Category Archives: Mid-Life

How did I get to be this age?

Walker Wrangling

Kids teach you things and make you say things you would never have otherwise, like the time I said to my friend on the phone, “I gotta go, he’s got the drill!” The kid, who was probably all of 5 or 6, was looking into home improvement and was loaded for 2x4s.

Turns out caring for your elderly parents provides similar opportunities to explore facets of life you wouldn’t otherwise get to experience.

Like walker wrangling. My coworkers and got ourselves into a fit of laughter, you know the kind you do to avoid crying, over the 1,000s of ways our elders keep us on our toes with their damn walkers.

Afternoons formerly spent sipping cocktails on a patio, boat, deck, or at a restaurant are now spent, first “reminding” your elders to actually use the walker. They may forget the teakettle, but don’t let them fool you that they “forgot” they needed the walker. We know they hate the things and are avoiding it like their endlessly chatty neighbor next door. We may also very well get a lecture on how the other people they know, you know the ones who are really old, don’t need their walker either. They are just using to make their bossy kids happy.

Once we get them near the car, we have to watch out for whatever shenanigans they have in store. Some will abandon the walker 10 feet from the car, calling, “I’m fine!” and reaching for the door, which isn’t even open yet. All we can think about as we try to get the walker back in front of them is a spill on the pavement and the ER doc giving us the stink eye and asking in an accusatory tone, “Why didn’t she have her walker?”

Once we have secured our elder in the seat, now comes the time we can put a cowboy’s  steer-roping skills to shame.

First of there are many different walkers and no consistency in how they fold up. Some have wheels, some have skis, some have wheels and skis; some have hand brakes and a basket. Some have a seat. And all have different levers and releases; some fold flat and some need 5 or more inches of clearance.

Here’s a pro tip. Take all the crap out of your trunk or the back of your SUV, otherwise by the time you have moved your crap around enough to wrangle the walker into the car and slide into the drivers seat, sweating and panting, you’ll get greeted with: “What took you so long? I’ve been waiting forever!”

But this is just the beginning. Once we get to our destination, most likely a public place like a grocery store, or if we’re really lucky, a restaurant with a full liquor license, our elder may insist they don’t need the walker. “I’ll hold on to the cart.” God forbid perfect strangers see them with their walker, which they really don’t need, they will remind you. “People will think I’m old!” It’s hard  not to blurt out, “That ship has sailed!” However,  whether they need it or not, we spent so much time getting the walker in the car, oh, yeah, they are going to use it, if it’s the last thing we do. Now we’re doing the reverse of packing up the walker. Unfolding and pushing on it in all the different ways until we hear the click of stability that helps us avoid the ER doc stink eye. But the joke is on us, because by that time, our elder may very well have unbuckled and popped out of the car and is heading for the door, all the while giving us their version of the stink eye.

For those who have mastered (mostly) the walker, then here comes the wheel chair. In a video game, this would be known as encountering the biggest challenge, aka fighting the final boss. We know we’re at the highest level when we have to wrangle both apparatus. This is a good time to accept advice from other elders, who are more than willing to help out. A group my sister was sitting next to reminded her that she could push the folded up walker on its two wheels while pushing the wheelchair, rather than slinging the walker on her arm, like a metallic, unwieldy purse.

Of course, when we’re not wrangling walkers, we’re hunting down or ordering online parts–wheels or extra skids, sifting through models and types and trying to decide is it really a universal replacement part?

“How did it break?” we ask.

“I don’t know,” says the elder, eyes sliding away trying to look innocent. “They just don’t make things as good as they used to.” And you really can argue this point, because it’s true.

Until  we see the walker across the room from where they are sitting and start it all over again. But that’s OK. Walk tall, cowpokes. The Wild West has nothing on us — we’re Walker Wranglers.

 

 

 

She’s Baaaaaack

I have written several posts about perimenopause, and for an all too seeming brief amount of time, the symptoms seemed to subside. And then in late winter/early spring, “It hit!” to quote the Burl Ives snowman in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Google it, young ones.

