Friday, January 18, 2013
It’s probably fairly obvious that one of the very first things a person may think about when approaching an age milestone, especially a woman, is their appearance.
As I mentioned in my previous post, there’s a huge difference between what a typical fifty year old woman likely looked like a hundred, seventy, fifty or even twenty-five years ago and a typical fifty year woman in the 21st century. The good news is, we’re looking better, ladies! The bad news is, we’re looking better ladies! Meaning, there continues to be the pressure that began in junior high to be attractive that has not let up since. At least those of us of a certain age can take some small comfort in that it didn’t start any earlier than junior high; while at the same time, feel deeply sorrowful that some of the girls today begin to look like Hoochie Mama’s when they are ten. Or six. Or younger. And then there is the on-going battle with eating disorders in girls which just seems to be getting worse and worse.
Although I’ve never considered myself to be a beauty in the traditional sense of the word, I didn’t make out half-bad in the looks department; this due in large part to being blessed with a relatively slim figure and the inheritance of my mother’s green eyes. Combined with confidence (faked when I was younger, real when I was older), a great metabolism, and a good sense of what to wear that flattered me, I was quite the package if I do say so myself. Oh, and I wasn’t a total bimbo-head either, which certainly helped. Anyway, I had quite a wonderful stretch of years when I looked great, knew it, and didn’t have to work all that hard at it.
Now, I WAS a late bloomer in this regard. Although I was cute as a little mousie when I was little-little, around the time I turned 8 or so, I stopped growing. What this meant was I turned into a little pudge-ball with a round round face and a broad barrel-ish torso. I won’t go into too much detail about this period other than to say I thank my lucky stars that I was not born in the year 2000 because I’m sure my life would have been made a total, living hell by all those Hoochie Mama ‘tweens I was talking about earlier. My Father told me later he always thought I was adorable at this stage, citing that I was “The right amount of round”. Be that as it may, I was very happy when, at age 12 or so, my arms and legs grew at great length, pulling that roundness right out of me.
Cute Little Mousie
The Right Amount of Round
Hello Bony Moronie!
After enjoying being a Bony Moronie for twenty or so years, at around age 30, I had to work harder at the figure thing. I started going to the gym religiously in the late 1990s and, for the most part, I’ve kept this up. In addition, I did a lot of step aerobics at home and had (and still do) a torturous abdominal routine that requires at least 400 sit-ups/crunches per day. For awhile, this worked great but as the years move on, well, I find I’m continually having to add to my fitness routine to get the same results. Of course, this is no surprise, it happens to everyone and I knew it was coming. Still, a funny thing; as you get older, you don’t always have as much energy as you used to and yet you have to use all the energy you have plus some to maintain some sort of figure that you can live with.
Let me take a moment here to say something very important. This is how I feel. I am in no way casting judgment on ladies (or gents) who feel differently, or who don’t have the time to work out that much, or have a family history of heaviness or, or, or. This is just me. I’m probably never going to get away from wanting to be on the thin side. In fact, honestly, it’s physically painful for me to get too heavy and I turn into an emotional wreck. Know thyself, and all; and, of course, be healthy, whatever your shape.
Ok. So here I am now approaching fifty. I have a vision in my mind of what I want to feel like and look like physically. And, it all boils down to a few things; be at a healthy weight, be toned, have decent strength and endurance, and look classy. Note I didn’t say, “Look younger than I am”. I really don’t care about this as much as I do looking good for how old I am. As much as I long for the days of wearing those sexy tight clothes, it ain’t going to happen, even if I COULD pull it off. I’d rather be an Audrey Hepburn than a Cher any day.
So, how to get there from here (or, rather, last Monday when I started)? First things first. Diet and exercise. Yeah, like a lot of folks, I fell off the gym wagon during the holidays. Generally speaking I didn’t eat all that badly (I managed to avoid all the cookies I baked until right before Christmas), however I did eat more than I usually do and I certainly drank more than I like to and all this went on for a period of about four weeks. Combined with not going to the gym, let’s just say the end result was not very attractive, as judged by a picture I took of my stomach while laying in bed one night after Mr. B had fallen asleep. Seriously. I was reading and happened to look down at myself and almost screamed. "Who’s big white flabby fish belly is THAT?" "Sorry, honey, it’s yours!" So I wouldn’t forget, I whipped out the trusty cell and snapped the picture. No, you won’t be seeing it on Facebook (or here), I’ll spare you that. Well, ok, maybe I’ll post it along with the “after” picture once I get my rock hard abs back.
