Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Apologies to Maestro Porco!

I have never done as poorly on an audition as I did tonight. I was humiliated, mortified, [insert adjective of extreme, abject horror here].

I was prepared. I had been practicing my German and my Italian all day. I knew the songs. I started off strong on the Italian art song. I got throught the first chorus, then midway through the verse my throat suddenly when dry as sand and I couldn't get my breath. I grabbed my water bottle and picked up where I left off and made it through, but barely. By the time I finished, I was shaking. My hands were shaking, my chest was shaking, I was afraid I was going to burst into tears.

I've been auditioning for choruses since I was eight years old. Really. I started singing in my church choir at age eight. This is frigging ridiculous. I have an ear that singers would kill for. I can sight-read right there with the best of them.

The problem is I am not a soloist. I am a chorister. If he had pulled in a soprano, a tenor and a bass for me to audition with and just asked us to sing something from next season's repertoire, I imagine I would have been fine. But to ask me to sing a solo. It was the worst. Really. The absolute WORST.

After the debacle of my two solos, he asked me to sing a scale so he could get an idea of my range. Then he had me open a book of Bach chorales and sing the alto line to the accompanist's soprano line. Of course I nailed it. That's what I do.

But was he impressed enough with my ear and the fact that I studied with Boulanger and my choral history to overlook my horrible, horrible case of nerves?

The good news is I got up the nerve to go sing this audition.

The other good news is he did give me the standard "You will receive the music before the first rehearsal and you are expected to come to the rehearsal with the music learned. There will be no sight-reading in rehearsal." disclaimer. Would he have wasted that breath if he were going to summarily dismiss me?

I spoke with Tyler while I was driving from the audition site to a pamper-myself moment at Nordstrom. He said, "think of all the gas money you'll save."

That's my consolation. I tried. I effed up royally. I won't have to spend that much more time on the road.

Oh well. Another day. Another French sixth.

Send Harmonious Vibes, Please!

Tonight is my audition for the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus. I'm excited and nervous. I'd appreciate any good thoughts you want to send my way!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Just Ping Me!

My office joined the 21st century workplace today. We now have corporate instant messaging.

When you get used to using IM as your primary means of communication, doing without it is a shock to your system.

At IBM, everyone — no, I'm not exaggerating; everyone — uses SameTime. My officemate and I, sitting in opposite corners of the office with our backs to each other and our earbuds firmly implanted, would IM each other and laugh out loud (when appropriate), rather than stopping, removing earbuds, and turning around to speak.

It's so much more efficient to just ping a question or a comment to a colleague rather than stopping, locking your keyboard, getting up and walking to his cube, then interrupting or disturbing his cube neighbors. An e-mail is worse. You send it, but you don't know how soon it gets seen and read. Unless, of course, the recipient is one of those Blackberry guys who read every e-mail the instant it arrives.

But I digress.

I salute Larry, our new Director of Development, for implementing this new practice and hauling us into the 21st Century.

What's next? Telecommuting??

Software Innovation

There's a tremendous need in the dating community for a new e-mail feature. I have nothing to offer the brilliant programmer who could make this happen but the knowledge that he or she had made the dating world a better place.

I want an option on all my e-mail accounts and applications that would know when a relationship was over. The code could then reach out and delete all the e-mails sent to that person during the time period of the relationship. Or maybe there could be an internal variable that would constantly be monitoring the average length of relationships in the user's life. When that time passed, the notes would be deleted. (Virtual Hold has a software trigger called the Turn-On Threshold. Maybe the software I'm suggesting could have a Turn-Off Threshold trigger.)

I received an e-mail the other day from a man I dated in late 2004-early 2005. This was Mr. Bushy Eyebrows and Protruding Nosehair from El Paso. Out of the blue he sent me an e-mail asking if I had moved from Tucson. I think maybe he gave me a nostalgic call and found my old number disconnected. The problem? The e-mail was a reply to a loving note I had sent him in early 2005. The loving thoughts toward him that I held at that time are long gone. Very Long Gone!

I was actually astonished that he hadn't deleted those messages. But when I consider how rarely he cleans his house, I guess it's not surprising that he also never cleans his in-box.

I know this software innovation sounds like a violation of one's privacy rights, but c'mon! Isn't there some interest in letting bygones be bygone that's stronger than the right to keep old-and-never-to-be-resurrected love notes?

Other alternatives? Don't commit to pixels any words that you don't want to see again five years from now. I guess that's my new philosophy.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

What Is That Noise?!

Oh! That's a lawn mower. I haven't really heard a lawn mower in, oh, eight years! This afternoon I heard three or four of them. I'm livin' in a different world!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Refining the Criteria

I drove the babies to Pittsburgh today to see the dinosaurs at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. We had a fabulous time, but I had a lot of time to think on the drive down and back.

(Sweet anecdote: both babes fell asleep on the drive home. When he woke up thirty minutes later, Boston asked if we had left Pittsburgh the previous day. He thought he had slept all night long.)

Anyway, my thought processes today were about the characteristics of the type of man who might fit into my life.

I think it starts with education. I didn't finish my bachelor's degree until I was 37 and then went directly into law school. I worked very, very hard to get the education I have. If you haven't heard the story, once I got custody of Tyler in my third year of law school, I worked a full-time and two part-time jobs while I finished law school and then for two years after to provide for his education. My education is one of my proudest accomplishments. When I meet someone who doesn't have at least a bachelor's degree, I find myself apologizing for him to my friends.

