Eight Ways to Get Connected in the Neighborhood

Front porches make good neighbors!

Oddly enough, the front porch is making a comeback. Folks still have the back patio for cook- outs and relaxing but newer houses are incorporating front porches that at least accommodate a couple of chairs.  There’s a reason for that.

People want to feel connected . . .

Dixie witnessed the new phenomenon while spending a few years near her daughter’s Fort Worth suburban neighborhood.  A number of young married families used their front entry garages with the garage doors open to sit in lawn chairs, have a cocktail, visit with neighbors and watch the young kids ride their bikes or skateboards.  This invited personal contact with other neighbors returning home from work. Something similar to the front porch.  It’s a great idea.

This has got me thinking about my own “connectedness.”  How accessible am I, really, to my neighbors?  Not very.  Oh, I wave if we’re going to the mailbox at the same time, but out of the ten homes in our cul-de-sac, I only know a couple of people very well.  I’d like to change that, but I don’t want to seem weird.  So, I’ve been doing some research, and here are some of the good ideas I’ve found.

How to get connected . . .

  1. Be a friendly neighbor.  Say hello to everyone and give them a grin.  People forget how much a simple smile can mean.  A smile shows that you’re interested in connecting.
  2. Use your dog. I’m not kidding.  When I think about it, I know the names of the dogs who live in this cul-de-sac better than I do the people!  Almost everyone likes to talk about their pooch.
  3. Be complimentary. There’s always something good to compliment.  That cute dog we were just talking about?  That beautiful vine on the front porch?  That adorable baby?  Even that pretty scarf. It’s hard to dislike someone who has nice things to say.
  4. Join a team or a group in the neighborhood. We play tennis, and soon we met everyone in the community with an interest in tennis.  But it could also work with golf or bridge or painting or quilting or yoga or lots of other things.  It’s easier to make friends with someone who shares your interests, so this is a great way to increase your accessibility.

And a few more . . .

5.  Go to the same places and become a regular. If you like to go to the pool, go at about the same time of the day and sit in the same place.  Soon you’ll become “a regular” and people will miss you if you’re not in your spot.  This can also work at the coffee shop or the pub or the nail salon or any place else you go on a regular basis.

6.  Consider starting a group. Do you love to run?  Maybe there are neighbors who would like to run with you.  I’ve almost always had a walking partner over the years, and I’ve made really good friends while walking and talking.  Do you like to garden?  Want to share cuttings?  Do you love reading?  How about a book club?

7.  Be on the look-out for new people moving in and befriend them.  They’ll be grateful, and you’ll have a new friend.

8.  Never turn someone down. If someone invites you to do something, and you’re free, just go for it.  You never know.  It could turn into something great!

Here’s to feeling more connected!  Let us know how it goes.

Pam

Writers@richlyaged.com

 

 

 

Share Your Talents – Reach out to others

Share your gardening talents with others. Brighten their day.

Reaching out to others is important to your happiness.  Sharing your talents and skills will benefit both the receiver of your talents and you as the giver. Volunteer gigs were covered in our February post. Taking care of the elderly (however old elderly is?) is one way to share our good fortune with others.

But I am not necessarily talking about structured volunteer opportunities or about monetary sharing.  I’m talking about the sharing you can do from your own home. More like sharing plants, cookies, books, magazines, laughter, game playing and most importantly time.

Share your sweetness with neighbors and friends.

Share your talents.  You have a wonderful set of skills.  Different from anyone else’s. Share those skills whenever you want to. What would that look like?

  1. Are you a good cook?
  2. Do you like to bake?
  3. Is gardening a gift you have?
  4. Can you sing?
  5. Do you have the knack of remembering and delivering a good joke?
  6. Are you always crocheting something?
  7. Do you like to work jigsaw puzzles?
  8. Are you a talented woodworker? Birdhouses?
  9. Do you have computer skills?
  10. Do you have a green thumb?
  11. Can you handle a screwdriver?
  12. Are you a thrift store guru?

What’s your special talent?

Sometimes we get great pleasure from creating something.  Anything.  But the four dozen cookies we just baked are too many to sync with our Fitness goals defined previously in one of our fitness posts Share them.  Wrap them up along with the recipe and deliver them to folks who live alone or those that have small children and working parents.

