Sunday, December 13, 2009

Envision the Possibilities--Adventures Lie Ahead!

In 35 days, I turn 50. A year ago, the idea of turning 50 made me cringe. Wretch. Break out in a cold sweat.

But for the past year as I've danced toward 50, I've changed my attitude--and that has made all the difference.

My list of things to accomplish is growing with interesting prospects:

* celebrate my 50th year in Greece and Italy with my mom and two sisters
* find more reasons to be joyful than not
* connect more with friends, family and the pursuit of fun
* make time to write the stories swirling around in my overactive imagination
* move my body more, eat chocolate less
* make the gym a regular part of my life--as well as walking my favorite waterfront trails and riding my purple bike.
* learn to take care of me. This does not come easy to me, but I am realizing what a priority it is to nurture one's physical, spiritual and emotional health.
* become like a duck: let other people's comments roll off my back. My friend Kim is teaching me how to do this with grace.
* recognize that my two children are wonderful people--and that they are old enough to make decisions--and to live with the consequences. I need to let them stand on their own more without coming to their rescue. All of us will be less stressed.
* even with a tight budget, find creative ways to have fun

For years I've wanted to attend Tapestry Theater's production of its "Christmas from Home" World War II-era radio drama/play at the Hollywood Theater in Portland. This year, money is tight and I don't have the cash for a ticket. But the Website offered free admission for volunteer ushers. So this afternoon, I'm ushering at the play and finally will be able to see it!

How many times have I passed up an activity because I didn't have the money? From now on, I will look at the possibilities and how I can have big and small adventures--if I only have the imagination to envision the possibilities.

Look out! Woman turning 50 here! Adventures lie ahead!

As you, too, dance through your life, envision the possibilities--and then enjoy the adventures that lie ahead!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dancing Toward 50--in Greece & Italy!

I'll be celebrating my 50th year in Greece!!!

My 50th birthday is only 49 days away! As I dance toward 50, my computer screens both at work and at home sport breathtaking photos of Fira on the island of Santorini in Greece.

For years, but particularly in the past year, I have dreamed of visiting Greece. Part of this is due to an extreme overdose of "Mamma Mia" the musical movie and soundtrack which takes place in Greece, as well as the teen movie "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants," which also features a Greek plotline and scenery.

Thanks to my mom and my two sisters, that dream of a Greek adventure is coming true! On Thanksgiving, my mom and sisters presented me with a scrapbook announcing that the four of us will visit Greece and Italy this summer to celebrate my 50th year! What a birthday gift! I was speechless. My tears were profuse.

I am going to Greece--and Italy! I have almost a month of vacation days at work. We can visit anytime after July 4th. Both of my sisters have time shares that will allow us lodging at little or no cost. I have seven months to save toward the trip--and to get serious at the gym.

My sister Becky also gave me a National Geographic Traveler guidebook to Greece, which I am studying. And I am finding Websites of Greece. This 360 degree view made me laugh aloud with delight:

I am going to Greece! As my sister Judy wrote in my scrapbook: "Greece is the word." Thanks, Mom, Becky and Judy! You're the best!

Turning 50 is going to be a fabulous milestone for me!

Follow me as I dance toward 50--and prepare for a trip of a lifetime to Greece and Italy! May you find joy in each day--and adventures around every corner!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Peeling away the old layers

With the arrival of fall, I am reflective, ready to start new projects and make changes to enrich my life. Some people get this burst of energy during the spring and chalk it up to "spring cleaning." But I get my motivation to begin anew in the fall.

Our house was built in 1921, so to say that I've got a long project list is an understatement. This past spring and summer, I finished many projects: primed and painted the garage, renovated the bathroom so that it looks like a 1921 bathroom instead of a 1970s bathroom, painted our kitchen walls, ceiling and cabinets (thanks to my fab sister, Becky), and had the rotting back porch rebuilt. Although the list is impressive, the list of needed repairs is daunting.

Tonight I was in the "fall" mood to watch one of my favorite movies, "Under the Tuscan Sun" starring Diane Lane as a writer whose husband divorces her and takes her to the cleaners. But wait! That's the hard-to-watch part. Distraught and in a funk, the protagonist takes a trip to Tuscany, Italy. It's a gift offered by a friend, and she accepts.

While on the bus tour in Italy, she sees a 300-year-old run-down villa for sale--and she buys it. With the help of a crew of Polish contractors, she begins chipping away at the old plaster to see what might be underneath worth salvaging. What a metaphor for her life! She has the courage to believe that she can have a new life. That she can be happy again. That her life still has purpose.

By movie's end, the protagonist, Frances Mayes, has renovated her villa, helped several people and has grown in the process, has found true love and has written a book (That part always makes me cry! Yes, yes, she renovated a villa and found a hunky man, but WOW--she wrote a book!).

