Tag Archives: aging with grace

Too Cool For School? Not Me

I don’t know about you, but I have an affliction: when I try to be cool, I end up looking like a fool.

I think this all started at the end of junior high. Until that time I was a confirmed bookworm who never had time to think of things like being cool—my nose was always in a novel so I rarely registered where I really was in time or place. Nor did I care about how I looked or what I wore. Not until the day I saw Gloria wearing a cool sweater with a dickie collar. Wow, I really wanted one!

The poodle skirt phase was before my time, but I craved having a dickie collar.

I think I probably also wanted to look like the girl in the picture below. She was so white–so American. From her loafers to her plaid skirt to the shutters on her house, she personified the kind of girl who scared me to death. But I wanted to imitate.

Next thing I knew, I really wanted to shop at the Bon.

None of this was happening for me as my mother was against all of it. She thought shopping at Lerner’s was just fine for me. Somehow I wangled white bucks out of my dad.

The coolest was the white buck bag that accompanied them—it came out in almost every class so I could apply a little of whatever that powder was to my shoes, whether they needed it or not.

My mother did loosen up enough to buy me pedal pushers and saddle shoes, which was a great victory.

I was 14 when I started high school—being young was a disadvantage to coolness. I joined this high school sorority to be cooler and started smoking to be cooler still. But it really didn’t work.

I still wasn’t cool. Which was fine at Garfield High School. Just getting to go to school there was cool enough.

In my heart of hearts, I was still a nerd who loved being in the library more than anything.

This continued on into college. I loved to study. Well, maybe not loved—but I admit to liking it a lot. At the University of Washington, I used to study at Balmer Hall—it had big tables where I could spread out my books, notebooks, three pens with different colored inks, index cards and ruler. I remember one day acting very cool as I walked by a group of guys, pretending not to see them. I walked straight into a huge ash can that tipped over, spreading sand and cigarette butts across the floor. I can still hear the clang of the metal as it bumped over the floor. Not so cool, after all.

As I get older, a lot of my “too cool for school” episodes involve falls and/or being a know-it-all. My mother always said, “Pride goes before a fall,”—it seems my karma is to act that out again and again. It’s not that I’m unsteady on my feet…yet. I go to yoga to practice my balance and work out to keep my strength up. No, it’s more that I don’t pay attention to my surroundings.

Usually, before it happens, I’ve just congratulated myself on my fitness, and that my skinned knees and elbows have finally healed. (It takes so much longer now.) I’m thinking things like, I’m doing pretty darn well for a 70-year-old!

Like on our 50th anniversary. I wore a flowing dress and my new diamond ring—I felt youthful and beautiful.

As we walked up a few stairs into the oceanside restaurant, I was handed a glass of champagne. How sophisticated and cool is this, I thought.

I stepped forward to take the champagne, not realizing I was on the edge of the lanai. Yes, I stepped into empty space. I tried to get back onto the stair and keep my balance, but couldn’t quite do it. I started falling backwards and decided the wisest course was to just go with it. Fortunately it was only a short distance into the flowerbed. The horrified onlookers did give me points for the gracefulness of my descent. Except for a few scratches and a rip in my dress, I was just shaken, but unhurt.

My final point about being cool or being a fool concerns my fondness for getting things right. It’s not that I say, “I told you so,” (although I do roll my eyes quite a bit). Like when we were traveling in the Galapagos and Peru with friends. I was wise and ate according to the rules we’d be given. The rest of them ate off the street and tried the national dish, guinea pig. What fools, I thought, as they all succumbed to Inca Revenge, and asked to borrow Imodium.

I, on the other hand, was so cool that I had nary a stomach cramp. Until we got home. Then the 105 degree fever that goes with malaria hit me. Not so cool after that.

Another problem is that I try to stay current technologically: I’m so cool that I use the Internet all the time. This leads me to buy gadgets, which I can’t figure out how to use. Like this electric wine opener. You have to admit it looks cool and very high tech, but I can’t even figure out how to put it in the charger unit. Now, I don’t know what to do with it.

I hate to say it, but being cool is just not my thing. At this point, it’s a battle to keep from making that old saying true: There’s no fool like an old fool! 🙂

 

 

 

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Turning Seventy is Sublime

 

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I am in the middle of writing an essay about how wonderful it is to be 70. I started it in January, but got caught up in other things and in writing a memoir piece. So now I’m almost half way to being 71. With luck and time, I will finish the essay before that birthday.

