Eat the cake

Eat the cake

A somber entry for the countdown to 50.

34. I dated a man once who found my attitude about life to be somewhat of an anomaly.

He was a Dave Ramsey super-fan:  at the age of 56, he was completely debt-free. No mortgage, no car payment, no credit cards. He made close to six figures and considered himself “poor” because he put 14 percent of his income in his 401k and allowed himself XX amount of money each week for groceries and fun. The rest – a sizable chunk – went into savings and CDs (the money kind, not the music kind).

To be honest, it was kind of cool. His plan was to have a million or more when he retired so he could really enjoy himself and not sweat it. I’ve no doubts he’ll make it.

The down side is that he didn’t really let himself have fun. He could have easily enjoyed a movie every now and then. He was a die-hard hockey fan but only allowed himself 2-3 RoughRiders games a season – and was holding on to dreams of professional hockey games for retirement, even though we live just three hours from the Chicago Blackhawks.

On a smaller scale, he wasn’t a fan of going to hometown festivals – while the events themselves were mostly free, you’d have to pay to eat, or to drink, and he just didn’t see the point.

That was where we were different. I not only see the point, I live for it.

What he couldn’t understand about me was that, while I do have a pension plan (as a state employee I’m enrolled in the Iowa Public Employee Retirement System – IPERS – and get to control how much goes in, kind of), I also want to enjoy today, the time leading up to retirement.

I’ve always been kind of a “seize the day” kind of girl, and the older I get  the more I feel that way. Life is short – you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month. Planning for the future is great – but enjoy the trip while you’re getting there. I don’t want my younger years to be spent not making memories, not laughing, not experiencing different things. I diet, but I don’t keep myself from splurging. Eat the cake, taste the doughnut. Live a little.

I saw a Facebook post from a high school friend this morning that made this even more important. He and his wife adored each other – you could see it in every photo and in every post. It was a second marriage for both, but their families blended almost seamlessly. They stuck up for each other in everything they did, and she rooted him on tirelessly when he and I bet on the Broncos-Chiefs rivalry a few years ago (he won).

Today my friend posted that his wife passed away unexpectedly this morning, and they’re unsure of the cause. The post took my breath away. I’d never met her, but I enjoyed watching the relationship she and my friend had. My heart hurts for him and all of their children and grandchildren.

They planned for retirement, too. They made plans for the future.

Life is short, friends. Eat the damned cake.

 

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There is no escape

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“Old Lady of Havana” shot by Mark Daniel, 2009. I feel like we’re kindred spirits.

Still counting down to 50.

40. The fact that I had to reread the first paragraph of most of my “This is Fifty” posts is a sad reminder of why this particular post is relevant.

No matter how good you feel, no matter how much you’re not dreading entering a new decade of life, no matter how much you avoid letting the sun give you wrinkles or you color the gray out of your hair, there are some things about getting older you just can’t run away from.

  • A failing memory is at the top of my list. I don’t worry so much about Alzheimer’s or dementia, but it’s the more routine memory fails that really piss me off: the name of my neighbor’s mother, the movie that that one actress starred in, going to the store to buy coffee and spending $50 – without buying coffee, wondering why I came into a room.
  • 50 for molly3New aches and pains. I’ve always been a clutz and had my first serious knee injury when I was 10. Still, excruciating pain in my left knee last fall kept me from work some days, made getting around with the dog absolutely horrible, and made it next to impossible to sleep through the night. I went to the doctor expecting a torn meniscus and was right – but also have osteoarthritis so bad that fixing the meniscus would  be moot. Lovely.
  • Taking naps. I never realized the luxury of the nap until I was well into my 40s. They’re not a daily requirement, by any means – but most days I could fall asleep at any time, in any place, if given the opportunity.
  • Seeing my daughter post a link to a “Most kids today won’t know how hard it was” list, and then realizing that NONE of those things were issues when I was a kid. The trauma of having to carry a phone AND an mp3 player in your pocket?? Yeah, we spent our youth moving in stealth with no tracking device or means for our parents to find us. It was luxurious.
  • Bifocals. As though wearing glasses wasn’t hard enough, but having to discern whether you should tilt your head backward or forward or to just peer over the top of your glasses without losing your line of sight or still being able to see at all. And using bifocals on the tiny screen on your cell phone? Yeah – that’s a treat.

In all honesty, getting older is just about doing your best to feel good where you are. For the most part, I do.

Unless I’m forgetting something.

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Life is good

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Life is good, folks.

Still counting down to 50.

42. I was downstairs talking to a now-former neighbor about a month ago, telling her about my pending move to a condo a little up the street. I’d been in the apartment above hers for seven years, and she and her extended family had just moved in within the last year.

My excitement about the new place was evident, and I’d invited her to stop in some time and sit out on my deck. Then she said something that caught me completely off-guard.

“Molly, I’m so envious of you. You really have it all together.”

Tears welled in my eyes almost instantly. I was touched by her honesty, but also by the fact that since my divorce 15 years prior, I’d hardly lived the life anyone would envy.