An example of sharing tips

Love to crochet, knit or sew? Let’s look at crocheting afghans.

  • There are only so many Afghans you can make in so many color combinations to go with your home’s interior.
  • Create a list of friends and families whose homes you’ve visited
  • Make some notes on their color combinations and make that a long term goal for your favorite everyday past time.
  • Once your yarn construction is finished you can visit them for a little chat and “spin a little more yarn.”  They will be thrilled and you feel great.
  • Still have Afghans left? Donate to the blanket drives for the homeless.
Share the warmth of friendship.

Gardening from seed requires patience but the product you receive is good quality and abundant. Cuttings from existing plants are also nice for sharing.  Repot those little treasures and share them with neighbors and friends along with a small card that describes the plant and the care needed.  Every time they tend their little gift, they will think of you and how you care for them.

Making a roast or a large casserole sometimes exceeds our personal needs.  Share the rest with those that have only themselves to cook for. Same goes for baking pies and cakes. It will be a wonderful change and so well received.  Or if you don’t cook or bake, exchange handy man jobs with friends for their cooking excesses.  Everyone gains and a little camaraderie is thrown in for good measure.

What about your beautiful singing voice?  Other than Christmas caroling, it’s a little harder to bust into song on someone’s front porch.  Sharing your singing talent may be better utilized in an organized singing group that goes from place to place.  You may be able to work in a few jokes while performing.

Sharing equals Win/Win

The act of sharing,  gifts both you and the receiver.  This too is a win-win situation.   Wouldn’t life be great if all our interactions worked out like that?

 Make a list, however short, of your special talents.  Then make a list of friends, neighbors and acquaintenances that you would like to gift. Follow through on the example above. They will be appreciative and you will feel happy for them.

Let that be your win-win goals.  Would you like some cookies?

Dixie

writers@richlyaged.com

Fourth of July. Independence Day. So What???

Fireworks. Fourth of July Independence Day Celebration!

What does Fourth of July and freedom mean to us Americans in this 21st century?

Celebration of Independence Day!

Fourth of July is more than watermelon, homemade ice cream and fireworks. But not to a ten-year-old girl growing up in Southern Indiana.  It was all those things and more.

My Aunt and Uncle owned a farm, where they grew chickens, dairy cows, and nurtured a garden where they grew vegetables including corn. It was a great farm and always a treat to visit them and hangout with our family.

My brother and I would spend the day playing croquette in the front yard with our cousins, playing in the hayloft and then taking turns cranking the arm on the old

Home made ice cream!YUM!

wooden ice cream mixer.  That ice cream resulted from milking the cows which we got to help with. Their garden supplied lots of corn on the cob. Crispy fried chicken accounted for a couple less chickens in the chicken yard.  My parents brought the fireworks and the watermelon.

Just to put this in context, this was the age before air conditioning.  Also the age of very few television programs, certainly no cell phones or video games.  Our movie experiences were going to the Drive In and taking our own popcorn then playing on the playground during intermission. Our cooling-off treat was running through the hose and catching fireflies at night in a mason jar. This was just plain fun as we celebrated our lives and the independence of our nation.

Independence from what?

4th Of July. Independence Day.  So what?  We Americans, as far as we can remember in today’s generation have always been free.  Haven’t we?

The original freedom problem was in 1776 when we fought the British for the colonies’ independence from England and the control of the King.  Wasn’t it???  So what does freedom really mean to us??

I remember my grandmother telling me the reasons we celebrate Independence Day.  What will you tell your grandkids?

The Fourth of July is our country’s birthday. When grandchildren ask why? Tell them what happened on July 4, 1776. That was the day our country’s founders declared independence from Great Britain, the King and all that entails.

Click the link for this really good web site for these answers and others that our grandchildren or nieces and nephews may ask.

http://www.grandparents.com/grandkids/holiday-activities-and-crafts/7-ways-to-teach-patriotism-to-your. Grandparents.com

Wasn’t the Revolutionary War, where we defeated the British? That war was the backlash for America’s Declaration of Independence.   What about that Declaration of Independence?  What did that document mean to the fledgling United States?

