The Simplicity of Life

We are back in upstate New York now, Columbia County (deer and tick country!) where it is most definitely still winter.  We left 85 degree weather last week to arrive at a blustery, average temp of 39-45 degree with a dusting of the white stuff yesterday morning on our lawn!  Unreal! Where is global warming?!

 

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In being back home, I see life in much more simple terms.  The light is different here.  It’s almost translucent and the colors are vibrant.  It’s a setting that The Hudson School of painters saw and capitalized on in their magnificent landscapes of trees and farmland.

I hear the sounds of wild turkeys, birds, coyotes, and deer leaping in the brush. My neighbor, who has a farm and chickens roaming around has agreed to sell me eggs on a weekly basis.  These are real “free range” “cage free” birds and I’ll be  making egg salad from the fruits of their labor!

I understand why people live longer up here. “Men in rural areas on average can expect to celebrate their 78th birthday -two years longer than those in the city-while women will pass 82, almost a year and a half  more than their urban peers. It’s official: move to the countryside and you live longer (a study by The Guardian).  The stress is gone, the serenity and beauty of the landscape puts  one at peace. One of my very good friends’ mother lived to be over 100 yrs old residing in a remote part of Northern Maine. Same principle. How many centenarians does Willard Scott report on in major urban areas?  New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago; these are working cities.  Everything is stressful in New York City:  going to the dry cleaner, waiting for the subway, ordering take out! No wonder people are gray and sallow, grumpy looking, agitated! Don’t get me wrong.  I am a New York City girl through and through, but I am getting to like the boonies.

 

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I understand why at this third chapter of life (Jane Fonda refers to it as “the third act”-see link for an incredible Ted Talk courtesy Jane, https://www.ted.com Jane Fonda:Life’s third act)   – who doesn’t look a day over 55!!) gives us the time to see things differently, simplistically. When you strip away, excess, material things, competition, greed, jealousy,  we can truly appreciate the every day, the each day.  I always felt strapped for time, no time to be alone with my thoughts, no time to read (thank God for commuting!), to pick a recipe for dinner, to reach out to a friend and have a juicy hour-long conversation.  Now I can and I am and it feels wonderful! Eva Gabor and  Eddie Albert, known as Lisa, the socialite wife and Oliver Wendell Douglas, the New York lawyer found Green Acres in 1965 to give them just that. Though Eva went kicking and screaming in her evening gowns and Bulgari jewelry, she grew to accept it.  If Eva did it, so can I!  Simplicity for simplicity’s sake is my new mantra.

 

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Today’s Takeaway…

.  Truly, stop and smell the roses.  Savor the simple things that life gives us every day.  Don’t take them for granted.  One day, you may not be able to hear those birds singing or see the colors of the morning sky.

Time is precious.  Don’t waste it. Plan your day and get out there.  In the words of Muriel, sage purveyor of wisdom, “You can sleep when you’re dead” (which is not to say that I’m not enjoying my going back to sleep in the morning and waking at 10! That’s the beauty of retirement!

Enjoy the ride

xox Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

What’s in YOUR bucket? A Word about Travel

Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”  

St Augustine observed, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

In 2013 Joy and I connected with an engaged, energetic travel group —  on a Bucket List Kenyan safari. The trip began in Nairobi where we visited a sanctuary for baby elephants followed by a giraffe observation deck where we rubbed noses with gentle giants.

 

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We slept in tents and grew accustomed to chastising monkeys overhead. We learned about the Maasai tribe and we giggled through daily Range Rover excursions finding unspeakable beauty.

 

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Joy and I even caught sight of the elusive African  bushbaby.  Or at least we think we did.

Being self-proclaimed street-smart girls, we are a bit embarrassed to tell you about this little side adventure….

We had casually mentioned to one of the resort workers, “Oh, how we’d love to see a bushbaby.  They are SOOOO cute!”  Little did we know that these creatures only come out at night.  And little did we know that this resort fellow would be shining his flashlight through our tent window at 1AM that very morning jarring us awake,   “Come, come.  We find bushbabies!”   

So, picture this — Joy (Manhattan born and raised) and I (with NYC and Chicago roots) in our PAJAMAS and our Nordstrom’s sandals – following this perfect stranger with a flashlight into the African bush.  At 1 AM!   To find a bushbaby – which for all we knew was as real as a unicorn.  And yes, we left our passports and cash in an unoccupied tent.  So much for street smarts. 

At the first rustle in a tree we yelled “YES, there’s a bushbaby alright!”  And we scurried in our designer sandals back to the tent – certain it would be ransacked.  Assuming, that is, we made it back to the tent!

 

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Five years after, we still can’t believe that we put ourselves in such a precarious situation.  But oh the laughs we’ve shared since!  

