WHY I WOULD NOT WANT TO BE 20 SOMETHING NOW

silent crowd at starbucks

Take a good look at this picture of a group of 20 somethings at Starbucks this morning.  I watched and photographed them for several minutes, during which time not one of them looked up or even acknowledged one another.  Welcome to 2015.  I would not want to be their age for anything right now.  Why?

1. They don’t ‘talk’ to each other as conversation is now done primarily via thumbs. (The last time I actually used mine was to hitchhike).

2. I would miss the anticipation of waiting days for handwritten letters from someone I love. (Now I could hook-up or break up instantly via Facebook.)

3. I wouldn’t be able to get the 6 o’clock News in one, nicely, digestible, half hour. (It would bombard me 24/7 on Twitter.)

4. I couldn’t say the bill ‘got lost in the mail.’ (It would be sent directly to my Inbox.)

5. I couldn’t have a wild time at that private party knowing it would stay private. (By morning, my hat dance routine would be viral on Instagram.)

6. My boredom tolerance would be zero, my curiosity likely non-existent and my sense of allegiance to country, place and home not even a memory.  (Thanks to politicians and lawyers, I can’t say the Pledge of Allegiance but can read Lolita, just not the Bible, in class.)

7. Most anything I say would be politically incorrect. (Now I would either have to pretend I like everybody– no matter how wacky– or simply remain mute.)

8. I would neither be able to remember nor mourn my innocence. (Thanks to the Internet it would never exist.)

9. My moral compass would be all screwed up. (Instead of offering me a bowl of popcorn for the movie, Mom might well ask if I want to, ‘smoke a bowl.’)

10. I would likely still be living with my parents! (My college degree wouldn’t get me a job and even if it did I still couldn’t afford to live on my own.)

And a sense of gratitude?  Don’t get me started.  Many of my friends say they wouldn’t want to be younger simply because they have, “Been there.  Done that.”  Truth is I haven’t been ‘there’ or ‘done that’ at all.  And I sure wouldn’t want to be there doing it NOW.  What’s your take?

HANDS DOWN!!!

Alberta Hands 6-2

My grandma used to say that you could tell a lot about a person just by looking at their hands. Once, she was asked to be the “palm reader” for our church group’s fundraising fair and was quite the hit. As a kid, I thought maybe she had magical powers. So, I asked her to teach me how to be a palm reader, too.

hands

Turns out there was no magic, she was just a good observer of people. She taught me the difference between weak and strong handshakes and how you could tell if someone worked hard or hardly worked. Long, lean fingers showed artistry. A thumb with a waistline indicated self-discipline. She even said that someone who walks with their thumbs inside their fist are, ”not their own person and feel controlled by others.”

hands1

By looking at the palm itself, she said you could discern even more. A strong, deep Heart line showed emotional expressiveness but a wavy, broken line might mean impulsiveness in love. One who made a living with their mind as opposed to their body would have a long, straight Head line. Lines that were weak, faint or broken could mean ill health, a change in career or move across country. Even the mounds at the base of the fingers had a story to tell. A puffy one under the ring finger might mean the person was given to depression. Pretty fascinating stuff when you’re a kid.

 hands4

Funny thing is, I still look at hands to see what I can learn about someone. And while palmistry is hardly an exact science, there are many clues the casual observer might miss. Are the nails short on one hand and long on the other? Guitar player! Are they bitten down and chewed to the quick? Nervous Nellie. Are they laden with jewels or tattooed on the knuckles? Draw your own conclusions.

hands3

Most of all, I try to make mine stay active because Granny also warned that, “Idle hands are the Devils’ tool.” So, whether playing scales, peeling vegetables, walking the dog, folding laundry, gardening or typing, these ten guys are most always on the move. Wouldn’t want to be a ‘tool’ for you know who. Above are some of the hands that I encountered today. What story do your hands tell?

GO GET ‘EM BOYS

tennis captain

I feel sorry for boys. Salon Magazine, (December 7, 2013) writes, “Adult, white, heterosexual men have the fewest friends. Moreover, the friendships they have, if they’re with other men, provide less emotional support and involve lower levels of self-disclosure and trust than other types of friendships.” (December 7, 2013).

Even science says that once men retire, unless they’re still involved with team sports, community groups or meaningful activities with others, they just lose their connections. It may be the main reason that of all the nursing homes I’ve visited over the last some 50 years, the percentage of men compared to women is miniscule. Why? They die younger. Why? They don’t have friends.

Perhaps the hidden message is that they have no reason, ‘to hold on.’ Consider this: two thirds of all nursing home residents are female. In some areas, that number even reaches 80% according to the NY Times (“The New Old Age,” January 30, 2012).

