Happy Birthday to Me

Here are 42 ways I feel old (er), even though obviously I am NOT OLD.

  1. I spent an entire year not knowing how old I was. Today I turn 42. Yet for the past 360 days I thought I was 42 already. Lets call this a bonus year rather than calling last year a lost year, shall we?
  2. I see 3am more than I see 10:30pm.
  3.  I am up wee hours with literal or figurative indigestion. Both bad. Only one can be fixed by Tums.
  4. A lovely dish of Tums graces my bedside. (see #3)
  5. I say “its too loud” 20 times more than I say “turn that up.” Although come to think of it that may be a sign that I am NOT old.
  6. I like tea more than vodka.
  7. My neck and shoulder have been hurting for, like, ever.
  8. One of the first things I did when we moved to Denver is find a CSA.
  9. I see a chiropractor more than a hair dresser. Which would be true even IF I didn’t cut my own hair.
  10. Picking up our CSA is one of the top ten activities in my week.
  11. I know the phone number of my doctors office.
  12. I have a doctors office. Like every healthy lady of childbearing age I used to only have an OBGYN. What else did I need?
  13. I have been a mother for more than a decade.
  14. Scarves.
  15. I have lived in 15 houses. Although that might have more to do with a certain Zillow addiction than age. But even at the rate that I move it takes a more than a few decades to get to 15 houses.
  16. My kids work the TV better than I do. Which is obviously the fault of the incompatibility of the “smart” TV and DirectTV but still…they seem to have navigated.
  17. I eat dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. If that is not a sign of maturity I don’t know what is…
  18. I wash my face and brush my teeth without my mother reminding me. EVERY DAY.
  19. I make my bed. I like having my bed made. Two signs in one bed.
  20. I like throw pillows. Steve likes to throw the pillows. Win Win.
  21. People are naming news websites that I have never heard of…and I forget the name already.
  22. The music I love was written 20+ years ago.
  23. I am booking a flight to my 25th highschool reunion.
  24. I can grow a beard.
  25. I barely remember 23. (age and high school)
  26. I love my clogs more than my Frye boots.
  27. I have more dates for tea than I do for cocktails. Which is OK because of #6.
  28. I have 4 lotions on my bathroom counter. I use them.
  29. I am older than every single Patriots player. Even our ancient quarterback.
  30. I decant my Tums into a dish. (see #3)
  31. Picking up our CSA is one of the top five activities of my week.
  32. I can’t name a single middle school teacher. Although soon I will be able to name my son’s middle school teachers.
  33. I take 4 pills daily. That count does not even include the Tums.
  34. I am shopping for a mattress that relieves pressure points.
  35. Cardigans.
  36. I don’t drive at night. At least without risking my life.
  37. I can go 5 conversations without whining at my mother like a 12 year old.
  38. I took candy crush off of my phone. I left it on my iPad though…I am not THAT old.
  39. I have lived in a state where pot is legal for almost two years and I haven’t been to a dispensary.
  40. An Afghan sounds OK to me.
  41. A great night out ends by ten.
  42. I usually send Steve to pick up our CSA.

And one for good luck.

43. I can’t stand the smell the pump out of Abercrombie, most perfumes, every cologne or scented candles. Now let me go make a wish on my cake. Hopefully the candles won’t be scented.

Picture of Anna Rosenblum Palmer
The last day I am 42. Right before I turn 42.

16 years ago today my father died

Scholars rock. Dragon...man and nature as artist
Scholars rock. Dragon…man and nature as artist

Sixteen years ago today my father died.

He has been gone for almost half of my life. Functionally it is more than that, as he has not met my husband or my children, seen where I lived, experienced things I have created and dismantled.

Thinking of him has gone from every painful minute to daily to weekly to monthly. I talk about his preference for a certain candy bar when shopping with the boys, but it is fact more than his essence. Like a memory triggered by a picture the story conforms to the the boundaries of the information in front of me, the story is about as alive and vital as the candy bar in its wrapper.

I wonder too, how much my memory of him is shaped by exactly that…memory. I revisit the same stories wearing a path in the sand. The other tales are somewhere over the next dune…hazy, inexact, blending in with the landscape.

Our relationship is like a first love perfectly preserved in the golden memory of youth. He died when I was 24, and he is not around to participate in the monotony of daily life. He was present for the transformative moments of that transition from girl to young adult, and then gone to be romanticized.

It feels disloyal to have him fade in places and sharpen in others. Yet it is inevitable.  I look into the faces of my boys and seek him there. I see him it in a leg cross, and the crook of a finger. When Leo asks if we can build a rock garden in our back yard it is as if he is sitting at the table in front of me.   I don’t want to ask, but I do, and Leo explains they have been studying gardens in art class.  Still, probably most students didn’t have the connection which Leo did…some sort of cosmic echo coming through the years.

