Quality of Life

Are You Whole?

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Being whole and experiencing wholeness is something I need to figure out for myself so I consulted the Oxford dictionary that defines wholeness as follows:

  • the state of forming a complete and harmonious whole;
  • the state of being unbroken or undamaged;
  • good physical or mental health.

Okay, so I’m not whole, but I absolutely know I want to be.

Being whole, for me, is a healthy balance of mind, body, and spirit.

This brings to mind another definition – cooperation:

  • the process of working together to the same end.

That works for me because if mind, body, and spirit – however that may be defined – work together toward a goal of wholeness, that is what appears to be needed in order to attain that state. Let me tell you, at this point in my existence I am VERY willing to cooperate.

And I think it’s important to understand that those three elements – mind, body, spirit – are not separate. They all work in tandem to bring about the best outcome for our well-being.

When we work on one, we’re working on all three elements:

  • Exercising to work on the body, and maintaining a healthier diet, affect the mind and spirit.
  • Choosing to have some sort of meditative time – however that may look for each of us – nourishes the body and mind.
  • Learning something new and being exposed to new experiences no doubt will benefit spirit and body.

There is no separation because all three are attached, right? Yeah, you can’t touch one without affecting the others. And that’s a good thing because we only have so much time in each day to improve on matters so it’s a good thing that even one effort addresses all three aspects of our being.

May you figure out what works for you to attain WHOLENESS in 2022.

I’m looking forward to hearing all about it!

Your Social Impact

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This 2nd post of the new year provides you with my quarterly column in the online publication, Grandparents Day Magazine, based out of Adelaide, Australia. My byline, In Your Corner, addressed the topic of how every effort we make can benefit others. I hope you enjoy: Big Things Come in Small Packages. And believe it or not, the topic is not babies. Check it out.

My 2022 Word

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Several years ago a friend of mine introduced me to the concept of setting a New Year word – not a resolution. My 2021 word was:

EQUANIMITY: mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.

For what may seem obvious to many is the fact that that single word – or way of being – really resonated with me leading into 2021. But did I always succeed at upholding that word? Absolutely not, but having that as my daily, or hourly, goal certainly benefited me more than not.

My word for 2022 is more or less from the same word family but some may argue it is the antithesis of equanimity:

HOPE: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

It’s far easier to abandon all hope – yet more difficult – than it is to cling to it. I decided to raise a banner of hope for me, my loved ones, and the world at large, regardless of what that action entails. Doing something with an eye to a redeeming new year is that to which I am committed. As I said in my post Hope + Action = Winning Combination, just wishing something to be true doesn’t quite take care of the hope function; we have to do something while hoisting hope onto our backs.

What you do to activate and maintain hope and what I do are individual efforts and may not look at all similar to each other, but that’s the beauty of the hope commitment: what I do supplements you and what you do augments me.

BE WELL AND STAY WELL IN 2022 MY FRIENDS.

CELEBRATE EVERY GOOD THING THAT COMES YOUR WAY, REGARDLESS OF HOW SMALL, BECAUSE EVERY LITTLE BIT COUNTS – DON’T YOU THINK?

 

Gratitude + Optimism

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A recent AARP magazine post spotlighting Michael J. Fox, star of Family TiesBack to the Future, and of other popular, noteworthy fame, answered a reporter’s question about how he had managed to pull himself out of a dark place where he landed after recovering from a 2018 spinal surgery to remove a benign tumor wrapped around his spine; having to learn how to walk all over again as a result of that surgery; and falling at home four months later, shattering his arm in the process. Keep in mind, for over thirty years Mr. Fox has suffered from what is currently an incurable disease. He knows there will be no cure for Parkinson’s in his lifetime, but remarkably, he was able to admirably respond to the AARP reporter’s question.

I started to notice things I was grateful for and the way other people would respond to difficulty with gratitude. I concluded that gratitude makes optimism sustainable.

And if you don’t think you have anything to be grateful for, keep looking. Because you don’t just receive optimism.

You can’t wait for things to be great and then be grateful for that. You’ve got to behave in a way that promotes that.

For this, my last blog post of the year – also my 1,166th post – I will simply say that I am inspired by the above words; I am humbled by them; and I accept the challenge these words have presented.

That’s all, but it’s enough. See you in 2022.

Hope + Action = Winning Combination

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Are you tired? Yeah, me too. Tired tired – due to lack of sleep. Emotionally tired – due to the day to day personal challenges we all face. And sick and tired of the status quo in a world that just doesn’t seem to want to get better. My intent with this post is not to single out any causes for the mess we’re in – that would not be a popular post and quite frankly, I just don’t have the energy to address that mess.

Rather, I simply want to state that all of us need to do better at the art of living and how that living affects others. One way in which to do better is to shift from a hopeless base to a hopeful one. Doing so may not be what it takes for you to have a positive mind shift, but it has worked for me in the past so it’s a tool that I am drawing on now.

Please accept the following sentiments as nourishment for your own journey of hope. These are quotes from the book, The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times, by Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams:

Hope does not deny all the difficulty and all the danger that exists, but it is not stopped by them. There is a lot of darkness, but our actions create the light. Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.

Hope is what enables us to keep going in the face of adversity. It is what we desire to happen, but we must be prepared to work hard to make it so.

Hope without action dies on the vine; it needs nourishment in the form of constant feeding and forward motion. None of us need to be scientists, psychologists, or world changers in order to be effective, but all of us need to do something positive within the limited real estate of our little corner of the world. Is it easier to just give up and let others take the lead? Yes…and no. Giving up means you have no control and if you’re like me, you don’t want to surrender the reins to just anyone!

