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Come on ladies, I know we just indulged in Valentine’s Day, but we are not talking about lacy red thongs or purple negligees.

We’re talking about styling elements that set your clothing apart from the same old, same old.

They don’t have to be styling elements that are at the top of the heap when it comes to a new trend (think open-shoulder shirts that are now deads-ville).

But rather surprise elements that can take a basic item out of the darkness, so they can possibly become one of your favorite go-to’s.

I recently updated some of my personal athleisure-wear while shopping at one of my favorite stores, Athleta.

Nothing really varied when it came to a top and a bottom that made them so out of line with my more classic style, but it certainly set me apart in the gym and on my to and fro errands. Still covered, still comfortable, still functional, but with a bit of a flair.

The first is the necessary coverup to shield my sleeveless tank in case I don’t want to reveal my upper arms darting to and fro. A basic, but with a sassy split back. I’m not showing my bare back or my derrière because this is the second piece to the layering look that adds a bit of interest to my backside. And as I always say to my clients, you need to look good when you leave the room because people gaze at you longer as you are walking away than they do when you are approaching.

The second piece is the workout aka yoga pant. They are still high-rise, comfortable, fully contained workout pants, but they have this sassy styling element down the sides. That sassy styling element comes in so many options it’s hard to choose. You could have open criss-crossing, mesh panels or printed fabric inserts that can  wisk you away from your boring black yoga pants.

How do you take the styling elements from your workout-wear to your work-where? Pick the category first. One of the easiest categories to add a bit of edge to, are blouses. For two reasons, one they tend to not be the most expensive item in your wardrobe, unless of course you’re still a 100% silk girl, who’s having an affair with her dry cleaner. The second reason is that blouses, considered a soft element, are matched back to your basic hard elements such as pants, skirts and jackets. Think of it as the frosting on the cake. Add flare with cuffs, sleeve shapes, collar adornments, beautiful buttons, pleating, backside interest, color-blocking, again the list is endless. The point being, don’t just buy a boring button front blouse!

The other category that you could infuse some zing into would be your sweaters for the same reasons that I just stated for blouses.

Lastly, at the other end of the spectrum are your shoes. As much as I tout that you need to have a black flat, a black heel, a black booty and maybe a black knee-high boot, if that’s the only color you have in your personal shoe department, then your shoes are downright boring.

Spring is the perfect time to experiment and introduce some freshness into your wardrobe. Need more inspiration? Sign up for my blog and receive a free chapter download of my book, Confidence Is Always In Stylewww.DoreenDove.com/blog

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Better After 50 by Lauren Borchetta - 2d ago

Ever find yourself having to bring two pairs of shoes to work because your “office shoes” are just too uncomfortable? Anyone who claims that they don’t get sore from a 4-inch heel is either a superhuman or a liar. We all know how painful heels can be but do we really have to sacrifice style for comfort?

From personal experience, finding the perfect pair of office appropriate shoes can be difficult. Despite popular belief, you don’t have to give up the heel to be comfortable. A low-heel is a great option that will give your legs a little lift without making you suffer through an 8-hour work day. If the heel isn’t your style, a stylish loafer can still dress up a pair of suit pants. These are our top-pick office shoes that will have your feet thanking you.The Gabrianna Pump from Calvin Klein gives you just a little lift with a heel height of 1 ¾”. Available in a variety of colors, it has a hidden gel pod in the heel for greater comfort. This pointy toe mesh strap Dezi Pump from Pelle Moda is fashionable and practical. It comes in blue, black, and tan to match any business attire in your closet.The Stellato Sacchetto from M. Gemi is a simplistic and chic loafer that you’ll never want to take off. We love these shoes because they can be dressed up for work or paired with jeans for a more casual look.These Stormm Pointy Pumps from Athena Alexander provide a unique wavy silhouette for a feminine and modern look. The 2-inch kitten heel is a great addition to this stylish pump and they’re under $100.Add a subtle pop of color to your office wear with these blush pink suede loafers from M. Gemi. They have a lightly padded insole and a cool fringe detailing on the upper.A classic but comfortable flat is an office necessity. These Kimber Flats from Dr. Scholl’s have a cushioned insole for comfort and a fun snakeskin print for style.

