Sharing With Sheffield

It’s that time of the year again, when people are planning what gifts to buy, for whom, and how much to spend! Newspaper articles are written about use-less gifts we buy and the exorbitant amounts we spend. The suggestion is, that, instead, we open our hearts rather than our wallets. A few holidays back, I wrote about this in my own column, giving thought to “The Gift of Caring” giving TIME and LOVE and ATTENTION to someone who is in need. The list of suggestions, particularly in Communities in which we give, is endless; but to mention a few … visiting a shut-in, bringing a meal or a cake or a book, relieving a caregiver for an hour or two, running er-rands, taking the person shopping or for a ride … This whole concept was brought to mind so vividly just recently, when we all endured the fright and effort of preparing for Hurricane Matthew. Truth to tell, many of us were alone and feeling useless. Well, in my case, along came Sheffield Good Samaritan, Steve Toback, who called me shortly after arriving from  his summer hiatus to make sure I was well and prepared for Matthew. He went out and purchased the updated batteries I needed for my various hurricane-related gadgets, installed them, and then checked the house to make sure it was storm-ready. Afterwards, I learned that he had visited the homes of 2 other neighbors to check their needs. This is the essence of “The Gift of Caring.” Steve gave me a gift I will never forget. (If you encountered Good Samaritans during the hurricane crisis, let me know and I will gladly publish your stories.) In recognition of the holiday season and the giving of gifts that cost nothing and give pleasure, I am giving you “The Gift of Words.” They are not my words this time, but those of a very bright columnist who knew how to take the thoughts and feelings of his constituents and turn them into simplistic, meaningful abbreviated language that captured their essence and made us nod and smile in agreement. Andy Rooney from CBS’s 60 Minutes, was that guy. He always spoke about what he learned. Listen to him! Learn from him! He was a stellar word master!

I’ve Learned …

  • That when you’re in love, it shows.
  • That just one person saying to me, ‘You’ve made my day!’ makes my day.
  • That having a child fall asleep in your arms is one of the most peaceful feelings in the world.
  • That being kind is more important than being right.
  • That you should never say no to a gift from a child.
  • That I can always pray for someone when I don’t have the strength to help him in any other way.
  • That no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with.
  • That sometimes all a person needs is a hand to hold and a heart to understand.
  • That simple walks with my father around the block on summer nights when I was a child did wonders for me as an adult.
  • That money doesn’t buy class.
  • That it’s those small daily happenings that make life so spectacular.
  • That under everyone’s hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.
  • That to ignore the facts does not change the facts.
  • That when you plan to get even with someone, you are only letting that person continue to hurt you.
  • That love, not time, heals all wounds.
  • That the easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people smarter than I am.
  • That everyone you meet deserves to be greeted with a smile.
  • That life is tough, but I’m tougher.
  • That opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss.
  • That when you harbor bitterness, happiness will dock elsewhere.
  • That I wish I could have told my mom that I love her one more time before she passed away.
  • That one should keep his words both softer and tender, because tomorrow he may have to eat them.
  • That a smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.
  • That when your newly born grandchild holds your little finger in his little fist, you’re hooked for life.
  • That everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.
  • That the less time I have to work with, the more things I get done.

Pithy truisms from a master!
To all of our readers, a happy, healthy holiday season, and New Year!

Sharing With Sheffield

Just as everyone starts returning to Aberdeen for the cooler-weather season, Chris and I will be jetting off to South Africa and England to see family and friends. This has been our first full summer in Florida, and we’ve stayed here mainly because of the on-going house renovations which are almost complete. I now at long last have a kitchen, so no more paper plates and styrofoam cups. I remarked to Chris as I was retrieving masses of cutlery and cooking utensils from the packing cases and then trying to find a home for everything, that life was much simpler when we only had 2 knives, forks and spoons to use and then to wash up in the bathroom sink. Now we have to fill and empty the dishwasher and also find a place to put everything. Oh, the joys of being more civilized! I’ve been unpacking boxes from South Africa which had been in transit and storage for 2 years, so, as you can imagine, there were some happy reunions with favorite bits and pieces, as well as some “Why on earth did I think I would need this”! exclamations. It’s just not possible to condense everything from 2 houses into one, so at the same time as I was unpacking our ‘stuff’, I was busy rewrapping and putting so many duplicate items into the emptied boxes, for the ‘Breast Cancer Foundation’ pickup.

