No Money Needed For This Gift

I recently read an article somewhere that talks about how some elderly people can go for weeks without talking to another person. Then it hit me, no wonder they are getting taken in by phone scammers. They are lonely and just want to talk with someone. Most of us if we are honest have sometimes looked at the phone, recognized the number and just let it go to voice mail. Most of us have more than enough human contact.

Last year I got an idea, and it stemmed from an idea that my sister told me about. Her church makes Easter Baskets for the sick and shut in at their church. You know the ones that can’t make it to church because they are ill, don’t drive anymore or for any number of reasons. They even made the decorated baskets a contest–the most creative.

Inside of each basket were things that they thought the people would like such as candy, coffee, even the coffeemaker, a pair of slippers and so much more. It seemed that my sister had so much fun gathering the items, and creating her masterpiece. The church would then deliver the baskets to the members.

So I decided that we would do an Angel Tree for Christmas at my church. We would do it for the sick and shut in. It would be the same as a regular Angel Tree, and similar to my sister’s church Easter Baskets with a few exceptions.

After I gathered all the names, phone numbers and addresses it was announced to the church, and to my great surprise the first Sunday all of the names were taken. The instructions to participate in the Angel Tree were:

  • Select a name
  • Call and talk with the person
  • Ask what they would like for Christmas
  • Ask if you could come over–if they said no which some might for several reasons including a) not looking their best b) house not kept the way they want it to be kept c) just don’t want any company.
  • If they didn’t want any visitors, then ask could you call them from time to time
  • If they agreed a visit was okay you were then to go out and purchase the items
  • You were to take the gift to the person, and sit and talk for a while. Even though you were purchasing a gift, you a were the greatest gift.

It was a great success. I was able to go on two visits, one with a friend. We visited a member in a nursing home. We sat and talked with her. The gift she loved, but she asked for a cold glass of orange juice. The gift basket had wonderful things in it that she had said she wanted, but our conversation and that cold glass of orange juice made her day.

My next stop was the name I had chosen. She wanted magazines and chocolate candy. I decided to give her a sugar high with all the chocolate I bought. After inviting me into her home, we talked about family, church, careers and more. She showed me pictures of her in her younger years, and so many family pictures. Some of the pictures were of her dancing–she said she loved to dance. When others would call her, she would tell them about my visit, not about the candy. My presence was better than candy.

Both of these beautiful people are no longer with us, but they have inspired me to do the Angel Tree again, and expand it a little. This time the names will be on a tree along with the Angel Tree wishes of our adopt a school. So we don’t get them mixed up, we will color code them.

This year I’ve added one more requirement to our Angel Tree. Each gift giver is asked to call and/or send a card to their Angel Tree person at least once or more a month. I’m hoping they will continue to visit the person. Gifts are great, but the gift of conversation and maybe a hug is so much more. Maybe when they visit they will take their children and/or grandchildren with them.

Most of us will be paying for Christmas gifts until Easter, but the gift of conversation and human touch cost nothing. Remember “thisisyourbestyear” and make someones holiday merry because all they want for any holiday is just a little time with you.

Conversation, Movie, Museum and More–A Fun Night!

Another one is in the books! We had a great time at our latest outing with a great group of ladies. This time we decided to do a number of things in one outing, and it worked. There was something for everyone. There is no schedule as to when we will do an event, it is just when we think that something may interest some ladies, and we go for it.

When we heard that the Magnolia at the Modern (Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth) would be showing one of the most talked about movies around –The Farewell, we knew this was what we had been looking for.

Then we decided why not tour the Modern before the movie and see the great art work it contains. Entry into the museum on that day was free–that’s a win, win situation.

Touring the museum is always enjoyable. There is wonderful artwork inside and outside. The weather was beautiful so we were able to enjoy both. We even had time to go into the museum store to look around and make a few purchases.

So that we could get to know each other better, we had a reservation at Cafe Modern where we enjoyed cocktails, snacks and great conversation. Having time just to talk was fun and entertaining.

