The Prices of Wisdom

Shout out to my readers in the “I survived a half century” club. If most of the bits below apply to you, i embrace you in sisterhood, and even if we never meet in person, i’ve got your back.

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If you….

Have ever looked at young women with those cute little tattoos on their hip and thought, “Just wait, princess. It’s going to look like a Salvador Dali in 20 years.”

Have been forced to realize that trusting your body not to pass gas in public is on par with trusting a four year-old not to say anything embarrassing at a body-positivity festival.

Know there should be a name for that yoga position, bent over and legs crossed, we take when we sneeze to keep from wetting our pants.

Tho depressing, have accepted the fact that visions of sexy 30 year olds have gone from “fantasy” to “pipe dream.”

Have thought, in the midst of a hot flash, “Wouldn’t it just be The Shit if this were me transforming into a superhero right here in the cereal aisle?”

While reading on the importance of self-breast exam, thought to yourself, “First i have to find them. And then it would be like scooping half-set jello.” (Still worth it, but it can be like trying to contain an oil spill.)

Know exactly what level of lighting it takes to show off your inner radiance.

Self-prescribe a pedicure, decadent lunch, and a few hours of shopping for lipstick and books when you are ready to snap… And realize it is for everyone else’s benefit as much as your own.

Have never spent so much on shoes that were so un-sexy.

Realize that you were ignorant as hell when you said finding your first white hair on your head was horrifying.

Wear less makeup than you used to because the amount of spackle and Bond-O it takes to keep it from settling into your wrinkles became cost prohibitive and was starting to raise eyebrows in the checkout at the hardware store.

Say bikini and brow wax, but mean also toe, nostril, ear, beard, and/or that random little spot on your rib cage.

Know that you could still work it in a nightclub… But you can’t stay up late enough to prove it.

Accept the fact that you are going to cry over inspirational videos, cinematic death scenes, and most well-done public service announcements… And can laugh at yourself for it.

Have ever woken yourself up from a sound sleep because you rolled over onto a runaway body part.

Have removed all the granny-panties from your skivvy drawer, because you realized everything is technically a granny-panty now. No need to buy any specifically for that purpose.

Spend far too much time in front of the mirror, pulling your skin back to see what you would look like if you could afford a face lift.

Have a social media page full of baby animal pictures and silly memes whose sole purpose it to keep you from drinking.

Have ever wondered if God/Goddess/Universe has a crazy sense of humor or was just a sadistic bastard when they decided we should have to fight wrinkles and acne at the same time.

Have occasionally had those moments of wisdom and confidence that almost make all the above worth it.

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Love you, friends. Really Really.

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51

At this age, the main thrill you get from a birthday is that you are still alive and enjoying it. Tho some birthdays are benchmarks, like turning 50, the noteworthy numbers are fewer and farther between at this time of life. It doesn’t mean that the date is bad. It’s just harder to muster enthusiasm for a number of years that doesn’t have a specific relevance attached. So turning 51 yesterday was kind of anti-climactic.

While wondering if this indifference was justified, i had the bright idea to Google the number.

It wasn’t just me.

I mean, there were some very cool references: 51 is the number of Doc Hudson in the Cars movies, it’s the direct dial code to Peru, and it is the source of speculation that is Area 51 (For you non-U.S. citizens: This is a government facility that supposedly is for flight testing but, according to popular tale, also harbors recovered alien aircraft and extraterrestrials).  But for the most part, the references were mathematical: Cyclic Gilbreath Permutations (Which apparently have something to do with the shuffling of cards), Stormer numbers (Which, oddly, do not reflect on the weather), and Perrin numbers (Which have nothing to do with steak sauce). Kind of interesting, if you’re bored enough. But there was nothing in there that was like, “WOW! How did i not know that?!?” Nothing that made me think i should be excited about it. I’ll bet, if i conducted a survey, it wouldn’t even be on anyone’s list of favorite numbers.

