Subourbon Mom


Dreams or Nightmares? It’s About the Approach
September 7, 2022, 5:19 pm
Filed under: Country Living, Exercise, Middle Age, Posts, Sports | Tags: , , , ,

Since I posted the blog What’s Your Dream?, which Life clearly read and had a good laugh, things have gone slightly sideways. Now I’m having to eat my own cooking.

In that other blog I profoundly (I thought) said:

Whatever your dreams once were, don’t let them go entirely – find out what parts of those dreams you can still do, or how they might work in new ways for you.  Life is short and unpredictable. 

Of course Life is unpredictable. That can make it really fun…and then sometimes it can be a pain in the ass…literally.

For a quick recap: I had just revised my dream of owning and riding horses in horse shows to one of riding purely for mental and physical health. Just when I was finally feeling like I was getting stronger as a rider and able to work on details instead of just building muscle, I did what you’re never supposed to do – I got cocky and relaxed.

I forgot that you can ride for your mental health in a field, with a montage in your head of riding like the Elves in Lord of the Rings through buttercups and swaying grasses; but, you cannot EVER forget that you have a 900-lb animal under you who also has opinions. Long story short, as I was walking my horse, she spooked at something, and off I went. (Spooking means jumping sideways because there’s a troll or something equally scary nearby.)

Had I been paying attention and sitting the way you’re supposed to, I would have been just fine.  Instead, I slid off like the frog in that Family Guy episode – you know, where he’s trying to scrape it up and throw it out the window?

I hit my lower back and then the back of my head (yes, I had a helmet on). One concussion and a spectacular bruise later, I am revising my dreams – again.

The truth?  I was scared to get back on – not scared of the horse, but of the pain and inconvenience of falling and doing more damage. It took a month for me to ride again. The first day I went out to get the horse I had fallen from so I could get on her again, my energy must have been negative, to say the least.  I’ve heard horses can hear your heartbeat from 14 feet away. Well, she must have heard mine because she took one look at me, nodded to her sister in the field and walked away. 

“Absolutely not,” she said very clearly.

The ride went fine, and with the jitters pretty much gone the next time I went to get her, she walked right up.  Horses can be great teachers, if you’re willing to listen.

Apparently, Life thought I needed to be reminded that riding for mental health includes retaining focus and positive energy.

It’s not just what you take from the experience but what you bring to it. 

30 years ago, I would have gotten right back on, the Hell with what the doctors said. Now I’m seeing my chiropractor (thanks Dr. Carlsen!), sitting at my desk with ice packs, stretching and doing yoga poses to get comfortable. (When did I become this person???) I’m still going to be riding for my mental and physical health for as long as I possibly can. In fact, I asked each doctor I saw when I could ride again, and I swear each of them said a version of “What’s wrong with you horse people?” (So much – but that’s another blog.)

Revising your dreams doesn’t mean diminishing them. Sometimes it just means changing the direction from which you approach.



How About Romance Novels for Grown-Ups?
July 30, 2022, 3:14 pm
Filed under: Middle Age, Misc. Humor, Posts | Tags: , , , , ,

The other day I was super grumpy and stressed for absolutely no reason. So, I did one of the two things I always do when I’m like that.  Since I didn’t have what I needed to make and eat an entire tray of Rice Krispy treats, I went to the bookstore (yes, I actually bought NEW books at a Barnes and Noble, not used on Amazon) with the sole intention of purchasing a genre I haven’t read in a long time – Romance.

When I say Romance, I don’t mean the plasticky covers with raised lettering and a Scottish pirate or a huge-breasted heroine with Victoria Secret hair stranded in a castle somewhere.  I just wanted something happy and a bit less sugary than Hallmark or Virgin River. Maybe Maeve Binchy with a little sex? Or Outlander, which has just the right amount of sex and plot (but I’ve read and watched all of those).

What did I find?   

About 100 Romance novels for current day 18-40-year-olds, with cartoon looking covers and full of young people who don’t know how to communicate with each other. They’re all going on trips or to weddings or changing tech jobs, which is age appropriate. I’m just not there anymore – at least, not for first weddings.  

I found another large batch of Romances between quirky women who are attracted to supernatural creatures that may or may not kill them in between sexual encounters. Don’t get me wrong – I loved the Twilight Series, True Blood and A Discovery of Witches. I just wasn’t feeling it that day. I wanted to take the edge off, not be edgy.

