Tag Archives: aging

A Flash of Summer

I knew that I was a bit behind on my blogging, but was astonished to discover that my last post was in April… A whole summer had passed! A quarter of a year since I last logged in, yet I had thought I was only about a month behind on my writing. Actually, this summer has flown by in all aspects. Where did it all go? Next week my kids return to school. Usually, I am ready to push my kids out the door and back into a routine. Instead, this summer it feels like we were short changed by at least a month. The kids haven’t even yet started their ritual of bugging me, and each other, from too many days with no real structure.

I know I did plenty these past few months. And I actually have about four different blog topics started to document some of the activities that passed during this time. Though, I still have to prove it to Stormy who kept hearing me say, “I have something to write about this week.” Yet, nothing ever fully materialized past my initial jotted notes. I’d get distracted with a game of catch in the front yard, a neighbor beckoning me over for a glass of wine on the porch, or time commitments of baseball games replacing the winter hockey schedule. Then suddenly, with an uncompleted list of planned summer activities and several unfinished blog drafts sitting in my to-do pile, summer is wrapping up.

Is this the start of what my grandma warned me about? How time would speed up and pretty soon I’d be looking back wondering where all the years have gone?

Grandma still is the last one to leave a party!

Grandma still is the last one to leave a party!

This observation came from the same grandma who gave me and my friends lessons on how to best hold your drink and appetizer while still socializing at a party. So she has earned my trust in passing on truly valuable nuggets of wisdom.

I am hoping that it is just a strange happenstance versus getting older that caused the summer time warp. As you may remember from a past birthday blog of mine, I am not taking the whole aging process graciously. I am not quite ready for even more “attributes” of getting older, so time speeding up is exactly what I don’t need.

Whatever the reason, this summer cruised by way too fast. Reflecting back on these past months, I can only remember flashes of memories, rather than a good summer story.

  • It had its simple pleasures – cabin trips, moms-and-kids staycation, family visits, and lots of outdoor time with good friends.
Staycation travel: from GoCarts

Staycation travel: from GoCarts

To limos!

To limos!

  • It has had its downers – breast cancer scares, parent’s health issues, and helping a friend through some intense life decisions and changes.
  • It has had its celebrations – my favorite being Stormy’s joint 50th birthday/moving party (which included drunk dancing in her backyard and a text the next day asking if I had any recollection of how she broke her toe after too many drinks!)
  • It had its lessons learned – wiener dogs do bite, waterslides are fun, and if the pool at the club closes unexpectedly just pull out the baby pool, hose and Prosecco in the backyard.

I guess, overall, the summer has just been filled with living in the present. I took a break from wondering what is next. I have a habit of always trying to peek at the chapter ahead versus engrossing myself in the current story. Maybe creating this new way of living through one of my chapters is what also messed with my time perspective. (Again, trying to deny the aging theory.)

If I was summing up this chapter of my life, I would just say it was a relaxing time, enjoying simple things, and growing up a bit (not growing old!). I did purposely try to make some self improvements such as watching how I acted and reacted, taking deep breaths as needed, and making sure I did the things I thought were best for those I love (whether they realized it or not).

I wasn’t always successful at this new calm, “take-it-as-it-comes” self. Just this past Sunday while back-to-school shopping at Target, I had a random moment where my mind was surprisingly confronted again with how fast time really does go. How quickly life changes. I had to remind myself to breathe–there was a reason I was there at that moment–and to just focus. No regrets. No worrying what was missed. Trust that I am making the most of my time, even in those periods of time that seem to disappear in a blink.

My personality won’t lend itself to taking this mellow approach to life long term. I am already plotting my plans and goals with fall approaching. I am considering taking up playing on a mom’s hockey league. I have some lofty career aspirations I want to hit. Also, I have a personal physical goal that I hope will send some parts of me back in time. As time keeps passing and new life chapters unfold, I want to find the right mix of excitement and challenges while regularly adding in some contentment and just enjoying the present.  If my grandma’s warning is true about looking back and wondering where all the time has passed, I want to make sure I have filled the time with a vast collection of stories to look back on. I already have some wonderful ones to keep my old mind happy and as a good place to revisit.

My next chapter: The kids head back to school and I head to New York (a setting for several favorite memories already). Maybe saying goodbye to summer won’t so bad with an interest in finding out what is ahead.

photo-4

You never know exactly what will be next or what tale will unfold. That should be the fun part, the unknown. It makes the passage of time easier. At least that is what my Grandma told me over a recent  phone call. She also reminded me, “Growing old isn’t for sissies.”

45 Candles

Well, tomorrow I will be waking up as a 45-year-old. Birthdays have never gotten to me. I celebrated 30 and 40 without any dismay about the accumulating years. That is not to say getting older hasn’t hit me. The increasing wrinkles and slowing metabolism are a constant reminder of the aging process that I am none too happy about. But, it has never been a birthday that has depressed me.

