Today is the day. Ninety years ago today my mother, Iris Virginia Muir Chambers (as the D.A.R. addresses her mail) was born in the Northern Neck of Virginia. Soon she and her family moved to Washington DC where Mom grew up. The streets around the Capitol and the Mall were her playground and she and her two sisters, brother and parents made a great life there.
The world was a different place then, as we can all imagine, but it is amazing to note just how different. This was the world before the Great Depression and Washington DC was a prosperous and exciting place to be. For fun, people bought sheet music and gathered around the piano to make their own sound track. Soon radios became the standard in every living room and Mom eagerly awaited her favorite shows-Inner Sanctum and The Shadow. Baseball games began to be broadcast by Arch MacDonald and Babe Ruth dominated the game.
This was the decade when Charles Lindbergh made his solo flight across the Atlantic. He had to take a boat home as fighting the jet stream for a west to east flight was too taxing for airplanes of the day. Commercial flights were far in the future.
Mom was born before prohibition made the liquor flow freely in the speakeasies and back rooms all over the nation. Before refrigerators were a common household appliance and even before most families had indoor plumbing-which, I am assured, mom's home did have.
King Tut's tomb was discovered and became a sensation in 1922, the year before mom was born. The Hollywood (land) sign went up in LA. Talkies were the sensation in movies, replacing the silent films. Rudolph Valentino was out and Clark Gable was in.
Mom's future boss-J Edgar Hoover was busy founding the FBI where Mom would become part of the first team of women fingerprint experts during wartime.
And for you kids out there-think of this-no TV, no computers, no Internet, no cell phones. We had a big black phone with a dial, tethered to the wall and shared with a neighbor on a party line. If you had to make a call, it was carefully timed with the egg timer so the long distance charges did not break the budget. And-naturally, no texting and no Facebook.
The world is a different place today, but one thing is certain-it is a far better place for having our Mom-Iris Virginia Muir Chambers in it. (Without her I would not be here, so really important to me) We love you Mom! We love you for all the love and care, the cookies and concern, the happy childhood memories and the hours and hours of your time you have spent working to make all our lives richer, happier, and more full of love. Happy Birthday Mom!
Now that July is here we finally have some hot summer days to enjoy swimming, boating, biking, hiking and walking. Let's not forget to stay cool and hydrated while we are out and about on these hot, humid, sultry days.
I call my father, now 88, frequently and grill him…something like this: "Have you been drinking enough water? How much have you had today?" or I say "Did you ahve breakfast? What did you have?" He has always been health conscious so he always replies with a big "oh, yes."
Then I have to make sure he has his air conditioners turned on because he turns them off and on all the time so the heat in the house can rise quickly and then he gets overheated. Again, I ask him. "Did you drink enough water today?" Ending the converstaion with "stay cool!"
Having been through one episode with him three summers ago where he got dehydrated and then malnourished because he was developing a cellulitis (or which came first?) I do not want to repeat that again. Even though sometimes he asks me "Why do you ask?" Dare I answer "because you're old!"
But then I remember the statistics: people over the age of 65 are commonly in trouble with dehydration, not just those in their 80's.
If you want to read more info from our book about this go to our 'Bits of the Book' page here.
So drink up, stay cool, enjoy the balmy evenings and cool mornings of summertime!Read More
Out for a morning walk is usually a time for reflection, observation, and quiet thoughts. These last few weeks of late spring and early summer have been full of growth and change in the natural world. The weather was cool, clear, crisp, now it is hot, sultry and unpredictable, rain comes daily and the sun beats down when it peaks out. These changes are reflected back to my inner world and have helped my mind, heart, and body change and heal as well.
Working hard at trying to be strong again after major spinal surgery has proven to be one of the most challenging things I have ever done. Starting with a week of rest (thank you sister for taking care of me while I wallowed in self pity and drug induced hallucinations) followed by a week of walking around the block-just barely, then weeks with a ten pound weight lifting restriction, then weeks of a thirty pound weight limit and walking only one mile. After eight weeks I am finally able to walk as much as I want and lift whatever I want.
