Thursday, May 29, 2008

Little Bit Of Emotional Whiplash Here

I think it is typical for people to have a sort of emotional reaction after a long-anticipated event is over. I almost always do. Hell, I have barely recovered from my post-vacation emotional doldrums after last year's once-in-a-lifetime two-week cruise to Europe. Now, I am contending with a sort of one-two punch of sorts. First and foremost there is my reaction to my Dear Daughter's graduation. I managed to get through the experience without either a war with DD or an emotional meltdown. It would be impossible to pass a milestone like that without also having to acknowledge and deal with the passage of time. It seems like only yesterday I held her in my arms and rocked her to sleep. It was 18 years ago, as a matter of fact. The changes in her are all-too obvious. I don't feel as though I have changed at all. The fact is, I have changed and grown and developed every bit as much as she has in the last 18 years. My changes are just harder for me to see (or, perhaps, to accept). I am not the same woman I was.

Last week, I spent my time celebrating my daughter's accomplishments. This week, I've had to do the companion (and much less pleasant) work of acknowledging my own changing, and aging. While I truly celebrate the woman I am growing into (I've always looked forward to being a truly great Old Broad), it would be cheating to pass this milestone without mourning the woman I was. She was something special: happy, strong, eager, energetic. She embraced her new life as a full-time wife, mother and community activist with abandon, and made the most of all of those roles. Looking back, I am very proud of her. I miss that life. I miss the wonderful friends and co-workers I knew then. I miss being 35 and feeling like I had the world by the tail. I miss having my baby curl up in my lap and call me "Mommy".

The second thing I am dealing with this week is the impending resolution of a serious situation in my professional life that has lasted for a number of years. I purposely do not write about my work for a number of reasons and I do not intend to start now. I do have to acknowledge the confluence of the resolution of the situation at work with the other "passages" I am undergoing in my life. I am nervous, scared, and excited. I also feel a little bewildered at the thought that the situation I have lived with for so long might truly go away. There were times I thought it never would.

The sense of being on the verge of being able to breathe freely for the first time in a long time is exhilarating. In a strange way, it is also a little scary. What am I going to do without that albatross hanging around my neck? It's been there so long, I think it may take some adjustments to be able to walk around freely without it.

Perhaps I am encountering just a few of the many faces of Freedom: The freedom of the child-well-launched, with such rich possibilities for a future filled with joy and sorrow, hope and fear; The freedom of the empty-nester who is no longer needed quite so much by her child, both a sad and exciting experience; Freedom from a long-carried burden which has become so familiar I wonder how I shall ever be able to put it down.

"Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose." I used to think that was an incorrect statement. Now, I think it is correct, as far as it goes, but it is an incomplete statement. I think Freedom is the place where you have put aside the past (either because you have laid it aside voluntarily or because it has been taken from you by circumstances) to the point you have, indeed, lost it. That much is true. But, Freedom is also the place where you also have everything to gain.

The moment when we lay down the burdens of our past, and open our empty arms to an unknown future is the point of perfect Freedom. It is a moment of emptiness, fear (and even terror if you think about it too much), loss and mourning but also of hope, anticipation, excitement and joy. Hard as it is to imagine all those emotions playing out at one time, they can and do coexist ... at least they have all been running rampant through my psyche for the last few days.

Soon, I will reach some new equilibrium that will last for a little while. For now I am free-falling through emotional space/time, getting older by the second and casting aside responsibilities and burdens I have carried for years and years. It is a soul-shattering experience that is as terrifying as it is exhilerating (or vice versa).

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Campaign 2008 - A Word of Warning

I read today that Senator McCain is interviewing potential vice presidents. One of the people he met with over the weekend was Florida governor, Charlie Crist.


While Governor Crist seems likable enough, and anything would be better than any Bush, I can't believe that any presidential hopeful would seriously consider giving Florida a significant role in the selection of our next president. We have too much influence by virtue of our population as it is.

