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45 is the new black

Today is my 45th birthday.  I don’t really view this as a milestone.  I’ve always been a big believer in your age is really just a number, and how you act is more important than the actual digits.   In saying all of that, however, I started thinking about 45.  When I was in my twenties, what did I think I would be doing in my 40s?  In a perfect world, what do I think I should be doing?

My career is where I wanted it to be, but now that I’m here,  I’m looking for a change.  I started a family later in life, getting married at 36, gaining two children in the process,  then giving birth to a son one week before my first anniversary.  “Zero to three kids in one year!” was my tagline.  Balancing a career with kids is tough.  My job morphed into a role that is not one I would have picked for myself.  I’m doing OK, but I don’t love it.  It’s not a comfortable place for me.  The paycheck is amazing, and if it wasn’t for that, I would have walked two years ago.  Unfortunately, I cannot make this kind of money and keep five weeks of vacation anywhere else locally.  Moving is not an option at this point in life, due to involvement with my stepchildren’s lives.  That may change a few years, when our middle child graduates from high school.  I would like to do a complete one-eighty and manage a non-profit agency for some grand cause.  In reality, that will most likely take up 50-60 hours, which is part of my work problem now.

What to do?  I’m entertaining ideas on a new career in technical writing, consulting, or even a more internet-based business.  I’m also pursuing a 25 year old dream to become an author.   I’ve started writing again, and while I don’t expect to grace to New York Times top ten list in the next few  years, the emotional payoff has made it worth the effort.  To me, it’s like popping a Xanax.

When I was in my late twenties and early thirties, sans kids, I mentored women at work.  Typically they were in roles below my level, and we focused on long-term career goals.  I miss this.  I realized that I while I am a parent (and, alas, wicked stepmother), there is no reason I can’t also be a mentor to these children.  This is a new realization to me, so I don’t have a lot of data to show this to be a success yet, but I hope it will work and be a win-win for all.  I’m also mentoring one woman at work, even though we have no formal process any longer (new ownership).

My health is not good.  Perimenopause (the time leading up to full-fledged menopause) is kicking my ass at the moment.  Long story short, I need sleep more, drink more water, less alcohol, eat a more healthy diet AND increase exercise.   The worst part is the headaches – I often fall asleep with one and wake up with it.  It is SO draining.  Seriously – can’t you just put me under the knife and be done with it???  PLEASE???

So – here I am at 45, and I’m kind of a mess.  Now, to the general masses, maybe not so much:  I have a great husband,  teen children who are not in jail or parents themselves, a nice retirement account, a well-paying job, a nice house, and no credit card debt.  To me, however, I’m a mess, but whose fault is that?  It’s mine.  If I don’t like who I am, shouldn’t I be changing it?  At 45, I ought to feel like I own the world and hold myself up high.  Well, that’s a little arrogant.  I mean I should be where I want to be, and if I’m not, then I need to get off of my ass and fix it.  So what’s stopping me?  Me.

Forty five is the new black, and baby, I’m gonna wear it like it’s Dior.

Shame

This is a comment I wrote after reading a post by Jeff Goins on the topic of shame (http://goinswriter.com/shame/)

Yesterday, my neighbor sent me a text/photo of my first-grade son dancing to “Gangnam Style” with her two boys.  I love, love, LOVE the fact that not only will my son do this at someone else’s house, but that she appreciates this kind of freedom as much as I do.  In all honesty, she is much better at promoting free expression than I am.  She and her husband both have degrees and careers in the art world, whereas I am a boring chemistry geek.   I want my child to sing and dance, play and express himself.  I have been “busted” by coworkers driving by my house, while my son and I are having glorious light saber battles to the death.  I have been caught singing in the car as I pull into the parking lot at work.  I am honestly not trying to attract attention, but I also don’t always squelch my actions because somebody might see me.  I was not always this way, but I have purposefully broken away from the cookie-cutter persona that is often expected, and I’ve allowed myself to be me.   This especially applies at home or in non-work events.  There is a limit to how much fun nerdy science people can have on the clock, after all, especially when we are making medicine.  🙂

Thank you, Jeff, for the wonderful post.  In life, we cannot forget to dance.

