J is for Jumping…as in…”Don’t do the jumping.”

I went to an exercise class the other day, because my work sponsored the existence of the class. We had a grant, we paid the instructor, we invited the people, et cetera. That’s the kind of thing we do.
Which obligates us to participate because…that’s the kind of thing we ought to do.
Okay.
Weights, yoga mat, upbeat music playing at about 140 beats per minute — exercise was on, and on high, and we start sweating.
“No problem,” I tell myself. “This is in the books…then I do the things I need to do, like laundry, dishes, spot clean the living room…”
My mental list seemed endless. My body ignored my mental list, because it was listening to the instructor, who has apparently told my body to do jumping jacks.
Somewhere in the teens, my body snapped my brain to attention with screams of, “She’s making us do jumping jacks!”
No amount of Timberlake can make me do this, I thought.
And then I leaked a little. (Thank heaven for black exercise pants.)
Nope, can’t lie about this stuff. Middle-aged ladies and the jumping, we don’t go well together. We are not a good match, a poor blend, a bad idea, thus we avoid all instances of the feet leaving the floor, only to land upon it once more; repeat.
No jumping. An unwritten rule.
Even after visiting the restroom moments before the jumping begins.
Even while sporting a Depends.
No jumping.
Yet!
There in the front of the overly populated, poorly ventilated, popcorn-ceiling’ed, no acoustics, needing-new-carpet facility, bounced a woman exuberantly yelling, “Gimme ten more!”
Finally — FINALLY — my brain stopped running the to-do’s to focus on this one singularity: the To-Don’t. Ever.
And we stopped jumping — “we” being my brain and body and ego and memories of joy.
Because who doesn’t love a trampoline?
But, nope. No jumping. It’s to be avoided.
As is the next exercise class. I’ll be really sick that day.

 

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I is for Impatience

As age rises, patience sink.
Younger Me? A checkout line at Target didn’t bother me much. Waiting left time for impulse purchases: magazines, lip balm, a new flavor of Tic Tac. Good stuff, right there. In my twenties, I had two cavities — from Lifesavers (couldn’t resist ’em) — and a glove box full of wet wipes because of waiting in checkout lines; you just never know when a packet of those will come in handy.
Now, though…well…I just don’t have the patience anymore to allow the person in front of me in line to pay for a fifty-two dollar purchase by slowly counting out the contents of a Ziploc full of nickels and dimes. (She wanted to keep the quarters for later. “Nope, can’t spend that,” she chuckled. “Gotta take the Gremlin to the car wash.”)
I feel on the cusp of The Wait. I see that patience is a virtue and a benevolent practice, yadda yadda yadda, BUT. BUT! I’m running out of time, people! And one more second in the queue with strangers is eating into that time. Especially when I spy the Target Starbucks and its delicious mocha iced anything right stinkin’ there if only I can pay for my no-aluminum deodorant and multi-vitamin.
And when it comes to answering questions, I’m afraid I like the idea preferred by the Youths: 140 characters or less is sufficient for most answers.
Less if it’s a question asked of WebMD because more than 100 characters will scare the crap out of anyone. Avoid like the plague.
For expediency, I stick to Google. Quick, semi-reliant, easy to access, no filler, no chit-chat. Seems “Impersonal” is what I need right now.

