Not Just A Number

last day of 59
This is what the last day of 59 looks like. I won’t lie, I’m not happy about turning 60 tomorrow. Don’t tell me it’s just a number, I look in the mirror and know that’s not true. My body is different now. No amount of weight lifting brings real muscle tone. Fat settles in different places and leaves others where it would be welcome, like my face. Hair has moved around too, from my legs to my chin, where it sprouts in wiry spikes like the heavy duty nylon thread you use to sew on buttons. I spend hours tweezing all the while worrying that those bristles are the only thing holding up my sagging skin. I can’t even talk about my neck.

I see a huge difference in one year. Bags under my eyes that won’t go away because it’s so hard to sleep through the night. Either I can’t fall asleep or I wake up at 3am and can’t go back to sleep. I have to worry about whether it’s too late in the day to have a cup of even decaf coffee or anything chocolate. Anything more than a few sips of wine ensures falling asleep too early, midnight sweats and angst.

Weird changes too. I no longer sweat under my arms, but under my eyebrows and above my lip.  If I feel the slightest bit warm, which continues to come in waves, I become blinded by salt dripping into my eyes. I have brown spots on my cheeks too big to be called freckles which require I start buying face creams and makeup I am sure are nothing more than a scam to prey on panicked people like me.

There’s so much I can’t do anymore, like go to sleep on a full stomach. I can’t stay up late and miss my drowsy window and I can’t sleep in even if I don’t have to get up. Even when I get a good night’s sleep, I don’t feel refreshed. It takes twenty minutes to get out of bed and another ten for my body to completely wake up. I can’t get up and go straight to the gym anymore. I have to follow my routine: drink my vitamins and supplements, have breakfast and wait a half hour to digest before working out.

I can’t believe I’ve become “set in my ways.” When I interviewed for my retail job, the thirty-something manager said, “We have people working from 6:00 am until midnight daily. Are you available all those hours?” I said yes because I have no time demands on me, but soon found out I have no desire to work at night or too early either. There’s no way I could work late one night and then return the following morning. As it is I can barely make it through a five-hour shift with only a fifteen minute break during which I need two chairs, one on which to put up my feet.

I believe in my heart that 60 is the new 40, and I want an exciting life, but I’m not sure what that means. I think wistfully of the coffee bar I had and loved, but look at the clock when I would have to start baking and know I couldn’t do that now. I no longer have the drive to go to law school or get the PhD I always wanted, so instead I “take a class” while reviling at doing anything that sounds like something a “senior” would do. I’m starting to relate to how my grandmother in her 80s, living in a senior apartment, refused to socialize with her neighbors because they were all “old people.”

I know I’m not old, but my hearing is not good and I’m starting to get words wrong like I always pick on my mother for doing. I called myself “typhoon” instead of “typhoid Mary” which my husband was helpful to later correct. I hoped the others present were too young to know the proper term. I’m trying not to talk about my age-related physical maladies, which thankfully are more annoying than life-threatening, although I am terribly depressed about not being able to wear heels anymore, ever again.

Being around the kids at work is fun although I feel sad remembering how I viewed someone my age when I was young: irrelevant and clueless. I know I’m not, but I fear sliding down that slope. I won’t go peacefully into my 60s. I want more than the same old with longer vacations. I haven’t found my mission yet but trust it will come to me. Until then I will continue to let my hair grow long and wild and defy social convention wherever possible. So long as I’m not too tired.


8 Days in Italy

I always wanted to go to Italy, mostly for the food.  “Is there anything else besides eating you’d like to do in Italy?” my husband asked as I worried about where to visit to get the best meals.  Yes, of course, I knew I should say, although thanks to childhood trauma feeling trapped on long boring trips with no place to go to the bathroom, I haven’t been the biggest fan of tours.  Neither am I great planner — I had Rick Steven’s Italy guidebook (highly recommended) but I don’t relate well to information without personal experience, so fortunately I found what turned out to be the perfect semi-private tour with Italian agency Avventure Bellissime, recommended by the PA in my orthopedist’s office.

Our trip included three nights in Rome, two in Sorrento and two in Florence.  The agency picked the hotels and arranged for our travel from place to place.  Our guided tours were led by incredibly knowledgeable English-speaking guides who told a great story rather than spew out facts, names and dates.  Our Vatican tour was the largest group, maybe 10 people; two of our other tours were just the guide and us.  In addition to the Vatican, we had a guide for Ancient Rome, Pompeii and l’Accademia in Florence, home of Michelangelo’s David.


