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

Posts tagged ‘humor’

Dreaming of Boxes….

I see boxes in my dreams.  Big boxes.  Little boxes.  Boxes overflowing with crumpled newspapers and bubble wrap.  Stacked boxes.  Flat boxes.  Empty boxes.  Heavy boxes.  Piles of boxes.  Everywhere, boxes.

My life reduced to boxes....

While shopping the other day, I heard the sound of someone using clear packing tape – that scratchy, screechy sound it makes coming off the roll – and I shuddered.  

Perhaps it’s my own personal form of PTSD – the result of moving.  Twice.  In two weeks.  Including to another state.  It’s a horrifying fact of life for many Boomers as we downsize and head to warmer climes.  And the current housing crisis is not really helping (but then again, it kinda is).

A long, long time ago (2008), we bought a house

in warm and wonderful North Carolina.  We’d fallen in love with the area while owning a small vacation condo there, and the glut on the housing market was perfect for buying a nice home at a really nice price.  All we had to do was quickly sell our New York house and we’d be heading into the warm sunset of southern living.  Well, that was the plan.  But you know what they say about plans….  The same buyer’s market that gave us a wonderful house in North Carolina made it next to impossible to sell our New York home, which went on the market early in 2009. 

We waited, and we waited, and we waited.  We dropped the price.  We packed away every family photo and cherished knickknack to ‘depersonalize’ the house as everyone tells you to do.  We changed realtors.  I staged the house.  We dropped the price.  We hired a professional stager to reorganize the layout.  We changed realtors.  Again.  We dropped the price.  Again.  We gave up and said “screw it” and put the furniture where we wanted it and let it looked lived in.  We dropped the price.  Again.  And, after a mere 2 ½ years, we FINALLY sold the house.

Naturally, after all this time on the market, the buyer wanted in right away.  So we started packing.  And we packed.  And we packed.  Every waking minute of every day, we packed.  While I was at work, Hubby packed.   Box after box after box after box after box.  How the heck did two people accumulate so much crap?!  Our time frame made sorting a challenge, so we ended up moving a lot of stuff that we certainly didn’t need to keep.

The day the movers arrived in North Carolina with our belongings, the heat index was 108 degrees.  Hubby went golfing (with my blessing).  Landscapers were pruning our shrubs with power clippers.  Our dog was barking non-stop in protest of being shut in a room (which she escaped from several times).  Lowes showed up to deliver new appliances.  And the moving guys were coming through the door in rapid succession, constantly asking the question “where do you want this?”  After several hours, I thought of several graphic suggestions for them, but I kept them to myself.  I definitely felt too old for this effort.

The tipping point came sometime around noon, while all this was happening, and I was suddenly acutely aware of the pandemonium around me and the sweat pouring down my body.  I had a choice of running from the property screaming at the top of my lungs…..or coping.  I took a deep breath, and told myself “This is one day out of your life, Joanne – that’s all.  Just one day, and you can cope with one day.”

As the afternoon ground on, I told one of the movers firmly that I didn’t want him to bring any more boxes into the house.  Boxes were piled everywhere, and there was barely room to move (did I mention that the kitchen and family room were in the midst of a total remodel?).  The poor guy looked at me and wasn’t sure if I was kidding.  He said “But there are more boxes on the truck!”  I calmly explained that those boxes must belong to someone else, because we surely didn’t own enough stuff to fill all these boxes.  He was still staring at me in confusion as I said “those boxes can’t be ours!”  With a smile, he looked at me and said “Lady, you’re the last delivery – it’s all yours.”  I cussed, laughed, and went back to work.

Once everyone left, and Hubby returned, I sat and looked in amazement at how much junk we owned.  And how sore and tired I felt.  And how much I smelled (I was in the shower shortly after that). 

The next morning, we started UNpacking.  And that was only slightly more fun than packing.  Because it involved boxes.  And boxes.  And decisions to be made.  Where to put things. Whether to keep things.  What to give away.  Where to put the empty boxes.  A-r-g-h!  Those damned boxes!!!

Four days later, we were headed back to New York.  Remember I said we moved twice?  The second move involved clothes (way too many) and a very few possessions to a partially furnished rental house in our hometown.  We’re not fulltime southerners yet.  Why?  Well, with all those price cuts on the hosue, I can’t exactly walk away from my steady paycheck to go freelance right now.  So after partially settling things in North Carolina, we came right back to start unpacking BOXES in the rental house.  More freakin’ boxes.  Everywhere.  Including in my dreams.    

I refer to this as the beginning of phase 2 of our “master plan”.  It’s a temporary phase.  Within a year, we’ll be starting a new life in North Carolina.  And this will all be just a fuzzy, messy, exhausting, and box-filled memory.

Gravity Continues Its Pull…

I think gravity may be our biggest foe as we age, particularly for women.  The pull of this dastardly planetary force wears on us, and relentlessly drags our physical features into a downward angle.

I can blame myself for the extra pounds I carry, even though I still harbor some resentment to my menopausally decreased metabolism. And I know it’s my fault that I’m not in better shape (who has time?!).  But what do I do about the sagging, drooping, jiggling and flapping caused by our arch enemy – gravity?

It started with my chin(s).  Where the skin used to be taut under my chinline, it now sags and wrinkles and folds.  In fact, I feel like my whole face is somehow sliding downward into my neck.  How else do you explain where all that extra skin came from?  Why else would I feel the downward pull on my cheeks that leaves me looking like I’m perpetually frowning?  A co-worker stopped me a few weeks ago and laughingly said “I can always tell when you’re having a bad day!”  That wouldn’t have bothered me that much except for one thing – I wasn’t having a bad day.  I examined myself in the ladies room mirror a few minutes later and realized sadly that my apple cheeks were looking more like the loose bags that apples are sold in.  Apparently my skin was no longer able to hold my face up over my cheekbones, and I was developing a “hound dog” look.  Come to think of it, maybe that same phenomenon is happening to my “other cheeks”, too, as my derriere starts sliding down into my thighs…

Since that day, I’ve been making a conscious effort to pull my cheeks up (the ones on my face) and lift the corners of my mouth a little bit all the time.  Not into a fake, scary smile, but just enough to work those lazy muscles, and to keep folks from stepping back in fear of a non-existent bad mood.  My hope is that I can coax my facial muscles into accepting this “half-grin” as the new normal, staving off the pull of gravity.  But I suspect gravity will win eventually.

