Hey – we may as well have fun as we go sliding into old age, right?

Posts tagged ‘clothing’

Most. Expensive. Hot Flash. Ever.

I should have known I was in trouble last Thursday when that pop-up zit appeared on the edge of my lip out of nowhere. Up at 5AM to catch a flight north for work, I stared in disbelief at the mirror. Just when I thought the menopausal acne was behind me… But the road to menopause is full of surprises.

Acne. Mood swings. Bloating. Hot flashes. Mood swings. Exhaustion. Hot flashes.  

Yes, hot flashes can be surprising, as they come and go and change and morph throughout the years leading up to “official” menopause, defined as twelve consecutive months with no “monthly friend” (I’m on a six month roll right now – woo-hoo!!). Not only do hot flashes arrive unexpectedly, but they vary widely in intensity. I’ve had some big ones – rolling heat waves that start in my chest and roll upwards until my scalp was tingling.  I’m talking about strip-off-your-clothes-in-mid-winter major hot flashes (indoors and at home, of course). We’ll be watching television quietly at home, and suddenly I’m flinging off my sweater or sweatshirt in a panic. Poor Hubby barely raises an eyebrow anymore when I start peeling off my clothes. Then the hot flashes will subside for a while, with just the occasional night sweat. Mild night sweats have become fairly routine, but they’ve never been debilitating for me. 

I know I’ve been relatively lucky. I’ve heard stories of horrendous night sweats, where women wake up so drenched they have to change the sheets. Women who had to keep spare outfits in their offices to change into because a hot flash would ruin their clothes. But not me. My hot flashes are just the nuisance type. Annoying, but manageable. Kinda like me. And it was all under control.

After Thursday, I’m not so sure anymore…

It happened at the Charlotte, NC airport Thursday morning. I caught the 6AM puddle-jumper from home to Charlotte (a 50-minute flight) to connect with another flight north to my office, where I was due to attend an important meeting shortly after landing. I was wearing comfortable dress pants and a colorfully patterned, lightweight polyester knit top. I had a 3-hour layover, so there was no hurry as I strolled from one end of the airport to the other. I felt the hot flash begin, and I knew it was a strong one. I was not only hot, I was also very light-headed, felt faint, and my hands were shaking. I stopped, and I started to feel better. Wow. That was a good one. I figured I’d get something cold to drink and I’d be fine, as usual. I stopped by a little tourist shop along the way, mainly because it was extra cool in there. I strolled around a bit, not to buy anything, but just to enjoy the coolness for a minute.

An employee in the shop looked at me rather oddly, and instead of saying “good morning!” or “Can I help you?” he said “Is everything okay this morning, ma’am?” That struck me as an odd thing to say, and then I thought my mega hot flash must have made my face red. I told him I was fine, and decided I’d better go get that cold drink and sit down somewhere.

As I walked out of the shop, I felt something on the side of my face. I put my fingers up to my left temple, and discovered water was running down my face near my scalp. I was covered in sweat. I’m not talking about a soft dewy glow here. I am talking about big drops of water. Dripping down the side of my face. Good lord, the guy must have thought I was crying, or just…well…a crazy lady drenched in sweat at 8:00 AM. I grabbed a tissue and wiped my face. My scalp was sweating. My hair felt damp and limp. Whoa. This was no normal hot flash.

I grabbed a yogurt parfait and a cold drink, and got settled into a seat at a quiet gate. As I sat back against the chair, my back felt cold and clammy. I sat forward and my shirt was clinging to my back. Good grief – I was soaked! I put my hand back there, and sure enough, my shirt was not just damp – it was wet with sweat. The chair was wet. From me. Gross.

I analyzed my options, and wearing this shirt for the rest of the day was not one of them. I had to buy something. I was heading into a meeting less than an hour after landing, and I couldn’t go in wearing a bright t-shirt that said “North Carolina Rocks!” A golf shirt was not dress code compliant. Maybe I could get away with that some other time, but not now – not when I’m trying to convince my employer that I can be away from the home office and still maintain a high level of professionalism.

That left me with two stores: Lacoste (expensive) and Brooks Brothers (more expensive). Lacoste had a sale rack, but nothing on it would work – too clingy, too sheer, too heavy (being warm triggers hot flashes). Why spend $50 on a sale shirt that I know I’ll never wear?

