- 1. Help the next years be as good as possible for my husband.
2. Be there for grands and great-grands when they need me.
3. Become more loving in both my mind and actions.
4. Reach the people that my insights can help whether by speaking, teaching, writing, or just conversing. 5. Help my nineteen year old granddaughter, who suffers with Autism, find both purpose and friendships in life. 6. Paint some more paintings that I like enough to hang. 7.Get a better computer that’s easy to learn. 8.Take a trip to Quebec. 9. Laugh more every year and literally die laughing. 10. Recognize God and grace in everything and give up whining. (Even on Mondays!)
It’s easy to lose sight of God in our lives and when we do, we become vulnerable to idols. These days an idol isn’t a golden calf, it’s anything we become dependent on, other than God. In the book of Jeremiah, God warns that not only will we suffer if we choose worldly idols, but so will our children and even our grandchildren. That part about grandchildren really gets me where I live. Though I don’t hear this as punishment, but rather as a natural consequence. So, let’s consider some modern worldly idols.
A very popular idol is pleasure, which isn’t bad in itself, only when we turn to it instead of God. Pleasures we turn to when feeling insecure or unhappy can vary from sex to jelly doughnuts, but if they become a dependency they lead to adultery or diabetes or other equally bad consequences.
Another potential idol is financial affluence and while there’s nothing wrong with being successful, it can grow into a need that becomes the focus of our lives to the point of destroying our relationships.
An even sneakier idol is an attachment to social acceptance that leads us to surround ourselves only with people just like ourselves, which not only gives us a warped view of the world, but isolates us from those in greater need.
How can we protect ourselves from idols? It’s a discombobulating world and sometimes I feel like the child of Christian friends, who when told to wash his hands muttered: “Germs and Jesus, germs and Jesus! That’s all I hear about around here and I can’t see either one!”
One thing that helps me, I call putting on “God Glasses.” That means consciously working to see God in everything. Surprisingly, the beginning step can even come through finding God in the hard things.
When heart break or pain has kept me awake all night, the first glimpse of morning light coming through the window often brought relief. Recently, after finally getting over several weeks of insomnia from the pain of a broken shoulder, I would wake up momentarily at sunrise each morning remembering that feeling of relief and thanking God with quiet joy that morning had come again and yesterday’s sorrows were behind.
Ever since an ice storm left us without hot water for eighteen days some twenty years ago, whenever I feel that first marvelous spray of a hot shower, I treasure it for a few moments while thanking God profusely.
Some months ago, our hearts were heavy when a beloved grandchild stopped chatting and smiling because she sensed family conflict. Last weekend, she kept me awake once again cheerfully chatting about her favorite books and beamed with glee at trouncing Granddad at UNO. Now, as I go to sleep each night, I cup those memories in my heart with tears of joy and thank God.
Please, while you can still hear birdsong, stop and listen with your heart and thank God for it. Thank God not only for flowers, but the strength to water them and even to cut the grass. Thank God for the joy of that first taste of morning coffee or tea. Age can take all these away from you. Enjoy them now and let them bring you to God. Thank God for faith to pray. What a wondrous gift that is. And definitely thank God for laughter, which will be your saving grace in old age.
Watch, listen and thank. All these small things are the face and voice of God. And more and more you will experience the deep joy of finding Him in each moment. Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God. And joy trumps idols every time.
The day of my Spiritual Awakening was the day I saw, and I knew I saw, all things in God and God in all things. A quote from an unknown Author:
A: Age – 78 ½. Favorite ages: 35– after doing miserably in college, I went back finally actually wanting to learn and got my degree Summa Cum Laude. 60 – Took up painting and loved it. 75 –started my blog and did my first stand-up comedy gigs.
B: Biggest Fear – Losing my voice. Stopped smoking cold turkey after 3+ packs a day for 28 years after noticing a lump in my throat. Fear of death never motivated me, but the possibility of not being able to talk did. 🙂 C: Current Time:– 11 pm. Should be sleepy since I woke up at 5 am and never got back to sleep.
D: Drink I Last Had – A Sprite Zero, no caffeine, no sugar, why do I even bother?
E: Easiest Person to Talk To: Myra, my best friend from high school and college. We’ve stayed connected across long distances for 59 years by mail, phone, a few visits and for the last 15 years by face-book and e-mail. My husband is the easiest person to just be with, without talking.
F: Favorite Song – Dream, Dream, Dream by the Everly Brothers. It was my husband’s and my song when dating in college. (Our teen-age daughter was very outraged when she found that out, because it was her and her guitar playing boyfriend’s song. 🙂
G: Grossest Memory – Had an unexpected visit from a General , who was a friend of my husband’s family in another state. As our toddler was running back and forth in the living room, I nervously served coffee from our seldom used silver tea service. I realized to my horror that he was dropping small balls of poo all around the coffee table. I grabbed him under my left arm while scooping them up as quickly and casually as I could with my right hand and excused myself quickly to change his diaper. Unfortunately, before I could wash my hand, my husband called me to come say good-bye to the General who needed to get to a ceremony in his honor. Of course, he held out his hand to me and I couldn’t think how to avoid shaking it. I often wondered if anyone got a whiff of poo when he was standing in the receiving line shaking hands.
