I’ll be off the grid for a week or so, unable to post or read and comment on other blogs. Please excuse my absence and I look forward to catching up soon!
Thanks for understanding,
I’ll be off the grid for a week or so, unable to post or read and comment on other blogs. Please excuse my absence and I look forward to catching up soon!
Thanks for understanding,
Yesterday was my husband’s birthday, which meant that I spent the days before it in a futile search for a gift for him. We stopped getting each other big presents for our birthdays years ago, but we still have a family dinner to celebrate and I like to have something from me that he can open with the rest of his gifts. The problem is that my husband already has most of the material possessions that he wants and I can’t afford to buy him the ones he wants but doesn’t actually own. And every year it gets harder to come up with a creative idea for something I actually can get him.
I’ve already made him several photo books, and had his broken college “Outstanding Athlete of the Year” and MVP Baseball trophies remounted. I spent hours carefully removing the photos and articles from the disintegrating scrapbook his mother had made him and remounted them all in a brand-new scrapbook. I bought him tickets to see his favorite comedian when he was in town. My kids have given him photo collages of his grandson, had a painting made of the house he grew up in, gave him a key-chain engraved with his parent’s signatures and even made him a pen and pencil holder with a photo of his grand-dog that reads “I love Grandpa.” As far as sentimental gifts go, I think we’ve covered the bases.
By late last week, I was almost in a panic mode. What in the world was I going to give him this year? When I asked for suggestions, he went to his closet and handed me a new sweater he’d already bought himself and suggested I simply wrap that up. When I said that I wanted to get him something he didn’t already know about, he answered, “But I don’t really need anything.”
I was getting ready to argue with him when it hit me that he was actually telling the truth. We celebrated his birthday last night with a dinner at his favorite restaurant, surrounded by his family. He is in good health, has a family that loves him dearly and close friends he knows he can always count on. In all the ways that really count, he has enough.
I don’t know why it’s sometimes so hard to realize that we don’t really need more stuff, bigger houses, fancier cars and all the latest gadgets. Maybe it’s because we live in a society that constantly urges us to get more, and to equate having more with success and happiness. But the truth is that when we have a place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear and most of all, people we love and cherish in our lives, then we really do have….enough. All the rest is just icing on the cake.
And when I looked at my husband last night, sitting at the table with his grandson in his lap and the rest of us nearby, I realized that I really was looking at a man who not only had enough, but a man who was very blessed indeed.
But that didn’t stop me from giving him one more thing, because I still think of birthdays as a time when it’s fun to open an actual gift. I found this by a happy accident just a couple of days ago, and I think it will go perfectly on his desk at work, right next to the pencil holder with the photo of his grand-dog. Some habits are just too hard to break….
I know that change is just a natural and even necessary part of life, and I accept that. I really do. But that doesn’t stop me from getting annoyed by all the little changes that keep popping up as I’m going about my day. Especially since it really does seem as if the older I get, the more changes I have to deal with. And in case anyone thinks I’m exaggerating, I’m providing a few real-life examples to show just exactly what I’m talking about.
I was shopping for some new Fall clothes yesterday, and was thrilled to walk into a store that had a big display of light-weight sweaters in the exact style and brand that I had bought several years ago. I remembered that sweater was both comfortable and flattering, so I grabbed a few of my favorite colors and headed into the dressing room to see which one looked the best. But none of them looked good on me. All of them drooped a bit in the bust-line and bulged around the midsection (The fact that the sweater’s bulges corresponded with the bulges on my actual body was, I’m sure, nothing more than an unhappy coincidence.) Clearly, the new sweaters were designed to be looser in the bust and tighter in the waist….which was a change that I didn’t appreciate one little bit.
I’ve also noticed that the quality of cell phones has declined dramatically. I used to have no problem carrying on a conversation on my cell phone. But these days I often have trouble making out just exactly what the other person is saying. When I was talking to my son recently, I was positive he mentioned that he and his wife were going to a topless bar for dinner. My son may be a grown man, but I’m still his mother, so I asked, “Why in the world are you two going to a topless bar?” Turns out, they weren’t. They were going to a tapas bar. And thank goodness for that.
