The joys in growing old – on reaching the ¾ century mark!

Yes, I’ve done it, I’m made it to 75. Just think, if I’d only made it to 70, I would have left this Earth still naively convinced that the world really was becoming a kinder, more inclusive place. That illusion has certainly been smashed to smithereens in the past 5 years. The reality that humans really are a work in progress, at best excruciatingly slow progress, has become all too real.

It never crossed my mind to post about my own birthday until a few weeks ago, when an article appeared in my news feed reporting on Debra Ferrell, a woman who, when unable to celebrate her 53rd birthday with family because of the pandemic, decided to carry out 53 acts of kindness to strangers instead. That had me sit up and take notice. I hadn’t thought anything about my birthday until then, but suddenly I thought, “Wait a minute, I have a milestone birthday coming up, I could do something special for others, too.” But then I saw how much advanced planning that had taken on her part and came to realize that it couldn’t work for me. Not in two weeks. I couldn’t reach out to 75 strangers and satisfy their wants or needs in the middle of tightening COVID restrictions that quickly. Maybe I can come up with a year-long kindness project for this year of being 75 instead.

In the meantime, I thought maybe I could come up with a list of 75 things I am grateful for. I’ve had an uncommonly fortunate life, and I was pretty sure I could come up with such a list, but once I started I realized that it would be awfully long, as well as awfully boring to anyone but me. However, a few thoughts about gratitude in aging came to me that might be of interest. Perhaps my musings will give you pause to think about how what’s most important to you might change in your “later years”. Or to put it another way, at some point in your journey will the importance of the items on your bucket list give way to the quality of your relationships with the special people in your life? Continue reading

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Map Monday: from the smallest countries to the largest

The first week of this new year has been a week like no other, just as this past year was a year like no other. Increased COVID cases nearly everywhere, with tightening restrictions being put in place, dashing the hope that by now the threat would be lessening. The U.S. dealing with an unprecedented situation of political upheaval and violence.  The UK awakening to the two-edged sword of a done-deal Brexit. So much angst in the world.  It doesn’t seem like a good week to present readers with maps that remind us of just how fragile our world is, whether through maps reminding us of the violence throughout history, maps that highlight the world’s challenges in overcoming inequality, or maps showing the realities of climate change and our harm to the environment.  This week let’s try to distance ourselves from as much angst as possible by looking at maps that are hopefully 100% judgment-neutral. [As usual, click on any map or diagram to zoom in on details.]

If these were all puzzle pieces, could you put them together in a map of the world?!

The 100 smallest countries in the world. From Continue reading

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What does “Home” mean to you?

Yesterday morning two fellow bloggers I read regularly posted quotes about “home” within 30 minutes of each other. They live in very different parts of the U.S., write blog posts on very different topics, and have very different life stories, so it was an intriguing coincidence. I had my first “sit up and take notice” moment when I saw these two quotes and the very different messages being conveyed about the same topic. I had my second “sit up and take notice” moment when I read the comments other readers had contributed about these two very different quotes. In each case, the readers had very different interpretations of the quotes from each other and from how I interpreted them. Of course, that’s part of the fun of blogging and commenting, to learn from each other and share thoughts. But I was still surprised. And I’m still mulling over both quotes. Take a look. Continue reading

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A new year – a gift of time

A fellow blogger in Australia posted this message for her readers this morning (thanks, Kate).

A New Year is like a blank slate, it has 12 chapters and 365 pages, and you are the author. My wish for you this year is that you write the most beautiful story possible for yourself. Happy New Year.

Her message speaks of hope and the belief that we can (try to) be masters of our own destiny. I hope we can all embrace this sentiment.

Another way of looking at the potential for the year ahead for each of us personally is by considering the widely circulated story of 86,400. Continue reading

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A COVID kind of year-end

Usually this is the week when I review my success or lack thereof with my New Year’s resolutions from the past year and decide on my resolutions for the coming year. I’ve been doing this all my life; it didn’t start as a blogging exercise, I swear! However, in closing out this strange, unsettling year, New Year’s resolutions just don’t rise to the top of my list. Maybe it’s because just getting through 2020 seems like enough of an accomplishment, but COVID has temporarily killed my resolve to set resolutions.

The virus that has brought such life-limiting restrictions and grief to much of the planet for nearly a year has impacted millions of people directly, and now our family. Our extended family has just been hit with the cruel reality of COVID. An arm’s-length relative died of COVID on Boxing Day (aka Dec 26 in the U.S.). He was someone’s husband and caregiver, a father, grandfather, uncle, brother-in-law, and friend. And in the U.S., where he lived, he was yet another victim of a virus that has been allowed to get out of control. His life story, and the shattered lives of those who mourn him, is just one of the nearly 335,000 individuals who have succumbed to COVID in the U.S. to date. If he had died in Canada his story would have been one among the nearly 15,000 people who are being mourned this year because of a virus nobody had ever heard of a year ago. God help us, please let’s be writing about this scourge as past history by this time next year. And please everyone remember, “God helps those who help themselves.” In other words, stay safe and help keep others safe!