Consider the role Florida played in 2000. That oughta be enough to disqualify Governor Crist ... and any other Floridian, for that matter.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day (2)

Here's another poem for Memorial Day, a Kipling poem I had (embarrassed to say) never seen before. It appears history is (once again) repeating itself. We ask our military personnel to make sacrifices, allegedly for our common good. When they come home wounded, damaged and in need of help, we turn our backs on them.

Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade" was one of my favorite poems as a kid. It's exciting and fun to read. In this poem, Kipling tells the other side of that story.

America is doing the same thing to the veterans who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan today. We prefer not to deal with their wounds (physical and emotional). We bring the dead home by night and refuse to allow photos. We push the wounded aside and try not to let people see them either.

I was raised by a WWII Veteran who was a lifelong member of the VFW, and damned proud of it, thank you very much...

I am also a pinko, wacko, knee-jerk, bleeding heart liberal and I oppose this war (and virtually every other war that has taken place in my lifetime)...

...but I passionately believe that we owe our military veterans not only our gratitude but also our commitment to assure that our government shall not put our children in harm's way without good and sufficient reason. Consuming a Holy Eucharist of beer and hot dogs at the beach does not count.

My fellow citizens, we are falling down on the job.

Memorial Day

Now here's a truly fitting and appropriate meditation for memorial day. The poem is titled "For Eli" by Andrea Gibson.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Graduation - Part 3 - The Nitty Gritty

I don't know how I managed to do it, but I got through today without a melt-down. Had a couple of really, really close calls, but I managed not to get into a fight with anybody or to sob uncontrollably, even though I wanted to do both at various times -- occasionally simultaneously.

My baby girl graduated from high school today.

On the one hand, that should not be such a big deal. She will continue to live at home while going to community college for a couple of years. She will continue to work in the same job she has had since she was fifteen. As a practical matter, nothing will change in the immediate future. In emotional terms, everything is different. I can't believe I managed to get through the day without an emotional outburst. [I saved it for now.]
  • It seems like only yesterday I held her in my arms for the first time and she looked up at me with those huge blue eyes that seemed to belong to a very "old soul." After a terrible delivery that lasted more than 21 hours and ended in an emergency C-section, I held a baby in my arms who looked at me as though she were rather bored and irritated by the whole experience. I should have felt warned by that!
  • It seems like only yesterday I wrapped her in the "blankie" that had been my security blanket in my early childhood and nursed her in my husband's rocking chair, listening (and crying) to lullaby's on tape while she regarded me with a mixture of curiosity and disdain.
  • It seems like only yesterday I dropped her off at day care for the first time, and listened to her scream pathetically, "Mommy, don't leeeeeeeeeave me." I started smoking cigarettes again at the very thought.
  • It seems like only yesterday she "graduated" from kindergarten telling the assembled parents and relatives that she wanted to be lifeguard when she grew up. That was when we lived in Ohio and "Baywatch" was her favorite show. Once we moved to Florida and she learned about rip currents, sharks, sting rays and other beach hazards, she changed her mind about that pretty quickly.
  • It seems like only yesterday she went off to middle school, nervous and scared, but not half as scared as I was.
  • It seems like only yesterday we went to orientation at Spruce Creek High School with its thousands of students. She thought it was exciting. I wanted to throw up at the very thought of her attending such a huge school.
  • It seems like only yesterday she came home all a-twitter over the wonderful boy she met at work..... the wonderful boy who has been her boyfriend ever since then ....
  • It seems like only yesterday she was a nervous wreck over graduation, worried mostly that her father and I would embarrass her in some way..... oh, no, wait a minute, that WAS only yesterday..... and she had great justification for her fears because both her dad and I were train wrecks waiting to happen.

Today, she marched into the Ocean Center and claimed her diploma. My baby's a Young Woman now.

I thought it was scary to hold a new-born baby in my arms and know I was responsible for her care and nurture. Letting her go eighteen years later is an even bigger hurdle!

Graduation - Part 2 - "another view"

Today's graduation ceremony was (notwithstanding the egregious behavior of certain of the guests) as close to perfection as such events can possibly be.

Whoever planned the ceremony should receive an enormous bonus. The challenge for that poor soul was to plan a lovely ceremony to usher nearly 700 students to the door of adulthood and get it over with in time for another 700+ students from a different high school to have their graduation ceremony four hours later. Think about that before you move on! And just to make it more interesting, the convention center where the event was held is under construction and there are very serious parking issues.

