Sunday, March 31, 2024

Life Celebrations

Today we celebrate the ancient tradition of “Eostra”. 

It began as the pre-Christian festival of spring and fertility – the rebirth of life after winter. 

The rabbit and egg were classic symbols of fertility and new life used to honor the Vernal Equinox by many different cultures.

Traveling to other countries I have been fascinated to discover a common thread, the ancient origins of the traditions we practice now.

One of the most striking examples was in Ireland at the Hill of Tara and Newgrange. At these beautiful and sacred sites, you will see both Pagan and Christian beliefs honored. 

Respect for all is a true celebration of life.

I Am My New Priority

 It has taken me over 60 years, but I have finally come to understand that you truly cannot take care of anyone else unless you take care of yourself.
 
Just like the safety instructions on an airplane – Put Your Oxygen Mask on First!
 
My history is the same as for most women my age, I was the one who looked after, supported, loved, nurtured, and sacrificed for everyone in my life.  Family, friends, husband, children, neighbors, people at work, you name it.  Often to my own detriment. 
 
For many years, I felt like I was the only one who could or would do it. 
 
From the bottom of my heart, it made me happy to give everything I had to those that I loved.  They didn’t even need to ask.  If I saw what seemed to be a need, I did whatever I could to help.
 
It made me feel valuable as a human being to be of service to others.
 
What I didn’t realize was that I was not saving some of that compassion for myself.  Anything I did that was just for me felt selfish and many of those I had helped were very quick to criticize me for it.
 
Now, looking back I wonder if the real issue was what I was taking away from them by having something for myself.  Those of course are the same people who somehow were not available when I needed something.
 
Slowly but surely, I have pulled away from those people and situations.  Creating some distance has helped me to see what I really needed and that was to take care of myself first and then share what I could with others.
 
Remembering what brings me joy and giving myself permission to have it has been wonderful.  I relish those beautiful moments when something new shows up and I know I am free to explore it.
 
There are so many things that I love and now I am taking the time to enjoy them.  Something as simple as shutting off my phone while I take a nap, read a book, or write an article feels like a total indulgence.  I am no longer available to everyone 24 hours a day.  Do Not Disturb has become one of my favorite settings!
 
I am also learning how to say no. Without explanation or apology, just no.  I want to say it kindly but with conviction so I’m practicing different ways to politely decline.  It is a work in progress after a lifetime of always saying yes.  It helps if I just pause before giving an answer to a request.  I try to remember that sometimes I need to say no to them to say yes to me.
 
Another change I am making is how I give.  I love to walk into a grocery store and pay for someone’s food or donate to a worthy cause as a gift to my grandchildren.  There are so many people in need in so many ways that any kindness I can show fills my heart with joy and appreciation.
 
The real beauty of making myself a priority is that I have so much more to give.  I feel nourished and abundant in ways that I never imagined. 
 
My sense of self-worth is no longer tied to what others need from me, it is simply what I deserve for myself.
 
Have you been the person everyone turns to for help?  Are you able to say no to requests or do you say yes even when it depletes you?  How do you take care of yourself?  Share your stories and join the conversation!

Published on Sixty and Me
 

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Finding My True Self

Sometimes, as we age, our true essence can begin to fade. A life that was once vibrant and grand can become subdued and pale. 

You continue on, day by day, with what needs to done and, in many ways, you feel like you are just going through the motions. When this happens, your spirit feels diminished.

After I turned 60, I began to believe that this new state of being was a natural progression and was simply a new pace that I would become accustomed to.

Rekindling the Vitality I Lost

There were aspects of myself that I felt must be a thing of the past, something from my youth that was not part of who I had become. I was not unhappy or unfulfilled, but, I had lost a great deal of the zest I had previously felt throughout my life.

At the very moment that I needed it most, I met someone kind and gentle who helped to coax me back to my true self. With a little tender persuasion, I quickly responded to all of the life I still had before me and realized how good it felt just to be alive.

There is a Spanish word that describes this reawakening perfectly – “reverdecer” – to make green again, to revive.

Now it feels as if my spirit has been renewed and I have a sense of hopefulness that I have not felt in a very long time. All of the sudden, everything feels possible again.

