The Sound of Silence

The Sound of Silence

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There was something about my new neighbors Genevieve and Elmer that I didn’t comprehend. They were nice enough in all other respects. But they had this odd little quirk or two. It would be about thirty years later, long after they’d both passed, before I understood.

When my oldest son was three months old, we moved into a new (to us) house. It was at the end of a cul-de-sac, and at a lower level than the street up above us. One day, shortly after we moved in, I heard sirens on the street above, so I grabbed Christopher and dashed up the flight of steps between the two houses at the end of the block that led up to the higher street. An older house was directly across the street and the empty, grassy lot west of them had a grass fire at the far corner.

As we watched the firemen quickly dowse the flames, an elderly man walked over from the house and began chatting. “Would you mind bringing the baby over to meet my wife? She had a bee sting and she’s allergic, so she can’t walk over this far.”

I followed him back to his driveway, where his wife sat in a chair with an ice pack on her leg, watching the action from afar. That was the day I met Genevieve and Elmer and it was the start of a friendship that lasted until their deaths almost twenty years later.

Some people thought it strange, a 26-year-old whippersnapper being friends with this couple in their late 60’s. But it wasn’t odd to me. I’ve always had a soft spot for the elderly. It was like gaining a new set of grandparents late in life.

But there’s two things that I never understood at the time. First, was when Genevieve mentioned making an appointment at the nail salon to go get their toe nails trimmed. That seemed really weird to me. Especially if you’re on a tight budget and being very frugal in every other aspect of living. Why on earth would someone pay someone else to simply trim their nails? All you do is plop your foot up on the sink and cut them. It’s only been in the last year or two, as I’m discovering that it’s not quite as easy to just plop that foot up there anymore, that I comprehended exactly why Genevieve and Elmer treated themselves to the nail salon for this cumbersome procedure.

The other thing that was a mystery to me was the early dinners and the no driving after dark. They always ate supper around four in the afternoon. And on the rare occasions that they would treat themselves to a hamburger out, or a meal at Denny’s (usually with a coupon), they always went that early, or earlier, so that they’d be home well before dark.

I admit it. I secretly thought they were just being scardey-cats. After all, driving in the dark is no different than driving any other time of the day. Fortunately, I never confided how I thought they were being needlessly overly cautious. Because about five years ago, before I even hit the 60-years milestone, I had to make a trip to the airport after dark and had a startling realization. I hit a stretch that was under construction. There were barrels out, restricting the number of lanes, and they all had flashing red lights going and my eyes couldn’t make any of it out. It all blended together and I literally couldn’t tell where I needed to go, nor where I needed to stay away from. I almost just pulled over, stopped the car, and waited for daylight. But that wasn’t an option, so I kept inching along at barely a crawl and finally got through.

I thought of Genevieve and Elmer that night, and offered up profuse, silent apologies for the thoughts I’d had so many years earlier.

And time marched on – and night vision didn’t improve any. It kept getting worse. I found by the time I hit my 60th birthday that I was trying to avoid night driving as much as possible. It wasn’t as bad if I were on a familiar road, so if I had to come home after work in the dark, it was possible. I knew the twists and turns in the road and what to expect. It was the strange areas, where I couldn’t read the street signs at night and didn’t know where I was that was next to impossible.

One of my local libraries scheduled three presentations this year. One in September, October, and November. All from 7 pm to 8 pm. Although this wasn’t a route I frequently took, I was familiar enough with the area that coming home after dark didn’t concern me. It was the trip going that was full of craziness. At six o’clock in the evening the stream of cars headed west was bumper to bumper. All three lanes were full and it was a congested nightmare. But that was alright. It was daylight, and while it was an aggravating journey, I was comfortable making the trek.

Until November. A few days earlier, I realized that day light savings time had switched the time up an hour and at six o’clock it was now dark. Knowing how dealing with three solid lanes of red brake lights would affect my diminishing night vision, I knew that this wouldn’t be a drive I could make safely, not for the ten or so miles I needed to go.

What to do, what to do? I didn’t want to cancel at the last minute for such a seemingly insignificant reason. I also didn’t want to be an unsafe driver on the road – for my own good, and for the other drivers. So…I left an hour early and drove in the intense traffic during daylight – safely.

What surprised me is what happened when I got to the library – an hour early. I had a book in the car. I could have read. I was parked in front of a library filled with magnificent bound treasures. I could have gone inside and perused the volumes filling the shelves. I could have visited with the librarians inside. I had my phone. I could have checked email, browsed the internet, played games, or watched YouTube videos.

I did none of these things.

I sat.

In the dark.

For an hour.

Doing nothing.

It was amazing. I enjoyed the peace and solitude, spending time in reflection and thought instead of being in a rush of constant activity. I realized that even if I’m meditating or journaling, I’m still involved in an activity. I recognized how seldom I allow myself the luxury of just sitting.

I doubt when I was younger I could have simply sat in the dark for an hour and relished the stillness.