If I were given a choice of any free cosmetic surgical procedure I wanted, I think it would be the so-called “lifestyle lift”, where the extra skin that gravity has collected under my chin is pulled up into my hairline, giving me a single chin again and a markedly more youthful appearance.  I don’t know if I’d go through with it, but it would be tempting.

Hmmm.  I may have lied just now….  I don’t know if gravity’s pull really started with my chins or if it was my breasts.  Surely they’ve been fighting gravity for a long while now, and they’re losing.  If it weren’t for a good bra, the “girls” would be closer to my waistline than my neckline.  But at least I can stuff them into that bra and keep the gravity-defying illusion alive as long as I’m clothed.  But lying in bed on my back?  Yeah, well, let’s just say that my back  is clearly where the girls are trying to sneak off to.

But the newest affront from gravity made me gasp in amazement this weekend.  I was looking at a digital picture that had been taken of me with a group of friends a few weeks ago.  In the photo, I was smiling nicely, my chins didn’t seem too pronounced, and the sleeveless top I was wearing was a good color and style choice for me.  I decided that if I cropped the image, it would make a nice Facebook profile picture.  So I cropped a tiny square and was adjusting that window over my upper body in the photo, when I noticed something alarming.  There was something terribly wrong with my upper arm!  Was that dirt?  No.  A bizarre shadow effect from facing the sun?  No.  Was the satin fabric of my blouse reflecting a pattern onto my skin?  No.  I zoomed in for a closer look.  Oh. My. God.

Gravity's pull appears on my upper arms. Yuk.

 

It was the flacid skin of my underarm, sagging in defeat to gravity’s calling.  Crepe-like, folded in tiny lines being pulled downward, looking like elephant skin.  On my arms.  My ARMSMY arms.  My 53-year-old arms!  It looked as though I’d pulled a big leg of baggy pantyhose up over my arm and let it hang there.  A—r—g—h!!!

So this is how it’s going to be.  My skin will not only lose elasticity in my face (at least the cosmetic ads warned me about that one), but it will lose elasticity everywhere, drooping ceaselessly towards the Earth.  If I were in a more macabre mood, I’d probably see some correlation to death in there, returning to the primordial soup from whence we came…..

Are there ways to fight gravity?  We can’t always wear long sleeves, after all.  To a point, yes, it can be fought.  Exercise (God, how I hate that word) can make a big impact.  Tight muscles tend to generate tight skin.  And those scary sagging upper arms can definitely benefit from the simplest of workouts – curls and lifts with free weights.  That means it’s time to dust the barbells off (again) and start using them (again) and vow to stick with it this time (again).

Hey – I didn’t come to be Sliding Into Old feet first and laughing by being a patsy.  Gravity is pulling on me, sure, but dammit, I can fight back in this tug-of-war!  Can I defeat an entire planet full of gravitational pull?  No, I’ll admit I can’t.  But I can sure as hell try.  I don’t ever want to see those flabby old-lady wrinkles on my arms again in a photograph, at least not until I’m eighty.

Maybe long sleeves aren’t such a bad idea after all……….

Why Do Our Faces Need Hair, Anyway?

I plucked a hair out of my nose a couple days ago.  A hair.  Out of my nose.  That just isn’t right.  I thought nose hairs were a guy problem!  And let me tell you something else – it hurts to pluck a nose hair…a lot.

I had dinner with a dear friend earlier this week who’s the same age I am, and we got to talking about the wonderful mid-life process that leaves us staring in the mirror many mornings exclaiming “what the hell is that!?!”  And it’s usually a new wrinkle, a new layer of wattle on our neck, or new hair where it simply doesn’t belong.

I’ve noticed lately that I’m growing less hair on my legs and more hair on my face.  Really – the leg hair is getting thinner and growing more slowly than ever.  Being a natural blonde (yes, that’s right – born blonde – gotta problem with that?), I’ve always had a few advantages in the leg area.  My brunette friends bemoan the need to shave every single day to keep their legs clear of dark hair.  Even in my younger days, this was just never a problem – a little bit of blonde hair on pale legs doesn’t show.  And these days, I don’t even worry about it unless I know for sure that I need bare legs.  Which, with these spider veins creating treasure maps up and down my legs, happens rarely, but that’s a topic for another blog post.

Sadly, as my legs become smoother, I have no shortage of hair in other places now, such as my face.  Sometimes I think I’m trying to grow a furry face warmer.  Again, the hair is pale and nearly invisible, unless the light hits it j-u-s-t right.  Then surprise!  A wooly covering of blonde hair.  On my face!  The bathroom lights tend to really highlight the shimmering growth, and I try to convince myself that it’s the harsh lights that are the problem, not my face.  But I also worry that, even in normal light, other people can see the growing problem (pun intended). 

The soft, short facial hair is one thing.  But those scattered sturdy, thick, flat-out whiskers are another matter entirely.  There’s no hiding a hair with the thickness of a pine needle.  I have two of them, although only one is truly persistant.  The other tends to only pop out once a month or so.  But “Bert” lives along my jawbone, and he just keeps coming back – I’ve shaved him, I’ve chopped him, I’ve cursed him, and I’ve plucked him a hundred times (ouch), but he persists.  I’ve developed a habit of brushing my face with my hand regularly to check the status of said whiskers.  If something pricks my finger, I know I have a whisker growing.

But there have been situations where I’ve missed their appearance, and have come home to discover with some horror that I had a big old whisker sticking prominently straight out of the side of my face, or perhaps off the edge of my chin.  Nice. 

