Archive for the ‘life as a boomer’ Category

Assuming our good health continues, my husband and I will continue living in our home in the leafy suburbs where we’ve raised our children. We considered relinquishing the flora and fauna for a cute pied-à-terre as some of our empty nester friends have quite happily done, but we are too attached to our home and the neighborhood. We’re staying.

We’ve taken good care of ourselves. We eat healthy most of the time (if you don’t count the occasional movie popcorn for dinner and a few other other bad habits involving chocolate) and we exercise. Well, he exercises. I don workout gear and imagine myself running and lunging, burning calories, feeling that adrenaline rush. Then I sit down and pick up a book.

Someday, we could face the decision that confronts many seniors: the need to move to assisted living. Obviously, I hope this will be a long ways off, but it’s not too soon to start thinking about it.

“Our next home has to feel like home,” I told my husband. “I want us to feel good about it. No regrets.”

As boomers, our numbers will translate into a huge demand for these facilities. I started to imagine the ideal accommodations for us and our friends. What features would inspire us to sell the old homestead, not with sorrow but with anticipation for the move? What would it take to make us feel positive about making this lifestyle change? What would feel like a home away from home?

A tall order, I know. But then it hit me. You know how they say the college years are the best years of your life? Remember how fast those fabulous years flew by?

What if moving to a retirement facility was like returning to college?

memory lane, sign

Picture this: a place just for nostalgic 60s and 70s flower children. How much fun would it be to walk down memory lane on the grounds of a facility that simulates the quintessential college campus of our heyday? Direct out of central casting, you’ve got your ivy-covered halls, your grassy lawn for frisbee throwing, your meal plan in the dining hall. Dorm rooms are furnished with lumpy beds or a waterbed or simply a mattress on the floor covered with an Indian blanket.

Taped to the cinderblock walls are posters of favorite musicians (Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and the Moody Blues) and movies (Love Story, American Graffiti, The Godfather) and sports (Dorothy Hamill, Muhammad Ali, Nadia Comenici, Seattle Slew).

Classes may be taken but they are all pass/pass. You get credit for just showing up on time. Forgot to drop/add? Not a problem; the professors are understanding. Out on the quad there are benches with sensible backs for mid-afternoon bull sessions, with rock and roll music wafting through the air on a sound system turned up extra loud. Former SDS members might stage a sit-in in front of the administration building with demands for greater representation. Assistants are on hand to help them stand up.

How about late night “rap sessions” at 8 p.m. before the R.A. tells us it’s time to turn in? Instead of pondering the meaning of life, which we pretty much get by now, we would play “Name that Alma Mater Tune” and give the old brain cells a workout.

My fantasy is all in fun and I mean no disrespect. But when I think back to a time when life was ripe with promise and dreams were yours to follow, I like to think that it could happen again.

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Today the women of GenFab are doing a bloghop on “Fashion Disasters” from our past.

This topic gave me pause. Fashion disasters? I knew there were many. But I needed some inspiration, so I pulled several old photo albums off the shelf and started paging through.

I revisited some scary fashion moments: saddle shoes … hot pants … white go-go boots … halter tops … clunky clogs … the list goes on.

But with the turn of each yellowing page, I came to realize that no fashion faux pas, not one, could surpass the extreme fashion dysfunction of my hair.

I was born with naturally curly hair, a gift from my dad’s gene pool. If you need to know the humidity level outside, just check out the curl index on our heads.

As a kid, I didn’t know from hairdos and don’ts. It honestly never crossed my radar. All I cared about was horseback riding and playing outside and reading books.


My high school graduation. Was I barefoot?

With adolescence, well, everything changed. I spent less time with riding lessons and more time dreaming about boys. It was the late 60s/early 70s, the era to let it all hang out. I grew my hair long like everyone else. The curls changed into frizz but that was OK. Long frizzy hair was au courant, and I liked to think that my hair resembled Carole King’s on the cover of Tapestry.

But then, my world turned upside down. Frizzy hair was OUT. Straight hair was IN.

