Countdown to 60

Aging on my terms - Daily musings in 500 words or less

Tag: friends (page 1 of 2)

Life Changes – Part one

I didn’t intend to be in another relationship at 20, but there I was living with a man in a tiny home in Bend Oregon. I met Jeffrey in July of 1979 and by the fall of that year we were living together.

It only seemed natural to move my belongings and my cat in with his belongings and his cat. I had a kitten named Jeff when we met and it didn’t take long before my boyfriend’s name became Jeffrey instead of Jeff.

I had a gray cat named Jeff, then I met a man named Jeff Gray

Life was good in that little house at the end of a dead end street. We both worked and had friends and did all of the normal things young couples do. I was happy and what made things even better, was my best friend in the entire world lived just a few towns over.

I’ve written before that my brother Johnny was my best friend since childhood. Nothing change about that as we got older, except that we got even closer. He was always just a call away and I spent most of my days off at his place.

Johnny was in a relationship and even though he was only two years older than me, he was already a Daddy. It must have been hard for his partner LeeAnn, being around Johnny and me. We had such a close bond there were times when we inadvertently excluded those around us by getting caught up in our own conversation.

LeeAnn managed to hold her own though, and once Elizabeth was born, that baby girl was the center of our attention. It was great having my brother so close. Everything was falling into place and I was enjoying life.

My brother with his daughter

I turned 21 on May 10, 1980 and Jeffrey surprised me with a trip to Lake Tahoe to celebrate. We packed up the car and hit the road. I remember sitting in the passenger seat looking out the window watching the tall pine trees go by when all of a sudden I felt a profound sadness wash over me.

Jeffrey said I looked pale and asked if I was okay. I told him yes, but that something bad was going to happen, and there was nothing I could do about it. We didn’t speak anymore of it and continued on with our trip as we both wanted to enjoy our time together.

We arrived back home on Monday after our long weekend, and the first thing I did was call my brother to tell him about our trip. He didn’t answer, but there was no need to leave a message. I knew he would phone me back.

I was a little upset when it took him several days to call me. After all, this was my 21st birthday we were talking about, and I wanted to share it with my brother. We finally spoke the night of the 14th and unlike our usual hour-long conversations this one was short.

Johnny listened to me talk all about our trip and then just said, “I’m glad it was fun sis. Happy birthday. I gotta go.” Then he said goodbye and hung up. I remember looking at the phone after he hung up thinking, “that was weird”. Something didn’t feel right.

(To be continued…)

How I met Jeff

Moving to Oregon in the late ‘70’s turned out to be a lot of fun for me.

Disco was still popular and I would spend most nights dancing my heart out at the discotheque. There seemed to always be something going on in the city, which made it easy to find friends. And I had a great job working for a real estate developer.

Life was good.

Within months I met a woman named Judy, who was older than me and had two young boys. She sort of took me under her wing, and I instantly had a little family to have dinners and hang out with. It was nice for me to have Judy and her boys and I was happy I found her.

My friend Judy and her two boys

I lived in Bend for about a year and a half when I met someone else that would change my life.

One Friday in July, I was getting ready to go out with a new friend, my hairdresser. I enjoyed talking with her during my few visits and when she asked me out, I said sure.

Later that day, as I was home getting ready, another friend of mine dropped by. I was happy to see Richard, and surprised he brought a friend. He introduced me to Jeff and three of us chatted for a bit.

Not thinking much about it, I invited them to join us girls and was looking forward to a fun night out. We all met for dinner, but my new girlfriend was visibly unhappy that I had invited guys.

I was having a great time, but it was awkward because of her clear distain for the boys. I thought things would get better when we decided to go to a club after dinner, but they got worse. She was sure I was trying to set her up on a date, and not happy with me about it.

It didn’t take long before she decided to leave. And as she was leaving, Richard decided to catch a ride from her, leaving Jeff and I alone at the club.

We started talking and I learned that Jeff was a mental health counselor and enjoyed his job. He loved the outdoors, had backpacked through Europe with his guitar, and came from a big family.

He was very interesting and I found myself laughing at his sense of humor. It also didn’t hurt that he was handsome.

We ended up talking for hours that night. Jeff owned a little house in town and we sat outside in his back yard looking at the stars and talking about our lives.

I was surprised when he called the next day and asked if I wanted to go for a drive. And laughed when he said he wanted to take my convertible Triumph Spitfire.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the beginning of a lifetime relationship. I wonder if I would have done anything different had I known how it would all unfold?

Me and my Triumph in 1979                       Countdown to 60 blog, how I met Jeff

Goodbye old house

Not only did we finish our work on the house, but we also accepted an offer on it this weekend. Time to say goodbye to this old house.