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Better After 50 by Emily Gaffney - 2d ago

I quit drinking seven and a half years ago. No more wine-ing for me.

Of the many benefits I’d anticipated, a reduced caloric intake was top of the list. Although weight loss wasn’t my goal (having minimal girth to spare at the outset…), I relished the thought of consuming a full size Whopper and fries without care or concern.

During my prolonged wine career, I rarely entertained the thought of desert. A second helping of pasta carbonara always trumped a piece of Mocha Madness. And a third (or fourth) glass of chardonnay always trumped the pasta.

Would you like to see the desert menu?

Ah, no thanks… I’ll just have another chardonnay…

Neither deprived nor depraved – I just wasn’t interested in gooey food stuffs. Apparently, any and all of my sugar cravings were being fully satisfied and mitigated by my consumption of the mighty grape.

As my “dry” months ticked by, my energy increased, but I could barely pour myself into my Joe’s Jeans. WTF? I should be swimming in these by now. With a huge reduction in wine-calories and a jacked up exercise regimen (enhanced by my crystal clear morning-mind) my belly bloat just didn’t make sense… a total body betrayal.

I checked the facts:

Fact #1 – I had stashes of candy everywhere; in my purse, bedroom, car, briefcase and desk drawer.

Fact #2 – I opened restaurant menus to the desert page first. (…food schmood...)

Fact #3 – I lingered at the bakery section of Whole Foods, and always committed to a purchase.

Fact #4 – I developed a sophisticated palate for chocolate – M&Ms getting the same respect as dark chocolate Lindt balls (-of heaven).

Fact #5 – I got a somewhat panicky, where-the-eff-is-my-candy feeling when under stress, satisfied only by consumption of said candy.

Fact #6 – In traffic, I jammed a whole hand full of Jujy Fruits into my mouth at one time.

Fact #7 – I drank 2 diet cokes a day, sometimes while eating a chocolate bar.

In short, the facts confirmed that the painfully close fit of my jeans was a direct result of my excessive intake of fructose.

The sadness of this realization spurred me to do some research. I stumbled upon this helpful holistic website that explained everything I could ever want to know about sugar (...holistic not being a word found in my daily lexicon).

Apparently, I am a sugar junkie, exhibiting all the classic signs of addiction; I want it all the time (craving), and I get cranky, headachy, and tired if I don’t have it (withdrawl).

None of this is good news, but now burdened with awareness, it’s time for me to take action.

I know I’ll never be completely fructose “abstinent,” but I’m learning how to control it (…said every addict whoever walked…). Here are my new dietary rules:

  • No sugar for breakfast
  • No chocolate during the day
  • No diet Coke (that’s a hard one)
  • No candy in my car (even harder)
  • Only 2 cookies after dinner

And, if I were to follow the sugar addiction guru’s advice (which I am not), I would also:

  • Reduce or eliminate caffeine
  • Take Glutamine, Vitamin B complex, and an essential fatty acid supplement
  • Eat more protein with my healthy fats (is there such a thing?)
  • Get more sleep (wouldn’t that be nice…)

Adherence to these simple guidelines will likely yield naturally healthy results, but it still feels like work. In the grand scheme of things, tight jeans and sugar addiction are probably small potatoes, but catastrophized all the way out, my sugar habit could have ended in diabetes, hypertension, or maybe even death.

So, for my New Year resolution (a concept I loathe…) I’ll shun the sugar and make an honest effort to enhance my overall health. If unsuccessful, I can always take a quick trip to Nordstrom to purchase a larger size in jeans.

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You are absolutely right in the dispute, no question. He has inflicted a wrong-doing upon you, the logic of which is obvious. He is simply too thick-headed to see it; lives in his own world; blind to the truth; unwilling to face facts. Sub-text: he doesn’t give a hoot about your feelings. Sub-under-text: he doesn’t actually care about you, let alone love you, let alone like you. But there he is, claiming the exact same complaints about you. (Only the subtext is different because men are trained to keep feelings un-watered—no tears—and they may go unrecognized as living things.)

