I've never been a big birthday celebrator. I'll always, though, make a whatever-you-want birthday meal for my husband and children, but for myself, I don't bother. Going out to eat for my birthday was a nice treat which I always appreciated, but it is often now more effort than I want to take, especially when you live fifty miles from nicer restaurants. Nowadays, I'm just content to be home and continue life as usual.
I've also never been one to ponder much on the past; my husband does sufficient for both of us combined. I'm a future looker and planner. So when my birthday rolls around, I'm not given to think much at all about the past year or years. But on my birthday yesterday, while I was relaxing after a refreshing cool shower following the two-hour push mow of the lawn, I realized, Hey, you are beginning the last year of your fifties. That took me back a bit. Next year, if the Lord wills, I'll be trying to swallow the sixty decade. A little pondering ensued.
When I was much younger, maybe in my teens and twenties, middle age in my mind was from the thirties and forties, and old age was the fifties and sixties. I guess ancient must have been the seventies and beyond. Ha! Now, I've reorganized that timing, but I don't know where the transitions are, though I lean toward ending middle age with the mid-sixties or so. Nevertheless, it doesn't matter. At all. I discount that adage "You're as young as you feel." Plenty of young people feel bodily old, while many older people feel bodily young. Thankfully, I don't have a lot of aches and pains at all. Some, of course, but those are often related to inactivity.
Today, I thought I'd give myself (actually make myself) contemplate finishing the fifties in a blog post (or several). I've neglected this poor ole blog, rather, I've given myself to tasks other than blogging leaving little time to sit and write. I keep writing posts in my mind as I throw myself into other tasks, saving many topics and articles to a draft (there may well be as many drafts as posts). One of the activities after I "retired" from teaching and looking forward was to write regularly. And I fully intended to. It just hasn't happened yet. Other things needed to be done first.
When I "retired" from teaching, adjustments needed to be made. I had a house full and bookcases packed to overflowing with all-things-school. Those things needed to be moved out and on to others. And they were. After two years, I only have bookshelves containing books to read and only one short shelf of books that have impacted me enough to not part with the volume yet. Thankfully, homeschool resale groups on Facebook and PaperBackSwap aided this transition.
Conquering the bookshelf project helped me move on to updating our living areas. As many of you know, raising several children and homeschooling for over twenty years doesn't allow much time, effort, or resources to redecorate or renovate. Some things needed reshaping for eye-appeal and for age-appeal as we were closing in on this old-er age period. A new sofa that lacked the wear-and-tear sadness that thirty-five year old furniture takes on after a large family, some new carpeting, updated bathrooms with ADA toilets (again, for our old-er age), and a few new window valences and some decor items helps to breath some relief and life into any home. A mostly cleaned out attic, desk drawers, and filing cabinet helps alleviate less worry for those who will inherit by default that task one day. I learned a lot from my mother about all this but only when my sister and I cleared, closed, and sold her home after her death a few years ago. She was not a keeper, and neither am I. I have my share of clutter, mainly papers, because I don't always take time to put things in their place while they are in my hand. And she kept her things is such order so we wouldn't have to. I didn't appreciate that until after she died and we saw how easy it was to close the house. So, I don't intend to leave a mess for our children to deal with. Updating things like bathrooms and kitchens have a logical place when you think twenty years down the road. Why, if at all possible, leave a house in need of repairs and updates which the children will have to take care of to resell? And why leave unnecessary items - old filed papers, owner's manuals of things discarded, books, even clothing - to burden them? I'd rather make that difficult time as easy as possible. After two years, much is now done. A few areas of organization remain, and completion is targeted for the first of September.
After the renos and redos, I wanted to deep-clean. That task is mammoth in this house; the older four-room part from 1937 and the newer eight-room part from 1978 is all wood inside. Not paneling, real wood. As in 1" red oak rough cut planks laid out in horizontal, vertical, and diagonal patterns. It's novel. And I like novel things; that's what swayed me with this house when we bought it nineteen years ago. Little did I realize then - and doubt it would have made any difference then - that spiders love, absolutely thrive, in and on this scaffolding. Oh, yes. And they can hide so well - in corners, between the planks, in doorways. That deep-cleaning task involved vacuuming walls, and ceilings, besides the normal floors, washing clean rather than wiping ceiling fans and lights and everything else. Nothing escaped the cleaning rag. The wooden floors which deserved more attention than I liked to give got some hands-and-knees scrubbing.
After I "retired" from teaching, another one of my goals was to read more. And yes, thankfully, I have been. Much more. I think I would love to get to a point where most days all I had to do after completing my walk was to sit in my chair on our porch or in our library and read. That hasn't happened yet. Yet.
In the years that I was teaching outside the home, my compulsive submersion into my classes derailed a lot of things, in particular, my health. My walks disappeared, my weight soared, and my sleep shortened. And I felt trapped with no escape. My task-centered behavior even after retiring was inconsistent to correct the abuses of body. Only after some frustration with a well-meaning physician assistant and his assigned doctor coupled with the inability to recover well after two back-to-back bouts of an intestinal virus did I find some redirection. Almost on a lark, I decided to change to my husband's physician thinking that it might be more convenient to have us both with the same doctor. His is a lipidologist with a family practice. Thankfully, Dr. C accepted me as a patient because of my husband. On my first visit, I was more-than-impressed with Dr. C. I really had no big reasons for the visit other than to establish myself as a new patient. Although I knew I'd not felt back to normal after the virus bout, I had only a vague "weariness" to describe. After a visit that was much longer and inquisitive than I had ever had, he told me I had come in with nothing specific yet three major things going on: the weariness (which he took seriously), family history of stroke, and weight gain. Off to the lab for bloodwork I went, with a return for a carotid artery ultrasound, coronary artery CT scan, and followup scheduled. Besides being impressed, I was appreciative of Dr. C's concern with my weariness. Many doctors brush off those vague complaints. He didn't; he zeroed in on my health with an eagle's eye and ordered, unbeknownst to me until the results were back, a blood panel for thyroid function, lyme disease, mononucleous, and iron. All negative except mono. He said I had had mono in my past, probably in my teens / twenties and never known it other than the flu or severe sore throat, and that the mono had been reactivated recently by a severe stress on my body. That stress was concluded to be those intestinal viruses. And who knew mono could be reactivated?! Although it will take time for recovery, at least the body is left to recover itself and no treatment or drugs are involved.
Other bloodwork showed through-the-roof results for large particle cholesterol and triglycerides. As a lipidologist, he looks specifically for certain things that other physicians do not. Because of my family history of stroke on one side and familial high cholesterol on the other, he checked my carotids and coronaries for plaque formation but found none. Whew! The intervention now was to lower the cholesterol via an anti-cholesterol drug and weight loss. Learning how difficult it was for me to ever lose weight, coupled with the interfering fatigue that the reactivated mono would have on exercise activity, he said sometimes some people (like me) needed help to lose the weight because it had to come off for the cholesterol to return to normal. His helpful prescriptive intervention has been one of the most encouraging and helpful actions I've ever had. Although this still involves much personal focus and fortitude, I don't feel like I'm helpless now. It will be something I will struggle with continually, even if I get off all the extra weight and the cholesterol / triglycerides return to normal. It will be a challenge, and I'm only out of the gate in this race.
As I finish the fifties this year, my goal is to gain control of this health issue by continual attention to diet and exercise. I really do want to live until I die, not just exist. There are travels to pursue and books to read which might not be able to be pursued in a state of existence resulting from a stroke or diabetes. So, here's to finishing the fifties!