I need to pick up this tool – this hope tool – every day and treat it as though it just might be the answer to my well-being and yours. If you and I employ it starting with our own household and then to that which exists within our control, we’ll all be better off as a result. A little bit goes a long way, especially if more people than not opt to disembark from the train of desperation and climb on board the far more promising hope train.

ALL ABOARD! LET’S GO.

 

Sense of Community

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A previous post addressed the good we can do in our little corner of the world. Today’s post talks about that little corner in which we find ourselves.

We find community in various settings, including our home, our extended family, our employment, and our day-to-day contacts near and far. I would offer that even when we take our doggies to the off-leash dog park and let them run around with the other dogs, we can find ourselves in community.

But what if when at the dog park, we keep to ourselves and choose not to converse with any of the other humans; are we still in community? Yes, we are, because we are like-minded individuals giving our doggies a romp in the park with other doggies because we know it will inordinately please our four-legged friends. Our common goal in making the effort to go to the dog park is more or less the same: doggie community enjoyment.

What this very brief post is saying today is that community does not have to be a structured and organized grouping of people. It can consist of the lone walker in the neighborhood, coming upon another lone walker and sharing a smile and a greeting, even in passing. For myself, during the height of isolation due to the pandemic, I relished every person-sighting – whether on my neighborhood strolls or six feet away from another customer at the grocery checkout. Other people! There are other people in this world, not just my lonesome, homebound self!!!!

In the past year, my eyes have been opened to discover community in places and in circumstances not recognized before. I hope you find similarly healthy connections as you go about your own daily routines. 

 

 

Why Bother?

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Have you ever wondered whether the good you do is of any benefit to others?

If you’re at all like me, you’ve been complacent from time to time in the helping-out department. We justify not doing something to improve the grand order of things by erroneously thinking that what we have to offer can’t possibly make a difference when so much is needed to improve what’s wrong in the world.

THAT “WHY BOTHER?” ATTITUDE WILL GET YOU NOWHERE, AND IT SURE AS HECK WON’T CHANGE WHAT’S SERIOUSLY MESSED UP WITH OUR WORLD.

I’m of the opinion that not doing something to meet a need when we see one, is just as harmful as kicking a person when they’re down. Neither behavior is kind, and both behaviors cause harm. If you’ve been out of practice for some time, start slowly by extending a kind word to someone. Doesn’t your day improve inordinately when you’re gifted with a compliment? Oh my goodness, yes! If you’re at work and one of your coworkers shows up in a new outfit and you think to yourself, “Wow, Gloria really looks great in that color” but you don’t tell Gloria that she looks great in that color, she hasn’t benefited from your kind observation. Tell her! You won’t be reported to the Personnel department just because you complimented one of your overworked coworkers! Or congratulate someone on a job well done, whether a coworker, a neighbor, or even a loved one residing in the same house as you. BOTTOM LINE: don’t hold back kind words. Words matter – they always have, and they always will.

Is there a charity that you’d really like to contribute to but you’re embarrassed to do so because you can’t afford to donate mega bucks? Do you figure your measly $1 won’t amount to a hill of beans in the grand scheme of things? Imagine if a million people felt the same way as you do – having a dollar to donate but withholding it because it’s just a dollar. Drum roll please . . . one million people donating $1 each amounts to $1,000,000 the last time I checked. Don’t hold back. Drop in that dollar and let the rest take care of itself.

Don’t give up on efforts to help out because in your eyes, you think those efforts are inconsequential. No kindness is wasted, even if you don’t get the opportunity to witness how that kindness benefits others. You’re not responsible for seeing the end results, but you are responsible for contributing to them.

So today, make the decision to make a difference. I promise you, it’ll get easier the more you exercise that giving-muscle. You do your part, and I’ll do mine.

THAT’S ALL THAT’S NEEDED.

 

 

Countdowns

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Our need for countdowns is something we most likely don’t think about 24/7, but while we’re in the midst of one we are front and center and ready to move forward. 

Take the Holidays, for example. As soon as I turn over the calendar page to November, I’ve hit the ground running and once the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday has arrived, it’s just a matter of days before Christmas is upon us and then, voila! The end of the year and the start of a new one!

Whether counting down the days until the start of a planned vacation or our much anticipated retirement from work, we love crossing out the days that bring us closer to our goal. It’s sobering to realize, however, that the passage of time not only brings us to notable calendar events but it also ushers us into the inevitable aging that many of us have the privilege of experiencing.

And it is a privilege, isn’t it? We are all intimately acquainted with the fact that not everyone has spent as much time aging as we have: adult siblings and other loved ones die far too young, friends are victim of a disease or an accident that robs them of their lives, and most cruelly, children fall victim to similar diseases and accidents that rip them from the face of the earth, robbing them of the opportunity to grow up and move forward into productive and event-filled lives.

Most of us will not know in advance how long our lives will be, but as we age, we tend to feel the passage of time.

But it’s not all equal-knowing, is it? There are glorious days when I am shocked by the realization that I am sixty-eight years of age, followed by days when I can hardly believe I’m not far older than my years. But all in all, I celebrate that I am still here – even with the aches and pains and frustrations oftentimes inherent with aging. I am not counting down the days until I am no longer here – that’s a fruitless and unrealistic practice in which to be engaged – but I am celebrating that thus far I can most certainly count 25,016 days as my portion. 