I seek the double helix in my children and remember how much my father loved spirals and fractals. Patterns of nature. His art was supposed to elicit questions of what is natural and what is manmade. I realize there is 50%of those same spirals in me. Nature and nurture both, just like his art.  I see him in the face looking up at me instead of the one I looked up to.

When I sit at the coffee shop ranting about the disappearance of sweat pants  it turns into a performance rather than a conversation. This is how our family dinners went. He picked a topic and worked himself up to a frenzy. I feel his righteous wrath running through me. I see the slightly charmed slightly alarmed faces of my friends me as I rant about pants and I feel like him. As the years go on I become more of a homebody…for the last 7 years of his life he didn’t leave our house.  Leaving some of the irritating details of life to Steve, like bills and cooking has echoes of his relationship with my mother. When I examine the surface of the bark of a tree, following the folds down to the root system instead of up to the leaves I have images of him, large calloused fingers outstretched to stroke the bark with characteristic gentleness. Relentless sports talk was his soundtrack, and is now mine. First to help keep him with me, now because he still teaches me in his death.

Mostly though he is alive in shadows and echoes instead of his huge brash technicolor self. A man who didn’t wear socks, who would trace my face with his sculptors fingers, understanding my features as planes of a whole instead of disparate parts to analyze in a mirror. Seated at the head of a table challenging everyone around him, eating white rice. Leaving to pee before every single dinner, although each second of the day outside of this one was his own to manage.  His time was too magical to interrupt.

Maybe he knew it would be short.

Happy Valentines day to my first Valentine.

And yours.

My vagina is a slacker


My Vagina

I am not a modest woman.

I am writing about my vagina for fuck’s sake. But still it is tough times on the table, and I am not yet in the stirrups.

I sit in my miserable paper robe, called “huge” by the chipper weighing woman, but barely closing with its mismatched ties. It doesn’t have enough slack to cover me.


When the doctor breezes in she is younger than I am. This should not be a surprise, but it is. She sits on her wheelie chair and leans agains the wall casually. She is inviting me to confide in her.

Here is my list: strange growths in private places (I’m so glad I have a husband), leaking pee when I sneeze cough, laugh or exercise (great excuse to skip the work out), perpetually lumpy breast tissue (super appealing).

My Boobs

She shrugs off the bumpy breasts as she feels me up. Peering down and then up my gown I see her shiny hair without a touch of grey as she assesses my garden of growth. She is complimentary about the thorough type and distribution of my skin abnormalities, but pronounces them benign and moves on to the main event. 

The pap is the best part. Except of course when she says “Lots of pressure, lots and lots of pressure” and I can just make out a dull sensation.

My Litigation

“Have you heard of vaginal mesh?” she asks, her head between my legs.

“Why yes, I have always wanted to use my vagina as an excuse to both sew and sue.”

“Right” she replies. “Let’s wait until they have worked out some of the lawsuits…you will get much worse and then maybe it will be worth the risk.”

[Tweet theme=”basic-white”]“Why yes, I have always wanted to use my vagina as an excuse to both sew and sue.”[/Tweet]

My Menopause

“Much worse?”

“Certainly!” she sings back at me with enthusiasm. “People talk about the mood swings, the hot flashes and the lower libido, but the most pronounced part of menopause is the atrophy of vaginal muscles.”

It is not every day that I feel this sexy.

My birth-days

My first son slipped out at 5 pounds seven weeks early. The silver lining of a premature birth was a terribly tight vaginal lining. Other than stretchy boobs from nursing my body felt pretty much as it had before. It was the second son that created the vast cavern in which my husband can mine. Who knows what treasure awaits. I try to remember that it is the big brain in the big head of my beautiful baby that brought me all of this bounty. Most of the time that helps.

My Husband

Later, when my Steve has me laughing in (and wetting) our bed after somehow managing to enjoy my cave of a vagina I feel grateful for my moderately saggy vagina and its small amount of pee. I have always prided myself on being a bit of slacker above the belt. I am generally relaxed. Now my vagina reflects my true nature. Soft, easygoing, and utterly without primp and polish.

My solution

I am not a vain woman. My makeup includes mismatched nail polish and haphazardly applied sunscreen. In a world where my dentist offers Botox as long as teeth whitening I still consider it an add on to accept the flouride treatment. While my friends talk about fixing their vaginal lips and tightening things up with a stitch I nod with support…and realize I will continue without it. It is the love of my husband and birth of my kids that created this excess space. My fix for the floppiness is to screw my hasband AND the scalpel.

My Happy Place

Things could be worse, I could pee more, bring my husband less pleasure, and have the promise of prosecution in my private parts.

For now I still have a happy ending.

