Tuesday, March 20, 2018



This is a true story.  It happened in Connecticut many years ago.  Sometimes I get caught up in the annoyances of aging and let the good stuff, the valuable lessons slip to the back burner.  More often my spirit is revived by recalling the beauty and necessity of simplicity.   I live in the Pacific Northwest now, but New England will always be home and Helen will always be remembered.

 She slipped in the door quietly.  She reached her right hand down to the burlap bag that was hanging from a piece of clothesline pulled taut across her torso.  Her long, gray braid fell across her shoulders.  She rolled her fingers around the silky threads dangling over the top of the sack and, one by one, gently pulled out ten ears of corn, placing each plump, green ear along the length of the mahogany reception desk.  The old woman, wrapped in a shabby, brown coat and wearing muddy work boots, was in our medical office for her yearly physical.  On subsequent visits zucchini, potatoes, and green beans appeared.  And every fall juicy apples from her orchard rolled out of the sack.  She was a lifelong New England farmer and remained a patient of ours for a number of years.  She brought fruits and vegetables for everyone on staff whenever she had an appointment.  But the food bounty shared paled in comparison to the extraordinary treasure of her presence.  Her name was Helen and everyone connected to our Connecticut family medicine practice who came into contact with the woman longed to be like her.

Odd things happened when Helen walked into the office for her appointments.   The chatter in the waiting room stopped. The staff went from high speed scurrying to slow, easy steps.  A palpable calm came over the room. Helen always smiled, not a big toothy grin, just a pleasant smile that seemed more for her than for show.   Clear, emerald eyes danced to the soft tones of her voice.  An unassuming “good morning” brought everyone on staff (including the doctor) to her side.   We fought over whose turn it was to take her vitals and who would assist in her exam.   And not one of us got antsy or annoyed when the waiting room grew packed while the doctor deliberately took forever with her visit.  When she left, everyone in the office was a little calmer for the rest of the day.  The moments of unexplained composure continued with each of Helen’s appointments, until her health declined and she was admitted to an extended care facility near family.   Several weeks later, I was in New Haven having breakfast with a girlfriend who worked as a nurse.  She had just gotten off a double shift.  “You must be exhausted,” I commented.  “Not really,” she said.  “I actually requested to stay on through the night.”   She explained that a very ill patient in the skilled nursing home had taken a turn for the worse.  The woman was so loved that the doctors, nurses, and aides all clamored to be with her in the final hours.  She had slipped away during the night with the entire staff at her side.  “We wanted one last moment in Helen’s presence before the mystery was lost forever,” said my friend.  “Everyone wanted to be with her, be like her, and yet no one knew exactly what that meant.   What we did know was that her existence was special.  Helen was a soul beyond the norm.”  Listening to my friend, I was unable to speak.   But I understood the magic.

While Helen wasn’t interested in computers or other modern-day gadgets, spiritually it seemed to those of us who met her that she was light-years ahead of the world.  Some said Helen was a gift.  She owned a serenity that had nothing to do with anyone else, yet everyone gleaned a calming moment from her, soaking up her quiet aura as if it was liquid gold.   Being in the company of Helen was akin to entering into a state of relaxation.  She replaced the bombardment of life with a tranquility that took a person deep into themselves to the experience of a breath softening, a heart slowing, a mind escaping the mundane to rest for a time on the mystique of a woman who stopped the nonsense.  She exhibited the very real possibility of being able to be at peace, from the inside out, with one’s place in the universe.  Her presence connected one living soul to another at a level unrecognized in a driven society.   Many believed she was not of this world.  How often it was said that Helen was an angel.  How often I wondered if a person had to be born that way. Or did I simply not know where to begin?  Today I do my best to work on the Helen lessons.  Her teaching by showing not telling reminds me that I can experience my own path of harmony in a turbulent world.  At any given moment I can stop, inhale the magnificence of life and my connection to it all and exhale a silent thank you.  I have a remarkable teacher on my shoulder.  Doubt I’ll ever get to her level of personal peace, but what a privilege it is to try.  What a gift to have known her.  May we all replace, at least for a time, the bombardment of life.  Let us reach deep for that inner serenity waiting to be experienced and shared.   With love and gratitude for my encounters with an extraordinary woman, I pass the gift of Helen along to you, dear readers.    

Best wishes from THIS OLD GIRL.

Books from Marshall Studio www.carolemarshallstudio.com

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


Did you happen to catch the two elderly ladies on TV the other night?  They had been lifelong friends and were celebrating their birthdays.  They walked regularly, keep themselves neat and trim, and were social.  When asked about their longevity, one shared with a smile that she had a beer and potato chips every night.  These gals were clearly happy.  Both were turning one-hundred-years-old. 

When I was getting my writing career going, I worked part-time as a fitness trainer in a hospital wellness program.  My favorite exerciser was Mac.  He was small and frail, his pulse was close to impossible to detect, and his blood pressure was quite low.  Mac was one-hundred-years-old.  On one particular day in class he wobbled some getting up from the chair, leaning with both hands on his walker for support.  He concerned me, so I linked an arm through his and applied a death grip to the underside of his forearm.  Mac smiled and patted my other hand that was tightly attached to his upper arm and we shuffled toward a stationary bike.  I adjusted the seat, helped him climb on, and secured his feet on the pedals and hands on the bars.  He pushed one foot down and the pedals and handlebars began a slow rotation.  His leg and arm muscles quivered.  I stepped closer.  His body stabilized and he pedaled a little harder.  I was worried.  What if a foot slipped off the pedal and he fell?  What if he passed out?  What if his hundred-year-old heart just quit? 

