Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Queue the 'Theme from Rocky,' please

You have probably heard that as you age, you lose elasticity in your skin, right?
Here's how it shows up: When you go to the pool for an hour and you wear a swim cap and goggles, you can count on the imprint from your swim paraphernalia staying embedded in your skin for the next four hours.
Three weeks in, and my learn-to-swim project is going, well, swimmingly. I suppose I am making progress, though I would like to hammer out that whole breathing thing. If ONLY I didn't need air, right?
Learning to swim in a group setting is another challenge. I have 12 experts shouting encouragement and offering advice as they motor by me in their swim lanes or wait for me to tool along from one end to the other. I love my To Be Re friends, and I welcome their contribution ...
OK, to be honest, I struggle with the "welcome" part of that last sentence. "Shut the hell up" is what I want to say. "I'll get it." But I'm an evolved grown-up and I don't say things like that. Out loud.
Last year, when I started To Be Re, one of my biggest struggles was the jump rope. I hated that thing. I dropped some good cash in the cussing jar at home (f-bombs cost $5) while the out-of-control rope gave me welts and I clumsily tangled my feet. I watched others jump while alternating feet, then I watched them criss-cross the rope, and I got it. I studied and I got it. I cursed my way there, but I got it. I jump rope like a boxer, my friends. Queue the Theme From Rocky, please.
I know I can get this swimming thing down. I am This Close.
When I go home after the pool and see the bags under my eyes left by my goggles (as if I need anything to add to the bags mother nature blessed me with), I say, "You're a swimmer."
I'm starting to actually believe it.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Threw myself a pity party; I was the only guest

As if learning to swim in eight weeks is not enough of a challenge, the universe (as my friend Diane would say) has given me more hurdles.
For three weeks, I have battled migraines. I won't whine here (my mom said I did that with her on the phone an hour ago), but I will VENT because I am FRUSTRATED!
When I was pregnant 12 years ago, everyone had an anecdote or advice to share - women AND men. Back then it was kind of fun, but sometimes I felt like I just wanted to have my own experience and not hear about everyone's water breaking, babies' heads crowning and episiotomy stitches (ewww, please). But our fresh experiences allow others to revive their stale ones, so whatever.
Anyway. Back to me.
Everyone has a remedy, diagnosis, treatment or theory about my headaches and dizziness. Y'all are gettin' on my nerves, which are short-circuited anyway. Yesterday, I knocked over a vase that I keep in a precarious position in my kitchen. I knock it over on a good day, being the quasi-clutz that I am, but because of my vertigo, I knock things over and drop things more often.
Yesterday was the last time I knocked over the vase. After spilling its contents on the floor, I picked it up and hurled it at the wall, breaking it into a thousand gratifying pieces. Then I fell to pieces on the kitchen floor and cried like a big baby. Threw myself a pity party, and I was the only guest.
Swimming worries me. This triathlon worries me. Diane and I swam on Saturday, and I made a little progress, but I have so far to go. I'm still working on breathing in air rather than water and trying to roll versus lift out of the water. I feel more comfortable, but I get frustrated that I continue to sink.
"Do you take in water when you swim," I asked Diane, "even a little bit?"
My friend, who tells it like it is, said, "Oh, hell no," shaking her head emphatically and laughing.
I tried to quiet my mind while I swam the 25-yard drills, but here is what it was saying: "How are you going to do TEN of these in EIGHT weeks? You are NEVER going to be READY! If you don't figure this out you are going to have to DOGGY paddle for 250 yards for your mini-tri! You are going to look stupid!"
Those are the hurdles I have created for myself. The universe has created migraines and vertigo.
I have a lot of work to do.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Peace, joy and all that

I believe in God. I can't help it. Too many thing have happened in my life that go beyond coincidence. I look to the divine to explain.
I'm feeling resistant to the holiday season this year.
My aunt, who has been killing herself with cigarettes for 40+ years has been in and out of the hospital over the last few weeks with cancer and complications of the treatment. Since moving to Arizona, she and I have had a holiday tradition of baking our tushes off this time of year (and eating WAY too much of our creations); we didn't get to do that this year (thankful for the calories saved).
The man I love, who I thought would be with me celebrating this season as a family, took a side trip down Indulgence Lane and sidelined our plans for the future.
Boo hoo. Poor me.
I believe in angels. Not the kind that have wings and flutter around all pretty and graceful, but earthly forms.
I received an e-mail from an unexpected angel last night - someone who lived a block away from me when I was growing up. I won't share the details of it because he shared it in confidence, but he reminded me to think about what matters. I know it is a simple, obvious and common-sense answer to my plea for help, but sometimes we get so caught up in our own self-absorption, self-pity that we forget the obvious.
Here is what my friend wrote:
"The joy I get from Christmas is not from the revelry; it's from the peace. The joy is an extension of that peace."
Here is my Christmas peace: My aunt has been given a respite from her suffering. She is home and able to move around and talk and laugh. "It turns out cigarettes cause cancer," she said, jokingly. She is well enough to being cancer treatments next week, and her will-survive attitude brings tears to my eyes.
The love of my life is fighting for his own life with a new determination that I have never seen. He's beautiful and strong and determined to be with me next Christmas, and I am proud of him.
Other reasons to be grateful:
  • My son, who is the light of my life, is healthy, happy, and a constant source of joy.
  • My friends who are beautiful inside and out and share wisdom daily and help me Keep It Real.
  • My family.  My eccentric mother, my wise father ... and all the kookiness ... smooches and hugs to them all.
God bless us, everyone, right?

