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.
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.
I have an open mind.
I’m willing to try new things…except skydiving…and anything to do with sharks, snakes, or spiders…or the ocean…but other than that, I’m open! Mostly…
Anyway, a bottle of drinking vinegar showed up in my fridge after a visit from my mother, who is always willing to try new things on me, I guess.
For six weeks, I ignored that bottle of drinking vinegar, because…ew.
Suddenly one morning I steeled myself and opened the bottle.
The vinegar was sparkling, and again…ew.
And it was strange fruits of pomegranate and…something else…exotic fruits to the prairie, I can tell you.
Which made it more appealing, I admit. Yeah, I’m rogue.
So I sipped.
Immediate reaction: a snarl.
Secondary reaction: hmmmm…
Third reaction: I’m headed to Sprouts for more.
Well…I couldn’t find this particular brand, so I tried a different one.
Final reaction: Never, ever, leave your comfort zone. It’s just not worth it.
And wait until your mom drags another jug of goodness into your fridge.
I have chickens.
I don’t believe they like me, though I feed them. But I’m fairly certain I like them, until winter descends.
Fowl beasts do not conveniently switch to hibernation when it’s freezing cold out, thereby allowing me the convenience of remaining inside where it’s toasty warm, therefore I must render myself impervious to the elements in order to feed and water/de-ice these ridiculous critters twice a day.
I’ve remarked about the chicken coat before, because, aside from the fire pit, the chicken coat is my most valued home accessory.
Everyone needs one. It’s yellow…vibrant within any blizzard, for identification purposes when my frozen corpse is uncovered come spring…and it’s puffy, like stitched clouds of strange, inorganic material that tells the prairie winds to “bring it,” because, seriously, breezes do not enter into the realm of warmth beneath the glowing sun-colored, zippered goodness that is my chicken coat.
I have other uncovered, frozen bits, so I tuck in…pull the shoulders upright, hide the neck, breathe within the cave of parka, move quickly, scurry inside before limbs fall off.
I love this coat.
But here’s a funny: I wore my coat on an especially chilly day into the world, into a public space, where people could see the grunge and filth encasing this otherwise spectacular specimen, so prete a porter.
(Darn embarrassing is what it was, but doggone it, I was cold, thus the coat had to stay.)
Anyway, whilst in a public restroom, I discovered how incredibly tiny construction can be. Who thought mounting a sink onto a wall with only three inches of selvage on either side would be genius? And mounting a paper towel holder and soap dispenser within that same realm? Dazzling use of space, right?
Because, when I right-handedly waved beneath the non-touch soap dispenser, my left elbow inadvertently caused the non-touch towel dispenser to spool out a six-inch length of paper. And when I waved beneath the water spout, my gigantic sleeve leaned heavily toward the soap’s unblinking eye, once more spraying upon my innocent sleeve. So what to do, but rinse the offended arm of its foamy layer, which caused the water to gush again.
I had two wet sleeves and a fistful of foaming Dove while a drying device looked on.
I tried, again and again, to rinse, de-soap, dry, rinse, repeat…
Until at last I gave up, and left the bathroom, and walked amongst the peoples admiring my bravery, my angry face dripping from within such a bold fashion statement — a yellow chicken coat, stained, probably smelly, and leaving a wet trail of droppings while I walked my Bubs and I out into the frigid air.
At home, I told the chickens I’m done with them, they’re on their own.
My favorite Sirius channel lately has been the 80’s on 8. Reminiscent, I guess.
All week I’ve felt the need to buy a fresh can of hair mousse and pop my collar. But since I’m living a mostly cotton-tee existence lately, alas and alack, I’m without a collar to pop.
Friday, after an Alan Hunter (remember him??), Charlie Sexton’s “Beat So Lonely” blared from the speakers and I nearly had to pull the truck over, because this girl had to rock. Just had to. (But I was in a truck; can a truck rock? or only mildly contort, because it knows nothing other than country things? I truly wished for a sports car at that moment.)
