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Yesterday, May 3, I hosted what we dubbed as a “villa open house” for many of my new friends here at The Fountains. I’ve been attending a weekly Sisterhood Fellowship for a while now, and these women have been amazing role models for me. They are wonderful conversationalists in spite of their various physical limitations, and their wit and positive outlooks have inspired me.

Robin played golf again yesterday, so it was a good day to have a ladies-only get-together here in our home. We set the open house from 2 to 4 p.m., and I spent the morning getting everything ready. I thawed a loaf of zucchini bread I had bought and frozen after attending an earlier outing to the Puffy Muffin, a great bakery and restaurant up in Brentwood. Then I baked brownies and prepared a few more goodies to serve with wine and soft drinks. I also moved a couple of our dining room chairs into the living room area and set up TV trays to serve as extra tables.

At noon, I received a call from our neighbor. He and his wife live in a villa similar to ours, but they both need more assistance than we do. Their niece had been helping them until she broke her leg, so now the couple was using Home Instead, an agency that provides home care.

I had invited his wife to my party, but my neighbor said he had a doctor appointment and the aide had told him she couldn’t take him to the doctor and leave his wife by herself. His appointment was at 1 p.m., so I suggested that the aide bring Nancy over here for the party a little early. She could visit with me while I did a few last-minute things, and the aide could go ahead and take him for his appointment.

About ten till one, I noticed that Walter had not yet left for the doctor, so I called, and he apologized. “I discovered that my appointment isn’t until tomorrow,” he said. “I’m sorry. I should have called you back.”

“That’s fine. I’m glad you won’t have a conflict now. Please tell Nancy I’ll look forward to seeing her at the party.”

About 1:30, a knock at our back door caught my attention. There stood the aide with Nancy in her wheelchair. I greeted them, and the aide wheeled her inside. However, the aide seemed reluctant to leave. “I need to stay with you,” she told Nancy.

“No, you don’t need to stay,” she said. “I’ll be with my friends now, and I’ll be fine.”

“But I’m not supposed to leave you,” the aide insisted.

“No, you don’t need to stay. I will be fine. You can leave now.” Nancy’s voice sounded firm.

The aide’s eyes darted from Nancy to me, back and forth. I assured her it would be fine for Nancy to stay here with me.

The young woman left, and Nancy smiled. “Whew! I hope you don’t mind my coming a little early. I just had to get away for a while. She’s a smoker, and she doesn’t smoke inside the house, but her clothes just reek with the odor. It’s really bothering me!”

I felt sorry for her, trapped in her own house!  “You and Walter might want to call the agency and ask them not to send any more aides who smoke. I bet the home-care people receive that request quite often.”  She agreed that was a good idea. In the meantime, she settled onto our little sofa, and we enjoyed visiting until the other guests began to arrive.

Fourteen people attended the party, and I truly appreciated the extra effort many of them made in order to come. Several rode their motorized wheelchairs across the street, up our driveway, and around to the back screen porch door. Then, using their canes, they entered the villa. One resident brought her portable oxygen tank with her. One climbed our front porch stairs with assistance from a Fountains’ staff member.

I served their refreshments, and we all had a wonderful time together. They were very complimentary of the food and our villa’s décor. A few took a look around at the other rooms, and they remarked at the spacious, open floor plan. Several even brought little gifts to me, which I didn’t expect at all.

I had been worried that I might not have enough chairs for everyone, but people came and went, and we were able to visit in the living room area the whole time.

Robin returned from golf before the last group left, and he enjoyed meeting some of the ladies too—a delightful day for both of us!

 

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Yesterday, April 20, marked a special day for us. We moved from Hot Springs Village, Arkansas, to Franklin, Tennessee, exactly six months ago on October 20. I’ll have to say this half-year in our lives has been quite a ride. We’ve been up and down, excited and fearful. However, moving here to The Fountains has given us new insights into our strengths and weaknesses.

Lesson #1. Change is hard. At this time in life, it is much more difficult to adapt to new surroundings than we thought. When we moved from Tupelo, Mississippi, to Hot Springs Village almost 15 years ago, change seemed easier. We were still physically and mentally active. We found new activities quickly—Robin with his golf and me with the writing club. Although the Village roads were winding and hilly, the traffic was light, and we drove around easily. Franklin, with its busy streets and heavy traffic, has been much harder for us to deal with. But we are adjusting.

Lesson #2. Our grown children are experts we can rely on. Without special helpers like adult children or younger friends, finding new doctors, getting new drivers’ licenses, etc. can be much more difficult for us older folks in a new place. We have a new appreciation for the expertise of those who can steer us in the right direction without taking over completely.

