Category Archives: A-Z Blogging Challenge

Q is for Quatsch

Qquatsch 1

Some words are simply better in other languages. Some of my favorite German words include Stau (traffic jam), funkelnagelneu (brand-new), pinkeln (to pee), and my all-time favorite: Quatsch! You need the exclamation mark, trust me.

Interesting note: Microsoft Word’s spell-checker is lighting up every German word in this post except Quatsch.

Pronounced Kvahtsh, Quatsch means nonsense, foolishness, b.s. It’s not a rude word, just direct. Quatschen means to talk/do nonsense, to fool around. Lass den Quatsch = Cut the crap/Stop fooling around. And the best of all: Quatsch mit Sosse=B.S. with sauce = absolute rubbish!

Ulli! Cut the crap!

Ulli! Cut the crap!

Quatsch is the perfect response to the nonsense we’re subjected to every day. Health claims for a highly-processed snack food? Ach, Quatsch! The driver in front of me doesn’t go when the light turns green because she’s checking her phone? Hör auf zu quatschen! (Quit d#@*ing around!). I should care what the Kardashians are doing? Doppel-Quatsch! I don’t know if a German person would actually say that, but it sounds good, doesn’t it?

All roads lead to Rome. Bullsh**...All roads lead to the refrigerator.

All roads lead to Rome. Bullsh**…All roads lead to the refrigerator.

Wouldn’t it be great if, during the run-up to the Presidential election, the candidates would stop slinging Quatsch and tell the truth?  Here’s wishing you a Quatschfrei day—unless you really feel like a little quatschen.

P is for Poulsbo, a Pretty Little Town

O

 

Poulsbo 2Poulsbo 3

One of the many blessings of retirement is time to explore the area where we live. And while I love the occasional visit to a big city center, it’s charming little towns that steal my heart.

Yesterday was my husband’s birthday and, although we’d already celebrated with friends on Saturday, we wanted to do something special, just the two of us. Still fairly new to the area, we were stumped as to where to spend such an unseasonably warm Monday. Our neighbor, who’s lived here for many years, recommended Poulsbo, about an hour away, north of Bremerton on the Kitsap Peninsula.

Poulsbo 1

I’m so glad we went!  On a sunny April Monday, the town was pleasantly uncrowded, and we had a delicious lunch at JJ’s Fish House, on the waterfront. After lunch we wandered along the marina and through the shops on Front Street, which runs through the historic district. We visited several vintage clothing shops, antique shops, a lovely bookshop where I bought Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus to read during our visit to Cannon Beach, Oregon, this weekend. (Rain is predicted all weekend. Oh well.) We also bought a vintage poster of alphabet rhymes for our grand-nephew, and quilting fabric with Northwestern batik designs (whales, puffins, salmon, etc.) for my mom. The quilt shop’s owner is French, quelle bonne surprise! I taught high school French for many years and always enjoy an opportunity to chat with French folk. Here’s her website, in case you’d like to pay her a visit. She has lots of lovely fabrics. http://www.thequiltshoppepoulsbo.com/

Poulsbo quilt shop

At the little visitors’ center, we saw the usual nautical bits and learned that Poulsbo is pronounced “Paul’s Bo,” meaning something like “Paul’s Bay.” It seems that the person who filed the paperwork to incorporate the town had illegible handwriting. The area was home to the Suquamish people, who called the area “Place of Maples.” Norwegian immigrants arrived in the 1880s, and the historic town center still reflects a Scandinavian flavor today, from the gingerbread trim on the shops to the kitchy but cute Scandinavian trinkets on offer. In a pet shop on Front Street, I saw a dog dish printed with “Woof Da.”

Poulsbo 2

I look forward to spending more time in this little gem of a town; I’ll bet they do it up marvelously at Christmastime. If you’re up our way, do make time to visit Poulsbo.

Poulsbo 1

Photo credits: 1,2, and 6 are mine. 3 is from Gonorthwest.com. 4 is from the quilt shop’s website–see above. 5 is from Americantowns.com. 

O is for Open

Ohappy dog

One of my goals for retirement is to stay open-minded, open-hearted, and open to new experiences. In a previous post, I mentioned that tightly-guarded look I’ve seen in many mature women. With clenched jaw, tense shoulders and narrowed eyes, they seem perpetually on guard, lest someone take away something from them, like yappy little dogs snapping at anyone who comes to close to their stash of chew-toys. You know the type. No one wants to pet these pests, for fear of being bitten.

