“This Ain’t Your Mama’s Wedding!” A Mother Reflects as She Helps Plan Her Daughter’s Wedding

“This Ain’t Your Mama’s Wedding!” A Mother Reflects as She Helps Plan Her Daughter’s Wedding

“This Ain’t Your Mama’s Wedding!” A Mother Reflects as She Helps Plan Her Daughter’s Wedding

I’m so happy to share this post by another member of the Women Over Fifty Bloggers community. Reading her story brought a tear to my eye remembering my own daughter’s wedding and feeling the same shock when helping her plan (and pay for) it. Time is definitely marching on and nothing seems to escape modernization. But…there are still some things that will never change. Enjoy Mary Jo’s story, and be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below.



Blogger: Visiting the Gray Planet

Mary Jo is a happy-to-be 57-yr old blogger living in Denver, Colorado. She launched her lifestyle blog for middle aged women in April of this year. Her writing focuses mainly on aging parents, retirement and gray hair.

Mary Jo states that aging is like grade school math: “you’re going to add some things and subtract some things”. 

When confronted with the realities that growing older brings, she feels it’s easier when you have good information and you know you’re not alone.

Weddings Have Changed (and that’s putting it mildly!)

My daughter got married last summer which made me a first-time mother of the bride.

The night they got engaged was magical. I remember the young man who couldn’t quit smiling and the future bride glowing with love and excitement. Now I know what they mean by “love is in the air.” As I was glowing with pride and soaking this all in, the arresting thought that we would be putting on a wedding hit me. It was the first of many shocking realizations I was about to discover.

I got married in 1987 and had a lovely wedding very much in line with the standards of the ’80’s. Perms for all! My mother and I planned everything together. We bought 1 bridal magazine and talked to friends who had wedding experience. In a moment of liberalism, we let my groom-to-be choose his own clothes for the wedding. Other than that, his job was to have his mom call me so we could compile a guest list.

So imagine my surprise, when my future son-in-law wanted to be involved in planning his wedding. Apparently this is a thing now: couples planning their wedding together.

I was already a little off-kilter, this being the first wedding in my family with me a member of the older generation. While my daughter’s friends, in their matching bridesmaid dresses, were out on the dance floor, my friends from college and I were competing in the “most years married” contest.

As the planning process began, I couldn’t believe how much had changed since I planned my wedding…

Engagement Pictures

When did engagement pictures become a necessity? In the 1980’s, wealthy people occasionally did that for the newspaper but no one else did. Apparently now, this is one of the first things to be scheduled.


While the happy couple was busy choosing coordinating outfits for pictures, I was contemplating the wording of the wedding invitations. Sadly, neither of their parents are still married (to each other anyway) so to include the names of all involved along with the date, would lead to a lot of extra wording on the fancy 5 x7 invitations with the scroll-y lettering… May eighteenth two thousand seventeen…you know, in the proper way that we did it back in the 80’s.

I was in for another surprise! The modern couple chose a tri-panel invitation that included no scrolls and no awkward listing of parent’s names. They filled the panels with adorable engagement pictures and information about the wedding. In addition, there were no RSVP cards! Nope. We do all that on line now.

When I was engaged,  my mom kept track of all my wedding guests on 4 X 6 index cards stored in a shoe box. A 4 x 6 card was big enough to keep track of the date the invitation was mailed, their response to the RSVP, the gift we’d received and when we’d sent the thank you. I kept this box for decades because it reminded me of the excitement of planning the wedding and of all the people who were there.

Wedding Website

Soon after the engagement pictures were taken, the groom-to-be started working on their wedding website. The website includes a small data base of guest information. This is necessary for sending emails and Facebook invites so all their friends could save the date.

There’s also a section for a biography of the couple and each attendant. This does takes some of the mystery out of the actual ceremony. We used to sit in the pews and speculate, “Is that the bride’s sister? Who do you think that man is?” Now we know everyone’s full name, how they met the bride and groom, and we are also able to read their messages of congratulations on the website.


One very good development in wedding planning is cake tasting!

The Groom-to-be was out of town during the cake-testing event, so I got to go! The bakery had 60 different types of cake flavors. 60! We narrowed our choices down to 6 and emailed the bakery so they could prepare.

When I got married, my cake choices were white, lemon, and poppy seed.

Here’s a tip for cake tasting day: If you’re going to eat 6 cupcakes with icing at 10:00 in the morning, you are going to want milk. You are also going to want to lay down when you get home.

It is now becoming common to skip the cake entirely and have other fun desserts like pie or donuts. What? I thought marriage only became legal after the couple fed each other a delicate bite of cake! They tell me this isn’t true.

Getting Inspiration

I don’t know how modern brides (oh, and grooms) ever make a decision on anything with access to so many choices. Pinterest is inspiring, but it also raises the bar on individuality. In addition to picking a dress and attendants, the trend now is to have a wedding theme: “Island Paradise”, “Wedding in a Barn”, “Summer Romance”, “New Age Bohemian”.