Then it was off to see the movie in the comfort of the theater at Magnolia at the Modern. It may not have all of the amenities that the newer theaters have, but it is cozy, and yes each lady was given snacks because everyone knows that you can’t go to the movies without snacks.

The movie lived up to its billing. I really can’t wait to see it again and see the things I missed. I will tell you though that there are subtitles because much of the movie is in Chinese and even a little Japanese with some English thrown it.

All in all the conversation was good, the museum was fun, the movie was great and the night was a lot of fun. We look forward to our next outing, and hope that you can join us. Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.

Our USA Today Best Years Magazine Interview

We were interviewed by the award winning journalist Jennifer E. Mabry for the USA Today Best Years (Fabulous Living at 50+) 2019 Fall/Winter edition. The topic of the discussion was “50–Embracing Midlife”. It is a topic that “thisisyourbestyear” is very familiar with.

Adding to the conversation were three other women of a certain age. They were Amy Yontef-McCrath who is a volunteer extraordinaire who sat a goal of volunteering to at least 50 projects between birthday 49 and 50. She completed it with time to spare, and is now deciding upon the next goal for this part of her life.

Also included in the conversation was relationship expert and therapist Dr. Audrey Chapman. She gave insight into being mentally and physically healthy as we mature. Brigid Schulte who is an author and journalist discussed work-life balance as we enter different phases of our life.

It was our honor to be included in this conversation. The link to the article is below. You can purchase the magazine at your local news stands or on line on the USA Today Magazines site.

Embracing Midlife

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”. You are never too old to live your best life and do the “happy dance”–we are proof. Just go for it.

Rest–It Does A Body Good

You get that phone call and the voice on the phone ask what you will be doing later on. They seem confused when you say nothing. They are even more confused when they ask if you would like to go with them to their favorite restaurant, the movies, a concert–you get the picture, and you say no.

They want to know what you will be doing, and you tell them nothing. Nothing at all. You want to stay around your house in your pajamas and do nothing. You want to rest. You want to be left alone for a while.

Rest is something that most women of a certain age have to learn how to do. Women of a certain age can find something to do, something to fix, somewhere to go when others are struggling to do anything.

Now I’m not talking about that awful thing called a power nap. Which never gave me any power–it just made me want to sleep more. Meaningful rest is different for different people.

It could be:

  • Reading a book
  • Listening to music (that no one else in your house likes)
  • Wrapping up in a blanket and laying on the couch
  • Enjoying a glass or two of wine
  • Enjoying a cup or two of coffee
  • Just sitting and meditating
  • Just sitting
  • Sleeping

Meaningful rest is when we can rejuvenate our minds and bodies. Meaningful rest goes by many names such as self-care, self-love, self-compassion and more.

As our bodies and brains mature it takes longer to reenergize, heal and rejuvenate. We have to learn to turn the outside and inside world off.

Some of us have to go away to truly get meaningful rest, but with the state of travel now the rest will be lost because of transportation issues.

Meaningful rest is like a battery, you must leave it plugged up so that it can recharge fully. It can be used with only a little power, but it will soon cut off again. The same holds true for all of us.

Every so often “do nothing” just for you. You will feel better, look better and be better. Sometimes you just need to stop and smell the flowers. Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.

*Yep, I’m a cat person.

Things They Don’t Tell You About Growing Up

Remember when you were growing up, and at each step of the way there was someone there to give you guidance on what would happen to you as you aged. There was someone who would answer questions before you asked them. How to shave your legs, underarms and more.

It seems as time goes on, you have to figure out things for yourself. There are things that you never thought about that are happening to you as you mature (age sounds so old).

No one told you that a pair of tweezers would become a beauty necessity. One that you have to have multiple pairs of. One in each bathroom at home, and especially one in your carry on if you can get it past TSA, or at least one in your checked baggage. The hair on your head may start to thin, it just grows somewhere else–your face.

We can all remember when we wondered what the hell a lip wax was–well now you know. It’s not so much about shaving your legs as it is keeping hair off of your face.

