UNEXPECTED EMOTIONS

Even as we become mature, hopefully stable, aging adults, there are times we may revert to responding emotionally to situations the way we did at a much younger, less mature age.

For decades I worked as a nursing supervisor in a busy hospital with all levels of personnel and many personalities.  I also came in contact with patients and their families, who were experiencing sometimes frightening health issues, over which they had no control.  At times, by representing the hospital, I became the immediate target for emotional outlet.  I learned not to take remarks and behaviors personally, because folks were responding, in their stress, to my role, not me specifically.

However, since I have retired, I no longer have a “role” that enables me to de-personalize negative interactions with folks out in the public.  Now I’m not the nursing supervisor, I’m simply me.

Today, I had an upsetting interaction with a grocery store employee, as I entered the store.  The employee was bringing shopping carts back inside the store, and she was located just inside a door that opens automatically as someone approaches it.  I didn’t see her there before I triggered the door to open.  It hit her in the back.

She yelled angrily, “I was standing here and you hurt me.”  I apologized many times, but she shouted, “Just go on , just go.”

I felt shocked, bewildered, and hurt myself.  Certainly, I didn’t mean to hurt her and I thought defensive things like, “I didn’t mean to hurt her, why is she so angry at me?”  and “She should know not to stand so close to the automatic door.”

I did go immediately to the store manager to report she may have gotten hurt, also admitting I was nearly in tears myself over the incident.

Then, I examined my own emotional reaction to the situation and realized I had taken it too personally and defensively……. an adolescent response. Yes, it’s reasonable to be taken aback when something startling occurs. But the woman was equally startled, perhaps injured, and I’ve observed her enough at the store to know she may have some underlying behavioral, mental health issues.

Thus, I realize I had reverted to my easily hurt, adolescent self, because she yelled at me and told me to leave.  I was centered on my internal feelings, instead of looking at the bigger picture.

As we retire from our careers, we may lose some of the personal strengths we learned on the job and perhaps left there.  Absorbing those beneficial strengths into our retired “selves” keeps us growing  into our most emotionally mature natures.

Emotional health and maturity are works in progress throughout our lives. Certainly I forgive the grocery cart woman who yelled at me and probably has a life of hardships I can’t even imagine.  But I also forgive myself …..and realize how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to keep growing and learning.

TRAVELING WITH ADULT CHILDREN AND EXTENDED FAMILY TO SOUTH AFRICA

We were a family party of 10, traveling together to a distant part of the world, filled with wonder, adventure…… and potential familial conflict.  Our destination:  South Africa, including Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Kruger National Park.

My amazing daughter-in-law put together a detailed itinerary, including per-person costs and reservations.  She made reservations for hotels on arrival to and departure from the Johannesburg airport.  But other stays were in VRBO homes, as well as three camp areas in Kruger.  While accommodations varied from luxurious to one smaller cabin, in which we shared bunk bed rooms for one night (hysterical!), our group got along well and genuinely enjoyed this once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Her pre-planning made it work.  Also, we all arrived with an attitude of helping make it work.  Pre-planning meant we didn’t have to decide major things like destinations, accommodations, car rentals after arrivals.  She even made reservations for activities like shark cage diving, winery tastings, and some morning and evening guided wildlife tours in Kruger National Park.   All we had to do was take turns letting the group know the next day’s itinerary.  (My daughter-in-law did not want to be the group organizer each day.  She had done her job).

We cooked dinners together as a group, except for a couple of pre-planned restaurant meals.  With a variety of diets, including vegan, gluten-free, non garlic, onion, it could have been very difficult.  But grocery stores were well-stocked (even Kruger camps are adequate) and we enjoyed bean dishes, sushi, tacos, pasta and more.

It’s important to go in with an attitude of “going with the flow.”  While it was a little hard on us older folk to move every two days to a new location, we appreciated all the new adventures.  I still can’t believe I saw elephant families, hippos, giraffes, lions, water buffalo, leopards and so much more, all in their natural habitat.  I’m so glad I had a great camera and had taken a photography course before going.  I have a photo book of great memories.