 

 

Choosing to Celebrate

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My column, In Your Corner, is in an online Australian publication for which I have written going on ten years now. The most recent issue has as its theme Celebration.

I wrote Choosing to Celebrate to point out how rewarding it is to celebrate even the most mundane positive occurrences in our lives. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it.

The Futility of Worry

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Maybe I’m the only person among us who has perfected the art of worrying. Although I don’t do anything perfectly, I do a really grand job of worrying – thereby inviting the existence of fear – quite well.

Many profound statements have been made about the futility of this practice – scripture, poetry, self-help books and the like – but we still seem to settle quite comfortably into this practice, don’t we? And we usually kick ourselves after a particular stressful situation has passed as we acknowledge that the level of worry and fear regarding said stress did nothing to lessen our mental load.

Each and every time I have lost sleep over something, I experienced the futility of doing so.

I’ve also come to understand that when I worry, I have left the present and jumped into the deep end of yesterday and tomorrow – locations I had no right to be in.

  • When I fret over what transpired yesterday, losing sleep over words said or not said, actions taken or not taken, I abandon the only place I need to be – the present.
  • When I worry about tomorrow (or even when I worry about something occurring a brief hour from now) I am wrenched away from the present – a wasted practice because when I leave the present, I’ve missed out on what was right in front of me. What a shame!

It’s a frustrating cycle of behavior I’ve practiced time and again in my many decades of adult life. You would think I’d have learned by now that worrying adds nothing to my life so I should abandon any such behavior posthaste, but last time I checked, I’m still human so perfection will continue to elude me time and again.

But I’m still learning. I’m still sussing out the fine art of living day to day.

As long as I keep recognizing the times when such worry rears its ugly head, I guess I can celebrate that at the very least, I’m aware of how I might do better the next time.

And I’m okay with that.

My Best Foot Forward

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I came to the realization the other day, how many places my sixty-eight year old feet have taken me.

AND JUST THINK ABOUT WHERE YOUR FEET HAVE TAKEN YOU!

I’ve lived in the following US states: California, Hawaii, Alaska, and Washington. I’ve traveled to the following countries: Canada, Mexico, France, Scotland, and the British Isles. (I know, that’s not a lot of places but just the same, my feet took me there and back!)

Sometimes our feet take us to geographical places; other times they take us to and through life experiences – not all of which are easy or pleasing. But those gnarled toes and fallen arches managed to carry us where we needed to be and will continue to do so until they can’t.

About two years ago, I came to a place of acceptance of my current body resulting in gratitude for everything it has endured and managed to survive. That may not seem like a monumental achievement to some, but for me, it most definitely has been. My body’s challenges and your body’s challenges may not be identical but there isn’t a person around that doesn’t have them – bodies or challenges – and we’re still here!

I HAVE SURVIVED THE LESS THAN ENJOYABLE BODY FOIBLES 100% OF THE TIME AND HAVE LIVED TO WRITE ABOUT IT!

Wow! And because I have evidence that such successes have occurred, when I’m in the midst of seemingly insurmountable medical, physical, or emotional challenges, I can look forward to getting to the other side of them to add yet another success to my growing evidentiary list.

And my feet will take me there.

 

Vulnerability

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In the past several years I have come to understand that being vulnerable is a strength, not a weakness.

Synonyms for the word vulnerable, found in the Merriam Webster dictionary are: endangered, exposed, liable, open, sensitive, susceptible.

l believe that vulnerability is a worthwhile and honorable trait in which to indulge, especially as my life experience involves the last three synonyms: open, sensitive, susceptible. Recently, however, I felt vulnerable and I didn’t like the feeling at all as it gave me a feeling of being endangered and exposed.

Several days ago I had skin cancer surgery on my nose, and although vanity is not a prominent characteristic in my modus operandi, the fact that my visage was going to be messed with sent me into a tailspin of unease, bordering on depression. It’s not the surgery itself that was of a concern to me; I had hip replacement surgery four years ago that was far more invasive and brutal and I don’t recall feeling as emotionally affected as I did for my nose surgery.

Perhaps what was at issue was the fact that the affected body part is face forward – so to speak – and therefore more noticeable than a joint replacement could ever be. The very good news is that the surgery was minimally invasive, not even needing stitches, so the same face I’ve had for sixty-eight years remains intact. 

I’ve had this same face – more or less – for sixty-eight years! Fortunately the alteration leaves it just slightly different from how it used to be.

I know, my sixty-eight year old body isn’t the same as it used to be either, because aging is a privilege and with that privilege comes pain, body sags, and wrinkles rivaling an intricate interstate highway. But the face? It’s somehow a different entity all together. Fortunately, my concerns turned out to be much ado about nothing.

Let me clarify, however, that the unease/depression I felt wasn’t a function of how I’ll look once everything is healed. No. It’s related to the vulnerability I felt leading up to the surgery, and the time during the surgery when I was fully awake, that really messed with my mind and my emotions. A surgeon who knows absolutely nothing about who I am, whom I only met once prior to the procedure, was in charge of ridding my nose of cancer. Once patient number 1234 was out the door, the surgeon would move onto patient number 5678, and so on and so forth, committed to her surgical training but not necessarily committed to Irene Frances Olson, born in Southern California, the youngest of three siblings, who couldn’t have asked for better parents, who eventually wrote two novels to first document her family’s struggle with Alzheimer’s and then to document society’s struggles with tolerance, acceptance, and human kindness

Was it my outward appearance or my inward identity that was at issue?