Monday, December 21, 2009

I'm the Pulsar and the water is my road

I learned to drive a stick shift in 1988, when I purchased my second car, a 1989 Nissan Pulsar. Remember the model? It had T tops that snapped off and stored in the hatchback. It was a perfect car for a 22-year-old living in West Palm Beach, Florida. I looked good driving that car to Singer Island, my favorite beach.

My Pulsar was a beautiful metallic green, and, unfortunately, a stick shift. I didn't know how to drive a manual car, but I wanted that car.

And the salesman wanted that sale, so he gave me 10-minute lesson on the clutch and sent me on my way.

I jerked and grinded and cursed my way around South Florida for months, longing for the day when the coordination between left-foot-on-the-clutch, right-foot-on-the-gas, right-hand-on-the-gearshift and left-hand-on-the-steering-wheel became second nature. I'd watch my tachometer and, just as the salesman said, when the RPMs got between four and five, push in the clutch, let up on gas, release the clutch slowly, when you feel the grab, change gears and give it gas. My success gauge was, if my passenger's head didn't thrust forward when I changed gears, I was a smooth operator.

Here I am in that situation again, but this time, I'm the Pulsar and the water is my road.

My sprint triathlon is Feb. 28. I have eight weeks to learn to swim 250 yards.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The fa-la-la-la-las have skipped my aura.

I know I'm a Scrooge this year. It's Dec. 18, and I haven't put out a single holiday decoration, haven't sent a Christmas card and just started my shopping two days ago, much to my son's horror.
I can't explain it.
The fa-la-la-la-las have skipped my aura.
I have unopened Christmas cards on my desk at home, and I didn't do a thing to deck the halls at work. I'm just not into it this year. Really: I'd kinda like to skip it.
But here is something that gets me every year, regardless of my mood: I received a blank holiday card in my newspaper address to my carrier. Apparently, I am supposed to insert some cash, sign the card with a warm-and-fuzzy message and mail it back to him. He's made it easy by including a self-addressed envelope.
He didn't include a stamp.
I have a general beef about tipping. I don't mind tipping food servers because they are compensated by their employers based on estimated tips. When it comes to paying people for jobs they are already supposed to do, I get stingy.
I don't tip my dentist, doctor, banker, real estate agent, accountant, mechanic, mailman or grocer, so why do I have to tip my hair dresser, aesthetician and laser hair removal technician? I'm paying them to provide a service. Why do I have to pay them extra for doing it well?
My newspaper carrier does a good job; he delivers the paper by 6 a.m. daily, and I have never had to call for a missing paper. (And, in the interest of full disclosure, I work for the newspaper, too).
It's not as if he has to trudge through rain, slush and snow to get to my door.
I remember working as a carhop at Pietro's Coventry Drive-In in Akron, Ohio, (where I schlepped through the rain, snow and slush) and the owners told me if I wanted to get better tips, I should stand at by the cars and wait for the customers to tip me. (People thought because we were a drive-in restaurant that they didn't have to tip the wait staff, who were paid a paltry $1 an hour.)
I never felt comfortable asking for tips. And I bristle when someone blatantly asks one of me.
The newspaper carrier didn't even include a holiday wish TO ME! Humbug!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Flushing my sinuses

I begin every day with by reading a devotional from the book "God Calling: A Devotional Diary." The book was a gift from my former pastor, Rev. David B. Bowie, and I try to read it daily because it gives me a little spiritual high-five as I begin my days.
Saturday's entry was particularly serendipitous. The entry talks about fear and trust and using fear to quiet evil. It's kind of like reading your daily horoscope; if you try hard enough, you can find meaning or truth in the words. Next year, when I read the Dec. 12 entry, it will likely have an entirely different meaning.
'Specially because I will have mastered swimming.
"You must not allow fear to enter. Talk to me. Think of me."
I did a little praying in the days and hours leading up to my first swimming lesson Saturday morning. I decided to let go of my fear because, first of all, I would be surrounded by people I trust and adore.
Keith made arrangements for two better swimmers to work with me and another person who was in the same boat (pun totally intended) as me when it comes to swimming.
And, second, because fear leads to evil - gossip, hate, anger, lies.