Detailed pre-trip planning and communication is the key to a successful group trip with other adults, be they adult children or extended family or friends.  Knowing up-front what the trip will cost and what the group activities will entail makes everything run smoothly.

MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD SUMMERS IN SOUTH STRAFFORD, VERMONT 1950’s

We were always the last family to arrive.

The others would have been there for weeks, maybe months before us.  By the time we arrived, the goldenrod and Queen Anne’s lace were in full bloom along the sides of the dirt roads – their fragrance giving off a faint musty smell that tickled my nose.  Perhaps I shared some of my Granny’s allergies to the wildflowers.

The trip to South Strafford, Vermont from Moorestown, NJ seemed unbearably long in the back of the Mercury station wagon, especially along the New Jersey Turnpike.  However, once I spied the sign for the Motel on the Mountain, somewhere on the New York Thruway, my heart sped up a notch.  For me, the essence of Vermont has always been her gentle-looking mountains.  Seeing their New York brethren made me feel closer to them.

Dinner at Luigi’s restaurant in Albany, often with friends, the Dickenson family, was the highlight of the trip.  I think Bobby Darin’s rendition of “Mack the Knife” was playing every time we stopped there.  Was that because Dad put a quarter in the jukebox?

I usually fell asleep in the car after dinner.  But the crunching of the car tires up the stony dirt road to Camp Kenjockety, a retired camp my great aunt once ran, wakened me.  There were few outdoor lights to guide us when we arrived.  My sister Ann and I would grab flashlights to pick out a cabin in the dark.

The thin mattresses that lay on the squeaky, rusted cots smelled of mildew, but I loved everything about those old cabins.  With the adults safely ensconced in the main bungalow, we owned the outdoors.

My oldest cousin Randy was our leader.  Always full of imagination and stories, she led us on adventures up the “Pompy.” (Ompompanoosuc River).  In canoes, we paddled up that “mighty” river.  Then we hopped on stepping stones, heading to Varney’s General Store, where we purchased penny candy.  In the midst of those trips, we pretended to be lost on a deserted island or that we were explorers in a new territory.  Most summers, Randy also had access to a spotted pony and took us riding double-bareback through the long, grassy fields.  Those rides fostered my own love of horses.

Adults were not part of our escapades. They were the providers of food, medical care and other responsibilities – but not part of the structure of our days.  We luxuriated in that lack of adult-imposed structure, our minds and bodies roaming free, creating our own adventures.  Our personal universes expanded at our own pace as we learned to trust our instincts.

We spent hours swimming in the Pompy at the dock.  Frogs and dragonflies shared the water and plant life with us.  Peanut butter, as well as tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches magically appeared at lunch time.  Adults must have brought them.  They must have watched us swimming.  I just don’t remember them being there.

Muddy, my Aunt Francis’ mother, stayed in the small cottage called the Infirmary.  A warm woman, who did a lot of knitting, she must have enjoyed having a space away from all the hubbub in the large house.

Dinners took place in that main bungalow.  I think we ate a lot of spaghetti.  The kitchen was large, with a huge metal sink.  Was there an original ice box that required a block of ice to keep food cold?  It seems to me there were often mechanical failures in that kitchen.  Certainly the camp and all its buildings and equipment were in steady state of decline during the years we spent there.

After dinner, we put on skits, played cards and board games and sang.  “There is a Tavern in the Town” was one of my favorite songs.

The only things left of Camp Kenjockety today are the driveway leading past the Dickenson’s house and the boulders that once lay next to the main bungalow and the cabins.

Sometimes, I take off my shoes and walk, somewhat painfully, up the stony road to the camp’s former location.  Goldenrod and Queen Anne’s lace still decorate the sides of the driveway.  A red newt may crawl back into hiding as I pass.  I retain clear images of the main house and cabins.  Every time I walk there, I believe I will see them.  Surely they are there – they’re just out of view.