Of course our winter went on and on, with single digit temps — I’m sure that didn’t have one thing to do with my state of  mind. Anyway, I was walking to work and the woman in front of me was wearing a dumb coat. This sort of thing had set me off before, so I must have some sort of coat trauma in my past. The previous time, the odd geometric pattern infuriated me. This time it was a zipper, in the middle of the back of her coat, running down the length. My first thought was, “What the hell do you need a zipper in the back for?” and my second thought was, “Oh, dear god, here we go again.” I refrained from running up to her and unzipping that useless zipper just to see what would happen. It’s really exhausting trying to prevent yourself from doing dumb crap your hormones think is a hoot.

So, there’s that to be thankful for. But the coat was just the beginning.

Within days, my chest felt like there was a furnace inside. I have to be reluctantly grateful here, and say nicely, “At least I don’t have full-on hot flashes.” But it’s also no picnic having a furnace in your chest — it’s hot but your arms are still chilly. Is there such a thing as a body-less long sleeve shirt? Or maybe I should buy a pair of long white evening gloves that go up to my shoulders, add a diamond bracelet and act like it’s completely normal thing to wear to work.

As I may have mentioned in the past, you should be thankful I am self-aware enough to not take you all down with me.

So, I’m already having issues, and Earth Day rolled around. To set the stage a bit, I grew up in the 70s and I have clear memories of coloring the ecology symbol on many purple-inked mimeographed handouts. I also remember the messages involved mostly not littering. I drew a lot of pristine landscapes with full trash cans, and I picked up a fair amount of litter myself as a kid. And let’s not forget the proud Indigenous man with a single tear rolling down his cheek because of highway litter. You could write an entire blog just unpacking that 30-second public service announcement. But as a kid, I was affected by it, and I wasn’t going make that man cry with my thoughtless littering.

When recycling became a thing in the Boston area in the early 90s, but a thing that was not yet picked up at your curb, I took bags of my recycling on a bus to the Department of Public Works. Bags of recycling. On a bus. To the scary DPW yard that featured coverall clad men who don’t talk, mountains of trash, and big, smelly trucks. OK, that’s my “I walked 10 miles in the snow uphill both ways” story.

Then it got easier and you could recycle at the curb, but just certain numbers of plastic. Then you could recycle separated items, plastic and paper; then you could do single stream. And I was happy to do it, but all the while, the save-the-earth people kept up a chant of “not good enough.” You should also take 5 minute showers and use your plastic bags to weave placemats and purses, even if you don’t use a purse. If you don’t do all these things, you don’t care enough about Mother Earth.

It kinda wears on a girl who heard a similar theme growing up. Sure, you cleaned the whole house, but you missed this spot. Your report card says A-. Why didn’t you get an A? The environment folks may as well be my dad yelling at me. But I colored all those ecology signs and drunk the Kool-Aid, and did my best to tune out the negativity. But now we’re hearing that we didn’t recycle the right things, so China’s mad and not taking our less-than-pristine recycling, and somehow this is all our fault, again.

The environment people didn’t miss a beat — now we have to do these 14 other things and don’t even think about using those plastic bags, even to make a purse.

So when I picked up the earth day issue of Oprah magazine, I should have known to walk away. I really should have. Oprah is the new crazy coat, and my chest is a fully lit furnace.

Every page felt like it was berating me for not doing enough. Sprinkled in between were allegedly uplifting stories of impossibly perfect do gooders. You know, people who stopped using plastic altogether and knit food storage bags out of hemp they grew in their back yard — “It was a little difficult at first, but really it’s so easy, anyone can do it!”

I should have just done what the magazine was asking and recycle the damn thing — if magazine paper were still recyclable, which it isn’t because some people insisted on putting styrofoam and plastic objects with no number, and other nonsense in their recycling bins, and now we’re all being punished. But the part of me that has been diligently recycling for nearly 30 years couldn’t let it go. I kept turning each page hoping for vindication, or acknowledgement, or at least an apology: Sorry, things have changed and you did a good job before, but now we can’t recycle paper and plastic. But hey, cardboard is still good! You know, a little positive reinforcement?

