Eularee Smith
Writer & Educator

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Snow in AugustWatchersRising SunThe Andromeda StrainThe ShiningThe Hunt for Red October

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Being a grown up can be inspiring

Here I am at age 62 and still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. That is not entirely true. It might be said that I have not grown up yet. I can’t take the blame, though. It is my kids that are keeping me in this perpetually circling mode.

Have you noticed that our kids still treat us like “mom” instead of adult women? When they come home they head first to the cookie jar and are genuinely disappointed if it isn’t full. They leave wet towels on the floor or the bed unmade when they come to visit. And there is an unspoken expectation that you are still there 24/7 should the need arise.

Advice is seldom taken and seen as “old school” as if new ideas on parenting are inherently better as opposed to tried and true. The need to keep us in the background is what I call hanging on to the apron strings so they can kick you in the shins syndrome. How can one possibly think about what they want to do when they are so busy being stuck in the holding pattern of “mom”?

I told myself that when my kids were grown, that I would actively pursue my writing career. My oldest is 40 and my youngest is 26 and though I am writing, I don’t have time to just write. I admire women like JK Rowling, who by all reports worked her wizardly ways until the wee hours of the night to magically produce Harry Potter. It is not that it can’t be done. It’s the lack of wee hours left in a day.

So here I am at age 62, designing a creative laboratory. It will be a place where I can write, compose and record music, a drawing board for new ideas. Eventually I would like to offer creative retreats for women (or men) who like myself, have to actually physically remove themselves in order to grow up and do what they want to do. An inspiring place that says “do what you want to do when you grow up, now”. 

Images: Flickr image by Becky Streipe


Downsizing the phone

I am finally down to one phone. Ah, the simple life. It all started with a land line, then progressed to one cell phone, which morphed into two cell phones. This paradigm has continued for several years, almost 10 to be exact and I found myself paying more for my phones than my groceries.

You would think the remedy would be simple. But au contraire, it was anything but. My son and I shared a carrier for many years. He moved on to another carrier to be with his significant other. It has taken 3 months to try and convince the old carrier that he is gone and to deal with me. Despite my patient nature, I decided enough was enough and left them as well. And then there were two.

With great trepidation, I let go of my land line. It was more about the convenience of the answering machine than the actual phone. That was a little less painful but I found it interesting they were willing to cut my bill by 60% if I would stay. And then there was one.

One phone. One bill. I now pay less than a third of what it was costing me before the downsize. No wonder why companies think downsizing is such a good idea. Lest you think this move has come problem free, let me assure you that with every change in life, some rain must fall.

I must now remember to keep my phone charged, since it is the only phone I have. I must remember to keep it with me since it is no longer tethered to the wall and somehow finds its way to all sorts of places. Yes, Mom, phones do have legs! And I must check phone messages through a variety of button pushing, window swiping, deleting methods to keep track of all the calls that are now being funneled through the one phone.

Simpler? Let’s revisit this question in a couple of months. I have a call coming in.


Coping with shoulder pain

After two years of recovering from shoulder pain, I can honestly say it is a relief to be able to get back to my routine. With caution, I have returned to mowing the lawn, finishing a brick patio and cleaning the house. Shoulder pain is a common ailment and although mine was aggravated by a car accident, shoulder problems increase as we age. Here are a few of the common causes of shoulder pain.


Osteoarthritis is the most common of arthritic symptoms. The cartilage between the joints wears down and the bones begin to rub causing chronic pain. You may hear a creak or click and additional stiffness or swelling. The cause is long term wear on the joints but can also be caused by a traumatic injury. 

Treatment is challenging. There is no cure. The Journal of the American Medical Association found taking supplements can ease the symptoms. No magic bullet but it is a matter of use it or lose. Physical therapy, moderate exercise and over the counter pain relievers can help.

Rotator Cuff is the group of four muscles and tendons that connect the arm to the shoulder. This area is susceptible to bruising and inflammation from overhead activities, sleeping on the affected shoulder or reaching behind your back. It is caused by repetitive stress and injury. It affects 50% of those over the age of 50. Pain can eased with over the counter pain relief medications. The easy fix is to limit or avoid lifting or pulling while the inflammation heals. But surgery or cortisone injections may be required to repair the damage. MRI can determine the damage to access level of treatment.

Bursitis means there is inflammation of the bursa, a thin sac of fluid that cushions the bones, tendons and muscles in a joint. A dull ache that hurts more with moving the arm up or to the side. It is the most common cause of shoulder pain and again is the result of repetitive movement.

Treatment is resting the shoulder and avoiding the activing that causes the pain. Doctors may use cortisone injection to reduce the inflammation and physical therapy. Surgery may be necessary.

Frozen shoulder happens when the capsule of connective tissue in the lining of the shoulder joint thickens and becomes inflammed. The three stages, freezing, frozen and thawing. The difference between frozen shoulder and bursitis is that the pain occurs when the shoulder is at rest, not in motion. This is common in women over age 50 and those with diabetes. 

Treatment can take up to 18 months to move through the stages of frozen shoulder. It is a case of wait for the process to move through each stage. Freezing, movements become more painful, frozen, the pain decreases but difficult to move, and thawing the stiffeness decreases and motion increases.

