Sunday, March 26, 2023

Celebrate GOOD TIMES...C'MON!

This past week has been filled with days of celebrating reaching the age of 65. And I have to say it has been a great time and so much less trauma on my brain and body than celebrating other birthdays over the years. It kind of amazes me at how celebrating changes over time. I kind of am reminded of several birthdays and the celebrations over the past decades that have brought me to this week’s celebrations.

I remember as a pretty little kid, my mom would have a couple of the neighborhood kids over and we would have hot dogs and chips and birthday cake. The only thing I remember was having to dress up in a party dress, rufflly and lacy like. And no doubt my hair would be all brushed and shiny and wavy with probably some ringlets along the sides. I was the only one in the neighborhood with super curly hair and my mom was a beautician who gave all the other little girls perms right before the Christmas or Easter holiday. I hated that part, but the other girls would come to the house looking the same way. Only they never looked as uncomfortable as I felt. They would have their hair all curled and be in frilly party dresses and black patent leather shoes. Yes I am really dating myself at the moment. But we all looked pretty amazing for the times…I guess.

Once I turned 13 or 14, my mom and my friend down the street got together and planned a surprise party for me. I didn’t have a clue what was happening. I came home one day and there was my friend sitting at the kitchen table with my mom. What the heck? My mom made some excuse as my friend was leaving and I just forgot all about it. 

Imagine my surprise when I came home a week later to a house full of grade school friends yelling surprise! My brother had been instructed to take me out shopping. I never saw that party coming. And to this day I still don’t know how my mom  pulled it off. She was not the best secret keeper in the world. But it was a memorable night for me.

And then there was turning 18. Back then the Minnesota laws for adulthood were 18. So drinking became legal. My 2 best friends at the time were Mike and Bob. We were all now officially 18 and decided to go out to a local bar and drink together. But before that Mike and I had been invited over for a fancy Mexican meal that our friend was giving. She had just returned from Mexico and was excited to share her stories. So we started there first and would meet up after with Bob.

My friend had bought a beautiful copper pitcher while in Mexico and had decided to make lemonade in it to go with the shredded beef tacos. What we didn’t know back then is that the acid from lemons reacts with copper and will get a person sicker than any night out drinking will ever do! Mike and I both drank a couple big glasses of the delicious poison.

We got done eating and Bob showed up and off we went to a bar called the Cabooze. The place was packed and the music loud. The three of us went up and showed our ID’s and each ordered a beer. The intent seriously was not to get drunk, but to just say we finally went out for a drink together legally. There had been many times before that we had drank “illegally” together in our teenage years.

We no sooner got our beers and I started feeling like my stomach was going to explode or worse just keep rising up like a volcano. I didn’t want to say anything to spoil the night, but one look at Mike and I could see he was getting super pale and losing interest in the evening. Meanwhile, Bob was just drinking his beer and watching all the people. I made the comment that I’d be right back and raced off to the bathroom.

I just made it to the bathroom and flung my head over the toilet and heaved what felt like, my entire guts out. I got all clammy and everything sounded far away…like right before a person passes out. I just half stood and half draped myself over the toilet with my head hanging ready to go for round two. 

By the time I was ready to leave the bathroom, I knew it would not be the last time I would be embracing that porcelain Queen of Barf-holding. I ran out of there and ran right into Mike who was coming from the men’s room. We looked at each other and then kind of held on to each other as we made our way back to the bar. There was Bob sitting and drinking his 2nd beer, feeling just fine. He took a look at us and he knew we were on our way out the door. And that was my first recollection of legal drinking with my friends. We both moaned and groaned all the way home and later found out it was the lemonade in a copper pitcher that almost killed us that night.

Birthdays in my 20’s are pretty much a blur. With 4 kids, all ages 5 and under, life was a bit crazy and filled with sliding across the floor barefoot on grapes and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. My biggest  celebrations were not forgetting a kid at the park, (although we did forget our youngest in a car seat on the kitchen table as we got in the car to go on a camping trip). Those birthdays are remembered by homemade gifts from little hands and a promise of my Best Half to sit outside the bathroom and field questions from the little ones, while I took a leisurely bath and shaved my legs without needing band-aids afterwards.

