Food & Drink Magazine

Counting Down Sixteen Weeks to Seventy

By Ally @allykitchen
counting down sixteen weeks to seventy

Sitting here at my computer, my little fingers are really having a hard time getting started with this post. It's not my usual post. I mean when I talk about food, post a new recipe and write something about it, my fingers fly on the keyboard. Not hard to get started or find words. When I describe adventures I've taken, places I've visited, experiences I've had in new countries through travel in the good ol' USA or around the globe, again, no problem with making my thoughts, firing in my brain, come through my fingers and hammer out on the keyboard.

This Post is Different

But, this post, well, I'm having a hard time because I don't know how to begin. I want it to come out the right way as you read it. Not sound self-righteous, self-effacing, self-indulgent, self-proclaiming or any other kinda 'selfie' thing. I want it to convey what's in my heart and mind. I want it to inspire and help you reflect, maybe think of yourself in the present or the you in the future.

And, probably another thing about this post, well, once I write it and you read it, I'm committed to it. That's the thing about putting it in writing, you're closer to getting something to happen. It's like a dream becomes more of reality. And, then when you take it a step further and share it with someone, you're more committed. But, think about this, when you share it with your thousands of folks who follow you on social media and this website, ok, then the die's been cast. So, here I go, let's just put what I'm thinking about on the table.


Yes, I'm writing about birthdays. See birthdays have never been a big deal to me. I reckon growing up in West Virginia with a single Mom who had four mouths to feed planning some kind of 'birthday' just wasn't a priority. Heck, Mom was lucky to have enough wind in her sails to do everything that a single parent struggles to do including getting an education herself.

I'm not talking about each year's birthday, but birthday milestones. In fact, I had to Google 'birthday milestones' and read more to be able to better understand what this meant. One thing was that after the age of 60, you usually start celebrating every 5 years as 'milestones' rather than every 10 years prior to 60. Hummmm, news to me!

Birthday Milestones

My 'sweet 16′, a birthday milestone, brought no hooplah. It was just an other birthday growing up in those coal field mountains. There was nothing life changing for me when I turned 21, yet another "birthday milestone". I was married and working my buns off with juggling two paying jobs, teaching school and slinging hash at night as a waitress, and also working towards a doctorate degree.

Then when I turned 30, I had that doctorate degree, two children and with another on the way. I'd lost a son between my second and third pregnancies. It was painfully difficult, but I stayed focused because there was a lot on my plate. Starting a private practice in my late 30s meant that I became an entrepreneur responsible for everything as a small business owner. I simply flew by the seat of my pants!

At 40, I was bustin' my chops trying to help work to make ends meet and raising children who by that time, all boys, were a handful. Good boys, but boys are a different breed than raising girls. I'd see that during those formative years with my girlfriends who had little girls.

Then at 50, the boys were gone, all fortunately going to college. Yes, it was the decade of being an empty nester with my husband, Ben. It was the decade of pulling together who I was now going to be during this decade. And, being gratefully thankful, my business venture flourished with these educational private services being embraced by the community.

The 60s

What you'll read is just a reflection in a tight condensed version of the past ten years in my sixties. Just a cliff note review. Nothing else. Nothing more. Most of what's happened has been totally unexpected. There was no business plan, no goal setting. There was simply a desire to be happy and share my God given gifts of life with others.

When I turned 60, a designated milestone year, there was some fanfare for it being a 'big' birthday. Ben totally did a 360 and splurged on me with a beautiful watch and some pearls! Yes, he took me to the Chanel store in Boston where we were living. I was in shock. He was so sweet saying, "You only turn 60 once, choose what you want." I suppose that is a big birthday. Not quite in the style of Mick Jagger who certainly showed that turning 60 didn't slow him down. As the website Confetti shared, "Playing to a crowd of 80,000 fans was part of famous granddad Mick Jagger's 60th birthday celebration. Proof, if any were needed, that you're never too old to rock 'n' roll."

And, that's what I love about those last words, hey, you're never 'too old' for a lot of things. The only thing that can hold us back are those preconceived notions about being a certain age!

Moving to Boston meant leaving our comfortable southern home on the water where we'd lived for 20 odd years, to a small apartment on Beacon Hill in Boston. Ben and I were on this three-year amazing adventure with his new job. I'd always wanted to 'live in the city' and I jumped at the opportunity. Maybe some women would have done otherwise at 59, but I saw this as a challenge to my spirit and soul. I had no idea what to expect. Little did I know what lay ahead were months of abject sadness that bordered on depression to exalted exhilaration. All of this was because I'd left my snuggly warm predictable cocoon, yes, stepped out of my comfort zone.

By this time, Ben was in his late 60s, and our 'golden' years were still blazing strong with professional work. There was no slowing us down. I had to find my way on this new venture because the very last thing Ben needed was a bellyaching miserable wife. Muscling through things is something I learned from Mom. There was no pity parties only figuring out ways to make something work as she always did. I also knew that Ben had a plate full working at the intense job he'd taken. And, who wants to come home after 12-14 hours and see a whiner?

