Don’t Climb that Ladder! Living out the Cycle of Life and Love

I’ll love you forever. 

I’ll like you for always. 

As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.

This is the  lullaby of a mother to her son in Robert Munsch’s beloved picture book, Love you Forever.

This mother crawls across the floor of her son’s  bedroom, and if he is fast asleep, she cradles him on her lap while reciting the lullaby.  She does this when he is a baby, a toddler, a 9-year old, a teenager, and ultimately an adult.  Yes, an adult.

Finally the mother is too old and sick to come to her son, so he visits her.  And as he cradles and rocks his mother, he repeats the familiar words, “I’ll love you forever. I’ll like you for always.  As long as I’m living, my mommy you’ll be.”

After his mother dies, the son goes into the room of his own baby daughter, picks her up from her crib, cradles her, and recites the lullaby.  And so the cycle continues.

Now, it is pure sacrilege to utter a word of criticism regarding this beloved classic. Maria Shriver has praised the book, saying she could not read it through without crying.  It was even featured in an episode of  “Friends”  when Joey gives a dramatic reading at Emma’s 1-year birthday, leaving everyone overcome with tears.

But as for me, my tears dry up at the scene where the mom goes to her adult son’s house.

She brings a ladder and climbs through his bedroom window!

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Publishers Weekly said about this part of the story, “Either it moves you to tears and you love it, or it makes your skin crawl and you detest it.”   Another critic said, “It’s either a touching account of a mother’s unending love or the ultimate helicopter parenting gone bad.”

I find this scene downright creepy.  But maybe that is because, if I’m truly honest, my heart’s desire is to do the very same thing.  I am jealous of those mother-daughter relationships where they talk or text each other multiple times a day.

But I also know that healthy detachment allows grown children to find their own path and parents to find their own lives while remaining cheerleaders, pray-ers, safety nets, listening ears.

So we should probably resist the urge to climb into our kid’s bedroom window in the dead of night.  Much as we want to.

That said, I am going in the garage right now to make sure the ladder is in working order and will fit in the back of our SUV.

Joy here: 

Where was I in 1986 when this children’s picture book was published?? I don’t remember it at all.  In fact, I never heard of it.  I was a bit busy at the time, having made the decision to move back to New York City and finding out I was pregnant with our 1st child.  Nevertheless, a book that so many people know and love (some hate) and that won The Parent’s Choice Gold Award, as well as selling 30 million copies worldwide, is hard to miss!

I listened to it being read on a You Tube video this morning. While sweet, endearing, and touching, it’s a bit of an over the top obsessive mother child story (in my opinion). Cradling your teenage child at 17?!!  Child services might be called in today!!!

I could picture SNL doing a skit on this and having a blast doing so, but I also smiled to myself.  It dovetailed so well with my thoughts on letting go and over texting my adult children.  What’s the right amount of space?  Will they reach out if they really need me or should I be happy that they are trying to work out their own issues?

I wonder how tall a ladder I would need to reach my daughter’s 2nd floor apt?  Kidding!!

Today’s Takeaway…

-A bond between a mother and child is powerful, and for most of us, lasts until our last breath of life.

-Know when to pull back and when to dive in.  It takes practice!  Maybe, by the time your children have children of their own, you’ll get it right!!

As always, enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay & Joy

 

 

Dear Younger Me…

 

Barclay here…

 

Dear Younger Me,

I’ve been meaning to share a few thoughts with you.

#1 – Worry less; Pray more

All that time spent worrying did not change a thing except to make you live inside your head and not in the world.  When Jesus sighed, “Oh you of little faith,” I think he was referring to YOU.  Yes you.  So, have faith in your God and stop being a worry wort.  It will cause you wrinkles and we DON’t want that!

#2  – Vulnerability is OK

Someone with a cool name will become very famous speaking and writing about vulnerability.  (Unfortunately, this woman will not be you.)  But take her message to heart.  Remove your mask and share your struggles (appropriately of course….a job interview for example may not be the right setting.)  Be vulnerable and seek community.

