Aging Gracefully

aging

I’ve been thinking a lot about aging recently. Having turned 48 last month, I keep thinking about turning 50. Fifty used to seem so old; now it seems quite young. Vibrant, in fact. I guess since many of my friends have already reached that milestone and didn’t suddenly become old, boring men and women, I’ve learned it’s all a matter of having peace with our lives and our choices.

Recently, I was thinking about the team at Everbody’s Fitness, where my husband and I are both instructors. We have an awesome team that cares about our members and celebrates members’ achievements, both small and large. But do you know what’s really inspiring about our team? We have twelve instructors, and nine of them are over 40! Several are over 50, and my husband will be 65 this summer. I believe you can ask any member who has attended our classes, and you will find that age is not a factor. Our classes are tough, and young folks  can attest to getting a kick-ass workout. Personally, I can hardly keep up with my husband in Spinning. Kathy, who is a 50-year-old Spinning instructor has recently added triathlete to her resume. Tabbie, a 40-something jack-of-all-exercise, can out work both men and women half her age. Many of us also run; we participate in races ranging from 5Ks to half marathons to marathons. We don’t let a number define us.

Personally, I am in the best shape of my life. Sure, I have about five pounds I need to drop, but as far as strength and fitness, I am in better shape at 48 than I was at 28. I didn’t even begin to exercise until I was 42. I had spent the previous 20 years raising kids, working, returning to college, starting a couple careers, blah, blah, blah. I have every excuse for not taking care of me. Of course, until my late thirties, I really didn’t have to worry about my weight, and then suddenly the scale began its ascent. Though I was eating no differently, those numbers increased. And then I noticed that when I went up a flight of stairs, I was out of breath. What? I quickly learned that being thin did not mean being in shape or healthy. I’ve since learned that not being thin did not mean being out of shape or unhealthy.

Throughout the past six years, I have run (lots of 5Ks, a few 10Ks, and six half marathons), taught Zumba, and now teach Tabata Bootcamp and HIIT classes. Admittedly, it’s much easier to fit in my workouts since my girls are grown and I don’t have to worry about finding someone to watch them. I don’t know how I would have pulled it off when they were all young, but if I’d made it a priority, I could have made it work. I think many of us, especially moms, get our children to the point that they can care for themselves, and finally decide to take time for ourselves. We realize we’ve let ourselves go, and it’s time to take control of our bodies and our health. For me, my wake-up call was turning 42. My father died of a heart attack at 42, and his brothers also died in their 40s or early 50s. My family history was not going to work in my favor. I made the decision to take care of my heart; I wanted to be here for my kids and grandkids.

Grandkids. What a joy! Gary and I have six between us, and each one brings us a level of happiness never before experienced. Then I look at myself as a grandmother, ‘Nana’ as I am known. As I don my Under Armour shorts, sports bra, tank top, and Asics, I picture my Grandmother Allen in her homemade cotton dress and thigh-highs. I think I saw my gram in pants one time. I picture her cooking up fried chicken and baking eclairs, sitting watching the news, and going to church. I loved her dearly and spent a lot of time with her, but don’t really remember her playing outside with me, and certainly don’t recall her exercising. My Grandma Greenland was a chubby lady, who happened to be the BEST baker. She could bake anything – butterscotch pie (my personal favorite), a plethora of cookies and cakes…yum. She enjoyed swimming. I can still see her in her blue flowery one-piece and matching blue swimcap, doing the side-stroke (I don’t think that’s an official stroke, but she rocked it). I wonder how my grandkids will remember me. I hope they remember that I got out and played with them, and inspired them to always set goals. I hope they remember my running races and living life to its fullest. Grandmas and grandpas today are forging their own paths. We are not content to sit back and let life just pass us by as we age. We are working to maintain our health and fitness so we can be integral, active members of our families.

Despite my efforts at staying fit and healthy, there are some parts of aging I can’t control. That’s bothersome. This whole saggy skin thing really ticks me off. I was well-aware of face wrinkles; we see those on our older family members and know they are inevitable. It’s what’s under the clothes that we don’t know about until it hits us. The other day I was sitting on the floor, cleaning the toilet, and I looked down at my bare foot and saw the foot of an old woman. Seriously! It looked wrinkly, dry, and just OLD. It looked like my mother’s foot. And then there’s the sagging leg skin. My legs might be well-toned for my age, but I can’t control the wrinkles and crinkles. When the sun is shining in when I am dressing, all I see is saggy old skin. When I look in the mirror, I see my mom. She is 81. I don’t want to see her in my mirror until I am 81. In an effort to remove my mother from the mirror, I even ordered Nerium, you know, that magical anti-aging concoction. I’ve seen some pretty amazing before and after pictures, and thought what the hell? I think I’ll bathe in it.

Another issue of being middle-aged is what to wear. When I was younger, I always wondered why people my age often tried to dress ‘young’. Now I know. In our minds, we are young. I don’t feel any older. I’m just me, and I’ve always loved clothes. I really have to be careful because I see young girls and think Wow! Cute outfit! I bet I could wear that! And then I realize I am almost 50, and just because I can, doesn’t mean I should. The problem is, I love most trendy clothing. Because of my height deficit, I have to shop in the petite section, and in many stores, the petite clothing looks as if it were made for my mother. Elastic-waisted polyester pants just aren’t my thing. Flowing, flowery tops…nope. Trying to find that balance of stylish, but not too young can be tricky. Thankfully, my daughters are good at letting me know what works and what to avoid.

