Guarding Saturday

For many years I, like many of you, stayed busy. All. The. Time. I was a wife and mother with a full-time job who spent my Saturdays volunteering with an animal rescue group and Sundays were reserved for church. Eventually, I reached the point where I realized I just couldn’t keep up that sort of schedule. I was always tired and desperately needed some “me” time. It didn’t help that, as an introvert, I was always surrounded by people – that alone is exhausting. Adding a permanent lack of sleep on top of a drained introvert battery and I was pretty much in zombie mode.

Yes, I felt guilty stepping down from my role with the animal rescue group; these groups struggle to have enough volunteers as it is. But, I had to take care of myself. (And, I feel guilty about pretty much everything so why would this be any different?) What was surprising to me was how fiercely I guarded my Saturdays after that. Saturday became the one day of the week I could sleep in and once I got up, I didn’t want to do anything or go anywhere. Saturday was MINE. That’s not to say I didn’t occasionally have somewhere I had to go on Saturday but if I did you can be sure I had done everything humanly possible to reschedule/get out of it. Sometimes you have to be selfish.

Image courtesy of www.depositphotos.com

Image courtesy of www.depositphotos.com

If you’ve followed me for any length of time you know that my husband and I did the eldercare thing for our remaining three parents for several years. I know that I did the best I could during those years but, I’m human, so I have regrets. One of those regrets is that I didn’t spend my Saturdays taking my mama to the local senior center or other things like that. I’m pretty sure she would have loved it. But, I didn’t. I was still protecting my Saturdays, my precious “me” time. Eldercare is hard. I know I did what I needed to do for myself in order to be able to  keep going but… *shrugs*

I retired at the end of April this year meaning that my time is now mine to do with as I will. However, old habits are hard to break and I find myself still fiercely defending my Saturdays. For example, I realized yesterday that I’m scheduled to go to a painting class tonight and immediately found myself trying to think of ways to get out of going. Nope. I paid for this class and I’m going to go. I just have to stop and remind myself that I now have all of the free time in the world – it’s okay to treat Saturdays like any other day. I guess after working for most of my life, it’s going to take more than a couple of months to change my mindset.

What do you do to protect your “me” time?

Women Over (Insert Age) Shouldn’t…

What’s the deal with all of the articles telling women what we should do/wear/own/think, etc. based on our age? I just don’t get it. I also don’t understand why I keep looking at the darn things. *facepalm* Someone please stop me. I often wonder what will happen to the individuals who write these articles when they reach the age they have written about and realize they have no sudden desire to follow their own rules? On the positive side, it only takes a quick internet search to find oodles of articles disputing/mocking all of the “must do” lists. I guess this post now joins them.

One of the most baffling articles I have read to date is this one:

https://www.countryliving.com/home-maintenance/organization/g4721/things-no-woman-over-40-should-have/

What is it about this article that bugs me more than most? Everything. Why does this even have an age attached to it? Based on this article it’s okay to have orphaned socks and stinky shoes until you hit forty, then they have to go. What? And the “but no judgement” bit? Don’t even get me started. (I know. Too late.)

You. Are. Awesome. Rock on.

You. Are. Awesome. Rock on.

For the most part, as we age, we grow in a sense of confidence – of being comfortable in our skin. Does that mean we always have it together? Of course not. No one does. But, we have survived everything life has thrown at us so far and have the stretch marks and scars to prove it. We have earned the right to make our own decisions about what we own, what we wear, etc., etc., etc. So, the next time one of these articles works its way into your social media feed, ignore it. I am going to strive to do the same. And you know what else? I’m going to be wearing my blue jeans and graphic tees until I’m too old to dress myself and I’ll fight anyone who tries to take them from me. Love your shot glass collection? Good for you! I say flaunt it.

My life advice regardless of your age? Be you. Wear what you love. Decorate your home in the way that makes you happy. Let your awesome shine – don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

Every time severe weather moves through this area, like it did today, I think back to my childhood when I was absolutely terrified of storms. Thunderstorms are just a part of life in the South. They can be especially severe this time of year when the lingering cold air of winter collides with the warmer air of spring. When I was young, all it took to transport me emotionally to an area just this side of hysteria was a darkening sky and the rumble of thunder.