My girlfriend expressed some frustration that her friends didn’t tell her that she was sporting a whisker one day at work, and I agreed.  But then I started thinking about it – how exactly would one do that?  I have no problem saying “hey, your shirt tag’s sticking up”; “hey, you’ve got a piece of lint on your dress”; “hey, you’ve got a run in your tights”.  But I don’t know if I could say “hey, you’ve got a big whisker growing out of your chin.”  Could I?  Would I want someone to tell me that?  I guess I would, but yikes.  That’s mighty personal – almost like telling someone “hey, you’ve got a unibrow.”  I wonder what Emily Post suggests for that social conundrum…

This whole “sliding into old” thing is definitely an adventure, and some days are far more challenging than others as we travel through this new territory.  And now I’ve plucked a hair from my nose – a blonde hair that was curling happily out of my nostril one morning. 

Which is doubly annoying, because I can’t get the hair on my head to curl to save my life!

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!

Tools of the Age

The other night, as Hubby and I were heading into the bedroom to get ready for bed, he looked at me and said “Go spend a half hour on your face.”  He wasn’t being insulting.  He was referring to my regular evening routine, which is but a pale shadow of my morning routine. 

I am really not a vain person.  Truly.  I don’t think I wear a lot of makeup.  I prefer to keep things as fuss-free as possible.  But as the years have passed, I have gradually added more and more products to my repertoire. 

Thirty years ago, mascara and lip gloss were all the makeup I thought I needed.  I spent a lot of time outdoors riding horses, so my skin carried a gentle tan nearly all year.  Who needed that heavy, nasty foundation stuff?  Not me!  Au naturale was the way to go.  I hate to admit it, but the only reason I started trying to figure out how to remove the mascara was because I got tired of my pillowcases having two big brown dots on them.  My high class makeup remover?  Johnson’s Baby Oil on a cotton ball.   That was skin care for me at twenty.

Eventually, as my career started progressing and I ended up moving from the factory into the office, I started realizing that I looked a little monochromatic, with my short blonde hair, fair skin, and grey-blue eyes.  So I started adding a little powder blush to my cheeks.  That made my lips look naked, so, once in a while, I wore lipstick, although I hated the way it felt on my lips and usually ended up chewing it off.  Once the horses were gone and I stopped spending so much time in the sun, my natural tan faded, so I started messing with foundations, which inevitably led to my skin breaking out.  The slippery slope had started, and there was no turning back. 

Today, between cosmetics and over-the-counter supplements, I use a whopping twenty different products every day (or at least every weekday).  TWENTY!  What kind of ego-centric woman uses 20 products?  If anyone had told me 30, 20, even 10 years ago that I’d be using 20 different products on and in my body just to reach the bare minimum of presentableness, I’d have laughed myself silly.  And yet here I am.     

Right after breakfast, I start swallowing pills – calcium [1] to keep my bones from shrinking, a “silver” multi-vitamin (just in case) [2], some Claritin [3] for my perpetual allergies, and the newest addition, a probiotic capsule [4].  Probiotics are the big craze now.  Supposedly, they put millions of “good” bacteria in our digestive systems to help us maintain regularity (especially important to someone like me with Irritable Bowel Syndrome – gotta love that classy name).  You’ve seen Jamie Lee Curtis raving about Activia on TV?  Well, this is the same idea, but in a pill that’s (a little) cheaper and (much) easier to remember every day.  My doctor recommended it, so I added it to the morning pill pile.

After the pills, it’s on to brushing my teeth with a special anti-sensitivity toothpaste [5], which prevents me from hitting the ceiling when I eat anything sugary or cold (Sensodyne is the only one that works for me).  Then into the shower, where I clean my face with gentle Cetaphil [6] most days (with a once-a-week scrub with St. Ives Invigorating Cleanser), then out to slather Lubriderm lotion [7] on my legs to prevent reptile-like scales on my skin in the cold, dry winter months.   

And now to the face.  First, I work on the “fine lines and wrinkles” around my eyes by using a nifty little lotion applicator with cold metal rollers that are supposed to help reduce puffiness (Garnier Nutritioniste Skin Renew Eye Roller) [8].  Then the moisturizing serum [9].  This is the one and only area where I’ve managed to find a less expensive generic solution that actually works.  My moisturizer of choice is Olay Regenerist Daily Regenerating Serum, but it is pricey, and the bottle keeps getting smaller.  I’ve discovered that the generic Top Care Regenerating Serum has nearly identical ingredients, comes in a large bottle, and costs less.  After the serum, which makes my skin feel like velvet, I’ve recently added a tinted eye cream [10] to reduce the pesky dark circles that showed up about the same time menopause did (Olay Regenerist Touch of Concealer Eye Cream). 

Having never found a foundation I liked, I finally settled for a tinted moisturizer [11] to even my skin tone (Almay Smart Shade Anti-Aging Makeup – must buy anything with “anti-aging” in the title!).  Powder blush had to go a few years ago when I realized the experts were right – the powder settles in your wrinkles and makes them look deeper.  I now use a light creamy blush [12] (Almay Smart Shade Blush).  I still consider myself naked without mascara – blonde eyelashes will do that.  So mascara [13] goes on next (usually Maybelline Define-A-Lash). 

I’m winding down now (how do I make it to work on time?).  Next is deodorant [14] that won’t vanish halfway through the day or halfway through my next hot flash (Degree Clinical Protection).  A little mousse [15] into the hair before I dry it (Nexus Volumizing).  A little hairspray [16] once it’s dry (Nexus Comb-Thru).  A little spritz of cologne [17].  My signature scent, Giorgio, is hard to find these days, but Hubby managed to find a large bottle to put under the Christmas tree this year.  No wonder I love him!  After the perfume, I should be ready to head out the door…finally.  Oops, almost forgot – the lipstick [18] usually goes on in the car, at one of the stop lights on the way to work.  Oh, shut up – you know you do it, too.

