What’s in a Look?

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” Is it though? I don’t know about you, but every single Christmas, though blanketed in tradition, has been markedly different. Not better or worse, but different.

I have done as much shopping and preparing as I am going to do this year. A lot less than last year, so Christmas is definitely looking different. I am not apologizing this year for feeling less than joyous; that’s a big change. I’m not taking blame for raining on anyone’s parade either. That’s a biggie, too. So, is it really looking like Christmas? Yep, I think it is. It finally is.

My gifts this year to you, to those whom I love and show up for each day, and to myself (for whom I’m only beginning to show up) are grace and forgiveness. They go hand-in-hand. I’m learning. Grace isn’t about being gracious or delicate. Grace is bold and tough as nails. In fact, this year, I’ve learned that grace often cloaks itself in armor – not an armor that protects me from others, but an armor that protects me from myself. Grace allows me to rise. Grace permits me the space I need mentally and physically to breathe and make it through the day. Grace empowers me. It restores my faith in a humanity that often seems to be disappearing before my very eyes. That’s a new look for Christmas, wouldn’t you say? Attempting to reconcile living in a world where our lens has become focused on self-interest and disrespect rather than tolerance, acceptance, and pursuit of the greater good? Now, that requires grace and invites forgiveness, wouldn’t you say?

The look of Christmas? Learning to forgive is a big part of it. Forgiveness changes the landscape.  Forgiveness for me this year means letting go. It is not for me to judge and absolve anyone else of egregious sins or hurtful behaviors. I’ve committed plenty of both, I’m sure. I’m human after all. What Christmas looks like in terms of forgiveness for me this year is completely different than it was last year, the year before, or even ten or fifty years ago. As we lose those who shaped us and gain others who help us find new ground, forgiveness changes. It moves from perfunctory to profound, in hindsight, of course.

At ten, I feared lumps of coal because of spats with my siblings or falling short in school or fleeting bad feelings about my parents. In my twenties, requests for forgiveness involved momentary lapses in judgment related to indiscretions, promiscuity,  and discovery as well as not measuring up to the community in which I was educated. Thirties? I didn’t forgive myself…ever. I never asked for absolution, cleansing, or forgiveness because I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t think I did anyway. I had a child and a husband and a home. Forgiveness was a luxury. I got exactly what I deserved, good or bad. Forties? Forgivable forties? Fuck that. I was too busy. I didn’t think about grace or forgiveness. Life in auto-pilot when your spouse decides his pursuits are more meaningful and you’ve a child to launch and parents to honor. My 40s gave me nothing and everything. They taught me the most, punished me the most, and rewarded me the most. Irony, indeed.

And here I am, on the cusp of my 58th Christmas (actually 59th) “celebrating” the look of Christmas and I’m talking about and reconciling everything, particularly grace and forgiveness. They go hand-in-hand, I think. This year they do anyway. Next year, who knows?

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” Christmas is the life we celebrate on one day and should fete all year long!

Grace & Forgiveness look differently on everyone!

Don’t Live on the Periphery

Some days, most if truth be told and we are truly committed to appreciating and living in the present, we should only pay attention to what is right in front of us. It is what can bring us the most peace and comfort. It is okay to put on blinders once in a while; they allow us to keep our eyes open and focused on what is important. And more often than not, we discover, Sylvia & Erma discover, the what is a who. Who is most important in your life? You.

A bit worn this midweek but in the best way – from multiple days of self-care, a change of scenery, and a bounty of unconditional love – the “blinders” are helping. Twenty-four hours of worrying, lamenting, and second-guessing herself gets wearisome each day, so Sylvia opts for the here and now. The blinders can be eye-opening and restorative.
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Some days, 24 hours is too much to stay put in, so I take the day hour by hour, moment by moment. I break the task, the challenge, the fear into small, bite-size pieces. I can handle a piece of fear, depression, anger, pain, sadness, loneliness, illness. I actually put my hands up to my face, one next to each eye, like blinders on a horse.
~Regina Brett

#nowplaying
#overfiftyandfine #womensupportingwomen
#midlifeblogger #wednesdaywisdom

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Glory in the Mirror

Thursday thought: If someone else draws it well, writes it better, or captures the essence of what you are striving to explain, let that person help you lift your voice. And then, give her or him a nod, credit because it is due, and a big thank-you.

Today, Sylvia and Erma found the precise words. Thank you, Ms. Angelou.


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I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes- it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘Well, if I’d known better I’d have done better,’ that’s all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, ‘I’m sorry,’ and then you say to yourself, ‘I’m sorry.’ If we all hold on to the mistake, we can’t see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can’t see what we’re capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one’s own self. I think that young men and women are so caught by the way they see themselves. Now mind you. When a larger society sees them as unattractive, as threats, as too black or too white or too poor or too fat or too thin or too sexual or too asexual, that’s rough. But you can overcome that. The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don’t have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach.
~Maya Angelou

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Glory

Roots of Vulnerability

“You were away for quite awhile, Syl. Are you well-rested?”