This looks delish!!!

gather

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“Don’t let love interfere with your appetite. It never does with mine.” Anthony Trollope

Valentine Day is gone, but for those still in the mood for amour, there is a lovely little woodland aphrodisiac blooming right now – the Violet. Today we associate this demure little beauty with primness and old lady perfumes – but it has not always been so – in ancient Greece its aroma was said to “torment young men beyond endurance” and it was used by courtesans to scent their breath and erogenous zones. Affiliated with Venus and love from time immemorial, the violet (according to the American Violet Society) was the original official flower of Valentines Day – not the rose.

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Growing wild in the Northwest, Viola sororia only grow a few inches high and are found in shady forests or wet areas each spring.  They can also migrate into urban areas and are…

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When God whispers

A coworker of mine turned 60 today. I walked to her desk to wish her a happy birthday. She had been out of the office for a few days, but I hadn’t given it much thought; I assumed she had taken some vacation. She explained that she hadn’t planned on taking time off, but her husband had a heart attack. Before I could offer her my condolences, she was grinning and said it was a good thing. This caught me by surprise, and I looked at her quizzically. She explained that he had been having difficulty breathing recently. When she was finally able to schedule a doctor’s appointment for him, it was weeks away. Last Tuesday, the day he had the heart attack, she was driving home and this voice inside her told her to take him to the emergency room that night. She said she had been praying to God to help her husband with his health issues. When she arrived home, she suggested going directly to the hospital instead of waiting for the doctor’s appointment. He initially refused. Finally, he said he’d go after supper and after taking care of a few things. When they arrived, he was admitted for his shortness of breath. While monitoring him, he experienced a heart attack. He was immediately taken to the cardiac unit, had several stents inserted, and within a few hours, was awake and resting comfortably in his room.

The first week of January, she went on to tell me, he hit black ice while driving and jackknifed his semi. While the truck was pretty banged up, he walked away without a scratch. She told him that these two incidents were signs that God wasn’t quite ready for him yet. I smiled and agreed, and said yes, God still had some work for him to do down here. She said so many people had told her what a bad year 2015 was for her, but she strongly disagreed with this: it was going to be a great year! Her husband is doing very well and is not expected to have any long term issues.

God whispered in her ear, and they both listened. I’m so glad they did. Are we listening for God’s whispers?

I am the future Edward Snowden’s mother

Back in the wonderful 1980s, when I was in junior high, my parents realized that computers were going to play a major role in everyday lives. They promptly signed me up at a place called “comp u serve” and I diligently learned to program Apple 800s. Flash forward several decades, and I would classify myself as an average computer user: I’m not going to win any awards, but I manage to function in today’s world, and semi-successfully stalk my older stepkids online via social media sites.

In trying to ensure my little one, now five, stayed ahead of the game, I taught him how to play a few educational games on my iPod when he was two, then moved him up to his own kid’s tablet and now a laptop. We’ve had a few issues along the way, like when he started deleting apps on my phone, to make room for his apps, but in general, no problems. He was four when he did that. Maybe that was a sign.

As with many five year olds, one evening, out of the blue, he says, “Oh no! I got into BIG TROUBLE today with Miss Nancy.” She is the director/owner of his after-school care program (and formerly his daycare). This is the equivalent to going to the principal’s office. As far as I know, this is a first offense. I blank my face of emotion, though my heart starts being a bit faster, and ask what he did to be sent there. With a gleam in his eye, he responded, “I downloaded a bunch of apps on the Nooks at school!”

It takes me a few seconds to comprehend. I knew he used the e-readers there, and he had explained the various books and apps available to him. “So, how did you do that?” I ask, rather surprised they had internet access. “Well, usually we can’t, but my friend (names omitted to protect the guilty) showed me how to flip this switch and then it came on!” Hmm…. this sounds sketchy. I have a different brand of e-reader, so I’m not sure what this means exactly. I encourage him to continue. “So I clicked on the ‘e’ and the internet opened. I wanted to download a Cartoon Network app, but that’s a big word so I put in ‘CN’ because that’s what the TV has in the corner, and you know what? IT WORKED!”

My mind is spinning, trying to keep up with a 5 year old’s thought process.