Could both of you be right? Yes, because the logic of the situation belongs exclusively to each of you and is different for each of you. That logic, which brought on the firestorm, began with a hypothesis. From that, your argument and his proceeds on its own trajectory through to its blow-up finale.. Without hearing (e.g. listening) to the other’s hypothesis and following its logic to the end, both of you have nothing to grasp at but anger.

Okay, here is an example: He wants to stay home and watch the playoffs on Sunday; she wants to accept her parent’s invitation to come for dinner before they leave for Florida. His hypothesis—and the logic that follows: he works hard all week, Saturdays is full of the chores (she gives him), come Sunday he is entitled to relax and do something he likes. Her argument: she needs to accept the invitation, her parents have given her so much, they are leaving for the whole winter. Each is right, traipsing along the yellow brick road of the arguments. But here come the side-paths the two stumble on as neither one really hears the other and their anger escalates: all you do Sundays is lie on the couch, she says, you should exercise, just look at that belly. He says, Your father is a grouch and never approved of me, and your mom makes pot roast for dinner when she knows I like steak. She counters defending her dad’s naturally gruff nature and her mom serving soft food for his dental problems while he defends his bodily contours, and they’re off. Something has to intervene to help, as the trail of logic hits a blockade and neither of their personal GPS’s work.

Enter empathy. That is, achieving the insight to understand why the other one feels wronged; stepping into the other’s reasoning; creating a bridge on which to move. This is hard for adults to do in the throes of anger and resentment. It’s impossible for young children in their disputes because they lack the maturity and experience to cultivate empathy. (Parents can cultivate empathy; perhaps give a child responsibility for feeding and walking a pet to build concern for another’s needs.)

So, how should the couple disputing play-offs versus family obligation proceed?

  1. Let go of who is right. That’s because both are. Their feelings are truthful.
  2. Start moving across the empathy bridge by accepting that truth. He feels he deserves to do what he wants on Sunday plus he remembers watching the games with his father every Sunday plus seeing the play-offs is a matter of urgency—no matter to her that all that running around after a ball is ridiculous. She feels guilt from a history of rebelling against her parents plus she rarely visits them in Florida while her sister does it routinely plus her mother loves making pot roast for family which she calls her signature dish—no matter to him she should grow up already.
  3. Now that they are traversing the empathy bridge they make an honest effort at listening; past truths they never knew about may even emerge to change an argument to enlightenment.
  4. Accepting #’s 1, 2 and 3, they set about finding a resolution. This might be her coming to dinner and he later after the play-offs. She explains to her folks its importance to him. He waits for the results but not the post mortem commentary and arrives in time for a signature lemon meringue pie to wish the folks well in Florida.

Sometimes, unfortunately, resolution of a conflict is not wanted. This happens when chronic argument deteriorates to become fun in the fight itself; when asserting power and inflicting emotional pain becomes the goal. Or to a lesser and more common situation, when winning an argument takes precedent over the health of the relationship.

As adults, we have the maturity to acquire empathy and the wisdom and skill to use it in interpersonal relationships. It takes all three—maturity, wisdom and skill—to accept that people form their opinions from personal perspectives. They create their hypotheses to support those perspectives and make logical statements supporting that. Conflicts that ensue because of a counter perspective and a disputed logic can be resolved with no one shamed or blamed, by crossing that bridge. Do that leads to one of life’s greatest pleasures, fully enjoying the company of others.

Judith Peck, Ed.D.

Professor Emerita of Art

Ramapo College of New Jersey

Smart Starts in the ArtsWinner of the Mom’s Choice Award for excellence in children’s products

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I’ve had an opportunity to speak with a lovely lady and a wonderful grandma who has shared some of her own insights on being a grandparent. I hope you’ll enjoy it reading, as much as I did during the interview.

What does being a grandparent feel like?

Being a grandparent has been one of the most enriching experiences in my life. It’s somehow a different feeling than being a parent. Since you’re not the one who makes the rules for children’s upbringing, you have a much relaxed relationship with your grandkids. On numerous occasions, they would come and confide in me the way that they couldn’t in their parents. Not that they don’t have a close relationship, but being a parent is a much greater responsibility. Grandparents are more like “wise” friends to their grandchildren. I have a strong bond with my grandkids. I give them advice, listen to them and often even cover for them. It’s also a relationship of mutual learning and teaching. Sometimes I even think that I’ve learnt more from them than they from me. It’s funny how those innocent creatures who are just beginning to discover the world can teach you valuable life lessons.

