Sunday, December 29, 2013

When We Were Fifty

I suppose you could say this post was a year in the making. I started studying the subject of turning 50 in January, when Scarlet hit her milestone. I continued throughout the year as my other friends, classmates and acquaintances celebrated theirs. 

My 50th birthday was a far cry from my 40th. I started celebrating over the summer.  My first gift was a trip to Florida to visit Kitty. It seems I haven't stopped since. I received many fabulous gifts; concert tickets, bottles of liquor (even a collectible one), and an iPad.  Oh, and I can't forget my calendar of witty quotes--something I look forward to every year!! I had the most wonderful little party at home on the day of my birthday, with my little family and a couple of close friends. I drank champagne and ate pizza!  Right up my alley!  And as I mentioned with the work party on Main Street, for the first time in a long time, drama did not get in the way of my celebration. That meant more to me than anything. No drama!! It truly was a fun and exciting birthday that I celebrated half the year!

I'm wearing cute dresses and make up again. I get my nails and hair done regularly. I feel good about myself. I did not reach my goal for weight loss. My weight is too high, and I and not in good physical condition. And while I have somehow managed to stay healthy, I can tell a difference in my strength and endurance. My lazy lifestyle and my weight are definitely catching up with me. Luckily, it's not too late to make a change. 

My children are 16 and 14 years old now. They are happy, good kids. Very well-adjusted and beautiful. My son just got his driving permit.  My daughter has channeled her intensity into music, volleyball, and other positive things.  Matters of the heart are still a source of trouble for me, but I feel I have made big progress in this area in the last 2 1/2 years since I began counseling with Kate. Anxiety, depression, and codependence are still issues that must be dealt with. But again, major progress has been made since I got on the proper medication and started counseling. 

I'm happy with who I am right now. I like myself. I'm proud of my accomplishments and I'm blessed to have many wonderful friends. I still love music. I still love traveling, and spending time with my family and friends.

The world has changed a lot in 50 years. Not only is Michael Jackson no longer making hits--he is dead. So is Whitney Houston. Michael Jordan is retired. Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp seem to be thriving.  So much like the real world, and the other people born in 1963. Some are doing well, some are not.  

I went to a small high school. There were only about 80 of us in our graduating class. Thanks to social networking, I keep up with many of them. Roughly half of our graduating class is on Facebook. Out of those 40, about 20 people post things regularly. The rest rarely post anything. That means I know what's going on with about one fourth of the people who graduated high school with me, and turned 50 this year.   Out of those 20 people, one suffered a stroke this year. Luckily, he recognized the warning signs early, and got care almost immediately. With speech therapy and physical therapy he is progressing well. One has had serious heart problems, but is currently doing alright.  Four classmates found out they had cancer this year. Three of them are now cancer free, one is just starting his chemotherapy. I have another friend who recently went for a checkup and was told by her doctor that due to her weight, she now has high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and is pre-diabetic. Even though she was devastated at this news, she is one of the very lucky ones. She is able to attack these conditions, which are all treatable, before she had a heart attack, stroke, or complications from diabetes. If I were to factor in people from the two classes before and after me, there would be many more who have recently had some pretty serious health problems. A very close family friend of ours died in his sleep a few weeks ago. He was 44 years old. He was at least 100 pounds overweight, and a big drinker. As the doctor once told my husband, a little high blood pressure mixed with a lot of alcohol is a lethal cocktail. It is possible our friend had a heart attack or stroke. It is also possible he died from sleep apnea.

I have a specific reason for talking about all this gloom and doom. Throughout the year, as I interviewed my friends, there was one thing I heard over and over. "50 is just a number". After a year of observation, I disagree. I believe 50 is the day of reckoning. If you have eaten right, exercised, and taken good care of yourself, yes – 50 may be just a number. But for those of us who are 20, 40, 60, or more pounds overweight, and get little or no exercise, who eat and drink too much, this is when our lifestyles are catching up with us.  Many of us have said for years "One day I will start exercising and eating better. One day I will take better care of myself".  I believe 50 is the day we may be forced to do that, or suffer the consequences.