And the battle commenced.

I wanted straight hair. I craved straight hair. I would do anything to have straight hair.

I tried giant curlers and orange juice cans, wrapping my wet hair around them and securing them with bobby pins or clips. I slept on all those curlers. In the morning my hair would be straight with bobby pin ridges near the scalp.

frizzy hair

This was my very short, very frizzy do,. The party hats adds a touch of je ne sais quoi.

The iron came next. Not the flat iron we know today. A real pressing-the-clothes iron. I spread my frizzy locks on the ironing board and got to work. The ends were flattened but the rest was as frizzy as ever. A disaster.

I wrapped my wet hair around my head and taped it, a self-contained turban. In the morning my hair was straight but stuck straight out. Not a good look.

Remember the hair straightening products, like U.N.C.U.R.L. and Curl Free? I thought that this would be the answer to my prayers. The first try didn’t work. So I tried it again. This time, the chemical warfare resulted in straight listless hair for about two days. A week later, I tried another application. My beleaguered locks waved a white flag of surrender and, section by section, broke off and slid disconsolately to the floor. frizzy hair, curly hair

I ended up with very short hair for a while.

At long last, blow dryers were invented. Finally, something that worked, as long as it was a day with low humidity and I didn’t perspire and didn’t get my hair wet, any of which would cause all the hair blowing effort to have been for naught.

A few summers ago we were without power for about three days. I shampooed my hair at home, covered it with a hat and sneaked into the ladies room as soon as I got to work to blow it dry. One day I was detained and arrived with my hair a curly mop. As I slunk to my office, more than one person greeted me with “You got a perm!”

Nope. Just another bad hair day.

There’s more! Read what other GenFab women have to say about their fashion foibles below.

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As an adolescent I was grateful for my mother’s critical eye in the dressing room. Mom never pulled any punches. Contrary to the obsequious store attendants who burbled that everything, even the dress with the awful horizontal stripes, looked fabulous on me, my mother would shut that down before you could say Villager and Ladybug. Her discerning eye picked up the slightest issue, the most microscopic of bulges, and with a simple “Do you see how that’s gathering?” I knew that garment was toast. mod clothes, 1960s, fashion, women's clothes, mini skirts

As I tried on item after item our eyes would meet in the three-way mirror. No words were necessary. A cheerful smile indicated that something fit nicely and won her seal of approval. A sorrowful shake of the head translated into “It just doesn’t flatter you.”

She was unerringly right, my mom. I went through an awkward stage for, oh, ten years? I wasn’t built like most of the other girls. I matured early and was bigger and taller, with curves. Fitting those curves into fashionable clothes was no easy task.

I seldom challenged her opinions, trusting her fashion instincts way more than mine. And even though our system generally yielded around a 25% purchase rate, I felt confident that the items tucked in our shopping bag were meant to be mine.

I am reminded of this experience more often that not these days as I venture into a dressing room. My ever-evolving boomer body presents a whole new set of challenges. I stare at myself in the mirror, suck in my gut and turn this way and that, looking for the imperfection that will scream “WRONG FOR YOU!” Is it too “form fitting” (Mom’s words for tight), too revealing, too young, too old, too bright? Not black?

I should know by this point, right? But too often I get home, try on the new purchase, and scold myself. “What were you thinking?”

How about you? Do you need a buddy in the dressing room?

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Excuse me, but have we met?

We have? You’re … who? Oh, right, of course!

WHAT I SAY: How’ve ya been?

WHAT I MEAN: I have no idea who the hell you are.

Unbeknownst to me for most of my life, there is a name for a disorder I have. Full disclosure: I am self-diagnosing, but I’m certain I’m right.

Have you ever heard of Prosopagnosia, or face blindness? People with true face blindness can’t distinguish one face from another. They often don’t recognize family members. Believe it or not, they don’t even recognize their own face in the mirror. I first saw this story on 60 Minutes and it sure struck a chord.