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H is for Hair

“Not by the hair on my chinny chin chin!” said some wolf, somewhere, sometime, in my memory.
And Young Me thought, “That is some weird literature.”
No clue what it meant.
And, friends? I do now.
I know.
The hairs. The chinny chin chin.
But even if you say it cute and sing-song-y, it’s awful.
A customer actually said to me, with eyes down-turned and red streaking across her face, “I have a thing to tell you, and it’s really embarrassing.”
Sweet! I thought. Who doesn’t love a little tiny speck of gossip on occasion?
I waited expectantly. Probably too eager.
She said, “Oh, it’s about you.” And she pointed toward me, standing across the counter from her, quickly inventorying myself: she can’t see my pants, but I’m sure they’re zipped; I don’t remember acne this morning; sure, these shoes are ugly, but they’re comfortable, and at my new age, comfort and pockets are really all I require in a wardrobe.
“Okaaaay…”
“You have a hair…on your chin…”
Still pointing, still not meeting my eyes, because hers were wide with awe, staring at the imagined tangle, the follicular nightmare, I envisioned sprouting from my triple chin.
(I don’t really have a triple chin, because I play “giraffe” all the time and pretend to be peering above all the land, all the time, but in my head, I had three hairs, three chins.)
Of course, I slapped my own face, ridding myself of the invader, but of course I only mashed it. And still, the customer stared on, fascinated.
How was I going to rid myself of this nuisance? And hey, how old is
she? Maybe she shouldn’t be literally pointing fingers!
“Ha ha!” I laughed. Humor was all I had. “This old thing? I keep it there for safe keeping! Curl it every morning. Call it Sal.”
Okay,” she continued, nervously chortling. “Well, I didn’t know if you knew!”
“Ha ha!” I repeated, thinking, IF I KNEW?! She thinks it would have seen the LIGHT OF DAY if I’d KNOWN about it? But like Ricardo Montalban and Fantasy Island, I waved and nagged myself to keep smiling. “Of course! It’s an old friend! Ha ha! Genetics — what can you do? Pluck away, it keeps coming back; we’re a stubborn people! Ha ha!”
Finally, she exited the building.
I haven’t seen her again, now I think of it.
But the hair? Gone. GONE! And daily I scrub my soft fleshy neck, seeking its arrival and any friends that may travel with it.
These things, they love pairing up.
My tweezers are ready.

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G is for Grit

pencil drawing gritted teethYesterday, my Grandpa and I were talking about his leg, injured in war decades ago. It’s a constant burden, striding with a braced orthopedic shoe, and now a walker and wounded pride about the man he wants to be, the one who lives in his head, who’s twenty years old, cocky, funny, brilliant.
Reminiscences coming to an end, he burst forth with, “Aging is a bitch.”
Pardon his swear, but I laughed outright.
Because…yes.
Fueled by my outright guffaw, he went on to declare, “And anyone who says otherwise can suck it!”
If I’d been drinking something, it would have been projected, I tell you.
I’ve decided that aging takes Grit, and I don’t always have that.
I’ve had lots of serendipitous moments lately, telling me, yes, you need to bear down, follow through, stick with it, and the mental coach yells, “Do you want It, whatever that is? Do you want status quo? Don’t you want something fresh? New? Different??”
And I sigh, deeply. And nod. And mumble like a preschooler, eyes down, toe scuffing the ground. “Yes.”
And my coach yells, “Then put on your ‘grr’ face, my dear, let’s get going.”
I’m tired of my norm, tired of my own rut, and the only way out, the only way up, is to claw the earth, tamp the laze within, and change my own mind.
It’s is the hardest thing I do every day, change my own mind. Because I’m stubborn. And I’m older now than ever, which means I’m more tenacious than ever, which means I’m ignoring me more today than ever.
I’m my own worst everything.
It’s a conscious choice, to be nice to me, to elevate myself so that I can look me in the eye and tell me to dig in, do the work, follow through; face the fear, stomp it down, use it as a footstool to move ever upward.
Whew. It’s exhausting.
Each day — for the last week; don’t give me too much credit just yet; this is a process (“But I did it! I’m awesome! I’m a bad ass!” my inner coach yells) — I’ve done a tiny little somethin’-somethin’ that I really wanted to do but found excuses not to do. Because of laziness, or fear, or revulsion at the thought of rising from the couch to walk so far to the computer/worktable/front door.
Do you have something like that? A thing you know you want but golly, it seems so far to reach, or hard to get, or easy to talk yourself out of for today.
“Tomorrow,”
you might say, every day.
Well. Aging is making today more urgent.

