Spry

When I get to be an old lady, the adjective I hope that is used to describe me is spry. This is an aspiration I’ve had since I started working with the elderly, nearly 30 years ago. I’ve always admired the ones who are plucky and spunky, and whose minds are sharp and legs remain strong. I’ve asked many, many patients along the way, “What’s your secret?”  I only ask the ones who are at least 90, and who have remained nimble. You know the sort, the kind of people who are lean, agile, and move quickly. They never trudge, and rarely sigh. They are quick to smile and laugh, and hardly ever complain. I like to know what keeps these kinds of people in the shape that they are in, regardless of their advanced years. The answer is always the same.

“I always kept busy” they say. None of them have reported that they like “downtime” or prefer to lie on the couch, eating chips and watching Teen Mom as I like to do once in a while. They never say they liked to sleep in, go to a spa or take frequent vacations. Not one of them mentioned that they long for a snowstorm which forces them to “hunker down”, or that they enjoy devouring a book, an activity that every reader knows reaches its pleasure zenith when accomplished in a horizontal position.  What they did do, was remain vertical all day, and they always keep moving.

Many of these folks, if they are at least 90, were born a year before the Great Depression. I’m sure there was not much time for lollygagging, “me-time” or just chilling with Netflix. They probably worked from dawn until dusk, and by the time they sat down, they were ready for bed. It makes me wonder what their “workweek hustle” would have looked like on their Fitbit stats, if they had such a ridiculous thing. Imagine the folly of having to compete with each other to encourage more steps! Folly or no, I currently have two competitions going on, and if I want to win this challenge against my 20-something year old nephew, I better not just sit here writing all day.

To that end, and in my ongoing battle of the bulge, I walk daily, or now that it is cold and snowy in central Maine, and outdoor workouts are limited to shoveling (ewww, no), I go to the gym, where I  walk on the treadmill slowly enough that I can peruse Pinterest for inspiring pins, or type blog ideas on my phone. My younger friends from work, have recently encouraged me to try some fitness classes, and since it is a new year, and since I’m pushing myself to be a joiner, rather than a loner, I have now attended Zumba and something called “Pound!!!!” (the four !!!! exclamation points are not mine, it is advertised that way!!!!). These classes are actually fun, if you can get a coveted spot in the back, that is. Unfortunately for me, but to the merriment of my friends, the good Lord saw fit to dole only a miniscule helping of coordination out to me, which basically means that as soon as I get my arms and legs moving in the same direction as everyone else, they’ve moved on to something else. I can only console myself with the knowledge that at least I am moving my body somehow, and laughing while I’m doing it. However, arduous being an adjective I’m not exactly fond of, I was planning on attending a “Zumba lite” class this morning which my friends assured me was geared for the retirement crowd, a subset of fellow gym rats I may be able to keep up with. However, a snowstorm has hampered our efforts this morning (oh, snap!), and as I’ve already declared a moratorium, nah actually a lifetime ban on shoveling, I guess I will just “hunker down” today. By the way, “spry” might be my favorite adjective, but “hunker” is one of my favorite verbs, as it is by definition, the opposite of action.

My 77-year-old mother is well on her way to becoming a spry 90-year-old. She retired from a nursing career a few years ago and has been difficult to pin down ever since. If she didn’t have a cellphone, it would be impossible to reach her, as she is always on the go. She goes to the pool at the local gym, at least three mornings a week, where she bobs around with her “gang of Barbara’s.” They are her gym friends, three of whom are named Barbara and the other two have names like Joan and Ruth. They bounce around in the pool, while kicking their legs out, or floating on noodles and discuss their grandchildren, the weather, and Dancing with the Stars. They make plans to “get together for lunch” but never do it, and don’t plan the next workout, but everyone shows up anyway. I think they are cute, and I hope someday my friends and I do this when we are retired. One day, as I entered the pool area, I saw a bunch of them bobbing to the strains of  “Milkshake”, the phrase, “my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.” prompting about seven matching, gray-haired, permed heads, to keep perfect time to the beat, completely and adorably oblivious to the words.

