Rebuilding Together: How to Help the Seniors in Your Community

There is strength in numbers, so by banding together we can accomplish much more than as separate individuals.

Together our team of volunteers completely repainted the home of a retired nurse in need – in one day!

We weren’t the youngest chicks in the coop – but we were enthusiastic, and relentless…. CONTINUE READING >>  

Our Rebuiling Together team painted an entire house today! We were so honored to help out a retired nurse in need

There is strength in numbers, so by banding together we can accomplish much more than as separate individuals. That is the idea behind AARP.

AARP Celebration of Service volunteers getting geared up to help those in need in their community
Volunteers getting geared up to go out into the community to help those in need.

They are dedicated to enhancing quality of life for all as we age by harnessing our collective power.

Most of us know them by their magazine and great discounts, many of which we often forget to take advantage of, but AARP also partners with many charities to help older Americans in more life-changing ways.

Volunteers packing food at AARP's Celebration of Service. Every bit of this food was served at a family in need's table that very night!
That’s a LOT of corn! Every bit of this food was served at a senior in need’s table – that very night!

Our favorite part of their Life@50+ events is the Celebration of Service – the kick off to each of the get-togethers.

At the gathering in Miami, as part of the Drive to End Hunger, members joined with the Feeding South Florida Food Bank to pack 50,000 nutritious meals, and with the Society of St. Andrew to gather and package fresh produce donated by local farmers for delivery to at-risk seniors in the Miami area.

AARP volunteers put together FEMA Emergency Kits at Life@50+ in Miami during the Celebration of Service
Miami is hurricane territory – FEMA Kits are necessary!

Several other volunteering opportunities were also available, such as putting together FEMA Emergency Preparedness Kits and making greeting cards to be delivered to nursing and veterans facilities.

This is all a part of AARP volunteers striving to Create The Good.

We helped a senior in need with Rebuilding Together in Miami

We chose to join another group that was heading out into the community with Rebuilding Together to lend a helping hand to a senior homeowner in need.

It was exciting to get to play a small part in their mission – to be of service to the elderly, people living with disabilities, and military veterans facing difficult times, giving them the chance to remain in their homes by providing much needed repairs.

Rebuilding Together

For over twenty-five years, Rebuilding Together has modified, upgraded, or repaired 150,000 homes, with nearly 100,000 volunteers completing about 10,000 projects each year.

All of these are provided with no charge to the homeowners. Unfortunately, even those impressive numbers leave many people on waiting lists for much needed assistance.

WATCH: We collectively kicked butt at the Celebration of Service!
See if you can pick out your GypsyNesters (actually, it’s hard to miss us!)

Poor dear – she just couldn’t keep up anymore.

Our group of AARP volunteers became a precision painting crew for an elderly South Florida woman, a retired nurse who spent her entire life helping others.

Okay, perhaps we weren’t quite precision — or the youngest chicks in the coop — but we were enthusiastic, and relentless. We split into two teams, and while one tackled the outside, the other took on the interior.

Rebuilding Together volunteers paint a retired nurses home. It had fallen into disrepair

We scrubbed away mold, sanded and scrapped away old chipped paint, and then spread on the new.

We were honored to help a retired nurse in need by volunteering with Rebuilding Together. GypsyNester.com

We also had a wonderful time meeting and getting to know new friends from all over the country. The conversation, and laughter, flowed every bit as easily as the paint.

Within a matter of hours we had painted nearly the entire house – it was amazing how much we accomplished!

But for us this was just one day, Rebuilding Together is rejuvenating homes — along with people’s lives — all across America every day.

This couple spent their 60th wedding anniversary helping those in need with Rebuilding Together
We met a bunch of wonderful people that day, but our favorites were these two. They celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary by helping those in need! LOVED them.

Their network includes affiliates across forty-one states and in the District of Columbia, so a project could be happening right in your neighborhood.

To find one, just click here to see if there is a Rebuilding Together chapter near you.

If there are none nearby, they are always in need of donations as well.

We can promise that there is no better feeling than joining helping hands to provide a better place to live for folks who just want to stay in their homes.

