WRR BLOGS

Diary of a Writer in Midlife Crisis

2013
July 19, 2013 - Well, I've done it - I've gone and turned 50!

Well, I’ve gone and done it: I’ve turned 50

While the rest of the world innocently shopped for Isotoners and iPads and little pigs in the blankets last holiday season, I was not-so-gently entering the half-century club (you didn’t know I could kick that high or scream so loud, did you?), rolling over from one decade to the next, like the cruise ship Concordia or a rickshaw in an ice storm. Not so gracefully.

And yet, that’s how I, uh, roll. It’s how I do many things (like banging my right temple almost every time I get into my convertible, reaching for mugs on high shelves invariably knocking over something I shouldn’t, demanding my stepdaughter keep her dirty hands off of my pale yellow walls), but my birthday in particular.

When it comes to my birthday, I am known for being a stickler: An ace promoter, advocating for attention well before even Halloween. It’s my brand. The promise I make to those who matter (more like a hard nudge or a hip check): And I’m likely to remind them that since my birthday occurs on December 22, it comes first. That it will be a gift-receiving event, despite protocol. And that I have expectations.

For 50 years, this has been my modus operandi. Obnoxious and irritating, I’ll give you that, but tradition nevertheless. And this year—technically, my 51st—all that changed.

Instead of racing around with a banner and balloons, demanding people celebrate the day of my birth, I acquiesced to a small gathering at my house. It was lovely, of course. The cake layered with chocolate icing and yellow pudding was quite tasty, and the gifts didn’t suck either; but for the first time I would have traded it all in for the chance to be 49 for just one more year. Why? I don’t know why—even though I’m supposed to be fully self-actualized by now. All I know is that, for me, 50 is a hard pill to swallow. Probably because (and check me if I’m wrong) unlike 30 or even 40, 50 shows.

Baby needs her beauty sleep

For example, I am no longer down for a late night out on the town. Baby needs a consistent eight hours of REM sleep or risk looking like Nick Nolte in his 2002 mug shot (Google it). Dinner at 8? Way too late. Lipstick without the invisible fence of a good liner?  Forget about it – unless I want to look like the possessed ingénue in a low-budget horror film…

And while I used to pride myself on being able to a) sing happy birthday in full Pig Latin and b) read up close without the help of glasses, I’m lucky now if I can see the clock on the cable box from 10 feet away…or remember the words to the song. But that’s not the worst of it.

Forget that I’ve lived half of 100 years. Even if I wanted to celebrate my march into the fifties with a chocolate-covered box of confidence and joyful anticipation of what comes next, a cruel cadre of marketers will have none of it. Hell bent on keeping me hyper-conscious of my location in the circle of life (and not in a good way), they’re less than subtle in reminding me that Victoria’s Secret is no longer interested in selling me black lace bras and baby doll pajamas. They have welcomed my entry into this particular demographic category by practically water-boarding me with messages of death and disease—wagging their virtual fingers, telling me in no uncertain terms how to prevent, treat, and prepare for these things emotionally, physically, and financially.

Ouch.

I am being virtually assaulted by 50

A tour of my AOL inbox on any given day boasts a veritable who’s who of advocates for the elderly. The subject lines alone are enough to offend, promoting a collective marquis of products and services designed to keep me upright and oiled.  Check it:

The American Association of Retired People is practically stalking me, trying to lure me into their grips with the persistent offer of a free tote bag. The Arthritis Association somehow misses me. (Don’t ask.) And the Reverse Mortgage folks are very eager to ease my financial worries.

Just yesterday, I got an update on Medicare Open Enrollment, along with a list of the best foods for joint pain. And don’t get me started on the Hover Round folks and the Scooter Store: Those two are neck in neck for the chance to keep me mobile. Seniorsingles.com is also vying for my attention, even though I am married and hardly a senior (shut up). And the Premier Bathing folks, bless their little hearts, want to put a seat in my shower so I don’t fall onto my Venus razor accidentally.

But the piece de resistance—the solicitation that had me drop hard off the virtual vine was an email outlining all the reasons I needed burial insurance and how to get it. Yes, you read that right: B.U.R.I.A.L.  While very practical informationwise, it was also supremely depressing. Because I know how marketers work (I am one): They don’t just send a sales pitch to anybody. And if they sent one to me, they must know based on a great deal of research that I could very well need what they’re selling. Theirs was a not-so-gentle reminder that the specter of death looms ever closer, given my turning 50.

Coming to grips with new realities

And they’re right. Because suddenly, people are dying around me. Oh sure, it’s logical (albeit still sad) that some of those who passed might be my parents’ age, including some of my mother’s friends who doubled as beloved “aunts” when I was a child. My agent, who couldn’t sell my first novel (not that I hold that against him and it’s a moot point anyway) and who was, okay, well into his 70s when he passed. My friends’ parents, starting to go one by one, leaving behind middle-aged orphans—and me to wonder when it will be my turn to lose them (I cannot bear the thought of it, so let’s move on…). Because at 50, I’m all too well aware of the fact that none of us lives forever or escapes the pain of loss.

These kinds of goodbyes are bad enough. But when your peers start passing – when friends who share your historical references and who watched you grow into the person you are start dying, when their doing so is well within the realm of possibility given your  having lived half a century – well, that’s hard to process.

My ex-boyfriend of 12 years just passed after a five-month battle with kidney and bone cancer. I hadn’t seen him in eight years, but we kept in touch, exchanging the occasional text and phone call. Little did I know at our last meeting (where I told him I had met somebody else and he told me how much that hurt) that it would end with me living happily married in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and him in a hospital bed on the West side of Chicago, tumors climbing up and down his spine, preparing to take his last breath.

None of which takes into account other friends who are fighting their own battles – against rectal cancer, breast cancer, skin cancer, and even lupus. So while I hate to give it to them, those burial insurance folks were right: The experience of death is now in my wheelhouse. It’s a fact I couldn’t get out of my head during my last mammogram when, instead of wondering whether I should stop at Starbucks on the way home, I wondered what I’d do if they actually found something. Thankfully, they didn’t.

Dying aside, when these kinds of thoughts and experiences start happening, as they do at 50, you begin to realize something profound is going on: You’re no longer that young girl who knew that she’d grow old someday, but that “someday” was too far off to even ponder. Who despite the years going by, never seemed to age or even think about it. Never stopped to contemplate that before she could blink, saving for retirement would summn a feeling of panic and the face in the mirror would change–slowly at first and then, in more pronounced ways (think defined lines around the eyes and an overall look of exhaustion that doesn’t always go away with sleep).

Just yesterday, I stood in the bathroom, and caught a glimpse of the skin on my neck looking a bit less taut. I noticed a few more “freckles” on my chest.  And the bags under my eyes no longer as easily concealable with makeup. For some reason, on this particular morning, I looked somehow different. Almost overnight.

I took a step closer toward the mirror—and this new self staring back at me with a look of both fear and curiosity—and thought, “So, this is how you look at 50.”

It’s a harsh transition that feels like you go to sleep in your 20s and wake up one day five decades in, wondering when did that happen? And, why did I think I’d be different? Why did I think that aging—visibly—would happen to everybody else, but me?

Wouldn’t it be great if we could age backwards? 

And yet, it’s happening. Not aging backwards, but aging forward with unstoppable force (or so it seems). Sure, people say I don’t look anywhere close to my age, and that may be true for now, but it’s only a matter of time. I mean, can a 60-year-old really pull off looking 35? Because frankly, that’s what I’m hoping. But I know it’s not very realistic. Even with the modern-day wonders of Botox, Restylane, and plastic surgery (which I won’t be doing since I’m a big baby when it comes to needles and dentists and really bad break-ups, and anything painful overall), it’s a stretch.

And while you may think 60 is 10 years away, think about it. At this age, time whirs by. I remember when a year used to feel like a lifetime, and now it’s like a snap of the fingers. New Year’s Eve turns into Valentine’s Day and then Memorial Day and then Labor Day and then Thanksgiving and then the holiday holidays, and then before you know it, it’s my birthday and then 10 snaps later, I’m 60. And then what?

Now, I’m sure there are some of you out there, over 50, saying “lighten up” would you? Being 50 is great!

Good for you! I’m sure you appreciate the freedom of self-expression and wisdom that accompanies the passing of the years, but I’m just not there yet. I’ll take having to hold my lip any day. Being able to legitimately shop at Forever 21 (okay, maybe Forever 33). I am MORE THAN HAPPY to have a period every month. In fact, last month, it was several days late and I thought it was all over and cried for three days at the gynecological passing of my youth, until of course it did finally come, but for how much longer?

Frankly, I don’t care that much about having the wisdom of a sage. Nobody listens to me anyway. Besides, I know I’m right. Isn’t that all that counts?

No, I’d rather be the female Benjamin Button—a bit naïve and inexperienced, aging in the other direction, with great bone structure and youthful possibility—than somebody who’s old enough to play somebody’s grandmother in a Lifetime Television Movie. But instead, I’m all too aware of time going by. I can see it in the faces of my nieces and stepdaughter—now in their teens and 20s respectively. They think they know it all, making dumb mistakes, probably like I did. And yet, it’s their time now. Not mine. I have to remember that when I want to scream “DON’T DO THAT”. I had my day and now, well, I’ve got to let them have theirs.

It’s a new chapter and I’m sticking to it  

On the one side, it’s like I’m morphing into the graying-haired every-lady on those fibromyalgia commercials. On the precipice, aging gracefully; still wearing khakis (or in my case, black Gap body stretch pants), riding bikes, smiling at a table set by candlelight, and crying poignantly at the opera.

One the other side, I’m accepting the truth of being 50, trying to find the joy and meaning in this part of life. Appreciating that I’m still here. That despite what might lie ahead, my parents are still here. That I have a good job, great friends, and that I love my husband.

It’s not always easy, but I’m not the only person on earth who just had a big birthday. In fact, according to Department of Health & Human Services, there are more than 99 million people over 50 in the United States, 40 million of which have taken AARP up on their offer of a free tote bag. (That must be some bag. Although, unless George Clooney pops out in a Speedo ready to clean my toilets, I’m still not interested. But then again, would 52-year-old George Clooney even give a 50-year-old woman a second look? Don’t answer that…)

And I’m hoping to get there. To join the many people I know who covet the joy of this time of life. Like my friend Joan who, after years of nursing hospice patients, is giving herself permission to move on and spend more time writing and painting and teaching art therapy, things she loves and has wanted to do for years. Or my friend Jill, who takes pride in the well-earned lines on her face and the gray at her temples, seeing them as signs of wisdom, maturity, and a life well lived.

Then there’s my husband, about to turn 56, and the best person he’s ever been. Strong, smart, secure. Still handsome, still searching, still curious about so many things. Sure, he can’t find anything beyond the first layer of the refrigerator, but is that such a bad thing?

For my part, I don’t know what my 50s will bring for me—or what permissions it will lay at my feet. What I do know is that I better get to it. And that, no matter what my age, nothing will take away my love of silver earrings and lipstick, my penchant for nude sandals and black boots, my commitment to physical activity (yeah, I did P90X, although it did require a fair amount of Motrin), and my propensity for silliness. I’m still down for wearing tank tops with skulls on them as long as the skulls look more like flowers and the tank tops have a little stretch. And I remain a big Katy Perry fan. I thought the movie “Pitch Perfect” was awesome. And I’m all for wearing blue nail polish, as long as it doesn’t make the thinning skin on my hands look ashy.

I even take sheepish pride in telling people what to do and how (whether they listen or not), using the excuse that “Hey, I’m a lot older than you,” and reveling in the right to say, “When you get to be my age, you’ll see that [insert meaningful and wise insight].” I’m grown up enough to admit that I often enjoy hearing the sound of my own voice.

At the same time, I’m also extremely proud of the era from whence I came. After all, it gave birth to Judy Bloom, the first-ever computer (like the McIntosh I had in grad school that was shaped like an upright shoe box and fascinated me endlessly), and the awesome music that’s aging right along with me (yes, I’m talking to you Bruce, Billy, Madonna, and even you, you mad wrinkly old Mick … although have a sandwich already, seriously).

And I’m not ashamed to say that I don’t get Justin Bieber or Pit Bull (isn’t that a dog?) or text slang (what the heck is LMAOKCD anyway?). Or that I miss eight-track cassettes and shoulder pads.

And don’t get me started on VHS.

So I guess, at the end of the decade (or the beginning), regardless of which, age really is a state of mind…including 50. My state of mind is conflicted. I wish I were younger of course, and yet, this is the youngest I’ll ever be. Right now. Today. I feel pressured to enjoy it.

And yet, I’m not comfortable with (let alone joyful about) the uncertainty of what comes next—after 50. Will life bring chaos or contentment? Good health and harmony (I pray) or illness and discord?  Wisdom or curiosity? I’m not sure how to anticipate any of it, which is really no different than any other moment in my life, just more pronounced given my acute awareness of the calendar. It’s like I’m rolling down a hill versus the slow climb up. And I don’t like it.

So I brace myself for whatever lies ahead and pray that it’s even a hair more wonderful than anything else (says the realist who, at 50, knows enough about how the ebb and flow of living goes). One thing I know for sure: There will be no tote bags involved.

2011
October 16, 2011 - She's ba-ack

October 16, 2011

She’s ba-ack…

Well hello there! My, don’t you look great. Me, not so much. You can’t see me now, but I’m not looking so good. Just to give you an idea: My skin is blotchy, I’m a bit bloated (well, that’s a bit kind), and I have these delightful circles under my eyes that, granted, don’t make me look as if I’ve just lost a fight—but close.

 

You see, while I’ve NOT been keeping up on this blog (so sorry, really, sorry), I have been wrestling with ornery clients and deadlines…living in a 17-hour a day pressure cooker that could boil up a good turkey chili in a matter of seconds. Thankfully, this is the beginning of the tail end of our busy season (11-weeks of Open Enrollment requiring fully executed communications campaigns for too many clients simultaneously). And as a result, I am now here. Coming off the adrenaline rush that both exhilarates and exhausts me in the best and worst of ways.

 

Which brings me back to my lead: Me, the Hot Mess (kind of like You the Owners’ Manual, but admittedly different). A casualty of my own bad sense and good work ethic. I need to be saved. The Good Lord at Nordstrom’s knows. And who better to do it than, well, yours truly. Which is why I’ve devised my own 12-step program of sorts (eat your heart out, Alcoholics Anonymous). It involves:

 

Step 1: Reconnecting with friends, retail therapy, and loved ones (even those I don’t like very much…you know who you are).

 

Step 2: Stepping away from [my colleague Cindy’s] candy dish.

 

Step 3: Breaking the habit of pouring the white flour directly on my food for efficiency purposes. (You haven’t lived until you’ve tried sprinkling a little “Gold Medal” directly on your Turkey Panini? Okay, I’m kidding…but not entirely…)

 

Step 4: Saying goodbye to all my friends at the dairy and gluten festival (goodbye my precious veggie pizza with extra cheese; ciao my little quesadilla we had some good times, si?; how I’ll miss you my precocious little cupcake, I only hope it was as good for you…)

 

Step 5: Stepping away from [my colleague Larry’s] candy dish.

 

Step 6: Regaining the hormonal fortitude to stop wanting to slash everybody’s tires or slap them in the ears.

 

Step 7: Hopping off the swinging mood vine for a little fresh ginger (to calm the nausea) and to feel my calloused feet in the dirt.

 

Step 8: Reconnecting with self (hello The Real Housewives…) and the aestheticians at KNK Nails.

 

Step 9: Sleeping and tweezing. (Don’t ask.)

 

Step 10: Stepping away from [my colleague Patti’s] candy dish.

 

Step 11: Reconnecting with all of you, here – my faithful readers (right, still there, hello?).

 

Step 12: Rewriting a new lead.

 

To that last point: It should come as no surprise to frankly anybody that I’m off the races with a new diet program or, rather, a new challenge. My latest greatest reconnaissance mission of wellness. It’s big and I’m excited about it. Goodbye bloat. Goodbye redness and that pesky dryness around the nostrils. Goodbye lil’ miss cranky pants. Hello two thirds of the clothes hanging in my closet with tags on them…

 

According to the people from the program, this one is all about feeling good with the byproduct of losing weight. Smart, huh? (Picture me pointing to my noggin’.) Finally takin’ a new tact to an old problem whereby I am no longer solely focused on shrinking my donkey; but, instead, working to expand my healthfulness. (Hey, is that a word?)

 

Because that’s more important. I know it. I do. To sleep well. Clean up that T-zone. Learn to love again (or, if nothing else, lose my cravings for carbohydrates – either/or).

 

I’m going to eat well, do lots of yoga (even though I’m about as flexible as a wooden ruler), journal, walk, take a hot bath and LOTS and LOTS of expensive supplements. And, at the end of the day, write a new beginning that does not include Eczema of any kind. (After all, it’s T-1.2 for my first ”recommended” colonoscopy [my personal way of counting down to the big 5-0], and I’m not going in looking or feeling like this.)

 

Don’t think I can do it? (Oh, God, really? YOU DON’T??) Well, just watch. In fact, come with me. Because I’m going to write to you EACH WEEK (do you hear that, my long-limbed, fair-haired editors?) to let you know how it goes. But you have to write back. Tell me about your own stealth mission to feel better. Is it a deal?

 

Hope so. I’ll stay tuned if you’ll stay tuned. Until next time!!

 

September 12, 2011 9/11, the weather, and why can’t my dog speak English?

 

September 12, 2011

9/11, the weather, and why can’t my dog speak English?

 

General random thoughts about September 11….

It’s September 11, 2011 and I can’t stop watching the rotation of programs dedicated to the 9/11 tragedy. So sad. Dan and Steppy, who’s with us for the weekend, keep begging me to turn it off—to put on something easier to watch, like Comedy Central or Lifetime or even a movie on demand—preferably a comedy. But I’m riveted. I can’t stop watching. I just can’t. And I’m sure I don’t have to explain why – you get it. After all, you were there.

On the same day, my computer’s not working…

So let’s move on to something happier. Like, the fact that I got an accidental day off. See, it’s Open Enrollment season and if you’ve been reading for any length of time, you know that from now through December, it’s my industry’s version of tax season. My team and I have been working round the clock and I was supposed to be working today as well. But I think the universe shined down on me by creating a computer malfunction that doesn’t allow me to access the files I need to make any headway. So it’ll all have to wait until tomorrow. And instead of freaking out about how 24 hours are going to set me way behind and throw my schedule off balance (I had plans to get several projects done today), I’m going to take the perspective that’s practically on every channel (9/11) and settle in.

I’m going to eat some of the chips I bought for Steppy. Put off cleaning my closet for just another week. I might not even finish the laundry. Today, I’m going to rest. And write to all of you, about how sad this day makes me. And then, I’m going to have a really good cry and move onto something else (preferably not the ice cream in the freezer we have solely on Steppy’s behalf…).

Hey, let’s talk about the weather…

Normally, it’s the stuff of small talk, but right now it feels worthy of conversation. What’s going on Mother Nature? Hurricanes, earthquakes, floods here. Fires, dust and drought in Austin, where my dear friend Dixie is hot and thirsty. (Dixie, I wish I could send you a cool beverage…) And where the luxurious palatial and Utopic Fort my friends and I meet every Martin Luther King weekend came precariously close to burning.

What’s going on here? What’s next? Swarms of locusts? Aliens? A parting of the Atlantic Ocean?

And now a word about the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the rain in keeping with the theme…

I don’t know, I don’t try to guess why or what, with all this weather craziness . I just know that, in between the excitement, it’s wreaking havoc with traffic and that affects me deeply. Why, it took me three hours to get into the office the other day—for what should’ve been a 60-minute drive, TOPS. In fact, it’s taken me an obnoxious amount of time to get anywhere over the past week. Now I know spending more of your life than you care to sitting in traffic is not being caught in the ravages of 9/11, but it’s still annoying nevertheless. (Just ask my sciatica…)

Which brings me to my readiness for the peaceful breezes of fall. Even though the season brings more work than I ever asked for, I still say: Bring them on.

Bring them on.

Now that I’m not driving, an update on the dog…

I know you didn’t’ ask for it, but here’s an update on one of our dogs. Winnie, the part Border Collie, part Golden who’s not making life any easier than the weather. Several weeks ago we had a very strange growth removed from one of her legs. We were NOT taking any chances given what happened to my precious cancer-ridden Sophie and her bumps and lumps and who we had to put down five years ago. (Still feels like yesterday…hold on, I need to grab a tissue…)

The good news is that the biopsy on this very strange growth (honestly, it looked like a small penis growing out of her leg – I’m not kidding {sorry mom}) came back negative. She’s going to be just fine. The bad news is she’s been driving us crazy because she won’t leave it alone. And even though she’s wearing a large plastic cone around her neck to prevent her from getting at it, she’s too smart for her own good.

And so, in her dedication to the cause and with great focus and diligence, she finds a way to pull her sutures and then staples and then bandages and then staples and then extra sutures and then some glue and then staples out again and again and again and again (still wearing the plastic cone) – requiring us to make several trips to the emergency veterinary hospital and then the regular vet who all chant, “JILL!” and “DAN!” like they did “NORM!” from the old TV show Cheers (do you remember?) because we’re there so much, although there is no exchange of beer (much to my husband’s chagrin).

Fortunately, since our vet can’t figure out what to do to stop Winnie’s relentless attack on her incision and since he’s never “seen anything like it” and since he’s not really being all that helpful anymore other than tending to her damages, he doesn’t charge us for the every night visit we make to address the daily redness that scares us into thinking our four-legged baby has not only ripped open the skin but given herself some flesh-eating infection that is not going to turn out well. Which is helpful because we are not rich and we’ve already shelled out enough, blah, blah, blah.

And so, we remain in problem-solving mode – and after several weeks of it, now leave the house to go to work every day (because it’s just not practical to stay home and watch her every minute) with her first in a muzzle, a plastic cone, an inflated plastic donut (around her neck to restrict her movement), a tee-shirt that says “Bad Dog” on it, and some bandages. Add to that a mild sedative and an occasional Benedryl and most days, that does it.

Although, it would be so much easier if we could just explain to her why she needs to leave it alone and work through it together. But alas, she’s a dog. No way around that. And she’s a good girl? Who’s a good girl? Winnie is? Yes she is, she is a good girl who loves her mommy…she does…”

Sometimes I wonder if locusts would be easier.

Okay, stay with me now because I’m backtracking a bit to the hurricane…

Because I did not give it it’s proper justice just several paragraphs up … this is my last thought or story or whatever you want to call it:

So two weekends ago, I left Winnie in this ill state with Dan (yes, it’s been two weeks and counting…) while I went off to Chicago to take a comedy-writing workshop.

Day one: Of course, I had trouble concentrating knowing that the dog was battling a fragile incision and a slight mental condition, but knew that Dan had it under control. (Too much practice with those ex-wives…but I digress…) So on…

Day two: when I had to write and then read my comedic monologue to the group (I wrote it about a very quirky colleague who loves the Flintstones and Wing Bowl and anything British Royals and proved to be great fodder as evidenced by my class’ reaction), I was able to perform with gusto. That was Friday. The weather reporters were preparing everybody in Philly for Hurricane Irene on Saturday, promising she was to roar in like an angry a peri-menopausal woman who’s hormones raged like feathers out of an old and dirty pillow (who doesn’t know about that?). Irene, it was predicted, would release her full wrath on the city.

Meanwhile in Chicago, they were saying if you needed to get back East, now was the time, because flights would be canceled over the weekend as a result of the coming onslaught. I toyed with the idea, but thought it best not to be in the center of the anxiety festival the Hurricane would present. My husband is much calmer than me; he would probably fare better with me elsewhere.

And yet, I’d begged him in the weeks prior to do something about our very temperamental sump pump, which had malfunctioned just a week earlier. My husband, who can fix everything—even an ailing pump—came to the rescue as usual, but I nagged over and over again that “if you were out of town for any reason, I’d be on the phone ordering a boat—preferably one that could fit through a standard Pulte doorway.”

And so he went to Home Depot and after examining the models on the shelves, decided to do some more investigating online before buying one. Maybe he could find something cheaper…All of a sudden, he was Mr. Bargain Shopper. And now, those words were now coming back to haunt us.

And so, a day before an unpredictable hurricane, I said, into the phone, while driving West on Foster in Chicago back to my friend Ellen’s house after a long day of class, “I hear the Hurrrican’s a comin’ – you got the new sump pump and backup battery whatchamajiggy in case our power goes out, yes? ”

To which he said: “Unfortunately, they’re all out. “

“Who’s all out?” I clutched the steering wheel.

“Home Depot, Lowes, Ace Hardware, Sears, man, you can’t believe how everybody’s cleaned those [sump pumps and battery backups] out because of the hurricane!” He chuckles nervously.

I choke back an “I told you so…” because I know that’s not going to help anybody at this point.

“Well, did you try online? Ordering online?”

“Not yet.”

And so all I could manage to get out, after an entire day of unnecessary silliness (since there was a hurricane to prep for), and thinking about the best way to set the environment for a good comedic sketch or sitcom, was this:

“Okay.”

And then, later, before sleep: “Oh God.”

Day 3: I call Dan in the morning and can hear the tension in his voice. He’s busy gathering provisions, while I write a comedy sketch about mine and Ellen’s drive to Lisa’s barbeque the night before that two “actors” will ultimately read in class. We hang up quickly. My anxiety makes me eat a scone from Starbucks, instead of a nice bowl of healthy oats, for breakfast. Damn you, Irene.

Mid-day I call Dan on a break. He informs me that not only is the hurricane coming—and the skies are dark and ominous—but there’s a killer on the loose in Doylestown and Warwick (where my parents live) and the police are instructing people to stay in their houses. This is surreal, I think. I’m suddenly living in an alternate universe with murderers and hurricanes and dogs who can perform medical procedures on themselves.

I called my parents. Are you home? My dad tells me yes, but I later learn my mother was out lunching and shopping with the ladies—very close to where the “killer” (an ex-military guy who picked off his ex-wife and her husband and son and then his mother-in-law in the area) wound up shooting himself. (Precariously close to my nail salon, really scary.)

And I’m in a comedy workshop trying to make shit up?

I want to go home. Badly. I make it through Day 3 and, after an evening with friends I hadn’t seen for a long while, went back to Ellen’s, where I did some work work, and woke up every hour on the hour wondering if the dog had chewed off her sutures, if Hurricane Irene was redecorating our basement, and if there were killers trying to figure out how to bust in through our garage.

Which brings me back to today…

It’s 9/11. Such a sad day. So much to worry about and yet it really doesn’t mean anything at all, does it? We didn’t get flooded, in case you were curious. The dog is getting better. My mother and her friends managed to evade the homicidal maniac whose post-traumatic stress syndrome manifested, well, badly. And who would have guessed it? But I have the day off!

I guess it all works out in the end. How’s your day going? Do tell.

Until next time!

 

August 7, 2011 So how was your vacation? Mine sucked.

August 7, 2011

So how was your vacation? Mine sucked.

We just got back from a week at the beach—me, Dan and Steppy. I must say, it was not our finest vacation. Weather aside, Steppy came to us off the heels of a cold and fever, which she promptly gave to me. So by day three, when I should have been slow cooking like a fine piece of prime rib at the beach and enjoying lemonade and Kohrs Brothers Ice Cream on the Ocean City Boardwalk, the salt air making my skin dewy and my nerves less frazzled, I was instead, stuck in the hotel, fighting a throbbing virus/pain in my neck and back, craving sleep, trying to swallow without wincing, and watching a day-long marathon of Millionaire Matchmaker on Bravo. I can now tell you firsthand, much as I love Patty Stenger (and she is ALWAYS right, trust me, if only those hard-headed millionaires would listen, they WOULD find love, I’m sure of it…), being sick on vacation sucks. It sucks BIG.

 

Of course, it’s not all kinds of fun to be spending a week with a miserable, sullen and uncooperative teenager, which would accurately describe Steppy these days (along with being tall, thin, blonde, tan, young, and beautiful, which she takes so for granted, which doesn’t help one bit…).

 

Add to that four nights in a row of watching Shark Week on television (programming that features various iterations of sharks in the water and the old wrinkly guys who study them) and there you have it. My vacation. (Of course, I did get to spend some time with my good friends Ben and Jerry and they never disappoint…)

 

The thing is: these precious five days were mine to deep breathe and relax between working hard to get away and working even harder to make up for the time off. Not to mention the fact that, in my business, we’re about to head into our version of tax season…and there you have it.

 

Sucky vacation. Not cool.

 

Now, I know there are people who have it a lot worse off than me. So I wouldn’t go so far as to call the vacation a dud—I wasn’t at work, after all, or getting a root canal or applying for food stamps, living in my car, addicted to heroin, diagnosed with a terminal disease, dealing with the death of a loved one, the aftereffects of a Bernie Madoff, or even locked in an elevator with my husband’s ex-wife—but still. It wasn’t award winning. A model for future vacations. Or even something I’ll look back at one day and laugh about.

 

Because when you have such limited amount of time off to play—and life is so hard, and busy, and high stakes and hectic—you take those precious few days seriously. So for me, now that they’re over and in my rear window, I’m bummed.

 

Supremely.

 

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Of course, the days leading up to the now mediocre vacation weren’t exactly a delight. Working hard, dieting hard, managing people and relationships hard, exercising hard, thinking hard, checking things vigorously off my list, scrambling for sleep, trying to negotiate hard realizations.

 

Like, for example, my boss’ so delicately reminding me that, while I was doing a good job at work, I was on the “downslide” when it came to my overall age and career trajectory. (I can’t remember how we got on the subject, but we got there, unfortunately.) He even drew me a diagram of a bell curve. I’m rounding the top, he says, at the ripe old age of 48.

 

“Are you gonna live to be 100?” he asks, while I watch him draw dotted lines on my downward spiral on the diagram.

 

“Maybe. I don’t know.” What’s next? A Gantt chart of my demise?

 

“Let’s just say for the sake of argument, you are. Even then, you’re just really getting over the hump here…” He runs his red pen over the top of the curve a few times for emphasis.

 

Now my boss and I have a very good relationship—we’re friends, practical jokers, and truth tellers. We are not sugar coaters, which I especially like for professional reasons. But the declarative notion that I am at my peak was—is—hard to take. Because frankly, I feel as if I’m just getting started.

 

And yet, the only consolation is that he’s a few years older even than me, so he’s willing to admit he’s blazing the trail, but still. I didn’t need to hear that. Who wants to hear that? Who?

 

Then, in preparation for a week away, I had several things to get done, one of which was to return these shoes I’d ordered from Zappos. I had to take them to Staples to be picked up by UPS. So after a very long hard day at the office, I stopped on the way home, figuring it would only take a few minutes. That’s until the guy behind the counter couldn’t figure out how to put the UPS label tape into the little machine, so he couldn’t print a label for my package. Fifteen minutes later, there are four Staples employees trying to figure it out while I stood there, fuming like an idiot, the ticker tape running through my head:

 

“Just leave. Why are you standing here?” I asked myself silently. “Because,” I answered myself, “I have already put in now 20 minutes. I am not leaving with this package.” It’s the exact same reason I spent 11 years with the wrong man. Too much time invested.

 

But then, much like it wound up with the boyfriend, at 30 minutes, the now five Staplettes informed me that they couldn’t fix it and, ergo, would NOT be able to mail my package. To which I stormed out, after first asking them very loudly, “WHAT DO YOU SELL HERE? ARE YOU OUT OF COPY PAPER TOO?”

 

Then, I heard from my dear friend Jill that her aunt, who she’s very close to and has been for as long as I’ve known her (25 years), was just diagnosed with bone and lung cancer and given months to live. Which just made me feel bad for feeling bad about the Staplettes not shipping my package and being on the downslide because at least I’ve got some—I’d say a pretty good chunk (boss)—of slide left.

 

I don’t know where I’m going with this. I guess to quote my friend Jill from the very same text in which she told me the bad news: “Middle age is so hard. So much to deal with.”

 

So well put. And so, as Dan and I and Steppy got into the car to leave our beach vacation—and I started to think about it all (Steppy’s bad behavior and how she’s mine for life, mom and dad, work, the dogs, my husband, my diet, my health, Dan’s health, my parents’ health, our finances, our next vacation, when I’ll see my Chicago friends next, how tired I am, how long it will take me to unpack, how much regular mail we have, the bills, the dead sea scroll of emails in all three of my inboxes, my first day back at work full of too many meetings, grocery shopping, laundry, returning shoes, getting my hair colored and my chipped nails fixed, figuring out the detox I got from the doctor, getting the dogs groomed and my husband a haircut along with a physical and those sunspots checked, why people don’t talk on the telephone anymore, how much texting is ruining the next generation since it’s so impersonal, the need to learn meditation, whether we need toilet paper, whether the debt ceiling debate will ruin Obama’s chances for re-election, why we can’t just unilaterally ditch all of Congress and start from scratch, who’s making dinner, and when I’ll get to relax if ever again, etc.)—I stopped for a minute to breathe and whisper in my husband’s ear:

 

“Aren’t you supposed to leave vacation less stressed than when you arrived?”

 

Alas, I fear another fallacy—and stark realization of mid life.

 

Oh well, how was your summer vacation? Did you have fun? Do share because, frankly, I could use the pick me up.

 

Until next time!

 

July 4, 2011 Buh Bye Synovial Cyst (don’t let the door hit you in the a#*…)

July 4, 2011

Buh Bye Synovial Cyst (don’t let the door hit you in the a#*…)

 

My mom had back surgery last week. It was a hard week – a week when I realized that my parents are getting older (and so am I) and how differently they deal with it and how I’m the person that will need to be there. (And just as a side note, I’m okay with that, I absolutely am.)

 

My mother gets very focused in the face of a medicine. She’s in charge and boastful about what a good patient she is. Things like needles or temporary pain of any sort, they don’t bother her. To the contrary, she’ll endure whatever is necessary to get rid of the synovial cyst that, now drained, is sure to fill up again without surgical intervention—and awaken the excruciating pain that, now dormant, had her bent over for the better part of six weeks.

 

My father, on the other hand, can’t stand any of this hospital/medical business. While he knows he needs to be there for my mother, he nevertheless can’t resist suggesting we “go get some coffee” on the way downtown to the hospital. “Hey,” he says to me, while parking the car, “I’ll show you where I take classes (at Temple University, for seniors in Center City). Gosh, they have an absolutely terrific Macy’s not too far from the hospital…”

 

Owen!!,” my mother says, “I’ve not even been admitted yet!” He winks at me, as if to say, “We’ll go when she’s on the table.”

 

She looks at me as if to say, “Please don’t leave.”

 

We haven’t even gotten to the hospital entrance yet. Help me.

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And so, we get out of the car and walk over to hospital and within the hour, we’re taken to the hospital room where they’ll prep my mother for surgery. In his discomfort, my dad jokes with the nursing staff and asks them how they like the Phils, whether he can have a warm blanket too, and if they’re planning to wheel her down in this particular bed (which of course they are, says Nurse Ned, “that’s why it’s on wheels!”).

 

To which Mom keeps saying: “It’s my day, Owen.” And she whispers how his jokes and random conversation will soon become irritating.

 

To which he says, “I know.”

 

To which the nursing staff asks my dad not to sit on the other bed since they need it for somebody else, who will be coming at some point, soon.

 

To which I wish I had a pizza and a little privacy. And wonder, how, even though my mom’s the one going under the knife, I’m going to survive the day.

 

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Once they take her down for surgery, my dad and I go to the hospital cafeteria where he has a yummy bagel and cream cheese and diet soda from the fountain and I eat some of the pre-made diet food (carrot and celery sticks and some radishes) I brought with me in my large purse because I’m a true masochist.

 

It’s not until five or so hours later, when they tell us the procedure is over and went well and she’s in recovery that I’m comfortable finally giving in and walking with my father over to the Starbucks a few blocks away. I leave my cell phone number with the nice lady in an interesting yellow dress who’s manning the family waiting area, so she can call when Mom is out of recovery and back in her room.

 

And sure enough, my dad has just enough time to tour me through some museum and park when the phone rings and we have to head back. We walk fast since I don’t want Mom to think we’re not there. After all, if ever there’s a time to be there for somebody, it’s when they’re being wheeled back up from surgery. Don’t you think?

 

I know Dad feels that way too, since he’s walking just a tiny bit faster than me.

 

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Mom was okay. And once we knew it, and that she wanted to sleep, we went to Macy’s – a mere 14 blocks away (28 round trip). I knew that morning as I got dressed, that the three-inch platform heels I chose for the day might not serve me well. But I soldiered on anyway. We got Mom a new Fossil purse (and one for me as well), had dinner at Cosi’s, and then went back to check on her. She was awake but longing for sleep (who wouldn’t, after having the middle of their back carved like a Thanksgiving turkey?). Unfortunately, her 80-plus-year-old roommate’s VERY LOUD daughter was confused and thought my mother’s hospital room was really a garden party.

 

As I went over to ask them as politely as possible to shut the f*$% up, my mother just had surgery, I couldn’t help but notice my father on the return. He was gingerly placing a straw in Mom’s chicken broth, holding it ever so gently up to her lips and encouraging her to sip. He rubbed her head and got in real close to her eyes, red and moist from the operation. “Just take a little sip,” he encouraged her, “would you?”

 

And so she did.

 

I wanted to cry. I really did. People can be funny—especially when they’ve been married for 54 years. And they’re in a hospital.

 

But I didn’t cry. Not then. Later. I did later, admittedly. I’m a very sensitive and emotional person. So how could I not.

 

You would have too, if you were me.

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All in all, it was a mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting day. And listen, I know my parents are pretty good. They’re not as bad as some of the stories I hear from my friends—about their parents. I know I’m one of the lucky ones. Mom’s operation was fairly common and routine, thank goodness. But still. I don’t like seeing my mother under a sea of white blankets in a hospital bed. And it’s no fun watching my father’s discomfort. And I wonder how it is that I will survive anything worse – because, in the scheme of all living things, I suspect that too is eventually coming someday…

 

But let us not think about it. Not today.

 

Which leads me to this: I don’t want my parents to get any older. And I don’t want to get any older either. But how can we make it stop? (Anybody?)

 

If you know, please tell me. And if you don’t, well, okay.

 

Instead, tell me how are you parents? Your mother, your father, your brothers, sisters, in-laws, out-laws, friends, and neighbors. Your wounded soldiers. Your, well, you know…

 

Until next time!

 

June 12, 2011 A day in the life

June 12, 2011

A day in the life

 

So it’s been a while since I’ve written. And honestly, I don’t have anything earth-shattering to say other than the fact that I’m just living the regular life – just like all of you out there. Here’s a few slices for your reading pleasure.

 

Slice #1: I’m going to the hair salon.

 

So last week, I went to the hair salon to get my natural red color restored, which I do about every five weeks. I’ve been going to this one shop for several years now – since I moved back to Bucks County after spending almost 20 years in Chicago. My colorist, Jason, is a cute little 30-something gay man, part Jewish part whatever, who not only farms in his spare time and likes to drink, but is also beloved among his clientele for facilitating estrogen-inspired age-appropriate conversation. Why, I can’t count all the times on two hands that I’ve been in his chair talking with his last clients while they sit with heads full of hair dye or foils under saucer-shaped heat lamps—learning things I never dreamed possible about removing chin hair, say, and/or managing the perils of step-parenting. It’s better than the Encyclopedia Brittanica of how to be middle-aged.

 

With that in mind, it seemed only natural that, in the echo of an unusually quiet Friday afternoon, I would resort to asking: “So Jason, what’s new in the world of perimenopause?” After all, this is where I collect a lot of savory information.

 

To which he responded: “Why are you asking me? I’m a guy.”

 

To which I said, “Oh, c’mon, Jason, you know you know. Don’t be coy.”

 

To which he says, without even a breath, “Yam root. Supposed to be good for mood swings. You outta try it.”

 

I think I might.

 

Slice #2: I’m being dragged to the Verizon store.

 

With my husband, of course. Who else? He’s been researching smart phones since Bush was in office and now that I’ve traded in my Blackberry for an iPhone (white, courtesy of my work), he needs to have one too. Heaven forbid, I have a smart phone and he doesn’t.

 

Heaven forbid.

 

And so, he dragged me on a perfectly fine Saturday, during which there was a Real Housewives of New York marathon on (which I had to miss), to wait in line at the Verizon store at this strip mall near our house. Never mind it was 98 degrees in June. (I know, that is random, but still.)

 

After 15 minutes of looking at more phones than the Pilgrims could ever dream possible, they finally call our name, “Dan” and within 15 more minutes my husband is all set and ready to go with his new iPhone (black), a hard-shell cover for protection, and everything else but a bassinet. Because you’d think he delivered this thing out of the tip of the penis, the way he tends to it constantly. He’s always on it, riveted to a rotation of novel albeit useless apps like a radar that’s supposed to detect the presence of ghosts (but instead growls out random words like “bagel” and “frame” and “shortcut”) and talking animals.

 

For some reason, a cartoon shark that parrots back everything he says in a voice like James Earl Jones or a cat that talks like he’s just inhaled a sweet sixteen party’s worth of helium balloons, is more interesting than me. I could run around the house in nothing but a rotating set of edible pasties, and unless I could find my way into a cartoon mouse costume and speak back to him in a voice that sounds like Daffy Duck, he’s just not interested.

 

Hard to believe, yes?

 

Slice #3: I’m baking gluten-free brownies from a single package.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong: I don’t need brownies. (Hello? Fat, get off me.) But Steppy (my stepdaughter, for those of you who haven’t read for a while or who have short-term memory issues) insisted we bake together. And you know me, I’ll do almost anything to get brownie points—literally.

 

She’s almost 14 now and things are really changing. Suddenly, she gets me. And can connect with me on the important things—like shoes, and lip gloss, and pocketbooks. She wants to talk about getting her nails done and remind me of the brown boots she wants for her birthday (in October)—you know, “the kind that come of up to your mid-calf and look like Uggs?” She also gets very upset if I try to give her and Dan daddy/daughter time – no, no, she wants me around and I like it!

 

It’s taken me six long years to finally be in, and so if she wants to bake brownies, show me how to the pre-heat the oven. The nice thing is that the brownies we made together were the best gluten-free pastries I’ve had to date. So good, my husband was forced to utter this incredibly creative passage, “Gosh, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear these had gluten in them.” Isn’t he something?

 

The bad thing is I’m on a new diet, which means no more brownies—gluten-free or otherwise—for me. But again, another story for another day.

 

How are things in your neck of the woods? What does your slice of life look like? Do tell.

 

Until next time!

 

May 15, 2011 Riding the rails in San Francisco

May 15, 2011

Riding the rails in San Francisco

Last week, my husband and I met our friends Joan and Dave in San Francisco for a much needed vacation. We’d been planning for months and finally, the day was here. We got on a 7 a.m. flight and by 5 o’clock California time, we were at our destination—the InterContinental Hotel in Nob Hill, San Francisco. Once there, we were looking at six full days of glorious decompression time.

Time that would be filled with the usual suspects—a tour of Alcatraz, a meditative stroll and shopping along the scenic Fisherman’s Wharf, and the hiking up too many hills to count. There were the several Crab Louis salads. And who could forget a day spent traversing the streets of Haight Ashbury, ingesting the second-hand smoke with our fingers crossed.

I couldn’t help but notice, as the week passed, that by the end of our trip, we’d have been on every possible mode of transport known to man—with the exception of the space shuttle. (Although, had we chosen to indulge directly at Haight Ashbury, we might have been able to at least mimic the experience…)

After all, we took a plane to our destination, a boat to the “Rock”, a cable car to Union Square, a double-decker bus to get a flavor of the city’s neighborhoods. We took a taxi to our hotel, which was not easy to flag, after a big meal in Chinatown that put a dent in both our desire and ability to literally repel up the side of the city to our hotel.

But the most fun we had was on the pedicab and then the hot air balloon.

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We had just come out of a Michelin-rated restaurant, whose name currently escapes me. (I do, however, remember the Crab Louis, so bravo!) It was later on a Sunday night and the city was quiet. To walk back to our hotel, we’d have had to climb up approximately 10 city blocks—something we were reluctantly prepared to do in lieu of a taxi until we happened by a young guy pulling a pedicab: You know, a bicycle, pulling a little wagon with seats, kind of like a modern day rickshaw for peasants.

The cycler, who’s name is John, took one look at us—four middle-aged tourists pointing to buildings and trying to keep the wind from blowing up our map—and knew he’d found his next fare. Tired, stuffed, and confused about where we were, we were ripe for the picking.

So he stops his bike, using his feet as a kickstand and calls out to us. “Hey…” Intrigued and, early enough into our vacation to be open to anything, we walk over to him. “Want a ride?” he asks, nodding to the two-seater cab hitched to his bike shaking ever so slightly. We are interested, but concerned. The seat looks small.

“Oh, no worries,” he says. “I can easily get the four of you on here.” And promptly directs me and Joan to sit on our husband’s laps. Now just so you know, neither one of us are lightweights. Not that my friend is fat – to the contrary. But she’s tall and long limbed and I’m not sure I’d want her to sit on my lap while some strange guy on a 10-speed hauls us up the hills of San Fran.

With that, we collectively contemplate the pros and the cons. The pros: The large meal we just enjoyed had begun settling ever deeper into each of our stomachs, making the idea of walking in imaginary crampons up the cement terrain to our hotel seem like a drudge, to say the least. The cons: The seat looked uncomfortable. And the pedicab itself was anything but lush. Let’s just say the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would have sent him on his way. But we decided, in the end, it was okay for us.

And so we climbed on and prepared ourselves for anything.

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So John starts pedaling, talking to us non-stop about the sites of the city and how long he’s been doing this and why, as we admire his strong calves and wonder why he isn’t  out of breath. All I can think about is how dangerous this is (after all, we were sharing the street with cable cars and tour buses and confused drivers and tourists). And why did I eat so much? And will my leg muscles recover in time for a lot of walking tomorrow, since they were burning from my not wanting to put all my weight on poor Dan (think extended wall squat).

Then, we hear the bells getting louder and louder. And we realize that a cable car is gaining on us. In response, John pedals faster. My face begins to feel flush and my heart start to palpitate.

Oh dear. This is what lazy will get you: picked off by a cable car. I can read the news now: “Four unsuspecting middle-aged tourists mired down by too much rich cooking and too lazy to walk, look for vicarious exercise in the wrong place. After sharing a meal large enough for seven, they were innocently lured onto a dangerous pedicab that due to only 10 bicycle speeds and a chatty and distracted driver was crushed by an aberrant cable car. There are no survivors.”

Focused on the cable car behind us, I didn’t realize that we were finished climbing and now preparing to go straight down. This raises new concerns: Like how John is going to control the pedicab as we careen down a long incline…

“Don’t worry,” he says, again, reading my mind. “I have disc brakes.” And then, as we begin to drop, he hits them, and we go jolting ever so slightly forward. It’s like almost getting thrown off a horse and only mildly comforting in the face of flying down the block with a cable car up our a*^es.  John suddenly and unexpectedly jerks the bike to right so he can get us on to the sidewalk.

I chant, nervously and uncontrollably, “Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God…” My husband and our friends share a maniacal sort of “I’m going to die” laugh. And all the while, John continues to talk, about his near miss accidents and how he’s survived, and how we’ll all be just fine.

“I’m gonna get you to the end of the street, so you can guys can grab this cable car at the circle down there back up to your hotel,” he says. I pray he doesn’t take his hand off the handlebars to point. By the time we get to the end of the road, my adrenals are blasted. And to make it worse, I’ve said about 250 Hail Mary’s–and I’m Jewish.

Fortunately, we survived it just in time to get to our next vehicular adventure: The hot air balloon.

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Now keep in mind: I am terrified of heights. I used to have a client with offices on the second floor of their building and stairs you can see through. I always took the elevator. You know never when one of those cracks will suddenly open up and suck me through it.

Do you watch the SciFi channel? Ever seen a Twilight Zone? It could happen. It really could.

So imagine my getting on a hot air balloon. And yet, on another trip we’d taken to Taos, New Mexico, with the same friends, we’d contemplated the idea, enticed by the beautiful views and the prospect of landing in the lovely but shallow Taos gorge. So we decided to take an informal poll of the locals to see if they thought it’d be a good idea for people like Joan and I, who had a fear of high places.

“Uh, well, yeah, you’re in a basket in the air, so probably not so good.” This was the consensus. So we didn’t do it.

But this trip, well, I was determined. So when my friend Joan sent me a link to the BallonsAbovetheValley.com as a joke, I signed us up. Ha ha, I thought, joke’s on her. (And, well, uh, me.)

When the day came, we left San Francisco at 3 a.m. to drive to Napa, since the balloons lift off just before dawn. There were about 50 of us there to ride on three balloons. We were told that ours was the largest balloon in the country, holding as many as 24 people. I was glad – if I had to get into a wicker basket and go up into the air with an oversized swath of parachute material and four large tanks of propane, I’d need as many people as possible for morale support.

Now, let me just say, there’s no graceful way to get into the basket of a hot air balloon. It’s high – up to my chest and I’m 5” 3” (wink wink) – with just enough grooves for you to place your feet so you can throw one leg over the top and sit on it as if you were saddling up to a horse, before falling fully into the balloon’s cab. And once you’re in, you’re in and, in our case, quickly flanked by other people standing shoulder to shoulder, readying their cameras for the promise of something wonderful.

We wait as the first of the three balloons takes off, which just heightens the sense of excitement and drama, especially for those of us who are scared (and there are several). Finally, the people on the ground with walkie-talkie’s give our pilot the thumbs us. To which he begins fiddling with the tanks, yanking at ropes, and firing hot air into the now fully inflated parachute until we slowly come off the ground.

I’m okay at first. And after a few short minutes, feel the nervousness begin to exit my body like a puff of smoke. I’m good standing behind Dan, peeking over his shoulder at the panoramic views of the Napa vineyards, which truly are spectacular. And as we creep higher, the people around me continue to ask if I’m okay. And I was, as long as I didn’t have to move, remembered to breathe, and we didn’t go any higher.

But then, we got to 1,300 feet and I started to panic. Looked over at the pilot, at least 75 pounds overweight, sweating and grunting like a football player in preseason, and I was instantly lost in the thought of what would happen if he just stroked out. What if his heart gave way—he suddenly grabbed at his chest and dropped off the side like an angry bird.

What would happen to the 20 of us now so high up in the sky, we could barely see the vans that brought us to the launching field?

Now I was scared. Instead of admiring the views, I imagined all the many ways we could drop to our death. I could read the headline: In a cruel twist of fate, four innocent middle-aged tourists who were too lazy to walk and lucky enough to survive a crash with a cable car, fell to their untimely death during a routine balloon ride after the pilot has a heart attack and the balloon drops like a penny from a 12th story apartment building onto hard dirt.

It could happen.

Fortunately, it didn’t. We survived. The balloon came down more gently than I’d anticipated and I managed to climb out without seriously injuring any of my lady parts (although don’t take a picture). But you never know—it could have been a close one.

All in all, it was a great ride. The pedicab. The balloon. The whole vacation. Would I go on a hot air balloon again? You bet. I’d even go on a pedicab, but maybe just with my husband and someplace flat, like Indiana. Or the track by the high school, just a mile or so from our house.

How about you? What was the most death-defying thing you’ve ever done on vacation? And would you do it again? Do tell.

Until next time!

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April 10, 2011

The Sapphire Blue Knight

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: adrenal, audi A4 quattro, blue knight, car, convertible, leather seats, mid-life crisis, middle-aged, new car, sapphire, Saturday, Sirius radio — sherer @ 6:06 pm

So in the middle of my adrenal nightmare, something unexpected:

A fully-loaded 2009 Audi 4 Quattro convertible. We bought it. It’s mine. Mine. Mine. Mine. A vehicular concubine. A “Sapphire Blue Knight”, in homage to its jewel-toned monochromatic shell and soft hood. That deep blue the color of rare sky that matches the changing shades of blue in my eyes and complements the coppery red in my sometimes curly locks. Even makes my thighs look thin due to the fact that, well duh, you can’t see them since, of course, I’m typically seated while driving. And even if you could—if, for some reason, I found myself role playing the opening scene of Footloose—I still don’t think anybody would notice because the car itself commands a certain kind of singular attention.

And when I drive it, I am momentarily transported. To a place of supreme hotness, where all my youthful fantasies come to life. To where I no longer feel violently middle-aged, peri-menopausal, and adrenally deprived.

Which is one reason—or maybe even two—why we got it.

I think it’s fair to say, we surely weren’t looking for it. We didn’t plan to leave the house on that sunny Saturday about a week and half ago with the intention of buying a sports car worthy of what I’m now calling my second official mid-life crisis. (The first being my leaving Chicago eight years ago to come here and [finally] get married, mother two rescue dogs, have a house in the suburb, and lay claim to an armoire full of black stretch pants.)

But it was the universe in action. A divine intervention if you will that delivered just the appropriate dose of healing for the incurable disease of feeling old and bored and like you just need a little something something

You see, we went out with my mother and father for a fun day on the town. I had been thinking about trading in our Honda Element—planning to get something new in early 2012. It was just a fluke that some of the dealers in our area were having “March Madness” sales—and that my dad was also bored and up for a good time checking out their inventory.

I had no idea that we’d take one car—and one car only—for a casual test drive and then buy it. But who could resist that tan leather interior, the kindness of the Audi navigation system (her voice like a gentle therapist), the convenience of blue tooth. The ease with which the top opens to reveal endless possibility.

As I turned the wheel for the first time, I see Dan feeling the sides of the leather with the flat bottom of his palm from the corner of my eye. “Nice ride, huh?” the car sales guy in the back seat calls to us, noticing a little drool on the side of my husband’s mouth. He’s packed in to the rear of the car like 10 pounds of potatoes in a five-pound bag since the two-door Audi is really not designed for somebody who’s 6’ 5”.

But whatever. I was too busy feeling like I’d been dropped into a warm hot bath (seat warmers, can you hear the angels?) than to worry about what’s-his-name’s comfort. After all, there was water floating around me like liquid jello. It was my time to enjoy it…

…And a far cry from the bus-like sensation I’d come to know from driving the Element two hours a day for four year on the Pennsylvania turnpike—of course, a perfectly fine car, if you’re hauling freight or operating a mobile dog grooming business.

But not the Blue Knight.

Not a dream machine that makes me feel less like I’ve arrived and more like I’m riding in a well-worn-but-really-not Barcalounger sipping on calorie-free hot chocolate while my husband gives me a very focused foot rub.

Once the test drive was over and the sales guy reached his way out of the back of the seat as if he were practicing some extreme form of yoga, I looked at my husband and said this:

“Can we get it? I want it. Can we?”

“Sure, why not?” he said, casually, as if I’d just asked him if he wanted a piece of gum.

“Really?”

“Yep, really.”

“Can we afford it?” Because even though it was used, it was more than $1.

“Sure, why not?”

“If we get it, can I still get my hair done every six weeks?”

“No.”

“How about shoes–can I buy some new shoes?”

“No. Sure can’t.”

“How about the shellac manicure? Can I get that along with an occasional pedicure?”

“No, babe. You can’t.”

“But we can get the car, right?”

“Sure. Of course!”

And so, it’s ours—resting quietly in the garage as I write. And it’s glorious. And that’s what’s new, dear readers, since we last spoke. Oh sure, I’m still adrenally challenged, but now, I can “meditate” in style. In soft leather with satellite radio and just the right presets, a navigation system that tells me I’m a-okay, and blue tooth that makes hands-free calling as easy as a 90-minute massage.

If that doesn’t help those nasty glands simmer down, I don’t know what will. How about you? How do you like your car? Tell me all about it. And if you see me on the road, be sure to honk and smile.

And until next time!

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March 13, 2011

Adrenal glands seek meditation expert

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: 75th and Columbus, adrenal fatigue, Applebees, barista, Ben and Jerry’s, blood work, Chicago, Indianapolis 500, lights of Broadway, meditation, middle-aged, new parents, New York City, Nuts for Nuts, Outback Steak House, peri-menopausal, pilates, Ruby Tuesdays, starbucks, suburbs, Whirled Peace, yoga — sherer @ 6:10 pm

On Friday, my husband and I spent the day in New York visiting the blessed doctor it took me four years, seven months, 12 days and 14 hours to locate (love you, Dr. Dana, mean it).

It was a great day – aside from the fact that Dr. Dana delivered good news regarding my most recent blood work but not so good news about the state of my adrenal glands (so please, my blessed readers, do NOT stress me out). What made me able to overcome the last part of that sentence, albeit for the day, was that I got to take in approximately 10 straight hours of city energy. And I loved every minute of it.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I love my life – love my husband, my dogs, and my job. It’s great being close to my family, and even the park that’s just steps away from our house here in the suburbs. I can even deal with the fact that I live precariously close to the chain restaurants I used to mock (back when I was a Chicago city snob): Like Applebee’s, Outback Steak House, and Ruby Tuesdays. You name it, I can get to it. Fast. And I guess, in some high-school super-metabolic universe, there’s a lot to be said for that.

But in my middle-aged metabolically-challenged only slight more sophisticated universe, I sure do miss the more cosmopolitan urban environment, where it’s just as easy to find a good Italian joint or place that serves authentic [insert country] cuisine.  Because every once in a while, you may want to go somewhere that doesn’t have an all-you-can-eat salad bar or an oversized menu tucked in plastic.

And yet, the joy of being in the city, for me, goes beyond just where to eat. Standing amidst the hustle and bustle of 75th and Columbus makes me feel alive in a way I just can’t access here in D-town—which, don’t get me wrong again—is a very quaint and delightful place to live. But on the Upper West Side, there’s just so much to take in. Food notwithstanding, there’s the lights, the crowded streets, the diversity of people. The foreign languages, the traffic, and the colorful and overpriced boutiques, offset by the street vendors with their $5 bangles and pashminas. I even find the occasional siren a bit thrilling. And the people watching? The anything-goes fashion? The don’t-judge-me attitude? It’s like bearing witness to the world’s largest artists’ collective in action. Why, the piping hot “Nuts for Nuts” is enough to make my heart skip a beat.

It reminds me of how much I miss all the life that happens when you live in a major metropolis. Just writing about it makes me want to pack up my urban tote and get on a plane, or at least New Jersey Transit.

—————————————————————————

Which brings me back to Dr. Dana, who’s got me pegged like a small destroyer in the vintage game of Battleship. And my  darn adrenals, glands so delicate and sensitive to stress. And, in my case, as exhausted as new parents. Overworked, undernourished, and sleep deprived, they continue to wreak much havoc with my hormones. What to do, what to do?

Option A: Sell everything we have and give up this busy and stressful existence for something more primitive, like life on a desert island somewhere close to a Nordstrom’s outlet store.

Option B: Replace my big corporate job for the 10 to 2 shift at Starbucks, stocking new mugs and managing the cash register (but not as a Barista because, frankly, that looks like it can be quite the stress fest).

Option C: Make pretend I’m perfectly okay and simply ignore any and all symptoms of adrenal distress.

Option D: Find a warm and comfortable spot at Philadelphia International Airport, a good wholesale florist who believes in the concept of bartering, and a peach tunic for every day of the week and set up shop in the United Terminal preaching love and peace.

Option E: Have some Ben and Jerry’s Whirled Peace and worry about it tomorrow. (Hey, I like this option!)

Good solutions or not, big sigh, they’re simply just not possible for Type A personalities like me, that are a) always on a diet and b) washed out by light pastels. So, in lieu of throwing it all away for the life of a Jewish Hari Krishna, the alternatives are this (says Dr. Dana): More natural supplements. Prescription hormones. Gentle forms of yoga and pilates (goodbye Jillian Michaels and P90X Tony—well, I won’t actually miss you…). And, dare I say it: The dreaded meditation.

Now, I must say that many have proposed the notion of meditation to me in recent years. The rationale being that it would be the perfect salve for my somewhat tightly wound personality (okay, I’ll own it). And yet, for some reason, I’ve been resistant to the idea. Why? No clue. Because theoretically, the thought of quieting my mind for any length of time seems utterly delightful.

And yet, what does it say about a person who, in practice, repels the idea of laying still, simply breathing, letting a long cool swath of no-judgement air bathe over her like tropical pixie dust?

I know the sensation, because I did do it once. At some wellness center, in a group, sitting on a bridge chair. And even with my lower back slighty pressed, it was downright dreamy. The trance-like state something I certainly wouldn’t mind replicating. And yet, when I sit down to try, my mind becomes the Indianapolis 500 of bad thoughts–about what I have to do at the office, how mad I am still at my husband’s ex wife, and whether or not I’ll ever be able to fit back into the size 8 Cambio jeans I keep as a vigil to my former self in the back of my closet.

Say, do you meditate?

(Not to change the subject, but do we really want to start talking about the range of sizes in my closet? Here’s a hint: Think Bloomingdales.) And if so, help me out. I’ll take whatever you’ve got. Give me your best stress-busting advice. And let me know whether your adrenals have been served by the process, or are as tired and pathetic as mine. I’ll look forward to hearing all about it.

In the meantime, as always, until next time!

Comments (4)

February 13, 2011

Looking for a few good sherpas…

Filed under: Uncategorized — sherer @ 3:35 pm

And so, it’s finally warming up here on the east coast. They’re calling for 60 degrees on Thursday and Friday, thank GOODNESS. As someone who’s typically a fan of winter, I’m ready to be done with it. So I’ll say this in the spirit of positive thinking:

Goodbye, my imaginary little Sherpa. Thanks to you and yours for doing such stellar work in keeping me on my feet as I attempted to clear without insult or injury the endless mountains of now dirty snow and the treacherous landmines of black ice. For those of you who want to know, to date, I am still standing…(but I make no promises).

Of course, the better weather brings an entirely stickier situation: Shedding clothes. No more bulky coats. No more heavy sweaters. No more tights or the cover up of fresh bodily flesh for the sake of keeping warm. Before we know it, we’ll all be required to once again bare it all…

Nah, let’s not even go there. I’m sure Mother Nature has at least one more really good one for us. Then, and only then, will I worry about dressing for Easter (the officially arrival of warm weather in my mind, even though I’m Jewish and don’t celebrate the occasion, although those bonnets do a nice job of deflecting away from the hips and thighs…).

Although, I am hoping that by the time Spring officially arrives, it won’t be a problem. Between the thyroid medication, supplements to treat adrenal stress, and the elimination of wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs, caffeine, sugar, and taste (yes, that’s right, you read that), I should be ready for a second career in modeling by the end of April. (Stop laughing, seriously. Did you just snort?)

Delusion is so fun. Isn’t it?

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Which leads me to my next question: Can you really be hot after 50?

I mean, here I am, busting my donkey to get in the best shape of my life, enjoying a deprivation festival that is not for the faint of heart, for one simple reason: To return to hotness.

Now I’ve heard all kinds of lofty stories for why people embark upon a journey of fitness. I don’t want to die from a heart attack like my father did at 55. I don’t want to succumb to the cancer my grandmother had, or the struggle with [insert disease] that my sister’s husband’s brother did ….I want more to spend as much time as possible with my children, have the energy to run and play with my grandchildren, teach all the little kids the value of good health…

You name them, the reasons why. I’ve seen and heard them all. And I certainly don’t want to diminish them – they’re all good stuff. But for me, the reason is not so lofty or complicated: I just want to be hot.

But if I get there—if I shed the pounds and learn to manage the tiny little lines that are starting to appear ever so subtly around my mouth and eyes—will it be worth it? When I was younger and lost weight, I could wear all the cool clothes, and it was great. I could be “hip” and “trendy” and there were no boundaries. Everything goes when you’re young. One feather earring. A tight pair of jeans with studs. A tee-shirt that says, “Bubba Joe’s Boardwalk Crabs”. But does it when you’re, gulp, not so much?

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I don’t know why, suddenly, this has only recently dawned on me – it’s not necessarily news and I knew that it was coming. But the other day, it hit me hard: Next year, I’ll be 50. Granted, not until December of 2012, but still. I’m inching ever closer to that colonoscopy. To the half-century mark. It’s in eyesight. And I don’t like it. Not one bit.

I mean, what the what? I don’t feel like I could be almost 50. And I certainly don’t think I look the part—but then again, who looks in the mirror and says, ‘Yeah, I look 50, maybe even 55. No wait, 60.” No one. Not if they’re even remotely self preserving.

So the other day, I’m in the bathroom at work with one of my younger counterparts. As I examine the two new lines around my eyes, I blurt out, “Goodness, 50. Next year!”, chased by a deep sigh. (Sometimes, I forget there are other people around.) To which my colleague, who’s in her very early 30s, drops her jaw. And I think: There is a God.

“No WAY,” she says. “No way.”

I nearly got on my knees and genuflected at this response.

“Yes, ma’am, next year. Crazy, isn’t it? Just goes by like this.” And I snap my fingers.

“I can’t believe it,” she goes on. I think about putting her in my will.

“Thanks,” I say, smiling. “I pretty much exercise five times a week and stay vigilant to a diet of mostly cardboard. Anything without flavor and hard to get past your windpipe. That’s the secret to the fountain of youth!”

“I mean, I would have NEVER put you past, like, 41,” she says.

WHAT? I needed a moment. She couldn’t have said, “…late 30s?” Would it have killed her? Do I really look like someone in her 40s? I mean, SERIOUSLY?

I must have looked stunned, because she pulled her shirt down, told me to have a nice weekend, and scurried on out of the bathroom. Run, little Jezebel, I thought to myself.

RUN

The only thing that ever bathes me in relief after a situation like that one is that someday she too will look in some mirror and realize she’s almost 50 – if she’s lucky.

In the meantime, back in the car, I indulged in a few moments of crying over my impending senior citizen-ship, cursing everybody since birth who’s ever wronged me (what the heck, throw that in), and then got quickly coherent.

Here’s the thing: None of us can control the aging process. Well, non-surgically that is. Which leaves me with little choice but to either a) find a good cosmetic doctor and start selling beads on the side to pay for it or b) embrace it – climb that hill as gracefully as my good jeans and shaky self-esteem will allow.

Sure do wish I had a real Sherpa for that.

What do you think? Got any age-defying secrets to share? How do you plan to clear that hill? And do you think hip and trendy still apply to the almost-50-and-over set? Do tell. I’m listening.

Until next time!

Comments (2)

January 23, 2011

TMI

Filed under: Uncategorized — sherer @ 6:24 pm

As I get older, I find that I have patience for a great many things, like slow computers, food servers, even traffic. I also have less tolerance for other things, like people who text while they drive, talk on their cell phone in the elevator, or who hog up the office bathroom.

Now, I know that last one may sound strange—although if you have to go to an office every day and have, say, irritable bowel syndrome or even if you don’t, you probably know what I’m talking about.

Here’s why I bring it up: Last week, I started a new cleanse. You know, the kind that detoxifies your system so you can have more energy, feel lighter, lose weight, enjoy brighter skin, blah, blah, blah. Mine is a 10-day system that involves several nutrient-dense shakes a day, as well as unlimited amounts of fruits, vegetables, legumes, water, and an overall menu comprised of super clean fibrous eating.

Now I like doing these kinds of things. To me, it feels a little like redemption for all the bad choices I made in December, when I celebrated my birthday month with approximately seven cupcakes, three pizzas, five tuna salad sandwiches packed with real mayo, 22 sugar cookies, and, well, too many small bites of decadence.

And while it feels good to fuel my car with high-quality octane, it also has some less than desirable side effects: Like the need to run to the bathroom. A lot.

Now on the weekends: no biggie. I can handle that side effect – in the comfort of my own home, where access is easy and private. I can do my business with wild and reckless abandon, without having to control my impulses in consideration of somebody else one stall over.

But at work, well, that’s a whole other story. Especially if you consider that going does not come easy to me. I don’t go when I’m away from home. And I rarely go during working hours. I’m funny that way. Why my husband hasn’t even been privy to my bathroom habits –and we’ve been living together for almost six years!

And so, it was a very big deal that last week, in the middle of a grueling detoxification, on what I’m now calling “Black Flats Friday”, I had to REALLY use the restroom and couldn’t for one reason:

Black Flats.

I still don’t know who Black Flats is or what she does in the office, but I can tell you this: She didn’t get very much done on Black Flats Friday because she spent most of it in the bathroom. I know this because a) I could see her black ballet flats covered by a gray wool hemline on the floor in the second stall and b) I spent most of the day trying to avoid her – in an attempt to be able to use the bathroom when nobody was in there. So I could detoxify in private.

But it was virtually impossible. Whenever I went into the bathroom, Black Flats was there. So I’d fake it—go into a stall, eke out a little something, quickly flush, wash my hands and head back to my desk, where I’d watch my computer clock for 15 or so minutes—figuring that would give Black Flats enough time to get it done—and go back in so I could finally be alone.

It never happened. So I’d wait out longer and longer periods. Until finally, I decided I’d try to wait her out. After all, she had to recognize my brown boots, 4-inch heels, black platform. And that I was coming in with increasing frequency.

She also had to realize that the right thing to do was to give somebody else a chance.

Finally, at about 3 o’clock, I took a deep breath, entered the stall next to her, sat down, and started counting the minutes silently. Ours would be a test of wills, one minute, two minutes, five minutes would pass. And I’d think: Bring it on Black Flats, bring it on.

Oh sure, every now and then, somebody else would come in to use one of the other three stalls and then quickly go out. Because in the unspoken code of the restroom, they knew: People need to do their business in private.

But Black Flats was formidable. She didn’t even fake noise by rustling up a little toilet paper, or “accidentally” flushing the toilet. She just sat there.

And sat there.

And sat there.

After about 15 minutes, I couldn’t take it anymore. And so, I had to decide: Whether to bang maniacally on our shared wall and say, “IT’S MY TURN, GET OUT”. Or, call it a wrap and endure the pain involved in holding it until I was in the comfort and privacy of my own house. I opted for the latter, but let me tell you, it was harrowing.

Have you ever had an experience like that? And don’t scowl – we all do it. We might as well share. So let me know. What would you do in that situation?

Until next time!

April 10, 2011 The Sapphire Blue Knight

April 10, 2011

The Sapphire Blue Knight

 

So in the middle of my adrenal nightmare, something unexpected:

A fully-loaded 2009 Audi 4 Quattro convertible. We bought it. It’s mine. Mine. Mine. Mine. A vehicular concubine. A “Sapphire Blue Knight”, in homage to its jewel-toned monochromatic shell and soft hood. That deep blue the color of rare sky that matches the changing shades of blue in my eyes and complements the coppery red in my sometimes curly locks. Even makes my thighs look thin due to the fact that, well duh, you can’t see them since, of course, I’m typically seated while driving. And even if you could—if, for some reason, I found myself role playing the opening scene of Footloose—I still don’t think anybody would notice because the car itself commands a certain kind of singular attention.

And when I drive it, I am momentarily transported. To a place of supreme hotness, where all my youthful fantasies come to life. To where I no longer feel violently middle-aged, peri-menopausal, and adrenally deprived.

Which is one reason—or maybe even two—why we got it.

I think it’s fair to say, we surely weren’t looking for it. We didn’t plan to leave the house on that sunny Saturday about a week and half ago with the intention of buying a sports car worthy of what I’m now calling my second official mid-life crisis. (The first being my leaving Chicago eight years ago to come here and [finally] get married, mother two rescue dogs, have a house in the suburb, and lay claim to an armoire full of black stretch pants.)

But it was the universe in action. A divine intervention if you will that delivered just the appropriate dose of healing for the incurable disease of feeling old and bored and like you just need a little something something

You see, we went out with my mother and father for a fun day on the town. I had been thinking about trading in our Honda Element—planning to get something new in early 2012. It was just a fluke that some of the dealers in our area were having “March Madness” sales—and that my dad was also bored and up for a good time checking out their inventory.

I had no idea that we’d take one car—and one car only—for a casual test drive and then buy it. But who could resist that tan leather interior, the kindness of the Audi navigation system (her voice like a gentle therapist), the convenience of blue tooth. The ease with which the top opens to reveal endless possibility.

As I turned the wheel for the first time, I see Dan feeling the sides of the leather with the flat bottom of his palm from the corner of my eye. “Nice ride, huh?” the car sales guy in the back seat calls to us, noticing a little drool on the side of my husband’s mouth. He’s packed in to the rear of the car like 10 pounds of potatoes in a five-pound bag since the two-door Audi is really not designed for somebody who’s 6’ 5”.

But whatever. I was too busy feeling like I’d been dropped into a warm hot bath (seat warmers, can you hear the angels?) than to worry about what’s-his-name’s comfort. After all, there was water floating around me like liquid jello. It was my time to enjoy it…

…And a far cry from the bus-like sensation I’d come to know from driving the Element two hours a day for four year on the Pennsylvania turnpike—of course, a perfectly fine car, if you’re hauling freight or operating a mobile dog grooming business.

But not the Blue Knight.

Not a dream machine that makes me feel less like I’ve arrived and more like I’m riding in a well-worn-but-really-not Barcalounger sipping on calorie-free hot chocolate while my husband gives me a very focused foot rub.

Once the test drive was over and the sales guy reached his way out of the back of the seat as if he were practicing some extreme form of yoga, I looked at my husband and said this:

“Can we get it? I want it. Can we?”

“Sure, why not?” he said, casually, as if I’d just asked him if he wanted a piece of gum.

“Really?”

“Yep, really.”

“Can we afford it?” Because even though it was used, it was more than $1.

“Sure, why not?”

“If we get it, can I still get my hair done every six weeks?”

“No.”

“How about shoes–can I buy some new shoes?”

“No. Sure can’t.”

“How about the shellac manicure? Can I get that along with an occasional pedicure?”

“No, babe. You can’t.”

“But we can get the car, right?”

“Sure. Of course!”

And so, it’s ours—resting quietly in the garage as I write. And it’s glorious. And that’s what’s new, dear readers, since we last spoke. Oh sure, I’m still adrenally challenged, but now, I can “meditate” in style. In soft leather with satellite radio and just the right presets, a navigation system that tells me I’m a-okay, and blue tooth that makes hands-free calling as easy as a 90-minute massage.

If that doesn’t help those nasty glands simmer down, I don’t know what will. How about you? How do you like your car? Tell me all about it. And if you see me on the road, be sure to honk and smile.

And until next time!

 

March 13, 2011 Adrenal glands seek meditation expert

March 13, 2011

Adrenal glands seek meditation expert

On Friday, my husband and I spent the day in New York visiting the blessed doctor it took me four years, seven months, 12 days and 14 hours to locate (love you, Dr. Dana, mean it).

It was a great day – aside from the fact that Dr. Dana delivered good news regarding my most recent blood work but not so good news about the state of my adrenal glands (so please, my blessed readers, do NOT stress me out). What made me able to overcome the last part of that sentence, albeit for the day, was that I got to take in approximately 10 straight hours of city energy. And I loved every minute of it.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I love my life – love my husband, my dogs, and my job. It’s great being close to my family, and even the park that’s just steps away from our house here in the suburbs. I can even deal with the fact that I live precariously close to the chain restaurants I used to mock (back when I was a Chicago city snob): Like Applebee’s, Outback Steak House, and Ruby Tuesdays. You name it, I can get to it. Fast. And I guess, in some high-school super-metabolic universe, there’s a lot to be said for that.

But in my middle-aged metabolically-challenged only slight more sophisticated universe, I sure do miss the more cosmopolitan urban environment, where it’s just as easy to find a good Italian joint or place that serves authentic [insert country] cuisine.  Because every once in a while, you may want to go somewhere that doesn’t have an all-you-can-eat salad bar or an oversized menu tucked in plastic.

And yet, the joy of being in the city, for me, goes beyond just where to eat. Standing amidst the hustle and bustle of 75th and Columbus makes me feel alive in a way I just can’t access here in D-town—which, don’t get me wrong again—is a very quaint and delightful place to live. But on the Upper West Side, there’s just so much to take in. Food notwithstanding, there’s the lights, the crowded streets, the diversity of people. The foreign languages, the traffic, and the colorful and overpriced boutiques, offset by the street vendors with their $5 bangles and pashminas. I even find the occasional siren a bit thrilling. And the people watching? The anything-goes fashion? The don’t-judge-me attitude? It’s like bearing witness to the world’s largest artists’ collective in action. Why, the piping hot “Nuts for Nuts” is enough to make my heart skip a beat.

It reminds me of how much I miss all the life that happens when you live in a major metropolis. Just writing about it makes me want to pack up my urban tote and get on a plane, or at least New Jersey Transit.

—————————————————————————

Which brings me back to Dr. Dana, who’s got me pegged like a small destroyer in the vintage game of Battleship. And my  darn adrenals, glands so delicate and sensitive to stress. And, in my case, as exhausted as new parents. Overworked, undernourished, and sleep deprived, they continue to wreak much havoc with my hormones. What to do, what to do?

Option A: Sell everything we have and give up this busy and stressful existence for something more primitive, like life on a desert island somewhere close to a Nordstrom’s outlet store.

Option B: Replace my big corporate job for the 10 to 2 shift at Starbucks, stocking new mugs and managing the cash register (but not as a Barista because, frankly, that looks like it can be quite the stress fest).

Option C: Make pretend I’m perfectly okay and simply ignore any and all symptoms of adrenal distress.

Option D: Find a warm and comfortable spot at Philadelphia International Airport, a good wholesale florist who believes in the concept of bartering, and a peach tunic for every day of the week and set up shop in the United Terminal preaching love and peace.

Option E: Have some Ben and Jerry’s Whirled Peace and worry about it tomorrow. (Hey, I like this option!)

Good solutions or not, big sigh, they’re simply just not possible for Type A personalities like me, that are a) always on a diet and b) washed out by light pastels. So, in lieu of throwing it all away for the life of a Jewish Hari Krishna, the alternatives are this (says Dr. Dana): More natural supplements. Prescription hormones. Gentle forms of yoga and pilates (goodbye Jillian Michaels and P90X Tony—well, I won’t actually miss you…). And, dare I say it: The dreaded meditation.

Now, I must say that many have proposed the notion of meditation to me in recent years. The rationale being that it would be the perfect salve for my somewhat tightly wound personality (okay, I’ll own it). And yet, for some reason, I’ve been resistant to the idea. Why? No clue. Because theoretically, the thought of quieting my mind for any length of time seems utterly delightful.

And yet, what does it say about a person who, in practice, repels the idea of laying still, simply breathing, letting a long cool swath of no-judgement air bathe over her like tropical pixie dust?

I know the sensation, because I did do it once. At some wellness center, in a group, sitting on a bridge chair. And even with my lower back slighty pressed, it was downright dreamy. The trance-like state something I certainly wouldn’t mind replicating. And yet, when I sit down to try, my mind becomes the Indianapolis 500 of bad thoughts–about what I have to do at the office, how mad I am still at my husband’s ex wife, and whether or not I’ll ever be able to fit back into the size 8 Cambio jeans I keep as a vigil to my former self in the back of my closet.

Say, do you meditate?

(Not to change the subject, but do we really want to start talking about the range of sizes in my closet? Here’s a hint: Think Bloomingdales.) And if so, help me out. I’ll take whatever you’ve got. Give me your best stress-busting advice. And let me know whether your adrenals have been served by the process, or are as tired and pathetic as mine. I’ll look forward to hearing all about it.

In the meantime, as always, until next time!

 

February 13, 2011 Looking for a few good sherpas…

February 13, 2011

Looking for a few good sherpas…

 

And so, it’s finally warming up here on the east coast. They’re calling for 60 degrees on Thursday and Friday, thank GOODNESS. As someone who’s typically a fan of winter, I’m ready to be done with it. So I’ll say this in the spirit of positive thinking:

Goodbye, my imaginary little Sherpa. Thanks to you and yours for doing such stellar work in keeping me on my feet as I attempted to clear without insult or injury the endless mountains of now dirty snow and the treacherous landmines of black ice. For those of you who want to know, to date, I am still standing…(but I make no promises).

Of course, the better weather brings an entirely stickier situation: Shedding clothes. No more bulky coats. No more heavy sweaters. No more tights or the cover up of fresh bodily flesh for the sake of keeping warm. Before we know it, we’ll all be required to once again bare it all…

Nah, let’s not even go there. I’m sure Mother Nature has at least one more really good one for us. Then, and only then, will I worry about dressing for Easter (the officially arrival of warm weather in my mind, even though I’m Jewish and don’t celebrate the occasion, although those bonnets do a nice job of deflecting away from the hips and thighs…).

Although, I am hoping that by the time Spring officially arrives, it won’t be a problem. Between the thyroid medication, supplements to treat adrenal stress, and the elimination of wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs, caffeine, sugar, and taste (yes, that’s right, you read that), I should be ready for a second career in modeling by the end of April. (Stop laughing, seriously. Did you just snort?)

Delusion is so fun. Isn’t it?

——————————————————————————————–

Which leads me to my next question: Can you really be hot after 50?

I mean, here I am, busting my donkey to get in the best shape of my life, enjoying a deprivation festival that is not for the faint of heart, for one simple reason: To return to hotness.

Now I’ve heard all kinds of lofty stories for why people embark upon a journey of fitness. I don’t want to die from a heart attack like my father did at 55. I don’t want to succumb to the cancer my grandmother had, or the struggle with [insert disease] that my sister’s husband’s brother did ….I want more to spend as much time as possible with my children, have the energy to run and play with my grandchildren, teach all the little kids the value of good health…

You name them, the reasons why. I’ve seen and heard them all. And I certainly don’t want to diminish them – they’re all good stuff. But for me, the reason is not so lofty or complicated: I just want to be hot.

But if I get there—if I shed the pounds and learn to manage the tiny little lines that are starting to appear ever so subtly around my mouth and eyes—will it be worth it? When I was younger and lost weight, I could wear all the cool clothes, and it was great. I could be “hip” and “trendy” and there were no boundaries. Everything goes when you’re young. One feather earring. A tight pair of jeans with studs. A tee-shirt that says, “Bubba Joe’s Boardwalk Crabs”. But does it when you’re, gulp, not so much?

—————————————————————————————————-

I don’t know why, suddenly, this has only recently dawned on me – it’s not necessarily news and I knew that it was coming. But the other day, it hit me hard: Next year, I’ll be 50. Granted, not until December of 2012, but still. I’m inching ever closer to that colonoscopy. To the half-century mark. It’s in eyesight. And I don’t like it. Not one bit.

I mean, what the what? I don’t feel like I could be almost 50. And I certainly don’t think I look the part—but then again, who looks in the mirror and says, ‘Yeah, I look 50, maybe even 55. No wait, 60.” No one. Not if they’re even remotely self preserving.

So the other day, I’m in the bathroom at work with one of my younger counterparts. As I examine the two new lines around my eyes, I blurt out, “Goodness, 50. Next year!”, chased by a deep sigh. (Sometimes, I forget there are other people around.) To which my colleague, who’s in her very early 30s, drops her jaw. And I think: There is a God.

“No WAY,” she says. “No way.”

I nearly got on my knees and genuflected at this response.

“Yes, ma’am, next year. Crazy, isn’t it? Just goes by like this.” And I snap my fingers.

“I can’t believe it,” she goes on. I think about putting her in my will.

“Thanks,” I say, smiling. “I pretty much exercise five times a week and stay vigilant to a diet of mostly cardboard. Anything without flavor and hard to get past your windpipe. That’s the secret to the fountain of youth!”

“I mean, I would have NEVER put you past, like, 41,” she says.

WHAT? I needed a moment. She couldn’t have said, “…late 30s?” Would it have killed her? Do I really look like someone in her 40s? I mean, SERIOUSLY?

I must have looked stunned, because she pulled her shirt down, told me to have a nice weekend, and scurried on out of the bathroom. Run, little Jezebel, I thought to myself.

RUN

The only thing that ever bathes me in relief after a situation like that one is that someday she too will look in some mirror and realize she’s almost 50 – if she’s lucky.

In the meantime, back in the car, I indulged in a few moments of crying over my impending senior citizen-ship, cursing everybody since birth who’s ever wronged me (what the heck, throw that in), and then got quickly coherent.

Here’s the thing: None of us can control the aging process. Well, non-surgically that is. Which leaves me with little choice but to either a) find a good cosmetic doctor and start selling beads on the side to pay for it or b) embrace it – climb that hill as gracefully as my good jeans and shaky self-esteem will allow.

Sure do wish I had a real Sherpa for that.

What do you think? Got any age-defying secrets to share? How do you plan to clear that hill? And do you think hip and trendy still apply to the almost-50-and-over set? Do tell. I’m listening.

Until next time!

Comments (2)

January 23, 2011

TMI

Filed under: Uncategorized — sherer @ 6:24 pm

As I get older, I find that I have patience for a great many things, like slow computers, food servers, even traffic. I also have less tolerance for other things, like people who text while they drive, talk on their cell phone in the elevator, or who hog up the office bathroom.

Now, I know that last one may sound strange—although if you have to go to an office every day and have, say, irritable bowel syndrome or even if you don’t, you probably know what I’m talking about.

Here’s why I bring it up: Last week, I started a new cleanse. You know, the kind that detoxifies your system so you can have more energy, feel lighter, lose weight, enjoy brighter skin, blah, blah, blah. Mine is a 10-day system that involves several nutrient-dense shakes a day, as well as unlimited amounts of fruits, vegetables, legumes, water, and an overall menu comprised of super clean fibrous eating.

Now I like doing these kinds of things. To me, it feels a little like redemption for all the bad choices I made in December, when I celebrated my birthday month with approximately seven cupcakes, three pizzas, five tuna salad sandwiches packed with real mayo, 22 sugar cookies, and, well, too many small bites of decadence.

And while it feels good to fuel my car with high-quality octane, it also has some less than desirable side effects: Like the need to run to the bathroom. A lot.

Now on the weekends: no biggie. I can handle that side effect – in the comfort of my own home, where access is easy and private. I can do my business with wild and reckless abandon, without having to control my impulses in consideration of somebody else one stall over.

But at work, well, that’s a whole other story. Especially if you consider that going does not come easy to me. I don’t go when I’m away from home. And I rarely go during working hours. I’m funny that way. Why my husband hasn’t even been privy to my bathroom habits –and we’ve been living together for almost six years!

And so, it was a very big deal that last week, in the middle of a grueling detoxification, on what I’m now calling “Black Flats Friday”, I had to REALLY use the restroom and couldn’t for one reason:

Black Flats.

I still don’t know who Black Flats is or what she does in the office, but I can tell you this: She didn’t get very much done on Black Flats Friday because she spent most of it in the bathroom. I know this because a) I could see her black ballet flats covered by a gray wool hemline on the floor in the second stall and b) I spent most of the day trying to avoid her – in an attempt to be able to use the bathroom when nobody was in there. So I could detoxify in private.

But it was virtually impossible. Whenever I went into the bathroom, Black Flats was there. So I’d fake it—go into a stall, eke out a little something, quickly flush, wash my hands and head back to my desk, where I’d watch my computer clock for 15 or so minutes—figuring that would give Black Flats enough time to get it done—and go back in so I could finally be alone.

It never happened. So I’d wait out longer and longer periods. Until finally, I decided I’d try to wait her out. After all, she had to recognize my brown boots, 4-inch heels, black platform. And that I was coming in with increasing frequency.

She also had to realize that the right thing to do was to give somebody else a chance.

Finally, at about 3 o’clock, I took a deep breath, entered the stall next to her, sat down, and started counting the minutes silently. Ours would be a test of wills, one minute, two minutes, five minutes would pass. And I’d think: Bring it on Black Flats, bring it on.

Oh sure, every now and then, somebody else would come in to use one of the other three stalls and then quickly go out. Because in the unspoken code of the restroom, they knew: People need to do their business in private.

But Black Flats was formidable. She didn’t even fake noise by rustling up a little toilet paper, or “accidentally” flushing the toilet. She just sat there.

And sat there.

And sat there.

After about 15 minutes, I couldn’t take it anymore. And so, I had to decide: Whether to bang maniacally on our shared wall and say, “IT’S MY TURN, GET OUT”. Or, call it a wrap and endure the pain involved in holding it until I was in the comfort and privacy of my own house. I opted for the latter, but let me tell you, it was harrowing.

Have you ever had an experience like that? And don’t scowl – we all do it. We might as well share. So let me know. What would you do in that situation?

Until next time!

January 23, 2011 TMI

January 23, 2011

TMI

 

As I get older, I find that I have patience for a great many things, like slow computers, food servers, even traffic. I also have less tolerance for other things, like people who text while they drive, talk on their cell phone in the elevator, or who hog up the office bathroom.

Now, I know that last one may sound strange—although if you have to go to an office every day and have, say, irritable bowel syndrome or even if you don’t, you probably know what I’m talking about.

Here’s why I bring it up: Last week, I started a new cleanse. You know, the kind that detoxifies your system so you can have more energy, feel lighter, lose weight, enjoy brighter skin, blah, blah, blah. Mine is a 10-day system that involves several nutrient-dense shakes a day, as well as unlimited amounts of fruits, vegetables, legumes, water, and an overall menu comprised of super clean fibrous eating.

Now I like doing these kinds of things. To me, it feels a little like redemption for all the bad choices I made in December, when I celebrated my birthday month with approximately seven cupcakes, three pizzas, five tuna salad sandwiches packed with real mayo, 22 sugar cookies, and, well, too many small bites of decadence.

And while it feels good to fuel my car with high-quality octane, it also has some less than desirable side effects: Like the need to run to the bathroom. A lot.

Now on the weekends: no biggie. I can handle that side effect – in the comfort of my own home, where access is easy and private. I can do my business with wild and reckless abandon, without having to control my impulses in consideration of somebody else one stall over.

But at work, well, that’s a whole other story. Especially if you consider that going does not come easy to me. I don’t go when I’m away from home. And I rarely go during working hours. I’m funny that way. Why my husband hasn’t even been privy to my bathroom habits –and we’ve been living together for almost six years!

And so, it was a very big deal that last week, in the middle of a grueling detoxification, on what I’m now calling “Black Flats Friday”, I had to REALLY use the restroom and couldn’t for one reason:

Black Flats.

I still don’t know who Black Flats is or what she does in the office, but I can tell you this: She didn’t get very much done on Black Flats Friday because she spent most of it in the bathroom. I know this because a) I could see her black ballet flats covered by a gray wool hemline on the floor in the second stall and b) I spent most of the day trying to avoid her – in an attempt to be able to use the bathroom when nobody was in there. So I could detoxify in private.

But it was virtually impossible. Whenever I went into the bathroom, Black Flats was there. So I’d fake it—go into a stall, eke out a little something, quickly flush, wash my hands and head back to my desk, where I’d watch my computer clock for 15 or so minutes—figuring that would give Black Flats enough time to get it done—and go back in so I could finally be alone.

It never happened. So I’d wait out longer and longer periods. Until finally, I decided I’d try to wait her out. After all, she had to recognize my brown boots, 4-inch heels, black platform. And that I was coming in with increasing frequency.

She also had to realize that the right thing to do was to give somebody else a chance.

Finally, at about 3 o’clock, I took a deep breath, entered the stall next to her, sat down, and started counting the minutes silently. Ours would be a test of wills, one minute, two minutes, five minutes would pass. And I’d think: Bring it on Black Flats, bring it on.

Oh sure, every now and then, somebody else would come in to use one of the other three stalls and then quickly go out. Because in the unspoken code of the restroom, they knew: People need to do their business in private.

But Black Flats was formidable. She didn’t even fake noise by rustling up a little toilet paper, or “accidentally” flushing the toilet. She just sat there.

And sat there.

And sat there.

After about 15 minutes, I couldn’t take it anymore. And so, I had to decide: Whether to bang maniacally on our shared wall and say, “IT’S MY TURN, GET OUT”. Or, call it a wrap and endure the pain involved in holding it until I was in the comfort and privacy of my own house. I opted for the latter, but let me tell you, it was harrowing.

Have you ever had an experience like that? And don’t scowl – we all do it. We might as well share. So let me know. What would you do in that situation?

Until next time!

January 3, 2011 - I’m a bad seed, I know and I’m sorry

January 3, 2011

I’m a bad seed, I know and I’m sorry

I don’t know about you, but I’m thrilled that the holidays are over. (Happy New Year, by the way.) I mean, talk about the sweets and the peer pressure to eat. Drink. And be merry. Trying to keep up with all those things is downright exhausting. Why, the day of my birthday alone (December 22nd), I got into my office only to find 33 cupcakes on my chair. A lovely sentiment, of course, from my colleagues. I don’t mean to be ungrateful—or to look a gift horse in the face. Although I did promise to keep the one vendor who sent me a box of designer fruit working all year round!

And now, after gorging myself during a sugar festival the likes of which is only found at the most award-winning state fairs—that’s lasted more than 31 straight days (since I am only human)—I am in full detox (not counting the candied pecans I found in the cabinet this morning–okay, I’m starting now). And I only have two New Year’s resolutions because defying the urge to make resolutions is about as pleasant as chronic constipation.

They are as follows:

Resolution #1: If I can’t lose weight, I can’t get any larger. In fact, at my biggest, I must still be able to theoretically fit into the tube that lifted the Chilean Miners to safety in 2010. (Somebody please email me with the measurements for my weight loss file. Thanks.)

Resolution #2: To get over my obsession with resolution #1.

For those of you who’ve been reading for a while, this will make perfect sense. For the others, well, just trust me.

—————————————————————–

Now for something totally different, I have to tell you a funny story about the holiday spirit that has nothing to do with my physiological standing:

On the morning of Christmas Eve, I decided to treat myself to a grande decaf soy latte from Starbucks using one of the several gift cards I’d gotten for my birthday (on December 22nd, did I say that already? Okay, sorry, just ignore this Birthdayzilla….).

So, I pull up to my favorite Starbucks drive-thru which, as you may imagine, is quite busy—what with everybody being out and about getting last minute gifts and preparations. Unfortunately, the line is moving rather slowly. So I counsel myself, “Jill, pack your patience, it’s the holiday season, you’re off from work, you don’t have to be anywhere at any time so breathe. Just breathe.

Finally, after way toooo long (maybe, like, 12 minutes) the fancy-pants black BMW SUV in front of me makes it to the pull-up window. Thank GOODNESS, I think, since I’m now getting bored of waiting. But then the guy in the car starts to chat up the barista for like SEVEN MORE MINUTES. Goodness, don’t they see the line behind me?

As the minutes pass I realize that if this goes on any longer, it’ll soon be my 49th birthday. (Oh God.)

So after about seven whole minutes of their going at it (okay, maybe three), I am finally tempted to lay on the horn, but instead, in the spirit of the season, I do an angry chant under my breath (relax, breathe, the a**hole will get out of the way shortly, a**hole) and figure this is my penance for treating myself to a soy latte which, frankly, I really don’t need. (Sorry, only physiological reference. Promise.)

FINALLY after like two more minutes, the guy in the BMW waves his little mamby pamby hand out the window (sorry, middle-aged rage, can’t help it) and I can see the car window roll up. His brake lights go on and then he crawls out of the way. Hallelujah, I think.

Hallelujah.

By the time I pull up, I’m irritated and certainly not in the mood to exchange happy holiday greetings with the barista, who was wearing a very dorky Santa stocking hat which was pissing me off even more.

I just want my damn soy latte. That’s what I was thinking. Just give me my drink and set me free.