My case is not as severe. I know my family and friends. I’m also pretty good at recognizing famous people.

It’s the rest of the world I have trouble with.

I can trace the first incidence of my face blindness to when I was about eight years old. We had a big snowfall over the weekend and my brother and I had a grand old time making snowmen and building tunnels. And helping our dad shovel.

My dad finished shoveling and went inside. My brother, teeth chattering from the falling temps, followed him. But I wasn’t quite ready to stop playing.

The sun was casting pale shadows on the snow that Sunday afternoon. It was almost dusk, with the hush of new fallen snow and the muted sounds of neighborhood kids sledding nearby.  So I didn’t notice a car slowly making its way down the street toward our house, snow chains clanking softly. When the driver rolled down the window and called to me, I was startled.

“Is your mother home?” he asked. “I wanted to stop in and say hello.”

My heart beat fast. I squinted at the driver, at the car. No clue who it was.

“Don’t you remember me?” he said.

Should I run? I didn’t want to look scared, so I oh so nonchalantly turned away and slunk in the back door.

The story isn’t as nefarious as it may appear. You see, the driver was a friend of my parents. Someone I’d met before. A person that should have looked familiar. But didn’t.

Several days later, I heard my mother talking on the phone and had an inkling the conversation was about me. “Why didn’t you tell me Mr. So-and-So stopped by,” she asked after hanging up. I was terribly embarrassed but had no answer.

I have experienced countless similar episodes all my life.

Recently, I was attending a conference out of town and checked into the hotel. I got into the elevator with one other person, and as the door closed she said, “Hi Helene!”

Gulp. I looked at her and obviously my flicker of nonrecognition was unmistakable. I hesitated. She raised her eyebrows and I felt a trickle of sweat inch down my neck.

“I’m Cathy,” she told me.

Well of course the name was familiar and I recalled meeting her several months before. But I had no memory of her face. Nor could I describe her to you now.

I’m not sure how many engagements it takes for me to finally learn a face. Even with some of my co-workers, if I saw them out of context, or not wearing glasses as they normally do, I sometimes falter.

So now you know. If I don’t recognize you, it’s not because I am inherently cold or snobby or uncaring. I just need a gentle reminder. Or several.

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I remember sitting in a college French class absently twirling a string of my hair and half listening to the professor talk about idiomatic expressions. Until one in particular caught my attention.

Etre bien dans sa peau

The literal translation is “to feel well in one’s own skin.” It means to feel good about yourself. But typically the expression is used in the negative — ne pas etre bien dans sa peau — and relates to anxiety or dissatisfaction with yourself. As in “I’m too fat, too thin, not pretty enough, not smart enough …” Wow, I thought.

Je ne suis pas bien dans ma peau. 

Mon dieu. C’est moi.

Yes, that was, and is, me.

Since as far back as I can remember, I have had … issues. Like looking in the mirror and grimacing at my image.

I blame my internal critic who is on call 24/7, providing continuous commentary of the negative sort.

She gives me a head-to-toe appraisal, her eyes flickering over the most egregious of body parts, and shakes her head sadly. Clears her throat. And with a sigh, begins to tick off the litany of flaws present in my body.

I listen. I agree. Even though, by probably anyone else’s standards, I look just fine.

Like the late Nora Ephron, whose book “I Feel Bad About My Neck: and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman” resonated with many of us dames d’un certain age, I fret about wrinkles, cellulite, hair loss and all the rest of it. That is to be expected, I suppose.

But that doesn’t account for why I felt this way as a teenager. Any probably even younger. I wasn’t obsessed with my body image. But I sure wasn’t happy about it.

The insecurities start at a very young age, especially with girls. Where does it come from? My mother didn’t instil these feelings — I did. Why? Is it societal norms, the overwhelming pressure to be thin, be beautiful, be perfect, thereby finding eternal happiness?

As I begin my latest diet to get rid of the 10 pounds that have crept up on me, I think of the alternative, being content absorbing the extra 10 pounds. Being happy in my own skin.