Some health factors have nothing to do with weight or an unhealthy lifestyle. Some have suffered cancer and stroke through genetics, or other medical reasons. To that, I say 50 is the year we must stop ignoring our bodies. It is the year we must pay attention to anything out of the ordinary, and be on the lookout for warning signs. We must get regular checkups and preventative healthcare. It's no longer an option.  Ignoring health-care can now mean the difference between life and death. Undetected and untreated high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and sleep apnea can kill us in an instant.

So after a year of observation, I have come up with this… When we are 10, 20, 30, and maybe even 40 years old, time and youth are on our side. Our body might overlook a little abuse. But 50 is definitely NOT just a number. 50 is the day of reckoning. It's the day our bodies become not so forgiving.

So much for that. Now…on to 60!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Birthday To Me

Well, it finally came. My 50th birthday. I have to say, this has without a doubt then the best birthday of my entire life. 

I feel very happy.

Do I look any different today than I did yesterday? No. Do I feel any different today than I did yesterday? No. But there are changes. I look and feel different from the way I did a few years ago. I AM different from the way I was a few years ago. 

Throughout this year of observation I have noted many things. I will share them in the coming posts. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy my hot bath, then I'm going to go to bed. Thank you to all who were a part of this wonderful celebration. I can't wait to write about it.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Jon Bon Jovi at 50

It's working for his beautiful self. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

45 Christmases

I am thinking a lot about my mother today. Christmas hasn't been the same since she died. 

We have made new traditions, but somehow some of the magic is gone when your parent is no longer there. You spent every Christmas of your entire life with them, so there is bound to be a void when they are no longer there.  In addition to that, I rarely see my sister or her family at Christmas anymore.

I get it....things change, life changes. I know that. But when you spend nearly 45 Christmases together, it's hard to say goodbye to those deep rooted traditions.

I love you Mom, and I miss you every day.  

Saturday, December 21, 2013

When We Were Forty

2003 was the year we all turned 40.

I remember going to Kitty’s house for my 40th birthday. She gathered her family together, and we had nice food and drink.

All my friends were busy during this time, I am sure. Raising kids, or focusing on continuing education and their careers. For me, this birthday was a far cry from my 30th. I remember when I turned thirty, someone gave me a large button to wear that read “30 And Still Rockin”. And I was! At forty, I probably deserved one that read “40 And Tired As Hell”.

Gone were the days of the Jackson 5 and "Thriller". Michael Jackson was being accused of inappropriate behavior with children. Madonna kissed Brittney Spears at the VMAs. Eminem, J-Lo, Beyonce, and 50 Cent were the popular artists. The "Lord of the Rings" triology was in full swing, and so was one of my favorites to this day, "Survivor" (I've watched every season).

During that ten year period, everything about my life had changed. I was 8 years in to an alcoholic marriage, and I now had two children. We had built a new home, and had just moved in to it four months before my birthday.

My son was 6, and my daughter was 4. My 4 year old was (and still is) extremely intense, and at the time, quite challenging. Sometimes she literally wiped us out. Although she was raised in the same environment as my son, I was told many times that I had “spoiled” her. People seemed desperate to put the blame for her intense behavior on someone. That someone was usually me. Even though I was now desperately codependent, and had become accustomed to taking full responsibility for the actions of almost everyone around me, I knew in my heart I had done nothing different with her. I knew this was her genetics, and her personality, plain and simple, and that I was not responsible for that. I fought for her and protected her with every bit of life that was in me--to nurture her and to teach her how to deal with the extreme feelings she possessed. I knew damn good and well where she got them, and I knew she either had to learn to deal with those extreme highs and lows, or give in to them and spend her life self medicating them as her father had done. My daughter was a main focus for me during this time.

My mother’s health was deteriorating.

I was fucking exhausted. I worked full time, then came home to start my second job—making sure the kids were fed and bathed, and my son’s homework was done. Usually my husband did not arrive home from work and the bar until 8:30 or 9:00 in the evening. By then he was usually in no shape to help me, or to spend any quality time with me. His drinking was at the first of two all time highs right about then. I felt out of control. I couldn’t control his drinking, I couldn’t control my daughter’s temper tantrums, I couldn’t control what others thought. People told me I needed to “put my foot down” with the both of them. As I’ve written before; I could have put my foot down til it busted through in China and not been able to control either of these situations. The best I could do was to manage them, and managing them was sucking the life out of me.