So I went back to Brooks Brothers and spent a ridiculous amount of money on a very nice cotton pinstripe shirt with ¾ sleeves. Beautiful fabric. Lovely tailoring. Very professional. Looks great. It is easily the most expensive shirt I’ve ever purchased. The sales tax brought the total over 3 figures. For a shirt.

All because of a monster hot flash at a really bad time and place.

And that’s the story of my first sweat-through-my-clothes hot flash. I don’t need to have another one. Truly, I don’t. Once is enough.

But just in case, I’ll start keeping an extra dress shirt in my office (and in my carry-on when I’m traveling).  

Because I simply can’t afford any more hot flashes like that one.

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The Search for the Right Bra

Okay, gents, this may be a post you want to skip.  You are always welcome here, and you might just learn a little about the 50-something women in your life, but you probably don’t want to listen to my bra rant.

Ladies – seriously.  We’ve reached a point in our lives where gravity is doing all kinds of things to our body, and our breasts are prime examples of the results.  If we don’t pay attention to our bras, our breasts will end up at our waistline.  I see it far too often, but I never thought it would happen to me.

Apparently, mirrors are not completely truthful, because I did not notice the gradual descent of my breasts until I saw a photo of myself in profile.  It was a holiday photo from work, and ended up on a Christmas card that went to hundreds of clients (oh joy).  And there I was, standing at the end of a row of people, in a lovely, finely knit red sweater.  I felt great the day the picture was taken.  But I was shocked when I saw the result.  What were my breasts doing down there, halfway between where they should have been and my waistline?  That’s when I realized that I should have been paying a little more attention when bra shopping. 

I’ve always been fairly nicely endowed, and going braless has never been an option, so I’ve purchased a lot of bras through the years.  As long as “the girls” weren’t bouncing around too much and I was comfortable, I was happy.  But now I had to figure out how to factor “lift” into the equation.  As in, how high are they?  Victoria’s Secret just wasn’t cutting it any more.  Maybe they need a “silver” section for women like us who need something different from our bras.  I am definitely not ready to disregard comfort, so I had to find a happy medium. 

17 bras stuffed into a drawer...

I have always avoided the soft cup, or formed, bras, because they’re a nuisance to wash, store and pack.  I have 17 “regular” bras in one drawer, but I can only fit 6 formed bras in the same space.  Those nuisances are now the sacrifices I make to have a profile I’m happy with.  It’s worth it.  My personal favorite for a formed bra is Vanity Fair – it’s comfortable, and it survives machine washing (NEVER dry them in the dryer!).  Not only do the formed bras keep the girls up where they belong, but they look awesome under sweaters.  Hey, unless you’re a 44DD, you want your breasts to look bigger (you know it’s true), and formed bras do that, okay?  They’re also firm enough to help prevent the embarrassing situation women can face when wearing a clingy blouse in a cold room (don’t play dumb – you know what I mean). 

Six formed bras in the same amount of space - not very efficient.

I’ve found a few “unformed” underwire bras that “lift and separate” quite nicely, too, including the Olga Luxury Lift underwire bra that has lace lifting panels on the sides that actually do something, and last through more than one washing. 

Once I detected my own sagging breastline, I started paying attention to the profiles cut by other women, and I am frankly horrified by how women take their breasts out into the world.  From the “way-too-bouncy” to the “way-too-saggy” to the “way-too-pointy” to the “are-you-even-wearing-a-bra” looks, a lot of them are just not good.  At all.  

First – wear a bra.  Your hippy days are over, honey – no matter how petite your breasts may be, gravity affects them, and you need to harness them into something.  You don’t want them pointing toward the ground like a hound dog’s nose.

Second – find a bra that fits.  Spill-over is always a bad thing – whether it’s in the front (my cup runneth over) to the back, where our 50-something skin is sagging and bagging in new places every day.  A too-small bra adds layers of body rolls that you just don’t need.

Third – give the girls some lift.  I’m not talking about “wonder-bra” lift, where your boobs are smooshed together to give the illusion of cleavage under a low cut top.  The look isn’t bad, but it’s not worth the discomfort, trust me.  Find a bra that has some extra reinforcement to lift those girls up and make them look respectful.  That’s why I like the Olga bra, but Bali has a couple that have side reinforcements, too.  They just don’t last as well through multiple washings.  Why side reinforcements and not just lift from the bottom?  Because I’ve discovered that fifty-something boobs are very content hiding under your armpits, which is where they tend to scurry if you lift or “minimize” them.  They may be happy there, but it’s not a good look. 

