Category Archives: aging

Rounding a corner

I’m feeling reflective as I approach another birthday celebration. You know, considering what I’ve learned, loved and lost in this latest trip around the sun. There’s a lot to think about, but I feel pretty satisfied with the overall picture from my 50th year. There are moments I’d consider doing over and some things I wish I saw more clearly sooner, but it’s been a year well lived. That, to me, is both the goal and the reward. I am a very fortunate person.

I’ve collected experiences – visits in cities near and far, beaches along the Atlantic Coast, runs along lakes and rivers. Twice, I flew solo to spend long weekends in remarkably different, yet equally appealing, cities and I’m hungry to see more new places. I’m proud of my sense of adventure and confidence in negotiating travel alone. I can’t wait to live life.

“Work at being kind” is my takeaway for the year. Loving isn’t always easy; it can hurt and doesn’t always feel worth the resources it consumes. I’ve learned, though, that it always feel better to give than to receive, and love is no different really. My well isn’t bottomless, but it does refill.

My biggest personal loss this year was the death of my uncle. He was such a great traveler, a man passionately in love with his wife, a kind human being. He is missed, yet remains an inspiration and a reminder that true love is possible and that it is wrong to settle for anything less.

 

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Filed under aging, birthdays, Charleston, Chicago, Germany

This end up

After giving up vitamins and my apparently naturally high in fiber diet for a week, fasting and slamming water all damn day, I was literally brought to my knees yesterday. Yep, my colonoscopy prep was an epic fail due to an excruciating headache that caused me to repeatedly vomit before I could even begin ingesting the Miralax dosed Gatorade. Crap.

I’ve had what I self-diagnosed as migraines occasionally in the past, but not in a very long time. The one that manifested yesterday was the worst one I’ve ever had – it was totally crippling. The headache began midday and, if I hadn’t been on a restricted diet, I would have swallowed a couple of Excedrine and gotten on with my prep. Instead, I continued drinking water and a little lemonade and attempted to move forward with the plan. I took the oral laxatives and hoped for the best…the vomiting began a short time later.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon and evening alternating between bedroom and bathroom, never experiencing the “benefits” of the medication, nor drinking the necessary proscribed fluids. At about 9:00 p.m., I admitted defeat and called the doctor’s office to cancel my appointment.

This morning, instead of being clean as a whistle, I was physically drained in a different way. Moving forward, it looks like I’ll need an in office consult prior to rescheduling my colonoscopy and, more than likely, a visit with my cardiologist prior to the procedure. Oh – and I’ll probably need to have my colonoscopy performed in the hospital since my low blood pressure/heart rate requires more careful monitoring. What a pain in the ass, right?

This whole episode sucked, but it is an excellent reminder to me about the health challenges some folks deal with on a much more frequent basis than I. An inconvenient diet and some puking really aren’t much to endure in the grand scheme of things, right? I’m know that I’m incredibly lucky to be mostly healthy and in possession of quality health insurance. Hopefully things will come out next time just like they’re supposed to.

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Filed under aging, medical, sick

Don’t tell me what to eat

Straining my high pulp oj this morning.

If you see me this weekend and I seem a little out of sorts, it might be from eating too much ice cream and pastry. I’m on a diet and limited to a menu of foods that I only truly enjoy in small doses – things like white bread, peanut butter, cookies and ice cream. You know, the diet of a typical two year-old. It’s a low fiber diet and apparently it’s necessary prep for a colonoscopy, something I’m looking forward to having on Monday. Looking forward to as in looking forward to getting it over and done with, that is.

I’m not a dieter. I don’t respond well to being limited, I guess. That being said, I’m an excellent moderator and generally eat pretty well. Breakfast is usually cereal with fruit, oj and coffee. Lunch is a salad or yogurt and fruit and dinner varies between some kind of protein or pasta with veggies. Turns out most of this stuff is fairly high in fiber and, thus, not allowed prior to a colonoscopy. Who knew that my typical diet was an innately high fiber one?

How do people not eat fresh vegetables and salad greens? Or cherries and raspberries in July? It seems that all of my favorite things are verboten and it’s making me cranky. I haven’t eaten canned asparagus since I was a child and, after years of roasting or grilling them, there’s no way I’m ever going back to that soggy mess, so it looks like I’ll be carb loading and sweet toothing it for the next few days. I have no interest in eating canned fruits, Cream of Rice (whatever the hell that is) or lima beans, waffles and ice cream are what it’ll be for the next couple of days.

