BooWho

Things I want to keep in mind.

Category: Just stuff

Aging – we all do it

Sixty.  I will be 60 years old next month.  It is so strange because in my mind I’m still in my 20’s.  How is that possible?  One quick glance in the mirror will remind me that I’m NOT in my 20’s — and watching my age spotted hands on the keyboard is another grim reminder.  Still, being young in my mind helps me to not really feel old.  I still like to “play” and laugh.  That’s the best part of having grandkids, you get to play with them and be silly.  My husband hasn’t been prone to silliness since 1965.

Of course, when I try to do things a 20 year old might, it results in sore muscles and a possible injury or two.  I spent this weekend cleaning windows and floors on my back porch.  It was exhausting work.  As a 20 year old, I could have done the whole thing in a day AND vacuumed the house afterward but as an almost 60 year old, it took me two days with a multitude of rest breaks.  As an aging generation, these are the things we can accept.  We can’t do EVERYTHING that we used to do but we can slow down, take breaks and continue to roll.

For the most part, I feel pretty good about aging.  I am in fair shape, although I know I could do more walking, stretching and SHOULD be eating more vegetables (yecch).  I have pockets of fat in new places — but they can be covered with a flouncy shirt.   My breasts went south for the winter and stayed — so an extra supportive bra was in order.  Let’s just “pretend” they are perky.  I have the “turkey neck” skin and LOTS of wrinkles on my face.  Lots of new skin blemishes throughout.  I won’t even go into the more intimate aging markers — suffice it to say there is plenty of positive proof that I am no longer in my 20’s!

As part of aging, my husband and I are participating in the usual old-age indicators.  Reading obituaries and announcing who has passed.  (“Oh geez, I thought he was already dead?”)!  My husband is falling into the “old codger” role quite comfortably.  I have to remind him it is NOT a necessity — but he fades in an out.  He complains about the government, other drivers, the weather.  (Again, with the WEATHER!  What is the obsession?).  I obsess over having to look my age – should I continue to dye my hair?  What makeup can I use to cover the wrinkles and LOOK like I’m only 50?  (Answer? NONE – putting make-up over an older face just makes you look like you have a lot of make-up on an older face…)  I can still fit skinny jeans but should I wear them?  Every time I go shopping for clothes I resist shopping in my own department – “women”, it just sounds so prehistoric.  For my “age” group there are the sequins, lots of bold decorative stitching and elastic waist bands!

Even more than the physical losses and changes are the mental changes.  Sure, we are getting forgetful.  We walk into a room and forget why we came.  We go to bed early and get up well before the sun.  We can be content to sit on the porch with a summer drink – for hours.  And we are fading into the background, slowly but surely.  It happens.  In the beginning, we are the center, the parents – we make things happen.  As everyone matures into their own lives, we become the outer circle and, eventually, the afterthought.  No wonder old people get cranky!

My husband and I made a pact when our kids started to leave the nest.  We would live our lives, learn to do things together and try to keep growing, learning, having fun even as we got old.  The hardest lesson was in knowing that FUN at 60 is different than fun at 20, 30 or even 40 — and that’s okay.  To each their own.  (And try not to become cranky…)

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Sunshine and camping

I love the summer.  Warm sun, warm breezes, clear blue sky, total comfort.  It. Is. Glorious.  I wonder if I lived in a warm place, like Phoenix, if I would feel this good all the time?  Who knows.

To my memory, summer has always meant freedom.  No school, vacation, fun outdoor activities.  When you are an adult, it doesn’t have quite the same connotation (unless you are a school teacher) but you still seem to squeeze more fun things into the summer than you do any other season.

When our children were little, we used to go camping as often as we could.  First we had a pop-up tent trailer, then we bought a used camper trailer with a bathroom!  Several years later, we splurged and bought a brand new camper with microwave, air conditioning and a slide out! (For me the most IMPORTANT luxury was the bathroom!)

We used to go up into the Jocko Canyon, to a nice quiet place we aptly named, “Paraiso” (paradise).  It took about a half hour to get the camper setup and the kids could ride their bikes and play – running wild and free.  We would go for walks and bike rides, fishing, hiking, or just sitting and visiting while the kids play. My mom and dad had a camper also and we would camp together.

Everything was planned around the meals we would make – dad would call me the day before we left and tell me what he was bringing for food, and I would know what I needed to bring to subsidize his menu.  When we arrived in the early evening we would have chili flavored fritos with chili, sour cream and nacho cheese.  For breakfast, pancakes, eggs and bacon.  Lunch was sandwiches, dinner was steak or burgers, depending on what my dad decided to bring.  I would usually bring either apple crisp or rhubarb crisp for dessert.

