There are some milestones in life where there is an expectation that we engage in a little self-reflection. Big moments like the birth of a child, or the death of a parent, and small moments that mark the passing of time like school graduations, the new year and birthdays.

Time spent reflecting is never wasted in my book. Usually when I reflect, I write.  I write for my clients, for the “book-in-progress” that remains in-progress, and for this blog.

Since June 2017, for a variety of reasons, I have become increasing reluctant to push the publish button on my blog.

In honor of my birthday today I am giving myself permission to publicly reflect on my last trip (or two) around the sun.

13 Things I’ve Done (most with Mr. Man by my side):

  1. Sold a house
  2. Moved three times – in two years – to two different cities
  3. Downsized three times (So! Much! Stuff!)
  4. Sent a daughter off to college
  5. Changed jobs twice
  6. Lived apart from Mr. Man for extended stretches of time
  7. Put down one of our cats
  8. Gave away almost all of my house plants
  9. Buried my childhood friend
  10. Reconnected with some friends from the past
  11. Welcomed a new cat to our family
  12. Made some new pals
  13. Met a whole lot of people from other parts of the US

6 Things Learned while Reflecting on 13 Things I’ve Done:

  1. Needing people doesn’t make me needy, it makes me human. Wanting connection and community isn’t a flaw, or evidence of weakness, it’s part of who I am as an extrovert. Being upfront about asking for help & friendship falls into that “big learning” category, but without friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers I’m not sure I could have managed all the transitions.  So an extra thanks to all the folks who loved, helped and/or put up with me over the last few years.
  2. I discovered I have a unique set of skills that makes me good at what I do. I’ve always downplayed any “uniqueness” because I thought – wrongly it turns out – that a) if I could do it anyone can, and b) people doing my kind of work are a dime a dozen so nothing makes me particularly special. Let’s file that under “wrong-headed things I believed for the last 10 years” and leave it at that.
  3. Humidity makes me crabby. I think I knew this in theory but living in a sub-tropical climate really brought it home.
  4. I get depressed if I have to work in an office without a window. This is now officially a deal breaker for any future work offer. After 7 months of 8 – 10 hour days with no window, part of that during the short winter months,  I was flabbergasted at how quickly my mood improved with daily sunlight. Never again.
  5. While I still love phone calls, letters and cards, I discovered you can actually maintain long-distance friendships through text, messenger and SnapChat and still feel connected when you see each other in person.
  6. I can endure a lot of change and discomfort but it takes strenuous attention and determination to learn from it. A friend shared a meme recently that said “I just want some experiences that don’t make me stronger!” Yeah, I can get behind that.

So from a distance, looking back at my trips around the sun, I wouldn’t actually change much about the past two years because they got me here.

And I like here.

Here has my favorite things because when you winnow and winnow and downsize and donate you end up with just your favorite things.

Here has Mr. Man and being in the same city and time zone as your partner is a big perk.

Here has a great deal of potential for me to do even more of the work that I love and that is double plus good.

And finally, here is the place where I will commit to writing and sharing my thoughts during this next trip around the sun because I remembered that it helps me think and it makes me happy.

Many happy returns of the day to me!

birthday wishes

As I get ever closer to my 50th birthday its seems every where I look there is a list of something I should be paying attention to like “15 Things You Should Do Before You’re 50”, or “The 9 Things Our 40’s Taught Us”, “5 Important Medical Tests for Women Over 50”.

The worst for me are the “bucket lists” that supposedly help you organize your experiences or strive to live your best life: “10 Places to Visit Before You Die”, “Inspiration to Feel Fully Alive”, or “Once in a Lifetime Meals”.

The idea of creating any kind of bucket list fills me with a panicky anxiety. I have enough tasks to take care of without a “Life” To-Do list.

So instead I decided to create a list of “Things That I Do Even Though I Fail To Get Any Better at Doing Them”. Here they are in no particular order:

1) Dance. Love to dance, poor sense of rhythm, almost total inability to follow choreography. Don’t care.