So imagine my surprise, when I handed the dorky Santa head my gift card and she said this: “Hey, know what?! The guy in front of you bought your drink! He said ‘Merry Christmas’ and oh ‘remember to pay it forward’.” Then, she flashed a big 20-something I’m-not-jaded-by-the-world-yet smile, swung the tip of her hat (and blonde pony tail, surprise) as to say, “Yes, this is really happening” and then went on: “You know, he was the fifth car in a row to do it!!” Another big smile.

I was absolutely astonished. After all, that was the last thing I expected to hear the pullup barista to say–and in my irritation, after waiting 20 minutes for a rotten cup of coffee—decaf no less. So like a deer in the headlights—like somebody who’s just been punked—I am not quite sure how to respond. So I do this:

I say, “Really? Hey thanks!” And I drive off.

———————————————————————————

Now I know what you’re thinking: I’m a bad seed ‘cause I broke the chain. The goodness chain. The chain of holiday spirit. The chain of people doing good for other people. I was the fifth car and it ended there. It could have gone on like a virus to infect the sixth car, this goodness, and then the seventh car and then the eighth—heck, maybe even the 18th. It could have gone on and on to be a great Christmas story for the ages in Starbucks history.

But I ruined it. And let me tell you, I knew it as soon as I pulled away. As soon as I had processed what the Santa barista had told me, which took me a few minutes (obviously). And I felt bad. I did. Because running away from goodness is just not like me. (Stop it. That’s just not nice.)

And yet, there was no turning back. I couldn’t back up, put the car into reverse, or swing around to the back of the line because, at that point, it was even longer than it was when I first pulled into it. And, sadly, I was even shorter on patience.

There was no way I could reverse what I’d done. I just had to live with the fact that I was now the irritated hungry impatient don’t-want-to-miss-Oprah I’m-on-vacation I-hate-waiting Jewish Christmas Grinch that broke the chain and will go down in infamy in a different kind of Starbucks story for the ages…

And so, as I went about my business, I tried to rationalize it for the rest of the day – heck, the rest of the weekend. I posited the following questions to myself and to my husband, after recounting the story to him:

How did that guy know what I was having anyway? What if there were five people in the car behind me – was I supposed to buy all of their drinks to be fair? What if those five people, in their surprise, said “thanks, that’s super” and just drove off, like I did?

I pleaded to Dan with my eyes to force me into a few hail whatevers and let me get back to feeling good about myself. I practically said it out loud: “Absolve me.” Take away my DSW card. Force me to watch Deadliest Catch. Make me take you on a Home Depot shopping spree.

I even thought about threatening him with, you know. But just couldn’t bring myself to commit two bad deeds on one day. It was Christmas Eve, after all.

So I did nothing. I just lived with it. And in retrospect, this is what I’ve learned: People should just buy their own drinks at Starbucks. Because good deeds can sometimes be too confusing to be completely good in the end. In fact, sometimes they can really smart.

How about you? Got any good holiday stories? Did you feel the spirit or are you relieved that it’s all over, like I am. Do tell!

Until next time!!

2010
December 16, 2010 Corporate jets, lunch with the ladies, and the longest-lasting manicure I've ever had

December 16, 2010
Corporate jets, lunch with the ladies, and the longest-lasting manicure I’ve ever had
Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: birthday, business presentation, Chris Brogan, Christmas break, corporate jet, holidays, manicure, mom, New Year’s resolutions, reminiscent, Stage Door Deli — sherer @ 2:21 pm

I’m really sorry that I haven’t written in a few weeks I know that’s just not so good especially when you have a blog and you want people to keep coming back please do keep coming back, I promise, I’ll post more frequently once the holidays are over it’s just that there’s not enough time in the day I mean by the time I get up exercise eat drive an hour to work put in 10 hours and drive an hour back home cook dinner eat dinner and get into my pajamas so good what a great feeling those PJs are and I’m ready to collapse and the last thing I feel like doing is writing although I do love to write so don’t get me wrong and I especially love having my blog and appreciate each and every one of you taking the time to visit and read since this blog is certainly one of my greatest passions it’s just that when you add the holidays and all sorts of tasks and responsibilities that come with it like shopping for gifts and attending parties and being available to get together with friends to celebrate my 48th birthday which is on the 22nd and typically very inconvenient for most people this time of year which of course has made me only slightly bitter and heaven help me how the heck did 48 years go by so fast and well add it all up and you’ve got not necessarily a lazy blogger but one who isn’t as good as she should be in terms of keeping up with things but I’m trying I hear you Chris Brogan and I haven’t forgotten about all of you and so in this blog which will be a lead in to the famous New Year’s Eve resolution blog which will NOT include the resolution of losing weight well okay maybe it will but gosh I wish it didn’t have to but more on that later for now I’ll just tell you about a few things that have happened over the past few weeks that have elicited a range of emotions in me from whimsy which is really such a great word to melancholy and to wonder and to a happy belly and so once I get through it okay and then we’ll be all caught up so thanks again for your patience and really who needs punctuation after all it just confuses things don’t you think?

Riding the corporate jet

Yes, you read that right. Jill went for a ride on the corporate jet. Well, let me explain. It’s my understanding that our company rents two jets – one medium-sized and one small (think five seats and two short benches) for jaunts to and from various client meetings across the country. Last Wednesday, my boss came into my office and said, “[The big company cheese] wants you to accompany the team to a new client finalist meeting in Boston next week. And the good news is, you get to fly on the corporate jet. Of course, I had no information whatsoever about the prospect. No idea what I needed to pull together by way of presentation. Didn’t even know my team members in that part of the country, who’d be presenting with me. But none of that mattered. I felt, in that moment, that I had arrived. Me, on a company jet. Lil’ ol me. Lil’ ol’ OMG, meet you at the 50s Diner for breakfast, where did I put my favorite socks, sh#@ I forgot to take my vitamins, did anybody see my car keys me. Because, as you know, folks. I’m just a real person. Flyin’ on a real jet—the small one—with three of my colleagues and two pilots. And let me tell you, the experience was rather lovely.

Unlike having to strip down to your skivvies via the commercial route, flying on the corporate jet entailed this: 1) A personal greeting from the captain of the plane. 2) Letting him roll your small bag to the jet as he entertained with a bit of small talk (…good flying weather today, did you have a nice visit here in [insert city], we’re looking forward to smooth ride back…). 3) Reminding him that “it’s not my time to go yet (wink wink)”. 4) Climbing up onto the metal steps, stopping to turn around and offer a amateurish cupped wave like Queen Elizabeth even though the only people to receive me were my three colleagues (who looked at me kinda funny). 5) Walking to one of the five plush leather seats awaiting my precious donkey, sitting, and sighly deeply. 6) Telling the co-pilot that “sure, I’d love a seltzer water with lemon if you’ve got any” before dozing off just a bit (hopefully, my mouth wasn’t open).

As I now know, flying in the corporate jet involves absolutely no pat downs, no shoe removal, no production of small baggies full of baby shampoos and hair sprays. You don’t even have to take your laptop out of your case (unless you really want to). Instead, the corporate jet calls to you like a long lost lover. It says, “Just get on, baby.”

That’s it.

Lunch with the gang from the old neighborhood

Last weekend, my mother corralled two of her friends from the old neighborhood and one of her friend’s daughters (who I’ll call Sally), who is about six years older than me, for lunch. It was a reunion of sorts, since I was raised with Sally and grew up around the ladies—all of whom would act as perfect playmates for my birthday parties since when I was little, since most of my peers would be off to sunny Florida for Christmas break or engaged in alternative festivities when it came time for my inconvenient December 22nd birthday.

Suffice to say, it was both melancholy and lovely to be with them, since, as you can imagine, much has happened over the years for us to reminisce about—the tragic death of one son, a 40-pound weight loss, the birth of seven grandchildren, a bout of cancer that didn’t, thank goodness, win.

The best part, though, was watching my mother morph into something else: A young girl. Sitting in between her friends, now older ladies replete with fancy jewelry and corral lipstick, reminiscing in full view about the life they shared when we (me and Sally and our respective siblings) were young and how much fun they had raising us all together. And how here they sat, some 50 years later, and could we believe it.

How did all that time pass so quickly?

Back then, they go on, not only were they younger, but much less burdened by the daily cares of the now 21st century. For example, they didn’t worry so much about whether salt was good for them, how many calories were in an Italian sub, whether their investments were safe from fraud, or even if their children, still too young, had gotten back to their homes, dorm rooms, or respective cities safely. Instead, they ate ribs without thinking. They surely didn’t have to worry about checking their emails, Blackberry’s, cell phones, or calendars. Life was much simpler then.

Instead, they wiled the days away, piling us children into the backseat of a shared car for doctor’s appointments and going to the swim club. And they played, while the husbands went to work and they stayed home to raise us kids and keep order in the homes that stood together like a row of tall oaks in the woods.

I missed all that—having children in my 20s, raising them with the neighborhood ladies, growing old together—as have so many of my friends and, I guess, the women of my generation. We’re all victims of the women’s movement, quote, unquote. Although I guess we have another whole genre of memories to reminisce about—like Spanx, and 60 hour work weeks, scars from bumping our heads against the glass ceiling, and sheer exhaustion from trying to do it all. Someday, perhaps, we’ll all gather in a fancy diner, like my mom and her friends. When our respective schedules can accommodate. Our Blackberries laid neatly by our forks and napkins. Our lipsticks and credit cards tucked safely away in our trendy bags.

The three-week manicure

All I know is that after the mom lunch, I went to get a manicure at my usual place (in preparation for the upcoming client meeting in Boston and for meeting the pilot on the corporate jet since I didn’t want him to think I wasn’t worthy…with my dirty nails…).

When I got to the salon, the woman who usually greets me was almost overly excited—as if she’d lost all perspective—to tell me about a new manicure technique that would ensure my manicure would hold, without chipping, for two to three weeks!

Lo and behold, I thought, will modern miracles never cease!

So I took the bait and watched it all happen: First, the regular cutting, filing and cuticle snipping. Then, a little rolling over the nail to make it porous. Then, one preparatory clear coat. Then a coat of nail polish (a bold berry color, so not neutral-loving me, but what the heck, it was a day of experiment..), five minutes under the dryer. Then, another coat of nail polish, under the dryer. Then, another coat of nail polish (this time clear), under the dryer. Then, one more coat of nail polish, under the dryer. Then, a quick alcohol rub and viola! Perfectly dried no-chip nails that have now lasted for two weeks.

TWO.

Technology is making the world a better place. Isn’t it? Am I right, anybody?

One last thing…

Last Friday, we went to see a client in New York City and, after giving what I must say myself was a fine presentation to their executive team, both in terms of delivery and design, my colleague and I decided to stop at the Stage Door Deli for some good Midtown grub, before heading into Penn Station to grab a train home.

The best part? The skinny blonde Russian hostess in super tight Jordache jeans (who I’m pretty sure couldn’t understand English, but that’s another post entirely) seated us in the window, to which my colleague exclaimed with great joy and excitement, “That means we’re really good looking! They only put good looking people in the window! Yay for us!”

I’m not entirely convinced that was the reason (the restaurant was fairly packed), but I took it. And thanked her for the early birthday present. I even thanked the hostess on the way out, to which she promptly pointed me towards the restrooms in the back in the restaurant.

But whatever.

So what’s been going on in your life? Do tell.

Until next time!

November 28, 2010 Rage for no good reason

November 28, 2010
Rage for no good reason
Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: 50, anger, Broadway, emotional, kaleidoscope, memory, mid life, rage, Rapunzel, remember, salad, sun, Sunday Morning, Tangled — sherer @ 12:12 pm

The other night, my friend Louise* and I met for a pollo y pepe salad (lettuce, tomato, chicken, roasted red pepper, and eggplant, chopped and tossed in a light vinegarette to delicate perfection, yummy) when she started telling me an interesting story:

Turns out, the other day, her 15-year-old son Bart* mouthed off to her about something (I can’t remember since short-term memory loss is as common these days as breathing and I’m wondering right now where my keys are and if I remembered to close the garage door…). Not so unusual, except her husband Fred* didn’t back her up when she reprimanded the teen for his disrespect and sarcasm. Not so unusual, except that this time, and I quote, she wanted to “smash Fred in the head” for not supporting her.

Now, it’s not an entirely off-base complaint since we all want our spouses to support us. But it was the word smash that stopped me (and frankly, I don’t remember if it was the word smash exactly, but it was something equally belligerent). It was so, well, angry and extreme.

And so, without even thinking, I heard myself counter as if I were having some out-of-body experience: “Oh yeah? You want to talk about anger — the other day, I was at the grocery store and was this close to throwing my shoe at some woman who was not only wearing leggings with stirrups, but a shade of deep brown lipstick that was so wrong for her pale ashy skin, it was almost criminal.”

Louise’s response? A big smile. She glowed like the lights on Broadway. After all, she wasn’t alone. Someone else felt it—understood it: the wild and oddly wonderful and freeing and totally and completely random sensation of rage for no good reason.

And so, she went on: “Oh yeah?” she beams, “My cousins are so moody and rude, I want to give them all Indian burns…”

“Oh yeah?” I say, practically giddy, “well I’m going to finally key the damn Acura that’s practically parked in our driveway, tonight’s the night…”

And so we went on, for hours, complaining and venting as if we actually had it bad. As if our lives were about struggle and turmoil and nobody loved us. None of which is the case. And yet, it was only when I stumbled upon an article at the hair salon a few days later did this unwelcomed rage make sense: According to a perpetually pissed author (like me), a drop in estrogen in mid life makes a woman prone to being mad even when there’s nothing maddening going on in her life.

And yet, for me, I’m noticing that it’s not just about anger. As I begin to make the ever-dwindling trek up the ass crack of 50 (I’ll be 48 in December), I can’t help but feel a kaleidoscope of emotions at any given moment. Beyond rage, it’s also confusion, brain fog, hunger, and an inexplicable insatiability and sadness that often leaves me breathless and scratching at myself.

Case in point: When Rapunzel was reunited with the King and Queen at the end of the movie Tangled (which we saw this weekend, my pick), I came close to downright sobbing. In fact, I had to take my 3D glasses off to wipe at my mascara. To which Steppy, who was sitting next to me, pointed and exclaimed, “Dad, she’s crying!”

Which, of course, made me just want to pop her, but of course I didn’t. No, no, my plan is to seethe in silence until this random rage leaves as mysteriously as it came on.

In the meantime, I’ll relish the fact that Louise (and perhaps an entire cadre of middle-aged women, who knows?) is there for me to both empathize and vent. Why, just this morning, I sent her a text: “Gosh, you’d think [the TV show] Sunday Morning could come up with a new graphic. I mean, how many different ways can you draw a sunburst. It’s boring and insulting, don’t you think? Seriously, I want MORE. [Insert expletive.]”

Used to be a time when things like a tired sun would have absolutely no significance. Then, in my early 40s, it began to feel like a gaggle of gnats buzzing from out of nowhere. And now, you-know-how-old, it feels like an outright assault. I can hardly wait for the time when it goes back to being just warm.

Until then, I have to ask: How do you feel? Angry? Tired? Sad? Excited and delighted? Like me? Or not. Do tell.

Until next time!

November 14, 2010 I’ve fallen and, okay, I can get up but still…

November 14, 2010
I’ve fallen and, okay, I can get up but still…

Along with the perils of middle-age—the drying hair and skin, the forgetfulness, the slowing metabolism—comes a new twist: Falling. Now, I know I’m only 47, but it seems that, as I age, I find it harder to stay on my feet. Oh sure, I knew that once I turned 40, all sorts of new things would start happening to my body—that there’d be hair in places I never expected, a little ring around the rosy, reading glasses. And yet, no one ever warned me that as I approached my late 40s, I’d also need extra focus and concentration for staying upright.

Case in point: A few weeks ago, I went to Saladworks for lunch with a colleague. As I approached the cement lip that stood between me, the parking lot, and the restaurant’s entrance, I suddenly went down like a submarine. Even though I knew the tiny step was there and I thought I’d cleared it.

But no, instead I fell straight on my hands and knees. And as I went to hoist myself up as gracefully as possible, my friend gasping, “Goodness, are you alright?” I noticed a small cotillion of people coming out of Saladworks just staring at me – gaping, as if I were an overturned tractor trailer on I-476.

I was fine physically, but the humiliation lasted clear through the work week.

Then, I was walking the dogs in the park a few days ago when there must’ve been an errant pebble, and well, down I went. Fortunately, it was kind of like “if a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to see it, did it really fall?” (You with me?)

Then, last weekend, Dan and I went to see a series of short plays at Temple University through a program called “Young Voices” that celebrates budding playwrights. One of them is the 17-year-old daughter of my employer. She’d interned for me for last summer and recently invited me to come see a play she’d written that was being performed by the student actors. I assured her, of course, that I wouldn’t miss it.

When we arrived, we caught up with her, her father and her mother, who I met for the first time–and who not only shook my hand, but cradled it like a newborn baby for about 10 minutes, thanking me for being so supportive of her daughter and gushing about how much of an influence I’d had on her. Suffice to say, I was feeling pretty good about myself, when the lights started to flash in the theater, signaling the show was about to begin and it was time to head to our seats.

So, I thanked her for her kind words, commented on what a great job they’d done raising such a delightful young lady, smiled, laughed, tossed my head back and set my sights on the fourth row, where we were sitting. Then, feeling very important (since I don’t have my own children to influence and since my nieces and Steppy don’t seem to be all that interested in my influence and since none of their mothers ever thank me for anything), started walking with a proud swagger down the long set of stairs back to my seat. And I was almost home free.

I had only four or so more rows to go, when the lights went out and I suddenly felt my feet go out from under me. Down I went, landing right on my donkey.

Not pretty.

Act natural, I whispered to myself, contemplating how to deal with this apparent fall from grace, the humiliation of it, hoping the boss’s family didn’t see me stop, drop, and roll (ever so slightly) suddenly—for no good accountable reason.

Dan, who was walking behind me, tried to catch me, of course—kind of the way you’d catch somebody who’d accidentally fallen off the Brooklyn Bridge into a small tube–but unfortunately he wasn’t in the right place at the right time.

And so I sat there for a moment, alone, gathering my wits until finally crawling my way into seat 4A, the show now fully in progress, lights blazing. As I slid into the worn red velour, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Is this what I have to look forward to next? Tripping over everything? Is this what (gasp) 50 will be?”

Well? Is it? Somebody? Answer me.

——————————————————————————————–

As if staying on my feet isn’t enough, there’s now the whole accelerated issue of technology. Why, I remember the days when I used to call someone on the telephone and they used to actually answer it. I’d hear a voice and it’d stop at “Hello?” and then wait for a verbal human response, versus going on mechanically, instructing me to leave a message after the beep.

Those days started coming to a clear close when email came along. That was bad enough—people abandoning the phone for firing off too many electronic notes in a row, all of which required me to formulate something informative, pithy and descriptive since I am a writer after all. And, well, there are expectations.

And NOW, it seems like the world is trading in it’s “you’ve got mail“ for that darn TEXTING. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard, that irritating Judy-Jetson-esque alert that sort-of clicks from my Blackberry. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind the occasional text. But I really don’t want to have an entire conversation through a series of 140 characters, over a screen the size of my instep.

People, are you listening?

I’m tired. My thumbs hurt. My eyes aren’t what they used to be. And goodness gracious, I am not Celine Dion. I do not have to preserve my voice. I can actually speak. Are you intrigued? If so, give me a ring.

I almost long to have a good old-fashioned conversation–the kind where one person actually speaks into something that allows another person to actually hear it and respond, and then we go back and forth. Live. And in real time.

Close your eyes and imagine.

In fact, it’s in that spirit that I tried to call several people in my world this weekend to, well, chat. And let me tell you: It wasn’t easy.

The first one, my best friend Lorrie, responded in prompt fashion to every one of the three texts I sent in a row. But when I called on both phone numbers—the house and the cell—I got nothing. Voice mail. That’s what I got. And so I had to ask myself: Has somebody stolen her cellphone? Is there an imposter texting me back who’s just too afraid to hit the “power on” button and talk to me? Should I call the police? The fire department? The Federal Bureau of Investigation?

Why is it that in one minute I can get 87 characters out of her, but never a “hello” from the other end?

Same for my niece. My friend Jill in Brooklyn. My cousin Amanda.

And what happens when we get tired of texting? How will we communicate next? Through electronic smoke signals? Mini-watches? Key rings? Universal remotes? Special jewelry? Shoes?

Chicklets?

Can you just imagine the keyboard?

Okay, I’m getting cranky. Perhaps it’s because earlier today, in addition to almost tripping over the bottom step in our basement, I went to put my lipstick on without a mirror (as I’ve been doing since I was 16) and had a hard time actually targeting my lips.

Oh dear.

Tell me about you? How are YOU doing? Text much? Staying upright? Let me know.

Until next time!

November 1, 2010 Happy Post Halloween … I think…

November 1, 2010
Happy Post Halloween … I think…

Happy post Halloween. Gotta tell ya: Not in the spirit last night. With all the political ads running like the world’s worst urinary infection and just feeling a tab bit life burnt, I just couldn’t feel it. Add to that the fact that I barely saw anybody dressed in costume this whole weekend (not like when I was a kid and people would literally go grocery shopping in a Superman costume on this holiday), and this Halloween was a real dud in my opinion. (Not at all as exciting as the miner rescue, that’s for sure.)

I mean, c’mon. Where were the people in cars on their way to Halloween parties on Saturday night? Where were the houses decked out in fake spider webbing and pumpkins, ghosts and witches whipping in the wind, terrifying noises blasting out from out of “nowhere”?

Where were the neighborhood masses, walking up and down the streets of our development (where there’s healthy mix of families)?

I didn’t see any of it.

Now that could be due to the fact that we were plastered to the new 42-inch flat screen TV my parents bought us as an early Hanukah present. Or that, despite the red clown nose in our junk drawer in the kitchen (long story), I didn’t put it on with the rest of a clown suit and stand in the driveway bobbing for takers with a bowl of candy. I also didn’t kill myself trying to entice my youthful audience with really great candy like those mini Snickers bars, Milky Way’s, and Hershey’s. Instead, I

copped out with some very unappetizing sour dots in a box that, frankly, I bought in bulk at CVS. (To which my boss chastised me: “Don’t you give them the big Hershey bars?” To which I said, “Uh, no, I’d eat them all.” To which he said, “Lame.” To which I said, “Bite me.” I won’t tell you what he said after that…)

Never heard of those sour dots, but I just figured kids would eat anything that smacks of sugar. And I didn’t need anything to tempt me. After all, unlike the super delicious chocolate, this mystery candy wouldn’t call my name in the middle of the night like some wolf howling from the after-life. And if you’ve been reading for any length of time, you know I am easily woken by imaginary voices out of the cliff of sleep I white-knuckle cling to every evening.

Admittedly, Halloween is also difficult when you’ve got two barky shelter dogs that read the word “QUIET” as really meaning “bark louder, babies, you’ll get a good tre-at!”

And now that Halloween is over, well, we’re just a rabbit’s pace away from the full-blown holidays (big sigh), where people spend way too much money on crap they don’t need and I get completely shortchanged on my birthday. (But let’s not go there …)

So how was your Halloween? Everything you thought it would be? Do tell!

And until next time!

October 15, 2010 How can I get trapped in a mine?

October 15, 2010
How can I get trapped in a mine?

I don’t know about you, but I have been absolutely riveted to the Chilean miner saga. Just riveted. I started thinking about the miners at about 12:20 a.m. on Wednesday morning, when I sleep-stretched and accidentally knocked my saintly husband in the eye with my elbow. At the sound of his “Ouch, that hurt!”, I sprang up and announced, “Hey, are any of the miner’s out yet?” And promptly dropped back down onto my pillow.

Then, just three hours later, at 3 a.m. when I typically wake up (thanks middle age, yeah, you’re soooo great), I turned on CNN to learn that I while I was bruising my husband, the first guy was being hauled out. (See hon, a black eye is nothing–you could be trapped underground.)

And so I watched from there—as many of those miners being rescued as possible while drinking my morning coffee and getting in a few miles on the treadmill—until I had to leave for work. Then, in between tasks and meetings, I snuck into the big kitchen at the office to watch the television and promptly plugged back in when I got home. I stayed with those guys until the very last miner tumbled out of the rescue capsule and into the arms of his grown son and the Chilean president.

I couldn’t help but think when all was said and done what a truly miraculous thing had transpired. After all, every time the head of that capsule started popping up out of the ground, I’d wonder if it could make even one more trip—if the cable would hold, if the tube would suddenly get stuck in between the earth and the sky, if we would get all of them out in time (including the five rescue workers). And then, I’d grab my little Elvis to my chest and cry. Even when the miner hugged his mistress and not his wife (bastardo!). I’d cry, as if crying were a sport and I was its champ–as if I were being lifted out of that mine or, even worse, my Dan. Face scrunched. Eyes red and watery. Cheeks wet, sometimes drenched. Lungs a little out of breath. I even heard a few guttural sounds spring from out of my voice box. It felt good.

The whole day, in fact, just felt kind of splendid. To be witness to something happy for a change instead of somebody being burned by acid, or killed by an IED, or threatened for ransom, or shot off a jet ski, or raped in their own living room.

And now that it’s all over, oh, I know, it’s all going to start turning ugly. (I’m already hearing reports of several mistresses, blah, blah, blah…) That’s what we do with things. But still, in those moments, when these 33 men were given back the gift of their lives above ground, my waterworks were turned up to five-star-hotel high.

Of course, I attribute some of that to my being organically hormonal (there, I said it first so don’t write me), but most of it was because the whole event made for an incredibly poignant 24 hours.

And now that it’s over, I’m riveted to the news reports of what lies in wait for these once obscure Chileans. Fame. Fortune. Book deals and TV appearances. All on top of a 20-something pound weight loss. I cannot help but think to myself:

How can I get trapped in a mine?

How about you? What did the miners make you feel this week? Let me know.

Until next time!

October 3, 2010 Dolce Vita and a cleaning cart

October 3, 2010
Dolce Vita and a cleaning cart

Now that I have my first bona fide health issue ever in life, I have become obsessed with the inner workings of my body. For example, I subscribe to a variety of health and wellness online magazines and when one arrived last week with the subject line “What Does Your Poop Say about You?”, I near cancelled a client meeting so I could stay in my office and read it.

When I had an extra hour to play yesterday, I spent it browsing the new health food store by my house as if it were a shoe boutique giving away its size 8 inventory.

And lately, I wake up every morning to examine the reflection in the mirror with a new kind of scrutiny. I no longer just focus on the lines around my eyes or the random hairs sprouting from, well, anywhere, but at the circumference of my waist (have the new thyroid meds kicked in?), at the steadiness of my hands (are my adrenals calm?), and at the energy coursing through my body at any given moment (did I eat something that may have zapped me?

I must admit, while I’m not happy about having these issues, it has added a certain amount of novelty and suspense to the otherwise normalcy of things. For example, I have a renewed curiosity about what will work, now that I’ve been diagnosed properly.

After four long years of trying, will the new diet plan actually bear fruit? What will the changes look like (it’s been so long since I’ve been able to solicit even a cheekbone)? Where will they start – face first or straight from the donkey? How long will they take? And will I still look like me when all is said and done?

I mean, it’s not like I have to lose 100 pounds or anything, but even a 20-pound weight loss can be profound in terms of changing a person’s appearance—not to mention how they feel about themselves.

But the most positive thing that’s happened as a result of knowing what’s going on and having a plan for addressing it, is that I have newfound hope. It’s manifested in a renewed interest in getting dressed in the morning–buying trendy clothes and bold accessories. Trying on a new hair style (well, more like getting a hair cut). I even splurged on a pair of 5”-inch high Dolce Vita leather boots that not only lack a rubber sole, but are downright hot.

It’s all part of my plan for 2011 as the year of resurgence: The return to hotness, if you will. Not necessarily the kind I may have had in my younger years, but the kind that I always hoped to have at this age—hotness that has me going gracefully and appropriately but with spunk. Never mind classically tailored lines and subtle tones. Finally cutting that hair off to just at the neck. I want long wild hair, to wear red. Give me a tight tank top with ruffles under a motorcycle black jacket. Give me tights.

I’m aiming for that more than every-once-in-a-while moment, when a head turns and a jaw drops at the mention of my real age (of almost 48). And I WILL get it. Even if it kills me–and it might.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is it’s amazing what a good diagnosis and a little validation can do for a person. Truly.

————————————————————————————

And so, while I remain focused on how to shape and live in my body, my husband remains focused on how to shape and live in our house.

You see, we lost another one—a cleaning person. She left us about six weeks ago to take care of her ailing mother. So here we are again: Forced to either find a new person we can trust or clean the place ourselves.

Of course, I’m tired. So I opted for the former. But my husband, with great vigor, insists on the latter. That we can save money and dust our own floors at the same time—and what can be wrong with that?

So who am I to argue? Although, I did tell him that my exhausted alterego Priscilla is not all that interested in participating. Especially since I’ve been working every weekend and, well, I’m really not up for anything beyond picking up the occasional tuft of dog hair. (Cleaning is just not my thing, even though I do refuse to live in dirt.)

And he’s all good with that. In fact, he’s come to look forward to those three hours of cleaning each week as precious alone time. A form of meditation. Now, that is. But it didn’t start out like that.

When we first made the decision that Dan would take over the cleaning, I slept very well with it, but him? Well, he had a few hurdles to overcome. After all, my husband is a man with a plan and the one for cleaning took a while to cook up. Where I might have just started dusting with your garden-variety Windex and paper towels, vacuuming the area rugs, and wiping down the hard wood with a damp mop, he spent the first two weeks devising a “system” for cleaning that had him very determined to get it right.

He drafted his approach on paper. Created an online flowchart to identify the most efficient way to move around the house. Did a little research on the escape velocity of dust. Studied green cleaning products and did a comparison test on various and sundry spots around the house. Invested in a series of toolbelts to see which, if any, were better than others in allowing him to transfer cleaning supplies easily to and from the various floors of our three-bedroom, three-bathroom townhouse.

All while I rolled my eyes, and during commercials shouted, “Just spray and wipe something already.”

Then, three weeks into his due diligence, he finally started taking my advice. First, he hung and wiped several new shelves in the laundry room to store the cleaning materials in a way that was easy for him to find what he needed. After all, they were “hidden” under the sink in a way that was apparently not all that “user friendly” (even though Gail seemed to navigate around them just fine).

Then, he spent several secretive hours each weekend in the garage but wouldn’t tell me why. “It’s a surprise,” he’d say. But I was beginning to think he’d hidden a prostitute or a hibachi grill and several pounds of red meat out there.

And then one day, he came out from the garage and asked me if I was “ready”. I was watching “Clean House” on the Style Network. Niecy Nash was just about to do the reveal on some hoarder’s bedroom.

“Ready for what?” I turned up the volume on Clean House.

“To see what I’ve been doing in the garage.”

I turned up the volume a bit higher and nodded towards the television. “They’re just about to show us the new bedroom, hon. Right now? Really?” I wasn’t sure I wanted to know.

“Really.” And with a shit-eating grin, he proceeds to roll out his version of a “cleaning cart”: Unfinished wood on all sides dropped onto four castors and framed by a series of compartments for holding various and sundry cleaning products. There are two holes in either corner of the bottom back of the cart to hold the pole ends of both a mop and a long duster. And there’s landing on the cart floor to hold the Hoover Wind Tunnel, which is also Velcroed at the top so it doesn’t topple forward while he pushes it all around the house.

As he explains what each feature means, my husband beams with pride. Glows like a nuclear waste dump.

“Well,” he says. “What do you think?”

I look at the reveal on Clean House. I don’t like the color of the paint—too white. Then I look over at his cart.

“Not bad. You should paint it yellow, like mustard.”

And then, I changed the channel. I was pretty sure I could catch the tail end of Bill Maher on HBO while Dan started to beta test the new cart (since I knew that step was coming). I didn’t watch him, but could hear him hauling the cart up and down the steps. Thud, thud, thud. My poor hardwood.

I suspect he may have accidentally wheeled over one of the dog’s tails or paws, since there was a bit of squealing at one point. But I know better than to look or get involved. He’ll figure it out. He always does. He doesn’t need me to watch.

After all, I’m down here, embroiled in a fresh episode of Clean House, preparing a grocery list for later. Nothing on it with dairy, gluten, or eggs. So fun. Really. Practically exciting. How will it all turn out.

So how are you living in your house? Your body? Your life? Do tell.

Until next time!

September 19, 2010 The road to good health is 54 months long…

September 19, 2010
The road to good health is 54 months long…

Finding the perfect doctor can be powerful, but I think I did it. It’s taken me four years, six months, three weeks, and 12 days, but I think I did it. How? I told everybody that crossed my path that I needed help. I told the mailman, the salesgirl at Head Over Heels, the new printer who wants to sell me her services.

I threw my intention around like slop—like paint on a mural—and it finally came back to me. Through my mother who, while out walking, bumped into an acquaintance in the neighborhood who happened to be stepmother to an old friend who happened to be walking with her even though she lives far away—and who once came to visit me in my old Cambridge apartment way back when and who did something fairly unseemly who I never thought I’d want to speak to again, who I now hold in a very dear place. Because, if you are following, life is funny that way.

It’s a long trail of words to keep up with, I know. But powerful nonetheless. Because you never know where help is coming from. Or when your intention will manifest. (Which is why you must always put it out there.)

Happily, joyfully, gleefully, mine did on Friday, when after four long years, six months, three weeks, and 12 days, a lovely young woman on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with a medical degree, a good ear, and crack diagnostic ability did not do me wrong—or tell me I was crazy.

She did not tell me to read a book or to count my calories.
She did not tell me to work up a sweat three to five days a week, or try drinking a tall glass of water before my increasingly parse meals.
She didn’t suggest that if I laid on the diagnostic table in her exam room for two weeks while she starved me that I would for sure, then, lose weight.
Or recommend I schedule a consult for a gastric bypass—the version of the procedure they make for size 12’s, that is.
She did not tell me that I should just learn to accept my body, despite a slightly elevated CRP and perhaps a dash of hypoglycemia. Nor did she tell me that we were “already 15 minutes over our scheduled time and that I need to wipe my tears, since we’ve already had this conversation for long enough and that simple meditation will do the trick …”
She didn’t suggest I try an energy healer (although I do covet my shamanic experience and would do it again in a heartbeat).

Instead, she asked me to “complain to her” which I did. She poked around, felt my ribs, knocked at my knees, acted on a few hunches, and sent me home with a box addressed to a laboratory and filled with a few small tubes for my various and sundry bodily fluids.

And lo and behold, just 3 weeks later almost to the minute, she told me this: “You have adrenal fatigue, a thyroid condition, and food allergies. And I’m going fix all of them.”

I can’t remember the last time I cried tears of joy while writing a check for $450. (Just one visit, best $450 ever spent.)

Now the news of a medical condition is never good, unless that is, you’ve been searching for answers for four years, six months, three weeks, and 12 days. In that case, it is like a symphony.

And even though I’m in the thick of Open Enrollment season, when Priscilla like to comes out and bare her pointy teeth, I’m thrilled. I finally know what’s wrong with me and now I can quickly go about the business of fixing it.

Lo and behold, I will not be trapped in these black jeans forever.

After all.

But boy oh boy, it’s been quite the long road. And these doctors? Well, don’t even get me started. After all, this post is going so well…

So how’s your experience been with the medical community? Has it been helpful, harmful, or what? Do tell. And if you can’t find me to bend my ear, try looking for me on the road to good health.

That’s where I’ll be.

Until next time!

September 10, 2010 Decomposition for weight loss

September 10, 2010
Decomposition for weight loss

So, I’ve been sparing all of you from this since my diets must be boring to all of you at this point. However, I am on a new one (on the heels of a 21-cleanse mind you, big sigh, I sure do deserve to be a thin). It’s called Fatloss4idiots.com. Have you ever heard of it? It’s gotten a lot of reviews (almost 100 percent good) on the Internet and seems to be working well for my friend who has Celiac’s and a screwed up metabolism like I do.

Essentially, it’s an 11-day diet plan that has you confined to a handful of foods (you choose) in all different combinations to create “calorie confusion”. It sure is simple to follow. And heck, at this point, I’d eat shoes for 11 days if it held the promise of even a one-pound weight loss. So, I’ll keep you posted. All I can say is I’m on day six and if I never see another piece of Orange Roughy again, well, it’ll be too soon.

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So I went to a new doctor in the never-ending quest to figure out why decomposition looks like my only realistic option for shrinking. She’s in New York, which is not around the corner, but from the looks of the first visit, I am encouraged. She comes highly recommended as an internist who does a good job at bridging the gap between Western and Eastern treatments, so what the heck. I’m giving her a shot. (www.drdanacohen.com)

And while I was there, I must say, she did ask me lots of new questions (what did you eat for dinner last night, breakfast this morning, lunch?) and suggested that I “complain to her”. Oh joy oh rapture, did my heart skip a beat on that one! (Mama loves me some complainin’ – just ask my poor husband, now as invested in my weight loss and hormonal balance as if it were a new no-lose stock coming his way on an inside tip.)

I went to see her last Friday when I was almost done with the cleanse. (Not that you asked, but I haven’t had sugar, wheat, gluten, caffeine [okay, that was not pretty], or dairy for about 33 days, 12 hours, 22 minutes, and 8 seconds, but who’s counting.) On top of the adrenal stress, she seems to think I may have quite the inspired thyroid issue—the holy grail of medical conditions for us aging Jewish girls—which made me want to scream “JUST GIVE ME THE PILL FOR GOD’S SAKES ALREADY”—but alas, I remained composed. And I won’t know whether that’s the case until I see her again next Friday.

In fact I’m looking forward to it much the way I used to look forward to a first date with a new hot guy (but not a blind date, oh good God, not one of those).

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In the meantime, as I wait, I continue to dream of grande skim lattes in long white dresses and International Delight Creamers as attendants (mostly Vanilla and Hazelnut flavored). In lieu of my beloved coffee, I’ve been trying to embrace green tea as a reasonable substitute. But I have to tell you, it falls short of the mark.

I mean, you’re either a coffee person or a tea person; you’re either a dog person or a cat person; you’re either a cruise person or a Europe person; you’re either a meat-eater or a vegetarian. I am a coffee, dog, European, carnivore. (Take that, Meyers Briggs.) That’s just the thick and thin of it. I will never own a cat, go on a cruise, or forego a good hamburger for a tofu sandwich. But I WILL come to love tea if it kills me – and it just might. (Just ask my colleagues, who must listen to me make fake spitting noises every time I take a sip from my mug.)

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And so, you may be wondering: Am I any thinner since all this insanity began? Has the cleanse washed any unwanted fat cells from my body, detoxified my liver to the point of a new dress size? Am I depuffifying as a result of eliminating good things like creamer and cereal and mayonnaise? The answer is NO.

N.O.

But I am a whole heck of a lot crabbier. That is a certainty.

Can anybody relate? Hello? Is anybody out there? Is this thing turned on?

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So it’s Rosh Hashannah (Happy New Year my fellow Jewish folk!) and I’m still on my Fatloss4idiots.com program. (Are you still with me – I know, I’m rambling.) My mother, bless her heart, decides to bring the family together to celebrate the holiday. Not so unusual. And in true fashion, she makes a veritable cornucopia of my favorites: Quinoa (yummy), beef brisket with roasted carrots (shut up), roasted zucchini of the green and yellow variety, and a nice large salad with Craisins and slivered almonds, and fresh cucumbers and tomatoes and salad dressing. All followed up with a delightful vanilla pudding, whipped cream concoction that is deliciously processed and lovely.

I ate a small piece of Orange Roughy and 12 cashews, as instructed by my FatLoss4idiots “diet generator”. Is anybody else starting to tear up or is it just me?

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If the doctor next Friday tells me I’m perfectly fine. If she tells me that if she strapped me to a table and didn’t feed me for two weeks that I’d lose weight. If she suggests this size 12 body goes in for a gastric bypass consultation. If she tells me my numbers are all in normal ranges and I simply need to meditate. If she tells me it’s all in my head. If she tells me just to accept my body and myself for who I am, I am just lovely. If she tells me I carry my weight well, who would ever have guessed it. If she tells me she can’t for the life of her see any problems in my blood tests, in my saliva, in my urine. If she tells me that she believes there’s something truly wrong with me, that I’m not crazy, but she simply can’t help me. If she tells me that the sky is falling and Chicken Little is really a gorilla. If she tells me that the human head weighs six pounds. If she tells me that I’ve got a really good personality. If she tells me that I’ve won a $250 gift certificate to Walmart or where to get cheap Viagra. If she tells me any of these things, I’m going to eat the largest, messiest hamburger on earth—replete with gluten-infested bread, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, and pickles, French fries, and a large mud pie for dessert—and then I’m going to hurl myself off of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Just so you know.

Oh, and it doesn’t help that one of the members of my team at work (around my age too!) is about the size of a swizzle stick and walks around the office making proclamations like: “Okay, now that that newsletter’s done, it’s donut time!” Or, “I love that meatball sandwich. Can you order me that and a piece of cheesecake for dessert?” Or, “Did somebody say there’s bagels and cream cheese in the small kitchen?” (Mind you, I didn’t know this when I hired her.)

Oh God.

So, how’s your diet going?

Until next time.

September 1, 2010 Gosh I love my dog

September 1, 2010
Gosh I love my dog

Well, it’s been said that people love to read about other people’s pets. With that in mind, here goes (and my apologies in advance):

Last night, we came home to a sh*& storm. Poor little guy (the cocker/sheltie mix) had, shall we say, gastrointestinal issues the likes of which I have not yet seen out of him. As I was recounting the story to one of my colleagues this morning (it was obviously a slow news day at the office)—how I spent two precious hours scrubbing the floors and baseboards, carpets, and the little guys bottom (since some of it was caked on – sorry, you’re not eating, are you?), I watched her scrunch up her face in disgust.

I guess I can see why – I mean, I’m a dog lover. But if you’re not, well, my graphic description of this particular experience could be troubling. The truth is that having a dog isn’t always puppies and roses. It’s not always a Normal Rockwell illustration – or the happy happy joy joy save-me-Lassie it appears to be in the movies. Truth be told, it can sometimes stink. Literally.

Aside from having to wipe my dog’s ass and then bathe his rear side in the sink, I am reminded of all the times I’ve been outdoors, picking up a nice steaming pile while the little dog (and sometimes even the big one) sniffs at my back end for all the world to see. Now there’s a picture. I can only imagine how it looks to those walking by, not to mention the not much it does for my dignity.

But then I digress.

And by the way, I love my dogs. My snoopy poopy little munchkin heads.

The fact is while owning a dog is a powerful experience (a friend of mine recently described them “crawling into your heart”), it’s not always most cleanly, entertaining, relaxing or even commonsensical – especially in those moments where it’s never more clear that dogs are animals. From the wild. They don’t know how to use a bathroom. And without thumbs, they surely can’t change the roll of toilet paper (although, I’m not sure what excuse my husband has) or hitch a ride to the groomer.

And since they give so much more than they get, I described last night’s experience to my scowling colleague like this:

“I see the look of horror on your face, but think of it like this: If your bottle of Prozac crapped on the carpet, would you get rid of it?”

I think not.

So how are the animals in your life? Until next time!

August 21, 2010 How do you sleep?

August 21, 2010
How do you sleep?

Hello to all and my apologies for taking so long to provide you with a new post. As you may imagine, re-entry after vacation can be an ugly thing. Trying to catch up after being away for a week can take almost two weeks (as you can see), so please forgive me.

As if that weren’t bad enough, we’re coming into our busy season at the office and I can feel the first brushes of “Priscilla” coming over me.

For those of you who are longtime readers, you may remember that Priscilla is the alter-ego I created last year as a way to deflect any responsibility for being awful to the people around me. It’s just that, I work in the employee benefits industry (creating their employee education materials) and now’s a big enrollment period for many of our clients. As a result, I spend most of my time working, which I why I feel the need to create another personality to take responsibility for my actions under extreme exhaustion.

For example, last night my husband asked me if I wanted a glass of water, and I’m pretty sure I roared like a caged tiger.

Add to that the fact that I’m:

a) on another cleanse (in my never-ending futile attempt to get rid of my fat stalker); and

b) 11 days clean and sober off of caffeine (although I did have a dream last night that I was standing in front of a rabbi and an entire congregation taking vows with a grande skim extra cold frappucino)…

…and I’ve got a bad personality disorder brewing. (Oh God, I miss coffee.)

But I digress. Or, maybe I’m just rambling.

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In any event, as a result of the time of year, withdrawal, and the need to do double duty because I dared to take a vacation, not to mention the tsunami of work heading in my direction (only made worse by the fact that I can see it coming and do absolutely nothing to stop it), I haven’t been sleeping well.

Actually, that’s an understatement.

Of course, that’s nothing new, when you’re my age and, well, when you’re my age. Or so they tell me. In fact, here are some responses from my informal poll around the question “How do you sleep?”:

My mother: “It’s your age. It’s just your age. I don’t sleep. Haven’t slept in years. Don’t you think your hair’s a little long for a 47-year-old?”

My friend Carol: Oh no. I never sleep. In fact, I’m making peace with the fact that I’ll probably never really have a good night’s sleep again.

My friend, who prefers to remain nameless: I was like to my doctor, “God, if I could only sleep, if I could only sleep.” I told my shrink I didn’t want to take anything but everything is so hard when you don’t sleep, you know. Well, then she put me on this [stuff] and, now I sleep like a dead person. And I have these vivid dreams. Along with my thyroid medication, this stuff is unbelievable.

My friend Jill: Oh NOOOOO. Jilly, are you fu*^in kidding me? If I get four good hours, that’s a fu*^in good night.

My friend Jane*: I haven’t slept in years. BUT my acupuncturist says that I should get some black cohosh for night sweats. AND my craniosacral therapist thinks maybe I have some past life issues, like maybe I went out in a bad fire, which are contributing to the extreme internal heating.

My husband Dan: I sleep GREAT.

My friend Donna: Huh?

My friend Lorrie: I sleep like a dead alligator. Who wants popcorn?

My friend Lorrie’s children (Spencer and Kyle): Mom snores like a chainsaw.

My analysis? Most of us in our 40s, with few exceptions, are NOT sleeping. To which I ask: WHAT THE WHAT?

I mean, if we were struggling to enlarge our penises (which, of course, we don’t have) or invest at a higher rate of interest, there’d be an entire McMansion industry dedicated to the cause. But when a cadre of middle-aged women can’t sleep, what does anybody do about it?

Nothing. Not. A. Thing. And when I ask the “experts” (read: useless endocrinologists who think the only answer to anything is to strap a person on a table and stop feeding them for two weeks to get them to lose any weight, which I know is off topic, but still), the only answer I ever get is: “Well, it’s the age.”

It’s as if being this age is like having a chronic disease for which there is no a) cure or b) pain management. Doesn’t anyone care that an entire movement of women is operating heavy machinery, raising the children who will be the future of our country, and making important decisions in business on as little as 240 minutes of sleep a night?

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That doesn’t even take into account the psychological and environmental effects on the actual person suffering from (apparently) age-induced insomnia—like watching middle-of-the-night television.

Another case in point: The other night, I sprang up in bed, as usual, at about 2 a.m. After about a solid hour of twisting and turning—wondering how I was going to get that enrollment guide and manager’s toolkit to my client by Wednesday, why my husband’s ex-wife hasn’t been punished for costing us some $30,000 in legal fees unnecessarily, and how come Tammy L**** and Wendy M***** were mean to me when I was 16 since I was nothing but really nice to them—I decided to stop trying for sleep. Instead, I got up and chose to numb my senses with a little CNN.

Despite the fact that my husband was sleeping, I promptly turned on box. (Mind you, the one time in 12,000 years he couldn’t sleep, he was considerate enough to watch TV in the family room, so as not to wake me; yet, I find having to leave my cozy bed rude and punishing.)

A rerun of Larry King was on. Perfect, although the guest was Snoop Dog and as a statement of the obvious, I’m not exactly in his demographic. Still, I watched because it was better than watching the clock and the precious minutes I had left for sleep passing.

Then, the commercials came on, one after the other, in almost slow motion. Spot after spot, there was some aging celebrity or voiceover hawking reverse mortgages, cemetery plots, life insurance, denture cream, walkers, osteoporosis medication, electric wheelchairs, and retribution for mesothelioma. I never thought I’d long so much to see a Victoria’s Secret commercial. Somebody promoting a new Pillsbury new cake mix. Even Jamie Lee Curtis promoting Activia.

As I lay there, eyeballing this death-festival, one after the other, in horror, I had a bad revelation: I had just entered a new demographic—and it wasn’t Snoop’s. I was no longer so put off by my exhaustion and the fact that I had to soon get up for work, as I was by the fact that I was officially old and going to die someday. And getting closer by the moment.

Now, I was lying awake, asking myself if I should be thinking about a reverse mortgage instead of refinancing? Does flossing really prevent dentures? And, how do I know if I have mesothelioma? What are the symptoms?

But the bigger question was and still is: What’s it really all about? And why hasn’t somebody come up with a f*^in remedy for middle-aged women who can’t sleep. (Sorry, I’m sleep deprived.)

How about you? How do you sleep? Ever watch middle-of-the-night television? What questions does it raise for you?

Until next time!

*Not her real name.

August 6, 2010 Preparing for exposure

August 6, 2010
Preparing for exposure

Here’s a quick post for you all since we’re down at the Jersey shore for a week of vacation. But first:

A note to would-be thieves: There’s a gaggle of people overnight-house sitting, pet sitting and plant sitting for us at our house so no funny stuff …
A note to other readers: In the spirit of full disclosure, I started writing this blog on Monday and now it’s Friday, which may lead you to believe this has been a fine vacation so far and, in this respect sir, you would be correct. (Why am I writing like an 18th century Englishman? Or am I…)
Another note to would-be thieves: Since, as it turns out, it’s already Friday, we’ll be home on Sunday, just two days from now, so your window for taking advantage of the situation has quickly diminished. That being said, remember the gaggle that awaits you—that I mentioned in the first point above—and continue to KEEP OUT.

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Whew! Now that that’s over, onto business – our week at the beach. For those of you who know me, you probably know I’m not a beach lover. For those who don’t know me, but have been reading for a while, this fact alone may not surprise you. After all, some of my favorite subjects to gripe about are a) my inability to shrink my donkey b) both surprising and agitating hair growth and c) my love of cold weather and air conditioning (blessed invention that it is).

Given these points, it makes sense I prefer to avoid a) stuffing my back end into a bathing suit at all costs b) having to be totally hairless for several days in succession (which requires two-a-day shaving sessions) and c) the sun, for fear I’ll look like an alligator skin pocketbook well before my time (think age 97).

And yet, my husband and Steppy love the beach and since I must sometimes be in service (can’t always be about me—SHUT UP), here we are. I will admit: the relaxation part of the experience has been quite wonderful. A break from the office does NOT suck. And not having to navigate the turnpike traffic has been like winning the little lotto – you know, the kind that pays out in the $40 range, but still pays.

And while there’s lots to do at the resort we’re staying at just outside of the New Jersey shore points—and amenities (tennis courts, pools, spa, driving range, golf course, evening fish frys and all-you-can-eat barbeques)—I’m most delighted by the thin mirror that is the hallmark of the living room in our two-bedroom suite. Upon discovery, I even grabbed Steppy and made her jump up and down in glee with me. She was confused by that, but whatever: Whoever came up with these Marriott Fairways—and frankly, the thin mirror—is genius.

After all, who doesn’t want to look in a thin mirror as often as possible? And, even more compelling, who doesn’t want to return to a thin mirror. Year after year after year…I’ll be here. Just brilliant.

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Which leads me to my next point: Preparation for exposure. I spent many a weeks prior to this vacation contemplating how to avoid exposure of both my thick knees and the backs of my thighs. After all, no amount of diet or exercise can get rid of, you know, the dreaded cellulite. So I made a pact with myself that I would show off my fairly toned shoulders and not-horrific upper arms. But I would keep my bottom half covered like a Dutch oven full of hornets.

And for the first few days, my plan was a success. I managed to keep myself reined in by a rotation of shorts and sarongs without question. Oh, sure, Steppy wanted to know if I was ever coming into the pool or ocean or body of water du jour, but I always had an excuse: No sweetie, I’m hot, I’m cold, I’m tired, I’m hormonal, I’m sleep deprived, I’m feeling contemplative, my navel feels funny, my stomach hurts, my head is pounding, my knees are itchy, I have laryngitis, I’m just in the mood to watch. And, for three days, it worked like a charm.

But then, my brother and his girlfriend came down for the day and all bets were off. The peer pressure to get in the pool became simply off the charts. As soon as we arrived at the swimming area, along with my husband and Steppy (who, naturally, has a lovely 12-year-old tan lithe body that belongs in an itsy-bitsy- teeny-weeny-yellow-polka-dot bikini), the others disrobed and immediately jumped in the pool. There was no sit and read a book time. No contemplation or small talk about the pending clouds or pockets of sunshine. As soon as their bags hit the beach chairs, they took it all off.

It was as if they were on fire.

And then there was me. Stripping slowly as if I were auditioning for a pole-dancing gig at the Bada Bing. I watched in horror as they gleefully jumped in the pool with the plastic shark named “Eugene” and plastic whale named “Penny” we bought at the Shop Rite when we first got here (and then, of course, promptly named).

Mind you, with the exception of Steppy and perhaps even my husband, we could all stand to lose a few pounds, but nobody else let that get in the way of their fun—but me.

So what else is new. Seems I’m always missing out because, well, I hate my body—and, it follows, the way I look and feel in a bathing suit. After a few minutes of panicking as to what I was going to do, how I was going to keep my cover both literally and figuratively, and how I hated feeling so left out of things, I realized: It didn’t have to be that way.

I no longer wanted anybody to frolic in the water without me and quickly moved into action. Neuroses be damned, I ripped off my sarong and jumped loudly into the 5” deep section. CANNONBALL. It was utterly freeing.

And Steppy? Well, she clapped for me.

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Which brings me to this: Isn’t this what all vacations are supposed to be all about? Not just freedom from work, but freedom from the craziness in our brains? All I can say is ever since that moment, Pool Jill has been having a wet and willy good run.

Until yesterday, that is, when I fell on air (typical) at the Cape May Zoo and scraped my leg from my knee to my ankle. And now, the thought of salt water –or any water, for that matter – touching 30 or so tender cuts makes me cringe.

My subconscious at work? The evil booty-hater that lives deep inside send me sailing down to the ground? I hope not–I hope it was just too much heat and a pair of faulty flip flops. But we’re off to the beach today anyway. I’ll keep you posted as to whether or not I muster up the courage to show my bruises—along with everything else.

In the meantime, I hope you’re enjoying your week, vacation or not. Until next time!

July 25, 2010 Good grief, it’s hot out there

July 25, 2010
Good grief, it’s hot out there

I am dreaming of snow.

Thinking of last December, when we here in the Philly area were breaking records. Oh, how glorious.

I long to be wrapped in heavy, wet pellets of chilly white fluff. The anticipation of an entire shutdown. A break from the every day grind. An explosion of nature’s light glitter.

The colder the better. The tighter the sweater. The boys are … (oh, wait, nevermind…)

Where are my Ugg knockoffs (who needs to pay so much money for something so particular)? I must go play — make snow angels? No too passe–too cliche. I’d rather just stand knee deep, watch the others shovel hard, and look out at the neighborhood. At night, especially, it’s almost magical.

Come here, my husband, your cheeks are so rosy. And you, you dirty dogs, let me wipe the thick balls of ice from your fur.

Yes, I’m definitely dreaming of snow.

How about you? How’s the sensation of living inside a perpetual hot flash hitting you?

What are you dreaming of?

Until next time.

July 17, 2010 Is getting something for nothing always a good thing?

July 17, 2010
Is getting something for nothing always a good thing?

Yesterday, I went through the Starbucks drive-thru and ordered a tall soy latte. I don’t usually have a lot of soy because, according to all the nutritionists and holistic doctors and shamans and mediums and energy workers and psychic hotline experts and aestheticians who give me facials once every six months, soy is not good for a person like me. A person with “estrogen dominance”—the vernacular of middle age – know it, love it, live by it. Big sigh.

But I had a craving. And sometimes, no amount of self talk or fantasy about someday losing even five pounds in a year can stop that puppy from launching hard. And so, I inched my Element up close to the drive-thru and rationalized that enough soy—diluted by “latte”, whatever that is and does anybody really know?—to fill one-third the size of a gas tank of a Smart Car couldn’t hurt me. So I ordered it.

With an attitude that said I don’t have to explain anything to anybody in tow, I pulled straight up to the drive-thru window and demanded the brown metal speaker deliver on my desires. How can you help me, the speaker asked? Oh, I’ll tell you. You can get my desperate ass a tall soy latte – that’s what I want. To which the speaker, on cue, repeated it back to me—So your ass wants a tall soy latte – does your ass want anything else? To which I said silently in my head—Yes, my ass would also like two pieces of marble pound cake and maybe a chocolate chip cookie or three for later—and then I pulled up to the window.

The woman who greeted me was cheery. She had a pleasant clean-looking face despite the fact that she was clearly no spring chicken (think mid-40s) and looked almost pretty, her chestnut brown hair flowing out from under a green Starbucks cap and a black tee shirt looking crisp and cool under a matching green apron. She leans over to take my money. It’s a $5 bill, but now, for some reason, I’m feeling generous. Endorphins. So I lean in towards the Starbucks window as far as I can and drop the change in the plastic container. Goodness knows, their barista asses deserve it.

After we finish our business, I clear out the cup holder next to me to make way for my beverage. Give that soy latte to mama, I say to my alter-ego. I know she shouldn’t have it. But (insert loud tiger roar), she wants it bad. And so she shall have it.

As I turn back to the window to take what the lovely barista has to offer—my tall soy latte, think Smart Car—I shriek at what the once-lovely chestnut barista’s pushing out: A VENTI soy latte. She is smiling, the Beelzebub. How I could be so fooled, I wonder, as I glare at the now white hot devil replete with flashing red horns and fire-hot pitchfork—trying to kid me into thinking she’s doing something good for me. That a soy latte large enough to fill the gas tank of a bright Red Hummer is actually in my best interests.

But, but, but … I stammer. I am confused—kind of like the time my boyfriend of 11 years told me that, even though he has said otherwise countless times over the years, he’s really not all that interested in getting married and having babies.

Like when I counted calories and exercised every day for six months, only to gain 12 pounds.

Like when one of my employers eliminated my position two weeks after hiring me.

Needing to regroup, I refused to meet the barista’s gaze or retrieve the VENTI latte from her hands, leaving it to linger out there, between the open windows of my car and the café. Angel-turned-evil looks at me with that “I’m certified in customer service” look that says, Are you one of the crazy ones? Gonna give me trouble? Is there a good reason why you’re not taking the drink you just ordered and paid for?

All the while, she is smiling, veins slowly starting to pop just below her chin. But I’m not. I’m horrified. I know how much willpower I have these days (ZERO). I know that if you put a straw into the gas tank of an 18 wheeler and dared me to drink the chocolate milkshake out of it until there was nothing left but bubbles and fumes, I’d probably do it. No, no, I would for sure.

So I am NOT taking this VENTI soy latte, even though a tourist from Hades might make that decision painful for me.

Instead, I take a deep breath and say: This is not what I ordered. Her response is to keep plastic smiling. But it didn’t hide what I was sure she was thinking—why, it’s what I think every time I have an encounter with my husband’s ex wife. What’s your problem, fat ass? (Even though she couldn’t see my ass because it was in the car, but then again, the devil doesn’t need a drawing—the devil knows all.)

I begin to stutter when she finally turns back around with the VENTI soy latte and, from what I could gather, checks the order on the computer. Sure enough, she reappears and gets all back up in my grill with her fake the customer’s always right look and says, “We’re only charging you for a tall.” And then, she shoves the VENTI soy latte at me with the force of an improvised explosive device, leaving me no other choice but to either take it or let it fall in the cracks between us.

So I take it. And then I dropped it in the now clear cup holder and made peace with my fate—and the fact that I would drink it all, even eat the ice. But I didn’t leave without any retribution. When she turned to go back into the store, I honked my horn and flipped her the bird.

She looked smug. Clearly smug. But she’ll get hers. It’s karma.

Tell me about a time when you got something for nothing and it was your downfall.

Until next time.

July 5, 2010 Why does the dog have coffee breath?

July 5, 2010
Why does the dog have coffee breath?

“Why does the dog have coffee breath?”

That’s the question my husband posed to me the other night, upon coming home from dinner at one of our usual restaurants. In response, I got in real close to Elvis, our little 23-pound cocker spaniel/sheltie mutt. And sure enough, he smelled like a Starbucks’ barista who’d just finished a double-shift. So I scanned the kitchen floor for any coffee beans that may have spilled out of the bag when making coffee for the morning (as we do every night, knowing we’re lucky to find our way to the bathroom at 4:30 a.m., let alone brew a pot of Italian Roast) – even though I know the anal cleaner and responsible dog owner in me would never have allowed it.

After all, I’m the type of person who can’t sleep if there’s a dirty dish left in the sink. I don’t just clear the table after dinner, I wipe it and the oven top with Windex (even if we haven’t used the burners) and sweep around the refrigerator. It would be unlikely, given my type-A constitution and my distaste for extraneous filth, that there’d be even one lone bean on the ceramic tile.

But, in its absence, how to solve the mystery?

My husband’s approach was to insist he was tired, the dog was fine, I was overreacting and we should just go to sleep. So I listened—went upstairs, got into my pajamas, read Switch (a book about how to get people to change) for about 20 minutes, shut off the light and tried to breathe myself out of worry and into a restful state. But it was difficult, especially since Elvis wouldn’t settle down. He didn’t curl into his usual ball at the bottom of my feet or hide under the bed from Winnie, who likes to play roughhouse when he doesn’t. Instead, he sniffed around the sheets, my nightstand, Dan’s nightstand, both of our heads, and Winnie’s tail. He jumped on and off the bed, ran downstairs to get a toy, and then back up again to drop it in my open hand.

All while reeking of Ethopian blend.

The dog was wired for sound. Like somebody who’d had a few too many lattes. (I speak from personal experience here.)

And so, I wracked my brain—clearly, he’d had coffee. But where? Then it dawned on me: My husband, who’d just gotten back from a business trip, loves to travel with Starbucks Via—easy 1.2 ounce packets of dark instant. When I suggested perhaps that’s what Elvis had somehow found and gotten into, Dan leaped out of bed and ran into the next room to check his backpack. Upon which I heard this:

“SHIT.”

—————————————————————————

If I’ve learned anything in my 47 years, it’s that I’m good in an emergency. I’m not a person who stiffens up and stutters. Or who walks in circles wondering what to do next. When Steppy came with a bruised hand (she’d accidentally slammed in the glass door in her Maryland house) that, within a day, had swollen up like an oversized turnip and become an “8” on the pain scale, I immediately shuttled her over to the emergency room for an X-ray. (My husband, bless his heart, was still asking “what happened?”.)

When the colorists at a fancy hair salon in downtown Philadelphia decided to surprise me by painting my naturally light brown hair black (“It will look so pretty with your blue eyes!”), I remained non-plussed when, in the end, it made me look like a cartoon character. (Although I cannot say the same for my mother.) Instead, I lived with it until it grew out and enjoyed the experience of having nobody recognize me.

And the other night, instead of freaking out that my version of baby was on the verge of cardiac arrest, I calmly took the steps necessary to save his life (yes, that’s right, I saved his life, I did):

Step one: An Internet search to confirm what I’d already known – that coffee, in the right amounts, is toxic for dogs.

Step two: Get out the credit card and call animal poison control. They charge $65 to gather information about the situation and tell you whether or not to head to emergency vet. I know this since we’d called them once before – when Elvis had dug into Dan’s bag and eaten about 15 almonds (also toxic to dogs and yes, I could’ve killed Dan, but I believe he’s finally learned his lesson – pick your backpack up off the floor and/or keep it behind closed doors, right babe?).

Step three: And we’re off to the doggie ER—me, Dan and both dogs, since we don’t dare leave either of them home alone at this point. They’re simply too attached. And it was not fun for any of us. They immediately took Elvis back to the treatment room, while Winnie sat with her ears up in distress, Dan had a his head down, and I held onto tears rather unsuccessfully.

While we appreciated the work and kindness of the techs that greeted us once there, it’s pretty safe to say they’re not optimists. They mostly told us that, while Elvis was doing okay now, he could easily go into tachycardia—a faster than normal heart rate (something I already had at that point)—and that would NOT be good. They’ve seen it happen, they know it could.

Fantastic.

Suffice to say we had to leave him there overnight. And, after a long night of crying—and wondering what life would be like without him, and Dan fearing I would reach for the yellow pages to investigate divorce lawyers depending on the outcome and Winnie rather enjoying all the focused attention—I woke up at 4:30 and called the clinic to find out little Elvis was doing well.

Big whew.

He’s a happy little guy, isn’t he? That’s what one vet tech after another told me when I called every hour on the hour because, well, I’m both a) irritating and b) rather attached to him. After all, who else is going to look at me and see Angelina Jolie every single day?

In the end, Elvis is fine. He’s back to curling up at the bottom of my bed and hiding from Winnie, well, wherever he can. The only downside is that the ordeal cost us $700.

The dog had a $700 cup of coffee. Now that hurts.

But he’s alive. And we’re grateful. Has your dog ever gotten into something he shouldn’t? Do tell and, by all means, make sure it’s a happy ending.

Until next time!

June 26, 2010 Can you be too old for a Binky?

June 26, 2010
Can you be too old for a Binky?

Can you be too old for a Binky?

In this case, I’m talking about a canine binky in particular – most notably, our little dog Elvis. I bring it up because, after trying every natural remedy on earth for better sleep, I find it ironic that the one that works best operates on a simple childhood premise: I pull an object—in this case, a 23-pound cocker spaniel/sheltie mix—close to my chest, close my eyes, and breathe deeply until I’m out. If I open my eyes, either by accident or just to make sure my binky is cozy, I’m blissfully greeted by the calm and serene face of a sleeping puppy—it’s a picture you’d see on a calendar in a Hallmark Gift Shop. Or perhaps on a keychain.

Of course, my husband would like to be my human binky and, for all intent and purposes, he sure is. (You are, honey. You are a good boy. Good boy!) But doggie as binky, well, it’s just organic.

On another note, I cannot believe that we’re barely at the end of June and already, about a bazillion “heat waves”. How many days over 90 degrees, already? If this is any indication of how the rest of the summer will go, then oh God. All this excessive heat is enough to make a person like me go bonkers. I hate the heat. You can’t do anything in it but complain.

You can’t enjoy outdoor activities beyond anything that has you immersed in water–i.e., the pool, the ocean, a long leap through the sprinkler—which is complicated since we have access to none of the above. Playing our beloved game of tennis is like chasing a rubber devil around the basement of Hades. Even shopping loses its luster once you’ve sweat just enough to make trying on even a house frock difficult. And I don’t know about you, but dehydration does nothing for my complexion.

Now I know some people just love these extreme temperatures, but not me. I was born for places like Norway and the Arctic. I’d even take the cool summer breezes of Canada or Alaska right in this moment. After all, a little wind chill never killed anybody—to the contrary, it puts a natural rosy glow in my cheeks. When it comes to colors, I’m a winter/fall for sure. And a dark parka that hits just a little below the knees? Well, it looks great on me.

But almost 100 degrees with the humidity, and forget about it. I’m a 5’ 3” whiny slug who’s only joy is keeping the electric company in business—think the a/c on low and the cable on high (how I love “The Real Housewives of New York” – even the reruns, they’re so crazy).

As if the physical discomfort were not enough, there’s something about the heat I find depressing. It makes me think about old western movies where all the men who look like Willie Nelson (before his recent haircut) do is shuffle their boots in the dirt, shoot at each other and drink whiskey. It reminds me of hot summer days when I was a kid and I used to go with my parents to my mom-mom and pop-pop’s house, where it was always hot and the scenery always dim. You know, low lighting, dark furniture, plastic sticky slipcovers. There was only one good place to sit in their house—a lone orange velour chair caddy corner from the wood-paneled television with rabbit ears–that puppy was so large, it hugged the floor like an suma wrestler in the last seconds of overtime. I rarely got to sit in the chair of course, always deferring to my mother, grandmother, or brother – all much higher than I as the youngest on the totem pole, especially when it came to comfort.

Beyond that, the heat reminds me how quickly time passes, how much people like Robert Redford and Elizabeth Taylor and Liza Minelli, to name a few, have aged along with other people close to me—and how I will too someday. It makes me think of black-and-white movies with corny stories and sad endings, bad audio, and over-exaggerated acting. A prolonged heat wave, in my opinion, is like the dusty top of things. It’s dirty and lazy and you just can’t do anything with it.

Does that make sense to anybody but me? I wonder. What does 90-degrees mean to you? Write and tell me.

Until next time!

June 14, 2010 Shoes count even when you’re farming

June 14, 2010
Shoes count even when you’re farming

Tell me: Is it so wrong to be obsessed with the appropriate foot wear?

Apparently, according to my husband and stepdaughter, the answer is yes. As they scoffed at my choice of farming footwear on Saturday, when we fulfilled the first two of our eight-hour work commitment on the cooperative farm we recently joined.

And yet, I was not asleep at the proverbial wheel the last time we went foraging around the organic vegetables fields of Anchor Run. I had, in fact, taken great notice of a) the loveliness of the landscape, and b) the difficulty involved in climbing over long clumps of assorted cabbage, asparagus, and what-have-you to pick strawberries in three-inch platforms.

So I made an important note to self and, despite all good intentions, it came back to mock me. Which I did NOT appreciate, Dan and Steppy, thank you very much. (Do I comment on your socks with Crocs? Your wingtips with shorts? Shoelaces and socks that never match–aren’t even on the same color wheel?)

I mean, who died and left them the Tim Gunn of farming couture? This is the 21st century, after all. Who says a lovely flesh-colored Dansko sandal doesn’t work for plucking in and around the carrot beds? Are Dansko’s as a genre only workable for a stroll on the boardwalk, an evening shift at the community hospital, or dinner in the suburbs? For those who know better (me), these European-designed soles are quite perfect for not only elongating the leg but, as it turns out, taking care of the instep AND extreme weeding in the heat. (Dansko marketers, must I do everything?)

Besides, once out in the brush, my slightly 2.5-inch wooden stilts were the least of my problems. Can anybody say fourth-degree sunburn? Dehydration? A million centipedes? Even worse, rolly pollys (which until this weekend, constituted extreme bloating in my world). For heaven’s sakes, there were all sorts of things crawling around in that soil—where I dug my hands, thankfully in hot pink dish-washing gloves (those gardening gloves are simply too thick and stiff to be serviceable).

You’d think that if could get out of my comfort zone with so many critters (after about 10 minutes of shrieking upon discovery, at which point, trust me, nobody was payin’ attention to my being overdressed in the shoe department), my nuclear family (critics) could surely get over my penchant for a little, well, height.

Besides, what does everybody else wear to farm? Are sneakers the only option? Tell me, what’s yours?

June 6, 2010 Random observations on kitchen islands, picking strawberries, dogs, the appropriate footwear, Gary Coleman, aging, and whether one should have a theme song

June 6, 2010
Random observations on kitchen islands, picking strawberries, dogs, the appropriate footwear, Gary Coleman, aging, and whether one should have a theme song

Random Observation #1: Me, with a kitchen island?

The other day, I was getting my natural red hair restored at the hair salon when Jason, my beloved colorist, and I started talking about restoring houses. Well, actually, we started talking about real estate and the importance of a kitchen in a home’s value, which then led to the unusual connection between us. It involves my old house in New Hope (the one I bought upon leaving Chicago and coming back east) and his one-time boyfriend. As it turns out (and unbeknownst to me since I didn’t know Jason at that point), I purchased the house from Jason’s then boyfriend (now a friendly ex). And have since learned that Jason and my seller, well, they did some unusual things in my kitchen—specifically on my counters. And let’s just leave it at that.

So as it were, this past Thursday, as he was painting Loreal #646 on the hair my mother thinks is too long and my husband insists is sexy, he shared with me some of his more recent adventures in real estate, to which I jokingly inquired about the quality of the kitchen counters. “Hey, I said, “c’mon over to our house in Doylestown, we actually have a kitchen island.” Wink. Wink.

And then, it suddenly dawned on me: I live in a house with a kitchen island. The kind you see on shows like Desperate Housewives and Family Ties and Leave it to Beaver. The kind that marks a lifestyle that stands for everything I’m not. Soccer mom. Member of the PTA. Somebody who organizes the community bake sale or keeps track of the weekly car-pool. Having a kitchen island, in my mind, is like having a 1999 Dodge Caravan because you need one. It’s like having a power mower you’ll never lend to the neighbors because they never return it or a welcome mat with some sort of poultry cartoon on it.

Here’s the thing: I’m a city girl at heart. I’m accustomed to a kitchen that can barely accommodate a dishwasher. And although I’ve been living with said island for about four years now, I never really stopped to think about it in the scheme of my identity. And the implications, well, they scare me.

Oh dear. Who am I?

Random Observation #2: Lessons learned from Gary Coleman’s death

Here’s what I’m not: A person with either a personal theme song (sorry Gloria Gaynor) or a catch phrase. Because if Gary Coleman’s untimely death has taught me nothing, it has taught me that if you have either one of these things, you’ll never a) get it out of your head, or b) live it down.

Thank you for the life lesson, Gary Coleman. RIP.

Random Observation #3: You know you’re old when…

…your most guilty pleasure is half a bottle of diet orange soda. (Did someone say sex with a stranger? Hey, I heard that!) Between the environmental impact of the plastic, the potential for heartburn, and the uncertain effects of the artificial sweetener, I’ve learned it’s best to indulge in the privacy of your own home (especially what with the Internet). Trust me.

Random Observation #4: If you want more readers, talk about your dog

I follow a lot of business bloggers, especially in the area of marketing and communications. After all, that’s my biz. So imagine my surprise when I found this headline atop one of my feeds: “Increase Blog Traffic Ten-Fold by Talking About Your Dog.” Turns out, the blogger had posted an early morning entry about his dog and just 24 hours later, his blog traffic had increased by a factor of 10 (of course, I’m not sure where he started, maybe he only had one reader, but still.) Far be it from me to ignore such sage advice – after all, I sure don’t proclaim to know it all. And golly gee, I want more readers. So here goes:

Why is it that both of our dogs love Dan more than me? I don’t get it. Oh sure, he walks them and sometimes feeds them, but I dispense all the love. I give the rubbies, talk the baby talk, make sure to check their coats for ticks and other unknown critters. I’m the one who worries when they haven’t been walked for too many hours in a row, who’s concerned that there’s enough water in their bowls, that they get enough treats and attention before we leave for them 10 hours at a time to go to work.

It’s me who insists on leaving the air conditioning low enough to assure their comfort. Who makes sure there’s somebody to stay overnight with them when we’re off on a weekend adventure. And yet, you’d think Dan had been dipped in beef juice and I’d been dipped in, well, nothing special, the way they gravitate to him. No fair-zees. NO FAIR. (Oh, hello new readers! Welcome to my blog! Come back often!)

Random Observation #5: And finally, never ever pick strawberries in three-inch wedgies

I near killed myself this past week trying to pick a trio of strawberries out a row of leafy soldiers at the farm—or CSA (community supported agriculture)—we joined earlier this season. If you’ve ever heard of a CSA, you may know that you a) pay a certain amount for the season and b) commit to working a certain number of hours on the farm. And, in return, you get to pick up a generous share of freshly harvested vegetables each week. We’re also able to go into the fields ourselves and pick certain items—last week, that included strawberries.

So off Dan, Steppy and I went—with three too many baskets for our berries (since we were only allowed to pick a small quart, but whatever…) and a fabulous straw hat I’d bought impulsively at Target—to get the fruit we had coming to us. Of course, upon setting out for the day, Dan and Steppy warned me that perhaps three-inch platform flip flops might not be the best choice of footwear for the occasion. But I hate to wear sneakers. They’re so hot and clunky and unfashionable. And they’re not very complimentary for those of us with legs a tad bit shorter than average.

In any event, there I was. Making my way just fine until I spotted a small red cluster calling out to me and my delightfully new lime green gardening gloves (so cute!). And so, I set about after them, climbing over several dirt piles, carefully monitoring each step since I’d been forewarned to anticipate garden snakes. (Who says I’m not the outdoorsy girl-next-door type?) And I was doing quite nicely when I tripped over black tubing that bordered the growing vegetables like cheap eye liner.

Fortunately, I didn’t break anything. Just a mild creak in the ol’ ankle, nothing that a small ace bandage won’t heal before our next excursion out into the wild. Although next time, I’ll be sure to wear my strappy Dansko’s. Height: Two inches only. Talk about sensible.

Tell me: What are your random observations for the week? How’ve you been sensible (or not)? Tried to navigate any dirt piles of your own? Let me know!

Until next time!

June 1, 2010 The blogger’s brain on a break…

June 1, 2010
The blogger’s brain on a break…

Hello my faithful readers. I hope you’re not mad at me, but I’ve been on a short sabbatical (crazy brains need a rejuvenative break every now and then). But never fear, here’s a little something to keep you engaged while I’m on a much-needed respite.

In the meantime, here’s a little something to keep you with me. (Yep, a little moonlighting on another site, so enjoy!)

http://www.emptynestmag.com/spring2010/spring2010stepnest.shtml

When you finish reading, don’t forget to come back. Look for a fresh post by the week’s end!

Until then…

May 20, 2010 Wisdom over beauty? I’m not so sure…

May 20, 2010
Wisdom over beauty? I’m not so sure…

Not to be depressing, but I’m just going to say it: I don’t like aging. Really. It’s depressing and scary. I mean, it just is.

I’ve noticed over the past several months a change in my face. And I haven’t seen that, until now. Oh sure, I’ve felt things in my body—like the way I get tired more easily, don’t feel as energetic as I used to, can’t lose weight, don’t recover from exercise quite as quickly, or sleep very well. But my face, well, it’s always looked the same: Kind of youthful. Clean. Even bright.

Lately, however, I see something different. Something noticeable. A face that looks a more textured, if you will. More complicated and shaded. Oh sure, it’s still a subtle difference. But it’s a difference still.

And it’s one that becomes less subtle when I stand next to somebody younger in front of a mirror. Something I don’t tend to do often, but the other day, at work, I happened to be washing my hands in the bathroom, staring in the mirror at the shine on my nose when one of my colleagues came out of a stall and greeted me. She’s about 12 years younger than me with porcelain-like skin, really, blessed in that area. As my reflection spoke to hers, I studied the differences between us.

Not good.

It’s jarring when that moment first occurs. When you realize that, although you thought it would never happen to you—that you wouldn’t age like other mere mortals or some of your friends or people you see committing crimes on the news who could legitimately be at your high school reunion—you will. You are. And there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.

It’s just who you’ve become. And, to make matters worse, it’s just starting, this whole growing old business.

Right now, despite the even less-attractive alternative (I get that’s no better, of course I do), I don’t like it. I know some people say they prefer wisdom over beauty, but me, I’m not so sure. Maybe as I overcome a few personal hurdles (an all-too-active mind, a sense of vanity that’s ingrained in my cells, a predisposition to thinking that at least some of the really good stuff is behind me)—it’ll get better. And I’ll be able to say, “Gosh, I wouldn’t want to be in my 30s for anything. It’s sooooo much better here, in this place, rounding the back nine to the end zone….”

Now I know I’m not at the very end. I know or at least hope that’s still far far away. But still. For now, this is just how I feel. (Although I always love my husband—along with the dogs and my walk-in closet, he’s the best part of 47 and middle age in general.)

How about you? Write to me, what do you feel?

Until next time!

May 12, 2010 I am not 50 and don’t rush me

May 12, 2010
I am not 50 and don’t rush me

I think I am listed incorrectly in the big book of the Internet. Somewhere, in the big illusive black hole of cyberspace, I’m written as being 50. How do I know? Because I continue to get solicitation emails from “50.Plus.Singles.whatever” AND the American Association of Retired People (AARP).

Two arrows, straight to my aging and fragile ego and imbalanced endocrine system. Almost daily.

Now, I get the whole communications thing (hello?). Sell, sell, sell. Location, location, location. Drill, drill, drill. (Actually, please stop drilling.) But here’s the thing:

I’m not single.
I’m not retired (in other words, I have not found Monty Python’s Holy Grail and frankly am not sure if I ever will [did they, can’t remember, damn you, middle age] and if you have, please write to me).
I am ONLY 47.

I believe to belong to you both the AARP and the over-50 singles network, you need to be, uh, 50. (I’m right, right?)

In any event, if you’re reading and you work in either the senior online dating industry or in the AARP marketing department, please read this next part carefully: I am not there yet. If you’re looking for love for me or anybody else OR you’re one of the AARPeople, I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t try to create trouble where there is none—or rush me. Go pester somebody more age-appropriate.

(And if you need glasses, which is highly possible given your demographic, here it is again): NOT THERE YET, FOLKS. NOT YET. CHECK YOUR CENSUS.

now please, with all due respect (and not that there’s anything wrong with being 50, why my husband is 50 and he rocks, and some of my best friends are over 50 and they’re really neat!), go away…

Until next time!

May 6, 2010 Where’s the banana?

May 6, 2010
Where’s the banana?

Lots happening these days. Lots of official news, well, three things in particular:

#1: I got a promotion at work! It’s official: I am now Director of Communications at my XYZ company (because I’ve been threatened short of my life for naming names of any kind). Director. I direct things now. Like, I direct you. I say that a lot now. “Dogs, I direct you to stop pooping on the upstairs carpet. Husband, I direct you to rub my feet. Computer, I direct you to move more quickly. 24, I direct you to keep Jack Bauer alive, even though it’s the last season (there’s always 24 The Movie).” You get it? I’m directing constantly as a direct result of this whole moving up the ladder thing and now being a Director. Because, if you think about it, I’ve got to get good at it. (Although, frankly, all this pointing and yelling is exhausting. Now I know how Stephen Spielberg feels.) Now, I direct you to keep reading.

#2: The reason turtles can lose weight faster than I can is because (drum roll please!), I have an overworked adrenal system! (Ta da!!!) It’s official! I took the big glucose tolerance and other fun blood tests, gave those people in pink scrubs a sample of the red stuff every three hours (yes, for free) and now I know for sure: My stressed adrenals are creating all kinds of havoc in my system. BUT, the good news is that now that I’ve been promoted, all I have to do is direct those little nodes to relax—direct my stepdaughter to dispense love only, my husband’s ex to send me a bouquet of flowers for Mother’s Day, my two new subordinates to keep those diet orange sodas coming—and viola! I’ll be just fine. You’ll see.

#3: Finally, I am officially middle aged, as evidenced by the brain fog I’ve been experiencing. It’s official! I get the whole “Where-are-my-sunglasses-oh-wait-I’m-wearing-them” thing now. AARP people? I’m one of you now (well, almost). Case in point: the other day, I brought a banana to work. I have no idea where said banana is. Did I eat it? Throw it away? Am I to find a swarm of fruit flies under the file cabinet, say, next Thursday? Slip on it cleaning out from behind the bookcase? I have no idea. I simply remember seeing a banana in a plastic Ziplock bag, along with a few almonds, one stick of string cheese, and a couple of blueberries. After that, I’m completely blank. Go figure.

So now that you’re caught up. What have you been directing lately? I direct you to tell me.

Until next time!

April 25, 2010 Go green, baby, go green

April 25, 2010
Go green, baby, go green

Last weekend, my husband and I went to the “Go Green” expo at the convention center in Oaks, Pennsylvania (a place I had no idea even existed until now). In addition to spending some quality time with Dan in a world that inspires his passion and creativity, several great things happened to me at this expo:

1) I got to meet some of the colleagues my husband has been talking about for months and sum them up for myself.

2) I got to taste 100 percent organic chocolate without guilt, since the pieces of unusually flavored chocolate (i.e. curried chocolate, spicy chocolate, coconut chocolate, roasted chicken chocolate [just seeing if you’re paying attention]) were so tiny, they could not possibly do any serious caloric damage.

3) I got to thank the Numi Tea folks who were exhibiting there for making tea that didn’t taste like tea since I hate tea but knowing that it’s good for me know I have to drink it at least on occasion and Numi (Morroccan Mint) is the only tea I’ll drink because, again, it doesn’t taste like tea. (The folks at the booth looked a little confused when I finished explaining this, but seemed to appreciate my exuberance.)

3) I got to do some fun shopping all while giving back to both the environment and charity. For example, I bought a delightful tee-shirt made from earth-friendly products (but please don’t ask me what they are, I just liked the pretty blue shade)—and a wonderful black-and purple-glass bracelet made by Rwandan, no wait, Ugandan (no wait, something “andan”) artisans, who will receive 10 percent of what I paid for it.

4) I got to sit in a brand new 2010 black Chevy Camaro and consider how I could never drive it without putting a big ol’ dent in it somewhere. (If you’re wondering where it fits into the theme, the folks there were promoting its improved gas mileage which, ergo, makes it green, although I think that seems a stretch.) Since I’ve started shrinking and not in a good way, it’s become increasingly difficult to see or operate out of anything smaller than the window of a mini-bus. This car was simply too sleek for me to be able to parallel park it effectively. I’m not afraid to admit that middle age has NOT been kind to my driving abilities. (But I am wise. So wise. Crazy wise, if you will.)

5) I got an unexpected and much-needed ego boost. The best part of the day came from the tall, thin, handsome in a I’m-just-over-being-a-boy sort of way, 20 something at the “Something Windows and Siding Something” booth who tried to keep me occupied while his colleague worked to sell my husband on some environmentally friendly insulation-like material. (I think. Not sure. Whatever.)

Our conversation started out innocently enough – me being bored while I waited for Dan to finish, craning my neck to see whether there was a good shoe booth on the show floor (barring Birkenstock, which sadly does NOT show anything in a four-inch platform heel for the summer). Let’s call him Little Joey tried to get my attention by practicing a post-adolescent first-job sales schtick that was clearly not designed for my demographic.

“So do you own a home?” he asked.

“Yes.” I wondered what it was like to be a young male who could eat anything he wanted at any time without having to worry about his fluctuating insulin or damaging levels of cortisol.

“Do you like it?”

“Sure, why not.” If I were him, I’d be asking me these questions while eating a pizza.

“Yeah, I’m still at home with my parents and younger sister. It’s cool though.”

“Uh huh.” I think I spot something in the next aisle over, it looks like a rack of tie-dyed purses. It’s distracting me from Little Joey. I don’t want to be rude, but I’d really love to go and investigate them.

“That your boyfriend or your husband?” He nods over at Dan, now engaged in conversation and rubbing his hands up against the display.

“My husband.” He’s awkward. I remember being awkward, so I decide to give Lil’ Joe my focus. “You have a girlfriend?”

“Yeah, but I’m nowhere close to getting married. I’m way too young.”

“You so are. That’s so right.” Feels good to give him my unsolicited advice.

“How old do you think I am?”

I looked at his muscle-free arms, slightly acned skin, Adam Sandberg brown hair (in fact, he kind of looked like Adam Sandberg, from SNL), Kohl’s trousers and light blue dress shirt. He had no particular smell to speak of. “I’d say 25.”

“Yeah, right on the money. That’s pretty good.” He smiled.

I told him what I tell everybody else I know under the age of 30 who’s not already married–not to get married before he’s 35.

“Yeah,” he smiled. “How long have you been married?”

“Five years.”

“Yeah,” he smiled a sort of “wow, really, that’s surprising” kind of smile, and asked “You like it?”

“It’s great, but I didn’t get married until I was 42.”

“Wait,” he looked confused. “You mean you’re going to get married when you’re 42?”

“No, I’m married now. I’m 47.”

He looked at me, dumbfounded and I’m pretty sure he meant it. I mean, at this stage of the game, I can read bullshit. And I don’t think this was it.

“Seriously. No way. I thought you were like, early 30s,” Little Joey said. “Seriously.”

In that moment, I wanted to pull him to my bosom and weep. God bless America. Someone thinks I’m in my 30s. Were I to have enough money to re-side our entire house with his environmental Kool-Aide, I’d have written a check for it right then and there.

Because after countless hours trying to figure out what’s up with my can’t-lose-weight body—and even more years beating myself up for, well, nothing—Little Joey’s comment made me feel great. I know I shouldn’t look to anybody else to validate who I am—that has to come from me and me only. But it sure is nice to have a male just out of college comment on my youthful appearance. Talk about being kind to mother earth.

“Well, thanks,” I say. “I really appreciate it. Hey, want to know my secret?”

“Well, yeah, of course, yeah. What is it?”

“Chocolate.” And then I hugged him.

Has this happened to you? When was the last time you got a compliment that really gave you a boost? Tell me about it. Write to me!

April 13, 2010 Nothing like a good blood draw to give you perspective

April 13, 2010
Nothing like a good blood draw to give you perspective

The other day, I spent three hours at the Doylestown Hospital getting my blood drawn. My doctor finally ordered them to do a glucose tolerance test on me in the hopes that one nasty sugar drink and three blood draws in three hours will give me some clues as to why it’s about as easy for me to shed pounds as it is to fly to the moon in my Honda Element with a unicorn at the wheel.
I have to say that spending three hours in the hospital laboratory waiting area, which also doubles as a waiting area for x-ray and diagnostic services, made me feel really good about myself. (Is that nasty?) After watching all of the people with their walkers and canes and sad faces, I felt almost elated. (I am bad for saying this?) Like all I have to worry about is a little extra gut around the mid-section? Big deal. I mean, who knew that all I had to do was spend a morning in a garden-variety hospital waiting room (and not necessarily the ER) to give myself a little dose of perspective? That’s a whole lot easier than thwacking myself in the head all the time with my nasty self talk.
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As a result of this experience–and as I wait for the lab results I hope will deliver some good news (either I’m perfectly healthy OR there’s a slight easily adjustable problem that requires a tiny one-time pill with the side effects of making me 20 pounds lighter, six inches taller, and $100,000 richer)–I have decided to switch my thinking from bad to fantastic.
Borrowing and building on an exercise I saw on the show “Ruby” (on the Style Network, about a woman who’s lost 300 pounds and has about 150 more to go, bless her heart), I’ve decided to say five nice things to myself a day. Yes, FIVE. Here they go for today:

My toenails look great. Thank you, $60 spa pedicure (that I didn’t know was $60 until I got the bill at the reception desk, but whatever, I’m worth it…). I really do have some fire-hot feet.
I have an amazing ability to hold off from the bathroom for, like, HOURS. I know, it’s bad for me, but whatever. I am NOT beating myself up anymore, so who cares? The fact of the matter is my restraint is admirable.
I am slightly crazy and know that I’m slightly crazy which essentially means that I’m not crazy at all (I’m simply insightful)! Now if I was crazy and didn’t know I was crazy? Whole other story. (I know someone like her.) Whooooooole other story.
I am smart enough to know that if you have short legs and they’re the color of white sand, you should a) wear lots of sunscreen and b) NEVER ever wear dark shoes against bare skin in the warmer months. Case in point: I’m wearing my super-cute handkerchief skirt today with FLESH-TONED shoes. Why? Because a) I’m smart and b) if my shoes were black against my pearly white legs, I would look like some sort of squatted cartoon character instead of woman on the shorter side trying to innocently elongate herself in the name of looking fine and being fashion forward. (Make sense yet?) Try it for yourself because, unlike juggling with ginsu knives, you CAN do this at home.

Exercise: Put on your favorite skirt, no stockings. Then, on one foot, put on a black sandal and on the other, put on something light and neutral in tone. Look in the mirror. Stop wincing. Straighten your head. SEE? I’m right, I’m right, you know I’m right. The leg with the lighter shoe looks longer, doesn’t it? You are welcome. Totally!

I have about five to eight good ideas a day. All executable. Seriously? I believe this.

Okay, now keep in mind, I’m just getting my feet wet with this five-good-things-about-myself-a-day stuff, but not a bad start, right? For those of you who know me, by all means feel free to chime in. And for those who don’t? Well, let me know what are the five things you’d say to yourself, if you were in my slightly beige shoes. I care!
Until next time!

March 28, 2010 It’s not about the weight…

March 28, 2010
It’s not about the weight…

Warning: Intense blog. If you’re looking for my funny, you may want to wait until next week.

For those of you who’ve been reading for a while, you’ve been privy to my never-ending list of diets and self-loathing rants about my body. These past weeks, I have not spoken of it here, figuring the subject had become white noise by now. Move on, Jill, we get it. Now the battle with food and your body has become boring.

But what you don’t know is that, behind the scenes, the struggle has been anything but boring. It’s become worse, so bad—this obsession with losing weight and being thin, one I wrongly thought I’d long conquered (thank you middle age)—that it now affects everything I do and think about.

For example, last weekend we met our dear friends Joan and Dave from Chicago in Washington, DC on what was the warmest weekend since last summer. While everybody was overjoyed at the balmy temps, I was horrified. The questions that ran through my head like a constant river were practically abusive: What would I wear? Would black spandex be too heavy? Could I survive in jeans that had grown increasingly tighter over the past several months, despite my incessant dieting and exercise? What would people think of me, wearing clothes that were clearly too heavy and inappropriate? What would I eat, anxiety taking hold every time we went out to eat and the server delivered plates of excess. What do I do now? How much should I have? Everybody will notice if I eat too much. But how deep and wide should I deprive myself, am I up for the challenge? And how do I unbutton the jeans now digging into my stomach and tug at the pant legs clinging to me like unwanted cellophane without anybody noticing? Why does everything have to be so fattening in a restaurant?

And why must I be so overweight and ugly?

I couldn’t help myself. It was a voice-track playing over and over without hesitation. And instead of reveling in the 75-plus degrees, the dear friends we only get see once a year, and the budding of the cherry blossoms, I could not stop the record from turning.

Once back home, I followed up the weekend with an annual visit to my doctor (who practices both Eastern and Western medicine). When she asked, “How are you?” I said, “Still trying to lose the same weight we talked about last year, except now it’s a year later.”

So we started talking. Of course, she wrote me a long prescription for bloodwork. Let’s check your hormones, your thyroid, the usual suspects. Again. And then she said this: I also want you to see our shaman.

What’s a shaman? I ask.

Somebody who can help you rewrite your own story. And you’re there — it’s time.

To which I said to the doctor as much as meant it for myself: What’s wrong with me Dr.? Why can’t I just accept that this is my body and it’ll never be any different? Why can’t I accept that no matter how hard I try, it’ll never cooperate? I mean, I have a loving husband, a wonderful job, and great friends. Why is that not good enough?

Sometimes, she said, when we think we don’t deserve all the good things in our lives, we find a way to hold on to something that makes us feel bad.

Reminds me of something my dear friend Marilyn once said to me during one of my many vent sessions to her about my expanding waistline: Who would you be, Jill, if you weren’t struggling with the issue of weight? What else you got?

At 47, I’d give anything to find out.

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And so, I am crying as I write this, because this is powerful stuff. Powerful and personal and it’s taking a lot of bravery on my part to put it out here—here—so please, whatever you do, don’t take it personally (mom) and please don’t judge.

I don’t know what your powerful stuff is—the deep-down-stuck-in-your-gut-so-deep-not even-the-tools-of-a-quarry-could-scratch-it-out stuff. But if you know what it is, visualize how it makes you feel, and then you know where I’m at. In a place of desperation, made only worse by the fact that I know what the problem is. I can see it, smell it, and hear it. I just can’t touch it. Or make it change.