We always spent part of the day at the river or at Twin Lakes – so the kids could play in the water.  When it started to cool off and get dark, we would sit by the campfire, the kids in their pajamas, and watch the stars light up the sky.

I have wonderful memories of those camping trips.  Wonderful times spent with my mom and dad – and the kids always had so much fun.  I hope they have good memories too.

As the kids grew up and moved out, we camped less and less.  Our camper sat on the pad and started to deteriorate with exposure to weather and time.  We finally sold it a few years ago and were sad to see it go.  A young family bought it with big plans for repairs and lots of camping trips to come.  I hope they enjoy it as much as we did.

(**Side bar — just trying to get back into the routine of writing…..)

Dreaming

This morning, I dreamed about dying.  In the dream, I was crossing over an ice-filled river and fell in.  There were several of us in the water (for some reason) and we were all floating toward the falls (of course, there was a waterfall).  We were all trying to climb on to the larger ice chunks toward the side of the river.  Interestingly enough, the water was not cold.  Also, there were people along the banks of the river watching us struggle.  Just as I was making my way to the edge of the river to climb out onto dry land, one of the onlookers said, “It doesn’t matter, you’re going over” and I went over the falls.  In the dream, I said to myself — this is a dream and you never hit bottom in dreams.  Sure enough, I didn’t but as I transitioned into the next scene of the dream, I began to realize that I had, indeed, died.  People could see me but didn’t know me as me.  They were talking about my passing.  I began to wonder how long I would walk on the earth as this other being, watching my finale as an observer.  Probably the most striking occurrence in the dream is that I KNEW it was a dream and kept a running voiceover in my mind, something like, “It’s OKAY, this is just a dream”.

Many parts of the dream were obvious rationalization of things going on in my head.  My mother’s death, floating in the current – trying to get back on land, realizing others are struggling in the water and in life, as well.  Feeling as though I am watching the world go by without my participation.  Keeping my head above water.  And of course, the most obvious, thinking of my own mortality.

When I was about ten years old, I went through a phase of fearing death.  Each night, as I went to bed, I would begin to panic that I was going to die in my sleep.  I would experience shortness of breath and it would escalate into a full-on panic attack.  At some point, either my mom or dad (I honestly can’t remember which) told me that none of us ever know when we will die so we can’t look for it or try to hide from it.  When the shortness of breath comes, relax and slow your breathing.  Say the Lord’s prayer and it will help calm you.  Naturally, I’m paraphrasing, I don’t remember exactly how they told me I just know that when I am really worried or afraid, I automatically start saying the Lord’s prayer and breathing very slowly.

I don’t FEEL as though I am upset about my mother’s passing.  I’ve already been grieving for the last few years.  But even though it isn’t in the forefront, it is like a program running in the background.  Every now and then, the little “throbber” (an animated graphical element used to show that a computer program is running in the background) comes up and spins to remind me.

Turn off the tv?

I watch too much television.  There I said it.  My confession of the day.  Damn Netflix and Amazon Prime!

Normally, I crochet while watching so that, at least, it feels as though I am accomplishing something while I watch.  Recently though, I have been watching foreign movies or series and I have to read the subtitles so I can’t do both!

Television is entertainment, an escape, a way of passing the time.  I do enjoy it but I try to limit myself because at the end of the evening – after I have flipped through multiple channels and movie menus – only to watch something ridiculous (should have turned it off after the first 15 minutes) and I realize that it is time for bed already!  What a waste of an evening!  I don’t feel quite so bad IF I’m binge-watching a good series because at least I felt entertained!  (Still, it was such a waste of time…)

My latest rule (more of a guideline really) is not to watch anything below a three star rating.  And if after the first 15 minutes, the show doesn’t grab me or seems ridiculous or questionable, then I should turn it off.  My original guideline was to turn off the television altogether but in the last 6 months, I’ve just turned off the program and continued searching for something better.

Now.  I do have a hobby.  Writing.  I could easily turn off the television and not-so-easily sit down and write something.  Therein lies the rub.  If I sit at the computer – the old procrastination troll comes weaseling in and I start watching youtube, looking at pinterest, perusing facebook — all in the name of research or looking for inspiration.  I am fooling no one, least of all, myself.

