Nap Schmap

sleep_child

It’s a vicious cycle, this sleep business. But there’s nothing like a good mid-afternoon drool-fest. Waking up slightly disoriented – is it evening? Tomorrow?  Or just fifteen minutes since you last looked at the clock? – makes the whole nap experience even better. It really caps off a pointless afternoon, one where you accomplished nothing because you were so grumpy and unreasonable that even your cat had to leave his usual squatting spot to get away from the thick, downer vibe permeating the air.

When you’ve finally pushed through the fog and repositioned every oddly-placed hair, (day-sleep makes hills and vales on your head that rock stars have tried to emulate for decades) you begin to run like a well-oiled machine. That box of “unknowns” sitting under your bed for two years? Gone. A four-course dinner of “whatever’s not moldy in the fridge” gourmet?  Fait accompli.  Course number five boxed brownies with an extra- sugary slathering of frosting and fruit (for health) on top? Sitting like a food photo on your freshly-cleaned counter.

Life is good. Until ten o’clock. You put on your pajamas, do your usual evening routine of brushing, flossing, smearing and pinning and hop into bed with that trashy novel you tell people you aren’t reading. Everything is going according to plan, until you turn out the light, roll over and realize, YOU’RE NOT THE LEAST BIT TIRED.

Surely that can’t be right. You were so sleepy you couldn’t keep your eyes open at 2pm. It was a good nap, not one of those time wasters you used when you couldn’t handle one more minute of real life. You didn’t drink caffeine, eat sugar (no one saw exactly what happened to the brownies) or bring your stresses to bed.

You go through all of the usual commercial sleep-inducers: Counting sheep? They are pretty boring until the cast of Twilight comes out of the woods and creates such a scene of carnage it will take four hours for you to stage the whole thing. Herbal tea? You drank six cups. Now when your eyelids are finally heavy, you’ll be too busy sitting on the toilet to actually get to sleep. Milk? A walk through the neighborhood in your pajamas?

It turns out that little favor you did your body has come back to bite. Hard. It will be past midnight before you find your sweet spot. Tomorrow will come, as it always does, at the same time. You’ll be a grumpy mess. Until 2 pm.

Chin Schmin

chin

The chin is a funny thing. It doesn’t matter much for most of our lives. Other than Jay Leno, there has never been a person I’ve heard of in my life whose chin had an impact on their career or social life. “Did you hear about Fern? She got fired from her job for chin-butting everyone in accounting,” or, “women just can’t resist Fred. He points that bulbous chin in a come-hither manner and they are putty in his hands.”

Up until this very moment, you haven’t given your chin any thought, unless it has become an unintended canvass for that smear of chocolate that you thought no one saw you eat but your significant other has so kindly pointed out.  There are personality types connected to chin shape, according to shifty internet sources: square chins are allegedly attached to stubborn people. Protruding chins mean a self- confident type. Rounded- chin people are deeply emotional. Long chins are for those who are loyal and easy-going. People with dimples in their chin are just confused.

There are books dedicated to the strength and elasticity of the chin. Twenty, goofy grimaces in varying awkward positions three times a day and your vaguely- rectangular lower jaw will return to its former, perfectly- square glory. You can even do them in the car, the book states. The ensuing road-rage that will occur when you grimace at the wrong person must be addressed in later chapters that I couldn’t read while performing the Look of Abject Horror exercise. Twenty times.

The chin does assume a position of importance in middle age when suddenly it becomes a compass for trendy reading glasses in search of the printed word. But for now, let’s just concentrate on those chin-ups. Who knows where they might lead you professionally. Or personally. Oooh, Frances – that chin! I’d swear it was sitting on the face of a twenty-five year-old!

 

Pants Schmants

extremely-high-waisted-pants

So your zen moment is pulling that elastic band to the under-boob position and snapping or tying things in place.  I’m going to give you permission, here and now, to embrace your style.  The only difference between this style and the one involving plyers and a firm mattress is that today you are wearing your clothes for comfort.  No one has the right to use the words, “mom jeans.” No one.

There was a time when dressing in a specific manner was expected. Riding on an airplane, for example, required your finest attire. Can you imagine being forced to buy special clothing today to eat your bag of peanuts stare longingly at the circulation-less hand you had to cram in between the seats?

Thankfully, now we have options in the transportation world, as well as in everyday life.