 

TRAVELING TO SOUTH AFRICA WITH ADULT CHILDREN: MEDICAL CONSIDERATIONS

Our trip to South Africa is quickly approaching:  only a month away now. Though everyone going is in good health, we range in age from 18 to 68 (that’s me).  Thus, there is potential for various health concerns, ranging from injury to the adventurous souls, to a new age related medical event to those of us in our 60’s, to contracting a disease like malaria, etc.

My physician is certified as a travel specialist MD.  This means she in an expert in dispensing vaccines and advice when traveling to other parts of the world.

Much of her advice is relevant to all ages.  First, we should all make sure our vaccinations, such as for tetanus, hepatitis, flu are up to date.  In addition, we should get new vaccinations for diseases that could be contracted in the countries to be visited.  In my case, I took her advice to start typhoid and malaria pills as directed.

Second, it’s a good idea to have travel health insurance that will cover an emergency visit to a hospital in a foreign country.  Medicare will not pay anything out of the USA.  Nor will most private insurance policies.  The travel policies are not too expensive, since coverage is for just a short time period.  I bought coverage for 4 people for a couple of hundred dollars.

In addition to the health insurance, my physician also recommended that I have insurance that covers flying me back to my hospital in the states, accompanied by a medical assistant, in event of a medical emergency.  This coverage is a bit more pricey.  I bought it for my husband and myself year round.  He is not going to South Africa, but the coverage is good for shorter trips within the states, as well.

Finally, I’ll take my doctor’s advice to pack and emergency kit with such items as band aids, tape, gauze, and even duct tape (good for patching just about anything).  I’ll also have plenty of mosquito repellent and sun screen.  These can be packed in gallon size freezer bags.

A travel consultation is not covered by insurance.  But it is well worth it for  traveling safely, especially for those of us over 60.

 

 

 

CURING THE DOLDRUMS

All of us have days in which we just don’t feel enthusiasm for life. Sometimes there is a specific reason:  someone or something that causes worry, resentment, or another unpleasant emotion.  Other times we can’t really lay a finger on the cause.  We just feel a little sad or down.

I am having one of those days today….feeling tired and a little blue for no specific reason.  Well, I can think of a couple.  It was Easter yesterday and my husband and I spent a very quiet one with just ourselves.  I was missing family.  Also, it was a rare 80 degrees, mid-April in Pennsylvania, but I went on a 6-mile run.  I didn’t make it.  By mile five, I was so hot, sweaty, tired, and dehydrated, that I wished I had my cell phone to call my husband to come get me.  I had a hard time walking the last mile home.  This discouraged me, because I have a 10-k race coming up in a couple of weeks.

But I don’t like feeling this way.  For me, getting out of the doldrums means getting outside and moving.  Luckily, today, after a morning rain, it is sunny and in the low 70’s.  Perfect for a walk around town.  Camera in hand, I left the house to see what has bloomed in the last couple of days.

Starting in our own yard, I found our baby red bud tree in full flower, plus some daffodils and tulips along the side fence.

Spirits already lifting, I walked the streets and neighborhoods, appreciating plantings and trees,  as well as pretty flowering weeds that popped up on their own.  My legs may still be tired from yesterday, but I am grateful for all the beauty life can bring.  Doldrums, be gone!

TRAVELS WITH OLIVER

TRAVELS WITH OLIVER (TOOK PLACE JULY 2015)

Ever since reading Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, I’ve wanted to take a road trip with a beloved dog and see some of our country from a new perspective.  However, unlike him, I’m no camper.

But now, in the age of airbnb’s and pet-friendly hotels, it is much easier to take Fido, in this case Oliver, on the road.

So, after some intensive manners classes for Oliver and equally intensive discussions to convince my husband the trip would be interesting and fun, we made decisions about where to go and researched places to stay.

