what no-one will tell you about ageing . . . a rant

I’ll tell you, you sweet taut 20 to 35-year-old who looks at older women with a self-satisfied or dismissive smirk and doesn’t countenance that such a thing will ever happen to you.  I’m not old but I am ageing so I know . . . I can share my experience.  And while this rant is mostly focussed on the body, because that’s likely where your focus is right now, the heart and mind and spirit are all affected.

No-one will tell you that hair will disappear from some parts of your body and appear in others.  The blessing is that you are now in need of glasses so you don’t notice it for the most part . . . that is, until you are out somewhere and you feel a hair on your chin or you spot it in the unforgiving light over a mirror in the women’s toilet.  You will swear to carry tweezers in your bag but you will forget.

No-one will tell you that the hairstyle you want can’t be had because the gray hairs have the most rebellious nature, almost a mind of their own dear little individual selves going off in there own direction as it pleases them, a texture defying any attempt to smooth or curl.  You want sleek as it was in your youth without working for it? HA!  And perhaps you will decide to brave it out and go natural (Why the hell should that be considered brave?) or maybe you will just develop a reaction, allergic or just distaste, and decide against pouring chemicals on your head with any regularity.  Or maybe you’ll continue because you’ll be judged by your graying hair.  Pathetic and small minded as those judges are, they may have control of your potential income.

Wrinkles?  Yes they happen, and the pores of your skin on your face are more visible, your grandchild will be fascinated by your saggy skin so let them touch it, but never, ever, ever place a mirror on a horizontal surface to clean it . . . not ever!  Enough said about skin because the changes are inevitable . . . and if your self-worth is tied to your youthful appearance it’s doomed.

No-one will tell you that fit as you may be, supple and you may be, your body will change shape even if your weight doesn’t . . . and sooner or later bits are going to ache if you sit still for too long.  My advice is to simply keep moving.

Strength diminishes unless your lifestyle remains the same and for most, it changes because we have so many labour-saving devices . . . I used to have a push mower, use a hand drill and now I’m thinking I might need a skill-saw.  No-one will tell you that sooner or later some lids on jars will not come off even if you employ all the tricks you know and you’ll be tempted to go and get your electric drill (I own two), and take to it with a vengeance because you’re damned if you’re going next door just so you can have artichoke hearts with your crackers and blue cheese and besides, it’s 2:00am and you can’t sleep!

Sleep is something no-one will discuss when it comes to ageing . . . when your body wants to sleep you will and it doesn’t matter a damn whether you want to or not.  When you want to sleep . . . that’s another story.  Maybe you will and maybe you won’t.  I sleep like a baby; I fall asleep quickly and wake up every few hours.  I’ve always thought ‘sleep like a baby’ was perhaps the most ridiculous saying ever.

Your feet . . . comes a time when not only do you see the sense in keeping your feet flat on the ground . . . you can’t wear heels anyway as you feet just won’t stand for it.  Personally I would like to be barefoot all the time, socks in the winter, jandals (thongs) in summer and my old favourite boots in winter (they’ll die soon and then I’ll bury them with full honours, bugle at dawn, flag at half mast).

No-one will tell you that inside your body things have changed drastically even if you have retained stunning good health.   For me, menopause was so long ago that it’s just like a bad dream.   You know, one of those nightmares where you wake up and the emotions just won’t let you go?  Your heart is thumping with fear or you’re so anxious that you’re almost frozen.  Well, twenty-um years later I still have a hot flush with coffee (I have a 3-a-day habit and I love the stuff strong and black, unsweetened) and red wine is drunk advisedly because I know how I will sleep . . . hot and restless.

Skipping . . . yes skipping.  There will come a time when you realise that what you did all the way to school and home again is just so damned exhausting!  When was the last time you attempted to skip?  DO IT!  DAILY!  In the privacy of your own home, or on a deserted beach which is my preference, if you must but do it!  Why? Because sooner or later you will lose that spring in your step.  Honestly, this phenomenon really happens, one day you jump down off something quite low and you realise the bounce didn’t happen.  It vanishes somehow, somewhere there are a lot of bounces waiting to be reclaimed . . . they were ignored and took off to find new owners.

No-one will tell you that you will become more sentimental, that little things will have the power to move you to tears and that the sound of young children laughing is the sweetest thing in the world.  No-one will tell you that as your body deteriorates and your thinking slows, even though your intellect remains intact (so don’t you dare think that because someone needs additional thinking time or forgetful they’re not as astute as ever!) your heart, your spirit, call it what you will, will enlarge and your capacity to love those near and dear will remain untouched.  You will regret that you didn’t call your parents and grandparents more often.

Now don’t get me wrong, even with the inevitable changes you will continue to love and honour your body as much as ever.  (You do, don’t you?  Something damned wrong if you don’t because it’s going to house you for a long time.)  You will still feel the thrill as a soft warm breeze caresses your skin, yes even that flabby stuff you used to call finely toned triceps, and appreciate where it can take you, and the skills it holds in its ancient muscle-memory.  You will continue to make demands on it, nurse it when its sick and curse it when it lets you down but mostly, you will love it.  It allows you to say I love you and to touch and cuddle and listen to music and laugh and cry and laugh some more.  Love it, better still, respect it . . . every tiny part of it.

