Hard Punches

World heavyweight champion boxer Mike Tyson, said: “Everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth.” Tyson is more known for his “punches as hard as iron” than his wise philosophy, but when he made that off-the-cuff statement, he was spot on.

That quote by Mike Tyson reminds me a bit of my year of blogging. Early August last year when the idea came to me to document my 60th year by writing a daily blog, I was enthusiastic. When the idea gelled and my friend, Marcelina, helped me create the website, it was like Christmas Eve. I could barely sleep with the anticipation of making this thing real and jumping in.

That was the plan and it worked, but there were certainly days I got punched in the mouth. Many a dark, late night I sat alone on my bedroom floor thinking of topics then tapping away at my keyboard until one or two in the morning, driven to stay true to my pledge. I have fallen asleep sitting straight up at my computer. However, not once did I get into bed without writing my blog. I’m not looking for kudos, I am simply stating the challenge of a commitment. 

It’s all fun and games until reality sinks in. We know, cognitively, that we are responsible for meeting our own goals. But for some reason, in the back of our minds, we think/want/need another person to help. At the end of the day, and on a grander scale, at the end of our lives, we are on your own, well, humanly speaking. Thankfully, we have a sovereign God who helps us daily and at the end, meets us.

I have never lived on my own. I went from my parents home to living with my husband and then children soon followed. When you are surrounded by those you love and who love you, it is easy to get into the mindset that someone is always there to help. That is 100% true except when it comes to personal goals. The support is there and it has been huge for me this year, for which I am grateful. 

However, the work, the grit, the sitting in the trenches, the end result, was on me, as it should be. I have learned many things this year. One of my biggest lessons was persistence.

When I was a personal trainer, I used to tell my clients that there is no secret formula. In fact, it is quite simple. Small choices over time add up to real change. Let the workouts pile up and soon you will see a difference.

Some changes are subtle. Some commitments are long. Some progresses are slow. But movement is key. It is where all things begin. 

An Emotional Night

It is 2:05 a.m. on April 10. However, I have not yet been to sleep so this “counts” as my April 9th blog post.

Mondays are my day to be with Mama. Her wonderful day caregiver, Sherry, stays with Mama till I or one of my siblings arrives at 4:00 p.m. to make dinner with Mama, spend the evening and then stay overnight till dear Sherry arrives again at 9:00 a.m.

I usually spend the night at Mama’s house because it is easier for her. We make dinner together, often it is one of our traditional growing-up favorites – salmon patties, macaroni and cheese, peas and cinnamon applesauce. We then clean up the kitchen and settle into coloring or catching The Waltons on TV or singing songs from her church hymnal or just sitting in front of her fire. Then, always, a snack before bed. Mama’s choice is usually ice-cream.

Today I had run errands in the afternoon and ended up a bit tied up on my last one. I did not have time to run by home first to pack an overnight bag or drop the groceries I had picked up.

I got to Mama’s house and asked her if it would be okay if I took her to my house for the night. She was reluctant to get out in the cold and always prefers her own home, which is understandable. We gathered up a few of her things, locked her house up tight and made the 12 minute drive to my house.

We had a normal evening, though Mama seemed extra tired. About 8:45 I suggested we have our nightly snack and head to bed. Mama had been cold all evening so had been sitting on my sofa with a blanket wrapped around her legs. I asked if she wanted ice cream or hot chocolate. She chose the hot chocolate.

After getting Mama into her nice warm jammies she headed toward the bathroom before getting into bed. As she moved toward the door, she was unsteady and began to crumple. I called out to her and in three steps was at her side. She fell into my arms and I yelled down to my (doctor) husband for help. He came immediately, saw the situation and called 911. For what seemed like an hour was actually four or five minutes of Mama lying in my arms, making gurgling sounds, eyes open but not seeing. I called to her but she was not there. I held her and promised I would not leave her. My husband kept checking her pulse, it was very weak.

The life squad arrived and took Mama to the closest hospital. We followed in the car. All tests thus far have proven to be completely normal. Mama is in exceptionally good health for a woman one month shy of turning 90.

My husband had been telling me that, though Mama is healthy, at her age, anything can happen. Since I have only known her healthy, I guess I couldn’t completely comprehend that. Until tonight.

I thought I had lost Mama. I did not want her to die in my arms with those frightened, empty eyes looking but not seeing.