All weekend, I didn’t dare turn that knob. (Remember when vehicles had knobs? and window cranks? and wondered, what-the-heck-is-a-USB-port?) A week of Bowie, Springsteen, Bon Jovi, a dash of Thompson Twins, a smattering of A Flock of Seagulls spiced with a dusting of Duran Duran and my hair nearly congealed itself into a pompadour fronted by big bangs.
This morning I was compelled to Google Sexton’s name, typing quickly, all the while thinking, “Pleasedon’tbedead, pleasedon’tbedead…”
(This last couple of years, sneaky, evil Time has eroded my Rock Pantheon Monument, crumbling it into near-oblivion. So many guitars; too quiet now.)
But fortunately, no! Not only is Sexton still among the living, but he’s only moments older than I, doubling my relief that the man is still walking the earthly orb.
All morning, I’ve been YouTubing. I don’t do that, my son does that, yet here I am, clicking on one video after another, bouncing around in my absurdly uncoordinated middle-aged white girl brand of nearly-Fonda aerobics that double as Prancercising.
(Google that one; I’ll wait.)
In The Day, in the late 1900’s, I owned and wore out the Pictures for Pleasure album on vinyl, back when LPs were a norm. I’ll admit, I chose the record instead of the cassette because of the cover art. Because, well, aesthetics and all.
Now vinyl is back — my keen insight tweaked my nubian brain, blimpsing into the 2000’s and begging me to choose the proper form of musical listening — and sadly, I have no idea where that album could be.
I could cry, but I won’t, because thank heavens for YouTube, and Amazon, and next-day delivery.
If you see a big ol’ truck going too fast down a country road, but the music is awesome, please don’t stop me until you hear the song’s final, fading, fleeting departure, ’cause otherwise, I might really cry.
My Bubs doesn’t like to go to the movies, which defies his DNA, but I roll with it.
I love going to the theatre, so if Mama wants to see a movie, Bubs gets bribed.
I’m okay with that. A tiny bit of sugar now, means I see my film and I get to play the mean ol’ “But you already had sugar today” Mom card.
The last movie we saw was Ferdinand. While I didn’t love it like I hoped I would, it was a cinematic adventure on a Friday night, complete with popcorn and a sticky walk to the exit. Great stuff, right there.
But oddly, in the pre-show commercial run, an ad for Grand Tour flickered to life.
Neither Bubs nor I had heard of the show or any of its three hosts, but the two-minute snippet was humorous, plus…cars. Fast cars.
Bubs was in, and since I love comedy and watching questionably dangerous car maneuverings, I was in, too.
We found all of season one and watched every episode. The boy and I are hooked.
It streams on Amazon, it’s currently airing season 2, and each Friday, voila, a new episode.
I get a Friday night thing to watch with a handsome boy, my son doesn’t have to enter a theatre, plus the show — a few irreverent, jump-to-the-screen-or-remote-to-hide-stuff-from-the-youth portions aside — is fun to watch, adventurous, and features gorgeous scenery, plus…cars. Fast cars.
Now, everywhere we go in our boring brown truck, the Bubs and I ride along with eyes peeled for any one of the numerous shiny toys featured on the show each week.
So far, cruising the streets of the Big City, we’ve seen five or six Alfa Romeos, innumerable Mustangs, Porsches, and BMWs, and one Bentley.
It’s car Bingo.
Bubs wants one of each.
My wish is that he someday can afford even one of them.
Because someday I’ll once again play the Mom card and refuse to let him buy one. Even if he’s forty years old. Because…cars. Fast cars.
There’s not enough bubble wrap in the world.
Chinchillas have 32 hairs per pore. That’s why they’re so incredibly soft.
Jillions of pores, 32 hairs shoved into each follicle. Never mind that the individual hairs are thread-fine, because there’s 32 in a hole. I mean, come on…little critter will make it through the winter just fine.