Is the generational gap an obstacle in your relationship?

Although age differences can be a major hindrance to relationships, in our case, the generational gap represents a whole new world to be explored. During all these years, I’ve had an opportunity to learn so much about younger generations. I’ve always been open-minded, so I have always been excited to learn about new trends. My grandkids have shared with me their interests and hobbies that would have otherwise remained unfamiliar to me. I’ve seen experimental movies, listened to new music genres and even attended some interesting events. My grandkids keep me up to date, they always have something new to show me and I’m always eager to learn.

How do you keep up with their tech-oriented generation?

It seems that I’ve learnt about technological devices along with my grandchildren. Since they have been growing up in the era of technology, they’ve had numerous devices over the years. And, of course, each time they got a new one, they would show me all those options and advantages of their smartphones, computers and so on. Thanks to them, I’ve become tech-savvy – I can now shop online, order food via applications, watch my favourite shows online and even share my stories with the world. We communicate online quite frequently since they’ve gone off to college and we don’t see each other that often. They also send me photos of the events they attend, different videos, instant messages and articles that they think I might like. They always take time to help me out with new gadgets that can make my life more functional and easier.

How have your grandkids inspired you?

I’ve always advised my grandchildren to keep working on themselves and finding opportunities for self-development. Over the years, they’ve always explored new fields, expanded their interests and kept working hard to achieve their goals. They’ve come across obstacles, but they’ve never given up. It’s amazing how much value the Millennial generation gives to self-growth. My granddaughter is a hard-working, persistent person who knows what she wants. While in high school, she was researching how to get into Harvard and dedicated a lot of her time to extracurricular activities, additional courses and studying. This has inspired me to keep working on myself. I’ve always wanted to learn a foreign language, but I’ve always found excuses, telling myself that it’s too late. However, seeing my granddaughter working so hard to achieve her goal motivated me to give it a try. And so I did. It isn’t so difficult after all.

How have you changed alongside them?

When I found out that I was going to be a grandma, I was so happy. I couldn’t wait to share blissful moments with my grandchildren. I was thinking about all those things I wanted to teach them and experiences I wanted to share with them. However, as I thought about this, I realised that those little minds will be curious, eager to learn and full of questions. Eventually, we would talk about the issues of morality, the right and wrong, religion, etc. So, I realised that I wouldn’t be able to give them answers because at times I even doubted my belief and attitudes. This has motivated me to learn more about myself. I didn’t want to sound hypocritical or contradictory. If I were going to advise them, I needed to stand by my own convictions, which has led to endless moments of self-reflection and self-exploration.

What is your favourite part of being a grandparent?

Children’s view of the world is so inspiring and hopeful. Unfortunately, as we grow, we gain a different perspective on the world and life, forgetting about all those carefree, fun and hopeful dreams we had when we were young. With my grandchildren, I experienced this all over again. It was as if I were a child again. Once again, I could play like a child, think like a child, dream like a child and feel like a child. No matter how short, these moments made me feel young again and reminded me of the spontaneity of childhood.

All these years spent with my grandkids have taught me so many valuable lessons. Perhaps the most valuable one is cherishing the moments spent with them.

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I have a friend who is thinking about having an affair. He loves his wife, and they have two lovely kids. But in an ideal world, he would like to conduct his sex life outside of the marriage. Needless to say, he’s torn about this impulse, and has yet to take any concrete steps, but he has verbalized his desires to me and a couple of other close friends.

Whatever you think about that arrangement – or more importantly, whatever his wife thinks (!) – his very honest and open attempt to grapple with his feelings reminded me, once again, why monogamy is such a difficult ideal to uphold, even in the best of circumstances.

For those of you who recognize this as a real problem – in your own marriages or among those you are close to – here are five tips for maintaining a monogamous relationship:

1. Acknowledge That Monogamy is Totally Unnatural. Face it, it is. Which is probably why so many people have affairs. Although estimates vary, research suggests that 50-60% of married men and 40-50% of married women will cheat at some point in their marriage. And that’s only counting heterosexual marriages. This doesn’t mean monogamy isn’t noble, enviable, worthwhile, efficient, healthy, and any other adjectival “good” you wish to throw at it. But it is not a natural state of affairs. So begin by acknowledging that with your partner and you’ll be way ahead of the game.

