The Eternal Optimist

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The phrase “sleeping on an international flight” is an oxymoron.  Like honest politician.  There’s no such thing.  At least for me.

Let me start by saying, I know that I’m extremely fortunate.  I’ve been able to travel across the Atlantic 16 times in the past 12 years for vacations.  Awesome!  But the sum total of sleep I’ve had in the air on all those trips is around 35 hours.  Total.  Not only do I look nasty and smell “fragrant” when I get to my final destination, but I’m cranky.  Because I’m tired.  Sometimes really cranky.  My husband will vouch for this.

Most international flights leave at night and get you to your destination early in the morning.  I don’t like this.  I want to leave at noon so I don’t have to be wide awake all by myself.  My husband sometimes falls asleep before the plane takes off.  Bastard.

International flights are the last remaining habitat of that almost extinct species – free airplane food.  They feed everybody dinner about an hour after reaching the mystical, magical “cruising altitude”.  Like sometimes at 11 PM.  The airlines are wiley in this…  They know that, like cats, airline passengers will sleep when their tummies are full.  The cabin lights dim.  All gets quiet.  That’s when I start my own version of “Walking Dead”.

So now it’s midnight and I’ve been up since 5 AM the previous morning doing the stuff that you have to do before you go away for 2 weeks.  I’m tired – damned tired.  Like Sally Bowles in Cabaret, I think “Maybe this time….”    I walk up and down the dark aisles, lit dimly by the light of an occasional video screen.  And I see a sea of people before me, representing all nationalities, races, religions – blissfully snoozing.  A beautiful cross section of humanity.  But at the moment, I hate them all.  I’m wide awake.

Working against me is that my territory for sleeping is a seat designed more for folks from the Lolllipop League.  In the good old days before the bust, you could sometimes snag a whole row of middle seats and pretend you were in first class by actually lying down.  Usually with the folded up arm rests prodding and poking sensitive areas.  But you could actually almost stretch out and get parallel to the ground.  Or water.  This occasionally worked for me.. I would sleep for a couple of hours   But empty rows don’t happen anymore.  I’ve had to lower my expectations.  Now, one empty seat next to me will wash waves of excitement over me.

I’ve tried over the counter sleeping aids, pharma sleeping aids, health food store sleeping aids, drinking electrolytes and massive amounts of water (too many trips to the loo…), counting sheep, meditation, listening to calming music, pre-trip sleep deprivation, compression socks, soft jammies and most combinations of the above.  You get the picture.  I’m a mess on long flights.

So I now just accept that I am gong to feel like crap for the the first couple of days of an international trip.  And not whine about it.  At least, not much.  I think I’ve said before, I’m a slow learner…  I’ve decided that it’s totally worth 18 to 24 hours of no sleep to be able to see and hear and taste amazing things, meet amazing people, do amazing things.

But like a Jamaican Olympic bobsled team, hope springs eternal.

Maybe next time!

Bah Humbug!

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Here I am again, at 11,000 feet again.  Flying to the Left Coast.  Fast.  Because after all, I’m still on hiatus and there are places to go and people to see. 

I’m headed Down Under later in the week.  The land of Oz.  Kangaroos and koalas.  Home of Crocodile Dundee and Steve Irwin.  I still haven’t gotten over Steve Irwin…

An interesting thing happens when you cross the Pacific from the US to Australia on a trip like this.  That is, aside from angsting about being cooped up in a tiny pressurized cabin for 18 hours miles above a huge expanse of seeming-less never ending ocean.  Not that I’m worried…   Anyway, when you cross the International Date Line right after American Samoa and right before Tonga, you lose a day.  I mean a day disappears – poof, goodbye.  It’s as if it never existed.  And on this trip, I’m losing Valentines Day.  Just a jump from February 13 to February 15 with nothing in between.

No chocolates, hearts, flowers or cards.  No romantic dinner by candlelight.  No “He went to Jared’s!” moment.  No breathless whispers.   Just business as usual without the pressure of unrealistic expectations.  I kinda like that.

I’ve been married a long time so Valentines Day is no big deal.  It hasn’t been a big deal for quite a while.  Quite a while…  I’ve become a realist.  I hate it when that happens.

