Friday, February 17, 2017

This is 49

49 is on the downward slope of middle age. It's nearing the end of midlife.
It is realization that 50 is right around the corner, as are 60, and 70, and 80. It's not retirement yet. But retirement is near and wanted and unwanted.

It is acknowledging that the pounds don't shed as easily, that I might need to buy bigger pants, and that the heat I am feeling is not because someone turned up the thermostat.

It is also acknowledging that I am crazy and flawed and sane and human.

49 is grey hairs that won't be covered with hair dye and no matter how many times I pluck them out they will come back. And they will have friends. It is learning to be OK with crepey skin, crows feet, and age spots on my face. It is learning to feel beautiful anyway.

49 is 25 years of marriage. Living year after year with someone who makes me laugh, cry, angrier than my deepest anger and happier than my lightest happiness.
It is date night after date night because I don't know how to cook for 2, nor do I want to. It's being scared to death that I might lose him, to cancer or a heart attack, but knowing if I did, I'd be OK.

49 is realizing that my life is more than wrestling matches and praise band concerts. It is the end of sports and youth group and school activities. It is also the end of being included in the conversations of those still there. It is wanting to take control but having to let go, even if the choices aren't what I would make and accepting that they are no longer mine to make.

49 is waiting for grand-babies and loving great-nephews but knowing that when the grand-babies arrive that the great-nephews will take their places as second-string just because that's what happens when great aunts and great uncles have grand-babies of their own.

49 is learning to find me again, my interests that were set aside, my passions that were forgotten, and the truth about the woman I want to be, even if she has tattoos and rides a motorcycle.

49 is peace, anxiety, busyness, quietness, stress, and waiting.  It's finding a new sexy and a new beautiful within the old me. It's finding my voice while keeping my opinions to myself. It's old friends and new friends and alone-time with a book or a skein of yarn. It's nothing at all like I thought it would be.

49 is pretty damn good.

*This piece was inspired by a column titled This is 38. This is Midlife
by Lindsey Mead

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Or Maybe I Haven't

When I was writing my January column, I was lamenting about running out of things to write about in my new life as the mother of adult children. I could no longer write about driving lessons, wrestling tournament bleacher-butt, or youth group camping trips. Turns out I have plenty to write about. All I needed to do was (literally) wait a day. I had been enjoying my first day of Christmas break by lounging in my PJ’s, playing with my phone. I came up with the brilliant idea to change my passcode. The passcode I’ve had since I got the phone. The one that I have no trouble remembering. I thought I should change it to something “easier.” So I did. About 5 minutes later, (I’m not kidding. It was only like, 5 minutes) I typed in my new-and-improved passcode. 123969. Wrong. What? Oh, it must be 123966. Nope. 123963? “You are locked out of your phone. Pease try again in 1 minute.” I got a little bit nervous and I wondered what could have gone wrong. I decided that I probably didn’t change it after all. I must have just thought that the easier number wouldn’t be so easy after all so I’m sure I changed it back. When the minute was over I tried the original passcode. “You are locked out of your phone. Please try again in 5 minutes.” Crap! What the heck did I do? This went on a couple more times:
            “You are locked out of your phone. Please try again in 30 minutes.”
            “You are locked out of your phone. Please try again in 1 hour.”

By this time I was in total freak-out mode. I was thinking that I was going to have to get a new phone, but I just got this one! So I did what any resourceful human being would do. I Googled “What do I do if I forgot my passcode?” This gave me a few different blogs containing a list of steps I could take, which I knew would totally confuse me and probably make the problem worse. Since I had to go into town anyway I put my now completely disabled phone in my purse, messaged my family through my laptop, and headed to the AT&T store in Charlevoix. There I was met by an angel from Heaven who said that she thought she could get my phone working. The funny thing is that I actually prayed, “Please God make this work.” But then I felt guilty clogging up the prayer lines with a shallow request like restoring my phone when there are much more serious prayer requests floating up there. So I stood there thinking to myself “Please work! Please work! Please work!” and then, you know, in case God had a break from more serious prayer requests… Finally, the customer service representative got my phone all restored, complete with my pictures and contacts. “It’s a Christmas Miracle!” I shouted. I thanked her and hugged her and went on my way. So really, I don’t know what I was worried about. I have plenty of material. I just need to give it a day.

