Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Happy Birthday to ME!

Before I got a computer of my own, before I had an email address, and before I even knew what a blog was, I was a little put off by a technology that in essence did away with snail mail. In fact, although it seems a little foolish now, I formed a club (basically of one) I named Down With E-Mail and voted myself president. I hated the thought that computer generated mail would take the place of tear-open-the-envelope-and-see-the-handwriting-of-an-old-friend correspondence. I felt like a Pony Express girl in an Internet world.

You see, I love letters. Although I'm not always the best at writing them, like my dog who waits for the mailman to drop letters through the slot in the door, I always feel a little tease of excitement at the thought of being a recipient at mail time. I like fine stationery, vellum envelopes, multi-colored pens, pretty cards, funny cards, foot cards, cards with my name on them or just plain blank cards. But what I really go for are the stamps. I'm not into collecting them or searching the world over for rare ones. I just really enjoy going to the post office and seeing what's new on the market.

I'm a little peeved at the USPS. It seems incredulous to me that the price of a stamp is going to go up over 40 cents per little square of sticky paper, even if it does have a pretty picture on the front. I'm not sure, but I think I can remember paying 5 cents for a stamp. Is that even possible? I have to question why the Post Office is not be making a profit. Every time I go, I have to stand in a seemingly never-moving line. Everyone who mails a letter has to pay for it. Try counting up the number of bills you pay out in a month, then multiply that by 39 cents. Then multiply that by all the people in the land. Even emailers and Internet users have to send birthday cards now and then. Don't they?

Which, in a round about way, brings me back to the subject I was going to write about. My birthday. I turned 55 on Monday. That sounds kind of old, but not nearly as old as when I was 18. I was pretty sure back then that anybody who reached the ripe old age of 50 was destined for a nursing home. I remember having, not only the the audacity but, the impudence of youth when I actually said something along those lines to my mother. I don't think she spoke to me for days. [Now that I understand that she was undoubtedly experiencing her own traumatic aging-related moments, as well as suffering from hormonal mood and temperature-swings, I'm surprised she ever spoke to me again.]

I've been thinking this week, that 60 and 70 and 80 don't really seem all that old to me anymore. There's something to be said for becoming not so young. There's a lady at church who just turned 90 and she still drives. She walks without help and whenever I see her she's got a smile on her face. I don't know the differences in her life and some other 90 year old people I know, but I think attitude must have something to do with the smiling. Sure, I'd rather be younger than I am, in a physical sense, but mostly I'm feeling okay in my own saggy, baggy, stretched out skin.

This birthday was a little quieter than in years past. I've been known to celebrate my birthday for a month at a time. I've been known to wear a birthday button that announces to everyone I come in contact with that it is "MY" day. I've been known to sing my own birthday song; and do my own birthday dance.

In the years when I was too depressed to care what day it was, I felt there was nothing in the world to celebrate, least of all me. I'm grateful today to say that is no longer the case. I believe whole-heartedly in taking one day ( more if you can think up a good excuse) to do nothing other than celebrate the very person you were born to be. The celebration is not so much about the adding of another year, although in the case of the nonagenariens, that's a pretty good accomplishment, it's more about taking stock of all your blessings, hopes, and dreams, then making a wish or two for whatever your heart desires. You don't need a cake with candles, but, hey, everything goes better with cake!

My computer has been broken for three weeks. As the President of DWEM, I'm embarrassed to admit how lost I've been without it. I almost kissed the FedEx Man when he delivered "my baby" back to me in one working piece this morning. I sat down and ran it through all it's paces. I feel like hugging it. I feel like my right arm has been re-attached. When I logged on to my favorite blog, AntiJen, to see what I've missed, to my great surprise and delight, there was a birthday tribute to me. Me! How cool is that? It was kind of like when my mom used to bring cupcakes to school on my birthday. It's a little hard to be the center of attention, but it feels really special at the same time.

