Tag Archives: aging

Being Grateful for Things I’ve Always Taken for Granted by Sherrie Hansen

Those who are close to me know that I’m approaching a milestone birthday. (I’ll let you guess which one.) In some ways, I don’t think it will make a difference in the way I lead my life, or how I feel about things. In other ways, it looms over my daily walk with great significance.

One thing that I’ve noticed about getting older is that I appreciate a lot of things I’ve previously taken for granted… simple things like a good night’s sleep. I am immensely grateful for those few mornings when I sleep peacefully through the night and wake up slowly and languorously rather than being rudely awakened by a cramp in my leg. Life’s simple pleasures.

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As I get to an age where many of my friends have only one or no parents still living, I am daily reminded how blessed I am to have both of my parents still active in my life. I’m grateful for all of the things my parents have done for me, taught me, and given me, and that I have people in my life who love me, just as I am.

I’m thankful to have been raised with a hard work ethic, that I was not brought up to feel entitled, but with the knowledge that if I worked hard. I could earn the things I wanted and have the freedom to do what I wished. Those principals have shaped my life, and because of that, I have been very blessed.

I also find that I spend far more time being grateful for what I have and less time lusting after what I don’t have. It’s the realization that I have enough or even plenty of what I need, and that if I don’t need something, I should find someone who does.

B&W Blue Belle Inn

I’m privileged to have owned and operated my own business for 25 years, and to have served my wonderful customers, and participated in their lives, their special occasions, and the hard times they’ve gone through.

I’m increasingly thankful for my good health, even as it daily worsens, even as the definition of good has to be continuously downgraded.

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I’m grateful for a soft mattress, a sweet husband, nieces and nephews who make me smile and do me proud.

I’m grateful to have been able to see so much of the world, to have had the luxury to enjoy beautiful landscapes and picturesque places in so many countries.  I’m thankful to have been given the gift of an artist’s eye to capture that beauty in photographs, to appreciate art and beauty.

B&W View

I am grateful to have been given second chances, and that when I’ve made mistakes, I’ve had the opportunity to try again and again, until I’ve gotten it right, or even made amends.

I am thankful for the few, true blue friends who have stuck with me for a lifetime, and not just a season.

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I’m grateful for a Savior who forgives me over and over again, who loves me unconditionally.

I’m thankful that I have the right, the honor, and the skill to express myself.  I’m grateful for every single person who admires my art, listens to me speak, or reads what I’ve written and respects me enough to take the time to let me share a little bit of myself.

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Getting older may not be the most fun thing in the world, but it comes with its perks – one of which is that every so often you have time to sit back and count your blessings.

So, thank YOU – because I don’t take you for granted either.

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Sunrise, Sunset by Sherrie Hansen

I’m not sure why, but all of the sudden, I’m starting to feel like an old fogy. (Definition:  an extremely fussy, old-fashioned, or conservative person.) It started last summer when my mom and dad celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary and their 80th birthdays. My parents have always seemed quite young to me, and they are compared to many of my classmates and peers, since I’m the oldest child in our family. (They only waited a couple of years before they had me, so that tells you about how old I am.) When did they get to be so old?

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Suddenly, my little niece is taller than I am, and most likely smarter, too.

Sherrie - Victoria

This winter, the house my dad built when I was 16 suddenly needed a lot of updating because it was over 40 years old. When did that happen? Earlier this month, a video of the house I renovated and turned into a bed and breakfast almost 25 years ago started to recirculate, and as I looked at a young, energetic, spry-looking version of myself smiling on the video, I realized that my staff, neighbors, nieces and nephews, and half the people in town have no idea how horrible the property used to look, and how absolutely heroic I was to rescue the place from the bulldozing it probably deserved. They either weren’t born yet, or were about 5 years old.

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Yes, that’s me in the middle.

I’ve always prided myself on being pretty with it. I play with a contemporary Christian band and there’s nothing I like more than rocking out with the volume on my keyboard at full blast. I pound out a mean bass line and I’ve got the rhythm. I write steamy novels, wear funky clothes and hats, and work circles around many of my years younger staff members. I may be a little gray; I may be getting a little stiff in the joints, but I like to think I’ve still got it. Well, part of it anyway.

Piano

But lately… well, I’ve started to feel more and more irked with the way the younger generation thinks and does things. I routinely say things like, “What is this world coming to?”, and “Back in my day, we used to…”, and “When I was your age…” When I watch the Grammies, the only musicians I’m familiar with are those being inducted into the Hall of Fame.  To be honest, most of what we call contemporary music at our church are songs written 30 or 40 years ago. And when I visit churches with truly contemporary music and smoke machines and light shows, I cringe and probably feel the way my parents did the first time I sang Ralph Carmichael’s “He’s Everything to Me”.

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And don’t even get me started on the fact that many of the obituaries in the paper are for people my age or even younger. It’s scary to think that I’m in the twilight years of my life, or that it’s all downhill from here. And to quote a comedian three-fourths of you have probably never heard of, “I don’t get no respect.”

