The other day, out walking Juniper on a frigid frost day, Greg and I were chatting (as we always do), and there was a moment where I could not remember an essential detail germane to the conversation. Down the hill to the under the bridge tunnel, now laughing. Sometimes, it’s a bitch getting older, we thought aloud. Important threads of thought lost to the wind.
As I walked, I slowed my pace, trailing a step behind, the tunnel icy with wind and damp. For the first time in memory, I did not mind it: the forgetting. I am nearer to fifty-one than fifty and like it just fine. I realized I have no desire to spin backward the hands of time, to less sagging and wrinkled quick-memory days. Those when I saw so little of my own value and strength. Those when I thought I deserved mistreatment. Those when I was gas lit and sad. Those when I feared to make my voice heard. Those when I saw so many problems.
As I came out the other side, I felt a lightness and strength, a sheer joy I had never experienced. How beautiful the day and my presence of mind to love it for all it was and I am.
Well, friends, I did it! I reached my Weight Watchers goal and then some. I am down 16.2 pounds, to be very precise, and feel positively wonderful.
The photo at the left was taken in Ness City, Kansas on the final day of our summer vacation. I had been thinking about Weight Watchers on and off since January: my belching and digestion were pretty awful, clothes were fitting tighter, and I really didn’t want to go up a size. I also wanted to establish healthier eating habits. With my MTHFR issues (heterozygous for the C677T mutation), my liver function on it’s best day is at 70% of normal. As a result, I had all kinds of digestive woes, depression, anxiety, and possibly a million other annoyances that may or may not be related. It depends on who you ask.
When I uploaded our vacation photos and saw myself, I didn’t think I looked bad. To toot my own horn, I thought my hair looked especially great! I did, however, think I looked a little chunky for my frame. Combined with the above, I told Greg I wanted a change and asked if he wanted to join me. As you well know, the hubster is the best life partner I could conjure with a wand, and we went forward together. Next week will mark three months and countless ways of improving our life.
First, and most obvious – I think I look swell! My face isn’t so puffy, my clothes are looser, and my muscles are tighter. My body is so much stronger, too!! Weights I never imagined using on the regular are part of my routine. And my emotions! They are far more steady and largely void of the depression and anxiety that often plagued me.
Most exciting is my overall health. I had been in the necessary habit of taking a daily slew of supplements to manage my MTHFR. Liquid Glutathione, Gallbladder Nutrients, Ox Bile, Digestive Enzymes, B Vitamins, B-12 on its own, Selenium drops! So very many. With my change in diet (MORE vegetables!) and subsequent weight loss, I was able to drop the selenium, gallbladder nutrients, and B-12. I also reduced the others overall dosage pretty dramatically AND to just three days a week. I only take the digestive enzymes when I eat something rich or especially beany, as I am NOT fond of farting. The last time my digestion was this good, I was a newlywed. That is twenty-eight years ago, dear peeps. A hearty hoot and holler!
Not surprisingly, I believe there are two messages here. First, it is always the right time to improve. Second, which is really a two-parter, tracking habits and being accountable for behavior leads to change. I knew my eating wasn’t perfect, but once I really paid attention and learned the point value of everything I was gobbling down, it became easier to choose healthier options and take the best care of my one marvelous body.
p.s. How about this crazy weather? I am wearing shorts and a t-shirt in the middle of November and am not at all cold. It is supposed to be 73 today!
I love HOT coffee. To get quite literal, I’m talking 150 degrees hot, because, of course I measured! On a French press day, I pour it into our old school Corning Ware pot and let it big bubble boil before adding the wonder that is milk. Mostly lotsa, lotsa homemade almond, cow a distant second, I know – snob. But I’ve probably burned a coffee connoisseur bridge or two by boiling it in a pot on the stove. Eeek! Now that we have an espresso machine, that milk’s gotta be creamy-steamy steamed. I like what I like! I sit at my usual spot at the table, sip slowly, and revel in every single sip. I really do.
Lately, I’ve been reading a Psalm while I’m at it. Aside from a few Catechism classes as a wee one, I have never had any sort of bible study. If you are a religious Christian, this might be the moment to avert your eyes. <<PAUSE TO WAIT>> Thus far, I am finding them to be mostly angry rants against the Lord and wishing misery upon others, when I was looking for a bit more eloquence, hope, and aspiration. Let’s just say it answers a lot of other questions about Christianity for me. We’ll see how long I stick with it. <<PAUSE OVER>>
And now for TEA! For reasons I cannot explain, it is pretty much a polar opposite situation. I do not enjoy it at coffee temperature. At all. TOO HOT!! So I wait, generally for enough time to have nearly forgotten about it. Then it is lukewarm perfect and I GULP it down in a truly separate but equal heart aflutter fashion. Odd funny, and another very unsurprisingly me, Colleen Sohn, thing to do. Oh, the multitude on the list. Like anyone cares or needs to know, but alas, here we are!
And finally, the photos. The last bunches of mint and tomatoes. So pretty. Praise be to the beauty of fall. I do not remember the last time it didn’t snow or freeze in such a terrible manner that the majority of leaves immediately fell, so very green and sad, denying us the beauty we are now experiencing. The trees are alive with color, dear reader, and I could not be happier about it!
