Unforgettable: the Over 50 Revolution

Once I had an assignment in college to pitch and design a new magazine. I remember calling my mother and talking to her about the assignment. It had to be original and something that filled a niche. My mother said that she wished there were magazines that were targeted towards her, women in their fifties that were like Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar. She wanted beauty magazines that would have articles that talked to her demographic about aging skin, advertise products for aging women, talked about aging women’s health issues but in a high fashion stylish way, not in a frumpy, Good Housekeeping way. She recognized that women over a certain age were completely ignored by beauty/health and fashion corporations and the media. Not sexy enough. Once you hit a certain age, you are no longer relevant. Very little has changed since we had that conversation forty years ago.

Earlier this year, I met Maundy Mitchell, a local photographer in Plymouth, NH. I needed some professional headshots for my book. The only professional photos I ever had were my wedding photos when I was 28. That was thirty years ago! I am more comfortable behind the camera, so I was really nervous to have my headshots taken by anyone. While at Maundy’s studio, I noticed a collection of beautiful portraits of older women. She told me about the campaigns photographers all over the world are working on, which highlight and celebrate women over 50. 

Maundy Mitchell’s campaign is called Unforgettable: the Over 50 Revolution. She is taking beautiful, empowering portraits of women in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and up. Portraits that celebrate their individuality, their lives, and stories. Maundy states on her website, “I want to cultivate the freedom and confidence that result from appreciating—and loving–our own maturity. ” The more she told me about the campaign and looking at the beautiful portraits, the her enthusiasm was infectious, and I decided to sign up.

Maundy has her clients start a Pinterest board with portraits that we like that we could share with her. The mood board is a big part of her design process. The morning of the shoot, Maundy has local makeup artist/hair stylist, Donna Cotnoir come in to get the client photo ready. At my first photo shoot a few months earlier, many people critiqued my shots, telling me my hair was too coiffed. And I don’t wear makeup. They were right, of course. The headshots were nice, but they didn’t look like me. I told my friends that’s what ‘author’ Xine looks like – she wears glasses, although her hair is usually in a ponytail, not coiffed, and absolutely no makeup. I told Maundy and Donna some of the reactions to my headshots, so it was important that at this shoot, I looked like me. They understood and went right to work. We had a great time at the photo shoot, and we got a bunch of great shots.

My life barely resembles the life I led when I began my fifties, eight years ago. I’ve grown in many ways and experienced many things which helped me become more confident This allowed me to be more self-assured when it came to some big life-changing decisions. There wasn’t the same fear there as when I was younger. There is still fear, but I have learned that I have to step out of my comfort zone to grow. In the last eight years, (and in no particular order): I’ve added to my fur family three times and became a chicken mama. I moved away from my home of over 25 years to a new state where I had no friends or family. I made career changes. I adapted a new daily routine of meditation. I read books more and watch TV less. I limit my time on social media. I spent more time outside in nature. I wrote my first book, which was just released this month! The only thing I haven’t done yet is go into menopause. I discovered that everyone just assumes you have since you are in your fifties, after all. And they look shocked when you correct them. There is a confidence that comes with age.

A long time ago, when he was in his fifties, my uncle and godfather told me to always keep learning and don’t be afraid to try new things. He was learning how to play the piano at the time, he had never played a musical instrument. He used to love to write and review books and movies which he would share with his friends and family — even including them in his commentaries on the economy to his clients, somehow tying which ever book or movie in with his economic outlook. For some reason I remember that conversation we had and thankfully his advice stuck with me. They were sage words of wisdom and I have had some incredible experiences stepping out of my comfort zone and trying new things. I learned how to draw and started to learn Italian. When the kids’ left for college and I found that I was in an empty nest, took myself off to the local art school and I learned how to weld. I loved welding and sculpted a number of pieces of furniture, a few garden obelisks. But my most favorite project was working on the owl I fabricated. I spend hours over the course of a few years hanging out and working on projects at the metal shop. I met some talented and inspiring people there.

“You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.” 

Roy T. Bennett

A few days before the photo shoot, Maundy had me come over to the studio with the clothing I had decided to wear for the shoot. I had been delaying making any decisions about what to bring, but now I was going to have to make some decisions. All the photos I had seen at her studio were mostly of beautiful women in gowns or dresses. The last few times I have worn a nice dress, it was at two funerals, and my lifestyle on the mountain is not inductive to wearing a dress. I hadn’t been feeling well, and I almost canceled until Mark offered to drive me over. Truth be told, I was having a hard time seeing myself doing this – this was way out of my comfort zone. The whole day before heading over there, as I was gathering my things together, I kept thinking to myself, what was I thinking?