It was 9:30 p.m. when the movie ended, but seeing Frances working so diligently on her house inspired me to think of a small project I could finish within an hour. Immediately I thought of a project that has bugged me for the seven years we've owned this house.

On our second floor landing, a beautiful glass-front built-in cabinet separates the children's bedrooms. Sometime in the last 80 years, someone covered the glass on the cabinets with pink and green floral wallpaper. When we first bought the house, I removed the wallpaper from one of the cabinet doors almost immediately. But then a more urgent task called me away, and the other cabinet door has remained covered in pink wallpaper.

For the past seven years, every time I went upstairs, I'd tell myself that I HAD to finish that project. Tonight, after the movie, I did just that. It took less than an hour with a sponge, a bucket of hot water, and I'm sorry to say, my fingernails. Or what's left of them.

I couldn't find our scrapers anywhere, and I was in a hurry. My fingernails are in such sad shape because I continually use them as tools. I had broken off a good chunk of one fingernail earlier today while using it as a screwdriver because I was too lazy to go down to the basement to fetch a real screwdriver.

But I digress. After I scraped all the old wallpaper from the glass, I cleaned both cabinet doors with Windex. Wow! What a difference. Why didn't I finish the job seven years ago?

My new challenge is to find projects I can tackle in under an hour. Suddenly, I'm seeing how I can break down so many daunting tasks into more digestible mini tasks. What job can I do tomorrow in under an hour?

Maybe I'll organize the linens and games in that hall cabinet, now that they are visible. Maybe I'll tackle the overhaul I have planned for the east side yard. Who knows? I can hardly wait to see what task it will be!

As I dance toward 50, I'll chip away at those daunting tasks--but not with my fingernails. Maybe one of the "50 tasks I'll do before I'm 50" should be to get my first manicure.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Life Lessons from Dove Chocolate Wrappers

Make the most of everyday. Take an extra deep breath whenever you need it. Remember that you are strong and beautiful. Cherish each day--take time to play. If they can do it, you know you can.

You gotta love Dove chocolate. The creamy chocolate makes my tongue happy, and the affirming messages make my soul happy. When I have major writing deadlines at work, a Dove chocolate is the calming elixir needed to help me finish my work. When I'm stressed at home, a Dove chocolate--or two or three or four--is the pick-me-up I need to get going again.

Unfortunately, for the last few years, I've been looking for affirmation from Dove much, much too often. My doctor is not happy, and neither am I. So next week I am beginning a "Biggest Loser" challenge at my local gym. I've been assured that I would not be forced to strip down to my sports bra and climb onto a scale for all the world to see. But I will have the benefit of a personal trainer and teammates with the same goal in mind: learn a new lifestyle, change my attitude, change my weight, change my life.

The weight crept on after the kids were born, and then after I turned forty. Now with fifty just around the bend, I believe I must learn how to be the best 50 year old woman I can. Along the way, I'll have to seek affirmation from something other than Dove chocolate.

Am I afraid? Yes. The last time I went to this gym, I tried to set the treadmill on my fast walking speed of 3 1/2 miles per hour. I accidentally set it on 12 miles an hour. My feet were flying, arms flailing, voice screaming for what seemed like an eternity. In reality, it was probably less than two minutes. The skinny, cool blonde who was jogging on the treadmill right next to me could have reached over and hit the OFF button. But she didn't. Finally, I found the OFF button, got off the treadmill and left the gym.

I didn't return until last week when I signed up for the Biggest Loser. Am I ready? Yes. Am I afraid? Yes. But I'm dancing toward 50, so I must do this now, before it's too late. To quote one of my favorite Dove chocolate affirmations:

If not now, when?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

4 a.m. hot flashes: lessons from Jan & the Borg

At 4 a.m. a hot flash awakened me from a deep sleep.

I threw off the covers, fanned my all-cotton T-shirt I sleep in, and got a drink of water. When I laid back down again, it still seemed my internal temperature from the top of my head to my chest was approximately a thousand degrees. After trying to get back to sleep and sweating in my bed for 40 minutes, kicking off the covers, then pulling them up and kicking them off again, I realized that it was futile. This is one of those not-so-rare nights when I don't get enough sleep. Menopause is not for the faint-hearted.

Back in my thirties when I coordinated events at an independent bookstore, I worked with Jan, the savvy, smart and absolutely fun book buyer. Jan is a bit older than me, and she was experiencing the joys of menopause during the time we worked together.

I'm one of those women who has been too cold her entire life. When greeting a new acquaintance with a handshake, the person almost always commented on how cold my hand was. When Jan mentioned how uncomfortable her hot flashes were, I replied that it actually sounded nice. Maybe I would finally be warm enough. No more sweaters in July or wearing socks to bed in August.

Jan smiled knowingly and said, "Nice? No. It's not like that. At all."

