Boomer Academy

I so enjoyed the opportunity to be a presenter at AARP’s Boomer Academy event in March at the Winter Park Community Center.  Abby Walters, a field coordinator for Florida AARP, did such a good job organizing this timely and enlightening program.  The founders of F.I.T. (Functional Independence Training) facilitated a fun fitness class, there was information about Boomer nutrition, and Medicare 101.  I hosted an “Exercise Your Creativity” session focusing on the impact of creativity on brain health.  AARP is really reaching out to those of us in the Baby Boomer generation as we transition into retirement or another phase of life.  Check out their Life Reimagined initiative.  

Liz Kitchens at Boomer Academy
Liz Kitchens at Boomer Academy
Exercise Your creativity- Be Brave. Lose the Beige
Participating in “Exercising Your Creativity”

The Paradox of Parenthood

I spent seven February days in Chicago caring for my newly born granddaughter.  Did I mention the February in Chicago part? winter cold The -14 degrees part?  It was a fabulous week filled with so much love and delight.  Such a point of connection for my son and me.

My daughter flew in as well.  Scrambling eggs one morning, accompanied by David’s music playlist, I beheld my daughter cooing with baby Maya as her brother and sister-in-law perused family baby photos of yesteryear.  This is why we have kids– for these moments of utter contentment and completeness.

children and grandchildren

Now, did you hear the “moments” part of the above sentence?  Let’s be honest, to achieve those moments requires hours of energy expenditure, a/k/a work.  Now, much of that work is joyful work.  Feeling useful is so satisfying and contributes to one’s sense of well-being and happiness.  Ok, all the benefits of hard work and self sacrifice aside, the work part is exhausting.  I was assigned the early morning baby caring shift.  That meant arising at 5:30 and trudging two blocks in the snow and -14 degree weather to fulfill my motherly/grandmotherly duties.  Once in the warmth of the apartment, heaven awaited in the form of my baby girl.  That intoxicating baby fragrance; the feel of her head tucked beneath my chin; to know I’ve not lost the ability to soothe a baby back to sleep.  Priceless moments.

But there was also

  • taking the dog out for exercise and elimination;
  • climbing basement stairs on wounded knee with mounds of laundry;
  • grocery shopping (organic only);
  • car pooling;
  • Starbuck’s drive-throughs;
  • even hosting an Oscar night party.

Did I mention I’m 61?

I had coffee recently with a Lady Boomer friend.  Her 92 year old father had recently passed away.  While his passing was not a surprise given his age, the significance of the loss was profound.  But she has not really been afforded the opportunity to sit with her grief.  She is being pulled by so many sources and obligations.  Her adult children and even her husband are making a lot of demands on her time and emotional resources.  All these demands leave little space and stamina for one’s own needs and wants.

Even, or especially, being in our 60s, we still have dreams we want to pursue.  I know when I returned from Chicago, I had little to no physical and psychic energy left for my own creative aspirations.  I gave my friend a prescription, one I so hope I follow.  Carve out 2-4 hours in the coming week for yourself.  Seems simple, right?  Not so much.  You have to commit to the promise and build in accountability.  Use the time to…

(1) meditate, (2) write in a journal, (3) take a walk or a bike ride, (4) wander through a museum or gallery, whatever you do, do it alone.  You need to carve out time to hear your own thoughts and needs.  Who knows, by creating this space, you might actually implement some of the things you hear from yourself.

Pausing on Palm Sunday

It’s Palm Sunday, 2015. Palm Sunday falls on the Sunday before Easter and commemorates the triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem.  In many churches, parishioners carry palms representing the palm fronds brandished by followers of Jesus as he entered the holy city to celebrate Passover.

Palm Sunday Be Brave Lose the Beige
Palm Frond quilt by Carol Taylor

While not terribly religious, and having subscribed to a variety of faiths during the course of my 61 years, Palm Sunday is one of my favorites on the Christian calendar.  Perhaps I enjoy a good triumphant processional. Perhaps it’s the exaltation and rejoicing.  It’s kind of the 5 minutes between the 40 somber days of Lent and the crucifixion 5 days later.  Not to sound unduly pessimistic, but life and all its complications can leave one feeling at least a little weary.  So when we chance to experience our five minutes of exaltation and triumph they are all the sweeter.

I’m experiencing my five minutes in Baltimore Maryland this Palm Sunday. I’m spending the weekend with my daughter Tracy who is performing in a community theater production of Almost Maine.  So I’m experiencing the triumph of her stage success.  I’m simultaneously rejoicing in our relationship.  Rarely are parents ever on equal footing with their children, but if we are lucky enough, we can catch glimpses of the adults they’ve become.  My husband and I often say maturity is under-rated especially with regards to children.  I arrived in Baltimore feeling broken down.  An infection had taken possession of my sinuses; I’m hobbling on an ostensibly rehabbed knee; and feeling weighed down by family drama.  I fretted I would make a poor companion for my daughter.  Instead, Tracy has scooped up my sagging self, providing stability in the midst of my instability. In short order I was sitting in an exam room at an urgent care clinic with antibiotics in hand. Her sympathy and empathy has been healing and her insight into family dynamics helpful.Such a revelation to see role reversals between parent and child.

