Another Phone, Another Jeep

Last week I made two major-ish purchases. Major for me, anyway, and not necessarily because I wanted to, yet “needed to” stretches it a bit. Let’s just say I’ve done my part for the 2020 economy. (You’re welcome.)

Purchase #1

Buying a new cell phone is up there with buying a new car (see Purchase #2) on my Things I Hate Doing list. But over the last few months, my once cracker of an android started performing random tricks like turning off, flipping the screen this way and that when it was perfectly still, and refusing to charge, so it was time to say goodbye.

Because the people I communicate with the most are iPhone users, I looked at buying an iPhone. I consulted my brother-in-law (Mr. Apple Everything) and he advised me to wait until the iPhone 12 was released because the 11s would most likely go on sale, and they did.

I thought maybe buying a phone online would save me the embarrassment of not knowing what I’m doing when buying a phone in a store, but I still felt like a grossly inadequate consumer. The reviews were an amalgamation of John Q. Public liked this and that and Jane Q. Public didn’t like this and that, and finally – bleary eyed and frustrated – I figured… it’s a freaking phone. It won’t change my life. It won’t even change a flat tire. Its usefulness is what I make of it.

It took seven hours and a nearly 90-minute online “chat” with a Verizon rep to get the damn thing activated and the data from my old phone transferred, but I have a functioning and doing-what-it’s-supposed-to-do iPhone (although my granddaughter in the second grade can spell better than its autocorrect).

Purchase #2

I wish cell phones lasted as long as the vehicles I’ve owned. In 2009 I said goodbye to my favorite one ever, a 1995 Jeep Cherokee that I bought in 1998. In a farewell blog, I wrote that I hoped my next vehicle and I would be friends for 11 years, and we were. I bought a 2007 Jeep Liberty, drove it for 11 years, and traded it in for my new friend, a 2018 Jeep Renegade. And while it took a few hours – due mostly to computer and printer problems – the purchase was a refreshingly painless process, one I took care of all by myself – just me and my credit rating – without my boyfriend or father or other male prop present.

If I keep this Jeep for the same number of years as the other two, I will have the Renegade until…(counting on my fingers…1, 2, 3…)…2031? Is that even a year?

Why, yes, it is, apparently. It’s the year my second-grade granddaughter will graduate from high school! It’s the year of my 50-year high school class reunion! Goodness, I’ll be 68 years old! And I’ll still own the Renegade? Shouldn’t I be driving a Buick sedan by then?

I kid. Buick doesn’t make those anymore.

I’m crossing my fingers that nothing else quasi-crucial breaks down that I “need” to replace anytime soon. My checkbook has to catch up first.

Spring Training (and a book update)

In August I told you about my latest (and necessary) health goal: to clean up my diet for better liver function. So far so good. The scale has been kind and I can fit into jeans I haven’t worn in five years. Go me and all that, but the real success will be determined in February when I have my next blood draw. If my cholesterol numbers have improved, all the white bread, brie, and ice cream I’m not eating will have been worth it. If they haven’t improved, put me on a statin. You’ll find me in line at an Italian buffet.

Here’s a confession: I’m not committed to healthy eating just for the sake of healthy eating. My numbers scared me into it. I cleaned up my diet in order to help prevent heart and/or liver disease. (My father had two heart attacks when he was my age.) Say what you want about that attitude of necessity over lifestyle, criticize if you must, but I won’t deny – like I did back in my 40s – that I love and miss awesome awful-for-you food (and yes, some foods are truly hard on the body, sorry/not sorry). Admitting that makes it real and real I can deal with. Denying that shit just gotten me in all kinds of trouble the last several years.

Speaking of five years, that’s how long it’s been since I’ve ridden a bike. Some of you might remember that I used to write a lot about biking. It has its own category here on my blog and it also has its own chapter in my forthcoming book*.

