Top Ten Reasons I Don’t Mind Turning 60

What's to love about turning 60? In my opinion, a whole lot of things.Tomorrow’s my 60th birthday, and I’m looking forward to it. Really I am, and for these 10 good reasons.

10. Ordering off the 55+ menu at IHOP will be easier. Five years ago, doing so made me feel like an imposter. Now I feel like I’ve earned it.

9.  The AARP has lowered their annual membership price to $12 in honor of my birthday. Thoughtful as the gesture is, I’m not taking them up on it.

8.  Tomorrow morning, I will be grateful for the ability to walk 6 miles pain free…even at my age.

7.  German Chocolate Birthday Cake! Need I say more?

6.  When people inquire about my age, and I tell them, with suitable self-effacement that I am 60, they will have all the more reason to respond, “You certainly don’t look your age.” (And this would be your cue to type something similar in the comment box.)

5.  Being 60 makes the fact that my mystery novel, set in the decade when I was in my 20s, is considered historical fiction a little easier to swallow. Mainly because I can wash it down with birthday cake. (See #7)

4.  On my official birthday, all those early Facebook birthday wishes will no longer feel like being pushed into old age.

3.  Once I’m 60, the Man of Steel, who hit the same milestone waaaay back in March, will no longer feel as though he robbed the cradle.

2.  The day will remind me of Mom’s 60th in 1988. Our son was 6, and our daughter was a newborn when the sibs and I hosted a gigantic surprise birthday shindig at her church in Le Mars. She was clueless, and the many friends and family members who gathered to honor her, was a glorious tribute.

1.  I’ll be celebrating my birthday with my family. What could be better?

I’d love to hear bout your 60th birthday memories in the comment box. If you don’t have any, see #6.

Muffin Mysteries for a Fantastic Friday

When the biggest mystery in the house is muffins in the microwave, does it mean the residents of the house have memory problems?In the four years since this post first appeared on Down the Gravel Road, memory issues at the Philo house have only gotten worse. So much worse that this Fantastic Friday’s muffin mystery is one I don’t even remember. Which is why it’s worth solving a second time.

This morning, I was up bright and early. At 6:15 I left the house to walk, my back exercises, Bible study, and breakfast already completed. Ten minutes later, my phone rang.

By the time I fished it out of my pocket and untangled the iPod ear buds wrapped around it, and I inadvertently pressing several buttons, the caller gave up. The screen said it had been Hiram, so I tried to call back. But somehow I hit the mute button and had to hang up. Eventually he called back, and after explaining I really hadn’t hung up on him twice, he remembered why he called in the first place. Which is a miracle in itself, as the rest of the story proves.

“Did you put muffins in the microwave this morning?” he asked.

“Yes,” I answered, and then added. “And I ate them. For breakfast.”

“Okay,” he said. “So these in the microwave are mine?”

I pondered the question for a moment.
I didn’t remember putting more muffins in the microwave.
But the older I get, the more I forget what I’ve really done.
The older I get, the more I confuse what I only considered doing with what I actually did. And the older I get, the more reality seems like a day dream and the more my day dreams feel like reality.

That’s when I realized Hiram and I have been married for a long time, and he’s rubbing off on me. As my internal dialogue confirms, though I have spent the last 35 years pulling him out of the anti-memory-time-and-space vortex where he lives, growing older is gradually sucking me into it with him. My days as household memory queen are numbered. Maybe even over already.

Hesitatingly, I answered. “I don’t think I would put a second set of muffins in the microwave. And my stomach feels full, so I ate mine.”

“Okay.” His voice remained cheerful and unperturbed. “They must be mine. I just don’t remember putting them there.”

I laughed. “We’re pathetic.”

He agreed, and we both hung up. I slipped the phone back in my pocket and felt something long and stringy wrap around it. I pulled the phone out again, along with a tangle of iPod ear buds.

Where in the world did those come from? I wondered. Then I stuffed them in my pocket and walked down the road cheerful and unperturbed.

Just like my husband.

No More Scoff. Just Toss.

The Man of Steel and I are feeling our age this week after several unexpected blows.Scoff and toss.

For years, the Man of Steel and I did just that every time we found AARP envelopes in our mailbox. We smiled smugly at one another and said, “AARP? Us? We’re way too young for that. Not to mention that we take good care of ouselves!”

Then last week knocked the smug stuffing out of us.

The first blow landed when I got my new, lighter splint last Tuesday and was told I can’t drive for four more weeks. At least. And that I have to operate one-handed for that length of time, too. The second blow came the same day when the on-again, off-again pain under the Man of Steel’s right arm went full blown on-again and laid him out flat. As in flat-on-the-floor-on-his-back-flat-and-sort-of-comfortable, or in-excruciating-pain-in-any-other-position flat.

Between the two of us we had less than one good body.

Suddenly, we were prisoners in our own home. Reduced to begging asking people for rides to the store and doctor’s office. Wondering when to call our kids to beg ask them to drop everything to help us. Not wanting to shift from being the ones who serve others to being served by others.

That was the final blow. The blow to our pride.

