Sunday, May 26, 2013

Becoming a better me

A woman's life is in stages, or links, if you will.  Sometimes as we navigate from one link to the next, we become so focused on where we are coming from and where we are going that we completely forget to focus on the vessel we are using to get there...our bodies.  Since May is Women's Health Month, this is a good time to take stock of how we feel, what we feel and how much better we should feel.  I am not one to run to the doctor with every little complaint.  If anything, I err on the side of being too optimistic about my health and will shrug off warning signs that really should not be shrugged off.  Then something smacks me in the face and I have to, with much irritation, deal with whatever my body is currently doing. At least that has been my modus operandi in the past.  This year and going forward, I am determined to stop taking a defensive position on health issues and am going on the offensive.  So all you body parts that have been lollygagging along, you are getting in shape, baby. 

I am starting at the top...no, not mental health, dental health.  Who among us likes to go to the dentist?  I don't even like thinking about going to the dentist. But I finally did and realized I should have gone much earlier.  Who knew that wisdom teeth moved!  Apparently they get tired of being at the back in the dark and begin to migrate toward the front and daylight.  Of course your other teeth are not willing to give up their prime space in your jaw, so the wily wisdom teeth push against them, subtly applying pressure until your other teeth crack...really, literally crack.  $1400 later, two are gone and two have been given notice to vacate.

Now that I have a better grip (ha!) on what I eat, it is time to address exactly what I eat.  I have been a vegetarian for years and have dabbled in veganism off and on. My last blood test showed my cholesterol levels are thru the roof, so I have 3 choices...I can ignore the numbers and let my arteries clog up, take a cholesterol leveling drug for the rest of my life, OR embrace being a vegan.  Laid out like that, there is not really a choice involved.  As I would prefer unclogged blood byways and I don't care to spend any more $$ than necessary supporting our pharmaceutical companies, veganism it is. So long eggs, cheese and sour cream.  Hello hummus, whole grains and couscous. I have known for quite some time that a plant based diet is what I should be enjoying...I just had to be hit over the head with numbers to actually do it. 

Fortunately other tests show that my body appears to be functioning as it should...my heart is beating with appropriate rhythm, my lungs are handling the ins and outs of breathing, my liver is doing liver-ish things.  So why do I wait so long between dental and medical health check ups?  I don't procrastinate about other things.  I fill the bird feeders long before they are empty.  I clean off my desk while I can still see the desktop. I empty the trash before it spills over on the floor. But for some odd reason, when it comes to health and well being, I am simply awful at making that first appointment.  I have no idea why, but that is one thing I definitely am going to work on.  We have one and only one vessel to use while moving thru life.  I plan on using mine for a good long time.

For some great information on being or becoming vegan, check out this site.  It covers everything from nutrition to baking without eggs to planning meals.

http://www.chooseveg.com/vegan-recipes.asp#

Monday, May 20, 2013

Where is my fashion compass?