Having given up on my New Year’s resolution tradition for this year, I decided to take a look at which of my blog posts this past year have had the most hits and try to figure out what lessons I can learn from that when writing future posts. First off, I have to confess to have written far more posts than usual this year; it has been my salvation in this year of isolation to be able to sit down and write … and write and write. I apologize if some of you have felt bombarded with posts; just ignore the ones that aren’t your “thing”.

When I’ve taken the time to analyze my blog stats in previous years, there’s always been an intriguing mixture of topics that have risen to the top. Sort of a “something for everyone” assortment. Not so much this year, but then again, as we all keep saying, this has been a year like no other. Hopefully this year has been a one-off as well. Continue reading

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A COVID Christmas message

This is an unusual Christmas post, but then again this is Christmas in a year like no other. This season is a time that’s meant to bring joy, and this year we have to be especially creative in finding ways to do so while keeping everyone safe. I wish everyone a happy holiday; this COVID world is at least offering us the time to look for joy in the small things, if we only choose to take it. Let’s take advantage of that.

I think this blog post from fellow blogger Kavitha at Sunshiny SA Site is important to reblog in its entirety. It is a strong reminder of why the restrictions in place in so many of our regions are there for a reason. The story it shares has been replicated far too many times: in Canada, South Africa, the United States, the UK, EU countries, and everywhere around the world where COVID has found a footing. Please take its message to heart.

Covid spread Through My Family and Took My Dad. Don’t Make Our Mistakes

Jodie Gunzberg
DECEMBER 22, 2020

By Jodie Gunzberg, as told to Jennifer Clopton

We had thought we were being careful enough. We didn’t have a party or large gathering. We limited ourselves to only small, intimate interactions — the kind that so many people are likely about to have this holiday season. But these interactions that we thought were harmless ended with 10 confirmed COVID-19 infections in our family. Most of us have recovered, but we lost my father.

It was just before Halloween — on Oct. 30 — when my parents, living in New Jersey, had their very close cousins visit from Long Island. Since it was a long drive, the cousins stayed the night with my parents. The next day, on Halloween, my parents invited my sister’s family over, and they gathered inside so they could see the little girls dressed up in their costumes. Shortly after that, on Tuesday, Nov. 3, my parents came to my place to celebrate my Dad’s birthday and they stayed with us until Thursday.

While driving home from our place, my parents got a call from their cousins who announced they had just tested positive to COVID-19. Fear rippled through our family and reality ended up being far scarier than any of us could have envisioned. My parents got the next positive tests, then my sister’s family, and then mine. This virus is a beast. We were all symptomatic. My mom got really sick and had to call 911. Paramedics came and gave her oxygen to help with her breathing. Continue reading

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Map Monday: where are all the whales hanging out on Christmas Day?

I love whales and whale watching, and am blessed to live in an area frequented by several species of whales – during the summer and early fall, that is. They come to gorge on the bounty of the deep and sheltered waters of our beautiful Bay of Fundy. But where are they this time of year? And what about the whale species that we never see on the western shores of the North Atlantic, where are they? You are about to find out in the sequence of maps below. But first …

While I was researching these questions (aka googling) I came across a reason for us all to pay homage to whales over and above their magnificence in the sea. As it turns out, whales are one of nature’s best weapons against climate change. When it comes to saving the planet, one whale is worth thousands of trees! Who knew?! We humans spent 150+ years killing hundreds of thousands of them, mostly for their oil, thanks to the worldwide commercial whaling industry, that was finally banned – with a few exceptions and a few cheaters – only in 1986. Hundreds of thousands of these noble, gentle giants gone.

Scientists now know that the carbon capture potential of whales is truly remarkable. Whales accumulate carbon in their bodies throughout their long lives (80-90 years). When they die, their bodies sink to the bottom of the ocean, where they basically serve as carbon capture and storage units. Each large whale sequesters 33 tons of CO2 on average, taking that carbon out of the atmosphere for centuries. A tree, meanwhile, absorbs only up to 48 pounds of CO2 a year. Yet another seriously compelling reason not to be killing whales.

Continue reading

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With freedom comes responsibility … and small Christmas gatherings

In several parts of Canada this year, and in an increasing number of countries and regions around the world, Christmas travel and celebrations are being severely constrained by COVID restrictions. As sad as this is for many, many people, especially as we close out such a disturbing year of isolation, illness, death, and economic distress, it’s all in aid of trying to keep our populations as safe as possible. Yes, vaccines are on the horizon, but in the intervening months before vaccines have reached a critical mass of people, the virus remains firmly in control.

Two extreme reactions to current restrictions – those who rebel against any constraints on their “freedom” and those who haven’t ventured outside for 9+ months regardless of living in places with very low rates of infection – remind us of just how difficult it is to be a decision maker in these fraught times. It’s a continual balancing act between the public’s health (and the health of the healthcare systems) and people’s expectation of leading their lives on their own terms, not to mention balancing the pressures on the economy. Continue reading

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