So after this week’s visit with the doctor, I “accidentally” stumbled upon an excerpt of a new book called Women, Food and God written by Geneen Roth. I describe Roth, who hasn’t had a book out in a long while, as a level-headed, trail-blazing poet who’s been there. And, who’s other books (i.e. Feeding the Hungry Heart, When Food is Love, etc. ) have brought me to my knees, they’ve resonated so deeply in my struggle to find peace with my body.

It seemed divine intervention—after six days of hating myself through the first weekend of Spring, after starting but another diet and extreme exercise program, and after wondering with great sadness whether I’d ever be able to wear anything other than black spandex again in this lifetime—that I would stumble upon her prophetic words in a magazine article called “It’s Not About the Weight”. And they said this:

“When I was in high school, I used to dream about having Melissa Morris’s legs, Toni Oliver’s eyes, and Amy Breyer’s hair. I liked my skin, my breasts, and my lips, but everything else had to go. Then, in my 20s, I dreamt about slicing off pieces of my thighs and arms the way you carve a turkey, certain that if I could cut away what was wrong, only the good parts—the pretty parts, the thin parts—would be left. I believed there was an end goal, a place at which I would arrive and forevermore be at peace. And since I also believed the way to get there was by judging and shaming and hating myself, I also believe in diets.

“Diets are based on the unspoken fear that you are a madwoman, a food terrorist, a lunatic. The promise of a diet is not only that you will have a different body, you will have a different life. If you hate yourself enough, you will love yourself. If you torture yourself enough, you will become a peaceful, relaxed human being. …But the truth is that kindness, not hatred, is the answer. [After all] the shape of your body obeys the shape of your beliefs.

“Diets are the result of your belief that you have to atone for being yourself to be worthy of existing.[However] until the belief is understood and questioned, no amount of weight loss will touch the part of you that is convinced it’s damaged. It will make sense to you that hatred leads to love and that torture leads to peace because you will be operating on the conviction that you must starve or deprive or punish the badness out of you. You won’t keep extra weight off, because being at your natural weight does not match your convictions about the way life unfolds. But once the belief and the subsequent decisions are questioned, diets and being uncomfortable in your body lose their seductive allure. Only kindness makes sense. You are not a mistake. You are a not a problem to be solved.

“The Sufi poet Rumi, writing about birds learning to fly, wrote: ‘How do they learn it? They fall, and falling, they’re given wings.’

“If you wait until you have Toni Oliver’s eyes and Amy Breyer’s hair, if you wait to respect yourself until you are at the weight you imagine you need to be to respect yourself, you will never respect yourself. To be given wings, you’ve got to be willing to believe that you were put on this Earth for more than your endless attempts to lose the same 30 pounds 300 times for 80 years. And that goodness and loveliness are possible, even in something as mundane as what you put in your mouth for breakfast.

“Beginning now.”

Reading that. Well. It was as if she reached a long gentle hand inside of me and pulled out the words. This is precisely what happens to a person when she grows up with a parent (sorry mom, I love you) who, with all the best of intentions, teaches her that she’s only good when she fits comfortably into a pair of size six jeans. And then feeds you (her)—and, in a child’s eyes, loves you (her)–accordingly.

I’m calling the shaman this week. Because I’m falling and I’m almost there…I’m ready. New story, here I come.

How about you? Can you relate to Geneen? To me? Do share. It’s not as scary as you may think…

Until next time.

March 17, 2010 I am NOT rude…

March 17, 2010
I am NOT rude…

This morning, I saw the guy in the cow suit again on Route 611. Naturally, I waved. (It would have been rude not to.) He waved back and, if I didn’t know better, smiled. I don’t know for sure, of course, because the costume doesn’t necessarily make it easy to see the details. Neither does the fact that I’m driving at about 45 mph.

Still, one of these days, I’m going to pull into the Chik-fil-a parking lot, get out of my car, and join him on the side of the road for a little conversation. Because I’m growing more curious about the person in the cow suit (I almost typed the “guy” in the cow suit, but how do I know it’s a guy? Maybe it’s a really tall girl—maybe it’s even some out-of-work PhD or somebody I know, like my dad… wouldn’t that be freaky?)

I’m going to ask the cow guy or gal or doctor or relative what they’re thinking behind there. And if they ever get tired of waving. Just waving. Or, standing on the side of the busy road. Do they feel scared? Worried they might get sideswiped by some errant driver? Do they even like Chik-Fil-A? How committed is he/she to the cause?

How many of you out there would like the answers to these questions? Well, you’re shy now, but think about it. And let me know. If I’m gonna stop in the morning to ask questions, well, I’m not gonna be late for work for nothing.

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Which leads me to the next part of this post: The Gap. (I warned you in a previous blog that segues are not my strong point.) I have a real beef with the Gap.

First: They lowered the credit on my platinum card from $1,600 to $100 for no good reason (I have perfect credit and have never been late with a payment or carried a balance over $200) and without ever telling me. So I was utterly humiliated when my card was declined for a $130 purchase in front of my impressionable 20-year-old niece who now WORKS at the Gap and is not predisposed to giving people the benefit of the doubt. Talk about being mortified.

Then: Gap workers in the store on Chicago’s Michigan Ave. recently swarmed around me as if I was a long comb of honey and they were lost and hungry bees. I mean, good grief! Can’t a girl just browse the Henley tees when she needs to a) kill some time and b) think and c) escape people (yes, over-smiley swarthy girl in orange sweater, I’m talking about you especially)?

Apparently not because, even though I was obviously nursing a bad cold, clutching a fistful of tissues as if they were $1,000 bills, and aggravated by an overtly red set of very sore nostrils. I was approached by one jovial Millennial after the next. And they were fearless.

“Can I help you?” “Hello! And welcome to the Gap?” “Can I help you find anything?” “How are you tonight? Nice and warm outside, isn’t it?” “Do you need some help?” “Hey, did you know that you could recycle your jeans for a 30 percent discount?” I wanted to scream: NO, MILLENIAL. I HAVE BLACK SPANDEX ONLY–NO JEANS. NOW GO AWAY. AND BY THE WAY, MY PLATINUM CARD’S ONLY GOOD FOR $100. YOU’RE WASTING YOUR POLLYANNA ON ME.

I counted: I spent 10 minutes walking through the fairly large store (think big corner, big city) and was approached no less than EIGHT TIMES, mostly by aging girls younger than half the shoes in my closet. It was so bad, I had to leave. I wound up browsing the lobby of a closed Citibank for 20 minutes until it was time to meet my friends at the restaurant next door to it for dinner.

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Which leads me to my next point: Who the heck was that lady in Wegmans?

Aaah, middle age. The gift that keeps on giving. Last night? It served up a little dose of senility. I was poring over the sushi selection, looking for the rolls made with brown rice exclusively (versus white—do I really need all that refined sugar?), when the woman next to me exclaimed, “Jill? Hi! How ARE you?”

If you were passing us by, you would have thought we were long lost friends. But while she looked familiar, I had no idea who the he*k she was. Still, I embraced her; I’m not rude (well, only to Gap people). And then, when I was finally able to get away, I said to my husband, “I’m sorry I didn’t introduce you, but I have no idea how I know that woman or how she knows me.”

I had hoped it would come to me this morning—or even in last night’s dream. But alas, I’m still dazed and confused. Should I be nervous? Is this a bad sign? Do I need to call the doctor?

How about you? Had any blank moments lately? Can you relate on any of the above-mentioned stories? Do tell. In the meantime, if you’re that lady, please, I hope you enjoyed your sushi. And by all means, send me a note and refresh my spotted brain!

Until next time…

March 7, 2010 Distracted by 50-plus degrees and the Oscars…

March 7, 2010
Distracted by 50-plus degrees and the Oscars…

To all of my faithful readers — please forgive my short sabbatical from writing.

I am distracted — deeply distracted this week by not only work, but life and the crazy goings on in my brain (so what else is new?).

I’m busy trying to figure out all kinds of things–like what to pack for an upcoming series of weekend trips (other than black stretch pants), how to best organize the walk-in closet in our basement (which is filled with old shoes and broken computer monitors), and whether the vegetables I made on Thursday are still good for tonight’s dinner–when Mother Nature goes and throws us a for a loop.

That’s right: Takes pity on us poor buried souls in the mid-Atlantic weary from all the snow and tosses us a few 50-plus degree sunny days in row.

So wonderful, says this poor soul who’s infintely grateful for the reprieve and desperately in need of some vitamin D that doesn’t need to be swallowed.

Suffice to say, we’ve been playing tennis, washing our cars, lavishing ourselves in sweatshirt cotton, and just savoring the look of fresh suburban grass (think houndstooth print in green and brown), no longer emprisoned by large mounds of dirty urine-soaked icy white cotton. (Hey, our dogs have to go somewhere.)

And while the common areas in our development ain’t the rainforest or even Vegas on one of its luckier nights, what the heck, we’ll run with it.

Add to that the fact that tonight’s the Oscar’s pre-show on the “E” network, and you’ve lost me. (I LOVE the Oscars. Although, my poor husband would rather be filling all the potholes in the city with only a spoon and a bucket than having to sit by my side while I ogle the celebrities and their outfits.)

I’m fairly checked out in terms of providing you with any pithy or witty middle-aged insights. (Wait, is that Penelope Cruz? Is it just me, or does she talk like Andy Kaufman, from “Taxi” — you know, ibiDA?)

So my apologies. (Oh my gosh, my husband just suggested Guliana Rancic could have chosen a more flattering hairstyle and “what’s up with those earrings?”– should I be concerned?)

I will, however, deliver more later in the week, when I’m on the road…something more important, like how much I enjoyed going through the new scanner machine at airport security. (You can’t wait, am I right?) So stay tuned.

And thanks for understanding. Until next time!

February 26, 2010 Snow versus stepparenting…snow wins

February 26, 2010
Snow versus stepparenting…snow wins

Well, I’m depressed. I’ve had enough snow already. I could use a dose of sunshine. Dan just left to go to the office (two hours late) because his boss is Satan. I’m going to have knots in my stomach all day a) imagining him dead on the highway and b) placing one of my most intense hexes on the she-devil who insists he arrive at work or lose one of his very limited vacation days.

On a positive note, it’s another day I get to bask in my own earthiness. That’s right, as a personal protest to all of this snow and Dan’s having to leave me to a life of high blood pressure and anxiety medication, I’ve decided not to bathe or brush my teeth. (Do you want a kiss?)

In a sick way, it feels kind of pleasant.

But then again, anything’s an upgrade from this past weekend with Steppy. So NOT delightful. Rolling naked in a 24-hour ongoing avalanche of snow and ice would have probably hurt less than her behavior toward me this past Saturday and Sunday. Paying homage to the Olympics, she delivered the perfect trifecta of gut kicks:

1. After waking up at 11, she came into the basement where Dan and I were exercising, gave him and the dogs a jolly “Good morning!” followed up by a few long hugs and looked at me (doing my “Firm” tape) as if I were Freddie Krueger with an axe. This is typical. She never says good morning to me. Ever. Not without eventual prompting from her father.

2. After a lovely day with friends (with kids)—during which she sat and looked as if she’d rather be getting shot up with Gardasil—she picked a fight with me in the car on the ride home about my cursing too much. I hadn’t cursed once. This is despite the Pink CD playing in the background, during which Pink curses approximately 12 times. Did she have a problem with that? No. Why? Because she loved Pink. Couldn’t demand Pink to stop. So I thought, “Smart Pink. Living in Hollywood. Being a rock star. Having no stepchildren.” Brilliant.

3. The next morning, Steppy went into the basement with her dad to retrieve some photos of the dogs and people here in Pennsy. (She lives with her mother in Maryland.) She wanted to post them in her locker at school. She came upstairs with about 10 pictures: The dogs, Dan, his other children—who, by the way, she hasn’t seen in years and never talks to. Was there a photo of me in the bunch? No. When I said, “I guess I don’t count,” her response was “Do we have any more hot chocolate?”

I know these may seem like small things. I know she’s not even 13. I know she’s in a tough situation, being the child of divorced parents who gets schlepped back and forth between three states. And I know I’m sensitive. (We artist types usually can be.) But when you’re a giver (which I am) and a person (which I am) who’s always being treated as if she doesn’t exist (which I am)—doesn’t count—doesn’t have feelings, well, it’s not so fun. This whole Steppy thing.

But then again, I guess being treated like a stink bug in winter puts the weather in some kind of perspective. ‘Cause if I think about it, step-parenting makes 85 inches of snow look like 75 degrees and sunny.

And I’m going to run with that. For now. In the meantime, c’mon spring. Perhaps that will help.

Until next time!

February 17, 2010 Is anybody else shrinking or is it just me?

February 17, 2010
Is anybody else shrinking or is it just me?

I’m working from home today and as I walked past my own reflection in the French glass door that leads to our basement (which houses our now beloved treadmill and a very chipped and battered hallway, see previous post), I realized something, well, unpleasant:

I’m shrinking.

And not the way I’d like. Not in the way that calls for a clean diet, regular exercise, a pair of smaller sized jeans, and a demure amount of cortisol.

But in actual height. The sad thing is, I wasn’t exactly a towering inferno before today, when I noticed my dwindling self in a freshly Windex-ed image.

Oh God.

The long and short of it is: I’m a short person getting shorter. Going from 5’ 3” (wink wink) to 5” not-as-much, which sucks.

Sorry all short people, nothing personal, but it does. (You know it does.)

Now you should know that for most of my life, I’ve longed to be taller. Give me 5’ 6”, even 5′ 5” (the relative height of my mother) and I’d have been happy – had more leeway for a couple of extra pounds, not appeared so compact.

When I was younger, my mother would say, “If only we could stretch you…” alluding to the fact that I’d look and actually be better if I were longer.

Now that I think about it (revelation alert), that’s probably how I came to be so brazen and outspoken in life. (Read: Loud)

If I couldn’t be tall in stature, I’d make sure to be tall in presence and voice. I’d push out my thoughts on the written page, elevate my voice to above normal decibels, make sure nobody would miss me in a room full of whoever.

If nothing else, “they’d” all know I was there–whether I was the size of a battleship or a rubber duckie.

But now, I notice, that at least physically, I’m just a little less tall than the girl in my metaphors.

To which I must ask: When does this middle-age give up? I mean, seriously. I’m not ready to start shrinking. I know it happens, but I’m just not there yet. I haven’t yet abandoned the dream of tallness, or naturally blonde hair down to my a#* — or limbs as long as street lamps.

I’m just not up for the task of shortening a closet full of already-whacked hems.

Yet, now that it’s happening (whether I like it or not), I have to wonder what’s coming next? Am I just going to shrink until nobody sees me anymore? Become a tiny speck in a bright red Honda Element driving innocently along —one lone flowing chin hair waving out of the driver’s side window?

Okay, I’ll stop now. It’s clear, I’m a bit cranky. And I recognize that somebody may read this while they’re eating. But still…

Is anybody else shrinking? (Dear lord, please tell me you are…) Write. I beg you.

Until next time.

February 16, 2010

February 16, 2010

Saw my cow again today on the side of the road. Turns out, he’s in front of the Chick-Fil-A, not Ruby Tuesdays (my husband had to educate me on the campaign to “eat more beef”, shows you how much I know about our fast food nation).

It was great to see him. He looked good, cozy and warm in a blue fleece. I waved again. You know, I think he really appreciated it. (Although, the gal in the Ford Focus driving next to me? Not so much…) Okay, gotta work. More later …

February 10, 2010 A snowy day…

February 10, 2010
A snowy day…

Yesterday morning, I saw some guy dressed in a cow suit standing out on Easton Road/611 in front of the Ruby Tuesdays, waving to the traffic. For some reason, it gave me a giddy rush. As I passed, I waved back fairly strenuously and honked my horn. Made me feel stupid and whimsical all at once.

I liked it.

I’m sure that cow isn’t out there today. If he is, he’s not only braver than I thought, but surely covered by several feet of snow and probably in need of emergency services.

Can’t stop thinking about him. (Sorry honey, I do love you more than cow-drifter.) Hope he’s warm.

Oh well, off to stare at the snow. It’s pretty amazing. (I think I just heard the news anchor say they’ve called in the National Guard.) It’s more snow than I’ve seen in a long long while. There’s really not much more to say than that, although I did take a picture of our back deck and send it to my father’s cell phone, asking him if he wishes he were here. He and my mother are in Florida, where they’ve been complaining about too much rain.

He doesn’t. (Wish he were here, that is.)

Okay, that’s all I’ve got for this post. I’m tired and I’ve got lazy snow brain and it’s clogging all other thinking. I hope you’re all doing well, staying nice and toasty, and visualizing greener pastures.

Enjoy the blizzard. And remember, there is nothing like a state-of-emergency inspired thundersnow (they say thunder may be coming, just before the locusts) to feed the soul in winter…

Until next time!

February 3, 2010 A new way to workout with a treadmill you’d never imagine on your own…

February 3, 2010
A new way to workout with a treadmill you’d never imagine on your own…

Today, I picked up a message from Brian at Moody Movers. He was FINALLY calling me back from a message I’d left on Saturday afternoon. It said this: “Hey, this is Jill Murray and I’m calling because I’m wondering if you might be able to help us with, well, a moving problem. See, my husband is trapped in the basement stairwell by a 350-pound treadmill, upright and tilted ever so slightly on its side, constricted by two hard walls and a railing, and roped to a large wooden pallet. Not my husband, the treadmill that is. (Nervous laugh.) Anyway, I could go on and on, gosh, but if you happen to get this message, well, soon, please give me a call. Much appreciated.”

Course, they didn’t respond until Wednesday morning, which doesn’t exactly inspire me to keep their number for future reference. “Gimme a call,” Brian said, “if you still need help with that treadmill.”

Yeah, okay Brian. Thanks a bunch.

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So you’re probably wondering what the heck happened. Well, I’ll tell you: It’s amazing how the best laid plans can turn on you. On Saturday morning, I had it all figured out: I’d scheduled a hair appointment for 9 a.m. so I could be out of dodge, so to speak, when the Sears folks came to deliver the monster of a treadmill we bought the previous weekend.

Scheduled to arrive between 9 and 11, I said to myself, “Self, let your handsome husband deal with that.” (Heavy lifting is, after all, a man’s job. You know it is, don’t write me.) I figured my job was to look as good as humanly possible, despite all my middle-aged mishigas. You know, focus on better hair, better nails, better skin. Better day.

So imagine my surprise when, as I’m paying up at the salon register, my cell phone buzzes and it’s my handsome husband, calling to find out where I am. I immediately know there’s trouble since he NEVER does that. To the contrary, he’s always a little too pleased when I have a plans. That’s the only time (or so he says) he gets to watch monster movies and eat buffalo wings without my harping on him about his arteries bursting like a wild meteor or insisting we check to see what’s on Lifetime.

But not this time.

No, no, he wanted to know where I was for a reason. He NEEDED me for a solution to some massive problem. And so, I answered the call, reluctantly, preparing myself for a big one.

“Hi honey. Everything good?” I ask.

“Yeah, uh huh. Just fine.”

“Treadmill come?” I’m wincing now.

“Oh yeah.”

“Delivery guys gone?”

“Oh yeah. I let them go over an hour ago.”

Already a bad sign.

“Treadmill in the basement, where it needs to be?”

“Oh no. It’s stuck in the stairwell. Almost on its side. Strapped into a wood pallet. Say, what time do you think you’ll be home?”

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And so, you can see where I’m going here. I always figured, by this time of life, this stuff would be, well, easy. Disease, death, wrinkles, aging parents, regrets, and hair in the most unimaginable places – that’s the stuff we’d have to figure out. But moving crap? We’d just pay people to do that for us. And if we got something from Sears, well heck: They’d have to do it. It’s part of their branding.

But what I didn’t bank on was this: That when I decided to leave my handsome husband alone with delivery men, he’d release them before the job was done. Had I been there, well, forget about it. That treadmill may still have been in the stairwell, but there would have also been two guys in a Sear’s uniform wrestling it into the basement.

Lesson learned: Never leave handsome husband alone with delivery guys.

Good to know, but of absolutely no use to me when, after much deliberation over whether to go home, I arrived to find my husband now trapped in said stairwell, captive in a corner on the first landing.

I can only imagine the look on my face when I find him.

“Oh dear.”

“Now, don’t freak out,” he says. “All I need you to do is grab hold of the lower left part of the pallet and lift straight UP. When you do, be careful not to drop on your foot–and watch for splinters. Also, hold steady and don’t waver. VERY IMPORTANT. Keep it up and slightly pointed left. Like an inch or so on its diameter. And wait until I say ready…while you do that, I’m going to straighten out this middle part and pull ever-so gently out the bottom and towards this top step…” He points with his right toe since he’s steadying the treadmill with both hands.

“Are you kidding?”

“What’s ‘at, babe?”

“I just had my hair done.”

“Looks nice!”

“I’m in three-inch Rocket Dogs.”

“Huh?”

“It’s my day off.”

“Yep.”

“Just lift it straight up? Honey, it’s 350 pounds. On a wood pallet that’s easily as wide as our Honda Element. Who do you think I am? Godzilla? And this Nordic Track is Faye Raye? How far do you think the delivery guys have gotten. Do you think they’re still in the development?”

“Aw c’mon. We can do this! Unless you think you can’t, because the last thing I want is for you to get hurt.” I did not miss the irony in that, with my husband, balancing the treadmill, sweating, looking like he needs either a small blood transfusion or, at the minimum, a bottle of Gatorade.

And so, after a few contemplative moments, I kick off my platform mules and give it my best shot. Who am I to run from a challenge? (After all, I did spend the better part of my life dating.) And after some moving back and forth (along with a few skipped heartbeats and intense palpitations), we get it off the top landing and onto the bottom, where my handsome husband assures me he can take it from there.

Of course, still quite concerned, at that point, I lay our health insurance cards neatly on the kitchen table and place a slightly hysterical call to Moody Movers just in case things didn’t go as well as Dan hopes. Then, I make him the world’s largest tuna sandwich WITH sweet pickles (very important detail). And in lieu of taking a Xanex, I proceed to eat the leftover hamburger in the refrigerator without even chewing.

“There’s a little something waiting for you once you get the treadmill on solid footing,” I yell to him, midway through my lunch, not wanting to check and see what he’s doing or if he’s made any progress or whether he’s broken a limb, digit, or anything else by now. “And I think you’re gonna like it!”

To which I hear him squeak: “Is it sex?”

Good grief.

“NO. A SANDWICH.”

He deserves that. I’d never have let those Sears guys leave.

And now, I’m off to do 20 quick minutes on that puppy, which we eventually do get into the basement without injury (took us eight hours), nestled between the PowerWave punching bag and the large sofa with the broken leg I got in Chicago some 15 years ago.

Better the couch than me or my husband.

Until next time!

January 27, 2010 GPS or Mapquest? You decide…

January 27, 2010
GPS or Mapquest? You decide…

The other night, my husband spoke to me in his sleep again. This time, he asked if I would buy him a pair of night vision goggles.

“Of course I will, babe!” I replied enthusiastically. How can I deny him anything, really? If he’d have asked for a rotation of concubines, I’d have made that happen for him in his sleep. If possible. In theory, of course.

Which brings me to my issues with one of the 21st century’s most modern day inventions: The GPS. (I know, not really a connection here, but segues have never been my strong point.)

This week, I have had several big business meetings (why is why you haven’t heard from me until now)—one with a new client and one that required me to give a presentation to the entire 100-person consulting team of which I’m now a player. (Talk about a real nail-biter …)

The former required me to drive at 6 a.m. to a destination I’d never been to before almost two hours from my house–in pouring 50 mph wind-soaked rain. There I was, in my beloved Honda Element, looking for the Bruce Springsteen station on XM radio, applying a safety layer of lip gloss, clutching my Mapquest.com directions in one hand, the steering wheel in the other, wearing last year’s prescription glasses, and teeter tottering like a confused skater from one trucker-infested highway to another. All the while, squirming up close to the windshield, squinting, and chanting “Hail Mary, son-of-a-bit*#”. (I know I’m Jewish, but frankly, “Oy vey, and can you pass the pound cake?” just wasn’t cutting it.)

Course, it didn’t help that I had to negotiate the Mapquest directions the entire time. But then again, it’s a small price to pay–holding a handy piece of paper between your fingers–for knowing they’d get me where I needed to be. Here’s why:

I simply do not trust my GPS. (And yes, I live in the modern world. I do have one.)

Now, I don’t know if this is a middle-aged phenomenon or if I’m just an illogical nervous Nellie who refuses to believe that an entire genre of technology can be reliable. But a report on the news the night before about this elderly couple who, in trusting their GPS, wound up lost in the icy woods overnight (fortunately, they had mints and beef jerky), confirmed what i already knew to be true:

The GPS (which, by the way, consistently offers a route that’s contrary to my beloved Mapquest, which does not help to inspire confidence), will land you in the wilderness every time. And, in my case, it would most likely be without the luxury of candy.

In this situation in particular, my Mapquest directions had me to getting to the client’s offices by way of the PA Turnpike. Beautiful. Like a Modigliani painting. Moving and personal and right on. Had I listened to my GPS, however, I would have been led into the fire’s den of traffic on I-95. As much I knew the turnpike was the way to go, I could not help but question myself when the GPS beckoned me otherwise. As if the consistent spewing of dirty truck spatter weren’t enough to send me over the edge, now I had to decide which route was the right one.

After a few anxiety-filled moments, I decided: In a war of Mapquest versus my GPS, Mapquest will win every time. That’s my rule going forward. After all, it’s easy to make sense of paper. A GPS? Not so much.

Besides, the lady that spits out the directions on the GPS is not at all warm or fuzzy. She’s robotic. And who wants to take advice from a robot? Not me, I tell you.

Not me.

So which do you prefer: Mapquest.com or an unreliable piece of electronic car flotsam that could very well turn you into bear food? (No bias, though, seriously.) Let me know. And until next time …

January 18, 2010 What’s in your drawers?

January 18, 2010
What’s in your drawers?

As part of my New Years’ resolution to be more organized (I didn’t put that one on my list because I just came up with it today…), I decided to clean out the two small drawers in my favorite side table (the size of a 20-inch television)—bought at a beloved warehouse-like antique store on Lawrence and Bell in my old stomping grounds of Chicago. Here’s what I found in it:

–One folder with information about my short-lived membership to the Cornerstone Gym near my house (which I have since cancelled after going only once a week to meet with an overpriced trainer).

–One brochure for the Wellness Solution Centers, an exercise and health facility about 30 minutes from my home that I no longer go to along with: a detoxification exam sheet and patient guide for when I signed up for their 30-day detox program; a Program Manual and success log (or otherwise), for when I did their ”8 Weeks to Wellness” program (diet, exercise, massage, chiropractic) and lost a scant .2 ounces in 42 days. (Hooray for me.)

–One Weight Watchers Complete Food Companion guide, 2004 edition (with points values for over 17,500 food items); one Complete Food Companion, 2008 edition (with over 18,000 foods and 5,000 new items); one Dining Out Companion 2008 edition (with 1330 restaurants and over with new chapters and dining out tips!).

–14 Weight Watchers Points Finder sliding scale thingies to help identify the appropriate number of points per food—no wait, make that 15, hold on, make that 16. Holy bologna, make it 17!

–Eight Weight Watchers “kickoff” brochures of some sort with various titles: Situation Solved Weight Loss on the Go; Getting Started Week 1; Getting Started Week 1 redux; Membership Options; Getting Started redux 2; Kick Start Your Success, Eat Wisely Week 1; “Welcome to Your Meeting”.

–Five paper pamphlets for tracking my food “points” each week (sadly, there were more expletives than points written)—and four wire-bound pocket-sized journals allowing me to keep daily points for up to three months each.

–Two Week 3 Be Active Weight Watchers flyers.

–Three birthday cards—one from my husband (so sweet), one from my dear friend Joan, and another from my parents.

–Four individual Weight Watcher recipe cards – one for apricot-glazed turkey and sweet potatoes (which I would never eat now that I’m newly off of sugar); another for quick and easy toffee ice cream pie (ditto); another for tofu-tapioca pudding (which sounds nice in theory, but according to Suzanne Somers, tofu is not a good combining food, just trust me); and the last one for corned beef and vegetables (which could work save the added glaze on the meat).

–Two Calorie Fat & Carbohydrate Counters by different respective publishers. (Dad, if you’re reading, happy to give one back to you…)

–And iPod and the holder I thought I lost 10 months ago.

–A packet of nails and two tubes of random lip balm.

–The instructions for how to set up the Weight Watchers bathroom scale that might as well be a two-headed monster lying dormant next to the toilet, just waiting to GET me.

–A magazine article outlining a three-day anti-inflammatory meal plan (for my “I’m not chubby, I’m just inflamed” phase).

–A pamphlet on how to Choose Your Foods: Exchange Lists for Weight Management and a folder on nutrition therapy from Amy with a hard-to-pronounce last name, RD, lDN, CCN, CDE.

–A brochure on how to alleviate stress from some chiropractic office I don’t remember.

–My lifetime membership card to Weight Watchers and current statistics in a bland beige plastic folder.

–The Jenny Craig Dining Out Guide (New Expanded Version), along with two personalized menu planners and a creative recipes book.

–One blank journal.

–An old conference brochure from when I spoke on Blogging and Beyond: Telling the Truth With Humor and Grace at the Montgomery County Community College. (Keynote speaker: Frank McCourt, sadly, now deceased.)

–Three grocery lists and four Wachovia deposit slips in a ripped up envelope, and a receipt for some book I ordered on Amazon.com on how to overcome overeating.

–Seven bobby pins.

Uh oh, not really liking the common theme.

This exercise certainly told me a lot about myself and my obsession with dieting. It’s worse than I thought, and pretty deep. So in the spirit of fresh starts and new years and embracing healing, you know what I did? I tossed it all out (well, everything but one calorie guide, birthday cards, iPod, bobby pins, journal, and bank receipts).

And boy, I feel lighter already.

So now that I’ve told you, you tell me: What’s in your unattended drawers? And what are you gonna do about it? Write to me!

Until next time!

January 11, 2010 Me, Fergie, and the kind of love you spend your whole life looking for…

January 11, 2010
Me, Fergie, and the kind of love you spend your whole life looking for…

If this isn’t love—the kind of love a person waits at least half of her life for—well, then I don’t know what is. In fact, I don’t know anything at all. Check it out:

The other night, I was watching a preview for a movie with Josh Duhamel on TV, when I couldn’t help but comment to my husband (who was just about to cross the border into REM sleep) how lucky Josh is to be married to Fergie.

“You know Fergie, don’tcha hon?” I say, knocking his shoulder to wake him up. “Of the Black Eyed Peas? I got a feeling, oaaww ooooh, that tonight’s goonna be a good night..oh yeah…oaww ooh…”

“Yeah, that’s nice.”

“I mean, if I were a guy, hell, I’d marry Fergie too. Smart man, that Josh. What’s not to want to marry?”

The fact is I have a crush on Fergie. Now close your mouth, I am NOT pitching for the other team. I love my husband and men in general.

This is a different kind of crush – a “middle aged, if I could rent a flux capacitor and go back in time and be wistful and younger and be anything, I’d be Fergie,” kind of crush. Or, “in my next life, I’d like to come back as Fergie”. Or, “if I were a tall rich dude with a metabolic system that could easily be bronzed and plated for its wonder, and who could marry anybody on the planet, I’d have to say, it’d be Fergie.” Or, “if I could somehow make myself reincarnate, I would work with key players on the astral plane to reconfigure my own anatomy to somehow, someway, mock hers.” Or, “if I had to sing any song in the universe, I would sing her arrangement of “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, in like 12 different languages.

You get the drift.

Now, lest you think I’m sounding crazy, well, that’s fine. You’d fall into the category of those people who don’t get me. But my husband, he gets me. He gets me good.

And so, while he tried to roll away from my Fergielicious talk and hot forgot-to-brush chatty breath on his neck, I decided to put him to a little test. So I said, “Hon, don’t you think Fergie and I have a lot in common?”

He rolled over and faced me. “Uh huh.” A grunt, a subtle snort, and then a furrow of the right sight of his face into the memory foam pillow. A few deep breaths and he played dead. (Nice method approach, seriously.)

“Don’t you want to know what it is?” I say, moving my mouth up towards his left ear, figuring that since he didn’t say anything, it implied his obvious desire to hear more about mine and Fergie’s similarities.

“Okay, well, first of all,” I say, “despite my peri-menopausal tendencies, slight metabolic condition and predisposition to black spandex, we’re both hot, bootylicious hot.” Nothing. Not even a sniff.

“Second,” I continue, “even though somebody once called my singing reminiscent of the shower scene in Psycho, we both have a great voice—I’m talkin’ unbelievable range. Third, everybody likes us, no, IDOLIZES us. Good grief, get off us already. We’re HUMAN you know?”

Not even a lip quiver.

“Fourth, we’re sassy. We get written about a ton. The paparazzi follow us both everywhere (so annoying sometimes, really, and dangerous)—although fortunately, we both know how to handle it with much grace. And fifth, even though I work for a health-care consulting firm, we both know how to rock a sequin mini-dress at the “office” if you will.” I smirk. “Just ask my colleagues.”

On that, he starts to snore– that chainsaw kind of snore—and his eyes flutter for a split second.

Middle-age delusion is just delightful.

“In fact,” I go on, “if I remember correctly, I could have sworn that Fergie wore the very wedding dress I wore at our wedding—thank you Nicole Miller—when she married that hot little piece of spicy man-beef, Josh Duhamel, last year. There were a few crystals on it, remember?”

I poke his cheek.

“Yes, I think I saw her in it in Us Weekly. But I wore it better, don’t you think? Just a teensy bit?” I pinch my thumb and forefinger together precariously close to his right eye.

Nothing. Not a peep.

“Which reminds me of another thing we have in common, we are both married to HOT men.”

At that point, he sat up straight, opened both eyes, stared me straight in the face and said with the clarity of a Shakespearean-trained actor, “You know, I never thought about that before, but you’re right. You and Fergie are practically twins. Pretty incredible.”

And then, he dropped like a bee after a straight blue-collar day of stinging.

Now that’s love.

What’s your middle-aged love story? C’mon, Valentine’s Day is coming. Give it up.

Until next time!

January 1, 2010 An innovative collection of New Year’s Resolutions you might like (but I’m not sure)

January 1, 2010
An innovative collection of New Year’s Resolutions you might like (but I’m not sure)

Happy New Year to all of my faithful readers (and even those who may not be as faithful, but do check in from time to time…)

As I stated in my last post, I cannot believe it’s 2010. Where has the time gone? Why it feels like just yesterday that, instead of seeing the Walnut Street Theater’s rendition of Oliver and dining on chicken nachos at Jones, I was stocking my cabinets with duct tape, Chips Ahoys, Chef Boyardi Meat Ravioli, and neutral lip gloss (you never know) in preparation for Y2K. And yet, here we are – a decade gone by in a snap and about 23 now-expired holiday coupons in my purse.

As if that weren’t bad enough, it’s resolution time. And, as promised, I spent several chilly minutes on the front door stoop—braless and blotchy, in platform flip flops, light cotton pajamas and my husband’s favorite sweat jacket, index finger pointed North—conjuring up the most innovative collection possible. The criteria? Unlike more exercise and less pizza (big sigh), this year’s resolutions have to be specific, practical, and probable. With that in mind, here goes 10 I can feel good about:

1. Stop drawing extra pounds on the models in magazines. This came to me actually yesterday—after having asked Steppy to draw a double chin on the ingénue’s picture in the show’s Playbill. She shook her head while shading in the new chin fold (under my watchful direction, of course). At which point I asked her: “Am I sending you a bad message here?” Her response? “Maybe.”

2. Less TV. Although, in the spirit of full disclosure, thinking I can actually do this one is technically a lie IF you believe that wishful thinking is not far reaching or versatile enough to be considered a full-fledged resolution.

3. More sex (reprised from last year) even if I don’t want it or if I DO. Instead of going to bed thinking about how much I love whole wheat pretzels or how Anderson Cooper should grow out his buzz cut, I’m going to mute the TV and conjure up a little playfulness by say, channeling a hot kitty or meditating on the word “thong”. (Insert wink.) So watch out and meow, my handsome husband. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. (And lest you readers think this is a lie as well, so what if it is.)

4. Stop lying. Which, frankly, I really don’t do. In fact, I come from a long line of bad liars (except for my brother, but that’s another story—hey bro, love you!). I can barely keep all of my truths straight—having to manage an additional set of non-truths would just be downright cumbersome. With one exception: Lying to my mother about eating a pizza or a hamburger. The fact is lying to my mother about food is one of my family’s most long-held and Darwinian traditions. It connects us all so deeply, I wouldn’t dream of giving it up. Not at this point.

So let’s recap:

1. Stop asking other people to do my dirty work.

2. Sitcoms ARE important.

3. Channel a burning feline or anything else I can get my hands around.

4. Lie only in reference to processed food and only to my mother.

Moving on:

5. Use phrases like “cover your junk” and “do me a solid” and “I like your man bits” more often because they’re not likely to be covered in an AARP brochure. And I like that.

6. Empty the trash in the upstairs bathroom more often. Like right now since it’s overflowing with gross things like dirty cotton balls and random pieces of dental floss—gosh, I’m hungry. I wonder if we still have that leftover chicken in the frig?

7. Stop hissing at parades and women who look good in knee-high boots and ballet flats. #1—While I don’t understand how being crammed in between strangers on the side of the road in sub-freezing temps and watching a freak show of people riding on balloon-covered floats, in cartoon suits, or dancing on stilts is pleasurable, I will not judge. (Although the aliens watching over must really think we’re nuts.) #2—As for the stylish footwear…I forgive all of you sisters who keep those trends alive that do NOT flatter all of us. (You know who you are, you lovers of all things shoulder pads and culottes …) And despite my inability to find a suitable alternative since the stores are virtually dominated by these looks, you look fantastic. And really, that’s all that matters.

Another recap:

5. Use creative phrasing in lieu of Botox as a way to avoid aging.

6. Consider the alternatives to bathroom excess but don’t let them drag you down.

7. Gag my hissing reflex.

Now, let’s keep going:

8. Turn to the MTV Kids Choice Awards for inspiration and comfort. Whenever somebody does anything bad to me or mine—like, say, accuse me of child abuse and remove my new husband’s child from our care, tell me that I need gastric bypass surgery when I’m a size 12, or put me through 16 rounds of interviews only to offer me a job and then snatch it away for no good reason three weeks later—I’m going to let it roll off my body like imaginary green slime. In effect, I will slime myself. So there.

9. Come up with more and better ideas for solving the ills of society. For example, in an attempt to prevent parental alienation or one parent dragging their kid off to another country (this one’s for you, you hot David Goldman), every single divorcing couple should be FORCED to take an eight-week course on how to parent through the breakup. They don’t take it, they don’t get legal permission to move on. Brilliant, right? Send your mail and your checks made out to cash to the Wild River.

10. No more forced affected from the canines. This one will be admittedly hard. After all, the dogs don’t always know what’s good for them. Duh. They’re animals.

So again, that’s:

8. Get rid of cable television and regret it forever.

9. Be creative in a way that makes me superior.

10. Give the dogs a bone.

And this year, a bonus resolution:

11. Let my husband say whatever he wants in his sleep without trying to engage him in dialogue. For example, the other night, he rolled over and told me that I was “the only 3G network for him” (which I was fine with, but only after asking him several questions for clarity). Then, he muttered something about porcupines not having spots. To which I replied, “How can you tell?” I mean, seeing through those needles can be tricky, no?

And on that note, let’s see how it goes. 2010, here I come! Wishing you all a happy, prosperous, and resolution rich year. Let me know what your resolutions are.

Until next time!

2009
December 30, 2009 A precursor to 2010 and those blasted New Year’s resolutions…

December 30, 2009
A precursor to 2010 and those blasted New Year’s resolutions…

It was a very happy birthday (an entire restaurant sang Happy Birthday to me—I can now cross that off my very practical bucket list) and a very Jewish Christmas (read Chinese food and five Lifetime movies) and now, I can hardly believe that tomorrow is New Year’s Eve.

As I look back on 2009, I cannot believe how much has happened and how quickly time has gone by. Why it was just January that I was rocking under the coffee table after just having been downsized from a three-week old job. Wondering how, after giving up all of my clients to take it and not eligible for unemployment, I was going to make homelessness appear Jewish-princess chic.

I had no idea that, along with a slowing metabolism, the monthly acquisition of new laugh lines, and hair in places no little girl could ever dream possible (without having been given an accidental overdose of children’s Tylenol), one of the conditions of being middle-aged involved time passing like a high-speed train.

And yet, here I am: Staring down the barrel of 2010. Wondering what’s next.

I think it will be good. After all, the signs look positive. I just got a mighty bonus at work, a place where, after seven months on the job, I’m finally starting to actually get it. We averted but another crisis just the other day, when, after 24 hours of pouring rains, I managed to coerce a manager at Home Depot (bless you Janet, you’re covered through 2011 for that one) to re-open a closed store so we could get a functioning sump pump and avoid the consequence of a small bioswale in our basement. And although I am still squeezing into my blue jeans, I am reigniting the fires of good health, starting this time from the inside out, versus the other way around. (For those of you who can’t see me, which I know would be most of you, I’m pointing to my right temple…)

Which leads me to this: Look out for a special New Year’s resolution blog, coming to you straight on Friday. I have decided, this year, that instead of getting ahead of those nasty little buggers, I’m going to wake up on January 1st, step out my front door, and put my finger to the wind. I need to feel which way it’s blowing and plan accordingly.

So far, I’m pretty sure, there will be dogs involved (spoiler alert: like teaching the little guy how to say “no you do not look fat in those pants” as well as how to discretely steal the remote from daddy … see, I’m thinking big…)

In the meantime, I’m wishing all my faithful readers a very happy and safe New Year’s. Talk to you the day after!

December 21, 2009 Some random winter/post-Hanukkah/pending birthday thoughts

December 21, 2009
Some random winter/post-Hanukkah/pending birthday thoughts

Well, I have received the first birthday present of the season: Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog by Lisa Scottoline. I told my friend, Donna, who presented it to me with the appropriate fanfare (i.e. yelling “Hey Jiner, Happy Birthday” from down the office hallway), that she was the first person to offer me a birthday present without asking me to actually problem solve around it. For example:

· My mother, without prompting, informed me last week (a solid seven days before my actual birthday) that she bought me a gift certificate to my favorite hair salon for a facial and a massage. I could look for it in the mail. And, that I was NOT to use it to color my hair which, by the way, “was too long and too red for someone who was ‘getting too up there’ to wear it.” Happy birthday to me.

· My niece, who works at the Gap, called a day after (a solid six days before my actual birthday) to tell me that she’d gotten me a birthday present but wasn’t sure whether I’d like it since “Gam” said it was unsuitable. Apparently, I was “going through some sort of change of life” she said. “Is it cable knit?” I asked, groaning silently to myself, thinking my mother thinks I’m having hot flashes which defies in theory the 15 shirts I’m wearing right now indoors to fight the chill. But whatever. To which my niece said, “Well maybe, I don’t know. Tell me what you like (as if she’s never criticized my outfits before) and I’ll tell you if I think I should return it.”

· Then there’s my husband: the most well-intentioned creature on earth who bought all eight of my Hanukkah presents on the actual first night of Hanukkah (two weeks before my actual birthday)—and delivered them practically all at once. Those gifts, which came from CVS, included a chocolate chip cookie, a packet of Hanukkah gelt, 24 Hanukkah candles, an $8.99 silver Hanukkah menorah (still with the price tag), a blue and white Hanukkah candle, a Hanukkah keychain (don’t ask), a deck of Hanukkah cards, and some silver mistletoe to represent Hanukkah on the Christmas tree in our basement that I’m sure keeps my mother up at night muttering to herself. I shudder to think of what’s coming for my birthday. (Love you hon, I do.)

Now, I don’t want to seem ungrateful. (And, for those of you who don’t know me, I do have some residual December birthday issues contributing to this admittedly bad attitude – like the fact that I am never the only one getting presents and often they’re “in combination” with other holiday goodies.)

I do appreciate all the things my loved ones do for me, including getting me stuff to celebrate the day of my birth—even if they’re rarely a surprise. I simply wonder this: Can’t a girl get a birthday present without a) knowing what it is beforehand or b) assuming some responsibility for it or c) actively participating in the process of acquisition?

What happened to the good old days, when people delivered on birthdays with pretty and simple little packages wrapped in pink? (And I’m not talking about the colorful email from the American Association of Retired People soliciting my membership. [Harsh.] If you’re reading, Mr. AARP, no thanks on the free travel kit.)

And so, Donna, my dear dear friend. Thanks so much for the book. You have no idea just how much I appreciate it.

And Happy Birthday to all December birthdays everywhere. My condolences for being lost in the shuffle and wishes for abundance are with you. May you eat lots of chocolate cake without having to go up a size in pants. May most if not all of your friends be in town for your big day (and not in, say, Boca or visiting relatives in Canada). May the most inconsiderate Mother Nature (thanks for ruining my weekend plans) put off all major snowfalls and natural disasters until January, so you don’t get screwed. And may you get more crap than you could ever use in a year while remaining blissfully ignorant of how it got to you.

Until next time!

December 10, 2009 Dr. Phil and

December 10, 2009
Dr. Phil and

A few days ago, I was watching an episode of Dr. Phil about mothers and stepmothers. And, as you may imagine, I was riveted. To one story in particular, which started with the biological mother in the scenario (let’s call her Stephanie), Skyping in, in telling her side of things, clearly exercising restraint and painting herself to be all too reasonable.

“I’m remarried with other children and a full-time job,” she said, neck veins starting to flicker like a strobe light in an all night pool bar. Her beef was that, while she loved her 14-year-old son and spent as much time as she could with him, she apparently could not give him the attention the stepmother did.

More specifically, she was bothered by the fact that the stepmother went to every one of his school and sporting events, provided him with cards and cookies for his classmates at holiday time, and just generally overall gave a lot of herself to the boy.

“I always tease my son,” she said, “to go ask your real mom, ask your bio mom to do that for you.”

As I listened to Stephanie’s story and as Dr. Phil probed her for the realities that lay underneath, I could see the sugar-coated glint in her eye and the careful way she weighed her words in response to him. You’d have to be newly propelled from the womb to miss that she a) still had several issues with her ex, and b) had clearly been the initiator of bad behavior misdirected (in both my opinion and ultimately Dr. Phil’s) towards the well-intentioned new wife.

Now, lest you think I’m being biased here, let me add this disclaimer: I am desperate to believe that ex-wives can be good and that my situation (i.e. my husband’s ex removing his child from us just after we were married, accusing me of horrible untruths) was an anomaly. I wanted to hear what this biomom had to say about the situation with unbiased clarity. I wanted to believe that there were good intentions on both sides and that the problems between them—with a now teenage boy caught in the middle—would dissipate with the airing of misconceptions. So I listened with an open mind and a hopeful heart.

And that’s the truth.

But I’m sorry, I could see pretty quickly that this biomom was a real bit@#.

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Now, enter the stepmom—in person (and in the next segment, the husband). Let’s call her Sally—a slightly overweight, middle-America looking, soft spoken do-gooder with no biological children of her own. I could imagine her wearing a Christmas sweater–the kind with a few reindeer and tiny lights on it, say, flashing just by the neck.

She was clearly pained by the situation and confused by what she was doing wrong in simply loving her husband’s child. And after listening to her side of things, I waited with bated breath for Dr. Phil to weigh in.

“C’mon, Doc,” I thought to myself. “Do something good here for the cause. Now’s your chance…”

After all, the scenario was almost a fantasy come to life for me. Because I cannot tell you how many times I fantasized—at 3 a.m., during some very long and sleepless nights—about getting on the show and, after hearing our tale of injustice, listening to Dr. Phil read the real mom in our story the riot act.

But much to my outrage, it didn’t happen. While he did uncover some additional facts about Stephanie and how her graceful presentation that day was far afield from the norm–and while he did get her to admit that she knew some of what she’d done was wrong–he set her only slightly straight (think a bell curve with a flat top) but didn’t go far enough. At least as far as I’m concerned.

In fact, in trying to be too diplomatic, he left Sally out in a life boat on open water all by herself, as if she didn’t matter at all (and hadn’t she had enough of that?). He failed to offer even a buoy, let alone a lighthouse. Where he was clear to biomom that she needed to resolve her issues with the father and then let him and Sally forge their own relationship with the son, he was unclear to Sally when he leaned in and said to her, “And well, on your end, there are boundaries.”

Huh?

Well, by all means, are they , I yelled at the screen. WHAT ARE THOSE BOUNDARIES, DR. KNOW-IT-ALL (by the way, Dr. Phil used to be one of my idols)? Should Sally ignore her husband’s child? Never go to another his events? Ignore his requests for help at school? Vigilantly remain detached and withdrawn? I could feel my face heat up. Should she disassociate herself from having anything to do with her husband’s offspring, in deference to the “real” mother’s insecurity?

I waited and waited for him to expand on what he meant—or for somebody to stand up and call him on it. But he didn’t and they didn’t. And so the idea of boundaries just dangled in the air, like asbestos.

Ask me and I’ll tell you: Sally hadn’t done a damn thing wrong. It was easy to see she was a sweet and sensitive woman whose worse crime was caring for her husband (who she’d met after he was divorced and had been with for 10 years) and his child. She hadn’t attempted to breast feed the son, put a hit out on the real mom, or send the kid subliminal messages while he slept that she was the more worthy of the two women. She didn’t try to brain wash him into thinking she was the biomom and the biomom was just some crazy person who’d kidnapped him at birth. She didn’t bound and gag him, beat him, disrespect him, mistreat him, or behave as if he wasn’t a legitimate and important part of his father and mother’s life. She didn’t leave him to believe he didn’t count.

Quite the contrary. She stated her case well by saying that she simply aimed to embrace him as part of her family now. In her own words, “I’m not trying to be his mother. I’m just trying to be another person who loves and cares about this child.”

Tell me: How do you draw the lines around that?

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Now, to my faithful readers, you know I haven’t talked about the whole notion of stepparenting for a while. That’s because I have come to accept that it is what it is, along with the relationships involved. Complicated. Sometimes rewarding, but most times, not. There are no boundaries to cross or respect because nobody has defined them. We are all doing the best we can. And we especially sensitive stepmothers (and not evil, no matter what those old books say) who care maybe a little too much do it for the simple reason Sally stated so eloquently above. (And for our darling husbands, of course…)

And so, I say to Dr. Phil: Shame on you. You could have done so much more here for a lot of people—not the least of which are the suffering children of divorce. (Can you imagine how the poor boy in the middle of this mess might feel?) Too bad. Instead of writing to his producers, however, I’ve decided to spend my valuable time writing to you. Let me know what you think. What’s your take?

A happier post forthcoming. And, oh, an early Happy Hanukah to all! Until next time.

November 29, 2009

November 29, 2009

Hello my devoted readers. I am, as always, sorry for the delayed post but I must admit, I have been enjoying a nice long week off of work and the laziness that goes along with it. Of course, I can’t blame the past few days of inertia on the tryptophan in too much turkey (since I was far more interested in my mother’s meatballs and somebody else’s chocolate cake …), but rather, from having to take care of chores and other pressing matters.

Like following my middle-aged intuition.

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Case in point: I woke up yesterday (on Saturday) with a to-do list as long as the Talmud. And yet, I felt a strong urge—compelled even—to scratch 9/10th’s of it for a long lunch at Lulu’s—one of our favorite restaurants in New Hope.

Now let me tell you about our beloved Lulu’s. It’s one of the town’s local dives–with a reasonably priced abundance of good vegetarian and healthy menu items, and brooding ambience. Outdoors, in particular, Lulu’s cafe offers prime seating for a great show: Namely, a parade of colorful tourists and motorcyclists that never disappoints.

And yet, beyond this sideshow, beyond the coolest and windiest days spent huddled under a warm fleece with a steaming mug of whatever, beyond my favorite Mediterranean salad (hold the olives and onions), and the best bacon cheeseburger in Bucks County, lay a host of memories for me and my husband.

After all, Lulu’s is where we had our second date and too many too count thereafter. It’s where we used to relax with Sophie, the magical Golden Retriever we had to put down at six due to cancer—as she sat adoringly beside us while we people-watched off Lulu’s patio.

Where, unbeknownst to me at the time, I lovingly shared a last plate of fries with my husband’s older daughter H, now into a religion that disavows us and no longer a regular part of our life together.

Where I used to meet my best friend, Lorrie, to talk about wedding preparations, and her son’s little league, and a rotation of new diets.

And it was the place where we had a typically untraditional rehearsal dinner the night before our glorious wedding (the one I waited 43 years for)—serviced by “Sara” our favorite waitress and a Lulu’s staple, dressed in her trademark tattoos, two-toned hair (think primary colors), piercings, and duly respectful motorcycle fashion.

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Let me just say at almost 47 (my gift-receiving birthday is on December 22nd for all of you who may not have gotten the email), a person’s intuition can be powerful. And mine, yesterday, was the Katrina of gut instincts. It blew virtually everything but Lulu’s off the calendar.

And here, we ultimately learned, is why:

It was the last day Lulu’s would be open for business.

We had no idea.

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This down economy: It touches all of us in big ways and small. Over the past year or so, every time we were in New Hope, the fact that Lulu’s appeared, well, empty did not escape me. Still, I held on to the hope that we just were never there at the right time—to see the once-bustling crowds.

I couldn’t predict that we were, instead, witness to the vestiges of a place well traveled in its heyday, but now gone. Back when Dan and I were just courting (I know, not so long ago)–and we knew for sure that, despite the wobbly tables and duct-taped booths and in celebration of the scenery, Lulu’s would remain a defining part of our rites of passage into forever-land.

And that, of course, like all things Lulu’s would always be there—with its painted frog sign, it’s broad-shouldered outdoors, it’s constellation of plastic white chairs, and both it’s decadence (chocolate milk, vanilla ice cream, and real peanut butter blended into a tall glass) and it’s purity (homemade ice tea, freshly brewed).

I know to some, Lulu’s was just a small restaurant in another tourist’s town on the decline. And this post may be seem a little over the top. But for us it was so much more. Then again, I guess that’s life. Joni wrote about it so accurately: Don’t it always seem to go…

Although, in the case of Lulu’s, I can say with absolute certainty we always knew what we had before, well, yesterday.

I’m just glad I listened to it–that knawing something inside (I don’t always, you know). And that I had the chance to have one more plate of tender romaine before the place we love so much went out for good. Rest assured, Lulu’s, if you’re listening, at 10 Avalon and whatever addresses follow, we will never forget you.

Until next time…

November 20, 2009

November 20, 2009

Last week, I happened to be home one day catching Oprah who had Stephanie Meyers on. She’s the stay-at-home housewife turned virtual sensation after writing the Twilight four-pack that’s the biggest piece of literary chocolate since the Harry Potter Series.

Of course, being a writer myself, I’m always interested in listening to other writers tell the stories of their creative and professional journeys to the top, bottom, left, right or otherwise. How they toiled over just the right words, metaphors and plotlines for years—working at some any-job just to pay the bills—in the hopes that, someday, they’d get to produce a creative work of genius that would bring them their karmic comeuppance. And reward them for their tenacity.

I love the idea of that story. It’s so fun to project myself into it, still, even at mid-age. It’s an exercise I’ve been doing ever since I moved the tassle on my graduation cap from one side to the other in high school. And I’m not finished with it yet.

So you can imagine my anticipation in listening to Meyer talk about her uber-success. And I was riveted, until about 30 seconds in, when the rather blasé author told the short story of how she came to be this era’s new “it” girl.

According to her own report (which I believe since she neither looks nor sounds anything like James Fry), she stumbled upon the plot line and characters in a dream. (I once dreamt that I lived in my mother’s refrigerator AND I was still hungry.)

Then, with absolutely no formal training or ever having written anything beyond a grocery list, cranked out a bestselling novel so popular it will go down in history.

No, she did NOT have a finished novel in three desk drawers. She did not have a childhood fantasy of writing imaginary tales for fame and fortune in adulthood. She did not endure a dues-paying period during which she waited tables and earned minimum wage unloading seasonal inventory at the now-defunct Wanamakers. She did not work for $6 an hour after getting a master’s degree in “being a great writer” just for the privilege of writing dull news briefs for a trade publisher in Chicago.

She did not come home tired and spent every night from the tedium of these stop gap opportunities, and write and write and write until the tips of her fingers not only bled from tapping feverishly on the keyboard, but erased the letters on seven important keys along the way (a, l, m, v, c, r, and p—at least I think that’s a p).

No, no, Meyer just decided writing about some sophomoric vampire hop that came to her during REM sleep during a few stolen moments each day would provide a nice diversion from the tedium of caring for three small children.

That’s it. The big Oprah reveal: How Stephanie Meyer made millions, became world famous, and now in front of all the world, got to tell her happenstance story of literary glory.

On Oprah (who I’ll get to later, don’t you worry).

And there I was, at home, on the sofa, squeezing back the waterworks, the more monotoned Meyer talked, the greater my urge to eat the entire right side of the refrigerator (destination cheese).

All I could think was: “WHY COULDN’T IT HAVE BEEN ME?” I know I would have at least been a little bit more, well, lively about my good fortune.

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Now let me just say that, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have not read Stephanie Meyer’s books. Or J.K. Rowling’s, for that matter, that other thorn in my side. I also never read Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code (although I do admit to buying it) and oh be still my heart in agony for that piece of crap that came out in the 80s to such great unwarranted success, The Bridges of Madison County, the author’s name I have erased completely from my memory.

Now I know what you’re thinking: That green-eyed monster of jealousy is not a pretty picture. Okay, so maybe. But still, the question remains: Why couldn’t ANY OF THEM have been me?

(And, more importantly, is it too late?)

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Which brings me to that evil little minx, Oprah. How dare she? That’s right, you read me. HOW DARE SHE? I am just NOT READY for her to retire the show that, let’s face it, I’ve been watching with great dissonance for some 20 years. And I’ve been counting on to propel me to greatness.

Oh checkmate, Oprah. Nice move. Nice. Now you’ve really gone and screwed me. (Do you feel good about yourself, Mrs. Self Help? Mrs. Crocodile Tears?)

I mean, I don’t even have the first chapter written. Now I’m supposed to crank it out, get an agent, a publisher, and a 10-week stint on the New York Times Bestseller List before she makes her grand diva exit? That will be challenging. I can tell you that much.

And yet, it’s my own fault. Because, like I imagine Stedman does, I took ol’ Oprah for granted and look where that’s gotten me. So next big talk-show celebrity, get ready, cause I’m a coming for you. I don’t know who you are or where you’ll be syndicated, but slot a time aside for lil’ ol Jillsy.

I am going to write the big one. I AM. It’s coming…

And as for you, Miss Oprah, I’ll give you something to cry about. You’re gonna miss it all. The discovery of a new great voice. The standup book tour. The whole shebang. Tsk tsk. And a big raspberry coming atcha. (Go ahead, make the sound. I want you to.)

Until next time…

November 11, 2009

November 11, 2009

It dawned on me this morning—as I was driving on the turnpike to a client meeting much the way my grandmother would, were she still alive—that along with brittle nails, too many laugh lines around my eyes, and Metabolish Yuck Syndrome, I now have vehicular issues.

Yep, I’m a nervous driver. And that’s new. Middle age: The gift that keeps on giving.

Case in point: There I was, 7 a.m., in the rain, on the highway, in rush hour traffic and a tight pair of Spanx, hunched over in my seat, squinting into the windshield, clutching the steering wheel as if it were the last pair of black spandex anything on earth, groping occasionally at my decaffeinated skim latte, little drops of sweat dribbling like a slow leak in the toilet down the sides of my cheeks.

Pathetic, just pathetic. That’s all I could think to myself, while trying to juggle the road, my disdain for the truckers splashing my windshield, the GPS, AND the Mapquest directions I printed out last night (a little OCD about finding a new destination as well).

The sad thing is I never used to be this way. When I think back to my earlier years, I used to be a ball of fire in the driver’s seat. Give me an imaginary megaphone, an accelerator, and whatever the elements had to offer, and I was all good. In my 20s and even 30s, an easy drive was like a long massage. Whether it was on a quiet side street or in deep rush-hour traffic, cruising around wherever was consistently meditative and empowering.

After all, I could always control the dash, the radio dials, and my speed with relative calm and ease. It was a metaphorically perfect experience. In return, all I had to do was stay in the lines (not necessarily my most favorite activity in theory, but doable) and follow the Darwinian rules of the road. Simple.

I used to love to drive so much, that I was always the one volunteering to shuttle friends and family around town. My joy of driving so palpable, that my mother once swore to a gathering over a dinner of dry broiled flounder and steamed broccoli: “We spent all that money on grad school, when she shoulda been a cabbie.”

Well mom, you’ll be delighted to know I’ve got an intellectually robust job these days but lately, I’m as granny ass as they come in the car. Whenever I have to drive anywhere, I’m a tad bit off balance. Add rain, snow, ice, wet leaves, heavy traffic, thick fog, daylight savings time, tight jeans, or an especially savory news day (I’m easily distracted), and forget about it. I’m Jessica Tandy manning a spacecraft. Not good.

How about you? If you’re over 45 and still like to drive, I’d love to hear about it. Write to me!

Until next time!

November 4, 2009

November 4, 2009

One thing I’ve definitely noticed about myself at this age: I have lost my patience for bad things. Like a bad haircut, a bad blister, a bad approach.

I will blame it on my age, backed, as it turns out, by science. At least, according to some physician (whose name escapes me) who was recently interviewed on satellite radio. (Listening to talking heads on the dial…uh oh, I am turning into my mother, the transformation continues…) Finally, the excuse I was looking for: Actual physiological evidence that, as a woman enters peri-menopause, her brain changes in a way that inspires less tolerance.

After all, my growing impatience is nothing if not inspired.

And yet, it makes sense. Physiology is the reason why so many women take drastic measures to create change at this stage of life. You know what I’m talking about: The nice gal next door who suddenly turns 41 and leaves her husband of 18 years. The accomplished corporate executive who, after a particularly unsavory birthday, decides to chuck it all to open a bead and crystal shop in some out-of-the-way artists’ community. The newly censor-free neighbor who no longer thinks twice about letting you know it’s YOUR garden and dirty shingles that are bringing down her house values.

It’s physiological folks. Hello? Is anybody out there? We can’t help telling a co-worker how her bra ain’t cuttin’ it anymore, even if she doesn’t ask. Or glare at the slow poke in line ahead of us at Wegman’s, even if they ARE juggling a cart full of fresh produce and an unruly toddler who thinks tomatoes are for throwing.

It’s no longer “no problem” to get that chicken stir-fried when we asked for it steamed. Sure, that may have cut the mustard when we were in our 20s, but now, at the ripe age of almost 47 (gift-receiving birthday alert: December 22nd), well, no go senorito. There are bigger things riding on it—not the least of which is how fried anything hits my digestive system or my already cortisol-infested midsection.

I’ll speak for myself when I say that, at this stage of the game, I have less control than ever before in letting the who’s who know the what’s what in my cerebral cortex.

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Case in point: I near blew right out of my spandex on Sunday at brunch with my husband and my best friend, her husband, and two boys (teen and tween respectively—luv y guys!!!Aunt Jill). Especially since I’m no longer able to tolerate another “bad” thing. What you ask? You guessed it: The worst of the worst. Bad service.

Hey, I work hard for my money and time is at a premium. So if I’m gonna leave the house for a restaurant meal with friends, well, it better be good all the way around.

Anyway, we get to the restaurant and wait about 40 minutes to sit down at this crappy ass table that has four of us lined up against the back wall like felons, with one on either end. Not very conducive for conversation, but okay, the omelets at this joint rock. They’ll compensate.

And so, after a long 15 minutes, the waitress comes over to our table for our order. I go first: “I’ll have the Full Moon Omelet. No bread, no potatoes.” (New diet, shocker I know.) Because, if memory serves, that omelet the size of my favorite shoe boots will do just fine.

Then, the waitress turns to said tween and asks for his order. Naturally, he wants a bacon cheeseburger and French fries. And, of course, me being the sarcastic quasi-aunt that I am, quickly interject, “He’ll have some melba toast, sliced peaches, and a side of cottage cheese.” (Yuk yuk.)

To which the waitress glowers at me and says, “We’re really busy. I don’t have time for that. Can I just get your order?”

Whoa Nelly, I thought to myself. Does she know who she’s f**%#in with? Have she seen my female blood panel? She does NOT want to mess around with somebody who has my kind of labs, okay? And so, stunned, as if she’d just stabbed me in the eye with her pen, I look at my best friend and say in a bold whisper, “THERE GOES HER TIP AND THEN SOME.”

And I tip everyone. Too much, in fact, since I spent my graduate school years bartending to pay my way through the bookstore, I’m often overly generous. But I digress…

Cut to 45 minutes later, when she finally brings out our food. I figured by then, her attitude wouldn’t be a factor since she’d be tipcentric and contrite about the wait—and mommy would be distracted by the breakfast festival about to go down just fine. Until, that is, she dropped a plate with something looking like a yellow wool beret that had been plucked from wet mud in front of me.

As I explored further with my fork, I realized there was scant little anything in this mushy little cap – where were the tomatoes, spinach, sprouts, cheese, and artichokes billed on the menu? Where was the proverbial beef?

Oh no, mommy was NOT happy. I had endured, after all, a veritable slap in the face from that waitress and then she has the audacity to serve me this? (BTW, I have no idea why I’m calling myself “mommy”–but I angrily reserve the right.)

Bad service is bad. But bad food? Well, that’s like a personal assault to my character. And what made it worse, was that I had no bread, no potatoes to add as buffer to my hunger, and nobody to complain to who cared. I was what they call “SOL” (shit out of luck, for those of you who live inside a button) in terms of having any kind of substantial nourishment.

So, I did what any Darwinian female would do: I scanned the table for scraps and then, borrowing an idea from the smart little tween’s burger, grabbed the anti-waitress and dared to order BACON.

Yes, BACON. On my new eating plan, I cannot combine carbs and protein, but since I was in protein mode, bacon would work. It would be grand!

The waitress, of course, was plain old irritated that I would dare to order anything else, since she’d decidedly delivered our food for the day and was on to abusing the other patrons. But I didn’t care. I needed to get ahead of the curve in terms of satisfying my hunger (or else go out on a bender after that would have bad consequences, which I also don’t like) and I was willing to take the risk.

After I ordered, we all proceeded to eat our breakfasts. I was sure my bacon was coming at any moment, so I kept going too, but slowly. A tad bit more slowly than I might’ve otherwise eaten, if bacon weren’t on its way out to accompany my now vaguely edible half beret.

Then, as if it were happening in slow motion I watched my best friend finish her meal first. Then the boys. Then her husband. And then, mine (who is, by the way, the slowest eater on what we know so far to be all of the solar system). And still…

…no bacon.

After about 20 minutes, the waitress comes over to inform me in an exasperated, sweaty, and disingenuous way that “I’m really sorry, they’re just so backed up in there…” And before I could squeak out a complaint, she was off.

It was clear to me in that moment: She was winning. I had to up my game.

So I plot hard in my head as another 20 minutes pass. I try to catch her attention, but she refuses to even look over in my direction. Smart. Very smart. Which only made me madder.

Now it’s 40 minutes, things are slowing down in the restaurant, we’ve been done with our meals for a good 10 minutes (our dirty plates are still on the table as evidence), and I’m complaining very loudly about not getting my bacon to anybody who’ll listen. Winking at the folks newly seated at the table next to us – as if to say, “Hey, don’t be a cautionary tale like me. Get out while you can.”

Still, the waitress behaves as if we are six statues that need absolutely no bacon whatsoever. Not American, Canadian, or turkey.

After about 10 more minutes, she comes over and, with the indifference of a mule, drops the bill on the table. As she’s about to leave, she finally turns and says straight to my face (get this), “I could get you the bacon now, but I just assumed you didn’t want it anymore.”

WHAT? Did she say “ass-u-me”? I am, of course, appalled. But I couldn’t let all my feelings show. Then she would have REALLY won.

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What happened next is not my fault. Remember, it’s physiological.

Fortunately, I have a good lawyer. And I’m sure, that patch of hair will grow back. (Frankly, I did her a favor – that style? Not so much…)

Gosh, I love radio! Until next time!

October 26, 2009

October 26, 2009

Well folks, since my last post, Priscilla nailed me good. She decided that not only would I be exhausted, but I’d be plastered flat out on my back with some sort of virus. Nausea, dizziness, blazing on-fire sore throat, slight infection of the ear (right side, not left, ergo the vertigo).

Funny thing about viruses – they are not easily zapped. You get a flu, you get antibiotics, you’re back in the game in a day or two (H1N1 aside). You have a minor cold, you may not be happy happy joy joy, but at least, you’re able to still function in society. You get a virus, you’re down. Keeping your eyes open becomes an almost supernatural act. And, the sad sorry truth of a virus is that when you get one, there ain’t nothin nobody can do for you. Not. A. Thing.

Trust me. I asked.

“We really can’t give you anything for a virus,” said Scott, one of the physician assistants at Buckingham Family Medicine. (That’s about all my $10 co-pay buys me there – you need to be gasping for your last breath or present as some sort of distorted insect out of a Stephen King novel to see an actual doctor.)

“Can’t you at least give me something mind-altering to distract me from my discomfort?” I was looking for anything other than a bag of Chips Ahoys. (The grocery store was my next stop.)

“Well, tell ya what, I’ll be right back.” And then, he smiled and darted out. As he left the room, I lingered on the excitement produced by his last words. He would surely be coming back with something juicy—but what? Medical marijuana? An especially potent weight-loss pill that doubled as a decongestant? Some new sort of ear drop with the side effect of long limbs and shiny blonde hair? My dreams were big. And for those few moments, with my imagination on overdrive, the sky was the limit. I truly believed anything could happen.

That it was possible to score a fix for a virus—or something even better.

But, shockingly, my hopes were soon to be dashed. After about eight minutes, I finally heard Scott’s footsteps get closer and the doorknob finally turn. It was all I could do control myself. “Well,” I said, trying to be nonchalant. “whadya come up with?” (Please, God, let it be a chocolate-coated SSRI that diminishes the presence of cold spores and blotchy dry skin…)

“Here you go!” he said, tall and proud. He thrust a small physician’s sample of Nasonex in my direction. “Now, just two snorts a day in either nostril. Wait, let me write it down on the top of the box…”

Nasonex. Like that was going to float my booger-boat. Or anything other kind.

And still, I grabbed it. Desperation will do that—inspire, well, desperation along with bad manners. “No, that’s okay. I think I can remember two snorts a day. (Duh, I wanted to say that, but I didn’t.)” It took everything I had to not stick my tongue out at him.

And then I left, still feeling Priscilla’s wrath, and pissed. I never get anything good. NEVER. As if that weren’t bad enough, I didn’t even enjoy the damn Chips Ahoys. (In fact, add heartburn and bloating to the list of symptoms.) Too dizzy and congested.

Damn him, them. Whoever.

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And so now, a few days later and I’m back at work. Still not feeling 100 percent, but hey, even on a good day, I’m only at about 63 percent or so. So I guess I shouldn’t be too concerned.

And now that there’ve been a few days between me and incident, I took a moment this morning to reflect. With clarity of mind and sinus, I realized that while they never give me any kind of decent prescriptions at Buckingham, they do always insist upon doing one thing in particular: Weighing me.

WHY IS THAT?

I mean, I can understand why Dr. Usuck had to weigh me – I was there for help losing weight. But I came to the family practice for help with a seasonal virus. Ear goo and a stuffy head and some problems with my throat. Why does my use of gravity matter?

Oooh, and the snide little nurse child, she was NOT sensitive. I said, “I really don’t want to get weighed.” And she gave me that snarly little “oh, you’re one of the difficult ones I’ll be complaining about to the other nurses later, now aren’t you?” sort of look. So to avoid any trouble, I said, “Fine, we’ll do it your way. But I have to pee.”

“First?” she asked, losing her patience quickly.

“Yes, FIRST. Have you ever had an overweight moment (you skinny little hiccup, I didn’t say that, but I wanted to)?“

And so, I peed enough to fill about one eighth of a shot glass and then got on the scale backwards (the way I always do it)—but I was decidedly grumpy. And in retrospect, I’m not ever doing that again.

My mother told me I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to. (Well, she didn’t, actually, the opposite, but that sure sounds good, even though I’m almost 47.)

Besides, at this age, I know that I don’t get to decide when we get to see my stepdaughter or whether I’ll get a raise this year or if my clothes will fit from year to year or really on anything that invokes fair, but I can decide when I get weighed from now on. And if anybody insists I just “hop on” with that maniacal little I’m-in-charge snide, I’ll simply say “not on your life.” And then, give them permission to guess at my body mass for their “files”.

There. How do you feel about getting weighed? Let me know if I’m being oversensitive.

Until next time!

October 20, 2009

October 20, 2009

Hello to all! It’s KettleBell Tuesday! Yes, this morning, I hoisted a 20-pound weight shaped like what you’ve got sitting on the top of your stove between my legs, up and over my head, through my calves during several wobbly lunges, and so on for a whole hour and lived to tell the tale. And to commemorate the occasion, I’m sending you all a bit of muscle for getting through the day (get it? muscle, weight lifting…).

I have no idea what I’m saying — just thought this was a more inventive opening than simply “Hey”.

Now that I’ve gotten your attention, let me just say I’ve also gotten a lot of emails in response to my previous post. Let me just say again thanks to all of you who’ve a) shared your own bitter of tale of being dissed and shamed by a member of the allegedly trusted medical community, and b) assured me that I was in no way shape or form a good candidate for gastric bypass surgery. (I admit, I’m still reeling a bit from that one.) Both sentiments were comforting.

But no email was more powerful than the one that came from a childhood friend whose forty-something brother had just lost his equally young wife to brain cancer. She wrote: “My sister-in-law was thin, you know, and she died.”

Not so subtle subtext there: Never mind those chubby knees. Enjoy your life, Jill. That’s what it said.

Enjoy your life.

(Thanks SH.)

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And so, with the wisdom of my dear friend and her point well taken, I have decided to reset my dial and take her advice. I am going to enjoy my life. No, no, really. I am.

I am not going to angst over eating TWO Weight Watchers chocolate pops by thinking I should have only had one. Or lay awake at night beating myself up for not working harder at the gym or letting another week go by without finding a reasonably priced winter alternative for tennis two to three times a week.

I am not going to feel guilty for watching eight back-to-back episodes of “Guliana and Bill” (a reality series based on famous newlyweds) on the Style Network on Saturday, when the closets need to be cleaned and there’s much-needed reading to be done and phone calls and emails to be returned and vegetables to be roasted and good charities to be, well, acknowledged.

I am not going to let controlling clients (my advice: try a little honey), ex-wives, and even dogs (yes, Winnie, you crazy mutt, I am talking to you, Daddy is NOT your husband, he’s mine) ruin the short time I have to spend here on earth.

Instead, I am going to return to what I think I’ve lost clear track of – in between all the health issues, and job pressures, and alternate personalities (my unique, imaginative, and absolutely delightful way of dealing with too much stress).Namely, the things that make me joyful. Like, my handsome husband, Shark Tank (Tuesday nights, 8 p.m., ABC), NOT ever seeing Dr. Usuck again, and the one true love that’s gripped me ever since I was a child: Writing.

I’m going to return to writing. Yes I am. How I’ve missed it — the longing to be a writer in the purest sense. Laying down the tracks and the language piece by piece, rail by rail, for something bold and fast and meaningful.

I’m not just talkig about writing a particularly sage benefits enrollment guide or a pithy and witty postcard (“Hey, Open Enrollment is JUST around the corner!” Admit it, you’re captivated…) Or even just this beloved blog. I’m talking novel or memoir or both – intertwined — salacious, juicy, and impossible to put down. The story of how me or somebody I make up (or perhaps not—LOOKOUT, I’M WATCHING YOU…) comes to grip with a compelling truth and then, in a heroic and unpredictable way, rises above.

And I promise you this: The ending of whatever I write will NOT involve a thin girl, a rich girl, a young girl, a girl immune to aging or cellulite, OR a crappy doctor. (Well, maybe a crappy doctor…with a long needle, YES, that’s IT…A LONG DANGEROUS NEEDLE…)

My ending will be as real as real gets.

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Finally, if this renewed sense of who cares about the circumference of my ass, I’m going to live it up proves not to be enough to get past the whole weight issue, I have but another dear message from a friend just today:

“Because you are my friend and beautiful…”

…and then, a link to a YouTube video ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKPaxD61lwo&feature=player_embedded ) and a website (www.reflectionsprogram.org) on how this is “Friends Don’t talk Fat” Week—officially October 19th through the 23rd.

I am so lucky. I have such fine friends.

I say we extend the don’t-talk-fat week into forever. (I can do it — I’m gonna try!)

Or at least, until next time! (You saw that coming, now didn’t you?)

October 13, 2009

October 13, 2009

Yesterday, I went to a new endocrinologist to talk about my weight and other hormonal-related matters—a cause I have let slide for the four months I’ve been navigating a new and fairly intense job. I went with high hopes, after having seen several other doctors, none of whom really offered me any tangible solutions to my problem of not being able to shed pounds.

This doctor—let’s call him Dr. Usuck—was going to be my salvation. Since he came highly and definitively recommended (Dr. Usuck will know what to tell you FOR SURE), I was positive I would leave his office with great insights and even a cure for this insidious peri-menopause and its aftereffects.

So I arrived at his office—a throwback to the early 60s in terms of décor—and waited patiently for 90 minutes until he finally called me in to the “last room on the left.”

Turns out, he was an old guy with super thick glasses and his polyester pants pulled up too high. And his office was pretty 70′s Saturday Night Live too–dressed in chipped wood bookcases overcrowded with warping hardbacks, yellowing posters in cheap chrome frames, and pigs (the irony of which was not lost on me)—stuffed, sculpted, and painted on canvas, hanging off of the scrolls of his desk, featured on a few old rug hooks (remember those?) hanging precariously and crooked against his beige walls.

This explosion of pigs should’ve been my first clue that perhaps I was not in the right place at the right time.

My second should have been my own internal meter—a simple gut instinct that a 70-something endocrinologist with an office full of swine might not be the best person to diagnose and treat my middle-aged and uniquely female problems.

But okay, desperation causes people to do, well, desperate things. And so I sat there, hoping he would pull a rabbit out of his hat on my behalf, while he innocuously kicked off our conversation.

“So, how can I help you?” he asked.
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My response? Tears. Almost immediate. In slow, watery detail—between bursts of snorts and breath—I recounted how I’d been on a diet for three years and counting and my fat refuses to budge. Disappear. Disintegrate. Poof, bye bye.

To which he said, “Bullshit.” And laughed. That, “I know more than you do, you’re stupid what are you doing here,” kind of laugh.

Huh?

I mean, here I am, fragile as a petite sunflower, there for the sole purpose of trying to better manage my own chubby self, and he was laughing?

“It’s a simple matter of calories in, calories out. Can you disappear for two weeks?” he asks.

Huh?

“Because if I strapped you to the exam table in the other room and didn’t feed you for two weeks, I guarantee, you’d lose weight!” And now, ladies and gentleman, meet my snide smirk!

Okay. Then.

————————————————————————–

From there, Dr. Usuck entertained me with some of more of his comedic proclamations and then proceeded to take me into said exam room and give me a real old-fashioned Normal Rockwell checkup. He weighed me, while I closed my eyes (what I don’t know won’t hurt me) and played the Chicken Dance song for stress relief in my head.

Then, he asked me to get into a paper gown and stuck a small cone in my ear. He listened to my heart, took my blood pressure, banged on both knees and ankles to check my reflexes. He asked me to cough and sneeze and wheeze and look into the light over his shoulder and then, after feeling like I was in some sort of surreal time warp—as if I’d accidentally gotten stuck going the wrong way in some invisible flux capacitor—he asked me to get dressed and meet him back in the exam room.

Once there, he looked down at the chart he’d just created, and said, “Well, you certain don’t look like you weigh that much.” Another smirk. Then, came the piece de resistance:

“Hey, have you ever considered gastric bypass surgery?”

HUH?

Now a little background for those of you who don’t know me or have never seen me: I could lose 25 pounds and look great. Seriously. Maybe even 20 (says the rational part of my brain). I wouldn’t be skinny—never will be—but I think I would have a nicely curvy robust sort of womanly body—say size 8. I could live with that. Even more than live with that. That’d be okey dokey by me.

So you can imagine that the suggestion of gastric bypass surgery was slightly upsetting—humiliating, okay, well, jarring, especially when delivered with all the tact and grace of a small meteor. I mean, 25 POUNDS folks. Two. Five. Okay, I don’t need gastric bypass – good brief, I’m a size 12. GASTRIC BYPASS? Seriously? I mean, do I really need gastric bypass? Am I kidding myself? Missing something? Do all my mirrors deceive me?

OH MY GOD, I NEED SURGERY.

And then a foggy haze set in, as if I were flying on a magic carpet of dry ice, and Dr. Usuck’s face started to look distorted—like what you’d see in a funhouse mirror. Even the 30-some odd pigs started to dance around me…slowly.

Gastric bypass? Really? Did he just say that?

Of course, as I silently worked my way up to the major hysteria that would take place back later in the safety of my Honda Element, he kept talking. Talking, talking, and talking. In that slow, old man, I’m an asshole, I should retire or at least not treat females, sort of fashion. Like, I’m not funny and what I say doesn’t make sense but still has the power to crush.

Gastric bypass. I mean, heaven help the 350-pound people who need gastric bypass. I’m sure it’s a viable and lifesaving alternative. But think 25 pounds. Think size 8. Think, OH. MY. GOD.

That was all I could think.

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And so it goes that, at that point, I’m stopped hearing him entirely. The suggestion of gastric bypass, on a logical level, I knew was just utterly ridiculous. But then, there’s the self-conscious, low-esteemed little every girl inside of me who doesn’t always live on logic. And so, when he said that, I stopped listening. (Fortunately, I’m almost 100 percent positive I didn’t miss anything of value.)

I didn’t hear how he lost 18 pounds in three weeks. (He had some insidious spine disease that required them to shoot him up with painkillers and while he watched the hordes of ants and rats nobody else could see race along the four walls of his hospital room, he lost his appetite and left three weeks later 18 pounds lighter.)

I didn’t hear him tell me how “I’m not ready” in response to his suggestion that I go to this intense weight loss program in the area that only accepts those who beg to be accepted—and that promptly kicks you out if you gain so much as an ounce.

I was completely glazed over by the time he told me about the woman who lost 40 pounds 11 years ago under his care and has kept it off every since. “Doctor Usuck”,” she says, “Send all your patients who say they can’t lose weight over to me. Cause they’re fulla bullshit!”

I even (albeit slowly) lost my ability to focus on the self-righteous smirk he wore the entire four I hours I spent with him.

GASTRIC BYPASS MY FAT ASS.

—————————————————————————————————

Even worse, however, than offering no sensitivity to a woman/patient who was clearly in need of help and who had come to him for it, he offered no solutions. “I’m sorry for your problems, but I can’t help you,” he says at the end of the ordeal. As if that weren’t enough, I paid $250 for the privilege.

I couldn’t write that check—or get out of there (think chubby woman being chased by a loose cannonball) fast enough. It’s no wonder, I thought, back in my car, crying, there’s so much obesity and dismay in this country. I’m smart. I’m resourceful. And yet, even I’m not sure, at this point, where to go for help now that all the usual suspects have failed (i.e., Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, the medical community, etc.),

Dr. Usuck?

Maybe my very next step is, gasp, acceptance (she whispers).

Until next time.

October 6, 2009

October 6, 2009

To all of my faithful readers, this will be a short one. So sorry, really, but there are some things I must wrap up for the job. And I am, at this point, on limited brain capacity. (Think Celine Dion saving her vocal cords for a several-month run at Bally’s.) Given our busy season isn’t over yet, I must be protective of any reserves.

With that said, here’s the good news: I have not seen Priscilla for a few days now, ever since I got my first day off in six weeks on Sunday (hello two hours of tennis, a nice lunch in the borough with Dan and Steppy, a couple hours of Lifetime Television—oh joy, oh rapture!). She flew the coop. Reverse of the fair-weathered friend that she is. (Gosh, I hope she doesn’t read this…)

I must say, it’s been nice getting back to Jill, although having done so reminds me of all I need to do—laundry, returning phone calls, getting the oil changed in the Element, cleaning out my tank top drawer, and, of course, reconvening the monumental task of figuring out what’s wrong with my blasted hormones. (Middle age. So lovely. New doctor, Friday. Keep you posted.)

Especially since it’s been both interesting and frightening to note that—since Priscilla took over my body and since the tidal wave of work at the office and since the change of season resulting in dark in the morning and dark by the time I get home, all of which has resulted in a scaling back of physical activity—nothing has really changed in terms of gravity. I am neither fatter nor thinner. Which further serves to confirm: Doylestown, we’ve got a problem.

I mean, wouldn’t you think that if I exercised more, I’d lose weight and, conversely, if I exercised less, I’d gain? Well neither has happened. (And go, fly away, be off with your everybody’s-got-a-set-point-and-you’ve-hit-it thinking…) While I wish I could say I feel blessed on the latter count, I don’t. To the contrary, it’s downright disconcerting to have absolutely no control over your anatomy–although, I guess in the scheme of “it could always be so much worse”, I am perhaps being overly dramatic. (So out of character.)

Still, you’d think that even after shedding an ENTIRE alter-ego, I could at least get into my “almost-skinny-just-another-10-or-30-pounds” jeans.

Life can be so, well, you know. That.

Okay, well that’s my short lot of not much for this time. (Can you hear Celine singing “…and my heart will go on and on…” ? You’re gonna hear that in your head now, all day. So sorry. Really.)

Until the next…

September 28, 2009

September 28, 2009

On Friday night, Dan, Priscilla and I went out with the whole family (mom, dad, brother, his girlfriend, and my two nieces) to celebrate my father’s birthday at a nice restaurant near the house. We met them at 7:30, which has been my bedtime of late, given the onslaught of projects and pressure at work.

But P and me had a long talk earlier in the day and decided that, no matter how too-pooped-to-pop we felt, we’d go and make the best of it. Get all gussied up—even put on a little lipstick and that fabulous black lace duster we bought in Chicago back in July—and drag our sorry collective asses (ass?) out of the house. (But not before having a few spoonfuls of old apricot preserves I found in the vegetable bin—to which my censor-free alter-ego commented: “You’re gross” to which I said, Whatever.)

And I must say, it did feel good to leave the house (read: computer) and enjoy a little family time. Even though that can sometimes be stressful in and of itself (since the Cleaver’s we’re not), but still. It was better than having to dine au jour with Microsoft Outlook and several large piles of notes, as has become typical on the weekends.

Once there, we enjoyed a lovely meal of crab soup, salad, and Atlantic Salmon. Just delicious. And it was all perfectly normal, until the waiter asked if anybody wanted dessert. That’s when I noticed something, well, interesting about our family.

Everybody at the table looked as if we’d just been caught in a bank heist. We glanced nervously at each other with a sort of what-do-we-do-now kind of look I can only imagine bandits have as they’re discovered in the vault fondling piles of cash. I guess, after listening to my mother lecture us about the size of our respective donkeys and waists—and the do-we-really-need-that’s for, like, eternity—we’re all afraid to eat dessert in front of her.

I don’t know why this was so punctuated on Friday night. It’s not really news. And yet, it struck me as kind of odd. Like something you’d find in an Augusten Burroughs novel. Now, maybe it was my frazzled nerves and low burnt-out reserves. Maybe it was my exhausted alter-ego Priscilla on board who, especially lately, has forced me to be observant in a different way than usual.

And then, a funny thing happened in that moment: Priscilla wanted chocolate. And she would not be deterred or pushed down by my lil’ ol Jewish mother. And before I knew it, with as good a Broadway voice as I heard watching ”Wicked”, she belted out: “SURE, WE’D LOVE TO SEE THE DESSERT CART.” (Subtext: BRING IT ON.)

I was mortified (although my husband was quite amused).

But then again, you can’t silence Priscilla. I’ve learned that much in a week or so, since she burst out of my brain. And I really envy that about her. Looking on the bright side, she’s shown me that exhaustion can be quite freeing.

So, long story short, the waiter brings over a dessert cart full of uninteresting sugary items inevitably ruined by fruit—apple pie a la mode with a special crust, crème brulee with a raspberry sauce, chocolate mousse with blueberry froth, key lime something, YUCK AND YUCK—before finally getting to the good stuff. That glorious brownness that medicates sooooooooooooooooooooo well.

To which P says, “We’ll take that. One piece, with vanilla ice cream, eight spoons.”

Talk about courage. Gosh, I’m really gonna miss her once I finally get a day off and a good night’s rest.

Well, that’s it. That’s all I’ve got. Do with it what you will.

Until next time.

September 21, 2009

September 21, 2009

Saturday, my husband and Steppy came back from a bike ride to find me in what’s sadly become a familiar spot: Sitting at the kitchen table, working on the computer (and wishing, deep down inside, for a break).

I haven’t had a bona fide day off in almost four weeks. That’s because it’s the busy season at my job and it’s just lil’ ol’ me and about a bazillion benefits communications. And in a less-than-fair fight, the communications are winning. In fact, they’re taking over my life.

There’s such a never-ending stream of work to be done, it’s as if I’m being hazed—dragged through some collegiate rites of passage (the kind that reminds me of the sorority experience I chose by bypass back in college) that nobody told me was coming. And I’m dealing, okay. I am. (I know this gig is going to be great in the long run!)

But not without any after effects—namely, I’m tired. Downright bleary eyed and, as those close to me have pointed out, my words are starting to come out garbled. Still, I’m hanging in. And since I know that everyone in my world outside of work is probably sick of hearing me complain—in the spirit of being both creative and efficient with words (but decidedly NOT psychotic, so please, no interventions)—I have decided to give my exhaustion a name.

Its name is Priscilla.

And Priscilla wants mostly sleep, a box of tissues, and ice cream.

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Last night, after we dropped Steppy off in Delaware (where we meet her mother halfway, since they live in Maryland), I promptly announced in the car that, “Priscilla wants a cookie for dinner.” To which my poor husband said, “Who the f*%k is Priscilla?” And then he promptly twisted his head to see if anybody was in the back seat.

“There’s no one here babe, Priscilla is me,” I said. “Surprise.” I explained how she was code for my exhaustion. “Get used to it. I mean her. I mean it.” (Pause.) “Whatever.”

Hey, at least he has some fresh new blood to you-know-what with (although Priscilla’s too tired to be all that great…).

A few things you might like to know about Priscilla going forward (since I’m sure she’ll make the occasional appearance right here):

1. Priscilla’s in charge, at least until I can get some rest, both physically and brain-wavey.
2. Priscilla medicates with sugar and she’s not choosy (for example, those Pop Tarts in the back of the pantry from last year and 14 tablespoons of old grape jelly will do just fine)—and she’s not all that interested in exercising either.
3. Priscilla’s clothes are getting tighter.
4. Priscilla has no censor. (“Maybe you should shave that beard today, Kong.” I believe that’s what she said to our handsome and saintly husband yesterday whose hotness CLEARLY didn’t deserve it.)
5. Priscilla is moody. One minute she’s leaping around the house professing her love and amazement of the universe to the dogs (“Isn’t life precious, you guys? My little snoochie poochie babies..”) and another minute she’s curled up on the sofa in a ball, wondering why Amy Berkeley dissed her back in the 90s, and bawling. (No, wait, that’s Jill, no no, that’s Priscilla…oh, I’m confused.)

I’m sure there’s more to learn coming, since (I fear) Priscilla will be here clear through October, when the busy season eases up just a tad. So please bear with us. I have no idea who’ll be writing…(but someone will!)…

Until next time!

September 13, 2009

September 13, 2009

This week was a real turning point in the new job. Because, with one more client looking to climb onboard my already packed ship (if you will), the time had come to submit to what I could no longer ignore—an overwhelming workload, deadlines coming faster than a cartoon train, demanding clients, and too few hours in the days and even weeks to get it all done.

It was time to stand down, if you will in the face of simply too much for one.

Think a six-foot submarine sandwich, the repaving of a well-traveled interstate after a long and snowy winter, the electrical wiring of a new office complex.

Okay, well, maybe these are exaggerations, but still. It was—and is—true that I could no longer handle, without reinforcement, the 30-some communications that now needed to be written, designed, and produced in the next six weeks. And, even scarier, shuttled through a revisions process I knew would be both time consuming and, at times, call for a few Stuart-Handy affirmations.

Among other things.

And so, in the moment I realized I could no longer go it solo and do my best work, I did what any God-fearing paycheck-loving sugar-craving middle-aged woman with a good job and slightly arthritic knees would have done: I marched head first into my boss’ office (hi Bob, I know you said you never wanted to be mentioned in here, but he-ey) and, carefully, on my virtual hands and knees, corneas like spinning bulls eyes, said those three little words that don’t come easy to an overachiever like me:

“I need help.”

What is it about asking for help that’s so hard?

I mean it. What? (Tell me…be honest.)

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And while I’m at it, I have more…

Like, why can’t I keep the plants on my back deck from crumbling into brown leafy dust despite my constant attention? Why did it take me until the age of 42 to finally meet the man who would be my husband? And how is it that I can remember all the words to “I Think I Love You” (David Cassidy, yummy back then, circa 1970-something), but can’t for the LIFE of me remember where I put the car keys or whether I had carbs for breakfast.

Why did the perfectly sewn hem on the left leg of my trousers just spontaneously drop like a faulty parachute in the middle of a client meeting?

And why is it that I can’t just ease into a Lifetime Movie on the weekend anymore, without feeling guilty about not doing something more productive, like writing a newsletter, a blog, or even a note to self?

Why do they keep coming up with new social networks when most people don’t have time for the ones we already have? And why do “friends” post pictures with me in them on Facebook when I’ve made a very conscious decision not to be on Facebook and, ergo, not show my face?

Less urgently, why are all the shoes in my closet black?

And why are people in this country so angry about the proposition of healthcare reform and unable to discuss the issue like civilians? (C’MON PEOPLE. C’MON.) I mean, I don’t know about you. But making improvements to anything is up for conversation in my neck of the woods any time.

What is it about Sunday nights that make me want pizza more than any other night. And, most importantly, why do bad people get good things? (You all know who you are, and you should be ashamed of yourselves. BTW, tell the truth, am I starting to sound crazy?)

Why am I already seeing commercials for holiday bargains when we’re barely into September?

And just one more, I promise: Why do I constantly have so many questions? I mean, I’m middle-aged now. Now’s the time I’m supposed to have the answers. WHEN DOES THAT HAPPEN?

(Or maybe, just maybe, I’m like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. And I could find my way home anytime. Right? Is that it? I’m up. I’m clicking together the heels of my flip flops. Nothing. Nothing!)

Okay, Well, I don’t know about you, but I feel better. Until next time!!! (And by all means, write if you have a response to any of these highly reasonable inquiries…)

August 31, 2009

August 31, 2009

Yesterday, I was playing tennis with my handsome husband, when suddenly I felt the urge to stop, bend over, and catch my breath. My heart was beating out of control and not in an aerobic sort of way, but in a panicked sort of way.

