to stick stuff they don’t want to take the time to put away.

On the Beach at Mui Wo


On the beach at Mui Wo the sea spills back and forth creating the ancient rhythm that both soothes a soul and, yet, causes one to dream of seeing the other side of the world.

An elderly man quietly works on his upturned fishing boat, cigarette smouldering as it hangs from his lips. The smoke slowly rises and wafts about his head, causing him to squint, narrow eyed, at his work.

An old transistor radio plays the atonal, to western ears, music so popular with older people here. The music is occasionally interrupted with newscasts wherein the announcer sells the news with the same enthusiasm and patter familiar in used car advertising.

On the beach at Mui Wo, two women. in hats that resemble upturned fruit baskets, slowly work their way down the beach. As they rake the sand and clean up the rubbish from yesterdays visitors, the shush of the rakes serve as a counterpoint to the sea and music. Their chatter, in high pitched Cantonese, is echoed in the descant of bird song.

Three dogs, strays or domesticated – one can never knows – gambol along. First in the sea noses to the wind, then, on the shore, noses to the ground. They stop and dig with unabashed joy, only to abandon that pursuit to scramble under the rocks, and when that bores them, they flop in a heap of bones and hair in the nearest shady spot to nap. On the beach at Mui Wo.

On the beach at Mui Wo, a mother with her child tip-toes to the edge of the sea. Both delight and fear echo in the child’s eyes. She tries to decide whether to touch the sea or run away. Her trill of laughter fills the air, and, for a moment, everyone smiles.

Two umbrellas sprout from the sand. Blankets are spread and tan bodies lie down to catch the morning sun. Coolers of drinks, sandwiches soggy from melting ice, and a tall cold drink appear. Sunglasses, a book, and all comforts of home are scattered around, on the beach at Mui Wo.

Three old ladies practice Tai Chi facing the sun. Ancient wisdom on their faces is reflected in the slow and graceful movements of their bodies.

On the beach at Mui Wo, the world seems old. Yet, there is a never ending connection with tomorrow as the sea spills back and forth on to the shore, on the beach at Mui Wo.

Ride From Amarillo


Ride From Amarillo

Today I caught a ride from Amarillo, Texas to Gallup, New Mexico. The old geezer that picked me up was a hard case from some place up north. He didn’t talk much at first, but he was friendly enough. Most old guys won’t pick up a hitchhiker these days. I look kinda rough too since I ain’t had a shave or bath in three days. I don’t know what made him stop, but I sure was glad to have lift. It was getting’ hot standin’ on the road with my thumb out.

About 60 miles down the road, the old guy asked if I was hungry. I wasn’t gonna tell him I didn’t have no money to eat, but he said he would be happy to get me a burger or something. So we got off the highway and pulled into a burger joint. It was one of them old kind where someone comes out to your car with a load of food and hangs a tray on the window.

When we headed back on the highway into the setting sun, he finally started to talk to me some. He asked all the same questions everyone asks me. I told him I was just wanderin’ cause I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life yet. Usually I get some sort of lecture about being sensible and finding some sort of career, but this old guy really surprised me because he did just the opposite.

He told me about when he was a young guy, younger than me, he ran off from home during the depression. He said there wasn’t food enough to feed him and he knew if he left his mother would have enough to eat. So he just up and ran off one day. Back then the times were real hard, and no one had much of anything so he took to riding the rails and learned how to survive from one day to the next. He knew what it was like to be hungry and alone, and he sure knew how much he appreciated it when folks would help him out by giving him a meal for doing any sort of work they could find for him. So he figured he owed it to someone to help out anyone who needed a helping hand. That’s why he picked me up, he saw a lot of himself in me and knew it was what he needed to do.

I asked him if he ever went back home after the depression and he said no. He said he got all the way up north to Washington State and found a job at a sawmill. He just stayed on and after a while World War II broke out. He enlisted in the Army and went off to war. While he was gone, his mom died, and all his brothers and sisters scattered during the war. He said he never really knew his dad, he left when he was still a kid. After the war, he went back to Washington State and got a job logging. Then after a while he met a girl and got married. They settled down and had kids, and life went on.

