Wait a Minute ….

 

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Patience may be a virtue but it has never been a virtue of mine.  It’s a failing.  I hate to wait.

I’ve had some practice in the last year or so with my twice-daily walks with our aging pug.  He cannot see or hear and it takes him quite a bit of time and effort to find the exact right spot to take care of business.  He cannot be rushed.  I should be getting better at this. I am so not getting better at this.

Lately, my challenge with patience has been pushed to its limit.   Our family is in a holding pattern.  It’s no one’s fault but our own and it is something that we could put an end to but we have consciously decided to wait and see.  As with Heinz ketchup, the waiting is the hardest part.

There is a point in the near-ish future where we will not be waiting.  We will be seeing.  And doing.  It’s not that far away.  But as each day goes by, my patience is more and more threadbare.  It’s beginning to unravel.  The thing is, the possible outcomes from all this waiting are all pretty good ones which, in theory, should make it easier to wait and see.  But I’m so darn ready to do something that I’ve kind of lost sight of the fact that, in the words of Bob Marley, everything’s gonna be alright.  Let it go, already.

My son is in the vortex of this waiting game.  I am trying so hard not to be an annoying gnat (or am I more of a horse fly?) circling his head.  We have promised him we will wait.  We will see.  We should make good on that promise.  We will.  I just may not have much sanity left by the time we get there.  I hope at least one of us does.

<I also hope that you hear Bob Marley singing in your head after reading this, rather than the Heinz commercial or the song from Freeze ….>

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Why Bother Season

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We have a few more weeks of skiing, but the reality has hit me:  we are on the cusp of mud season in the mountains of Colorado. It’s almost that time of year when everything is brown.  Everything is dirty.  And then, when it snows or rains, everything is muddy.  Some people view this season with affection, because it means the glorious summer isn’t too too far away.  Most people think of it as the time to leave for a nice beach somewhere for a month or two.  We are stuck here, save for a few days on a nice beach somewhere in Southern Florida in April.  (Thanks, Mom and Dad!)

Around the country, people jump into Spring with gusto, cleaning, airing out, getting some sunshine.  At my house, I turn into a lump of inactivity as I adopt a new mantra:  Oooohhhmmmm … Why Bother … Oooohhhmmmm … Why Bother …

I take the dogs for a walk and they come home muddy messes.  I give them baths.  I take the dogs for a walk and they come home muddy messes:  bath.  Walk, mud, bath, repeat.  Walk, mud, bath, repeat.  The next time I start to run the bath water, the mantra kicks in:  Why bother?  The next time the dogs want to go for a walk:  Why bother … Oooohhhmmmm.

And so it goes.  The floor is dirty and muddy.  Sweep the floor, clean the floor, rinse and repeat.  Why bother?  The cat and dog are shedding horribly.  Vacuum the couch, vacuum the rugs, wash the blankets to get the hair off and the next day everything is covered in dog and cat hair …  rinse and repeat.  Oooohhhmmm … Why Bother …  Oooohhhmmm … Why bother …

Yes, I know.  This is not a healthy way to go through life.  Time to eat?  Why bother, I’ll just be hungry again soon.  Time to brush my teeth?  Why bother…  And so on and so forth.  But for the next month or two, until it becomes gorgeously wonderful around here once again and the grass grows, the flowers bloom and winter’s gravel gets swept off the sides of the roads so that I can safely ride my road bike, the poor dogs may be going on fewer walks and the couch may be more covered in pet hair than usual.  Please don’t mind me.  I am in Why Bother Season.

 

They are Wrong (a lot)

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“No one ever said it would be easy.”  That saying is so wrong.  A lot of people have said it would be easy (consider the quick weight loss and anti-aging industries) and for the most part, they are wrong.

People are wrong all the time.  Drink grapefruit and you’ll lose inches in days.  Wrong. Vote for this guy and all our problems are solved.  Wrong.  Avoid cholesterol and you won’t have heart disease.  Mostly, wrong.

In fact, people are wrong so much, I’m wondering why we give People a voice in the first place.  People.  Huh.  I’m a people, and I’ve lived long enough to know a thing or two and I’m wrong a lot.  Yet for some reason I  subconsciously believe that People somehow has a leg-up on me and knows better.

Okay, okay, so if a People is an expert in astrophysics, that People is more likely to be right about something astrophysics-y.  But life?  Nope.  And even in astrophysics, other people may disagree and try to prove the People wrong.  And they may be successful.  They may not.

We can’t even count on someone who has lived a long time to be right.  That People’s words are based on a unique set of perspectives, life journey, brain chemistry and childhood traumas that haunted them for decades.  Age may bring an accumulated wisdom that is worth considering, but not always.  People can be wrong at any age, social strata, level of education or place on the beauty spectrum.

And yet, People get stirred up in the pot and their words and perspectives get churned into They.  As in, “They say you should walk 10,000 steps a day,” or “They say that if you make your bed every day you’ll live longer,” or “They say he is a socialist.”   They has a pretty significant voice.

Back to the topic (I didn’t have a topic when I started this little jaunt, but maybe I found it …):  Life is not easy.  People are often wrong.  Consider carefully whose words you value and why.

We give a whole lot of credence to what famous people say.  Famous people, who have managed to make some really bad, and really public, choices and we still think that what they have to say should guide our daily thoughts.  That they are somehow able to discern life better than we do.  Weird.

Charlie Sheen springs to mind.  I don’t know why him, as there are so many famous people we could point to as a little whacked and still have a say out there in the world.  Anyway, Charlie has managed to do a lot of really dumb things: drugs, demanding outrageous money to continue appearing on a mediocre TV show, “Winning,” tiger blood, having unprotected sex with women after being diagnosed with HIV.  And yet, he gets a spot on the Dr. Oz show this week.  (Let’s not get into how nuts Dr. Oz is.)  And I’m sure he’ll talk about HIV, or any other aspect of modern life, like he’s an expert and people will listen to him.  Charlie Sheen is a part of They.  Scary, isn’t it?

The thing is that we (lower case) people are fundamentally lazy.  We seek a quick way to understand our world and love to be told by People what They think so that we can be like Them.  And now, more than any time in human history, we have the ability to decide which People They are.  We choose our news sources on TV and the Internet to be the ones that espouse views consistent with what we think are the right ones.  We follow on Facebook and Twitter the voices of the People we decide are the best at knowing what is true.  So, in reality, They are Us (in the limited microcosm of our chosen reality).  It becomes a tornado of insular thoughts and ideas, throwing off any others.

I’m trying to evaluate where my They voice comes from and why.  I live in a small place, made smaller by the group of people my family most associates with.  I no longer go to work each day with people who force me to consider their unique life views.  Selling lift tickets a couple of days a week does expose me to people from varied lives to be sure (and the germs they bring from all over the world), but we don’t tend to engage in deep conversations while I swipe their credit card for outrageously priced tickets.  My views could become pretty entrenched.  And so, I’m working at expanding my influencing sources.  It’s really hard, but hey, They say Rome wasn’t built in a day ….

My kid turned 18 on Friday.  As I look at my <ahem> adult child, who will be voting in the next election, I wonder who his They will be.  If I have any influence at all, I hope to help him challenge Them, whoever They may be.  Teachers, hip hop singers, Snap Chatters, the producers of Ridiculousness, me.  I hope to help him realize that People are often wrong.  Take it in, breathe it out. As hard as it may be, think for yourself, young man.

 

 

Trump: Waiting for Guffman

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Say what you will about the Donald, he has always been really good at being a caricature.  The hair.  The voice.  The casinos.  The bankruptcies.  The wives.  “You’re fired.”  And he makes a really good cartoon candidate.  I’m just waiting for him to let us all in on the joke.

When he announced he was running, it was a chuckle-worthy moment.  Yeah, right, this will be an entertaining way to kick off another long  campaign season.  True to form, he started saying things that were, well, shockingly wrong for most anyone to say, let alone a presidential candidate. Sexist, racist, thoughtless.  McCain isn’t a war hero, because he got captured.  Ship out all of the immigrants on day one.  All 13 million of them. We have an African-American president and we’ve never had it so bad.  Look at that face.  Who would vote for her?

At first, I thought he had dementia.  I mean, the things that he said were so unfiltered and bizarre.  Isn’t that what happens when someone starts to <ahem> lose touch?  I waited for his family to issue a statement that he was ill and withdrawing his candidacy.  Nope.

Ok, so maybe he isn’t sick.  He’s just full of himself.  He has been a business mogul and those guys get away with saying a lot of crap.  He has money (according to him, one of his most endearing qualities).  He has power and influence.  I’ve worked with guys like this.  They surround themselves with people who agree, people who pander, people who never, ever suggest that they may be wrong.  You ordered a double espresso, but you wanted a triple?  I’m so sorry.  The barista has been fired.

He’s a bully.  He taunts, embarrasses, belittles.  When he doesn’t know the answer (take, for example, any matter of international affairs), he pounds his chest and tells us Hilary screwed up and when he is the leader of all things, he will be so AMAZING, you won’t believe.

Rather than the public floggings that we have come to expect when a political type makes one small error of fact, people love his eccentricities.  They find his candor refreshing and freeing.  He is the antidote to the politically correct.  They seem to miss that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about most of the time.  They can’t see past his quaint, if offensive, views to wonder how his foot-filled mouth might be received by, say, Putin.

He leads in the polls, even now, after he claimed that thousands and thousands of Jersey City Arabs were rejoicing in the streets after the twin towers collapsed.  No one remembers the dancing Arabs.  There were no supporting press reports or videos.  The thing is, Trump is so convincing in his wrong-ness that even Chris Christie, New Jersey’s Governor, couldn’t immediately say with conviction that Trump is plain making  stuff up.

And so, I’m looking forward to the movie gotcha moment.  In my mind, he walks to the podium, not one carefully placed hair askew, grabs the microphone, turns to the cameras and says to the American people, “You’re fired!” He tells us that he did everything he could think of to make himself unelectable.  He said all the wrong things, made stuff up, insulted everyone and still he got the vote.  “What is wrong with you people, that you would endorse me as a candidate for president?”  Mic drop.  Exit, stage left.

“He’s teaching me to change my instincts… or at least ignore them.” — Sheila, Waiting for Guffman

Time is an Asterisk: Reflections on UnMommy-ing

I’m smack in the middling place.  Middle America, middle class, middle age.  I wear size middle.  Lately I’ve come to realize I’m mid-cliche.  I’m moving from cliche mommy to cliche mother of a college kid.

In my normally clouded life view, I am still young and vibrant, my life stretching endlessly ahead.  And then I see the mothers of elementary school children and realize that they CANNOT RELATE TO ME, as I am the mother of a senior in high school.  I’m baffled, because I fully relate to them.  After all, my son was 10 just a few months ago (93 months, but let’s not dwell on numbers, shall we?).  When those moments of clarity strike, sharp reality blinds my (I recently learned) cataract-ladened eyes and I squint at my wrinkling and spotted hands with wonder.  David Byrne’s voice flits through my head …  HOW DID I GET HERE?

I took my son to visit some universities this fall, as he considers the next phase of his life.  I spent years of my young adulthood at two of the schools, and they felt foreign and welcoming all at the same time.  I found myself walking past the dorms and dilapidated student houses, feeling that I should be back there with the students, filling a weekend with house parties, football and trips to the library.  Somewhere, close enough to touch, I am still that college girl.  The one who loves to dance and do tequila shots.  The one who hasn’t a clue what her life will become and dances anyway.

I watch my son, as he absorbs this new world, and I am conflicted.  Part of me is the toddler’s mom, who wants to keep him safe from the dangers that I know are there. Part of me is the serious, let’s-not-lose-sight-of-education, this-is-not-about-the-parties mom.  I know that soon I will become the college kid’s mom.  The one he rolls his eyes over when I send him 10 texts in a row because I haven’t heard from him in a week.  The mom who takes him and his roommate to dinner and then leaves, thank you very much. But part of me is also his friend, who wants him to experience college the way it should be.  I want him to love to dance (hopefully he doesn’t love shots too much …) and who hasn’t a clue what his life will become and dances anyway.  I want him to explore and question and fall in love, to have a professor nudge him toward an interest he never even considered.

This is the process of unmommy-ing.  We hear a lot about empty nest syndrome, but this is pre-empty nest.  This is anticipating what the next phase will be, letting go of the roles that we each have played and learning new ones.  This is hoping that we’ve taught him what he needs to know, because time is short.  Soon he will know it all (and then, hopefully, at around age 25, he’ll realize he doesn’t know as much as he thought he did).

The other night, he told me about some incident at school.  Later, when I’d crawled in bed, I panicked a little — had I ever shown him what to do in that circumstance?  Did I need to tell him now?  Never occurred to me …  I made my way to his room and sat on his bed and told him what I thought he needed to hear.  He smiled in a somewhat strange way and said, “Seriously?  Why are you telling me this?  Mom, don’t you think I figured that out already?  Geesh, this is awkward.  Can I just say, I’m so glad we never had the sex talk.”  And then I’m thinking, “Oh my gosh.  What is he telling me?  Maybe I need to have a sex talk with him … I mean, what should I say?  Is he expecting something profound?  He did have health class, right”?

Let it go, I tell myself.  We are in the middle.

Look where my hand was
Time isn’t holding up
Time is an asterisk
Same as it ever was…

Does My Pug Need More Time to Reflect?

Just saw a Petco TV ad telling me that my companion needs more balance in his life so that he has just the right ratio for work and play, rest and reflection, giving and receiving.  They also allude to a sort of yin-yang relationship with our four-legged companions:  “Together, we’re more complete.”

I’m pretty sure Bobo’s “right ratio” in life involves a whole lot of rest, no work, a lot of pets and scratches and a bottomless bowl of food.  I doubt he has ever reflected up anything.