And I just have to throw in number four – for heaven’s sake, look in the mirror HONESTLY before you walk out the door.  Are your girls pointed in two different directions?  Will someone get dizzy trying to figure out which way you’re goin’?  Is one sagging and one lifting?  My hubby laughs watching me get the girls lined up in the morning, but once I’m done, I don’t have to wonder if someone’s glance towards my breasts during the day is a compliment (hey, they’re still taking a second look after all these years!), or if it’s just curiosity (how can I avoid looking at that train wreck where one goes up and left and the other goes down and right?). 

Oh, and as you may notice in the pictures of my two bra drawers – just as every woman should have a pair of red shoes, every woman should also have a red lace bra.  No one may see it when you’re wearing it (don’t be tacky and wear it under a white blouse – you’re not 21), but you’ll know it’s there, and you’ll feel g-r-e-a-t.  Especially if that red bra also fits, lifts and aims!

Women Dress For Women, Silly!

A few days ago, a co-worker told me that his wife was going out that evening with her friends for a “girls night out”.  He shook his head as he commented that he didn’t understand why they always got all dressed up “just to have dinner together.”  I just laughed and said “Silly boy, women dress up for other women, not for men!” 

And let’s admit it – it’s true.  We worry far more about the opinions of our female friends than our men when it comes to fashion, don’t you think? 

Even back in high school, we watched the girls’ magazines to determine how to dress.  Why?  Because we wanted to fit in with what was “cool” at the moment.  My favorite outfit ever (sadly, no pictures) was an outfit that featured crushed robin’s egg blue velvet hot pants and a creamy satin top, with a long, hip-length velvet vest to match.  It was a dressy outfit (seriously!), and I wore it with cream-colored lace stockings, off-white sandals, and a long, swinging necklace.  I was groovy in that outfit, let me tell you!  And while my boyfriend (Ken – what a sweet kid) may have appreciated the hemline, he surely didn’t care about the time I’d taken in color-coordinating the ensemble.  For example, he didn’t care, or even know, that it was “robin’s egg blue”, but my girlfriends did.

If we really dressed for men, we’d still be wearing hot pants and mini-skirts today.  They never would have let us stray into midi-skirts, and then to the 80’s “office girl” attire of plaid skirts and blouses with bows under our chins.  Did we then turn to those “Dynasty”-inspired suits with football player shoulder pads for the opinion of men?  I doubt they were impressed. 

Even in those “meat market” bars of our single days, where we admittedly dressed with a particular goal in mind….when we weren’t checking out the guys, we were checking out the other women and assessing the competition.

Of course, I know that the correct response to who women should dress for is to say that we should dress for ourselves.  Bunk.  Yes, comfort is important, and more so as we grow older, but still….   The days I “dress for myself”  (baggy pants, rumpled loose shirt, baseball cap, old sneakers) are the days I’m mortified to run into someone I know at the grocery store.  My mortification is proof that I’m not really dressing for myself after all. 

No, women follow the fashion trends because we want the acknowledgement of other women.  When a man comments on fashion, it’s usually no more than a “nice dress”, or the ever-generic “you look nice.”  But when our fellow women notice an outfit, we get far more detailed feedback:  “That color looks great on you!”, “Pretty blouse – is that silk?”; “I love that outfit – is it new?”, and our favorite – “Fabulous!  Where did you find that?”  Why is that the favorite?  Because it allows us to display our shopping prowess among our peers.  Very similar to the guys bragging about how they beat par on the country club’s toughest hole – the story has to be told with a bit of bravado.

My husband scolded me once for telling another woman that my dress, which she admired, had been found, tags still on, at the church rummage sale for $5.00.  After she gasped and praised me, we giggled together over for my great bargain.  But Hubby thought I should have told her I found it at an expensive department store for far more money, as if there were shame in buying something on sale. 

I tried to explain to him that, unlike a man’s preoccupation with how much they spent, women honor bargain-hunting skills.  She admired that red polka dot dress far more because I’d found such a bargain with it.  “Can you believe I found this on the sale rack at Macy’s for 80% off?”  “Oh, you like these slacks?  I got them at Kohl’s for 8 bucks!”  When we get a great buy, we’re not only seen as fashionable by our women friends, but we’re also seen as wise shoppers.  Skilled hunters, if you will.

