It’s Not the Weight Gain . . . it’s the Redistribution!

Reading glassesAs I’m approaching 50 I’m realizing there are quite a few things about aging that no one tells you. I’ve heard plenty of talk about the way pounds creep on with middle age, so I’ve tried to keep an eye out for that.

And I’m pleased to say that I actually weigh a few pounds less than I did a decade ago.

However.

While there may be less flesh overall, things have moved.

My waist is not so trim as it once was. My hips–what IS that extra layer there?!? Upper arms are, um, softer. My chin isn’t quite so firm as it once was. Even my hands are more . . . well . . . gnarled.

No one told me my body was going to readjust. Even my teeth have moved! My dentist told me it’s common among folks my age. Seriously?!?

But my body isn’t the only thing to shift. It seems my attitude has as well. The upshot being that I don’t mind all this readjusting as much as I would have expected.

As I look around at others in the vicinity of my age, I see that what I’m experiencing is what you might call common. It’s just that I hadn’t noticed it in anyone else until it started happening to me. Which just might mean that women younger than me don’t notice my shifting while women older than me ignore it because they’re too busy focusing on their own redistribution of cells.

Which is to say I’m pretty sure no one else is all that interested. 

I went car shopping over the weekend. My salesman was 23 YEARS OLD. That means I’m–ahem–roughly TWICE his age. And so . . . I acted like it. I expressed my excitement over things like the headrest being on the drivers’ seat backwards (which means there’s room for a ponytail or hair clip). And when he said he has a hard time waking up in the morning I told him all about my sunrise alarm clock. He made a note on his cell phone to look for one.

I was NOT hip. I was NOT cool (I don’t even think it’s cool to say someone is cool anymore). In short, I acted my age. And it was such a relief.

Ultimately, that’s my takeaway. My body is settling into a new configuration and I may as well embrace it. I suspect this is just part one of what’s yet to come. And while striving for overall good health is wise, I have no interest in trying to turn back the hands of time.

I’ve often said that I have an old soul. Guess my body is finally catching up.

 

 

 

Appalachian Thursday – Time to Plant the Garden

farm market

A Farmer’s Market haul from late June last year. As pretty as the catalog pictures!

I still have to work hard to resist them.

The catalogs filled with beautiful, full-color images of corn and strawberries and squash and green beans . . . The displays of candy-colored seed packets at the store . . .

I don’t even have a garden.

Oh, sometimes I grow a pot of tomatoes on the porch or plant some herbs in the flower bed, but I don’t have a place to grow rainbow blend carrots no matter how gorgeous they are in that picture. All clean and perfectly straight.

The problem is, I know all too well how wonderful fresh garden produce is. And it’s been long enough that I’ve mostly forgotten the agony of weeding, harvesting, and putting up.

So when the catalogs start rolling in and the displays start going up, I begin to have delusions of grandeur. I can envision glossy, yellow ears of corn; watermelons that split open with a satisfying crack; and multi-hued peppers hanging like Christmas ornaments.

Bush beans, sugar snap peas, heirloom tomatoes, and baby lettuces wilted in a little bacon grease. Oh, the seed companies have my number!

When we were kids, Dad would sometimes let us choose something to grow in the garden. One year it was popcorn (which didn’t do well at all!). I always wanted watermelon, but the only time I remember it growing satisfactorily that far north was when we pitched rinds over the fence and the vines came up on their own.

I’ll probably attempt to grow something this year. I’ll succumb to the bedding plants at the garden center and tuck some peas between the cosmos or plant a hill of squash under the mock orange. There are already herbs in a pot on the porch.

I’ll be surprised if it all amounts to much. Mostly it’s just a nod to memories that grow prettier each spring when I pull them out and polish them once again.

Tomato and mayonnaise sandwich, anyone?

Facing Fears . . . By Accident

Thistle in the creek

Thistle only likes KNEE deep water.

Over the weekend Thistle and I headed out for our usual hike. It was a rainy Saturday, but dogs don’t much care about a little wet and neither do I (so long as it’s just a little!). There was only one other car in the parking area and it belonged to a family with two dogs. They didn’t know the trails and I did, so we headed out together for an impromptu hiking party.

Poking around in the woods with kids and dogs is always entertaining. They see things adults miss and they’re much more willing to stop and investigate. Which made hiking a trail I’d been on over and over again a whole new experience.

At one point we stopped to check out a spot where the creek runs down a sort of rock slide. The older of the two girls threw sticks in the water for Reba—one of the dogs. Which meant Reba was faced with a quandary. She really wanted that stick, but she’s not a fan of water. She’d wade in ankle deep and stretch her neck to reach the stick, snatching it and running back to land.

Most of us had moved on down the trail when the eldest daughter came running to join us with Reba by her side. “Reba faced her fears!” the girl crowed. “She went all the way in the water!” Then the girl added, “Well, by accident.”

Reba’s desire to retrieve that stick won out over her desire to avoid the water. And she went swimming.

