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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Notes from this Week


Monday
Implementing Dr. D’s suggestion to substitute herbal tea sipping for my afternoon snack habit. Though it hurts me to write this, it is true that my waistline is less svelte than it used to be. My eating habits haven’t changed, but my metabolism -- well, you know the deal. Every decade the metabolism slows a bit. Or every seven years. Or is it that you get itchy every seven years? Or is that every decade? Anyway. If you’re me, you are both itchy and metabolically declining. And by itchy, I am referring to my hive-prone skin, not to the cheat-on-the-spouse kind of itchy.

My attitude towards the metabolic shift swings back and forth. It, uh, shifts, depending on what kind of sweets or delicious carbs are in the house and on the menu. Something over which I, apparently, have a lot of control. Sometimes I’m, like, what the heck, who cares? I’m getting older and getting fatter and why should I give up my sweets and carbs in a false attempt to stave off the Inevitable? Death, etc., let’s call it. After all, Death, etc., comes to all of us.

But sometimes I’m, like, what the heck? I still feel like I’m thirty. Why shouldn’t I look that way as long as I can? Please, Readers, if you know what I look like, don’t disabuse me of this fanciful notion by telling me that I left thirty behind long ago, looks-wise. I know I left it behind, years-wise.

So today is a sip-the-herbal-tea instead of eating-the-chocolate-covered-almonds day. Today’s a hoick-the-waistband-over-the-waist-bulge day. A Pilates mat class day, (which was rawther humbling). I know I’ve got abs of steel somewhere. If I press into my belly far enough, I feel the steel. Take that Death, etc!

Tuesday

The kitchen faucet is magical.

There I was, typing away in the dining room, when I became aware of an insistent shwishing sound. Like a flood or something. The sound was coming from the kitchen. I rushed in and realized that the faucet was on, full-throttle. It had turned itself on.

How is that possible, you ask? The kitchen faucet is magical, I tell you. It is a wonderful looking faucet, all modern and sleek. We picked it out of thousands, lit’rilly. And for once, I broke with my usual caution and went for the fancy, newfangled option, the touch option. You know, so when your hands are gooey, you can turn the faucet on by tapping with the back of your hand anywhere on the neck or handle.  I couldn’t resist. Even though one should always resist. The more complicated mechanical things get, the more they involve batteries and bells and whistles, the more likely they are to break down.

But it was so pretty.

The husband installed it. And it works great. Usually. Except sometimes you need to pound it several times to get it to turn on, and then it won’t turn off, except when you use the handle. And sometimes when you want it to stay on it turns off abruptly; and sometimes it goes off and on like a choking chicken.

And sometimes it turns on when you are typing on your laptop in another room.

It’s great, except for that.

The husband says he’s going to fix it; but he has a full time job, so I’m thinking eventually we will have to call the plumber and take whatever mockery he dishes to us.

But it is so pretty.

Wednesday

It’s time for me to take a break from all the menopause memoirs I’ve been reading. Yes, sure, they’re funny. Yes, sure, they’re written by women who are about my age – or were, when they wrote these humorous books. But the thing is, I’m starting to feel old. They keep telling me that my vagina is dry, or possibly collapsing, and that my emotions are overwrought; that I want to throw plates on the ground or whole turkeys out of windows; that my nasolabial folds – those are the creases around the mouth, for your information – are deep enough to plant shrubberies in. That I’m washed up and can’t get any roles in Hollywood. Not that I’m trying too get roles in Hollywood, but I like the idea that I could. Well, apparently, not anymore. Basically, I’m getting the message that I’m over the hill, that my looks are going – or are gone.

The thing is, I feel great. Except for the need for higher waisted jeans. And a few age spots. And a few chin hairs. And stuff like that. Over all, life is good. I baked bread, Readers. I told the husband a few years ago that if I ever baked bread again, it would be a sign that I felt good. And I baked bread.

Now that I typed that positive thought, I’m looking up and over my shoulder. Where’s the big boot from the sky? The one that stomps on me if I dare to feel positive? Before the boot appears, I’m going on the record to say things are good. I know that can go ass over teakettle at any moment – and will. But right now: Good.