It Happens So Gradually

We don’t plan on letting ourselves slip away, but, it is so subtle that we may not even notice. Time passes and, slowly, we lose some of the drive that we once had.

It’s not until something dramatic occurs that we remember how we once felt. Then we rediscover all of the enthusiasm that we still have in our hearts.

Just like a daffodil that lay dormant during the winter, in the spring it sprouts and comes to life again. It even bursts out of the snow with a beautiful, irrepressible life-force that cannot be denied.

Reconnect With What Makes You Happy

Do whatever you can to restore and maintain your vitality. It doesn’t matter what it is. It doesn’t matter how big or how small it is – if it brings you joy, you owe it to yourself to do it.

If you can’t do some of the things you used to do, then it is time to find something new. It is never too late to create the life you want for yourself.

Anything that makes your heart smile will breathe new energy into your life.

There are so many wonderful ways to continue to nurture and feed our spirit and all of them make life worth living.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

What I Didn't Know About Ireland

                               

As an Irish American, I grew up thinking that I knew certain things about Ireland.   Of course, I had always heard how beautiful it was and how friendly the people were, but I was surprised to discover that there are so many things that as Americans we don't really know about Ireland.

Here are just some of the things that surprised and delighted me during my travels to the lovely green isle.

Top o' the Mornin 

I've never heard an Irish person say this in over 20 years of traveling there.

Corned Beef and Cabbage is not the national dish

The most common or traditional meal I found all through the country is boiled back bacon (pork), potatoes, cabbage and a lovely parsley cream sauce, it's just like the country boiled dinner my grandmother made when I was growing up.  Corned beef and cabbage developed in America due to the cost of food and immigrants living in the same communities with some who did not eat pork.  


Irish Bacon is not the same as Canadian Bacon 

It a gorgeous slice of pork loin (rashers) that I adore!

St. Patrick's Day began as a religious holiday to honor their patron Saint

Until 1970 pubs were required by law to close for the day.  Irish immigrants in America began celebrating in remembrance of their homeland and it has evolved into the green madness we know today. 

The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are separate countries

Although they share a border with the South, Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom.

Pubs in Ireland are truly Public Houses

They are a place to meet, gather and conduct business.  You are as likely to find a hardware store or linen shop in the same building.  I even found one that had a mortuary on the other side.  Many have become more of a drinking establishment, but you'll still find many true pubs throughout the country.

To say that the Irish are heavy drinkers, is not a fair reflection of the culture

I found drinking to be more of a social activity, and many prefer tea or soft drinks over alcohol when they are out.  My favorite was black currant juice mixed with water, very refreshing.

Having said that, there is a very healthy respect for the black stuff

During my travels I would often see Guinness mini coupes driving through the country to inspect and service the tiny pubs in the towns and villages.  As a woman you are more likely to be offered a glass instead of a pint when you order a beer, just tell them you want a pint, and you'll get a smile and a wink.

We've all heard of Irish Wakes 

I was very moved to hear the story about families having American Wakes for their loved ones who were emigrating to the US - they knew they would probably never see them again.  

Christian - Pagan - Ancient Celts

As I trekked up the Hill of Tara, I was surprised to see a very modest statue of St. Patrick and all of the surrounding monuments and symbols to honor their ancient pagan history as well.

Cherish the History

That is something very unique about Ireland - they don't remove something just because it is old or seems out of date.  A lovely caretaker I met at the Kylemore Abbey gardens explained to me that anything that thrives there stays there. 

Taxi drivers are more like professional tour operators 

They will give you great information about the local area.  It will also be the most interesting conversation you will ever have.  The Irish are very well informed about news and world events and love to chat with travelers about all of it.

How lovely and social they are is not a myth 

If they ask you about yourself, it isn't simply to be polite - they really want to know.  When I lived there, I was told early on, to allow extra time when you go out so you can chat with the people you meet along the way.  

The Irish have an incredible, irrepressible, independent spirit

That is perfectly displayed on the Painted Doors of Dublin.  At the same time, they have a deep love and loyalty to their country, like singing the national anthem at the end of the night after drinking and dancing.  That is something you would never see at an American bar.

They are the warmest, kindest most generous people I have ever met, and the countryside is absolutely stunning.  

If you've been there, then you know what I'm talking about.  If you haven't, then you must see it for yourself to understand the true beauty of this very special place.

