Tag Archives: mid life transition

Made to Measure


Some people are good with rulers. I’m not one of them. My best relationship with a ruler occurred decades ago when we lived in England for a year. Every new entry in every essay book we kept for every subject had to have a perfect line drawn separating it from the entry above, a little the way you use those long black thingies in a check-out line to separate your groceries from those of the person ahead of you. I was good at drawing those lines, once I learned how not to leave long smears of ink from the fountain pens we were required to use.

So the task of creating an arrangement of family photos on our living room wall continues to daunt. Aka frustrate. (Aka madden.)

pics on floor

Because I have to measure. (Not to mention use a level.) I know that in this, the continuation of my second freshman year, I’m supposedly reveling in learning new skills. But precision work like that makes me want to throw things.

You might ask, why, then, am I so interested in learning to quilt? A craft that requires precision at every infinitesimal step? Answer: I’m still in the delusional, what-pretty-fabric stage.

It hasn’t helped my photo project that some of the frames I’m using come from my grandparents’ house and are some sixty fragile years old. Nothing worse than finally getting to the hanging-picture-on-accurately-placed nail moment and having the frame fall apart. (Glass breaks when it hits a wood floor.)

My point (I do have one) is that I’m just not a precision person. The art of eye liner, for instance, continues to elude. One of my uncles (now deceased) a physics teacher at Exeter was probably a precision person. One, at least, of my sons has inherited the gene. And while it’s true we can learn new skills, and especially as we age probably should to stimulate our brains, we can’t become what we’re not. Which I’m always wanting to do. Become the person who’s the life of the party instead of the empress of all introverts. Become the person whose phone vibrates every few minutes because so many friends are texting in (see above). Become, for the moment, anyway, the person to whom marketing oneself comes so naturally that it won’t take longer to write the query letter to prospective literary agents than it did to write the 60,000 word novel.

But–I’m stuck with me. Like it or not. And maybe that’s one of the most basic skills I need to be learning: how to live with what I’ve got.



Of Plaid and Polka Dots

Have you found yourself becoming one of your parents yet?

A professor of electrical engineering with a Phd from Harvard and a past that included work at Oak Ridge National Lab in its earlier hush-hush days, my very bright father became, as time went on, increasingly, well, eccentric. After a sabbatical abroad in the early 1970s, he let his engineer crew cut grow out to an unruly pepper-and-salt mop, kind of a cross between Einstein and Colonel Sanders. Which became a subject of much let’s call it dissension on the home front.


He also took to wearing my brother’s cast-off orange plaid shorts, one of my mother’s more unfortunate purchases. Throw in one of the elderly white t-shirts which may or may not have had holes hither and yon, since true child of the Depression, throwing anything away truly pained him. (Another way of saying he didn’t.)

Do you start to get the picture?

As a young teenager, I looked on this with horror. So you’ll get a better appreciation for my dismay at realizing that there are a lot of days I dress somewhat the same. James and I are in a never-ending process of digging out the clay and mud from what will be, if we live long enough, a patio. Work I do in a pair of sneakers so old they’re more hole than shoe. And one of the many t-shirts I inherited from my oldest son, some of which are in that gloriously soft state that only comes with age. Which may or may not have a hole or two here and there. And– a truly horrific pair of magenta plaid shorts I picked up at Goodwill years ago in a moment of true insanity.

I didn’t grow up in the Great Depression. Yet it also pains me to throw things away when there’s a possibility they might someday come in handy.

 (Did I mention that on muddier days, I add my new pair of boots from Tractor Supply? They’re black, with colorful polka dots like the  kind you’d find on birthday wrapping paper. Cute, but– with purple plaid?)

IMG_0688 (2)

So, there it is. Late middle age eccentricity repeating itself.




The Freshman Challenge

“I’m too old.”

We’re not supposed to talk like that. AARP Magazine, with its relentlessly upbeat articles on what we can do at ages when most of our grandparents were snugly tucked up in their beds, would hiss.

Yes, I began ballet at 50. Yes, a couple of years later, I ran my first 5K. Yes, I swim my mile each weekday morning, manhandle a filled garden cart over the large rocks that block my path, read children’s books.

But–what I can’t do is go back to college. Not really. I’m too old for the slumber parties that make up dorm life, too impatient to sit through lectures. And I rebel at the thought of assigned reading and writing footnotes again.

Anyway, the college I want to attend already has my daughter on campus, and she’d murder me if I suddenly started showing up in the cafeteria line.

photoWhat I can do is take on myself what one of her deans asked of the freshmen at their Opening Induction Ceremony. Challenge yourself, he said. Read something you wouldn’t usually read. Study something you’re sure is too hard for you. Listen to a piece of music you’ve never heard before. Introduce yourself to that person over there who’s not at all like anyone you’ve ever met.

Please note: I’m not quoting here, just remembering loosely. And if you, too, have sat through several different welcome speeches in a row after moving a child into her dorm in the rain after a five hour drive after getting up at 4 AM to get on the road, you know what I mean when I say his words are a bit fuzzy.

But that was the gist. This is your time, the speakers all seemed to say.  To explore, yourself and the world around you. To dig deep and find out who you are. To figure out what it is you most love doing, and how that passion can become a career. A life.

That I can do. Or try to. In this, my transition time. And without the tuition bill.

(Though I do wish I had welcoming committees gifting me with t-shirts and lanyards. And I sure wouldn’t mind a cafeteria which supplied regular meals and an endless supply of soft-serve ice cream.)

Have you gone through such a transition time? Done your own mid-life exploring? I’d love to know.