Here’s my bloggy Christmas card to you

Earring Tree 1217Twas the blog before Christmas, and I can’t send Christmas cards to the whole world, although God knows I have received enough cards and mailing labels from charities to card several countries, so this is my Christmas card to you.

How the heck are you? If I haven’t heard from you since last Christmas, are you still alive and living in the same place? If you haven’t heard from me, well the phone works both ways, you know. Oh, wait, I mean, gee, I hope you’re all right.

I don’t know if you send cards. A lot of people don’t, but I have all these cards and I bought stamps, so I might as well send them out and let you enjoy the pretty pictures. I’m struggling to remember who’s Christian and who bristles at a hint of religion. Is this dog picture okay? A cottage in the snow? Peace or puppies? Virgin Mary or Santa Claus? Should I have bought Christmas stamps instead of flags? Who cares, right?

Are Christmas cards even a “thing” anymore? We were talking about this at choir practice the other day, and we’re all wavering. We receive fewer and fewer cards, we all have too much to do, and how important is a printed card with our signature on it anyway? Plus those newsletters full of information about other people’s great vacations and kids we don’t even know just make us feel bad. It all goes in the recycling bin eventually—unless you’re like me and keep cards for fear the person will die and that’s the last signature we have of theirs . . .

Anyway, the cards are ready to mail. The gifts are on their way, even that one I had no clue how to wrap. To that relative who doesn’t want to exchange gifts with me anymore, tough. I’m still sending presents because I want to. If you don’t buy anything for me, fine. Last week, I received an amazing box at my doorstep from a Secret Santa with seven, SEVEN, little wrapped gifts inside. They may be the only presents under my tree. I was so grateful I cried. I need to do the same thing for somebody else next year.

You have no idea how many people are alone like me during the holidays. That’s the subject of my next book, people living alone. I don’t mean people who sleep alone but are in constant contact with their kids and grandkids. I mean really alone, with no family anywhere nearby and no neighbors dropping in like on every TV sitcom. People who may not see other people for days or weeks. If you’re alone like that and willing to be interviewed, let me know.

Speaking of books, it’s not too late to boogie over to Amazon, look me up and order some or all of my books. They have this two-day delivery thing. They’ll even gift-wrap them. Click here to see what’s available, including my latest, Unleashed in Oregon: Best from the Blog.

Annie and I are well. We’ve got a few dents and rattles, but keep running like fine old cars. Annie had surgery in May for not one but two torn ligaments in her back right knee. She has healed well. My dad broke his leg in March. Shattered is a better word. His leg has not recovered; he’s still rocking the walker. After stints in two different nursing homes, he’s back at the house with intermittent caregivers whom he plans to fire any day now.

A massive tree from my neighbor’s yard destroyed my fences and trashed the gutters on my house last April. That led to months of upheaval, but now the fences are fixed, the gutters have been replaced, the trunk of the fallen tree remains next door like a weird statue, and I have a bigger chunk of sky to look at.

I didn’t go to Europe or a fancy resort, but I did go to Cleveland in October to speak at the NotMom Summit. I visited San Jose seven times, and made a few jaunts to Portland. My Honda Element turned over 100,000 miles, and now it’s up to 106,000. I bought new tires, and the service light has been on since Thanksgiving.

I’m still writing most days, got a few poems and two essays published this year. I’m co-chair of the coast branch of Willamette Writers. Check us out on Facebook. I exceeded my Goodreads goal of reading 60 books, and I’m still going. You don’t know about Goodreads? Click it and get on board.

I’m still playing piano, singing and leading choirs at Sacred Heart Church in Newport and going to the song circle in Waldport on Fridays. Still playing guitar in spite of my arthritic hands.

I turned 65 in March and signed up for Medicare. I had my interview for Social Security earlier this month and will start receiving full benefits in March when I turn 66. Thank you, Uncle Sam. President Trump, keep your paws off my money and my medical insurance. I earned it.

What else? Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Walking the dog. She’s a relentless personal trainer who keeps me exercised in sun, rain and snow. I wore out another pair of shoes, and the replacements hurt, so I’m still looking for the ideal footwear for all-terrain hikes. Mowing the lawn. Feeding the pellet stove. Blogging here and at Childless by Marriage. Trying to sell my memoir, novel and a book of poems (Hey publishers, they’re really good).

I re-watched “Wild” on TV last night. Still love the Cheryl Strayed book and the movie starring Reese Witherspoon. I’m binge-watching “Grace Under Fire,” a 90s sitcom about a divorced woman with three kids and her lovable friends. They give me comfort in hard times. TV Christmases always turn out happy and loving in the end, even if everything is a mess at the beginning of the episode.

The days pass, you know? Suddenly it’s Christmas again, and I haven’t been nearly as good a friend as I should have. But I’m trying. I appreciate every one of you. I wish you a joyous Christmas or whatever you celebrate and a new year full of blessings and love.

Love,

Sue and Annie

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Turning 65: Good, Bad and Scary

On March 9 at 4:10 a.m., I will turn 65. It’s a good thing. It’s a bad thing. It’s a scary thing.

Good?