Aware I’m partial to Palm Sunday, Tracy constructed her own service for us to share this morning.  Her Jewish heritage and love of Buddhism, coupled with liturgy from Congregationalism (my faith of choice), produced the sweetest of services.  Our twosome housed our worship in an empty Episcopalian sanctuary (the church of my youth). As much as I’ve enjoyed past Palm Sundays, I’m not sure I recognized the symbolism of the day until now. Though short-lived, Jesus’ celebration, coming between deprivation and death, must have been balm to his spirit. Maybe Palm Sunday is a reminder for us to pause, savor, and celebrate those special moments appearing as an oasis between work and worry. I’m happy time with my daughter gave me such an opportunity.

Palm Sunday Be Brave Lose the Beige
My daughter in Almost Maine



Furniture Flashbacks

I’m sitting on the sofa in our beach condo. This summer will be the 21st anniversary of owning this condo in beautiful New Smyrna Beach, Florida.   Our beach place has been a sanctuary for my husband and me, a place only 60 minutes from our full time residence but oceans away from problems and anxieties. The sea breezes manage to penetrate the schedules, to-do lists, and deadlines that live inside overworked brains. Concurrent with the joy, however, are the pangs of guilt over owning a place encroaching on the habitats of wildlife and contributing to beach erosion.   (The joy has obviously trumped the guilt considering our longevity here.)

As I sit on this sofa I remember it once inhabited our Orlando house. That is what happens to the furniture in our lives- it transitions. When we bought our red leather sectional, this saffron sofa, festooned with foliage and blue piping, was hauled down the highway to our beach home.  The former furniture here swapped geographies ending up in our son’s Winter Park art studio. It’s funny how furniture can tell the story of our lives, tangible mile markers. The rocking chair currently occupying our beach bedroom was bought when my son David fractured his kidney on a playground in the second grade. I spent so much time in one at his hospital bedside I wanted a rocker for home. My son is turning 32 tomorrow, is married and a new Dad, and moved his own life to Chicago. Now, accompanied by the lulling sound of the ocean, the chair is used to rock my grandchildren to sleep- another mile marker in my life.

Living room at beach condo
Living room at beach condo

A Tail of A Cat and a Dog

Within the past 3 weeks I lost two grandpets.  And what amazing pets they were.  Annie was a ginger tabby with a poof of red fur atop her head.  Rusty was an apricot tinted labradoodle with a really big schnozzle (nose).  (I can’t stand the fact I’m forced to use the word “was”.)  Rusty was originally raised by a single parent, namely my daughter-in-law Katie.  She fretted about Rusty’s future relationship with prospective boyfriends,  they were so attached…that is until David arrived on the Chicago scene.  Rusty and David quickly became BFFs.  There are countless photos of the two of them in ice forts, paddle boarding on the Halifax River, a boy and his dogand swimming in the ocean at dawn.  Rusty was responsible for the purchase of our very own labradoodle puppy, so taken were we with this grown up labradoodle  zen dog. David counted 26 states in Rusty’s geographical repertoire.  He accompanied David and Katie through many academic transitions.  He started off at Ohio State with Katie, moving to Chicago for a master’s degree, and a doctorate at Perdue.  As if those degrees were not sufficient, he trekked to Tempe Arizona for yet another doctorate and then on to Atlanta for an internship.  Such a credentialed canine was he!

Tracy rescued a traumatized and homeless Annie and her kittens from an inner city school in Baltimore.  Once the kittens were safely ensconced in found homes, Annie became Tracy’s faithful feline.  Dogs often win the best pet contest over cats.  I might have agreed with that assessment until I met Annie.  She shucked the “distant”, “reserved”, “independent” labels typically attributed to cats.  She was Tracy’s constant companion, helping with laundry, enduring water droplets as she waited patiently for bath time to end, accompanying her on airplane trips to Florida, and listening attentively to her owner’s blog posts and podcasts.

My reason for loving these animals has more to do with the comfort and companionship they provided my children, especially during some dark hours.  Rusty was truly David’s best friend during his lonely, transportation-deprived year in Atlanta.  Annie was the one Tracy reached for after especially scary nightmares when she lived alone in a basement condo in downtown Baltimore.

Tracy's cat Annie

The way they loved these pets says a lot about the kinds of people my kids have become. Tracy’s rescue of a homeless, defenseless creature speaks volumes about her compassion. She is a hero in my mind. David’s abiding love and commitment to Rusty’s needs laid a predicate for the kind of father he would be to his newborn baby girl.

Thank you Annie and Rusty for caring for my kids when I was too far away. We’ll never forget you.

Rusty mentored our puppy
Rusty and our labradoodle puppy, Jozy