The latter, to be sure, and since beauty is only skin deep, I will fall back on the inner beauty that I’ve worked on throughout my life. With age comes wisdom, and for me at least, without the aging, wisdom would still be on the sidelines waiting to make an appearance. So maybe this whole surgical experience has taught me something new that without the unease and depression I experienced, this new nugget of wisdom would not have been birthed:

My inner beauty will always outlast my outer trappings, and those who truly know me see that first and love me for it.

WHAT A BLESSED WOMAN I AM!!!

 

 

Wanting the Best for Others

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Life isn’t a competition. It’s healthy to want only the best for others with whom we come in contact.

Most of the contact I have with the “outside world” is on my neighborhood walks and outings to the grocery store and the like. Yes, I’m retired from active employment but most definitely not retired from life.

With very few exceptions, I get along with everyone and manage to maintain ongoing casual relationships that benefit myself, and hopefully each person with whom I come in contact. I am on a first name basis with Tracy who scans my groceries every week, and with Patrick and Wende who bag said groceries. I am also thrilled to have met the acquaintance of Ginny, an extraordinary optical employee at my local big box store. 

Ginny is a delight to know and thoroughly skilled at her job in the optical dispensary. The other morning, needing an eyeglasses adjustment, I arrived at the store just after it opened. It seems when pulling off my mask the other day, the ear loops grabbed my glasses in such a way as to mess up the alignment on my nose. Ouch! My nose was in dire straits and in need of some pain relief. Of course Ginny took care of the adjustment so that myself, and my nose, were once again in balance.

Ginny seemed a bit down so I asked how she was doing. Turns out, she found out just a few minutes before I arrived that the transfer she put in for to the store location just minutes from her home was turned down because in order to transfer, the replacement at her current location needed to be set in place. With the shortage of skilled workers so prevalent, none could be found. Ginny’s transfer to her store of choice could not proceed so her 1.25 hour work commute would need to continue, a commute she has endured for the better part of four years. My heart goes out to Ginny. I can’t change the way the big box store’s management policies are carried out, but I can be in Ginny’s corner so she doesn’t endure her disappointment alone. What I know about her is minimal from a quantitative position, but from a qualitative one, what I know is grandiose.

We don’t have to be related to a person, or see them every day, to have a connection with them – do we?

Not in the least. Given the current circumstances in which we find ourselves, we are most likely involved more peripherally than intimately with others but our impact on their lives can be still be worthwhile and vital. Think, if you will, how you felt when someone crossed your path and their actions or words  robbed you of your joy. Then remember how a kind word, an extended courtesy, or a genuine smile turned your day upside down – in a good way!

It doesn’t take much to make a positive impact on each and every person we encounter.

We can make the very most of our casual contacts. A one minute encounter can go one of two ways: leave a nasty impression, or one that will greatly improve a person’s day. I want to be responsible for the latter effect; that’s what I did during the brief five minutes spent with Ginny the other day, and the very next day, I hand-delivered some heartfelt consolation in the form of an encouraging greeting card left for her at the optical department where she works so diligently. You see, I always keep an inventory of cards in my home office and God knows I have plenty of time to make a special delivery to someone in need of a virtual hug of sorts.

May you endeavor to look for opportunities to make an enriching difference in someone’s life.

OPPORTUNITIES ABOUND IF YOUR AWARENESS IS KEEN!

 

Making New Habits

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Instead of wallowing in habits we’d prefer to discard, we can create new ones – breaking old ones – that benefit us greatly!

That’s Breaking Good News, isn’t it?

I’m not going to get into the proven science about how long it takes to break one habit and adopt another – you know how to Google that information and find it out for yourself. Rather, I just want to mention how exhilarating it is to switch things up a bit in ones’ life. And I’m not going to address vices that double as habits. Nope! Just the routine behaviors that so many of us fall into.

You and I have adopted habits that are so ingrained in our day-to-day existence, we don’t even recognize them because they just are. Lately for me, I’ve benefited from changing up my routines, finding that doing so puts a fresh coating of delight on the mundane.

  • Maybe your favorite mug isn’t all that any more and another mug would serve to better float your boat; or
  • Exercising a little later – or earlier – in the day feels better than what you’ve been doing; or
  • Meditating at a different time of day than you’ve done for years on end actually provides more Zen moments when you switch it up now and then; or
  • Tacos are just as gratifying on Thursday as they are on Tuesday. Can you say, Taco Thursdays anyone?

You get the idea: just because you’re accustomed to and comfortable with your daily routine doesn’t mean that getting out of your comfort zone wouldn’t be better. For me, it was a matter of being so entrenched in the same-o same-o that I became brain-lazy. Life became so droll and ho-hum that I dreaded getting out of bed in the morning. Oh crap, another day just like yesterday? Ugh!

There are countless ways to add novelty to a day. I don’t know about you, but I have a few daily outfits I wear over and over again while my closet is close to bursting with colorful t-shirts, pants I forgot I even owned, and let’s not forget to mention the sock drawer that rivals that of a sock-owning addict…oops! Time to clean all those clothing storage areas of the house and donate a good portion to charities whose clients could really use what I didn’t even realize I had.

Wow…not only do I get to switch up my wardrobe but others benefit from the slight clothing hoarding I failed to acknowledge!

ANYWAY, I think you can come up with your own changes that will perhaps provide freshness to your day and increase your joie de vivre! Whatever you decide to do, do it soon. Take it from someone who knows of which she speaks – breaking habits and adding new ones does not have to be difficult, but it really and truly needs to happen if you’re looking to change things up a bit.