Me, I’m more of a galumphing doofus type: say, a golden retriever. At least, that’s how I am on my best days. That’s not to say that I’ll want to play with every ball or Frisbee that comes my way, but I’ll try to at least give them a sniff. The older people I like the best, and strive to emulate, are those who cheerfully, playfully try new things. These are the active older people I see playing pickle ball or dancing at the gym, wearing silly hats at the Daffodil Parade (it’s a Tacoma thing), dancing to blues music at Jazzbones (one of our favorite live music venues), dressing up with a glamorous sense of humor at the theater, playing pool and darts at the neighborhood tavern, and chatting up strangers and neighbors.

Now, I don’t mean those aggressive types who loudly insist that they’re just as cool, hip, and trendy as the young dogs—like that annoying neighbor dog who never stops barking. “Hey, hey, hey—I’m not old! See my cool phone? My Lululemon pants? My hip-hop playlist? My thong?”

OK—getting a little silly with the doggie metaphors here. What I’m trying to wrap my words around is that open, engaged-with-the-world quality that I find so attractive in older people. And something I need to be open to is a different way of being in the world, now that my knees, my back, and my stamina will no longer allow me to boogie all night long. That’s cool—this old dog will stretch out for a snooze on the couch. I’ll be ready to chase the Frisbee again in just a bit. Life is good.

N is for “No, Thanks”

Nneedle

“Anti-aging” products are a huge industry, and many women my age spend a great deal of money on expensive goop and treatments that promise to stop the hands of time, or at least erase the evidence of time’s passing. Me, I’m more interested in fighting ageism than in fighting wrinkles. I’m not trying to fool anyone into thinking I’m younger than I am; I just want to look like an attractive, interesting, well-groomed woman of my age—53 at the moment. And so, I say “No, thank you” to these:

  • burning my face with acid or lasers
  • injecting my face with poison, plastic, or my own butt fat
  • underwear that squishes my guts
  • punishing diets. God didn’t give us delicious, nourishing food so we could subsist on protein shakes.
  • fake tan. My little spider veins are still visible under the yellow dye.
  • expensive creams. I’d rather spend a hundred dollars on a concert than on a tiny pot of anti-wrinkle cream. A good concert makes me smile, and smiling lights up my face better than any cosmetic product can.

Yesterday, I had lunch with a fascinating group of women in their sixties. Among them was my favorite Zumba teacher, who’s sixty-six and has been teaching exercise classes for decades. Also with us was an actress, age sixty-seven, who still works in films and on stage. Both ladies ate their Mexican restaurant lunch, by the way, including carbs, and both have the look I aspire to: that glow that comes with good health, good humor, and a purpose in life.

So, what anti-aging products really work? I say “Yes, please” to exercise, fresh air, sex, naps, bright colors, music, art, and conversations with fascinating people. And I know that, at my age, it’s best to avoid certain things that my body just doesn’t handle as well as it used to—thing like

  • worry about what other people think, which leads to worry lines on the face. Very aging.
  • keeping up with things that don’t interest me just so younger people will think I’m “relevant.” That cuts into my nap time. Plus, all that clenching my jaw to bit back a smirk—very aging.
  • uncomfortable clothing and shoes—very aging, because grimacing in pain emphasizes frown lines.

Have you noticed how even the oldest woman can look positively radiant with a sincere smile? I think the older we get, the more transformative a smile becomes. So—doing what you love is the best anti-aging beauty treatment there is.

 

M is for Motherhood

MMom

I didn’t want to be a mother. Then I changed my mind, and I’m so glad. I give the credit to Philippe.

Ex-hubs and I were camping in France, which is a very civilized business: our patch of neatly-mowed lawn was separated from the surrounding sites by hedges. The couple in the site behind us had a toddler named Philippe. Maman had a piping voice reminiscent of Julia Child’s, and all day long we heard “Philippe, viens!” (Come here), “Philippe, alonge-toi!” (Lie down), and “Philippe, non!” (self-explanatory). Maman seemed to be having a hard time—understandable if you’ve ever camped with a toddler.

We finally met Philippe when he poked his head through a gap in the hedge and grinned at us. Dark-haired with huge brown eyes and an impish grin, Philippe called out, “Madame!” Before I could answer, Maman tugged him back through the hedge and admonished him not to bother the neighbors. Too late—for the rest of our stay, we played peekaboo with Philippe. And ex-hubs repeatedly asked, “Are you sure you don’t want one of those?”