Friends who live near Hilton Head, SC invited us to visit a couple nights as part of our journey.  Thus we decided to head south, by way of the mountains, hoping they would be cooler in mid-July.

I enjoyed searching for pet-friendly bungalows that included a full kitchen and that didn’t require more than a six-hour drive from one place to the next.  First stop:  a cabin in Buckingham, VA.  We were surprised to find it was close to an establishment called Yogaville.   Who knew there was a huge, pink, lotus-shaped shrine nestled in the VA mountains.  Not only was there the shrine, but also yoga classes, vegetarian meals and a genuine aura of peace.  I felt serene within the shrine, as I took in the sense of “truth is one, paths are many.”   We also partook of a buffet style vegetarian meal of pinto beans, greens, taco shells and more, which we ate at long communal tables.  A woman with a soothing voice talked of letting go of our self-made prisons of material things and seeking the peace that comes with acceptance of God’s gifts.

Oliver wasn’t allowed to visit Yogaville, but he did love our hikes on nearby trails and staying in our little cabin, where he had his bed, toys and the people he loves most.

On route to our next house in Burnsville, NC, we stopped for some genuine Carolina pit BBQ. We found a place that let us drive up and honk the horn for curb service.  We had that great vinegar based pork, as well as hush puppies, in the air-conditioned car.  It was too hot to leave Oliver by himself.

The place in Burnsville was a bust, because its well had sulfur in it.  What a stink!  We did have a gallon of water for drinking, but we were glad to leave and head to Asheville, NC.

There we had a cute studio apartment within walking distance of shops, restaurants and historical sites.  But what I loved most was the friendly, dog-loving neighborhood of artsy folks living in acceptance of all manner of lifestyles and orientations.  The only no-no:  don’t block the parking in front of someone else’s house.

In all, we found truth in Steinbeck’s prose:  “A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike.”

 

LETTING GO: FINALLY

In my parent’s generation, the relationship between employer and employee often included loyalty.  As long as the employee worked diligently and helped the company improve, or at least stay the course, he (and it usually was “he”) was rewarded with a pension at the expected retirement age.

Alas, those days are long gone……and I was part of the transition into today’s business mindset that I call, “What have you done for me lately?” That applies to both employer and employee.  In June of 2012, at age 63, I, along with many fellow employees over the age of 60, was offered a retirement package.  Being healthy and liking my job (mostly), I had thought I’d work well beyond 65.  I never thought I’d retire early.  But the package was more than decent.  When the opportunity to continue working on a very part-time basis was added, I took the package.

For the first two to three years, I was happy receiving the benefits of the package, while also profiting from both added money and continued work relationships.  Certainly one of the most difficult aspects of retirement is missing the camaraderie of one’s co-workers.  In my case, two of those co-workers are also two of my very best friends.

However, in the last year or so, I have both taken on new interests and begun listening to my inner voice:  the one that tells me whether I really want to do something or not.

It’s been easy to start and stop activities that don’t involve people with whom I have a real relationship.  For example, I joined a book club at the library.  After a few months, I realized I felt the kind of pressure one feels in school:  performance.  It wasn’t the fault of the folks in the book club. It was something I put on myself.  I didn’t want to sit there with nothing to say. But I didn’t feel like analyzing the books in order to add meaningful insights to the conversation.  With no reservations, I dropped out of the club.

That same inner voice also began speaking to me about truly retiring from my work place.  However, I was reluctant to leave my two friends, especially since one of them was my boss.  I didn’t want to disappoint her.

Toward the end of the last calendar year and over the holidays, my inner voice began to shout.  I was doing very little time and changes were happening so quickly at work that I knew it would be a challenge to keep up.  I began to fear even the thought of going in.

I believe my boss friend knew it was time for me to make a decision even before I did.  Last week, she called and asked me if I’d be willing to work more time.  The word, “No” came out of my mouth so fast, I didn’t even think about it.  Yes, it was time to go.