So let me share this: I am grateful for the women in my life; the ones who laugh, cajole and commiserate with me; the ones who encourage me to be my best self and truly care about the ups and downs in my life. They are a blessing beyond measure. I wish my husband had the same support network.

I wish ALL men had the same potpourri of wonderful, wild and deeply concerned human beings in their lives. Friendships like these go beyond time and distance. They persevere and give you hope as the days dwindle shorter.

In the last 17 years, I have played tennis with hundreds of women. The two pictured above are on my latest team. The gal on the right is our captain. She has come to EVERY match I’ve ever played and cheered me on, every, single time. Once, she even drove out of her way to buy my coffee as I entered a 3rd set after several hours. That is devotion. That is love. That is as good as it gets in this brief, and very, short lifetime. May every man find a friend as good as that.

FENG SHUI ME!

garage sale

 

Our house is on the market. Having personally boxed up our homes for 19 moves in the last 35 years, I do not plan to pack one, single item that I don’t have to. In fact, the last two moving companies I’ve used have actually asked me if I want to work for them. Why? Because I can look at a room and tell you how many boxes you’ll need and even how to square it in the truck.  

This time, though, I am not taking those 3, very tall glass vases, large ceramic planter, golf clubs, bicycles, steam iron, extra coffee machine, sewing machine, popcorn popper, candlesticks, 250 books, CD’s and yes, cassettes. They’re gone!! Craig’s list sold off the fire pit, leather recliner, stereo system, 3-drawer office file, two desks, 4 office chairs, extra printer and 3 outdated computers.

I didn’t stop there. I removed all the ‘top shelf’ items in my kitchen cupboards: dishes, pots and pans, the Le Creuset set and silver bowls and trays from Great-granny. My huge rolling pin, which flattened many a circle of dough, was next. I’m on a roll.

Next stop? Bedroom closet. Good-bye belts, suspenders (from the ‘80’s), scarves, handbags and jewelry that I haven’t worn or used in at least 30 years. Adios stockings, Good Will ‘finds’ and Granny’s mink coats. (They went to consignment.)  Au revoir stained T-shirts, freebies, and even a red and white, striped shirt that I last wore in high school!

I paused, though, at the size 7, white, leather tap shoes. They brought back fond memories of my shuffle-ball-change days. However, I’ve been wearing 9’s for the last 22 years! Some aspiring Eleanor Powell will love these. But I’m keeping my yellow, cotton, dress with the wild pattern. My husband says it looks, ‘hideous.’ He’s right, of course. It’s a Jackson Pollack gone wrong and I absolutely love it. When I put it on I feel young, light and literally float through a room. That’s how I feel right now walking through the house!

By my count, I have lightened our upcoming move by at least 1,000 lbs. and several hundred boxes. There’s an old saying: a man with only one watch knows what time it is.  A man with two is never quite sure. Well, trust me, I know what time it is now.  Wanna feel younger? Move!!! 

DARK MATTERS

robins eggs

It’s spring and right now two vastly different scenarios are happening on either side of my house. Above the front stoop, high in the corner, a mother bird is yelling at her last offspring to get the heck out of the nest. The bird won’t budge. There’s a cacophony of peeping and prancing, so loud that I imagine the conversation:

Mama: Out now! Your sister and brother are already flying.

Baby: Well I’m not my sister and brother. I’m my own bird.

Mama: Look, I’m your mother and I KNOW when it’s time to fly and it’s TIME.

Baby: But it seems a little windy. What if I crash?

Mama: You won’t crash, dodo bird. You have wings! Just keep them open.

Meanwhile, out back, in an almost eye-level nest in our hedge, a mother Robin is sitting on 3, exquisite, turquoise-blue eggs. At least I thought she was sitting on 3 until I put a step stool up today to take a picture of them. I was startled to see a 4th that is even slightly bigger than the others!

Strange, isn’t it how we’re such prisoners of our perceptions? We think we see things clearly but oftentimes have no clue. We even act on our tidbits of incomplete information only to have our actions become as misdirected as our perceptions. The Bible says that, “now we see through a glass darkly” and that’s about as good a metaphor as I’ve ever heard.

Consider this, too: Physicists say that of all the world which we can see, touch, hear and experience, there is actually 85% more, “dark matter,” which completely eludes us. Why? Because it gives off no light and produces no wavelength. It would be completely undetectable if not for the fact that it experiences gravitational pull. We know this because it affects the things around it. This means we not only have ‘dark matter’ around us—we breathe it as well!

Remember the tale about the 3 blind men and the elephant? One described its’ girth as, ‘a wall,’ another its’ tusk as, ‘a spear,’ and the last its’ trunk as, ‘a snake?’ One wonders if we really KNOW anything at all. Well, enough ‘dark’ thoughts. It’s a beautiful spring day and I’m off to see if that baby bird finally took flight. His wings have more underneath and around them than either he or we can imagine.

