30 August 2011

Happy 95th!

9 plus 5 ways to age well from an interview with my Dad who is 95 this year:

1. Dance every week to music you like with someone you love.

2. Eat good food moderately, and if they don't serve nutritious food at the senior center get involved in changing the menu so they do.

3. When your sad, have a good cry.

4. Go to classes or groups at the senior center that interest you. I met Helen at an aerobics class when I was 84.

5. Keep reading and keep up with current events.

6. Go to church and sign up to do something for someone else, like reading to an elderly blind person.

7. Volunteer to read to the local kindergarten class. Shel Silverstein and Dr. Suess have some great poems and books for the little ones.

8. Keep in touch with family and remember people still like to get a note. Put a dollar in it.

9. Say thanks to neighbors who help you, who shovel your snow and cut the lawn. Slip them a fiver every now and then for a treat.

The bonuses:

1. Feel grateful each morning you don't find your name in the obituaries.

2. Say prayers every night for family and friends. Mention them by name.

3. Keep active. If you need to use a cane then forget your pride and use one.

4. Love everyone because that's what life's all about.

5. Keep some good jokes or funny little poems handy even if you have to write them down. Share them every chance you get. Guys like fresh ones.

Words to live by with no commentary needed!

28 August 2011

Today's Laugh

Sometimes it's the little daily things that bring the best laughs. Like today. My neighbors for the most part don't speak English or speak very little. However, they get great enjoyment in proudly saying their few words to me or my husband whenever possible. Today, it's the birthday of one such neighbor. "Buon compleanno" we wished him. His face lit up! "Merry Christmas" he said confidently. "Happy birthday" we countered but chuckled throughout the day at his translation.

I wonder what we're saying that has our neighbors chuckling at us? Reminds me that it's good to not take myself too seriously and to go ahead and make mistakes. It gives the neighbors a good laugh!

The day is fine: the sea from our balcony in our neighborhood in our little corner of the world.

What's making you smile today?

25 August 2011

Final Vacation Photos

It's hard to post about all that went on in a month once it's all over. But here are some favorite photos of  special times jockeying for remembrance.

Best friends for 37 years! Imagine our conversations after all these years, first as young wives, mothers, grandmothers and now as elders conscientiously seeking our place in the scheme of things. Such a friendship nourishes and sustains me on my journey. Our children are friends as are our grandchildren. How very special. Thanks for your friendship, Cindy. Here's to many more years of memories and helping each other grow.

Our favorite get away spot in Perkins Cove, Maine.

As is this, tranquil and lovely on this quintessential summer, Maine day.

Speaking of Maine, my favorite lighthouse in my favorite park to run, walk, beach and hang out in - Portland Head Light in Fort Williams Park, Cape Elizabeth. It's 90 acres of beauty across the street from where I used to live.

Also in Cape Elizabeth is the Lobster Shack serving the best lobster rolls ever made in the most glorious setting imaginable on wooden picnic tables surrounded by rocks and ocean. Everyone gets mesmerized.

I visit there with my favorite diva, good friend, great shopping companion and hostess extraordinaire, Margaret and her husband, Malcolm. They opened a whole new world in introducing me to opera when I lived across the street from them. I've seen them perform professionally numerous times including in  Dusseldorf, Germany last year. A great example of friends who enrich my life.

Everyones mood is lightened in such a setting, where we get back to the basics of family, friends and sharing food. My daughter and the grands got the giggles while trying to cuddle on a chair made of stone.

Here's the best symbol of the love around my niece's wedding in Florida - the cupcakes! See how each one has a different, personal decoration meant to be meaningful to the loving couple. It was remarkable to watch each be decorated with such attention, care and love.

I love watching friendships develop at our family gatherings, first among my daughter and nieces, and also among my grandchildren and their cousins. Somehow I see this as a shoring up for them against life's vicissitudes. A strengthening of this singularly important ability, the ability to form lasting friendships.

To say nothing of having all those aunties are in your corner, loving, supporting and cheering you on.

Cheering all accomplishments, including my great- nephew, who is on the autistic spectrum, learning to ride a bike by himself, without training wheels, while we were together. Was he proud of himself! Were we proud of him! Way to go, TJ!

There's lots to be grateful for. Sometimes it's good to review the photos and the memories and actually count those blessings. It's a long list...

What's top on your gratitude list?

22 August 2011

Only in Italy!

We had a10K race in our town (Cittá Sant'Angelo) last evening, the first annual "Trophy of the Angels" race. A few background facts will be helpful to understand the ambitiousness of this race. Firstly, we've been having a heatwave lately so last evening at 6:30 it was 86 degrees (30 Celsius). Secondly, my town is at the top of a very steep hill which means most of the surrounding terrain is also hilly. Thirdly, I have never run a race in Italy up to now, only in the USA. And lastly, I didn't know about this race until shortly before it occurred.

Anyway, I was asked to participate by some neighbors at our local street festa three days ago. They've seen me running around town regularly and wanted someone to represent our neighborhood. "Sure" I said before I knew the race route or race particulars and figuring it was a little race for our town. Although the distance listed was 10K (6.2 miles), one of the organizers said it was only 9K (5.59 miles). Okay, that was my fist inkling that races in Italy are different. Also, it was difficult to get a consistent answer to the start time and I kept receiving a time range- "Between 7 and 7:30". Second inkling.

But off I went to the town last evening about 5:45 to be sure I had time to register and learn the route as well as the start time. In one of my many language misunderstandings, the registrar mentioned "il parco" to me and off I went to the park but found nothing was happening there. Hmmm. Turns out that each runner who finished the race received "il pacco" (Hey, I'm from Boston where we don't pronounce our "R's"!). More about "the parcel" later.