Of course your guest book also needs to reflect your theme. Your guests may be signing a picture frame, a log, or possibly even a surf board. Gone are the stiff little white guest books of my day.


In the 1980’s, entertainment at the reception was limited to throwing the bouquet and watching your parent’s friend’s try to dance after a few drinks. Now we have photo booths and games. Signature cocktails and slide shows. Popcorn bars. Serve yourself candy tables.

When I got married, a first class wedding gave out Jordan almonds wrapped in netting and called it good.

Planning the modern wedding was an eye-opener for me, and a challenge learning to adapt to all the changes. But with the planning over, the big day had finally arrived.

The Wedding Day

The bridesmaids giggled and fixed their hair. The bride and groom’s families got acquainted; trying to make a good impression. The wedding guests gathered and reflected fondly on their own wedding day.

The Father-of-the-bride misted up as he walked his daughter down the aisle.

The happy couple made solemn vows and anticipated their future together.

They started their newly married status surrounded by the love and good wishes of friends and family.

You know…the way weddings have always been.

You can follow Mary Jo on Pinterest HERE, and visit her blog VISITING THE GRAY PLANET for other great stories.

Until next time…

Patti Huck image and signature

This Ain't Your Mama's Wedding | Women Over Fifty Network

Are You Over 50 and a Night Owl? Your Body Might Be Tired of It. Wake Up and Smell the Coffee.

Are You Over 50 and a Night Owl? Your Body Might Be Tired of It. Wake Up and Smell the Coffee.

Are You Over 50 and a Night Owl? Your Body Might Be Tired of It. Wake Up and Smell the Coffee.

I’m a night owl. When I think back, I guess I always have been. The fact that I’m also a teeeeny bit on the obsessive side has a little something to do with it.

For instance, I’ve always loved to read. Normally someone will read until “bedtime”, slap a bookmark in, and pick up where they left off the next evening. Nope. I remember even way back to my grade school years staying up half the night to finish a book I’d been reading.

I don’t like being told what to do. I don’t like rules. And apparently, I don’t like a predetermined “bedtime”.

Having been a single mom who worked from home and had very active kids, I savored the quiet time after they were asleep, and usually extended it into the wee hours of the morning.

Throughout my life, even after my kids were grown and even after I had remarried at 50, I still continued that routine. I’ve owned few online businesses, and discovered that I did my best work after 11 p.m. No phone calls, no texts, no emails that needed immediate replies. I could focus better without interruptions, and my time was my own.

I’m sure you’re asking by now, “so where are you going with this?”. Well, here’s the deal. Lately I’ve been thinking that I may not be able  to stay up half the night anymore, and function on just 3-4 hours of sleep. Wha-a-a-t? I know – to most this is a no-brainer. To me, it was a shock.

I’d been waking up tired (a lot of times late in the morning), and was annoyed as soon as I saw the clock because I’d lost half my morning. I’d go through the day in a pissy mood, draggin’ ass, not feeling like exercising, irritable, grabbing a handful of…whatever any time I passed through the kitchen, and feeling every single one of my 63 years. I drug myself through my days only to stay up late again that night. It was a vicious cycle.

Every night I’d make my to-do list for the next day (I’m a major list-maker). It started at 7 am: Get dressed. Walk. Shower. Water plants. Clean up kitchen. Make bed.

During my supposed “focused” time while I was writing my list, it all seemed so doable. I loved that my chores and exercise would be done by 8:15, then I’d start my work day. But like the saying goes, “It looks good on paper”.

Each day I’d get up late, and right off the bat be behind. With emails already piled up needing attention, calls needing to be returned, decisions needing to be made, I was forced to start eliminating things on my to-do list. Guess which item never made the cut? You guessed it. Exercise.

I’d beat myself up for what I hadn’t gotten done, and stress out about what I still needed to do. My mind was very rarely in the present moment. I couldn’t focus on getting one thing done, because I was distracted by the bazillion other things dancing around in my head, or scattered across my desk.

My husband, who’s a schedule person, has been trying to convince me for years that I’d have more energy and be more productive if I went to bed earlier “like most people”, and got up earlier in the morning. I’m not one that’s good with schedules or restrictions. I have trouble doing something because it’s what “most people” do, or because “it’s good for me”. So I basically told him to mind his own beeswax.

In my mind I’m still 40, but this ol’ body hasn’t seen 40 in quite a few years, and I knew that sitting all day at my computer wasn’t doing it any favors. I was well aware that I needed to exercise and take care of myself, and not doing it was stressing me out. I knew I needed to make a change or I was going to stroke out.

So this morning, I got up at sunrise, put on the cool Nike’s my daughters gave me, and planned on taking a quick walk. It was already warm out, but not hot. It was quiet.