Not that it’s bad. It’s just “meh”.

I didn’t really expect this birthday to be exciting. And i didn’t expect it to be particularly depressing. So i shouldn’t be surprised that 51 isn’t a magic astrological number, or the number of calories in a cup of  Häagen-Dazs, or the average number of dates a single, middle-aged woman has in a year. (Tho it is the atomic number of Antimony… Which, if it were the opposite of matrimony like it sounds, would be a great thing…)

I suppose, in the end, i got what i expected… Another year on this Earth to make people smile and laugh. Another year to watch my weedlings grow to become extraordinary people. Another year to try to make a positive difference in my little corner of the world. So even as i find out that 51 has no celestial promise for magnificent mojo, or a free facelift, or a surge in calorie metabolism; i am a lucky woman indeed.  My expectations were fulfilled.

And i have already checked… 52 has promise.

Southern Summers and Sky Raisins

I know there are people who love summer. I used to be one of them. But as i’ve gotten older, my tolerance for the unrelenting heat has reached as close to zero as it can get without me being forced to never leave the house.  It doesn’t help that i live someplace that routinely exceeds every record high i ever experienced where i grew up. As early as May Day, we are hitting weather here that would be a mid-summer beach day back home.

Granted, winters here are milder. We usually get one snow a year that exceeds a couple inches. Nothing remotely blizzard-like, and rarely does it last more than a few days. I haven’t needed a proper pair of snow boots in decades, and the crocus are popping up before the asters are even dead. But i’d gladly give that up to not have to worry about boob sweat on Easter.

The heat leaves me, and many others, rather lazy during the day. As beautiful as the sunshine is, most of us have no desire to do yard work, go out on the town, hike the hills, or even walk the dog when it’s 90-100 degrees. Instead, we sit on the couch, wishing it were cooler, and watching the pooch catch the one sky raisin that always manages to get in the house. You don’t have to get bored. There are always chores to do, crafts, books…. But it seems like such a waste during the time of year generally reserved for vacations and cook-outs.

Once the sun goes down, it is easier to venture out. Of course, we’ve had a particularly rainy season as of late, so before you go out, you must bathe in bug spray. The mosquitos are vicious, and they travel in gangs that are larger and more bloodthirsty than any in the movies. Forget the DEET or Off! and you could quite possibly need a transfusion. Or at least a Benadryl and a steel wool scratching post doused in Lidocaine. But don’t let that ruin your love life. Go on the date, walk our beautiful downtown, and remember that woody / citrus fragrances like Chanel No 19 are the best compliments to L’eau d’Insect Repellent.

Lest i sound like an unreasonably sour woman, there is one upside to southern summers – At night, i can crack my window and listen to the music of the night. In the winter, i have to pay for the symphony of cicadas, tree frogs, and owls that lulls me to sleep. This time of year, it pipes in my windows for free, along with the frequent sound of rain and thunder passing thru. Your whole soul is soothed by the sound of a southern summer night. No app of music stream comes close. It is unparalleled in its aural beauty and majesty. And it almost makes the heat worth it.

Anyway, it’s back to my puzzle for now. I might even start a new painting. And i’ve a book waiting by my chaise.  But first, i will open the door and poke my head out onto the steaming porch – If for no other reason than to let in another sky raisin for SiriDog.

Hey. she needs entertainment, too.

 

I Am Isis

I miss being a badass.

There was a time when i felt like i was capable of anything. I was strong: physically, mentally, spiritually. I was fearless. I was on a warpath to make things better. An everyday superhero with an invisible goddess cape and Lynda Carter’s boots. Except mine were silver instead of gold. I always did prefer silver.

I knew what was right. And what was best. I was powerful. And i was a part of the Special Forces that was going to set the world to right. Seriously. Don’t laugh. I was. I really was. I was Chuck Norris with tits.

