Monday, June 22, 2009

frailty thy name is woman

Not in the case of my mother. She's 86 and still has a vibrance and curiosity for life that I am in awe of. I sometimes can't keep up--and that's scary.

And mom was liberated long before it became the fashion. Nothing stopped her from pursuing new experiences--and the rest of us were lucky to tag along. Smart as a whip, she graduated from high school at 16 and took a job as a secretary in a Philadelphia bank. Marriage and motherhood followed [she raised 4 teens in the 60s--and survived! My two nearly killed me.], but her real adventures began when my brothers and I were all on our own...

My parents moved to the West Indies in the early 70's and my mother started working as the right-hand gal to one of the hotel owners who happened to have her hand in all of the tourism organizations on island. As a result, my mother started travelling to events for travel agents to promote several properties on St. Croix. I got to see her in action once here in Philly--a treat to watch a master at work.

Then mom created a program that is being revived today: "Hello Tourist" teaches school children on the various Carribean islands what their homeland has to offer tourists in the way of culture and history. Its initial go round made a real difference in giving these kids a sense of pride in where they come from.

But mom wasn't done yet! From her late 60s til the present, she has travelled all over the world as a freelance travel writer. On her 80th birthday, she walked the Great Wall of China and sailed by Three Gorges before the Chinese government flooded the area by building the biggest dam ever. Eighty-one saw her in Thailand. Add to that trips to Mexico, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. I was lucky enough to go with her on 3 occassions--what a blast she is to travel with.

Last year she went to school to learn web designing and created her own website to both archive her many articles and give up-to-date info on destinations around the world []. Her area of expertise, of course, is the Caribbean, having lived there for almost 20 years; but she is also very knowledgeable on Asia, Mexico and Canada. Most recently [like last week], she visited the US Virgin Islands for a writers symposium. This was preceeded by a trip to Jamaica a few weeks ago, where she took a ride on the practice track used by the Jamaican bobsled team!! there's a great picture on her website....

Like I said, I am in awe--and a little jealous. Right now, she's in better shape than I am! But she also gives me hope that you can continue to "reinvent yourself."

Not to say I don't worry like hell about what she'll try next... Most people my age are concerned about their parents assisted living situation-- I'm afraid mine is gonna fall off an elephant or something.

Friday, June 19, 2009

words, words, words

Anyone else exploding passwords out of their brain? I know I am. I have to remember passwords for 2 voice mails and the network at my job, one to log on to my bank account, for access to various other billing accounts, to post events for the theatre group I do marketing for, heck, even to log in and create this post. My head can't take it anymore.

The really annoying thing is my company makes us change passwords every 6 weeks or so--and it has to be completely different from the current one. Sheesh! Oh, and they want caps and a symbol in there too. My brain hurts...I'm reaching for the Ibuprophen...

I'm running out of combinations. I've used my kids birthdays, their baby nicknames, my address growing up, my first pet's name; I think I even used my bra size once. I have set aside a portion of my address book to keep track of everything. Otherwise, I'd be screwed. I mean, in high school I just left my locker open cause I couldn't remember the combination.

At this point in my life, there's just so much info in my "database" that I think I've run out of space. For reasons know only to the universe I can remember the most random stuff--like lines from plays I did 20 years ago--but passwords...

I wish you could defrag your brain.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I am a grammar freak--I can't help it. Twelve years of Catholic school in the 60s does that to you. You came out completely screwed up emotionally, but damn it you knew sentence structure, punctuation and spelling.... I worked for 4 years editing and proofing the marketing materials for a theatre company; I used to tell my boss my criteria was "What would have caused Sister to hit me with the ruler?" You'd be amazed at how helpful that was.

My son recently told me that he finds himself correcting his friends because of my insistance on good grammar as they were growing up. My daughter immediately said she does it too. And my grandson just rolled his 17 year old eyes at the 3 of us. I could see the thought bubble: "You are all so lame, what difference does it make." [Just like his mom and uncle used to do.]

I remembered the time my son started telling a story when he was about 6: HIM- "Me and so and so are gonna..." ME{reflex action]- "So and so and I..." Him- [beat, beat] "You're not going." We all laughed about it, but they did thank me for giving them fantastic vocabularies, a real love of the English language and the ability to speak properly. Hey, it's what my mom did for me. She always said you make a better first impression if you are able to carry on a decent conversation--a fact I repeated to my own two ad nauseum. [Well, that and "If you don't have anything nice to say... come sit by me." No wait--that's not it...]

When they were in elementary school, grammar was not "in," they were encouraging students to express their ideas...since when can't one express themselves and spell things correctly at the same time? If you know proper grammar it frees you up to let the ideas flow out onto the page. At least that's the case for me....

Now, I am all for slang terms and catch phrases--love 'em and use 'em all the time; but when it comes to formal writing or reporting let's get it right people. They're even playing with the past tenses of words. I have seen the following in very reputable publications: "Mr. X has pleaded guilty to..." I was taught the past tense of the word "plead" is "pled." Does anyone know when this other version came into vogue? And why?