Anybody have an extra quart of consommé in their freezer? Maybe some bouillon to spare?

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Filed under aging, Eating, Food, medical, Rant

Fear of travel

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I had a conversation recently with a woman a bit older than I. She was retiring from a job she had held for 15 or 20 years, a job she had done very well for all of those years. It hadn’t paid her much, but her true calling had been motherhood and she had only taken the job after her children were well on their way to being grown.

Now that retirement was imminent, we talked about what she would do with her time. The topic of travel came up and she expressed how uncomfortable she was about going somewhere she’d never been before without the company of someone who had traveled previously to wherever that destination might be. I nodded as the words bounced around in my head…thinking…wait! How in the world do you ever go somewhere new? Are you saying you’re afraid to ever leave home? How does a competent, intelligent woman allow fear to limit her horizons?

International terrorist attacks are happening with increasing frequency. We’ve all seen it – there’s truly no safe place. Church, work, markets, concert venues, airports, train stations, all have witnessed the deaths of innocent people around our world. I’m not even including the tremendous losses we’ve suffered in the U.S. to gun violence – in schools, night clubs and office buildings. The world is a dangerous place.

There are things that scare me, too. I hate to fly because the more often I do it, the greater I think the odds are for a bad outcome. I don’t like heights or crowds and there are places I’d be hesitant to go to without the company of someone native, like Turkey or Indonesia. But, the world is also a remarkably beautiful place filled with people from whom we can learn. Visiting new places, observing customs and absorbing history and culture are one of life’s greatest gifts. It enriches us beyond any other experience, in my opinion, and I dedicate a lot of my expendable income on collecting memories in new locales. It’s money well spent.

Diminishing our lives as we seek to preserve them seems counter productive to me. If something ever happens to me when I’m traveling, reread this post and know that I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any other way. I’m way more afraid of not seeing everything possible than I am of dying while trying.

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Filed under aging, beauty, musings, road trips, travel

The burgermeister

They say you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family, however that hasn’t been my experience. When you don’t meet your first relative (other than your mother and brother) until you’re 22 years-old, having family is very much a choice. With complete honesty, I can say that finding and getting to know my family has been without exception the most personally gratifying and fulfilling decision I have ever made. I think that’s why I’m so devastated by the loss of my uncle, the man I’ll always think of as the burgermeister

From the very first time we met, me an undergraduate student and the daughter of one of his oldest sisters kicking around Europe, he, in his midthirties and a father to two young children, he always made me know I was family. There was never an instant that wasn’t apparent in the subsequent years and the times we shared.
Between that initial introduction and his recent death we probably were together on a dozen different occasions. He and his wife visited Albany, we met in NYC on the very day my own cancer was determined to require additional treatment, we traveled together in Europe. Three of my last four trips to Europe involved spending time with him and those are some memories that I’ll take out and shine until they gleam gold.

We stayed in the town where he lived twice in recent years and it was truly wonderful to witness the affection with which he was greeted everywhere we went. It was so obvious that he was a beloved member of his community – from the bakery to the Italian restaurant where he still occasionally worked when they needed a hand, he was met with humor and warmth and I was honored to claim him as my uncle. I always felt safe with him and I’m convinced there was nothing in this world with which he couldn’t contend. Except cancer.

As I was proud of him, he was proud of the life he had created. He had been a competitive athlete representing his country in the biathlon. Since learning that part of his history, I’ve loved cross country skiing even more, like it’s our family’s sport. During our visit in April he shared the medals he had won and his unabating love for winter sports was apparent. His home actually overlooks a ski jump used in international competitions, (which he helped with, of course) and we toured a local museum dedicated to the history of Nordic skiing.

My uncle, the unofficial burgermeister, was a great man and the loss of him, despite the thousands of miles between us, feels almost unbearable. How incredibly lucky was I to have seen him so recently? How kind of the universe to have cooperated by putting so much of my family in one place to celebrate Easter just two months ago. I know the ache in my heart will dull and the tears will dry but I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing him. As the marker on his final resting place states, he was a gift from Heaven.

Hug your dads, uncles, husbands and sons and know how fortunate you are.

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Filed under aging, cancer, Europe, family, Germany, love, Uncategorized, x-country skiing

Are your ducks all in a row?