Well, as it turns out, I did.

Now, I would never criticize women who decide not to have children. Let’s face it: there are already too many people here, and too many parents who neglect or mistreat their children. It’s not selfish to admit that you’re not cut out to be a parent; it’s smart.

But most of us do take the plunge, obey our hormones, and reproduce. And what a transforming experience. For me, motherhood required significant sacrifice. I’m a semi-introvert and require lots of me-time to be healthy and happy, and small children don’t get that concept at all. But I wanted to make that sacrifice most of the time. My daughter had (still does) such a winning personality that I was helpless before her cuteness. Playing Barbies or building a fort with a small child when you’re tired and just want to read a magazine: it’s like that party you don’t really want to attend, but then you force yourself to go and end up having a marvelous time.

Motherhood: I’ve never before or since been so firmly on someone else’s side, rooting for her success and happiness, as I’ve been with my daughter.  When she succeeds, I bask in her success. When she doesn’t—well, she should’ve listened to her mother. (I’m kidding, but only partly.) And watching the fascinating, smart, talented young woman she’s becoming–marvelous!

My own mother taught me many valuable lessons, the most important of which is a no-nonsense work ethic. Just get the unpleasant stuff done, she says, and don’t give up if a job is difficult. Whining won’t make the work do itself; it’ll still be there when you’re done whining. We lost my father suddenly five years ago, and Mom’s strength and courage in the years since have been inspiring. She’s filling her days with friends, and with activities that she loves. She travels, helps out in her community, and treats herself with kindness. She’s a good role model.

I’m not sure I’ve always been a good role model to my daughter, but I’ve tried, and continue to try. Here’s to mothers. And, if you’re a young mother, go ahead and let Philippe poke his head through the hedge.

L is for Love

Lheart

You can’t have reached this age without having been tangled up in some complicated love stories. I admit to being a member of the multiple-marriage club. (Sequentially, not all at once.) Love has lifted me and squashed me, inspired me and humbled me, made me bleed and sing and quiver and vomit. There’s nothing like it, and we never seem to give up on love.

Husband number one was a wonderful boyfriend, but a lousy husband—the legacy of his parents’ very messed-up relationship. Husband number two had some fine qualities, but addiction changed him into someone I couldn’t stay with. Before the husbands, there were the boyfriends—sweet, smart, stumbling, dear young men who enriched my life but ultimately moved on. During bad times with husbands one and two, I often wondered how my life would have turned out if I’d stayed with this or that boyfriend. Don’t we all have “what if?” fantasies about the path not taken?

I started using Facebook during the worst years of my second marriage, and heard from a few former boyfriends. No, we didn’t reconnect in any way beyond social media, and all are now married with lovely families of their own. But it did my heart such good to hear from long-ago lovers who remembered me fondly, especially at a time when the man in my life was doing his best to make me feel worthless. He didn’t succeed, but not for lack of trying.

A few friends wondered why I would marry yet again after two “failed” marriages. This leads me to another important “L” word: learning. There is something to the cliché “older but wiser.” I’ve learned a lot about how to be in a relationship, how to disagree without tearing down the other person, how to be aware of my own moods and not blame them on my partner, how to think before I speak. I’m still learning, and there are times when the kindness my partner deserves doesn’t come easily, times when I just want to bundle up in a blanket and tell everyone to leave me alone.

And then I remember how much I love my good, good man and do my best to make sure he knows it. He is truly the best man I know, and his love feeds my heart and soul. Love is worth the effort, worth the risk. Here’s to love.

heart

K is for Kansas

Krock concert

…and Journey, and Foreigner, and Boston, and Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd, and the Eagles, and Queen, and Don McLean, and The Who, and Fleetwood Mac, and Aerosmith, and the Police, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Blondie, and James Taylor, and Carole King, and The Rolling Stones, and Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Seeger, and the Pretenders, and Elton John, and Carly Simon, and Yes, and The B-52s, and CCR, and Meat Loaf, and AC/DC, and Bob Marley, and Santana, and Van Morrison, and The Allman Brothers, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and Rod Stewart, and Earth Wind and Fire, and the Jackson 5, and Smokey Robinson, and The Steve Miller Band, and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Marvin Gaye, and the Doobie Brothers, and Abba, and Van Halen, and The Grateful Dead, and Barry White, and David Bowie, and Jethro Tull, and ZZ Top…