I also found some Romances with a “Red Room of Pain” theme that can be interesting when you’re in the mood, but again, not feeling edgy that day.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I saw a bunch of Christian Romances. I suppose they exist in case I was feeling guilty after reading something from the Red Room of Pain section, and needed my inner church to whisper, “Make room for Jesus!” as I was reading. Ummmm…hard no. I was already grumpy – I didn’t need God hanging out on the periphery of my escape making me feel bad.

What I didn’t find was a Romance section geared toward the 45+ crowd that wasn’t Christian, wasn’t syrupy sweet and didn’t come in large print. In fact, anything that appealed wasn’t even in the Romance section – it was in the just plain Fiction section. That should tell you something – publishers clearly don’t believe 45+ people want to read about romance between their peers. After thumbing through a bunch of possibilities (think Kristin Hannah, Erin Hildebrand), I realized that Romance for the 45+ crowd all has the same elements:

  1. 40+-year-old woman is deserted by her husband through cheating, financial ruin, or death
  2. Deserted woman must abandon her old life and return to a place of her childhood and confront some trauma before she can heal
  3. In this process, deserted woman meets the new love of her life but she hates him at first, before he helps her see her real value and accomplish her goals (on her own of course – then they get together after)
  4. Somewhere in between her hating him and accomplishing her goal, they sleep together and can’t communicate afterward so it’s awkward or downright antagonistic. I always want to scream at them, “Just fucking talk already and stop being 13 again.”
  5. The setting is always somewhere we wish we could be – a cute cottage on a coast or in the mountains, a ranch, or a crumbling house that must be rehabbed. Anywhere but Suburbia, USA.  
  6. There is always at least one quiet person who befriends her and tell her when she’s being a twat.  
  7. And if you’re reading Norah Roberts, there’s a murder or assault or stalker that must be dealt with, too.

Full disclosure, one of the novels I’ve written has elements 1, 2, 3, 5 & 6 in it. I get it – it’s a formula that works.

*But I think we need to find a way to work Romance novels for the older(?) set back onto the Romance section bookshelves. How about we talk about trying to look sexy while having a hot flash?  Or the heroine falling in love with a guy whose testosterone might be a little low, and he can’t always get it up? 45+ romance isn’t fiction – it’s real life, albeit just not as glamorous as jet-set 30-year-olds or as prescriptive as the Christian or supernatural romances. Real life romance may not be quite the escape you’re looking for, but it can be romantic and comedic and downright spiritual in its own way, depending on your view.

So, after an hour I bought three fiction novels – none of which have those plot points but look promising.  I’ll keep you posted, but in the meantime, please don’t be offended when I don’t answer your emails, texts or calls. I’ll be eating Rice Krispy treats and reading about the circus, a cult and an affair.

*Okay, when I Googled best elderly romance book covers, turns out there is already a section for that, at least on the internet. Here is my favorite cover (I can’t even…):



What’s Your Dream?
June 20, 2022, 10:04 am
Filed under: Middle Age, Posts, Sports | Tags: , , , ,

Here’s something I learned this year – you can keep your childhood dreams, but they’ll look a little different when you’re middle-aged. But really, what doesn’t look different as you get older? I literally am those people on the Progressive commercials that are turning into their parents: “We all see it…we all see it…BLUE!!!”  Don’t know what I mean? Watch this…

So, back to childhood dreams…

This summer I checked off two huge bucket list items. To most people they might seem frivolous or meaningless, but to me they mean so much more. For the first time in 35 years, I jumped a horse over little cross rails (for non-horse people, that means poles set at a foot off the ground). By jump, I mean the giant horse I was riding barely saw them and hopped over while I just tried to stay out of the way. I also rode in a small horse show trotting over poles just lying on the ground. Yes, I was the oldest in the class by maybe 30 years, competing against a few  people, most of whom were children and at least two who were your people training horses who barely knew what a pole was.  Did I forget my girth (saddle belt) and have to borrow one?  Yes. Was I freaking out?  Yes.

But I did it, and I couldn’t have been more proud of myself.  

See what I mean?  This doesn’t seem like much, in but in my heart those two things were huge. Let’s back up so you can see why – and why you should still pursue your dreams, no matter what shape they take as you age.

After a terrible year of deaths in our family this year, human and animal, the barn where I ride was and remains my refuge. Soon after the sweet horse I leased died in January from a sudden, terrible infection, I walked back into the barn to get away from the world. It was awful, seeing his empty stall and halter, but the barn has always been and always will be my refuge.

One of the horse moms (aka boarders) saw me and said, “I didn’t think you’d be back.”