In between all of this activity, I always have one eye out of the window so as not to miss any wild life activity in the backyard, and one morning in August, I suddenly saw what looked like an owl fly across my field of vision and up into a palm tree. There was a lot of commotion from the smaller birds who were flying back and forth to the tree where Mr. Owl was precariously perched on a palm frond which was swaying madly in the wind. Anyway, the “un-welcome” visitor, who I recognized to be a juvenile Great Horned Owl, was not going to be intimidated by the squawking of the smaller birds, and clung on for dear life. I got a great shot of him staring straight at me through my bathroom window. A week later, he was back again on the same branch and stayed there for many hours. I was curious as to why he was out and about in daylight, as I thought owls were nocturnal creatures. The Ospreys, which circle and swoop around the lake here, have an endless supply of fresh sushi which they take up into the pine trees to consume. I’m so happy I’m not a fish, as the poor creatures do seem to be right at the bottom of the food chain. Amongst the smaller birds here, we have a beautiful pair of Bluejays, a Northern Cardinal, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, a Northern Mockingbird and assorted Doves.

I’m sure many of you have noticed that there seems to have been an invasion of Iguanas here this summer. Our backyard on most days, looks like a mini-Jurassic park, as the green, scaly creatures congregate to do absolutely nothing except lounge around nibbling on the grass blades and Hibiscus leaves. Chris had to cut down the bush outside my bathroom window, because it was harboring green “Peeping Toms” who would climb up the branches and press their scaly faces and long claws almost up against the window glass. Quite a startling sight to see from the bath tub, I’m sure you’ll agree. A few days ago I spied Ali-Baba, the resident “gator,” cruising past our patch. As long as he stays in the water, I’m always very happy to see him. The Great Blue Heron, who I call “The Boss”, is back presiding over his lake subjects, and who would argue with that beak of his? I read that the Great Blue Heron is the Native American symbol of strength, wisdom and patience, and looking at his elegant profile as he stands statue-like, waiting for a hapless fish to appear within striking distance, I’m not surprised that he was chosen as an example of these qualities.

Before we leave for overseas, we will have moved out of the master bedroom where we’ve been living since our February move from Ashford, and into our main living area. Hopefully there’ll be no more sweeping up of sawdust in the near future. Chris said to me the other day, “We have a great partnership. I make a mess and you clean up after me.” We will have been married for 50 years in December, and-with all his DIY projects over the years, I can vouch for the truth of that statement. It seems crazy that just as we’re about to get some normality back into our lives, we’ll be packing suitcases and leaving our home for 6 weeks. I think Chris is ready for a holiday though, after all the hard work he’s put in here every day. We are renting a beach apartment close to where we used to live, and are looking forward to a very relaxing few weeks.

I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving celebration. I’m sure we’ll have so much to be grateful for; I know that I do. Here’s a rather different quote about thankfulness, “If you haven’t all the things you want, just be grateful for all things you don’t have which you wouldn’t want.” The author is unknown, but I suspect he may be Irish.

Sharing With Sheffield

Ruth’s Note: Sylvia Shaw (a friend and recent transplant from Ashford to Sheffield) has generously agreed to alternate the “Sharing With Sheffield” column with me. She writes beautifully, and will be delighted to hear your news, views and happenings. I will be delighted to fill in every other month with my musings and chatter. How lucky you are, good friends and neighbors. Some villages can’t get even one writer; Sheffield has two!

Hello new neighbors! Chris and I have been happily living in your lovely community since mid February when we were more or less catapulted out of our Ashford home by a very quick sale with closing only 2 weeks later. As many of you know, 7884 Bridlington Drive had been standing empty for a few years with the roof leaking in many places; it took a lot of vision and optimism, mostly on Chris’s part, to imagine what it could look like with lots of creativity and hard work. The new roof was put on whilst we were over in South Africa, and when we returned in Sept. 2014, Chris started work single-handedly on gutting the whole of the interior, including walls, floors and ceilings. We got a very good company in to replace all the windows and sliding glass doors with hurricane proof double glazing, and then after filling three dumpsters with rubble including all bathroom and kitchen fixtures, we were able to get to work remodeling the whole house. At the moment, we are living very comfortably in the huge main bedroom which holds everything we need for now. All the bedrooms and bathrooms are finished and work is in progress in the main living area. There’s so much wood in there with all the framing for walls and ceiling, that it looks like a small forest without leaves. Whilst Chris is busy with his handiwork and when I’m not shoveling sawdust, I prowl around the backyard with my camera looking for the wildlife living here. Sheffield has many different creatures to those which I saw in Ashford, although I’m told by my good friend Jane Casden that a couple of members of the Iggy family have migrated across there recently. Some of the iguanas here are almost 6-foot long and I never know what I’ll see from my bathroom window when I pull up the blind of a morning. Sometimes it’s just Sammy squirrel busily scurrying around do-ing whatever it is that squirrels do, but one morning I saw a red fox being chased by an otter. On other occasions, I’ve been greeted by a green scaly critter with long claws, closely resembling a mini dinosaur climbing up the palm tree almost within arm’s length. I’m so glad that the bathroom window doesn’t open and is well sealed. I remember at Ashford once sharing the shower with a smallish lizard. I didn’t see it looking at me until my hair was full of shampoo suds, but I can assure you that I didn’t take my eyes off it for one second, willing it not to move, and I finished my shower in double-quick time not even stopping to dry it out.

