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.

 

 

 

 


My Vet's Office

Vet

Please note: bull dog sitting on floor behind the desk, small beige cat next to laptop near the window, and cat with one eye sitting on the charts. These guys aren't even patients - they seem to live there. It may not be state-of-the-art, but I love my vet.


Missing You

Images-1I miss everyone I lost last year.

Yesterday, I was longing to tell my friend Missy about a dream I had. She'd have listened, snorted, and then come up with some completely irreverent interpretation that would make me laugh. There are so many things I need to tell her. 

I also really need to talk to my Dad. I have some questions about the Adirondacks that only he can answer. Mostly I want to look into his brown eyes, pat his leg and tell him how much I love him. 

Also,  I keep coming across pictures of my little brother and me. We are often touching - holding hands, or he is hanging off of my arm. With Bill, I want to warn him and protect him from the life he would lead. I want to go back in time, not just to before his death, but back to when we were 12 and 6 respectively, when he was a pale, tow-headed, chubby kid with no shadow of the terrible things to come and I was his alternately annoyed and affectionate big sister.


Dept. of Stupidity


ImagesI back up all the work from my MacBook Pro to an external hard drive. Like all things in my house, it stopped working - the backup that is.  Every day an ominous warning appears on my desk top. You haven't backed up your data in 63 days! 64 days! 65 days....

I called Apple Care for help.  The woman listened, asked me to again explain the problem, and then said she needed to reach out to a supervisor. About 10 minutes later she was back. 

This was her troubleshooting suggestion: wipe out the computer hard drive and try again.

"I'm sorry, can you repeat that?"

"Let's just start you with a clean hard drive."

"You want me to wipe out my computer's hard drive?

"Yes."

"Why would I want to do that? Years of work! I just told you, I can't back up anything."

"That's all we can suggest from here."

Maybe I'll try the Genius Bar next.

 

 


Quack Job

DuckMy new washing machine sounds like there is a duck dying in it. 

This has been the month of failing appliances. My oven gave up the ghost on broiling about two years ago, followed by the entire panel refusing to operate in any way that makes sense. At least until last week, I could still bake in it. My freezer's temperature has been wildly fluctuating, resulting in melted and refrozen ice cream, suspicious smelling chicken (thrown out now) and a near-constant puddle of water under the unit.

The old washer was banging so much that it jumped out of its laundry closet and onto the hallway floor during a rinsing cycle.

So first things first - I replaced the washer. The new one had nice capacity, basic features and the price was right. It didn't occur to me to consider the kind of noise it would make. Which turned out to be like a duck is fighting for his life in there. Images-1

Clearly I'm not the only one who feels this way, because GE has devoted a webpage to "Top Load Washer Normal Sounds" complete with sound clips. Scroll down to the agitation cycles, hit "play" and then and imagine that noise amplified so that you can easily hear it two rooms away. 

At least now I know that the sound of dying water fowl as I wash the clothes is perfectly normal. 

 

 


Supporting the Media

CNN baby haterI'm regretting my last post, though not to the point of deletion. 

Today I interviewed a CNN journalist for a magazine profile I'm writing. I asked her describe her day.

Her alarm went off at 3 am. She worked out for half an hour, dealt with some summer camp stuff for her kids, took a quick shower and was in the studio by 4:45 am. After a 5:15 am production meeting, she was in makeup at 6 am, then reviewing stories with producers until she went on air from 9 - 11 am as a substitute anchor. I'm writing this post after 5 pm, when she is again on air, filling in for another anchor. The time in between was just as action packed for her, checking and rechecking stories, reading feeds and updates, meeting again with producers and more. Images

So what's it like, I asked, being a journalist at a time when the media is portrayed as "the enemy of the people" and the President of the United States personally attacks your work? (If you can't make it out, the button on the baby pictured above left says, "CNN sucks.")


Rope tree journalistShe told me she was proud to be a journalist, and tries to do the job the way she says she's always done it - "focused on fact and getting it right." Media people are well trained to deal with other media people.

But it is clear to me that dealing with intense hostility, hateful internet trolls, and even threats to physical safety have all become part of the job description. 

Freedom of the press is a critical part of our democracy. So instead of whining about how difficult it is to consume the news these days, I'm changing my tune. Pay attention to the work that is being done. And thank a journalist for the important job they're doing. 