When I headed out my driveway and clicked START WORKOUT on my Map My Walk phone app, I had the normal chaos filling my head, but after a block or two, the chatter quieted a bit and I started to actually look around me. As the sun came up, I noticed how incredibly clear and blue the sky was. I could smell the flowers in the yards I was passing. I was aware of the birds and the sounds around me. Even though I was walking at a pretty fast pace, it seemed effortless. That thought filled me with gratitude that I’m physically able to walk without pain.

That one thought started a snowball effect. Instead of the usual mental lists, my head was filled with only thoughts of gratitude. I was grateful for the life I’d been given and that I’m still here to live it when so many others weren’t able to.

And it continued…I was grateful that my kids are all healthy and happy, that I’m still madly in love with my husband who has stuck with me through the good and the bad. I was thankful for my health, for the work that I’m passionate about and am able to do from home… Our home… My determination… My empathy… Our grandkids… My friends… The closeness that I have with my family.

I didn’t want to stop walking. My body felt strong and my mind uncluttered. For 30 minutes, I’d found quiet and peace within myself.

Returning rested and clear-headed, I realized I got more out of my half hour walk this morning than the four hours I normally spend, late at night, in my quest for quiet time. I loved being in the moment. I hadn’t visited it in a very long time.

Damn I hate it when Paul’s right.

So I suggest to you, take a breath today. Look around you. Take a minute and be thankful for what you have. It’s the little things that go unnoticed, the things you don’t see that you take for granted. Acknowledge them. Don’t live so strongly in the past or the future that you aren’t able to see the present. Life is short.

Until next time…


Patti Huck image and signature
Are you a night owl? Life is short | Women Over Fifty Network
One Size Fits…None. The Dressing Room From Hell.

One Size Fits…None. The Dressing Room From Hell.

One Size Fits…None. The Dressing Room From Hell.

Hey all!

I’m thrilled to be sharing this post with you! You know how much I love connecting you with other women over fifty bloggers, right? Well, let me introduce you to Marcia Kester Doyle. Marcia writes about all the pitfalls of aging on her blog “Menopausal Mother“, but helps us laugh about them. She was kind enough to let me share a chapter from her book “Who Stole My Spandex? Life in the Hot Flash Lane“. I’m pretty sure you’re going to love Marcia.

Be sure to comment below to let her know if you can relate to her experience going clothes shopping!

GUEST BLOGGER: Marcia Kester Doyle

Marcia, a humor blogger, muses on the good, the bad, and the ugly side of midlife mayhem. Give her a glass of wine and a jar of Nutella, and she’ll be your best friend. It’s rogue humor at it’s finest!

She is a BlogHer Voice of the Year 2014 recipient and VoiceBoks Top Hilarious Parent Blogger 2014. She was also voted as a Top 25 Blogger in the Circle of Moms Contest 2013. She is a native Floridian and married mother of four children, as well as being a grandparent to a feisty toddler

One Size Fits None. The Dressing Room From Hell

I hate shopping for clothes, which explains why I’ve never been accused of being a fashionista. It also explains why my daughters always call to ask what I’m wearing before bringing their friends over to the house.

After birthing four babies by C-section, I now find shopping for clothes less enticing than a root canal. I might enjoy it more if I was twenty-five pounds lighter, because shopping just isn’t as fun when I have to head straight for the Woman’s Plus department, where everything comes in black, white, or shower-curtain pattern.

My husband often accompanies me during my clothes hunting expeditions, usually because he is: a) bored with all five hundred cable channels, b) in need of replenishing his tube sock collection, or c) wanting to make sure I don’t spend all my cash on animal-print house dresses and takeout from Burger Barn. He parks his butt on a sofa outside the changing rooms and plays with his phone while I’m pondering the age-old question of zippers versus control-top panels.

I try to be frugal while I shop, but the problem with the clearance section is that there are only two clothing sizes left on the rack by the time I get there—hummingbird and mastodon. It’s always a challenge to find an outfit that doesn’t leave me looking like the exploding dough from a tube of Pillsbury crescent rolls.

It’s the same adventure every time I go shopping. I shoot past the regular lingerie (like I’ll ever be able to squeeze myself into a hot fuchsia number the size of a rubber band) to the “Full Figure” aisle, where the bras hang like double-boulder slingshots. Then I whiz past the shoe section, jewelry department, and all those adorable maternity outfits. I think, “Oh, look at the cute, faux-denim stretch pants designed to hide a pregnancy bump!” before self-consciously rubbing my stomach. Nope, no baby in there—just the jelly roll the last kid left behind.