Thursday

I can’t be arsed.

Taking a break from all those menopause memoirs to read Tana French’s newest book, The Secret Place. It’s a mystery set in a girls’ boarding school. I’m very into it. All that hard-boiled Irish copper slang has seeped into my language. I’ve been thinking in a lilt. I particularly like “I can’t be arsed,” which means, I believe, “I can’t be bothered.” I’m ashamed to admit I have had to stop myself from saying it aloud to one or another of the children. Although, why I bother to stop myself I don’t know. It’s not as if I’ve stopped myself saying other inappropriate things around them. Or to them, I confess. In fact, of late, I feel as if I’m just giving over to my baser – or perhaps more basic – tendencies. Ah, who am I kidding with this delicacy? It’s been out of the bag for eons that I enjoy a good scatological reference. I’d like to behave more better, as we say.  More parentally. I really would. But I just can’t be arsed.



Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fulfillment Depends on Success

Simmering Stew of Fulfillment
So a couple of weeks ago,this piece in the Sunday Review came out when we were in Boston visiting colleges with the 11th grader. It’s about fulfillment, which the author, a 66 year old woman called Emily Fox Gordon (EFG) describes as “an outlandishly oversized gift,” and I would have missed it, if not for a friend sending me the link.

The article turned out to be a fitting counterbalance to the kick-off of what people have indicated is a very anxiety-producing process. At first read, it’s a reminder to consider the scope of a whole life, to keep in perspective this college thing, rife as it is with symbolism. Or actual reality, really, of the young ‘un stepping out into her independent life. College is important, sure, but it’s not necessary to turn getting in into a completely fraught situation. This is a long-winded way of saying that I don’t want my child to drive herself into the ground in pursuit of acceptance to some top school. So remembering what life goals are worth striving for can put the process into perspective. For me, I mean. To prevent adding to the pressure she puts on herself.

Fulfillment. That’s an interesting goal for old age. I must have mentioned before that I used to wish for wisdom when I am old. Now that I know a bit more, I’m thinking, “Uh-oh, careful what you wish for, Hope.” Wisdom. Yeesh. That can be scary. Like considering the futility or absurdity of existence. Do I really want to grok life that way? Perhaps not. Fulfillment seems a better goal. Growing old and feeling fulfilled is definitely on my wish list. Even if EFG says, “it’s a dubious gift, because you receive it only when you’re nearing the end.” Well, it’s a gift I’ll take, if I can. According to EFG, fulfillment is milder than happiness, because it contains detachment and perspective, which I agree are not usually linked to moments of happiness.

So. Fulfillment. I could go for that. Who couldn’t?  Well, I’ll tell you who couldn’t: a failure. That’s right, EFG says so right in her essay. 

“A failed life can’t be a fulfilled one.”

Uh-oh.

“It has to have been a success.”

Yikes.

“It has to have been a success, though not necessarily the documentable kind. It can be a parental or marital or civic success, or an entirely private one….”

Ok. That’s better. Because, so far, mine has been mostly undocumented.

“But success is only a necessary condition.”

Oh. Go on.

“A life of brilliant accomplishment that ends at 40 can’t have been fulfilled.”

I suppose not. Though we could argue about that, at least when thinking about war heroes or something. People devoted to a cause, or thrust into situations requiring heroism, who die in pursuit of their ideals. 

“Years are a requirement. One must have lived most of a standard lifetime, and be inclined to assess it.”

Sounds plausible. I fully intend to. Since I’ve been assessing my life all along, why would I stop?

Upon closer examination, apparently, fulfillment turns out to be a complicated, slow-cooked stew. Success simmered with ambition and one’s relationship to ambition figures as well. Time passing and perspective are necessary ingredients, as is a smidge of detachment. This recipe involves care and attention, Readers. It’s not crockpot pulled pork, which just requires a little Coke, a lot of onions, a hunk of meat and you’re done.

This reminds me that in all my discussions about success, the people who have felt most successful are those who feel that their ambition and their accomplishments are in balance with one another. Those who feel unsuccessful may have unrealized ambitions gnawing at them; or they may not even realize what their ambitions are. Sometimes it’s hard to untangle them from all the knots of obligation and everyday goings-on.

