Seasons In Life

As we grow older and hopefully wiser, we realize that over the course of our lives a diverse group of people have come and gone.  Some staying briefly, others for a season and on that rare occasion we’ve met someone who has stuck with us for a large part of our lives.

Ahh, the Memories

Recently while thinking about simple times, memories of my childhood came to mind.  My friends who made junior high fun, crazy and sometimes naughty, like kissing boys under the bleachers (yes, I did that a time or two…who didn’t?)

My youth was spent in the 1970’s and for the most part I cannot recall a dull moment (okay, well maybe when I had to babysit my younger sisters.) mendy-circa-late-70s If I wasn’t cheering for our recreation club’s football team (my mom sewed my cheerleading outfit as most did back then) my friends Sheri, Karla, Kim, and Amber and I were deciding whose house we’d be sleeping at on Friday night. We would spend those nights talking about boys (as they were never far from our minds), listen to the radio and have pillow fights.  We all attended Sligh Junior High in Tampa, Florida which at the time was a 7th grade center designed for cultural integration in the community; it is now called Sligh Middle School (named after the street it faces) and is home to middle school kids in grades 5th – 7th.

In the late 70s, we would play 4-square in the school’s courtyard after lunch and talk about boys (again..we were 7th grade girls) and on rare occasion other topics which ran the gamut. We wore the hairstyles of the day, one side straight down and the other clipped back tight against the head (a bit of a bizarre style if you ask me) or a long and feathered look, such as in my picture. School offered home economics class, shop and typing, I took all three not remembering what I made in either home eco or shop, but I do recall standing at an ironing board (who knew back then we’d have was and wear clothing in the 21st century?) We wore dresses that were at or below our knees, pantyhose and black baby doll (flat) shoes. We had “patrols” (with the orange patrol belt) who patrolled the halls making sure we didn’t run and kept order on buses during the rides to/from school. Oh yeah, an on the rare occasion we would go to the mall…there would always be a line at the photo booth, you know…where you would go in, sit down, draw the curtain and start making goofy faces, then step out and wait a minute or two for your four shots to magically appear!  The picture above is a photo booth sitting.

I remember quite well my time in junior high and physical education class, pfft! (rolling eyes!)  Oh how I hated P.E.!  I still believe the only form of exercise our Phy. Ed. teachers knew were laps; everyday without fail and as soon as we hit the basketball courts (after dressing out) we ran laps.  I ran around that basketball court so many times one year I could tell you the location of every divot, crack and dip. I was determined not to have P.E. the following year so I got a part-time job at McDonald’s on Busch Blvd across the street from Busch Gardens and signed up for the school’s early work release program which allowed student to work in the afternoons on school days, usually reporting to work around noon. When a student was on early release P.E., home economics or shop were the classes of choice to drop from our class schedule; all the kids in this program thought it was the best thing in life, especially if we had the day off from work we still left school early.

GrandbabiesAlthough Karla, Sheri, Kim, and Amber are not part of my life on a daily basis, a few of us still keep in touch via social media and texting. We are spread across the U.S. with Sheri in New Mexico, I am in Northern Kentucky and Karla, Kim and Amber are all in Florida. It’s hard to believe some of us are grannies and these are my four precious ones.

Ahh, the memories are a nice escape from the hectic life most of us lead in adulthood. Just writing this article has conjured up some really great visions of years gone too soon. Wow its so hard to grasp that I turned 50 in February of this year, W-O-W…where has the time gone?

As I grow older by the day I’ve found that its the simple things in life that make L-I-F-E an adventure. As a Nona (grandmother/grandma in Italian), I love that I can love on my grandchildren and when they get cranky… I hand them back to mom and dad. I love that I don’t have to put up with other people’s drama and there’s no law telling me I have to keep them in my life. I love that because of where I’ve been…I know where I’m going and planning my future has never been so much fun. I love that my “lifetime” friends love me for who I am and accept me completely, without question, ridicule or judgement.  They just love me! And lastly, I love walking down MEMORY LANE and bringing all those great memories into the present. Thank you for letting me share a smidge of my past with you.

