Looking Back at 70

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My year of being 70 years old is drawing to a close. Today is my last day of claiming this number. Tomorrow, the clock and calendar will flip over to 71. My! How the year has flown by.  I think of the quote – I don’t know who said it first, but one person given credit for it is Eleanor Roosevelt –“Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, and the youngest you’ll ever be again.” Hmmm. Something to think about.

 This time last year, my house was full of family and friends celebrating the start of my new decade with me. This year, my home is quiet. I have a few cards on display in my kitchen, my sons are busy, living their lives in California, and all is peaceful and quiet. It is time for me to reflect a bit on this “getting old” phenomenon that has been staring me in the face for the year.

I don’t feel a minute older than I did last year. I am healthy (at least for today!) and full to the brim with dreams for my life. A lot has happened during the year in an attempt to throw me off and trip me up, but many things have happened to confirm that getting older can be a fun thing to do and a good place to be. Readers of this blog have had an inside look at my year, as I’ve navigated my way, praying and laughing and crying (not all at the same time!) with each step of my way.

It has been a trip, and I’ve learned many lessons. I think the most important one I have learned – but haven’t perfected it yet – is how to live in the present. I have mastered the art of letting the past creep up on me and beat me up over the head with my failures (or so-called failures) in life, as well as the art of projecting into the future and fretting over my preparedness for my later years. It’s the present that I know I need to concentrate on. Today really is a great place to be! I keep reminding myself of this.

I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it. Prayer and meditation have been my saving grace. And walking. And writing. When I am awakened in the night having an anxiety attack about my future, I turn to prayer, measured breathing, and writing in my journal. The walking has to wait for the morning. I’m not brave enough or stupid enough to head out in the dead of night in an attempt to relieve my anxiety. Over the course of this year, the attacks have become less numerous and my sleep pattern has improved as I’ve used these weapons to send the demons packing.

I don’t want to bore my readers with a litany of my year. You can read it in my blog posts for yourself. It’s been a great year. From new vocabulary terms such as osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s in my repertoire, to discovering that a harmonica could be labeled as a lethal weapon, I have had my share of adventures. I found myself in a new relationship, almost screwed it up completely, and now am happily reunited with a man I don’t deserve. I’m not complaining. I am rejoicing that I am still growing and learning, and that not all mistakes are fatal ones.

It has been a year of reflection, of looking to my future, and trying to figure out the best path to take. With my year of 71, I will continue my quest of wondering what I want to be when I grow up. Right now, almost all I can think about is RETIRED.  I feel that the time is creeping up on me when it will be time to look for a new path and new adventures, work-wise. I may not stay retired forever, but I feel that I really need a respite from the daily “going to work” routine. My goal is for the end of the year. We’ll see what actually transpires.

My writing continues, as I have published one little book this year – a Christmas book (Christmas Found Me). It didn’t sell very well – I gave away more copies than I sold – but I am very proud of it, and I have received many favorable comments from folks who have read it.  It was my Christmas gift to the world.

I have an idea for my next collection of stories, but for now I am not working on it very much, and am enjoying being a regular reader at our local Open Mic for writers at our town’s art center once a month. This brings me a ton of joy. I have met some wonderful and talented people there.

That’s about it. I know this blog post looks more like a journal entry. There aren’t any pearls of wisdom in these words, or any particularly breathtaking ah-ha moments you may enjoy from reading them, but it is my way of wrapping up my year of being 70 years old.

A new year awaits. I hope it will drop some really good stories at my feet that I can pick up and run with.

Stay tuned. Here comes 71!

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Thoughts on this Valentine’s Day, 2019

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When I turned 70 last March, I dedicated my writing to be about what it is like to be finding my way through this new decade of my life, and to share these thoughts with my blog readers. I haven’t done a very good job of it, it seems. Life kept jumping up and getting in the way of my writing, keeping me otherwise occupied. In addition, along my path emerged a few things that I didn’t feel comfortable about sharing with the world. So, here I am, on Valentine’s Day, one month away from my 71stbirthday, reflecting on this year, listening to love songs on Pandora, and attempting to put together something of substance to write about love.

