Am I Vintage?

Every summer our little city, tucked away in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, gets flooded with tourists. It kicks off on Father’s Day weekend with the Car d’Lane Classic Car show and doesn’t slow down until after Labor Day. On the Friday night of Father’s Day weekend, spectators line the streets to watch the classic cars rev their engines, use their lifts and send fire out their exhaust pipes while they cruise through town. Cars must be 1980 or older to participate.

My dad loves the old cars, particularly the ones from the 1940’s. He owned a gas station for several years and worked on many of these cars. That was back when gas stations pumped your gas, filled your oil and worked on your car for you. So, every year we make sure he gets downtown to watch the cars cruise by. I love the smile it puts on his face. I wrote this post about it last year.

Mr. U had a really nice 1969 Dodge Charger when he was in high school and through college. It was his pride and joy. But when we got married, he sold it to be able to buy my wedding ring. A pretty good tradeoff I would say. He still wishes he had the car. Then we bought an economic, very, very small 1976 Honda Civic. This year I was surprised to see a little Honda Civic car in the show. It was the same year and make as the one we had when we first got married. How could that be? It couldn’t possibly be “classic” or “vintage.” But if it is… what does that make me?

I am a big fan of muscle cars. They bring back memories of an era gone by when I was in high school, and the guys would drive their swooped-up cars with the fancy paint jobs and loud engines. Think purple GTO’s, bright yellow Chargers, orange Super Bees, shiny black Mustangs and green Cameros. Back when vintage was old, and we were cool. I had a 1967 vinyl top Mustang, that was the color of puke green. The starter went out on it, so I had to get under the hood and use a screwdriver to start it. But once it was running, we would jump in and cruise main street to see and be seen. Ahhh, those were the good ole days. But if those cars are now in the vintage car show, that means I am vintage. Yikes! Now that I look at the time worn pictures of our cars and compare it to the cars in the show… we are indeed vintage. Or maybe it is just classic. I prefer to think that classic/vintage is the new cool.

Items that are 50 years or older are considered true vintage. I guess that means that I do fall into the vintage category. The term vintage was originally used to describe an exceptionally fine wine from the crop of a good year. Maybe, like a vintage wine, we just get better each year. More flavorful and smooth. Maybe being vintage isn’t so bad after all.

Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day to all of the dad’s out there. Thank you for working hard, being there for your families when it isn’t always easy and there are so many other things pulling at your time. Thank you for loving and encouraging and being an example to your children of what it means to be a man of integrity. Thanks for making the world a better place. I now have two sons that are amazing fathers. It is a joy to watch them with their children.

If you have followed my blog for very long, you know that I come from a large family, most of which still live in the area. We gather together for holidays and have many “this is how it is always done” celebrations. For instance, my SIL #2 must always make her macaroni and shrimp salad for potlucks and SIL #1 always brings her Mississippi Mud Pie, with little American flags on it, to the 4th of July celebration. One year she decided not to because she thought everyone was getting tired of it. That did not go over well. Needless to say, she is back to making it. One of our other always is Father’s Day. We always gather at my brother and SILs lovely home. Early on Father’s Day morning my brother seasons up three large prime ribs and tucks them in his smoker to slowly cook throughout the day. The smell of them smoking is almost as good as the taste.

I hope you all had a great weekend! And remember… being vintage is good.

Living Closer to the Bone

A weekend at summer camp? Heck yea! Years ago, when I was in nursing school, we had to do a pediatric rotation. One of the options for that rotation was to spend a weekend at a summer camp for children with special needs. Sounded like a pretty easy way to get some clinical hours to me. So, one sunny summer morning, armed with our heavy pediatric textbooks, pens, note pads and student nurse name tags, several of us headed up into the hills above Portland, Oregon for a weekend at camp.

We were assigned to work with the camp nurse. I pictured a rough looking, heavyset, grouchy old Nurse Ratched. Instead, we were met by a willowy, gentle, self-possessed, bohemian woman. Her office was in one of the small log cabins where she was staying for the summer. It was filled with plants, herbal teas and tinctures. She was real, raw, organic and living closer to the bone. We were quite sure she was the first medicine woman… and we adored her.

Organic: “Relating to or derived from living matter…denoting compounds containing carbon… a relation between elements of something such that they fit together harmoniously.”

Oxford Languages

Another course I was required to take in college was “Chemical Compounds.” The one thing I walked away with from that course, other than a lousy C+, was that every living thing contains carbon in some form. So, it is no wonder that being out in nature, walking among living, growing things, is good for us. It is living closer to the bone, and it is healing. The same goes for the foods we put into our body. All real food (aka – food that grew from the ground) contains carbon and those are the foods that our bodies need in order to feel good, be strong, heal and build healthy bones. The very framework of our bodies.