No one told you that you would return to your childhood and remember that statement that your mom uttered many times when she would ask you if you had to go to the bathroom–“just go and try”. As you mature, it seems like you decide to check and see if you do have to go all the time. It’s better to be safe than sorry. There is no drinking soda or even water while traveling–especially on planes (bathroom is too little).

There are so many things that they forgot to tell us as we mature, but it’s okay, we were always quick learners. Share with us some of the things you’ve learned on this journey of maturing. You can now color coordinate your tweezers just remember “thisisyourbestyear”.

Maybe We Should Be More Like Millennials

So we have decided that we will continue to work after we retire. We want to do something different, something that we have always wanted to so. Something that feeds our soul and our passion. Maybe we just want to do something where we are productive, something where there is a chance to get out of the house and communicate with others. There are many reasons that women and men of a certain age want to continue to work after their formal retirement.

Most of us remember when we first started to work and people would wonder if we were old enough for the job. Guess what? Now they wonder are we too old for the job.

You see that gray hair can be a giveaway to our age, and age discrimination is real. I know there are millennials sporting the gray look, but for the most part they get theirs out of a box.

Take it from someone who has finally divorced hair color and decided it is what it is. It does seem interesting that most of the people in power around the world are gray haired or other unnatural hair colors, but when it comes to getting a job it is a deterrent to the interviewer. It’s hard to even get an interview or get through the interview when the interviewer sees you as his mother or God forbid his grandmother.

This article by columnist Mitchel Schnurman recently appeared in the Dallas Morning News. It is an opinion piece, but personally I think it speaks the truth. Does gray hair stop you from getting pass the interview?

Then it hit me, maybe we should follow the lead of the millennials. Remember when we wouldn’t hire them because their hair was blue, hot pink, too long, dredded or whatever? What did they do? They started their own businesses. Why not start our own business doing what we want? We have the time, the experience and education so why not go for it?

Millennials did not wait for baby boomers to hire them so why are we waiting on them to hire us? We taught them to go for it. Let’s take our own advice and just do it.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”. What are you waiting for?

Have Luggage Will Travel

Many of you have cards that give you frequent flier miles on the airline of your choice. Most of us now select our cards by what they can give us. So I want to see how many miles my cousin and I have accumulated or at least our luggage has.

When I purchased my Samsonite luggage many years ago I was told that it would travel the world. Little did I know that it would, but it would go without me.

On June 9, 2019 with our perfectly packed luggage we arrived at DFW International Airport at the appropriate time to catch our 2:30 pm flight to Atlanta, Georgia with a connecting flight to Rome, Italy on Delta Airlines. Did I say our luggage was perfectly packed? It was.

At about 5 pm we were still waiting in the lounge at DFW International when this very nice person by the name of Mr. Okello who worked at Delta Airlines found us a flight on American Airlines that would be leaving soon. We would then fly to Paris, France and then onto Rome, Italy. We gladly accepted. He assured us that our luggage would be put on the American Airlines flight.

The American Airlines flight boarded at the stated time, but decided to try and wait on others who would miss their connecting flights. We all understood this. After almost an hour wait and no other passengers boarding we were on our way to Paris. Since no other passengers boarded we had room to spread out. I hit the mother lode with an entire row to myself–first class at coach prices.

Since we were about an hour late leaving, we arrived in Paris late. Then we taxied for what seemed like forever. We got off the plane and promptly boarded a bus that dropped us at customs with a long line. According to our watches, there was no way we were going to make our connecting flight so after clearing customs we walked (fast) to our terminal and gate and asked to catch the next flight on Air France to Rome.

We were lucky they had just closed the door and opened it for us. At that time my cousin, sister and I all said together, “our luggage will not make this flight”. Sure enough, we were correct.

Air France was given the information about our missing luggage by all three of us. My sisters’ luggage arrived on day 3 of our trip. Seems kind of strange since we all started out together.

There were exploits with not having luggage as you can imagine. Since we are from East Texas, Longview and Tyler we knew to pack extras in our carry on, and we did. We may have had a detour with lost luggage, but we were determined to get back on the road of vacationing.

