65 Is Not Just A Number

It’s Monday evening;  it is quiet around the house, which is good, seeing as I threw my own birthday party Saturday.

I have a hard time saying I’m 65…there are so many memories strung out behind me, three-quarters worth I can’t remember. I am in the second half of my  life, making memories  every day, forgetting memories every day.

You can say 65 is just a number, but so is 21. 49. 1,204. In theory, that is correct. But that’s over 520 million breaths. 65 birthday parties. Over 268,000 hugs. 500,000 bites of chocolate. Its that and so much more.

I threw myself a party because I wanted to…dare I say I was afraid that no one would remember this momentous occasion? That my day of turning old enough to retire would be brushed over like an ant on the table?

It’s hard to admit your own insecurities…especially when they sound stupid in your ears.

I wanted to celebrate making 65 years of life. Good and bad. Up and Down. Two kids, 2-1/2 grandkids. Friends. Traveling. Camping. Working. So much has been packed into these 65 years — how I wish I could remember them all. My kids as babies. My kids as teens. My mindset at 30. 40. 50. Different from where I am today, no doubt different from where I’m going.

I’ve outlived my mother by 11 years, and am aiming at my father’s ripe old age of 86, and adding 10 to that. I don’t want the memories to end. The friendships to end. The dreams to end. I’ve got so much to do that there’s no time to feel bad about what has been.

So throw your own party. Celebrate your life. Every day of it.  Don’t wait for someone to come along and validate all the years you’ve given to mother earth. Do it yourself.

Even if you can’t remember half of it.

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Retirement Comes For Us All

A good friend of mine retired today, with a little pomp and circumstance and an overly-sweet retirement cake.

Cal is my work friend. He was the director of our Science catalogs, I was his coordinator for 11 years, meaning I put his product numbers into Filemaker, proofread his catalog pages,  and generally helped keep his p’s and q’s in order.

Somewhere between the p and the q we started talking about writing. Not many people at work know I have a blog, nor do they know about all the writing I’ve done. But somehow Cal and I found a common ground outside of work and started talking about writing, then shared our stories and writings.

As you all know, it’s hard to find someone who shares your passion. Whether it’s fishing or golf or writing, not everybody is in tune to what you’re tuned into. So to find another writer within the vanilla cubicle confines of my daily abode was a gem in the making.

Like any company, mine is in flux. Growing, expanding, taking new directions. The old guard is leaving and a younger, fresher version is moving in. What worked 5, 10 years ago doesn’t work today. So the prospect of retirement is sweeter for many of us over the age of 60.

We are not getting squeezed out as much as slowing down. I am as bright, as creative, as I was 20 years ago. But I must admit that at 64 my processing computer isn’t quite as fast as it used to be. So by the time I retire I will be so glad to let corporate America pass me by.

You don’t always think about retirement — hell, until recently for me it was something that was far, far away. But since I can’t fight time, I might as well embrace it.

That’s what my friend Cal will be doing. I’m sure he’s had plenty of ups and downs in his life. But finally things are coming together and the doors have opened to his “next” career. Maybe it will be writing. Maybe he will travel and become a professional traveler.

Maybe he will just enjoy the next 30 years of his life.

In the end, that’s what we all hope will happen to us. Isn’t it? A chance to spend another quarter of our life waking up when we want to.  A chance to spoil grand kids, work in your garden, paint paintings, meet friends for lunch. Eating breakfast at noon and lunch at 5. Finally doing whatever it is you’ve always wanted to do.

Cal, I wish you open roads, low scoring golf games, and a writing career that rivals J.K. Rowlings. There’s no doubt your stories will rival those of Asimov. After all — you are the Science Guy —

Hot Moms at the Playground

The first thing I have to say is the truth. I am Jealous. Envious. Covetous. Wanton. Wistful.

Okay. Now that that’s over…I took my grand kids to the park Saturday morning to encourage their Adrenalin dispersion. So here is granny, an average-looking 64-year-old, scrubbed, puffed, a touch of makeup, a decent pair of Capri’s and fun t-shirt, feeling good, feelin’ hip, keepin’ up with swings and slides and Jungle Jims. There were two baseball games going on in the background, middle-school types, lots of cheering and hoho’s. Then I looked around at the other mothers.

These women were knockouts. I figured these moms were leftovers from the games, watching their toddlers on the swings and slides and Jungle Jims. Now, I live in a small town. A college town. I’m not saying we don’t have attractive people here, but to have the playground filled with them is an eye-opening experience.

They hung out in pairs and trios, the same short-shorts, long hair, small waistlines, all tossing their hair as they bowed their heads down to read their cellphones, watching their precocious kids talk about their magic beads or ninja moves or playing zombie tag.  One of the moms was pregnant, and even her awkward bundle looked great in her top and Capri’s.

Now you must wonder why I chose the word ‘jealous’ to describe my feelings at the time. I mean, there was a time when ~I~ was a young mom taking my kids to the park with ~my~ girlfriends. My friends and I laughed and talked about the kids, our husbands, going out on Saturday night. We’d party at each other’s houses, spend a weekend shopping and stay the night in a hotel, drinking and eating and confessing our secrets to each other. Our kids played together, our husbands told stories together. It was a wonderful circle.

