(Fake) Challenge Accepted!

Last month I talked with a girlfriend, commiserating about aging and bat flaps on our arms and things popping in the middle like dough freshly baked.
It was a difficult conversation that left me depressed and eschewing food for at least an hour.
She said, “I workout.”
Me: “Me, too.”
She: “I do the Barre Method.”
Me:(Having followed suchly-named videos on YouTube) “Me, too.”
Quick Barre Exercise primer: I don’t have a barre de ballet anchored to any floors within my domicile. Without such equipment, it is recommended to use a kitchen chair — too squirrely; I was chasing it more than bending uncomfortably from it — or countertop. Check! I had one of those and I was quickly grateful to be a terrible housekeeper. The sticky whatever on the granite helps with grip when I’m hanging precariously from the edge to squat and lunge as though I’m going low enough to actually use the muscle. It’s an ignominious position, thankfully without video evidence.)
She perked up, energized by complicity in self-torture.
She: (leaning forward conspiratorially) “Don’t the little ones just kill you?”
Me: (Thinkng, “Little ones, I don’t know what those are…the big ones aren’t so great…” but not wanting to appear to have missed anything) “Yes, they’re awful.”
She: “And doing that for an hour? Isn’t it torture?”
Me: (At last we were on the same wavelength with abuse, but never having pursued a video playlist of any titles over twelve minutes, the “hour” confused me. Resenting 12 whole minutes of activity, I had moved down to ten; regretted that choice immediately, I lowered my standards to four minutes and complain through all four) “An HOUR? Are you CRAZY?”
She blinked, confused.
She: “How long do you exercise?”
Me: (Lying but fingers crossed so the lie didn’t count) “Probably twenty minutes.”
She: (blinking repeatedly, staring blankly, figuring things out) “…and you do the Barre Method?”
Me: (doubting entirely my existence) “Ya-huh.”
She: “And it only lasts twenty minutes?”
I pondered. Each video master I scrolled through had indeed used the word “Barre” in their title, but as for the word “method,” I was less certain. Plus, each of the probably-dozen videos I had used to tweak my intense muscular stature had ended with verbiage like, “After a quick cooldown, start this video over and work through it two more times…”
And I remember laughing, “Duh, why would anyone do THAT??” Then I walked toward the shower on spaghetti legs, breaking my own shoulder patting myself on the back for putting in a good four minutes of “burn.”
NOW I knew why instructors insisted on using the Replay button, because that is part of the METHOD.
Dang.
Me: (strictly for clarity) “You’re telling me there’s a different video with a more precise name using ‘Barre’ and ‘Method’ in the same tag line, then?”
She: (sensing weakness, using derisive eyebrows) “Uh…yeah.”
Me: (finger pointed to the sky in proclamatory fashion) “I shall find said video and follow it to the letter.”
She: (wrapping the last of her sandwich, checking her watch, readying to scurry) “Great. Let me know how it goes. Dare ya.”
I know she was laughing under her breath; I disliked her scorn. Thus, perhaps I created her flippant ‘So long,’ misinterpreting her words, but I heard NOT  the Dare portion, instead I heard: “I challenge you!!!
Oh, ho, nay nay, my friend. I am not one to take a challenge lightly, unless it involves wild boar or machetes. Those I can discard. YouTube video, though, I got.
After work, I went to the house and immediately changed into a comfy tee over the work pants o’ the day — they’re work pants; who cares? — and sought out the aforementioned, appropriately researched Barre Method video — a startling 39 minutes, the queue read! What the…
A woman with a purpose, I hit Play.
What the what the…
The LITTLE ones?! Holy Scrap Metal, Batman, the LITTLE ones number in the hundreds — literally, one HUNDRED pulses — MORE THAN ONCE, thus equaling nearly a thousand, by my count — of ceaseless down-and-up, clinging to the countertop, ready for a thigh muscle to pop, donedonedone with further torture of already ravaged muscles.
And squats, lunges, butt-clenching was NOT ENOUGH, because she continued with ARM exercises, with WEIGHTS, and then that mean, mean strange lady who ROCKED her own Lycra ensemble forced me to lay on the FLOOR and make my ABS bend, a lot, for an excessive number of reps. EXCESSIVE.
Then she tasked me with flipping over to hover over my elbows, lingering painfully in a PLANK position for FAR TOO LONG.
But I did it. It wasn’t pretty, and form was nonexistent, and though I felt like I did, I didn’t lose blood, only a bit of vision, and that, only momentarily, but I followed that crazy instructor lady for all 39 minutes.
While recovering on the tile floor, wishing I would vacuum more (not really; housework–yuk) my dog investigated the pooling sweat around my head before climbing me like some sort of small mountain in his territory to rest bodily upon my chest. Instinctively, I started to pet him but the sweaty palms and Pekingese hair were a poor blend, thus he abandoned me quickly, though I barely noticed what with fading in and out of consciousness.
After a half hour or so — could have been a day, I don’t know — still recumbent and perfectly happy to never rise, I reconsidered my earlier conversation and THAT was when I recognized the difference between Dare and Challenge. It’s minute. One is flippant; one is downright insulting. Both should be ignored.
I showered to wash away the pain and dog hair, then fell asleep wishing for new friends.
For four days — 4, my friends! — I moaned like a toothless weasel after each breath, each twitch, each movement of any part of my being. And once I’d recovered enough to use the gas pedal without fear of harming other travelers, I drove straight to my “friend’s” office and soundly told her, “Haha! I did it! ‘Tweren’t nothin’!”
(I used those words, in indignant fashion, with a curt nod and quick gloat.)
Then she responded, “Sweet! We should do it together sometime.”
I could not back away from that nonsense quickly enough.
“Look at the time!” I answered, anxious to round out the convo and hit the streets. “I’m late for work, see you soon!”
I haven’t heard from her again.
I’m sticking to four minutes. It’s my sweet spot of time lapsed on exertion.

