A personal “descanso”

Senior Couple Walking in London
Senior couple walking in London
(Christian Ungureanu on Flickr)

In my previous post I wrote,

…individuals experience personal descansos – resting spots – in the life journey between what was and what is to come.

In truth, the personal descanso from which I presently emerge has been a journey of several years. During that time, caring for a spouse occupied my mind and actions. Any remaining time each day primarily consisted of tending to my practice as a therapist. Emerging from my loved one’s recuperation and a pandemic, along with reducing my professional duties, the call to leave the resting place and begin creative productivity is strong.

And so, Dear Reader, we will begin again to examine our Descansos, with an eye to woman’s discovery of self along the way. The journey will elicit not only my memories; rather, we will tap into voices rooted in the past and present. In effect, if we are successful, we will create a rich tapestry of understanding of ourselves and our need to create those resting places that allow us to integrate life events and to grow from them.

I hope you will join me!


This is a revisiting of a previously published blog post. It will serve as an introduction to a series of posts that address the concept of Descansos, resting along the way.

Descansos is the term used in Spanish for sites along the highway that mark the passing of a loved one. Descansos, means resting places. These originated as a way to memorialize the locations where funeral processions stopped to rest on the journey between church and burial grounds. Thus, they were spaces that interrupted the journey to the finality of death. Rooted in the culture of Hispanics in the Southwest, one now sees descansos throughout the country, as individuals and families erect crosses, leave wreaths, or in some other way mark where the loss of a loved one occurred along the highway.

In a similar way, individuals experience personal descansos – resting points – in the life journey between what was and what is to come. In this blog, the reader will note such restings, a putting away of the semiregular posting of my thoughts and words, as I navigated difficult passages in life. While navigating the passages, instead of narrating them through my writing, I chose silence. Now, to paraphrase Proust, in search of lost time, I must rely on memory.

There comes a moment, precipitated by an event, an emotion, or a thought, when we reencounter ourselves as if viewing self from a distance. Or, perhaps we are jolted into introspection as the result of an existential crisis. Our reaction is often to stop, to ponder, to question our identity, our integrity, our framework of beliefs.  In response, we pause and engage in self-examination as we endeavor to find answers to the questions that arise–Who is my authentic self? What is my next true step? What do I really accept as true?

            The concept of descansos becomes a metaphor for the interrupted journey and the resulting growth that individuals experience as they progress through life. How often have we felt like Gertie, in the movie ET, just before the alien caused the pieces of fruit to rise as the map of the solar system and rotate in the air? It is a time that often catches us unexpectedly without preparation for the flood of emotions and thoughts that fill us with a sense of feeling confused and astray. Such are the times in our lives when the impulse arises to examine the direction of our lives and to readjust, to recalculate. It is the process of examination, of readjusting, and recalculating – particularly in the gifted self – that I choose to address in posts that follow.

Until then, my readers, I would welcome your responses to my reflection…

Navigating the Winter of Our Discontent

    I write this post as our nation is well on the way to over 12.5 million cases of Covid 19 and over 257,000 have died of the disease. Nevertheless, many of our fellow citizens continue to ignore the experts, refuse to wear masks, and avoid social distancing. To quote Shakespeare, “Now is the winter of our discontent.”

    For gifted elders, we fear for our own health and that of our loved ones. A good number of us are choosing to self-isolate in hopes of escaping infection especially if, in addition to age, there are other conditions that put us at risk. Nevertheless, we are anxious and as winter approaches our mood darkens with the waning sunlight of shortened days. However, there are strategies and actions that we can take to lift our spirits and brighten our moods. What follows are my suggestions for navigating our winter of discontent.