Overall, I love the age I am. I enjoy my daughters as adults. I like the free time I have and the time I have with my husband. I would not want to go back to an earlier decade. My forties have been filled with many joys and sorrows, many changes, and many life lessons. I have enjoyed them immensely, and actually look forward to what my fifties will bring. So, no matter your age, take care of yourself. Don’t let life pass you by – you can never get these days back. We spend far too much time waiting for the weekend, waiting for summer, waiting for vacation. And then we complain that life is going too fast! We wish it away. What about today? Enjoy today. Do something for your health TODAY. Embrace TODAY.

This picture has nothing to do with this post. It was taken a couple years ago when this tall lady tried to pass me at the end of a race. Not happening. This NANA was gonna kick her butt! (I beat her)

This picture has nothing to do with this post. It was taken a couple years ago when this tall lady tried to pass me at the end of a race. Not happening. This NANA was gonna kick her butt! I couldn’t believe Bethany caught the moment. I just think it’s funny.

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You Will Be Missed

It seems that 2015 is already speeding by. January was a busy month with lots of stress. My youngest daughter is a senior, so January and February mean scholarship application time. She applied for everything available, so she was writing essays, gathering letters, and making lists. I was reading essays, nagging her to get letters, and checking her lists. She has a few more applications to complete, and then we wait and hope for interviews.

Gary's beautiful daughter and her grandfather

Gary’s beautiful daughter and her grandfather

January also brought sadness. As I wrote in my last post, my father-in-law had been quite ill. He was diagnosed with lymphoma on December 18, and lost his battle on January 28. As cliche as it might sound, his passing was very peaceful; my husband, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, mother-in-law, and I were by his side as he took his final breath. I have always tried to find the little joys in difficult times. If we look hard enough, we can always find something for which to be grateful.

The first joy we found was in the hospital itself. My father-in-law spent the last six weeks of his life at Baptist Health in Lexington. We – and I mean all of us – could not have been in a more caring hospital. I refer not just to the doctors and nurses, who were phenomenal, but to every staff member with whom we came in contact. Even the custodians would warmly greet us and ask us how we were doing. They saw to it that we were as comfortable as possible, even though there were five of us sleeping in a small hospital room and it was nearly impossible to be comfortable. The nutritionist sent someone to the store to purchase sugar-free jello for my diabetic mother-in-law, and a social worker brought my sister-in-law dark chocolate because they know those little things matter.

One of our most precious joys came when the therapy dogs visited. I didn’t know they even existed, but as a dog-loving family, we were all uplifted when they came in the room. My father-in-law perked up when he had the chance to pet the dogs. We saw Fletcher the most, as his owner would make a point to come to our room. She even brought Fletcher to the open house we had in place of a funeral. Not everyone agrees that these dogs can make a difference, but they most certainly do. Not only were the patients cheered up, but so were the families and the staff.

I can’t write this blog without telling you about the man my father-in-law was. He was really quite incredible. I think his grandson Bryce (my husband’s son) summed it up best:

My Grandpa Stath passed away this week. He followed many of his dreams and lived an incredibly

full life. He was an electrician, dairy farmer, Midwestern ski resort owner and operator, a husband,

a father, grandfather, scout leader, a pilot, accomplished woodworker, among other things.

Grandpa always inspired me in subtle ways, primarily through how he lived his own life.

He was always pursuing new interests which helped him keep his and Grandma’s lives exciting

and dynamic. He was never one to sit back and watch the world go by. 

I can’t ever thank him enough for being the role model he was for me. I’ll miss him tremendously. – Bryce

I could not have said it better. This man was 85, yet more computer literate than I. Rather than purchase a new computer, he bought components and built his own. He was savvy with his smart phone, and an expert photographer. One of my favorite memories was when we were at Bryce’s wedding in Lake Tahoe. My father-in-law went out early in the week so he could explore and take photos. During the wedding, everywhere I looked, there he was taking pictures that I am certain were as good as the professional photographer’s. He was in his element.

Another joy during this time was getting to know my husband’s family better. One cannot go through hours in a hospital without bonding. We laughed, talked, ate, and cried. I cherish my sister-in-law and her husband, and am so blessed to have shared that time with them. I observed as my mother-in-law, herself with several health issues, watched her husband slip away. Her quiet strength was humbling. She shared 65 years of marriage with this man. I cannot imagine how hard it was for her to see him fight for his life. I believe she was so much stronger than even she knew. She is such a sweet lady, and doesn’t want to be a burden on anyone. She was so proud of her husband and his talents, yet downplays her own. She is also quite accomplished. She took up woodburning (that involves carving and painting, too), and her pieces are just gorgeous. I’ve also gotten to know Gary’s nephew, his future bride, and their daughter. They are such a neat family! The adults are both non-traditional college students who will graduate in May. Yulien (such a cool name) is an awesome teen who follows her own path and shows kindness to everyone.

We will miss my father-in-law, but we had the blessing of knowing him, learning from him, and loving him. He is no longer in pain, and I’m pretty sure he’s telling Jesus how to run things up there. He has left a great legacy for his grandchildren, who all carry on his tradition of searching for adventure, learning continuously, and not sitting back and watching life pass them by.

This one’s for you, Bill. Rest in Peace…