Eighteen Years Ago Today

Eighteen years ago today at 6:38 pm, a special bundle of joy entered my life.  Over the years he has brought me immense amounts of joy and laughter; has shared his thoughts, kisses, snuggle time, tears, scrapes, and heartache.  The Boy has grown into a respectful man and has made his “Madre,” as he now calls me, very proud as I reflect and think “yeah, I did a pretty amazing job raising this young one on my own.”

Looking at the pictures through the years his physical appearance has changed dramatically; yet his soul has remained compassionate and full of love.  He is a man of character, has a humanitarian heart, is humble, respectful, and honorable.

Son, your life is an open book, waiting for you to fill the pages with adventure, love, laughter, family, and friends. Dream big and never be afraid to follow your dreams; you’ll be wonderfully surprised where they can lead you.

The world is your oyster.  Happy Birthday son; I am honored to be your mom and I love you to the moon and back a billion times!

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Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus (and don’t you know it)!

9781435118645_p0_v1_s260x420My friend and I planned a girls night out for this past Wednesday night (March 26th).  We decided to see the one-man comedy show at the Aronoff Center in Cincinnati Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” which is based on the book of the same name written by John Gray.

As we sat in the auditorium waiting for time to pass and the show to start, we chatted about everything from the Salvador Dali Museum, to family and dating, as well as any musical concerts and stand up acts we’ve previous attended.  I looked around the theater as the seats were filling up and thought to myself that my friend and I might very well be the only “female” couple in the theater as many seats were occupied by male/female couples.

Its Showtime

The lights dimmed and the noise level lowered as darkness fell over the crowd.  Our entertainer of the evening “Peter Story” comes on stage doing some sort of a “I can’t really dance so I’ll just move and be funny about it” dance.  I think he may have actually thrown in a 1970s “robot” move or two.

Men are from Mars - Women are from VenusAs the evening progressed we laughed, learned a lot about Peter and Megan’s (his wife) relationship. Peter did an excellent (an quite entertaining) job in explaining the differences between men and women’s brains and how we process information.  Without giving too much away, I’ll share a little piece of info Peter shared with the audience.

Women need and want from men: Attention and Understanding

Men need and want from women: Trust and Approval

Guys, Peter gave an easy way for you to remember what a women needs; and that is done by referring to the Periodic Table of Elements where Attention and Understanding = AU which is the chemical symbol for “gold.”  Guys, treat your ladies like gold and you’ll be good to go.

Ladies, oh ladies…you already know how to be in the continual good graces of your guy.  Yes, yes you do, it is right there in their needs/wants of Trust and Approval = TA.  Girls, give your guy a little T&A and you’ll forever be treated like gold? 😉

A Little Explanation Please

I have to share with you a quick story about the elderly couple sitting to my right.  As Peter explained the AU and TA examples the audience was roaring with laughter.  Then in my peripheral vision I noticed the lady sitting on my right lean closer to her partner (who I would safely say was well into his 80s) and in a loud whisper she said “it means T-s and A-s.”  I lost it!  I laughed so hard my stomach started hurting, I had tears running down my face and found it somewhat challenging to regain my composure.  Peter’s explanation was hilarious, but hearing the old gal explaining it to her fella….that was priceless!!

Group Picture

We are somewhere in the center. Look for a blue scarf around my neck.  My friend is sitting to my left. (Photo: Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MarsVenusLIVE

 

Highly Recommend

I recommend that you get online and get tickets for this show, grab your partner or make it a girls night out.  You won’t regret it!  I promise!!!

True Story: Under One Roof

This past weekend just about all of my waking hours were spent submerged in a captivating real life story.  I’m not always the first to hear about something (as in this case) and it apparently took eight years for this one to cross my “hmm, that’s interesting” radar.

UnderOneRoofI do not recall how I heard about the story a week or so ago, or what exactly about it caught my attention.  All I know is I was intrigued and had to learn more.  After researching all I could find online I knew there had to be more depth to the details than what was lightly brushed over in news articles and blog posts.  I researched a little more and found a book, written first-person by the gentleman in the story.  BINGO…NOW, that’s what I’m talking about!  Who would know the details better than first-person?