When I was younger, I thought it was a big deal.  A newly wed me fantasized about how Valentines Day every year might play out.  How my “Prince Charming” and I would gaze into each other’s eyes and whisper sweet nothings and melt into each other’s arms.  We would be dizzy in our love.  What a couple of crazy kids we would be!

Early on my poor husband tried to muster up the enthusiasm for all of this Valentine “stuff”.   Sort of.  Actually, it all seemed a bit silly to him and it was pretty obvious.  It’s hard to put on a convincing Valentines “show” if your heart’s not in it.  Get it?  One of the follies of youth – thinking that time and tears and pouting can change something like that.  Fool me once – well – you know how it goes…  I’m a slow learner so it it took me a while to catch on.

But there are 364 other days to the year.  364 days to laugh and cry and love and hope and make a life.     Okay, 363 days – my birthday is always fairly dismal affair as well.  But hey – 363 days is a lot of days to NOT have false expectations and just to be present to what each moment of each day has to bring.  To count incredible blessings.  To appreciate the now and not live in a fantasy constructed by Hallmark, FTD and Walt Disney.  Damn those Princesses…

So I won’t miss Valentines Day.  Good riddance I say.  Bah humbug.  Let the naive young women get their hearts stomped on.  Let the clueless young men scratch their heads in puzzlement at the seemingly unfathomable and unrelenting mysteries of the female psyche.  Mars and Venus indeed!

There are 363 other days of magic to be had…  

Unless it’s a Leap Year and then I go really crazy!

 

To Everything, There is a Season and a Time for Little Debbie

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I’m at my favorite coffee shop again.  And there are babies here.  Three women just walked in with their yoga mats, each one carrying a baby car seat carrier thingy – I’m assuming each full of baby.  The disadvantage of having your favorite coffee shop 25 feet away from a yoga studio.

Not that I dislike babies.  They have their time and place, and right now it’s not in my coffee shop at this moment.  There are three of them.  What are the odds that one is going to start crying?  Hmmm – not sure about that, but I know it’s three times greater than if there was only one baby.  I don’t like it when they travel in packs.

Like most every other girl of my generation, I did the babysitting thing as a teenager.  And I literally hated every minute of it.  I had no idea what to do with kids –  how to entertain them or get them to go to eat or sleep.   I counted the minutes until their parents came home.  Seriously.  Some of my most awkward memories of those years are of my babysitting “adventures”.  One house only had Little Debbie’s to nosh on.  Really?  While taking me home after another gig, a dad told me that he couldn’t pay me enough for watching his precious children then proceeded to give me $2.50 for four hours.  I tried not to spend it all in one place.

I remember babysitting my now 42 year old niece when she was eight months old.  Home from college for the summer, it seemed a good way to get to know her while my brother and his wife went to a Rolling Stones concert.   She cried the entire time they were gone.  Non-stop.  Definitely not the baby whisperer.   I couldn’t wait until came to pick her up.  I think they were stoned.

One of the coffee shop babies has started to cry.  Vigorously.  I knew it…

Given my early experiences with children, it’s a wonder I procreated.  I guess maybe the desire to see what a child of mine would look like?  Pretty lame.  Then I found out that, at the beginning, they all look like aliens.

It turned out that, after a rough start – the oldest one always has a rough way to go with first time parents – it went pretty well.  I actually liked being a mom.  My husband and I were in love with our son.  He was the perfect child; pleasant, happy, always smiling and really, really cute.  Like “people would stop us in the mall to tell us how cute he was” cute.

Then the unexpected happened.  When our son was nine months old, I got pregnant again.  WTF??

I need to stop and tell everybody out there that all that stuff that we heard when we were young about it “only taking one time”  was more than just a scare tactic to deter pre-marital sex.  They were telling us the truth.  Prior to the big “V”, my husband and I decided to forgo birth control twice.  And I have two kids.  Lesson learned.

I know – TMI.