It didn’t help that we didn’t have a basement or any sort of area in which to shelter from storms. (I was an adult before I learned that basements are common in other areas of the country. Around here, they’re the exception, not the norm.) My “safe place” was a quilt. When the weather got bad, I’d go to my room and wrap myself in an ancient quilt; it gave me sense of security. True, that threadbare quilt wouldn’t have provided any protection from flying debris but much like swaddling can comfort a cranky infant, being wrapped in its embrace soothed me. I grew up in an un-air-conditioned house and I can remember being wrapped in that quilt, literally dripping with sweat, waiting for the latest storm to pass by.

Image courtesy  of www.depositphotos.com

Image courtesy of www.depositphotos.com

The years passed and my fears stayed with me. Then, I got married and had children. When I was holding my oldest son and freaking out about the latest storm, I realized I couldn’t do that any more. If he saw me reacting like that to bad weather, he would do the same and I didn’t want that for him. So, I had to start pretending that I wasn’t afraid. Thunder would literally rattle the windows of our little house and I would say things like “Oh! That was loud wasn’t it? But, it’s just a noise, it won’t hurt you.” Then, we would continue as if nothing had happened. And you know what? It worked. He wasn’t afraid of storms and neither was his brother. Well, my second son did develop a fear of storms around age twelve but that was the result of us being out and about when a horrible storm blew up and not because I taught him to be afraid. (And he was lucky, we lived in a house with a basement so he could go downstairs whenever he was afraid.)

However, my charade had a completely unexpected impact. After a couple of years of pretending I wasn’t afraid of storms I suddenly realized I really wasn’t afraid any more. Mind. Blown. It’s amazing the unexpected lessons we can learn on this journey called life.

This “fake it ’til you make it” mentality has helped me in other areas of my life, primarily when my anxieties flare up. When I get caught in one of those mental spirals where one fear is feeding on another, I try to remember what I learned from the storms and force myself to realize that those fears are just that, fears – they aren’t going to cause me any physical harm. Sometimes it still takes me a few days to break the cycle, but it has gotten easier over the years. Now, if I can only apply this methodology to my irrational fear of spiders…

Has the “fake it ’til you make it” mentality ever helped you?

 

Unapologetic Geek

I admit it, I have a tendency to use the terms “geek” and “nerd” interchangeably but there is a difference. The simplest definition I have found is in this cartoon on Great White Snark. Based on this definition, I am a geek.

I love video games, action movies, and books among other things. Pull up a chair—I’ll be glad to sit down and talk your ear off about my favorite fandoms. Sadly, I have few people to discuss these topics with. Like most adults, I spend a good portion of my days at work. My coworkers, most of whom are my age, don’t get me at all. I am definitely the odd woman out. (At least my twenty-something coworkers think I’m cool. They think it’s awesome that I’m a gamer.)

But, over the last few years, I have stumbled across a recurring phenomenon I just don’t understand. For most of my adult life, my work days have been spent in cubicles. However, four years ago, I wound up with a private office—a wonderful thing for an introvert like me. Even better, my office has shelves I personalized with photos of my family, and of course, my geek stuff. Passersby and customers frequently comment on my things. Some have no idea what it is and have questions. Others recognize some of the items and also have questions such as “Is that a Master Chief helmet? Do you play Halo?” Then they notice the Boba Fett helmet. “You like Star Wars too?” I assure them that yes, I play Halo and other games, and yes, I like Star Wars, and Star Trek among other things. I usually end the conversation with the statement that “I’m just a geek.” This pronouncement is always met by the response “Oh. That’s okay.”

N7 Day

Me all decked out for N7 Day in one of my geek tees. Some of my other items are visible in the background.

Well, duh. Of course it’s okay. I wasn’t apologizing nor will I. I’m proud of my geekiness. For heaven’s sake, I have a tattoo featuring a Playstation controller on my back. (I’m seriously considering a second geek tattoo as well.) It would be one thing if only one or two people made that response but it’s every single one. I’m baffled as to why. Can you explain it to me?