So I think that needs to be Thing One on my list.

Thing Two is relationship history. I've been married four (count 'em, four) times, plus a Major Relationship thereafter. I was married a total of 20 years, even though it took me four tries. I question that a man who has made it to his fifties without a marriage could truly understand what it takes to make a relationship work. What experience does he have? What does he understand about sticking together and working together to make the relationship viable (even though at some point you decide enough is enough—that's part of the experience also). I have Life Experience. Lots of it. Okay, some good and some not so good. But I've thought a lot about how I got to where I am today. Lots of therapy. And lots of motivation and commitment to make it work again.

Thing Three goes hand-in-hand with Thing Two. That's children. How could someone who hasn't experienced parenthood understand my long tortuous life with my sons and my exquisite devotion to my grandchildren. I swoon for a man who thinks his grandchildren hung the moon.

Beyond that, the list has to include a closet that contains at least one dress shirt, tie and jacket. He owns a tux and knows how to tie a bow tie? Even better! He should have attended a symphony or opera concert at some point in his life and not hated it. If he knows what a twelve-bar blues progression is and has heard of Nadia Boulanger and recognizes a fugue when he hears it, I would have to respond with a resounding "Wow!" And his living quarters must not be dust-laden or too kitschy with knick-knacks devoid of meaning. A nicely-decorated comfortable place to lay his head? Well, I can envision Sunday mornings with the newspaper and side-by-side laptops and a cup of tea and a cinnamon roll.

I think that, in the past, I've been too willing to settle for the less-than-optimum man. I've thought that if he cared for me, that would be all that mattered and I could make things work.

But I'm wrong. And I need to wait for the man who possesses the desired qualities rather than thinking I can adapt. Adaptability ain't all it's cracked up to be.

I think at my age and stage in life, I'm better off with Mr. No-One than Mr. Not-Quite-Right.

Wow. That's a hard-won self-realization.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Spring Has Totally Sprung



On Wednesday morning, when I left for work, there were no blooming tulips. When I turned into the driveway last night, I was blown away by tulips everywhere, like magic.



John loved tulips. Every year a Pentagon colleague of his, who belonged to a men's garden club in Bethesda, would bring around a flyer advertising a bulk purchase of tulip bulbs, imported directly from Holland. John would order hundreds, and then would offer to the Oratorio Society/Washington Chorus auction an auction item consisting of 100 tulip bulbs and the planting thereof. When fall arrived there was a big bulb planting day at the lucky winner's home, accompanied by much beer and jollity. Various friends and family members would be called upon to join in the fun. The end of the day signaled for the homeowners a memory of a fun day with a man full of joie de vivre, and the anticipation of gorgeous blooms in the spring. I've been told tulips don't continue multiplying and blooming forever, but I choose to believe there are still lawns in the Washington Metropolitan Area that bloom with John's tulips every spring.

When I was planning his memorial service and the funeral director asked me what kind of flowers I wanted, of course I replied "tulips!" It didn't matter to me that the service was occurring at the end of July and nowhere in the world were tulips in season. For John, I was going to have two huge urns filled with tulips. I think those two arrangements cost me $300, but it was worth every penny to have this tribute to his tulip planting in place.

So Happy Spring! The tulips are out in Northeastern Ohio.

Under Water, Upside Down

I am now officially under water or upside down or whatever your favorite mortgage crisis word is. My realtor called and said we needed to lower the price. We started at $325K, now we're at $299,900. My outstanding balance is over $300K.

I just want it to sell. I just want to be out from under this burden.

Oh, and at the other end of the city, my wonderful tenants are leaving Tucson this summer. The husband got a fabulous job with HP in Colorado, so I'm searching for tenants again. Actually, they're searching for tenants for me.

Oh well.

It's only money.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Getting Here From There

On Sunday, as I was driving home from Chicago, I called Mother to check in. She asked why I had gone to Chicago, even though I had told her on Friday as we chatted on my drive to Chicago.

I told her I had gone to see an art exhibit by the American painter Edward Hopper at the Art Institute of Chicago. She doesn't know the work of Edward Hopper or Winslow Homer. She's never been to the Louvre or the National Gallery of Art or the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And you can bet I didn't tell her why this one specific work of Hopper's was so important to me. There were two reasons: a) she wouldn't have understood; and b) she would have cried. A true narcissist never understands "it's not about you".

When Mother and Daddy moved out of the house on Lake Maitland when I was in my first year of college and moved out to Spring Valley, they contracted with an interior designer named Adolf Widmaier to decorate the house. He was the son-in-law of a family friend and had decorated Daddy's offices for a number of years. The year was 1968 and the result was fine and pleasing to their eyes. The only thing I couldn't understand was the artwork.

Over the buffet in the dining room, in twin dark heavy frames, were two prints. Different periods, different artists, different styles, held together only by their identical frames. One of the paintings is Van Gogh's "Sunflowers". I don't remember what the other is—I can't see it in my mind's eye right now. I'll look when I'm down there in five weeks and report back. I think the reason these two paintings were chosen for that venue was simply that the colors were harmonious with the colors in the dining room.