I’m looking forward to hearing about the changes you’ve decided to implement in your own life. They don’t have to be HUGE, just worthwhile and meaningful to you!

Aging is a Privilege

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Last time I checked, the only way to live a long life is to be on board with aging.

Are there downsides to getting older? Sure there are. Here are just a few that might be applicable at any given time:

  • the body and/or the mind might not function quite as efficiently as before;
  • our peers move on, whether by relocating because of downsizing or illness or relocating to the beyond (you know, heaven or elsewhere);
  • our loved ones (spouses, partners) experience advanced illness or pass on; and
  • society dismisses us as no longer relevant.

But what about the upsides of aging? Surely positive elements exist that can be celebrated and accentuated the longer we reside on this earth, such as:

  • enjoyment of our adult children and growing-up grandchildren, if such a family dynamic exists;
  • recognition of what’s truly important in life so that worrying about the small things is a practice not worthy of our time;
  • the decision to respectfully let our feelings and beliefs be known, without holding back, and not caring as much about whether someone agrees or disagrees with those feelings; and
  • finally having time to do this, that, and the other, because there is no longer such a thing as a weekend, and every day can be filled with whatever activity pleases us.

Regarding that last point, some may argue that because our bodies don’t function as efficiently as before, it doesn’t matter if we have all the time in the world if we can’t do what matters most to us! 

That’s a valid point if the only thing that matters to a person is maintaining an Olympic-quality fitness level. Look, my husband and I used to do amazingly difficult hikes as recently as three years ago and although I miss the forests wherein those hikes took place, I don’t miss the actual exercise part of those ventures because I still exercise: yoga, aerobics, weights, (using free online videos for all three options) and taking energetic walks in the neighborhood. I’m not competing with anyone but myself when I perform that smorgasbord of exercises. Regardless of what exercise I do and how I do it, I’m still lapping everyone else on the couch.

And come on, being physically active isn’t the only qualification for contributing to the world around us. I’m not talking about the global stage, but what about the little corner of the world wherein we reside? We have time and we have a lifetime of skill and wisdom that our corner of the universe needs. Whether we find those opportunities through a community organization, senior center, local school system or elsewhere, there is more need than these organizations have solutions!

You are relevant and that relevancy needs to be recognized first by you, and then society will get on board.

The only way to live a long life is to live the life you’ve been given. And as the saying goes, this ain’t no dress rehearsal. And remember, it’s never too late to try something new. If that means letting go of something else in order to start something new, then so be it. Get after it!

Identification: Who are you?

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When referring to identification in this post, I am talking about human characteristics – specifically, emotional and mental states.

For example, I tend to be anxious – allowing anxiety to rob me of my peace, and oftentimes, rob me of my sleep. But being anxious is not my identity. I get anxious but that is not who I am.

Being labeled (pigeonholed) by others is one thing, and it’s harmful, but even more so, labeling ourselves does each of us a huge disservice.

I may have anxiety, but I am not anxiety. Someone else may have ADHD, but that person is not ADHD, they have ADHD tendencies. If someone suffers from depression, their identity is not depressed person, rather, she/he is a person who gets depressed. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, to put someone in a pigeonhole is to, unfairly think of or describe someone or something as belonging to a particular group, only having a particular skill, etc. For example, actors don’t want to be pigeonholed as only having comedic skills; a talented actor wants to be thought of as having more range than that. Similarly, a lawyer is also a parent, a spouse, a friend – not just a mediator or adjudicator. My gastroenterologist’s whole identity isn’t wrapped up in her specific field of medical expertise – thank the good Lord – she is also a hiker, a mommy, and an accomplished baker.

If I place myself inside the box of anxiety, I may have the tendency to remain there longer than is healthy. If I live outside of that box and only end up there from time to time, I have more range as a human being and can branch out and experience calm and peace as a natural state. I am not anxious person Irene, I am Irene the mother, spouse, grandmother, sister, friend, and as luck would have it, published author.

ANOTHER WAY IN WHICH WE LABEL PEOPLE IS BY THEIR DISEASE.

When my father suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, he wasn’t his disease, he was everything he was before the disease and even everything he became after diagnosis. He had limitations, don’t get me wrong, but those limitations didn’t define who he was: an extraordinary human being. When my sister-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer, that was one horrible aspect of her life but that didn’t define who she was before she died. She was a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend; she was a caring person with a keen sense of humor; she was the goddess of her wonderful household who kept it running like a fine-tuned engine.

Labeling limits our perception of who someone is in their essence

There are so many directions this post could have gone – physical characteristics, gender identity, race, ethnicity – instead, I decreased the scope because emotional, mental, and medical matters have been weighing upon me as of late, so that’s where I went with this 500 word post. That was enough for me, I hope it was enough for you.

Be well, y’all.

 

 

Life’s Challenges

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It’s so tempting to turn the other way when we witness something that offends us, or to cringe when we ourselves think or say something of which we are ashamed and wished we had done better. Well, at least one character in my second novel, A Jagged Journeyhas a few opportunities to cringe and correct when confronted with their own abashed behavior.

In particular, those of you who have already ventured into the pages of my second novel have met Dr. Gretchen Marks and know of what I speak. From the outsider’s perspective, it looks like Gretchen leads a life of leisure in her 20th floor Seattle penthouse apartment when she’s not treating high-end clients at her luxurious counseling practice. In a book review, one of my readers characterized Gretchen as someone to be throttled posthaste and let me tell you, I relate to that character assessment with a “Hear! Hear” and a “I couldn’t agree with you more!”