LET IT HAPPEN

AVO BABY AVO

Have just finished re-reading, “The Inner Game of Tennis,” by Timothy Gallwey. It was one thing to read it BEFORE I learned to play and quite another to revisit the text now that I have been on the court about 15 years. My favorite chapter is entitled, “Let It Happen.” The idea is to not judge or over-analyze your shots when you’re playing. Instead, just swing with a vision of where you want the ball to land. At my age, I really have no other option anyway.

Long gone are my days of, “making things happen.” Now I’m just happy to have anything happen. I’ve learned that events will unfold naturally despite my prodding and pushing. They will happen in their own time—not mine. Thus, the reason for the picture above which I took in my kitchen this afternoon.

Several months ago, I placed two avocado pits in water, hoping they would grow into plants that a YouTube video showed me was possible. After almost two months of zero action, one finally began to sprout a long, lovely shoot! The other? All it did was grow a curly, weird, corkscrew conglomerate of roots. Nevertheless, I watered them both and kept them in a sunny window. Several times I was tempted to toss the ‘non-producer,’ but didn’t, just in case.

Last week, when the first plant was almost two feet high, the second one, FINALLY put forth a good-sized sprout! I was in awe. Today, it actually has leaf buds. Who knew? Had I just thrown it out as I almost did several times, I would never have fully appreciated what it was capable of. Indeed, I may not have known it was capable of anything at all.

People are like that. Some blossom madly without any semblance of effort, while others appear to be duds not worthy of our time. So, I remind myself to be patient—with everyone and everything. I’ve extended that equanimity to my husband and children, and also to my tennis game.

Last week on the court, my partner and I were down 5-0. She was ready to give up. I told her: “Be patient. Don’t force it. Let it happen.” We won, 7-5, 6-4. No, it doesn’t always happen like that. Not in tennis or in life. The world turns in spite of us and we’re lucky for the ride.

THE VISIBLE WOMAN!

cropped-helen-and-sky-in-the-snow.jpg

 

Back in the 70’s I purchased the “Visible Woman” for the girls in my high school English class. It was a see-thru plastic model of the human body. I figured that they should know what went where in their bodies. Little did I realize that 40 years later I would be proclaimed an INVISIBLE one.

At least that’s what the Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ann-brenoff/older-women-feeling-invisible_b_5043467.html, NY Times and everyone else says about women over 50.   Apparently, we have become such non-persons that young folks don’t even SEE us. So, here are some tips on how to make your self more VISIBLE:

  1. Wear bright colors. No, not just a colorful scarf. I’m talking, red shirt, green sunglasses and bold leggings.
  2. Talk to ANYONE younger than you. (At this point you have a large pool to draw from). This works particularly well at Starbucks. Find the youngest dodo head with earplugs in and say, “Hi. Whatcha listening to?” If it’s Radiohead, say something hip like, ‘They’re dope.’
  3. Have something current to say! Like, ‘Hey, did you know there is an ingredient in tree leaves that keep female mice from gaining weight—but it has NO effect whatsoever on male mice?
  4. Stand by the condiments. When someone sprinkles cinnamon on their latte, say, “Hey, did you know the FDA allows 22 rodent hairs and 400 insect parts in every 100 mg of that stuff you’re sprinkling on your latte?’
  5. Sit near a group of people talking and eavesdrop. Last week I learned what a “bot” is.
  6. At the grocery store, fill a cart with a few things, then find several yards of open space, get a running start and hop on. This will cause a few giggles.
  7. When you’re paying and the card reader says, “Is this amount correct?” Hit the “No” button. When the cashier freaks, calmly explain that in your day a loaf of bread, half-gallon of milk and carton of eggs could be had for $2, not $15.80.
  8. Head to the mall for a good, brisk walk. As you pass teenagers with too tight, or falling down jeans, begin singing, “My Favorite Things.” Make up your own lyrics like, “Girls in tight leggings with nose rings all jingling.”

Look. We have nothing left to prove! Pythagoras already did that. Be bold. Be brave. Be YOU! The best thing about aging is the FREEDOM to not care about the ‘impression’ you make. You’ve already made it!!

QUICK, WITH A SNAP, AND GONE

 

 

nandina

Today was horrible. An ice storm has laid waste the city and its’ streets. The bushes in my garden are a slumpy, frozen mess. It is so cold that the dog begins to limp in the frozen grass and must be carried to pee. I cannot get to the market or even to the gym because the city is a wasteland of deathly stillness. The few cars that venture out, swerve, slip and slam into ditches.