I’m not sure what happened. One morning i woke up and put on an outfit of mom jeans instead of my kevlar bustier. Left my amulet behind and took my cell phone instead. I got so involved in the boring shit of daily life that i forgot i was supposed to be part of the Justice League.

Over time, i forgot how to deflect bullets. I stopped training. I lost my thirst for a cause. My biceps became bat wings, and the cape and boots moved to the far back corner of the closet.

My weedlings are badasses. My oldest has a searing sword for those who would stomp on the rights of others, especially her sisters. My middle daughter has an internal fire of the type the Navy used to tell us just to push overboard, as it was too fierce to fight; and it burns hottest for those who cannot fight for themselves. My son is still Robin, wanting a cause, but still learning his place in the Real Live Comic Book Realm. They are awesome.

Somewhere along the way i became Alfred.

Not that Alfred is a bad thing to be. The world needs Alfreds. I just miss being a Shero.

I know it is still in there – Hidden in the deep recesses of my mind. I can pull a Molly Weasley and crush any bitch who would threaten my children. (Sorry, you Marvel fans. Molly is a Superhero. End of argument.) I will kick your sorry ass with my sensible penny loafers. I burn your thin skin with my menopausal heat. I will smack you with my bat wings like a bad, bad donkey, til you’re begging for mercy and embarrassed as hell that you got beat by an old broad. I will.

I’m out of practice –  i’m not dead.

But in spite of that, i still miss the presentation, the aesthetic of my badass self. I miss feeling strong and sure and champion. I miss that confidence, that rogue. I need to steel my thighs, center my mind, tighten up my hi-Helen’s, pull my SuperSuit from the closet and duct tape my fluffy self into it. There are things that need doing in this world, or at least in my life, that i can tackle. I can fight. I can win. And i can do it with style. I just keep forgetting, and real life takes over.

Momma Hol is pretty cool, but there used to be a deeper truth. Well, there still is. It has just been slumbering, it isn’t gone. Now that i need it again, it’s time to wake it up.

After all, my friends don’t call me The Mighty Isis for nothing.

 

 

What To Do When You Find Yourself Accidentally Almost Bald

So, the faux hawk wasn’t growing out well. Because of my cowlicks, it wouldn’t stand straight up without looking like Kid ‘n Play. And if i tried to lay it down, it looked oddly lumpy. Still not time for my next hair appointment. So i grab the clippers that i got to clean up my back hairline. I strap on the #8 guard (Which is an inch and a half). Mind you, the hair on the sides and back is short enough that the blades don’t even touch it. But as i get further up to the top, it starts coming off with a pleasing buzzy sound.

When i get to the front, i don’t push the clippers all the way to my head and instead leave a bit of a forelock.

I look down in the sink, and realize exactly how thick my hair is. Even just this trim has a HUGE ball of hair sitting there, staring at me like something from a Sesame Street sketch. I half expect it to jump out and shout “Mah-na! Mah-na!” I leave the almost-muppets be for the moment and hop in the shower to wash off all the scratchy little hair bits.  Then i break out my makeup mirror so i can see the back of my head better. Oops! there’s a bushy spot. Gotta fix that.

Plug the clippers back in and take them to my head. One stripe. Two.

Ut oh. That wad of hair looks way too big to be what i was aiming for. I mean, it was only a little uneven, and this looks like a granddaddy dust-bunny.

Oh, no. I couldn’t have. I mean, did i? Please, God, no. Hesitantly, i look at the clippers.

I had taken the guard off.

Oh, shit.

Oh, SHIT!

I run back and grab the mirror again. Too hard to see for sure…. Or maybe i just didn’t want to believe it.

Grab my phone and try to take a selfie of the back of my head. After 20 or 30 tries, i finally get something usable.

OH, SHIT!!!!

The back of my head looks like there are two well-used slopes open at Telluride.