So there you go you taut 20+ year-old.  And why has no-one told you?  Because you aren’t interested . . . yet.  You’re busy taking your youth for granted and perhaps feeling a tad superior to us ‘wrinklies’  however if you want to hear about your mind, how every time you forget something you wonder if there’s more to it that there was when you did that exact thing when you were 20 and question if it happens more often, well ask someone.  I’ll give you an honest answer if you ask but it’s purely from my perspective, no longtitudinal studies here, no polls, just my experience.

Now I think I must point out that today is a brilliant sunny summer day, birds chirping and all that, I’ve been for a walk and I’m about to water-blast the fence so I can paint it . . . I love my body but I’m tired of all the put-downs, some incredibly subtle, others blatant, and the elevation of youth as an ideal.  It’s fleeting . . . if you’re lucky.  Youth lasted a short time when I look back at it and I think I have about a thrid of my life to go still.

The fence behind these gorgeous blooms needs a coat of paint . . . and I needed and image for this post. Wendy @ the Late Start Studio

The fence behind these gorgeous blooms needs a coat of paint . . . and I needed and image for this post.
Wendy @ the Late Start Studio

Yes we have role models, mostly carefully made up affluent women who perhaps won’t leave the house unless they’re dripping with make-up and certainly styled for that photoshoot where the images will be cleverly photoshopped and airbrushed.   Let’s get ourselves our there, barefaced or with make-up doesn’t matter . . . let’s just get out there as we were in the 60s and be loud and proud feminists . . . our sons need it just as much as our daughters.

A little disclaimer here: my mother was still ‘getting old’ at 96, she was not allowed to work as a young woman, “Ladies don’t work!” was what she grew up with, but she owned a library, was a pattern-cutter in a knitwear factory, could mix concrete, swing a hammer, use a crowbar with devastating efficiency, and the first thing she did when she moved house at 95 was to plant beans and tomatoes.

a birthday

Why is it that I leave things to the last minute?  I leave tasks I don’t really want to do until my dreams are invaded in a most unwelcome manner.  And it’s not as if I’m doing anything enjoyable while I procrastinate; I deprive myself of pleasure until I have completed what needs to be done – except perhaps for a walk along the beach.   On Sunday it was relatively crowded with 21 people, Monday, just 4 and a dog.  Who among you can resist the call of the sea?

Sunday, October 6th 2012 facing east.

Monday, October 8th 2012 facing west towards the Tararua Range

So Monday was a little different in the procrastination department – I wanted to make a card for my grand-daughter’s 8th birthday so I gave over the entire afternoon to the pleasure of making it.  I started with a cereal box, gesso, some paint, the sheet music to Climb Every Mountain (it seemed apt) and pens.  The time slipped by and I suddenly realised I was ravenous.  Yesterday, Tuesday, was the party and today . . . oh today I need to do some day-job work.  Never be confused about educators just swanning off for the entirety their holidays; there is always, always some work to do before the term starts.

Now, time for a walk along the beach before lunch . . . just checking to see if the mouth of the stream changed course yet again and what’s come in on the tide.

beach sculpture – who can help themselves?

There are times after heavy rain in the mountains or a storm at sea when there is a lot of drift wood on the beach.  Last weekend was one of those times – the mouth of the stream, with its patient whitebaiters in attendance, had changed yet again, and the beach had rich pickings of beach treasure. Never go to the beach without a bag for collecting treasure – or a camera.  If my son hadn’t had his iPhone . . . .Adam started to poke sticks into a receptive piece of wood and before we knew it . . . there was a line of wonderfully weird, balancing sculptures installed along the high tide mark creating interesting shadows.We built a boat to journey to faraway lands just as we had done in childhood . . . surrounded ourselves with a palisade of sticks . . . and ended the afternoon completely tuckered out but still not wanting to go home.All of this was free . . . all of this was priceless.

blessings counted = bliss

The birthday weekend was wonderful – the food fabulous.  Unfortunately no-one took photos!  The cook is a photographer so it’s hardly surprising that she didn’t and I was busy catching up with the girls.

The weather was so brilliant that a lot of time was spent on the beach – the girls were worn out by the end of each day, as well as their Nanna, and they didn’t want to go home – in fact the youngest almost got quite stroppy about it but she was too tired to put up much of a fight and besides, she know when to cut her losses and that returning to Nanna’s house in a given.

A 360 view from the top of a sand dune close to my house (behind the next sand dune) taken on my iPhone using the DMD Panorama app.  Sorry about the wonky horizon, I nearly fell off my perch!

We crossed over the stream and headed north where Jeanne set about picking up horse mussel shells, they’re about 20 centimetres or 8 inches long.  The first thing she did on getting home was to create a maṇḍala on the deck.Horse MusselsMeg practice writing her name on the beach . . .. . . and lunch was al fresco.

On Sunday afternoon we all worked on a line of sculptures on the beach and a sandy boat at the high tide mark – photos to come . . . I didn’t even have my phone on me but fortunately my son did.