Housing is not the only challenge that many seniors are facing. Hunger is a growing problem with our aging population.

Learn more about it  and some ways to help at Aging in Place.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

YOUR TURN: Can you believe how much we got done in one day? Have we convinced you to look into Rebuilding Together?

To Iberia and Beyond

That may not be exactly the famous Buzz Lightyear quote from Toy Story, but there just might be an infinite amount of interesting explorations on the Iberian Peninsula and beyond to Morocco. There is so much to uncover that the thought of managing a mission may seem daunting, if not impossible. Buzz would never let that stop him… CONTINUE READING >> 

That may not be exactly the famous Buzz Lightyear quote from Toy Story, but there just might be an infinite amount of interesting explorations on the Iberian Peninsula and beyond to Morocco. There is so much to uncover that the thought of managing a mission of discovery may seem daunting, if not impossible.

But don’t despair, Buzz would never let that stop him and neither should anybody else. There are specialists at Memphis Tours who plan these expeditions down to the last detail, so now Spain Morocco Portugal tours can be reality instead of a fantasy.

We have had the good fortune to visit Spain a few times, yet there remains a vast unknown space in the country awaiting our exploration.

Sure Barcelona and Madrid rank as two of our favorite European cities, and we would eagerly return for another look because we are fully convinced that we could never see Sagrada Família enough, or get tired of following in Hemingway’s footprints around the Spanish capital.

As explorers, we are even more thrilled at the prospect of seeing Seville. This is the final resting place of Christopher Columbus, and the port where both he and Ferdinand Magellan set sail in search of the East Indies five centuries ago.

But the history goes back much farther than that on the peninsula, as is evident when the tour stops at the ancient Roman ruins of Córdoba, or the amazing Alhambra palace and fortress in Granada.

Spain is not only historic; it is also gorgeous, as we can see by the Sierra Nevada Mountains, or the town of Cáceres, often called one of Spain’s most beautiful cities, or on the beautiful beaches of Marbella.

Another huge plus in our book for this trip is the chance to finally see something beyond the airport in Lisbon. Surprisingly, we didn’t get a good feel for the city while changing planes. I know, shocking!

The capital of Portugal has any number of impressive sights, including Cristo Rei, a three hundred feet tall statue of Jesus overlooking the city from across the bay. While it may not be as famous as Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, it stands about three times as high, with the caveat that two thirds of that is pedestal. That makes them about the same size.

We’ll also find another nod to the age of exploration at the Tower of Belem, built to commemorate Vasco da Gama’s successful expedition to India, a feat he accomplished by going in the opposite direction of his more famous predecessors.

In addition to Lisbon, while in Portugal there is a stop at Fatima, the world renowned site where millions of pilgrims come to see the place that the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared in 1917.

With all of that, we still think that the most exciting leg of the journey happens after taking a ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco.

This is a part of the world that we have longed to explore for ages. Landing in Tangier, we can imagine the Carthaginians arriving to settle the city some twenty-five hundred years ago.

Due to its strategic location on the southern shore of the narrow entrance to the Mediterranean, they may have been the first but they were hardly the last.

The Romans, Byzantine Empire, Portuguese, English, and eventually the Moroccan sultans all claimed this valuable port at one time or another.

Even more fascinating is Fez, the medieval capital of Morocco. The historic medina is a mind boggling maze of passages, paths, alleys, and corridors considered the best-preserved old city in the Arab world. This open air shopping madhouse is also the world’s largest car-free urban zone.

After stops in the former capital of Meknes, and the currant title holder Rabat, it is time to head back across the strait to Spain for a day in Toledo, known as the “Imperial City,” before finishing back in Madrid.

For those who might be wondering about Morocco’s two most famous names from film and song missing from this trip, if the desire to take the Marrakech Express or say “Here’s looking at you, kid” in Casablanca is just too strong, they are available on other itineraries.

After all, we started this story with a movie reference, only seems right to end it with one as well.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

We are happy to present this collaborative post to offer valuable information to our readers.