Anyway, I digress. We all know the only way, really, to get into shape, is to diet and exercise. Nothing will ever change this, I don’t care how much money you drop on pills or Dr. Oz’s remedy or that funky device that supposedly you’re able to stand on it for 10 minutes a day and you lose a ton of weight and tone up. So, diet and exercise; that’s what I’m doing (along with millions of other people in the world this January). However, I will keep at it; thankfully, I do have self-control/self-disciple (thank you again, Mr. Jordan, for assigning me that report on ducks). With the help of Lance Armstrong’s Live Strong website My Daily Plate (I make no commentary on HIS troubles this January) and my YMCA membership, I shouldn’t have any trouble getting where I want to get, albeit it’s likely going to take me longer than it would have ten, or even five years ago.
However, although the bad news about not going to the gym for awhile is muscle, if not exercised, tends to turn into lard fairly quickly; luckily, the reverse of this is true. Once you do return to exercising, the muscles soon remember their former shape and hop back to it faster than you’d think.
Isn’t that sorta true about a lot of things?
Monday, January 14, 2013
In a little more than 11 months, I’ll turn the big 5-0. Sometimes when I think about this, I simply can’t believe it; me, fifty? Oh, I know many who have gone ahead of me have had similar thoughts, but, still. ME?
At the risk of totally stating the obvious, times are decidedly different from when my great-grandparents, grandparents or even parents turned fifty. Recently, I’ve been doing a bit of genealogy work on Ancestry.com. As I’ve put in birth, marriage and death dates of my ancestors and sometimes been able to upload a picture or two of them, it really has hit home how lucky most of us are now compared to our ancestors; certainly in the areas of education, opportunity, convenience, physical comfort, health and appearance. God only knows what I would have looked like if I had, say, only received an elementary school education, married at 15, popped out ten or more children (likely watching several of them die), lived in a small cabin with no electricity and a dirt floor and worked my butt off on a farm subjected to all of nature’s harshest elements and back-breaking labor for thirty or more years. Yes, I probably would have looked and felt like hell at 40, let alone 50.
Taking it deeper, I know that I have much to be grateful for as I head into my fifties. I also feel quite strongly that I need to be doing something to reflect how grateful I am. Believe me; I’m working hard at figuring out what that is, or, rather, I’m working hard at allowing whatever it is to reveal itself to me.
In any event, a while back, it dawned on me that, due also in some large part to my ancestors and their general tendency to live into their 80s or 90s, I have, quite possibly, another 30-40 years ahead of me and I can’t rely on what I did for the past fifty years to get me through these next several decades. Oh, sure, there are certain things in my tool kit that I’ll be holding onto; it’s never good to throw the baby out with the bathwater and all, but, for the most part, there’s just gotta be some changes a foot.
By way of comparison, when I was in my twenties and thirties, it was all about two things, really; looking good and my career. I worked diligently at both and was more than moderately successful in each. Along the way and by the grace of God, I was surrounded by my wonderfully supportive family, a bunch of fantastic friends and was handed my fair share of good luck.
Now at 49 and some change, I sheepishly admit I still want to look good, however, it’s not all vanity speaking. I’ve learned a thing or two about myself over the years and one thing is this: If I don’t feel good physically (weight, energy level, mental alertness and, yes, appearance), than not much positive is going to happen; certainly, my mood won’t be positive. So, if I am convinced I need to be giving back somehow, it will be a deal breaker if I don’t have the motivation to get out there and do it.
Anyway, I’ve decided to use this Blog to capture my journey to 50; what I’ve done up to now, what I want to do, what I actually do and everything in between. I want to embrace 50! I want to be at the position when I hit that milestone to go forward into the next thirty or forty years prepared for what comes and ready to make a difference.
Back to my ancestors. Chances are by the time they hit 50 or thereabouts, many of them were ready to retire to a rocking chair on the front porch. And, who could blame them? I know I owe a lot to my elders: “The glory of youths is their strength, but the beauty of the aged is their gray hair.” Proverbs 20:29. The fact that they earned their gray hair early due to the times they lived in is just the way it was.
Thankfully, the way it is now means that I can head into the next decade of my life rockin’ the years in an entirely different way.
