An “age old question”… about age

What’s it going to be like when I get old?

Ever wonder about it?  I dreaded being a “youthful” teen.  The thought of being on my own… in my own apartment, having my own career, paying my own bills… both thrilled and frightened me.  Of course, I eased into adulthood by going away to college.  Yes, back in the 1980s, I doubt anyone chose to attend UCSD just on the strength of their Liberal Arts program.

Many of us “Communication Majors” went there because the campus was minutes from the beach and the apartments were cool.  Ah yes, for two years I had a cul-de-sac apartment with a balcony… with boys as neighbors.  It was the perfect preview of what real life would be like, right?  Well, not exactly.

Fast forward to graduation.  Here we go again.  This time the thoughts came posed more as questions:

  • How am I going to afford an apartment?
  • What am I going to do for a career?
  • How am I going to pay my bills?

You’d think I’d have this figured out after 5 years in college.  Think again.  “On the job training” isn’t a course you take.  Oh well.

I made it through somehow by sculpting out a career path in fashion and production, electrical contracting and office administration, and fitness and sales.  Of course it completely makes sense that I now work in the wine importing industry.  (I guess I’m not afraid of change).  Did I mention I also sell chicken eggs from my little farm?  Again… because THAT makes so much sense.

Most of my life is a blur now.  Once I decided to work, I practically did little else except for that.  Thankfully that changed.  Our relocation to another part of the state allowed me to scale back into part-time work.  I finally had time to enjoy life… in my 40s.

“Great!” I thought.  “I can really slow things down.”

God must have been listening.

It just hit me like a ton of bricks about 5 months ago.  I woke up on a Wednesday and couldn’t walk.  It felt as if I had run a major race the day before… in heels!  Unfortunately, for me… that feeling never went away.  The pain in both feet eventually moved to both hands and both sides of my neck.  Rest didn’t help (well, some but not enough).  Pain relievers didn’t help (and I tried everything everyone told me about).  Stretching didn’t help (again, just a little, but not enough).

It hurt to write.  It hurt to drive.  It hurt to live.

Luckily for me, my husband had taken a job around the same time that this started.  As soon as we got our new health insurance cards, I was looking for a new doctor.  Blood tests, x-rays, follow ups… eventually I was sent to a specialist who said what I had been dreading.

“You have an auto-immune condition called Rheumatoid Arthritis,” he said.  “You need to do something about this because this could easily worsen and spread to your internal organs.”

Suddenly, it was as if I had just graduated.  I had more questions racing through my brain:

  • How safe is the medication you’re recommending?
  • What if it doesn’t work?
  • Will I ever regain use of my hands and feet again?
  • Will I ever NOT be in pain?
  • Will my immune system be able to handle having itself compromised?

After much discussion and many more hours of pain (and crying), I followed my doctor’s recommendation.  One month later, I can finally see the light again.  I can start to really laugh and smile.  I can appreciate and now anticipate what “old age” feels like.

It explains so much to me about getting older… and why some men and women are seemingly just bitter and grumpy.  They are probably mourning the loss of their loved ones or they are just in pain.

Aging isn’t fun and games.  But neither is living in fear of getting older.  All I can tell my friends who are youthful or feel young is that looks do fade, health problems do happen, but keeping a balanced positive outlook on life can carry you through so much of this “getting older crap”.

What your aches and pains are… are truly yours.  Some may be able to relate to “how you feel”, but only you truly know.  Surround yourself with people who care and can listen (more than they can dispense advice).  But understand that it’s your challenge to get through.  And just know that in time… with a little bit of support and maybe some medical help, you can embrace again your journey in this life.

For me… if that day ever comes where I need to walk with a cane, I plan to have a fabulous dance routine to accompany it.

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Girl Friends are like the Golden Eggs of life (… this coming from a chicken farmer) – Part 1

Did I ever mention that 2 chickens made me do it?  Made me move to the country, that is!

Yes, you heard it.  I wanted to have more chickens than our little city property would allow.  So we moved to a 1.6 acre property… and now I have over 40 chickens.  I am a proud chicken addict.  Go ahead and arrest me.

But chickens aren’t the only thing I’ve accumulated over the years.  Luckily, I have a habit of collecting friends.  I have both male and female friends, but let’s be honest.  As a woman, there’s no replacement for a great female friend (not even a gay besty friend).

