What's Not to Laugh?

Almost everything about aging–except grave illness and death–can be funny as well as disturbing. I try to find the funny and help us all get through it!

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

The everyday oy

At my age, It seems that every day brings a different ache or pain. This is good—in a way. If every day brought the same pain, I’d have an official problem that would have to be evaluated by my doctor. But each one is fleeting, thank goodness.

The following is not an exact account of my week, but a representation of what I experience:

On Monday, the pain might be in my lower back. I slept in a bad position, I tell myself, while imploring the hot water from the shower to loosen up my muscles.

Tuesday, I notice my knee aches when I walk up and down the stairs. Not a need-a-knee-replacement ache. I’ve never engaged in enough athletic activity to wear out these joints. At this point, it’s just a twinge and doesn’t happen every time I use the stairs.

Wednesday, I wake up with nothing hurting. Hallelujah! But about 45 minutes later, my big toe throbs, for no apparent reason.

On Thursday, I get a series of cramps in my calf, better known as Charley horses. It sounds like a cutesy lighthearted affliction, but if you’ve had one, even for a few seconds, you know there’s nothing cute or lighthearted about it—you’re thinking agonizing. But it’s over in seconds. The last time I had Charley horses, I was pregnant. That thought is meaningless and gets me no closer to figuring out why it happened now. There’s nothing about me today, including hormones, that resembles my childbearing self.

Friday is a little different. The back of my neck aches. I think I need a new pillow. Or my memory foam is suffering from dementia.

Ahh, Saturday. Sleep in, eat breakfast leisurely, wait until noon to shower. So why do my hips feel achy. Must be the rain. Or change of seasons…no matter what the calendar says.

Not to be outdone, Sunday offers something a cut above. Almost to the top. My teeth hurt. And what’s strange is that they hurt where there are only dental implants and crowns. No God-given teeth. But I soon realize it’s my sinuses playing tricks on me.  I was told I have low sinuses, so when they act up it can ache around the mouth.

So there we have it: a full week of varying signs that I’m old enough that the warranties are expiring on my parts. Don’t misunderstand. I’m grateful to have only these momentary reminders and I hope that remains the case for many years.

And just one more, a Monday through Sunday occurrence: The sensations experienced when I get up from a seated position. If there is ever a perfect time for “oy-ing and vey-ing,” as my dear friend Judi puts it, this is the one.

Can you relate? Please share, in between groans.


Sweet retreat

I have given up dessert. For those of you without a well-established sweet tooth, that sentence doesn’t make an impact. But I have a lifelong history of craving—and consuming—brownies, cupcakes, cookies, candy bars, and key lime pie (although limes are fruit), among countless others. I have also had the dental bills to prove it and, recently, the expanding tummy and waistline. (If I had a three-way mirror, I would probably have to add “a widening derriere.”)

I challenged myself recently to go a week without eating sweets. Thinking about upcoming birthday celebrations, I made an exception for those occasions, as long as I kept it to one helping. I made it through 10 days before any of those occasions arrived. Then, at one split-a-dessert-8-ways birthday lunch, I was good and took only one forkful. I continued to eschew desserts until—

  • A group of us from work went to Ravinia one night, and one of my favorite coworkers passed around her famous (her word) homemade brownies. It would have been impolite of me to refuse, wouldn’t it? That one little brownie was delicious and could indeed become famous.
  • Soon after, my twin grandsons had their eighth birthday. My daughter was recovering from the flu, so I volunteered to bring the birthday cake. How would it look if I didn’t take a piece of the cake I brought? How would the boys feel if I didn’t eat chocolate cake (and buttercream icing) along with them?
  • We went to dinner with a couple and their teenage son, all of whom have birthdays in the same month. We told our server that we were celebrating three birthdays, so he brought out three hot fudge sundaes. I did take one small spoonful (but didn’t manage to get any of the fudge on my spoon), and then I put my spoon down permanently.
  • The next day, our townhome community had its annual picnic. When we were cleaning up, leftover desserts were being pushed toward those of us who had remained. I managed to say a polite “no, thanks” until I heard one neighbor say about the chocolate chip cookies she was trying to give away, “I baked them myself.” Wouldn’t it be non-neighborly of me to refuse to take one little cookie? It was good, and satisfying.

After these diversions in my self-challenge, I’m back on track. And it’s true that you lose the craving after a short time away from that toxic added sugar. I used to walk over to the HR department each working day (and sometimes twice) to grab a fun-size Snickers or Kit-Kat from the very tempting bowl. Now I may glance over at the bowl out of habit, but I have no desire to take a piece of candy.

I have noticed though that some long-term habits leave residual effects that take much longer to purge. For example, after I finish a meal, no matter how filling, I instinctively think “What’s next?” (Translation: What’s for dessert?) Finishing dinner (or sometimes lunch) without that sugar course makes me feel like something is missing. Something good. It’s not a reward for eating my meal. My mother didn’t have to bribe me to eat. She said I was such a good eater as a child that my aunt invited me to lunch, hoping I would influence my finicky cousins to finish their meals.

I’ll have to work on that after-dinner expectation. dietitians might suggest that I reward myself with something that doesn’t involve dessert. I’m still trying to figure out what that might be, since I can watch TV, play Boggle and Solitaire on my iPad, or pretty much do whatever I want to anyway.

But here I am, four weeks after beginning this challenge, and I’m doing well, with those few exceptions mentioned above. Another birthday lunch is coming up tomorrow. I promise to stay strong and declare, “Let them eat cake!”

I’m still learning…

You’re never to old to learn new things, both important and ridiculously unimportant.