Someone please smack the ad exec who came up with this campaign, the copy writer who thought it made sense to say that our dogs need time to reflect, and the VP of marketing at Petco who paid them.  Good grief.

Just in case, though … Bobo, you complete me. Namaste.

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A Rebel Without An SPF

fist-681848_1280Remember when you were a kid, and growing up couldn’t come fast enough?  You wanted to be an adult, make your own choices, no one telling you what to do?

But now that you are an adult, have you noticed that there are a lot more people telling you what to do than when you were a kid?  Used to be it was your parents, an older sibling, your teachers … now just about EVERYONE seems to have an ideal of what you SHOULD be doing and how to do it:  your politics, your faith, your marriage, your parenting, your skin care regimen.  Eat more kale, less bread. Organic this and hyped-up that.  Sleep more, sleep less. Drink coffee, drink wine, don’t drink wine, drink coconut water, wait, scratch that, pomegranate juice!

I just figured out that I took a stand against the YouShould-ites this summer without consciousness or conviction.  At some point along the way, I stopped using sunscreen when I’m out and about, hiking and biking and whatever-ing in the sunshine.  I confess.  I know it’s stupid.  I’ve lost a friend to skin cancer.  I know, I KNOW.  I’m a pale skinned woman living at altitude.  I KNOW BETTER.

And yet … when I religiously cover my skin up with protection, at some point I miss a spot and I get a horrible burn in that one little spot.  But if I let it tan naturally, I don’t get nasty burned patches.  And I’m old enough to engage in risky behavior.  Some people smoke, I expose my skin to cancer-causing rays. I am flossing more, though.  My new dental hygienist scared the crap out of me at my last cleaning.  She said I’d been doing it wrong my whole life and told me how to do it properly …

BIcycle! BIIIcycle!!!

Every time I pedal up a steep incline, the only thing in my head is Freddy Mercury:  I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike!  I can’t make it stop.  It’s been this way for a few years now, and the more I ride my bicycle the more I hear Freddy.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Queen.  Mr. Mercury was a musical genius.  It’s okay that he is hanging out in my head.  Once in a while, though, do you think maybe he could sing We Are The Champions? Just once? As an acknowledgement that I’ve paid my dues and had dirt kicked in my face, no bed of roses and yet I’m still here pushing this frickin’ bike up the mountain???

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Good luck to my friends taking on the Triple Bypass this weekend — you’re already champions of the world!

Odd Satisfactions in Life

cream-194126_1280We have accumulated a lot of stuff.  This is a first world problem and I want to say right away that we are blessed beyond measure and I am so grateful for our life.  It’s just that, over the years, our blessed life has generated an abundance of things.

Some of this accumulation is due to the strange course of real estate sales and purchases in the last 5 years or so.  At the beginning of this time period, we owned a 5500 square foot home with three car garage in Denver and a ski condo in Copper Mountain.  When we decided to move our son to the mountains to ski full time, we sold the ski condo and bought our 3200 square foot mountain home.  We sold the condo fully furnished and took only our personal stuff: soap, shampoo, hair dryer, etc. and linens/pillows/blankets/towels.  Since my husband and I were commuting to Denver, we weren’t sure whether to keep the Denver house or downsize, so we furnished our mountain home and bought stuff for it.  About a year later, we sold the big house and had to figure out what to do with all the stuff in that house.  Everything.  Furniture, TV’s, electronics, personal items, tools, cleaning supplies, you name it.  We already had a mostly furnished, well-stocked smaller home in the mountains, so this was a challenge.

Eventually, we rented an apartment in Denver as our home base down there, so some of the stuff found a home.  The rest, we pretty much crammed into our mountain house.  And it’s okay for the most part.  The most abundant items I’ve been working my way through over the years are cleaning supplies and personal items like lotion, soap, shampoo, hair dryers, hair products and medicine.  And towels.  For some reason, we have a whole lotta towels.  Cabinets full of them in the laundry room.  Some are well-used and appropriate for dog washes, but the rest …. they are perfectly good.  Do you know how long it takes to use up towel reserves?  Neither do I.  I’m still working on it.

I am trying my best to use up the excess stuff.  I celebrate each time I push the pump on a lotion bottle and it spurts the last glob onto my hand.  Praise Be!  Another bottle down, 999 to go.  Recycle bin time!  I really don’t want to throw things away if they are still perfectly good.  That bottle of aspirin looks just fine to me.  So what if it “expired” four years ago?  “When I was a kid, things like aspirin never expired,” I exclaim with righteous indignation as I tap out a few to try to mollify my migraine.

We are working our way through the boxes of Band Aids that now hold only the weird sizes that are no good for any normal person’s cuts and scrapes.  When one of us is injured, we cobble together a few of them and throw some medical tape on for good measure and I gleefully glance into the box and think, only five more to go — woo hoo!!!

Sometimes I do recognize that this strange obsession of using up stuff has gone a little too far.  My son is 17.  I still have a few partial bottles of Children’s Tylenol in the cabinet.  They expired a very long time ago.  In a pinch, though, won’t a good swig of the stuff have some effect on a grown-up headache? (Yes, Mom, I know that this is not good logic and I will dispose of the bottles soon.)

The other day I noticed that I have a remarkable supply of eye creams.  Over the years, those sets of skin care regimens I purchased always came with eye cream.  Despite my best intentions, I don’t ever use it.  It just seems like one more thing that I don’t really have to do, so why bother.  (And please no remarks on how my crow’s feet are evidence enough that I never use eye cream ….)  The important question is:  what am I going to do with them?  I paid a lot of money for those special, magical potions.  So, I Googled  “Can I use eye cream as a facial moisturizer?” thinking that no one would be so gauche as to actually smear the costly stuff on foreheads and cheeks.  Fortunately, everyone has already thought of everything and put helpful tips on the Internet and I got thousands of search results.  Some said no way, that eye cream would either be ineffective or actually harmful (!) to other skin areas. Others said, sure, go for it.  I had my answer.

Just as soon as I use up the remaining bottles of face cream (thank God they don’t have expiration dates … wait a minute, they just might … whatever) I am lining up those bottles of eye cream and using them on my face.  So there.  By the year 2020 I just may have used it all up.  Yay!

The Perfect Foe

dandelion-6296_1280He stalked the enemy carefully, carrying his weapon of choice close.  His eyes darted side to side, glancing up occasionally to keep his bearings.  As he spotted the vile opponent, he aimed carefully and pulled the trigger.  Poison trickled down ensuring a long, slow death.  Today’s battle won, he looked west and knew that this war was far from over.  The neighbor’s lawn was covered in the yellow beasts, just waiting for a gust of wind to carry in the next wave of intruders.

As I watched my husband’s fight against the invading dandelions I thought:  Sometimes we just need a good enemy, one that we can fight openly and with gusto.

We are often ill-equipped for life’s battles.  Whether it’s at work or school, tests or deadlines, or someone who just doesn’t play nice:  the war drones on, victory an elusive shadow.  We may be baffled by our opponent, lack sufficient tactical training or reinforcements may be slim. We may not have authority to engage, or our circumstances may dictate that we must peacefully co-exist. Whatever the challenge, sometimes it just feels good to fight hard, grind in our heels, plant the flag and claim a win.  We just need the perfect foe:  one that fights back, doesn’t play fair and, most importantly, we can pummel with impunity.

We’ve been down in the trenches a lot the last couple of months.  The mortar shells are exploding around us, threatening our little kingdom.  So I couldn’t help but smile as my husband found the perfect golden-headed foe to engage and destroy.  Battle round won!  Special bonus that our yard looks pretty good.

On “Volunteering”

dandelion-111014_1280You know those personality tests — Myers Briggs, or the one that identifies your brain tendencies by color?  According to those tests, some people really are altruistic. I know, I was surprised too.  Folks of this type want to do good, change the world, make a difference and all that.  My personality profile does not include this trait.  According to Myers Briggs, I am an INTJ:  Introverted, Intuitive (why they use “n” for Intuitive is beyond me), Thinking, Judging.  Basically, I know that I’m right and I’m not going to tell you why until I can’t stand it anymore and then I have a hard time considering that you have feelings.  In reality, I tested pretty close to center, so whatever.  My point is, I don’t want to save the world.  I care about the world, for sure.  But I don’t feel the need to be the one to lead the saving charge.

Yet I find myself, at this particular cross road in life which has lasted a couple of years longer than I thought it would, being a “volunteer.”  I use the quotation marks because sometimes what I am doing does not meet the definition of the word.  For example, my son’s ski club requires a certain number of volunteer points or we have to pay them a bunch more money.  So I stick stamps on envelopes for the annual fundraiser, work the coat check at said fundraiser and stand frozen at the bottom of the race hill with a hand-timer and a clip board marking the time for each racer. (I refuse to stand at the top after an unfortunate incident involving a coach’s flung wad of chewing tobacco … but I digress.)  Basically, my ski club volunteering amounts to doing whatever earns us enough points to keep the check writing to something just under astronomical.

Over the years, I’ve volunteered to help with all sorts of things, like organizing banquets and decorating/shaperoning/whatevering the homecoming dance.  Way back when, I worked in the nursery and later children’s church.  (Those toddlers were tough, let me tell you.)  More recently, I found myself chief minion for the high school’s graduation next week.  I’m not sure how that happened.  Someone asked me if I could “help,” and suddenly I was the contact person for all minions.  Leader of the minions.  Wooot!

This spring, someone told me that she volunteers for Junior Achievement.  Six one-hour sessions over three weeks. “I could do that,” I thought, “How hard could it be”?  I sent an email to the JA organizer and told her to sign me up.  My husband, knowing me so well, looked at me sideways when I told him what I had done, “What do you get out of it”?  Really?  It wasn’t enough that I was going to give of my time and vast professional and personal knowledge about the ways of the world to a bunch of curious-minded seventh graders?  He knew me very, very well.

Why had I done this?  Assuaging guilt?  Like I would be a complete loser if I didn’t get out there and do something productive sometime soon?  Maybe some of that.  Validation?  Proof that I am still relevant and worth something, even though I’m not going to work every day?  Yup.  Most likely.  But I really couldn’t say.

It took a fair bit of time for me to prepare.  I had to read the materials, watch a bunch of videos, gather stuff, think about what to say and worry about how to react to the kids who would give me a hard time.  Then I had to face those 27 kids, some of whom were so sweet I couldn’t stand it, and some of whom I would probably punch if I had to deal with them on a daily basis. And I was reminded that teaching is really hard, that kids are for the most part awesome, and that sometimes the curriculum should be pushed to the side so that we can play more games.  What I got out of it was a fairly awesome reality check.

So maybe I am not the altruistic volunteering type.  I lack zeal.  I have no zest for getting in there and making a difference. I accept this about myself.  For a long time I beat myself up about not serving on non-profit boards or organizing fundraisers or heading up the PTA.  Enough.  I am not that person.  Ask Myers Briggs.

Bless all of those who schedule the meal deliveries for friends who have gone through surgeries.  Who set up the food drive boxes before Thanksgiving.  Who build houses for low income families.  Who buy the card and cake for a colleague’s retirement party in the conference room down the hall.  Who realize their altruistic selves from giving in this way.  Bless!  Them!

What I now know about myself is that I need a quid pro quo in order for my volunteer satisfaction to kick in:  a reduction in cash out the door, knowing that a friend’s load will be lightened, or realizing that I will get back from an experience with those JA kids so much more than I ever gave them.  I’m an INTJ, what can I say?

Whoooops!

It’s my auto utterance whenever something doesn’t go the way I expected.  It’s kind of embarrassing now that my son has made me aware that I say this.  It’s a sort of ingrained, instinctual thing that I cannot control.  Salmon filet falls to the ground next to the grill:  Whoops!  Baby falls backward in his chair:  Whoops!  Glass of milk spills all over the place:  Whoops!

I am air born due to an icy step on our deck:  Whoops!  followed quickly by “ughmph … uhhmmm ohhh ouch,” as gravity pulls me back down, ribs first, into the step.

Can I just say first off that it’s May.  This happened on the 7th of MAY.  Yes, I live in the mountains and it can snow well into June (July if we’re insisting on honesty).  But really?  My deck should not have been covered in ice.  Also, for the record, it didn’t look like ice.  It looked wet.  It had rained all night.  Logically, the deck should be WET, not ICY.

So, I lay sprawled across the step, in my fleecy bathrobe, one flip flop on, the other one somewhere in the yard.  Wilson made his way to my head and sniffed my hair.  “Thanks for the support, dog,” I mumbled.  “I wouldn’t be here without you.”   My son wasn’t due to wake up for another hour.  I either needed to drag my sorry whoopsied self back in the house or settle in for a cold sunrise.  Up I got.  I don’t know who ever thought “gingerly” was the right way to describe someone moving in pain.  I creaked like the rusty Tin Man with a knife in his back.

I managed to get my coffee, then shower and finish out my Junior Achievement volunteer commitment for the day.  Since returning home that day, I’ve been a pathetic lump, groaning with each wrong move.  Nothing is broken.  I know this because my family made me go to the urgent care place Friday morning because they were sick of listening to me whine.  So now I have good pain meds which are supposed to help me sleep but don’t.  Waaaah.

The best things in all of this:  My husband took fabulous care of me all weekend, and since today is Mother’s Day, it was ok that I just sat in front of Netflix all afternoon.  Also, I learned that our ugly Lay-Z Boy recliner is absolutely AWESOME.  I have never sat in this thing as much as I have the last three days.  I am in it now.  My life may never be the same now that I have discovered the joy of Lay-Z Boy.  La la la.

