Losing things doesn’t mean you’re losing it.

I misplace my glasses a lot but it’s not my fault. It’s Hugh Jackman’s fault. I have one pair for seeing close up and another for far away, and I switch them constantly. When I’m walking around with my far glasses on, I often need to read some small print—especially if it’s something important like a photo of a scantily clad Hugh Jackman. I may be 70 but I’m not dead yet. So I have to take off my far specs and put on my close-ups. 

I lost my close-up glasses for two days once. I gave up and made do with my previous prescription pair. Then Frank, my husband, went to get some ice cubes and there were my glasses, in the freezer. And I remembered I had stuck my head in there rummaging around, way in the back, for the Haagen-Dazs ice cream, and put my glasses down so I could see because they were fogging up. I got so excited when I found the Haagen-Dazs I completely forgot about my glasses.

Often I forget to pay attention to where I am when I take off the pair I don’t need, and I have to go looking for those glasses. Sometimes I’m carrying a cup of coffee and I put that down during my search, and after I find my glasses I have to go around looking for my coffee. And so on. 

At seventy the specter of Alzheimer’s always looms when you misplace something. One well-known sign is finding things you’ve lost in strange, inappropriate places. In a public service TV ad about Alzheimer’s, an elderly couple is looking everywhere for something the woman lost, and the man takes a break and goes to the fridge get some cream for his coffee. He removes the pitcher…and car keys are behind it! The mournful, worried look they exchange makes it clear they’re positive the wife has Alzheimer’s. 

I’m not worried. I didn’t even consider the freezer a strange, inappropriate place to lose my glasses. It made perfect sense. The worse thing about the whole affair was that Frank found out I’d been into the Haagen-Dazs.

“… there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.” -Matthew 10:26

I searched an entire afternoon for my glasses once, and the cat had them all the time.

The Sensuous Art of Plum Picking

Plums from our backyard tree are incredibly sweet and juicy. I take them to church and put them in the kitchen, where we munch. If you stand outside the room you’d think they’re having an orgy in there. “Oooooh…ummmm…OMG this is sweet…ahhhhhh…just one more… ”

I wait for the Magic Moment.

It sounds like they’re making love, but they’re just in the kitchen eating plums I hand picked. Actually, “pick” is too crude a word. I don’t just pick them, I caress them. I fondle them. I squeeze each one very gently and if there is a softness, I tug it ever so slightly, tenderly, away from the branch. If it doesn’t come off with this gentle grope, I leave it on the tree. It is not ripe.

My husband is annoyed by all this. Frank is a no-nonsense, just-get-it-done kind of guy. He goes out with his bag and just indiscriminately grabs every plum he sees hanging. He pulls them forcibly, with lightning speed. “You’re coming with me!” I can almost hear him say. He’s done in a jiffy, and comes in the house with a big bag of hard, slightly green plums.

It’s easy to tell whether people are eating plums that Frank picked or that I picked. When they’re eating Frank’s, it doesn’t sound like there’s an orgy going on.  

Support Groups to the Rescue

I’m starting a 12-step support group for people who are addicted to lattes.  There are millions of us, and LA, Latteholics Anonymous, could help us. The only answer for latte addiction is total abstinence. 

She looks calm and happy, but she’s a secret latte addict. She needs Latteholics Anonymous.

It’s the same as for alcohol. I know, because after trying to control my alcoholic drinking on my own for years, I went to AA 30 years ago and I haven’t had a drink since. The 12 steps work! In contrast, I have a friend who tries to cut down her daily lattes to every other day, or just weekends, or whatever, but she always shoots back up to every day.

LA would not only improve her life in general but also her pocketbook. That Iced Coconut Milk Mocha Macchiato at Starbucks costs about $4.00. Yikes, that’s $1,500/year. That’s a latta money.

Though I like lattes, my habit isn’t daily—yet. But it could be. I qualify for many 12-step programs. My car used to autonomously steer itself into 7-Eleven parking lots. I would wander inside like a zombie and buy lottery scratch cards, often several times daily. I scratched all my cards off in secret after everyone was in bed. I finally admitted my addiction was controlling my life, and somehow managed to quit cold turkey. But it was comforting to know Gamblers Anonymous was there for me.