To be clear here – I’m not saying that every morning I stand in angst, trying to decide which outfit I should wear to impress women at the office.  Good grief, I barely have my eyes open in the morning, much less being able to function at that kind of level.  No.  I’ve made my purchases, and have a closet full (over-flowing actually, with two sizes of everything, but I digress….) of clothing that I know meets the standards of acceptable fashion.  So I guess I really am dressing for myself at that point, but that’s because I’ve already selected the clothes based on the women I see in fashion magazines and on TV.  I’m not a clothes-horse, but I have enough style to get by.  I don’t fret about what other women wear, but I notice.

Of course we dress up for “girls night out”!  We fuss over our clothes, our shoes, our purses.  We check our hair and make-up, too.  We may do the same for dinner with our husbands, but they see it as us “looking nice”.  Our friends observe us as a complete package – “Oh, my God, where did you get that bag?”; “Did you just get your hair colored?  It looks great!”;  “Those shoes look fabulous with that dress! Are they the ones you got on sale last week?” 

Somehow putting this in writing makes it sound just a little shallow, but it’s not.  It’s reassuring to us to know that we have our “woman” act together, even after all these years.  That’s empowering.  It’s good to know that we’ve got each other’s backs (while we covet each other’s handbags).  Thanks, girls!

My Love/Hate Relationship with Zumba

In case you’re wondering what Zumba is, it’s exercise disguised as dancing.  Or dancing disguised as exercise.  Or torture disguised as fun.  It’s basically a way to sweat like crazy and cram what feels like days’ worth of exercise into an hour or so.  It all began in Columbia, South America, and has swept the U.S. in the past 8 or 9 years.

I had no intention of being dragged into the craze when it hit our area a few years ago.   Sadly out of shape, I still could not imagine myself dancing in a room full of people.  You see, I’m just not very coordinated.  I have a bad sense of timing, and a worse sense of direction.  Invariably, if my husband says “look at that car on your right!” I will immediately look to the left.  So much so that Hubby now just sighs and says “your other right, honey”.  So any kind of structured dancing, even though I dearly love music, is not my strong point.

But my friends were very persistent, and they seemed to be having fun, so eventually I found myself going to classes with them.  That was a year ago.  I hate it.  And I love it.  It’s complicated. But I won’t give it up.  Let me try to sort it out the primary issues for you.

1a.   SWEAT IS BAD –  You know that old saying that ladies don’t sweat, they perspire?  Well, not doing Zumba they don’t!  It’s definitely sweat that rolls off in buckets.  Your hair sweats in Zumba.  Just this morning, I went to brush my bangs off my face in class, and a shower of water sprayed out in front of me.  Surprised, I put my hand to my head and realized my hair was completely soaked with sweat.  That much sweat is disgusting.  It’s uncomfortable.  It’s cold and unhealthy in the winter when you walk outdoors into below zero temperatures.  It requires washing of workout clothes, including my expensive athletic bra, after every single class.  Sweat is not pleasant.

1b.   SWEAT IS GOOD – Sweat is empowering.  Sweat tells you you’re really doing something.  Sweat tells you that your body is working – hard.  Sweat tells you that you’re building muscle and burning fat.  That’s a really good feeling.   Sweat is powerful.  Sweat is good for women.

2a.  MIRRORS ARE BAD – Most Zumba classrooms have at least one wall of mirrors.  They’re scary.  They show EVERYTHING to EVERYONE.  You see everything you’re doing wrong – every time I turn right instead of left, the mirror lets me know about it (as does the unsuspecting classmate to my right!).  The mirror also shows me how bad I look in workout clothes.  Just when I’m feelin’ the music and thinkin’ I’m really jammin’ to the song, I get a glance of myself in the mirror – lumpy, puffy, in pants that are too short, with a blotchy red face, and my mouth gaping open like a flounder, gasping for air.  So much for confidence – I look like I’m ready to drop!  Mirrors are not helpful.