    Sanctuary. It is important to feel one has a place for quiet and meditation during this time of home-keeping. For anyone, and not just those who are isolated from church family at this time, one can create a space that invites one to sit, quiet the mind and body, and nurture our spirituality. In addition to my work desk I have a writing desk in my office that is placed before a window looking out over our lawn and the field beyond it. On the desk is a book with readings that encourage reflection, a journal, an aromatherapy candle, and a ceramic bowl filled with a variety of stones. It is my sanctuary, achieved with very little fuss. You too, my reader, can easily create a similar space for your reflective time.

    Light and Movement. Dealing with lockdowns and shelter-in-place during the spring and summer of this year was easier given that we could get outside for exercise, gardening, and other relaxing activities. With the shorter days and cooler weather it becomes more difficult to get our necessary dose of sunlight and the movement that keeps elders strong and flexible. When the weather does not allow you to get out, try to sit by a sunny window while reading or otherwise at rest. Or, if you find your mood needs more regular exposure to helpful light rays, you might consider the purchase of an affordable light therapy lamp. For those in need of movement when the outdoors is cold or inclement, YouTube has many videos for seniors that promote stretching, walking in place, yoga, or other movement activities.

    Hygge. After dinner, my husband and I settle into the living room for a quiet evening of reading, music, or perhaps a calm program on television. In the room are several sets of tiny white lights – on the mantle, surrounding a sign perched on a table with the word Grateful, laced through a plant, and adorning a “spirit tree.” I have also placed scented candles in strategic places and soon we will start the gas logs in the fireplace. The lights are lit at dusk and the main lights in the room are dimmed. The intent of these arrangements are to create, hygge, a Danish term that connotes and brings about the ambience of comfort, coziness, and contentment. After dinner my husband and I settle into our cozy living room to read, listen to music, or perhaps watch a tranquil program on television. Hygge lifts our spirits!

    Connections. Perhaps most important during this time of isolation and disconnection is to maintain present relationships and create new ones. I am exceedingly thankful that we have so much assistance in the form of technology. Our immediate family, in three geographically distinct areas, arranges dinner “parties” through group FaceTime visits. Each couple (and grandchild) sit at their own table and converse over their meal with the other couples. Granted, it is not the same as being together. However, it is a great way to maintain connections. Checking in with friends and other elders who are alone has become a regular activity that I try to do at least once a week. I realize that I need to continue to do so in normal times as well. Using a HIPPA compliant teletherapy program allows me to continue to connect with clients. Finally, friendships that I have cultivated on Facebook have been a sure way to connect with my tribe.

Sanctuary, breathing, light and movement, hygge, and connections are all tools we can use to enhance our lives in this time of disconnection. What are stragegies that you find helpful in maintaining your positive outlook? Wishing you a winter full of contentment!

This blog post is a part of the Winter Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hop. Read more about Gifted and Community by clicking on this link.

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Tolerance and Equality ~ Bettering Our World


Three Old People Talk

Joan Chittister wrote in The Gift of Years—Growing Older Gracefully that “Old age is the time to be dangerous. Dangerously fun-loving, dangerously alive… This is the time to do every single thing we can possibly do with all the life we can bring to it. This is the time to live with an edge, with strength, with abandon. There is nothing for which to save our energy. Now it is simply time to spend time well” (p. 161).

I reflect on Chittister’s words as I think of the topic of this month’s blog, Tolerance and Equality – Bettering our World. We, the elders, have learned and lived through much of our nation’s history. We learned in school about the evils of slavery and how it provoked a division so deep in our country that it took as many as 750,000 lives, based on recent research. We saw the photo of little Ruby Nell Bridges in her Mary Jane shoes and carrying her book bag, the first African American child to intergrate a white southern elementary school. We saw the newscast depicting John Lewis being beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. We saw the March on Washington, and maybe we even participated. Yet, time and again, we have seen the intolerance and inequality as the marginalized in our society advocate for rights guaranteed them.

Perhaps now, as elders who may experience marginalization ourselves, we can understand more deeply the pain of not being cherimportant vital and important members of the American tapestry. Perhaps now we can heed the urging of Chittister and live on the edge with strength and abandon. Perhaps now we can spend time well in speaking out and advocating for tolerance and equality for all.

