Tag Archives: birthdays

Smelling The Roses

Standard

Don’t wait…

My friend Isaac took me to supper this past Saturday night, to celebrate my Sunday birthday.  (#souldate). Visiting with him is always a good time to catch up on each other’s lives, enjoy a meal together and discuss some of the deeper issues of heart, mind and soul. He provides a valued sounding board for my random musings, creative endeavors and family “stuff”.

Over the table, we hash out the dreams and doldrums of life, including the relentless passage of time that a birthday always brings to mind.  I mentioned to him a country song from the 90’s that tells the story of a family at 3 different life stages, and how poignantly it speaks to the changes we all endure and witness.  If you are interested, look up artist Tracy Lawrence’s “Time Marches On”.  It is an intelligently written yet simple narrative of one family’s life story.

Our niece is getting married a month from today, a lovely and accomplished young woman whose birth I remember vividly.  We will be traveling to Houston to gather with the Cutshaw side of the family and celebrate her wedding, as well as my and Sweet Pea’s 32nd wedding anniversary, and Cutshaw Grand Poobah Howard’s birthday.  As I look forward to this wonderful occasion, my happiness is tempered a bit by sadness at the unexpected death of a friend.

Ellen had moved to California at the end of 2012 and I had not managed to keep in touch the way I would have liked.  Still, as I explained to a mutual colleague, just knowing she was “out there” comforted me.  Now, knowing that she is not, is a kind of sad that is quite undefinable.

3601F56B-7049-43F6-8219-28FCE4EA588A

Once more I am reminded of an old adage, that I need to stop and smell the roses.  The daily-ness of life lulls me into complacency…until there is a wedding, a birthday…a death.  Every day is an occasion to be savored and shared with the people around me.  God, give me eyes to see and a heart to appreciate both the monumental and the mundane occasions You set before me daily.  Amen and Amen.

7A81A732-EC2F-4ACB-853F-93FCB2A3C179

Advertisements

Patina

Standard

Worn-in versus worn-out…

A friend and music colleague celebrated birthday number 51 earlier this year, which is the same birthday I am about to observe.  On social media, he posted that someone had told him that, at age 51, he was “officially on the downward slope of life”.  Odds are, this is true, if one does the math and considers the law of averages.  Still, while I know neither the context of the statement nor the person who made it, its tone sort of…crawled all over me!

Thoughts are like birds.  Some of them fly overhead quickly and are gone.  Some land on a person’s shoulder and stay a while.  This thought about the downward slope landed on my head, brought in twigs and mud, and nested.  

Our society is overly focused on beauty and youth, and usually the two are tied together.  We don’t hear much about the beauty that comes with time, wisdom and, yes, age.  I think we are cheating ourselves and the generation behind us when we tell ourselves and them that we lose beauty as we gain years.

All of this got me thinking about the many things in our lives that get better with age.  My favorite jeans, sweaters and t-shirts are the ones that have been worn-in over years, sometimes decades.  They are more comfortable, softer.  When I lost all my weight and I was replacing my wardrobe, I made many eBay purchases, and I purposely looked for jeans that had been “pre-loved”.

image

I tend to gravitate toward things that show their marks.  Again, after my weight loss, I bought some new cowboy boots, but I bought a pair with a “distressed” look to the leather.  I wanted them to look a little beaten-up from the start, and I am enjoying the process of leaving more marks on them.  I think cowboy boots look better the more worn-in they are…but maybe that’s just me.

image

I have always been a finger-tapper.  It’s just a nervous habit, I guess, but I find myself tapping my rings on my work surfaces.  As a result, my rings get little dings in them.  When I was a new bride, the first time I “ding’ed” my wedding band broke my heart, and I felt like I’d ruined it.  I realize now, though, that all those marks just tell its story.  Gold frequently worn develops a mellow glow that new gold cannot replicate.  I love and value every single scratch on my wedding ring, and on Mama’s chunky gold band, which bears both the marks of her decades of wear, and now the ones I have made on it.

image

image

Part of the Merriam-Webster definition of the word “patina” is as follows:

“The surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use”.

I love that.

Last week I had the blessing of enjoying some time with a couple of different longtime girlfriends who are also around my age.  As I sat with each of them, I appreciated the  various paths down which we have traveled.  Each journey is unique, leaving its marks behind, and we have all experienced both much joy and great heartache.  And I appreciated the radiant softness in their faces, a kind of beauty that can only be built by years and experiences.  Younger faces, younger hearts, lack the depth that only time can provide.

In a couple of days, I will no longer be simply 50.  I will be IN MY 50’s.  I look in the mirror sometimes and it scares me to death!  My lines and spots bug me, and it seems like I see new ones every day.

Here’s the thing.  I’ve never been “beautiful” in any conventional way, so losing my beauty is not my concern.  Sure, I want to look as good as I can for as long as I can.  But feeling healthy and strong, showing compassion, being open and tender with the people I love, singing with joy and gratitude to the God Who gave me my voice…those things are way more important.  And the ability to do those things has come with time and experience.  They are part of my unique patina.

