Community, Health, Humor, introvert, women

Random Huggers

I’ve always considered hugging to be an expression of affection between family and close friends. Growing up, my family members were not heavy huggers.  We hugged at important times, but most often, we exchanged a sort of mental hug where we just knew everyone was on board with whatever was happening.  This hasn’t changed over the past 50+ years and it works well for us. It’s a little different on the social side. Contrary to the wishes of the supreme judger-recorder-reporter, I am a die-hard introvert. I intentionally keep my social circle small and as I’ve grown older, even smaller. While I might physically hug fewer people, the hugs that I do exchange are true expressions of affection. But it seems the older I get, the more random huggers I encounter.

In one of my weaker moments, I agreed to play a few games of pickleball with my husband and a couple I had never met before.  Pickleball is a game played with paddles and a whiffle-like ball on a smaller version of a tennis court.  It’s the game of choice for many retirees and their spouses who always want to know what I did in my former life-the life I am still living.  My husband and I only play doubles because neither of us can cover the full court. Many 80-year-olds still play the game so I figure I ought to be pretty good when it’s time for the senior Olympics in another 30 years. But this story is not about pickleball, it’s about hugging, so let’s move on.

We arrived at the pickleball court at the scheduled time, met up with the ‘other couple,’ and exchanged introductions. Following a cordial handshake and perfunctory nod, we took our places on the court and began to play. We played for about 2 hours, exchanged comments about big plays, declined their invitation to join them in the hot tub, and away we went.  Hot tub? Who invites total strangers to their hot tub on the first date?

Two weeks later, it was time to play again. We met up with our new ‘couple-friends’ at the court, approached each other, and exchanged greetings.  All seemed to be in order until  I saw ‘he-friend’ step into the asphalt gap between us and morph into a random hugger.  “Ah, excuse me, but what was that?” I thought. “When did we move from cordial handshaker-prefunctory nodders to huggers? We’ve only known each other for 2 hours, 2 weeks ago, and only to play pickleball.  Remember, we didn’t join you in the hot tub?”

While I wanted to leave him hanging, I figured doing so would end pickleball Sunday for my husband so I used the ‘break it off’.   There isn’t a small enough time measurement for the length of a ‘break it off’ hug. It’s like it didn’t even happen.  You’re in, you’re out. Both hugger and huggee leave satisfied and when done correctly, it is not at all awkward. Feeling as though all was in order, I was ready to move on and forget that whole thing ever happened, but out of corner of my eye I noticed that ‘she-friend’ was moving in for the kill. “Oh no, she’s a random hugger too,” I thought. “They are a random hugging duo-that’s twice the number of hugs, and two more than I needed today from near strangers!”  Since then, my pregame warm up includes not only stretching and a few swats at a whiffle-like ball, but a series of ‘break it offs’ to make sure I can deflect everything that comes my way later that day.

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Humor, shopping, women

I’m Your Huckleberry

I, unlike many other women my age, am not a shopper. When I need something, I do the preliminaries, such as read the store circulars and search pricing, from the comfort of my home. When I finally go to the store, I want to get in, get what I need at a bargain price, and get out. All without too much fanfare and certainly with zero chitchat.

While I don’t like to shop, I do love a bargain. I take after my grandmother who was a frugal shopper. She was always looking for a bargain price on a dress that had big pockets and a zipper up the front so it wouldn’t break up her hair when she put it on.  These days, in order to get the best bargain, I am forced to engage in the act of Q-poning. You know, when you use the printed piece of paper that replaces hard earned cash at the checkout counter to reduce the amount owed?  Seems simple enough-cut the Q-pon, use it towards your purchase, and save money-but it never is.  Oh, and according to the book Speaking American, I am one of the 31% of people in the United States who pronounces ‘coupon’ like Q-pon.

I am proud to say that when it comes to Q-pon shopping, I’m your huckleberry. I know to check the expiration date and for any time restrictions, because some are only good from 10AM-1PM on Saturday during the One-Day Sale that has a preview day on Friday, which actually makes it a two-day sale. I know that you can’t combine offers, that there are many exclusions, and lastly, that you cannot use a Q-pon on Bonus Buys.