But that’s just not me.

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SOC Sunday: S.A.D.-ness

I am hanging out with all.things.fadra on this wintry Sunday.

#SOCsundayI mourn a little the day of the spring solstice — isn’t that what it’s called? The longest day after which each succeeding day is a little bit shorter? Mid-June sometime. Just as we’re getting giddily into the swing of summer … bam! That damn seasonal clock starts ticking.

So yes, I do suffer from S.A.D. Why? I have always been a summer girl. Bring on the heat and humidity, I don’t care. I love the feel of sun on my skin and soft breezes on my face. I love the sounds of summer that open windows welcome, chirping birds early in the morning and crickets late at night.I love the smells of summer, freshly cut grass, suntan lotion slathered on my arms, chicken sizzling on the grill.

As fall turns to winter and the last few solitary leaves skitter across my frozen yard, I sigh inwardly and brace for the bitter months ahead. I know I will be cold and yes, a little depressed. I will pile on layers of clothes and be too hot, then too chilly. Arguments with my husband about the thermostat setting will kick in. My fingers and toes are always frozen. At work all day, I barely see daylight. On the ride home, I relish the thought that I will soon shed my work clothes and throw on comfy sweats.

On weekends I make hearty soups, lentil, barley mushroom, chowder, stews, anything that resembles comfort food. The tantalizing aromas fill the kitchen, a warm and cozy mecca. My husband and I contemplate going out. We look at each other. Nah, we say in unison, let’s stay home and watch a movie.


This was my 5 minute Stream of Consciousness Sunday post. It’s five minutes of your time and a brain dump. Want to try it? Here are the rules…

  • Set a timer and write for 5 minutes.
  • Write an intro to the post if you want but don’t edit the post. No proofreading or spellchecking. This is writing in the raw.
  • Publish it somewhere. Anywhere. The back door to your blog if you want. But make it accessible.
  • Add the Stream of Consciousness Sunday badge to your post.
  • Link up your post.
  • Visit your fellow bloggers and show some love.

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“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.”  ~Author Unknown

I used to be a fairly active person in my younger years. I hit the gym four or five times a week. I had a weekly group tennis lesson and played in a foursome every Sunday morning. Mind you, I was never an athlete, could never boast a low percentage of body fat, but at least I had … a shape.

But aging, lack of free time and intense laziness have all conspired against me. I feel very blob-like these days. The last time I worked out was, hmmm. Does strolling around our cul-de-sac with a dog that sniffs every blade of grass count? Probably not.

I had an appointment with the foot doctor on my 50th birthday. I waxed philosophical about reaching this half century marker, and we got to talking about exercise. He said, “You know, I tell my patients that your thirties are for running, your forties are for aerobics, and your fifties are for stretching.”

So be it. It took a while, but this summer I decided to start yoga classes.yoga, poses, stretching

With a purposeful bounce in my step, I showed up for my first class, excited at the prospect of transforming my body into a supple thing of beauty and discovering spiritual awareness and inner peace at the same time. The instructor, let’s call him Yogi, greeted me with a soul-searching, unblinking gaze. The scent of incense wafted through the air. Looking around at the class, I felt a little self-conscious in my baggy shorts and t-shirt.

“What are you looking for in this class?” he asked intently.

“Well, I’d like more flexibility, more strength … ” I began.

He stopped me right there. “You will NOT gain flexibility OR strength if you don’t practice on your own. No one –not me, not anyone — can make you strong. It’s up to YOU. Can you commit to that?”

“I guess so,” I whispered. My baggy shorts and t-shirt felt so wrong.

“OK then. Watch what I do and try to follow me,” he said, more kindly. “Everyone, on your mats, please.”

“Deep breath in through your nose,” Yogi instructed, “and whoooosshhhhh out through your mouth.” OK, I could do that. “And again. Deep breath in …. whoooosshhhhh.”  So far, so good.

yoga, stretching, poseBut my confidence evaporated like the beads of sweat dotting my brow as Yogi effortlessly contorted himself into twisted poses that defied the imagination. All around me were lithe bodies following suit. I did my best but this was way out of my element. I am about as flexible as a tree branch. A dried out, crackly one.