How did we step so far away from the bone?

Over time, technology and modern conveniences have pushed us farther and farther away from living a real life… closer to the bone. Whereas daily activity and being outdoors, cooking healthy meals with fresh food and spending time nurturing our connection with friends and family used to be a natural part of daily life, now we have to intentionally include it. We have slowly decreased or even extracted these things from our lives and now we are desperately trying to find ways to replace them. The problem is that the replacements end up being much less satisfying and healthy than the real deal. Let’s take a closer look at these.

Real movement.

Technology has made it much easier to be sedentary. We can experience the world through the click of our computer keys, and we don’t even have to walk out the door. When we do go out, we jump directly into the car. We circle the parking lot searching for the closest parking space, then we turn around and buy an expensive piece of work-out equipment to get more exercise. Has anyone besides us dished out money for an overpriced treadmill that was used a few months and then morphed into a dust catching clothes hanger?

In several countries, such as Italy, movement is a natural part of their day. They walk and ride bikes to get places. They don’t pigeonhole movement into a 30-minute workout. We have done everything we can to decrease movement in our lives and then we turn around and pay for a gym membership to bring it back. I don’t have anything against a gym membership. It is an excellent way to get exercise if you are committed to it. However, nature’s gym provides more overall benefits to our physical and mental health. Being outside also helps reduce stress, elevates your mood and provides an overall sense of well-being. Cleaning and gardening result in bending and stretching with the added benefit of accomplishing something constructive.

“Exercise within the green spaces and the great outdoors may be a useful natural medicine.”

Environmental Science & Technology

Real food.

We live in a country where we are constantly searching out, and paying out, for the latest and greatest vitamins, probiotics, collagen supplements, protein powders, and anti-aging supplements. Other countries, like those in the Blue Zones, rely on eating a well-rounded, fresh diet to get their nutrients. They get their supplements naturally in the foods they eat. They don’t waste money and energy seeking out the latest product to supplement a diet lacking in them.

We take all of the vitamins and minerals out of foods through processing them and then we try to replace them by taking a pill. Does anyone else see the irony in that? I remember being mesmerized by the futuristic cartoon, The Jetsons, as a kid. I distinctly recall one episode where, instead of having a meal, they just took a pill. Are we headed in that direction? Instead, let’s eat more carbon!

Real connection.

We have all seen families or couples at a restaurant that are glued to their phones, ignoring the very people that they came to share time with. As a society, we are sorely lacking in meaningful relationships. We are more connected than ever before in history, but less emotionally satisfied. Social media has made superficial connections easier and safer. We don’t have to let people see past the facade that we choose to share. But sharing our innermost fears and failures is necessary to release them. Otherwise, we get all clogged up.

The camp nurse had a heart for the kids with disabilities. Her gentle manner calmed even the most severe autistic children. She took the time and effort to connect with them in a very genuine way. She established a relationship of trust with them. It takes time and effort to develop and nurture relationships with people you can trust and be your real self with. But this is the stuff that connections are made of. And this, is what we are sadly lacking enough of in a world of superficial friends and a reliance on social media to compensate.

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

The Velveteen Rabbit

Conclusion

I love a lazy morning sipping coffee and scrolling through Pinterest, reading my favorite blogs or getting ideas from some fabulous IG content creators. But I can easily fall down the rabbit hole and before I know it, three hours have passed and the only movement I got was to refill my coffee. Perhaps we need to take a step back and determine how progress has benefitted us and how it has harmed us. We have gotten off balance and we need to take action to mitigate the damage. Perhaps it is time we seek out a real, more authentic lifestyle where we are living closer to the bone. Closer to the very marrow that gives life to our body.

Things I Would Tell My Younger Self

By the time we retire, we have lived on this dirt for quite a while.  Long enough to have become wiser… hopefully.  We know a few things that would be helpful to share with younger generations.  Things we wish that we had known starting out.  I certainly would have lived my life differently had a known a few of those things. A project I am working on brought these to the surface of my brain recently. Let me give you a little background.