The amazing salad -Vietnamese Pork with quick pickled radish, jicama, and carrot, and with a bevy of other chopped goodness – the last of Farmer Greg’s cayenne & curly endive, then jalapeno, cucumber, cilantro, mint (from above!), purple and green cabbage, lettuce. Good grief, the chopping! It was super-yummy, but if there’s going to be a next time, I will need a little help. I was at it for an hour, chop, chop, chopping, and pickling. We downed them in less than ten. Not the best ratio, in my humble opinion.
It’s curious how the majority of people live to be fairly old (77.3 years), yet we don’t know much about what it is like. As young people, we have only known our grandparents as middle-aged and beyond, and if we’re lucky enough to have the kind of grandparent with whom we enjoy spending time and have ample opportunity to do so, hardly notice the changes, so subtle are they.
So, for anyone who might stumble upon this, I’m diving headfirst into what surprised me the most about getting older. It is without bitterness that I report on what I have learned and experienced, because, if you know anything about me, I don’t have the will or energy for such endeavors. Life is far too long to be spent in misery.
When I was first married (just two weeks before I turned twenty-two), I read a book (who knows the title or the author – this was, gasp, before Goodreads and me keeping track!) that described most vividly the relationship between a married couple in their fifties. They loved each other, were quite happily married, and had sex about once a month. That last bit positively scandalized me. How could it be that such an ideal marriage could survive, even thrive, on so very little sex? It seemed so…SAD.
Fast forward nearly thirty years and I know. After so very much wonderful, magical, fun, ecstatic sex, biology intervenes. No fanfare. A lot, then a little less, and lesser still. Like the insatiability hadn’t happened at all. More often than not, Greg and I wake up, snuggle, recount our dreams, and say, “Sex?” where it would not have been a question before, just a wild tangle of bodies. Then we shrug our shoulders, sometimes chuckle, and utter something like, “Nah. Coffee, then a walk? Or walk first?”
It might, to younger eyes, seem sad or disappointing, but it is fact. And, we, quite frankly, don’t care. Because we are the people in the book. We are thirty years together, more in love than ever, more understood than ever, better friends than ever, and it is not hyperbole to say it is nearly every great adjective in the book. When there is a struggle about how much sex we are not having, it lies mostly in the feeling that we ought to want it but don’t. Like we have to live up to what we’ve seen in the movies. People nobody really knows. Because bold Colleen has asked and read. Of course I have!
In other movies, and as my own younger self, I observed the older woman who has spent a lot of time and money on nips and tucks and fillers and had the same similar shock. Why DO that? Again, it is something a body must experience. The first time my cheeks sagged from gravity was utterly devastating. One day I woke up and my face was not as it was the day prior. Very strange and a little bit frightening. The person I knew so well before was becoming someone else.
Then the changes start happening with amazing rapidity, everywhere. Pert, perky places with upside down smiles, absolutely without warning: elbows, knees, ankles. Crepe paper skin on my wrist. Dark spots on my hands, legs, arms, in the shape of a butterfly (!) on my cheek. More disbelief! More sadness! And, in my case, a few zaps with a very painful laser to make me feel better, but not, oh never, put them off permanently.
Then, I also suddenly notice, there are all these other women at the grocery, shopping for clothes, and dining in restaurants looking very much the same. Aging. Why hello! I didn’t see you until I became you. So sorry! We look about and are acknowledged like one would a tree, there but unimportant until needed for shade. The women with the nips, tucks, and fillers handle it differently and stand out a bit more for it. Please show them kindness. This life is hard.
Not too far in the future (a few years, maybe?), I will be among them, with eyelids hopefully not in a permanent state of surprise because mine have drooped the whole of my life. One day, they will have gone so far the inability to read without eye fatigue and associated headaches will finally get the better of me. Wish me luck, please.
Then there is the weight gain. I read somewhere that a body over the age of 40 gains, on average, 1.5 pounds a year. Why, you might ask? As we age, we lose muscle mass, and because muscle is a major fat burner, when there is less of it, there is more of us. Greg and I were right on target (ha!) until COVID hit, and then stress baking packed on an additional five. Blech. No need to worry, though. If you can keep a check on it as you go, dialing high calorie food and drink down and exercise up, you’ll probably not end up overweight.
That being said, coming to this truth and joining Weight Watchers has been pretty great for us. Part of the process of being on WW is knowing your WHY. Mine is strength, accountability, and awareness, and damn if it doesn’t come up every single day. I walk or work out every day, see and feel myself getting stronger (I’ve got guns!). I track everything I eat and drink every day, and the fact that each item has a different point value, sometimes wildly so, I am more and more aware of how each will affect my short and long term goals. In the before times, I ate, exercised, and hoped for the best. Now I know before I even start what the outcome will be (like already losing nearly 10 pounds). It is empowering!
