Thursday, November 02, 2006

I am currently awaiting the arrival of a life insurance agent (because my life is just that exciting!) but I felt like writing a little. Today at work we participated in an educational event at a school, so the flow of the day was each period of the high school day I had five to ten minutes of intense activity followed by 30 or 40 minutes of mind-numbing waiting. That is not healthy, especially not for me. Suffice it to say I begin to understand the old chestnut that "An idle mind is the devil's workshop."

I think I need some adventure in my life. The problem is, I have no clue how to get it. I'm still far too much in love with my husband to seek out sexual or relationship adventure. I'm far too conventionally employed and far too committed to raising my son and sending him to college to undertake any kind of adventure that begins with, "I'll just quit my job and...." And we don't have the kind of disposable income to take on some adventurous hobby, at least, not any that I've been able to think of thus far. Adventure seems to take a lot of time and money, both of which I'm pretty short on.

But I sure would like to have that thrill of being totally engaged in something, getting the adrenal rush of putting myself on the line and facing down my fears. I'd like to challenge myself physically, meet new people, go new places, have new experiences. Frankly, I'd like to have one thing in my life that is all about me.

That may be the biggest thing, really. Not that I don't LOVE the life I have, but sometimes it feels like it is mostly about everyone else but me. At work I feel responsible for my team and, to a lesser extent, for the well-being of all the employees. At home I'm wife and mother. Other parts of my time are full of church choir and room parent volunteering and helping lead the Boy Scout troop. Good things, things I enjoy doing, certainly. But not a lot about me.

Sigh. I'm sure this will pass. But just in case anybody out there is reading this and feels moved to send me some thrill-seeking ideas consistent with my overall values, I'm open!!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

So last night after writing my blog entry, I sat down and fired off another poem for my friend to use as lyrics. The weird thing was, this one almost wrote itself. I feel so good about it I'm going to post it here. For anyone who wonders, the 22 year old, the 35 year old and the 55 year old mentioned below are absolutely real people of my acquaintance. The 47 year old is basically me with a few details changed to make me a little more typical, and the 68 year old is an amalgam of two different people rolled into one.

I hope Debbie is able to set this one to music, because as I said, it practically wrote itself. I hope it will convey to others the message it conveyed to me, that life is beautiful at every stage and that with the right attitude everyone's life can be bliss!

Here it is:

Can’t Wait to See What Else God Has in Store

I know a guy who’s twenty-two
His life is so much fun he doesn’t know what to do.
He’s got a good job and a steady girl
And he’s ready to give this life a whirl.
He’s not rich (though he is good looking)
But he’s always got new ideas cooking.
If you asked him about his life today,
I’m pretty sure that he would say:

It don’t get much better than this.
Got everything I need, yeah, this is bliss.
I got love, I got fun, I got health and brains
I got a place to stay warm and dry when it rains
I don’t know how I could ask for more
Can’t wait to see what else God has in store!

I know a gal who is thirty-five
She’s got two little girls to keep her glad she’s alive.
Got a loving, fun husband there by her side
And a big Italian family whose arms are open wide.
They’re not rich but they have the things they need,
You can see the love she shares in her every deed.
If you asked her about her life today,
I’m pretty sure that she would say:

It don’t get much better than this.
Got everything I need, yeah, this is bliss.
I got love, I got fun, I got health and brains
I got a place to stay warm and dry when it rains
I don’t know how I could ask for more
Can’t wait to see what else God has in store!

I know a woman who is forty-seven
If you ask about her life she’ll tell you it’s like Heaven!
After 20 years of marriage she adores her man
They love in that way that only long-time lovers can.
Her kids are nearly raised and soon they’ll be gone
But through them she knows her story will go on.
If you asked her about her life today,
I’m pretty sure that she would say:

It don’t get much better than this.
Got everything I need, yeah, this is bliss.
I got love, I got fun, I got health and brains
I got a place to stay warm and dry when it rains
I don’t know how I could ask for more
Can’t wait to see what else God has in store!

I know a man of fifty-five
Lives every day knowing he’s just happy he’s alive!
They told him he had cancer and to make his peace
But with prayer he beat the odds and lives a new lease.
He and his bride take every day now as a gift
And when he looks into her smiling eyes he always gets a lift.
If you asked him about his life today,
I’m pretty sure that he would say:

It don’t get much better than this.
Got everything I need, yeah, this is bliss.
I got love, I got fun, I got health and brains
I got a place to stay warm and dry when it rains
I don’t know how I could ask for more
Can’t wait to see what else God has in store!