Meanwhile, I’m going to share some thoughts. On my 70th, I was determined to not look or feel my age. It was a lot of work! Now I’m purposefully slowing down—as a matter of fact, I took myself out of the race. I’m not so touchy about people holding a door open for me or asking to help me with my grocery bags. I don’t have to be in charge. I don’t have to be the responsible one. I don’t have to try proving that I’m as strong and capable as I once was. I can surrender to the aging. I can admit that I get tired. I can admit that I can’t lift my suitcase. I can admit that a swimsuit is not my best look, but I’ll wear one anyway.

One of the great benefits of aging is that I like being who I am. I say to myself when I’m doing something, “You know, that’s who you are. You’ve always been that way.” And I feel good rather than thinking I should change to conform to somebody else’s ideas. It’s true, for instance, that I rather write than play golf.

 

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I still think of myself as young. For instance, if I’m on a bus or train, I’ll stand up to give my seat to an older person. Only… what’s happening is that sometimes there is no older person. The first time this occurred was last summer when I went to DC to look after my grandson who was interning there. To begin with, that was a joke. Garrett, in reality, looked after me. He set me up with a Metro pass and with Uber. He made sure I was fine when he went to work. He’d call to check on me. He made the dinner reservations and showed me where the washer/dryer was in the building. The day we took the Metro to Capitol Hill, he made sure I got on the train without any trouble. I was standing next to him when a man asked me if I’d like his seat. I smiled and looked around for an older person to take advantage of his offer. Then I realized I was the oldest by at least twenty years. That was a “Yikes” moment!

I’m not denying that aging comes with a lot of loss. We have lost so many dear friends and family to cancer, heart attacks and strokes. Or they are suffering with the effects of their disease. There is a sadness now that really has no time to go away. Then there is the loss of taut skin, height and strong muscles, eyesight and hearing—but let’s not go there right now.

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I want to age gracefully, but I want to have fun too. Cindy Joseph’s make up tips for older woman have been widely distributed on Facebook. Here’s some of her advice around the eyes: “Women older than 50 tend to lose definition in their eyebrows. Just go with that. Don’t recreate the brows you had in your 20s.”

Really? I liked my eyebrows in my twenties, and if I don’t use eyebrow pencil now, I have no definition at all. I also tint whatever eyebrow hairs I have left. True, I don’t want to get to the stage where I’m drawing them on and entirely missing the eyebrow line. That is not attractive. But I figured out the solution to that: getting a stronger magnifying mirror for now and a trusted helper in my nineties.

Joseph also says: “Do not wear any eye shadow at all. …A little bit of mascara is OK.” Sorry, Cindy, but I plan to be wearing eye shadow in my coffin when I’m a 110. I love eye shadow. I’ve loved it since I was 13 and my mother wouldn’t let me wear it. So I’m not giving it up now or ever. I had a friend who got false eyelashes when she was 84. She loved them and they were cute on her! So there!

 

 

 

 

 

Making A Difference

hourglass

 

Catching up is hard to do or maybe I’m just not good at it. I always seem to add more to my plate each day. I was just thinking that I could be satisfied with what I’ve already accomplished today, but then I was compelled by some unknown force to come to my blog page and write. That could be a good thing or just that I’m in a manic phase! (that’s a joke).

This morning I met with a young woman who is going to the Community College here in Kona. I’m going to tutor her in English composition. It was fascinating to see the work she has already done–to see what the professors are teaching and asking their students to accomplish. Very impressive. (We talked about fragments and how I use them for emphasis and how she could never use one in her essays!) I already learned a lot from her.

One of the best things about teaching is how much you, as teacher, learn. My horizons are always expanding. Another best thing, especially at my age, is the sense that I’m doing something worthwhile and that has meaning to the larger community. I mean, I’m quite good at organizing my closet, but there’s more to life than straight rows of underwear. Or even fresh flowers in the living room.

So it makes me happy to know that the skills I’ve honed through the years are not going to be put on a shelf to fall rusty in disuse. I have found a niche that I fit into perfectly.

 

New Year Resolution Assessment

I thought that since half a year has gone by as well as my half birthday, I should assess how I’ve done on my resolutions from January. Here they are:

  1. Be happy with myself at my age.
  2. Stretch after my walk.
  3. Eat healthy.
  4. Think the thought that makes me feel good not the negative or fearful one.
  5. Don’t be the Grandiose Co-Dependent.