Photo by Malcome Payne on Flicker (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This blog post is a part of the Summer Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hop. Read more about Gifted and Community by clicking on this link.

Derealization ~ Elderhood in a Time of Crisis

The DSM-5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is the manual that we use in mental health practices to assist us in diagnosing and treating mental difficulties. It defines derealization as,

“Experiences of unreality or detachment with respect to surroundings (e.g., individuals or objects are experienced as unreal, dreamlike, foggy, lifeless, or visually distorted).” (p. 302)

Our awareness of the pandemic the world is currently experiencing prompts feelings of detachment from reality in many of us.

   Gifted elders can remember other times of derealization, when the world as we knew it appeared disfigured. For example, I remember as an eight year old hearing of the news of tens of thousands of children infected with poliomyelitis and knowing that three thousand of them died that year. We saw pictures of children, captives in iron lungs that breathed for them. We observed others in braces, paralyzed by the disease. The real world seemed so unreal.

As a young adult, I watched the teletype machine at our college print out the news of the shooting and death of our president in Dallas. The nation stood transfixed for days with images seared in our memories. The pink Chanel suit, the young son’s solemn salute, the riderless horse. The real world seemed so unreal.

   Five years later and viewing the news from another continent our world was once again shocked by assassinations of the champion of civil rights, followed by the slain president’s younger brother. In 2001, a nation watched in horror the towers pierced and fallen. The mass shootings, especially the murder of innocent school children. Again and again, reality bordered on irreality.

   Yes, as elders we remember many events that evoked what a friend termed existential dissonance in our lives. Presently, we undergo another similar crisis. Similar in that we feel disconnected from an invisible enemy, a virus that may or may not be a “clear and present danger” to our lives and to those of our loved ones. This is the fodder of science fiction books and movies, of the apocalypse.

   We exclaim, “This invader should not threaten our 21st century highly advanced and technologically enhanced society!” Regardless of our unbelief and cognitive disconnect, we know that this virus is present, perhaps in our own neighborhoods and cities, and as elders we are considered the most vulnerable population. We shelter in our homes and only leave when urgent, depending on relatives or friends to supply what we need for survival.  The real is so unreal for those of us who are untouched directly thus far.

   However, there are differences between the new crisis and others that I mention here. When we heard of assassinations or terrorist actions in the past, most of us gathered with our families and friends. We formed a flock through which we could comfort each other as we processed the horrific events. We hugged. We held hands. We formed tight knit circles as we stood to pay tribute.

   Currently, all of the traditional methods of mutual comforting for gifted elders are taboo. Our youngest son lives in our community and is our umbilical cord, supplying us with any necessities. We are accustomed to hugging in greeting and farewell. Now we must maintain six feet of distance. Similarly, I lost human touch with friends in our town.

   A blessing of living in our digital age is that we can find novel ways to socialize during the pandemic. Today a friend and I drank our cups of coffee together. We were in separate houses but were able to communicate via FaceTime. Dinner with our eldest and his family in New York, including our only Grand – again via distance video. 

   We are a talking, listening, feeling, touching social species. Yet we have no idea of when we will again have the pleasure of human contact beyond the confines of our homes. My husband and I have the luxury of passing the time with each other as neither of us has shown symptoms of the virus (yet). However, there are thousands of gifted elders who live alone and have no human contact. It is time for us all to step up, to be creative, and to find ways to reassure those who are totally isolated that they are cared for and remembered.

Yes, we are living in an age when the real world seems so unreal. In our separateness, may we be unified to one purpose. May we continue to touch others with our humanity.

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This blog article is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Spring 2020 Blog Hop on “Giftedness in Times of Crisis.” I thank my friends at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page for their inspiration, support, and suggestions over the  decades. You can see blogs of others here.

Things I wish I knew back then…


Honor Self.