Letting Go

This weekend is the fiftieth meeting of the Wellfleet Psychohistory Group.  These doctors and scholars gather on Cape Cod every October when the heath and heather turn to their purples and rusts. They meet surrounded by the scrub brush of the National Seashore with a broad view of the Atlantic’s transition from blue to grey as it lets go of the summer sunshine.

The sea shore that is their setting was founded by Kennedy in 1961, only four years before these meetings began. My generation thinks of these woods and water as timeless nature, but this protection came partly through their life times.

I don’t know much about the historical significance of their work over the decades but  it has ranged from thought reform to global warming, covering many of the atrocities of human behavior, all with the lens of the possibility of positive change.

This year the founder who is 89 will walk slowly to his office to be surrounded by his colleagues for the final time. The grey shingled salt box is the original house of the property, which is an antique structure. It has four simple walls and a beamed roofline, which was surely vaulted to the Pilgrims. One short wall features an enormous stone fireplace, the other floor to ceiling books. The long wall which faces east reveals the ocean and its spectacular sunrises through slightly warped glass.

His desk is a table too enormous to move out, so as the attendees gather their rented chairs will part to allow room for this substantial surface. Without ever having been I can see them there, listening and learning, pontificating and planning, focusing on a world they will never live to live in.

A few months ago this meeting seemed an impossibility as the old man lay in bed in the hospital. Tomorrow it will host its last beginning. I am sure the content will be vital and relevant to today, rather than all of the yesterdays he has lived. This is not the final work he will do, but it is the last time he will do it this way.

I wonder what it feels like to let this go. How much will be looking backward, and how much will be looking ahead to the world of children yet to be born. Perhaps we need to let go to allow the next generation to grasp on.


Pick your poison

Old woman loves lifeI had my teeth cleaned yesterday and my dentist offered me Botox.

During the 15 minute battle to determine my dental insurance number I pointed to the laminated sign advertising smooth skinning poison and asked the woman behind the desk what she thought of the Botox. “It’s great, people say they have to wait four weeks at their dermatologist, but WE can often get them in the next day. White teeth and smooth skin makes any lady happy!”


Here in Denver woman can do things to their bodies that I have never considered. A billboard on Colorado Boulevard advertises some sort of laser treatment to shut down sweat glands. Isn’t there a purpose for sweating? I mean I do covet that slender woman’s airbrushed pits, but something about sealing off an entire physical function seems extreme to me.

At coffee the other morning one friend told another about a discount on Botox, she was headed there after we finished. Units were such and such a price for some limited time. The other woman’s eyes lit up, but her expression didn’t change because it couldn’t.

Not one to keep my mouth shut I butted in.

“Is that something we just say?”

I understand the irony…I’ll just say anything. If I used Botox I would talk about it just like my friends do. What I meant to ask was when did Botox become ubiquitous. When did we start working into our days and dentists as if it were a haircut?

Ranting about this the next morning to a more natural looking group of friends they told stories of their own efforts to reverse the clock. One had used Botox herself. “Only once.” The other was planning some sort of chemical peel that kept you inside for a mere week. Totally worth it, they agreed.

There was a time when waxing was not ubiquitous. Now even my Vermont friends who eschew makeup go in for molten material in parts too delicate to mention.I remember when I was talked into waxing. I was greeted in a lovely waiting room and offered a water. There was soft music. It was lovely. Then I was brought into the torture chamber. I was laid on a table covered with paper a la the gynecologist. I was lit with a light brighter than the sun. Then she approached me with a popsicle stick which she twirled ominously to keep the scorching substance from hitting the ground. The burning is the least of it. Then the ripping, the redness, the regrowth. All of was ridiculous to me. Then I had to pay them for the torture.

My boys are 10 and (almost) 9. Their skin is smooth and hairless. It is the right look for them.

Electrolysis, lasering , waxing, peeling, lifting, inserting, bleaching, cauterizing. So many verbs to restore verve.

There are times when my drooping eyes (and other parts), my beard and sun spots, my limp hair and yellow teeth make me wonder about those “ings” would I feel better, smile wider, walk taller, feel the breeze on my hairless face?

It must do that and more for many women. So I will try to set aside my judgement.

All of my friends are beautiful to me. Some are primped and polished while others braless and sleepy eyed. I see beauty in their skin, but not in the way Botox boasts. Their beauty comes from their eyes, under saggy lids that have seen so much in life. Their beauty come from smiles from lined cheeks. Their beauty comes from their laughs etching lines ever deeper around their mouths. Their beauty comes from their foreheads wrinkled in concentration and caring. Their beauty comes from the soft gathers of skin on the same hands that have helped their children and written love letters.

Their beauty comes from the lives they have lived and the way they wear it, unerased on their faces.

Don't hide it!
Don’t hide it!