“Duly Noted”

There is always someone who wants to give you advice you don’t need and didn’t ask for. They are so certain that they can live your life far better than you can live your life. Mind you, their lives may be in total disarray, but they sure think that they know how to run yours.

How do I know this? Because I was one of those irritating persons. My inner (and outer) mantra was “just do it my way.” I honestly could not understand other people who didn’t think that my wonderful advice wasn’t just perfect for them. How arrogant I was, and how sure I was that I knew better than the other person what was best for them. Today the thought of it makes me cringe.

I have sent more emails with the subject line “I’m sorry—I was an ass” than I care to remember. I don’t think that the realization of what I had done (all of course in the name of ‘I know what’s best for you’) fully sunk in until I was in my mid-40s. At that time, I finally realized what I had done, and the realization made me want to live in a cave, far away from other humans.

I also realized that I was focusing my attention and “good advice” on others so that I wouldn’t have to deal with my own issues and problems. Once I realized that, I stopped trying to “help” people (or bully them into my way of thinking). I focused on getting help for me. 

Once I stopped being a know-it-all, I realized that I hadn’t been alone. Quite often I am the one who gets the occasional ‘I know what’s best for you’ talk. It doesn’t even rustle my feathers. My reply is always “duly noted.” I get that they only want to help, but they haven’t realized yet that they aren’t actually helping.

I no longer try to change them, and they can natter on as long as they like. However, my answer will still be “duly noted.”

People Who Talk to Themselves

Don’t get me wrong; I talk to myself all the time. When I’m at home, I can tell myself that I am only talking to the cats—even when they are sleeping. But I don’t always do it out in public; at least not so much.

However, I notice that a lot of people DO talk to themselves in public, and loudly, too. Once I was in a bathroom stall at work, and two stalls over I could hear a woman muttering to herself. Now she had to have heard me open the door and walk in. But there she was, talking away. At one point she exclaimed loudly, “GREAT BALLS OF FIRE!” I did not want to know what that was all about.

While food shopping, I hear a lot of people muttering to themselves. I would, too, if I didn’t bring a list of stuff I need. But for the times when I forget to bring the dang list, I have to quickly make up a mnemonic so I can remember what I need, such as ASPIRINS:

  • Apples
  • Spaghetti
  • Peanuts
  • Iodine
  • Rice
  • Ice cream
  • Nasal spray
  • Soap

Of course, even using that, I have to keep muttering ‘aspirins, aspirins’ to myself.

Then there are those people who not only talk out loud to themselves, but they look right at you while they’re doing it. I can never figure out if they are really talking to me or just using me as a sounding board.

All this talking to oneself thing seemed to me to happen around the time of Blue Tooth technology. I would see people talking animatedly, with no one around. Once I saw their earpiece, I knew that they were not crazy, just plugged in.

Like anything else, talking to ourselves becomes a habit; it becomes so ingrained that we don’t even know we’re doing it. In my case, I often have to go into “public mode” when I leave the house so that I don’t start yapping to myself.

Back when I was living in the Carolinas, I noticed that a lot of people talk to themselves. Even when you catch their eye, they don’t look a bit ashamed; they just go right on with their one-way conversation. Early on, I was still too Yankee to appreciate the difference of living in the south. But you get used to it, even to the point where you sometimes answer back to the talker, or at least make a joke about it with them.

If anyone reading this used to watch “Designing Women” back when, you will remember the fabulous Delta Burke, who played Suzanne Sugarbaker. In one episode, the women were talking about craziness in general, and someone said that, in the North, they hide their crazy relatives away so that no one knows about them.

Suzanne just laughed and said, “well, here in the South we-all are proud of our crazy people. In fact, we put ’em right out on the front porch so that everyone can see them!”

Talking to oneself out loud in public does not always mean that the talker is crazy or off their meds. Sometimes it’s just a coping mechanism like rattling keys or whistling (the latter is my own coping mechanism; I whistle soft and low and try not to look nuts when I’m doing it).

The older I get, the more I notice things like this. I realize more than ever that we all are just trying to get through the day, and we all have our own ways of doing it.

So to all if us who sometimes talk out loud in public places, occasionally or all the time; I say this: “crazy is as crazy does.”


Purple Hair

Lately I’ve noticed that a lot of ladies my age have chosen to spark up their look by coloring some or all of their gray hair purple. I have to say—it looks fabulous! Not only is it attractive, but it gives them that edgy look that makes you think twice about older women…..I say that the older we get, the better we get.