 

This was the trip of a lifetime.  A whole chapter from St Augustine’s book.  

 

And it begs the question.  What’s in your Bucket, travel-wise?  National Parks? Wine Country? Israel?  Paris? 

We Baby Boomers are known for our hip replacements and knee tweakings so we should probably make plans while we can.

Yes, there will be missed flights, luggage snafus, and scary turbulence.  But that’s what Xanax and Bloody Mary’s are for! 

 

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I doubled my Xanax dosage for this flight.  

Check out the clouds.  And propellers…….. really?   

 

 

So let’s start depositing our pennies in that travel savings account.  Because we don’t need more STUFF. 

What we DO need is mind broadening experiences, memories that cause you to giggle when no one’s around, and a renewed appreciation for this wonderful world.

And maybe a bushbaby sighting.

 

 

Today’s Takeaway –

  • Find a travel group that keeps trips affordable and life affirming. And does the legwork for you.
  • Take short getaways to visit relatives and friends.  But as my mom used to say, leave them wanting MORE of you — don’t overstay!

 

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

 

Goodbye little village of Ajijic

This week my husband and I left our Winter home in Mexico bound for the States.  After 3 months of perfect weather, (so dull and predictable!) back to where we will spend Spring, Summer, and Fall.

Last year I counted the days (literally x ing them off on the calendar and counting)  until we returned, fearing I had made a mistake in retiring early, not sure if this was the right place, wondering if my adaptation to a foreign country and culture were just not going to happen.  I had read that a transplant to another country starts off with this feeling of euphoria and excitement exploring all that is new to them only to be brought down to reality in year two.  Naturally, I would be different and found my first year to be okay, hearing my daughter’s voice in my head- “It’s so dusty and dirty, why would you want to live here?!”  At the end of this Winter, I found myself a bit sad, although happy to return to my furry children, my human children (not necessarily in the order I have outlined!), friends, and family members. I had grown attached to this dusty little village of 10,500 (2010 census) about 1,000 full time folks and 700 snowbirds, a term I have always hated, but have become one! What makes an everlasting experience in this new phase of   life are the relationships we make, the connections, the chemistry.  We met people that we would never have met in any other setting, from different coasts, different backgrounds, but the most important factor being we are all in similar stages of life.  There are some who still work, but have the flexibility to work from anywhere, but most are like me and have retired, seeking a different life style, out of the box thinkers.

Without the pressures of everyday life, a job, commuting, juggling family and career, you can focus on people, really listen, share experiences and begin anew in this third chapter. I found myself relaxed this year, not as reflective, but for the first time being in the present.  I saw this little village on Lake Chapala with fresh eyes, smiling as the sunshine beamed in every morning.  How can you be grumpy and depressed in a place that birds sing, hummingbirds hum and horses clip clop on  quaint cobblestone streets.  It is like a Hollywood movie set made to look like an old time Mexican village, except it’s for real!

I learned that material things don’t matter as much.  Whether I wear my Cartier Love bracelet or a piece of colorful string who cares!  The fancy cars are driven for the most part by Guadalajarans who come for the weekend and people don’t dress in fancy designer clothes, nor do they flash expensive jewelry. Puerto Vallarta or Cancun this is not.  It is understated and low key.  For a city girl who loved her labels (although I never paid full price!  What smart Jewish girl would?!) , I have come to terms with what is important to me now.  I did all that stuff, I fell into the upwardly mobile trappings of can you beat this.  I am comfortable in my own skin now and none of that is really important to me anymore.  I have nothing to prove. I made it in New York and, as the song goes, “If you can make it there…..”

So, as I am back home now, I know that I will return next Winter to my little village of Ajijic a wiser woman than I was two years ago.  I have made great friends who I care about, who I can be silly with and drink too many margaritas with, but who’s to remember in the morning!  My friends from childhood, college, early 20’s, 30s, are my life long friends, milestone friends, but the life I have ahead of me is as important and meaningful as the life behind me. Crocus are blooming, Winter seems to be going on vacation somewhere else, and the crispness of a new season is in the air. I feel very blessed.

Today’s Takeaway:

Everybody adapts at a different pace.  Give yourself time, cut yourself slack, and understand that if you’ve worked a lifetime (42 years to be exact!)  you don’t just step on the brakes and turn the car around.

Embrace the here and now.  Be present.  Living in the past is a killer and won’t get you anywhere new.  The road ahead is filled with wonderful surprises if you just begin walking.

Enjoy the ride

x0x Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

 

 

When Life Shrinks: A Preview

Last January I was sidelined with an annoyingly slow recuperation to a mundane procedure.

I had ample time to process the phrase my hip gynecologist had casually tossed in, “If you were my mother…I would advise… blah  blah  blah.”  I lost her at “mother”.  Here I thought we were contemporaries…potential bff’s.

