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!

 

When do you feel beautiful?

Today as I was scrolling mindlessly through Facebook, I came across a post by a young man who is in his mid-twenties, and in his post he was making fun of others’ posts. You might have seen that people (women) are challenging friends to post five pictures of themselves in which they feel beautiful. As I read through the comments on this young man’s post, I saw that his friends had joined in making fun of these pictures and challenges. I found it irritating (and somewhat immature), and later when I was out cleaning my car, I  couldn’t get it out of my mind – I was pissed.

What right did these kids have to make fun of others’ posts, especially when these people are supposed to be their friends? My first inclination was to delete the poster from my friend list; I don’t really know him very well. The more I pondered, I realized that he and his friends are just young, and have not yet experienced the extreme highs and lows life has to offer. They are at an age when they are likely confident and don’t have to think much about their looks. They haven’t had kids, experienced the middle-age pooch, or had wrinkles and gray hair suddenly appear. One of the commenters said something to the effect that we can only feel beautiful when we compare ourselves to others who are less attractive.

As a fitness instructor and Tabata coach, I work to help women see their beauty. So many do not feel beautiful. What I have seen in the pictures that have been posted is women not comparing themselves to others, but rather to their former selves. I see women who have raised their children, and finally have time to focus on their health and fitness, and are discovering that they are beautiful. I see women who have lost weight that had held them back for years, and are now confident enough to step out of their comfort zones and post ‘selfies’. I see young mothers who feel beautiful holding their babies; I see girls who feel beautiful when their new husbands see them in their wedding dress.

Feeling beautiful isn’t easy. I can’t think of many times when I actually felt beautiful. I guess it depends upon our definition of beauty, which depends upon whom you ask. I think beauty means strength, confidence, kindness, and happiness. There are people who might appear to be beautiful when we first see them, but the moment they open their mouths, they become ugly. Likewise, I’ve seen people who might not be physically beautiful according to today’s standards, but their compassion, determination, and personality make them stunning.

I much prefer to see women encouraging one another to feel beautiful than posts in which people are constantly complaining or making fun of others. I hope as the young people mature, and they realize that beauty sometimes alludes us, they will have more compassion and understanding. I’m sure when I was in my twenties I made fun of people, and it probably wasn’t appropriate. As I have aged, had kids, battled weight, required more makeup, and experienced true grief, I have learned to be encouraging and supportive.

So keep encouraging your friends and telling them they’re beautiful! Be grateful for the positive posts. If you are entertained by making fun of others, perhaps you should find a new hobby.

Do something nice for someone just because you can. Peace…

Let the obsessing begin…

The Derby Mini is now 11 days away. The mix of emotions I am feeling ranges from excitement to fear to acceptance. Elizabeth Kuebler-Ross coined the five stages of grieving. Perhaps I can coin the five stages of pre-race jitters. I did my 11 mile training run Friday. That’s the furthest I will run in preparation for the race; this weekend I will run about seven miles. I love taper time – I’ve put in the time, and now it’s time to rest my body and stick to easy runs.

My 11-miler was a mix of positive and negative. One of my students had been asking about running with me. I didn’t think he’d follow through just because he’s a 14 year old, and typically 14 year olds don’t want to hang out after school with a grandma/teacher. I saw one of the boys at Walmart after school yesterday, and he was completely awkward. This boy was serious, so I told him I would be running slowly because I wasn’t concerned about speed; I just needed to run 11 miles. He agreed to run with me until he had to be at track practice. The kid ran six miles! He had never run more than two miles at one time, so he really didn’t know what he could do. I know him well enough to know that he would probably push through, and would not back out during a run. I really enjoyed the run. He did so well, asked a lot of questions about racing, and listened when I gave him advice. The first half of my run went quickly. I dropped my student off at the track, ran to the bathroom, drank some water, and took off for the next leg of my journey.