Although, not to be a fly in the ointment, isn’t fulfillment just another emotion and therefore as fleeting and intermittent as all emotions? If all emotions are insubstantial, why is any one emotional state better than another to aim for?

Hmmm. So maybe fulfillment isn’t something to aim for; maybe, like happiness, it’s a byproduct of a well-lived life. Which brings me back to the basic question of how to determine what a well-lived life is. Which brings me back to accomplishments. Outcomes. Successes.

At least with accomplishments, you can remind yourself of them by pulling out those report cards or awards or whatever. They are tangible. I can see I’m getting into trouble here. My anxiety level is ramping up. Must have accomplishments and successes to feel intermittent fulfillment later on in life.

Accomplishments. Oy. What if you’re getting a bit long in the tooth for racking up accomplishments of your own?

Oh, that’s what your children are for. Right? So maybe that whole detachment-fulfillment-step back-and-review-life thing is a total crock of baloney. Maybe after all the best approach to life, especially if you have unrealized ambitions and dreams, is to foist them on those children who have sucked up so much of your time and energy that you have failed to achieve your own. 

So get that kid into the most prestigious college possible. Make sure she has high expectations and do what you can to help her claw her way towards them. Lean in, lean over, lean on. Otherwise, what will you buoy your faltering self-esteem with in your declining years?

Phew. I feel better now. I was lost in a wilderness of contentment for a few moments. Now I'm back. I’m hoping for a Nobel Prize or an Oscar out of them. Or both. Yeah, both. Why not dream big for those kids? They’re just starting out.

*

On a much lower note, I am overcome by a need for new jeans. Now that higher rise jeans are back in favor, I cannot bear my jeans. Things are welling over there. I need a higher rise to lock and load – a term I learned from "What Not To Wear." Stacey and Clinton used it to refer to proper fitting bras, but  I’m talking about my hips. It’s my prerogative. Just as it’s my prerogative to totally understand the whole free range kid movement, and be unable to join it, fully.


Maybe if I rack up a few accomplishments of my own, I can relax about where my kids go to college. So, I guess fulfillment will have to wait, because I’m firing up my ambition. I will start with new jeans. Believe me, that's a challenge.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Revisiting Old Haunts and Themes

Here’s what’s happening right now. The husband is scraping pumpkins with his fingernails. Why? Why, because we were so lame and laggard about buying pumpkins that the only ones he could find were painted. Consequently, he is scraping off the paint, in preparation for carving them. And I am watching. I mean, after handing him a scrubby and a steel wool pad to try. I’m not completely unhelpful, just ultimately so.


Last weekend was a long weekend for us. It kicked off Thursday morning, when one of us, I’m not saying which one, because it would be cruel, microwaved the butter. This wouldn’t have been a problem, except that this was special, European (French) butter, imported in an aluminum foil wrapper. As A. A. Milne might have written, this person “did like a little bit of butter for [his or her] bread.” And wanted it softened. Didn’t remember, at the unseemly hour of before school began, that metal and microwaves don’t mix. The result was a noticeable pop, and a ball of flames inside the thousand-year-old microwave we’ve moved six times.

As is so often the case, especially with people, nothing seemed wrong with the microwave when you looked at it. However, mid-morning, when I wanted to reheat my coffee – I know, yuck, reheated coffee; what kind of connoisseur am I? Answer – no kind – the defects became apparent.

I’m liking this damaged people, damaged microwave analogy. I could really run with it. But is it what I want to get into? The point is, if there is a point, that once you get to know even those microwaves that look fully functional, those microwaves with deluxe features, even those combination convection oven-microwave ovens, their defects become apparent. So while you’re busy crossing the street to avoid those microwaves that are shouting obscenities and weaving in your path, the ones that usually cause the most trouble are those ones that short circuit from the inside. If you don’t unplug them, they’ll burn down your house.

Dark.