Time flew by and by the time I turned 40, the kids were teen-agers and were able to help plan a surprise bash for me over at our friends’ house. I once again didn’t have a clue and was surprised beyond belief when we pulled up to our friends’ house. There were cars all over the place and I figured they were having people over. We were just stopping by to pick something up…or so I thought. 

Imagine my surprise when as we were walking in, I started noticing cars that looked just like our families and friends' cars. Right on down to the bumper stickers. It wasn’t until I walked into the house and saw 30-40 people I knew! That was another huge surprise I will always remember. Entering my 40’s turned out being a good time.

As long as I am scanning birthdays over the decades, I’d be lying if I said turning 60 was fun. While it wasn’t an enlightening or joyous occasion, all I can say is I survived, even with my thoughts of gloom and doom for the first year in my 60’s. I hung on to the thought that my parents died at age 59 and 60 and many memories of their health and deterioration played tapes in my brain. I kind of lived a little in fear of dying.

It wasn’t until I woke up one day and told myself just because they died young doesn’t mean I have to carry on that thing from the family tree. I decided then and there I was going to saw off that branch of the family tree and live my life and try to reach age 92, like my grandma did. And then when that time comes, I will review life and see where I’m at. It truly did make for a better way to think through this aging stuff.

So here I am week one of age 65 and the celebrations are still happening. The day of my birthday I woke up and jumped (or maybe more like hobbled) out of bed to greet the new day! It was not snowing and the sun was even peaking through the clouds.

 What did I do on my birthday? I hung out with my Best Friend and Best Half. We had breakfast together, did some things around the house and he made supper for us. Some would say it was just another day, but it really felt pretty special to me. My Best Half made me the main focus of his day, the kids and grandkids called throughout the day and I had a big bowl of ice cream that night. It was a perfect day for my actual  birthday.

The next few days are plans with a few different friends to meet for lunch. It seems now that we are retired, meeting for lunch on a weekday is so much more appealing than meeting at a crowded place on a weekend. We can grab a quiet seat and sit for a while and catch up. We get to take the path less traveled by the rest of the working world. These are some of my best times with friends. A chance to relive moments past, talk about life now and think about the future. And it’s always a time of some good laughs and possibly a few tears thrown in. 

While so many birthdays have flown by unremembered, there are still a few 
that will go down in the books as some of the best or at least most memorable. I have come to see birthdays  like milepost markers along the path of our lives. But unlike the milepost markers on the paved roads that are pounded into the ground on the side of the road and waiting for us to blast by at a precise time and distance, these markers are left lying by the wayside waiting for us to show up and plant that marker into the ground and hold on to it for a fleeting moment like a prize. I guess I have come to think, it is all about how we approach our milestones. Will it be running, walking, crawling or something else? It’s all up to each one of us how we want to handle our milepost markers.

Right now,for me, I’m going to be hanging out for a bit at milepost marker 65 and taking in the sites.  Have a good week everyone!

Sunday, March 19, 2023

That's An Hour I'll Never Get Back

This past week, once again, we have been forced to change the clocks and “Spring Forward”. And I will be the first to say, I am not a fan of the days and the week that follows. I am not a person who likes change to my daily routine and the first week after we set the clocks back or forward, I am a confused mess trying to go through my daily life. 

I am fortunate that my Best Half takes on the responsibility of setting most of the clocks in the house to reflect the springing forward or falling back of time. He has done this for as long as we have been married. Saturday, the night before the time change, he will go and set all the clocks in the house to the correct time. 

This past week, he continued the tradition and right before he went to bed Saturday, he went around the house and set all the clocks an hour ahead of time. He even set the clock on my side of the bed to reflect the new daylight savings time. That was a first, I must admit. I have usually been left to my own devices to set my bedside clock. And I have to say, many times it has sat at the wrong time for several days before I would get around to remembering to change the time. 

Saturday night we went to bed knowing that as we slept we would somehow magically lose an hour of our lives until Fall when we could reclaim it. It always makes me think to myself, “That’s an hour I’ll never get back”. Or in the case of setting the clocks back in the Fall, “What am I going to do with that extra hour I have been given?”. 

Somewhere in the night I woke up to see what time it was, thinking it must be getting close to my rooster gene time of 5:30. When I looked at my clock I couldn’t focus on the numbers, there were too many numbers staring back at me. I reached for my glasses and then could see the numbers a little better. But they still made no sense to me. My clock read 17:23. What the heck? I turned up the backlight to make sure I was seeing the numbers correctly. Yep 17:23 is what I was still seeing. And then it dawned on me.