There is one small justification.  I am retired.  I have worked in one capacity or another since I was 18.  It really isn’t necessary to be moving and doing something every minute of the day.  And it is okay for things to slow down a little.  My concern is that I will turn into a little bowl of jello, sitting in my recliner, eating crackers and cream cheese and watching one BBC series after another.  The only thing missing is a house full of cats!

Grabbing hold

Spring.  The grass is getting so green and the leaves are popping out.  The birds are nesting and doing their “mating” flights, with the males fighting over the available females.  The hummingbirds have returned.

All of this I can witness if I just look over the top of my computer screen.  I have strategically placed my desk so that I have a gorgeous view.  If money were no object, I would replace my window with a beautiful picture window so that nothing would obstruct that beautiful scenery.  I feel so very fortunate.

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It is so easy to overlook the changes of spring, to disregard the beauty as it unfurls around us.  But most of the time, spring will just grab hold.  The sun will come in with genuine warmth and we won’t be able to resist stopping and turning our face to those glorious rays.  We will begin to “feel” spring.  Our steps will be lighter, we will feel more like cleaning, exercising, walking, playing, (mating?).

I watch as the horses sprawl out in the warm morning sun.  I can almost hear their sigh of pleasure.  The baby calves run and play around their mothers and on days like today, the mothers join them.

I promised myself when I retired that I would slow my pace.  I would enjoy days like today and not let my need for order and perfection get in the way.  I have a hard time sitting still.  Luckily, spring has grabbed me – I will sit quietly and just watch.

Old things

What a difference spring makes…  The sky is clear and things are really greening up.  All of the birds are back, tweeting and swooping.  Romance is in the air – for the birds at least.  It won’t be long until the rain comes – but we certainly will enjoy the sunshine while we can.

Spring reminds us all of birth, new growth, fresh starts.  For a few moments, we can forget the old things.  Old dead grass, leaves that have all blown away, and the snow and ice that acted as an assassin, clearing all the old in its’ wake.

Many aspects of aging are difficult.  Day by day, you realize that you are now one of the “old things”.  Your body doesn’t respond as it used to – movement is usually accompanied by a twinge of pain here and there.  The old adage, “Age is just a number” is just that, an old adage.  We can feel young – most of us do – but the reality emerges repeatedly every day.

Probably the biggest reality is that friends and acquaintances begin dropping off, passing away with cause of death listed as “natural causes”. How is that even possible?  No one ever knows when they will die, but you begin to understand that you are closer to that outcome with each passing year.  It becomes a topic of conversation.  Just how many years do we have left….should we buy that new car??  Expiration dates take on a whole new meaning.

We have to work at not letting bitterness creep in, as is common with our generation.  In fighting age, we sometimes resent the young.  We try to insert ourselves back into the fray and talk endlessly about “our day”, our successes.  We were young once…  It is difficult to be cast aside and ignored.  Our contribution no longer sought out or needed.  We don’t hear well, we don’t move very fast and we talk far too much about bodily functions.  We want to be front and center but have to accept being relegated to the background as a natural course, the younger and stronger take over the herd.

You can’t die before you’re dead. You have to keep living right up to that moment.  Keep moving, playing, dreaming.  As time goes on, there will be limitations.  We all have to face them as they arise.  Our bodies can’t go on forever, they were never meant to.  If you are lucky, you have a partner to grow old with – someone to laugh with about the little idiosyncrasies of aging.  Someone who doesn’t mind talking about those bodily functions and creaking, aching joints.  Someone to go to the doctor with you; to pluck your ear hair; to tell you your blush needs to be blended.  If you don’t have a partner, you may have a friend or friends, a sibling, an understanding (adult) child.  Try not to inundate them with tales of your plight, certainly not to the point that they dread visiting or talking on the phone.

The plague of aging is in the wallow – we just don’t like it and we want to talk about it.  We do need to express our displeasure, our sadness, our grief.  But we also have to remind ourselves to look for the joy, find a diversion.  One small thing to clear the palate, reboot the sequence.  (Reading, writing, walking, traveling, volunteering, sewing, golfing, swimming, etc. etc.)  Don’t die before you’re dead.

To each their own

It is a scary world we live in.  Armed gunmen shooting random people at random places.  Drug addictions, alcohol abuse, neglect of children, the homeless and the hopeless are highlighted in the news every day.  Sometimes I feel guilty for being fortunate.  My childhood wasn’t perfect but my parents worked hard and did their best to give us the tools we needed to succeed.  We didn’t have much but we had enough.