2. Choose a Partner With Whom You Share Many Interests. In my humble opinion, one of the main reasons people wander is that they don’t have enough in common with their partners/spouses to begin with. While you don’t need to have completely overlapping interests (see below), with so many things clamoring for your attention – work, children, aging parents – you do need to enjoy doing the same things in your free time.

3. Keep a Private Space. At the same time, don’t suffocate one another. It’s healthy to have your own space and to enjoy the freedom to pursue interests that your partner doesn’t share. My husband likes watching concert videos. He also enjoys eating sushi. I like pop-tarts and going to musical theater (although not at the same time!). We don’t try to do those things together. Thank God.

4. Develop an Adult Crush. This is perhaps the best recipe for staying faithful. Just as you had crushes in junior high, it’s OK to have them in adulthood as well. It’s a safe way to feel like you’re still alive outside of your main relationship. I used to have a crush on my son’s first pediatrician. These days, it’s a staffer at one of the local book stores. I only see him once every other month or so, but there’s always a small frisson when we exchange pleasantries (most recently, over his hatred – and my love – for The Sound Of Music.) And because I only see him every so often, and don’t even know his name, it’s no big deal. Plus, my husband knows all about him.

5. Avoid Situations That Allow for Infidelity. If you really don’t want to have an affair, don’t put yourself in a situation that allows one to occur. I have a good friend who developed a crush on a bartender. She found (per #4) that she was frequenting his bar more and more on her own to chat with him. Then one day she actually brought her laptop to the bar and started working there. And at that point she realized “What am I doing? I’m working in a bar!” She fled the scene never to return. Good for her.

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If your a romantic you will love this story.
Even if it’s not true we love this story that was sent to us about The origin of Valentine’s Day. Read on…

Do you know how Valentine’s Day came to be?

Interesting story…  it was a sadness that created this day of love. I’ll tell you about it.

Rome, 3rd Century AD, Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage.  It seemed it was getting more and more difficult to “conscript” men to fight the many wars the Emperor had initiated in search of gold.  He reasoned if men did not have families to leave behind, if they had no love to leave behind while in search of riches, warriors would be eager to do battle.  Emperor Claudius II, in order to emphasize this new law, made it punishable by hanging if anyone were to perform a marriage.

Outrage!  The people of Rome were outraged by this act – how dare the Emperor outlaw love!  A secret was passed amongst the people – deep in the woods a Minister, Valentine was his name, was performing secret marriages in the name of love.  There, amongst the trees and sun and stars and the moon, the Minister Valentine secretly joined lovers in marriage.

It wasn’t long before the Emperor Claudius II learned of this treason.  He sent soldiers in search of the criminal, Minister Valentine, and ordered his arrest.  The Minister was soon captured and placed in a dungeon to await his end.   During the days before his death, young lovers would sneak to the window of his cell and toss chocolates in to nourish him, roses to brighten his dismal surrounding.  Claudius’ daughter, Asterius, felt tremendous sorrow for the Minister as well as for the people of Rome. She would sneak to his cell in the dark of night and visit Minister Valentine. Asterius would bring trinkets and gifts to lighten his mood.  As the day of reckoning approached, Minister Valentine fell hopelessly in love with Claudius’s daughter. Her kindness and caring so moved him, her visits transformed each of his bleak days into ones of brightness and wonder and anticipation. She too, to see this man smile, to experience the warmth and generosity of his heart on these dismal days, what kind of man is this… “I love Valentine” Asterius  realized.  The Minister and Claudius’ daughter shared hearts and love during the days leading to his death.

They came for him, on February 14th, and the Minister was put to death for his crime encouraging love.  All that was found in his cell was a note to Claudius’s daughter, Asterius, to the love of Valentine’s life.  The note read, “I love you, Valentine”.  It was accompanied by the chocolates and roses that had been tossed in his window.

February 14th from then on became “Valentine’s Day”.  Chocolates and Roses, the symbol of love.