Women are great.  We’re even better when we don’t have to worry so much about being a “lady”.  All of my friends can tell you that sometimes you just need to swear like a sailor who’s just discovered he just took his last swig of gin 5 minutes ago.  Seriously!  Nothing says “freedom” better than a four-letter word used once at the perfect time.

Again… this is coming from a chicken farmer, a catholic-raised chicken farmer… a “I attended 12 years of catholic school” catholic chicken farmer.  It’s okay though.  God and I have an understanding.  I live as well as I can and he lets one slide by from time to time.  It’s sort of like having a “get out of jail free card” in Monopoly.

Speaking of get out of jail free… let’s talk about my friend Stephanie.  Boy, talk about wild card.  She has been such an influence in my life and a great inspiration.  At other times, I just want to strangler her.  If she could just pick up the phone and call more often.

But I digress… back to the “inspiration”.  The easiest way to describe Stephanie is to compare her to a commercial.  She is funny, unexpected, sometimes annoying, definitely eye-opening, and often makes you believe you want to do something.  See what I mean?  Annoying.

We met when I started working for her and her husband at their gym.  First thing she did was try to scare me into NOT taking the job.  Of course, I didn’t listen as I was sure she was exaggerating.  This is probably the reason why we became friends.  She would often come in “guns a-blazing” (her words) and I’d smile and pretend the guns (weapons) were chopsticks (tools) that I could use at dinner time.  For whatever reason, it worked.  Ten years later… we are still friends.

That brings me to another friend… Ensley.  Oh, what a breath of fresh air.  She is tall, beautiful, smart, can dance and sing, has a magnetic smile and personality, and after that list… I think I now hate her.  Being barely 5’1″, I should have stopped at “tall”.  Good grief!

In all seriousness, I love talking to Ensley.  She is always upbeat and makes me believe even more in my decision to move to a farm.  She is the type of person who would rather die than to let you know that she is upset with you.  In fact, if she smiles too much at you… she may be really angry with you.  It’s like her inside voice is cussing you out while the outside voice is saying, “sure… okay… that sounds great!”  She IS the Bruce Lee of inside-voice fighting.  It is the newest female sport.  I expect that if you’re a woman reading this, you’ve already pictured yourself as “gold medal winner”.

But as Ensley is pretty tough and has this skill perfected, my vote goes to her!

Speaking of tough… this brings me to my childhood “meet me halfway” friend Suzie.  First of all, she is a Scorpio.  For those fans of the zodiac, I just felt you recoil in fear.  Yes, Suzie is the epitome of a Scorpio.  Sure she is warm and friendly, but if you cross her ZZZZAPPP!  Out comes that poisonous tail.  Oh I have seen many a grown man turn into a little boy when they decide to challenge her.

Now, of course, there are many reasons why most men should be intimidated by her.  She probably makes more money than most, has more intellect than they can handle and isn’t afraid to speak her mind.  Yet, she doesn’t frighten me.  In fact, she can’t get rid of me.  No matter what happens, she and I are stuck with each other.  I guess you can call her my soul-sister.  And trust me when I tell you… that I have seen this 1980s Valley Girl on the dance floor and the word “soul” in front of “sister” would not be a natural train of thought.

But, for whatever reason, she and I are like 2 peas in a pod.  We come from different cultures, have varied religious backgrounds, live in separate parts of the state and opt for  two opposing lifestyles.  Again… it just works.  I can’t explain it nor do I really want to.

What I can tell you is that if Suzie doesn’t decide to visit me in the next year, I will probably go “Scorpio” on her.  And no one wants to see that.  Anyway, as I am sending her this link to this blog, I am sure she will “get the direct hint”.

Well, this wraps up my Part 1.  And just as I have many more chickens, I also have more “golden eggs” in my life.  For the women named Raven, Laurie, Mariana, Lisa, Michelle… stay tuned for Part 2 as you may be featured.

So for all of my friends… and especially the three I mentioned here… I thank you for being one of my Golden Eggs.

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Gym Rat vs. Farm Rat

Strange title… I know.  It just happens to describe the yin and yang of my life. What’s even stranger is that I am not really sure which Rat is yin and which is yang.  All I do realize is that without one or the other, my life would be completely unbalanced.  Oh, where to begin…

Twenty years ago you could readily find me in the weight room or aerobics room of my neighborhood San Diego gym. Name any day and there was a decent chance you could run into me. Yes, I was the girl in the matching spandex outfit with slouchy socks hanging out with the gym crowd. After a 2-4 hour workout (with social breaks in between), I’d finally wrap it up and go home to count my calories. Ah yes, those were the days as a gym rat.