I know a woman who is sixty-eight
She is loved by so many and her blessings are so great!
Though her husband’s health is failing, she never complains.
She has grown sons and daughters to help ease the strains.
She loves those grandkids with a love that is fierce
And she still has that humor that can joust and pierce.
If you asked her about her life today,
I’m pretty sure that she would say:

It don’t get much better than this.
Got everything I need, yeah, this is bliss.
I got love, I got fun, I got health and brains
I got a place to stay warm and dry when it rains
I don’t know how I could ask for more
Can’t wait to see what else God has in store!

Monday, October 23, 2006

I know that one is supposed to update a blog at LEAST once a week if one is to keep any readers, but sadly, it seems about once every ten days is the best I can do these days. For now, it will just have to do.

I think I mentioned in my last post that a songwriting friend of mine asked me if I could generate some poems she could use as lyrics. I have done so, and whether anything more ever comes from the effort or not, I have found it very rewarding just to sit down and generate the work. I have never considered poetry one of my best forms of writing, but I did find I had at least a few good ones in me. And I still plan to try to write more. It is truly a case where the joy is in the writing, not in what later becomes of it.

My work situation is so much better than it was a year ago that I can hardly fathom that I work for the same place. There's a new air of hope and enthusiasm in the place that can't all be inside my head. Closer to my heart, I'm still in love with my little staff of marketers and feel so blessed that not only are they really effective employees, but I actually enjoy their company. Similarly, my two close peers, the other executive managers who report to the president, are gifted and lovable people too. I believe this job is exactly where God wants me to be at this moment.

All the other parts of life are hitting on all cylinders, too. After 19 years of marriage and well over 20 years in love with the guy, Bob still lights up my life. There is nobody I'd rather hang with or come home to at the end of the day. He is so thoughtful and considerate and he shows me that he cares in a hundred tiny ways each day. Sam is the healthiest and the most enjoyable he has ever been. We are part of supporting communities through his school, through our church and through his Scout troop. What a lot of great people that is in our lives!!

I'm currently psyched about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. (Yeah, I know it's a little ways ahead, but I've always valued anticipation!) Bob's brother Bill lives in Michigan and for -- I don't know, maybe 7 or 8 years now? -- he has hosted as many of the extended family as can make it at his place for Thanksgiving. Except last year we had to change it, because their dad was in the nursing home, and by celebrating Thanksgiving there in their home town, we were able to spring him and have him enjoy the day with the family. It wasn't the same, plus there was a pall over the gathering as we all knew Dad was in bad shape. We lost Dad Beasley back in February, so this will be a return to the previous tradition. Bill and his wife, Teri, are amazingly good hosts. Bill insists on doing all the cooking for the holiday feast, but we all pitch in on munchies and a meal for Friday. (This bash starts either late Wednesday or midday Thursday and runs through Saturday morning.) Their house, though really just outside of town, feels like you're isolated in the country. And for the rest of us it really is isolated far from our homes and busy lives. So it's a really nice little oasis of relaxed family time. We watch football, some people read, some play cards, somewhere over the course of it we usually drink. And we visit. We REALLY visit. It is relaxing and healing and we reconnect with each other and I am totally looking forward to it!!!!

One last image I include because it struck me as quintessentially Susan. On Saturday night Bob was out working at a fundraiser for a church group. I took Sam to a Halloween party and had a couple hours to myself before it would be time to pick him up again. I came home and turned on the World Series game, opened my laptop and Bible, and spent my time watching baseball and writing a scripture-based poem that might become a song lyric. At some point I looked at myself and realized I was probably the only person in America doing exactly what I was doing! And what was more, I was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Life has been too busy to blog much lately, but it’s all good stuff! And I really do want to keep this blog alive, so I’m making time to blather on tonight.

First of all at work, now that I have a full staff, they are absolutely hitting on all cylinders. Angie, my marketing person, just churns out work like you wouldn’t believe. I can’t believe how many balls she successfully keeps in the air! And the more we work together the more we find that we have similar taste and views in marketing, so we run into those moments where one of us starts outlining an idea and the other one interrupts, wide eyed, to say “I was just thinking that!!!” It is very cool! And she has a wonderful, can-do, upbeat attitude that is just a joy!