Really!!!!!!  You can’t make this stuff up!!!!!!!

Happy Valentine’s Day

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Better After 50 by Ronna Benjamin - 5d ago

I had never heard of “Dry January” until last month, when we crossed wakes with a British friend in a dinghy in Martinique.

“Come over for a sundowner?” we asked.

“We’re doing Dry January,” he warned us, “so it will just be a sparkling water for us.”

Dry January? Huh?

Though I would consider that Mike and I have a healthy relationship with alcohol, we had just congratulated ourselves for going alcohol free the Sunday before. One day, no alcohol. “Good for us!” we thought. “We are awesome!” We sat on the deck of the boat with a sparkling water instead of a glass of wine or a scotch, and it wasn’t as nice, but it was fine. But a month? While cruising?

“Sounds terrible,” we said, in unison.

“It is,” he agreed.

Dry January has become a “thing” in the UK for people who consider themselves to have a normal relationship with alcohol. According to the British newspapers, more than three million British people kicked off 2018 with a month of sobriety. It ain’t a bad idea, of course. Laying off alcohol for a month can reduce liver fat, drop one’s blood glucose level, reduce total blood cholesterol, help you sleep better. Yeah, it will probably shed a few pounds too.

I’m not surprised by Dry January. I’m just surprised that anyone living on a boat (assuming they don’t have an issue with alcohol) would actually attempt this incredible feat, let alone be successful. There is this culture of drinking while cruising…or is it while retired…or both? Whether it is a wine spritzer at lunch, a rum punch as a sundowner, a cold beer after a swim, or a scotch as the sun goes down (or all of them), drinking seems to be part of the life of a cruiser.

If this becomes a “thing” for Americans, would we participate?  Since it is now February, we can probably convince ourselves that Dry January 2019 is a very fabulous idea, then drink happily from now through December. We can always change our minds, after all.

A better idea, I think, is to have one (or two) alcohol free days a week. I’m up for that challenge. I like to eat a lot more than I like to drink, and it’s not like anyone  is telling me I have to give up sugar or bread (…or are they…)

“How about we don’t drink on Sundays?” I ask Mike.

“Today is Sunday,” he reminds me. We have friends visiting us in Martinique. They are on vacation. This is not gonna happen today.

“We could start next week,” I suggest, feebly.

“We’ll talk about it.”

And talk about it we will, but doing it is something else altogether.

But you never know, maybe Dry Sundays is going to be my thing, as long as we have no one in from out of town, or we are not celebrating something important, like arriving safely after a passage, or a full moon, or something like that.

But a whole month? I’m hoping that Dry January will remain a British thing, like Marmite.

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Can you love someone with bad breath?
Can you hold someone close who has a leaky urine smell?
Can you keep eye contact with a warm open heart with someone who is having irrepressible outbursts?
Can you find a kind way to continue serving food to someone who is so finicky they often won’t eat and most times just stare at you and walk away?

The answer is absolutely, I not only can but do!

My dog Jazz has all these issues and I love her with all my heart.
She is 13 years old (that’s about the age of my Nana Edith who died at 91 and I loved her to the moon and back).

Jazz waiting for me to snuggle her.

Jazz and I didn’t take marriage vows when we committed to each other but we might as well have. On an impulse, I purchased Jazz, it was a mix of desperation and instinct. Jazz was runty but cute and I couldn’t resist her. I needed a dog that minute and when I picked her up from a “bin” of pups she melted in my arms. I have loved her from that moment on.

I needed her that very day, just 10 days after losing my dog JoJo who was overcome with sadness after losing her master and my husband just 10 days before that.

Jazz has been my steady best friend ever since. Without judgement she has loved me through ups and downs and has not disappointed. I held her tight, when my youngest left for college, just one year later. I cried into her furry neck too many nights to count and she licked the tears from my face. We spooned when loneliness overwhelmed me, and tucking under the covers and watching a movie with her late at night brought the calm I so needed.

Jazz is a great talker.

Each morning we walk side by side and welcome the day. Her morning routine is mine as well.