Citizenry versus Sanity

 

TV Trump

I'm still struggling with this issue: how can I be a good citizen and guard my mental health at the same time?

This week I was chatting with a friend about our current political situation, and she told me breezily that she doesn't waste any time thinking about it or exposing herself to the news. She'd rather take a walk in the woods, read a good book or play with her grandchildren. Brook

I get it, oh how I get it! And I've blogged on this before - cutting back on media exposure so I don't lose my mind.

BUT - what about Democracy? Remember that old slogan - "Democracy is Not A Spectator Sport"? What about our obligation to be informed citizens? Active citizens?

Anxiety Girl (moi) tends to think in Black and White, and I have to constantly remind her to to think in shades of grey. Some news and political activity, and lots of time outside as an antidote. (Like along this gorgeous Adirondack stream.)

Meanwhile, I am writing a magazine article for which I'm interviewing three well-known female broadcast journalists. (Well, one is actually a former journalist who has a "NDA" so I can't ask her about her settlement for $$$$ over sexual harassment.) I may have to break down and watch a little television news and see them in action,  so I don't sound like a complete idiot when I conduct the interviews.

 

 

 

 


I Already Bought One

Download-1Maybe this already exists but if not, someone needs to invent it: the "Already Purchased" click.

It happens to everyone who shops online. You're browsing for a pair of shoes, comparing prices and then you make your choice. In the days and weeks to come, every time you Google something, dozens of pairs of the very shoes you already purchased parade across the screen, following you from site to site. Images

For me this week it's the parade of washing machines. I bought one a few days ago - actually at my local appliance store which gave me the best deal. Nonetheless, options for top loaders, front loaders, commercial and apartment-size washers and continue to show up.  Download-1

I know, I know - it's an advertising algorithm, "cookies" and more. 
Download-1
Download-1But wouldn't it make more sense for everyone if you could click on something to say "I Already Bought One." The companies are wasting their advertising dollars and the consumers are getting annoyed.

On the other hand, it's creepy enough how much the Internet tracks everything about us. Maybe they don't need to know this too.

So, just a personal heads-up to Whirlpool, Sears, Maytag, Kitchen Aid, Best Buy, and the rest of you: I no longer need a new washer. I already bought one.

 

 

 

 


Forest Bathing

Alderbrook

I've been reading about "forest bathing" for awhile. The term refers to a Japanese practice of experiencing the forest through the senses. You're in the woods to to smell, listen, and breath, but not to hike, jog or otherwise exercise. 

Forest bathing is meant to be healing. In fact, a recent NYT article looked at the practice medically, measuring blood pressure, cortisol levels, mood, and more. The conclusion: not enough evidence-based science to prove the benefits.

Oh come on. Everyone knows that being in nature is both calming and rejuvenating. And it doesn't need to be the woods. Sitting by a lake, atop a mountain, in a meadow, watching waves roll in -all have the same effect. 

I love being outdoors. In fact,  I'm up in the Adirondack forest pictured above as I write this.   I don't need a blood pressure cuff to tell me how soothing it is.

Now "Forest Bathing" has become a "thing," with spas offering forest bathing for a fee. Seriously. Trained guides will take you through it. 

Here - this is free: go to a beautiful outdoor place. Sit down. Breath deeply. Breath slowly. Listen to the sounds. Take in the smells. Notice the changing light. Rinse and repeat, until you don't have to even think about these steps and do it naturally. 

 

 


Signs


ImagesDoes the Universe speak to us, or are we just always looking for meaning?

Yesterday: I heard from my dear friend Missy's daughter. Missy died earlier this year. Her daughter, "K" often visits the spot where the family scattered Missy's ashes - a specific point on the beach at Jacob Riis Park in Queens. At K's last visit, a pink heart balloon washed up from the shore, deflated and battered but at the exact spot. Also, someone had constructed a beach sculpture of rocks, shells and twigs in the same place. Missy was an artist, and K was speculating that she's changed her style. But she saw it as a message.

Then last night, when I turned off my bedside lamp, I spied a lone firefly outside my Fireflybedroom window. He danced and danced just outside the window for the longest time. Drowsy and happy, I felt my late Dad had come by for a visit - to let me know he was watching me and that he loved me. It was so beautiful - the yellow/greenish light against the dark sky.


