Nurturing On Mother’s Day

It’s Mother’s Day 2015 a day celebrating motherhood, honoring our own mothers and the impact of mothers on our society.

My kids both live away as they say in Maine (at least that is what I’ve heard Mainers say in spite of the fact I’ve never stepped foot in the state).  This fact gnaws at me but probably helps save my relationship with my children.  I recently heard a story on the Diane Rehm Show about millennials (children reaching adulthood in the early 2000s) and how we raised them to be self reliant and independent (self entitled being the other common characteristic according to analysts on this show).  Mine attended colleges for multiple degrees in multiple states (none of which included their home state, however) thus ending up living and working away.

adult children
My Kids

I think the word I would most associate with motherhood is nurturing.  “Caring for and encouraging the development of…”is a definition.  But nurturing is so much more…warmth, protection, love, advocacy.  The image of a nursing mother strikes me as the ultimate representation of motherhood, supplying life-sustaining nourishment.  I’m reminded this day of the many nurturers I know, some of them Moms some of them not.  I think of…

Cynthia who drove mile upon mile to rural Alabama caring for her aging father who died last month, all the while providing emotional support for her pregnant daughter living in Texas.

Suzi, a constant and reassuring presence in the lives of her grandson, identical twin granddaughters, and newly divorced son, all living so far away in Idaho.

I think of Diana, not a mom in a traditional sense, but someone who nurtures the ideas and visions of others making the world a healthier place

I think of Susan, newly retired after years of grueling 70 hour work weeks, devoting herself to philanthropic causes and ever attentive to her only daughter struggling to make her way in the acting world.

I could cite countless other examples of selfless acts of devotion. While the act of loving feeds our spirits, the extent to which we care can leave us depleted at times. On this Mother’s Day 2015, let us resolve to nurture ourselves as well as we do others.

Send me your stories of nurturing women and I’ll post them here.

 

 

 

“When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It”

I visited the West Coast of Florida last week as part of a staff retreat.  The destination was a little spot of a town called Pass-a-Grille Beach.  To get there you must traverse a myriad of highways, interstates and even an 8 mile bridge.  The route literally dead-ends at the Don Cesar Hotel, a “pink castle”  built in 1928 as a playground for the rich and famous of the Jazz age.

Don Cesar St. Pete Beach
Don Cesar, St. Pete Beach

If you turn right (or north) you encounter miles of multi-story condos, souvenir shops, and traffic congestion.  If you turn left heading south, you are instantly transported to yesteryear (or at least my yesteryear spending summer vacations on the Gulf).  Charm literally shakes your hand introducing you to quaint houses, breezes through the sea grape trees (that have not been mowed down for mass developments), and unobstructed views of a translucent ocean and talcum powder sand.

Pass-A-Grille Beach
Pass-A-Grille Beach

My husband and I stayed in a kitschy place called the Cocoanut Inn. There may have been 10 rooms in the entire place with its sliver of a pool and tiny galley kitchen.

The Coconut Inn Pass-a-Grille Beach
The Coconut Inn

It reminded me of places my growing up family stayed, all five of us piled into a one bedroom bungalow, my Mom complaining about my snoring.

This trip felt a little like the Yogi Berra line, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it”.  We chose the path leading to old Florida with its unspoiled and underdeveloped natural areas and independently owned markets, boutiques and restaurants.  IMG_0567

Turning left might be symbolic of my political leanings, who knows.  When our Governor and state legislature seem bent on ceding our natural resources to big developers and corporate interests, I’ll go left at the fork every time.

Doodle for your Noodle

At Be Brave. Lose the Beige we are always trying to make creativity more accessible.  I almost consider myself to be a creativity evangelist I’m so persuaded of its impact on brain health.  Studies have demonstrated participation in the arts promotes physical and mental health, particularly among aging adults.  But, I also realize creativity can be an intimidating concept.  I’ve seen grown women dart from a room saying, “No, no I’m not creative at all” when I’ve proposed a creative project.  That reaction literally hurts my heart because I believe there is a creative match for everyone and it does not just have to involve
picking up a paint brush.

That’s why I’m delighted to discover two completely non-threatening creative endeavors guaranteed to be fun and relaxing.  The first is Doodling.  doodleWhether you are an accomplished artist or an artistic novice, doodling is playful and represents creative freedom.  Perhaps you have doodled for years.  Boring meetings and telephone conversations are prime doodling opportunities or even idly scribbling on napkins at Starbucks.  Suni Brown, a long time doodler, in an interview on CBS Sunday morning, is convinced doodling isn’t a mindless activity at all but literally engages the mind.  She says the doodle is the artistic equivalent of Rodney Dangerfield — it just gets no respect.  She has written “The Doodle Revolution” contending doodling can help in problem solving and aid in memory retention.  (See-  another example of how creativity is good for the brain.  I know I could use a dose of memory retention at 61!) When you find yourself in one of those boring lectures or on a call with someone you would really rather not be talking to, doodling may actually help you focus and pay attention.

 Apparently many U.S. Presidents doodled.  John F. Kennedy doodled sailboats, Ronald Reagan cowboys.  (You can well imagine how many boring meetings a president is forced to sit through). Ronald Reagan cowboy doodles

 

O.K., so if you have heretofore not been an avid doodler, let’s take a first step.  Apparently there is a whole world of doodling out there.  Googling the subject you’ll find a doodle genre called Zen Doodling.  According to Carolyn Scrace, an author of a book by the same name, artistic expression is a great way to relieve stress.  Drawing these Zen doodles is a soothing new take on relaxation.  So let’s get started.  Sometimes staring at a blank page can be intimidating.  So, try dividing your page into 4 or more sections.  Your lines can be wavy, straight, form an X, or even a zig zag line.  You can work within each of the four spaces (the lines actually become part of the drawing).  Draw any kind of geometric patterns you feel drawn to.  If at some point you want to create something a little more elaborate, here is a step by step pop art landscape doodling project from Art Projects for Kids.

doodle pop art landscape
Pop Art Landscape drawing

 Happy doodling…

 

Next time….Coloring Books for grown ups.

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.