On October 3rd, my maternal grandmother, Peggy Paparella, celebrated her 80th birthday. As you can see from these photos, she's vibrant and beautiful (with remarkably great legs) at this age and seems ready to take on a new decade. She has filled her life with love, creativity, service, and travel, and plans to keep doing what she's doing. (It's working, after all.) She seems to really enjoy her life and the love she shares with my grandpa, who she's been married to for fifty-five years.
Grandma has figured out how to wed her creativity with her desire to be of service. She does this in several ways. She gave birth to six children, which any parent will tell you, demands a great many acts of service. Nowadays her creativity takes the form of cooking, baking, sewing, crocheting, knitting, and crafting. She donates many of her hand-made items to be sold at auction to benefit the local Hospice. Other items she gives away to one of her thirty-one descendants.
So how is it possible to be so prolific while maintaining her energy and joy? Grandma hasn't always had an easy life, and her childhood and adolescence was difficult at times. Yet she rarely complains. She practices kindness and forgiveness and has a soft, tender heart. Grandma also has a very active spiritual life, praying many times a day and starting each day with a written back-and-forth conversation with Jesus. In my family we say "if Grandma's praying for you, watch out." God seems to listen to her more than the rest of us, so if I have a tough situation, I call up Grandma and Grandpa and I don't even have to ask; I know they are praying for me. For years they were praying for my future husband, so you know I'm not kidding around when I discuss the efficacy of their prayers and the special place Grandma has in God's heart.
Grandma credits her physical health to "living with a man who likes to eat well and eat healthily," which makes her want to eat healthily too. She said this with the barest hint of chagrin; grandma's love for bread, pasta, and sweets is well known and has been passed along to many of her progeny.
She keeps things low stress, and says she doesn't have much anxiety in her life, except, she adds with a twinkle in her eye, when Grandpa is driving their big RV, which is one of their favorite ways to travel.
She also keeps her mind active by reading a lot. She recently told me she'd just gotten back from the library with a huge stack of books, which she'll consume quickly. When her supply of unread books starts to dwindle, she starts getting nervous about running out of reading material. She wrote me that, "Time to read a good book is one pleasure that I reward myself after I get my work done on some days. Other days it could be a craft project or baking cookies or knitting something special for the great grand babies."
She says "A wise woman once told me, wake up in the morning and make a plan to do something that you'll enjoy." This idea of having something planned each day that you can look forward to, a way to get back the sparkle when life seems dull, exhausting, or depressing, has stuck with Grandma and helped her stay happy.