Could that be? Could this man have passed himself off as an interior designer without knowing art, without having developed enough taste not to push reproductions on these trusting people? We're not talking trailer park here. We're talking people with money and taste but without knowledge of the visual arts.

I don't want to make it sound like I live for museum visits. During my sixteen years in Washington, I only went to the museums when there was a special exhibition I wanted to see. If I had an unscheduled weekend, "let's go to the museum" didn't just pop into my head. In fact, I've never been to the Textile Museum, a sad fact that I plan to rectify soon.

So back to the conversation with Mother. She has a nasty habit of listening only peripherally to what you're saying, then finding some little factoid that you stated, grabbing that factoid, and pulling the focus back to her. When I said these were beautiful paintings and I had enjoyed seeing them, she started telling me about a man who lives in her building who paints. He has hung one of his paintings in one of the hallways in the apartment building, a painting of two peacocks. Mother said, "It's the most beautiful painting I've ever seen."

I can't even find the words to adequately express my astonishment at this statement. Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Seurat, Monet, Manet, Cezanne, O'Keffe, . . . . I don't have the next hour to elucidate the artists whose work I love and admire. I would be hard-pressed to say one particular work was the "most beautiful painting I've ever seen."

I crave learning and education. A day is not complete if I haven't learned something that day. I like who I've become. I like that my friends refer to me as a renaissance woman. I like that I know a little about so many things, and yet there are so many things I don't know. Lots of food to fuel my desire to learn, for many years to come.

I'm just not quite sure how, given where I started, I got to here and now.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Expectations and Realizations



PianoLady and I have been trying since 2006 to see "Jersey Boys". Whenever we schedule our Girls' Broadway Weekend, we try to get our tickets early enough so we sit within, oh, ten rows of the stage. But to do so in the "Jersey Boys" audience would mean paying $300, at least, per ticket. And we're willing to take our obsessions only so far.

So when I discovered that "Jersey Boys" was playing in Chicago and I would be able to get a [what I thought would be] decent seat for only $150, I jumped at the chance.

Lesson learned: things aren't always what I expect them to be.

First, my $150 seat was on the mezzanine, with a ceiling at a mere seven feet, or maybe six-and-a-half. Low ceilings equal restricted air flow and elevated temperature. And the view was so restricted that the woman behind me asked me to take my glasses off my head so she could see. Really! I was shocked, and annoyed that I had to hold my glasses throughout the entire production.

Next, the pacing. As the show started, I kept thinking, "When is it going to take off?" It never took off. It's just a biography of one of the original "boy bands". It's a story of their lives, and there's really nothing compelling about the story or the show except the music.

I'm always incredibly annoyed when I hear people, at classical concerts, say they'd rather stay home and listen to the CD. Well, for this show I'm right there with them. I would rather just listen to the cast recording. I could listen to it over and over and sing along and enjoy the music without having to sit through a tedious script.

And speaking of singing. The man sitting behind me, who couldn't match pitches, kept singing along with the songs. Honey, you know if you can't sing. If you can't sing, don't!

I guess I'm glad I saw this show, because now I know what it is. But really, I would rather have gone to see "Wicked", which was playing in a theatre a few blocks away. It would have been my third time to see "Wicked", but I would have enjoyed it far more than I enjoyed "Jersey Boys".

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Rampant Emotions

Edward Hopper's "Hodgkin's House", painted in Gloucester, Massachusetts, in 1928. My birthmother, Gertrude Hodgkins, was born in 1912. She was 16 years old when Hopper set up his easel across the street and painted this work.

I first learned of the painting when an Architectural Digest cover showed it hanging over the mantle of David Geffen's estate in Malibu or Beverly Hills or one of those posh neighborhoods.

For some reason I got the impression that it was the house that my grandmother grew up in. I don't now remember why I thought that, but it must be based on genealogical research I had done. When I saw it today and started thinking about the dates, I think it must have been the house my mother grew up in, not her mother.

I snapped a photo with my camera when the guard happened to be looking the other way, not realizing that photography was prohibited. Then I went back and tried to snap another and was prevented from doing so. I'm feeling pretty lucky to have gotten this one pic.

It was very moving to me to see this painting today. I wish I had known the people who lived there. I think that most of all I feel sorry for the Little Adoptee who never fit in anywhere, who never felt she belonged.

Every child deserves to know she belongs.

The Sportswriter

[Obligatory rant: How can a top-flight hotel chain—and I consider Marriott to be a top-flight chain—not have wi-fi in all its rooms in this day and age?! I'm incensed that I have to actually sit at the desk to surf the 'net and write this post. I'm so spoiled!]

On my drive yesterday, I began "reading" Richard Ford's The Sportswriter. This book is very beautifully written. Mr. Ford has a way with words that I would love to emulate. There are so many phrases that I want to remember, to write on a special "aha" page in my journal (if only I could find which box it's packed in!).

I'm only into Chapter 3, but already I've determined that I need to go back and listen to this book again, with a pen and paper beside me to copy down these incredible phrases.

The main character lost a son to a disease several years before the starting point of the book. (The problem with audio books vs. hardcopy books is one can't see the actual words to learn the spelling and be able to easily look up words one is unfamiliar with—I can't remember the name of the disease, although it begins with "r".)