 He got real quiet then asked if I could drive for a while. So I got behind the wheel and he dozed off. As I drove west, through a sunset that turned the sky red and purple and the land blue and orange, I thought a lot about how it felt to be alone in a place where I didn’t know anyone. I thought a lot about the old man sleeping next to me and all that he had told me. He had lived a long life, and he had done a lot of things, but he had always remembered those first days when he was alone and scared and hungry. Those days painted his life in more ways than he had ever imagined they would. Because at 75 years old, he was still trying to pay back all the help he had been given from strangers.

 I wondered if I would be trying to pay back strangers my whole life too. I wondered how my mom would feel if I didn’t ever come back home, and she died wondering where I was. And I wondered how I would feel when I was 75. Would I feel a deep need to pay back the ride and meal from an old man who picked me up on I-40 outside Amarillo, Texas on a hot summer day? Deep inside I knew I would find a way to help someone else some day. And I knew I would go home again when I figured out what I wanted.

 After a time the old man woke up and we talked through the deep night until we got to New Mexico. He offered to put me up for the night but I said no thanks and he dropped me off at a truck stop. When I got out of the car, he gave me 20 bucks and told me to eat decent meal and get a shower. I went inside and made a call home to mom. She was glad to hear from me, but didn’t nag me to come home. I was glad about that. One thing has been bugging me for a while now. I didn’t think about it until he drove off, but that old geezer never did tell me his name.

I am going to catch some sleep back behind the truck stop. The cook said there was an old building back there I could sleep in. Tomorrow I want to try to make it into Arizona, but if I can’t catch a ride I may try to find some work around here so I can get some money up for the time being.

Waiting


Sitting outside the open door to the dance hall, listening to romantic music drift by with quiet chatter and occasional laughter reminded her of falling in love. The gentle rocking of the ship as it pushed through the dark sea, brought back all the memories of being held in his arms as they watched the moon set when they sailed away on their honeymoon so many years ago. Occasionally couples would wander by holding hands or arm in arm, and one woman did a slow dance alone on the Lido. It was hard to be alone after so many years as part of a duo. At her age, it was expected that she would have lost her beloved husband. In some ways it had not seemed real until she found herself alone on the ship in the middle of the Caribbean sea.

The holiday was a gift from her children. It was meant to cheer her up after a long cold winter. Her best friend came along to keep her company. They were just two old ladies in a crowd of people. During the day, it was easy to stay busy with all the events on board. It was at night, when the soft, warm breeze blew across the deck and the stars seemed close enough to touch in the dark sky, she felt the shiver of loneliness pass through her heart. From the corner of her eye she could see him, standing so tall and handsome in his tuxedo, a cigarette in his hand as they stood at the railing of the ship watching the moonlight mark the way across the sea. Then, when she turned, she only saw the emptiness.

They met during a party at her best friend’s home when she was barely eighteen. He was just home from the Viet Nam war, wearing a regulation hair cut and an attitude. She knew he was only a few years older than she was, but he seemed so much more mature than the silly boys around them. When he looked at her with deep brown eyes that seemed filled with pain, then smiled at her, she forgot how to speak. Something in her whispered, “He’s the ONE.” They skipped out on the party and walked around the block a time or two, barely talking. After what seemed an eternity, he took her hand. It was a perfect fit, and with that simple gesture, she knew he was her future.

It was summer when they met. They joined in with the rest of their crowd of friends swimming at the beach, hanging out at the park, attending parties. It seemed to be the last days of innocence in their world. The music they listened to was changing, and so were a number of their friends. In their world, you married, had children, and grew old together. Suddenly, it was acceptable to sleep around, do drugs, and protest everything. But, that last summer, when things were still young and hopeful, they fell in love.

Romance was magical to her. A quiet, bookish girl, all she knew about it was what she had read, and what her imagination conjured up as lay awake thinking of his kisses and the deep yearning she had when he held her close. When he laughed at her silly jokes, listened to her opine on things she barely understood, or let her cry when they watched a sad movie without complaint or embarrassment, she felt like a queen. He was always tender with her, even the few times they argued. His gentleness only made her love him more every day.

That never changed, in all the years they were together. Good or bad, she loved him more every day. There were tragedies, triumphs, tears, and tantrums, but through it all, he was always careful with her feelings and with her body. When they were busy parents, he would remember all the important days, and sometimes, for no reason, would bring her flowers or a gift. And they would dance on summer nights like they had as young lovers.