Whatever the cause or treatment, the ailment is a common aging ailment. The chances of shoulder pain in the over 50 age group rises with each decade. Although exercise can help avoid some of these, it certainly can help ease the pain. Gentle, moderate exercise, in other words, think and play smarter.


Image: Flickr by flyzipper


Women, our own worst enemy and new best friend

From the time we were teenagers, we have feared our own sex. Our jealousy seems to rear its ugly head when we see a friend in a new dress, a new guy or in a great looking pair of shoes. I guess it is why I was always considered a tomboy. None of those things really mattered to me and gossip was one of my least favorite topics.

But I recognized the girl in me when I had a mastecotomy at age 39. From that moment on I couldn't help but feel less than. It surprised me that I was vain, that my appearance mattered and that I was measuring myself by the bra size of others.

As a thin person, my opinion as to "does this make me look fat" was never considered. Relationships with women were awkward because I didn't wear make-up and played baseball rather than Barbies. But over the years, I have been bonding more with women. I think age has conquered the need to scrutinize ourselves with the magic mirror and who is the fairest of the land is becoming irrelevant.

At some point we let go of the feminine yard stick and begin to use happiness as a measuring tool. We become more empathetic with the loss of a marriage, instead of secretly thinking he was too good for her. Even Victoria's Secret can't defy the laws of gravity and its getting harder to believe that only our hairdresser knows for sure. The playing field is finally leveling off and it is more about friendships than relationships. We have finally figured out it is more fun to laugh with each other than to make fun of each other.

The good news is that as we age, despite our best efforts, we mature. If there is something wrong, we can speak with honesty. A woman who interviewed for a job was a bit heavy handed in her answers. My partner was put off by it, so I offered to ask the woman if she was answering the way she thought we wanted her to, or if that was what she would do. My partner, age 35, wasn't sure but knowing the woman was over 50, I was sure the question would be perceived as an honest inquiry. It was. She was willing to see another side and grateful that I had thought enough of her skills to follow through.  

The simple truth is that when we were younger we were more rigid. It was about the exterior. Beauty was entirely skin deep. Now we hope our interior speaks louder than the exterior and we are are so much the wiser for learning that beauty truly comes from the inside out. 

Image: flickr image by bee wolf ray


Cultivate your career

As a seasoned gardener, I can honestly say that my garden of 30 years has changed. It somewhat resembles the dreams of the wanna be farmer, live off the earth and organic mama that first planned it over 30 years ago. But over the years there is less lawn to mow, fewer organized beds to plant and more places to sit and have a glass of wine at the end of day.

My career has taken a similar journey. The energy and passion that had me on track for teacher of the year, had me teaching over 60 kids at one time in my music career. We built a private studio onto the house to accomodate the instruments, books, and students bursting out of my living room. Chairing major committees in the region and state organizations, developing new curriculum, composing, recording and teaching were quickly expanding into more than a 40 hour week. 

When I turned 60, I found myself, scaling down the garden and my career. Something a bit more manageable and with enough time to reconnect with my creative side. In other words, how to work smarter, not harder. Garden beds became smaller. How many beans can one person eat? Grass was consuming water and labor, but other than an aching back, it was offering little in return. And working a 60 hour week, there was little energy left to do much more than wonder why weeds grew without fertilizing but tomatoes just sat there. 

As I began to reconstruct the garden to be more manageable, I found the same principles worked to reconstruct my career. I decided I would much rather be buried in my garden, than in my piano. Here are a few gardening lessons for your career.

1) Build a better plan. What do I truly love to eat and only plant what I can eat. The same is true for my career. Changing direction that included a less intense, stressful work schedule. Working smarter, not harder. Scaling down the work load and learning to say no. Success in the garden means work with the seasons, not against them. Embrace the unexpected and learn to go with the flow.

Mantra: I can not be all things to all people

2) Make the most of your resources. Instead of pulling weeds, I laid down newspapers, feed sacks, worn out tarps, anything that would smother the weeds. I created paths rather than more beds. Chickens scratched and turned the soil and provided eggs for breakfast. By engaging co-workers, build on your experience. Use your strengths and stop obsessing over what doesn't work. Let them take the lead and move into consulting and mentoring, saving both your job and resources.

Mantra: If the map doesn't fit the ground, the map is wrong.

3) Use expert advice. My raspberries look beautiful and then suddenly wilt and die. I call the Master Gardeners or Extension service to find a reason and a solution. Sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees and need someone to point the way. Developing networks is essential in keeping on track with your career. Working the network can bring new ideas, attitudes and knowledge to the job.

Mantra: Work smarter, not harder.

4) Take a vacation. In my garden, I designed rooms. Places to stop and take a mini vacation, admire the garden, have a glass of wine or read a book. The smells and beauty of the garden are more important now, than how many tomatoes are on the vine.

Take time to join up with friends for dinner, catch a movie, or see a play. All of these open times in our lives that cultivate energy and a sense of peace about our life. Without them we find the only time we take off from work is when we are sick. 

Mantra: Stop and smell the roses.

Be grateful I didn't use my other favorite past time, baseball. Three strikes you're out, would mean I am sitting on the bench. I have made more mistakes than successes in my gardening and work career. But as I look ahead, it seems prudent to find ways to cultivate a productive retirement so that I might enjoy more time in the garden.

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