Updated: Feb 11
Hello and Happy Wednesday! How are you doing with those New Year's Resolutions? Is that gym membership you just bought on fire yet? Have you thrown out all the chocolate kisses and Christmas cookies only to replace them with protein bars and green salads? Well, whatever the plan, life is a journey and tomorrow is another day.
So, today I have a real treat for you. This past week I was able to sit down for a chat with a woman who has a lot of wisdom and experience that I believe may resonate with you today. So, sit back and relax as I offer you a little insight into life and times of Ms. Hydrangea (name withheld to conceal her identity). She represents herself today for the flower she loves!
To give you a little back story, Ms Hydrangea is a woman of a certain age, retired from a successful career, married for 40+ years. In addition, she is currently housing a family of four, helping out both her parents, as well as being available, when needed, for her in-laws. She is the mother of three grown children and grandmother to two young boys. Her life has been full of adventure and intrigue, as most who have lived with ups and downs, waves and waffles, will attest! The focus of our conversation centered around her current situation/circumstances and I am grateful for her vulnerability and honesty to share her story.
Ms Hydrangea and her immediate family are very much connected and in good relational standing. They share vacation travel at least a couple of times a year and, currently, are "hosting" their daughter and her family (so party of four at the kitchen table for dinner each night). And, this is the focus of our post today. How DOES one do life as a retired woman, only to find herself as keeper of the "inn", for this family who have returned to the Roost?
As we began our conversation, I found Ms Hydrangea to be relaxed and easy. She had just come from her monthly appointment, with her hair stylist, and I could tell that having had this time to herself may have just set her right for this meeting and perhaps for the day going forward. As she started to open up with some things that are going really well in her life she counted out several things notable. A few commitments she keeps for herself are: monthly hair appointments, semi-monthly manicure visits, training sessions with her personal trainer ( for the past 12 years and counting) and personal time, post dinner, to unwind. Do you love this already? I will confirm right now that I believe her countenance and calm demeanor is directly related to the self care Ms Hydrangea is non-negotiable about. It is evident, as she is poised and polished (save for the fact that she was unable to remove her puffy vest as the zipper was stuck inside the fabric...we still got on with our conversation!). Moving along...several points she highlighted, as she continued to share the positivity of her situation was the mention that she and her husband are able to take a weekend each month for a getaway, which turns out to be in the way of a road trip. They belong to a group that meets to map out (literally) a road trip to .... "Somewhere on a road beyond!!!!" Then, in March, another trip ensues to get away from the winter weather that shrouds the northern part of the U.S., and where we find ourselves at this time. What was a very thoughtful expression of her "winter flow" was that she and her family eat together as a family. That her daughter and her family are temporary residences under the same roof, this would include them as well. How nice for this young family to have a meal waiting for them after their day of work and retrieving children.
So, where does Ms Hydrangea find the time and space to retreat? I asked her and found her resolve to be interesting and another gift to herself, in exchange for the investment she makes daily to ensure this family (underneath the stairs) is cared for. Once dinner is done and everyone has had a chance to call out their personal sentiments of the day, she beats a retreat...to her den!!! With coffee mug in hand, she escapes to get situated and cozy on her beloved sofa. She curls up and catches up on her messages and scans a few posts on social media to finally pick up her favorite book of the moment. Romance novels sweep her away with a "call" from one of her favorite authors (D. Steele or N. Roberts). And, if that isn't enough to clue you in on how this woman gets her self situated for a little down time, she might be donned in her pjs to round out this perfect retreat.