Listening to the protagonist talk about meeting his ex-wife at the cemetery on the anniversary date or talking to his new girlfriend, a nurse, about the death, got me thinking about death. My work colleague, Joy, just lost her husband to cancer (lymphoma, I believe) a month ago. It was sudden; I believe diagnosis to death was less than six weeks. My new friend Tani lost a daughter five years ago in an automobile accident. John died ten years ago in June, which seems like forever and like yesterday.

These three data points coming together at this time in my life have made me ruminate on death from the survivor's viewpoint, and specifically the losses of one's children versus the loss of one's spouse.

I only know about losing a spouse, and pray that I never know about losing one of my children or, even worse for me, my grandchildren. (Sorry, Tyler and TJ, but you know what I mean. I live for those babies. No insult intended.)

I think losing one's child would be absolutely unbearable. Six months ago Frank's friend, Wendy, took her own life after learning her teenaged son would never recover from his night of drugs and alcohol. How could she do that? How could she not do that?

I think the only thing that would keep a parent going after the loss of a child would be if there were other children. To lose an only child—that would just be the worst. I can't imagine how a parent or a marriage could survive that loss.

I've also thought often about how blessed John and I were to have twenty-one months together post-diagnosis. I determined on the day of diagnosis, with the high Gleason rating and the knowledge of the inevitability of his illness, that I was going to make memories for his children. I did everything in my power to lay the framework and enable them to take advantage of the time and opportunities I was offering them.

I've said many times that John died a happy man. He had just turned 60 and should have had many more years on this earth. But he and I both found in our marriage exactly what we'd been looking for all our lives, and he accomplished his goals. (To be a good citizen, to defend his country, to be a good parent.)

The time we had enabled me to get everything set up financially and legally. There were no speed-bumps after his death, no obstacles to just going on with life. everything was taken care of. Someone whose spouse dies suddenly or after a short, unexpected illness doesn't have that freedom.

I don't know that there's a natural conclusion to this post. I loved being married to John. I would love to have one more significant other to last the rest of my life, but I've got some pretty high standards after the twists and turns my life has taken. If I do spend the rest of my life alone—without a partner and lover—then I can consider myself blessed to have children and grandchildren who love and respect me and allow me to share in and enrich their lives.

I'm blessed.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Size Matters!

I turned onto North Michigan Avenue around 6:45 this evening. I didn't mind the rush hour traffic, as I could look around and enjoy being in a city.

I love big cities. Washington is my heart's home. New York is filled with excitement with every footstep. San Francisco has artistic nooks everywhere you turn. Chicago is one of my all-time favorite cities to visit. There is something magical about exploring a big city, of finding neighborhoods and walkable areas to explore, of seeing the excitement on the faces of people on the street.

My exploring for this trip began with checking into the Marriott Chicago Magnificent Mile, then running next door to Nordstrom to pick up a little Eileen Fisher tunic on sale. Tomorrow will be the Art Institute and Jersey Boys. Time and space permitting, I'll take the boat tour to explore the Chicago architecture.

More than ever before in my life, as I planned and set out on this trip, I realized that a lot of single women my age would not have the courage to do what I'm doing. It feels darned good!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Age or Experience?

In my new workplace, there are probably seventy employees. At least sixty of them are younger than I. This is a new experience for me.

The Web team at IBM numbered around ten people, and two were older than I. One was a gem who was incredibly knowledgeable about any topic you could throw his way, and was possessed only of a fabulous sense of humor rather than an ego to match his body of knowledge. The other was a caricature. She knew next to nothing and could talk extensively about it.

I like being respected by my peers. I want to always behave in a manner that promotes respect. And in turn, I want to learn from my younger colleagues, to continue learning and growing and expanding my knowledge base.

I've worked at a lot of jobs across varied disciplines in the past 25 years. I'm trying to ignore my chronology and focus on my experience. I hope my colleagues can do the same.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Next Tomorrow

I’ve mentioned, probably more than once, that each night when I get home Ridley asks if I have to work “tomorrow”. She loves sleeping with me and knows it’s only allowed on nights when I don’t have to work in the morning.

We’ve developed a kinship we never had in Tucson when she was younger. From birth, she has been a “Mama’s girl”. She would come to me and stay with me, but she always preferred to be with her “Rara”, as the children call Jaci.

I never had girls and was always somewhat intimidated and scared by the thought of female children. My mother always made it clear to me that I didn’t want daughters. I’ve had a couple of stepdaughters who worked very hard to make my life miserable, but I do have to admit they were all teenagers or older at the time they were wreaking their havoc. This little Ridley is a joy to behold, and of course I hope she won’t turn into a terror when she becomes a teenager. So far the signs are good.

When she was a babe-in-crib, I always said that when she was awake, she was smiling. She was the happiest little beauty, and I find that astonishing given the number of health issues (each with much associated pain) she has endured.

Last night, as she was getting ready to go to bed, she turned to her Rara and asked, “Does Grandma have to work tomorrow?” Rara answered, “Yes”. Then Ridley asked, “Next tomorrow?” Rara again answered “Yes”. And Ridley persisted. “Next tomorrow?”