2) Shoot pool. Never have improved beyond the highly advanced stage of no longer knocking the cue ball on the floor when I attempt to break. Any shots I make are random accidents. I celebrate this.

3) Tell jokes. Again the timing thing. One liners and witty repartee are more my speed but I tell jokes that I think are funny even if no one else thinks they are when I get done with them. Unfortunately, I think I have passed this trait on to my daughter.

4) Sing. I love to sing. It makes me happy. I sing loudly. I sing off key. I don’t think ability should dictate who is allowed to sing. So there.

5) Play backgammon. Don’t know why I never have figured out the strategy for this game, but it’s still fun.

6) Take pictures. I can’t seem remember to think about composition, contrast or perspective when I take a picture. I just go all “Ohh, pretty!” Click, click, click. I wish I knew what I was doing, but that doesn’t stop me from happily snapping away at trees and clouds and my kid.

I know as soon as I hit publish I’ll probably think of half a dozen more things to add to the list, but that’s the nature of list making. I plan to do a series of lists commemorating my now five decades of winning, losing, learning, failing and all the crisp, crunchy bits scraped from the sides that make everything so flavorful.

I can start with “3 Things I’ll Never Do Again Under Any Circumstances”, and “7 People I Regret Spending So Much Time with in My 20’s”. So much potential.

Would love to know whats on your list.

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Occasionally age-related vanity gets me in its grip. Now that I wear glasses all the time, I feel like my eyes look small. Not that I have Manga eyes to start with, but what I have is certainly less visible. Short of switching to Sally Jessie Raphael glasses, my solution is eyeliner.

Rather I am attempting to master eyeliner.59TC_xl

Back in my music soaked past eyeliner was simple – Maybelline Expert Eyes, heated with a match, inside and outside the lid – followed by three coats of deepest black mascara.  Precision was less the goal than drama.

Now when I am looking for precision I have instead discovered my inner Amy Winehouse. I seem to be incapable of drawing a thin line the same size on both eyes so I keep correcting. And correcting. Subtle it is not.

I triephotod liquid liner but that is a different kind of crap shoot. One wrong jiggle and I’m Cleopatra. So I tried cream, which I didn’t even know existed until I started down this new path. Cream promises a “lacquer like finish that lasts all day” which is fine unless your finish ends up looking like a lightening bolt.

I’m not sure eyeliner and I will ever become friends.

Once upon a time, before the compulsion to wear makeup every day crept up on me, I used to get by with a swipe of lipstick. In fact I never left the house without putting on my lipstick. It was a strategy I adopted in my early twenties, thinking if your mouth is bright enough they will stop looking at your tits.

Every once and again I flash back on my mom at my age. In her forties, she only wore makeup once or twice a year when she and my dad went out for a rare evening event. That make up consisted of pressed powder from a gold compact and the same tube of lipstick she had used for the last twenty years. And of course White Shoulders perfume.

When she was older, and my parents had both more time and more money, she started to spruce herself up beyond getting her hair done at the beauty parlor once a week. She bought some new lipstick, a blush and foundation, and wore it to work. She may have even ventured to mascara, though I doubt eyeliner would have ever occurred to her.

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A message to my followers:

Unfortunately I have discovered that the more writing I have to do at work the less I am able to string my thoughts together in a coherent way for my blog. I still have rants clogging my brain (farm bill!?!, abortion legistaltion!?!, daughter turning 15!?!), but little space to write. As two big projects will be finished soon, I hope to be back to normal in the near future.

I miss you!

I now wear glasses. All the time. Until such time as I can bring myself to submit to laser surgery or deliberately stick a bit of plastic in my eye, I wear glasses to walk around in the world. I am still figuring this out as I have prescription sunglasses with a bifocal, walking around glasses and reading glasses for the computer, books, smart phone, canned goods labels, instructions… you get the idea. I now wear glasses. Continue reading

As I get older it gets harder to recover from late nights and too little sleep.

Sleep is one of those things that gets to be a habit. Your body gets used to being well rested and protests when its not. It may have been a better strategy for me to fight the impulse to rest when tired in order to reduce the backlash when its not available. But that horse has left the barn.