The evening routine is modest in comparison, despite what Hubby says.  Remove the whole mess with some cleansing cloths [19], which really were a wonderful invention for lazy women like me (Ponds Wet Cleansing Towelettes).  And a nighttime moisturizer [20] to cap off the day (Garnier Ultra-Lift Anti-Wrinkle Firming Night Cream).  That’s right, folks – it lifts, it fights wrinkles, AND it firms!  All in one magical little jar. 

Good grief.  Now that I look at the list, my bathroom probably should have some “toxic chemical” warning signs on it.  I’m honestly NOT trying to fight aging.  I want to do it naturally and comfortably.  I don’t want to be one of those silly women who looks all pulled and painted and overdone in their attempt to “hide” wrinkles.  But I also don’t want to be one of those ladies whose makeup routine hasn’t changed since they were eighteen.  Aging is a fact of life, but that doesn’t mean we have to take the ride without giving ourselves at least a little help, right?

Twenty daily products worth?  Well, as long as I’m headed out to an office workplace, yes, I’m afraid so.  At 53, I think my skin looks pretty darn good.  I just hope the list won’t grow too much more, or I’ll have to start setting the alarm for 5AM.

Is Fifty the New Fifteen?

Last week, I had a pimple on my ear.  Right on top of the lobe, where the skin is thin, and where pimples hurt.  It was a surprise, but I didn’t think too much of it, and it was gone in a couple days after a few doses of alcohol (rubbing, not liquor). 

But then, a few days after that, I had an itchy spot on my back.  I was wearing an Irish wool sweater that day, so I figured the sweater was agitating my skin.  Then I thought my bra strap might be rubbing or pinching.  Finally, after hours of itchiness, I managed to reach the awkward spot, and I felt a big, round, tender bump.  It was another freakin’ pimple!

The next day, another appeared – right under my chin.  Great.  At least the other two offenders were out of sight.  This one was public.  Enough already.  I should not be dealing with zits anymore!

None of this would be that unusual if I was fifteen.  Or even twenty-two.  Maybe even thirty.  But I am fifty-two years old.  Fifty-two!!  I’m mid-menopausal, for crying out loud – what the hell am I doing getting pimples?  It’s the curse of the Baby Boomers – hot flashes and acne, all at the same time.  Yup – throw in the hormonal mood swings, and we’re just having a party, aren’t we?

And people wonder why women in their fifties are cranky.  Our bodies are turning against us in new ways every day.  Skin is sagging, bellies are popping, periods come and go on a highly unpredictable schedule, we break into sweats in the middle of the night, our heads spin like the Exorcist when the hormones get going, we’re exhausted, and somehow it comes as a shock to our friends and family that we’re irritated. 

Only women our age go through the check-out line with the following in our carts: multi-vitamins labeled “silver”, Midol, “age-defying” cosmetics, Clearasil acne lotion, a bottle of red wine, and a box of chocolate chip cookies for the craving we’re bound to have later that night (why fight it?).  All of those multi-generational products are for us.

I’ve come to the conclusion that this marvelous decade of our fifties is like “This is Your Life” rolled up into ten years.  A woman’s last hurrah before sliding into old age.  Think about it…

Childhood:  Is there anything more childish than a menopausal woman going through our hormonal ebbs and flows?  Tears one minute.  Screaming fury the next.  Totally sane after that.  I have literally stomped my foot in anger in the past year.  Seriously?  Where did that come from?  Aren’t I a little too grown-up for foot stomping?  Apparently not.

Prepubescence:  The preteen years are when girls form close same-sex friendships, and begin to assert their independence and self-identity.  Our fifties are when we have time, after raising our families and establishing our lives, to focus on our girlfriends again.  Our friendships deepen to new levels, as we start sharing our life adventures, and at this stage in our lives, those adventures aren’t always sunny.  Rather than sharing tales of who-talked-to-whom-in-social-studies, our friendships are now dealing with marriages, aging parents, career changes, divorces, adult children.  Instead of sitting together on the school bus, we’re meeting at the wine bar, but the connections are similar, and equally important.  And we giggle even harder now than we did then!  

Adolescence:  We were so happy to leave those stressful teen years behind – acne, romance, betrayal, raging hormones, stressing over our appearance, hanging out with the right crowd, rebelling against our parents, watching our bodies change.  And yet, here we are again – acne, romance (with any luck), betrayal (whether in marriage, employment, friendship, or just in our own bodies), raging hormones, stressing over our appearance (what does “age-appropriate dressing” really mean?), hanging out with the right crowd (political activism, neighborhood ‘clicks’, etc.), rebelling against our parents (or at least at our changing role in their lives), and, of course, watching our bodies change (don’t get me started…).  Yup.  Fifty may as well be fifteen in many ways.

Young Adult:  We may not “relive” our young adult years, but our fifties are when we reap the consequences of those years, good or bad.  Did the marriage survive?  Are the kids okay?  Was there a marriage at all?  If you didn’t have children, are you wondering who will care for you as you age?  Of course, some of us do end up revisiting the young adult years in a very unexpected way as we find ourselves raising our young grandchildren, or having our adult children or parents move back in with us.  And some of us are dealing with parents who are now older and dealing with issues that may require us to step back into a parenting role.  My own mom is very healthy and independent, but many of my contemporaries are not that fortunate, and they equate their relationships with their mothers to dealing with teenage daughters.

Elderly:  Along with looking back, our fifties give us a sneak peak to the future, sort of a prequel to the years that lay ahead.  We don’t have the strength and energy we once had.  We begin the process of adjusting to that new physical reality.  And as our parents age, we experience the realities of aging through their lives.  Suddenly retirement, Social Security, and long-term health care are no longer abstract ideas, but an impending fact of life. 