And then just as suddenly as I needed to stop moving, I started to cry. Slow at first and then more rhythmically, the way you do when you realize what’s happening. That you’re about to have a meltdown on the tennis court, in front of all the other Sunday people, that you weren’t prepared for.

The feeling overwhelmed me. It was as if I were in a full-body emotional cramp. I could no longer lift the racquet to serve the ball. I could barely look up. I’m sure my husband thought I had somehow injured myself.

“Honey,” he yelled from the other side of the net. “Are you okay?”

But I couldn’t answer. I could only look down, which is not unusual after a long volley, along with the need to catch some air. But that wasn’t the problem. And it didn’t take him long to know it – to see that my lips were contorting in that downward way they do when all the world feels heavy and the tears are about to tumble out..

Never mind that it was perfect outside—75 degrees and sunny, with a lukewarm breeze and the sound of laughter from the kids playing basketball on the courts beside us. It was the kind of day that calls for celebration and appreciation for being alive.

Which just made me feel all the more stupid—to be crying about the same old thing: My body. And the fact that I’ve been on but another diet for the past month and, again, can’t seem to shed an ounce. There is a sense of despair that takes over when you realize, in the scheme of being helpless against so many outside forces, you cannot even control your own anatomy.

For some reason, I felt that so acutely yesterday, playing tennis, when the weight of my calves, my arms—my heart—just dragged me down to the ground.

***

When you are young, you say it will never happen to you. You will never be one of those people who can’t lose weight, who’s skin is suddenly dry, who can’t sleep because it’s too warm (even though the thermostat says it’s 65), and who would rather have a soothing nap than, say, a hot romp.

You say it will never happen to you. This aging thing. The lessening of some hormones and the revving up of others. And then it does.

It happens.

Then, you say, at least if it does, you will not be like the others and suffer the same symptoms and woes. Because you are special.

You, unlike everybody else, will grow older gracefully. Without the stereotypical haywiring of middle age. You’ll be trim and sedate and moist.

And yet, here I am. Dry flaky skin looming on my forehead. Hot and then cold. And on a diet for three years without losing a pound. To wit my mother said, so profoundly, “Well, at least you’re not getting fatter.”

There’s that bright side again. For a minute there, I thought I had lost it.

***

And then, even brighter still: This morning, my husband woke me at 5 a.m., with a cup of hot coffee and a kiss on the forehead. “Meet me in the basement in 20 minutes. I’ve got a special workout planned.”

And he did. With all the tender loving care of a surgeon removing a tumor from a newborn, he put me through a one-hour workout with gentle notes and free weights that has my muscles still shaking after eight hours.

“I love you as you are,” he said. “You are beautiful. And I’m here.”

Bad Sunday be damned.

On Monday, I am so blessed.

August 25, 2009

August 25, 2009

This is gonna sound weird, but sometimes, I think a lot about the pilgrims.

I imagine the lives they must have lived, so different from ours, especially when I’m doing something ridiculous (which is often, sadly)—or when I’m wrapped up in an activity I suspect might have had them scratching their heads in bewilderment.

Like, for example, dancing. (MASHPIT, HELLO?) I wonder, did the pilgrims dance? Because let’s face it, for the most part, dancing serves no real lifesaving purpose. (And the pilgrims in my head were all about sustenance.) It’s just a silly exercise that has grown humans flailing their arms and legs to the beat of some noise for no good reason.

The pilgrims had reasons.

Or skipping. Did the pilgrims skip? Perhaps, but it just seems out of character. Although maybe their youngins did. I have no idea why I just used the word “youngins”. (And just as a sidenote: I love to skip. It’s impossible to feel anything but joyful when you’re skipping.)

Here’s another example of something I think the pilgrims would find puzzling: Kettle bells. Last week, my trainer Ellen had me work out with them—weights shaped like kettles, replete with heavy little handles. Theirs is a high-concept approach to exercise. One that, according to Ellen, has you forget everything you’ve ever learned about doing, say, a bicep curl with free weights or the Nautilus leg press. No bending slightly at the joints. No taking it slow or easy or gently. No feeling the burn.

Instead, the kettle bells have you lock out, thrust, and shove at a frantic pace. It’s like going into a full-body convulse on purpose. At least that’s how I understand it, especially given the one move my trainer had me do with them.

I had to first grip the bell’s handle with both hands, as if I were trying to wrestle my purse away from an angry robber. And then—like a five-year-old crouched and readying to push a bowling ball down a long alley—bend and drop the kettle bell between my legs and up towards my donkster. Once there, I had to hold (two, three, four) and then drag it back down through my legs and hoist it up into the air (without knocking myself out, of course) like it was riding some imaginary roller coaster. All the while thrusting my pelvis hard, as if I were auditioning for a recurring part on the Spice Channel.

And then, there was the simultaneous breathing—VERY IMPORTANT, says Ellen—the kind that involves a maniacal sort of hissing as the result of my blowing air through my clenched teeth. Think the “he he he” you’d overhear in a Lamaze class, with a long sssssssssssssssssssssss at the end. (Not that I would know firsthand, since the only things I’ve given birth to include this blog, a few giant neuroses, and some outstanding credit card balances.)

Now, try to picture it: Short, chubby, middle-aged me and my big hair-on-fire red head, swinging a weighted pocketbook through my legs, chanting like a contracting pregnant woman, undulating my pelvis, and letting out an occasional nose whistle in an errant attempt to tooth hiss, all while struggling to stay upright.

You got it?

It’s in that moment—in that “why am I doing this?” moment and others like it—my mind moseys over to the pilgrims. And what they would think.

Would they congratulate me for being such a good and fearless trooper, so dedicated to preserving my own anatomy that I’m willing to do anything? Would they admire my fancy moves? My ability to embrace humiliation? The “interesting” way I’m able to maneuver my mid-section? Or would they laugh at the way modern-day abundance and extreme convenience has turned me into a kettle-bell flinging idiot?

After all, I suspect their approach for staying in shape was quite practical—tilling the fields in an attempt to generate food and shelter, and create a better life for their families.

All I’m trying to do is tighten up a muffin top and diminish the appearance of cellulite.

Oh how they judge me.

****

The irony is, I don’t even know that much about the pilgrims. I mean, I can see them in the Amish-like outfits I picture them wearing in my head. But really, I have no idea if that image is accurate. (I could check Wikipedia or try to retrieve some memory from grade school [which might require hypnosis], but then again, maybe later.)

And yet, going forward with the little information I do have, I continue to wonder how they’d view our obsession with work, our need to be connected always, the whacky rituals we’re willing to embrace to stay in shape and the oh-so-shallow reasons we have for doing them.

What would they have to say about the zoom zoom zoom of our 21st-century culture, so different than I imagine theirs. It’s a pace not only reserved for fitness, but that poisons almost every aspect of every day –sometimes swallowing us up whole, leaving little else for tilling a lone pot of daisies, let alone an entire field.

Sometimes I wish for more pilgrims in our midst because I think they’d bring us the perspective that I so often think we’ve lost. And that we (okay, me) crave.

And that’s why I think about pilgrims, on some days, too much. Not that you asked, but there it is.

Until next time…

August 18, 2009

August 18, 2009

How many of you out there work in an office building that has an elevator with mirrored doors? Raise your hands. C’mon.

Higher, I can’t see you.

That’s what I thought.

Now, how many of you like being assaulted with your reflection five days a week from the moment you set foot into your office building until the moment you step out, and all the steps you take in between to, say, go to lunch, get coffee, or just retrieve something you may have forgotten in your car (providing, that is, you remember where your car is parked and have extra time during the workday to figure it out or manage any ensuing panic)?

Go ahead, raise your hands again.

Just what I thought. So I am not alone.

That fact always makes me feel better.

***

Let me speak for all of us, then, in saying that mirrors in the elevator are awkward for a number of reasons (hello building designers and architects, are you listening?). I mean, I get their purpose: To make the space feel bigger. But they are also prohibitive in terms of being able to a) stare at other people’s reflections without appearing slightly crazy (hello, can anybody say “kill joy”?) and b) hide from ourselves.

I don’t know about you, but when I look at myself in the elevator doors at work, I wonder if I really look like the squat woman who resembles a young Mickey Rooney with big red hair reflected back. How is it that, in this not-so-fun funhouse mirror, the skirt and top that looked perfectly lovely just hours earlier has suddenly morphed into something you’d find on the cover of a Frumps-R-Us catalogue? (Let’s not even talk about the exaggerated circumference of my exposed calves.)

Now, I’m not trying to put myself down. That’s not the point. I’m just wondering: Is it just me? Or does anybody ever like the way they look in an elevator mirror? And what do I look like? Really?

***

Sometimes, when I’m riding up to the 12th floor, I try to focus in on another rider’s body parts as they’re reflected in person and then the mirror to see if the images match. It’s my own scientific method for seeing if the mirror is playing tricks on me and to gauge what’s real in terms of my own anatomy. Usually, however, it’s difficult to be inconspicuous in getting this kind of information—a good view of some stranger’s butt, say, or stomach. As a result, it rarely bears fruit, leaving me more confused and frustrated about what’s true in the end.

What makes matters worse is that I pass through some eight mirrors in the course of a regular morning and look different in each and every one.

1. The bathroom mirror.
2. The barely full-length mirror I bought for $12.99 at “Bed, Bath, and Beyond” some 12 years ago and moved across four states, which is now nailed to the back of my walk-in closet.
3. The long wall mirror in the foyer I must pass on my way to the blessed kitchen.
4. The extremely clean, ergo reflective, glass French door I must pass on my way to the garage.
5. The small mirror on my visor in the Honda Element.
6. The dreaded elevator mirrors.
7. The too many super clean glass doors in the office.
8. The two bathroom mirrors at work.

Which of the bevy of reflections I see in each of these am I to rely on? Which tells the real story of who Jill Sherer Murray is from the outside?

***

And then, when I get too obsessed with not having the answer, I think lovingly back to the days when it didn’t matter—when I could ride up to my office in relative peace, calmed by the delusion that I looked fantastic.

Back then, I worked for a dental association in Chicago. Their elevator walls were designed to look and feel like hardened tooth enamel. And they were glorious—a fine shelter from not only the other people in the mechanical yo yo, but my own self-inflicted bad thoughts. Why, not even the laser-beam eyes of a wild cat could penetrate their purposely porous surface.

Oh how I miss those days. (Of course, I complained about them mercilessly at the time, you know.)

So tell me: How do you feel about the mirrors in your world? I’m curious.

Until next time!

August 11, 2009

August 11, 2009

On Saturday, we took Steppy into New York to see Wicked. A great show. I won’t give it away other than to say that the scene just before the intermission is spectacular. The actress who plays the wicked witch character belts out a beautiful song called “Defying Gravity” as she is lifted up off the stage, away from the other actors, and into the air. While they (we) watch her, awestruck, she flies and sings alone:

“So if you care to find me
Look to the western sky!
As someone told me lately:
“Ev’ryone deserves the chance to fly!”
And if I’m flying solo
At least I’m flying free
To those who’d ground me
Take a message back from me
Tell them how I am
Defying gravity
I’m flying high
Defying gravity
And soon I’ll match them in renown
And nobody in all of Oz
No Wizard that there is or was
Is ever gonna bring me down!”

——————————————————————————

This, my friends, is a powerful moment. Brought the girl in the seat next to me to tears (okay me too)—and got the audience up on its feet, cheering. We were rightly moved. Who wouldn’t be? By the sight of a woman taking back her power, suspended above it all, proclaiming her strength and resolve.

In the play, the wicked stepmother, I mean WITCH is a resilient figure, imperfect and dignified, and fighting to heal a flawed Oz. She is sometimes flying, in her pointy black hat and long robes, waving a long broom and shouting out to a room full of mesmerized tourists. And she is always facing heinous injustice—bad Wizard. Bad. (But then again, that’s what makes the play so interesting, is watching to see how to she overcomes it all.)

And I can’t stop thinking about her—shake the picture of her floating in my head for anything–not even a merciless set of work deadlines, too many household chores, an uncooperative craving for cupcakes, or 36 hours with Steppy and its after-effects.

After all, who wouldn’t like to feel the exhilaration that must come from rising slowly towards a gilded sky, fueled by the sound of horns and drums and applause, propelled by sheer will and talent and rightness?

How I wish the wicked witch would’ve plucked me out of my seat and taken me with her. We have so much in common (truly).

That would’ve been something. You know?

——————————————————————————–

Seeing Wicked—living vicariously in the witch’s moment—reminds me of a similar experience I had in Chicago many years ago.

I was at a Peter Gabriel concert with a gal pal and my then longtime boyfriend when, at one point in the show, Gabriel climbed into a clear human-sized bubble to sing something I just can’t remember (darn you middle-aged memory and where did I park in the lot today?). What I do remember, however, is that I was riveted. The way he maneuvered that bubble around a narrow stage was downright artful.

How did he do that, I still wonder? Keep the bubble steady while hitting all the right notes and navigating the props and musicians and even his own muscles and nerves? And yet, there he stood—as upright as upright gets. In perfect form, crooning from inside a thick plastic sheath, pushing it forward without incident, turning it over and over again like a wheel without missing anything…

I marvel at the things people can do. Wish I could too. (Wait…)

…If anybody knows where I can get a bubble on the cheap or how I can string myself up to a cloud, by all means, write. You know where to find me. (Look to the eastern sky…)

Until next time.

August 3, 2009

August 3, 2009

Since I’m having focus issues lately, this post may be a little, well, unfocused (too much heat, not enough pizza). Which is why instead of trying to rein myself in (good luck), I’m just going to go with the flow and call this baby “10 Weird (or maybe random, I don’t know, could go either way) Things”. Here goes:

#1: This morning, I had a conversation with my adrenal glands. Seriously. Sat down on the bed, stared up (have no idea why up, please don’t ask), and had an entire conversation with them. It went something like this:

Me: Please, I beg of you. Cooperate. I’m giving this weight loss this one last grand stand. (DiettoGo.com. I know, I know. Hush.) Put the tiger back in the woods. And stop pumping me full of toxic adrenaline.

Glands: We’ll discuss with your thyroid and get back to you.

#2: Last night, Dan and I were watching a movie when one lone hair sprout from his eyebrow (like the rainbow flag that waves off our neighbor’s back deck, but without all the colors) and started screaming. PLEASE PLUCK ME. PULL ME OUT LIKE A GIRAFFE, DESPERATE AND DROWNING IN A LONG SEA. So to my husband’s dismay, I did. (He’s fine. Really, he is.)

#3: Last week, I had dinner with eight girls (grown up ladies now) I went to college with. Hadn’t seen some of them in, oh, more than 25 years. And I was going to write an entire post about the experience. But then, I decided against it. Yes. I stick with my original decision to say nothing. Not a peep outta me.

#4: Speaking of peeps, no word from Phoebe. Freakin’ bird.

#5: Yesterday, we were having brunch at the Continental with our best friends in Center City when it started to thunder and lightning and pour as if some Martian was watering the earth with a turbo-powered garden hose turned to “hard pellet”. It was cool.

#6: We’re pretty sure our neighbors are undercover agents (think Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies). They’re a really cute barely middle-aged couple–you know the type, thin and perky. Savers who have a lot of cash in the bank, run in the park (sweaty, really sweaty), and seem like they’re always closing their garage door. Hmmm.

#7: I saw my boss at the gas station on Saturday while gassing up the Prius before heading into town for the Elton John and Billy Joel concert. It was a little like seeing your kindergarten teacher in the bathroom at Pavios when you were five years old. (Hello Miss Charmeglow.) Truly weird.

#8: The Billy Joel and Elton John concert was NOT awesome. Why? Because they didn’t play enough of the old music their fans (like me) want to hear. Of course, I did enjoy the cheese-steak sandwich and fries at the park. (Mom, close your ears.) And two days later, I’m still enjoying them. (Note to adrenals: Could ya put in a good word for me with my esophagus?)

#9: Being at the concert reminded me of Marcia Mankowski (yep, a pseudonym, nobody could possibly be named Marcia Mankowski in real life and my apologies to Marcia Mankowski if she finds this offensive)—this girl I met when I was 14 years old who I think was more fanatical about Billy Joel than I was (no small feat). Back then, she had long, blonde, wild, rebel hair that I envied. I saw her recently at the Gap, where she was restocking the shelves and tending to the cash register, her long wild locks now a garden-variety mommy bob. I gave her a big HELLO. She didn’t remember me. (Suffice to say, I did not get her discount.)

#10: I’ll bet you didn’t know that I like to read sites like Popeater, Wallet Pop, and TMZ. Yep, I’m a real sucker for those stupid teasers that come up on AOL. DAMN YOU AOL. Sorry to crush the fantasy folks, but if you didn’t know by now, I’m human.

#10: I’m still standing? Seriously, Elton? Are you kidding? Do you think anybody wants to hear that song? Besides, you didn’t stand once during the whole show. (Well, maybe once.) You didn’t play Someone Saved My Life Tonight for I’m Still Standing? I’ll tell you what: That kind of behavior wouldn’t have gotten you very far if you were just getting started. So count your blessings, Mister Mister. If I were you, I’d count ‘em every night.

BONUS WEIRD THING #11: You know what’s really weird, possibly the weirdest. That I’m almost 47. Oh, and this post.

Until next time, where I promise something less weird…

July 27, 2009

July 27, 2009

Phoebe is gone.
Up and flew away, like a gaggle of balloons on a windy day. Never to be seen again.
One day she was here. The next day she wasn’t. And I feel abandoned.
I do. Really.
I guess you could say I attach easily. Some say that’s a beautiful quality.
Others say not so. They say learn to detach. Protect yourself.
I don’t care either way. I just know that one day Phoebe was resting comfortably in my rain gutter. And now, she’s gone.
And since I really did like seeing her there, that just bums me.
—————————————————-
Now, onto tweeting.
Not the birdy kind, but the kind I saw at a conference on social media I attended last week in New York City. Before I make my point, try to picture this:
1. A packed auditorium.

2. A new speaker every 20 minutes for four hours, rotating like a set of confused teacups, delivering information like dominos falling, slow and steady at first, and then frantic and rushed at the end (so sorry, just got the signal, short on time, try to keep up, so sorry, just got, short on, try to, so, just, short, try, so, you get it, yes?).

3. A room full of flashing Crackberries, the tap tap tapping of fingers on keyboards, and a swarm of vibrating cell phones.

4. And on the left side of the stage, beside the presenter spinning like an out-of-control penny, a long tall Jolly-Green-Giant sized screen, magnified like a teleprompter on steroids for easy reading, with a running stream of tweets from, you guessed it, attendees.
That’s right folks, people actually there, at the conference, in the audience. Paring down each expert’s words to a mere 140 characters. In real time. For those who couldn’t attend the conference—and for those who could.
Like me.
After all, who could focus on the actual life-sized peoples with all that technology happening? Certainly helped to have their every word and thought recapped by the very instant.
Sure did.
Wait, here comes a proverb. Too much technology makes thoughtful little Jewish girl with pizza addiction run in crazy circles like old dog chasing chubby tail. (Yes, I did get this in a fortune cookie once. Seriously.)
An overblown obsession with anything can do that to a person, though. Don’t you think?
———————————————————————
In my defense, it would have taken a mime’s focus to compete and win against all the distractions on that day. Without them, each presenter might have had a fighting chance at keeping us solely and wholly centered on what they were saying.
And we might not have needed a rolling scroll of tweets to remind us of what was going on right in front of our faces. And, we might have actually learned something more than we actually did and connected more deeply in the process.
If I(we) weren’t so distracted, that is.
(Wait, did I just say that? I’m sorry, did you say something? What’s that? Did anybody else hear that? Hello?)
At least that’s what I think.
————————————————————————–
Of course, it didn’t help that, on the 2.5 hour bus ride home, the guy next to me kept a Bluetooth device in his ear. Take it out already, I wanted to shout. We are humans.
Then, as the hours passed, I wondered if it was stuck in there. Tilt your head, I wanted to say, I’ll help you. After all, I had some tweezers in my backpack. I was prepared to do whatever it took to wrench that puppy out of his inner canal, almost eager to restore him to normal. Get back to the basics, if you will.
Because after too many hours of blogging, tweeting, and linking in, I was technologied out–wanting the simplicity and beauty of things that did not require an ear device or, for that matter, a Wifi connection, a power cord, and a limited number of characters.
Which is why, perhaps, from time to time, I long to see a once-pregnant bird resting gently and quietly atop my rainspout. Using a simple flicker of the eye to tell me something important.

July 19, 2009

July 19, 2009

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.
– Walt Disney

A scary thought indeed, especially in view of recent developments. The scoop:

Last night, my mother told me she had a dream that I went to sleep for the evening in the refrigerator. She was so concerned about my being able to rest soundly, that she hounded my father (in her dream, of course) for most of the night about how to shut off the light while the door remained open. After all, it’s difficult enough to sleep in the crisper bin without being able to close it—or feel the heat of several powerful mini-bulbs bearing down on you like the spotlights at Giants Stadium.

I have to wonder why she dreamed about me sleeping in the refrigerator. I know she and my father went to a funeral that day for his cousin’s daughter (sad). Did the experience and her fears play enough on her subconscious to liken a coffin to a side-by-side stainless steel box (energy rated)?

Does she think I’m so obsessed with food that I need to lay down with it? That I look fatter than usual in my black stretch pants? That I am doomed to find my best and only solace in the half-drunken bottle of Diet Snapple, mustard, fat-free cheese, and three tomatoes that typically rest in her refrigerator? Or is she finally giving in to the fact that her one-and-only daughter is an endomorph who, in her own image, will never be mistaken for an ectomorph or a hungry teenage boy?

I mean, if it’s true what Edgar Cayce said about “dreams being today’s answers to tomorrow’s questions”, what exactly does my mother’s dream mean for me, say, tomorrow morning at 7. At 9? Say, 11?

What is the universe trying to tell me?

Something. I just know it.

Something weird.

——————————————————————-

Here’s another sign: The other night, I went upstairs to our bedroom to prepare for bed while my husband studied for his Sustainable Building Advisor exam in the basement (btw, he passed—potential employers, pull together that six-figure offer and find my handsome husband Daniel Murray, LEED AP, cSBA on LinkedIn.com!).

As I went to close the blinds before getting into my pajamas (shut up, I love pj’s), I noticed something that looked like a stuffed feather resting at the top of our rain gutter. It was starting to get dark outside, so I couldn’t make it out completely at first. It looked like a small furry football (you know, like a small dog toy) with one pushpin-sized eye. Before I could wonder how one of our maniac’s toys found its way practically to the roof, I realized: It wasn’t a toy after all. It was a super fat bird! And before I could think it was dead, the eye darted to the left and then to the right and then focused directly on me at the window, staring.

Turns out, the bird was preggers and had built a nest in our 3” x 4” rain gutter in preparation for giving birth. And when I recognized that fact, I panicked. Freaked out. Ran for the bathtub and climbed in with the dogs, wondering what to do next. Should I just leave it there to spawn and raise its children? If I do, will we become a wayward home for pregnant and rebellious fowl with discipline problems and nowhere else to go—our house eventually swallowed up by feathers and birdy gunk so thick like fog you would no longer be able to see our house’s beautiful brick face?

Now I am a lot of things, but nature girl ain’t one of them. So after I calmed myself down and did a few positive affirmations, I called for Dan. Of course, he was in the midst of cramming for his exam, and was less than delighted to be interrupted.

Still, I felt it was important. So I lured him up to the bedroom with the promise of giving him a night off from having to rub my feet. (Btw, he hopped on that so fast, I swear, it made my head spin. Doesn’t he like rubbing my feet?) He raced up two flights of stairs and towards the window and when he saw the pregnant whore-bird, his jaw dropped.

“Wow!” He got a big smile on his face. “Honey, that’s a quail!”

“Don’t they serve that at fine restaurants?”

“Oh wow.” He ignores me. “She’s pregnant.”

“Okay, listen, can we just leave her there? Will she hurt the house? Create so much fur and dirt and after-birth that we’ll be cited by the township for unsanitary conditions? What should we do?” I mean, I was concerned. Besides, what do I know? I’m really a city girl at heart. I can tell you precisely what to do with an unruly member of the condo association or how to save a parking space in a snowstorm, but I got nothin’ when it comes to the inflated piece of poultry setting up triage on our rainspout.

“She won’t hurt the house. She’s fine there. She’s gonna have babies!”

“Fan-friggin-tastic,” I say. Then I stop and think for a moment. “”Well, if she’s gonna be part of this household, we might as well give her a name.” And so now, I call her Phoebe.

Over the past 36 hours, Phoebe has rotated approximately four times on that increasingly tight space that is now her birthing station. Every night when I come home, I must admit, I race upstairs to check on her progress. Is she still there? Is she still alone? How does she eat? Does she look fatter? And, my worst fear (drum roll please), is she dead?

Then I get outside of the minutiae of her pre-natal experience and ask myself what is the great significance of having a pregnant bird land on our house and my mother dreaming of my delta sleeping next to the cold dairy and produce.

What is the universe trying to tell me?

If you have any suggestions, by all means, send them to me. And if you don’t, I’ll just have to let these things gestate (sorry) until I can figure it out. And get back you.

Until next time!

July 4, 2009

July 4, 2009

I have exactly 90 minutes to write this blog.

That’s a lot less time than I usually set aside to create a new post (believe it or not), so please forgive if the end result is wobbly like a three-legged stool with a tender hamstring.

I am sitting at Starbucks in Chicago with my handsome husband who, unaware of the sand pouring through an imaginary hourglass in my head, wants to talk to me about a ticker tape of deep issues while I write (i.e., how comfortable his new shoes are, how much fun we had at breakfast with Joan, Dave, and Marilyn, did Dave realize how loud he was singing that Leonard Cohen song, and what time is the architectural boat tour again, etc.).

We are here for the long July 4th weekend to visit all of those listed above and then some. And I can safely say it’s been both wonderful and weird to be here—in Starbucks, across from the Chicago Tribune building, watching the tourists (of which I am and am not) through the window scale Michigan Ave. with their bags and their smiles and their requisite curiosity.

Being here makes me feel so many things: Like I’ve both come home and been rudely estranged. It’s a duality that makes me thoughtful and even sad–and makes for a strange kind of “independence day” (and happy July 4th, by the way). I’m not sure what to do with all the things that have changed since I’ve been gone. Like when did that statue go up, that restaurant go out, that store expand?

But then again, what did I think would happen once I left: That I would move away and my life would progress but the streets and sensibilities of one of my oldest and dearest friends would remain frozen in time?

Well, that’s just silly.
—————————————
And yet, despite this dissonance, there is something so fun about sharing a prized possession—in my case, an entire urban landscape—with someone you love. In my case, again, that would be my husband.

I cannot describe how I feel watching the glee in his eyes as he marvels at the beauty of my old stomping grounds. “Oh well, Chicago is a fantastic place, hon, there’s just so much it does well,” I say, pointing out the route I used to walk to and from work on the days I took the El to the Merchandise Mart. As if I designed and constructed the sidewalks myself, set them to a grid, and then was the first to really know and promote the city’s potential.

As if I birthed everything from the river to the lake to the bioswales out in the suburbs from my very anatomy.

With every day that I’m here (four in total), I can feel for myself an assured kind of swagger I don’t have quite mastered back in Bucks County. Especially as I show off and validate for Dan what I’ve been doing for all these years, while he was off marrying and having children: Sure, I may not have done that or worked the same job for 25 years or built a hefty 401(k) or hosted my fair share of family cookouts and barbeques or essentially done what was expected of me.

But while “you” were there doing that, I am saying, I was here. Doing this.

And that’s something after all.
———————————————————
And so we have shopped and we have eaten and we have walked. And we have driven through the old neighborhoods and the new ones. And I talked about intersections big and small with the know-it-allness of a tour guide who’d been though a 20-year orientation. (Here’s where I lived on the third floor of an old walk up, bought the clothes that hugged my curves like expensive cellophane, beat the meters and parked for free, walked my precious Sophie after a long hard day of work, deep breathed during the intermezzos of my daily routine …) .

All the while, gauging the expression on my husband’s face for signs of interest. Even though, it’s become almost incidental at this point. I just keep talking, bragging if you will, wondering why I left and then remembering.

I love my husband and our life together. It is as wonderful as any urban coterie—any Pulitzer-prize winning people show—could ever be.

But I sure do miss the city.

(Until next time–back to reality!)

June 26, 2009

June 26, 2009

Hello to all of my loyal and devoted readers. After several weeks of experiencing technical difficulties, she’s ba-ack… (Did you miss me?)

And I want you all to know that I had the best of intentions in terms of writing you a blow-by-blow, step-by-step, graphic, and even animated description of how my job is going (perhaps even with an interactive flash portion)—how week two, three, and now, a wrap on four, has offered the glimpses of clarity I lacked in week one, how I got to know more of my (very cool) colleagues, and how I took a step forward in terms of confidence and knowing I can truly not only do it, but excel in this role.

(Yes, there’s a “but” coming, wait for it…)

BUT, this is all I can offer right now. And here’s why:

I’m pooped. I’m “been-on-a-redeye, just-back-from-four-weeks-at-overnight-camp, finally-finals-week-is-over, oh-my-gosh-I’ve-been-up-all-night, will-moving-day-ever-end” pooped.

I know, welcome to the real world Jill. Listen, hey, no. It’s not like that. I know the real world. We’ve been friends now for 20 some, oh, 40 years. It’s just that this is the first day in about a month now that I’ve had to freely and unapologetically just collapse.

Drop like a penny off a 35-story building. Slow at first, and then hard and ugly into teeny tiny little pieces.

That’s because we had our friends in the first weekend after I started my out-of-the-house job, which was delightful, but didn’t allow for much downtime. And then, it was another busy work week—up at the ass-crack of dawn to exercise, turnpike drive, spend nine hours pouring information like pixie dust from a straw straight into my brain, turnpike drive, arrive home by 7, dream of being in bed by 7:01, make dinner, and then lay like a malfunctioning-robot on the sofa while my saintly husband cleans up and eventually me “let’s go up, hon, c’mon, you poor thing…”

(I said he was saintly, didn’t I? Now get off me.)

And then it was another few weekends with Steppy in town, which included Father’s Day weekend, which came chock-full of family duties and obligations (which involved their usual drama, but that’s another post for another time or maybe never big sigh), and then it was, oh dear, I don’t know. Something.

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In any event, in the midst of there being no time for the most crucial things anymore, I did find some time at least to address the things that have been weighing heavily on me since the start of “day one” like a wheelbarrow full of misplaced cow dung.

Like a leisurely game of tennis with my husband (never poopy)—and not a harried one at 5:30 a.m.

Like enjoying a relaxing iced Grande soy latte while actually sitting as if I had all the time in the world in the coffee shop (instead of running from the store like it was on fire so I could get to work on time).

Like moseying over to my favorite salon in Lambertville to have my nails done and my natural red hair (praise be Zanya!) restored after a record-breaking two months of treating those dark roots like an out-of-state parking ticket.

Like getting a lower arm wax after Steppy not-so-graciously pointed out on her last visit that I was starting to channel one of Diane Fossey’s primates.

Funny story on that one: When I met with the aesthetician to get waxed (mind you, I’d never gone to her before), she instructed me to lay on the table and “go ahead and put the small cotton pad she’d laid on the table over my gigi so as to not get any wax on my you-know-whats” and then offered to come back in a few minutes after I’d gotten in el boffo.

Not exactly a confidence booster.

“Sure,” I said. “No problem. But you do know I’m here for an arm wax, right?”

Although, honestly, I would have stripped down in a heartbeat – showed this confused skinny precious child what the 21st-century version of a Peter Paul Rubens painting looks like up close. (Then again, given her line of work, I suspect she’s seen it and then some.)

Oh, I could laugh just thinking about it. Good times, I tell ya.

Good times.

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Anyway, it all worked out and there is a moral to that last story that transfers: If you’re going to going to be in the people business, know what the people want. Usually, it ain’t scorching-piping-hot-molten wax, like lava out of a rabid volcano, poured on their privates—especially if their privates have nothing to do with the fact.

It’s a good lesson and one I’m proud to take back to week five of my new job. WEEK FIVE.

Oh, and one last thing. I would be remiss to mention, of course. I am so sad to hear about Ed McMahon and Gary Papa (a local sportscaster) and Michael Jackson, but for some reason, really sad to hear about my sister Farrah. I don’t know if it’s because I have been copycatting her hairdo for almost four decades (I know, change is good Jill) or if she reminds me of how much I hated my body when I was a teenager (which of course brings back such fond memories) and she was on Charlie’s Angels, or that infernal poster which made me crazy since I didn’t have a snowball’s chance in h-e-doublehockeysticks of ever looking that good, or if her passing reminds me of my own mortality.

Oh yes, that one.

In any event, a moment. Cliched as it is, may she (and the others) rest in peace. After too much suffering, a real angel now. Finally.

Until next time…!

Comments (1)
June 7, 2009
Filed under: Uncategorized — sherer @ 10:56 pm
First of all, let me thank all the wonderful friends and family who checked in to see how I survived the first week of my new job (and who I have not had 12 seconds to respond to). The sheer fact of this post should let you know that I did, indeed, survive. And now that I’m past the first five days, I am no longer (thankfully) brand spanking new like a fresh pair of white sneakers just begging to be soiled. There is a dull film of new-job dust on me and, frankly, I like it.
After all, I started the work week in an absolute panic, squeaky clean like I’d just been ripped from the Converse box, unsure of where to step, and thanks to unusually heavy traffic (which turned a 45-minute trip into 90), utterly convinced I’d be late for my first day of full-time work outside of 10 Avalon Court.
Fortunately, I am characteristically early for all things, which makes me a special brand of social outcast. So knowing I needed so long to get there by 9, I left two hours early, which gave me just enough time to endure the pace of the turnpike, spend 20 minutes walking in circles in the office parking lot (looking for the way out), AND make the early appointment I had scheduled with the HR folks to go over some necessary paperwork.
Finally at the lobby, the receptionist who I’d met before ushered me to my new office with a gracious smile. It had no window, but was delightfully removed from the “action” in a slightly hidden corridor (giving me time to get my bearings without an audience), close to both the coffee room and the bathroom. (Of course, that would change by the end of the week, when I was moved to the thick of things in a window office…)
From there, I enjoyed a long garden-variety first week of a new job–lunching with my boss and new colleagues, participating in hours of meetings, looking and listening. It was five straight days of acquiring and processing facts and figures, operating on overload, vascillating between fear and sheer exhilaration, and wishing that learning–about the company, the culture, the office protocols, the way up, down, and around this particular corporate ladder–was simply a matter of pouring information into a glass and drinking it.
Because being new on the job is one of the few times in life when the wisdom of being old(when you’re not) looks sooooo good.
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With that said, I think that if I can do this job (which of course, I can, please pass the potato chips now…)–this daunting job for which much needs to be done and quickly (or maybe I’d rather have that last piece of pizza or the ultimate in comfort food, some macaroni and meatloaf, now doesn’t that sound yummy)–I think it will be awesome.
In fact, there were several points throughout the week where I couldn’t help but smile to myself and think, “This job is fun. FUN FUN FUN.”
Of course, my enthusiasm was quickly and cautiously tempered by reality in front of me (kind of like how you feel when you’re standing in front of the Egyptian pyramids and somebody with an AK47 comes up behind you and in a deep mean blood-hungry voice with an accent you don’t recognize commands you to start climbin’): There are several mountains worth of work that need to be tackled and I am low low LOW on sherpas.
But hopefully, not for long.
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Finally, in addition to getting my footing on the job, I also needed to get it outside of the job which meant putting into place a few new routines at home. For example, no more starting dinner at 5 p.m. in the company of my beloved Dr. Phil. Now, I have to move quickly, plan ahead, and get good at throwing whatever together and fast. (‘Cause my hubby and I are starving…)
I’ve also spent the week making peace with certain realities, the hardest being this: I can no longer go to my beloved Wellness Center (where my version of homies have been keeping me on the healthy bandwagon for just short of two years). It is, now, simply too far out of the way of my new office to be any kind of convenient.
And yet, while I may never lose another pound in my life (I’m starting to make peace), I will eat the 563 pairs of the fabulous shoes in my closet before I get any fatter.
So, I also spent the first week on the job getting up at 5 a.m. to (stare at the clothes in my closet with pure disgust and…) either go to my new gym or bribe my husband (with the promise of, well, you know) to get up at the ass-crack of dawn and join me on the tennis courts.
So far so good. I’m getting it all in – even had some clean underwear left at the end of the week and enough energy to host friends from out of town for the weekend. Although I must say, they just left and now, on this fine Sunday evening, I’m ready to slow down. And prepare for week two.
WEEK TWO.
I will try to sneak in a quick post mid-week to let you know how things are going…
Until then!

June 1, 2009

June 1, 2009

Here’s a short post as I am tired – more tired than I planned on being on the Sunday night before my first day of work at a new job (thanks to working on the deck all day, a long-albeit-interesting-sustainable-green house tour yesterday, and playing with Steppy through all of it, who’s been absolutely loving and delightful two weekends in a row, and no complaints there!).

Despite my having last week off (during which it rained every single day, thank you very much You Mutha Nature, do you hate me?), I am in no way ready for the work week, which promises to be both exciting and challenging, given the fact I’ve been working on my own from home for the past five years.

Deep breath.

Of course, I got absolutely nothing done last week – it was as if I was a slug laying in the tall wet grass without a care in the world–as if people and dogs and deer and rabbits weren’t my problem, despite their just waiting to squash me like a long thin slimy bucket full of mini-grapes at a California vineyard. As if I had all the time in the world to just squirm in the dirt and numb out.

And you know what I did with that finite period? Squandered it on daytime television and the afterthought of one lone eyebrow wax. Did I sit outside on a newly stained deck (which just happened yesterday), on new patio furniture (which I spent all day on Friday waiting to have delivered), drinking coffee and then wine, reading the stack of books I haven’t had a chance to get to for months, writing the great American novel already, and catching up with old friends…as planned?

Well NO. NO I DID NOT. THANKS FOR ASKING. SHEESH. (And, aw snap, do I regret it. Snap snap snap.)

Instead, I spent the week watching approximately 35 hours of Regis and Kelly, Rachel Ray, Tyra, the View, Ellen, Oprah, and Dr. Phil–and they were reruns no less.

Deep deep breath. Deeper than the last one. And the one before that.

As a result, my monkey mind on “vacation” freaked out and went way too far to the other side (yes, the dead zone) and I spent the better part of my only week off since Clinton was in office anesthetized like a character out of a Stephen King novel.

And now, tonight, just a mere 15 hours from when I need to show up for “work”, I’m paying the price. I’m scrambling: To write this blog. To gather all the paperwork I need for human resources to prove I’m not a) a convicted felon and b) an illegal alien and c) an imposter who’s stolen somebody else’s identity and d) incapable of following directions. To retouch up the polish on my nails (since I failed miserably in getting a manicure or an arm wax for that matter, which I desperately need, which means I’ll be wearing long sleeves until I can make that happen because watching your own arm hair whip in the wind does not bode well for business). To meditate and beg the universe for mercy. To prepare for being the “new girl”.

Oh God. Forget the deep breath. Time to hyperventilate.

Not only do I have to manage the logistics of all this newness, but I have to figure out what to wear on my very first day, which again starts in 15 hours (or maybe it’s less than that now). That will surely involve three hours of trying on everything in my closet (meaning 36 pairs of new black work pants), a good cry, a lashing out at my husband for simply breathing, and the realization that I’ve got NOTHING to wear and I’ll never be a size four. Ever. That I’ve been biologically and physiologically robbed.

Sucks.

Oh my GOD, deep breath.

Why is it so stressful to start a new job? I mean, what could possibly happen to me in the eight-hour time span of Monday? (If nothing else, I surely hope my new colleagues have an appreciation for my roots and flecks of gray since I also didn’t have time to get the dye job I desperately need – ugh, this red hair is a BITCH in upkeep).

Although, come to think of it, I answered my own question just the other day, when talking to my friend Lisa who started a new job herself almost two weeks ago: it just sucks to be new. I could feel her nodding her head in agreement through the telephone. That “who are you?” look that you get from other people. That deer-in-the-headlights bulged-eye panicked-glaze sort of expression when you’re out of your office looking for a water fountain, vending machine, restroom, or heck, anything. That “I know how to use Microsoft Office, but tell me again how to turn this thing on?” That “who does what” and “how do I get this” and “um, excuse me, but I think there’s something wrong with the copier” (which naturally will have a paper jam the first time you go to use it).

That ugly co-dependence for which there are no suitable number of steps or open meetings.

Deep breath, Will Robinson, go DEEP.

It’s as if everywhere you go, you’re suddenly standing on a raised stage and being followed by a hot pink spotlight–and not in a good way.

Good grief, I wish I’d gotten that arm wax. Let’s hope nobody notices or, if they do, they admire the hirsute.

By the way, did I mention today is my husband’s birthday? So on top of everything else, I’ve had to cater to his birthday wishes and provide him with gifts and a cake. Good lord, the nerve. His timing could not have been any worse. And, of course, true to form: He had 1/18th of a piece of chocolate cake with green candles and I had the rest (big cake, huge, seriously). Frankly, the candles were lucky to get out alive. So now, the room is spinning, my heart is palpitating, and I’m just about ready to upchuck. (Sorry, that’s not very attractive, is it?)

Of course, it doesn’t help that my new boss sent me an utterly lovely bouquet of flowers yesterday welcoming me to the new company’s “family”. CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT? How unbelievably gracious! I near fell off my feet, I was so impressed with the gesture. What a great guy and company, right? Then again, talk about pressure. I know one thing at this age, they don’t send you peonies and whatevers unless they want something very big out of ya. (And by the way, thank you so much! I mean, goodness, that’s class.)

Ten seconds inhale, 20 seconds exhale. Do it again, woman. DO IT AGAIN.

Then there is all the waiting and wondering about the big issues: Where is my office? What is the view? How long will it take me to get to the office? Who will be happy to see me? Who might be unsure? What kind of technological equipment will I have to master? Is it okay if, when I’m around computers and such, I have a tendency towards colorful expletives? Will the people be nice? Will there be any understanding and empathy for the “new girl”. And how steep a learning curve will I have to master–are we talking the three steps up onto our deck or the intermediate trails in Aspen?

DEEPER, DEEPER. EXHALE LOUD.

Okay, well, this is what the night before a new job looks like. (Can you say Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs?) Not pretty, is it? I’m okay. No really. I am. I am, in fact, thrilled to have gotten such a fantastic job especially these days and the chance to leave the house simultaneously. I will not miss the imaginary colleagues I’ve been conjuring up in my head for, say, the past several months. (You know, I haven’t said that out loud to anybody else, so can you please keep it under your hat? Shudder to think what my new colleagues would think if they knew just how vivid, well, never mind…)

Oh, and one last ugly anticipatory element: Pretty sure the dogs are going to have some deep psychotic separation anxiety. Well, Winnie will be fine — she really just tolerates me. But lil’ King Elvis (that’s his street name), he’ll probably find a way to poop on the ceiling as a statement for his disapproval of my being gone. (He’s very sensitive and resourceful, a real chip off the old block?) So if anybody knows how to really scrub at ceiling gunk in a way that sends a message, well, I’m all ears.

Okay, well, I think I feel better now. Yep, for sure. With all of this off my chest, let me raise my glass of tap water and toast myself in front of all of you good friends: I am going to start a new journey tomorrow. And it’s good.

It’s verrry good.

Or, as my dear friend Frank would say in his signature alto voice with a hard Canadian accent: “Oooh, yeah…”

Until next time!

(Not such a short post after all, huh?)

May 28, 2009

May 28, 2009

Gone fishing…will return with a new post shortly!

May 19, 2009

May 19, 2009

And now, a story about my friend “Flossie” who dropped a ruby gem in my lap just the other day, and I am compelled to share it.
Before I tell you what happened, a little background on Flo. She’s 61 and fabulous. With a thriving career (in fact, she was just offered a promotion) and a young and vibrant spirit, she is one of the funniest people I know. I admire so much about her, including her ability to enjoy life on her own terms. She doesn’t care what other people think or how they judge her choices–and never seems bothered by her age or the fact that she’s getting older. (Who isn’t?)
Until, that is, the other day, when she called to tell me about a disturbing experience she’d had at the doctor’s office–one that resulted in a “lot of crying and a dark night of the soul,” she said.
Now in seven years of friendship, I’ve only heard Flo cry once: When she learned that the dog she’d once shared with an ex-boyfriend (he got the little schipperke in the breakup) had passed over.
Turns out, she’d gone for a routine gynecological exam and got some bad news. Not as bad as it could’ve been, let me just say that. But bad in terms of being a real blow to the ego–and a reminder that, well, we ain’t gonna live indefinitely.
“So I was getting examined and the doctor was telling me that everything looked good,” she said, “except for the fact that my cervix was starting to close.”
“What? I had no idea a cervix could close.”
“Me either,” she says. “But apparently, that’s what happens as a result of aging, lack of hormones, and, get this…”(pause)”…atrophy.”
Oh my GOD. That is a bad word, especially when its’ associated with our lady parts.
“Oh no she didn’t…”
“Yes. She did.”
Then, there was silence. I didn’t know what to say at first. After all, if this was happening to her it, would eventually happen to me as well (and all of you gals, hello?). And I would be none too pleased either.
“Well, you know what Flo?” I said. “If your cervix is closing, you better get as much as you can in there before it shuts down for good!” We started to laugh. “Or even more important, get whatever you need out of there! Because once that puppy’s closed, you can forget about it!”
“Whadya think is in there, anyway?”
“Cash for gold?” I suggested.
And so we went on and on, until we both were laughing so hard, I think I actually peed a little.
Then, in typical fashion, I asked if I could use her story as fodder for my blog since it was far more interesting than my notes on tofu, which she obviously agreed to under one condition. I had to change her name.
Which I have. It was the least I could do, given what she’d been through.
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In conclusion, I’d like to make a suggestion to all the doctors treating women out there: If you’re reading, please weigh your words carefully. Because aging in the 21st century is hard enough.
We don’t need to be reminded that there’s an endpoint–and we’re getting closer. We don’t need a play by play on which part is closing, shutting down, decaying (OH GOD), or spinning out of control. Unless, of course, it affects our health or requires some sort of preventative measure. In lieu of that, however, consider us on a need to know basis.
Remember: Need. To. Know.
Until next time!

May 14, 2009

May 14, 2009

So my lovely tall, thin, blonde editor, who wears all the fabulous clothes I would wear if I were about 1,000 pounds thinner and several feet taller (think blue jeans and anything with an empire waist), sent me an email yesterday alerting me to the fact that a new issue of the Wild River would be going out. And it was time for me to put up a new post. (I guess she didn’t see my neurotic Jewish pizza rap as having much of a shelf life. Go figure.)

In her request, she mentioned a new book (she couldn’t remember the name) offering practical advice to stepmothers about the experience. “Perhaps you can give one piece of advice for stepmothers yourself,” she suggested.

Well, Joy, my tall drink of water, at the risk of being subordinate, I would be delighted to share my emerald insight. Here it is:

To all you new stepmothers out there, old stepmothers, people preparing to be a stepmother, dating a man with children and hoping to be a stepmother, hating a stepmother, loving a stepmother, wishing to be a stepmother in a next life, recovering from being a stepmother in a past life, trying to have empathy for a stepmother, or just plain curious about what it takes to be a stepmother and why they tend to have addiction issues (uh, like food), listen up.

When it comes to step-parenting, the best thing you can do for yourself is detach from your new spouse’s children. Early. As early as possible–perhaps after the first date or email, if you’re online dating–if even at least in your mind.

Step away from the little buggers. Treat them like nuclear canisters with arms and legs and heads–similar to the kind Tony Almeda, the little cockroach traitor, stole in an attempt to blow up stuff on my favorite show 24 (sans the limbs and cranium).

Unless you’re the kind of person who can’t resist temptation or needs to have what you know you can’t. In that case, go ahead and pat them carefully on the noggin every once in a while (just light enough so the canister doesn’t go off) or let them put a spoon under your nose from time to time so they know you’re breathing. But don’t overdo it. Trust me. This is good advice.

In fact, it’s the very kind a dear friend of mine, a spurned stepparent herself, tried to give me when Dan and I first started out. And I was overzealous in embracing his kids–naïve enough to think that they would be a delightful new addition to my family. That I might get to bond with children after all, since I hadn’t had any of my own. (Notice I didn’t say parent, I said bond. Big difference.)

She said, “I know you’re excited to have C and Heidi (at that time) in your life. I hope it works out well for you, Jill. “

“Why wouldn’t it? I think it’ll be really nice to have them around. They are, after all, Dan’s kids. I love him. And they’re just terrific girls.”

“Just don’t expect much, that’s all I’m saying.” And, boy oh boy, give that girl a prize! She was RIGHT.

But sadly, I did expect much, too much. Still do sometimes, despite my better judgment.

Case in point: The other day I sent Steppy, who we haven’t seen in a few weeks, a fairly long text message (only the third ever) about how her dad was getting his hair cut that weekend (she was concerned he was starting to look like Miley Cyrus) and how I’d gotten her the “cutest two pairs of flip flops ever, you’re gonna love them!”

Truth be told, I was excited to send it and get her response (because idiots never learn by definition). But a response never came. So when my husband came home, I promptly accosted him with the facts: “I sent C a text today and never heard back from her. Have you talked to her lately? Is everything okay?” But I knew it was…in my gut. I’d seen that kid on a keypad–and how she hopped on a new message. She was just choosing to ignore me.

He looked empathetically perplexed and, in an attempt to see if she had her cell phone on (since her mother often confiscates it as punishment for bad behavior), sent her a text himself. She responded within two seconds.

I felt like crying.

Which brings me back full circle to my advice for new step-parents: If you enjoy having your heart broken, go way out of your way for your stepchild. Drop everything for them. Try hard to make them feel loved. Buy them stuff. Make it expensive. Be super duper generous. Offer to give them a steel rod and ask them, politely of course, if they wouldn’t mind shoving it up your favorite orifice. Draw them a map. (After all, they’re just kids, for goodness sakes, they may not know the most painful spot.)

But if you don’t enjoy having your heart broken, detach. Early and often. Make pretend they’re

May 8, 2009

May 8, 2009

Must. Have. Pizza. Now.

Must. Ignore. Today’s. E-mail. Solicitation. To. Join. Senior. Dating. Network.

Not. Sure. Why. I. Got. It.

But. If. I’m. Old. Enough. To. Date. Seniors. Online.

I. Deserve. Pizza.

Now.

Make. Me. Stop.

May 5, 2009

May 5, 2009

I got a job. Yes. I GOT A JOB. Jill is ready to leave the building. (Again.) And this time, I’m confident my new position will not be eliminated after 16 days. (Newbies, see posts dated mid-December.)
Now I know you’ve all been listening to me complain about how lonely it is to work from home day in and day out, so you must all be delighted that I will no longer be whining about how much I miss human interaction. I will warn you, however, in advance that I may begin complaining about the converse (not having enough alone time), so please feel free to remind me of the pages of ranting I’ve done about seeing dead people as a result of being left to my own imagination for far too long. I will not be offended or upset. To the contrary, a gentle nudge and a little perspective can go a long way. Especially for someone like me, with middle-aged memory loss, who can get stuck in the muck of my own quicksand all too fast.
So what will I be doing? What I have essentially been doing for myself, except for someone else: Starting a communications practice for a consulting firm specializing in employee benefits design and administration. See, I’ve already got the lingo down.
But never fear: I will never lose my own lingo–the kind that drives me to think outside of the lines and share with you what thrills and scares me most about life. The kind that reminds me that I am a creative being (one of the things I like most about the new gig which, although it sounds technical, allows for a lot of inspired pondering). And most importantly, the kind that feeds me most, no matter what my day job.
I will simply integrate it with the new language to put my own personal stamp on the challenge. And I’m up for it. In fact, I notice that I’m more up for it than I might have been in the past, when I believed the only route to happiness and success was to be a famous novelist.
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And yet, as the years pass, I realize that I no longer need to be a well-known brand on the virtual shelves of Amazon.com to enjoy my life. That I can be perfectly content writing anything, and using my right and left brain for a positive end–whatever that looks like. I’m totally open. As long as is offers me the chance to be creative and purposeful, I’m okay.
Because, at this stage of the game, I want to do good work that offers me the resources to be fully present in all aspects of whatever. From solving problems in the meeting room to spending a quiet Sunday morning at home with my husband, Charles Osgood, and a cup of French Roast. I’m looking for happy clients during the day and a good game of tennis after hours. The leisure time to read up on social networking for communicators and to cruise the gluten-free strip at the grocery store. I want growing time with colleagues, and down time with friends, family, and the people who matter most.
This is all new to me: The revelation that happiness no longer has to be about sitting a room alone creating a fictional reality–hoping it will lead me to a seat across from Oprah and an adoring audience. And it’s kinda cool. I no longer have the same fire in my belly for fame. I now know having lived for four decades that kind of thing doesn’t count for much. I also no longer need the validation.
Besides, when I’m jonesing to tell a story, I just do it here. (Thank you readers–and rest assured, I am not going anywhere!) And then, find the beauty in other pursuits – those I may not have imagined for myself once-upon-a-time. But do now. It feels good.
Freeing.
Which leads me to the new job: It’s a biggie and a goodie. If it were a pizza, it’d be a meat-lovers special. If it were a cookie, it’d be chocolate chip and macadamia nut. If it were a house, it’d be on a Northern beach–not too hot and not too cold–with a gentle breeze and lots of windows. If it were a new outfit, it’d be a blend of cotton and silk, black on the bottom and baby blue on the top, comfortable and hugging my curves in just the right ways simultaneously. And, of course, if it were a man, it’d be my husband.
Anyway, I start on June 1. So, sorry Oprah girl and, of course, my hero Dr. Phil. I’ll miss you. And to all of you imaginary folks I’ve made up in the spirit of survival, nothing personal.
Stay tuned for the preparations…until next time!

April 27, 2009

April 27, 2009

It is hot as Hades here. Ninety-plus degrees. A veritable heat wave in April. To wit I say, what’s up with that? While my husband and Steppy skipped gaily about the house this weekend, delighting in the sweltering heat and the fact that the sides of paper were curling at their corners, I sat in front of a whirling fan and cursed Mother Nature.

I am just not ready for this stuff. I mean, you can’t do anything in the heat. You can’t walk, run, or cry without sweating like a Suma wrestler in a sauna. You certainly can’t get any relief from fresh tears since they tend to roll out like well water. And you can’t play tennis (my new favorite thing) or anything that requires intense exertion since there’s always the risk of extreme dehydration or heat stroke (which doesn’t do anything for your game).

Not to mention the fact it calls for the baring of skin way too early and, frankly, I am NEVER ready for that. (I’ve already warned my husband that I’ll be the only person on the tennis court in the dead of summer wearing black stretch pants.) Being forced to unveil my grandmother’s chubby arms or the small pockets of chub around my knees is never a welcome experience, let alone before the official start of the season.

I say, bring on winter. Again. A pretty snowstorm, a cozy fire, a bright blue snuggly fresh out of the box from QVC. Doesn’t that sound comforting?

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Well, it seems the warm weather isn’t the only thing putting a big kink in my ability to lead the women’s division at the 2010 U.S. Open. Seems I’ve got another problem.

On Saturday morning, just before spending the day browsing around in the trendy Manyunk with my mother, aunt, and cousin (who, all totaled, would have made great material for a Dove Real Beauty Commercial, at ages 29, 46, 61, and 73 respectively), Dan and I played tennis in the park for 45 minutes.

It was such great fun and, afterwards as we walked back to the house talking about how much we love our newfound hobby, I could feel the wheels of my metabolism spinning ever so gently. It was good.

Too good, apparently, since I came home from the day to find Dan and Steppy on the sofa watching a movie, Dan’s knee wrapped in ice.

And there, in one instant, went my tennis partner along with any hopes and dreams of becoming the first middle-aged perimenopausal Jewish woman to play pro tennis (or bond over a large bowl of pasta with my aging-partner-in-athletics and new best friend Dana Torres).

“WHAT HAPPENED?” I asked, ever so lovingly, dropping my shopping bags and placing my hands on my hips. After all, I fully expected to come home and find Dan and Steppy outside staining the back deck, as was the plan.

“I don’t know, I was fine when we left the court, but for some reason, my knee just started to hurt and then it got worse and so I thought it was best to stay off of it today. I’ll stain the deck next weekend.”

DECK SCHMECK! YOU CAN’T BE INJURED. I NEED YOU TO BE MY TENNIS PARTNER–TO HELP ME SHRINK MY DONKEY! CURSES! BLAST YOU UNIVERSE, YOU ARE DETERMINED TO IMPEDE MY THINNESS!

But I didn’t say it. Instead, I said, “Oh no, well, what can I get for you, hon?” (After all, his health is more important than my shrinking donkey, right? Yes? Somebody?) And then, I had a private little pity party for myself in my head. After all, I’ve been psyched about finding an aerobic exercise that didn’t feel like the slow and never-relenting waterboardesque torture of running on the treadmill or climbing the Stairmaster.

In view of this new information, I am now left to wonder how to keep the great cardio momentum I had started with the help of my husband and his two well-functioning legs.

Hey, does anybody know anything about fencing?

———————————————————————————

In the meantime, I’m not going to let my husband’s knees plunge me into the depths of depression. It’s the new me! I’m going to look on the bright side and stay focused on the positives. Like the fact that my husband’s knee isn’t getting worse and there is hope for tennis in the future, all is not lost yet!

Like the fact that I found a new cleaning person whose first question to me was whether we had a stepladder so she could clean the hard-to-reach ledges that are probably now home to a thousand dust mites. I already love her. (No seriously…)

That Steppy came this weekend and was a delight. She left her cell phone at home and, in lieu of texting, actually enjoyed spending time with us. It was a refreshing and pleasant change.

That while I have not lost an ounce, I have not gained an ounce either.

That while we shopped at Target on Sunday, I had the good sense to leave without the three area rugs and 17 earth-toned candles we didn’t need that I impulsively put in our cart when we arrived.

That the new sleep aid Alteril, which many people are complaining about on the Internet, actually works for me.

That my deodorant is working just fine.

That I ate pizza two days in a row last week and only spent one half of that time feeling guilty about it. (Note to self: Never be left alone with pizza.)

That one of this year’s colors for Spring is baby blue and it just so happens to be my best shade.

That my new Adele CD rocks.

That my dogs think I’m Angelina Jolie every day, no matter what.

That my girlfriends still want to meet me for dinner.

That there’s plenty of work to be good work to be done out there.

And that’s it for now. Until next time!

April 23, 2009

April 23, 2009

Okay, everybody, hi. Uh, hello. I know, I know, I’ve been a bad girl. No Jilly no posty.

I promise, there’ll be a new post up shortly — by the end of the weekend at the latest. And here, let me give you a little teaser. Has anybody ever heard of a “shaman“? Huh? Well, I haven’t seen a shaman per se, but hey, I just had a conversation about one and, well, you know where that can go…

…that’s right. Anywhere! (Especially in my world…)

Anyway, please be patient with me. I’ve got a couple of good topics lined up for you. And, in fact, I just wrote an entire five paragraphs until I accidentally hit a wrong key and my computer decided to erase it all (must not have been very good, huh, everybody’s an editor–even inanimate objects these days). Anyway, I cursed for about 12 minutes, and now, well, here I am, trying to recall when I just wrote. And guess what?

I can’t.

So, this will have to do. Although, I think was writing something about listening to Dr. Laura Schlessinger in the car for the very first time on the way home from today’s doctor’s appointment. And I was appalled. Talk about being judgemental! The disgust she exudes between the lines of her advice. It’s disgusting, really. I could’ve given her disgust a run for it’s money, were I her caller. I mean, seriously.

In fact, I was so mad, I could almost feel the spike in cortisol when she told one woman, who called in about what to do with her cheating husband, that she had no recourse. Essentially, that she had “ruined her life forever”. That she’d chosen poorly–whatever was she thinking?–and now, she’d just have to live with it.

“In misery” is how I believe she put it. Forever. Saddled with a man of bad character and two of his rotten kids.

Okay, well, yep. That’s what she said. Oh, another woman? Called in to ask if her fiance had a right to be mad since, after they married, she planned to take his last name? But keep her last name as her middle name?

Dr. Laura’s response: “Why?” Just take his name because if you don’t (I’m paraphrasing here), it’ll make him unhappy.

I mean, good grief. Talk about setting the women’s movement back to the dark ages.

Okay, well, more coming. (See, aren’t you really excited now? And looking forward to the full post?) I’m off to order pizza for my husband’s study group. (Okay, who’m I kidding…it’s for me.)

Write back to you all SOON. Count on it!

April 14, 2009

April 14, 2009

Here’s a real, real quick update:
I am busy. (That’s why just an update…) Super busy. Really good busy. Ergo, my not posting as much as I had been (not that I wasn’t busy then, I was, but now, I’m off the charts…and might I give myself a public “You go girl”. Please, indulge me. I’m fragile.)
Every day, another client calls me with work. It’s GLORIOUS. (Does anybody else hear the “Rocky” theme, or is it just me?)
And still, not problem free. Not by a long shot, although they are much condensed in the moment, confined to the following:
–My desire to eat everything in the house that’s not nailed down or eats me first because I’m so busy and don’t have any colleagues in my house to goof off with when I need a break. Food. That’s my buddy. (Big sigh.)
–My loneliness, since I do work alone in a room all day every day (and does anybody else think this room looks smaller?). And while I know I should get out of the house more–and could, if I sent out a smoke signal to a few peeps–I simply don’t have the time to waste. Because I’m busy. (Get my dilemma?) And still, I’m alone so much, well, I’m starting to see dead people. (Not good.)
–Now that I have mastered the art of tennis and am clearly on my way to the U.S. Open (that is the tennis thingy, right?), I am starting to experience some joint pain in my right hand. And, I’m still chubby. Although, optimistic. Much more optimistic! (In fact, this morning, I actually detected the signs of a cheekbone!)
–I haven’t had a piece of chicken in eight weeks (at least)–not since I was delivered the diagnosis of adrenal distress and inflammation. Which means that I cannot eat too much animal protein OR stress myself out. (HA, good one!) Which means that I miss chicken. Which means that some days, our little rescue dog looks, well, tempting. But of COURSE, that’s disgusting. Never mind. Forget I said that. Good lord, gross.
–Barack Obama did not rescue a dog. I know, this one is not like the others, but still…very disappointing. He could have done a LOT for that cause.
Other than that, life is grand. It is. It really is. And yes, it’s me. I have not been captured by banditos and replaced with an evil surrogate-pretending Pollyanna who’s just acting as if she’s crisis free for the moment so as to lull you into a false sense of security before taking over the world (…okay, too much Keifer Sutherland, but 24 was soooo good last night … and Tony, Tony, who are you? WHAT ARE YOU DOING?).
I’m just in a good mood. We’re not living on skid row. Those adorable Seals freed the Captain being held by pirates. (I say we punish the one in custody by forcing him to spend five days on a life raft with four scorned, bitter, and progesterone-deficient ex-wives–without food, water, or a shotgun so he could actually kill himself…sorry women’s rights groups…) And my husband has never been cuter. What could be bad? (I know, check with me tomorrow…)
Okay, gotta run. Back to work. Until next time!

April 7, 2009

April 7, 2009

It was so nice outside on Sunday, wasn’t it? Actually felt like spring. And, as a result, not even a “Live or Let Die” marathon on the Lifetime Movie Network could keep me from enjoying the sunshine and 60-plus degree temps–even though I loves me a little Sunday sluggin’.
So you can imagine my own surprise when I heard the words tumble out and over my very own only-exercise-cause-I-have-to-and-not-because-I-like-it lips: “Hey,” I said to my husband and stepdaughter, “let’s go play tennis.”
As I finished pronouncing the “nis“, it felt as if my head suddenly swung around on my own neck, as if someone had popped me in the ear. But they didn’t. It was just my gut reaction to having proposed a form of exercise without being bitch-slapped by some power-hungry trainer into doing it.
I mean, was I kidding? Tennis? SOOOOOOO not me. (In fact, I think I may have played tennis once, thought I liked it, joined a tennis club, and never held a racquet again.)
And yet, before I could retract my testimony, the idea was out of the bag. And Dan and Steppy (a new and more efficient name for “C”)–both athletically inclined and eager to do something other than watch a series of middle-aged TV women spy on their cheating husbands–jumped on the suggestion.
“What a great idea!” they said, with enthusiasm.
Oh, yeah, I grumbled. Fan-friggin-tastic. I’m tired. I’m going to be menstruating in 22 days. I’m adrenally challenged and shouldn’t over-exert myself. It’s a job market jungle out there and I’m in the thicket without an axe. What in the he*& was I thinking?
Then, once I realized I was mentally searching for ways to get out of something I myself had proposed (granted, impulsively), I decided to go with it in lieu of appearing, well, flaky or unstable. (Shut up, you.)
It’s in that spirit that I applied some fresh lipstick, shoved my feet into a pair of tired and battered sneakers, dug out the sports bra (and then shoved it back in the drawer–no need to be strapped into a vice on the weekend), and prepared myself for two hours of painful exertion.
————————————-
And so, we dusted off the two racquets my parents bought Dan for his birthday two years ago–the ones that have been unused for 24 months, hanging like a confused taxidermist’s special in our garage just above a stack of dirty boxes. Then, we walked over to the courts in the park, my husband and Steppy whistling like two happy idiots. (Did they not get the agony that awaited?)
I, on the other hand, was deep in thought. I needed a strategy–a way to appear athletic without a) smudging my lipstick, b) appearing dork-like and c) showing my lack of physical prowess, if you will. It was a tall order.
As we approached the courts, I heard the Peter Gunn theme playing in my head–and took my place on one side of the net with Steppy, thoughts racing, groping the long hard rod of a tennis racket as if it were an AK-47. Dangerous and/or useless, if not used properly.
While Dan gave us instructions on how to play from the other side of the net, I wished I had slathered on a soup ladle’s worth of sunscreen, since parts of my exposed skin were already starting to crisp like turkey bacon.
I couldn’t help but think, with longing and probably a dreamy expression, how you can’t get a melanoma-inducing sunburn watching cable from the sofa.
Big sigh.
——————————————
Rather than go into the gory details (i.e., my hitting the tennis ball into the basketball courts approximately 12 times, swinging at the air 46 times, “running the court” to keep my heart rate up in the hopes of shrinking my donkey even ever so slightly [much to the horror of Steppy who was mortified by my jumping and yelping “LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME!”]), it wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined.
I even think that, despite my many faux paus, I showed a little promise! (At least that’s what my brilliant husband who likes his life the way it is said!)
We left the park injury-free, save a little dehydration and Steppy telling me the now tepid water in my bottle (which she proceeded to drink once hers was empty) tasted like “warm blood”. (I didn’t press, given what I already know about her mother, and figuring what I don’t know won’t hurt me.)
There were no temper tantrums, no excessive texting (hard to do when you’re gasping for oxygen), and no tearful lectures of how unimportant I was in the scheme of everybody else on the planet. Everything went smoothly, especially since I eventually got out of the way to let Steppy be center stage with her daddy.
It was all good, my dear readers. Happy to report. Of course, let’s see how it goes this weekend. Not that I want to be a pessimist, but you just never know.
I’ll keep you posted!

March 29, 2009

March 29, 2009

As if adrenal fatigue, a bout of inflammation, a snarly stepdaughter, six months of recession, and 14 straight days in a row without animal protein aren’t enough. Good grief. Life just doesn’t stop happening, now does it? (Well, okay, not that I invite the alternative, but still…)

I swear this new crisis is surely going to put me over the edge. Have me toggling off of Bowman’s Tower for real this time and I’m not sure if I’m kidding.

Here’s the story:

Yesterday, I’m innocently working on an interview piece for this beloved Web site when I get a phone call from “Sally”, the woman who cleans my house and has been doing so for four years now (since I moved back here from Chicago). Sally comes on alternating Tuesdays and was here just this week. Since I work from home, I’m often here to greet her and exchange a little conversation. Frankly, it’s nice to have the company (and even nicer to have somebody other than me do the deep down scrub I know is necessary but I can’t bring myself to get good at…). And over the years, we’ve come to know a lot about each other.

In any event, this past time she did her usual bang up job and left and I assumed I wouldn’t see or hear from her for at least another two weeks.

But I was wrong.

—————————————————————————–

The next day I got a phone call. It was Sally delivering some bad news that frankly nobody should get without at least a) a conscience-altering substance at the ready, or b) warning. In hindsight, I should’ve never picked up the telephone. But when I saw her number come up on the caller ID, I had no reason to believe her news would be anything other than helpful. And so, I answered with the innocence of someone who goes into a convenience store for cupcakes and walks right into a hold up.

“Hi Sal!”

“Oh hey Jill,” she said, sniffing, sounding like she’d either just woken up, sobered up, or finished a good cleansing cry. She went on to tell me about a new product that removes dog hair from furniture easily and quickly, lulling me into a false sense of security before hitting me hard.

“Jill,” she said, “I’m not going to be able to clean your house anymore. I’m really sorry.”

Huh?

“It’s just that going up and down those stairs, picking up the rugs, cleaning the floors, getting around all the dog hair, I’m tired,” she said. “I’m pushing 60, you know. It’s just too much. Your house, it’s just too big.”

Say what? Who are we, the Spellings? Did Donald Trump design us a palace or do we live in a modest 2800-square foot townhouse in the suburbs.

Oh my God, Sal. You can’t leave us. You can’t. You’re more than just someone who cleans our house, you clean the clutter out of my frontal cortex. When you glide over the dusty floors with your Swiffer Wet Jet, I get goose bumps. The birds sing, the clogged passages in my sinuses turn into the Dalai Lama, that turn of phrase that I just can’t get suddenly becomes a symphony. With the dirt goes the chaos in my brain. You cannot leave us to languish in the muck. For the sake of my head, my livelihood, my family, the good of society. Please, PLEASE, I beg of you, STAY. DON’T GO.

YOU CAN’T LEAVE ME.

—————————————————————————————–

And so it went. I offered her more money and even tried to problem solve it by alternating and eliminating rooms in my head, so it’d be easier for her and she could leave without being totally drained. But the fact of the matter remained: I needed my whole house cleaned and it was just too much for her to do it…

…anymore.

Even as I recount the ordeal here, I’m not over it, and several days have passed. I am still holding my chest, hearing her voice over and over in my head–as if she were some polygamist sister-wife being interviewed by Anderson Cooper, her face altered for the sake of anonymity, her voice deep and slurred and filtered.

I hear her words over and over during the night, waking me several times: I can’t clean your house anymore… too big…lift rugs…dog hair…just can’t…so sorry…last time… The bad dreams leave me sweaty and breathless, and craving white-flour carbohydrates.

(I know, I know. It’s hard to read. Take a moment. Look away if you must. But remember: Your family was not the one abandoned like some disease-riddled gaggle of sloths. You’re all okay.)

She’s tired. Hey, I’m tired too, but you don’t see me telling clients I can’t write for them. You tidy up my toilet bowl. I clean up Web content (or what have you). At the end of the day, it’s all the same shit.

Sort of.

————————————————————-

Now listen. I don’t want to sound spoiled or ungrateful or like I can’t empathize with exhaustion. Hello? And I love Sally. Truth be told, she’s like a member of the family. She cleans my mom’s house, my brother’s house, and lots of our friends’ houses. So when she said our house, in particular, was simply too big for her to handle, well, I felt rejected.

There. Okay? Truth time.

I mean, I’m being ousted. Penalized for having too much space. Bounced from but another club–and one I thought you couldn’t get bounced from, which just makes the whole thing worse.

Besides, I’m touchy about this sort of stuff. I’ve already been burned by too many out-of-reach clubs (i.e., sorority sisters who want conformist personalities; married people who can’t invite single people to dinner; people with kids who think people without can’t work a baby gate; suburbanites who don’t like city-ites; city-ites who don’t like people who grew up on the prairie; bio-moms who have voodoo dolls of their husband’s new wives and aren’t afraid to use them; step-moms who can’t access good attorneys; step-kids who visit bearing arms; tall people who don’t understand short people need mirrors hung lower; and, thin people with gold-plated DNA who can’t understand why jeans without spandex just don’t work for everyone. You know, that kinda stuff…)

I guess I just don’t have what it takes to let this kind of thing just roll off my back, as if it were a tiny blip on a very grounded, secure, and overly self-sufficient radar.

Who are we kidding?

This doesn’t even begin to take into account that it’s been a looooooooooooonng time since I’ve cleaned my own house. (I think Gloria Gaynor had just come out with “I Will Survive”.) Touched my own floorboards. Scrubbed my own sink. Why, the few times I’ve attempted to vacuum have turned into a test of wills between me and a very temperamental Hoover Upright.

So you can see my dilemma?

Add to that the fact that I tend to attach to people fairly quickly (e.g., the people who fuss with my hair all came to my wedding), and well, I took the news hard.

Gosh, I’m going to miss Sally. It just won’t be the same–seeing her every other week, sharing our respective updates, getting her little notes to get more Windex or Swiffer dry pads, you know, those personal and intimate kinds of things.

Change. It’s hard. But I guess we can’t stop it. And so, while the lights will go out on 10 Avalon Court for Sally, they just might shine bright for Merry Maids.

We’ll see.

Until next time!

March 20, 2009

March 20, 2009

Here are a few random thoughts to hold you until next week when I come off a super tight deadline and get the chance to write again.

First: So my stepdaughter came for a visit last weekend and, I must say, it feels like the winds of crisis have blown over, at least for the moment. She seemed to have returned to her old quasi-lovable self and that was a good thing. Although, I would still rather drive naked through Harlem at 3 a.m. then take her out for another stepmother/stepdaughter experience. Eat a shoe. Lick the concrete that paves my street. Be the ingénue in movie about deadly alligators. I mean, nobody has to tell me what time of day it is–twice.

But then again, maybe I’m being a little heavy handed here–a little overly sensitive. After all, the little bugger is at that age – with menses just around the corner and puberty knocking ever louder on her cute blonde-headed can’t-seem-to-brush-her-teeth-without-getting-toothpaste-all-over-my-friggin-bathroom door.

Aw, who am I kidding? I’m not taking any chances. I’m tired and giving my central nervous system a break. In fact, when C was here this past weekend, Dan had planned an entire day for us in Center City. We took the train downtown to eat lunch at the phenomenal Reading Terminal Market (thank you Mr. Whoever for creating Falafel, by the way) and then attend the “Go Green” show at the convention center.

I knew it was an important event for my husband, who’s going for his Sustainable Building Advisor and LEED building certifications and trying to meet and greet as many movers and shakers in this area as possible.

And so, in the spirit of being a good, loving, and generous wife, I told him I’d make sure C was okay while he took care of business–knowing he was somewhere in the same room the whole time, and only a stone’s throw away from hearing the ambulance (if necessary).

I figured what could be the harm in her and I walking around and enjoying some of the intriguing vendors, hawking things like organically grown coffee and chocolate, dead sea scrubs, makeup that’s good for the earth, fashion made of natural fabrics, and even a palm reader–with whom, by the way, I’d have given my wisdom teeth for just five quality minutes.

But no, after we sat in a Mercedes Smart Car (very roomy, I must say) for 12 seconds, precious got “tired” – it’s rough to be 11 these days. And, so I agreed to sit down at a table at the then-closed café on the show floor while, as it turned out, she not only “rested” but spent the better of the next two hours texting her boyfriend. (Yes, she has a boyfriend. Don’t ask.)

And did I raise a fuss? Nope. No way. Again, you don’t have to hit me over the head with a dog that’s foaming at the mouth for me to know it’s rabid. I just sat there, repressing my boredom and rage, and read some of the literature I’d snagged from a booth on “The Grid”–a new rag about life as a greenie that I suspect will be defunct in just short of six months.

Now before you think me weak and pathetic, consider that I’m not about to let a hormonal 11-year-old dictate my behavior. Shoot, I’ve got my own hormonal alter-ego to do that. But I am going to pick and choose my battles in the spirit of being self-protective and avoiding another pounding. And really, I didn’t want to raise a fuss for the sake of my husband–cute as he is and trying so hard to get ahead.

So I bit the organic chocolate if you will. And before you go judging me, I suspect you’d have done the same.

———————————————————–

Second: Upon further contemplation, I have to ask what’s to become of this pre-teen and teenage population when they come to be my age? I wonder, when I see C and my teenage nieces and my friend’s kids spend most of their lives looking down at some piece of electronics instead of relating with the things around them.

All I could think of, that day at “Go Green” as I watched C sit and text amidst a showroom floor full of interesting and intriguing products and people, was that she was missing it all. For what? To write “hey” and “no” and “sure” and “okay” and “LOL” and “J” and “:))” and “:((” and “whatever” to somebody on the other end of cell phone?

Seems to me the kids of this generation (I know, I sound old) aren’t living. They’re too busy with gadgets, preoccupied by technology, to be fully present to their environment. And that’s just weird. I wonder what effect will this have on their social skills, ability to connect with others on a deeper level, or the way our species even progresses?

What will their mid-life crises look like?

I know, I’m getting a bit esoteric here and I don’t mean to be. Heck, I’ll be long gone before the entire human population turns completely robotic. Still, I don’t get it. I mean, I’d rather get my palm read than text any day of the week.

Seriously.

—————————————————————-
Third: Now on to more important matters–Death.

I am slightly freaked out about Natasha Richardson. I mean, she was only 45 years old and so lovely and, frankly, if she lived close by or we went to college together or even took a shared course on acting, I suspect we could’ve been friends.

I liked Natasha. She was a good actress. And she seemed like a real person. Genuine, if you will.

I don’t want to analyze what happened all too much–especially since I’m just seeing and reading it 400th hand. And I know that life is short, anything can happen at any time, we’re all going to die, that’s why we have to live for the moment, love our peeps, dance like no one’s looking (or what’s the corny song?), blah, blah, blah…

And yet, when death happens to someone so young and vital–with so much to live for–and so suddenly and so tragically, well, none of that matters at all. Really, it just plain old sucks.

And so, for what it’s worth, my heart goes out to her family. I know they are celebrities and I am just a shrinking, middle-aged, over-thoughtful Jewish girl writing on a Costco-bought Gateway from her home office in the suburbs, but I send my condolences just the same.

Until next time.

March 12, 2009

March 12, 2009

Yesterday I got the results of my most recent blood tests–the ones I’ve been chomping at the bit to get and talk about with the new doctor. As it turns out, the news is not so good, although it sure does explain things. Essentially, I am sorely depleted of Vitamin D and register high on the inflammation scale, which puts me at risk for a whole host of delightful conditions that I will not document here for the universe to make true. (Knock spandex.) Not that you need to know all this, but then again, my life is an open blog…Deep breath, Jill. Deep breath…

Imagine you are a bird with long white slender wings and gliding ever higher, higher, moving up, up and up until you’re invisible to even the tops of trees. As you float in a sea of blue sky, there are white clouds beneath you ready to catch you like a drop of tea even though you’re a lot heavier and would probably drop clear through them into some random landfill. Isn’t it always the way? (Accidental snort here.) And by the way, I have no clue as to what this whole section means but it sure does feel good. And, sounds super poetic, don’t you think? As in real “Poetry”. I mean, does anybody else smell a second career here or is it just me?
As if that weren’t enough, my adrenal glands, which monitor the “fight or flight” instincts in our bodies, are exhausted and, as a result, are wreaking havoc.

To translate using story (because who doesn’t love a good story?): I–one short chubby but tenacious and well-intentioned Jewish girl struggling to stay afloat in a world where, frankly, there are no good jobs and all the good men are taken (except you, hon, and you know who you are…)–am innocently walking in the woods when a tiger jumps in front of me from out of nowhere. My adrenals kick in to produce adrenaline that helps to prevent me from panicking so I can wrestle that tiger (i.e., work, slow metabolism, Fox News, ornery relatives, exes with voodoo dolls, personal trainers with an ax to grind looking for an easy scapegoat, and impressionable step-people, etc.) and bring it to its knees. Then, when it’s over and providing I’m not ground people-meat, my adrenals come back down to normal where I remain, as always, calm. Once again.

Except, well, oops.

Seems my adrenals, out of a sea of billions, are a tad confused and instead of coming down–ever–they’re convinced there’s always a tiger at my donkey. So to make up for their always being “on” if you will, they’re taxing the sh*& out of my other hormones for assistance (think pesky new employee: where’s the bathroom, where’s the coffee maker, how do I get a trashcan, why won’t this printer work, a staff meeting you say, what staff meeting?, etc.).

This phenomena, in turn, leads to all kinds of craziness: Slow metabolism, fatigue, general malaise, anxiety, foggy thinking, can’t locate my car keys, why are my socks in the refrigerator, blah, blah, blah. You get the drift. And so boring, really.

Suffice to say, that’s it in a nutshell–the easy explanation no doctor will give you. But you can always find it here, my friends. That’s right. So tip your waiters. And, please don’t scrimp.
—————————————–

And now, it’s time to answer the obvious question: After rambling on and on about inflammation, Vitamin D, and the clinical rationale for how adrenal systems should operate, let me outline the proposed treatment.

Turns out, there is no magic pill to clean this whole mess up, as I had hoped and even anticipated. To the contrary, I have to exercise, still. Eat more salmon and LESS CHICKEN–the mainstay of Jill’s diet, by the way. (It’s as if Stephen King and Michael Pollen got together to conspire my bleak metabolic situation.) More vegetarian crap: Beans, tofu, seitan. Lots of omega-3s. A ballet of pretty little supplements, wrapped in cotton and smoky glass. And the mandate of meditation.

Oy. How did 40-some years of diet and exercise land me here?

Anyway, I guess it could be worse (yes, I know, it could be for sure). And yet, should these things fail to make an indent in six to eight weeks, well then, we’ll see. On to Plan B, I guess. (Although I’m not sure what that is yet, but in my dreams, it involves chocolate, a new rug for the living room, and a winning lottery ticket…)

Stay posted…

March 8, 2009

March 8, 2009

A short blog about drinking…

This has been a glorious weekend. The first after a series of three, where the focus has been on a) my husband’s daughter as the nucleous of our universe and b) me as the evil-wicked one-armed wart-infested cross-eyed disposably-good-for-nothing stepmother. And let me tell you, these few days have been a much-welcome reprieve–kind of like taking a hot sudsy bath with lavendar infusion after along day of toiling on the icy Tundra. At least on my end (since my husband does love his daughter unconditionally, as he should…).

So to celebrate (at least on my end), Dan and I kicked it off with a Friday night soiree at a friends’ house for great laughs, “Flight of the Concord” videos on YouTube, and never-ever-too-much Thai Food. And now, on Sunday, we’re wrapping things up. Just back from seeing “The Reader” (finally!), we’ve made a deal to part for a few hours to do some respective work (me to write a blog, him to study for his upcoming LEED Certification Exam)–and then regroup at 0:600 for a little drinkin.

That’s right, drinkin. And I’m not talking Kool Aid or fruit juice. I’m talking booze. As in “I’ve been to the liquor store and now I’m going to enjoy my purchase”. To those of you (which would be everybody I’ve known or spent time with since birth) who know me as somebody who never drinks (since I always prefer my calories in food), surprise surprise. Mommy’s changin.

As a result, this Sunday night, unlike all others, while Dan and I watch 60 Minutes and ponder how many hours we have left before we get caught up in another Monday grind, we’ll also be happily boozin’ it up. Taking little sips of whatever zippy we can find in our modest liquor cabinet–barely larger than two stacked breadbaskets–in between breaths and contemplations of all kinds.

That’s because, “boozin’” (along with Twittering and paying for stuff with Paypal) is quickly becoming one of my new favorite pasttimes. And all it took was one errant stepdaughter, two unexpected new wrinkles, and a crashing world economy.

But then again, they say timing is everything.
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Now, before any of you potential clients or employers start googling my competitors or shredding my resume, let me give you my definition of boozin: It is three conservative sips of a Riunite ripoff, a fruity schnapps concoction, a Bailey’s Irish Cream, or some reasonable facsimile thereof–often tempered with ice or seltzer water. Because frankly, a small injection’s worth is all I need to give my adrenal glands the night off.

It is, in fact, the need for less that makes boozin’ so appealing. That, and the fact that in the world of boozin, I’m a “lightweight”. And this, my friends, is the realization of a 46-year-old dream.

At least for me.

Why just this weekend, it took only two half glasses of dimestore Sangria (my husband is so good at finishing what I’ve started) to arrive at a satsifyingly-slightly-bigger-than tipsy. Lightweight in action, she sips, she glides…

Add to that last night’s tablespoon worth of Baileys, and, in true lightweight fashion, I had more this weekend than I did in all of, say, 1985–when I was wrapping up graduate school and bartending on the weekends at the Famous Atlantic Fish Company in the heart of touristy Boston.

So you see, when I say I’m boozin, it’s for real. Count on it.
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So what’s the point of this post? Well, actually, there is no point. That’s the beauty of a post about boozin–and boozin in general. There’s no end goal. No objective to be met. No expectation to be satisfied. You’re not looking for a job. A reduction in your mortgage payment. A five-pound weight loss after two straight nights eating nachos. Nobody’s asking you to take a pay cut, reduce your hourly rate, or get Botox. Booze says, “Go ahead and grow old. Have a temper tantrum in public. It’s all good.”

You do it–you booze up–because you can. And, if you’re lucky, it’ll be yummy, the effects will be mild and shortlived, and it won’t grab you by the throat and drag you through crushed granite for more time than you’ve got to spend.

For me, I’m just fine, thank you. Save the fact that those 12-or-so collective sips in 48 hours have given me a headache. And this morning, I had to wrestle my way into a pair of blue jeans–and the blue jeans won (she writes, from now the comfort of black spandex). Both of which mean that drier days are on the horizon. At least for me.

Fortunately, I love coffee.

Until next time…

March 2, 2009

March 2, 2009

Everybody, everybody, so so sorry I haven’t posted in a week or so now (I know, such a bad clichéd and overused blog line), but I’ve been busy traveling for work and, frankly, licking my most recent wounds. After all, it never feels good to have your 46-year-old donkey kicked by a troubled 11-year-old. And even though I know I’m the adult, it grows increasingly difficult to remember that when I need to the most. Like in trying to get past the things that C said to me last weekend – namely that I was about as important in the scheme of our blended family as, say, a hangnail that won’t heal or a drawer full of wooden nickels.

Besides, even we bloggers need a break from time to time. Were I able to pipe in some hold music like, say, the elevator-ed version of Coldplay’s Viva La Vida (because “hold” music is never the real thing), I would in a heartbeat. I mean, wouldn’t it be nice to click to this site and hear Chris Martin’s silky undertones? Can’t you just see him, bopping around on the virtual stage like a human grasshopper? Feel the pounding of the drums and the haunting hum of the piano? Doesn’t it make you want to crawl inside the notes and let them carry you off, like some prince on a white horse in a fairy tale dream made real?

Doesn’t it? DOESN’T IT?

Big sigh.
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So this weekend, again, we had C. Again (did I already say that?). This time, she brought her trusty girlfriend S with her (“twins separated at birth,” is how C refers to them–it’s only slightly cute). And while she and S were sleeping on Saturday morning, Dan and I took the dogs for our usual walk. Only when we got back to the house, we were greeted by two excited little girls and the smell of something burning.

Turns out, C and S were awake and, instead of waiting for us to come back, had decided to make toast in the toaster oven (something C has never attempted in the four years she’s been coming to visit us). Here’s where the story gets a bit garbled for me, but from what I could gather through their childlike retelling, the paper towel they used to grab the finished toast from the oven somehow caught fire and they had to quickly douse it out in the sink. Of course, it was over in a flash without any greater incident. Still, they tried to call both Dan and me on our cell phones once it was over, but we didn’t hear them ring ’cause they were on vibrate. (We bad.) So, C did something almost as frightening as setting the house on fire:

She called her mother. (gasp) (gasp again) (gasp again and again)

Yep, the same woman who, just four months into our marriage, refused to let C visit us for almost five months because (among other false accusations) my husband raised his voice to her. Imagine: A parent actually yelling at his child. Definitely punishable by law, don’t you think?

As Dan and I listened to C’s words, now coming out of her mouth in super slow motion, I looked at Dan and he looked at me and, even though neither of us are mind readers, I could tell by our bookend looks of horror that we were thinking the exact same thing: If Mommy Dearest prohibited C from seeing us because Dan spoke a few decibels louder than usual, we could only imagine how she’d react to a situation that involved actual flames.
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Dan spoke first: “You did WHAT?”

C: “I called my mom.”

Dan: “But why? Wasn’t the problem solved? And didn’t you feel proud of yourself for solving it?”

C: “Yes, but I wanted to tell someone.”

C’s friend S: [Nothing. She didn’t say anything. All weekend. Not one word. Stunned into silence. Nada.]Dan: [Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God….] He didn’t say this out loud but I could see it running along his brain like the days top headlines on cable television…

It’s in these moments I have learned, in my some 48 months of excruciating step-parenting, to excuse myself–less I start defying the sound barrier with my own screams. So, I immediately did what I fear I’ll likely be remembered for doing often and best: I went to the bathroom. And I stayed there for an excessively long time in the hopes that by the time I came out, the crisis would be over. And the house would be filled with love and raucous laughter.

What I got was somewhere in between (skewed more to the former). When I finally did surface, some 15 minutes and four Oprah articles later, Dan and C were upstairs behind closed doors in her bedroom having what I later came to learn was a “come to Jesus” talk about what really happened two years ago, when we couldn’t see her. (To which I say: Hallelujah and finally.)

And S was standing in the kitchen looking like a wax statue–saying and doing nothing (poor kid). So, naturally, I invited her to have some hot chocolate and watch an age-appropriate movie on cable. After all, I would never leave a kid in a bind.
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I really don’t know what else to say about all of this except having kids is a lot of work, I now know firsthand. I don’t profess it’s any easier for bio-parents – probably harder in so many ways – but at least when you’re the parent, you have the freedom and flexibility to do what must be done. And you know that, if nothing else, your kid loves you. They have to–it’s the law of nature.

When you’re the stepparent, you can try and try and be loving and kind and embrace the not-your-kid with all the gusto you have inside and be as diplomatic as any world leader and still, often, it won’t matter. You’ll never win. Ever. If the kid loves you or even just likes you, the other parent won’t and she’ll act accordingly. And if the kid hates you, well, you’ll have to wrestle that cat for a very long time.

Which is why I am always grateful for pizza and new boots and having really good hair–and an imagination that lets me believe Winnie and Elvis, our rescue dogs, are devoted to my wellbeing. Would throw over a pound of raw prime rib dangling from a string of pure beef sausage to see me smile even just for a moment… And that’s all I’ll say about that. At least, for now…

In the meantime, I’m gonna talk to my editor about ushering in a little music. Until next time…

February 22, 2009

February 22, 2009

Being a stepparent is not for the faint of heart. In fact, sometimes, it just downright sucks.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that since Dan and I got married, now almost three years ago, we’ve had to endure countless lawsuits and custody skirmishes courtesy of his litigious and insecure ex-wife.

Despite these issues (during which I’ve been wrongly accused of doing horrific things), I have always gone above and beyond to treat all of my stepchildren (including the one who ultimately threw us over to go back into a religious cult) with kindness, generosity, and love, embracing them as if they were “blood”.

And yet, this weekend, my now 11-going-on-12-year-old stepdaughter showed me that no matter how much I give, do, or put myself out, it will never matter: I will never be all that important. And sometimes, not even worthy of treating like a real person.

Case in point: My husband had to go to a day-long class on Saturday, so I took C out for a Stepmother/Stepdaughter day. Or so was the plan. I was thinking about it all week, figuring what we could do that would be fun for her. So the plan was to take her to see Confessions of a Shopaholic (which I knew she wanted to see), for a lunch that involved lots of sauce and cheese, to Michaels for new fabric (since she makes clothes for her iPod–very inventive, by the way), and to Borders for the next installment in the Stephanie Myers series (one of her favorite authors).

Well, “selfish” me.

Here’s how the day went instead: We had lunch whereby I spent most of it eating off of her plate while she texted her friends. Then, with an hour to kill, I took her into Marshall‘s for new slippers (because I had gotten her a pair that she loved there previously and thought it would be nice to update them) until the movie started. Once there, she wanted to sit on one of the fluffy chairs “alone” while I “did what I wanted to do.” But there was nothing I wanted to do–the point was to be together. And I was certainly not about to leave her alone in the store, especially since she’s not my daughter and if anything happened to her, I could never forgive myself.

Still, as I continued to tell her she had to stay by my side, she continued to plead and beg that I was being unfair and that she would be fine. As I held firm, so did she. And before I knew it, she was in full-throttle temper tantrum, finally running off in a huff into the dressing room.

Some fun day, huh?

So, I took several deep breaths and, wishing I had an IV of Sangria coursing through me, plucked her from the dressing room and told her, forget the movie, we’re going home. And by the way, “You’ve been incredibly rude and inconsiderate to me. I’ve planned a nice day for us, and you’ve ruined it and I think you owe me an apology.”

To wit she said, “I don’t care and no I don’t, I want to go home. NOW.”

And so we got into the car, and she promptly climbed in the backseat. I repeated what I’d said in the store, “C, I am not your mother and I am not your father. And so, what you do with them is up to them. But when you’re in my care, I will not leave you alone.”

She promptly started to scream, “You don’t trust me! You don’t even trust me! I have taken safety classes and I know what to do and my mom lets me alone all the time.”

To which I said, calmly, “I do trust you. I don’t trust anybody else. And again, I am not your mother or your father. So when you’re in my care, you have to stay close to me.”

But she held to her story, screaming and crying, as if I were Godzilla driving a Honda Element.

So fun.

But then, finally, when I pulled over to try to ratchet down the hysterics, she looked me in the eye and said calmly, “You’re not number one in my father’s life, you know.”

GadZOOKS, where did THAT come from?

So I said, “What?”

And she said, “You’re after me, and Heidi and …” she began to rattle off the names of my husband’s other three children who, along with Heidi, have shunned Dan for their religion. And, as a result, play absolutely no role in our lives.

As she described how I fell just under the dirt that held up the totem pole, I wondered if I might have left some accidental chocolate for comfort in the glove department. I could not believe what I was hearing. I could not fathom that this kid, who I’ve embraced and loved, just like Heidi who’d left us, was talking to me like I was an old used maxi pad crumpled into a ball and rolling down a rainy gutter.

Of course, once I was able to close my mouth and gather my wits (kind of like the way you do when somebody comes from behind and whacks you in the back with a crowbar), I calmly explained to her that “there was no competition for her father’s affections. He has plenty of love for all of us.”

Now there is much more to the story than that–it didn’t even begin to end there (nor did the agony)– but if my point is simply to convey how being a stepparent is about as fulfilling as scraping poop off your sneaker for a living, well, then I think I’ve made it here.

And now, I’m off to get that Sangria after all, even though it’s only 2 o’clock on Sunday afternoon. But what the heck, I’ve earned the privilege of temporary altered consciousness. (Because 1/3 of a glass will do it just fine.) Wouldn’t you say?

Until next time.