This is what I learned on Saturday:
  1. Taking in large amounts of water through the nose is a great way to flush your sinuses.
  2. Clinging to the side of the pool will ruin a good manicure.
  3. Being muscular doesn't keep you afloat.
  4. The key to swimming is relaxing in the water and trusting the water (I'm still working on that one).
  5. Hiding the fact that I can't swim became such a habit, that I didn't even do it consciously.
  6. Hiding the fact that I can't swim was just silly.
Rick and Cary, the two people who helped us swim, were fabulously patient.
We jumped into the warm water (Yes, 85 degrees feels really warm when it's 45 outside), and Rick and Cary talked to us about the different types of strokes and asked us where we wanted to start.
"We want to learn how to tread water," we both said. We'd huddled poolside and agreed this is where we needed to start. The beginning.
Cary showed me her technique, which was this frog-like movement. She was slow and graceful as her neck and head bobbed confidently above the water line. I tried her technique and pumped furiously to keep my chin barely above the line."Why am I working so hard?" I asked her, nearly winded.
She said it's because I'm too tense. I need to trust the water. Oh, poo.
Rick took me through some drills. I did the breast stroke, which feels very unladylike, and a thing he called "Superman," where I swam underwater with my arms in front and used my legs to propel forward. Tuck your chin, kick your legs, wrists together out front, exhale under water (or flush your sinuses), roll your head to one side and inhale air (or flush your sinuses) - so much to remember.
By the end of the hour, I was convinced I could conquer swimming.
I text messaged Keith later that day and thanked him for creating the opportunity. I have three months to learn to stop flushing my sinuses in the water because ... drumroll please ... I've decided to do a sprint triathlon in March.
I am all over this swimming thing.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Waves of fear

Tomorrow is the big day - I get to go swimming. Can you see my forced smile and the thumbs-up sign I'm giving? Weee.

Keith sent an impressive Adobe Flashed invitation accompanied by the music from "Mission Impossible." The message begins, "Your mission, should you choose to accept it, involves taking on areas of your being where you lack power ..."

Because I am pretty sure I'm the center of the universe, I think this challenge and Keith's message are directed at me. Before we started this three-week workshop, I confessed to him that I don't know how to swim. I asked him if any of these mystery challenges would involve water (Please say no, please say no).

He's asked us not to discuss the challenge with anyone (does blogging about it count as discussion?), so I don't know if my fellow To Be Re-ers are swimmers or not. He asked us to identify ourselves as novice, average or expert swimmers. Huh, no category for "Hate to Swim-ers"?

Honestly, I am not afraid of water. I just don't LIKE it. It's wet. And cold. And, when you go to lakes and oceans, there are things floating in it. Living things. Slimy things. Pools are OK, but the water is usually cold.

To my horror, I learned last night that this pool we'll be splashing into is OUTSIDE. Of course it's outside. Why would anyone in Arizona build a pool inside a building? But this is December and we're having unusually cold weather. Of course we are. It was 36 degrees F this morning. I want to cry like a baby, fall to the ground, pound my fists on the pavement and scream, "I'M NOT GOING!!!!"

The water at this pool, I am told, is about 85 degrees. I got out my meat thermometer and ran my kitchen tap until it reached 85. Not quite as warm as a hot shower, but warmer than I expected.

I am not excited about this, people. I am not sure this is a place I WANT to be powerful. I am feeling the 17-year-old rebel burnout from Kenmore High School in Akron, Ohio, getting restless. But I made a promise to myself three years ago when I turned 40: I am not going to let fear stop me from doing things.

Oh, crap.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Write me a prescription for good customer service

I had an appointment with a new doctor this afternoon at 3 p.m. I arrived dutifully 20 minutes early to complete the 800 pages of paperwork, which included an acknowledgment that I could be charged $25 if I am late or cancel in less than 24 hours within an appointment time.
Know where I'm going with this?
Shortly after 3 p.m., I go into the exam room. The assistant takes vitals and tells me I'm next.
The doctor's thin walls allow me to hear his conversation with another patient. He takes her family history and she tells him that no one in her family has had the same problem, blah, blah, blah. My mind travels between their conversation and the unending stream of messages from my company through my Blackberry.
At least I am able to get some work done while I wait.
As my ears travel back to the conversation on the other side of the wall, I note that their topic has traveled from her bowels to real estate.
"You can get a one bedroom for under one-fifty," she tells him.
It is 3:45 p.m. At that point, I decide I've waited long enough. I gather my things and walk out. The office staff is apologetic.
"I can't imagine what is keeping him so long," his assistant says.
"He's talking about real estate with another patient," I say.
I just had a conversation with someone recently about how in today's economy, customer service is what keeps businesses alive. Medical practices, however, are kind of immune to customer service demands. We tend to put physicians on pedestals and treat them as superior to us, rather than people we've hired to do a job.
Would you tolerate it if your mechanic kept you waiting that long? Would you be patient if your dry cleaner left you in the lobby for 45 minutes? If you had a hair appointment at 1 p.m., and 30 minutes late you overheard your stylist chatting with her previous client about, oh, say, REAL ESTATE, wouldn't you be ticked?
I am.
The right thing for this doctor to do would be to call me and apologize for keeping me waiting so long. If he's heard of "customer service," he'd do that. But he won't. I'm back at square one wondering whether I should reschedule with him or start over to find someone else. The thing is: They're all like this.