“Not at all. I’m exhausted. Two weeks of caregiving and then some self-care of the best kind.”

“I’m happy that you recognize the need to care for yourself. However, wherever, whenever, and with whom you choose to refuel are secondary to the need. Good for you.”

Sylvia took care of an aging family friend and realized the fragility of life. She learned that tough love is still love.

She decompressed on the beach, walked the shore, bid farewell to the days as she watched the sunsets, and slept soundly. She even managed a delicious dream or two.

Meeting with both old and new friends who shared their stories, she became acutely aware of her insecurity but also extremely cognizant of that which set her apart from others. Early morning walks and play with canine companions, adventurous rides on a jet ski enjoying the vastness of Lake Michigan, and sipping wine and swapping stories, Sylvia then shared with Erma the greatest lesson of all – the epiphany she had amidst the sunflowers. “I am deeply rooted in vulnerabilities – we all are – and in them, I’ve found my gifts. I’ll let you decide for yourself what they are, Erma. I know what’s inside.”
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Standing tall and Finding the sun

There’s something in this world that makes you happy– find it; do it; breathe it in; let it wash over you; simply hold it; stare at it; bask in it; enjoy it; keep it to yourself. Or, share it. It’s the beginning of something – at least another glorious summer’s day. I’m starting to recognize my happy, and I wish the same for you.

Ever Faithful

The last two decades, Sylvia has risen each day knowing there is work to do – in life, for others, and for and on herself. Lots of work! On extraordinarily tough days, Erma commends her. “See, you didn’t give up. You put one foot in front of the other, and you made it through.”

“Did I really though?” Sylvia wonders. “Am I optimistic about the future? Do I remain hopeful? Am I keeping that hope ‘perched in the soul’ as Emily contends?”

“Optimism and hope are different, my friend. Each day they look different because no two days are ever the same,” Erma tells her matter-of-factly.

And after another swallow of the coffee that has been growing cold in front of her, Sylvia considers her trusted confidante’s statement. “Yes, I do believe you are right, Erma. I guess what really keeps me going is faith; that’s the difference,” Sylvia determines.


Erma, feeling proud once again that she has successfully imparted some of her hard-earned wisdom, sums it all up as she finishes her last cup of morning brew. “Yes, indeed, Syl. Faith makes all the difference. Faith in yourself, faith in the world – you need that in order to feel either optimistic or hopeful. You need faith, in fact, to feel both.”

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According to the Oxford English Dictionary, optimism is “hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something; a tendency to take a favourable or hopeful view.” Hope is the “expectation of something desired; desire combined with expectation.”
(source:
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-science-behind-behavior/201702/whats-the-difference-between-optimism-and-hope)

So Much More

The start to summer has Sylvia and Erma discussing the joys and ravages of basking in the sun, literally and figuratively.

Sylvia: Sun on my face. Sand between my toes. Fresh ocean air.

Erma: Sweat dripping from my brow. Sand in my car. The lingering taste of salt in my mouth.

Sylvia: Long walks enjoying plush, verdant paths. Sun-kissed cheeks. Evening cocktails on the patio.

Erma: Bees and bug bites. Crow’s feet and weathered skin. Sugary spills and the ensuing march of ants.

“Well, aren’t you the definition of a curmudgeon? A true crank,” remarks Sylvia.

Erma, tongue-in-cheek and with her signature sarcastic tone, lobs back, “Yep, that’s me. Ageless and timeless, my dear.”

“What? Ageless? Timeless? Those choice words are used to describe a woman’s looks,” Sylvia counters.

Erma, ever the teacher and always poised to debunk her younger friend’s perceptions, staves off any further commentary in one thought-provoking and accurate analysis. “Who says that ageless and timeless have anything to do with looks? Both are so much more!”


Less is More

“She tells her story in her face. When her life comes to an end, she can only hope that others see what she aspired to – a life well-lived and well-loved with some very juicy parts that kept her going.” ~ K. Morgan


Don’t Stand in the Doorway

Up early, coffee-inspired, dressed, and ready to cross the threshold into a new day, Sylvia smiles at the prospect of the here and now.

In our 20s, we live with anticipation and energy; the goals (for most of us) are to make tomorrow come faster, have fun today, and remove ourselves from what we looked like yesterday.

The 30s hit and we live with hope that tomorrow will be easier; today we will get ahead a bit or at least stay afloat and that our mistakes from yesterday will not be repeated.

The 40s for many of us are wrought with anxiety and fear that tomorrow we will find that we do not have enough of anything – time, money, love or patience. Today we went through the motions and have little recall of what actually transpired. We long for the lack of accountability and responsibility we had in our youth – yesterday was not so bad.

Ah, our 50s and 60s? Well, we live with intention and purpose. Tomorrow is getting close and it promises nothing, so we focus on what absolutely must be accomplished today. Today we will carve out a little bit of time for ourselves, even if it’s only a second to reflect, breathe, write, or have a bit of conscious “me” time, for yesterday, though we intended to do just that, time slipped away and we cannot get it back.