Ageing isn’t a bed of roses. There’s some prickly thorns in the process too. Diminished night vision and eyesight is one of them. But this unavoidable progression into years with increasingly higher numbers also brings with it the opportunity for growth and new appreciations. For this I am thankful.

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A Cheesy Potatoes Conundrum

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A Cheesy Potatoes Conundrum

As I’m getting older I’m noticing two different issues in my life that are getting stronger. Yet, they each seem diametrically opposed to each other. A few weeks ago, an order of cheesy potatoes highlighted that conundrum.

On one hand, I’m getting better at defining what I want – and don’t want – in my life. Now that I’ve reached the magical 60-mile marker this year, it’s about time! You’d think I would have learned this valuable lesson long ago. Oh, I’ve flexed my muscles on it here and there. But overall, I’ve allowed too much to simply happen. I’ve also allowed too much in my life that I don’t want. And I haven’t pursued my dreams and true desires with enough determination.

I’m getting better at being clearer about what I want my life to be like. Is it because I sense a running out of time? A feeling that I’d better get life how I want it now because there aren’t as many years left on this side of the journey as what I’ve come through yet?

On the other hand, I’ve also gotten better and letting go of things. I’ve learned that too often many of us let unimportant details and events derail our peace.

That day I drove between two different stores that I had to visit for my day job. Passing by Taco Bell, I made a quick trip through the drive-through and ordered my favorite shredded chicken taco and an order of Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes. Yum! I could smell the aromas the two miles to my next stop. By the time I pulled into the parking lot my stomach was rumbling in anticipation of the tasty flavors awaiting my consumption.

I ate the taco first, savoring every morsel. Then I rustled in the bag in search of the next delicacy…the potatoes. It’s a little quirk of mine, but I eat my favorite thing last so that the flavors of the favored dish are the last thing I taste. Their potatoes are always toasted perfectly and swimming in a melted cheese queso, topped with sour cream. After pulling out the little container I started digging in the bag for the fork.

No fork.

I looked again, digging under extra napkins.

Nada.

What? How can I eat these with no fork?

I didn’t want to drive two miles back to Taco Bell, and then another two miles back to the store just to get a utensil that should have been provided in the first place.

This happened on a week where I was making a concerted effort to take actions that would enhance a life that is more in line with what I truly want. I wanted this lunch and I wanted a fork to eat with. Isn’t having a life that you want part of having small things consistent with your desires also?

I found myself starting to get agitated about them not putting a fork in the bag. I’d already crumpled up the receipt and thrown it in the bag since I’d paid with cash and didn’t need the receipt. As the riled-up factor started raising, I pulled the receipt out of the bag. I knew there was a sweepstakes entry on the back, so I figured there would be a customer service number somewhere on it too. By golly, I was going to email in when I got home and complain about this.

And then the ‘other-hand’ part of the conundrum kicked in. So, they’d forgotten to insert one little itty bitty piece of plastic in the bag. Yes, it was inconvenient. But, was it important? Was the world going to fall apart? Overall, in the grand scheme of life, where did this rate? On a 1-10…not even a 1.

I threw the receipt back in the bag and ate the potatoes with my fingers. Yes, it was a little messier eating than I liked. But once the fingers were licked clean, and then wiped off good – since they did give me plenty of napkins – all was well. My tummy was happy. My hands were still clean. I didn’t waste the time and gas to drive four miles to go back and get a fork. And my life went on with no differences.

Maybe four issues, not two issues, came into play that day: Creating a life that I want, letting go of what isn’t important, finding a balance between the two, and choosing your battles. No, this issue certainly wasn’t worth a battle. As I get older I find myself a little wiser in balancing between the two opposing sides and sizing up whether an issue warrants a battle, or not.

Life didn’t come with an instruction book. We have to write our own. And even though there are days where I’m not enamored with the getting older part of life, I’m thankful that I’m still here and daily adding to my personal Life’s Instruction Book. Even if it takes an order of cheesy potatoes – with no fork – to bring some of these lessons home.

A Hat to Wear Proudly

Following is an excerpt from a current work in progress, Embracing 60.

A Hat to Wear Proudly

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Last night I stepped into the closet to retrieve a birthday present I’d stashed on a shelf and spied my embellished ball cap hanging on the wall. It’s a hat I’ve only worn once, yet I keep it hanging there to remind me of a lesson learned later in life.

Hand painted letters proclaim a truth it took me a long time to learn. ‘I’m the quiet one and proud of it.’

The ‘quiet one’ part of the statement isn’t what I’d learned. I’ve always known that. It’s the being proud part that has been a recent revelation.

I learned to accept and be proud of that aspect of myself about five years ago, which puts the lesson closer to the age of 55, and not 60. Yet, while the title of this book is Embracing 60, it’s really about embracing any age we are and being grateful for our deepening wisdom and maturity – whether that wisdom comes to us at 60 or 55, at 80 or at 30. Any day we can wake up a little wiser than we were the day before is a good day, and should be celebrated.