My formative years were the 1970s, music-wise. I was born in 1962, but the only music I remember from early childhood was my parents’ Peter Paul and Mary albums, plus the songs from Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. The seventies, though, was a very rich musical era. Of course, every generation is especially fond of the music of its youth, but it seems to me that music, especially the various flavors of rock, was more—well, musical in the 1970s. There were rich layers of harmony that I hear less of in modern stuff. Lyrics had less to do with getting drunk and getting laid than today’s popular music. More rainbows, mystic visions, unicorns, May queens bustling in the hedgerows. And more funk, too. Now, I’m not going to discuss disco music except to say that at its best it was great fun—like Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”

It’s hard for me to wrap words around this, since I’m no music critic. It seems to me that there was a mystic, dreamy, even philosophical quality about 1970s rock that is much less prevalent today. Sure, there are some wonderful young musicians from this decade: Adele is certainly a torch singer for the ages. But compare Katie Perry with, say, Stevie Nicks, or Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart—there’s a whole different mentality and flavor. Both sing about love and desire, but there’s a cruder, more in-your-face-with-my-lust flavor to many of today’s lyrics.

I had to giggle the other day when two relatives, one in her 40s and the other in her 30s, were reminiscing about their favorite boy bands, and how dreamy they were. I guess we all have a special fondness for the music of our teens. After a challenging, stressful day—say, a day in which repairmen are burrowing into the walls and floors of my house (See “H is for House Surgery”), a glass of wine and some seventies music relaxes and energizes me. Rock on!

 

J is for Junior Senior

J

Warning

WHEN I AM AN OLD WOMAN I SHALL WEAR PURPLE
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week

And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

by Jenny Joseph

I admit it: I signed up for AARP as soon as I turned fifty. While some of my peers do everything possible to deny/hold back their entry into the “golden years,” I dove in enthusiastically. Heck, I made a splashy cannonball. Kasploosh!

No one can hold back time’s progress, so we might as well embrace the life phase we’re in. Fifty-somethings aren’t quite senior citizens, but many of us become grandparents during this decade. I figure I’m a senior citizen in training. If fate doesn’t swoop down on me with a nasty illness or accident, I can probably count on another twenty-five or so years of active life, maybe more. I’m feeling optimistic about this post career/second career phase, and looking forward to becoming a fascinating, feisty old lady. Might as well start training now.

I’m actually getting a kick out of hanging out with older people and trying some typical “old folks’” activities. It turns out I enjoy golf, though I have a long way to go before I become proficient. Those white-haired ladies with a killer golf game are pretty impressive, you must admit. And I love my mid-day Zumba class, which is mostly full of older ladies—say, sixty and up. Molly, our sixty-something instructor, is a paragon of fitness and good cheer. I want to be like her when I reach that age.

Have you heard of Ashton Applewhite? She’s the author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism and host of the funny, thought-provoking blog Yo, is this ageist? How about Dr. Bill Thomas and his The Age of Disruption Tour? Here’s a link: https://drbillthomas.org/?mc_cid=8f0cc3f0cc&mc_eid=d2e30cd7d3

These two consciousness-raisers are making great strides in changing the way we think about ageing, and are excellent role models for junior seniors like me. I have no intention of dying my hair gray—what is up with that weird trend?—but perhaps I’ll start looking for the perfect red hat, just so I’ll be ready.

 

I is for Impressive

Iskotan-Thumbs-up-smiley

I had a hard time deciding on an “I” word to write about today. So many tempting “I” words have a negative connotation: idiot, impolite, ill-conceived idea, illiterate. I don’t want to turn this blog into rant central (Get off my lawn, you dang kids!), so I try to maintain a positive focus—well, most of the time.

This phase of my life (fifties, retirement) is a time of constructing a new identity. I now have the necessary stillness and space to figure out how I’ll spend this precious time. It helps me to look at others who seem to be doing this age well.

