Not for Sissies

So the last six months in particular, I have had a few odd breakouts of ailments including two bouts of bacterial infection in my sinuses. Don’t worry, this won’t be a list of what’s wrong with me; I am fundamentally pretty healthy.

I am not used to getting sick and I am not used to be knocked out and fatigued when I am sick. I am an energetic, active person and this is alien to me. Yes, I know, it has only been a week, but really.

Nobody really tells you or describes to you the specific and detailed changes that happen to you as your body ages. Maybe that is for the best. Maybe if we knew in advance, we would live in terror or perhaps take the easy way out. I don’t know.

It starts in such a subtle way, little things you don’t really notice at first. Then the changes start to cumulate. Some bother me more than others. It bothers me that my skin is no longer smooth and beautiful; my arms and legs look as my grandmother’s did. My neck which is long and was beautiful is now pouchy and inescapably old. All the sun damage from long ago is visible. Arthritis has snuck in a bit to various parts of my body. It doesn’t hold me back but it does mean I don’t spring out of bed in the morning, I stretch and give myself a minute.

On my bad days, I completely understand people’s compulsion to “correct” surgically the signs of aging; the things they don’t like about themselves. I sometimes think there are just a few small things…

The funny thing is, I loved my Grandmother more than almost anyone and her skin being crinkly didn’t bother me one little bit. And when I look at my face on a good day, at the lines on it, I think I have earned them -laughing and crying. When I am able to be kind to myself I think I have used this body hard and long and by some miracle it serves me still and mostly pretty well.

I'm glad I didn't know that growing old was not for sissies. I am also glad to know that I am not a sissy. I am working at aging as gracefully as I possibly can because I am keenly aware that it is so much more wonderful than the… Click To Tweet

I’m glad I didn’t know that growing old was not for sissies. I am also glad to know that I am not a I’m glad I didn’t know that growing old was not for sissies. I am also glad to know that I am not a sissy. I am working at aging as gracefully as I possibly can because I am keenly aware that it is so much more wonderful than the alternative. I am not done yet. sissy. I am working at aging as gracefully as I possibly can because I am keenly aware that it is so much more wonderful than the alternative. I am not done yet.

Listen to the River

“Mama, Mama many worlds I’ve known since I first left home.” I was, as I often do, listening to the Grateful Dead in my car. And hearing those words sent me reeling through my past. I have heard these words a thousand times but for some reason, they had particular resonance this day.

"Mama, Mama many worlds I've known since I first left home." I was, as I often do, listening to the Grateful Dead in my car. Click To Tweet

And I have had one amazing long strange trip, to quote another song; and many worlds. It is hard to write about memory and about past life without lingering at the regrets. They are easier to stop on than the joys but with an effort, I remind myself to stop on those too.

I left home for college at the age of sixteen, it was 1969 and peace, love and protest were in the air. Along with weed, pills and mushrooms. I lived on a barely finished campus on Long Island but mostly with an artist and his entourage. His portrait of me at that age still hangs in my bedroom, a lovely reminder of the good.

I left college before I turned eighteen and traveled the country working, singing, hitchhiking, going to Dead and Jefferson Airplane concerts. From the age of sixteen until who knows when I had the wonderful fortune to see so many of my icons and my heroes, in concert in mostly small venues. Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Pete Seeger, Little Feat, Bonnie Raitt, Dexter Gordon, Betty Carter, Etta James and so many more. The music has always been the thing for me. I feel most myself in music and closest to G-d in music.

I have lived and worked and sung in California, Arizona, Ohio, Massachusetts, Florida, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico. I may have forgotten a few. And I take many memories from them all, music, food, local idiom. I have sung jazz, gospel, country, country rock, folk and now Americana (that’s what they call old hippie folk/rock these days) and traditional and original Jewish liturgical music. What a road.

I have had multiple careers. I have never been a moneymaker but I have been able to support my family. And I have had the great joy of doing both good in the world and the things I love. Of course, there were a few jobs along the way that weren’t so interesting.