#3 – Avoid Mom-Guilt 

You may feel guilty for being a working mom, a stay at home mom, a mom who just prays that she doesn’t mess up her kids.  Seek the path that’s right for you; stop comparing yourself to those oh-so-perfect moms.  They don’t exist.  Do your best and spend time on your knees in prayer.  (And accept the fact that you will do stuff that does indeed mess up your kids.)

#4 – Be braver

Take risks.  Someone named Joy will want to blog with you.  Someone named Gina will ask you to jump out of a plane.  Someone named Brett will take you on a glorious marriage adventure.  And those kids whom you will undoubtedly mess up — will both bless and break your heart.  They will seek their own adventures, apart from you.  Don’t let them see your tears…be happy for them.

#5 – Drink more water

You really should turn your wine into water.  Drinking water is good for you and your skin will thank you.  Coffee and wine do not hydration make.

#6 – Slow down; Meditate; Look for blessings 

Breathe deeply; Look for beauty; Make time for pausing and reflecting.

#7 – Make the first things, first things

Find opportunities for volunteering.  Give of your time and money and don’t tell anyone.  God sees it all.  And His opinion is the only one that counts in the end.  By the way, this will be the LAST thing you want to do.  You will have to force yourself.  But trust me,  you will be refreshed more that you will refresh others, which probably is very little!

#8 – Forgive quickly

Don’t hold onto resentment from your childhood.  Keep short accounts with God.  Know that YOU are in need of forgiveness!  And I mean, daily.

#9 – Cherish friendships

Listen more.  Laugh a ton.   Oh, and of course, get a doggie!!

#10 – Wear sunscreen

You knew I was going to say this!!  That tan isn’t worth it.  You will be a regular at the dermatologist if you don’t wear sunscreen.  And those tanning booths of the 1980s were a BAD idea!  Your mother was right.  Of course.

 

More to come, YM.  You are not off the hook!

 

 

 

Joy here…

Dear Younger Me:

I could totally echo my fellow blogger and dear friend Barclay on the worrying.  If I could tell my younger self anything, it would be to stop the incessant worrying! STOP IT!!!!!!!!!

Listen up, YM,

It’s a complete and utter waste of time.  It never got you anywhere.  It didn’t make you feel better and it probably added a wrinkle and grey hair for each year you did it!!!

Listen up, YM,

Stop futurizing.  Another one of my very bad habits.  I once visited a house that friends of ours had bought in the early 80’s.  At the time, my husband and I were living in Chicago (where I would meet my dear dear friend Barclay).  I loved the Chicago suburbs and visualized a life there, in Winnetka or Highland Park or maybe Wilmette. White picket fence, Volvo station wagon, dog, 2 children…  I couldn’t get it out of my head and I drove my poor husband crazy talking about it incessantly!  Appreciate what you have in the here and now.  If it is meant to happen, it will, in time!  PATIENCE!!!!!

Listen up, YM,

Love your parents with all their faults and annoying habits!  You too will be a retiree one day (who knew?!!) and drive your children crazy with your habits! I loved mine with all my heart and being, but I truly thought they’d be around forever.  My mother, Muriel, passed away at 71 years old of diabetic complications. I never expected it and I was devastated.  She was my best friend and I would miss her so.

Listen up, YM,

SAVE, SAVE, SAVE.  I was a good saver, but when I started making money, real money, I went a bit crazy.  I bought my husband a gold Rolex watch and myself a fur coat.  I loved material things, which there is nothing wrong with, but, at the end of the day, a few more shekels in the bank wouldn’t have hurt!  Possessions do not make you happy.  They are just things.