Monday, December 7, 2009

I'd rather jump than get whacked in the head

I met this guy a couple of years ago through an online dating site. We met for coffee  at Coffee Plantation when it was at the Biltmore mall. As we strolled through the storefronts and told each other about our lives, he told me that based on our telephone conversations prior to meeting, he thought I was an idealist.
I made a face that made me appear to contemplate the comment, when, in fact, I had no idea what he meant.
How so? I asked.
"I don't know," he said. "Just something you said."
I never got out of him what he meant, and since our "relationship" didn't develop beyond the first meet (He was looking for a new mom for his kids, who'd lost theirs to alcoholism (tragic story). He wanted to know when we could introduce our kids to each other before I even learned his last name.)
I was recently reminded of his words (and the subsequent vocabulary lesson I learned when I Googled "idealism.").
A dictionary definition states idealism as "placing ideals before practical considerations."
Doesn't everyone do that from time to time? We have visions of the way things should be, and then life gets in the way and mucks up our idealistic views.
When I was pregnant with my son, I had an ideal dream of how my birth experience would go. I envisioned the middle-of-the-night water breakage, the sudden onset of labor pains, the scramble to find the car keys and the exciting rush to the hospital.
My son, however, had other plans. He was quite cozy in my womb and lingered there for an extra two weeks.
So, I had a scheduled delivery, which sent me to the hospital in tears because life got in the way of my ideal birth experience. I let myself boo-hoo for a few minutes, and then I decided that no matter what life threw my way, I was going to enjoy my birth experience. And I did, even when life threw me on an operating table for a C-section. I still had a good time joking with the doctors who were arguing over which side of my body to set my organs (this is what they told me over the sheet, and I asked them to play nice and get on with it.)
The point is - we think things should happen in a certain way, the way we fall in love, the way we move through our careers, the way we raise our children, the way we drive to work every day. Then life throws in a curve ball.
An idealist would stand there and get whacked upside the head or dodge the pitch entirely. A realist would prepare himself by adjusting his position so he can jump for the ball, maybe skinning his knees as he dives to catch it, and the ball lands in his glove with a good, solid, controlled "smack."

In memory of ...

I worked with David McClendon only a short time at the Lansing State Journal. He came on board just before I left the copy desk for custom publishing. He was at my going-away celebration in Old Town Lansing. We were acquainted enough to be "linked" on Linked In, but not quite buddy enough to be Facebook friends, ha ha. Thank goodness for Facebook: Another former colleague posted David's obituary and his blog, which chronicles his battle with sarcoidosis. I had no idea.

It's good reading.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

I miss him

Our courtship lasted 18 months. When I first met him, he was bold, confident and I was drawn to his dark, good looks and stocky build.

He had the most beautiful eyes, and I loved the way he'd look at me. When I saw myself through his eyes, I was a gorgeous creature with flawless features. He didn't have to say a word: When he looked at me, I could tell what he was thinking: "My god, woman, you are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen."

In the morning as I would get ready for work, he would stretch across the bed and watch me put on my make-up and do my hair. He didn't have to say a word; I could tell what he was thinking: "Your beauty is natural. Why do you do so much foo foo?"

He was bold and self-confident - two traits I admire very much. He knew how to get what he wanted, and he wasn't afraid to go after it. When someone told him "no," he didn't let that stop him. He'd find another way to get what he wanted. He was clever, suave and sexy.

I miss my ex-boyfriend's cat.

(Reprinted from my myspace blog, Sept. 20, 2008)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

'It isn't easy being Jew'

I was talking with someone recently who said she is expecting houseguests soon, and she lamented that they are vegetarians, with a roll of her eyes. "I'm not going to have any of that at my house," she said.

I'm amazed that I know people who say things like that.

Anyway, it made me think about the houseguest I had over Thanksgiving weekend. She is an American expatriate who lives in Israel and is an orthodox Jew.

The orthodox rely on strict interpretation of the Torah (I had to look that up on wikipedia.org), which means, among other things: married women do not show their hair in public; they follow strict kosher dietary laws; they observe the sabbath from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday; and they dress modestly, wearing long sleeves and clothes that cover most of their bodies.

I looked at it as a mini-immersion into another culture. It was a learning experience, and helped me understand and respect people who have orthodox views - even those wacky vegetarians.

As my house guest explained to me, being orthodox is not easy. After all, they are expected to follow 613 mitzvoth - or commandments. This was echoed by a  Russian, Gabriel, who works at Segal's Kosher Foods in Phoenix, and who was an angel (wink, wink) during my guest's visit.

"It isn't easy being Jew," he said, after telling us about a doctor who has been in the process of converting for eight years. Eight years!

My houseguest has been practicing orthodox Judaism since the 1980s, and she no longer refers to herself as a convert. She's Jewish. Period. She said the religion is difficult, but people support each other and keep together as a community.

The community members help each other prepare for shabbat, for example, by preparing hot meals and keeping them warmed over the 24-hour observation period. Members cannot light or extinguish flames during shabbat, so they are unable to cook or heat food, turn off or on lights, and drive or ride in vehicles. (Shabbat starts Friday at sundown and ends Saturday at sundown.)

I can't help but wonder what drives the orthodox to be so devout. What do they think would happen if they failed to observe one of the mitzvoth? Last week, I realized that my question misses the point.