“Stand up slowly, hands above your head. Place your right foot onto your right calf. Let your mind leave your body,” Yogi intoned. “Close your eyes. Feel your spine lengthening. Relax your head, your neck, your jaw.”

Dutifully, I shut my eyes and tried to settle into the pose. I swayed and felt slightly nauseous. I opened one eye just a crack to check out my neighbor, who definitely seemed in the moment and perfectly balanced, in her fitted silver toned racer back top and tight calf-length black shorts.

Yogi walked around the room to check everyone’s positioning. “How are you doing?” he asked softly as he tried to align my hips.

Aaaayyyy ayyyyyy eeee yowwww ngangggggn nanggg, whined the piped-in new age music.

“Now take your left arm, swing it under your right arm, twist your hands so your palms are facing each other and breeeeaaatthhhe. Inhale deep breath, exhale whoooosshhhh.”

I thought of that kid’s game where you have to figure out where to put each body part. But no time to daydream. Must. Stay. Focused.

I learned how to do Downward Dog, Cobra, Plank and Hunter, and wasn’t quite as wobbly as I gained concentration. At the end of the class, the room was darkened and we lay on our backs in the Corpse pose (that was an easy one), eyes closed. The whiny music was replaced with a steady, reverberating “ommmm” that went on and on. But as I lay there corpse-like, I felt fluid and whole. The tightness had left my shoulders. I felt like I had just had a massage and gotten all the kinks worked out.

“Namaste,” we said in unison as we bowed, a salutation that means “The God/Goddess Spirit within me recognizes and honors the God/Goddess Spirit within you.

Gathering up my things, I told Yogi I enjoyed the class. “You did fine,” he told me. “Are you relaxed? Do you feel refreshed?” I nodded. “Then you have successfully practiced yoga.”

Feeling stretched and sublime, I headed home, inhaling and exhaling rhythmically.

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There are many things that inspire me: the beauty in nature, the athletic prowess in a five-set tennis match or a basketball game in double overtime, a wonderful sense of humor, a perfectly turned phrase. But many years ago I stumbled upon a quote that spoke so meaningfully to me that I adopted it as my own personal philosophy.

“The three grand essentials to happiness are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”

I have seen the quote attributed to both Joseph Addison and Allan Chalmers, so I can’t attest to its true origin. To me, it is brilliant in its simplicity about what is really important in life.

Something to do isn’t just the job you perform during the day or the errands you run on the weekends. It’s having a purpose, making a difference, maybe not making the world a better place, but trying to make both yourself AND your little corner of the universe better. It’s having an agenda that matters. What do I do? I eat vegetables I volunteer at a homeless program, I weed my garden, I donate pretty decent clothing to Purple Heart, I wear sunscreen, I say thank you excessively, I support animal rights, I cheer on the home team, I take long walks with my dog.

Something to love, well, I interpret that very broadly. I am lucky to have a family and a circle of friends to love. What else do I love? Broadway, animals, the smell of salt air and suntan lotion at the beach, old photos, movies accompanied by popcorn, Thanksgiving, reading hard-to-put-down books, the aroma of bread baking in my kitchen, high school reunions, singing along with the radio, speaking French, yes, I love all those things and so much more.

Something to hope for: in times of distress, I tell myself that things will get better, and they do. Getting through a rough patch is tolerable because I know it won’t last forever. Hoping for things is not to say that I’m dissatisfied with what I have, but what do I aspire to? And what do I wish for humanity? What do I hope for? World peace, a cure for terrible diseases, a strong leader for our country, my children’s fulfillment in whatever they do, a pair of jeans that fits well, my unwritten novel will someday be written, health and happiness and many years of life for everyone I love, and the opportunity to keep learning and keep giving back as long as I can.

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