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Suddenly, I understand all the fuss about bucket lists, because time is running out, and if I’m going to do it, it needs to be now, while I still can. My goal has been to leave the country every three to five years to go on a dream vacation, but suddenly, it makes more sense to take a good long trip to somewhere far away and exotic every year, before it’s too late. Even then, you’ll probably find me on a cruise ship or one of peering out the windows of one of those big buses with really comfy seats. I hate the thought of missing out on anything.

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Because today I noticed something. Sunsets are just as beautiful as sunrises. Maybe even more so. I have wisdom, and grace, and the kind of polish and beauty that a rock gets from being in a rock tumbler. I’ve worked hard for what I have, and now, I get to enjoy it (well, whatever the government doesn’t take first). But that’s another thing I shouldn’t get started on.

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Sunrises are just fine. But watching the sun sink into the horizon in a blazing display of color and class… All I can say is, I’m going to enjoy every last minute of the show. Sometimes, the sky is at it’s most brilliant when the sun has already set, and the truth is, I’ve always been a night owl.

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I firmly believe that each book I write is better than the last, and besides, it’s great fun to put my characters up to things I would never do now that I’m… And that I’m so in the groove at my B&B that the food we turn out only gets better and better. And, like all of us, my music – my generation’s – is the best. So there.

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Smile if you will, but think of me next time you see the sun setting, and remember, one day, you’ll be an old fogy, too.

Cal - Rachel SS

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What Story Is Your Life Telling? by Sherrie Hansen Decker

What story is your life telling? A new friend on Twitter asked this question in a tweet this morning. Who says a few word can’t be powerful?

This is a question that seems to be of more importance to me as I get older, as it becomes apparent that my most productive years are probably more than half gone, and that if I want to make a name for myself or accomplish something that I have yet to do, it’s time to get with it and get it done. One of the main characters in my book, Tommy Love, is in his mid/late forties, and in the middle of a stellar mid-life crisis. He’s had a successful career as a musician, gotten the star treatment from millions of adorning fans… most of whom are baby boomers and dying off faster than fruit flies. What Tommy wants – or thinks he wants, is one more big hit – hip hop – to appeal to a new generation of fans. Can you blame him for not wanting to fade into oblivion, for not wanting to be pegged as an oldie-but-goodie? As perhaps all of us would like, Tommy wants to go out in a blaze of glory, to see his legacy live on for at least another 20 to 30 years.

Some of us accomplish this with our children, but in Love Notes, neither Hope or Tommy has children. Neither do I. It’s been suggested before that my books are my way of passing on the secrets of my heart, and I think that’s probably very true. The story my life has been told, continues to be told, and hopefully, will be passed along one day, through my creation of the Blue Belle Inn B&B and tea House (my baby in a very real sense), and in my writing.

I was recently approached about answering some questions for an article because I was an author who was over 50, a writer whose career as an author didn’t begin until I was past 50 years old.  The question’s implication resulted in a lot of things floating through my evidently half-addled, 55 year old brain: What does she think I am, older than dirt? That it’s a miracle I can still write, old as I am? Once I got over my indignation, however, I started to think about what it is really like being 55, and how life is different now than when I was 25, 35 or even 45.

Here are my answers to her questions:

What prompted you to take up writing as a career at this time in your life?

When I was 35 years old, I opened a B&B and Tea House called the Blue Belle Inn. During those early days I worked until 10 p.m. every night, serving or cleaning up after dinner and trying to keep up the laundry and bookkeeping. When I got off work and went home (a basement apartment in the same big Victorian inn) I was keyed up and too wide awake to go to sleep. I needed someone to talk to so I could unwind. Being single, and living in a largely rural area where the rest of the world was early to bed and early to rise, I had no one to talk to and no where to go. So I wrote. I made up characters and conversations and situations and poured my pent up emotions and needs for personal interactions into my books.

For over a decade, I was so busy that I never found time to query or submit. Soon after I turned 50, I was approached by a publisher who had read the first chapter of Night and Day in an online contest I’d entered at Gather.com. He loved my voice and related to my characters and wanted to publish my book.

Do you think your age in any way hindered your writing success?

I suspect it has, for a couple of different reasons. I attended an American Christian Writer’s Conference once, and felt decidedly old, fat, and gray (comparatively speaking), even though I cheated a bit and added some color to my hair just for the occasion. Why, I wondered, would an editor or agent take a chance on me, when there were so many youthful, energetic people waiting in line on either side of me? The editors I spoke to were all in their 20’s or 30’s, looking for books that would engage a new, younger generation of readers. What did I have to offer them, with my stories of 30 and 40 year old characters – still a decade or two younger than me, but so ancient to them, that, as one editor put it, they would work as secondary characters, but not hero and heroine? Another said that they felt their readers would not be able to relate to stories about older characters, with the implication that they would be turned off, that the “ick factor” of a bunch of old fogies finding love would be too great for them to get get past.