After LA gets going, I might start Chocoholics Anonymous. I have that heavenly substance every night, a piece each of Dove plain milk chocolate and caramel milk chocolate. Sometimes I spin out of control and have more than one of each, and maybe a cookie too. I never know when that’s going to happen, I just wake up in the morning and realize it did. It reminds me of how I never knew how many drinks I would have at night.

I make jokes—it’s my survival mechanism—but the truth is I’m profoundly grateful for AA and all the 12-step programs it inspired. In addition to AA, I also went to Al-Anon, for family members of alcoholics of which I am one. I went with my daughter, for help in healing the effects of my drinking on her and on our relationship. I also found help in CoDA, Co-Dependents Anonymous.  

I see how I could easily develop a dependence on support groups. If I’m not careful I’ll end up needing a support group for addiction to support groups. SGRA, Support Group Recovery Anonymous! I’ll get to it after I get LA and CA going.

Senior Discount Trauma

All of a sudden I felt ancient.

Believe it or not, I remember the exact day I got my first senior discount. I remember it because it was a total bummer. I wasn’t a senior yet. 

I suck at math, but when the young man at the register in Michael’s gave me my change I knew something wasn’t right. I had bought items totaling around $35.00 dollars, and gave him $40.00, and got over $10.00 back.

“I shouldn’t be getting this much money back,” I told him, confused. He looked at me blankly. I studied the receipt. 

“What’s this?” I asked him, showing him a credit.

“That’s your senior discount,” he mumbled.

I went into shock. I was fifty-two. In my prime. I hadn’t yet even remotely thought of myself as being old.

“Senior discount?!” I croaked ungracefully. “I’m not fifty-five! Why are you giving me a senior discount!?”

He just stared at me. He was tongue-tied. Then I realized he was scared, and I calmed down and smiled at him. “Well, never mind, young man. I can use the extra money. Thank you, dear.” I forgave him. He didn’t do it on purpose. 

When I got home I felt better after realizing that surely my white hair had caused him to misjudge my age. It must have been that, because certainly everything else about me was youthful. My smooth skin, clear eyes, athletic body…I could go on but don’t worry, I won’t. But the thing is I’m a towhead, of Scandinavian descent, born with white hair. Just like Tiger Woods’s former wife, Elin. And Greta Garbo, au naturel.

Funny how the years change us. Now, 20 years later, I LOVE my senior discounts. I get upset when they don’t give them to me. Bring ‘em on!

Fifty Shades of Meow

You’d be shocked to know what seethes under this cool exterior.

Cat experts nowadays say that cats can form at least 50 different meows that express a wide range of emotions: love, fear, bliss, distress, loneliness, surprise, shock…and more. It’s been discovered, evidently, that cats produce both consonants and vowels, and this enables complex expression. 

Okay, I lied. The real number of meows according to experts is 30. My title tweak was just too tempting to resist.

I’m pretty skeptical about this. My beloved, now-departed Buttercup had only one meow. It never varied but it meant different things depending on where she was standing. If she was standing by her food bowl and meowed, it meant she was hungry, so I fed her. If she was standing by the patio door and meowed, it meant she wanted to go outside and I let her out. Those were the only two things she ever wanted that I’m aware of. Well, she wanted to sit on my lap a lot but she just jumped up on it and settled in without asking. 

Actually, she did have a second meow, a sort of abrupt, short snarl when she was irritated: for instance, when she wanted more wet food and I didn’t give it to her. She got only a half can of wet food daily, and no more, vet’s orders. After that it was kibble. She did live to twenty, so I think her sensible diet was in her best interests.

I guess, if the experts say so, there must be cats that have a wide repertoire of expression and emotion. But Buttercup wasn’t one of them.  

I miss Buttercup, and her one meow, and even her little snarl. I really miss her cuddling on my lap. She wasn’t much of a conversationalist but I know she loved me. She was just quiet about it.

Blogging is good for your health.

Maybe you think the above title is a mistake, that I meant to say jogging. Nope. I mean blogging. You’re getting healthier if you laugh while you blog. 