The new business development guy, Matt, is still wowing me. I cut him loose on the telephones a few days ago and he had at least one appointment every day for the next two weeks already! And he and Angie seem to be settling into a fun working relationship, which can only be a positive.

Then today, my dear friend and colleague Tara, who has been positively DROWNING in work and frustrated beyond tears by our boss’s refusal to allow her to hire help, finally got permission to promote her best person and hire a new one from outside to backfill. So she is in the best mood I’ve seen in months. She had not only suffered from needing help, but had felt discounted and disrespected by his previous reluctance to act on her request. Her suffering had really torn at my heart and I am about as happy today as I was the day I got to hire Matt!!

Away from work, a friend of mine who is an awesome pianist and singer and composer contacted me a couple of days and said a nationally known singer/composer of our mutual acquaintance has encouraged her to put together a portfolio of original compositions to shop around. She started working on it and found that lyrics are stumping her, so she asked ME if I might be able to provide her with some poems to use as lyrics. I am so honored and thrilled! By rights I should be writing poetry right now for that project instead of blogging, I suppose.

But one of the reasons I’m blogging right now is that as I write, I am watching Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on TV. Which is another thing I consider the good stuff going on in my life. When Bob and I were first dating and in our early married years, we used to watch baseball together a lot, and we especially always watched the playoffs and World Series. Bob has never lost his interest in baseball, but in recent years I’ve been busy with other things and sort of lost track of that interest. But with Matt joining my staff fresh out of playing college baseball, I dropped back into a game or two early on in the playoffs just to sort of refresh my memory and enable myself to make intelligent conversation. Darn if I didn’t get to see the Tigers upset the hated Yankees, then celebrate with their Detroit fans in a heartwarming demonstration worthy of a Disney movie. I was hooked, and I’ve been following Detroit ever since. They appear to be on course to sweep the Oakland Athletics, and if they do, I’ll be glued to the World Series games as a temporary Tigers fan. It’s really been fun to pick up that old interest and immerse myself in the postseason like this!

Let’s see, what’s some of the other good stuff going on? My son has been working on his adjustment to 7th grade and, like about half of his class, was behind on work. (I know it was like half his class because the teachers had a list of “opportunity seekers” posted, which meant people who were behind on work.) Today, Sam’s name was erased from the opportunity seekers list! He is caught up on everything and assured me he feels it will be much easier to keep up now that he has gotten caught up. And I believe him, because I have seen that he is working really hard.

Apart from his academic performance, though, I’m just so pleased with how things are going with him emotionally. He was diagnosed with clinical depression near the end of third grade and we have struggled these last three plus years with getting things stabilized and keeping them there. But lately, I feel like his personality is back to the one I knew when he was a little boy of 5 and 6 and 7, before the depression started. He has a great sense of humor and wants to do the right thing and is really a lot of fun to be around!

He is off to a Boy Scout campout this weekend, so Bob and I get a little quality time together. Ooh la la! And tomorrow we’re going to what was scheduled to be our semi-monthly euchre club, but this time has morphed into a Buckeye football party that will end with the euchre game after the football game. I think that is going to be a lot of fun, and kind of a rare day of grown-up fun for us without having to be parental. The only downside is that it will challenge my weight-loss efforts, which have been clipping along successfully. As of Monday I was down four pounds in three weeks, which for me is a phenomenal success. (I mean, a phenomenally successful rate of loss. There are still another ten or so pounds that need to come off along with that first four.)

Well, this is a lot of potentially boring “what’s new in my world” blogging, but I’m going to leave it here. If you want to read a great humorous blog that is a lot funnier and more entertaining than mine will ever be, I urge you to check out Stephanie Lessing’s blog at . She is the author of She’s Got Issues and Miss Understanding, two wildly funny chick lit books. (I don’t normally read chick lit – but I actually started reading her blog first and figured if it made me laugh out loud most days, then her books had to be good. I was right!)

OK, I’m about to bring up my song-lyric efforts and see if it is possible to write poetry while watching a baseball game. I’ll keep you posted!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

I’ve been gratified to get some feedback on my blog lately. Keep those comments coming – I love the strokes. Though Shannon, I’m really pretty sure I never used the word “Hot” about my employee. It would be unseemly!

