Category Archives: aging

Growing up in black and white

imageThere’s been a lot of talk about race in our country and its got me thinking about the my own perspective on the relationships between blacks and whites. I was fortunate to have been raised by a woman who did not discriminate between races. My earliest school friendships were with a black girl and a Jewish girl – a real feat in a small town which was almost exclusively Christian and white. Sometimes I miss the simplicity of childhood.

When I was about 12, we moved to a house a couple of miles out of town in a neighborhood I had heard referred to as The Colony. That wasn’t said in a complimentary way. You see, this particular area was populated primarily by black families, including that of my elementary school friend. The house we lived in was only two miles out of town, but it felt pretty far removed. We had the telephone exchange of Warwick, the school district of Greenwood Lake and the zip code of Monroe, perfectly summing up the lack of interest in a single community to “own” this long road. It felt very much like a no man’s land.

In the spring of eighth grade, a number of us tried out for the freshman cheerleading squad in what would be our new high school. I was the only one who was selected and, even then, I felt that it was because I was white. Vicki and Brenda were both better than me and deserved it more. I ended up quitting the squad before football season even started.

A year or so later something happened that changed my comfort level with people of color. My brother had some sort of altercation with Vicki’s brother, I don’t know what it was about, and he got punched in the face as he boarded the school bus one morning. I remember being shocked by the violence and afraid of what might happen next, especially after listening to other students who had witnessed the fight. Their language was new to me and the prejudice they demonstrated was unlike anything I had ever heard, but it gave me a cloak to wrap myself in for protection. I didn’t spend time with Vicki anymore.

In the many years since then, I’ve had very few black friends. I’ve puzzled over this lack of diversity in my life as I’ve celebrated the friendships my own children share with kids from every imaginable ethnic and religious background. The single block in the DelSo where I’ve lived for 20 years is populated by Indians, Blacks, Jews and Whites and I think of them all as neighbors.

Last week, I went back to Greenwood Lake to spend an afternoon with friends. In the early afternoon, I took a run past the haunted houses of my youth accompanied by more memories than I could ever share. My feet took me along the roads I had walked countless times, most frequently to get away from home, but now instead in an attempt to take me back to where I came from. It was a very emotional run, especially once I saw the two “new” (to me) state historic markers declaring the significance of Nelson Road.image

Reading about the history of The Colony caused me for the first time ever to feel a sense of pride about where I spent some pretty influential years of my life. I was reminded of the cultural contributions of Black Americans and wished that those markers had been installed years ago. I hope Vicki has been back to see them.

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Filed under aging, girlhood, musings, Observations, road trips, running, Summer

49 and hotter than ever!

If by “hot” you mean experiencing hot flashes, that is. Holy perimenopause!

Male readers, be warned. This may not be the blog post for you. Unless, of course, you’re trying to develop your understanding and empathy for the universe’s women. In which case, read on.

The move to what I’m considering my third stage of life, is starting to amp up a bit. The night sweats are more frequent and now even appear during waking hours. The lines on my face are a bit more assertive and the flesh under my biceps seems a bit softer. My cycle is no longer a cycle as much as it is a random moment in time. Things are changing and I’m trying to pay attention without obsessing. Wish me luck with that, ok?

When I attempt to look back on when I transitioned from biological girl to woman, very few memories remain. I remember becoming aware of my need for deodorant and being relieved to find Tickle roll on atop my dresser. I was kind of oblivious about other changes in my physical appearance, you know, the new hair and curves appearing, but I felt males looking at me with different eyes than to which I was accustomed.

I recall receiving a box of maxi pads and a pamphlet from my mother, but it came without discussion. My period started and I used the feminine products without telling my mother. When the box was empty, I requested tampons and that was the extent of our conversation about menstruation and puberty. I wonder how it might have been different if I had a daughter of my own.

Soon, my reproductive system will cease to function as it has for more than 35 years. As my inner feminine systems go out in a blaze of heat and sweat, I appreciate how well I’ve been served by this womanly body of mine. Three healthy children have been conceived and grown within its confines, a miracle by any measure.  I’ve enjoyed an easy monthly cycle, never experiencing the discomfort from cramps and extreme mood swings that many women experience, but, I’m ready to close the door on fertility.  I’m seriously hoping that this internal furnace of mine directs its attention to something external that is productive –  and I’m not just talking about intense perspiration either.

