about me

This past weekend, I traveled to my hometown of Harlan, Ky, to spend some time with my family. My parents have lived in the same house for nearly 50 years, and they have finally decided that it’s too much house. They spend winters in Florida, anyway, so why not make the move?

They have put the old house on the market, and my brother and I were collecting what stuff we may want to take to our own homes. After having not lived there since my high school years, and returning only yearly as of late, it was really a trip down memory lane.

We took a drive out to the Harlan country club, to view the remains of the clubhouse that recently burned to the ground. As we walked around the grounds of the charred remains and the long-neglected swimming pool, memories washed through my head.

Many, many days of my childhood were spent here, learning to swim, then to dive, usually belly-first, off the diving board. Laying on the hot concrete swathed in baby oil and iodine, prematurely aging my skin while wishing for larger breasts and a boyfriend. Our mothers were golfers, so the best babysitter in town was the lifeguard.

Charging lunches consisting of Mrs. Williams’ ‘minnow cheese, sweet tea and a Hershey bar, my friends and I were left to our own devices for most of the day, no worries about any more harm coming to us than a skinned knee or bad sunburn.

Thursday night was family night at the club, and the lot of us would band together and ride the golf carts around the famously mountainous golf course, scarring each other on the rickety old swinging bridges. After- dark card games kept us occupied while our parents put away copious amounts of liquor, illegal in Harlan County until 2011.

Most of those people have long-since left the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, and my only association of long-ago friends is now through Facebook. I doubt that I will return to Harlan when mom and dad leave for the last time this Fall. Seeing the country club in it’s state of ruin seemed to close a door for me. Saying goodbye isn’t easy. I’ll keep the memories burned in my brain of a carefree childhood and far away friends.





I have skin cancer.

Not really, or that I know of, but that’s what I declared to HK last night. I was getting out of the shower I noticed these new “thingy’s,” little growths, like the thousands of moles that cover my body. (OK, not thousands, maybe, but lots-and that’s not counting the 30 or so that doctor’ have already removed.)

“Go to the dermatologist,” he advised. But then we remembered. We don’t have health insurance anymore. Well, we do, but only for catastrophes. Like a chainsaw severing the wrong trunk.  Or having your head bashed in by a demolition ball. New moles don’t count.

Last year, HK voluntarily left his job. With his resignation, we were “given” an extra month of our existing health care coverage. So we visited every possible specialist we could, making sure there would be no surprises. Everything looked tip-top, although due to past “procedures,” my coverage costs were considerably higher than HK’s. I had orthoscopic surgery on my shoulder.  (Even though my 3 months of physical therapy was finished already.)  I had seen an opthamologist for “dry-eye”. I had dandruff. Holy shit!  I thought getting all this stuff out of the way would save us some cash!

I had seen something in the paper about free skin-cancer screening, so I googled it and called. They had booked up in the first hour. I called a few other places, and they were either full or  only for minorities. (Is that even legal?) So I’ve decided to just go ahead and see my doctor, even though she books up many, many months in advance, and I’ll be charged, like, a gazillion dollars.

Why is it that when we don’t have things like, say, insurance, that our health takes a turn for the worse?  In the year since losing full coverage, I’ve had more health issues than in the last 5 years combined. I guess age could possibly have something to do with it, but hell. I’m not that old!

So whaddya do? Do you pay major big bucks for comprehensive coverage and total piece of mind but much leaner pockets, or do you rely on the fact that, up until this point you’ve been reasonably healthy, and hope to stay that way? I’m going with the second option for now. I’m really just glad I have a choice. Many, many Americans don’t.

In the meantime, I’ll practice prevention.  I’ll apply sunscreen regularly. I’ll exercise more. I’ll brush and floss religiously. And I’ll go have these little “thingy’s” on my body checked out.  I’ll just forgo those strappy little sandals I’ve been saving for.

“Just wait–one day you’ll wake up, and out of the blue you’ll be fat and foggy-menopause sucks!”