Myself, I’m an anti-chinchilla. Thousands, not jillions, of pores on my cranium; 1 thread-fine hair per every-third-or-so hole.
I could bait a bass — wrap a hair around an enticing bit of bass bait, dunk it into the water, catch a fish every time. Why? Because the bass couldn’t see the fishing line.
Focus on the lure, that’s what the poor fishy would do, ’cause that’s all he’d see, and BOOM! Dinner tonight! (As soon as I found someone to de-bone, fillet, and cook the suckered fish.)
Plus, unlike rodentia, human woman hair thins over time. De-LIGHT-ful, I can tell you.
Why do I tell you this?
Interesting story. And I blame beautiful Annette Bening.
See, I spent New Year’s Eve alone. The Bubs was with his cousins having the time of his life, celebrating the year’s rollover with various video gaming systems and video gaming accessories.
Me? I thought, “Hmmm, I have a split of champagne (one of those tiny, two-glasses-in-a-bottle jobbies) and a fully lined queue on Netflix (movies I might wanna see, maybe not, but Bubs can’t be around if I do decide to press play). I decreed (to myself, because everyone else was out adulting with parties and social mingling), “I shall ring in the new January with cheap wine and side B movies!”
I feel confident I pointed at the ceiling with my declaration.
And I did.
First in the queue: something I don’t remember, but feel like it was okay.
Second: an Ed Harris/Annette Bening flick that began sad and only deepened into darkness over the duration of about twenty minutes.
Time on the clock: 11 something.
Thus, time to break out the champagne and watch these lovely actors, though their story was so very, very sad. “It can only get better,” I told myself.
Halfway through the tiny bottle — yes, I’m a lightweight — I found myself stopping the stream in order to take still photos of Ms. Bening’s gorgeous locks and text the pics to my mother.
“Mom. What do you think? Could I pull off this ‘do?” (Never mind that my hair thread count is more comparable to that of Ed Harris, bless his beautiful blue eyes.)
“Sure! You’d look great!” Mom replied, or something like that. Something equally supportive, because she’s my biggest cheerleader.
“Sure I could,” I told myself. then I hit Play, drank another swig, pulled my ottoman a tiny bit closer to the TV screen.
The plot saddened.
Mom texted back, “Are you thinking of a new cut?”
“Maybe,” I think I replied but maybe only thought, because she immediately chimed in, “It’s a new year! A new look! A fresh start!” (Again, I may paraphrase.)
The movie grew increasingly sad; the wine mysteriously disappeared.
I could pull that off, I thought.
Then my eyes slid to the right, where I keep my art supplies and favorite pair of scissors.
I could even save forty dollars, I continued, ogling the orange-handled quilting shears while slugging back the drippings of wine.
“Have you made an appointment yet?” Mom queried.
“Not yet,” I responded, thinking, “Hey! I don’t need anyone else! I can do this! How hard can it be? Scissors! Right there!
But, like a cat with a laser pointer, I was distracted by the flicker of light at the bottom of my exceedingly small bottle of sparkling vino, and then by the climax of the movie, which left me a sobbing, dripping mess.
Scissors? Forgotten, due to sudden onset of temporary depression.
Thus, I put the bottle somewhere — hmmm, truly, I wonder where that somewhere might be?? — crawled onto my bed to fire up the next cinematic adventure, and promptly fell asleep.
The next morning — or a few hours later; who knows? — I woke to violently slap myself about the temporal lobe thinking I’d chopped my hair in the night.
But all twenty-five strands remained in place.
My phone dinged, announcing a new Mom text.
“On second thought, maybe that’s a little short??”
I hid my scissors far, far away from my television.
I read too much and I tend to internalize select books.
My book club wants a Top 10 of 2017 list, and while most everything I read was written for young adults because of the incredibly time-consuming commitment I made to reading all things angst-ridden and gut-clenching — different story — I managed to read a few tomes that adulted up.
