‘Cafe Toxic’ & Mama Grizzly

One of the “mixed blessings” that can come with midlife is perspective. Experience. Being able to call a spade a spade. Spot a fake a mile off. Acquiring the fine art of telling someone to go to hell in such a way that they enjoy the trip.

The flip side of the mix is when all that experience and perspective feels useless. Cuz you have to shut up.

Like when your grown kiddo is stuck in a toxic situation and lacks the background or experience to recognize it. Or know how to get out of it.

But you do.

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My ‘Word’ for 2019? (sort of)

There’s this thing floating around social media lately. What’s your “word” for 2019? Realizing that there are a bazillion words in the English language, I’m kind of like, “a” word for this year? As in, “one”?

You’re kidding, right?

But nope. It’s a thing. It’s the practice of adopting one word for the year. One word to focus on and filter experiences.

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Where’s the French Foreign Legion When You Need It?

“Is this how Mom felt?” I wondered.

When I was 18, I was a summer staff member at a Bible camp in central California. I met “Bob” there, the guy I was sure I was going to marry. You could’ve put moola on this thing and won. It was that certain.

A fellow summer staffer, “Bob” had everything: Kindness and graciousness. Good manners. Shared world views and values. A wonderful family. Drive. Ambition. A golden sense of humor. Faith as solid as an oak. And oh yeah, he could give Tom Selleck aka: Magnum, P.I. a run for his money in the “handsome good looks” department.

I was sure “Bob” was The One.

After the summer wound down, I returned home to San Diego to finish out my final year at the local community college. He started his second year at an L.A.-area university. We tore up the post office with daily letters. There were plenty of phone calls. Sometimes-visits (this was before the days of computers, email, and Facebook. You know, The Olden Days.)

When it came time to consider applying and transferring to a four-year college to finish my degree, one school topped my list: Bob’s. I applied. Was accepted. Packed my bags and headed to university the next September, sure as sunrise that my college career wound wind down with a proposal, an engagement ring, and a wedding date on the calendar.

Six weeks into my first fall semester, Bob dumped me. Talk about blind-sided. You know that deer-in-the-headlights look?

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When Love Stinks

If you’re a 50-pluser, chances are your kids are either grown or nearly grown. And you have to let them go. Branch out. Hoist anchor. Spread their sails and catch the evening wind. On their own.

But when they hit a squall and run aground or founder, broken and shattered, it really stinketh. Big time.

Because there’s only so much you can do. As a parent, you may want to rush in. Fix everything. Make it all better. Soothe every scrape and bandage every break.

It’s the same thing when you see your grown children unfairly attacked or maligned by semi-literate third parties who wouldn’t know The Truth or a coherent Fact Pattern if it walked up to them on a street corner and shook hands.

Peasants.

You want to book them a seat on the next flight to Outer Moldavia. If you’re a Mama Grizzly (like Yours Truly), you may want to do more.

But sometimes parents of young adults have to stand aside.

It’s horrible. Counter-intuitive. And one of the hardest things you may ever have to do.  A special kind of purgatory.

Because we’re aching to race in. Sort things out. Set the record straight. Render answers, alternatives and solutions at lightning speed. Transfer our child’s burden onto our own shoulders.

We’d do anything to take their pain away. See them happy and whole again. Safe.

But we can’t. Because somewhere, deep down, we know there’s a fine line between being helpful and supportive and being stifling and controlling, artificially extending childhood.

Ships are safe in harbor; but that’s not what ships are for.

Sometimes love has to be strong enough to let go.

So we gather every shred of self-control we can muster and stand aside, silently bleeding inside as we shed private tears.

Much as we’d like to ease our grown child’s pain or rescue them from the consequences of poor decisions, we can’t. Doing so would effectively deprive them of a chance to develop their own navigational skills. To learn how to take the wheel.  Chart their own course. Steer out of a safe harbor into the big blue of adulthood and independence. Stepping in and short-circuiting the process as Mommy and Daddy isn’t love. It’s selfishness.

I get it. But it still stinks.

 

Image credit

What Does “Years Old” Mean, Anyway?

Back when I was young and foolish – like last week – “50 years old” sounded positively Methuselahian. Over the hill. Older than dirt.

“Fifty years old” sounds dinosaur-ish to a 25 year-old. Or even a 30 year-old. Or …. Well. You get my drift.

Now that I’m closing on my 60th birthday, however, “50 years old” looks mighty spry. In fact, if I’d known “mid life” could be this much fun, I would’ve done it a lot sooner.