This year is different. For the first time, I am experiencing the birthday blues and want to protest or divert this upcoming age transition.

I should get some credit for skipping despair of turning 40. Though I may now resort to celebrating a repeating 44th birthday.

Perhaps it is that I am approaching 50. Every day, from here on out, I am closer to 50 than 40. Fifty sounds like a whole new life. Not an age I ever imagined being. But now it is sinking in as a reality. I am crossing over the line. I have friends in their 50s. They look amazing. Actually, they look better than they did in their 40s. But I am not ready to join them.

This birthday also means I have officially hit midlife. (I figure I will live past 80, looking at the women in my family, but don’t expect to see 100.)

Or maybe it is the combination of mood swings and hot flashes that have been a preview to what is in store. It’s an uphill battle from here on out. Good genes can only carry me so far. In an effort to take some control, I have taken a few preemptive strikes. Similar to Stormy, I am very good finding reasons (sometimes farfetched) to pay for services that make my life, and looks, better.

Covering the grey hair has been part of the age-fighting routine for years, although now the timeframe has narrowed from every six weeks to four. Though, a fresh hair color was not going to carry me through this birthday. When I was getting my hair done, my gorgeous 49 year–old stylist told me she liked me without makeup. I looked younger, fresher. Hmmm … it got me thinking. I always wanted to try “mink” eyelashes. And what better reason than a birthday—I would experience time savings in getting ready, less stress on my eyes if not applying makeup, saved makeup costs, and a new look. Plus, I had been complaining that my eyelashes were thinning out and breaking (a common complaint this year that I also attributed to aging). A week later my masterful rationalization has me donning new, lushes lashes with only a hint of blush and lip gloss: A natural look. (Okay, a fake natural look, bought and paid for.)

wrinkles

I did add some “natural” help, all shoved into a few weeks ago as I realized 45 was getting close. Microdermabrasion treatments to brighten up my skin (no needles were involved, so I count it as natural) and waking up at 5:30 to add a 20-minute Jillian work-out to my other routines. She promised it would change me in only 30 days!

I think the toughest thing is time is going so fast. It seems to be speeding up.

40 years ago with my sister and mom. Same bangs though!

40 years ago with my sister and mom. Same bangs though!

Sitting at the kids table at Thanksgiving, I used to wonder when I would feel like an adult. I remember thinking 30 was so old and now it seems so young. My mind still feels like that same little girl. I still have a lot I want to do and experience. I am not ready settle.

Yes, I know that aging graciously is the way to go. I am just not ready for it. And, if I have to distract myself from all the other issues of aging with a silly focus on looks, so be it. Right now, I will focus on the shiny object.

I will also spend my first day after turning 45—first day closer to 50 than 40—with Stormy for a birthday drink. We can catch up (we both have been crazily busy at work) and perhaps the bartender will buy me a drink after hearing I am turning 44 … again!

Did you think I would end this post by coming around to accepting my age and being thankful for all the wonderful things about aging and all the things I am grateful for? 🙂

 

The rantings of a bad daughter

I yelled at my elderly mother tonight. If this blog is supposed to be a slice of life—an honest chronicle of being a certain age—then I should be “mature” enough to admit this ugly fact. I’m not proud of myself, of course. As soon as I stormed out of my parents’ house and slammed my car door, I turned to my husband and demanded to know: “What’s WRONG with me?!? Why do I let her GET TO ME like that?!” But my outburst had taken him by surprise, too, so he just shrugged sympathetically.

Everyone pitches in to do yardwork at Stormy's parents house

Everyone pitches in to do yardwork at Stormy’s parents’ house

I alluded to my aging parents in an earlier post. My dad has dementia and my mom has a host of other ailments, yet she’s reluctant to move into an assisted-living facility, even though my parents are no longer capable of maintaining a home and living independently. Now, my mom needs surgery on her hip and both knees. Despite her advanced age (86), the doctor is willing to do the hip surgery because he thinks she “still has a lot of life in her.”

That’s no understatement. While my dad is continually amazed that he’s lived this long and greets every day as a pleasant surprise—a gift to be slowly savored—I believe my mother fully expects to achieve centenarian status. She is in complete denial about the limitations that aging is placing upon her and who knows? If “will to live” counts for anything…or sheer stubbornness…she’ll be leading the chorus of “Happy Birthday” at my 100th birthday.

So if you’re half as astute as I know our readers to be, you’ve likely surmised that the aforementioned “yelling” had something to do with my mom’s impending surgery, her stubbornness, and the general stress a grown woman feels when she’s trying to do right by all the people in her life and constantly coming up short. Short of time, short of patience, short of grace.

box_ornamentsWhile it’s tempting to try and garner sympathy by relaying the whole conversation or past childhood laments, that’s all irrelevant. Overall, my mom has been a good mom. I know I’m not the only grown daughter who has baggage about her mother, and I’m fully aware that these incidents will seem small and insignificant when she’s gone and I’m facing my first Mother’s Day, birthday or Christmas without her.