2b.  MIRRORS ARE GOOD – There’s always the practical purpose of mirrors – they allow you to see what the instructor is doing, and they show you whether you are doing a move properly when you compare your moves to hers.  But there are other fun things about mirrors.   The mirror teaches us to avoid that gasping flounder look as we struggle for air, and to instead purse our lips like we’re just blowing off a little steam.  Lips together, mouth more closed than open – “whew”.  Trust me – it’s much more attractive than the gasping flounder look.  Mirrors can boost your Zumba confidence when you realize that many other people in the room are making even more mistakes than you are!  Or when you realize that everyone looks weird in workout clothes.  Mirrors show you that most women (and men) in class are really not concerned with how they look – they’re just throwing themselves into the dance moves the best they can.  You want to be fearless, like them.  Mirrors also show you when you finally get that complicated step right, and you’re smokin’ it, keeping up with every move the instructor is making.  Thank goodness for mirrors!

3a.  HIPS ARE GOOD – Moving and swinging your hips with the beat of Latin music is very seductive.  I’m not talking about being seductive to an audience.  It’s seductive to you.  I’m talking about the feeling of letting your hips sway to the rhythm of drums and Latin words.  Whether it’s a belly dance to a Shakira song; or a samba to the rhythm of an island beat; or an aggressively low hip swing to a naughty Notorious lyric, you feel the power of music.  You feel the power of your own body, moving with the music.  It’s a beautiful thing for your soul to feel that kind of synchronicity.  It makes you appreciate your body, rather than criticize it.  Whether you’re full of curves or skinny as a rail, feel the rhythm and MOVE.

3b.  HIP IS GOOD – Look closely – this isn’t a bad/good comparison as with the first two topics – it’s just two positive takes on “hip” and Zumba.  Moving your physical hips is good.  But so is BEING hip!  Some of you may have teenagers who keep you in the loop on the current entertainers, but Zumba saved me from a life of being one of those boring old people who say  “who’s that?”  “never heard of her!” when we watch the MTV Music Awards.  I know who Lady Gaga is, I dance to Shakira and the Black Eyed Peas.  I can do the “Beyonce bounce”.  I groove to Pit Bull, man!  In my real life, I listen to country music and oldies, but in Zumba, I am crankin’ it to lyrics I (probably blessedly) don’t always understand.  Some are in Hispanic, and some are being ground out in rap.  I am in a room with women (and men) smaller and larger than me, older and younger than me, and we are all yelling and cutting loose to a song that I’m pretty sure is talking about posing “like a pornography poster.”  Do I have fun being just a little naughty and working out to that infectious hip hop beat?  Oh, yeah!  Being hip makes young co-workers eyebrows raise when you stride past them humming “Let’s Dance”.   Being hip is cool.  Being hip keeps you young.  Zumba makes you hip.

As with any workout, it can be torturous while you’re doing it.  But the afterglow is well worth the effort, and the changes in my body, stamina and confidence keep me going back for one sweaty, torturous, exhausting, exhilarating class after another.  Hating it.  And loving it.

Uh-Oh…Back in the “Fat Jeans” Again!

We all have them – hidden deep in the closet or at the very bottom of a drawer.  We feel comforted just knowing they’re there.  We hold onto them for years, just in case.  They’re our secret, silent insurance policies.  They’re our Fat Jeans. 

We don’t want to use them, don’t want to need them.  But we keep them because we know the realities of life, with all its ups and downs, including those found on our bathroom scales. 

We tell ourselves we’re only saving them in case we have a “bloated” day or a tummy ache.  But we know the truth.  We know that we’re hedging our bets and playing it safe.  All that weight we fought so hard to lose and/or control is always waiting to come back and surprise us.  We have to be ready for it.  Thus, the Fat Jeans.

And guess what I was wearing last weekend?  Yup – after they spent years at the bottom of the jeans pile in the closet, I dug up the Fat Jeans.  I could justify it by saying my other comfortable jeans (a/k/a the “Borderline Fat Jeans”) were in the laundry.  But I couldn’t deny the truth – those Fat Jeans fit.  Damn.

Four years ago, they’d have been inches too big.  I got rid of all the other loose pants back then, but I tucked these black denim trousers into the closet – just in case.  I never forgot them.  I saw them constantly.  Even picked them up a few times and thought about sending them to a church rummage sale.  But I always put them back in their safe place. 