While we have no desire to live in the Central Valley, it is still bitter sweet saying goodbye. This is the house where we discovered we were more than friends.

We’ve worked, laughed, sang and even danced together in this house.

I hope the people who are buying it will do the same.

We loved this old house Goodbye old house

Jump in, the water’s fine

The other day I shared a blog post called A Look Inside. I wrote about feeling off that day, and shared that I spent the day trying to understand why. I got a lot of very nice feedback on it, and several people shared some of their off moments with me too.

I like that so many people have commented and shown support. And I’m using several different platforms to share my blog, in hopes to reach people who can either relate, or just find my stories interesting.

I am also learning as I go, which is sort of the point of the blog. You know, reach 60 and be wise, healthy, happy and content. One thing I’m learning is that there is a bias towards sharing one emotion: Happiness.

Happy is a great emotion, and I’m sure for most of us it’s the favorite emotion. And I get that when you express your joy and happiness, it’s contagious. So I was tempted to put on my happy face and only share that side. Like, I better just show happy or people won’t like me.

But that’s not being honest, and I promised myself I would be genuine here. The truth is, I like all of my emotions. I honestly don’t mind feeling hurt or angry or sad.

When my mother died, I pushed my sadness down so far it’s now bubbling just under the surface. I didn’t understand as a kid that having strong emotions was a part of my life. As a woman I know better.

I’ve heard the analogy of the ocean used to describe a woman’s emotions, and I have to agree. My emotions change as quickly as the ocean changes.

I find myself riding a wave of happiness that plasters a ridiculous smile on my face, and I am in pure joy. It is thrilling and wonderful and I love it. I can also find myself in the strongest scariest current of uncertainty and wondering how I’m going to survive.

And then there are the times I’m just floating along contently, with nothing much happening besides enjoying the moment.

I like all of these moments, and wouldn’t give them up for the world. Maybe what I’m saying is I’m okay with jumping in and feeling it all. I don’t want to just float, I want to ride the wave of joy but I also have to work through the current to get there.

And then I get to do it over and over and over again.

Jump in, the water is fine

The road to Oregon – Part two

It may not seem like it, but I like to think of myself as lucky. Leaving Michigan didn’t turned out like I thought it was going to, and finding myself on the cold side of a door wasn’t exactly good fortune. But luck was still on my side as I waited for Jonathan to pick me up.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, in that moment the only thing I had to my name was a suitcase full of clothes and a few keepsakes, a couple of dollars and a phone number of a stranger I had met just hours earlier.

That stranger pulled up and opened the car door and said to hop in. It was 1978 in the Mid-West and yeah, I had hitch hiked before, but this was different. Hitch hiking always scared me, but I didn’t feel worried when I got into that car.

Luck was truly on my side because Jonathan turned out to be one of the kindest people I have known. I had a safe place to stay, food to eat, and a friendship that would last for decades. He listened to all of my stories about growing up in a large family.

One time we were sitting at a diner and after learning I was from Michigan he sang every verse of The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald to me. Right there, sitting at the bar, singing for all of us to hear. Every time I hear that song, I think of those few weeks we shared.

He was only in Springfield for a gig that soon would be up. He was moving on to another city in another state. I had to figure out where I was going next and it seemed to me my only option was to go back home to Hart.

Telling Jonathan, he sensed that I wasn’t happy about that choice. He reminded me of my stories about all my brothers and asked if they all live in Michigan. When I told him my oldest brother lived in Bend, Oregon, he encouraged me to give him a call to see if I could stay there.

Charles was getting a divorce and had custody of his girls, so he was happy to have his 18-year-old sister come help out. He sent me a Greyhound bus ticket and after saying goodbye to Jonathan and promising to always write, I was off to Oregon.

I had been across the country before with family, but traveling by Greyhound was an experience I wasn’t prepared for. Most of the people on the bus were men that seemed to stare at me too long.

It took 48 hours to arrive in Bend and I didn’t sleep one wink on that bus. I was too nervous to fall asleep. By the time I arrived I was disoriented and truly afraid I had made the wrong decision.

Stepping off the bus, I saw my brother. He always had a twinkle in his eyes and a big smile on his face. He gave me a bear hug and said, “Come on sis, there’s a shower and a warm place to sleep for you. Everything is fine now”.

And it was.

My first year in Bend, Oregon

The road to Oregon – Part one

One of the last pictures I have of me in Michigan

I left Michigan for the last time when I was 18. One freezing cold day in February of 1978, I was done. Done with school, done with the weather, done with that small town, and done with a relationship. It was time to move on.