Are you a nerd or a geek or neither?

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Yes, we are now in the thick of the holiday season and Christmas is my favorite holiday but that’s not what this post is about.

Here in the deep South, we don’t experience four seasons like a lot of y’all do, we only have two-ish. Spring/Summer is one, Fall/Winter is the other. I honestly don’t have a favorite season – there is something I enjoy about each of them. Well, except August. True, August isn’t actually a season but it should be. August is pretty much the worst month of the year. The heat is at it’s worst and the humidity is horrendous. We practically need gills to breathe. I live in an area where we have a steady influx of people from other areas of the country. Those poor souls who have spent their lives in the northern climes are completely unprepared for their first August here. More than one has asked, with a touch of fear in their voice, “Is it always like this?” The answer, sadly, is yes. I’m quick to tell them that you never get used to August in the South; I’ve lived here my whole life, I know. However, the gradual change to cooler weather begins in September and I begin to look toward to my favorite time of the year with increasing anticipation.

Now, I’m definitely not a fashionista but I do prefer my fall/winter wardrobe over that for the rest of the year. I think it’s a combination of the warm colors associated with fall and the soft warmth of sweaters. But, my favorite time of year is when the weather grows cool enough for me to break out my favorite article of clothing – my hooded sweatshirts, or hoodies, if you prefer. It’s not uncommon for me to jump the gun and decide to break them out a little too early. Just because it’s forty degrees in the morning, doesn’t mean it won’t be back up to seventy-five in the afternoon, at least not during the first few cool spells. That’s a bit warm for sweatshirt weather, even for a fan like me.

There’s just something about a hoodie – it’s big and baggy and warm. It’s kind of like a wearable hug. As soon as it gets cool enough, hoodies are my go-to clothing when I’m not at work. Just like my warm weather tees, I have a variety of hoodies that are all a reflection of me and my personality. I do have one that is… unique. It was purchased when my husband and I were vacationing in the mountains and an unexpected cold snap hit. We had not packed clothes for the temperatures that moved in so we went to a local outfitter where I purchased a hoodie. It wasn’t until we got to the trailhead where we were planning to hike and I donned the shirt that I realized it had an unusual feature. The pocket of the shirt contains a bungee cord and attached to it are a can cozy (or koozie) and a bottle opener. *facepalm*

The perfect hoodie for a gamer!

Easily Distracted by Cows.

Who isn’t?

 

This year a new second favorite cold weather article of clothing has joined my hoodies – flannel sleep pants. Such a simple pleasure that I have missed out on for so long. Due to my height, I can’t buy sleep pants in most stores and the only ones I have found online have been ridiculously expensive. (I’m not going to pay $50 or more for sleep pants.) Kudos to Old Navy for having flannel sleep pants at a reasonable price, even for us tall gals.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s nice and cold so it’s time for me to don a hoodie and sleep pants.

What is your favorite season? Do you have a favorite article of clothing?

You’re Never Too Old to Sparkle

Image courtesy of depositphotos.com

Image courtesy of depositphotos.com

I didn’t discover until the last seven years of my mother’s life that, when it came to clothing, she loved color and sparkle. It was a discovery I made quite by accident. For some gift-giving occasion I had decided to give her some tops and while shopping I found a gorgeous deep purple blouse dusted with small white flowers. The center of each flower was a sequin, giving the top a subtle but undeniable sparkle. I thought it was beautiful. However, I had never seen my mother wear anything like it, so I almost didn’t buy it. But, throwing caution to the wind, I did. After all, if she didn’t like it I could always return it, right?

Mama loved that purple top. She wore it frequently and always received compliments on it. She delighted in telling everyone that her daughter had picked it out for her. A tradition was born. For most gift-giving occasions for the remainder of her life, I bought her colorful, sparkly tops. Not all were hits, but most were. Mama found great pleasure in telling her friends “my daughter dresses me.” When mama passed away, my sisters and I made sure she was buried in a colorful outfit with a bit of sparkle. I think she would have approved.