In a way, I think I enjoyed knowing that they used to fit and became much too big for me to wear.  They were my badge of honor – my proof that I really had lost well over 30 lbs.  Like on “The Biggest Loser”, when at the end of the show, the person sent home holds up a pair of enormous pants, then drops them to show off their new, slimmer figure.  My Fat Jeans were never that large, but they had the same effect for me.  I used to be that, but now I’m this.

A few years ago, all that vanished weight started creeping back onto my hips.  In fact, two summers ago, I gained ten pounds in a matter of weeks.  Didn’t change my diet.  Didn’t change my activity level.  Just got bigger.  Like magic! 

At first I freaked out.  Someone mentioned it being a “meno-pot”, and I had no clue what she meant.  So I started doing a little research.  Oh, joy – as if getting older wasn’t enough fun, it turns out women get fatter, too.  It’s all natural.  Approaching menopause means slower metabolisms, decreased hormones, increased hormones, blah, blah, blah.  And even better, the weight gathers around our waistline, giving us those charming little pot bellies.  Our own little meno-pots. 

WHY WE GAIN WEIGHT NOW

Apparently, our body doesn’t communicate well with itself.  Menopause makes estrogen levels drop, but instead of just accepting that, our bodies want to find estrogen elsewhere.  Fat cells produce estrogen, so our bodies start collecting jiggly little fat cells around our middles in order to get that estrogen.  Our bodies should just say ‘good riddance’ to estrogen and move on. 

Progesterone also drops.  Lower progesterone leads to water retention (no wonder my rings are feeling tight on my fingers).  Testosterone levels drop, too, and this is one of the few times in our lives when we want more testosterone around.  When it drops, so does our metabolism, and we don’t burn calories as easily as we used to.  And one of the hormones that actually increases now doesn’t help us at all – androgen levels rise, and androgen, for some reason, makes our weight collect in our mid-section. Yippee.

Insulin issues can also lead to menopausal weight gain, as well as stress.  I don’t know about you, but I have a little stress flowing through my life right now.  My first thought was that stress makes us gain weight because comfort foods like chocolate and beer make us feel better, so we indulge in them more.  That’s probably true, but stress also encourages our body to hold on to fat, in some misguided nod to our Stone Age days, when stress meant we might be heading into a famine, so our bodies start collecting fat cells (what’s so darn attractive about those fat cells, anyway?).

As I cruised all my favorite medical websites, I read two different messages about this mid-life weight gain.  Some articles said “don’t feel bad, it’s not your fault.”  True, and nice, but not helpful.  The others said “if you’re active and eat right, you can beat it.” Also true, and even helpful, but nothing that we really want to hear.

So I ignored those extra ten pounds, which, over the next year or so, became the extra fifteen pounds.  In the last couple of months, after I stopped exercising, it became the extra 20 pounds.  And, this past weekend… I wore my Fat Jeans and they fit.  Argh!

WHAT I’M GOING TO DO ABOUT IT

So back I go to Zumba (more on that love/hate relationship another time).  No more careless snacking in front of the TV.  Much smaller portions at meals.  It’s not misery, and it’s not rocket science – if you eat less and move more you’ll lose weight.  But it’s so hard to get back into that habit, and now it’s complicated by an aging body that’s fallen in love with fat cells!

But I am NOT in love with Fat Jeans, or feeling out of breath after tying my shoes, or sitting on the sofa like a lump every night.  That’s not how I want to go sliding into old, so I’ll suck it up and start behaving.  I’ll keep you all posted on how I’m doing every week or so.  I’m off to a respectable start – since Fat Jeans Saturday, I’ve dropped a pound and a half.  Bye-bye, fat cells!  Bye-bye, Fat Jeans!

A Family of Feisty Women

On the eve of Mother’s Day, I have to pause to pay tribute to the many strong and feisty women in my family.  I come from a long line of fine women, and I’m proud of all of them.  It bodes well for my adventures in aging, since both sides of my family feature classy, long-lived women who enjoy life to the fullest, whether they’re in their 70’s, 80’s, or near 90. 

I stopped by my mom’s apartment a few weeks ago to pick her up for dinner.  At 84, she handily qualifies for her apartment at a “55-and-over” complex.  She found the place on her own, arranged her own move, and settled in very nicely last year.  She drives (and drives very well), but evening driving isn’t her favorite thing.  So I swung by after work, and called her on her cell phone as I neared her place so that she could meet me in the parking lot. 