But there’s a reason why I created a somewhat despicable element in my story and it’s because I really, really, want to believe that everyone can undergo an about-face in their way of thinking and come out the other side treating others with the respect they deserve. Readers will get a peek into perhaps why Gretchen is the way she is, while also asking themselves if what has transpired in her life gives her license to push against what most would consider common decency toward one’s fellow man. I’m not going to provide a spoiler by revealing what transpires in the end, because quite frankly, I think readers will walk away with differing conclusions because their own life experience might very well paint a different picture from someone else’s.

I’m anxious to hear your thoughts on the matter once you’ve read A Jagged Journey and can leave an honest review on Amazon or elsewhere. It took me several years to finalize this book because I wanted to get it right while offering characters everyone will fall in love with – and there are many – alongside those we just might love to hate. As one of my book promotions has so accurately stated:

Life is imperfect, because it is lived by imperfect people, just like you and me.

 

 

Worth the Price of Admission

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A year after the Covid spread became a verifiable pandemic, I received my 1st dose of the vaccine that will open up the possibility of arriving at herd immunity…depending on the percentage of people who agree to voluntarily submit themselves to the needle.

The global community has been immersed and drowning in a disaster that will become future school students’ history lessons on what can happen when a not-detectable-by-eye virus travels the world on the backs of unsuspecting travelers.

I’ve lived sixty-seven years and therefore have already lived through news events and disasters that are currently a part of history books everywhere. Trust me when I say, I would rather have a boring life experience than be able to recount the tragedies that have befallen my country and our world over the past six decades. The current pandemic is just one of many, but it’s currently front and center in my life, and in the lives of many.

On Thursday, February 25, 2021, after weeks and weeks of concerted effort, I submitted myself to the vaccine needle. I didn’t make finding a vaccine appointment a full-time job, but my dedication to doing so was sincere and robust. The day before I received my shot, my husband and I were preparing to go outside to enjoy the beautiful Pacific Northwest weather. “I’ll join you in a few minutes…I just want to check the vaccine websites one more time before I go out and play.” 

And lo’ and behold, when I checked the 4th of as many appointment sites, a 1 pm appointment the very next day just a few blocks from my house showed as being available and I signed up for it as fast as I could, not wanting it to slip out of my hands.

THE VACCINE EXPERIENCE – GLORIOUS!!!!!

Three other similarly aged people stood behind me in line as I checked in – early! – for the privilege of moving forward in a vaccinated world. For me, the price of admission into that world is a sore arm, and that is all. But even if more uncomfortable side effects were guaranteed as a result of acquiring the vaccine, my husband and I were committed to getting vaccinated because a couple days of discomfort beat any day of having Covid. (My husband will acquire the vaccine when his age makes him eligible.)

Before I left the neighborhood pharmacy where I acquired my 1st dose, the pharmacy tech scheduled me for my 2nd dose, which will occur a few weeks later. I walked out of that pharmacy floating on air – and not because I was experiencing delirious or detrimental vaccine side effects. Nope! I was merely feeling what it’s like to be moving toward the other side of Covid, and closer and closer to once again being able to spend time gathering with loved ones with a greatly reduced chance of acquiring or spreading the virus that could make us severely ill, or even usher us into the great beyond.

Many express their desire to get back to normal, but I don’t think normal will ever return, nor should it. Just as after 9/11 we all adjusted our normals to accommodate our present experience, so too will we adjust our normal as a result of this virus experience that as of today’s date has killed 508,000 US people, and 2.5 million people world-wide.

BUSINESS AS USUAL WON’T AGAIN BE OUR NORMAL, BUT OUR RESILIENT ABILITY TO RESPONSIBLY MOVE FORWARD WILL SERVE US WELL.

 

 

Of Barnacles and Candy…Oh My!

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Definition of a barnacle: A marine crustacean with an external shell that attaches itself to a variety of surfaces. One of those surfaces that non-marine barnacles attach to is aging human skin. There, I’ve said it, aging human skin! Mine to be exact! So said my dermatologist at my most recent annual skin cancer screening appointment. But wait, lest you think the only aging attribute one can look forward to is crusty, discolored skin, let me introduce you to one of the sweetest parts of aging in which one can luxuriate: the candy bowl.

My husband and I have put out an easily accessible candy bowl filled with mini chocolates of numerous varieties for the past seven years – there is no mini-sized chocolate we have not tasted. When purchasing provisions at the grocery store the other day, I told the store clerk and bagger, “We’re just trying to keep alive the stigma of old people eating candy. Doing our part to support one of the oldest clichés of our generation.”

I will say, however, that if my husband and I didn’t have the gift of willpower regarding sweets, we would have never started this 365 days of the year tradition. If each of us ate 3 mini-treats a day, I would be surprised. When it comes to candy, we really don’t have a problem stopping at one or two. (Probably can’t say the same for glasses of wine, however.) 

Am I thrilled that my skin is old enough to have barnacles? No, but I am thrilled and grateful that I am a woman of a certain age who can boast about barnacles and eating candy in one, celebratory post.

And may I conclude by saying:

I hope to live long enough to keep spotlighting – and celebrating – aging matters for many years to come.

 

 

 

I Am SO Angry Right Now!

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Those close to our household have taken great measures to be safe in this age of Covid-19. The household with which we have had most contact over the past several months is that of our youngest daughter and her husband, with their son, and as of September 9th, their daughter.