IMG_2634IMG_2635Hotel Ponte Sisto, Rome – view up to our third floor room, the breakfast courtyard and delicious breakfast.  WHY is the bread so amazing here???  The hotel was situated right by the Ponte Sisto walking bridge to the Trastevere neighborhood — wonderful for strolling every evening and choosing where to eat.

We stopped for a quick lunch before our afternoon Vatican tour — which we almost missed because we didn’t realize the entrance to the Vatican Museum, where we were to meet our guide, was OUTSIDE the Vatican City walls — I must learn WHY and HOW simple spaghetti and pizza taste so amazing here!


My limited fore-knowledge resulted in so many unexpected delights.  I thought the Vatican tour would be a boring history of the Catholic church and had no idea the popes were hoarding art collectors.  I came home feeling much better about my doll collection and wanting to have all the ceilings in my house painted.  I loved the stories about Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel, although the actual experience inside was ruined by guards hollering “Silencio!” at the whispering crowd.  Nothing could have prepared me for St. Peter’s Basilica.  It is splendor beyond description.  Don’t look at too many pictures, just go see for yourself and be transfixed.  I could do without the mummified popes, however.


The ceiling inside the Hall of Maps.


A glimpse inside St. Peter’s

We took a high-speed train to Naples and were transported to Pompeii, a place I have always wanted to see.  It’s much larger than I imagined and only 75% uncovered.  With chariot ruts on streets and painted walls still intact you can practically see people living their lives.  Totally eerie and I have such an urge to dig up the last 20-plus percent. IMG_2687 IMG_2690 IMG_2691

Next was Sorrento and what I most looked forward to – the Amalfi Coast.  The Grand Hotel President offered spectacular views day and night and our best meal of the trip, spaghetti with eggplant and mozzarella, designed just for us by the restaurant manager.  I made such a fuss about the dinner that he took me into the kitchen to meet the chef.  I was disappointed that we were leaving before the following day’s cooking lesson!  The day trip to Positano did not deliver the expected magic, but the bus ride provided the promised (feared) white knuckle experience.  I would return instead to Sorrento, the same hotel, and stay put for a few days.


I loved the tile which covered the entire bedroom floor as well.


Lastly, to Florence and another fabulous hotel. L’Orologie, within walking distance of everything.  I fell completely in love with Michelangelo’s David, such perfection so lovingly displayed, the impact of which cannot be sufficiently described.  We saved our shopping for Florence and happily left with leather goods straight from the designer at La Signoria Moda Italiana Leather on the Via Condotta.  With unsuspected great timing, we enjoyed our last night’s dinner looking out on the outdoor room of Uffizi Gallery before a freak hail storm hit the following day a few hours after we left the City.

IMG_2752IMG_2795IMG_2788I looked forward most to eating bread and drinking wine as I soaked up the magic of Italy and my expectations of culinary bliss were exceeded at every turn.  You CAN go to Italy just to eat but I found the beauty I witnessed fed my soul just as well.  Molte grazie! (Still, I MUST figure out how to make this bread!)

Work — Just Dig In


The morning I turned 16 my father took me directly to the DMV to apply for my learner’s permit.  He had been teaching me to drive since I was small, holding me on his lap to steer the car from the corner into our driveway.  He loved driving, it seemed he could hardly wait to share the fun with me, his oldest child.  That same birthday, he marched me straight to the neighborhood supermarket to apply for the job he had already arranged for me as a part-time cashier.  It seemed he hated working and wanted me to have the same awful experience.

We had the same conversation for years as I watched him shave before going to work, one leg up on the toilet:

Dad: “I wish I didn’t have to go to work.”

Me:  “Why don’t you call in sick?”

Dad:  “No one would answer!”

He was the…

View original post 614 more words

Work — Just Dig In

The morning I turned 16 my father took me directly to the DMV to apply for my learner’s permit.  He had been teaching me to drive since I was small, holding me on his lap to steer the car from the corner into our driveway.  He loved driving, it seemed he could hardly wait to share the fun with me, his oldest child.  That same birthday, he marched me straight to the neighborhood supermarket to apply for the job he had already arranged for me as a part-time cashier.  It seemed he hated working and wanted me to have the same awful experience.