I found this poem on the Sandra Magsamen website. It's called Apache Poem, but I think it pretty much covers my birthday/life philosophy:

Think freely
Practice patience.
Smile often. Savor special moments.
Make new friends. Rediscover old ones.
Tell those that you love that you do.
Feel deeply. Forget trouble. Forgive an enemy.
Hope. Grow. Be crazy. Count your blessings.
Observe miracles. Let them happen.
Discard worry. Give. Give in. Trust enough to take.
Pick some flowers. Share them. Keep a promise.
Look for rainbows. See beauty everywhere.
Work hard. Be wise. Try to understand.
Take time for people. Make time for yourself.
Laugh heartily. Spread joy. Take a chance.
Reach out. Let someone in. Try something new.
Sow down. Be soft sometimes.
Believe in yourself. Trust others.
See a sunrise. Listen to the rain. Reminisce.
Cry when you need to. Trust life. Have faith.
Enjoy a wonder. Comfort a friend.
Have good ideas. Gaze at stars.
Make some mistakes. Learn from them.
Celebrate life.

If it's your birthday, I wish for you that all your dreams come true. If it's not your birthday on the calendar, I believe it can still be your birthday in your heart. So get on with the celebration. Celebrate you!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007


While I don't often admit it, I am just a tad bid obsessive compulsive. I do things like count stairs when going up AND when coming down, as if the number might have changed. And I worry too much. If I don't have something to worry about, well then, I worry about that.

I am a moderate to over-the-top hyperchondriac. Show me a molehill and I'll see Mt. Everest; give me a hangnail and I'll practice writing with my opposite hand just in case I should need an operation; give me a little tiny cyst in my breast and, well, you can imagine where I'm going with that.

Obviously the technicians who did my recent mamogram and ultrasound have had patients like me before. They were all business, showing no emotion, and making no eye contact. Of course, eye contact with "Brigitta" would have been impossible anyway as she was so short, her eyes only came up to my belly button. It was a little disconcerting to think that a woman who could barely reach my boobs was going to be in charge of smashing them between two pieces of plastic and still get a significant reading of the dreaded "spot". I kind of expected her to stand on a stool, but it was clear she knew what she was doing and my job was to follow directions.

It's actually pretty easy to follow directions, like "Don't move" and "Stop Breathing" when's one bosom is first flattened like a pancake then squeezed to an abnormal thinness by a Inquisition-like vice. The first thing a girl does as the vice clamps down is draw in a deep breath in preparation for a primal scream. The very idea of moving is consistent with seeing one's body with a gaping hole where one's breast used to be and said breast still lying flat in the vice. It just isn't going to happen.

However, Brigitta kind of reminded me of a Munchkin from the Wizard of Oz. As she methodically went about her business I couldn't help but think of her as part of the "Lollipop Guild" singing and dancing to an unheard lollipop tune. Such thoughts almost caused me to laugh out loud, which would have caused to move which could have had dire consequences for both me and my breast. Brigetta was not one to mess around with so I tried to think about something else ... but there's really nothing else to think about when you are attached to the mammogram machine like that, so I counted to a hundred and back.

Once the films were processed, I was sent to another room for a sonogram. Unlike the prenatal ultrasound where there is anticaptory excitement in the air and you get to take home a picture of your future child, this procedure was as cold and sterile as the room. The technician, a real East-European beauty who looked like she belonged in a James Bond movie, not a laboratory, matched Brigitta's business-like manner to a tee. I guess if your job is all about squirting lotion on other women's breasts and looking for a teeny spot with the aid of sound waves, which could be the difference between life or death, it stands to reason that your manner would be cool and efficient. Still, I was hoping for a re-assuring smile and a pat on the shoulder that was still covered by the flimsy cotton robe.

Lucky for me, the spot was pronounced "probably benign (not cancer)." I'm somewhat skeptical of the word "probably" when used in medical terminology, but the technician looked me square in the eye and said with a voice of reason, "Don't worry!" Yeh, right!

Merry ME

Saturday, March 3, 2007


A few years ago, I was a nanny; which is really just a fancy way of saying I was a babysitter. Nanny's have a bit more responisibility than a babysitter, but the task at hand is all about watching out for, protecting and loving a child who is not your own because its parents can not be there at the time.

After raising my own children, I took a child-free sabattical.That's not exactly the truth because I was kind-of, sort of, taking care of my own inner child who was wanting, and needing, some serious attention. Like a newborn baby with constant needs or an adolescent who is testing life's every limit, my little girl made it clear that she wanted some of my time.