Find yourself below:

I wear the jeans I wore in high school because acid wash reminds me of rebellion and the Mc DLT.

I wear the anti-mom jean, keeping the waist band low in order to give my stomach that gentle sloping it deserves on the inevitable trip to my knees.

I wear cheap jeans. The kind that may vary by six sizes, depending on which third- world country proudly sewed two (or three) legs together.

I wear my daughter’s jeans.  Because you can’t.

I refuse to wear jeans because I don’t want to be in any of these categories. I wear middle-age pants. They are the same brand and style I have worn for twenty years. They have named that style after me and currently make these pants in basic black, soothing grey and terrific tangerine.

If you fit into one of these categories of some variation thereof, congratulations. You have reached pantopia. Now about that bra….

 

Looks Schmooks

Old lady

This is the anti, anti-feminism dilemma: When is it ok to put no effort into your look? This story, only slightly altered for dramatic effect, is about one such experience. Recently I made the conscious decision to leave my home in a relaxed state of presentation. That’s a fancy way of saying I was kind of sorry slob.  By the time I got to my destination, sweat and fatigue factored in to the delivery.

At my insistence, we dined in a nice establishment. It took only a minute to realize there was a familiar face already seated in the restaurant, someone who puts considerable time and effort into her aesthetic. Across the table from her sat an equally impressive individual. With cat-like reflexes, I dodged and slithered my way to the bathroom unseen, concerned for the first time that day about what my look might say about me.

The mirror did not disappoint. By this point in the morning, my already beleaguered hair was at a red-level of distress. I took a little water and tried re-styling, only to find a curious sculpture of sweat and hair products forming in the mirror in front of me. I pinched my cheeks, willing them to stand at attention.  There was no way to hide the eye bags or the lack of make-up either. The free-and-easy, I can-look-as-I-please attitude of earlier that morning was replaced by sheer panic.

As I left the bathroom, resigned to the fact that I would have to sit under the table until she was gone and enjoy my salad at eye level, fate intervened. She was waiting to use the very same bathroom I had just defiled with my failed hair and face treatment.

“Well hello!” she said, annoyingly cheery.

“Sorry,” I said as I scurried by.  I felt like I needed to go and take a sympathy shower for her. I ate my meal in self-induced humiliation, occasionally trying in vain to flip that one piece of hair out of my face.

It wasn’t until I got home and showered thoroughly that I realized the source of my shame. I had gone out many times before with, let’s call it “an earthy” look.  The real issue is that age has taken away my  ability to cheat. If I want a certain look that says, “this was entirely effortless,” I need to spend some time making myself that way.

That’s when I realized it wasn’t about looks, it was about time. Do I want to spend extra time to look the way she does? Sometimes. Do I want to look like I just climbed Mt. Everest in yesterday’s clothes? Sometimes. I will make my peace with appearing in public in both states. All salad (and chocolate) will be consumed above chair level from now on.

Toasty Bits #4

toast[1]

My thoughts, in these times of great international turmoil, center upon the almost half-birthday of Mark Twain. Why, you ask, would an almost-half birthday warrant deep thought, unless it involved celebratory dining? Because this was a man of great I don’t caredness. He did what he wanted without regard for how he was viewed by others, a lesson that would best be learned early in life. Unfortunately, most of us have to wait until the middle ages before we follow his lead and we waste much of our time in this odd state of limbo, not living in an authentic manner but doing our best to live to please others.

Some examples from Mr. Twain: 1. Before the age of thirteen, he nearly drowned 9 times. Some may call that stupidity, I say, he had a great aptitude for I don’t caredness before it became fashionable to fall from the sky, swipe right in a Starbucks, or eat things raw. 2. He wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, considered bawdy and inappropriate for the time. Whether or not it was a statement about racism, he clearly exhibited a whole lot of I don’t caredness in publishing this literary masterpiece. 3. He was almost as well-known for his cranky old man persona as he was for his many contributions to the literary world. No need to be redundant there.

So, in honor of a well-known, cranky, early leader in the I don’t caredness movement who probably would care less that his almost-half-birthday is being honored, here are a few of his very relative quotes:

 

“Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

“The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet.” — Mark Twain in Eruption

“I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man’s reasoning powers are not above the monkey’s.” — Mark Twain in Eruption

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

“Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.”

“Better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.”

“Never put off till tomorrow what may be done the day after tomorrow just as well.”