A young client I worked with recently commented, “The schools won’t change, so I guess I will have too.” Thankfully, I am schooled in giftedness and I could assist in developing the understanding that one does not have to give up giftedness, as if it were possible to do so. Rather, the student and I could work  together with the parents to find resources and advocates within the system. If our search proved unsuccessful within that learning environment, we would find other ways or environments which supported individual needs.

It was not until much later in life when I realized I was a gifted adult that I learned to honor self. I recall the elementary, middle, and high school years during which I felt isolated and different much of the time. It was only during special classes in middle and high school when I had the opportunity to create projects or engage in enrichment activities with a few others students that I felt “like myself.” Of course, in those days in the late fifties and early sixties, no one used the “G” word. Understanding giftedness is something I wish I knew back then.

Solitude vs Loneliness.

Growing up as a shy, introverted reader and thinker in a family with three brothers, I spent much time alone, pursuing my own interests. I relished the time I had to read several books a week.  A member of a free range generation of children, there were days when I would leave our house early morning and not return except for lunch until evening. At times I joined my brothers or neighborhood children to play. However, often I would explore the woods and the creek behind our house, creating elaborate scenarios and stories with my imaginary friend, Beth.

Because of my introversion, I continued to spend time alone much of my childhood. As I grew older, society’s views were impressed on me in school and other social activities. I began to question my delight in being alone. The message conveyed by teachers and other adults was that to be happy, one must have a bevy of friends with which to spend every waking moment.

It was not until young adulthood when I realized my penchant for having just one or two close friends was perfectly acceptable. Furthermore, solitude was to be celebrated, especially since in my own life it fostered my creative productivity. Distinguishing solitude from loneliness is something I wish I knew back then.

Celebrate the Positives of Gifted Intensities.

Growing up an empath who felt physical pain when others suffered, along with all of the intensities that mark many gifted individuals – sensual, imaginational,  intellectual, emotional, and psychomotor – it was a mystery to me why I overreacted to stimuli and others did not. As with my preference for solitude, I interpreted my intensities as something that was wrong with me rather than something right.

If I had it to live over again, I would have used the intensities to go deeper in my quest for both understanding of my world and others, as well as my self-understanding. When we celebrate the intensities of gifted children, rather than try to suppress them, we give them the freedom to feel deeply and to pursue their imaginational creativity. We affirm the intellectual imperative that drives their being and we do all we can to nurture it. Understanding and celebrating intensities are things I wish I knew back then.

Giftedness is a Lifelong Phenomenon.

When I first entered the field of research in giftedness the common belief at the time was that children were gifted in elementary and perhaps middle school. By high school or college at the latest, the phenomenon of giftedness waned and individuals previously identified as gifted blended with other age peers to be defined by the same high school, college, or career standards.

Now a gifted elder, looking back on a lifetime of giftedness, it is clear to me that we continue to grow and develop as gifted individuals throughout our lifetimes. As such, we may continue to feel isolated and different. Or, we can use self-understanding to carve a path defined by our Self alone as valuable. Giftedness as a lifelong phenomenon is something I wish I knew back then.

Constructs of Success.

From my vantage point of almost seventy-four years, there are so many other things I wish I knew back then I would love to express. Perhaps they can be shared in future blog posts. The last piece of this post of what I wish I knew earlier in my life are the constructs of success in gifted females which are detailed and explored in my book, Nurturing the Gifted Female. In brief these are:

  • Voice – the development of the authentic expression of one’s perceptions of reality.
  • Resilience – the ability to persevere in the face of adversity.
  • Autonomy and Affiliation – the ability to flourish alone or in collaboration with others.
  • Efficacy – the belief in the ability to accomplish our goals.
  • Agency – the belief in the ability to act with purpose to impact society and the world.