Remembering back to my years as a nurse…my clock was reading in military time! I closed my eyes and tried to remember military time, which I was never good at in all the years I was a nurse. I calculated and then re-calculated because according to my brain it was 5:23 PM.

I looked across at the clock on the nightstand on the other side of the bed and it said 5:23. Even with a time change my rooster gene had adjusted and awakened me at the usual time. I was mighty impressed with myself. But I then realized it was really only 4:23 pre-time change. That is a little too early even for me to be waking up. So I dropped my head back on the pillow to see if I could fall back asleep for another hour. Nope it wasn’t going to happen.

So I took my phone and earbuds and listened to an audio book, looked at facebook and listened to my Best Half snore as he slept like it was 4:23 in the morning. Eventually we both were up and going before daylight was peeking in the windows. Just a whole other adjustment to deal with now that we have “sprung ahead”. It is dark when we wake up.

While I love the fact that daylight is increasing once again and the time change will give us much more daylight at the end of the day, that trade off of waking up to darkness is kind of a pain. I mean here I am waking up and it is still dark for a few hours and that makes me feel like it's the middle of the night. My circadian rhythm gets so messed up that first week of time changes. I wind up wanting a nap by mid-morning and falling asleep on the couch at 7 pm, then crawling in bed and feeling wide awake. I am a circadian mess that first week of changing up the clocks by just one hour.

Eventually I do adjust like most people the first week when we set the clocks forward or back. It’s just usually a week of being more tired, a little more cranky at those around me, and finding myself in the vehicles in the driveway trying to figure out how to set those clocks. Each vehicle has a different way to set the clocks and I am usually forced to go sit in a cold car thumbing through each vehicle’s owner’s manual trying to figure it all out. Usually this is not my finest hour. 

But to my surprise this year when I went out to the vehicles the times were all set to show daylight savings time. I guess my Best Half being retired has found himself with time on his hands and willing to set the vehicle’s clocks. One less irritation for me, it even makes up for setting my alarm clock to military time. 

The other day I was thinking how they always say we lose an hour when we set the clocks ahead and gain an hour when we set the clocks back in the Fall. It got me to thinking…that’s an hour I will never get back…at least until Fall when I will live to see an extra hour in my life once again. Each Spring I will be forced to give up an hour of something. And come Fall, I will be given an extra hour to do something with my time. It is just one more of those things in life where the ebb and the flow eventually catch up to each other and create a balance. Just maybe not that first week when we make the changes. That is more like a tornado whirling through my days. Here’s to time changes and balanced circadian rhythms. Have a great week everyone!

Sunday, March 12, 2023

When I'm 65!

This coming week I will hit a milestone in my life. I will turn 65 years old. While some people wouldn’t consider this a huge milestone, I do. For one reason, I have outlived my parents who died when they were 59 and 60. For me to have passed by the age of 59 and 60 I am grateful to be on the other side of those years. Unlike many who may feel their aging, I feel like I can finally take in a deep breath and let out a long exhale. 

I retired a few years ago before I was 65 because I was able to while my Best Half worked another year for his pension and to keep me on his health insurance plan. He really is a great guy and talked me into getting out of a nursing job that was slowly sucking the life out of me at the time. While nursing was a great career for the 25+ years I was in it, the last year working saw so many changes to patient care and the profession itself, I wanted to retire. And that was right before COVID hit. I can’t even imagine working through the COVID times with killer schedules and being in the mix of so much death and fear of bringing COVID home to my family.

The past couple years leading up to age 65 have been quite a journey. And for me the past few years I have had so many thoughts and realizations about entering this chapter in life compared to my younger years. While I’m sure I could think of 65 thoughts and ways to be a better human, here are a few that I have found to be the most important for me over the past year. 

The first would be to keep waking up and getting out of bed every morning like I have plans and things to do. Even if I don’t have one thing planned. I think for me it would be easy to stay there in bed and look at my phone and waste away hours looking at what people are doing in their lives through FaceBook. I seriously spent over an hour looking up how to make sourdough starter one morning. I found out it is still something I won’t be trying anytime soon. I need to start my day, every day, by 7 or 7:30 at the latest. While I am usually awake by 5:30, due to the infamous Rooster Gene, I try to use that time to have some quiet moments to be grateful for having a warm bed, a roof over my head and a snoring Best Half next to me. But I will admit, there are days I would rather stay in bed until long after my wake up hour. 