Number one on the list was the one about the magic of tidying up. (I don’t quote the title because it’s super long and I always get it wrong and I’m too focused on talking to you at this moment to Google it, but Marie K. wrote it and her Kon-Marie method has made me look at everything in my home differently, darn her.)
Basically, if something doesn’t bring you joy, why have it in your home?
It isn’t often that a non-fiction read makes the top of my list, but this year was an exception, both in the adult genre and in the young adult category. (Ask me later for the YA list; it was a terrific year.)
I think a number one ranking means the book hasn’t left you; vestiges have stuck. For instance, “Lifeboat” by Charlotte Rogan a few years ago…hated the main character, loved how unreliable she was as a narrator and absolutely loved hating her for it. Juicy. Delectable. Now that I think of it, I want to read it again. Loved it.
What does this have to do with a picture of my clothing draped from plastic hangers?
Because in tandem with my Kon-Marie-ing joyful disbanding of all things comfy and habitual, I internet-ed across a challenge in which you turn all the hangers in your closet backward, and at the end of the year, anything left in this dubious direction means, “Hey! I give you no joy! Release me into the wild where I might find an owner who would appreciate my intrinsic value and allow me sunlight and laughter!”
I paraphrase; I don’t know that that’s exactly what clothing longs for, but in my mind it does.
As January approached, I inspected my closet, and do you know, that to the item, all of my backward, no-love-given, didn’t-want-to-wear clothing was for exercise? That’s right. Pastel. Spandex-laden. Lycra-infused. Wicking materials designed to sluice the sweat from my overheated, drenched, plyo/yoga/step-aerobicizing form. All ignored for a year.
I thought, “Huh. Surely I worked out once, or twice…”
Well. If I did, I perspired in something street-level, not gym-worthy, and it must have been while I was asleep because memories aren’t rolling forward of my cardio levels rising or any “Whew!” towel-encased, sweat-dripping moments. Maybe Down Dog or two, but that may be wishful thinking.
But surely I did something to worthy of wearing a swoosh, or eating an extra twelve York peppermint patties; surely I inhaled those things like air because I earned them.
New Year. New arrangement of the closet. New Goodwill pile sitting on the table by the door.
And did I include all the items collecting shoulder dust and staring at me in pretty pastel patterns?
No. Because this year I’m going to wear them out.
Yep, that’s right. I’m going to wear them out.
To Target, maybe, or to the school with yoga pants which I also don’t have the right to wear.
But one way or another, these items will see the light of the day. It will bring them joy.
I don’t get paid to endorse products, but if Cuddle Duds offered, I would accept.
Because in December, when the first crisp tint of winter approached, I armed myself by diving into warmth. Every fleecy piece is labeled Cuddle Duds.
For the beginner, start with the fleece leggings. Arctic winds be darned, they aren’t cutting through the sheer rapture of that squooshy soft barrier. It’s like being a cow, nattily dressed and impervious to the cold. Plus, the leggings go right over your natural winter coat…so you don’t have to shave. Bonus!
Then I recommend the throw blanket. It’s a good intro piece — accommodates the need for warmth, as well as the convenient travel sizing. And, when the dog jumps into your lap — as dogs are wont to do, in my experience, especially when I’m in my Dud — the throw is easy to launder.
If anything propels me to launder anything, it’s Dog Smell. And the need for work pants.
As a convenient side, buy the pillow that matches your Dud. Because it’s super comfortable, of course, but also, you wouldn’t want to not own the set. I think that’s a Good Housekeeping rule of thumb from the 1900’s.
Third, go with the fleecy top, because…fleece.
Then there are socks, gloves, scarves, pajamas, and the mother lode, the comforter.
Now, the comforter is not for the novice, I must warn, because other humans want you to share, for one thing, but second, the cover is enormous — perhaps I didn’t strictly need the King size for my queenly bed, but hey, when given the choice, I went large.
And then there is the dog issue. I fiercely protect my Dud against dog-dom but in the middle of the night, I feel the hefty harrumph of the moose-dog landing atop my perfect coverlet and I’m far too comfy to wrangle any beast mid-morning.