Once I’m able to find a dress that doesn’t resemble a large paint tarp, I grab a few more items (twelve, actually, because I have no idea what the size du jour is going to be—I need a sampler platter of three different sizes for each outfit). I then head for the dreaded dressing room with an armload of clothes that will most likely end up back on the rack. It’s always at this moment that I wish I lived in the 1500s, where everyone bought one-size-fits-all clothing from Dirty Smocks “R” Us, and dressed by dim candlelight to mask the effects of a stout-and-potato diet.

I’m wary of stepping into dressing rooms because I know there are some shoppers who use these cubicles for more than just trying on clothes. I know this because several of my children have worked in major department stores over the years, and they’ve shared a few nightmare tales that have scarred me for life. Department stores should consider posting helpful signs to keep paranoid people like me from worrying about stepping into DNA samples left by the previous occupants. The signs could flash messages like “FECAL-FREE ZONE!” or “MOTEL 6 IS DOWN THE STREET … THEY’LL LEAVE A LIGHT ON FOR YOU!”

Wishing to God for a shot of liquid courage before I enter the “chamber of truth,” I stall by the clearance rack for a few more minutes, until a skinny, perky salesclerk approaches me. She asks if I’m ready to try on my new clothes, and her chipper tone sets my teeth on edge. Can’t she see I’m breaking into a sweat over the fact that my actual dress size is about to be revealed?

I’m ushered into a mirrored cubicle the size of Thumbelina’s closet, and told to “have fun” while trying on the clothes. Have fun? The only way that would ever happen is if the dressing room included a well-stocked mini fridge. No, this is where the true horror begins. I shimmy out of my old, comfortable clothes and cringe as I view myself in panoramic funhouse mirrors that display my front, back, and sides. I’m immediately reminded of a peeled potato.

Concluding that the department store must have gotten a really good deal on mirrors from a traveling circus, I weed through my pile of clothing. One floral-print dress is reminiscent of something my grandmother wore in 1939. An orange blouse makes me look like an Oompa Loompa. An ill-fitting pair of jeans causes my flesh to ooze out over the waistband like Play-Doh. To make matters worse, I’m having to struggle into all of this torturous clothing under unflattering fluorescent lights that expose every fold, flap, bulge, and scar bestowed upon my body by childbirth and years of yo-yo dieting.

I decide on a few items of clothing that promise to lift, tuck, flatten, and flatter the body, and I notice that everything I’ve chosen is: a) made of NASA-approved spandex and b) one shade—black. So what if I end up with a bag of clothing resembling a mortician’s closet?

I approach the checkout counter, and it never fails—there’s always an angry woman ahead of me shouldering three returns and a missing receipt. To top it all off, she was clearly once the president of her high school debate team. My eye starts twitching as she engages in refund warfare with the young girl behind the cash register. Obviously neither one of these women knows that I’m already two hours late to walk a dog known for his daily bouts of IBS.

Once home, I face the daunting task of cleaning out old clothes to make room for the new. I’m a firm believer in recycling, and have found some creative ways to repurpose my granny panties with a needle and thread. With a garbage bag full of threadbare underpants and a few quick stitches, I can make an outdoor patio umbrella, a tent for camping trips, or an heirloom quilt for the grandkids.

I try the new clothes on again in the privacy of my own bedroom, but they don’t look as good as they did in the dressing room. This just confirms what I’ve believed all along—that department store mirrors are designed to make every woman appear as shapely as an hour glass. When I look in my own mirror at home, all I see is a potato dressed up in a shower curtain. A black shower curtain.

Chances are good that I’ll be returning all of my one-size-fits-none clothing to the mall—but only after a quick stop at the Burger Barn.

The Dressing Room From Hell | Women Over Fifty Network
Marcia has written for The Huffington Post, Humor Outcasts, In the Powder Room, and What The Flicka. 

She has been featured on numerous sites such as Scary Mommy, BlogHer, The Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, Midlife Boulevard, Boomeon, and BA50 among others.

She is a contributing author to the following books: The Mother of All Meltdowns, Clash of the Couples, Motherhood: May Cause Drowsiness, Sunshine After the Storm, To Bliss and Back, Parenting Gag Reel, and will be featured in the forthcoming anthologies: Surviving Mental Illness Through Humor, Mom for the Holidays, and How Can You Laugh at a Time Like This?

Who Stole My Spandex? Life In The Hot Flash Lane is available on Amazon in both Kindle and Paperback formats.

Are We Getting a Glimpse Into the Afterlife as We Die? Or Are Our End-Of-Life Experiences Just Hallucinations?

Are We Getting a Glimpse Into the Afterlife as We Die? Or Are Our End-Of-Life Experiences Just Hallucinations?

Are We Getting a Glimpse Into the Afterlife as We Die? Or Are Our End-Of-Life Experiences Just Hallucinations?