As I pulled in, there she was.  Striding out with confidence, looking trim in tailored trousers, a fitted corduroy jacket, bright green top and a brilliantly patterned silk scarf.  Every inch of her was stylish.  I was reminded of a former pastor who once told me that my parents had forever redefined the term “senior citizen” for him, because they refused to fit the stereotype of the “little old couple”.   

Back in the day, when I was but a child (yes, that was back in the late-1960’s, as difficult as it is for me to admit), my mom was one of the first working moms in the neighborhood.  My big brother had gone off to college, and that was long before every kid in the world qualified for student loans.  Tuition had to be paid, and dad’s income wasn’t going to cover it easily, so Mom was off to work full time.  She worked for a printing company, out in the physical plant.  And she wore dresses.  Every day.  Dresses.  Sitting next to a huge printing press – in a dress.  It was actually forbidden for women to wear trousers of any kind at most companies in those days.  Can you imagine???

Anyhow… as fashions went topsy-turvy that decade, polyester pantsuits became all the rage.  They had long tunic tops over bell-bottom pants.  Mom’s employer came up with a creative dress code: it was okay to wear trousers, as long as you were wearing a tunic top that was long enough to be worn alone as a dress.  Seriously.  It was like saying “sure, you can wear pants if you want – just wear them under your dress.”  Mom made most of her own clothes, so it was easy for her to comply.   But as time passed, her tunic tops got shorter and shorter.  Enough so that Big Brother and I used to tease her that she’d be in a whole heap of trouble if they ever made her take her pants off and wear the top as a dress. 

Mom made it work, and set an example for her daughter.  By the time I started working for the same printing company 8 years later, I was heading to work in jeans.  Mom came from good stock – her own mother was a feisty, hard-working farm wife who raised three strong daughters in the middle of Depression-striken Iowa.  Mom and her older and younger sisters still get together every summer for a “sisters’ reunion” in Iowa, and she travels regularly with her younger sister, including a trip to Ireland last year. 

In fact, as I think of my aunts, I realize that both sides of my family provided me with fine examples of strong womanhood.  My aunts on both my mom’s and dad’s sided are each independent, active, positive ladies.  Like Mom, they are all widows now.  My dad’s mother was the toughest of them all.  Her husband died when Dad, the only boy, was around five years old.  They were poor farmers in far northern New York State, near the Canadian border.  A single mom in the 1930’s, raising four kids on her own on a rocky scrap of farmland?  It was unheard of, but she did it.  Not only that, she lived to see all of them successful, happily married, with families and very good lives.  She knew several of her great-grandchildren, and her great-great-grandson is being raised in the house where she once lived.  That’s quite a legacy.

What’s the moral of the story?  The best gift a mom can give her children is to set a fine example.  To live a good life, full of responsibility, love, fun, and security.

As I stumble along trying to figure out how to negotiate my way through the aging process, mourning the loss of a little memory here, or fretting over a new wrinkle there, I just need to think of the stubborn, funny, strong, and thoroughly modern women of my own family tree to gain a little perspective.  I don’t have children to teach their stories to, but I hope I can be a “cool” Nana for our grandchildren, and perhaps show them how to age well. 

Aging gracefully is for wimps – aging well means having lots of laughs, being well-seasoned and sun-kissed, having good friends and close family.  My two departed grandmothers and one deceased aunt knew that.  My four surviving aunts know it and live it.  My mom personifies it with her own unique style.  Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

And to all the moms reading this – please set the right example for your daughters (and sons) by living your own life well.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Bye Bye Turtlenecks!

I often tell people that I’m not really “upset” with growing older.  After all, that would be a waste of energy, since it happens to all of us, or at least those able to read this.  As my dearly departed dad used to say, it’s better than the alternative. 

But it tends to be a bit of surprise to me.  Almost like it sneaks up on me.  Really?  I’m fifty-two?  I don’t feel fifty-two.  But then again, what’s that supposed to feel like? 

I can tell you what it does feel like, at least to me.  Surprising things are happening.  Some are kinda fun, some not so much, and some just…are.  But it does make for an interesting journey, and I’ll be chronicling my observations along the way in this blog.   

