Archive for the ‘Age’ Category

The Summer of Becoming Friends

This morning as I sat outside sipping a hot cup of coffee to jump start the day, a cold breeze whipped through the air. 

The news reporters say that Pittsburgh is experiencing residual wind from Irene, but I’ve felt these breezes before.  A chilling morning wind is always the first indication of  summer birthing into fall.  Autumn is my favorite season, but this year, I don’t want summer to end.

The End of Summer

This summer has been VERY interesting to me for a lot of different reasons, all rooted in the circumstance of it being the first summer without my mom.  

As many of you know, my mom passed away in March after a long, horrible illness.  When I think back about our relationship, one of my biggest regrets is that my mom and I never had the chance to be friends.  I left home at 17, went to college, moved to the west coast, and lived away from my family until I came back to Pennsylvania at age 35.  A few months later, my mom got sick.

Home Cooked MealBefore leaving home, I was the kid and she was the mom.  Shortly after moving back, she got ill and needed me…like I needed her so many years ago.

There is only one thing that I would have changed about our relationship.  I would have made time to get to know my mom as a woman and a friend. 

At her funeral, people said some wonderful things about her that I never knew…like how she was so compassionate that after her nursing shift ended, she’d punch out , come home, change her clothes, and go back to her workplace to be with a dying patient…because she believed that no one should die alone.  You’d think that I would have known that about her….but I didn’t.  After all, I was the kid.  She was the mom. 

I vowed not to make the same mistake with my dad…not knowing him as a person and only as a dad.   

Being Friends with your DadThis year has been the summer of becoming friends.  Yesterday, we made the time to go golfing together.  When we got to the 11th hole and he lit up the cigar I gave him for Father’s Day, I wished that time would stand still.  I wished that the moment of knowing and loving my dad as a friend would never pass.  I wished that I could find the right words to tell him that even though I still need him to be my daddy, I love him for the person he is, in a non dad-ness kind of way. 

As our team’s putt plunked into the last hole, he held up his hand and expressed the universal sign of friendship.  With a wide smile forming across my face, I raised my own hand to meet his.  And there under the blue, breezy sky of a Pennsylvania summer was a father and daughter engaged in a high-five as he said, “Good one, girl”  and I responded, “Good game, dad.” 

Can parents and kids be friends?

#6 – Adult Playtime

Get your minds out of the dark, dirty gutters my friends.  I know what the title of this post could imply, but it doesn’t.  There’s nothing but PG-13 going on here today. 

This is me as a kid.  My parents were a little hippie dippy and my mom made some of our clothes.  It was the 70s and things were Flower Power back then.  Can you dig?

IMG_2522 Tracy

One of my favorite things to do as a little girl was to go outside and PLAY.  No fenced in yards.  No cable TV.  No fears that my face would appear on the side of milk carton. 

At some point in everyone’s life, we abandon the luxury of free play.  When a bird flying outside the window calls “chase me to the highest limb,”  we stay seated at our desks….continue doing laundry…keep typing on our computers.  Go away, bird.  I’m busy. 

How long has it been since you’ve simply PLAYED?  When was the last time you felt free from potential embarrassment…free of any fears…had an entire afternoon to forget about the obligations that hold you hostage to adulthood?

Andie suggest that to battle the UNs, I take some time to be a kid again. So, over the weekend among a  fun-loving group of family and friends, it was PLAYTIME! 

There were water balloons filled….


…and broken.

Water Balloon Toss 

There were raw eggs tossed…


…and caught.

 Egg Toss

And after the second-place winner of the egg catching contest basked in her glory, there were apples floated and bobbed for….by kids and adults alike!


Many studies have shown that unstructured, imaginative PLAY can help kids to grow into happy, well-adjusted adults.  It can help build creativity, social skills, and even academic potential. 

So, I ask.  What happens when we reach adulthood?  If giving children a break from organized activities, TV, and other electronic screens is essential to healthy development, then what about us adults?  SHOULD WE HAVE PLAYTIME, TOO?

When is the last time you simply…played?

X & Y: The Midlife Axis

My friends and I have been engaged in some chat about what I call the Midlife Axis. 

On the X axis (across the bottom) is your age. 

On the Y axis (down the side) is the level of investment you’ve put into whatever you’re doing with your life right now (a working professional, stay-at-home parent, student, retiree, etc.). 

 Think about your own Plot of Investment.  I plotted my investment (of time, energy, emotion, education, money, etc.) as a small business owner, assuming it was zero on the day I was born.  You can do the same for your own job, your role as a mom, dad, volunteer, superman or woman, or any other role.  Mine looks like this:

By mid-life, many of us  have invested a great deal into our jobs and other positions in life.  Because we’ve invested so much, we can become scared about making a major life change (a move, a career change, a divorce, etc.).  We’re afraid to start from the bottom again.

