Reorganizing Under The Influence

Images-1A good chunk of my publishing career, God help me, was pre-Internet. Yes, the New York Times has digital archives of the hundreds of articles I've written for the paper, dating back to the 1980s, but if you looked at my home office, you'd never know it. 

Back in the olden days, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, when I published an article in the NYT, my husband would painstakingly cut and paste the paper on to one or two sheets and then make two dozen copies. I sent some to out-of-town family and friends (I'm talking envelopes and stamps -no email back then) and then saved the other copies in a file cabinet. 

Okay, I just checked and I published 443 articles in the paper before 2003. A search for articles after 2002 comes up with 844 results. Now picture all those articles, multiply by 20 copies or so, and picture the state of my office. Download-1

Slowly, I've been sorting through them - keeping one original and recycling the rest. I'm struck by a couple of things:

  1. My God, I was prolific! Some days I had two and even three articles in a Sunday section. I wrote much more for Metro than I remembered. I really worked hard and rarely took a week off.
  2. I don't remember writing most of these articles.
  3. Many of them are painfully dated, particularly the health stories (the new concept of managed care!) and the many pieces about the development of the Internet - how it was influencing medical care, college searches, etc.                

As to filing under the influence, I have had some sort of flu this week (yes, I had the flu shot) and  keeping things in chronological order between sneezing, coughing and low-grade fever is a challenge. Yes, 1994 came before 1995. I'm almost sure of it.

Anyway, time marches on, and I'm doing all this cleaning and sorting to make room for my office to double as an extra guest room. I expect grown children and their loved ones - those very kids who I used to bark at with, "Don't bother me now! I'm on a deadline."  I need to be done by Christmas. Onward.

 


Love and Hate

DownloadStill struggling with integrating disparate worlds. The Pittsburgh synagogue murders break my heart. I cry whenever I read about it. I hadn't even finished reading about the bombs sent to 14 people before this slaughter happened.

Our country is in deep trouble. Every day it gets worse. 

And then there's my family. Last weekend we spent my son's 30th birthday in upstate New York. My husband and me, our daughter, our son and his wife. I wanted to freeze frame just about every minute - the hikes (all of us in ridiculous matching bright orange wool caps, which I insisted we wear because it's deer hunting season), the laughter, the games, the meals, listening to my daughter and my daughter-in-law compare notes on political canvassing, watching the tender relationship between my son and his wife, watching my husband quietly take care of stoking the fire to keep us warm....

Sheesh - I'm teaching tonight at the place-that-shall-not-be-named, and I was going to focus on run-on sentences. Doctor, heal thyself.

Anyway, I know I am privileged to be able to put some distance between my family and the political nightmare that is our country. Many people, especially those living in war ravaged countries, cannot. And yes, most of us are doing what we can to repair this broken, broken world.

But I'm scared. And you can only hide out in the mountains for so long.

 

 


Our Separate Selves

ImagesMost of us wear many hats, seamlessly transitioning from professional to mother to volunteer to cook to spouse to that woman at the gym that used to be in much better shape. (That's was me this morning.)

But there are days when these worlds seems to collide instead of blend. 

I cannot be specific on social media, but here's a major hint about my new gig: the image above is one of many things I pass by on my way into teaching my memoir class. The classroom is a world unto itself. For me, it's been like discovering an entirely new universe. Not just the millions of Americans who are locked up at any given day. I had a vague sense of that. But the humanity inside those walls has been a revelation. It shouldn't have been. But it was. 

I don't romanticize this population. Most have done horrible things. And I received a lot of training about boundaries, which I scrupulously respect. But once you've spent time there, you feel differently about your own life. The food on your table. Your movement. Your home. Download

I was just texting with my daughter, who this year will be preparing her first Thanksgiving dinner.  I'm sad she won't be home, but also excited to be walking her through the process. What a gift this is. What a gift our freedom is. 

I'm struggling to shake off the hours I spend inside those walls each week. But maybe I shouldn't try. Maybe they can help put my life into sharper focus.

 


Please Hold....For Your Mind

ImagesYour mind is very important to us. Please stay on the line and we will be with you shortly. La la la. Your mind is very important to us. Please stay on the line, and we will be with you shortly. La la la. Your mind is very important ....

Last night, on my birthday no less, I discovered that I have been reading the wrong book for my book group. This is a first. Sure, I've forgotten some of the books we've read - we've been together for 25 years. And it's true that our book group once picked a book that we'd already read. 

But this is the first time I've read THE WRONG BOOK. 

My kind husband had several excuses for me.

  1. We share a Kindle, and he was reading the book I mistakenly read, so it's natural I was mixed up.
  2. I am preoccupied. (What's new?)
  3. The titles were similar.                                                                            

Okay, but are they really?  The book I was supposed to read was "Disoriental." The book I was reading was "Asymmetry." Other than that they are one word, vague titles, I don't see the connection.

Sigh. Well, I'm liking "Asymmetry" and will finish it, but I have to start "Disoriental" or I won't be done in time for our next book group meeting. 

How appropriate. I'm both disoriented and asymmetrical these days.

 


Anxiety Girl Returns

DownloadJust last night I was thinking I'd become too calm and relaxed. My own daughter described me as "mellow." That is SO not me, though she may have meant that I was relatively mellow. I'd began to worry that I had lost my edge, my ambition - just my overall drive.

Leave it to Anxiety Girl to worry about not being worried. Fear not - I'm back to my usual heart galloping, stomach-aching, hand-shaking self. Sigh.

Too much going on - including a now-delayed flight this afternoon. Was dreading the flight, but now am anxious being late too.  I need to get to a wake and a funeral.