And now this. This sweet photo of one of the truly dedicated, loving nurses who helped take care of Mama. This is Melissa. She got Mama all tucked in for the night, er….for the morning, I should say.

I am in Mama’s lovely room just about to surrender to sleep on a comfy couch. Melissa brought me soft socks, a pillow and two warm blankets.

I will sleep for a short night. But I will keep one eye open and watch Mama’s chest gently lower and rise as she lives another day or week or year or ten. All I know for sure is that she has come back to me, at least for a while.

*Wedding Bell Blues

I read an article in USA Today about a woman who was arrested for DUI while heading to her wedding. Apparently she caused a minor accident and when police arrived, was immediately under suspicion of intoxication.

Hmm….a couple of things.

One, it is somewhat sad to think of a bride, adorned in her beautiful dress, driving herself to her wedding.

Two, it is a bad sign if you need to be a bit buzzed before you slur “I do.” It is also a bad sign if you are intoxicated BEFORE the wedding reception.

I once attended a wedding where the bride vomited on the stage, in the middle of her vows, onto the pastor’s shoes. I was impressed that the wedding continued and the groom actually kissed his new bride, smack on the mouth.

Sadly, that marriage ended about three years later.

Women, take a hint. If you are sick at your stomach and vomiting at your wedding, you may want to pay attention to that.

If you are drinking alcohol in excess, right before you get into your car and drive to your own daytime wedding, you may want to pay attention to that.

Marriage is not for sissies. Marriage is not for the faint of heart. It is for the strong of stomach and for those wanting to walk without crutches.

It is being in the trenches and emerging with dirt on your face. But a smile, too.

I have been doing it for 42 years. If practice makes perfect, we should near perfection at about the 70 year mark.


*For those of you over the age of 50, you will remember this gigantic hit song by the Fifth Dimension. Check it out on YouTube.




The over sixty Group

Lynn Hasher, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, headed up a study that shows how different people hold on to information at different hours, due to “attention regulation”, which is the times reserved by the brain for absorbing what you read and hear.

“For college students,” she says, “the best time to retain information is between four and five in the afternoon.”

“Due to changes in circadian rhythms, adults over the age of sixty are more likely to remember what they learn early in the morning.”

It is sobering to realize that you are placed in the category of people “over sixty”. But, as my husband would say, “It is what it is.” True. But often “what is” really stinks.

With (mustered) grace, I will accept the science that I best retain information early in the morning.

There are some things I actually very much prefer to do in the AM, though, my reasons may not be scientific.

One is exercise. I wash my face, throw on a little moisturizer (okay, a lot of moisturizer), put my hair in a pony tail and don my Yale (thank you, eldest son), baseball cap. No shower, no makeup, no cleanup.

If I am being 100% honest, I admit that if I have an errand afterward or a grocery store run, I often dab on a little mascara and lip tint. That way, if I run into someone I know, I can (with honesty) say: “Oh my goodness. I am always afraid that I might see someone I know when I am out without my face done.” Which is true. My FACE is not done. My eyes simply have on a touch of mascara. Voilà. They think I awaken with long, dark lashes. Perfect.

Another reason for morning workouts is just to get it done. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I do not love to exercise. I simply know it is an important habit to form. It is kind of like flossing and brushing my teeth every night. I wouldn’t call it ‘fun’ but it is necessary.

I also enjoy morning quiet time; bible reading, prayer, meditation. Part of this enjoyment is because it always involves a cup of hot coffee. I don’t think the Lord minds me saying that. After all, He created coffee. Praise be.

If there is any information I want to retain, it is how to be filled with all of the things I want to be, especially at 60+. Those are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

I may need to start arising at 3AM. Just sayin’.

Healthy Thursday overflow into Friday

Yesterday was Thursday. It was Healthy Thursday but I wrote about Kohler hopes that were dashed. Perhaps in some strange way that was indeed a Healthy Thursday post. I will elaborate.

It is healthy and important to spend time together as a couple. We do not do it nearly enough. We have both worked hard throughout our marriage. We have held back from doing some things for ourselves, which is completely normal when you are raising a family, getting through school, dealing with work and simply covering the bases.

Taking even small trips together requires a large amount of planning and effort and even money. But, as Mike says, it’s always worth it. And it is.

