Tag Archives: Shinazy

Eyebrow Wars ©

Battling eyebrows with Shinazy

eyebrowSomewhere in the back of our mind we know this to be true – our eyebrows conspire against us.  Without us noticing, they set-up base camp above our sunglasses and below our caps.  They conduct surveillance on everything we see and everyone we talk with.  Every time we look in a mirror . . . there they are, mocking us.  We need to be alert because our eyebrows have an agenda.

For our eyebrows to carryout their plan they have an arsenal of strategies; one is the art of subterfuge.  As boomers, we wonder:  why is it our eyebrow hairs start to grey, appearing to fade away, just when we’re having difficulty focusing our near vision?  Even when we’re wearing cheater glasses, our eyebrows play peek-a-boo.

To counter this evasive maneuvering, I commandeered a Magnification 20 Assault Mirror to ambush my eyebrows.  It’s a small mirror, no need to see the wrinkles resembling the Grand Canyon, which is another boomer issue, but I digress.  Eyebrows are cunning, even after I assault them with tweezers, ensnaring every visible hair – or so I think – I sometimes discover a spy.  If I’m in the right light, at the right angle, what do I see but a single hair, a banner flapping in the breeze.

Score 1 for the eyebrows.

Another strategy in the eyebrow’s tactical master plan: as hair on my head thins, the hairs in my eyebrows grow to become Amazons.

Eyebrows 2, me 0.

eyebrowFor a few folks eyebrows are allies.  My granddaddy never trimmed his eyebrows – he never engaged in the Eyebrow Wars.  As a child, I would twist his eyebrows into pointed peaks or divide them into little spires.  This action never lost its sense of amusement.

My Aunt Judy was swift and decisive; during the 1940s she conquered her eyebrows and annihilated them.  Not a hair remained.  Today, in her late 80’s she can draw perfectly matching arches.

Rather than a pencil, my weapon of choice is eyebrow mascara – I’m always armed and ready.  I can unify the patches of grey hair into the patches of dark brown hair, camouflaging the tiny calico mascots standing ever vigilant just above my eyes.

Like wisdom teeth, eyebrows have outlived their purpose.  As the human species evolves and Homo Sapiens 2.0 is released, I vote to eliminate eyebrows.  It is time for eyebrows to stand-down.

Game point.

photos courtesy Myki Roventine and janetmck

Climbing Half Dome With Holes In My Socks ©

Preparing to climb Half Dome with Shinazy

Oh, would my mom disapprove of me having holes in my socks.

half domeI remember my mom hanging laundry and inspecting my clothes for anything requiring repair: a missing button, a detached hem, a hole in a sock.  Because my appearance was important to her, I always left the house wearing well cared-for clothes.

Given my upbringing, where clothes represented more than cloth covering skin, it would be inconceivable to see what I wear to go for a run or hike. This morning several of us met at my place to discuss our next adventure.  We were off to hike in the coastal mountains above the town of Pescadero.  My home is a shoe-free zone, so everyone leaves their shoes at my front door.

As we congregated in my living room, chatting about our upcoming trek, Sandy remarked, “Oh, I’m so glad someone else has holes in their socks.”

Our eyes dropped in unison to observe our assemblage of shoeless feet.  It was true – each of our feet was enveloped in what could only be described – at best – as ‘well-ventilated’ socks.  It was in that moment we realized: these weren’t mere remnants of well-worn pieces of cotton-poly and silk-wool blends.  They were the results of actions and efforts, of steps and journeys taken, of goals actualized and achieved.  These socks were the indisputable evidence attesting to the activism of their owners.  They belonged to a group of Bitchin’ Ol’ Boomer Babes who started walking together a year ago.

This year we decide, tick tock, we better attend to our Bucket Lists.

half domeItem #1: Climb Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.

But alas, as it usually is when attempting feats of greatness, our spirits were willing, but our flesh … needed some help!

Between the three of us, we encompassed the full range of inactive, aging babes.  I was recovering from a back injury.  Sandy had been inactive since finishing the Gold Coast Marathon 2 years before.  And, 3 years ago, Bobbi walked 2 miles.

