Category Archives: Mid-Life

How did I get to be this age?

First and Lasts

So it’s Tuesday, the day after I usually post, and I will tell you that this is the first time I forgot to post. I thought of it over the weekend, perused my usual half-baked ideas, and then it all fell out of my head as Monday came and went. But I will cut myself some slack; I’ve been experiencing a lot of “lasts,” what with the kid heading out to college in 9 days. I’m determined not to get all hand-wringing and empty-nest mopey on you — that’s not my style, but I have been surprised by the little things that have hit me. Grocery shopping and realizing I don’t have to buy those specific apple/grape juice 6 packs anymore. Or at least not for a few months. Which is great, because half the time the store is out of them anyway. 

All that is cluttering up my noggin, which, let’s face it, has never been a bastion of reliable memory preservation. Add in North Korea and Cheeto flea having a toddler screaming match, where the toddlers have access to nuclear weapons, and hate groups assembling under the guise of free speech, and I’m pretty much toast over here. I actually had the thought last week that this might be it, but North Korea is standing down for now, so I live to forget another day. 

But I refuse to give in to despair. For one thing, my grandparents and dad had a pretty frightening, shitty time of it in Holland during WWII, and my other grandfather, when he had food at all in his childhood, ate primarily salt pork and beans and lived well into his 80s; it’s in my genes to keep going. For another, there’s plenty of positive things going on. People are working to make things better and there are countless acts of kindness going on all around us all the time. Yesterday, I was canoeing on a quiet river, and the beavers and birds I saw going about their bird and beaver business reminded me there is a balance. That, and life on a quiet sleepy, river might be a good plan B. 

So, once the kid is launched, I will take a deep breath and continue to contribute the best I can. In the meantime, I’ll keep forgetting things, but I promise to do it with peace and hope. 

Love That Dirty Water

When I first set foot on the algae slimed, goose-poop covered banks of the Charles River in the summer of 1983, it was love at first sight. For the first time in my life I felt truly at home. I never left, and while I still love Boston, I can sometimes take it for granted or forget how much I love it. 
Last week good weather and a decent work load combined to propel me outside at lunch to take a walk along those very same banks. It’s much cleaner now, although most people prefer to enjoy it from a sail boat or a kayak. I walked along the bank, lost in thought, until I realized it was time to head back. When I turned and saw the view, I fell in love all over again. 

Exhibit A


That’s a view of the Longfellow Bridge, better known as the salt and pepper bridge because of the shape of the 4 central towers. The state has been renovating the bridge and they took each “shaker” down to restore it and this was the first time in 3 or 4 years that I have seen all 4 back again. Add the sail boats from Community Boating, and you have the quintessential Boston/Charles River picture.

Here’s a close up of the salt and pepper shakers. 


So there I was, giddy and gushing over my city, on my walk, when I came upon city workers posting these signs.


No matter that I had just seen a dog standing in the water and lapping it up, and a while later saw a man sitting in it, communing with nature. We still love that dirty water. Boston you’re my home. 

Squeaming Is for the Squeamish

When I first published this a few years ago, I excitedly announced that it was my 7th post! I could be snarky now about my own enthusiasm (did I have so little confidence that I would actually get that far? Seriously, 7th post?). But my fatigue from all of the activities this summer is making me crabby enough, so I’ll instead take it as a reminder to be positive, whether it’s the 7th or 181st post, it is saving my bacon, and for many of you it will be the first time reading it. Win-win. Also I would like to dedicate this post to my colleague at the hospital who is retiring, and may very well have been the guy who had to make the poster mentioned below. May your life be forever anal complaint free, my friend. So, here it goes…

I’m squeamish, sensitive, and emotional, so I’m not sure how I ended up in hospital communications. I have a cartoon pinned to my cube wall that shows a doctor saying to a patient, “This procedure is not for the squeamish. Squeaming is for the squeamish.” That pretty much sums me up. The main reason I can actually work there is that most everything I write is about data, metrics, redesigning care procedures, and information technology—it’s beautifully bloodless. I could never do my colleague’s job—she writes moving profiles about patient care, like how a nurse finds a key psycho-social element to care for a dying patient. Those stories always have me bawling, which is kind of uncool at work, even in a hospital. It doesn’t help that my desk is located in the hospital building. My squeamish coworkers and I call our administrative area “the bubble.” Once we serpentine through the less public halls to get to the bubble, the rule is to avoid leaving it at all costs. Over the years I have cultivated a number of additional tactics to help: I bring my lunch most days so I don’t need to go to the cafeteria, but I also found the back way to get there. If I have to interview someone, we either meet in the bubble or a neutral place like the cafeteria. I once had to interview a doctor in the Emergency Department, but my therapist says I shouldn’t dwell on it. I do occasionally have to go to the ATM which involves running the gauntlet of the main corridor plastered with posters. For the most part though, the posters and the signage are sensitive to the fact that patients also see them, so they generally don’t get too graphic. They mainly publicize hospital support programs and celebrations for nurses’ week or patient safety week. Even the more medically related ones are pretty tame and use smaller print for the medical case details. It’s easy enough to walk by quickly without being able to read them, which is normally what I do. Except for last week.