I’m impressed by

  • People who make art–all kinds of art, from illustrations to sculptures to choreography to music. There’s an electric energy at any kind of live performance, and that same energy vibrates in hand-made objects of beauty. Very impressive.
  • People who cross barriers, push envelopes, brush aside impediments. Determination and persistence are so important in reaching our goals, and I’m impressed by people who set goals and don’t give up.
  • People who are comfortable in their own skin. Now, I’m all in favor of adornment and personal self-expression, be it clothing, jewelry, tattoos, hair style, what have you. But smugly or desperately clinging to a false front (fake tan, fake boobs, fake nails, Botox-frozen brow, Spanx-squished guts) is not impressive; it’s just sad. I’m impressed with people who accept and enjoy their own beauty and style.
  • People who are active. It’s so easy today to just sit and absorb: information, entertainment, food. I’m impressed by people who are out there in the world, creating something instead of just consuming.
  • People who are connected and engaged. Introverts like me are tempted to stay home more often than is good for us. I’m impressed by people who get involved in community improvement projects.
  • People who think. This is the most important quality, in my estimation. “Just because” is not a good reason for doing anything. Well, perhaps for plopping down on the grass and gazing up at the deep blue sky… I’m impressed by people who think through life’s questions, big and small.
  • People who have a sense of whimsy, of fun. I’m impressed by people who know how to have a good time, and how to make their own good times.
  • People who are kind. Kindness is contagious; so is crankiness. I’m impressed by people who can keep their cool and their compassion when faced with daily irritations and rudeness.
  • People who are open. This is perhaps the hardest quality to wrap words around, but it’s an easy quality to feel. Some people’s faces are just closed up tight. I’ve met many older women who suffer from this tight-faced syndrome, always on guard, as if they expect to be taken advantage of. I’m impressed by people who are relaxed, open to meeting new people, new situations. I guess it’s optimism that I see in their eyes, the expectation that they’ll be fine. That’s a sign of strength.
  • People who don’t use age as an excuse. This quality is dear to my heart. No one is too young or too old to do sports, dance, make art, invent something, contribute. Basta!

 

H is for House Surgery

H

Disclaimer: Today I’m writing about what’s come to be called a “first-world problem.” I’m well aware that, in global terms, I’m very wealthy. I’m grateful to have a house to live in, plenty of food to eat, plenty of clothing to keep me warm, and access to clean water and medical care. I well know it’s pure luck that I was born into a middle-class family in the U.S., rather than a poverty-stricken family in a less-developed country. That said, today I’m writing about house renovation.

Our house was built in 1956, and the kitchen has not been remodeled since. No garbage disposal, no dishwasher, and a very basic electric stove. It was bright and sunny, but since we plan to stay in this house until we’re wheeled out, Hubs and I wanted a nicer kitchen. (I wish I could show you a “before” photo, but they didn’t turn out.)

After lots of research and three bids, we chose Fine Design Interior Remodeling out of Graham, WA, to do a total renovation of our kitchen. Their plumber, Randy, is also re-piping the whole house.

You know that scene from E.T. when the haz-mat team covers the protagonist’s home in plastic and wheels poor E.T. out on a stretcher? That’s what our downstairs looks like, in preparation for cutting away chunks of the ceiling and walls to reveal the old pipes. Most of the kitchen floor is now gone, so that the plumber can access the water and gas pipes there. All weekend, we’ll be walking on a precariously-balanced jigsaw puzzle. The water is currently turned off while the plumber does his thing. Ugh.

Day one of renovation. Notice the lovely linoleum.

Day one of renovation. Notice the lovely linoleum.

And here's day two. Notice the 1950s linoleum? Kind of cute.

And here’s day two. Notice the 1950s linoleum? Kind of cute.

And here's what it looks like today, day five.

And here’s what it looks like today, day five.

For the time being, our “kitchen” in the living room consists of an electric skillet, a slow cooker, and a tiny microwave. Of course, we also have a coffee maker and a toaster, and a grill in the back yard. I’ve cooked dinner at home three out of the first five days of this adventure. In fact, being a good home cook is so much a part of my identity that I’m already experiencing withdrawal jitters. And even though we’ve budgeted extra money for dining out during this period, my inner tightwad winces at the high cost of non-fast restaurant food.

But I feel so discombobulated! I can’t tell you how many times this week I’ve headed for the kitchen to fetch this or that, only to bump into reality—ain’t no more kitchen in there. The guys working here could not be nicer or more accommodating, under the circumstances. Still, it’s not pleasant feeling like an intruder in my own home as I tiptoe through the construction site toward the fridge. And even though I’m not doing any of the work here, I feel really pooped at the end of each day. That must be stress-related.

Good news: The water is back on! Randy the plumber showed us the old metal pipe from beneath the kitchen sink, which was as thickly-crusted with gunk as a heart-attack victim’s arteries. Any day now it would have sprung a leak and flooded us out. Whew!

Stay tuned for further remodeling adventures.