February 12, 2009

February 12, 2009

This morning, the electricity went out in our house at approximately 6:05 a.m., just when Kiran Chetry and John Roberts were about to deliver the day’s headlines on CNN. As I lay there in bed, listening to my favorite morning team talk about the just-passed stimulus package–and to the wind gusts outside our bedroom window that sounded strong enough to lift the house off its very foundation–the overhead fan suddenly went dead. There was a subtle thud and then…no lights…no glare of the computer…no coffee brewing in the kitchen downstairs.

Dead silence.

Of course, Dan and the dogs had just left on their morning walk, so it was the perfect storm in terms of stimulating my already over-active imagination. I grabbed the blankets close and visualized myself sweating and begging some horrible apparition to “keep away, you just KEEP AWAY FROM ME…”

After a few unpleasant minutes, however, I lowered the blanket, sat up straight, and took a deep breath into my lungs. Good grief, when will these hormones give it a rest?

Then, with newly amassed composure, I reached over into Dan’s nightstand to get a flashlight, when I found a LOVE NOTE FROM ANOTHER WOMAN AND SOME PICTURES. (Kidding, silly…)

I turned the flashlight on and aimed it at the ceiling, humming “When the Shark Bites…” for no good reason, my eyes riveted to the bright circle of light around the now motionless fan. I sat there for 30 minutes, thinking about all I had to do that day requiring an electrical connection and growing anxious, until I heard Dan’s keys in the front door. “The power’s out,” I yelled.

“Oh yeah?” he said, the door slamming behind him. I got up, ran downstairs, and promptly shined the flashlight in his face. “See?”

Then, I followed him and the dogs from the foyer to the kitchen, where he gave them each a treat and promptly went about the business of surveying the house. He turned on the miner’s light now wrapped around his ear and retrieved some Home Depot special from the kitchen drawer–an oversized and, no doubt, overpriced contraption that’s part flashlight, part radio, and part intercom.

Then, moving to the rhythm of the radio’s static, he crouched over and started going room to room like a stealth wolf, checking in corners, pulling up hard and heavy blinds, and commanding the dogs to “give me space.” All the while assuring me we’d be okay–he’d take care of us. After all, he was a “survivalist”.

To which I replied: “Honey, we’re not lost at sea or under seige. The power’s out.”

“Or so you think,” he said.
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Later that morning, after Dan scoured the house of its evil spirits and manipulated the electric-powered garage door well enough to get his car out, my friend Ellen called from Chicago. She told me about the time the power went out in her house a few weeks ago, when they had had those unexpected and uncharacteristic winter tornados. “It was out for four days, could you imagine?” Of course, it had only been two hours and counting before I started Jonesing for a little electricity of my own, so I couldn’t.

“How did you manage?” I asked, knowing full well that my friend Ellen, whose screen doors and mailboxes are wired up to an expensive security system, is always ready for emergencies.

“You know, I had lots of candles and coolers with ice,” she said.

“For your Pinot Grigio?” Because my friend Elly, well, she likes the Pinot.

“Hell no,” she said. “I can drink that stuff piping hot. More for the food perishables.”

She told me that she also has a small television that runs on batteries in lieu of going a day without contrived entertainment–and how I should too “just in case”.

“You know, in times of darkness, you just need to know how to get through things by watching whatever you can get your hands on–Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, old sitcoms. It all helps.”

True dat, I thought, fantasizing about Regis and Kelly.

As I listened to the rhythm of her wisdom, I started to wonder if I’d ever see those two again? If we’d ever get our electricity back? And, if we didn’t, how would I brew my coffee? Cool off without a ceiling fan? Blow dry my hair? Watch the girls duke it out on The View–or see the hairs on my chin in enough light to effectively pluck them? After all, it was going on three hours now. And I was starting to feel anxious, like ants were crawling up and down my legs.

And then, suddenly, without warning, I heard a whir, a beep, and the sounds of second- shift anchors on cable news. Aaah, the ceiling fan, the cordless phone base, the television in the bedroom. Electricity, glorious and powerful. It was BACK.

I swear, there is no better feeling than when you know for sure you can microwave your oatmeal. Really, think about it.

Until next time!

February 10, 2009

February 10, 2009

If getting a book deal is simply a matter of landing a crowded plane onto the Hudson (because you know that’s coming) or birthing 14 babies without having a life partner, job, or ethics, well, I’m on it.

At least doing something ridiculously far out and extreme would give me the sense of renewed purpose I’m seeking, beyond just getting up every morning and heading to work just 10 feet away from where I sleep.

Sure, I’m glad to have freelance projects. And they’re good ones, really. But I want a job–the kind that requires me to get dressed every morning, put on lipstick and my favorite boots, get in the car, and actually drive off. You know, leave not only the building, but the actual area.

Big sigh.

Until that happens, I’ll be here in my “home office”, writing and strategically communicating with clients and all the voices in my head, engaging in my quiet addiction to Twitter, and checking from various and creative angles my crows feet in the bathroom mirror. So if you’ve got a good joke, words of encouragement, a rockin’ job lead, whatever, send it to me at streetcarcomm@aol.com.

In the meantime, I’ll be back with a happier post by the weekend.

Promise.

Until then…!

February 5, 2009

February 5, 2009

I’ve come to an important conclusion this past week: It takes a village to shrink an ass. That’s the truth. And believe me, if anyone’s got a village, it’s me. Friends and concerned observers from as far away as Canada and as close as up the block continue to tell me what to do to shed my peri-menopausal paunch. And finally, finally, I think I’ve found the recipe for doing it:

· Protein and lots of it.

· Just enough carbohydrates to keep your feet moving.

· A pin’s-head worth of healthy fats, but only on those nights you can see the Big Dipper OR a shooting meteor clear enough to sketch it accurately.

· Coffee, black, no cream or artificial sweeter (which I mourn, by the way).

· No diet soda. (Bye bye my pretty little Diet Sunkist, I’ll miss you. I’m blowing a kiss now…)

· No dairy. (Unless, of course, I’m okay with having pain in my knees from now until perpetuity, according to the trainers at my favorite Wellness Center.)

This diet regimen, along with my personal translation of the bestselling book Eat Pray Love (i.e., Walk Cry Run–my new morning ritual done in the park by our house, especially dramatic on those mornings when I miss a particularly tricky patch of black ice and go down like a confused flock of seagulls) and finally, an actual result.

Over the past few weeks, I have managed to shed 7 pounds–a story of hope and inspiration in and of itself (somebody call Oprah), especially when you consider that I’ve been walking, lifting weights and dieting for 24 straight months and the only thing I’ve lost is my will to live and my car keys.

Coincidence? I think not.

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And still, while I am delighted to bore all my readers with these surely-tedious-by-now posts about my hormones (see previous post) and trimming the fat, do NOT look for this deliriously exciting subject matter on Facebook. Because, I swear, if one more person tells me I need to be on Facebook (Marcia, Marcia, Marcia), I swear, from here on in, I’m going to write about pizza in every post.

I am digging in my heels.

That’s because I already have a blog, a Web site, two email addresses, a LinkedIn profile, a cell phone, a landline, a walkie talkie, several pens and notepads, an Etch a Sketch, a three-hole punch, the Wii Fit (well, okay, not yet…), two office windows, a Swingline, a traveling backgammon set, and a Twitter account. Good grief, if I add a page on Facebook, when will I have the time to do what’s really important (shop for shoes, stop at Starbucks, schnookie the dogs, change the linens in the guest bedroom, etc.)?

I have to wonder: Can you network so much that you actually start diminishing your returns? And if so, when does that start to happen? When do you hit critical mass, whereby everything that happens from there means, well, nothing?

Besides, what’s so great about Facebook anyway? It’s addicting. Blah, blah, blah. That’s what everyone says: “It’s addicting!” Why just the other night, I was having dinner with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while and one of them spent 45 out of 60 minutes curiously looking down. Little did I know, she was rapt to Facebook on her iPhone. And here I thought she was just really digging into her salad.

I don’t need that kind of temptation, given my already delightfully obsessive personality.

Besides, it wasn’t all that fun interacting with R*c&2 M*##, who cheated on me with my best friend at the time, K@#$n B*%g, back in high school. Why would I want to hear from either one of them 10 some years later? (Okay, 30. There. Are you happy?)

I just don’t get it. People spend entire lifetimes trying to learn forgiveness through meditation, medication, psychotherapy. Today, however, all you need do is set up a page on Facebook, and a 12-step program is no longer necessary. Suddenly forgiveness is simply a matter of hitting “accept” when someone–anyone–asks you for a penny.

Well, not me. If you wronged me in high school, I want a clear and sincere 140-character tweet for all the world to see on why you’re sorry for what you did and how you promise you’ll never do it again. (You all know who you are.) There, that’s 103 characters–plenty of room left over for groveling.

Then, and only then, will I be willing to entertain the notion of accepting you as a friend on my Facebook page. IF, that is, I HAD a Facebook page. Which I don’t. And I won’t.

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OKAY, FINE. Maybe I’ll post one this weekend. But I will NOT over-engage or get all silly about it. Like my best friend, Lorrie. “Oh my gosh,” she went on last night over the telephone, “you can’t believe who sent me an email on Facebook.” Then, she went on to rally off a bunch of gibberish names I hadn’t heard or thought about since Nixon was in office. (Although gosh, it would be great to catch up with just a few of them…) I had to sit through the whole lot of it before I could ask whether we were meeting at Miels or Lulus on Saturday.

I will not do that. I just won’t.

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Oh, and one more thing, if I don’t have my Facebook page up this weekend, check back again in a week or so. I’ve got to write an interview piece for the Wildriverreview.com this weekend (plus a blog, always) and if I don’t get it done, my editor will shoot me. Which means I won’t be able to post a link to it once I’m up and on the air, or what have you. (Insert Sarah Palin wink here…) Well, you know what I’m saying.

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Okay, I guess that’s it. Until next time!

January 30, 2009

January 30, 2009

Okay, I know I’m going to sound like a bad cliché, but yesterday, I was riveted to Oprah Winfrey’s show on bio-identical hormones. She had Suzanne Somers (and the wonderful Christiane Northrup) on talking about them and menopause and how taking them changed her life for the better.

I watched it like a prisoner in captivity might watch a video on how to chip her way through brick. That’s because, just a day earlier, I’d been reading Oprah’s column in her magazine about her recent health issues and hormone-replacement therapies and stumbled upon a passage that literally made me cry. It read:

“…I started talking to more friends in their 40s and 50s, and soon we were all aha’ing each other. This is what some described: Anxiety. Fatigue. Low-grade depression. Lack of confidence, curiosity, drive, ambition. A sense of being overwhelmed. Feeling flat and dead and afraid. A general feeling of malaise…”

Talk about an Aha moment. After months of feeling like a ball of frayed and tangled twine, I realized that these words described me. Tired, always. Sad and weepy. Wondering whether I’ll ever write that book, get a good job, be able to relax from the constant churning of wheels in my mind. And even though I’m not nearly as inundated with stuff as I’ve ever been, I often feel like a hamster buried under a pile of wood. The thought of doing anything makes me want to crawl under the coffee table and rock.

Just the other night, I said to Dan: “It’s not me. None of these feelings. It’s not me. I’m a happy person. Energetic and hopeful. Ready to take on the world. What’s WRONG with me? Where’d I go?”

Now granted, we are living in troubled times, so I don’t ascribe all of my feelings to hormonal jihad. But it’s got a whole lot to do with it. Or so I’ve learned, after reading that passage in O Magazine, bearing witness to Somers’ story, and having an anything-but-gentle conversation with my mother.

Me: I don’t know, why I’m always on edge and crying. Am I crazy? Is it the sleep deprivation that’s doing it?

My mother: YOU’RE NOT CRAZY, YOU’RE IN MENOPAUSE! I WAS DONE WHEN I WAS 45. YOU’RE 46. IT’S MEN-O-PAUSE. HELLO? ANYBODY CAN SEE THAT IT’S MENOPAUSE. I DON’T CARE THAT YOU STILL GET YOUR PERIODS EVERY MONTH. SO WHAT? ONE DAY, THEY’RE JUST GONNA STOP. THAT’S WHAT HAPPENED TO ME. MOM-MOM TOO. THAT’S IT. DONE. [Slight raspberry sound here.] M-E-N-O-P-A-U-S-E. NOW, DON’T YOU FEEL BETTER? [Pause for air.]Me: uh huh.

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Truth be told, I hated her delivery, but she was–is–right. It all makes sense now–the always dieting and never losing weight, the constant exhaustion, the lack of Z’s, the issues of too hot and then, not hot enough, and then some. I’m not crazy. There is no sub-level default in my wiring. I am simply finding my way into another of life’s big transitions. And my hormones are simply kicking up the dust accordingly.

What makes me most crazy is that I needed, shall we say, a frank conversation with my mother to get some validation. (Something I never could have predicted in my younger and more rebellious youth.) She had to tell me to stay the course, find someone to help me address these symptoms so I could move on with a better quality of life. My mother.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my mother and appreciate her good intentions, but shouldn’t the bearer of this news, in particular, been any one of the three doctors I went to see last year? The endocrinologist who told me my blood tests were normal. The physician’s assistant who skirted around almost every issue pertaining to the now obvious symptoms of pending menopause. The pats on the hand–both literal and figurative: You’re fine. Here’s a good book to help you. And well, you’re getting older. Maybe you just won’t sleep that good anymore.

Not a one of them reached out to try and provide some resolution–some assurance of what normal was. Or the possibility that I couldn’t find what I needed in a paperback. Or that maybe, just maybe, I could do something to address the issues other than just accept that life, as I knew it in my 20s and 30s, would never be the same again.

Can anybody relate? If so, write to me at streetcarcomm@aol.com.

Until next time!

January 25, 2009

January 25, 2009

Last week, as you know, I went to Texas with my friends–all nutritionists and personal trainers–and, for most of the overweight and underutilized (shall I say) like me, the kind we’d dub “health fanatics”. I met them when we all worked for Gatorade and, despite their perfect eating habits and dedication to exercise (as opposed to my slugness), I love them anyway. I do. They are brilliant mentors, wildly intelligent and accomplished, not to mention quite beautiful all the way around.

Yet, sometimes, when I’m with them, I have to wonder what they see in me. I am, after all, a bit whiny during our annual excursions (to which I often bring my repressed eating-disordered low-esteemed little-girl Jilly, who waits all year to “let it out” to an understanding crowd, if you will.)

I also don’t love physical fitness to the same degree they do. (Doing it or watching it, as evidenced by their being riveted to a high-stakes game of Sunday pro football, while I longed for two hours of Lifetime Television.) Sure, I walk. Lift weights. But only purely out of necessity–and not necessarily for the joy of it all. The dogs need to do their business. And I refuse to be confused for a young Mama Cass–or a weakling.

And while an eight-hour hike through the desert sounds like a day at the spa for my friends, I much prefer an eight-hour spin around the dessert table. But hey, I learn a lot of stuff from them. I always enjoy being with them (even if I have to call my husband from the bathroom before the day’s activities to reconfirm the information on my health insurance card). They are always interesting and just a little inspiring.

Besides, if you ask me, every crowd needs someone who’s just a little out of the bounds of membership.

Keeps things real.

——————————

And so, this year, like every year, we had our long daily walks and yoga moments. But we also did something different–something we haven’t done in years past, and for me it was a real standout. You see:

Aside from the hours spent playing “Apples to Apples” in the guest villa, the box of cards flanked by bottles of fine Cabernet, homemade chocolate-chip cookies, and balsamic-dressed strawberries. Aside from the two-hour walks around the 200-acres of private ranch–set by steely-haired cactus, llamas, mules, a Red-Horned buck, and a delightful silver-haired Labrador Retriever named Leo. Aside from the post-hike goat cheese and hearts of romaine salad, pumpkin bread, and mid-afternoon joy ride on golf carts that look like they’re detailed daily. Aside from the freshly grilled-salmon and sweet potato dinners, the night of real “Texas Barbeque” delivered to us by private security guards. Aside from each morning’s fine Italian-roast coffee bought special for the occasion at my gal pal’s favorite little out-of-the-way shop.

There is one moment in this weekend, in particular, I will remember for the rest of eternity: The one spent on the Trampoline.

————————————

A trampoline the size of a small baby pool in the middle of almost Tuscany-like surroundings, despite our being just an hour outside of Austin, Texas. Where guest houses, game rooms, and exercise equipment populate four villas dressed in vintage Italian (think columns and distressed stone and painted ceramic). And in front of the gym and outdoor pool area: The trampoline. Again. Wrapped quietly in netting–and just begging to be, well, trampled.

It’s a 65-plus degree day. I looked at the trampoline and then at my five friends, standing beside a scenic overlook that captured a a clear sky, a drought-tired river (now a pillow of hard terra-cotta rock and stone), and a few two-storied caftans swimming precariously in what shallow waters remained.

The scene made me peaceful. Until, that is, my friend Stella, an accomplished Ivy League professor, middle-aged in calendar only, and somebody nobody would ever describe as “introverted” shouted: “C’mon Jilly, check this out! It’s awesome!”

I look over at her as she darts towards the tramp, flings herself up and on, and starts flying up and down on its rubber foundation, her ponytail whipping around like a gaggle of flappers. I can’t help but smile and think: Stella. So cute. But I’m not goin’ on that thing. No way. Have you seen these puppies? And then, I look down at my own self-endowment.

Besides, I’m 46. Aren’t I just a tad bit too old to climb up on a trampoline? I mean sure, we’re not too old to play Pac Man, or board games, or to squeal with glee at feeding carrots to a pack of donkeys (mine notwithstanding). There’s no possibility of joint or lower-back injury there. No risk for a glaucoma outbreak–or some unwelcome hormonal realignment.

But jumping on a trampoline? What’s the point? I mean, somebody is gonna get hurt and since I’ve got the most to lose from a body mass and D-cup perspective, it’s probably going to be me.

————————————————

Yet, as I stood contemplating the pointlessness of it all–and how I was simply too old and too girth-ridden to indulge in more youthful endeavors (after all, my best friend’s young boys jump on the trampoline and besides I’m afraid of heights)–I looked up to find the others had joined. Now, Stella, Lisa, Linda, Chris, and Dixie–most of whom are older than I, even pushing 60–are going up and down and head-to-head in a “who can jump higher” competition that would’ve challenged the most seasoned of leapfrogs.

“C’mon Jilly, C’MON!” they shouted from inside the net. They were holding hands now, riding the calm wave of the tramp, waiting for me to climb aboard. The pressure was on.

So after a few moments of I-can’t-do-this’s, I did: I walked slowly over to my dear friends, pushed the netting aside, put one chubby knee up on the ledge and then another, grabbed Lisa’s hand and then Linda’s, stood precariously up on what felt like shaky ground, and with white knuckles and a less-than-graceful wobble, followed the leader.

“Is everybody ready,” Stella shouted, scanning the faces of the five-woman crowd that looked like kids waiting for the start of the Merry-Go-Round. Turn it on, that’s what our expressions said. Turn it on! And then…

“Okay ladies,” Stella yells, “let’s JUMP!” And before I could protest, we were out of the gate and airborne. Twirling, giggling, jiggling, twisting, and yelping like a bunch of second graders. Yes, even me.

It was fantastic.

So thank YOU my girls–for making me. (And the nausea didn’t have any kind of hang time, so no worries.)

And to everybody else, take the leap, won’t you? I highly recommend it.

Until next time!

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January 15, 2009

January 15, 2009

Well, I’m off to Texas tomorrow, where everything is bigger and basted in barbeque sauce. Not that I imagine there’ll be much of that stuff, since I’m meeting a group of mostly nutritionists–friends from when I worked at Gatorade in Chicago. Most of us middle-aged, we’ve managed to stay in touch over the past four years by meeting every Martin Luther King weekend for a little R&R at “Fort Mort”: a private ranch just outside of Austin owned by one of my gal pal’s wealthy clients.

Since my husband’s been super sick over the past several weeks, there’s no better place for me to land than in the soft arms of those women who’ve dedicted their lives to a healthy immune system. On that end, I’ve already done my pre-work by taking irritating amounts of Vitamin C and Zicam (surely enough to cause my PCP to frown, but hey, whatever).

I’m sure I’m overdoing the prescribed limits, but I am determined to find my way South. No amount of nose-blowing or hurling is gonna keep me off that Delta flight (not even Delta itself, which must have changed my flight number at least a dozen times since I booked the ride several months ago.)

Especially since, for once, it looks like my trip is timed well. They’re forecasting 0-degree windchills for tomorrow here in Philly, all while I’m gaining wind sheer, hopefully, up up and away on a moderately sized aircraft.

My task is to keep this good health going through at least Tuesday, when my all-too-brief vacation officially ends. Only then, can I revel in disease without the pressure of travel, and drop without a care like an overworked sherpa.

Which reminds me: I’ve got to pack.

Why does this particular chore suck so much. I mean, what is it about being middle-aged and squishy (my new descriptor for chubby, since the conjoined sound of “chu” and the “ub” suddenly hurts like fingernails on a chalkboard) that makes packing such a chore? After all, I’m not going to the inaugural ball or packing for a weekend of clubbing in New York.

To the contrary, there’s a good chance I’ll be the only one who brings lipstick and a bra for the weekend. So why all the angst?

I think it must be inbred–imprinted in me at such a young age never to leave the house without makeup or to forget about my bulk–that despite my assertive age, this brand of angst will never end.

In fact, I fear I’ll never be any less self-conscious than I am today, even though I’m going to a place where nobody cares how I look or really what I do–and where the most strenuous activity I need pack for is raising a wine glass to my lips so many times, I could very well suffer a repetitive wrist injury.

Now Jill, don’t overthink it. Just pack those beloved black stretch pants and be done with it.

Why thank you, alter-ego, sensible-voice-that-doesn’t-surface-nearly-enough. I think I’ll take that advice and run with it. Well, maybe I’ll just start with a slow-walk…get in the mode…

In any event, I hope you all have a wonderful bone-chilling weekend–whatever that means for you. (Hey, bone chilling can be good, uh, I think…)

Until next time!

January 13, 2009?

Well, I’m off to Texas tomorrow, where everything is bigger and basted in barbeque sauce. Not that I imagine there’ll be much of that stuff, since I’m meeting a group of mostly nutritionists–friends from when I worked at Gatorade in Chicago. Most of us middle-aged, we’ve managed to stay in touch over the past four years by meeting every Martin Luther King weekend for a little R&R at “Fort Mort”: a private ranch just outside of Austin owned by one of my gal’s wealthy clients.

Since my husband’s been super sick over the past several weeks, there’s no better place for me to land than in the soft arms of those women who’ve dedicted their lives to a healthy immune system. On that end, I’ve already done my pre-work by taking irritating amounts of Vitamin C and Zicam (surely enough to cause my PCP to frown, but hey, whatever).

I’m sure I’m overdoing the prescribed limits, but I am determined to find my way South. No amount of nose-blowing or hurling is gonna keep me off that Delta flight (not even Delta itself, which must have changed my flight number at least a dozen times since I booked the ride several months ago.)

Especially since, for once, it looks like my trip is timed well. They’re forecasting 0-degree windchills for tomorrow here in Philly, all while I’m gaining wind sheer, hopefully, up up and away on a moderately sized aircraft.

My task is to keep this good health going through at least Tuesday, when my all-too-brief vacation officially ends. Only then, can I revel in disease without the pressure of travel, and drop without a care like an overworked sherpa.

Which reminds me: I’ve got to pack.

Why does this particular chore suck so much. I mean, what is it about being middle-aged and squishy (my new descriptor for chubby, since the conjoined sound of “chu” and the “ub” suddenly hurts like fingernails on a chalkboard) that makes packing such a chore? After all, I’m not going to the inaugural ball or packing for a weekend of clubbing in New York.

To the contrary, there’s a good chance I’ll be the only one who brings lipstick and a bra for the weekend. So why all the angst?

I think it must be inbred–imprinted in me at such a young age never to leave the house without makeup or to forget about my bulk–that despite my assertive age, this brand of angst will never end.

In fact, I fear I’ll never be any less self-conscious than I am today, even though I’m going to a place where nobody cares how I look or really what I do–and where the most strenuous activity I need pack for is raising a wine glass to my lips so many times, I could very well suffer a repetitive wrist injury.

Now Jill, don’t overthink it. Just pack those beloved black stretch pants and be done with it.

Why thank you, alter-ego, sensible-voice-that-doesn’t-surface-nearly-enough. I think I’ll take that advice and run with it. Well, maybe I’ll just start with a slow-walk…get in the mode…

In any event, I hope you all have a wonderful bone-chilling weekend–whatever that means for you. (Hey, bone chilling can be good, uh, I think…)

Until next time!

January 11, 2009

January 11, 2009

The other day, while my husband was getting into his Scooby Doo pajamas (yes, we cling to our youth in strange ways at 10 Avalon), I was startled and then elated by what I saw around his mid-section.

And being the loving and supportive wife that I am, I couldn’t resist commenting: “Honey, look at you. Is that what I think it is?”

He looked at me, at first confused, then down and seemingly proud (as evidenced by the straightening of his shoulders and well-executed Sara Palin wink), and then, at last, horrified. “Yes, and please don’t stare.”

But I couldn’t help myself. It’s like watching a couple make out at the table next to you. Or a five-year-old sass off to a hapless parent at the supermarket. You don’t want to watch, but you just can’t help yourself. Besides, it’s remotely validating to realize I’m not the only one in this house who has to watch the carbohydrates.

I never thought in the 48 celebrated months of knowing my husband–lean like an athlete, despite his idea of health food being a tub of Thousand Island dressing sprinkled with six leaves of spinach or a buffalo chicken sandwich where the bread is actually identifiable–that he’d ever get what he now has: A small belly.

Now don’t get me wrong, he’s no Ed McMahon in an undershirt. Or one of those middle-aged guys who makes you ponder the laws of gravity and whether men should bear children. But he also isn’t that flat-bellied six-pack over-hyped metabolic ball of animal flesh I met and married almost four years ago (although, in his defense, he still looks pretty good–even better than most, if I may generalize).

“I like it, honey,” I say. “The paunch makes you human. Brings you down to the rest of us.”

“Ha ha,” he says, somehow pulling a pair of size 32 blue jeans over two pairs of long underwear as I watch in amazement. “I don’t like it. I gotta go on a diet.”

And there it was: The transformation complete. Welcome to my world. I have finally turned my hot hunky manly carpenter-turned-contractor-turned-rocker-turned project-manager-turned-save-the-environment-liberal into a neurotic and slightly Rubinesque little Jewish girl.

Like me.

————————————–

And while I’m proud, I am simultaneously starting to worry. Especially in light of what happened during a recent trip to Wegmans for groceries. We had just filled our cart with the requisite dressings and produce and sugar-free creamer and were on our way to the checkout, when I suddenly couldn’t find my husband.

After a quick scan of the area, I finally located him in housewares, fondling a ceramic mug as if it were the Hope Diamond.

“Babe,” I said gently. “Is everything okay?”

“Is everything okay?” he asks, rubbing his hand over the display like Vanna turning over a vowel. “It’s AWESOME. I mean, look at this china? It’s fantastic. We gotta get it. Can’t you just picture it, us sipping some fresh Hazelnut?” And with that, he holds the cup–painted with earth-toned flowers–up to his lips and role models the move.

I stood there stunned into silence, amazed at how rapt he was to something that looked like it belonged at a coming-out party for debutantes. Humbled, I mumbled, “Put it in the cart.” And off we went. Me wondering, what’s next?

Is he going to start asking me if he looks fat in those pants? Will he cry for no reason? Suddenly find himself obsessed with black leather pumps? Start to crave chocolate? He’s already starting to redecorate without permission (as evidenced by his reorganizing without prompting the magazines in the downstairs bathroom).

It’s not that I don’t want him to express himself, it’s just that these kinds of behaviors don’t bode well for the balance in our household: There’s only room for one of us hormonal females. And while I hope my husband morphs back into uber-manly soon (there’s a glimmer of hope, since this morning I found him drooling over a Home Depot catalogue), I guess there are worse things.

Like not having anybody to share your angst with. Or going to one of your favorite shopping complexes and noticing how many shops have closed (–and counting, thanks George). Or losing your job.

Or, realizing that, no matter how much you spend on brushes and goop, you’ll never be able to blow dry your hair as well as they do at the salon. (Something my husband’s been complaining about a lot lately…)

Okay. Until next time!

(BTW, my husband does not know about this post. So if you see him, mums the word. In fact, you may want to ask him if he’s been working out.)

 

January 6, 2009

January 6, 2009

And the angels sing. And the clients line up like pretty little pills at the pharmacy. And the task of living, without fear of moving to a skid-row address, goes on.

Thank you, whoever, for not letting my husband and I swing from the end of a bungee rope for all too long. While the blood that’s rushed to our heads flows slowly downward, we remain eternally grateful.

And thank you, whoever, for not letting my donkey contract and then expand to size of a small navy boat as a result of too many (oh so comforting) Pop Tarts (brown cinnamon, I don’t even like brown cinnamon). While I’ll never be Twiggy, at least TLC is not knocking on my door to be the next one-ton woman in their series.

And thank you, as always, you brilliant-albeit-sadly-underrated writers of all things Lifetime Television. You, most of all, saw me the through the storm. (I bow to you.)

And now, it’s off to glorious work–writing, setting communication agendas, returning phone calls and emails, hawking my wares, grabbing whenever the wind hits me a piece of string cheese and a Fiber One bar. And, per my lone resolution, not planning or setting goals or thinking about baby or whether we should or wondering where I’ll be in five years from now or how in heaven’s name I’ll get there. Or if the milk in this morning’s latte didn’t taste just a tad bit too good to be skim. (It’s okay, my baby baristas, nobody’s perfect.)

No strategy. No woes. The perfect manifest.

Let it continue, at least until next time!

 

2008
December 31, 2008

December 31, 2008

It’s 6 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. My husband, who’s been nursing a flu for several days, and I have decided to spend it watching the “Top 8 movies of 2008″ on Lifetime Television. (Well, I’ve made that decision unilaterally actually, since I expect him to be passed out on liquor [Nyquil] well before we get to number seven.)

I’m not unhappy about spending New Year’s Eve in the house, cozied up to my loving dogs, handsome husband, and beloved cable. To the contrary, it really is the best way, at least in my unpublished book, to usher in something new:

Surrounded quietly by what you love most in the world.

—————————————–

As far as New Year’s day and what comes after, I’m also taking a lower-key approach to the whole resolution thing. I’m only making one. That’s it. Although, it is bold. I’ll admit. Could have ramifications on, well, pretty much everything. And it goes like this:

I will no longer strategize on how to live my life. Make a plan. Set a goal. Envision where I’d like to be tomorrow, next month, next year, or next whatever. Instead, I am going to let randomness, default, and accident guide my every act, thought, and decision.

Because if I’ve learned nothing else in 46 years, it’s this: Sometimes planning foils everything.

When you get into your 40s and beyond, as it turns out, planning, my festive friends, becomes too high risk. Because it’s at this point in life you realize with the greatest of clarity that you have actual control over nothing.

In light of that, it’s easy to see planning as a liability. The falling stock market. The busted housing bubble. The broken condom. The getting stuck on the train tracks just as the the lights start to flash, the gate starts to lower, and the whistle comes into earshot.

Planning is the road to nowhere. It’s the loud crash you hear in a busy restaurant. It’s the sound of thunder. The shaking of a crowded tumbler. The sound of steel trucks colliding. Glass shattering. Wolves howling. The “this is a test of the emergency broadcasting system” buzz that pounds at your temples. It’s a broken car alarm at 3 a.m. when you’ve got to get up at 4.
Forget what anyone’s ever told you about going out and grabbing your big dream. Do it–go for it–stick your long arm way out there and risk getting it lopped off.

Or worse.
—————————————————————–
Well, no more of that for me. Buh bye. Instead, I’m gonna keep my arms in the car and go with a Doris-Day-que-sera-sera approach to living. The only structure involved is the four steps I have to take to make “whatever, who cares” happen successfully. (BTW, I came up with them yesterday at lunch with my Wild River Girls and, as it turns out, my gentle muses — hey Joy, Wendy, Raquel, luv ya big time, you’re superstars, that’s what you are…hey, hey, hey, HEY.)

The steps go like this:

Sit.
Think.
Tell someone.
Wait

I am going to practice these four steps like extremist religion before I do anything else in life because, frankly, I’m confused and untrusting of my own judgment anymore. Out of control, if you will.

Case in point: I took a job that lasted 504 hours before the company shut it down. Served me my walking shoes. And how could I not see that comin? (And this is the last I’ll speak of it, by the way. New year, new news.)

So, starting tomorrow, at 12 a.m. on January 1, 2009, whenever there is a decision to be made or an action to be taken, I’m going to first sit down on something hard (so I don’t doze), think about it, tell someone (either by phone or email or perhaps at Starbucks over a latte), and then wait for the universe to send me a sign.

Let shit roll randomly through the open door of my mind. And if I like the way it’s going, throw out a foot to stop it and take a moment to fondle. But if I don’t, well, it can keep on rollin’. Next.

I’m going to apply this new philosophy of living to the two biggest issues I face in this very moment with, might I add, my usual angst and confusion (you know, what I’m known for). They are:

Issue #1: Do I take a full-time job or just freelance forever (since I’ve recently picked up GOBS and GOBS of freelance work – THANK YOU CLIENTS OLD AND NEW!) After all, I’m suddenly very busy with project work. And since full-time employment chewed me up and spit me out like bad tobacco, perhaps it’s a sign I should reconsider. Stay at home in my pajamas for a living.

Issue #2: Do Dan and I adopt a baby, do I shoot myself up with hormones and carry a younger woman’s egg fertilized by my husband’s sperm (sorry to be so graphic), or do I live out the rest of my live in selfish bliss with my loving husband and the two rescue dogs? (Yes, you read that right. Close your mouth, friends. We’re really thinking about it. Turns out it’s not too late for me after all–now that I’ve learned about an entirely new language of fertility and possibility for women after 45 that’s been going on behind my back for God knows how long. Why didn’t anyone tell me sooner?)

Because frankly, I don’t know the hard answers to either of these questions–but I do hear the clock ticking away on both. And I am rife with anxiety in terms of how to respond. I think:

“Do I want to be a contractor and consultant or get a full-time gainful employment? Do I want a baby? Do I want to adopt? Is it even possible? Do I want to be injected with synthetic hormones until I blow up like an oversized party balloon? Or do I need to be scared straight by one of those programs where you get a fake baby for a week to see how hard it is and then succumb to exhaustion and tears on The Maury Povich Show? Or do I want to look back at my life and wonder who to leave my crap to (after Dan, of course)? Do I want a pizza to numb myself from worrying about it? Or how about a little hummus? Is there a way to freeze time so I can get more to think about it? Do I have any chance of winning the lotto? Do you really have to play to win? Is Payless really cheaper than anyplace else for shoes? Should I replace the painting in the living room I used to love and now hate for some reason with a large round mirror? Should I be good on my diet today or eat the 12 cans of Chef Boyardee we bought for my stepdaughter with a small shovel? Do I want to dry my hair straight or curly? Do I want to walk the dogs now or wait until after Oprah? Do I want to watch Regis and Kelly or Tyra? What time is it? When was the last time I washed my hair? Was it yesterday or the day before?

WHAT DOES HILLARY WANT?”

———————————————————————-
Okay, well, goodbye to all of that nonsense. In the New Year, the voices will soon chant a simpler and less excitable: Sit, think, tell someone, and just wait. You’re all good.

So fabulous, really. Wish I had thought of it early. (Say, at 25.)

Anyway, no sense looking backward. Let’s move s.l.o.w s.t.e.a.m ahead. WHAT-EV-ER.

And on that note, I wish you all a Happy New Year and one single but hearty resolution. Go ahead and steal mine if you see the brilliance. Whatever you do, just be safe. Be smart. Don’t think too hard. Rest. Ease your brain. Call your mother. Put away the 2008 planner and fire up 2009. And hang tough.

In 2009, it’s all good.
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Filed under: Uncategorized — sherer @ 11:47 pm
It’s 6 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. My husband, who’s been nursing a flu for several days, and I have decided to spend it watching the “Top 8 movies of 2008″ on Lifetime Television. (Well, I’ve made that decision unilaterally actually, since I expect him to be passed out on liquor [Nyquil] well before we get to number seven.)

I’m not unhappy about spending New Year’s Eve in the house, cozied up to my loving dogs, handsome husband, and beloved cable. To the contrary, it really is the best way, at least in my unpublished book, to usher in something new:

Surrounded quietly by what you love most in the world.

—————————————–

As far as New Year’s day and what comes after, I’m also taking a lower-key approach to the whole resolution thing. I’m only making one. That’s it. Although, it is bold. I’ll admit. Could have ramifications on, well, pretty much everything. And it goes like this:

I will no longer strategize on how to live my life. Make a plan. Set a goal. Envision where I’d like to be tomorrow, next month, next year, or next whatever. Instead, I am going to let randomness, default, and accident guide my every act, thought, and decision.

Because if I’ve learned nothing else in 46 years, it’s this: Sometimes planning foils everything.

When you get into your 40s and beyond, as it turns out, planning, my festive friends, becomes too high risk. Because it’s at this point in life you realize with the greatest of clarity that you have actual control over nothing.

In light of that, it’s easy to see planning as a liability. The falling stock market. The busted housing bubble. The broken condom. The getting stuck on the train tracks just as the the lights start to flash, the gate starts to lower, and the whistle comes into earshot.

Planning is the road to nowhere. It’s the loud crash you hear in a busy restaurant. It’s the sound of thunder. The shaking of a crowded tumbler. The sound of steel trucks colliding. Glass shattering. Wolves howling. The “this is a test of the emergency broadcasting system” buzz that pounds at your temples. It’s a broken car alarm at 3 a.m. when you’ve got to get up at 4.
Forget what anyone’s ever told you about going out and grabbing your big dream. Do it–go for it–stick your long arm way out there and risk getting it lopped off.

Or worse.
—————————————————————–
Well, no more of that for me. Buh bye. Instead, I’m gonna keep my arms in the car and go with a Doris-Day-que-sera-sera approach to living. The only structure involved is the four steps I have to take to make “whatever, who cares” happen successfully. (BTW, I came up with them yesterday at lunch with my Wild River Girls and, as it turns out, my gentle muses — hey Joy, Wendy, Raquel, luv ya big time, you’re superstars, that’s what you are…hey, hey, hey, HEY.)

The steps go like this:

Sit.
Think.
Tell someone.
Wait

I am going to practice these four steps like extremist religion before I do anything else in life because, frankly, I’m confused and untrusting of my own judgment anymore. Out of control, if you will.

Case in point: I took a job that lasted 504 hours before the company shut it down. Served me my walking shoes. And how could I not see that comin? (And this is the last I’ll speak of it, by the way. New year, new news.)

So, starting tomorrow, at 12 a.m. on January 1, 2009, whenever there is a decision to be made or an action to be taken, I’m going to first sit down on something hard (so I don’t doze), think about it, tell someone (either by phone or email or perhaps at Starbucks over a latte), and then wait for the universe to send me a sign.

Let shit roll randomly through the open door of my mind. And if I like the way it’s going, throw out a foot to stop it and take a moment to fondle. But if I don’t, well, it can keep on rollin’. Next.

I’m going to apply this new philosophy of living to the two biggest issues I face in this very moment with, might I add, my usual angst and confusion (you know, what I’m known for). They are:

Issue #1: Do I take a full-time job or just freelance forever (since I’ve recently picked up GOBS and GOBS of freelance work – THANK YOU CLIENTS OLD AND NEW!) After all, I’m suddenly very busy with project work. And since full-time employment chewed me up and spit me out like bad tobacco, perhaps it’s a sign I should reconsider. Stay at home in my pajamas for a living.

Issue #2: Do Dan and I adopt a baby, do I shoot myself up with hormones and carry a younger woman’s egg fertilized by my husband’s sperm (sorry to be so graphic), or do I live out the rest of my live in selfish bliss with my loving husband and the two rescue dogs? (Yes, you read that right. Close your mouth, friends. We’re really thinking about it. Turns out it’s not too late for me after all–now that I’ve learned about an entirely new language of fertility and possibility for women after 45 that’s been going on behind my back for God knows how long. Why didn’t anyone tell me sooner?)

Because frankly, I don’t know the hard answers to either of these questions–but I do hear the clock ticking away on both. And I am rife with anxiety in terms of how to respond. I think:

“Do I want to be a contractor and consultant or get a full-time gainful employment? Do I want a baby? Do I want to adopt? Is it even possible? Do I want to be injected with synthetic hormones until I blow up like an oversized party balloon? Or do I need to be scared straight by one of those programs where you get a fake baby for a week to see how hard it is and then succumb to exhaustion and tears on The Maury Povich Show? Or do I want to look back at my life and wonder who to leave my crap to (after Dan, of course)? Do I want a pizza to numb myself from worrying about it? Or how about a little hummus? Is there a way to freeze time so I can get more to think about it? Do I have any chance of winning the lotto? Do you really have to play to win? Is Payless really cheaper than anyplace else for shoes? Should I replace the painting in the living room I used to love and now hate for some reason with a large round mirror? Should I be good on my diet today or eat the 12 cans of Chef Boyardee we bought for my stepdaughter with a small shovel? Do I want to dry my hair straight or curly? Do I want to walk the dogs now or wait until after Oprah? Do I want to watch Regis and Kelly or Tyra? What time is it? When was the last time I washed my hair? Was it yesterday or the day before?

WHAT DOES HILLARY WANT?”

———————————————————————-
Okay, well, goodbye to all of that nonsense. In the New Year, the voices will soon chant a simpler and less excitable: Sit, think, tell someone, and just wait. You’re all good.

So fabulous, really. Wish I had thought of it early. (Say, at 25.)

Anyway, no sense looking backward. Let’s move s.l.o.w s.t.e.a.m ahead. WHAT-EV-ER.

And on that note, I wish you all a Happy New Year and one single but hearty resolution. Go ahead and steal mine if you see the brilliance. Whatever you do, just be safe. Be smart. Don’t think too hard. Rest. Ease your brain. Call your mother. Put away the 2008 planner and fire up 2009. And hang tough.

In 2009, it’s all good.

December 25, 2008

December 25, 2008

Sorry I haven’t posted for a few days. I’ve been busy licking my wounds and taking a general overall break from thinking. I felt that was a gift I could–and should–give myself, especially in light of recent events and the season: Sunday was the start of Hanukah, Monday was my birthday, and today, well, we all know what that is. (They won’t let us forget it…)

I hope you’ll all take a moment to be grateful for what you have this holiday season–campy as that sounds. While I may not have a job or a dollar to buy a candy cane, I am eternally grateful for my wonderful husband and family, tremendous friends (who have gone above and beyond in providing me with much-needed comfort and consolation), a closet full of fantastic boots, spandex, Loreal 646, tweezers, Bertucci’s pizza, and, among many other things, the joys of Starbucks. ..

…yes, even on Christmas.

I say this because, the other day, I was standing in line for my one and only Egg Nog latte of the season (since more than that leads to full-season addiction) when an ignorant girl in front of me says to the Barista: “Oh, I see you’re open on Christmas. Gosh, that’s too bad. You should get the day off.”

Barista, putting on her most pleasant voice as if she were talking to a six year old: “Well, not everybody celebrates Christmas.”

Ignorant girl, eyes rolling in absolute positive certainty that she’s correct in everything she says and we’re all stupid: “I know, but I suspect even the Jews like the day off.”

Loudmouthed me wondering how this girl thinks she’s qualified to speak for an entire population of Jewish people: “Excuse me, I’m Jewish and, even though it’s Christmas, sometimes we like to leave the barracks for a Café Americano. And by the way, you do know Santa’s just one of your overweight middle-aged neighbors in a red suit, right? “

She looked at me like I’d just told her the earth was flat and then went on her way. The Barista and I did, however, share a moment. It was special.

And folks, that’s what the season is all about.

With that said, I’m off with my talented husband to spend a Jewish Christmas laying hardwood in my parent’s living room and drinking Starbucks until I shake like an earthquake. Simply because I can.

Until next time!
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Filed under: Uncategorized — sherer @ 1:29 pm
Sorry I haven’t posted for a few days. I’ve been busy licking my wounds and taking a general overall break from thinking. I felt that was a gift I could–and should–give myself, especially in light of recent events and the season: Sunday was the start of Hanukah, Monday was my birthday, and today, well, we all know what that is. (They won’t let us forget it…)

I hope you’ll all take a moment to be grateful for what you have this holiday season–campy as that sounds. While I may not have a job or a dollar to buy a candy cane, I am eternally grateful for my wonderful husband and family, tremendous friends (who have gone above and beyond in providing me with much-needed comfort and consolation), a closet full of fantastic boots, spandex, Loreal 646, tweezers, Bertucci’s pizza, and, among many other things, the joys of Starbucks. ..

…yes, even on Christmas.

I say this because, the other day, I was standing in line for my one and only Egg Nog latte of the season (since more than that leads to full-season addiction) when an ignorant girl in front of me says to the Barista: “Oh, I see you’re open on Christmas. Gosh, that’s too bad. You should get the day off.”

Barista, putting on her most pleasant voice as if she were talking to a six year old: “Well, not everybody celebrates Christmas.”

Ignorant girl, eyes rolling in absolute positive certainty that she’s correct in everything she says and we’re all stupid: “I know, but I suspect even the Jews like the day off.”

Loudmouthed me wondering how this girl thinks she’s qualified to speak for an entire population of Jewish people: “Excuse me, I’m Jewish and, even though it’s Christmas, sometimes we like to leave the barracks for a Café Americano. And by the way, you do know Santa’s just one of your overweight middle-aged neighbors in a red suit, right? “

She looked at me like I’d just told her the earth was flat and then went on her way. The Barista and I did, however, share a moment. It was special.

And folks, that’s what the season is all about.

With that said, I’m off with my talented husband to spend a Jewish Christmas laying hardwood in my parent’s living room and drinking Starbucks until I shake like an earthquake. Simply because I can.

Until next time!

December 19, 2008

December 19, 2008

Let me tell you what happened today (as I write through my tears…)

I called to double-check on my unemployment benefits, to which the company that eliminated my job said I was entitled. But here’s the truth: I am, apparently, not entitled to unemployment, since I did not work for the company long enough. And, because I was self-employed (through my own corporation) prior to working with them, even though I paid into the system, I am not entitled to draw anything from it unless my corporation goes bankrupt.

Ain’t PA law grand?

So, to run it down: I went to work for this company, giving up essentially two other job offers and several clients. And now, I have two weeks severance and after that, I have nothing. (My darling husband works so hard, but alas we can live on love but not his salary alone…)

But that shouldn’t be a problem, right? After all, we’re living in robust times!

Oh wait.

Right.

It’s not all bad, though, because the woman at unemployment did have a great suggestion. She said, “Perhaps I could take my notice of ineligibility for unemployment compensation to the welfare office and get some food stamps?”

Who says government workers aren’t empathetic and creative?

Not that there’s anything wrong with needing food stamps, yes? You’d be okay with them, yes?

Oh god.

How did this happen?

December 17, 2008

December 17, 2008

First of all, liquid lunches rock. (Who knew?)

But now that the effects of Friday’s alcohol (read: the three sips of cheap wine it takes for me to weave my way back home) are fully out of my system, I’m pissed.

Because here I am, again, at the very beginning point of looking for a job which, to be quite honest with you, I’m not sure I even want to find given this recent experience.

Because, as I sit here nursing a Kahlua and fat-free cream in the middle of the afternoon, while “One Life to Live” plays in the background, I have to wonder whether the process of sending resumes, going on job interviews, and getting as far as full-time employment is even worth it.

Because if I’m capable of losing a perfectly good job after a mere three weeks just because some company’s confused and I’m living in one of the most precarious times in our economic history, what hope is there really? What’s to say the next company won’t do the same darn thing? After all, I keep hearing horror stories of educated and experienced people like myself losing their jobs willy nilly, regardless of circumstance, tenure, and performance.

Which brings me back to this: If security is just a word to describe a good deadbolt and alarm system, I might as well stay home and freelance and hope that someday the dogs speak English well enough to give me a little creative feedback.
——————————-
The question I also keep coming back to is this: If you were, say, the head of a company, wouldn’t you know 16 days out that your ship might be sinking? Even if you had an inkling of rough seas, might you think twice and maybe even three times about recruiting someone in?

Because, to quote a good friend’s apt description of my situation, doing so is “amazingly crappy.”

After all, I had several other job and freelance offers, all gone by the wayside. Add the dismal economic environment and the fact it’s two weeks from the holidays, five days from my birthday, and 13 days until my biz taxes are due, and it’s no wonder I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep since last Thursday. (And believe me, my T-zone is suffering…)

Instead, I’ve been lying awake wondering what’s to become of me. Whether the past 16 days really happened or if they were some sort of weird dream. And if the “Welcome” balloon that once waved over my former desk is still airborne.

I suspect it isn’t.
———————————-
And then there’s the bigger question of what to do now? For people in my generation–too young to stop working and too old to bounce back like we did previously–there’s no easy answer. That’s because we’re stuck every which way we turn.

Think about it: We can’t just get a new job because there aren’t a whole lot of new jobs to be had. And never mind taking a job that might actually excite us. Be something we’ve spent most of our careers working to achieve–or, the culmination of a dream. In this environment, getting any job is a feat. And never mind whether it fits in the strategic plan of your life and career. It must suffice, no matter what it is.

We also can’t scale down our lives because nobody’s buying our houses. For one, they don’t have the money. For another, they’ll never get the credit. And for a third, we’ll never recoup what we paid.

It’s like we’re locked in a small closet and any which way we turn, there are walls. Hard and certain. And no government standing on the other side with a magic key. I can tell ya that much. (Ye gads, don’t get me started. See? This is what the unemployed mind left to its own devices does…it’s not pretty…)

Okay, well, that’s enough. I’m going to turn off the soaps (well, maybe after some guy named Beau is finished doing his best friend’s married sister) and enjoy some of the brown sugar cinnamon Pop Tarts we keep in our cabinet for my stepdaughter (truly an act of desperation since I don’t even like them). I’m sure she’ll understand.

Until next time.

December 12, 2008

December 12, 2008

Folks, we are living in crazy times — the kind that call for people to stay alert and on their toes because anything can happen. And does. Which is why I’m writing: To let my faithful readers know that I was just laid off from the job I started just 16 days ago. Apparently, the company was not doing as well as they presented and, in today’s round of layoffs, my position was eliminated along with several others.

Nice, huh?

As far as my response: I know I’m just going through what, sadly, too many other people are experiencing in this country. And I’m fine. Sixteen days is certainly not long enough to attach to anything in a truly meaningful way (although it was quite shocking when HR delivered the news). I’m disappointed — I was looking forward to doing good challenging work for a regular paycheck and engaging on a daily basis with human (versus canine) life forms. On those fronts, this job looked promising.

I also know, however, that we must roll with the punches. (Perhaps it is the universe telling me to write those pages!) And that, one way or another, I’ll survive.

In the meantime, let the pity-fest commence. I plan to spend the rest of the afternoon in front of Oprah, eating chocolate cake, drinking cheap wine, and singing minstrel hymns to our animals. I figured it would be best to get the news out while it was still red hot–and before I did anything I’m sure to regret later.

Until next time …

December 11, 2008

December 11, 2008

Hello to all. A quick post to apologize for not posting sooner, but when you’re in the midst of a major life transition (going from working from home to taking a full-time out-of-the-house job with a 45-minute commute in traffic on both sides), some things happen to fall through the cracks. And my blog has been one of them.

Each morning, I vow to get up at 4 a.m. (like my husband does to work out, bless his heart) and post twice a week as faithfully as flossing before I get ready for work (okay, well, maybe more faithfully than that – and why is it that we hate to do that, by the way?).

And yet, leaving the building has been far more exhausting than even I imagined. Add to that the hustle and bustle of having an 11-year-old every weekend for one month (which has been both delightful and draining), the holidays, an overnight guest or two, and gobs and oodles of new information coming at me each day like bullet-fire in a war-torn country, and there you have it: Not a peep out of Jill for more than a week.

Not that I’m complaining. Believe me I’m happy to have a good job. Beats the Spanx off of rocking under the coffee table in anxiety, wondering where your next dollar is coming from. And being on information overload 14 hours a day has done wonders for my insomnia. I not only sleep at night, but now know how that statue of Saddam felt as it was going down.

Anyway, never fear, a full-Monty post coming your way over the weekend. It’ll be the first I’m able to breathe without having a houseful. And it’ll be worth the wait, I promise.

December 1, 2008

December 1, 2008

So week two of work is under my belt and every day gets a little better in terms of the fog lifting. I’m getting a better sense of my tasks and what’s expected of me. And I grow more confident in finding my way to the bathroom closest to my desk and then back again without looking like a lost puppy.

Still, there’s much to negotiate beyond just the tasks of the job. Like making new friends in the office. Finding peace with the fact that I’m one of the oldest people in my department. And, realizing that sometimes life has a funny way of bringing us full circle.

This past week, I went out to lunch with a few new colleagues. We went to a sushi place near the office that, unbeknownst to me, was also near the house I grew up in. I didn’t realize this fact until we were driving out of the restaurant’s parking lot and I caught a glimpse of a “Pavio’s” sign I remember from my childhood.

It was weird to see it and even stranger to recall the places I went when I was a kid. The Leo Mall stores just down the street with my mother to buy clothes. The movie theater and the now-defunct Winstons restaurant with my friends when I was a teen.

I remember my first job was taking orders at the drive-thru of the Burger King in the mall’s parking lot. ”Hello. Welcome to Burger King. My name is Jill. How can I help you?” After all these years, my big line remains indelibly imprinted in my brain–along with the bigger moments. Like the time the very popular Ricky Moss came to pick me up for one of my very first dates in life. (Of course, I had no idea back then, I’d have 27 more years to perfect the exercise in store.)

I had planned for him to arrive and find me behind the cash register–a prestigious job for a then 15-year-old. But instead, my manager had me clean the dining area. And instead, he arrived to find me replete in brown polyester uniform and beanie, scrubbing ketchup off the floorboards.

It was a defining moment, obviously, since I can recount it in mosaic detail, down to the color of his shoes (white sneakers), along with the sign above Pavios. With it’s brown background, orange letters, and painted yellow flame to emphasize its wood-burning style of cooking.

Seeing it again triggered all kinds of things, including the question of how far I’d really come in life if I’m back here again.

After all, I have spent the better part of two decades living away from this place, priding myself on having flown the coop for something bigger. Yet, at this more salient age, I am slowly coming to understand just how subjective those words really are. And how, whether you leave or stay, doesn’t matter.

November 27, 2008

November 27, 2008

Will the hair growth never end?

Sorry to be so blunt, but I can’t help myself. So if you’re squeamish about feminine bodily functions, stop reading now. I won’t be offended.

But here’s the thing: I’m starting to feel like a Chiapet. And not in a good way.

The other morning, as I was getting ready for work, I was horrified by what I found during a routine scan of my face for new wrinkles: One lone hair about the length of my pinky (yep, you so read that right). It was sprouting out from the tip of my nose as if I were a circus seal trying to balance it like a ball for a crowd.

Except I was alone. There was nobody there to clap or gasp in awe. It was just me, panicked and disgusted. Thinking that my life would never be the same again. And how I could never view the morning facial scan as a luxury anymore.

F*#*!

Because when you find a hair as long as dental floss hovering just north and center of your nostrils, you must embrace new realities. Like the fact that facial hair in the most ungodly of places is no longer out of the realm of possibility. And, no matter how sleep deprived, stressed, or cranky, you must do something about it EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve been tending to unwanted chin and unibrow hair since before Bush was in office and, truth be told, I’m just now making peace with having to deal with it. BUT ON MY NOSE?

Heavens to mergatroid, how early do I have to rise in the morning to make sure I’ve gotten it all? In between showering, shaving, blowing dry my hair, make-uping, yanking chin hair, trimming eyebrows, exercising, feeding the dogs, picking out an outfit for work (a feat in and of itself, after you’ve been working on your own and living in black stretch for four years), praying it still fits, and dealing with any extraneous emergencies or issues.

And will these middle-aged hormones every stop wreaking their unwelcome havoc on my mug?

Now I know what you’re thinking: Just pluck and be done with it, Jill, there are more important things to worry about. Our flailing economy. The big three in Detroit. 24 is coming back in January. Two wars. A Republican crisis of conscience. Global warming. Jewish Knee Syndrome (for those who may be new to my blog, that’s the little pockets of fat that gather around the knees of predominantly Jewish women–and they never go away, no matter how much you deprive yourself and exercise). A new job. Another birthday. Aging parents. Clutter in the basement. Snow.

You’d think these things would not only trump the unwanted frontman of my solo nose hair, whipping in the wind. But they don’t. Okay. They don’t.

See you how’d feel if you woke up one morning, and there was a long piece of string shooting out from just above your sinuses. What’s to stop, say, some sort of insect or something equally revolting from grabbing hold?

Okay, well, I’m sorry if you just read that while you’re eating. But I’m done now. Oh no, wait. One more thing: Since it’s Thanksgiving, let me just say for the record that I am NOT grateful for this. And to my own face I say, knock it off.

Okay, now that’s it.

Until next time. (A happier post, I promise, unless I find a hair sprouting out from my eyeball, in which case all bets are off…)

November 23, 2008

November 23, 2008

On Wednesday, I started my new job. And please forgive me for not posting on the day, but as you may imagine, I came home feeling like I’d been tossed around like a football at a Green Day concert. And have been in the unruly fog and haze of information overload ever since.

So many new things to process, so little time to pontificate on it for an audience.

Even though it was only a three-day week, it still left me grateful for Friday. Not that the work is the bad or the people are exhausting. To the contrary, the work is promisingly creative and the people incredibly welcoming. It’s just that it’s tough to be the new girl at a new school. And the first day, while exciting, can also be the most daunting, no matter how delicately you’re treated.

Mine started at 10 of 9 in the morning, when I arrived. I was scheduled to meet with the gal in HR to gently run through some paperwork and protocols before heading over to meet my new workspace and colleagues. I was looking forward to an idealistic doctrination that simmered slow and steady like a delicate stew.

Instead, however, and as life would often have it, I was whisked away by my new boss and into a meeting where 15 or so of my new “internal clients” (i.e., publisher, associate publisher, VP circulation, etc., not a slouch in the bunch) were discussing the week’s business.

We walked in to find everybody rapt in PowerPoint. Since all of the seats were taken, my boss nodded for me to hop up on the desk that was in the back of the room to sit.

Please let me get up on that desk gracefully, I prayed as I bent my knees to build momentum in preparation for the hop. Because even though the desk wasn’t especially high or difficult to negotiate, I’m the kind of person who consistently trips over nothing.

And since I was already feeling like the elephant in the room (although, in reality, nobody paid me that much attention), I didn’t need to hop up only to fall short, and land with a loud thud on my donkey.

Because aside from being incredibly embarrassing, falling hard on your ass 11 seconds into a new job is not good for one’s credibility.

Fortunately, I hoisted myself up just fine. And sat there, smiling a “hi-nice-to-meet-you-I-know-you’ve-never-seen-me-before-but-I’m-new!” sort of unoffending and humble smile at anyone who looked in my direction. Until finally, the leader of the meeting asked us “new people” (my boss included) to introduce ourselves.

While my boss spoke briefly and most eloquently, all I managed to pop out was a “I’ve been here for like 12 minutes and am happy to see your delightful faces…” like a robotic freak.

I know this sounds overly melodramatic, but that’s what being new is all about: Being mortified by your impulses. Awkward. Overly-obsessed with making good first entrances and impressions. Wanting acceptance.

It’s also about wishing you could propel yourself ahead in time to where you’re finally comfortable: You know everything there is to know about the job, players, and processes. Information is reflexive and your creative is nothing short of artful. You’re humming along, like high-grade white noise turned symphonic, known for your skills and abilities in moving key dials North.

You are a well-oiled athlete at the height of your game–the you you know is possible. And nobody else does, at least when you’re just starting.

Doesn’t matter how old I am or how many jobs I’ve had, this new girl feeling came rushing back to me on Wednesday like a particularly memorable strain of influenza. I also remembered how eventually it did heal and pass.

Even though I don’t want to wish my life away or settle too much in the outcome versus the journey, I can’t wait for that moment here. To be 100 percent up to speed and the task at hand. In this space and time and opportunity.

Until then, however, I’ll do the best I can. Try not to torture the person charged with my training (sorry) too badly. And get up and over that learning curve as fast as possible.

Should be interesting. Stay posted for more insights on week 2!

November 18, 2008

November 18, 2008

Tomorrow, I start my new job. I get up and actually leave the house with purpose for the first time in a very long time. And I’m nervous. Excited too, of course, but chewing my nails as if they were repercussion-free chocolate.

That’s because I don’t know (like anybody else who starts in a new role): What does my workspace look like? How close is it to the bathroom? (After all, I have a peanut-sized bladder.) How are my new colleagues? Who will sit to my right and to my left? Are they loud or are they quiet? What’s going on right now? Are there preparations being made for my arrival–perhaps somebody asking somebody else to leave a big pile of folders on “…that desk for the new girl”?

Or am I boring news?

I spent two hours last night filling out the employee paperwork that makes me official, in preparation for my early morning meeting with Miranda–the human resources gal who I’ve been working with. And I’m sure I’ll spend at least two hours tonight angsting over what to wear for my first day and whether our alarm clock is set properly.

Not that I’ve been living a life of leisure or don’t get up at the ass crack of dawn every morning. It’s just that tomorrow, well, being up and alert is especially important.

And today? Well, I’ve got client projects to finish. Dogs to cuddle (after all, they’re gonna have to get used to watching Oprah without me). And healthy meals to prepare in anticipation of coming home from work too hungry and exhausted to think logically.

(Look up “snarfer” in the dictionary and, sadly, there I am–scowling, and prone to eating an entire Charlie Chips-sized can of pretzels and salsa and then a can of soup and three pieces of string cheese and the two sugar-free pudding cups with whipped cream and then maybe an apple and another pretzel WELL before I’ve even put the chicken in the microwave for defrosting…)

So wish me luck, please. Think about me tomorrow morning, just as the sun is rising and you’re wondering why you don’t have a hot little servant man-boy to bring you your cafe ole (oh wait, that’s me…). And I’ll let you know how it goes.

Until next time!

November 14, 2008

November 14, 2008

I have no idea what inspired me to do this, but yesterday, I spent a few moments Googling the topic of “mid-life crisis.” I wanted to be sure, once and for all, that it did, in fact, go to my state of mind. For this blog, of course, but also for bigger reasons: Like the fact that I’m questioning my dreams (see previous post), what life is all about (see previous year’s posts), whether what we do really means anything after all (see too many posts about my nonexistent weight loss and giving all you’ve got to a stepchild), if avoiding the turnpike really is the best course (whatever), and whether it’s even possible to wrestle the kinks out of facial lines (without resorting to botox).

And I was just overall curious to see how others perceived the subject.

I have to tell you, what I found online about being in mid-life crisis was incredibly depressing. Apparently, for those of us in full throttle, the news is not so good.

It would appear that we’re not only facing the end of our child-bearing years (for us females), we’re losing our looks, libidos, and our youth. Becoming insecure at work. Feeling superdy duperdy old. Sleeping more poorly than ever before. Losing our metabolic luster. Enjoying mood swings that make Jack Nicholson in The Shining look like Maya Angelou. Experiencing temperature swings that make us feel like we’re on fire, even though we’re not actually in flames. And we’re growing jaded about life in general.

To wit I say, AND?

I mean shit. I didn’t need a Google search to know all that. What I found more surprising is how there’s no good news out there about being in mid-life or in crisis.

So I feel compelled to change that. For those of you, like me, feeling all the wonderful symptoms of what it’s like to be over 35, read on. I’m going to deliver to you 29 feel good reasons for embracing your anxiety and your middle decades:

It’s finally okay to leave the house looking imperfect. Because, by now, you’re too realistic and too tired to worry about being flawless. (You also know flawless is B-O-R-I-N-G.)
Nobody expects you to be cheerful all the time.
You finally get what they’re talking about on C-SPAN.
There is Spanx.
You can wear black every single day since no one is paying that much attention.
It doesn’t matter what other people think because you know now for absolute sure that opinions are like assholes.
You can screen your mother’s calls and she can’t do a damn thing about it.
You no longer have to binge eat in the bathroom–it’s okay to eat pie for an audience.
Go ahead and say what you really think–you can always chalk it up to hormones.
Call PECO and cancel your heat – you won’t need it for a while (cha-ching!).
It’s finally okay to covet your antidepressants.
Your donkey may look fat in those jeans, but only if you look in a three-way mirror. So you don’t.
While we may be missing the benefits of Gardasil, I hear the shots feel like Jaws clamping down on your flesh.
Go ahead and take an Ambien. Sleep, already.
Whatever.
Know that even if you’re not where you thought you’d be at this point, you’re still somewhere. And that’s something.
It’s okay to cling to your youth via cosmetic surgery and inappropriate fashion–as long as you don’t apologize or make excuses for it.
Revel in the fact that crisis invites excitement and intrigue (not to mention resolution). Think James Bond, 24, the Die Hard movies, Weight Watchers.
You don’t have to fake it anymore–whatever it is.
What comes up, must come down. You know it–and enough to enjoy the good times knowing the bad times are just around the bend (and then the good times and then the bad, you with me?).
You could care less about going out on New Year’s. The pressure’s off. To the contrary, you’re usually asleep by 10 – and that’s just fab.
Facials are no longer just a luxury to be rationalized, they’re medicinal.
You’ll never have to share a locker with a 15-year-old again.
Credit is good–and you have it.
Go ahead and wear spandex, life is all about comfort.
Since you don’t sleep, you’ve got all kinds of found time to make things happen. (And if you’re like me, that includes waking the husband you never thought you’d have, which just feels fan-friggin-tastic! sorry hon)
You no longer take people’s shit (like yesterday, some woman asked me how to get to the turnpike and boy, did I tell her where to go…)
You can finally appreciate that a Jew (Rahm), a black man (Barack), and a woman (Nancy) are leading our country, even if you don’t agree with their politics.
You’ve learned to revel in your own dysfunction, knowing it will always be part of what makes you so special–and unique.

Send me the points on your list!

WORD.
Until next time!

November 11, 2008

November 11, 2008

I have to say, now that the excitement of the election is over, I feel a little let down. Like I did on the day after my wedding. Or the first time baby lost 20 pounds and started to promptly gain it back.

After all that anticipation and agitation, I’m left with a sense of wondering what’s next: Other than the fact that it’s getting cold outside, the leaves are starting to fall off the trees, Thanksgiving is around the corner, there are already Christmas lights up in the borough (good grief), and another birthday is quickly approaching (December 22).

This year, I’ll be 36. (SHUT UP, YOU.)

Oh wait, there is something (hello): MY NEW JOB. The first full-time-out-of-the-house-I-have-to-be-there-every-day-at-a-certain-time-in-something-other-than-stretch-pants in four years. One that requires me to be up at dawn and out on the roads quickly like every other country-loving, gaper-delay fearing commuter in America.

Now some of you have written to ask what I’ll be doing. To wit I say: Beats the heck out of me. All I know is that it’s something in marketing that will provide me with a regular paycheck, a healthy abundance of challenges, and yes (wait for it) DAILY AND FREQUENT HUMAN CONTACT.

WeoOOO. AhaAAAA. YippeekiOHkiay. (Sorry my little pooches, close your ears.) Oh happy day. (Sway with me.) You can’t see me, but I’m twirling. Spinning like a short, chubby, red-headed Hanukah dreidel, like genie dust out of a bottle, with a slightly larger-than-normal puff around the donkey…

And let me tell you, I’m ready for it. In fact, when I told my comrade Beth, a reformed freelancer who’s fully entrenched in an outside job, what I was doing, she wrote me with this:

“I feel you, girl–it’s not easy living in a bathrobe in the back bedroom and trying to explain to people, ‘No, I’m not clinically depressed. I’m a writer. There IS a difference.’”

Yes, Beth, you’re so right. There is.

—————————————————-
Now that I have the gig, I can say that the process of getting it was interesting–beyond just sending off resumes, completing writing assignments, and “speed interviewing” (kind of like speed dating with the prize being gainful employment instead of a good mans).

At the end of the day, I came away from the hunt with two hard offers and another on its way. So I had a choice to make. And, in doing so, realized something important: That life did not turn out as I’d planned.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled to have a new gig, one that feels and looks to be a winner. It’s just that I never imagined I’d find myself here at age 45–choosing between a job in marketing or corporate communications, weighing factors like location and work/life balance instead of which of my bestselling novels to read from on but another European book tour.

You see, when I was a little girl and even through my 20s and 30s, I was convinced my life would be about choosing covers and revising pages and speaking to large groups about the writing process and dining with agents and even the occasional producer.

I used to think I was going to have this big life (don’t we all?) when suddenly, I find myself sitting on my perfectly ordinary sofa in my perfectly ordinary house angsting over something as trite as whether to take a job that requires me to drive on the turnpike.

I never imagined it would come to this–or that my big dreams wouldn’t happen.

And yet, as I continued thinking about which job and what next steps and how I’d gotten so derailed, I eventually realized something else: That it’s not the big dreams that make our lives grand (although, I haven’t given up on writing that New York Times award-winner yet).

It’s the little things that count–like a three-pound weight loss in one week and flowers from my husband for no reason and new boots (retail) and, yes, the chance to choose what comes next: marketing or corporate communications.

Oh, and pizza of course.

Can’t forget pizza.

Thin crust. With spinach. Extra cheese.

Until next time!

November 7, 2008

November 7, 2008

349 to 147 was the last count from the electoral college. 349 to 147. Someone should write a song. (Dan, are you out there? My brilliant musical husband…)

We did it. We won. What a moment.

For me, it has lasted clear through today. I have been crying for three straight days, ever since Obama appeared on that stage in Grant Park (in my second home of Chicago). I guess I was more moved by the election results than I’d anticipated.

It reminds me of the time I went to Israel with a large group when I was 29. I didn’t expect to feel much in the way of emotion, since even though I’m a Jew, I’d never been very religious. Even shunned some of the cultural influences that came along with my quasi-ethnic upbringing (e.g., excessive allergies, large wads of chewing gum, pound cake without ice cream, thin ankles, an inability to fix things, anorexia or bulemia, buying retail, etc.).

And yet, when my plane landed at the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and the flight attendant said “Welcome home” over the loudspeaker, I near lost it–tears blurring the blue and white Israeli flag that waved so amazingly close, I could almost feel the fabric between my fingertips.

The groundswell of sudden emotion made me wonder: Who am I? And where is all this stuff coming from?

And so back to the same set of questions some 16 years later–and the fact that I have been crying for three days, moved this time by our American flag and people (and I had my doubts, remember …?).

I have spent the past 36 hours watching countless hours of talking heads on cable news (in between too many tedious projects and too few calories). Never tiring of their voices or the split screens of Barack Obama and Martin Luther King delivering their respective speeches.

And I’m eternally grateful that Dan and I can cross a conversation about moving to Canada or England or even France off of our very long to-do list (the plan, were McSame to win).

Because I’m exhausted, among other reasons.

The fact that we don’t have to put our house up for sale and research international options (not to mention the time spent learning an alternative language), leaves me more hours in a day to focus on the changes that are now taking place closer to home: Like a new weight loss program (you can always count on me) and a new job.

Yep. You read it right: A new job. Folks, Jill is leaving the building.

The truth is I’m tired of the long boring commute (17 steps from my bedroom to my home office and back to my bedroom again) and the lack of creative and critical insights provided by our two rescue dogs.

I can only watch so much Oprah and Dr. Phil.

I need to leave the house. Interact with human colleagues. Have fruitful conversation and intellectual exchange with life forms that aren’t canine or imaginary. And while I’ll miss the flexibility of having my own schedule, I won’t miss the loneliness of always being, well, alone.

So I’m about to re-enter the real world in just a few weeks.

And it feels pretty sweet.

Stay tuned!

November 4, 2008

November 4, 2008

I have a confession to make: I’m 45 years old and I have never voted before…today, that is. I’m not proud of this fact, but never before have I been so inspired to play a part in our country’s democratic process. (Or lived in Pennsylvania, where my vote is so vital. Or been so hideously affected by the sad sorry actions of our most recent President.)

And yet, this morning, I woke up, slapped on my favorite pair of black Gap body stretch pants, stuffed into my throwback fanny pack two Fiber One bars and three pieces of low-fat string cheese–along with, of course, a small notepad and pen to record the historical moment for this blog–filled a travel mug with hot coffee, and walked with my husband over to the voting place in our township.

I had provisions and I was ready. To hunker down in line all day, if necessary, to do my part for history. To swallow my pride and fear at getting into the voting booth and choking. Not in terms of who to vote for (Obama, hello?), but how. The catastrophic consequences that could ensue if I did it badly at the fore of my imagination, like a bad episode of 24. For example:

What if I pressed something on the voting machine that incited an explosion in another part of the world? Set off a random alarm at the Pentagon? Or caused me to physically and spontaneously implode.

Life can be funny that way.

OR, what if I hit the right button (straight democrat) but the entire wrong side (straight Republican, help us Lord) lit up. And then McSame wound up winning the state by a margin of 1.

I’d never forgive myself.

What if I accidentally peed myself in the booth under the pressure of it all, and the person in line behind me happened to be a reporter for the Inquirer? (Sorry mom, dad, uh, honey…) I am, after all, on a new weight loss program (to wit my friend Joy said, “Are there any left?”) that requires me to drink a small river each day.

It could happen.

OR, what if I broke the damn voting machine, costing the people in line oodles of money? And then they stoned me.

What if I let out the loudest belch in the history of human life forms having gastrointestinal distress and embarrassed my poor husband to the point of them stoning him by association?

Do you see where I’m going here? And how much it took for me to finally exercise my right to vote as an American?

It’s amazing how the fear of screwing up one simple act can conjure up so much anxiety. And yet, the irony is, I’m a pretty fearless person. Sure, I hate driving on the turnpike and if there’s a droplet of snow, forget it, a hobbit could get there faster, but still. I did move to two cities without a job or a friend and put my weight in a national magazine for six million readers for an entire year (when I was Shape Magazine’s Weight Loss Diarist). That has to count for something.

And yet, I was nauseous like a newly-pregnant 20-something in her first trimester, when I thought about what could go wrong in the voting booth.

Of course, it didn’t help when some guy gave his son a hearty and boisterous congratulations after apparently voting for the first time. “FIRST TIME,” he bellowed to anyone who’d look at him. He was beaming.

I looked at Dan and whispered, “Say one word about me and the next time you see these puppies, you’ll be too old to care.” And I pointed as indiscriminately as possible at my robust you-know-what’s.

And yet, as the two solid hours we spent waiting started to wind down–and as I loosened up the crowd with my version of the sample ballot as performance art–I did get calmer and more confident. And actually felt myself somewhat moved by the experience.

Here I was. Voting in the country’s most historical election since my mother popped me out and promptly put me on a restricted eating plan.

We, as a country, are in a most prolific place and I have a voice in what happens next.

Wow. Idealistic as that sounds, wow again.

And so, a little less nauseous than when I left the house and a little more choked up than anticipated, I finally stepped into the voting booth.

Once the fine election worker turned on the machine, I went on to press the buttons: 1Y, 2Y, straight democratic, and then the big green sucker that said, “Vote.” It took all of 3.2 seconds, during which nothing exploded, imploded, or self-combusted.

Although, I did feel a little breathless. After all, having a say can levy a real blow in the very best of ways.

And when I met Dan in the parking lot outside the building after, he put his arms around my shoulders and congratulated me. “How do you feel?” he asked.

“Like a real American,” I said. Finally.

And hopeful.

Until next time.

October 30, 2008

October 30, 2008

Goodness, am I looking forward to the end of this election. I can’t take it for much longer.

I just can’t.

My nerves are so frazzled and my thighs should only be as thin as my patience for this presidential Joe-the-plumber-who’s-not-really-a plumber politics. I’m sooo ready to get back to good old boring things, like the weather and why we shouldn’t eat dairy and how many ways I don’t understand the Nasdaq.

After all, isn’t it painstakingly obvious by now that Obama should win and McSame should lose? I mean, is it just me?

Aside from my being all knowing about most things (okay, okay, don’t write me), I am only human. And my fuse for the “stump” grows ever shorter with each passing minute.

ENOUGH ALREADY. That’s what I want to scream–walking to and from the mailbox, yanking propaganda off my front door, and at the people I see on the street who I’m sure are Republican. (Yes, I’m talking to you, Christmas-plaid lady.)

Now perhaps my fuse is growing short because my jeans continue to dig into my liver despite the fact I’ve had a raisin since August, or that it’s that time of the month, or because REM sleep has become as elusive as the eight-track. (How I miss Boz Scaggs. He never sounded so good.)

Whatever the case, I am longing for the hard “g”. I’m tired of hearinG about Diva Palin’s haute couture and how it’s goinG to charity (yeah, so’s mine). And I’m super duper sick of holdinG back the gag reflex every time John McCain refers to us “ordinary” people as “his friends.”

I’m also terrified that the Republications will actually succeed in stealinG another election. They are a shady lot. So to all of you who are readinG (yep, you mom), please: VOTE. (And send me that meatball recipe already.)

VOTEVOTEVOTEVOTEVOTEVOTEVOTEVOTE.

After all, I’ll be doinG it. In fact, I’ve got some little white pills lined up like a pretty pearl necklace at my bedside in preparation for pushinG the button on the left–and then promptly droppinG into an ignorant slumber on the night of the election.

Because what I don’t know through the dark hours of the night won’t hurt me (and CNN won’t miss me). Instead, I want the joy of waking up to good news for a change, my friends: That Barack Obama made his way into the White House.
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Filed under: Uncategorized — sherer @ 8:19 pm
Goodness, am I looking forward to the end of this election. I can’t take it for much longer.

I just can’t.

My nerves are so frazzled and my thighs should only be as thin as my patience for this presidential Joe-the-plumber-who’s-not-really-a plumber politics. I’m sooo ready to get back to good old boring things, like the weather and why we shouldn’t eat dairy and how many ways I don’t understand the Nasdaq.

After all, isn’t it painstakingly obvious by now that Obama should win and McSame should lose? I mean, is it just me?

Aside from my being all knowing about most things (okay, okay, don’t write me), I am only human. And my fuse for the “stump” grows ever shorter with each passing minute.

ENOUGH ALREADY. That’s what I want to scream–walking to and from the mailbox, yanking propaganda off my front door, and at the people I see on the street who I’m sure are Republican. (Yes, I’m talking to you, Christmas-plaid lady.)

Now perhaps my fuse is growing short because my jeans continue to dig into my liver despite the fact I’ve had a raisin since August, or that it’s that time of the month, or because REM sleep has become as elusive as the eight-track. (How I miss Boz Scaggs. He never sounded so good.)

Whatever the case, I am longing for the hard “g”. I’m tired of hearinG about Diva Palin’s haute couture and how it’s goinG to charity (yeah, so’s mine). And I’m super duper sick of holdinG back the gag reflex every time John McCain refers to us “ordinary” people as “his friends.”

I’m also terrified that the Republications will actually succeed in stealinG another election. They are a shady lot. So to all of you who are readinG (yep, you mom), please: VOTE. (And send me that meatball recipe already.)

VOTEVOTEVOTEVOTEVOTEVOTEVOTEVOTE.

After all, I’ll be doinG it. In fact, I’ve got some little white pills lined up like a pretty pearl necklace at my bedside in preparation for pushinG the button on the left–and then promptly droppinG into an ignorant slumber on the night of the election.

Because what I don’t know through the dark hours of the night won’t hurt me (and CNN won’t miss me). Instead, I want the joy of waking up to good news for a change, my friends: That Barack Obama made his way into the White House.

October 27, 2008

October 27, 2008

Last night, I had a dream my husband’s ex-wife came to live with us. We lived in three rooms that had black dirt for walls, an old white refrigerator, a faded moss sofa and matching easy chair, a 1970-inspired remnant of a television, and one loud and banging radiator heater. I woke up in the morning of my dream to find my husband’s ex and my stepdaughter, C, sharing the easy chair and watching Milton Berle on TV.

I was surprised to see them, but they acted as if I were as normal a sight as the bad reception that comes from using rabbit ears. “Please move,” said Dan’s ex, referring to my blocking the television. She was eating Captain Crunch out of a shallow crystal vase from Tiffanys. C, on the other hand, seemed to look right through me.

As I huffed my way to another part of the room, it dawned on me, in my dream, that Dan and I had spent the night in the guest-room portion of this hovel (which looked like a small walk-in closet after a kitchen fire). While his ex and C spent it in what was supposed to be our room (which upon further inspection, was filled with our king-size bed and Moroccan-inspired duvet, Belgian antique furniture and carpenter’s chest, and two wood and wicker night tables that I got on Overstock.com for a bargain).

Sweet Jesus, was I pissed.

So I pulled Dan into the bathroom and demanded he tell me why “that woman dropped off her kid and then proceeded to crawl into bed with her and sleep here, in our bed no less!”

I have no idea how, in my dream, we got relegated to the guest room or where the dream came from in the first place, but yet, it mercilessly lingered. After a poorly restrained exchange of angry whispering with my husband (which I’m sure the ex heard), I opened the door and went to confront her. Politely, of course, because even in a dream manners count.

As I got closer, however, she stood up and turned her back to me to welcome a short, pregnant-looking male with tattoos, hair loss, and several equally imaginative and revolting piercings that had me stifling my gag reflex. Seems he was there to pick her up for what appeared to be a date.

And I thought: Sheesh, she could at least brush her hair and put on a little lipstick. (Because even in a dream, hygiene matters.)

Anyway, at that point, she embraced him (only getting her arms about one-fourth of the way around his mid section), grabbed a cold one from our frig (entitled bitch) and said, “See ya” like a petulant she-girl who finally mustered the courage to defy her controlling mother. And who, with great bravado and the Beastie Boys in her brain, was carried off by an antithetical version of Richard Gere, on her way towards (instead of away from) some sort of nasty chemical operation.

As you can imagine, I was over the moon to see her go. Once she left, I went to unravel what was happening with Dan and C, who were now both rapt in watching Bob Hope climb his way into a bright yellow sponge while members of the “gotcha” media looked on from their shiny Studebakers.

As I tried to get their attention by doing a few military-style jumping jacks (which always make me have to pee), I quickly found myself transported through some sort of nocturnal time machine into the bathroom of a cowboy saloon.

C and Dan were nowhere to be found. I was standing in front of two maplewood stalls, contemplating which to go in, when my friend Georgeanne barged in–her recognizable head perched atop a testosterone-laden manly-esque Arnold Schwarzenegger-like body. I couldn’t help but stare at her large package, at which point she gave me wink and a nod, opened the left stall, and vanished straight into the plumbing that connected the toilet to the wall….

I yelled just as she disappeared: “Hey, have you been working out…?” But my words just trailed off, leaving me stunned and confused as to what was happening. That’s when I heard gunfire.

Suddenly, my handsome husband burst in, all out of breath and sweaty, wearing a pair of plaid knickers and a white tank top. “Honey,” he said, “I LOVE it here. They have guns really cheap!”

And then he ran back out. That’s when the real-life Dan’s cell phone alarm went off and I was catapulted back into full-blown reality.

“Listen Mister,” I said, as he went to hit the snooze. “We are NOT moving. And we’re certainly not getting a gun.” I picked a sleep boog out of the dog’s eye.

“Okay, babe. Good. You have fun now.” With that, he pat me on the ass and dropped back down for the count.

But I didn’t. I snuggled our cocker/sheltie mix close and sat up, alert and troubled. Damn his easy six extra minutes of sleep. I wondered: Why I can’t I be so easily unconscious? Are my crazy dreams the sign of a troubled or bored mind? Will I ever find out where my friend went? And if she reappears, who’s body will she be wearing? Will I ever know if I left the bathroom? If the shooting ever stopped? If we did move after all, filling our house with cheap pistols? Will my husband’s ex get home at a decent hour–and if not, will she at least be considerate enough to call and let us know she’s staying out?

Will these troubling times during both Delta sleep and hyperconsciousness ever make sense? Can I expect to dream crazy from here on in? Is this another byproduct of middle age that the powers-that-be (CURIOUS GEORGE W. BUSH, you bad little monkey) have kept a dirty little secret?

Should I fear all sleep forever?

If you can shed any insights, by all means. Until then, please. Don’t wake me…

October 23, 2008

October 23, 2008

Even though I am 45, I am still too young to know people who are dying.

And not just older people–following the cycle of life that says, when you get to be over 90 (yep, 90, that’s the age I’m picking), you grow sicker and, at some point, let go.

I’m talking young people or, okay, middle aged like myself. And this week alone, I’ve learned of three of them. In the process of leaving…

One who has been slowly withering away like leaves in winter for a long while now.

One who, after a couple of beers with a few good friends, dropped dead of a massive heart attack on his way home to his lovely wife (who survived her own bout of cancer-at-too-young-an-age some 10 years ago).

And just yesterday, during a routine phone call with my mother, I learned of yet another: Just three years my junior with a husband and two young daughters, to make the tale even more tragic. She went to the doctor with stomach pains and left with a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer that’s so fast growing, it’s already spread to her liver. She’s got three months. Tops.

She and I used to play with our little-girl dolls together. My mom tells me we were even swaddled in the same pink blanket. (Me first, then her.)

I don’t know how you receive that news, and I can’t even imagine–as I sit here in my pretty little home office and my pretty little life with my pretty little arms, rowing out from under what now feels like an insignificant puddle of dirty bathwater. The same one that just days ago felt big like a tidal wave–and heavy like 20 bloated beer kegs on my belly.

Today, it pales beside a widow’s pain. A man dying on the vine in hospice. Or a poor young mother, delivered the harshest of blows. The latter the sons and daughters of the ladies who came, blissfully ignorant, just months ago to my mother’s 70th birthday party. When it was all smiles and cake and potted plants on the back deck. And laughter.

How things can change.

It’s humbling. (It could easily be me.) As is all cancer, heart failure that shakes like an earthquake, and the slow decay of what remains under a snowstorm. (So easily. Why not me?)

I may only be 45, but I am, indeed, old enough to know: We’re all dying slowly. (Even me.) It’s the beauty of not knowing when that allows us to fill the space in between with something other than weary anticipation and despair. But for the rest of us and those who care, well…

I’m sorry for the depressing post, but I’m trying to make sense of it–and how it came to be within the specter of real.

Fannie, Freddie and the Dow be damned, a little perspective: I’m so sorry Anna Mae. Rick. Cheryl.

I am so sad.

October 21, 2008

October 21, 2008

Now that I’ve gotten my feelings about Sarah Palin off my chest (I’ll let Tina Fey take it from here), I’d like to talk about the economy. I know, I know. The market is saturated with unsolicited opinions on this topic. Still, what else is there to talk about? Shoes? The latest version of the Grapefruit Diet? How much I wish pizza was a health food?

It all seems to pale in comparison to the big white donkey in the living room, dining room, kitchen, gas pump, bank, the mother ship of Nordstroms, makeup counter, favorite boutique, and, of course, most beloved sushi restaurant. Ever. (Sorry Rise in Chicago. You’ve been replaced by Ooka. Work it out.)

It’s weird, being in my 40s. I’ve never felt the problems of our times so acutely–or cared so much about the economy or, for that matter, presidential politics. Still, by the time you get to my age, you must embrace the fact that you’re a bona fide grownup–with bona fide grownup concerns that cannot be ignored. You can’t lean on mommy and daddy for a warm snuggle and an “everything-will-be-fine” frothy glass of hot milk before bedtime. Or, on your young children who need you for solace.

Nope, whatever happens to you–the overspending, the overeating, the overreacting and over-hysteria over being over-everything–that’s all yours to contend with.

————————————–

I’m afraid to say that I’m not contending with it well, especially when it comes to work. As a consultant, I feel a little like a tourist in a Tsunami. One day, I’m on the beach applying a healthy layer of St. Tropez, thinking about how to build that 800th sand castle–and promote it on Twitter. And the next minute, I’m belly up under a mountain of water and a rabid jellyfish, wondering what happened.

Because, as it turns out, my workload is shrinking faster than a decomposing corpse. And I’m a not somebody who takes kindly to too much free time and not enough forced creativity. I like being charged with too many tasks. I bask in busy like a lizard basks in too much sun. I prefer being too crazed to pee.

And yet my clients, who are nothing if not exact, continue to rob me of that joy–the type that comes with a perpetual state of overwhelmed and exasperated.

“Jill,” they say, “we LOVE you and your work, you are the best, the very best, the best writer, the best strategist, the best of the best, why haven’t you won a Pulitzer yet, you little devil, all that experience you don’t look a day over 28, and you’re so thin and delightful and what a head of hair, is that your natural color, it’s glorious, you are a celebrity!, and why we don’t even deserve to be in your company (potential employers, are you listening?)…BUT sadly, the company is cutting back, what with the economy and all. And you’re out. See ya wouldn’t want to be ya. We’ll be back in touch after the uprising.”

(Note: here’s where Jill goes to her happy place–Pizzeria Anywhere with her personal shopper, sky’s the limit on both fronts.)

As a result of these shenanigans, much of the past two fiscal quarters have been shaky for me and I’ve had to sit idly by while, for example, eight newsletters have turned into four, 10 class facilitations have to turned into three, and four articles a month have turned into well, “we’re holding off for now and will be in touch when we’re ready to start making new assignments.”

(Cut to Jill foraging in her own cabinets for food. And trust me when I say: There are just so many cans of stewed tomatoes and packets of tuna one can eat without losing it altogether. Not good.)
————————————————

Beyond any comfort that comes from knowing it’s the economy and not me–and having enough canned vegetables to last well into 2009–is knowing that I’m not alone in being terrified about, well, what’s to become of us. Especially if McSame wins the election.

Why just the other week, I had dinner with my friend Joy, who so aptly described the direness of the situation by saying this: “This economy is killing poetry and girlfriend gossip, not allowing beauty to flower.”

Her eloquence makes me teary. This made perfect sense after both three glasses of Plum wine and even now, in the height of lucidity. Her point: This shit sucks.

Fortunately, like Joy, I have a strong survival instinct, skills, and enough good sense to keep a few irons on the fire at all times. But I don’t want to jinx myself and talk about them now. So you must stay posted. Good news is coming. For us all. I just know it.

Until next time –

September 24, 2008

September 24, 2008

So now, on to a more or less, less pleasant subject: The economy.

Once again, I write: Holy. Shit.

How can I write about anything else (okay, there is some stuff on PTA Palin below, but wait for it…). HELLO AMERICAN GOVERNMENT. IF YOU”RE LISTENING? UH, I’LL TAKE CARE OF BEING “IN CRISIS.” K? YOU JUST KEEP THE FINANCIAL BALL ROLLING. (Sheesh, can’t anybody be original anymore?)

Truth be told, I don’t think I’ve been in crisis more, thanks to the banking crisis, superceded by the Sarah Palin crisis (wait for it), superceded by the I-can’t-lose-weight-by-decomposing crisis, followed by the why-does-my-husband’s-ex-suck crisis, followed by a whole slew of too many others to list here.

Which all leads me to believe that being in crisis is one of the things I’m really good at – which leads me to a whole other kind of crisis, which I won’t get into here.

What I will say is that, even though our financial outlook is about as promising as a midget getting over a mountain without the help of some sort of therapeutic lift or automation, I feel that my husband and I are uniquely equipped to deal with it. That’s because (are you ready): We got nothing.

That’s right. Absolutely nothing. No pension. No massive investments. No windfall in the offing.

And like a told a group of freelancers many years ago, when I lectured them on how to be successfully in business and was asked what to do with any assets: “Sometimes, it’s best just not to have any.”

Now don’t get me wrong. We don’t live on skid row. We’re not in the bread line. And we do have a lovely house, a few nice new cars, some semblance of jobs, and enough in an IRA to put a pool and Jacuzzi in the backyard (would the homeowners’ association allow it). But comparably speaking: We’re tapped.

So while I am anxious—and while I know it’s not the best time to be a freelancer (full-time job offers, send them here!)—I am also bathed in a weird kind of relief that when you’re as high and light as a pair of UGG boots from last season, you don’t have too far or hard to fall.

And with that said, tonight, I’m going to put the cash in my wallet ($46) and the 12 pairs of Gap body black stretch pants I have in my closet (priceless) under my mattress (next to the hardened pea I keep there just to see…) for safekeeping.

I suspect I won’t be alone.

———————————————————————–

And now, a word about Sarah Palin: Did you see last night’s .1 nanosecond clip of her meeting with some world leader wearing the same kind of scarf around his head that got Rachael Ray clipped in a Dunkin’ Donuts ad?

If I recall correctly (I saw the clip as I was nodding out at my usual bedtime of 7:12 p.m. – middle age isn’t pretty), she was leaning in to him real close, asking about his son, and listening to his answer as if she were viewing floral arrangements with Bristol’s wedding planner.

You know, nails close to her teeth, eyebrows up in anticipation, pony tail trying to be a sophisticated Steel Magnolia-type-outdated updo but yet not cutting it. The world leader didn’t know what the heck to do with her. He almost looked like he was holding back hysterics (think Harvey Korman and Tim Conway on the old Carol Burnett show).

I gotta tell you, although I was on the fringe of REM sleep, I was hyperconscious enough to feel slightly mortified. It was embarrassing and uncomfortable to watch, much in the way it would be to see your Jewish mother on the news, wiping a piece of roasted chicken off the twisted cheek of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

See, here’s the deal: I can appreciate a good hockey mom who cares about families. And I have all the respect in the world for those PTA moms. Why, there are days I mourn not being one of them. But that doesn’t mean I want one running my country.

You know?

——————————————————————-

To all of this I say: Why are we not, also, as a nation, outraged by how the McCain campaign is hiding Sarah Palin?

She’s running to be a heartbeat away from the presidency and yet we can’t see her, talk to her, report on her—or enjoy the normal checks and balances of the press that should not only be allowed but encouraged when we’re looking to elect a new leader of the free world.

Folks, this is not just a nice-to-have, it’s a NEED-TO-HAVE. And yet, the GOP is treating us like we’re a bunch of horny peeping Toms.

You’d think their obvious attempts to shield her from the media because they KNOW she’ll inevitably say something that’s smacks of anything but vice presidential would make more people just plain ol’ pissed. And yet, she still enjoys (at least as of this morning) a 52 percent approval rating.

Are you kidding me?

See, this is why I’m so depressed. Because once you lose the foundation of cause and effect (C&A), you’ve got nothing. Seriously. Oh, I know people say it’s your health. And sure, that’s important. But if you can’t count on the fact that inciting lockjaw on the person running to be vice president will lead to lower approval ratings by the people charged to elect her, than what can you count on? Preventive medicine?

I don’t know what I’m saying. This is what happens when C&A (not to be confused with T&A) is pulled out from under you like a rug and Cris Angel all in one elevator.

No, wait, what I do know what I’m saying. It’s this: What the f*#*!?

————————————————————-

So now, I know the Dems are up by nine percentage points as of this morning, and that should be enough, right? But it’s not. In fact, I won’t be able to sleep well at night (despite the pea and all the Lycra) until Obama is ahead by a good double-digit percentage. Possible? Let’s see. Friday night. The debates. Be there.

We’ll tawk.

Until next time.