Lesson #3. Creating a new home is still fun. Moving into a smaller space requires getting rid of many possessions. However, it does feel good to clean out closets and cabinets and donate items in good condition to friends or to worthwhile organizations like Habitat for Humanity or the Salvation Army. After moving into our new home, we’ve had fun, shopping and finding a few new things to enhance the space where we now reside.

Lesson #4. Making new friends is essential. We moved at the beginning of winter, and that was a mistake. The cold, rainy weather discouraged us from venturing out, and we felt lonesome and isolated. We moved to be closer to our children, but their work and families still occupied most of their time. We did enjoy a number of occasions when we would all get together, but people our age still need friends of our own. Now, I have become active in a local church, and I’m making new friends there. Recently, Robin and I invited a retired couple from the church over for supper, and we had a great time.

Lesson #5. Keeping up with old friends is essential too. We still love to get phone calls and texts from out-of-town friends and family. I continue emailing each day with a very close friend. I’m still writing a blog post at least once a month and getting feedback on that. One friend told me, “Maddie, you’re the kind of person who can blossom wherever you are planted.” That kind of encouragement can definitely keep one going.

Brain Fit

Recently, The Fountains has offered a new class to the residents. Every Wednesday morning, participants meet in the Community Room for a one-hour session of activities to “boost brain health.” This six-part series is led by Kathryn Ervin, a cognitive therapeutics interventionist who is employed by Home Care Assistance in Nashville.

On April 4, we spent time sharing reminiscences about our first paying job. This interaction promoted socialization, a big factor in maintaining cognitive function. Kathryn also led us in some simple chair exercises to loosen our muscles, and she gave us small plastic bags full of “healthy snacks,” a mixture of granola, dried fruit, dark chocolate, and nuts. The lesson here: exercise and good nutrition also promote a healthy brain.

The second session included activities to promote what she called “executive function.” One exercise involved flashing three words up onto a screen, and we were to determine how those three things were related. She began with easier things like “car,” “truck,” “bus.” Of course, we said they were all modes of transportation. Gradually, the terms became more difficult. Near the end of the exercise, she flashed up “banana,” “check,” and “bowling.” That took us all a moment. Finally, Robin saw the connection. “Those are all things connected with a split: a banana split, you can split the check, and you can bowl a split.” Everyone clapped. : )

This week, we played a trivia game where we were given multiple choices to answer each question, and we had to come up with the correct answer. The questions dealt with historical or well known persons. Kathryn also played a number of familiar songs, mostly from the 40’s and 50’s, and we had to name each tune. Then we sang along with the song. Another exercise was “logo identification.” Either a full logo or a partial logo was flashed onto the screen, and we had to name the company whose logo it was. A difficult one showed only a white pudgy arm with a hand waving. One of the ladies finally got it—the Michelin Tire man. : )

Next week we’ll deal with language—mostly writing—so that will be fun. : )

An amusing incident happened this Wednesday.  The week before, Kathryn had given each of us a bright red T-shirt with the name of her company emblazoned across the back. “If you wear your T-shirt next week, you’ll be eligible to win a prize,” she said. Robin and I took our shirts home, but I thought to myself, She’s treating us like we are kids. I won’t ever wear that silly shirt.

This time, Robin didn’t go, but I went, and when I walked into the room, I couldn’t believe what I saw. I was the only one not wearing my T-shirt!  I sat and chatted with everyone for a few minutes, but then I told them I felt bad that I didn’t wear my shirt, and I ran back across the street to our villa and changed.

When I returned, everyone clapped. : ) I grinned. “When in Rome… right?” They all laughed.

Today, we woke up to a chilly 33 degrees. Several mornings ago, we even had a light dusting of snow. March cold snaps like this are not that unusual here in the mid-South, but this year, Robin and I are especially antsy for spring to arrive.

For weeks now, my husband has been clamoring to get back out to the golf course, and he’s growing more and more bored, working his Sudoku puzzles and computer games. He and I do make our weekly trips to the grocery store and to Planet Fitness, but we’re eager to find new activities and make new friends.

Yesterday, we decided to explore The Factory at Franklin. This complex of several Depression-era buildings has been renovated to create an indoor mall of sorts, with small specialty shops and restaurants. Many of the stores had been closed, but we found a bakery, an ice cream shop, several artists’ galleries, boutiques, and an antiques store. They reminded us of the kinds of establishments we’d visited many times in historic downtown Hot Springs.

We left The Factory, headed to a nearby restaurant for lunch, and then we returned home. But as warmer weather returns, we’ll be venturing out many more times to other places we’ve heard about.

Tomorrow, I’ll be going to lunch with a new friend I met at a women’s retreat sponsored by Historic Franklin Presbyterian Church the first weekend in March. Linda and I are about the same age, and she invited me to meet her at Cheddar’s, a nice restaurant up in the Brentwood area. That’ll be fun. She and her husband, George, both attend HFPC, and Robin and I plan to invite them to our villa for coffee and conversation sometime soon.