I Might Finally be Running out of Ideas

The Christmas season has always been a busy time, and this year is no different. Since my birthday falls within this time I always have a little bit of extra reflecting to do. One thing that has been on my mind this year is this column. I began writing it in early 2010. When I took the position of monthly columnist for the PNR I was asked to name my column. I immediately thought of “The Flip Side” because it’s an old term that we said in the 80’s: “Catch ya on the flip side!” and for those who don’t understand why we said that, it refers to records, namely 45’s (single song records) that always had a less known, less popular song on the back, or flip side. Because I was just entering middle age I thought this was appropriate because I was entering the “flip side” of my life (I didn’t want any “over the hill” references of course).  This year marked my 49th birthday and as I barrel head-long into my 50th year, I began wondering if I need to change the “Life After 40” part of the title. I’m still over 40 but it seems as though the column is changing now that I’m entering “life after 50.” My life in my 40’s was full of topics I could write about with ease such as my teenage kids and stories about the endless laundry and the daily gallons of milk they consumed. But as my kids get older and the grandkids haven’t begun arriving, I find myself working harder and harder to come up with ideas for my column. Almost monthly I think to myself “I think this is it. One more and I’m done. My life is too boring to write about now that I’m pushing 50,” and then I run into a total stranger who smiles and says “Do you write for the paper? I love your column!” You have no idea how much those little comments motivate and encourage me. Even after the dog stroller debacle, I had supporters coming out of the woodwork, encouraging me to keep writing. I often wonder how much longer I can keep coming up with new material, but each month I manage because of the kind words (and chapstick!) from my readers. Even the columns that I think are the absolute worst are the ones in which I have people coming up to me saying “I loved your column about…It was hilarious!” As we enter the New Year, I hope I can continue to come up with pieces that entertain, connect to your life somehow, or warm your heart. So as long as you keep reading, I’ll keep writing. Happy New Year and I’ll catch you on the flip side!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Are We Cleaning for Michelle and Barack?

“Let me know when Michelle and Barack arrive” smirked my son as I was frantically cleaning my house for the arrival of my parents one weekend back in October. Maybe it’s just me, but I always tend to see how almost uninhabitable my house looks just before company is due to show up and then I launch into crazy-panic-cleaning-mode. My mom and dad aren’t judgy people by any means but whenever they (or anyone else for that matter) are coming over I always feel compelled to make my house look like, well, we don’t live there. I’m not kidding. A few years ago I insisted we buy new carpet shortly before it was my turn to have the euchre group over to our house. It was one thing to have my family see my filthy carpet, but my friends and co-workers? Absolutely not. On this particular occasion it was Tom’s birthday and it had literally been over a year since we had had any company at all. It doesn’t matter that I have someone who cleans my house twice a month because these visits, whether planned in advance or not, always happen long after the crisp smell of my freshly cleaned house fades. After the dog hair shows up in clumps on the couch. After the socks have reclaimed their resting place on the living room floor. I headed downstairs to grab those plates I use for entertaining that now need to be washed because it’s been so long since I’ve entertained that they’re dirty from just sitting on the shelf, and I noticed those random “spring cleaning” type jobs that I never notice unless company is due to arrive in less than 45 minutes. As one thing after another popped up, I ran around frantically barking orders with a Swiffer in one hand and a dirty sock in the other, and my husband gave the kids that “Mom’s having her usual company’s coming melt down” look while calmly saying to me,
“No, we don’t have time repaint the entire first floor. The house looks fine. Go take a shower.”

I really don’t know why I get so worked up when people are coming over but I do it all the time. The other day a friend had to stop by and drop something off. She wasn’t coming in any further than the foyer but I lit a candle then got the vacuum out and not only vacuumed the living room, but the living room furniture, the upstairs hall, and balcony because I suddenly noticed the dog hair that I don’t usually see. I’m not sure if, after all of that, my house would be clean enough to host the Obamas, but I am sure my parents appreciated the effort and I hope someday, when my kids are visitors, that they will too.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

I Notice You Have a Lot of Shoes

“I notice you have a lot of shoes.” A simple observation by a co-worker that at one time would have been met with an enthusiastic response of “Yes! I love shoes! I think I might possibly be a distant relative of Imelda Marcos!” now casts a dark spot over what was once the subject of a past column. Yes, I do have a lot of shoes. And yes, I still love shoes, but now the simple truth is that shoes don’t love me. I collect all kinds from flats to flip flops to boots. I have shoes in a rainbow of colors so that I can be certain of one thing. I won’t leave home with footwear that doesn’t match my daywear. As I listened to people at work lament about their various foot related issues like plantar fasciitis, I still happily wore my terrible-for-feet-toe-squeezing-no-arch-support but “gee aren’t they cute?” flats. I have these memories of my grandma’s orthopedic shoes, which she had to wear because of fallen arches. They were black with buttons on the side. She wore them with everything. Every outfit. Every color.  That was never going to be me. Until a year or so ago, that is.