Life got really interesting and busy after our second son, who was born with a stogie in one hand and a six pack of beer in the other, arrived.  But I still loved being a mom.  It was the best thing I have ever done and probably ever will do.  And I had much better stuff for our babysitters than Little Debbie’s!  My apologies to all you Little Debbie lovers out there…

The coffee shop babies are gone now.  All is quiet again.  And that works for me at this stage of my life.  It’s the season of quiet. Of introspection and thoughtful reflection.  Of blog writing and spiritual contemplation.

Oh God – I can’t wait until I have grandkids!

Oh, I Think I’ve Learned That Lesson…

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Sitting in my favorite coffee shop on Tuesday “crafting” my last blog post, I watched as beautiful white snowflakes started lightly falling.  Delightful!  They started to come down harder.  Living the southern part of the US, I thought I’d better get my fanny pack home before the crazy drivers hit the road.  After all, there was a winter storm warning posted.  Really there was.  So I went home.  And then all hell broke lose.

Yes – you guessed it – I live in the Atlanta area.

I grew up in western Pennsylvania.  We either walked to school or rode on a school bus that was more like a tank than a bus.  School cancellations were rare even though we got something like 200 feet of snow a year.   Okay – I may have made that number up.  But we did get a lot of snow.  And there were a lot of hills.  I still remember my father putting chains on our car and that distinct sound when they hit the road in their rhythmic metallic monotony.   Post-tire chain banning legislation, studded tires became all the rage.  You knew winter was coming when it was time to put on the “snow” tires.

Most of my adult life, I was a Buckeye.  Ohio, home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Schmidt’s cream puffs and Cincinnati-style chili.  Winters are not quite as bad as in Pennsylvania, but we still had plenty of snow, sleet, freezing rain and ice.  Sometimes all at once!

I was an odd ball.  I enjoyed when my kids school would get cancelled.  It meant that we could all play in the snow!   We did “snow things” – created snow angels, went sledding/saucering, built snow forts/igloos and snowmen, had snowball fights.  And at the end of the day – a huge pile of soaking wet snowsuits, jackets, gloves, hats, scarves, socks and boots by the garage door, cocoa by the fireplace, and a sound, deep sleep that night.  Fun times!

What happened in the Atlanta area this week wasn’t fun.

You all heard about it on the news so I won’t go over it again.  Depressing really.  Infuriating actually.  The news coverage was surreal.   Hopelessly clogged roadways, sheets of ice that were once interstates littered with jack knifed tractor trailers, people in leather shoes and jackets abandoning their cars in 15 degree weather after driving 3 miles in 8 hours.  The cars – out of gas, dead batteries, wrecked.  The people – hungry, thirsty, needing medications or a bathroom, sleep deprived, at their wits end…  Some walked 6 miles to get home or to shelter.

The worst of it was the children.  Hundreds stuck in unheated school busses, some in ditches.  The kids marooned at school were lucky.  They had heat and food and water and toilets and familiar adults around.  Some children made it home – eventually.  They got rides from people they knew.  They got rides from strangers.  Think about that one…  And when many got home – hungry, thirsty, exhausted and frightened – the house was empty.  Their panicked parents were out looking for them, stuck either in the unrelenting gridlock or on the many hills that were impossible to climb.

Our children.

I try not to get too political.  I hate what politics has become.  But I think the Atlanta metro area needs to suck it up, put their big boy pants on and pull them up.   We need to figure out what to do so that we never, ever allow our children to be put a risk like this again.  That might mean that each little city-state fiefdom down here might have to give up some of their autonomy.  That might mean some higher taxes for strategic transportation improvements.  That might mean hiring people who actually have experience in developing and implementing emergency/disaster strategies rather than relying on the “good old boy” network to fill critical public safety positions with political cronies.  “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job…”

Our elected officials say they will apply the “lessons learned” from this week’s debacle as if they were talking about the implementation of a new IT payroll system didn’t go as planned.

Really??

I hope the people of Georgia will apply their own “lessons learned” come election day.

For our children.

I Wanna Hold Your Musette!