Yes, the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that women in their fifties are living every stage of life at once.  Is it a bad thing?  Not always.  It can be challenging and frustrating and infuriating at times, but it does give us the chance to appreciate the journey we’ve made so far.  We have the wisdom of our life experiences to help temper the effects of the hormonal changes.  I may stomp my feet and burst into tears over some perceived slight, but, unlike when I was fifteen, I have the confidence to know that I’ll get through it and life will go on.  We’ve gained perspective, and as long as we hold onto that perspective, this journey back in time is okay, for the most part. 

But I really could do without the pimples.  Honestly.

Tempting Flying Fate

I just returned from a week in North Carolina.  It was ridiculously lovely weather, and we had a great time.  Since Hubby had been there for more than a month with his truck, I planned on flying down and then driving back with him.  Seven hundred sixty-three miles from door to door.  We drove it in eleven hours and fifty-five minutes yesterday.  Last weekend, it took me twenty-two hours to fly there.  Not a misprint, folks.  Half a day to drive.  Nearly a full day to fly.  What’s wrong with this picture? 

“Traveling adventures” are drawn to me like moths to the light.  Think of something that can go wrong, and it surely will when I’m flying.  Missed connections.  Freak storms.  Presidential visits that close down airports.  More freak storms.  Getting to Boston from Kansas City via Minneapolis.  Did I mention freak storms?

But it wasn’t an act of God that waylaid me last week.  It was a brutal combination of mechanical problems and holiday travel.  And, most importantly, a jinx.  I jinxed myself.  I knew it as soon as the words were out of my mouth – I invited disaster, and disaster accepted the invitation. 

You know how that works – like when someone says “wow, we’ve painted the whole room without getting a drop of paint on the carpet!”  Jinx!  Within five minutes, you are guaranteed to spill half a can of paint, or drop a loaded paint brush, on the carpet.  “I can’t believe we got the baby to sleep so easily!”  Jinx!  Two minutes later, the little one will be screaming non-stop.  “The last few times we’ve left the dog alone, she’s been great – I think she’s over that anxiety problem she had.”  Jinx!  Half the sofa and most of the door frame will be destroyed when you get home.  And, of course, the ultimate jinx question… “What could possibly go wrong?”  Just dive under your desk when you hear that one – fate will be happy to provide the answers fairly quickly to anyone foolish enough to ask.

So what did I say that stretched a two-stop flight into an ordeal?  While being driven to the airport by a great friend, I mentioned that I had a couple of hours of layover time in both DC and Charlotte, making for a long commute.  That was safe.  And then it happened – before I realized it, I was saying the words “but the good thing about the extra time is that if there are any delays anywhere, I’ll have plenty of time and I won’t have to stress about it.  And the weather’s gorgeous.  Gee, I hope I didn’t just jinx myself!”  So, not only did I invite fate with my bragging about all my spare time, I also said the “j-word” out loud, and laughed.  I can’t believe I was that stupid. 

But I forgot about my carelessness after an easy flight to DC.  I spent a relaxing few hours in the US Airways Club enjoying free coffee and snacks and a great magazine (how does Cher manage to look so hot at our age?).  All was calm.  I leisurely strolled to my gate, priding myself on the wisdom of purchasing that day pass to the Club, and I was looking forward to seeing Hubby after four long, long weeks.  I felt just a slight chill when I saw that the flight was delayed an hour, but I wasn’t too concerned – after all, I had all that buffer time in Charlotte before my next flight.  Still feeling smug, I walked back to the Club room for some more free coffee.  By the time I got there, the flight had been canceled. 

Canceled?!?  What do you mean, canceled?  There’s no weather anywhere.  How can the flight be canceled?  Excuse me, did you just say there are no more flights tonight?  It’s only 7:30 – how can there be no flights to your hub in Charlotte?  Oh, there are flights, just no seats? Thanksgiving travel.  College students.  DC emptying for the week.  Yeah, I get it.  So, first thing in the morning, right?  Excuse me, did you just say I can’t get to Charlotte until tomorrow night?  And can’t get to my final destination until almost midnight tomorrow?  What the hell?!  Okay, how about the next closest airport?  No good.  How about the next one past that?  No good.  How about Raleigh, almost two hours away?  Nope.  But you can get me to Greensboro.  220 miles from Hubby.  And you still can’t get me there until tomorrow morning.  Well, isn’t that special.  The tears mount, but they don’t fall.  No sense crying over something I can’t fight.  And I know the whole mess is my fault for incurring the jinx.

The advantage of being over 50 is that you have a firm understanding of how to tell the difference between things we can change and things we can’t.  May as well make the best of it.  I take my meal voucher to Five Guys at the airport and order up a fabulous cheeseburger with grilled mushrooms and A-1 sauce.  I take it with me to the shuttle that whisks me to the Sheraton Suites in Alexandria, Va.  The burger is still toasty warm after waiting in a long line of Charlotte-bound travelers trying to get rooms. 

My beautiful room at Sheraton Suites in Alexandria, Va. And I deserved it.

And the room is a delight.  A true suite, with a couple of flat-screen TV’s, french doors opening to the fluffy, white, down-comforted bed.  Off go the shoes, on goes the TV, and down goes the best burger in the world.  Lemonade out of the lemon I handed myself.  Morning wake-up call is on time.  Morning flight is on time.  Hubby made the true sacrifice, skipping a golf tournament and driving more than two hours to be there as I walk off the plane in Greensboro at 9:30.  We take a leisurely drive across half the state to our NC house, with a stop for breakfast.  At long last, I reach my destination. 

And the trip home to NY yesterday?  In a four-wheeled vehicle on America’s highways?  We pulled out of the driveway in NC right at 5AM.  At 4:55PM, we pulled into our garage in NY.  Two gas stops and a couple of rest area stops to change drivers.  No hassles.  Minimal construction.  No traffic to speak of.  Great weather.  Why?  Because I was smart enough not to say anything stupid before we left that might have jinxed us.  Lesson learned, mouth wisely shut (for now).