On Friday, we’re expecting to see another couple we knew when we lived in Tupelo, Mississippi. Their daughter and her family have recently moved to Franklin, and they’re coming up for a weekend visit with their daughter. We’re looking forward to having them over and showing them around the Fountains.

So, my dear readers, it does appear that life in our new locale will not be “chilly” for us too much longer.  Spring and happier times are right around the corner.

 

Those who still live out in the community, go to work, go to school, or go to their volunteer activities every Friday, may wonder what residents of senior living facilities do each day. Yesterday afternoon, many of us who live here in the villas and the assisted living facility at The Fountains of Franklin attended a ballet right here in the dining room!

A troupe of young people, now in a two-year apprenticeship with the Nashville Ballet, brought their delightful program to us, and we watched these talented dancers present Aesop’s Fables.

A smooth surface covered the floor, and Greek “columns” and other screens formed the backdrop for the production. Through music and dance, the troupe presented their beautiful renditions of The Grasshopper and the Ants, The North Wind and the Sun, The Fox and the Crow, and The Hare and the Tortoise.

At the end of the show, the dancers introduced themselves, told where they were from, how old they were, and how long they had been dancing. The troupe included one twenty-year-old man and five young women, ages seventeen to twenty. Most had been dancing since they were three years old, and they had each moved to Nashville from places as far away as California and New York to be in this special training program. At the end of their residency, only a few will be offered contracts with the senior company, but now, each one is gaining valuable experience.

The Nashville Ballet offers these presentations to schools, community centers, and senior living facilities as a way to reach out, educate, and create interest in the art of ballet.   I’m thankful they came!

Snow Day

Yesterday, January 12, winter dipped her icy fingers into the South, and we saw our first snow of the season here in middle Tennessee. Franklin received barely an inch, but it was preceded by sleet, so roads and streets were slick and treacherous. Schools closed, and everyone who did not need to get out stayed hunkered down, warm and safe in their homes.

Back in the summer of 1960, Robin and I moved from Shreveport, Louisiana, to Denver, Colorado. We wanted to live outside the South for a while to experience a snowy winter season. And did we ever!

It was the middle of October when I looked out my second grade classroom’s windows and saw gentle white flakes floating down. I was calling out spelling words, while my little students took their weekly test.

I’d better not say anything about the snow, I thought, or they’ll get all excited and lose concentration. I remembered the year before how my students in Louisiana had reacted at first snowfall.

“It’s snowing, it’s snowing!” They ran to the windows, hugged each other, and jumped up and down. I felt like jumping up and down with them. Soon, we’d all get to go home.

Now, I tried to stay calm, averted my eyes from the windows, and called the next word.

Too late. One of the youngsters looked up. “Oh, no! It’s snowing!”

A collective groan spread across the room. “I rode my bike,” one said, shaking his head.

By the time June rolled around, I could understand their reaction much better. That winter we experienced many large snowfalls, and the schools never closed. We drove between huge banks of the stuff, piled on the sides of the streets, and life’s normal activities continued. Even on the last day of school, remnants of dirty snow lay along the curbs. The only “summer” we had was in July and August. By September, the air had turned chilly again.

Today, though, I will nestle happily here in my cozy nest and enjoy viewing our beautiful “powdered sugar” landscape while I can. Monday’s highs will be back above freezing.

Today, December 20, I’m celebrating my last birthday in my seventies. Younger adults may worry about getting older, but I have good news for them. For most of us, our seventies are great years, and I’ve met many folks here at the Fountains in their eighties and nineties who are still happily engaged in life. Some are physically hampered in one way or another, but their minds are as sharp as ever. Others have difficulty with memory, but they’re still getting along just fine with a little help.

Yesterday, I attended the weekly Sisterhood Fellowship, a small group of women who meet every Tuesday morning to drink coffee, eat apple fritters and donuts, and socialize. They think I’m the “youngster” in the group, but they’re all quite youthful in their demeanor and attitudes.

At yesterday’s gathering, each woman told about one Christmas they would never forget. Most grew up during the Depression, and their families were poor. Times were hard, but family reunions at Christmas were important and cherished.

One woman said her extended family numbered almost one hundred relatives who would travel from distant towns to attend the family’s Christmas dinner. Those who needed to spend the night often stayed in the empty fraternity houses at a nearby college

She was only about five years old when one Christmas, several young men in the family began to pass out and fall to the floor. Of course, that frightened her and many others too. The men had spent the night in a fraternity house where the water cistern had become tainted with some kind of bacteria that caused them to become ill. She said, thankfully, they all recovered, but that sight of young men dropping like flies all around her would be one she’d never forget!

I hope you will respond to this blog post and share one of your non-forgettable Christmas memories too. I’d love to hear from you.

Merry Christmas!