Aging Ungracefully–Again

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Apologies (again) to those of you who have already read this.  My connection to Facebook appears to be working again, and since my newsfeed is crammed with so-called anti-aging tips, I really wanted to get this on FB, where sometimes people share it. 😬

 

For Baby Boomers aging has become a process of lowering our standards for physical beauty. The great thing is, because we need reading glasses, we no longer see well enough to judge imperfections like scary neck or terminal crows feet. Personally, I like to choose one sign of aging to obsess about: in my case it’s the lines from the corners of my lips to the end of my face that make me look like an Eastern mystic–unless I’m smiling. This keeps me from other realizations, like scary, baggy eyes, and also allows me to contemplate solutions. I could have a synthetic filler shot into my face (maybe) or I can just smile incessantly. Lately my friends have been talking about the lifestyle lift and a couple of women I know have had one. My husband has exes and relatives who’ve had life style lifts and if he offers to pay for one for me one more time, I’ll have to schedule mine while I’m out on bail.

Not that I wouldn’t have one if it didn’t mean I couldn’t move my head or talk for a week. The women I know who have had one look great and in the case of my sister-in-law, who is two months older than I am, the result is amazing. Even though she looks 20 years younger, I still like her. And she has a lot going for her genetically. She’s a petite vegan who doesn’t smoke or drink alcohol, has never had children, and takes excellent care of herself. Well, if that’s all you have to do to look 42 instead of 62, I guess I need a time machine and different parents.

On the other hand, I was recently in a Houston airport and had the opportunity to see a group of women returning to Texas from Southern California. All of them sported the wind tunnel mouths that announce a recent and serious facelift. They had high, high cheekbones, eyebrows expressing permanent surprise, and pointy little chins. Still they looked happy or maybe it was just the upward stretch of their mouths.

There are so many things you promise yourself when you’re young and foolish. “I’ll never pressure my children, camp in an RV, dye my hair, buy a station wagon (an SUV by another name).” You tell yourself that you will age gracefully–ha! Do I have to confess that I drove my SUV to the dermatologist to “get work done?” And how can I claim to be sporting 100% original equipment when I have fake nails and tattooed eyebrows? I resisted the eyebrow tattoos until the morning I noticed the middle section of my left eyebrow was gone. Gone. I’ve also surrendered to the magic, retinol based potions that will firm, brighten, and tighten my skin. Since all beauty regimens are designed to be done before bed, I often skip mine in favor of binge watching Netflix or an Amazon series. And then I’m too tired to be beautiful.

I could give you a list of women who swore they would never have plastic surgery who have yielded to the collective desire to look good. Of course what looking good means is subjective. I obsess about certain lines on my face while someone else may focus on her neck or good old mid-drift bulge. I just don’t look lower than my face. And let me say this phenomenon is not limited to women. Oh no, men are also riding the youth train.

One thing I’ve noticed is that friends who are 10-15 younger than I are already investing in Botox. This would seem absurd except that my dermatologist told me that women should start Botox in their 40’s, fillers in their 50’s, and have lifts in their 60’s. Maybe they just take us out and shoot us when we hit 70.

All of this makes me realize it’s probably too late for me to artificially turn back time. Probably. Still the next time you see me I hope you’ll notice my extra long eyelashes and perpetual smile.

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Aging Ungracefully #whendidigetsoold?

Apologies to my wordpress readers; I’m going to repost this since it didn’t connect with FB and that’s where my other 8 readers are. 😏

For Baby Boomers aging has become a process of lowering our standards for physical beauty. The great thing is, because we need reading glasses, we no longer see well enough to judge imperfections like scary neck or terminal crows feet. Personally, I like to choose one sign of aging to obsess about: in my case it’s the lines from the corners of my lips to the end of my face that make me look like an Eastern mystic–unless I’m smiling. This keeps me from other realizations, like scary, baggy eyes, and also allows me to contemplate solutions. I could have a synthetic filler shot into my face (maybe) or I can just smile incessantly. Lately my friends have been talking about the lifestyle lift and a couple of women I know have had one. My husband has exes and relatives who’ve had life style lifts and if he offers to pay for one for me one more time, I’ll have to schedule mine while I’m out on bail.