And why should it stop with purple hair? I read somewhere that a woman took her 80-year old mother shoe shopping. She expected to find her mother in the standard old no-fun “sensible” shoe section. Instead she found her being fitted with a pair of bright turquoise platform shoes with sparkles.

“Mother!” she said. “What in the world are you going to wear those with?”

Her mother, smiling, looked up at her and said, “with defiance!” Great answer!

Why in the world should age keep us from being unpredictable, quirky, fun, outrageous? Of course there is a difference from trying to look young by wearing the clothes and makeup of a teenager, and just looking fresh, vibrant, and at home in our own skin (wrinkled though it may be).

As when we were younger and found “our look,” we can still do the same at any age. I’ve spoken of this magnificent woman before in my posts; Iris Apfel:

This woman has her own unique style, and she doesn’t give a flip about who likes it or doesn’t.

Another older woman I cared for deeply once told me this: “If you create your own style, whatever that may be, OWN IT.”

The same goes for an actress who, upon ascending the steps to the stage to receive an award, tripped on her dress and landed on her butt. Without missing a beat, she gracefully got herself up on her feet, walked up to the microphone with a smile on her face and gracefully accepted her award.

She acted as though nothing had happened, and because she did, no one mentioned it or laughed about it. After a few minutes, I had forgotten all about it, and probably so did everyone else.

I’ve said this before—it’s all in the attitude. Walk out as if you own the world. If someone suggests that you be ‘not so flamboyant’ or says something like ‘are you sure you should be wearing <insert whatever fashion statement you like>?’ Just smile and carry on. You are who you are, and the hell with anyone’s opinion. Just as long as YOU are comfortable in your choices, who cares what anyone else thinks?

So dye your hair purple (I may just do that myself), wear gobs of jewelry (I already do that), put on those flashy turquoise shoes and give the world a treat.

It’s better to be an inspiration than a bad example.


Retirement Chic

I started working in the ’70s, and I wore what all women wore for business at that time; mini skirts, empire waist dresses, platform shoes, fish-net stockings, etc. We were still wearing mod clothes from the Beatles era, including butterfly-sleeved sheer dresses and tons of necklaces. We all looked cute as hell.

The deadly and soul-destroying bland “I’m a responsible working woman” suits came later on….the less said about those, the better.

As the decades went on, we wore the Madonna look, the Cher look, the Annie Hall look, and we followed right along with all the fashion trends. It was a lot of fashion and makeup fun, and we all looked great.

Now that I am retired, I have found my own “retirement chic.” It can (and does) include such things as:

  • black yoga pants (so comfy and so forgiving!)
  • wild-colored tunic tops
  • slim jeans
  • cocoon sweaters
  • ankle boots
  • colorful cotton tops with embroidered yokes
  • stretchy zip jackets
  • sneakers
  • strappy flats
  • cotton socks (wild colors especially)
  • LL Bean jackets
  • colorful gauze dresses
  • sandals
  • LOTS of jewelry

The basis for this fashion trend can be described in one word: COMFORT. Let’s face it, as we grow older, things that never used to sag DO sag. Our perky bits become droopy, our taut faces become a relief map of everything we have experienced throughout our lives, and age spots become the new Connect the Dots game.

My own belief at this age is this: the less skin shown, the better. I really don’t think that people want to see my wrinkled cleavage, my spotted legs or my gnarly toenails. All that is easily covered by a few “retirement fashion tips:”

Love sandals but hate the sight of vein-y feet? Easily solved—buy strappy sandals or flats.

Love tank tops but hate showing your *wubbies? No problem: try cap-sleeved or short sleeve tops instead.

Love low necklines but hate your wrinkled and spotted neck and chest? Easy fix: try the tops with criss-cross straps at the neckline, or the ones with lace inserts.

Love tops that show off your midriff? If yours is still firm and flat, good on you! Show it off. But if the midriff has fallen into disrepair like mine has, cover it up.

There’s no need to stop being fashionable as we grew older. As beauty is 90% illusion anyway, wear what looks good on you with pride. But most of all, comfort is king. I spent the best years of my life suffering in high heels, tight waistbands, and tons of makeup. I’m spending this time in my life in comfort and fashion; my fashion!

*Wubbies—that flappy skin under the arm from elbow to armpit.


The “Honey” Factor

After finishing up my Christmas shopping yesterday, I took myself out to lunch. I have always loved going to restaurants by myself; I bring a book with me, and thoroughly enjoy my date with myself.

I’ve done this since my 30s, but in recent years, I’ve noticed a change in attitude of the servers. Not that they are snide or spit in my food or anything; they are generally friendly, helpful and professional.