I love this new phrase she has invented. It reminds me of my former co-worker Raj, who struggled with some aspects of English. He would say “today morning” instead of “this morning”. I guess whatever works to convey one’s meaning is fine. And Ridley gets her point across just fine. She lives for “next tomorrow” being Saturday so she can cuddle up with her grandma.

We’re both so lucky!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Enunciation!

Last night I had an incredible musical experience. I heard the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus in a performance of the Bernstein Chichester Psalms and Vaughan Williams A Sea Symphony.

Oh! My! Gosh! All I could think of during the performance was how badly I want to sing with this chorus. Miles don't matter. Hours don't matter. The apex of my musical career would be singing with this fabulous chorus.

The enunciation was incredible. The closing consonants of words were there, crisply, precisely. Their "s"es didn't sound like they were snakes without a pit to hiss in (as Bruce Chamberlain loves to say). Intonation was perfect. Rhythm was perfect. At the end of each movement of both works, I found myself saying "wow" under my breath.

This morning Tyler asked how I enjoyed the concert. I told him I *must* audition for this chorus. He and Jaci both looked at me like I was crazy. "Mom," he chided, "it's an hour-and-a-half drive. Can't you just be happy singing with the Akron Symphony Chorus?" When I told him I was thinking of doing both, he seemed to seriously believe I had lost my mind.

Maybe I'll just sing with Cleveland this summer at Blossom in Carmina Burana. But I must audition for this chorus, and now while I've got my courage up. If I don't pass the audition, fine. But if I don't audition, I'll never know if I could have gotten in.

The other portion of my evening was an elegant dinner in the restaurant at Severance Hall, sitting at the bar, reading my book for the next book club.

Then the preconcert talk was given by our dear friend Hugh Ferguson Floyd, who is like a mid-generation son to me (as dear to me as my sons, but not young enough to be my son).

And the hall. Oh my gosh, Severance Hall. For someone used to singing in the Kennedy Center or, more recently, the Tucson Music Hall, this hall feels so intimate. And the decoration! It's a Jane Sassaman quilt done entirely in ivory and gold, or an elegant sheath worn by a mature bride.

The evening was just incredible. I was proud of myself for getting out all alone for this amazing adventure. And I plan to do it again and again.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Brouhaha?!

Who uses the word "brouhaha"? I think this is the second time in as many weeks that I've seen it in the press. Is it a regional thing?

This morning I sat in the lunchroom with my Subway breakfast sandwich for five post-gym minutes, flipping through the West Side Leader. I noticed this report of an incident outside a West Market Street drive-in, listed in the Neighborhood Watch column:

The male suspect reportedly started the brouhaha by throwing a gallon of ice cream into the parking lot from an adjacent lot, causing it to strike a vehicle belonging to a male victim, who threw it back. . . .

This takes the phrase "food fight" to a whole new level, dontcha think?

You're Not Going to Like Hearing This

The babies have now adopted this disclaimer before telling me bad things that happened to them during the day. On Tuesday, Boston fell out of a tree and came up crying and bumped and bruised. On Wednesday, Ridley was sliding down a pole and lost her grip, after which much crying was heard.

How nice for them that they know their grandma adores them and doesn't ever want anything bad to happen to them.

May we all have at least one person in our lives who feels that way about us.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hurrah for Water Pressure!

I’m a good girl.

Of course, every time I say or hear that phrase, I remember my daddy. Anyone who has read this blog for longer than, say, two months, knows I adored my daddy and he seconded that emotion.

One of my most prominent memories is of the summer when my boys were, I believe, two-and-a-half and one. That would have been 1976. My daddy had a lake house out near the back entrance to Walt Disney World where he would go from Saturday noon to Sunday night to fish and relax. The house sat on two lakefront acres and had lots of grass that had to be mowed regularly. That summer he was having heart problems again and couldn’t go out there every weekend. TJ and Tyler’s dad was working at WDW as an entertainment supervisor. Every Saturday morning we would pack up all the accoutrements two toddlers require and head out to the lake, 45 miles away, for the weekend.

On Saturday afternoon I would crank up the riding mower and mow the grass, which would involve about 45 minutes of riding around in the sun, heat and humidity. The result for me, every week, would be a screaming headache. As I sat on that mower, riding, turning, riding, I imagined my daddy whispering in my ear, “You’re a good girl.” He was one of only two people in the first 46 years of my life who made me feel I had any worth. To this day, when things are hard and I take steps to ease them, I hear daddy telling me I’m a good girl and tears come to my eyes. He was one of a kind and died way too early.

So why am I a good girl today? I was in the gym at 7:45 this morning. I walked a mile, then headed for the showers.

You will remember that since February 28, I’ve been showering in an 80-year-old shower. That shower is fed by 80-year-old pipes filled with 80 years of crud. And the shower head has all sorts of build-up inside, such that the water that falls on my head is more than a trickle but far less than a waterfall. Washing my hair, which I do every morning, takes a long time, even though I don’t have much hair (fine, thin, short).

I stepped into the shower at the gym without having to wait three minutes for the hot water to arrive, and was almost knocked down by the water flow. Oh My Gosh. Just my morning shower at the gym will make getting up and racing out of the house worth the effort!

I like ending each day knowing I’ve accomplished something. Today I walked into the office knowing I had already accomplished something with that mile walk and happy shower.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

My Wish List

Please, Santa, can I have a Starbucks at the corner of Belmont and Gypsy? Then, as I'm hitting the road to drive for an hour, I could grab a lovely mocha to sip along the way.