When a group of people observes similar rituals, they create community, which most of us want and need. I belong to several communities - my family, my girlfriends, my To Be Re family and my job, to name a few. With my To Be Re fitness family, I depend on the "rituals" of cardio, weights and nutrition to keep me fit. To Be Re members depend on each other for support; we share recipes and tips, and we cheer each other on. I've never been devoted to a health and wellness program this long.  And it's all because of community.

The other thing I realize about orthodox practices is that rituals prepare individuals for mindful meditation and reflection, especially during the sabbath. As they go through the mechanics of preparing food, lighting candles and bathing, they quiet their demons and awaken their spirituality.

I am grateful to have had the experience. Shalom.

My FB war with my mother

I've offended my mother. Again.
She joined the ranks of Facebook recently and, with much reluctance, I befriended her.
Now, don't get me wrong. My mom and I are close. We talk regularly, and there is very little about my life that she doesn't know. She probably knows more about me than most of my friends know.
Why do I hesitate to add her as my friend?
Here's why: My mother complained to me that so-and-so posts boring status updates on their wall and they show up on her wall. "I don't care that so-and-so is going to bed. Why do they feel the need to tell the world?"
"Then ignore them," I said. "You can block their posts."
Thanksgiving week rolls around and posts from my mother start showing up on my wall. 
Peeled 10 pounds of potatoes!
Cooked two turkeys and made pies. I'm exhausted!
Stuffing is ready for Thursday!
The next time we speak on the phone, I ask her why she posts these things on my wall.
"Well, I think it's interesting that a 64-year-old woman is doing all this work by herself," she said.
"But you do it every year," I said. "And so do a lot of people. It's as uninteresting as your friend who drinks wine before she goes to bed."
(I am pretty sure she doesn't understand the difference between posts to her wall and posts to others' walls.)
We're at war, people. My mother launches acerbic grenades on my stats posts: ""FAR more interesting than someone peeling ten pounds of potatoes.  Oh yeah." and I fend them off with rapid-fire delete button.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Surviving Down Under

I don't care how good your physique is, guys, do not ever don a G-string. Mmmmkay?

Last night three girlfriends and I saw Thunder from Down Under, a traveling version of the Vegas male review show. Think Chippendales with Aussie accents - a bunch of shaved, muscular white guys gyrating to hip hop, country, hard rock and ballads.

The guys wore pirate, gangster, gladiator, cowboy and bull-fighter costumes because that's what we women fantasize about, apparently. By the sounds of the women's screams, they know their audience.

The guys had great bodies, and two of them looked like they might really be dancers. "Oh, good, they're really going to dance," I thought at one point. "I hope they don't ruin it by taking off their clothes."

And then, with a flick of two wrists, the pants were gone revealing their tiny packages, held in place by colorful swatches of fabric.  For added bonuses, the guys slid the thongs below their buttocks, eliciting ear-piercing screams from the ladies because, you should know, an exposed crack is way hotter than one covered with dental floss.

They did the best they could with a lot of horribly choreographed moves - Point to the sky! Point to the ground! Slide on your knees! Swing your shirt like a lasso in the aiiiiiyer! Hip thrust, hip thrust! Ornery smile stage right! Flex the bicep! Sliiiiiiiiiiiiiide the palm of your hand from your chest down to your woo hoo... give it a squeeeeeze!

As my mind wandered during the show, I wondered what mostly naked "costumed manly man" would get my adrenaline going if he were jumping around on stage? I came up blank. A nearly naked man prancing around on stage does not turn me on. As a matter of fact, a mostly naked man prancing around in the privacy of my bedroom would not turn me on. It would send me into convulsions of laughter.

The best part of the evening was dining and catching up with my girlfriends. I was thoroughly entertained last night, especially because I got to be with my gal pals, two of whom I haven't seen in too long.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Swift, tough and effective

My 12-year-old son is failing language arts. How is this possible? Kill me now?
The reason? He has to write 14,000 words this term, and he thinks that's too much. So his response, apparently, is to do none of it.
As a result of the failing grade, I have taken away his computer and beloved video games. The kid spends hours attached to those devices. When he brings his grade to a B, he gets them back.
Riding in the car yesterday he told me my punishments are not like his dad's, which are slow, verbal and take a long time to come. Mine, he said, are "swift, tough and effective."
"Thank you," I said.
"That wasn't a compliment," he said.
"How'd you get to be so tough?" he said.
He asked me how I came up with my punishment, and I explained that it was easy. What does Adam love? Computer and video games. What does Adam spend a great deal of time doing? Playing computer and video games. And this fill-in-the-blank question: "If Adam spent less time doing ______, he would have more time for his studies." Anyone?
That' right: playing computer and video games.
::applause, applause::
My ex is enforcing the no computer/video game rule at his house, too. He added a little carrot to it: If Adam gets all As, he gets a fat reward.
I get to be the bad guy; he gets to be the good guy. I'm totally cool with that. My son seems to enjoy it when I put on my strict-parent suit, which I don't have to do often because he is, basically, a good kid.
Two days into his electronic-free life, "I'm bored" has become his mantra. He strolls aimlessly around the apartment, reminding me that he wouldn't have to annoy me if I would let him play video games. He's sleeping more because there is no reason to stay up late or get up early; I'm turning him into a lazy bum, he said, by turning off his computer and PS2.
I'm loving every minute of it, and I suspect, so is he.

