Monday, September 26, 2011

Older, Slimmer and Not Yet Shorter


I have never been thin. Most of my life, going way back to elementary school, I usually had (at least) a few extra pounds on me. I was never obese, but words like plump, round, zaftig, buxom, portly, ample, chubby described my figure. Growing up in the late1960s was especially challenging. Twiggy was the role model teens were supposed to look like. Anyone remember her? She was a British model, tall and unbelievably thin. Looking at pictures of her today she looks anorexic, but that was not a term I was familiar with back then. She had no figure. Everything just hung on her. She had long, long, long legs. I was (and still am) short - barely 5 feet 2 inches and had (and still have) busts - substantial busts. Nothing hung on me. Or rather anything that hung on my frame made me look ten months pregnant.

Fast forward a few decades. A funny thing is happening as I get older. I am getting slimmer. I am not svelte or thin, or even within normal weight limits. I have a few extra pounds to lose. 

A lot of other people are getting thicker.

Age does that to most people and menopause does that to women. It becomes more difficult to lose weight and keep the weight off. 

I fought the extra pounds for as long I can remember. I never won. The older I get the easier it is to gain weight. I cannot eat without the calories and fat immediately appearing on my hips and stomach. I am not alone. I find friends lucky enough to be thin in their younger years complain post-menopause that they are gaining weight. The pounds slowly begin to find their way around their body. Bigger busts may be seen as a good thing, or at least a not-so-bad thing; bigger butts not so much. 

I have finally gotten to the event prompting these thoughts. I was in a women's clothing store the other day and the saleswoman said, "Oh, you must be about a size 8. You are so slim." I am sure she was just trying to flatter me (it worked).

I have never been a size eight. I doubt I was a size eight as a child. I think I went from 6x to size 10, and then quickly on to size 12. 

The slimming effect is most apparent when with my contemporaries, but unfortunately it sometimes appears that way when compared to the general public. Maybe it has to do with the fact that, as our country becomes increasingly inhabited by a large number of obese kids and adults of all ages people lose perspective; overweight by a few pounds looks pretty good nowadays. It is sad that so many kids, young and middle aged people carry so many extra pounds. It is sad that I can feel good about myself by going to the mall or anywhere else people of all ages congregate and seem, well, not fat. But I guess that is as long as I stay within the confines of our weighty country.

Until the last few years, when everyone else put on the pounds, no one ever called me thin, slim, slender or even of average weight.

So enjoy your favorite foods and desserts. I am not only getting older, I am getting slender-er. 

At least for a few years, before I begin to shrink, I will enjoy my figure through (as the saying goes) rose-colored glasses (and dimming eyesight); I will enjoy finally not being overweight, or actually just minimally overweight.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

One Grandparenting Week Later and All is Well

Time flies when you're having fun — or so people say. But time also flies when you are so busy and exhausted you may not be thinking straight. Home once again following a week with three grandkids, I am slowly getting my sane self back…

Philadelphia is not one of the best airports to fly in and out of. The flight out started uneventfully.  The plane pushed out of the gate and began approaching the runway. Anyone who has ever flown out of Philly knows that taxiing to the runway does not necessarily mean a quick takeoff. Philly is renown for the waiting game. The captain announces, "Well, folks, we are 25th in line for take-off."  A half hour later,  "Sorry folks. Things are going a bit slowly today. We are now 17th in line for takeoff…" and so it goes. 

Last week's takeoff was initially postponed because all flights west were temporarily halted because of bad weather in the Midwest. The plane taxied to a lone spot on the airfield and the plane fell silent. You don't realize how loud the engines are until they are turned off. We sat for over an hour, but then, once again and finally, were on our way again. It could have been a lot worse; I have read of people being held on planes for hours. 

