Thrush and little green chickens

It is the first morning of Wood Thrush song, so loud and close I don’t recognize it at first. The flute-like whistles sound shrieky up close, but up close you can also hear the quiet churrs and burbles that follow the whistles. It is stunning. I sit on the porch and start to write but I can’t write while that is going on.

As I write that I can’t write, the song stops and then takes up again much farther off, as if the thrush is respecting my territory. Continue reading

These things happen

I spent Mother’s Day afternoon at a funeral home. The visit stretched into several hours because of two things. The person who had passed away was well known and much loved and so the reception line to offer condolences to his widow was long and moved slowly. And then, after my husband and I had greeted the widow, we had extended conversations with the deceased’s father, mother, and aunt. We were, in fact, at the visitation because of the parents and aunt, who have been dear to us for a long time. Continue reading

It’s all baby, baby

FullSizeRenderThere are grandmother hormones. They have not been named yet but one day, for sure, we will know that there are actual chemical connections that make our arms itch to hold newborns and drive us to the floor to play pretend with preschoolers when we ourselves are well past childbearing age. Continue reading

Blank Friday

IMG_0308Yesterday the little family, who had spent Thanksgiving with us, had to leave by 10 a.m. so my husband and I had Black Friday to ourselves. I spent it in front of the woodstove, reading. It was a Blank Friday.

I did not pick up the last of the toys scattered on the floor. I did not speak more than 10 words to Vic. I did not exercise. I did not go out of the house. I nibbled leftovers all day but, after making a breakfast frittata for everybody out of the leftover mashed potatoes with leeks, I did not feed anybody else. I did not go online and post pictures of our Thanksgiving table or our Thanksgiving snow. I did not go online, period. Continue reading


I just celebrated my 69th birthday. I should say “acknowledged” rather than “celebrated.” I try to put on a certain insouciance about my age but sometimes getting older is just plain discouraging. In fact, discouragement is the great bugaboo of aging. Discouragement, which can stretch out into depression, can make you feel really, really old.

Discouragement is just an emotion, however, and you can do something about emotions if you understand them. My discouragement often stems from comparing myself to others and to my former self.

I have just been at the Y, walking my three miles on the track. This is a prime spot for comparing myself to other people. I do not compare myself to the runners and joggers–well, yes, a little. I notice, for example, that a typical runner passes me every lap, which means that he or she is moving twice as fast as I am. But I am more likely to pay attention to my fellow walkers. Are they older or younger? Fatter or thinner? And, of course, faster or slower?

Today a remarkable number of walkers seemed to be older and faster than me, though several were older and slower. One was younger, fatter, and faster. Some were younger and slower and then they started running and were much, much faster. The pair of women who walk faster than me while talking nonstop were not there today, but another pair–younger, plumper, and even talkier–strolled the 1/10-mile oval like they owned it, ignoring the runners and the faster walkers, including me, who edged by them. They weren’t paying attention to anybody else. Why should I?

It’s just a way of entertaining myself, I suppose, but being with other people also helps me step up my pace. And keeping my butt moving is one way of overcoming the sloggy discouragement that goes with noticing my declining physical powers. Plus it also retards that decline.

Before that I had been to the radiology department of the clinic for a bone scan. Talk about comparisons. I measured 1/4 inch shorter than three years ago. Yikes. I won’t know the results of the scan for another week but it will probably show some decline in bone density. It goes with my genes, gender, and age. I can slow that decline with the walking, calcium, D, etc., but I expect to have a debate with the doctor about trying to reverse it with medication. The proliferating bottles of prescription medication on our shelves are discouraging signs of aging.

I suppose comparison can also be a source of encouragement. On the Y track I cruise past the obese walkers. Other women who were waiting with me in the radiology department were in wheelchairs. But I don’t feel superior to these people; only compassion–and respect for those who are trying their best. One woman was wheeled into the office in a wheelchair but got up and walked when she was called into the treatment room. I don’t think I’d consent to a wheelchair until absolutely necessary. I am grateful to be in pretty good shape. I’m pleased that, although I am shrinking in height (not good), I have also shrunk in weight (good).

One thing that I have observed about the aging/comparison/discouragement syndrome is that, as I age, I require increasing recovery time from almost any kind of injury or stress. Where injury is concerned, this can be discouraging. I dealt with plantar fasciitis in my right foot for three years before it finally went away.

The stress of travel, or planning a worship service, or hosting overnight guests–all of which I have been doing lately–often leaves me feeling inadequate and thus, discouraged. But then I realize that I am just tired. I was feeling discouraged yesterday. Then I had an introverty evening alone, watching my current favorite TV series on Netflix (the French crime drama Spiral); a good night’s sleep; those three miles this morning; and time to reflect on it all.

I’m not discouraged, tired, or even old any more. I am just 69.

My weight-loss mythology

I am losing weight. Yay, hurray! Twelve pounds in eight weeks. In this process I am discovering and deconstructing my own mythology about weight loss.

Myth number 1: The older I get, the harder it is to lose weight.

I am actually losing weight at nearly the same pace that I did in my 40s, on the same program, Weight Watchers (following a short juice fast).

It is true that I gain weight more easily as I age. I could probably put those 12 pounds back on in about two weeks. It is also true that my body is less forgiving of any slacking off. I rebound a bit after every weekend indulgence or day with no exercise. The rebound usually comes 3–4 days later.

Myth number 2: I can take the weight off just by exercising more.

For one thing, my increasing weight depleted my energy so it was becoming a chore to exercise every day. But even when I did, like last year when I was training for a century bike ride, my weight stayed steady. I need to follow the tried and true prescription of less food and more exercise.

The good thing is that as I lose weight I get immediate feedback in the form of increased energy and this makes it possible to exercise more. That energy gain is much more noticeable than it was when I was younger. The sensation of increased energy makes exercise extra rewarding. Yesterday I swam laps for a full hour and felt I could go on forever, at my sedate pace of 30 laps an hour. But lap swim was over at the Y and the kids were jumping in.

Myth number 3: I know how to eat in order to lose weight and maintain weight loss.

I am a good cook and have long followed a fair approximation of the Mediterranean diet: lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, a little protein, olive oil, very little dairy, red wine. I did not need to change what I eat; only how much. And I also needed to greatly cut down on the exceptions I had been making to this good diet. I made plenty of exceptions, especially when I ate out.

I am not good at estimating portions or paying attention to when I am full. This is where Weight Watchers comes in. (I do it online; I hate those meetings with testimonials and cheers for every half pound.) It introduces mathematical certainty to portion control and food choice. You can make exceptions to healthy choices but they take your point quota down fast. With a little forethought and calculation you can indulge in anything you want. But it is safer to stay with really healthful food.

I was shocked to discover how much I had been overeating—and, on the positive side, how happily I could survive on much less. Hunger has not been a problem.

I do not want to sound like a commercial for Weight Watchers. I enjoy “tracking” in a peculiar way. This may be a drag for others. I find, as I did years ago, that the program is, if anything, too lenient. I would never lose weight if I ate all my bonus points or exercise points. I have to stay close to the minimum daily allowance. And I may have to track points the rest of my life (sigh) because when I stopped, I regained the weight and more.

There is something more involved in all this, however; something at the intersection of spirit and body. I will explore it in another post.