September 9, 2008

September 9, 2008

I woke up this morning to some heart-pounding news: There’s been a new bounce in the polls and, thanks to his new running mate Governor Sarah Palin, John McCain is in the lead.

Now, I’m not a political junkie and I’m far from an expert. I’m sure that if we sat down and had dinner, you could reel off more political facts and figures in an hour than I could buy shoes (which is a lot, trust me).

But I do think I am representative of at least a Macy’s-mailing-list worth of middle-aged women (especially those Hillary democrats) and I am terrified at the prospect of Sarah Palin, let alone John McCain, in the White House.

To put it bluntly: Holy. Shit.

Never mind John McCain’s disregard and irresponsibility for what should happen to the rest of us, should he kick off and leave us with a woman who isn’t even ready for a prime-time interview let alone the role of commander and chief of the free world.

And never mind that he’s using this woman as a political tool (because if she were a man, he’d still be reformer-minded, hockey-daddin’, fly-fishin’, gun-totin’, and moose-skinnin’ in anonymity…) simply because she has two budding breasts and a vagina.

Because if that’s the only criteria these days for vice president, I’d like to nominate either my 10-year-old stepdaughter (who excels at not taking “no” for an answer) or my best friend Lorrie (the skinny bitch who, I’m sure, would look fabulous sporting an Oozie or AK–47 or anything, for that matter, in gunmetal).

Does John McCain think that just because he’s added a woman to the ticket, all the disgruntled Hillary Democrats are going to morph into Republicans? Because we’re not Stepford Wives, you know.

Hillary was a smart, experienced, articulate, and astute politician whose passions and beliefs happened to resonate with us—and who also happened to be a woman. That’s why we liked her. Not because we bend and flex like a Trojan condom at any fresh new scent of estrogen.

And while a good scent may help (the oh-so-arrogant) Palin when she’s huntin’ down a critter—or looking for scary books by rebellious minds (that means you, William Shakespeare and, oh the horror, Judy Blume) to ban, public servants to fire on behalf of jilted friends and family, or new ways to promote the soulless title of “Sarah Barracuda”—it simply doesn’t work for those of us who, in addition to having yammies and v-gi’s, also have a few tickers in the ol’ noggin.

——————————————
Suffice to say, when I ask any of my friends how they feel about Sarah Palin, their one-word answer is always the same: SCARYSCARYSCARYSCARYSCARYSCARYSCARY.

And, I’m not talking “Oh-my-gosh-I-can’t-get-on-the-scale-this-week” scary. Or the Jaws-inspired theme-song scary you hear in your head when you get pulled over for cruising through a stop sign (although I’m not talking from personal experience).

I’m talking Freddie-Krueger-on-heroin scary. Jack Nicholson-in-The-Shining-wearing-an -IED-device scary. Al-Roker-in-a-hot-pink-spandex-jumpsuit-before-gastric-bypass-with-a-microphone-and-a-bottle-of-silly-string scary.

S.c.a.r.y.

And, from the looks of it, my friends are not alone. Why just yesterday on Good Morning America, a reporter interviewed the “Elite 6” – a group of Palin’s “girlfriends.” (Hey, could she also be a philandering lesbian? Not that there’s anything wrong with that. And, if so, are lesbians allowed to believe in creationism?)

Surprisingly, most of them were pro-choice. Not surprisingly, most also seemed extremely uncomfortable talking about Palin beyond hoping she’ll make it to their annual Christmas ornament thing-a-ma-jigger. “We told her she has to be there. No excuses.” (Aw, she is just like us.)

That was about as committed to anything regarding Palin they’d get, save one (who looked slightly pathological anyway – and sadly, I know all too well what that looks like).

The irony is McCain knows that Palin is more dangerous than just an evangelical’s wet dream and a cheap political ploy. Why else would he keep her away from going one-on-one with the mainstream political media? Because he’s trying to build mystery and intrigue?

I suspect he’d no sooner see her interviewed on Sunday morning television than I’d like my husband’s ex-wife to move into our spare bedroom.

And Gibson? He gets the first interview? Don’t get me wrong, I like Charlie a lot, but is that really the best decision? Don’t the smarties in the back of Mac’s bus think more people would like to see the “hottest governor from the coldest state” romp in a pile of warm mud with Katie Couric and, perhaps, Ann and Nancy Wilson? (Who, by the way, are suing the McCain campaign for using the song “Barracuda” at the whitey fest without their permission.)

Now, that would be smart campaigning.

———————————

And still, despite all this good wishin’, at the end of the day, when I see how more and more people give her higher and higher approval ratings, I have to ask: Am I swimming in a sea of fools?

Am I the only one who has been living in the polluted backwash of George Bush’s eight years of garbage politics?

Am I the only want who longs for something different?

When I first learned of McCain’s choice, I thought: “Yipppeeee!!! He’s just GIVIN it to us.” I saw it as an act of desperation. An easy victory. After all, who’s gonna buy this chick?

And then, the gap started to narrow. And the collective drool started to fall from the GOP’s mouths like cool icicles at the base of a glacier after a storm of hail and locusts.

Boy was I stupid.

Now, it seems every day I ask my incredibly wise and super hot husband: How can this race be so close, given McCain’s ties to Bush and Palin’s hypocrisy and inexperience and the past eight years and two senseless wars and too many foreclosures and this crappy-ass economy and they want to overturn Roe v. Wade and the dangers to our daughters and we pay too much for gas and nobody’s thinking about healthcare for everyone and how will we retire or recoup the investment in our house or switch careers and get new jobs if we want them and stop relying on arabs for oil and build wind whatevers and solar whatevers and thermal whatevers and return to being the great nation we used to be with great leadership and where has that been most of all?

I need to know: How can McCain race ahead by simply putting a hot mama on his ticket–one who promises to do great things for the eyeglass business, but set back the women’s movement by centuries?

Is it that we really do live in a racist society and more people than not are unwilling to vote for a black man? Or, is it that we’re so blinded by a woman’s persuasion and good looks that we’ll take whatever she stands for, even if it’s s.c.a.r.y?

Well, that’s it. That’s all I got. (I’m trying to come out of my shell.)

Until next time.

August 1, 2008

August 1, 2008
August 5, 1983 (Stop counting your fingers, I was 20.)

Dear Billy (written on a typewriter):

I feel I can appropriately call you “Billy” beings we’ve known each other for many years – years before 52nd Street, Glass Houses – years of Piano Man and Cold Spring Harbor. I remember when I used to say Billy Joel and people would say, “Who?” I’ve really admired your music over the years. I have always admired your creative ingenious and skillful piano wizardry. In my eyes, you are truly “the piano man.”

I realize that throughout a lifetime, we must constantly be changing in order to keep up with the times, stay close to sanity or run from it. Yet, I was somewhat disappointed, for appalled may be too strong a word, with what I have heard recently in your Innocent Man album (for anybody under 25, that’s a large round black shiny disk that we used to put in these things called “record players” [pronounced re-kord plaa-yers]).

I fully realize that many people are in this world to enjoy all types of music, yet I cling to your lyrics and balladeeristic melodies because in my eyes they truly express some genuine meaning, thought and emotion.

I listened and listened to The Innocent Man [album] and tried to decipher the meaning. I wondered for hours why the producers forgot to put piano playing in your new music. (Okay, you gotta admit, this is pretty insightful for a 20 year old.) I even believed for a while you were indeed an “Innocent Man” of this tragic crime and waste of incredible artistic talent.

I cursed society for introducing the words “what sells” to you. Follow your fans—your true fans—and they’ll follow you. Had I been interested in the Beach Boys, Chubby Checker or Elvis I would have started collecting their albums years ago and never even bothered with yours.

Change is acceptable. I’ve enjoyed your past albums and have taken them in the context in which they belong–through the changing periods of your life. Still, they were songs that meant something. It is one thing to change and display a different part of yourself–to create a new, yet still individual style–still Billy Joel.

But to recreate the music that belongs to another’s individuality is a copout and a letdown. A letdown to your many determined-to-remain fans who so avidly follow your music and so adamantly believe in you. And a copout because success is a word, music is a dream—and everybody has one of them. (I have no idea what I was trying to say here—most likely, I was hungry.)

I am interested and eager for your response and hope that you do not take offense to this letter as I meant it in a positive way. My devotion to you and your music is endless and I could never let you disappoint me and remain silent (there is white out [“wite-oww-t”] over the “me and remain silent” part of that). Waiting anxiously for your reply.

Keeping the faith,
Jill Sherer

I got a canned reply to this letter from his fan club–the Root Beer Rag. It told me how he couldn’t possibly reply to all the mail he received in a week, to please accept his apology for the impersonal nature of the reply, and to stay tuned to his new concert schedule and upcoming album release.

Frankly, I had forgotten about the whole lot of it, until recently, when I found the note in an old “Rolling Stone” magazine I had saved from when I was a teen. After I read it, and filled with melancholy, I wrongly shared it with my husband and my 18-year-old niece Sam.

They laughed mercilessly for 20 minutes and have never let me forget the line “My devotion to you and your music is endless and I could never let you disappoint me and remain silent…”

I mean, we could be having an innocent conversation about the price of air in China when Dan or Sam will say, “Hey, remember when [Aunt] Jill wrote to Billy Joel? What was that line again?” Then, they piece it together, recount it in unison, and point and cackle with glee at my post-teenage immaturity.

And yet, there is a bright side to letting the important people in your life know what matters most. Because after reading my letter, my husband surprised me with concert tickets.

“Honey,” he said, one night after work, “we got another court subpoena from ‘S’ (my husband’s always delightful ex-wife).” And just as I was crafting my expletives and preparing to dial Spatolas Pizza for help coping, he smiled big.

“KIDDING.’ And then, he handed me an envelope with Billy Joel tickets.

—————————————————-

So we saw the show a few weeks ago at Hershey Park. And, the fact that I couldn’t have chocolate aside (thank you Weight Watchers), it was a great night—surprising on a few counts.

Mainly, in that I couldn’t believe the demographics of the crowd. They were all over the place. From people in walkers and 1980′s Levi’s to pre-teens chewing gum, groping their cell phones, and complaining about, well, everything.

It was a surreal moment – to be sitting in the stands, listening to Billy tend to his real fans with a steady series of older ballads (i.e., “Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway,” “Angry Young Man,” “I’ve Loved These Days”). All the while, a wide net of 10-to-20 something’s clacked away at their cell phones.

Which certainly wasn’t how WE did things, back in the day.

After all, we’d never text or call or whatever—whether we’d had the means to do so or not. Nooo, we’d be too busy smoking pot (or, in my case, binge-eating soft pretzels)—or trying to inhale random wafts of smoke hanging in the air.

We’d let the cumulative effect of the drugs, food, and music carry us off to someplace else. The bigness of the experience—the hazy surroundings, the loud instruments, the dense and eclectic crowd—would grab us in the palm of its hand. And then, huddled together, like desperate strangers worshipping at the same musical alter—we’d quietly connect.

It was humanity at its best.

And a feeling that seems to be lost on this generation, too preoccupied to be fully present to one of music’s legends while he stands right in front of them. A shame, really. Because they’re missing out on something special.

I, on the other hand, spent the night singularly compelled. And in transport back to the day when writing the letter I did was the thing that mattered the most.

Which got me thinking: What would that letter look like today?
——————————–
My dearest Billy:

I’m so sorry to hear about your divorce from Christy. Although it seems to have worked out well for you (and your new 24-year-old wife—what can you two possibly talk about?). Not so good for her. Who would’ve imagined.

Anyway, let’s move on and talk about your last album. (I think it was the last one. Oh, who can remember? I don’t even know where I left the housekeys or when my next pap is. I know, TMI.)

First of all, you’re soooo wrong.. (I could’ve sworn I heard Billy berating me between “Only the Good Die Young” and “We Didn’t Start the Fire” for not buying the classical album he put out a few years back.) I DID buy it. But okay, I never listened to it, because frankly, I just don’t think of you that way.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the classical training. I like Beethoven and Brahms as much as the next gal. And I know that it laid the groundwork for one of my very favorite albums of all times, “Turnstiles” (that’s when you were at your most genius).

Still, did you really need to go so extreme with a music-only version? If I’m going to dig into my pockets, I expect to hear the sound of your vocal chords pressed up against something solid. (I mean, without them, Brenda and Eddie would never have gone steady, right?)

I need something I can count on. Who doesn’t?

Now, change is okay. I said it 20 years ago (okay, 25, DAMN YOU) and I’ll say it again. But it sure would’ve been super duper to get another Turnstiles out of you. A Version 2.0, if you will.

Do that next time? I’m yours for good. (Yes, Dan, I love you. I’m just saying this euphemistically. Sorry you had to read that, Bill.)

Even though, dude, you are looking a tad bit old. I’m not saying that to be mean because, hey, you should see what’s going on with my knees. But it surprised me to see your extreme hair loss and, is it me, or are you shrinking? (Just ever so slightly, though, seriously…)

No worries. It happens to all of us. (Just ask my 10-year-old stepdaughter who, by the time we ring in 2009, will be several inches taller than me. Rotten kid.)

I’ve heard it starts to happen at age 45, this shrinking. Well, at least that’s what “they” say, whoever they are. Please don’t ask me. I still have no idea.

———————————————————

In any event, I must say it was cool to be at your concert after all these years. (Although I didn’t appreciate the late start. 8:30? That’s bedtime in my world.) And really, you did a helluva job.

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for the old tunes. Because if I had to listen to two hours of that Glass Houses shit, well, I might be writing to ask for my $250,000 dollars back. (And BTW, why did we have to take out a second mortgage for these tickets? Bill, c’mon. That’s not right.)

Definitely worth all the angst over watching everybody and their mother eat chocolate in the park. I’m on Weight Watchers. Again. Surprise. I know, I know, the last time I saw you some 20 years ago (OKAY OKAY 25), I think I was also on Weight Watchers. But let’s not talk about it. It’ll just make me upset.

Moving on… hey, you can’t believe what’s going on out here. I mean the geesers are hanging tight, but have you ever been to one of your own concerts? These kids aren’t payin a lick of attention to you. Soo-rrey! I mean, I’m way out here in the stands and I can tell ya – they’re distracted. Technology. Everyone says it’s a good thing. But I’m not so sure, Bill.

I’m not so sure.

I mean, what’s so important that can’t wait? Must they text? Can’t they leave the damn cell phone in their pockets for two hours? Do they think the video on their phones is going to really capture the speed in which your fingers race across those ivories? (Bravo, BTW. I’m on my feet clapping, must to the chagrin of the not-so-nice folks behind me. But you are a talented thang.)

Frankly, I’m mad for you when I see it. And I’d like to make a citizen’s arrest, but I’m not sure about the protocol. Do you just stand up and say, “I place you under citizen’s arrest?” Isn’t that a bit redundant? I mean, I’m a citizen and I’m arresting you. Seems obvious.

Yet, here’s the real question: What do I do from there? What if they won’t go? Or worse yet, what if they will? There are so many issues to be negotiated with that kind of renegade law, it’s no wonder nobody does it. Still, I’d like to. Oh, I’d REALLY like to.

But then again, you don’t need me to stick up for you, do you Bill? After all, this is about you and your gargantuan talent. Not my bitter and desperate desires to squelch the bad behavior of other people.

Besides, if I could figure out how to do that, maybe you’d be paying a small mortgage to see me in concert. Huh?

———————————————-

So listen, I loved the show. I was singing, well, more like mouthing the words to, like, EVERY song. (Because unlike my younger texting counterparts, I have consideration for those around me. And, I happen to know that I’m a tad bit tone deaf.)

I enjoyed every minute, even though I had trouble seeing the big screens, staying awake, and getting past my metabolic syndrome. You wouldn’t wish those hunger pains on your worst enemy, Bill, trust me.

Now, I know what you’re thinking—that my last letter was a lot more pointed, but I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m still with you. Even though you haven’t had a new album out in, like, 15 years, I’m still here. Listening with awe and inspiration. (Oh, why did you not play Summer Highland Falls? That is my FAV! Promise you will next time? PROMISE?)

And I promise to show up for you as long as I can (God willing, gas prices will come down, stupid McCain will lose). And then, I’ll travel to as many shows as I can.

Until then, you take it easy. Ease up on the alcohol and the excess, huh? You’re not gettin any younger. And try not to get too excited (give that young wife a nice pool boy for Christmas—it’s not worth it, TRUST.). Let someone else drive.

I’ll be seein ya…

Hugs and kisses (in a platonic way),
Jill Sherer (now Murray – can you believe, I finally got married? Yay for me!)

P.S. Do you remember me?
Xo
Jill

June 29, 2008

June 29, 2008

Sorry it’s taken me so long to post. The dog ate my homework. I’ve been traveling the world on a cruise ship. The power went out in our house. We’re experimenting with how long we can live without email. I woke up one morning with spontaneous amnesia and have regained my memory this morning. I’ve been so busy Linking in, Facebooking, and Twittering, that I completely lost track of the blog.

Pick any one of these excuses, please. Be my guest. Because frankly, I’m too darn tired to tell you that I’ve simply been too darn tired to sit down and conjure something pithy and witty on what it’s like to be four-and-a-half decades in. After all, there’s new social media to be navigated. Query letters to be written. Thin friends to be envied.

Nothing personal.

It’s just that, as you know, along with the staples of the middle-age maintenance regimen (i.e., the plucking of chin hair, the dieting without losing weight, the trying to remember where pretty-much everything is, etc.), the $78,000 worth of plants on our deck have now become full-time work. (Please, sweet Jesus, Mother of God, when will it be winter …)

Fortunately, they’re all still alive. Unfortunately, I fear that’s the miracle I’ve spent years hoping for. Which means my plans to ever wear a size eight again or get on Oprah to talk about my new book may be shot to all get out.

(Evidence A: One of the three agents who’s read my book proposal just carefully and eloquently, as if she were writing to a mental patient or former postal worker, rejected it.)

As if this were not enough to completely depress me, I went shopping with my niece Samantha today and bought her, among a few other things, some lovely yellow towels to take to her new dormitory.

The fact that she’s leaving for college in just a few weeks, while exciting for her, a sad milestone for me since it shows in no uncertain terms that I am, in fact, old enough to have a niece going to college.

Which means I’m that much closer to, you know, buyin’ it.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to be morbid and I don’t want to be so focused on the fact that every year I get a year older, but it is what it is. I didn’t write the story of Adam and Eve (although, if I did, maybe we could buy our new Prius outright and I’d be one of Oprah’s authors). I do, however, have to follow its dictates.

See, here’s the thing: Sometimes I really like being 45. After all, I still have really great hair. I don’t have to fret over dating anymore—or anticipate what it will be like to turn 30. And I can expound confidently about my own color palette when asked by a firing squad of perfectly painted Barbie’s at the makeup counters at Nordy’s. So really, there are perks.

But sometimes, it’s hard to watch my niece, for example, get to start her life from the beginning. (No fair-sees—how come she gets to do it and I don’t, uh, again? HUH?) Watching her reminds me that I started from scratch once as well—and that time is over now. Just like someday, this time will be over too.

So here’s the question: Where has the time gone? How much is left? And how do I make the most of it?

The good news I don’t linger for too long on the subject—at least not the time-withering-away-like-sand-in-an-hourglass part (although I am always seeking an answer to the latter question). Because frankly, there are so many other equally glorious things to obsess about, it would be a shame to give death and dying the top bill.

So I simply revert to another subject: Like how getting rid of extra weight at middle age is like trying to shake both arms free from their sockets and off the torso altogether. Or how much I miss sleep and the show Thirtysomething. (That Hope. She had it all.)

And then there’s the issue of incontinence—an ailment I once believed was reserved for old Jewish men who liked to gamble and pregnant ladies. But alas, surprise. We are all susceptible at the halfway mark. Case in point…
—————————————–

The other day, I’m watching Lifetime, when an interesting commercial comes on the television. In it, an attractive middle-aged blonde graduated-bobbed woman tries on a pink feather boa, while another middle-aged brunette graduated-bobbed woman looks on and laughs at how ridiculous it is. As their peals of laughter accelerate, a gentle voiceover says, “When little leaks happen, there’s Poise Pads.”

Aw shit. So it wasn’t just a one-time deal, which is what I thought as I remembered the “little leak” I’d had earlier at the gym.

It was a first for me and it happened while I was doing 45 “military style” jumping jacks (which, by the way, should be outlawed for C-plus-cupped women, thank you). The trainer was telling me to put a little more “stretch” into the jack, and all I could think about was how I had peed myself and how I hoped he didn’t insist I sit on the chest press after.

Now, I’m not talking running-stream-of-bathwater pee, but a little loving leak like the one the ladies in finely pressed khakis and cashmere cardigans must’ve had in the commercial that makes pissing yourself look like a you-can-do-it inspirational message for Weight Watchers or Cialis.

Naturally, the whole issue made me curious as to whether my genetically blessed husband (who looks like cross between Kurt Russell and Patrick Swayze; and eats everything that’s not nailed down or eats him first and then pulls on size 32-inch jeans like they’re made of spandex; and who didn’t go to the dentist for 13 years and then went and had zero cavities…you get the pic), ever had a similar experience.

So as I do with all things important, I waited until later that night just as he was dozing off into REM sleep to ask him:

“Honey?”

“Huh?”

“Are you sleeping?”

“Huh?”
” Did you ever pee yourself?”
“Huh?”

“I KNEW it. Thanks babe.”

“Uh huh.”

See, it’s not just me. Sometimes, just knowing you’re not alone can make all the difference.

———————————-
Finally, yesterday, I was at Starbucks when the 17-year-old curly-topped young man-boy who made my grande-skim latte with two pumps of sugar-free cinnamon-dolce syrup handed it to me and said, “Have a great one today. Hey, the best one ever!” And then he smiled a squinty smile and made that clicking noise with his tongue, pointing his fingers at me like they were loaded pistols.

At first, I laughed at him. But then, I stopped to think about his youthful wisdom. I suspect he had no idea how potent it really was. Because, after all, shouldn’t every single one of our days—with their respective leaks and aging cells and graduating nieces—be the best one ever? Especially when you consider the fact that every day could be, well, you know…

Sometimes, people are smarter than they think.

Until next time!

Me

P.S. If you’re a potential client or agent trying to decide whether to hire or represent me, please ignore the entire section on peeing. Thank you!

June 1, 2008

June 1, 2008

I’m 45 now and while I’ve learned and mastered a great many things in my life there are still too many that baffle me. One of them is how to garden.

Now, I’m not talking the Martha-Stewart-let-me-show-you-what-I-can-do-with-that-half-acre-patch-of-weeds kind of gardening. I’m talking about the ability to keep even one potted plant from biting the big one.

Because sadly, while I can string together enough words to form a book and stay on top of the floating tufts of dog hair on my hardwood and keep myself in business for more than 60 months, I have a toxic thumb. One that cannot help but take a perfectly lovely blooming flower and, within a matter of days, turn it into a wasteland.

I marvel at the people I see outside on a sunny Sunday, tending joyfully to the colorful palettes that are sprinkled across their lawns like stars against a dark night. Then, I reflect on our own landscape, a colorful mix of mostly beige and brown, with flecks of green peaking out from under like curious toddlers at a hospice convention.

Usually, I just sigh in observation of the plant cemetery that lines both our small back deck and our robust asphalt driveway, and then let it go once inside our colorful and artistic home. After all, you can’t really kill a sofa or a fabulous painting (unless I’m painting it myself, but that’s another post). They are gloriously inanimate objects that, unlike plants, are totally unreliant upon my ability to provide life support.

But this past week, I had to do something about the outside since I was hosting a 70th birthday party for my mother and had to make the place shine all the way around for the 20-some old Jewish ladies coming with their white gloves.

In an attempt to do my mother proud in front of her longstanding cronies, I dragged my husband and my 10-year-old stepdaughter on a day trip to Buckman’s Gardens—a specialty garden shop in the neighborhood. Sure, we could’ve gone to Home Depot or Lowes on the cheap. But they didn’t offer me the intensive instruction I required when it came to both buying what I needed and keeping it alive for five straight days (until the party) without incident.

Once there, we met with the well-shaped barely 20-something Lauren, who quickly, wisely, and accurately assessed who she was dealing with: Somebody with the botanical IQ of a newborn. I was so at her mercy, I didn’t even have the wherewithal to call her a “bitch” under my breath for being no bigger than a size two—probably without even trying.

The fact was I had bigger fish to fry. Starting with at least describing the environment we had to offer plant life. “Well,” I said to Lauren, trying desperately to help me make choices, “the back is sunny mostly, but sometimes, you know, come to think of it, in some places it gets a little shade, not too much though, but some for sure. Although, it depends if it’s raining, in which case it’s not sunny, but still warm. Does it matter if there’s a glare?” I then went on to describe the front of our house with equal clarity.

At that point, she started catching on I might be a lost cause. And Dan and C were too lost in the store’s collection of Webkins to offer Lauren another perspective. Not that it would have mattered, because my husband can barely remember where we keep the refrigerator. And C, well, her standard response is “I don’t know.”

And so with great patience—the kind you need when you work with disabled animals—she led me through their atrium of plants, dragging one after the other off its hook to get a feel for what I wanted.

“This is a geranium,” she’d say, “and it does very well in the sun.” To which I’d respond, especially if it were yellow, “That is such a bad color for me, really. Look.” Then I’d make her hoist the plant down so I could get up close to it. “See? It makes me look like I’m about to lose my lunch. Am I right? Huh?”

While I didn’t have the most educated commentary, I was able to make a few choice decisions about what to take and what to leave (being a proud “J” on the Myers-Briggs personality scale). And three hours later—the time it would have taken to watch 1.5 Lifetime Television Movies, a better spend in my estimation—we left with $700 less in our checking account.

Such an unsatisfying purchase for me, really, especially since I could’ve done great things at Home Goods with that money—and that in about two weeks, if we were lucky, we’d have nothing but a bunch of dead leaves to show for it.

But then again, if it won over the hearts and gloves of the Jewish ladies, it would save me about six months of the cost of therapy and, in that case, all be worth it.

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After buying plants and some new cushions for our wicker loveseat and chair set, we went home to do an extreme deck makeover.

First task: To get rid of the rusty smoker, dirty patio furniture (note to self: cover cushions next winter), and damp wood that looked like it threw up in splinters all over the planks. All the while, the nice gay couple and their two pampered dachshunds that live behind us looked on in quiet judgment.

You could just tell by the way the humans folded their arms and tilted their heads under their expensive awning, surrounded by tealights and gilded potters, that they were thinking, “It’s about time. How much longer were you going to have to make us look at that rat’s nest of a deck?” Of course, theirs looked like something off the set of The Bachelorette.

And frankly, if they were basing their opinion solely on the décor of our back deck, I could see how they might think of us as some sort of 21st-century suburban version of the Klampetts.

Still, I was aiming to change all that.

After we swept the decks, we moved on to the next step: C went out to look for stray caterpillars. Dan went to the bathroom. And I had a diet Sunkist Orange soda and three bites of the lowfat chicken salad I had bought the day before from None Such Farms. (So not lowfat.)

Soon enough, I started to fashion a plan for where to put the seven plants we bought for the cost of rent. And then directed my husband like I can only guess Marty Scorscese directs Robert DeNiro:

Marty: The two hanging there, the small one on the table, the two others in the ceramic pots—empty the rainwater first—and just rest those others over there by the extra tank of Propane.

Bobby: So I’m feeling like a plant. Like hanging myself. Like there’s nothing left to live for. I climb up onto that wrought iron and just float in the wind, asking myself how long I’ve got. The questions plague me: If I weren’t hanging, where would I be? Which way would I face? Which direction would I turn? Will it hurt while I spin? Would I rather face the troubled neighbors or my own dark kitchen? It sure would be great to have a little refreshment—a nice drink of water, a nip of fertilizer, a cool breeze. But no, no, I couldn’t…

All I can say is that while the deck did look better once we got it all together, the big question still loomed just as large: Could we keep the plants alive until the party?

Suffice to say it was a grueling five days, during which my husband and I were virtual prisoners to the new landscape.

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Case in point: One night, Dan casually mentioned that the plant that looked like a big green afro was browning. I growled at him and shoved the chicken breasts I’d cooked in his favorite marinade down the garbage disposal. “Screw you,” I snapped, and promptly retired to the bedroom.

Another night, we were actually sitting on the deck, when my husband (who never learns) asked me if “that one” looked saggy. Fortunately for him, he pointed to a plant.

“Well, it doesn’t look as good as the red one.”

“Or the yellow one in the corner. That one looks like a bunch of computer wires with balls.”

“They don’t look like balls.”

“They do. Small round balls.”

I rolled my eyes. “Do you think we should water it?”

“Go ahead if you want to. I don’t want to be held responsible.”

“Why do I always have to do it?”

“Because I don’t know how.”

“What’s to know? You lift up the hose and pull the handle. Water comes out and you hold it over them. You’ve built museums. You can’t water the plants?”

Later that night, we went to a seminar on how to pay off your mortgage faster than 30 years. In the middle of the guy’s presentation, it started to thunderstorm. I couldn’t help but raise my hand and ask him: “I just watered my plants. Do you think the rain will kill them?”

The instructor looked at me like I’d just offered him a half-eaten hamburger from the dumpster out back.

Dan nudged me. “He doesn’t know. Ssssh.”

Of course, I’m always working on the premise that it never hurts to ask. After all, sometimes you just don’t know what people know.

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Sure enough, the next morning, the purple and pink plant once in need of hospice did look a lot perkier. But then the red plant was wilted and the yellow plant in the corner really did look like it had hanging balls and the plants in the front of the house, which needed shade, seemed to be baking in the two hours of sunlight I forgot we got in that spot.

Which led me to four exciting revelations:

I’m exhausted.

It’s a good thing I never had children.

I want my $700 back.

Those ladies can’t come and go soon enough.

And sure enough, they did. The party was yesterday and it went off without a hitch. I’m sure they had no idea of the angst I had over dolling up the back deck, which they raved about like opera fanatics at a Salome revival.

On a positive note, the deck looked beautiful through the sliding glass doors. On a negative note, that was the only way to see it, since it stormed all day. So we couldn’t actually sit on it.

Fortunately, that was good enough for the most important old lady in attendance—my mother.
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Which brings me to my next subject: Aging.

Last Monday, I watched with melancholy as Oprah reunited the cast of the Mary Tyler Moore show on her stage—perfectly replicated, by the way, first as the old WJM newsroom and then Mary Richard’s apartment.

One by one Oprah carted the people who defined my childhood: Mary, then Mr. Grant, Murray, Sue Ann, Rhoda, Phyllis, and even Georgette. (Ted had passed years earlier.)

While it was great to see them all, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of sadness at how much they’d aged. Because, of course, that meant I’d aged too. And seeing them again made me long for the days when I was just a girl.

Back then, I was in awe of how Mary Richards lived—in the big city, single, and career focused. It was starkly different from how my mother and her friends lived (the same ones who came to the party, now old ladies exchanging pictures of grandchildren). Unlike Mary, they stayed at home, raising children, preparing dinner for their husbands, and gathering in the quiet corners of suburbia.

Barely a teenager, I’d fantasize about throwing my hat up in the air on some busy city street corner, living in a one-room studio, a big “J” on the wall, my best friend upstairs, a new man to date on a whim.

And for a long while—decades even—I did live that life. In Chicago, along with various iterations of real estate and men. And where that lifestyle once defined me, now, it was a distant memory.

That’s where the modern-day Mary Tyler Moore and I came to intersect, that day, on Oprah. Finally. We’d both traveled far from the young and hopeful innocents who really, in the end, didn’t know anything.

Sometimes, I long for that time. When I would sit in my childhood living room and watch Mary, my mother, father, and brother doing something somewhere close.

Never was the feeling stronger than on Saturday, when I scanned the ladies in the crowd. They sat in my now grownup living room and remembered when. And I wished so hard that the moment would never end—and they would all live forever.

Until next time.

May 12, 2008

May 12, 2008

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. Do you know what I got?

A lovely plant from my mother. A telephone call from my friend Joan, another underappreciated stepmother (bless your heart, Joan, peace out girl). And the flu.

It was a far cry from what I got last year. Nothing from C, who we’d just started seeing after her mother removed her from us for four solid months (for reasons I always say continue to baffle us because they still do). And a lovely note (I cried) and placard that said “Mother” in brown scripted letters from my other stepdaughter I’ll now call “H,” who was older, married, and with her own child at the time (now she has two).

I displayed this plaque proudly in our kitchen for six months until H chose to go back to the religious cult she was raised in and unceremoniously dumped us last October. After all, we were “nonbelievers” and “free thinkers.” Who could blame her? Sometimes, even I wonder how we could ever get away with thinking that—whatever that is.

And yet, last year was all I could think about yesterday–in between calling my own mother, and then eight straight hours of watching Lifetime Television, blowing my nose like a dolphin, and hacking up mucous like an 80-year-old ingénue who’s been smoking since before World War II. I silently reminisced over the dashed hopes I brought to my marriage about having these two lovely young girls in my life.

Of course, I didn’t share that with my husband, who endured the same custody battle and shunning as I did (and so much more, frankly) and who will get his chance to be cross about it on Father’s Day in June. Until then, it was my turn yesterday to sulk and make him a party to it.

His part? To lie beside me holding a box of tissues while 480 minutes of Pollyanna movies about motherhood rolled across the television in our bedroom like a faulty tractor being pushed across a cornfield. It was the perfect husband-to-wife gift for a much maligned stepmother (sick since last Thursday, mind you) on Mother’s Day.

(Fortunately, it was not ruined by his passive-aggressive “Honey, when was the last time you took a shower?” comment, but I’ve already let it go. I am nothing if not forgiving.)

After all, who really gives a hooty toot about stepmothers anyway? I’ll tell ya who. Stepmothers. That’s who. (This is for you, Joan, Linda, Stacey, Lisa, and all you other fabulous lovers of not-your-own children…)

Sad, really, because we do so much for other women’s children—we hug them and love them and care for them when they’re in our homes (and, depending on whether we’re granted access [I’m not], even when they’re not).

We encourage their alone time with fathers and then provide added nourishment when they need to feel part of something bigger. We show them who we are and open up our hearts to them. We pay for them in time, money, and emotion, even though they are not biologically ours.

And while we are not their mothers or trying to be, we do have something of value to contribute. We are humans, after all, not robots, and come to their lives with our own stories and thoughts and opinions. I know, I know. I say it all the time. I’m like a broken record. Good lord, Jill. Shut up already.

It’s just that I’m never not going to be a stepmother and, well, I have feelings about it and well, never is that clearer than on Mother’s Day of all days, and well, it sure would’ve been nice to have been able to talk to—or at least hear from—at least one of my stepdaughters yesterday. Yo yo, Jill. Happy whatever. You do count.

But then again, I guess I shouldn’t complain too much.

After all, I did get the first prize of my beautiful husband—his thick arms wrapped around my squishy body and fragile immune system for an entire workday, despite my smelling like a runner after the marathon, looking like the before picture of a dramatic makeover, and having the red rings of Saturn around my eyes and nose.

Now that’s more than something.

In the meantime, as I hold out hope for Stepmother’s Day (which, according to the all-knowing Internet takes place the Sunday after Mother’s Day so this Sunday, can’t wait!), I wish all you stepmothers out there a belated happy-dappy, gift-receiving, metabolism-raising, and stomach-flattening post-mother’s day. May you ingest a multitude of calories with no after-effects clear through summer.

I really mean that.

Until next time!

May 4, 1008

May 4, 2008

I am in hell. Comes every spring since I’ve moved back to Pennsylvania from Chicago (where I never had an itchy sneezy moment). But now, since I live in the pollen capital of America—and where a yellow blanket of dust lays across everything in my path like an oversized duvet—I’m miserable. What is it about spring people like?

Is it the clogged sinuses, which solidify what I know for sure—that breathing is not overrated?

The itchy eyes, which I’d happily gauge out at the moment and donate to science?

The fuzzy brain? (Case in point: this morning, I accidentally put the laundry detergent in the refrigerator and hung my husband’s clean shirts up in the garage.)

The dehydration festival in my body, thanks to a rotating cocktail of Zyrtec-D, Alka Seltzer Cold and Sinus Nighttime, and Dayquil?

I hate spring. Don’t write me. You would too if you spent it gasping for air and wishing you could pour calamine lotion into your corneas. You would too.

As if my now tricky-dicky hormones, fat-buckle knees, and middle-aged werewolf Jack-ness weren’t enough to keep me challenged during the season of shorts (which, by the way, I do not wear so don’t look for it).

Add to the picture 12 weeks of big boogers, snorting, nose blowing, and the natural glow of artery-red eyeliner, and you might be able to see why I solidified the deal with my now husband in the fall (he proposed in November).

I could handle all this ugliness—all the relentless sneezing, running slimy excretions, and acid-rock guitar playing in my delicate frontal cortex—if I were able to remain propped up in a heavenly-bed, eating no-consequence pizza, while a handsome series of male nurses, butlers, and massage therapists tended to my every whim.

But, perhaps like you, I have to function in the real world, working and, okay, playing, despite an evil little feather tickling my retinas 24/7 or the buckets of snot dropping like lava down a volcano through my sinuses.

So you’ll please forgive if I’m rambly gambly and pambly. (See, this last word doesn’t even exist.) Coherence isn’t always my strong suit, even when I’m perfectly healthy. So, please, adjust your expectations before reading on.

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Last week, Dan and I met my friend Joan and her new husband Dave (they married four months before we did) in Taos, New Mexico for a writing workshop with Natalie Goldberg.

It was a full-circle experience for Joan and I, who had taken a week-long workshop with Natalie back in 2002, when we were both single (despite my having a boyfriend of 10 years). We were not only friends but also neighbors, living in a perfect pair of re-gentrified two-bedroom condo’s on Chicago’s North Side—hers above mine, which at the time, seemed rightly symbolic.

I had just finished a year of writing essays about losing weight and getting fit for Shape Magazine. And while I felt good physically, mentally I was struggling. After all, I was 39, on the shaky precipice of entering mid-life. And, as I look back, I was for sure in pre-crisis.

Wondering: Would my boyfriend ever marry me? Would I have children? Would I be one of those women people used as a cautionary tale for their daughters? Don’t be so picky or worse don’t settle for less than what you deserve. After all, look (point to me) what could happen. You don’t want that to happen to you, do you?

It was a horrible burden, a line of thinking so heavy that, like being trapped under sheetrock, never left my mind entirely. Sure, I’d be distracted by a pretty pair of shoes or a connecting flight or even a 10-minute timed writing about whatever subject Natalie tossed out to the audience. Still, it was always there, humming in the background like white noise.

Joan, on the other hand, had already made this rites of passage. At 44, she was gracefully Buddhist, calm in a way I wasn’t, the rock to my flying particles of dust. And while she would have liked to have had consistent male companionship, the desire didn’t define her the way it did me. Suffice to say, she was not only a wonderful travel companion—as we meditated and wrote and even shopped during a brief post-jaunt to Santa Fe—she was a treasured mentor.

Still.

So it was both moving and ironic to find us back in Taos, at another of Natalie’s workshops, only this time with our husbands. And it was even more poignant to watch them bond over a nightly rotation of chicken quesadilla, buffalo steak, chips and guacamole, and green chile-pepper everything.

And yet, there was a defined change in the spirit of who we were as girlfriends—as there is at this stage of life, I think, for all of us. One night stands out, in particular. As it was, at least for me, a clear sign of the times in terms of how life goes, especially if you’re married and in mid life.

We had just sat down for a late dinner at this wonderful little restaurant called the Apple Tree on Bent Street down the street from the Taos Inn, where we were staying in the historic part of the decidedly-artist-in-a-dreadlock-and-not-martini-toidy-kind-of-way town.

The four of us were eyeing the menu, deciding whether to share an appetizer of baked brie or the shrimp tortillas? Dan and I were accustomed to sharing. In fact, whenever we go out to eat, it’s our ritual. But, on our vacation, we weren’t vigilant about it. And frankly, in the moment, as we evaluated our choice of entree, it felt almost more natural to turn to Joan, my dear friend of a decade, and say, “Want to share something?” After all, we’d done it for years prior to being with our respective spouses.

To which she replied, “I think I’ll share something with my husband first.”

Now, I know she didn’t mean anything by it. It wasn’t a diss, but a mere sentence, spoken with a smile, love, and kindness (if that particular sentence could be taken as a personal attack, which it couldn’t).

But for me, it was its own rites of passage. Confirmation of what I’d been feeling in the months leading up to our trip about my relationship with my girlfriends in general—that as we get older and more partnered, our sense of loyalty shifts.

When I was younger, I longed for the company of men. Not just any man, mind you, although I will admit I succumbed to that standard all too often. But for one who would commit—you know, assign his voter registration card the same address as mine, share a tax return, worry about home repairs and saving for retirement with equal determination and zeal.

And yet, that one simple sentence—I think I’ll share with my husband—which made all the sense in the world, especially by society’s standards, stopped me. It reminded me that now that I was married, I finally had the company of men. But the scales were out of balance. And now, I longed for the company of women in the way that it used to be when I was younger and single. But that was no longer available—gone into air like the bubbles you used to blow through a plastic ring when you were a kid.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my husband. Wouldn’t trade him or being married for all the black spandex at Goodyear. But I miss the time I could simply turn to my girlfriend and say, “Hey, wanna share some fried calamari?” It’s a small but meaningful and almost sisterly pleasure that some days I long for as much as I do anything.

There was once that time with Joan. And, in fact, I wrote about it one of my columns, where she participated in a photo shoot about enjoying the sensation of one simple chocolate truffle—shared by two girlfriends. Along with perfect portions of salad, sandwich, soup, cake, and whatever else was on life’s menu.

Now, however, things were different. Not just with Joan, but across the bigger female-bonding picture.

And gosh, I miss my girls.

I’ve noticed that friendship, at this age, no longer enjoys the luxury of spontaneity. No more calling a friend in the morning for dinner that night. At 45 and beyond, dinner out now requires the same set of skills needed to put on a community production of Annie or, say, A Chorus Line.

It calls for planning and negotiating. Securing the players, hoping they’re not distracted by work, husbands, children, traffic, or sheer exhaustion. My friend Brooklyn Jill (versus me Jill) always says: “I hate life in the 21st century. Everybody’s too busy.” And so it goes.

Still, that doesn’t mean I didn’t want more than anything to share a duck confit fajita in Taos with my friend Joan.

I know, I sound like I’m whining. And really, I’m not. Life is all about passages, stages, we start with our friends, then our family, and I know, someday, later (please much later) our friends. Again. I’m not rushing it. But I do wonder why we can’t have it all today.

I spent the first full act of life doing things easily with my girlfriends. And now easy is over. Did you enjoy it sweetie (or even know to)? The freedom of having a Chinese Chicken Salad on a moment’s notice. The underwhelming act of sitting down to discuss the great Nordstrom’s shoe sale, why Bob X can’t commit, or why you don’t know why you feel that way but you just do and thanks for listening. Did you enjoy the sisterly discourse that happens over a shared piece of chicken and too much chocolate? Or did you take for granted how easy it was? How if you didn’t get to “it” that night, there’d surely be another fast and furiously to follow?

Then I say: Oh Jill, what are you saying? What is it you want, for goodness sakes? Will you ever be happy?

The answer is yes. Of course, I’m thrilled. And it was wonderful—beyond any explanatory prose—to be with Joan and Dave and Dave and Dan and Joan and Dan. As wonderful as fitting into your skinny jeans—and that first night with the person you know for sure you’re going to spend your life.

But hey, I did sure did miss being with Joan and Jill.
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And so what else did I do on our vacation? So many wonderful things. We spent several hours at the Taos Pueblo, marveling at how the Red Willow Indians live without electricity or running water.

I ate a real hot dog—not the 40-calorie fat free kind I’m addicted to at home—but the I-don’t-care kind from a street vendor on the Plaza in Santa Fe. It was my first and only since I think Nixon was in the White House. And it was divine.

I schlepped a camera across too-many states (travel to New Mexico is a day trip) and never took it out of the suitcase. And even though we were in the desert, I had no less than 42 allergy attacks over the course of five days. But didn’t let them stop me.

I enjoyed watching my husband explore the many shops like a little Jewish girl just out of prison—his stamina for browsing awe inspiring. (You go honey.)

I also learned that I’m incredibly high maintenance (I need a bathroom, a bottle of water, and sandwich in between each of our connecting flights) and no longer need to shop or eat to be happy.

Case in point: I left New Mexico—the art capital of America—with a mere $50 mask of the Sun God for my husband’s basement studio versus the $600 mixed-media piece I coveted at a store called Ortega’s and then left behind.

And while I had my fair share of cheese and beans, I also spent 45 entire minutes in the Haagan Daaz shop in Santa Fe drinking diet Pepsi out of a paper cup. All the while, gluttonous hoards of tourists shouted out their orders for Rocky Road, Vanilla Fudge Twirl, and Pralines and Cream.

My favorites.

Yet, being there in that moment alone with my husband was the only thing I craved—never mind the momentary purchase of paint on canvas or the taste of sugar and salt on my tongue.

(Although, if Joan were there and wanted to share a scoop of something, well, I might have gone for it.)

Until next time!

April 15, 2008

April 15, 2008

The other day, my father called to ask why his printer wouldn’t print out an entire email. (Apparently, it was only printing out what was on the screen.) As I listened to his question—and thought about the others he’s asked me over the year—I had to wonder: Why does he think I know how to fix his computer?

Not that I’m trying to be an ingrate or shirk my responsibilities as a good daughter. But I know as much about fixing his printer as I do about rewiring the microwave. Installing a sun roof in my Honda Element. Or giving a presentation on why the fake butter you buy in a spray bottle has no fat or calories, even though it lists butter as its main ingredient.

I’d rather he ask me how to turn a passive phrase into active. Or how many points you get in a day on Weight Watchers. Now those are things I can answer. But fixing the computer—or anything related to it (hello, Mr. Printer), forget about it.

Still, I think, that just by virtue of being younger and having to work on a computer, my parents think I actually get technology. But I don’t. At middle age, I have bigger things to worry about—like where did I put the key to the mailbox and how do I get rid of the lines around my eyes. So Mom, Dad, read this: (and potential employers, please skip.) Baby is clueless. That’s right. Baby don’t know how to fix yo’ printer. Some days, baby just happy to find the power button.

Anyway, when my father asks me why his printer isn’t printing, or why, when he clicks on a link, it doesn’t do anything, I’ll usually say something like, “Hmmm, interesting. I don’t know, Dad. Remind me the next time I’m over and I’ll take a look at it.” And then, I pray to Jesus, Jehovah, Moses, the Universe, and the great mother ship of Nordstroms, that he forgets.

But you know what? He never does.

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Which all reminds me of a conversation I had with my dad and his friend Larry, then retired, several years ago on the beach in Margate, New Jersey. I was down the shore visiting my parents, who had a summer place there, from Chicago for a much needed respite from work. After all, I was a full-time reporter back then, and my life had me on constant deadline.

It was my favorite time of day – about 6 o’clock. The sand was cooling down, the sun was starting to set, the gulls were circling for food scraps, and everybody else had gone back to the apartment to prepare for the night’s festivities (usually, dinner out and then a short walk to Two Cents Plain for frozen yogurt, fat free, of course).

I was finally starting to relax after being there for a whole day, as evidenced by the spittle forming by the sides of my mouth. Dad, Larry, and I sat there squinting at each other in silence when Larry raised the subject first.

“You ever notice how kids today are so stressed,” he says, chewing on the inside of his cheek. “You know, they’re burnt out. Burnt out. We were never burnt out. Sheesh.” He shakes his head in disgust and picks at his teeth.

My dad nods.

I lay there, eyes now closed, trying not to listen. Maybe if I play dead, he’ll stop talking. Not that I’m trying to be rude or disrespectful, but I wasn’t looking for a debate on the work ethics of my generation. I was looking for a little breathe time.

“I mean, what in the hell are they so burnt out about?” Sadly, he continues. “We worked hard, got up early in the morning, got home late in the day, ate dinner, went to bed, got up and did it all over again? Why are they so exhausted?”

“Don’t know,” my dad says, laughing. He’s so good natured. Thank you daddy! Now please, please, please play dead with me. Won’t you? It hurts. Make him stop. I squeeze my eyes closed a little tighter and concentrate on the sounds of the ocean.

“Kids these days,” says Lar, now proudly spewing clichés (like fingernails on a chalboard to a writer, uh, sorry). “They have it so hard. I tell ya, they don’t’ know what hard is.”

Okay, that’s it. I sit up. “Well actually Lawrence (okay, I didn’t call him that, but I wanted to), kids these days have to deal with something you never had to,” I say, rising from the ashes, pulling a mirror out of my beach bag to apply some extra sunscreen. After all, my face is getting hot.

“Yeah,” he says, “what’s that?”

Oh, I tell him allright. “Technology!” I look at him and then dart my eyes back toward my mirror. Ye gads, my St. Tropez tan’s gone horribly bad. Expecting to see my skin radiating an even shade of brown (like the skinny girls in the commercials), it instead looks like a comforter you’d buy for your dorm room at Bed Bath and Beyond–all covered in pink polka dots radiating like a broken strobe light. The effect could’ve served as a homing signal for low-flying helicopters. Which, for some reason, only made me more irritated with Big Lar.

“You talking computers?” He’s still talking.

“Yep,” I say, wishing I could pull the top layer of my skin down and off like a pollybag, and start all over again. “Computers.”

“What’s the big deal?” says Larry. “Aren’t they supposed to make life easier?”

I suspected his next question would be “I heard the earth was flat. No?”

“Uh, no, they do NOT make life easier,” I say and begin to recount the reasons why they can turn an average to better-than-average life into a scene out of a low-budget horror film. What if you’re on deadline for a story and your computer freezes? What if you’re in the middle of a presentation and the monitor stops working? What if you need to email a client but it’s down and you can’t reach your client on the telephone.

What if you’ve been on hold for tech support so long that you start to question the existence of human life forms? What if you finally hear somebody and then sneeze and accidentally get disconnected? What if the software program you just installed takes out your entire C drive? And you haven’t back up your files? What if you spill hot coffee on your keyboard and it starts to sizzle? What if that 5,000-word cover story you’ve been working on for 18 months miraculously disappears, along with all your research?

What if these problems go on and on until the boss starts to wonder whether you’re just incompetent, undercover, in the witness protection program, or just stupid? Is she really on the phone with tech support or talking to Jack Bauer at CTU? Unable to express yourself, after gritting your teeth for so long, you get fired, and before you know it, you’re living on a street vent, in a black skirt from last season, with no Starbucks’ allowance.

“Well,” says Larry, gathering his belongings. “I’m goin’ up. Owen, I’ll see ya.” With that, he folds up his beach chair and starts walking away. In the meantime, I raise a pasty-white fist and yell, “IT COULD HAPPEN. AND THAT’S WHY WE’RE ALL STRESSED OUT. GOT IT?”

My father pats me on the knee and rotates. That night, I had real yogurt.

———————————————

And so, even today, technology continues to flog me like when bikers sneak up behind me and the two maniacal rescue dogs without warning (is “on your left” too hard to say people?) or when I can’t find two matching socks or somebody’s cell phone goes off in the movie theater.

Like the other day, when my client sent me a presentation to revise and after spending three hours on it, I saved it, closed it out, and never saw it again. Despite my raging hysterics and the several hours I’ll never get back spent searching every drive in my computer from A to Z.

After too much time wasted, I realized that the problem was with Microsoft Vista, a nasty program that came loaded on my computer. It told me I was using a trial version and to convert it—and be able to use the functions like save and edit and put food on the table—I’d need to put in a product key. Problem was the little bugger wasn’t where they said it was on the software’s packaging. Even Indiana Jones couldn’t have found it.

So, I got on their web site. It didn’t take me long to realize I had a better chance of being killed by terrorists than getting any help there. There was so much information, finding a product key or even help was like trying to find a furrier at a PETA convention.

And there were no phone numbers—a clear message that we customers were to be seen but never heard. So I finally decided to send an email (in lieu of paying $59.99 to chat live with a technician probably somewhere in India) to customer service for help.

It said this: “Your product sucks. Apparently, it’d be easier to find Jesus in my toilet that the product keys I need to run your stupid software. I hate you. No, that’s an understatement. I really hate you. Please send product key. Customer needs it. Have a nice day. Best, Daniel Murray (Hey, I may be immature, but I’m not stupid.) P.S. You suck.”

Funny thing: I got a form letter back. You know, one of those generic, “we’re sorry’s” and “we can’t help you’s” really and ”for $85,000 and your second born, we’ll send you instructions for finding what you need…” and “if you have any more problems, please don’t hesitate to visit our web site, but please don’t call us, we’re at war…” You’re with me.

And so, that night, my husband came home to find me chopping down a valium as if it were garlic for a special recipe.

“What are you doing honey?” he asked looking both surprised and horrified.

“Oh nothing,” I say smiling. For some reason, the whole experience made me think of Larry. I wonder how he’s doing?

On well. Until next time.

March 24, 2008

March 24, 2008

Hello to all my wonderful readers! How I’ve missed you all, these past few weeks, while the wonderful folks at the Wild River Review fix a few technical glitches (hi Bryan, Joy, Kim, you are all wonderful, kisses!). Please forgive for this delayed post. I know how you’re all chomping at the bit for something pithy and !delightful!.

Unfortunately, I’ve got some bad news: I’m fresh outta both due to a rare but totally debilitating condition called “Riteras Blockageous Arus Usus.” Yep, I’m blocked and sellin it. Come to my store and, for a price cheaper than my competitors (hello two-time Wally Lamb, been waitin’ on another one for years and years now) you won’t come up with a creative word or notion for as-long-as-big-dogs-are-babies. Maybe even longer (gimme a call, I’ll give you a deal).

Good grief. It’s bad. So I got me to the doctor (she says, for some reason, channeling a rapper) and you know what he said? You’ve got Riteras Blockageous Arus Usus. Duh! Western medicine, boy, useless. I didn’t need to leave the house for your teepee tent to know that!

Anyway, I’m killin’ time here because really, there’s lots on my mind. I just don’t have a freakin two eyes blind for how to say it.

So I hope you’ll stay with me as I try to lay it out for you. So many personal things on the agenda—my health, my desire for children, my new addiction to peanut butter. All part of the ups and downs of being a writer—no, wait, a PERSON—in mid-life.

—————————-
STALL TACTIC IN THE HOPES SOMETHING WILDLY HUMOROUS COMES IN THE NEXT 20 SECONDS: Note to spammers before I forget—I’m all good on Viagra and naked Asian girls in leather. And, to quote my friend Bad Penny, “I ain’t goin back to school anytime.” (Good one, BP.) You can stop writing to me.
—————————-

Now, you may sense from my tone that I’m not necessarily in the best of moods. In evaluating my own spirits, I would have to concur. I’m not sure what it is, but I feel like I’ve been waiting for something great to happen and, still, here I am. Waiting. Block-chocka-sauraus.

Okay, well, I threw out the bait a few paragraphs up, so I guess I’ll spin it for a while—on the trifecta–for lack of anything better to do. And, it is, the ever-present longing for poor health, already grown children, and a 12-step program for peanut butter.

Here’s goes nothing as somethin (‘cause that’s what we writers are paid for–KIDDING):

Health:
I got my lab tests back this week (for those of you who’ve missed a few weeks, I had 4,000 vials of blood drawn to identify why I can’t sleep, lose weight, or seem to moisturize adequately). And, sadly, the news is not good. After waiting weeks to identify whether, in fact, I have the much-coveted underactive thyroid, I learned in fact, that I am perfectly healthy.

I swear, when you get that kind of news, it feels like someone just kicked you in the gut. LIke you’re in some sort of surreal bad dream and can’t wake up. Like it can’t be happening to you.

The endocrinologist who delivered the blow (preceded by a “drumroll please…” indicating that, in fact, he has some experience in this area) cradled me (appropriately, of course) for about 20 minutes before I could process what he’d just said. (Of course, the ”holding” portion wasn’t covered by my insurance, but sometimes you just have to treat yourself.)

“Just because these are the results,” he said, patting down my hair, ”doesn’t mean your symptoms aren’t real.” But I heard his words muffled and in slow motion, like a record playing on slow. Naturally, I left and drowned my sorrows over an over-priced-large-skim-no-foam latte-with-one-pump of sugar-free Cinnamon Dulce (fans, did you get that?), which is always comforting. And tried like the dickens not to let it get to me for the rest of the day, no, week.
But it’s difficult, you know. I mean, you don’t get this news everyday. On an encouraging note, Doc did recommend I get my thyroid tested every year since my mother and brother have some issues there.

Which leads me to this: My friggin brother (hi Scott! xox), man, he gets everything—a car at sixteen, the big bedroom with two windows, all the dates he ever wanted in high school. And what do I get? Marriage at 43. A donkey the size of a small strip mall. And an optimally functioning endocrine system. I HATE HIM!.

—————————————————-
Side note: I had a mammogram last week, to which I ask: Who the hell came up with this system of locating breast irregularities? A bunch of white guys around a conference table, I tell you. THEY RUIN EVERYTHING. I can just see them now, jotting notes into their Stephen Covey planners: I know, we’ll place the boob on a hard cold slab of steel while another hard cold steel slab is lowered on top until the boob is as flat as a pin, and the subject let’s out a sound we can record as a test alert of the emergency broadcasting system.

I tell ya one thing, if we used mammogram to detect testicular cancer, we’d have an entirely new methodology in place by Monday. You can count on it. (Gosh, I feel better now.)
—————————————————-
Children:
Moving on…the fact that my dear friend from high school (now 46) is having her first baby has raised some very interesting issues for me. Not that I want to sound like a bad cliché, but oops: I forgot to have children. Or should I say, I forgot to think about the implications of that. Until now.

Don’t get me wrong. I am NOT interested in pregnancy at this point (especially since my husband turns a mild chartreuse at the idea). Middle-age, the desire to be a writer, and two dogs rescue dogs are quite enough for me. (Besides, you can’t be an effective parent when you fall asleep every night by 8:30. Par-ty!)

However, it would be cool to have a grown kid around. You know, somebody to buy crap for. To nurture and love. To share your genetics and carry on your legacy…oh, who are we kidding: To keep me out of the nursing home or from needing a day job at Burger King when I’m in my 80s (thank you George Bush). Although, that would be a full-circle experience for me since my foray into the working world came at 15, when I worked at the Burger King drive through and my parents used to come through, so proud, to take my picture. (Caption: Baby’s first job and brush with temptation [yummy in my tummy, whoppers!].)

I raised this issue of kids over dinner one night, when I was in a particularly desolate mood about it. “Who’s going to take care of me when I’m old?” I asked Dan, as he shoved a large bite of spinach and fat-free mozzarella in his mouth.

After 30 seconds of chewing, looking shocked and hurt, he said, “I will.”

I laugh. “C’mon, you know I’m gonna outlive you. And then what? Who will I have?”

“Honey, my grandparents lived well into their 90s.” He takes another bite of spinach. “Wait, no, I think it was their 70s. Yep, that’s it. 70s.”

I want to choke myself with the kitchen towel. “Great news.”

“Your nieces will be there for you, don’t worry.” I conjure up an image of my two nieces feeding me chopped turnips through a grocery-straw and it quickly fades to something entirely different. That would be me, hobbling around at 400 pounds, trying to grace my way gently through a maze of steel refrigerators and plastic tubs filled with shredded lettuce and tomatoes. A precipitous pan of fried grease and special sauce balanced on my hands for perpetual cleaning.

I continued to feel bad for the rest of the week until I talked my dear friend Debbie, always the voice of reason. “Honey,” she said, “why worry about it now? You could get hit by a truck next week and it could all be moot?” Quite the intellectual, that one.

Of course, there’s nothing like a little perspective to perk you up when you’re down. And, as it happens so often in life, you simply need to wait for gray skies to turn blue. Dan came home from work a few days later with a Baby Bjorn and a small carriage for Elvis. Nothing like putting your 23-pound rescue dog in a diaper and a stroller to help you get back your groove.

Addicted to peanut butter
Then, there’s the issue of my new addiction: peanut butter. (Relax mom, it’s reduced fat.) Not much more to say about that other than what do you expect? I’m only human. With a perfect thyroid, a lack of heirs, and a husband who’s perfectly okay with bringing me bottles and diapers for our mutt, well, it’s a wonder I’m not addicted to something stronger. Like heroin. (SPOILER: Although, there’s still time.)
(just kidding. really.)

Until next time.

March 1, 2008

March 1, 2008

Last week, I did a little rearranging of the furniture on the second floor of our house. I notice that, whenever I feel like I need to regain control, I either eat everything that’s not nailed down or eats me first. OR, I rearrange the furniture in our house. (The latter seemed like a better option in lieu of current circumstances – see previous posts for clarity.)

This time, I swapped the guest room furniture with the office furniture, so the loft (which used to be my office) would now have a daybed and bookshelves and the guest room would be the new home to my office.

I did that for several reasons. First, because I’m getting busier in terms of my workload so I need more room and a more organized space to set up in (isn’t this riveting?).

And second, because I need some privacy, what with little C coming into an age of pre-pubescent curiosity. (Whilst innocently looking for paper towels to clean up Winnie’s little accident—rotten dog—I found a copy of my way-too-inappropriate-for-her-to-read-and-I-told-her-so chapbook under the sink in her bathroom. That little minx–getting tricky like her mother. [But I didn’t say that, you didn’t hear it from me.])

So, on what would have otherwise been a relaxing Sunday, I dragged my husband up and down Highway 611 in search of the perfect desk. Finally, after visits to Target, Home Depot, Lowes, and even Wegmans (a grocery store with a salad bar that, I swear, moves me to tears), we wound up at Staples. A place Dan had suggested we go to and I hastily poo pooed when we first started out on our trek.

There, I promptly ordered a mission style maple-colored desk and matching file cabinet and set up delivery for Wednesday. Of course, I didn’t think it through. Meaning that, before we left, I didn’t whip out my mace and force the salesperson to give me an exact delivery time or else. (See previous post for the perils of losing your memory.)

As a result, you guessed it. I called the Staples 800 number at the ass crack of dawn on Wednesday morning to find out when they’d arrive and, sure enough, they told me they would come anytime between 9 and 5.

“Shut up,” I said. “Can’t you narrow it down some?” I thought I was being very polite.

“No ma’am, I’m sorry. The drivers are the ones who keep the schedule and we can’t reach them or pin them down to a time.”

“Why not? I pinned my husband to a wedding date. This seems like it’d be a lot simpler.”

Subdued chuckle. “Yes, well, I’m sure it isn’t.”

“Oh, you’re sure are you?” I was starting to get mad since what she was telling me was that I would be basically lock-and-chained to my desk for the next eight hours. And at my age, where every moment is precious, I really didn’t appreciate that.

“Well, what if it comes when I’m out walking the dogs for 10 minutes?” You know that Murphy’s Law is sure to make it happen.

“I’m sorry ma’am.”

“What are you sorry for? The fact that my dogs will crap in the house and I’ll have to sit and sniff it for eight hours until some guy in a truck decides to show up furniture that cost me $600 which pays your salary?”

“I’m sorry ma’am. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“Yes, you can tell me what time my furniture is coming.”

“Thank you for calling Staples, ma’am.”

“Thank you for damning me to eight hours of captivity and sucking at customer service.”

And with that, sensing I wasn’t going to get any further with her, I hung up.

So here’s my question: These companies have been in existence since the beginning of time. They’ve figured out a way to own and run stores across the globe, communicate across cultures, ship and stock countless types of crap that we rarely-need-but-buy anyway-because-it’s-there. (Really, do you need a wheel with 5,000 color-coded paper clips? Or a stapler that hangs from a rope?)

And yet, they can’t figure out a way to pinpoint down to an hour—even two—when they can deliver a piece of furniture two miles from one of their stores.

Can anyone say customer service? I’m listening.

Okay, I know I sound old and curmudgeonly (and okay, on some days and in some ways I am). But I have earned the right. I have fed into the capitalistic system for more than four decades and still, the balance on my line of credit is way higher than I’d like it (not that that has anything to do with this, but still). Not to mention the fact that Bucks County Woman Magazine, which owes me like $2,500, refuses to return my emails and phone calls about it, let alone pay me. (Okay, I’m done now.)

All I’m asking for in return for my business and loyalty is a delivery time. I don’t want stock options. I don’t want a service manager to come to my house for dinner so I can vent. All I want are digits and periods. 10 a.m. or 2 p.m.? 1 p.m. or 3:45? Tell me when my mission desk is coming. That’s it. That’s the best I’m hoping for.

But no, my punishment is my patronage. And so, yesterday, on the dreaded Wednesday, I remained a prisoner at my desk. Bitter and captive by the invisible Saddam Hussein of Staples. One day of my precious life gone, wasted like a scoop of Rocky Road ice cream innocently tipped off a flimsy cone. (Good God that sounds delightful!)

I’m 45 PEOPLE. I DON’T HAVE THAT KIND OF TIME TO SQUANDER ANYMORE.

I mean really, do any of us?

So today, 24 hours after the incident and finally feeling a smidgeon better, I came home from a workout to find four boxes each big enough to hold a dead body sitting in my driveway. Now fortunately for me, they were storage baskets I had ordered from Target for my new office—and so they were light. But if they were, say, large antique vases from China or, even worse, cement blocks of gold and silver (which could happen), how in the Sam hell would I have gotten them into the garage by myself?

Oh dear. My brain just can’t handle it. So I’m signing off.

Until next time

February 24, 2008

February 24, 2008

Let’s talk about memory, shall we? I am 45 now. And while I vowed over the years to never fall prey to being a bad middle-aged cliché, I am, in fact, one of the grandest. Never mind the fact that I can’t lose weight or that I’m excited about having my hormones tested.

How about the fact that I cannot remember anything? Ever. In fact, I can barely remember what I want to say to you all about my memory. So, I’ll just type and throw caution to the wind and hope that clarity will show up when I need it—like a paycheck or, even better, a pizza.

Case in point: I was in Chicago last week, riding in the car with my two Republican friends (who shall remain nameless, Bob and Larry), when, in the spirit of friendly debate, one asked me why I liked Hillary’s health care plan. To which I said this:

“I really like her plan. I just can’t tell you why.”

Yep, that’s what I said.

Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t like Hillary and don’t have my reasons for liking her plan. I do like her plan for good reasons. It’s just that the plan details themselves were not outlined in front of me, say on one of those fancy car TV screens with PowerPoint ease, and I couldn’t remember the specifics. So, I couldn’t comment appropriately.

Now, to my credit, I sat in the back seat and squeezed my eyes shut and tried like the dickens to remember something anything about the universal nature of her proposition, but I couldn’t. It was 6 o’clock. It had been a long day. And we were stuck in traffic. I was hungry and, as usual, had to pee. In light of these physiological and environmental circumstances, there was no way I was coming up with anything intelligent about lipstick, let alone Hil’s plan for the good ol’ boys to counterpoint.

So instead, I said this: “I can’t remember why I like her plan, I just do. Get off me.”

What’s most sad about that comment is the fact that foggy moments like these are no longer infrequent or the foibles of other people, like they used to be. In fact, the day before my less-than-joyous ride with the poster children for the GOP, I was having lunch in safety—with sister Democrats—when they asked me what I was reading these days.

To which I said this about the book I had started reading earlier that morning for two hours on the airplane: “Oh, it’s by Marianne Williamson talking about the joys of being middle aged and how it’s supposed to be some sort of return to puberty. Or, wait, we’re coming into another adolescence. Or, hold on, we’ve got a whole new childhood to revisit. I don’t know. I’m confused. Something like that, I think.”

“Well that’s a lot of different things,” my friend Marilyn, who also likes Hillary’s health plan, says. “What does she say exactly?”

“What does who say?” I ask, taking a sip of my diet Pepsi.

Before she could respond, the waitress brought us our Macho Salads (a most beloved Chicago-only meal my selective memory allows me to recall on a dime, go figure). And my ability to recount the first eight (or was it nine?) chapters of Williamson’s book was as good as my ability to rattle off the specifics of Hillary’s initiative.

And it does not end there.

Why just today, I was on the phone with my friend Jill when our connection suddenly turned bad. (Although, I was pleased that when I called her, I wasn’t the least bit surprised when she in fact answered, and not somebody else I thought I had called). I told her I’d call her back. She asked me to call on her landline. I said okay. We hung up and I quickly dialed her back. It rang about four times before she answered, all the while I was thinking, “Geez, I just hung up on her, why isn’t she picking up faster?”

Then she did. “Jilly,” she says, “Why are you calling me on my cell?”

To which I said this: “Huh?”

Not good.

I could go on and on with these and other shameful examples, but frankly, I can’t remember them. Suffice to say, you might not want to give me any just-in-case information, like where you keep the keys to your safe deposit box or what’s your blood type, because that’d be like betting on a tricycle at a horse race.

Finally, if you’re reading this and are simply too young to relate (Samantha): stop snickering. Just you wait.

————————————————————————————————————————
I go to Chicago several times a year to facilitate a class for a client. Over the past three years, since I’ve moved out of the Windy City, where I lived for almost 20 years, and back home to Bucks County and Pennsylvania in general, where I grew up, it’s not been a problem.

I go back. I see my friends. Frequent my favorite restaurants. Spend more than I make on Michigan Ave. Do my work. And get out of dodge. No one gets hurt. No tears are shed. And I’m always happy to arrive home, on solid ground, at the ever-chaotic Philadelphia International Airport. Where nobody knows your name, what time the next flight will be leaving, why it’s delayed, or where your luggage is.

It’s a comforting feeling. Really.

But lately, whenever I go to Chicago, I find myself not only grappling with an unusual stir of emotions, but sometimes acting on them.

For example, I find myself going out of my way to drive by the park where I used to throw the ball to my now-dead dog Sophie—and the gym where my one-time boyfriend of 11 years and I used to exercise. These things I do remember.

It’s not that I suddenly long for them (although, I do often long for just one more day with my precious Golden Retriever), but I’ve recently acquired a kind of morbid curiosity about who I was back then. Because that girl is earth-shatteringly different from who I am today. And I find that both disturbing and fascinating simultaneously.

I mean, just three and a half years later, I’d never be drawn to the life I used to have–that city park, gym, or neighborhood. I’d never settle for a Peter Pan boyfriend with prodigal-drawn complexes about love and commitment. I’d never push aside the biological impulses and creative urges that my “now” life now allows to thrive both around and inside me.

What happened? Is it that I changed? Or that I got fed up and lost my patience for what wasn’t good enough and recognized that time isn’t endless and I won’t live forever and I’d better get on with it? How many of us give up everything to get everything and actually do?
Well, I am fortunate. In terms of love and marriage, at least, I did. And in the process, my preference for one type of life has been almost completely replaced by another. Interesting and, on some level, jarring. It teaches me not to attach. Anything can change at any given moment—we can get what we want and, perhaps, lose what we’ve got.

Jill, what are you trying to say? I’m not sure. I’m working it out. All I do know is this is the ticker tape that rolls across my brain lately when I’m in Chicago–and sometimes, when I’m not.

It’s precisely what Marianne Williamson talks about in her book.

I think.
——————————————————————————————————————————-
And so, I’d like to end this post on one final tidbit:

Sometimes the best moments in life are the simplest. I say it all the time because life constantly reminds me (so I don’t forget.).
Like having coffee on a Sunday morning with my husband.
Or watching the dogs roll around in two inches of the white stuff.
Or moving the furniture from the guest bedroom into the loft and the office furniture out of the loft and into the guest bedroom. And then sitting down in an entirely new space to write.
Or enjoying the Oscars, even though you didn’t see any of the movies.
Or buying but another pair of black stretch pants because they’re cozy and hold in your donkey.
Or being inundated by work from a friend who happened to land the job of managing editor for a great new web site—and is giving you primo assignments, even though you have some anxiety about meeting her expectations.
Or roasting onions to burnt perfection and then watching your finicky husband scarf them down like a bag of potato chips on Superbowl Sunday.
Or remembering how a good snow storm makes you feel–and warm and snuggly.
Or just being, without worrying whether you’ll forget what happened on, say, Tuesday.

That’s it.

Until next time.
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Comments (0)
Filed under: Uncategorized — sherer @ 11:41 pm
Let’s talk about memory, shall we? I am 45 now. And while I vowed over the years to never fall prey to being a bad middle-aged cliché, I am, in fact, one of the grandest. Never mind the fact that I can’t lose weight or that I’m excited about having my hormones tested.

How about the fact that I cannot remember anything? Ever. In fact, I can barely remember what I want to say to you all about my memory. So, I’ll just type and throw caution to the wind and hope that clarity will show up when I need it—like a paycheck or, even better, a pizza.

Case in point: I was in Chicago last week, riding in the car with my two Republican friends (who shall remain nameless, Bob and Larry), when, in the spirit of friendly debate, one asked me why I liked Hillary’s health care plan. To which I said this:

“I really like her plan. I just can’t tell you why.”

Yep, that’s what I said.

Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t like Hillary and don’t have my reasons for liking her plan. I do like her plan for good reasons. It’s just that the plan details themselves were not outlined in front of me, say on one of those fancy car TV screens with PowerPoint ease, and I couldn’t remember the specifics. So, I couldn’t comment appropriately.

Now, to my credit, I sat in the back seat and squeezed my eyes shut and tried like the dickens to remember something anything about the universal nature of her proposition, but I couldn’t. It was 6 o’clock. It had been a long day. And we were stuck in traffic. I was hungry and, as usual, had to pee. In light of these physiological and environmental circumstances, there was no way I was coming up with anything intelligent about lipstick, let alone Hil’s plan for the good ol’ boys to counterpoint.

So instead, I said this: “I can’t remember why I like her plan, I just do. Get off me.”

What’s most sad about that comment is the fact that foggy moments like these are no longer infrequent or the foibles of other people, like they used to be. In fact, the day before my less-than-joyous ride with the poster children for the GOP, I was having lunch in safety—with sister Democrats—when they asked me what I was reading these days.

To which I said this about the book I had started reading earlier that morning for two hours on the airplane: “Oh, it’s by Marianne Williamson talking about the joys of being middle aged and how it’s supposed to be some sort of return to puberty. Or, wait, we’re coming into another adolescence. Or, hold on, we’ve got a whole new childhood to revisit. I don’t know. I’m confused. Something like that, I think.”

“Well that’s a lot of different things,” my friend Marilyn, who also likes Hillary’s health plan, says. “What does she say exactly?”

“What does who say?” I ask, taking a sip of my diet Pepsi.

Before she could respond, the waitress brought us our Macho Salads (a most beloved Chicago-only meal my selective memory allows me to recall on a dime, go figure). And my ability to recount the first eight (or was it nine?) chapters of Williamson’s book was as good as my ability to rattle off the specifics of Hillary’s initiative.

And it does not end there.

Why just today, I was on the phone with my friend Jill when our connection suddenly turned bad. (Although, I was pleased that when I called her, I wasn’t the least bit surprised when she in fact answered, and not somebody else I thought I had called). I told her I’d call her back. She asked me to call on her landline. I said okay. We hung up and I quickly dialed her back. It rang about four times before she answered, all the while I was thinking, “Geez, I just hung up on her, why isn’t she picking up faster?”

Then she did. “Jilly,” she says, “Why are you calling me on my cell?”

To which I said this: “Huh?”

Not good.

I could go on and on with these and other shameful examples, but frankly, I can’t remember them. Suffice to say, you might not want to give me any just-in-case information, like where you keep the keys to your safe deposit box or what’s your blood type, because that’d be like betting on a tricycle at a horse race.

Finally, if you’re reading this and are simply too young to relate (Samantha): stop snickering. Just you wait.

————————————————————————————————————————
I go to Chicago several times a year to facilitate a class for a client. Over the past three years, since I’ve moved out of the Windy City, where I lived for almost 20 years, and back home to Bucks County and Pennsylvania in general, where I grew up, it’s not been a problem.

I go back. I see my friends. Frequent my favorite restaurants. Spend more than I make on Michigan Ave. Do my work. And get out of dodge. No one gets hurt. No tears are shed. And I’m always happy to arrive home, on solid ground, at the ever-chaotic Philadelphia International Airport. Where nobody knows your name, what time the next flight will be leaving, why it’s delayed, or where your luggage is.

It’s a comforting feeling. Really.

But lately, whenever I go to Chicago, I find myself not only grappling with an unusual stir of emotions, but sometimes acting on them.

For example, I find myself going out of my way to drive by the park where I used to throw the ball to my now-dead dog Sophie—and the gym where my one-time boyfriend of 11 years and I used to exercise. These things I do remember.

It’s not that I suddenly long for them (although, I do often long for just one more day with my precious Golden Retriever), but I’ve recently acquired a kind of morbid curiosity about who I was back then. Because that girl is earth-shatteringly different from who I am today. And I find that both disturbing and fascinating simultaneously.

I mean, just three and a half years later, I’d never be drawn to the life I used to have–that city park, gym, or neighborhood. I’d never settle for a Peter Pan boyfriend with prodigal-drawn complexes about love and commitment. I’d never push aside the biological impulses and creative urges that my “now” life now allows to thrive both around and inside me.

What happened? Is it that I changed? Or that I got fed up and lost my patience for what wasn’t good enough and recognized that time isn’t endless and I won’t live forever and I’d better get on with it? How many of us give up everything to get everything and actually do?
Well, I am fortunate. In terms of love and marriage, at least, I did. And in the process, my preference for one type of life has been almost completely replaced by another. Interesting and, on some level, jarring. It teaches me not to attach. Anything can change at any given moment—we can get what we want and, perhaps, lose what we’ve got.

Jill, what are you trying to say? I’m not sure. I’m working it out. All I do know is this is the ticker tape that rolls across my brain lately when I’m in Chicago–and sometimes, when I’m not.

It’s precisely what Marianne Williamson talks about in her book.

I think.
——————————————————————————————————————————-
And so, I’d like to end this post on one final tidbit:

Sometimes the best moments in life are the simplest. I say it all the time because life constantly reminds me (so I don’t forget.).
Like having coffee on a Sunday morning with my husband.
Or watching the dogs roll around in two inches of the white stuff.
Or moving the furniture from the guest bedroom into the loft and the office furniture out of the loft and into the guest bedroom. And then sitting down in an entirely new space to write.
Or enjoying the Oscars, even though you didn’t see any of the movies.
Or buying but another pair of black stretch pants because they’re cozy and hold in your donkey.
Or being inundated by work from a friend who happened to land the job of managing editor for a great new web site—and is giving you primo assignments, even though you have some anxiety about meeting her expectations.
Or roasting onions to burnt perfection and then watching your finicky husband scarf them down like a bag of potato chips on Superbowl Sunday.
Or remembering how a good snow storm makes you feel–and warm and snuggly.
Or just being, without worrying whether you’ll forget what happened on, say, Tuesday.

That’s it.

Until next time.

February 16, 2008

February 16, 2008

Last week, I lost five pounds. FIVE POUNDS. I near French-kissed Dr. G (there as my witness) on the mouth when it happened, I was so excited. And sure, I called my mother to let her know since I’ve been complaining to her and, well, I am a masochist.

When, before I knew it, it became the weight loss heard around the world:

My father called to congratulate me.
The trainers at the wellness center, some I don’t even know, congratulated me.
The people who work out with me on Thursdays congratulated me–and on Fridays.
I could hear the relief (the “oh-thank-God-maybe-she’ll-stop-asking-me-if-she-looks-thinner-every-five-seconds” kind) in my husband’s voice when I told him.
The people in daily life have been praising my donkey.
And I even got some strange message on my voice mail from somebody I don’t know saying something in a foreign accent about pounds. (Although, I suspect it’s one of those “I live in Nigeria and need your bank account number” investment scams. But who cares? It’s recognition.)

I am happy. Delighted to know that I don’t have to buy the farm to effectively shrink. Five pounds this week, coupled with the two pounds I’ve lost over the past 15 years and, well, I’m down SEVEN POUNDS.

Hey, by the time we pay off our mortgage, I’ll be downright smokin’.
————————————————————————————-
Now that I am somewhat of a guru on effective weight loss (shut up, you), I’d like to impart one of my celebrity secrets to losing weight: Pooping.

I visited a friend’s store this past week when another friend came in and before long there were four of us talking about weight loss and then almost immediately the subject of, well, you know: The donkey droppings. (Sorry.) Even though there was nobody in the store but us, I noticed that our lively discourse around the latest designers got suddenly very hushed.

One of my friends practically whispered how she never does it and thinks that’s why she didn’t lose any weight while going through her boot camp program. Another says she takes something for it because not only couldn’t she lose weight, she could barely button her pants. As she spoke, poor thing could barely make eye contact. Another said she did it too much and then ran quickly, shamed, to the bathroom.

It really struck me how secretive we’ve all become about our elimination systems. Because really, no matter where you fall on the spectrum, the effects of their dysfunction can be devastating.

Now, I’m no doctor, still, I’d like to blow the cover off of middle-age pooping because I notice that we women talk about it as if not being able to do it regularly makes us a failure on some level—or confirms the idea that we’re not as good and don’t deserve to be paid as much as men who, as you may know, are highly accomplished in this area.

Why just last week, Dan and I were at Costco when I told him that he needed to get some Beano (he’s a little too long on the “foreplay” aspect of pooping, if you will). To which he replied, “I’ll get Beano if you get this.” Upon which he presented me with the gift of a lifetime: a long tall bottle labeled “Benefiber.” It was resplendent under the fluorescent lights. Literally took my breath away.

Ladies, this bottle of Benefiber is by far the best Valentine’s Day present I think I’ve ever gotten. Better than diamonds. Because really, what does a good diamond do anyway? Just sit there? It surely doesn’t make your stomach feel flatter.

Now don’t worry, I’m not Mehmet Oz. This is not “You: The Poopers Manual.” There will be no diagrams or descriptions of how healthy poop should travel regularly through our lower digestive system like a log that flows on the calm waters of a familiar river (although that does have a nice ring to it).

What I will say is that we really need to come out of the closet with it. Get loud and proud. Otherwise, we’ll never get anywhere in terms of weight loss or, frankly, a good mood in general. Because, my dear readers, everybody poops. Even Marcia Brady took a good dookey every once in a while. I suspect that’s how she managed to get past her mad crush on Greg. (Because who are kidding. It was so obvious.)

Trust.

Until next time.

February 10, 2008

February 10, 2008

Sometimes, I think I know so much I don’t know anything at all.

For example, I thought I understood what it took to lose weight. After all, I’ve been doing it for upwards of 30 years. I thought I understood that it was a simple equation of calories in, calories out. That sure, as you get older, it gets harder, but certainly not impossible.

Well, fooey on me. Because recent experience is teaching me that, in the end, I don’t know doo doo.

The other morning, Dan and I were watching Sanjay Gupta on CNN talk about people who can’t gain weight—and how they’re as shit out of luck as those of us who can’t lose it. Gupta then gave out a few tips, suggesting skinnies eat more frequently throughout the day, fill up on healthy snacks, resistance train to build lean muscle.

That’s when I asked Dan to correct me if I was wrong, but weren’t these the exact same things they tell us f*&# people to do when we want to slim down?

“Sure sounds like it.” (My husband, ladies and gentlemen, a man of few words. Please, hold your applause until the end.)

So riddle me this: If the advice for the underweight is the same as the overweight, how are any of us supposed to know what to do about anything?

Now I’m really confused. (And I want chocolate. No wait, sushi. No wait, chocolate. Oh, I don’t know.)

If you’d have asked me even five years ago what I knew about health and fitness, I’d tell you with great confidence: “A whole bunch, cracker. Now step off.”

Back then, I had no idea that after too much time dieting and exercising, I’d wind up categorizing my fat as stalker. I would have—could have—never guessed that if and when I did everything right, again,again,again,again,again,again my body would defy me like a rebellious teenager.

Is it being in my 40s that’s the culprit? Is there some sort of mysterious aging genome known only to, say, the super delegates or Scientologists, that makes it impossible to drop weight and nobody ever told the public? Or is everything I’ve ever learned in my life a myth?

Ugh, my brain is throbbing. And I’m hungry. Always hungry. Will work for food.

So now, I sit here in my stretch pants, writing to you. Next to a closet full of thin clothes with tags on them and a drawer full of useless restraining orders—Weight Watchers’ first-week on the core plan, Jenny Craig’s eating out guide, the Atkins’ diet book, Suzanne Somers on food combining, low-fat recipes for living. Thinking about how it’s true what they say:

A stalker does become much more dangerous once you insist that it leave.

Because when it doesn’t—and when you do everything in your power to make it go and it won’t and it keeps hiding out in dark places and slapping you upside your head when you least expect it—well, then, you’ve got a problem. One not even the “authorities” can help you with.

And that’s where I’m at. Hi, hello, ticket please. Thank you. Tickets, who’s got tickets?

Wondering what it’s going to take to change my physiology, which let’s face it, is one important dimension in terms of how we see ourselves. Wondering what it’s going to take to find my way once and for all (please-God-I’m-not-sure-how-much-more-I-can-worry-about-this-because-I’m-not-going-live-forever-hello-I’m-almost-50-big-gulp-how-did-that-happen-I-thought-I’d-be-over-this-by-now) to acceptance.

(Okay, now you can clap.)
——————————————————
And so, after mourning the fact that I’ll never be one of those people who can just wake up and live, without thinking about what I’ll eat and how I’ll move and the aftereffects of those decisions, a new journey begins. One that involves nurse practitioners, bioidenticals, specialists, referrals, the occasional pizza, a few tears, a little bit of needy, and, who knew, potentially endocrines.

Now that I’ve spent six weeks (okay, so many more, okay shut up) hating my arms, legs, torso, donkey and everything in between, I am determined to get to the source of the problem. And wipe it away once and for all. Like eliminating black mold or termites. I’m talking about a new kind of extreme home makeover.

I’ve made the appointments. I’m ready to rumble.

Because I’m tired of thinking about my body and how to feed it, what to feed it, or whether to feed it at all. Life is short. It’s time to pay into other things—like my work and my family and prose and the power of words and my own life-affirming spirit.

To this, the people in my world say I’m ready to hear this. To me, a person who’s built a cottage industry (think my diary for Shape magazine, my fitness beat for freelance clients, my work with Gatorade)—a childhood, a life—on being overweight, they ask:

“Jill Sherer Murray, who would you be if you no longer had a weight issue?”

Smart donkeys. Great question. Pretty sure I have some, no, maybe no, I don’t know, I guess, maybe, a little bit of an idea, well sure, yeah, I know, I think, maybe.

Uh oh.

Well, what I do know is that a long time ago, somebody told me there was something wrong with me. And I believed them. For years. Until I didn’t anymore. Made peace, moved on, moved my body to the middle of the list of things that defined me, and set about the process of living in my skin as thoughtlessly and joyfully as possible.

And now, at 45, well, here we are. Good grief.

Which leads me to another thing I thought I knew but didn’t: Even though you’ve done your work, had your therapy, and thought you’ve licked it (“it” being whatever it is for you), leave it to middle age to remind you that you don’t know nothin’.
———————————————————————

Now here’s another thing I thought I knew but didn’t: How to negotiate everything in life so I’d have plenty of time to write and become a successful book author.

HA!

The other night, Dan and I went to hear a few acoustic musicians do a Simon and Garfunkal revival at a local winery. They were terrific, playing guitar, singing, smiling, and looking every much the part of successful musician. Like they had just won a Grammy, had a baby, and hit the lottery all in the same 20 seconds.

Dan and I hated them. We each came home and cried, respectively. He did it while taking the dogs for a walk (I later learned). And I did it in the bathroom, over prescription strength Advil to soothe a “you’re-a-failure-why-aren’t-you-writing-books” headache.

Too tired and despondent for words after the concert, we commiserated the next morning over coffee and Good Morning America.

Dan says, “Honey, do you ever think about what it would take to make you happy?”

Here we go, I hear the floodgates screech open. Good grief, I thought I had oiled them.

“Of course,” I say. “Every day. You. My family. The animals.” Deep breath. “Writing.”

“What does your perfect writing life look like?”

A warm brownie smothered in vanilla ice cream with no nutritional consequences. “Books. Full-time. Touring. Teaching. Speaking. Boots. Long skirts. Funky scarves. Lunch with my agent.”

“How often do you think about it?”

“As little as possible. Want to know why?”

Silence.

“I know why.”

Silence.

“How do you know why?”

“Because it’s my reason why too,” says my husband, project manager by day, frustrated and extremely talented musician by every other minute that he’s alive.

“Because there’s no time to get to it…” I say.

“And it hurts too much to hope there ever will be…”

And therein lies every struggling writer’s battle cry. Unless, of course, you’re in prison or stranded on a desert island with only a pen, laptop, and travel guitar (in Dan’s case), or one of those. Somebody who laughs in the face of time management. Who’s disciplined enough to get up with the crickets to write that screenplay, edit, and revise until you’ve got so many built up in your file cabinets, that the law of numbers are with you and somebody eventually picks you up and makes you a superstar and then you’re an “overnight success” and you can buy all the Mephisto sandals you want in every color because it doesn’t matter. You’re financially sound and, even more importantly, having as good a time in life as the fake Simon and Garfunkel did that night in the winery.

And yet, I believe we–as in the universal all of us–have everything in our lives we either want or think we deserve. So I ask my husband and then myself, why are we not carving out the time for our respective art? I mean, life is busy sure. But how does everybody else do it?

I think we have created our own roadblocks. There is some payoff we can’t identify for not doing what we both feel is truly important.

Dan is trying to convince me I’m wrong. That the problem is simply an over-inflated mortgage, too much technology, and having to keep up with both. I say, “Bullshit.” Our mortgage isn’t that high, we can choose to turn off the computers and cell phones, and we surely don’t live a big life.

See, I think we’ve failed to create time to pursue our dreams because we’re afraid that if we achieve them, we’ll realize:

They weren’t what we imagined they’d be.
We won’t have any more left.
No one will be alive to appreciate them.
We like watching cable more.
We’re total and complete failures and suck at our respective disciplines.
We’re unoriginal failures.
We’re unworthy.
We were stuck on the wrong dream and it’s too late to pursue anything else.
We don’t deserve our success.
Success is irritating.
We miss being anonymous.
We’ve found our way to a life that doesn’t suit us.
We thought we wanted what we wanted but then when we got it we realized that it wasn’t even close to what we wanted and here we’ve wasted all this time wanting it and now we don’t want it anymore but don’t know how to get rid of it.
We’re too fat for television.

Oh, if I had enough time, I could make this list even longer. But I don’t. Crimney, I barely have enough time to finish this damn post.

Hey, I wonder if Simon and Garfunkel, real or imagined, ever had this problem?
———————————————————————————–

Finally, they say the key to most things is you have to believe it. Ask for it, believe you’ll have it, and then act as if you do. Easy for them to say (whoever they are). Or is it?

I don’t know. For me, I think it requires looking back at my own personal history and reviewing what I thought would happen—what I’d get and how I’d like it—and working from there. So, for example:

I never thought I could live without Sophie, my first precious dog. And yet, here I am, giving breath every day in the face of her memory.

I never thought I could bear the thought of my parents’ illness. And yet, I managed to stay strong and show up when my father had lung cancer.

I never thought I could walk up the stairs that you can see through (you know the kinds with no backing in between steps). I’m terrified of heights and yet, last week at a client’s, I was forced to walk up four rounds of stairs you could see through in front of the entire team, carrying a heavy laptop and several binders, without a free hand to white-knuckle the railing. And even though there was sweat pouring down the insides of my trousers and my heart was beating as fast as acid rock and I silently contemplated my will, I did it. No one knew, but I did. And it was a great victory.

I never thought I could write the three computer-based training programs one of my clients asked me to write many years ago, when I was just getting my chops in corporate America. And yet, I continue to use them as some of my most-prized writing samples.

I never thought I could do half the things my clients have asked me to do over the years and yet, here I am, my limited liability corporation in good standing.

I never thought I could put my respectably-sized boobs into a machine that squishes them to the size of paper without screaming like a cheetah hit by gunfire, but I do this every year.

I never thought I could put my weight in a national magazine for six million readers to judge me, but I did it 12 times.

I never thought that I could survive the freelance life for as long as I have (if my clients are reading, please PAY ME), but I’m still juggling too many balls at once without dropping any.

I never thought I’d have such a wonderful writer’s community in my life, but I have a constellation of support from here to Chicago and California.

I never thought I could find happiness in a life that didn’t involve biological children, but every day I find my way to the joy in giving to someone else’s child.

I never thought I’d be one of those dog people, but every morning I snickle-doodle and snuggle-muggle my snoopy-snoopersteins like a character in a Christopher Guest movie.

I never thought I’d like having red hair but I pay good money for it every five weeks (or six, depending on how the color holds).

Finally, I never thought that, at the age of 43, I’d find a life partner in the truest sense, and yet, I can hear him in the basement practicing the love song he wrote for me a month after we met.

And so, in light of all of this, I will end by saying this: See you on the book tour. I’ll be the author pushing a trilogy, in a bikini, size 10, turquoise halter. Relax, there’ll be a matching sarong and, depending on the season and my whimsy, perhaps even a tank top (although who knows, anything can happen).

Deal with it.

Until next time!

January 23, 2008

January 23, 2008

Lately, I’ve taken to calling my backside “donkey.” It all started when my stepdaughter, C, reprimanded me for saying “ass” too much.

“But ass isn’t a bad word,” I say to her. “It means donkey.”

And so now, I’ve started treating my “donkey” as a separate entity.

Donkey don’t fit in the chair. Donkey needs to get smaller. Donkey refuses to shrink. Donkey don’t fit in them jeans. Donkey bad. Donkey good. Donkey flabby. Dead lifts good for tightening donkey. Donkey sore. Donkey cozy in stretch pants. Donkey okay. Donkey takin it day by day.

You get the drift.

I’m not sure why, but naming my rear quarters “donkey” has been cathartic in an odd sort of way. It’s as if it’s become something separate. So I’m freer to look at and it talk about it in a more objective and less personal way which, for a person with body-image issues, is quite fabulous. By detaching it from the rest of my body, it’s as if I’m no longer responsible for it. I like that.

And even though it still comes with me wherever I go, like a cold sore or a pair of old sneakers with holes in them, it doesn’t have to dictate how I feel about myself. In fact, calling it donkey—and thinking about it as a donkey—has made it almost loveable.

Imagine that.

So there you have it. Me and my donkey are doing just fine. Thank you for asking. Why yes. We’d love to meet you for dinner. What night is good for you?
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Speaking of donkeys, mine and I have been holding steady with my wellness program. If you recall from my last post, I did, in fact, wind up seeking the help of Dr. G, who, I’ll admit, I disliked in the way you dislike the taste of goat cheese before you’ve ever really had any.

Now that I’ve been working with her towards, among other things, a smaller and more fit donkey, I must say, were I in the market for a new best friend, she might be at the top of my list.

Since I have one of those already, instead, I’ll look to her as a great teacher, a fellow journeyman, my physiological fly girl, my chiropractic Kazoo, the Mahareshi Mahesh Yogi who starts me on my quest for spiritual, mental, and physical wellbeing. Or, who keeps me from tipping the scales at 800 pounds as I delve ever deeper into the vortex of middle age, taking my metabolism, willpower, resolve, and good luck along with it.

She’s a guiding light who’s arrived just in the nick of time.