Not come back? For a second, I was really offended. I had to regroup and remember that this nice woman didn’t know me as a child, creating notebooks full of fictional racehorses with breeding charts, colors, personalities and race results. She couldn’t know that for years I doodled horse heads all over my school notebooks; that I drew pictures of the horseback wedding I was going to have (shockingly that didn’t happen); or, that until I was 15, when I fell off, busted my shoulder and simultaneously found boys, the only thing in the world I wanted was a horse.

To my mother’s credit, a single teacher who made $30k a year, she somehow found a way for me to take lessons once a week and occasionally do a local horse show.  But a real horse of my own?  Out of the question. As an adult, I was able to satisfy my horse itch by being a horse show mom for years, until Daughter #2 was clearly able to do it on her own but let me “help” because she knew I needed to be involved.

Then came the end of 2021 and early 2022: three family deaths, one horse death and one horse near-death.  It was terrible, but there was a silver lining. Losing so many people and animals in such a short time made me realize time really is finite, and that if I want to achieve some dreams I have to put my phone down, get off the couch and figure out what that means.

A horse of my own may still not be in the equation, but now I take lessons. Do I want to be in big horse shows? Not really – I don’t need that kind of stress. My dream has changed into finding that balance between learning to ride better and riding for mental health. The two are not always the same. Some days its okay to just walk around in a field, to look at the bobbing head beneath you and find that simple joy. Other days, its feeling like flying as the horse you’re riding graciously allows you to flop around while it steps over poles. Whatever your dreams once were, don’t let them go entirely – find out what parts of those dreams you can still do, or how they might work in new ways for you.  Life is short and unpredictable.  Ask yourself, am I going to be mad next year, or in five years, that I didn’t start something today? If the answer is yes, then put your phone down, get off the couch and see what can happen. You might be surprised with what your old dreams look like now, and what it feels like to realize them.  

Special thanks to my family, friends and especially Kimberly Anderson at Manakin Sabot Equestrian Center for their patience and encouragement. Thanks to Daughter#1 for telling me the truth and making me get up and do it, to Hubby for funding and taking pictures, and to Daughter #2 for listening to my blow-by-blow descriptions of each lesson. 🙂



Big Thoughts
August 5, 2021, 5:33 pm
Filed under: Middle Age, Misc. Humor | Tags: , , , ,

I don’t know if y’all can relate, but I miss having big thoughts. Actually, I just miss having any thoughts, really.

I used to spend my free time reading and writing or doing something else creative. These days, it is all I can do to stay awake long enough to read two pages of a book and my blog posts have been as rare as an honest politician. Podcasts and comedy streams have replaced thinking and daydreaming as I cook, clean or drive, and when I watch tv, I’m often playing games on my phone at the same time.

How did this happen?

I blame a lot of it on my phone. The games are addicting. Have you ever played Candy Crush? I mean, c’mon…it’s designed in every way to make you an addict, just like casino slot machines. We never had a chance. The rapid-fire bits of brain candy I can access at any time are also addicting – social media is the worst for that, never mind the Google rabbit hole. I seriously did not need to know where TSA puts all our stuff when they confiscate it, or that babies don’t have kneecaps – thanks Google. That’s an hour of my life I won’t get back.

  

But seriously, the phone is just the tool I use to distract myself.

So why am I so uncomfortable with my own thoughts?

Oh, that’s right – they’re scary and stressful.

Not scary in a “I’m gonna skin a cat and wear it like a hat” way – that requires some strong psych meds and probably a Silence of the Lambs face muzzle.  

My thoughts are scary in the way that all the stressors of everyday life converge into one enormous, swirling black hole that steals every ounce of creative energy. That anxiety black hole also sucks repressed thoughts out of the box in the corner of your brain labeled “Don’t Open This Box….Ever.”  Usually, that box only gets opened when I’m starting a hangover at 2:00am. You know, when all the things you’ve ever said or done get blown out of proportion and you’re pretty sure you’ve offended everybody you’ve ever met.   

Playing Candy Crush keeps that box closed.  (Yes, young’uns, I know Candy Crush is something only middle-aged or older moms still play. Quit judging my escape techniques while you watch make-up and how to make water melon drink tutorials.)

Disclaimer: I’m definitely not any kind of psychologist, and if anyone is really sinking into that black hole of anxiety or depression, please get help.

Speaking for myself, I truly believe hiding from my thoughts is a cycle of bad mental habits combined with a crazy two years and probably some haywire hormones. Breaking some of these mental bad habits is an important first step to feeling better. I’m also learning to break down all those black hole worries into manageable pieces.

Learning to stop and pay attention to one sense at a time helps.  Doing that while being dragged around on my morning walks by two energetic dogs makes that difficult, but mostly I can do it a couple of times throughout the day when I’m feeling stressed. My watch even reminds me to breathe, but only when I’m in the middle of editing a heated email with the restraint Donald Trump’s staffers wished they could use. I do try to breathe afterwards, though.