“It’s been a long time coming, that’s for sure,” I told her. “It hasn’t been easy.”

We talked a little more, then I retreated to my apartment and continued packing.

50 for molly3I’ve thought a lot about that conversation since. This woman isn’t much older than me, but lives with her 30-year-old son, his girlfriend and their two small children. The younger woman is expecting a third child in the fall. In the six or so months I’ve known them, the three adults have been in various stages of employment, sharing one car. I’ve given rides and been asked for small “loans” I know will never be repaid. They struggle, but they’re decent people (aside from the constant pot smoking by the son – which is only annoying because the smell is rank and filtered into my apartment).

I think that conversation best illustrates why I’m so looking forward to 50.

Life is good.

I’ve always tried to be positive and enjoy the life I have – no matter what the situation was at the time. But in the 15 years since my divorce, it’s been tough. I’ve filed for bankruptcy twice – the first time because my soon-to-be-ex-husband was going to file and my attorney said it would be in my best interest, the second because a new bank had taken over my mortgage and was threatening an impossible refinance and I had to walk away.

For the first 10 years post-divorce, the kids and I lived on what I made, day-to-day. No credit cards to help in a pinch, if we didn’t have the money we didn’t get whatever was wanted. It meant the kids were on reduced-price lunches for a couple years in elementary school. It meant our gas was shut off one summer because I fell behind in the payments – then earned a real estate commission check big enough to catch up, just in time for fall. It meant being upside-down in cars I didn’t like because my credit score was horrible and I allowed myself to be bullied by a salesperson who convinced me “this is the only car you qualify for.”

It meant we didn’t do vacations, seldom went out to eat or to the movies. New clothes were a luxury saved mostly for back-to-school, holidays and special occasions.

But it was still good. I said – often – that I loved my 40s, it was the best decade ever. And, really, it was. I had great people in my life, and things always seemed to work out – mostly because of the great people I had in my life. We were never homeless, there was always food to eat, my relationship with my kids has always been strong.

For the last three or four years, though, things have slowly started turning around. Life was still good, but life was getting good, too. My credit score was improving and I was able to get a credit card. My daughter and I went on a Colorado vacation with my then-boyfriend and some of his family. I could go out with friends more.

In the last year, things have really turned around. I was able to get rid of the car I didn’t like and get the car I really wanted. I went on vacation to Phoenix to visit a cousin/friend. I’ve realized what I really want in a relationship and have stopped accepting less – which led to my telling a man who’s been in and out of my life for several years how I really felt about him (it didn’t end like it does in the movies – sigh).

And now the move. I have my first “me” place, a grown-up apartment/condo with all of the amenities I’d want.

This is why I’m looking forward to my 50s. I’m a more grounded “me” than I’ve ever been, and I’m excited to see where it goes.

Life is good.

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Stairs, schmairs

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Part of a sporadic countdown to 50.

58. (OK, I don’t know why, exactly, but seeing that there are just 58 days left of my 40s just made my heart skip a beat. Fortunately, it was just one beat – or there might be a lot fewer days of my 40s.)

I’m moving.

I made a list of a lot of things I wanted to do this year, my “year of 50.” Take a vacation. Check. Spend more time with friends. Check (so far). Lose some weight. Check (so far). Do things I’ve always found excuses not to do in the past. In progress.

But moving? Moving wasn’t on my list.

50 for molly3It certainly could have been. The longest I’ve ever lived in any one residence is eight years, and that was the house I bought right after my divorce. Almost eight years to the day we moved in, the kids and I moved out and into what is my apartment now. On June 1, I’d have been there seven years – making it the second-longest address I’ve had in my lifetime.

So, really, moving could have been a possibility. It just wasn’t at the time of my list.

Sure, I’ve often looked to see what was available in the area. My current building isn’t secure, my mailbox is out in the open and I worry about freelance and royalties checks “disappearing.” There’s no garage, no deck, and I’m convinced one of my neighbors is dealing drugs.

But I have always decided to stay. It’s a nice enough apartment, and really, for the price and the location – you can’t get an apartment that big anywhere close.

But the first week of April I announced I was going to get serious about finding a new place, and less than two weeks later I had a place and had given notice to my landlord. The new apartment is in a secured building, with a locked mailbox, and there’s a garage, deck and fireplace. I’m excited.

Then yesterday it hit me: It’s on the third floor.

I knew it was on the third floor – I mean, I had to climb the stairs to see it, right? But it didn’t really hit me that it’s on the third floor.

 

Why does this matter? Because I’m almost 50. My knees and my ankles and my legs are Almost Fifty. Who gets older and thinks, “Wow, I should move somewhere that makes me climb even more stairs that I do right now.”

Who does it? Well, me, apparently. I do. Apparently the thought of lugging groceries up to the third floor didn’t cross my mind, or carrying the 20-pound bag of dog food – or being dragged by the leashed 45-pound Lab, for that matter.

I just did as I do – I fell in love with the apartment, the deck, the view, the garage, the fireplace … and signed on the dotted line.