As I packed up for the working week and left yesterday morning, I was really happy that it was going to be the last time I did it – it’s hardly surprising that I don’t want to leave here during the week is it?   And it’s the school holidays next week, we have 4 10-week terms here with a fortnight off in between, so I’ll have a fine time making, playing, sewing and painting too perhaps.

Yes, blessings counted = bliss.


empathy, encouragement and perseverance

Without perverance, nothing will come of my efforts – I’ve been receiving that message loud and clear from many quarters.   Take a step, stumble, fall down, get up, take two steps, trip, fall down, get up . . . . no baby ever gave up on learning to walk!

Encouragement to take the next step is a sure-fire way to get anyone to move on to that next step so thanks for the comments yesterday everyone.    And talking of next steps, watch this little clip One Thousand Steps . . . maybe it should be required daily viewing for me for a while, like medication.    Maybe, because my 4 year-old grand-daughter loves it and watches it when she stays at my house has something to do with my readiness to take on some changes.

Encouragement can come from any quarter, but if I don’t publicise my efforts only I can provide it and that nasty inner critic needs some competition – easy solution, be brave and don’t hide.

Enjoy the clip, it will only take 2:19 of you life.

In her Harvard commencement speech J. K. Rowling said, “There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction.  The moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you.’  Now along with parents, I think you can lump in teachers, friends, society in general.   Watch/listen if you have 21 minutes to spare while you play at something on your workbench she talks of the value of failure and imagination – it’s full of humour, wisdom and inspiring.

Another quote from Rowling who knows failure first hand and used it to create a magical world and turned millions on to reading for pleasure . . . “It’s impossible to live without some failure unless you live so cautiously that you might not have lived at all, in which case you fail by default.”

So what’s the worst that could happen if I leave the well-worn path?  I could trip over . . . and I have the strength to get up because around me I have wonderful friends and family.

Off the pathway

My inspiration . . . a 2 year-old who continues to explore off the established pathways for the sheer joy of it.   May it last for life!

Imagine a big smile here please.

wonderful weekends

I’ve had two fantastic weekends and a Blinding Flash of the Obvious – the BFO can wait until tomorrow.

But the weekends . . . I try to squeeze as much creativity into the day-job as I can and because I work mostly with primary school teachers, supporting their practice in the classroom, I sometimes manage more than a bit of creative problem solving.

I worked with a group of children scraping paint onto A 2 sized paper to make some books.  It was pretty slow so I finished them off over the weekend before last.A2 bookletsI am learning bookletWhile the students will be writing about the skills they are developing in class, mine will be about learning to play again!

I’ve been making these booklets in various sizes in the classroom for years and just in case you want to make one too, here’s an explanation of how to do it that I found for you on You Tube.  They can be made from any size sheet of paper – the booklet ends up 1/8 the size of the page.  I usually glue the pages after I have finished all the folding and cutting.

The painting was so much fun that I decided I would make some more the next time my grand-daughters came to stay – and that was last weekend.  So there we were, a old painting drop sheet on the floor, jars and tubes of cheap acrylic, old credit cards, brushes, corks carved into stamps and some sponges.Nonsense DreamlandBy the end of the weekend, the whole family had had a play, the dining table was covered in supplies and everyone is feeling very satisfied with two watching Milo and Otis. 

The dining table is still covered with bits and pieces . . . one of the few joys of not living there during the week is that I get to walk away and leave it all behind waiting for next weekend’s playtime. And as if having family to stay wasn’t joy enough I had mail! 

Quinn McDonald was celebrating reaching 1500 posts (I’m up to 55) and sent out these wonderful journals . . . where will I send it on to?  Any takers?  I’ve not got supplies here at my little mid-week abode so next weekend . . . there is much smiling going on here!

the simple things

One of my favourite songs is Joe Cocker singing The Simple Things and that’s the kind of weekend I’ve had.  A wonderful 3 day weekend that began with my son dropping off his delightful daughters for 3 nights.  We did all those things that make childhood happy and they were all simple things.

A pair of socks, transformed into a dinosaur and a banana to eat in the winter sunshine.

Doodling on paper . . .

Doodling is like letting the pen feel free in your hand – Jeanne, age 7

. . . and in the sand.

You can doodle anywhere – Jeanne, age 7

The discovery of a jellyfish washed up by the tide.Being alone with your thoughts ankle deep in mud .Heart-shaped puffballs to poke.There was a DVD of Curious George by candle light, in pyjamas with crisps, a cuddle any time of day and a dance recital for the toys.

Shadow puppets and a light show using a red tower torch – made with a lunch-wrap roll, toilet roll tube, cellophane and Nanna’s torch.And then there’s the surprise installation of a 4 year old.

We’re always wanting more than what we have
What I’ve learned, is what I really need are. . .

The simple things
That come without a price
The simple things
Like happiness joy and love in my life
I’ve seen it all from so many sides
And I hope you would agree
That the best things in life
Are the simple things

Writers: Rick Neigher, Philip Roy, John Shanks

Ah . . . such are the joys of little girls and grandmothers.