Grandpa Needs Some Company

It was January of 1986. Kim, my sister, was waiting for me at Grandpa’s house. After five years of one personal crisis after another, I was making a new start. I’d bought a house in the neighborhood where I’d grown up. The reasons for my move were twofold:

  1. I wanted my kids to feel safe, surrounded by people I’d known since childhood, in the quaint neighborhood I’d treasured.
  2. I wanted to be closer to my grandpa so I could help my sister take care of him.

My grandpa, our only remaining grandparent, lived by himself a block from Kim and two houses from my new home. He’d fallen into a funk after Grandma died a few years prior, and my mom had became his savior. She ran his errands, cleaned his house, kept him company, and made sure he bathed.

He had just started laughing again when mom died. Her death devastated him. Two years later when dad, his only child died, he went into a full blown depression.

Kim had stepped in to take mom’s place running his errands, and making sure his house was clean. My brother, Bob, spent as much time with him as he could during his days off, listening to the stories he liked to tell about the cold winters back in North Dakota, and the years ‘at the shop’ where he had worked as a barber.

Although Grandpa was being taken care of, other than seeing us here and there, he didn’t get out much and we worried that he just wasn’t coming around. He had lost his spunk. Nothing much made him happy anymore.

It’s Time to Make a Plan

Having just moved in, I had unpacked boxes stacked everywhere, was juggling two jobs, and had two small kids who were feeling disoriented and needing extra lovin’. But Grandpa still weighed heavily on our minds and hearts.

We all talked about things we could do to perk him up. We put ourselves in his shoes to try to feel what he must be feeling. He had to be lonely waking up day after day in a dark, quiet house with nothing to look forward to, surrounded by memories of people he’d loved  and lost.

We came up with a plan. Bob would increase his visits. After taking a couple days for me to get settled in, Kim and I would spend a day gathering things that might lift Grandpa’s spirits…

  • Music to fill the quiet – we bought him a boom box (hey, it was the ’80’s), and music by Jim Reeves, his favorite.
  • A fresh new wardrobe – we chose soft comfy shirts, new undies, slippers, jammies, etc.
  • Things to brighten his house – new couch pillows, pictures, rugs, accessories, bedding.
  • Gadgets – some useful, some just to make him laugh, and some to keep his mind busy.

Our “plan” filled Kim’s trunk! We called Grandpa and asked if we could take him to breakfast the next morning. He happily accepted, and Kim and I couldn’t wait for him to see all the cool things we were bringing him.

Kim Got to Grandpa’s House Ahead of Me

I walked into Grandpa’s kitchen all amped up expecting to hear grandpa shout a smart-ass greeting from the couch chastising me for being late.  Instead, Kim hushed me before I could say anything, and I heard grandpa in his bedroom talking to someone on the phone.

Everything felt off. Grandpa was hardly ever on the phone. The expression on Kim’s face was odd. I’d seen it before. Dad had worn that same expression when mom was so sick and I’d ask him how she was doing. That frozen disconnected smile. Hesitation. Confusion. Denial. Fear.

Concerned that the caller had brought bad news (although grandpa’s continued animated chit chat contradicted it), I asked Kim who was on the phone as we made our way to grandpa’s bedroom.  “He’s not on the phone” she said.

Who Are You Talking to and What Have You Done With My Grandpa?

There he was, comfortably leaning against pillows in the middle of his bed. Although he had known we were coming to take him to breakfast, there were no signs he’d made any effort to get up and ready. His hair was all messy, he hadn’t put his teeth in yet, but he was looking up and smiling like crazy. He seemed unaware that we were standing in the doorway of his bedroom as he continued his extremely animated conversation with “Allie” – the pet name he had called my grandma.

He waved away my stunned “Hey grandpa” greeting with his eyes still riveted to his ceiling obviously anxious to continue his conversation with grandma. My speechless question to Kim was answered with, “He’s been like this since I got here”.

Where Are You? What Are You Seeing?

Kim told me that he was still in bed when she got there, and was acting weird. He knew who she was, but didn’t seem to know what time it was. Because he was acting so strangely, she told him he needed to get up so we could maybe have the doctor check him out. He told her he wasn’t sick. She said he just kept looking up, smiling and talking. She asked him who he was talking to thinking he’d tell her he was talking to God.

She was surprised when he told her that Vivian (my mom’s deceased mom), was visiting with him on her way to the train station. Then he waved good-bye to her and turned to Kim explaining that Adeline, his (dead) sister, had stopped by earlier and, just as if it had happened in real-time, told her all about the conversation they had had.

We stood there watching our grandpa, who wasn’t our grandpa, in his own world with his own people. We were left to stand on the outside looking in. He was so animated. He kept looking up, smiling, waving and appeared that he was part of something happening that was very busy and exciting. He’d often look up, give a quick wave and a chuckle as if someone may have called out a greeting to him.

It felt we were watching him at an invisible party where people were stopping by to say hello…or as if grandpa was moving through a crowd and would give a two-finger wave, like a little salute, when someone recognized him and called his name. There were periods of time that he would say something, and then appear to be listening to a response. Like we were hearing only his end of a phone conversation.