The worst thing:  I was just starting to get my legs back into biking mode.  I’m thinking that melting into an ugly recliner for several days in a row will not get me up Vail Pass anytime soon.

Whoooops.

Where Is Super Pug When You Need Him?

Where Is Super Pug When You Need Him?

Better with Age?

balance-110850_1280Some of you weren’t out of diapers 20 years ago.  For those of you who were adults in 1995, what were you then?  Are your views different now?  Do you think you’re a better person?  Hint:  It’s okay if 20 years of living hasn’t produced an improved version of yourself.

A friend recently asked his Facebook universe whether our life views had changed over the last 20 years and in what ways.  My mind immediately went to ways that I may have grown and somehow be better than I used to be.  And the responses my friend received (numbering well into the hundreds) were along the lines that I was thinking.  They all recited the life views that had become more accepting, less stark, more understanding, less judgmental, more thoughtful, less knee-jerky.  In other words, “better.”

We are supposed to gain great insights, enlightenment or whatever as we age, right?  Huh.  Yes, most of my views on politics, religion, friendship, marriage, career and parenting have changed over time.  How could they not?  But am I somehow better here at 47 than I was at 27?

Twenty-seven was a time where the glow of youthful ignorance and exuberance haloed everything around me.  I was certain in the rightness of my views.  I was comfortable in the knowledge I believed to be true.  I was ignorant of the ways that life’s river water would tumble my hard, this-is-the-right-answer, edges away allowing the flow of life around me to be a bit less frothy.

Twenty-seven:  married a few years, working my buns off as an associate attorney at a large firm.  No kids, but my student loan debt and a mortgage made me feel like I couldn’t run fast enough on that treadmill to keep up.  My horizon was pretty limited.  I couldn’t see past the hours upon hours and days upon days of grueling work.  The blinders were beginning to come off, though.  For the first time I experienced the raw reality of gender inequality.  I felt growing demands with less support and I watched myself become someone I didn’t much like. Short with my assistant, grumbling, exhausted.

My thoughts on the world around me then were fairly simple.  I believed hard work was a sign of strength.  I thought people generally wanted the best for each other and society.  I was quick to be critical of others’ shortcomings or apparent small-mindedness (in my own estimation, and evaluated based on my own skewed perspective).  In truth, my world was small:  working, eating, sleeping and some play.  I was still enjoying the luxury of an acceptably selfish existence.

Here at 47, my world is again fairly small.  The large career I chased has been shelved.  I am focused on home and family, perhaps to a fault.  My thoughts on the external world, the politically charged issues of the week, tend to be more based on a personal perspective than a political platform someone somewhere else dreamed up in an attempt to get somebody elected.  I recognize that very few things in life are simple or straightforward.

At 47 I am more accepting.  I am more aware of other people’s situations.  I’m less aggressive about being right.  But I’m also still trying to find my way.  For example, I now recognize that I regularly beat myself up.  At 27, I regularly beat myself up but I was not conscious of it.  So I’ve got that going for me.

Am I “better” now?  In some ways, maybe.  Still, part of me misses the simplicity of 27.   And my less-creaky joints.

How about you?  Unless you have been in deep freeze in outer space (yes, I recently watched Interstellar) you are not the same person that you were 20 years ago.  Is that a good thing?

Whack-a-Mole

Last spring, as the snow receded from our yard, we noticed some little trails leading from under the deck to various shrubs and areas in my garden.  As we moved toward summer, we started seeing little guys running through the complex trail system.  My husband called them meadow mice.  I called them critters.  My son called them targets for his pellet gun. My neighbors called them vermin and had Orkin spread poison around their yards to kill them.  Then my pug called them a snack.  Yuck.

This year, the guys are back en masse.  Not only do we have trails around our yard, but they gorged themselves on grass roots all winter and left piles of dead grass all over the place.

Something is out of balance in our micro-ecosystem.  We think it started when the foxes disappeared a couple of years ago.  We liked the foxes.  They had a den just around the corner, where their babies were born every year.  We used to watch them wander the golf course fringe behind our house, stalking and then jumping on unseen prey.  And then we noticed that we hadn’t seen their bushy tails in quite some time.  Our neighbors noticed, too, and we began to speculate as to where they went.  Mountain lions?  Construction on the 17th hole that spooked them?  Certainly no lack of food …

So, now we have critters.  And they eat my flowers.  They taunt us, flagrantly chewing away on the young green leaves.  My son is doing his best to take them out with his arsenal of pellet guns and compressed air-propelled BB’s.  But I fear that for every one he manages to eradicate, seven more are born in little dens tucked safely away under the bushes.  I really hate the idea of poisoning them, and I hope our neighbors lost Orkin’s number.  It just seems like a mass murder of the little beasts will send us even more out of balance.

We did see a fox a few times this spring.  Maybe it’s a momma hunting for her kits.  I hope she likes it here and gets really fat on our abundance of tiny rodents.  She’s a much more effective hunter than the pellet gun toting kid, and a lot less noisy.

Speaking Emoji :-)

persons-0008Do you communicate in emoji?  Do you put little faces and dancing people in your texts?  Do you wish you could speak in emoji as well?  If your friend tells you she has had a horrible experience at the dry cleaner, do you want to be able to eliminate all those pesky words like, “Oh my gosh, what a jerk!  I can’t believe he wrecked your dress and won’t give you your money back.  That’s outrageous!”?  Wouldn’t it be much easier to say:160x160x34-angry-face.png.pagespeed.ic.10pTk_Rhec

I am a lover of words.  A wordsmith by trade.  A reader of books, for goodness sake.  I used to think that people who texted little sailboats and hearts were being a bit ridiculous.  I mean really, what is that about????  Are you 12????  But then, when my phone’s texting keyboard presented me with a menu of emojis, including little pictures of palm trees, I could resist no longer.  So much can be conveyed so quickly, and often better than mere words could.  Emotions require a lot of describing, but a smiley-face with a kiss is quick and to the point.  And a lot of fun.

I still have some uncertainty with this new language.  What about grammar and punctuation?  Do you put a period after the angry face if it comes at the end of a sentence?  Or is it, itself, the punctuation, used in place of an exclamation mark?  Some images, strung together, can read like a sentence.  Is it OK to insert words amongst the footballs and beer mugs?  Or should they be left to stand alone, speaking for themselves in their own cheesy language?  Is it sometimes bad etiquette to communicate with emojis, or have they passed from novelty into general acceptability?

Perhaps this is all just part of the disintegration of our society.  As we replace letters and words with pictures, we regress back to the language of cave drawings (which, frankly, are beautiful artistic works, and therefore have a huge leg-up on emojis … ).

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SEND THE BUBBLE WRAP ASAP

The other day I wrote about wanting to bubble wrap my not-quite-grown-up kid.  I am seriously considering duct taping a protective layer around him for real.

We have seen a parade of bad-to-horrible injuries over the last few months, reaching a crescendo this past week with a series of blown ACL’s, dislocated shoulders, badly broken legs and broken hands at the races Riley’s team attended.  Then we learned that a young freeskier from our community was severely injured in a training run for Nationals and airlifted to Denver.  My heart breaks for her and her family, and my stomach does flip-flops at the thought of something this horrible happening to our own “baby.”

The irony is that my son didn’t think to tell me about this.  He had signed a card for her, he knew that she was undergoing extensive surgery and HE DIDN’T EVEN MENTION IT to me.

What do I make of this?  What does it mean when such a horrific thing happens and it doesn’t bubble up from him?  Is this a defense mechanism, developed from years of putting himself in scary situations, of watching friends suffer terrible injuries, some life-ending?  From facing milder trauma himself and wondering not if but when something worse will happen?  Or is this a typical 17-year-old-male-ism:  Why would I tell my mom about something that happened to some girl I hardly knew?  More than likely it’s the latter.

And so it goes.  My mom-ness freaks out, his kid-ness says huge bummer.  My mom-ness empathizes and imagines what-if’s, his kid-ness moves on.

Last night, for no particular reason, we watched some old videos from his growing up years.  Lots of violin recitals, baseball games, Christmas programs and kindergarten graduation.  I felt very much like Chevy Chase, up in the attic, tears streaming.  Well, ok, tears didn’t stream because we were having too much fun laughing at his cousin, then age six, who was killing “stupid bears” in their fort, but you get the gist.

We parents don’t video the scary times, the trips to the ER, the struggles in school.  We don’t record what goes on underneath the smiling facade or the times when we cross our fingers and toes and pray that he stays safe.  Those memories and feelings are indelibly etched into the undocumented pages of our life stories.  Their weight is hefty enough to counterbalance the fun memories flitting across the screen.  We would rather our next generation not know their heft until he feels it soon enough with his own child.

So, I smile at him and my dear husband as we turn off the videos.  I give him a hug, silently grateful for the warmth in his body.  I tell him he is a gift.  I quietly say a prayer for all parents.  And then I bring out the bubble wrap …

Give Yourself a Break Today, Missy

I’m having A Day.  I just don’t have the answers to life’s questions, or the energy to be understanding with the guy at the auto shop that didn’t fix it right the first time, or the focus to accomplish any one thing, or the ability to make it all better.  I just don’t have it.  Nope.  Nada.  Zilch.

Typically, or perhaps I should say historically, when I have A Day, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in having these days, I immediately turn against myself.  I become the villain in my own life story.  To this way of thinking, my pathetic weaknesses are conspiring against me.  As if I’m a bad person for not being able to make all the ducks line up.  For not wanting to be nice to Kenny at the garage.  For not asking after a friend’s injured child when I see her at the store.   For not being the specific kind of mother that is required at this particular moment in my own kids’ life.*

But just now (feeling very much like Winnie the Pooh) I had a thought: why is it on me to have answers all the time, to be nice when no one else would be, to be whatever it is my warped view of life thinks I’m supposed to be that I’m not?  I’m pretty sure everyone else is going to go ahead and do whatever they were going to do whether I’m having A Day or not.  So, maybe I did wish that I could have crawled back under the covers and stayed there all day?  I didn’t.  I may go there now, several hours before bedtime. But hey, I made it through all those hours in between doing things and going places and not answering life’s questions and not being the nicest person but also never once yelling at anyone or doing anything else that would be too terrible.

So.  Enough already.  No one gets to have my life answers today.  And disorderly ducks are much more entertaining.  And I’m a middle-aged mom, get over it.   And people don’t notice all that much anyway ….


*On A Day days, I also cannot read home and/or beauty magazines, or look at similar websites or TV shows, nor can I spend a whole lot of time on Facebook, because then I think of all the things I’m not doing or that I’m not doing the right way.  Consequently, I wrote this whiny blog.  Lucky you!

Snarkiness Breakdown

donkey-215885_1280As the profound Brittany Spears sang not enough years ago:  Oops, I did it again.  I forgot that some people don’t speak Snark.  Today, when one such person looked at me with a combination of horror and confusion on her face, I remembered too late that she’s one of those people. Then I felt bad.  Because she thinks I meant what I said the way that I said it, not the backwards way that I meant it.  And since she heard it the forwards (?) way, I’m a complete jerk. Dang it.

How come some people can communicate in cynicism and some can’t?  If science looked hard enough, would it discover the smart ass gene, somewhere between hair color and tongue curling ability?  Is it a skill learned between the ages of 18 and 24 months, and a few poor souls were just never exposed?  Or is it a bad habit, like nail biting, that we are supposed to get under control, but some particularly weak-willed saps can never tame the beast?  I’m not sure I’ve ever met a weak-willed sarcastic person, so that last one seems unlikely.

Then again, how dull would it be to never put a twist on a phrase?  To never say the opposite of true intent with a bit of a grin and twinkle?  To never engage in a cynical sword fight with a worthy opponent?  Hmmm.  Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.  Given my propensity to put my foot in it when I really should know better because I’m talking to one of those people, I’ll likely never know.

Still, the cursed gift should come with a warning.  Use with care.  Cynicism is often viewed as an indici of apathy and a bad attitude.  If that’s what you intend to portray, go for it.  Otherwise, try to smile and keep quiet.  Also, when speaking this way, take a moment to examine your motivations and the motivations of those around you.  Sharp words can be a cruel weapon.  Then again, those snarky tones can be a hardened callous around an injured soul, so maybe someone just needs a hug ….  Also, even in the best of circumstances, some people will never understand a word you say and will think you’re just a jerk. 

Hairdresser Generation Gap

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You know you’re getting older when you make a pop culture reference to your new hairdresser and realize she wasn’t yet born when that culture existed.

I don’t talk much when I get my hair done.  Back in the day, when I held down a hefty job and was raising a small child, it was a blessed break in which I lost myself in back issues of People and Us magazines.  I warned any person new to doing my hair that I preferred quiet to chit chat.  The hum of hair dryers, music and conversations in the background lulled me into something of a zen state.

I still prefer not to idly chat with my hair person.  It’s nothing personal; she is lovely.  I just find it odd to go two months between appointments and then blather on as if we’re old friends.  And, in my introverted world view, I assume it’s a nice break for her not to be expected to carry on a conversation about upcoming vacation plans and family visits.  I’d guess that she couldn’t care less about the idiosyncrasies of my daily life.  As long as I show up on time and pay her a nice tip, it’s all good.

Sitting in the chair at the salon last week, tin foil folds sticking out all over my head, Pandora played 80’s music in the background.  I don’t know why they had chosen the “oldies” station, perhaps out of deference to the assumed tastes of their clientele (me).  To our great entertainment, the toddler son of another patron really liked it.  He bounced around in front of us as Sting pleaded, “Don’t Stand So, Don’t Stand So, Don’t Stand So Close to Me.”  And I thought about my growing up decade, and I thought about my hair, and I joked about how she could imagine how big my hair could get, back when hair was meant to be big, given how thick and curly it is.   And I realized, after her awkward laughter, this is another good reason why I just shouldn’t talk at the salon.  I had referenced an era as foreign to her as Motown is to me.  She knows of it, in a sort of vague, my-parents-get-nostalgic sort of way.