This was no little town run! There were 185 runners (33 women) and most were in teams or running clubs. They looked like serious runners.  I was one of the few "solo" runners registering at the last minute. But I knew I was in trouble when I heard the route! The first half was down hill which, of course, meant the entire second half of the race was up the aforementioned ridiculously steep hills. I do my shorter twice weekly runs around our town but my long run on the weekend is by the sea on a nice, wide, beautifully flat sidewalk. [Note to self: new mantra: hills are beautiful!] Re: the start time, I kept getting the same answer- between 7 and 7:30. I stayed closeby. Good thing- the race started at 6:35! Third inkling.

Nonetheless, off we went to the starting gun and the front runners were fast! I quickly became what I thought was the last runner, but since my goal was just to finish, I didn't mind. For most of the race I could at least see the two women who were ahead of me. I did become disconcerted, however, when the ambulance drove the whole race behind my left shoulder! Were they worried about me? I was worried too, would I really be able to make it? Did I mention that the hills were unrelentingly STEEP?

Well, I finished. And I wasn't last since there were two women way behind me. And even though I was third from the last, I was first for my age group. That's because I was the only woman over 65 running! I finished in 1:04:04. A respectable time considering the challenges. In announcing the winners of the various age groups and awarding prizes, they brought me up on stage for first in the 65 and over group but had no prize since they clearly weren't expecting anyone in that category! I truly didn't care though - the high point for me was receiving the applause of six of my neighbors who came to cheer me on.

Back to "il pacco." I went and received the parcel for finishers and our reward? Inkling number four: a bottle of red wine and a package of pasta. Only in Italy!

What is it that you love about where you live?

20 August 2011

Doing What's Right

"A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise." - Aldo Leopold

A simple criteria, not easy but simple. 

Some recent photos that show simple ways to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community:

And two new additions of cousin love and cousin love writ large because isn't love what's it's all about?!

What's important to you these days? 

15 August 2011

Lots Can Happen in a month

It's a month since my last post and it was a month full of travel and celebrations. Returning to Maine where I lived for 5 1/2 years, I met up with friends, including a couple I've been friends with for 37 years. My daughter and the grands met me there and I basked in the incomparable luxury of time together.

We celebrated my father's 95th birthday in Boston. Dad is 95 but healthy, mentally sharp and still dancing! He's my aging mentor. He's also the one who taught me about the importance of nutritious food and exercise, and this was before that came to the national consciousness. I was the only school kid in the 1950's with whole wheat, pumpernickel or rye instead of white bread, which he wouldn't let in the house. I was also the kid with no added sugar on anything, drinking non-fat milk and walking my little legs off regularly. Guess he was right all along.

He was recognized with proclamations from President Obama, the Massachusetts Governor, his city's Mayor, Senator Kerry, the Boston Fire Department (35 year career) and the US Army for service in WW II. My brother wasn't able to confirm that Dad is the oldest living Boston Fire Fighter, but he might be. His sister  and some cousins I hadn't seen in years as well as all six great-grandchildren were there to add to the fun. Good food, music and non-stop gabbing rounded out the party and made it such a joyous day.

Happy birthday, Dad. Keep dancing!

Next was another birthday. My grandson turned 9 and had a big party in Florida. His requests? Ice cream cake, Nerf Guns, pizza and a movie. We got it all in during our 3 1/2 weeks together and more besides. He's a great kid, tender with his younger sister (mostly!), and surprisingly aware of and gentle to the two new babies added to our family's grandchildren generation. He's becoming skilled in games he has downloaded to my iPad and took advantage of wi-fi access that he doesn't have in his rain forest home to get even better.

I love seeing the four "older" cousins (9, 8, 6 1/2, 5 1/2) grow their friendships with one another in these yearly visits despite living so far apart. The two little ones met their cousins this year and the two year old played in the pool with the older ones to her heart's content. The five month old just sat like Budha and received kisses and hugs galore.

Happy birthday, sweet boy.

Love was in the air for the next event intoxicating all within its reach.  In a simple and beautiful ceremony, my niece pledged her love to the woman who will be her life partner. They received the good wishes and blessings of their families and just floated around in their love bubble for the week. Blending the two families in this relaxed setting proved to be delightfully easy. We kicked up our heels, talked and enjoyed one another's company as if we had been friends for years. Left me wanting more. I like that feeling and was grateful to my sister-in-law for opening her large, warm home and pool deck to us all. Her hospitality and generosity made it possible. She's my teacher.

Congratulations, Dear Ones.

Our eighth annual Gathering of the young women in our family happened next since everyone was in town for the wedding. I'll write more about this extraordinary event since it lives in my heart as my most important contribution to the well being of my family, my daughter, my grandchildren, my amazing nieces and my beloved sister-in-law.

We celebrate something each year and this year it was our challenges. Sharing them with each other lightened the load of carrying them and inspired admiration for the way each is managing theirs.  The common, humbling theme ended up being how to discover who we are and what we're meant to do at all our various life stages. Deeper closeness and friendships follow as we walk this sacred path together.  I love these women! I'm so grateful for them in my life.

As if all that wasn't enough, the day after we returned to Italy my husband and I celebrated our 38th anniversary. Bless John's heart, he actually got up on the 11th, looked at me and said: "You really don't know what day today is, do you?". "Oh, is it our anniversary?" said I figuring it had to be something big and it's August so it must be our anniversary. There were just too many places, events and people for the month and I lost track! So we had a very low key celebration of the incredible great grace that is our relationship.  He made a lovely salmon meal and we ate on our balcony in the balmy weather of summer in our little corner of the world.

I love life with this sweet man who still makes me laugh out loud. Happy anniversary, my Love.

My heart is full. I'm glad to be home to savor all that has happened. I missed my blog friends and look forward to catching up.