The Sunset of Our Lives

It takes years to become who we really are, who we were always meant to be.  I received the height of compliments recently from a lovely you lady at the wedding reception.  She was beautiful, smart, thin and had the world ahead of her.  “I want to be like you,” she said.  Of course, she didn’t mean it literally, but rather she saw something she wanted in her life.  Never mind that she already had a couple drinks… I will take a compliment where I can get one.   

Why would a lovely young woman in her last year of college, with her whole world ahead of her, want to be like a woman in her sixties with crow’s feet and silver in her hair?  It gave me a new appreciation for where I am at in life right now. Much as I would like to think so, it was not me she wanted to emulate.  It was more about becoming a woman who is happy and comfortable in her own skin.  An older woman who is not afraid to dance and belt out the words to a favorite song, regardless of what others think.  It is about becoming who we are and loving it.  I know because I was that young woman once.  I would look at older women who seemed to have it all together and think, that is what I want my life to be someday. 

I graciously thanked her for the compliment, but what I wanted to tell her is that you cannot rush the process.  Growing up to be yourself takes years.  She saw four grown-up sons who are handsome, intelligent, talented and thoughtful.  What she did not see were the years of giving up your own needs, dishing out difficult discipline and sleepless nights on my knees.  She saw a nice, comfortable home in the country.  What she did not see were all the years of scrimping and saving to pay for it.  She saw a woman who had finished a successful career.  What she did not see were the years of climbing out of bed to an early alarm clock to trudge off to work, leaving a mildly sick child with someone else while I went off to the hospital to care for seriously sick people.  She saw a loving, fun, creative husband.  What she did not see were the years of compromises, the arguments that sharpened us, or the times of putting the other first that it takes to build a marriage of 42 years. 

It reminds me of the story of the Velveteen Rabbit when the wise old, worn Skin Horse on the toy shelf answers the Velveteen Rabbit’s question, “What is real?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” “Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit. “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.” “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?” “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Margery Williams

The gift of the 3rd act in life

I listened to a TED talk by Jane Fonda recently, titled Life’s Third Act.   She addressed the fact that we are experiencing a longevity revolution, as people now live 34 more years than our great grandparents did.  That is a gift of three more decades!  We don’t want to live our 3rd act, that starts after your 60th birthday, in depression and emotional decline.  Fonda states that the human spirit continues to evolve as we age.  She uses the metaphor of aging as a staircase, with an upward ascension of the human spirit, that can happen regardless of physical challenges.   This is a change from the current metaphor of aging as an arch or bell curve; you are born, peak at midlife and then spend the rest of your life declining.  While our physical bodies continue to follow this bell curve, our emotions and mind do not need to.  Instead, Fonda describes a powerful sense of well-being that people often experience in their 3rd act of life.   She claims that you become more yourself as you age.  When we are younger, we are the subjects and objects of other people’s lives, but in our 3rd act we can redefine ourselves.  It is an opportunity to let the human spirit flourish and in doing so, we become whole. We become Real. And we become an example to younger generations of the beauty and value of this 3rd act in life. 

It takes years of living to file down the rough edges of ourselves. But eventually, over time, it leaves a smooth patina that is mellowed, happy and grateful for every day. Now is the phase of life that we reap the rewards of all the sacrifices and hard work. It takes time to learn to accept, love and honor our true selves. We don’t have fresh skin, firm underarms, or silky hair anymore, but we have something so much better. We have the beauty of age. A strength that runs deep in our veins. We have become stronger than we ever thought we were capable of. We have lived through some tough periods in our lives and we are still here. We are still breathing and laughing and thriving in the sunset of our lives.

On the home front

June 21st marked the first day of summer. There are several rituals that signify the beginning of summer for me.  One of my favorites is my first trip to the Farmers Market.  I needed some more basil plants, so I set off on Saturday morning to visit our local Farmers Market.  It is a feast for the senses. 

Have a wonderful week!

Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s Day to all of the classy dads out there! To all of the dads that have loved and sacrificed to build solid families, and to all of the stepdads who took in their spouse’s children like their own. The world is a much better place because of you. I know several hard working, kind, generous, loving dads that I am so blessed to have in my immediate family.

Every Father’s Day weekend, a small city in North Idaho celebrates by having an old car show and parade. The weekend event is called Car d’ Lane, which is a take-off from the city’s name, Coeur d’Alene. The show draws old car owners (no pun intended) from all over the PNW. Any car or truck can be entered in the parade provided it is 40 years or older. We set up our camp chairs on the sidewalk and watched the parade of cars and trucks on Friday night. My dad had a perpetual smile on his face as the cars drove by and reminded him of his younger days. It was a time when cars had more character and class… and white wall tires.

Does anybody remember riding in the family station wagon? I grew up with five other siblings, so we definitely had a station wagon in the 60’s. They were big enough to hold the entire family and the kitchen sink. What is a seatbelt??? After the station wagon, we got the middle-class icon, a family van.