These days… you couldn’t bribe me into going into a gym (unless it was owned by a friend and happened to have a coffee house located next door.  “Yes, I’ll have a latte”).  I spend the same 2-4 hours a day (every day) outside pulling weeds and field greens and feeding them to my chickens and pigs. Lifting a 50 lbs. bag of feed is my weight workout and carrying buckets of food and straw is my cardio training. No, I don’t call myself a “farm rat”… just a farm gal.

So where does the “farm rat” come into play?  Easy.  We live on a small farm… therefore, we have gophers, mice, moles, voles and, of course, rats.  I simultaneously blame and thank Mother Nature for her little creatures.  Twenty years ago, I would have been horrified at the thought of seeing a rat.  (This, in my opinion, is justified as city rats are an entirely different rodent rummaging through smelly trash and eating preserved human leftovers which in itself can be frightening).  Today, our farm rodents (including the one I hear dancing around in my attic) are generally healthy.  Trust me as I tell you that they are eating well.  In our garden, they’ve feasted on tomatoes, carrots, radishes, beans, pears, apples, watermelon, and… well, you get the point.  Their diet is better than most Americans we know.

Truth be told, these animals dine far better and healthier now than I ever did even during my 2-4 hour daily stint as a Gym Rat.

This simple revelation led me to understanding that rats have a misunderstood, bad reputation.  Twenty years ago, being a Gym Rat was a great thing to me.  It meant I had a life and friends outside of work.  Today, seeing a Farm Rat doesn’t evoke the same proud feelings that being a Gym Rat did… but owning a farm and understanding everything that comes with it (the hard work, long hours, successes and failures, and even the battles with rodents) makes me excited to start my day and gives me purpose that fulfills my being.  Yet I only truly appreciate my life now when I reflect on the value of a single hour and how I now choose to spend it.

So the next time you see young people spending hours working on their physique or you see (and shriek) at a scurrying rodent running away from you (in fear), just remember that everything in life can be connected and can be positive… even if that something happens to be a rat.

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Finding Human Nurture in Mother Nature

They say to err is human.  To find fault or to shift blame to others is human nature.  I say that to only look within your own ability and soul and to embrace your faults is “human nurture”.

These days, it is not an uncommon story to hear that people in my age group (say 40-50s) are looking to simplify their lives and get in touch with a slower-paced life filled with a sense of community.  It’s not to say that we are lazy and don’t want to work.  We just don’t want to work in a structure for the sole purpose of making money… well, not anymore.

Take my life, for example.  A year ago, I lived in Southern California.  My husband and I were done with the rat race.  We had been married over 5 years and saw each other (really saw each other) about 1-2 days per week.  Most of the time we were like ships that passed through the night… both of us signaling “S.O.S!”  Our marriage was rocky at best… how could it be stronger when we barely saw each other and were constantly stressed about our own job, our own schedule and our own goals?

So, we moved to Northern California to a smaller rural town.  We traded in our scenic hillside ocean-view property for a flat parcel covered with trees and a TON of overgrown weeds.  We slept on an air mattress for the first two weeks until our furniture arrived and watched only the DVDs that we brought (since we had no cable or internet).  It wasn’t planned, but it was just what I personally needed… a break from the world.

I moved here to work on my marriage.  I told people that I came here to “save my husband” (who incidentally had put on 30 lbs. of extra weight because of his job).  BUT… and here’s the tricky part… it was ME who needed saving.  I had somewhere in my career as being a small business owner… managed to turn into a power-driven, extremely judgmental bitch.   Yet, I didn’t see myself that way.  I had somehow found a way to make everything all about me.

I was in for the most eye-opening year of my life.

I’ve decided to write about this because I almost can’t believe how different my life is now.  My family and friends say that I have “reinvented” myself.  Trust me, it wasn’t on purpose.   By my getting in touch with Mother Nature on this little farm, I am discovering how to nurture my own life.  This blog will happen organically as I think about the past year.  But… (again, it’s a BIG but) it won’t always be easy to write.

Stay tuned…

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