The plan was to add our granddaughter to our current care day schedule, once a week, but now that Covid stats in our state are so ridiculously high – as is the case in too many states in the “United” States – our two households have decided to curtail all further contact for the time being.

This decision was made, not because our personal households have faltered, but because too many households have failed all around us, making avoidance of the virus more problematic. No one enjoys the inconvenience, but because some have rebelled against the inconvenience, we are no closer to containing the virus.

Had civilization as a whole been less selfish, we wouldn’t be dealing with this upsurge in cases…we would be adjusting to a new normal that is FAR better than the ongoing abnormal we are currently experiencing.

I am so f*cking angry right now. As a result of the selfishness of far too many people, my household is currently being robbed of a healthy relationship with the newest addition to our family. Please understand me when I say, I know we are not the only individuals affected by a pandemic that hasn’t been handled correctly from the get-go. My husband and I are healthy and we want for nothing. Millions have been affected far worse than has my household with our seemingly minor personal issue.

But I beg of you, please, to allow me this mini-pity party while I mourn this inconvenient loss.

We are all a part of something big

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A quote from the book Love is the Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times by Bishop Michael Curry & Sara Grace

There was once a wave, bobbing along in the ocean, having a grand old time. All was well and the wave was enjoying himself. He was just enjoying the wind and the ride, until one day he noticed what was happening to the other waves in front of him. They were crashing against the shore.

“My God, this is terrible,” the wave said. “Look what’s going to happen to me!”

Then another wave came along who asked, “Why do you look sad?” The first wave says, “You don’t understand! We’re all going to crash! All of us waves are going to be nothing! Isn’t it terrible?”

The other wave’s response: “No, you don’t understand. You’re not a wave, you’re part of the ocean.”

Everything we do has an effect on the rest of the world. Never think what you have to offer is of no use to someone else. We are all in this together; our combined acts of kindness and community efforts are genuinely worthwhile.

We are all a part of something big.

 

The Surge of Knowing Everything About Everyone

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Many of us have too much time on our hands; some of us use it wisely; some of us, recklessly.

I won’t go on and on in this post, I merely want to point out that we can’t possibly know all we need to know about a person without spending time with them, listening to them, and learning the life story that brought them to this very moment in history. Yet in social media comments*, I see judgments and declarations being made about people whom the commenter can’t possibly know well enough – or at all – to make such statements. A formerly buff man suffering from Covid-19, posts before and after photos of his decimated body and commenters declare the reason he looks so different is that he hasn’t been able to take his steroids for weeks. JUDGMENT MADE WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE OF THE PERSON INVOLVED. A story about a frantic mother looking for her child who wandered away from home is castigated by a stranger on social media who declares the mother probably had something to do with the child’s disappearance. DECLARATION POSTED FOR ALL TO SEE WITHOUT INTIMATE KNOWLEDGE OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES OR THE PEOPLE INVOLVED. 

Bullying on the internet has been around for quite some time and it is always unfair and ugly. With so much time on our hands and with such uncertainty filling everyone’s days, why add to the stress and fear by publicly berating perfect strangers by entering unfounded and unfair statements? Can’t we instead treat others in the way we also want to be treated? Imagine you are one of the individuals in the above stories, already devastated and at the lowest time in his/her life, and being berated and demeaned by callous and hurtful comments?

We can’t possibly know all we need to know about strangers to make intelligent statements about them.

And even if we did know enough, why post such harmful ugliness for all to see?

 

*I make a point of not scrolling through comments on posts – but when coming across an article of interest, several comments are always visible.

What’s in a name?

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What’s in a name? Turns out, quite a bit. We have all been on the receiving end of name misspellings – whether our first name or our surname. Countless times since my 2000 marriage, my surname has been spelled Olsen.  Fortunately, when our name appears in print, oftentimes such misprints are easy to correct and life blissfully carries on. But what about after our life has ended?

In my home-based gym, I have been exercising as of late to a Netflix series, Finding God, hosted by Morgan Freeman. What attracted me to the series was the fact that no one religion is spotlighted, rather, many beliefs are presented, and that pleases me to no end.

Today’s episode discussed the topic all of us wish we knew more about:

What happens after we leave this life; is there such a thing as eternal life?

Sorry, I don’t have the answer to that question but what I can offer is the following: our name will live on forever. Morgan Freeman went to Thebes, Egypt and received an educational tour of Ramses’ tomb in the Valley of the Kings. (There were several Ramses, this was one of them.) In this tomb, Ramses tried to preserve the memory of his life by writing on the walls and pillars with both a self-body image (a selfie) and the actual writing of his name in the language of his time. He was well aware that many would outlive him but he was also aware that no one lives forever so he’d better make his mark on history while he could.

What about our mark on history? I already know there are more than one Irene Olsons, which is why when I published my book Requiem for the Status Quo, I wrote out my full name, including my middle name, Frances. No doubt I am not the only Irene Frances Olson who ever existed but to my knowledge, I am the only one who wrote this particular novel to honor her father who died from Alzheimer’s disease; I am the only Irene Frances Olson, née Desaulniers then changed to Desonier by her parents in the hopes of others spelling it correctly; the only Irene Frances Olson who birthed Erin Maureen Li Sai Wong Green; the only woman fortunate enough to be named Irene Frances Olson because of her marriage to Jerry Olson; I am also the only Grammo to her grandson, Lucas…and so on and so forth. Who I am as Irene Frances Olson is different from every other person similarly named because who I am is a result of how I have lived my life and how I continue to live my life.