“Fast,” the Misnomer

Lately I’ve been listening to ladies my age who talk of new habits in response to old-ing up.
Old-ing up stinks, have I said that a million times yet?
Two of my friends — TWO — talked about fasting for eighteen hours a day. EACH day. And EVERY day. FASTING.
Two ladies, slightly older than myself, fasting for good health, including better sleep, less bloating — yes, the conversation took a turn downward — and weight loss.
“What about the air bag?” I asked, repeating it in response to the quizzical looks.
About six months ago, I woke with an airbag around my belly. I can run into countertops with no fear of pain. I bounce off and walk away in whichever direction the airbag commanded.
No bruising, either, which is nice…unless the coloration is below the turn of the fold…not going to look for confirmation.
I meandered off topic, without even encountering a table top or other middle-range surface I could come across.
But give up ten to twelve hours of caloric intake, which is my favorite hobby? I mean, eating is fabulous. All the noshing, and the “what’s next?” aspect of each bite…good stuff.
I firmly shook my head “no” and forgot about my friends’ newly found health and sleep wellness. Because…I need to eat, repeatedly, with zeal and an open ice cream container.
Sometime during a night, asleep and vulnerable, my subconscious took over and that very next morning, I didn’t eat breakfast. Oh, sure, I drank three cups of coffee, but without food. Coffee sans nosh.
Before I realized, I waited until noon to finally eat my pitiful tiny lunch and that night I didn’t eat after 8pm. And though I may have slipped a few times about the noon rule, I forced upon myself the nothing-after-eight thing, no matter what. I was strong! I was strict! And I was up early, about an hour early each morning, invading the refrigerator’s personal space.
I figured ten hours — TEN hours! — of fasting…that’s a lot.
Before I knew it, I skipped breakfast entirely — no calories but coffee creamer until noon! This is a thing I found inconceivable. (Hopefully I used that word appropriately — since “The Princess Bride,” I’ve questioned proper use of the word.)
Quizzically, I realized that once I’d ingested the first bite of lunch, I was full quickly.
Whaaaa…
I’m entirely confused about this stuff.
Because now I actually DO fast for 18 hours. It took a few weeks, but I am an “intermittent faster;” it was a slow process to fast.
Not sure I like it.
No reduction in the air bag, sadly, which encouraged my puerile need to pack as many calories as possible into my six hour window. Five minutes until six o’clock equals three mini Tasty Kake donuts…if you’re counting or want to join me.
Now that I’m a few weeks into this denial and Adulting for Better Digestive Practices, my friend said the next step is to skip every other day — in other words, go along in the world for 24 plus 18 hours without caloric intake…
Blink.
Blink.
Nope. No, thank you.
Plus, I refuse to let my subconscious mull this one over either.
Sigh.
I miss grazing, that’s the truth…but I guess sleep is kind of nice, too.