Another factor about our Kohler hopes is that we dealt with disappointment and reality. Weather is unpredictable and fickle. It cannot be counted on. Things happen in life, almost daily it seems, that remind us that our plans must be made loosely.

Andrew played football in high school. I remember him talking about catching the ball with “soft hands.” Meaning, let the ball fall right into your hands with no snatching, grabbing, stiff, violent movements.

That is how much of life is. We should make plans, of course, but those plans must, must, must be held with soft hands. When they change, and they will, we can let go of them easily rather than prying our white knuckled hands away from something we thought was set in stone.

Wisdom does indeed come with age, I suppose. However, there were certainly a few moments that I jumped up and down and screamed like a three year-old. Of course that tantrum was inside my head. That is what mature 60 year-olds do.

Yep, it’s Amazing

Today Mama was with me, an unplanned day. My siblings and I and her dear day-time caregiver, Sherry, all work very hard at keeping her schedule on track and consistent. However, for each of us, things occasionally change; a sickness, a snow day, an unexpected time out of town. We know that flexibility is key.

I had an annual checkup doctor appointment today. I decided to keep the appointment and take Mama with me. She was slow moving so I was pushing her along a bit so that I would not be late for my appointment. I rushed her into putting on her shoes and socks, though she insisted they were not her shoes. I wouldn’t let her bring everything along that she wanted to bring; her bible, her Sunday school papers, her comb and toothbrush. I walked her briskly into the office because when she doesn’t want to do something, she certainly acts it out in her walking, like baby steps in slow motion.

When we finally got to the waiting area and I checked in, I smiled at her and said: “We made it, Mama! Let me help you with your coat and find you a house magazine to look at.” Very loudly she said back to me: “Why are you being so nice NOW?” Oh boy. A young man, a middle aged couple and a mom with two little kids looked at me like I was Jabba the Hutt. I smiled at them and hoped they understood the situation. Oy vey.

In hindsight I probably should have rescheduled the appointment. She became very confused and suspicious. She kept asking me if there was some secret plan to take her some place and leave her.

My actual time with the doctor was pleasantly quick and I was back out to Mama in fewer than 15 minutes. When I saw her she loudly exclaimed that she had been waiting there for hours. Even positive things somehow have a way of becoming negative.

I miss my old Mama. I still see glimpses of her occasionally; her laugh, her sense of humor, her kindness. But it is fading.

I smiled at her and helped her put on her coat and gloves and we walked (slowly) to the car. She was cantankerous for about another hour. Then I had her make herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and pour herself a glass of milk (she likes to do things herself) and she felt better. She began to warm up to me again and we ended the day singing Amazing Grace, which is exactly what the Lord gave me all day.


Reality Yoga

This morning I was able to leave Mama with her day caregiver in time to barely make it to yoga class. I have been wanting to take that class since before Christmas.

It is quite a switch and quite humbling to be the ‘student’ in the room, especially the old student. Luckily, the class was small, only five of us. Nicole, the 35ish year old instructor was kind and patient. The other four in the class were about her age and yoga regulars. She knew them by name and encouraged them to do the advanced moves while she politely said to me: “Rebecca, just do this at your level. We are looking for slight discomfort but not pain.” I used to tell my clients that exact line. It is Personal Training 101.

Every woman in that room could have been my daughter. It so sucks to be the old one that requires modification. There are days I am still mystified as to how this came to be.

I know everyone says this, but it feels like it was maybe five years ago that I was 40 and vibrant and couldn’t, in my very wildest of dreams, fathom being 60. Occasionally I wonder about some cosmic accident or weird time machine incident that got me to where I am, without my knowledge.

But, in true Hendrixson-speak “It is what it is.” Apparently I have to accept my alleged age and continue the journey of making peace with it. Plus, one day of grieving my age means one less day of being my age. It means losing time.

Henry David Thoreau said: “As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.” We “kill” time when we waste time but we also kill time when we lament about the stage (and age) of which we are. I do not want to kill time. I definitely do not want to injure eternity.

Thoreau also said: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Geez Henry, lighten up. But he was right. Many men, and women, lead lives of resignation to their looks, jobs, homes, families, and to their past, present and future. I also do not want to live in quiet desperation or resignation of being 60 years old.

I have days of wishing I were 40. When I am 80, I will wish for 60. At the rate it feels life is going, 80 could be next summer. I want to get busy enjoying 60 and not “kill” one more day by wishing otherwise.