To keep myself from hyperventilating, i close my eyes and take a couple deep breaths. I imagine my happy place: A cafe in Palermo, Sicily. Cannoli, Arancia candita, Sigaretti, Cassatelle, Marzipan…. Aaaahhhh. I open my eyes and look in the mirror again.

Any takers on the next word to come out of my mouth?

I allow myself a few seconds to mourn. Then i pull myself together because, really, the only thing i can do now is even it up and paint it purple so it looks somewhat intentional.

I snap the number one guard on and buzz the back of my head and around my ears. Then i jump up to the three guard and do the sides and top, pulling it longer in the front. Back into the shower to rinse off.

My scalp can feel the breeze of the ceiling fan.

A moment of truth as i take a peek at the back of my head again.

The scalp streaks are still there, but not quite as noticeable. There are still a  couple spots that i would like to touch up, but i’m afraid i will make it worse if i keep messing with it. I mean, i’ve only got 1/4″ of hair left on most of my head… I can’t risk cutting off more!

Please, God, let tomorrow be national cowboy day, so i have an excuse to wear a hat.

Pleading for a good response, i take a picture of myself and send it to a couple of select people. They tell me i look like a pixie. Because i only showed them the front. From the back? It’s more like a pixie that went to boot camp, and unfortunately got the new barber…  The day after he graduated from Trump Barber School.  I got some “Whoa”s, and some “Oh, wow”s. My stylist was less than pleased, and i don’t blame her, but even she  came up with some positive remarks. And everyone reminded me that my hair grows really fast.

Then terror sets in, because tomorrow is Friday and i have to work.

I send a note to my closest coworkers and forewarn / threaten them not to laugh.

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The next morning, after deciding that it wasn’t work-appropriate for me to show the amount of cleavage it would take to make the hair unnoticeable, i put a little extra effort into my makeup and pick an outfit on the more feminine side (Well, for me, anyway). I practice my casual everything-is-coming-up-roses walk to fake some confidence. I am trying to own it, but i am failing miserably.

I should have gone with the cleavage.

At first, nobody says anything. Then a couple of the women tell me they kind of like it. Not so much praise as to make me think they are lying thru their teeth, but enough to let me know it isn’t stylishly apocalyptic.

Man, i love my coworkers!

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Two days later, and the bald spots are starting to fill in. I’ll bet i can #1 guard the back tomorrow and it will at least all be even. This isn’t a style i’m likely to come back to. I mean, i scared the crap out of myself walking past the mirror this morning, because i thought i was a maniac burglar.

But hey, i set out a couple weeks ago to spice things up a bit. A mostly shaved head is the style equivalent of scotch bonnet peppers, so at least i exceeded my goal.

And really, if i can learn to rock the accidental shaved head, i’d be one hell of a badass, now wouldn’t i? Maybe this is God/Goddess/Universe’s way of telling me that i have more strength than i thought. Maybe this is to help me learn to command myself. Maybe she is telling me to worry less about my looks.

Or maybe She’s just trying to tell me to stay away from sharp objects.

I Am the Codfish

Hold it in.

Hold it back.

Until you can bear it no longer.

Take as much as you can.

Til you’re about to burst.

Then take some more.

It’s Tantric.

Like sex.

But without the enjoyment.

This.

My stress life.

More relevant than my sex life.

And certainly more abundant.

My work,

Like stress porn.

Pushing me farther to the edge.

Closer and closer.

So close. So close.

But the cliff dive has no bliss.

Only jagged rocks.

And a reasonable paycheck.

What kind of yoga is this?

The manipulation of the sacred mind

For the benefit of the trumped up guru.

Swallowing heap upon heap of

Garbage and rhetoric.

Tantric, my ass.

This is my stressful revolution.

Like the 1970s, with less bush

And more growth.

Cue the music.

Bom chicka wow wow.

End scene.