When I was growing up, my neighbor Mrs. Duffy would go and get her hair “done” every week.  A wash and set.  I remember that she went to a beauty “parlor.”  It was old fashioned, even back then, and I imagined that all of the hairdressers at the parlor were older ladies.  But now I’m wondering if she did that because they were her people.  They understood her pop-culture references.  They shared the same era, experientially speaking.

Now that I’m <ahem> a woman of a certain age, perhaps I need to find the 80’s and early 90’s version of a beauty parlor.  Someplace where they wear sparkly spandex, head bands and leg warmers.  Where everyone gets a perm, along with mousse and toxic levels of hair spray.  Where I can make a Magnum PI reference and they won’t think it’s a big bottle of merlot.

Tiny Nation? Can We Get A Tiny Costco for That?

Tiny houses are now all over the design network channels.  I watch with fascination as people build them and shop for them and live in them.  I love the concept of living tiny. I think I could actually do it as long as we can put a giant storage barn behind the tiny house for all of our stuff.

I also love Costco.  It’s been over three years since we gave up our membership and I still hanker for those Sample Sunday trips.  I miss wheeling warehouse flats down those giant isles and grabbing packs of 12 toothpastes, salsa by the jug and giant plastic-wrapped cubes of toilet paper.  Costco’s smoked salmon was awesome.  And we’d always peruse the books and socks, wander down the auto care and TV aisles for no particular reason and circle around one more time for seconds on the best samples of the day.  And then we would write an enormous check and cram all that stuff in our giant automobile and pile it into in our pantry when we got home.

We finally cut the cord when there was just no more room on our shelves and it occurred to me that our little family of three just wouldn’t get through that gallon of soy sauce in our lifetime.  To this day, I have giant Costco containers of ground pepper and cinnamon.  Maybe I should check the expiration dates ….

IMG_1239I propose that Costco join the tiny nation.  Instead of multi-packs of Newman’s Own salad dressing, sell shrunken-sized bottles for those of us who aspire to live small.  But, you know, you can still let us wander down giant aisles with a wondrous variety of things we didn’t know we needed and give us samples of yummy things.  Just let us buy in a quantity smaller than what could feed the entire church congregation on Easter Sunday.  Please, please, please.  I need that tasty bite of tapenade on a rice cracker.

To Wrinkle Or Not to Wrinkle

heart-401499_1280The lines on my forehead are becoming more pronounced, and a few crow’s feet dance at the corners of my eyes.  I have sun damage “discoloration” on my cheeks.  I’ve noticed more blue veins in my legs than I used to see.  More than any other area, my hands don’t look like mine any more.  They are all crinkly.  It’s really dry here, and yes, what They say is right, the sun does do a number on exposed skin.

So, I ask myself, do I attempt to whip back these signs of the inevitable, lion tamer-esque,  or do I let them carry me on down the river of aging?  I admit to coloring the greys for quite a few years now.  But somehow, it hasn’t occurred to me to do something about the other stuff until recently.

I don’t have to have soooo many wrinkles in my forehead quite yet.  I could Botox them into motionless submission.  I could zap the veins in my legs, laser my cheeks, yadda, yadda, yadda.  I don’t see a problem with any of it in any sort of philosophical way.  We do things all the time to look different, why not nip and tuck a bit?

What has prevented me from taking any affirmative action in this direction is not a moralistic high ground, but a lack of energy.  It takes time to make the appointments (not to mention cash), and I just haven’t gotten around to it, much like my mammogram that I should have gotten a few months ago.  I know, I know, I’ll do it next week.  I do manage to get to the dentist every 6 months, I think because the necessity of that particular time frame was drilled (ha!) into me from a very young age.

And so, when the topic of wrinkles came up a while back with my son, his reaction to my possibly injecting something into my skin was a bit of a shock.  He wasn’t just opposed to it.  He was close to apoplectic.  “How could you even think of doing that, Mom?  I will disown you. (HA!)”  As far as I can tell, he views this as some sort of fraud, that I’ll be pretending to be something I’m not.

I began to wonder about this.  Why do I care?  Like Popeye, I yam what I yam.  I guess vanity gets the better of me?  But why not look “my best” from here until the end?  My grandma wore a wig.  My entire life I never saw her without it.  She was highly concerned that she have it on when she died, lest anyone would see her exposed, so to speak.  What’s wrong with that?  She lived well into her 80’s, stood at least 8 inches shorter due to osteoporosis, and wore old lady sandals and polyester dresses, but, bless her, she had her wig on when she died.

Ignore Me and I’ll Go Away (You Hope)

monkey-557586_1280Alright, so I’m noticing a trend in customer service.  It’s the Just Ignore Them or Irritate Them philosophy.  Maybe it’s not new and I just have had a confluence of experiences to bring it to light.  Companies hope that we are all too busy or our tolerance level is too low and we’ll go away.

For a billing error by, say, a satellite radio company that will remain nameless, lest they track my car and remotely send it off a cliff, my tenacity prevailed but only after at least 10 calls and a few emails.  And the one guy in a land far, far away, who just hung up when he couldn’t answer my question.

Our family doctors’ office, which again shall remain nameless since they are sort of the only game in town and I’d hate to get sideways with them because we do need them, is similarly difficult to communicate with. They are great about appointments, but can anyone return my multiple phone calls (and an email) with a single follow-up question about my son’s concussion?  Fugettaboutit.

The philosophical customer care approach by the contractor who did our house renovations a couple of years ago was to listen, nod, take notes, and then completely ignore everything that I said.  Later, when I asked why whatever it was hadn’t been done, he acted like it was the first he had heard about it.  He wore me down. One of the things I absolutely wanted in our bathrooms was a quiet fan.  The jet engine sound coming from my master bath ceiling this morning reminds me that his approach was highly effective.


… push 1 if you love Elvis …


The number of prompts in the cable company’s IVR system is painful.  I’m thinking it’s got  at least six menus (push 1 if you love Elvis, push 2 if you don’t love Elvis but love the Beatles, push 3 if your child is between the ages of 3 and 7, push 4 if you are calling about anything else).  Then it asks several times why I’m calling and when I say to the system “a question about my bill” it says that they need me to respond with more information but they don’t tell me what kind of information they need.  Out of desperation, I press zero and hear, “Push 1 if you love Elvis …”.

Last month’s billing issue on our business services account (and the business services representatives are so much better than the ones for regular folk) had me going through this process a few times, and getting kicked back and forth between departments and calling back when I got disconnected and whatnot.  When I finally got to a real person who was helpful, I pleaded for a direct number to call so that I could avoid the maze.  Sheepishly she said there was no other number.  She apologized and admitted that their IVR was really bad and told me, “Just keep pushing 4.  You’ll get to a person fastest that way.”

The customer care mantra used to be “ignore them and they’ll go away,” as in, your customers will not do business with you if you don’t take good care of them. I’m convinced that some consultant out there has confused the meaning of this mantra.  He is going around the country telling customer care department leaders to make it as hard as possible for people to get through, to get a response, to do anything, so that they just go away and the department won’t have to deal with them.

I need to call the cable company to change our subscription.  I’ve been putting it off for weeks due to IVR dread.  See.  It works.

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The Doctor Is In, 5¢

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Lucy always had all the answers.  I don’t remember Charlie Brown’s problems, but she definitely knew what he should do to fix them.

Isn’t it amazing how easy it is to tell other people what to do?  It seems so simple.   My own sticky situations throw me for a loop, but phrases like “All you need to do is …” and “Why don’t you just …” flow freely from my lips.

Give me 5¢ (or a glass of wine) and I’ll tell you just what you need to do to solve all your problems.

 

Lifetimes of Learning, and Then *Poof*

Well, this may be a little morbid.  Or a lot.  Please accept my apologies in advance for writing about our inevitable demise.

At the post office yesterday, I noticed a woman maybe fifteen or twenty years older than I preparing an express mail cardboard envelope.  She had a label, on 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper that looked to have been printed from her computer.  It appeared that she was returning something to some on-line retailer.  As my imagination went a little wild considering what she was sending back in that little envelope, I noticed her carefully measuring and folding, with great precision and the back of her thumbnail, the paper label so that it fit the envelope, just so.  She had a roll of packing tape neatly next to her.

I moved past her in line, got the package I was waiting for, and left.  I didn’t have a chance to see her tape the label onto the envelope and send it on its way, but the entire rest of my errand running (and apparently still this afternoon, as I write this), I thought about everything we learn throughout our lives and how one day, poof, all that learning and ability will be gone from this earth.  Somewhere during her life, that woman had mastered the skills necessary to measure and fold that paper and attach it and get the parcel wherever it needed to get to.

I know that seems like a small thing, but think about it in the context of all the other things we do in our lives.  Over our lifetime, we learn to do great things and small things; to comfort a crying baby; to catch a ball; to swim; to write technical papers; to sell software; to banter, sing and sharpen and knife. And for all of that to disappear when we take our last breath, well, I don’t know what to think.  I’m not saddened, as I know that part of living is doing, learning and experiencing.  I think I feel a little sense of responsibility to the people who may live longer than I.  You should know what I know, feel what I feel …. But then again, why?  They will have their own knowings, their own feelings.

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Generations from now, no one will think twice about my lifetime of learning and my little accomplishments.  I will be remembered, perhaps, with a headstone that lists born-on and died-on dates.  It won’t say, “Sarah knew how to draft a damn good disclosure document.” It won’t explain what it takes to learn, at 46 years, how to stay up on a slalom water ski.  There will be no mention or care that I had a weird, sick sense of humor,  or these bizarre thoughts on living and not living while standing in line at the post office.

 

When Did Phones Cross the Line from Useful to Overwhelming?

When watching ski races, conversations with other racer parents, known or unknown, often go in fits and starts.  We are all checking the start lists, refreshing Live-Timing on our phones for the last finish time, making sure we haven’t lost a glove, shivering and saying hello to people walking by.  At Winter Park this weekend, another racer parent sat hunched over his phone, grumbling about the lack of internet service.  “I’ve had good coverage here all season,” he says to me or to no one in particular.  “I guess the crowds are eating up all the bandwidth.”

I looked over at the excessively long lift line of President’s Day weekend skiers and shrugged.  He was probably right.  That or the clouds were in the way.  He was trying to get the results of the first run of the men’s World Championship slalom race.  He finally got some coverage and expressed frustration that the page, slow loading as it was, didn’t have what he was looking for.  “I’m sort of over my phone,” I said.  A wry smile crossed his lips.  “Yeah.  It’s almost too much to keep up with.  And it’s so annoying when I can’t get a signal.  When it works, there is always something to check on or download or whatever.  I get a little overwhelmed with it sometimes.”

And there it is.  Maybe it’s generational and just us middle-agers feel this way.  I mean, most people who are a decade or two older never really plugged into the constant-on of technology.  I think it’s still the norm for my mom to leave her (non-smart) cell phone off unless she is going to make a call.  I’m not sure she’s ever sent a text.  Dad doesn’t have a cell phone.  But it’s all good for them.  They use what they want how they want and who gives a crap if they never learned how to turn on a cell phone.  The younger generations, X, Y, millenials, whatever-they-are-called-past-that, they grew up with this constant information availability.  The expectation to be checking in all the time is just normal rather than overwhelming.

I’m also over the tangled or too-short power cords, ear buds that go missing, quickly depleting battery, and the messages from AT&T that my data usage is about to exceed the plan that I was assured would be more than sufficient for our family of three.  Don’t even get me started on trying to figure out what the best “deals” are, or that my phone, which is less than two years old, is already decrepit in its technology, or that the power cord from my even older iPad no longer works to charge my iPhone.

I don’t have the job of a senior manager any more.  I’m not expected (not that this should be the expectation for our professionals, even though it is) to check email or voice mail or whatever 24×7.  But I still do.  It’s a weird obsession that has me a little concerned, frankly.

There are those who take technology vacations.  They turn off their phone and unplug their computer for a day, a week or a month, and “find themselves” again.  They become the free, unconnected people we were born to be.  I haven’t been able to do this.  I think I have some sort of subconscious fear that when I find myself, I will be irrelevant and boring.  Not that anyone will notice; they are all too busy checking their phones.

Whatever.  I’m certainly not alone, as evidenced by Mr. Grumbly Pants next to me on Sunday.  Maybe I’ll create an I’m Over My Phone support group app.  Download and it’ll drain your battery like nobody’s business and message you several times a day to remind you that your obnoxious phone is taking over your life.

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What We Learned in Kindergarten

In addition to mothering, wifering and lawyering, I sell tickets at Beaver Creek a couple of days a week during the ski season.  You can tell a lot about a person from their approach to an empty line maze at the ticket office.

There are those who walk in and mindlessly trudge back and forth through the stanchions and wait at the end to be called to the window.  These souls, I imagine, had a drill sergeant for a kindergarten teacher.  Their malleable minds accepted the ways of the world.  Follow the rules, stay in line, keep your hands to yourself, don’t make waves.

And then there are the rule breakers, the trouble makers, the rebels without a ticket.  They walk right past the “line forms here” sign and straight up to the window.  Their attitude:  I’m entitled, I’m important, I don’t spend energy on a line without purpose.  You just know they were the ones who started the food fight.

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The False Security of Being Boring

A lot of people are really worried about privacy and keeping as much of their life off of the Interwebs as possible.  A woman at work yesterday told me she “did” Facebook, but only to keep up with what other people were doing.  She never posts anything.  Just in case … you know.

And there’s that whole Snowden the NSA is spying on all of us and reading our emails and tracking our phones and whatnot.