I started biking in 2007 when my then-husband bought me a bike after I reached my weight-loss goal. My bike became my friend and therapist, and together we rode a lot of miles and worked through a lot of personal issues. Sadly, it burned in a fire in early 2014 and I didn’t ride again until I bought a used Schwinn in the summer 2015, and then I only rode a few times. Grad school, menopause, lack of energy and ambition, depression…whatever it was, I haven’t ridden since then.

Now, with renewed energy, both physically and emotionally, I am “training” to ride again in spring 2021. I bought a used bike trainer and I alternate riding the bike and my stationary bike several times a week. I’m not killing myself in ninety-minute, body wrecking workouts like I used to, and I’m no longer ignoring painful body parts for the sake of the “burn.” I’m choosing to live the George Carlin way: “No pain? No pain,” and training my muscles and my mind to once again enjoy the bike trails that brought me so much peace through so much crap. (Not that I anticipate needing to work through the same crap again, god forbid.)

What I notice with this more laid back attitude and routine is that I don’t dread working out and I don’t have to force myself to ride for any amount of time. If I wake up one day and don’t feel like it, I don’t do it. But what usually happens is that later in the day, I do feel like it and the ride is a joy, even though I never leave the garage!

I’m not excited about winter, and I won’t lie that a Dilly Bar sounds really good at least once a week, but knowing I’ll be in shape to hit the trail as soon as the snow is gone will make the cold, snow, and Dilly Bar cravings tolerable.

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* The book! I keep forgetting to mention the book, which is a revised and updated collection of my columns and blogs from the last twenty years. The working title (although my publisher hasn’t come up with a better one, so I think we’re sticking with this one) is Weight-Loss Dropout and Other True Stories from the Zen Bag Lady. A mouthful, but small type will get it all on the cover. Anyway, it will – fingers crossed – be out in December.

The One About Sixth Grade

A month ago, I starting writing what I imagined to be a simple, sweet piece about when I was in sixth grade. But I’m forty six years removed from sixth grade, which became apparent as I wrote a few paragraphs, erased, and tried again. The problem, if problem is the right word, is that writing about when I was eleven years old when I’m now well into my fifty-somethings is tricky because what’s coming out is an interpretation of the seconds or perhaps few minutes of the moments I’m writing about. Is what I’m writing a true representation or just what I grew up telling myself happened?

I ask this both to challenge me as a writer who often writes about the past and readers who read writers who write about the past to consider the slipperiness of truth. Our long-term memories are usually subjective, some are even biased by a subconscious wish that things had been different, and no two people remember a shared experience the same way. I’m always interested, though, in why we remember what we remember, and how, years later, our interpretation of events – what we told ourselves is true – has impacted our lives.

Anyway, that’s way heavier than this piece actually is. You won’t need an advanced degree in psychology to get through it, I promise. (But I can’t promise you won’t need a cup of coffee!)

The One About Sixth Grade

My daughter shared a video recently of my eleven-year-old grandson playing Legos with his two younger sisters. They are sitting on the floor in the girls’ bedroom, building something and singing a song. Luca’s most reliable companion, his lime green blankie, worn thin over the years, is draped over his shoulder. Luca doesn’t bring his blanket with him everywhere, but in the house, it’s always there whenever he needs its friendly, nonjudging presence.

Watching Luca singing and building, and blissfully subconscious of his blanket, I thought about when I was eleven and in sixth grade. I had a blankie, too. Like his, it was practically see-through, more of a rag, really, but it was still soft in a few places and it helped me fall asleep every night.

In sixth grade, I didn’t yet hate my hair. Baiting a fish hook was still fine to do, and a bra wouldn’t be necessary for another year. I played tetherball and skipped rope, and I didn’t care that I sweat and probably stunk. We all did. Our classroom was thick with pre-hormonal kid stink after recess.

Yet, for all its naivete, sixth grade was when my childhood starting bumping into adulthood with increasing regularity. My underdeveloped understanding of the world, informed mostly by my Lutheran upbringing, was often challenged by more adult-like issues such as “bad” words, otherwise kind people being mean, and sex.