Boys and Their Toys

Zero-turn mower (no, that's not my house in the background!) {photo: Joseph Barillari}

What is it with men and power equipment?  Have Ryobi power drills replaced swords and spears as symbols of a man’s prowess?  Do men think women are impressed when they wield a “saws-all” and cut a hole through a wall?  And you gotta love the way they swoop in when they see a woman trying to use power tools.  “Oh, let me get that, honey.”  “Honey, you’re not holding it right – let me take it.”  “You’ll never get it done that way – let me do it.” 

In fact, most wives learn pretty early on that the easiest way to get our husbands to do something that’s been on our “honey-do list” for days (weeks, months, years) is to grab a power tool ourselves and fire it up while they’re nearby.  Oh, there may be a curse word or two, but trust me, in the end, the job will be completed…by the husband. 

Disclaimer:  My own Hubby is sometimes conflicted in how to balance our roles, but to his credit, he usually falls on the more enlightened side of things.  Some of my sweeping generalities here are based on other guys I’ve known in the past or have worked with, and other womens’ husbands.  My own beloved at least tries to let me do things on my own, but he still gets twitchy when I grab the Ryobi. 

I don’t think for a minute that guys grab tools away from us because they’re all that concerned for our safety (although, I must admit, I can’t be trusted with any sharp objects, and Hubby knows it).  I just don’t think they want us to learn how much fun they are.

I lived alone for more than fifteen years, including ten years on my own horse farm (with a house that was a hundred years old).  So I had to learn how to make a few basic repairs.  Simple little things like…patching the roof, snaking the pipes, fixing the toilet, thawing out the sump pump, driving a farm tractor older than I was, bailing water out of the basement by hand…just a few little things every girl dreams of doing someday.  So Hubby took on a wife who didn’t expect him to fix everything, and a wife who had her own opinions on how to fix things.  That has occasionally led to some….uh….stress, but overall it’s been a successful match in handling day-to-day tasks.  He refers to my occasional proclamations of “I can do it myself” as my “I am woman, hear me roar” moments, but I think he quietly appreciates that we share the workload.

I’m not in love with running the snow blower, but I can certainly do it when he’s not around.  I’ll bundle up in twenty layers, and I’ll waddle into the garage and open the door.  I spend a few seconds staring at the snow-covered driveway in annoyance.  I’ll push the choke three times and start hauling away on the pull-start rope.  If it doesn’t start on the first pull, I’ll warm the air with a few four-letter words.  If it doesn’t start on the second, I’ll graduate to 5- and 7-letter words, because I know I’ve only got one pull left in me.  But once that sucker starts, I’m off!  Our driveway is three cars wide and 90 feet long.  It’s a bear to clear, but I can do it.  When I’m done, I’m tired, and aching, and usually still annoyed, but I also have a sense of accomplishment and independence that feels pretty good. 

And maybe that’s what guys love about their power tools.  They really do make you feel powerful.  That’s their little secret.  That’s why they snatch them out of our hands so quickly.  It’s not about the operator, it’s about the machine.

I discovered this recently when I finally learned how to drive the “man-machine”, which is what I’ve dubbed Hubby’s new zero-turn lawn mower.  I could drive any lawn tractor around, and I’ve had some doozies, including a big old clunker on my farm that I bought at a garage sale – it would smoke and backfire regularly, but it got me through my last couple years of farm life (before I came to my senses and sold the farm and tractor).  I was even okay driving a 1950 farm tractor and operating the bucket loader on the front.  But just because I could do it didn’t mean I loved doing it, and I was more than happy to let Hubby take over the lawn duties once we settled in suburbia.  And as long as we had a lawn tractor, even the one with the big 4-foot mower, I knew I could help out in a pinch. 

And then he got the man-machine this year.  Hubby coveted this mower for three years, because he drove one at the golf course where he worked part-time.  You sit in front of the engine, not behind it.  And you sit directly over and slightly behind the mower.  No steering wheels here – these things drive with two handles/levers/arms that operate independently of each other.  That means if you pull the left lever back, you turn left.  If you pull the left lever back, and push the right lever forward, you turn left really fast!!!  I’m talkin’ throw-you-off-the-machine fast.  The least little movement on those levers, and you are careening into the garage wall, or the car, or over the top of that little maple tree behind the shed.  Hubby is a zero-turn master.  Me…not so much.  I was more than happy to let that be a man-job.  Until we realized that I would have to mow the lawn at least a couple times while he was out of town this fall.  Uh-oh.

Hubby gave me an impatient lesson last week (I didn’t come that close to hitting the car on my way out of the garage).  I tried to ignore his protests and shouted suggestions and anguished expressions as I ran zigzags around the yard.  You see, I was thinking the man-machine needed a man’s firm hand to steer it.  Imagine my surprise when I learned that the key was subtlety.  A light hand on the steering levers allowed you to move around the yard with ease.  Push them forward together, and you go faster – cool.  After a few herky-jerky attempts to mow around some shrubbery without mowing it down (Hubby’s face was priceless!), I figured out the man-machine.  And I liked it.  The neighbors were watching me, and that must have been admiration I saw in their eyes as I wheeled around and spun that mower in a (relatively) tight circle to head back the other direction.  I felt awesome!

I now know the secret of men and their toys.  The toys are fun!!  And the toys are cool!!  And they don’t really require any special “manly” skills.  Okay, men have got more practice running drills and operating zero-turn mowers than we do.  And they often have more upper arm strength to hold that power tool and its heavy detachable battery pack steadier than we can.  But the reason men love those toys is because they get a heady sense of power and accomplishment from using them.  Women should give it a try more often.  And if by chance you don’t like it, just act like you’re going to drop the tool, or bump it up against the wall, or tell him you think you stripped a screw.  He’s sure to grab the power tools away from you with a tsk-tsk and take over the task.  And he’ll be thrilled to have his toys all back to himself again.