Another not-so-positive part of the trip involved my seat assignment. On the plane going to and returning from Denver I had the same aisle seat (yeah!) but it was directly across from the lavatory (boo). The trips lasted hours, so there was a constant stream of people in and out of the lav (boo). I tried to ignore the jostling and passing activity but it proved difficult (boo). When anyone left the lab and did not close the door I was staring into the lighted lav looking at the toilet (boo). 

The grandkids are always fun, exhausting, challenging and physically demanding, especially picking up and carrying the one year old. Hub and I were grandparents-in-residence as Mom and Dad were away from Friday through Tuesday afternoon. And - how lucky could we be — the seven year old did not have school on Friday and Monday. I do not remember my kids being off from school so often for teacher conferences and other non-holidays, but maybe I am beginning to lose my mind, or at least my memory.

Over the few days there were meals prepared, eaten (sort of) and cleaned up. There was a birthday party for one child to attend which middle child crashed in time to enjoy pizza and cake. There was a trip (sometimes two or three or more) to the Children's Museum, two schools (one preschool, one elementary school), Starbucks (I needed nourishment), dance (tap and ballet for the four year old), Mommy and me music class — they let grandmas in too (with the one-year-old), the pool (still open after Labor Day!), the supermarket, Noodles for lunch, Cold Stone for ice cream…not in this particular order and not a complete list, but you get the idea. And we cannot forget Charlie, their golden retriever, who also required attention and care. 

Tuesday night I hugged and kissed everyone good-bye and was up at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday morning on the way to the airport. Early morning mid-week flights are usually the cheapest. The flight left on time and was in the air in just a few minutes. I spent most of the time reading a book (an adult book - no more Fancy Nancy or Pinkalicious or Captain Underpants for a while). Hub picked me up at the airport (he had flown home a day earlier because of work commitments), we went out for a late lunch, stopped to see my mother-in-law at her assisted living facility and finally arrived home. Spent the evening watching TV; there was no energy remaining for any other activity. 

This morning I woke up late and missed my Zumba class. But for the first time in over a week I can sit on the couch, computer on my lap, drink next to me, relax and work. 

And so it is, until the next Grandma/Grandpa travel time. I am not sure when that will be, but the four year old mentioned more than once that she is going to be in her first dance recital in December. How many of us remember spending hours watching kids dance (or try to) until finally your child is on stage for three minutes? We will not make any travel plans soon.  

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Passing Security on the Way Out West

The weather is gorgeous at home; sunny, warm and beautiful as the last days of summer exit memorably. Meanwhile the garden begs for attention, the house begs for change as summer morphs into the beginnings of fall, and my refrigerator needs cleaning. My closet yields what now seem silly light-weight tops and shorts. I need to dig for comfy fall attire. But all of this must wait. Hub and I are on our way out west. We are looking ahead with much apprehension to five days babysitting older son's kids: a one year old, four year old and seven year old. 

The mayhem of mother-in-law must wait a week. The past couple of days has yielded an eye problem (immediately seen by the doctor), calls for phone numbers as she attempts to reach her niece on her birthday (niece's cell phone doesn't work; it landed in the water while wrestling with her one-year-old son), and laments about the fact we will not be around for a week (the complaint department will be temporarily closed).

We ARE the sandwich generation.

Hub and I embark upon another airport experience. It  has been a few months since previously endured, but it is time once again. I am sitting in a lounge with my trusty laptop awaiting boarding time. We arrived early because hub has a conference call; it was arrive early or scramble in rush hour traffic and possibly miss the plane. 

I drove to the airport so hub could converse on his cell phone, one business call after another. This is important; someone needs to pay for our trips to the grandkids and we need the medical insurance, at least until Medicare kicks in. 

