I’m 64 and I’m Just Glad to Be Here ~

Yep, one more time with the birthday musings.

I don’t know why, but today I feel OLD.  I felt old yesterday too, and I was only 63 then, so I’m not sure what the heck is going on.   Up until now, I have not been one to think about age.  I passed 30, 50 and even 60 without any visible (or invisible) angst.  Age?  “It’s only a number.  It’s not how old you are, but how old you feel.”  And I feel good – much younger than my calendar years.   But somehow, turning 64 feels different.  I feel different.  My body feels different and my face looks different dammit.  I do not like any of this and I no longer want to play the aging game.  I didn’t even wear my birthday tiara to Starbucks this morning.  Not like me at all.  I’ll slip that purple sparkly crown on my head at every opportunity.   Maybe this year I just need a little time before I’m ready to party.  Time to think about where I’ve been.  Who I’ve been. Who I’ve become, and how I got to right here.  Strange as it sounds, I think I need to mourn just a wee bit.  And then get over it.   I know all the struggles and victories and lessons learned in the past have led me to this particular place at this particular moment in my life.   And it is a very good place to be.   It has been a life worthy of celebration.  It’s just all passing a little too fast.  And I can’t control that.  I like to be in control.  I’m not happy.

So, my gift to myself will be a little self-indulgence.  Spending time.  Looking back.  Taking stock.  Being grateful.  Wondering what the future holds.  But really, just getting back to being glad to be here ~ however damn old I am.

Tonight the kids are coming over to cook us a delicious vegan birthday feast and share the bounty from their garden.   By then, I’ll be ready to get my party on.  To toast a life pretty well lived and celebrate new adventures on the road ahead.

And in the words of Bessie Cooper who turned 116 two days ago, here’s the secret to longevity – Mind your own business and don’t eat junk food.

It was a very good year ~

And that year?  The year I arrived kicking and screaming into this world of, course.  August 29, 1948 to be exact.  So please bear with me because it seems I’ve been giving quite a bit of thought to birthdays and aging and how quickly the days are passing.  Yikes!  Not to be morbid.  Just observing.  Perhaps I’m just savoring a little of what has been and wondering what the future holds for the little girl below.

So I thought it might be fun to take a stroll down memory lane.  Here’s what I dug up for 1948.   As you can see, it wasn’t exactly a banner year (well except for me).

  • 1948 was the Year of the Rat.
  • The Frisbee was created by Walter Morrison and Warren Franscioni.  The idea came from college kids who used to toss around empty metal pie plates for entertainment.  Plastic + pie plates = Frisbee.  Times were simpler then weren’t they?
  • Velcro was invented by George de Mestral.  George was a Swiss hiker and inventor.  His idea came from the burrs that stuck to his clothes while hiking. He didn’t exactly replace the zipper as he he hoped, but thanks to velcro my kids didn’t have to tie their tennis shoes until they were old enough to figure it out themselves.
  • Reddi Whip was developed by Bunny Lapin and was first sold door to door by St. Louis milkmen
  • A First Class Stamp cost 3 cents.
  • Ed Sullivan premiered on TV.  The show was Toast of the Town.
  • Bread rationing finally ended in England.  Chocolate was still rationed until 1949.
  • The Wurlitzer Juke Box was invented by Robert Hope Jones
  • Babe Ruth Died.
  • The 1948 summer Olympics were held in London.  The 1940 and 1944 Olympics were cancelled due to the second world war.
  • The State of Israel was created.
  • The first McDonalds restaurant opened.  Ray Kroc bought it 12 years later and the rest is fast food history.
  • Whirlpool introduced the first automatic wringer-washer.  I remember the hand wringer washer in my grandmother’s basement.  It was dangerous – just ask my sister.
  • The biggest hit song of the year was The Woody Woodpecker Song.   The Oscar winning song was Buttons and Bows.  Catchy lyrics I’m sure.
  • The first Polaroid Land Camera went on sale.  It took 1 minute to develop a photo.
  • A gallon of gas was 16 cents, a loaf of bread was 14 cents, and coffee was 85 cents for a two pound bag.
  • You could buy a nice new tract house for around $7,500.

I share this birth year with a few notable (and notorious) folks like Alice Cooper, Kathy Bates, Richard Simmons, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Al and Tipper Gore, Prince Charles, Squeaky Fomme (remember her?) and Clarence Thomas.