To further this sense of empowerment, if you are brave and self-assured and willing to do the difficult work of standing up for what is right, life vastly improves in just about every arena. There are no obligations to the cruel and dysfunctional. People who take no responsibility for their behavior. Who don’t apologize. Who blame you. It no longer matters if they don’t know what to do (poor babies) or simply refuse, because you DO know. Mother-in-law, cousins, siblings, “friends”. These people are released. Like birds from a too small cage, a leaf on the wind. Safe journey! The lightness and freedom is a wonder of staggering proportions.
And finally, because ooooh-eeee, is this a long one or what? For all the people who told me once I turned 50 I would be a big sobbing baby because I chose not to have children, you were wrong. I still LOVE babies (that smell!) and children and even teenagers – the newness, innocence, and questioning. I am quite adept at cuddling and adventuring and especially spoiling! But, but, but, I never-ever wish they were my own. I am well content with the life I’ve chosen. It is rich and joyful and colorful and fun. I stretch my mind and body. I am loved and love in return. It really doesn’t get any better.
Hello from Bonne Terre in St. Francois County, where the paternal side of my Family Tree really leafs out. In addition to wanting to know America and never having visited Kansas City, St. Louis, or Joplin, this part of my history brought us to Missouri. Luckily, I am married to a very amenable traveler, and he enjoyed driving the winding roads of Missouri just as much as I did.
My Great Grandfather James Roy Sohn was born in Caledonia in 1894. He married my Great Grandmother Novella Grace Kelley in 1915. She was born in 1899 in Lesterville, and, rather sadly, I don’t have a clearer photo of her. They had three children together: Pearl, James Marshall, and my Grandfather Herbie. Like a lot of couples, the strain after the death of a child, James Marshall, brought them to divorce.
James “Jim” Roy was a barber in St. Francois County for more than 50 years, and this was his shop in Bonne Terre until he retired. I LOVE this building and imagining him pulling up in one of his Buicks!
He and his second wife, Missouri Day Crane (at right) lived in the house above at the time of the 1930 census. My Grandpa Herbie is at the left, Pearl next to Missouri, and Betty, their child together, is the little cutie. Unfortunately, tragedy struck James Roy’s life again, and Missouri Day died of breast cancer in 1940. She was only 42.
Before going on the trip, despite scouring every record I could find, I didn’t know where the barbershop was. I believe James Roy was keen on me learning, because, as we were walking around the lake pictured above, which is right behind the 1930 house, Greg and I met a man walking his dog. Bonne Terre being a small town, he knew we weren’t from the area, so he asked. I told him and said I had family who used to live there, giving the name Sohn. He got a wide grin and exclaimed Jim Sohn cut his hair when he was a boy. The fireworks sure went off! It was a meeting beyond good luck. He spoke very kindly of my great-grandfather and told me where I could find the shop.
Greg and I spent the better part of a day driving to every town I knew my family to live, taking pictures of all the houses I could find on record, and visiting every grave on record, too, this one in Caledonia. I bought the flowers and some hummingbirds to be a longer lasting tribute to my visit. Annie Desdamony Sohn was James Roy’s sister and died two years before he was born.
Johann Nicholas Sohn was born in Germany in 1840. His family emigrated in 1857 and settled in Indiana. He enlisted in the Union Army at New Albany on May 12, 1861 and was shot in the left leg and gouged with a bayonet in the right at Chickamauga. He never returned home and never spoke to his family again, moving to Missouri after recovering from his injuries at a hospital in Chattanooga.
Harriet “Hattie” Elizabeth McIntire was born in Caledonia in 1853. She and Nicholas married in 1871. They lived happily for forty years, raising five sons, James Roy being the youngest, and their daughter, Annie. He farmed and performed general labor, while she kept house.
Sarah “Sally” Catherine Anderson was born in Izard County, Arkansas in 1860. She married James Harlow Kelley in 1875 (such young brides back then), and, after reading the decree, I presume the minister who performed the service was quite the character!
They lived in Lesterville, where he also farmed, did some mining (the area had a wealth of ores), and she kept house. They raised six girls (Grandma Novella the youngest) and five boys. She is buried at Taum Sauk Cemetery, the most remote of all the places we visited. We drove along one very deserted road, passing a single truck along the way, before turning onto an a dirt road that ended at the cemetery. I thought, to myself, and aloud to Greg and Juniper, “If we’re ever going to enter into a horror film scenario, this is the place!”
The site is quite sloped, and I suspect there was a slide, because there is a bit of rubble and the majority of the headstones are destroyed. I could not find her grave and placed her hummingbird in the safety of the trees.
James Harlow Kelley was born in Cobb County, Georgia on August 14, 1854, the same day as my nephew Tyler! His parents, Louisa and John Marion arrived in Missouri between his birth and 1870, and lived in the Arcadia Valley and Lesterville for the rest of their lives. They are all buried at the Collins Cemetery, a blink and you’ll miss it roadside affair between Annapolis and Minimum.
The little specks are dragonflies. We’ve never seen so many as on this trip. Hundreds and hundreds!
After Missouri Day died, James Roy married a final time to Blanche Mund on January 10, 1942. They remained together until his death. I suspect the photo is shortly after the wedding, at their home in Farmington. The picture above it is the same house today. It’s undergone quite the transformation.
James Roy died mowing the lawn at this house, on June 19, 1970, nine days short of his 76th birthday.