Countdown to 60

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

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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

Eclipsed by regret

I’ve been accused of having FOMO more than once. You know, Fear of Missing Out? Apparently it’s become such a big deal that it needs its own acronym. I used to take offense to it, thinking I was somehow a bad person because I had it.

I don’t really care anymore. I would rather be accused of having FOMO than regret. Which is where I am today, feeling regret.

Today is August 21, 2017 or as it will go down in history, The Great American Eclipse Day. For the first time in almost 100 years, the US witnessed a total solar eclipse. It was dubbed as a once in a lifetime event, if you could be in the path of totality.

But I wasn’t in that path.

I opted for practical, which is what I am most times. We needed to get work done on our house in order to sell it, and that took priority.

We were lucky enough to catch our 60% eclipse and it was cool. But I still regret missing the experience of the total eclipse.

In thinking about it this afternoon, I realize I’m not as upset about missing the total eclipse as I am about myself. There are times I tend to put focus where it doesn’t belong.

But I know now that my regret today is with me. I’ve been working on losing weight, getting strong, and eating healthy for over a month now.

Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

The truth is I’m putting in about 60%, at best. I’m riding my bike maybe once a week. I eat healthy foods, but then add a glass or two of wine each day, knowing full well it’s not good for me.

So why am I doing that?  Am I just being lazy or do I really not see that I am going to keep getting older and regret that I didn’t do the work it took to stay healthy?

I don’t want to look back and say, “I wish I would have…”. I can’t change that I didn’t make it a priority to experience the total eclipse today, but I can change my priority about my health.

Now I have a fear of missing out on not being the total person I know I can be.

Time to stop the excuses and get on my bike

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

Weekend on…

Another work weekend for us. On ladders, painting, fixing, cleaning!

Working away on the house

Work weekend on the house

We have fun too! Last night we hung out listening to music, singing and laughing. Always fun when music is a part of life. Makes the work light too.

Have a wonderful Saturday!

Can I get a Thumbs Up?

I mentioned before that I’m hard on my right foot and my left hand. I wrote about how I ended up with two screws and a fused joint in my right foot. I should probably explain the left hand thing too.

Almost twenty years ago, I had the unique opportunity of learning the trade of saddle making. I love saying that. How many people do you know have learned the skill of making a saddle, from scratch? It was challenging and fun and I am very proud of that accomplishment.

I used to make saddles

The shop I worked in was where I dropped that five-pound mallet on my right foot, which started the cascade of injuries to that part of my body. It is also the shop where I injured my left thumb.

I was working on a saddle piece, cutting the backing away after I had laminated the front to it. The knife I was using had a rounded blade with the handle in the center. It wasn’t easy to push that blade through the tough lining leather, and I remember positioning my left hand to steady the leather. Only it was right in the path of my blade.

It took a fraction of a second for that blade to slip and slice my left thumb to the bone. It was pretty traumatic and I ended up needing surgery to repair the severed tendons. Reminder to self, don’t do that again.

Years later I started having issues with it. I’m not sure what was going on, but it felt like maybe the repaired tendons were starting to fail. I noticed that my thumb would just start falling away from my hand. It sort of stuck out more than my right thumb.

At the time I was living in Napa and working as an estate caretaker. That was a great job. I got to stay home and pretty much be a “homeowner”. I did everything from cleaning to yard work, and I loved it.

Napa is also where I met John. He loved helping in the yard and pruning trees and clearing the ivy and weeds that wanted to take over the place. We seemed to always have a project or two going.

One Sunday John discovered an irrigation leak. He set out to repair it, and as I was helping I thought if we put stakes around it, that may keep it from breaking again.

I ran back to the house, found some stakes but needed to cut them shorter. I picked up the skill saw that was already out from an earlier project and cut the first one down. I probably should have stopped there.

I held the second one in my left hand and picked up the saw to cut it. The next thing I remember is the burning sensation of my left thumb as I held my hand close to my body and yelled for John.

It’s been an adjustment having just nine fingers (only one of which is a thumb) but it’s who I am now, and I’m learning I don’t need to hide it.

Can I get a thumbs up please?

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

Finding Home

The best thing about moving is you get to start over. No one knows you or your history. There’s no long established notion of who you are.