What’s the point in looking backward?  I’m not sure.  Maybe it helps you put context to who you are when you understand where you came from.   I don’t think I realized this for a long time.  I was too busy looking forward.  Planning for the future.  These days I find myself in the most intriguing place.  I am still looking forward with interest and anticipation.  I’m excited to be planning a whole new chapter in retirement living,  but I am also spending more time looking at where I’ve already been and holding all those special moments up to the light so I can see them clearly again (or really maybe for the first time) now that I have the time and the benefit of distance.  Seeing that little girl on her horse somehow gives me a deeper understanding of the 64 year old woman I am about to become.  I think it’s time I went out and bought myself a new beret.   Yee Haw Cowgirl!

You’ve Gotta Have Hope ~

Wordless Wednesday

I’ve seen a lot of bloggers who follow a practice called Wordless Wednesday.    One day a week they post only photos.  Sometimes a picture really is worth 1,000 words.  I was intrigued by the idea, so I thought I’d give it a try.  I had a wee bit of trouble with the “wordless” part, so here’s my version… almost wordless Wednesday.  Since my 64th birthday is sneaking up on me later this month, this one’s about Hope through the ages.

In my 40’s, Hope came in a jar…

In my 50’s, Hope merged with Wisdom… In my 60’s, I still have Hope, but I really need a Miracle… As for my 70’s and beyond, should I be lucky enough to get there?  I think I’ll throw Hope and caution to the wind and let it all hang out.  Something like this…

File that in the “When I’m Dead File” ~

To be honest, I don’t have a When I’m Dead File – yet.  But apparently I need one and apparently, as someone who has continued to live with my head planted firmly in the sand, I don’t give as much thought to the “when I’m dead” side of life as I should… at my age, because I’m, you know… getting OLD.  My kids already know not to expect any sudden windfalls when I leave this planet.  In fact, my standard line is something I stole from an old Moms Mabley joke I heard on TV 25 years ago… “It won’t be a happy day for anybody when I die”.  I used to threaten them with talk like “You get the car payment and you get my Nordstrom bill”.  Funny then.  Now, maybe not so much.

This topic came up while driving in the car the other evening with the hubs and my sister who’s visiting from Saipan.  Sis says, casually from the back seat, that she already has lists for me – all over her house.  What do to when she’s dead lists.   La La La La…hmmmm.  I do not want to discuss the possibility of either of us having to sort through the remains of each others’ life.  Too morbid.  Not now.  We’re on our way to dinner for God’s sake.  But she got me thinking and that always leads to trouble.  It’s a whole new world, too, with everything we now do online.  Think about it.   Online banking and bill paying are one thing, but even more important – who takes care of your place in the social media world when you are no longer around to post your own updates on Facebook or Linked In?  How do you gracefully shut down someone’s page and is that even possible if you can’t access their profile?   Does that person live on in Facebook limbo for all time?  Who sends out your last blog post?  Believe it or not, I could not find an answer to these questions when I googled them.   So, add this to the list…

My online search did come up with a great article on the Second Act blog entitled “10 Things For Your When I’m Dead File”.  Some of the things on the list were pretty obvious but, if you’re like me, it’s the little details that you tend to gloss over.  This list is a great reminder (or starting point for some of us). It was definitely the little kick-in-the-pants I needed to start getting my own house in order.

So, I’m working on a plan.  Here’s what I have so far ~

1.  Downsize now.  That’s where the whole “If it doesn’t fit in the backpack and rollie, do we really need it” idea first came into play.   How many blenders, waffle irons and crepe makers that we use once a year do we really need?  I posted about our trip to the Goodwill a while back and we’re still going strong in this area.

2.  Start my own When I’m Dead File.  This file should contain everything from the obvious (Will) to the little things you don’t even think about (gym membership) and everything in between.  The 10 Thing List is now printed and taped on the wall in my office.

3.  Have the Talk.  Let my important people know where The File is and, (note to self) for goodness sake, keep it up to date.

Whew!   Frankly, I’m exhausted just thinking about all of this but I’m so glad my sister brought it up.   It’s not much, but it is a start and a plan where no plan had ever been before.  And, it is much better to get started now, while I can still remember where we’ve stashed all those important papers and numbers.

Oh, and one more thing.  If you see my picture pop up on Facebook long after I’ve left this life, please leave me a comment and let me know what’s new.  Or at least click “Like”.  You never know…

Have you seen my glasses?

Or my car keys, or my book, or, or, or…   Oh yes, we’ve entered a new era at Casa Sims.  The one where you can’t remember what you did two minutes ago.  Like where the hell did I put my car keys because they certainly are not in the special car key compartment in my purse where I always put my car keys.  Except, apparently not this time.  So, the search begins – feel around in the giant purse I use because it holds all of the important things I must carry with me at all times.  Pull out the seemingly endless stream of tiny paper receipts, semi-used but still good in an emergency napkins, glasses (several pairs), wallet, phone, camera + + +.  It’s all there, but not the keys.  Search some more.  Upstairs.  Downstairs.  All over the house…no keys.  Try the purse one more time.  Voila.  They were there all the time.  Hiding from me in the one tiny corner I missed.  Hubby gets that certain smile on his face but keeps his mouth shut.  Smart man.  He knows.  It’s the same thing with the glasses.   Keys, glasses, glasses, keys.  Lost then found.  Only to be lost again.  Repeat daily.