     “Tell me how you’re feeling, Mac,” I asked in an insistent voice.

He grinned and pedaled faster.

     “How hard do you feel you’re working?” I quizzed.

He winked, raised both thumbs up, and began to sing.

     “On the road again….Just can’t wait to get on the road again.”
The others in the class howled with delight and Mac continued on with his Willie Nelson tune.  I knew right then I wanted to age happy. 

One of the major components of good aging boils down to the daily practice of opting for happy, choosing a good aging attitude no matter the terrain.  I don't always do this well.  Sometimes I choose to whine - like when I had to get hearing aids.  But then I realized I could chat with my little grandson without saying "what" all the time and I decided to be happy about that.  I learned from my association with older exercisers that the issues we encounter through the aging process aren't in control of our attitude.  

Back to the woman who said she had a beer and chips every night - well, in my opinion her happy attitude speaks volumes about her long life.    

Cheers from THIS OLD GIRL.

Aging in Good Spirits articles and hardcopy books available on this link  https://form.jotform.com/63478274474972
(articles downloaded to your email)
You can read more about Mac and the wellness program in my book Maximum Fitness-Minimum Risk, A Simple How-to Wellness Guide for Folks with Heart Disease, Diabetes, or COPD.  Original hardcopy available at above link.   Updated ebook version available www.carolemarshallstudio.com 


Thursday, March 8, 2018


I wrote the following piece a few years ago.  Thought I'd share it here.  Keep up those good spirits.  


One of my wonderful sons is relocating back to the Pacific Northwest and is temporarily staying with me through the moving process.   I love it when a son comes home, even if it’s temporary.  I’m blessed with three great guys and I enjoy spending time with them.   I also like to kid them about their graying temples and their own children quickly becoming adults.  But until yesterday, I didn’t give much thought to any one of them noticing my aging.   Since I raised them to be considerate and respectful and to pull their own weight, I figure the son who is temporarily home helps me carry bundles from the car, paints my patio, and totes the garbage to the curb because he is and does all of the above.  


So, yesterday I’m in the backyard playing with the dog.  I throw the ball, he runs madly to fetch and bring it back.   Forgetting my own strength (I do workout everyday), I lob the ball high and, not for the first time, it lands on the roof of the house.  The dog’s whining brings my son outside. 

     “His ball is on the roof, right in the rain gutter,” I say.  “He always whines pathetically until it’s back down on the ground.”

     “What do you mean by always, Mom, you’ve done this before?”

     “Every once in a while,” I reply.

My son hoists the ladder that happens to be right there in the yard, braces it open, and starts up toward the ball in the gutter.  

     “What do you do when this happens and I’m not here?” he asks. 

     “I do just what you’re doing,” I say.

I might have heard a little grunt of disapproval from climbing son, but I can’t swear to it.  My hearing’s not what it used to be. 

     “Okay, Mom, no more climbing up ladders for you.  I’m settling close by.  You can call me now for these things.  Did you hear me, Mom?”

Like I said, hearing’s not what it used to be.  And didn’t I raise him to be polite and considerate.  Good to see those traits come out; cause the boy isn’t on that ladder because Mom is old. 


 Aging well articles (see earlier blogs for info) available on this link  https://form.jotform.com/63478274474972
(articles downloaded to your email)

Best wishes from THIS OLD GIRL.

Saturday, March 3, 2018


Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines wellness as, "the quality or state of being in good health, especially as an actively sought goal."  Having heart disease, diabetes, or lung problems does not take you out of the running for achieving a state of good health.  In fact, some people find themselves in better shape after the diagnosis.  The blinders come off, habits are evaluated, new behaviors are established, and the desire for improved quality of life sets the wheels in motion.  For many, good health does become an actively sought goal, but achieving it in a sound and reasonable manner means keeping a healthy focus on your illness.  A hospital-affiliated wellness program is designed to promote the highest possible conditioning while working with the intricacies of your illness.  It is one of the best support systems available to the cardiac, diabetes and COPD patient.

The above paragraph is from my book Maximum Fitness-Minimum Risk, A Simple How-to Wellness guide for Folks with Heart Disease, Diabetes, or COPD.  I wrote the book because as a certified personal trainer working in a wellness program I saw firsthand enormous benefits.  From exercise avoiders, to former athletes, to folks too busy, I saw positive change.  One avid avoider says, "It's a fast hour of the dreaded 'E' word.  Even though I know it's good for me, I would stop after five minutes without people to talk to."  I wrote the book because I care.  And because I think you should as well.  Also, because I care, if you're not a book person  there's the option of three individual articles.   How to Exercise Safely with Heart Disease, How to Exercise Safely with Diabetes, How to Exercise Safely with COPD. 

With the right mindset, the right tools, and a little help we can all age in good spirits.   

Here's link to articles and original hardcopy of book.

(articles downloaded to your email)

Here's website for Amazon link to updated ebook.

Best wishes from THIS OLD GIRL.