What we forget to consider, however, is the equally important Plot of Happiness.  Do another Plot, but change the Y axis to your overall level of happiness.  Mine looks like this, assuming I was off the chart baby-high at age 0.

Next, overlay the two Plots.

If you are smack-dab in the middle of this cart and your Happiness level is below your Investment level, you might be going through a midlife evaluation period.  I am.  It seems like I’ve put a lot of extra effort into my business lately, but my level of happy has taken a nose dive.

If you’re like me, you could be wondering if all the investment you’ve put into your life position so far as been worth the effort…wondering why…after all the hard work…your happiness level is not sky-high.  Some people never have these thoughts, but many of us do. 

We feel like we’ve flat-lined and don’t know quite what to do about it. 

I’m not going to make any specific suggestions on how to handle it, because I’m a far cry from Dr. Phil.  Changing paths may be right for you, while charging ahead on the current course might be right for someone else.  My point for now is that many of us get to this stage in life.  It’s common….it’s normal…and it frequently happens after age 40. 

Whether you take baby steps or one giant leap, it’s never too late to bring your life into X/Y Axis Balance.  If you feel out of balance, then this may a perfect time to re-evaluate….to take stock in your accomplishments…and to take charge of your future.  What makes you happy?  Are you investing enough in that?

What do your plots look like?  Do you have any advice for making major, midlife decisions?

Tomorrow ends the A-Z Challenge, so don’t miss the final post!

M: Miss or Ma’am?

I’m on the road!  The laptop is in full action…on the top of my lap, in the car.   Don’t worry…I’m not driving. 

Right now, we’re traveling through the Virginia countryside and just passed through Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia.   The campus is gorgeous. 

UofV Walkway

UofV  UofV Building

The University of Virginia was founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819.  I’ve been to Charlottesville once before, but school wasn’t in session.  Today, however, there were students everywhere. 

As I strolled through the campus square, someone called, “Excuse me…ma’am?”

Who, me?  Did someone just call me ma’am?  I didn’t care who said it, but instantly my mind thought… I’m not a ma’am…I’m a Miss!  Ma’am sounds old.

I’ve been addressed as ma’am many times before.  The first time it happened, the prefix was uttered in my direction by a grocery store checker.  Poor boy.  I glared at him with the evil eye and said, ‘You meant to call me Miss, right?”  I was in my twenties then. 

I realize that being called ma’am is a sign of respect.  It’s the proper use of address for a married woman my age, especially in the South.  However, I’m more flattered when someone calls me Miss.  It’s sort of the same as being asked for I.D. at a bar. 

Who, me?  Did someone just ask for my I.D.?  Sweet! 


It’s Just a Faze – Part 2

This is Part Two of a 2-part post.  If you didn’t read Part 1, read it here.  I promise it will be worth the back-tracking. 

part 2: reading and writing

The e-mail was from a marketing company explaining how to sell products to the Baby Boomer generation.  Only partly peaking her interest, Jen continues to skim the message, while deciding if she has enough energy to fight with the Mr. Coffee machine.  Luck!  There’s still coffee in the pot from yesterday.  Feeling unmotivated and decidedly sure that any coffee she makes fresh won’t be half as good as the day-old stuff, she pours herself a cup and pops it in the microwave. 

As her favorite mug spins on the turn-tray and 1:20 counts down on the timer….

Mug Mug Turned

she reads….

“Instead of targeting age groups, ad campaigns should approach their target audience with a “stage mentality.”  In other words, consider the stage of life your audience is in, not their biological age.”

“Think about it this way, there are over 72 million grandparents in America.   Did you know that the average age of a grandparent in the U.S. is 48? If you applied a traditional approach to reaching grandparents (a presumed age) you would miss much of the market.”

“Oh goodness,” she thinks.  “I know there are people in my age group who are grandparents, but I am not in that life stage and might never be.  A pointy-eared cat is all I can handle right now.  Sadly, I think I’ll be skipping the grandma stage.”   

Beep.  Beep.  Beep.  Jen grabs the black handle to open the microwave door, pausing for a moment as she reads a few more lines…

“Most Boomers and seniors are at completely different stages of their lives.  To reach potential customers on a deeper level you need to determine their life stage.  Are they working…active…caring for kids…caring for parents…retired…healthy?”

Deleting the message with her right hand while pulling the microwave handle with her left, she curses the e-mail for making her think about her own life stage.  “I wish the message was from Ada after all.  A bad date story would have been less mind boggling this early in the morning,”  she decides.

