It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness, I thought I’d share an older piece I wrote. Please share if you feel so inclined.

The Mammogram Experience

One of my summer rituals is going to the gyno for my yearly check-up, and then following up with a mammogram. About a month ago, the day had finally arrived for the annual event. There are so many things to worry about on this day. What do I wear that is easy to get on and off? I almost wore a dress, but then realized I would be unnecessarily naked for my mammogram. Shorts – I need shorts. What shoes should I wear so my feet don’t stink. Seriously, that’s a thing. How long will I have to sit there covered only by a sheet before the doctor wanders in?

I won’t go into the details about the gyno visit because that’s just gross. Who really wants to hear about the stirrups, rubber gloves, and the cold, metal devices? I will only say that when I am in that very humiliating position, I always wonder what makes someone choose to become a gyno? As my doctor is examining me, I am suspiciously  looking at him thinking What kind of person are you to want to do this every day?

Next, it is time to go across the road for my mammogram. Since many of you haven’t experienced this, I thought you should know what it’s like. First of all, I am certain that as a petite person, my experience varies from that of a  normal-sized woman. This particular breast center has tried to create a spa-like atmosphere, and I appreciate the soothing colors, comfy furniture, and trickling fountains. Once we are called back, we are ushered into a nice dressing room to undress from the waist up and put on a pink, fluffy robe. No paper vests here. We then move on to the “Robe Room.” It’s quite nice really. All of us just sitting around in our pink fluffy robes looking through out-dated magazines.. Occasionally I say a little prayer that everyone has secured their robes so nothing falls out.

And then I hear my name. The mammo lady guides me back to the semi-dark room with the imposing machine, the vice if you will. It is about to get real. She maneuvers me up to the vice, asks me to take one arm out of the robe, and proceeds to manhandle me. Seriously, her arms are everywhere; I don’t know how to stand because it’s awkward as hell; and she is trying to get my little boob in that vice. This is tricky. Mammo lady begins, “Turn your toes that way, but your shoulders this way, put your chin up, and your arm over there.” What? And I am petite. This is no lie, in order to get the required goods into that vice, I swear she pulls skin from my belly and neck. My entire midsection is trapped in that damn vice. And then she begins cranking it closed. Tighter and tighter it pulls all my skin. It is so tight my knees no longer sag. Then she looks me in the eye, gives me a little smile, and gives one more turn. Crap! I am now hanging from this machine by my boob. I am certain the vice is cutting off circulation, and soon my boob will fall off.

She casually walks over to her computer area as I am on my tippy toes trying not to fall because, really, if I did fall, I’d rip my boob off. And then she says, “When I count to three, stop breathing until I tell you you can breathe again.” Shit. I stopped breathing five minutes ago. I have one arm on top of the machine, the other dangling at my side, I am twisted up like a contortionist, and now I have to continue to hold my breath.

The machine begins to make a whirring noise. It oh so slowly makes a revolution while capturing pictures of my neck and belly skin. My neck is pulled so tightly I begin to feel like I am suffocating. And then she says to relax. Sure. Relax. Until you grab up all the skin from the other side. She releases me, and starts over on the left side. One would think I’d have it down by now, but it is no better. The arms. The toes. The neck skin. The twisting and turning and smashing. This is not the spa experience they make it appear to be. This is a medieval torture device. It’s 2017; there has to be a better way.

Mammo lady finally gets the left side of my body into her vice. Crank. Crank. And just one more…crank. I am now secured in the machine, again on my tippy toes. Deep breaths; now hold my breath. I can do this. I’ve survived childbirth three times, and the teenage years with three daughters. I can survive this machine. Just hang on to that machine, keep my balance, and do not think about all the skin clamped in. And…we’re done. Mammo lady releases me, and although smashed, everything appears to be in place. My skin slowly begins to return to its intended position as I do neck stretches and arm circles. Until next year, Mammo Lady!

Early detection is so very important in the fight against breast cancer. Men and young people, though necessary, mammograms are not something the women in your lives look forward to. To make it more pleasant, you could have chocolate and wine waiting for us upon our return. And, husbands, please keep your hands to yourselves on mammo day.