I quickly ordered the book Monday, received it on Friday and started reading it that night; finishing it on Sunday afternoon. I would have had it completed by Saturday afternoon, but there was eating, sleeping, and chores that sort of got in the way.

I am completely fascinated by the story of Edith Wilson Macefield (she once told Barry, her unintentional caretaker, “that it is important for a woman to keep and carry her maiden name to maintain her identity“) and simply could not put the book down until I read it in its entirety.

A Glimpse of Edith

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When Barry Martin took on the role of construction supervisor of a huge Seattle shopping complex, he never imagined that he would end up caring for Edith Wilson Macefield, a stubborn 84-year-old who had refused $1 million from the developer to move house. Here he describes their unlikely friendship.

I was nervous, that first day on the job, walking up to her house. I’d heard so much already. The developers had bought every inch of a block to build on, except for this one ramshackle house, so they were having to build around it. If anyone tried to talk to her, she was more likely to bite their head off than give them the time of day.

Edith was tending to her garden when I walked up to her and introduced myself. ‘Miss Macefield, I just want to let you know that we’re going to be making a whole lot of noise and mess, so if you need anything or have any problems, here’s my number.’

‘Well, that’s very nice of you,’ she said, taking my card and holding it close to her one good eye. ‘I’m glad to have you here. It’ll be nice to have company.’

Edith’s gate was just 40 feet away from my trailer, so whenever I saw her outside I found myself wandering over for a chat. Then one morning she rang my mobile and asked if I would mind driving her to the hairdresser. I was surprised by the request as she seemed to value her independence above everything else. Whenever I went to check that she was OK, I had to make it look like I just happened to be there, otherwise she’d get angry. At the appointed time I stood next to her 1989 blue Chevy Cavalier. It was a sturdy car with a dent in the front. She had a booster seat on the driver’s side so that she could see over the steering wheel. I sat down on it and hit my head on the inside of the roof.

‘I guess you’re a little bit bigger than me,’ she laughed.

‘Yeah, and getting wider every year, too.’

When I dropped her home after her haircut she thanked me.

‘Not a problem. Let me know if you need anything else. And Edith, your hair looks really nice.’

Edith and caretaker Barry outside her 'ramshackle' home.

Edith and caretaker Barry outside her ‘ramshackle’ home with her 1989 blue Chevy Cavalier.

As the weeks went by, I found it easier and easier to talk to Edith, yakking about everything and anything. But then, six weeks later, I went to collect her to take her to the hairdresser again and she was furious with me. ‘I just want you to know I didn’t appreciate that call this morning. You boys keep on hounding me to move – well, I’m not moving, so save your breath!’

I had no idea what she was talking about. ‘Your friend over there at the developers, he tried to sound all polite but I know what he was up to.’

‘Listen,’ I replied. ‘I work by the hour and it makes no difference to me whether you stay or go but let me ask you one question: why don’t you want to move?’

She looked out of the window. ‘Where would I go? I don’t have any family and this is my home. My mother died here, on this very couch. I came back to America from England to take care of her. She made me promise I would let her die at home and not in some facility, and I kept that promise. And this is where I want to die. Right in my own home. On this couch.’

She seemed so frail and so strong at the same time. So vulnerable and needy and yet so fiercely independent. I was moved by what she had told me and felt strangely protective of her. It was such a simple request. At another meeting the developers offered to bring someone in to take pictures of her house so that they could build an exact replica somewhere else. They mentioned the $1 million [over £600,000] again and said they would buy a new house for her. ‘I’m not sure why I need $1 million,’ said Edith. ‘If I get sick it probably won’t cover the medical bills and if I don’t get sick I don’t need it. And if you’re going to make the new place look just like this one, well this place already looks just like this one, so why should I bother?’

Edith’s House

Edith’s house, which looked a little sad and lonely to begin with, looked even sadder once all the buildings around it were torn down. It resembled some last outpost of a bombed-out village after the Second World War. Before long I was taking her to doctor’s appointments as well as to the hairdresser. Then I was scheduling her appointments myself. On one of our drives home she was wondering out loud what she might make herself for lunch. I told her that one of the boys was going out for hamburgers and she said that sounded good. I told them to bring her back a vanilla shake as well. That was the day I learned what a sweet tooth Edith had. She would stick the straw into her mouth and not stop until the shake was gone. Then she started calling me about once a week to ask for ‘a hamburger and one of those vanilla things’.