While lying in bed, there is always some hesitation each morning getting out of bed. After many years of playing sports in my youth and getting injured, lifting many people in and out of bed and off the floor during my nursing days, and just plain wear and tear on the joints and muscles I have been hauling around in this body the past 65 years, there is always pain upon rising in the morning. And for me I have just had to resign myself to the fact that in the morning when I rise, there is some pain and the feeling of getting older until I stretch and get moving.

But I have made a very conscious decision not to let pain from arthritis rule my life from the moment I awake through the whole day. I have learned to adjust to the pain and adapt for the most part to get me through the days without many issues. And worst case scenario…there are a few times here and there Tylenol is my friend.

 The first is my mind-set. If I dwell on the pain, it stays with me and becomes my partner for the day. And not really a partner, more like a ball and chain. So upon rising in the morning, I greet the pain and move on. Both literally and figuratively. I tell my pain thank you for letting me be able to still move and feel the pain and then I stretch, doing Tai Chi. Most of the time this works and I go about the day pretty normal. Of course some of the other things I have done are getting some adaptive devices for the things that have become hard. I now have a jar opener that isn’t my Best Half. It is a little gadget I got online that makes me feel like Wonder Woman when opening jars. 

Another realization for me now that I am rounding the corner to 65 is that I now have adult children that I have different levels of relationships with. With only 1 of the 4 kids living in Minnesota and somewhat close by, I would have to say she probably gets the brunt of her parents and dealing with us. Some days I am sure she is texting her siblings and complaining to them about being here alone with us. And other days I think she may even be grateful for having us close by. We tend to try and see them weekly and see the grandkids and have them over whenever we can. But we try also to not smother them all, maybe a fine line at times.

As for the other 3 kids, we try hard to keep in touch and thankfully there is messenger and video calling. As the grandkids get older and have phones and internet access by themselves, we hear from them often. Sometimes several times a day with the younger ones. And for us we try to answer their texts and messages right away whenever we can.

What I have decided over the past few years since we have had more kids out of state and less in person time, we need to make more of a deliberate effort to be in their lives. And I am sure at times we annoy the heck out of them with our ever loving repeated messages to see how they are, but I have decided that I didn’t raise them all those years to not be in their lives and a little bit of a pain to them. A little guilt about not calling their mom more often isn’t a bad thing. 

And speaking of adult children…having never had parents in our adult lives because our parents died young, I’d like my adult children to know that your parents are both winging it when it comes to being a parent of adult children. Neither one of us has any idea how this role of being parents of adult children is to unfold. There is no road map or directions here, so be patient with us. “We only ask to have a relationship with each of you where we can know you still care about us and love us as much as we love you.”, said your mom with a bit of the Jewish/Catholic guilt I was raised with.

Finally, thinking about turning 65, the one important thing I think that has followed me for years, because it is not an aging thing, is that when I wake up every day,  I need to put on an attitude of gratitude. I have had a great life these first 65 years and I know I will continue to have a great life as long as I don’t play into pity and woe as my body ages, as my mind may slow down a bit and as time marches on. I will continue to tell people I love them as we say good-bye, and I will continue to be just enough of a burden to my kids so that they know I am still here. So bring it on and welcome 65! 

Sunday, March 5, 2023

A Walk To Remember!

Sitting here this morning looking out at yet more snow coming down, I have been given some time to once again reflect. So many thoughts are swirling through my head today. First of course is the question of  “will it ever stop snowing?” We have had well over 16 inches of snow in the past week, and we also have had the joy of freezing rain. Our driveway and road out to the highway is covered and frozen solid with a few inches of thick ice. Every time it melts a bit of the snow it just turns into more ice. It is as good of ice as any hockey rink out there.

Yesterday I volunteered to go get the mail. My Best Half has been doing that and going to the chicken coop daily using the tractor or his 4x4 truck. It’s just that thickly covered with ice these days. The kids and grandkids came by the other day and had to park down on the road and hike in. And one by one they did the banana peel slip and landed on the ground in a heap. I’m glad no one was too badly hurt, and it was a reminder to us that the tractor and truck are going to be our main modes of transportation through the yard and roads until we can see the gravel again.