A co-worker of my husband’s committed suicide last week. It was hard on all who knew her, of course. Bob was pretty shook up. She left five children, aged 6 through 13. It’s hard to imagine the level of despair that makes a mother lose her judgment that badly. But I guess I’m glad I can’t imagine it. I don’t suppose it would be a good sign if I could.

On a brighter note, I had dinner with one of my oldest and dearest friends Monday night. We have this funny ritual we have established where we get together for a night out once every six months, usually around April and October. (Give or take a month.) We meet at a nice restaurant and have a long, leisurely dinner and visit. We alternate picking up the tab, so we’re each on the hook for one dinner a year. You can feel pretty comfortable with a more extravagant night out knowing it is only one time a year!

It’s fun to observe each other’s lives from that perspective. When you talk every six months, you edit out the minutia and talk about what’s big in your life. Isn’t a shame we can’t bring that same perspective to our own life while we’re living it? I’d love to know as I’m making my little minute by minute decisions which things aren’t going to matter at all and which ones would be worth re-telling in six months! But I don’t think it is at all obvious as I wander through life. Often the activities seem very important – but in retrospect, it is more often the relationships that do.

And on that note, I’m off to important moments in sawing logs!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Wow, I've let way too much time pass without posting, so I'm going to spew some basic diary-type journal writing, even though it's not what I really mean to be about in this blog.

I haven't been posting because I've been really busy, and the good news is, I've been busy with positive things. At work I got to hire a WONDERFUL new employee to help with Business Development. His name is Matt, he is fresh out of college, and he's smart, enthusiastic, level headed, handsome and full of potential. I have been blown away by how quickly he is learning and by his great attitude and how much fun he is to have around! He keeps saying, any time I mention his age, "Yeah, but I'm an OLD 22," and strangely enough, he's kind of right. Old in good ways, while still young in the best ways of that, too.

And I have had this incredible onslaught of positive attitude myself at work. I can't remember whether I whined about it here, but as a company we ran really desperately short staffed almost all spring and summer. There were times it was a miracle we could keep the key functions covered to keep the doors open. But now we've finally hired for a bunch of those positions, so in about two weeks time we have added five or six new people. In a company with only 30 employees, that's a lot of new blood! So I have just been struck by what a great opportunity this is for us to turn the tide of attitude overall. If we just treat these people right and fill their heads with positive thoughts, they constitute a large enough group to set a new tone for the place. I believe it and I'm going to keep pounding on it, so I sure hope I'm right!

Here's another positive note. Today my son, Sam, was off school, so I took the day off and we went to visit our local high school and the district's alternative high school. Because he has been in this Montessori School that draws from all over our county and beyond, that jump into high school becomes a big hairy deal. These kids' established social network scatters to the four winds and each kid must seek out the high school that best suits his or her needs on his or her own. So we have identified five prospective schools -- these two public schools in our district, two Catholic schools, and one magnet math/science/technology school that serves the entire county. Sam is only in 7th grade, so we don't need to make a decision until spring of 2008, but I thought it would be wise to start our visits this year to give us all time to reflect upon what we see.

We really liked both the schools we visited today. They were very different. We visited the alternative school first. It's very small and very informal. The kdis call the teachers by their first names. The kids hold "town meetings" where they make lots of decisions about the school that would be administration decisions anywhere else. They hold "fairness meetings" where breaches of rules are discussed and punishments determined. With approvals, they are allowed to decorate their lockers or paint murals on the walls. During their non-scheduled times they can study or they can sit and play guitar if they want. Very democratic, very much each kid responsible for his/her own behavior and performance and success. I think the whole school accomodates 350 students. It really matches up with Sam's temperament in many ways.

Then we visited his assigned high school, and it was wonderful in different ways. There are 1,700 students there, but starting this year they break the incoming freshman class into "teams" and you work with that same team with the same teacher advisors throughout, so as to creat a small learning community in that big school. They have top notch science labs and theatres and music facilities and gyms and all that. They also offer a wide array of AP courses that appeal to him.

The way the alternative school works is that you are still enrolled in the home high school, so he could theoretically enjoy a lot of its advantages while still being primarily a part of the other. We go on open houses to the other three schools under consideration in coming months, so we will see how they compare. But I was blown away with what positive choices our public district had to offer!