It felt so bizarre. Grandpa wasn’t normally the friendly outgoing guy that we were staring at now. He’d always been a little rough around the edges, and his humor had always leaned heavily toward sarcasm. Not a party guy. Not particularly easy going. That day he was acting almost giddy. He seemed happier and more relaxed than I’d ever remembered seeing him, but at the same time a little shy and embarrassed by all the attention he appeared to be receiving.

Okay Grandpa, the Party’s Over.

Trying to bring him back to planet earth, we kept telling him he needed to get up to see what we brought him. He said, “No”. We told him we bought him a phone to have by his chair. He said, “I don’t need it”.

I guess we thought that at some point he’d snap out of it. When he didn’t, we called an ambulance.

When the EMTs arrived and were wheeling him out of his bedroom, he kept telling them, “They think I’m coming back. I’m not coming back!.” He was pretty amused by that. Then he’d look up and say “They didn’t need to buy me all that stuff. I won’t be using it.” Kim rode with him in the ambulance. She said he seemed fine, and was joking with her, but continued to look up, and as if sharing an inside joke say, “They think I’m coming back!.”

Was Grandpa Really Seeing Grandma?

Did she visit him often?

Was she there that day to guide him to Heaven?

Glimpse of the Afterlife When Dying | Women Over Fifty Network

Grandpa Suffered Right Along With Grandma.

Grandma “Allie” had dementia and multiple medical conditions. Toward the end of her life grandma was plagued with hallucinations…little men trying to squeeze under her bedroom door at night, women hanging clothes on her backyard clothesline, loud parties outside her bedroom window and people peering in at her.

Each frantic phone call from grandpa brought yet another change in medication for grandma, and several hours of mom and dad calming and consoling grandpa. It was scary for him, but must have been terrifying for grandma. Bless her heart. Grandma was on a lot of medication, some with side effects that might have been responsible for the hallucinations.

Grandpa, on the other hand, took no medication.

Grandpa also did not have dementia. His mind had stayed as sharp as a tack. Until this morning.

I hate to admit it, but my first thought was that he was faking it. Knowing that Kim and I would both be there that morning, was he so lonely that he had staged this act to make sure we’d worry, tell Bob, and all start spending more time with him? Grandma’s drug-induced hallucinations and dementia had gained her (and him) a lot of attention and kept a steady stream of visits and phone calls from mom and dad. Was he so lonely that he’d go to this extreme to recreate that scenario for himself?

I’ve Never Forgotten That Morning at Grandpa’s

Looking back, I’m ashamed that thought went through my mind as I stood at his bedroom door that morning.

When grandpa had turned into a one-man welcoming committee that day, totally oblivious to us, it had rooted me in place in shock. Because it caught me so off guard it scared the hell out of me. Now I kick myself for not participating in his joy by asking him to share what he was seeing.

Fast forward 30 years.

As I was researching a related topic for a blog post, the title of a book caught my eye and took me immediately back to that morning at grandpa’s house.

The book was “Words at the Threshold. What We Say as We’re Nearing Death“. The author, Lisa Smartt, founded the Final Words Project, an ongoing study devoted to collecting and interpreting the mysterious language that is heard at the end of lives.

If you have any interest at all in this subject, you’ll be mesmerized by this book. It’s a quick read, and is filled with excerpts from last conversations with the dying that she has collected in her research. There are so many similarities of what people say and what they see during the final days of their lives. It sends a chill down the spine.

Would I Have Acted Differently?

I thought of grandpa repeating over and over that day “I’m not coming back!”.

He’d been right. He didn’t come back. The gifts Kim and I had brought him never left her trunk. We didn’t get to take him to breakfast. He’d spent a short time in the hospital, and then died peacefully.

Remembering grandpa, I was curious to see if there was any mention in the book of people who were close to death appearing to be speaking to deceased loved ones. After a quick scan, the heading “The Arrival of Deceased Loved Ones” jumped off the page at me. Oh. My. God.

On page 107 Lisa writes “If you hear a loved one begin to speak of or with a deceased friend or family member, you can ask questions and lean into that moment fully, for it may be a signal that death is near…

Grandpa knew.

Having recently lost both parents, was I so afraid of losing another loved one that I refused to acknowlege what I probably knew was true? I’m so glad that grandpa was so absorbed in what was happening in his world that day that he wasn’t even aware of our efforts to rip him away from it.

I’d like to think we’re greeted and accompanied to the afterlife when we die. Since fear of the unknown and feeling alone are associated with our thoughts of death, wouldn’t it be nice if instead of dreading it, we knew we could look forward to it being a pleasant experience? 

Have you been near someone as they were nearing death? What experiences did you have? Please share below. It may be helpful to someone who’s facing the death of someone they love, or their own death. I so wish I had read Lisa’s book or had talked to someone prior to my last day with grandpa.