The second half? It didn’t go so well. My left knee, which is NOT the knee I had surgery on, began to hurt. It felt exactly like my surgery knee did when those problems started. I had to stop and stretch, and then I’d run a little more, and then I’d stop and stretch, and so on. The really frustrating part was that my endurance was awesome. Honestly, I felt like I could have kept running had my knee not hurt. My last two miles were well under a 10:00 pace, the fastest of the 11. I just need everything to work at once.

I am really not sure what will happen come race day. I have run twice since, but only three miles, so my knee was fine. I ordered new compression socks (in a lovely gray, pink, and black argyle print); I have a knee brace; and I have Ibuprofen and Celebrex. I need one good day. You should hear the conversations I have with God when I begin to have pain. I am sure we will have lots of conversations on April 19.

Now is the time I also begin planning my race attire. When I just run here in town, I might or might not match. At a race, I will match. I bought a super cute Nike running hat in a lovely pattern of pink and black, and I have a Nike light pink tank that is really soft, and I know would feel great in a race. I usually wear a skirt just because I like them (once a cheerleader?). I have some compression socks, but they don’t match the pink of my shirt, which would literally stress me out that day (hey, it’s the little things!). Who would wear hot pink socks with a soft pink tank? Not me. Do you see why this sport can get expensive? I told my [very understanding] husband that if I have to walk part of this race, I am at least going to look decent! I also ordered arm warmers. For those of you who are wondering what the hell arm warmers are and why I need them, here’s the scoop. It is usually cool when the race begins, but then it warms up, and I warm up, after a few miles. I want to wear my pink tank, but it will be chilly, so I put on arm warmers, which I can slip off when I warm up. They will (I hope) tuck nicely in my skirt, and will be much easier to take off than an extra shirt or jacket.

Music. When I first started running races, I didn’t use music because I enjoyed listening to the crowds, and then I tried music, and I ran super fast [middle-aged-runner-nana-not-so-fast-fast]. Since then, I have continued to sport earbuds. And so I am also working on my playlist. This isn’t just a matter of playing songs I like; it’s also a matter of strategically placing songs. My first song is ‘Here Comes the Sun’ because we begin at 6:30 am. I have fun songs for the first half. For the second, and hardest, half, I have songs that inspire me. I asked each of my girls to choose a song for my list that would remind me of her. I have a song for my husband, ‘I’ll Stand by You’ because he is my biggest supporter. I have a song for God, ‘How Beautiful’ to remind me that without my God and my faith, I wouldn’t be out there running. I am going to add a song for my dad, ‘Jesu’, which isn’t really a running song, but it one song I remember hearing him play on the piano and organ. Running is such a mental activity; you’d be surprised how music can inspire the legs to keep moving. I hope I get through my playlist! I made sure it’s extra-long in case I end up walking some. Or a lot.

Time to grade papers..or look up race times…I’d better grade!

Really? How did that happen?

This was me when I looked in the mirror this morning!

This was me when I looked in the mirror this morning!

 

Do you believe it’s possible to age overnight?  I mean literally – gain about 15 years in an eight-hour span of time?  I swear that’s what happened to me last night.  I went to bed looking my normal middle-aged self – some wrinkles, gray roots shining through, saggy skin.  I have pretty much accepted this evidence of years gone by (though I don’t embrace it).  This morning I awoke, headed to the bathroom to ready myself for church, looked in the mirror, and there was a more elderly-looking woman staring back at me.  It was darned near my mother.

While you might think I am exaggerating, even my husband, who is very careful with his words, noticed the transformation.  I had these huge dark bags beneath my baby blues, and under my left eye, I had a red, puffy pouch.  Oh. Crap.  Perhaps once I put my contacts in, I would see it was just my imagination.  Nope.  I still had the almost-black bags of a woman much older who hadn’t slept in a week.  The problem was I had slept well (I’ve had a long snowy weekend – of course I’ve slept!), I don’t have a cold, and I don’t have a sinus infection.  I felt fine…until I looked in the mirror.  Foundation – that’s what I needed.  I began to smear and rub and add and smooth and…there wasn’t enough make-up in the world to cover those hideous dark bags.  Is this it?  Is this how I am going to look from now on?  I can’t afford a plastic surgeon.  What can I sell?  A third job?