The difference is this: I’m 65 now. I have a generous amount of silver in my hair, and my face has permanent smile lines. These days I use a cane for stability since I had a knee replacement in October.

So what’s the point of all this background? It’s the “honey” factor. All of a sudden, I am addressed as “honey.” Or “sweetheart” or “darling” or “dear.” All sweet nomenclature to be sure, BUT I don’t think of myself as a “honey” quite yet.

When I lived in the South, women of a certain age were referred to as “Ma’am” or “Miss <insert first name here>.” If I lived in Hawaii, women my age are generally called “Aunty.” Another sweet and non-offensive label.

Look, I know that the servers are being polite, and they do mean well. My issue is that, whenever I hear myself addressed as “honey,” I internally grit my teeth. I would love to tell them, “darling, I am hardly doddering yet!”

But I don’t. I am still trying to make up for all the snappish retorts and snarky comments from my younger days. I guess that this may be my penance.

To any folks who are in the service industry who may be reading this, please try to remember that the ‘old lady’ you are serving might not want to be addressed as “honey.” You may think that she is old and used up, but in her heart, she is still the willowy young woman she once was.

Also, there is this: my cane is handy and your knees are really close to me.



Aretha Franklin had it right in her song, “Respect.” Respecting others encourages respect in ourselves. I remember when I was growing up that I was taught to be polite to my elders and respect them.

In doing this, I also learned to overlook some things that didn’t matter in the long run. I had a dear friend who, when I met her, was in her 80’s. I was about ten or eleven years old at the time, and I sat and listened to her stories about her life and experiences for hours.

Sometimes, as a child will, I would get wiggly and impatient, which must have showed on my face, because she would ask, ‘did you want to say something, dear?’

Usually I would either blush, embarrassed about being caught out, but mostly I would say, ‘oh no, please go on.’ I wanted to hear more about this woman’s life, and what life was like when she was a young girl.

Whenever I hear some young person say, ‘well, I’ll respect them if they respect ME.’ No–it doesn’t work that way. Older people have lived on this earth longer than the young, know more than they do, have lived through experiences they haven’t yet experienced—for these reasons alone, they deserve our respect.

Looking back on my own young life, I see now how brash, opinionated and impatient I was. It did not occur to me at that time that others might have other ways of thinking and doing things, and so on. In my mind I felt that people ought to do things my way, because in my mind, it was the “right” way.

I cringe when I think of the young me now. But that is a passage we all go through; being cocky and young, so sure of ourselves and yet knowing so little. Our wise and patient elders look at us with exasperation mixed with love and tolerance because they were young once.

It is too easy to look upon an old man or old woman and see nothing but an aging body with its infirmities and limitations. It’s hard for the young to remember that these old men and women were once young and strong and vital.

When I was growing up, I loved to hear my grandmother talk about what her life was like as a child, and then a young woman, wife and mother. When I knew her, her hair was gray and she wore false teeth. But in the old pictures I have of her, she was a red-haired Irish beauty with a fire-y twinkle in her eyes.

We learn so much from our elders, and in our lives we can remember so many times how their experience and advice helped and inspired us. I would hate to think that respect and honor of our elders has become a thing of the past. Our own lives would be much less rich and full without their wisdom.


Time is ALL We Have

If you are lucky enough to have come across Pam Kirst’s blog, “Catching My Drift”, you will know what a wonderful and heartfelt writer she is. I re-read her post from last October called “Under Heaven.” It is all about time and what we do with it.

Time—that steadily ticking clock that marks our stay on this earth—is finite for each of us. Like Pam, I too have looked down at my 65-year old feet and wonder how in the world they began as baby-pink and perfect to the gnarled, horn-nailed and bunioned hooves I now have. Time has made its mark on me, as it does on us all.

My time began with a care-free childhood, then grade school, junior high school (as we called it then; now it’s “middle school”), then high school. Following that came leaving home to go to college, then graduating, then finding my first job, first apartment, and other “firsts.” I seemed busy all the time, which seems strange now that I am definitely not busy, having retired a year ago.

As much as I loved and adored all the people and cats in my life, so many are gone now. I have happy memories of them, and think of them often. What new memories, people and pets are ahead?

What have I done with my time? What next will I do with the rest of my time? And how much time do I have? We all wonder these things from time to time (no pun intended).

So, with more time behind me than in front of me, how do I best fill that precious bit of time I still have? Do I listen to the steady exclamation in my head that says, ‘oh, for Heaven’s sake, just get involved in something! Do some good while you have time!’ If my heart isn’t in it, should I anyway?