This poster stopped me cold with its 200 point type bold headline: “Managing Common Anal Complaints.” There was no escaping this thing, but after my initial squeamishly scientific reaction (“Ewwwwww”), my brain paused, ruminated, and then started a steady fire of questions I didn’t necessarily want the answers to: how could there be enough kinds of complaints to warrant a whole lecture on just the common ones? How many are there in total? Thanks to Preparation H commercials, I know there are hemorrhoids, but what other “complaints” could there be? And if they are so common, why don’t we see more commercials for medicines to relieve them? It’s not that big of an, er, organ, if that’s the term, and it only has one function, so how on earth can that many things go wrong with it? And dear god, what the heck is an uncommon anal complaint?

Even though I was able to retreat to the bubble, my mind was trapped in front of the poster like a witness to a car crash. I couldn’t stop thinking about it—is this some kind of silent epidemic that needs to have a campaign ribbon (you know what color it would be) and a month named after it? Common anal complaint awareness month? What unlucky health problem would want to share their month? Would they have a national conference and draw straws? You could just see the pink breast cancer awareness people wrinkle their noses, while other health awareness groups pressured the “Fruits & Veggies – More Matters Month” group to team up; “Your topics are kind of related,” they’d say enthusiastically. As I was considering the fruits and veggies group’s response, I realized something.

Not only had my squeamish tolerance increased, it had taken a horrible nerdy turn. In all my ponderings I never once went to that place: you know, the teenager place of farting, pooping, sexual innuendo, and pain-in-the-ass jokes. Which is probably the more normal way to think about it, rather than imagining, say, “Common Anal Complaints Awareness Month.” OMG! What have I become? A common anal complaint nerd, that’s what. Now that’s a real uncommon pain in the ass.

I Almost Fell for It

If you have been following this blog for a few years, you know my travails with my tomato plants. And by plants I mean 2. My dear friends Becky and Susan raise tomato plants (and many others) lovingly from seed, carefully place a few in my hands, and before you can say “fresh tomato and basil” I’m sending them frantic pictures of their hapless babies, crawling with bugs or curling up and withering away. Usually accompanied by a text in all caps, “WHAT DO I DO????”

Last summer was a particularly spectacular failure. Right out of the gate the poor plant was swarmed with aphids, and I sprayed the hell out of it with soapy water, but it was too late. I got 2 tomatoes last year.

So this is my last summer at this apartment,  and I have increased the pot size (were the others too small?), stopped putting fertilizer  (have I used too much in the past?), and let it be. I’m a Zen gardener now, not attaching  to any particular outcome.

And the little struggling plant grew. And grew. Leaves unfurled effortlessly and soon yellow flowers burst forth in unbridled enthusiasm. I merely glanced and smiled serenely. Soon actual tomatoes swelled from the receding flowers, green ovals of promise. I even left the plant for three days,   while we went to college orientation, and lo, it rained.

Nearly 6 weeks in, all was well. I hadn’t made it this far before without a panicked text, or a sinking feeling.

And that’s where I made my misstep. I began desiring those green ovals, anticipating their ripe redness. I was actually going to do it this summer! Have more than a handful of tomatoes! And Buddha laughed.

This morning I went out to water my plant, and there they were. I don’t know what they are–mites, midges, bugs. To me they are the little white bastards, and the Zen gardening is over. Those little bastards picked the wrong plant to mess with. Oh, yeah, I sprayed the hell out of them this morning after I rubbed half of them off with my bare hands, like Scarlett O’Hara grubbing desperately in the dirt for food.

As god is my witness, I will have fresh tomatoes this summer. I will.

Bringing in the Reinforcements 

In the last few weeks I’ve shared a link with three different people, and it occurred to me others may benefit from it. No, it’s not the secret to landing a coveted limited edition of the retro Nintendo gaming system coming out this fall, the SNES. What? I know fair number of gamers and this is what they talk about. You keep track of the Kardashians, and I keep track of gaming minutia. Also, sadly, it’s not a secret website where legally foolproof impeachment information is being collected against the Cheeto flea. That’s just a personal fantasy of mine. A girl can dream while she’s fighting for truth, justice and the American way. 

It’s the website of the Aging Life Care Association. If you are middle aged, you are most likely dealing with aging parent issues. You might also be lucky enough to have kids, so you get to be the sandwich generation. Unfortunately that does not come with fries and a pickle, but you get serious bragging rights and no one should question your drinking habits. 