Hair Styled

I have a cowlick, a noticeable, swooping, obvious, swooping bang thing I’ve wrestled forever to stay where I want it on the front of my face.
An when I tap out, let the cowlick win, well, I have a collection of hats that come in handy.
The last few years, a hat is out of the question because of that danged old full-time job thing. The public frowns on a librarian looking from beneath a billed brim, I guess.
It’s understandable, probably. I mean, librarians can look pretty creepy as it is, but then throw an upward peer from beneath a delicately fabric-covered cardboard face-awning and yeah, that could draw the shivers.
Each morning I wrestled with my hair dryer and a round brush in the bathroom at work every morning and silently swore while begging the bangs to lay down, to look rakish, to be even slightly attractive.
Really, I was surprised every time when I hadn’t knocked myself cold from trying to coordinate my own two hands, a brush in one, the dryer in the other; like cats in a bag.
A few weeks ago I went for my semi-annual haircut — that’s all the time and money I’m willing to give the tresses; they don’t like me; I’m not fond of them — and the stylist, who is a friend, finished our conversation/haircut by styling the bangs the “wrong” way — not fighting the cowlick, but acknowledging it and accepting it for itself. 
And she did it well, so I didn’t look quite so weird to myself as I usually do when I halfway try styling them that way in the privacy of my bathroom mirror.
Okay. Skip to today.
I have allowed the ‘lick to stay. I don’t fight it anymore — with age comes resignation to hair stupidity — and I’ve reclaimed the hours of life normally have wasted on fighting the unnecessary battle.
It stays in place.
The ‘lick.
It barely moves, even.
And I sleep on my right side, the preferred path of the hair-fall, so in the mornings, I don’t even need to touch my round brush.
I’m flummoxed.
And happy.
And so, so angry.
But here’s the rub: no one has mentioned my loss. Hair: Won. Me: Not.
And no one noticed.
This tells me one of two things: the change is so imperceptible that they see the glowing personality from within radiating from my eyes and they are so delighted to be in my presence that they bask in my aura, its glare obscuring the slant of my bang. Thus, understandable that no one would remark upon the change.
OR.
It looks ridiculous angled from the “wrong” direction and everyone is simply ignoring it so as to hurt my feelings.
EITHER WAY.
Don’t care. I’ve reclaimed five stressful, struggling minutes each morning. That alone is an enormous blessing and I’m just fine with it.
PLUS, I get to sleep a little later now.
🙂

 

Pants 101, years too late

Finding clothing for the “mature” — ugh, I hate that word — is a struggle.
Not that I ever had a fashion sense, but I still want clothing that I like, and that is difficult. The process of shopping has become a clearance-rack pull-and-go, in which I go to the section with items of my approximate size (there’s no standard sizing for clothing, am I the only one who believes that?), scan quickly for tolerable patterns/colors/textures and go to the checkout.
I know. It takes years to finesse the procedure, and it’s not for everyone — like anyone who truly cares about how they look — but it’s expedient and virtually pain free.
At Kohl’s the other day, a rack declared Vanderbilt “Amanda” pants were on sale, the declaration coming in the form of copious quantities of said slacks ready for perusal and purchase.
A long, long — longlonglong — time ago, I had a run-in with Gloria’s pantaloons and vowed never to return to the maker of the crime, thus I’ve avoided her brand entirely.
BUt here I was, in the midst of the fifteen minutes I’d allotted to the tedious procedure of procuring textiles and Amanda was essentially all on offer.
Well. What to do?
Because I was NOT trying things on.
And AManda seemed like she was popular at one time; she was in abundance once, but now shoved to the side for whatever new popular trend was over on the Rich People Racks.
Poor Amanda.
I grabbed three of her — a navy, a gray, and a maybe-brown? — in two different sizes, because, hey, I don’t know how Amanda fits, and went straight to the register.
Oh.
If you haven’t heard of Amanda’s pants, you should. So comfortable! Who knew?
I feel I’ve maligned Gloria and her subsequent style designs for far too long.
And I am sorry.
I have a new friend! Her name is Amanda. She’s a little shy, she was booted from the elite group and ended up in my closet, so poor, poor Amanda.
But dang it, I really like her.