So. As added protection, I suggest layering the Dud beneath another less attractive, less dear, more expendable topper. Because laundering a King-sized anything is not a simple task. And who wants to wash their Dud every single night? Not this girl. That’s far too domestic for my temperament.
Get out there and get your Dud!
Caveat: when cloaked under a semblance of protection such as three layers of fleece, I must advise you not to touch anything metal.
I could light a house on fire just by touching its corner, that’s how much static is in my aura.
If I see you out and about, it’s wise if I don’t hug you, unless you have a defibrillator handy.
It really boils down to a half-bag of charcoal.
For as many years as I remember, my mother has never shown up to visit me without a gift, a present, a thoughtful something she found somewhere that reminded her of me and she’d be darned if that item didn’t land in my hands soon, soon, soon.
Because she’s a helper.
I paraphrase Mr. Rogers who remarked that in times of uncertainty or trouble, look for the Helpers.
They’re the people taking charge, certainly, running into the fray to fix things, but they’re also behind the scenes, cleaning up, erasing the rubble so as not to remind anymore.
They’re the silent folks who stand in one place, unobtrusive, calm, ready and waiting for the troubled to approach.
They’re the ones who feet called to be specifically there, specifically then, holding onto an object for reasons they can’t fathom until it comes in handy to complete strangers. They sit and wait for something they can’t define with faith that things will come clear.
For the last two weeks, a loved one has been undergoing life-altering medical procedures that have blessedly kept him alive so he can continue his mission of service to God and his family. His helpers range from doctors and nurses, to bedside family, to friends preparing feasts for the vigilant, to specialists and engineers in other countries who built machines never dreamed of a few decades ago but that now extend lives.
Helpers are miracles dropped into a course of events.
I’ve had help, too. At a work lunch last week fate sat me next to a local preacher, a man I’d never seen in town and certainly never met, until that particular day I desperately needed counsel. (You’ll be glad to know I let him finish his stew before pouncing upon him to bend his ear.)
That same day I texted friends, asking for prayers from states away. Requests linked into a multi-state chain spanning the prairie to show God how much Oklahoma needed a hand. The prayer blanket, comforting in its weighted concern, seemed visible.
Family who couldn’t be at the hospital sent a basket of chocolate the likes of which I’ve never seen except — maybe on one of those air flight catalogs — because sugar is a love language we all understand. And what happened? Well, hello: chocolate, a magnet. So sharing happened, and then stories bubbled up, followed by laughter, and proximity, the kind that calls to anybody wandering by, asking them to huddle up, to lean in with kindness and compassion and faith.
And pass the truffles, please.
Then there’s my Bubs, who doesn’t understand the enormity of everything because he’s a kid, whose responsibilities include school, band, after-school obligations, all things I need him to continue, because it buys time for me to wrestle comprehension to the ground so that I can be a parent and he can be a kid.
That’s his job.
On the other hand, he wrangles with gravity, too, not understanding enough to know how to put together the questions roiling in his head.
In came his helpers: school personnel I recommend any family adopt. They’ve been right there, all day with the Bubs, lifting the weight with him.
How do you say thank you big enough to people like that, who go above, beyond, over, and through the realms of job requirement to solid human compassion for this one awesome kid as well as the other four hundred plus who walk the halls everyday?
A fruit basket doesn’t seem to cut it.
All of this has a point. My Helpers, Bub’s Helpers, the family’s Helpers: I see you. And I am so grateful. And though the limits of space or money or time may impede the appropriate responses, those of us in your care thank you. I hope one day to repay the love and kindness while you don’t need it, while things are fine, while life is plugging along beautifully. But if crisis comes, I will be there. With prayer. And hand-knitted socks. Or food…maybe that someone else made, because you’ll want me to spare you from my kitchen endeavors. Or I’ll bring a half bag of charcoal. You know, whatever you need.