As Time Went By

It wasn’t long before I was making her a TV dinner, too, before I went home. One evening I noticed a picture sitting on the dusty bookcase in the living room. It was Edith wearing wire-rimmed glasses and holding a clarinet, looking for all the world like the great jazz musician Benny Goodman.

‘Edith, how old were you when you started playing the clarinet?’ I asked.

‘My cousin Benny gave me one of his old clarinets, that’s how it started.’ It was the second time she had mentioned him and it got me thinking. Was this actually true, or was this just an old lady with a few loony tunes? So I started flipping through her Benny Goodman albums and sure enough one was signed ‘to my cousin Edith, with love, Benny’.

As the shopping centre was beginning to rise up from the ground I got my first call from Edith’s social workers. They didn’t think she was capable of staying in the house by herself. Could I help convince her to move? What if something happened? And I said that something could happen anywhere and I was just 30 seconds away and would keep checking on her. ‘Well, if something goes wrong, you’re going to be responsible,’ they told me.

Caretaker and author, Barry Martin

Edith bequeathed her home to Barry – and he refused to sell it to the developers.

At that point something welled up in me; it was the first time I understood how much I was learning about growing old from Edith.

‘How am I responsible? I’ll check on her but she’s a grown woman and she can make her own decisions. She’s perfectly capable of knowing what she can or cannot do and if she wants to take that risk because it means staying in her own house, well that’s her right. People have rights you know.’

I was beginning to understand how much we do things for old people just to make things easier for ourselves. We don’t always listen to what they are trying to tell us. Every time Edith swatted my hands away as I tried to help her wipe her mouth or tie a shoelace, she would roar, ‘I can do it myself.’ Just as with a child, you try to convince them to let you help them, not for their sake but for your own, just to get through the day a little quicker. Dignity is a hard thing to let go of, especially for someone who had lived the kind of exciting life that Edith seemingly had.

The unlikely friendship and refusal to bow to developers is a real-life version of the Disney cartoon, "Up" (which by the way was already in the development stages two years before Edith's story came to light.)

The unlikely friendship and refusal to bow to developers is a real-life version of the Disney cartoon, “Up” (which by the way was already in the development stages two years before Edith’s story came to light.)

That autumn, as the days grew shorter, I had given up all pretence that there was some separation between my life with and without Edith. I wasn’t spending weekends with her but during the week I was in and out of her house from dawn till way after dark, making her meals, taking care of the bills and the chores, the shopping and the laundry, as well as watching TV with her. On the days when I’d make it home before dark, more often than not Edith would call me on the mobile with some problem or other, some excuse to make me drive back. I’ve had an accident, she’d say, or you forgot to leave water for me – I swear she’d take the jug of water I left on the table and struggle over to the sink to pour it out just to get me to come back.

I wonder, looking back, how my wife Evie coped with all this. She’d get irritated, of course. With two teenagers at home, there was always too much for one person to do. But when I asked her about it all she would ever say was that she was proud of me: ‘It takes a special person to do this.’

Edith fell down a number of times that winter. Too often I’d come over and find her on the floor. But still she wouldn’t let me bring in any help and she was getting more and more demanding of my time. It seemed like every time I tried to leave she manufactured some kind of crisis. One night she called me at home and told me she’d fallen. Evie was really starting to get irritated by these middle-of-the-night calls, but I still got a Thermos of hot chocolate and a kiss goodbye as I headed out of the door.

‘You don’t know,’ Edith said as I left after one of these crises, ‘how sometimes I lie awake for hours waiting for the morning, longing for the sound of your key in the door.’

It was probably the first time that she had got close to saying thank you. I leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. ‘I love you, old woman. Now get some sleep.’