To accomplish our goal – without hurting ourselves in the process – we needed to “train”… the kind of put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other-over-and-over-again type of training, sustained with perseverance, determination, and an occasional massage at the local day spa.

Our plan was simple:  Go longer and longer distances, adding steps and hills to emulate the Yosemite Valley terrain.  We scheduled walks on flat ground along the bay, then the undulating path at Sawyer Camp Trail, next up and down the mountains near the coast.  We did 1 mile, then 2, 3 . . . 8, 9 . . . 14 . . . 18.

Our walking began in late fall through local neighborhoods, admiring the Christmas decorations as we trudged past, dashing through mud and laughing all the way.  We forged ahead during the record-breaking rainfall during a stormy Northern California winter.  We saw the fog lift and felt the sun shine.  Watched banana slugs mosey along on the trail and listened to the tap-tap-tap of woodpeckers on trees.

half domeWe held Half Dome Climb strategy meetings on what became Taco Tuesdays.  Searched the web for descriptions and pictures of the climb.  Read books.  Watched videos.  As the months-to-train became weeks-to-train became days-to-train, we fixed our eyes on the Half Dome webcam hoping to see the snow melt.

On the day we were to climb Half Dome the snow was still on the ground, which meant no cables.  No cables equaled no climbing.  Yet, we went to Yosemite anyway and climbed to the base of the dome.  We named this adventure our “Reconnaissance Trip.”

Returning home, we realized, during our many months of training we became physically stronger and mentally confident, embarking on each hike with holes in our socks.

I think Mom would approve.

photos courtesy  CraigSunter_Click64 and Bobbi Rankin

Antarctica Marathon ©

Running the Antarctica Marathon with Shinazy

“Hey, Janice, let’s run a marathon next February.”




antarctica marathonJanice and I live life with passports in our back pockets, so this dialogue would not surprise anyone who knows us.  Being adventure junkies we understand anything can happen at any time.  Being marathoners we believe we can run out of any situation. These characteristics make us invincible; the race in Antarctica would test our resolve.

Once we decided to run, we had to plan our training.  For previous marathons we would replicate the event’s terrain, which provided a physical and mental advantage.  The Antarctica race pamphlet described running over ice fields, up a glacier’s flank, and through gravel riverbeds.  Living in the San Francisco Bay Area there are no glaciers and streambeds cover only a few feet not the 138,435 feet we needed to duplicate the marathon course.  If we couldn’t adapt our training we would acclimate our bodies; into storage went sweaters, coats, and all long sleeve shirts.  When strangers questioned why we were dressed for summer when it was “freezing outside”, we would answer, “Training for Antarctica Marathon”.  Our response always ended the conversation, but never removed the you-crazy-running-people expression.

antarctica marathonAfter planning for a year and training for six months our craziness was imminent.  With luggage containing layers of 50-mph-wind-subzero-temperature protective clothing that would transform us into Abominable Snowgals, we embarked on our journey.  8,460 flying miles later we arrived in Ushuaia, Argentina.  Walking the gangplank we assumed all decisions were behind us, now we thought, ‘time to relax’.  Intrepid travelers pride themselves on their ability to adapt.  This trip and our ship, Lyubov Orlova, a Russian research vessel masquerading as a cruise ship, would require constant attitude adjustments.

To maximize our on-board comfort, Janice and I upgraded to a ‘State Room with ocean view’, which translated into ‘area equivalent to three side-by-side twin beds and a porthole’.  There was no TV on the boat.  We moved from deck to deck using stairs because there was no elevator.  When ordering dinner we asked for “meat, fish, or vegetable”.  The only five-star feature was the swimming pool – it was empty which allowed lounging in the deep-end to escape the skin piercing, horizontal flying, ice needle sea spray.

Despite having no amenities we remained excited; before us was open water and time.  Or so we thought.  The first omen was the Drake Passage weather, known for its brutal storms.  As we motored across the Passage we experienced no waves.  No clouds.  No sea life.  No seasickness.  This first calm day would be our last until our last day became as calm as our first.

antarctica marathonYou need peaceful water when you use an inflatable dingy to commute to King George Island.  For three days the race organizer attempted to get the 108 runners to land and every day Mother Nature distorted seas causing us to duct tape drawers closed and bungee cord doors open.  With each 5:30 AM wake-up call we proceeded to wrap toes, moleskin blisters, greased bodyparts, diluted electrolyte, eat oatmeal, and wait.  And wait.  And snooze.  And wait.