Not that I wouldn’t have one if it didn’t mean I couldn’t move my head or talk for a week. The women I know who have had one look great and in the case of my sister-in-law, who is two months older than I am, the result is amazing. Even though she looks 20 years younger, I still like her. And she has a lot going for her genetically. She’s a petite vegan who doesn’t smoke or drink alcohol, has never had children, and takes excellent care of herself. Well, if that’s all you have to do to look 42 instead of 62, I guess I need a time machine and different parents.

On the other hand, I was recently in a Houston airport and had the opportunity to see a group of women returning to Texas from Southern California. All of them sported the wind tunnel mouths that announce a recent and serious facelift. They had high, high cheekbones, eyebrows expressing permanent surprise, and pointy little chins. Still they looked happy or maybe it was just the upward stretch of their mouths.

There are so many things you promise yourself when you’re young and foolish. “I’ll never pressure my children, camp in an RV, dye my hair, buy a station wagon (an SUV by another name).” You tell yourself that you will age gracefully–ha! Do I have to confess that I drove my SUV to the dermatologist to “get work done?” And how can I claim to be sporting 100% original equipment when I have fake nails and tattooed eyebrows? I resisted the eyebrow tattoos until the morning I noticed the middle section of my left eyebrow was gone. Gone. I’ve also surrendered to the magic, retinol based potions that will firm, brighten, and tighten my skin. Since all beauty regimens are designed to be done before bed, I often skip mine in favor of binge watching Netflix or an Amazon series. And then I’m too tired to be beautiful.

I could give you a list of women who swore they would never have plastic surgery who have yielded to the collective desire to look good. Of course what looking good means is subjective. I obsess about certain lines on my face while someone else may focus on her neck or good old mid-drift bulge. I just don’t look lower than my face. And let me say this phenomenon is not limited to women. Oh no, men are also riding the youth train.

One thing I’ve noticed is that friends who are 10-15 younger than I are already investing in Botox. This would seem absurd except that my dermatologist told me that women should start Botox in their 40’s, fillers in their 50’s, and have lifts in their 60’s. Maybe they just take us out and shoot us when we hit 70.

All of this makes me realize it’s probably too late for me to artificially turn back time. Probably. Still the next time you see me I hope you’ll notice my extra long eyelashes and perpetual smile.

Dog and the City

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As part of our odyssey in San Francisco, the little dog has had to adjust to life in the big city. This means expanding her willingness to pee on basically any outdoor surface. SF is a dog friendly city and it’s rare to walk anywhere without encountering canine friends. Fiona is not really a dog person. When our grand-dog Hudson is around she favors me with pained looks that clearly ask who let the dog in. On SF sidewalks she approaches other dogs with deceptive shyness, ducking her head and wagging her tail, but she doesn’t mean it. If another dog invades her space she growls in a way that sounds really mean and a little crazy. Most of the dogs we encounter look surprised, and dismiss Fiona with an expression of tolerance. Unless the other dog is small. Then it’s a case of diva meets diva and the metaphorical gloves are off the paws. After mutual mean girl growling and obligatory butt sniffing, the dogs back off, nod austerely and go their separate ways, confident each has cowed the other.

None of this acknowledges the stress that changing residences has on Fiona. Or me for that matter. For instance, grocery shopping is even less fun than usual. There’s nothing like driving around for 20+ minutes, finally finding a parking space, and then enduring the visual onslaught of shopping at Whole Foods. Somehow we left that fancy store without the bone-in, skin-on chicken I needed for a recipe or the saffron which came with an easy payment plan. Whole foods don’t carry no high fat, low class chicken, no indeed. This experience and the resulting cost at check out- $45 for half a pound of Spanish cheese, La Croix sparking water, a dozen tulips (only $6) and some olive bar olives– was not as traumatizing a the trip to the Safeway close to where Mike gets treatment. I’ve never been in a grocery store where the toothpaste and q-tips are under lock and key and require concierge-clerk services to access. We got out of there pretty quick and, as usual, without everything we needed. We had better luck at Trader Joe’s where parking was relatively easy and the presence of familiar items was soothing. The embargo on chicken with bones and skin continued but the saffron was affordable.