Since taking the first step towards hotness, I mean, good health, I have learned from Dr. G’s magical x-rays that I have a tinge of arthritis in my neck. Bad for me, of course, but much worse for my husband. “Honey, I can’t empty the dishwasher…I’m arthritic.” ”Can’t walk the dogs, babe, my arthritis is acting up.” “Ouch oh mighty, that pesky neck-thritis, would you mind massaging it, again?”

On a positive note, I also have some of the best posture G’s seen this side of the millennium. And, my body, albeit it robust, is perfectly proportioned, which means instead of having a skinny waist and a donkey the size of a double wide, I’m large all over.

It also turns out that while my cholesterol is somewhat borderline, my triglycerides are a hair’s breath short of award-winning (damn that writer’s strike). Reason to celebrate? Well, not quite yet.

That’s because my CRPJKV (or some such) marker is slightly high. In other words, I’m precariously inflamed. Of course, who didn’t know that? I didn’t need to give blood to know that I’m bloated a good 20 days out of the month. What I didn’t know was that inflammation, my friends, can be bad for the ol’ ticker.

Now when I heard this news, naturally I panicked. Because that’s one of the things I do really well. Then, after having some time to digest it, I decided to crawl into bed with my therapy dog Elvis and cry for six hours straight. “Oh Elvy, why me? Why am I so bloated? Why oh WHY is my donkey so large? Oh my babeeee, I’m so hungry…..”

Of course, in the middle of all this, my primary care physician called to re-deliver the news and tell me to take a baby aspirin, so I don’t drop dead suddenly from a heart attack (well, she didn’t say that). Which, of course, made me fell ancient and served to intensify the hysterics already underway. I mean, who knew that, at 45, I’d wind up in such lousy shape? Despite my efforts otherwise?

After all, I’ve never smoked, drank, or done drugs—save a few emergency Women’s Correctol’s. I’ve always watched my diet and been active, lifting weights for several years (although I did stop when I got married last year). So naturally, when I heard that my CRVXZ was high and my B-M-I was B-A-D, I was not only baffled, but slightly despondent.

I mean, good grief. If I had known it’d all turn out like this, I’d have spent the first half of my life having some fun–tokin it up, drinking like a fish, shooting heroin, and overdosing on pie and pizza.

But then, after several conversations with my boo boo girl Doc Gigi, I started to feel better about things. She reassured me that if I stuck to the nutrition and exercise plan and even calmed my crazy brain through meditation, all my nasty markers would find their way back to where I’d like them.

Since then, I’ve been like a priest at a sexual harassment convention—diligent in my efforts to stay disciplined. Goodbye potatoes, rice, and bread. Hello low-glycemic vegetables and lean protein. Goodbye just an hour walk with the dogs. And a big how’d-you-do to five 30-minute high intensity interval training and two weight training sessions a week (along with shin splints, calf soreness, and lower back tension).

I’m on a mission. And it ain’t to find religion.

I’m looking for a donkey that stops traffic—one that barely moves when slapped but shimmies and shakes at just the right pace. As appropriate of course.

————————————————————————-
So after 11 days on the course to drop weight and CRPJKS levels like a skydiver with a faulty parachute, I decided to check my progress on the scale. Proud, excited, and terrified like a Marine called to active duty, I raced to the Wellness Center to get weighed (because I don’t own a scale and please don’t buy me one for Christmas). I was sure I’d dropped a good four pounds—at least. After all, the folks on the Biggest Loser were dropping the body weight of small toddlers. If they could do it, I could certainly lose four pounds. Maybe even FIVE.

Once there, I waved to the young metabolically rich girls who staff the front desk, and head straight for the scale in Dee-to-the-Dee-to-the-Gee’s office. I took off my coat, sneakers, socks, earrings, sweat jacket, rings, spit out my gum, and stepped on the scale. What I saw shocked me.

I had lost two pounds.

Two lousy stinkin’ pounds. Two pounds—as many dry vegetables as I put back in a day—the number after one and before three. As I stood there, with I’m sure a look of pure horror on my face, as if I’d seen Dr. Atkins’ spirit rise up through the brown carpet like a chorus line of rusty nails, Dr. G’s brother, Dr. E, peaked in to see me. “Hey,” he says, smiling a big white toothpaste-ad smile. “How’d you do?”

“Let’s put it this way,” I said. “I do not need an agent. I am NOT the biggest loser.”

It was in that moment that I realized: my fat should go on the record as the most dedicated life partner on the planet. Who knew that instead of looking for companionship in another person, I needed only look to my own hips? No matter what I do, no matter how many times I try to break up with it, no matter how much I deprive it of love, my excess flesh will never leave me. Til’ death do us part for sure.

Which leads me to believe that the only way I’ll ever lose any real weight is through decomposition. Yep, you heard me. And that, my friends, is a very depressing notion.

——————————————————————-
So of course, I left that day wanting desperately to hit Dominos—HARD—but I didn’t. Because really, what would be the point? Like Britney Spears, my fat would merely attract more–the fat papparazzi, if you will. Hey guys,c’mon over here, the feedin’ is FINE, check me out, take my picture, roll with me, grow and prosper, make money, multiply, c’mon, this is where the action’s at.

I could just hear those nasty genetic buggers now.

So, instead of stopping for Italian, I went home and cried, again, into Elvis’ fur. “Oh Elvy, Can you just see it now? ‘Famous blogger, talented, loses 40 pounds. How’d she do it? She’s on the D-compose diet. She may be dead, but her corpse is toned and fabulous! See page 35 for details’.” Course the poor animal just looked at me and yawned, while I sobbed, groaned, choked, and blew my nose. (Desperation is not pretty.)

And so, from there, life had to go on. I decided, after releasing Elvis who made it clear through much squirming that he could take no more, to stay the course for eight weeks and see what happens. If, after that time, me and my donkey are still inflamed to the point of our CRPJQST risking damage to the International Space Station, well, we’ll both spend another few days in bed with Elvis and then do something entirely different.

Please don’t ask me what.

———————————————————————————–
That night, drained of all bodily fluid, I went to bed hungry. And dreamt I was eating a corned beef sandwich. I could almost taste the meat (which, when fully conscious, I don’t even like) when my husband’s alarm went off. I rolled over and moaned and he spooned me, whispering, “Good morning, honey, I love you.”

To which I replied, “Get your own sandwich. I’m not sharing.”
————————————————————————————-
On another subject entirely, I had a meeting the other day with a recruiter for some freelance work. Let’s call her Coco Paloma.

Somehow we got on the subject of divorce. And I found out that Coco P had finally lost custody of her young children to her ex-husband after a 10-year court battle. I have no idea how she endured for 10 years what we endured for five months—or how that father managed to convince the court he was the better parent.

I wanted to ask more questions, but given that I don’t know her well enough, I simply marveled on how prevalent the issue of child custody is. I don’t know why that surprises me, given the 50-percent-and-higher rate of divorce. Something’s gotta give–or someone’s gotta get caught in the crossfire of emotions–and sadly and typically, it’s the children.

I think about how all my friends who married in mid-life and became stepparents—every single one of them—has a bad and sometimes bizarre tale to tell of how their husbands’ ex has wreaked havoc in their lives, and even more specifically, in the spirit and minds of the kids.

Which leads me to wonder how, after a childhood spent stuck in the middle of two angry people, they’ll grow into adults. What kind of people will they be? How will they move through the world? How will they contribute? What kind of dreams will they have? And how will they reach for them? Will they? What will this future generation look like?

It scares me to think about it—and of them, bruised and battered and, eventually, in charge of their own healing. It hurts me even more to know that, at least in our own situation, we’re powerless to do anything about it.

Because even though we’re all nicey nicey now, the schedule in terms of when we see C is precarious. It can roll over on a dime. That at any moment, Dan’s ex can do what she did before—remove the child—for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Because that’s how it happened in the first place.

I know it. Dan knows it. And even more tragically, at least in my opinion, C knows it. And she is suffering. More and more, we hear of her migraines, nails chewed to the quick, allergies, fear of going to sleep at night. Crying that when she’s with her mom she misses us and when she’s with us, she misses her mom. And we are powerless.

We can’t reassure her that what happened will never happen again because not even we know that for sure. We can’t make promises about the other parent’s actions because we don’t control them.

So we acknowledge how hard the back and forth must be for her and tell her we love her and we’ll be here and that we’ll see her soon. To wit, she replies, quiet and broken, “I hope so.”

They’re words that break my heart. And, for the first time in my life, make the issue of even my donkey seem small.

———————————————————————–
Switching subjects again, just one last thing: I apologize to all waiting for my New Year’s resolution blog. But frankly, I have resolved to stop being a bad cliché. Making resolutions is, therefore, out of bounds.

(Although I am going to try to be nicer to the assholes in the park who insist on walking their dogs off leash, even though it’s not their backyard as indicated by the fact that they don’t, among other things, get their mail at the public park, and hey lady, when I ask you to leash your dog, it ain’t because I like the way those particular words feel coming out of my voicebox, and have you never heard of leash laws…Oh, I’m also going to be nicer about asking the folks at Ruby Tuesdays for crayons when they seat us because for some reason, once you’re over the age of 11, the hostesses at most major restaurant chains don’t think you deserve to color…I’m also going to stop starting my sentences with “Kids these days…” because that’s just unoriginal…and I guess I’ll give flossing another shot this year but I don’t make any promises…”)

Other than that (and maybe two or three others), no resolutions.

I will, however, pay homage to my father’s brilliant lone resolution: Which is to gain seven pounds because, as he so eloquently puts it, “that’s one I know I can keep.”

Rock on daddy! And to you all.

Until next time.

2007
December 26, 2007

December 26, 2007

Sometimes, being a writer for money puts you in front of things you might not otherwise see.
Case in point: Last week, I was putting the finishing touches on a story for Bucks County Woman magazine. It’s a how-to for brides looking to get fit for their weddings. I interviewed a lot of people for the story. However, none made as big of an impression on me as did my very last interview—it was with a chiropractor (let’s call her Dr. G) who, along with her brother, runs a two-month wellness program (read intense) out of their Bucks County office.
When we spoke, I was just looking for a few quotables for my article, since Dr. G was my last interview, the story was due the next day, and I was already well through a first draft of it.
Little did I know, however, the association would provide me with much more than prose for my piece. Not right away, of course, because instant gratification isn’t my strong suit (for example, William Morris hasn’t called yet and I’m still not a supermodel).
What did happen immediately, however, was, a visceral dislike of Dr. G and her principles, despite the fact that I had never met her or them face to face. After all, she was confident if not defiant in her approach. For one, she insisted that we women only need 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day. That we have no idea how much we’re eating and that’s why we’re overweight. And, for another, we only need one serving of starch (i.e., bread, pasta, potato) every 24 hours. For the rest of our lives. That’s it.
The nerve of her, I thought during and after our conversation. If everything she says is true, it directly violates everything I NEED to believe.
For example, I can’t live on 1,200 calories a day. That doesn’t even begin to account for any pizza (especially eaten whole) or dessert. And telling me I can only have one starch a day is like telling me I can only scream at the dogs once every 24 hours. Apply lip gloss once. Rearrange the pictures in the living room once. It’s just not possible.
Is she nuts? Did she shoot up this morning? Is she hallucinating?
As if that weren’t bad enough, in the second half of our conversation, she suggested we women engage in interval training—like, four momentary wind sprints or something equally unpleasant in the context of a moderately strenuous 30 minutes of exercise. Which made me think: ye gads woman. How do you ever expect to stay in business?
As she went on and on, all I could think was how much I hated her. How her voice was like fingernails on a chalkboard—like Sol stopping to say hello while my dogs cut their teeth on the park’s metal trashcans. How I felt bad for the brides who would take my advice and enroll in her turbo-program for help getting into their wedding dresses.
How she had to be a descendent of Satan—or Susan Powter’s evil twin—disguised in fuller hair and a white lab coat.
Do no harm, my ass. You can’t fool me, Doc G, with your AMA code and your fancy words. Try to get one over, Karen B, I know you made out with Ricky M in the 10th grade, when he was my boyfriend and you were my best friend. I know it now and I knew it then. Word.
I’ve been around the block, as my mother likes to say, and I know better than to believe just anything anybody tells me about health and fitness.
And I know—the way you know that you’ll probably wait until the last minute to write that story, buy that airline ticket, and get out those thank-you notes—that even though my gently fortified Jenny Craig menu is working slowly, it’s working. Sort of.
That even though my dear Jenny Craig counselor Bette has taken to saying, “You haven’t gained that much this week,” those words are better than anything spoken by the devil.
That promoting the twisted have-only-one-potato-in-all-of-summer-2008 philosophies of Dr. G could very well crush readers’ hopes of laying on the sofa eating junk food and getting away with it ever again.
And yet, while Dr. G’s is a dangerous and punitive message, I still had to report it. That’s my job. So I grabbed for my second Jenny Craig brownie of the day and did it.
But I didn’t have to feel good about it.
————————————-
And then, just days after, with Mercury in Retrograde and Karma getting time and a half, Dan and I got in a car accident.
It happened on my niece Sloane’s birthday (hi Sloane – happy birthday sweetie!). We were driving home from a cake-and-coffee celebration at my brother’s house when a large oak tree, heaving with ice from the day’s sleet, dropped in front of us from out of nowhere.
With no time to brake or avoid it, our Honda Element jumped the trunk at 40 miles an hour. And like an ingenue in the automotive Cirque de Soleil, landed on the other side in one piece.
Tada!
After a few moments of just sitting there, I opened my eyes (because you’d have closed yours too) and noticed steam coming out of the front radiator. Dan turned off the ignition, which was somehow still running, and shifted towards me. I, on the other hand, clung to my crash position—sitting upright, back stiff as a brick against the seat, one hand clutching the door the other clutching a lipstick, looking straight ahead, wearing the same petrified look I do every week when I get on the scale for my beloved Bette.
“Oh my God,” he says. “One second faster, and we’d have been toast. That tree would’ve come right through our windshield.” I am silent. “There’s a bigger plan for us, babe.”
“Cake,” I whisper.
“Did you say rake?”
All I could think about was how I didn’t have a piece of Sloane’s birthday cake. I was trying to “be good.” And look where it got me. I could’ve gone out–ended it all–on a 230-calorie frozen chicken carbonara.
“Babe, are you okay? Do you have a head injury?”
I look at him and then out the window. Traffic is stopped in both directions and a woman in a nightgown and a parka is running our way. She seems upset. “I CALLED 911. ARE YOU OKAY? IS ANYBODY HURT?”
“Her cable lines must’ve come down,” Dan says.
I look at him. I love him. I want cake.
They say when you look death in the face, a white light appears and your whole life flashes by you. Me? I saw creamy white frosting, an entire year of Jenny Craig frozen meals, and a closet full of jeans that are too tight on me to wear out of the bathroom.
It was enough to get me to do the unthinkable: Call Dr. G.
That’s right. You read correctly. I called her office to sign up for her program, holistic, accelerated, and swell. Because, while I initially responded to her like somebody who’d been stung by a bee and gone into anaphylaxis shock, I knew that, at the heart of it, she is right.
What she was saying about losing weight and getting fit, hardcore as it is, is right. On the money. Bullseye. In the dead center of true.
And perfect for helping someone like me: desperate.
—————————————————-
So I call to schedule my spot in the program and Dr. G’s husband, a corporate America refugee, answers. And we get to chatting. Turns out, he’s been through the program himself. Lost 45 pounds during and 40 pounds after. And since then, has become a personal trainer and salesperson who works with program participants.
I tell him how I’m at my wit’s end. I need help.
So he tells me the story of how and why he decided to do the program. Apparently, he was coaching his kids, then in little league, when he remembered how his father coached him. And how, when he was 12, he died on the field from a heart attack.
It was a powerful and moving story. And so I thought about my own. Have I resorted to this boot-campy extreme because I thought of cake before my family when faced with my own mortality? Then I realized, no. It was deeper than that.
So, after some meditation, I finally tell him the reason why I’m doing it: “I just want to be hot.”
After all, when you’re in the vortex of a mid-life crisis, as I am, really, you just want to figure out how to get back to your youth – when you were, well, young and your metabolism was lot faster and nobody talked to you about menopause and you didn’t get applications in the mail for the AARP and you weren’t so obsessed with shrinking.
When possibility had no limits in terms of not only eating, but writing and dreaming.
When you were hot—or at least as hot as you were ever gonna be, whether you realized it back then or not.
“Well, then,” he says. “Everybody has their reasons. If it works for you, then go for it.”
——————————————————————
And so, like the car accident, once again, the universe gave me a sign—only this time, that aiming for hotness was the right motivation. Or perhaps, the best motivation. At least in this moment.
Here’s what happened: Yesterday, we celebrated Hanukah in lieu of Christmas at my parents’ house (since we hadn’t been able to get together until then). My mom made a big dinner and after, my snoopy sister-in-law-to-be-someday found an old picture of me that my parents had hidden on their bookshelves.
“Is this you?” she asks, passing around the photo, her disbelief palpable.
I look at the picture when it finally makes its way to where I’m sitting. It’s me alright, in my 20s, with long hair—the longest I ever remember it—wearing a halter top, black tights, and an open button-down jersey top that says “Margate” in big black letters.
I’m smiling. And why not? I’m a size 8. Tops. And HOT. Truly hot. Objectively hot. Even though, back then, I was convinced otherwise.
I make the mistake of putting the picture down, when my sis-to-be sends it back around, like a five-year-old on a Merry Go Round. Like it was a video she’d taken of George Bush being dropped into an active volcano.
“WOW,” Dan says, eyes popping out of his head. “Look at that hair.”
Look at it. “I’m so young there.” I want to die. Or at least vomit. Or at least eat the pie on the table with a spatula.
My father laughs. “Welcome to middle age!”
I shoot him a dirty look and am suddenly depressed. So much so, that not even the 12 green slotted spoons and plastic cutting board my brother and sis-to-be got me for Hanukah could cheer me up.
———————————————————————
Fortunately, I am married to a man who sees beyond the physical. Not that I need outside validation but, okay, last night, yeah, I did.
As we drove home from my parents house in our rented PT Cruiser (since our Element is STILL in the shop), I recount to my husband how despondent I am over that picture.
“But why,” he says, “you’re still beautiful.”
“Not like that! C’mon, admit it.” I point to my pocketbook, where I put the picture so I remember to burn it in the morning, when I look for my cell phone and find it there.
“Honey, I fell in love with you,” he says. “Not that girl in the picture. YOU.”
But I AM the girl in the picture. We’re all the girl in the picture. Or the guy. And I know that we all want to do our best. I do too. I don’t expect to ever go out in public in a spandex halter ever again, but I do expect to be an older version of someone I’m proud of.
And so, bring it on Dr. G. I’m more than ready. Just watch me.
Until next time.

December 1, 2007

December 1, 2007

In just a few short weeks, I’m going to turn 45. And while that may not be “old” to some people, it’s the oldest I’ll ever be. And as a result, I feel, well, old.
You know, my niece-is-going-to-college-next-year-my-husband-is-old-enough-for-a-colonoscopy-I-need-a-mammogram-and-a-fresh-set-of-tweezers-a-month old.
It doesn’t help that, at this age, married life is stressful and complex. Not that I’m complaining. I love being married—the commitment of a life together. And the joy of having the right partner. It really is awesome.
It’s just all the flotsam that comes with a joined life that can be exhausting—stepchildren and lawyers. A mutual bathroom. Realizing a collective set of dreams.
The expectation that, now married, you’re grown up enough to, say, host Thanksgiving dinner and, beyond that, be the bigger person—whether it’s your fault or not.
Add to that, the sometimes desperate writing for dollars, rising fuel costs, dieting for naught, dry skin issues, a revolving door of house guests (albeit beloved), the holidays, two shelter dogs, and the constant need to pack 10 pounds of potatoes into a five-pound sack and what do you get: Old. Aching bones. Torn muscles.
Mall brain.
I don’t like it for the obvious reasons. But also because feeling old distracts me from negotiating all I want to do in this second act of life. Like finish a book proposal and then a book and then find my way to the New York Times bestseller list. And stay there.
Or just keep up with the massive growth of new chin hairs and mind-bending versions of Microsoft Office (yep, Vista, I’m talkin’ to you).
And yet, since I’m not one to sit around and let the ravages of time eat away at my flesh like a vicious strain of e-coli, the other day I decided to soothe myself with a haircut. And, while at the salon, book a massage and a facial for the day of my birthday.
What the heck. I know one facial ain’t gonna erase the parentheses starting to form just under my nostrils, but denial truly is the most beautiful gift one can give to oneself.
And, hey, I deserve it.
———————————————
After Cheyenne rids me of two solid inches of frizz, I approach the 22-year-old 125-pound receptionist with hair like French tassles and skin like a fresh bottle of Windex to book my other treatments. I tell her I want a Swedish massage and a triple-duty facial. To which, she says, “Time to get that glow back, huh?”
What is this an interrogation?
“Please. I’m not that optimistic,” I say, rummaging through my pocketbook for my credit card. “I’m just trying to stay off the slinky going down.” And it’s true, I’m starting to think that what I’ve already got is possibly the best I can hope for.
She and the other anatomically-correct receptionist who’s now joined her behind the desk smile politely. Still, I know what they’re thinking. Thank God I’m not as old as she is. So I allow myself the quiet consolation of knowing that someday they, too, will be old like me, exhaustion and dry skin sneaking up on them like a pair of anorexic joggers.
I know, that’s kind of mean spirited. But I can’t help it. I’m too tired to be contrite about my jealousy.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m happy about it. I’m not. Who wants to be so exhausted anyway? To have to drop on the couch with a steaming cup of Swiss Hazelnut once Oprah comes on at 4 o’clock every day? To wake up without ever feeling fully rested, despite three consecutive cups of French Roast (brought to her, I might add, by her saintly husband and inhaled like a triple-play of fine whiskey)?
As if general poopedness isn’t bad enough, I’m losing my vigor for the one thing I could always count on—vanity. Yet, as the years pass, I’m growing lax about moisturizing, painting my toenails, plucking my eyebrows, everything.
In fact, I’m starting to question what it all means anyway?
Why just the other day, I was watching Oprah, who did an entire show on what not to wear. It was the do’s and don’ts of, among other things, bras, blue jeans, and shoes. At every age, no less.
As I watched, I couldn’t help but wonder, “When I’m lying on my deathbed, looking back at my life, will I really feel bad about wearing too much blush? Too few low-rise boot cuts?”
Which then brought me to the question of what I would be thinking about, which is probably, sadly, food. And wishing I’d had more of it. Which, of course, makes me hungry. (Leading to, naturally, too many pretzels and the dreaded carbohydrate coma. Not good.)
As if my longing for carbs, my chipped nails, and consistently dry T-zone aren’t enough, I’m cranky. Once a week I accuse my husband of not putting his dishes in the sink, not telling me I’m a hottie, or asking me to stop dieting because I’m simply looking too thin.
Men just don’t get it. The way to keep us aging females happy is to buy us flowers—as many as you can find and for every occasion, even Columbus Day—and LIE.
Especially to those of us who are sluggish and on the precipice of 45.
——————————————
That said, my crankiness is not confined to the family. Why, just the other day, I was out walking the dogs, when an older gentleman approached us with what looked like a puppy Golden Retriever. Before he got too close, I did what I always do when I see other dogs coming and want to avoid a Michael Vick: I pull my eager and sometimes-temperamental dogs off to the side of the trail and make them sit until the other dogs and their owners pass us.
Unfortunately, this man, let’s call him Sol , decides that instead of passing, he’ll stop right in front of us to chat about his new puppy. All while my dogs re-enact the Pearl Harbor scene in Saving Private Ryan.
“Hey, yeah, my dog’s a puppy,” Sol says, oblivious to my dogs going ballistic. “Only six months. Cute, huh?”
“WHAT?” I shout to be heard over the barking, groping their leashes like a rescue swimmer attached to a rope and a helicopter. “SHUT UP YOU TWO. HEAL!@”
Is Sol blind? Can he not see the foam starting to form on Winnie’s mouth?
While his puppy calmly sniffs his shoe, he says something else, but I can’t hear him. So, instead, I curse him to Hades. And promise God I’ll never eat a whole pizza again if he drop kicks Sol to the other side of the park—and quickly.
After a few more minutes, my dogs are in two-part bad harmony, barking and shrieking like they’re being skinned alive. I’m doing all I can to hold them back, knowing that it won’t be long before my wrist snaps off my forearm like a twig.
While I still have some use of my hands, I string Elvis up by his prong collar to try to get him quiet. Instead he squeals like a pair of faulty brakes on an 18 wheeler. Fortunately, Winnie stops barking, but only long enough to snarl, bare her incisors, and generate a noise that would’ve made an effective soundtrack to The Exorcist.
I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be able to hold on to them. And yet, there Sol stands. Oblivious. Like somebody who has no idea he’s walked onto the stage in the middle of the play–with toilet paper on his shoe, no less.
I, on the other hand, now highly agitated like my dogs, am worried about the legal ramifications of unleashing a spontaneous running of the canines. And going from cranky to angry. Until finally, while I still have some feeling in my thumbs and forefingers, say this:
“MOTHER OF GOD ARE YOU BLIND HOW LONG DO YOU EXPECT ME TO KEEP THESE WRETCHED BEASTS FROM TURNING YOU INTO CHOPPED SIRLOIN??”
Sol looks at me as if I’ve just told him his dog is really a cow. And with a “Harumph” I can actually hear, he marches off, shaking his head, and muttering to himself.
I stand there, waiting for my animals to reground themselves in good behavior and the feeling to return to my hands. Sure, I feel bad about yelling and good riddens goodnight Sol simultaneously.
Which brings me to another byproduct of aging. Confusion.
————————–
At this point, it’s not only emotions I’m grappling with, but the disheartenment I feel in response to my being doomed to this size 12 body until they drop me in the dirt. If I’m LUCKY, that is, a slowing peri-menopausal metabolism notwithstanding.
What I would give for just one two-pound weight loss in a week at Jenny Craig just so I can say, before I die, that I’ve had the experience. I’d also like an Egg Nog latte with no after-effects, but I now know that both are about as likely as my husband’s ex-wife calling to say how much she likes me.
It ain’t happenin.
See, because while some people have human stalkers, I am being stalked by my own flesh. It simply won’t go away.
Never was that clearer than the other night, when after two solid months of dieting, I lay belly up on the bed, trying to button the jeans I’ve had for a year. The task had me sweating, belting out an acid-rock rendition of four-letter expletives that required my husband and stepdaughter to evacuate the building.
Albeit temporarily.
————————————————–
After finally resorting to a pair of black pants with stretch, Dan, C and I leave to meet my best friend Lorrie and her family for a night of burgers (salad for me, of course, sans dressing, cheese, olives, chick peas, avocado, and anything with flavor) and bowling. Once there, the situation gets immediately worse.
See Lorrie just lost 26 easy pounds (that she didn’t need to lose, by the way) on Weight Watchers. Easy in the sense that she went on a diet and, lo and behold, her body shrunk.
Imagine that.
“Hey,” she says, pulling me to the side once we arrive. “Check this out.” She pushes her coat aside to reveal the tag on a new pair of jeans. They’re a size two.
A SIZE TWO. I look at her, as if she just unveiled a penis.
“I know, can you believe it? I saved the tag,” she says, “because I wanted to show it to the one person who’d understand.”
Oh, I understand all right. I understand that I could starve myself from now until the winner of the 2008 presidential election is sworn into office, and still never be a size two.
I could go off into the wild, like Alexander Supertramp, and die on the vine. And, then, when they find me months later and wrap a tape measure around my decomposing body, I’d still be solid size 10. Okay, maybe an eight. But a size two? No way.
No friggin way.
So I say, “That’s great, Lor. Must be nice.” What a crappy friend I am, so sarcastic and bitter. And really, I hate myself for it.
Yet, I want to cry. From why-not-me-what-about-me-why-is-it-easy-for-everybody-else frustration that really has nothing to do with Lorrie.
I want to drop to the floor, right there in front of the teenyboppers in their painted-on denim who are the Saturday night mall crowd at Dave and Buster’s, and swim a hysterical freestyle on the dirty carpet.
“I know, it’s frustrating, Jill. I’m sorry,” Lorrie says, her goodness making my badness even uglier. To make matters worse, she puts her arm around me in comfort. Around cranky, hungry, tired, lay-down-and-die-I-no-longer-get-vanity, dry me.
Even though, I really don’t deserve it.
—————————————-
Now I know what you’re thinking. The same thing I thought the entire way through reading “Angela’s Ashes” by Frank McCourt. Please, good God, let something GOOD happen to this man. And in his book nothing does.
But in my blog, well, all is not lost. See I did manage to buckle up that night and bowl a solid 63. Enjoy myself. Get some of my fighting spirit back. And learn an important lesson through the allegorical experience of sport.
After my mini meltdown, Lorrie encouraged me to take my frustration out on the lanes and throw the ball as if it were nine pounds of fat from behind my thighs going into a big dark hole. Never to find its way back again.
And so I did, which manifested into a series of gutter balls. To which Lorrie’s husband Frank said, “Do you want us to put up the bumpers?” He points to his kids (11 and 14 respectively) and Dan. “We’re all using them. It’s okay, really.”
What a bunch of wussies.
I look at Lorrie, who shakes her head “no” and gives me a you-can-do-anything smile. And she’s right.
“No thank you Frank. I think I can manage without the bumpers. After all, I’m almost 45 now.”
It was then I decided that if all I could muster up, for now, were gutter balls, well then, so be it. They’d be the best gutter balls this side of state lines.
Instead of trying to fight them, I’d embrace them. Use them to practice my swing. Find grounding in consistency. Remind myself that there’s always room for improvement and that’s a good thing.
That gutter balls, like the birthdays and exhaustion and being crabby and lacking moisture and suffering from the clawing feeling of time, don’t define me.
I get to do that.
—————————————————
Here’s how: Today, I found my way into the Gap looking for a little something to take the edge off. I picked up a few scarves and a cream-colored cable knit sweater and took them into the dressing room.
Cable knit isn’t always so flattering when you have robust biceps (she says, diplomatically), but I went for it anyway. And as I stood there, in front of the mirror, pulling the thick woolen material over the chubby arms I inherited from my favorite grandmother, I looked in my own eyes and said this:
Jill, this is it. Never mind losing weight, gaining weight, getting taller, shorter, thinner, dumber, or smarter. This is it. This is you. And it’s good. It’s all good. Time to embrace it. There’s no time left to be so selective and precise. It’s half gone. This life. Getting shorter. So just shove it all into your grab bag and run. Step into 45 with a renewed sense of vigor and joy. And love yourself. Already. It’s time.
And by the way, you look great in that sweater.
Until next time.

November 21, 2007

November 21, 2007

A few things:
First, I invite you all to read an unsolicited review (I swear) of my chapbook, “Diary of a Writer in Mid-Life Crisis”—a simple but thoughtful, elegant, and edited compilation of these here blogs. (Agents and editors, are you listening?)
I handed one of my chapbooks off to Marc Schuster, a very talented writer in his own right (who also authored a terrific story called “Slow” on this site, so check it out!), at the writers’ conference I mentioned in my last post. And lo and behold, he surprised me with this delightful analysis. You can read it at http://smallpressreviews.blogspot.com/ . Scroll down until you find my title. And please do send me a note if you want me to send you a copy.
Second, it was my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary this month. A feat almost as spectacular as the invention of lipo and spandex (thank God), especially in this day and age. Not too many of us get 50 years with our significant others, especially since we’re now marrying in mid-life. (Although, I tell Dan that we’ll be celebrating our 50, even if we have to do it with him stuffed and on castors.)
To commemorate their amazing half century, mom and dad threw themselves a similarly awe-inspiring party at the Centre Bridge Inn, where Dan and I got married, for 100 of their closest friends and family.
Of course, nary a rites of passage in the Sherer clan where I’m not compelled to write and read a relevant story. And so, I’m delighted to share it with you all as always. Whether you’re married, single, or otherwise, I hope you find it both enjoyable and inspiring.
Finally, I wish you all the very happiest of Thanksgivings. May you eat beyond your threshold, enjoy several hours of stomach gurgling, use it as a great excuse to get other people to clean the table and do the dishes, find a great hiding spot for the pastries you know you’ll want to eat in secret on Friday (cause who are we kidding), and pass out on the sofa in front of the television.
Now THERE’S a holiday.
Until next time!
Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad
The other week, I stopped by my parents’ house just in time to watch my mother and father bicker about cake. He’d just come home from the mother ship—Costco—with $25 worth of pound cake for my mother’s cousin’s funeral. This is despite her instructions to only spend $20.
After the funeral, they came over to drop off something I-can’t-remember, when I asked how everybody liked the overpriced pastry. (I know, I’m a troublemaker.) But by then, they had moved on to something else. It seems that, during the service, my mother wanted to say something to the woman sitting in front of my father. But when she asked him to tap her on the shoulder, he refused.
“You’re so queer Owen,” she says, shaking her head.
“Why should I tap somebody on the shoulder I don’t know?”
“Because I asked you to.”
“If you asked me to jump off a bridge, should I do it?”
“You’re just queer.”
“You said that already.”
As I sat and listened, wishing I had a pencil and a piece of paper so I could accurately capture the details, I had to smile: So this is what 50 years of marriage looks like.
Every time my new husband and I are out with my parents, they bicker. About why my Dad shouldn’t order potatoes. Why it’s too cold to sit on the patio. Whether they should share an entrée or each order their own. We’re almost flattered that, when they’re with us, they’re comfortable enough to be so openly disgruntled.
And yet when we leave, Dan will always ask, “Do you think that will be us someday?”
And I reply: “I hope so.” As I watch my parents head to their car, holding hands.
Because we know that their bickering is just a shill for something else. That in between the nitpicking, there’s the giggling and playful hitting, and, yes, the implied joy of shared living. Even though it doesn’t always look like what you might expect it to. And yet, you don’t spend 50 years with another person to wind up with nothing, just like you don’t spend a lifetime investing in a 401K to retire in the red.
Over the course of five decades, my parents have enjoyed the payoffs—and countless rites of passages. Two wonderful children, grandchildren, dogs. Several cars and houses. Too many vacations too count. Pretty things. Things that work. Special occasions, like this one. An ever-improving quality of life.
Still, there have also been the challenges to survive—the pain of loss, the pressures of debt, and the traumas of their children.
Cancer.
My father was diagnosed with it some three years ago, after having a routine stress test forced upon him by my mother. That’s when they found the small speck of dust on his lungs.
It was a defining moment for our family. My father’s response was to acknowledge a “good run” and curl up on the bed for a nap. My mother, however, lay awake with it for months—in silent fear until she knew for sure that, like an exposed cad, the cancer had been run out of town.
I remember the moment they rolled my father into recovery after surgery. He was clean and safe. The cancer put out like an unwelcome guest. Laying there quiet on a gurney, wearing tubes linked to computers chirping, his eyes were open and his face flushed like a tri-athlete fresh from competition.
And my brother said, “Hey dad. We love you.”
And I said, “We’re right here dad.”
And my mother leaned in real close, tears in her eyes, and whispered, “I saved your life, Owen. And now, I want a diamond tennis bracelet.”
He made pretend he didn’t hear it. But I know he did. Because after my mother and brother left me there to take first watch, the sides of his lips curled up ever so slightly.
It’s that kind of code between two people that makes me want to cry. The fact that they’re my parents makes it all the more powerful. Because as their daughter, their love and 50 years together has been the greatest gift they’ve ever given me. Hands down.
So generous, in that I’ve never had to choose sides, worry about the burden of their loneliness or independence, or wonder what real love and commitment looks like. I see it and touch it every day. Laced like fine thread through the minutiae of real life.
As I stand here today, Mom and Dad, I am both grateful and proud. And so blessed with having parents who know what marriage and family is all about. Who know how to make a promise and keep it. Who know that for better or worse always means for the better, if you’re up to the half-century task.
Congratulations, you guys. And thank you. Your commitment is one of my most treasured possessions. And I will carry it in my heart forever.
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Filed under: Uncategorized — sherer @ 11:43 am
A few things:

First, I invite you all to read an unsolicited review (I swear) of my chapbook, “Diary of a Writer in Mid-Life Crisis”—a simple but thoughtful, elegant, and edited compilation of these here blogs. (Agents and editors, are you listening?)

I handed one of my chapbooks off to Marc Schuster, a very talented writer in his own right (who also authored a terrific story called “Slow” on this site, so check it out!), at the writers’ conference I mentioned in my last post. And lo and behold, he surprised me with this delightful analysis. You can read it at http://smallpressreviews.blogspot.com/ . Scroll down until you find my title. And please do send me a note if you want me to send you a copy.

Second, it was my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary this month. A feat almost as spectacular as the invention of lipo and spandex (thank God), especially in this day and age. Not too many of us get 50 years with our significant others, especially since we’re now marrying in mid-life. (Although, I tell Dan that we’ll be celebrating our 50, even if we have to do it with him stuffed and on castors.)

To commemorate their amazing half century, mom and dad threw themselves a similarly awe-inspiring party at the Centre Bridge Inn, where Dan and I got married, for 100 of their closest friends and family.

Of course, nary a rites of passage in the Sherer clan where I’m not compelled to write and read a relevant story. And so, I’m delighted to share it with you all as always. Whether you’re married, single, or otherwise, I hope you find it both enjoyable and inspiring.

Finally, I wish you all the very happiest of Thanksgivings. May you eat beyond your threshold, enjoy several hours of stomach gurgling, use it as a great excuse to get other people to clean the table and do the dishes, find a great hiding spot for the pastries you know you’ll want to eat in secret on Friday (cause who are we kidding), and pass out on the sofa in front of the television.

Now THERE’S a holiday.

Until next time!

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad

The other week, I stopped by my parents’ house just in time to watch my mother and father bicker about cake. He’d just come home from the mother ship—Costco—with $25 worth of pound cake for my mother’s cousin’s funeral. This is despite her instructions to only spend $20.

After the funeral, they came over to drop off something I-can’t-remember, when I asked how everybody liked the overpriced pastry. (I know, I’m a troublemaker.) But by then, they had moved on to something else. It seems that, during the service, my mother wanted to say something to the woman sitting in front of my father. But when she asked him to tap her on the shoulder, he refused.

“You’re so queer Owen,” she says, shaking her head.
“Why should I tap somebody on the shoulder I don’t know?”
“Because I asked you to.”
“If you asked me to jump off a bridge, should I do it?”
“You’re just queer.”
“You said that already.”

As I sat and listened, wishing I had a pencil and a piece of paper so I could accurately capture the details, I had to smile: So this is what 50 years of marriage looks like.

Every time my new husband and I are out with my parents, they bicker. About why my Dad shouldn’t order potatoes. Why it’s too cold to sit on the patio. Whether they should share an entrée or each order their own. We’re almost flattered that, when they’re with us, they’re comfortable enough to be so openly disgruntled.

And yet when we leave, Dan will always ask, “Do you think that will be us someday?”

And I reply: “I hope so.” As I watch my parents head to their car, holding hands.

Because we know that their bickering is just a shill for something else. That in between the nitpicking, there’s the giggling and playful hitting, and, yes, the implied joy of shared living. Even though it doesn’t always look like what you might expect it to. And yet, you don’t spend 50 years with another person to wind up with nothing, just like you don’t spend a lifetime investing in a 401K to retire in the red.

Over the course of five decades, my parents have enjoyed the payoffs—and countless rites of passages. Two wonderful children, grandchildren, dogs. Several cars and houses. Too many vacations too count. Pretty things. Things that work. Special occasions, like this one. An ever-improving quality of life.

Still, there have also been the challenges to survive—the pain of loss, the pressures of debt, and the traumas of their children.

Cancer.

My father was diagnosed with it some three years ago, after having a routine stress test forced upon him by my mother. That’s when they found the small speck of dust on his lungs.

It was a defining moment for our family. My father’s response was to acknowledge a “good run” and curl up on the bed for a nap. My mother, however, lay awake with it for months—in silent fear until she knew for sure that, like an exposed cad, the cancer had been run out of town.

I remember the moment they rolled my father into recovery after surgery. He was clean and safe. The cancer put out like an unwelcome guest. Laying there quiet on a gurney, wearing tubes linked to computers chirping, his eyes were open and his face flushed like a tri-athlete fresh from competition.

And my brother said, “Hey dad. We love you.”
And I said, “We’re right here dad.”
And my mother leaned in real close, tears in her eyes, and whispered, “I saved your life, Owen. And now, I want a diamond tennis bracelet.”

He made pretend he didn’t hear it. But I know he did. Because after my mother and brother left me there to take first watch, the sides of his lips curled up ever so slightly.

It’s that kind of code between two people that makes me want to cry. The fact that they’re my parents makes it all the more powerful. Because as their daughter, their love and 50 years together has been the greatest gift they’ve ever given me. Hands down.

So generous, in that I’ve never had to choose sides, worry about the burden of their loneliness or independence, or wonder what real love and commitment looks like. I see it and touch it every day. Laced like fine thread through the minutiae of real life.

As I stand here today, Mom and Dad, I am both grateful and proud. And so blessed with having parents who know what marriage and family is all about. Who know how to make a promise and keep it. Who know that for better or worse always means for the better, if you’re up to the half-century task.

Congratulations, you guys. And thank you. Your commitment is one of my most treasured possessions. And I will carry it in my heart forever.

November 5, 2007

November 5, 2007

This past weekend, I gave a speech at the Montgomery County Community College Writer’s Conference on telling the truth in writing. It was a fabulous conference. Lots of great information—and fun.
And now, here I sit, riveted to a blank page, trying to figure out how to tell the truth of something that’s happening in my own life without offending those involved—something a few of my students asked about and I promptly and theoretically answered. You have to make choices, I said.
And that’s true.
So here’s my choice—in practice. To walk my own talk, and show my students (if you’re reading, hey hey) one way it can be done.
See, I have a situation with one of my husband’s older daughters. And it’s weighing heavily on us—especially me since, as a writer, I am compelled to purge in words. And as a blogger, well, to the public.
You can see my quandary.
Now, I could avoid it altogether and write around a few other things on my mind (like why do all my married friends schedule sex with their spouses on Sunday mornings and why does my father spend most of his free time at Costco?). But that would only be postponing the inevitable—like a pap smear or a root canal.
Besides, I’m the kind of person who’s got to get it out. So mindful of not telling another person’s story (which you should never do) and staying focused on my own, here’s it is: My stepdaughter, for the sake of a religion that has its followers shun those who are not followers, has chosen to cut me, her father, and her step-sister out of her life.
(Hello? Are you still with me? Are you breathing? Oh wait, I’m talking to myself here.)
Now, I suspect, if you ask her if it’s true, she will deny it. That’s why I’ll make it my subjective, but I’m pretty sure fairly accurate, truth. At least according to the circumstantial evidence that we have not heard from her since she told us she was going back to said religion (which, as a former member, she was asked to leave a while back). She also told us she’d never stop talking to us because she loved and respected us too much.
That was almost a month ago. Well, maybe a little past three weeks, to be safe.
Let me stop and say that if she reads this (which I doubt she ever will), she may say it’s not true. That we brought it on ourselves—you know, the “shunning.” That I put the nail in my own coffin by calling her up angry after her father told me she was returning to the religion that already had claims on his other three children. Who, as result, don’t have anything to do with him.
She told him over the phone while he was on I-276 driving east towards home from his job in Exton. Since he’d already had his suspicions, he wasn’t totally shocked. But, like a big want-to-believe-the-best-of-people, I was.
And so it’s true. I did call her slightly emotional. Hit the digits on the receiver in anger. Dan said, “Honey, be careful what you say.” But I didn’t. I burst into the conversation with how-dare-you-what-are-you-thinking hostility. And I don’t relieve myself of that responsibility. I’m not afraid of accepting some blame. Blame is part of life, as is forgiveness.
Still, I was mad. Human mad. I hated the way she told my husband–and how she had been lying to us about it for months. (Since I had asked her a few times point blank if she had plans to go back —and she doth protested.) And something else she had done—or was doing—that I won’t get into here. (Note the choices, students.)
And yet, in my defense, who doesn’t get angry when they learn that a person they love is about to leave them. Whether they themselves are ready to be real about it or not.
Now, I can imagine her reading this (although, again, I doubt she ever will), shaking her head, dropping her jaw, “I can’t believe HER. I can’t believe she said that! Or that!”
And then repeating what she said during our second phone call–the one I made the next morning to tell her how badly I felt about the first. “You are a child. I am the grownup!” My attempts at reconciliation met with a hostile residue.
In that moment, I couldn’t (and still can’t) imagine how someone calling with the message of love and support could remain so rebuked. So offended. And yet, when I shared my desire to talk more about it, she basically told me we couldn’t.
Evidently, ever.
Because, I guess, I am a child. Me. The “She.” The “HER.”
Me. The woman who bought for her, listened to her, rubbed her feet when she was in the hospital preparing to give birth. Gave her a baby shower, unconditional love, and several pairs of my favorite earrings and flip flops. Handed over lip gloss, clothes, and comfort like they were cash owed for services.
Me. The woman who stepped in as a surrogate when I said, “I do” and she said she was struggling to relate to her biological mother, in the religion also.
Me. The woman who encouraged her to accept her mom for all she can offer and move forward. None of us are perfect, after all.
And I’d tell her: I’m just paying it forward, when she’d say “You’re so good to me. You LOVE me.” Yes, I do. Why not? You are infinitely lovable. Besides, I have a good mom. She did all these things for me. Somebody should do them for you. So I did. And now, well…
Anyway, as I said before, we have not heard from her in weeks. Her father, my husband, has been through his paces health wise, having had a dicey and invasive surgical procedure to eliminate heart disease (which, thankfully, at 50 he has the heart of a 30-year-old, and I’m sure he’ll be fine with me telling you this).
And then a full-body rash that had us spending Halloween in the emergency room. His candy was three intravenous rounds of Benedryl and a week-long course of Prednisone. (I’m not sure how he’ll feel about me sharing that, but what the heck.)
Mine was a midnight round of the 800 Hershey’s Kisses we weren’t home to give out.
And yet, no phone call from his daughter—my stepdaughter. No nothing.
Sadly, having grown up in this religion and then leaving it when he was of legal age to do so, he’s all too accustomed to losing family members for reasons other than death. He’s lost practically all of them to this religion—mom, dad, brothers, sisters, children. (Sorry, his story.)
In fact, I suspect, losing them to death might be easier since at least it probably hurts less to think that people are no longer part of your life because it’s difficult to make a phone call when you’re dead.
And, now, apparently, when you’re alive, but in a certain religion as well.
And that’s the truth. At least, mine.
And so, to my students: Yes, the people involved in this tale know who they are. But hopefully, the rest of the world doesn’t. Wouldn’t know my stepdaughter if she rang their doorbell with a copy of The Watchtower and some extras for sharing.
Wouldn’t know my husband if he showed up at their doorstep asking for directions back to Doylestown.
And in the truth-telling business, that’s the best we can hope for, save the players in our stories getting amnesia and forgetting altogether. Which I can say from experience, rarely happens.
Until next time.

October 17, 2007

October 17, 2007

Well, it’s a new dawn. It’s a new day. Especially when it comes to going to the doctor and being middle-aged.
Used to be, even at 40, that going to the doctor to get a new prescription each year for my Zyrtec-D medicine (ragweed sucks) was a five-minute experience. But now, just five years more into the decade where peri-menopause and the need for Botox become gruesome realities, five minutes turns into 57 really quickly.
Never was that clearer than this past week, when I had an appointment with Nancy C—a physician’s assistant at Buckingham Family Medicine—to get a refill on my seasonal allergy medication.
“How are you feeling?” she asks, while I sit next to her, fully clothed, groping my pocketbook (like a “fat person,” my mother always says, whatever that means) in the dark examination room.
And, we’re off…
10 minutes on the antidepressants:
“Well, you know, I’m off the antidepressants.” Not at all the reason why I’m here, but thought I’d share anyway.
She looks down at her electronic pad and clicks with purpose. “And how’s that going?”
“You know, Nancy,” I read her name tag, which had a P.A. on it. “Uh, I mean, Dr. Carnie, oh, uh, Nanc, it’s very interesting.” I never know what to call the physician assistant.
I launch into the story of how I’m recently married and how we wrote our own vows and how my husband sang me a love song and how touching his vows were and how there wasn’t a dry eye in the place and how I didn’t shed a tear and now I know why because since I’ve been off the drugs if I watch a bee pollinate a flower I find myself weeping and it’s just fascinating and how she might want to share this with some of her other patients who are thinking about weening themselves off since it’s all about giving back and how I should’ve weened myself more gradually because I suffered—oh, how I suffered—but then it was all worth it because I now cry with the best of them, on a dime if asked, which comes in handy if I ever get stopped by a traffic cop because you know how vulnerable they are to that a whole vulnerable female thingy of course my new son-in-law is a cop so that does help as well.
She looks at me. “Well, yes, they can numb the emotions. So is the Allegra still working for you?”
Five minutes on my allergies:
“Oh goodness, no. Allegra doesn’t do a thing. I take Zyrtec D.”
“You sure you need the D?”
“Thank GOD for the Zyrtec D. Last year, I swear, I begged my husband to take a carving knife and stab me in the chest, my allergies were so bad. NOTHING worked. And I mean nothing. I blew my nose straight through three Lifetime Television movies. And not in a good way, if you know what I’m saying.”
I pause and feel my eyes get teary. “Until the Zyrtec D. “ Thank God for medical technology. I need a moment.
“Great. So it is D?”
“Yes. Well, I think.” Now she’s confusing me. “I mean, I’m pretty sure that’s what it is.” I pull out an old prescription bottle I fill with Advil and keep in my pocketbook. But it’s the wrong label. “Oh shoot, this was the bottle from the old antidepressants.” I feel wistful. “Gosh, I mean, I could cry RIGHT NOW.”
She smiles, that sort of terrified smile you get when you’re not sure if the person you’re dealing with is homicidal.
“But you’re pretty sure it’s D?”
“I am, but why does it matter?”
“Well, just in case I have to justify it to the insurance company.”
“Oh, ahhh. D, yes, definitely. I’m super positive.” But not really.
Five minutes on getting a mammogram:
When did I last have one?
The good ol’ boob squish, I say with melancholy. “You know, if men needed to have that done, they’d have come up with a more civilized method, don’t you think?”
She smiles.
“The first time I went for a mammogram, I was so nervous. And my best friend, who trust me, has her own set of issues,” I snort, “made it worse by telling me to think about a band of thieves coming in to rob the place while my boob is stuck in the machine. Can you believe her?
“Well, I told the technician when I got there and she showed me the little lever or button or whatever to push to release my boob in an emergency. Hey, they don’t teach you that in Girl Scouts.”
Now, I’m laughing. NC looks at me like I’m crazy.
But I don’t think I am. I’ve been alive long enough now to know that anything could happen. Even this.
10 minutes on the gynocologist:
Me bad. The last time I went to the gynecologist, people were still debating whether Bush really beat Gore in the presidential election. Well, maybe not that long ago, but still. I tell Nancy, Dr. Carnie, whatever, that I just got a referral from a woman at the check-in desk, but still have to call. So, I’m going. I know I have to. And I’m REALLY sorry for waiting so long.
Like we’re friends and I haven’t paid her back that $20 she lent me a year ago.
While I go on and on about the fact that, well, I’m almost menopausal and feel it and have all kind of new issues going on, my sex drive is, well, interesting, and my ability to sleep variable and, please don’t tell me how much I weigh, because my fat wants to cling to me like a pack of leeches, and, well, where’s the joy? Where’s the love? What happened to the body that used to sleep and lose weight and get hot to trot just thinking about a naked foot?
And yet, doctor-sort-of-almost-or-close Nancy is starting to look bored.
I wait for her to probe me on some of these issues, but she doesn’t. She looks at her watch and the door. Laughs appropriately at my self-deprecating humor regarding the size of my crow’s feet and love handles, and remains safely focused on her electronics.
“Which name shall I use to refill the prescription? Your old name or your new one?” She let’s the fake pen rest precariously over the keypad.
I tell her both.
Five minutes on losing weight:
I can’t seem to do it, despite my devotion to Jenny Craig.
“Thanks to me, the center can afford to re-carpet.”
She seems nonplussed. Like she’s heard it all before. Like countless others before me have told her that they reason they can’t shrink their ass is because of 45. It’s 45’s fault.
Has nothing to do with the Lee’s Hoagie I had on Saturday and the leftovers I had on Sunday and the pretzels I ate last night because I was hungry and the four pieces of pizza I plan on having if I lose even two ounces (likely) during my weigh-in on Friday.
Well, if nothing else, she’s a good listener.
10 minutes on “the fall”:
I recount the details of my fall back in the park, when a biker ignored the signs to WALK HER BIKE and the dogs brought me down to a crashing tumble, and the bones in my left arm and elbow and who knows where else decided to twist and turn like sticks in a food processor and how I went to the hospital and got an x-ray where they didn’t find anything but that I still can’t put any pressure on it to, say, get up out of the bathtub or fluff my own pillows and that sometimes when I stretch it out really far, say to turn out the light on my nightstand before I pass out at the end of the day (and I mean pass out), I feel a sharp shooting pain as if somebody is pulling the bone right out of the joint. And I know I shouldn’t’ do it, but I forget because other than that I can use it, so I’m not sure if it’s just a minor bruise that the x-ray didn’t pick up or perhaps I’m seriously damaged and need surgery or perhaps it’s a permanent irritation that I’ll have to live with now that I’m old and my body isn’t healing like it used to.
“Well, where does it hurt?”
I press around my elbow and just above. And then I drop my hands. “I’m not sure.” And really, I know I should be, but I’m not. Because what if I show her the wrong spot and they do all this imaging and bloodwork, only to find nothing wrong or, even worse, that I was like 2.3 centimeters off from the real source of the problem. Of course, we’d learn this only after several days of testing, a few surgeries, loss of blood, and thousands of dollars.
Now that I think about it, it’s kind of unfair for her to even ask. I mean, I’m not a doctor. How should I know where it hurts?
Five minutes on my cholesterol:
Now that I’m thinking about all that’s wrong with me, I’m starting to get a bit worried. Perhaps I need my blood analyzed. This is a question I’ve been asking myself now several times a day, especially since Dan had his analyzed and can’t stop talking about the results. It’s like he’s PROUD that his cholesterol is higher than usual.
After all, at 50 years old, he doesn’t have an ounce of body fat (jerk), can eat whatever he wants and never gains weight. The man didn’t go to the dentist for 13 YEARS and, when he finally did, he came out with perfect dental health. I’m surprised they didn’t call Discovery Health to profile him in a special.
Even the people in the office were flabbergasted.
At every family dinner, we watch him eat whatever he wants—20-ounce steaks, pulled pork sandwiches, salads with real cheese and enough Thousand Island dressing to fill a bathtub. While our family genes have us gain weight from accidentally taking a sip of whole milk, Dan remains consistently svelte and muscular.
But now, I think he thinks that high cholesterol gives him legitimate entry into our family. “Wanna know what my bad cholesterol is?” he brags at dinner for my father’s birthday, proud like he’s just been nominated for an Emmy. Or, we’ll be shopping for sneakers and he’ll say, “Say, if I have high cholesterol, can I still eat eggs?”
Show off.
Well, I’ll show him. “And while you’re at it,” I say to NC. “Gimme a scrip for some blood analysis. I wanna know what my cholesterol is up to.”
Five minutes on my sex drive:
I start to tell her how much I love my husband but we do have a lot of stress—ex-wives accusing us of unspeakable horrors, lawyers calling for their money, step-children going back into cults, mothers falling and needing surgery, fathers going for PET scans, lines-of-credit soaring by the hour.
You know, the usual suspects.
She asks me if I want a flu shot.
I guess some people just aren’t comfortable talking about sex.
Two minutes on the flu shot:
Hey great! I’d never even think of it if she hadn’t offered it up, and consider her doing so a value add. I’d like to put that on a comment card, if they have one. I know I didn’t feel this way at first, but Dr. Not is turning out to be pretty darn terrific.
“Sure, I’ll take a flu shot!” As if a waitress had just asked me if I wanted pie with my whipped cream. “How much?”
“How much what?”
“How much does it cost?” I have no idea why I’m asking this. I mean, we can’t afford a Mercedes M-Class, but we can afford a flu shot.
She looks confused.
“Whatever! I’m worth it. Right?” I nudge her with my good elbow.
“Great,” she mumbles. “I’ll get the nurse.”
It’s amazing how a flu shot can just make everything seem better.
Now, you can imagine, that after all this time, I’m thinking we’re going to have to take out a third mortgage on our house (since we already have second to pay the lawyers for doing absolutely nothing wrong). So imagine to my surprise when the nice lady at the check out desk asked me for $10.
Everything should only be $10. It was great.
Of course, now I have to go get bloodwork, an arm x-ray, physical therapy, a pap smear, a mammogram, maybe a little psychotherapy, and after doing all that, who knows what else. But at least I don’t have to worry about my allergies anymore. I’m covered!
Until next time!

September 5, 2007

September 5, 2007

The other day, I sat on my sofa and cried. Alone, into a Jenny Craig meal (chicken fettucini), my husband away for business. Staring blankly at the television screen, I was for some reason compelled to tears.
It was one year ago this past week that Dan and I got married. And I am emotional at the memory.
I remember that time as being one of the greats in my life. And not because I needed a man to complete me, since I was okay with the prospect of living single for how ever long that meant. But because it was perfect.
Now, I pick up one of the many photo albums that linger around our Pulte-designed townhouse and browse the wedding pictures. There we are, on the bridge that connects Pennsylvania to New Jersey, New Hope to Stockton, real hope to reality, the river to the ends of the earth.
We look dreamy.
I turn the page to another, and am drawn to my open smile, glowing brightly in the tea lights. I am laughing. We all are. The whole crowd. While we can’t see everybody in the cropped photo, I remember it in Technicolor: My then 72-year-old father, raising his glass to us, telling the story of me and Dan as if we were celebrities being roasted and he was the Dean Martin of ceremonies.
I turn the paper again to find the new husband and wife, bodies pressed together like bashful lovers. He is looking down at her bouquet of white hydrangeas. She is looking mischievously at the camera from the side of her eyes. They—we—look like quiet sinners. Catalogue models for a special section on aging in the Sunday newspaper. Look. The boomers get married—and it can still be magical.
We look carefree, blissfully rapt. And we were. We still are. Despite all we’ve been through since then.
I love my husband. And I adore our life together. And now, tonight especially, I am overwhelmed by a kaleidoscope of emotions that are retrospective of our first year. Joy. Melancholy. Sadness. Anger. Frustration. Elation. Anxiety. Euphoria. Calm.
As I look back at all that we’ve endured over the past 12 months, it feels funny to look at the two oblivious people in the pictures. They had no idea they’d spend their first year dodging the shrapnel of other people’s insecurities. And still find their way on the anniversary of their middle-aged innocence, to happiness.
There we are. Two people in a picture book, with no idea of what lays in wait. We only knew, in that moment, to walk the short but soulful aisle at the Centre Bridge Inn. Our friends from the four corners of everywhere sitting in tightly wound rows, watching the song of our vows rise up against the mist of a postcard river—and the flock of dense trees that made it shimmer.
We had no idea we’d sell our home to buyers with no morals—people who would try to squeeze the life out of us before backing out of the deal illegally on a technicality a few weeks before we were set to close on another property.
We had no idea that instead of getting swept away by an exquisite rites of passage, we’d get swept away by a long, painful, and unnecessary custody battle for Dan’s young daughter. One that put us on trial for something imaginary–and was the manifest of somebody else’s fiction and anxiety.
We had no idea that, on top of the stress and pressure of managing a newly doubled mortgage, we’d have to take out a $35,000 second-home loan barely one month after moving. To pay the lawyers, now flush, to defend us for doing, well, absolutely nothing.
To the contrary, I cannot imagine any other way we could have been more loving and caring of C.
We had no idea how hard the pointless extraction of a child from her father would be on not only him, but on my once-idealized version of a young marriage. For four long months—as long as we were not allowed to see C—I was married to a man who, while considerate to my needs, was rightly tearful and distracted.
I had no idea that we’d swap pleasure trips, big nights out, and all spirited celebration for sadness and despair—until C was allowed back into our lives.
I had no idea that Dan’s other daughter, who I adore, would have another baby and, just as I’d gotten used to being a grandmother, tell me she’s moving 11 hours away. That we’d get another rescue dog named Elvis, who’d try my patience with every accident in the house and irrational barking at strangers. That I’d put a dent in my husband’s beloved convertible.
That we’d fall into bed every night exhausted from things younger brides and grooms might only dream about–or fear.
It’s been a full-moon experience. Bright and brooding all at once. Every day.
And yet, one year later, as I look back on what I didn’t know before the day I got married, I can say with confidence I’d do it all over again. Because I love my husband and our life together. External forces be damned. Shoo fly. Get out of here. Go flood another river. You’ll never make it through our levees.
They’re too thick.
I love being married. And in our very short union, I’ve learned something invaluable (or rather, had it reconfirmed): Nothing is guaranteed—or predictable. The best we can do is just look as far out as our aging eyes will let us, plan for the worst, hope for the best, and be thankful we’re not alone.
Until next time.

August 31, 2007

August 31, 2007

Quick note:
For those of you writers and fans (yes, you too mom) who are local and are interested, I’ll be speaking about blogging, brutal blunt honesty, firearms, and chocolate at the Montgomery County Community College Writers Conference in November.
Come see me!
Here’s more info: http://www.mc3.edu/writers-conf/
Ciao!

August 30, 2007

August 30, 2007

I just have to keep telling this story because it is full of horrors. Who knew that a simple fall in the park could generate such turmoil?
So, I left you lying in the park, full of mulch, while hoards of bicyclists whizzed by me. None of whom cared to stop to see if I was alright or still breathing. (Okay, the story is getting more inflated but so is my elbow, so let me have it.)
I finally drag myself and the dogs home and call my father, since my husband is on a flight to San Antonio. “I fell and I’m fine,” I tell him, lying. “But the dogs did NOT poop and rather than risk any further damage, I respectfully request your help walking them.” I’m sorry, but I’d rather live with a broken limb that have pee and poop all over my precious rugs.
“WHAT? Are you okay? Do we need to go to the hospital?”
“No, I’m fine. As long as I don’t move anything.”
Cut to Jill and Owen at the Doylestown Emergency Room (only after stopping for a fountain soda at 7-Eleven for dad). There Brenda, a lovely woman in a pair of print scrubs that did not flatter her (Bren, stick with solids), asks me a litany of questions one might expect while at triage.
Why are you here? What happened? Where does it hurt? What’s your birth date? Do you still get your periods?
WHAM! SMACK. CLACK. BOOM! SHAZAM! Followed up by a soccer punch in the gut, a wide-palmed slap across the ass, and a chaser of one dry heave.
First of all, why do they need to know if I still get my periods when I’m there for an arm x-ray? And second, am I really that old? I mean, I’m just barely out of my 30s. (Okay, well maybe a bit longer, but C’MON!)
Bren, Bren, forgive me if you can hear my thoughts about the duck print accentuating your midsection, but PLEASE. There’s no need to be nasty. Pick another question. Like, how do you keep your skin so soft?
Suddenly, a minor arm fracture has become a most traumatic event.
“Jill, I want you to list the 10 most critical moments in your life,” says Dr. Phil.
“Easy. The first time my mother told me I was fat and would never fit in—and the time I hurt my arm and the triage nurse asked me if I still menstruated.” Audience applause. The front row looks teary.
This fall might require some follow-up psychoanalysis.
“Jill,” I say to myself, “Take a deep breath. Brenda is clearly borderline. Go to your happy place. You’re on Oprah talking about your New York Times bestselling novel. Wendy Manuel and Tammy Levin, the torture queens from high school are in the front, weighing in like a couple of Sumo wrestlers. Karen Brog, who made out with Ricky Moss, your then boyfriend, is sitting next to them. The years have not been kind to her, as evidenced by, among other things, a deeply receding hairline.
“There, there now, Jill. You’re doing fine.” I breathe in, close my eyes, and relax.
Brenda speaks. “I know, it’s a silly question. But you do still get your periods, right?” She is looking for a reaction.
RIGHT BRENDA. SHIT. DUH. OF COURSE. Yo, yo, Bren, you ain’t no spring chicken yourself.
“Yes, I do.” I bat my eyelashes. “You?”
She looks at me and chuckles. I notice there are baby chicks on her socks.
Even though I’m now fully upright, this fall just keeps getting worse and worse.
As I wait for Brenda to complete my paperwork, I have to wonder: when did all these years go by? I mean, I’m used to these nosy health care types asking me when I’ve gotten my last period—not whether it’s over. Fertility out. Uterus useless. That’s a wrap.
Next stop: death.
I guess it wouldn’t be so horrific if 12 more people (from the radiologist to the woman taking my insurance information) didn’t ask me the same damn question. I stop for a soda after in the hospital cafeteria and say to the woman at the register, “I suppose you want to know if I’m still getting my periods too?”
“That’ll be $1.12.” She doesn’t look directly at me.
“I like your hairnet,” I squeak, only slightly mortified.
I give up. This aging stuff. Can’t help it. And so, I’ll try to embrace the fact that I still have good hair and that, while I’m not Twiggy, I still take up only one seat on the airplane.
At least for now.
Until next time.

August 27, 2007

August 27, 2007

I just want to say that people suck. (Well, not all of them. Not you, dear reader. But most. Go ahead. Nod. It’s okay. You know it too.)
Case in point: Today, I was walking our two dogs, Elvis (the new guy) and Winnie. Winnie, who we’ve had for more than a year now, is an angel. In fact, sometimes, I see the sprouting of wings from behind her prototypical border collie ears. She walks great on a leash. Doesn’t bark at pedestrians or bikers. And is generally and mostly interested in a good poop and a little exercise (kind of like me on a good day).
Elvis, on the other hand, is new. We’ve had him for barely a month and, frankly, he’s a bit of a hothead. Small, but maniacal in a “he’s-so-cute-OH-MY-that-hurts” sort of way. He’ll often grumble at pedestrians, whine when he sees a rabbit, and go into full-on hysterics when somebody on a bicycle pedals by. (Characteristics of a few of my ex’s, but I digress.)
Of course, we’re working with him, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. And Elvis will not be sprouting wings for several months, at least.
So today, I’m out with Winnie and Elvis walking on the path that circles the small but scenic pond by our house. It’s a beautiful sunny day, moderate and bright, when a biker comes by on a five-speed. Elvis let’s out a low squeal.
To prevent any escalation, I quickly respond: “No, don’t you dare.” Then, I pull him close to prep him for the sharp but humane snap of the leash that will come if he goes ballistic at the poor woman.
Typically, this tug is enough. Elvis is usually compliant.
But not today.
Instead, he barks, and then Winnie barks, and then, as the young woman calmly whizzes by, I trip over a small piece of mulch and begin my descent downward towards the ground. The dogs, in their frenzy, pull me to my demise.
With a leash around either wrist, I fall face, hands, knees, and elbows first (which doesn’t really leave too many other body parts), into a dense mountain of brown dirt, scraping all of these parts and then some–and twisting my left forearm to the point of hurting.
“Expletive. EXPLETIVE.” The dogs look at me like I’m an idiot.
Not my proudest moment, I will say, laying there with stones down my bra, but it was inevitable. I’m not all that graceful and between the stuff in the road and the bikers (now there were two), and the maniacal new rescue dog, going down was simply a matter of time.
And yet, I could not anticipate that, when I did, the people walking by, the bikers biking, the planes in the sky, would do nothing.
Absolutely nothing.
Just walk over me. Ride by me, heads shaking in disdain. Stay on course in terms of speed and flight path. While I wiped the blood from my chin and mumbled a strained, “Si-it, you two. [expletive. expletive.] Stay. Good GOD, I beg you.”
When did white middle-to-upper class America get so callous? I mean, people, I was LAYING BLOODY IN THE MULCH? (Okay, well, a slight exaggeration, but still.)
After a few minutes of squeaking out a few commands and praying the cyclists had gone off to a new trail (in Hades), I pulled myself up, wiped the dirt and God knows what else off of my stretch pants, and yanked the dogs to my side. “Let’s GO.” I said, as if I were yanking two abberrant toddlers from a china shop.
They both stared at me like I had been invaded by aliens. What did you do with our mother? Are you going to hurt us?
In all fairness, it really wasn’t their fault. (They have nothing to do with the fact that people have no scruples anymore–and could care less whether one of their neighbors was laying dead in the azaleas.)
So I did come home and, after settling down, gave them each a pig’s ear and a Vanilla Wafer to signify the body of Christ–or whatever for good luck (felt oddly good in theory).
And frankly, were it not for the extreme housing bubble and the fact that we’re still paying attorneys (to see C), I’d be on realtor.com right now, looking for a kinder gentler environment. One where people loved one another. And stopped when they saw the person from next door face down in the shrubs.
So now, I sit here, shaky from the fall, longing for THREE Dunkin Munchkins, and disheartened from the lack of character in our social consciousness. (My arm hurts.)
And to those bikers, if you’re reading (and you know who you are); shame on you.
Until next time.

August 22, 2007

August 22, 2007

I cannot believe what I just saw. I was walking the dogs (yes, two, we rescued Elvis, a cocker/sheltie mix, long story) in the township park by our house, when, like, 3,000 pregnant women and their children came off a yellow bus and head straight for the Kids Castle—one of the family attractions in our area.
They were all smoking. (The mothers, that is, not the children.)
I was both appalled and dumbstruck, when one stopped to ask me where to pay for admission into the Castle. Using all the bicep strength I could muster to hold the dogs back—and myself, from yelling at her—I said, “It’s free.”
She smiled, took a drag of her cigarette, rubbed her belly, and thanked me. Leaving me simply too shocked to say anything else. And yes, okay, afraid of being mauled by the other hormonal smokers for expressing my viewpoint on the subject.
After all, I’ve seen You Tube. I watch the news. I’m a regular of Dr. Phil’s. I knew that suggesting they don’t smoke, however gently, could have gone very poorly. And frankly, my life is just starting to get good.
Which is why I chose to say nothing and simply hate myself instead.
Besides, I was unsteady enough, trying to guide the two animals with a shady past who were dragging me around the path like I was road kill.
So, I’ll say it here: if any of you reading are pregnant (which is highly unlikely, given the tenor of this blog), please don’t smoke. It’s not good for you.
—————————————————-
Speaking of new mothers, I’d like to talk about my adorable stepdaughter Heidi. (Love her.)
A few weeks ago, she had her second baby—via C-section, after an unnecessarily long, painful, and high-risk pregnancy. The morning Logan would finally arrive, we met Heidi and her husband Mike at the hospital. It was still morning. The doctors had told them they’d deliver the baby by 3. But 3 came and went and all that had happened was Dan almost choked on a cherry pit and I made 57 trips to the potty.
By 4, Heidi was in active labor. (Kinda crazy that a pregnant woman scheduled way in advance for a C-section would have to experience active labor, but then again, her obstetrician felt it was more important to go to Aruba on vacation than take care of her patient.)
It makes only the best of sense that, a woman going through labor and pre-op simultaneously, would be a bit cranky. As the poor kid’s patience began to wither away like wet string—and as she proceeded to yell at her husband for, among other things, breathing—my husband (father to a small football team), leans in and whispers to me, “She’s transitioning, you know.”
“What?” I was busy imagining myself at the Bally’s Casino day spa, getting a hot stone massage while being fed truffles by a hot-but-desperate cabana boy named Guido. (I love my husband.)
“Transitioning. All pregnant women go through it during labor. Where they go from the passive state into the active, and prepare to start pushing.”
Hmmm. I pondered his words for a moment while Heidi ripped Mike a new one for coughing. I couldn’t really relate to the concept of “transitioning” as a new mother, but I could certainly relate to it as a writer. In fact, his description sounded a lot like trying to get a book deal.
“Well, if that’s the case, I’ve been transitioning for years now.” I promptly crawl next to Heidi on the bed.
“Move over sister. You’re not the only one in labor. I’ve been trying to spit a book out for years.” I look at Dan. “Now hand me the cherries.”
Transitioning can be very empowering.
——————————————–
After several relentless hours of waiting (which, if relentless to me, could only be excruciating to poor Heidi), the nice doctor on call comes in with the not-taller-than 5” 4’ anesthesiologist (who is probably overcompensating, as a result) to take Heidi to surgery. Finally.
Now transitioning in the other direction, Heidi’s face goes from a wince to a big smile, as she grabs my hand and then her father’s and says “Bye guys!” Like she is going off to summer camp.
Mike runs after her, tripping as he tries to wrap a pair of surgical booties over his Converse sneakers, probably wishing he was at the gun range (not exactly the fatherly type). We wave like American Gothic, without the gardening tools. And stand in the hallway like the two tired, hungry, and aged people we had become.
As I watch them roll Heidi through the double doors that lead to the operating rooms, the swatch of her blonde hair getting smaller and smaller, I yell, “We’ll be right here, sweetie, waiting for you. Break a leg!”
Dan looks at me. “Break a leg?”
“Well, I’ve never done this before.”
“Done what, honey?”
And then, before I know what hit me, I hear a voice channel like a whisper through my freshly glossed lips. “Be old.”
My husband puts his arm around me. “You’re not. You’re beautiful.”
I look up at him. And before I knew it, I am crying, tears rolling down my cheeks like Niagra Falls over worn rock. It seems I have transitioned from bored, tired, and anxious, to an emotional wreck. A bad cliché. The childless stepmother—the accidental grandmother—watching, wishing, wondering. Living vicariously through her younger version.
I am suddenly overwhelmed and confused by the desire to follow Heidi into surgery. To pass through the double doors and lay next to her, rub her head, help her push.
Dan puts his arm around me. “Honey, she’ll be fine.”
But I am not crying for her. I am mourning the fact that I never had the experience. The occasion to look back at my parents, watching with pride and joy, while I was rolled into the delivery room to give birth to their grandchildren.
And now, it’s too late. Maybe not physiologically, although at almost 45, it’d probably be easier to get a discount membership to the movies. But in every other sense, the time has passed. I don’t have the desire for children. Or to parent. And yet, I can’t help but wish, in a retroactive dreamy sort of way, that I’d had the chance.
—————————————————-
We wait until about 9 o’clock, when they bring Heidi and Logan back to the room, to squish him and take pictures of the happy family (on our camera phones, of course, we forgot the digital in our haste). And then we leave. Go home and drop into bed like hard sleet.
I look over at Dan, who’s glasses are hanging off the tip of his nose, sprawled out like Jesus on the cross (only in our case, it’s a fabulous designer patchwork comforter in earth tones I got on sale from Macy’s). His mouth is open and I detect a bit of saliva on his lower lip. I nudge him.
“Babe.”
“Huh? Wha?”
“I need you.”
“Huh?” He snorts and rolls over.
“I need to talk about what happened today.”
“What happened?”
“You know, at the hospital.”
“Heidi had a baby.”
“My crying.”
“Huh? Oh, yeah. Are you (yawn) okay?”
“I just got so emotional because I never got to be pregnant and stuff and lay in bed while everyone waited with great anticipation. I guess it made me sad. Going through it with Heidi and all.”
“I know sweetie.” He does a half roll and pats my leg. “You’re okay.”
“Not that I’d want to do it now, don’t get me wrong. Oh dear God. Although I still could, you know. Well, with the right drugs and surrogate. And the right psychotherapist.”
Dan sits up. “You’re not serious?”
“But I wouldn’t. I mean, we can barely handle the dogs. Besides, our creative pursuits are our babies now, right?”
“That’s right, honey. Absolutely.” He kisses me on the cheek. “Now don’t hurt your brain. Go to sleep.”
So I did. I dreamt of diapers and a book deal.
——————————————
I attribute the accelerated rush of emotions I’ve been feeling lately, at least in part, to my coming off the antidepressants I took for the past five years.
Despite a nasty bout of withdrawal (nausea, dizziness, lack of sleep, being hungry all the time, irritable, etc.) that has blessedly subsided, I now feel absolutely the same as I ever did when I was on them. With one exception: I feel absolutely everything and then some.
The other day, my mother gave me a bag of rotting grapefruits (“eat them or they’ll go bad”) and I swear, I cried, “Mommy, I love you SO MUCH!!!”
Dan taught Elvis to sit. And I cried. “Such a good BABY!” You would have thought he’d just found a missing child.
When C was here last week, she told me I forgot to pack her a Gatorade for camp, and I almost hung myself from the shower rod.
The thing is I know I’m out of control. That my tidal wave of emotions is excessive. That my response to mediocrity is borderline.
And yet, it feels good to cry over some sappy cable movie. Or to feel excited at the prospect of a 20-percent off coupon. I love the wash of melancholy that comes over me when I see Winnie and Elvis on either side of a chew toy. Tails wagging like trees in a hurricane. Wishing that my Sophie was here to join them.
It reminds me of how much I’d forgotten I could feel pre-Lexapro. How much I missed it.
And how much being on Lexapro, despite this side effect, changed my life.
Because, while I would cry at a Kodak commercial before I went on it, I was also stuck in the sand and fog of a life that didn’t work.
And so, I learned: medicine is not always an either/or proposition. Advances in technology don’t always give you the choice—feel this if you want, and erase that if you don’t. There’s no fine tuning. No bass up, treble down. No balance or fade.
It’s take the meds and feel better, but feel less. Or, don’t take them, but feel a lot—and mostly sad.
If I had to do it all over again, I’d opt for the former. Because without the help, I might still be stuck—alone, in a third-floor walkup in Chicago, far from home, in an 11-year relationship going nowhere, and a good job that anybody in their right mind would like. But left me numb.
Now, in the shadow of the drug, I celebrate having every primary emotion imaginable. With my brain chemicals calm and my system clean, I am elated—or something—at least once daily. Even when I’m not.
And with that thought, I’m off to tell someone I love them. Until next time.

July 18, 2007

July 18, 2007

The most horrible thing just happened to me and I’ve got to share it with somebody (or several thousand somebodies): Every day around 3, I leave my home office to get coffee. I know I can brew some here, but when you work three feet from where you sleep, sometimes it’s just nice to get out of the house. So I take Winnie the Wonderdog and off we go to Starbucks or, more recently, Dunkin Donuts. I don’t know why or how or what, but ever since I’ve been off those damn antidepressants, Starbucks just doesn’t hold the same magic. (Don’t ask.)
So we go to Dunkin today and I pull into the drive thru. Once at the speaker, I yell into it, “One medium french vanilla with light cream and one Splenda please.” The clerk repeats my order back to me, which I can’t understand for a variety of reasons, but since I prefer to deal in good faith, I say, “Yes, that’s it.” And pull around to the window.
As I did, the craving for 8,000 Dunkin Munchkins overwhelmed me like a blast of tear gas. Like too much spandex. It was excruciating.
My body was screaming, “GIVE ME A MUNCHKIN. NOW, YOU *@(&$!!!$$@@@*”
Now, I’m not sure if it’s the 800 months on Jenny Craig for the return of a 12-pound weight loss (thank you middle age) or the fact that it’s that time of the month (thank you middle age) or the fact that I just wanted a Munchkin because they’re cheap and, dammit, they’re good and I can (thank you middle age).
But I wanted one. More than anything. And I mean anything. (Think three-carat diamond, a double-thick crust pizza from Giordanos, long silky blonde hair, a 12-book JK Rowling-esque book deal, long limbs, nail polish that drys in a minute, a closet full of Butterfly Dropout tank tops [preferably V-necks], and a lifetime supply of free Botox.)
Suddenly, I felt Bette, my Jenny Craig counselor, perched upon my shoulder. “Don’t do it, sweetie. If you lose 1/18 of a pound this week, you can lose 100 pounds by 2040. Granted, you’ll be 80, but you’ll be gorgeous!”
And then I felt the angry deprived fat Jewish girl who’ll never have thin knees in this lifetime saying, “What’s the difference, chubbo. You’re married now. Get a friggin munchkin. Who’s gonna know?”
I look over at the dog. I know her vote. And then it dawns on me. I’ll get three. Three lil’ Dunkin Munchkins–two for Winnie and one to satisfy my now Godzilla-sized craving. Who’s THAT gonna hurt?
The nice fellow leans through the window to hand me my coffee. Excellent timing. I pay him and say, “You know what? Can I also get just THREE Dunkin Munchkins? Anything but chocolate.” Chocolate can kill a dog and I don’t want to take the chance.
He smiles at me–that “I like you” smile. That “I get you” smile. That “I know what you REALLY want” smile. That “I can see you naked from the waist up and like what I see” smile. (Go figure.)
And within a few minutes, he’s leaning through the window to hand me the goods. I take it, thank him, thank the universe, roll up my window, and immediately notice that the bag feels unusually heavy for just three little hole-sized rolls of breading.
SHIT.
I look inside. There they are. The sight of it–of them–worse than finding Wendy Manuel and Tammy Levin together at Pizza Boy off Cottman Ave. when I was 16–after they’d both told me they were “busy” that day because they “had the flu” or “some strange stomach thing.”
Talk about feeling rejected, dejected, deprived, betrayed and panic stricken. There were at least 25 DUNKIN MUNCHKINS in that little paper satchel. And there I was, in the parking lot of Dunkin Donuts, alone with my mutt, staring at the traffic on 611, counting the hours til my next weigh in, having a come-to-Jesus talk with myself. It was a pivotal moment. Substantial. My choice could set in motion a course I didn’t even want to think about. (My ass, a farm tractor, hard to tell the difference. You get the picture?)
I look at Winnie. She looks at me and I begin to wonder how many Munchkins I can feed her WITHOUT killing her from too much sugar–and how quickly I can get them into her mouth. Better hers than mine. (After all, isn’t that what dogs are for? Someone once told me dogs were here to help us carry our burdens. But what about our cellulite? Does that count?)
At that point, I don’t have the luxury of time. My resolve is fading. Treating them like small balls of fire, I start tossing the Munchkins at her. “Here you go girl.” For every four I throw at her, I keep one for myself. And fortunately, I only wind up eating three.
Unfortunately, the dog is looking a little peaked.
Note to all the Dunkin Donut Clerks (especially those reading from the store on 611, right across the street from Target, a few miles downroad from the entrance to the turnpike): When blue-eyed, redheaded customers with white furry dogs and dazed expressions ask for three Dunkin Munchkins, chances are they want 100. So only give them two.
If that.
More later. And until next time.

July 2, 2007

July 2, 2007

The other day, I was doing the laundry when I opened the top of the washer to find a pair of large frogs sitting on top of the wet and shrunken clothing. Naturally, I screamed in horror. Until I moved in close and noticed they were rubber.
C. That little stinker. She was here last week and must’ve decided that it’d be super fun to play a trick on the anal stepmother.
(“Sweetie,” through quasi-clenched teeth, “can you please not rest your hands on the freshly painted walls?” “Honey, can you please just wipe up the Gatorade you spilled on the counter. No biggie, accidents happen. Love you. Mean it.” “We put the curtain IN the shower, yes? Otherwise, we have a flood on our hands. You ARE the best.”)
What could be a better way to aggravate a woman who’s never known from two straight weeks with somebody else’s nine-year-old—who needs to have everything just so, after decades of fluffing pillows as a single woman—than burying two rubber frogs in her laundry basket.
How passive aggressive. How slightly genius.
I must’ve missed the little buggers when I scooped up the dark colors and shoved them, mindlessly, as I always do, into the washer—even though the rubber makes them large and rather heavy. But then again, that’s the beauty of laundry: it doesn’t require much in the way of attention. I can do it while I think about other things—like what’s for dinner and where I put my favorite blue- and brown-striped poncho.
Still, I must say, the reptiles—fake or otherwise—sure did give me a jolt. I tried to laugh about it with my husband that night over steamed brussel sprouts and a Jenny Craig frozen pasta dinner.
“Can you believe her? What a jokester. FROGS of all things? And she knows how much I HATE bugs, worms, frogs and, you know, all things horror filmy. So CUTE.”
I think about the time she walked in the house with 47 caterpillars crawling up her arm, wanting to “save them.” Dan looked for an appropriate Tupperware. I crossed my chest, even though I’m Jewish, and near had a coronary.
“I believe one of them is a lizard, honey,” Dan says, referring to the rubber duo. He laughs. Humorless, I watch as he douses the healthy salad I spent 20 minutes making with several heaping doses of Thousand Island dressing. My favorite. And, as you might imagine, a big no no on Jenny.
I hate him.
“She is something else.” I smile, thinking about the challenges of being a stepmother to a moody and insect-loving preadolescent. “Scared the crap outta me.”
He laughs louder.
“And gosh,” I say, “I sure am glad the rubber frogs didn’t do any damage to the brand new and very expensive washer. But good one!”
I take a bite of a large sprout and chew slowly. “Although, you know, that could’ve been a problem.” I laugh again. “I mean, that could really have cost us and, well, we’re already out THOUSANDS thanks to all the lawyers.” I smile, take a sip of my ice water, and think about how long and hard we fought to see that little prankster regularly. “But honey, you know that. I don’t have to remind you. Silly me. We’re fine. Just doing great.”
He looks at me and puts his fork down. “Everything okay?”
“You betcha!” I think about the reptiles, now tucked inconspicuously under C’s pillow.
Gosh, I love being married.
————————————————————————————–
I know this happened a while ago already, but since my brain is all too often on a time delay, I can only talk about it now (so please don’t write): The very disappointing ending to the Sopranos. I mean, what was that? I’ve been watching for seven years, staying home on Sunday nights, foregoing dinners out and “Two and a Half Men” and the Grammy’s, to see what Tony, Carmela, and the gang were up to next.
To watch Big Pussy get whacked oceanside. And wonder how the naked pole dancers at the Bada Bing keep their trim figures? Or how Christopher could let them kill Ade without at least having her come to him in a few dreams?
And yet, all I got for my 84 months of devotion was the anticlimactic thrill of seeing the Soprano family eat onion rings. Good grief, I can watch my husband eat onion rings. And do. Often. (Hate him.)
Do you think that whoever’s left at my deathbed will be all that excited to watch me eat, say, Buffalo Wings? While some sinister looking nurse throws me a few questionable nods?
I think not.
I think, instead, my spectators will be looking for a few good pearls of wisdom, a few end-of-life-revelations, a few dramatic last gasps of oxygen. They’ll want to know if I’ve left a juicy living will, who gets what, and whether I’ve planned well for my 400 pairs of black pants, Sophie’s ashes, and favorite Tony LaSalle painting of “Shirley.”
They will likely not be compelled by me, eating a French fry. Smiling, like I’m having a happy ending under the table—or a poignant experience in my diaper. While James Blunt sings “You’re Beautiful” through the hospital-bed speaker.
Like them, I wanted to see something riveting, like bodily fluids. Blood. Guts. Or a riot. A good mafia rustle. A dead fish. A unexpected dismemberment of sorts. I even took a Dramamene in preparation, in case the camera jostled and things got a bit dicey.
I was ready to be shocked. To see that whiny little AJ find his way to Mecca. Tony, break down in tears in front of the bar, and then get whacked by a drunk driver—and a dose of righteous irony. I wanted to see Carmela fall in love with a cop. And Meadow get into medical school, only to find a life of crime more lucrative. And interesting. And to go on to become head of “the family.”
I wanted to see Tony And Dr. Melfi get it on already. And hey, I bet I’m speaking for a lot of people on this one.
Now THERE’s an ending worth waiting seven years for.
——————————–
This ending was truly disappointing, but then, so are a lot of things.
For example, I’m disappointed that there’s all kinds of coding in some of my previous posts and that I’ve got to go in and figure out how to fix it—in the middle of walking the dog, cooking dinner, washing our skivvies, tending to the needs of a bazillion clients (by the way, thank you for your business!) and a few small children, and trying to keep the cellulite on the back of my thighs in check—and, simultaneously, well hidden.
I’m disappointed every time I hear my computer make that little ringy sound that alerts and me to a new and exciting email—only to find it’s usually SPAM and not the literary agent or lottery board I know will someday be desperate to contact me. (Go away Vitacost. I ordered calcium once in the 70s. Take me off your list.)
I’m disappointed that, after all these years, I still haven’t really won anything.
I’m disappointed that my body is only capable of shedding a few ounces each week. Even though I spend most of my time watching other people eat pizza, while I pick from tiny bowls of crucifers and other bland objects.
I’m disappointed that being a stepmother is as difficult and thankless as it is. I mean, who really cares about us? Sure, our men do. (Love you, honey. You’re the tops.) But the kids secretly (and sometimes not-so-secretly) wish we’d shrivel up and float away so mommy and daddy could get back to hating each other, together, without us.
C was with us for the past two weeks. On the last day, we took her to a nice restaurant for lunch in the city. While seated at our table for three, she decided the chairs at the tables for two looked interesting. “C’mon, daddy, let’s try them.”
My poor husband. Looked torn. Like Meryl Streep in Sophie’s choice. “Which child are you going to give up, sir?” I patted him on the back as if to say, “It’s okay. She’s nine and I’m 44. (Although, that’s not my fault and I shouldn’t be punished.) Go for it.”
So he did. And there I sat, alone at a three-top, wondering if doing so made me a better person. Silently reciting affirmations. “You’re okay, Jill. People like you. I like you. Soon, you’ll be eating.”
On the way home, I proposed the idea of starting and celebrating a “Stepmother’s Day.” It was met with a resounding, “What’s for dinner?”
I have a headache.
Whatever.
————————
So I’ve made a few decisions that I feel will make me more spiritual:
#1: I am no longer going to be contrary, but conciliatory. Conciliatory is my new persona. “Jill, can we go see Spiderman 3?” (No desire, whatsoever. Would rather watch somebody having electrolysis on the IMAX big screen, than see Spiderman 3.)
Old contrary Jill: “Hmmm. Not my first pick. Why don’t we pick a few movies and choose something we’d all like to see?”
New conciliatory Jill: “Sure thing! Hey, let’s go to an early show so maybe we can stay and, once it’s over, see it again. Wouldn’t that be fantastic!”
(By the way, just heard the ringy sound, checked and it’s an email from some group taking a national smoking survey. Bummer.)
#2: I am no longer going to have problems. Instead, I am going to have neuroses. Why? Because neuroses are far more interesting than just problems. You can write books about neuroses. Get in the National Enquirer for neuroses. Be arrested. Win a Pulitzer. Even make a career out of it.. (Think David Sedaris, Kirstie Alley, and Annie Lamott, my favorites.) But problems? Well, they just get old and people get sick of hearing about them and then they just avoid you.
Old problematic Jill: Every time I buy shoes, they’re really comfortable in the store. And then, when I get them home, they hurt my feet.
New neurotic Jill: I find shoes confine me to the point where I become immobile. Stuck in my current reality. And not sure how to break free. I’m working on it though. But, hey, it’s a journey. (Another ringy: This time, it’s an offer for cheap Viagra. They should at least check their demographics. Sheesh.)
#3: I am no longer going to speak in full sentences but use acronyms as much as possible. Because people love acronyms (right?). They’re very efficient. And, just as a very important side, the people with the most acronyms have all the money. (Think pharmaceutical companies and the government.)
Old Jill: Gosh, I really wish I didn’t have this little pocket of fat around my knees. No matter how much I diet and exercise, I fear the only thing that will get rid of it is liposuction. And I’m just not good in situations that require somebody to slice open—or off—any part of my body.
New Jill: Gosh, I really wish I didn’t have JKS (Jewish Knee Syndrome). No matter how much DEP (diet, exercise, and prayer) I do, I’m afraid the only thing that will help is PEL (painful and expensive liposuction).
#4: I will never run in the park. Not that the old Jill ran in the park. Never. But I see people run in the park by our house all the time. And I just don’t get it. They look tortured. Sweat is pouring down their red faces, like they’ve just been spit out of a lake of hot lava. Their legs are barely airborne. It’s like some mad killer is chasing them, yet there’s nobody there but a few lost fireflies.
JUST WALK. That’s what I want to say. But don’t.
Because they’re just setting themselves up for disappointment (a sensation I know a great deal about) anyway, unless they plan to run until they’re 90. It’s just common sense. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard women complain. “I was so thin back then, when I was running.” Then they stopped. And what happened? Presto, bingo, bulbous once again.
So ladies, STOP RUNNING. It’s not worth it. And you ain’t no Joyce Joiner Kersey or whatever. Go home. Bathe. Change. And then meet me at Starbucks for a latte.
Now, THAT, folks, seems more reasonable.
——————————————————-
So I’ve been taking antidepressants for four years now. (C’mon, you know you all take them too. Yes, you.) Started when I turned 40 and realized that I was living somebody else’s perfect life—but not mine—and so I started taking Lexapro. The drug made my then-neighbor suicidal, but being the risk taker that I am, I thought it might work fine for me.
I remember taking the first pill. It was on January 1, 2003. It was a new year that called for a new set of brain chemicals. On that day, I ate a thick-crust Giordano’s pizza, called my mother, walked the now-dead dog Sophie, threw back the little white dot with a McDonald’s chocolate milkshake, and hoped for the best.
And just a few days later? Boy, did I feel fantastic. Not like heroin high (not that I would know, since the strongest drug I’ve ever taken is a Women’s Correctol). But just clear. Like fully hydrated urine. Or the perfect diamond. (Honey, are you reading?)
Anyway, now I’m here: Married, working as a writer (even though I’m not touring the country doing readings and Ira Glass isn’t begging me to be on This American Life, yet), living the American dream, all right.
I’ve got countless pairs of black stretch pants, a nice back deck replete with gas grill and dead azaleas, cable on three televisions, and 45 tubes of Crayola lipgloss in my makeup cabinet. Little kids play soccer just behind our air conditioning, which is loud, to remind us it’s working. And every Tuesday and Friday, green plastic garbage bins line up like toy soldiers in our yuppie-designed suburban kingdom.
We are the lucky ones. We have the stuff that immigrants climbing over those wobbly little fences along Texas can only dream of.
Who could want more than that? So, as I look around at my middle-aged wonderland, I decided to go for broke. And just took myself off the little suckers. Tossed what was left of the tiny pills down the toilet.
Just decided four years on antidepressants is enough. I’m not depressed anymore. So, fly away little birdies. Down the hatch. Through the tube. Go find your way into some misguided dolphin. I’m done with you.
And you know what, I’m still rolling with the punches. Sharpening up those neuroses. Doing just fine with MNDFE (my new drug-free existence). A little nauseous (apparantly, there’s a bit of withdrawal associated with this cold turkey, which I find somewhat naughty and exciting), but according to the highly qualified pages of the Internet, that too shall pass.
Hold on. I need to get a tissue.
You know, a good cry can really do wonders.
——————————————————————-
Last week, I planned a binge with my Jenny Craig counselor. I think it was the most fun I’ve had in about 16 weeks. And while I complained about losing a mere one pound to every seven days, she pointed out the positive: that by the end of the year, I’d be down 52 pounds.
“If I lose 52 pounds, don’t you think I’ll look a little like Keith Richards?”
“So what? You’ll be beautiful.” I conjure up an image of the rocker in my mind and find it physically painful to stay focused on it.
“I think I’ll be calling you from the eating disorders ward at Holy Redeemer Hospital.” But who am I, except a happy gal. Super duper gay and joyful.
——————————–
This having children. It’s heady business. I’m not sure it’s for me. Not that I have a choice at this point. I’m 44, soon to be 45, and tired. I’m not all that into Barney. Spongebob. Or keeping mini-packets of snacks in my DKNY backpack. I’m not sure I’m very good at sitting in the carpool line.
C was with us for a few weeks. And I took her to camp. Dropped her off and became a fish out of water. Because, at that moment, the soccer moms suddenly wanted to talk to me. Standing outside of the campsite after having just dropped off our little ones, they wanted to commiserate on how painful it is to see them try to assimilate. And how some do it better than others.
As I stood at the precipice of a club I could never get into (and frankly, never tried or desired), I had to wonder: who am I? Again. After all, in the past, I was the anti-club–the anti-mom, anti-member. And even though I’m just a “step,” as long as I keep it on the downlow, me and the soccer moms now have something to talk about.
So we stood there, chatting, as scenes of modern-day suburbia flashed before me. All the things I used to once want, then mourned, and then decided weren’t “me” or what I was born to be—were mine. Whether I liked it—and knew what to do with it—or not.
It’s all so confusing. One minute, I love the experience of being something to a child. Another, I wish to God, Jehovah, Buddhist, Jesus, the Goddess, and whoever, that all I had to worry about was getting to the next shoe sale at Nordstroms. And hoping that Donald Pliner would showsomething in a platform for Fall.
————————
And yet, I find that all it takes to ground us is one good thunderstorm, book, and email from a dear old friend who we haven’t heard from in a while. It all reminds us, on those occasions we risk forgetting, of who we are. And what, about us, is most important.
Because we aren’t just the manifestation of our collective neuroses, experiences, acronyms, medications, or even new situations. But a cumulation of the people who’ve helped to shape us –and the circumference of our hearts.
So I say, big hugs to you all (Stacey, Marie-Claude, Andreas, you know who you are). And c’mon, you old friend who’s out there right now, reading…
Write to me.
Until next time.