She was too kind to say, "You just wait. Hot flashes will make you miserable during the day. You'll be so uncomfortably hot at work that you'll wish you had a private office so you could strip down to your bra. And you'll wake up in the middle of the night to find your nightgown so soaked with sweat that you'll have to change your pajamas in the dark. You'll toss and turn, and finally get up because, to paraphrase the Borg from Star Trek TNG: Sleeping is futile."

I threw in that Star Trek: The Next Generation reference because both Jan are I are Trekkies, and she so would have said that if she wasn't so kind. (At the bookstore we threw a Star Trek/Star Wars Galactic Gala and I rented Star Trek uniforms for our entire crew--er staff. It's still one of my favorite Jan memories.)

When I'm hot flashing in the wee hours, I sometimes pull out my laptop and work. Or I write. Or read whatever book is on the top of the stack on my nightstand. I've even gone down to the basement and thrown in a load of laundry. One time at 4 a.m. I'd already done two loads of laundry and then organized the laundry room. Why waste the time and sudden burst of energy?

My gorgeous daughter is 20. She is thin and always cold, even in August. She wears hoody sweatshirts to bed and drags all the extra blankets in the house upstairs, piles them onto her bed and builds herself a cozy nest to sleep in. Just looking at her thick stack of blankets makes me sweat.

I remember when I, too, was cold. The solution was to put on a sweatshirt and then I'd be warm. But when you're too warm and have already removed every piece of clothing that's acceptable to remove in polite society, you run into a problem.

I still go to bed with socks on because my feet are cold. But sometime in the middle of the night--without waking up--I yank the socks from my feet and fling them across the room. Then I throw off my covers, panting "Hot! Hot!" And it begins again.

The effects of menopause are inescapable. Again, to quote the Borg: Resistance is futile.

The next time I'm suffering a hot flash, I must remind myself that this moment of discomfort is my badge of honor as I dance toward 50. Thanks for sharing this middle-of-the-night dance with me.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Dancing Toward 50: The Beginning Steps

When I turned 26, I cried. I recall feeling hopelessly old, the best years of my life behind me. I worked for an international non-profit organization, had spent two months living in London, and had just had a nonfiction book published. Heady stuff for a girl practically straight from the farm. I also weighed 105 pounds and had a tiny black miniskirt and spike heels. Ah, those were the days.

Twenty-six was nearly half my lifetime ago. I should have worn that black miniskirt every day. If only we could know at 26 what our lives would be at 49. But it's better that we can't see what's around that curve in the road.

So here I am, 159 days away from turning 50. It's a much bigger deal than the 26th birthday. I was a first-time mom with a collicky baby at 30, so hardly had time to shower, let alone consider my mortality. When I turned 40 I was a busy working mom/soccer mom/ballet mom and barely looked up long enough to realize that another decade had passed.

When I turned 49 in January, I felt the weight of 50 pressing down on me, a neon light blinking "She's turning 50!"--as sure as the hot flashes that make me throw off my covers in the middle of the night. Suddenly I felt as if I had been so busy taking care of everybody else, that I'd completely forgotten to take care of me--and now I'm definitely middle age.

Since my 26th birthday, I have:
  • been a supportive wife
  • raised two fantastic children
  • eaten more excellent chocolate than I care to admit
  • gained 75+ pounds (see the chocolate entry above)
  • watched a parent die of lung cancer, helped my sister through breast cancer, and dealt with my own skin cancer
  • owned my own business for five years--and lost it
  • written hundreds of press releases
  • traveled the Pacific Northwest and the West, mostly via camping
  • have watched journalism (my profession) and the world--change dramatically
  • read dozens and dozens of novels--and wished I'd finish writing one

I still work in nonprofit communications, and spend my days writing press releases, Web text and learning how to communicate with 21st century tools like Twitter, Facebook and blogs. But looking 50 straight in the eye made me realize that I've spent my life writing words that were for my livelihood, not for my own edification.

I began to feel that I was careening wildly out of control toward 50--and it wasn't pretty. I began making a list of "50 things to do before I reach 50." Some things are enormous things. Like finally finish writing a novel. Some things are smaller baby steps, like drink more water instead of Diet Pepsi. Some are tiny things, but new things I'm just learning to do, like sitting on the porch drinking an iced tea and enjoying my lavender hedge.

Since turning 49, I've done some new things just for me. And I've come to see that I've had a great 49 years, but so many exciting adventures lie ahead. On my computers at work and at home, I have a photo of a gorgeous Greek village as my wallpaper. Since turning 49:

I joined a book group
I am spending more time with friends
I am learning to let the laundry wait if I can have some fun instead
today I finally started a blog--for me and other women embarking on 50
and someday I am going to Greece!

So if you dare, join me on this journey...this dance toward 50. Let's dance together!