Oh, I long for warmth and sun–anything that takes me away from the frozen, barren sound of snapping branches and things dying. In the distance I hear an ambulance. Perhaps someone has had a heart attack? Weather like this kills the old in a heartbeat.

So I listen to my own, grateful to hear that familiar thump thump. Tomorrow I am supposed to go to the doctor—an appointment I have managed to put off for more than a year. However, the Mayor has closed the town! Now that doctor won’t be able to tell me all the things that are going wrong.

Because things only get worse the older you get. Nothing gets better. The dominoes of our spines tumble and crumble and compress. Our arteries harden, shrink or fail. Our skin sags, wrinkles or mottles. It’s an insidiously slow process you don’t see coming. It is just like the innocent, transparent raindrops that have fallen on the leaves in my garden. This one, cold freeze and they have become laden with an ice so heavy they are simply snapping from their branches in one, effortless breath.

But what’s this? My twelve, tall, bamboo-like Nandina have bent low and are about to break because they are so fully laden with bright, red, fat berries! Their crimson glow is the only color in my now, white garden. Ah, THAT is the way I want to go: quick, with a snap, but leaving a splash of rich color behind me on the frozen, white ground.

 

 

LIGHT MY FIRE

ignatius in fire zone

“Hey, you’re probably gonna get a ticket,” I said to the older gentleman sitting in the fire zone outside of Starbucks.

“It’s okay,” he replied with a cursory glance at the sign. “My middle name is, ‘Fire’.”

“Yeah, right,” I said, rolling my eyes.

“My middle name is, “Ignatius,” he calmly explained, “which in Latin means. . .”

“Ignite,” I hastily said, showing off my paltry command of the language.

“Exactly,” he said, somewhat pleased.

“Well, my name means ‘light’ in Greek,” I continued. “So if I stand next to you any longer, I will definitely ‘light your fire.’

Mistake. A few minutes later, he followed me into Starbucks where I was waiting in line. He leaned into my ear and whispered, “What would you say if I told you I could take 27 years off your life? That is the distance it takes to cross the Milky Way.”

“Well, I’d say you’re too late. I’ve already crossed it. Twice. But thanks for trying.”

He just smiled, and returned to his seat by the “No Parking,” zone.

Something about him intrigued me, so on my way out, I stopped to talk to him again.  Turns out he taught philosophy and metaphysics 40 years ago, “before it was so scientific,” he sighed.  “It was a time when people were encouraged to think and dream and imagine. . .now they just ‘Google.'”

As I left, he gave me the biggest smile and said that I must, “always seek out the sun, because it is vertical and grounds you.”

I promised him that I would.  So I will.

Here’s the thing. You MUST talk to strangers—particularly OLD ones. You just never know what’s on their minds. No matter how weird or far out they may seem, embrace them. Include them. They need to be heard and you need to hear them.

 

INCH BY INCH

physical

 

For some stupid reason, when I turned 50, I decided that I should get an official physical. Not only had I lived half a century, I felt super-duper! The doctor poked everywhere, made me pee in a cup and sucked the marrow of my veins with waspy-looking hypodermics. The nurse measured and weighed me. I was certain I’d be found the absolute picture of health.

Well, not exactly. Two hours later I was told I had, “advanced degenerative arthritis in both knees.” In addition, I had “scoliosis of the spine,” which, “could be corrected by surgery,” but there would be, “a risk of paralysis.” During the EKG, a heart murmur was discovered, along with “mitral valve regurgitation,” meaning the heart flap didn’t completely close with each beat. Oh, and my cholesterol was 281, with absolutely NO good cholesterol and lots of super bad. Finally, an echocardiogram determined that my left carotid artery was 60% blocked.

In all, a stellar report? Well, not so much. But know what ticked me off the most? My chart said that I was 5 foot 6 inches!!! THAT made me mad. I had been 5 foot 7 for as long as I could remember. In fact, I made the nurse measure me a second time just to be sure. “5’ 6”” she announced in a snippy, starched voice.

So, after the doctor droned on about what meds I needed to take and how I should consider surgery, all I could think about was, ‘Where did that INCH go?’ When he finally shut up, he asked: “Now, is there anything else I can do for you?”

“Yes,” I replied. “You need to measure me again. I think there is something wrong with your nurse’s eyesight. She said I was 5’ 6” and I know for a fact that I am 5’7.” He was not pleased. Reluctantly, he stood me on the scale and raised the metal bar. I stretched as high as I could with my physical body and then stretched even higher in my mind

“Five foot six,” he confirmed. “We get shorter as we age.”

So, here’s MY diagnosis as to where that inch went: work, travel, marriage, childbirth, mothering and a lifetime of memory-making. Know what?  I am a medical marvel!!:  Think of me as a 115-pound bundle of valuable assets: all 5’ 6” of them.