Oh, I know it would be $4 per day, $20 per week, and so on. But it would make my drive so much nicer.

I know a Starbucks would never survive along Belmont, but it's my dream. And in my dream world, I have one fewer houses and three fewer mortgages and money is less of an issue.

Cheers!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Queen of the Back Roads

I cut five minutes off my commute coming home tonight!

My kids know me as the Queen of the Back Roads, and it's a sobriquet I don proudly. It is very common for me, when stuck in traffic or lost, to think, "I know that roads goes east. I think I'll try that." When I take a road trip, I'll frequently scour the map for roads marked with that dotted red "scenic route" marker, and follow that road, even though it might take me miles out of my way. I have an excellent sense of direction and enjoy exercising it.

I love exploring new areas and dreaming about what living in that location might feel like.



Since starting my job five weeks ago, I've stuck pretty close to my GPS system's suggestions of how to get to work. It's pretty straightforward, really. I hook up with I-80, then I-76, then I-77 to Route 18 on the west side of Akron. Exit west, go to the second light and turn left for half a mile. Piece o' cake.

The only variable to the route is how to get from the house on 5th Ave to I-80. For the first two weeks I drove down 5th, then turned right on the access road, dropped down on 422, then followed the signs to 680. Then on our trip to the airport three weeks ago, Jaci said I should take Bradley from 5th to Belmont, right to Gypsy, left to 711 to 680 to 80. I wasn't sure it was so much better, but defer to her knowledge of the area.

But the coming home part was still challenging. The section of road that connects 680 to 422 is miserable, full of potholes and rough pavement. I've tried staying on 80 to Belmont, but that puts a lot of traffic lights in between me and home. Tonight as I was on 680, I suddenly noticed the exit for MLK - 711, and it hit me that that was exactly the road I'd been looking for, trying to figure out where it was. The road is too new to be on my GPS. Hey hey. New would probably equal fewer potholes, right? Right!




Zip. Zip. Turn. Stop. Turn. Zip. Home.

Queen of the Back Roads still rules, even in Ohio!

Oh, you're probably wondering what my other titles are. Goddess of Google and Database Diva.

It's Only Money

This morning I FedEx'd my tax papers off to my accountant in Tucson. You will, of course, note that April 15 is one week from today. I e-mailed an apology to the accountant yesterday, but he e-mailed right back that it was okay. He probably implements a 15% surcharge for one week turnaround, which I will gladly pay.

I've been trying to get these stinking taxes done since late January. I am relieved beyond elucidation to have them done.

Now I can start worrying about where I'm going to find the money I owe.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Daffs!

As I was approaching Akron this morning on I-76/I-77, I noticed daffodils on the right bank of the interstate. Daffodils! My move is complete!

All of my Tucson friends know I've said for eight years that the thing I missed the most about the East Coast is the daffodils and the fall leaves. And now I'm back. The quick pic above was taken through the window of the Virtual Hold lunchroom at the bank of daffodils blooming just outside. They were buds on Friday. Today they're blooming.

I've waited eight years for this day and now Spring is well and truly here!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Beauty is Skin Deep

To continue on yesterday's rant:

I noticed on a number of the soap products the inclusion of ingredients such as Vitamin D, Vitamin E and others.

I'm a firm believer in taking my daily vitamin supplements. I know that medical professionals advise eating a diet rich in the vitamins and minerals that one needs rather than supplementing the diet. And I think I eat pretty healthfully. But I still take supplements.

Wouldn't giving your body all it needs internally help your exterior? Does applying vitamins to the body's exterior really improve the skin? Or is it just another ploy to sell products?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Pet Peeves

Or If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It!

I grow attached to the products I use. I have a very sensitive nose, and certain odors or fragrances can be migraine triggers for me. Therefore, it takes me a long time to choose a product to bring into my bedroom or bathroom. And once I start using it and liking it, I want to keep on doing so. I don't want to have to go through the same old process again when I can't find the previous product I used.

Today I went into Giant-Eagle (yes, I've heard people refer to it as Big Bird) to get soap for my bathroom. For years I've used Lever 2000 body wash for my 2000 body parts. It's the best soap for shaving one's legs. It's transparent and a great blue-green color and the smell is okay and I never cut myself with the razor when I'm using it. And the price is reasonable.

Alas, some suit decided it was time to change all the Lever products. Now they're creamy, not transparent. And they all have some dopey fruit in the name (and the odor). Mango Essence! Raspberry Dream! Grape Frufru!

Give me a break! I eat fruit. I don't bathe in it. And I don't want to smell it in the shower.

The best thing that could happen in my life is if every personal product manufactured would, as a rule, include a version that had no fragrance and would never be replaced by a similar product with fragrance.

Oh how easy my life would become!

Four Dollar Coffee

This afternoon I'm under a deadline to finish the newsletter publicizing TCA's concert next weekend. Jaci and I went to Fellows Riverside Garden this morning for the children's book fair entitled "Plant the Seed to Read." I was working at the FirstBook table; Jaci was with our friend Deb at the Treez Please table.