“Not me”, I assured my jaded friends and family. I would never allow that to happen to me. Never.

Fast forward. I woke up this morning. I am fat. And foggy.  Hello MentalPause.

I’ve been denying my weight gain as “water retention” for too long now. Or blaming it on my new-ish mac-daddy, super-powered clothes dryer.  It dries my clothes a little too well. OK, a lot too well. So I’ve finally started hang-drying my jeans, but, damn, this Georgia heat still shrinks them up too much!

And my bathroom scale is old. Really old, and I am sure that the dust accumulation in the whatchamacallit, innards, has added at least a couple of pounds to it’s readings. They do that. It’s a gimmick invented by the scale-makers, I’m sure, to get us middle-agers to upgrade to the fancier, more expensive model. The one that speaks out loud like those fancy-schmancy GPS thingy’s. “Looking good, gorgeous, now go out and buy yourself a new pair of jeans”. Yeah. Right.  But instead of going to the boutique that only sells jeans in European sizes, of which I have never figured out which size I am, I must now go to Chico’s, the store for the cruise-ship traveler/modern woman wannabe. They have devised a way for even the most pleasingly plump to avoid the dreaded XXL of stretch-pants. Chico’s cleverly sizes their wears from 00-4.  Yep, the old size 22 is the new size 4!

The fogginess that comes along with MentalPause (MP) is another “gift” to the middle-aged woman. If  “brainfart” is a word, then I am the gassiest, fartingest one around. I come downstairs in the morning and can’t find my reading glasses to see the newspaper (another gift from the MP gods-failing vision.) I go back upstairs to look for my bedtime reading glasses (I try to keep several pairs stashed around the house) and find them in the bathroom. Back downstairs, HK points out that my morning glasses are on my head. I take a sip of coffee, then go back upstairs to put last night’s washing in the dryer (except the jeans). There are still clothes in the dryer from a few days ago, that I forgot to promptly remove as the labels advise, so I will have extra ironing this week. I come down and go back up when I think I forgot to turn the dryer on. (You’d think I’d actually be losing weight from all the stairs I climb every day.)

Today’s paper has the food section in it. The Shrimp and Grits recipe looks delish. I go to get my shopping list, which I can’t find, so I start a new one. Shrimp. Chicken broth. Grits. Do we have plenty of coffee?  I go to look. Oh, there’s the Tikka Masala sauce I meant to make last month. Add Chicken to the list.  I’m hungry, but we don’t have any cereal, so I have a couple of prunes and a piece of chocolate. Add chocolate to the list. Shoot, I forgot to take Roxie to the groomer this morning. Call to make another appointment.

All of this forgetting/remembering makes me grumpy. Oops- forgot my antidepressant. Oh, it looks like I need a refill on my cholesterol meds. God, these calcium pills are huge. Almost out of Vitamin E-better put it on my list. WHERE’S THE FREAKING LIST????

menopause meds, pills, prescriptions

After starting a third grocery list, it’s time to walk the dogs, work out and get my day started, since it’s nearly noon. By 2:00, I’m at the store. Shit. Forgot my grocery bags. Grabbing a cart, I hit the vegetable aisle. Now, where’s my list? I call HK to see if he can find my lists and tell me what we need. He’s not answering his phone. I wing it from memory, knowing full-well that I’ll be making another trip to the store if not today, then tomorrow. I see a neighbor in the condiments aisle, but I can’t for the life of me remember his name, so I avoid any possible encounter. (I hope we don’t need ketchup.) The cashier asks ifI qualify for the senior discount. If she actually thinks I look even close to 63, then, by god, yes-give me the discount.

By the time I get home, I’m ready for a nap. Did I mention another effect of MP?  Tiredness. Daytime-not nighttime- tiredness. During the night, I find it difficult, at best, to get to sleep without a little help from Ambien. When I do finally get to sleep, I often wake up swimming in a pool of sweat, and have to change into dry pajamas.  After changing, it’s hard to get back to sleep. I am not a daytime napper, though, as I consider it a huge waste of my valuable time, so I sit, finally, at my computer and stare at the screen. What was I going to work on today?  After commenting on friend’s facebook pages, adding a few images to my Pinterest board and forwarding emails, I study the recipe for Tikka Masala. Damn-I forgot to buy chicken. We have soup and sandwiches for dinner.