Before we ran out of time we ran out of oatmeal.  At our final breakfast the organizer’s grim face told us the waiting was over; tomorrow we headed home. When 140 people focus on one problem some solution will surface.  Because we were in Antarctica water, over Antarctica dirt, a marathon run on decks 5 and 6 would qualify.  Over the next five hours and forty-four minutes I ran the gangway, stepped over the fiddley, jogged the hatchway, stepped again.  I repeated this procedure, around and around, for 422 lapses.

Crossing the imaginary finish line I pondered, “Would I do this silliness again?”

You betcha’.

photos courtesy  23am, shinazy, & longhorndave

Botox ‘n Duct Tape ©

Duct tape uses by Shinazy

Granddaddy was a practical and handy guy.  He believed there’s a simple solution to every problem and he applied his philosophy to repairing everything.  Even his gifts represented his viewpoint.  When I graduated from high school he gave me a toolbox that contained his favorite tools: hammer, flathead and Phillips screwdrivers, and a roll of duct tape.  botoxHe told me the tape would become indispensible.  At age seventeen, I thanked him with a smile and when I turned my back, the first of many frowns appeared on my then uncreased, pre-botox forehead.

As the years passed, I carried duct tape everywhere – there is a roll in my car, a roll in my office desk, and another roll in my first aid kit.  It is at the top of my “Things To Pack” when I traveled.  I was thrilled when 3M released duct tape in colors so some of my repairs could appear ‘fashionable’.  Duct tape is always within reach; I can mend the many worn and broken parts of my life.  Yes, duct tape will only patch my worn and broken stuff; the things that make me mad / sad are beyond duct tape’s effective adhesive ability.

And it‘s these mad-sad experiences, these unrepairable events that cause me to clinch my teeth, or droop the corners of my mouth – with the accompanying squeezing of my eyebrows.  When one is a Boomer, one has had decades of eyebrow squeezing resulting in an ever-deepening cavern, otherwise known as a Frown Line.

botoxGranddaddy would not approve of the current remedy for frown lines – Botox – a neurotoxin botulism bacterium protein.  And, I would never tell him that I went for Botox injections only to discover I’m Botox resistant, not just BXT-A, but also BXT-B.  Oh, joy!  I had no way to iron my frown lines.

When faced with a challenge I’m intrepid.  So, I tried Frownies that “Reverse the signs of aging – naturally!” skin smoother.  I was unable to get the little triangle to stay put, especially the pointy corners.  But they were sticky.  Ah, ha, sticky, what else is sticky?  Tape!  So, I tried Scotch Tape.  But it stuck to my pillowcase and hair better than my frown line.

There is one final countermeasure – Duct Tape.  I have yet to try it, but I know Granddaddy would smile at the thought of me applying his repair principal and he was right, Duct Tape is indispensable.

photo courtesy Jim J

S’mores ©

Roasting S’mores with Shinazy

s'moresWhen I hear the word “Camping” I think s’mores.

To my six-year old unblinking eyes Bucks Lake was a playground dwarfing my corner park.  But instead of playtime, the first night required setting up shelter before dinnertime.  Dinner?  How was my grandmother going to cook dinner when there was no stove in sight?

From the back of my grandparent’s sky blue 1949 Plymouth emerged a black, crusted cast-iron caldron.  Were witches coming to dinner?  Was I going to be dinner?  I think Gigs could see I was going into shock because she handed my cousin Donny & me the pot and told us to unpack it.  It took both hands for me to lift the pot’s lid.  My struggle was rewarded; there inside I found Treasure.

As I stared at the chocolate bars, graham crackers, and marshmallows I knew these supplies were for more than one night’s worth of sweet heaven.  The visual delight swept my mind – no more recurring dread concerning toilet tissue hanging from a bent branch hidden in the forest pretending to be a bathroom.