 

Here’s a picture of my gynecologist.  What was I thinking?

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So I was under strict orders to be a couch potato. I cleared my calendar. Oh the books I would read; oh the writing I would produce, oh the plans I would make.

 

Day 1 was liberating.  Brett was at my beck and call – grocery shopping, cooking, emptying the dishwasher, vacuuming golden retriever stage brush.   

Day 2 however had me staring at the window, a la Jimmy Stewart, wondering what life was like “on the outside”.   No evidence of reading, writing, planning.

Day 3 found me stir crazy.  A control freak somewhere on the ADHD spectrum.  And still no reading, writing, planning.

 

So it begs the question — how on earth would I cope with the inevitable shrinking of life?  When beloved activities are hijacked by the aging process.

 

I hope I cope like Mary.  

Mary just celebrated her 105th birthday.  She’s the life of the 3rd floor at the nursing home I visit. Her white hair is always coiffed; she wears brightly colored scarves and gobs of jewelry.  And now helium balloons adorn her wheelchair flopping behind her as she heads to Bingo.

“What’s your secret?” I  ask.

Mary is dismissive of such a silly question.  “Oh, Barclay, I am just too busy!” She peruses the activity board to check out the day’s options.  

Mary is probably the most positive person I’ve ever encountered –  in the most dismal surroundings I’ve ever encountered.  She’s thriving.

 

 It turns out our attitude matters more than our circumstances. 

So, let’s model Mary. 

And while we’re at it, let’s yell a robust “Bingo!” and fling some scarves in the air — just for fun.

 

Today’s Takeaway –

 

  • There are ALWAYS blessings to count.  Stop reading right now and hold up your hand and name 5  – out loud and with gusto.

  • BE ready so you don’t have to GET ready.  (I stole that catchy phrase from a sermon.)  Work on your attitude NOW while you can still move.  And a word about Bingo – we have to admit – it has stood the test of time!

 

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

Sleep – Counting sheep just doesn’t cut it!

Who would have ever guessed I would have sleep issues! Me, the woman who could fall asleep standing up! On a West coast flight, my routine was to recline my chair and pull down the shade preparing for a 5 hour snooze from lift off to landing! Friends marveled at my sleeping ability and I was the envy of my insomniac friends!

Enter retirement and all of a sudden, I wasn’t guaranteed a restful night’s sleep anymore! My wandering mind, racing thoughts took me all over the place, but not to The Land of Nod,where I wanted to go.

 

My worries about money, not having enough, my children, my husband, had I made the right decision to leave the workplace, my health and the state of the world were keeping me up!

 

I had no trouble falling asleep. That was easy. It was that damn 4:30 am wake up call that once eyes opened started the cycle. Peeing is one thing, I expected that, but this was more than that. It was my inability to put myself back to sleep.

 

After a month of this insomnia, I decided to try the usual recommendations for this condition. I Googled insomnia and sleep disorders. I was shocked at the percentage of people who have this problem, about 40% of the population. Who knew? Tryptophan, as in what makes us sleepy after the big Thanksgiving meal did nothing for me. Maybe it helps turkeys sleep? Melatonin, which many of my globe trotting friends swear by, Nada a wink.

 

On to acupuncture. I had never tried it before so being pro holistic and natural, rather than asking for a prescription for Ambien, it was worth a shot! I signed up for 3 sessions to give it a try. While very relaxing and a totally enjoyable experience, it didn’t take me to where I wanted to go, that being a solid night’s sleep. I did start waking at 5:30 instead of 4:30 so there was progress. Rather than investing in more sessions, being prudent, I tried what has turned out to be my salvation.

 

My daughter was working at a spa that used these white noise machines, the kind that new moms use in baby’s nurseries. Could this simple concept of blocking out all distracting sound work for me? Worth the $28 investment from Amazon.

This lovely little sleepy time machine, Sleepytime tea before bed, and my horse blinder eye mask ( bought at T.J Maxx for $10) is as good as I have had it for the last 6 months. I still wake up during the night, but I can finally put myself back to sleep.

 

It’s been a real eye opening experience to have insomnia, but I’ve certainly learned 1) I’m in good company and 2) sheep just aren’t to be counted on.

 

Today’s Takeaway—

. Pay attention to clues from your body, be that physical or mental.  Now is not the time to ignore symptoms or think they might away. Health is a gift, as is a good night’s sleep.

. Be open to alternative medicine.  Anybody can get a prescription for Ambien and you can always keep it in reserve.  Try meditating, deep breathing, yoga, the CALM app for bedtime stories.