Anyhoo. Off we went to Boston, to visit colleges and friends. The trip to Boston was a success on several levels. One important one was that we all survived the weekend at our friends’ house without having any horrible intestinal illnesses.  I was kinda anxious about descending upon our friends A & T for the weekend, since we are four, and they are two. And the bathroom is one. But the real anxiety was the traumatic stress I suffered the last time we four stayed with A & T. To wit, the current 11th grader was then in preschool and her sister was still sleeping in a Pack ‘n Play; some time in the late evening, the preschooler commenced vomiting, which she continued doing every forty-five minutes or less until we managed to load ourselves into our car and head back out the Mass Turnpike at 7:30 in the morning.

I have never recovered from this terrible experience. The guilt of inflicting ourselves on our friends. The whole thing was just, you know, yucky.

So I had residual apprehension about the four of us going there again, even though, mirabile dictu, this didn’t cause our friendship to end, even though A & T remained undeterred in their decision not to have children. Perhaps this episode underscored for them the rightness of this choice. I can’t say. What I can say is that, while since then, I have slept under their roof and they under ours, this particular sleeping arrangement had not occurred in the intervening twelve or thirteen years. 

Now, we have cancelled out the past, with a successful visit, during which nothing untoward happened, unless you consider the children observing the adults acting like, uh, children, children who drink lots of beer, untoward. 

All of this dwelling on the dark and negative, Readers, has a point. The point is that sometimes negative thinking can lead to success. I was reminded of this by a recent piece in the NYTimes, “The Problem With Positive Thinking.” This piece reminded me of two things I’ve learned. One, that an idea worth writing about once is worth writing about repeatedly. It’s worth revisiting, like Boston.  Or your fears. This is good news, don’t you think? I do. Two, this idea that “the key to success is to cultivate and doggedly maintain an optimistic outlook,” has often prevented me from feeling like I can succeed. You see, I have a bit of a problem with the cultivation and doggedness of optimism. For a long time, I tried to convince myself that I am, at heart, an optimist. And I may, indeed be. However, I am learning that this buried nugget of optimism is not what my closest and dearest friends associate with me. It may be too well-buried.

For example, just this weekend, gathered ‘round the dining room table with our friends, spurred by a glass or two of Italian wine, I remarked that I think I’m fairly optimistic.

“You are?” One of my so-called friends said, in an insulting tone of incredulity.

I said, “Well, it’s true that the husband and I often have different reactions to the same stimulus.” Well, those weren’t my exact words. Who can recall exactly what one says when one is drinking Italian wine? More or less, I said that for example, when I see our dog lying with his head on his paws, I’m filled with a terrible feeling that he’s bored and unstimulated. “Look at that poor, miserable doggie,” I’ll say, and feel that I have to do something to make him feel better. The husband, on the other hand, comes into the room, looks at the dog in the same pose and says, “Look at how happy he looks.” Then he goes off to play the piano, or do a crossword puzzle, without a nagging feeling of guilt and failure.

I have felt much shame about that negative tendency in myself, thinking it has doomed me to failure. However, the beauty of this article was that it revisited this idea and declared it untrue. It turns out that positive thinking can cause a person to relax , to lose energy, and therefore to lose motivation.

Now, this idea isn’t actually new. Two of my favorite psychologists, Carol Dweck and Heidi Grant Halvorsen, PhD, her onetime protégé, are big into how your mindset affects your ability to achieve success. HGH, PhD, in particular, has examined the ways that accepting your tendency towards pessimism can help you attain success. In other words, if you’re going to be a negative thinker, use that to your advantage, by figuring out what obstacles may interfere with you reaching your goal, and how to overcome them.

According to this new article in the NYTimes, the best approach to a goal is twofold, a technique called “mental contrasting.” In mental contrasting, you balance positive and negative thinking. You envision a positive outcome; but you also consider the potential obstacles. You are, in short, hopeful, but also realistic. I think I’m that. Maybe. After my morning affirmations.

One key to the success of mental contrasting as a tool, however, is that you must be going for “reasonable, potentially attainable wishes.”

Hmmmm. How the heck are we to know what’s reasonable and potentially attainable for us? Beats me. I guess that’s another article. C’mon, NYTimes, help me out!