One of my more enlightened teachers, especially regarding sexuality, was music, even though at eleven the meaning of a lot of lyrics eluded me. I bought Elton John’s album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and while the lyrics were printed on the inside cover, “All the Young Girls Love Alice” flew over my head. Many songs didn’t, though. When I heard “Lorelei” by Styx for the first time, I thought, People can live together without being married? and quickly decided it wasn’t a question I would ask my parents. I also knew enough about sex to turn down the radio when “Chevy Van” or “Feel Like Makin’ Love” came on. That was not a conversation I wanted to have with Mom and Dad.

Growing up in mostly protestant white bread rural Minnesota, I assumed everyone believed the same thing I did. You didn’t say “Geez” because that was short for Jesus, and “damn” was the worst four-letter word I knew. Playing “soccer” one day during recess (in 1975, our understanding of soccer was that it was like football with a kick ball), I got in my best friend’s way as she attempted to kick a goal. “Damn you, Lynn!” she yelled. I stood there, stunned. According to everything Lutheran, she was damning me to hell.

“Damn” was not a word I heard in my house, and I for sure wasn’t supposed to say it because, well, my parents said the Bible said I couldn’t. So why could my friend? Where did she hear it? Was it because her father went to the bar sometimes or that her family didn’t go to church every Sunday? Religious “rules,” as I understood them, started to feel a little unfair and not all together right. My friend hadn’t turned into a pillar of salt for saying “damn,” and in fact, her life seemed perfectly normal, if not a little more fun than mine.

I had a boyfriend named Ricky and we held hands on the bus during our sixth-grade field trip, which felt all kinds of good in all the wrong ways my mother (and the Bible) warned me about. My first kiss, though, was not with Ricky, but a boy named Todd from Anchorage who was in town visiting his grandparents. It was not at all like a Fonzie kiss, but it wasn’t awful either.

Todd’s grandmother asked me if I’d show him around town and include him in activities while he was there. I doubt she had spin the bottle in mind, but anyway, a bunch of us were playing in a little clearing of brush behind our house. When it was my turn, I hoped the bottle would land on one of the cute boys, but instead it landed on Todd. I didn’t think of Todd as cute, although maybe he was. To me, he was just someone I watched Happy Days reruns with in his grandparent’s living room. Now I had to kiss him.

I insisted we go to the garage so no one could watch. He agreed. We stepped into the dark tin building and looked at each other in awkward silence. The pressure was on him to make the first move because I had no idea what I was doing. He leaned in, I closed my eyes, and it was over in two seconds, just enough time for me to process his lips, which I could tell he’d licked right before they landed on mine .

That’s all I remember except that we didn’t kiss again and we never talked about it.

Sixth grade was, for many of us, a pivotal time when vulnerability was something we started to feel, but couldn’t yet name. There were those who offered and those who took that bite of fruit from the tree in the middle of Eden, and those of us who took notes from the sidelines. We shed our innocence, sometimes willingly, sometimes not. Either way, we discovered that the world was much bigger than we thought. I remember one boy in particular who was not academically gifted, but in music class, he would sing his heart out, every note off key. Oblivious to pitch, he sang for the pure joy of singing, whether it was “Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal” or “Streets of Laredo.” Did he have a blankie? I hope so, because the next year, no longer within the relative safety of elementary school, he was pretty much forgotten and remained on the fringe throughout high school. I asked my cousin recently where that boy was these days and he said the last he heard he was dealing drugs in Minneapolis.

Hmmm…

Watching Luca again with his green friend wrapped over his shoulder, I thought about my old blankie. My mom threw it away one day while I was at school thinking I didn’t need it anymore. I cried myself to sleep that night, I felt so alone. But I figured it out, like we all do to some degree, how to live without the things we grew up telling ourselves we needed, when the world was still small and one-dimensional.