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I was young when “Meet the Beatles” was released in the U.S.  Just barely ten years old.  I’m pretty sure I watched the Beatles on The Ed “really big shoo” Sullivan Show in February, 1964. But I’m also pretty sure I didn’t understand Beatlemania, and why all those girls were screaming and crying and ripping their hair out.  But the Fab Four faced some pretty stiff competition for attention in my ten year old life – the formidable likes of Julie Andrews, Colorforms and my Barbie!

A couple years later, I got it.  The Monkees exploded onto TV in 1966.  I was totally smitten.  Beatles smeatles – THESE guys had talent and no funny accents.  Classic!  I used to pass notes – a quaint, ancient form of texting – in school with a fellow Monkee lover.  We drew little pictures in the corners of our notes of Mikes’ cute little wool hat, ever present on his head.  Now I wonder if his head ever got hot.

I even saw them in “concert”.  I’m still not sure who actually played the instruments, but ignorance is bliss and I screamed until I had no voice.

I’d forgotten how it felt to have that primitive, star struck, visceral response that reduces you to squealing mass of tongue tied tween.  Until last summer…

I went to the Tour de France.

I’ll pause for a minute to let that sink in…

If you’re not a professional cycling fan, you won’t get it.  I’m not even sure I get it.  I don’t even ride a bike.

All I know is that I became a quivering, teeny bopping mess all over again.  I saw, live and in person, the professional cyclists I greatly admire and knew only from my Mac and flat screen TV!   Incredibly talented, world class athletes in the most grueling endurance sporting event in the world, and some of them were standing right beside me.

On the outside, I played it cool.  Most of the time.

Inside, I was a roiling, tumultuous, star struck twelve year old who just wanted to squeal, “OMG, is that Marcel Kittel sitting over there?”  and  “OMG, there’s Peter Sagan!!” and “OMG…Jens! Jens!! JENS!!!”  And sometimes, despite attempts to control myself, it just came squealing out – quietly – anyway.  I couldn’t help it.

My 36 year old Australian TDF roommate didn’t know what to make of me.  I think I scared her a little.  So, okay…you know you’re really kind of nuts if you out-crazy an Aussie cycling fan, right?  I think I scared myself a little.

But boy, did it feel good to be so thrilled and excited and passionate about something on such a gut level!  To give yourself the permission to feel that innocent joy and limitless possiblity of your youth again after so many years.  Catnip for the soul.  Fountain of youth for the spirit.  Definitely NOT aging gracefully!

Amgen Tour of California this year anybody?  I promise, I’ll try to control myself.

Or not.

Pictures From the Stall

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Time travel.  The ultimate fantasy aside from, of course, acquiring superhero powers. To join in the adventures Dr. Who, Bill and Ted, Marty McFly, Sherman and Mr. Peabody.  Just climb in that DeLorean, generate 1.21 gigawatts from Mr. Fusion, get up to 88 mph and get the party started.

I kind of time travel through old pictures.  I’m fascinated by old pictures. Like almost obsessively.  It’s so easy to get lost in the sparkling eyes of a pretty young girl with bouncing curls from a century ago.  Marvel at the perfection of a handsome young Civil War soldier in a Matthew Brady photograph.  And wonder…

I was lucky I didn’t get arrested a few weeks ago.  I was taking pictures in a public restroom.  In the stall.  There are names for people like me, I think.  But I couldn’t resist this picture. So many happy young women.  So many hopeful smiles.  So much life and energy.  So many years ahead of them.  And not one of them is alive today.  Talk about a buzz kill.

I wonder if they aged gracefully.  If they married and had children.  If they died young.  If any were gay.  If they had careers.  If life gave them roses or lemons – probably a bit of both – and how they did with that.  If they were struck down with Alzheimer’s or cancer, or allowed the grace of a full, long, lucid life.

Can you see it in their eyes?   The joy and hope and light that only blissful ignorance can bestow on the young.  Paradise of sorts.

I smile when I look at this picture.  Crankity McCranker (my alter ego) disappears for a while. They take me back to a younger me.  To a time when we all thought anything was possible and the book of life had barely been started.   The ink was still wet in the preface.  They had no way to look but forward. No regrets yet.

I wonder what advice they would give a younger me.  And if I climbed into that DeLorean today, what words of wisdom would I share with them?   They probably wouldn’t believe me anyway.  You just have to live it, don’t you?