By the way, I lasted five days without a microwave. Three of those days we were out of town.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Newsy Post With Hidden Tips for Success

The 15-year-old turned 16 this week. I didn’t have my usual birthday breakdown, probably because my last birthday caused such an extended breakdown that I didn’t have anything left to break down. It’s life. We’re lucky if it goes on and we turn another year - heck, another day - older.

But to back up. Last weekend involved yard work. Readers, you know how I feel about yard work. Yish. But this was official yard work, or perhaps better to describe it as planned, special yardwork, not maintenance. The husband and I put in full morning with a landscape designer, providing free labor. See, we’re implementing a plan for the yard. Plans for yards are very expensive, especially if you want to do them all at once. The neighbors next door did that last year. And just a couple of weeks ago, neighbors down the street did it. Bulldozers and a crew and about three days and the dog and I saw the whole yard redone: new shrubs, a weird retaining wall, and a carpet of sod.

Fortunately for the budget, that is not my style. So, I got a consultation on the yard from a really nice landscaper, Sandy Z, who suggested ways to do the work in stages. We spent the morning moving things from the front yard to the backyard and vice-versa. So, goodbye to the last of the rose bushes – too much work for too little reward. It took us 5 years, but we killed them all but two. Hello, coreopsis.

And hello, back spasm. Yep. Sandy Z brought one helper with her, and I offered up the husband and myself. The husband proved a good worker. I proved, if there was any doubt, that I’m a better conceptual gardener than an actual one. As I patted down some lovely earth around a coreopsis, a spasm that was embarrassing in its severity practically rendered me incontinent. I managed to shuffle inside, where I lay on the floor for a while, and then popped a few Ibuprofens.

After throwing out my back, taking the 16-year-old to the DMV for her learner’s permit was a pain. But let’s be honest about this pain. It wasn’t the hard pew-like benches upon which we sat that caused the pain; it was my back, which reacted as grouchily to getting up from the couch as from the bench. I just noticed it more in the bureaucratic space. To alleviate the pain I read my book, Americanah, standing up while the teen took the written test. When she came out to get me – to pay, bien sur – she was indignant that the clerk at the window had been – imagine this, at the DMV – rude and humorless. So, a rite of passage in more than one way.

Americanah, by Chiminanda Ngozi Adichie, by the way, is excellent. Well-written, a good story, and educational about race in America.

This weekend involved an archeological dig, as well as the 16-year-old’s birthday sleepover. Here in the suburbs, all you do is open the front door and show the guests the way to the finished basement. Use those brief seconds to memorize these faces, since you've barely seen them before and you won't seem much of them again. At some point, provide pizza and some kind of dessert with candles, which let’s be honest, the teens would prefer you send down the basement stairs to them on a tray-sled. In fact, the only evil look I garnered came when I descended the stairs to say the pizza had arrived and they should come up to eat. The husband had already informed them of this, so my presence was clearly unnecessary and therefore against the (unspoken, we figure them out as they come, rules). After dinner, they disappeared downstairs again, and entertained themselves until late morning. Easy peasy.

An archeological dig, did I say? Yes, that is correct. During the summer, the 12-year-old took a weeklong archeology course, and signed on to do this dig in October. This weekend was the time, and there was no chance of forgetting about the dig. The 12-year-old saw to that. She’s nothing if not dogged.

Since the MIL was visiting, to see the 16-year-old for her birthday, and the MIL has some experience with digs, we three took a lovely drive out into the countryside to the farm where the ruins of a presumed 18th Century tannery have been found. Turns out that we missed the memo about the rain date and arrived to discover the dig had been rescheduled for the next day. But the farm’s owner, who also happens to be the town historian, took us out to the site, a fair hike into the wet woods. He and his wife were lovely, despite their yard sign urging a repeal of the SAFE act. Friendly conservatives! Imagine! They even insisted we use their bug spray to ward off ticks. If they’d known we’d voted for Obama twice, do you think they’d have done that? Coming down with Lyme disease might keep us from the polls this November and Astorino would have a better chance.