I was a late bloomer in many ways. I earned a Ph.D. at the age of fifty-two, a Master’s in Clinical Psychology almost twenty years later, and began writing and publishing in my fifties. As a result of my research with gifted young women who were high school juniors and seniors, I discovered the constructs of success that would propel them into lives of creative productivity. I am certain that an understanding of my own giftedness and the opportunity to know and develop constructs of success at an earlier age are things I wish I know back then.

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This blog article is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page June 2018 Blog Hop on “Things I Wish I Knew Back Then.” I thank my friends at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page for their inspiration, support, and suggestions over the  decades. You can see blogs of others here.

Photo: Elliot Margolies: serious little girl. On flickr (creativecommons.org). (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Gifted Adults from an Elder’s Perspective

    We did not hear the word gifted as a child. We thought we were odd. Even as we age, it is difficult to say aloud, ‘I am a gifted adult.’ We realize the differences in our reasoning, but mostly in our feelings. When loved ones hurt, we feel physical pain. A breathtaking sunset brings tears to our eyes. We lie awake at night, wishing we could set things right in the world. We labor to internalize the wisdom of Candide to tend our own garden; and, when we do so, it is with an intensity that could ignite the universe.

 An Elder’s Perspective

   I wrote the words above shortly before my 70th year as part of a SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) initiative to share different perspectives on giftedness from different authors in the field. Five years later, much has happened in my life (an only grandchild, struggle with cancer, a new career). I look back on my words, which remain a confirmation that it is the reality of being a gifted adult that brings a heightened intensity to the perspective and the courage we draw upon to face life’s maladies and victories. Do you feel that way too?

    My friend and mentor, Annemarie Roeper, never ceased to remind us of emotional giftedness as the heart of this psychological construct that we call gifted. When we performed qualitative assessments together, she consistently looked for the emotional richness of the child, which she believed was the key to the individual’s level of giftedness. The deeper and more intense the emotional facets, the more gifted the child.

    In childhood we note that the complexity of intellect in gifted children is most often accompanied by a depth and intensity of emotions. When I entered the field as a resource teacher for gifted students in the early 1980’s, it was commonly believed by parents and educators that individuals grow out of giftedness. In the middle or high school years, most schools melded previously identified gifted students with other highly functioning students in honors or Advanced Placement programs. I considered the administrators in our school district as visionary when they created a position for a resource teacher for grades seven through twelve intending that the gifted receive qualitatively different learning experiences. More recently, we are expanding the literature in the field to include gifted adults, and yes, even gifted elders. Giftedness is a lifelong phenomenon.

They Come Back

    A few days ago, my five year-old grandchild fell asleep in my arms while I was reading to him – the first time this has happened in a long while as he no longer naps on a regular basis. I treasured that moment with an intensity that I still feel physically as a warmth in my chest that then spreads through the body. Moreover, I will continue to treasure that sweet experience as I tuck it into my mental memory box of life’s special moments

    The intensity I felt both physically and emotionally as I sat with a sleeping child reminds me that they come back. “They Come Back: Overexcitabilities in Older Adults,”  was the title of a presentation a colleague and I gave on intensities in later adulthood several years ago. In the talk, we shared our belief that as we enter adulthood, many gifted individuals may develop filters, such as coping skills, that soften our intensities and help us to navigate a world in which our intensities are not understood. As we age, it is my experience and my research is demonstrating, the filters dissolve and we begin to experience intensities with a renewed vigor. 

I Do What I Am

    I recently heard a quote, attributed to Freud, “I do what I am,” which resonated strongly in my thinking.  “Yes!” I told self, “That is my professional trajectory as well.” In my thirties, when I began the journey of giftedness in education, I studied, wrote, and presented on best educational practices for gifted students. In my forties, I progressed into a doctoral program in educational psychology with a specialization in giftedness and my studies opened my mind to my own giftedness. Thus, my dissertation focused on gifted females. In my fifties and sixties I was a college professor who wrote and taught about the psychology of the gifted. Now, in my seventies, I study and advocate for gifted elders. I do what I am.