And most importantly, my husband Bill loves her too, although it has taken some adjustment. Jazzy has made her way between us late into the night and he has learned to accept this. Jazz after all, lay by him for months as he healed after a treacherous bike accident. She would not leave his side until he was ready to go out on his own. He learned quickly how healing her loyalty and love could be.

Jazz was at our wedding 2 years after we met. She has been under our covers, on our sofas, in airplanes with us and as a sometimes invited guest in our friends and families homes. She has even made the rounds of laps at our book clubs.

My friends who are not dog lovers profess she is different.
The vet tells me she is uniquely special (I don’t question whether he says that to everyone).

Jazz has been at the kids’ high school graduation, college and graduate school events. She has been there for engagements and weddings for jewish holidays and Christmas.

Jazz has never been to a kennel, we have traveled together as much as possible and when she’s not with me, friends and family have cared for her. She has only known human kindness and has responded in kind.

I am quick to admit that Jazz to some may appear runty, and for those large dog racial profilers, not worthy enough to be considered a real dog. But, make no mistake, she is indeed perfect if playfulness, smarts, and looks are pre-requisites for an ideal pup.

But now Jazz is 13 and she’s got issues. Like so many of our moms we read about on Betterafter50.com, the tables have turned. She is definitely needing more than she can give. She gets more anxious, barks a bit more, and can’t control her bladder at times. And did I mention her breath?

But what is love. Is it not the contract we make to love through thick and thin? I am keenly aware that I am in charge of her days. I am her keeper and feel the deep responsibility of being her guardian til the end, which is not insignificant I may add.

So on this Valentine’s Day I wanted to express out loud, my loyalty and love to my pup and, luckily, my husband agrees as well, which is why I feel particularly lucky this February 14th.

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The words “Valentine’s Day” evoke images of flowers, chocolate and romantic, candle-lit dinners. But when I asked my Facebook friends how they observe the day, I got a surprising variety of responses:

The first, from a happily married pal, was unabashedly smug:

I plan to brush up on my schandenfreude.

Followed quickly by this lament from a single friend:

I just try to ignore the whole thing.

Indeed, being single on Valentine’s Day can be challenging. So what will my un-partnered pals be up to on this annual celebration of Happy Coupledom?

I always wear black.

I’d be hiding under the bed until it all blows over.

I just pretend it’s already the 15th.

Take Out. Done! (So I don’t have to be tormented by  all the happy couples.)

As my friends continued to comment, one thing became quite clear. It’s great to be happily coupled on Valentine’s Day:

Chocolate, flowers and bubbly for us!

My hubby always picks up a bottle – or two – of champagne. With flowers and candy of course.

We spend a quiet evening in our garden and celebrate our enduring lover as the sun is setting. It’s really lovely!

Even so, one happily-married friend seems to be afflicted by Valentine Phobia:

I usually spend the day waiting for February 15. I love my husband but for some reason I’ve always hated Valentine’s Day. (Maybe in my youth I experienced a traumatic class party?)

And I truly hope this pal was just kidding around:

Instead of going through the drive through, on Valentine’s Day I bring my beloved right into the MacDonalds, where we dine in style.

I’m inspired by the folks who have creatively repurposed this celebration of romantic love:

On Valentine’s Day I always host a Mother/Daughter Tea Party. It’s a beautiful event, often with one or more families represented by three or four generations. A celebration of love, but of a different kind.

On Valentine’s Day my husband and I deliver flowers to local widows, a tradition we started one year after a dear friend had passed. While my hubby was at the florist buying me flowers, on an impulse he also bought flowers for our recently widowed friend. We always deliver them in secret. Sadly, we’ve had to add more deliveries to the list each year. But it is so rewarding to spread some joy.

I’ve never been romantic, so I’ll order a useful farm animal for a third world family from Heifer International in honor of my sweetie. “Roses are Red/Violets Are Blue/I love you so much/Here’s a llama for you.”

How ever you choose to celebrate, I hope your Valentine’s Day is wonderful.

(Roz Warren www.rosalindwarren.com  is the author of Our Bodies, Our Shelves: Library Humor http://ow.ly/LpFgE and Just Another Day At Your Local Public Library http://ow.ly/ecQh309XJd3, both of which makes great Valentine’s Day gifts for librarians and other book lovers) 

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