I got to the point where I didn’t care about getting dressed up for work. The days of my cute dresses and business suits with heels were gone. I was going for comfort. If that meant “old lady shoes”, then that’s what I wore. I rarely had time or energy for makeup.

I hated alcohol so badly during this time that I didn’t drink a lot. Mainly on Sundays with Scarlet. But I ate. Food gave me comfort. I started gaining weight.

Maybe I like the show "Survivor" so much because that's what I was doing. I think I was just surviving at that time of my life. Not living—surviving. Trying to figure out how to "Outwit, Outplay, Outlast". I no longer had time to lie in the floor and listen to Beatles music. I wasn’t the vibrant, beautiful girl my husband had married, and I realized that. Comfortable, practical pajamas took the place of sexy lingerie. But he was very different too. We were still "a couple" at that time, but the stresses of life were definitely affecting us both. I was exhausted. Alcohol had totally consumed him.

To say I still had everything I needed, and most of what I wanted would not be entirely accurate. Materially yes. Mentally and physically, my life was taking a turn, and it was definitely NOT what I wanted.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Quotes I Like

"I believe the second half of one's life is meant to be better than the first half. 
The first half is finding out how you do it. And the second half is enjoying it."

-Francis Lear

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

When We Were Thirty

1993 was the year we all turned 30. 

It was the time of "Jurassic Park", "The Fugitive", and "Sleepless in Seattle".

Top television shows included "Seinfeld", and two of my all-time favorite shows, "Frasier"  and "Coach".

Whitney Houston also turned 30 that year, and she was on the top of the charts with "I Will Always Love You". 

Some of my friends had children by now. We were all in very different places in our lives.

My marriage had ended three years earlier. I was single, and already dating my current husband. I was in the prime of my life. I looked and felt better than at any other time before or after that. I had my own little house and a nice car. I had accepted a position in management with my company two years prior. 

I was independent for the first time in my life, and I liked it.  I was very much in love, and spent a lot of time listening to music, going to concerts, and enjoying life. Once again, I had everything I needed, and most of what I wanted.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Miracle on Main Street

Since my birthday is the day after Christmas, it's hard to celebrate with friends. People are out of town, or have family commitments and parties. So the girls in my office decided to take me out for my birthday this past Friday night. We went to a downtown pizzeria after work. They also invited a few of our former coworkers, who got transferred to a new location a few years back. 

In my lifetime, I'd only had one other birthday "party". It was when I was about six years old. My mom invited a few friends from school. I have control issues, so the days leading up to this past Friday became frustrating for my coworkers. I kept thinking no one would come. I kept thinking I was inconveniencing people. I kept worrying about people spending money. They finally had to tell me to relax and be quiet.

I walked into the party with my coworker, and Detach reader, Sally. A few people were already there. But the big long table that was reserved was mainly empty. I immediately started thinking no one was coming. The ones who were there started greeting me. I went around and hugged them all. Then as people started arriving (yes, they did eventually arrive) I got up to greet each of them as well. By then I was beginning to relax. I'd had some drinks, and felt very comfortable.The empty tables were now filled with about 18–20 people. The restaurant was warm and inviting. It quickly became a scene full of love, happiness, and friendships I've had, some as long as 30 years now.  I was relaxed and so incredibly happy, and overwhelmed at the show of love. 

In my life, for so long now, when there has been a special event...any has always been marred by some type of alcohol related drama. Parties always take a turn. Fun things always seem to have a way of becoming unpleasant for me. This event was no different. Alcoholism tried to sabotage it the day before, but I pulled together all my counseling techniques, and cast the drama aside. So by the time the party came, nothing was looming over me. No worries. Just genuine happiness and celebration filled our room.  You don't know what a strange and foreign feeling that was for me. Just to be able to relax, and for once not worry about what other people were doing, or more importantly, what they were going to do later.  It was very liberating. 

