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 That makes two unpublished manuscripts for me -- a book of Lenten meditations and this one, a prayer book for Catholic church musicians, tied to the seasons of the church year.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!