As I have wiggled my way into middle age, I have realized that there are many things no one bothered to tell me about when I was younger.  We all expect the gray hair and wrinkles; we expect to lose some of our energy; and we even expect (or hope) to become somewhat wiser.  There is, however, so much more to the aging process.  There are things our older friends fail to tell us; perhaps they had to figure it out the hard way, and feel that we, too, should have to learn as we go.  I disagree, so I am going to enlighten you.

1.  You might have heard that it is more difficult to keep weight off once you hit 40.  Well, let me tell you, it is super hard.  I exercise at least five days a week, sometimes two or three times a day when I am teaching at the gym, and though I don’t eat the healthiest of foods, I don’t eat a lot.  And yet I battle that scale every single day.  My sister, who is 11 years older than I, says if she eats one normal-sized meal, she will gain a pound.  My mother, who is 80 and still very conscientious of her weight, lives on very little because normal meals will cause weight gain.  That fact does jive with the fact that I also like to bake more the older I get.   Just because weight was never an issue in your twenties and thirties, don’t make the mistake of thinking your immune to the middle-age spread.  It will find you!

2.  Eyebrows.  What young 30-something mom worries about her eyebrows?  Sure, waxing or tweezing are part of life, but trimming and filling in?  Did you know that in your 40s your eyebrows begin to do weird things?  There will be some that grow long and need to be trimmed (often).  And there are those that disappear leave patches of skin showing through.   Really.  Aren’t you glad I warned you?

3.  Saggy skin.  We expect wrinkles on our faces, and maybe even our chests.  Did you know your leg skin wrinkles and sags no matter how toned your muscles are?  Yup.  That’s something to look forward to.  When I wear shorts and do a plank, I try to avoid looking down at my legs because the skin is sagging in an attempt to rest on the floor.  And should my belly be exposed for some reason (in the privacy of my own home), well, that’s just disgusting.  It looks like chicken skin.  Saggy, nasty chicken skin.

4.  Despite all of the crazy things going on with aging skin, you can still get zits.  I think that is just cruel.  If we have to be tolerant of wrinkles, we should at least be free of zits – save those for the teenagers.  So, now I have dry, oily, wrinkly, zitty, saggy, bags-under-my-eyes skin.  That’s attractive.

5.  About your bladder.  Now, I am fortunate that I haven’t had leaky bladder problems, but I hear my Zumba ladies talking about having to be careful during jumpy songs.  Even though I haven’t had issues, I had to have my non-issues checked out before my hysterectomy so if there were a problem, the doctors could fix everything at once.  Do you want to know what that test consisted of?  It was humiliating, to say the least.  The lovely nurse stuck probes in two out of three places I don’t want probes to go, and then I had to jump and stretch and cough and push as if in labor….you get the point.  But, hey, I passed the test.  Ask me in a couple of years.  Thankfully when a Depends commercial was on the other night, Addison told Gary and me she’d be happy to purchase them for us when the time comes.  Thanks, kid.

6.  While I was able to avoid doctors through my twenties and thirties, unless I was expecting a child or my allergies were in high gear, I find myself spending more time at doctors’ offices these days.  Heck, I’ve had two surgeries in two years.  And besides my hysterectomy and knee surgery, I have had a recurring staph infection in my eye, and numerous other inconveniences since reaching 40.  In the late winter and spring of 2013, I had something wrong with me every other week – and I am not a hypochondriac!

Enough of the ugly.  Now, what is good about aging?  Lots.  But that’s for another blog.  I gave you younger people a lot to absorb.  To plan for.  To dread.  You’re quite welcome for the warning.  Enjoy your young supple skin, strong bladder, normal eyebrows, and energetic body.  It can be gone – overnight.  While you sleep, instead of the tooth fairy, your own personal middle-age fairy will be visiting.  Prepare, my friends – take down the mirrors, purchase Ponds and anti-acne wash, load up on workout capris, purchase an eyebrow pencil and little scissors.  It’s coming…

old-lady-driving

I am beautiful, strong, and wise

The picture below would be an awesome inspirational quote, but then whoever wrote it had to go and ruin it by putting ‘learnt’!  Really?  Learnt?  Apparently he or she ‘learnt’ nothing from an English teacher.  Okay, enough.  Ignore that error, and focus on the meaning.

