Writing Is A Process Like Aging

If you want to be listened to, you should put in time listening. When I was in my twenties I belonged to a writers group. We would meet every other Wednesday and share our short stories, plays, mysteries and memoirs. Needless to say we did a lot of talking and listening. As with any group of women, our conversations ranged from what our children were doing to what was going on in the White House.

Every word spoken was important to us. One day, the conversation centered on their litany of complaints over getting older. One woman described her hot flashes in great detail and told us how in the middle of night she got out of bed and took a cold shower to calm her night sweats.

 I was a new mother and all I could think about was how many dirty diapers I had changed and was suffering from all those sleepless nights. Needless to say, I remained silent, while sipping a cup of tea as the rest of the women shared their complaints about aging. I started to wonder if I was in a writers group or having lunch with my mother and her girlfriends.

Finally the group returned to the business at hand which was to decide if we should start to critique each others writings. A few of us decided that it would be helpful to have someone critique our latest writings. After that there were frequent red marks all over our pages. To make the process easier to take, we started each critique with what was good about the piece. Then with the writer basking in the glow of hearing how skillful her writing was, the not so positive stuff could be discussed. Many of the women went on to become succesful published authors.

 The good stuff doesn’t just apply to critiquing writers it also applies to aging. Now many years later most of my friends are helping take care of their parents. They are dealing with problems about aging, fading memories, fatal illnesses, scams to cheat the trusting. At times they become overwhelmed. 

It’s time to start thinking about what we gain from getting older, not what we lose. When we start to appreciate all the good stuff that we have and can do, we become happier people. Like a new sense of time. Like times when we were perusing an education or a career or raising our kids, we always looked ahead to each new stage.

 It may have been when our babies would crawl, talk, walk, feed themselves, get out of diapers, get into school. Maybe it was when you finished collage and received your collage degree or when you were in pursuit of fulfilling your career goals.

 All of those situations require looking ahead to the good stuff. Getting older doesn’t have to mean that you can’t look forward to having good stuff in your life. It means you have to think out of the box and move out of a few comfort zones. You can do it!

Now we know how fast the chipmunk-cheeked face of the nursing baby sharpens into the schoolgirls’ studious look. Don’t we? And we realize that, with each change, how special our time is and how fast it all disappears, too. Writing, like life, is not a goal but a process. And, as in life, it is easy to give up.

 The excuses are legion. It’s too difficult to write; the storyline isn’t working; I don’t know where it’s taking me. But if we don’t trust the possibility that it will all work out, we’ll never get it written. And if those who read our work don’t look for possibilities, their doubts can discourage us from finishing it. So, we look for the possibilities of each idea, each piece of work.

Growing older in our society isn’t easy. The emphasis on staying young no matter what it takes or costs is strong. It’s sometimes hard to find the up side of getting old. But as mature women we have endless possibilities, from the sublime to the silly: never wearing panty hose again; wearing big, dangling rhinestone earings with jeans; eating dessert first or eating dessert only; going back to graduate school for the sheer joy of learning; taking up glass blowing or skydiving.

We can do what we want. It’s all possible. The process of writing is like aging they are both full of possibilities. The longer we live, the more we know about hurts and sadness in our own lives and in the world. But we know more too, with a recounting of what went right in our lives. As we have aged we have learned that each time we leave those we care about, we can leave them a positive word, a gift of good stuff, until we see them again. Life and writing are full of possibilities aren’t they?

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Do You Hear What I Hear?

Do You Hear What I Hear? has always been one of my favorite Christmas Carols. I love the soft, gentle notes as they draw out the words:” Do you hear what I hear?” I melt as the violins respond: “A song, a song high above the trees with a voice as big as the sea.” I love this Carol because it is about listening, hearing the sounds of night. The words challenge the heart to hear and know truth. The theme calls us to recognize that moment when truth manifests itself before us. My friend Jane and her husband Bob told me a story about listening. I’m so inspired by it that I want to share it with you. 

Jane was happy to share with me about the wisdom she gleaned from a man who mentored his children in a quiet time each day. His example stressed the importance of sitting quietly, listening to what he called the song of the heart. How many of us listen? How many of us teach our children and grandchildren to stop and listen?

A few years ago Jane and Bob initiated a rest time with their grandchildren. Each year, they go spend time in the summer with them. Following the hectic morning activities, they usually set aside a time in the afternoon to rest. They call it their quiet time, Bob told me that he wished he could have told me that they started having quite time for noble reasons, but he confessed it was out necessity. He started doing it when he found himself tired and needing to regain some strength, he did it for himself. Now it has become a tradition.

