“The Christmas Story Telling Traveling Man”

couples_dancingHe met her up in Delaware in 1937 she was wearing red lipstick to match her pretty dress. It was December 24th at a quarter till eleven when he finally gained the courage to ask her to dance. It was the night before Christmas, it was love at first sight and the Carolers sang as they danced through the night. She was a small town girl, he was a traveling guy. He never caught her name before they said their goodbyes.

A couple of years later he was on the road having Christmas dinner in a dinner alone. When he, saw a young waitress with a gleam in her eye her favorite day of the year, she showed her spirits were high. She said, can you share a little holiday cheer? A simply Christmas story was all she wanted to hear.

 He looked prepared with a smile as he started to say, here’s my favorite Christmas story it’s about a girl with no name.He said, I met her in Delaware in 1937. She was wearing red lipstick to match her pretty dress  December 24th at a quarter to eleven when I finally gained the courage to ask her to dance. Every Holiday Season as he traveled telling about his Christmas dance partner the he never knew well he’d share his favorite story with the locals he met. He was called the Christmas story telling traveling man. 

By the age 53 he had done settled down. All the neighborhood kids liked to gather around just to listen to his stories about his life on the road. All he had known were these children he told. And every Christmas Eve they showed up before dark he’d tell them all the story but they knew it by heart. They could quote it word for word, he always told it the same. It was his favorite Christmas Story called the girl with no name.

He said, I met her up in Delaware in 1937 she was wearing red lipstick to match her pretty dress.It was December 24th at a quarter till eleven is when I finally gained the courage to ask her to dance.Twenty years later as he took his last breath it was a cold Christmas morning on a hospital bed. The Children were grown, he had nobody left except the little old nurse who was holding his hand.

He said, Ma’am can you share a little holiday cheer? A simple Christmas Story was all he wanted to hear. But his eyes filled with tears at the words that she spoke because his favorite Christmas story was the one that she told.She said, I met him up in Delaware. It was 1937 on December 24th at a quarter to eleven. He was a traveling man. I’m so glad he got the courage to ask me to dance. 

Tips For Guiltless Grandparenting

Guiltless grandparenting starts with self-acceptance that most grandparents are trying to instill in their grandchildren.

So if you really want them to value themselves, you have to show them how by valuing yourself.

Here are ten grandparenting tips

1.  Break the guilt habit and stop should-ing yourself. Replace thoughts of “this is who I should be” with thoughts of “this is who I am.” Take the grandparenting journey with less stress and more fun. You don’t expect your grandchildren to be perfect. Why should you have to be?

2.  Practice saying ” No” sometimes. Grandkids actually appreciate the extra TV time, special snacks, and new toys when grandparents are not so predictable and dole out a little less often. And grandparents see that they are still loved when they are not a push over. Plus it causes less conflict between parents and grandparents that is a plus.

3. Don’t try to keep the grandkids entertained every minute.  Downtime is an opportunity for imagination so  don’t feel guilty if you take them with you to run errands or just leave them alone for a while to read and relax.

4. Play with the grandkids, don’t just supervise. Grandkids will remember all the laundry you did for them while they sat in front of the TV but they’ll never forget the time you went down the slide with them and neither will you.

5. Expect the best from life. Remember anticipatory anxiety does not help grandparents to be prepared for the big and small problems that come with grandparenting. It can add stress even before anything negative happens. Remember to say, positive prophecies instead of negative ones because the words we speak are self-fulfilling!

6. Stop over scheduling your time. Grandparents tend to forget to budget their time and energy and they can wear themselves out. If an emergency or another essential task arises it’s okay to cross something off your-to-do list before you add the new item.

7.  Don’t wait for permission to take care of yourself. Grandparents don’t have to make themselves so exhausted with al their chores and responsibilities that your children have to beg you to rest. That sets a bad example. Show them that you value yourself  and your time putting your feet up or taking time off to read a book. And if you can’t give yourself permission, then your kids do!

8. Treat your family the way you would treat your friends. Grandparents know who their friends are and they know what they are like. They don’t expect them to change overnight and they don’t take everything they say or do personally. They ask them questions, listen to their answers, and give them the benefit of doubt. Do the same with your family and you’ll be a great role model for your grandkids.