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

A Tale of Two “Retirees”

Actor John Lithgow was recently interviewed by Jeffrey Brown on the PBS Newshour.  Lithgow, age 72, does not seem to know the meaning of the word retirement. He’s currently rocking a one-man show on Broadway, “bringing the magic of the bedtime story.”  And his performance of Winston Churchill on Netflix’s The Crown, has been smothered in stellar reviews, earning Lithgow an Emmy.  Another one.

Lithgow‘s zeal for life seems to grow stronger as he ages.  “Growing older has its perks,” he says. “Turns out being an old actor is tremendous.  I think all my competition has fallen away. I’m very aware of how lucky I am to be this viable at this age. And I’m just grabbing for all the gusto I can get.  I have been selling canned goods, and now I’m canned goods myself.”

Oh that we could be canned goods!

The NY Times recently interviewed author, Philip Roth, who retired from writing in 2012 at age 80.  Roth decided that his best work was behind him and that whatever he subsequently produced would be inferior.

Roth now leads “the quiet life of an Upper West Side retiree”.  He visits friends, attends concerts, watches old movies, and reads voraciously.

Roth describes everyday-aging as follows,  

It is astonishing to find myself still here at the end of each day. Getting into bed at night I smile and think, “I lived another day.” And then it’s astonishing again to awaken eight hours later and to see that it is morning of the next day and that I continue to be here. “I survived another night,” which thought causes me to smile once more. I go to sleep smiling and I wake up smiling. I’m very pleased that I’m still alive. This produces the illusion that this thing is just never going to end, though of course I know that it can stop on a dime. It’s something like playing a game, day in and day out, a high-stakes game that for now, even against the odds, I just keep winning. We will see how long my luck holds out.

So unlike Lithgow, we won’t be nominated for an Emmy any time soon.

And unlike Roth, we never did get around to writing that great American novel.

But we can smile, even chuckle, upon waking each and every morning!

We GET to stay in the Game!

And what a Game it is!

Today’s Takeaway –

  • Ask questions.  Be curious.  Stay informed, but don’t be obnoxious in sharing opinions that no one wants to hear.
  • Enjoy the Game more by practicing a glass half full perspective. Just don’t be too perky. No one likes perkiness.

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

I Only Eat To Live

This is something my mother, Muriel (if you’ve been reading our blog) used to say.  REALLY! How could anyone feel that way.  I love food!  I adore eating! Food and drink are a divine part of life, not mere sustenance.

Muriel was eccentric, as I have mentioned previously.  She was all of 5 feet tall and probably 100 lbs.  She was stuck in a time warp (I say this lovingly) as she wore stockings with garters, a girdle, and went to bed with toilet paper around her head to preserve her once a week beauty parlor look. She was a creature of habit, the target advertisers live for!  I digress though, since this is my post about food.

She ate because she had to.  She hated cooking and only broke out of her mold to try new recipes because I bugged her. I tried to add some spice to her cooking by buying her a casserole cookbook for a present one year.  I thought maybe she would enjoy eating more if she experimented with new foods, ingredients.  This wasn’t the 1950’s anymore. I love a good meatloaf as much as the next person, but I had friends whose foreign born mothers made stuffed cabbage or meatballs, or noodle kugel!  Too ethnic for Muriel who prided herself on being a 4th generation American.

The cooking of a stew in winter or a quiche in the oven is sublime.  It evokes memories, it makes your salivary glands water, it enriches the soul.  (well, maybe that’s a bit too literary-who am I Tom Jones?!) It does satisfy, satiate, and with a glass of full bodied wine is there anything better (that you can talk about in a blog meant for the general public!)

My father, on the other hand loved food, relished it. His best meal was hot dogs (called “Specials” from Gitlitz – 79th and Broadway), one of the legendary upper west side delis of yesteryear, long gone.  He’d pick me up from Sunday School  and buy dogs, coleslaw, sauerkraut, and French fries. It was sublime!  Daddy closed his eyes when he ate and chewed slowly savoring every bite.  Muriel ate from the pot that she made dinner in while standing at the stove.  It was a matter of getting the meal out of the way, because as I said she ate to live! The faster she could get it down, the better. Then, she could start the clean up process and get the hell out of the kitchen!

Clearly, I come from a family of contrasts.  Potato chips, pretzels, peanuts, ribs, fried chicken, pot roast, a good juicy steak with blood on the plate, love it all.  “If music be the food of love, play on”  “There is no sincerer love than the love of food.” George Bernard Shaw. You get the picture.  Muriel was in the minority. Her passions might have been for designer clothes and theatre;  a sirloin steak just wasn’t top priority!

Today’s Takeaways…

. Live with passion, zeal in everything you do.  Retirement doesn’t mean you end that phase of life!  It’s just not on your company’s expense account anymore!

. Food and wine play a big part in life.  Savor every sip and morsel.

Enjoy the ride

xox Barclay and Joy