Back a few years ago, just prior to my decorating the ball cap, my better half and I were working on a special project. It involved getting together with two other friends most Sundays for about two months.

One of the friends — or should I say ‘friends-at-that-time’, as we’re no longer on speaking terms – was a challenge to spend a lot of time with. The common saying about friends coming into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime is very true. This particular friend was one of the friends for a reason – to teach a lesson. But, that lesson is an entirely different and lengthy story.

This lady, who I won’t name for obvious reasons, tended to dominate conversations. She was very verbose, a bit (a lot) on the pushy side, and…loud. I’m…not as loud. I’m usually fairly quiet in a group, and the larger the group gets, the quieter I get.

This one Sunday afternoon, we’d been out together for several hours. I kept trying to speak up about my opinions on an issue and kept getting cut off. Later I’d try again to interject my views and would get cut off again. Again. And again. And again. I finally reached a point where I was fuming. But at that point, I’m afraid to say anything, because I fear if I start to speak up, the pressure valve will go off and I’ll explode instead of calming stating my frustration and anger. So, in an effort to prevent an explosive moment, I walked outside.

Nancy, our other friend who is another mellow and soft spoken lady, joined me outside. “What are you doing out here by yourself?”

“Trying to calm down.”

“Oh. (Unnamed ladies name here)? She can be a bit dramatic at times.”

Rustling footsteps behind us announced the presence of my better half and ‘the now-ex-friend.’ I spoke up. “The dramatic doesn’t bother me. It’s repeatedly being talked over and interrupted.”

Lady X tried to placate me. “But you never speak up. You’re always the quiet one and the rest of us are so loud we just tend to take over.”

“I can be loud, too,” I protested. “Next week I’ll be the noisy one.” I spoke with steely regard. I planned on being that person too. I vowed to myself that the next week I’d be the most talkative one in the group.

On the way home I was already contemplating the hat I was going to make that week. Maybe even a t-shirt. I was going to proclaim my noisiness to the world, or at least to those at our next outing.

My brand new plans lasted until I crawled into bed and picked up the book I’d been reading. In One Man’s Love Story, Jason Hughes had a statement that spoke to me. “…it is about feeling a oneness and unity between body, mind, and soul, and perfectly accepting ourselves just the way we are.”

Ouch!

Perfectly accepting ourselves just the way we are.

I am not the noisy one. To think that I could suddenly transform myself into a verbose, boisterous woman taking control of the group and not letting them get a chance to talk is disregarding myself. It means I am not accepting myself just the way I am.

In spite of my revelation, I did proceed with my plans and made a special hat to wear the next week. When we met at our usual parking lot the next Sunday, I was sporting my newest creation. Topping my head was a black ball cap, embellished with paint and glitter. “I’m the QUIET one and PROUD of it!”

If getting older, whether the next milestone is a 60, a 70, or even a 30, means we keep learning these valuable lessons, then I’m all for it. Bring on the years!

Losing It – Or Not?

Losing It – Or Not?

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“How long are we supposed to keep the cards up?” Mary, my co-worker was confirming our plans as we worked on stocking some greeting cards.

“Until January 20th.”

“Until January?” The puzzled look on Mary’s face matched the confusion in her voice.

“No. No! July 20th. Not January. Don’t even ask me where that came from! We’re supposed to keep the Father’s Day cards up until then.”

“The Father’s Day cards?” Again, Mary has a look of utter confusion on her face.

“Ugh! No. Not Father’s Day cards. Graduation cards.”

Why did these wrong words keep rolling out of my mouth? It was starting to scare me. Now granted, we were both tired and had just finished a grueling holiday season that ran from Valentine’s Day, to Easter, to Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Graduation. We’d had more hours than either of us liked for the past four months and we were exhausted.

But, still…

I’d love to pass it all off as exhaustion setting in and my numb brain was feeling the effects. But what made it scary for me is my family history of Alzheimer’s, or Dementia. I know that there’s a medical difference between the two. I tried to look it up one time. I remember that one is treatable and one is not. However I don’t think many people understand the differences between the two and both diagnoses are used interchangeably in society in general, along with our own personal family.

One or the other, whichever one it is, all I know is that three of my four grandparents suffered from it, along with Papa Goss, my great-grandfather – Grandma Jones’ dad.

I was around eight years old when Papa Goss died. A year or so earlier than that, he’d had to be put in a home, because his mental condition had deteriorated so badly. Being so young, I don’t remember the particulars. I only remember the joking about it, about ‘going to Norwalk’, which was synonymous for ‘going crazy’, or ‘losing it’, having to give live in ‘the looney bin.’ When I think of it now, it seems callous and cruel, yet I know that wasn’t the intent. A devastating situation had intruded upon the family, unasked. There were two ways to react – we cry or we laugh. The family chose laughter. That was our coping mechanism to deal with something that none of us would wish on another living person.