Edith seemed more fragile every day. I knew something was wrong. No one could eat as much as I was feeding her and keep losing weight. Finally she agreed to go to the hospital for tests. The news was not good – she had pancreatic cancer.  I guess when a woman reaches 86 you’ve got to at least consider the possibility of what she might be facing. But Edith was so self-assured, so in control that I never wanted to look around that particular corner. I had come to love her in the same way I loved my family. For a long time, Edith had been in a long dark tunnel, incontinent, unable to read or write. Now at least we knew why and she seemed at peace with the news. For Edith the darkness had been lifted even though it revealed a horrible truth. Now she knew what the future held.

How It All Began

Edith was born in Oregon in 1921, but not much is known about her life. She told Barry stories from her past that seemed so extraordinary that he was never sure whether or not they were true. She said that she had been recruited by British intelligence as a music student and sent to Germany to spy on the Nazis.

That she was arrested and sent to Dachau concentration camp, but escaped, taking 13 children with her to England.

She said she had a son who died of meningitis at the age of 13, fathered by her lover, the Austrian tenor Richard Tauber (below right), and that she went on to marry James Macefield who had a plantation in Africa where they spent months at a time.

Credit: Photo by CSU Archives/Everett Collection/REX (708712a)  Benny Goodman -  1943

Credit: Photo by CSU Archives/Everett Collection/REX (708712a)
Benny Goodman – 1943

‘Was she making all this up? It didn’t help Edith one bit if I figured out whether or not these stories were true,’ says Barry.

‘If I was going to be her true friend, and steadfast, then I was going to have to accept Edith for who she was: someone who had changed my life by giving me the chance to be a better person. She opened up my world and challenged me to do the right thing, even if that sometimes meant just listening.’

Edith became a symbol of the power of one individual against corporations. In the process she became something of a folk hero, and her story is said to have inspired the opening scene of the Pixar film Up (below), in which an ageing widower’s home is similarly surrounded by a housing development.

Edith died, aged 86, on 15 June 2008 at home on the same couch on which her mother had died. She left her house to Barry and his family.

Barry chose not to sell it to the developers but to a man who wants to preserve Edith’s spirit of resistance.

The story above is an edited extract from Under One Roof: How a Tough Old Woman in a Little Old House Changed My Life by Barry Martin with Philip Lerman.  You can order the book through Amazon online.

Some of This Author’s Favorite “Edith Quotes”

  • “Change is change.”
  • “Not philosophical at all” she said.  “Realistic. World of difference between the two.”
  • “Why the hell people dwell in the past is beyond me.”
  • “Tell them to get the hell out of here!”

Good night Edith.

Climbing The Proverbial Hill

Ahh…birthdays?

For me, birthdays are a time of reflection. I usually think about what has been, what is, and that which is yet to come.

VintageOne thing for sure, I no longer have to wonder about where I will be (physically or spiritually), who will be in my life, or what I will look like when I’m forty-eight, yes that’s right…48 years old young.

Really, considering the grand scheme of things, forty-eight is not necessiarily that old, is it?  Yet I have seen and experienced much in my life. Just to name a few…I:

  • gave birth to three terrific children
  • have been blessed with three grandchildren, with a fourth due in July
  • have experienced what marriage should be like and what it shouldn’t be like
  • have four siblings I adore and couldn’t imagine my life without them
  • lost my oldest brother (Rick) in 2004 to pancreatic cancer when he was only 42-years old (beyond devastating for our family)
  • told my mom “I love you” for the last time, ten years ago this month, when we laid her to rest
  • shared five wonderful years with the love of my life
  • was a co-owner/operator of a family restaurant
  • have seen cellphones evolve from a huge contraption into a small device that I continually misplace
  • now have one remote control that operates my television, DVD player, VCR player (yes, I still have one of those), and my cable box, when in my teen years we only had a 4-button clicker for our T.V.
  • uprooted my child and moved 1,000 miles north to be closer to and care for my dad
  • have had some amazing people enter and exit my life, some by choice, others…not

What is this “hill” anyway, and where is it?

Hill of Life

Proverbial Hill of Life

As we trek through this thing called life, some of us have a planned our path but have had to make adjustments, some just go with the flow while others merely exist with no true form, fashion, no hopes, and no desire.