Then I read a headline that made me forget the lady in the weird zipper coat, the Indigenous man with his tear, and the furnace. It was about the most environmentally friendly forms of birth control.

Let me repeat. Environmentally friendly forms of birth control.

Of course this was before the whole kit and caboodle was under attack by the Cheeto flea minions. But still, really? Like women don’t have enough things to worry about around sexual and reproductive health, and now you are holding me accountable for using condoms instead of more “environmentally friendly” forms like an IUD? Because, you know, putting foreign objects in your body, which is really just here temporarily, is better for Mother Earth, who will outlast you puny mortal. Why is this even a thing? Let’s just ignore the fact that these types of birth control don’t work for everyone, so there are a great many of us are lucky if we have one or two choices. They also seemed to skip how environmentally friendly a vasectomy is. Inquiring minds want to know.

Did any woman actually want to know this? Ever? Or were the editors sitting around thinking up crap to fill the magazine because they ran out of DIY do gooders? I can’t even blame it on a man because Oprah’s staffers are primarily women.

Ladies! WT ever-living F?

Call me a crazy anti-environmentalist, but I’m fairly sure it’s not too many condoms filling up the landfills that are causing our problems. It might have a tiny bit more to do with the policies of the government and large companies than my birth control choices and 10-minute showers.

But let’s not quibble. You know what I can do? I can throw the magazine in the recycing bin, and I did. China doesn’t want it and neither do I. Maybe one of those DIY people can make a Christmas tree decoration out of it. I’m too busy taking my food scraps to the community compost to keep them out of the trash and ignoring people in weird coats. Because, you know, I just don’t care enough.

Photo note: Apparently that ad with the Indigenous man was a total fake from start to finish.

 

The Rescue

I have a space between the stove and the wall, just wide enough for things to fall from my counter in that space, which because the wall is painted red (on the right), kind of looks like Hades:

dropped1blag

Recently the pepper shaker fell down that dark forbidding chasm. There is no way to move the stove, so you have to go in from the top. I half thought to leave it there. I don’t use it because I have a pepper mill. But it’s part of a set, and the weird thing about me is on occasion I can have sudden onset OCD. Most of the time, I really don’t care where things are or aren’t, and my desk at work looks like a stock photo for the “before” picture of a decluttering coach. But the set being separated started to bug me; that and the set came from a Yankee swap many years ago, one that I still go to every year. So I’m attached to it and you never know when you’re going need a last minute Yankee swap regift.

Operation Pepper Shaker Rescue began.

The pepper shaker was too heavy for duct tape lowered on a string. So I had to get creative. Luckily I have a set of orange Tupperware measuring cups from the 80s that have holes in the handles. Perfect for tying a string to. Or, I guess hang them up, if you’re weird. My Pampered Chef measuring cups would be useless for this.

I lowered my rescue measuring cup, and used a broom to sweep the shaker into the cup. I am absolutely positive I did not look odd squatting on top of my stove, holding a string and manipulating a broom. Perfectly normal activity.

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Now, much like saving minors from a collapsed shaft, I had to pull up the cup, carefully. It was horizontal, and the shaker could have fallen out at any time. I mean this is really tricky business.

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Oh my god, is the string fraying? Will I lose my shaker to the Hades abyss? Or is it camera trickery and my love of a cliche technique used in pretty much every drama from the 70s?

Just  little more, and we’re there…

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Success!!

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But wait, who is this running, er sliding, to happily greet the rescued pepper shaker?

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Awwwwww. See? I couldn’t leave the pepper shake down there.

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Sure, I’m weird, but you read til the end.

Everyone’s a Winner, or Are They?

Periodically, I get letters from my utility companies, comparing my usage to my neighbors. These little slices of peer pressure have been on my list to make fun of, mostly from the angle that I don’t give a flip how I compare to my neighbors, so you just wasted a stamp and some trees. Also, I always end up “good,” so really, what is the motivation to change? I guess they think they can push my buttons by showing me the remarkable performance of my “efficient” neighbors. But again, I don’t care about what my neighbors are doing. That’s why I live in a city, where ignoring people is built in to the fabric of our community.