I will be eligible for every senior discount that exists. No worries about whether you have to be 50, 55, 60 or 65. Everybody gets the break at 65, although here on the Oregon coast, with so many retirees, you don’t see a lot of senior discounts because the businesses would all go broke. National Parks pass, here I come.

It’s also good because I will be free from people thinking I need to stop messing with my writing and music and get a real job. I am not retired, have no plans to retire, will write and play until I either die or lose the ability, God forbid. But for those folks who just don’t understand the artistic life, I can say bug off, I’m 65, I can do whatever I want.

Besides, the newspaper business for which I was trained has disintegrated to the point I barely recognize it. Plus, do I want to cover the news in this Trumpian era? I don’t think I could keep my opinions to myself anymore.

Not that I might not need to actually get another job, finances being what they are. (My father thinks I should get a job because to him writing still doesn’t count as work. I’m never going to win that battle with him.) I worry that young employers might think I’m too old. I’m not old, kids; I’m experienced. My resume goes back to the days of manual typewriters and black and white film, and that’s a good thing.

Bad

Turning 65 is bad because it means I’m old. I can’t deny the wrinkles, the gray hairs, or the memories that stretch back before a lot of people were born. I can deal with all that, but I wince at the thought that other people see me as old. That’s what really bugs me. I especially worry about folks who classify me as too old to write a bestseller or to play wonderful music. If I do succeed, they will single me out as an anomaly. Look at what this sweet old lady can do. Gah!

How old is old? With no kids or grandkids to mark the generations, I feel much younger than 65 most of the time. Our vision of “old” changes as we age. When you’re a kid, your 40-year-old parents are ancient. If you’re 80, looking at me turning 65, you think I’m just a kid. My maternal grandmother, who died at 80, refused to go to the senior center because it was full of old people. Exactly.

If I’m lucky, 65 is just a new beginning, with lots of years ahead, 20.2 according to most life-expectancy charts. But nobody knows. Grandpa Fagalde lived to 98. My dad is almost 95. His cousin made it to 96. I could live another 30 or more years. Or I could be gone tomorrow.

My mother had just turned 75 when she died. My husband was 73. My father’s mother was only 58. Grandpa Avina was 66.The obituaries are full of people in their 60s and their 90s. It’s all a crapshoot.

I’m moving into these older years in a great wave of baby boomers. Wonder Woman Lynda Carter, Sting, and Meat Loaf are all 65. Paul McCartney is turning 75 this year. President Trump is 70, and he hasn’t grown up yet. Helen Mirren, 73, is my new idol. Check out this list of hot seniors. Here’s another one. Our bodies might be aging, but our spirits are as young as ever.

Scary?

It’s scary because I’m petrified of going on Medicare. Blue Shield and I worked well together, as long as I kept giving them $500 a month, plus deductibles, co-pays and exclusions. It was better insurance than a lot of people have, and I’m grateful that I got to keep the insurance after Fred died. Medicare confuses me, and it doesn’t help to keep hearing dire predictions about the whole system falling apart, going broke, or falling under the hyperactive pen of our new president. I have already learned that my annual gynecology exam may not be covered and my frequent chiropractic visits for my messed-up back will definitely not be covered. If Dr. S. could just put everything in place, then seal me in wax . . .

Medicare has Parts A, B, C and D and something called the “donut hole,” which is not a delicious bit of pastry but a black hole into which you fall if you collect too many prescriptions. For a few months, my phone rang constantly with folks ostensibly wanting to help me with my Medicare questions. Actually they wanted to sell me supplemental insurance plans, but Blue Shield and I will continue a reduced relationship. How much that will cost, I have no idea. How much Medicare will cost, I have no idea. Apparently I have to wait until my first paycheck in March to see whether turning 65 will be good or bad for the Lick economy. Please God, let it be good.

As a fully blossomed senior, I expect to hear more and more of the doctors’ theme song “At your age . . .” Meaning, “You’re old, so you can’t expect all your parts to work or me to waste time fixing them.” I think about my battered VW bug with its 120,000 miles and how it was literally held together with duct tape and prayers. Guess I’m lucky I still run. Not very far, but I run.

To be honest, if some young bloke offers to carry my load or give me his seat on the bus, I will accept it gratefully because my back hurts and I’m tired. But give me a minute’s rest, and I’m ready to go again. 65? Dad was mowing his lawn yesterday at 94.

You can get Social Security now, you say. No. Not yet, although I do receive a portion of my late husband’s Social Security as a widow’s benefit. People my age, born in 1952, must wait until they’re 66 for full Social Security benefits. Assuming we still have Social Security by then. Maybe we should call it Social Insecurity.

I’m also scared that I might end up celebrating my birthday alone. Did that last year, don’t ever want to do it again. All I need is some people and cake. Got to have cake. Chocolate or red velvet. Who wants to join me on March 9? I’m thinking The Chalet for lunch because it has cake and a senior discount or the Drift Inn for dinner because fabulous musician Ian Smith is playing there that night and the food is amazing. Maybe I’ll do both. Who wants to join me? You don’t have to buy me a thing, just help me celebrate.

How does turning 65 look to you, whether it’s decades ahead, coming up fast or already ancient history? I welcome your comments.