There, I've rambled a while and at least there is a current date showing here now. Perhaps I can add more soon.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Well, I spent most of the evening trying to write something, and I ended up with about 250 words. That's not much, but it's a start. So I thought I'd post it here and see if anybody gives me any feedback. How does it make you feel? Would it make you want to continue with the story or novel? Comments are extremely welcome!

Here's what I wrote:

“Whoever it was who said, “An unexamined life is not worth living’ should be shot,” thought Sharon as she walked to the refrigerator to add some ice to her rum & Diet Coke. “You examine it and examine it, and what do you gain? Nothing. But you lose the ability to just sit back and enjoy.”

As she pulled the ice cube tray out of the freezer, she noticed her drink was already half empty. “What the hell,” she thought. “Might as well top it off while I’m here.” But as she sloshed some more Captain Morgan into the glass, the more rational part of her mind knew she should slow down. She knew it was dangerous to drink every evening – especially in her current mental state. But it sure helped with getting to sleep – and there was no denying that it helped to ease the pain.

Just a few months before, Sharon hadn’t needed a nightly drink to ease the pain. Oh, she had often indulged in a drink then, too. But it wasn’t intended to ease pain. And it was only a single drink. Back then she was a happily married woman of 45 with a great kid in middle school and a decent job. Life may have been a teensy bit predictable, may have fallen a little short of her youthful dreams, but all around it was pretty good. Her biggest worry was whether Max, her son, was making any friends.

All that was before Dave died.

Again, comments are warmly welcome! Thanks for reading.

Monday, September 04, 2006

As promised, I have now finished The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon and I want to write something about it and how much it reminded me of The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin.

If you’re not familiar with these books, here is a very brief synopsis. Haddon’s book is the first-person account of a 15-year-old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. He finds the neighbor’s dog dead one night, and sets out to investigate who killed it. Along the way he uncovers a number of interesting truths about his own life and has quite an adventure. Martin’s book is the first-person account of a 31-year-old man with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. In spite of his well-ordered life, he becomes involved in helping his therapist protect her toddler from a kidnap attempt by the boy’s father and uncharacteristically goes on a road trip, which leads to quite an adventure as well.

The two books have a great deal in common. Both written in the first person, they show us a person with a profound social disability and get us inside his head to help understand why he reacts as he does and lives as he does. In both cases, forces largely outside the protagonist’s control draw him into adventures that are a great challenge for him, and each experiences tremendous personal growth as he survives his adventures. In the end, each protagonist’s life is in better shape than when we met him.

They are both very good books, and I would recommend them both. But since I read Martin’s book first, I was amazed as I read Haddon’s at how different it made me feel. The Pleasure of My Company was generally uplifting to me. The poor protagonist faced a lot of struggles and was portrayed very sympathetically, so I never laughed AT him in the pejorative sense, but I did laugh a lot.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, on the other hand, didn’t really uplift me until the very end. As I read it, I often felt a knot in my stomach comparable to the main character’s. I get that this reflects the strength of the writing, but it made it hard to stay with.

I have to confess that I think my reaction was partly because I know several kids with Asperger’s. None of the ones I know are as profoundly autistic as Christopher, the boy in the book, but a lot of his explanation of how the world looks to him rang true of the behaviors I’ve seen. So I think in part it was that this affliction hit too close to home. Also, those with Asperger’s aren’t going to outgrow it or “get well.” They may learn to function successfully within society and lead what looks like a fairly “normal life”, but their difficulty in relating to other human beings will always be there. So the book made me a little heartsick in that regard.

Another thing about The Curious Incident that made it more disturbing to me was that Christopher lives in a working class world, where most of the people he meets have little patience for this “weird” kid and little desire to understand him. He gets cussed out a lot, and treated with a lot of disdain and minor cruelty. I believe it is an accurate depiction of how this character would be treated in the society in which he lives, but it breaks my heart. The Asperger kids I know all come from families with the means to get them special help and put them in schools where they are nurtured and can shelter them with the ugliest parts of the world.