Plus, I am back to stand up paddle boarding, SUP as it is known in the outdoor water world, after a year away from this new sport. It brings me such pleasure to be out on the water and pulling is what my physical therapist wants me to do as opposed to lifting. She also insists that I have a regular program of muscle strengthening, not building, just strength training. She advised me to stop stretching so much as that is stressing my joints since the muscles aren’t big enough to stretch to their fullest. She claims it is a common problem in older people. You stretch because you are sore, and then you get sore, so you stretch some more and then you are sore so you stretch more and all you are doing is injuring, or tearing, muscles and stressing joints. Makes sense to me because that is what I have been doing all year as I was fighting chronic, severe neck pain. And found my body more sore and uncomfortable. Now I do actually feel less sore after only two weeks of muscle strengthening exercises.
Back to my daily walks outside where I am out in the natural world seeing the plants and animals, reptiles, amphibians and insect world surviving despite all the odds.
I have rescued a few turtles from the middle of the road sent them on their way to the side where they were headed. Yesterday I rescued a long earthworm, it seemed to be struggling to get to the woods, who knows if I made it happy or not, or helped it at all. Do worms need my help? A silly thought to contemplate.
Walking on a wooded trail I came upon a large bull frog happily sitting in the middle of the path. It sat still while I took pictures and did not mind me getting quite close. I decided to touch it to see what it would do and get it off the path because there were kids, bikes, and dogs coming in the distance. Sure enough it was free to do a long jump away from me safely off the trail.
Encountering two legged species (humans) on my walks is rare up here in NH but yesterday I met a new neighbor and we walked and talked together for while. She introduced herself exclaiming how much she loves my book, [Hope I Don't Die Before I Get Old] has bought a second copy for a friend, and uses it as a reference, marking the pages with notes and a highlighter. Finding the advise on long term care insurance invaluable, she has even copied a page or two to send to friends planning surgery for their recovery.
Her parents are now in their 80's and luckily they bought LTC insurance in their 60's because now her father has Alzheimer disease and they will surely need full time help sooner or later.
This is why we wrote our book, to help others in their journey along this path of life that has so many twists and turns you never know what the road ahead will bring your way or what will cross your path. Caring for your elders and growing old is a complex adventure in humility and grace.
Back to my daily walk, I have to get out there and move…Read More
Friends, I have created an adventure - a cross country drive to see some parts of our country I have not seen before. First heading south for a little visit with my family in Virginia, eventually winding up in Portland Oregon for a little grammy time with my West coast boys.
Each evening, the TV news tells me about the horrors that await me out there on the road. Hail-the size of soccer balls, forest fires, landslides, tornadoes, and now even the roads I drive might pitch me to my death by dropping into a sinkhole. Don’t even get me started on the one in nine bridges that are in serious danger of collapse. I like a little excitement, makes for a better story, but actual fatal incidents? Not really, no thanks, I’ll pass on that.
Staying home has it’s challenges too, watching the grass grow in the rain, day after day, anticipating the moment when the sun returns and I get to mow a four inch swath at a time through tall weeds. The boredom alone might do me in so I’ll take my chances, brave the rising gas prices, pack up the dog and drive off into the sunrise on a new adventure.
Along the way I’ll be visiting all the independent bookstores I can, tour some of the 6,500 wineries now established across the country and explore the burgeoning hand crafted, fair trade and organic chocolate making scene. I’ll need some coffee to fuel this adventure, so I will also be stopping at independent coffee shops. Contrary to popular belief, the success of Starbucks has sparked a gaggle of small roasters and I aim to check them out wherever I go.
Check out my route and follow my progress as I drive, taste, learn and savor-all the while working on the edit of my next book-”Radical Indulgence, The Health Benefits of Coffee, Chocolate and Wine”. I’ll be taking names and numbers for the index and in the end there will be a clever interactive map to share so all my readers can plan their own tasting travel adventures.
There should be time to muse and dream along the way and I expect a steady stream of connections, concepts, images, visions and dreams to emerge as I go.
Wish me luck-I’m hitting the road!