Why did mama never choose such clothing for herself? I don’t know for sure but I have my suspicions. I’m pretty sure that topping the list was fear of reprisal from some of the more conservative members of her family. Whatever the reason, I’m glad mama had the chance to express that part of her personality for a while.

In some ways, I am like my mama. I’ve spent a good portion of my life not fully being myself for the fear of what others might think. I would like to say I have put those fears behind me and, to a large part, I have, but not completely. It’s still a struggle.

But, after years of wanting a tattoo, I got my first one in 2014; I now have five and would like more. Not everyone likes tattoos and I’m sure there are plenty of people who don’t approve of mine. But, you know what? It’s not about them. My tattoos are a part of me and tell a part of my story. I wish I had gotten them earlier.

Whether we are blessed with thirty-five years on this earth or ninety, life is too short to spend it worrying about what everyone else thinks about us. So, get the tattoo or the piercing. (Or both!) Get the haircut that’s “too young” for you and finish it off with some funky colors. (FYI, there’s no such thing as a haircut or clothing style that’s “too young” or “too old.” Pay no attention to the naysayers behind the curtain who say otherwise.) Wear the big, glitzy jewelry and the glittery nail polish. We only get one chance at this gig called life so we may as well rock it.

So fire the glitter cannons and sashay away darlings. We’ve got this.

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Image courtesy of Deposit Photos

Image courtesy of Deposit Photos

When I was younger, say in my twenties and thirties, I used to wonder what was up with all of the middle-aged people who complained about sleep problems. (Insert derisive noise here.) That sort of thing would never happen to me. I fell asleep easily and slept like the proverbial log. As a matter of fact, there was once a low-level earthquake in my hometown; I slept through it. I was quite disappointed. If life has taught me anything it is that I should never say never. Those middle-aged people who can’t sleep? I am one.

My problem seems to have begun in my mid-to-late thirties. My husband was diagnosed with mild sleep apnea and began using a CPAP machine at night. It was like sleeping with Darth Vader. The constant noise, even though relatively soft, kept me awake. After trying various creative methods of sleeping with my pillowcase crammed in one ear and the sheet in the other, I eventually moved onto foam earplugs, which helped. The only problem was that the earplugs would frequently come out during the night meaning that the noise would once again awaken me. Eventually I discovered silicone ear plugs which work much better. The silicone molds to my ear making it less likely to shift or fall out during the night.

At some point during all of this, I also developed an extreme sensitivity to light when I’m trying to sleep. Any sort of light will keep me awake – even the light from my bedside clock. With experimentation born of desperation, I learned that clocks with blue or green numbers produce enough light to disturb my sleep, even when on their lowest setting – and even when on my husband’s side of the bed. I eventually discovered that clocks with red numbers cause me no problems, so that is what I have been using for years. (Tip: If you can’t sleep, never ever look at the clock. It just makes it worse. Trust me.) Now if only it were as easy to find a way to block out street lights, etc. Rather than invest in room-darkening shades, I discovered that a simple sleep mask generally works well and is a lot cheaper. It took me a few attempts to find the best mask for me. (Who knew there were so many types?) But, now that I have, I keep a couple on hand – one for home and one in my travel kit.

In time, my husband replaced his CPAP with a simple mouthpiece. While he no longer sounds like Darth Vader, he does snore. And, he has developed Restless Leg Syndrome. Medication helps with the leg-twitching provided he doesn’t take it too close to bedtime. So, between his snoring and twitching there are still nights when, even with my ear plugs and sleep mask, I can’t go to sleep. Rather than stay in bed and contemplate suffocating my hubby with my pillow, I decided several years ago that it’s okay to move to another room so I can sleep. Spending the night sleeping away from my hubby doesn’t make me a bad wife – homicide would.

Now that I have several more years of life under my belt I have also realized that middle-aged people are the ones invariably trying to hold down full-time jobs while simultaneously caring for their own kids and taking on more and more of the care of their aging parents. The stress alone is more than enough to keep anyone awake.