H: Hometown – New Orleans, Louisiana – Lived in the French Quarter in the Pontalba Apartments on Jackson Square until I was four. Would love to have my funeral in Jackson Square with a Dixie Land Band. (Not going to happen.)
I: In Love With – My incredibly kind and low maintenance husband of 57 years who helps me laugh about the challenges that come with getting old.
J: Jealous Of – People who can write beautifully and touch other people’s hearts.
K: Killed Someone? – Not that I know of, but I did once have a confused looking pedestrian simply walk straight into the front of my moving car. I was driving very slowly and stopped immediately, but he sort of bounced off the car and my heart stopped for a moment, until he just rubbed his arm a little and walked on down the street. I still remember the horrible sick feeling though.
L: Longest Relationship – My husband: we dated off and on in college for 3 years and have been married 57 years.
M: Middle Name – Fatherree, which was my mother’s maiden name.
N: Number of Siblings – One, a brother almost 10 years younger than I am, who treated me like a princess when I went to visit him in Houston last September. It’s amazing when you’re the last two people in your family of origin how much more you appreciate one another. All those bratty little brother and bossy older sister memories just fade away. Another one of the few perks of getting old. O: One Wish – That I and all those I love and they love will become the people God created us to be. I know it sounds hokey, but it’s true.
P: Last Person I Called – A friend, to invite her over for homemade soup on Wednesday, when the snow is supposed to finally all be gone from the streets.
Q: Question You Are Always Asked – Are you Julian’s wife, Chris, Mike, Julie, Steve or Tommy’s mom?
R: Reason to Smile – 11 smart funny wonderful grandchildren and 7 smart funny delightful great-grandchildren whom I either see in person or on face book frequently, and even when I don’t , I have thousands of marvelous, often hilarious, and many very touching memories to pull out and savor.
S: Song You Last Sang – “When the Saints Go Marching In.” I sang it to try to show a friend from Norway what the Dixie Land Music I want at my funeral sounds like.
T: Time You Woke Up – 5am…….not my normal time…. Woke up mentally struggling over problems I’m having with a piece I’m writing for try-outs for a stand-up comedy show.
U: Underwear Color – plain old lady white. (I really wanted to lie about this!)
V: Vacation Destination – Took a challenging, but very scenic trip to the South West of France in October. One of our sons drove us and since we had a wheel chair, a walker, two CPAP machines and six suitcases, we had to rent a large SUV. It was a lovely car, but not really sized for narrow winding roads in medieval mountain villages and along cliffs and river valleys in the forests. I’m afraid when we returned it, it was a smaller car than when we started out. My favorite city is still Paris, but I also love the visual beauty of Salzburg.
W: Worst Habit- snacking – absolutely terrible about it. In fact, I think I’ll go scavenge through the cabinets after I finish this, even though it’s almost midnight! I’m sure I hear some chocolate calling me.
X: X-rays You’ve Had – (MRI’s, CT Scans, Mammograms included) Brain, sinuses, carotid arteries, various fingers, chest, breasts, gall bladder, stomach, left hip, lower back, knees, ankle, feet. (Does that leave anything?)
Y: Your Favorite Food – Lobster, but I don’t get it often, so fresh artichokes are a favorite that I get to have more frequently.
Z: Zodiac Sign – Cancer, which sounds so awful…..I think it used to be Moon Children or something equally strange, but not as sinister sounding as Cancer.
The Gifts of Age: Part Five: If Old Age is Better than the Alternative, We Are All in Deep Doggie Doo
People talk about the stress of being a working mom, as if stress ends when either or both jobs stop. Who are they trying to kid?
Old lady stress is 24/7.
At night, as soon as you get your pillow nest all arranged to support aching backs and knees and burrow gratefully into it, doubt enters the room. Did I lock the doors? Did I turn off the stove? Did I switch the wet wash to the dryer? Did I take my pills? Yes, I think I did all that tonight. No, that was last night. Oh hell, I better go check.
Then, because your bladder is your only body part that’s gotten more active with age, there are at least three trips to the john every night. And since your early warning system is now deceased, these are made at warp speed, even on a walker. Panic is a great motivator. There should be an olympic competition for this. You wake up tired and wonder why.
The disconcerting end to what seemed like a reasonably nice day is realizing that you have gone all over town smiling today without your upper dentures.
It’s hardly uplifting to look up phone numbers in your personal directory, when it lists more dead people than living. And even after purging the lists, in six month’s it’s already back to gone again.
The first stage of dementia is becoming childlike in saying whatever you’re thinking out loud, then wondering why everyone is looking at you like you just farted.