In addition to her workouts, my mother is always either giving someone a ride to an appointment, visiting friends in nursing homes, going to church several times a week or puttering around at her house, cleaning or baking. I know just what she will say after reading this too, “Ohhh, I don’t do that much. I spend a lot of time on the couch, reading or napping.” By a lot of time, she means maybe an hour a day, if that. She doesn’t realize that she is an inspiration. But, neither do those 90+ year olds I admire so much. I guess they don’t stop moving long enough to let the grass grow under their feet, or to ponder their effect on others. Now, excuse me, my Fitbit just buzzed on my wrist, reminding me to get moving. It must be time to head over to the couch for another laborious reading session.

(My mother and me at the gym. See her cutle little head in the pool?)

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Every Day Miracles

I just took this photo and it makes me so happy. I mean, a clean(ish) house, a glass of wine, a laptop, a clearly relaxed set of legs, belonging to a perfectly happy, and content wannabe writer? Heavenly. What you can’t see, and what makes me even happier, is the rest of the story.

It is January, and the world outside is white and tundra-like. An actual blizzard is raging. I can hear the winds buffeting the north side of the house and whipping the branches. It shakes the shutters and makes the Christmas wreath, still hanging outside, scratch against the door. The snow is blowing sideways and the roads are covered. There are hardly any cars going by, only an occasional plow truck rumbles past.

Inside, a fire crackles in the wood stove. I can see the flames dance when I look up from my typing and I can feel the comfortable warmth that only wood heat can provide. Two lazy cats nap, curled up side by side in front of the stove, having worn themselves out  wrestling and chasing each other upstairs and down in an effort to combat their severe twin cases of  “cabin fever.” The smell of my homemade brownies baking, my mother’s recipe, and chicken in the crockpot perfumes the air and is the essesnce of home. The house is quiet, other than the pleasant swish of the dishwasher, the tick of the hot oven and the snap of the fire. I am alone in the house, something every working mom knows is a rarity and therefore precious.

It occurs to me suddenly, that I am happy; completely content and peaceful. This is not to say that I’m usually not happy. I just don’t often think about it. After all, there are bills to pay, there are family members near and far to worry about, that beautiful snow is going to really suck to clean up tomorrow when the “high” temperature is zero, and one of those cats keeps peeing on my son’s clothes when they pile up in a corner of his room. Also, if I stop and think about it, I have a headache and aside from that, since I am alone, that means that my son, my daughter and my husband all have to brave the blizzard and travel home from work, another thing to worry about.

But you know what? I’m not going to think about those things, or at least not fret about them. In fact, this ties in to my New Years resolution. That is, to be more thankful. There are so many things to be grateful for. I can walk, I can talk, I can see, I can hear. I am healthy, I have a loving family, lots of friends, a warm house and a job I love. Why have I wasted so much time complaining? My smart niece has been doing “gratefuls” every single night for years. Basically, It’s an email type of diary, listing everything she is grateful for at the end of every day. This is pure genius, but also requires more dedication than I’m willing to commit to at this time. I’m going to do this in baby steps, and I have started to see a change. I’m already feeling more thankful.

It seems that there are as many opportunities to appreciate what I have as there are to grouse about what I don’t. Good things are not hard to find, they are everywhere. It’s really all in how you choose to look at it. I can grumble when the alarm goes off at five, and I have to get out of my cozy bed, or I can be grateful that I have a job that I love to go to, and the physical and mental ability to do that job. I can gripe when my husband tracks mud all over the floor, or I can thank him when he sweeps it up. I can bellyache about the cold weather, or I can marvel at the beauty of the snow. I can lament the fact that I’m not alone as much as I’d like, or I can be thankful that I have a family and a home and that I’m never lonely. I can even choose to be thankful that I can see the blessings all around, as many cannot. There really are two ways to live, and I’m going to try my best to appreciate all the miracles around me.

P.S. My two children and my husband all made it home safely from work. Anther thing to be thankful for!