The person or committee managed to rise to the challenge in every possible way.

The stage was beautiful. The entire ceremony was projected on a huge screen behind the diaz so everyone could see very well. The sound was good (always an issue for me due to my poor hearing). The ceremony started right on time. The kids marched in without incident. The music was perfect. Most of the speeches were excellent: short, poignant and humorous. The Valedictory address included humor, inspiring words and something I don't think I have ever heard from a graduation speaker before: a healthy dose of humility.

Somehow -- don't ask me how -- they managed to give each student his/her special moment crossing the stage being greeted by dignitaries, accepting their diploma and having their picture taken without rushing anyone but without wasting one second.

The Class of 2008 flipped their tassels together as one. They threw golden streamers in the air (instead of their caps), which was lovely, and they marched out in straight lines. I was very proud of the kids, but I think I was just as proud of the teachers and administrators who managed to pull off such a dignified and yet unstuffy event in an hour and a half.

I expected to be there for at least two hours. We were home by 2:00 p.m.

I am so proud and happy for my Daughter today. (More on THAT in coming days, I am sure). I am grateful her school gave her class a sendoff comensurate with their efforts and worthy of the occasion.

Graduation - Part 1 - (MotherRant Alert!)

Since I am in enough trouble at home right now, I am going to get this off my chest here where I am less likely to make things worse. My Dear Daughter graduated from high school this afternoon. I am in trouble because I wore an ugly dress that did not pass inspection. I am in trouble because I am too opinionated and don't "get it." I am in trouble because I rushed everybody out this morning to get ahead of the traffic. I was in trouble in advance because I am a cry-baby and DD did not want me to cry. (More on my experience later, although I will say that I did manage to listen to Pomp & Circumstance without sobbing. It took a lot of teeth gritting and intense concentration on trying to hold the video camera still, but I did it.... I hope I get credit for that.)

Anyway, Graduations, like many milestone events, are emotional and nerve-wracking. I have said before that each person in my family processes stress in different (and highly incompatible) ways. I have learned that it is best if we avoid each other when we are under a lot of pressure. Oh, I am in trouble for that as well. DD likes to argue when she's stressing. Last night I refused to be goaded into an argument and persisted in reading a book. I am in big trouble for that.

So, in the interest of staying out of further trouble, I am going to get this crap off my chest to people who won't yell at me for being a bitch.

First of all, I know that things are less formal than they used to be, but a Graduation Ceremony is a serious occasion. It is a milestone in the lives of our children. Like weddings, funerals, baptisms and, I dunno, other important events.... Out of respect for the kids being honored by the event, their family and friends should dress appropriately. I was (and still am a little) mad at DD for criticizing my floral print dress with pearls. She said it looked like an "old lady" outfit. Maybe she was right about that, but I stand by my choice. It was matronly, but, hell, I'm a mom of a graduate and I'm over 50. I'm entitled to dress matronly if I want to, dammit. What is more, I believe that my selection of attire was appropriate for the occasion.

I started to fuss at my Dear Husband because he did not wear a suit. He wore dress pants and a dress shirt. In the interest of staying out of further trouble, I did not make an issue of his lack of a tie, but it took some major tongue biting to keep my mouth shut. Boy, am I am glad I did!

To say I was appalled at the appearance of the graduation guests is an understatement. I can't even guess how many people were wearing jeans and flip flops. I saw one lady in Capri's and a halter top. There were lots of khaki pants, Hawaiian shirts and canvas shoes (this is FLORIDA, people, not Hawaii!); is that get-up supposed to be "dressier" than jeans and flip flops? A lady in the next section was wearing jeans and a crop top -- and she was barefooted! (I assume she had shoes somewhere.) The graduates were required to adhere to a very stringent dress code, and most of them seemed to have cooperated. Perhaps the school should have sent home a dress code for the guests as well.