Every generation has their own concerns, afflictions, hardships and a general fear that the apocalypse is imminent.  I remember as a teenager being afraid of our world condition because I overheard my dad talking about the price of gasoline being SO high.  “If it goes more than a dollar a gallon, I won’t be able to afford to drive to work!”  Couple that with reading the book “1984” by George Orwell in high school English, I was horrified and feared armageddon.

We also worried that my brother would have to go to Vietnam – but the draft ended in January of his senior year of high school.  He had already planned to join the Air Force but he never had to go to Vietnam – gratefully.  The war “ended” in 1975, two years after he graduated.  At that time, being in the military was just like a job – training for the future.  He served in Great Falls and did a stint in Turkey during a time of peace (although that is a relative term).

During the Gulf War in 1990-1991, our son-in-law was serving in the army.  We were on the outer periphery of involvement – knowing that our daughter and their small children were living on an army base somewhere hoping that he would be okay, waiting and worrying.  Of course, there were nightly reports on the news with statistics and videos of the bombings and ravages of war.

If I think back to those days, I barely remember anything about the gulf war.  I had four children ranging in age from 9 to newborn.  I was working full-time and I didn’t have time to worry about it.  I watched some news reports and I read some articles in the newspaper.  But mostly, I was in the midst of diapers, daycare and shift-work.  My focus was very narrow.

Now, as a retired person with grown children, I have a lot more time to devote to world issues;  and yet, I don’t.  I am one of the million (or more) people who can’t bare to read about it and think about it.  When Donald Trump became president, I told myself that I would be a better citizen and pay closer attention to issues that affect my country.  I would read the newspaper and watch the news.  I had good intentions.  That lasted until about day 20 of his presidency.   I just can’t do it.  Watching the struggle, listening to the ludicrous jargon, it is just too much.  It hurts my soul and it makes me feel so much fear, I have to turn it off and tune it out.

Part of the problem is in technology – we get barraged with moment to moment information only half of which we can believe.  The new rule for dispensing information is: there are no rules.  First man out wins.  There is no method of verifying facts beforehand, not if you want to be the first to break the news.  If something isn’t true, an apology can be rendered in the next barrage.

The other part of the problem is that most of us just can’t keep up with all of the nonsense.  So, we grab onto something and we hold it tightly as the truth – with no means of confirmation or proof available to us.  We rely on our instincts which are questionable at this point.  How many news channels do we watch?  Our favorite – the one that we “enjoy”, the one that is closest to our core beliefs.  Of course, we feel we can trust them – they think like we do, right?  How do we trust anything anymore?

So which is worse? To withdraw and think only of the weather, the daily toils of life, hoard our money and food and hope for the best?  Or jump on the closest bandwagon, hoard our guns and ammo and go “every man for himself”?  Those can’t be the only options, are they?  Of course not.  There is my dad’s mode of living – take care of your own little corner of the world.  Be strong but kind, always do what is right, take care of your family, raise your children to do the same.

“Good night, sleep tight, wake up bright, to do what’s right, with all your might”.  Sarge Espinoza (I think – at least, that is where I heard it…)

Long term procrastination

Epiphany of the day: I am a long term procrastinator.

My son sent me a link to a great Ted talk about procrastination.  I am attaching the link here.  I loved the talk, it is humorous and so true!

I pride myself on being organized and capable.  As a young woman, I was a terrible procrastinator and very unsure of myself.  Over time and with maturity, I became very efficient.  In work settings, I no longer procrastinated but became very proficient at anticipating a need and completing tasks in advance.  In most settings, I was anal retentive in accomplishing things and could actually be viewed as an overachiever.  But I always had a deadline.  In retirement, I don’t.

Things like writing, exercising, sorting through old photos, minor house maintenance, dusting, etc. etc. – none of which have a true deadline – my little “instant gratification monkey” and I defer over and over again because the “panic monster” is never called into action.  The glory of retirement is no longer having deadlines and the flaw of retirement is no longer having deadlines.

Long term procrastination, in my case, putting things off because I have no real “reason” to complete those tasks – causes me distress in that I feel as though I am lazy.   I feel guilty for doing so little in a day.  Especially so little of importance.  Oh sure, my house is clean, my laundry is done, I’ve done my usual daily tasks but what have I really accomplished?

Time to set a goal (also known as a deadline).  I will need to make a list, of course.  A walking routine is definitely at the top of the list.  Writing.  Reading more than just 5 minutes at bedtime.  Perform at least ONE procrastinatable task per day.  There is no reason to rush but there is a reason to move forward.  Don’t let the monkey win.