More years of my life are indeed behind me than ahead of me.  That’s fine.  The fabric of my life is still being sewn, stitched into my body, my face…my heart.  Like that ancient flannel blanket my Mamaw made, I pray my life will be remembered by those close to me, and that its patina leaves a soft warmth that envelops everyone I have loved.

image

The First Friends

Standard

And the blessings of a large extended family…

Mama was the youngest of 9 children, and Dad was the youngest of 6.  With that many aunts and uncles, most of whom had some kids, I’ve got cousins in abundance, some on Dad’s side whom I’ve never even met.  And many of my cousins are clustered fairly close together in age, which means most of us are in or approaching our 50s.  It hardly seems possible that we’re adults, let alone eligible for senior discounts!

A bit of wisdom shows up on social media from time to time which states, “Cousins are the first friends we have”.  My history seems to agree with this statement.  Before going to school or to Sunday school, my cousins were part of my life.  And even though our lives have taken us far afield from one another, we are family.  We share history, DNA and many of the same memories.

Our lives are busy, though, and it’s difficult for us to get together.  Even the bunch of us who live in the same city don’t manage to see each other very often.  And frankly, I’m just in closer touch with some of them than with others.  Social media has been a real blessing,  enabling us to have at least a little glimpse into each other’s daily lives and activities.  I enjoy seeing what my cousins are doing, and what their children (my 2nd and 3rd cousins!) are up to.

About this time last year, I had the chance to spend a day with my Aunt Helen and my cousin Lisa, as well as sharing a meal with Lisa’s brother Mike and his daughter Haley.  During the course of our visit, Lisa shared an old photograph with me.  I think it is the only one in existence with this configuration of the cousins all together, and it’s a treasure I am thrilled to have.  The picture was made at Lisa’s 8th birthday party, and I can only imagine the effort it took to get all of us kids to be still long enough to snap it!

Today another member of our group celebrates a milestone birthday, entering the world of senior discounts and AARP mailers.  I don’t think of us that way though, at least, not most of the time.  I think of those long summer nights playing Fox & Hounds, birthday parties with homemade ice cream, Barbies and army men and that old Fisher-Price barn that moo’ed when you opened the door.

I think of how young we were.  How young we always will be, if only in memory.

image

 

What 50 Looks Like

Standard

 

And why it does and doesn’t matter…

Feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem once responded to a reporter who kindly remarked that she did not look 40, “This is what 40 looks like.”  Now, whatever your thoughts and opinions about Ms. Steinem may be, her response to that reporter has always resonated with me. As a woman who has always felt judged by my appearance (not by age as much as by shape and size) I love it when appearance-based stereotypes get shattered.  But this post isn’t really about physical appearances as much as what my life looks like today, as I turn The Big 5-0.

In the spirit of full disclosure I will admit to being a little freaked-out by the prospect of turning 50.  It’s a milestone different from any other birthday that happens to have a zero at the end of it.  A woman turning 50 often finds herself subject to the slings and arrows of menopause and all the changes associated with the end of the childbearing years.  And I am so there.  I am relieved that my new GYN actually listened to my concerns during our initial visit and started me on treatment that I hope will help me feel better soon.

I went today and renewed my drivers’ license, and I was pleasantly surprised by how similar my photo today looked when compared to the one from my last license 10 years ago.  Aside from a marked decrease in weight, I don’t look too different, or too much older.  That was a big relief!

The biggest surprise about this birthday is how much more content and comfortable I am in my life and in my own skin than I’ve probably ever been before.  I remember other birthdays with zeroes on them, and the various kinds of angst I was experiencing with each of them.  My life is in a better place now.  God has blessed me with a husband who still loves me after all these years, makes me laugh, warms my heart, has been a wonderful dog dad, and makes me feel safe.Image

Image

 

I have several longtime friendships like that as well. Those relationships are priceless.  My friend Mary K. and I spent the weekend between our birthdays together.  Her birthday is May 15 and was also a milestone.  We first met at a Methodist youth assembly when we were 13 or 14 years old.  Living in different states, we were pen-pals for decades but didn’t actually see each other again until 2009 when, after about a decade of being out of touch, we reconnected via Facebook.

Image

Over the years we have shared everything from braces and boyfriend stories to college, marriage, the births of her children to the deaths of our parents.  This friendship and a few other cherished ones like it sustain me, nourish my soul and, again, make me feel safe.  Above is the picture from our initial reunion in 2009, and below is from our most recent get-together this past weekend.  It just dawned on me that she is wearing the same top in both pictures, and I am wearing yellow in both.  (My sweater from 2009 would swallow me now since weight loss surgery!)