I hear so many women put themselves down every day.  Heck, I hear thirteen year old girls put themselves down.  Face it, most of us have trouble accepting compliments; rather than just saying thank you, we have to counter with something negative: Oh, I’ve gained some weight; My hair looks terrible today; My face is a mess.  Why can’t we just say Thanks?  We need to be able to say that we are strong, even when at times we feel weak.  We need to acknowledge our beauty, without pointing out our flaws.  Do we have fears?  Sure, but we have many more fearless moments.  Admit you are wise.  The greatest lessons we learn come from our mistakes and from the difficult moments we face.  And every time we make it through those trying times, we become a little wiser (by this point, I should be a genius!).  And I hope we are all lovers – lovers of our family and friends, lovers of our jobs and hobbies, lovers  of the lives we are blessed to live.  I hope the hate we have felt and witnessed has caused us to love deeper.  And we need to laugh every single day (working with junior high students makes that one pretty easy).

Why is all of this important?  Because we are teaching our daughters, nieces, and other young girls in our lives to focus on their flaws.  We need to redefine what beauty is.  How would you describe beauty?  Perfect skin?  Long, flowing, shiny hair?   a thin body?  Or is it a smile that causes others to smile?  Is it a contagious laugh?  Is it when someone stops what she is doing to help someone else?  Is it a young woman who enters a room with confidence?   It is difficult to say, “I am beautiful.”  Try it.  Look in a mirror and say it.  Can you do it?  I might start, but then I see the wrinkles and the gray hair that’s fighting its way through.  And I notice the chub gathering around my belly.  And, crap, there are those brown age spots planting themselves on my face.  It’s easy to say all of that.  I can name every flaw on my body.  And when I do, my girls begin to find their flaws – I want them to see their beauty.

I see their kind eyes and their strong legs.  I watch as they step up to help others, and I see beauty.  I listen to Addison play the piano, and I hear my father’s beautiful notes echoing through hers.   I listen to Bethany talk about working with students, and see the joy in her face; that’s beautiful.  I see Morgan mothering her son – gorgeous.  I watch as Tamara talks with her kids and encourages them to stay true to themselves, and I witness pure beauty.  I see the pictures of Krista rock climbing in Lake Tahoe, and see her strength and courage, and I think nothing is more beautiful.  I want all of these amazing sisters to know the depth of their beauty, strength, and wisdom.  However, if they continually hear me picking apart my flaws, they will do the same.

We, all of us, have to strive to be better, while realizing we are enough.  Yes, that’s an oxymoron, but it’s one that makes perfect sense.  We should always work to learn more, to be healthy and strong, and to experience all we can.  We owe it to ourselves to become the best version of ourselves that we can.  But we also have to realize that we are enough.  We are beautiful the way we are; we are wise; we are strong.  We need to quit comparing ourselves to others, which many times makes us feel that we never quite measure up, and just try to be the best women we can be.  What makes you feel strong?  Do it.  I feel strong when I complete a good workout or have a great run.  Oddly, I feel strong when I am sore – that means I am able to work out.  What makes you feel beautiful?  My husband makes me feel beautiful, but I need to work on feeling beautiful without depending on his compliments.  I feel wise when I learn something new, whether it be in a magazine or book I read, or something I have randomly discovered.  I feel wise when I can share what I have learned.  Do what makes you feel wise.

So, since I am a teacher, I feel compelled to give you an assignment.  For the next week, give compliments.  Not just to your family or close friends, but to strangers or acquaintances.  It will make you feel good.  And, here’s the challenge, when you receive a compliment, just say thank you.  Don’t criticize yourself, and don’t give someone else credit.  Just say thank you.

You are beautiful.  You are strong.  You are wise.  Go out and show the love, face life with no fear, and laugh!  Goodnight, Beautiful Friends!
inspiration