In A Split Second

I volunteer at a wonderful therapeutic riding center in upstate New York twice a week.  Therapeutic riding offers kids and adults who have cognitive, physical and emotional disabilities the opportunity to strengthen their muscles, follow instructions, and bond with a beautiful animal. Sadly, most of these programs are not covered by insurance, but that’s another discussion entirely.  (for when Barclay and I decide to become political and alienate some of our beloved readers!)

This week I was tasked with spotting a child who is severely disabled with the aid of another volunteer on a trail ride. Since daylight savings is around the corner and darkness will be descending upon us way too early, this was to be the last trail ride for the season.  (the class takes place late in the day)

The child sits in a chair much like a throne on top of the horse strapped in so she doesn’t fall, but able to use her hands for steering and holding the reins, as well as her leg muscles as much as she possibly can.  I had seen this rider enjoy her time in the arena looking happy and proud of her accomplishments.  (how wonderful is that for anyone, but particularly a child with a serious handicap)

To set the stage and allow you our reader to visualize what happened next, picture this.  There are about 6 kids of varying abilities on horses being spotted by volunteers in case their quick response time is needed or the horse needs a little reminding of what he or she is supposed to be doing. The child at the back of the line is a confident rider and decides to move up rather than being at the back of the line. That particular day there aren’t enough volunteers  so she is on her own, but she is a more experienced rider.  Horse A (I am using fictitious names to protect the innocent!) gets a wee bit too close to Horse B and is in his space.  Horse B (I’m the spotter for Horse B) bucks and the child falls to the ground while I am kneed by the hind quarter of a 300 lb animal who is pissed off!  I attempt to block the child’s fall to the ground, but due to my lack of upper body strength I can’t hold her back.  It happens so fast and in the blink of an eye a pleasant trail ride turns into an accident.  Thank God I am the only one injured (a black and blue and an egg sized lump on my upper thigh which looks like cellulite)  The rider is a bit shaken, but not a tear in sight.  I marvel at this trooper, who after a few minutes of catching her breath is ready to be positioned back in her chair and continue riding.  What was an uneventful afternoon trail ride has taught me to expect anything that comes your way, keep those reflexes sharp, and don’t invade a horse’s personal space.

Today’s Takeaway…

. Always be on your guard.  Expect the unexpected. Never underestimate what volunteering your time means to someone else.

I was beginning to think my time at the riding center was routine and that no one cared if I showed up or not.  Yesterday, made me see how one person can make a difference in someone else’s life.

Enjoy the ride

xox Barclay and Joy

 

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Ye Ole Comfort Zone

My daughter, Alex, needed to produce a favorite quote to be published in her company’s news periodical – alongside a photo and an interview.  She selected one by Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In.

“What would I do if I weren’t afraid?”

When I googled Sheryl Sandberg, I discovered a plethora of inspiring quotes that someone like me needs to heed.

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Here’s my favorite –

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If offered such a seat, let’s just say I’d be running the other direction!

I love my Comfort Zone.  And now that I’m retired, it’s all too easy to bask in it.  To be a lazy bum and then condemn myself for being so, then open the freezer and reach for a Ben and Jerry’s Coffee Chocolate carton to seal the deal.

You get the picture.   Ms. Sandberg is not exactly my doppelgänger.  (Never used that word before.  How’s that for risk taking?!)

As we age, we need to guard against social anxiety (my middle name), self-induced isolation, and lazy bum-ism.

We don’t have to board a rocket ship, but we do have to MOVE.

In fact, the word, MOVE, can be a Rules-for-Life acronym for us Baby Boomers who are leaning-in – just not as Ms. Sandberg advocates.

M =  Mindful (THIS is our one life; And Time, she’s a mover.)
O =  Own your age (As you thinketh, so you are-eth – a loose Proverbs translation – by moi)
V =  Volunteer (even just a smile or kind word; a note; an hour a week with the elderly, the homeless, the “least of these”)
E =  Exercise (remember Peggy in her high heels?)

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We of an introverted nature may need a kick in the butt.  Reuters News published this 2017 piece that could be our butt kick.  Check it out if you have a minute.

Exercise linked to lower risk of premature death in older women

So goodbye, Comfort Zone, I’m heading out to play paddle tennis.  Then Codie wants to go to the nursing home.  And then I may meet a friend for a beer while Codie contemplates her canine life (food) alongside.

No need for a trip in a rocketship however.  Sorry, Sheryl!

Today’s Takeaway –

– MOVE – Be mindful of your days; own your age; volunteer; and exercise.