It’s the Day of Love. This past year I have been thinking about love. A. Lot.  And today I am happy to report that I am — In. Love. What? A 70 year-old woman in love? Yep, it’s me. It surprised the fool out of me!  I have been quiet about it in my writing this year, because for part of the year, I was uncertain about the relationship, and where it was heading, if anywhere.  2018 was a rocky road, and my “boyfriend” and I had some bumpy roads to travel as we dated, got to know each other, developed a relationship and friendship, had lots of fun and adventures, hit some boulders which sent us flying off of the path, stepped back to assess the damage, and somehow found our way back to each other. I tried to not love him during those challenging days, and I almost convinced myself. It didn’t work. I think he did the same thing. Thankfully, it didn’t work for him, either. He is my Valentine today, and while we won’t be seeing each other on this day, he is in my heart, and I know that I am in his. We will be together this weekend, when we will celebrate our second Valentine’s Day. It took me awhile to believe that this could really happen to me, but today I can write about it, knowing that it’s the real deal.

I also learned a different lesson about love this year. My readers will know that I am a participant in the Emory University Healthy Brain Research Study. I have been reading and absorbing everything I can get my hands on about dementia, Alzheimer’s, nutrition, exercise, brain health, and healthy living in general. Little did I know that someone very close to me, someone I love very much, would be diagnosed with this disease. My cousin, Laura, who is only three years older than I am, is struggling with the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Laura is single, has never married, and has no immediate family other than her cousins. She and I are the youngest of the cousins, so we have always had a special bond.  Because I live in the general geographic area as Laura, I am taking an active role in helping her maneuver her way through this new episode in her life.  I am feeling overwhelmed and completely in the dark about what the next curve in the road holds for us, but I love her so deeply, that I promise she won’t be traveling alone. She has a wonderful support group of lifelong friends who have circled her wagon, and with them leading the way, I am certain that love will be the cord that holds us tightly together and will see us through.

Love also bit in my family in the year of my being 70. My older son proposed to his girlfriend, and she said “Yes.” She is wearing my mother’s “Mother’s ring” as her engagement ring. I am thrilled for their happiness. No wedding date has been set, but it will come in its own time.

And to top off the Year of Love, my younger son and his partner of 20 years married last May.  I am over the top that they were finally able to make it legal. Their knot has been strong for years, but they had the opportunity to make it official last May.

A mom just couldn’t be happier on this Valentine’s Day, seeing both of her sons in strong, loving relationships.

Love takes many forms, doesn’t it? It can be romantic, fun, the fulfillment of long-time dreams, and bittersweet.

Wherever you, my readers, are on this Day of Love,

Never Stop Believing.

All Over The Board in 2018

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It has been easy to bid a fond farewell to 2018. I was ready for a fresh new page to begin scribbling on with the dawning of the new year, more than eager to close the 2018 book and file it away in the archives of my memories.

It wasn’t that 2018 was a bad year. It wasn’t. It wasn’t stellar, and it didn’t leave me with a Wow! What a great year!  kind of feeling when the calendar page turned and I replaced my old wall calendar with the new one. But it was a notable year for me, that’s for sure.

Emotionally, much of it was a roller coaster ride. No, not a roller coaster, but one of those carnival rides where the floor keeps moving and shifting, and you find yourself grasping for the hand rails in an attempt to keep your sure footing without falling on your face or wrenching your back. It often felt like I couldn’t quite get my balance and keep it. I cried a lot. I also laughed a lot in between the crying. Nothing seemed steady and secure. I’d find myself re-grouping after one challenge, only to find the floor shifting again, sending me into deep concentration on staying in the upright mode.

I learned a lot. A lot about myself. A lot about my relationship with God. A lot about my relationships with people who ventured into my corner of the world. A lot about trust. A lot about unselfishness and generosity.  A lot about being alone. Yep. It was a year of learning.

This was the first year of my being 70. While I still feel young-ish, this was the first time that I actually admitted that the number of years I have ahead of me are fewer than those I’ve left behind.  I became more acutely aware of my health and ways to maintain its vitality. Learning that my bones aren’t as strong as they once were, and discovering through the Healthy Brain Research Study that I am a participant of that my brain isn’t the steel trap it once was for remembering and recalling all kinds of useful and useless knowledge and other trivial bits and pieces gave me a scare. Just thinking that I might become a statistic one day of brittle bones or dementia as one of the descriptors of who I am sent me on a quest for learning as much as I possibly can about nutrition, exercise, and healthy living.