Let’s review our 7th grade U.S. History class. This link will take you to the Declaration of Independence of 1776. http://www.ushistory.org/Declaration/document/

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —

These United States. Symbols

And while we’re waving our flags at the town parade. What about the flag?

When you talk to your grandkids about Independence Day, explain that each part of the flag stands for something. The 50 stars stand for the 50 states. The 13 stripes stand for the 13 original colonies, which declared their independence on July 4, 1776. Tell them that the flag is a symbol — a way to show respect and a united front.  It’s also a way to show the world what we stand for.

What about Lady Liberty?

Lady Liberty. What does she stand for?

Guarding the entrance to New York Harbor on Liberty Island, the 305-foot (93-meter) Statue of Liberty came to the United States as a gift from France to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Lady Liberty has been a symbol of democracy and hope for the United States since 1886.

Happy Independence Day!

Sixty three years have passed since that ten-year-old girl played croquet and churned the ice cream mixer.

Thank you founding fathers for the foresight and perseverence, against many odds and for creating the cornerstone of our great nation.

Now that we’ve covered all that stuff, could someone please pass the homemade ice cream??  The Fireworks are about to start.

Dixie

 

writers@richlyaged.com

 

 

 

 

Create great relationships with friends and neighbors

 

It’s a healthy choice. Choose friendship for positive aging.

Creating great relationships is simple but not easy.  It requires taking the focus off of ourselves and putting it on the person opposite us.

Our last several posts have dealt with various types of relationships that include significant others;  in-laws, siblings, children and grandchildren.  Now its time for a few words about friends and neighbors.

Why all this attention to relationships?

More than just getting along with people, enjoying extraordinary relationships enriches life and retirement in the most wonderful way. Research shows that a positive social life with lots of friends make aging a happier phase.

Listed below are a few basic reminders that I know you are familiar with but bear repeating:

Listen.

Really listen.  Pay attention to what the other person is saying without formulating your own response.  Don’t start talking about yourself until you have responded to the speaker’s interests.  This is much easier to say than do.

Think before you speak.

Is what you say going to hurt someone?  It’s better to return the soft word rather than the sharp jab.  I can remember shopping with a friend when a clerk was downright rude.  I started to make a sharp retort to her when my friend said, “It’s really busy in here.  I’ll bet it’s hard to work today.”  The clerk made an immediate about face, apologizing for her rudeness and what could have been an unpleasant, negative situation was completely turned around by the soft word.

Be respectful.

Good manners are not out of style.  Simple phrases like “please” and “thank-you” show people that we care enough about them to show respect.  Treat everyone as if they are equally important – because they are!

When you remember that happiness is a choice, you are in the driver’s seat.
Be life-affirming to those around you.

Pam’s mother used to come and visit in the summer when her children were young.  She stayed a month, and by the time she left, Pam felt better about everything and saw her whole life in a more positive light – marriage, children,  home – everything.  Her mother was a person who made all those around her feel better about themselves. Decide to be that kind of person.

Build people up.

Offer encouragement and support, kindness and praise. You don’t need to be insincere or phony but there’s something about most everyone that is worth complimenting.  It’s just as easy as criticism and much more effective.

Accept yourself & those around you as they are.

Be who you are and take responsibility for the choices that you make.  I can reach out, or I can be selfish.  I can be kind, or I can be mean.  I can be accepting, or I can be critical.  Those are choices I make, and I will have to live with the consequences of those choices.  The only person I can really change is me.

Agree to disagree with those who have different opinions.

Our closest friends hold completely different political opinions than we do, and we’re both pretty passionate about them. That hasn’t been a problem for us because we know that disliking an opinion is not the same thing as disliking a person.  I know that our friends love America and want only what is best for this country, just as we do.  We just see different ways of getting there.  Respect and compromise are essential to extraordinary relationships.

 Stop comparing yourself to others.

We’re all different. Those differences contribute to our uniqueness.  Jealousy and envy are corrosive elements that bring only damage. Would you really want to be one in a batch of clones?

Reach out to others.

Almost everyone has felt shy, nervous, and insecure at some point or another.  Be alert to your surroundings, and if you see someone looking that way, rescue him or her with an open-ended question.  You never know; you might develop a wonderful new relationship.