I have been harassed and abused. I have been loved and amused. I have loved and I have been disappointed. I am a mother, the greatest joy of my life; and that came from doing good. I am in an entirely new and alien phase of life so there will be more to talk about.

There is so much to tell but these are my thoughts for today. Many worlds I have indeed known, and there are more to travel through.

Food Choices

So, being diabetic is much more complex than I ever could have imagined. My father always made light of it saying he just had “a little sugar”. As did my grandfather; all the Meyers men had “the sugar”. It didn’t sound so complicated really, just don’t eat sweets. Little did I know; and forget all the other health risks that come with it.

Everything is sugar for a diabetic; rice, potatoes, all bread (rye and pumpernickel are best), carrots, peas, fruit (do not eat bananas) and of course the usual suspects, deserts and sweets of all kinds. I do find that I can eat a small amount of dark chocolate without adverse effect. And this is not an exhaustive list.

As an aside, I personally detest those people who arrogantly declaim that you can “cure diabetes with diet and exercise”. My disease is genetically acquired and can be controlled with diet and exercise but cannot be cured. I am definitely not obese and my legs are skinny enough thanks. And there are those that say “well it’s the net carbs” or “don’t count the sugar alcohols.” For me, and every diabetic is different, it is the total carb count without these excuses that is the best predictor of a sugar spike.

For a long time I used Glucerna (diabetic brand) shakes for breakfast as I am not much of a morning eater. Then I discovered that the Atkins shakes are cheaper, taste better and have fewer carbs than Glucerna (I still travel with them and my suitcase always gets searched because they x-ray as a bomb like shape). Then I started making my own with whey protein, almond milk, ice, berries, dehydrated greens (a bag of spinach always goes bad before I can use it) and a splash of sugar free raspberry or pomegranate syrup to amp the taste and sweetness (yes, I have a terrible sweet tooth). But I tend to put too many berries in, thus negating the good blood sugar effect.

After several years I just got bored with shakes and went searching for alternatives. I found the recipe I am sharing here. They are yum, easy and are filling enough to hold me until lunchtime and they do not raise my blood sugar. So here it is.

GRAIN FREE CRANBERRY ORANGE BREAKFAST COOKIES:

2 cups almond flour plus 2 tblsp. 1/4 cup shredded coconut (original recipe calls for unsweetened, hard to find so just use regular baking coconut, not enough to raise blood sugar) 2 tblsp. hemp hearts, flax seed or chia seed (see note at the end) 1/2 teas. each sea salt, baking soda, cinnamon 2 large eggs lightly beaten 1/3 cup coconut oil 1/4 cup maple syrup or honey (use maple if you have it – delicious – can reduce slightly to account for the coconut if you like) 1 teas. orange zest (more won’t hurt) 1 teas. pure vanilla 1/2 cup dried cranberries or cherries (so far 1/2 and 1/2 is yummiest) 1/2 cup unsalted raw pecans, chopped

Peheat to 325 and line a baking pan with parchment or a silicone mat. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together almond flour, coconut, hemp/chia/flax, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Add eggs, oil, maple/honey, orange zest and vanilla. Mix on medium until well combined. On low speed add dried fruit and pecans and mix until combined.

Using a metal quarter cup measure, drop on baking sheet one inch apart, bake approx. 25 mins until golden and not doughy. They will be sticky but if you give the cup measure a hard quick shake it will drop out. Cool on rack. will keep about 4 days in fridge, freeze for up to 3 months.

NOTE: If you use hemp hearts they will be softer and spread more. If you use chia or flax they will be denser and hold shape when baked. I prefer the chia/flax over the hemp hearts which are also expensive and hard to find.

Bon Appetit and A Votre Santé!

Am I Happy?

Apparently I am going through some kind of “normal” retirement slump. Every day people ask me with a big smile “so, how is retirement”. People have the oddest idealized idea of retirement. And perhaps it is based in some truth that I will discover later. It is hard to live up to people’s expectations of your retirement happiness.