When we were finished with our duties, I ran her home, grabbed my laptop, and headed for someplace where I could sit in a comfortable chair with my laptop and focus on the newsletter. I ended up at Border's in Warren, as the Rosetta Stone evidently isn't open on Saturday afternoons. So much for supporting local businesses.

I sat down with my mocha and my apple tart, and a gentleman sitting at the table next to me leaned over and said, in a British accent, "I can't understand why Americans are willing to pay four dollars for some ground-up beans and hot water." I said I just wanted some quiet time with my laptop, that's why I was willing to pay the money. He didn't get the hint, because he kept talking to me. Ahhh, maybe that was his standard pick-up line. He mentioned he's from Ohio. Wait, if you're from Ohio, if you were born here, then what's with the British accent? After a while another woman walked up and sat down. She had her Bluetooth in her ear, and he asked her if it was uncomfortable. Looks like this boy was exercising all his pick-up lines (unsuccessfully) this afternoon.

But the point of this post is this: he asked if I was a writer and, without skipping a beat, I replied in the affirmative.

I don't normally think of myself as a writer. True, I am a published author, although the odds are very high that you've never seen my book. And I am employed as a technical writer. And my very first job when I dropped out of college was as a promotion and public service copy writer for a CBS affiliate.

But when I think "what am I", I first think musician, then geek, wordsmith, and fiber artist, in random order. It was fun today to realize that I am a writer. I love playing with words, looking for just the right turn of a phrase to communicate elegantly what I'm feeling or thinking. I haven't necessarily been trained in writing, but I love what I do and I'm good at it.

So I'm going to sit here with my $4.00 mocha and turn phrases in such a manner that recipients of the TCA newsletter might be compelled to pay money to buy tickets to next weekend's concert.

Y'know what? I'm a writer (she smiles).

Friday, April 04, 2008

What is Happiness?

A quote in this morning's Writer's Almanac struck me.

It's the birthday of novelist and screenwriter Marguerite Duras, (books by this author) born in a small village near Saigon in what was then French Indochina (1914). After her father died of dysentery, her mother struggled to support the family, and she was so distracted that she forgot to enroll her children in school. Duras said, "For two years I ran wild; it was probably the time in my life I came closest to complete happiness. At eight, I still couldn't read or write."

I don't think of running wild, of the absence of schedule and discipline, as comprising happiness. Maybe I'm too much a "Type A" personality, but I'm happiest when I have things to do, a schedule, people to whom to report and with whom to interact.

I complain about my commute, but my dear friend JW said to me the other day that the commute is a good time for thinking, and I agree with him wholeheartedly. I'm absorbing lots of literature, catching up on podcasts of radio shows I don't have time to listen to, and catching up with friends on the phone. And thinking.

I'm also trying to read a hardcopy book on my lunch hours in preparation for a book club I'm joining on Monday night. I realized one thing about "reading" an audiobook versus reading a hardcopy book. I'm a writer and editor and proofreader. When I read something on paper or on the screen, I'm constantly looking for errors. It's very hard to just read for content or to enjoy what I'm reading. But when I'm "reading" an audiobook, I'm just absorbing it. There are no semicolons that need to be commas, or misspellings. It's just information that's seeping into my brain.

So back to my thinking time. I realized the other day that I'm happy. Yes, I'm tired. And this morning on my drive in the rain it seemed like the road was 20 miles longer than it really is. But I'm happy. I have a schedule, and people who care whether I make it to work okay, and who are interested in what's going on in my life on a daily basis. It's important that I come home. I haven't had that living situation in a very long time. And yes, there's a learning curve while I adjust to making a difference again, but it's good.

It's all good.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Good News/Bad News

I joined the Akron General Lifestyles gym near my office [she says, patting self on back]. Last night after work I went over for my assessment session.

Oops.

Okay, the Good News is I joined a gym.
The Bad News is I'm 57 years of age and I'm out of frigging shape!

GN: My aerobic capacity is 80% above average for my age.
BN: My waist-to-hip ratio is 74% which, as all women over 50 know, is not good if you're trying to avoid heart disease.

GN: My blood pressure is Good.
BN: My blood pressure should be Excellent. It's always been excellent before. Oh, yeah. In the past two months I've thrown every stressor into my own path with a) finding a new job; b) quitting my job; c) packing up my house; d) moving out; e) driving across the country, 2600 miles in four days all by myself; f) starting a new job; and g) switching from living alone with Rudi to being in a household with five humans and six animals. Umm, if my blood pressure weren't elevated by now, I'd be dead!

GN: I did ten or twelve pushups. I though I would do one.
BN: I have to stop being lazy, get off my ass, get out of bed earlier, and get to the gym.

(Sidenote: every time I think about trying to facilitate getting up earlier and getting to the gym, I remember how PianoLady used to have her twin boys sleep in sweatpants and T-shirts instead of pajamas. That way she didn't have to dress them in the morning. Just roll out of bed and go-go-go. Maybe I'll start sleeping in my workout clothes. Sounds fetching, huh?)

GN: Probably 90% of the people I work with are younger than I and active. A bunch of the guys go to the gym at least once a week at noon and play basketball. I'm motivated to stay in shape to be able to keep up with these young whippersnappers.
BN: The procrastination has ended. Oh, I guess that's really the good news.