-Take that seat in the rocketship if that’s your thing.  I’ll drink my beer and applaud you from a safe distance!

Enjoy the Ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

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Making a Difference

In 2002 Jack Nicholson starred in a movie called About Schmidt.

Nicholson played Warren Schmidt, a grumpy curmudgeon retiring from his actuarial career  – facing the fact he’s no longer needed. His wife annoys him, his daughter’s about to marry a “nincompoop”; their new Winnebago bodes travel plans that he dreads.

Then his wife drops dead and he’s alone. Sounds uplifting, right?  Bet you can’t wait to find this on Netflix.

So let’s zoom to the redemption part.

Schmidt responds to an ad and sponsors a boy from an African village.  He starts writing letters to this boy – chronicling his Winnebago misadventures traveling cross-country to his daughter’s wedding.

At the very end, having endured perky campers and wedding weirdness, Schmidt reflects, has his life made a difference?

Now for the good part.  Finally.

Once at home he discovers an envelope  from Tanzania. A nun from an African orphanage tells him that his sponsored child, Ndugu, is only 6 and can’t read or write.  But Ndugu has enjoyed Schmidt’s letters and thinks of him everyday. Ndugu wishes for Schmidt’s health and happiness. He has made a picture for Schmidt which he hopes he likes.

 Schmidt starts crying as he realizes he HAS made a difference in his life.  Click redemption. to see Nicholson at his best. 

Enough about Schmidt.  Now About Us.  

We do NOT want to be remotely curmudgeonly.  And we DON’T want to wait for our final years to be reflecting, have we made a difference?

Each day we can make a difference in small ways.  Anonymous giving is the best!

Last summer Brett and I were sipping wine at a Wisconsin bar.  The bartender told us he was saving money to visit his young son.  After we signed the bill and the bartender had turned his back, Brett snuck a $100 bill under the napkin.  We scurried out. Unfortunately, the bartender, being young, sprinted after us to shake Brett’s hand. At least we tried to be anonymous!

My friend Donna once dropped off a delightful book at my front door and was mute about it for a full year.  She giggled when I finally figured out that she was the gift-giver.

And what’s retirement for, if not more giggling?

 

Today’s Takeaway –

 

  • Small things are big things.  Pay someone a sincere compliment – one  that the person can live on for the next month. 

 

  • Let’s do our best NOT to over-share about those arthritis aches or upcoming bunion surgeries.  Even Schmidt would lose interest!

 

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

Retirement – It ain’t all it’s cracked up to be!

Maria is a veteran teacher who turned down the retirement incentive package offered last spring – something I (Barclay) and 25 eligible others jumped at.   

This was perplexing.  Maria had tons of retired friends who kept busy lunching, volunteering, reading book club selections with time to spare.   

And it wasn’t as if she was passionate about the daily grind of work. So why did she leave money on the table?

Her response?   How many times can you clean the house?

She anticipated isolation.  Watching too much CNN or MSNBC.  Waiting for an invitation to visit her grandkids.

Did Maria have a point?  5 months into retirement, I get it.

On the one hand, I have been liberated from team meetings (no more role playing!), evaluations, testing.  I’ve said good-bye to jarring alarm clocks, anxious rush hours, Monday angst, and Sunday blues.  

But oh how I miss the kids.  The magic of a first grader sounding out a word, a second grader reading a sentence with expression.  Even conferencing with parents.

Where’s my purpose now?  To Maria’s point, it’s not vacuuming the dog hair that rolls like stage brush through our living room.   And lunches, though wonderful, simply don’t cut it.

 

Today’s Takaway –

  •  Find your sweet spot of service.  
  • Who are your new “people”?  From toothless babies to toothless dementia patients – someone needs us.  Right? 

 

I think I’ve found my people.  Some mumble incoherently and some lick their paws. Every Friday I take my crazy Codie to visit a nursing home. She has made friends with Sylvia shaking with Parkinson’s, Father Edward battling throat cancer, Doris who tells the same story each visit, and Anna who gushes Polish love.  

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Maybe the word, retirement, is a misnomer.  Look at Jimmy Carter and Rosalyn’s second chapter of life-  putting Habitat for Humanity on the map.  Recently President Carter was chomping at the bit to get his hammer back after undergoing treatment for an annoying brain cancer.  

90 something.  In their sweet spot of service.

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Maria was right about one thing.  Vacuuming is overrated!

 

SO… WHAT’S YOUR SWEET SPOT?

unnamed     Codie chilling.

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox, Barclay and Joy