Jane and Bob’s story, includes a message for us to take to heart. During an extended visit, she decided to try a quiet time with her grandchildren. After she picked them up at school, she parked the car underneath an oak tree, rolled the window down, and told them, “Now we are going to so something really fun. We are going to have quiet time and listen.”

Expectantly their faces lighted up in anticipation. She explained the plan, and wouldn’t you know it, as soon as she stopped talking, a train went by. They listened. They clearly heard the whistle, the wheels as they clattered on the track, the sounds of the cars clanging together. The children were amazed and excited. When quiet time was over, they had much to talk about.

The next day they tried it again. This time they heard a bird signing and leaves rustling as the wind blew through the trees. About two days later, Jennifer, age four, awoke, Jennifer explained, “I miss my mommy.” Jane asked her what could be done.  “I need a quiet time for a few minutes,” Jennifer replied, “so I can miss her.”

Jane left the room. A few minutes later, Jennifer came down the hall. “I’m done,” she said. Something happened in those few minutes. In the way of a child, Jennifer listened to the song of her heart and was comforted. Perhaps she thought of her mom and her favorite memory. Maybe she cried and sucked her thumb or sang her favorite song. We don’t what transpired in those precious moments, but we like to think that she heard a still, small whisper from a loving God who said, “It is OK. I am here.”

Jane and I enjoy connecting a quiet time to a time of listening to the song of our hearts. We like the results that happen when we encourage our grandchildren to stop and listen, to regather and recenter when they have a need. We are looking forward to adopting and expanding on ways to spend quiet time with them in the future. Jane has four grandchildren and I have two and one on the way. That’s seven children that we can be quiet and listen with. Do you hear what I hear?

Call Her Sweetheart

Your loves name is more than a word. When you say his or her name aloud or in your head, it evokes everything, all your memories, all the time you’ve spent together, all the trips you’ve made, the children you’ve had, and the obstacles you’ve overcome. Some people only say their partner’s name when they’re angry, they want something, or they’re yelling or complaining.

The  name loses its valuable identity and becomes associated with negative feelings. So make sure you use your loves name with tenderness, caring and emotion as often as you can. Each time you say it that way, you’ll be filled with love. Dear… Honey…Snookums…Baby…Lover…Kid… Sweetheart… They show you care, especially when your love saves them just for you. But they’re not the same as saying someone’s name. Give what you say, meaning; speak and act with care when you call their name out.

Some parents call each other Mom and Dad, imitating their children. This may sound cute, but it removes your individuality and replaces it with a role. So it’s better to reserve those titles for your children’s use. Sweetheart it’s best to use an enduring name for each other.

Ready Set Grow

Every grandparent enjoys a unique position in their grandchildren‘s lives. You don’t have to strive to be special. You’re special by definition. You can come into your own as a grandparent, if you put your own distinctive stamp on your role by being inimitably who you are. If you do, you’ll find you have a devoted fan in your grandchildren. Start sharing an activity that you enjoy (gardening) or a hobby  (bird watching) or you may have a particular skill (perhaps drawing, knotting, needlework, or playing tennis), which you can share with your grandchildren. This can provide an opportunity for them to go with you into a world all of your own, one that only you can introduce them to.

The great thing is that you will have boundless enthusiasm for the activity. That’s infectious, and your enthusiasm will rub off on to your grandchildren.You will communicate that energy to your grandchildren so that it becomes a thrilling journey you take together, with you as benevolent teacher and your grandchildren as willing students.

If you enjoy activities together when your grandchildren are very young, they’ll grow up thinking of you as an exciting companion, someone special who shares special pleasures with them. Children are very sensitive to this act of joyful discovery and, as soon as they’re able, they start to bring little gifts of that same kind to you.

 You form your own virtuous circle, where you respect what each can teach the other, and it will probably last for life. In my experiences I’m constantly surprised and delighted by the way my grandchildren push my interests further than I could have taken them on my own. Right now it’s The Cat In The Hat… Go Go Go on an adventure with my grandson’s Jeremy and Jesse!

And of course you open up your grandchildren’s world in a way that’s special to you. It can be anything, from finding out about insects to stamp collecting or jewelry making. The possibilities are endless. Aren’t they?

Encourage your grandchildren in all sorts of different activities. It’ the doing it together that counts.Grandchildren enjoy putting a plant seed in a used yogurt container, or a small plastic tray is fine for planting seeds together. You can teach your grandchildren what plants need to grow.