I think that the answers to the above are “yes,” “yes,” and “yes!” It’s hard to shake ourselves out of our routines. But as I am finding out, it’s harder still to make excuses for ourselves.

Speaking just for me, I have plenty to do around the house. I also make jewelry, and now that I am recovering so well from my knee replacement surgery, I can go for walks again, which I have missed dearly. Then there is this blog, visiting my dad each week, having the occasional lunch with friends, and so on. All of these are wonderful, and I am grateful for them all.

However, I feel I should be doing more. So that’s going to be my goal in the coming weeks; to find the “more.” After all, time IS all we have.


It’s Not Alzheimer’s, It’s “*CRS”

Well, it’s finally happening to me—I am not only forgetting things, but I seem to have even forgotten that I have forgotten something. For years now I’ve been walking into a room, and then think “why did I walk in here?” But that’s pretty common…..right?

These days even more weird things are happening. For example, last evening I happened to glance at my wrist, and there was a green rubber band on it. I do NOT remember putting it on my wrist. How do these things happen?

The Crankee Yankee, as always, has a theory. He tells me that I am “so focused” that I may be misplacing things (or putting rubber bands on my wrist) because I am thinking ahead instead of thinking in the present. Ha—he should talk!

For instance, he knows that I am manic about putting things back in their proper place when I’m finished using them. I’ve lost count of how many times I have said loudly when he is around, ‘where did the kitchen scissors (or my favorite little spatula, or those cute and handy miniature wire whisks I used to have, or my old sterling salad spoon, etc.) go?’

I KNOW that the Crankee Yankee did not put them (or whatever else I can’t find) back where they belong. I will probably find them in the garden, or lying beside the bottle of water he also left outside, or downstairs on top of the washer. Or on a spaceship speeding back to Mars, probably.

But back to losing things, forgetting things, misplacing things, well—it does make me wonder if my heretofore good brain is running out of gas. However, I am still the person who notices that the paper towels or toilet paper are on their last sheet, so I replace both so that no one (meaning ME) will be caught short.

Funny that as often as I espouse the “be yourself” and “do your own thing” and “everyone join hands and sing Kumbaya,” way of life and so forth, I get pretty testy when people (meaning of course the Crankee Yankee) don’t do things as I would. Which only proves that I am still a fallible human, and I always think that my way is the best way. My heart knows better, but I have a very stubborn mind.

This reminds me of the **Red Green show; the men on it belong to a so-called men’s club. Their morning ‘prayer’ is: “I’m a man. I can change. If I have to. I guess…”

I think I’ll have to start repeating that to myself each day, of course substituting ‘woman’ for ‘man.’

*CRS: Can’t Remember Sh*t”

**The Red Green Show is a Canadian television comedy that aired on various channels in Canada, with its ultimate home at CBC Television, and on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) stations in the United States, from 1991 until the series finale 7 April 2006, on CBC.

My Place at the Hip Joint

Funny how when we are in our 20s and 30s we never give a thought to our bones, muscles, skin tone, etc.. There we are; beautiful specimens of youth and health, with strong bones, muscles, joints, etc. All of our parts are in great working order, and we simply take it for granted that we will always be young and strong and healthy. If we get an injury, we heal fairly quickly. If we wake up with a hangover, then hot coffee, some aspirin and a good breakfast clears that right up. Bumps and bruises don’t phase us; they heal in no time.

Then fast-forward 30 years later, and we notice how, when we get out of bed, our bodies make ‘popcorn’ sounds. When we walk, we hear ourselves saying, ‘ow, ow, ow!’ as hips and knees and backbone and feet protest being used so soon after sleep.

For a while now, my right knee has been bone-on-bone; I can hear it grind at certain times. At night it wakes me with its deep aches, as if to say, ‘hey—I’m up! Let’s talk!’ So I made an appointment with the knee doctor, and he suggested I attend a a two-hour informational seminar on joint replacement so I can get an idea of how the process goes. The seminar included all kinds of information you need to know before embarking on the road to painless knees and hips.

I walked into a crowded conference room at the local hospital, and sat down beside a nice couple; the wife immediately told me that she was here for her husband, who needed a new hip. The three of us talked about how age does a number on your bones, and how lucky we were to live in a time where there were such miracles as knee and hip replacements!

The couple to the other side of me said that the wife needed a new knee. We talked about how funny/but sad/but funny it was to have your knee poop out on you. We laughed together about what that nasty old S.O.B., Age, does to a person. Then one of us said, ‘oh well, as long as I’m on this side of the grass, I’m good!’ We all had a good laugh.