Monday, November 23, 2009

In memory of Charles the piano teacher

My son's piano teacher died.
We'd just started with him this fall. Adam liked Charles. He didn't use a conventional "method." His method was asking Adam what he wanted to play and teaching him how to play it. Because Adam can read music, they focused on fingering and rhythm.
They were working on Beethoven's "Fur Elise," and tonight when my son was tinkering on the keys, he said it felt weird to play it. 
Charles just turned 50 in October. According to his Web site, he died as the result of injuries sustained in a crash.
He was very wise and had a gentle way with my son, who tends toward the negative and lacks a little in self-confidence (didn't we all in seventh grade?). The best line Charles delivered, "You're confusing 'I can't' with 'I don't know how.'"
I'm bummed.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I can't swim. There. I said it.

There's a scene in the movie "Brothers Bloom" where Adrien Brody's character kisses Rachel Weisz's character for the first time. She returns the gesture by kissing him back and nearly devouring his face, kinda like the way my son devours a bowl of chocolate ice cream.

Saturday with my workout group, I was reminded of that scene when our trainer encouraged us to "think like children without being childish." Approach challenges with enthusiasm and openness, as if you know nothing and want to learn everything.

So, today, when our To Be Re (www.tobere.com) trainer announced a special three-week mini-extreme workshop taking place in December with "a different surprise location each week," I had a mini panic attack. "God, help me. What if we have to go to the pool!?" I don't know if I know how to swim. I took lessons as a child, but I never really spent much time in pools, lakes or oceans, and, so far, in my almost 43 years, have managed to create situations where my feet are always on the ground and my chin is above the water line. Or I'm clinging to some inflatable device or supported by a life jacket.

I'm not afraid to go into water. I'll play Marco Polo or keep-away in the pool, but if I have to go in the deep end, I'm hugging a noodle or clinging to the edge.

Before today, I don't think anyone knew that I can't swim. It's embarrassing. I've had a childish attitude toward swimming. Actually, it's an adultish attitude, right? Shame, embarrassment, hiding out - we master those things as we age. I am a master at avoiding water.

Today, I told three people, including a certain special someone - whom we'll refer to for now as my muse -  about my Embarrassing Secret. He calmed me down - which he has a knack for doing - and helped me see the ridiculousness of my hiding out.

I agreed to take swimming lessons, and I am going to approach them like a child and be open and fearless (or fear-resistant - how's that?). And next time I see my muse, I think I'm going to give him one of those Rachel-Weisz-Brothers-Bloom smooches.

Friday, November 20, 2009

What women want

On a recent trip to Ohio, I read the book "Act like a lady, think like a man" by Steve Harvey. Ladies, it's a short read and Harvey gives some great, SIMPLE insights into the male mind. Even if you are married or in a long-term relationship, this book is an honest and even funny look at what men want.
What I liked about Harvey's advice is that he is all about maintaining a woman's dignity. For instance, he offers a list of questions every woman should ask a man fairly early in a relationship. One of the questions, "What do you think of me?" took me by surprise. Really? Isn't that kind of fishing for compliments? I shouldn't HAVE to ask a guy how he feels about me. But after reading Harvey's book, I get it. Guys aren't about the subtle. Be direct. If you want to know, you are going to have to ask. And you want to know what he thinks of you.
Since reading Harvey's book, I've been thinking about how I would break down "what women want" into simple easy-to-understand, direct steps. Ha! Women are not that simple. You dudes have it hard, I am sorry to report.
While I consult the experts (my girlfriends) and seek counsel (from the elder women in my life), here is the first piece of wisdom I have for you men: The woman in your life wants to know that she is special to you.
When you ask her on a date, don't ask her what she wants to do or where she wants to go. You've initiated the date - you make the plans. She wants to know that you went to some trouble and gave your date some thought. It's OK to ask "Do you like sushi?"
Don't take her to your favorite restaurant, because she knows that all the ladies who've ridden in your passenger seat have eaten there, too. Discover new places together. Do some research. Learn what her favorite foods are. Take her to her favorite place.
We women will have a hard time mustering enthusiasm if we know that you are wisking us away to a B&B where you've wrinkled the sheets with another lady. We know you've been in other relationships. In fact, we are reassured that you have experience in committed relationships. While we're together, we need to know that we are the bomb. Explore new territory.
Did she say she likes jazz? Find a cozy jazz club. Did she say she likes motorcycles? Rent one and take her on a day trip. Is her favorite color blue? Show up at her door with a bouquet of her favorite color.
We don't care how much money you spend on us or if you buy us expensive gifts. (And if that's what she wants, you are with the wrong chica.) Women like little gestures that let us know you pay attention when we talk.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I'm going to tell you a secret