Basically every expedition that involves our car is stressful. And that brings me to parking in the underground garage at the flat we are renting for two months. This gorgeous three story Victorian was a single family home at the turn of the 20th century. Now it’s three spacious condominiums in a lovely, quiet and very clean street in lower Pacific Heights. Pacific Heights proper is for the uber rich baby boomers like Diane Feinstein and Nancy Pilosi and (in the past) romance writer Danielle Steele. I imagine our place once housed a wealthy businessman, his wife, seven children, four servants (cook, maid, nanny, and valet), and a poor relation or two who helped with the children. The area under street level probably initially held a carriage with horses stabled nearby. Whatever the original intent for the space was, it was never intended to house three vehicles. The first weekend I stayed here, Mike was in Redding so I rented Enterprise’s smallest compact (a Corolla) and wished a smart car or a meter made cart had been available. With a pounding heart I pulled in, next to the ubiquitous gray Prius ( they are literally everywhere) belonging to the second floor couple. Getting out involved moving the mirror on the neighbor’s car and edging out, pulling up (don’t hit the bike in front of you), turning the wheel slightly (don’t scrape the shelf of paint cans) and jockeying back and forth until finally behind the Mercedes owned by the couple on the top floor. Then all I had to do is back straight out. And not scrape the wall (so pull in both mirrors) or hit the bush just outside the garage or gun the engine too much to get up to street level and shoot across the sidewalk into the street. Every time I see someone backing out of a garage in SF I watch. All of them are narrow, dark, and scary and I see lots of people edging out as I do. The truly brave or crazy back into their garages. Insane.

So all of this shows me that contrary to my fantasy of myself as natural born city dweller, I’m truly a suburbanite. I guess playing in the dirt with the Spanish kids in Zaragoza when I was five didn’t really make me a savvy urbanite. Still, for years, this fantasy of being someone whose ideal milieu was the big city has persisted. And I admit I love mornings like this where I walk the Little Girl to the patisserie and leave her tied up outside while I purchase scones and croissants. Fiona, however, doesn’t enjoy waiting for me and seemed pretty anxious by the time the three people in front of me spent an inordinate amount of time deciding which pastry to buy. “That one, no the one to the right, I mean left,” etc. For a city nationally ranked 7th for worst (impatient speeders) drivers, there are certain rites where lallygagging is expected. This is a town where everyone is a gourmand so all food-based decisions are approached with solemnity and caution. It is not unusual to hear a server breaking down a dish into each ingredient and then assuring the patron that yes, the sauce can come on the side, the pasta will most certainly be al dente, and no meat product will come within hailing distance of the quinoa. In other words, everybody is Meg Ryan.

Nowadays, Fiona and I walk Mike to a UCSF facility 6 blocks away and watch him board the shuttle for Mission Bay where he will receive radiation therapy. The little dog does not like this and stands on her hind legs, straining to see Mike as he disappears. Fiona also doesn’t care for the wind, but she’s adjusting. We all are. And in a few more weeks this medical odyssey will be behind Mike and we can go home where the little dog can access her safe place under the bed.

No More Hardwood Floors #prettysurethisisdogabuse#saveme

 

I recently read, well listened to, a young adult novel that was kind of a mystery, kind of a coming out story and totally unbelievable. The 15 year old narrator had the vocabulary of an Austen scholar and the insight of a licensed therapist. Somehow the first person narrator was also omniscient and able to divine the thoughts of everyone around him and reveal them through dialogue. So I wondered if I could peek into Fiona’s mind and give voice to her thoughts as we once again move her to a totally different environment. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t understand that Mike’s treatment for prostate cancer at UCSF is why we temporarily live in a lovely Victorian flat in Pacific Heights.

Mike and I “moved” in last week and then he went home to Redding to sit on a scholarship committee and pick up the little dog. So on Sunday they arrived after what must’ve been a 5 hour journey with many potty stops and breaks for refreshment (coffee and dog treats). Fiona loves riding in the car and slides into a Zen state where the journey, not the destination, is the purpose. So she often arrives looking dazed. This time, as she gazed down the long hall, she also looked irritated.