I would have been happy eating the chocolate directly from the wrapper, but first we had to go on a hunt for the perfect stick.  It seems the Art Of S’mores requires a twig long enough to avoid scorched fingers and thick enough to withstand several roasting.  (After a few stick-scavenging years I learned the best tool had a knob toward the end to keep the marshmallow from sliding into the fire.)

Dinner in stomachs.  Sticks in hands.  Logs a blazing.  We were ready.  But we had to wait.  Painfully wait.  Wait until our bonfire waned to a soft yellow-orange glow dancing among the embers.

s'moresDonny and I were the same age, but we had different approaches to the art and science of s’more building.  He enjoyed plunging his stick into the tiny surviving red flame to create a marshmallow torch.  His charcoal mess would ooze off his stick, dissolving the chocolate. His fingers and hands covered with goo … and dirt.

As if preparing for a culinary cook-off, I laid my ingredients in line on a napkin, snapped my graham crackers in half along the indented crease – no odd spaces.  There had to be four, not three or five, chocolate squares.  And there was the skill of the roast, resulting in Goldie Locks pillows, still cylindrical in shape, and clinging to my stick.  Delights: hot creamy inside, warm crusty outside.

My latest s’more experience was at the Half Moon Bay Ritz Carlton, sitting by the cement-block fire pit, with a box in my lap containing artisan dark chocolate, organic crackers, and non-gelatin marshmallows.  There’s no stick hunting at the hotel, they provide bamboo skewers.  I’m a dark chocolate lover and an organic food supporter, plus I like the idea that my food contains no animal hooves, but I miss the ritual and anticipation of childhood s’mores.

Wait … no one is stopping me from going camping and capturing this memory.  I’m ready.  Let’s pack the car and go, but first I need to stop at Whole Foods for authentic s’mores supplies.

photos courtesy  ChritopherS_Penn & JuliaManzerova

Back To School ©

Back to school thoughts by Shinazy

back to schoolOn a popular social media website I watch my friends with school-age children chat about all they must do in preparation for sending their babies back to school.  In addition to buying clothes that fit better than the ones they bought six months ago, they must buy backpacks, classroom supplies, sports equipment, study guides, and textbooks.

How different the current back to school activity is from when my grandmothers or I returned to the classroom.

During a shopping trip to buy my sensible Saddle Oxfords, my grandmother, Nana, reminisced how she looked forward to the new dress signaling the first day of school.  She was born in the Philippines, on the island of Mindanao, in a tiny village.  In 1906, her future had one option: Become a wife and exist.  But Lola, her mom, designed a different destiny for her only surviving child.  Saving the colorful parts of the burlap sacks that contained their flour and sugar, Lola hand-stitched pretty school outfits.  In unaccented, enunciated English – which I rarely heard – Nana admitted, when she walked to the missionary school, although her bare feet were strolling along a dirt road, she felt like a princess entering a fairytale.

back to schoolFor my other grandmother, Pauline, aka Gigs, going back to school was a frightening experience. She was the third generation to live in San Francisco; however, her mother insisted no one utter a single English word in her house.  The land surrounding their homestead isolated them from other families.  On the first school day, Pauline viewed the black wall where she had to write her name.  She did not turn to face the class when she introduced herself as she wondered, “How will these children pronounce my name?”  The horror persisted, every year the back to school time meant trying to remember the English words she learned before summer break.  She continued to suffer as an outsider, longing for graduation day.

My going back to school was less terrorizing, I say ‘less’ rather than ‘not’ because it involved clothes shopping, lots of it.  I was a scraped-knees-with-bruised-shins girl, who preferred climbing trees to shopping.  However, the ‘Fall Fashion Season’ was important to my mom, so shop we did.  She would find the adorable wool sweater-set with matching wool-pleated skirt, the stylish wool jumper, and the charming wool knee-high socks.  Now, if we lived in New York City all this wool would have been perfect, but this was San Francisco where autumn low temperature hover in the mid 50’s.  I may have been over-heated, but I looked like a proper young lady returning to academia.