I started getting out of bed in the morning and hobbling from foot pain to the bathroom. But I shook it off because by the time I came out of the bathroom my feet were ok. I chose to ignore this little warning sign because I wasn’t willing to give up the vanity of having the cutest of cute shoes to go with my semi-fashionable yet age-appropriate wardrobe. But as the pain followed me into my day, it became clear to me that the cutesy flats would have to be replaced (most of the time) and I would need to buy better, more supportive shoes. It appears as though I have come to the age where my shoes need to be sensible if I don’t want to be in pain. Thank goodness we live in a day and age where we aren’t stuck with my Grandma’s ugly orthopedic shoes. A good friend of mine has pretty much the most impressive collection of Dansko shoes that I have ever seen. It is remarkable to say the least.  When I see her I immediately look at her feet to see what super-cute pair she has on today. When I inquired about them she told me that they are great shoes for people with foot issues, they’re just a little pricy. But best of all, they are stylish! So my updated shoe collection consists of 3 different pair of Birkenstock sandals, (for summer of course) and 3 different pair of Danskos with no plans of stopping there. The good news is that I can have it all. Only now the comment will be “I noticed you have a lot of highly fashionable orthopedic shoes.” 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Rules? There are no Rules

I'm coming up on my 30th class reunion and I couldn't be more excited. It should be well attended and pretty fun. Reunions are fairly predictable so I'm actually not excited about the reunion itself. Oh, it'll be nice seeing people I haven't seen in years and reconnecting with them face-to-face. But that is really just a sidebar to the real reason I'm going. Girls night. Me and some of my dearest, been-friends-since-middle-school, friends are going to get together and just catch up after years of absence and hundreds of miles of separation. Robin, Glenda, Heidi, Beth, and I are going to eat, talk, laugh, and drink some wine for as long as we have stuff to talk about. These women know the secret to friendship and what it means to have relationships that span the decades. No rules. These are girls whom I can not talk to for literally years and if I shoot them a message to check in I can count on the fact they will respond like it was only yesterday. They don't fire back an angry response with a “you don't follow the friendship rules” scolding. They wouldn't dare! Because they don't follow them either. They don't get feel rejected if I don't call because they don't call me either. Robin, Glenda, and I keep up by reading posts on each others Facebook accounts while Heidi and I text once in awhile. Every 10 years or so Beth tracks me down or I track her down via email. And it's always the same. They understand like I do that life gets in the way most of the time and that a lack of contact doesn't equal a lack of caring. It's just life. We all have kids and jobs and dinners and sports and other stuff that wears us out and makes time fly by. But in a couple of weeks we will pick right up where we left off all those days or months or years ago. I am so excited to see these ladies that I get butterflies in my stomach. I can't wait to see their faces, ask about their families and hear about their lives while they ask about my family and hear about my life. We will make big plans to get together again and promise to do more than Facebook, email, or text, even though we know deep down that it won't happen. Nobody will get offended, or feel slighted. We will enjoy the moments we are together as much as we enjoy the few times we touch base when life gets in the way again. No judgement. No accusations. No rules. Just as it should be.

Yes, You Can be a Biker and a Wimp

Ever since I’ve been riding motorcycles either as a passenger, or a driver, I’ve been a “fair-weather rider.” Literally. I usually say “no thanks” to a ride that’s going to take place if the temperature is below 60 degrees (no, we don’t own anything battery-operated that will keep our fingers and toes warm).  I also don’t care to ride in the rain (sleet & hail included). Most of the time, once you get wet on a motorcycle, you get cold.  When I protest about riding in less than ideal conditions Tom will say, “You can’t be a biker AND a wimp.” Now that I have my own bike, this summer I was out to prove that I am a real biker.  A few weeks ago we went to downtown Charlevoix to support our friends’ fundraiser, a motorcycle poker run to benefit military veterans in the area. Since the forecast showed rain, we decided we would just ride down, buy a couple of t-shirts and then head home. But when the sky started looking OK’ish, we changed our minds and joined some friends on the poker run, heading south of town (the exact opposite direction of our house).  Somewhere around Norwood, the rain started. I had on my leather jacket and jeans, but no real rain gear. It rained for roughly a minute and then it began to pour. Buckets. And buckets. And buckets. I thought to myself, “Ok so I’ll get a little wet. My jeans will dry. At least I have my jacket on.” As the rain refused to let up I thought, “I won’t turn around. I can’t be a biker and a wimp.” Around Eastport, my boots began to fill with water. My jeans were completely soaked and then my coat soaked through to my shirtsleeves. It was like that kids’ song “I’m being swallowed by a boa constrictor and I don’t like it very much!” We inched our way to Bellaire in the monsoon conditions. When we got there I took my boots off and squeezed the water out of my socks. I was wet and cold to the bone. We checked the radar and decided to cut our losses and head home. The ride home was worse. We were already wet and cold, but the wind had kicked up. My teeth were chattering and I was thinking “This is the worst. I am never, ever, ever, going to ride if there is even the slightest chance of rain in the forecast!” As we neared our home I pictured myself hugging the hot tub.  Looking back, some would say I passed the wimp-test. But I disagree. That miserable ride was enough for me even though I’m not giving up riding. I’m here to tell you that you CAN be a biker and a wimp. So if you ask me to ride on a day with a questionable weather forecast answer will be “Call me a wimp, but I don’t ride in the rain.”