At this point, a nurse started the seminar. She explained the process clearly, and asked who needed knees and hips replaced; we were about evenly divided. The information was helpful, questions were answered, and we all seemed to get what we needed out of it.

What’s funny about all this: even though I just turned 65, I still feel young. I still consider myself a young person (funny how your eyes conveniently glaze over in looking at saggy muscles, facial lines, dark spots, cellulite, etc.), even with a bad knee, worn out from years of use. Inside we feel as young as ever, and sometimes it’s a shock to see an older version of the face I knew in the mirror. More shocking still (to me, anyway) is wondering if everyone around me thinks I look old!

But be that as it may, I too am happy to be here on this side of the grass. I’m thankful that I live in a time where I can get my worn-out old knee replaced. After all, I have two granddaughters I’d like to keep running around with; it’s too much fun not to. So whether or not I see you at the old hip (or knee) joint any time soon, I’m grateful for the gift of a still-useful body and mind, for family, friends, good (and bad) jokes, for hobbies that intrigue me, for ever more books to read, for good movies, for four beautiful seasons, a roof over my head, love in my heart and soon, a shiny new knee!

If you’re looking for me in the next month or two, I’ll be at the knee joint.

When Your Mind Goes Off Leash…..

These days it feels as if my mind is ‘off leash;’ that is, it wanders more than it used to. When I was younger, I could carry all kinds of things in my head at one time. In fact, my mind was a fabulous layer cake; seven layers usually:

  1. Tasks to do that day
  2. Things not to forget to do, such as lock the doors
  3. Work stuff, all in neat orderly rows
  4. Home stuff, such as meal menus
  5. Pet stuff; feeding the cats, getting them to the vet for their checkups, etc.
  6. Significant other stuff
  7. Me stuff

But alas, these days my brain cake seems to have shrunk down to one miserable little layer….and that one is pretty crumbly. These days I am saying things like, ‘pass me that, oh, you know, that thingy you write with,’ or ‘I just met whathisname up the street,’ or best of all, my frequent ‘word salad’—when I mean to say, ‘I put gas in the car today,’ it comes out as something altogether different, like ‘mint tea and ginger snaps.’ Surely I am too young for this degree of mental foolishness….or not.

Then there is the annoying physical part of getting older. When I got interested in karate in my 30s, I went all the way to 4th degree black belt. I had my own school with two other instructors, and loved it. Over those years, I must have done thousands upon thousands of kicks and punches, not to mention being a punching bag for overenthusiastic students.

So now, mere days away from 65, I have not one, but TWO torn rotator cuffs, plus hip and knee pain. When I get out of bed, my body makes more sounds than a bag of microwave popcorn. I now fart whenever I bend over (always the lady), and when I do yoga or stretching exercises, I always have to repeat this mantra when getting up: “ow, ow, ow, OW!” Sheesh.

I also find that, in the six months since my mother died, my emotions have been all over the place. Oh, I’ve checked those websites about women losing their mothers and all the different emotions they go through. Intellectually I understand the mental hopscotch.

I thought I might benefit from therapy, and went to one session. I cried and gulped and wiped my streaming eyes and nose all through it, paid the man $100 and never went back. I realized that I was afraid that, upon reliving my experience, I might explode into millions of tiny shards.

What I feel now is a weird combination of grief, fear, worry, anger and something else I can’t quite name. It’s a lot like the Wheel of Fortune game, but with no stopping for too long on any specific emotion. I never know if my day will begin with tears, irrational anger, self-pity, self-doubt, worry or, or something worse. But then often some days I feel like the old me, the one who had a mother.

It isn’t like Mom and Dad and I didn’t prepare for this. As with everything in my family, we worked through all the details of dying and death. As we always have, we talked openly with each other, and dealt with this as a family. We said everything to each other; we declared our love over and over and over again. When Mom began to decline physically, it was with love and deep affection that Dad and I cleaned her, brought food in to her, talked with her, kissed her and watched her sleep.

When everything came to an end on December 16 last year, I could feel her joyous and ebullient spirit shoot straight up to Heaven, exclaiming “It’s about damn time!” She was ready to go and looked forward to her next adventure.

But there is just something about not having that physical presence any longer. I keep a favorite picture of her and Dad ballroom dancing right beside my chair in the living room. Both of their faces are lit up with love and joy and the pure fun of dancing together. That special smile, the one I had known since babyhood, lives for me now in my mind and in pictures.

Trust me, I know all the emotions that go along with the death of someone you love deeply. But knowing them and living with them are two different things. What I am going through now is nothing new under the sun—just new to me.