Five minutes. For just five minutes right now, do a tiny smackeral of a thing that you have yearned to do but let go.
Five minutes. What are five minutes?
(Unless you’re doing crunches; ugh, five minutes of crunches is a lifetime.)
Find your Grit!

And, truly — let’s talk Gratitude for a half second. It’s the Great G-Word.
If nothing else, I’m grateful for uncovering the idea of Grit, because sticking-with-it affects everything else: family, faith, work, and housework, just to name a few.
Gratitude to God above for it all.
Except maybe the sagging…everywhere

(Did you do the thing you needed to for five minutes, just to get started, at least??)

 

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And F is for Forgetfulness

Who knew the letter F followed E? Has it been like this all this time?
Crazy. The alphabet: a fluid ancient relic…seems so oxymoronic…
So, spoiler alert, but G stands for Grit.

Anyway, I’ve decided that the biggest, kindest, least offensive F-word I can come up with as pertains to aging is Fashion.
That’s right.
My life through, I’ve never had a fashion sense, nor have I had the funds to pay for one, and now that I’m middlin’, well…I can’t find a sense of fashion to save my life.
I’ve tried! I go to the mall…ew…and I see what the girls are wearing. Emphasis on girls, because I’ve yet to find a chick my age with trendy wear.
Is it a thing, clothes for Middlin’s? Where? Where are these clothes?
And again, I need them to be affordable.
I’d love to dress like Jane Fonda in “Frankie and Grace” — Netflix; check it out (have you learned yet of my Netflix/Hulu/Amazon/and-now-Acorn affliction?) — but I can’t pull it off.
I could afford one piece, maybe two, and considering I’d have to wear more than one article of clothing, I’d be dead in the water, but sporting a fetching popped collar.
Nope, won’t work.
Here’s a funny-but-true tale of my latest shopping adventure.
No joke, I was at Target for sundries, those little things you go to purchase because you’re out of them but in dire need of a refill but doggone it, you end up with a cart of feeling-sorry-for-myself-and-this-one-little-thing-will-change-my-life…four times over.
A cart of crap, that’s what I was wheeling around.
And since I can’t resist a clearance rack of last season’s fashions I pivoted quickly when I spied a sign beckoning me to peruse.
It was emerald green, ruched at the signs, v-neck, three-quarter sleeve — it screamed at me, “You need me! I’m cute! I’m a lovely color, great for work or play in a pliable cotton, plus I’m machine washable!”
It was so me.
I checked the tag, chanting, “Don’t be petite small, don’t be petite small…”
And it wasn’t!
It was my size — large — which I’m not sure I technically should wear but it fits on all the days: the fat days, the not-so-fat days. You know. All the days.
BUT.
It sported a maternity label.
Did I shove it back on the rack quickly and dash away?
No.
Did I ponder a moment, thinking of the good ol’ days, when my body did what it needed to and it wasn’t a problem?
I most assuredly did.
When I was pregnant, I was so happy. My butt could sag, my boobs had phenomenal growth, everything shifted at random and it was all delightful as long as I had a Hershey’s bar in hand.
And here’s the other thing: maternity tops are for growing bellies or, I suggest, hide things that shouldn’t be where they are.
Am I right?

No. I didn’t buy the maternity top. But I’m sure it’s still there, hanging from a rack, tightly squeezed between petite leggings and an XL jumper, waiting for me to mull things a bit…
But my final question is still unresolved: what the heck are women my age wearing? And do they like it? And where did they find these treasures???