These are not what I remember. They are well and good, but in my mind I’d written:

  1. Write a blog twice a month.
  2. Work on the book.
  3. Do ten minutes or more of Rosetta Stone Spanish every day.
  4. Eat healthy.
  5. Stretch after my walk.
  6. Accept myself at my age.
  7. Take computer lessons.

It’s amazing what is and what we think is. Here I was supposed to be happy with myself and I was only trying to be accepting of the wrinkles, flab, and aches. Then I was feeling guilty if I didn’t write a blog every other week. As for the Rosetta Stone, a whole week could go by and I couldn’t seem to find even one ten minute segment to practicar Spanish. One good thing is that I’ve been working on my book lately with the help of an editor and mentor. It’s like a physical workout—I need a trainer or I’m not showing up. The same goes for writing my book—I now have Laura to keep me going.

To continue my analysis, I can count on the fingers of my right hand how many times I have stretched after my walk. That is sad because each time I do, my back, knee and foot feel so much better. Also when I go to my stretch class, I feel much better. Wait, can I count my stretch class? We even use the foam roller in there.

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And how about Pilates? Does that count? Those two classes keep me moving and I appreciate the instructors so much.

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I have tried harder to eat healthy but let’s face it, I will always drink Cokes and wine, and eat foods that do not enhance my body chemistry. Because, like the song says, “I’m Only Human”. And I love to eat. And I’m grateful I can. My sister-in-law’s brother gets his only nourishment through a food tube to his stomach. If that were me, and I didn’t love my children and grandchildren so much, I’d go the Kevorkian route.

I do think I made some headway on numbers 4 and 5 on the first list, without being conscious of it. I have caught myself a couple of times awfulizing or catastrophisizing and backed away from the dire thoughts. That is big for me. Last week I started going into a funk about how time is passing so quickly. My oldest grandchild is one year away from leaving home to go to college. How can it be? But, I caught myself in time and reminded myself to think thoughts that make me feel good. The melancholy dispersed much quicker. Finally, I am practicing to be less co-dependent. I’m not as sweet and compliant as I used to be. I still have trouble saying NO, but I have done it at least twice.

My plan is to combine the actual list with the one in my head for my goal setting for the second half of 2015. I’m primed for it anyway because I’ve already taken two computer lessons. Might as well continue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once Upon A Time: Linking Generations

Three of our grandchildren have had Heritage projects this year. It was great for us to talk with them about our parents and grandparents and our growing up years. I appreciate the schools for creating assignments like this that open lines of communication that might not have been there otherwise.

Quinn’s project was quite extensive necessitating emails with cousins and friends who are into genealogy. I even tapped into Ancestry.com. Quinn and I had gone through old pictures last summer and she’d scanned two hundred of them into the computer. (I paid her $11 an hour—minimum wage, right?) Ten of the photos were from a Family Tree project that Jennifer, our daughter, had done in high school way back when. I’d dismantled the Family Tree poster but kept the photos and information about each person.

from the 1980's Family Tree project

from the 1980’s Family Tree project

Quinn’s project was centered around where her ancestors had immigrated from to America. Most of my grandparents came from Russia so that was the country she focused on.

Shtetl

Shtetl

I had to explain that because they were Jewish, some were forced to live in shtetls, Jewish towns away from cities. All my grandparents fled from religious persecution and made their ways to America.

 

Quinn's great-great grandparents

Quinn’s great-great grandparents

The culmination of Quinn’s project was a Heritage Fair in March. The students put on an hour presentation about their different countries of origin. I was fer klempt, of course, through the whole thing. It was very touching.

Eli’s project involved interviewing me on Skype. He asked me ten or twelve questions about my parents, who are both deceased. One of the questions was: Describe your mother and then your father in three sentences. That was interesting and not easy.

My parents are on the left. My grandparents are in the middle. My uncle and aunt are on the right. This is in the Fifties.

My parents are on the left. My grandparents are in the middle. My uncle and aunt are on the right. This is in the Fifties.