Contrary to what Madison Avenue and Tinseltown would have us believe, midlife isn’t a synonym for “one foot in the grave” and the other on a banana peel. It may be a time of new freedom, exploration, and reflection.

Examples: I like the freedom of not having to scout out and screen a reliable baby-sitter every time Snuggle Bunny and I want to go somewhere. I like getting a full night’s sleep, uninterrupted. It’s also nice to not have to play chauffeur for every track meet, Little League game and practice and soccer match or school event that comes down the pike. Ditto having your adult children pick up their own tab for their auto insurance.

Sunggles and I have time to find new trails, venues, and interests. We’ve explored new horizons for community involvement and volunteer options. Our time is more flexible so we can explore more “spur of the moment” adventures in the Cascades or along the coast.

Lena Lake, Olympic National Forest

Midlife may also be a time for reflection. Looking back. Seeing an uptake in the number of names I recognize in the Obit section. High school classmates and even some college chums sometimes make it in there.

I read their names and the dates they passed away and am always taken by surprise. In my mind’s eye, I still see them as perennial teen-agers and young adults, ready to grab their diplomas and take on the world. Three or four decades later, they’re gone.

I keep waiting to wake up.

Then long-time friends post photos of themselves with their grown children and grand children on social media. And I think, When did that gray hair arrive? What’s up with those wrinkles? Do I look like that?

My mind drifts back to experiences, events and people of the past. Fishing the June Lake Loop. Horse back riding with Mom. Playing on my high school girl’s tennis team and running track. Staffing a summer camp in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. Family vacations in Yosemite and Grand Teton National Parks. Favorite college profs and classes. (As a member of the Class of ’82, it’s always a bit startling to notice the number of profs who have gone on to glory.)

Sometimes the wind shifts and I catch the sharp pungence of blue wood smoke hung out in rungs. My mind tip-toes back to summers in staff housing at Mount Rainier National Park in the 1960s. Or clouds dapple the landscape in such a way that a memory of a similar pattern from 40 years ago springs to life.

Reflection Lakes, Mount Rainier National Park. July 2018.

Sometimes opening the pages of a childhood story, the cinnamon-clove smell of fresh pumpkin pie, the opening scene from The Sound of Music, or hearing Andy Williams croon Moon River will take me back several decades in the blink of an eye.

Relatives, classmates, friends and colleagues I may not have seen in decades surface, rich memories pouring out of the past like butter off a hot skillet.

The feeling is wistful. Semi-sweet. Both happy and a little sad at the same time.  And I wonder:

How did the years pile up so fast? Where did the time go? What stories are behind the gray hair, what wisdom with the wrinkles? What does “years old” really mean? Does it mean anything?

My maternal and paternal grandparents died when I was young. Mom passed away in 1984. She was 54 years old. As I approached that milestone I thought, “What are the odds I’ll outlive Mom? By how much?”

I still miss her. But perhaps never more than on my 55th birthday.

Mom and Dad.

Dad passed away in 2003. Cancer got both of them. Both parents passed away before I got to know them much as an adult. That’s a different relational paradigm. Probably deeper and richer and more relaxed than the parent-child relationship of yester-year.

I missed out on that. I feel kind of gypped.

But then I remember how good it all was. And look ahead at how good “years bold” can be. (That’s not a typo.)

I’m still sorting this out. While I’m at, tell me:

Are your parents still alive?

Has your relationship with them changed? How?

To be continued…

Top 10 Blogs for Midlife Women

If you’re a woman over 50, then you’ve got it goin’ on. As in, if it’s one thing you don’t have, it’s a lot of time. That’s why I’m kicking off the new year with my list of Top 10 Blogs for Midlife Women.

Gold top 10 winner. Image credit: Flickr

Each site offers quick but interesting information, ideas, encouragement, inspiration, and other authentic insights into the wonderful world of women in midlife. Because we like, Totally Rock. I mean, geez. You couldn’t pay me to go back to middle school. Come to think of it, going back to high school doesn’t exactly spin my fins either, if ya know what I mean.

Okay. Where was I? Oh yeah, rockin’ midlife blogs.

Anyway, kindly note that the blogs listed may not be uber, mega hits soaring into the blogospheric stratosphere. Some aren’t quite there yet. But all deserve your time and attention. Cuz frankly, We’re Awesome.

Image credit: Flickr

But you already knew that.

So, without further ado, here’s my totally unscientific, 100% subjective list of blogs worth reading for The Awesome Demographic. You’ll find a wide variety of food for thought here on fashion, family, food, exercise, travel, inspiration, and all points in between. They just generally rock your socks off. Ready? Set?