Anyhoo, the MIL left this morning, so was unable to return to the dig, but the 12-year-old and I drove out again, and spent some hours with a troop of boy scouts and the two archeologists stumbling about the woods, placing red flags on rock piles, and then using a giant sieve and spades to sift through a lot of dirt. One of us was very concerned about tweaking her back again, and poison ivy. The back is fine, and since every garment that came in contact with foliage and shrubberies has been loaded into the washing machine, and the hands have been scrubbed vigorously, I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ve avoided that latter pitfall. Time will tell.

What else? Probably in relation to my child getting older and closer to high school graduation, I’ve started thinking about what I need to teach my offspring when they are on their own. In that vein, I decided to be all French mom-ish and introduce them to the joys of weekly facial exfoliation techniques. Guess which of the children was interested, the 12-y-o or the 16-y-o? So the 12-y-o – yes, patpat, Readers, you are right – enjoyed her first mom-sanctioned exfoliating scrub, followed by a spritz of mineral water. 

The 16-y-o said, “Yo, what’s the big deal? I scrub my face with the stuff and rinse, right?” And I said, “Yo, don’t you want the experience of a spritz of mineral water?” And she said, “Yo, you wasted your money on a can of water?”

And I didn’t say, “Yo, it’s imported.”


So, I guess I’ll call it success all around. The young ‘un washed her face, always a plus. And the old ‘un has appropriate skepticism towards marketing. Yay? Yay!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Nap Your Way to Success. Or Death.


First off, I would like to thank my Aunt and Uncle Wisdom for urging me to take Prednisone. My poison ivy is waning. My cold and sore throat are now gone. And despite my father’s suggestion that I share a photograph of the disgusting skin on my arm where the rash used to be, I’m going to pass. Once again, I’m proving there are limits to my exhibitionism.

Second off, I’ve been binging on the - what shall I call it? - the Self-Care, the Maintenance, and it’s got to stop. Physical therapy, regular therapy, facials, waxing, hair cuts, Pilates. A massage. I’m living like a millionaire, which I’m not. I have so many appointments I hardly have a free day anymore. Mix in the repairs for the screen door that the dog barreled through last week, the sprinkler system, the need to locate an orange-and-black bandanna for the 11th grader’s school spirit day and so on, and there’s no time. So I’m dialing it back. Especially since I have to take a nap almost every morning. I think that’s due to the Prednisone, which keeps me awake at night. By the morning, it has worn off, so once I take care of the morning duties – lunches, breakfasts, carpools, dog feeding, and so one, I have to snooze.
  
So let’s talk about naps, Readers. Do you nap? I am a long time napper. I have never felt any guilt about napping. Okay, why do I even bother to write that? For heaven’s sake, I feel guilt about everything I do that seems unproductive, and napping tops the list. Let’s be real.

What I should have said was I never felt anything else besides guilt about napping, at least not until recently. I read an article in the NYTimes about nappers being more likely to die in the next bunch of years than non-nappers. After that, I saw a couple more mentions of the negative correlations between napping and mortality. I tried to ignore them, because what good does it do me to wish all my naps unnapped? However, ignoring links to mortality doesn't come easily to me. Therefore, now I have guilt and FEAR about napping. Why else would I need so much Self Care?

The good news is that there have been at least as many recent articles about the benefits of napping. Napping, staring-off-into-space, and vacationing (if you can afford that) improve creativity, stimulate creativity. In fact, apparently if we all "set aside time for naps and contemplation, we will be in a more powerful position to start solving some of the world’s big problems.” (NYTimes 8/10/14 SR5)

So this created a quandary. Nap and die or repair the world? Is it really one or the other? I did a search on “napping and early death,” and discovered this: study. (http://www.newser.com/story/185252/napping-linked-to-early-death-study.html.) The article's upshot is that people who nap for more than one hour a day seem to have a higher chance of mortality in a certain number of years, for various possible reasons. HOWEVER, those who nap for less than an hour show no increase. Well, Thanks God, as my sister the psychoanalyst has begun to say. You see, I’m a power napper. Twenty minutes on the couch leave me better than new.  

And this whole nap equals death thing is, empirically speaking, a crock. I mean, my father is a napper. He’s the king of the power nap. I have a strong memory, dating back at least four decades, of him napping on the couch with one foot on the floor. He’s 89 now, and still snoozling.