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Here I Go Again…

Menopause. It’s a rite of middle age. Actually, post-middle age because I doubt I will live to be over 100. I’ll probably drown in a puddle of sweat in my own bed. Menopause can make life pretty tough, especially when in my head I am still young and thin. Unfortunately in the mirror I am aging and chubby. I volley back and forth between acceptance and disbelief. Somedays I think I’ll just roll with it and buy bigger clothes and invest in better wrinkle creams, and other days I just want my old body back – the one that didn’t sweat profusely several times throughout the night, and fit nicely into skinny jeans. The body that could run a decent pace and could do – and enjoy doing – burpees.

I thought I understood hot flashes until I actually had one. When I was young and birthing children, I thought what I experienced was hot flashes, but I was just hot most of the time. A menopausal hot flash is different. It always awakens me as I begin to get restless. Then when I am awake enough to fully experience the heat, I can feel it start at my core, and then it spreads throughout my extremities until sweat is pooling under my boobs and my hair is wet. I kick the covers off, or at least attempt to. Two dogs sleep with my husband and me, so sometimes kicking covers off means sending a dog sailing off the bed. I’ve found they don’t appreciate waking to my flailing arms and legs as I work to extract myself from the sheet and comforter that suddenly feel as if they’ve caught fire.

My nightly hot flashes became so regular that my husband bought a king-sized bed. Not only do the dogs keep me from cooling off, but my husband feels like a furnace when I am already hot. One touch of his hand makes my arm feel like it’s melting.

Another effect of menopause is weight gain. For me, this is much more difficult to deal with because I’ve been petite my whole life. It took no time after having a baby for me to get back to my pre-baby size, and I didn’t exercise back then. I thought the weight gain was bad in my forties, but could still control my weight with exercise and sensible eating. Now, however, it’s getting out of control. I find myself buying only loose-fitting tops and dresses and I finally gave in and bought a larger size pant. I don’t want to just give up, but damn, I can’t eat anything good. And when I am trying to avoid crap, every other commercial is for Blizzards and Monster burgers.

So, how am I going to combat menopause? Wine is an excellent option. But it also has a lot of calories. I do believe that menopause is the reason so many middle-aged women enjoy a glass or four of wine regularly. If we can’t be skinny, we might as well have fun. Drink enough wine and you won’t notice those wrinkles when you look in the mirror and you’ll be happy to wear leggings and a tunic (Thank God for that style!). My dear friend got me a wine Tervis that says, ‘This wine is making me awesome!’ Yes. Yes, it is. But I still need to workout because I can’t drink wine every day.

To try to get in somewhat decent shape, I am going to run two half marathons this fall. I had about given up the idea of distance running because it’s just getting harder and harder, but rather than quit, I am just going to have to accept that I will never run a half marathon in close to two hours again. I will have to accept that I might even have to walk a portion of the course. I’ve completed 13 half marathons so far, and I’ve never regretted any of them. I hated a few of them (Hoosier Half in April – 20 degrees and hills!), but I was always glad I finished. I am going to run the Monumental Half in November with my daughter Bethany, and before that my husband and I are going to run the Purdue Half in October. It wasn’t in our plans, but we will be there that weekend for his class reunion, so why not? My training for the Monumental had me running ten miles that weekend, so I might as well add three point one and get a medal. I hope the medal goes with the dress I’m wearing to the reunion.

So, menopause sucks. I can’t find one positive thing to say about it other than every woman seems to survive it. It would help if I had some sort of timeline. If I knew there were an end in sight, I could suck it up and take one for the team. I could promise my husband that this craziness would end soon and he would get his wife back. But no, there is no timeline. This crap can last years. I really wish Eve hadn’t eaten that damn apple.

 

Dear Santa…

Dear Santa:

I realize I’m not some cute little blonde kindergartner; I’m a no-longer-cute, 50 year old menopausal nana. After years of making sure everyone else has a perfect Christmas experience, complete with decorations in every room, cookies baked months in advance and tucked away in the freezer, and perfectly chosen, beautifully wrapped gifts, I’m exhausted. I’ve decided it’s my turn. Hell, I’ve been exceptionally good this year; I deserve my own visit from Santa.