The changes are everywhere. Books are now printed with smaller letters that are impossible to read without a bright light and really strong reading glasses. Restaurant meals are made with richer ingredients that are very difficult to digest, especially if accompanied by a glass of wine. The actors on television shows now speak so softly that I have to turn up the volume really high just to hear them. They’ve even messed with the system for measuring weights, because I know for a fact that twenty pounds feels a lot heavier than it used to. The list of changes I have to cope with these days is practically endless.
It’s not fair. It’s hard enough to get older without also struggling to deal with a constant succession of changes each and every day of my life. Is it really too much to ask that at least some things can remain the same? I don’t think so. And as soon as I figure out just which organization is responsible for all these crazy changes, I’m going to demand that they stop it immediately. I’ll let you know how that goes.
For the past few weeks, our house has been far too quiet. No one is barking at the back door, letting me know that she has waited exactly five seconds for someone to let her in and she’s deeply unhappy about the delay. When I’m working at my computer, no one is laying by my feet, snoring loudly. I don’t hear the repetitive squeak of dog toys, or the click of canine toenails on the hardwood floors. Our house has been peaceful, quiet, and almost entirely free of dog hair…..and I don’t like it one bit.
Lots of people have asked me if we’re going to get another dog. That question always surprises me a little, because I would think that anyone who knew me at all would realize that of course I’m going to get another dog. If I should spend my final years bed-ridden in a nursing home, I’ll most likely have a chihuahua hidden under the blankets and be bribing the staff to bring it food and take it for bathroom breaks. I’m not the sort of person who wants to live a dog-free life.
But I also know that it’s too soon to bring another dog home. My husband and I are still grieving for Lucy. It’s still hard to remember to walk in the house and not call out, “Lucy, I’m home!” (One of the best things about having a dog named Lucy was being able to say that.) When I’m away from the house for several hours, I still think I need to go home and let her out. And just last night, we realized that we still had her dog food stashed in our pantry, right below the box of dog treats. The simple truth is that we aren’t quite ready to open our hearts and our home to another dog just yet.
So these days, I get my “dog fix” when I walk the shelter dogs, who are always very happy to get the attention. My son and daughter-in-law’s dogs also come visit, making themselves instantly at home at “Grandma’s” house, as they explore every nook and cranny and scope out the furniture for the best napping spots. And they don’t seem to mind too much when we make it clear that their sleeping choices are limited to the floors and the dog beds.
One way or another, we are getting used to our life without Lucy, and coming to terms with not having a dog of our own anymore. I know that this particular phase of our life is temporary, and that the time is coming when we’ll begin to look for another dog to join our family. Until then, I’m really grateful for the shelter dogs and my “grand-dogs” for making this time of transition just a little bit easier. And for reminding me of just why I love dogs so much in the first place.
Generally speaking, I try to mind my own business. I don’t usually believe it’s my place to tell other people what to think or how to live their lives, and I’m not the sort of person who honestly believes that the world would be a better place if only everyone else behaved just like me. (I’m way too acquainted with my many faults to believe that one.) I don’t put bumper stickers on my car or signs in my yard, and I have never once written a letter to the editor. “Live and let live” has always been my motto (within reason, of course.)
But either I’m becoming less tolerant in my old age or my inner-bitch is beginning to awaken, because lately I’ve found myself becoming more and more irritated by some of the actions of the people around me. For instance, this morning I was waiting in the check-out line of a bookstore when the woman behind me decided to call someone on her cell phone. I would rather not have heard the intimate details of her breakup with her boyfriend, but I did. And she was speaking so loudly that everyone else in line heard it too. The bottom line is that unless someone is giving out their credit card information (in which case I need them to speak slowly and enunciate clearly so I can write it down), I don’t want to hear their phone conversations when I’m in a public place.