Yours, Mary Boone Wellington
Tracey and I have been out there in bookstores and businesses, meeting with people concerned about loved ones and hoping to get clues on how to manage their own future. I have been impressed with the degree of diligence this community brings to the issues that face us all and delighted by the new ideas bubbling up. Ideas like cooperatives of elderly folks pooling resources for services that make their lives easier and extend the good years in their own homes.
One woman introduced us to the three categories of aging-the Go Go Years, The Slow Go Years and the No Go Years. She noted that making good preparations for these stages is essential to a serene and joyful life. While many of us still believe that it will be “Go Go” till we drop off the perch, it seems wise to plan ahead.
I have been surprised by the age range of the women -(for it is mostly women who attend our talks.) Women in their eighties-and looking great might I add, who are living engaged and vibrant lives and Gen-Xers already caring for their parents-all come looking to join in a conversation about the future of old age.
In a world where 14% of the population will be elderly in 2014, it is more than time to re-vision this later stage of life or there will soon be a rather large bunch of grumpy old folks cluttering up the planet, querulously demanding all the services they need. The cruise ship style retirement community with wine bars, pool rooms and hot and cold running attendants might be fine for some, but many will be able to afford only a rowboat. The current vision for “housing” the elderly, however posh, can be isolating, as many such facilities are literally behind high walls, cut off from the community, as though old age were contagious.
Couldn’t young families use a helping hand, just like our seniors? With resources like meal preparation, transportation and skill sharing, (such as knitting and carpentry)-why wouldn’t it be a good idea to join forces? I like the idea of combining all ages-as Tracey points out, a two year old walks at the same pace as a ninety year old! Best friends in the making, I’d say.
Entrepreneurs, take note-there is a market out there for new ways to serve the community, both the aging one and the emerging one. It’s time to rethink old age and invent a new wave of possibilities.
One of the most popular holidays at my Mom’s elderly residence is Easter, where the families of all the employees and residents come on over to share a meal and a photo with the easter bunny. Kids of all ages, dressed in their best, play games, hunt eggs and share a meal with the elderly residents. Everyone enjoys the mix of ages as wisdom meets energy. What if the vacant apartments in the building were made available to families who needed a great place to live. Think of the fun! Some lucky two year old might just get that walk with a ninety year old new best friend.
Just as the weather has turned blindingly beautiful and I am eager to run all over the mountain roads of the North Country-in this brief season after the frost is out of the ground and the mud has receded and before the arrival of the black flies, I carelessly dropped a sofabed on my foot.
It was, as all sofabeds tend to be, heavy, and I dropped it from a good height, so it had time to get a good velocity going before it landed smack on top of my rather delicate little foot. Luckily the Arnica was within arms reach and as I pulled off my sock with one hand, I grabbed the tube in the other. I would love to do an experiment to find out if this is really effective or just a comforting belief in the herbal ways, but cannot resist doing what I can to stave off damage.
My day on the porch with my foot propped up and iced was not so bad, I found. Warm sun, cool breeze and the tea kettle just a few hops away in the kitchen, my computer on my lap (sorry cats, you had to settle for the guest chair), I got a surprising amount of work done.
This morning, the foot looks pretty good-nothing appeared to be broken though it was a very nice color of violet blue. I look forward with relief to the being up and about again, if not ready to run a 5K, at least managing a putter in the garden and to get the laundry put away.
I thought then of my Mom, who at age 89 has peripheral neuropathy which weakens her legs and makes it increasingly hard to get around. I wondered if Arnica would help and realized it is a very different thing to be down for a day or two from facing ever decreasing mobility.
The neuropathy, in which the messages to and from the brain are distorted by irregularities in the myelin sheath around the nerves, is genetic, caused by a glitch in a gene. It might well be something I face in the long distant future, should I be lucky enough to get old. I have the hope that some scientist is working on a gene upgrade, so I will be OK, but that is by no means a sure thing. I am optimistic though and for now, so is Mom. She does her exercises and walks as much as she can to keep fit and take advantage of the strengths she still has.
So I push the envelope and go the extra mile (literally) while I can and am grateful for every step, and for the strong will, courage and determination I also inherited from my mom. Thanks Mom for a genetic and spiritual legacy that is proving to be a pretty good deal, Happy Mother’s Day!Read More