Moral: Oldish dogs can change their minds. Under duress. Under a ticking clock. Under revulsion for shopping. Still. Changed my mind. Go me.

Gentle Yoga: an Oxymoron

A new yoga studio opened upon the prairie for us plains dwellers who wish to contort into unsavory positions whilst listening to the coyotes’ toenails click upon the weeds-in-the-cracks sidewalks.
Wednesday’s program was duplicitously titled “Gentle Yoga.”
Silly me, I didn’t believe yogis to be liars. Especiallyl when they are so kind, so thoughtful, with such soothing, low timbred, magical voices declaring positively how wonderful I am.
I believed her, which was Stage 1 in her nefarious plan.
We started with meditation so soothing I nearly fell over out of my cross-legged position, and that would have been especially embarrassing since I might have domino-ed about eight ladies.
After rousing from the 15 minute muscle-relaxer, emotion-numbing, self-esteem-building small talk with myself, we stood up, which normally is not an issue. Seems I was deeper into the trance than I realized, and tipping women from standing? That might have caused injury only 911 could have healed.
So we stood and we twisted a little; pivoted on a toe or two; bent and flexed.
It was nice, but not worthy of discussion. Nothing hurt, nothing popped out of whack; I was just relaxed. No biggie.
Then we laid upon our mats — which made me realize a little Febreze was in my future — and, on our backs, we were instructed to shut our eyes and begin envisioning.
Okay, we were too envision our bellies, pulling toward our spines, forming a well that fills from a gently flowing waterfall upon our concave flesh wells.
I only realized I was glad I’d visited the restroom a half hour before, and that water can’t fill a bowl that’s turned upside down. Water flows down the sides of convex objects, such as my gut.
That hurt my feelers.
Once upon a time, I could eat junk food, bloat like a gallon of rancid milk, and wake the next morning unscathed.
Now, with years tacked onto the ever-less-resiliency of my burgeoning figure? Not so much pooling as melting outward, like an amoeba. Bits of me try to run off, phalanges of skin pooching out, trying to bridge a gap between myself and Anything to get away from their original owner.
So I was envisioning water, “pooling,” but not in my belly cauldron but instead on the floor around me, and also violently wishing for another bathroom stop, just to “be sure” rivulets didn’t form into tributaries, if you know what I mean.
Plus … PLUS! ….the yogi insisted we students not twist ourselves into pain.
“Stretch! Take a hot shower, relax, drink water.”
Did I obey? Heck no! Did I tell you there’s a delightful Chinese restaurant just down the coyote-fur-covered sidewalk, four squares away? ‘Cause that’s where I went.
And then I went to bed.
No hot shower…no shower at all, actually, gross…and no draughts of water, no stretching of anything except the truth that I may not be the yogi I once thought.
Because the next morning? Well, I’ve been discouraged from using the word “pain,” so I’ll say my thigh muscles are still “vehemently tender.”
The next class is on Monday.
I may or may not go, mostly because the Chinese restaurant is closed on Mondays, so really, what’s the point of even going downtown?
Aging stinks.

 

Z is for Zigging and Zagging

Eldering — the new word I made up because it sounds more “Lord of the Rings” (think of the LotR term for 111:”eleventy-one”, because that’s cute, cute, cute) and less “Getting Old and Crusty” and is therefore a more interesting and less cripplingly depressing word — involves dodging left when crap is coming at you, and juking right when it’s coming from behind, pun not intended and yet hilarious.
Ya gotta zig and zag or you’ll get plowed, that’s my point. Life is not a straight shot. To be upright and moving forward sometimes seems a monumental task, yet we do it, dodging obstacles all the way to the end.
And whew, the end of a long stretch of Crapola on a Cracker, that terminal moment when the worst is behind you and hey, it’s sunshine and roses from here on out, is the best. It’s rest, a long sigh, a heavy breath of relief. It’s the Corpse Pose after any-amount-of-time-in-Yoga-at-all. The BEST.
And before we know it, BOOM, there’s another thing to dodge, whether it’s an enormous life event or a tiny dramatic thorn that threads its way through your psyche and shreds all sanity and reason.
I may be dramatic, yet you get my point because we’ve all had these Events, these Changes, and we’ve been through our own enormous share of all of that.
We Zigged. We Zagged. We survived.
Therefore we can wear socks with sandals and use words like Whippersnapper if we want, because we’re survivors.
We Aged, We  Conquered. We Rock!!
And thus I end the A To Z of Aging, with the words, “We Rock!”
I mean, how cool is that?