So far, so good.  I’ve written my blog.  Check.

Aging ungracefully

I recently read an article from AARP (though I hate to admit it….I actually receive their newsletter!) about 5 healthy things to do first thing in the morning to start your day and keep you healthy and fit.  Stretch, do deep breathing, meditate, drink a glass of water and I don’t remember the fifth thing — probably do something to help your memory.  (Shit!  I’d better read the article again.)  At the time, I thought they were all grand ideas and something that I would do immediately the next day — but, alas, I saw something sparkly or thought of something else and still haven’t added any of the above to my morning routine!

All of those suggestions are common sense.  I know stretching is important at my age, as is walking and doing things to help with flexibility and balance.  I keep pretending that I’m really only 45 and it isn’t quite necessary yet.  Then I pass a mirror and see the true evidence or have to grab the handrail to get my balance and I am slapped right in the face with reality.

The other day, I miscalculated on the stairs and thought I was at the bottom but had another two steps to go.  I was carrying my laundry basket full of clothes in one arm and an empty bowl in the other hand – obviously overloaded and not able to see where I was stepping.  As it became apparent that I was going down, I tossed the laundry basket and braced for impact.   I landed on my hands and knees, with the bowl still in my hand.  Didn’t break a thing, not even the bowl and didn’t dump the load of clothes.  My poor husband heard the loud bang of the laundry basket on the floor and came running upstairs to see if I needed an ambulance. He found me on the floor, chuckling (as I always laugh at silly things like falls and such) and once he realized I wasn’t hurt, he started chuckling and related the story of him trying to get out of his chair to come to my rescue.  It took three tries of rocking forward to get up!  He was desperately trying to hurry and felt like a turtle stuck on his back!  Aren’t we a pair!

At any rate, episodes like that make me realize that I do need to take precautions and be mindful of my limits.  Denial only obliges for so long, then it is time to accept the changes as they happen.  More importantly, it is time to be serious about getting fit, gaining strength and flexibility.  I have four grandchildren (so far) and I am that “Gawee” that loves to run and play, crawl on the ground like a horse, and wrestle for stolen kisses.  I want to be that Gawee for as long as I can!

SO.  If you will pardon me, I need to go do some stretching and deep breathing….meditating is another matter.  I have a hard time sitting still for more than three minutes.  Maybe I’ll start for 1 minute and work my way up.

Early morning reflection…

This is the perfect time of day.  All is quiet.  The ugly gray clouds are retreating to the east leaving a trail of hope for a little bit of sunshine.  Even the cows still slumber.  The only sound I hear is my husband as he turns the page of his morning newspaper.  Oh, and the clicking of my keyboard.

When my children were little, I usually got up early so that I could write a letter before having to get them up for school.  My oldest daughter had a room in the basement, with her own bathroom.  We didn’t see her until she joined us for breakfast.  The others would fight over the heating vents – they would come out in their pj’s and sit with our little chihuahua, Shaq, in front of the vents for warmth until breakfast was ready or until time to get dressed.

When I worked, it was a frenzy getting everyone ready and out the door.  Many times, I would be gone before they were.  I look back at those days and feel a little bit of regret that I wasn’t there to send them off each day.  But I’m grateful for the days that I could and did.  I hope they remember.  (Chances are, they only remember having to get themselves ready, fixing their own breakfast and packing their own lunches, walking out the door on their own and returning to an empty house.  Oh the guilt.)

Parenting is a difficult thing.  Everything is so much clearer after they are grown – mistakes, regrets, wishes for do-overs.  My children are great human beings but I don’t take credit for that – they were all born with an amazing road map of their own and they have done most of their own navigating.  I have picked up a few pieces along the way and tried to nudge them here and there, but they truly were remarkable little people from the very beginning.  Good genes?  Who knows?

Three of my four children are now parents.  I am so impressed with how loving, caring and “present” they are for their children.  They pay attention, they listen, they laugh, they teach and they encourage.  How lucky is this world to have these beings living and learning – to be leaders, to be kind, to be giving.  May they continue to grow and learn and always have strength and love.

In this time where selfishness, ignorance, arrogance and apathy abound, it is refreshing to watch these enlightened human beings navigate our existence.  It is frightening to think of the world they will live in but I have to believe they are here to make a difference, perhaps not in the greater world but in their own little latitude and longitude – and that is the best place to start.