I know you’re a busy guy, so I’ll try to make things easy for you. The following is my grown-up Christmas list, in no particular order.

  1. Please make these hot flashes go away. They are not very sexy, although my husband kind of likes them since they typically happen at night and I end up stripping. However, I prefer to maintain a tolerable body temp and to keep my clothes on. Most of the time, anyway. I am trying to stay on your ‘nice list’ afterall.
  2. Santa, since I’ve turned 50, I keep gaining weight. I can hardly eat a slice of bread without seeing the needle on the scale inch toward the right. I would really like to have my 30-year-old body back – the one that could eat pizza and ice cream and not gain weight. I wouldn’t even complain about the stretch marks. Just let me eat some bread, dammit!
  3. I would like a new bathroom mirror. Every time I look in mine, my mother is looking back at me. It’s really creepy, Santa. All I see are crows’ feet accentuating squinty eyes, lines criss-crossing some old lady’s forehead, and the down-turned corners of my mother’s mouth. When I inquire, “Who’s the fairest of them all,” my mother peers back and replies, “Sure as hell not you, Sweetheart!”
  4. While you’re at it, I also need a new full-length mirror. Please make it a high quality one, not some cheap piece of crap like I currently own. The one I have adds at least 15 pounds. Seriously. They don’t make those things like they used to.
  5. I could really use some magic joint cream (not a magic joint; I’m too old for those now). I’ve noticed when I am wrapping all those gifts, it takes me much longer to get up off the floor. And it hurts. What’s up with that? Is that why old people resort to gift cards? They can no longer sit on the floor to wrap gifts in the glow of the tree lights? Well, now that I think about it, maybe a joint would help these aches and pains – or at least make me not care. Medical marijuana is a thing, right?
  6. You know that crepey, saggy skin you brought me last year? Take it back. I don’t like it at all. It totally ruins my cool nana image, and, well, it just doesn’t look good at all. It’s a little embarrassing to be in a plank position in yoga class, and to see my skin touching the floor.
  7. Santa, let’s talk boobs and ass. Not in a ‘Santa is a pervert’ way, though. I realize there isn’t much to talk about, but mine seem to be heading south. Could you just drag them a little northward with you? You’re already heading that direction, so it shouldn’t be a big deal. I just want some perkiness. Is that too much to ask?
  8. Something is happening to my eyes. Could you please bring me a new pair of eyes? I just want to be able to read menus in dimly lit restaurants without pulling out my Iphone flashlight. For some reason, that embarrasses my kids. And any font smaller than 12 is also impossible to decipher, even with my trusty bifocals.
  9. I’d like my own elf. You seem to have plenty at the North Pole, so surely you could spare just one. My elf could decorate my house, buy and wrap all the gifts, bake the cookies, plan the meal, clean my house, and just bring about overall Christmas cheer. I could actually sit back and enjoy the holiday season instead of always feeling like I’m behind. I could attend holiday parties and drink wine; I could sit and gaze at our perfectly decorated tree and drink wine; and I could watch Elf and drink wine. Imagine what fun that would be (okay, I’ve done that, and it really is fun!). I would even be willing to put out cookies and wine for you on Christmas Eve. Wouldn’t that make your trip more interesting?
  10. I’d really appreciate a smaller house. I know most people ask for bigger and better, but I want just enough space for my husband and me because people keep moving in. It had been daughters moving back and grandsons taking up residence; we’ve housed a German exchange student and a college friend of our youngest, but now our empty nest is full because of my brother. Our life is like some bad comedy where the crazy uncle moves in. We finally get rid of all the kids and have four glorious months of having the house all to ourselves, and boom! Once again our nest explodes. Think one bedroom, Santa.
  11. Finally, Big Guy, my list seems a little self-centered, so in the spirit of Christmas, I’d also like to ask for something for my neighbors near and far, both democrats and republicans. Please, PLEASE, cancel Trump’s Twitter account.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

 

Turns Out 50 Isn’t Just a Number

I have been 50 for just over a month. It’s been a busy month, but I’ve still had time to analyze this next phase of my life. What I’ve come to learn is that a lot of people lied to me. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard 50? It’s just a number!  You’re 50? Oh, don’t worry about that; it’s just a number. You are all liars.