I recently needed new sheets and towels-not exciting purchases, but things you just gotta have. I did the preliminaries, collected my Q-pons, and headed to the store.  I found everything I wanted, avoided Bonus Buys, self-scanned the price to make sure I could use the best Q-pon in my collection, rechecked the fine print, and headed to the check out.

I approached the kiosk with two separate orders so that I could take full advantage of the Q-pons I was packing. Yes, I’m one of those. I showed my set of Q-pons to the Johnny Ringo and he showed me his. It was like a poker game in a smoky saloon as we bet on who had the better hand of discounts.

As he approached the register, I could hear the ring, ring, ring of his jingle bobs. I know what you’re thinking, but I learned that lingo from Cowboy Bob’s Dictionary rather than Urban Dictionary, so get you’re your mind out of the gutter. Once in place, he pulled out his six-shooter and began scanning one towel, then the next, then a washcloth, followed by a hand towel. After shooting the last item, he hit my Q-pon and then, like the shootout at O.K. Corral, he started gunning down every piece of paper in the local vicinity that had a bar code on it.  Bang, bang, bang.  I couldn’t keep up. I was like the innocent bystander hiding behind a wooden barrel on the front porch of the saloon hoping I wouldn’t get hit. Aisles emptied as others in town rushed for cover.  Only one member of my posse remained to watch what he knew would be a showdown. What is happening here, I thought?  I gave you the one Q-pon that I knew would work.  Why are you tearing the place up like that? Face it-I have the better hand!  And don’t you know, you can’t combine offers?

After the smoke settled, he announced the total due, but according to my calculations, he was wrong. Much to his chagrin, I had to ask for a rematch-not once, but twice.  He was way too quick on the draw and while my hand was better, it was being overridden by the multiple offers he was firing into the system.  Stop shooting up every coupon in the town, I thought! Just use the one I gave you! After all, I’m your huckleberry.

Community, Health, Humor

Words of Wisdom

Keeping healthy and ahead of possible health problems is important at any age, but the way to do these things changes over time. In your 50s, providers squish and reach in certain areas less often than in the past and turn their attention to deeper, darker territory never seen before in most of us. I recently signed on for a week-long adventure into this uncharted territory and like Uncle Rudy, took lots of ‘pictures’ and notes so I could share the wisdom I gained along the way.

Upon receiving a phone call with a less-than-honest description of the preparation needed for the trip, I realized this was going to be more involved than originally thought. I received a full itinerary and the first activity, as when planning any trip, involved shopping. As I loaded my cart with all the powders, liquids, and pills that I needed to prepare for my adventure, everyone over 50 who was in front of, behind, and around me knew where I was going.  I thought I would slip out through the self-checkout to avoid more of those, “Oh, so you’re having ‘that’ done looks”, but that turned out to be a bad idea-the bottle of comfort-coated tablets for gentle, predictable relief, wouldn’t ring up.  I scanned, rescanned, three-scanned, turned the bottle one way, then another, shook it, twisted it, but nothing.  I kept watching the clerk who was watching me. I wanted to make sure she wasn’t reaching for loud speaker to announce “price check for overnight relief in line 1.”   Finally, I heard the beep I longed for, grabbed my bag of goodies, and rushed from the store.

The next item on the itinerary was different than any trip I had previously taken.  Instead of ‘packing’, I had to ‘unpack’-and I had to do it for an entire week. I didn’t know so much stuff could fit into, and ultimately, come out of one bag. As each day passed, so did everything from the previous day and eventually, earlier the same day.  As the day of encroachment grew closer, it was no longer safe to let anything escape unless safely seated over the pond. With each passing day, the force grew until it prohibited me from venturing far from my new friend, Johnny.  What happened to gentle, overnight relief?

