Thursday, June 20, 2013

Real Time

Some things are harder to give up than others. There are times when we know that we have to pull a plug on something in our lives and when we do, we wonder how we ever lived with that part while it was still intact.There can be signs and huge hints that tell us to take a hike. And that, my friends, is exactly what I did when I left the Facebook world.  Yes, I unfriended the friendly friends for once and for all.  Will I miss that intimate relationship with the hundreds of people who told each other way too much,  about every hour of every day?  Probably not.

There are some parts about those voyeuristic opportunities that leave me feeling high and dry now.  But, Joe still has a page that is alive and I can drop in unannounced any time I'm hungry for more. For a mother who is prone to worries, this at least allows me to know that my daughter is still alive and that my granddaughters have new shoes from time to time.  It also allows me to know where and when their next vacation will be....and that means so will the rest of the voyeurs and we're still not sure that they are all good "friends." They wouldn't dream of using the information and the opportunity that was just provided via a recent "post" and the endless comments and questions. Hmmmmm, maybe. Oh, when are you leaving?  How long will you be away?  Will you be alone?  Can I come rob your house?  Even better, what flight will you be on.....can I blow up your plane? Dangers abound folks.

I am apolitical. I don't have a party of choice or need. That does not mean that I don't have opinions about how my country is run but I will not miss hearing about everyone else's opinion. Over, and over and over.  No, I won't miss the "shares" or the endless filling up of my space with the views of people who like to repost anything liberal whether they have actually read the original or not.  Mind you, I am not a conservative but you probably would not know that or anything else about my politics because I wouldn't want to "offend" anyone, not knowing who's out there to be offended in the first place.  Get my drift?

I eat, you eat, we all eat.  However, I'm not so sure that I want to hear all about every meal, snack and/or diet you are on, as much as you would like to tell me and show me the photos.  I'm not missing those little red flags on those mini maps that tell me exactly where you are dining and with whom.  Why is this so important? If you own a business, sure, promote it.  I can't think of any better way to reach the millions of people who should know about your product or your place of business.  But I do not own a business so there's another reason for not having four hundred and thirty nine Facebook friends.

If I haven't seen or heard of you since high school, why,oh why do I want to hear from you now I ask?  Perhaps it might be that you want to show me how perfectly wonderful your current life is.  Could that be the reason?  If not, what took you so long to "reconnect" with me?  If we were friends then, we most likely still are and becoming "friends" won't change that unless we lost each other's name, address, date of birth and had a burning desire to have what we had when we were thirteen years old. Doubt it. Here's a perfect place to use the old phrase, "let sleeping dogs lie".

I am old fashioned in a lot of ways.  I think the telephone is an excellent way to share my views with other people.  Or, to be more in keeping with the times, an email that allows me to speak longer without my hands falling asleep from holding a phone next to my ear.  I would rather tell you personally that I love you or hear from you that you feel the same about me.  We don't need to "share" it with what seems to be the whole world ("you mean you're NOT on Facebook??????).  I also think that seeing you in person beats seeing endless photos of you.  Sharing, I mean really sharing a meal, in the old-fashioned way, beats seeing what you ate or intend to, in an Instagram photo.  I'd love to hear all about your vacation, love to know that you had a relaxing time, well deserved no doubt, and love to see some photos of what you thought beautiful. That beats "like" a hundred times over.  I will miss the spontaneity of your comments but there's always the phone or chit chat over lunch when you return.  I suspect that if you have the time to "post" all those bits, you have some time on your hands for other forms of communication in real time.

Yes, I am guilty.  I, too, filled up spaces on "friends" time lines.  I "commented" and I "shared" like the dickens.  I was one busy FB'er.  But I knew it was time to leave when I felt like saying "Yes" to Lowes, and when I wanted to ask why, if it's grown locally and there are no chemicals used and no transport or employee benefit fees involved, does it have to cost so damned much at a farmer's market?  I knew I was in the wrong place when I questioned more than one of the hero worships that went on an on following a rock  concert or a half time show.  I really knew I was totally out of place when I posted a comment and the post was followed by a "friend" of a friend who bracketed the word God in quotation marks.  That was the day I pushed the "deactivate" button for once and for all.

