Loving

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Broadcasting on ALL channels…

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.

Hoping the same for you…

Our girl looking VERY serious!

fennel + spinach soup

ground cherries

green chile pork burger

neighborhood crab apple

socca + whipped yogurt and feta + homegrown cayenne & tomatoes (the color!)

Grandma’s rosehips

kung pao chicken + vegetables

Mid-September! It creeped so stealthily in, a sudden call for blankets in the inky black of night and sweatshirts and jackets in the low slant of morning. Cool, cool. Days are all over the place, pleasant or blasting heat, the patter of rain on concrete. All beautiful.

As is often the case, I canned three batches of deliciousness over the course of twenty-four hours, Grandma’s rosehip + apple jelly, apple butter, and rhubarb jam. My legs were wobbly from all the standing and stirring, stirring, with the house a heady terrarium of sweet scented steam. The results are glorious and delicious, especially the rhubarb. I used the last stringy stalks, macerating them overnight in sugar in hopes of softening them up. There was a LOT of green, so I added a handful of frozen cherries to pretty them up, and boy, what a fabulous jam. But alas, no pictures! Gotta turn up the imagination dial, dear reader.

We are still enjoying our Weight Watchers adventure, losing weight, learning, and questioning. Greg comments on how much more he is laughing. Me? How much less I am belching. All good. I keep adapting recipes to match points and do what I can to add MORE vegetables to our life. Steady as she goes….

A Grandma Cracker (seriously what she calls her!) made yummy lemon cake full of Frozen goodness!

This photo shows the moment we started singing Happy Birthday! What JOY in knowing it was just for HER. The best!

T H R E E

Oh my goodness, in a high flying time moment, my cousin Ryan’s wee babe is now THREE. She is, among many other things, adorable and thoughtful and playful, and ever so loved.

I was the only person to old-school wrap her present after forgetting to buy a gift bag large or sturdy enough. What an ill-used muscle I have for this, dear reader. It took ages! She was a very careful unwrapper, slowly peeling off each piece of tape, before going delicately at the paper, which delighted me. I am a lover of precision and care, too, yup. She liked her necklace and magna-tiles, which also delighted me. I do not ever wish to be a lame gift giver!

We ate well and enjoyed many a conversation with parents and friends, aunts and uncles (there I am with mine!), grandmothers and grandfathers. The kids ran circles around us, eating and playing and squealing and splashing. A wonderful day to be THREE, indeed.

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.

James Roy Sohn
Novella Grace Kelley

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.

1946 House in Bonne Terre
Annie Desdamony Sohn: August 8, 1879 – September 2, 1892

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.

Iron County Courthouse in Pilot Knob
James Marshall Sohn – buried in the Sohn plot at Pilot Knob, along with Hattie and Nicholas and James Roy’s older brothers, Albert, Fred, and Benjamin.
Sohn family entry at Ellis Island, November 9, 1857 on the Amazon.
Nicholas was 17 years old.
Nicholas Sohn at the time of his marriage to Hattie, in 1871. I sure have good looking ancestors!
with Grandpa Herbie, Pearl, and Betty, probably 1925
March 31, 1840 – April 21, 1932

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
Marriage to Nicholas on October 16, 1871
August 28, 1853 – October 7, 1918

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
January 10, 1860 – March 28, 1912
Marriage to James Harlow on November 5, 1875

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.

The view near Taum Sauk
James Harlow Kelley

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.

August 14, 1854 – June 3, 1933
I do believe the engraver got carried away!

The little specks are dragonflies. We’ve never seen so many as on this trip. Hundreds and hundreds!

Farmington 1940, the house where Missouri Day died.

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.

Blanche & James Roy in the 1960s

James Roy died mowing the lawn at this house, on June 19, 1970, nine days short of his 76th birthday.

Hillview Memorial Gardens in Farmington

Hello friends! How excited I am to say Spring has well and truly arrived. I am wearing dresses and sandals and my new favorite hat in great celebration. What a long, cold winter. Coupled with wretched COVID, it felt like years rather than months.

We’ve been doing more normal activities, like going to cherished restaurants, and eating in-person at our favorite food cart, which feels like such a treat after so much home cooking.

The garden is really coming to life, too. I’m doing a ton of planting and mulching (we had 10 yards deliverd!), an hour or two a day. This is both to replace plants killed by the horrible deep freeze and slowly fill in brown gaps in need of green and flower. I’ll show you pictures once it is all done. Maybe this weekend, as I’ll have Greg’s hands, as well as my own to finish. Juniper just lolls about and occasionally digs holes where she ought not. She is a dog, after all.

One of my favorite person’s tasks at his new job was to write a bio to accompany a photo, so we did a proper photo shoot. Isn’t he just so handsome? Greg Cooper, you are a looker!

Green mertensia and Juniper giving her best sniff.

The lamb’s ears are really starting to spread their wings.

The daphne bloomed! Hot diggity dog! This will always be the scent of Portland for me. Kinda like Froot Loops, only better.

blueberry scone goodness

Pike’s Peak peek…

Muskrat sighting!

Indian chicken – I combined a Patak’s Vindaloo curry paste with some mango chutney and water, and let the drumsticks braise in the liquid until done. I love it when something SO easy tastes SO wonderful!

I am rather sad to report that this is not my lilac in bloom here. Ours seems to be the only one in the neighborhood that got ravaged by the deep freeze. Luckily, it still has a bit of green on it, so I will prune the heck out of it and hope for it to flower next year.

She sure loves her Pops!

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