In defense of my nap habit, I offer that information. I also offer the rationale that sitting down to write something creative when you’re really tired is mighty hard. It's almost as hard as sitting down to do deadly boring work like data entry; which, I know from experience, is a strong soporific. I believe if I look closely I can still see indentations in my cheeks from many power naps I took during my days as a library assistant at the Mothership* Library.

Finally, I also recently read a tidbit about the so-called caffeine nap. I thought I was the only one who experienced this phenomenon; namely, falling into a nice snooze directly upon finishing a cup of coffee. It seems I am not the only one. The caffeine nap seems to be a thing. The article offered a neurobiochemical explanation for why, which I will paraphrase, probably incorrectly - but who's to know? Apparently, a short nap clears some kind of gunk from the synapses and makes room for something else to glom onto them, something that makes you more alert. And for some miraculous reason, caffeine helps the brain clear the gunk from the synapses along with the napping. So sip and nap, my friends. 

The key to a power nap is that foot on the floor, or an equivalent - a keyboard, or a semi-full bladder - something that doesn't let you get too comfortable. That is some self care I can afford - and you can, too. 

*That's Widener Library, Harvard University.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Poor Me

My poison ivy is weeping. Readers, did I mention that I have poison ivy? I mentioned the sore throat, right? No? Nor the poison ivy? How unlike me to suffer alone. Of course I’m not suffering alone. The husband is suffering with me. In fact, he may have decent grounds for divorce, based on the disgustingness of this patch of poison ivy – weeping poison ivy – that I keep showing him. If there’s one lesson I’ve learned about beauty from the French, it’s to keep some things a mystery. I’m wondering if poison ivy might be one of those things? 

And itchy. News flash: Readers, poison ivy is itchy. It can weep all it wants. I’m not feeling an ounce of compassion for it. It’s just one of several things (children) that have been weeping lately. I’ve used up all my compassion on them. Birds, boys, 11th grade blues. I’m pretty sapped. So this poison ivy, and the endless sore throat have filled up my mind and lowered my ability to cope with anything else.

I'm thinking of Iyanla Vanzant's talk at the Oprah event last week, about how she said life teaches you  lessons you may not want to know, just like a real friend will tell you the truth, even if you don't want to know it. Is there a lesson here for me? Let's see.

Well, I'm pretty sure I got this poison ivy from the dog. Thanks, Milo. And I'm pretty sure he got the urushiol (that's the poison in poison ivy) from going beyond the bounds of his electric fence, following a trail scent from a bunny. (Tularemia.) And he went beyond the bounds of his electric fence because the battery in his electric collar died months ago....

No, there's no lesson here. Uh-uh. Nope.

I’m resisting an urge. I’m resisting two urges, actually. One is to scratch my poison ivy. The other is to put a photograph of my poison ivy right here, on my blog. Instead, I will show you a picture of the henna tattoo I got at the beach this summer.


Isn’t that nice? I felt all summertime free and easy with that lil’ elephant on my ankle. Of course there were moments when I felt otherwise, such as when I saw my henna tat as proof that I have no gainful employment, since a gainful employer would probably discourage a tattoo on an employee. Most of the time, however, I felt too free and easy to care.

I have a prescription for Prednisone to stop the itch from my poison ivy. However, I’m not into taking pills. They are scary. And this poison ivy isn’t exactly widespread all over my body. Nobody could call it an emergency. It’s just, you know, uncomfortable. I’ve been living in the Northeast for a looooonnnnggg time. Isn’t being uncomfortable part of the deal? Builds character and all that? It’s a freakin’ badge of honor for some folks. Am I one of them? No. 

No, I’m just a chicken. This may seem funny to some of my readers who recall my college days of “experimentation.” Unlike then, now the possibility of strange dreams and the munchies does not appeal.


Poor me, poor, poor me.

Friday, September 26, 2014

8 Things I Took Away from My Weekend with Oprah and 1 I Did Not

There she is, from the plebe seats.