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E is for Empty Nest

drawing of bird's nestE is so sad.
E is Empty. Of a kid. That still lives at home, by the way, but still…some day! Empty! No kid at home!
I can’t even stand the thought.
So now, years ahead of time, I’m thinking forward, looking up, seeing the way ahead, and it’s as depressing as I feared before I accepted the internal nagging of my mean-to-me Self snarkily jeering, “Hey, your kid might have a life outside your walls.”
“Whaaaat? He will not,” I argued, even as my stupid Self interrupted with, “Ya-huh, will so.”
I gave up the fight early, knowing I’d lose, but not before I sighed one of those warbly, long-winded, gut-wrenching breathy gusts that only come from deep, deep inside, like from under the spleen somewhere. The whoosh made Self smile, a Cheshire cat kind of crappy grin that makes my spleen tremble.
(The spleen seems like a sad, dark, forlorn place, though I’ve not seen it. Even the word — “spleen” — ugh, it’s so weird; it must describe a desolate, cold, maternally-unhinged environment.)

But there are other “E” words, like:
Early preparation: find a hobby — now, today — requiring so much focus (laser-honed focus, like something dangerous perhaps: welding, bow hunting, knife-throwing) that I won’t remember I’m sad and alone and cooking for one. (Who am I kidding? Have I met me? Do I recognize stoves if they’re around? Raisin Bran it is! A second bowl? No problem! Pass the Netflix!)
Easy does it: be nice to me; I’m a mom of one. My Bubs’ future roommates will understand his mom’s need for constant phone interaction and act accordingly, never once mocking my boy for his constant reiterations of “I love you, too, Mom,” and who also won’t grin as my boy rolls his eyes at said roommate, who will nod knowingly and consider calling his own mother because Guilt is a harsh mistress.
Establish early: that all of his beloved tech possessions at the time of his departure will remain in my care, thus assuring he will return to my fold…because tech toys rule all for my Bubs, and if I have to hold something called Nintendo hostage, so be it. I’ll do it. Ransom is a weekend with his mother doting all over him with take-out and incessant nagging, “Please, oh, please, turn that thing off and talk to me.” Just like old times.

Look at me being proactive! Takin’ the bull by the horns, making my independent way in a non-son kind of world. I can do it! I’ll learn to tat! I’ll buy from QVC! I’ll sell things on Etsy! I’ll be so dang busy I won’t notice the silence when I walk through my door, I won’t miss the laundry, I won’t miss nightly chess games I may or may not win, or the stacks of Rick Riordan books in odd places all over the house. Nope, I won’t miss any of that…’cause I’ll be so, so busy…doin’ my Adulting thing, whatever in the world that may be.
Change is good! It’s great, in fact. And I need the challenge of the unknown, ’cause I’ve got the parenting thing down, over, a notch in my belt. All done. No more.
Movin’ on.
Moving…on…

I’ve ignored my biggest E phrase: End on a high note. I learned it while going through a box of my grandmother’s things, in which I could not find a single smile. No photos of glee, no writings to amuse, no personality at all.
It was one of the biggest disappointments I’d experienced until then: my grandmother was not in the least bit happy.
So if you can leave a room with someone laughing — with you, not at you, unless that was your goal — do so. It’s the best ending.

(Momentarily I forgot my Empty nest scenario; I’ve remembered now. Insert the sounds of sobbing and one Kleenex after another Exiting its box.)

 

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D is for Deep Breaths, and the Occasional Down Dog