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Don’t Give In To Christmas. Break Traditions. Be The Change

Don’t Give In To Christmas. Break Traditions. Be The Change

Don’t Give In To Christmas. Break Traditions. Be The Change

This Christmas is an unusual one for me. Although it’s a bit uncomfortable because it’s out of my norm, I’m learning a lot from it.

What Christmas Was Like Growing Up

Growing up, our Christmases were big. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t grow up rich by any means. My dad was in management at the paper mill in our small town, and my mom took in ironing for extra money. My older brother and younger sister and I went to Catholic school. We lived modestly.

My mom was an excellent seamstress, so when Christmas came, we had box after box of beautifully sewn clothes. My parents put aside Christmas money all year, and my mom (the voice of reason) had to keep an eye on my dad who wanted to go crazy with the shopping. She managed to keep him reeled in until Christmas Eve when he always managed to sneak out to buy each of us one of the big items that mom had earlier put the kibosh on. He loved Christmas. Mom made sure our gifts were wrapped beautifully and that there were even amounts for each of us to open. Christmas was my favorite holiday.

Continuing Christmas Traditions With My Kids

When I got married and had my own kids, I re-created my childhood Christmases for them. I sewed and crafted, and made sure there was always that one gift for each of them they hadn’t expected they’d receive. I filled stockings with fun, small gifts, and we carried out the traditions of setting cookies out for Santa, opening one gift on Christmas Eve, and waiting until Christmas morning to open the rest.

Our Christmases had been everything I’d known and loved. Until one Christmas when they weren’t.

My divorce and loss of a second income had forced me to take on a second job. Money was tight and my lack of free time made it more difficult to craft gifts. My mom had passed away from leukemia, and my dad had a fatal heart attack shortly after. I was missing them both terribly. My divorce had caused a strain on my relationship with my ex’s parents, although they remained excellent grandparents to my kids.

The heartbeat of my family had crumbled. I was mourning the loss of my parents, was exhausted from working 15 hour days, had fallen behind in bills and had no idea how to pull Christmas off for my kids. They were too young to understand the financial position we were in, and there was no way I was going to let the light in those two pair of beautiful excited blue eyes dim at Christmas because of it.

It’s Not Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas

My sister and I went to Goodwill and bought tutus and hats and frilly “dress-up” clothes for my daughter. I found a recipe for Play-Doh and I made tons of it in colors you can’t buy in the store. I bought cookie cutters and rolling pin accessories.

I found cars and trucks for my son that looked brand new that I couldn’t have afforded to buy new. We snuggled and I read them the Night Before Christmas and Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. We sang Christmas songs. We went sledding and ice skating and invited the neighborhood kids over to build snowmen and have snowball fights.

I wrapped the gifts in newspaper and bright bows. Even though we couldn’t afford a tree, we spent a day making Christmas ornaments from Popsicle sticks, adding paint and glitter. As Christmas got closer, my heart was breaking that I hadn’t done enough, and that they wouldn’t have the Christmases that I’d had at their age.

Christmas Tree Oh Christmas Tree

A few days before Christmas my ex-father-in-law showed up at my door, which was surprising. We exchanged guarded greetings and a bit of uncomfortable chit chat while I nervously waited for him to tell me the purpose of his visit. He finally said, “Well…, I stopped by to see where you want me to put this tree.” He had brought us a beautiful Christmas tree that he brought in and set up for us. I loved that man more that day than I ever had. He stayed for a cup of coffee afterward and we all talked and laughed (and I cried). I have never forgotten that day. Our house smelled like Christmas, and the kids and I hung our handmade ornaments on our beautiful tree.

My sister, my kids and I went to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. It was their first time at church. We fought to compose ourselves when my son asked why there was water in the ashtrays (Catholic churches had holy water outside the doorways). With all the incense and rituals that happen at a Christmas mass, his curiosity was on turbo. His head whipped around every time the choir at the back of the church started in. During a very quiet and respectful moment when the priest, in his ceremonial white robes raised the gold chalice to be blessed, we about lost it when my son asked “Is that God up there on the stage?”

That was years and years ago. My kids are now adults. And you know what’s amazing to me? That very Christmas, the poor one that I stressed over and cried about, the one I didn’t feel I’d done enough, the one I felt they’d been slighted on, that was the Christmas they remembered the most. Thirty plus Christmases have passed since then and both of them agree that, that one was their favorite.

It Takes Courage To Ask For Help

For the past couple months I’ve been worried about my daughter who was recently let go from her job for standing up for something she believed in – something that was right. It has caused a huge financial hardship on her family. She worked in radio and spent a good amount of her time fund-raising for various causes and creating awareness for child abuse, women’s issues, etc. She loved helping her community. She’s a giving, loving person with a huge heart. The realization that my daugher needed help and I wasn’t able to provide it was crippling for me.

