Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Fountain of Youth

Baby Boomers, in general, do not enjoy aging. Though I refer to myself as a “gracefully aging Boomer”, there honestly isn’t a graceful thing about it. I hate the wrinkles and brown spots that have invaded my body. I cuss the aches and pains I feel each time I go from a sitting to a standing position. I do my best to cover the gray, and I visit my local Curves five times a week in an attempt to shed my love handles.  And it certainly doesn’t help that I have one of those tall, skinny boyfriends who doesn’t show his age.

I find myself squinting more and seeing less. I have to say, “Excuse me, can you repeat that?” more often than I like. I can no longer wear spikey heels and most of my tops hang loose as opposed to getting tucked in. I keep trying to hold back this freight train called aging, but it is picking up steam every day.
The average Boomer medicine cabinet is chock full of anti-aging products.  There are creams, lotions, and gels that profess to keep the skin smoother. There are capsules, liquids, tablets and green teas flush with anti-oxidants. Teeth whiteners, age spot removers, slenderizers, tenderizers and mending implements.  If you have seen it on an infomercial, chances are we have purchased it. It’s a billion dollar industry.

Put away your wallet, throw away the creams and get ready for some exciting news. I have learned the secret to feeling young. My honey and I discovered it quite by accident on a recent road trip. We found our fountain of youth in Bethlehem, PA, but there are hundreds of them dotted across the country.  They are easy to find, they are fun and you can get in for free. The minute you walk through the doors, you will instantly feel more youthful. They are called casinos.
You think I am kidding, but I swear the moment we walked into the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, we looked around, then looked at each other and said, “We are the youngest people in here.”  The men all appeared to be in uniform – plaid Bermuda shorts, strange colored golf shirts, white tube socks and athletic shoes with an orthopedic look to them. The women had beauty parlor hairdos, elastic-waist pants and gobs of brightly-colored, but tacky, jewelry. And lots of red lipstick. Some were in wheelchairs, while others dragged oxygen tanks behind them. I have yet to figure out how being in a room that allowed smoking was a good fit for them. They were seated at penny and nickel-slot machines, pressing buttons and pulling levers. The sad thing is, no one was smiling. They appeared almost zombie-like. Even when their slot machine rang up three cherries and erupted into the sounds of bells and clanking coins, they appeared motionless.

I am going to continue with my regimen of exercise, eating right and slathering anti-wrinkle creams on my face. I am going to continue to put up a fight against this freight train of aging. But when I get into a slump and need a boost to make me feel like I am not an old lady, I am gathering up my quarters and heading for the slot machines. Hey, we do whatever it takes.  

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Taking Things for Granted

One of the benefits of living life as a turkey sandwich is that you tend to lessen the penchant for taking things for granted.  But it’s human nature to fall off the wagon, even when we are making a conscious effort.
There are many things I absolutely no longer take for granted.  Important things – like a steady paycheck and health insurance.  I wouldn’t trade my current status for life back in the daily grind, but there was some comfort in knowing that if I had an off day and chose to sit at my desk looking busy even though I was day dreaming, I still got paid for it. As a freelancer, the formula is pretty simple – you no work = you no get paid.
I try my best to appreciate everything I have in this life – family, friends, good health and a comfortable living environment.  I work at maintaining my health by eating nutritious food and exercising.  Material things are no longer the priority, and I have discovered that a simplistic lifestyle actually soothes the soul.
And yet I still catch myself at times faltering in the appreciation department. Perhaps a friend calls and I choose not to pick up the phone because I am in the middle of something.  I chain myself to the computer trying to make a few extra dollars and go an entire day without stepping outside to breathe the fresh air or feel the sun on my face.  I let a day go by without telling my soul mate I love him and that I think he is grand.
I was traveling the past two weeks.  The first half was a road trip from South Carolina to New York.  The countryside I saw on those 900 miles was exquisite.  When you see the rolling hills of the Shenandoah Valley or the green farmland of Pennsylvania, you really don’t have to think twice about whether or not there is an almighty power – it is truly God’s country.  The second half was spent in Vermont, right smack in the middle of the Green Mountains.  I did appreciate the cool temperatures at night after the sweltering heat we have had in the South.
I was alone for the 900-mile drive back to SC – a great experience that allows for lots of reflection.  I find it funny how my brain writes while I am driving long hours. I have written entire books in my head during these road trips. Now if I could find a mind-reading book publisher, I could be famous.  Along with writing the world’s greatest novel during my drive, I also gave myself the pep talk about how and why not to take things for granted, especially relationships. We must nurture them, work at them, shine them up like a fresh apple before taking a bite. If we don’t, they will wither or become stale.
The magnificence of life, love and family became apparent within hours of my return. I had a visit from Wyatt and was truly amazed at the changes in him in just two weeks. I watched him sit on the floor completely engrossed in a stacking toy – placing each piece one on top of the other, removing them, and starting all over again. And then his mom asked him, “How does the duck go?”  He looked at me, eked out a loud “Quack” and broke into a giant, proud smile.
As we hustle through our busy days with endless errands, work projects, phone calls, traffic jams, aggravations, emotions and just a plethora of junk and static – stop, even if for just a moment, and really smell those roses. Remember what life is all about. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, reshuffle those priorities. If you see everything in a different light when you reopen your eyes, savor it for a minute. And make a solemn vow to not take it for granted, because there are no guarantees it will be there tomorrow.