Cruising The Nile Checks off One of Life’s Biggest Bucket List Boxes

We have talked to a ton of travelers through our years of GypsyNesting, and one place inevitably appears on almost every single one of their pre-last waltz wish lists, Egypt, especially the Nile… CONTINUE READING >> 

Bucket List: The term for all of the things that we hope to have done before we, well, you know, kick the bucket. We have talked to a ton of travelers through our years of GypsyNesting, and one place inevitably appears on almost every single one of their pre-last waltz wish lists, Egypt, especially the Nile.

With Memphis Tours we have found a way to make that dream a reality. Their Nile River Cruise is perhaps the best possible way to see both the incredible ruins of Ancient Egypt and modern life along the banks of the river.

We can say this because we have sailed on countless river cruises over the past few years, and they have become by far our favorite way to travel. We love the comfort and convenience of not scrambling to catch planes, trains, and busses to get to every new destination, and especially never having to pack and unpack each time we move on.

We are also convinced that there is no better way to experience both the cities and the countryside. The waterways usually flow directly through the heart of the towns, allowing the ships to dock right in the center of everything. This makes them a perfect home base for exploring.

And away from the cities the boat glides quietly past scenic landscapes, often far from the noisy hustle and bustle of the highways. That means a peaceful passage and great photo opportunities.

All over the world civilizations formed along rivers, and no place is that more significant than Egypt. The Nile is truly the artery that has brought life to this land for millennia.

There is nowhere that this is more apparent than Luxor, site of the ancient city of Thebes. Because of the many temples on both sides of the river it is often called “world’s greatest open-air museum.”

The temple that gave the city its name was built around 1400BC, but the area was already well established long before then. Early construction on the nearby Karnak Temple likely began some thousand years prior.

Just outside of the city, the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens are some of the most significant burial sites anywhere in the ancient world.

Scores of tombs belonging to royalty, including pharos and queens from the seventeenth to the Twentieth Dynasties of Egypt, were discovered. Perhaps the most famous of these was King Tutankhamun, better known as King Tut, but Ramesses II and his wife Queen Nefertari were also interred here.

Ramesses II, also known as Ramesses the Great, is often portrayed as the pharaoh of the Exodus, most notably in the movie The Ten Commandments. The idea persists even though there is no archaeological evidence to definitively determine which ruler actually opposed Moses.

But because he was one of the Egyptian Empire’s longest reigning pharos and the timing is plausible, there is a reasonable chance it is true, so we could hardly consider the box on our bucket list checked without seeing his temple too.

With its iconic statues of huge seated figures on the face of the shrine, this is certainly one of Egypt’s most famous landmarks and luckily there is no problem getting there, the boat can float right to it on Lake Nasser.

Among all of these ancient wonders, the lake stands out as a modern marvel.  When the Aswan Dam was completed in 1970 it not only controlled flooding on the mighty river, it created one of the world’s largest man-made lakes.

The lake covers an area that was once part of Ancient Nubia, a lesser known civilization that at one time rivaled Egypt as the supreme power of the region, and Memphis Tours Nile River Cruise visits some of its ruins as well.

It is discoveries like this that manage to keep us from ever finishing our list. It is always growing with the more we travel and learn.

But we still have hope that we might see it all before we pack our last suitcase, cash in our chips, sleep with the fishes, bite the dust, shuffle off this mortal coil, buy the farm, push up daisies… you know, kick the bucket.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

What’ on your Bucket List? Let us know below:

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Things We Wish We’d Known BEFORE We Sent Our Kids to College

It’s that time of year again, and many new empty nesters are sending a fledgling off to college for the first time. Here are some DOs and DON’Ts from your seasoned GypsyNesters on how to get through that first semester without losing your mind.

 1. Don’t start off on a bad note. It’s hard to let our kids go. The day our babies head out on their own is a tough one for any parent. Because of her self-awareness about her emotional outbursts, Veronica… CONTINUE READING >> 

The GypsyNesters

It’s that time of year again, and many new empty nesters are sending a fledgling off to college for the first time.

Here are some DOs and DON’Ts from your seasoned GypsyNesters on how to get through that first semester without losing your mind.