When warmer weather comes to stay, I always reluctantly go thru my clothes and see what I have that: 1) still fits and 2) isn't hopelessly outdated, ripped or stained and 3) I still like.  Sometimes numbers 2 and 3 fight for dominance, with 3 generally edging out the lesser number because, truth be told, I hate shopping for clothes.  Don't get me wrong, I love having attractive, stylish outfits.  I just find it confusing to shop for them. Every year I feel compelled to check out catalogs and fashion magazines to see what I should be wearing this season and every year I have the same reaction...where are the models my age? With very few exceptions, fashion magazines do not feature women much over the legal drinking age.  Heaven forbid we see a woman who has a line on her forehead or (gasp!) gray hair. So how do women my age find stylish, contemporary and age appropriate clothes? It's easier when you are younger. As a teenager I was surrounded by other teenagers who wore the same clothes I did (sometimes literally) and who could talk makeup, hairstyles and fashion non stop for hours.  If I wore something that made my butt look like a Volkswagen, friends could always be counted on to describe that vision in cheerful detail. As I moved into my 20's, I worked in office environments where it was easy to see both good and bad clothing options in the surrounding cubicles. And, since the young, working woman is exactly the demographic magazines focus on and market to, it was easy to envision myself in that cute outfit in Glamour.  But as I moved along in life, got married, had children, I lost that fashion compass. Glamour Magazine became completely irrelevant to my life. Clothes had to do double or even triple duty, be stain resistant and cheap.  Rather than a closet full of office-to-evening clothes, I had Mommy clothes and one good outfit, bought on sale, and hung up immediately upon return home from whatever event I had to attend lest some horrid fate befall it. Note (from experience): you can only wear a special dress so many times before you are forced to admit that no, the Teriyaki stain does not blend with the color of the fabric and yes, people will notice and remember it from the last time you pretended to have just spilled chow mein on it. Eventually my daughter grew up and could tell me what to wear.  She became my personal shopper, one who could zero in on the 3 outfits out of the gazillion at Macy's that would fit me and look good. Immensely practical and with an eye for good design and balance, she perfected the firm and decisive "no", uttered within 10 seconds of me emerging from the dressing room.  No amount of  "but it's a great color" or "it's on sale" would sway her. She was also just as quick to tell me "buy it" if it met her standards. But as she moved into her 20's, then 30's, and her life became more about herself and less about me (sigh), I had to venture out into the fashion world by myself.  Left to my own devices, I have ended up with oddly colored blouses that have nothing to recommend them other than that they fit.  I have a pair of  jeans, tags intact, that are 4 inches too long but they were such a bargain and I could easily hem them. I once bought 4 of the same cardigan in different colors, thinking they would bring great variety to my wardrobe, only to find they made me feel like I was wearing the same outfit over and over.  My daughter would have told me that blouse is ugly, you will never hem those jeans and who on earth needs 4 cardigans. But that's what happens when you let a woman like me shop without a fashion compass.  I flounder around Nordstrom's, dithering over this top and that sweater, making silly purchases I'll probably have to return, before finally giving up and doing what I really wanted to do all along....shop the makeup aisle!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Aqua Net and hairpins

My hair has been thru a lot.  It's a wonder I have any left considering the things I used to do and have done to it. When I was little there were two choices for my hair.  Pigtails or not. That is actually the way my mother asked the question...do you want pigtails or not? If I went with pigtails, I could add ribbons to the ends and barrettes at the sides.  Sometimes the pigtails came with hair stretched so tightly away from my face I looked like a premature facelift casualty.  If I chose no pigtails, I still got the barrettes or maybe a hard plastic headband that made tiny dents in my head with its vicious little teeth.  Pigtails or not lasted until around 4th grade when it became ponytail or not.  By then the plastic torture devices had been replaced with stretchy headbands.  I had a black one with Susan written in gold cursive. I loved that headband.  I wore it until the gold flaked off and it read S_sa_.  By the time I got to high school, hair exploded.  I teased my hair to within an inch of its life, sprayed it, then teased it again. Bangs below my eyebrows, crown of hair reaching toward the sky, with a cute little clip-on bow delineating the separation. Unlike some of my friends, I always checked the back to make sure everything was smoothed down, right before I AquaNetted the heck out of it.  My best friend Barb never bothered combing the back since she claimed she never saw it, so what was the point.  As I was at least 3 inches taller than her, I could have told her what the point was, but I was nothing if not a good friend.  Huge hair was so out of control, articles were written in the LA Times claiming tough girls hid razor blades in their do's and, since you didn't comb out a good tease for maybe a week, sometimes black widow spiders made nests in them. At my high school, all the cool girls had wiglets. Constructed on a stiff net, a wiglet was 3-5 inches of hair that could be washed, set and styled into a froth of stiff curls, sprinkled with tiny bows on u-shaped hairpins and attached to your real hair with built in combs. Girls would bring them to school before a dance, pinned on Styrofoam heads so that we could ooh and aah over them.  I didn't have one.  My hair is red and there were no wiglets for redheads.  What I did have was a custom blended 2 ft length of hair from the long gone Broadway Store, fastened in a huge knot at one end. It could be left loose in a free flowing pony tail, although I could never quite figure out how to attach the huge knot to my head, or braided and coiled into a sort of hair crown attached with dozens of hairpins. My freshman photo shows me wearing it plopped on the top of my head like a Davy Crocket coonskin hat, my own shoulder length hair in a cute little flip below. Around my senior year, we all got over the need to lacquer our hair, yes they really called the product lacquer, and things got a whole lot simpler.  We wore it long and straight or long and curly.  If you were a straight fan and your hair wasn't, you ironed it. If you wanted curls but weren't born with them, you got a perm.  Eventually even guys got perms.  I had a friend in college whose perm went horribly wrong, causing him to shave his head.  He got a nice settlement in exchange for the promise to take the salon's name to the grave.  Today the thought of teasing, or as we called it, ratting, my hair makes me laugh.  So does the idea of sitting for an hour under a plastic hood, hot air burning my ears while baking my hair onto rollers. Those days of bobby pins, clippies and Dippity Do are long gone and not missed at all. I still have that long braid somewhere.  And I still wish it was a wiglet.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

