Making Memories – How to Live Forever in the Hearts of Those Who Love You

For a growing number of baby boomers, end of life issues are something we have to deal with now. And if not now, then in the near future. The shock of being told you’re going to die cannot be underestimated. We all know it’s going to happen one day; but couldn’t we just fall over from a heart attack or stroke instead of being told we have six months, a year, whatever.

In fact, having time to deal with end of life issues is a real blessing. It gives us a chance to decide how we want to be remembered. If we’ve spent the majority of our adult lives pursuing a career, slowing down will give our families a chance to re-acquaint themselves with daddy, mommy, grandma, Aunt Betty, Uncle Charlie. This is precious time and with a little thought, it can be the best time of all.

All you need to make memories is time and a camera. It doesn’t have to be a fancy camera. Digital cameras have come down in price and anything with 5 megapixels or more will be just great. The beauty of a digital camera is that you can see the image right away. If you don’t like it, you can take another. If you can afford a camcorder to take movies, that makes it even better. Although you’ll still want to take still photos for albums.

Six years ago, I was diagnosed with a life-threatening lung disease. My sons were grown and married but there were no grandchildren. Suddenly the grandchildren started coming and I started to panic. How would they remember me? Even if I lived a little longer than my doctor thought I would – and in fact I’ve lived a lot longer than he thought I would – they would still be young when I died. Each of my two sons had digital cameras but having been a photographer for over 30 years, I was still holding on with both hands to my 35 millimeter and my fancy slide film.

As soon as I saw how easy and inexpensive digital pictures were, I reluctantly joined the digital revolution. No more $5 and $6 rolls of professional film. No more waiting to see how the photos turned out. Every family get together included a blur of clicking cameras. And they still do. My older daughter-in-law showed an interest in learning how to take portraits they way I do, so I gave her a few tips. Now her photos of her two sons, my grandsons, look incredibly professional. Both my daughters-in-law have cameras at hand when I visit. So they have photos and I have photos and among all of us, we could wallpaper a room with photos of me with my family.

When I visit my grandchildren or spend time with friends, I bring my camera along. We’ve captured memories that will live with those who love me forever. I didn’t quite appreciate the impact of these photos until my older son related this story to me. He was sitting with his first-born son, looking at the family photo album. Sudden, my grandson put his fingers to his nostrils and started breathing in deeply. With his free hand, he pointed to a picture of me with my oxygen on. Grandma Carol. He knew that Grandma Carol, who was sitting with him in her lap, needs to breathe oxygen and he was imitating my breathing.

There are photos of my grandchildren and I playing together, celebrating their birthdays together, celebrating my birthdays together, just hanging out together. And when I’m gone, I will still be a part of their lives and those of my children, and my friends, in the photos we took and the memories we made — and memories will live forever.

10 Advantages of Getting an Adult Dog

Are you thinking of joining the ranks of the canine enhanced? Ready to take the puppy plunge? Good for you! But before you take a ride down to the puppy farm consider this: puppies aren’t the only options. There are some fantastic advantages for anyone willing to open their home to an adult dog, and depending on the breed and age of the adult dog in question there can be significant benefits. Especially if you value your time, money and slippers. In no particular order, here’s my top ten advantages for getting an adult dog!

Established Personality: One of the most advantageous benefits of getting an adult dog is that they have an established personality, you will know if your dog is one that loves lots of petting and affection or if he/she is a dog that loves to work.

Less Need For Supervision: They will not require as much time and attention as a puppy.  For example, you will not have to worry as much about leaving your dog home alone while you are at work.

Complimentary Lifestyles: You can choose an adult dog whose personality is suitable to your own. Do you want a dog with a lot of energy so you can take long hikes, go bike riding and other activities that require more energy?  Or do you prefer relaxed moments, short walks and then a quiet night of TV?

Reduced Veterinarian Bills: Adopting an adult dog from a shelter ensures they have been spayed or neutered. Having a dog that has already been spayed or neutered is a great way to help with the over population problems we are facing.  Last year over a million dogs were euthanized.

The Slipper Factor: You won’t have to worry about an adult dog creating havoc in your home. Older dogs have usually already gone though their destructive phase, so you will not have to worry about coming home to Domestic Armageddon.

Less Soiled Carpets: An adult dog will not need to be taken out as frequently as a puppy. When you get a puppy, the puppy will not be house trained so you will have to take him/her out to potty several times a day until he/she learns to go outside on their own.  A puppy is not able to wait a long time in between using the bathroom because they won’t have much control over their bladder for a few months.

Skip Grade School: You can train adult dogs more easily than puppies. Adult dogs have a longer attention span therefore, they are easier to train than young puppies.

Large Selection: There are more adult dogs available for adoption than puppies. Every time I go to the local humane society I see hundreds of adult dogs waiting for their forever home. In comparison to maybe 10 puppies, which I know will be adopted. It makes me sad.

Kid Durable: Depending upon the breed you choose, older dog may be more appropriate for children. Most older dogs are not able to get hurt by a child accidentally playing too rough.

Possibly Trained Already: They may also understand certain commands from the outset. Many adult dogs have already had some training. They might already be leash trained or even know certain commands like sit, stay, etc.

With the adult dog population on the upsurge, adopting one from a shelter is literally saving a life.  While many first time pet owners may wish to get a puppy, you may not find many puppies in shelters, but you’ll have an abundance of adult dogs to choose from. Plus you won’t have to pay the high dollar price-tags that a pet store or breeder may be demanding.