I also realized how addictive social media and my cell phone have become for me, disturbing me greatly. I watched the students at the college where I am librarian as they mirrored in magnifying glass style what was bothering me about myself. I vowed to become unattached to my phone and to Facebook in the new year as much as I possibly can. Being a writer, with this blog, it isn’t possible to go cold turkey from my computer and phone, but I am determined to minimize my exposure to it. It’s tough. I’ve become accustomed to instant access to people and to information. It isn’t easy to put the phone down and close the lid on the laptop, letting those messages and posts sit for awhile until I get around to addressing them.

Lastly, 2018 was a year of decision-making, which actually turned out to be a year of indecision and changing my mind. A lot. I felt that I needed to make some changes in my life to help secure my financial retirement and mental health future, but I was all over the place in investigating options, making a decision, then tossing it aside as not being the right one, and grasping at some other new scheme. I would think I had found the solution to each particular situation only to discover that maybe that wasn’t such a great idea, after all. I entered 2019 still staggering from the dizziness of it all, promising myself that I would settle down, take some deep breaths, think things through, and not rush into any major life changes until I felt more sure-footed.

2019 is here. A new year. A fresh page. An invitation for exploring opportunities. A time for steadying myself. I am hopeful that the lessons I’ve learned from 2018 will stick, and that they will help me maneuver my way through this year.

If there is a resolution for me here, I think it is in the title of this blog post. I want 2019 to be a year when I’m not all over the board, grasping at brass rings, tottering on uneven ground, or seeking to find balance on unsteady legs. I stretch out my hand and heart to God, praying for signs to be written in bold, bright letters, with huge, fat arrows pointing the way I should go. I’m hoping that God is a good sign-painter!

I have my glasses on. I’m already searching the horizon for my first sign.

It’s going to be a great year.

This I believe.

The Tale of the Traveling Harmonica

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During this year of being 70 for the first time in my life, I have been exploring ways to stay healthy, keep in strong physical shape, and make sure as best I can that my brain doesn’t become foggy or sluggish as I continue to cram it with all kinds of clutter, new knowledge, and, at times, useless information. I have been reading everything I can get my hands on that will help me navigate this new decade, hoping to get some good ideas of ways I can be proactive in delaying old age, dementia, walkers and wheelchairs, soft foods, and creaky joints.

In the reading I have done, there is a myriad of helpful hints aimed at exercising my brain and stimulating the nerve endings that send messages from it to various parts of my body, with all the while feeding it a diet that will make it happy. It has been a mish mash of nonsense and good sense. Quite enjoyable, and enlightening.

One suggestion in particular piqued my curiosity in suggesting a way to exercise my brain and challenge it to stay in shape. It is:

LEARN TO PLAY A MUSICAL INSTRUMENT.

Now, that sounds like something I could do, and I already have a head start. I took seven years of piano lessons as a child, and I played the baritone ukulele as a teenager. Even though I was never very good at the piano, and don’t own one now, I loved playing the ukulele, and still possess it. Maybe I could take up the piano again, or go onto You Tube and refresh my knowledge and skills at ukulele chords.

As I was pondering this idea of becoming musically inclined again, I happened to spot something compelling as I was shopping one afternoon in our local Ace Hardware store.

It was a harmonica. And it was a cheap harmonica. $4.99 to be exact. I picked up the box and opened it. Memories of childhood rushed into this needing-to-be-refreshed and rejuvenated brain of mine, as I remembered finding a harmonica in my stocking almost every Christmas when I was a little girl.  These memories co-mingled with my recent re-acquaintance with Billy Joel and the song “Piano Man.” It has a great harmonica solo in it, which I love. I never get tired of  “play me a song, you’re the piano man.” While I know I could never play the piano the way Billy Joel does, perhaps I could learn to play a pretty mean harmonica? Maybe?

I bought it.

This is where the story really becomes interesting.

I was a week away from flying out to Los Angeles to visit my sons for a long weekend. I wanted to show them my harmonica and tell them all about their mom’s plan to learn how to play it.

As I packed my bags for my trip, I placed the harmonica into my carry-on luggage, and joked on my Facebook page about entertaining my fellow plane passengers with songs from my harmonica. Spurred on by comments from friends fueling this wild idea, I was ready to go to California.