A few days later I made my final drive as an employee to the work site to turn in my badge.  I felt nostalgic, but not sad, as I hugged my friend.  As I was leaving the building, I passed several of my former peers.  “I just turned in my badge,” I said, smiling.  Every single one of them had a joyful smile back as they murmured fond memories and well wishes for my happiness.  My shoulders floated upward in lightness.

TRAVELING WITH ADULT CHILDREN TO SOUTH AFRICA: EARLY PLANNING

This summer I will be traveling with my two sons and daughter-in-law, as well as my brother, his wife, and their two adult daughters to South Africa. It’s a huge undertaking, especially given that our ages range from 18 to 68.  But, with careful planning and kind consideration, I believe we will all have a wonderful experience.

As a family, we are so very blessed to have an enthusiastic, amazing trip planner:  my daughter-in-law.  Already we have experienced her skills in trips to Puerto Rico, Italy, Prague and know we can trust her to choose activities, places to stay, restaurants, etc.  that will suit the majority.

She and my son have found air flights, places to stay in which we can cook some meals, some activities all of us going can handle, but also free time for those who need to rest or conversely take a run.

Luckily, all of us have similar ideas about accommodations (make our own breakfast  and cook many group dinners, for example).  All of us walk well and like to do so, and we all have a sense of adventure.  Thus we’re a pretty compatible group.  Obviously, families will differ on activity levels and interests.  The more discussion that can take place ahead of time and the more flexibility built into the schedule, the better for smooth trip planning.

Dinners could be interesting.  We have vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, no red meat, no onions or peppers among our special diets.  But my brilliant daughter-in-law has already worked out a plan.  We will pair up and each pair will be in charge of dinner-making, taking turns, one after the other. The cooks do not have to clean up on their night.  As for the special diets, we will have a main dish and some side-dishes for everyone to choose among.  Lots of vegetables!  It will be fun to see what’s available in Cape Town and Kruger National Park.

As for those times we do eat out as a group, we have a great idea for making sure money is spent evenly and no one ends up paying more or less than their share.  We decide ahead of time on an amount for the group “pot.”  Let’s say, we think there should be a pot of $2400 available for eight people to eat out or pay for other group activities.  Each person would contribute $300 towards the pot.  Then, if, for example, I start paying for the first few meals and spend $300, my responsibility is over. Someone else pays after that.  At the end of the trip, if we spent only $1600, those who hadn’t spent all of their $300 pay the pot and it’s divided among those who did pay.  In that case, we will each have paid $200 toward group dinners.

As the trip gets closer, I’ll post more ideas for trip planning with adult children and, of course post about the trip itself.  If anyone has questions or ideas, feel free to comment.

 

 

STORY OF A FAMILY HEIRLOOM

Getting ready for the  holidays, I decided to polish some silver items I have decorating several table tops.  Then I remembered one hidden inside a silver cloth bag in a dresser drawer.  It’s called a cann, but most folks would call it a tankard.  I didn’t know much about it, except that it was made in the late 1700’s or early 1800’s.  Inheriting it after my mother’s death, I couldn’t  ask her about its history.  I didn’t even know how it came to be in our family.

My curiosity was piqued when I looked at the bottom and found the silversmith’s mark (A Carlile) and the initials, IR to MR.  MR was also beautifully engraved on the front of the cann.

After an exhaustive internet search, I found the silversmith, Abraham Carlile, who lived and worked in Philadelphia (1764-1837).  In the course of the search, I also discovered that the Philadelphia Museum of Art had several of his pieces, including another cann of the same design, with the initials IR to TR!  Wow!  Surely it was the same IR, I thought.

Now I am lucky to have had several relatives who researched family genealogy back to the 1600’s and beyond for all four of my grandparents. However, there was not an IR on a single chart.  So, I was excited to think the museum might know the provenance of their cann.  I contacted them and received an email reply the next day.  Alas, their cann had been purchased at auction and they did not know the history.