Just then, Jen realizes the cat is sniffing her coffee, still waiting for the Whisker Lickins to appear.  “In a minute!” she scoffs, “I think I’m going through a phase faze.” The cat turns, disappointed, as Jen notices the sunrise that’s beginning to appear outside her kitchen window.

Finding a Sharpie, she quickly jots down a list…

Jens List 

…and determines that she’s gone through nine life phases and is currently in a mature-minded but young-at-heart Discovery Phase II.  “Sounds like a NASA mission to me,” she smirks. “I feel like I’m on the launching pad and ready for take off.  Nothing like a cup of day-old, black coffee for fuel.” 

How many life stages have you gone through?  What stage are you in now?

There’s No Comparison

Another post inspired by your comments…

In A State of Ignorant Bliss I told you that for an entire week I turned off everything that had an on/off switch.  The Writing Goddesscaught me in a big fat lie.  My camera did require power…and I used it…a lot.  It was too hard to resist photographing someplace as beautiful as the Caribbean in late January when there was a blizzard back home.

I’ll honestly admit that after looking at the collection of pictures, I’m critical of every image of myself.

  • Where did all those freckles come from?  Oh gosh; I hope they’re just freckles and not age spots.
  • Why did I wear such an ugly shirt?
  • Are those veins I see popping out of my hands?!? 

Look for yourself.  You might see a happy woman standing in front of an interesting rock.  I see hand veins. 

Being on the beach in a bathing suit, for an entire week, gives ample opportunity for a person to compare herself with thousands of other bodies.  And I compared, and compared, and compared some more.  You’d think that by mid-life a woman would stop with the superficial self-critical comparisons.  I didn’t used to do it that often, but recently I’ve been doing it more and more.  Ya see, about a year ago people started to say this to me…

You look so good!…for your age.

When did that last part start to get tagged on to an otherwise uplifting compliment?

The shock of all shocks was the back-handed compliment that I got from someone who I hadn’t seen since high-school.  He said:

Hi!  Nice to see you again…you’ve held up well.

What the hell is that supposed to mean?  Have I reached the age where I should be breaking down?  Geese man, I’m only 40.  Wait another few decades and then let me know what you really think.   I’m not a plastic coated Barbie Pirate Girl.

Comparisons are not always bad.  In fact, I like to compare myself to others as a way of self-motivation.  If they can do it, so can I!  By keeping company with people who I consider better than me in some way, I often get inspired to keep moving ahead…to continue improving…to be my personal best.  I see them out in front of me and I pick up my pace.  I move forward with a little more gusto.

When comparisons turn bad is when that little voice inside your head converts them into a negative thought about yourself.  She’s/he’s  more _______ than me.  I’ll never be as _______ as her or him. 

My own negative inner voice usually attacks when I’m making a physical comparison…and that’s just plain superficial.  If you tend to do this too, remind yourself that you are much more than your body.  Your body simply carries your BACKBONE around. 

Your physical self needs to be healthy and strong and it is your responsibility to make it so, but you will never look like or be someone other than yourself. When you are only trying to be the same or better than someone else, you are totally missing the mark on your own true potential.

Cut out the negative inner voice that comes with comparing and contrasting.  Use comparisons as a way to motivate yourself to move forward…to grow…to evolve…and make self-improvements.  It’s a much better use of that little voice inside your head.

What one thing about yourself do you want to work on improving?  Do you think drawing a comparison to someone else would be motivating or defeating?

If you liked this post you may also like Funny Mirrors and Taking a Compliment.

Notes on Sunny Days


Last week I walked into the bedroom of my favorite 7-year-old and saw this…

Let’s look a little closer…

I almost couldn’t believe it.  She had posted positive messaging in her own pen and art all over the wall. 

I thought about how many times I wake up in the mornings, turn on the news, and start the day with negatives. 

I thought about all the times I’ve gone to sleep at night with not much more on my mind than the stresses and anxieties that will be waiting for me the next day.  

I thought about how often I can get so down on myself, wondering why I am not better, smarter, funnier, or more outgoing than I am. 

Then, I thought about how great it would be instead to begin and end each day with positives…something that isn’t all that easy to do in my mid-life years. 

I asked my favorite 7-year-old to help me make some notes for my own room.  I wrote the messages.  She drew the art.  I know that there is no possible way that she could understand the profound impact that her young, creative mind has had on my daily outlook over the past few days.  I plan on saving the notes we created together and telling her about it one day, at least a decade from now.  I will tell her how she, as a young girl, helped me to pump up the positive.

If you could write one positive message to yourself, what would it say?

on sunny days

After the messaging creation was complete and long past 7-year-old bedtime, I walked down the hall, passing her room.  Something else caught my eye…another note.  This one was taped on the outside of her door.  Was it?  Is it?  Could it be?  Yes, yes it was.  I think we have a future blog-star on our hands.