After a few hours of catching up on Downton Abbey and Survivor, I’m ready for bed. Where are my glasses?  Good night, MentalPause.  See you in the morning.

WOW! i am honored to have received the “Versatile Blogger Award”! It was bestowed upon my by Justramblin. Go check out her blog!

There are a few rules to follow after getting this award, including telling my readers 7 random facts about myself.  OK, here goes…

  1. i have been “not employed” for 4 times longer than i’ve been (gainfully) employed.
  2. i like most dogs more than i like most people
  3. i’m a natural blonde
  4. i am obsessed with travel and spend part of every day planning a trip.
  5. i sleep with 3 dogs on my bed (plus a husband)
  6. i sing and talk to myself constantly
  7. i am very much a slob
ok, there you have it. now it’s my turn to pass the award along to:

Proctor's Hall

Our Sewanee reunion is now past, and I realize that I haven’t written anything since returning. Part of that has to do with the fact that since quitting his job, HK and I have been consumed with future plans,  including covering our health insurance needs and figuring out what to do with our houses.  Ok, that’s a great excuse. In all honesty, it’s bullshit.

Anyway, the real reason I haven’t written anything is because my head has been swimming with thoughts and emotions after having come home and reflected on the events of our 4 days together on the mountain after so so many years. I’ve tried to describe it to my husband (who did not attend–most spouses didn’t), but his eyes just glaze over and his mind drifts to far away places. Having not been to boarding school, isolated on top of a foggy mountain, I imagine that it would be impossible for him to grasp the experience.

Tracy and I drove into the campground on a cold, foggy Thursday morning. It was a typical Sewanee day, as Sewanee means “fog” in some Indian language.  After checking in the campground staff and the adorable 21 year-old Drew (who quickly became our adopted son), we were greeted by the ever-smiling, long and lanky Stretch. OMG! I hadn’t seen the boy since 1977, but there he was in all his glory, even cuter than I remembered. Instant warmth, and more so as we proceeded to tap the keg (gotta be an ale-cheap beer makes me lose weight says Stretch) and got a bonfire going.

Green's View

It wasn’t long before others began dribbling in, and by that first night, we had a dozen old friends doing what we did so many years ago, drinking beer around a fire.

The next day brought a dozen more, and the mountain was full of giddy school kids in aging bodies.  While I didn’t know a few of the women who had left Sewanee before I got there my junior year, I was amused to hear their introduction. “Hey, I’m Beth, I got booted in ’75”, “Well, I got booted the next semester…” and so on. To identify so fully with peers that for one reason or another were there, and then they weren’t, felt very natural and un- forced. “We’re like family” was something I heard several times that weekend.

One day was spent hiking our old haunts around the mountains that had been home. Albeit our asses were wider and knees stiffer, we all had a blast climbing up and around Proctor’s Hall and other landmarks that made these mountains home. I had to laugh as we passed the bottles of wine as groups of students would come hiking by. I imagined them thinking,  “just who are these fossils and why are they here?”

In a (rare) moment of introspection, I paused to take a look around the campsite. Here was a group of people who had continued to flourish and grow for 30 or more years after leaving our shared histories at Sewanee. One of the friends that I made at the reunion was a Bill, a guy from my class that I never, for one reason or another, really got to know.  He reminded me of something that was said by a faculty advisor during commencement…

” I recall that during our commencement ceremony, Max Cornelius instructed us to look at the people sitting next to us and realize that we would never be sitting with these people in just this way ever again. He was telling us to be in the moment.”  Bill’s reaction at the time was the same as mine- “fuck it- i’m outta here!”