PS. .And when we do get together, by all means, bring photos of the grandkids because I want to see your face and the pride in your eyes when you show them. In Real Time.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Colonoscopy Day

A lot of you are going to think me crazy when I tell you that yesterday was my favorite day of the year.  Its not because I randomly have a favorite day that you might question my sanity, but because it was Colonoscopy Day.  That is correct.  I have not made a typo.  And yes, I know you probably would have really questioned my touch with reality had you been here the day before.  Drinking one gallon of liquid laxative "as quickly" as one can within a three hour time span, does not qualify in the field of things to do for fun.  But (and I hesitate to use that word), it is a necessary prerequisite to completion of the process for the following day.  I keep hoping that when I call to make an appointment for the procedure, the person on the other end will tell me that something new has been invented and how lucky I am that I didn't book earlier.  Alas, that did not happen and I went through the prep day cursing everything and everyone and drinking, drinking, drinking all the while trying new additives to make the thick clear liquid more palatable.  Sorry Ocean Spray, I have to abandon your product line.  I will never feel the same about you.

I am not going to go into details about "My Colonoscopy" here so you can feel free and safe to keep on reading.  I will explain why I consider "The Day" to be a favorite.  I have risk factors for colon cancer, lots of them.  My mother had not one colon cancer, but two different growths.  I watched her die just as she did her own father.  His colon cancer was unavoidable.  Technology had not yet allowed for early detection.  My mother was never given the proper encouragement and did not avail herself of that technology.  She needed that encouragement but was allowed to avoid testing until symptoms appeared. She was embarrassed to death. Not only did her father succumb to colon cancer but at least two of his brothers also did.  I'm thinking there were more but I never needed to know more.  Mother, maternal grandfather.  I'm on board.

Sure, I was totally terrified when it became my turn to have my first invasive procedure.  It took all of the bravery I could muster.  I had been on the other (excuse me but this fits) end of similar procedures many times. My colleague, Howard Leaman, and I made lots of money for our hospital when we put sigmoidoscopies on the menu of Occupational Health Services and we trained our nurses in how to assist. We rarely had happy patients and we did not use conscious sedation let alone total anesthesia.  Ouch!
I remember crying to the kind nurse as I readied myself  that first time. I totally broke down with emotion, so scared that a tumor would be found and my fate would soon be sealed.  She was sympathetic and encouraging and after she stopped crying when she heard that I was an R.N. who worked weekdays only in a beautiful office in Manhattan, she told me this and I have never forgotten it: "This test saves lives, there isn't anything better:" And as the years went by in my professional life, I repeated those words countless times as I encouraged my clients. " Just do it!"

So, when the prepping is over and it's time for me, I lie back on the gurney in the pre-procedure room and I accept every offer.  Warm blankets?  Oxygen?  I.V. to get that line open for the anesthesia?  Remote control for the T.V.?  Call button for the nurses?  "Yes, thank you" to all.  I love nurses.  And anesthesiologists, they really rock and while I am not exactly Michael Jackson, I do love Propofol.  No more waking up dopey, no more hangovers.  Wide awake following the procedure to hear the lovely words "see you in five years, nothing found"   I love Colonoscopy Day. Yesterday was an exceptionally nice one when I topped it off with a call to my father.  Good news for a change.  Yes!!

Prevention.  Early detection and intervention.  Words to live by.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Editors Needed

 I need your help.

I've started to write my memoir and I don't have an editor.  I do know that one of the worst mistakes one can make while writing is editing as one writes.  I also know the importance of openers, how I can either draw a reader further or lose out from the start. Sooooooo, I have started my opener, and it appears below, un-edited, a veritable feast for those who would like to have the opportunity to add their "two cents" without impunity.  I'm asking you to bring it on.  I'll try to keep this simple.  You may have already read my little blog piece, written in January, called "Nun on the Run".  I've selected that particular scene, the one in which I came across the young nun who appeared to have been working at the home for the aged and was taking an evening break from her duties.  My memoir piece will be about the time I spent in Assisi and the six months before, when I too, was caring for an elderly person.  In my case, it was my mother.  This first paragraph will set the tone, give the reader an idea that I understood how challenging the work of caring for the sick and aged can be and how much that break means to the caregiver.  It will be my jumping off point but I haven't a clue yet about what will follow.   I just need to get started and I have.