We will be taking some time off during the sum-mer, visiting family and friends in South Africa and England and I’m sure many of you will be traveling up north to escape the heat and humidity of Florida. The climate here is very similar to the one we got used to when we lived at the coast in South Africa, but the seasons are of course reversed, so we’ll be going back in the winter, which is cooler and much more pleasant.

A very warm welcome to our lovely new next door neighbors Al and Sheila Tannenbaum. I’m sure you are going to love it here at Aberdeen. I wish all of you a very pleasant summer and safe travels. See you again in the autumn.

Sharing With Sheffield

It is something we do every single natural day, 365 days a year. We do it habitually, without much thought, instinctively, intuitively. We do it automatically and then we are dismissive and go on to do it again. What is this thing that we do so casually most of the time? We make CHOICES!

These everyday choices seem easy and harmless enough. Should I get up a little later this morning? What do I want for breakfast? Or lunch? Or dinner? Should I believe the weather man and take my umbrella when I go out? Should I go to the mall and buy that top I really don’t need?

Should I attack the bills waiting on the desk or wait for tomorrow? Do I really want to go to that meeting? On and on … no earth-shattering decisions. But what happens when choices are more difficult. Related to significant personal or family or financial consequences? People make foolish or wise ones; some are right; others may be wrong. Many may be really good and others so bad they defy explanation. I would surmise that, over the years, we have all experienced choices we have made in each of these categories. When we have made what we perceive to be good choices … in career, marriage, family, home-purchase, friendships, retirement, we express satis-faction. But how do we prevent ourselves from making the bad choices, the ones that can cause regrets, disappointment, render families apart? Is there a warning bell in a person’s head? Some sign or warning? None of us is so wise or perceptive, or blessed with a crystal ball – but perhaps these tips will give you food for thought.

1. If the choice is one that ends in persona1 disappointment, take ownership for a poor one, shrug it off, and move on.

2. Blessed with a pleasurable choice a book, show, movie, restaurant, recipe, bargain purchase share it with others.

3. When a questionable choice arises, don’t lunge at it in haste. Consider the consequences carefully.

4. When a choice is really troublesome, and you are pushed to the wall with no apparent solution, – stop – look – listen. Talk about the problem with a family member, a trusted friend, a discreet colleague, a clergyman to seek help in examining and clarifying your options.

5. When conflicted about a decision to make a choice between two options, develop a list of PROs and CONs for each. Then weigh the length and strength of each list; It will help you see the better choice more clearly.

6. Reflect on the personal and/or extended effects of a bad choice “Look before you leap.” If your choice is a selfish one, reconsider the alternatives. If the result of your choice is hurtful, take steps to ameliorate the damage – reach out, apologize, do what-ever is possible and appropriate to ease the case or ease the results of the negative effects.

7. When your choice ultimately results indirect consequences for you and your loved ones, accept the fact that you made the wrong choice, and work to rectify the error with remorse, courage and determination

Some choice quotes:
True happiness consists not in the multitude of friends, but in the worth and choice. Ben Jonson

There is small choice in rotten apples. Shakespeare – Lost Labor’s Lost

Guess if you can, choose if you dare. Pierre Corneille

A foot and lighthearted I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me. The long path ahead leading wherever I choose. Walt Whitman

Man is affected by all his actions; His heart and his thoughts follow the deeds which he does. Whether good or bad … Love and fear at all times decide the value of every particular act. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

You never know how strong you are until strong is the only choice you have left. Unknown

A Sheffield Tribute

At the end of March, after a very brief period of illness, Sheffield lost one of its most favorite sons – wonderful friend and good neighbor, Eddie Vogel The outpouring of condolences from all over Aberdeen was testimony to the way people felt about Ed. He was notable for his stories, his passion for golf and tennis, his lingering friendships with every-one he ever met, his love of life, particularly his life here at Aberdeen. Above and beyond all that was his devotion to his wife, Elaine, and the three sons and families he never stopped raving about. He was so loyal and supportive, and kind – a real “mench.” He will be missed by all who knew him.

Sharing with Sheffield

The theme of this column came to mind recently when I went through some personal disappointments and found myself crying over them. I have cried over many serious losses in my life, but not over some-thing like lost opportunity or regret. Where was the strength I thought I had! And while I chided myself for foolish behavior, the tears flowed. Big revelation; I felt better back in control, hopeful and ready for a second beginning. Conclusion? It is all right to cry – and that applies to men and women.

Misconceptions about crying is that it is a sign of weakness. Crying is stigmatized by both sexes. If she cries it’s because she is unstable or weak or seeks at-tention. If he cries he’s a wimp, a pansy, or not manly enough. These generalizations encourage both sexes to submerge and cover up their feelings.