The most recent report caught my eye. There I am in blue, once again getting patted on the head and told I’m “Good” with a little yellow smiley face.

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Do these things really work on anyone? Do people open them up, exclaim, “Look I got the yellow smiley face!” And then take action of any kind, other than throw them away? Or save them for a blog post?

But then I looked at that green flat line along the bottom, the usage of the alleged “efficient neighbors.” Notice the flat line, like the line of a patient whose heart just stopped.

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Soooo…what exactly is this? You’re telling me that my “efficient” neighbors manged to use 4 therms of gas per month through the entire New England winter? It was zero degrees Fahrenheit pretty much every other day.  What kind of crap is this? Suddenly, I’m very interested in how I’m being compared to my neighbors. Because it’s a damn lie! 4 therms maybe keeps your pilot light on in your stove.

Dear Gas Company: I’m only a lowly blog writer, not a utility engineer, but even I know that people who only use 4 therms of gas during a New England winter are:

  1. Dead and have no friends or family who care enough to check on them, and the heat has been cut off for nonpayment.
  2. Little princesses who can’t stand the cold and go to a warm place all winter and turn their thermostat down to 4 therms a month. P.S. They will also have frozen pipes and flooding, wasting water.
  3. Total cheaters who have another source of heat. I don’t think their electric bill says they are “efficient.” More like “Godzilla of usage.” Alternately they are burning away the ozone with all that wood smoke getting spewed in the sky in the name of not using gas heat. Forget solar. Only 6 people around here have solar panels.
  4. All of the above.

So, Gas Company, who are you really comparing me to? A bunch of freaks who don’t use gas heat? How is that a fair comparison? And how do you know where I actually fall on the spectrum, if you can’t even eliminate the outliers from your data? And for that matter, is the “Using more than average” data right? How will I know? And if it is, isn’t the bar a little low? Like any amount under average is “good.” What is this, a soccer participation award?

Now I have zero confidence in anything you tell me. And I actually think you may be a part of some conspiracy to, I don’t know, turn me into a 4 therm using zombie while you distract me with false praise and bad data.

Or this is in the top 5 of bad marketing campaigns.

Just to be on the safe side, I’m going to Google how to prepare for the zombie apocalypse/live on 4 therms month.

 

 

 

 

That Ain’t Yoga

I love yoga, but this shit is getting out of hand. The “hot” yoga has been around for a while, and in an attempt to not be such a yoga princess, I tried it a few years ago. People gush about how the warmth makes your muscles stretch more easily and you can go much farther in a pose, which is sort of anti-yoga. It’s about “practice” people, not “finish.”

But whatever, I get it. Western culture generally has a super hard time just doing things for the sake of doing them, and if you don’t have a goal — lordy, well, you are totally doing it wrong. I can do my yoga next to you unperturbed by that idea, except if it’s damn hot. I’m used to doing yoga for an hour and a half, but 45 minutes in, I hit the heat wall and had to lie still on my mat. I felt like you do sometimes on a hot humid summer day when the heat is so oppressive all you can really do is drink cold alcoholic beverages in the shade until you can drink more comfortably later in the day. Also, I’m a sweaty person, so even before I hit the wall, I was slipping around on my mat like a kid on a Whamo-O Slip ‘N Slide on said hot summer day. Not ideal for engaging my core, but a perfect way to pull a few very warm muscles.

Then someone asked me if I heard of goat yoga. I thought they were making fun of me. But, no, it’s an actual thing. I won’t call it a real thing, cuz that ain’t real. It’s just another obsession around entertaining ourselves. Seems like it started in California. Because, of course it did. Need I say more? Hey,  yoga is great and all, but this down dog needs a little, I don’t know, pizzazz, a little razzle dazzle. I know! Let’s add goats! Yes, I need some little goat headbutting my ass while I’m trying to extend my spine, stretch my legs, and turn my triceps toward each other with my hands planted. If you need goats to do yoga, then maybe you need to try something else, like artisan goat cheese making or exotic animal farming. I’m sure there is another activity for you. Just stay away from my yoga, deal? 