But that seems so long ago.

I think I’m jealous because I remember looking like that. Thinner, thicker hair, clearer complexion. I’m also jealous because these girls have theirwhole life ahead of them. They still can be executives and fashion designers and doctors. Their kids are still little, with soccer and baseball games and field trips and prom still to come. Their children still worship them, still love sharing snuggles and hugs and cuddles.

I know the best medicine for this unreasonable bout of jealousy is to share the snuggles and hugs and cuddles of my own kids and grand kids. To go watch their baseball and soccer games and take them camping and shopping and stay up late. I can touch the memories of days gone by by making new memories today.

I’ll always wonder, though, how I made it through all those younger days without a cell phone.

 

The Direction of Choice

There was a time
The universe expanded before me
Choice was a luxury
Youth my companion
Direction meaningless
Lost in the sparkle of the stars

Lately the vastness of that universe
Has shrunk before my eyes
The galaxies of choice
Have turned to
Cold hollow moons
Planets of necessity

Funny how small
My world has become
The luxury of time
Exists on fewer and fewer
Planes of existence
In this world and the next

The choices are not the same
As in the days of
Gauzed-wrapped visions
Candy-sweet dreams
Jobs and friends and goals
Now have razor edges

Options have narrowed
Doors once open
Now request verification
Of paths followed
And stars wished upon
In duplicate form

I can no longer shuffle the cards of
Destiny and Delusion
The games have been chosen
Hands have been dealt
Bets are hedged
The world is keeping score

I must play the hand dealt
Watch the glow of dawn
Twist into curls of dusk
Time no longer my friend
Its shadow the scent of musk
Choice is mine no more

My vision has become blurred
Memories have faded
My heart has been broken
By limitations of my body
And the changing of the guard
As they march into the fog

I never forget my heart
The journey that brought me here
I love and I cherish
I live and I learn
But cannot go back
To the land of never was

Even though hope fades
In the emptiness of dawn
And space of my soul
Reality bounds from the sky
Our star’s blinding glare
Reminding me of the truth

All I need to do is breathe
The universe, the stars
Will point the way
And the world of choice
Will open its doors
Once again.

                   Claudia Anderson, 2013

You’re Never Too Old (or Out of Shape) To Start

thI don’t know if it was climbing the cliffs at Devil’s Lake or swimming laps at the local pool or wild sex on the beach, but I’ve been knocked out the last few days with one granddaddy of a pain across the small of my back that’s gone from explosive shots  to a single shooting pain up one gluteus maximus.

Actually, it wasn’t mountain climbing or Olympic swimming or wild anything. I don’t really know how I threw my back out of wack. But now that I’m older, it takes longer to get it back into shape.

And that scares me.

It scares me because it shows that I’ve got less and less time to make my body right. That at any time a bad back can turn into sciatica or spinal compression fractures or ankylosing spondylitis.

I know that there are people who live with pain all their lives. I suppose most of what I’ve lived with I’ve lived with. You know? But when you introduce something new into your spectrum of experience it opens the door to more possibilities. Possibilities of more pain, uncomfortableness, sleeplessness, and more.

Back to the back pain.

This is a real eye-opener for me. I know my front carries extra baggage that pulls on my back, and I’m starting to take care of that. I’m starting to walk more, but I say that every year, and peter our about a month in. I am at the age where anything can and will happen if I don’t start paying attention to what I eat and drink and how I move.

And that’s the fact, Jack.

I know I can’t turn back the hands of time, but I can certainly strengthen the hands I have. It’s never too late to start stretching more, walking more, slowing down more. Maybe that’s an old-lady thing, but it’s a smart thing, too. It’s one thing to fight cancer. Been there, done that. But it’s another to let your body fall down the weakness well and not do a thing to pull yourself back up.

Like some kind of commercial, I am here to tell you to PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BODY. No matter what age. It’s so easy for a rash to turn into psoriasis, a scar into an infection, a limp into arthritis. It may be that one will turn into the other anyway, but it’s much smarter to take care of these things up front. Stretch before you pull a muscle. Clean before it gets infected. Eat healthy instead of fatty.

I have always been one to put off taking care of myself last. Kids, husband, my cat — everyone but me. Now that I’m older I’m starting to feel the effects of everyone else first. And it’s time to pay attention to the only one who is going to be with me through the very end.

The good thing is that getting in shape now will enable me to climb those cliffs or swim those laps or…

Well, you know all the things you can do when you’re not achin’ and painin’….

Old Age = Fine Wine = Pfffffttt!!

This beginning-of-the-week blog is mainly for those of us getting up in years. Not really UP there yet, but holding onto those clock hands, trying to slow down the pace to the future. OUR future.

I have been having a few “feeble” moments lately, and, frankly, my dear, I do give a damn. I don’t like it. I catch myself groaning and moaning and rolling my eyes whenever something needs a little extra effort. Now, I know I’m not in my 20s…or 30s…my energy level has changed through the years. But I catch glimpses of this little old granny, bent over, shuffling, mumbling, into the future. And I can’t go there. Not for 20 years at least.

