Orange Scones

Aunt Lou was a horror. Mean as a rabid badger, stingy as Scrooge, but without the change of heart in the end, and forgetful, that she was evil and that she had breakfast an hour ago.
Each morning at 7:30, she wanted breakfast, from somewhere out in the world. I didn’t want to cook and she I agreed that didn’t want to eat anything I made, so out into the world we went.
My grandfather joined us, out of kindness for me, I shall always believe. He was a delightful buffer: kind, generous, and he laughed at my jokes. But when it came to the first meal of the day, Lou held sway.
She chose from her two restaurant options — I had no say, leaving my morning mantra to be, “McDonald’s or Panera, Lou?”
She would mull the options while I backed the van out of the garage and winded our way through her closely built neighborhood, then turned right onto a main road that took us to the crossroads: left if she said McDonald’s, right if she said Panera.
One sunny Thursday, she chose the bakery, and right we went.
At the restaurant parking lot, getting out of the van was an easy task. She had full faculty, only needing a cane for stability, and Grandpa was independent. Though they were mobile, they were slow, especially Lou. I watched the order entry line grow as we turtle stepped our way toward the end. And as always I glanced into the display case, its wares on full display.
Scones were running low, particularly the orange flavor, and those were my favorite.
I counted in my head. As long as only one other person ordered a scone, I would be good.
How could I point the ambivalent toward cinnamon or chocolate chip instead of the delightfully glazed orange beauty solely displayed in the middle of a silver baking tray?
“What are you going to get, Lou?” I asked her, trying for small talk.
“Oh, I don’t know,” she said, per usual.
“Grandpa, how about you?”
“Just a coffee,” he answered, his standard breakfast.
Piping in because she demanded attention, Lou said, “I want that orange scone.”
What?
My hopes were dashed by the very person I’d trucked into this establishment, and now I was required to sit and watch her munch my breakfast between her four natural teeth? And it never failed, she always left half of her breakfast on her plate, so the insult continued. I wouldn’t get my choice, plus I’d have to leave a delicious half of it behind.
It wasn’t fair.
“I don’t know,” I said. “That cinnamon roll looks pretty good.”
Lou glared at me before inspecting the case. “Hmm, I don’t know.”
“Remember how good it was yesterday?”
“Hmm. Yeah, I guess,” she muttered, though I knew she didn’t remember at all.
Finally it was our turn in line and the cashier asked for my order.
Grandpa stepped up to order his coffee, then it was my turn to order for myself and Lou. Fortunately, Lou pointed a knotted finger toward the bakery case and said, “I want that cinnamon roll. And a hot coffee, black.”
The baker retrieved Lou’s selection before turning to me.
“Oh, I’ll take that orange scone, I think.” I tried to sound complacent, insouciant. I nearly drooled just watching the pastry being scooped onto a plate.
And then I nearly passed out when the lady pulled a radiant, brand new tray of gorgeous, glistening orange scones from beneath the counter.
Grandpa laughed outright. He knew my ploy and knew I’d been bested.
It’s been 9 years since Lou died, and my grandfather reminds me of the orange scone story at every opportunity. The man has a steel trap for a brain.
And every time he mentions it, which seems to be every time I visit with him, I blush.

