College Reunions

ReunionSaturday night, I was rocking out on the dance floor to "Taking Care of Business" (Bachman Turner Overdrive circa 1973) with my college classmates. It was reunion weekend, and I've never missed one - except for my 5th, when I was on my honeymoon. As I threw my arms up in the air and gyrated on aging hips, I flashed back to earlier reunions.

How pathetic the old geezers seemed - those classes celebrating 35th, 40th, 50th - even 60th and 70th - reunions. They'd march with their classes, proudly waving class signs, sporting class buttons, dressed in college logo gear. The parties were the worse - watching the oldsters trying to relieve their college glory days - grey hair and sagging bodies out on the dance floor listening to the music of their day.

Now I'm one of them. I look at the young classes dragging their toddlers around, and a few reunions later, talking about college admissions and their kids' chances of attending their alma mater. At the 25th, most people (at least the ones that show up) are at the top of their game, peaking in their careers, kids mostly launched, still physically sound. 

At my reunion this weekend, we said a prayer (non-denominational of course) for the 24 members of our class who had died. Many were lost to the early days of AIDS, a disease that soon after we graduated  mysteriously began killing off young men for no apparent reason. Cancer, suicides, heart attacks - the ravages of age. I was chatting to a classmate who is a cardiologist now (wait - that guy? Who was such a wild man? He's a doctor?!) and he says that the percentage of deaths in our class is consistent with the actuarial tables. 

Sometimes, visiting campus for a reunion is like being smack in the middle of your own actuarial table - you see where you've been - those pregnant bellies, those sweet kids, those driving energetic professionals - and you see where you're going - the walkers, the canes and the wheel chairs.

So yup, even five years from now, I hope I'll be on the dance floor pumping my fist to "I Can't Get No Satisfaction!" I'll look like a fool. But I'll keep dancing.

 

 

 


Packing

PackingAnxiety Girl has a lot of trouble packing for a trip. As soon as the suitcase is on the bed and the drawers are opened, I go into a mental melt down. Going for 5 days? That means I need 15 pairs of underwear. I think. I will be hiking by day. Okay, simple enough - shorts, t-shirt, socks, hiking boots. But what if we go out to dinner? Do I need something nice? Will I have a place to rinse my socks? Will they  dry overnight? Can I wear my hiking shorts three times? What if I forget something crucial?

On top of that, I have a recurring anxiety dream about packing.  In it, I have one small blue plastic suitcase. Not only do I have to fit drawers and drawers of clothing into the suitcase, but also I keep discovering more and more things that need to be packed. An antique armoire! All my books! And look- there's another entire room I just discovered that also needs to fit in the suitcase, couches and curtains included.

I have discovered this is an inter-generational family anxiety dream - my Mom has it, and both my kids have it. 

Some interpretations suggest that packing dreams mean the dreamer wants to radically change things in their lives. Others suggest that the dreamer needs to deal with chaos in their lives.

 I just figure it means that I'm struggling to get my s__t together. Must get to it.

 

 

 


Did you know letters have genders?

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Sorry to beat on an old drum here but this stuff makes me crazy. I am going to visit my great nephews and niece, 61OEa+OZNAL._SY498_BO1 204 203 200_

and I wanted to bring them each a book. Went on Amazon and began with "Books for 1-3 year olds." And look what pops up. Gender specific alphabet books! Needless to say, I won't be purchasing either book. But I did peek inside. In the Girl's Alphabet, A is for Apple Pie. In the Boy's, A is for Airplane. Last time I checked, this is 2018.


Book Group - Hollywood's and Mine

I was excited when I read that the movie "Book Club" was coming out, especially when I found out it starred Candice Bergen, Diane Keaton, Mary Steenburgen and Jane Fonda. Oh boy! 

Full disclosure - I haven't seen the movie yet. But I did just watch this trailer. Oh. My. God. A bunch of 70-something women, not a wrinkle among them, giggling like school girls over dating, men and sex. The book they are reading? "50 Shades of Grey." 

The script writers have given them high-level jobs, plenty of money, and even a scornful reaction to the book selection, which apparently leads them all to explore their own sexual frustration. Over the decades they've moved from Erica Jong's "Fear of Flying" to "50 Shades," fueled by a lot of wine on the way.

Really? What a let-down. My book group has been together for almost 25 years now.  We've read dozens - no, hundreds  - of amazing books. Over the decades, we've shared more than literature, of course.

Our kids were in elementary school when we started. Now they are adults. We fretted over middle-school language placement, kids' drinking and drugging and dating in high school, college applications, kids looking for work, their first apartments, kids who are gay,  kids who are depressed, kids who got sick, kids who got married, grandchildren, etc. etc. We compare notes on aging parents, home health care aides, nursing homes and death. We lament our own lapsing memories - once we chose a book we'd already read.

Not to mention charting our own careers - triumphs and setbacks, layoffs and promotions. Five women in my book group (of 12) have had - and survived - breast cancer. 

And yes, we've discussed our own marriages, the joys and frustrations. Sex? Occasionally, but not in a giggling, school-girl kind of way. 

I'll probably see "Book Group" and I hope it's better than it looks. This afternoon I've got "RBG" on the docket, so to speak. Nothing silly about her.


Ghost Writing

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I'm reading "Sing Unburied Sing" by Jesmyn Ward and two of her main characters are ghosts. One appears regularly but remains silent, disapproval registering on his face. The other is less physically solid, but he speaks - in fact he narrates a few chapters.