Guess what. It is not just a number. Not at all. 50 is hot flashes. 50 is wrinkly skin and baggy eyes. 50 is weight gain that can’t be explained. 50 is going to bed at 9:00. 50 is running slower even when one is training harder. 50 is craving chocolate. 50 is not just a number.

I’ve always known I wouldn’t age gracefully; I would fight it every step of the way. Some things I can’t really do much about. The hot flashes hit this past fall. I suppose it was nature’s way of getting me ready to turn 50. I remember my mother having them; it wasn’t pretty. And God forbid we tease her. That was not allowed. I thought I had hot flashes when I was pregnant, but I was really just hot all the time. These menopausal hot flashes are a different beast. They begin at my core and within three seconds consume my body. When I am at home, I start fanning, moving clothes, throwing off blankets, and sometimes go out to the garage where it’s cool. At night in bed, sometimes I just strip. In my younger years, that meant a completely different thing. At 50, it just means I am on fire. Flannel sheets? Hell no. I cannot even imagine how miserable those things – that I once loved – would feel. Heavy sweaters for work? Nope.

Weight gain. This is a real issue for me, and one I am not handling well. Until my late 30s, weight was never an issue. I could eat whatever I wanted (burgers, candy, donuts, chips, and on and on), and I still maintained my petite size. In my forties, this all changed. Suddenly I had to exercise, run miles and miles, and I had to be more conscientious about what I consumed. Still, an occasional cookie – or sleeve of Girl Scout cookies – didn’t hurt me; I just ran it off. Oreos and milk were still on my menu. My favorite post-run snack was a Diet Pepsi and Nutty Bars. I could not eat what I did in my earlier years, but I could eat smaller portions of what I liked.

Fast forward to the last year. I can’t eat shit. As of today, I am at my highest weight (besides when I was carrying another human inside of me). I know that it’s not awful, but on my five foot frame, those little fat cells are just accumulating around my middle. Heck, my workout clothes are too tight. I put my age, weight, and goal weight into the Lose It app a couple weeks ago, and to lose one pound a week, I can only eat 1049 calories a day! Seriously. As I was going through the McDonald’s drive-through today (Don’t judge – I got a Diet Coke and grilled chicken), I saw that one of those mint shakes has 680 calories. That’s over half of my daily allowance. That, my friends, sucks.

And if you watch television, you’ve seen that food, really fattening food, is marketed constantly. We have always joked about how little my mother eats at holiday gatherings. She literally has a teaspoonful of each item. Now I get it. If I eat a normal meal, I see it on the scale. I listened to a podcast while I was running today, and a doctor was talking about fat. She learned that she has to stop eating at 4:00 p.m., and doesn’t eat again until 10:00 a.m. She is a scientist and learned that there is something that happens at night that gets rid of fat, and if she gives it more time to work, she can maintain her weight. I would starve. And my family would make me move out because I’d be mean.

So, what’s the answer? I have not yet figured it out. I have begun to drink more water, and I can already tell a difference in how I feel. I was up to about five diet soft drinks a day. My belly felt bloated all the time, and I knew it was just bad for me. I am going to work on my diet, but it’s a struggle. I truly don’t like most veggies. I can’t even force them down. My daughters are all working at losing weight and getting in better shape, so that will help.

Skin. There are all kind of anti-aging products out there, but geez, they are expensive! Nerium and Rodan and Fields are constantly on my Facebook feed, and some good friends sell them, but I just cannot afford them. I found something less expensive that I am going to try. As strange as it sounds, I ordered Robin McGraw’s skincare (you know, Dr. Phil’s wife). I watched her pitch at the end of one of his shows (Don’t judge; there isn’t much on at that time), and since it was affordable, I thought I’d try it. I’ll keep you posted (it hasn’t arrived yet).

There are a few positives about being 50. I can tell people I am wiser; I’m really still learning, but because I am old, it seems like I should be wiser. I really worried about my wardrobe for awhile, but then I decided that I am 50; I can wear whatever I want. I also feel bolder in standing up for what is right and good. What the heck – I don’t have that many years left to say what I think.