I've dabbled in the online dating world off and on over the past two years. What were the classified personal ads of yesterday that we used to assign to pathetic lonely hearts have become mainstream, accepted and event expected ways to meet members of the opposite sex.
I find it overwhelming. I have a love-hate relationship with online dating. After being absent from it for more than a year while I explored relationships with Blackberry Guy and The Parasite, I recently returned to it (and then quickly exited).
To all my single guy friends out there, I am going to tell you the secret to meeting quality women online.
Get rid of the photos of your dog. Women do not want to date your pooch. They want to see pictures of you. I have yet to hear one of my single girlfriends say: "He has the most amazing labrador retriever." Nuh-uh.
Get rid of the photos of sunsets, mountains, beaches and deserts. We have been to these places. If you are a romantic guy, write, "I am a romantic guy." Don't put romantic sunsets in your profile.  We are not interested in seeing them through your camera lenses. We are online to meet men, and we want to know what you look like. Take off your sunglasses.
Get rid of the photos of you with other women whom you've cropped out of the images. We know you have a dating history. We don't mind that you've been married. But we don't want to see photos of you with wisps of blond, red and brunette hair in the margins.
No more photos of you holding a camera up to the mirror and taking photos of yourself. Don't you have any friends? A sister? Neighbor? Here's what you do. Invite your friend over for a beer. Hand him your camera or cell phone. Tell him, "Dude, I need some photos of myself for online dating." He'll razz you a bit, but he'll do it.
I have mixed feelings about the shirtless looks. I'll accept one shirtless photo, but more than that tells me you are looking only for sex.
Proofread your copy. Send it to your closest friend, or even better - if you have a sister or close female friend, send it to her. Avoid using phrases such as "You only live once" and "Life is too short." EVERY guy says that in his bio.
"Your" is possessive, as in "I want to be your man."
"You're" is a contraction of "you" and "are," as in "I think you're beautiful."
"Their" is possessive of they, as in "Their happiness is all that matters."
"There" refers to a place, as in "I want to be there for you," or "I have been there and back."
"They're" is a contraction for "they" and "are," as in "They're my best friends."
Now, go get 'em.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mommy, mommy

My recent post about the embarrassing question I asked my son has spurred some conversations in my part of the world.
First, let me assure you all that I've learned my lesson and will refrain from intruding on his privacy. Despite the fact that I changed hundreds of diapers on that little bottom...
I am positive my mom asked me the same question, in the same blunt way (she has the same missing filter), when I was that age. And I would have answered her. But I'm a girl, and I like attention.
When I was my son's age and went through the rites of passage, I blabbed about it to everyone. I was 14 when I got my first "mommy, mommy," as the neighborhood boys called it.
That's when a girl of a certain age goes to the bathroom for the first time and finds a crimson surprise that will visit her each month for the next 40-some years. She yells, "Mommy, mommy!" from the bathroom, the boys said.
I told all of my friends of my new womanhood, and they told their brothers, and pretty soon the Colbert and the Wills brothers were teasing me for having my first "mommy, mommy." I was always smaller and slightly behind the developmental curve among my friends, so when something like that happened, I wanted everyone to know.
It's what we girls did. We compared our bodies and the changes they were going through. When I was in sixth grade, one of my classmates was the first to grow hair "down there," and she held showings in the girls bathroom on the third floor at Highland Park Grade School. "Lisa's going to show us her pubic hair when we go for our bathroom break!"
We surreptitiously passed around the book, "Are you there God, it's me, Margaret," and dog-eared the page that referred to the main character getting her first "mommy, mommy."
I apologized to my son for embarrassing him. As he passes through those awkward stages of maturity, I too pass through awkward stages of parenting.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The "it" factor

Let's all take a moment to pay homage in honor of Guy X, who was put to rest in my dating hall of fame. (Actually, he doesn't really qualify for hall of famage as we had only three dates.)
After days and days of incessant text messaging, he finally asked me on a date. He sent a text and invited me to lunch. "I don't think so," I said. "I'm sorry but I just don't think we're going to work out."
He asked what changed. "Too many texts," I said.
He responded by saying that he never felt comfortable calling and that I don't seem available.
I don't get that. After asking him out three times (yes, I initiated our first three dates), I told him it was his turn. "It might be sooner than you think!" he texted me.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
What part of "I am free today and tomorrow" leaves the impression that I don't have time? I gave him several opportunities to ask me on dates.
And I don't. want. to. be. asked. on. a. date. by. text. MESSAGE.
Let's face it: If there was something there,  I would have made it happen.
My friend Diane calls it the "it factor."
"It" isn't love at first sight. It's like chemistry, that thing that leaves you wanting more. It makes you smile uncontrollably when you see his (or her) name pop up on your text in-box, caller I.D. or when you see him walking toward you. "It" is that electrical thing that goes off inside when your knees touch under a table or when you take in his or her scent. I know. I sound like a silly girl.
It shows up early. It is there when you meet. If It isn't there by the third date, It isn't going to show up. Move on. Next.
Likewise, be wary when It shows up followed by red flags (Hello? Parasite?). It can be quite powerful.
I definitely didn't have It for Guy X. I liked him, but I didn't have It for him.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Getting bussed on the bus