So don’t forget to bring your camera into a public bathroom stall.  You never know what treasure lies within…

Just don’t get caught.

On Hiatus Inc.

 

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I’ve been quiet lately.  It’s not that I’ve run out of things to say.  Oh my – I’ve barely gotten started…  Lucky you.

I’m on vacation!  Or coming back from vacation. At this very moment I’m flying at 32,000 feet (that’s 9754 meters to the rest of the world) going 476 mph (766 km/h).  Zoom!  

Not that being on vacation is such an unusual thing for me.  I’ve been “on hiatus” since 2006.  That’s what I told the young man beside me on the plane when he asked what I did for a living.  On hiatus.  We agreed it would be a killer name for a company if somebody hadn’t thought of it first.  Just my luck. 

To entice me to abandon my adopted adult hometown of 30 years and move to parts unthinkable, my husband dangled the “you can quit your job” carrot.  Of the several jobs I’d had out of college, the longest running and the one I was in at the time was as an IT minion for an insurance company.  ZZZZzzzzz…  

All but the last two years of my minion life were spent working part-time.  Great gig!  Professional job, but still time to be a soccer mom and drive a minivan.  Perfect!   I  pioneered working from home in the mid 80‘s.  I really didn’t mind being a minion part-time.   But after two years of full time miniondom after my youngest son had the nerve to go off to college, I was fed up.  Forty hours a week is just uncivilized…

I bit the carrot.

Sweet was the thought of a non-corporate life.  One glitch – it was hard to leave my co-workers and friends.  Really hard.  21 years of shared day to day experiences.  People who knew about my kid’s last track meet, my obsession with chocolate in any form, my last bad haircut.  People I hugged through cancer and divorce.  Laughed with at stupid boss stories at lunch.  Cried with at miscarriage and death.  Celebrated with at births, new love, re-marriages.  You know – the stuff that makes up every hour of every day.  Life.  

I cried when I moved.  My son always says, “Mom, you’re such a girl!”  

But as the Reverend Mother told Maria, “When God closes a door, she opens a window.”  Okay, maybe that’s not word for word…  Not working eight to five was a revelation!  Fancy gourmet cookware store work, famous chef assisting, monastic retreats, massage school graduation, hospice work, running, blogging, travel.  Lots of travel. Like now… 

‘Cuz I’m on hiatus.  Lucky me!

 

 

 

I Run Therefore I Am…

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I run.  Not fast but far.  13.1 miles, which I think is far.  Real far.  “If you had told me a year ago that I would be….”  You know the rest.   

Not that long ago I was a slug on my couch watching reruns of Real Housewives of _______ (you fill in the blank) in the middle of the day while stuffing my face with bon bons and drinking sugared up sodas.  During the commercials, I could literally watch my muscles becoming mush while the rest of my body slowly ballooned up like Chris Christie on steroids.

Okay – exaggeration.  I hate ANY Real Housewives show, I’m health conscious enough not to drink large amounts of “want some diabetes with that drink?”  beverages, and I don’t really know what a bon bon is.   While still relatively healthy, I was overweight and terribly out of shape.  

My road biking son, who regularly rides 100 miles in the mountains – yeah, he’s one of those, seemed quite alarmed at my enlarging form.  I call it being full figured…  He challenged me to run a half marathon in a year.  A year??  Sure – I can do ANYTHING that’s twelve months away.  Sign me up!

Turns out twelve months is really not all that long…

I do not have a runners body.  I’m short and stocky.  A warthog rather than a gazelle.  And old, relatively.  Probably too old to start this silliness.  But hey, after birthing two sons naturally and unmedicated, raising them to adulthood with zero vehicular moving violations AND being married to the same man for 36 years, training to run a half-marathon would be like SSDD.  Right?  Right.