After everyone had ordered, our waitress came to the table with an announcement. She quietly told us that an anonymous customer in the restaurant was paying our entire tab!  Everyone was astounded. Very happy, but astounded. Who would do something like this, and why? We all started scanning the room, trying to figure out who it might be! I had my back to most of the restaurant, so a coworker sitting across from me, was doing the detective work.  She concluded it must be the two 60 something gentlemen sitting at the bar. While I was thankful, I was also hoping they would not expect something in return. That they would not come over and try to pick someone up. 

Next the waitress came back and told me the gentleman was cashing out his tab, so anything we purchased from that point forward would be on our own. She gave me the receipt. The total was about  $350 and included a $50 tip for her.  What she told me next, I will never forget as long as I live. She told me the man had said "There are not enough men in this world who appreciate a beautiful 50-year-old woman". Of course that made me tear up. She told me she had never seen anything like this the whole time she had been a waitress. I told her how moved I was. I told her if the person was still in the restaurant to please tell him he had no idea what this meant to me--that the past few years have been very turbulent for me, and this had touched me very deeply. By this time she had tears in her eyes as well, and told me I had no idea how much it had touched her! In addition to the large tip the man had given her, most of my friends were also giving her $10 and $20 tips. Not only did the man pay it forward to us, but we had paid it forward to her. About this time, everyone at my table decides to sing me a very loud and rousing "Happy Birthday". Tears of happiness and pure joy were streaming down my face. 

A few minutes later, the waitress comes back and tells us the gentleman is leaving. She felt it would be okay for us all to give him a round of applause when he left. Imagine my surprise when we looked at the door and it was a handsome young man, about 35-40 years old, with his wife and two children!!!! We started cheering and clapping. He modestly turned around and smiled and waved at us. Then he went on. He wanted nothing from us. He had no ulterior motive. 

My wise and deeply spiritual friend Margo came up to me, grabbed my hands, and looked me dead in the eyes. She said to me, "That man felt the love in this room. He saw the diversity. He felt the goodness. He felt your wonderful, and happy energy. You deserve this Mary. Be happy. We are all so blessed". 

At this point, people slowly started leaving. Eventually there were three of us who were going to walk down the block and watch a set of live music at a blues club. I needed some cash, so we went inside another restaurant that had an ATM. As we were walking down the basement stairs to get to it, a man was coming up the stairs. None of us were saying anything or looking at him, but as he passed the three of us he smiled and said "God bless you all". It was the strangest thing. 

When we got to the blues bar, I ran into a man I recognized from many years past. He dated Miss Pamela for a while. I wasn't putting two and two together, and remembering that he was a bass player.  After a few minutes, he excused himself and said it was time to go on stage. I said "Oh! You are playing tonight?".   He laughed and said yes. During his set, he wished me Happy Birthday.  The next song his band performed was "Dead Flowers" by The Rolling Stones. A song I have always loved.

This night was magical for me. I feel like God was shining a special blessing on my life. Somehow showing me that things are changing. That even though I have felt so much sadness, turmoil, and anxiety for the past few years, I have also been given happiness and friendship. I am a firm believer, this happened for a reason. To show me where true love lies. To show me what is important. To show me if I will believe in myself and allow myself to shine, good things will come to me. This was the most wonderful blessing I could have received on this 50th birthday.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

When We Were Twenty

1983 was the year we all turned 20. 

Blockbuster movies that year included "Return of the Jedi", "Trading Places", "Flashdance", and "Risky Business". 

Popular television shows included "Dallas", "Dynasty", "Magnum PI" and "Cagney and Lacey". 

I was still listening to Michael Jackson, only this time without his brothers. The world was blown away by "Thriller".  He was on the  top of the charts with "Billie Jean" and "Beat It". Other popular songs included "Every Breath You Take" by The Police, and the "Flashdance" soundtrack. Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton's "Islands in The Stream" was a huge country hit.

Today when I saw my counselor Kate, she suggested that I also mention another statistic. In 1983 she was five years old. I found that to be very interesting, and a fun bit of trivia. 

Hair was big. Leg warmers were popular (for the first time), and I truly did not have a care in the world. 