Then there are the new and interesting conversations.  They go something like this…
Hubs, sitting in his recliner chair watching TV:  “What’s the name of that guy I like?”
Me: “What guy?”  Hubs:  “You know, the one on that TV show”  Me:  “What TV show?”  Hubs:  “The one with the guy I like.  I don’t remember the name …”  Me:  “I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about!”  Hubs:  “Ok. Nevermind.”  Rinse and repeat.

It gets even better when we are both on the same wrong track.   Off we go to the grocery store.  Hubby and I.  Park the car.  Walk into the store having an animated conversation.  That’s when we suddenly stop, look at each other and, in unison:  “What was it we came in here for?”  I kid you not.

Is it just us or does this happen to everyone at some point?  Does grey in your hair automatically lead to mass dropping of functional brain cells?  Maybe…a little.  But I’m convinced that all this forgetfulness is Mother Nature’s not so subtle reminder to slow down.  Pay attention.  And for God’s sake, find our sense of humor.   Because it is funny.   We can’t control getting older.  Like it or not, it’s out of our hands.  But we can sit up, slow down, pay attention, live the details of every moment and savor the things we do remember.  Laugh out loud.  At ourselves.  Laughter is medicine.  And quit worrying about not finding the car keys.    The time to worry is when you can no longer find the car.

Now, where did I put my glasses?

Night Driving ~

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you.”  E.L. Doctorow    I came across this quote about the writing process the other day, but I think it is right up there as some of the best advice on Life, I’ve heard in a while.

This really hit me right between the eyes yesterday when I drove to a friend’s house for dinner.  She lives on Parrott Mountain.  It’s really not much of a mountain, but for this city girl driving an SUV that still feels just a tad too big to handle + some steep curves + narrow (sometimes gravel) roads, + a lack of decent night vision = the whole drive kinda spooked me.  I arrived at her place already worrying about the drive back down and wanting to make sure I did that drive while it was still light.  It was in the back of my mind all evening and was obvious to the three dear women who were my dinner companions.  I was very cautious about my wine intake (not a bad thing that) and I was keeping one eye on the clock.  I let fear of some future unknown possibility lurk around and try to push out my enjoyment of the moment.  I pushed it aside.  It pushed back.  Fear does that if you let it.

We had a lovely time talking, laughing, eating a delicious dinner and finally playing a game called Mexican Train.  This game has many different rules, so we played by whatever rule worked in the moment.   I was playing by whatever rule would end the game quicker.  This didn’t work. The “ladies” (and after several glasses of vino, I’m using that term very loosely) called me out on my obvious worry.   Here’s the comment that hit the nail squarely on the head “You are planning to be a world traveler with a backpack and you are afraid to drive in the dark?  How’s that gonna work?”  Well, yes I am.  So, I probably won’t be doing any night driving in any other country either.  But, I got the point… clearly, I’ve got some work to do here.

And, because I’m sure you want to know, here’s how the evening ended.  Despite all my worry and planning, it got late and I was doomed to driving down the mountain in the DARK.  So, I followed a friend who knew the road, took an easier way and drove a little slower than she normally would have to lead me to the highway in about five minutes.  Piece of cake.  Why did I get all up in my head over nothing?  How many times do I let myself do this?  Way too many.  I think most people do in some way – maybe just not about driving in the dark.

Oh, and I did a little checking and it turns out I’m not the only one who has a problem driving in the dark.

Life is Short ~ Wear Your Party Hat

Did you know that if you wear your birthday tiara into Starbucks on your birthday they’ll give you a drink on the house?  I didn’t either, but on my last birthday I decided I was going to celebrate with the world and wear my party hat all day long.  And, since every day pretty much starts at Starbucks for me, there I was at 7am – no make-up – but sporting my shiny purple birthday hat.  In addition to the free tea, I got some very interesting looks and had a couple of great conversations!  You never know what good things will happen when you’re wearing a purple tiara.  Try it.

The first time I saw the poem, When I’m An Old Woman, I Shall Wear Purple, I was only 39.  It struck a chord with me.  Probably because I was such a conformist back then; the thought of being an outrageous old woman really appealed to me.  Well, HELLO Dorothy!  I’ve arrived at the age of freedom.  I can wear any damn color I please because I am no longer driven to please.