In no particular order then, go!

1.Your Favorite Chapter with Amy Kennedy. “I like fashion, food, fitness and fun!” writes Amy about her blog. “I truly believe that no matter where you are in the story of your life, you can make this chapter ‘Your Favorite Chapter.’ Let’s make life awesome together!”

You won’t want to miss Amy’s Tasty Tuesday feature. Mm! Mm! Good!

2. Nifty 50 and Fabulous. Hosted by Regan, this “lifestyle blog” celebrates life over 50. Awesome photos with lots of panache. Regan shares “lifestyle and fashion tips to help create a lifestyle you will love” as well as regular link-up parties.

3. Rhythms of Grace. By Kate Waterman. Reflections from over 40 years in ministry to help combat stress, and provide support for the journey into rest and inner peace. The web site and its accompanying blog, Bread for the Journey, are “the products of lessons learned during those years – often the hard way – and still the journey continues.”

4. Follow Phyllis. Her tagline is “redefining baby boomer bodies.” And she’s not kidding! Straight talk about nutrition, exercise, healthy lifestyles and “what women can do to look and feel their best.” Tons of helpful videos and other cool stuff here!

5. Be Strong and Fearless. Written by Emily, who’s 30-ish. Emily lives in southern Georgia and blogs about her family, faith, and her struggles fibromyalgia.

6. Loretta’s Countdown to 60. About “Aging on my terms. Daily musings in 500 words of less.” On her About page, Loretta explains: “At 58 I was asked to model a new clothing line for a friend. I felt fat and old and thought it was time to change my views of myself, by exploring why I had them. I promised myself to be authentic and real in my writings here. Not focusing on the outside world, but within. And challenging myself to face any demons I may encounter.”

7. The Patrish Pages – a travel, fashion, and lifestyle blog by Patricia Rubel, “the reluctant hiking diva.” She’s a “business owner, wife to my husband of 32 years, mom to three adult children, and grandma to one absolutely adorable grandson.” When you read her posts, she says she hopes you “feel empowered to live your life adventurously, whatever your adventures may be. Women over 50 are strong, wise, beautiful and fascinating!”

8. Running Like a Wrinkly. Karen shares about being diagnosed with osteopenia (a milder, reversible form of osteoporosis) and how she’s beating it by jogging, eating right, and pursuing a healthy lifestyle.” Writes Karen, “Join me on my quest for optimum health and fitness through running and hiking and a transition to a mainly plant based diet. I’ll be open and honest with you share everything I discover.”

9. Easy DoneA New Life Abroad After 50. “If you are over 50 and want a simple and healthy lifestyle abroad, you are in the right place” writes Marijke, the woman behind Easy Done. She writes about “ shares her discoveries via reviews.

10. The Furever Haus. This isn’t a blog about women in midlife. I. Don’t. Care. (My list. My rules). The Furever Haus is a sanctuary for senior animals. So of course I had to include it. Find out more here.

Oh yeah. There’s this other cool blog out there: Zuzu’s Petals: Blooming in Midlife. But you already knew that too, right?

Milk Cartons & New Year’s Resolutions

A brand new year is just around the corner and with it, the usual raft of New Year resolutions. Here’s what I think about that: Whenever I feel the urge to float a bunch of New Year resolutions down the river, I lie down until the feeling goes away.

Indeed, one of the perks of ringing in 50+ New Years is gaining a little perspective in the process. Enough to know that most New Year resolutions don’t last past the expiration date on a carton of milk.

So what’s the point?

I have a better idea. Instead of cranking out a bunch of resolutions that’ll go sour around February, if not sooner, why not put some plans in place to chill? Relax? Even better, make 2019 the year for observing rather than resolving. Like:

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Temporarily misplacing my specs is not a cataclysmic event. It may seem like it. But in the great scheme of things, it’s not quite up there with the Fall of Rome. Not quite. Losing my entire Hershey’s stash may qualify. But not misplacing my specs. Savvy?