Y is for Yarn

brown yarn and knitting needlesGrowing up, knitting was for Grandmothers. Not being age-ist; It just was. Yarn tangled into an afghan meant Grandmothers in rockers and the need for silence within ten feet of the chair.
Now I’ve been watching “Outlander,” a series of television episodes based on a series of books, and yarn arts were not just for grannies, apparently, but also for Highlanders,  which makes them all the more endearing. Highlanders, I mean; grandmothers were already at the apex of Endearing.
Now I’ve aged and yarning/knitting/crochet/tangling up within yards of threaded string seems has come to mean Maternal Love, Warmth, Comfort, Hours by the Fireplace with a Dog in My Lap, trying not to slap him in the head every time I pull a knitting stick out to work another row. (It’s a process; we’ve established a system — I click, he ducks. I kid, because bless him, he can’t hear or see a thing and often pees if startled. Yarning requires my lap be draped in terry cloth, making it more treacherous for me than for other partakers of the yarn arts.)
Back to Outlander, in which the ladies wear fabulous knitted things that “Can’t be THAT hard to make.” And who needed to prove that? Surprisingly, Competitive little me, who knew? Didn’t know I had the Competitive/I Can Do Anything with Google gene.
I’ve knitted before. I tried socks, which is using dental floss and long toothpicks in order to create one jillion tiny stitches to make toe warmers.
Next I tried scarves. Umpteens of scarves. I had enough scarves for necks of a whole herd of pack animals. The cows across the street? The whole crew got a fetchingly colorful tie for their meaty throats, but not a one stood long enough for a quick twist of the yarn around their gullets. Whatever. Now the scarves are stuffed into the nethers of my closet, probably to be trashed next time I read Tidying Up. 
Last year I attempted a Super Quick Bulky Blanket, but I didn’t have enough yardage of fluffy three-ply yarn and after gripping those enormous needles the width of a Sequoia sapling I gave up the whole shebang. My hands needed rest.
Fast forward to this winter, when I’ve conveniently forgotten the pain, angst, and curse words of last year. I need an Outlandish item, and by golly, I shall have it!
One perusal of the ‘Net, an arduous trip to Hobby Lobby, as Bubs is not a fan of crafting — and one subsequent trip to Wal-de-Mort, the store that must not be shopped, because I was remiss with my first shopping list and noticed on Sunday, which happens be Hob Lob’s rest — and suddenly I’m a winter knitter. Now I can actually WATCH the show, and KNIT the thingie I like on the screen, in theory. (In actuality, if I look away from my knittin’ hands, I lose stitches, and even when it’s the simplest stitch ever, ever, ever, this chick is a novice.
I don’t know how to fix dropped stitches; I haven’t Googled that yet; don’t have the patience to fix it — I just unravel the whole mess, finish watching the Outlander episode, and call the evening a wash. I realize the blessing of having sat with my dog in front of a fire beneath a knot of yarn yet to be re-spooled. Though I cursed a little tiny bit, and though I may not have a traveling shawl, or a pair of fingerless gardening gloves, or a horse ridin’ shawl, but the night was splendid and there’s always tomorrow. To start again.
Unless Spring comes before settle back in, with the dog and a bag of yarn, intent on finishing the thing I’m knitting. That’s a real possibility.