60 and counting

When I was much, much younger, and completely na├»ve with regards to the whole getting older thing and how it works, I remember thinking that when the millennium came I would probably be wearing a cotton housedress, rocking away my golden years at a nursing home.  Since I would be batty by then, the turning of the calendar to 2000 would go mostly unnoticed.  Yes, I really was that young and dumb.  In reality, the year we said goodbye '99, hello '00, I was 47, not a house dress in sight and no golden years in the foreseeable future...at least not the ones I had imagined.  Now, 13 years after that New Year's celebration, I am 60.  SIXTY!!! Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined what 60 would look like and I didn't have the tiniest clue what it would feel like.

60 looks a lot like 50, which in turn resembled 40, but with about 15 more lbs.  My wardrobe of choice is still jeans, a T-shirt and a hoodie.  My daughter encouraged (forced) me several years ago to widen my choices by adding cute sweaters and great shoes.  I believe her exact words were "Mother, when you can no longer tell your clothes from your 20 something son's, it might be time to consider upgrading your wardrobe". Don't tell my daughter this, but when I am not going out into the world (and sometimes when I am) jeans and T's are what I reach for. My favorite hoodie is a gray sweatshirt with many and varied holes. It stopped zipping long ago and one cuff is valiantly holding on by sheer determination.  I bought it in the 80's at the old Mervyn's store in Norwalk and have 3 driver's license photos of me wearing it with love.  I still wear my hair parted on the side with a few bangs, still eschew foundation but love a lot of eye makeup, and still swear by Bonne Bell Dr Pepper lipgloss.

60 doesn't feel like 50 or anything approaching 40...sometimes it feels like 100.  I have been healthy pretty much all my life, so it was with some alarm that, as I reached toward 60, I began to fall apart.  First came high cholesterol.  I am a vegetarian so you'd think that wouldn't be an issue.  And it wouldn't be if it weren't for the deliciousness of Tillamook Sharp Cheddar.  If you are making mac and cheese or grilled cheese sandwiches with anything else, STOP immediately and switch!  After high cholesterol came an inherited tendency for my blood to clot like crazy.  I had always thought it was cool that I would get a cut and before I could open a bandaid, I would already be healing. Turns out that is not a good thing and one day in June of '09 I was admitted to the hospital for multiple pulmonary emboli. Then appeared what felt like acid reflux but what is actually a hiatal hernia, followed by a pain in my foot that revealed itself as plantar fasciitis.  Sheesh. 

So here I am at 60, limping along in my Levi's with insoles in my tennis shoes, popping Prilosec and Coumadin.  I hope my sweatshirt lasts long enough for me to get a walker, 'cause that would be awesome.  And that would also mean that 70 will look a lot like 60.