But it’s sort of like telling the exhausted parents of a newborn to cherish the sleepless nights because “they grow up so fast.” After all, hindsight is 20/20—today’s myopic view is the result of a gray November day, relentlessly busy work schedule, upcoming business trip, Mom’s impending surgery, my equally stressed siblings trying to coordinate schedules to care for Dad, etc. So my mom’s assertion that it’s perfectly reasonable to expect one of her kids to spend hundreds of dollars and take several days off work to fly down with her to Florida so she can retrieve old Christmas ornaments (and let me add that one of her sons did this just last spring, but she didn’t take the gesture seriously enough to pack up the items she wanted to bring home) Just. Set. Me. Off.

The key to our harmony? I hadn’t learned how to talk back yet.

As I said, I’m not looking for sympathy. I don’t deserve it. She’s 86 and she raised me and that’s enough justification for me to go recover a moldy Santa or two. All I really want is to get this anger out of my head and onto this blog post, so I can let go of it and do the hard work of trying to regain my patience…because I know I’ll desperately need it in the days ahead.

And if any of you can relate to this story—and know that you’re not alone in your frustration—then that’s the silver lining.

*****************************

Postscript: This was obviously written a couple of weeks ago. My mom has since had her surgery and although it went well, the recovery process (with mom in a transitional care unit and dad at home with us kids trading off staying with him) is about as challenging as we all expected. However, I’m so blessed to have an abundance of siblings who are working peacefully together to shoulder the burden, and I empathize with all of those who must navigate the challenge of elderly parents on their own. My siblings are truly my parents’ greatest gift to me.

I don’t want to be a grown up

Texting and venting with Stormy the other day, she sent me a line that goes through my head often: “I don’t want to be a grown up!”

I believe the only people who think being a grown up is fun are those who are not grown up yet. What does being a grown up mean?

  • Paying bills (When there is money to pay them.)
  • Working – at work and/or at home (The to-do list just keeps growing in both spots.)
  • Setting a good example for your kids (Still working on that.)
  • Biting your tongue in certain situations, even if you know you are right  (That’s a tough one.)
  • Making responsible choices (That’s boring.)
  • The aging process (That’s horrible and can be its own blog post.)
  • Giving up things you want for the sake of the greater good (e.g., I can’t run off and sell toe rings on the beach.)

That list does not sound enticing! As a kid, you get to make selfish decisions based just on your wants; you can be impulsive and not overly worry about the outcome. You have your whole life ahead of you to make bad, and fun, mistakes … and a life ahead of you to then fix them. There is plenty of time later to figure out your perfect path.

And to think how I wistfully waited forever to become a grown up. Spent much of my childhood trying to be a grown up. I remember each year seemed to take so freedomlong to pass. I couldn’t wait to be in my 20s and do what I wanted, when I wanted it – never having to ask permission.  I’d picture myself in my 30s, all wise with my life perfectly figured out. Well, I am now in my 40s and still waiting on this. I don’t have complete freedom as people are dependent on me. I still often have to ask permission. And, I seem to be even further from having my life figured out. A big problem now is that the years are flying by. I actually even lost a whole year. I was certain I was 42, but with an approaching birthday, I have now been told I am about to turn 44. I seriously do not remember turning 43, and I can’t afford to skip any years at this point!

My daughter asked me the other day if I ever get tired of being big and said she was tired of being little. Oh sweetie, I sure do. I wish I could have made her understand all the things she should be enjoying right now. But, I knew it was a lost cause. It would be just another rambling of an adult not getting it. It would be that Charlie Brown teacher’s voice making no sense and just a background noise. It is not something adults, or children, can explain to each other – that wish to be exactly what you aren’t at the time. Looking at that little face, I knew we would freaky fridayboth be totally up for some Freaky Friday action.

Now, I suppose I should end with something about why getting old is better. Instead, I want to take a different approach. I am going to make a few decisions that I simply can because I am an adult with a car to get around and a credit card to splurge in case of emergency.  I am going to set the appointment to cover my grey peeking through, call my aesthetician to discuss more miracle cures for aging skin that I can sink some money into, and ask a girlfriend to meet me out for a glass of wine and laughs. I am not mature and wise, yet, so instead I’ll embrace where I currently stand and with childlike hope continue to imagine all the places my selfish self would bring me. And as I am doing all the “grown up” things I am mandated to do – I will hope I don’t forget another year!