Finally, the day of the splunking trip arrived. Bright eyed and sore bushy-tailed I sort of sat in the waiting room with everyone else who regrettably signed up with their travel agent for the same type of adventure. We all sat there with the same hopes running through our heads-“ I hope I get to leave soon, I hope that’s not what I think it is, I hope I can hold this until it’s my turn, I hope Johnny’s nearby.”  As a name was called, the next traveler approached and entered the portal. I secretly said goodbye as each comrade, to whom I had united in spirit, departed on their journey-feeling a little disappointed that they got to go before me.

Soon, it was my turn and I reluctantly I stepped forward while tightly squeezing the backdoor closed.  I was given instructions about what to expect and was strapped in for departure.  While in a holding pattern, I realized I had made a major Freudian slip-I forgot to take off the backdoor cover.  I pressed the call button and there it was, the loud speaker, just like the one I avoided during the shopping spree. “Can I help you?” Ah, how do you say, “I need an attendant to put my undies into the pretty teal belongings bag that is stored in my overhead bin,” in a way that doesn’t make you sound like an idiot, considering the trip you about to embark on?

From my vantage point, I could see the list of travelers cleared for take-off so I knew it was my turn before they even called my name. Away I went, anxiously holding the side rail wearing nothing butt a large piece of fabric with sleeves and my socks-good thing my feet would be warm. What seemed like seconds later, I was told the trip was over. What?  It’s over?  I didn’t get to see anything? I hope the adventure into the deep, dark divide was more exciting for those leading the tour than for me-I don’t remember anything about it.  Now, I’ve been on other adventures that I don’t  clearly remember, but there was nothing, not even recollection of someone reaching for the back door.

As I look back at all the ‘pictures’ and mental notes I made throughout this adventure, I have three pieces of wisdom to share that I hope will be helpful to those planning the same trip. Think of me as your travel agent who wants you to have great adventure. First, make sure the rosebud is pointed towards the pond-this is not a time to hover. Second, the force will be with you-don’t be fooled by those light sensations similar to what you’ve had in the past-they will get you every time. Last, but certainly not least, a visitor will come in through the backdoor even though you didn’t hear knocking-you already told them to stop by.  Oh, and don’t be surprised by the abrupt ending to this intimate adventure.  All you will hear is, “Get dressed and go home.” Not even a, “Thanks for traveling with us, I hope you enjoyed your trip.” Bon voyage!

Humor, language

Laughing at Language

I’ve been using language to communicate for over 50 years, which is a long time. I figure with this much experience, I’m sort of an expert in words. I use them in every day life to describe things, convey ideas, complain, and to write, what I hope are, funny stories. I recently came to the realization that I might not have kept up with words as much as I should have in order to be an expert.  Then again, should I be required to keep current or should first use take precedence?

Sunday afternoons were ‘family time’ when we would get together for dinner and to visit.  My family of four and my sister’s family of five would travel to our parents’ home for the afternoon and gather in the living room while my mother put the finishing touches on the day’s feast.  Everyone would chat and get caught up on happenings from the previous week.  One Sunday, when the dinner bell rang, I stood up and asked if everyone was ready for some grundles.  The loud chatter in the room came to a dead stop. Eyes of the twenty-somethings in the room shot open wide and began darting wildly around the room. I could see them glancing at each other aghast at my question. “What did you say?” asked my son. I repeated my sentence as I casually made my way towards the kitchen, but the rush to inform me of my error in word choice stopped me in my tracks.  When did ‘grundles’, the word R-Buckle, Duncan, and my boyfriend, Fred used for food, come to mean ‘that’?  Surely, my friends were not going to the cafeteria for anything related to those grundles!

As a fifty-something, I watch more television in the evenings than I should, but in my defense, I am very selective in what I watch.  I recently discovered the fabulously funny comedy series, Teachers, on TVLand. In a recent episode, one of Deb Adler’s students said his mother told him he had spunk. Aghast, Mrs. Adler replied, “Tell your mom to stop using the word spunk.”  Now, if you are over 50 and like me, you probably have to go to Urban Dictionary and read the now-prevalent definition of ‘spunk’.  How can one word mean two totally different things?  Who decided that the mid-16th century spirited ‘spunk’ should no longer be used in normal form because it means something else; something we don’t usually talk about in public?