I should be more concerned.  I’m a lawyer for goodness sake.  My previous employer worked closely with our fair government to help fight the bad guys.  I know something of what they are all capable of, both good guys and bad guys.  It’s some scary shit.

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But I’m lulled into a sense of security because I’m dull.  I don’t do anything that anyone out there would really care about, I tell myself.  The rational me knows that the Nigerians or Eastern Europeans or junior high kids down the street could very well do horrible things to my life by spying on my electronic public and less-than-public self.

Their ways are sinister and mysterious.  Like siting in little rooms with rows of computers sending my blog auto-generated and really stupid spam comments.   I’ve tried to understand what they hope to get out of sending me a message about natural nutrition in broken, nonsensical English.  I’m sure there is a purpose.

Anyway, I continue to live carelessly and on the edge.  I use my credit card to buy stuff from Pottery Barn online. I post pictures once in a while to Instagram.  I comment on Facebook.  I sometimes even leave my computer open on the counter so someone could hack in and use the camera to take videos of me doing the dishes and folding laundry.  I know, I know.  It’s creepy and I should know better.  I take some solace that whoever could be watching is really, really bored.

Do-Over?

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Remember in elementary school, when you messed up in a game at recess and you could call out “do-over” and you’d get to try again?  Do you have any moments, decisions, or experiences in life for which you want to scream “do-over”?  Have you looked back on, say, college, and thought, “Man, I wish I could go back and do that again, knowing what I know now”?  Having reached this place of mid-40’s, the prospect of a life do-over comes up from time to time, either in conversations with friends or in my own little thought world.

Some things I never, ever want to do over.  Junior high, for one.  Horrible.  Awkward, confused, looking out from under a mess of permed hair.  No.  Even knowing what I know now, I couldn’t do it.

There are some things, though, that I do think about.  In fifth grade, we got to join the concert band.  We were given the choice of which instrument to play.  I wanted to play the drums.  They were SO COOL and I wanted to bang away on them.  But when it came time for me to choose, my mouth said, “flute.”  Girls didn’t play the drums.  Seriously, I remember that thought going through this head.  I played the flute for five years.  The piccolo, too.  I was pretty good.  But … I would have rocked those drums.

In high school, I could have joined more, done more, lived more.  And maybe taken a few more risks with my teachers, exploring thoughts and ideas more than I did.  I could have been a better friend.  I could have taken more ownership of my future, rather than letting it happen.  I could have taken up the guitar, to complement my prowess on drums, and formed a rock band. Joan Jett, eat your heart out.

I do knock myself upside the head with some of the choices that I made in college.  What was I thinking, choosing to major in “Business Administration.”  Is that even something?  I loved Economics and couldn’t major in it because I swore off math, specifically Calculus, in my Freshman year.  What?  My grown-up self would shake that little 17 year-old body and say, SUCK IT UP.  Other things in college, like never taking advantage of the fabulous arts the campus had to offer, not joining a sorority, not joining much of anything really, I also regret.  If I’d only opened my eyes a little more.  And I’m not even going to start on that decision to go to law school.

Some parts, I did right and I’m happy that I did.  Like living in France for a summer.  Check.  Mark.  I lived, I experienced, I explored. I survived emergency surgery when I was all by myself in Munich, followed by the trains and planes trip back to the U.S. on crutches  … a story for another day.

I married the right guy, for sure, but I would take a wedding do-over.  It was gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, and I couldn’t have asked for more of a fairy tale day.  But I was worn out.  The Big Day was a week after I finished and graduated law school. My do-over would have us tying that knot quite a while later.  Maybe without the bridesmaids who I haven’t seen more than twice since.  And I would have dancing.  And, somehow, a beach.

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My career path could have a lot of do-overs.  But I don’t dwell on those much, other than to wish that I could tell my hard working younger self to take a breath.  To walk away sometimes.  To look around.  To recognize when I was really good, not just when I didn’t think I was good enough.

Mostly, I reflect upon the risks I didn’t take.  The times I played it safe rather than rolling the dice.  Those are the do-overs I’d like.  The heart-in-your throat times and the why-nots, those are the did-it-good moments, even if the outcomes were not the best.

I remember when I was young, I told my dad that I had never made a major decision in life where I didn’t feel at peace afterward.  I didn’t yet understand that afterward is a very long time.  I’m not suggesting that I regret the life I’ve lived so far.  To the contrary, it’s been quite a ride.  But for some things, especially those drums, I’d still like to call out, “DO-OVER”!

Influenza A: An Advertiser’s Dream

My recent illness turned me into a lump staring at the TV screen for hours upon hours.  I’ve had no energy to do anything, including push buttons on the remote.  When I ran out of shows to watch on Netflix (I’ll bet you didn’t think that was possible), I turned on cable and absorbed commercial after commercial.  My brain is officially washed.

I’ve started wondering if I should speak to my doctor about whatever prescription they’re advertising, even though I don’t have diabetes, heart disease, COPD (whatever that is), erectile dysfunction or disappearing eye lashes.  I wonder if I should call the Strong Arm to get the settlement I deserve for that car wreck I haven’t had.

I’m thinking I should call the nanny finder, even though my son is well past nanny-ing.  I admire Matthew Mcconnaughey’s smooth-riding Lincoln, having forgotten how smarmy those ads are. I make a mental note to check out the upcoming President’s Day furniture sales until I remember we have more furniture than we can fit in our home right now.

Today was a new low.  I caught myself thinking I really should look into Match.com.  What am I waiting for?   Mental head shake.  Last I checked I was married, happily, and I haven’t noticed any mysterious divorce lawyers sending me letters.  Good grief.

You Can’t Please Everybody, Or So They Say

safety-43801_1280People pleaser.  I’m pretty sure that Wikipedia has my picture next to the term.  All my life I’ve wanted people to like me.  Always.  Everyone.  Just don’t think badly of me.  I’d rather be lame than shamed.  Or something like that.

I don’t know why I’m this way.  Midwestern roots?  Overachiever?  Protestant guilt? (Yes, contrary to popular belief, Jews and Catholics do not hold the market on guilt.)  Last child syndrome?

I thought I had made some strides in this area over the last few years.  I’ve been trying to shed old notions of good and bad, right and wrong.  Opening my perspective, accepting others and myself.  Let go and let God.  You know the drill.

And then last night I came home to an open garage and a note.  Beginning to shake this flu thing, I had gone out of the house for the second time in almost two weeks to go to a friend’s for the evening.  Bobo wouldn’t go back in the house when I was trying to leave so I left him in the garage.  He’s funny that way sometimes.  Anyway, I guess the garage door didn’t close.  And so, the note:

My dog(s?) had been outside barking AS USUAL and the neighbor had put him in the house and would appreciate it if I kept them from barking ALL THE TIME when I’m gone and took care of them LIKE RAISING CHILDREN.  Smiley face (no joke).  They didn’t sign their name.

There I was:  worn out, feeling bad about the dog being out in the cold, feeling bad about the neighbors having to put him in the house and wondering why they thought the dogs bark ALL THE TIME when I’m gone since I’m hardly ever gone and they’re always inside and, whatever, they’re dogs.  They bark.  I think normal people would be mildly annoyed with the note, grateful that the house was in one piece and go to bed.

Not me.  I was a mess.  My stomach in knots.  I don’t want to be that neighbor that everyone complains about for having a junker in the front yard or weeds up to the windows or hideous purple paint (those last couple would apply to one of my neighbors).  I just want to live our lives in peace and harmony.  Can’t we all just get along?

So, today, I’ve slinked (slunk?) around, careful to avoid eye contact with The Neighbor (although I don’t know who he/she is), keeping my dogs close by, closing the blinds so that the dogs can’t see people walking in the street to bark at them and generally feeling bad.  Why do I let some angry person I don’t even know make me feel bad?  This is not the me that I want to be on life’s adventure.

I have a friend who is slightly crazy, ok maybe a lot crazy, whom I have witnessed yelling at a random stranger, and I mean dressing him down in a huge way, because he told her slightly obnoxious kids to get off of a public beach.  Wow.  I was in awe.  Slightly horrified, but still awestruck.  I just don’t have that in me.  I wish sometimes for a little bit of Latin blood somewhere in there.  I could storm out of the house in the middle of the night, waiving The Note, screaming up and down the street and demanding to know just which ball-less moron had the audacity to abuse my pet and trespass on my property?!

Well.  Maybe next time.

Hazy Perspectives: On Netflix and the Cat

As I enter Day 10 of Influenza A, I’m starting to believe that I may become a productive member of society again. Someday soon.  Maybe.  I’ll let you know.

Yesterday I attempted the mind-over-matter approach to recuperation.  I decided that I would be better, dammit.  I got myself out of bed, showered, dressed, put in my contacts and washed all the sheets and blankets on the bed.  Seriously, that was what drove me the craziest this past week.  And then I began melting away.  Coughing fits.  Fever.  Malaise, they call it.  I crawled into my now clean (thank God) bed and turned on Netflix so it could drone as background noise to my codeine-induced hazy state.  Are you still watching?

Netflix has been a constant companion throughout this flu journey.  Netflix and the cat. My husband, bless him, came home from Denver mid-week to take care of me and to make sure our son was eating something other than Wendy’s and Pringles.  This, in spite of my weak assertions that he didn’t need to come home, that we would be fine, that I didn’t need to go to the doctor, yadda yadda.  He was fabulous, brought me soup, made me go to the doctor, bought Sobe’s and did everything else that needed doing.  I had quarantined myself away into our room, to try not to share this ridiculous virus with anyone else.  So, my Dear One’s visits were only long enough to transport sustenance in and out of the room as I pointed pathetically at the door and said, sounding surprisingly close to the Amityville Horror voice, “Get. Out.”

Today, it’s very quiet.  Rob returned to Denver.  He does have a company to run, I guess.  Riley is gone for the week at a ski race.  I’m trying to get as much done as I can before I melt back into the bed, where the cat is waiting patiently, as is Netflix.

“Did You Leave Your Brain At School”?

Thus asked the man who rescued my son and his friend.  Our truck, a beast of a thing — 2500HD if you know trucks — was solidly stuck in soft snow up to its belly.  The Kid and his friend, en route from school last night, decided to take the side road and it didn’t end well.  This morning, some heavy duty road clearing equipment made a path so that the stranded monster could be extricated.  Nothing a couple hundred dollars and a mild headache could’t fix.

This adventure was quick on the heels of a warning from our county sheriff, who found the Kid and others doing doughnuts in a parking lot.  The snow was perfect, the Kid tells us, and my car is awesome at drifting.  Sigh.  I remember being in a group of kids who did doughnuts in the school parking lot, Tears for Fears beating through the speakers.  Different music, different kids, same games.

We knew these days of less-than-optimal choices would come.  So far, at least as far as We The Parents know, they have been fairly harmless.  The Kid has appeared appropriately shaken up by the outcomes and we hope that some sort of lesson is sinking in.

This parenting thing starts out with lack of sleep and a lot of effort aimed at trying to keep the little being alive.  It then tumbles through all the wondrous ups and downs of growing up.  Tantrums, play dates, victories and defeats.  Papers, exams, unfair teachers and unfair kids.  Injuries and illnesses, hugs and pats.  Then the child reaches this age of in between, and it’s more difficult than all that other stuff.  At times he is the adult he will become.  Insightful, wise, bright.  Then a raging teenager emerges, angry at the world, himself, you and the dog.  Then he picks up a long-forgotten gizmo and plays like a boy, a grin spreading across his face.  Then he goes 4-wheeling on a two track after two weeks of steady snowfall . . .

The Kid asked me last night, after the rescue, at what point a male brain stops being stupid.   Didn’t quite have an answer for that one.  Does it ever?  We’ve all read the studies about the developing male brain, and that it takes much, much longer to firm up than we once thought.  Alas, although testosterone filled teenaged boys are more prone to it, you don’t have to be male or young to make a stupid decision.  Any of us can leave our brain behind at any point.

And so, we tell him to try to think first, that it only takes a second or one wrong move for things to go upside down.  We know our words are mostly bouncing off, but hope a few sink in.  Mostly, we remind him that we love him, and wonder how any of us made it this far with all the dumb things we’ve done.

The Golden Technology Age Has Turned My Finger Green

gears-179861_1280Password memory hell.  Online prescription refill drama.  Mobile check deposit rejections.  Compromised credit card that handles all the recurring payments.  Cell phone battery from 35% to dead in 10 minutes.

Remember the first time you had to come up with an online password and it was your birthday so you could always remember it?  Remember when your password didn’t expire?  Remember when you only had one?

Remember when cell phones didn’t exist?  Or when they were so expensive to use you didn’t dare, so they sat there dead and no one cared?  Now it goes dead, almost as soon as it’s unplugged, and you’re completely cut off from . . . something really important I’m sure.

Remember when you just went to the bank to do anything that had to do with money?  When men were men and checks were checks?

Remember when you could call customer service and talk to someone who lived in your hemisphere?  Who you could ask to speak to a supervisor and they didn’t hang up on you?

Remember when you could just go to the pharmacy and refill the prescription that you take every day and will take for the rest of your life?  Now you get your drugs through the mail in 90 day chunks.  A challenge when the on-line pharmacy doesn’t list you with the rest of your family, even though you’re the only one who has ever gotten a prescription filled since the insurance coverage started.

Sometimes I spend all morning working very hard at accomplishing absolutely nothing.

15 Minutes, Twice a Week

Over the last month or more, I’ve been going to physical therapy a couple of times a week to try to get my shoulder to behave.  You may recall my whiny post about getting the cortisone shot, and these visits are all part of the Grand Plan to get rid of the pain and avoid surgery.  Even though I’ve begun to lose faith in the Plan, I still regularly go to see Neil, the PT.