Remodeling During the Middle Ages

A book club friend discussed remodelling her kitchen. She’s tried three times for the perfect green tint for her kitchen island.
“Will you try again?” I asked her, to which she replied, “Eh, it’s good enough.”
Pause.
“Twenty years ago would you have gone after the elusive perfect tint? Would you have tried again?”
“It’s such an odd color,” she thought out loud. “It’s the perfect color in the hallway, it makes me so happy, but in the light of the kitchen, it isn’t quite there.”
“Close the windows in your kitchen. Maybe try some blackout curtains,” I teased.
She laughed, preceding a discussion of window blinds and how infuriating they could be. So difficult to clean, never to be white again, certainly.
“I clean them in the tub,” remarked the third of us.
“Me, too!” exclaimed the fourth. “I use a Clorox bath and wipe each slat.”
I died inside, thinking the tedium of that task would bore me to tears.
“How do you dry them?” someone asked. “I hang them, let them dry.”
How quickly conversation devolves when you age. Our topics of conversation are now domestic, never discussed during book club before. Usually we talk about kids and how fun it is to be away from them for a while — how we love them, love them so, but boy, a tiny bit of alone time is a beautiful thing. Racy jokes; smutty books; silly indulgences when the kids are asleep. Where do we eat next? We’re foodies, I tell you. And if the restaurant includes a bakery, well, let’s go there two months in a row.
I returned the conversation to the original topic, this observation of aging ladies. “So, would you paint the island again, if you were younger?”
To which she paused. “Maybe,” she said after consideration. “Probably,” she affirmed a moment later. “But now, the current color will work. I’m not worried about it.”
“But will you peruse the color swatches next time you head to Lowe’s, just in case?” She considered the question. Her brow lifted, her eyes cast downward while she thought. “Yeah, probably,” she conceded, sadness in her tone. She’s had an ongoing project, adding two closets to the interior of her home. She used dead space to create storage, a brilliant solution. But with the construction came the decorating, with paint, lots of paint.
“I try to do the walls, for the feeling of achievement, but then there’s the trim.”
We groaned. The trim, ugh. Talk about tedium.
“I listened to seven audio books while I worked,” she added, her eyes wide, disbelieving. “Seven!”
Because one can’t read when painting, they must have it read. A great arrangement, if one enjoys the reader. Usually the kiss of death is an author reading their own work; authors are writers, not actors, an important distinction. “But no, not this time,” she assured me. “He’s really good.”
Giving in on projects was certainly an aspect of aging I had not considered until my onset of ripening. I didn’t know my arm skin would fall to sweep the floor, either, though I had visual cues all my life; my grandmother’s arms, when bare, were a spectacular harbinger that perhaps a few chair dips wouldn’t harm my triceps.
Did I do those dips? Heck no, those are work. They require things like moving a chair, clearing a space, doing the dip. Moving a chair exposes dirt; clearing the space requires a dust mop at least, a warm sudsy bucket of Pine-Sol Rain is preferred; doing a dip means sweat, which means a shower, taking more of my precious middle-age-lady time when I have this singular day away from the job each week to play out the rest of my life, the house stuff, the teenager and all of his stuff, bills, pets, and the ever expanding pile of laundry tames and beaten into submission.
Sometimes Tuesdays can’t come soon enough because Mondays leave me exhausted. Then I do it again seven days later.
Seems I am truly gerbil-like.

Still Focusing on Focusing; It’s Tough

This morning after a workout at the gym that I pay but hardly visit, I felt fractured by tasks for the day. I have one day off for the week and it’s full. Grocery, car wash, laundry, book club meeting, pick up the boy and his friend after school, take them into town for minor errands they don’t want to make but hey, if they’re together, it will ease my pain — misery loves company, especially from the video game department, so if Bubs is happy, I’m happy in my solitude, perusing store shelves and indulging the impulse buyer within.
On my way to the truck, I realized I was too scattered to think straight. I needed a new mindset in order to focus.
Cue the meditation app I seldom open. It was a day of unique experiences, I guess.
So in the truck, on the road, I’m listening to a silky British voice floating from my phone to help me focus: breathe, let calm reign, settle the disquiet; it’s a full blown 20 day course, it seems.
“Focus,” he coaxes, but I’m mulling my list: grocery, carwash, school, et cetera. Mindfulness is helping only in that I realize I’m not mindful.
Therefore, I pushed Replay on the app and swore to focus, on his words, his instructions; his focus was solely my focus. Oh, except I was driving.
Still, I refused to turn the app off entirely, because, British accent.
I took deep breaths as instructed, mindful of my breathing and his voice; thus I was calmed. And focused. On breathing, and listening, so though my mind was still separated into bits, it was mainly only two bits, floating over the slightly subconscious To Do list. Oh, and driving.
Later, back at home, I sat at my desk to finish a report, finish an episode of The Crown, and design my latest drawing. All at once.
Laptop warming, waiting for instruction to go to Google docs.
TV warming, ready to queue into the next Crown episode, and me, staring at blank Bristol board, placing figures in my mind to draw later.
Scattered. Fractured. Again. But still breathing, though unconsciously.
After the enlightenment, for the rest of the day, I’ve tried to work one task at a time. So while I type, I have one ear open for Bubs as he plays his video game — moms know to listen at all times, even if only halfway. Netflix is on Pause, scrolling advertisements for new shows I need to watch; Netflix says so. Occasionally I peer toward the monitor. And I type, halfway, with lots of typos, because I’m attempting to finish. The quicker I type, the quicker I get back to the Crown and her realm of fascinating shenanigans.
So, still scattered, still fractured, but taking deep breaths now, because I’m focusing on at least one thing if it kills me, though, ironically, it keeps me alive. This is the gerbil wheel my mind rides every day. It’s exhausting. Yet I don’t sleep well, because though my gerbil tries so hard to rest, the wheel turns, distracting the rodent enough to, if not hop back on, then at least watch it spin.
I’m off to my meditation app, for the sleeping lesson. Forty-five minutes of sounds from a laundromat, that’s all I need to focus upon.