The worst news of the hour, though was the fact that I'm now measuring 67 inches in height. Bummer. I've been 5'8" since my 40s. I love being 5'8". When I was in elementary school and high school, I always wanted to be petite and blonde. The petite girls always seemed to be popular and have lots of friends. I wasn't popular, had one friend, and always thought anyone who hung around me was just there because I played the piano so well.

At some point in adulthood, I realized I was 5'8" and started loving it. Last year I was thrilled when platform shoes became popular again, and invested in a couple of pair. This made me 5'10" or so. I love being able to look eye-to-eye with tall men, or hug even taller men without hurting my neck.

What does it say that I'm now only 5'7"? It says I'm a*g*i*n*g.

For all the time I've had a profile on Match, I've railed against men who stated their height as if they were 45, failing to recognize or admit that men start shrinking at 45. Egads, now I've started to shrink.

If you haven't figured out from my ranting here, this is a big deal to me. Even bigger than my waist-to-hip ratio or, even worse, my body mass index, which I ain't gonna tell you!

But stay tuned. I'm determined to make a change. When the young man who did my assessment asked what I wanted from my program, I told him I didn't want to be using a walker when I'm 77 and I knew I needed to start now to prevent osteoporosis. (Actually, I needed to have started ten years ago, but I didn't, so I'll start now.)

Stay tuned. I've never met a challenge I didn't like.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

On Being Struck by Lightning

I've been thinking a lot lately about lightning striking a new relationship, versus the more plebeian type (for our generation of singles) where the relationship goes from 0 to 60 in six months or so.

The beauty, the satisfaction, of the relationship that is struck by lightning is the sense that all is well, all will work out and develop smoothly if not slowly.

Starting a new relationship is like being in high school again and it's horrible! Did I do this right? Did I do this wrong? Does he like me? What should I read into his not calling daily?

The relationship that begins with lightning striking the table imbues the participants with a self-confidence that enables them to go on in the relationship just being themselves. All nervousness flies away. Conversations flow easily, and dead air is not threatening.

Mr. Match said to me, back in our day, that we had gone from first date to "old married" overnight. And we both enjoyed it enormously (at least for a time).

There's a lot to be said for the comfort of "old married".

Adult Decisions

As we age, we have more data on which to make decisions. And we make decisions for different reasons than we did twenty years ago.

A 60-year-old man sees the tapering down of his worklife, the reduction of his income-producing capability, looming in front of him, and that colors his decisions. He sees something he wants, be it a Rolex watch or a wonderful woman, and he has to decide whether he will make the necessary changes in his life to be able to afford that watch or that woman. If procuring or acquiring that asset will cost him half of his previously-acquired assets or seriously impact the course he's laid to navigate the next ten years, he will—probably wisely—choose to forego the acquisition. He may realize he'll be sorry later, and he may realize he'll be passing up something he would enjoy enormously, but he will still make the hard decision to stay the course.

Others in our age group may not have the financial concerns, but may desire to live out the rest of their days with the utmost of personal integrity. For example, I have children and grandchildren who adore me. I am one of the most blessed people on the face of the earth. I choose to make decisions that will follow the moral high road. I don't wish to make any decisions that would set a poor example for my children. I didn't always do that in the past, but now's the time to grow a backbone. When faced with a difficult decision in the future, I would want my children to be able to say "What would Mom do" and choose wisely, with an outcome that would preserve their own integrity.

In my opinion, life does not get easier as we age. It gets much more complex.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

On Aloneness and Loneliness

When a person goes for months or years without feeling desired or desirable, without wanting and feeling wanted, she starts questioning whether she can ever feel that way again. Can ever feel desire and warmth and that lovely satin blanket around her heart.

I fully appreciate that this loneliness can occur within or without a marriage, heterosexual or homosexual or any combination thereof.

Does everyone, every human, want this? Is the desire to touch and be touched at the core of our humanity?

I really don't know where I am on creation and evolution and all that stuff. And I'm not asking you to proffer your opinion. I don't care. If you don't show me yours, I won't show you mine. I don't need definitive answers. But how human is this desire stuff?

There's a hilarious song in "Closer Than Ever" entitled "The Bear, The Tiger, The Hamster & The Mole" about the "real" facts of life.

"In most of the animal kingdom,
The ladies only seldom need men.
Their dealings are straight
They need them to mate
And never see them again."

One could say it's a distinctly human trait to want to be touched. But Rudi wants to be touched and he won't leave me alone until I touch him. He's very good about head-butting me and getting right in my face until I start scratching his head or running my hand down his back.

Too bad it's not socially acceptable for lonely humans to do that — to ask for and receive the touching they so deeply desire.

I believe I want one more relationship in my life. But I want it to be a loving, warm, nurturing relationship. I want to sense that I am loved, and I want to love my partner. I don't want a marriage for the sake of marriage. I've done that already, thank you very much. Actually, done it more than once!

You all know the story. John was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer six months after we were married. For the next twenty-one months we battled his cancer. He was on antiandrogens that entire time. So there was no sex. But there was warmth and closeness and bucketloads of love and cuddling and hand-holding. We were blessed to have that wonderful time together to conclude his life.

I never felt alone during our marriage. During the four years with EEFFH, I felt alone most of the time.

The bottom line for me is I'd rather be alone for the rest of my life and be lonely than be in a relationship and be lonely.