I’m really a dour matron

BY NOW, YOU MUST HAVE NOTICED everyone on Facebook posting side-by-side photos, their own selfie with an art portrait that the app chooses to resemble them. Like all Facebook trends, I was slow to adopt. I assume such quizzes are really designed to trick me into surrendering information about myself, or will cause malware to be added to my device. But, a couple of friends posted theirs and the portraits they were paired with were such good matches that I wondered if Google was actually generating a portrait-looking likeness based on the selfie submitted.

Intrigued, I downloaded Google’s Arts & Culture app, then took my picture and waited while it calculated. Here’s what it gave me:

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What? OK, I guess, whatever. I shared it on Facebook (otherwise, what’s the point?). My friends were quick to suggest that I looked nothing like this older, somewhat dour matron. One friend said, try again with a smile! So I did, and I got this:

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(No. If you think I look like this one, please get out a microfiber cloth and clean your glasses right now.)

I tried a few more times with different poses, but Google kept matching me with Mrs. Zeigler. And the more I look at her, I can’t really argue with the match: Unremarkable brown hair, blue eyes, resting “bitch” face (my down-turned mouth often makes people want to ask me why I’m sad), and most notably, jowls that have, after five decades, begun their inevitable surrender to gravity’s relentless pull.

I was curious about my doppelganger from another era. I was able to find more about her husband than I did about her – she is listed simply as the wife of John R. Zeigler, who was a Civil War Union Captain in Illinois. He left the war when he was injured in 1864. Both of their portraits were done at the artist’s Chicago studio in 1897, which is interesting, because her husband is listed as having died in 1896, at age 64.

If we assume she was around the same age as her husband, she’d have been around 60-65 at the time her portrait was painted; possibly younger if he married young, where “younger” = my age. Her eyes look a little sad to me, with a faraway gaze. She is a recent widow here, after all. She doesn’t seem to have the wrinkles one might expect of a woman her age (we have that in common). Also, no gray hair? I’d be mostly gray if I didn’t still color mine. I wonder if she allowed (asked?) the artist to take liberties here. My vanity manifests in my use of facial moisturizers and makeup and hair color; without access to such wondrous products of the modern era, perhaps hers surfaced as her likeness was being rendered in oil on canvas.

I suspect Mrs. Zeigler would have looked much different had she been painted with a smile on her face. My smiling selfie looks nothing like her resting gaze. If I ever have a portrait done, I want it to be of me laughing big and loud. And I want my wrinkles airbrushed and my hair brown.

Anyway, there you have it, and now Google has it, too. (Although the app does say they won’t use your photo for anything more than the portrait match.)

 

 

 

 

Feeling My Age

I AM 49 YEARS OLD.

Seeing that sentence on this screen causes me cognitive dissonance. Just how and when did this happen? I still feel, like, 28. OK, fine, 29.  People who are 50 used to seem… old. Yet time has marched steadily forward, and I have begun my 50th year and will complete it, God willing, next July.

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So many candles. Image from here.

What happened to my 40s?! I remember turning 40 and feeling like, finally, I’m a Legitimate Adult. I fretted about 39 and fretted still more as 40 approached, but that milestone birthday came and went and then I continued blissfully into those mid-decade years where you can forget how old you are and have to do the math to figure it out. (Just me?) I guess I just put my head down and charged forward, responding to the demands of busy family life, and all of a sudden, I’m about to bid my 40s farewell.

Now that my oldest boys are pursuing post-secondary education and the “baby” is in middle school, it’s time to do some planning. Life has kind of been happening to me while I wasn’t paying attention, and there are many pressing grown-uppy things I need to address: Fun things, such as retirement planning (as if I’ll actually be able to “retire”), where to live, where to travel (that’s a long list)… in short, what will the second half of my life look like? It’s overwhelming to think of it all, but these items and more are on my list and I’m slowly checking off the boxes.

Aging is not all bad. People tend to take you more seriously when you reveal your are of a certain age. I have completely earned the right to say things such as:

”I’ve been a mom for 20 years, and…” (and then I think, two decades?? Wait, did my babies grow up, too?).

“When I started work, we didn’t even *have* webmail” (to the employee about to go out on maternity leave, fully expecting she’d check her email daily).

“When my kids were in daycare, they didn’t have apps to send us photos and videos during the workday” (to the mom who just returned to work after her maternity leave).

“My period is such an insult. Why must women have it until their 50s? Nobody our age is having babies!” (To any woman who will listen. And to some men, too.)

Oh, I love babies, but you could not pay me enough to be pregnant again. I’m so happy those days are behind me. I feel damn lucky to have gone 3-for-3, but so certain was I that the last one, at age 37, was going to be The Last One, that at my first prenatal visit I asked the doctor to schedule my C-section and I told him to add a tubal ligation while he was in there conducting business.

But other people’s babies? Oh, how I love tiny humans. I am going to make an excellent grandmother. Someday. Not anytime soon, I hope.  But I seem to have become that doting older woman who will grab your baby out of your hands so fast it’ll make your head spin.

Recently, I was hanging out on an apartment rooftop near the communal gas grill when a young dad approached, balancing all his cooking tools, meat, and marinade on the top of his baby’s stroller. He was trying really hard to do it all, but the baby was starting to fuss. So, I went over and was like, hey, do you need some help? Let me help you. Want me to hold your baby? He hesitated, so I said, my name is Meg, and now that we know each other PLEASE GIVE ME YOUR BABY. And he did! He finished his grilling, I got to inhale the wonderful scent of warm-baby-head, and everyone was happy.

My skin is drooping and my weight is shifting and some days I feel, well, creaky. But I appreciate the wisdom that comes with each passing year and know I’m fortunate to have my health and my sanity. I’m excited for all that life holds in store for me and am grateful for each day I’m given.

Corny

When your childhood bedroom overlooks acres of corn, it stays with you. You can grow up, leave the farm, move to the city and put 31 years between you and the corn fields, but you can't entirely leave them. Corn, it turns out, stays in your blood.

Such are my thoughts this morning as I just finished blanching 14 ears of sweet, sweet Pennsylvania corn, cutting the kernels off the ears, and packaging it for the freezer. Soup season is not far off, and I'll need the corn for chicken corn soup. Oh, you can try using the frozen stuff from the grocery store. It's passable in a pinch. If you use canned corn (home-canned is OK, I'm referring to the grocery store stuff), I'm sorry, but we can't be friends. No – you need sweet corn, and it has to be fresh when you cut it off the ears. Trust me on this.

Here's the link to my "recipe" for chicken corn soup

I've written about corn before, a hundred years ago on my old blog. When you do many dozens of ears, as we did back in the day, it takes a whole squad of good country folk. But this morning, I was only doing a few. I started with this 

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And ended up with this

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I think about my wonderful grandmas all the time, but never more than when I'm sitting in the kitchen, cutting corn off the ear. One of my fondest memories of my Grandma Losch is of her sitting in my childhood kitchen with a big bowl on her lap, slicing corn off of blanched ears with unrivaled precision and speed.  I don't remember anyone else doing this job. But I paid attention, because I knew one day I would get to cut my own corn.

See those intact chunks of kernels? We would try to sneak our hands into that sticky bowl to grab those because they tasted so delicious. Some kids stick their fingers in the cake batter (ok, fine, we did that too), but we wanted corn.

Alas, August is almost over and school starts next week. Summer is winding down. I'm happy to have tucked a bit of golden summer goodness away for later, when the days are shorter and the temperatures are cooler.