“OK…” I say, dreading what comes next. “What did you do then?” His smile broadens, as he looks at me conspiratorially. “I found that app I keep asking you for, you know the one that costs money? I clicked on it, and it DOWNLOADED!” I close my eyes briefly. “Then, what?” I say, almost a whisper. He informs me his buddy picked his favorite app, which also downloaded. He face suddenly falls. “That’s when we got into trouble,” he says sadly. I look at him rather expectantly. “The apps started showing up on EVERYONE’S Nook, and someone told the teacher. The teacher got Miss Nancy, and she asked who did it.” I ask if he admits to it, and he looks around, nods slightly, and then says, “Well, I admitted to it when everyone started pointing at me.” Little narcs, I think. I tell him he made the right choice. “We had to go to the office,” he says, very matter-of-factly. I nod, concurring. “She told us we were never to go on the internet again. Those two apps costed her six dollars,” he says solemnly. It’s SO hard not to laugh. I’m trying to match his expression. “OK, well, I think you and your friend made a bad choice, but it’s always important to tell the truth and then not repeat it,” I tell him. Wow, that sounds so lame, but he’s five and he buys it. “I’m sorry. Can I play Skylanders?” he asks. “Sure,” I say, “but only for fifteen minutes.” He smiles and begins to excitedly tell me about Shroomboom’s most recent upgrade. I smile and shake my head and hope I can keep him out of prison.

(This was written over a year ago, but I never published it. I showed it to one of my friends, who encouraged me to do so, even though many people have forgotten about Ed. I haven’t.)

Had I not seen the photo, I would have sworn that I never owned a shirt like that. Here it was, however, larger than life and on Facebook: me, smiling sweetly with ungodly bright eyeshadow, standing between my Dad and my Grandma, wearing a white T-shirt with black letters screaming, “STUDY NAKED”. The caption read, “Looking through some old photos and found this one: 1987.”

Seriously? Study Naked? Where did this shirt come from? Did I buy it? Did I borrow it from someone? Why did my parents let me wear it, especially in front of my GRANDMA? In a photo taken by our British friends, visiting on Holiday, no less?

No wonder my mother looks pissed.

On June 16th, 1988, when I was eighteen years old, I was in a serious car accident that resulted in a fractured neck. Although incased in a halo brace and then cervical collar for several months, I came out of the accident quite unscathed with no long-term issues. I realized, however, at some point that my memory was rather fuzzy on some things from my past. I could remember specific events quite well, like my first day of school in almost every grade, various moving days, birthdays, Christmases, but some of the day-to-day memories were gone. There was no defined time frame, just some of the ordinary day-to-day things seemingly slipped away. It never really bothered me, and life had moved on. I was making new, amazing memories every day in college, and the day-to-day stuff just didn’t really matter anymore

Until I saw that photo.

That photo is now 26 years old: more than half a lifetime ago. I don’t think I remember this girl, who wore outrageous makeup with shorts and flip-flops (or whatever popular sandals were being sold the mall that year). I vaguely remember a defiance tempered only with a drive to go somewhere and be something that I could be proud of, yet be myself. I feel that I have accomplished that.

Study Naked? Wow. Well, I guess it was one step above Party Naked.

The Ghost of Christmas Past?

It was two Sundays before Christmas:  I was sitting in a back row pew at the church, singing a Christmas song.   I don’t remember which one.  I was alone, as my husband was in the sound booth, and my son was in children’s church.  There was one other family on the other side of the pew, at least fifteen feet away.  As one song ended, and the next began, I smiled:  Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel.   Not a favorite, but I liked it.  I remember my spirits were in good form that day, with no major crisis distracting me from the holiday season.

Suddenly, I felt this presence next to me.  I didn’t see anything, but I “felt” this light and this warmth next to me.  I remember thinking that Grandpa was next to me.  He told me everything would be fine.  I was filled with a sense of peace and warmth.  It lasted just a moment.  I surreptitiously looked around, to see if anyone else had noticed this. Everyone was singing along, oblivious to whatever had just happened.  My eyes filled with tears, and I silently offered up a prayer to whoever was listening.

I would like to say I have never had anything like that happen before, but I can’t.  There was something very familiar about the entire experience, but I cannot list a time and date that something like that has happened before.  It was very surreal.  Was it my Grandfather?  He had passed away on December 29th of the previous year.  We were headed home in a few days to see Grandma, who was in failing health (and who would pass away on December 27th, 2 days short of the first anniversary of Grandpa’s death).   I believe my Grandfather is in Heaven, but I do not believe he is allowed to come down and visit.  Was it an angel, letting me know Grandpa was OK? Or that Grandma would be with him soon?   Maybe it didn’t have anything to do with my grandfather, but for some reason I felt his presence.  To the best of my knowledge, this was not a favorite song.  I don’t know what happened that day in church or why, but I’m OK with that.  It was something good, and while I’m not entirely sure of the message, the peace it gave me was indescribable.

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