Things I wish I knew back then

In my next post, we will continue to explore gifted elderhood as part of the next Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop, Things I wish I knew back then.


Navan, J. (2013). 100 Words of Wisdom: Joy Navan. 

Photo: Post by Dagmar Luhringova on Flickr (Public Domain).

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This blog article is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page May 2018 Blog Hop on Gifted Adults. I thank my friends at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page for their inspiration, support, and suggestions over the  decades. You can see blogs of others here.

Finding Sweet Dreams in Elderhood

In early 2016, I wrote a pair of blog posts about the need for healthy sleep in gifted elders. Just like gifted children and adolescents, gifted adults and elders can experience frequent difficulty both falling asleep or sustaining sleep through the night. Gifted elders may experience other difficulties as well, due to cognitive changes in elderhood or for other reasons.

In this blog, part of the Hoagies Blog Hop “Sweet Dreams,” I would like to review some of my past findings as well as offer suggestions to elders and their caretakers for enhancing the quality of sleep. Additionally,  I invite my readers to post effective techniques that they find enhance their sleep habits as well.

Sundowner’s, or sundowning, is a syndrome which manifests itself in many individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia-related diseases. Changes in light at the end of the day may produce behaviors such as agitation and restlessness, anxiety, fear, or anger. Similarly, adults, and elder adults in particular, may present with sleep difficulties. Research demonstrates that seven of ten older adults have sleep disturbances or sleep disorders. Due to the intensities of giftedness, I believe that the statistic is higher with gifted elders due to their intensities.

As with sundowning, light and how our brains process light is often connected to problems falling asleep or difficulty staying asleep. Receiving different types of light at different times during the day or evening can support or disrupt the circadian rhythms that control our sleep drive. Circadian rhythms are necessary for promoting healthy sleep-wake cycles.

When the natural rhythms are upset, we have trouble initiating, maintaining, and waking from sleep. Certain cells in the retina are most responsive to bluish-white light. This is the form of light that suppresses the production of melatonin. Lower levels of melatonin promote  wakefulness. With the onset of the dark at nighttime, melatonin production increases and we are more sleepy.

Researchers at the Light and Health Center of Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a light table that emits bluish-white light (i.e., daytime type) and they investigated its use in residential care facilities for the elderly. Residents gathered around the light table at meals and could sit around the table anytime between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. After use of the table over time, caregivers recorded a 10% increase in sleep efficiency  among residents who used it. Sleep efficiency is a calculation that represents the ratio of time in bed to time spent sleeping. The less time we take falling asleep and the more time we stay asleep, the better our sleep efficiency.

In addition to sleep efficiency, elders who regularly used light tables displayed a substantial decrease in depressive symptoms and agitation. Thus, it is important that our elders receive as much natural daylight as possible during the day, especially in the winter months. In addition, it is vital that at night we begin to eliminate unhealthy sources of light for two or more hours before bedtime.

Fibromyalgia is a disorder that is marked by fatigue and sleep issues. As an individual who has learned to manage fibromyalgia for four decades, I have developed what I term “sleep rituals” to help alleviate the sleep problems that are inherent with the disorder. The following are some of the techniques and rituals that I have found are helpful for falling asleep and enhancing beneficial, sound sleep.