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Filed under aging, girlhood, moms, musings, Observations, Uncategorized

What I know at 49.75, give or take

I’ve got a big birthday coming up at the end of summer…fifty…half a century…the golden anniversary of my birth…the point in my life when I just might have to begin behaving a tad more adult. I think I’m ready.

It could be just me, but these decade birthdays began taking on more significance as I aged and I can remember each of them vividly. At 20, I was on the verge of independence and living completely on my own for the first time. For my 30th birthday, I was married and thrilled to be pregnant with my first child. When I turned 40 I thought I had it all, only to realize that maybe it wasn’t enough. And now, as 50 approaches, I find myself excited to flip a page to a new chapter in my life despite not really knowing what may come next.

I’ve learned so many things during my years alive, yet I’m still not sure what the future holds for me. Is that lack of certainty, that acceptance that what happens tomorrow is eternally a mysterious surprise, a sign of growing up? Maybe.

What do I know now that I didn’t know 10 years ago?

  • I know that I can outrun cancer and the fear of being alone.
  • I know that I can juggle a lot and that, even though I now wear a nightguard because I seem to be grinding my teeth, I am more satisfied with a full life and schedule than with one that lacks challenge and stimulation.
  • I know that there will be days that nearly overwhelm me with minutia and situations which demand immediate and close attention, but I’ve also learned that they pass.
  • I know that I am utterly blessed to have three healthy children and a positive relationship with their father that is based upon our mutual focus on what is best for them.
  • I know that the lines on my face and the grey in my hair are evidence of the length of my life and that I’m lucky to have both of them – and access to quality skincare products and a good colorist.
  • I know that life is about give and take and trying to remain cognizant of the balance between the two.
  • I know that I’m ready for what comes next.

I’m ready, ready for the laughing gas
I’m ready, I’m ready for what’s next
I’m ready to duck, I’m ready to dive
I’m ready to say ‘I’m glad to be alive’ – U2

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Filed under aging, birthdays, family, Random, Uncategorized

The long and short of it

Soccer season is nearly over and, for the first time in a long time, it felt like it went by really fast. That’s probably because I’m guilty for making it to too few games for my son who plays travel, and the rec season is actually fairly short with only 6 or 7 weeks games. Either way, when it’s over I will enjoy my Saturday mornings and Tuesday evenings, but they will be lacking in structure without a game to work into the schedule.

imageQuinn’s spring season was memorable because this was the year that he wore a hand me down keeper’s jersey. Liam and I had brought it back from Germany 3 years ago for my middle son. It was still a bit generous in the sleeve length for my 11 year-old but he insisted upon wearing it each game, regardless of temperature. One week, it was close to 85 degrees and still he wore it – underneath his team t-shirt in case he got called up to play keeper. It was the cutest thing ever.

I swear I don’t know how that jersey can be even close to fitting him. I mean, the shirt looked so big three years ago when my boys were three years smaller. Now, only one son is still to grow into it while the other two are already grown beyond. Just like that. *snap*

imageAs I was mulling over this curious case of time passing quickly and folks growing, I reached for a pair of shorts I bought a few years. They’re blue and white gingham, which, I think, epitomizes summer just like madras and pink lemonade. I pulled them on and up, nervous as always that they would no longer fit for one reason or another. They did. Sort of.

Somehow over the last winter, I grew, too. Not taller or wider or heavier, but a wee bit older. Old enough, actually, to now be too old to wear the checked short shorts that still fit me perfectly – other than the length. I felt absolutely exposed in them in a way that made me uncomfortable. Somehow they had grown too young for me – just like that. *snap.*

Growing up and growing older, that’s the long and short of it.

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Filed under aging, Boys, favorites, Observations, soccer, Summer, Uncategorized

What I want to be when I grow up

As I get close to wrapping up my 20th year as a librarian, I’ve been thinking about the future. I’ve always just assumed that I would  invest thirty years in my chosen (and mostly beloved) career, but the last few years have been challenging with ridiculous teacher evaluations handed down by Governor Cuomo State Ed and tight school budgets causing the elimination of positions. It’s been a little disheartening, to be honest, and I think I just might need to have a new plan…

In a little more than five years I will be 55 years old and should have 25 years into the NYS Teacher’s Retirement System. That seems like a substantial amount of time to devote to a profession and I think that may be the perfect threshold to my relationship with teaching. Maybe 30 years isn’t really in the cards for me…

Writing those words caused my stomach to buzz with nerves…and excitement. Walking away from my steady paycheck will be a leap of faith that gets my heart beating a little fast. Mt first response to letting go of financial security is to think about all the reasons why I shouldn’t retire “early.” You know things like the fact that my youngest child will only be 16 years-old with college still to come and my house won’t be quite paid off and I’ll be paying increased out-of-pocket cost related to maintaining the excellent health insurance I presently have. And, really, who knows what the future holds in terms of income from Lark + Lily. Do you think I may actually see some income from this labor of love project?