 

Adventures in Renovation – The First Bite

It’s easy to get excited about home renovations. Even those of us resistant to change can’t help but get caught up in the quest for the calmest shade blue paint or the perfect pattern of floor tile. Since, as you know, i’m passionate about color and texture, i have boxes full of paint chips, counter top samples, and bits of flooring taking up an unseemly amount of space as i plunge headfirst into a gradual makeover of my little beach cottage in the wood. Even knowing what the eventual end will look like, there are still so many options to choose from. You make lists of the few jobs  that are too difficult or important-to-get-right for you to do yourself, and align them with lists of contractors and specialists. The rest will be a bunch of fun weekend projects. The excitement builds.

And then you start the work, and you remember why you don’t do it for a living.

I was starting with a simple thing this weekend – The inside of the kitchen cupboards. The cottage is 100 years old, with a kitchen that was added on around the time when the idea of a kitchen inside the house became more commonplace. The cabinets are good, solid, and heavy; so i decided to update them rather than replace them. The original state was old-wood wiff and that funky Crayola mahogany color that  hasn’t belonged in a  home since 1975. The hardware is fake copper colonial.

Not exactly Martha Stewart.

I wasn’t sure what the cabinets were stained with, and i couldn’t even begin to guess since i have no idea when they were put in, so i did some research online and with my local paint guru before deciding that i was going to have to start with  the basics and prime the hell out of them.

I thought priming would be step one. But it turned out to be step five, six, and seven.

I woke early Saturday full of the energy that comes with a new, desirable project. I go to my kitchen and start removing the contents of the cupboards. Easy enough, right? Ummmm…. Nope. First of all, it is my son’s task to put away the dishes after i wash them, and apparently he failed “stacking” in pre-school. There was literally nothing in the lower cupboards that i could move more than a single item at a time. Big squares on top of small circles, things upside down, and the plasticware…. Oy vey! None of it stacked with any sort of commonality, so i had to sort it as i was removing it just to keep it from heaping on the counter.

Oh, and the corporate people who think it’s a good idea to make each brand non-compatible with the others’ lids? You can kiss my ass.

Once all the “stuff” was out, i started on getting rid of the liners. One of the cabinets had contact paper so old, it flaked apart as i was removing it – which took a putty knife and more of a positive attitude than i actually possessed . The others all had leftover linoleum. It was a bit wiff from age, but not too nasty underneath…  til i got to the cupboard under the sink…

I think it was originally wood under there, but it looked more like a science project.

There wasn’t going to be any way to salvage it, so i had to pull it up. I was grateful to find that the subfloor underneath was neither rotted nor harboring creatures. I had some leftover plywood in the shed, so this should be an easy fix, right? But i don’t own a power saw of any kind, so i make a few calls to see if any of the hardware stores in town can cut out the pieces, including the allowances for the pipes. No such luck. Looks like another trip to the store for tools, but for now, i keep on.

I eventually get all the bottom cabinets unloaded and decide, just to keep myself interested, i will complete these before moving on to the upper ones. Having prepared the night before by purchasing tri-sodium phosphate, gloves, safety goggles, and a bucket (among other things), i set to work washing down all the inside surfaces of the cabinets to remove any grease or residue. A few things become apparent:

First, none of the inside surfaces are sealed. Second, these cabinets must have been hand-made because none of them is the same size, nor are the grain of the walls all going the same way. Third, whoever did the making didn’t know much about the physics of construction, because all the drawers are made with end-to-end corners, secured by penny nails. As a result, they are starting to come apart. Fourth, whatever the stain is made of, it makes a bigger mess than cheap lipstick. I have to make a new TSP solution for each cabinet because the water is nasty and orange by the time i finish with each one. Crimey.

Once everything is washed down well, i leave it to dry while i go buy the tools to fix the undersink. This required making friends with a somewhat questionable group of men at Harbor Freight, as i have never owned a jigsaw (Well, i have had quite a few jigsaw puzzles, but as it turns out, that has little relevance). They help me pick out something that is reasonably priced for the few times i will need it, and they were also smart enough to check that i had the proper safety equipment and medical insurance.