I often think about what my mom was like at my age. She exercised and worked to maintain her health, but she did nothing outside of caring for her house and for me. Now, that’s not a bad thing, but I would be so bored. I am on the other extreme. I work full-time as an eighth grade teacher, teach Tabata classes, sell real estate, run, direct the high school play with my daughter, coach an academic team, and I just finished coaching the JV cheer team. It’s a busy life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I find rewards in all I do. For me, at 50, I still have a lot to give. I get really tired on some of my busy days, but if I am making a difference in a kids’ life, helping someone else get more fit, or helping someone find his dream home, it’s worth it.

50 isn’t just a number. It’s a large number that means life is passing by quickly. It’s a number that means I probably should spend less time obsessing over the negatives and more time appreciating what I can do. I ran nine miles today. I ran slower than I used to, but I ran nine miles on a Sunday afternoon just because I could. This body that is carrying several extra pounds carried me nine miles. This body, that some days I really dislike, can still do squats, burpees, pushups, and more. This body can climb up to my classroom several times a day to teach thirteen year olds to write, to read well, and to be kind to one another. This 50 year old body can run and climb with my grandkids and kayak with my husband. This 50 year old slightly chubby body can laugh and cry and encourage and scream and love.

50? It’s not just a number.

 

 

2017…Bring it on!

2017 is upon us, and as is typical, I like to take time to reflect upon the previous year, and make plans for the upcoming year. I don’t make resolutions; they are usually broken. I do try to set some goals for myself, but I make them something I can manage. I set goals throughout the year, so it’s nothing out of the ordinary. Even on days I am off work, I set little goals like finishing laundry, getting photos in albums, or taking some time to read.

2016 was a decent year for us. Morgan and her family moved back home after living in four states in as many years. I ran three half marathons, one of which was with my daughter Bethany. My husband began a new job and is now teaching in the same school as I. Nothing extraordinary happened, but nothing devastating happened either (except Trump getting elected, but I won’t go there).

As I was driving to visit my mother today, with my five year old grandson in the back seat, I thought about my goals for 2017. I turn 50 in 24 days. I was not bothered when I turned 30 or 40, but 50 is a little tough. I find myself questioning my clothing choices…You’re almost 50; should you really wear those leggings? You’re almost 50; you should consider more practical shoes…You’re almost 50; maybe you should cut your hair shorter. So, my first goal is to accept 50 as just another number, to wear what I want, and to get in shape. My next goal is to run stronger, to prove that just because I’m 50 doesn’t mean I can’t improve; 50 doesn’t mean I have to change who I am. I’ve gotten slower the last two years, especially after knee surgery, but is that just an excuse? I intend to find out. My friend Mary Jane and I plan to train harder for our half marathons that will take place in the spring. I want to be in the best shape I can and not let 50 be an excuse to let up on exercise.

rhett

With Layne chatting away in the backseat, I thought about a more important goal: making great memories for my grandkids. I thought about the precious memories I have of my grandmothers, especially my Grandma Allen. What I realized was that those memories have nothing to do with things or money. Grandma Allen was poor by today’s standards, but I never knew that. She never owned her own home; she made her own clothes; and she lived a very conservative life. Until I was 16, Grandma lived in a garage that had been converted to an apartment. I loved that little place. It had a little bedroom, bathroom, small living room, and a kitchen, and it was perfect.

The only trips Grandma took were to visit my uncle in Texas, and he paid for those trips. She had a handful of toys for us grandkids to play with, and she saved her thread spools and greeting cards for our entertainment. My cousins and I would build great towers with those spools, and would attempt to stack greeting cards creating card houses. I don’t remember my grandma ever buying me anything or taking me anywhere, except one summer when she took my cousin, Marcia, and me to visit family in Kentucky.

Marcia and I were city girls, so this trip with Grandma was  quite the adventure. We spent a week on Christine’s farm, and a few days at our Great Aunt Lillian’s farm. We explored their homes, built a tree house out of odds and ends, and easily entertained ourselves. We had no electronics, but we had the best time. Grandma didn’t need Disney World to make great memories for us.