But, something changed this week, almost as if a coin flipped to the other side and I began considering all the ways my life might improve should I retire in another 5 or 6 years. Instead of focusing on what I may not have available in terms of financial flexibility, I started thinking about the freedom that retirement will offer me. I’ll be able to spend more time with my youngest child. Travel plans can be made based upon when I want to get away rather than dates that are dictated by a school calendar. I’ll have opportunities to pursue other interests – maybe writing, photography or perhaps a position that involves promoting or supporting one of the organizations about which I feel so strongly. I’m feeling recommitted to my teaching job (after summer vacation) and curious to learn what the future may hold in store for me.  I think I’ve got a plan.

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When fights are good memories

image.jpegI grew up during a time when house parties were the rage. Going out was something rare, but adults gathering  for cocktails, pinochle and televised boxing matches was a big part of my childhood. I loved those nights filled with Lipton onion soup mix dip and chips with a side of ginger ale and grown up laughter. Knowing my place as a child among adults was incredibly comforting and I was careful to never misbehave and threaten my admission to an evening that I could only interpret as being sophisticated.

I have one particular memory of watching a heavyweight boxing match, the Thrila in Manila. Manila, naturally, being a place I had never ever heard of prior to the bout. We were at a home that I also don’t think I ever had been in before. The house and the enclosed front porch were made from big cold looking stones but it was cozy in a way that a new place doesn’t often feel.

The television everyone gathered around was big for the time, probably 27″, and color, something that was not necessarily a given during my youngest years. In my mind’s eye, I see rabbit ears, but I may be embellishing after 40 years and a collection of memories too large to properly sort. What I know for certain is that I fell in love with boxing that night.

The hype for the match was nothing compared to the media blitzes to which we’ve all grown accustomed, but I know I was aware of the fight, even as an elementary school student, because it was going to be an event. And it was. Ali was swagger before the word existed. He fascinated me with his larger than life persona and I was spellbound.  He won – the match and my eternal interest.

imageWhen I learned more about him, about his radical anti-war activities and steadfast conviction to his beliefs, I could only admire Ali more. He and Jimmy Carter will always somehow go together in my mind – the era, I suppose. Like Carter, Ali was an ambassador to worlds not yet in existence, peaceful places where priorities were more about taking care of people than taking people down and out. It sounds like a nice place. I hope the Louisville Lip is enjoying it as we speak.

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Filed under aging, Events, favorites, girlhood, musings, News, Observations, television, Uncategorized

Luck and lies and love

While the most apparent similarity between the three words in the title is that they all begin with the letter L, I’m beginning to believe that their connection is something a bit less obvious. It seems to me that they’re all things that we often just find as we bumble through life.

Walking through the parking lot this morning I spied a penny on the ground. It was by no means a shiny copper coin and it took me a moment to determine whether it was heads up or down. After concluding that it was in fact heads up, I put it in my pocket. You see, I’m hoping for a little luck. It’s been an exhausting week and I’m just not feeling on top of my game. Having a talisman as a tangible reminder that luck can appear out of nowhere was a welcome start to my day.

Lies are often discovered in a similar fashion as a lost coin – we simply stumble upon them. Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as simply placing an item in one’s pocket and carrying it around because, unlike random coins, when we discover a lie we can’t help but speculate about how many others there may be out there. Especially when an uncovered lie causes one to search internally and examine their own level of honesty and find it also lacking in transparency.

And love? Does anyone ever really leave the house in the morning with a plan to find love? Of course, not.  I know, from experience, that love can be sought online but finding it there or in any other expected places has never been my fortune. Love is rarer than a penny face up or a series of lies that have suddenly unraveled like a skein of yarn. Although it can be a amulet like a lucky penny, love certainly isn’t currency but when love is corrupted by lies it can be challenged in previously unimagined ways that may prompt us to consider its emotional cost.

I’ve learned (another L word) a lot in the years since my marriage ended, things about being a human being with flaws and needs and regrets. I think I understand better than ever before that there are things that demand a closer look and perhaps, a good polishing, and that lies will get in the way of love.  And that, my friend, is life.

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Filed under aging, love, musings, Observations, Uncategorized