So in the end, I recommend both books. If you’ve never read any of Steve Martin’s writing I especially recommend his. It will wipe away any vestigial image you may have of him as a guy with an arrow through his head doing broad comedy on Saturday Night Live. I have found all his writing to be smart, insightful, and warmly human. But Haddon’s book is really effective, too. His plot may in fact be the more complex, and it made my heart ache at times. If he hadn’t managed to pull things together for Christopher by the end, I would have had to give it thumbs down. Instead, the upbeat ending that did, in fact, grow organically from all that went before, felt like a satisfying payoff for the pain I had endured during the journey.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

It’s been too long since my last writing. And I’m still scrambling for something to write.

Actually, I’ve had an idea going. It’s just not ready yet. I am currently reading a book called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. In many ways, it reminds me of a book I read about a year ago – Steve Martin’s The Pleasure of My Company. So I’m thinking of writing an essay comparing/contrasting them. But first I have to finish the current book.

Other than that, what do I have to write about tonight…..Hmmm……

In this part of the country, last week and this week are the prime of back-to-school season. This affects my life doubly: I work for a school related credit union, so for the past two weeks I was pretty much in a different school district every day. The days were long and satisfying, but wearing. And they generated so much paperwork I didn’t get through it until the end of the day Monday.

And then of course, I’m a mother, so I also had all the back-to-school drill with my son, too. He has been in school for two days now. The excitement of day one was that his bus was a no-show. We managed to get him to school on time nonetheless, and he seemed to have a good day. Today was uneventful. I will say this, though – he is in 7th grade now and already, the increase in homework is evident. That is as we expected.

I know this isn’t much of an entry, but it is the best I can muster tonight. Once I finish the book, I’ll write about how it reminded me of Steve Martin’s book and why.

Toodles and thanks for stopping in. Don’t give up on me after tonight!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Well, I have received an official rejection on my prayer book manuscript. That makes two unpublished manuscripts for me -- a book of Lenten meditations and this one, a prayer book for Catholic church musicians, tied to the seasons of the church year. In the interest of full disclosure, I will also say that I have not done anywhere near a full-court press to get them published. In fact, it was a lot closer to a token effort.

Here's the problem: I really want to write, but those aren't what I want to be known for. I mean, I'm actually quite proud of them, and for the prayer book especially, I get a lot of positive feedback. If I could get it published it would give me a warm fuzzy feeling of pride and all that. And I still truly believe there is a market for it. But I don't feel fired up enough to throw myself into a dedicated effort to get it published.

It's just that in my heart, I want to write fiction. Fiction is what I read for pleasure and I LOVE a good story. When I was growing up, I seemed creative. Even now, I think people consider me a good storyteller. But I feel like life has knocked the creativity right out of me. I have spent so much of my adult life ghostwriting President's messages in corporate newsletters and trying to put a bonnet on truly boring "news" being released to the media, that I seem to have lost the spark of how to start to make up a story. Get me going on a story I know, and I can tell it with style and verve. But ask me to create characters from scratch and devise a story line for them to follow, and I stare at a blank screen.

So I'm just assessing my options at this point. I may still submit the prayer book elsewhere, especially since our church choir director feels so strongly that the market exists. But I'd like to find a way to rediscover creativity -- to break out of the mundane and make up stuff like I did when I was 11. I think if I could do that, it would also go a long way toward making me feel unaffected by age!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

I've been really preoccupied with aging recently. I get the impression this is pretty common for women marching toward 50, but knowing that doesn't really make it easier. I know I should attempt to face it with humor and grace, making little self-deprecating jokes and appreciating all my blessings. Really, I know that. It's just this little voice inside me that doesn't -- the one hysterically screaming and scrabbling frantically for anything solid to hold on to so that I can't be dragged there. I'd like to say that it's yelling, "Hell no, I won't go," but even that overstates my composure. A primal scream is more like it.

Age smacks me around every single day. If it's not a young co-worker completely missing my pop-culture references to 1980's TV shows, it's getting a backache from -- well -- just living. I have reached that point I used to hear old people complain about, where young professionals look like smart-ass kids to me. (I've also fallen into my grandmother's old habit of coming out with a string of first names before I hit on the person I'm actually talking too. Boy, that creeps me out!) Last Christmas I was at a party where another guest was a plastic surgeon. She was flocked with women my age, seemingly normal Midwestern, middle class, noticeably non-movie star women, inundating her with questions like, "What would it cost to get rid of the bags under my eyes/turkey wattle under my neck/droopy eyelids/jowls/etc.?"