As appalling as their appearance was, their deportment was worse. It never ceases to amaze me that people cannot sit still and listen respectfully to speakers. I could not believe how many people continued to walk around during the speeches. A lady in the next section from us stood up in the stairway taking pictures for the entire first part of the program, blocking the view of a whole swath of us in our section. The couple directly behind me talked through the entire ceremony -- at least until the time when they got up and walked out (early) as soon as their child walked across the stage to receive his diploma. By the time they had finished handing out the diplomas (before the flipping of the tassels, the throwing of the caps and the recessional), the hall was half empty.

It has been a long time since I have been to a graduation ceremony (which is why I wore a floral print dress and pearls: that's what graduates' mothers used to wear -- and their fathers wore suits with TIES). [Sorry.] Every year in recent memory graduation month brings at least one scathing letter to the editor in the newspaper complaining about people screaming, yelling and using air horns during graduation ceremonies. I never totally believed that stuff. I always thought the writers were cranks. Well, now, call me a crank but the behavior I witnessed today was inexcusable in polite company. It is no wonder young people can so often be so ill-behaved if the example (ahem!) set their parents and families today is any indication. People yelled, screamed, stomped their feet and blew air horns while the diplomas were being handed out. I am still apoplectic thinking about it. How disrespectful and just plain ignorant! The graduates worked hard to achieve an important milestone in their lives and too many of their parents and families acted like a bunch of hicks who don't know how to behave in public.

It was a disgrace.

The saddest thing of all, my daughter's high school is one of the top 100 schools in the nation.

God help us......

Friday, May 23, 2008

Starting the day with a good laugh!

I AM OFF WORK TODAY! Long, long weekend for me. Hooray! Since I still get up at ungodly hours even when I am not working (because I am a sick individual), I spent some time this morning visiting my blog-friends.

I ran across this over at Dooce. It made me laugh out loud. With two very bad dogs in our family, I can relate all too well.

Losin' It

I have a lot of faults, failings and quirks. I have a couple of quirks that border on being out and out disabilities. One is the inability to remember where I parked my car. I attribute that in part to generally being so focused on where I am going that I lose track of where I am at any given time. The other is that I'm just a ditz.

If I do not write down the parking space in a parking garage, I could walk around for hours before I will find my car. I never go to a large shopping venue without my daughter to help me remember where my car is. [Hmmm. Actually, I would never go to a large shopping venue at all but for daughter's shopping needs, but that is another story.....]

I usually feel pretty safe going to local grocery stores because their parking lots are small. WalMart is iffy not only because I lose my car in the parking lot but for a host of other reasons including frequent loss of temper due to the idiots who work and shop there, but that is a totally different rant.... In any case, I can go to WalMart by myself if I time my visits right.

I always felt safe going to Target, as well. That is a good thing because there is a Super Target literally around the corner from my house and I stop there probably four or five times a week. It was a "safe" place for me because it has a relatively small parking lot. The store is rarely crowded. I can usually park in generally the same place. I could go there all by myself and not feel at risk of losing my car. (Losing patience at the idiots who work and shop there is still a risk although the numbers of total morons at Target seems to be, overall, somewhat less than at WalMart.)

A week or so ago, as I was walking to my car in the parking lot of the Super Target, I found myself puffing up with superiority. There was a man walking up and down the aisles looking for his car. It crossed my mind to feel superior and condescending toward him for losing his car in such a small parking lot. After all, I had never lost my car at Target.

Naturally, Life managed to give me a good come-uppance for that breach of humility and kindness.

A few days later, I lost my car in virtually the same row where I had seen the man. It was late, I had had a long tiring day. I stopped at Target on my way home and I was exhausted, rushed and distracted by thoughts about what I was going to make for dinner. Somehow I ended up in the wrong row in the parking lot. I started walking up and down the rows. I was driving my daughter's car, which is white. Do you have any idea how many white cars there are in any given parking lot in Florida????

Anyway, I eventually found the car, stowed the groceries and made it home, but not without offering penance for my unkind thoughts directed at that poor man.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Very Personal Stuff

I never thought I would write about this here, but suddenly I want to share something about my personal "battle of the bulge."