While we're looking for ways to live more efficiently, we should consider cutting words out of the English-language dictionary. Think of all the trees we would save by eliminating homonyms.
Do we really need compliment and complement? One means an expression of praise and the other means something that completes or makes perfect. I bet most of you didn't even know there are two. I say we get rid of the one with the "e."
Another one we can pitch: roll and role. Totally unnecessary to have two. Would your life be worse off if you put butter on a role or had a roll in the school play?
Scull: rowing motion. Skull: your noggin. Why two? Who knows. Who nose.
I bet you didn't know this one: seel and seal. One means to sew shut or blind something, as in the eyes of falcons during their training (wish I didn't know that…). The other, seal, means "to close."
Because seal is also the name for an animal, I say we get rid of seel. Most of us didn't know about it, anyway.
Storey and story. Storey, as defined by Merriam-Webster.com says:
  1. a: the space in a building between two adjacent floor levels or between a floor and the roof; b: a set of rooms in such a space; c: a unit of measure equal to the height of the story of a building (one story high).
  2. a horizontal division of a building's exterior not necessarily corresponding exactly with the stories within.
Anyone get the difference between story and storey as it pertains to buildings? Me neither. Raise your hand if you vote to eliminate "storey," which my automatic spell checker keeps correcting to "story" as I type this? It's settled.
How about counsel and council? One means an adviser, and the other means a group of leaders. I'm totally cool with getting rid of counsel.
Stationary or stationery? Principal or principle? Who cares?
One last one: capital and capitol. One means "most important" and the other is the center of government. We could argue that they are close enough in meaning that only one is necessary. My vote goes to the one with the "a."
By the way, "buss" means to kiss, and "bus" means, well you know what that means. So when you see a sign at your child's school that reads: "School busses only," what that means is "school kisses only." The plural of "bus" is "buses."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Embarrassing questions

Driving in the car today, I looked over at my son and noticed the hair above his upper lip is a little darker, a little more coarse than the baby-fine hair he has on his face. I pointed it out, "You've got the beginnings of a mustache."
He pulled down the visor and inspected the growth, telling me that some kids at school have serious crops of fuzz.
"Do you have any hair down there?" I asked.
As someone recently pointed out, I lack certain filters.
What can I say? I'm a mom. I am curious about these things.
Not only would he not answer, but he wouldn't acknowledge that I'd asked a question.
I even tried to bribe him.
Pulling into the Blockbuster parking lot, he asked me if he could get some junk food.
"If you answer my question, I'll let you get junk food."
It didn't work. "No junk food for you."
If I'd had a daughter, she would have answered me.
I'm in unfamiliar territory here. I knew my question would embarrass him before I asked it, though it wasn't my intention. I'm just curious! If my kid is approaching puberty, I want to know!
Why do I need to know? What will I do with the information? Don't answer that. I already know the answer: It's his body; my my own business.
I'd probably blog about it, anyway.
The kid's smart to keep it to himself.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Get real

I had a conversation with someone yesterday about the ins and outs of text messaging in the dating world. I said, "Why is it that guys hide behind text messages?" (To be fair, he said women do it, too.)

I met Guy X a couple of weeks ago. We had lunch, then went to dinner then met for breakfast one morning. He's a nice guy. He text messages me every day, several times a day. Now, I don't mind a cute "I'm thinking of you" text or, "Where is the nearest sporting goods store," or something that makes me laugh or smile. But text messaging does not and cannot replace real conversations. I'm at the point where Guy X, though very sweet and cute, is almost an annoyance. I do not want to be wooed by text messaging, instant messaging or e-mail. I don't to be asked out on a date via text, and I don't want to learn about your family, career and hopes and dreams in 160-word bytes.

If you want to talk to me or see me, pick up the phone and call me. I'm a little old-fashion that way, I suppose. How would these guys have survived 15, 20 years ago when telephones were wired to walls and e-mail was known by only a few hundred IT nerds?

I like the guy who isn't afraid to pick up the phone. I like a guy who sends me a random text message during the day then later picks up the phone to continue the conversation, which could last into the late hours of the night (which is, like 10 o'clock for me).

I admit I've hidden behind the safety of my cell-phone screen. The bottom line is: If he (or she) is truly interested in you, he (or she) will call or take your call. Anything less than a phone call is superficial. It isn't real.

Monday, November 9, 2009


I'm laying in bed ...

Or is it lying? I never understood the grammar rules for lay/lie. If I'm lying in bed, I think that means I'm not telling the truth. If I'm laying in bed, then I'm supine, yes? Must not lie in bed.

Anyway …

I'm laying in bed this morning, trying to be still and not let the two little devils know that I am awake. Once they know I'm up, they are on the bed, purring and pawing at me to pet them. I make it until about 6 a.m. They ascend on me purring and insist that I share some love. As Lily tucks herself in conveniently within reach of my right hand, Bug paces around my head, stepping on my hair, forcing me to awkwardly reach overhead and pet her with my left hand.

As I lay there, (right? lay?), my cats trick me into thinking that this is all about me, when it is really about them, seeking attention, adoration, affection. I think, "I wonder if it's like this for Hugh Hefner …"