Here’s my favorite part of the poem ~ Warning by Jenny Joseph

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 candles, 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.

These days I’m celebrating life because I know that no matter how you count it, I am closer to the end than the beginning.  Somehow, knowing that has opened me up to finally living fully in the present moment.  Celebrating what is and whatever is to be.  I’m going  to wear my party hat every day and stock up on birthday candles well I’m at it.  Because, if there’s an opportunity to light a candle and stick in my morning pancakes to celebrate a beautiful sunny day – I am all in.  And, I’m going to learn how to spit…

By the way, these folks really know how to rock a party hat!

Go get your own hat and Party On…

A Letter to Nancy ~

You have no idea the treasures you find when you are clearing out stuff – hidden high up on a shelf, stuffed in the back of the closet or crumpled in the bottom of a drawer.  Things long forgotten, once held so dear.  Since we’ve been clearing out quite a bit at our house these days, I’ve had more than a few surprise finds and lovely moments spent reliving old memories.  There is nothing like a walk down memory lane to help steer you into the future.    So, last week I’m sorting and tossing when I came across a faded Travel Section from the Los Angeles Times dated October 12, 1986.  That was the year my sister moved to Hawaii and I was getting itchy feet to try something different myself.  Not an easy decision for a single mom with two kids.  I was (sort of like now) deeply immersed in the “what if” and “how the heck” of searching for the next chapter in my life. While reading through the LA Times, I opened the travel section to a beautiful full page photo of an ocean sunset in Bali entitled “a letter to Nancy”.   I am not kidding!  It gave me goose bumps.   Yes, that letter spoke directly to my 38 year old self and just touched my wanderlust-full 63 year old soul all over again.   I hadn’t seen it in years, but there it was ~ right when I needed to read it.   The whole story was over a page long, but I’d like to share the “sweet spot” with you.

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“You are right, Nancy, there are no safe roads, no guarantees.  Only the joy of discovering the unknown.  Each day is a new adventure, a new experience, so there are no promises.  It comes to all of us that life itself is a risk.

Each moment begins as a mystery with joys hopes and fears in a pattern that changes constantly.  Otherwise there would be no peaks, no valleys.  Only boredom.

The second hand sweeps ahead while calendar pages fall like the leaves of an autumn afternoon.  Impatiently, life goes on and the tragedy of this adventure is failing to live each precious moment to its fullest.  To do otherwise is merely to exist.  You’d be surprised how swiftly youth is lost on advancing years, so spend those moments wisely, Nancy, without unnecessary fear.  This isn’t to say that one should be foolhardy; rather it means there is no road that guarantees a safe arrival.  Life offers no guarantees — only the joy of discovering the unknown.  So spend your precious moments wisely, Nancy.”

And so, 26 years later, I think I’m finally “getting” the message as we set off on this new journey.   That paper is back resting on the shelf.  Lesson learned and re-learned.  With any luck, 20 odd years from now, those same words will be encouraging me to live to the fullest whatever that might mean to my 80-something self.  Maybe I’ll be reading it on the beach at sunset in Bali.  That would really bring it full circle.

It’s a Bend in the road, not the end of the road

I’m hoping it’s just a phase, but for a while now I’ve been caught up short on more than one occasion with thoughts like “this is probably the last couch I’ll ever buy, or bed, or refrigerator or car… or whatever”.  It’s kind of creepy, and it’s been dragging me down.  I felt it again when my hubby joined the ranks of the formerly employed.  My first thought – this was his last “real” job.  It’s morbid and I know it’s not productive at all, but suddenly the road ahead seems much shorter and I KNOW WHERE IT ENDS.  Am I the only one who has started to see each bend in the road as a possible dead end?  I started this blog as a place to take out my thoughts for examination and they’re not all positive or pretty.   Fortunately, I do not dwell here, but the view from 60+ is very different from 30 or even 50.  I guess the good news is that the perspective might be better.  I’m hoping to find a wider view.  I’m looking for the learning here.  All this sudden awareness of mortality.  Mine and others.  What’s the point… and I’m sure there is one.  Just maybe by finding understanding, I’ll gain acceptance.  Que sera, sera is the attitude I’m looking to cultivate.  Grabbing the damn gusto for what is happening right now each day, each moment and savoring it.    The trick for me is to not hold on so tight to the wheel.  I’ve got my map and my compass and my need to control and oh yah, my worry. When what I really need is to loosen up, ride out the curves and quit worrying about the bends, or ends, or cul-de-sacs.   I cannot control the Road of Life.  It really is about the journey and I have a hard time remembering that.

More pondering required.