Planting herself on one of the runners, Fiona made her displeasure known. And here is where the reason she blatantly prefers Mike becomes clear. I walked her, okay pulled her, down the hall still on her leash past the gorgeous living room and into our bedroom where I had thoughtfully placed her favorite blanket on the bed. She glared at me. Then I placed her on the end of another runner, went into the family room and called her from about 6 feet away (she could see me). Her frown deepened and her glare intensified. I cajoled, offering high value treats. Her upper lip curled. At this point Mike appeared and picked her up and carried her around showing her the amenities.

“See, Fiona, there’s a little back yard where you can be outside.” No response. “Your bed is here and we brought your favorite toys.” Please. ” How about a piece of cheese?” Now we’re talking.

Cheese is her favorite food and being carried around like a princess is acceptable. That of course accounts for her smug expression and her clear message to me: I win.

Pouting, whining and sulking commenced but eventually I got over it and started devising methods to help Fiona overcome her distaste for hardwood floors. When her transport (Mike) is out, she has to walk on her own. Her always suspicious Yorkie eyes narrow and she refuses to look at me when we pass. She has been known to sit by the front door for more than an hour waiting for someone she can manipulate. That someone being my softie husband. Most of the time he succumbs to her pathetic “I am a friendless and destitute dog being left behind with a madwoman” look and takes her with him.

But I have my ways. If I act like she’s invisible, Fiona will make her presence felt. The desirable method is sitting on or beside me and acting like a cute little dog. Unacceptable methods include moaning by the door and barking incessantly at a perceived problem. Sometimes she takes exception to something out of place like a grocery bag that shouldn’t, in her opinion, be on the counter. Barking and whining interspersed with meaningful looks and licking of lips indicate she is hungry. Sneaking down the hall and hanging silently around the front door is a sign she needs a potty break. Go figure. While these may not be deliberate choices designed to drive me crazy I have my doubts. But we are both adjusting to the change in our circumstances, some of us more gracefully than others….

Da Blues #abriefinterludeforself-pity


Everything should be upbeat. We have the great flat in San Francisco–Pacific Heights for goodness sakes. We have the great physician at UCSF–he told us himself that his team is the best in the world. Everything at home is handled: mail, paper, plants, and upkeep (gardening, cleaning). Mike’s daughter is thrilled we will be in the city for two months. Max is planning to visit. It’s all good. Really.

And then: the reality of driving to yesterday UCSF for Mike’s radiation. The unease of living in a stranger’s home. Knowing that for the first time my damn peonies are producing flowers and I’m missing it. Wishing none of this was happening and knowing how fortunate we are to access these wonders—world class medical treatment, the support of family and friends, and the delights and distractions of my favorite city.

Sometimes I need to hunker down (briefly) in misery, to eat licorice and drink wine, preferably in bed. It’s not a wonderful combination but I will say that Chardonnay holds up best with soft, black licorice. Sometimes I need to read chick lit and not make dinner. Sometimes Mike and I need to wander around Noe Valley without purpose or plan, come back to the demanding little dog, and take naps, all three of us.

Tomorrow I will make Fiona walk a few miles even if it’s rainy or cold. I will cook tasty, nutritious meals. I will wash my hair and I will not make Mike watch The Voice with me.

Requiem

“A good man is a friend to all living things.”…..Gandhi

Yesterday I was alone, enjoying the opportunity to reflect on the loss of a former student that I deeply admired; today I was with 100+ people celebrating the life of Carlos Pineda and mourning his death. Fittingly, today was also Earth Day as Carlos was a visionary environmentalist and leader. The many tributes from those who were present and those who sent messages included personal stories and professional accolades. What struck me was that everyone who spoke experienced Carlos in a singular way. Yes, there was universal recognition of his kindness, brilliance, humor, passion, loyalty, and creativity. And all of us knew him to be driven toward solutions in a way that transcended convention and boundaries. But we all had our separate experience of Carlos. And perhaps it is that which was his greatest gift.

I was privileged to hear recollections that spanned his life from Carlos’s family and friends. The four year old who decided to be superman is not far removed from the man who brought a community of like-minded professionals first to a conference at Yale and then to their feet in a spontaneous and sustained ovation. Carlos was a friend who literally and metaphorically embraced those he cared about and he cared about many. While nothing I heard today surprised me, everything I heard moved me.