Are you a member of the Sleepless in Middle Age club? If so, maybe we should get matching tees! What helps you fall asleep on those nights when you toss and turn?

Not a Disney Princess

Image courtesy of www.123rf.com

Image courtesy of www.123rf.com

I’m baffled by the fact that most people think of me as a Disney princess – complete with animal attendants. The first problem with this belief is that all of my animal attendants are cats and, as much as we love each other, they aren’t about to lift a paw to assist with anything as mundane as household chores.

I don’t know if I project some sort of princess aura or what. If I do, I’d love to find some way to turn it off. I’m no princess. I’m nice, yes but so are a lot of people. I’m an introvert so I tend to be quiet, especially in large gatherings whether they be at work or in social situation. I’m going to listen before expressing my opinion but am quite capable of expressing that opinion forcefully – a fact which seems to catch people off guard. Apparently, good princesses don’t speak up.

Next are my (gasp!) tattoos. I almost had to pass out smelling salts after I got my first tattoo. (I now have five for anyone who is keeping count. I’ll get a sixth as soon as I decide what I want.) Hardly a week goes by without someone being surprised/shocked by my tattoos. It seems good princesses definitely don’t get tattoos.

I’m also a nerd which is reflected by the items in the office at my day job. I have a Boba Fett helmet, a Masterchief helmet and a variety of action figures from televisions shows and video games. (For the non-nerds among you, Boba Fett is a bounty hunter from the Star Wars universe and the Masterchief is the primary character in the Halo video games. They are two of my favorite virtual men.) I will admit that my choice of office décor makes me a hit with the twenty-something guys in my organization. They think it’s awesome that I’m a gamer. It’s always thirty-somethings and older that are shocked by my non-princess-like hobbies/fandoms. I’m okay with that even if it seems that princesses shouldn’t be nerds.

But, even Disney princesses have changed over the years. So, the next time someone comments that my behavior is not as princess-like as expected, I’ll have to remind them about Leia and Merida  - they’re they type of princesses I don’t mind being associated with.

Here’s Your Sign – Part II

Regrets

Image courtesy of depositphotos.com

A few months ago I wrote a post about the times I have received a sign that some choice I have made is the right one. Since I’m not a big believer in signs and portents, I never expected to get another one so soon. But, I’m glad I did – this one brought much needed healing to my heart over two of my biggest regrets.

When going through my daddy’s things after his death, I found a smooth tear-shaped rock on the shelf of the bookcase next to his recliner. His shelves were where he kept items he used frequently and miscellaneous things  he just like to have around. This rock obviously fell into the second category. I had never seen the rock before and I don’t know why daddy had it. What was it about it that appealed to him? Was it the shape? The color? I guess I’ll never know for sure. But, I love rocks. Seriously. My hubby seems to think it’s a bit weird but I do. Maybe I should have been a geologist. Possible career choices aside, I immediately claimed the rock as my own. Since it was February and the temperatures were still cool, I stuck the rock in my pocket. I liked having it there. It was soothing, almost like a worry stone. Whenever I put my hand in my pocket, my fingers would close around the rock and I would begin soothing it with my thumb. It was a reminder of my daddy. It brought him close for a few minutes.

My daddy's rock

My daddy’s rock

However, every time I clasped the rock there was also that little voice in my head telling me that I needed to find somewhere else to keep it before it got lost. My jacket is forever getting tossed in the back seat of the car or wadded up in my lap or in the seat next to me at movies and restaurants. It was only a matter of time before something happened to it and I knew I would be devastated when/if it did. Well, the little voice was right and two or three months ago, it finally happened. The rock disappeared. I had no idea where it might have fallen out – the possibilities were limitless. I searched my closet floor and the car with no luck. Every time I put my hand in my pocket, I kicked myself for losing that small connection to my daddy. That was Regret Number Two.

What was Regret Number One? Well, the anniversary of my daddy’s death was February 16th. On the 17th, as my husband and I headed out for an overnight trip, I posted this on my personal Facebook page:

It’s hard to believe that it has been two years since my daddy died.