As I thought about these two situations and my expertise with words, I realized that language has moved on over the last 50+ years and that maybe I have been a little lax in my studies. Understandably, local words that are made up, such as ‘grundles’ by a 1980s high school cohort, do not belong to those who coined them.  Regardless, those who used the term in its original form should still get to use it without being chastised or treated like they are behind the times-it was our word first. I’m sorry that someone came after us and turned it into something that should not be spoken in the living room during family time or used to describe their child who plays soccer-but we used it first. So, the next time you hear your aunt say a sentence such as, Little Johnny lost his thong while running for grundles, but he still showed spunk, remember, she used those words first!

Humor, Travel, women

Laughter at the Lane

I recently had the pleasure of traveling by air, which is something I don’t do on a regular basis.  Given that I have a touch of OCD, I have a routine that ensures I abide by the litany of airline rules and that I don’t miss my flight.  I arrive 2 hours before flight time and stuff as many 3.4 ounce or less items as possible into a clear plastic bag so that everyone from the TSA agent to the droves of businessmen around me can see the plethora of creams, lotions, and liquids needed to keep ‘this’ operational. I tip-toe like Fred “Twinkletoes” Flinstone to the scanner and once inside, wait for the nod to be still, spread ‘em, and raise ‘em high-Hmm, where have I heard that before?  I wonder, what can they see of ‘me’ beyond floral granny panties and the large underwires used to hold things in place? Whatever they see must not be that great because I’ve never been pulled out of the line-up for additional exploration.

Once through security I set up shop in an isolated area near the gate where I can avoid talkers, coughers, sneezers, and snorters, yet still enjoy the sights and sounds of the airport.  I check my carry-on, cheaters, purse, book, and phone a million times because remember, I have a touch of OCD.

About the time that my space is no long mine, boarding begins. While there are many amusing sights at the airport, none of them make me laugh more than the actual board process. It’s an exciting time for many soon-to-be passengers who seem to be able to sense when the agent leaves the breakroom to walk to the gate to begin boarding. They stand up and begin to saunter towards to the gate door, like a scene from Night of the Living Dead.  Do you think the plane will leave without you when you are standing right here?  Better yet, do you think you will reach your destination sooner if you are the first to be seated?

The airline I was flying that day boarded by zones. The first announcement came and while I could only decipher a few lines of what the agent mumbled into the microphone, I could tell something big was going to happen-the saunter upgraded to a shuffle. People were moving faster towards the boarding gate lane-you know, the shiny chrome poll with a sign at the top and a 4-inch wide tape extending about 20 feet towards the gate podium? The sign that directs ‘priority’ passengers to one side of the tape where the floor runner that tells them they are a ‘priority’, and sends ‘other’ passengers to the ‘other’ side where there is no message reinforcing their status?  Movement subsides, except for those needing extra time to board and families with small children and all the stuff that goes along with that.  That is called ‘pre-boarding’ and everyone is fine with it.  Next are military members in uniform followed by the people who have and spend a lot of money on travel and obviously need to be associated with expensive items such as diamonds, platinum, and gold-They wanted to be in the ‘in crowd’ in high school.  I, on the other hand, was ready to use the ‘other’ side of the gate lane as a proud member of zone 3 and the ‘other’ crowd.

As each special group was called, my space was returning to an area of isolation.  Fewer and fewer people remained in the seating area. I gathered my things and nonchalantly moved towards the ‘other’ lane.  When zone 3 was announced, I, along with about five other women who were also not called out for special exploration and who were wearing sensible shoes, comfortable stretch pants, cheaters on a chain around their neck, stood looking at each other. Are we the only ‘other’ passengers on this flight? Of the hundreds of people on the plane we are the only six ‘normal’ oops, I mean ‘other’ passengers?  Yes, but as the last seated, we have the pleasure of spending the least amount of time next to a talker, cougher, sneezer, and snorter.  We might not be a ‘priority’, but we are lucky!  Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Community, Humor, women

Murmuring in the Moment

In your fifties, the nest is a place of transition; those whom you brought into this world are flying out and those who brought you into the world are hovering around it, just in case they need to come in for a landing.  My mother has always been a very independent woman and she deserves a little pampering, just as I do. On occasion, I treat myself to an afternoon at the spa for a facial to help control birds feet and other unwanted wrinkles and a massage to work out the kinks from too much computer time and the stress of life.