Florida vignettes, part II: Del Boca Vista

So, Dear Readers, you may recall that our Florida story began with a work conference. But after a successful conclusion of that industry event, it was time to leave the luxury resort in Ft. Lauderdale for the second phase of my adventure. Next up? A 3-hour drive to senior-infested Central Florida to visit my beloved parents in their winter haven.

Now, whenever I mention that my parents flock to Florida with the other Minnesota snowbirds, I get the same question, “Is it anything like ‘Del Boca Vista’?” To which I respond, “Yes, but imagine the Costanzas living there instead of the Seinfelds.”

After getting turned around a few times trying to find the route recommended by the GPS function on my iPhone (it seems all of the freeways in Florida are labeled “Florida’s Turnpike”), I pulled into the Carefree Country Club in Winterhaven around five o’clock. The next 48 hours were filled with visiting some of Mom and Dad’s favorite eating establishments (the upside of dining with seniors: I got carded when I ordered a beer), listening to my dad play the organ (unfortunately, he plays about three beats behind the pre-programmed accompaniment) and visiting the local flea market.

I’ll take my fleas to go

A "sharp eye" will spot the transposed letters...

A “sharp eye” spots the knock-off pens

The flea market was interesting. Imagine the 20 worst garage sales you’ve ever been to and string them all together. That was the flea market. One large tent in particular was a veritable treasure trove of shit. Knock-off products of every shape and size jockeyed for the attention of shoppers trying to stretch a fixed income.

I was particularly amused by the “Sharpeis”… Aren’t those the wrinkly dogs? The contrast between that redneck flea market and the oceanfront resort where I had been just one day earlier was both amusing and a bit depressing.

What’s a lifetime of sacrifice worth? Apparently $29.82. 

One of the pleasures of being an adult is the ability to buy your parents a decent meal. I mean, my parents raised NINE children, which obviously entailed a considerable amount of physical and financial sacrifice on their part. As someone farther down the batting order, I know that my existence is more due to the Catholic church’s ruling on birth control than it is based on the fact that my parents really wanted an 8th child/5th daughter. So how does one say, “Hey, thanks for all the love and sacrifice?” Well, in our family, food is always an appropriate way to show love, so my plan was to take my parents out for a nice meal during my visit. Sky’s the limit, I told them. Pick your favorite place. After much debate, Mom chose the local Bob Evans. The tab for the three of us? Under $30–so much for gratitude (I had spent that much just having margaritas on the beach earlier in the week). To be honest, my parents would be appalled to know how much my husband and I regularly spend on eating out, as it contradicts the frugal approach necessitated by raising nine children. But my parents enjoyed their meal, and I, their company. So I guess that’s what really matters.

Check out those gams

Being from a large family, it’s an interesting exercise to speculate on which parental traits have carried through to the next generation.

My mother’s nose is…um…prominent. She inherited it from her father and a couple of my brothers and I inherited it from her. My four sisters all lament the fact that they have no pinky toenail and blame my mother. They all covet my pinky toenail—I guess it comes from Dad. My predilection for colorful phrases comes from my father. My love of reading? That’s Dad, too. My sharp tongue? Weird sense of humor? Mom. And so on…

But check this out:

86 years old!

86 years old!

These are the legs of my 86-year-old father. Not bad, eh? In fact, it’s become a bit of a family joke to kid my father about his gorgeous gams. But seriously, this is an unretouched photo taken from my iPhone last week. Look at those legs! I’m hoping this is one of the physical traits I’ve inherited from Dad (my mother’s legs–having withstood nine pregnancies–naturally show a little more wear and tear). Check back in another four decades or so, and we’ll see whether I won the genetic lottery on legs.

Putting the bite on the sandwich generation

The most difficult part of my visit was revisiting an old argument with my mother: The “It’s-time-to-downsize-and-move-to-an-assisted-living-facility” discussion. The fact is, my parents are no longer able to winter in Florida so far away from the assistance of their kids. My mom has her hands full with my dad, who (in addition to great gams) has dementia and no short-term memory. My siblings and I have jobs and families of our own and can’t always drop everything to help out, although we try our best. We all live in dread of Mom getting sick or hurt, because even the most minor hospitalization would require one of us to immediately fly down there and care for my dad.

My sibs and I would like to planfully arrange for my parents to move into a nice senior apartment where they could retain their independence, yet still have a social life and be able to get help in an emergency–rather than waiting for a health crisis to necessitate an emergency move into whatever substandard place has an opening. Ironically, my father–the so-called demented one–is amenable to this; however, my mother is adamantly opposed to the idea. So we defer to Mom’s wishes and continue to persuade and cajole, but the fact is, we’re stuck. We love our parents tremendously and know that these sacrifices are the ones my siblings and I are required to make in exchange for all those our parents made while raising us. As much as I wish otherwise, dinner at Bob Evans just won’t settle that debt.