My chance came when a friend was going to Springfield to visit her father and stepmother. She didn’t want to go alone, and asked if I would go with her. I came up with the $86 one-way plane ticket and packed a small yellow suitcase. Before I knew it, we were on a plane bound for Missouri.

We arrived late in the day, and when her father and stepmom picked us up, they were excited to see us. They took us out to celebrate at a restaurant at a Holiday Inn. After dinner a band started playing, and it only took a song or two before we were on the dance floor. I felt like I was a big city girl doing big city things. I felt brave.

We danced to every song and by the time the band was ready for a break, we were chatting with them like they were long lost friends. Most of my friends back home were musicians, and it felt comfortable and natural talking with them. It was easy to strike up a friendship in a matter of minutes.

As the evening wound down and we were ready to leave, one of the band members handed me a note. On it was his name and phone number. I smiled and stuffed it in my pocket and headed home with my girlfriend’s family.

Once inside their home, everything changed. Her stepmother was off to show my friend her room, while her father escorted me to the den, where I was to stay. He closed the door behind us, and looked me straight in the eye and said the only way I was going to be allowed to stay was if I put out.

At first I didn’t realize what he was saying. So I asked, “put out what?”. He said either I was going to put out or get out. The look on his face told me what he meant. I stood there dumbfounded for just a moment and then I walked out the door. Just like that.

The brave feeling I had earlier that evening was gone when I found myself outside in the cold with nothing but a small yellow suitcase to my name. Searching my pockets I found a few dollars and that small piece of paper.

I managed to pull myself together enough to find a phone booth and dial the number that was given to me earlier. I was so relieved when Jonathan answered that call. I stood in the cold waiting for a ride from him, knowing I would never see my friend again.

I had no idea where I was going or what would happen. I just knew, for some reason, I could trust the musician that was on his way to rescue me.

Just the way I am

I started this blog less than a month ago. My intention was to share my story, and to be authentic along the way. I had this sense that I was racing towards 60 and still trying to figure out life. I want to reach that age feeling confident, wiser, and healthy.

So I just began.

But I’ve started things before. January 2016 I started a personal journal, again. This time, I vowed to write in it daily and keep track of my progress towards losing weight and feeling good. I took measurements and pasted photos in it. I got creative with different colored pens and drawings. I envisioned a diary stuffed full of photos and details about my life.

I not only lost weight, but I wrote in my journal daily. But somehow, neither of those things lasted.

When I look back at what I composed, I am beginning to understand why. Most of what I wrote about was what was going on around me. On the outside. I couldn’t even share with myself, in writing, what was going on inside.

I’m not sure I even knew what was going on within. I mean, I’m happy. I have a fun life. I don’t walk around sad or feeling like a victim. So what was the piece I was missing? Why do this? Why share all of these stories?

In these past few weeks, I’ve shared some of my deepest feelings about my life. And there is so much more to tell. As the posts are written, and the publish button hit, I feel a sense of empowerment. Okay, also a sense of fear.

And I bounce between those two emotions. I’m proud of myself for sharing these things, and I’m scared as hell that I did it. Last night I was filled with so much self-doubt, wondering what in the world I was doing. Am I just looking for validation from you?

This morning I got on the scale. I’ve lost 10 pounds. I feel lighter, and not just in weight. I realize I am very grateful for your validation. I am also grateful for the platform to release my fears and expose myself so that I can learn that I’m okay just the way I am.

Thank you.

Just the way I am

The shape of things to come

My husband loves to tell me stories of friends from school, even as far back as kindergarten. I am always amazed he can remember so much from so long ago.

I don’t recall much of my grade school years. Except in second grade, my older brother David had a hearing issue and was held back the prior year, so he was now in second grade with me. He hated that, especially when people would ask if we were twins.

The first day of sixth grade stands out clearly. It was a month after our mom died, and I think I was nervous about getting ready for school without Mom’s help. I’m not sure if my sister fixed my hair, of if I did. I don’t recall what I was wearing.

What I do remember was my classmates and I were mingling around and all of a sudden Jerry Snider was talking to me. Jerry Snider! In my mind, he was one of the popular kids. And I was not.

He came up to me and said, “I saw in the paper that your mom died. I’m sorry.” I just looked at him and couldn’t really speak. Then he said, “You sure have a lot of brothers.” He smiled at me and then just acted like we had always been friends. It was a wonderful way to start sixth grade.

The other memory of that school year wasn’t such a good one. I was doing the best I could to feel normal, even though things weren’t “normal” in my world. We were already the poor family. Now we were the poor kids without a mom. Making friends was challenging for me.