I decided to treat my mother to her first ever visit to the spa.  I made the appointment, picked her up, and during the car trip, explained the routine so that she knew exactly what to expect-everything from the questions she would be asked to what-not-to-wear for the massage.  The pampering experts greeted us arrival and away we went, one to the facial room and the other to the massage room.  I couldn’t wait to hear her reaction to her first facial.  Little did I know that I could have waited a little longer.

Our rooms at the spa were across from each other, separated by a narrow hallway.  After answering the therapist’s questions about problematic areas on my aging body, I slid into the soft, warm sheets and was ready for the first hour of bliss. As I snuggled in, I noticed the persistent murmur of voices from across the hall. I thought, “Boy, mom must have a lot of skin care needs to discuss with the skin pamperer.”

The massage therapist re-entered my room and began to work her magic, but I was distracted. I could still hear the murmur from across the hall. I tried to block it out, to ignore it. What could they possibly be talking about at a time when silence is such an important part of the bliss? About that time, the therapist gently rotated my head to one side.  “Good,” I thought, “one ear is now obstructed so maybe I will no longer hear the voices haunting ‘my time.’”  I waited and waited and waited. The anticipation was like waiting for the next drop of water to fall from a dripping faucet. Nothing, nothing, nothing, oops-there it is! Not only did the murmur return, but in the silence of my room, it seemed to grow louder and louder and louder.  I felt like I was getting a massage in my mom’s kitchen while she talked with her neighbor in the living room.  Whatever was being discussed in that facial room required a full hour of murmuring.  My mom enjoyed her pampering, but next time we go, the what-to-expect discussion will include what-not-to-say.

Community, Humor, women

I’m Here to Make Jewelry!

Like many women, my life is busy. Being over fifty with an empty nest, I find that when I have a little free time, I get to do what I want to do. I look for opportunities to learn something new in a way that doesn’t involve a lot of people or drama. I recently came across an advertisement for a jewelry making class and figured 90 minutes with a few people I didn’t know seemed doable, so I signed up.

I arrived with the pliers and wire cutters from my husband’s tool belt hidden in my purse, just in case they were too big to creatively bend and twist wire-and they were. Upon arrival, I introduced myself to the teacher who inquired about my previous jewelry making experience.  “Ought to be interesting,” was her response upon hearing this was my first experience.  Ah, I had successfully set the bar low so the pressure was off. Part way through our introductory chat she announced that she had to collect her urine for 24-hours due to some health issue she was experiencing.  I snickered inside as she strolled off to add to her collection. Really, we just met and you are sharing your personal urine collection stories with me?

About 20 minutes after the scheduled class start time, my only classmate arrived. A class size of two was perfect, or so I thought. Class began with everything you need to know about jewelry making in 10 minutes or less and quickly transitioned to the teacher sharing stories about her entire life as she watched me haphazardly twist wire into shapes never seen before. I sure was not seeing them because my cheaters were home on the table right where I left them! While I was learning more about the teacher than the fine art of making jewelry, I was happy to be just a student in the class-no attention, no expectations to create anything special, no drama, just an occasional nod to the teacher to let her know I was listening during her therapy session.

My classmate seemed like a nice guy who clearly knew how to use the right size tools to make jewelry.  His designs looked nothing like mine yet I was enjoying my new craft. Suddenly, the valedictorian announced he could not finish his design because his hands were shaking-seems he was diabetic and didn’t eat enough before scooting across town 20 minutes late to jewelry class! Are you serious-The one thing you had to do before coming to class and you didn’t do it?  Again, I snickered inside, not because he was having a health issue, but because I was there in the few free moments I had to do something for myself and I got one collecting urine and getting therapy that indirectly, I paid her to share, and another struggling to stay upright while wrapping his sea glass pendant.  What is happening?  Must I always be taking care of someone? This is my time and I’m here to make jewelry!