Goodness, there are so many “D” words pertaining to aging.
Most of them start the word “Don’t.”
Don’t look back, don’t forget your vitamins, don’t go for that second margarita.
Don’t regret.
Don’t rely on hip and knee structure so fully any longer; you’re sure to be Disappointed.
It’s enough to make me give up on this alphabetical reflection I’ve embarked upon.
But then I was peer-pressured into a little yoga — a new thing I do as an aging soul, because it’s so much kinder than step aerobics, plus my eyes are closed a lot, so I don’t have to see and resent the presence of others in cute outfits surrounding body parts in place where they should be. (You’ll get older; you’ll see what I mean.)
And I realized during my fourth session of yoga — heated yoga, no less, which is another story altogether, good heavens — that “Down Dog” starts with a D!
And “Deep Breath”, a life skill I thought I’d fully mastered, but guess what, nope. I was even admonished once with, “Don’t forget to breathe,” from the instructor as she made a gentle, rescuing grab at my arm while I was attempting a balancing move I thought I really nailed. (Also nope. But in my head, I was a freakin’ yogi.)
Shoot, now I deep breathe all over the place. Deep, deep breaths, in lines, in the car, in the car line. (Ugh. The car line. Sometimes that requires the deepest of breathing, am I right? It’s the sixth layer of hell.)
And breathing — who knew? — it kind of Delightful. It’s centering. A reboot of sorts. Plus, it eases that tension line between my eyebrows, the one I hate but loves me so much it’s trenched, ready to stick around for years.
Also, it’s preventative. Concentrating on breathing helps distract my imagination from shooting imaginary darts into the shopper in front of me, the purchaser paying for a full cart of items with the contents of a Ziploc loaded with coins of the smallest possible denomination. (That much copper in one locale should be guarded by bank employees.)
There are other D words —  drab, dowdy, dumpy, dimples, where one does not wish for dimples — that come with aging; internal words that take me down in a moment.
What do I do with such negativity? Breathe. Deeply. And do a down dog or two, because the blood rush leads to a re-focus on the good stuff:
Wait…I’ve put myself on the spot and I’m having trouble coming up with happy D words…
Hang on…it’s coming to me…
AHA!
Doting on my boy! (He’s maybe a little spoiled; I’m okay with that, maybe even Delighted! (Can’t stop me now!))
Driving! (Adults get to drive and we love it.)
(ignoring) the Dust laying around everywhere! Because I CAN! Because I’m an aDult!!
Plus, all this avoids the big “D” we age-rs fear:
Diapers.
Shudder.

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C is for Calcium

My gynecologist has pretty shoes, great shoes. Really expensive, chic, stylish shoes.
I know this because I’m forever looking at her feet instead of her eyes.
Truly, an impressive shoe collection.
And once when I was staring at a pair of spectator heels in a kicky black and white pairing — no peep-toe, either, so classy — I heard her utter the phrase, “You need more calcium at your age.”
Instead of bristling at the aging remark — I mean, she’s a doctor, for heaven’s sake, I get that — I heard the words, “You need more ice cream from the freezer case.”
So I stopped at the store on the way home from my appointment.
Do you know about pint sized ice creams? Because if you don’t, I’m doing you a favor.
Ben, Jerry, Blue and Bell, Haagen and Dazs, all excellent purveyors of the miniaturized creaminess, because, hey, buying the big jug just seems excessive.
A couple of those a week and suddenly it’s been a year, time to see the doc, who’s wearing a fetching pair of espadrilles and telling me, “My, you’ve gained a little weight since I saw you last.”
This, I couldn’t ignore. “Maybe a little,” I remarked while pointing to her toes. “Did you get those from Amazon?”
“Yeah, I did,” she answered, wiggling her feet for better display value. “But what are you eating?”
“Calcium.”
“Just supplements or…”
“Oh, no, ice cream,” I answered, still calculating what I know about what this woman charges for a visit against her Amazon shoe budget. And just as I was about to ask if her espadrilles came in a different color, one more rakishly navy than magenta, she asked, “How much ice cream?”
“A pint.”
“Well, a pint a week shouldn’t…”
She consulted my chart. I stewed. Should I say anything? Should I ‘fess up? Because the truth…ah, the truth…
Then I couldn’t help it. I laughed.
“Maybe two a week…or three…” I know I grinned impishly. I was going for “sheepish,” but I didn’t feel guilty enough to pull that one.
She, however, did not contain her disgust. “ONE,” she practically warbled, “Is enough calcium for a week.
Defensive, I turned into a preschooler. “YOU SAID…”
I stopped myself.
She shook her head a lot. I fumed. And left quickly.
But guess what I headed home to find awaiting me in my own freezer section?