Image

The losses of so many loved ones have all affected me in different ways, but that old adage, “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” is one I believe in.  Yes, the deaths hurt terribly…but I am so incredibly grateful that I have known and loved these precious family members and friends.  My life without them would be unimaginable.  And they’re not gone forever.  They’re just in a place where I can’t see them right now, except when they visit in dreams.  The relationships with living family members are all works in progress, just as they’ve always been.  I’m grateful for the ones still here who make me feel safe, valued and loved.

So I guess my life turning 50 is looking pretty good after all.  God has been so faithful and brought me through more sadness, disasters and changes than I ever could have imagined experiencing by the time I turned 50.  He has also brought me more wonderful surprises, happiness and joy than I could ever hope to deserve.  So, what does 50 look like?  

Sometimes it looks hazy and crazy.

Image

Sometimes it looks goofy and spoofy.Image

 

 Mostly, though,  it just looks…Blessed.

Image

 

 

Blue Hydrangeas and Youth Dew

Standard

Memories of Mom Cutshaw on her birthday…

My mother-in-law, Mary Lynn Clark Cutshaw, was born on April 14, 1923, and like Pop Cutshaw, would be turning 91 on her birthday.  It seems impossible that she would be that age if she were still with us, and it seems impossible that she and Pop have been gone as long as they have.  They died less than 11 months apart, with Pop leading the way in July of 2000.  I know there must have been a reason for the timing of their respective deaths, but it was a hard thing just the same.

I don’t want to think so much about Mom C’s dying as her living.  She was one of the toughest, strongest, most determined women I ever had the good fortune to know.  She intimidated me for the longest time.  I felt like an interloper; I was stealing her baby boy, after all.  I was marrying the little brown-haired-brown-eyed child she loved so very much.

Image

When Jeff and I got married, she said that she only wanted one thing as far as our ceremony was concerned, and that was for Jeff and me to sing a song.  I knew I would be too preoccupied to sing well on the actual wedding day, so we arranged to pre-record a duet the night of the rehearsal. I adapted the words of The Lord’s Prayer to fit the Bach-Gounod “Ave Maria” music, and Jeff and I recorded it between the rehearsal and dinner.  It was a wonderful gift to be able to honor her request and she was pleased with the result.

Once we were back from our honeymoon, she came up to our little rental house one day and helped me get things set up, including literally taking a knife and helping to scrape who-knows-how-many years of muck out of the oven!  She measured windows and made some of our curtains.  Less than a year later, when we were moving to Florida, she and Pop packed themselves up and made the move with us, spending the weekend (along with Jeff’s sister Bridget and her husband Michael, who lived in New Orleans and came over to meet up, share family time and help unpack) getting us bare-bones settled in.  I remember Mom C looking at all the canned food I had stockpiled to move down with us and telling me she was glad my Mama had taught me how to shop!  She had been worried that we would be moving down with no groceries of any kind to get us started.

Mom Cutshaw was a wonderful cook who made legendary pies yet somehow often scorched the green beans or burned the rolls.  It seemed like there was nothing she couldn’t do.  She knew how to sew and keep finances in order.  She was an Opti-Mrs. (the lady counterpart to The Optimist Club) and took care of children during Sunday school.  And she did more for Pop after he began suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, for a longer period of time, than was humanly possible, keeping him at home up until just the last couple of months before he died.

During this time, she gradually lost some weight, which was to be expected given the physical and emotional demands of being a 24/7 caregiver.  I don’t guess anybody really thought much about it, hoping that once things settled down, she could rest up and regain some of her physical strength.  As it turned out, just months after Pop’s death, we learned that she was experiencing a recurrence of the cancer that had shown up in her colon in 1997, this time in her liver.  Treatment was unsuccessful and she was placed on palliative care at home.  I remember asking her if she was scared, and she said she wasn’t afraid of dying, but she didn’t want to suffer.

She faced her battle bravely, just as she had faced everything else in her life.  She died in the wee hours of the morning on June 18, 2001.  The house was full of all her kids, 2 of the 3 kids-in-law and 2 of the 3 grandchildren.  I feel sure that she knew we were there, and I hope that it comforted her.

She has come to me many times in dreams.  The most vivid and telling one happened more than once.  The estate was in the process of being settled and their house was on the market for a while before it finally sold.  In my dream she kept quoting me a very specific number saying, “____ thousand and the house is sold.”  The number was low for a house and it didn’t make sense.  As it turned out, though, once the house sold and the proceeds were divided among the 3 children, the figure that came to each sibling was the number she had quoted to me in the dreams.  She knew and she shared it with me.  It still gives me chills to think about it.

She wore Estee’ Lauder’s Youth Dew, and to this day when I catch a whiff of it, I remember her… and smile.  She also grew lots of beautiful flowers.  Her blue hydrangeas were the prettiest I’ve ever seen.  I have a few dried ones in the china cabinet that came to us after she died.  Every time I see them I remember her…her strength, her beauty and youthful spirit, her courage in the face of adversity and her love expressed in meals cooked and clothing sewed, dream visits and oven-scraping with a new daughter-in-law.

Image