After a wonderful trip to Italy where we were in Rome, Florence, Tuscany, Pisa, and Venice we were waiting at the Venice airport when they called and said our luggage was located, and it was waiting for us in Rome. After a good laugh, we informed them that we were on our way back to the states, and they said they would send our luggage to us. We should get it in about a day. The three of us arrived back in Texas on Monday, June 17, 2019. Our luggage arrived June 22 courtesy of Mr. Humphrey.

Since I wanted to see my cousin I decided to take her luggage to her, but life got in the way so on July 3, 2019 I sent her luggage by FedEx which meant it would arrive on Friday, July 5, 2019–but they were closed that day. So hopefully, she will have her luggage on Monday, July 8 almost a month to the date.**

Upon looking at the tags, our luggage was expedited–not sure what they meant by that. It also went to JFK Airport in New York. To top it all off Air France says it will have to review our case which may take up to three months because of the complexity of our case. Complexity??

The luggage looks like it had a good time and should have a lot of frequent flier miles. Everything is still perfectly packed. Since I have another trip in a few weeks, I just put the luggage in the closet until needed. Samsonite was correct–their luggage will travel the world. Remember “thisisyourbestyear”. Even with lost luggage, we had a great time exploring Italy with new friends and family.

**My cousin’s luggage is finally home in Tyler, Texas. It should have a few more frequent flier miles than mine. The picture says it all.

On The Water To Venice

From the moment I caught a glimpse of Venice I was excited. I loved everything about it. From the water taxi to it to the water taxi to the airport as we were leaving.

Venice is one of the most visited places in the world, but it seemed there were less people than in Florence. You could see the cruise ships lined up near the shore, and our guide also showed us where the cruise ship had collided with the dock a few weeks earlier.

The water taxi ride was great, you could sit inside or outside so I chose the outside. All the while we were in route the scenery grew more beautiful by the minute. It was a great cab ride–just beautiful and fun.

Upon arriving on the island, we gathered our baggage (what little we had–bags still lost) and walked a short distance to our hotel–Hotel Violino D’Oro which sat right next to the gondola rides. As soon as we dropped our luggage, we were on our way to see more of Venice.

It is amazing to see a city with no moving vehicles, and yes the streets are very narrow. We were informed that we had come at a great time because no rain was in the forecast–Venice is prone to flooding.

The next morning after breakfast we inquired about a gondola ride, and decided we were going to take one. The gondolas can hold up to six people not counting the gondolier–there were four of us. They do tilt a little. All of us enjoyed the ride through the city where we saw Mozart’s house and all of the beautiful bridges in Venice. The gondolier pushes with his feet and oar to guide his beautiful gondola. There were a few water taxis, but there was no road rage. When we got to the Grand Canal it took our breath away. The Grand Canal offered us an opportunity to see a young lady say yes to a marriage proposal, and to see another gondola with its occupants singing in Italian. Before we knew it, we were back at our starting point near the hotel.

We met up with our guide Igor at the end of the gondola ride, and he took us on a tour of the city. He did inform us that the people who live in Venice walk on average about ten to twelve miles a day. The beauty of St. Mark’s Square was something to behold.

Since we were on an island that was densely populated there was very little green space, but we were able to see some, and it was beautiful. Igor took us through the neighborhoods, local shops and more.

Our tour included a stop at the Murano Glass Company where we were given a demonstration, and a tour of their beautiful showroom. It was a sight to behold.

Afterwards we walked the high end shopping area which was nice. We seemed to gravitate more to the shops that were owned by the locals, and bargains could be found. Our last outing together was a group dinner where we laughed, talked, ate, drank wine and enjoyed the company.

It seemed that as soon as it started it was over. The following morning we checked out of the hotel, caught a water taxi and were on our way to the airport. Seeing Venice and some of the other islands at night (we left before day) was great. There was a full moon that guided our path. At the airport we went our separate ways, but it was a group of people who have exchanged information and hopefully will stay in touch.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear” the lemonade you make can be as sweet as you wish. Even with lost luggage, my cousin and I along with my sister whose luggage was found had the sweetest lemonade.