I think the cars that brought the most nostalgia for me were the “muscle cars” of the 60’s and 70’s. Guys would spend their hard-earned cash fixing their cars up with colorful paint jobs, detailed pin striping, wide tires, headers, loud exhaust pipes and fake fur strategically placed under the back window. I had a 1967 vinyl top Mustang, that worked about half of the time. It was pee green, similar to the one in the photo below. Mr. U drove a much classier 1969 Dodge Charger. It was bright yellow and swooped up. My parents would joke that they could hear him coming to pick me up on a date about two miles before he came around the corner to our house. Oh, how we wish we had those two cars again!

Yep, I miss the good ole “muscle car” days when we would cruise down main street for several laps and then stop at Pappy’s Pizza to chat with friends, and everyone would pitch in their last dollar to get a pizza to share. Back when gas was .59 cents/gallon.

The car show had quite a few other unique cars and trucks that shot fire from their exhaust and did fancy tricks with their hydraulics.

Did anyone else have a cool “muscle car” that you wish you still owned, or a car that brings back lots of memories?

Living the Examined Life: The Journals That Built Me

Never before have I felt like I am living my life as true to myself as I do now. Why now? Is it the wisdom that comes with age? Or is it being retired? Or perhaps it is all those years of journaling that are paying off? Most likely it is a combination of all three. You certainly gain wisdom with age. And being retired offers you the freedom to spend more time doing what you enjoy. However, you can gain wisdom and have all of the time in the world to do what you want, but if you don’t know how to apply it to your life, it is useless. That is where journaling comes in. It is that deep thought process that pulls it all together. It is where we look at ourselves in the quiet depths of the written word and learn about who we really are and what we want in life. It is where we are honest with ourselves without concern for what others think. We are free to pour out our hearts and in doing so we grow deep roots. We learn who we really are, down in our core. The next step is living that out and letting our lives reflect it.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”


There is a ton of research out there on the benefits of journaling. For example, a 2018 article by Dr. Jeremy Sutton in Psychology Today, identified ten physical, cognitive and emotional benefits of journaling your thoughts and feelings:

  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Improved lung and liver function
  • Less time spent in the hospital
  • Better moods
  • Improved psychological wellbeing
  • Fewer depressive and avoidance symptoms
  • Reduced stress-related visits to the doctor
  • Less work absenteeism
  • Less time out of work following loss of a job
  • Higher student grade averages

I have been journaling for over 40 years. Yikes! Believe me when I say that is A LOT of journals. I don’t feel obligated to journal every day and I don’t follow any particular guidelines. I just let the pen fall on the paper and let the words flow out. It can range from what is happening in my life, or goals I have for myself, to how I am feeling about my life and situations that come up. I have only one rule I follow: I try to never write anything bad about someone in my journals. I will write about situations or feelings, but not directed at any one person. If you feel like you need to vent about someone in particular, I recommend that you do so and then shred or burn it. We never know if we will die tomorrow and someone will read it and be hurt forever. That is never the point of journaling, nor is it the collateral damage you want from your journals. Burning or shredding them can also be symbolic of letting go of those negative feelings about someone.

The three greatest benefits I receive from journaling

  • It is a pressure release valve. Several studies show that journaling decreases stress by releasing it in the written word. I know that it has helped me to work through many stressful periods in my life. It has also helped me to do quite a bit of problem solving. I believe it has benefited me physically as well. So far, I do not have to take any prescription medications and I attribute most of that to good genes, a great support system and a heck of a lot of journaling.
  • Increased sense of well-being. This seems to be particularly true when you identify what you are grateful for. It can be something very simple, but it turns your thoughts in a positive direction. I have read several articles that suggest writing a gratitude journal. Write down at least three things you are grateful for with each entry. Some studies revealed a decrease in depression when participants journaled regularly.
  • Self-discovery. I think this is one of the greatest benefits of journaling. When we become adults we get so busy building our careers, taking care of our homes and raising a family that we often lose ourselves in the process. We forget what makes us feel alive. Our careers and family often bring us great happiness and joy, but once you strip all of that away, what makes YOU happy? Not how others help make it happen, but what makes that happen for you without the influence of others? Who are we, now that the kids have flown the nest and the careers we spent so much time building are over? I have a feeling that women, more often than men, tend to lose themselves trying to make life wonderful for everyone else. Most of us will turn ourselves inside out and upside down in order to make everyone else around us happy. There comes a time when we have to ask ourselves, “What makes me happy? What makes my soul sing?” Journaling helps us figure that out, because somewhere in our busy lives we forgot what that was. We tend to be pulled and swayed by other people’s opinions and expectations. You need to dig deep and create your own style that fits you. Journaling helps you to figure out what that it is. I know it has helped me to rediscover who I am and what I love.