Everyone knows jogging is good for your health. It strengthens muscles, improves cardiovascular fitness, helps maintain weight…yadda yadda yadda. As long as you don’t ruin your knees.

But how in the world can blogging be good for your health? The answer is endorphins. When you laugh you increase the number of these “feel-good” hormones in your system. The trick is you need to write humor. I write a lot of it. At least my friends tell me my stuff is funny. My blog posts make me laugh, which is the important part. Writing humor increases your health only if you laugh at your own jokes like I do.

Two young bloggers ramp up their endorphin counts.

When I’m at my PC blogging, sometimes I laugh so much that my husband thinks someone is in my office with me. It’s very therapeutic for me because I’ve suffered from depression nearly all of my life. I won’t go into the details, which I’ve been boring my friends with for years, but some very dark things lurk in my family background: suicide, heroin addiction, crime, hellacious accidents, alcoholism, permanent estrangement…the list goes on, but as a public service I’ll stop here.

So when I write about campaigning for a tooth fairy who comes to seniors, or becoming a Victoria’s Secret reject because my bra band size is larger than their max 38 inches,  or trying to meditate at home with Judge Judy’s obnoxious voice blaring from the TV, I’m manufacturing endorphins. These happy brain chemicals also relieve pain.

In a scientific test conducted at Oxford, participants’ arms were wrapped tightly in a blood-pressure cuff and tightness was increased gradually. Some participants watched 15 minutes of comedy, and they were able to withstand 10 percent more pain than participants who didn’t watch comedy. There’s also a bonding effect in an endorphin rush that is important in our social lives, believed to be like grooming for certain highly social animals such as monkeys. Endorphins also reduce stress and create a positive feeling in the body.

So next time someone tells you laughter is good for your health, don’t laugh. It’s true. And it doesn’t ruin your knees.

Terror in the Dressing Room

frog-pond-841839_640About ten years ago I had a frightening incident while trying on clothes at Macy’s. I went to buy myself some new clothes for Christmas. In those days no one bought clothes online. There were catalogs, but I preferred to go to brick-and-mortar shops, choose whatever caught my eye from the racks, and try things on. One of the items I tried on that day was an attractive lavender turtleneck sweater I found on the sale rack.

When I looked at myself in the dressing room mirror after I got the sweater on, I almost screamed. I managed, just barely, to stifle it. I was horrified to see that the sweater had pushed up the loose flesh of my neck to form a spare tire bulging between the top of the high, snug-fitting collar and my chin. I looked like a puffed-up bullfrog. A bullfrog sending out a mating call.

“How are you doing in there?” the sales woman asked sweetly from outside the dressing room door, a tinge of concern in her voice.

“Fine,” I lied. Apparently I had not managed to stifle the entire scream. Some squeaked out for the sales woman to hear. Or riveted out, more accurately. Well, I thought, what would that sweet, firm young thing know about how frightening a spare tire made of neck flesh can be? She was twenty-something, I was sixty.

How had this state of affairs, of my neck I should say, escaped me for so long? I had no idea it was that saggy. It was a huge shock to me, but such a condition can’t have blown up overnight. I had developed turkey neck, a condition many of us senior women get unless we have cosmetic surgery, only instead of sagging it was being pushed up by a turtleneck collar. I realized with dismay that I had a couple of turtleneck sweaters at home. I hoped I hadn’t been going around looking like I did in the mirror. I hadn’t been paying attention. Hopefully their necklines weren’t as snug as the one I was trying on.

It was an afternoon of brutal Truth. I realized my neck was just one of many conditions of aging creeping up on me. Galloping up. Bags were starting to form under my eyes, I had gained a bit of weight, I had a few liver spots, and skin damage from the vain, reckless sunbathing of my youth. A basal cell carcinoma, above my right eye, was successfully removed but the surgery had left a crater. Deep vertical creases had sprouted at the sides of my mouth and I looked sort of like a puppet.  Turkey neck, temporarily transformed into bullfrog neck, is just one of the many dents and scratches resulting over time from that big messy collision called life. Today I cheerfully accept them, as well as the fact that there will be more as time goes on. After all, consider the alternative (and I’m not talking about cosmetic surgery). I’ll gladly take my dents and scratches over that any day.