I know I’m hopelessly old fashioned and not a big believer in multi-tasking, but I still believe that when a person is driving a car, that is all they should actually be doing: driving the car. They should not be texting, putting on eye-liner, eating their dinner, or stirring their coffee. Yes, all of those things can be important, but they aren’t important enough to risk someone’s life in a car accident. They just aren’t.
And at the risk of stating the obvious, I firmly believe that personal business should actually be kept personal. I don’t believe that social media is the appropriate setting for family conflicts, neighborhood feuds, failing marriages, or imploding friendships. We all tend to say (or write) things that we shouldn’t in those situations, so why make it worse by doing so in front of the whole world? These days, privacy seems to be little more than a quaint idea, but I truly believe that not every single detail of our lives needs to be shared.
I honestly don’t know if good manners are becoming obsolete or if I am simply becoming old and cranky. My guess is the truth is probably a little of both. But I was raised to believe that being polite and considerate of others made life easier and more enjoyable for everybody, and I think that’s just as true today as it was when I was young. Some things never go out of style…..
When I first started this blog, I planned to write about the challenges facing women “of a certain age.” Specifically, I wanted to write about how to handle the time in our lives when we can no longer call ourselves young without everyone thinking we are either drunk or completely delusional, and yet are also not ready to embrace the title of senior citizen. (Although we will happily accept the discounts, especially if no one is around to see it.)
You would think that after four years of writing this blog I would have run out of things to say on the subject, but so far that hasn’t happened. And I think I know why. I may not always write specifically about aging, but the fact that I am a sixty-year old woman really does impact how I see the world around me and how I interact with it.
If I were writing this blog when I was eighteen, you can bet that not a single post would mention wrinkles, menopause or nostalgia for a time when I woke up and some part of my body didn’t hurt. Instead, I’d probably be writing about struggling with trying to pick a major in college that would lead to a rewarding career, wondering if I was ever going to find true love, and did I have enough money to buy myself a couple of beers on Friday night?
So one way or another, my age does determine my perspective, in both good and bad ways. For example, I would have considered my recent oral surgery a bad thing, no matter what age I had to endure it. But as a sixty-year old woman, I couldn’t help but notice that the slight swelling in my cheeks did a great (if temporary) job of eliminating the fine wrinkles around my mouth. And when I was a young woman, a shopping trip meant searching for clothes that were both stylish and flattering. Now I couldn’t possibly care less about what’s in style (I refuse to wear “peek-a-boo shoulder” blouses and my chubby little legs will never be stuffed into a pair of skinny jeans) and seek mainly comfort when I’m making my wardrobe selections. If the outfit is also flattering, that’s a plus, but it’s not mandatory. Thank goodness, because so few of them are.
The bottom line is that being sixty is a part of who I am now, just as being seventy will be a part of who I am in ten years. Age affects all our lives. I was reminded of this last week when I was watching my grandson, who is now eight-months old. It wasn’t that long ago when he was still at the age where he stayed where I put him. Now he not only crawls over to his toy box when I put him on the floor, he reaches into it and personally selects the toys he’d like to play with. Sometimes age has a very big impact indeed.
I suppose I will never reach the point where I have written all I can about coping with a particular phase of my life, because each phase simply flows into the next. And each phase brings its own unique challenges and rewards. All I can hope is that this adventure continues for many more years to come….
The only thing wrong with dogs is that they don’t live long enough. Lucy would have been seventeen next month, but she still didn’t live long enough. Because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the wonderful dog who had shared my life and my home for over sixteen years, even though the time finally came when I no longer had a choice.
I have written many times about Lucy, so my regular readers know something about her history. They know that when we adopted her from the humane society, we thought we were getting a calm, easy-going dog. Which she was, until the sedative they had given her when she’d been spayed wore off. And then we realized that we had actually adopted a very energetic and almost scary-smart dog who liked her own way best. Lucy was very loving and had huge brown eyes that could melt just about any heart, and those traits served her well. Especially since she was a firm believer that most household rules were nothing more than suggestions, and tended to live life very much on her own terms.