I always say that journaling is my “cheap therapy.” After all, six dollars for a lovely journal from T.J. Max, and two dollars for my favorite gel pen are a small price to pay compared to a weekly visit to a therapist. While I receive so many benefits from journaling, I fully recognize that it is not for everyone. I don’t think that you can force journaling any more than you can force someone to like running. It has to be an innate sense of who you are and how you desire to release your creative flow that makes you feel centered. However, if you are interested and would like to give journaling a try, I have a few tips to help you get started.

First, I recommend an attractive journal that will fit in a bag or purse in case you want to take it with you. I always take it with me when I travel. I also like to take it with me on solo walks or bike rides in case I find a great spot to sit and write. Second, don’t feel pressured to write every day, but when you do write, be sure to include the date, time and place. This gives you perspective, should you go back and read it later. Third, start small. Just write whatever thoughts are on your mind that day. Consider using a prompt to trigger your writing, such as asking “what was I doing the last time I felt total freedom?” Or write three specific things you are grateful for. Or write down some short and long-term goals. People that write goals down are much more likely to achieve them. Fourth, your journal should be your sacred, private space to write without fear of someone else critiquing your thoughts. Lastly, while it needs to be a place to let your thoughts flow, try not to let it be a negative space where you vomit all over the page. Add humor and gratitude to it. Keep it in as positive light as possible, while still providing any pressure release that you need. After all, what we think shapes our attitude and how we view the world.

The only downfalls I find with journaling are the cost of pen and paper, the time it takes and the storage space needed for all of my journals! I would say that is a pretty good tradeoff for all of the benefits it provides.

A word of warning. An overexamined life can be an emotional fall off of a cliff. As with most things in life there is a balance. It is that sweet spot of enough… not too much and not too little. (Maybe Goldilocks had it right all along.) Overthinking can contribute to stress and worry. It can also cause paralysis by analysis, which I have been guilty of more than a few times. Find that sweet spot and try to stay in it.

I hope I am not the only crazy person out there that feels compelled to journal, not because of the benefits or because they think they should, but because they can’t not journal. (Yes, I know that is a double negative statement, but I have already broken a lot of grammar and syntax rules in my blog so why stop now?) If I do not journal for several days, I start to feel clogged up. Apparently, I must write. I think that is why I enjoy blogging. It is a fun, creative outlet for my need to write. I guess writing, in whatever format, is just built into my DNA.

On the home front

We have some mountain chickadees nesting in the birdhouse on our patio. That is the mamma bird peeking her head out of the birdhouse. She keeps extremely busy removing waste from the nest and returning with food for her babies. As soon as she enters the birdhouse, they each chirp, “me, me, me!” I am surprised that all of the commotion from the wedding and the loudspeakers from the DJ did not scare her off. She is a testament to the commitment and determination of parents fulfilling their role in life. Maybe once they leave the nest, she needs to start journaling?!? Life is good.

The Wedding

After several months of planning and organizing, we had son #3 and our lovely new DIL’s wedding out in our yard last weekend. It turned out as beautiful as we had hoped. That was after a lot of prayers for good weather since it can be hit and miss here in the PNW, especially the first part of June. I was especially grateful to be retired these past several weeks, as it gave us the time and flexibility to get things done. Our yard has never looked better (and probably never will again) thanks to so many helping hands. It takes a village to pull off a wedding.

We still have family in town so I am just going to indulge in sharing a “few” quick wedding pics for my post this week (brace yourself.) Thankfully, there were some people brave enough to take pictures. Because we all know that the bride & groom do not run the wedding, and neither do their parents, or even the DJ. It is, drum role please… the photographer! Yep, and we just do as we are told. Actually, the photographer was great and I am excited to see her professional pictures. In the meantime, I will just enjoy the few photos we caught.

The rehearsal dinner was on Friday night.

Below is the entry table. The bride and groom chose cup koozies with the wedding date, etc. on them as their party favors.

I snapped the below photo at the end of the evening. It is a little blurry, probably because I was so exhausted. It worked out great to use the brick patio under the arbor as the dance floor.

Below is the groom (second from left) and his three brothers. They were three of the five groomsmen. Son #4 on the left is the groom’s twin brother and best man. The toasts that these guys provided at the reception brought a flood of tears to my eyes. Actually, I tear up again just thinking about it.

My family below. That is Mr. U hidden behind my dad. I wonder if he did that intentionally???

They decided to do a dessert table instead of a large cake. Yes, those are Twinkies and Hostess Cupcake on there too. It went over great!

Mr. U brought up the old truck that they used on the farm where he grew up. We got a bunch of roaring 20’s props and left out some Polaroid cameras for guests to take pictures.

Breaking out the cigars at the reception.

A very happy, and exhausted bride and groom. The bride chose sparkly Converse tennis shoes to wear…love her fun personality.

Next week, after all of the wedding things are returned, family have left, and I can think again, I will return to my regularly scheduled, and hopefully more thoughtful, blogging.