So, how can you top that, right? Well, I just got an email from a yoga studio where I took the hot yoga class — I really need to unsubscribe. They were promoting the “Wim Hof Method,” and there is a photo of a white (of course) man sitting cross legged, eyes closed, with the ocean in the background. I love yoga, but the teachers can have weird names, and they love to invent new kinds of yoga and name it after themselves, so I thought this guy was Wim Hof. That was odd enough to keep me reading. I soon realized the photo was Samuel Whiting, alleged expert of the Wim Hof Method: that’s WHM for all you non-hipster yoga people, who aren’t even hip enough to do yoga with goats. If it’s got an actronym, it must be real.

This part caught my attention: “Discover how you can utilize breathing and cold exposure to optimize body & mind, and learn about the underlying physiology.” Wait, wha? “Cold exposure?” OK, I’m not a big fan of passing out in a sweaty pool on the yoga mat from heat, but at least I can intellectually understand the idea of warmer muscles. “Cold exposure” makes me think of, well, me all winter long, tensed up while battling the winter wind, snow, and sleet. I need yoga to uncramp me from that. At room temperature. What “cold exposure” optimizes is my crabbyness, and the underlying physiology is, it’s effing cold, get thee human ass to a heated building.

But wait. There’s more! “Cold-water immersion in the form of an ice bath can boost metabolism, optimize your nervous system (re program your relationship to stress), strengthen your immune system and build mental fortitude.”

For the record, I find an ice bath extraordinarily stress-inducing.

What fresh hell is this? Boot camp? The Whamo-O James Bond training program? Ah, according to that fund of maybe-it’s-true knowldege Wikipedia, Wim Hof , “also known as The Iceman, is a Dutch extreme athlete noted for his ability to withstand freezing temperatures. He has set Guinness world records for swimming under ice and prolonged full-body contact with ice, and still holds the record for a barefoot half-marathon on ice and snow. He attributes these feats to his Wim Hof Method (WHM), a combination of frequent cold exposure, breathing techniques and meditation.[1] But skeptics question whether or not his identical twin brother’s similar brown fat composition shows that Wim’s tolerance of cold is mostly a result of his genetics.[2][3]”

What did I tell you about people naming techniques after themselves. Oh, this is getting rich. And I thought the goats were bad! At least it’s the idea that’s bad. The goats are, well, just being goats. Actually they are particpiating more in the spirit of yoga and just being themselves more than the humans are doing.

And then this: “Hof is the subject of The New York Times bestselling book What Doesn’t Kill Us, which tells the story of how the investigative journalist Scott Carney took an assignment supposedly to debunk the WHM but ended up learning Hof’s techniques.[4] He is also the subject of the Vice documentary Iceman in which journalist Matt Shea learned the WHM.[5]

I will stop there. As a practitioner of yoga since 2004, doing various poses on a mat, with no extra heat, or cold, or Guinness world records and simple props like a belt, a block, or a bolster, I can say with great certainty, yoga should never be paired with these phrases: “Extreme athelete,” “full body contact with ice,” and “kill.” Although if you want a Guinness after holding down dog for 3 minutes, I say, go for it.

I’ll just put it out there, that this feels a tad outside of the intention of yoga. And maybe a teeny tiny bit ‘o male ego thing. Yah?

In my humble female opinion, yoga is not meant to “build fortitude” by withstanding a super spy James Bond/Wim Hof ice cold shower/bath. If you want to see how manly you are by jumping in icy water, go right ahead. But why to do you have to drag yoga in it? The polar bear swimmer people already do that, join them. To build mental fortitude, I seem to only need to hold a pose for longer than I think I can, pushing the limits of my body in a quiet, yet challenging way. Breathing in slowly and when my monkey brain says, “OMG, we can’t possibly do this for one second longer,” I tell myself, panting and sweating, that we’re OK and we can hang on in the pose for 10 more seconds, 20 more seconds, a minute. And if all else fails, “We can have extra wine later if you hang in now!” Both the yoga and the wine translates to my life, to help me hang in there/go to the liquor store when I think I can’t take it anymore. But, I also don’t do yoga well with goats, so after 15 years, maybe I just don’t really understand the point.