When my sons graduated from high school, I made each of them a scrapbook/photo album of their lives.  While I shed quite a few tears as I relived the years of raising four boys, it was also healing and brought closure to that chapter of my life.  The books became labors of love. What started out as little individual memory books, turned out to be MUCH larger projects than I anticipated.  My last two sons are twins, so of course I made two that year.  Yes, I am crazy.  What was I thinking?  And just in case I had not created enough insanity for myself, I also made a book for Mr. U when he retired.   Please tell me I am not the only one that creates these huge projects for myself that I regret when I am halfway through them.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Albert Einstein

It was all worth it when I retired, and my “boys” wanted me to have one of these scrapbooks too.  Instead of making a big bulky photo album, they did one better.  They created a book where they each wrote me a letter of their favorite memories and things they appreciated growing up.  It was such a thoughtful gift and I still shed fresh tears every time I read it.  But I digress.  That is what memories will do to you. 

We are slowly downsizing in preparation to move to a smaller home next year.  So, I have been going through boxes of stuff tucked in every nook and cranny of this large home.  I was knee deep in this process when I came across two large totes that were tucked up under the eaves of the attic.  I dusted them off and lifted the tops.  I was immediately taken back over 50 years.  They were filled with mementos from my childhood and young adult years.  Taking off the lids started a bittersweet trip down memory lane.  You know the one, right?  As I tunneled through the boxes I smiled, and I cried, and I remembered my life.  How was I ever going to condense 64 years of living into one small box?  I considered my options because there was no way I was going to save two large boxes of this stuff.

  • I could just chuck it all in the trash.  It would be much easier.  Besides, I haven’t looked at this stuff in years and probably won’t for the same amount of time.  Release it and just keep the memories in my head.  However, there isn’t a lot of room in there anymore (my head) and so it would be too easy to forget. 
  • I could do the Marie Kondo thing and take pictures of everything and thank it for how it served my life, but then I would just be adding to the excessive number of photos I already have. Google is reminding me that I am running out of storage space up in the sky again.
  • I could stuff the boxes back in the attic and deal with them some other time.  Better yet, I could hang on to them and leave them for my kids to deal with.  But, as I read recently, our kids don’t want our stuff.  Understandable.  I am going through a lot of my parents stuff and it is not for the faint of heart.
  • Or… I could make another scrapbook.  Certainly, I had one more scrapbook in me. This one for myself.  (I hate it when my brain comes up with these ideas that persist and nag at me until I succumb to them.)  Two boxes into one neat, compact album.  What could possibly go wrong?
Working on my 6th and FINAL scrapbook.

This has been a lengthy story to explain how I ended up sitting at the table in my office for the past few months, surrounded by 64 years of memories.  It has been a beautiful, bittersweet trip down memory lane that has tugged at my emotions more than I ever would have predicted. I looked back through photos of my childhood and teenage years, through the eyes of wisdom that only the wrinkles of living can bring, and I think of several things that I wish I could have told my younger self.  Things that would have saved that insecure, naive, eager young girl a lot of stress and anguish over the years.   

What would I tell my younger self?

  • When you are tired, rest.  Take sick days when you need them.  The world is not going to stop if you do.  I went to work when I felt lousy because I thought I was needed, and I did not want to inconvenience my colleagues.  We are not as indispensable as we think we are. I wish I had cared for myself enough to rest when I needed it.
  • When you need time alone, carve it out, even if it means letting others down.  I need time by myself to think and recharge.  However, I did not take this kind of time enough because there was too much to get done, or I was worried that I would hurt someone’s feelings.  I wish that I had cared for myself enough to take more of the alone time that I needed to make myself feel whole again. 
  • Hug harder and more.  We need more huggers in the world.  We need more kind touch.  Even most of the stiff people that act like they don’t want a hug, deep down appreciate that someone reached out to them.  I wish I had hugged more, but I am making up for it now. 
  • Laugh with reckless abandon.  Laugh until you snort.  We take life way too seriously.  I wish that I had laughed more.  I am working on making up for it now too.
  • Go ahead and look foolish.  Be silly without concern for what others think.  I wish I had more fun, even if it looked foolish to others. Besides, everyone else probably wishes that they had the nerve to do it. 
  • Take more risks.  They say that people on their deathbed regret what they did not do more than what they did do.  Don’t die with your music still in you.  I tend to be risk averse.  And while that has served me well through life, I wish that I had said “yes” more. 
  • Honor yourself.  Find your true north and follow it.  Know who you are and what you value and don’t let other people’s opinions sway you from that.  Everyone appreciates someone who is their authentic self.  I wish I had been truer to myself and not tried to fit into the expectations of others so much. 
  • You are beautiful.  Appreciate your own unique beauty, quirky features and all.  They are part of what make you, you.  I wish I had appreciated my youthful self a little more.  But guess what, I will probably think that about my current body in another twenty years, so appreciate your energy and appearance whatever age you are.  You will never be as young as you are today, so embrace it.  
  • Worry less. A lot less. According to research at Penn State University, only 8% of what we worry about actually happens. That is a lot of wasted time worrying that could have been used on something fun or energizing. I still wish I would worry less. Actually, I worry about worrying. Sigh.
  • Love without fear.  We tend to protect our hearts from pain. Go ahead and love others without fear of getting your heart stepped on or hurt.  If it happens, it will heal.  I wish that I had loved everything with more intensity and less fear. 
  • You are stronger than you think.  You can do hard things.  And it will feel so good to come out on the other side of heartache alive and whole and stronger.  I wish I had not tried to protect myself so much. 
When life would feel overwhelming or stressful, particularly while raising four teenage boys, I would head out to what became known as my “worry rock” (pictured here) and I would sit, think, and pray. Fortunately, I do not sit on my worry rock much anymore.