How do the children of my Facebook friends feel about getting ready for the new school year?  Maybe, regardless if it’s yesterday or today, the back to school activity involves a time of change and we each embrace, resist, or tolerate it in our own way.

photos courtesy  Oilbac and JJLosier


Road Trip ©

Shinazy’s first road trip

road trip Before the age of 6 my universe boundaries consisted of the Sunday drive to Nana and Granddaddy’s.  Peering through the car window I saw no division between cities, one community melded into the next.  All space was filled with houses, stores, and people.  Pruned trees shaded front porches or held a swing.  When it rained, water flowed down the streets disappearing into a grate at each corner.

At the end of summer number six, my grandparents, Gigs and Bussie, took several of us grandchildren on our first road trip.  We drove across the San Francisco Bay Bridge; as long as I could see the bay everything looked the same as home.  As the sun moved to shine through the windshield, our Plymouth turned away from the water and my world changed forever.

Passing a lonely, windowless building I saw nothing but dirt … empty space.  Now and then a house with a long driveway or a cluster of shops with fading letters would appear and disappear.  Large animals chewed on grass as their wire enclosure stretched for hours.  Driving through the Sacramento Valley even the occasional tree vanished.  The scenery’s monotony was a lullaby and upon awaking a never-ending lot of giant Christmas trees enfolded me.  Everything was green.

road tripWhen we stopped for the evening, at what I now know to be a tributary of the Feather River, I could not understand where all the flowing water had come from.  When did it rain?  Where was this water going?  And, where was our bathroom?  My bed?  Walls?  While Bussie unloaded the car, Gigs handed me a roll of toilet paper and pointed to the shadows.  Why I did not get lost or die from a bladder condition is a sign of our survival instincts.

Forest sounds grabbed my attention and curiosity.  Something was in the bushes.  Something was outside my vision.  Something was overhead in the trees.  Cuddled in my sleeping bag filled with flashlight warmth, a bit of security returned.   Here I could pretend I was home in a blanket tent.

That evening, with Gigs encouraging me to turn off the flashlight and step out into what I knew was blackness, my reality transformed, again.  Although my only desire was to keep my eyes closed, I had to peek.  There above my head were more wishing stars than my imagination could invent.  I rapidly ran out of wishes and yet stars continued to fly across the sky.  I decided I could live here and make new wishes, forever.

I have a secret.  One of my wishes was to stop being scared of this thing called a ‘road trip’.  This wish was granted for all my days since.

photos courtesy  JoelinSouthernCA & Shinazy

Catalina Island – Ultimate Beach Town ©

On Catalina Island with Shinazy

catalina islandThere’s a feel to Beach Towns.  I live on the San Francisco peninsula, where I try to live as if I were in a beach town – this takes effort.  Living in a beach town you just connect with other people – that’s simply how you live life.

I’m on Catalina Island, the 26 miles across the sea Santa Catalina Island.  I’m here with my sister and brother, we’re on our Third Annual Sibling Reunion.  We arrived yesterday afternoon from Long Beach, after staying on the Queen Mary.  Once you leave the Catalina ferry dock, you can sense you are in a Beach Town.

We asked the cab driver where he eats when going out and he recommended the Buffalo Nickel.  Our GPS showed it was near to our condo, when actually it was a 20-plus-minute-up-the-hill-no-sidewalk trek.  And, of course, we go lost.  We stopped a man named Campos and asked for directions.  He told us the Buffalo Nickel has a shuttle, he then called them; and told us to wait by the two palm trees.  A few minutes later, a van arrived.  This pick-up service is offered to everyone and when your meal is over; someone in the kitchen will drive you home.  Would this happen in your downtown?  Not mine, but remember this is a Beach Town.

catalina islandThe next morning, while walking to the Zip Line, I stopped a man driving a golf cart, carts are the major mode of transportation on the island, and I asked the man if we could pay him to drive us to the Zip Line.  “No problem, hop in.” and off we went.  It was his day off, he was driving to the store, and although the zip line was out of his way . . . well, this is what folks do in a Beach Town, they do favors for each other and for strangers.  Folks do this without thinking about pay back.

Wherever you are, you can make that place a Beach Town.  But How?  Well, talk to the person behind you while you stand in line.  Chat with the store clerk about something other than what you intend to buy.  Hold open the door for the person entering or exiting.  Offer to take the vacationing couple’s picture.  Try talking to folks you just met  . . . You will be surprised how open people are and how much joy you will get from the conversations.  You, too, can live life in a Beach Town.