My biggest regret about that day is not telling daddy that I loved him. I said “I love you” every time I saw him, but not that day. Why didn’t I? I don’t know. I know without a doubt that my daddy knew that I loved him, but I still regret not telling him one last time.

The lesson I hope you take away from this is to always, always say the words: “I love you.” It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve already said it – you never know when you may not have another chance.

My sister’s comment simultaneously made me feel better and made me cry. She said:

When you got there to see him, you leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. I think that counts as much.

I have no recollection of doing that, but knowing that I did made me feel so much better. While I was still fighting back tears, we made a pit stop to get get out and stretch our legs. When we got back to the car I opened my door and there, on the floorboard on the passenger’s side of the car – where it had not been earlier – was my teardrop-shaped rock. I remember gasping out the words “My rock!” I then grabbed it, clutched it to my chest and began sobbing. This was ugly crying at it’s finest. My husband had no idea why I was sobbing so I finally managed to give him a broken explanation in between sobs and gasps for air. We then had to make another stop for tissues since I only had one in my purse and it stood no chance against waterworks of the type I was producing.

Finding my rock at any time would have made my heart happy. Having it given to me then, when my heart was aching over not telling my daddy that I loved him, was more than I would have ever dreamed. Whether it was a gift from my heavenly Father, my earthly one, or the two of them working in cahoots, it served its purpose. My heart is healed, my regret is gone. My daddy knows that I loved him and even if I didn’t say the words on that last day, I told him with actions. There is much truth to the staying that actions speak louder than words.

And yes, my rock is now in a safe place.

What has brought you healing?

If It Looks Like a Duck – Part Two

Image courtesy of www.123rf.com

Image courtesy of www.123rf.com

A while back (Southern speak for any period of time more than two weeks ago) I wrote a post about having my DNA tested. In that post I mentioned wanting to get my husband’s DNA tested. Well, we did.

All family’s have “legends” – tales about things that may or may not have happened in the past. As is true of most stories, these legends may or may not be based on facts. One of the stories in my husband’s family was that his father was of Native American descent. Some of his dad’s physical characteristics, such as his dark skin and dark hair that only had a few strands of gray at the time of his death, made that story plausible. However, there were no facts to back it up. My husband’s paternal grandfather had abandoned the family when his father was young so there is an entire chunk of their family’s history that is missing.

Following in my husband’s footsteps, the year after he gave me my DNA test kit as a Christmas gift, I gave him one. So, he provided his saliva sample, we shipped it off and waited for the results. Now, whereas my results were no big surprise, his were. His results were as follows:

45%  Great Britain

19%  Europe East

17%  Europe West

7%  Ireland/Scotland/Wales

5%  Scandanavia      (I would have never guessed that one!)

The remaining 7% consisted of results from “low confidence regions.” The Ancestry DNA website defines a low confidence region as “areas for which there’s a small amount of DNA evidence found in your sample. All ethnicities with predicted percentages of less than 4.5% appear as low confidence regions.”

Now, when you look at those results you may notice something missing. Yep, no Native American to be found. So much for that family legend. I tease my hubby and tell him that his dark skin and love of the road less traveled may be a result of some previously unknown gypsy blood flowing through his veins. (Romania is one of the many countries that make up the Europe East category.) So, while one mystery was solved, many more remain.

And, for those of you wondering about the accuracy of the tests, my brother-in-law had his DNA tested some time before my husband did. And, with nothing other than their DNA to go by (no identifying information is provided with the saliva), the DNA tests identified my brother-in-law as my husband’s sibling. I call that pretty accurate.

While I find all of this absolutely fascinating, I have been surprised by the number of people completely weirded out by these tests and the possibility of some future misuse of this data. Only time will tell if their fears are well founded. In the meantime, I’ll keep my child-like wonder at the mystery and miracle of genetics and DNA.

But, if you really want to know what weirds me out, it is devices such as Alexa, the Echo, and the Google mini. Big Brother is already watching, I don’t want him listening to everything that goes on in my house. So, while you are welcome to invite the electronic vampire to cross your threshold, I won’t be joining you.

What do you think? Is DNA testing fascinating or the stuff of nightmares?