Monday. Returned late last night from my Oprah weekend in Washington. To find nothing had changed. Literally. The freshly folded clean towels were still sitting on the coffee table, along with an empty glass and an opened but empty padded envelope that were there when I left. The clean laundry I’d folded and carried upstairs was still in the basket, no longer folded. Etc.

Ok, to be fair, I must say that there were groceries. But there were also piles of unwashed laundry, the stuff that usually gets done because I either do it, or tell someone else to do it. Why is this? Because I’m the mother. And I was away. Did I leave the offspring to fend for themselves? No, I did not. The husband was there. So there’s pizza wrapped up in the fridge. Ok, shut up. Stop complaining. My point here is really not that the husband didn’t do the chores. It’s that the husband didn’t do the chores. But in a different way. He took the kids on a hike, for example. He took advantage of the good weather and did something fun. Ain’t that the way with dads? The result is that I go away and return to semi-disaster, and the kids don’t even miss me.

Krikey.
Maybe I should be grateful. I was talking to someone who told me that when her kids were little, and she went away, they would punish her when she returned. They would act out, refuse to speak to her, misbehave. Anything to let her know they were not happy.

Weds. Both children have had emotional breakdowns over different topics, birds among them. So perhaps they are punishing me after all.

But I digress. I guess it’s not a digression, since I haven’t even gotten to the topic yet. It’s a delay. I delay. I withhold.

Okay, Readers, yes, I went to Oprah’s The Life You Want traveling revival event in Washington last weekend. How did it happen? Groupon, through a friend of a friend, and a “what the hell” moment. Most anyone I told that I was going to Oprah’s The Life You Want reacted with disbelief and ridicule. Yes, ridicule. You thought you were veiling it, friends. It was unveiled. But whatever. I went in an anthropological mood. And, since you won’t admit you’d like to know what I learned, I’ll give you a few highlights. Because I am transformed and enlightened now, and am no longer petty.

1. Oprah: Put on your oxygen mask first. Also, airlines tell you to do this. They mean it literally.

2. Elizabeth Gilbert: Listen for the whispers of your calling/quest.  Slow down so you can hear. And when you hear it, you’ll feel afraid, but don’t make your fear precious. It doesn’t need special handling. It’s just fear. Everyone has it.

3. Mark Nepo: There’s a Sioux saying that the longest journey is from your head to your heart.
This one resonated so much with me while I was in the arena; but when I related it to someone who wasn’t there, she asked, “What does that mean? How do you do it?”
 Damned if I know. It’s pretty typical of my moments of inspiration that when I examine them more closely, their impact dissipates, like a hologram, maybe.

4. Soul Cycle: Change your body, change your mind, change your life. We had a 15 minute aerobic exercise session in our arena seats, and it was a great reminder of how fun it is to move to loud music, pump your arms, and scream.

5. Oprah: you are the master of your life. Create a vision of what you need and want, and put it out There. If you’re clear about it, the universe will give you back clarity. This, by the way, is another hologrammatic saying, I find. Or a tautology. Yes, I think that’s it.

6. Iyanla Vanzant: Friends tell you what you might not wanna hear. Life is your friend. Life teaches you lessons all the time. Have a spiritual practice – praise life, be grateful for it. And drink something that looks like champagne in front of a large arena crowd, ‘cuz they like it that you’re rich. Manage to be also homey and comfy sounding.

7. Also Oprah: Make a paradigm shift in your thoughts, because what you say and think is who you are. For example, go from “I’m tired” to “I’m waiting on my second wind.”
8. The whole event was like a 19th century revival meeting with Oprah as the preacher. She travels around and offers spiritual uplift. People get carried away by the group feeling. The language was incantatory, repetitive, and spiritual, although mostly religiously nonspecific.

Oprah is one hard-working woman.
Dots of light from cool wristbands we all got with our tickets

After the Oprah event, I spent much wonderful, close time hugging and playing with my niece and nephew. Real quality time having my eyeball and my tongue photographed on my sister-the-psychoanalyst’s phone, reading aloud, heads together. Stuff like that. Stuff you love. Until you discover that they have lice.


Then we all spent several hours with Janice, of Lice Happens, while she checked us for nits and critters and did her delousing. I was declared free of lice, and headed home. And now I have a nasty cold.