And here’s where Sylvia & Erma stop and welcome the many wise and witty friends of a certain maturity to add their two cents which has infinitely greater value than anything either of the gals could pretend to know or even imagine.

This Sylvia knows: tomorrow is not guaranteed and yesterday is done. Here and now is all we have!

💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐

With Erma’s steadfast friendship and support, Sylvia has come to believe that she has the strength and power to sprout wings on the way down. Today, both admonish the danger of standing in the doorway. The gals recommend crossing the threshold into here and now. No hesitation.
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Thresholds are dangerous places, neither here nor there, and walking across one is like stepping off the edge of a cliff in the naive faith that you’ll sprout wings halfway down. You can’t hesitate, or doubt. You can’t fear the in-between.
~Alix E. Harrow, The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Normal is Overrated

Erma: How often now do we hear people say this or that is the “new normal”?

Sylvia: Lots. It is the term du jour. Admittedly, I find myself using it without much thought, especially this past year. The pandemic created it.

Erma: Normal? What is normal? People mean ordinary, commonplace, and accepted. I guess that translates into living with rudeness and bad behavior for some.

Sylvia: Erma, that is exactly why we need and crave a “new normal”. A kinder and more humane way of life.

Erma: Oh, you are describing how we should have been all along!

Sylvia: Yes. Let’s dream it, practice it, and shape it into a way of life. I’m all for the “new normal” which apparently is a return to good, old-fashioned kindnesses and decency.


Now is our chance to do better, be better, and embrace our new normal, don’t you think?


“It is futile to judge a kind deed by its motives. Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind.”
~Eric Hoffer


Blow Me a Kiss

Sylvia woke this morning to a teeming rain with little hope of seeing the sun today; and for a while, she couldn’t get the “Annie” tune out of her head. She hummed silently and repeatedly, “The sun will come out tomorrow…”

She busied herself. Saturday morning chores ))nally raised her head from her routine a few hours later and realized that Annie was no longer belting out “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow,” she noticed the sun accepting the open door the clouds had left ajar. “No need to ever wait for tomorrow,” she thought. “There is joy right here in this second. I better blow it a kiss while I can,” she told herself.

And as the sun grew stronger and its beams broke through the dark sky closing the door on the clouds behind it, she knew that the sun never really leaves us. Joy, even fleeting moments – especially fleeting moments – are right here and there waiting to be kissed.
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Kiss the Joy

He who binds to himself a joy

Does the winged life destroy;

But he who kisses the joy as it flies

Lives in eternity’s sun rise.~
William Blake

All materials copyright. 2021.

Jelly Donut Love: It’s About the Filling

Sylvia: I’m thinking about life right now in terms of jelly donuts.

Erma: Of course you are. Everyone should think of life that way. Sweet and full.
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One year ago today, while I held my father’s hand as he left this earth with the same strength, dignity, and humility that I imagine he entered with, I thought, “Why? Why now?” And after reflection with my son and conversations with God and those in my circle, I realize that the point is not how he died or even that he died. The key is how he lived. With integrity. With conviction. With zest and appreciation. With gratitude and intention. With love. With LOVE. Jelly donuts, folks.

And now I know. My father’s purpose and legacy is one that is so simple, so timely, and so easily missed if you haven’t been paying attention. Jelly donuts.

My father was raised by a man who emigrated from Russia in 1916. A slight, sweet man who raised a family and worked hard to provide. A man, a zayde, who trekked to Cousin’s bakery (New Britain, CT) to pick up jelly donuts and bulkies for his grandchildren. My father, Sam, learned from his father, Jack, the importance of jelly donuts. Jelly donuts every Sunday morning, rain or shine. Jelly donuts equalled love.

So, Dad, like his father, brought his four children jelly donuts every Sunday along with hard rolls and Breakstone butter. (Truth be told, a dozen mixed including jellies for him, two plain for Mom, and glazed, chocolate frosted, and sprinkles for the kids.) Every Sunday. When his children began to have children, Sam became Pop-Pop and would make the rounds to his grandchildren. Jelly donuts. Love.

When my father was declining, I never thought about my actions. I just did. I went into auto pilot. Comfort and consistency. Dad loved his jelly donuts. From Cousins bakery in New Britain to Village Bake House in Niantic to O’Henry’s in Morgan Hill to Dunkin on Cape, we devoured, savored, and indulged in jelly donuts. And I vowed when my father left my home that he would never go without a jelly donut! I’d like to think he never did.

Jelly donuts. Love. Giving and receiving of both. THAT is my father’s lesson and legacy.

Dad, the first man who had my heart❤ Missing you terribly, but I’d like to think that you and Mom are enjoying your favorites today and fighting over the crossword.
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“To love and have been loved. That is the essence of a life well-lived.” ~ (K. Morgan)

Sweet filling. Oh, to be savored!
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