But yesterday I decided to walk to the mailbox at the end of our driveway. It’s not super far, maybe a half of a block if it was in the City. It should take a couple minutes down and back. But yesterday it took about 10 or 15 minutes to walk that short distance. I started doing the penguin shuffle and though planning to wipe out  I made it to the turn around where it has a slight decline, I started gliding across the ice uncontrollably heading for a snowbank. Luckily I made it to the snowbank on the other side of the turn around and was caught by a crusty and hard packed icy snowdrift. That hurt way less than if I would have nose dived to the ground. I was able to stop myself and regroup and think on where to go for my next path to the mailbox. I was halfway there so figured there was no turning back at this point.

So much of this week we have been once again holed up in the house and doing projects and I will admit it, one day we both took a nap in the afternoon. I still am not sure if that was due to being tired or just plain boredom from being inside so much. Maybe that was my reasoning for walking the gauntlet in the driveway. So on I went. 

I found some slushy ice along the side of the road and took the path less traveled through the pine trees. I figured I could hang on to the branches if I started to go down. But the snow was over a few feet deep in the pines and as I tried to walk, my boot came off, leaving me with a bare foot to try and get back into my boot. After a few tries I got my wet bare foot back in my boot and climbed out of the knee deep snow and headed back towards the road. I reminded myself next time walking outside to put socks on before my boots. My foot was wet and cold and slightly numb.

Once on the road again I inched my way to the mailbox about 10 feet away. I lost my balance and started trying to recover, flapping my arms as if to fly out of the fall. Well, for once in my life I was able to recover and as I was slipping past the mailbox I lunged for it and stood there hugging that big old box as if we were long lost friends.

I stood there a few minutes trying to regroup and build up the courage to make the trek back to the house. I was kind of glad we live on a secluded dirt road where no people had to watch my walk to the mailbox. I looked at the mail and realized that I had spent this whole scary slippery walk  down to the mailbox just to pick up a handful of junk mail and advertising! 

After a few moments mustering up the courage to walk back to the house, I started to head in that direction by way of the other side of the driveway. In calculating the trip back, I realized the other side of the driveway had the trailer, the camper, the kayak trailer, and the sun shining and melting the driveway into more slush than ice. 

So slowly I skated across the driveway and grabbed onto the welcome sign a few feet from the camper. I then made it to the camper and gave it a hug, caressing it and telling it that come Summer we would be spending some time together. I then lurched ahead to the utility trailer parked next to it and stood there for a minute trying to figure out my next steps.

After debating if I wanted to venture into more deep snow, I bypassed the deeper snow where the kayak and trailer were resting. But I did take a second to longingly wish it well through the remainder of Winter. And I promised many trips to the water  with it…come Summer. 

I ventured back on the driveway as I once again approached the turnaround area. But this time I wasn’t sliding downhill. It was a gentle slope upward. I took a few steps and slid back down. So I decided to climb it like a big hill and started zig zagging back and forth as I made it up the small incline. I was feeling a bit cocky about making it across the turnaround. And then realized I was only halfway back to the house.

Focusing back on the rest of the ice road I had to walk, I aimed for the vehicles in the driveway and latched on to the back of the Big van…over to the 4x4…and finally to the minivan door handle. I opened the minivan and just sat down for a minute to gather my nerves. I had made it to the mailbox and back and hadn’t wound up on the ground. Granted my foot was still pretty soaked and cold, but no falls this trip.

As I made my way the last 10 feet into the house I was greeted by the dogs and my Best Half. He asked if there was any good mail. I said no that it was all in the recycling bin and proceeded to take off my boots and jacket. I began to tell him of my adventures on the ice road as we now refer to it. He listened while sipping his coffee and then asked, “Why didn’t you do like I’ve been doing and take the tractor?”. Having no good answer after the near death experience, all I could do was look at him and throw an envelope from the Office of Kansas Tourism at him…that was yesterday’s mail he had sent away for when we had planned the trip South for this week. He set it on the kitchen table and raised his coffee cup up in a toast…here’s to a Spring melt of the ice road and soon to be open water on the lakes for fishing. Until then…I’ll take the tractor down the road. Or better yet, I’ll send my Best Half.