1. Don’t start off on a bad note. It’s hard to let our kids go. The day our babies head out on their own is a tough one for any parent. Because of her self-awareness about her emotional outbursts, Veronica opted to stay home with the younger kids while David took our eldest to college.

Says Veronica:

“I bravely smiled and waved as they cleared security and headed toward the plane — then sat in my car in the airport parking lot and cried like Tammy Faye Bakker on the second day of her period. It was a regular air-sucking, mascara-dripping, please-God-nobody-see-me sob fest.”

But it wasn’t in front of our daughter. Or all of the potential friends she would be meeting for the first time at the university.

It could have been a lot worse — we could have done this (from a comment on our post here):

“At my son’s freshman orientation, one of the deans said that he had to go TELL the parents of a certain freshman that no, they couldn’t sleep in their RV in the parking lot ‘just to make sure everything is all right his first night.’ Thank GOD college professionals don’t let us parents give in to our own worst intentions!”Holly Robinson


2. Do wait a couple of weeks before cleaning her bedroom.
Veronica learned this the hard way:

“To stay busy, I dove straight into cleaning up our daughters room — and straight down memory lane. I ended up surrounded by a bunch of her friends’ unreturned borrowed clothes, Kleenex and a heavy dose of self pity.

3. Don’t expect access to grades. This awakening came our way when we thought we’d receive a report card after first semester midterm exams. As involved parents we were accustomed to seeing grades every quarter, and relied heavily on them for guidance, planning and encouragement. We didn’t expect the old sign-the-report-card routine, but it sure seemed like we were important enough participants in the university process to warrant a peek at a progress report.

After all, we were the ones writing the tuition checks, right?

Wrong. College students are protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) which expressly forbids a college or university from disclosing grades to parents.

From the University of Michigan‘s website:

“If you wish to find out about your student’s grades and academic standing, the best approach is to ask your son or daughter directly. College students are generally willing to share information about grades and academic performance with their parents as they assume greater responsibility for their own lives and are able to discuss academic issues with their parents as mature adults.”

4. Do recognize that the meltdown phone calls are not always meltdowns. Sometimes they are simply emotional ventings. We were both lucky enough to have worked in academic settings prior to our daughter’s departure. We would regularly see students in tears on the phone with a parent, only to skip off happily with their friends moments after hanging up.

5. Do learn to text message. It only took a month of frustration before we upgraded to a phone with a QWERTY keyboard. The kids these days are right: texting is a great way to stay in touch about the little things.

6. Don’t leave comments on their Facebook posts. An online relationship with a college kid is tricky business. All it takes for a swift unfriending is an embarrassing parental comment in front of every friend they have. In order to keep your social media stalking privileges, send a quick, private text message or e-mail instead.

7. Do learn to ignore the background noise. Colleges are full of youth and energy. It is always going to sound like a wild party is going on in the background of your phone conversations.

8. Don’t meddle with professors. A big part of a college education is learning to deal with authority figures in a professional manner. Mom or Dad jumping in to lambaste a professor will not be helpful in facilitating this. Is it ever appropriate for a parent to contact a professor?

“No,” says Ohio State Lecturer Jason Payne, “Once you are in college, you are supposed to be an adult.”

9. Don’t hover.

Says Payne,

“I believe that smothering parental behavior at the university level stifles a student’s imagination and creative thinking. The danger is that they lose a healthy sense of wonder, the immenseness of all there is to know.”

Heady stuff that. And we personally refused to be a part of it.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

YOUR TURN: Are these tips helpful? Do you have any to add?

Saying Goodbye to a Parent

It has taken a little while for me to be able to put this out publically. My mother passed away March 23rd. I am not someone who posts every life changing event on…

CONTINUE READING >> 

Mom & our oldest in 1986

It has taken a little while for me to be able to put this out publically. My mother passed away March 23rd.

I am not someone who posts every life changing event on Facebook (I know, I know, odd since everywhere we go ends up there) , some things I just feel like keeping private.

But a little time has gone by and I realize that this is an experience that many of us are going through at our age, so I thought I would share.

Mom was 85 years old, so this was not a tragedy. She had been in and out of the hospital countless times over the past few years. Her body was failing, but her mind was still razor sharp.