Losing My Mind, and My Keys, and My Cell Phone, and…

A NORMAL DAY

This was the path I took one typical June Sunday afternoon.  After enjoying a beer (hey – it was only 55 calories!), I stood to take the empty bottle out to the garage to the bin for returnables.  As I stood, I remembered that I needed to iron clothes for work on Monday.  I carried the beer bottle into the bedroom and set it down (just for a minute).  I set up the ironing board, and got the iron from the walk-in closet.  While in the closet, I stopped to organize some of my shoes.  Back in the bedroom, I noticed the steam iron was low on water.  So I headed to the kitchen for the little measuring pitcher I use for the iron.  While there, I remembered the dishes in the dishwasher were clean, so I started unloading it.  The coffee pot was sitting right there, so I got that set up for the next morning.   I grabbed the empty beer bottle from the counter and took it out to the garage.  While in the garage, I grabbed a fresh roll of paper towels for the kitchen.  When I finally got back to the bedroom, I had the iron in my hand before I realized that I’d never gotten the water for it.  On my way back to the kitchen, I figured I may as well fire up the computer as I was walking by.  I got to the kitchen, and stood there for a few seconds before I remembered what I was there for – water for the iron.  I filled the pitcher, went back to the bedroom, filled the iron, then decided I should pull the bedspread off the bed and fold it up.  Once that was done, I ironed pants and a shirt for Monday.  After hanging them up and turning off the iron, I closed the blinds in the bedroom and headed out to the computer.  About 20 minutes later, I needed to use the master bathroom.  Walking back through the bedroom, I noticed something shiny on the nightstand.  It was my empty beer bottle (the one I’d removed from the kitchen was my husband’s).  The item I originally wanted to put into the returnable bin hadn’t made it past my first pit stop.  I’d never completed my original mission, although I finished a number of unrelated odd jobs in the meantime. 

A remarkable story?  Hardly.  Outrageously funny?  Not so much.  But this type of scattered, fractured journey happens to me all the time.  Every. Single. Day. 

I can have keys in my hand one minute, and literally lose them the next.  I’ve become a master at retracing my steps – out of necessity.  When I reach for something and it’s not where it belongs, I automatically reverse my steps and check everywhere I’ve been.  When the logical places don’t pan out, I start looking in the stupid places.  Did I set the keys under the sink while looking for dishwashing liquid?  Did I drop them in the trash when I threw away that tissue?  Are they still in the door?  In the car?  It’s absolutely maddening.

THE WILD SEARCH

Just a few weeks ago, I lost my leather cell phone case, within no more than an hour of removing my Blackberry from it.  I’d already been looking for my favorite Red Sox ball cap, so now I was hunting for two items that seemingly vanished off the face of the earth while inside our home.  I brought my husband into the hunt, and we tore the place apart.  Logical places.  Silly places.  Under the bed.  Under the sofa.  Behind the cushions.  Dresser drawers.  Bookcases.  Suitcases.  Cars.  Basement.  I was seriously wondering if some mad man was breaking into our home and stealing stupid things just to drive me crazy.  After an hour, I suspended the search in frustration (and the firm belief that if you stop looking for something, you’ll usually find it).

Days went by, and I really wanted that ball cap (the cell phone case was replaceable if necessary).  Wondering if maybe I’d rolled the hat up and stuffed it in a jacket pocket (not something I normally do, but I was getting desperate), I started working my way through the coat closet.  On my fifth or sixth jacket…SUCCESS!  I found it!  Well, not exactly.  It wasn’t the ball cap I discovered in a pocket.  It was the missing cell phone case.  The hat was still nowhere to be found.  But the next day, the errant ball cap showed up.  At the bottom of the dirty clothes hamper, located as I went to do laundry.  Don’t ask.  Oh, okay, I’ll tell you – I’d set it on top of the washer, and apparently a vigorous spin cycle vibrated it off and into the hamper.

You know the dogs in the movie “UP!”?  Well, that’s me.  Deep in thought or conversation, and then, Look!  A squirrel! 

Think I’m exaggerating?  I’ve left this page twice since I started typing an hour ago.  Once to check my email and Facebook, and once to change the TV channel, grab a snack, and then look for the TV remote, which I’d left in the kitchen. 

I’ve always been a bit forgetful and addled (at least three different times in my life I’ve put the milk away in the pantry instead of the refrigerator), but lately it is getting out of control.  As the hormones start doing their 50’s dance, my brain cells are dysfunctioning  at an alarming rate.  Yeah, yeah, I should focus more.  I need to pay attention, write lists, concentrate, avoid distraction, etc., etc., etc.  As if I could remember to do all of that. 

WHY IT’S HAPPENING

A recent fact-filled article in Newsweek by Cynthia Cline (“This is Your Brain.  Aging.”) gave me at least some consolation.  It’s not just me.  We really do lose short term memory as we age.  Scientists have proven that the long, graceful neurons (okay, they didn’t use the word “graceful”…)  are lost as we age – as much as a 45% decrease in short-term memory and the ability to learn and remember new things.  The good news is that we continue to grow the short stubby neurons that control long-term memory.  Funny how everything that happens as we age involves the words short and fat.  That’s why I can remember the red dress I wore to my neighbor’s wedding when I was ten years old, but I can’t remember what I did with the TV remote five minutes ago.  It’s a medical thing.  It’s not my fault!  I wish that made me feel better, but the truth is, I’ll probably forget all about it by sometime next week….

And the worst part of the whole thing?  The remedy.  New studies suggest the best way to improve brain function is not the brain teaser games or crossword puzzles (although they certainly don’t hurt).  No, the best way to improve brain function is the same thing that improves all our other functions – good old-fashioned exercise.  EXERCISE!  Walking, running, working out – vigorous aerobic exercise stimulates the growth of new brain neurons.  No quiet reading and problem-solving for my mind.  No.  I need more exercise to improve my brain.  Terrific.

That’s just perfect.  I’m already battling my body and exercising in my frustrated efforts to lose weight.  Now I have to do even more of it to keep my brain from getting any foggier than it already is.  So fine.  Tomorrow morning I’ll be back at it with the Wii and walking at lunch and Zumba in the evening.  Even if the pounds won’t leave, I can at least be adding something to my body that’s good for me, like some sexy brain neurons.