I just learned, firsthand, that if you put on a sweater in an overly air-conditioned room, make sure it’s not an open-weave one. That cold air goes right through the little holes. Brrr.

That’s surely an unimportant one, but when you’re in the moment it can be uncomfortable. And we older people are all about comfort, aren’t we?

Which leads me to the important new thing I now have to learn—one that makes me a little uncomfortable, at least until I master it. I’m still working three days a week, and one of my responsibilities is overseeing our online courses. Our training group just purchased a new system that will do it all—house our online courses, keep track of registrants in online and classroom courses, take payments, send emails, keep transcripts, and on and on. It’s a lot to learn, and we had our kick-off meeting last week.

The first thing I noticed is all the jargon that these software system vendors use. It’s not only IT-type jargon but also company-specific jargon. They name aspects of their products with prosperous-sounding phrases, like Extended Enterprise Cloud and Client Success Center. Once I become familiar with these names, I need to figure out how to enter and retrieve data as well as take advantages of this system’s bells and whistles. These are capabilities we were crying for before, and now that we’ll have them, we’d better understand how to use them.

I’ve been bumbling around in the very complex system for a few hours, and I’m lost. What the heck is an Organizational Unit? How do I conduct Training Demand Forecasting?

The good news is that I’m not alone. There are several of us learning the system at the same time. And the vendor promises prompt answers to our questions along the way.

The better news? I’m counting on this exercise to keep the telomeres in my brain from shortening and leading me toward dementia. For extra insurance, I’d better follow this endeavor with a lesson in Mandarin Chinese, a tutorial on Newton’s three laws of motion, and—an exercise that would make my knowledgeable son-in-law and patient financial planner happy—a crash course on stocks and bonds.

The money pit downstairs

If I had the money back from so many things we (mostly I) have bought and then later wondered why, I’d have…  well, I’d have enough money to buy a bunch of other things I don’t really need.

The biggest item is our finished basement. We decided a year or so after we’d moved into our brand new home that we needed to have the basement finished. Among our reasons to do this were—

  1. It’ll be good for resale.
  2. We could host parties down there.
  3. Our grandsons will  play down there.
  4. We can use it as a relaxing place to watch movies.
  5. If we don’t finish the basement, we’ll continue to store junk in the vast raw space. It’s easy to say “Let’s hold onto this,” when you know you can dump it in a big space and forget about it…until you move again.

Reason No. 5 was a great motivator. Our basement had become the repository for furniture left over from the old house that didn’t fit in anywhere, boxes of things that had probably outlived their usefulness, miscellaneous stuff belonging to my parents and retrieved from their condo after they were both gone, and a rack of clothes that were out of season.  With the extra space to store it, we took a “you-never-know-when-you’ll-need-it stance. It was already becoming hazardous to make one’s way to the furnace, and I feared we would continue to add to the unsorted mass without eliminating any of it.

So we called our favorite contractor and started making plans. The result was a lovely “suite,” including a decent size family room, complete with a 50-inch TV, a leather sectional, built-in bookshelves, and a wet bar. A full bathroom and a bedroom behind French doors complete this level. There’s still space for storing things, but those things have to share square footage with the water heater, furnace, and sump pump. That means we have to make sure everything that’s stored there is a keeper.

Now let’s explore how reasons 1 through 4 panned out.

On “It’ll be  good for resale.” I suppose that’s true. We’re at a disadvantage because our townhome is a middle unit, so I’m glad we have the extra rooms to list as features. And so many of our neighbors finished their basements. But with the current bottoming out of home prices, our home is worth what we paid for it without the basement. That is, assuming we could sell it. But we like living there, so we hope this will not be an issue.

On “We could host parties down there.” We hadn’t used that space for a party (the one or two that we host each year) until one year in December when we invited more than 20 people. I figured I’d put all the appetizers and drinks downstairs, and when dinner was ready, we’d all be upstairs in the dining room. This had another purpose. Guests always gather around the kitchen peninsula. It’s a great, warm feeling, and I like to be part of the conversation while I’m putting the finishing touches on the meal, but our kitchen’s not large, and I’m usually interrupting that interesting conversation with “Excuse me. I need to get a spoon.”

When the guests arrived, I gently shooed them to the basement to eat and drink. Problem 1: Not everybody went downstairs, so the  appetizers got eaten only by those who did. Problem 2: We didn’t get to hear the gossip and stories from that group. Problem 3: Half the people were downstairs and half upstairs. Many of those who were upstairs stood around the peninsula and had to put up with my “Excuse me…”

On “Our grandsons will  play down there.” Before the basement was finished, I bought a large plastic tub and filled it with Legos sets, stuffed toys, coloring books, Matchbox cars, and puzzles and placed it in the third bedroom, upstairs.The boys soon learned the routine. Enter Grandma and Grandpa’s home, take off their shoes, and then run toward the stairs before someone reminds them to give their grandparents a hug and a hello. Now that we have a basement that’s fit for play, they still want to play with the toys upstairs, and they use the basement to run around, shriek, and jump on the furniture until somebody puts a stop to it.

On “We can use it as a relaxing place to watch movies.” I don’t know why we don’t do that (yet); we just don’t. Our relaxing in front of the TV takes place either in the master bedroom or the family room/kitchen while we’re dining or snacking. Both are problematic. If we’re upstairs watching, we’re lying around and being lazy, and if we’re watching while sitting at the table, we’re eating mindlessly.

I’m hoping we’ll mix it up a little and start watching TV downstairs or go bowling with the Wii—another unnecessary purchase that we and our grandsons used only twice.

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