Years later I heard stories about Grandma Cline, in her last years. I heard about the time there were guests in the house and Grandma entered the room stark naked. Now this was Grandma Cline we’re talking about. The woman who never showed more neck or arm than she had to. The most modest woman I’ve ever known. If it were earlier years, she would have been one that wouldn’t have dared show an ankle in public.

It took Grandpa Cline years to catch up with her. He lived until age 97. Unfortunately, his mind slowed long before his body stopped. I remember visiting Uncle Arnold’s house one weekend in Arizona, when Grandpa Cline was there visiting from Indiana. As I left the table to use the restroom, I overheard Grandpa asking Aunt Phyllis, “Who is that woman?”

Aunt Phyllis answered, “Why, that’s Patsy.” I wasn’t crushed, because I understood that Grandpa’s mind hadn’t been his own for quite some time.

And then Grandma Jones began to follow in her father’s footsteps. We could tell when Grandma’s mind began to slip. Fortunately it wasn’t in drastic ways and she was still able to live alone, independently, until her last stroke a few weeks before her death at age 85. But we could see the progression worsening slowly.

So, yes, when I stand there and mix up my months, and several minutes later mix up a holiday event, I panic.

I can guarantee you, when I get emails from my all-time favorite doctor, Dr. Andrew Weil, whenever they mention Alzheimer’s or Dementia…I open those!

I want to live to an old age – 85 to 95 sounds just about right to me. But I want to do in a healthy body, with full mental capacity.

So when a wrong word slips out of my mouth and I throw my hand over it, just ignore me. I’m trying to embrace life, all sixty years of it, and I want to stay sharp as a tack for the next twenty or thirty years too. Even if I end up joking about it ‘losing it’…because that’s the Jones family way…we’ll laugh ourselves out of anything.

I Fired My Sister Today

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I Fired My Sister Today

Yes, I did. Fired her. She deserved it, too.

There I was, working away in one of the stories I service, calmly putting out the newest greeting cards, minding my own business. The quiet ‘ding’ on my phone informed me I had a new text message. I pulled my phone from my pocket and saw a message from my sister.

BTW. You are older than zip codes. They started in the early 60’s.

Now really, Susan Elizabeth! Was that necessary? Did you really need to text me just to tell me I’m old?

Of course, after my ‘Gee. THANKS!’ reply where I pretended to be offended and in a bit of a huff, I had to retort back and remind her that she’s right behind me.

A little later, as I was chuckling to myself, I had to turn around and text my mom and report that I’d fired my sister, and why. (Reporting…tattle-taleing…same difference.)

Mom replied:

Yes, don’t you remember? We still lived at 740.

740 is our street address when we lived in Glendora. We moved from there in 1969, when I was 11. The funny thing is, at that age I wasn’t sending a lot of letters. (A lot as in…none.) But to this day, I still remember Glendora’s zip code. 91740. Maybe because it had our house address in the zip.

But, I didn’t remember zip codes starting then. It seems that zip codes have always been around. (Even though, being a lover and collector of vintage post cards I know that this isn’t so.) Naturally I had to come home and Google some information about when zip codes came into being.

Darn. Don’t you just hate it when you have to admit that your younger sister is right? Again? This is the second time in the past two weeks. Enough already. I don’t really care for the taste of crow.

But right she was about the zip codes.

In 1943, the earliest zip code began as postal zones. The volume of mail was increasing, having approximately 20 million pieces per year being sent, sorted, and delivered. With so many young men going into the service, the post office was also staffed with many new, inexperienced postal clerks who were having trouble sorting the mail. The zone system was initiated with a one or two digit number being placed between the city and the state.

Between 1943 and 1962, the mail volume doubled. On July 1, 1963, the post office introduced the Zone Improvement Plan Code, now referred to as ZIP Codes. The new five digit codes corresponded to different zones. The entire country was divided into coded delivery areas, with the first two to three numbers designating the state.

Of course, this system soon became outdated too, and to improve efficiency, the ‘ZIP + four’ system was implemented. Fortunately we don’t have to include the + four digit appendage. This brain has enough trouble remembering my own current zip code – without the extra four digits. However, I think that 91740 – the zip code of my birth – will be permanently engraved in my memory, even though I don’t remember its inception.

My mom reported in a later text, that she recalls the new system very well. She says it was a pain. She remembers having to contact all the people she wrote to, to get their new-fangled zip code. And back in those days, it was a phone call – on the party line – or a handwritten letter. No quick text to find out. No hopping on the computer for a quick Google search.

The new-fangled system didn’t interrupt my world. I had bigger worries at that time. I started kindergarten two months after that. While my mom’s world was adapting to the new mail regulations, my world was adapting to its own changes. I had to go to…(shudder)…school. I had to learn how to socialize with other children. (That one didn’t go very well.) I had to learn my numbers and letters and start learning to read. (That one went better and I haven’t put down a book since.)

And if I ever forget that I’m older than ZIP Codes…never fear. I have a younger sister that will remind me. Yes, she’s still on the payroll. I still claim her as my sister. I never fired her.

After all – I have Google in my world now. I can easily find out what she’s older than! I see a few paybacks coming in her future.

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Kickboxing? At 60?

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“Kickboxing? Are you crazy?”

At least I didn’t ask – Are you out of your ever-loving mind? Those words are closer to the actual ones that bolted through my brain when Mary asked me if I wanted to try out a new exercise activity with her.

“I found a free ten-day pass for a place in Keller. Ten days, all the sessions you want…for free!” She dangled the free part in front of me, knowing that I enjoy a chance to save money when I can.

What Mary didn’t understand was that I’m not so much into the physical exercise part of the equation. She’s spent most of the past year or so that we’ve worked together participating in several different exercise regimes. 5K walks – I can’t count how many she and her husband have finished. The numbers a lot larger than the two that I’ve done in my entire life. Camp Gladiator is another one that she’s done for some time – exercising in different parking lots with groups of people, using weights and balls, and all sorts of nefarious torture devices.

Nope. Not for me. I’m more of a yoga gal. Quiet. Serene. Slow movements. Soft, mellow music drifting through the background. Sweet and spicy incense wafting through the air. Peace and zen. That’s me. That’s my kind of physical exercise.

Not punching, kicking, aggressive fighting movements. Hard hitting rock and roll reverberating throughout the room. Sweat pouring down my face. Heart pounding. The smacks of gloves hitting punching bags echoing about the room.

Never in a million years did that image even tempt me. You probably couldn’t have even paid me to give kickboxing a try.

But, Mary dangled ‘free’ in front of me, and I grabbed for the bait. Besides, it was spending time with a friend. I decided to humor her. After all, what did I have to lose, besides a few hours of my time? And it was only 30-minute workouts each visit. That made it easy to schedule into a full week. I’d try it out. I’d go with her a few times and after the ten days were up, if I didn’t like it, I never had to try it again.

Imagine my surprise when I fell in love with kickboxing. On the first visit even.

Now to be honest, I didn’t embrace this new activity while I was there. We met at 9Round Keller, where there’s nine stations set up and we all rotate between the stations – only three minutes at each one.

Piece of cake.

Ha!

Some of those three minute segments were the longest and hardest three minutes I’d endured since…well, since I don’t know when. My heart pounded so hard on some of the stations I thought it would burst through my chest. Jump roping? For three minutes? I discovered it wasn’t possible. I made it about a minute before I had to stop and gather my breath. I found out that jump roping isn’t as easy when you’re not a ten-year old girl with boundless energy and enthusiasm. Things had changed in the past fifty years.

By the time we left, I barely dragged myself through the door. I probably would have tried to strangle poor Mary. Except I couldn’t muster up the energy or the gumption to move my arms towards her throat. Getting my feet out the door and moving in the direction of the car was the sole goal in my mind.

Mary offered to buy me something to drink at Starbucks. I think it was a consolation prize for going through with the horrendous torment of the past thirty minutes. I followed her down the street and enjoyed sitting – just sitting, no activity required, while enjoying an icy concoction with green tea and fresh berries. An hour later as we went to leave, I learned that it was even harder to move my legs. That three minute session with the squats involved? I would relive that painful experience in so many ways over the next three days. I found out later that night that bending to clean cat boxes has never caused such agony. I almost joked with Mary about having her carry me out to my car. But, I was having trouble being humorous about this whole kickboxing thing.

And then, on the drive home, about half way between the Starbucks and my house, I realized that I felt good. Tired, yes. Sore, exquisitely so. But despite the painful parts of the afternoon – I felt marvelous.

By the time I got home, I’d already decided. I’m continuing this.

Three days later I joined Mary and two of her other friends for another morning at my new favorite place. Thank goodness they switch up the activities of each station every day. I still had to struggle with the jump roping part, but at least the dreaded squats weren’t on the itinerary for the day. Again, by the time I got home I was marveling about how good I felt. I felt better than I had for months. Usually, getting home after a long day I have to sit and close my eyes for about thirty minutes. That night I was rocking around the house. I was in motion and getting things done. By bedtime I was still zooming around.

Another session the next morning kept me fired up.

I remember a while back, my sister and I were talking about exercise. I told her that I didn’t need to exercise. I’m on my feet all day at work. My work days, depending on what season we’re in run from five to ten hour days. All on my feet. All moving. Never still. “That’s not cardio,” my sister replied. “That doesn’t get your heart rate up.”

Well, darn. Don’t you hate it when you have to admit that your younger sister was right about something? Obviously she was and I was lacking in the cardio department. Even more obviously, it was something my body needs.

The free ten day pass is over. Now I’m in the wait-three-more-days-before-payday mode so I can go join. We’re past the free point. Now a little cash is involved for me to continue with my unexpected new obsession. But this one I can easily justify. Seeing how much better I felt after only a few sessions, I know that this is best for my health. I figure that I can either shell out a few dollars now, for kickboxing…or I can pay it out later – in much larger amounts, to doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies. The choice is mine and I’ll pick paying now rather than supplementing a doctor’s Porsche payment later on down the road.

And the best part? It’s not an either or. I don’t have to lose being a Yoga gal to participate with this more active routine. I can do both. Two sessions of kickboxing a week, with a day of the peace and zen of yoga. Then my heart, circulation, and body is happy, and my emotions and spirit are blissful too. It’s the best of both worlds. I’ll be the healthiest, most zenful 60-year old bopping around this town.

Now, just to remember which hand is jab and which hand is cross.

The ‘R’ Word

The ‘R’ Word

An excerpt from Embracing 60, releasing Fall 2018

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We were about four hours into our long-overdue lunch get-together when I noticed an odd occurrence. “Oh my goodness! Do you realize that in our thirty-plus year’s friendship, this is the first time ‘retirement’ has entered our conversation?”

To be fair, between two retail work schedules and family commitments, Bev and I don’t get together very often. It’s not uncommon for two years to pass before we can find all the stars aligned to give us a free afternoon to spend together and catch up.

Actually, it’s a miracle that we can even meet up for lunch as seldom as we do, considering the thousands of miles that could be between us. Bev’s an old friend from California. Okay – she’s not an ‘old’ friend. Two years younger than me, she’s technically a ‘younger’ friend. But since I’ve known her for over half of my life, let’s call her a ‘long-time’ friend, then.

I met Bev back in my much younger days, at the young whipper-snapper age of about twenty-four. I attended a small neighborhood church and Bev was the pastor’s daughter-in-law. She and Nick had a little girl first, Lynette. When I followed a year or so later with a little boy, Christopher, Bev filled me in on all the parenting snafus I’d run up against.

I still remember as we chatted one Sunday morning and I bemoaned the terrible-two’s that Christopher was just starting. “Just wait,” she warned me. “The three’s are even worse.”

She was right.

She and Nick added another little girl to their family, Danielle, and I added another little boy, Justin. After Justin was born, I went back to college two days a week. Chris went to preschool, but Justin was too young for day care so Bev watched him those two days. We couldn’t count how the number of times that Bev and I got together in southern California to commiserate with each other.

And now…our grandchildren are older than our kids were when we’d get together for some ‘Mommy friend time’ and let the four kids play together.

In 1993, Bev and Nick changed up the equation and added another little boy to their family. When Curtis was about six months old, they departed from The Golden State and moved to the Lone Star State. For many years, between working and raising families, occasional Christmas cards and birthday cards were our only communication.

Then in 2008, a new relationship moved me to Texas also. Now I don’t live very far from Fort Worth. I’m far enough away that it’s not that easy to get together, but its close enough that it’s not impossible.

Now, when we do manage to fit in an afternoon of lunch and wandering the shops, we don’t discuss potty training, or breaking up sibling disagreements. We don’t talk about fighting with children about getting homework done or cleaning their rooms. Now our children are in the midst of those struggles. Bev and I share stories about the grandkids. (And maybe chuckle a little at the paybacks our children are getting now.) We wander the shops and slather our arms with various scented lotions. We find goodies to drop in our basket – usually more things for our grandkids, sisters, or mothers than for ourselves. We chatter mile-a-minute, stepping right back into our friendship as if we’d never had any lapses.

But today was the first time that retirement entered our conversation. More than once. Not that we’re quite there yet. But we’re close enough that’s we see it approaching on the horizon. And, we’re both realizing that we’re not prepared for it yet. (Can we have another 20 years, please, pretty please?) We talk of insurance and whether Medicare will still be around when we reach that point in the next five to seven years. We touch on arthritis and how diet affects it, and my friend Connie who had bilateral knee replacements this past year. And this subtle, yet there, shift in our topics seems a little odd.

Would I step back in time thirty years to when we were getting to know each other and muddling through the years of young motherhood? Those years when we felt like we’d set adrift with our only compass being the friends we had that were in the same place in life? Not a chance.

It’s the cycle of life. We slowly slide into the next spot, the one our mothers before us filled, and our grandmothers before them. Although we’re further along the road on this journey than we were thirty years ago, we still have moments of joy and elation, and find there are still a few potholes that threaten to momentarily derail us. But I determined that as long as I can traipse through this journey wearing a necklace composed of the jewels of good and treasured friends, all is good. Even on those days when the unexpected ‘R’ word enters our conversations and catches us by surprise.

 

 

Rambling to a Tee #SOCS

socs-badge-2017-18-e1503097084778

Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “T, tea, tee.” Theme your post around “tea” or “tee,” or find a word that starts with “T” and talk about that. Bonus points if you manage to incorporate all three. Enjoy!

(Stream of Consciousness Saturday writing is just writing – little to no planning, and no editing – so, please excuse an glaring grammatical errors or other nonsense in today’s post.)

 

A nice cup of terrific tea suits me to a tee. There. All done. Can I have my bonus points now? Do we get even more bonus points if we use all three in the same sentence?

Let’s just get this part out of the way and get to writing – because I have no idea where I’d even want to go with these prompts. I know its stream of consciousness writing and we’re supposed to do this with minimal planning. But still, it seems like I should have some sort of idea of even a vague destination.

I’ve got nada.

I really shouldn’t even be doing this particular post. My list of all the things I need to complete this weekend far exceeds what I’ll probably end up getting done. My weekly newsletter – that’s not too bad. It doesn’t take much time. The workbook I need to complete for a four week class that starts Tuesday…well, that’s the top priority, but it seems I’ve hit a wall of resistance with this one. I don’t even know why. The class was my idea. I proposed it and a library accepted it. Why should I be resisting one of my own ideas? Then there’s the Good Old Days submission I’m working on. The deadline is here and I’ve only got the story roughly started. I have three Chicken Soup for the Soul pieces I’m working on. I’m determined to get another acceptance from them. This goal is turning out to be more challenging. I think I’ve sent them nine or ten (possibly more??) submissions in the past two years and am hearing crickets.

What else is on the list?

Oh yes. I need to be working on a handout for a library presentation that’s coming up in two weeks. I have a week to add to a short story that I want to take to my writer’s group for critique. I need to set up a sale on my web page for an offer that another author and I are working on. And…

Yet, here I am writing this. But I haven’t participated with Linda Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday for too long and that’s something I was enjoying. (Along with her One-Liner Wednesday which I missed the last week or two too.)

Why do I do this?

Do you do it too? Take on too many commitments? Load up your schedule with more tasks than you can humanly complete? Do we think we’re Wonder Woman (or Super Man) and can accomplish it all?

writing-923882__340I sense a larger problem here. Is it procrastination? Trying to keep from being bored? Trying to make up for lost time, thinking I can magically achieve ‘it all’ now? Is it turning 60 and realizing that I’m far, far from where I wanted to be at this age? I think I need to dig deeper on this one – some meditation and journaling seems in order. But…two more items to add to the daily list.

Oh my, I feel like I’m spinning in circles and not accomplishing any purpose here. See what happens when there’s no plan and no structure? This wandering missive is nothing I’d take to my writer’s group – that’s for sure! (Plus they’d be sure to point out the many clichés used today!)

So I think I’ll wrap up this babbling, incoherent post – go make myself a cup of tea, toast myself for crossing one item off of Saturday’s to-do list, and celebrate that despite the deadlines and the list that is never complete, a writing life suits me to a tee.

Do I get extra brownie points for using the prompts twice? Even if they don’t really relate to the post? And…can I spend these points anywhere? Can I cash them in for a really cool prize? (But hey, even if the bonus points aren’t redeemable, I just added 700 words to my monthly word count, and that’s a prize in itself. Right?)

Banishing the Curmudgeon

Banishing the Curmudgeon

boy running

A small boy that lives down the street did something tonight that vats of lotion and vials of extra-potency vitamins haven’t been able to do. He banished a curmudgeon. One minute it was there, residing inside my body. The next…*POOF*…vanished!

Today had been a long day. It was only an eight hour work day, but I had to drive to three different stores to get those hours – on a day that hit 104°. At home I discovered that I’d forgotten to take anything out of the freezer for dinner and I simply didn’t feel like messing with anything in the kitchen anyway. So my better half (probably in the interest of their own safety!) offered to have something delivered.

That was a wonderful solution. Except, we’ve been having internet connection problems since a storm had rolled through north Texas a week ago. It’s almost been like the old dial-up days, when and if we were graced with being able to get a connection. After almost 30 minutes of in-and-out service, trying to see different restaurant menu options that we could have delivered, we finally decided that I’d just drive to Taco Bell a mile away and get it.

I finally left the house, at almost 8 p.m. and on top of being tired and cranky – now I was hungry, too.

I got in the car and saw that a slew of neighborhood children were riding bicycles up and down the street. In a pack from side to side. The youngest, who looked to be about five-years old, was quite a bit on the wobbly side.

Grumbling to myself, I backed out slowly and very carefully. By now the little hoodlums were about two houses down. They’re really not hoodlums. They’re all too young for that. It’s just that I was feeling old and crotchety at the moment. I’ve only just turned sixty a month ago, but I felt like I was the old codger at the end of the block, out in the front yard waving their cane at all the boisterous neighborhood children.

Down the street I drove, about ten miles per hour, if that. I drove exceptionally slowly so that if any of them fell, or decided to dash across in front of me, I’d be able to stop.

Yep. I was feeling old right. And, did I mention the cranky part?

All the children were on bicycles except one. One little barefoot boy, probably six or seven years old, took off running along the side of the street, as if he was racing me. At the slow pace I drove, he just about beat me. It was neck and neck. He raced along and I poked along (still worried about him making a sudden jog in front of me).

He sped along as fast as his little legs could go for about the length of two houses. Then suddenly he stopped, looked up, threw me the sweetest grin, and waved.

Poof. The elderly, cranky old lady who had been inhabiting my body vanished in an instant. A grin and a wave from a sweet, innocent child that I don’t even know removed about fifty years from my life and I was suddenly a carefree ten-year-old racing a friend down the street.

All those creams and lotions that tote their claims about removing years? All those extra-strength, high potency vitamins that promise youth and vitality? They’re all worthless. I discovered that none of them work as well as one young grin.

I’m looking forward to another race tomorrow. You can tell by the grin on my own face, even if it’s lined with a few more wrinkles than my young friend’s face is.

C’Mon Guys…I’m a 60-year old Woman

C’Mon Guys…I’m a 60-year old Woman

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Huff and puff, huff and puff. Pant – pant – pant. Sweat. Wipe brow. Huff and puff some more.

In case you couldn’t tell – that’s me mowing the yard.

I haven’t been in charge of the lawns until last spring. I was the one in charge of flower bed, gardens, and the ‘pretty’ garden work. I didn’t mow. Until the mowing rider went out three years ago. Getting a way to get the mower in to the repair shop just wasn’t working, so two years ago we paid a lawn service to mow the front yard every other week when they were mowing our neighbor’s yard. The price was right. Since they were already here, they only charged us $20. Overall, since we only need to mow about six months of the year, it was just over $200. And they did a magnificent job. They flew in with their fancy equipment, mowed and weed edged and were done in about 15 minutes. If they lagged.

But, the back yard was a disaster with almost waist high grass all summer.

Last spring, I decided to change the yard maintenance process. I’d picked up a few extra store hours and was going to have a slightly larger check. So I decided to use the extra funds and buy an inexpensive push mower. For a little less than we’d paid the lawn mowing company the year before, I could mow all year – front and back.

And, I’d benefit from a little extra cardio-workout. All without having to pay for a gym membership.

Did I mention we have a half acre?

Adding in this extra task wasn’t bad. The first time out it took me two mornings and over four hours of mowing because the young spring grass had leaped almost overnight to calf high growth. But once it was cut down, it was easy to maintain. One morning I’ll cut the front, which usually takes a little over an hour. The next morning I’ll cut the back, which takes a bit longer, about an hour and a half. I get a good workout at least four days a month and am excited about feeling physically healthy and stronger from this new way to commune with nature.

This spring, going into the second year of use from the new push mower, the front yard portion of my mowing changed a little bit. We now have two new renters on each side of us. And even though two men, younger than myself, are mowing, they seem to have a difficult time telling where the property line is between our properties.

I first noticed it on the property to the west of us. He’d mowed first, but left a swath about a foot and a half wide on his side of the grass unmowed. No big deal. I just made two or three extra passes with the mower and got his portion of the unmowed grass done with ours.

Two weeks later – the same thing.

Next time too. This gentleman really doesn’t seem to pay very close attention to where our two back fences divide the property.

Then the summer heat hit.

On these days where the Texas heat is easily into the 90’s and often hits the 100-degree mark, I definitely don’t mow in the afternoon. I save it for a morning I’m home during the week, or for the weekend. And now it takes a little longer, because I have to break the task into two. I’ll mow half and by then I’m huffing and puffing so hard – yes, the cardio part of the activity is definitely working – so for my own health and safety, I stop and take a break. I’ll down some water, sit in the shade and let the heart rate calm down a tad. As much as I enjoy it, I don’t intend on stroking out in the process either.

A week after my 60th birthday, I went out to mow the front. The house on the west mowed about two feet short of the property line — again. And now the house on the east had joined in. They were easily three feet – if not four – short of coming up to where the property line was.

It’s hot. Even in the morning. I’m barely going to be able to get my own portion of the yard done. And these two younger men – both with riding mowers to boot – are expecting me to mow wider and catch what they didn’t?

I stood out in the front ranting to myself. C’Mon guys! What in the world are you thinking? You’re both younger. You both have riding mowers. And you’re expecting me – a SIXTY-YEAR OLD woman to cut some of your grass too? Really?

And then I burst into laughter myself. Because I realized that as much as I have been dreading turning this un-magical number 60, as soon as I needed to pull out the ‘60-years old card’ for my benefit, I sure did!

So you know what I did?

I mowed our portion of lawn. I left the unmowed patches on their portion of lawns uncut.

And you know what?

It worked.

The next time they cut their grass up to the property lines. I don’t know if it was because they’d realized they’d been slacking, or if they’d caught a glimpse of a slightly hysterical slightly older woman out front laughing uncontrollably.

Maybe this getting older isn’t so bad after all.

I’m learning to find more humor in my own actions and reactions. I’m learning to see benefits in the inevitable ageing process. And I’m also learning that sometimes we need to set boundaries with others – which is beneficial in itself – no matter the age.

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