But then, sitting around that fire, I relished the fact that we had each refused to let life get in the way and had made the collective effort to be together once again.

For days (weeks, even) following our reunion, many attendees expressed how badly they realized they missed each other. A few people started a post to start a community living situation together. Maybe it was the afterglow of love and togetherness talking. Maybe not. I do know that when we were together, many of us felt that in some way, we had come “home”. I did. And I plan to revisit my family more often.

Ohhhhh… this is really bothering me, and I just have to get it off my chest.

The other day, I was meeting a group of writers for the first time at a local Caribou Coffee. I knew there would be 4 of us, so I looked for a table where we could get acquainted   comfortably. It was just before 11:00am, the coffee shop was smaller than I expected, and I was first to get there. Several of the 4-tops were taken by couples, or people with their laptops and papers spread out. But the ONLY table that sat 6 or 8 was being hogged by one guy- a single guy, with his computer. No coffee, no muffins, nada.  Just this table hog.  Grrrrr…..

And he was so caught up in his own shit. I considered asking him to move, or could we join him, but it was one of those days that I just stewed as I pulled 2 small high tables together and borrowed an extra stool. All the while I watched others come in and ignore him, seemingly unfazed, while I secretly wanted to go over and just shove his smug ass outta that chair and dump my coffee all over him. Or worse.

Is it just me? Do you ever have things like this that seem insignificant to others but they’re a jaw-clencher for you?  Help me out, here.

Here it is. 2011. The start of a new year, a new decade. I realize that 2011 “officially” began at midnight Friday, but when the new year falls on a weekend, it is difficult for me to focus on the new when I’m busy clearing out the old. You know, taking down the tree, throwing our the paper, boxes, aaccumulated holiday stuff and setting the house back in order.

Fast forward to today-Monday. Today is the start of my new year. And every year, for the past several years, it is my custom to choose a word that will be my word for the year. (click on the highlighted link to see previous year’s words)  A word that I can come back to when I need to focus on my path, my goals, my journey. Hmmmmm…. What will that word be??

While bushing my teeth this morning, my eyes glanced over a card that I keep on my bathroom mirror. The card has been on the mirror for over a year now, and it has become one of those daily reminders that you see, but often, in your rush of daily life, don’t really focus on. The card came from a deck of  “The Teachings of Abraham (Hicks) Well-Being Cards”.

On a “girlfriend getaway” in Sedona, Arizona a while back, it was our morning practice to pull a random card from the deck and let this card be our guide for that day.  The card I pulled is the one I have kept, because it is exactly what I try to apply to my everyday life. Keyword here is TRY.  Here is the card-front and back.

Teachings of Abraham

The moment I read my card, I knew that the laws of attraction had drawn me to that card. It sums up what I have been struggling with for much of my life. I have goals. Many, many goals. And in trying to work on one, such as editing my current project, I so easily become distracted and find myself consumed with a completely different project or idea.

In writing dialog for my book, I begin looking into airfares for a new travel destination.  Hmmmm… wonder what the weather in Vancouver is right now…Ohhh, Roxie has a tangle on her tail. I wonder if I can google a recipe for vegetairian curry? Do we have milk and bread?

I believe it is especially difficult for women to find-and keep- focus, with the ongoing responsibilities of life continuously swirling around in our heads.  We are, after all, the primary caregivers of the children, pets, chores, household and friends.  It often seems that in all the giving and doing what is expected, even demanded of us, we deny ourselves the right to focus on our OWN needs.  For me, what I need to do is FOCUS my attention on what I want without feeling guilty or selfish.  That’s gonna be a little tough, but in order to be my best, that’s what’s got to happen.

So focus is my word for 2011. It was staring me in the face every day, but I just didn’t focus on it!  What is your word? Please think about it and share on my blog. Feel free to come back and tell me what you think.

Happy New Year to all!