The memories I have with my grandma are of her  spending time with me. She would make me grilled cheese for dinner and popcorn for a snack. I slept with her in her bed, and she always complained about my kicking her all night. I went with her to the laundromat and the grocery store. She didn’t buy lavish gifts or take me to museums. She didn’t buy me a treat every time we went to the store. She didn’t have to. Her time and her love were all I needed to create those beautiful memories that I hope to create with my grandkids.

We feel very blessed that Morgan and her family are here so that we have the opportunity to spend time with her kids. Gary’s daughter and her family live in Virginia, so we are lucky to see them once a year. We both really miss just getting to know her children, and being able to spend time with them. I hate that they won’t have memories of us being in their lives as they’ve grown up.

Layne is five, so he is at that oh-so-inquisitive age. I bet he has said, “Hey, Nana…” 100 times this week. “Hey, Nana, why are there trees?” “Hey, Nana, how did they make that gym floor?” “Hey, Nana, what was your dad’s name?” And as a Nana, I cherish every single Hey, Nana. I hope he and Rhett always want to spend time with us. I hope they remember the little moments, like our walks to see the horses or going to basketball games together. I hope they grow up to be better men having spent time with us. I hope they will always say, “Hey, Nana?”

Bring on 2017. I am ready to be an fun-loving 50 year old nana! Bring on those hot flashes, wrinkles, and age spots. I won’t let them hold me back from being the best senior citizen I can be. Happy New Year!

Empty Nest?

As my friends and I work our way through middle age, I often hear the term ’empty nest’ tossed around. As children approach high school graduation and move on to college, many parents post their tear-filled moments on social media, bringing on a barrage of dismal responses. I, myself, posted a few photos last spring as my youngest daughter went through the rite of high school graduation. I was to be an empty nester.

And I was excited about it! After years of being a chauffeur, maid, laundress, cook (or drive-thru driver), I was finally finished! Seriously, folks, why get so upset? You’re getting your life back…your life. Not the life that is solely dedicated to making certain you don’t end up on Dr. Phil with your kid telling the world how you screwed him or her up, but the life where you can actually watch Dr. Phil uninterrupted if you choose. You can eat cereal for supper every night if you want. You can make dinner plans without checking your kid’s schedule. No more parent-teacher conferences, sleep-overs (I managed to avoid these. My kids didn’t want their friends to see me when I was tired and cranky. Bummer.), prom dress shopping (Is that hell or what?)…And you think you’ll miss that?

And then there’s this…

IMG_4659

It’s clean, and it will remain that way until my young college student comes home. I had no idea there was carpet in that room. And that quilt has several shades of blue that haven’t seen the light of day in months. I’ve heard some parents say they would miss the messes once their kids were gone. Really? Not this momma.

Full disclosure…I am not totally an empty nester. Did you know they sometimes come back? It’s like this cruel joke. You finally get rids of all of your kids, and you make plans with your spouse to do all the exciting things you’ve sacrificed for years (and years and years), and then someone returns to the nest. With the cost of college, and subsequent loan payments, starting out in a new career is hard, and sometimes not very well compensated. Our middle daughter is in that situation. She has a bachelor’s degree, landed a job in her chosen field of education, and now she is poor. Financially, living with us just makes sense. Dammit. We have told her that we are going to sell our house and move into a one-bedroom apartment. She just smiles. Every time she buys something, I say, “You’re going to live with us forever, aren’t you?” “Yes.”

As I analyze my feelings about the potential to have an empty nest, I wonder why I am not saddened like my friends. Am I that heartless? Do I suck as a mom? Do my children hate me? Do I hate them? Without a doubt, I know that the answer to two of those questions is no. I’m afraid to ask my daughters the other two questions. I became a mom when I was 21. At that time in my life, I thought I was so old and so mature. I was a child. For the next 27 years, my priority was my daughters. I attended all of their many activities no matter how boring (golf); I encouraged, supported, disciplined, cared for, and loved with all my heart. I laughed, cried, screamed, and cheered. For 27 years.