In the last year, I've lost my beloved father, my little brother and one of my best friends. I have no visions, unless you count dreams. But it amazes me how often the three of them pop up in my writing now. They show up in pieces that seem utterly unrelated to any of them.

One writing prompt - kind of a complicated assignment involving old photograph negatives - brought up a scene of trying on maternity bathing suits while my friend Missy watched. She  laughed and laughed as I struggled to shove my ungainly body into the spandex. The dressing room was hot and crowded and I felt faint.

Missy gave me most of her maternity clothes. Today I'm having lunch with her daughter, who looks so much like her that I catch myself staring at the curve of her cheek.

When Dad and my brother Bill come in dreams, they are always healthy and well. And every time, while I'm dreaming, I think, "How did Dad get so much better? I can't believe how well he's doing." I'm confused and delighted with his come back.

 

 


Make. It. Stop. Make. It. Stop.

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All my life I've been a news junky. I was in the biz. I never watched much TV news, but I was a newspaper hound. I still subscribe to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Journal News (my local Gannett paper) and I get highlights from several other publications, including the London Times.

But at this point, those subscriptions are as wasted as a hastily purchased gym membership. It's not the fault of  journalists.  A great deal of quality work being done. It's the emotional damage from absorbing the content. News should come with a warning label: "Consuming this product may be harmful to your mental health."

This is no joke. Numerous studies have made the link between news consumption and anxiety and depression.

My news aggitation wasn't doing much for my marriage either. For the last year plus,  I thought I was scanning the headlines silently. But evidently, I was constantly spewing, "Oh my God!" and "UNBELIEVABLE" and "Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse..." in a loud voice until my husband asked me to kindly keep my commentary to myself.

My husband actually reduced his news diet before I did.  And yesterday, I had lunch with two of my best friends - super-smart, informed women - and they, too, also have cut way back on  reading/watching and listening to the news.

 I feel like a bad citizen - democracy runs on an informed citizenry. But right now,  I just can't....

 


Magical Thinking and Anxiety

 

 

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When I was a kid, I used to stand on the second floor landing and watch my  parents' car pull out of the driveway. I believed that the longer I kept their tail lights in sight, the greater their chance of returning home. My small face would be mushed against the window glass, angling for that last view.    

    I'd like to tell you I grew out of this, but just now I found myself at my dining room window, watching another set of tail lights snake down the driveway, down our small road, and out of sight. This time, my son and his wife were leaving. I wave frantically while keeping the car in sight, to improve their chances of arriving back at their apartment safely.

    When I thought about reviving this blog, I toyed with the idea of re-naming it "Anxiety Girl." Alas, someone beat me to it, and hers is linked to support groups, literature on anxiety, etc. But if I'm going to be real here, you need to know that I grapple with worry all the time. Like when the kids were little and their school bus pulled away, I would picture it in flames, their own tiny faces plastered against the bus windows, helpless to get out. (Too much information?)

I'm somewhat better now. Therapy helps. Now, when stuff like that happens, I realize what I'm doing, and say, "Wow, Kate. Great imagination! I just love how cinematic your images were and the colors were magnificent. Very creative. Now let's get back to real life, shall we?"

Anyway, I'm sure my son and his wife will be just fine. Besides, they know they need to text me when they are safely home.


Block by Block

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This 3 inch x 3 inch book contains 786 writing prompts. With a nod to Julie Powell, who plowed her way through Julia Child's "Joy of Cooking" (and walked off with a book contract and a movie deal),  I am thinking of working my way through "The Writer's Block" book, one prompt a day. But with no illusions of doing anything with it other than exercising my writing muscles.

I began on page one yesterday, with the prompt, "Describe Your First Brush With Danger." This led to a short piece on having scarlet fever as a baby. Of course this is a story I was told, not one I remember. The version I've heard is that no one noticed I was sick, until the pediatrician came by to attend to my older brother, who had a cold. The doctor brushed by me (I liked the double meaning of "brush" with danger and the doctor "brushing" by me) stopped, and say said, "This baby is hot. She has a fever."

Anyway, the story was always told as evidence of my sunny disposition - I was pretty ill, but too sweet-natured to bother anyone. (Those of you who know me now - please hold back your snorts.)

One more thing - though I am committed to this one-prompt-a-day exercise, I won't write about it here every day. I promise. And thank God, because I just turned the page, and the next prompt is the word "Diet." 

 


Ch ch ch ch Changes!

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It's been so long since I've posted on this blog, that I couldn't remember where it was hosted, let alone the password. Found it!

Next, I googled "Writers Block" to see if the name was taken as a website. (It is - owned by a company that produces wooden blocks that say...guess what? Yup. Writer's Block.) It's a cliche, I know, but Holy Cow, am I struggling. 

My last bunch of posts were all about promoting my book. It's been 5 years. Okay six. Since then, full disclosure, I have started and abandoned 3 book projects - a novel, a non-fiction book and a memoir. I'm wondering if public confession will help motivate me. Right now, it just feels shameful.

To any new readers, I am a writer. Really. I wrote for The New York Times for more than 20 years. I published a book with a division of Penguin. I had six days of fame, if you count fame as appearing on NPR's "All Things Considered" and "Fox & Friends" (God help me on that that last one.) 

And now...now my lovely daughter has told me to stop wallowing (my words) and get writing again (hers). I'm going to start every day with a writing prompt. And I am jump starting my blog again. And I am NOT naming it "Writer's Block." Encouragement and reality checks are welcome.