And, maybe, a hot goat in Wim Hof’s ice bath will fly out of my ass.

An update: Today there were a few little ants in the studio where I do yoga. So I was inspired to invent Ant Yoga. It broadened my practice and outlook to barely see them running around the floor, doing, you know, down ant and cat/ant. I’ve already made plans to move to ant country, and buy a studio and an ant far. I am also writing a book. It’s going be huge, baby, huge!

Photo credit: Goat yoga book

New England Girl in the Desert

The kid and I are out in AZ for a few days visiting a dear friend from college and her hubby, who is also dear to me. We also went to a night time program at the Kitt Peak National Observatory. It was awesome and among other things we got to see Jupiter and 2 of its moons and more galaxies than you can shake a stick at. You can get a description of our night from the Kitt Peak blog. We also encountered strange things like seguaro cacti — those are the ones out of western central casting — warm temperatures, and dry air. Barely a week ago, Boston was 40 degrees and pelting me with ice pellets, so right now warm and dry is weird.

The last time I was in this state was 30 years ago on a road trip across country, where we creeped up on a landscape mile by mile, rather than land in the cactus-rich desert.

It’s disorienting, but maybe that’s a good thing, especially when you have good friends with a pool, a love of cooking, and a well stocked bar. Get a different perspective, another view, a better understanding of things that I don’t know much about.

Or that’s just wicked dumb jet lag talking because I don’t want to understand rattle snakes, cougars and coyotes in my yahd, never mind the desert animals.

See ya back in Boston!

Muthahs

In 2015 I wrote a Mother’s Day post about finally getting over a Mother’s Day thing that happened when the kid was 4.  What can I say, I only have one kid, so I hold grudges, sue me. Then I had a run of Mother’s Days focused on my mother and mother-in-law, crossing state lines with the mother-in-law and kid in tow. These were mostly logistical events to endure. However, in that post, I finally just had a nice day with me and the teenager. No meltdowns over pancakes, no on location Oscars-level ceremony logistics, just movie and ice cream on the beach.

Then the kid went off to college, and it was a rough ride, and this time last year, he was in a bad place. Mother’s Day was only a reminder that I am always a mother, for better or worse. And this was definitely on the worse side. We had an intense summer, patched him back together and hoped for the best last fall.

The wheel of life and Mother’s Day keeps turning and here we are a year later. Now, it’s my almost 90-year-old mom who needs more attention, so my road trip included her, and then I went on to see the kid at his school. I’ve been a more attentive mother this year / feeling guilty and making up for it, so I knew he was in a better place, but let’s just say the kid has never been happy go lucky. Being in a good place can just mean he’s not miserable. That’s pretty much what I hope for. Not miserable.

And at first that’s pretty much what I got. I was there to pick up some of his stuff since he is coming home in a week. There was a lot of silence as he packed up, but it was cool because he didn’t look miserable. Mission accomplished. I wasn’t on mother red alert like I was last year. He finished and we went to lunch. I’m used to his silences, and I was tired from the trip to see my mother, so I thought it was all going pretty good.

And then he started to talk.

I went very still, like when a wild animal approaches you, and you know if you make any move, you’ll scare them off. So I held back my mother inclination to respond, and kept very, very quiet. And he continued to talk, mostly about the music he is listening to. He seemed to be comfortable, so I finally allowed myself small responses — you know that woman thing we do to encourage the speaker, which men don’t really need, but I’m a muthah, so I can’t help it.  “Wow, that’s interesting!” “How cool!”

It lasted pretty much the entire lunch. You could have knocked me over with a feather, and I wasn’t even drinking.

He apologized for not getting me a card, but he had been busy studying. I told him I didn’t want or need a card, and he had given me a great gift by sharing his music with me. Even that blatant, embarrassing show of affection didn’t seem to throw him off.

Being a mother has made me learn a lot of crap I’d rather not, but it does have its moments. And sometimes they can even be way better than not miserable.

Photo credit: https://thegraphicsfairy.com/10-free-vintage-mothers-day-images/