Now that they are grown, I can enjoy them as adults. I can cuss in front of them  (It was a struggle to control that for 27 years), tell them inappropriate jokes, and act as their friend instead of their mom. There is a difference (although some parents don’t seem to get that concept). Do I still worry about each of them? Absolutely. Do I still want to boss them around? Yup. Always will.

I think my situation is a little different because I am a teacher. I am still around kids all the time, and I still attend numerous school events and ballgames. I do miss Addie. When activities that she was involved in at school take place, I miss seeing her there. Then I just come home and look at her clean room, and I’m okay again. I also have a lot of hobbies and jobs. Between school and working out and coaching cheer and an academic team and real estate and the gym…I don’t have time to get all weepy.

So, parents of the Class of 2016, do not be sad. Make plans. Move that kid of yours to college and reclaim your life. They visit. Clean his or her room and then just sit there and bask in the lack of smelly, dirty clothes, dishes that have been in there for weeks, and piles of clothes that could be clean or dirty – who knows? You’ve done your job. If you did it well, your child is ready to be independent. Be proud of that. Isn’t our goal to raise strong, independent, successful, and kind people? And someday you’ll have grandkids, and let me tell you, they are way cooler than kids!

My 50th Year

How in the hell did that happen? This past Saturday I celebrated (I use that term quite loosely) my 49th birthday, and am now in my 50th year of life. This has caused me to contemplate this whole aging thing. It’s an odd process, but I truly believe that age is a state of mind, and my mind says I’m not old.

Seriously, in my head I still feel the same as I did 20 years ago. Oh, I am wiser, and some of my opinions have evolved. I used to really care what people thought of me, but now I don’t care so much. I am who I am, and I’m not likely to change at this point. I care deeply about people, and will help anyone who needs it, but I also learned not to waste my time with negativity or drama. Yuck. I don’t like mean people, and won’t pretend to. I can’t stand when people lie, and won’t be friends with people who do. I stand up for what I believe in, and am not afraid to voice those beliefs. On the flip side, I will also listen to the opposing views, as long as the opposition isn’t a jerk or a bigot.

I still set goals. I believe when I stop setting goals, I will stop living. Always having something to work for gives me motivation and purpose. I still strive to be a better person. I am working to improve my fitness level and my financial management. For this – my 50th year – I hope to begin digging out of some debt. I also agreed to run a very hilly half marathon with my niece, so it’s quite necessary to strengthen my legs and core so I don’t cuss at her the entire race. She is 21 with long legs; she’s almost a foot taller than I! Maybe I should invest in a stretching machine or some growth hormones.

Let’s talk the physical aspects of aging. They suck. I mean really suck. Although my mind says I’m not old, my body doesn’t seem to agree. Because I feel sort of young on the inside, when I look at my hands and see the same hands I used to see on my grandmother, it’s just shocking. They’re getting vainy and boney and just ugly. I used to play with that loose skin on my grandma, and now I’m that grandma. And then there’s the skin on my legs. I think I’d get a skin lift on my legs before I’d get a face lift. My legs are one of my better assets because of running; they aren’t chubby or too flabby. The skin, however, is really old looking (and please don’t message me trying to sell your expensive, magical lotion).

Eyebrows. Did anyone ever tell you what happens to your eyebrows when you get old? No one told me. I think those ahead of me on this journey just wanted to sit back and laugh as my eyebrows disappeared. The first phase was when they began to grow wildly. I’d get these long, hag-like eyebrows that needed to be trimmed. That phase lasted a couple of years. Now I’m in the lose-a-few-more-every-single-day phase. Those suckers are now disappearing. I always wondered who bought eyebrow pencils (besides the people whom I thought plucked them all out only to draw them back on – but now I’m not so sure). True confession: I now own – and use – an eyebrow pencil. I try to take it easy so it isn’t obvious, but if I didn’t use it, good Lord, it would not be pretty.