X is for X

“No” is a bad word. I like to be jovial, accommodating, thoughtful, needed.
Plus, I don’t want to be the grumpy aging lady, and “No” denotes grumpiness, my young eyes having heard it waft often from my grandmother. (I later learned she had bunions, and upon reflection, those will make anyone grumpy.)
It’s a delicate dance: “No, and I mean that sincerely, but I am in no way exuding a  ‘grumpy’ vibe. Do not take my rejection as anything but an act of love, certainly more for myself than for you, as you see it, and now as I see it, which means your tears are changing my mind, and of course yes, yes, is what I mean.”
I try to couch the “No” amidst apology and hand waves and moving feet. Don’t stop. Halting in place allows for coercion and waves of disappointment across my accoster/accuser/neighbor child until “No” has flipped into a Yes and then where am I? “Yes” is suddenly out there, on the table, and I’m committed to whatever I’ve agreed, and now I’m mad at myself, running my play: where did I go wrong, what could I have done differently, is there an escape clause to whatever I agreed to?
Sigh.
Aging is hard, exhausting, and mentally stimulating to the negative. It keeps me young, all this bickering amongst my selves.
Plus, it has the benefit of hindsight: I know now why I avoided my grandmother after her grumpiness: I was giving her the gift of solitude. Her plan worked. And Grandma, you are welcome.
X means No. The big red X, or hash line in a red circle, but the meaning is the same: Keep out, Danger, No smoking, No dogs, you know the signs I mean.
I’ve simplified to the one letter: X. X means no. And I mean it this time, at least on occasion.
I refuse to believe I’ve become my grandmother, because I will say Yes on occasion.
So there.

W is for Weight…Loss, Gain, and Reality Check

Weird blobs show up when you age. I’m giving you a heads-up that you’ll forget, until one day your belly button disappears and bathing is more like spelunking. Then, and only then, will the gravity of my warning reach your ears.
Enjoy your slim days, that’s what I’m begging.
Now, “weight” is a funny word. Literally, it makes me laugh. Weight. Ha! Whatever.
Lose it? Gain it? Who cares, at this point? It’s a number and I’ve never done well with math. Therefore, I chucked the scale and measuring tape and guilt over not exercising six days a week because I don’t care about those things any more.
Is this healthy? No. No, it’s not.
I’m not vegan, or all-organic, or even-a-little-interested in liquid breakfasts.
Occasionally I check my choices: unsweet tea or Dr Pepper? On an Atta Girl day, I go with the sugar-free…but who am I kidding? Tea makes me thirsty. And what do I reach for then? You see my struggle.
I could be healthier, I could Yoga more, and I truly enjoy it when I do.
But most days, I’m more proud of the fact that I didn’t need a nap at 3pm, in the middle of my work shift, and that I stood from my chair and walked the stacks to wake up. Boom. Eighth of a mile in the books.
That’s a good day.
PS This is not advice, and if it is, then it’s bad.
PPS I’m going to try to YouTube a ten-minute workout today, in the spirit of guilt and thighs that bark when I walk. Followed by a smoothie, whatever that is.

V is for Vein Vanity

I stopped wearing shorts after my son was born. No real reason, other than shorts felt icky. That’s really all I have, because my legs were fine, if I remember properly. Aside from being loath to shave, they weren’t unsightly.
My point is, because my skin doesn’t see the light except that of the shower, I don’t know what it looks like.
Recently, though, I found my winter tights. And my body found out that the summer was not the diet fest it might should have been. Those two constants were suddenly in play: tights are tight and when the body is tight, pants are tight, or not fitting at all, or “shrunk in the wash.”
I had to shave my legs. Eek! No winter coat?? But in order to wear my comfy winter tights, the leg tresses had to go.
I shaved, with a new razor — because I couldn’t find the old one — and a shaving cream, because a girl likes a little pampering on occasion instead of the bar of Ivory scraping over her delicate skin.
Lo, and behold, beneath the follicles: veins! What the…
Aging brings about road maps, blue highways — plump and healthy — gleaming so delicately from beneath the dermis. Topography is next, I’m sure, making future shaving deadly. Sliding a razor across fresh moguls around my already weirdly shaped knees? Blood loss with the flick of a Bic. Or Atra. GIllette? I don’t know. Whatever brand is embedded within the plastic handle of my throwaway razor. The logical solution: give up on this shaving thing from now on. I’m devastated by the loss.
Back to the natural, more-on-my-legs-than-my-head winter coat, buy bigger tights, find elastic waistband slacks.
All is well.