The fact that you can’t introduce your best friend isn’t so bad, since she’s your age and can’t remember your name either. But when you mix up your grown son’s third wife’s name, it’s a whole different ball game.
When you see on face book that the younger members of your family are comparing miles walked or jogged each day, you think to yourself, If I had a pedometer, it would show at least ten miles walked each day looking for my glasses, my purse, and my coffee cup, coming back inside for my car keys, and going in and out of rooms at least three times each before I remember why I went in. No wonder I’m so tired at night.
Your new four letter word shouted frequently is WHAT? And a dinner party of peers is mostly everyone shouting WHAT? and then pretending to hear the replies. Though irritating, it doesn’t really matter much, since no one will remember anything by the time they get home anyway.
Cleaning gets increasingly complicated when vertical surfaces are covered with the latest in home decor for the elderly, post it notes. And there are also stacks of everything imaginable on all level surfaces, because now out of sight, means lost forever.
Sudden loud noises bring out homocidal urges you haven’t had since your kids were teenagers.
Your hearing turns mysteriously obscene, as you now confuse the initial sounds of words and can’t believe they are saying that on primetime TV.
Going to lunch with a friend involves a ten minute struggle to untangle the walkers from the back of the station wagon. And going to the mall with several friends is like a parade without a band, slow moving lines of walkers, the rolling kind.
When you express worry about some of the disasters being experienced by of others your age, your children encourage you to be thankful that’s not you. And you mentally add the word, yet.
Many weeks, if you didn’t go to so many funerals, you’d have no social life at all. And you remember that you used to wonder why your older friends were depressed.
When everyone’s talking about diets, you’re thinking, Sure. Like I’m going to give up my last pleasure in life, so I can look good in my casket.
Your grand and great-grandchildren are the bubbles of joy in the cesspool of old age, but also the barbs of reality. When sitting in your lap, looking up at you with their big innocent eyes, they ask, “Grandma, why do old people have turkey necks?”
And you grit your teeth and freeze a smile on your face, when your great-grandson proudly introduces his fiancee, the tattooed lady with enough metal appendages to set off airport security alarms.
There’s really only one thing worse than getting old, (I’m personally going to be really pissed if it turns out to be death). To me, it’s your husband getting old. Most of us thought if we married, we’d always have someone able to open jars, move heavy furniture, and clean the gutters. Another fairy tale bites the dust.
But other than these, old age is a piece of cake. Whenever you can get to the bakery.
As the mother of five, grandmother of eleven, great-grandmother of seven, and incidentally, the owner of a nicely framed diploma in psychology, I want to share some gems of wisdom gained the hard way, trial and error, with an emphasis on the error.
1. When you do co-create another human being with God, trust God a little! He stays involved. He gives human babies to human parents. As far as I’ve been able to tell, perfect beings like angels, don’t procreate.
2. Go ahead and read the child psychology books; they can help you hear where your child is coming from. But don’t take them straight. Mix them liberally with books by Erma Bombeck. There’s nothing better than a sense of humor for keeping life in perspective.
3. Do pray unceasingly for your first child. This is your practice one. God will have to invest a lot more in that partnership.
4. Accept the fact that on your first child you will spend a lot of Saturdays with your pediatrician. There is an unwritten law of nature that children only swallow dimes on weekends.
5. But know that when your second child swallows a dime, you will just calmly feed them bread and watch for the dime to make its journey back to daylight. With the third child you won’t bother to watch for it unless you know it was minted before 1945. And your fourth child won’t swallow dimes, because they will already be full from eating the dog’s food.
In my experience, the real fun of parenting came about child number four and the sheer joy with child number five. But then, I always was a slow learner.
Seven Basic Facts to Help You Enjoy Your Children
1. You don’t have to enjoy all the rigors of baby care to enjoy children. Infancy doesn’t last long.
2. A child can fix a reasonably healthy breakfast for themselves (and you) by the time they are five. (Their spouse will thank you for it someday.)
3. Their first grade teacher will toilet train them if you don’t get around to it. (Though they will undoubtedly not thank you for it.)
4. The child that you bat heads with from birth to puberty will astound you by winning awards and honors in high school. (The flip side of stubbornness is perseverance.)
5. Out of five children fed the same kind of food from birth, – no matter what you do – Two will eat only hamburgers and pizza until marriage. Two will eat nourishing and well balanced meals in reasonable amounts. One will eat everything in sight in over generous amounts.
6. Almost nobody normal enjoys their own Junior High age kids. But, God can give you enough grace to keep your homicidal tendencies reasonably repressed, and if you hang loose, they become interesting people and friends somewhere between 21 and 30. (Don’t let anyone tell you that God isn’t still doing major miracles.)
7. And best of all, some day when you are holding your brand new first grandchild and find tears of complete joy streaming down your face, you will realize how very carefully, if sometimes painfully, God has taught you to love unconditionally.