She loved being outside and took her self-appointed job of keeping our yard free of vermin very seriously. The squirrels quickly learned the only safe way they could cross our yard was via the power lines strung above our back fence, and even then, Lucy would be directly underneath them, hopping sideways along the fence on her back legs as she barked madly at the squirrel above her. Rabbits, voles, and chipmunks didn’t dare set paw in our yard when Lucy was around.
Inside, Lucy spent most of her time playing with her toys, and the squeaky ones were her favorite. She also kept a constant watch out for unattended food, which she clearly believed she was entitled to, even if she had to climb up on the dining room table to get it. To her credit, she left the table alone while we were eating, but once we finished and walked away, anything we were foolish enough to leave behind us was fair game. Once she even helped herself to the gingerbread house we were using as a Christmas table centerpiece.
Still, age catches up with all of us sooner or later, and Lucy was no exception. The dog who had always been so independent began to follow me around the house so that she could always be in the same room. There were times when she didn’t seem to notice that rabbits had taken up residence in our back yard, and even if she did happen to spot one, she just trotted briskly after it while the rabbit hopped casually away. The toys in her toy box were usually left untouched and she spent most of her time sleeping.
Inevitably, the time came when her body could no longer keep up with her spirit. Her hearing and eyesight faded, her sense of balance began to desert her, and medicines could no longer ease the pain of her arthritis or help her keep control of her back legs. And so we made the heart-breaking decision to say goodbye to our beloved, sweet and sassy little Lucy.
Rest in peace, baby girl. May you spend your days in a heaven filled with all your doggie friends, slow-moving squirrels and low tables loaded with all your favorite foods. And never forget just how very much you were loved.
Most days, I manage to forget just exactly how old I really am. Never mind the fact that I’m always a little bit shocked when I look in the mirror, especially first thing in the morning when I’m not wearing any make up and my face is still puffy and my hair looks like what we used to call a “rat’s nest.” Or that my trips to the mall tend to focus only on stores that cater to women of a certain age, which means that the clothes they sell are designed for maximum coverage and almost always feature a “control panel” somewhere in the mid section. Or that I can no longer read anything without a pair of really strong reading glasses. Or that I am now routinely offered senior citizen’s discounts by clerks who don’t look old enough to hold a job. Denial is a wonderful thing, and over the years, I’ve gotten really, really, good at it.
But every once in a while something comes a long to remind me that my youthful days are now ancient history, and today was one of those days.
My daughter had a birthday today. I knew it was coming, since it lands on the same day every year. I also knew how old she was, since it’s not that hard to count to thirty-two. (Although I admit that up until a few days ago, I was under the impression that she was going to turn thirty-one, so I probably shouldn’t be bragging on my counting skills.) Yet there’s something about knowing that my daughter, whose birth I can remember as if it happened just yesterday, is turning thirty-two that just makes me feel old.
But the more I think about it, the more I realize that what I’m really concerned about isn’t the actual number of years I’ve been on this earth. I’m just trying to avoid behaving the way I have always thought old people did: longing for the “good old days,” afraid to try new things, becoming obsessed with my health, and in general, letting the “young” people do all the important stuff and have all the fun. Which, if you think about it, is just plain silly.
People of all ages are still actively engaged in the world around them, working hard to help others and contributing to their communities. People of all ages are still having fun, still pursuing their interests, and still making new friends. I think that the time has come for me to stop being afraid that turning a certain age means I have to somehow let go of the essence of who I really am and how I want to live my life.
Yes, my body isn’t as strong as it was and I have far more sags, bags and wrinkles than I would like. But I can live with that. It’s just the price I pay for the privilege of having lived for over sixty years, and all that I have experienced and learned in that time. Underneath it all, I’m still me and always will be, no matter what my age. Which means that getting older might not be so bad after all….
A few days ago, I had oral surgery to address an ongoing infection in one of my upper molars. The procedure involved cutting through my gums and manually removing the infection and the tips of the molar’s roots before sealing them off. I’m not going to lie and say it was fun, or even no big deal. I don’t like even simple dental procedures, and this one was a doozie, any way you looked at it. But I can say that the procedure wasn’t nearly as bad as I had anticipated, for one reason and one reason only: the terrific attitude of the endodontist and her staff.
