Hope

"Hope" by G.F. Watts, 1886.
“Hope” by G.F. Watts, 1886. This reproduction of the original work was won by Alma May Edwards in 1919 or 1920 at the age of 9 or 10.

Hope.  It’s what keeps us going, even when things get hard.  When I was a teen I was lucky enough to spend time with my grandmother.  She was an artist and she taught my siblings and me how to paint in her ceramic shop.  I always marveled at her talent.  She seemed to be able to pick up a brush and just create.  I struggled with that but she never gave up trying to show me how to do better.  We stayed up late playing card games and we waited up until she got off her swing shift as a floor supervisor at the local Sunsweet plant.  Then, we watched movies together late into the night. Granny was a woman who seemed to be able to do it all.

I remember the picture that hung on the wall in my Aunt Charlotte’s bedroom.  Charlotte was killed in a car accident when she was just 17.  I never knew her except through the stories told by my grandmother and my mom.  Charlotte was pretty much idolized by all who knew her and so anything that had belonged to her or represented her in any way was prized.  This picture of “Hope” hung above Charlotte’s bed.  Granny told me that one day, when she was “done with it”, I could have that picture.  Although my grandmother has been gone for 14 years, that picture took a detour to my uncle’s home.  Today, that picture came home to me.  I admit that I cried on the way home after picking it up from my cousins.  They had come to clean out his things after he moved in with one of his sons, and they saved “Hope” for me, just like Granny promised.

The picture was originally painted in 1886 by George Frederic Watts.  It is an image of a blindfolded woman sitting atop a globe.  She holds a lyre with her head bent down close to the instrument.  There is only one string intact.  When explaining the meaning of the painting, Watts says, “Hope need not mean expectancy. It suggests here rather the music which can come from the remaining chord”. This is a fitting explanation of the painting because indeed my grandmother won this painting as a young girl when all she had was one remaining cord.  You see there was a nationwide art contest and my grandmother labored long over the perfect picture to enter.  She was nine or ten years old at the time and as she walked to school the day that picture was due it was stormy.  The wind blew her picture from her hands and sent it tumbling away, ruined by the rain.  She arrived at school in tears. Her teacher told her to quickly draw something else to enter and she did.  She drew a picture of a little girl in a storm, with tears running down her face, her paper racing in the wind.  That hurriedly sketched picture won the contest and was displayed for a time at the Smithsonian.  Her prize was a reproduction of the painting by Watts entitled “Hope”.  It hung on her wall nearly all her life and will now hang on mine.

Some of us have many chords in our lyre, some of us have one.  There are times in our life when we make music easily and other times when we struggle to strum just one single wire.  As long as there is at least one chord we can make music. We may have to lean in closely to hear it, but there is music in each of us.  Perhaps the blindfold that Hope wears is so that she can look inside and not be distracted by the world. Watts has taught us a powerful lesson, and Granny gave me a gift of more than just a painting, but a reminder that it doesn’t take much to make music, it just takes hope.

Is it time to find a smaller nest? Downsizing made easier.


Family!

There often comes a time when the home where we are living just isn’t working anymore.  Whether it is trying to navigate stairs after a stroke, opening doors with arthritic hands, or just having a yard that is more work than you choose to manage at this time, the thought of downsizing and moving can be overwhelming. Luckily there are services today that can help with a variety of issues that will need to be addressed, from figuring out a way to stay in your home a little longer to getting help hauling off all those “treasures” that no one in the family seems to want.

How can I age in place?  There are modifications that can be made to your current home to help with a variety of issues.  If opening and closing doors has become difficult you may want to consider changing out standard door knobs to the lever-type.  These are much easier for arthritic hands to manage and can make a world of difference in accessing all the rooms in your home.  You can also hire someone to put in ramps to make navigating steps easier.  If your yard is more than you can handle, consider hiring a yard service to help with the maintenance.  You can even put puff paint (available at most craft stores) on the buttons on your microwave to help you distinguish the start, stop and number buttons.  All of these modifications can help you stay in the home you love longer.

Where will I go?  When you realize that it is time to downsize you need to sit down and assess your needs.  Meeting with family, close friends or trusted professionals such as doctors, attorneys or financial planners can help with this decision.  Know what your limitations are and remember to choose something that doesn’t just work today but can work into the future.  This may not be your last move but some of the options are a single story smaller home, a condominium, an independent living facility or even an assisted living facility.  Knowing where you plan to move to will help you know how many of your things you will need to keep.

I need to downsize, what do I do with my things?  Most of us have acquired quite a few possessions throughout life, and it can be overwhelming to know what to do with everything.  The first recommendation is that you “gift” away anything you can do without that you would like family or friends to have.  From Grandmas’ quilt to Daddy’s coin collection, give away the things that you planned for family members to take.  This makes it so you can be sure that the person you wanted to have it actually gets it.  For those things you don’t choose to gift away, consider a yard sale or an estate sale.

No one seems to want my doilies and bottle cap collection. It’s true that you probably won’t get a taker for everything you want to get rid of.  If you can’t give it away and you can’t sell it, consider donating it.  But make sure you are donating something of value.  If it really doesn’t have any value, perhaps the local landfill is the best place for it to be.  Yes, it’s true that one person’s treasure is another person’s trash.  Don’t’ take it personally, after all it is just “stuff”.

Downsizing will never be easy, but finding a service that can help you accomplish all of these tasks can certainly simplify it.  Simple Senior Transitions can help you through this process and reduce the stress and worry.