There was little traffic, which was a good omen. The air conditioning in our Toyota (not an antique yet, but OLD considering the buy date begins19..) does not work. We could get it fixed, but that costs money. Hub wants to fix it, while I say it is time to cut the cord, bite the bullet as they say and buy a new car. The lack of traffic on our one hour trip to the airport allowed us to cruise along, windows open, enjoying the breeze (and the noise). It would have been a brutal trip if we were stuck in traffic, the hot sun beating down on us…

There were no problems parking the car; the airport shuttle bus followed right behind us as we parked and dragged out our luggage. And the bus was air-conditioned. A few minutes later we were at the airport, immediately making our way to security. Printing boarding passes at home streamlines the airport process.

I was one of the chosen while passing through security, taken aside and told to stand in a special cordoned off area. I was not patted down. My hands were swiped. I waited a few minutes, wondering why I was singled out, hub waiting impatiently to move on. The security guard finally came over, waved his arm and ushered me on. 

It was mid-afternoon, mid-week, and security lines were minimal. I guess a 60-something-year-old woman struggling with a laptop, suitcase (I avoid extra fees and do not check luggage if I can help it), oversize bag (dragged out of storage for these trips), large bracelets, assorted papers, a large straw hat and a jacket match some kind of profile. It must have something to do with a few laughs needed in the TSA break room on slow afternoons…

I hope the rest of the trip goes smoothly. The trip has only just begun...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Mother-in-Law Mayhem

There is a lot going on in our world right now. The ten year commemoration of 9/11 is Sunday and TV and radio commentators, TV shows and news articles discuss the event, the past decade and the future. We were lucky to dodge the distress of Hurricane Irene, but the past couple of days our friends and relatives in our home town are pumping basements, schools are closed and people cannot get to work because of flooding. The Republican debate was an interesting side show and President Obama’s speech is the topic of the media this morning.
There are times when circumstances at home overshadow outside events. That is what is happening now in the life of me and my hub. My mother-in-law is in an assisted living facility six miles from our home. She has been there just over a month. A stroke in early July led to the three siblings deciding she could no longer return to her apartment. After much discussion we moved her near us; she had been near my sister-in-law three hours away. We found a beautiful facility, moved her in, unpacked her belongings and got her settled.
Our life has been a series of mini-crises for the past month.
Mom-in-law quickly recovered from the stroke and then got a bad case of gout. She cannot tolerate any physical pain and refuses assistance. She initially declined to use a cane, walker or wheelchair. The gout got so bad she had no choice; for several days she was confined to a wheelchair.
She recovered enough to insist once again she did not need any assistance walking. She began tottering around, holding on to anyone and anything she could as she maneuvered around the facility. She was well enough to lament the fact that she ended up ‘in this place’. She refuses to participate in activities and has only minimal contact with other people, staff or residents.
The one bright spot is the food. The food is wonderful, the dining room is very nice and meals have become a focal point of her day.
A few days later she had another problem and retired to bed. Three days later she was fine, but it took another couple of days to once again leave her bed and her room, proceed to meals and go outside.
The phone calls have been constant, sometimes several times a day. They usually begin with a complaint, although the facility staff is wonderful, attentive to her needs and the care could not be better. They are extremely patient as she grumbles, criticizes and generally puts forth a mean fa├žade.
Yesterday’s call contended that someone stole one earring. The facility launched an investigation.
We took her out to a Chinese restaurant – her favorite cuisine – one evening. The noodles were not her version of ‘real’ Chinese noodles and therefore this was not a real Chinese restaurant. The staff was Chinese, the menu was bilingual and lots of Chinese were eating there. She ordered soup and did not like it…Another evening we brought her to our house for dinner. She and hub had a couple of heated arguments (not unusual; actually very common when they get together) and suddenly she insisted she had to go back and go to bed; it was past her bedtime. It was not yet 7:00 p.m.
And so it goes. When the phone rings we never know what the latest mini-crisis will be. I do know my husband gets uptight and I am sure his blood pressure skyrockets. Friends tell us it takes a while to adjust to an assisted living facility. They regale us with stories of their Mom or Dad who fought the idea, but once settled in actually liked it. Mom or Dad made friends, went on outings, and had a better quality of life than when confined to their home because of some physical ailment.
There are those - including my brother-in-law - who believe she would be better off living with one of the siblings, except it would never work. My mother-in-law is the poster senior citizen for uncooperativeness. When living alone she yelled at her kids when they tried to make her do anything, such as take her medications. She reluctantly listens to the facility staff – they make sure she takes her meds - and her health and wellbeing have improved, although she would never admit it.
We are looking forward to a time when we can take her out to dinner and enjoy each other’s company, bring her to our house, relax and spend a quiet day together, and just visit her and spend some time in non-crisis mode.
The phone is ringing with that special mother-in-law tone. Time for today’s mini-crisis.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Rhythms of My Life