From the minute I walked into the office, I was treated with compassion, patience and encouragement. Did I want a blanket to cover up in? Did I have any questions before we began? Would I like the chair set to massage during the procedure? Of course I wanted all of it, especially the chance to ask some last-minute questions. And by the time the procedure began, I was much calmer more relaxed than I would ever have thought possible in those circumstances. By the time it was over, I was actually kind of proud of myself for how well I handled it.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my pride was misplaced. Yes, I had done a good job of managing my nerves in the days before the procedure, but by the time of the actual appointment, I was both nervous and scared. If the staff had been hurried and abrupt, brushing off my questions, rolling their eyes at my request for a last-minute bathroom break, or acting as if there was no reason for me to be apprehensive, my entire experience would have been very, very, different. If I had even stuck around long enough for them to do it. (I may be old, but I can still run pretty fast when I have to.)
The reason I was so calm during the procedure was because the endodontist and her staff did everything in their power to settle my nerves and allow me to get through it with as much dignity as possible. And that is a gift that I will not soon forget.
I’m sure I was just one of a series of scared and nervous people that the endodontist’s staff has dealt with, and that the way I was treated was their normal routine. But their patience and encouragement made a world of difference to me. Which just goes to show that how we treat other people really is a very big deal.
It really doesn’t take that much effort to offer someone an encouraging word, or to listen when someone needs to express their fears and concerns. It isn’t that hard to smile at a newcomer, to talk to someone who is lonely, or to offer our sympathy to someone who is grieving. Yet each and every time we do these things, we may well be giving someone else that little bit of help they need to get them through whatever difficulty they happen to be facing at the time. And what could be more important than that?
Have you ever had one of those dreams that seems so real you had a hard time convincing yourself it wasn’t, and the emotions you felt in the dream stay with you long after you wake up? I once dreamed that my husband was cheating on me by dating the entire University of Iowa cheerleading squad, and also had the gall to tell me that it was “no big deal.” I was so angry when I woke up that it was all I could do not to slap him. And even though I knew it was just a dream, it still took me a few days before I quit glaring at him.
Which just goes to show how easy it is to get worked up about things that didn’t even happen and aren’t even real. And sadly, I’m not just talking about exceptionally vivid dreams. Or even all those annoying social media memes that are designed to generate outrage and anger, as dangerous as they can be to our emotional health. What I’m talking about is much simpler: how strongly our outlook (or our internal dialogue) can influence our mood and how we perceive the world around us.
When I’m feeling crabby, I have no problem finding things to fuel and sustain that mood. A friend who is too busy to go to lunch with me is obviously tiring of my friendship; the receptionist at the doctor’s office who doesn’t return a call right away must be incompetent; the driver who hesitates a bit too long when the light turns green absolutely has to be talking on a cell phone. None of those things may be true, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling rejected, annoyed or self-righteously outraged.
It’s actually kind of scary how easy it is to react with very real anger and hurt to something that doesn’t exist anywhere except in my tiny little mind. But the good news is that I can do something about it.
I can pay attention to that little voice in my head, and I can also rein it back in when it becomes too negative. I can remember that most of the time, I honestly have no idea why people do the things they do and that nothing good can come from automatically attributing the worst possible motivation to other people’s actions. And more importantly, I can remember that it’s almost always best to give other people the benefit of the doubt, at least until they have given me a good reason not to.
I used to think that people who believe in the power of a positive attitude were the sort of people who never really stopped believing in Santa Claus and who tended to buy into pyramid schemes with their spare money. But the older I get, the more I realize that my attitude is not only one of the few things in my life I can actually control, but that the harder I try to keep it positive, the happier I’ll be. And when I am happy rather than crabby, it’s just so much easier to also be patient, tolerant and most important of all…kind. It really is as simple as that.