Like all couples, they grew apart and back together, depending on life, kids, and stresses. Never did she doubt that he loved her, though there was that time when he was tempted by someone else. He never knew she knew, but he walked away and came home to his own bed without dishonoring either of them. As they aged, and the children left home, they rediscovered the joy of being a couple. Once again, they were able to sail on a ship like they had on their honeymoon. It became their practice to take a trip somewhere once a year. They cruised the oceans and seas of the world, delighting in the travel, the company, and always they danced in the summer nights.

One night, he woke her because he felt ill. Before the ambulance arrived, he was gone. That quickly she went from wife to widow. It was over. She stood at his grave, mind numbed and lost. As always, he took care of her, making sure she was set for life. No worries about money or where she would live, meant she had time to make choices for the rest of her life. What no one seemed to understand was that without him, she was so lost she couldn’t make decisions at all. Her heart simply wasn’t involved in anything she tried. She moped about her home, remembering him in every crook and cranny. Her sentences often began with “remember when” only to realize he wasn’t there to remember with.

So, her children gave her a cruise as a surprise gift and sent along her best friend as company to get her out of the house. She suspected they were painting and reorganizing it as another surprise in an attempt to get her to move along in her life. She knew they didn’t understand no matter what they did, he would always be with her, where she could just barely see him out of the corner of her eye. A summer breeze, the gentle rocking of the ship, romantic music, and couples holding hands would always bring him to her mind and heart. And just out of sight, he waited for her, standing tall in his tux, leaning against the rail, smoking his cigarette in the moonlight.

driving I-40


In the past three days, I drove on Interstate 40 for 14 hours through three states. Seven hours each way to my son’s house to take Nick home. I am a exhausted.

First of all, it is flat in Eastern Arkansas. Like a pancake flat. For miles and miles and miles, all you see is one ugly winter field after another. On the road, all you see for miles and miles an miles is one ugly semi truck after another, along with people who lose their minds when they get on the road.

You know the type, they all drive ten or fifteen miles an hour above the speed limit, whipping in and out of lanes like they are driving the Indianapolis 500, and their favorite gesture requires the use of one finger. Tailgating is to the point that their grill is so close to the back of the car in front of them, that the driver of the car can’t see anything else. Road rage takes on a whole new meaning if someone dares to get in front of them and they aren’t going as fast as the driver behind them thinks they should. Car, truck, semi, doesn’t matter, the road hog wants to take on all of them just to get up the road a few minutes earlier so they can be slowed down again by the next line of trucks and cars.

The wind blows in Easter Arkansas and in Oklahoma. Hard. It blows from the north or south, never from the east or west. So the driver spends a good portion of his or her energy keeping the darned car on the road instead of letting the wind blow the car off into the ditch or center median. And the radio may work, but getting any station besides some farm report or Mexican music isn’t easy. Even the FM stations seem limited to rap or hiphop or ten different genre of Country music. Note to self: NEVER forget the MP3 player again!!! Although, after a while the Mexican music can grow on you. . .

I have had boring six hour days before, but these past few days of driving were given shots of pure adrenalin when some moron would run up behind me at 90 miles and hour (I was doing about 80 to pass the semi’s at times) ride close enough to me to touch my bumper with theirs and honk, flash lights, and scream and cuss (I guess, from the mouth going as fast as the car) when I wouldn’t move over. Not that I could with 12 trucks in a row to the right of me and one in front who slowed down to 60 MPH. What was I supposed to do, drive under the semi to get out of the way? Like it would do him any good. The idiot went around me on the grass median at about 70 MPH. Ten miles down the road, I caught up with him because three big semi’s had penned him in. Boy was he ticked. I was a bit annoyed to slow down to 60, but it was satisfying to see the trucks stop him from driving like a bully.

I am going to have a few magnetic bumper stickers made for my car.

“Tailgaters are bullies with wheels.”

“I slow down for tailgaters.”

“If you tailgate, you will need:
Very good reflexes
Very good brakes
Very good lawyers”

I LOATH road bullies . . . and I hate windy roads, and I really hate flat boring countryside. . . really.