Instead of doing what I'd done all my life in SC, I decided to take the road less traveled. Muscle it out like Mom and figure out to make this work. I was not going to throw in the towel and head South. So, without further adieu, I signed up for acting lessons and decided to pursue stage work and other artistic performances. I'd done some stage work at our local community theater and loved it. Therefore, on this 60th birthday, a new journey began.

Reviewing the 60s Era

My 60s. I've always said that I'm a 'child of the 1960s' (and 1970s) now in my 60s.'

And, this decade was a jam-packed. Writing and reviewing this decade is kind of like a journal for me and something that I can leave as a sweet legacy to my children and grandchildren.

All three sons got married. Our family kept growing. During my 60s, we had four new grandchildren that came from my three boys. I mean we already had four grandchildren with Ben's two girls (and I was technically a 'Grandma' in my late 40s and 50s), and by now they were in their late teens and 20s. During my 60s, I totally reinvented myself from Dr. Alice, school psychologist and educational therapist with a thriving educational practice, to 'Ally' the foodie. It all started in Boston during those three years, and I continued this venture when we returned to South Carolina.

Highlighting the 60s Decade

This was a decade defined by so many new experiences as a result of pursuing my passion for food, which I'd loved since I was knee high to a grasshopper growing up in the coalfields of West Virginia. I began entering and winning cooking contests. I was cast on food shows like Food Network's "Clash of the Grandmas", Hallmark Channel's 'Home and Family TV', the ' World Food Championships' TV show. New opportunities began coming my way. I'd become the brand ambassador for Dole Packaged Foods and True Aussie Beef and Lamb. The incredible people I've come to love in these two companies is a treasure. Trips to the Rose Parade, cooking demos at 'Live on Green' in Pasadena, an exciting journey to Australia as a member of the Australian Meat and Livestock Association's delegation. Then came the cool Grandma thing! I'd be 'crowned' GE Appliances 'Great American Grandma', the new face of GE appliances! And, how about being on Robin Meade and HLN's Pop News, yes, you can catch the 'mention'!

Social media became a mainstay in my world. Jumping into Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and launching a 'brand'. Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing. It was like a wild west frontier and I had to navigate it and learn how to make magic with it. Ally's Kitchen and my boho living, took off racing. I had to learn so many new skills to continue this journey as it gained momentum, the back end of a website, food photography and more. All of these skills were self-taught like my cooking. Yes, I was spending hours and hours in my pursuit of this passion. The Internet and social media were my vehicles to connect with folks around the world and to share joy and add sparkle to others' lives. I was going to take advantage of it.

More Unexpected Happenings

Other crazy achievements and opportunities start to sprout. It was like I was just getting my stride in my 60s. A cookbook ( Ally's Kitchen: A Passport for Adventurous Palates). My own magazine debuted, ' Ally's Boho Living'. One of my many recipes graced the cover of Food Network Magazine, the first-time ever a reader's recipe was placed on the cover. A featured spread on my recipes for Easter in 'Taste of Home' magazine. My Dole Packaged Foods partnership started taking me to the iconic Rose Parade where I did cooking demos at 'Live on Green'. And, on one of my 60s birthdays, I got this crazy fun birthday greeting from Lestheto Africa!

The decade of the 60s brought also fabulous global (out of the continental 48) travel, sometimes these sojourns lasted as long as a month each. Israel. Morocco. Italy. China. Australia. Canada. Alaska. Singapore. Hong Kong. Caribbean Islands. France. Poland. Croatia. Germany. Belgium. Annnnnnnnd, my new Medicare card came during my 60s. Forget the 50s and getting invited to be a member of AARP, Medicare opens a whole new threshold in living. And, I was uber surprised and humbly honored when I was selected by the national headquarters of my college sorority, Alpha Chi Omega, as one of the ten women nationally to receive the 'Real. Strong. Woman. Of Distinction' award.

And, I can't overlook some of the milestone physical achievements of my 60s, like hiking the Grand Canyon from rim to rim and riding 150 miles in two days to raise money for MS research.

About to Begin the 70s

Now I'm soon staring at another milestone birthday, my 70th. It really sounds kinda 'old' in terms of years to me. But, I can assure you as I share with you this momentous upcoming birthday and my deepest feelings, thoughts and emotions, I don't feel like I'm almost 70. I mean in the last decade century, you recall that 20th century, most of the family and friends that I knew who were '70' were really old. Maybe it was that I was young and completely out of tune, but not only did so many of these folks look old, but they acted old, which, to me, makes you 'look' more tired and old. I mean if you're old but have the spark still in you, that dazzle in your eyes, lilt in your step and joy in your heart, it oozes out. For me, I don't think you look 'old'.

Many of these people I recall in their 60s plus seemed to have witnessed a loss of zest, playfulness, a joie de vivre for life. Oh, save one dear person. I did have one Auntie, we called her Lily Belle, and she broke the mold on youthfulness well in to her 90s. Despite her white hair, wrinkles and small wiry body that had lived nearly nine decades, she was a fashion diva (her granddaughter would raid her closet as a teen!), full of spunk and always was the person full of passion and happiness.