Also stressing out over a volunteer commitment that I am not allowed to discuss on social media. Let's just say it involves a great deal of clearance and security and hoop-jumping. All for good reason, but incredibly time-consuming and being shoe-horned into a handful of days. 

And then there's Congress. 

Well, I guess I can take being too calm off my worry list. Lists. 

 

 

 


The All-You-Can-Eat Dilemma

SushiMy family has been debating an ethical dilemma this week. 

It started when my husband sent around this article about a man who went to an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant. (For now, let's put aside the utter disgustingness of the concept.)

A guy came into the restaurant and ate 100 plates of sushi. The owner then banned him from returning. Evidently the customer was a triathlete who fasts for 20 hours and then pigs out. One hundred plates of sushi translates into roughly 18 lbs of sushi. 

Was banning him from the restaurant fair?

My son said he wasn't sure whose side he was on.

I'm with the restaurant owner. You might as well ask for a "doggy bag" at an all-you-can-eat buffet, to pack up what you didn't finish. There are community standards as to what constitutes a reasonable portion.

My daughter thinks my position makes no sense, arguing that restaurants can't change what they promise just because one person's meal is unprofitable.

My husband has kept his own counsel. 

Anyway, these are the deep issues I like to ponder as the nation seems to be going to hell in a hand basket. Feel free to chime in.

 

 

 


Full Circle

Sometimes role reversal can be very sweet. Images

My husband and I both spend a lot of time caring for aging parents. (Sorry, Mom, but you are 94, albeit an incredibly feisty and competent 94.) These last few weeks have been particularly difficult for my husband, whose father is very ill.

As of yesterday morning we were still on the fence about visiting our daughter, who has moved to Seattle. But we went ahead and flew across country, knowing that at any moment we might have to return. 

Last night, jet-lagged and emotionally worn out, we sat at on my daughter's couch. She'd put out snacks and was cooking us an early dinner because she knew we'd be tired. The guest room in her apartment was both immaculate and cozy. 

She sent us to bed right after dinner; she and her boyfriend cleaned the kitchen and took care of everything else, including setting up the coffee for the next morning, should we rise on east coast time. 

It's hard to describe how amazing it feels to be taken care of my our daughter. But in a word: wonderful.


Do You Ever Outgrow The "Back to School" Impulse?

Download-1It's happening again. After a long, delicious summer where I spent a lot of time outdoors, and not much time producing work - I have that back-to-school feeling. So much to do! But in September, it's not overwhelming - it's exciting.

Suddenly I'm bursting with story ideas - journalistic and memoir. I have new thoughts about articles to pitch and where to pitch them.  I'm really looking forward to a new gig in which I'll be teaching a memoir class to inmates upstate.

Oh, and I need to get new back-to-school supplies, which at this stage of my life translates to a new, electronic organizer/planning app, updating my website and ....er...some new back-to-school outfits. (Fine, I generally work in the room over my garage where no one sees me. A girl still needs new things.)

I'm even thinking about soups and stews, and (say it ain't so) getting tired of tomatoes and corn.

Here's what surprises me. Today it was 90 degrees today and humid. Not a hint of Autumn in the air. But somehow my internal clock knows when to get revved up and back to work.

 


Returning to a New Place

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When my husband and I make vacation plans, he tends to want to return to places he loves - particularly Glacier National Park. It's an amazing place and I love it too. But I long to see new vistas, cities, waters.

Except.

Except there is a place I return to again and again,  - a family camp in upstate New York. I'm there right now. I've been coming to this patch of Adirondack woods since I was a small child.

Yesterday we took a walk around a lake - something I've done dozens of time. We set out at the end of a sunny August day, about two hours before sunset. And it was as if I'd never been there before. The light at that hour, the particular position of the sun, the advent of late summer mushrooms and deep, pillowy moss - ever few steps there was new wonder.

So I guess my husband is on to something. Somehow, the places we love and return to are always new.

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Understanding Our Country

Why can't we understand each other? Media silos. Depending on what we read/watch/listen to, we have our own realities, which are constantly reinforced, an echo-chamber of our own beliefs. That said, there is legitimate journalism and then there's opinion masquerading as reporting. The best way to sort through all of this: consume a broad media diet.

Check out yesterday's some media homepages to get an idea of how different sites weigh the importance of unfolding events.

The New York Times:

NYT

Fox News:

Fox

Wall Street Journal:

WSJ

Make your own call on the relative importance of the lead stories, and the spin given.


Heavy Lays The Crown...

Download-1Another coronation this morning. Of the dental sort, that is. I am getting yet another crown, which by now should put me at the top tiers of royalty. I've had more than my lifetime share of dental work, and to add insult to injury, my old dental work is crumbling. Did you know that fillings only have a limited lifetime? I didn't. 

Because a couple of hours of drilling weren't enough fun today, I finally dragged myself to the doctor for an injury I got about a week ago.  I was trying to shove a stopper back into a bottle. The bottle was wet, my hand slipped, and banged into the granite counter. Okay, yes, it was a wine bottle.

It really hurt. I put ice on it, was able to (painfully) move all my fingers and Download-2called it a night. My hand has turned some lovely colors - dark purple, sickly yellow, but I figured it was on the mend. But yesterday I couldn't squeeze shampoo out of a bottle. And today I couldn't hold my coffee cup.

Sigh. It's fractured. My teeth are cracked, my hand is cracked, and my head doesn't feel far behind.

 I know I should count my blessings that I have health insurance. Not dental insurance, but let's not get greedy.