That made for perhaps the best relationship we had in our entire lives over the last couple of months of her life. My sister and I were tasked with moving both parents into an assisted living facility following my mother’s third stay in skilled nursing care.

Obviously they couldn’t live on their own any more.

Dad was fine, just bring what I need and I’ll get by, but mom wanted to go through every item in the old house to decide whether to keep it with her, give it away, or put it in storage.

This meant that me and li’l sis had to bring box after box to the new home for mom to look at each and every item of clothing, photos, books, mementos, shoes, and practically everything else we removed from their old house.

Elizabeth James 1933 – 2018

As those memories flowed, any and all of the difficult times that I had with my mother over the years faded away. We talked more intimately than we ever had, laughed, held hands, and just enjoyed each other’s company.

The process took three weeks, and two days after we finished she was back in the hospital.

At first this stuck me as incredibly frustrating. We just did all of that for nothing.

But then it dawned on us, we had shown mom her life. A very slow motion version of the cliché life passes before your eyes before we die. When that was finished, so was she.

Within two days it was clear that this time was different. She was not going back to some sterile nursing care facility or assisted living, she was going home.

She knew this, and told her doctors in no uncertain terms.

At one point a doctor was so stunned by her blunt insistence to be allowed to die with dignity that he turned to me, my father, and sister to ask, “Are you all onboard with this?” Of course we were. This was a huge blessing for my sister, who has medical power of attorney for my folks, because she was relieved of the burden of making the decision to let mom go in peace.

As she prepared to go into hospice, she had the chance to speak with all of her five children and six grandchildren to say goodbye.

Three of those grandchildren are mine, and I cried each time as I took the phone from mom’s frail hand, but I also told each of them how much inspiration as to how to face our final hours I had been privileged to witness.

After that day she never regained consciousness, and two days later my mother, Elizabeth Fitzgibbon James, slipped peacefully away after receiving a goodbye kiss from her husband of 65 years.

These remarks I made at her service perhaps capture my feelings better, since I wrote them as she passed away.

Several of us in this room truly owe our very existence to mom. An obvious fact, but one easily overlooked as we went through our lives preoccupied with our own day to day. In my case, that also means that my three wonderful offspring would not be here if not for mom. How could I possibly ever thank her enough for that? I can’t, but thank you mom.

Perhaps that is why we often refer to the earth as “mother,” mother’s are that important. Everything that has ever happened in now two generations of lives is directly because of her.

Mom was also a companion; obviously everyone here was touched by her in some way, but one man far more than all of us. About a week ago I picked up dad in the morning to go down to the hospital to see mom and he told me of a revelation he had just had while praying the rosary.

In a quiet moment of meditation he heard himself being asked as a young man “What if I offered you a loving companion for 65 years?” With tears welling in my eyes I told him, “now that’s a deal you would take!”

These past few weeks have remarkably been some of the very best times mom and I have ever spent together. An amazing blessing.

While moving her to Larksfield, Kathryn and I brought her boxes of nearly everything she owned for her to decide whether to keep or give away. We didn’t realize it at the time, but it was almost as if we were showing her her life.

During the process we got closer than we had ever been. She was tired and in pain but forged ahead like a trooper. One evening I was sitting with her on the bed and she quietly said to me, “David, I’m done.” I instinctively knew that she didn’t mean finished with our task for the day. Two days later she was in the hospital and in a few more she was mercifully taken from this world.

I have to say that those last few days were about the most impressive thing I have ever seen. She was perfectly lucid, which gave her the opportunity to say goodbye to everyone among those two generations I mentioned moments ago.

She clearly, more like emphatically, communicated her wishes not to linger or suffer to her doctors, all with overwhelming dignity, along with a healthy dose of the best of her wry wit. It was without a doubt the finest example of how to face life’s final chapter we could have ever been offered.

So now it is her time to soar, to be raised up on eagle’s wings, borne on the breath of spring, made to shine like the sun, and held in the palm of his hand.

How many times did we as kids come barging through the back door yelling “mom, I’m home?”

Well now it’s her turn to call out, “I’m home!”

 

David, GypsyNester.com