Now if I could just find the Wii remote.  I’m pretty sure it’s here next to the sofa.  Hey, is that the book I’ve been looking for?  I should sit down and finish reading that, right after I get a drink of water, and then I’ll look for the…wait, what was it I was looking for?   Look!  A squirrel!

Marriage = Work

Happily celebrating Christmas Eve 2009 together

Being married is work.  Hard work.  Rewarding work (usually….).  But work just the same.

I was in love with old Hollywood movies when I was a little girl.  I grew up thinking that people just had to gaze into someone else’s eyes and BAM!  – they were in love.  The bells rang, the music crescendoed, fade to black, all was happy forever after.  Often the moment of love occurred in the middle of some big conflict – “Oh you brute!  You’re an awful man!”  Then the hero would grab the heroine by the shoulders and plant a big kiss on her.  She resisted (just for a moment), then melted into his arms.  Ah…love.  It Happened One Night.  Gone With the Wind.  The Philadelphia Story.  The African Queen, When Harry Met Sally, The Proposal.  It’s apparently a very reliable plot line.

This rosy-hued image of love and marriage was reinforced by the gothic romances I was reading.  As a teenager, it was Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart, where the plucky governess always ended up with the lord of the manor (who was usually a rogue she had to tame).  As I matured, so did the romance novels, and the scenes became a bit more…um…explicit.  No fade-to-black here.  There was a lot of throbbing and pulsating going on.  I made the mistake of offering a fairly tame novel to my mother back then, and she promptly pronounced it to be “smut”.  But that didn’t stop me.  Janet Daily, Katherine Woodiwiss (“A Rose in Winter”…oh, my…), and Jude Deveareaux, whose “A Knight in Shining Armor” is probably the best romance novel ever (or so I thought at the time).  

But I digress….   The point is, all those romances were about the magical qualities of falling in love, and spent very little time looking at the “ever after” part. 

Falling in love is wonderful.  Staying in love is hard work.  As the glow of the early courtship fades and familiarity begins to settle in, a couple needs to decide how they’re going to make it work long-term.  If you don’t figure that out early and commit to it, a marriage can spiral into complacency – the true opposite of love when it comes to relationships. 

Complacency is always lurking at the edges of a marriage.  Let’s face it – once you reach the point where you’re flossing and toe nail clipping in front of each other, it’s easy for passion to take a back seat.  And all those cute little quirks that were so amusing and endearing when you were dating?  Well, eventually they can become downright annoying.  Infuriating, even.  That’s when you need commitment.  When you have to look at your spouse and see what you love about them, beyond the burps and farts and forgetfulness.  There are times when I am shaking in anger at my husband, and he has those same moments with me.  But we work past them.  We talk them out (sometimes loudly, I’ll admit).  But we keep communicating until it’s settled.

Like many marriages, on paper, logically speaking, there’s absolutely no reason our marriage should work.  He’s full of Irish passion and temper.  I’m a quiet WASP.  He charges through life full speed ahead, with a take-no-prisoners attitude about everything.  I’m the worrywart who frets constantly (“what if they don’t like me”  “what if someone gets hurt” “what if we get caught?”).  I can’t bear to break any rules, right down to insisting on following “use this door” signs as if the police are waiting to arrest me if I don’t.  He lives to break the rules in every way -devil-may-care, live life for the moment.  He’s the ultimate “morning person”, leaping out of bed before dawn, ready to tackle the day.  I am the opposite of “morning person”, crawling out of bed only under duress, and I’ve been known to put the milk away in the pantry and the cereal in the refrigerator.  He won’t hesitate to get in someone’s face for some injustice rendered.  I am mortified at the thought of causing a scene.  He’s loud.  I’m not.  He loves crowds and parties.  I’m happy with a good book and a glass of wine.  I cry at commercials.  He laughs at me while I’m crying.  And yet it works – magically well.

After a certain number of years, good couples (the ones who WORK at it), become not only partners, but each other’s true soul mate.  And more importantly, they become keepers of the secret shared stories. 

Sixteen years ago, shortly after we’d met, my husband and I faced the ultimate test of a new relationship:  assembling an entertainment center from what seemed like 200 pieces of wood and assorted parts that came out a very large box.  We were still “courting” back then, so we were trying to be pleasant.  He was grabbing pieces and putting them together in whatever order he found them in, insisting he didn’t need the directions.  I was fretting over making a mistake, and finally, exasperated, I said through gritted teeth, “Honey, I really think we should follow the instructions they gave us.”  His response?  “Don’t ever call me ‘honey’ in that tone of voice again.”  We stared at each other for a minute, then burst into laughter.  That comment is still one of our touchstones to this day.  If we use the word “Honey” in that exaggerated  tone, it’s a flag that things might be getting tense, and will (usually) lighten the mood – “Honey, I really think you should have taken that last exit….”

That’s just one example, but all good couples have them – those secret stories that can be referred to as a way of setting a current event into perspective.  A word.  A touch.  A look.  The secret language of experience for the couples who have figured out how to navigate the paths of relationship-building.  No one but my husband and I knows why saying the word “woof” can end a heated debate with a smile.  That’s our secret.  And those secrets are precious. 

Every anniversary, we celebrate another year of shared stories, fiery debates, daily laughter, family joys and sorrows, changing waistlines, career challenges, money made and money lost, evening walks hand-in-hand, and cuddles in bed.  We know each other’s faults and gifts in detail.  We have made a commitment to be partners in spite of or because of them.  Hardly a week goes by that one of us doesn’t look at the other and say “we are so fortunate”.   At the end of the day, it’s his smile, laughter and love that are my life support. 

Fourteen years ago today we exchanged our vows on a warm Sunday afternoon.  Whew.  What a ride it’s been so far!  All that work paid off.  I can’t wait to see what the next fourteen years (and more) bring our way.  Happy anniversary, my love.

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