Another question was: If you could tell your parents three things about now, what would you say. I said, “I’d tell them that they have fabulous great-grandchildren who they’d have loved to know, and that they’d be so proud of them. I’d tell them about some of the new inventions—that I’d just texted from an airplane over the Pacific Ocean. I’d tell them about us Skyping! I’d tell them there were problems in the world that they could never have imagined.” After I’d answer his question, Eli would comment and then we’d talk a bit. I doubt I’d ever have told him these things if he hadn’t had the assignment.

Last week our oldest grandson interviewed my husband. Garrett is taking US History and they’ve actually made it through the Fifties and into the Sixties. (My US History classes barely made it past the Industrial Revolution.) Garrett wanted to know what it was really like to grow up in the Fifties.

Cool fraternity guys in the early 60's.

Cool guys in the Fifties.

Garrett also wanted to know if Daddo had served during the Vietnam War so Moe got to tell his Air Force Reserve stories—the ones that are funny and cool.

Moe in the Air Force National Guard.

Moe in the Air Force National Guard.

As I said, it’s been wonderful sharing our experiences with the grandchildren. They seem to like hearing about them, too. Yesterday I took Quinn to lunch and during the conversation I ended up telling her about the time the Black Panthers set Meany on fire when I was teaching there. Her eyes got round with astonishment. I felt a little like Sally Field: Quinn liked my story—she really liked my story!!!

Classic Fifties pose.

Classic Fifties pose.

I remember hearing that old people liked to reminisce. It’s true—I’m loving it. And loving the grandchildren for caring to listen!

 

Forever Young?

I think one of the challenges of being in my sixties is to know my limitations but not let them limit me. This has become a kind of mantra. I used to say: “accept my limitations” but I’ve refined the concept to include ‘knowing’. I don’t want society or an individual defining me or my ability or limitations. I won’t accept their perception of what a senior citizen can or cannot do. Neither do I want to be an idiot and push myself beyond my capacity. Been there, done that and am writing the book about driving with a cast on my foot. (Trust me, don’t try it! Thank goodness, when I did I was on a deserted street.)

At my age, you do realize you can only push your body so much and it will push back. Hence, the knee, hip, shoulder replacement docs are doing a booming business. When I go to the gym and see guys lifting massive weights with so much effort that their faces are contorted, I foresee a future for them of contorted limbs. I know I need to respect my own limbs better than I have.

Aging is not something my generation is accepting gracefully. We’re the “forever young” babyboomers, dontcha know? But I don’t want to block enjoying and understanding this part of my life, even if the United States of America categorizes aging as a disease. I basically feel healthy and vibrant, brimming with vitality, especially if I get that catnap every day! I think most people my age do feel great,  although we’re portrayed quite differently in the media. Madison Avenue would have me wearing a LIFE ALERT in case I fall and can’t get up.

Here’s what sixtish looks like.

Self knowledge is important to me. I want to know who I am, what I want in life, where I’m going. In order to do that, I need to get quiet, which I find increasingly hard to do. It’s so easy now, being IPhone addicted, to never have a conversation with myself. Even on a walk alone, I can call my friend in Minnesota and talk the whole time, like I did today. Or in the car, I can talk or listen to music or a book. I never turn off so that I can tune in to my inner voice.

The other day I took a gym class that I thought might lead me to some inner reflection. It was called the Warrior Within. I saw that it combined Tai Chi, Yoga and meditation. I didn’t read the fine print, which explained the class featured the BOSU. Heck, I didn’t even know what a BOSU was. When I saw that little half-dome, it looked innocuous enough, and I liked the blue color. I thought, how bad could it be? I didn’t know that some sadist had created the disstablizer from hell.

BOSU Batterer.

We had to stand on it, which was not easy. Then we were expected to move on it and do a sun salutation while keeping our balance. We had to kneel on it and do leg lifts, turn over and do crunches. There was only me in the class and a guy who looked like he was in mid-forties. Damn, I wanted to quit, but my pride wouldn’t let me. I forged on, becoming the Little Engine that could—even if it was killing me.

Look at the biceps on these guys. Sheesh!!!

One of my inner voices said, “It is good to try new things. It is good to be challenged.” Another voice cussed that one out. I said aloud, “Are you kidding me?” The only good thing was that time, which normally flies by, slowed down to the point that each minute lasted at least ninety seconds.

So what did I learn about myself: I’m getting old? I have terrible balance? I don’t know when or how to quit? I can do more than I thought I could? I’m not sure what I learned. I’ll have to get back to you on that.