Who am I?   I began my career straight out of high school with a Fortune 100 company, working my way up the corporate ladder to training specialist and managing a department at a large customer service call center.  I bought a horse farm at 25, and it was quite the adventure running it alone.  The house was over 100 years old, and I really could write a book about all the minor and major catastrophes that occurred in the 11 years I was there!  I’ve been in bad relationships (really bad), and good ones (like my wonderful marriage of 14 years).   I have no children of my own, but enjoy seven grandchildren thanks to my husband’s family (I’m wife number three, and yes, I do try harder).   My husband is very energetic and intense – we’ve really had fun, and life is never dull.  He has family in Ireland, so we’ve been there four times together.  Since we met, we’ve had ten different condos or houses in four states (some were second homes).  We’re nomads, I guess! 

I left the corporate world to run three retail stores that we owned, which we’ve since sold.  I fumbled around for a few years while he was the breadwinner, and now I’m back in the business world in a high stress job, and he’s semi-retired.  I sing in church on Sunday mornings.  I like Broadway shows and NASCAR.  Country music and Van Gogh.  Budweiser and Pinot Noir.  I shop at Target and Lord & Taylor (far more often at Target).  I’ve been flat broke and I’ve been moderately wealthy, and now I’m comfortably somewhere in between.

We’ve boated, but now we golf – a more sedate and dignified hobby (anyone who thinks boating is dignified never watched us try to dock a 36 foot powerboat in a gusting wind).  Dad passed away 4 years ago, but Mom’s doing well at 80-something.   I just figured out Facebook last summer, and clearly I’m just beginning to figure out the world of blogging, a bit behind the curve.  But here I am.  And there you are.  I hope we have fun and learn something about being a woman of a certain age in this very chaotic age we live in.   I’ll be making observations on age, womanhood, work, and just random thoughts on life.  I may do the occasional review of a product or service.  I don’t have any corporate sponsors, so the opinions are mine alone – take them or leave them.  I hope you’ll enjoy this blog, which I hope to update twice weekly.  If you do enjoy it, please share it with your friends.

A few weeks ago, my loving and witty husband rather gleefully pointed out that I’ve developed a wattle.  You know – that extra skin and flesh that fills in the youthful, girlish angle that used to define your chin?  Instead of a defined angle from chin to neck, we now have this curving line of skin that runs directly from our chin to our chest.  It basically negates the neck completely.  Which is fine, because the neck is no longer our friend.  Droopy and floppy, the neck in general begins to desert women in their late forties. 

I first noticed it with turtlenecks, which I’ve always dearly loved to wear.  I’m tall, with a relatively normal body shape and a long neck, so turtlenecks used to look pretty good on me.  The basic premise of turtlenecks is that they are meant to be in a nice vertical line – kind of like a sock fits over our tubular legs.  But my neck (at least in front) is now more similar to a funnel in shape – a swinging 45 degree angle.  

The turtlenecks that used to be so chic and slimming now create a distressing fold of neck skin at the top of the collar.  At first I blamed the turtlenecks – surely the collars were abnormally tight, and some terrible dressmaking error had been made.  Maybe a size 6 collar was sewn into my size 12 turtleneck?  Alas, that wasn’t the case.  The shirts were fine, my neck was not.  Gravity had begun its pull, and, like oversized pantyhose bagging at the ankles, my neck skin was bagging over my turtlenecks.  Yuck.  My beloved turtlenecks went off in boxes to the next church rummage sale.  

So with turtlenecks gone, I went for v-neck sweaters, which were never really a problem for me before.  But how is it that now, even my collar bone area has aged?  To borrow a term from all those obnoxious cosmetic commercials, the “elasticity” of my skin is simply going away.  I still have shoulder bones and chest bone in front, but, like my chin, their definition has been softened and blurred somehow.  I guess my neck was just the beginning – gravity’s at work a-l-l the way down.  But at least there’s no “fold-overs” in my décolletage at this point, so I’ll live with it.

I recently read that there is a surgery called a “neck lift” that could solve this problem.  A little liposuction in the wattle area, and then a few incisions where skin is lifted and tucked and snipped to tighten up the neck area.  While I do wonder how many inches of skin could be lifted off my neck, I think I’ll pass.

It’s okay.  Really it is.  This aging process takes some adjustment, but I usually manage to laugh at the little surprises I keep finding in the morning mirror.  Okay – sometimes I have to count to ten first, but even so….I can usually generate at least a smile.  Usually.  Really.  It’s all good.

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