My life is totally different from that of my ancestors, whoever they were and wherever they lived, hundreds and thousands of years ago. Although there are still people whose lives revolve around the sun, moon, stars and the seasons - farmers mainly - most people's lives, including mine, revolve around a different set of events.

For the past few years hub and I spent the Labor Day holiday weekend out of town, usually visiting our son in Vermont. We have not been home for the three day end of summer hoopla and holiday ritual in years.

No one was sure what this weekend was going to bring to our shore town in terms of vacationers because of Hurricane Irene's visit a week earlier. But the weekend was super in terms of weather, tourists, and just plain fun.

Labor Day weekend marks the official end of the summer season at the shore and a lot of other places around the country. Kids not yet in school march into the classroom this week. Summer jobs at restaurants, amusement parks and other venues end for most employees. Establishments staying open reduce their staff as a new crowd, not nearly as numerous, arrives. Couples old and young, without kids in tow, mark the beginning of the fall season for many resorts.

The shore slowly winds down as businesses reduce the days of the week and hours open. Some close until next year. Full-time residents lament that the worst part of wintering here is that all the ice cream shops are closed.

Today, the first day after Labor Day - the end of summer living and beginning of fall as a life style - is a dreary and rainy day. For the first time in months I am wearing jeans. The days get dark earlier and it's cooler at night. A positive occurrence is that many flowers, barely surviving the summer heat, are flourishing once again.

Many faces are gone and ones not seen for a while reappear as summer residents leave and snowbirds and permanent residents attempt to regain the daily rhythms of their life. Summer days of bicycle rides, barbecues, family and friend visits, evening ice cream jaunts and lazy days on the beach give way to a yearning for a regular schedule. No more holiday weekends for a while.

Days wind down, the cold and darkness begin to prevail, but we are not yet ready for winter. We re-energize and ramp up again as preparations begin in earnest for the holiday period beginning with Thanksgiving and ending on New Year's Day. Then, at least in the Northern parts of the east coast, a type of human hibernation period begins.

The first couple of weeks in January are almost eerie. Stores and restaurants empty and there is less traffic everywhere. A period of nesting and couch potato-ing sets in. We catch our breath and examine our checkbooks as the holidays sapped our time, energy and monetary resources. Snowbirds have long gone, the worst winter weather arrives and cooking and eating comfort food become favorite pastimes.

The slow genesis of spring and the reappearance of humans usually coincide with the Easter holidays. Snowbirds begin returning and summer residents briefly reappear to ready their homes and apartments, find rentals and plan their summer. Local residents begin sprucing up their homes and businesses as the weather turns more agreeable. Landscapers and contractors emerge and the humming of outdoor equipment rudely interrupts peaceful days.

Sunny weekends bring out eager folk tired of remaining indoors for so long. The solitary beach stroller weeks earlier finds numerous others enjoying the beach, often accompanied by dogs, creatures not allowed on the beach during the summer months but who believe they own the beach the rest of the year.

The pace of life increases as summer plans are made and preparations begin. The first of the seasonal long weekends, Memorial Day, ushers in three months of non-stop summer events. We often do not come up for air until the day after Labor Day…and that brings us to today.

Another year ends in accordance with the rhythms of our modern life and one more year begins.