Bushy eyebrows

Gray hair is something to be expected, but that doesn’t make it cool. I actually started getting gray hair when I was in my 20s. How unfair is that? Thankfully, I was a hairdresser for 17 years, and could take care of that at work. It’s now so prevalent that I have to color my hair every three weeks. I am about 90% gray in the front, but don’t tell anyone. I am very grateful for the creator of hair color…Mr. Clairol? Ms. Loreal? Mrs. Wella?  My husband has asked me (several times) how long I’m going to continue to color my hair. Duh. Until the day they put my cold, dead body in the ground. That’s how long. And there’d better not be any gray roots showing at my visitation. And someone had better draw some eyebrows on my face. Julie Bishop, take note.

hair color

Lips. Those also fade out into oblivion. Those once red lips that appeared so kissable become virtually non-existent. Lipstick will be your friend; you won’t leave home without it. Of course, you also have to be careful with that lipstick so it doesn’t ‘feather’ into the wrinkles that are now surrounding the area where your lips used to be. Of course you’ll have wrinkles there; you can’t just have them surrounding your eyes and criss-crossing your forehead. That would look ridiculous! You should try to figure out where your lips meet your skin; drawing your lipstick on the outside of this area looks a little silly. This is valuable information; you’ll thank me someday.

dark-lips

granny kiss s

Another side effect of aging is weight gain. Oh, it doesn’t have to happen. If you don’t eat any complete meals ever, exercise every single stinkin’ day, and stay the hell away from dessert, you can maintain your pre-middle age weight. Each year, it gets more difficult to maintain a sensible weight. Each year, I can eat a little less. Shouldn’t this work in the opposite way? When we are young and feel like exercising, we struggle with keeping it off, but when we are older and just don’t have the energy, the weight just stays away? Shouldn’t there be a time in our lives when we don’t have to worry about calories? My mother is 82 and still watches everything she eats. She actually said these words: I’ve found that if I don’t eat bread all week, on the weekend I can have a slice of bread, and I won’t gain weight! Seriously, Mother! You’re in your 80s! Eat the damn bread! Her plate at the holidays is almost comical. One bite of each thing. It’s Christmas! Eat the turkey! Bask in the joy of mashed potatoes. Smother your tastebuds in pumpkin pie. I’m thankful that my mother is healthy and takes pride in her appearance, but I wish she’d let loose once in awhile and just enjoy some dessert.

dessert-for-dinner

Another unexpected aspect of this aging process is that I get up early. I have never been a morning person. I really enjoy sleeping. A lot. When I have a cold, I look forward to a Nyquil sleep all day long. Surgery? Sure. That’s the best sleep ever. I even trained my daughters to sleep in when they were small (that back-fired). Now I get up three mornings a week at 4:30 A M – that’s in the morning – to teach classes at the gym. Yes, I get up and exercise before school. Before I go to work, I workout. And the really scary thing is I enjoy it. I love my early-morning crew, and waking up to their cheerful smiles. I like starting my day out by sweating. Sometimes I still cuss as I am driving into town, but as soon as class starts, I’m glad to be there. Of course, getting up so flippin’ early means I also go to bed pretty early. I like to head to bed at 9:00, read a little, and lights out by 9:30. My mother goes to bed at 6:00 and is up when I am. I hope I never get to that point. Many evenings we aren’t even home by that time.

All-in-all, I plan to attack this 50th year of life by continuing to set goals, working to improve myself, and loving the little moments with family, friends, and students. I hope to set a positive example for my 8th graders, and teach them that one is never too old to grow, learn, or set goals. I plan to laugh, be silly, and tell- sometimes inappropriate – jokes (hopefully at appropriate times) (and parents, never to your kids). I figure I’ve got one shot at this life, and I’ve always tried to live with no regrets. When making a decision, I always imagine what I’d be most likely to regret. It generally works (and has failed me terribly a few times). So, this nana is going to be a super-cool, super-fun nana. I’m going to run and play until my body no longer allows me to do so. I’m going to enjoy every moment I have with my husband, even if it’s just sitting side-by-side scrolling through Facebook while watching Criminal Minds. Live with no regrets, Folks! Be glad you get to experience the little annoyances of aging; it means you’ve been blessed to stay on this earth a little longer. Take the gray hair, crazy eyebrows, wrinkly skin, and extra pounds and know that you’ve earned them. And for goodness sake, EAT DESSERT!

 

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