Continue reading

I responded today to a quiz that a friend put on my facebook wall. I usually ignore these kinds of things but I was stone cold bored with sitting alone in my office wordsmithing a proposal. The fill-in-the-blank quiz gave you an age (29 in my case) and you had to fill in where you were what you were doing and so on. Continue reading

Given that the sun is shining at the moment I’m refraining from ranting about the unreasonableness of House Speaker John Boehner or how much I miss Tip O’Neill (for his ability to be friendly across the aisle even in the worst of times.)

I am trying to get back to normal after an intense, work-flooded couple of months, and, like a lot of people, am having difficulty getting out of my head. Its amazing how easy it is to ignore your physical body and live life between your ears. Ignoring my body isn’t just a matter of eating too much crappy food and guzzling gallons of coffee, its also forgetting to stand up from my computer for 6 hours in a row.

I also develop rock hard shoulders that make Massage Therapists weep with frustration as immovable muscle thwarts their efforts. I have yet to get a massage that didn’t end with a comment along the lines of “You know if I could work on your shoulders more regularly I could get those muscles to relax.” Sez you. 

All joking aside massage is an effective way for me to get my head out of the game and back on my body. I guess paying someone to rub every inch of my body is kind of hard to ignore. It’s tricky to mentally track your To-Do list while groaning in agony/pleasure as someone attempts to unknot your trapezius.

A cheaper, quicker (and therefore short-term) way I exit my brainpan is through music. A sad commentary on my life: I was in my late 30’s before I could afford a car with decent enough speakers to make me happy. I do however, now own a vehicle with an excellent sound system. I need that thump. It’s amazing how quickly I can tune in and be present if I can feel the bass. It’s like a heartbeat, difficult to ignore, easy to slide into.

Of course my rocking out to what we used to call “Fuckin-A” music probably embarrasses younger folks around me, but that’s their problem. I need the Stones & old funk & Fatboy Slim like they need…whoever. Leave the old lady alone.

It’s really their fault, the young club goers. If I could go somewhere and dance to house music for 6 or 7 hours I could be more composed and circumspect riding around in my car. But I can’t cuz I’m old. What I need is an old folks Rave that only admits women over 40 & men under 60, starts at 8:30 pm, and plays only music with 120 – 140 BPM until 11pm when it switches exclusively to rock & funk made between 1967 – 1987.

Until that old-people Rave is a reality I will rely on my car speakers to transport me out of my head for a few minutes a day. Here’s a song that needs good speakers. Turn it up.

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As much as it is on the tip of my tongue to rant about the idiotic and infuriating brinkmanship playing out in Congress today, I will refrain. Hearing the announcement that “Boehner balks at the Senate deal” immediately made my head start to throb. Try googling “Congress balks at deal” and have fun reviewing the 1,500,000 results (0.23 seconds).

So I will save what will surely be a Congress rant for later in the week. Consider it part of the War on Christmas.

Instead I am compelled to write about a deeply personal choice that has come up in conversation four times in the last week. Whether or not women should color their hair.

The most recent discussion was a mini-rant by a craggy old woman at my gym. She does not wear a bra while working out, does not color her steel gray hair and looks as if she never understood all the fuss about moisturizer.

She was hectoring some of the middle aged women that they should just let nature take its course and not bother with hair dye. Her tone and her “pioneer woman” appearance was having the opposite effect on her audience. From the look on their faces I imagine they dialed the salon as soon as they got in their cars.

I was just contemplating some highlights to subtly blend the increasing gray in my dark hair. My husband says he likes the gray and he is the one who has to look at me after all, but…we will see. Having spent 10 or so years as a bleached blond, which was fun when I was 22 and clubbing, I wouldn’t do total color again.

For me hair dye is in the category of personal choice. Like abortion or keeping your name after marriage. It is easy for folks to forget that it is current societal norms that determine if a personal choice will be condoned or condemned. And those norms become shorthand for categorizing people.