9. Be your own best friend. Be on your own side. Listen to yourself. Pat yourself on the back when you do well. Forgive yourself when you don’t. Grandparents teach this to their kids and grandkids now is the time to apply it to themselves.

10. Put yourself on your list of loved ones. Grandparents need to make themselves number one on their lists, they need to take care of themselves at least as well as they take care of their grandkids and everyone else. Watch your sleep, nutrition, and exercise and make sure you’re having fun too!

Grandparents make mistakes but that doesn’t mean they have to punish themselves, or think that everyone else is grandparenting so much better. They’re usually not! Some moments are memorable, some are forgettable, but remember grandparents are all on this journey together. It’s time for grandparents to let go of the guilt.

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?

A Season Of Life

Positive minds produce positive lives. Negative minds produce negative lives. Positive thoughts are always full of faith and hope. Negative thoughts are always full of fear and doubt.

Some people are afraid to hope because they have been hurt so much in life. They have had so many disappointments, they don’t think they can face the pain of another one. Therefore, they refuse to hope so they would not be disappointed.

This avoidance of hope is a type of protection against being hurt. Disappointment hurts! So rather than be hurt again, many people simply refuse to hope or to believe that anything good will ever happen to them. This type of behavior set up a negative lifestyle. Remember “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”

Do you know someone who is extremely negative?  They might say to you, that if they have two positive thoughts in a row that their mind would get a cramp? Their whole philosophy is this: “If you don’t expect anything good to happen, then you won’t be disappointed when it doesn’t.” After spending time getting to know them, you learn that they have encountered many disappointments in life, leaving them afraid to believe that anything good might happen to them again. It becomes obvious to you that since their thoughts are all negative, so are the words they speak; therefore, so is their life. You try to  stay positive and wish you could get into their head and replace their negative thoughts with positive ones. Wouldn’t that be helpful?   I have friends who are negative, and I find it interesting that words they speak came to pass in their lives.

 I  also have friends who are positive, and are always finding the good in the many situations they are in life. It doesn’t mean that people who are positive thinkers don’t have doubt and feel sad, but it  does means they don’t stay stuck in their negative thoughts. It means that remain hopeful.

 Sometimes a season of life might be so devastating that the only positive thought we can have for a while is I’m breathing. I was in a season of life with a friend a few years ago. All we could say to each other was, “Your breathing aren’t you?”  Then that makes this a good day doesn’t it?  Now when I want to complain about my current season of life, I remind myself that I’m not only breathing but, I’m happy again. Life is good. Isn’t it?

Wouldn’t life be perfect if we never had to endure the devastating seasons of it?  

A few years ago I went through a devastating season of life. It was when people I loved passed away unexpectedly, and all I could do was breath because I was numb. 

 Now, I’m in a season of a life, and looking forward to the birth of my granddaughter. I have learned that life really does work in seasons, and some can be cold like winter, while others can be sunny and warm like summer.

A Slice Of Life

Having fun with our kids is like a slice of pie. Think about a pie not as a fruit pie, but as a pie of life with slices that define different, slices of family life. One slice is childhood, the next slice is the parenting years, followed by the early adult slice and the largest slice is the empty nest years.

 If we live out our average life expectancy, we will spend twice as many years as adults together with our children, than when they were living at home with us. When a group of my friends got together we talked about our relationships with our parents. Some of us got along well with them, others did not. When we probed the reasons, it had a lot to do with parenting patterns developed during childhood.

 In other words, how we parent our young kids might shape our relationship with them when they grow upWe figured out that the ones who wanted to be friends as adults and spend time together, not out of obligation but, because they enjoyed each other and had moms who included fun as one of their family values. They seemed to be the moms who adult children wanted to spend time with for all the right reasons.

You might be asking yourself what does fun look like?  Just look around you and watch other fun families. You’ll notice they can have fun and be fun even in unlikely places. Like the grocery store or waiting in line at the DMV. Fun is an attitude as much as an activity. And to have fun, we have to be fun, which means lightening up.