They can help you water them and you can show them where the perfect place is for the seeds to get the right amount of sun, soil, and you can track the seeds’ growth at each visit. Choose seeds that grow quickly and dramatically, like purple flowering morning glory’s.

 Even better collect the seeds from seed heads in your garden and plant them. Then your grandchildren can get the idea of the circle of life in a very simple way. When the seeds turn into flowers you can let the flowers dry out and use a flower press and turn them into a dry flower collage for the whole family to admire.

 Grandchildren also enjoy looking at things under a microscope. Dead insects and spiders that they find are a particular favorite. But so are plants.The underside of the leaf of a fern with all the rows of seeds is very exciting when seen in up close. Even newsprint looks thrilling through a microscope. The things grandparents do out of love! There is no one else except my grandson’s that could get me to look at dead insects much less spiders under a microscope. Oh! That’s just gross isn’t it?

It’s Time To Celebrate Out Of The Box

What is more appropriate than birth for our beginning? A new child in the world offers a rich opportunity to honor the baby, the parents, the space where they will live, the already-existing siblings, the grandparents and extended family and friends.

 The actual birth process itself as well as preparation for it already creates special moments. As we grow to understand our role in adding more meaning  to our lives, this birth time is opportunity knocking with a loud beat. I can’t tell you how many unusual ways my girl friends and I created something out of the ordinary into a unordinary way to celebrate an impending childbirth celebration. We wanted to do something for each other, but not necessarily a traditional shower.

The gals and I grew up together, we married within weeks of each other and our  babies were born with in weeks of each other. As time went by they had two or three children with in weeks of each other. Then there was me the odd duck out I didn’t have my second baby until seven years later. Hey! It’s better late than never. Right!

This story is a bit unusual, as it talks about preparing the place where the baby will live. The gals and I designed the event, and this is what we did for our friends Linda and Dave. 

My friends Dave and Linda’s first baby was due near the holidays. I wanted to do something for them, but not necessarily a traditional shower. The birth time was getting close and we needed to move into action if anything was going to be done. I called Linda, saying that I wanted to offer to plan something for her and Dave. I asked her what would she like? Very quickly she said, she was dreaming of a time with close friends to prepare the living space for the baby.

She went on to explain to me that she didn’t mean a physical sense of painting and remodeling, but of welcoming the child into the world even before she arrived. I was thrilled with this idea and excited to be part of making it happen.

Linda and I started putting it together. Linda was very clear about who she and Dave wanted to attend–those folks who would understand and support the idea of a pre-birth housewarming. I called the guest on the phone, as it was short notice. This was before email and texting. It was in the 1970’s. The parents wanted the gathering place to take place in the location where the baby would be living.

The intention was to prepare a community nest for the baby. The nest would be made of stories, poetry, wisdom, favorite children’s books, lullabies and handmade items. The offering of the event would come from the heart of each guest. We trusted that each person knew what this new being needed to smooth the transition into the world, help her be comfortable and accepted before her actual arrival.

When the evening arrived, we gathered men and women in a circle n the living room of the home where the child would be living. A candle was lit in honor of the baby. We passed around a rattle to use as a talking piece.

A friend acted as host/facilitator. The offerings included prayers, live music presentations, the start of the child’s own library, special Christmas ornaments, wisdom for parenting, and stories from childhood. Best of all there was the overwhelming sense of how wanted and special this child was, even before she entered the world. Blessings  on this living home and caring parents were offered. Afterwards we ate, laughed and celebrated new life.

The actual birth came a few days later and turned out to be a little difficult for Linda, one of the things that helped her stay focused was remembering the support of those who had assisted in preparing the home for her child.

Because Linda had a clear vision, I was able to help make it happen. In this situation, I was less the creator and more an enabler. I didn’t need to agonized on what to do, as Linda knew what she wanted and I could act as the helper.

Linda designed her own evening. This celebration honored the parents and welcomed their first child into our lives. The circle of friends were ready to receive Linda and Dave’s new baby. As a thank you gift Linda and Dave gave each of us a photo frame with our names engraved randomly around the frame with a picture of their beautiful new baby girl. 

Celebrating beginnings helps us connect with family and friends in wonderful new ways. Even small beginnings, transitions can be explored and filled with wonder. The idea is not to have a “celebration in a box” solution, but spur your creative imagination. You’ll find inspiration to design an event unique to you will give meaning and love to all that participate. Celebrating out of the box is a way to connect with heart and meaning.

Fight The Good Fight

No relationship is without conflict and differences of opinions, preference, and even direction and a relationship is only as good as the conflict it can contain.