I guess that’s one way to get my 10,000 steps in every day.

 

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It’s not all sunshine and rainbows

50 for molly3

Part of a sporadic countdown to 50

67. (It’s only fitting that I end the brief break from the countdown with 67 days to go – as in, ’67 was the year that really got this countdown started …)

There have only been a few times I’ve let my age bother me.

I was fairly traumatized by 25 because I was a whole quarter-of-a-century old. As a kid you don’t really think of your age in relation to a century, but 25 – that’s a different story. That’s a common fraction and you are that common fraction of a birthday most people never see. You’re 25 percent of your way to 100.

Thirty bothered me only temporarily before the actually birthday – but once it arrived I realized 30 wasn’t so bad. It’s like once you lost that “I’m 20-something” attitude, people started taking you more seriously.

Then the 40s came, and I wasn’t too disheartened at all. A co-worker was once amazed when I wrote a blog for work about having had to go to driver’s school – not because I shared my penchant for speeding tickets with the public, but because I included my age. But as I neared 45 – and my first mammogram – I suddenly started wishing I was younger. Or that they’d moved the recommended age of the first mammogram to 75.

Tools to Get You Through Your Colonoscopy.pngA new fear has replaced the mammogram fear, and I’ve made the irrational decision to talk to friends and relatives who have been through it.

At 50, it’s highly recommended that you have a colonoscopy.

Yuck.

From what I’ve been told, the procedure itself is simple. You’re given anesthesia, and you wake up an hour later and it’s over. But the 36 hours before it?

No. Just … no.

I was the recovery buddy for a friend, and saw how loopy she was when the procedure was over. Both she and another friend have offered to give me a ride to the hospital and be my recovery buddy after, but have both assured me they won’t be with me during the prep period.

“Trust me,” says my friend who just had hers in January, “you won’t want anyone there for that. You won’t even want your dog there.”

Oh. Goody.

Wanting to get a more medical explanation of what to expect the night before, I turned to WebMD (yes, I know I work in a hospital …), where I was cautioned to “stay in the bathroom — bring something to entertain yourself, like a book, television, or laptop.”

Ummm …

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It’s not all about me (well, not always)

50 for molly3Hey all – while I enjoy making fun of myself and sharing all that is great (and not so great) about approaching 50, I’d love to hear some of your age issues – all for a possible post to be included in this series (unless you want to share just with me …).

What did you look forward to? What did you dread? What did you find out about turning a certain age that you didn’t know? Funny stories? Embarrassing moments? Be brave – share!

Send me stories, photos, anything you want to share – pourmesomewhine@gmail.com.

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Some things get better – right?

50 for molly3

Part of an ongoing-but-irregular countdown to 50.

75. Everyone talks about how things start to get more difficult as you age: losing weight, exercising, reading without glasses, finding your car keys, remembering just why it is you walked into a room or opened a closet door. I get all those – and fully agree with all of them.

But there are a few things I really hope get easier as we age.

  • Budgeting money – I’ve never been a financial whiz, to be sure, but learning to live on a budget – and to say “no” to myself – has become a priority to me since my divorce 15 years ago. Part of it comes from the fact that until three years ago, I didn’t have any credit cards – we gave them up as part of the divorce proceeding (never mind) and I never got another one until recently. Truly living on what you have is an eye-opening experience. I’ll admit to splurging a bit when I finally did break down and get a card, but I’ve tempered that part of my brain with the, “but if we save we can go places!” philosophy (Ireland, here I come!). So far, so good. It’s still tight, I still cut things out of my budget to make room for other things, but, as they say, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”
  • Budgeting time – This one comes a bit harder to me. It’s no secret that I tend to spread myself a bit too thin (that came up twice in my performance review at work) and – more times than I’d like – I run late to personal events and outings. I think one of the reasons I don’t go to a lot of movies is because I worry about being late. Mostly because I usually am.
  • Dating – While this will certainly make a best-selling book someday, dating in my 40s was … interesting. There were a few relationships and an awful lot of awful lines from potential suitors (“I’m getting tired of the five-knuckle shuffle” or “Like most redheads I bet your [sic] built like a brick house”) or from those who I actually went out with (remember the gross, “I’d like to put my skin boat in your tuna chute”? Still makes my skin crawl.). I swear I’m hearing more bad come-ons now than I did before I was married.
  • Living – This one definitely gets better with age, at least I think so. I gave up home ownership seven years ago and really, really like renting – the idea of someone else picking up the tab when the water heater dies, or the air conditioning goes out is quite appealing. And right now I’m in the middle of another transition – moving from a building where I’m kind of embarrassed to have first-time guests visit – the smell of marijuana is overpowering, litter in the yard is off-putting, the broken front door and burned-out hall lights slum-looking – to a secure building where, theoretically, “shit gets done.” Living better to me also means enjoying life, being happy – you never know when you won’t get another tomorrow, so enjoy today. That’s what I try to do. Live with no regrets.
  • Finally figuring out why I really did go into that room – Yeah, I doubt I’ll figure that one out, either.

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