But eventually we got things straightened out between us; at least we got to a place where we were working in tandem, not fighting each other, so I could go on to other things. This is when I came home to take care of my mother and as a side job, took on the care and responsibility of a baby. Both were jobs I kind of fell into, but turned out to be just about the best assignments I could have gotten.

I helped to raise "Robert" for five years. I learned a lot about life that I never picked up on when I had kids of my own. I'm not sure why, but I think it was knowing that the ultimate responsibility of how he "turned out" lay on his parent's shoulders not mine. All I had to do, really, was love him, give him some boundaries, splash in puddles, chase garbage trucks, play castle, take his picture, jump on the trampoline, read him stories, bake him cookies and love him some more.

The child that used to be my surrogate grandchild, is now on the verge of adolescence. My goodness gracious, he's just been signed up for middle school. I'm not sure where the time goes. Even though I try to stay abreast of the things that are going on in his life, I'm not really a part of it anymore. I feel sad about that, but I know part of a nanny's job description, like that of the parent she's standing in for, is letting go, especially when you feel like holding on tight.

I heard today that there has been a discussion in his family about what kind of musical instrument he should play in the school band next year. Like most things that involve an only child there are three opinions that count and it's not always the child's point of view that is considered when making a serious decision.

I'm not saying that picking a clarinet over a trumpet is a major life descision, but little things have a way of escalating into big things - especially where pre-teens and hormones and personalities and parents are concerned. Without being asked, I'm going to throw in my 2 cents. The key thing to point out, is I'm going to do it here, on my blog, not in the midst of the family dynamics.

If I could sit down with Robert this is what I might say: "So you want to play the clarinet. How cool is that? What made you decide on that instrument? Do you like the way it sounds? Do you know anyone else who plays the same instrument? Have you ever heard a famour clarinetist play?"

Once we got comfortable I might add something like this: "You know, Robert, being in a band, is like being on a basketball team. A team is made up of individuals all working for a common goal. Even though you play just one clarinet, when all the instruments play together they make a whole different sound. What makes the music so beautiful is that each player is playing his very best. When one person, or instrument, is having a bad day, all the notes might sound a little sour. But when every note is played to perfection, oo la la - now that's music!"

"You already know that's true of playing on a sport's team. And it's true of just about everything you do in life. One needs to do the very best to get the very best. Certainly that is true of school work, and being in the band, but it's also true of just being an every day Joe, or Robert, as the case may be."

And because I won't be able to help myself, I'll add a little tiny bit of: "I think it's very neat that you have chosen to be in the band. Now what you have to do is follow through on the decision and be the best member of the band you can be. That means practicing when you don't really feel like it, and it means doing your very best, and it means not quitting when it gets hard. Remember, everything new is a little hard at first and you have to work through the newness of something before you are really comfortable with it. And also, don't forget, the other members of the band are counting on you, just like you are counting on them."

Noticing that I've just about lost his full attention, finally I'd add this: "What's really important is not which instrument you pick - which one is more manly or less nerdy than the other. Let's face it, in life, some people are going to be macho and cool, and some are going to be a little squirrelly. Chances are each of us, on any given day will be one or the other. What's important to remember is this - nerds are people too and have feelings that can get hurt. Believe it or not, so do the big tough guys. People are people and at the end of the day we are all the same inside. Try not to make decisions about people - or instruments - by what they look like on the outside. Find out what they are like on inside before you make fun of, or shy away from, them. Listen to their "inner" music and you might find something you never expected.

When picking an instrument (or a friend) pick the instrument that best suits you. Follow your heart, because in the end, that's where you'll feel the most comfortable. Once you are comfortable it'll be easier to be the best you can be."

Then, just for the fun of it, eveni f he's already gone, I'll wax poetic: "I can still remember the day you went to pre-school. I think your mom and I were more scared than you were. But what did we have to be scared of? Nothing more than you taking the steps you needed to take to grow up. I was very proud of you that day and I continue to be proud of the person you are becoming.

I can't wait to go to Carnegie Hall to hear your clarinet solo. I'll be the lady down front, cheering and clapping and taking your picture! (Even though there will be no trampoline involved, I'll probably be jumping up and down and you know what that means!)

Before I sign off, I've just realized, that even though I'm hypothetically talking to Robert, I think I had something to say to the feisty little girl who dwells inside me. I hope she was listening!

Merry ME