Disengage from toxic and negative relationships.

If you have done everything you can to create an extraordinary relationship, and it is still sucking the life out of you, give it up and reclaim your life. Interactions with people who bring only negative energy are harmful and should be avoided as much as possible.  If you must see that person, do it as infrequently as possible.

 Be positive.

Welcome others with a smile.  It makes you more approachable.  Focus on happy things that make you feel good.  After all, that’s what retirement is all about!

 

Retirement is wonderful. It’s doing nothing without worrying about getting caught at it—Gene Perret

Dixie

writers @richlyaged.com

 

Value your Siblings and the Old People in your Life

Hurry is the enemy of love.

It’s been noted that ‘hurry’ is the enemy of love.  Sometimes we are so busy, even in retirement, that we don’t have time for what is most important – like our siblings and the old people in our lives.   When our elderly friends or family need our help, we’re conflicted over our priorities. This can be difficult because we already have so much to do.  It’s essential, however, to value your siblings and the old people in your life.

I haven’t known anyone who regretted the time spent with the old people in their lives.  My father and my in-laws both died before I retired.  My father died as a young man, but my in-laws both lived into their late 80s, and my husband and I were actively involved in caring for them at the end of their lives.  Dixie, too, cared for both of her parents in their final years, even moving them to live closer to her and her husband.   Anyone who has done this knows that it’s not easy, and there are times when you wish it would just all go away.  Still, there is great comfort in helping the people we love at the end of their lives.  To make them feel cared-for and safe, and above all, loved.

It’s easier, of course, if they live close, but what do we do when they live far away.  Forbes Magazine shares these seven tips for helping your aging parents beat their loneliness.

Tips for helping out when you live far away.

  1. Maintain frequent contact.  If you only call once a month, call more often.  Call for no reason – just to talk.  When I lived outside the country, I wrote my mother a long letter every week.  I couldn’t call her, but I wanted to maintain regular contact.  When we returned to the United States after five years, she had saved every letter.  She’s gone now, but I’m glad I wrote the letters.
  2. Visit in person at regular intervals. A hug is even better than a call!  Even if you have a difficult parent, you can keep it brief, but make it regular.
  3. During your visit take your aging parent to concerts or plays or movies or anything that he or she especially enjoys and might not go to alone.
  4. Check out the community services available where your parent lives. You can find out so much on the internet.  You may be able to lead them to a great senior center that they don’t even know about.
  5. Ask your parent questions about things like lottery entries and contests. When my mother began to get dementia, she started to enter contests where she was sure she’d win lots of money that she could leave to us.  It wasn’t long until she was scammed.  This is an increasingly worrisome problem, and there are plenty of unscrupulous people out there to take advantage of trusting seniors.
  6. Consider hiring a geriatric care manager. This is particularly helpful if you can only visit your parent once or twice a year.  These professionals can find activities and help your parent when you are far away.
  7. Consider teaching your parent to use technology. My mother-in-law learned to use the computer in her 80s.  She was proud to master e-mail and absolutely delighted with Skype!  Along with the advantages to communication comes a profound sense of pride for the senior who conquers technology.

Treasure your siblings, too!

Value your siblings.

It’s not just our parents and our in-laws who need the gift of attention:  it’s also our siblings.

These are the people who share our past, who co-star in our memories, who understand in the most profound way the very foundations of our lives.  They were there long before our spouse, our children and our grandchildren and they are worth celebrating.  No matter what the relationship with our siblings is at the moment, research shows that strengthening that bond makes us healthier and happier!

Just like with our aging parents, the key to the relationship with our siblings lies in communication and a willing heart.  Familyshare offers nine ways to stay connected to your adult siblings in an article of the same name.