To say I was charmed by Ireland would be a tremendous understatement.  It's not only the home of my ancestors but has become the homeplace of my heart. 




Friday, March 15, 2024

Winds of Change

I always look forward to the Ides of March and the change that it brings. 

Not the dark, foreboding of Julius Caesar but the positive, life affirming transformation of Spring.

Flowers are peeking out from the thick blanket of snow that fell last night with the promise of warmth in the air. 

I have learned to welcome each new season and appreciate that everything must change in order to grow.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Gone

I watched as the hearse pulled up to the house across the street.  Out came a gurney with a body draped in a white sheet.

I had noticed a lot of activity throughout Christmas week and had hoped that my neighbors were having a nice family holiday.

Thinking back now, I should have seen the signs.  The kids and grandkids had been there much more than usual.  And there was an excessive number of strangers coming and going, carrying what sometimes seemed like medical supplies.

They were my age, so I thought perhaps one of them wasn’t well but I didn’t think the worst, until the hearse arrived…  He was gone.

 

Friday, December 1, 2023

Christmas Magic

 It was just a few weeks until Christmas and I could hardly wait.

We had moved into our beautiful new house, and I had my very own bedroom.  No more sharing with my annoying younger brother.

Mom was busy decorating and getting ready for the holiday.  I’m not sure I had ever seen her so happy.  She finally met someone who treated her well and even liked us kids too. 

Buzz was a kind man, quiet and gentle with a warm smile.  Walking in with his dusty work boots, exhausted from work, he was never too tired to pick me up and give me a huge bear hug.

We were living a life I could never have imagined.  There was so much food in the house we had to put another refrigerator on the back porch.  We didn’t have to worry about moving in the middle of the night because we couldn’t pay the rent.  Life was very good.

“You are not going to start another project this close to Christmas.” I heard my mom telling Buzz.

He was always working on something.  He built a new patio with a rock garden for mom in the summer and a mini playhouse for me and my brother.

Despite her protests, he began working.  

It was unusual for him to be doing it inside, but it was winter, so I didn’t think much of it. 

Mom was beside herself with the mess.  She had worked so hard to clean and decorate the house.  He had even pushed the Christmas tree off into the corner.

I was surprised and confused when I came home from school and saw that he was actually tearing down the living room wall. 

He and mom almost never argued but this was different.  There were pieces of wood and sheet rock everywhere.  I was happy I had a room to go to where I could stay away from it all.

As the days passed, mom accepted that this was going to happen whether she liked it or not. 

Just a couple of days until Christmas now and I was more excited than ever.  This was our first Christmas in the new house.

Behind the canvas tarps, Buzz worked away, he looked like the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain.

He even enlisted my brother to help with his “secret project”.
I was a little jealous that I wasn’t included but I kept myself busy playing with my dolls and reading in my room.

Finally, it was Christmas eve.  I knew this year would be special, but I had no idea how much. 

After dinner, mom sent me and my brother to our rooms.  “We have something to do before Santa comes, so you have to stay there until we tell you to come out,” she instructed. “And no peeking,” she nodded to my brother.

Presents, it must be our presents we both thought. 

When she opened the door, she told me to close my eyes.  Gently guiding me, we walked into the front room. 

When I opened my eyes, I saw the most incredible fireplace I had ever seen.  

That is what Buzz had been working on.  Whoever had lived there before had covered up the fireplace with a wall.

It looked like something out of a fairy tale – the fire was glowing with twinkles of light reflecting on the hearth.

Under the tree were two boxes, one for me and one for my brother. 

We didn’t usually get to open any gifts before Christmas morning, so this was another unexpected surprise. 

My box was not wrapped, so it was easy to just open the top.  As I did, up popped the most beautiful little gray kitten in the world.  

Immediately I began to cry, as I carefully lifted her out of the box.

“Is she really for me?” I asked in disbelief, petting her gently. "I think I'll call her Thumbelina because she's so tiny," I said.

My brother grinned at me and began opening his package.  It was a toolbox with real tools to build things, he was thrilled.

Mom smiled and watched quietly as we laughed and played.  Buzz reached down from his rocking chair and lifted me, still holding the kitten, into his lap.

It was truly a magical Christmas.