People who ignore sadness, pain, insult, fear, even overwhelming joy and pride, cheat themselves of an important facet of life. Crying isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign that you are human and mindful.

According to an article in the January 2016 “Centenniel Quill,” crying has several positive effects:

Tears remove toxins that build up from stress.

Crying can elevate mood. It lowers a person’s manganese level. Manganese causes emotional disturbance: anxiety, nervousness, aggression.

Crying lowers stress. Suppressing tears contributes to high blood pressure, heart problems, and pep-tic ulcers – all stress-related illnesses.

Tears release feelings. They release negative emotions as well as happy, joyous ones. They drain the overflow, and create a more stable emotional state of mind.

Crying is therapeutic. It stimulates our brain’s endorphin release, the “feel good” hormones that act as a natural pain killer.

Crying helps you connect with others. Being vulnerable is the best way to connect with a partner,  friend, or group. The ones who matter will appreciate how up front you are.

Weeping helps you accept a loss. Losing a family member, friend, partner, or even a pet is one of the worst things a person can go through. Words often do not suffice. But time with dear friends and family do.

Some quotes on the subject:
* “Tears speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and unspeakable love.”

* “Tears are the words my heart uses to explain whenever my smile can’t cover my pain.”

* “Perhaps our eyes need to be washed so that we can see life with a clearer view.”

* “God didn’t promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, sun without rain. God did promise tears, strength, and good friends to give us com-fort.”

* “Ever had a memory sneak out of your eyes and roll down your cheeks?”

* “The deep sorrow or great joy that has no vent in tears may make other organs weep.”

* “When you were born you cried. And the world rejoiced while your mother shed tears of joy.”

Sharing With Sheffield

Take if from one who knows!

Aging is inevitable, intractable, and for some, frightening! It is a fact of life that needs to be dealt with; some of us do that better than others. For those who deal with it as “a state of mind,” aging opens doors to new experiences, new views of the world, opportunities to accomplish things never tried before, new friends, a fresh start … For those, for example, who become solitary, vegetate in the solitude of their homes after losing a spouse, who refuse comfort or support or advice, life can easily become a trial rather than a triumph. We are given a choice … move, create, become productive, or wither on the vine. The choice is yours to make!

“This is a new phenomenon. I’m seeing a new breed of people living with vitality at such old ages,” said Gropper, who remains just as vital herself.

A writer, teacher and the former director of the Center for Lifetime Learning at Palm Beach Community College (now Palm Beach State College), Gropper started taking notes on the seniors at her Lantana assisted-living facility who remain vibrant and engaged with the world.

She has a few rules for inspirational aging. Above all, she said, try to view the inevitable losses of aging through a prism of optimism, curiosity and humor.

Here are some more:

Find companionship. “Loneliness is a huge problem in old age,” said Gropper. If you don’t live in a group setting, you have to make an extra effort to find friends through a senior center, library group or religious organization.

Exercise the body every day. Gropper walks whenever she can and takes a yoga class three times a week.

Use your brain. “The greatest fear among seniors is not being able to function mentally,” she said. So she and her neighbors go to lectures, concerts and the theater. “After, hold discussion groups and talk about what you’ve seen,” she said.

Keep your sense of humor. At this age, life is tenuous, but “we can afford to laugh,” Gropper said. “Sometimes, we have to see the humor in a situation or sit down and cry, but a quick quip or witty remark is a good defense against depression.”

Plan your day, every day. Filling the day is a great challenge for people at this stage of life, but having the time to explore new adventures is a bless-ing. Get out of the house as much as possible. “You can have a fuller life than when you were younger because your time is your own now. If you’re not feeling well, get yourself to a comfy chair and read something uplifting.”

But I want to go one step further … I want to pro-mote the use of your brain power to make your older years exciting and interesting and rewarding. Many of us had high level, successful, productive careers before we retired; at the very least, even if that was not so, we came to retirement after many good years. My aim is now to give back, to be as useful and hard-working as I was when I worked … to have people see me perform, not “as good as someone my age,” but as someone who is respected as doing a damn good job. And doing that job (or jobs) … thinking, analyzing, organizing, listening, presenting … keeps the brain alert. That, to me, is the secret of the aging process. Go out and do something that will stimulate that brain. Volunteer at a meaningful site, join clubs and organizations and take active roles in them, enroll in adult classes, teach your skills to others (knitting, photography, creative writing, computers, etc., whatever you were great at in your former life). Get on a committee, go to meetings, write a book, put together a volume of poems or recipes, start a social – group. How about writing a column for the Aberdeen Times! The point is, you must use your brain to keep it alive and healthy … it will even help overcome some of the physical problems that beset us.

To everyone, best wishes for a happy holiday season and a healthy New Year.