  1. Learn what your siblings are involved in and make efforts to support them.
  2. Forgive and forget. Avoid all those bad things from the past.  Just don’t bring them up.
  3. Treat your siblings as you would a friend. We’re always quick to give our friends a break, but sometimes we don’t offer that same compassion to our sister or brother.
  4. Keep trying – even when it seems like family dinners are always awkward and uncomfortable. You’ll never regret trying.
  5. Keep your siblings in the loop.   Let them know what’s going on in your life.  I’ve always had good feelings about my brother, but we didn’t communicate regularly because our mother kept us both informed, but when we no longer had her, we began to pick up the phone and call each other.  I treasure those calls now.
  6. Have fun together. Do something that everybody likes.  If you live far apart, have a family reunion.  We rented a house with my husband’s family last year and siblings from New York, California, Florida, and Maine had a ball together for four days!  It was worth every penny.
  7. Connect with technology.
  8. Don’t talk about politics. Or religion!  I’m begging you!
  9. Let your siblings grow up. That sister who is 18 years younger than you are is not a little kid anymore.  Treat her with respect!

When we first started this discussion, we said that the only things that are really important in life are the people we love and the people who love us.  I know that’s true.  Don’t let all the hurry of life – even in a great retirement – keep you from concentrating on them.

Why not pick up the phone today and call your mom or your brother!

Pam

writers@richlyaged.com

 

 

 

 

 

Making Nice with In-laws

All things are made better with a cup of tea in a lovely china tea cup.

 I loved my mother-in-law dearly.  I miss her every day and would love to spend an afternoon drinking tea with her out of her treasured china tea cups – or sharing a glass of wine on her patio.  But when I think about making nice with in-laws, I can’t help but think about a time when I didn’t “make so nice,” and I’m glad I found out about it in time to make amends.

My mother-in-law lived her last few years in the independent section of a senior community.  When we visited, she wanted to parade us around so that everyone could see us.  I hated making the rounds – exchanging polite chitchat – so I often begged off on that part and just stayed in her apartment.  We saw her frequently, visiting her and taking her out or bringing her to our house to stay a few days.  But I didn’t care if we saw anybody else – just her.

I was shocked once when we were attending a holiday party to find she had told the management that we lived out of state.  Apparently, it was deeply embarrassing to her that we weren’t very visible to her friends and to the people who worked there.  After that, we made sure to have dinner with her in the dining room when we visited and to talk with her friends and the staff.  Who knew?  I thought we were having quality time without distractions, but she thought no one knew she had attentive children.

These kinds of misunderstandings happen not just with our mothers-in-law but with all the in-laws and out-laws we gain when we marry into a family.  But there’s hope . . .

Lessons from “The Happiness Project”

A few years ago, I read a wonderful book by Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project.  She has some wonderful suggestions for creating warm relationships with those people who are members of our family, but not our genetic relatives.  These work for all the in-laws and the out-laws – mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters.  I’m paraphrasing, but all the ideas here belong to Ms. Rubin.  There are plenty more in the link to her book above.

  • Remember the “mere exposure effect.” That means that familiarity breeds affection.  The more often we’re exposed to something – music, sports, art, even faces – the more we like them.  So if you’ve been avoiding someone in the family, perhaps you should spend some time together.  It may improve the relationship.

“A mother gives you a life, a mother-in-law gives you her life.”
― Amit KalantriWealth of Words

  • Act the way you want to feel. Feelings really follow actions, rather than the other way around.  If you want to deal with someone in a calm and friendly manner, make sure that you approach that person in that way.  Acting calm and friendly will actually make you feel calm and friendly.  This is the same thing as smiling when you really feel lousy.  If you do it for a while, you’ll improve your mood.  Try it.  It works.
  • Avoid pointless bickering. If you fight about the same things – politics, for instance, or religion, just agree to disagree.  You are not going to change your 85-year-old father-in-law’s voting habits.  Criticizing people’s choices isn’t polite, and it isn’t effective.

Accept yourself as you are, know what you value, and let the rest go.

  • Act in accordance with your own values. Gretchen Rubin correctly points out that when we really accept ourselves, others accept us, too.  You don’t have to be noisy about it, just go your own way.  When our sons were young, they both went through a long (and I mean very long) hair phase.  I know that was not my father-in-law’s favorite hair style, but I’m a big believer in letting people wear their hair the way they like.   I never said anything.  He never said anything.  It worked out.
  • Respect the priorities of others. Sometimes relationships can be difficult because we simply think different things are important.  Ask yourself what is really important to that person, and then if you can, if it doesn’t violate your own values, see if you can honor that priority.

How do you handle your special family relationships?  We’d love to know.

Pam

writers@richlyaged.com