We had the same conversation for years as I watched him shave before going to work, one leg up on the toilet:

Dad: “I wish I didn’t have to go to work.”

Me:  “Why don’t you call in sick?”

Dad:  “No one would answer!”

He was the boss; still, I got the message, he didn’t like working, and at first neither did I.  Being confined to that checkout for four or five hours felt like prison.  I’d watch people walking in and out and so envy their freedom.  Time dragged, except for the ten-minute break which flew, barely long enough to drink an ice-cold Coke (with real sugar) out of a glass bottle and eat a pack of orange Hostess cupcakes.  I watched the slow tick of that big clock on the wall, wishing for time to pass.  I prayed for short shifts and traded my way out of longer ones whenever possible.

Not that the schedule mattered, you could be ten minutes from the end of your shift when Mary, the front end manager who never smiled and seemed to hate everyone would walk over and ask, “What time do you get off?”  and before you could answer would point her finger and bark, “You’re staying” and walk away.  Even if you weren’t on the schedule, you could get a call at any time expecting you to report to work immediately.  And I went because I had learned from my father You Go To Work No Matter What.   

Attitudes are different today.  When I had my coffee shop the teens told me when they were available to work and expected to be scheduled off when they had something to do.  I didn’t inherit my father’s hard-nosed managing style and accommodated them.  I thought happy employees made the best workers.  In my new retail position, part-time workers also are allowed to share their availability and request time off, which is usually granted within certain parameters.  I still feel guilty asking and worry about maintaining my reputation as a hard worker but the young people take that privilege and more for granted.

The supermarket job turned out well.  Back then we had real cash registers with buttons and I liked seeing what foods people bought, especially around the holidays.  Co-workers became friends and although I wasn’t allowed to hang out outside of school or work, I enjoyed socializing while I was working.  During slower times, I found things to do like cleaning the conveyor belts or organizing the cigarette cartons kept under the checkout.  I found that losing myself in activity made time go more quickly than resisting work and wishing the shift would end.

Now I hear the kids at work complain, “I just got here and I already can’t wait to leave.”  Or, “I’m tired,” something I don’t think any twenty year old should be allowed to say.  I know school is more demanding than it was, but come on.  Now I know why people say youth is wasted on the young.  I see bright young people put all their energy into avoiding work, mistakenly thinking that will help them somehow.  They drag out their breaks and find every reason to ring up as few customers as possible.  I wish I could tell them how diving into work tricks their mind into making time go faster and has other benefits too. 

I had my first negotiating experience at the supermarket.  I wanted a regular schedule, they had shifts no one wanted to cover.  I brokered a deal that allowed me to attend all my boyfriend’s Friday night basketball games by offering to work every Saturday night.  Back then Saturday nights were notoriously slow so I ended up being left in charge of the front end, showing other people how to clean checkout stations while I sat in the office counting money and coupons with the handsome assistant manager.  Now that’s how you make the time go faster.    


What the Universe knows

2013I wasn’t looking for a retail job.  I’ve never watched someone working at the mall and thought hey, I’d like to do that!  I’m not even so into shopping anymore.  It’s gotten where I feel like I’ve eaten a too rich dessert just walking into some stores for being surrounded by so much stuff no one needs.  But I did want to find work and wasn’t getting any interviews via the internet, so I signed up for a career fair one Wednesday afternoon.  I didn’t have high hopes and wasn’t even sure I’d go, but with no other pressing plans that day, off I went, thinking at least I was taking a positive step.

My goal was to get face to face with someone at a large health care organization I already applied to online.  I hoped handing someone the book I published years ago would make me memorable enough to get an interview, but the opportunity fell flat.  The young woman behind the table was nothing more than a resume receptacle, reciting the same script to everyone in the long line.  Deflated, I looked around and spied the logo for a clothing line I held in high regard.

The young woman at this booth was personable, genuine.  I hoped she was hiring for an office, but it was for a store.  I’d been to that place in a crazy busy outlet mall, and mostly remembered how I couldn’t find my car for over an hour, not so Seinfeld funny.  Still, when the young woman said “we’ll talk more next week at the interview” my heart lilted.  Three weeks later, after I’d given up, I got a voice message inviting me to call for an interview.  Mapquest said the store was an hour away.  Too far, I thought.  I called to decline the interview, but at the last minute changed my mind and accepted.  What did I have to lose?