That old feeling of shame and sadness that I wasn’t able to do enough started creeping in. Then once again, as it had before in my life, help came unexpectedly.

After trying to make arrangements with their landlord and creditors and getting no cooperation or understanding, my daughter posted a request on social media: “We never thought we’d find ourselves in this position. I’m embarrassed to be asking for help, but if there is anything you can do, it would be so appreciated and when we’re able, paid forward. Also, if you know of anyone looking for web design or marketing, it would be hugely appreciated if you could refer us to them”. Knowing my daughter, I knew how hard that was for her to post and the pride she needed to swallow in order to take care of her son.

I couldn’t believe the messages they received, some of them from childhood friends she hadn’t seen in years. Some were listeners when she was on the radio that she’d never met. Gifts were delivered for my grandson with only the message “Merry Christmas!”. People donated money anonymously thanking her for her contributions to the community. There were people offering words of encouragement who said they had found themselves in a similar position at a time in their life. They had received help and now wanted to pay it forward.

They cried for a solid week (and so did I) for the generosity and outpouring of love they received. The willingness of these people to give without hesitation or need for recognition was inspiring. People who had very little themselves but reached out anyway to help someone in need, and asked nothing in return. I’ve never witnessed such unconditional love and could only send a prayer of gratitude to every single family that helped my daughter and her family. I will never, ever forget their generosity.

Because of people’s kindness, my grandson will have some gifts for Christmas, and by my daughter’s family using a portion of those donations, several other children in need will also be receiving Christmas gifts this year. They had already started what they had promised…to pay it forward.

Silent Night, Holy Night. All is Calm…

This year on Christmas Day my husband and I will be alone. My daughter and grandson live out of state. My son will be traveling over the holidays. My step-daughters and our grandkids live out of town and will be spending Christmas at home with their children. Because of job changes, money is tight for us this year, so we aren’t able to travel to spend Christmas with them, and our gift giving has had to be kept to a bare minimum.

This holiday season has shown me the true meaning of Christmas. I have been humbled and touched beyond words. By having less abundance of money in our lives this year, it has forced me to focus on the blessings we’ve been given and show them the appreciation they deserve. When I spend some quiet time to reflect back on the year, I see those blessings all around me…


  • a bill worry taken away by my husband’s unexpected raise
  • a friend’s phone call at a time I was feeling really down
  • my husband coming home with flowers for me
  • the Facetime hours I get to spend re-enacting plane flights with my grandson
  • phone calls with my brother that go late into the night
  • daily emails from my sister who ends each one with “I Love You”
  • my health
  • an open invitation from my friend who lives on the beach to come stay with her
  • my immediate family, my extended family, my neighbors, my friends
  • the connections I’ve made through Women Over Fifty Network
  • the opportunity to do what I love to do every day
  • the relationship I have with both my children
  • my brand new great-niece

Be The Change

My focus in the coming year will be on giving. Smiling. Taking life a little bit slower. Being more understanding, more patient. Believing in myself and believing in others. Doing everything with love. Appreciating what I have.

If you’re spending Christmas alone this year, get snuggly, take out a notepad, and make a list of what you’re thankful for. I think you’ll be surprised at how full your life really is once you start to count your blessings.

Money comes and money goes. All it does is buy new things or pay for things you’ve already bought. It has value, but it’s cold and can be heartless. Appreciate the little things in life. Friends and family cost nothing, they can never be replaced, and they are invaluable. Hold on to them and love the stuffin’ outta them!

Christmases are different now for us. They’re not the ones I remember from long ago. But you know what? That’s okay. I’ll hold them forever in my heart, but it’s time to start new traditions…paying my blessings forward. It’s so easy to get caught up in the stress and impersonal world we live in. When we move at such a fast pace, it’s easy to miss those little smiles and kind words of the people around us.

Today was an emotional day. Neighbors dropped by home-baked cookies and sweet Christmas cards. I received a text message from one of my son’s employees thanking me for helping him through the year. When making a call to the power company for an explanation of our bill, I talked to the sweetest woman who bent over backward to help me straighten it out. Her kindness was so unexpected. Tonight we spent the evening with friends – the kind who are real and honest and fun. My whole day was filled with warm, loving people who touched me to the tips of my toes, and I had a thought.

At the risk of sounding sappy and dramatic, I started thinking how easy it would be for people to just be kind to each other. It’s not that hard to do, and what a different world this would be. As I wondered what it would take to make this happen, I noticed the gift my daughter had given me for Christmas. It’s a simple gold bracelet with the words inscribed “BE THE CHANGE”. 

I have my answer, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Merry Christmas to you all!

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If you’d like to join me BE THE CHANGE, I’ve found the bracelet that’s exactly like mine. You can purchase it by clicking the button below.