But I began to consider offering the cann as a gift to the museum.  It can be difficult to decide whether to part with a family heirloom, however. Neither of my sons has set down roots, but might heirlooms become important to them later in life?  Would I enjoy it myself, if I ever learned its history?

My sister and several other relatives (none of whom knew about the cann) expressed that I shouldn’t be in a hurry to depart with it.  I understood their point.  However, I’ve been in a semi-purging mode.  We’re not down-sizing yet, but I’m enjoying slowly getting rid of things that don’t have a lot of meaning for me.  For this item, I was leaning toward offering it for the public enjoyment and historical meaning it would have in the museum, especially if the other cann was from the same family.

I made an appointment with the curator.

I was excited as my husband and I drove to the museum.  I was definitely feeling it was the right decision to give the cann to them.  Even though it might stay in storage the vast majority of time, it would always be available for viewing on the website.  Plus it would be taken care of properly.

The curator seemed genuinely excited about putting the two canns side by side to see if they matched.  We walked through the vast storage area of the museum and, indeed, I was somewhat dismayed to see rows and rows of glass shelves filled with antique silver.  Would my gift ever be seen?  Maybe my relatives were right and I should keep it at home, I thought.  But silver tarnishes and I was keeping in a drawer, also unseen.

My mind was quickly changed when the other cann sat next to mine:  an exact match!  The curator said he will do more genealogy searching and encouraged me to do the same.  Maybe someday we’ll learn who IR, MR and TR were.  In the meantime the two canns are back together, where they should be.

THERE’S “A DOG’S PURPOSE,” BUT WHAT DOES PURPOSE MEAN TO YOU?

In early 2017 a movie, “A Dog’s Purpose,” will be released to the movie theaters.  Apparently the dog’s soul, if you will, will pass through several dogs, changing its life, and impacting its owners’ lives in significant ways.

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When we retire, we may leave behind the previous sense of significance we felt at our job.  In our new life, like the dog, our soul is still with us, searching for its new purpose.

Since retirement, I have struggled at times, wondering if I am still purposeful.  In fact, when one of my adult sons asked a general question at the dinner table about whether we felt we were living the best life we could, I thought, “hope cooking and cleaning are enough.”

But he did start a deeper thought process about what it means have a purpose.  Actually keeping my home running smoothly for my family, pets and myself does give me satisfaction and fulfills some of life’s basic needs.

However, a deeper sense of purpose requires giving more of ourselves to the world around us and continued growth within ourselves.

In our work life, we continually adapted to change, learning new requirements, perhaps instituting and teaching new initiatives, working with many levels of fellow employees.  It may have been stressful and we may not want to repeat that level of stress in our retired lives.  But what about  keeping some of the healthy aspects of learning, growing and giving of ourselves to others?  Might those define some of the satisfying elements of purpose at work and in life?

I believe we can both grow and give everyday.  We can do so very simply, just by taking careful note of our surroundings and stopping to appreciate our environment.  We grow when we increase our appreciation and gratitude.

If we want more learning, we can pursue new hobbies, take online or inexpensive courses, join groups with similar interests…….there are endless opportunities for growth and learning.  Recently I have taken free painting lessons and joined a book club at the library.  I’m exhilarated by learning to paint.

Giving of ourselves can also start small and grow larger, if we want. Simple thank yous, smiles, holding a door, allowing a car to merge all make the world a little better than it was.  Having a conversation with a clerk or wait staff person about something in their personal life is meaningful for both him or her and yourself.  We can give in endless ways.

I don’t believe everyone of us has to make a huge impact on the world at large.  We have to stay within our personal talents and gifts and reflect our genuine interests.  We also have to be in an environment that reflects our values.

So, in answer to my son’s question, I would now say that keeping our home running smoothly is part of living purposefully.  Beyond that, for me, continued growth, learning, appreciation, and giving positively of myself to my world are my purpose.