We had been out of high school for two years. Some of my friends were in college--either in town or away. But me? 1983 was the year I decided to drop out of community college, and marry my first husband. We tied the knot in October of that year. 

David and I had a one bedroom apartment. Even though we had very small paychecks, money was never an issue. Since we managed the building where we lived (sweeping the hall, changing lightbulbs, and showing vacant apartments), our rent was only $75 a month. We budgeted $25 a week for the grocery store. There was always plenty of food. I cooked dinner every night in our little galley kitchen. On Friday nights we went to Pizza Hut. I continued to have everything I needed and most of what I wanted.

I was desperately, hopelessly in love. But I've already written that story during my "Love Letters" series. 

In only a few months, I would start my first "real" job. I was hired with the company I still work for in January, 1984.

Life was good. I was healthy, thin, beautiful, and dumb as a damn rock. But like most 20 year olds, I had no clue about this. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

When We Were Ten

My friends and I all turned 10 in 1973. 

That year the video game "Pong" was released. Completely primitive by today's standards, but in 1973… cool as shit. My cousin had one, but my mom and dad said they would be sorry, because it would surely mess up their television. Needless to say, we did not have "Pong". 

Like most middle-class families, we spent a lot of time watching television. Popular shows that year included "All In The Family", "Sanford and Son", "The Waltons", "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour", "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", and "Kojak". 

"The Sting", "American Graffiti", and "The Exorcist" were popular at the box office, although I never saw any of those films until I was grown.

Music was a very big part of my life. I spent almost every day hanging out with my three friends from the neighborhood. We all had very cool transistor radios, which we would synchronize to the same radio station. We had tons of 45s. My friend Brenda had all the Jackson 5 LPs. We listened to them continuously in her living room. Popular songs that year included Carly Simon's "You're So Vain", Stevie Wonder's "You Are The Sunshine of My Life", Jim Croce's "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown", "My Love" by Paul McCartney and Wings, and Cher's "Halfbreed". I could go on and on and on about songs that were popular during that time. Music was everything to us. 

My friends and I played outside most every day. We rode bikes,we set up Barbie cities, we played everything. I had a white poodle named Pierre. Life seemed very simple in 1973.  I was a sheltered, happy-go-lucky 10-year-old girl, living in white, middle-class America. I had everything I needed, and most of what I wanted. 

Life was good.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

It's Here!

So it's finally here. December, 2013. The month I turn 50.  My turn to be the feature birthday. All year long I've been studying my friends and classmates as they celebrated this milestone, And I learned a lot. Throughout the month I will share my findings and my thoughts on the subject, as we lead up to the big day at the end of this month. 

This morning I am thinking about what life would have been like on the first day of December, 1963. The president had just been murdered nine days earlier.  The country was in shock and in mourning. "Leave it to Beaver" Americana was about to evolve into Woodstock, the Civil Rights movement, and Haight Ashbury. 

My father and mother (eight months pregnant), lived in a duplex a couple of blocks away from world-famous Churchill Downs.   My sister was 11 years old. During horse race season, and Kentucky Derby time, my parents would make some extra money by parking cars at their house. People would pay them money, and my sister would hop in the car with the strangers, and guide them around the block, to the alley that ran behind our house. She would show them where to pull in to our backyard. Of course this seems inconceivable today, but in 1963 I guess it seemed fine. 

To gain a feel for what life was like in 1963, here are some statistics:
Gas cost 25 cents a gallon.
The average yearly income was $5,623. 
Postage stamps cost the same as a Hershey bar, 5 cents. 
Popular songs were "Blue Velvet", "My Boyfriend's Back", and "Sugar Shack". 
Popular movies included Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds", and the James Bond flick, "Dr. No". 

This year we talked a lot about my friends turning 50, but there were some other people born that year. Some pretty famous people:
Whitney Houston
Johnny Depp
Brad Pitt
Michael Jordan
Helen Hunt
Conan O'Brien
Travis Tritt
Tatum O'Neal

The Beatles released their first album in 1963, Patsy Cline was killed in a plane crash, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr delivered his "I have a dream" speech. 

The world was changing and evolving, rockin' and rollin'. This is the world my friends and I were born into.