So, what can you do to help me?  Well, at the bottom of the post, there is a little business about making a comment. Hit the words "No Comments". I've been told by one reader that she has tried many times to do this but it does not work. I have had comments in the past so it must have been working at some point.  Give it a try or, email me at the address that you normally do.  I'm assuming that you have that address.  If you don't, it's probably because I don't know you and probably do not want to communicate with you. I hope this is clear.

Comment, suggest, criticize, do whatever you want.  I'm a big girl, I can take it. Maybe some day, I will actually publish and if I do, your name will appear in the "Grateful Acknowledgements" section, way up front.
As for a title, don't even bother. I have one that I will not divulge nor will I entertain any other ideas at the moment.  I am very comfortable with it and it is the framework for everything else.

Here's the first paragraph of the first draft of the first attempt of the first page of the first rejection...

And, I thank you.

P.S.  You don't have to leave your name if you post here at the end of the blog...
It was just before sunset. The door to Casa Reposo, the town's home for the aged,  flew open. With a movement much like that of an angel gliding through a cloud, she exited onto Via Metastasio. I watched her as she took in her first quick breath and then exhaled, long and slow. I felt as if I were back in the delivery room witnessing a birth.  I could almost see her lungs expanding as she stopped for a moment before turning to the left and making her way up the street towards the Piazza Alugi.  Her short black veil flying in the cool November breeze seemed to point the way; she quickened her pace in response to what I imagined was an inner voice.  My eyes followed as she approached her final destination, a carved out area of pavement which held a spectacular view.  I also stopped to take in the view of the Umbrian valley below.  I smiled. She smiled back and we both returned our gaze to the restful scene before us. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

For Janet

One of my closest childhood friends has requested that I write something.  Me?  She is on the path to retirement and, as a single person, is facing this with natural trepidation.  Her name is Janet and she is smart, sensible and one of the most capable people I know.  I'm sure she won't make the wrong decisions but right now, she isn't as sure of that as I am so her request was for a reflection on the working woman making the big "transition" to retirement.

First of all, when I hear the word "transition" I still associate it with that grueling period of time that happens right before a woman's body finally gives up the fight to hang on to her unborn baby for as long as possible.  It's the time right before everyone present in the birthing place starts yelling "PUSH".  I was a childbirth instructor for thirteen years and have attended one-too-many births so forgive me for what I am sure will be the last sentence of this, my contribution to the working gal's dilemma.

Look, I totally understand how difficult the decision to retire from years of working can be.  I know that there are questions -  financially, socially, and mentally.  I appreciate how much thought goes into the final phases of retirement planning, the visits to the financial management team, the discussions with the young folks in HR, the family pow-wows.  I really, really do understand it all.  But, a subject matter expert on this one, I am not.  I simply pushed a button on a computer screen and became "retired" one day with no turning back allowed.

The words "subject matter expert" bring back memories.....I can laugh about that now.  That's the P.C. term for people like corporate nurses, one used during conference calls and meetings with all the other "experts" present.  I can only imagine the look on my parents faces had I told them that I wanted to become one.  "Sure Lynn, why don't you just go down to the Sunoco station on the corner and apply for the gas pumping job".  Their hearts would have been broken. The liked the idea of having a nurse in the family better.  Well, here's a little inside track into the corporate world - whenever anything in the least bit "strange" started to happen, I could hear the words "call the nurse" without the aid of a telephone.  Same person. P.C. be damned. Get real.  I digress. Sorry, sorry.