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”

“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”

“A lie can travel half- way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”

Hair Schmair

HY14Fee[1]

The greatest statement of any woman’s hair over a lifetime is its rise and fall, somewhat like a housing market graph. Reaching its peak in the 80s, it’s safe to say my hair soared to at least 8 inches above my skull at one point. With the help of perming, paste-like substances and a can-a-day hairspray habit, I was able to maintain this gruesome lifestyle for many years.

To this day, I have a recurring scenario that plays in my brain anytime I drive: It is a warm day and all of the alcohol-based products on my head have fermented to an essence of an empty beer can under the back seat. (Just guessing.) The 70s music blaring on my AM radio has distracted me from the change in speed. The police officer who pulls me over  politely asks for my license and registration. (While this isn’t Southern California and I’m not on a television set, I’m pretty sure it’s Erick Estrada or that  blond guy.) As he dips his head inside my window, his nostrils flare slightly.

“Have you been drinking today, ma’am?”

I gulp. “No, officer. It’s my hairspray.”

He scoffs. “How much ma’am?”

“Half a can. But I’m trying to cut down. I’m only re-styling mid-day now. If it looks bad after five, I have to live with it.”

“Can you step out of the car, ma’am?” At that point, a field sobriety test is performed. Natural clumsiness aside, it is the alcohol smell permeating from my scalp that is my most noticeable flaw.

I begin crying. Confessing my life’s history in hair. “Do you know what was like to have a bowl cut for an entire year? AN ENTIRE YEAR?”

“Can you take it down a notch, ma’am?”
“I’ve been trying for ten years, officer. I just can’t bear the thought of flathead.”

Officer Erick Estrada issues me a ticket and I’m ordered to appear in court, at which time the entire cast of Law and Order may be in attendance waiting for my case.

This story ends in hilarity during a courtroom appearance and a public admonishing about driving while flammable.

With the help of good people, I’ve kicked the perm, hairspray, and some hair product habit. But color? That’s another story.

 

Sight Schmite

cat eye

It was so embarrassing when I had to get glasses in the third grade. Those wire-rimmed behemoths were my fast ticket to nerddom. At that time in history, the way-back-not-telling-you-so-don’t-ask years, glasses played a purely functional role. There was no accounting for taste. The eye doctor himself fitted the frames on my face, tersely asking, “gold or silver?” Apparently the frame catalog of sizes and styles contained information that would fit on a double-sided postcard.

At some point in the not-too-distant past, someone came up with the brilliant idea that glasses can be a fashion accessory. Lightweight. colorful plastic became a thing, and suddenly the telltale nose pad indents were a distant memory, making the swimming cap the only recognizable fashion faux pas every summer at the pool. Dark rims, cool colors, and funky shapes – decorative facewear was here to stay.  Even my little gold-rimmed bully beacons took on a new name: vintage style.

All of this makes one aspect of aging a little easier. What we trendy folk call, “readers,” these little half-magnifying glass perched at the end of the nose have been incorporated into the world of fashionable facewear. No longer chained around the neck like a mid-life device of self- torture, they can be stored in a pocket or purse, only to be retrieved when serious thought or consideration is to be portrayed. (We are nothing if not thoughtfully stylish.) They come in just as many styles and colors as the regular glasses, at half the size and double the statement.

Piercings? New body art? Don’t need them. We’ve got readers. If there were a red carpet for middle age, we would walk it purposefully (wearing our equally-trendy comfortable shoes) and wave to the crowds. The adoring paparazzi would yell, “who are you wearing?”

“Bausch and Lomb,” we would respond, tipping our heads down slightly to view them from over the top of our stylish frames.

 

 

Toasty Bits #3

toast[1]

Today’s wonderful crunch comes from esteemed poet, Mary Strong Jackson. Mary’s unique perspective on the world gives her poetry a distinctive flair.  I’m very pleased to be able to share some of her work. Take it away, Mary:

 