Though this has been on my mind for a while, the straw that provoked me to write about this today was something from today's New York Times Book Review. In her review of Nora Ephron's new book, Liesl Schillinger wrote, "But lately Ephron has learned that there is one betrayer upon whom no woman (with the possible exception of Cher) can exact vengeance or impose a fairy-tale finish: the body, with its dazzling flurry of early gifts, and its misleading air of permanence. Just as you begin to count on it, off it goes, hooking up with its smirking henchman, the aging process." I loved that passage on so many levels. First of all, it was beautifully written, and I had to admire that. But oh, how Ephron's sentiment resonated with me! I am definitely going to go track down her new book, I Feel Bad About My Neck, and wallow in her pain.

Another whole component of depression about approaching this age milestone is that it makes me feel like a failure. I find myself way too focused on all the things I haven't done in life -- whether those are career accomplishments unattained, travel destinations not visited, adventures not experienced, or legacies not left. (Don't worry, readers, I'm actually in pretty good mental health so I know how to go through the whole exercise of reminding myself how blessed I am, what a good life I have, blah, blah, blah. This is not a return to the self-pity I found I was indulging in during my 2003 blog experiment.) But today, at least, as I look at the big picture, it kind of ticks me off! How can it be that at 40 I felt like a success and at 48 I feel like a failure, and no cataclysmic events occurred in between? OK, there was a job loss in there, but it was 5 years ago, for Pete's sake! No, this creeping sense of failure isn't about anything that happened to me externally. It is definitely coming from the inside out, and that worries me. Worse still, it is definitely a key motivator of the primal scream inside my head.

So I sit here asking myself, "What am I going to do about it?" And so far, the best answer I can think of is distraction. I can't help but feel that the busier I am, the less energy I will have to devote to this. Except it can't be just busy-ness for its own sake -- it has to be something purposeful. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that if I can find something I perceive as meaningful with which to fill my time, I will feel less like a failure and a lot of the other preoccupations with age will fade or diminish.

Oh my God, I've just realized what I'm saying. I think I just said that I'm 48 years old and I have to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. Like that's gone really well for the previous 40 years.

Well, now that I've solved that problem (yeah, right!) I think I'm going to go immerse myself in the mundane. To be specific, I am taking my 12-year old out back-to-school shopping. If that doesn't take my mind off myself, I don't know what will!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

I had forgotten how hard it can be to discipline oneself to blog frequently enough to hold people's interest! Tonight I feel utterly uninspired, but I'm trying to get something going here as I don't want to fail in my first week back at blogging.

This week and next week are probably the busiest two-week period in the year for me at work. Because we work closely with school districts and this is the back-to-school time in Ohio, I am running like crazy from district to district to participate in their opening convocations and benefits fairs. On top of that, our board held its annual strategic planning session today, which involved a lot of work on my part and the rest of the executive management team in preparation and leading the meeting.

Have I mentioned yet how fortunate I am to work closely with two colleagues who I genuinely like and respect and trust? Tara and Jerry are the CFO and COO, respectively, of the credit union. The three of us report directly to the President. All three of us have similar values. We form a very effective team, and I think it's a classic case of where the whole is better than the sum of the parts. (And that's no dig on the parts -- we're each very well qualified for our jobs, thank you very much!) I am more extroverted than the other two; Tara is amazingly insightful; Jerry has a sharp analytical ability. Put us together, and we rock -- and have fun doing it.

After the strategic planning session today, Tara invited the other two of us to her house for a glass of wine and debriefing. (But we all kept our briefs on.) It was so relaxing. I feel so lucky we work together so well. Actually, the question of succession planning came up at the board meeting, and there was some discussion about whether Dick, our President, was grooming one of us to be his successor and whether he should. I'm glad we deflected it. I hope one of us does succeed Dick, but for the time being I think it's best we continue working as the strong team we are. When the time comes I'm confident we will transition smoothly into whatever new roles we assume.

This feels like pretty boring writing to me, so I'm not going to belabor it. At least I wrote something -- once I get better at just passing that hurdle, I'll try to raise the bar on the quality of the content.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I've been pondering the delights of old friends this morning. This was motivated by my having had the opportunity to spend time with two different sets in the past couple weeks.