My name is very important because it is attached to the me who is trying to make a difference everywhere she goes.

No one else is me, so I choose to make sure I inspire memories in others that will carry from one generation to the next. Fortunately, I don’t have to be famous in order for that to happen. All that is necessary is that the me that is attached to my version of Irene Frances Olson is memorable in a positive way.

This Week’s Good News!

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Generation Z could teach all the rest of the existing generations a thing or two. Like in this story that makes inclusion the norm. My heart is full of good vibes with this delightful good news story.

Life’s Chapters

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I am not a writer, I happen to be a woman, mother, spouse, sister, grandmother, aunt, and a friend who has tried her hand at writing. I wrote a novel, Requiem for the Status Quo, to honor the father for whom I provided care when he had Alzheimer’s disease – a disease that took his life on October 13, 2007. I didn’t set out to be a novelist – arguably, I’m really not a novelist at all – but I knew it was imperative that I do something important for future Alzheimer’s caregivers and to use whichever vehicle was needed to accomplish that something. For me, it was writing a book.

Then what? What else could I possibly do to magnify the impact I set out to make regarding the disease that takes everyone it settles on, and forever changes the family members associated with its victims?

What I did was join AlzAuthors, a digital and community platform that uses the art of storytelling to light the way for those impacted by Alzheimer’s disease, to advance understanding of the disease, and to lift the silence and stigma of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. As a newly published author and a survivor of dementia caregiving, I was extraordinarily impressed – and still am – with the organization founded by three daughters of Alzheimer’s who sought a place of refuge and resources for their own caregiving journeys.

Then a funny thing happened – one of those founders asked me to join the management team of five, an invitation I gladly accepted, and with the guidance of a business consultant, who just happens to be my own daughter, AlzAuthors went from being a growing community of authors to a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Then something else happened: although not serious, my health took a debilitating turn that now requires me to step back from my AlzAuthors responsibilities. Only the patient knows what she can handle, and what I know is that my focus needs to be on my health, as well as on the precious family that means so very much to me. I am still an AlzAuthor and I very much support AlzAuthors’ non-profit mission, but I will do so from a slightly removed distance.

Of this I am certain, and I quote Pico Iyer when I state:

In an age of acceleration, nothing can be more exhilarating than going slow.

In an age of distraction, nothing is so luxurious as paying attention.

In an age of constant movement, nothing is so urgent as sitting still.

I completed another novel with a message I feel is of great importance that I will publish later this year. Currently, however, I have more important matters on which to spend my time and energy.

Now is my time for sitting still – focusing on me, and focusing on my family. That is the latest chapter I am writing for my life, hoping to get it right, once and for all.

This Week’s Good News!

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Leave it to Reno, Nevada to figure out how to use dance to benefit those with cognitive impairment. This story spotlights a wonderful dance club that is making a grand impact on the lives of those with dementia and their loved ones.

The encouraging truth about children’s hearts!

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Yep, that’s me in both photos.

Since my grandson turned 3 months old, my husband and I have had the delight and privilege of providing child care for him a few days a week. As I’ve said to anyone who will listen, being a grandparent is one of the most cherished roles I have ever taken on.

Before Lucas had a presence in my life, however, I became a mother to a little girl who has become one of the most astonishing, loving, and giving people I have ever known. Other than the normal worries parents adopt while their children are growing up, Erin never caused any drama or heartache from the day she was born. But it’s only since I became a grandmother that I have faced the truth of how beautiful a child’s heart is – how honest and generous are their expressions of love. Don’t get me wrong, when I was a very young mother I appreciated the precious person that was my daughter, I became thrilled at every adorable development in her life, I felt that being a mother was – and is – my highest calling, but now as a considerably older mother and grandmother, I am freshly aware of a young child’s ways of expressing that love.

My husband and I can be playing outside with our 2+ year old grandson when all of a sudden he will stop what he is doing and run to one of us with his arms open wide and launch himself at his Grampa; then he will turn toward me, Grammo, and run and launch himself at me, with the tightest huggies and kissies available on this earth. Or out of nowhere, regardless of where we are or what we are doing, Lucas will walk up to one or both of us and say, “Kiss Grammo, Kiss Grampa” and we do just that. The honesty of a child’s behavior is mind-blowing to me – there is no pretense and no calculated manipulation. Certainly, that will come later as it did for all of us, but right now, that type of behavior does not exist. If one or both of us grandparents do something Lucas deems as funny, he’ll endearingly say, “Oh, Grammo. Oh, Grampa” and the smile on his face when he says that melts my heart over, and over, and over again. What a gift this little 2.9-year-old child is to us.

I am so grateful that I have been freshly exposed to the joy-infusing love of a child’s heart. What an extraordinary Valentine’s Day gift that is to me in my mid-60s of life.

 

This Week’s Good News!

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This delightful story out of Oregon shows the lengths a grandparent will go to spend time with his grandchildren and make their school days just a bit brighter. I know you’ll enjoy the wonderful connection he has with his young ones.

This Week’s Good News!

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A five-year-old in San Diego, CA was concerned about school lunch debt incurred by those households not able to keep up with their children’s lunch expenses. Wait until you see how she set out to rectify this ongoing problem that occurs in so many school districts. What a great story to start February’s weekly good news!

This Week’s Good News!

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One thing I’ve learned over the years is that regardless of how many differences appear to separate us from others, those differences disappear when kindness is at the forefront of all that we do. This next Good News story will really float your boat.