Listen up, YM,

Echo on the breathing and drinking water.  Hydrate, take a few moments every day to think, get in touch with your inner soul  I was always rushing around. I stopped exercising for about 10 years after I had children.  I couldn’t find the time.  REALLY?!!  C’mon YM, not a very good excuse!  Make the time for you, no matter what!  Every day.

Listen up, YM, 

Don’t go to bed without washing your face and brushing your teeth!  Keep good hygiene habits and they will pay off later in life. I have great skin, primarily good genes, but I tried to do this religiously and it has, indeed, paid off.  Good job YM!

EAT BROWNIES!  They’re delicious!  No rationale needed here!

Today’s Takeaway… 

If only we could write letters to our  younger selves.  It’s not too late because at this age we are younger than we will be next year and the year after and the year after that. Think about what you want to tell yourself today.

You are the recorder of your life, the director, the producer, the author, your harshest critic.  It’s never too late to write those letters, but remember to read them.  They don’t do you any good if they are sitting on your hard drive!

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay & Joy

 

The Last Laps: Living up to your Legacy

A well known Chicago businessman just passed away.  He was notable enough to be mentioned on the PBS show, Chicago Tonight.  Harrison Steans had been the longtime chairman of LaSalle National Bank, but his obituary and on-air news segment said that Mr. Steans had also been known for giving back.  He was on numerous boards and had the reputation of being an influential philanthropist.  He left a positive mark on his world.

I have no connection with the Steans family (other than the fact that my very first job was being the secretary to a secretary at LaSalle Bank – earning a whopping $12,000 a year.  My father told me and I quote, “If you become a secretary, you can marry the boss.”  He had high ambitions for his daughter,)  What stands out to me, however, in this death notice is the emphasis on giving-back, over and above the business acumen of Mr. Steans.  I imagine that his family may be prouder of this fact than any other.

 

What will our obituary read?

What do we want to be remembered for?

What is our legacy?

 

It sounds a tad morbid.  But thinking about such things may propel us to use our time more wisely.  Calling that friend, that daughter, that mother in law –  in lieu of catching up with Colton’s exploits on this season of the Bachelor.  Tutoring that student, visiting that nursing home, working that soup kitchen, writing that note of encouragement, smiling at that husband.

Marelisa Fabrega is a blogger who says that writing your obituary can be a wake=up call.   She tells the story of Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite.  Mr. Nobel was reading the paper one morning and saw his own obituary, “The merchant of death has died.”   It went on to say that Nobel had caused more people to die faster than anyone else.

The paper’s mistake (it was actually Nobel’s brother who had passed) caused Alfred Nobel to rethink his legacy.  He became a humanitarian who went on to found the Nobel Peace Prize, for which he became famous.

 

Back to us.  We may be approaching our last laps, but hey, we’re still breathing!

So let’s write a dream-obituary and then take steps to live up to it.

May it be said of you and me,

_____________, beloved friend, beloved __________, was known for giving back.  

 

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-What can we do this very day to make someone else smile?

-What does giving-back look like for you?

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox

Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

 

 

Think About Dying While You’re Still Living!

It may sound funny or macabre or morose, but I mean it!  Being retired gives you a lot of time to think, to reflect, to ponder, wonder, question.  Do it while your mind is awake, alive, inquisitive. My cheerful topic was prompted by a text I received this weekend from a very close friend of mine regarding her dad.

Her dad at a very advanced age of 94 has decided he is ready to die.  There is no disease, per se, like cancer or Parkinson’s or the many other maladies that one might succumb to in these final years.  He is tired, frail, short of breath, not feeling the way he might have last year at 93.  We can fix so many things through treatments, organ replacements, medication, until we get to a certain point in life where the options don’t provide the same results.  It struck me, knowing this man for over 50 years, as a thoughtful, well analyzed decision.  This is not someone who feels sorry for himself or is depressed.  He has lived a long full life.  At 94, what more can you say?  If this is someone’s wish and they are of sound mind, then we as family members should honor it and respect what it took to get the person to that point.  It’s a tough one for sure and there will be many followers who will not agree with me.