I was getting close to one girl and, honestly I don’t remember her name now. We would play together on the playground, and chat at lunchtime. In my mind, she was my best friend. Until one day in gym class.

We were playing some kind of ball game, and she got mad at me for something I did wrong. She started yelling at me to do it right, and I probably said something stupid back like, “I am!”. That’s when the words came out of her mouth that I will always remember.

She yelled, “You are the reason your mom is dead”. I stood there frozen. How did she know? How did she know I was supposed to be taking care of my mom the week before she died, and I complained about it?

Of course she didn’t know any of those things. Those are just the thoughts that ran through my head. She also didn’t mean it, they were just words that flew from her mouth to get my attention.

But that day changed my feelings about friendships. I know I had a few close girlfriends, but I also kept a distance. I think that made me seem like I wasn’t friendly.

Looking back at old high school photos, most of my friends were guys. Jerry Snider was one of them. It’s interesting to me how experiences from our childhood shape the things to come.

Fun to look back and see photos of dear friends

“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it…”

Looking on-line at other women’s blogs and social media, I’ve noticed that most are about fashion. At first I felt like I usually do – that I don’t fit in, and I should change what I’m doing.

Growing up in a small town in the mid-west, as a poor kid, I never really felt like I fit in anywhere. All the other kids seem to have very different lives than I did. In elementary school, I remember being embarrassed that all of my clothes were handmade.

One day in sixth grade stands out for me as a particularly humiliating day. That morning while getting dressed for school, I thought it would be a good idea to wear panty hose. They were in then, and I wanted to be in too. So I found a pair that was in my mom’s drawer and proudly pulled them on. I felt good, and like a grown up too.

Only I was in elementary school. With recess and a playground. And I was also a tomboy. It didn’t take long before those uncomfortable panty hose had several unsightly runs in them. And, boy did I get teased for that. I remember crouching down behind the side of the building crying, feeling like an ugly duckling.

I didn’t try to be fashionable again until I was in my 30’s. But I never found a style. So I just let it go. I had a farm back then and all I really needed was farm clothes. I remember one time when I was visiting a friend in the city, and she wanted to take me shopping. She said it was time to dress up the farm girl and by the time she was done, I looked pretty good. I felt like I fit in with the women around me.

As those few things wore out, I had no idea what to replace them with, so I went back to my plain farm look. Which apparently was t-shirts that were two sizes too big for me. My best friend finally took me shopping and found several very pretty well fitting tops for me.

Even now when I go clothes shopping, I need her to go with me and help me pick out what looks good. She usually finds things I would never try on my own. And as far as accessories go, I don’t have a clue at all. I think that’s why I still feel like I don’t fit in.

Looking at all the beautiful, fashionable women on line, I thought I should probably gear my blog a little more towards fashion. Then I looked down at what I was wearing and laughed.

I’m going to stick to what I’m doing and remember that I don’t need to wear panty hose again.

 

Shame

Starting a blog like this was not easy. It took me a while to come to terms with the idea of sharing truths and exposing myself. Everyday, I question myself asking, “What gives me the right to think I could do this and that anyone else would care?”

This morning I got a private message from an old high school friend. I do appreciate Facebook for giving me the chance to find old friends and connect on some level. I’ve been following her, and enjoy seeing how happy she is, and love reading what she shares. When I opened up the message, her first words were: “Dear Loretta, I thought I’d send you a private message because your blog hit me right in the heart! Right in the fat. Right on the thighs, ass and tummy! That said, I’d like to tell you MY story!

She went on to tell me about her life and that her first husband was verbally abusive. She was stressed, and unhappy and very thin. I was struck by her story because I didn’t know any of it prior to her message. She is clearly happy now, and it shows. She told me how after she remarried to a loving man, she too gained weight. It was great to read about what she did to get back into shape, and feel good about herself and her body.

But what hit me in the heart, was when she said she has been body shamed for being too thin, and for being built like a boy….

…ouch, I’ve done that 🙁

I have never said anything directly to anyone, but I’ve said it to myself, and others with me. “Wow, that woman has no curves, she looks like a boy”. Unfortunately, there’s probably a list of other shitty things I’ve said, that I could write here. Which really sucks.

Has it become so easy to judge others, that we don’t even realize it when we are doing it? I know my judgment comes from insecurity, so how do I stop it?

My friend said the best thing in her message….she said she has learned to LOVE her body and the way she looks. I know her to be non-judgmental, most likely because she has accepted herself. I better start working on that …

Thank you, my friend, for teaching me a valuable lesson.

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