Want to Feel Vital? Stay Involved!

My husband and I just returned from a once in a lifetime trip to New Zealand we had dreamed of for years. We made arrangements through The Splendid Traveler where Alicia Saba specializes in customized travel in New Zealand and Australia and she took our preferences and produced an ideal itinerary! We had a fabulous time and walked an average of 5-7 miles a day and we were thankful to be in shape to do it. We had agreed that now was the time to take advantage of the investment we have made in our health and fitness and fulfill some of those dreams before age slows us down.

In our travels, we were blessed with expert guides, some young, some older, but they all had one thing in common. They were excited and enthused to do what they were doing. The young people because the job kept them outdoors and doing what they loved in a way that financed their travels and adventures, and the older people (often retired) because they enjoyed how it kept them engaged with other people and added to their incomes. We were inspired by the backgrounds (Retired University Professor, Retired Business Owner, Renaissance Woman with Masters Degrees in Multiple Disciplines) of these folks who gave us up to a day of their time!

Our guide in Christchurch (Fiona Newsome of Canterbury Guiding Co.) was an outstanding example. She was a little younger than us and spent two days making our excursions in that area outstanding. Her energy, intellect, creativity, and ability to think on her feet was inspiring to us. She planned ahead and told us all about what we were seeing in a way that was entertaining and knowledgeable. She thought about parking logistics, the next place to have a restroom stop, and where the best possible place to grab lunch was while seeming to enjoy things as much as we did.

As we climbed the steep drive to the Giant’s House in Akaroa (after a fabulous boat tour around the harbor that featured dolphins, seals, and even a fast little penguin), she shared her individual story of meeting and forming a friendship with the very talented but also incredibly reclusive artist (Josie Martin) who created all of the art we got to wander through. It was a fantastic experience, filled with color, unexpected delights, and surrounded by the fragrance of the artist’s gardens that were everywhere. It was unforgettable but could have been perfunctory without Fiona’s perspective and stories.

My point is that Fiona in Christchurch, Katie at the Zealandia Preserve, our Te Papa Museum guide Rangmoana (I will not guarantee that spelling!), our lovely guide Ann, from Zest food tours (all in Wellington), and countless other people who made our trip special could have decided to retire and keep their gifts to themselves. Instead, they put them to work in a way that keeps them involved and excited and makes them a treat to those of us who get to meet them.

What did we learn? 

When you have a purpose and stay connected with other people, it makes your daily life more exciting and even if you may not live longer…there will be more life in your days!

Drama and Your Marriage

©CanStock Photo / AndreyPopov

I watched a popular series the other night, streaming it as we do these days when I was stunned by a particular episode. To be fair, we watch these things for the drama, the ups and downs, last-minute saves and resolutions, and pretty people in awkward, funny or even painful situations. It is their stock in trade and is utterly predictable at times.

However, the drama is the smallest thing you want in your relationship or marriage. It can break apart the strongest love, ruin lives, finances, and futures and most of it is avoidable. You don’t have to have drama in your relationship to have romance. They should be two very different things.

In this episode, a couple has dated and known each other for years. They decide to have a child together, go through fertility counseling and make this huge commitment of bringing another human being into the world. Then, he discovers that she is not planning to raise the child in his faith, she discovers that her career is much more important to her than she expected, and the inevitable pendulum swings between these two who ultimately decide to marry and proceed, trusting that their love will see them through.

Yeah, let’s unpack that a bit, shall we? There is so much wrong with that picture. Continue reading

Genealogy – Collecting and Connecting

I mentioned to my husband that in light of our multiple downsizings, we were fortunate that neither of us is a collector.

My husband smiled and said, “I think you do have a collection. You have collected the people and ancestry in your family!”

“And yours,” I responded with a grin.

People ask, “How did you get into genealogy? Did your family talk about its history?”

“Not really.” My maternal grandmother (Nana) talked a bit about hers and claimed that we were descendants of Myles Standish of the Mayflower through her father William Herbert Standish. He died young in a carriage accident and was evidently the great love of her three-times married mother, Nellie Holley Standish Kidder Smalley. When Nellie died, her wish was to be buried with William.

But that was it. No big lore and to be frank, we all just smiled and humored her when Nana claimed the Standish connection. No one really took it seriously. Continue reading

Aging in a Great Way

I have been fortunate to learn about aging through reading, and also through friends who are involved with AGE of Central Texas. AGE is a nonprofit that believes in the vision of “a society where aging is a shared journey marked by connection, strength, and vitality, and the role of caregiving is supported through the community, collaboration, and guidance.” This plays out concretely in programs that provide social and wellness centers, education for caregivers, memory work, computer labs for seniors, and even a health equipment lending program.

My husband and I learned of AGE while his mother was declining and experiencing so many of these issues and although we were not the on-site caregivers for his mom, we were able to share some practical tips we learned and eventually we got my mother (who lives locally) interested in volunteering with the nonprofit. Her participation is intermittent, depending on how she is feeling, but when she goes she is energized by the experience. She spends time in the Thrive Social & Wellness Center talking with participants and answering the phone and she loves it. Continue reading

Talking is Natural – Reading is Not

I recently heard a fascinating piece on the differences in the human brain between learning to talk (natural and happens for most children fairly effortlessly) and learning to read (not natural, has only been around for a relatively short time in human history, and is rarely effortless for any child).

I must admit I was dismayed to hear that news and to learn that the science has been around for decades but I fear that primary education has opted for a method of “whole language” that is more entertaining (to children and to teachers) over the less delightful but far more effective method of phonics and phonemes in most of our schools throughout the nation. The results have been dismal test scores made even more dismal for the socio-economic levels of our populace who cannot afford extra tutoring, etc., that may turn this around.

The article points out, however, that when test scores on reading are examined closely, the upper-income levels/higher educated parents group of children have also lost ground in reading proficiency since the advent of “whole language” or “balanced literacy.” Continue reading