What was I thinking? I was thinking that I wanted to have some nice photos of myself for my children to have that showed my personality and the lady I have grown into at the age of 57 years and 11 months old. Phew! Glad that’s over.

The Only Constant is Change

It’s mid June and the summer will be officially beginning next week. It’s one of the subtler shifts of seasons. Spring to summer is not as dramatic as the other shifts in seasons. Summer’s shift into fall greets us with crisp cooling winds and the leaves shift from greens to reds, oranges, yellows and browns. We switch our wardrobes, putting away the spring/summer clothes and start bringing out the leather boots and suede jackets. From fall to winter the landscape features changes even more dramatically as the trees shed their leaves and we are left with their mere silhouettes. Our heavier wardrobe comes front and center – coats, gloves, hats and scarves. Mother Nature gessoes her canvas with snow and ice. Winter into spring is one of the most dramatic shifts as we all thaw and watch with amazement Mother Nature begin to paint the barren landscape with fresh colors of a new season.

As the days fly by, my body seems to constantly change. An old ache here, a new ache there. Last summer I dropped 20 pounds, only to gain it all back by the end of the year. I made the mistake of buying myself smaller pants as I was losing the weight, vowing that this would be the last time I was a size 14. I’m back in my size 14 pants. Buying the 12s was fine but I tempted the weighty gods too much when I bought myself the 10s.

I’m 57 and my body continues to change as I age. I’m not yet in menopause but I have been experiencing night sweats since July 2011. I remember it well since I away with my kids looking at colleges. I had borrowed a t-shirt from my then new boyfriend (we are still together 11 years later) to have with me while I was traveling that I used as a night shirt. I remember at first thinking it might be the shirt because it had a Bob Marley graphic on it and the plastic stuff that made of the graphic I thought might be causing me to sweat. No such luck, it wasn’t the shirt. Just the first of what would eventually be many nights I’d wake up in the middle of the night cold from the soaking wet front of the my nightshirt.

I understand that it maybe easier to regulate my body temperature if I slept in the nude. According to WellandGood.com “Sleeping naked can also be beneficial for women experiencing menopause. “Hot flashes and night sweats can [wake] women up several times a night,” says Jodie Horton, MD, chief wellness advisor for Love Wellness, a women’s wellness and personal care products brand. Sleeping naked can help alleviate the not-so-fun symptoms of hot flashes.”

I slept naked for a while (although Mark would say it was for just a little bit). When the kids would come to visit I would wear a nightshirt. I raised two kids by myself, a single mom doesn’t sleep naked. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of sleeping naked in winter when it’s freezing cold. It seemed ridiculous so I fell out of the habit. Now from time to to I think maybe I should try to give it another shot.

One of the big changes that I was able to make for myself was in creating a new habit. I am trying to be more mindful in every aspect of my life. To make something a habit, I have read that you need to do whatever it is that you are trying to make that new habit for three weeks straight, And then keep going. I have been mediating daily for over a year now. I has helped give me tools to use when I get anxious. That’s another change I have been facing more recently – increased anxiety.

My anxiety increased yesterday when we discovered Mark has COVID. SO now after being so cautious and careful for the last two years, it’s here in our house. I feel like I now waiting for it to be my turn. He arrived home from a weekend away for a family funeral which required him to have to fly to Chicago. Who knows if it was the plane rides, was it on the way out? on the way back? Was it while he was with his family? I will never know the answer to these questions and it doesn’t really matter at this point. If I am going to get it, I am going to get it. He came home Sunday and today is Friday and he just started feeling shitty yesterday. So if I am going to get it I guess I may present symptoms this weekend? Breathe and stay in the present moment Xine ! Don’t let your mind go wildly off into tangents that may freak you the fuck out but never happen. Breathe.

Thankfully he is feeling better today than he was yesterday. He never gets sick so seeing not feel well is tough. I pray each day he gets stronger and we can continue on with our summer. We don’t have any plans to speak of really. We just want to enjoy working in our gardens, playing with the dogs, puttering around on the boat and enjoying one another’s company. I am so thankful for his presence in my life and the life that we share together. I am truly blessed. Which is probably why I feel like something is going to go wrong, something is going to change.