Sailing with Chance

Some of you know that  I have recently begun writing a children’s book. This is new to me, as the focus of my writing in the past has been centered around travel–travel memoirs, product reviews, how-to’s and the like.  I am editor of the European Travel Site over at Bellaonline.com and also contribute to a couple of other online sites.  I actually have a VERY rough draft for my crazy, off-the-wall travel memoir stuffed under my bed. I just lost interest.

You may also know that recently, well, about 6 months ago, I became a foster failure and adopted a new doggy-member into our family, making a total of 3 dogs.   Our home has been so full of life these past months, and Chance has brought new life to my oldest dog, Kismet, who, at almost 13 is slowing down a bit.  It is heartwarming to have 3 dogs cuddling on the couch with me, running to the door upon my arrival (even if I’ve just gone to the mailbox), and yes, sharing the bed with HK and me. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So a while back, I started toying with the idea of incorporating Chance into my children’s book.  Originally, my main character was Willy and the Boyz, but, after tossing that around in my head, I figured kids might not be able to relate to a napkin holder too well. Kinda hard to warm up to, ya know?

But Chance, now he’s another story altogether. He’s already got the personality, I just give it a voice.  And it’s fun! Children’s books are a completely different genre for me, especially since I never had kids.  I’ve been spending lots of time in book stores and at the library, getting a feel for wha’t’s popular. I think the main thing is that I’m feeling enthusiastic about this new project. So we’ll see where this goes. Wish me luck, and I’ll keep you posted.

i-am-awesome.jpg (482×390)

I was over at my friend Bern’s blog today, and was intrigued by her account of seeing a guy in a t-shirt that read simply “I am awesome”.   The guy seemed like your average Joe, but a soul brave and proud enough to sport his feelings on his chest (or back–not sure about that).

Anyway, as I read her post I was in total agreement, that I love that shirt! How cool is it that a person can be self assured enough not to care what others thought about his wearing it–I think that some people with low self esteem may like to think that guy is an asshole, or conceited, or whatever…

That prompted me to think about how, not so many years ago, I would never have even remotely considered myself an awesome person, much less (more…)

Happy 51st B-day to ME!

This weekend I celebrated another birthday. It wasn’t a milestone birthday, like a 40th 0r 50th, but the way I look at it, anything over 50 is a milestone to me.

There was a point in my life, say between 14 and mid 20’s, that I didn’t really consider the possibilities of celebrating an age that advanced. In my teens, 50 seemed ancient!  Of course, at that time, most of the 50  y.o. women that I knew had grey hair and were on the matronly side. (with the exception of my mother, who had bright blonde hair, deeply tanned-skin and spent the majority of her time on the golf course.)  they had lived hard lives (remember, I am from rural Appalachia).  Many were stay-at-home Moms and even grandmothers who tuned-in to their “stories” faithfully every day and had dinner on the table by 6. They doted on their families, putting their own needs on the low-priority rung of the ladder. Living life seemed to be over for them. I just never saw that as my future.

Me, 17 years old

Today, I can say in all honesty, that the great majority of my peers are a far cry from those women. Today’s 50 year old woman likely has a career. She has a college education, possibly an advanced degree, and is perfectly capable of supporting herself. Many of my peers have made the personal decision not to have children. They stay in shape and are concerned about their health. The old adge “50 is the new 40” is true, really it is.

But for me, turning 50 last year impacted me more than just keeping that youthful feeling.  After climbing that mountain to get where I was headed, both figuratively and physically, I now look back on the past year and see some of the meaningful ways my life has changed. I’ve opened myself up to new experiences involving past history, mainly through facebook, as well as letting go of obstacles that held me back (i.e, unresolved resentments, allowing myself to forgive, and accepting that “it is what it is”.)

Facing my fears

In climbing these mountains and crossing these streams, I am finding that the road ahead actually looks manageable.  There will always be detours, I have no doubt,  and I know when the terrain gets too steep, I’m going to need a hand up, and will welcome the help.  Now I see a new frontier ahead, one that looks inviting, challenging, and most of all, welcoming.

I hope that this year brings you new frontiers, as well!

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