On Sunny Days

On sunny days I sit and play.

I run.  I jump.  I wait for tomorrow.

And some days I say to myself, “what a wonderful day.”

Do you ever wait to do things?

If you liked this post, you may also like Taking a Compliment.

How to Park a Body

This post was supposed to be about exercise.  But it isn’t…and this is why…

I was at the gym today, totally minding my own business.


When I overheard this…

Tall Man:  So, after I pick up a body and it’s my lunch hour, can I stop for lunch?

Short Man:  It depends.  Where and for how long?

Tall Man:  Lunch is from 12 – 1 and there’s this diner I like.  So, about an hour.

Short Man:  No, they usually don’t like us to do that.

Tall Man:  Humph.  Well, is it okay if I just run inside somewhere and pick up something to eat?  Like for 10 minutes or so?

Short Man:  Ya, that’s usually okay.

Tall Man:  Okay, so when I do that, where should I park?  I mean, can I just park in a regular space?

When I die, please do not send that man to pick me up.  The mere possibility that the driver of my dead body could be enjoying a Super Value Meal while my body is decomposing lying peacefully in the back seat just creeps me out.

I don’t usually think about my own mortality.   But, overhearing Tall Man getting advice from his coworker about where to park a body during lunch got my mind churning.

According to the experts, now that I’ve turned 40 and entered the mid-life years, I’ll be starting to think about my own mortality more often.  Maybe I will.  Maybe I won’t.  I have a pretty strong belief in my personal answer to the question of what happens after death?, so I’m not afraid of it.  But what I am starting to think about is all of the things that I’ve yet to do…to experience…to accomplish. 

No matter what our ages, most of us are striving to live rich and satisfying lives by our own definitions.  With simple things like laughter…spontaneity…and knowing that inner beauty deepens with age…I have no fears about getting older.  My next birthday is coming at the same pace as yours.  And I’m ready to kick my age in the…

If  you want to go deep:  What does it mean to live a rich and satisfying life? 

If you want to go shallow:  Do you think body-drivers should stop for lunch when they have cargo on board?

Share your thoughts in the Comments section above. 

I hope your week is off to a lively start!

If you liked this post, you may also like An Espresso and $1.23.

Acting Young and Feeling Wild

If age is a matter of feeling and not of years, then this morning I was twelve.  My sweet husband said that we could do anything I wanted for my birthday. 

 Anything, I asked? 

Anything, he said.

It was such a beautiful day.  Whatever we were going to do was 1) going to be outside, 2) make me feel young, and 3) be a little wild.  Well, here in Pittsburgh, outdoors + feeling kid-like + gettin wild = the zoo. 

We liked the big guys…


And I wasn’t the only one at the zoo having a birthday – the crowd sang happy birthday to a 10-year old elephant.  He requested carrot cake. 

And this guy was Joe Cool.

There’s something to be said about being young in mind and spirit.  It’s so good for the soul not to be so serious all the time.  I feel perfectly comfortable acting silly and goofy and doing non-adult activities.  Do you?

What sorts of things keep you young at heart?

When Roles Reverse

I spent the past week wishing that I had a magical human cloning machine.  They’ve done it for sheep don’t ya know.  Yes, world, I wanted two or three of me walking around on this planet.  Why?  Cause one just wasn’t nearly enough.

I spent the week juggling work and spending time at the hospital with my Dad.

Waiting in rooms…

…sporting the ever-so-fashionable “Cancer Sucks” Bondi Band

Reading signs…

Staring at doors waiting for doctors to appear.…

And acting like a comfortable visitor…

Learning the news that a parent is sick is not easy.  I know.  The role of parent/child gets turned on its head faster than you can say Jack Robinson, and you’re suddenly in the role of caregiver and supporter. 

Being there for a parent when they really need you is something that lots of children experience in their lifetime.  When and if this time will ever come for you…who knows.  It hit me before 40, but it’s hitting my brother at 27.  That’s young in my book.  Others don’t confront this situation until their 60s or later, and some never will.

My parents played a big part in shaping who I am today.  They influenced the development of my BACKBONE and helped establish my morals and values.   I also have Dad’s ridiculous sense of humor and Mom’s cautionary approach to trying new things.  Plus, probably tons of other quirks that I either credit to them or curse them for passing on through their stupid genetic merge. 

Caring for a parent (when you are so used to them being there for you instead), is a major wake up call to the precious thing called life.  A big alarm bell goes off reminding you to make every day count.  Beep, Beep, Beep…  Only this time, you can’t hit the snooze. 

Did your parents play a large role in shaping who you are as person?  If you weren’t raised by your biological parents, who most influenced your life?