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Mom Power ©

Shinazy is a mom; here’s her story

mom, motherThis year’s Oscar winner did it.  An Olympic champion does it. The star quarterback will do it. They all mention their mom.

Any utterance of the word ‘mom’ has influence.  We are vested with authority by the simple fact that we are your mother.  This clout defies the Laws Of Physics.  Mom Power is forever and independent of the size of the person.  And, for some of us there will be an event confirming this state of being.

When my children lived at home I only jogged after work.  As with anything we repeatedly do, it came and went without notice until the day I got out of my car and watched a boulder of a young man drop back to catch a football.  He unsuccessfully tried to regain his balance and flattened my fence.

When his friends stopped wrestling to take away the ball, I was spotted.  On each face I saw the panic of, “I’ve been caught; I’d better run.”  And off they went, bulldozing down the street.  And off I went, pursuing them.

My shouts of ‘stop’ made them run fast.  Well, I had just finished a track workout, so I ran faster.  Cars stopped and drivers hollered, “Do you need help?  Should I call the police?”

“No, I’m fine”, as I closed the gap, gaining on the boys.

I’m a long distance runner, I was going to chase them until I caught them.  When this happened, they crumpled gasping for air, terror still reflected in their eyes.  Using my Mom Voice I explained I only wanted them to return to pickup the shattered pieces of wood.

At the start of the cleanup, the leader-of-the-pack asked what else they could do.  My 80-year old neighbor needed her hedge removed, so he divided the group, each one taking a position on either side of our property line.

Standing vigil I marveled at their machine like teamwork; they communicated with various nods and glances.  Occasionally a boy would look at me and I would give the Approving Mom smile.  One boy wanted to leave and he received the Disapproving Mom glare.

It was then my high-school age son arrived home.  He greeted me with darting eyes: me, the boys, me, the other boys.  After a long pause he found his voice and inquired,

“Mom, Why’s the varsity football team in our front yard?”

Immediately I could see it – the line of scrimmage, the Offense, the Defense, and Mom Power … at work, again.

photo courtesy Green Wellies

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Learning For An Aging Brain ©

Aging thoughts by Shinazy

agingThe current info on the brain is that it continues to develop and is capable of learning forever.  We are encouraged to challenge it, to “exercise” our grey matter.  We might buy a few ‘Scientifically Proven Brain Fitness Programs”.  We can learn to dance, play a musical instrument, get a new cell phone, create a blog . . .  the list is infinite.

My friend Ron goes to dance clubs and engages his brain with learning the tango, waltz, and foxtrot.  I tried to Salsa, 1, 2, 3, pause . . .  5, 6, 7, pause (this is the beat for my feet).  I took private lessons because I still cringe from the memory of those 1980s jazzercise classes where everyone else could move their arms and hips and legs and feet in a motion that resembled something other than . . .  I can’t go there, you get the picture.  I Salsa in my home, alone, with no music.  Change anything and I freeze.  Oh, I continue to practice my steps, but I think my brain isn’t being challenged.  So, on to learning something else.

agingAnother friend, Kathleen, resumed her violin practice after decades.  Alas, for me, there’s no becoming a maestro.  I can recite the mnemonic for the five lines and four spaces of musical notes:  EGBDF (every good boy does fine) and ACEG (all cows eat grass), but I have no idea how the notes sound, and you never want to be in a room when I’m singing happy birthday.

Speaking of birthdays, maybe for mine I’ll get a new mobile phone and buy apps; playing with this new technology should keep my brain fit.  In a few months, I’ll let you know how that goes.

That leaves “creating a blog.”

Writing is like an onion, there are many layers.  The layers I fondly call: “What Should I Write About”, “Focus the Topic”, “Tighten the Imagery”, “Edit the Sentence Structure”.  Then, there are the behind-the-scene tech layers: domain name, site hosting, RSS feed reader, dashboard, float alignment, backlinks, gadgets . . . much to learn.

Each of us have items on our ‘bucket list’, most will require us to learn something – I decided to write.  So, for me, happily blogging every day should keep my ageing brain in the learning mode for quite some time.

 photos courtesy  Christian Haugen and kubotake

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