Hope I haven't been too preachy, but this kind of stuff drives me crazy--and makes me want to get out that ruler.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Something Wicked This Way Came...

I want my body back. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but somehow I lost control of it and some demon spawn or something is wreaking havoc on me.
About 15 years ago or so, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. For the uninitiated, this is an auto-immune disorder that is characterized primarily by migrating joint pain and sleep loss. They don’t know which comes first: the chicken or the egg—is it the joint pain that disrupts the deep restorative sleep cycles or is it the lack of good solid sleep that causes the joint pain. Either way it’s no picnic; sufferers tend to spend their waking hours in a “Fibro fog.” Oh for the days when I could blissfully sleep for 8—10 hours, dream wonderful things and wake up raring to tackle the day ahead….

Fibromyalgia can also so totally compromise your immune system that you fall prey to every bug that comes down the pike—also exhausting [and a bit depressing]. I have lost track of the colds and stomach viruses that have caused me to miss work and social engagements. Treatment for Fibro is still nebulous at best. It primarily strikes women in the 30—45 age range, but some men have been diagnosed. There is no “cure,” and the ailment is strongly linked with chronic fatigue syndrome. Are ya jealous yet?

Okay, then when I was about 44, I started with night sweats and irregular cycles. So, off I go to my GYN, who chirpily informs me that I am “peri-menopausal” and this could last for 10 years. Ohhh, sign me up!! [As it was, the “factory shut down” about 8 years later—but just to add to the fun, the night sweats have hung around. And I generally wear lots of sleeveless tops with sweaters in the dead of winter to combat the permanent daytime hot flash].

Throughout all of this, I am trying hard to be active and stay in shape, but… well let’s just say “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” After putting in an 8—15 hour day [I worked 2 jobs for 10 years in order to keep my head financially just barely above water], I had absolutely no energy to think, let alone exercise. Then, I went through a very painful and protracted divorce….
Okay, ya still with me??

I start reading health articles and see numerous references to how lack of sleep causes weight gain. Strike one. Then a little while later, I see articles about how stress causes the body to store more fat than it needs. Strike two. And we won’t even go into what menopause does to a lot of women…..

To complete my trifecta of physical fun, I took a nasty fall this past March and damaged the crap out of my left knee. I am still gimping around following surgery—and going to physical therapy twice a week. Needless to say, I can’t even go walking for exercise at this point. I avoid mirrors so I don’t have to see what I look like these days. Fortunately, though, my sense of humor has stayed intact.

But what I keep thinking is: What gods did I piss off to create this storm of physical (and mental) limitations I find myself in? I’m a nice person. I try to do good deeds, I floss. God, I miss the 2 decades post puberty where I had a pretty good figure and could dance and jog—and even do an occasional cartwheel. At this point, I feel my only option would be a trip to Lourdes…. Anybody got any suggestions?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Whirligig of Time

I've been thinking alot about time this week--or rather the passing of it. You hear this contantly [and when I was a kid, it annoyed the crap out of me], but the older you get the faster it goes by you.

It seems just a bit ago that I was a young woman of 17 [with a hot body and perky boobs]planning to take Broadway by storm... Instead I fell in love. And wasn't is last week that I was the mother of 2 bright pre-schoolers. Now they are in their [gulp] 30's. Now I know it was just the other day I was helping my 16 year old daughter give birth to a son. And yet, her son graduated from high school on Wednesday night. [I vividly remember him sitting on my lap, weeks before his second birthday, applauding his mommy's graduation--in the very same venue where his was held.]

How can all of this be? How did the time get away from me--And why can't I snatch some of it back? [And not just to have my younger, thinner and more nimble self back--although that would be nice too. But that's for another post]

My daughter and son are amazing adults, but I still can't help but wish I could do a few things over. I tried the best I knew how, but I still have nagging doubts about so much of how I handled things. The most important things we do in life, our relationships and parenting, are the things we have the least training for. There was so much I just guessed at--and prayed I didn't screw them up too much. I sometimes think they've turned out well in spite of me.

The one thing that has been a validation, of sorts, is watching my daughter raise her son. She is a fantastic mom--and I try to tell her that as much as I can. There are many things she handled like I would have, but there are countless times she did it so much better.

For the first 8 years, she and her son lived with her father and I. And my mother-in-law and my grandson's paternal grandparents also cared for him quite frequently. As did her brother. As a result, he's kind of an example of "It Takes a Village" in that he's absorbed a lot of traits from all of the people who helped take care of him those first few years.

But it's been pretty much all my daughter during the past 9.... and I commend her for giving the world an amazing young man. Yet as she, my son and I watched him graduate, we later shared that we all wished we had more time. Time to give more life lessons. Time to impart more wisdom. But most of all, just time to kick back and share more laughs--and hugs.

Yeah, I've been thinking alot about time this past week....