I’m not alone in missing Carlos and railing against the disease that took him away from his wife, family and friends far too soon. He leaves us bereft but inspired, committed to bring his spirit into our own actions. Even in death, Carlos leads.

The Last Dance #feetdontfailmenow

Day 407 (JK)

So after our luxury night in beautiful Barstow (hotel with walls thick enough to block wind sounds), we headed for a final night in an RV park in Manteca. The plan was to get in fairly early and do some of the cleaning and prep necessary before taking the fifth wheel to B&B repair. That was the plan.

Around 4:00 Mike announced that he wasn’t tired and why didn’t we drive all the way home? Okay. Somehow we missed most of the Sacramento traffic–all the fender benders were in the south- bound lanes and no wind or rain slowed us down. Yes, the gods of RV travel were with us.

Until two miles from home. When at a stoplight a young woman in the car next to us signaled that Mike should roll his window down. Then she told us that the spare tire had fallen off the fifth wheel during our last turn. We circled back and found the slightly banged up tire leaning against a tree where a good soul had rolled it off the road. It was a night for good Samaritans as just when Mike was contemplating the weight of the tire and the height of the truck bed, a man approached and asked him for 40 cents. I know, weird amount. Anyway, the man hoisted the tire into the truck bed and Mike gave him $5. Smiles all around.

In the morning light we could see how the bolt holding the tire clasp thingy (don’t want to get too technical here) had worked its way through the hole. It says something about this trip and its effect on us that we weren’t upset, just grateful the tire hadn’t escaped on a freeway and caused an accident. The rest of that day we unloaded, cleaned, put stuff away and readied the trailer for its cosmetic overhaul. Which will not happen until June because getting new skirting from the factory doesn’t happen fast. And let’s be honest, this is a 2017 fifth wheel and spare skirting isn’t exactly piling up at the factory.

But it’s all good. We made it home, we didn’t kill anyone with our tire, and the little dog was able to increase mastery over her people.

 

 

 

Note to be former students: I KNOW I am writing fragments and run-on sentences. That’s called literary license. You’re welcome.

Keep on Driving #isthereanotheroption

I never thought I would long for a night in a campground, even in our fancy fifth wheel, but a night spent in a sleazy freeway motel in Flagstaff changed that. We decided to stay in a motel so that we could get an early start and not have to deal with freezing temperatures. Our choices are limited because we need a place that will provide RV parking and tolerate the little dog. Yesterday we found one motel–let’s call it a Super 7.

It probably wasn’t a great idea to read the Trip Advisor reviews, but I’m a loyal reviewer and reader. In fact, if I write one more review I may move into the top 10% of reviewers…in Redding.  But I digress. The reviews were not encouraging; remarks like “you get what you pay for” and “I was afraid of the bedspreads” did not inspire confidence. For my part, I ripped those bedspreads right off the beds as soon as I walked into the room.

The three of us have “go bags”–just the necessities for a night out of the RV. My bag has enough clothes so that I have a choice the next day, toiletries, jewelry, extra shoes– not that much. Fiona’s bag has her blue blanket, food, bowls, a brush, toys, and a change of harness. Mike put underwear, socks and toiletries in my bag when I wasn’t looking. Leaving the high maintenance dog out of the equation, I think the difference between Mike’s and my go bags is telling.

Let’s start with this: Mike found the Super 7 perfectly acceptable. It had a tv, a bed for him and the little dog and another bed for me. And as a bonus, there was a Cracker Barrel next door. Once I’d removed the bedspreads, I was okay with the beds. And frankly, I enjoy the occasional nights when Mike is the sole recipient of Fiona’s quirks. (All I’m saying is never touch her tail while she’s sleeping.) Besides the scarred bathtub and interesting carpet, not to mention the scarily skinny guy at the front desk, I considered the presence of the Cracker Barrel to be a minus. However, we are mature and experienced married people.

Mike happily took himself off to CB for a comfort food dinner, which I’m sure involved mashed potatoes. Meanwhile I ate artisan cheeses from the Santa Fe farmers market with apple slices, crackers, and an unpretentious and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc. 😏 The best part is that Mike felt sorry for me.