Misconceptions of the 70s

If you think that seventy years old is "over the hill" well, think again. As I said, I feel like I just grasped my stride in my 60s and this momentum is only gaining as it's done for others who are role models.

I mean think about it, at the young age of 70, Ben Franklin was helping craft a new country as he assisted in drafting the U.S. Constitution. Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa at 75. And, what about Helen Hayes. She won her second Oscar at the age of 70. Israel's Prime Minister Golda Meir was sworn in at 70. In 1945, the iconic crusty 70-year-old Winston Churchill steered the United Kingdom to victory in World War II.

Grandma Moses started painting at 76. And, her works are now in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. Betcha didn't know that John Glenn went into space at the age of 77. Roger Roget (ever heard of him?) invented the Thesaurs at 73. Jessica Tandy of 'Driving Miss Daisy' movie fame, won his first Oscar for that performance at the age of 80. And, Christopher Plummer won his first Oscar at 82 for Best Supporting Actor award for his work opposite Ewan McGregor in the film "Beginners".

And, if you think these are only 'famous' people or that these things are only reserved for 'others', then think again. Take a look at these remarkable people that you've probably never heard of who made up their mind that they weren't 'old'! And, hey, I just started my practice of yoga at the age of 60!

Words of Wisdom

Age cannot stop you from flourishing unless you want it to. No truer words from! And, as the author of this article, Kaye Ramos in The Mission, continues to write:

  • If you have a magnificent obsession, go for it. Do it for your side hustle. Do it for your spare time.
  • Whatever it is, if it lights you up, do it. If it empowers you, act on it. If it makes you sane, pursue it.
  • At the end of all the outside forces right now, you will be happy you started at some point.
  • Your magnificent obsession will serve you well. Only if you will give it chance to prosper.

I'm truly looking forward to blazing the trail of my 70s decade.

I plan to celebrate the entire month of October! No, I retract that statement, I'm starting right now!

Another first thing that will happen is that I'll start drawing my Social Security. WhoooHoooooo! Yep, I've put into SS for over 50 years, and now it's time to reap some of those benefits. As this EHow article points out, "Waiting until the age of 70 maximizes benefits with payouts equal to 132 percent of the full-retirement-age payout entitlement." Yayyyyyyyyy! Glad I waited. Kinda like playing roulette whether to take earlier!

The Sixteen Week Countdown

So right now as I talk with you, there's about sixteen weeks until my big seven decades on this earth bash. (I'm really not planning a bash. For me, just clinking a toast with a good bottle of wine with family and friends is a bash!) But, there is something that I'm going to be doing as each week towards 70 ticks off. Here's what I've decided to do and share with you. I want this to, hopefully, be about 'us', not just me. We gain strength and inspiration from others and in numbers. I want YOU to chime in. I want your input. I want your ideas.

Part of getting old(er) can sometimes mean 'getting stuck in our old ways'. While some old school and traditional things are certainly good, a lot of times, we have to be flexible, resilient and move to the new way of doing things, understanding things, accepting things, in order to stay young, in mind, body, soul and at heart. That's really hard to do because we like our predictability. But, I know that unless I embrace this belief, I'll be missing out on a lot of cool things to come in my 70s.

counting down sixteen weeks to seventy
sixteen weeks to seventy goal

My goal is to do one thing out of the ordinary each week for the next sixteen weeks. When I say 'out of the ordinary', it's something that I'm gonna challenge myself to do. It might be something really big, like this week I rode my bike 30 miles and hiked seven miles, or it can be something super small, but momentous, like eating an anchovy! (Not a fan!)

I'm going to share these things with you, so if you want to stay in the loop, be sure to sign up to get my posts and newsletters! And, if you're turning one of these 'milestone' birthdays, by all means, let me know some of what you're doing to honor it!

So, there you have it. After all this discourse, that's what I've decided to do. Each week I'll do a pithy post and the title will be the same with only once change. The week number. And, the first one is THIS WEEK!

TITLE: counting down sixteen weeks to seventy: week 1

Final Thoughts

Yes, I'm so looking forward to my 70s. As long as I have good health {am not blindsided by some rogue health issue}, keep eating healthy, stay active, continue to know that my mission in life is in service of others, be inclusive and included, cement as much positivism as I can, and realize that who I am and what my life becomes is divinely orchestrated. then I'm pretty sure that the best is yet to come. (Whew! That was a mouthful!) And, that all will be good.

No one says it better than Mark Twain as noted in this EHow article:

At his 70th birthday celebration, Mark Twain, who oozed wisdom, summed up the significance of the occasion saying:

"The seventieth birthday. It is the time of life when you arrive at a new and awful dignity; when you may throw aside the decent reserves which have oppressed you for a generation and stand unafraid and unabashed upon your seven-terraced summit and look down and teach-unrebuked."

Thanks, Mr. Twain, I couldn't say it better! xoxo

Me at almost 70. Me at about 16. And, I still have the bangs! xoxo ~ally

counting down sixteen weeks to seventy
counting down sixteen weeks to seventy

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