Finally, this morning, my husband texted a short video of a brown rabbit hopping across the path. He and I are heading to Long Island this weekend. When we were dating - oh so long ago - he had a share in a summer Rabbithouse in Long Island. We used to go for walks at dusk and count the bunnies. I smiled when I thought of this. Then I looked up  from my laptop and there was a fat brown rabbit on my patio. We've lived in this house 30 years, and I've never seen a bunny here.

Signs, signs, signs. Except last night, when my husband stirred in his sleep, I jostled him to point out the firefly. "It's amazing!" I told him. "He just stays at the window." Mike gazed at the sight, and then said, "I think he may be stuck in the pull of the window fan." Sigh. We turned off the fan and the firefly remained. A sign! But then Mike pulled out the fan, and it turned out that the firefly was stuck behind it. Somehow, it had gotten in the house, and now he darted desperately around the bedroom, looking like an errant Tinkerbell. 

Last I saw the firefly, it had landed somewhere next to my nightstand. I worried it would die there, and I've already lost my Dad once. Well twice, if you count the dementia that proceeded his actual death. I'm dreading finding the firefly's dead shell this morning. If I do, I won't interpret it as a sign of anything. 

 

 

 

 


Family Book Group

Books-bookstore-book-reading-159711We're starting a family book group! 

My son proposed the idea on a group text. "Remember when we saw 'the Reading Family?'" he wrote.

Of course we did. We were on a trip back in the 1990s, and the Reading Family was staying at the same resort.  The mother, father, little boy and little girl each brought their own books to breakfast, lunch and dinner. They ate in silence, immersed in their reading. We thought it was so weird. They didn't talk to each other at all.  (Of course flash forward, replace the books with cel phones, and it couldn't be a more common sight.)

Anyway, my son continued, "Remember when we  mocked them mercilessly? Remember when, for the past 20 years, we all harbored a deep, secret affinity for their life choices?" 

Hah! It's true our family has a major nerdy streak.  And I'd like to take at least partial credit for the book love. When the children were growing up (they're now adults)  my favorite time of day was when we were cuddled up in bed and I read to them. First picture books, then kids books, then chapter books. Now when we're together we do look a bit like the Reading Family - parallel reading with paper books, Kindles, phones - though never at the table! And we do talk to each other. 

We still have a lot of details to work out - the book selection process, not to mention the actual meetings. My husband and I live in New York, our daughter in Seattle and our son in Washington, DC. Conference call? FaceTime? Can you even do a group FaceTime?

 

 

 

 


Times Marches On...

Old driver's liscenseToday I did something I've been avoiding for about a quarter of a century.  I updated the photo on my driver's license.

My old photo was taken when I was my daughter's age, about 33 years ago. Since then, I've renewed it by mail every eight years. New York State went along with this for decades.

Maybe I got tired of going through security at the airport, having them look at the photo, then peer up at my face, and then look back down at the photo. My reply to their raised eyebrows was always, "Well, I used to look like that."

In two years, we will all be required to have enhanced drivers licenses for ID to board domestic flights. And after all, how much longer could I have pushed this?

Still, I'll miss seeing that hopeful, smiling face in my wallet - a young mother and writer with so much time and possibility still ahead of her.

 


The Stink Mobile

Smelly carIf you just saw a woman driving down the highway with all her windows open and her hand covering her nose, that was me. There are no words to describe how disgusting my car smells.

It all began last month, when I found out that our town was launching a pilot composting program. I was thrilled - I felt guilty throwing compostable stuff in the trash and adding to the landfill. But I didn't feel confident starting a compost pile in my own yard - we have enough wildlife between the deer, coyotes, foxes and raccoons.

Now all I had to do was collect the food scraps in biodegradable bags and ever so often carry it all to the town recycling center. 

My husband is a sweet and thoughtful man. This morning he volunteered to get my car inspected and to take the collected (and now moldering) compost bags into town. 

He says he doesn't know what happened. The bag didn't break or anything, and what's more it was in the trunk. So why does MY ENTIRE CAR STINK?  Smelly car 2

Not fully aware of the problem, I drove it to the gym after he came back. Trust me, I needed a shower before I worked out. After a few minutes in that vehicle, I smelled like garbage. 

Right now the offending car is sitting in the driveway, windows and trunk open with the interior liberally dusted with baking soda. Any other ideas? 

 

 


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?

Download
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.