And finally, thinking about things I’m grateful for before going to sleep puts me in a better frame of mind before my brain goes rummaging around in The Box. It’s harder to dwell on all the bad things when your brain has already decided your life is actually pretty good.   

Am I going to give up my games?  People, I said small steps. Let’s be real. These mental habits took years to cultivate. And frankly, I’m on level 1925, sooooo….I’ll start with taking the games I only play sometimes off my phone. I’m definitely going to try and break the habit of looking at my phone while “watching” TV. If the show can’t hold my interest, maybe it’s time for a book.

I think the same can be said for pretty much any situation – if it makes me want to retreat into my phone, I need to change the situation.

We all have things that we do to manage our worries and keep the stress at bay.  Feel free to share your suggestions and methods in the comments section so others can benefit.

And don’t worry, I’ll get back to bitching and pointing out stupid people/stuff soon…there are only so many habits you can change at one time.



Crossing the Shaky Bridge to Middle Age

Women of a certain age joke about menopause all the time.

“If I had a dollar for every time I get distracted, I wish I had some ice cream.”

“I don’t have hot flashes, I have short, tropical vacations.”

“Menopause – it’s a thin line between love and homicide.”

This happens…that stops happening … and thank God THAT doesn’t happen anymore (you can Google the symptoms – it’s not secret knowledge, despite what our mothers’ generation thought).  I always thought that knowing those things made me have a pretty good handle on it, mentally.  My kids are grown and I’m definitely ready to kiss the whole period/PMS thing goodbye.

So, when mine stopped happening, I diligently started counting down the months until the magical 12-month mark with no period – then it would become official.  I’d be in a new stage of life that didn’t involve trips to the store because I ran out of tampons and packing extra underwear to take to work and on vacations (just in case).  I was looking forward to emotional stability, sleeping through the night and becoming the wise old matriarch I am destined to be.  I was even getting used to this new, fatty swim ring permanently hanging over the top of my pants, no matter how many sit-ups I did.

And then, at 11 months and 3 weeks – I got it again.

Are you freaking kidding me?

I was at the finish line, looking official Middle Age in the face and she laughed, said “Bitch, please,” and drew another 365-day line in the sand.

A couple of nights later (and one emergency trip to CVS for supplies), I dreamed I was pregnant (I’m not).  And in that dream, I was very upset.  I cried and wept, feeling angry and betrayed and trapped. I remember wailing “I don’t want to be 70 when my kid graduates college!”

50b

It took me a few days to process what was  happening with that dream. I finally realized that even though my body decided to have a last laugh or last gasp, whichever way you want to look at it, in my mind I had already moved on.  I’ve raised my two wonderful daughters and experienced  the joys and agony of watching them go through the ages and stages. I am ready to start a new phase of life.

That’s something the OBGYN, memes, Facebook and even your friends probably don’t talk about – the mental and emotional adjustment of menopause. I’m sure most women feel it is liberating, devastating, or some combination of the two, but we just don’t talk about that part of it.

Memes are way funnier, let’s be honest.

But eventually you either embrace or resent this new phase of life, this new you. You come to terms with it, or if you don’t, society will most likely not be very kind to you. There will be a lot of pursed lips and head shaking when you show up in your Daisy Dukes, 4-inch wedges and bikini top at age 60, no matter how in shape you think you are.

On the surface I was annoyed, but deep down getting my period again shook the fragile estrogen bridge (made of HRT pills and a secret stash of Midol) I was clinging to, as I tried to cross the chasm between youth and middle-age.

Bridge1When I look behind, I see a thinner version of me chasing my children, arranging play dates, juggling work and parenting and a busy social life, and generally burning the candle at both ends without a thought. I see Hubby working hard and picking up the slack, leaping into the chaos when he got the opportunity, and juggling the same crazy things.  It’s a busy, almost frantic life back there, and I get tired just watching them. When I look forward, I can see the other side, at least what we’re told is there: great, worry-free sex, wisdom, acceptance of certain physical flaws and changes that actually celebrate the life of a woman.  I see Hubby and I standing together watching our girls make their own way in the world, their own families, their own memories.  I see us figuring out this new existence together and connecting in a new way.  I see us being the team we were in the beginning.

And I realize that I’m looking forward to getting over this bridge, despite the bottles of Aleve, the moments of missing what used to be, and the memory losses that are already starting to peek around the corner at me.

So, another 365-day countdown begins. Now, if only I could remember where I put my calendar….

 

 




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