  • Reduce screen time in front of television and electronics in the evenings for at least two hours before bedtime. These devices emit bluish-white light, which promote wakefulness rather than sleepiness.
  • Dim the lights at night a few hours before turning in for the night. This produces a calm, soothing environment for the gifted elder.
  • If the older adult needs some light when getting up during the night, use a soft nightlight placed at a strategic spot to assist in navigating the dark. Some residential facilities now use softly lighted door frames, rather than bright hallway lights. Soft lights guide residents safely without encouraging wakefulness.
  • Find an activity helps the gifted elder wind down at the end of the day. It may be reading with a small reading light, sketching, knitting, doing a jigsaw or word puzzle that is not overly challenging, or listening to relaxing music. Any type of quiet activity that can be developed into a nighttime ritual will serve as a trigger, telling one that it is time for the mind and body to prepare for sleep.
  • Sounds from Nature – ocean waves, rain, ripples from a stream – are relaxing and useful as sleep aids. One of the treasured gifts from a son who understands my sleep difficulties is a sleep sound machine that generates these and other natural sounds.
  • Some find aromatherapy helpful. Lavender, chamomile, bergamot, and sandalwood are some scents that come to mind. A few drops of one of these essential oils on a cotton ball placed near one’s pillow may be beneficial.
  • Deep breathing, muscle relaxation, or guided imagery may be useful in falling asleep. I have a number of scenarios of favorite places that I have visited – a restful beach, camping in the mountains,  and others, that I use as guided imagery visualizations to relax and prepare me for sleep.
  • Sleep experts tell us to try to go to sleep and to awaken at the same time every day. This sets up our natural circadian rhythm. Also, if a nap is needed during the day, limit it to a fifteen minute or so power nap in the early afternoon. 
  • Exercise during the day is important, but it also vital that we exercise early enough during the day to allow our bodies to cool down from exercise into a more sleep receptive state. A good friend and colleague, one of the most gifted individuals I know, is a runner. He found as he started to age that he had to switch the time of his afternoon  runs to earlier in the day in order not to interfere with his sleep at night.

These are just a few of the sleep techniques I have found that work for me and for others. What are some strategies that promote your healthy sleep?

Sleep tight!

Photo: Riku Lu, Dream Dandelion on Flickr, 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This blog article is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page February 2018 Blog Hop on Sweet Dreams. I thank my friends at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page for their inspiration, support, and suggestions over the last two decades. You can see blogs of others here.

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My ~ Much Better Late ~ New Year

My ~Much Better Late ~New Year

Tomorrow, January 6, 2018, is my New Year’s celebration. Despite the fact that my family and friends celebrated on January 1, tomorrow marks the beginning of a brand new phase of my life, post-cancer. You see last year, 2017, was not one of my better years. In May, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In June, I had a lumpectomy, followed by months of chemotherapy, four infusions every three weeks, beginning in August and ending in late October. Subsequently, in mid-November, I began radiation – 34 treatments – which end today.  I realize that most of my online friends and many friends who live at a distance were unaware of these happenings because I chose to share only with family and a few friends. Readers and friends would have no knowledge of my situation unless they saw me with my chemo head covering or during the weak and difficult weeks after an infusion. So this is not only my New Year’s celebration, it is also my coming out party. Thus, as it is a tradition to make resolutions at the beginning of a new year, I would like to share my own.

Firstly, I will continue to savor and to celebrate the astonishing miracle that is life, along with the exhilarating  recognition that through life we are all connected to the ever-creative spirit of the universe. Some of us choose to call that spirit, that prime mover, Creator God. As do I. Along with the cancer, I have been blessed with grace and gratitude for an intense awareness of my connection with our creator. It is a connection that wrapped me in love during some of the darkest moments of chemo and  through the most painful days that visited me during radiation as the treatments progressed. Even with the deep depression that I felt in the depths of the inky, black, fog of non-feeling that would set in within a few days after each chemo infusion, I could feel that I was not fighting alone and that my suffering was shared. It was clear that my task was to transform suffering into an affirmation of life. Perhaps my readers on Facebook noticed that I endeavored to make nearly all my posts affirm the higher values of love, justice, and peace. In summary, I have a renewed reverence for the divine and the universe achieved through the lens of faith.

My second resolution is to never let go of the gratitude and the joy that I feel as I walk into the future. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the support of family and friends during the past eight months. Without my strong and loving husband, I am sure I would not have emerged from the treatments with the success I feel at being “bent, but never broken” (his words). Along with my joy is an understanding that I am tasked with helping others to experience joy as well. Thus, though a shy person, I find it so much easier to smile and greet those that I meet. I feel the bubbling of joy in my throat when I FaceTime with our grandson or talk to loved ones. I have rediscovered my singing voice. Even though it was once very good and its quality has deteriorated, I belt out the words and the melodies with gusto. I find myself breaking into song for the slightest reason.