Admitting that now–for at least a while–we have to surrender our independence and be dependent on others. Knowing for the first time in my adult life where Blanche DuBoius was coming from when she said, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Because going from independent to dependent is a whole new reality.

A reality we hope to shed soon. Very soon.

Once we do, once we’re back on our feet, we will respond differently when to those AARP mailings. The smugness, the pride in our race to outrun aging will fade. We will no longer scoff at those reminders that will one day lose the race. We promise.

No more scoff. Just toss.

Three Thoughts for Thursday



  1. I find the plethora of  before and after body wrap pictures on Facebook quite disconcerting. TMI!
  2. Because Facebook ads are age group targeted, the plethora of sponsored posts about wrinkle cream, sagging skin cream, and adult incontinence products on my Facebook feed is equally disconcerting.
  3. On the other hand, the Viking Cruise Line ads featuring older couples drinking wine as the breeze ruffles their silver hair don’t bother me at all. Because my hair hasn’t turned silver. Yet.

Your thoughts about Facebook ads? Leave a comment.

Top Ten Things to Dislike About Getting Older

A recent birthday led to this top ten list about what to dislike about getting older.

I recently celebrated a birthday. Not one of those momentous ones with a zero at the end. But getting close. Getting very, very close. Close enough to get me thinking about what’s to dislike and like about getting older. This week’s list hits the dislikes. But you’re invited to come back next week to see what’s to like about getting older too.

10. Getting older means not being able to eat as much as and that more of what’s eaten makes its presence known in uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing ways as it makes its merry way through and out of the digestive system.

9.  Some people–and this may or may not include the author of this post–become less patient as they get older. Especially with a spouse–who may or may not be the Man of Steel.

8. Replace the word “patient” in #9 with “flexible.”

7.  No matter how fit and trim a person is, aches and pains increase with age.

6.  As do trips to the bathroom in the night time.

5.  The older a person is, the harder it is to learn a foreign language.

4.  Year by year, the number of opportunities a person “has missed it by that much”–to use the words of Maxwell Smart–increases. That realization is a source of sadness for opportunities missed that had the potential of accomplishing great good.

3.  Getting older does not mean people worry about their children any less.

2.  Being older means more times when a person’s heart torn in two when moving away from dear friends or when dear friends move away.

1.  Being older means saying final good-byes to loved ones more and more frequently with each passing year.

What do you dislike about getting older? Leave a comment.

This Fantastic Friday, I’m Becoming My Grandma Hess

At our family reunion, our generation will realize once again that we are becoming our parents and stalwart grandparents, Vernon & Josephine Hess.Tomorrow the Man of Steel and I are taking Mom to a family reunion where many cousins will gather to catch up on each other’s lives and to reminisce about our parents and grandparents. As we talk, the realization will come upon many of us, myself included, that we are becoming more and more like our parents and our stalwart grandparents, Vernon and Josephine Hess. This Fantastic Friday post from June of 2009 offers a picture of what that means.

A few years ago my older sister, who hit fifty long before I did, said she was getting more like our Grandma Hess (our mother’s mother) every year. “Maybe it’s happening to you,” I thought, “but it won’t happen to me.” I was so wrong! Since turning fifty almost three years ago, I have developed some strange quirks that can be traced directly to Grandma. The most notable of these traits are:

  • A growing belief that oatmeal deserves its own food group, should be eaten for every breakfast and added to all baked goods.
  • A penchant for big, flower-patterned, cover-up aprons.
  • Snoring.
  • The habit of spitting on a tissue (though Grandma used a hankie) and using it to wash the dirty face of any child related to me.
  • Wintering over my geraniums, rooting geraniums, planting geraniums in my garden, etc.
  • Ditto for asparagus ferns, vinca vines, and philodendrons.
  • Not wanting to spend money unless it’s really necessary, and nothing is really all that necessary.
  • A need to check my flower gardens every day, pick flowers for bouquets whenever possible, and put the flowers in the vase (see photograph above) that belonged to Grandma’s mother.
  • Thinking the best way to celebrate any winter event is to cram everyone into my house and serve a heavy meal.
  • Thinking the best way to celebrate any summer event is to have a family picnic.

Some of Grandma’s traits I haven’t picked up yet and hope the Man of Steel or my kids chain me to a wall before I do are:

  • Taking all the sugar, creamer, catsup, mustard, and any other condiment packets, along with as many straws and napkins that will fit in a purse, from restaurant booths.
  • Buying cheap clothes, worthy of wearing at my own funeral, at Crazy Daze and putting them in the back of the closet until the big day arrives.
  • Belching.
  • Watching Lawrence Welk every Saturday night.
  • Knowing the life story of every entertainer on Lawrence Welk and relating them to my grandchildren.
  • Asking my kids to cut my toenails when I can afford a podiatrist.
  • Requiring kids to wait thirty minutes after a meal before they go swimming.

Unfortunately, a few years ago I would have told my family to chain me to a wall if I snored, spit on a tissue or wore a flower-patterned apron. So I’m probably doomed to pick up a few more Grandma quirks every few years. But if the Lawrence Welk oddities come last, I’ll be eternally grateful.

A-one, and a-two, and a….