All was well until I went through TSA security at the airport. First, I was chosen to be one who was patted down as I went through the checkpoint. Then, somehow one of my shoes got lost somewhere on the conveyor belt, and the scarf I had put into my bin found its way to another person’s bin. I retrieved my scarf, but couldn’t find my missing shoe. As I held my one shoe up in the air and was shouting for someone from TSA to help me find the other one, my carry-on bag was making its way through the xray machine, setting off some kind of security alert. Thankfully, my shoe was finally located, after which a TSA official pulled me aside. Embarrassed just a tad, I thought it was because of the commotion I was making about my wayward shoe.

It wasn’t.  She guided me to a table, my carry-on bag in her hand. She set it down, looked me straight in the eye, and asked me if I was carrying a weapon in my bag.  I was flabbergasted. Not only had I lost a shoe, and nearly witnessed my scarf being whisked away by another passenger, but now I was being asked if I was toting a weapon? She told me she had to open my bag and examine its contents. Of course, that was fine with me. I had nothing to hide. What was it that the x-ray machine saw, I asked her. That’s what I have to find out, she said, as another agent stepped up to serve as a witness.

As I watched in bewilderment at what could be causing such a ruckus with TSA, she pulled out my brand new harmonica, opened the box it was in, looked at it, and asked me, “What is this?”

“It’s a harmonica,” I said.

She still looked puzzled.

“A musical instrument,” I added.

Clearly, cheap harmonicas were never reviewed in the TSA manual of dangerous weapons. It dawned on me that neither of these TSA employees had ever seen a harmonica! I assured them that it was not dangerous. Finally, one of them actually looked closely at it, and then at the box it came in, and believed me. She placed it back into my bag, and without anything more than “You can go,” I was released to continue to my gate.

When I finally got onto the plane, I asked my seatmate if she would mind taking a photo of me. I told her my TSA tale, and she was more than happy to oblige this strange request. I knew this was a story worthy of retelling, and I wanted more than anything to have physical proof that I was allowed onto an airplane carrying a potentially dangerous harmonica with me.

When it was time to return home from LA, I wisely packed the harmonica into my checked luggage, and breezed through security.

Now all I need to do is learn how to play the dang thing! Sounds like a good New Year’s resolution for me, don’t you think?

Christmas Found Me Again! My Christmas Letter, 2018

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Dear Friends and Family, I wrote this as the final chapter of a little book I published this Christmas, entitled “Christmas Found Me!” It is available on amazon.com. I want to wish you all a joyous Christmas, filled with love, laughter, and anticipation!

 Once again, I am surprised by joy as another Christmas season approaches and challenges me to toss aside any negative thoughts or homesickness for my family I might be harboring and to celebrate with expectation of what lies ahead. I stick these negative thoughts into a dark closet of my mind, lock the door, and invite into my heart whatever this Christmas has in store for me.

Christmas has found me this year in a state of change and growth. The winds of autumn throw the brightly colored leaves off of the trees, toss them into the air, and play catch me if you can with the neighborhood children scrambling to nab one before it touches the ground. They are also sending my thoughts and plans out into the crisp air with a sense of something new coming my way. I can feel it as surely as I can feel the cool wind tousling my hair and bringing a blush to my face in the change of season.

Where I am heading is not yet clear. I don’t have an inkling of what my future holds. It seems that this Christmas is a segue of sorts between my past and future. I feel this from the depths of my being, with a sense of uneven ground beneath my feet as I follow my path into my future. I am moving forward with faith in a promise God made to me, I will always take care of you.

What I do know, however, is that Christmas is upon me, and with it an awareness of continuity, comfort, and familiarity that I need. I listen to my best-loved Christmas carols and to the reading of the precious Nativity story, and I take in all of the sounds, sights, and scents of the season. I find my little dog, Sunshine, snuggled up in Raggedy Ann’s lap on the guest room bed, finding her own security and warmth, as I scramble to put the finishing touches on a little book I am writing about Christmas and pull out my box of angel ornaments for our tree. All of this makes me happy, while at the same time filling my eyes with tears.

Christmas, 2018, tiptoes in my direction on silvery steps carrying God’s love and promises with open arms of grace and renewal. Jesus Christ is being born again, God’s presence is displayed throughout the universe, and love surrounds us wherever we find ourselves this Christmas.

Yes, Christmas has found me once again.

It is my prayer that it has found you, too!