 This means that a relationship has vitality only to the degree that it can endure the stresses of each difference and resolve them through healthy conflict, so that the relationship and the individuals in it can move toward greater authenticity.

Then notion of the totally tranquil, we-never-fight relationship as the paragon of love is a dangerous fallacy. All too often the persons in such a situation are scared to death of testing the resilience of their relationship by airing their real differences, or have so suppressed their individual selves that their differences seem invisible.

Many couples are scared of conflict because they don’t know how to fight. They are afraid their own anger will run away with them, that they’ll lose control and become vicious, vituperative, or even physically destructive. They maybe afraid of the other person’s anger. They wonder will he or she yell, throw things, slam the door, or maybe walk out?

These behaviors can sometimes occur and can even be a real danger, especially for people who have been abused with anger themselves. But even they can learn to express anger in a constructive way.The sign of a good fight is that it makes you both feel you have discovered something, that you know one another better.

Even if you fight again and again about the same issues (and most people do), a good fight gives you hope about the future because you have gained a measure of insight about something that previously baffled or frustrated you. Here’s some help:

1. Try to see what you’re upset about. This is usually something very specific:”That he or she didn’t call you” not “Because life is miserable.”

2. State your feelings and why you feel that way: “I’m upset that you didn’t call because it makes me feel unloved.”

3. Say what you need in recompense: ” I need you to apologize.”

4. After your mate has given the apology, ask yourself and him or her if you feel totally resolved.

5. Kiss and make up.

For example: “I’m upset with you for yelling at me about burning the tea kettle. You embarrassed me in front of Jane. It made me feel belittled to have to have her hear you talk to me like that. I need you to apologize.” I’m sorry, honey. I was in such a rush this morning and was anxious about that big meeting. I was out of line. I don’t want to make you feel that way. Please forgive me.”  

 

This kind of fight could win the  “Academy Awards for the Most Civilized Fight”. There are many people who agree to disagree about an offense and make it a point to resolve it in a timely manner.

They never go to bed upset with each other. Yes! They do deserve an award for being the kind of people that we all should aspire to be like. Don’t they?

You can learn to be gracious when someone offends you. To start with try to remember.

1. A good fight isn’t a free for all. Don’t say everything you feel like saying even though you may have a legitimate gripe. Remember that words can wound, and after the fight you don’t want a battered mate.

2. Be specific with your complaints. Don’t throw in all your grievances since time began.

3. Let the other person’s words sink in before you take up your cudgel. Remember, you’re having this fight to learn something, to arrive at some new insight as well as an immediate resolution.

4. Go easy on yourself and your honey when you don’t do it perfectly.

Grandpa’s Fishing Buddies

The perfect gift is not always a material one. Our grandchildren do not need nor do they want what we can buy them; they need and want us. The best gift you can give them is you. Your faith, wisdom, stories, morals, life lessons, and philosophy,not to mention your time and presence.

I am most impressed with the many grandmothers whom I know who do special things and make special gifts for their grandchildren. Made by their own hands, these gifts of love are attached to forever memories.

My friend Jane hand-made matching outfits with matching hats for her grandchildren and their grandpa to wear when they went fishing together. They out grew the out fits years ago but when they go fishing with their grandpa they make sure that they all wear the hats that went to their matching out fits. They enjoy talking about the all the times they went fishing with their grandpa and are in awe of their grandmothers sewing skills.

Their fishing hats have become a physical reminder of the love and care she feels for them. Recently for their grandpa’s birthday they made a scrapbook for each family member. They included their memories and lots of photos of them fishing with him. Each photo told a story. What a treasure for them to have! They surprised their grandparents with a throw pillow made of the same print that their childhood fishing out fits were made of. Their grandparents were just thrilled in fact they seemed more impressed with the throw pillow that the scrapbook.

Many invisible gifts were given to Jane’s grandchildren while they were fishing with their grandpa. He introduced them nature, lakes, ponds, the ocean, sea creatures. He shared with them stories about fishing with his father and brother and all the antics that took place between them as he was growing up. He was able to enjoy sharing his past with his grandchildren and they got to learn things about him that if they hadn’t spent the time fishing with him they might not of ever learned about him. Those moments were the invisible gifts from one generation to the next.

Grandparents are in the perfect position to give gifts that unlock life. These gifts may be invisible to others, but they are always visible to their grandchildren. What a perfect opportunity to breathe life upon a grandchild. The invisible gift. I’ll take it. Wrap up lots of them for me and make that to go! The joy will be priceless.