Turns Out I’m Not a Carpenter…Very Disappointing

I wanted to install new flooring in Bubs’ room. He’s newly adolescent, and it happened over night. No exaggeration: he woke a different person than when he went to sleep.
Reeling from shock, I realized his adorable Boy Room was no longer appropriate, plus, truth be told, the elderly incontinent, blind, deaf, adorable pooch who can’t see well enough to Go Toward the Light may have destroyed the already-aged carpet in the Bubs’ Boy Room.
It was time, in many ways, for a makeover.
I bought flooring, the click kind, as advertised in the three-minute video that assured me I could install the flooring all by myself. The video  promised. 
And I am gullible.
Long story short, and utilizing the skills of my dad and a full day of his time, I learned how to use a saws-all — I’m not certain that’s the correct trademarked name — and I also learned that once baseboards are removed, they expand.
Did you know that? News to me. Naively, I thought wood parts would retain their size after removal, but they don’t.
And the flooring that was so easy — according to videotaped footage probably filmed in the confines of Light and Magic — was NOT so snap-simple, amateur-friendly, easily accomplished by a desperate-for-the-boy-to-have-a-Young-Man-room Mom.
Nope.
I mean, NOPE.
Let’s just say, no one wants to look super closely at the final slats, when Dad had returned home, inserted at one in the morning in an exceedingly hot, increasingly tiny dwelling of a mere eleven feet by the same.
Because, dang, it’s ugly.
Ugly, mostly because of my new friend Super Glue. It’s true.
And the baseboards? Well…they’re back in place, with the help of a two-pound sledge.
Nails were not necessary. Those boards, they aren’t moving.
Unless I renew my love with this new “saws-all” thing I’m fond of…
Meanwhile, the room is beginning to retain odor, and I can no longer blame the dog — no, he’s not Found the Light; the teen’s door stays shut 24/7, whether inhabited or not — and clutter is obscuring the newly installed flooring as well as the giveaway shine of glue.
I feel cheated.
1. The room is really no different.
B. I’m not a carpenter. I really wanted to be good at that stuff. Sigh.

 

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?

Q is for Quiet

drawing of shushing womanSomewhere in the past, I lost the beauty of Silence.
School, work, relationships, pets, money money money, all drowned out an appreciation of Peace.
Then I started working at a library and found it again.
And though I work in the loudest library known to man, the threat of Silence exists around every stack of books.
It’s a library.
And as such, the need for Quiet, which has been drilled into us all since our first encounter with story hour and the idea of “check out,” is housed within, looming large even amid the chaos.
Aging has brought the Quiet, which descends at night.
As much as I love it during daylight hours, I loathe it’s existence in the deep dark sky.
It’s not Peace. It’s a virtual presence of a Something Frightening I can’t quite pinpoint.
Now I have panic attacks and wars within myself to meditate, find my breath, all that.
I say a little prayer and fall asleep to reluctantly greet the dawn.
(I’m not a morning person and too particular about a certain hour-span of daylight. I’m a mess.)
Every year it worsens, this fear within unsettled air.
Aside from lamps blazing all night, and prayer, I have no tools for combat.
I feel like I’m in the middle of youthful rest and elder forgetfulness, so that fear is only a companion; a constant, whether it’s feared or not.
A conundrum for which I have no solution.
So if you’re driving by and see the light on in my window, it’s just me, combating an unseen villain, probably scrolling the Netflix queue and waiting for dawn.