Neil is a nice guy and all, but I’m beginning to question why I go back.  Am I one of “those people” who craves the one-on-one attention he has to give me because I pay him to?  Maybe, but it seems like this would have manifested earlier or in some other way in my life, perhaps by being a therapy junky or something.  I hated counseling specifically because it was all about me, so I’m pretty sure that’s not why I’m going to PT.

Is it the way the shoulder feels following PT?  I don’t think so because it never feels all that great, even when I leave.   The “massages” often bring tears to my eyes and not in a good way.  Neil makes me do little range of motion and strengthening exercises with stretchy bands and very light hand weights, all of which are much harder than one would expect they should be.

And then, at the end of every session, I lay under a fleecy blanket on a table with a giant icepack across my shoulder, often hooked up to a shock-stimulation thing.  Fifteen minutes.  He sets a timer and everything.

I’m starting to think it’s the 15 minutes that keeps me coming back.  I have to just lay there.  I can’t really look at my phone because it’s awkward and cold to hold it up in front of my face.  No one sits and talks to me because everyone is either working or being worked on.  It’s just me and my thoughts, and snippets of other people’s PT exchanges:  “It hurts really bad when I . . .” “Look, I can touch my toes now!” “How long until I can ski again?” “What did you do for New Year’s?”

For 15 minutes I begin the process of letting my mind do what it wants.  I say begin, because I think it would take a lot longer than a quarter of an hour for that process to really happen.  As an apparent member of the ADD club, in normal life I’m constantly filling my head with something to think about.  More likely, it’s so that I don’t think.  Scrolling through the interwebs, listening to music, TV on in the background, I find constant stimulation so that my racing brain doesn’t drive me crazy.

I’m finding that I look forward to Neil’s walk back to the freezer to get the ice.  I take a few conscious breathes, try to let my muscles settle into the table, close my eyes and absorb, reflect, release. I don’t pray.  I don’t try to be rooted with the me who is on this adventure. << Gross Pointe Blank reference.  Great movie if you haven’t seen it. >>  I don’t think deep thoughts.  I just let go.

Years ago, I tried yoga, perhaps with the same sort of goal in mind.  But I found that I hated it when someone told me what I’m supposed to do to find inner peace.  My entire body rebelled.  It was counter-productive.

Meditation hasn’t found me yet either.  I don’t have the whatever-it-is-one-needs to meditate.  At least I don’t think I do.  Maybe I’ll consider it more the next time I’m laying on the therapy table with a frozen shoulder.

Cheers!

Looking Up, Sequoia 2014

Looking Up, Sequoia 2014

Doing Crazy

I forget how weird we are. At dinner the other night, our friends in Denver were remarking, again, on the monumental choice we made by moving to the Valley four years ago.  You’ve heard about people who sell everything and become RV nomads, with kids in-tow?  Or the executive who, after getting out of the slammer for insider trading, is now happily mowing lawns in New Jersey?  To the folks who knew us way-back-when, we’re like that.  We might as well be living in a shack on a Chilean beach, our hair in dreads.


shack-164044_1280Surf Shack Equivalent to Our Mountain Life


Flashback to 2010.  We lived in Denver in a suburban McMansion.  I had a high-powered, high-stress career.  My husband had a successful consulting business.  My kid, in 6th grade, was fairly normal.  He loved sports.  His two main passions were ski racing and lacrosse, and he was drowning in one of Colorado’s best private schools.  Balancing his already demanding training and travel schedule with the aggressive curriculum was next to impossible for him.  Our choices seemed to be to take him out of racing, his true love, so that he could focus his energy on surviving school, or to move him to Vail where the ski academy would let him continue to race in a more supportive environment.

We couldn’t take away his true love.  We jumped, with both feet.  There was no halfway.  We enrolled him in Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy.  At the time, it had four classrooms crammed into a corner of a middle school in Minturn, Colorado.  He was ecstatic.  We were terrified.  Were we letting our kid become a ski bum?  Had we destroyed his future by over-indulging him in pursuit of a nearly impossible dream?

Our friends and colleagues in Denver looked at us in horror when we shared our news.  What the hell were we thinking?  Vail is where they have their vacation homes.  They come up for a weekend here and there.  Do people actually live there?  Can they converse?  Do they have all their teeth?  Yes, yes, and mostly.

We settled into a community of people who were as certifiable as we were.  Some even crazier.  Some moved half of their family here, one parent in Vail and the other back east, making the money.  Some gave up their professional jobs in Elsewhere, USA and became ski instructors and bus drivers so that their kids could live here and pursue their passions.  Some, like us, teeter between Denver and here.


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Together, we live a vagabond life in the winter, following the race circuit, dragging around tuning benches and six pairs of skis, standing on the side of a mountain in a blizzard watching the kids battle the hill.  In the summer, we send them off to places like Oregon, Chile and New Zealand to continue to ski.  Living in Weirdo Land, I forget how strange we are, until we see our friends from Before and they say things like “monumental choice” when referring to our decision to move here.

We gave up a lot, but we also got a lot.  We got a kid who found his right place in the world.  We got a family that spends time together and shares experiences that most people don’t even dream about.  And, big bonus, we got to live in a place that is spectacularly beautiful.

Yes, we’re weird. And it’s all good.

 DSCN0210Ski Bum or Beach Bum? Same Difference.


Jolly Ole Extreme Limits

How did you spend Christmas this year?  The Valley’s Christmas present was day after day of really nice snow, and we headed to Beaver Creek to play in it for a few hours.  Eventually, our kid took us over to the Stone Creek Chutes.  You powder hounds will recognize this as the extreme terrain that runs next to Rose Bowl.  Steep, with tight trees and deep snow, it is beautiful and, I would guess, never crowded.  I’m guessing because I had never skied it before, and because, during our somewhat-longer-than-normal visit, we didn’t see another soul.

I have skied steep and deep, and trees, and chutes.  Rob and I can get through just about anything, perhaps not with grace, but we can do it.  But on Thursday, we found our limits.

My ski popped off immediately after I dropped into the chutes.  Fortunately, my kid was just below and rescued me — I had a tough time just standing up, let alone getting the ski back on.  Undeterred (well, we had no choice but to continue down — once you’re in, there’s no other way out), we continued to make our way.  I got myself stuck in amongst a bunch of trees.  As I searched for an escape, I heard my boys talking.  Ok, so one was talking, the other was sort of barking that I needed to get over there to help.  Ha!  I could barely move.  How did they think I could maneuver my way to where they were?

Worried that someone was hurt, I shimmied through some aspens and subsequently tumbled/rolled/slid down the hill a few feet, losing another ski in the process. I could see the binding sticking up just 15 feet above.  Trouble was, I couldn’t move without my ski-less leg sinking down into the oblivion of snow below me.  There I stood.  Everyone seemed to be ok.  Apparently Rob had taken a tumble as well and was having some trouble getting his skis back under him.  Riley managed to climb up, get him re-situated, and guided him to the bottom.  He yelled back telling me to stay put, he would come back around and get my ski.

There I stood on the snow-covered hillside.  All was still and quiet, other than the giant snowflakes falling around me.  Peaceful.  Beautiful.  And, my mom-brain muttered, potentially deadly.  Mom-brain can go from this-is-fun to this-can-kill-you in about a half a second.  But I reminded Mom-brain that all was well, plus my phone had coverage back there and, worst case, ski patrol would eventually find me.  Riley, sweet boy, phoned from the lift:  “Are you ok?  I’m heading back up.”  Good grief. I felt sorta stupid, but proud of my growing-up kid.  He was awesome — calm, knowledgeable, kind. He didn’t once make fun of how horribly inept Rob and I were.

The next day, we returned to Beaver Creek.  Riley made laps on Stone Creek Chutes with his friend, looking like this (you can’t see the smile but it’s in there):

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Rob and I stayed out of the chutes, looking like this:

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all the while trying not to think of our baby careening through the trees and jumping off of cliffs on that beautiful (and, Mom-brain thinks, danger-laden) snowy mountain side.  We all have our limits.  I’m pretty sure Rob and I found ours.  Riley is still pushing his, smiling all the way.

Party Day, Get Out the Vacuum

Big Christmas/Holiday/It’s Been Snowing Party tonight.  Woo Hoo!  Rob’s making tenderloin, crab cakes and a tres leches cake and I’m cleaning the couch … .

That’s been our understanding for the length of our marriage.  When we give a party, Rob does most of the cooking and I get everything else ready. I do assemble some food things, like the egg nog and the bean dip, but nothing heavy duty. Rob loves to cook and he’s really good at it.  I’m too busy hoovering. **I’m not British, but how often does one get to use such a great term in Colorado life?  Indulge me.**  I don’t love cleaning, but I can’t help myself.

Why clean the house before a party?  Because we have a pug and a cat who shed A LOT and I have this idea that I can make a dent in the amount of fur and dander that resides with us.  I know they say it takes 6 months to make a home fur-less after a pet leaves a home, but I try to do it in 6 hours. I also stock up on Benedryl for allergic guests.

Apologies in advance, people.  I’m trying my best here.  You may be sneezing and have to use a lint brush on your coat, but the food will be amazing.

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Introvert, Schmintrovert

Many years ago, I discovered that I was an introvert.  I had never really thought about it much.  I read a book about twice exceptional children (because my kid must have been twice exceptional . . . whatever, I was a new parent) and it described the personality traits of introversion and extroversion.  I learned that introverts need to recharge by having some alone time while extroverts get their energy from interacting with others.  That made complete sense to me, I checked the box that applied to me and aligned my family and friends with whichever box applied to them, and I moved on. It was handy to know that my kid, like me, needed to escape to a safe haven after school and that my husband needed to host a party every so often.

Recently, I’ve found myself annoyed, annoyed, annoyed by the little Facebook posts, articles, books, advertisements, Today Show jokes and little squiggly cartoons targeted at the shocking revelation that introverts are people too.  They can be entertainers, they aren’t all librarians (in fact, I’d be willing to bet that the intro/extro ratio amongst librarians is the same as the ratio in the general population . . . SHOCKING), they sometimes even rise to the position of President of these United States.  The messages are meant, I think, to be enlightening.  It’s ok to be an introvert, see all the positive qualities that introverts have?  See all the things they can do, poor souls?

It feels a little bit like being told it’s ok to have big feet or curly hair. Sometimes people with big feet AND curly hair get nominated for and win the Nobel Peace Prize — can you believe it?

Why is this aspect of personality so worthy of an entire book (or many books, I’m not sure) devoted to the notion that introverts can actually be interesting, have lives worth living and contribute in positive ways in a corporate setting, a church group, a friendship, yada yada yada?

I bought the audio version of Susan Cain’s book, “Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” last year, thinking it would be a fun listen on a road trip. She tells us that thirty percent of the population (at least that’s how many will ADMIT to having this horrendous affliction) are floating around being introverts, and that they can actually, wait for it, have power.    I couldn’t get past the second chapter.

For those of you who are still struggling with how to live with the introverts around you, Google “how to love an introvert.”  You’ll find plenty of helpful tidbits.


INTROVERTS CAN EVEN DRIVE CARS!

Introverts Can Drive Cars!


Memories of Christmas Past (Weird But True)

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What memories can your Ghost of Christmas Past dredge up?  During my driving time lately I’ve been pulling up some of mine from long ago.  Maybe I’m trying to make myself feel better for not filling out Aunt Pat’s Christmas Memories book for the last 20 years.  In any event, most of my recollections are pretty good ones.  Some are just odd.

As a child, I hated going to see Santa.  I liked the idea of Santa, the whole bringing me presents thing seemed like a good deal.  But he knew if I was sleeping or awake, and if I’d been bad or good?  And he came down our chimney and left presents in our house while we slept?  That was kind of creepy.  Then, after standing in line FOREVER, I was told to go and sit on his lap.  Seriously?  Stalker and B&E Santa?  This was way before political correctness, but somewhere in the back of my mind I just knew this was not right.

Nevertheless, come Christmas Eve, I was SO EXCITED FOR HIM TO COME that I could barely stand it.  Fortunately, my family had a tradition of going to the Greenfield Village and/or Henry Ford Museum (depending on how cold it was) on Christmas Eve before heading to my Grandparent’s house for dinner.  It was a great way to get a child’s mind off of things for a little while.  My grandmother was step-mother to my dad and things at their house were always just a little bit stiff, shall we say.  We would gather with aunts and uncles and cousins and have dinner.   We were not allowed until later to venture into the living room, which was where the tree and the presents were, and really where all of the  action would happen.  We couldn’t touch ANYTHING (or at least I couldn’t, at the time I was the youngest and I suspect I was under an extremely watchful mother’s eye) because things in there could break, like those multi-colored glass grapes in the centerpiece bowl on the coffee table.  <sigh>  The drive home was long and one year the snow flew at the headlights so thick we could barely see.  As my dad drove slowly, white-knuckeled I’m sure, I sat wide awake on my mother’s lap, searching through the snow for Santa’s sled somewhere up there in the sky.  (Ah, yes, those were the days, when children bounced around from front seat to back, happily unencumbered and unconcerned about car seats and crash tests.)

Christmas mornings, I, the youngest, dutifully woke everyone before the sun came up.  My brother loved me for this, I’m sure.  It was the one time of the year when Dad took home movies of us.  Horrifically bright white lights flooded our little family room, sending off an astonishing amount of heat as we held up our treasures with giant smiles.  My retinas never recovered.