**A special thanks to Ms. Fallon Alford for her beautiful photos. Fallon is a full time educator in Atlanta, Georgia where she also freelances as a photographer.

Tuscany, Florence and Pisa

The trip to Italy was about to leave Rome, and we were headed to Tuscany where the landscape changed. Even while just looking out of the window of the van as the country side zipped by you could see the beauty of Tuscany. Marco pointed out the olive vineyards and grape vineyards–both of them were beautiful. Another thing that we noticed was that cars were getting larger. In Rome it seemed like everyone drove something similar to a Smart Car and/or a scooter. On the way to Tuscany, the cars became larger, and scooters were not seen very much.

I’ve been to beautiful wineries in Texas, Napa and Mendocino, but Tuscany was always on my radar–it lived up to my expectations. From the moment we entered the gates to Tenuta Torciano I was in the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun”. The only thing missing was Diane Ladd.

After being greeted and given the history of the beautiful property, we were off to our wine tasting. The setting let us know that this would not be your run of the mill tasting. First of all it was set outside under a huge tent. The tables were beautifully set with each setting having a plate that had food that you were instructed to match with each wine. I have always been under the impression that if you like it, then you drink it.

The tasting was a lot of fun with everyone picking out their favorite wine. Then we had the honor of eating even more when they bought out what the host called “his mama’s lasagna”. With this dish he served a wine that he called the “Big Boy”.

The wine, food, olive oil and balsamic vinegar were all good, but the host made the experience even better. We even had fun with another group that was from Canada. Good food, excellent wine and great conversation made for an amazing experience.

Our next stop was to the the quaint looking town of San Gimignano. It seemed that each store had some likeness of Pinocchio in their windows or showcase. It was here that I finally purchased items that were needed (my luggage was still somewhere else).

After a leisurely walk through the town, we were on our way Impruneta which is a few miles outside of Florence. We would stay at the Bellavista Hotel in Impruneta which was situated in a neighborhood that was easy to walk around and see the sights. The Hotel Bellavista had a great rooftop where you could enjoy a glass of wine and look out over the town.

Florence was crowded with people, but not all of them were tourist. As soon as we stepped out of the van, we ran into a protest–it was very organized and seemed more like a parade. Florence is filled with great sculptures many of which are located in Piazza della Signoria. Most people would probably say that the replica of David was their favorite, but I think that my favorite was the one of Neptune. It’s just how he is looking at David–you have to see it to understand it.

Now many people go to Florence to shop for leather and jewelry, and there was no shortage there. ln fact so many people in our group purchased items that they shipped them home. There was so much that it all seemed to go together. The crowds seemed to grow larger because there was construction and preservation work everywhere. One of the highlights to Florence was an amazingly simple salad that we had. It featured watermelon, avocado, red onion, feta cheese and a little something drizzled over it. It doesn’t sound like it should go together, but it did. I’ve even made it since I have been home. We did have a Russell Crowe sighting–I only saw him walking away.

After two nights in the Hotel Bellavista we would be on our way to visit the city of Pisa. Before we were to leave Imprueneta there would be a Farmer’s Market in this huge parking lot in front of the hotel. My cousin and I took a quick look at the Farmer’s Market as they were setting up. There was the most beautiful fruits and vegetables that we had ever seen. The stems were still on the plants. There were food trucks starting to cook their foods. You could purchase clothing, cosmetics, plants and so much more. Our one regret is that we had to leave before they finished setting up.

Our visit to the town of Pisa was just that–a visit. A choo choo train took us to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Cattedrale di Pisa, Piazza dei Miracoli and more. One thing that we discovered was that after we saw the sites, we could just walk through the lovely area around it which had horse drawn carriages, restaurants, shops and more.

We had experienced wine, more wine, food, shopping til we dropped, history and more. It was time to move on to our next stop.

There is a disclaimer that I forgot to mention. All pictures of me are makeup free–it was in my lost luggage. So remember “thisisyourbestyear” you can get a natural glow without cosmetics.