L is for Lag Time

You know my favorite household accessory is the fire pit, but my very most favoritest household appliance is…the gas-powered lawn trimmer.
It slices, it dices, it can cut your meat. It’s fabulous.
It’s really a stick with a motor. Literally, a motor-on-a-stick. There’s just no other phrase for it. Then, you add whatever business end item you need.
Got some high weeds? Add the brush hog head thing.
Need some alignment to your driveway? Take off the brush hod head thing and snap in the dealie that has metal blades that spin super fast and spark when they hit concrete. (I really love that one.)
It’s so versatile!
But here’s the rub: at however many RMP that head/blade/spinny thing rotates, whatever that actual number may be, it’s stupid fast. And it vibrates. And it makes my whole body tense up just trying to keep the thing in control because I do love a neat line to my driveway.
Truly, only a few years ago, I was not as aware of this shaking/controlling/using-all-my-strength thing as I was just yesterday when I pulled the cord and let ‘er rip to edge the back acres.
Oh my stars.
Two Aleve, eleven hours of sleep, and I still hesitate to even consider joining the yard for anything more than a hearty hello.
Grow, grass, grow. Do your worst. This chick needs to rest.
That’s the thing about aging: the Lag Time. I don’t remember needing to rest between acres before, or stopping for things like water breaks and catch-my-breath moments. Who needed breath? Who needed water? I had a whirligig on a stick and I was vanquishing hidden corners and I was happy doing that for hours!
Today? Not so much with the vanquishing and a whole lot more with the resting.
Sigh.
This aging thing is really eroding my love of high powered lawn accoutrements And that’s must mean.

A to Z of Aging: K is for Keeping it Real

Not too long ago, Michelle Pfeiffer said, “The older you get, the less you can cheat.”
My takeaway message was: Michelle Pfeiffer cheats? Awesome!
And continued to inhale whatever horribly over-caloric item was in my greedy hands.
Today, I lost a third pair of work pants to a Mystery Something. The something? I don’t know. Because those pants fit not three months ago. (Maybe six…)
And yet, last week, boom, I lost two pairs of perfectly wonderful, summer-worthy, pocketed pants.
(Casual note to non-female-attire wearers: pocketed pants are like appropriately fitted jeans: RARE! Thus, we ladies hold onto those like they’re made from unicorn hide; I exaggerate not, pockets are that important.)
Both of my favorite buttoned-at-the-fly, zipper-holding-its-own-thank-heavens trousers were down! (Literally. I threw them to the floor like they bit me, which they did, ravenously rending apart my especially fragile ego; the Great Pant Duplicity proved too much that day, though I blamed hot water in the washing machine for shrinkage…because, duh, of course. The second pair? Yeah…a tiny bit of mental reckoning was due because I’m not that bad in the laundry room…)
Today? A third pair, relegated to the floor for trampling, just like my questionable hold on youth and glee.
I wore a pair of lounge pants and an oversized tee to work, unapologetically and sneering, daring anyone to question whether or not I realized I needed to do some laundry.
Remarkably, my morning was great. I was happy, cheerful and able to breathe! (Because lounge pants are the best.)
Then I realized, hey! I faced my middle aged-ness, at least for a couple of hours, and I lived to now tell the tale.
Hold your horses with the kudos for self-actualization…because after work I went straight to the ice cream store, unabashedly begging for just a touch more chocolate sauce and oh, hey, is that an Oreo? Yeah, toss that bad boy on there, too. Sundaes for everybody!
Yep, this morning, I Kept it Real, a sign of maturity, a sign of growth, a sign of colossal dismissal of youth and fitting into a bathing suit, which, all things considered, is a plus.
Also: for the remainder of the day I’m eschewing carbs.
So take that, larger-than-last-year thighs. No bread for you! No more padding for you until dawn, when waffles sound just too tempting…
Yes! Waffles at daybreak! With coffee, and eggs, and a dose of reality, because after breakfast, I must go buy new pants…

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.

 

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.