Grandma Didn’t Die In the Corvair

 

grandmother

wrecked her Corvair

my mother sat on the edge

of a bed and cried

 

grandma didn’t die

she waited till her

black Irish brows grayed

after she’d wandered town

looking for tiny girls

she thought were lost

stopping at the man who sold cars

to inquire about the girls

 

he had no arms

but a finger grew from the place his arms

should be

a thalidomide baby    my grandmother said

and I imagined  thalidomide man

holding girls so tiny he curled one finger

around their waists and when he turned

his head he was eye to eye with them

and when he looked forward

they stared at the moles on his neck

and hoped he wouldn’t drop them

 

now Grandma seems like a dream

offering me gingersnaps

and workbooks to do while

my tonsils shrink

 

wait long enough and dead people

are dreams you can’t quite grasp

and only remember

when something in the day reminds

like someone says icebox instead of frig

 

and then your mother is old and dies

and you remember two women

getting old and then they die

though they once

ate brownies and tied their shoes

in the wind

 

Mary Strong Jackson’s work has appeared in journals and anthologies in the Unites states and England. Mary’s chapter books include, “ “The Never-Ending Poem by the Poets of Everything,” “Witnesses,” “No Buried Dogs,” “Between Door and Frame,” and “Clippings.”  More of her poetry and prose can be found at strongjacksonpoet.wordpress.com. Mary recently moved from the high desert of Santa Fe, NM to the vast green expanses of watery WisconsinMore of her poetry and prose can be found at strongjacksonpoet.wordpress.com.

Gym Schmym

gym rat

People who go to the gym often get a bad rap from those who don’t. There is a derogatory (in some cases) stereotype, Gym Rat, who may or may not be obsessed with spandex, neon shoes and full-length mirrors. The aforementioned Rat spends a good portion of her day thinking in pre, current or post workout state. Rat pours a baggy of protein powder into her black coffee.  Rat spends her lunch hour doing squats around the parking lot, oblivious to the sweaty scent she’ll impose on others for the rest of the day.  Rat’s muscles bulge imposingly through her needlessly tight shirt. Rat  is annoying.

In reality, Rat is really more of an oddity than a norm. Many people who go to the gym faithfully, masquerade in public as normal people. The Normals, let’s call them. They are shaped like apples, pears and your grandma. Your grandma may even be going to the gym and you don’t even know it.

One such Normal, a woman we’ll call Gladys Normal to protect her outside world identity, is 86 years-old. She’s so tiny and frail you may have already run over her with your cart at Walmart and not even noticed.  After years of attending an entry-level, just-so-you-can -brag-you-entered-the-gym class, someone told her about the world of indoor biking, spinning, to be exact. “You’re too old for it, though,” they added, in what Gladys took as a personal- challenge kind of voice.

Six years later, this unassuming woman is still spinning. At the end of class, she casts a doubtful eye on those who’ve sputtered. She’s not there to look like Rat and would be horrified at the thought of spandex on or near her body. Gladys Normal is the anti-Rat. 

Glady is so typical of the gym experience that I need to share one tiny detail: The day before Christmas, Gladys entered class wearing a Santa hat and a big frown. “Not feeling the Christmas spirit this year?” I asked, inspired once again that she would wear the traditional happy hat of the holiday anyway, typical of her can-do spirit.

“Not Christmas. I hate THIS crap.” She responded. Power to the Normals.

Bend Schmend

stock-photo-74693753-yoga-for-kids[1]

When you are two or even ten, bending over to pick up whatever is on the floor is something done without thought or regret. Sometimes it includes an eye roll because of the inconvenience involved. I mean, bending, really. As we make our way through the twenties It might take too much effort and into the thirties and beyond, that’s a lot further down than I remembered, things on the floor begin to take on a different meaning. That rogue bite of last night’s lasagna is much more than an eyesore or a statement of modern art on your sock.

At some point in self- dialogue, the negotiations begin. Obviously, this mystery piece of plastic doesn’t belong to the refrigerator door or my phone, so it’s fine where it is. There is no three-second rule with crackers.  The denial stage: Nope, didn’t see it. It only hurts when I walk directly on top of it. Jam? That’s only the current stage of fruit. Wine stage comes next.  And the inevitable state of acceptance: It looks just fine where it is.

What makes this even worse realizing it isn’t just a matter of laziness or age, it’s both. The bending over sound, the one that started for some at age twenty, has gone from a squeak of protest to a full-on, unmistakable Umph or for the hardcore, Groonnk.

There is only one workable solution: develop a great, subtle kick. Sharp and to the side, at a moment when others are least expecting it. Send your floor item to someone else’s space, where it becomes their problem. Let them Groonnk  as you watch in fake disgust. Try it out and let me know how it goes. Just don’t kick it to my side.