For our family vacation this year, we went to Lake Cumberland, Kentucky, and rented a houseboat. Joining us on the boat was a friend of my son's and John and Sammy, a couple who are friends of Bob's and mine. Bob and John have been friends for 30 years, having met while in college. Bob and I were married in 1987 and we happened to be in Atlanta visiting John the day he met Sammy, his eventual wife. I'm not sure, but I think that was in 1990. So we've known them both more than 15 years.

Before we had Sam, we used to get together with John and Sammy often. When we lost a baby before Sam, they insisted we come stay with them for some pampering. That's the kind of friendship it was. But Atlanta-to-Columbus jaunts get a lot more trying with a little one in tow, so now we mainly e-mail and check in via phone. This was the first time we have spent more than a mealtime together in close to ten years.

Then this past weekend, I got to see my oldest girlfriend, Kathee. (OK, let's rephrase that. She's certainly not any older than I am, but our friendship has existed longer than any other.) I believe Kathee and I were in 6th grade when we began sitting together on the bus, and after we landed two of the lead roles in the 8th grade production of The Wizard of Oz, the friendship moved into "best friend" status. After high school we went to different cities for college and from their our lives took very different paths. She spent ten or more years in Chicago, then relocated to Boston where she still lives. Just like with John and Sammy, our friendship is now sustained by e-mail for the most part. But Kathee's mother is still in Columbus, and her mother's knee replacement turned out to be our opportunity to spend an afternoon together.

In both cases, I marvel at how quickly the distance and the differences fall away and how easy it is to be together. Having lived through so much together -- even when it is only living by e-mail -- builds such a foundation of trust and acceptance that it's easy to just let go and be myself. I consider that such a precious gift! There aren't really that many places in life -- at least in my life -- where I feel completely at ease to let my guard down and just be. To be with old friends who have seen me fail and flounder and can still love and accept me is a great comfort.

I'd love to explore this further, but duty calls. I have to go jump into the daily grind. But I hope the time comes when some of my current workmates or acquaintances have earned the honored title of "old friend." And I hope I can earn it from them!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Here I am, back at the blog-ranch again. I last tried keeping a blog in 2003. It went well for a little while, but eventually I came to the conclusion it had become whiney. I had slid into a bad mental space in general, and it all came pouring out into the blog. When I came to the conclusion that even I didn't enjoy reading all that self-pity, I pulled the plug.

But lately I have really been feeling the need to write something. And I've spent more time online reading other people's blogs. I think I may be capturing the notion of how to ramble on about various things of interest to me without the kind of self-indulgence I encountered three years ago. (Hmm, personal growth....ya think?)

So for those of you to whom I am brand new, let me give a brief introduction. I am in my late 40's and live in Columbus, Ohio. I work in sales and marketing (kind of a hybrid of the two, really) for a credit union. For the uninitiated, a credit union offers bank-like financial services but is actually a financial cooperative, based on great tree-hugging, kumbaya-singing types of values. My credit union was founded by school teachers and now serves anyone who works in education, as well as people who live in the immediate neighborhoods of our two offices and those who work for a handful of companies who have approached us for membership over the years. I am also part of the senior management team, so I get the joy and pain of interaction with the board of directors and get to see the wonderful sausage-making that goes into really running the business.

I am happily, joyfully married to Bob for almost 19 years and we have one son, Sam. Sam is 12 years old and entering 7th grade with all its incumbent drama and angst. He is an exceptionally bright child but has real social skills issues, so my visions of his future tend to whipsaw from Nobel Prize winner to axe murderer in rapid succession. But of course, he is my son and I love him more than I would ever have believed possible. If I had the chance to "fix" him, to change the problem areas, I'm not sure I could figure out which things I should change -- so I'd ultimately keep him just the way he is.

Bob was one of 8 children in his family, so his extended family is quite large and quite loving and plays a huge role in our life together. At his father's funeral earlier this year, I think there were 27 people there representing the "immediate family." With a cast of characters that large, there's never a dull moment. My family of birth was wide ranging in age and has been wide ranging in life choices, so we aren't as close --but occasionally they will no doubt turn up in this site as well.

I think that pretty well introduces me and this site. I welcome your feedback and hope many will choose to provide comments -- it will help keep me on task and true to the title of the blog!