A few more observations:

  • The road is rife with drivers newly furloughed from the local looney bin. Extra caution and defensive maneuvers are a must.
  • The chances of Tinsel Town cranking out anything worth the price of admission this year is inversely proportionate to the price of concessionaire popcorn. Choose one.
  • Some day the Great Mysteries of the Universe will be solved. The riddle of the Sphinx. Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb? Where the mate to your favorite pair of socks disappeared to when it winds up MIA in the dryer. Just not today.
  • Being on someone’s friend of follower list is a privilege, not a right. There’s no law requiring you to follow back any yahoo who follows you. If they’ve been blocked, it’s for a reason. Deal with it.
  • If opening and draining a can of tuna is too demanding and tiring for your average Millennial to bother with, why are they voting?
  • In a contingent universe, anything is possible. Except squeezing toothpaste back into the tube. Don’t ask how I know that.
  • A blaring alarm jolting you out of a deep sleep is the. Worst. Sound. Ever.
  • When in doubt, eat chocolate.
  • “Smart government” is an oxy-moron.
  • The speed of a snail-paced check-out line will dramatically increase as soon as you switch to another line.
  • There’s no easy way to get gum out of the dog’s fur.
  • Whoever proclaimed Sunday a “day of rest” never had to get small children ready for church.
  • When dropped, a buttered slice of toast always lands buttered-side down. Why is that?

See what I mean? Isn’t this a whole lot easier than scanning expiration dates on a carton of milk?

What would you add for 2019?

De-Decorating Made Merry

There’s  no other way to say it: taking down the Christmas tree is a downer.

De-decorating signals the end of the holidays  And with it, all the razzle-dazzle, fun, excitement and anticipation of the season comes to a screeching halt.

This morning.

It’s kind of sad. A little wistful. A downer.

I hate taking down the Christmas tree. In fact, I usually leave the tree and decorations up until after New Year’s. Sometimes longer. I want to prolong the joy and magic of the season as long as possible. There was that one year when the Christmas decorations didn’t come down until July.  But whatever…

De-decorating underway…

Anyway, we took our Christmas tree down today. The reason I took it down today was because the Boy Scouts called yesterday. “Will your tree be ready for us to pick up and recycle? We’re doing pick-ups this weekend.” The scouts run a Christmas tree recycling program every year as a fund-raiser to send needy scouts to camp, etc.

What was I going to do, say no?

“Sure,” I chirped into the phone. “Can you pick it up Sunday?”

Hence today’s Great Tree Takedown.

Out for recycling.

Anticipating the annual downer, I hatched a plan. I decided to throw a “De-Decorating Party.” I’m handing out hot chocolate and the last of the candy canes. Ordering Chinese take-out. Cranking up some music. Lighting some candles. Getting a Lord of the Rings movie marathon ready.

Packed away for next year.

We’re laughing. Swapping stories. Sharing Great Christmas Memories. Fighting over the last egg roll. (Nobody’s perfect.) And having fun.

My other secret weapon for “Merry De-Decorating”? It looks like this:

The ‘mini-tree.’

This little table-topper is artificial. Had it for years. Won’t die or dry out. So I can keep it up as long as I want. How does July sound?

How to Have an ROUS-Free Christmas

The holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year. Brimming with peace, joy, and goodwill to men. But I’ve been around long enough to realize that negotiating the holidays can also be like navigating a mine field. One false move and you’re toast.

I call these “ROUS Christmases.” You know the type. Chockful of petty jealousies. Sibling rivalry. Relatives who won’t even speak to each other the rest of the year try to make polite small talk while planning the earliest escape possible. Ancient bitternesses and simmering resentments burst into flame around the Christmas tree.

Ring any bells yet? How ’bout:

An ‘ROUS’ tried to crash our Christmas this year. Insisted the entire day revolve around her. Issued royal edicts about dinner, table settings, seating arrangements, parking, timing, who controlled the TV remote. Basically, this familial ROUS (who shall remain nameless) tried to toss a monkey wrench into the day and everyone else’s plans cuz she thought she could.

Well. I’ve also been around long enough to recognize a power play when I see one. And altho it may have been a long time ago, I also remember junior high. So when this ROUS went 7th grade nuclear on the rest of the fam, Mama Grizzly (Yours Truly) had an answer for that: Why don’t you do us all a favor and go play in the traffic, moron? (Just kidding. Sort of.)

Know what else? The older I get, the more stuff I just don’t care about anymore. Like junior highers running around in grown-up suits, acting like idiots. (Call it a “seasoned citizen perk.”)

Wonder Dog keeping an eye on the tree.

As the mom of four adult sons, I also learned a long time ago that a tantrum is only effective when it has an audience. So when Her ROUS-ness went nuclear, I just refused to play. As in, “Either cut it out or bug out, sweetie. Your choice.”

She stomped off in a huff. And we had an awesome ROUS-less Christmas.

I knew junior high was good for something.

Meanwhile, looky here at what The Kid got us:

The entire series on disc. All eight seasons. Now that the ‘ole homestead is rodent-free, I’m gonna be a little busy…. 😉 How ’bout you?