The third and last resolution I share stems from my thoughts as I debated whether to undergo chemotherapy or not. You see, I had the choice of refusing it. My tumor was Stage 1 with no lymph nodes affected. Usually, those findings require only surgery followed by radiation. However, because of the type of tumor it was, it was determined that I was at high risk of recurrence and it was recommended that I undergo both chemo and radiation. My age, plus other medical conditions were factors that could have swayed me not to endure chemotherapy. However,  phrases that kept popping into my head were, “My dear husband and my cherished sons are not ready to play  by themselves yet,”  and, “I need time to be sure my spirit is in the right place.” These thoughts became blessings throughout the process!

In response to my decision to proceed with the full protocol of chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone blocker, I began to simplify, to cherish each minute with my loved ones, and to organize our lives in a way that, when we do pass, our children will not be left with chaos. I’m not there yet, but will continue to work toward that goal. As for my spiritual being, the  meditation and devotion time that my husband and I spend together each morning has a whole new dimension for me. As I shared earlier, I am much more keenly aware of being connected and blessed and spend more time in gratitude throughout the day. In many ways, my name – Joy – has become my being for the first time in a long time.

Happy New Year!

* Photo – “Ribbon of Hope” by Maf04. On Flickr, Creative Commons, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Finding Sanctuary

Belintash Sanctuary*

    I am sitting beside a pool at a southern resort. Surrounding me are the sounds of children’s voices, country music, quiet ripples, and the more insistent splashing of water. I am in sanctuary.  The children’s voices, country music, and splashing of water do not distract and the ripples serve as a soft accompaniment to my meditation. Sanctuary is a place I seek more often as I age. Sanctuary is a space that, in my opinion, is a right of all gifted elders.

    Sanctuary most often connotes a sheltered, protected place. In my mind it is not necessarily a physical place, rather it is the placid inner space in which we rearrange the furniture of our mind in such a way that we create harmony and quietude.  Terry Hershey, in his book, Sanctuary: Creating a Space for Grace in Your Life, wrote that finding sanctuary is intentional. It is a time when we search for the sacred in the ordinary; in Hershey’ words, “refilling of the chalice of being with spirit.” 

    The lives of gifted elders are often filled with the directives of others, telling us to eat well, to take it easy, not to worry. In addition, for some gifted elders as they age, cognitive changes may cause anxiety as they struggle to maintain an optimum level of functioning. Constant noise in the residential care environment also contributes to difficulty in finding one’s healing balance. These factors and others highlight the need for gifted elders to find the restorative benefits that sanctuary offers.

   Where do I find sanctuary as a gifted elder? First and foremost I find any natural setting allows me to quiet my mind, gather my thoughts, and engage in soul care.  There are several favorite spots for my reverie, our front porch or a deck overlooking water, a bench in a clearing in our local arboretum, or walking along a beach. I am sure that you, my reader, can add other perfect spaces to the list.

    However, even when I have no access to the natural world, sanctuary is an intentional choice I find I need to make often, and more so as I age. It is there that I can sort out the realities of aging and process the losses of friends and family as well as the physical and mental losses that aging brings. In sanctuary I can learn to accept the “never-agains” along with the gifts of elderhood. I make peace with myself and with the world.

Where do you find Sanctuary?


Hershey, T. (2015). Sanctuary: creating a space for grace in your life. Chicago, IL: Loyola Press.

*Photo by Filip Stoyanov, Belintash Sanctuary  on Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
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This blog article is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page September 2017 Blog Hop on Philosophical/Spiritual Anxiety. I thank my friends at Hoagies’ Gifted  Page for their inspiration, support, and suggestions over the last two decades. You can see blogs of others here.