 

Thoughts from a Jet Plane

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We are racing the sunset across America this afternoon thousands of feet above the earth. The airplane I am a passenger on doesn’t know what time it is as we soar westward from Georgia to California. My watch says 6:30, which means it should be dark outside. Looking out of the plane windows, a pink glow blends with the blue sky, telling me that the day is ending – somewhere. Surely, it is already nighttime in Atlanta, but wherever we are, as we fly through the air,  the day isn’t ready to let go quite yet.

Somewhere far below us a couple is sitting in a lawn swing, sharing a glass of wine and looking upward at the late afternoon sky. They spot a jet stream reflecting the afternoon sunlight, and then see the tiny silver reflection of a plane thousands of feet above them as it wings its way across the blue canopy. They point to the tiny speck in the sky, and wonder out loud where that plane might be heading, and who is traveling on it. In their imaginations, they are creating scenarios for the travelers on the plane, and wishing that they, too, could be high above the earth, rocketing through the sky on a wonderful adventure.

It is me, along with a troupe of fellow air travelers. Some of us are riding on this plane to spend some time with family or have a California vacation. Others are returning home from a week’s work in the east. And others are relaxing after finishing a semester of college or completing a college basketball tournament.  Each of us has a unique reason for being on this airplane. We are a community, for a short span of time, together on this silver rocket speeding its way to our destination on the far side of our fabulous country.

I don’t know a single soul on this airplane.  But, as I sit in my own silence and listen to the muffled conversations surrounding me, I feel a connection to these people. We are travelers together for this brief few hours. When we land in Los Angeles, we will each head out on our individual paths, and probably never cross paths again. Our community is a short-lived one, that’s for sure

This is a moment in time. A blink in eternity. A respite from life on Planet Earth. We are sky travelers, forced together this evening by an airline boarding pass, in a losing race with the sunset high above the planet we call our home, anticipating our landing where life will again kick in and we will be back on solid ground.

This is Flight 2211, and I am a passenger on this airplane.

I am grateful for this experience.

A Very Special Rag Doll – My Ann

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I have a brand new book available on Amazon.com.

https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Found-Me-collection-memories/dp/1731041195/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1544573835&sr=1-1&keywords=jennie+campbell  

I put it together rather quickly in order to have it available for sale this Christmas season. It is a little book, containing samples of Christmas letters I have written over the years, intermixed with blog entries from Decembers past. The title of the book is Christmas Found Me!, which pretty much describes what happens to me every year as the holiday season approaches, carrying me along toward the big day searching for the real meaning of Christmas amid all of the commercialism and glitz and glitter of the season. Christmas finds me each year in unusual places, in poignant memories, and in the faces of people I meet and the music that brings me back to the essence of what it is all about.

 

What I find interesting is how a little girl inspired me, beginning last year with a story I wrote about her in this blog, and then again this year as she sat on the guest room bed, watching me as I wrote and put together my little Christmas book. She never said a word, but sat there smiling and gazing at me with her bright black eyes, content as she could be. Her name is Ann, and she is my Raggedy Ann doll.

 

Ann was a gift from Santa to me when I was nine months old, my first Christmas. At that time, she was bigger than I was, and was wearing a crisp white apron over a brightly colored print dress and white pantaloons to match her apron. I invite my blog readers to read the story of Ann. https://jennielousdays.wordpress.com/2017/12/21/raggedy-ann-and-christmas/.  The years have faded her frock, which she still wears, as well as her cloth face and body. She shows the signs of age, just like me, with scars on her body, thinning hair, and a little saggy-bagginess here and there. But, she is my Ann, and I love her more and more everyday. Her “I Love You” heart underneath her outfit reminds me of what true love is, and I know that she has never stopped loving me and never will.

This past Sunday, Ann went with me to the Monroe-Walton Center for the Arts in Monroe, Georgia, where we now live, for an open house and book signing of my book. She sat proudly on the display table, holding a copy of the book in her little arms, smiling sweetly to everybody who came into the center. She and I both had a wonderful time!

Ann and I have been through a lot in our 70 years together. Sometimes I think she is as real to me today as she was when I was a tiny little girl. I’ve never stopped talking to her and telling her my most private secrets and dreams, and she has never stopped listening. And now, her story is in one of my books. She is a proud little Ann, and I am grateful that she has given me the gift of her story to share.

Oh! How I love my Ann!