How do you train yourself to pick up the pace, so to speak? I don’t mean jogging around the block or acing a calculus test. I mean — how do you find your bearings, your confidence, when you’re short and round?

I have seen many women who have aged gracefully. Hair, eyes, shape, all have held up pretty well through the years. I have never been one for beautiful anything, but I have managed to stay married for 35 years, so I must be doing something right. But it’s those same connections that seem to pat me on the head now and then and say “Don’t worry. We’ll slow down/simplify/avoid confusion for you.” Which does nothing but piss me off.

I understand that if I were physically encumbered, others would (hopefully) want to simplify my world. I may hold a grudge against everyone healthier than me, but I would understand. If you can’t do it you can’t do it.

But at this moment I CAN.

Maybe my knees creak and I get weird pains in my shoulder and forget to turn the lights off when I leave or can’t hear someone because they’re mumbling, but I’m not on my way to the glue factory. I am still a viable part of my community, my family. I hold a fairly decent job, I am a writer, a blogger, and artist. I can keep up with the best of them when it comes to grand kids, dogs, friends, and grammar. I’m not ready to take the back seat to the future.

I think the older you get, the harder it is to garner respect. We are older and wiser, yes, but we are also the “older” generation. We don’t always have the keen insight and quick reflexes of the younger generation, hence encouraging condescending nods and smiles from the quicker-picker-upper crowd.

Is this an age thing? A woman thing? Or not a thing at all? Do you second guess your abilities? Your alertness? Your ability to reason or figure things out? Have you given up on your looks? Your style? Your ability to swing?

I always thought those concerns would be less and less as I got older. Seems like the old insecurities never go away. They just change color and hue.

The point of life is to not give in, not give up. To live your life with a bit of caution and a little grace and a lot of humor. It took 40-50 years for this hair to thin, for this writing career to take off — and I’m not done yet.

I’m aging like fine wine.

Wearing Purple

I feel like I was shopping drunk yesterday evening. Of course, I did go out to dinner first, but I don’t believe either the walleye or the potato pancake contained any alcohol. Nor the McDonald’s ice cream cone.

But I digress.

In a couple of weeks I’m going to meet my bestie in Ashville, North Carolina, and hit the Art Scene like a internet data conversion analyst specialist online art director writer.  I was in need of a few new artsy outfits to fit in with my fellow abstractionists and surrealists, so I made a pit stop at the most fashionable store around — Walmart.

Now, I’m sure you have seen those pictures on the Internet of Walmart “shoppers”…the images that show off the uniqueness of the characters and their wardrobes. Well, walking out of of the store a half hour later, I am afraid I will be added to their hidden camera library.

First off, I bought a pair of capris. No problem. Except they’re purple. Which is to match the purple and teal print open style Kimono shawl. Which matches the teal peasant top.

What was I thinking?

Every early winter I write a blog about what women over 50 shouldn’t wear. Fuzzy purple leggings always leads the list. Now I’m afraid purple capris will be second. I am running parallel with all the advice I so willingly gave about dressing your age.

Now, the fuzzy purple leggings I’ve been exposed to and write about are a long way from the royal purple cotton capris that are peeking out of my Walmart bag. The fuzzy leggings are usually wrapped around legs that are too big to wear something that tight, and don’t have the advantage of a long tunic to hide additional large body parts. The purple cotton mid-calf pants hang loosely on my chicken legs, and the teal peasant blouse with the same undercurrent of blues will hang down far enough to semi-cover my estomac and derrière. (Sounds less offensive when spoken in French, no?) Then comes the flowery sheer scarf that set this whole wardrobe malfunction into motion. It’s really a pretty shawl thing…it’s sheer and light and one of those patterned things that chubby women shouldn’t wear.

Since I am in this wardrobe for the long hall, I don’t see myself as a chubby old lady in purple capris, but rather a tall, willowy creative artist with a thing for fashion. Since I don’t have to look at myself in the mirror too often, I can picture myself however I wish. When the breeze blows the kimono scarf around my body I can turn into the sultry maiden looking across the moors for her lost lover, or the skeleton thin strutter down the fashion runway. I can be the trendsetting Zelda Fitzgerald or the fashion pioneer Elsa Schiaparelli.

I can also be the poster woman for weird, over-colored, middle aged+ women. Pathetic, insecure, never quite fitting in, never really confident, drawing too much attention to herself wearing bright prints and too-bold colors.

But not today. Or tomorrow.

I’ll let you know how the outfit turns out in the light of day. After a good night’s sleep. And a shower. And some body spray. And a touch of makeup.

Oh my goodness — I just thought — is this totally unexpected phase reflective of the first few lines of Jenny Joseph’s poem….?

 

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me,
And I shall spend my pension
on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals,
and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired,
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells,
And run my stick along the public railings,
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens,
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat,
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go,
Or only bread and pickle for a week,
And hoard pens and pencils and beer mats
and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry,
And pay our rent and not swear in the street,
And set a good example for the children.
We will have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me
are not too shocked and surprised,
When suddenly I am old
and start to wear purple!