The reason for the season was always alive in our house, and the Christmas story was told and retold.  I was infatuated with the nativity scene, in particular Mary adoringly looking down at Baby Jesus.  So, I would grab a blanket and drape it over my head.  I knelt (because Mary is always kneeling, right?) on the family room floor and looked lovingly at my baby doll, wrapped tightly in “swaddling clothes,” a/k/a a towel.  That was it.  Nothing else.  After a few minutes, my knees would hurt and I’d go back to being a cowboy (or maybe it was a horse, I recall a lot of clomping around on hands and knees, naying from time to time).

As I got older, Christmases got a little weirder.   One year, my mother decided to buy fluffy white “snow” to spread on the tree.  We backed up to ensure even coverage and realized it looked like a giant spider had cocooned the whole thing in its web, ornaments and all.  My brother’s tarantula, Charlotte, had recently molted and he placed her abandoned exoskeleton gently on top.  The Addam’s Family had nothing on us.

We were lucky we didn’t burn the house down with our dried out “live” trees.  By Christmas morning, needles showered down onto the carpet as we slid the presents out to open them.  To address this problem, my mother and I decided to buy a “living” tree one year.  As an added bonus, we could plant it in the yard come spring.  The little tree did well enough through Christmas, but we kept it inside a little too long and didn’t think to water it once we moved it to the deck.  Yet another life cut short.

My mother the science teacher collected eggs from the quails her class had hatched, tucking them into the shelves of our fridge for a couple of months.  She then served them, deviled, with our Christmas dinner of Cornish hens.  Delicacies, I know, but none of my friends’ moms did stuff like that.

And so it is.  Oddities, snippets, bits and pieces of time shared.  Many of my memories are glommed together experiences from several years.  Like all that time spent snuggled on the couch watching the Grinch (with his little dog Max, wonderful thing), Charlie Brown, Rudolf and A Year Without a Santa Claus:  “I’m mister heat miser, I’m mister snow . . .”  The shows were on just once, so if you missed them you’d have to wait until next yearThe Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come never failed to scare the pants off me.

The Goose Is Getting Fat

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Living in a resort town, you would think that we get the Christmas bug early. Vail’s lights are up well before Thanksgiving (maybe they never take them down, now that I think about it) and Santa comes to Beaver Creek the Friday after Turkey Day to help kick off the season. He and a few of his elves have even been known to parachute into Copper Mountain’s village at night, complete with twinkling beacons so we can see them in the frozen sky.

And yet, every year since we have lived here, Christmas has a way of sneaking up on me. What is it about this place? Maybe because it gets dark really early, so in the evenings I just want to curl up on the couch rather than make Christmas cookies. Today, as my cart bumped past couples and families stocking up for their ski vacations at the grocery store, it hit me. Christmas is fast approaching and I’d better get my jingle bell groove on.

You can’t miss our welcomed visitors in the grocery aisles, poor saps. Their distinguishing characteristics include:

  • a full family shopping together (this never happens in non-vacation life — think about it)
  • extended relations and/or friends trying to decide what kind of coffee to buy (“I won’t drink Starbucks, it’s against everything I believe in,” as his friend looks at him with disgust “Seriously?”)
  • carts full of everything necessary to make a pancake breakfast, including a spatula
  • looks of complete defeat, accompanied by, “I cannot find the olives anywhere
  • women in mink coats pushing grocery carts down the cereal aisle (Yes. It’s true.)

As we get closer to December 25, we who live here begin to drive a little more defensively, particularly in those pesky round-a-bouts which befuddle our visitors. Generally, drivers who are new to this grand invention of traffic control either careen around them as fast as possible while their passengers assume the head covered tornado drill position (“Hang On!”); or they slowly creep around it a few times, hazard lights flashing, while other cars dodge in front and behind. We also find ourselves looking the other direction as we back out of our parking spaces because the vacationers can’t seem to get the fact that it is a one-way lot. They cluelessly drive past, going the wrong way in their rented Suburban, Starbucks in one hand and iPhone in the other.

But we love having them here, even if we do have to adjust our shopping schedules and our expectations for the availability of parking spaces. They bring the holiday spirit with them. They remind us that we get to live in a place where other people would rather be. They have counted down the months, weeks, days, hours and minutes until they could breathe our thin air.

So, as we duck our heads to avoid the skis swinging past us in the Village, let us all be grateful for the reminder that the holidays are upon us and we are pretty fortunate to get to spend them in such a fabulous place. (And don’t forget to pick up some eggs and bread before the shelves are bare.) Cheers!


Photo from Amazon.com, American Greetings Christmas Jumbo Holiday Gift Bag, Santa Parachuting. Yes, this can be yours for just $11.09 with Amazon One-Click(R). Act now!


Confessions of a Social Media Failure

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Social media is a conspiracy to make me feel inadequate. It is the organized mafia of high school cliqueish-ness.  A self-evolving, Star Trek-y Internet Borg designed to suck unsuspecting souls into its web of information overload, hashtagging its way across the universe.

Resistance Is Futile.

Resistance Is Futile.

I am a colossal failure at it.

Facebook is for old people and therefore generally manageable for me, ancient that I am.  In the olden days, 18 months ago, I’d get a lot of useful information about friends and family, keep up on their kids’ lives, see wedding pictures of distant cousins and get an occasional upliftingly cheesy message about living life to its fullest.  And it was all warm and fuzzy.  But my newsfeed is more little advertisements, recommended pages and political snarkiness than it used to be and I have to scroll down a long way to get to the meaty parts with my friend’s backpacking pictures and cute kid videos.  And it is all just a touch overwhelming.  But I feel like I have to stay up with it because I might miss a post of someone I hardly knew in high school but who has a pretty awesome life and I like the little window of connection that we share.  Sort of like a mini soap opera but in real life.   So I keep scrolling past all the crappy stuff to stay up with her latest happenings.

Several years ago I opened a Twitter account to follow one specific person from a past job who will remain nameless. (Unless you go to my Twitter page (my terminology may be off here) and see who I follow and you might be able to figure it out who it is.)  I wanted to see how outrageous this unnamed person would be.  Turns out it wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be.  I haven’t Tweeted since December of 2012.  I have exactly eight followers.  It says I’m following 21 people, but I haven’t looked at my Twitter feed (?) for two years, so I don’t think “following” is the right term.  And yet I feel like I should be a Tweeter and tell my 8 followers what I’m up to and what I think about and all that and so I feel a little bit bad once in a while that I’m not better about oversharing.

I have a LinkedIn account because you pretty much have to have a LinkedIn account if you’re a grown up who has had a job.  I haven’t updated it in a couple of years.  Someday maybe I’ll pay more attention to it.

And I have an Instagram account because sometimes my son posts cool pictures there and sometimes it’s the only way I know he is alive and well when he is on a trip somewhere (because he doesn’t do much with Facebook because Facebook is for old people).  I get on Instagram from time to time because I like seeing people’s cool pictures.  I have exactly 16 followers and I follow 40 people.  I have posted 19 pictures, the last one was my kid holding a drumstick on Thanksgiving.  #proteinrocks

I don’t understand the point of Snapchat, except that it seems to be the source of endless amusement for my kid.  I’m older than 18, therefore Snapchat is beyond me.

Reddit?  I don’t even know what that is.

Pinterest.  I tried to sign up for Pinterest about a month ago when I wanted to see a recipe for vegetarian something that was there somewhere.  I couldn’t do it.  I tried. Really. It kept telling me I had to click something to activate my registration and so I clicked it but then I was just stuck in an endless loop.  I now get little taunting emails from Pinterest telling me about great “Pins” that I should check out or that my friends have on their board(?).  By the way, how does it know who my friends are? Creepy.

I haven’t had time to figure out Google+, although my sister and her daughter both show up as being in my circle???

There are a lot of other sites, of course.  If there were truth in advertising, they would have names like:  Time$uck, and IfYouWereCoolYouWouldBeHereAndKnowThis  and KidsKnowAboutThisPlaceButTheirMothersNeverWill.  Since I am such a failure with the handful of social media sites I have attempted to interact with, I have come to terms with the fact that I will never be one of the hipsters out there Dribbling and Tumblr-ing and Vine-ing.

It seems to me that the Internets are absorbing the next generation into some great warped reality on the fringe of obsessive information overload.  Wouldn’t that be anxiety producing?  Maybe I’m projecting my own insecurities onto our future movers and shakers.  Once again I channel my grandmother:  “Young people today . . .”

Since I started blogging, I have gotten a lot of helpful advice from other bloggers who want me to engage them to enhance my “online brand presence.”  I could use the help, for sure, given the extent of my ineptitude.  But part of me doesn’t really want to be out there yelling into the internet universe all the time. I think I’m ok being an out-of-touch social media fail.


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“Picard as Locutus” photo credit:  picture from DS9: “Emissary”. Via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Picard_as_Locutus.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Picard_as_Locutus.jpg

‘Tis the Hoarding Season

Today, we brought the Christmas decorations down from the attic.  Also, my husband cleaned out the freezer.  And I couldn’t deny my hoarding tendencies any longer.  I don’t generally think of myself as someone who can’t let go of things, it’s just that sometimes it’s hard to know what to do with them, or I have some idea that someday I will do something with them and so they stay in the box/drawer/garage/closet/freezer.

Some of you may remember that last year around this time, I posted a picture on Facebook of a poor angel that had gotten into some trouble while in storage over the summer.  Well, the little guy was still stashed away in the ornament box when I opened it today.

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Why, for heaven’s sake (tee, hee), would I have kept him and his tangled mess of hooks?  I must have had a thought that I would glue his head back on so that he could again hang out on our tree, as he had for a couple of decades (maybe more).

I often have these sorts of thoughts.  Someday, for example, I may become a wonderful keeper of memories and start filling in the Christmas Memories Book that I found in the bin of Christmas Stuff That I Keep But Do Not Ever Do Anything With.  My well-meaning and very sweet Aunt Pat gave me that book when Rob and I were first married.  It is meant to hold 20 years of Christmas Memories.  Had I faithfully filled it with little notes and pictures, it would have been complete two years ago.

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But it remains in the box of things I don’t do anything with, utterly blank.

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There is a fair amount of guilt that hangs out with this dutifully stashed stuff.  As my husband dug out last year’s (ok, true confessions, it could have been from two years ago) turkey and stuffing from the freezer drawer, I explained that it had been perfectly good and worthy of keeping, but we were sick of turkey.  So I froze it.  Because when you freeze things you can save them longer and eat them when it is more convenient.  But I’m not very good about remembering what I stuck in the freezer or, even if I do remember, about pulling out the carefully Zip-locked chicken parts to cook them.  And then I avoid cleaning out the freezer because I feel terrible that perfectly good food has probably gone bad, even in the freezer.

I have a similar problem with clothes and shoes.  Work clothes from my prior life, which I left almost four years ago, still hang dutifully in my closet.  I wear some of the occasionally.  But most of them I didn’t really like even when I was working.  I should have given them to Dress for Success three years ago.  Now they are way out of style, and yet they remain hanging there because you never know when I’ll have to put on ugly clothes and go to an office somewhere.

And then there are the stacks of lawyer magazines (mostly unread), Redbooks, Southern Livings and Coastal Livings sitting on my coffee table.  Someday I might just want to know how to avoid a class action lawsuit or make real fried chicken or put on festive makeup and it will all be right there in front of me . . .

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My Dog Is A Mini-Me

After living together for going on 6 years, I’ve had a revelation:  my dog is me. Those of you who know my family may think I’m referring to Bobo, our pug.  He is lazy, fat and generally clueless (wait a minute . . . maybe Bobo is me, too . . .).  But it’s Wilson, the little white fluffy dog, in whom I have seen myself.

Wilson’s characteristics:

  1. Looks cute (well, we each have our moments), acts grumpy
  2. Likes the thought of meeting new people, but on his own terms
  3. Loves snacks
  4. Engages in destructive behavior when bored
  5. Has bad hair days with regularity
  6. Hates crowds of people (unless there are snacks)
  7. Loves going on hikes
  8. Enjoys a good spa day (until it’s time to do his hair)
  9. Teases his housemates (until the cat comes back at him, then he retreats)
  10. Every so often, with a devilish look in his eye, ignores all the rules

I don’t know what this says about him or me, but it sure explains a lot about the little human-like monster we’ve been living with.


I’ve seen the enemy, and he is me.

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In Snowy Love

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The snow is here.  Smiley Face.

Starting in August (no joke — I have a friend’s Facebook post to prove it), people around here anxiously await the arrival of snow, crossing all of their fingers and toes for huge quantities of the fluffy, white stuff.  They love it so much, they give it cute nicknames like POW POW and gnar gnar.   Champagne powder.  White gold.

Growing up in the mid-west, I hated winter.  It equated with a grey, damp cold, the sun hiding behind thick blankets of clouds for weeks on-end.  Every so often, I had to chisel through inches-thick ice to get into my car.  Yuck.  I was not a skier.  I was not a snowmobiler.  There was nothing to redeem the downer of all seasons.  In college, my roommates and I escaped the nasty weather and went to Florida for spring break.  Even though it was 60 and cloudy, we stripped down to our suits, our white skin blinding the coat-wearing retirees walking the beach.

Upon moving to Colorado, I found that winter could be something other than horrible.  For one thing, the sun shines more in the month of January here than it does the entire year in Michigan.  Even if it snows for a couple of days, warm rays break out afterward and make the whole white wonderland sparkle.  Once exposed to skiing and snowshoeing, winter took on a whole new meaning.  I started to like it.  I may still have some preference for summer, but a blue sky day skiing powder is definitely up there on my list of the best ways to spend a day.

And so, our warm and dry Autumn this year was a little concerning.  As road bikers gleefully pedaled along Highway 6, I heard myself saying some surprising things like, “Boy, when are we going to get a good storm?”  And then the cold came.  Ridiculous, nasty, January-worthy, single-digit, brrrr.  That cold was not welcome.  Not the sort of storm I had in mind.  And then the snow came.  And it came in feet.  Just in time for Vail’s opening weekend.