At this time, I want to mention that we never want to diminish the importance of together time with our loved ones (our spouse in particular). But, life has different seasons and they ebb and flow. Having aging parents might mean a delay in long vacation getaways. Having a family living in the lower level might mean a delay in the return of that space being a place of retreat. Further, what is comfortable and assumed in one season; like sitting side by side watching a movie together, etc. might look different in another season. "Doing life" with another person is the biggest relational investment one makes. And, as we age, it still is alot of work to intentionally fan the "emotional connection" flames. Add to that reality, with a family under foot, might mean that Mr H may need a little time and space to "disconnect" from masses as well. The most important thing is that space needed is space given. Some find it helpful to carve out time alone to fill their emotional bucket, if you will. Others have an enormous capacity for changes on the fly. So, being free to choose how you recharge your batteries, so to speak, is a very loving thing to offer one another. In this same vein, Ms Hydrangea stated that her hubby loses track of time in his "barn" and she has to "ping" him to come in to eat!!! What I surmised, was that family, relationships and being together with family, is the most important thing in her life. And, she creates her life around that, while at the same time, curates space for herself. Could we just wrap this part up, in a little phrase, to say it is her way of balancing the demands and boundaries against the personal investment in herself to remain fresh and ready for the next wave?
We have yet to mention the other facet of this family's current formation. Along with all that we know about life under her own roof, there is the added element of caring for her parents AND being included in the care of her in-laws! Now that's an expansion of one's "job description" is it not? Because they are still very much a part of Ms Hydrangea's life, she works hard to include them in their families lives. Two days per week are set aside to attend to practical needs (grocery shopping, doctor appts, and there is an outing to the mall in here as well). Are you getting a sense of her lifestyle and how she thinks? It is evident to me: the ability to carry out the matters of importance and weight of responsibilities are counteracted with the investment in self care?
Ms Hydrangea finds her happiness in abundance at the first signs of garden flowers starting to bud. It is at this time, and throughout the summer, that her countenance gets another infusion of energy as their backyard and pool serve as another source of entertainment, for their lively grandchildren and family. Adding to this would be redundant...she says it all here.
Before we continue, I think we need to flip our lens and acknowledge this family of four that have landed on Ms Hydrangea's doorstep. They had been living their life independently for 10 years before they made plans to create a life for their children in a new home. Inescapably, they have run into a small snag on location which has caused a delay in the build. Certainly this has been challenging to them and emotionally taxing as well. Ms Hydrangea has taken that into consideration as she knows this family is out of sorts, living in a place not their own. It is compassion and understanding on both sides that win out over disappointment and impatience.
I get a real sense that this lifestyle is not happenstance. There is an authentic investment in planning and organization. To be this successful and be able to juggle the people in this household coupled with those outside her four walls requires understanding and respect from all parties. Being vigilant in staying organized allows Ms Hydrangea to never be caught unawares, should a round of incoming (the unexpected) show up to take her by surprize. This is a great place to fill you in on something I feel you should know about this fastidious woman . Because, though she is petite in stature, her countenance is keen; make no mistake when I say that Ms Hydrangea can navigate the turnings of a 42' Cabin Cruiser and direct it's captain to bring it into its berth...And, just like Gene Hackman would say...SHE'S GOT THE CONN!!! Her strength is undeniable and her character is to be admired.
At the very end of the day, there is the belief that choosing to stay positive and be thankful for the good things, means that even when she finds herself strolling down "frustration lane", it's only a short walk back...after all, who will ring the dinner bell if she isn't there?
I know there are women out there in a similar situation and I know that it's hard to flex and bend for others, but I hope you found this story helpful and encouraging. Caring for others and caring for yourself can be both challenging in terms of scheduling, etc. But, as you can tell, it can be done. Asking other people in your midst for help with the care is good; sharing the load is thoughtful and helpful to all involved. Ms Hydrangea clearly has a large capacity for dealing well with a lot of moving parts (people), but her story shows that organization and helping other people understand her boundaries is really respect for them, from her. Communicating her intensions and desire for order certainly are paying off. This band of believers are walking to the tune of their drummer!
Thank you Ms Hydrangea for giving us a glimpse inside the life and times of your homestead.
That's a wrap for this post today...thanks so much for reading! Jeanine