Sigh…

The second reason I feel my writing has been impacted by my age is much scarier – and more personal, and that is that everything people say about menopause is true. Your brain turns to mush. It’s harder to focus, multitask and concentrate. My most productive time of the day – formerly from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., now finds me falling asleep at my computer. Now, I’m awake at 5 a.m. but I’m not productive, I’m crabby. It takes me longer to get the same amount of work done, so there is less time for writing. Worst of all, your interest in romance diminishes. So does your passion for life and people. It’s sad. It’s a reality. Some people tell me it will pass. Others just shake their heads and wish me the best.

Do you believe you could have written the same type of books at a different point in your life?

No. My books are about second chances, people who have learned by their mistakes, men and women who have failed and been forgiven, and thanks to God’s grace and love, have found a sweet love that they would most likely not have appreciated when they were younger. They see beauty in places they would have rushed right by when they were younger.

When I was young, before I fell flat on my face and learned a lot of life’s bittersweet lessons, I never could written the books I have. An author can imagine plots lines and character profiles, but you can’t conjure up the richness and fullness of life you find in your 50’s!

What have been the biggest advantages to pursuing a writing career at your age?

See above! I’m older, wiser, more accepting, more forgiving, more understanding, more savvy. I have more to offer, greater insights into what makes characters tick. I’ve been there, done that. Add my experience to my still active imagination, and you get richer, deeper characters, conflicts that are heart-wrenching, and scenarios that are intensely real.

And, I have the zillions of baby boomers who are tired of reading books about naive, 18 year old Amish girls, as potential readers. 🙂

What have been the greatest obstacles?

Finding a publisher who agrees with me. 🙂 Three years ago, at the moderately “old” age of 52, I opted to sign on with a medium sized, independent publishing firm who are more interested in finding a good story that they are the age of the hero and heroine – or the author.  Second Wind Publishing has been a great place for me to grow as an author and a wonderful venue for getting my books in print. I’ve had to modify my dreams and expectations, a bit, but then, isn’t that what aging gracefully is all about?

Whatever story your life is telling… and whatever age you are, I would urge you to keep sharing yourself – through your children, with your friends and family, in your careers or second careers – or third, or fourth – and if you like to write, through the stories you put on paper.

Here’s to the stories of our lives.

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Are You a Truly Beautiful Person? by Sherrie Hansen

When I was 16 years old, I weighed 80 pounds less than I do today. I had double the amount of hair on my head that I do at age 53 (and it was brown, not gray) and half the amount of hairs on my chin. Yet for some unimaginable reason, when I was a teenager, I thought I was fat and ugly. Not only did I believe it, I felt it – physically. I spent every moment of every day feeling huge, gawky, clumsy, and out of place.

My latest release, Water Lily, addresses the subject of beauty – inner, outer, perceived, actual.

The main character, Michelle, has an “ah ha” moment when she’s helping her thirteen year old niece, Theodora, pick out clothes from her cedar chest to wear to a retro day at school.

From Water Lily:
The jeans she’d worn in high school fit Theodora to perfection. The top accentuated her niece’s small, high breasts and the indention of her waist. Her first thought was that she’d been insane to be dissatisfied with that body, that beautiful body.  She’d grown up believing she was unforgivably fat and inherently unlovable, when all the time, she’d looked like Theodora did now? She reeled as the truth peeled years of misconceptions from her eyes.

I’ve been thinking a lot about beauty these last few weeks. I recently attended my 35th class reunion and – well, to be honest – no one looked as beautiful as they once did… at least on the outside. Conversely, I spoke to some people who are – have become – truly beautiful, on the inside.

Age has a way of refining us, of making many of us more beautiful. Others, including some who have retained much of their youthful beauty, seem to have become bitter, brittle, hardened, and haggard, traits that make them appear unattractive both inside and out.

It raises a lot of questions about beauty in my mind. What makes a person truly beautiful? Does a person have to believe they’re beautiful for others to perceive them that way? Is loving yourself a prerequisite to being lovable? To whom is a woman beautiful when she’s had a breast removed and lost her hair to chemotherapy? To those who already love her? Or can her inner beauty shine through so strongly that even strangers take notice and are drawn to her?

I don’t have the answers. I do know that in nature’s grand scheme, a beautiful water lily rises from the murky, watery depths to blossom in the sunshine.

It’s taken me most of 35 years to start to believe that I am a beautiful person. Working on Water Lily these past few months has given me some “ah ha” moments of my own as I’ve contemplated what it is that makes a person truly beautiful.

As a result, I’ve started looking at – seeing – people differently. I’ve started to notice the beauty that’s in my own back yard, to see beauty in the ordinary, everyday things that surround me, to appreciate people who are beautiful on the inside even though they may look a bit crusty on the outside.

I dedicated Water Lily to the friends, family members, and acquaintances in my life who have helped me to believe I am beautiful. Their ongoing love and encouragement means the world to me…

I’ll leave you to think about beauty on your own, but in case no one has said it recently, you are truly beautiful.

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