Which got me thinking that “by accident” is a pretty great way to face our fears. Sure, it’s wonderful when we can set our minds to something, persist, and overcome. But what about the time I meant to avoid driving over the Cooper River Bridge into Charleston, SC, took a wrong turn, and found myself ON the bridge? I had no choice but to face that fear and I was all the better for it.

Maybe the trick is to find the desire that’s stronger than the fear. For Reba it was a stick. For me it was she-crab soup. And when we focus on that desire–that longing–to the exclusion of whatever scares us maybe then we can overcome our fears.

Even if it seems to happen by accident.

Appalachian Thursday – Kumbrabow

leaf yellowWhen Dad told stories about hunting in Kumbrabow State Forest I assumed the name was Native American.

Not so.

The story I’m currently writing (due out in late 2020) is set in Randolph County not far from where I grew up in WV. As I’ve researched the area I inevitably found some information about the state forest there.

Turns out it was established in 1934–the year of my story. The land was purchased in December of that year and the name was in honor of Governor Brady KUMp, businessman Spates BRAdy, and attorney Hubert BOWers all of whom were key in the area becoming a state forest.

Here are a few interesting facts about the forest:

  • It covers nearly 9,500 acres.
  • It’s the highest forest in WV at more than 3,000 feet above sea level.
  • Logging and wildfires ravaged the forest in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but thanks to a conducive climate there’s been rapid regrowth.
  • The Civilian Conservation Corps built many of the parks facilities including rustic cabins and picnic shelters.
  • The forest today is rich in black cherry stands.

My hero, Creed, lives in a cabin on Rich Mountain in Kumbrabow State Forest. Of course, he started living there before it’s naming. One more intriguing detail I’ll get to work into my next story!

I just may need to book a writing weekend in a rustic cabin . . .

Appalachian Thursday – Turkeys, a dog, and poetry month

April is National Poetry Month. You probably knew that 😉 I think MOST of my poems fall into the Appalachian category in some form or fashion. Here’s one inspired by a walk in the woods with a dog and some turkeys . . . Sure do miss my Sammy . . .

Sammy

HOLDING BACK

He’s an old dog.
So, when he spies the turkeys
he tries to run like a nightmare
of running with leaden feet
and his goal fast receding.

I hold him, make him sit
and watch the turkeys fade
into the forest with a rustle of leaves
and soft calls of indignation.
I rub his head, massage aching hips,
scratch his panting, heaving side.
But his bright eyes are on the trees
and he would gladly give chase
if only I would let him.

I call him to my side
and head home.
He limps beside me
because it’s what I ask.
But he does not choose,
would never choose,
this holding back.

Appalachian Thursday – Ramp Recipes

ramp omeletteIt’s ramp season once again! The patch on my neighbor’s property is flourishing. I dug a few ramps Sunday and added a few to a tomato and avocado relish last night in place of green onions.

That’s my preferred way to use them–as a seasoning or embellishment. But there are plenty of other ways to use them to add some zing to your spring menu. Goodness knows all the trendy restaurants are doing it!

Which put me in mind of that scene in the movie Forest Gump where Bubba is listing all the ways you can eat shrimp. So I thought I’d compile a ramp recipe list for your Appalachian edification!

  • Ramp pesto
  • Ramp carbonara
  • Ramp omelet (one of my favorites–see picture)
  • Ramp focaccia
  • Pickled ramps
  • Ramp-aroni rolls (see Fish Hawk Acres in Buckhannon for these!)
  • Ramp dip
  • Creamed ramps
  • Ramp kimchi (hmmmm)
  • Fried eggs and ramps
  • Buttermilk-fried ramps (yes, please!)
  • Ramp chimichurri
  • Potato ramp soup
  • Ramp jam
  • Ramp pizza
  • Bacon and ramp vinaigrette
  • Ramp aioli
  • Fried ramps and potatoes
  • And, of course, boiled ramps with a splash of vinegar

There’s more, but I expect you’ve got the idea. Suffice it to say ramps are almighty versatile! (And if you want to see a menu that weaves ramps throughout, check out this one for a ramp dinner to benefit the library in my home town.)

What’s your favorite way to enjoy them?

Appalachian Thursday – Early Spring Blooms

Autumn used to be my favorite season, but as I get older I’m enjoying spring more and more. Maybe it’s the relief from the cold. Maybe it’s more hours of sunlight. Or maybe it’s the wildflowers!

As kids we’d keep an eye on the daffodils growing above the house so we could pick them for Aunt Bess or Grandma. Although I suppose they were tame once, they’d gone wild over the years and were my first sure sign of spring. Now, though, I’ve come to realize that the woods are full of flowers as early as March with a steady progression carrying us through to late fall.

I don’t often pick woodland wildflowers, but I do “catch” them with my camera and if you follow my author Facebook page you likely know I post those pictures most Wednesdays.  And, of course, I’m especially partial to the beauties that are native to my beloved Appalachian mountains. So if you aren’t blessed to live where you can go on daily wildflower hikes, here’s a selection to satisfy your spring-in-the-mountains cravings.