The new trend in companies is "wellness" programs for workers. The idea is that workers who exercise and take care of themselves will be healthier, happier and cost less to employ and to insure. The theory is that when employers promote health and wellness for their employees, everybody wins. I think there is truth in that. Employers would do well to promote healthy lifestyles among their employees.

My company recently started such a program. It began with a pilot program emphasizing walking. I am a passionate walker, so I signed up immediately. In recent months, I have found myself at a plateau in my walking program. I am walking about as far as I can for someone who works as many hours as I do every day and then writes for several more in the evenings. I thought I was doing as much as I could possibly do in the way of walking. When the company started the "wellness" program, I signed up mainly in order to get the pedometer and find out how far I really walk every day.

The goal for the group is to build up to 10,000 steps a day over a period of several months. That sounds like a lot. It is. Ten thousand steps is approximately five miles. The very first day, I walked more than 13,000 steps, and I only wore the pedometer for a few hours. I realized almost immediately that my "normal" walk is about 10,000 steps. My "long" walks on the weekend are considerably more. I put in approximately 30,000 steps over the weekend and did not wear the pedometer all day either day.

We officially started the program yesterday. I'm at 29,000+ steps for the two days.

On the one hand, to someone who is really in great shape, my piddly ass walking program is probably not a big deal. I am not one of those hard bodied women you see in the gym. I have way too much skin for the size of me, which is gross. I don't feel like I'm in great shape and I don't look like I'm in great shape. That means that I don't think I should get any prizes for exceeding the goal at the very outset of the program. To me that only means that in order for me to really follow the program and increase my activity will be difficult. I may or may not be able to achieve that goal. Maybe the best I can do is to keep up at my current pace. Part of me believes that should be good enough.

By way of background, I should say that when I was in elementary school, I wore "chubby" girls sizes. When I graduated from high school, I wore a size 18 dress. When I was 22, I wore a size 20+ and had difficulty walking up one flight of stairs to the bathroom in my apartment. When I was 24, I lost more than 100 pounds. In the intervening years, my weight fluctuated some, but I never went above a size 14.

After I reached menopause, I got serious about trying to get my weight down as far as I could because I had developed high cholesterol. This year I will be 54. I wear a size 10. I walked nearly 8 miles today and barely broke a sweat (other than what you would expect due to the 90-degree heat). I realize that in some circles a size 10 qualifies me for fat cow status, but given my personal history of obesity, a size 10 is damned near incredible. When I was in high school, I could not have walked eight miles on a bet; now as a middle-aged lady, I can do it on a weekday evening after working all day and without any difficulty at all. Is that cool, or what?

I am exceedingly proud of that accomplishment!!! I encourage anyone who is overweight and wants to do something about it to simply walk up the street, and then around the block, and then around the neighborhood....... It seems so simple. It is. A simple thing that can change, enhance (and lengthen) your life.

Whether or not I can increase my daily activity remains to be seen. I would like to get down to a size 8. I don't know if I can do that. I intend to give it my best shot.

What I do know is that I am literally half the person I used to be. I have twice the energy and exponentially more stamina. I am 54 and I do not take any kind of medication on a regular basis. I am no America's Top Model, but I look pretty good by my own past standards.

Who knows whether or not I will live any longer because of it. I can say that I believe with all my heart that I live better because I lost weight and exercise regularly.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Out of season, but oh so timely!

Gordon Atkinson aka Real Live Preacher blows me away on a regular basis. He makes me laugh. He makes me cry. He makes me think. He makes me wish I lived a whole lot closer to San Antonio. He makes me know that if I did live closer to San Antonio, I'd become a Baptist (which is so damned funny I giggle out loud at the very thought).

Anyway, RLP is running a bit behind these days, I guess. Today he posted this item having to do with sacred abbreviations for Holy Names. Boy, did it hit a hot button for me. I grew up in a RC congregation where IHS was emblazoned upon the front of the priest's vestments. I knew what the Chi-Ro meant before I could read. In my word processor's Auto Correct dictionary, Xn=Christian; Xy=Christianity, Xmas =Christmas. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Not very many years ago I noticed for the first time people complaining at Christmas-time about the use of "X" in the word Xmas. It was allegedly "disrespectful". The first time I read a statement to that effect, I truly thought I was reading satire, until I realized the person was serious. I still can't believe it, but know it to be true.