**A special thank you to Ms. Fallon Alford for allowing us to use some of her photos. Fallon is a full time educator in Atlanta, Georgia who freelances as a photographer.

First Stop Rome

Going to Italy has always been on my “to do” list, and this year I was able to visit and had an amazing time with my cousin, sister and new friends. We did five stops with the first one being Rome.

We won’t talk about my lost baggage–that’s a post in itself. But I will tell you that nothing was going to stop me from enjoying this trip–even the weather cooperated.

The cab ride through the streets of Rome actually took my breath away. It was not as pretty as a picture, it was better. Sure there was graffiti, but even that had an artistic look to it. The cab driver in his comfortable BMW taxi, nice suit and wonderful accent was a tour guide all by himself. He pointed out historical sites as we traveled to our hotel. It’s one of the times the cab ride could have been longer.

Our hotel was situated on top of a hill. The Hotel Barberini did offer a spa, but I don’t know of anyone in our group that took advantages of these services. The hotel itself was very nice. Every morning we gathered there to talk and have breakfast. The dining room was covered with windows that allowed you to have amazing views of the city below. There was a great balcony that we sat for cocktails in the evening while music flowed from below. The one thing that got me was that beds in Italy are very low to floor, and hotel rooms are small. But who goes to Italy to stay in a hotel room?

Rome reminded me of San Francisco with its hills, and shops everywhere. Our hotel was in walking distance to the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, high end shopping–even discount shopping, and great restaurants. We were in the perfect location. Since I went with a tour group, when we went to places like the Colosseum we had transportation. All of our tours were scheduled. We had the best tour guide in Eladia. She was informative, funny and oh so helpful.

Our tours included the Roman Forum which included many structures that were still standing. Through the words of our tour guide, we could picture how it looked during the time of Julius Caesar.

As we continued to learn the history of Rome, we were on our way to the Colosseum which was not to far from the Forum. We were able to skip the long lines and go directly in to start our tour. At this time, they are still excavating at the Colosseum. As Eladia pointed out that there had been a covering at the Colosseum we all thought of old Texas Stadium with the hole in the middle–at least I did. Even though it is only a shell of it’s once grandiose self it is still something to see.

Vatican City is something to behold. Once again we were able to skip the long lines and go directly in. You need days to see everything that is in Vatican City. Again we were lucky to have Eladia as our guide. She showed us what she considered the “must see” items. You are not to touch the sculptures, but Eladia had permission to allow a member of our group that was visually impaired to touch them as she discussed them. Be prepared for a lot of people, but it is well worth it.

When you enter the masterpiece–the Sistine Chapel there are no words. The artwork before in other parts of Vatican City was amazing, but Michelangelo’s work is something to behold. Eladia had informed us on how to look at it chronologically.The only thing that could have made it better was if there were no crowds, and we could have sat and enjoyed the sheer splendor of the chapel. Even though you could take pictures without flash throughout Vatican City, you could not take pictures/videos of the Sistine Chapel.

Upon leaving the Sistine Chapel our guide Eladia left us, and our overall tour guide Marco took over. He took us to St. Peter’s Basilica. Be aware there is an enforced dress code. Women must cover their shoulders and everyone including men must wear clothing that covers the knees. When entering and going through men must remove their hats/caps.

This place is enormous and so ornate–again you need a while to go through it. One of my favorite places at Vatican City was St. Peter’s Square. I could just imagine the Pope coming out on the balcony.

After catching a little rest most of my group went off on their own to explore more of the city. Many walked since the hotel was centrally located, but others took taxis to places of interest. We decided to go to the balcony, sip a glass of wine and listen to the music.

Rome at least to me lived up to my expectations.The food was great, the history was amazing, the wine was good, and we even got our steps in each day. Remember “thisisyourbestyear”. Sometimes things live up to your expectations.

**A special thanks to Ms. Fallon Alford for sharing her photos with us. Fallon is a full time educator in Atlanta and a freelance photographer. You will see more of her work as we travel through Italy.