I head home and go to the shed to find that none of the wood pieces i have is suitable for what i need.  (Insert your favorite string of cusswords here)

By now it is past dinner time, and i am more frustrated than a gigolo at a convent, so i break for the night and make myself some of the best Irish-style vegetable soup i have ever made. Or maybe it was just great in comparison to the issues of the day. Whatever. It made me feel better.

Up this morning and off to get the wood. That part was actually pretty easy. It was early enough that i was the only one needing help and i was in and out faster than i expected, even including a detour to get Gorilla Glue for the drawers.

I admit, i cheated and had the guy at Lowes cut the boards to the right size. After all, my cheap little jigsaw would have had a much harder time of it, especially with me at the wheel. But i had to do the pipe cut-arounds myself. I used the old pieces as a template and then set to taking the jigsaw out of the box. Now, being female, i did actually look at the directions, but i admit, i mostly just read thru the safety points and glossed over the rest.  Had i been a little less assured that my common sense would get me thru, i would have read the entire thing, and my day might have gone better.

Just getting the blade into the blasted thing turned out to be a trial. The screws that hold it in place were in between sizes (At least for my screwdriver kit), so i couldn’t tighten them down as much as i should have.  I jerry-rigged supports and weights to hold it in place. The blade went thru about an eighth of an inch before it came out, stuck in the cut. As a testament to my lack of experience, i tried to pull the blade out of the wood by hand.

Five minute break while i wash the wounds and super glue them closed.

Unplug the saw, reset the blade. Saw another eighth of an inch. Swear as the blade falls out. This time i used pliers.

Repeat that about 100 times.

When i got to the point where i was cursing in languages that i didn’t realize i knew, i took a lunch break. I decided to read the manual while i ate. Then i cursed myself in all those languages again.

It was easy enough to find the custom hex wrench, since it was in a nice little strap made just for that purpose at the top end of the power cord. And now that i knew you were supposed to have it at full speed before  it touched the wood, i didn’t need 50 pounds of bricks holding it down before i started. Since i had cut and cursed my way thru 2 1/2 of the pipe holes,  it took me all of five minutes to finish the job with the properly tightened and wielded saw.

The prayer of gratitude that i made when the pieces actually fit like they were supposed to was both heartfelt and strong.

Next step: The actual priming. Stripped down to cutoffs and a sports bra (Getting paint off skin is a whole lot easier than getting it out of clothes), I start on the first cabinet. When i tell you that the wood sucked up the paint, i mean it sucked it up like a PMS Queen at a chocolate factory. There was no wet residue on the shelving before i even had my brush reloaded. But i kept at it until each surface had a good first coat. Then i had a cup of tea while it set.

The fact that it needed a second coat wasn’t a surprise. After all, it obviously hadn’t been sealed, there was a lot that came off when i washed it, and i knew i didn’t get it all. But after the second coat, when there was still stain seeping thru, i was getting more than irritated.

Coat three is almost dry, and there are still a  few spots where stain is seeping thru. I’ve used most of a gallon on 10 feet of cabinets, and that’s just doing the inside. In spite of this, and the cuts on my thumb, and the ache in my shoulders, and the consumption of a weekend for something that should have taken a day, i’m glad i did it. Even without a coat of the actual paint, it looks cleaner and brighter. The removal and replacement of the nasty wood makes me feel accomplished. I learned some things that will help when i do the outside of the cabinets (The inside of the upper ones might just stay as they are!) And now i have a chance to sort thru and organize all the mis-stacked pans, buy all new plasticware of a single brand, and make everything a bit more neat.

It might not exactly be a “win”, but it is a job completed. Yes, there are many more jobs to go, but like the man said when he was asked how he managed to eat an entire elephant, you just have to take it “One bite at a time.”