The drive was pleasant, scenic, peaceful almost, all highway and against traffic.  The store was nicer than I expected: neat, colorful, classy; smelled good, fun music playing.  I liked the interviewer, a little younger than me, but with much in common, including college degrees unrelated to retail and a long drive to the store.  “I guess I’m an adrenalin junkie,” she shared, describing the busy store’s challenges, obviously proud of the store’s high standing.  “We need grownups.” she said.  I would take an online test before we could move forward.  If I passed, I would get a second interview.  I was … intrigued.

I almost didn’t go to the second interview.  Does it make sense to drive an hour to work an hourly retail job?  What about the gas and tolls?  Can I tolerate such a busy place?  Stand on my feet all day?  But it’s a good company, and I haven’t been offered anything else.  Why not go for another interview?  The second interviewer, a much younger man, shared the larger picture of what it takes to operate the company’s number one factory store.  Employees work many hours beyond open for business. Am I available?  Yes, In theory at least.  It’s most difficult filling the middle hours of the day, he said.  “Then I’m your man!” I replied.  A high five and the interview ended on a positive note.

A week later I was offered a part-time position as a cashier.  Orientation would be the following morning if I was available.  Elated, I felt a weight had been lifted.  Months of searching were over, I had a job!

I almost quit at orientation.  Six of us sat around a table and were handed a quarter-inch stack of papers and an equally thick employee manual.  One other woman was about my age, the rest were kids in high school or college.  We each shared how we came to this company.  The other woman and I both hoped to progress to the corporate office, the kids just wanted a job, any job.  We were shown a video on the company’s history then spent the next four hours reviewing the company’s policies and expectations while reviewing and signing copious authorizations, releases and employment forms.  The kids looked to take it all in stride, I was overwhelmed.  It’s been many years since I worked for a large company.  Would I fit in?  Could I take on the required persona?  I closed the folder and sat quietly waiting for the session to end so I could escape, maybe never to return.

I handed my folder to the session leader and told her I wasn’t sure I fit into this company.  “I don’t dress like that,” I said, referring to the dress code.  She urged me to give the job a try for a couple of weeks before deciding. “It’s a lot to take in,” she admitted, “but I’ve seen four or five people catch the eye of Corporate,” she encouraged, cracking that door open, drawing me in.  I agreed not to give up just yet and later tried analyzing my resistance.  For years I had been in charge, setting the culture, creating the atmosphere; I wasn’t used to taking on someone else’s.  Could I be another company’s “brand ambassador?”

I might have noticed the real-life foreshadowing pointing me right in that direction.  I was consciously trying to update my “look”, yet didn’t connect that with having recently bought, for the first time, clothes bearing the logo I would represent.  There was that aforementioned trip to this particular store in the huge mall, including parking in the same lot (in which I would lose my car again, this time in torrential rain).  On the negative side, though, employees have to park far from the store during the week and completely off-site on weekends, taking a bus in, adding to an already long commute.

I didn’t anticipate how tiring it would be to absorb so much new information.  “Learn something new every five minutes” became my motto my first few weeks on the job.  If I thought being a cashier might be too simple, I was wrong; it’s extremely challenging, physically and mentally.  Yet interesting.  In four months I’ve met customers visiting from 55 countries, including some I’ve never heard of (Brunei?).  I have something to talk about and stories to tell every night.  I notice so many ways in which the store is just right for me, from how the physical work area is set up to the people I’m working with, to the company’s customer service philosophy, one of my passions.  And it turns out I love dressing to code in the company’s style.

Sometimes I feel anxious going to work, until I enter the store and it all feels right and good.  How right it is became crystal clear when this week I finally got invited to explore my intended path, going back to my roots as a legal secretary.  The law firm setting was so familiar, from formal reception area to elegant conference room.  As I interviewed with two of the firm’s partners, though, I found I was much more excited talking about my current job than I was hearing about the firm’s activities.  When they asked how soon I could start, I realized I had no intention of leaving my new retail home.  The Universe knows.