Today we left our altitude headaches behind in Flagstaff and drove through the good, the bad, and the ugly of Arizona. I was hoping to see some desert bloom; mostly I saw a parched landscape and occasional bursts of cactus flower color. And of course there was the wind, the wind that has plagued us since Michigan. We started calling Barstow RV parks but all were full. Of course that raises the question, why the hell are all these people camping in Barstow? Around that time, the ever present wind picked up, 29 mph of head wind. We were tired and talked ourselves into another night in a hotel.

We drove by our motel, where we had been assured there was ample RV parking in the large lot. And we kept on driving. Maybe it was the 6 spaces at the front and no visible parking on the sides. Maybe it was the post bombing look of the concrete building or the tiny, dirty door to the lobby. For me it was that this motel looked worse than the Super 7 from last night.

We drove on and Mike pulled into a large empty lot that happened to be in front of a nice hotel. I didn’t think we had a chance but they let us park and bring our dog and go bags into the clean and pleasant room I am currently writing in. Yes we lost the fee for the other place. I made a half-hearted attempt to reach the service who had booked us into a hellhole. When I finally worked my way through the labyrinthine automated choices to an actual person, the call started cutting out. Suspicious since I wasn’t moving at the time. But I’m not complaining: I’m warm, I can’t hear the wind, and there’s not a Cracker Barrel in sight.

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A Nice Day #stopworryingabout us

Today was nice: no one was injured, not even the fifth wheel; the wind stopped and the sun shone, and we made it to Santa Fe an hour before the Farmer’s Market closed. Getting up and out of the RV and on the road is harder than it should be. There’s something about a cozy space that slows down movement and requires extra cups of coffee. Still, we drove the rental car up (literally) highway 25 and it was a relief to be in a Camry instead of a Laramie. Unlike yesterday when everything was difficult and time-consuming, today just flowed.

As I write this, I’m eating part of a delicious cardamom/cinnamon roll from the farmer’s market, drinking an adequate rosé (purchased in Nashville) and trying to ignore the game. The Ducks are beating the Jayhawks, which will wipe me off the face of the family March Madness list. Is it petty that I do not care that the Ducks haven’t won the NCAA championship in 80 years? Perhaps.

Today I was able to do all the shopping my little consumer heart could desire. I like to shop but I really don’t want any more stuff so I tend to buy gifts and then save them for birthdays, weddings, etc. Mike and I bought spices, jams, pastries, soaps, hand balms, bath salts, and a few pieces of handmade pottery. We tend to give people consumable gifts; seems like most of us have enough tchotchkes already. Mike often buys a mug when we travel and he bought a gorgeous one today. The little dog came along and was a catalyst for several chats with folks on the plaza. One of the vendors whipped out her phone and showed us pictures of her Yorkie, including one that showed her dog having a bad hair day, which looked a lot like Fiona. A young woman from a shop brought us a bag of dog treats. So it’s pretty clear Fiona was in her element and added a few points to the plus side of her scorecard.

Then we went to lunch at the Cowgirl Cafe, mainly because it has an outdoor patio that welcomes well-behaved dogs. We took Fiona anyway. Besides having some great food (an eclectic lunch of arugula/beet/ goat cheese salad, and a combination barbecue plate), we were entertained by a bluesy combo that was tearing it up on the crowded patio. So fun.

After lunch we headed back to Albuquerque stopping in Old Town to pick up souvenirs for the grands and a t-shirt for Max. I usually get my son a t-shirt when I travel and he has an extensive collection mainly because he never throws anything away. I wanted to get him a shirt from the Cowgirl but Mike thought he might not appreciate the girly logo on the back.

All day the weather was perfect–sunny, mild, calm. As we drove into the RV park, the wind picked up and it’s currently beating against the flimsy fifth wheel walls and I’m once again fantasizing about tornadoes. I hope you’ve noticed that my blog posts where all goes well aren’t nearly as amusing as the disaster laden episodes. Never fear, we still have 1200 miles to go before we reach home and hand over the fifth wheel to the folks at B&B RV Repair who already know not to laugh at us.

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