IMG_2019Have you ever chaperoned a field trip? At this point in my life, I’ve accompanied quite a few bus loads of students to destinations like NYC, Montreal and, as of today, Boston. I take the responsibility pretty seriously and spend an inordinate amount of time counting my charges, hoping to consistently arrive at the same number. Today my magic number was four.

It was a beautiful day for a field trip to Boston. We left before the sun came up knowing we were in for a long day. After contending with typically hideous traffic as we approached the city, we arrived at our first destination, the Museum of Science. I’d never been there before and my small posse was a great group. We had fun exploring the hands on exhibits, checking out the dinosaurs and stumbling upon the lightning storm demonstration as a perfect finale to our visit. On to the next stop – the Duck Tour.

I herded my group, feeling like Mrs. Mallard from Make Way for Ducklings, to our meeting point and we boarded our amphibious vehicle to learn about Boston’s history and get into the river. I checked my email as we sat at yet another red light and gasped at what I read. There had been a very unexpected death in my family. Tears immediately sprang to my eyes. The day changed and memories washed over me in waves larger than any we would see on the Charles.

The uncle I lost was the relative, other than my brother, to whom I felt most connected. He was the first member of my German family that I met, years ago when he arrived at the Hauptbanhof to pick me up and bring me into the mountains where my family lived. He was the youngest of my mother’s brothers, closer in age to me than her, and from that very day he was never less than kind, generous and thoughtful to me and, eventually, my own family. Losing him has shocked me into sadness.

I have memories of him holding my babies, walking with us across the Brooklyn Bridge, sharing meals together in a half dozen countries, hosting us in his home…He and his wife had a marriage that never failed to make me smile. Their love for one another was evident and they enjoyed more adventures in their nearly 20 years as husband and wife than many couples will ever know. That’s the consolation, right? To have loved with passion, lived with spirit, taken advantage of the time given?

Our most recent trip together was less than two months ago. My youngest son and I spent nearly 10 days traveling around Germany with my uncle and aunt. We had what I’m convinced was the best Easter I’ll ever have, eating and drinking with five of my mother’s siblings and nearly a dozen cousins. I never imagined that he’d be gone just weeks later. Our last night together was in Berlin. We had dinner and then reconnected later in the night to have our final drink of vacation together in a little bar popular with the theater crowd. It was quiet and, as always, I felt a little sad to know that our time together was coming to a close, until next time, next year.

A day that began with counting my charges became an evening of gathering memories. I’m really going to miss being able to make more of those with him. Ensuring that all of my ducks are in a row may be something that will always require attention and work, but I’ll take some comfort in knowing that my efforts to know and spend time with my family have been the greatest use of my time, money and energy. Rest In Peace, WM.

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Filed under aging, cancer, family, Germany

PS L+L v2

61884248-707A-4D7A-9EAB-26775B959505-261-000000982DC18EBFI’ve written before about some of what I’ve learned from owning a business, specifically a restaurant. I recently reread that piece and, while every single thing I said at that time remains true, I was struck more by what I didn’t say. It was pretty friggin vague in a lot of ways.

I went into the project with an ultimate goal of creating a warm, comfortable environment for a diverse group of guests, feeding them and taking care of them with sincere professionalism. God, that sounds pretty damn Pollyanna-esque, yes? Note: making money was never primary. I’ve concluded I’m not a good businesswoman, but I am a good hostess and that’s truly more important to me.

I’m sure it’s challenging to work for someone like me. I was not incredibly consistent,  other than about the ambiance I wanted to create. I gave a lot of leash because it wasn’t possible for me to be on site enough hours to micromanage all the details. Maybe that was perceived as a lack of interest, but that wasn’t really the case.

If I couldn’t be there, I couldn’t be certain that the business was reflecting me and my hospitality sensibilities. If the business wasn’t projecting the way I wanted it to, it frustrated me, a feeling which was multiplied by all the pressure to keep things going. My business life was negatively impacting the quality of my life, something I just won’t tolerate.

Physically, I could do it. I let the accountant go and began managing all the banking and invoicing and daily sales journal activities. I figured it the f*ck out. I canceled the linen service and took on the laundry, front and back of the house. Despite all of this additional responsibility, and the physical exhaustion from running 20+ miles a week, I couldn’t sleep more than 3 hours before being interrupted by thoughts of the restaurant. Mentally doing math, feeling heavier and missing free time and, now, missing rest.

Something had to change.

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Filed under aging, Albany, Lark Street, Local, musings, Observations, relationships, Restaurants, stress