Looking back, those are some of the things I wish that I would have known.  It certainly could have made my life easier and more fun. But even if I had of been able to give myself these pearls of wisdom, I probably would not have listened.  Sometimes you can’t protect someone from the lessons of life.  They can only come through living and growing and learning yourself.  Do you have a few things that you wish that you could have told your younger self? 

Am I Doing Retirement “Right”?

A friend of mine came over for lunch several weeks ago.  We pulled out our knitting and propped our feet up by the fire and settled in for a good, long chat. The kind that stirs your brain and satisfies your soul.  My friend retired a few months ago and is loving every minute of it.  Yet, she pondered, “am I doing retirement right?”   She was concerned because she is happy just being at home, enjoying the simple things in life and creating in her sewing studio.  She was questioning if she was doing retirement right because she wasn’t volunteering, or traveling the world, or out finding her passion or the million other things that the experts say make for a satisfying retirement. 

If we are honest, most of has have this same question at some point in retirement. Perhaps it starts back in grade school when we look around and see what everyone else is doing and wonder if we are fitting into the norm. We don’t want to be the odd one out. We don’t want to be the last one picked for the team. We don’t want to be missing out. We don’t know if we are doing it correctly. We want to have the perfect retirement, but we don’t have a measuring tool.

If our retirement does not look like everyone else’s or what the guru’s tell us it should look like, we often feel like we are doing it wrong.

I think that is often the challenge with retirement.  We don’t know if we are “doing it right.”  For our entire lives we received grades, evaluations and feedback on whether we were doing life right.  Now we are retired, and we don’t have a report card or annual evaluation to let us know how we are doing.  For all we know, we might be doing it all wrong.  We strived to do life right our entire lives: being the good student, the perfect parent, the supportive spouse, putting our nose to the grindstone and slogging into work when we felt like hiding under the covers.  Now we are free from the responsibilities of raising a family, building a career and paying a mortgage and we are still asking ourselves, “am I doing this right?” 

I really appreciated the numerous books, articles and blogs I read about preparing for retirement.  They helped me navigate the muddy waters when I no longer had a career to define me or a schedule to live by.  The retirement literature helped make this major life transition easier for me, but it can also become a slippery slope into retirement perfectionism. It starts benignly enough with helpful information, but then it can slide into the dangerous “how to’s” for getting the most out of these bonus years.  The vast majority will tell you that you “should” have a purpose, volunteer for some worthy cause, go back to school or work part-time.  You “should” have a schedule, you “should” be giving back, you should expand your network of friends, you should…bla, bla, bla.  It makes us question whether we are using our precious time wisely. Are we doing it right?

“Normal is just a setting on your dryer.”

Patsy Clairmont

Maybe the question boils down to, am I enough now that I am retired?  Is it selfish and stagnant to just enjoy life at home doing the simple things that bring me pleasure?  Is this enough?  Have I Failed Retirement because I am not out there volunteering my time, or running a marathon or writing a book?  Am I enough?  I get it.  I think that is why I have difficulty just taking a few hours to read during the day.  I should be producing.  I should have something to show for my time.  When do we allow ourselves to be set free from expectations?  Others’ expectations, but more importantly our own. 

The new retirement report card

I did not have an easy answer for my friend.  It seems to me that the answer lies in a whole new retirement mindset. One in which enjoying the simple pleasures in life is our report card.  Maybe our report card or quarterly evaluation for how we are doing in retirement should look more like this:

  1. Did I relax today?  It could be reading a book during the day, playing an instrument, or taking a bubble bath.
  2. Did I do something that makes my heart sing today?  It can be as simple as watching the cloud formations float by or listening to the birds sing or watching the ripples on the water.
  3. Did I smile and laugh today?
  4. Did I eat slowly and taste every delicious bite?
  5. Did I satisfy my need to be creative without any agenda or end product in mind?
  6. Did I have some “Awe” moments today?
  7. Did I show love, support and encouragement to someone? To myself?