He is one of the lucky ones, not suffering, not bed ridden, not in a memory care facility unable to remember his daughter’s face or name. With so many of my friend’s parents living into their 90’s, an age most never would have expected to see, it is something to give thought to.  We are all individuals and life is precious, every breath, every morning that we wake up, but why can’t we decide on our own destiny if we choose? Go out on your own terms according to your own plans.  We will all die of something someday, just a question of when.

I saw a post this morning that made me laugh:

Welcome to your 60’s!

 

If you don’t already have a mysterious ailment, one will be assigned to you shortly.

Today’s Takeaway…

Health is truly a gift.  Everyday you wake up without a body pain or ache, is wonderful! Treasure it.  Never ever think it’s trite to say- “When you have your health, you have everything”

Oh, and did you know you can buy a coffin on eBay?  I wonder if they’re new or used?!!!

Spend your children’s inheritance!  Hopefully, they’ll make their own money!

Enjoy the ride

xox Barclay & Joy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women Aging Well: The Intentionality of Happiness in Your 60s and 70s

Psychologist Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia, has written a new book called, Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as We Age. It is number 10 on the hardcover nonfiction list and climbing fast.

The NY Times Book Review writes,

“In her book, which has entered its fifth printing since it was published on Jan. 15, Pipher cites research… suggesting not only that people become happier as they age but that the happiest people are women aged 65-79.

Contrary to the cultural scripts that say women are old and useless and in the way — diminished versions of their former selves — in reality older women are the happiest demographic in the country,”

 

In a NY Times Opinion entitled, The Joy of Being a Woman in her 70’s, Pipher describes us older women–

“We are resilient and know how to thrive in the margins.”

I love that phrase, “thriving in the margins.”

Pipher, alongside Glenn Close and Nancy Pelosi, is jarring long-held stereotypes of aging American women slipping into lonely, unproductive obscurity.  Before the iconic Jane Fonda, all we had was Grandma Moses to emulate – the folk artist who famously began her painting career at the age of 78, staying current until her death at 101.

In 2019 we are fitter than our predecessors; we are living longer; and we are redefining retirement, if there is such a term these days.   Pipher says, “Many of us have learned that happiness is a skill and a choice” and as we enter our 60s and 70s we are perfecting our skill set.  According to Pipher, true happiness stems from things like self-knowledge and emotional intelligence.

So, barring illness or catastrophic events, it is up to us to choose these happiness-links, which were not esteemed by our Younger Selves distracted as they were by parenting perfection, job achievement, marriage fulfillment.  Although American society may still devalue mature women, Pipher says that we are increasingly happy and  vibrant.

 

But back to intentionality — the self-help literature on aging says it comes down to 3 E’s.

 

Exercise

Empathy

Engagement

 

Notice the word, Easy, did not make the cut.  It would be far easier to sleep instead of exercise, to pursue our own ends rather than the ends of others, to disengage rather than engage (in others, in activities, in learning).  Grandma Moses did have to pick up that paintbrush and prep a canvas. Jane Fonda did have to don her tube socks and leotards for her aerobic workouts.

 

So let’s strive to thrive.   Even in the Margin, which it turns out is the place to be – paved by Grandma Moses, and unabashedly inhabited by Pelosi, RBG, Close, and Fonda.

Pretty good company, I’d say!

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-No offense to Grandma Moses, but we should definitely not go out our front door au-naturel.  We of 2019 have make-up, hair coloring, and fashion at our disposal.  And as my friend, Cathy, says, “Let’s wear make-up for the good of the world.”

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Sorry, Grandma Moses, the hat may have been ill advised.

-Check out this post on RBG.  Whatever your politics, you have to agree she embodies vibrancy and resiliency.

 

Enjoy the Ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

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De-Friend your Scale and Boost your Metabolism

My scale and I go way back.  You might say we have a love-hate relationship.  In fact, my scale is a bit of a narcissist – demanding center stage in my mind where it wields more power than it should.