Rockin’ in the New Year at Camp Dorothy

new year

After a five day break, when Camp Dorothy’s namesake headed north to spend a few days with her eldest daughter, things are ramping up for a rockin’ New Year’s Eve celebration. The fun begins today when the camp director collects Dorothy from Minnesota and returns her to central Iowa’s more moderate climate…not that Dorothy will be outside experiencing the climate any more than is absolutely necessary.

She’ll be sitting cozy on the couch with a footstool under her feet and an extra blanket around her shoulders.

Also arriving at camp on Monday will be a Wisconsin contingent consisting of our daughter, six months pregnant, and her 6’4″ husband. They will be taking over many of the camp director’s activity duties including, but not limited to, playing Rummikub and Uno with the camp’s namesake and operating the television remote control so that episodes of The Price Is Right, Judge Judy, and Wheel of Fortune appear on cue at the proper time.

A stress reliever for sure as the camp director (aka: camp cook) foresees numerous trips to the grocery store as the camp population will double for the week.

And the director will be spending extra time planning a rockin’ New Year’ Eve party. Not an easy thing to schedule considering the camp’s namesake usually goes to bed between 7 and 7:30 in the evening. Therefore, our New Year’s Eve countdown of top hits will need to proceed at lightning speed so that 2015 is welcomed in at approximately 7:15 pm Central Standard Time. If that doesn’t work, Plan B is to blow our noisemakers continually from the end of Wheel of Fortune to midnight to keep the camp’s namesake awake until the New Year can be ushered in the rest of the country’s customary time. The camp director hopes Plan A works because, as daughter of the camp’s namesake, she goes to bed around 8:30 PM and has no interest in staying awake to ring in 2015.

The family resemblance is astounding, don’t you think?

Camp Dorothy will definitely be a rockin’ place to be on New Year’s Eve. If you’d like to join us, come early and bring your Uno deck. If you want to prank the camp with a late night call, the joke’s on you as the camp landline’s been cancelled and all cell phones shift into night mode long before Cinderella’s coach is in danger of turning into a pumpkin. All because Camp Dorothy aims to please it’s namesake and a good night’s sleep is always her number one priority.

Happy New Year from the well-rested Camp Dorothy crew!

Three Birthday Pancake Thoughts for Thursday

Ruth Dorothy

The little girl on the left is Mom’s sister, Ruth. The little girl on the right is Dorothy.

  1. To help Mom celebrate her 86th birthday yesterday, I treated her to lunch at Village Inn. She ordered pancakes.
  2. While she ate the pancakes, she told me about her sixth birthday, 80 years ago exactly. “It was my first day of first grade. My first day of school ever. The older kids–and they were all older kids–spent every recess giving me birthday spankings. It was awful.”
  3. As she ate she looked at me and said, “Do you know what I really want for my birthday? I want to go back to Pipestone and have Mom make pancakes for me.”

Who knew birthday pancakes could reduce the daughter of an 86-year-old woman to tears?

Three Getting Older Thoughts for Thursday


  1. It’s disconcerting to discover several books considered cutting edge literature during my childhood are categorized as “classics” in Wilbor’s free downloadable library.
  2. It’s also disconcerting to realize the man of steel and I have been married 37 years. Where did the time go?
  3. Most disconcerting of all was having to explain to the adorable toddler who visited our house last weekend that the Fisher Price pull toy fished out of the attic was a phone…and then demonstrate how to use it.

Photo Source

Top Ten Signs of Aging

Top Ten Signs of Aging

Lately, the man of steel and I have become more and more aware that age is creeping up on us. Here are some signs of aging we’ve noticed since the beginning of 2014.

10.   Hanging out with friends at the Accessibility Summit earlier this year was as fun as ever. But it was a tad disconcerting to discover I was the elder stateswoman in the crowd. Not only could I have been an older cousin to several, I also could have been mother to a great many.

9.   During the terrible winter of 2014, we shared “old-timer” memories of the winters of 1966-67 (or was it the Winter of 67-68…my memory isn’t what it used to be), 1978-79, and 1981-82.

8.    Neither of us have any desire to ever sleep on a floor, on the ground, or in a tent ever again.

7.   No one cards us when we order off the senior citizen’s menu…even if we’re younger than the restaurant’s age cut off.

6.   When I announced I had no desire to squeeze into yoga pants, my children breathed audible sighs of relief.

5.   On a recent road trip, the man of steel accidentally took a hotel pillow and didn’t notice he placed it right on top of our pillow in the back seat of the car. We were horrified by our thievery and went back to return it, of course.

4.   About the same time we discovered we were pillow burglars, we realized we’d forgotten our camera. We retraced our steps and reclaimed it, of course.

3.   The list of foods we collectively have to avoid means eating at a restaurants with us is not for the faint of heart.

2.   My sister will turn 60 this year and her husband turns 70. Contrary to what we would have said 20 years ago about those ages, the man of steel and I agree our rellies are not old. At. All.

1.   We believe the auto industry should consider lumbar support and heated seats should be standard features in new vehicles.

Do any of those sound like you? What would you add to the list? Leave a comment.