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B is for Bat Wings


This aging thing seems slow, but I’m telling you, one morning I woke to be thirty-two years old and able to fly because of enormous sheets of flesh dangling from beneath my shoulders.
As you’ll note from this carefully, meticulously, dare-say-I perfect rendering of a woman’s human arm in comparison to that of an also-mammal-but-not-human bat, the resemblance is uncanny. Both winged creatures have five appendages dangling from the end of a large upper wing bone, and both have excessive sails attached to the rigging.
The bat needs to fly, of course; I got that.
But me? Not so much. Firstly, I’m afraid of heights, so there’s no reason I’d travel upward high enough and certainly no reason to ever ever ever jettison myself from any type of dizzying platform. Second most — is that a phrase? I feel like it is…or maybe I just like it and created it just now — see number Firstly.
As the great Kathleen Madigan, comedic delight of around my same age, wisely reported after asking her trainer about arm selvage (I don’t believe she used the term “bat wings,” though she might have), he said something along the lines of: “Mostly that shit is genetic.”
Pardon the swearing, but after consulting my own physical trainer — Google, who never pushes me too hard and never asks me to do more than I feel comfortable — my swearing was far worse. I’d asked for enlightenment on eliminating the wings sans surgery and, after many wrong turns and one last denial of any exercise course beginning with the words “30-Day Challenge,” I, too, had found no help and no hope, yet I’d lucked onto a great three-ingredient recipe for banana pudding. Yum.
You’d think if I were forced to have the wings, I could at least run through the Bat Menu and grab echolocation, because age has sucked away my eyesight, too. (See the soon-to-be-released codicil to this post titled: “B is also for Blindness.” ) But that was when I turned forty…or forty-one…maybe forty-two…
And I haven’t even mentioned the big Double B: the Belly Bulge.
Oh, heavens, that one’s just too depressing. We’ll move along.
Coming soon to this very blog: F is for Forgetting…and other Fun F-Words.

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“A” is for Adulting, which Translates to Aging

Getting old sucks.
“It’s not for the weak…”
“It’s better than the alternative…”
“It’s for the birds…”
What did birds ever do to us to wish aging upon them? That one, I just don’t understand.
My grandmother said, “When you get old, there’s nothing that Vaseline or a magnifying glass won’t help.”
Now, that one, I understand.
I really…really…wish I didn’t.
So here I am, sagging in the middle of virtually everything — where once was a smooth plain, well, things have shifted during travel, and if there was a hill or two, well, it’s melted among the other planes.
Nothing is where I thought I put it.
But the biggest issue thus far is that my stamina is gone.
Here’s how I know: gardening.
Yesterday was a delight, a real treat for the books: sunshine, warm light, slight breeze — slight breeze! that never happens on the prairie! — and the smell of freshly turned earth. Sublime.
Every year I expand my flower bed by about a foot. Apparently, I want a big flower bed, because every year I extend it, then ignore it because…hot…I don’t like heat in the least bit.
This year, no difference: bed needs to be bigger, bed needs to be weeded, bed needs close inspection with a lot of bending, shoveling, and cursing involved.
And I was fine. Physically, feeling good. Mentally, preparing to not over-work myself, because the first day of full-on yard work is exhausting.
Truly, I was smart about it.
“Don’t over-do,” I said to myself.
And even more odd, I listened to me. When does that happen?
So I dug holes, I pulled on weeds, I extracted grass roots yards long, because Bermuda grass does insist on keeping its foothold, and when the bell in my head sounded, telling me to quit, I did! 
I forgot to tell you this one detail: I don’t actually sit to work, I bend. Over. From the waist. In complete disregard of all safety videos/procedures/apps, I bend at the waist to work.
Thus, in order to abandon my post, stop with the clean-out and start with the clean-up, I had to do one simple thing: stand upright.
THAT, my friends, was when I realized how oh-so-very-much aging sucks.
When I stop whining, I’ll get back out there, to my front yard, and clean up my weedy, rooty, filthy mess. But I’m waiting for a non-windy day.

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