The summer solstice is approaching, sunset is now as late as 8:31pm here where I live. The irises are all in bloom, the wind is blowing in from the south right now. It’s 79ºF at 6:18pm and the barometer is dropping like a stone. The weather is changing – again. What is they say about New England? If you don’t like the weather just wait 5 minutes. I think they say this about everywhere.

When it comes to changes I try to remind myself that change can be good. Things can get stale and stagnant when there is no change at all. We change as people, not just outwardly in our physical appearance as we age – although that’s a biggie. I find I am in a minority when it comes to women my age. Many people just assume that I have already gone into menopause and are shocked if they find out otherwise. My mother was 60, she told me when she finally had her final period. It caught her off guard since she hadn’t been bleeding regularly and it had been some time, enough time that she thought she was done. Of course she was out when it decided to show up for the party one last time. She had been wearing a yellow dress and was at my brother’s graduation. Ironically she had been wearing a yellow dress the first day she got her period too. A terrifying day for her since – she had literally no idea what had just happened. She was at school and had to wear a sweater tied around her waist for the rest of the day.

At the graduation, my mother had a backup of sorts. It was my skirt that I was wearing. We had driven up for the day so we had no luggage to dive into for spare clothing. So I had to wear a pair of my brother’s pants which I literally had to hold up with my hand because his belt didn’t fit me either. What can you do? You just have to go with the flow?

One last change: Mark’s fever is back up

I’ve Become an Audiobook Enthusiast

It started all because I wanted to read more. I had the thought a few years ago while I was driving back and forth from my house in New Hampshire to my other house in Connecticut that I could be spending my time better in the car rather than purely getting myself from one location to the other.

It takes four hours give or take to take to do the drive – 8 roads total including I89, I91 and Route15. I’ve done the I91, Route 15 part hundreds of times over the years since that was my route to the condo trailside at Okemo I used to once enjoy. A different lifetime now.

I used to love driving but as I have aged – I’m only 55 yrs old – I find it more difficult now. I get tired easier and really don’t like driving at night. Too much glare and won’t unless I absolutely have to because one of my kids has an emergency of some sort.

At the time this all started I was obsessed with the show, The Game of Thrones and wanted to read the books. Problem was, when I would go to read at bedtime usually, I would fall asleep literally minutes later. So I decided to start listening to audiobooks on my drives down and back to Connecticut. Music would sometimes have the opposite effect of keeping me alert at the wheel despite listening to SiriusXM’s Lithium or Classic Vinyl.

Over two decades ago I had to drive a long distance from Michigan and I was advised to listen to talk radio instead of music. I found myself switching from the music stations to the news and talk radio stations to keep myself awake and was happy it worked.

I started listening to The Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book One by George R.R. Martin and narrated by Roy Divine. It took 33 hours and 47 minutes. I listened to the book while driving back and forth to Connecticut. I listened while I was working in New Hampshire either splitting wood outside – we have a hydraulic wood splitter so it’s not as tough as it may sound, although it is physical labor. Sometimes I’d be inside with my headphones on in the wood shop making our garden kits, listening to the story. I discovered quickly how much faster some of my work was done while listening to my book. Or at least it felt like it went faster. I began to look forward to my long drives or work knowing I’d be submerged in another world and the time would fly by.

I loved the first book, A Game of Thrones and the second, A Clash of Kings. By the time I got to Book 3, A Storm of Swords I had found myself a little bored and Game of Throned out. After all, these are long marathon books upwards of 34 hours and that was the shortest one. Storm of Swords is 48 hours long!

The titles that sucked me in to the wonderful world of audiobook listening

On one of my trips down to Connecticut or back, something happened with my book I was listening to, so while driving I had to quickly select something that would play since I still had over 2 hours left in the drive. I wound up listening to The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, narrated by Dan O’Grady.

This narrator’s voice perked me up – Roy Dotrice’s deep tones were beginning to lull me to sleep some. But this guy was much more upbeat. I didn’t know anything about the book when I started listening to it. I must have added it to my library at some point because it sounded interesting or was on sale or both. But I found that I was much more alert and involved in the story listening to Dan O’Grady reading now.

Since then, which is only about 18 months or so give or take, I’ve listened so far to twenty-three more titles and counting. Plus I actually read a book. So with that I am adding a new regular feature to my Xines’ Pack blog – Xine’s Book Club. I won’t limit it to calling it Xine’s Audiobook Club because I do want to actually read more too. So look for future posts about the books and audiobooks I read. I’m open to hearing suggestions and thoughts from others that have read or listened to these titles. It would be great to have an online discussion going.

Until happy listening or reading to you!