Maybe my retirement doesn’t look like anyone else’s or does not adhere to the retirement gurus’ recommendations, because that is all they are…recommendations.  Ideas to help get you started.  They are suggestions, not report cards.  We need to take what we can from them and then settle into our own path. Forget the “shoulds” and “how to’s” for an ideal retirement.  Live it your way.  If you are content and happy, why search any further? That is enough. We are enough.

Perhaps our overall average grade for retirement should be based on:  Did I do retirement “right” today for me?  Not by anyone else’s standards or expectations, but just for me. How would you score?

Living Organically: Part II

I continue to seek out healthier, fresher, more organic choices in my everyday life. Not just with my diet, but also my home environment and how I manage stress. Last week I wrote about making more organic food choices. This week I have some suggestions on how to live more organically in our environment and how that affects the level of stress on our bodies (both physical and emotional).

Stress

Our modern world, with busy traffic, too many choices and constant connection through social media, leaves our nerves on edge. Of course, we have to live in our current world, and there are so many aspects of it that I appreciate. (Thank you, Alexa.) But it helps to step away from it frequently. It puts life back in perspective.

Everyone’s idea of how to decrease stress is different. For some it is reading, while others prefer yoga or a heart pumping workout at the gym. However, I think we can all agree that slowing down and being in nature are salves to the scars of modern living. Being outside, growing things, walking barefoot in the grass or sand. Just being out in nature is calming to our fractured lives. It doesn’t have to be driving an hour to go for a long hike, it can be as simple as taking a walk through your city park.

Cortisol is the hormone that is produced when we are under stress. It came in very handy for our ancestors who needed it for the “fight or flight” response when faced with acute threats, such as running from a tiger. Unfortunately, our modern way of living puts unnecessary, chronic stress on our minds and in response, we produce excessive amounts of cortisol. Among other things, cortisol raises our blood pressure, increases our pulse rate and triggers our bodies to release sugar. These are all responses that are helpful for the occasional “fight or flight” response but are unhealthy when we experience them over long periods of time. Chronic, underlying stress is like beating our body up with a bat internally.

We can counteract this stress by spending more time in nature. According to a study by Harvard Medical School, just 20 to 30 minutes immersed in a nature setting caused significant drops in the participant’s cortisol levels. After that time, additional stress-reduction benefit accrued more slowly. Hey, any of us can do 20-30 minutes outside, especially now that we are retired!

This is a picture of our city park in the spring. Doesn’t it help you relax just looking at it?

Environment

The environment we surround ourselves with inside of our homes can be relaxing or stressful to us. A cluttered, disorganized home leaves me with an underlying stress. While a clean, fresh home calms me. I am trying to reduce and reuse when possible and I am doing a few things to use less chemicals in my home. For example, I have been burning only soy candles. Antique Candle Co.® is a great online source for these. (And no, this is not a paid sponsorship, I just really like their products.) I am also trying to reduce my use of plastics, replacing them with things that can be reused over and over again.

Last week I tried my hand at making some of my own cleaning products with essential oils. I was surprised how simple it was to do. They smell fresh and are much less harmful to me and my environment. No more coughing and sputtering while I clean the shower. And I can reuse the containers instead of throwing them out or in the recycling bin when they are empty.

Another way we can live more organically is to upcycle things in our environment. Not only does this mean less junk in our landfills but it creates a more interesting and unique lifestyle. When you upcycle something, it is highly unlikely that anyone else will have the exact same thing. In a previous post, The Upcycled Life, I shared some items that I upcycled and have used for years.

Our tap water comes from a well, so it is high in minerals, which is good for you but doesn’t taste great. Instead of drinking so much bottled water or canned bubbly water, I have been creating my own flavored waters. It is simple to make and tastes refreshing. I just use a carafe and fill it with filtered tap water, add some herbs, fruit or vegetables and store it in the frig. My favorite combination right now is cucumber and lemon. I want to try strawberry and basil next. But the options are endless, so experiment a little.

The last word

I am not a purist when it comes to recycling, eating clean, or living sustainably. For instance, I still throw away empty cans when I am having guests over and am in too big of a hurry to clean them out for recycling. Some days I don’t even take a step outside to be in nature. And I still enjoy a slice of greasy pizza, it is just a rare treat instead of the go-to for a quick, easy dinner. Just keeping it real here. I am trying to take small steps, most days, to live a healthier, more organic lifestyle.