Sunday was a rare day off from race training for my son, and we headed out for some quality family time on the slopes.  Riding up the chairlift between my two guys, the snowflakes fell thick and heavy and plentiful.  Heading down the hill, the Kid ducked into the trees and as my hubby and I found our ski legs again, a grin spread across my buff-bundled face.

The snow is here!

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The Road to Hell Is Paved with Unsent Greeting Cards

Several years ago . . .  scratch that.  At least a decade ago, I stopped sending Christmas cards.  I didn’t mean to stop sending them forever, but it seems to have turned out that way.  Life got in the way.  I was busy commuting, working, raising a child and avoiding the grocery store.  I bought the cards that year and they stayed right there in their neat little boxes.  Every year since, at some point I experience a flash of guilt.  Usually it’s when I start getting cards in the mail from all of those people who are so kind as to send us pictures of their beautiful families, smiling, and wishing us a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year!  You know who you are. Nevertheless, the cards remain in their neat little boxes up in our attic.

Our attic is full of guilt-inducing good intentions.  In addition to unsent greeting cards, it is stacked with boxes of jumbled up photos from before iPhones and iPhoto and iHaveDigitalPicturesOfEverythingOnMyHardDrive.  My child’s babyhood is in there.  I really should put them into some sort of order and then into albums or the Poor Thing will never be able to prove he existed before we got our first digital camera in 2004.  There are books boxed up for our move four years ago that I can’t throw away, because we don’t throw out perfectly good books and so I should sort them for donation to someone.  And then there are bins of old electronics, cables, wires, software discs and manuals that I can’t pitch because they would be bad to put in our landfill so they should be recycled but who has time to figure out where to take them for recycling???  And I have no idea what to do with the pile of (sometimes) beautiful memories that is my son’s artwork from elementary school.  I can’t just throw them away, can I?

As the boxes of things that I really should do something about co-mingle with my pangs of guilt over failing to send out Christmas cards (and birthday cards and correspondence of any kind, really), the damning flames of anxiety are licking at my heels.  And so, my Dear Ones, please accept my heart-felt apology for the the years and years of failure to send a picture of our decorated tree, the cat, my son and our smiling faces to you.  Please know that I have thought of each of you every year and sent you good wishes via ESP as I guiltily failed to send you a card.  However, the odds are that my burdened heart will not change my errant ways, so please don’t judge too harshly when no card appears in your mailbox this year.


Wouldn’t This Have Been a Cute Card 9 Years Ago?

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Wimpy, Wimpy, Wimpy!

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I woke up this morning hearing that in the back of my head.  I’m the “other guy’s” trash bag on the old Hefty commercial.  Remember?  As soon as someone pulled it out of the trash can, it split open and nastiness fell all over the kitchen floor.  That’s me.  Wimp extraordinaire.

I got a cortisone shot in my shoulder yesterday.  My new friend, an orthopedic doc, wants me to try this to see if we can avoid surgery.  It hurts pretty bad this morning, and I just don’t want to move.  I know it will feel better soon and I am over-the-moon happy that surgery might be avoided. But I’m feeling sorry for myself.

Around here, knee and hip replacements and ACL tear repairs are so common that surgeons are regularly discussed over coffee:  “Oh, you’re having your knee fixed?  Who is doing it?  Oh, he’s great. Good luck!”  At my son’s ski academy, by the end of December, the number of kids making their way down the halls in wheelchairs and crutches multiplies almost daily.

I know I’m fortunate.  Aside from those who have had pins and screws and rods drilled into their bones, there are some out there living with chronic pain.  My brother, for one, was diagnosed with advanced Lymes Disease many years ago and has suffered unending, horrible pain in his back and joints.  Some days are better than others, but I’m not sure he ever really gets relief.  My heart goes out to him and others like him.

So, that’s enough wallowing. Time to get off the couch.

Hefty, Hefty, Hefty!

No Wonder We’re Distracted

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My personal targeted marketing bucket has reached its tipping point.

My email overflows with sign-up now, limited-time, offer extended, we miss you please come back, watch this, top reads, earn 50 million travel points, get the latest, midnight madness (at 1:00 in the afternoon), ACT NOW.

My phone chimes with texts offering more data and talk time if I text 5697 in the next 30 minutes, and sending me coupons to a store I stupidly gave my cell number when I bought a wedding gift three years ago.

My post office box overflows with catalogs and flyers and credit card company “important information open immediately” envelopes.  Before I leave the post office, I stand with my neighbors in front of the recycle bin and toss virtually every piece of “mail,” disgusted by the wasted trees in front of us.

Most of the Internet is trying to sell me anything that has something to do with whatever I Google searched last month.

Even Pandora’s ads are targeted at me.  Yesterday, it played a political ad for a local candidate.  I didn’t even notice until it was almost over.  I’m a little creeped out that somehow it knows where I live, even when it’s playing on my Roku.

I get it.  I do.  It’s free enterprise and basic economics.  It works or they wouldn’t do it.  But somehow the obnoxious TV ads of the 80’s that my dad complained about have mushroomed into this direct marketing mayhem.  And it’s making my head hurt.

I’ve tried unsubscribing everything that I can possibly unsubscribe.  I once contacted all of the companies that sent me catalogs to tell them to stop.  (It worked for about two months, but only for the companies I called.  They had already sold my name to hundreds of others.)  I put all of my phone numbers on all of the Do Not Call lists.  My “junk mail” folder is working overtime to weed out the sales pitches.  And yet, there is still more.  Ugh.

Time for an information age time out.  Is there an App for that?

Top 3 Reasons We Love Top 10 Lists

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Trending:  Top [Insert Number Here] Things to [Do, Avoid] to Fix Your Life


I was surfing this morning, catching up on the latest meaningless must-know-now’s, and on one page I could link to these stories:

  • 10 Foods to Avoid
  • 5 Weird Reasons Your Teeth Hurt
  • 10 Home Remedies You Can Find in Your Kitchen
  • 14[!] Ways to Add Quinoa to Your Diet
  • 6 Times You Should Never Try to Be a Perfectionist
  • 3 Exercises that Reverse Aging
  • 5 Foods to Never Eat
  • 7 Worst Things You Can Do to Your Ears
  • 11 Tiny Life Changes That Will Bring You Major Bliss

I’m feeling manipulated.  Again.  Some “expert” somewhere (have you noticed how many on-line experts there are?) wrote an article listing the top 5 ways to get more links to your on-line article, and first on the list was to write your profound wisdom around a numerical list of something.  And now everyone is doing it.  Why?  Because it works.

What is it about seeing a number in a headline that makes me want to click on it?

1.  The idea that there is a discrete number of things that, if I know them, will make me better, smaller or happier is so appealing.  Really?  Only 11 tiny life changes and I’ll have Major Bliss?  Clicking and Reading Now.

2.  My teeth don’t hurt, but maybe someday they will and if one of the 5 reasons on that list will explain it, I’m clicking now.

3.  I don’t want to be the only one who didn’t know the 5 Stupid Things You Do in the Locker Room and do item 5 on the list by grabbing that beautiful, white, fluffy towel off the freshly folded pile and wiping my face with it.  Every one else has read the list and knows that the towel is INFESTED with nasty bacteria.

4.  As part of the Sesame Street-come-Letterman generation, I am obsessed with counting things.

And my list now exceeds the magic number of three.  It’s supposed to be the TOP 3 REASONS WHY, not 4.  Four is a bad number.  It’s either one too many or one too few …  back to the drawing board.

This Is Us: The No-Name Generation

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Yesterday’s post of the top 10 things of being a middle-aged woman got me thinking about the time period in which my contemporaries and I grew up.  Born in the late 60’s, we became aware of the world in the 70’s and came of age in the 80’s.  We are a downbeat generation, nestled in between the baby boomers and gen x-ers.   I don’t even think our generation has a name.

We were the first to be extensively babysat by the TV.  We learned our ABC’s from Sesame Street, forming our perceptions of inclusion (people and monsters of all colors lived together fairly harmoniously) and exclusion (“which of these things doesn’t belong”).  We learned that it was ok for a man like Mr. Rogers to be obsessed with changing clothes.  Sweaters and sneakers rotated with regularity in his little house.  Later, we wanted to cruise on the Love Boat, look for de Plane with Tattoo on Fantasy Island, and drive a Ferrari with a ball cap like Magnum PI.  Is it any wonder that we became so materialistic and built McMansions to live in?

People had already walked on the moon by the time we came along, so we missed the wonder of that moment, but we did witness on live TV the space shuttle blowing up.  Similarly Kennedy was assassinated before we arrived, but we were in middle school when Reagan was shot.

We did some pretty cheesy, if fun, summer projects with Grandma:  Macrame plant hangers;  hook rugs; painting by number.  We bought Rinky Dinks once and then Grandma figured out you could have almost as much fun shrinking down her prescription bottles in the oven, so that was pretty toxic, I’m sure.

The Vietnam War came to an end in our early childhood, and our young eyes soaked up the anti-war protests, free love and rock and roll on our black and white TV’s.  Flower power, Baby!  From this, we picked up a willingness to rebel, but only when it suited us and wasn’t too painful, as disco roller skated us into the 80’s and Gordon Gecko taught us that “Greed is Good.”

HIV/Aids became an epidemic and we watched men shrivel away in front of our eyes.  Fear and homophobia were at an all-time high, but we decided that this sickness was not a punishment from God and we educated ourselves and our neighbors and funded research to find treatments that extend the quality of life.  We made memorial quilts and hung them in exhibits to show that these people had lived and had worth. And Magic Johnson came back and played basketball even with HIV.

We have first-hand experience with bad fashion, beginning with 70’s bell bottoms, leisure suits, and turtle neck sweaters all the way through the 80’s parachute pants, neon everything, jelly bracelets, moon boots, Member’s Only jackets, Michael Jackson gloves and mom jeans.  This baseline of bad taste set us up well for better fashion choices in the 2000’s.  We look relatively good now.

We grew up on Big Macs, Mountain Dew, and Dominoes pizza, Twizzlers, Pop Rocks (didn’t some kid die from eating Pop Rocks with a Coke?), Freshen Up Gum and candy cigarettes.  And now we are paying it forward with skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer . . .  Sorry, kids.

Our first video game entertained us for hours with a white blip moving across a black screen.  It is the ancestor of the life-like war games our children now play day after day.  I wonder what years of Call of Duty will do to the psyches of our offspring, if Pong helped make us whatever it is we are.

We became adults and had children before 9/11, and we mourned not just the loss of souls that day, but also the loss of the naive cocoon we lived in and that our children would never know.  This world will never be the same and we must never forget.

The soundtrack to our lives has been incredibly rich, filled with soul, rock and roll, new wave, disco, pop and reggae.  We heard the Carpenters croon Muskrat Susie in our parent’s car, Queen, the Rolling Stones and AC/DC blared from our brother’s room, we were leaving on a jet plane with John Denver and summer lovin’ with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John.  The Beach Boys, John Melencamp, Hewey Lewis, all things Motown, U2, The Cure, INXS, the Talking Heads —  “Watch out, you might get what you’re after!”  Sweet Home, Alabama.  Just makes me want to create that perfect Pandora station with an ambrosia of throwback music.

The movies.  I just can’t do them justice:  the Pink Panther and Young Frankenstein and the Princess Bride and the Holy Grail. <sigh>  Trading Places, Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop, and Back to the Future.  Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, and everything else John Hughes ever did.

To steal a line from the cotton coalition, this is all the Fabric of Our Lives.

Now, members of the no-name generation, let’s get Prince into those high heeled boots and party like it’s 1999!  (Because pretty soon, social security is going to run out and we’ll have to figure out how those of us in the trough are supposed to cover the costs of the giant waves of people around us . . . )  Cheers!

Top 10 Things about Being a Middle-Aged Woman

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I am approaching my late 40’s.  I remember a time when anyone over 30 was old, so I guess it’s time for me to accept myself for what I am:  a white, married, semi-pro mom right smack in the middle of life.  I’m glad to be here, thank you, and hope to continue on this journey for quite some time to come.  So here, in no particular order, are the top 10 things about inhabiting this spot on the spectrum (well, maybe they aren’t the “top” 10, but it sounds like I’m on late night TV):

1.  I can stay up as late as I want.  Sometimes even past 10:00 . . . .

2.  Hormones are even more erratic now than they were when I was 14.  Thanks to these little buggers, I am often wide awake in the middle of the night, giving my thoughts the freedom to run willy-nilly.

3.  With age comes acceptance.  My big, thick curly hair now may be its true self.  That straightener rarely comes out of the drawer these days.

4.  My opinions are just that — mine.  Take them or leave them.

5.  My opinions may change at any time.  Deal with it.

6.  I can choose not to waste time with idiots and mean people.   As my once-toddler learned in Montessori, sometimes it’s best to “walk away.”  I know, I know, sometimes these folks are unavoidable, but I have no guilt walking away at the first opportunity.

7.  My reading list is not determined based on what someone tells me I should read.  Brain candy is a good thing.  However, if I choose to read something heavy or meaningful, it is my prerogative to tell you that you should read it.

8.  I’ve lived long enough to stop and appreciate when someone is really good at what they do.  Craftsman or artist, musician or athlete, orator or writer.  Hip hop or Spanish guitar.  Soak it in.

9. I’ve been kicked in the teeth by life enough times that I can hug a friend who has just lost a few proverbial molars and tell her with sincerity that I feel her pain.

10.  I’ve learned that life’s little things are the leaves on the big trees of marriage and babies and jobs.  They blur together at a distance, but are intricately beautiful up close.  Just let me find my reading glasses so I can see them better . . . .