If you can take a moment to look at it from a dog’s perspective, they may have been neglected by their owners, or perhaps the owners can no longer take care of them. Recently, due to the economic slowdown, many dog owners have lost their homes to foreclosures and been forced to give up their pets. Suddenly Fido finds himself living in a shelter. Most shelters do try their best, but living in a shelter is neither pleasant nor conducive to a dog’s emotional state of mind. This can leave the dogs depressed and lethargic.

If you’ve ever gone to a shelter, you may have noticed when you walk by cage after cage that some dogs become excited, often press their noses up against the cage or try to reach out with their paws.  Others may just sit in a corner and look up with sad eyes.

Consider adopting an adult dog. Take him home and care for him. You’ll soon discover that the rewards are immeasurable. With so many unique breeds and personalities to choose from you’re almost guaranteed to find a perfect fit for your home. I can pitch this all day, but the bottom line is: You’re not just bringing them home, you’re giving them a second chance. Both of my dogs came from out local shelter.

Autumn Years Don’t Last Forever

When was the last time you called your mother or father and truly listened to what was going on in their lives, to their thoughts, beliefs and even to their worries? This isn’t a guilt trip I am trying to lay on you. Let’s hope you will take a look at a few things that might change your thinking a bit.

Are your parents in their fifties or sixties, or even seventies? Are you accustomed to thinking of them as forever young, vital and self-sufficient? When everyone gets together for extended family functions, or when they attend a holiday party at your house, people are always saying how youthful they look. Once a couple of years ago, your mother did you a favor and answered an urgent call of panic about something you forgot that you needed at work (Nobody else you called first was available) and she drove it to you. Your colleagues thought she was your wife.

When your father proposes a game of touch football in the backyard on a beautiful fall day, he often outshines the younger bunch. He also amazed all of your friends last month with his break dancing at your fortieth birthday bash.

Your mother recently changed careers. She is a true Baby Boomer, always forging ahead and trying new things. Perhaps she went back to school and got certified in a new field, or maybe she quit a job she was tired of and started a business. She goes to the gym at least several times a week, is writing a novel and she is still the peace and justice advocate she was in her youth. She meditates and she plays Flamenco guitar with passion.

Your father traveled to Haiti with his men’s group after the earthquake and serves at a local soup kitchen on his day off. When your kids are bothered by something and you are too busy with your own job responsibilities, they call Grandpa to pour out their hearts to him.

Mom is always coming up with unique dishes to accommodate your likes and dislikes, or making sure there is at least one interesting vegetarian dish on the table along with the rest of the traditional Thanksgiving fare. She is also the one in the family who creates special occasions for a gathering of the clan, despite being pretty busy herself. She’s the one who remembers everyone with a card, often an original creation and who finds the perfect birthday gift for you. Her gifts are rarely commonplace and are always evidence that a lot of thought was put into them.

When you have a work crisis, even though you might not have called Mom or Dad for two months, you call them at 8 AM on a Saturday morning and chew their ears off about the latest conflict. On your last call you were letting them know why you hadn’t been in touch much and how stressed you were. They listened, as usual asked a few questions, but mostly couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

So when was the last time you phoned them for no reason whatsoever except to touch base and hear what is on their minds? Has it occurred to you that just as you are worrying about the economy, about sending your kids to college, about your next career move, that your parents have worries of their own? It’s pretty tough, if not nearly impossible for some to picture their vital and vibrant parents traveling from the autumn of their lives to the winter. If you are very busy raising a young family or climbing the career ladder, you may not feel you even have the time to contemplate this. Not only are your parents still young and invincible in your minds, but so are you. Time has a way of moving on, though, in spite of our sometimes frantic efforts to make it stand still.

As you have witnessed when your parents stepped up to the plate and did whatever they could to care for and help your elderly grandparents, life brings changes. That is a given. It’s part of the natural life cycle. Most people do not remain healthy, young and capable forever. So even if you cannot begin to imagine your parents aging to the point that they are no longer as active or as self-sufficient as they always were, it happens to the best of us. Only a few truly fortunate ones maintain their ability to function intellectually, emotionally and physically as they did at younger stages of life. Hopefully, your own parents will be an exception, but it’s a known fact that in the next few years about two- thirds of Baby Boomers will be caring for an elderly parent or other relative. Right now there are approximately 25 million caregivers for elderly relatives in the United States. Over 80% of these are women and 70% are between the ages of 40-59. The largest group of caregivers is concentrated within the Baby Boomer Generation, but there were about 76 million Americans born between the years of 1945-1964. Eventually, a lot of those people are going to need the help and support of their children and other younger relatives. Generations X and Y might want to do some thinking about this.

It’s a known fact that with maturity comes a certain amount of wisdom. The majority of us are not too interested in our family history, what our parents were like as kids and young adults, or even how our parents met and romanced each other. Many do not begin to see their parents as three-dimensional people, or to treat them with the compassion they might bestow on strangers, until they are fairly advanced in age themselves. Such interest usually begins once we have seen enough of life to put a few things in perspective and often happens when we wake up and notice that our parents are really starting to age. We then come face to face with both our parents’ mortality and our own.

Now is truly an excellent time to stop the merry-go-round long enough to step down and have some crucial conversations with your mothers and fathers who are enjoying the autumns of their lives. Can you commit to doing that soon? In fact, I will put you on the spot and ask you WHEN? Can you find a way to involve your kids in these important conversations and a way to create some fun and meaningful interactions for everyone, as well as a valuable life learning experience?