When I was little I remember hearing that my mom “turned 40” and though “man, she’s old!” Ohh, what I now know. Times have significantly changed during my stint thus far on earth.  Sixty year old women look like they’re barely in their 40s (Lord, please let this be me when I hit sixty.)

Last July, when my brother “T” turned the big 5-0, I began to wonder if he reached the peak of the ‘proverbial hill;” thinking 50 is a good goal to have as the halfway mark.  Then after reading an article written by the Huffington Post which quoted the OECD on life expectancy rates in the U.S., It hit me that I may have already reached the peak of the hill and without realizing it I am now on the downward slope! YIKES!

U.S. expectancy in 2011 was 78.7 years, which is slightly below the OECD average of 80.1. For U.S. men, the average life expectancy is 76, while it’s 81 for U.S. women. (At five years, this gap in life expectancy between men and women is smaller than the OECD average of six years).

Livin’ life and making the most of it!

In all honesty, I knew when entering my 40s that I was already halfway to my expiration date. However, if you know an Aquarian, you realize that we live life to the fullest and with optimism, we have a ton of friends (although only a few make our “short” list of “close” friends), we are outgoing and enjoy people in general. According to TLC’s Birthday Astrology Guide, those born on February 11th love challenges, are goal oriented, enjoy life, grow up early, are loyal, trusting, faithful, and honest (all these things I already knew.)  Here’s some more about those born on Feb. 11th.

  • February 11 people seem to feel that no one can have too many friends. They may have a colorful love life, even if it plays second fiddle to their professional goals during their twenties and thirties. Despite their reputation for enjoying the good life, they have a domestic side.
  • February 11 individuals grow up early. They have tremendous emotional resonance and often show a marked precocity in their childhood. They often put off starting a family until later in life because of career commitments. When they become parents, they’re more than equal to the task.
  • Men and women born on February 11 are highly competitive by nature. They’re determined to make it to the top of their profession and will go to great lengths and endure hardship to achieve their aims. They are adept at making money and even better at handling it.
  • February 11 people are among the most goal-oriented of the yearly cycle. They often begin to prepare for their chosen career while children. During the intervening years, they learn lessons about sacrifice and focus. Once they achieve career goals, they are likely to set greater goals. They are all about commitment and find it hard to walk away from a challenge.

Some well known individuals who also share my birthday are Eva Gabor (1919-1995); Jeb Bush, 61; Jennifer Aniston, 45; Cheryl Crow, 52; Burt Reynolds, 78; Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931); Sarah Palin, 50; Tina Louise, 80 (Ginger from Gilligan’s Island); and Leslie Nielsen (1926-2010)

Facing the future, planning for the retirement years.

As my dear cousin Steven reminded me this morning during his birthday wish, I only have two more years to wait until I will qualify for AARP (like I’m chomping at the bit to add that title to my repertoire of accomplishments.) Question: Can you be considered a “retired person” at the age of 50 if in the United States we have to work until we are at least 62.5 years  of age before we can consider retiring and collecting our earned benefits?  How exactly does that work?  It may be the onset of dementia, but I’m a bit discombobulated on how this works.

Although I bid farewell to the close of my 48th year of life last night I do not foresee many changes for my future.  I am who I am and that’s who I am.  I guess I should get serious about retirement and how all that stuff works but that’s another topic.

I will create my new chapter entitled “My 49th Year” doing what I’ve always done. Perhaps, I’ll add a sprinkle of new adventures, skills, and accomplishments.  There are some goals I’ve been working on, so maybe one or two of them will come to fruition this year.  Regardless of what my new year holds for me…I AM READY and say “Let the adventures continue!

I will close with an email I received from my dear friend John.  He said:

  • Happy birthday, you’re not getting older you’re just a little closer to death.
  • Birthdays are like boogers, the more you have the harder it is to breathe.
  • Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that people who have the most live the longest!
  • Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.
  • Better to be over the hill than buried under it.
  • So many candles… so little cake.
  • We know we’re getting old when the only thing we want for our birthday is not to be reminded of it.
  • Happy birthday on your very special day, I hope that you don’t die before you eat your cake.
  • and last but not least; Happy birthday to a person who is smart, good looking, and funny and reminds me a lot of myself.

happy-birthday-to-me2