So, after 7 months of training, I got up at 4 AM Thanksgiving morning, crossed the starting line a little after 7:00 AM and ran my little heart out for 3 hours, 17 minutes and some odd seconds.  I was slow.  Very slow for a runner.  But my son thinks I’m pretty cool now…

Aside from his inspiration, I give much credit to the Galloway Method.   I know – it kinda sounds like a way to prevent pregnancy using cheap wine…  Former Olympian Jeff Galloway evolved a style of running that adds in strategic walk breaks.  The idea is to give your joints, muscles, tendons and all of that other gooey stuff in your body, some R & R.  Fewer injuries, greater endurance, faster times – perfect for an aging Boomer.  The best part is, you do your training runs in a pack.  And I always wanted to be part of a pack.  

One of these days we’re going to take down a wildebeest.

 

“My name is Sally O’Malley and I’m…”

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Wait for it…

Sally O’Malley is my hero – still kicking and stretching and kicking at fifty.  It was a sad day when Molly Shannon left SNL and took Sally with her.  I miss Sally’s unique zest for life and her fabulous red jumpsuit.

BIG birthday for me in a few days.  60.  Epic.  I joke around with people, “I don’t how this happened!”  [obligatory smile], but the brutal and mystifying truth is I really DON’T know how this happened.

Just a few years ago I was part of the all powerful, forever young Baby Boomers right?  The Pepsi generation.  Sex, love, and rock and roll.  Tuned in and turned on.  A hot babe in hot pants on the prowl for a hot time.  Cue snare drum strut…

Now, apparently out of the blue, the Regal Cinemas ticket lady is giving me the senior discount (she didn’t even ASK me how old I was!), I have no clue who the guy is on the cover of the People Sexiest Man Alive issue and I’m still hot, but not in the good way.

What a mystery – the passage of time.  Small, subtle changes like the wearing down of bedrock by a small, but relentless stream.  Day to day you don’t notice any changes but come back years later and it’s a whole different story.  The Grand Canyon, you know?

Graying hair, acid reflux, sore joints, jowls (ick!), techno/pop impaired.  Bummer man…

As a young goddess, I rolled my eyes when “older folks” nattered on about how fast their lives went by, their regret for not doing more, seeing more, being more – blah, blah, blah.  Boring…  Of course my life was going to be different – I would have it all under control.

How’d that work out for you girlfriend?

So now what?  Like bedrock, change. Adjust. Transform.  No food after 7 PM, ice knees, hormone therapy, smile at the Regal Cinemas lady, Google Adam Levine.  Run some half-marathons, start a blog, road trips to visit old friends and distant lands, tweet with professional cyclists.  Blah, blah, blah.

And of course I will KICK and STRECH and KICK!

What do a blog and a hairball have in common?

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My son doesn’t like the word “tapas”.  I don’t like the word “blog”.  On top of that, I found out I’m doing it all wrong.

The volume of blog coaching resources is staggering.  My head hurts.  From what I’ve read, I shouldn’t even have breathed the word blog until I had three themes, thirty days worth of “stuff” already written, and gathered abundant images and links.  Yikes!  My first post took about thirty minutes to create and publish. Bet you could tell.

The issue is….  I’m inclined to analysis paralysis.  If I get sucked into the black hole of the “how” right now, nothing will escape. In a perfect world, possibly nothing should escape.

But getting a blog to blast off is kinda like deciding to have kids.  You can’t think about it too much or you’ll never get off the patch!

“What, me blog?” I ask myself.

My history is in the practical, pragmatic and humble Mid-west of the USA.  My take on people writing blogs was, who the hell cares?  Seemed self-indulgent and egotistical.  Oops. Turns out that much of what I’ve read is beautiful, intelligent, honest and thought provoking.  Damn.

For you who have read either of my now two historic posts – this is the third – it’s probably become painfully clear that:

  1. I was a science major and
  2. I’m writing this for me.  Self-indulgence and ego gone wild right?

The joy of living and silliness and observation and wisdom and aging.  Gracefully.  My ass!

Wresting with nonsensical ramblings to condense them to small, digestible kibbles and bits is a challenge.  Poets do it so amazingly well!  So many ideas, thoughts and feelings packed into the economy of a few words.  “There was a young man from Nantucket…..”

The answer is…..my cats.  “Blog” is the sound that precedes the appearance of a hairball at our house.  Ack.