That’s how I felt at 19 in Bend, Oregon. I was determined to make a fresh start. Growing up in a small town in the Midwest was a little bit like growing up in a fish bowl. It’s not that all 2,000 of us knew each other; it’s more that it just felt that way.

Bend was two thousand miles away, away from my old life, and away from being the poor farm kid. With a staggering population of 15,000 people, for me it felt like a big city, and it was love at first sight.

I was told it would be tough getting a job, so I took any opportunity that came my way. Within a few days I had two jobs, the first as a telemarketer (which lasted precisely one day), and the other as a bus person at Original Joes, a local downtown restaurant. I was grateful to have any job, but I wanted to do something more, I wanted to “move up” in the world.

There were offices above the restaurant, and as luck would have it, my brother Charles worked for a real estate developer who conducted his business there. Charles heard that his boss was looking for office help, and recommended me.

I remember being excited about the idea of working in an office, but I had exactly zero experience. It was always easiest to get a job as a waitress, and as a struggling teenager, tips were the perfect way to have cash in hand. This opportunity seemed bigger, less attainable for someone like me.

So I was a little nervous walking up the steps to that office. I hoped I looked businesslike in my handmade dress. In the back of my mind I was wondering what I was going to do if I did get that job. That dress was the only one to my name.

My fears were they would be able to see past that homemade dress to the poor, already divorced, no experience, scared girl inside. So I took a deep breath, climbed the stairs to the office, and walked in with confidence, at least I hoped it looked that way.

Looking back now I wish I could have told the young me that most people are just like me. They too have fears and life experiences that were hard or sad. I would tell her, not to worry so much and trust that you’ve got this.

As it turned out, I did have it. On the other side of those doors were kind, unassuming people.

Just like the ones back home.

 

This is how I felt that day, like a little kid trying to get a grown up job

Do this, try that, this works better, don’t do that!

Low fat, high fat,

Low carbs, balanced carbs,

Do jumping jacks daily, don’t do high impact,

Never eat bananas again, just eat fruit, fruit is bad,

Bread is bad, grains are bad, eat whole grains,

Don’t eat legumes, just eat beans and rice,

You must do 60 minutes of cardo daily, just do 30 mins of cardo 3x per week,

Don’t eat meat, eat lots of meat,

Eat fish, don’t eat farmed fish,

The only way to lose fat is to exercise, there’s no need to exercise to lose weight,

No coffee, coffee is good for you,

No butter, put butter in your coffee,

Dairy is out, dairy is okay,

Eat everything, don’t eat anything,

No added sugar!

 

Okay, got that? Yeah, me too.

 

Trying to figure out what the best diet and exercise routine is best for you?

A look inside

I’m off today.

I don’t mean like off from work, I mean off emotionally.

We had a busy weekend working on a home we own that’s about six hours away from us. Each time we have been between tenants, we would head to the house to clean and paint and kept it looking good. We had renters in it for the past couple of years, and since they are out, it was time to go get it ready to sell.

We arrived on Friday night and were immediately disappointed by the state of the house. We’ve had renters in it before that have left it dirty and in disrepair, but this time was different.

The house was, for lack of a better word, worn. It was like stepping inside a once beautiful masterpiece, that was now faded and torn and lacking any luster of it’s glory years. It was sad to see it like that, and it got us down.

We set up camp and after dinner sat on the porch like we used to. We were pretty quiet and we both knew that we had a lot of work ahead of us.

We spent the weekend working hard, cleaning, painting, cutting down hedges and trimming trees. Sunday evening came way too quickly, and we ended up leaving much later than we had hoped. It was nearly midnight by the time we arrived back home.

So, I knew I was going to be a little tired this morning, but didn’t expect to feel the way I did. I felt, worn, like that old house. And I started to question if maybe I was once a beautiful masterpiece that was now fading and lacking the luster of my glory years.

Will some paint and trim help bring back the old me or will I need a complete overhaul?

Spending the day thinking about it, I think the real answer lies with who has been living inside and taking care of me. Maybe it’s time to kick out the tenant who is letting me get run down, and rediscover that person who respects and cares for me before it’s too late.

I have a lot of work ahead of me.

 

Self reflection is key

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