To my mind one of the most amazing things about the Bible is that we have any copies of it at all. For that we can only thank the holy men who crouched over their vellum in monasteries all over Europe and the Near East for hundreds of years, copying and preserving the Holy Words. Like Gordon, whenever I use the Chi, I do it for the same reason the scribes did, to save space and effort. In so doing, I intentionally pay homage the thousands of nameless holy men who cherished, saved, copied and handed on to us the Scripture we know today.

Since I believe that writing is a sacred act almost regardless of the subject matter, and since I spend many, many hours a week crouching over my laptop struggling to put down words that I am inspired to write, honoring Scribes is especially significant to me.

However, in the interest of fairness and balance, I feel the need to give equal time to Jesus, and to recall that the description of the scribal profession attributed to Him includes the word "Vipers". ['Course I like to think Jesus was referring more to the Pharisees when he used that world, but that could just be me.]

Regardless, I'm guessing it would probably be best not to get too terribly cockey about the "Sacred Scribe" business..... The important thing is to do the work the Lord has set for us to do. Abbreviations and all!

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Until yesterday I was making great progress on my new story. It was cranking along great. I had written just under 45,000 words in a little over a month. That's fast progress even by my usual breakneck pace. Unfortunately, I must have been watching too much of the qualifying at Indianapolis this week: I hit the wall last night. Today I'm suffering from emotional whiplash ...

What happened?

Where do I start?!

While I still like the overall story idea (it's about lies and deception among friends -- you can do a lot with that!) and I like the cast of characters, just about everything else has gone bad. For one thing, I got to the end too quickly. There is not enough narrative. My original idea was to sketch the characters in very broad strokes and to focus on the sequence of events that ultimately destroy the various relationships. That was a bad idea. I ended up with an unadorned story that starts in the middle, goes like a bat out of hell to the end and then is simply over. There is not enough narrative, not enough romancing of the characters, not enough meandering about at the beginning so the reader can get to know and care about the people. As interesting as the events are, if the reader doesn't know and care about the characters, what difference will it make when their worlds fall apart? Answer: so little that even I didn't care very much.

I typically write like Kathleen Turner's character in the movie "Romancing the Stone." I laugh and cry and live the story with the characters. If the tragedy at the end didn't make me cry -- and I have been living with these characters for a month -- then nobody else would possibly care.

Now the question is: how do I fix it? I don't want to just "fill in" back story. I'm afraid that will read like "padding". The details have to be necessary and they have to support and to move the story forward. How can I do that?

As a preliminary matter I decided to try moving the original end to the beginning. That, of course, means that I need to figure out if the original beginning can be salvaged and put someplace else. At this point, it's looking a whole lot like I may scrap the entire thing and start completely over. Same characters. Same overall plot. Start over with the writing-it-down part.

[Aside: I love writing on the computer (due in part to atrocious handwriting and arthritic fingers that cramp when holding a pen), but I discovered something today that is not as much fun about writing on a computer as on paper. I don't have the cathartic pleasure of wadding up the paper and throwing it in the trash!]

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Daily Milestones

I have mentioned before, I think, that Daughter Dear is graduating from high school this month. Next week, in fact. If it weren't for mixed emotions right now, I probably wouldn't feel anything. On the one hand, I feel old and decrepit. What happened to that beautiful baby and fabulous little girl I have spent the last 18 years cherishing? This vivacious young woman is a stranger to me. She is lovely and funny and interesting, but she's too grown up to be my Darling Daughter. Where did she come from?

I also feel proud. I am proud of the wonderful young woman DD has become. I take no credit for that! The credit all goes to the grace of God and to DD herself for being such a level headed and perceptive person. She is kind (most of the time), compassionate and she would do anything for her friends. She is generous (to a fault) and squeezes an hour's worth of fun out of every fifteen minutes. I wish I could be more like her. She certainly is a great kid. I think I would like her a whole lot even if I didn't love her so much.