Lots of huge changes in my life. It has been pointed out to me that it is reasonable to be a little traumatized by this. Single in my sixties after 27 years of marriage would be enough, but the basis for being single is something that destroyed an enormous chunk of my self esteem along with whatever imaginary idea I had about growing old. Then I retired after fifty or so years of working. Those two changes created a huge decrease in my finances. So… trauma. I guess it comes in many forms.

I spent fifty or so years working for others in, for the most part, a reasonably structured environment. I set my alarm and got my coffee every weekday, and some weekends, for all those years. I worked two jobs in college and law school, and one graduated, just worked. In all those years there were very few breaks or real vacations. My life was bounded by my work life and my son’s school schedule.

I woke up on January 4th of 2019 without an alarm and had no obligation to go anywhere. For a few weeks I found myself sleeping a very great deal, waking only when the sun bothered me or the cat wanted food. Six weeks later I left the country for almost four weeks. I returned to a teaching backlog, an intensive rehearsal schedule, my taxes and Passover. I was so busy I couldn’t keep up.

Now I am in self-care/doctor’s appointments world. Just catching up, not to mention getting older. Recently cleared out storage and many cabinets and held a garage sale: caveat – don’t do that. The good of it is that “stuff” is gone. Things that belonged to my father – gone many years now. Things that belonged to my ex husband, that he didn’t want – gone from here more than three years ago. Gone are many things I didn’t want and didn’t use and that others could use. It is a good weight to have gone but the process tends to reopen some wounds that are still healing.

I have a wonderful life. I have a beautiful home. I have a wonderful son and his lovely fiance. I have many loving women in my life. I have the privilege of making music with some brilliant musicians. And every day I wake up speaking my gratitude, thanking the G-d of my understanding, trying to meditate on the good. But I feel oddly off kilter, as if this retirement thing hasn’t quite found it’s footing.

So, in six weeks I am off to Europe for another amazing adventure. I guess routine and finding my feet will have to wait. Ask me in August.

Miracles & Wonder

I stood in the middle of the happy chaos that is Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok just looking around. And I thought: is this real? Did I really do this? By myself? Am I really in Southeast Asia? And yes I was. The wonder of it was just that. Although the place itself revealed many wonders throughout my trip (more on that another time), the miracle was that I had actually done it.

So I dragged my suitcase around until I found the area, thanks to some good instructions, where most tour operators waited for their charges. This, of course with a slightly travel addled brain – roughly 25 hours of travel. Fortunately at this point my suitcase was lighter than it would later be. After three walks up and back the outside sidewalk of the terminal I found an official looking person and said “Bamboo?” (The name of my tour company.) And I was directed to the correct corral where I met a driver and was bused off to the hotel.

The details of hotel and food and group are for another discussion. What matters here is courage. I find that if I think too much, I will not take a risk. I heard about this tour company, looked them up, saw this tour and immediately sent a deposit. Why? You might ask. Not sure, just that it sounded amazing and like something I had never done, would never do. So this trip became my post retirement gift/adventure.

After a ridiculously long time of taking care of other people both personally and professionally, I did not know if I would have the courage to follow through with this plan. But I made a commitment to myself and by God I was going to follow through and just not think too much.

The funny thing is, just after returning home I was offered an opportunity for another trip, life altering in a very different way. And because of this adventure, I said yes without thinking for even a moment. Something I never would have done in a previous phase of life.

The payoff, for not thinking too much, was a life altering trip. A journey of body and spirit that was entirely unexpected in many ways. I was the oldest in my group by a decade or so but mostly found myself “keeping up”. I roomed with a stranger and spent nights in a bunkhouse in the jungle with a group of strangers. I was blessed by Buddhist monks and prayed in their temples. I was of service in many ways and was served up gratitude and smiles all along the way.

In the mountains outside of Changmai they grow wildflowers for commercial purposes, acres and acres of them, and they grow strawberries. Because the strawberries are allowed to ripen fully in the sun on the vine they are almost unbelievably sweet. Something we rarely experience in this country where everything is picked early, stored in cold and shipped long distances. I purchased there a box of natural, pure, unsweetened dried strawberries. They are in my refrigerator still and every so often I take one, close my eyes, and savor the taste of courage.