I actually flunked retirement.  I had to go back and repeat it before I passed.  This is true.  My first attempt came before I was 60.  One day, out of nowhere, came an announcement that an early retirement package was going to be offered and I was eligible.  Three months later, guided only by my instincts,  I walked out of 300 Park Avenue with about 200 other people doing the same, for the last time.  In the days following, there was not one white-haired person left in the place.  We were presented with our options and told that we could not discuss these with anyone in management lest some law would be broken so I didn't.  It was like being dropped onto an iceberg and shoved off shore, not knowing if we would land up in Antarctica or Tahiti.  Big difference.  The only words that came from above were "if you don't take this offer now, it will never come again" and "once you make your selection, even the Chairman cannot change it".  It was after that final deed was done that I found out that the Chairman's assistant and his chauffeur/bodyguard did not have to worry about things as trivial.  They got the same package a few years later when they retired with him.  It was such a weird time at the old workplace and it still amazes me to think that the Chairman sent all the wrong people to talk me into staying.  None of them spoke clearly, they all used some kind of lawbook inspired babble that I did not get.  I never was very good at Charades and this game topped them all.  So, I took the deal and placed my faith in God and those rapidly-firing instincts alone.

I loved the fact that I no longer had to wake up and follow a routine, timing my every move so that I would be fully prepared for the day ahead, on time for my commuter train, every day of the week.  Freedom from that was the first burst and the rest of it was all a little bit down hill.  Freedom from the annual reviews and the setting of goals came shortly after and added to my sense that I had made a good decision.  Being constantly under scrutiny from a dear husband who wanted oh so very much for me to be happy with my new his mother's home....where he actually had things to do all day, made me wonder.  I was bored and began to have doubts and regrets.  I will tell you now, all of you who are planning....this is normal and to be expected and you will get over it but it takes a lot of mental exercise and stamina.  It's so much easier to get up, get to work and repeat the process, especially when there's a paycheck waiting for you. Even nicer when you take a week or two of your vacation time and there's still paychecks....but then, again, there is nothing in my opinion, that could replace the feeling of being on vacation and not returning to work.

The year following the hasty decision, came another.  This time, I was led by a feeling that it was time  to return to the Cape.That old friend instinct told me that me my parents would soon be needing me closer. I also felt the need to be closer to my own daughter and my granddaughters, at least in the same state.  I was feeling the way a lot of people do after they retire and have time to think about life again....unproductive, way too young to join the ranks and still employable so, I did what I thought I needed to do.  I returned to work.  Long story short, I was burnt out the day I started.  But, I did good work and I had no reason to regret Retirement Number Two after two years of the same old stuff.  Deadlines, dead heads, boring work, a complete and utter stifling of all creative sparks and those dreaded annual performance reviews that accompanied the writing of the annual useless goals.  This one, a no-brainer.  This time, I got it right and my only goal was to get an A-plus on the retirement performance.  And I did and I still do.  So much of it has to do also with location.  I need to be near the water so I am.  I also need to be near a city, so I go as often as I can.  I like the balance and balance is vital to keeping fueled through your "transition" and beyond.  Trust me.

So, heres' how it works.  Forget about "transitioning".  Just do it.  Make a clean break.  You might try working part time as I did before dumping your duties (duties, that makes me giggle) entirely.  But, after you have convinced yourself that you rather like the days that you don't work better than the days you do.....sign it and hand it in.  And, do not, I repeat, do not fall for the "you can work here as a consultant" line.  If they loved you and your work so much, they would not have let you go off to retire in the first place.  Just say good bye and thank you.  If you hold on to the promise of being called in as a highly paid consultant, you might be disappointed.  Think about this, if you are happy working, why consider leaving in the first place?  No more benefits?  No more paid vacations or sick days?  Screw your head on and keep it there.

It's really important to not look back.  That was then and this is now.  Repeat that as often as necessary to convince yourself that things change.  The can and they should.  Not all things worsen when they change.  Here's a good one that really helped me grow with the many work environments demand that we leave our creativity in the parking lot.  I was fortunate at my Colgate job in that I was allowed to be creative but, and here's the biggie - my best creative works were stolen.  I know this will sound familiar.  I came up with the innovation and the people in higher positions than mine took all the credit.  Not one thing I could do about it.  I cannot imagine the response had I spoken up in a meeting after hearing my boss use all of my ideas as if they were his.  I suppose that I did not have the right to claim anything.  That part of me was property of my employer. Just for the record....."Your Health at Colgate" baby.