High school graduation is a milestone in our culture. It is perhaps less of a milestone for a kid who went to an enormous high school with thousands of students and who has held down a job working for a large corporation since she was fifteen than it was for me growing up in a small town where the high school was the center of the cultural [sic] life of the community. Nevertheless, moving from high school to college is a major stepping stone toward adulthood. I am happy for her, and I hope this is a special time in her life.

However, I am also cognizant of so much of the unfairness of the entire graduation "industry". The rich kids get all the biggest awards and scholarships. The graduation memorabilia that would probably mean the most to kids who are not going on to college is ridiculously priced and potentially out of reach for ordinary families. The cliquishness and pettiness of teenagers (and teachers) bursts forth in all its ugly meanness. Even thirty-five years (yikes!!!) after my own high school graduation, I walked into my daughter's awards banquet this evening and I could feel the under-currents of coolness-looking-down-on-geekiness and I wanted to crawl under the table and hide.

As a former geeky, smart, fat kid who wore thick glasses and had terrible acne, I thought the scars from my high school years were healed. I was wrong about that. Decades after my own graduation, I walked into a high school event this evening and, without knowing any of the people, spent most of the evening trying not to either puke or run away. My overriding concern during the entire event was that I would not do anything to humiliate or embarrass her. (As any parent of a teenager knows, humiliation and embarrassment can erupt at any moment with no apparent reason or warning.)

The most gratifying thing for me was that DD sat through the event without winning any awards or receiving any individual accolades and she still had fun. She was kind to her friends, giving patient and sweet advice and affirmation to a "geeky" friend. She made polite conversation with the parents of her friend with whom we shared a table. She even talked to her father and me. She ignored the snobs. She overlooked the teachers sucking up to the smart kids whose parents are rich and prominent. DD has goals and plans. She has places to go, things to do, things to accomplish and people to love. Graduation is swell and all, but it's not that big a deal for her.

Makes me wonder how she got so smart so young in life. Makes me wish I could have some of that wisdom even now.

To be continued ...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Fire Season

2008 is turning into a bad fire season in Central Florida. I can't remember the last time we had any rain to speak of in our neighborhood. The grass in our backyard crackles when you walk on it. In the past few days we have had very strong west winds (I think of that as the "fire wind") bringing extremely dry air to fan the flames of the dozens of wildfires burning in various places throughout Central Florida.

On the news tonight they said that approximately 140 homes have burned. I-95 is closed in a couple of places. I don't know how many people have been evacuated from their homes; many of them are staying in shelters. People who ordinarily get to work via I-95 have to take alternative routes, which clog surface streets.

All of that is bad, but fire season in Florida is sort of like hurricane season: it's a part of the regular weather pattern. If you live here, you have to deal with the risk of wildfires.

The problem is that the fires burning in Central Florida were not caused by heat lightning or other natural causes. Most if not all the fires burning in our neighborhoods resulted from arson. Somebody thought it would be fun to set a fire. Was it a prank? Was it done in an effort to get attention or to be on TV? Was it simply malicious destruction? Whatever the cause, there can be no justification for such senseless violation of property and endangering lives.

Despite my usual bleeding heart liberal positions on most things, when it comes to looters after a disaster or arsonists, to use an old expression from the Wild West: Hangin's too good fer 'em.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Epiphany in the Pool

When I was younger, it seemed most of my friends were older women. I was blessed with a collection of wonderful mentors and "other mothers" who helped me navigate many of the perilous portions of my early Journey. While I always had a couple of friends my own age, it seems that most of my best friends were women and a few men who were much older than I was. I always thought that was because I was "older than my age."

Today I find myself surrounded by people who are younger than I am. Even though I live in Florida, which is sort of like America's retirement home, the people I am closest to are younger than me. My closest friend right now is nearly 20 years my junior. That has been frustrating to me. I like being around people who are older than me. Hanging out with younger people makes me feel as though I am trying to be young again or something. I sucked at being a young person when I was one. I sure as heck don't want to be one of those pathetic old women who try to act young.

This afternoon, while drifting in the pool, I had the kind of epiphany that always surprises the socks off me, but would probably cause other people who know me to say, "Well, duh!"