Single pieces of information that seem to make people think they now know Everything About You:

  • If I say I have had an abortion
  • If I wear makeup, dye my hair or paint my nails
  • If I say I like historical romance novels
  • If I say I am a feminist
  • If I say I like Harold & Kumar movies
  • If I keep my “maiden” name
  • If I say I like The Red Green Show

There are endless examples – if there weren’t who would need Marketing Executives?

I know that personal choices help define us, but its a shame they are also the boxes we use to sort people. I really don’t care if crabby Jackie at the gym has never worn a bra or dyed her hair. I do care that her choices make her judge my choices as wrong.

Now if I could only work up some tolerance for the choices of people who keep trying to shut down the government, outlaw abortion and teach creationism in school, well then I would be a saint wouldn’t I?

There is an American reporter on NPR, whose name I always forget, that inexplicably speaks in a BBC cadence. He is not English, nor does he have an English accent. I am so embarrassed for him that I immediately change the station, no matter how dire and important the news he is delivering.

Seeing as I live in a Rock & Roll town, this means that I am now listening to either Pink Floyd or Led Zepplin.

I grew up listening to WXKY 1260 until WMMS took over the air by playing whole album sides – I think WXKY’s record was three songs in a row. From 1975 – 1981 I probably spent more time with Matt the Cat, Kid Leo and Denny Sanders than any blood relative. Somehow all that music, all those artists and styles, from all those years have been boiled down to a 2011 mix of four albums:

  1. Dark Side of the Moon
  2. Wish You Were Here
  3. Zep IV and
  4. Physical Graffiti

These were great albums. Even mentioning them I can picture the album covers which, of course, were studied for hours. As much as I enjoyed them, I am puzzled by being back in 1977 every time I turn on the radio.

There was a point around 1979/1980 where groups of friends began to split into musical sub-groups. I remember this wedge because of heated arguments about Adam and the Ants and Sugar Hill Gang. That was the first time everyone in my crowd did not immediately like or hate the same music. More divisions followed – Iron Maiden v Talking Heads, Judas Priest v the Clash, Tom Petty or U2. And what the hell was Bruce doing with Nebraska?!?

It was a time when music was much more elemental in my day-to-day life. Now it is a pleasure but not a passion.

I had another Groudhog Day moment the other night when I was having dinner at Lola and realized the ambiance music was all Floyd, Zepplin, Edgar Winter et. al. It did not enhance my meal, but it did remind me I was in Cleveland.

It would be great if once in a while all this nostalgia radio pulled out something that didn’t just take you back but let you rediscover. Or in the case of the 20-somethings at the Lola bar – discover.

Here is a favorite track of mine from vinyl that was borrowed from me and never returned. I might just have to go buy it on iTunes.

And that number is $48.

That’s what I threw down today for Origins Starting Over Age Erasing oil free moisturizer with mimosa

It’s a slow process. It creeps up and sneaks. I’m not talking about the wrinkles I’ve accumulated on account of stacking up birthdays, I’m talking about the willingness to spend obscene amounts of money on things like moisturizer.

I am not looking for miracles or considering Botox or a face lift. I have no illusions of ever regaining my formerly dewy skin unless I move to the tropics. What keeps me buying “products”, as the earnest sales staff refer to them, is the hope that I can wear less makeup day-to-day.

I never wore makeup on a daily basis until I took this job in 2004. For years I curled my eyelashes put on some lipstick and I was out the door. A few months in I started putting on a little mascara and eye shadow when I had a meeting and before you know it I am wearing full makeup everyday.

And now I need $48 moisturizer.

I think this is caused by the fact that once you start wearing full makeup your skin sort of gives up. I think it gets addicted to products and requires ever more complex steps in cleansing, exfoliating, toning and moisturizing. And back to the counter you go. It’s a cycle that can support national economies.

Maybe if I had a sabbatical and could go without makeup (or stress) for 6 months, I would stop looking haggard without makeup. Maybe that is wishful thinking now that I on the wrong side of 40. Since that sabbatical is not on the horizon, I am stuck with “hope in a jar”.

At least it smells good.