It’s fond of reminiscing about the previous day’s consumption.

Nuts, yeah they’re healthy, but probably not when you eat 5000 calories of cashews.  And speaking of calories, wine has more than you think. 

It’s time to de-friend this time guzzling device.  But first –  a word about our changing metabolism.

Yesterday a woman at my hair salon  lamented, “Once I turned 50, it seems I gain weight after just two bites of cake.” She’s right.  According to Women’s Health“Our metabolism takes a nosedive over the years.”

In our 20s, our metabolism peaks.  We burn the maximum amount of calories just by being alive.  In our 30s, muscle mass reduces and our metabolic rate drops. By the time we’re in our 50s and 60s, our hormones are depleted and we need to reduce our caloric intake substantially just to maintain our weight.

That scale gleefully reminds us Boomers that we are not in our 20s anymore. Or 30s. Or 40s. Or 50s.  Thank you so much.

But there’s a silver lining.

We don’t have to run a marathon or swim a mile, or even jump rope.  We can give our metabolism a kickstart by building muscle through strength training.

Women’s Health says, “Building Muscle is Non-Negotiable!   People who lift weights put on less belly fat as they age than cardio bunnies. Strength training gives your metabolism the biggest boost after your workout ends.  A woman who was sedentary in her twenties and thirties can actually have a higher metabolic rate in her forties if she exercises.”

OK, a personal trainer is expensive.  And so is a membership to a gym where we may not darken the door.

How about trying this 15-min workout?  All you need is a couple of 3-10 pound weights.

In addition to trying this workout,  I’m going to give my scale a talking-to.

Hey Scale,

You are not even in the Friend Zone.

You are free to date other people.

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Let’s skip the scale and be nicer to ourselves.

-Let’s dust off the dumbbells and try for 15 min a day while watching Good Morning, America.  Our bodies will thank us. Plus, we get to drink more wine!

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

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The Skin We’re In- Part One

“Crepe.”

I had never heard this word before.

Was it pronounced the French pancake way?  Or was it pronounced “creepy”?  Probably the latter considering the disturbing images of elephant-like skin – alongside an ad for a miracle cream to eradicate this Baby Boomer plague.  (Which of course I bought. Which of course didn’t work.)

Isn’t it enough that our underarms boast a certain jiggle which answers to many names — Hi Jane’s, Bat Wings, Bingo Wings, Lunch Lady Arms??

And isn’t it enough that our mothers were right when they yelled, “Get out of the sun!  Wear a hat!  You’ll get wrinkles!” ??  We Baby Boomers are embarrassed to admit that not only did we lay in the sun for hours, we also held up reflectors (cardboard wrapped in tin foil) to accelorate the process.

Did you also know that as you age the contour of your smile can actually turn downward?  Meaning, we look grumpy when we’re not.  It could be a result of our aging teeth not granting support to our sad mouths.  As they turn yellow.

And who knew that as you age your hair will stop growing where you want it to and boldly go to places it’s never been before??

So lest we get too depressed, let’s focus on some things we CAN do.  For now, we will address the infamous Hi-Janes.  Future posts will tackle other Baby Boomer maladies.

My friend Lisa is fond of saying, “The best exercise is the one you actually DO.”

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Here is a 28 day challenge for arm toning that is worth doing.  Yes, It looks daunting.  (When they say 70 push-ups, it’s obviously a typo.)

We will have to channel my disciplined mother, Peggy, who said you MUST keep moving.

And I never saw Peggy’s arms flapping.

Only her tongue — as I held my reflector high.

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Today’s Takeaway –

-Be grateful for make-up.  Just think of men who have to face the world each and every day sans concealer or foundation.

-Love the skin you’re in!   And practice Self-Care.  You ARE beautiful!  Just wear a hat when you’re in the sun.

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy