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What Does Old Mean, Anyway?

28 May

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  When I was in elementary school, or high school, or even college for that matter, I would have considered a person of my age old.  Not that I really had a solid determination of old; I think I just considered it something that happens with age.  My parents were old.  My teachers were old.  My grandparents were really old.  I have achieved the number of years that I once considered old…so am I?  No.  At least I don’t think so.  I still enjoy nearly all of the things I liked growing up.  Maybe with the exception of Twinkies–waaaay too sweet–bleh.  But I don’t think my anti-Twinkie palate signifies oldness.

So what IS old?  I’ve assisted people older than me while working my summer job at a greenhouse.  I admit to studying them a bit and imagining myself with their particular challenges of hearing, vision and mobility.  Do those challenges constitute oldness?  Or does the act of coming out each spring for your vegetable and flowering plants and then spending the summer tending, weeding and harvesting keep oldness at bay?  Are you old because it takes you longer to do things?  Does the joy of watching something grow negate the time it takes to plant it in the first place?

And what about the physical differences?  The effects of gravity, the age spots that remind me of summers spent laying in the sun using baby oil as “suntan lotion,” the wrinkles that frame my face.  The older-than-me folks at the greenhouse are also affected by these differences, but even more so.  I find myself repeatedly drawn to commercials featuring young, smooth-skinned beauties selling the latest spot-removing, tone-evening, skin-smoothing, wrinkle-erasing beauty cream, and I confess to wanting that youthful, dewy skin.  What am I afraid of?  Am I THAT vain?  Why can I not settle into “aging gracefully?”

Maybe that’s a good thing.  Maybe taking care of yourself physically and mentally IS aging gracefully.  Gray hair will happen, wrinkles and age spots cannot be undone without spending huge amounts of money that could be spent on plants and garden bling.  Worry is my nature, but I still love to play with friends, snuggle with my sweetie, watch clouds float across the sky, listen to our mockingbird perform his repertoire, and savor the first tomato of the season.

I saw my shadow the other day as my husband and I worked to weed our front yard perennial beds, and realized my shadow doesn’t show those parts of me that are slipping into what I identify with “old.”  My shadow is much the same as it’s always been.  How can I be old if my shadow isn’t?!  My hair becomes grayer each year, and wrinkles deepen.  Kids may think of me as old.  But I’ve decided I won’t consider myself old until my shadow looks old–how can that happen when it follows me to a slot canyon or when it sits in the garden admiring a fresh bloom?  I think my shadow enjoys a  cuppa as much as I do.  Here’s to my shadow and I toasting each other with a morning brew for many years to come, worrying less, and playing more.

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Thoughts on Chicken Little

31 Jan

So here I am.  A Liberal, environmentally conscious, organic food-eating, yoga-practicing, vegan.  I have a master’s degree, I am computer literate (but not in a Geek Squad sort of way by any stretch), I’m retired, married and the mom of an 18-year-old college freshman.  I make a point of practicing advice I got from my mom years and years ago: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, it’s best to say nothing.”  I’m tired of those who think a person like me is some sort of whack-a-do, and those who convince others to believe the same.

I was so happy for the Presidential election to be over.  I thought it would be the end of the hate-filled and inaccurate memes and rants on Facebook, editorials in the daily paper and TV commercials.  Sadly, this is not the case.  At all.  I have posted all sorts of pleas to fact-check before posting, to take a breath and remember we’re all friends on Facebook.  Have an opinion, no need to be ugly about it.  If you have the computer literacy to pass on a meme, you have the literacy needed to spend a minute or two fact-checking.  If something is worded in a way that raises your hackles, it’s possible that you’re a victim of propaganda.

Who are these people that start the hate to begin with?  The ones who write slanted and often inaccurate articles and memes.  How did they become so powerful that they can click a mouse and start an uprising of people who are educated and sane?  The hate happens on both sides of every “hot button” topic.  People saying whatever they think will bring people over to their side.  We’ve become a world of Chicken Littles afraid the sky is falling because we saw it on a Facebook meme.

I say it’s time to remember we ARE all friends here and quit giving the power to the bullies on the playground.  Breathe.  Check Snopes.  Respect opinions and diversity.  Bring back civility.  Have a cuppa your favorite brew.  Me, I’m having coffee.

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Gifts: Then and Now

15 Sep

I attended a Pampered Chef party a couple of weeks ago and today, my order was delivered!  It felt like Christmas morning, opening up the various cardboard and plastic containers, revealing my new goodies.  All too soon, all packages were open and I had a pile of empty containers and a display of shiny kitchen accoutrements.  I turned each over in my hands, admiring the clear, easy-to-read markings on the measuring cups, the edge and blade guard of the knife.  Just like Christmas, I have left them out so I can delight in them each time I pass by.  I just can’t bear to hide them away in cupboards and drawers just yet. 

When this comparison occured to me, I was inspired to take a picture of my culinary treasures on a holiday mat.

The child or teenage me would never be excited over measuring cups or a cookie scoop.  Well, maybe if they came along with an Easy Bake Oven.  But still.  I’ve been thinking about how my priorities have changed as I’ve aged.  As a kid, I carefully studied the Sears toy catalog, constructing a list for Santa.  I looked forward to a fabulous coconut-covered cake for my birthday and more toys.  The teenage me loved getting clothes.  Then I went away to college, got married, moved to an apartment and finally a house.

I remember the first washer/dryer I owned.  I was so, so happy to not have to go to a laundromat anymore.  My latest new washer and dryer–front loaders on pedestals–were ordered as part of a New Year’s sale and delivered months later while I was at work.  I hugged them when I saw them.  Yes, I hugged an appliance. 

This year for my birthday, friends got me absolutely the cutest measuring spoons ever–shaped like flowers, each spoon a different pastel color!  I love-love-love them!  I’m hoping for a new stove or maybe a cool leather chair I saw at IKEA for Christmas this year.  Pampered Chef catalog or IKEA catalog=Sears toy catalog?  Yup.  Same kid, different toys.  New toys are always fun!  🙂

Lest you think that I’m all about the toys of life, I’d like to share the best gift I ever received:  a private saxophone concert from Mr17, who was 15 at the time.  He learned a new piece, part of a concerto written by his favorite composer, explaining the significance of the 4 movements, including the one he played for me.  Everytime I hear the piece, I’m back on my couch, Mr15, his soprano sax and music stand in the corner, playing just for me. 

Other gifts that mean the world to me?  The people in my life–friends, family-loved ones all.  Each visit, each hug, each smile, each kiss are gifts that enrich every moment. A gift I’m giving myself right now is attending a warm yoga class every Tuesday and Thursday morning.  The first meadowlark call of the spring, hummingbirds fighting over the feeder, the first tomato of the season, lazily drifting snowflakes on a grey morning, thunderstorms circling the valley, scrunching through big piles of leaves breathing in their warm scent.  Delicious food and wine.  Mr17’s marching band performing.  Kissing the hubby good morning or good night. 

So many, many gifts each day.  I have so much to be grateful for.  What are you grateful for?

They Grow Up So Fast

16 Feb

This week I filled out a “Schools of Choice” form for the very last time of Mr16’s school career, to keep him in his school for his senior year.  Also this week I was notified of the upcoming ACT testing and trotted out to the bookstore to purchase a strategy book that “guarantees a higher score” that will guarantee Mr16 admission to college and the beginning of his adult life away from me.  Things like this cause me to reflect on how I ended up here, today, when only yesterday I held him in my arms for the first time.

Do you remember when your child was born, and “They” said, “Cherish every moment; they grow up so fast?”  And there you were staring out into the vast future of your new life with this precious punkie, thinking, “I have YEARS and YEARS to enjoy this new little person!”  That was like, yesterday….and today that precious bundle of joy is 16, going on college?

Do you remember waiting for those “firsts”–like the first tooth, only to mourn that his cute little gummy grin was now gone forever?  A child’s life goes that way; marching steadily forward toward new firsts and growing up. 

I find myself caught in a whirlpool that lets me look back, see the present and look to the future at the same time, and sometimes find myself weepy.  Weepy over missing laying on our bellies coloring, weepy over pride at a music performance, weepy over college and the eventual “moving out forever.”

Right now, I’m struggling between hanging on to Mr16 for dear life and letting him go, all the while reminiscing: “Remember when we built things from blocks/read together/colored/had birthday cakes that were shaped like your favorite thing at the time/grew the mutant pumpkins/when it was fun for ME to be your Valentine?  When a kiss could really fix a boo-boo?  When a hug or a snuggle could keep bad stuff away?

That little boy that needed me as much as I need him is still in there, zipped up inside the young man with a beard and a life of his own, just like the cartoon.  I know this.  I know the best way to love him right now is to let him go out and explore on his own.  My logical self really does get this.  My emotional self wants to stop time and keep him close a bit longer. 

He’s talking of moving to California or Europe.  He needs to escape our Colorado cold and the local spring allergy season.  He yearns for adventures of his very own.  Not too long ago, it was me needing to escape the Iowa cold and humidity and find my own way.  Paybacks are a bitch.  I never went back, and rarely visit my parents, even now that they live in a warmer place. 

Thank goodness for new technologies like Skype.  I’ll be able to see his eyes when he says he’s fine and know for sure if he is or isn’t.  I’ll be able to visit with future grandchildren, read them stories and see them grow up even if I can’t hold them every day.  Every now and then I tell Mr.16 about how cool it was having my grandma right across the street when I was little……a little tiny guilt trip can’t hurt.  😉

Who knows.  Maybe he and I will share a second cup of coffee via Skype between Colorado and some little Italian cafe some day.  Maybe he’ll relent and live right here in town and we can share our second cup right across the table from each other.  Right.  😉

Zits comic strip by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman.  December 2009.

The Six Degrees….

3 Feb

You’ve heard of the theory that every actor is six connections, or degrees from Kevin Bacon.  I find that this concept has been occurring in my life.  Probably it comes from age–the longer you live, the more you experience, the more “small world after all” moments you have.

Here shall commence some ramblings based on the interconnectedness of the world, even though we’re not connected in the traditional sense of how people were connected decades ago. 

I grew up in a “real” neighborhood.  A place where every mom knew every kid and all the kids played together while the moms drank coffee.  The connections were straight forward–right next door. 

Then I went away to college and was part of my dorm family, which was part of the campus neighborhood.  Later, I got married and moved to an apartment…and knew no one.  Everyone kept to themselves.  Even later, when I move to a neighborhood, I only got to know a few people.  The people at my job became my neighborhood, and I tended to socialize with them instead of the people who lived right next door.  Connections were still happening, but not like they used to. 

These days, you never know how one thing might lead to another; what sorts of connections might happen.  For example, Mr16 is a talented saxophone player.  He auditioned and was selected for the Ft. Lewis College Select Band.  This event is held in Durango, Colorado.   While Mr16 was learning saxophone, I became a librarian.  I met and became friends with author Will Hobbs as part of that job.  Will and his wife Jean live in Durango!  Unfortunately, they’re out of town the Select Band weekend, and we won’t be able to see them.  But!  I’m also friends with someone who owns a coffee shop–The Coffee Studio.  Her shop buys some of its coffee beans from Desert Sun Roasters.  Desert Sun Roasters is in Durango!  I posted a question on their Facebook wall asking for their favorite Durango coffee shops.  They provided a nice list and invited me to stop by and visit them, too.

Isn’t it great that we really do live in a small world?  I like feeling a connection to people around me. When these little pieces of serendipity happen, it reminds me to continue nurturing friendships, and to continue expanding my experiences.  You never know when you’ll meet someone that will lead you to a new opportunity. 

When I’m in Durango, I’ll have my second cup in a shop recommended by the folks at Desert Sun, and maybe….maybe I can get them to teach me how to pour a rosetta in a cappucino–something I’ve wanted to learn!  (Watch the second video)

Image attributions:  Kevin Bacon   Saxophone  Desert Sun

Triage on the Run

28 Jan

Once upon a time, I was a runner.  I liked to run 5Ks and 10Ks–never won my age group or anything, just liked running.  Then one day, I realized I was (gasp) 39!  The horror!  My life was tumbling toward middle age!  Ack!  As if the universe knew, a letter came addressed to me from Team in Training.  “Do you want to be in the best shape of your life?”  (Uh….yeah!) “Do you want to travel to exotic places?” (Duh?!)  ” Do you want to help little children survive a horrible disease?”  (Sniff, *wipe a tear*…yeah.)  I ran the Honolulu Marathon and raised over $2K for The Leukemia Society in 1999.  These are THE shoes that trained for and ran the marathon. 

Came home, loved the whole marathon thing, ran a local race up and over the Colorado National Monument (not quite a marathon, but harder!) in 2000.  The Rim Rock Run is now a marathon, I ran it when it was “only” a 37K run.

Then, trained for and ran the inagural Arizona Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Phoenix in 2004…and ended up with an injury from over-training and running on slanty roads.  ITBS–ilio-tibial band syndrome.  Basically a pain on the outside of the knee caused by a tendon rubbing.  But…loved that distance!  A marathon is kind of a long way, but half is awesome! 

Ever since, I’ve been struggling to get back to running.  With weather warming to the upper 40s today, I decided to abandon my treadmill walk and run outside.  About a half mile in, the triage began: 

What is that little pain in my little toe?  Is it a corn?  Can I keep running on it?  Yup.

Oh, the back of my knee feels tight.  What’s causing that?  Can I keep running?  Yup.

There’s that knee twinge–is the ITBS gonna start in again?  Crap….keep running.

And as Yul Brenner in The King and I would say, etcetera, etcetera.

Road running by yourself provides a lot of time to think.  I’m a worrier by nature, but I got to thinking–what if I could triage my worries?  Assess them and make a decision on whether or not I need to deal with it or just “keep on running.”  It’s making more sense to me all the time.  It’s supposed to be 50 tomorrow(!), so I’m planning to run outside again; more time to ponder “worry triage on the run.”  Then I’ll come in for breakfast, and that second cup of coffee.

Me? Worried?

24 Jan

Yup.

photo attribution

If I see a “guilt” just layin’ there on the floor, I’ll pick it up and own it.  Even if it really has nothing to do with me.  Even if the true owner is in the room.  I guess I must consider myself a guilt expert.  I know how to wear it.  I know how to nurture it with the darkness of the wee hours of the morning, molding it and fluffing it with worry.  Worry.  Worry.  Worry.

I worry about if something I said in passing might have possibly been construed as offensive or hurtful by someone.  I worry that I was overly-exuberant about something and someone might have been put-off.  Did I remember to feed the cat?  Did I remember to call my mom?  Will Mr16 win his chair-challenge in jazz band?  Am I too clingy with Mr16?  Am I too distant?  How will I survive when he goes away to college? 

The list goes on and on.  They all come out in the wee hours of the night, partying like a bunch of creepy little goblins in my head.  They always seem worse in the dark; creating their favorite habitat of impending doom.  This always gives me the “OMG I must fix this right NOW” feeling, and of course at 3 in the morning, what can you do??? 

Probably a good thing.  When the sun comes up on a fresh new day, most of those worries can’t tolerate the daylight and fade away into the shadows.  The activity of the day can keep some of the others at bay.  Often, I’ve been worrying for no reason, really.  Just that random guilt I pick up and store.

In looking for images and whatnot for this post I came across these lyrics from the song “Why Worry” by Dire Straits:

“Why worry, there should be laughter after the pain
There should be sunshine after rain
These things have always been the same
So why worry now”

Funny how the lesson you need seems to present itself.  I’m thinking I’ll ponder these lyrics with my second cup of coffee tomorrow morning.  Thanks for listening.