June 6, 2007

June 6, 2007

Sunday was a beautiful day.
Not just because it was the morning after a very successful surprise party I threw with friends for my husband’s 50th birthday.
Not just because the diet lemonade out of the fountain at Wawa that morning was chilled to perfection.
And not just because it was raining the way I like it best—steady, warm, and lyrical.
Sunday was beautiful because I witnessed, no, participated in something monumental, something I never thought would ever happen in my lifetime. Something I had entirely given up on.
And it happened at the most peculiar of places: the Delaware I-95 rest stop. Also the midway point between our house and C’s house in Maryland, where she lives with her mother “S”—and the pick-up and drop-off point for our visits.
On Sunday, we went to drop C off to S like any other Sunday (barring the 16 Sundays we missed when S wouldn’t allow us to see C for reasons that still baffle us). We had no idea, however, that this Sunday would be special.
On that day, as I imagine it is on all other days, parking at the rest stop was scarce and the traffic chaotic. Mothers changed diapers in the backs of metallic-green minivans, while fathers took their sons inside the small brick building to the bathroom. There, they bought them hot dogs and fruit juice and cheeseburgers at Bob’s Big Boy.
Still, others drove in circles looking for the road back to the highway.
Despite the rain, people were everywhere. Stretching their legs and walking their dogs on the long strips of dirty grass that separated cars, parking spots, and metal trash cans.
It was a slice of life. A scene like any you’d see at any other rest stop across the country, save for what happened to us—well, C, S, and me.
Here it is:
When we pulled up to the rest stop, we found S waiting for us, as usual, in the driver’s seat of her Subaru wagon. As we came to a stop, she climbed out to greet us and retrieve C’s bag from our trunk. And, as usual, C and I went inside to use the facilities.
We always use the facilities, even if we don’t have to go. Even if the 90-minute drive and three sodas between us haven’t yet made it through our small intestines.
Because using the facilities, whether we need to or not, gives us a few more minutes try to get the water out of the automatic faucet. And a paper towel out of the dispenser. A few more minutes together before C goes back to Maryland with her mother.
Usually, when we’re done playing our bathroom games and wiping our hands on each other, we go back outside to the car, where Dan and S are standing in discomfort, waiting.
But not this time. Not on Sunday.
Because it was raining—a glorious relentless pelting that hammered at the ground like a band of spirited musicians—Dan and C’s mom were waiting for us inside, in front of Cinnabon, surrounded by a revolving stage of bakers and travelers and lattes in big white cups with green logos.
Distracted by the sight of vanilla icing, we almost walked right past them. Until S called out.
“Yoo hoo.” She is smiling and waving. I don’t know why, but suddenly I am surprised to see her standing there, with my husband.
“Oh, hey,” I say.
“No sense waiting outside in the rain.”
Dan stands there looking like somebody just shot him.
“There goes my good hair day.” Knowing full well that my hair looked lousy from the moment I woke up.
She points to her ponytail. “I hear ya.”
I ask about her stepmother’s surgery. Bev was at my bridal shower and our wedding with S’s father, both once very important to my husband.
“Doing better, got an email from Dad today and they’ve got her up and moving.”
“Great. That’s so important.” Although, what do I know? I’m never sure how much aspirin to take.
As S and I talk about Bev and my mother’s shattered elbow and my father’s lung cancer and subsequent depression, and her dad’s disillusion, C finds a place in between us.
Then, she takes her mother’s hand in her left hand and mine in her right. And she starts to swing. Like a see-saw. Mine and C’s hands go up, S and C’s go down. S and C’s go up, mine and C’s go down.
You know what I’m talking about. You’ve probably seen it—or done it—a thousand times yourself. Might be doing it right now. Probably didn’t even notice it.
But I did.
“You should definitely try the Boca Burgers,” I say, referring to C’s recent proclamation that she’s now a vegetarian. Trying to act natural. Like something I never thought would or could happen was—like winning the lotto or squeezing into a pair of size 2 Levi’s.
The ex-wife, the new wife, the child, newly connected by a fleshy a string of lights, like stick figures drawn by a pre-schooler in brown and red crayon. After, that is, too many months of accusations, lawyers’ fees, court dates, and heated silences.
“I’ve had Boca burgers before. They’re good.”
I tell S how we gave them to C earlier and how she loved them.
All the while, swing. Swing. Swing. Three hands swinging. C’s, S’s, and mine. I look at C. She’s beaming, like she was just awarded a new American Doll every year for life. I look out the glass door ahead to the parking lot. The rain’s dropping like confetti from a freshly whacked pinata.
I am so relieved.
“Dad even ate one,” C says. “And we all know how he LOVES meat.” She starts to giggle. It’s contagious.
Swing a ding a ling.
“I used to feed him that stuff all the time,” S says, eyes rolling. “He never knew the difference.”
“I know,” I say. “I do too. And he still doesn’t.” We all laugh again. I think about tofu and the way C’s nine-year-old hand feels against my palm. Dan looks a bit like his pants have suddenly dropped to his ankles for no reason. Yet, I feel fine. Not a bit awkward. After all, that was then and this is now.
One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure. Right?
And by the way? Swing a ling a ling.
After a few more minutes of small talk about the weekend and how I left a part of Dan’s birthday cake that I had saved for S at home, and how we’re looking at camps for C, and what a good girl she is, C wrapped her arms around me and then her father and then her father again, and then me, and then we all waved and smiled as C and S got back into the wagon and I took Dan’s hand and swing a ling a ding and off we went in the Element, back to the house where C leaves her sneakers and the necklace her sister Heidi bought her and the blue rose ring that matches the one I have in white and Heidi has in black, and her sister-dog Winnie, and her turtle statue, and her kids Claritin.
Life is so surprising. I say it all the time, don’t I?
——————————
For those of you who’ve been following the story, well, this story, you’re probably very confused. Probably, the last time we spoke or you read, I was either scorned-wife angry or cover-my-butt unclear. Not sure why we couldn’t see C. Not allowed to talk about it online. Write about my true feelings.
Well, here it is, the answer to the puzzle, the mystery exposed, finally:
See, for some reason, S believed I had been unkind to her daughter, yelling and screaming, inserting myself wrongly into the parental process. That was the problem. At least the way it was laid out in the summons and court orders, in bold print and quotations. In legal-speak.
But that’s all over now. And while the system worked on some level for Cody, humanity and reason worked even better.
Here’s what happened:
I was recounting to my novel group one night about the horrors of being the new wife to an ex-wife who hated you. And for no good or easily identifiable reason.
“But I love C, and I’m so good to her. You’d think she’d be happy about that.”
But my writer girls, older, wiser, and far more seasoned in the darker aspects of jealousy, divorce, and the dysfunction of parental separation, laughed at me.
Silly girl.
So naïve.
Idealistic.
Be happy? About what? About the fact that some other woman is married to her husband, even though she didn’t—doesn’t—want him, playing mommy dearest to her daughter.
She hates you.
Of course she does.
But she doesn’t even know me.
So. Has nothing to do with knowing you.
But that doesn’t make any sense.
Silly girl.
My mother would hate you too. She hated my stepmother.
Did you?
No, but so what.
I don’t get it. Why can’t we all just get along. For the child.
It’s her child, not yours.
But I’m not trying to be the child’s mother. I already have a dog, two nieces, and a slow metabolism. I’m tired. I don’t want somebody else’s child.
It doesn’t matter. She doesn’t like it. Or you. And that’s just the way it works. Get over it.
But I don’t want to! Wah! Wah!
Just stay out of her way and don’t cross the line.
I didn’t realize I crossed the line the first time. I don’t even know where the line is.
Well you did. Don’t be so likeable. Back off.
Okay, I will. I don’t understand, but I will. I don’t know when I backed on, but I’m off as of right now.
Smart. Finally.
But I do have to say that if I had a daughter and was in her situation, I’d be grateful to the new wife for being so kind to my child.
Bullshit.
Silly girl.
So naïve.
Idealistic.
You’d hate her.
Now who’s turn is it to read?
———————————————————–
The next day, I was walking Winnie in the park, when it hit me. Stop being mad. It hurts too much. Put yourself in her shoes. How would you feel? Really feel? Okay, maybe you wouldn’t hire a lawyer to write all those nasty things, but you might feel jealous. Threatened. Upset that your child enjoyed the company of another woman. Protective.
These are basic human emotions. Visceral. Part of everyone. Don’t fault her for it. De-escalate. Assure her you’re not trying to take her place.
You’re like a fun old aunt, not a replacement mom.
You don’t know what in the Sam hell you’re doing. You’ve never been a stepmother before. You’re a newbie. An amateur. Just being your old idiotic self.
You need “Stepmother for Dummies.” A personal consultation. A customized course.
You’re an alien. And hey, to C’s mom, I know you don’t know me and you have to leave your kid with an alien. But it’s not so bad out here in space. You’d know it if you got to know me. So do it. C’mon. If you do, you’ll see, I couldn’t insert myself into the process of parenting a fly. I’m too clueless.
Too tired.
Too into books and Lifetime Television. Too attached to my border collie.
And really, I just wanted a date.
All I did was fall in love with a man who you happened to toss back into the wading pool. So don’t hate me. I’ll follow your rules. Just tell me what they are. Just be my friend. Let’s all be friends. For C.
Well, okay, and for me. Because it takes too much for me to sustain this anger all day, every day. I have laundry to do. And deadlines.
And so I said it. Took 57 deep breaths as we approached the rest stop after that first visit after that long break and said it. And you know what happened?
Swing a ding a ling.
Until next time.

May 21, 2007

May 21, 2007

Today, I had it all planned.
I’d go to Saratoga Springs, NY, with Dan (where I am right now). He’d go to service his client in the morning and I’d go to Starbucks to work until he was finished. I’d have 12 cups of coffee, write a blog, edit a story for a client, and then shop the strip until it was time to get into the Honda Element and head back south.
And everything went according to plan. Until this morning, when my mother called.
And now, I am here. Crying into a full-fat latte. Watching a group of tourists through the Starbucks window pose for a picture in front of the stone horse outside. Wondering how they can do it. How they can possibly go about life as usual.
Today, a very very dear friend of our family died. Well, actually, she was family. Not technically. But who cares. She was family. Our family.
She went early this morning. We knew it was coming. But that doesn’t help now. And when my mother said the words, “She died last night,” I am suddenly overcome by a barrage of tears. I knew it was coming. And felt sad. Of course, sad. But now, I am crying. And the water keeps pouring from my eyes like a small hole in the ecosystem.
You’d think the ladies in front of the stone horse would notice. Come over. Console me. “Are you allright honey?” But they don’t. They’re laughing as if they don’t have a care in the world. I feel like shouting, “Hey, yo. Somebody died today. A moment, please. I need a moment.” Go be joyful somewhere else.
Two years ago, she was perfectly healthy. Fine. Nothing wrong, except the usual aches and pains that come with age. But certainly not old. Barely 70. In the prime of life, still. Her children grown, with her own kids. Married. Working. Living like the rest of us.
She and her husband of 50 years, who’d survived his own bout of cancer, were living out their retirement. “They are a real love story,” my mother would tell me. More than once, I might add. “Such a handsome couple. Really. I have the pictures.”
Then, on her birthday, when she was supposed to be eating white cake, opening gifts, and marveling in her new nightgown and real jewelry, something else happened: She got a diagnosis of leukemia.
Leukemia. The gift that keeps on giving.
Another moment please.
The doctors said she’d survive it. Told her to prepare for a series of treatments that were really bad, but would see her through. That she’d come out the other side.
And she did. The “really bad” treatments weren’t so for her. “Apparently, they didn’t bother her that much,” my mother would say, eyes dancing. “Amazing.”
And while she ran the medical marathon that involved an endurance none of us can train for, she came out a winner. Sure, the disease would never go away, but she could live with it.
Live with it—like diabetes, and Turrets, and the memory of war in your brain.
She got well enough for the wedding. My getting married for the first time at 43 better than chemo–too powerful a force for her to miss. Not even life-altering disease could keep her from it.
And she looked beautiful. Sounded beautiful. Smelled beautiful. Hugged beautiful. Ate her chicken piccata beautiful. Laughed at my vows beautiful. Mugged for the pictures beautiful.
Her face glowed as I remembered it. Sure, she was a little thinner, but when is that a bad thing? And everybody looked happy. The family that surrounded her like petals on the face of a daisy. They looked happy.
She was alive. We all were.
I need a tissue.
Then, another diagnosis came. Two months ago. More cancer. Now in the lungs and the kidney (or a reasonable facsimile thereof). When you’re talking about cancer, the details are almost irrelevant.
But still, there’s chemo, radiation, hospital beds, urine pans, nurse’s lights, charts, cafeterias, needles, and, of course, the best cardiologists. We’ll treat it. You’ll beat it. You’ll see.
And my mother said, “That’s not good. It’s not.” And I said, “But they’re optimistic still, right?” And she said, “Well, yes, but still. I don’t know. Not good.” And I thought, “That’s just my mother being a pessimist.” And I said, “Well, she came through the last time.” And she said, “You’re right. She did. Maybe I’m wrong. I hope so.” “Well, let’s think positively,” I said.
And then we went on to talk about my belly fat or a reasonable facsimile body part thereof.
And so life went on. Our basement flooded. The roof leaked. The microwave died. I lost 11 pounds. We’re now seeing C. I threw Heidi a baby shower. I was asked to speak at a writer’s conference. Dan’s been traveling a lot for work. We replaced the carpet in the basement with some green shaggy stuff. I’m craving pizza.
Three weeks ago, when my mother was in the hospital, she called. “I hear mom’s in the hospital,” she said. “Is she okay?” I had to marvel. Here, this woman had been on the roller coaster of cancer for 18 months. And she’s asking about somebody else.
“She’s fine,” I say. “They think it might be her appendix or kidney stones.”
And after we talked about cancer and wigs and her kids and us kids and our new house, she said, “Will you keep me posted?” Of course, I said.
Today, I long to give her an update. Everything’s fine. We’re all fine. You’re fine too.
A few days after that phone call, my mother told me she was back in the hospital. Pneumonia. They were draining her lungs, but after a week or so of that, they realized, the fluid wasn’t just from pneumonia. It was from cancer. Tumors multiplying like cockroaches.
“She’s not coming out,” my mother said. I could hear her voice shake. “Pneumonia. That’s it.”
Tomorrow is my mother’s birthday. She’ll be 69. I ask her what she wants to do. She doesn’t feel much like celebrating. “This year, I won’t get a card from her. For the past 50 years, I’ve gotten a birthday card from her. This year, I won’t.” She’s been saying that for the past two weeks.
This weekend we took C to see Shrek 3, while the woman who owns a chip in my memory lay like a child in the hospital. On the psychedelic dream of cancer–and a cocktail of Adavan, Morphine, and Demerol. Curled up in an electric bed like a fetus in the womb. Her husband of 50 years propped up in a chair next to her, dazed. Her children in the corner, crying.
Comfortable. They were keeping her “comfortable.” Everybody’s comfortable.
This morning, I had it all planned out. I was going to write about this writer’s conference I’ve been invited to speak at, and book publishing, and running in the park, and my intense craving for cheese. I have my laptop and the little notes I keep over the weeks to jog my middle-aged brain into recognition.
But none of those things seem important. Maybe they will be next week. Or whenever.
But today, nothing else really matters, except the love we feel for each other and the ache in our bellies when it’s time for someone to leave. And, of course, the shadow of her spirit in our tears.
Today, nothing else really matters, but Carol.
My dear sweet Carol, may you be swinging on a cotton-tufted cloud at the greatest reunion imaginable, all those who’ve gone before passing you candy and golden nickels.
I will miss you.

April 25, 2007

April 25, 2007

Last week was a real bear. There was a Nor’easter storm that came through and, while I’m usually excited about the prospect of a rainy weekend (I call it “off the hook” weather), this one really took me by surprise. I guess, now that I’m a grownup, I have more at stake than I did in the past (when I lived in a condo sans a basement and a house with a musty attic and a roof I never saw).
Now that I’m married and living in a quasi-single house, I am prone to the things I’ve only seen happen to other people, as recounted on the local news: Flooded basements. Leaky roofs. Tears. Cherub-like women in house frocks and bad lipstick. Sirens. (Well, okay, maybe not sirens.)
Because, sure enough, the Sunday when the storm was at its peak, I heard the call of the wild come from my husband as he went into our finished basement to put a box into our freshly carpeted and organized storage closet.
“JILLLLLLLL!”
It reminded me of all the times I used to sneak food in the middle of the night when I was a child. With my mother fast asleep, 3 a.m. was like prime time. It was the eating hour, and I’d curl myself up in the bathroom (where the fan would hide my moaning) and satisfy my craving for chocolate with something other than the broiled dry fish, fruit, and raw broccoli my mother would allow me during the daylight.
Still, there was always the risk of being caught, which made it exciting (in some demented way that tells me I haven’t had enough therapy). And every once in a while, my mother did. Catch me, that is. Find evidence of my binge—say a vagrant cookie crumb or errant piece of cheese on the bathroom tile or counter. And she’d call me on it. She’d say:
“JILLLLLLLL!” Good times.
The memory comes flooding back to me as my husband screams like a woman in her 36th hour of labor.
I run down the stairs to find our new $500 Weider Pro Universal and two sofas awash in an in-ground swimming pool we didn’t order, replete with about one inch of dirty rain water. My ALDO flip flops squish on the carpet as I walk over to get a closer look.
“Oh dear, the carpet’s wet.”
“No kidding.” Dan looks frustrated.
“Well,” I throw my hands up. “Let’s just call someone to fix it and have dinner.” I am a Jewish girl, after all. We’re not equipped for these things.
“No time,” Dan grunts, now sweaty and wet from trying to wrestle the pipe to the sump pump as if it were an alligator trying to eat his leg. “Quick,” he motions to the section of the basement he uses as his music studio. “Start carrying all the electrical equipment out of here.”
I look over at the 400 pounds of amplifiers, microphones, and assorted stereo components, cords twisted around one another like Jamaican braids, and wonder if the water has put him in some sort of altered state. I have no idea how he expects me to haul those football-player-size speakers up the stairs. Besides, I’m eager to get to those vegetable pot stickers.
I open my mouth to tell him that “I’m just not up for a hernia tonight, honey,” when I notice the water now shooting out of the pump like a geyser. Dan is trying to hold it down with his body. But it’s like using the tip of a finger to plug a hole in the Titanic. And I find it difficult to watch him.
So, instead, I turn my head and figure that, unless I can figure out how to morph into Arnold Schwarzenegger within the next 30 seconds, we’ve got another problem. With that, I try to assess where the plugs buried under the now soaking carpet lead to (and how I’ll disarm them without electrocuting myself), Dan moves into action.
Before I know it, the geyser’s turned into a leaky faucet (I have no idea how he did it) and my husband’s shoving keyboards and guitars at me like they’re hot potatoes. He, on the other hand, starts balancing the heavier equipment on his shoulders like Carmen Miranda holding a 3,000 pound set of fruit baskets.
I must say, it was impressive.
Fortunately, none of his stuff was damaged (although a box of my favorite summer shoes didn’t fare as well, SHIT). Especially since our insurance company (Keystone, hello Keystone in Doylestown, YOU SUCK SUCK SUCK) refused to cover us because when the agent (who keeps applying our payments to somebody else’s account—IDIOT) “allegedly” offered us flood insurance or whatever it’s called, they say we turned it down.
“WHY WOULD WE DO THAT?” I scream into the phone. Not the best approach, in hindsight.
Anyway, after we spent the rest of our Sunday soaking up the news that we’d have to pay for the damage caused by mud water flowing through our basement like “namaste” at a yoga convention, I went upstairs to get Winnie, who was perched in front of the window in C’s room. Her usual spot.
That’s when I noticed a leak coming from the ceiling. It had formed the outline of a cloud in what looked like brown poop. I wondered if the $400 duvet cover was ruined but decided to not even go there. Because by then, I’d had enough.
Overwhelmed from the flood and too tired to tackle the roof, I go downstairs to pop in a frozen dinner. After all, hours had passed, we hadn’t eaten, and I’m on Jenny Craig. So I’m acutely and obsessively aware of when it’s time to eat.
I head to the kitchen and retrieve my vegetable potstickers (about 230 calories) and wonder whether we’ll have to trash the Berber carpet in the basement the people before us had installed. Not that I liked it anyway.
As I contemplate what to replace it with, I poke a few holes on the plastic protecting my frozen noodles, place it squarely in the center of the microwave, and hit “start.” I wait for the whirring sound that indicates its cooking, when instead, the entire unit goes black.
I start slamming at the digits, and the clear, end, and start buttons. Nothing happens. The thing is dead. Powerless. (How’s that for irony?) Slowly, my fear and panic escalate.
“DANNNNNN!” Now THIS is an emergency.
I hear a gurgling sound.
“DAN.” Nothing.
“HELP ME!” Still yelling. “FIRE? Help? Hello?”
More gurgling and then gushing.
As I stand there, holding the frozen potstickers, I decide we’ll eat later. Turns out, I am good in emergencies after all.
——————————
On a more positive note, Dan went to a preliminary hearing with you-might-know-who last Tuesday (after the flood and we ripped up all the carpets) to see if we could get to see C again. Ever.
I stayed home to stare in disbelief at the massive studio equipment now crammed in our living room and dining room—its chaos surpassing the hardwood floors and fancy paint job that was once the focal point of our beautiful new home.
It was a good way to distract myself from what Dan was doing—which was, hopefully, making progress. And not playing on the losing end of a pissing match.
And as it turns out, he wasn’t. To the contrary, we finally got to see C this past weekend for the first time in a long time. It was a great weekend and I’ll write more on it later, but it’s not the point of the rest of this post. What is the point is this:
After the flood, the leak, the microwave, the child custody battle, the slow and disastrous weight gain, the half-frozen Jenny Craig meal, and the diss by our insurance company, I got a phone call from my father.
“I’m taking mom to the hospital. She’s got pains in her side and back.”
Huh?
Suddenly, what flood, leak, malfunctioning microwave, misguided ex-wife, and useless homeowner’s policy? What freezer-burnt potstickers? What were those things again? And why do I care? Because when you hear you father say “I’m taking mom to the hospital,” suddenly, nothing else counts.
“Well, what’s wrong with her?”
“We don’t know.” He sounds cranky. Like she’s interrupting him halfway through his favorite episode of Seinfeld. (You know, the one with the bubble boy.)
“Well, what do you mean you don’t know?”
“We’re busy here getting ready. Mom’s in the shower. We’ll call you later.” He hangs up.
Suddenly, I feel sick. Like maybe I need to go too. I call back. My mother answers.
“I’m okay. Don’t worry. Might be appendix. We’ll call you after we see the doctor. Don’t worry. But we’ve got to go.” Click. She sounds like she’s on fire.
I hang up and remember a conversation Lorrie and I just had about her father. It seems last week, when I was in Chicago, the doctors found a lump on his kidney and for a few days, they worried it was a tumor. “Boy,” she said. “It’s amazing how your world just stops. How things just change in a second. How you go from clear to completely out of focus. I can’t handle it.”
Those words now haunt me. Fortunately for Irv (Lorrie’ father), it turned out to be something benign. Unfortunately, for me, however, I am now standing in Lorrie’s shoes—just one week after. Now, it’s my turn.
And even though we still didn’t know for sure that there was anything really wrong with my mother, I felt vulnerable. Alone and useless. Afraid. After all, I know, if not this time, there will come a next time, when the news will not be welcomed.
And I’m not ready for it. Not even close. Because no matter how old you are, you want your mother. It doesn’t matter that you’re at that age. That many of your friends are starting to lose their parents. That someday, our kids will be saying that about us. That we’ll be next. That if we’re lucky, and take care of ourselves, we’ll be them.
I look over at the clutter, still overwhelming our space, but no longer my brain. It had become meaningless. The amplifier could self destruct, dirt and particles and tiny little pieces of knobs and screws and plastic could cover the floor like an oversized pile of plastic throw up and it wouldn’t matter.
My mother is in the hospital. The earth has stopped rotating. Jill has stopped breathing.
The phone rings and it’s my father. “Mom’s in the emergency room, waiting to have a CAT scan.”
“In the emergency room? Why? Is it that bad?”
“Well, she’s in pain. So they want to find out what the problem is.”
“Where are you? At a concert?” I hear music and voices.
“I’m having lunch.”
“At the hospital?”
“No. Quiznos.”
“You’re at Quiznos and mom’s in the emergency room?”
“Yeah. So? What should I do? Sit and stare at her, while she drifts in and out of sleep from the medication? I’m hungry.”
“They gave her medication?”
“I think so. Something.”
“Should I go there? I’m going.” I look around at the manilla folders lining the floor of my office and start flipping them into a pile and tossing papers. “Where the heck are my shoes?”
“Jill, she doesn’t want anybody there. What are you going to do there?”
“I don’t know, Dad. Not have a barbeque chicken melt. I’ll tell you that much.”
“Huh?” I hear chewing.
“So let me get this straight. You can sit for five hours and wait for them to put brakes on your car, but you can’t wait with mom in the hospital?”
“She’s fine. I’ll call you back.” Click.
———————————
As it turns out, my mother spent three days at Holy Redeemer only to find out that she passed a kidney stone. Joyfully and gloriously anticlimactic. Hallelujah.
Lorrie, on the other hand, called me this morning to tell me that her father is still having pain and they want to go in for more tests. Her husband Frank’s father, who has Parkinson’s, fell over the weekend and broke his hip. At 80, they think he’ll never walk or leave the hospital again.
This time of life—middle age—can be so glorious. We’re so grownup. We don’t sweat the small stuff. We know how to stand up for what we want. We don’t want to save the world anymore, but we’re not ready to give up on it either. Or on doing our part.
We’re a little chubbier than we used to be, but much more okay with it than ever before. We’ll eat chocolate with a little less guilt, because we’re tired of depriving ourselves. After all, life is short. We welcome control top pantyhose, as long as we don’t have to wear them more than once a month. We’ll work out when we can and be proud of ourselves for staying awake past 10 o’clock. We don’t tweak out if we spend more than we should have at Nordstroms.
We’re mainly concerned with taking hormone replacement therapy, plucking or waxing, and turbo-saving for retirement.
Yet, at the same time, it can be an awful time. Because the seasons are changing. Our choices are dwindling and our parents, well, we realize they may not be around forever. The generations are cycling—and we’re moving up on the chain. We realize that we better take care of our business—any residual resentments or childhood issues—because someday not so far away, anymore, we won’t always have our parents to help us resolve them.
I think about the food I used to eat in the bathroom. And actually long for those moments, when my mother was young. And I was afraid she would find me.
———————————
Now that the crises of the past few weeks are either over or under control, I take a moment to consider what might come next. I hope, pray, and throw out an energy beam to whoever, that we get a few weeks of calm, followed by a gust of motivation to write that book. It’s gonna be a good book. A great book. And I want my parents around to see it.
Because if they’re not, I’ll be pissed. (You hear that Keystone. Pissed. You know what that looks like, don’t ya?)
Until next time.

April 14, 2007

April 14, 2007

I’m sitting at Chicago O’Hare Airport, heading home after facilitating a class for Gatorade (one of my clients) and wondering what it is about being at the airport that makes everybody want to eat. I mean, I just had a huge sandwich, chips (which frankly, I didn’t need), a soda, a bottle of water, a pretzel, and since my gate is directly across the way from McDonald’s, I’m thinking that a chocolate shake would hit the spot right about now.
And I’m not alone. I mean, pretty much everybody I see is either eating or drinking something that, honestly, looks rather unhealthy (think fried chicken fingers, oily roast beef sandwiches, and chocolate-covered peanuts).
Is it because there are so many places to get food? Do you think McDonalds and Starbucks bribe tower operators with french fries and lattes so they’ll delay flights and trigger emotional eaters (like me) into a buying frenzy?
I mean, what gives?
I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking there are better and more productive ways to spend the time we’re forced to endure while waiting for our flights. Why aren’t there any, say, nail salons, or spa’s offering massages and facials at the airport? (I can see it now: C’mon in for the “orange alert special” where we aim to eliminate bad corns and callouses.)
Why are there no banks? Post offices? UPS stores? How about theaters or chain stores? Doctor’s offices and pharmacies, where I can get and then refill my Zyrtec prescription. What about a few mini-gyms, where people can take their anxiety out on a treadmill instead of flight attendants or, worse, fellow travelers?
It makes me mad. I mean, it would be uber helpful to mail a letter while I wait to board my flight. Deposit that Gap return check. Ship a package. Get a pap smear. Fix a chip on my pinky finger. Buy those paper clips I keep forgetting to get at Staples.
Maybe, just maybe, if I could bench press at the airport, I would have more toned triceps and a better attitude. Give this middle-aged woman a place to strengthen her bones. Her nailbeds. Her love handles.
GIVE ME SOMETHING TO DO OTHER THAN EAT.
Perhaps if we (okay, me) had some of these things, we wouldn’t be so damn bloated and agitated when we travel.
I’m just saying.
And now that a small child and his extended family have sat down next to me with a series of cheeseburgers, I’m off for a milkshake. The scent is just too much for my frontal cortex.
Besides, I’m only human.
——————————————–
Okay, so since my last post, Dan and I have been Secretized.
No, we have not been anointed with special cream, invited to any Salem witch ceremonies, or traveled to Tibet to meet with the Dalai Lama. (Although we do like animals.)
No, no, we read the book “The Secret.” We watched the movie. We listened to the DVDs. We’ve been on www.thesecret.com, www.thesecretsoupforyoursoul.com, and www.universeisus.com.
And now, we can recite the concepts as performance art.
I tell you, I’m making fun here, but the Secret really does rock. It’s all about the law of attraction and energy and that we’re not really cellulite and good boobs, and thick wavy hair, and neuroses, but a collection of millions of little pin-like atoms of energy (making this up now)that, once released into the atmosphere, find their way to like energy bringing it back to us (think you lose 15 pounds, you gain 20 back) so that we may benefit by achieving our wildest dreams. Or, done poorly, raise the devil from a sound sleep.
Either one.
How does it work? Well, you’ll have to read it for yourself to know for sure, but in my elementary interpretation, it states something like this:
I’m supposed to ask for stuff as if I’ve already gotten it and then believe down to my itty bitty little heartstrings that it will be harkened to me and, alas, I will be rich and thin and can stop coloring my hair because it will be naturally a glorious auburn and I’ll stop aging entirely. There will no longer be hair on my chin. And any book I write will automatically go up for auction with publishers.
Well, that’s an oversimplification, but I think it gives you the gist. And even though it sounds like I’m mocking the book, really, I’m not, because Dan and I really do believe that embracing it has made a difference in our lives. For example, I no longer wake up thinking, “Oh shit.”
Instead, I remember, that whatever I want is in reach. I just have to ask for it, believe I will have it, and then digest some sort of mind-altering substance (caffeine, heroin, Women’s Correctol) to complete the ritual.
Since we’re been practicing, my freelance work has picked up, my creativity feels to be at its peak, and Dan has even gotten to talk to C on the telephone, at least. (Something he’s not been able to do for the past four months.)
So, in that spirit, I’m on the phone with my mother one day (‘cause I’m long overdue for a mother story), when I decide to tell her about the Secret. After all, she and my dad have been a bit whiny lately and I think their negative energy is just coming back to them in the form of gas and clogged sinuses and, well, too many “That 70s Show” reruns.
I’m telling my mother that they both have to “change their frequencies”—put themselves on a new lighter and more positive set of energy beams. Show gratitude and love for all the good things and find a way to be happy. Even if my father has a bad golf game or my mother misses a day at Curves.
That if they do, the good things they put out will come back. I go on with a very inspired pep talk—as if I’m Donald Trump telling her how to set up a new savings account. And just as I’m recounting the merits of living in this newfound joyfulness, she responds with this:
“Do you know how dangerous belly fat is?”
“Mom, what does this have to do with the Secret?”
“Well, Oprah had those Secret folks on. And Dr. Oz is on right now. Have you ever seen Dr. Oz. He’s wonderful. And he talks about belly fat. Do you have belly fat? I think you do.”
How does the conversation always come back to my fat? HOW? HOW? (Calm down, Jill, remember, ask and you shall receive. GOD DAMN IT, THINK POSITIVELY.)
Although, I guess I shouldn’t feel bad. Because she really gives it to my poor father these days too. In fact, he tells me that just the other day, he and my mom were out for lunch when the waitress delivered his hamburger with a healthy serving of French fries.
So, he picks one up and aims it towards his mouth like a scud missile, when he stops just short of his lips to contemplate my mother’s reaction. Would she yell? Would she miss it if he moved quickly? Would she say, “Life is short, have as many as you want?” Would she lean over the table and give him the best kiss of their marriage? What would she do?
But she didn’t do any of this. Instead, she stood up, put on her coat, grabbed her pocketbook, and, in an irritated huff, said goodbye and walked out, leaving my poor and perplexed father sitting there holding a deep fried piece of potato.
No doubt, wondering what he had done to deserve it. (And therein lays the crux of my childhood. But I’m over it now, Mom, really. I LOVE YOU!!!)
————————————————–
I was supposed to fly home last night but, surprise, there was a snowstorm in April in Chicago and my flight was cancelled so they put me on this one, the next day. It was supposed to leave three hours ago. Now, I’m on the plane, and, without a lot of soda and candy to keep the masses satisfied, people are fidgety. The flight is full, carrying the residual from last night’s cancellations, and the pilot is speaking. I can barely understand him.
I’m cranky.
“Folks,” he says. Why do they always call us folks? Why not, “Oh mighty and loyal customers without whom I could not afford my mortgage…?” Or, why don’t they leave their ivory castles and come down through the aisles to talk to the people? Shake hands? Kiss babies? Face time goes a long way in business. Didn’t they learn that in flight school?
“We just heard from the control tower.” He sounds like he’s talking to us from under a foam pillow. “And uh…”
He’s stammering. Not good.
“…and so, the planes have to circle around several times, and well, it takes them off track…”
Just tell me: How long do I have pack this too-many pounds of potatoes into a two-pound seat?
“…and so, we are now scheduled for takeoff in two hours.”
TWO MORE HOURS? Just sitting here? That puts me at serious risk of blood clotting. Going out like David Bloom, embedded with the soldiers in Iraq, who died from a blood embolism. Or whatever.
“We just don’t like to fly in thunderstorms, so we’re grounded until control tower says it’s okay to get moving.”
Oh sure, thunderstorms. Lame. I mean, what do you sell here?
Once, an old boyfriend and I went to a Kentucky Fried Chicken and ordered all white meat. They said they were out. Kentucky Fried Chicken was out of chicken. So we said, “Hey, what do you sell here?” And then left, snickering.
As I think about whether I’ll ever get home, the flight attendant (stewardess) with too much eye makeup and a bad dye job asks me if I mind moving back two rows to the very last row. Where even though I’ll keep my window seat, I shouldn’t expect to find a window.
I immediately want to say, “You’re damn straight I mind.” But I hold off to hear the rest of her explanation, since my seatmates are quite eager to move. Friggin good Samaritans. They bug me. (If you’re reading, hi guys! :) )
“The little children are afraid and need to be by a window.”
I look over to find a mom, dad, and two teary toddlers standing there, looking at me as if they’re trapped in Barney’s jaw and I’m the only person who can yank them free. And then, method acting to hide my bitterness and resentment (this is my window seat, MINE MINE MINE), I say, “Sure. Yes, why not? Be happy to. My pleasure. Can’t wait.”
Little bastards. Maybe I’m clausterphobic? Did anyone ever stop to think of that? What are they going to do next, ask me to fly on the wing?
Boy, I’ll tell you what: If I miss Gray’s Anatomy because of thunderstorms, well, heads will ROLL.
That’s all I’m saying.
At least until next time.

March 26, 2007

March 26, 2007

Last week, we had our friends Rick and Deb over for dinner. We were going through an especially rough time, not having seen Dan’s daughter C for a long while and not having access to her, and Rick and Deb have been a strong set of shoulders for us to lean on. We got to talking about what we could do in terms of keeping the faith when Rick suggested we all go to a “sweat lodge.”
I had never heard of a sweat lodge before so I was intrigued. What is it? Do they keep the heat over 75? Do they do hot yoga? Give pedicures by moistening the skin so intensely that it just flakes off on its own—no scraping or rubbing required? Do they let you sample a variety of hydration beverages? Do some sort of mud wrap that brings all the toxins to the surface so you look younger? Have less cellulite? I had so many questions.
So Rick and Deb told me that it was an ancient Native American ceremony of prayer and purification that involved heating rocks in a fire, bringing them into the center of the lodge, pouring water on them so they steam, and praying.
Is there Jesus talk, because, you know, I’m Jewish. We don’t generally pray to Jesus.
No, it’s all very spiritual and soul-cleansing.
Like a colonic?
Well, not as graphic.
Good, because my mother worked for a proctologist when I was growing up and an enema was her cure-all, so I have issues.
Too much information.
Does it involve some alternative language, like Hebrew, say, or Swahili? Cause I don’t speak either.
No, prayer could be words or songs or silence. Even chanting.
I like chanting. I do it all the time in the shoe department at Nordstroms. “Do you really need those? YES YES YES NO YES OH GOD YES.”
This isn’t anything at all like Nordstroms.
That’s okay. Will there be pound cake? There’s usually pound cake after services at a synogague.
Well, no. But there’ll be a pot luck feast, so we each have to bring something to eat.
Oh, okay, good. So you’re saying there might be pound cake, then?
As we played Q&A, I let my mind conjure up the image of a peaceful getaway at a well-kept spa in an exotic location. Where you can call upon the spirits to relax you enough to soothe your puffy eyes, eliminate unnecessary wrinkles, and leave you feeling younger, thinner, and less hungry for pizza or tuna salad with REAL mayonnaise. It sounded like a place to commune with aestheticians for a reasonable price. And then, attend a nice buffet of cold items, perhaps a nice pasta salad with pesto or cold shrimp.
This could be very Las Vegas meets the Berkshires, I thought to myself. Upscale gym meets Ruby Tuesdays. Hot springs meet Denny’s. What could be bad?
I’m in. Let’s do it.
So we did. With much excitement and anticipation, we went on a Sunday night, two days after a late March ice storm that laid a dirty carpet of hard snow on the grass and roads. Dan and I picked up Rick and Deb after a brief stop at Giant to get a set of broccoli and mushroom quiches and a tub of hummus. (Rick had suggested we bring something “sort of vegan-y.”) We were excited. We’d had enough of the cold and looked forward to the warmth of the lodge. I was looking forward to some effective moisturizing after.
As we pulled up a long driveway to somebody’s backyard (who I would later learn was “Jim”), we saw several people standing around a fire by an old garage. A few sat on an old bench next to a wooden fence. We followed Rick and Deb into the old single house to put away the food we had brought for after “the sweat.”
I asked Deb, “Where’s the lodge?” After all, I didn’t see anything in the back yard but the fire, the people, and the garage. Did we have to go somewhere else to get there? Would there be a shuttle? Did it have a bathroom? (I pee a lot.)
She took my hand, led me back out to the people and the bonfire, and pointed to a small blue dome behind them. It looked like a latex igloo, large enough to sleep two at a campsite.
“What’s that?” I said.
“The sweat lodge.”
“That’s it?” My heart started to race.
“That’s it.”
“Seriously?”
“Seriously.”
“Oh.”
—————————————————————————–
Everything after that happened fast. The girls got changed into shorts, tee shirts, and flip flops in what I assumed was Jim’s bedroom, while the guys changed in the old garage. We grabbed our towels on the way back out and covered ourselves with sweatshirts that, just moments later, would be yanked off and flung to the side just prior to entering “the lodge.”
Scantily clad (for me, at least), in bare feet, and shivering, I waited in line behind Dan for safety. When it was his turn to go in, a skinny guy, who was topless, waved a piece of lit sage around his body as if he were drying an SUV just out of the car wash. Then, he instructed my poor husband to get on his hands and knees and crawl through a brown slushy pool of God-knows-what to get into the small latex igloo. I was next.
“You okay?” Dan asked, once I found a place crammed next to him.
“Don’t touch anything,” I whispered, picking a piece of something disgusting off the bottom of my foot and wondering why I wasn’t getting a hot stone facial at Zanya’s. Big mistake. “You don’t know where this dirt has been.”
He looked at me like I had hit my head on one of the tree branches upon entry. “It’ll be okay, honey. You’ll be fine. This is fun. Something different, right.”
I wanted to slap him. Did something in the lodge cause a sudden misfiring of synapses in his brain? Fun? Crawling through winter muck is fun? I look down at my foot. The brown thing isn’t coming off so easily.
Some 15 minutes later, with 28 or so of us crammed together like mixed nuts, Jim, otherwise known as Painted Arrow or some such title, called for the first rock. That’s when one skinny kid yanked a white hot rock from the fire and passed it with something that looked like a pitchfork made of sticks to another skinny kid who dropped it into a hole in the center of the tent. They did that six times as Jim chanted, “Welcome Grandfather”–a nod to the fact that they were very old rocks.
After the old guys were all in, Jim instructed the skinny people to close the flap on the tent, eliminating any remaining light. Since there was no longer a difference when I opened my eyes and closed them, I opted for the latter. (What I couldn’t attempt to see couldn’t hurt me.)
I grabbed Dan’s knee for comfort and grounding, and listened as Jim poured several dollops of water over the rocks, like a gang member firing off an AK47 (or whatever). Steam danced and hissed around us.
We all started to sweat like ice cubes in an incinerator, as Jim led us in a conversation about war, and why our world was in such turmoil. I thought about the lavender-scented fern-decorated old-but-pristine and moderately heated old lodge somebody else—somewhere—might be sitting in, blissfully, and reasonably detoxifying. Lemon water waiting for them when they finished.
How did I get here, I wonder, recognizing that it’s not excess saliva on my teeth, but a composition of oozing fluid and electrolytes? Then I remembered.
Oh Great Spirit, Jim says, we are living in such a volatile time. The girl next to me leans in and quietly informs me she’s not wearing underwear. The girl in front of me (or rather, literally, now ON me, as she attempts to get further away from the hot rocks) starts dry heaving and belching.
“Are you okay?” I whisper.
“Oh yes, thanks. This is normal.”
“Gotcha.” I reach for Dan’s hand and go to my happy place—Starbucks, an egg nog latte has just been delivered to my quivering lips, I prepare to drink..
I hang on to that thought, while the white hot rocks cause me to sweat more than I ever have previously–more than I do at the thought of having actually married Todd Goldman when I was 29 (can you say “sociopath?”). Or, at the memory of walking in the city while, unbeknownst to me, a faulty set of buttons left me exposed to all of 8th and Walnut Streets. (I thought it felt awfully breezy.)
After I listened to a few people pray to the “Great Spirit” for a good bounty, useful creativity, and food for third-world children, I decided to ignore the fact that I was on fire without being in actual flames and participate. So I spoke up, “Oh Great Spirit,” I said. “Thank you for keeping me hyperconscious in this heat.”
Nobody even tittered at the profound realism of my prayer (except, of course, my devoted husband). It surprised me. I mean if you can’t recognize something smart or call upon a good sense of humor when you’ve been spit into an active volcano, when can you? What are you waiting for?
My skin was starting to crisper like an oversized overcooked piece of turkey bacon. I wanted to cry, but couldn’t risk losing the body fluids. And yet, not even the thought of mushroom quiche or lemon hummus could save me at that point. So I had to distract myself from the agony of the man with the trigger finger–Jim and his little bucket of death water.
And then here, I suspect, is where the whole point of the experience hit me.
Because suddenly, like a gold rush, thoughts of wishing we could see C overcame me. I prayed that, if and when we do, she remembers how much we love her. I encouraged myself to get busy writing that book. After all, my time was coming. I had earned it, deserved it, worked hard to get here. It was time to recommit to the momentum—and the task of doing it. And then I thought about my father, who survived lung cancer two years ago. We all live on borrowed time, and I prayed for the longest extension possible from his lender.
In that moment, I gave my sweat reason and purpose. And as it dripped off of me and onto the wet soil under my own dampness, I felt my thoughts lifting, floating straight up through a tiny hole in the blue bubble and onto, well, somewhere.
Suddenly, everything got oddly moving. I wanted to cry for Sophie and for my grandmother, who died when I was 13. If I was a Russian spy, I suspect now would’ve been the time to interrogate me. The heat was like the ultimate truth serum. It was both dangerous and exhilerating.
And as I listened to the girl in front of me belch and Jim chant and Dan breathe in long familiar gusts, and as I felt the girl next to me fidget with her skirt, and as I clung to the cool dirt beneath my fingertips, I stopped wondering why people came to endure such discomfort.
I couldn’t tell if there were tears in my eyes or my corneas were perspiring. And yet, it didn’t matter.
These were all strange revelations—that I was hot and emotional and it didn’t matter—and I detached from them almost immediately. (As soon as Jim said, “That’s it. Open up.”)
I guess you can only hold on for so long after surviving a 45-minute schvitzfest and then crawling out of a tent into 32 degrees. I felt like a drug addict leaving a heroin convention—all woozy, wet, and spent.
“Go ahead and lay on the ice,” Jim says, as he ushers us out like a bunch of termites from a damp basement. “You’ll love it.”
“The man must be drunk,” I muttered to myself as I tried to stand upright on the icy ground without shrieking like an African monkey. My now soaking tank top and thinly insulated Gap Body cotton Capri pants failing miserably. Although, I did manage to find my way to my flip flops and towel rather quickly, an act marked by relative calm and a real feeling of accomplishment. Then, I stood with Dan, wet arm in wet arm, in front of the still blazing campfire to revel in the fact that we had survived.
I had survived, breathing in fire and breathing out something else that let me know I was alive. Now, out of the sweat tent (because I refuse to call it a lodge), back to 98 degrees Fahrenheit, I felt like I had just repaved all the streets in the city in 45 minutes. Overcome a personal hostage situation. Endured a plane crash. It was surprise to me, this feeling that was both thrilling and horrifying.
I could pretty much survive anything. Probably. Yes. I can. Dan’s ex. A publisher’s rejection. Half a pound a week in weight loss.
As I stood there, watching the belcher, the girl going commando, and a crew of others lay down on the ground as if they had been shot by airfire, I had an ephipany. I would not do that. I would be a leader, not a follower. I’d be me, and not somebody else.
After all, while they may have craved deeper meaning in the Jackson Pollack painting of the sky, I craved deodorant, a dry tee shirt, lip gloss, and chocolate. To make sense of any of this, I needed to get back to the real world—my real world—and hydrate. Moisturize. And nurture my body with some very VERY bad carbohydrates.
——————————————
Before the sweat, while I was getting ready, I met a woman named Rosemary in the bedroom. We were down to our bras and undies so there seemed no need for small talk. It was obvious we were both freshmen. “First time?” she asked.
I nodded. She smiled. And we finished changing. It was the kind of exchange you’d have with a woman while you waited to get your first mammogram.
Now, hydrated, dry, and relaxed in the way you are when you know your surgery is behind you, we met up again over a table of curried rice, too much hummus (a popular item), salad, and chili.
“Well?” she said, putting a scoop of brown rice and peas on her plate. “What did you think?”
I thought hard for a moment. “It sure was hot in there.” When it doubt, go with the obvious.
She laughed. “I’ll say.”
I scooped a piece of quiche onto my plate and spread some hummus on top. (I’m weird, I know.) “I liked some of it and didn’t like some of it.”
She nodded her head. “Yeah. Good way to put it.”
“It was hot in there.”
She laughed. “Too hot.”
“Thank you.”
“So hot that I really couldn’t focus on anything other than….”
“How hot you were?”
“Yes.”
Turns out, I wasn’t the only person in there after all. Sensing that we had bonded, I really opened up. “It was just stupid hot.” I wondered if she knew how to play the air guitar.
“Yes. Really. Just hot.”
We shared a moment of soulful eye contact and then, I said this: “Have you tried the hummus?”
——————————————————
The best part of the whole experience for me, at an especially hot moment, when I thought I couldn’t take anymore, was holding my husband’s sweaty palm. And knowing that we were in it for the long haul.
That no matter what happened in life—a dying dog, a real estate deal gone sour, a misguided ex-wife, cancer, old age, a slowing metabolism, menopause, the loss of one daughter, the joy of seeing another give birth, rejection from book publishers and music studios, acceptance from book publishers and music studios, the court’s misjudgement, hearing from an old friend, remembering childhood, making peace with fat knees, forgetting what it was like to have perfect eyesight, laughing, crying, singing, dancing, reeling in agony, and rejoicing—that we would always be okay.
And together.
—————————————————————-
As I look back on the experience, I have to question why we put ourselves through so much suffering to realize things. I think about the contortions of yoga, the exhaustion of aerobics, the pain and agony of self-actualization. I mean, can’t we figure it out on a nice spring day, on a walk with our dogs, smiling at our neighbors? Watching reruns of Jeopardy? Or laying on four inches of memory foam, listening to the toilet drip before we fall asleep?
Can’t we just know because we do that life gives us a little bit of everything and never an excess of anything and that we don’t need to cause our own suffering to come to this conclusion.
I mean, sweating and all is great. In fact, my skin did glow for about a week after. (Although I didn’t lose a pound and we still can’t see or talk to C.) And I might even do it again, if somebody, say, put a Rufie in my drink or threatened to kill my family.
I guess.
Still, I also know here, in the comfort of my temperature-adjusted home with cable and raspberry-flavored Aquafina, exactly what I knew then in the sweat igloo: That it’s up to us.
It’s all up to us. Whatever “it” is? Well, that’s up to us too. It was up to me to sweat like an snowman in Aruba and I got it out of my system (along with who knows what else) and now, well, I’m glad I did it.
But do I need to do it again? I don’t know. For now, I’m just looking for something crunchy. (It’s moon time.)
So, until next time.

March 5, 2007

March 5, 2007

I am a grandmother.
It’s true. I went from being a single woman with as many chances as finding as husband as being picked off by a terrorist to having a granddaughter and a grandson on the way.
Not exactly the most conventional or linear way of going about the circle of life, but hey, I’m here nonetheless.
And I can handle it. I can handle a gaggle of stepchildren and the fact that I’ve completely bypassed parenthood for grandparenthood—the fact that I have pictures of a one-year-old all over my house like my nanny used to have pictures of me and my brother. The fact that I’ve got baby cookies in my pantry and they’re not for me. The fact that I’m looking for inexpensive baby cribs and strollers and accessories to help my stepdaughter Heidi put together another room for another grandchild.
But what I cannot handle, at the less-than-ripe age of 44 (in this instance only) is being called “Grandma.”
C’mon. Grandma? I’m sorry, but I don’t think I fit the traditional picture of a “grandma” (the sexy grandma aside). Now I know what you’re thinking: What is the traditional picture anymore? I don’t know what yours is, but mine is a woman with wrinkles in a neck that jiggles. (Not you, mom. [She’s so fragile.]) It’s frizzy short hair that gets teased and sprayed once a week by a woman named Marlene at a hair salon in a strip mall. It’s a closet full of house frocks made of polyester. It’s furniture with slipcovers. Tissues rolled up in shirt sleeves. And transistor radios in every bedroom so talk radio is accessible when senior hormones keep you from Delta sleep.
It’s not blue jeans and a copper red shag. Four computers and wireless Internet. Tassimo coffee. A new Honda Element. It’s not mountain bikes, guitars, blogs, and novel drafts. My grandmas didn’t have gas fireplaces. They never spent a weekend pulling up carpets to lay their own hardwood. Child custody and visitation issues were discussed on the AM dial. And they surely weren’t newlyweds.
So you can see how I’m struggling with the moniker. Grandma? Who’s that? And when did she get here?
No, no, no. I just can’t do it. I can’t let some poor creature barely on earth for a year indulge such a lapse in judgment. Kylie (and babyX-to-be), let me give you your first piece of advice as your whatever: DON’T CALL ME GRANDMA.
———————————————–
When I tell my friends that I don’t want my new grandchildren to actually call me Grandma, they come up with a set of alternatives so piss poor that I want to eat an entire chocolate Pepperidge Farm layer cake and throw myself into traffic.
“Why don’t you have them call you ‘Nona’? That means grandmother in Phillipino.”
“How about Mimi, that’s grandmother in [insert foreign country since the origin escapes me]?”
“Or chokolatay, which is grandmother in the old Indian language of Ijibaway Reservationo?”
“How about ‘Glam-ma?”

Now, if I was Phillipino, Spanish, Italian, Swahili, Cherokee Indian, or wore anything other than Gap Body black stretch pants and flip flops, I might consider some of these options. But I’m not. And I don’t. I’m Jewish and hardly glamorous. (Sorry again, mom.) And before you say anything, I REFUSE to be called “Bubby.” That’d just send me over edge I now live on.
A year ago, when Kylie, was born, Dan and I agreed she’d call us “Mick and Jeri”—named for Mick Jagger and Jeri Hall, grandparents before their time. After all, we were only 43 and 49 respectively when Kylie shot out of her mother like a kidney stone the size of a refrigerator. Poor Heidi, her labor was more like captivity. (It was so insufferable, her four-day experience became urban legend—the worst of the worst–at the Princeton Hospital.)
And yet, Mick and Jeri didn’t get us very far and for the first year of Kylie’s life, that was fine. But now the little bugger is talking. And we have to give her something to work with or be relegated to whatever she comes up with. And I’m not willing to risk it. After all, if “Poopy and Pop-Pop” sticks, there’s scant little we’ll be able to do about it.
As if that weren’t bad enough, now that there’s another one on the way, the stakes have doubled. So, Dan and I are on the hunt for just the right label.
Last weekend, we thought we had it. We were at the Food Court at the Mall, when it hit us. The perfect names. Kylie would call Dan “Master Wok.” And she’d call me “Sbarro.” Yes, they may be a bit difficult to pronounce in the early years, but eventually, they’d roll off her tongue like a good bit of throw up.
When I told Heidi, however, she laughed for a bit and then said, “You are kidding, right?”
I wasn’t—we weren’t. But I took that as a sign that she wasn’t too happy about it. So, here’s where you come in: Please, sweet Jesus, HELP US.
Now I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but save your grandmother or grandfather in a foreign language. We just can’t do it. We’re Americans and that’s irrefutable. With that caveat, we are hoping (praying? begging?) that somebody somewhere out there can provide us with names more appropriate than “Bain’s Deli.”
Let’s make it a contest, although there is no prize save the fact that you’ll be helping out a fellow American. Like the many advertisements for writers and editors on Craigslist.com, there is no compensation, but millions will be exposed to your genuis.
So let us know what you’ve got. Hurry. Kylie will soon be reciting Shakespeare and planning her wedding. Hit the little “Comments” button below and give us SOMETHING. ANYTHING.
Thank you in advance. And until next time.

February 13, 2007

February 13, 2007

This is for all divorced fathers, who are being denied access to their children by misguided mothers. And to C, of course, who we love.
“Today, I made a choice. I chose to hold you close to me instead of going off into my sorrow. I chose to let the wound in my heart heal for a day, instead of letting it open up once again to remind me of the intense pain of my loss, and the pain of knowing that somewhere my little girl is lost and scared. Today, I chose to dream of how good it will feel to have her back in my arms instead of crying for her and what she is going through. I chose to celebrate that some day she will be healthy, and that she will understand, and that she too, will heal. I chose to feel sorry for those hurting her instead of feeling yesterday’s anger towards them, knowing they do this out of ignorance rather than clouded love. I chose to forgive them for their hatred, prejudice, lying and selfish misguidance. Tomorrow, I will have to choose again.”
Daniel Lee Murray
“Today and everyday, I am a stepmother. I love being a stepmother, although it brings no glory, save for the warmth of knowing and loving a child. And while I’m not my stepdaughter’s biological mother, I am part of the village of people with the privilege—and the charter—of loving her. Helping to create for her a healthy and stable childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Contrary to the old and all-too-well accepted fable (which should be put to rest with Saddam Hussein and the eight-track tape player), I am not evil. Unless, of course, you put olives on my pizza—or deny me pizza altogether. Then, I’ll hurt you.”
Daniel’s wife (me)
I first met C two years ago, when Dan and I had been dating for a few months but knew we were onto something serious. She was seven–and very protective of her father. I knew that because she arrived at my door looking like an angry customer—arms crossed, scowling, as if I had sold her a $5,000 flat screen TV that, once home, crumbled to ash.
I was an oversized piece of fresh flesh and she was a dinosaur. I was an alien force invading her father’s world, threatening her place in it. With parents who’ve been married for 50 years, I’ve never had the experience of meeting my mother or father’s new partner, but I can only imagine that it’s weird. And unsettling. Unless, of course, in the end, the new alien turns out to be ET. And even more importantly, makes clear in the eyes of the child the role she plays in her universe.
This was all I aspired to be—ET. Fun, considerate, loving. Clear. In the past, my role models were gifted authors like Isabelle Allende and David Sedaris. Today, however, it’s a made-up character from a 30-year-old Stephen Spielberg movie. And this night, I knew, was the first in a long ladder of steps for C and I towards my achieving it.
I remember before Dan and C arrived that that night, that I’d spent hours searching for just the right “meet the daughter” outfit. Funny, since the last time I started a new relationship, I was going to meet my boyfriend’s parents.
I tossed clothes around my closet like a police officer looking for the murder weapon. The final choice couldn’t be too school marmy or porn starry (not that I have either of those kinds of clothes in my closet, much to my husband’s chagrin). Something that screamed, “I’m going to be your stepmother and please LOVE ME.”
Forty minutes, seven shirts, five expletives, four pairs of pants, and three pairs of shoes later, I ended up wearing my “uniform”: Black jeans, my favorite beige flip flop wedgies from ALDO, and a basic white V-neck. I figured it was innocuous enough to keep me out of trouble.
When the doorbell rang, Sophie, still with us back then, barked with great glee at the sight of a new blonde playmate. I opened the door and my Golden Retriever, wearing a tee-shirt to hide the scars from a recent surgery, stuck her big wet snout against C’s cheek, licking it like it was a lollipop made of pure beef.
Before I knew it, my angry customer had gotten her refund. Placated and now smiling, we head for hill that led us into town, where there was a street fair and, should we need it, the healing effects of a calm and gentle river.
On Main, we spent an hour browsing the local vendors. Mystics, shopkeepers, and tourists lined up in booths on either sides of the road like a pair of painted valances. I bought C an appropriately cheap charm for her bracelet at “Love Saves the Day”—a novelty shop with a cult following that I found appropriately euphemistic for the moment. And I sweat. A lot. Out of nerves and middle-aged heat, until finally, the sun set on the event, the August air got crisp, and we prepared to leave for the shelter of the restaurant: Giuseppes. That’s right, pizza.
There, the wait was short and the dinner was caloric. We ate cheesy everything and drank soda pop. Dan did his “salt trick.” C and I blew straw covers at one another. Played footsies. Giggled at way we could make bubbles in our liquids. And while C rolled strands of cheese around her fingers like a nurse bandaging a wound, Dan and I snuck in a few knowing glances. By the end of the night, we were all in good standing.
When the time came for Dan to take C back home, I shook C’s hand. She clung to the light blue poncho (an evening gown on her small frame) I had given her before the street fair in case she got cold when the sun went down. And I let her have it, even though it was one of my favorites.
While they drove away, I felt proud that I had tamed the dinosaur—and that C had soothed my alien. Still, I think we both knew, in our own age-respective way, that this was just the beginning. I hoped she was just as excited about getting to what came next as I was.
After they left, I waited patiently for Dan’s phone call so we could recap while he drove home. “What did she say?” “Did she like me?” “Did she have fun?” “Does she know we’re a couple or does she think we’re just friends?” “How did I do?” “Was the charm bracelet too much?” “Did Sophie help?”
It was an excruciating 15 minutes, and then he called. “Hey.”
“Hey, did you drop her off?”
“Yep.” He laughed.
“She hates me.”
“No.” Still laughing.
“I had a booger in my nose the whole time and you both made fun of me on the ride.”
“No, c’mon babe.”
“I sweat too much.”
“Stop.”
“Well, what did she say?” Good lord, it was more important for a seven-year-old to like me than for my mother to tell me I looked thin in my blue jeans. Who was I?
“Nothing.”
“Nothing? What do you mean, nothing?”
“She didn’t say a word. I dropped her off. She gave me a hug and a kiss and that was it.”
Shit. I did something worse than make a bad impression—I didn’t make ANY impression.
“Well, okay then.” I felt like crying. All that energy, the tee-shirt, the black pants, the bracelet, my dying dog, the pizza, for naught.
He started laughing.
“Why are you laughing? I mean, I’m FORGETABLLE.” I was getting pissed. It wasn’t his ass on the line. He already knew C. She already loved him. She didn’t cling to his blue poncho. She didn’t ignore who he was.
“Well, I’m laughing because she called me after I dropped her off. In tears.”
Oh my God, it’s worse than I thought. “Did I do something to offend her? SHE HATES ME. I HURT A CHILD. Who am I, babe? WHO AM I? Was it the poncho? Wrong color? The charm bracelet? The sight of a middle-aged woman sweating like an overheated St. Bernard? WHAT?”
“No, no. She said that when we get married, can she please be the flower girl because Heidi [Dan’s other daughter, 26, married, pregnant and utterly delightful] promised she could be the flower girl and then got married in Las Vegas without her!” He is laughing hard now.
Kids are smart, you know. Smarter than we give them credit for. And C was—and still is—no exception. In fact, we’re counting on it.
—————————————————-
For a long time, C didn’t call me by name. She just sort of tugged on my sleeve, or looked at me when she spoke. I told Dan that when she actually called me by my name, I knew I’d be “in.” It took about a month. But one day, while we were all in the car heading for the Columbus Flea Market to buy socks and a bunch of plastic things we didn’t need, she said it. “Hey Jill? While we’re there? Want to get something for Sophie?”
It was a great moment. One that makes me chuckle at the memory. I remember, Dan squeezed my hand and mouthed the words, “See, she likes you.” And I remember thinking, yeah, maybe she does.
———————————————————-
Dan and I got engaged by surprise, one Saturday morning, when we were out for a walk and a latte. There was an antique jewelry store next to Starbucks, and we found ourselves browsing the diamonds in the window.
“Let’s go in,” I said, “Just for fun.”
When we came out, we were engaged. We hadn’t planned it that way. Still, the diamond was “me”, the moment was spontaneous, the match was right, Mercury was out of retrograde, and we had a credit card with a low balance and 0 percent APR for a year. So Dan got on one good knee (which is a gift in and of itself at middle age) and popped the question—much to his surprise and mine. He asked me to marry him much the way you’d ask your accountant if you could take your new guitar as a tax deduction—with great hope and wonder. I said yes. We hugged each other and Ronnie the salesperson, and off we went.
The following weekend we had C. We really wanted her to be a part of things—to feel that she had a heavy hand in the decision and, really, she did. If she didn’t want it, we wouldn’t do it—not until she was comfortable. But by then, C and I had made it up a few rungs of the relationship ladder and were doing just fine.
So as a way to include her, we decided to re-enact the event. On the Friday night of the next weekend we had her, I went to my friend Lorrie’s house for a girl’s night so Dan and C could spend the evening without me.
He picked her up in Delaware (the halfway point between here and Maryland, where C and her mother now live) with my ring in his pocket. (And believe me, it was not easy to part with it.) As they drove, he told her that, the next morning, he wanted to ask me to be part of their family. And that he had invited Heidi for breakfast. And together, they’d all propose. He showed her the ring.
I got home at about 10 that night. That’s when Dan went to walk Sophie for her last poop of the evening. He was no sooner out the door, than C dragged me into the kitchen. She was frantic.
“Jill, okay, I have to tell you something, but you can’t tell my dad that I told you. Swear. SWEAR.”
“I swear. I SWEAR. What?” Is she on drugs? Did she get in trouble at school? Does she harbor a secret desire to be a man?
“Okay,” and off she goes, talking in warped speed. “Um, my dad told me that he is going to ask you to be part of our family tomorrow morning and that, um, Heidi is coming over and that we’re going to make you breakfast as a surprise in the morning and that he bought you a diamond ring and that we’re all going to ask you to be part of our family and marry us.”
She looks nervous. I am stunned and unsure what to do—suddenly, I’m keeping the secret from C that we’re engaged, even though the secret is that we’re already engaged and now I have to negotiate a new secret from Dan that I know what C knows about our getting engaged and I know how we’re getting engaged, even though we are engaged and have been engaged for a week.
This was almost as confusing as the computer class I had to take in grad school.
“Uh, uh,” I say. “Wow, really? Really?” I smile. Even though I know it’s true and we’ve already done it, I can’t help but feel a fresh rush at the prospect of doing it with C and Heidi present. I am also washed by long waves of love for this small child who, so adorable and innocent, is trying to cram in everything she has to say (which is a lot) before her Dad comes home.
“Jill, wipe that look off your face,” she says. “WIPE THAT LOOK OFF YOUR FACE!”
I have no idea what the look is, but I can only imagine. “You mean, this one?” And I cross my eyes and scrunch up my nose and pull my lips out real wide and start to laugh. C does too. I grab her shoulders and pull her close, whispering in her ear, “How I love you, silly.”
Tomorrow morning, when the event takes place, I wink at her. Kids are smart all right.
——————————————————–
Since that time, there have been so many of these stories. Each weave creates the yarn that continues to expand and grow into a giant blanket, warm and cozy, as time passes. I’ve worked hard to build a strong relationship with C and Heidi—and to learn the freedoms and boundaries, the joys and perils, of being a step parent.
While it’s always rewarding, it isn’t always easy—in our case, we have a mother who,for whatever reason, we feel she does not want us in C’s life as she continues to stop us from seeing her. Perhaps she is fearful that she’ll lose her, or is threatened by having another woman love her. I guess I can understand that to a point. But we can all love her. We’re not trying to take her away. And I’m not trying to be her mother. It’s not a contest.
Sadly, it’s a situation that’s all too common. Just last week, Dan and I were out running errands, when we met a car dealer and a florist who had gone through divorce and alienation from their child under similar circumstances. And when I tell the story to my friends, they tell me about somebody else they know going through it.
Which leads me to this: I recognize that there are many fathers who default on their obligations, but what about the fathers who are being frozen without recourse out of their child’s lives? What about the fathers who love their children but are denied access because of the dysfunction that rises like a cloud of toxic air in the other household? What about the fathers who, like my husband and too many others, walk around with a set of ready tears—triggered by the common sight of a tender moment between somebody else and their child?
What an awful and precarious way to go through life. And even more tragic, how unnecessary.
I would think all mothers would want as many people as possible on their child’s side. But then again, I’m healthy. I’ve done my work—and keep doing it. I see it as my personal, emotional, and spiritual obligation to make sure that I bring to all the children in my life (and there are many) the best I have to offer—on their behalf.
Because I am a grownup. I had my childhood and am able to fend for myself. Children, on the other hand, rely on us to make decisions that are best for them. I have to ask: Are we doing that? Daily? All of us?
God bless Hillary Clinton who, no matter what your politics, was dead on in saying that “It takes a village to raise a child.” It’s a nice and perhaps overused catchphrase—only because it’s an even more powerful truth.
I say that there’s room for a lot of people in that village—biologically connected and otherwise.
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I have two step-daughters. (Well, actually four, but that’s another story for another time.) C is nine now. And Heidi is 26, married, the mother of a one-year-old, and pregnant with her second. They are both blessings. C is a blooming flower (or was, who knows now given the toll of current circumstances). And Heidi shines so brightly, sometimes I can barely see past the light that glows around her.
Step-parenting each has been a completely different experience, requiring completely different sets of skills and reflexes. It’s like being in two separate novels simultaneously. Two separate action films. Two different parts of the moon, sun, and the universe. The air is similar, but the ground strength varies. Sometimes, it’s like riding a motorcycle on thin ice. And others, it’s like frolicking in a sea of cotton.
I love my stepchildren. And not because I’m trying to be their mother, but because we are all born with the instinct to love for a reason. It’s nature. And it’s beautiful.
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So I will end this post with this:
The notion of the evil stepmother is a fallacy. It’s a time-honored non-truth. Not all stepmothers are evil, just like not all mothers are good.
Senseless conflicts at the cost of a child are just that: senseless. I stand firmly in the belief that there’s room for all of us in a child’s heart. Especially a father. Because we only get one, and for such a short time. Because life is short.
Remove the village from the child and what remains is a sad and lonely little girl on a hill.
When we asked the car dealer and the florist how they overcame the situation of never being able to see their child, their answer was simple: They never gave up.
And just like them, neither will we.
Until next time.

January 26, 2007

January 26, 2007

Today, I am crying. I am crying for a little girl who has been isolated from a community that loves her. I am crying for how she must feel, out there, all alone. Wondering why. I am crying because of all the promises she thinks we’ve broken even though we’ve done (are doing) all we can to keep them. Still we cannot tell her. Because she comes first.
I’m crying for my deep love for her. Because although she is not my own, she is mine. As are all of our children all of ours to love and safe keep.
Today, I am crying. For her, first and foremost. And for the people I love and their pain. I am crying because I am in pain. And I know that there are others, like me, like us, who are struggling. I long to wrap my arms around them and tell them, it’ll all be okay. But I can’t. Because I don’t know that. None of us do.
Some days, I don’t know what I know. Or if I know anything.
Today, I am crying because, in the middle of the world spinning, we are all hurt. And yet, to heal ourselves is a dying and transcendent act. To take every moment in every day to ask ourselves, how can we do better to lick life’s wounds, to recover what we’ve lost, is something we owe ourselves–and, even more importantly, we owe our children.
Today, I am crying because too many forget. Even though, I haven’t.
Today, I reflect on how different things might be if more remembered. If they stayed awake and lived in truth. Our children might never feel isolated. Or alone. And I might be crying, instead, for a broken finger or a peeled onion.
Or perhaps there would be no tears.
What I do know is that, today, I would be writing something much different.

January 18, 2007

January 18, 2007

The other night, I had drinks and a light dinner with a few folks from the Wild River Review (yes, the sexy grandma was there and she did not disappoint! :) ). For some reason, we got into this heated debate (well, maybe low boil) over whether a woman should change her name after marriage. One of the women there, we’ll call her “Big Tall Blonde Drink of Water” said that she didn’t understand why women who got married later in life would change their name.
As one of those said women, I quickly came to my own defense. “I really think that if you’re in the same family, you should have the same last name. It’s a question of shared values.” I have no idea what I’m saying. But it sounded good.
“Oh,” said Big Tall Blonde Drink of Water (who happens to be very thin and have fabulous clothes which she gets at a discount because her daughter works for the retailer… bitch), “well, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing but you’ve worked so hard to earn your professional name, why change it?”
(Why? WHY? WHY? Always so many questions. Can we get through ONE day without a question?)
“Well,” I said, “I changed it because I can now be Jill Sherer or Jill Murray or Jill Sherer Murray or Just Jill if I feel like it.” Besides, I thought to myself, I like having options. Options are good. I like seeing the name Murray on a cable bill. It gives me a feeling of comfort in knowing that it’s not just my responsibility. Murray is something new and different. A novelty. I like the change. Change is good. It sounds better than Sherer. It’s easier to spell. People like it. Sometimes, when I say it, I notice they look at me differently. Like I’m special. And they want to hug me. Praise me. Tell me I’m a great writer. And that I’m looking very toned these days.
Why? Who the hell knows why? Because it’s just someting you do. And since it took me so long to get into the “wife club” I’m gonna milk it by taking my husband’s name. And saying “my husband” a lot.
Now, that doesn’t mean I’m having a sex change operation so I can take on some of his other attributes (although wouldn’t we all like THAT for just one day, don’t lie, you know it’s true). It’s just a collection of letters, for goodness sakes. Still, it’s not the first time I’ve had this debate since I’ve gotten married. Friends, family, continue to tell me how weird it is to see my name come up as “J. Murray” instead of “J. Sherer” on their caller IDs. As if I’ve thrown something off axis in the universe. I mean, sometimes they sound downright belligerant.
“You know, I screen you because I forget you’re Jill Murray,” says my best friend, Lorrie. “I hope you’re happy now.”
Well I say “live with it.” “Adapt.” After all, I have. And, if you’ve been reading, you know that hasn’t exactly been a walk through the shoe department at Nordstrom’s.
So anyway, back to the bar with Big Tall Drink and Sexy Grandma and another WRR Staffer who I’ll call “The Other Big Tall Drink.” Now, several minutes have passed and I’m still talking to Big Tall Drink, who’s at this point on the cell phone confirming her next appointment. When it hits me the conversation ended several minutes ago and I’m now officially talking to myself–in my head, of course–because I really do adore Big Tall Drink of Water. She is very wise and I look to her on many matters as a mentor.
Still, I’m tired and hungry and cranky and tired of explaining myself and wondering if women in their 20s who get married get interrogated as often as I do about changing their names. See, this is why I can NEVER wean myself off of transfats. They comfort me in these moments (I hear Geneen Roth and Richard Simmons collectively gasp). And while they’re bad for me, I know, they’re a lot better for me than heroin. Ergo, my logic.
In fact, a a tuna hoagie from the old Maggios sounds really good right about now. (I hear the new Maggios isn’t so good.) But some hotshot behind the bar is asking me, instead, if I want wine. I snort and take a deep breath.
“I don’t waste my calories on liquor,” I tell him. “Ple-ease.”
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I was very disturbed to learn of the recent trend that, experts say, marks a new turning point in the history of our cultural consciousness. (Hey, that sounded pretty good, didn’t it?) I’m talking about the fact that 51 percent of all women today are now single. And that, for the first time in history, married women are now the minority.
To that I say this: Life is so not fair. I mean, I finally got myself into the majority by getting married and now I’m in the minority again? Where’s the justice? Not that I’m not happy about being married. I love my husband. He is the most perfect partner on earth for me–and I have yet to go into the bathroom and find the toilet seat up.
Still, it sure was nice for five minutes not to be the odd woman out. The poor poor single Sally everybody worried would grow old and die alone. Without children or family. Hair sprouting from her chin, neck and upper lip like a hormonal Chia pet. Too large to fit into a Minicooper and too feeble to drive a bus for extra income. Ugly, despondent and perfectly representative of the classic spinster–only modern day. Well, you know where I’m going …”
It took me decades to finally be able to drop the phrase, “Well, my husband thinks …” or “My husband and I went there …” or “Oh, we just moved here …” and so on and it doesn’t matter. Nobody cares anymore. In fact, from all the news reports, it sounds like I’m to be pitied by the recently widowed, single and divorced.
Well, from where I sit, being in the majority is starting to look overrated. So take that ladies. If being in the majority means going back to buying throw pillows and hauling groceries up six flights of stairs by myself? Forget about it.
Until next time.

January 3, 2007

January 3, 2007

I resolve not to resolve any more because, frankly, my resolve is just not strong enough. See, resolving is just a set up for failure. Folks, trust me, don’t do it. I’m talking from experience.
After all, it’s 2:35 p.m. on January 3rd–just THREE DAYS, barely 36 hours, since the start of the New Year,when all good resolutions take effect. Yet, with you as my witness, I have to confess: I’ve been to Home Goods already in 2007. (See previous post.)
Twice.
As if that weren’t bad enough, there’s not a lick of beer in the house. Not even an empty bottle in the trash. I have yet to pull a full string of floss from its brand new defective container. And this morning, the dog growled at me when I gave her a gourmet doggie treat.
See? This is what I’m talking about. This is why I don’t resolve to resolve. Why spend the money on a crate makeover? Trimming class? Expensive moisturizers? Because when I do, it’s a setup for failure. (I know I shouldn’t write that out loud, but c’mon.) Thank GOD I didn’t resolve to lose weight, because I don’t know how I would’ve survived the weekend without that tuna hoagie and onion rings.
And can I help it if we spent the past four days painting the dining room, toiling over four coats of “Autumn Maple,” and I needed a little reward for my efforts? Is it my fault that I was compelled to buy a discounted plant to complete the look of the room that was the sacrifice our long weekend?
Can I help it if our new house just happens to be a spit and a kick away from a shopping complex as enticing as George Clooney in a jock strap and baby oil?
Good grief, I’M ONLY HUMAN people. Lighten up.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: there’s no hope for me. And yet, to all those who have been looking to me for inspiration here, my deepest apologies. I’ve let you down. I know it. (This is one of the perils of public life.) But don’t give up on me just yet. In fact, as I write, I’m out the door for a family-sized box of condoms and a six pack.
Everybody deserves a second chance.
Until then, I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Rest assured, I vow to drink, engage in lewd and suggestive behavior, and write a book in the days and months ahead. So keep the faith, people.
Keep the faith.

2006 Archive
December 28, 2006

December 28, 2006

I would be remiss if I didn’t post an entry with my New Year’s resolutions, you know, those things we either vow to do every year or not to make at all. This year, I’m going middle road. I’ll put them out there, but I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t achieve them.
That’s because I’m looking for a no pressure year. In fact, that’s my first new year’s resolution:
1. Create no pressure.
I liken it to the “Do no harm” clause in the doctor’s handbook.
My second new year’s resolution is CLEARLY to write a book. I mean, c’mon. I am a “writer” in mid-life crisis. Not just your “average Joe” in mid-life crisis because, really, isn’t that how most writers see themselves? As not average? (Although, I’m not saying we see ourselves as necessarily better than average either.) Or maybe that’s just a human thing.
Whatever. (Goes to create no pressure, which includes not having to fully explain myself. At least not for the next 12 months.)
Okay, so we’ve got one and two:
1. Create no pressure.
2. Write a book.
Here’s number three: Floss.
Threw you off, didn’t I? You thought I was going to put something in there about losing weight. (It’s okay, I’m not offended. I know I’m chubby.) But I refuse to do it. No way. I’d rather repave all the potholes in Colorado than put a clause in my new year’s resolutions about losing weight. Because it never works. Never. If it works for you, tell me how. I’m serious. Write to me. Has anybody out there EVER resolved to lose weight and actually done it? Because I’ve seen you all at the gym, where I have to wait mercilessly for an elliptical machine in January and, come February, it’s all mine again. Whenever I want it. So don’t judge me. I’m you. (Remember?) AND I’M NOT RESOLVING TO LOSE WEIGHT. Forget it.
Again, create no pressure. Do no harm. Which brings me back to flossing.
Why do so many of us fail to do this? It’s what? A five-minute experience once a day? Not the most pleasant—surely not like having an egg nog latte or finding the perfect white tee shirt. On sale. But it’s better than gum surgery (sans the gas).
And so, I will add it to my evening ritual like having sex.
Which brings me to my next new year’s resolution (mom, cover your eyes): MORE SEX. Even if I don’t want it. Even if I’ve spent the entire day painting, doing sit ups, push ups, walking the dog, actually having gum surgery and then hauling large vats of cement up my neighbor’s long steps. Even if I throw out my back, dislodge an important knee joint, feel the full wrath of my peri-menopausal condition (night sweats, afternoon hot flashes) or fail to fit into my sweats. Even if I lose my biggest client and our Home Depot card is repossessed. Even if the cable goes out and Comcast can’t fix the problem for a week. Even if Dan slips into a coma. Or develops sudden amnesia and is found wandering the streets. I’ll find him. Make it happen. I’m that resolute. No matter what the physical, mental or emotional issues of the day, I vow to have MORE SEX. (After all, if the sexy grandma can do it — see fellow blogger.)
So let’s recap to this point:
1. Create no pressure.
2. Write a book.
3. Floss.
4. Sex it up.
Oh, ooh, take more pictures with our digital camera and actually develop them. Yep, that’s definitely my next one. First, though, I have to find the camera. I know it’s in this house somewhere. But where?
Number six: Stay out of Home Goods. Even though I can practically spit at it from my new house where I need just about EVERYTHING. Even though every time I drive by I hear it call me in a voice that resembles Linda Blair’s in the Exorcist. “Jill,” deep guttural growl. “You WILL come in. You WILL shop.” And then, there’s green spew everywhere. (Well, not really, but consider it for effect”¦)
Which leads me naturally into the next one: Remember that credit is real money. (I might have to delete this one, however, because it directly violates resolutions number one, three and four. Don’t ask.)
Number eight: Learn how to be a better trimmer. I’m talking all things ”“ bushes, eyebrows, upper lip hair, painting the bathroom, bangs, Winnie’s nails, the fat, just anything in general. I mean, we never really stop to think about how trimming impacts our every day lives. Aside from the obvious improvements, I think being a better trimmer would greatly improve the quality of my life (not to mention give me a better shot at heaven, in a non-secular way, if you know what I’m saying).
Nine: Moisturize. Seems self-explanatory.
Ten: Learn how to sell shit on eBay. I am so sick and tired of people saying to me, “You should sell that on ebay.” If I had a nickel … Like the box of Rolling Stone Magazines I have in the garage, my old eight tracks, and a half-closet full of size six clothes. (Contrary to the new agers, optimistic thinking doesn’t always work.)
And then I think, yeah, I should. I should do a lot of things, like get Tivo and program the VCR and change the oil in my car. Read up on the Intel Pentium chip because I know it’s more than just a ring tone and a logo with a nice collection of primary colors.
Number 11: Get the dog to love me. I mean, I know she does. Especially when it’s bodily function time (feed me, I have to poop, pee, run in circles in the park, mount strangers). But as soon as Dan comes home, I could be lying dead in the gas fireplace, toked to the max, and she’d be oblivious. So, this year, I’m upping the ante.
Better treats. Designer booties. Gold-plated chew toys. More one-on-one time doing things with other mommies and their collies and retrievers. A few more heart to hearts. Stuffed wildebeests, with easy open seams and access to fuzz stuffing. More table food. An extreme makeover of her crate. (I can hear Ty now, “Move that, uh, chair!”) More throw up time, with leniency to let go on the carpet. More productive begging. I’m optimistic here. After all, how do you think I landed my husband? (Single ladies, take note.)
Where we’re at:
1. Create no pressure.
2. Write a book.
3. Floss.
4. Sex it up.
5. Locate digital camera.
6. Shun Home Goods.
7. Credit is money. Really.
8. Improve trimming skills.
9. Lube a lot.
10. Master eBay.
11. Win over the dog.
Yep, sounds good. Okay, just a few more. Number 12: Get better at pretending to like football (baby, this one’s for you). I think this is really a patience issue, so let me reword (it’s all about rewriting): Develop more patience for football. Because I think it’s unrealistic to think that I’d ever be more patient in general. I am, after all, now 34. (Shut up, you.)
Thirteen: Drink more so I can cut back on my antidepressants. Frankly, I hardly ever remember to take the little pink pills anymore (and where are they anyway? probably with the camera) so I think it’d just be easier to keep a beer at the ready.
Which brings me to my next and final resolution:
Buy more beer.
To recap:
12. Dig football.
13. Take up drinking.
14. More Ying Ylueng.
Well, I think that does it. Sheesh, I had a lot more resolutions than I realized. Thank you! Writing is so cathartic. Well, I’d love to know about your resolutions. And if you don’t feel like sharing or fall into that category I mentioned way back when—“I don’t make resolutions”—well, have a happy new year anyway.
(Kill joy.)
Until 2007!

December 21, 2006

December 21, 2006

Well, folks, this past month has TRULY taken the cake. My deepest apologies for taking so long to post, but I’ve had a lot of life over the past 30 days and simply had to prioritize. Not that you — or this blog — aren’t important, but the basics of living had to come first.
What’s been happening you ask? Well, we went on a honeymoon, cancelled buying a new house only to have a cash buyer on our old house come in at the last minute so we could recommit to the new house, which left us with two weeks to pack 1,500 square feet of space and move in to almost 3,000.
We went through two settlements (both of them nail biters), three moves (we had to put our stuff in storage and live with my folks for a week), several states (on vacation and otherwise), one bout of the flu (me, of course), countless numbers of Tums, several bottles of Nyquil, three vet visits (Winnie jumped out of a moving car and lived to tell, but that’s another blog), 10 six packs, and a credit crisis (to Pier 1: I am Jill Murray, REALLY).
But now, I’m back. A little world weary and road tested, with an ever deepening identity crisis, but back. In our new house, unpacked, and happy to have finally landed.
Aaah, rites of passages bring so many interest things. A new name, a new address, a new telephone number, a new dog, a new life. When I call Comcast to tell them that I still can’t get online even though they’ve been here 17 times, and they ask me for my name and address so they can access my account, I’m often stumped. I mean, where am I? Who am I? Really? Who is anybody?
This question comes to me almost every day anymore. Case in point, a few days after we moved in to what I now call “our final resting place” (because I’ll never move again), I had to vacuum. That’s because we have plush bland neutral vanilla carpets throughout the entire house and they attract dirt like Match.com attracts lonely singles at the end of their ropes.
With a heavy heart, and mourning the beautiful hard wood we had in the old house, I brush the dust off the Hoover WindTunnel I was forced to buy when I moved home (thanks mom) and spent a few minutes locating the “on” switch. After 15 minutes, I got down to work, pushing the toddler-sized appliance towards the kaleidoscope specks of fresh dirt and watching them disappear like old boyfriends. It was almost rewarding and that’s when I realized that I might need help.
I mean, there I stood, pushing the vacuum cleaner like a soccer mom pushes a baby carriage — with simultaneous fascination, boredom, and fortitude — wondering how Jill Sherer found her way to this very spot: Vacuuming in black stretch pants and an old pair of flip flops, with The View on the television in the background.
Talk about a seismic shift in image. If Jill Sherer and Jill Murray got in a boxing ring, Jill Sherer would likely win the fight, but Jill Murray would have the best remedy for getting the blood off of the floor without damaging the varnish.
Oh dear.
It dawns on me that the divide between Jill Murray and Jill Sherer is beginning to widen quickly, as time and circumstance march forward. One thing is for sure: It they were put to a Rorschach test, they would certainly respond much differently than ever before.
Three months ago:
JM: “Definitely a pair of Ugg boots. Mid-calf. Probably brown.”
JS: “Absolutely. Could even be tan.”
Today
JM: “Obviously a new screen door with cream-colored trim. Or, wait, some kind of newfangled filter for the air conditioner or a dining room table top? Did you say 13 months to pay with no interest?”
JS: “That Mackenzie Thorpe’s is a genius. Why, look at the new shape of his canvas. I can only imagine the brushstrokes. Love it. Do you take a personal check?”
Jill Murray and Jill Sherer are the modern day middle-aged more cowardly versions of little darlings Thelma and Louise. Steve Martin and John Candy in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” Betty and Wilma with cellulite (thanks to a lack of exercise due to progress in the auto engine industry — but that’s obvious).
Jill Murray vacuums regularly, has a Home Depot credit card, neighbors with a minivan and two cars seats, and a collection of Walt Disney DVDs.
Jill Sherer would have never seen the point of a Home Depot credit card. Walt Disney is for little people with runny noses, low expectations, and desirous of a milky before bedtime. A minivan is for transporting inmates. And a car seat is simply inconvenient, especially when you need the real estate for too many shopping bags and large purchases.
Now I know I talk about these girls a lot, and won’t for much longer, but here’s my point: I’m living in a real house now after decades of apartment and city living and, well, I’m just confused. So there you have it. Now let’s move on, shall we?
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A blog wouldn’t be a blog without a mom story, so here goes:
My mother and I had a fight the other day because she called to remind me to change the address on our car insurance. I said we’d get to it when they forwarded the bill. She said what if they didn’t forward the bill. I said what if there was a nuclear bomb and we were all blown up tomorrow. She wasn’t amused. Then I said we’d call, but we just haven’t had time. She said I had plenty of time for lunch with Lorraine and Lorrie for my birthday and to go to Home Goods, I should make these more important things a priority. After all, she had two children, a job (as a receptionist for a proctologist, working from 9 to noon, mind you), a husband who traveled and yet, she still had time to take care of important things. I’m married now. I should do it. After all, my husband goes to work everyday. (Gee, what do I do?) Because, after all, if we have a problem, who’s gonna bail us out? She is. That’s right. She is. So she has the right to ask whether we’ve taken care of it. After all, she’s always been there to bail us out. To take care of it. But I am taking care of it, mom, I said. We just moved in, we went out of town for business, I’ve been sick. Well, that’s not good enough, she said. And if you don’t take care of it, I won’t sleep. Well, as long as she doesn’t call me in the middle of the night, I guess that’s okay. Because what can I do? Get an affidavit from the insurance company that we took care of it to alleviate her concerns? A notarized statement? Am I not taking care of things? Am I a total and complete incompetent because we haven’t yet addressed the issue of changing our address on the bill for our car insurance? You know what, she said, I’m just not gonna care about it or anything anymore. You’re on your own. You’re married now. You said that already, I said. You take care of it. You do whatever you want to do. You set your own priorities. Because I can’t be in charge of them or worry about them. Okay, mom, good point. And so if you have a problem, you’ll have to fix it. Okay, mom. I think that’s just fine. Because daddy and I have done all we could to raise you and make you and your brother the best people you can be. Now, we just have to wash our hands of it all. Okay, mom. (As if I’m talking to her from prison.) That’s okay. We’ll be okay. It’s just that I would think you’d stay on top of these things. I mean, you’re a grown woman. You’re gonna be 44. I know that, but thanks for the reminder, I said. (Like I’d forgotten.) Well, yes, usually we do, but it’s been very hectic. Well, we all have hectic lives and I have a hard enough time staying on top of my own so you know what? I wash my hands of it. Okay mom. Okay? Okay. I’ll just talk to you later. Okay? Okay. Okay. Bye.
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I have got to tell you about the cranky Holiday Grinch of a FedEx guy who came to my door yesterday to deliver some furniture I ordered and then I’m off to walk the dog up the merciless hill in our new park. (When, for heaven’s sake, are they coming out the MIRACLE WEIGHT LOSS PILL ALREADY?) It was the kind of furniture that’s heavy, granted, and in several boxes needing assembly (thank God I married a contractor). But hey, it’s not my fault that’s how it was constructed. And, as far as I’m concerned, I’m helping to support his salary, so let me just say that up front.
I’m upstairs in the loft working when the dog starts to bark mercilessly. Now usually I just scream and tell her to shut up (in a loving yet firm way of course), but this was especially merciless. Like canine distress. So I run down the stairs and peer out the front curtains to see a large delivery truck backing up into our driveway and heading for the front door. First, I wasn’t sure it was going to stop and prepared to call 911. But when it finally did, I was free to stop praying, drop the phone, and regain my clear vision long enough to make out the blue and green FedEx logo. Then, with great glee, I put the dog in her crate and opened the door with a smile. New stuff! Love that!
“Hello. Whaddya got?” I ordered a dresser, a chest, a Asian-inspired file cabinet and credenza, and a rockin’ daybed for the guest bedroom.
The FedEx guy looks like he wants to throw a large box at my upper molars. “Uh, a few very heavy boxes. Did you order something from Home Decorators?” He stops to wipe his brow.
“I sure did. Great! What is it?”
“Gee, I don’t know. They didn’t call to tell me.”
“Oh, uh, huh.” Is he joking?
“I suppose now that you’ve heard me and opened the door, you’re gonna want me to bring them inside?”
No, I think, throw them into the street. “Well, yes, is that okay?” Suddenly I need approval from the FedEx guy? I guess it’s true what they say: You can’t ever have enough therapy.
“Well, not really. But okay.”
“Gee, can I help?” I try to be hospitable. I even think about making him a sandwich.
“Yes,” he says, grunting and lifting the first of three boxes. Tossing them into my living room. “You can stop buying this crap in the first place.”
Okay, am I hearing things or did the FedEx guy just reprimand me for shopping? Does he have my mother in the back of the truck? My lender? A representative from the credit bureau?
“Oh uh.” I laugh nervously.
“I’m not kidding.” He looks right at me, and then spins on his heels to go get the next box. As he approaches the doorway, he says, “People with all these friggin Christmas presents. I’m exhausted.”
For once, I think maybe I should promote the fact that I’m Jewish. “Yeah, well…!”
He cuts me off. “You got more of these boxes coming?”
I’m afraid to answer. I must look really guilty because he says, “Yep, that’s what I figured.”
“Thanks?”
“Uh huh.” And with that, he closes up the back of the truck, climbs into the cabin and drives off. He doesn’t even look back. He’s that good.
Good GODI have a lot to learn from him. And as I head back into the house, I look forward to when he returns.
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One more story and then, I promise, I’m finished. I went on an interview for a freelance gig a few weeks ago. The gentleman who interviewed me, Brian, is a real nice guy. Down to earth. Amiable. Friendly and authentic. I enjoyed our conversation, as it veered from professional to personal. Turns out he’s been married to his high school sweetheart for a long time. (I can’t remember the exact number of years.) And he still speaks very highly and lovingly about her. So I have to ask, as I do of all people I meet who tell me they’ve been happily married for a while: What’s your secret?
He thinks for a minute and gives me an answer I haven’t heard yet: “I always remember to say thank you.”
Wow. I’ve heard friendship, good communication, a sense of humor. But never something as wise and specific as remembering to speak two simple words: thank you. Still, it makes sense. We should thank our partners for all the things they bring to our lives every day — even if it’s just a cup of coffee or a supportive smile. Never take them for granted. (Dan, honey, by the way, trash day is Friday, not Thursday. I had to bring all the boxes you left at the curb this morning back in. Just saying.) So, I say thank you to my husband Dan for, well, staying alive. Because after all we’ve been through with this move, I’d say, that’s enough.
I’d also like to thank all my readers. For reading and being there. I know a lot of you are my friends and family and your taking the time to hear what I have to say means a lot. So, thanks.
Until next time!
Jill
One last thing: Tomorrow (the 22nd) is my birthday. And I’d like to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ALL THE LOST AND FORGOTTEN HOLIDAY-BURIED-BEATEN-AND-SQUANDERED DECEMBER BIRTHDAYS. We deserve better. (I swear, I’m tearing up.)
Okay, now, bye!