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Awhile back, my Father asked me what I thought were a few of my life-changing moments. My first reaction was to list the obvious; the day I met my husband Mark, for example, or, the afternoon my stepmother Margot passed away. But, as I continued to think about it, I realized these were not necessarily life-changing moments in and of themselves, but they were either the result of something else OR they would gradually take me down another path. I suppose, then, that I don’t believe that there are many moments that are life-changing; rather, there are a series of moments or chain of events that eventually lead one to making a significant change. Of course, since what we tend to remember is the catalyst or the last straw; perhaps that can be defined as the particular moment in the chain of events that set the change in motion.
Thought about in this light, there haven’t been that many of these; roughly one per decade of my life. Here is the first one.
1975. I was in the second semester of my 6th grade year in Lexington, Kentucky. We’d moved there the fall prior and up to this point in time, it’s safe to say I wasn’t the best student in the world. It wasn’t that I was stupid, rather, I hadn’t really been taught well; for, as much as I love my memories of growing up in San Diego, the elementary school I attended during the crucial learning years of 3rd-5th grade wasn’t all that impressive. I remember having huge class sizes of kids spanning at least two and sometimes three grades. In 4th grade, my sister (who was in 6th grade) and I were in the same class. There were obviously too many students for the teachers to handle and frequently, what we learned literally came out of a box. It was something referred to as “S.R.A” and I’m a bit sketchy on the details but I vaguely recall that this was supposedly some sort of experimental learning project. Lessons, whether they were math, reading, writing or social studies, were printed on these color-coded cards, with all the cards contained in a box. During the time of day allotted, we’d go to the box designated for our level and pick out our own lesson card. Although others I’ve talked to about this are familiar with this self-paced learning approach, most of them who experienced it were much, much older than I had been.
So, when I showed up at Glendale Elementary School in the fall of 1974, I was woefully under prepared for what was to come. Although I liked my primary homeroom teacher Mrs. Edwards, I had no such regard for any of the other teaches. I flat out loathed the gym teacher Coach Williams and was fairly terrified of my English teacher, Mr. Jordan. Thankfully, Mrs. Edwards was an interesting and creative teacher; being in her class taught me how to listen closely, take good notes and do all of my homework. However, it was the terrifying Mr. Jordan who provided the catalyst for my first life course correction by assigning me a term paper on ducks.
Mrs. Edwards was doing a fine job in capturing my attention while in the classroom, however, I was still pretty lazy outside the classroom, especially with the subject matters I didn’t much care for or with anything that required a lot of effort. Honestly, I didn’t know how to methodically go about going from nothing to something; to figure out the steps to get from A to B, and I didn't think I wanted to. In fact, although I was afraid of him, I remember approaching Mr. Jordan a day or two after the term paper had been assigned asking him if I could please write about something else; for example, Greek Mythology (we’d been studying this in homeroom) or Girl Scouts (I was active in scouting) or cats (I had a cat) or, or, or; anything that I already knew something about and perhaps wouldn’t have to work so hard at. I can’t remember his exact response, but I know that it was something along the lines of he suspected I was capable of it and that it was time for me to stop being lazy and start learning how to study.
Since of course Mr. Jordan was in actuality a very good teacher, he provided the guidelines to follow to go from knowing absolutely nothing about ducks to finding out about ducks to being able to communicate to others in a comprehensive manner everything I’d learned about ducks. Along the way, I figured out how to use the library to look up reference material, to read while simultaneously noting what was important to retain, to write with the appropriate use of language and grammar, to abide by pre-determined rules and regulations with how the term paper was to be formatted, to appropriately manage my time in order to get the assignment accomplished by the due date and to seek out assistance when needed.
After all was said and done and each of us kids had read our papers aloud to the class (another mind-boggling hurdle of deathly terror Mr. Jordan felt compelled to provide), I walked away very much alive and very proud of my B because I knew I’d done the very best I could do. It wasn’t A-worthy, but it certainly was an admirable start.
Years and years later while talking about the time we spent in Lexington Kentucky and agreeing that it did not top the charts of any of our favorite places to live (in fact, we only stayed 9 months before happily high-tailing it back to San Diego), my dad commented to me, “But it wasn’t all bad because it was there that you became a good student”.
Why Mr. Jordan decided to assign me the topic of ducks almost forty years ago, I’ll never know. What I do know is I can never see a duck and not think about him. And, I must thank him, wherever he is, for providing the guidance for me to learn self-discipline.