I recently heard an excellent podCast.  A scientist was interviewed and he spoke of creativity in a way that made so much sense to me and gave me a shot of confidence at the same time.  He said that everyone is creative.  Human beings, by their very nature, are creative.  It's just that during our lives, some of us are told that it is not acceptable.  My parents allowed me to be creative.  My workplace, not so much.  Yes, health care can be a highly creative field of endeavor but the last two years of my health care work proved to be the biggest creative crusher I've ever known.  If I could recover from that, anyone can.  So, I say, find an outlet for your inner artist and keep trying to find out what you like to do with the least amount of stress.  For the first year or two or twenty, keep looking.  Use those A.C. Moore and Michael's coupons.  Even if you find that you, like so many others of us before you, have a new addiction to purchasing and owning all the right materials, not necessarily using them.  That's okay.  Same goes for cooking utensils or endless trips to the library.  Keep searching, you will meet yourself and when you do, you will be amazed.

I'm sure that there is so much more to be said about this stuff but maybe I'm not the best one to say it.  All I can say is that I followed my instincts, allowed my intuition to work, changed my way of doing life's business, swapped my wants for my needs, found a place to live that suits both needs and budgets, made new friends, stayed connected with old ones, took some courses, read some books, bought supplies, decided that I do not enjoy cooking, took lots of beach walks and had some time to enjoy my choices.

And, you may note, I did not have to refer back to the word "push" at all.  Oh, okay, don't let anyone push you out.  Leave your work when you are good and ready for all the good things that you are ready for.  It's the transition that hurts the most. After that, the feeling of that brand new baby in your arms.  This time, I promise, you are the new baby with so much life ahead.  Relax, enjoy and breathe!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

To Everything, There is a Season

Decisions, decisions, decisions.....

Every new season, I have a host of things that I plan to do differently "this time".  When I was a teenager, it was the arrival of the  fall edition of "Seventeen" magazine that sparked the desire to ask my grandmother to make wool flannel Bermuda shorts that I would don with a pair of navy blue knee high socks and a button down broadcloth shirt.  Of course, the requisite cardigan with the grosgrain band down the buttonhole side would be around my neck and I would be carrying a copy of the entire works of whoever was considered to be avant garde that particular year. Knee socks were NOT my fashion best.  I have knees that have a thick layer of fat along one side and what a way to showcase that flaw.....Winter would find me planning skating parties, cup of cocoa in my hand, finally learning to ski and loving it.  Spring would be diet season.  Enough said. And summer.....well, I generally hated it but in my planning, I would be so pathetically thin from the spring diet that summer would find me in a bikini, sitting topside on my latest boyfriend from Yale's latest boat.

Did you ever watch the show "Miranda" on the BBC?  Hilarious and so very me.

So, here we are in a new season.  This time, I swore I was not going to spend time on my blog, I was going to finally do some "serious" writing, after all, I have hopped off the Facebook ship forEVER (what a total waste of time that one is) and this time I was going to have a happier summer than last year's.  I've already laid the ground rules. carbs (two weeks on that, with zero weight lost).  Out the window.  Okay, have the grand babies down more often to enjoy the Cape of my dreams (Oh My God....where has my patience night and I nearly lost it completely.....everything in my house is sticky now).  Okay, have everything ready to grab and the beach, day or night (where the HELL did everything go from last year????......did I give everything I own to the VNA rather than store it for the winter?) Okay, get a new swim suit before they're just slim pickings and I do mean "slim"....check.  This year, it's a swim "dress" and I look like a fat nun (or Miranda who is not actually fat, but isn't slim either) and oh, the beach by the way....I'm already SO done with sand ( and sticky kids) all over and under my "dress" and the tatoos (not mine).  I'm going up to the neighboring golf club, pretending that we really do intend to jump on the links and plunking down the outrageous amount of money that will allow us to use the pool, faster than they can say "hey wait a minute, you haven't reserved any tee off times" are a lot less sticky there.

Well, I'm back to blogging (thank you all of you who have urged me on)...and carbs.

And I'm so glad I did not put "do more reading" on my list because I have read some excellent books so far this season and I intend to read more (oops...did I just jinx that too?)  My heart is very glad that this year, I am not reading Ecclesiastes 3 again before a broken-hearted family and a congregation of beautiful friends. Amen.

I wish my grandmother were still alive for so many reasons, not least of all to knit me a gigantic cover up for the beach.  Oh wait......I have about twelve of them somewhere in this place.  Somewhere.