I realized that I am now playing the role of "older friend" for the young women I spend so much time with. I am the "older lady" who has been married forever and who has been around the block a few times. I don't feel very wise or privy to any special insights about life. I'm not a mentor or "other mother," but I am a friend they know will tell them the truth without competing with them or stabbing them in the back like young women tend to do to one another.

Damn! I've turned into an "Old Broad" and didn't even notice. How cool is that???!!! I'm not a candidate for the Red Hat Ladies, but I am ready to crock back and enjoy being a cranky old bat.

Friday, May 9, 2008


I have been traveling on business this week with minimal access to the Internet. I was the only person around who did not have a blackberry or other email-enabled PDA. I felt very out of touch. I know my assistant felt that I was frustratingly inaccessible! Everybody else around me was able to keep up with emails throughout the days. I sat there thinking about how my messages were piling up.

Since I couldn't get the Ethernet connection in my room to work, I had to go to the lounge in the evenings to catch up on the day's messages. That was the only good part. I had the chance to knock back a couple of belts whilst handling my work. I must confess that the last few emails in the evenings had more typos than normal (and I suck as a typist under the best of circumstances).

Traveling used to be fun. No more. Security is always an issue. This was a quick trip, so I was not checking luggage. That meant I went without my favorite shampoo, face wash and hair "product". I took the travel sized versions of toothpaste and deodorant, and planned to use the hotel's other personal care products. My skin feels like tissue paper but my hair looks terrific. I guess the hotel soap was a little stronger than the stuff I'm used to, but they had great shampoo.

I seem to be fated to sit next to fat people who do not like to fly. Last summer returning from Europe, I was wedged into a seat in the very last row of the plane next to a very obese lady who was clearly unhappy to be flying. She fidgeted and sweated profusely for eight hours. On my flight yesterday, I was in the middle seat between a seasoned traveler, who slept from the time we started taxiing down the runway until the captain announced we were making our final approach to Orlando, and a very obese man who sweated profusely and kept putting a napkin to his mouth. I prayed like mad the whole time he would not barf. I have a very weak stomach. When other people throw up, I tend to join in. It was very nerve-wracking.

One thing I want to know: why do men always have to sit with their knees pointed out? My two seat-mates (even the sleeping one) spent the entire flight with their knees about 36" apart. As I said, I was in the middle seat. Do the math. By the time we landed, I was so stiff from trying to be very still and very small and not touch anybody.....

I am glad to be home.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Sour Grapes

DH and I went thrift store shopping today for the first time in several weeks. I picked up a bag of paperbacks for a quarter a piece. Typically I read books from the library, but I like to have a reserve supply of paperbacks on hand for reading in the pool and traveling. If I only spend a quarter on the book, I won't mind terribly if I drop it in the pool or leave it on a plane.

Because I was in a hurry to get to the beach, I sort of randomly picked out a handfull of books. This afternoon, I sat down to read one of them. I should have known better than to buy any novel labeled as a "Romance." I bought it because I always did like to read trashy stuff at the beach. I thought romance novels were the sort of raunchy stuff I have always referred to as "beach reading," such as novels by Erick Von Lustbader and the like. (Is that not the very best nom de plume ever??) Anyway, I used to read Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart books. I rather liked Gothic romance. "Bodice rippers" I think they call them. I always thought of them as Romance novels.

So, today when I picked up a novel classed as a "Romance" novel by a "New York Times Best Selling Author," I thought I was getting either a trashy beach novel or a bodice ripper. Oh, my dear God in heaven! The book was what I would describe as extremely poorly written soft-core porn. After reading the first dozen pages or so, I was ready to give up on it but I kept reading in utter disbelief, sort of like you watch a car wreck. I just could not believe something so awful could be published by an actual, legitimate publishing house.

I can't get an agent or a publisher to so much as read my stories, but this tripe is actually published and ends up on the "best seller" list.

God, it's frustrating. In my heart, I want to be thrilled at the success of writers who make it. I really do. I am awed and inspired by good writers whose books do well. It is hard not to be demoralized and depressed reading crap that can get published when no one will even read my stories.