59 Going on 48

I don’t like my age, that number. I can’t face the one that comes next. My husband felt the same way this past year when he was due to hit that big one. He was so miserable we couldn’t even celebrate. He wouldn’t even let me invite family members over for a piece of cake. He moped for months as the date approached, seemingly uncheerable until I suggested that maybe it was time for us to start lying about our ages. He was turning 49 and I was now 48. He visibly brightened immediately. I felt the same way. Oh to be 48 again! Not even 50! That got my blood flowing and lowered my anxiety.

I can’t bring myself to actually lie to people; lying to myself seems enough. Not that anyone asks me my age, and in my own experience, it’s hard to guess how old is someone else. Your own biases about age creep into your guesses. To most young people, 30 is old, 40 is unthinkable and 50 is totally done. But that’s all changed for our generation, in our culture. Rush Limbaugh nailed it when he talked about how his father in his 40s already felt like his choices had all been made, it was by then his time to just carry on as he always had. I remember when I was in my early 20s, one of the women in the office had become pregnant at 42. I thought that was crazy, imagining her with a teenager as she approached 60! A senior citizen, sitting idle in a rocking chair! Measure that against today’s standards. I had my second son at 37.

Yes, it’s all different now. Still I hate the approaching number, the entire decade. Mostly because I can’t figure out where the past decade went. So fast, it’s all a blur. I know I should be focused on paying attention this time, slowing time down. But first I have to face the reality of it and decide what to do with it. And I have been trying to figure it out, but for the first time in my life, I am not sure about my next steps. And that’s not like me. I have strong intuition and have always had no trouble following it. But for the first time in my life, my gut is wavering, throwing me to and fro like waves coming in at differing angles on the beach. I gather information and wisdom from all sources, open to the Universe’s direction. A quote or Facebook share will ring true, but I will fail action, lost in an inner debate about what feels right versus what takes too much energy or will lead to regret down the road.

Am I ready for a new challenge or too tired? Is it time to coast or is there still time to dream? That’s my inner torment. I do dream. I want to write a best-selling book that turns into a movie starring Ryan Gosling. My gut wrenches when I think someone has beat me to it, that book that wants written. When I was much younger that feeling was enough to spur me on to action and the success that followed. But now … the motivation comes and goes infuriating me. One day I’m sure I’ve got it, the outline for the book and how to market it. I’m filled with inspiration and excitement, looking forward to seeing it all unfold. The next day, I’ve lost it. Life is comfortable. I am content soaking up the beauty of the blue sky and puffy clouds, looking forward to tonight’s dinner. I know what success feels like; I don’t need to actually experience it again, do I?

I recently started a new job. It’s in retail, not what I was looking for. My varied career has provided a depth of skills and knowledge, so I hoped to get into some big organization at an entry level where I could prove myself and move up. My first full-time work had been secretarial, so I applied everywhere to receptionist openings. Talk about a different job market, I didn’t get a single interview in many months’ trying. Tapped into all the online job sources, my resume went to countless companies, and I formally applied to many, including some where I was known to the principals. The only responses I received came weeks or even months later as form rejection emails stating the company had decided to explore other more suitable candidates.

A friend suggested maybe I was being rejected as overqualified, the employer thinking I’d want too much money. How much money could I expect if I were applying to be a receptionist? Wouldn’t a smart employer read my resume and realize they could be getting the best receptionist they ever had? Wouldn’t they even at least be curious enough to call me, invite me in for an interview? One rejection email stated that they had received over 50 resumes for the opening. I guess it’s too easy to be lost in a pile. In my last position, I was the one reading the resumes; I admit my own biases and can understand how I might be overlooked. My friend suggested I should try stating I’m a stay at home mom returning to work to indicate I don’t have such high expectations. I tried that in my most recent application; I’ve had no response so far one week post-send.

So retail it is, and to my surprise I am enjoying it. It’s busy, I like the people I work with, the environment, the merchandise. I like the variety of schedule and new experiences every day. Meanwhile, I have met people from the corporate office who may be interested in me. I thought that was what I wanted, to move up, further my career. That was what younger me would have wanted. Yes, maybe I’ll do the reverse of what More magazine is always touting, I’ll get a new corporate career at my age rather than leave the corporate world to grow trees in a third world country. Yes, I could write about that and More magazine will promote my new book …. Or maybe I’ll just enjoy punching out, looking at the puffy clouds on my way home and thinking about what to eat for dinner.