Throughout the years, the activities changed. We went from having fun with preschoolers which was fairly simple. They loved to play and loved the attention they got when we did almost anything together. When our kids got older, their fun included their friends, which meant stretching the family circle to make those friends feel welcome in our homes. We agreed that parenting includes the responsibility to shape appropriate fun as kids grow up, which was easier when their friends gathered at our houses.

 The best advice offered was to learn to let go of our own expectations and stop trying to  Besides, our best and most humorous family memories often came out of those unexpected out comes. Friendships with our adult children evolve as slowly as our parenting bumped and bounced from controlling to influencing to simply encouraging and enjoying.

The fun we have along the way is not so much about doing things, as about being in relationships that allowed for growth and embraced our differences. It’s been said, that being friends and having fun with our adult children is the best slice of the pie of life!


The Golden Princess

Baby Boomers are cruising to places like Alaska, the Caribbean, New Zealand, Australia, and Italy and where ever the cruise ships will take them.

My friend Ruby‘s nick name is the “Golden Princess.” Ruby announced to her family and friends that she has decided to go on a Princess cruise instead of going to a nursing home. When we asked her why? She quickly answered, “It’s better than a nursing home and cheaper too!

She went on to explain to me that a nursing home costs about 200 dollars per day. The cost aboard a Princess cruise? About 145 dollars per day(with senior-citizen discounts). Add 10 dollars per day for gratuitous, and you’re still ahead! Make that 15 dollars and the staff will be begging to treat you like a queen!

She considered these amenities:

1. Ten great meals a day (the last one at midnight even has an ice sculpture!). If you can’t make it to one of the great dinning rooms, you can order room service and have breakfast in bed every day of the week.

2. Free toothpaste, razors, soap, and shampoo.

3. TV repaired, lightbulbs changed, mattress replaced. Energetic young men and women will fix anything and everything and apologize for your inconvenience.

4. Free sheets and towels every day without asking.

5. Free housekeeping and friendly folks come in each day to clean the bathroom, make the bed, and vacuüm.

6. Three swimming pools, a work out room, free washers and dryers, all without maintenance fees or other costs.

7. Floor shows and other entertainment available every night.

8. The opportunity to meet new and interesting people every seven to fourteen days.

9. Treated like a customer, and not a patient. “Yes, ma’am! “Of course, ma’am!” Will there be anything else, ma’am?”

10.The opportunity to travel the seas and visit exotic places.

Like most baby boomers I’ve given serious thought about the golden years. I have decided that becoming a “Golden Princess” on a cruise ship is the most appealing way to go. 

Time Is Marching On

One of my favorite cinematic scenes is in the movie Steele Magnolias.  

Truvy Jones (played by Dolly Parton) is standing on the porch of beauty salon talking with young  Annette ( played by Daryl Hannah “Honey”  Truvy says, ” Time is marching on-and it is marching all over my face.”  

No words were truer than this time is marching on and not only is it marching all over my face but it has taken over my whole body. As I recognize this phenomenon of aging I’m reminded that I’ve earned every wrinkle. Every year their numbers increase. We’ve been together so long, that we are becoming good friends. But not such good friends, that I wouldn’t agree to have them  removed. Like un-friending a friend on Facebook.

I’ve  always wondered if wrinkles could talk what they might say? Perhaps the lines on my forehead would say?  I waited up for my children when they missed their curfew, started driving or went out on their first dates.

 However, there is another way to look at these characteristic indention. Maybe the lines on my forehead show how much time I’ve spent thinking about those I love or studying the world around me and finding it good. The lines around my mouth might come from the many times I ‘ve stood in awe and smiled at a beautiful sunset over the ocean.  Or smiled at a flower as it began to bloom as I walked through the rose garden in Balboa Park in San Diego and smiled at how wonderful creation is. I’m sure that some of the lines around my mouth and eyes are from the gift of laughter. Anyone who knows me knows I laugh a lot.

Perhaps the lines around my eyes are laugh lines memory boards that hold the experiences of my life that I have enjoyed and participated in the most.  Occasionally my girlfriends and I would get together. We use to laugh and joke with each other about ageing.

 Now many decades later we wish that the beauty secrets in ” Grandma’s Little Beauty” remedy books would do the trick. But the reality is it takes money, money, money, to remove all our lines. What is a girl to do these days with all the choices we have?