There’s plenty of information about how to find care for kids, probably too much. But for aging parents? Not so much. Unlike kids, which you can throw into a reasonably clean, safe daycare situation and they will be ok, each parent situation is so very different and complex. Plus these are fully formed adults who rightfully don’t take kindly to “Because I said so,” even if they said it to you. Or maybe because they said it to you. 

There’s no manual to this, but there are these amazing people called geriatric care managers, and you can find one on the website, which covers all the states. They can help you in all sorts of ways, even if it’s just listening to what the issues are and make suggestions. They generally know the resources available in your area, and can point to other experts you will need in this adventure: elder affairs lawyers, house cleaners, companions. The women we hired also come to my mom’s doctor appointments and help us synthesize the information. 

Of course you need to do your homework and interview them to find one you think best fits with your family situation. And when you do, it’s a great relief to be heard by someone who’s experienced and say, yes, I get. Here’s how I can help. 

So, that’s my public service announcement. This week I’m off to the kid’s college orientation, staying in a dorm, no less, so I should have plenty of funny things to tell you next week. Or at least something funny after a few glasses of wine. Don’t worry, I’ll work it for you guys. I’ve got to go now and order a side of fries and a pickle. 

Photo credit: http://www.centerforworklife.com/stuck-in-the-middle/

Forgive Me Pink Blanket, for I Have Sinned

I’ve been so busy with the kid and life transitions, I have committed 2 summer Boston sins: The first was I forgot to look up the Free Friday Flicks list, as in, forgot it existed. Thanks to dancing Mike for picking up the slack! The 2nd was worse: once I was alerted to the movie list, I actually forgot about it again. This past Friday night was the first one. We were not there. Mike mentioned it when he saw me on Saturday night. Ugh.

I know there are far worse things, but right now these traditions feel even more important to help keep us grounded, so forgetting them seems really bad. But If I’ve learned anything during my 50+ years on the planet, it’s get over your damn self and keep going freak. Or maybe that’s what I yell at other drivers. Anywho, the movies take a 2 week hiatus to make way for the Fourth of July Pops festivities and I will be there on July 14 when they return.

While I sit in a corner to think about what I’ve done, here’s a post from a few years ago about how it should have happened. It will happen, but  just a little late. Unless I forget again. Middle age can be a real pain in the ass.

I walked to the Hatch Shell in Boston for my first Free Friday Flicks of the season—it’s my 29th year of watching movies there; the first one I remember was “Batman”— not the one with Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker. No, this was the made-for-TV Batman movie with Adam West (who has recently moved on to the bat cave in the sky) and Burt Ward, complete with the “Pow,” “Bam” and “Smash” hand drawn exclamation bubbles. (Young ones, Google it or just watch the SpongeBob episodes with Mermaid Man—same diff). Back then they also showed lots of classic movies. FFF, as we like to call it, was where I first saw Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, and Citizen Kane. I’m sure they were cheap for the city to get and the crowd was easy to please. It was a handful of mostly people like me—broke post-college and college students who were happy to find something—anything—free to do on a Friday night.

I’ve seen a lot of things come and go at FFF. But nearly always, at the core has been my pink blanket, aka F*cking Pink Blanket. For years, it has been the centerpiece, nay, the very FFF raison d’être, welcoming newcomers and seasoned attendees alike. Until last night. As usual, I had arrived early, unveiled the FP Blanket and secured the area. Something was off, but I couldn’t put my finger on it until my friends came and pointed out, there were not one, not two but at least THREE other pink blankets around us. Of course, they were not nearly as amazing as the FP Blanket, but still, they were not pastel posers. I was concerned. I see you are puzzled; let me explain.

The FP Blanket, pictured above on Friday night, is at least 40 years old, and like all good things from the 70s, it’s made from an indestructible synthetic material that defies physics and logic. It hasn’t gotten any more worn, nor has the color faded. It’s just as f*cking pink now as it was when it was on the bed of whichever of my unlucky family members had it. Or maybe it was a guest blanket, which would explain our lack of guests growing up.

Before cell phones, meeting up with friends at the Hatch Shell was a challenge, as most of us left our carrier pigeons and tin cans with string at home. Thus, the neon pink blanket became an important feature for spotting our group amongst the sea of particularly unremarkable, yet confusing blankets. In the 90s, I met my friend Becky and invited her to FFF. She’s the one who dubbed the blanket the F*cking Pink Blanket. She‘s not profane, mind you—other than the blanket, I’d be hard pressed to tell you that last time I heard her swear. But she is an excellent story teller and that summer, on the blanket, she told a story about her friends who were trying to buy a tandem bike, an unusual item. They found an ad for one (in a print publication no doubt) and called the number (this was before the internet and before there were readily available photos. If you think it’s tiresome to keep reading about these stories that happened before the internet, imagine how tiresome it was to live this way — barbaric!) When they reached the seller, he said,in his pure Boston accent, “I gotta warn you, it’s f*cking pink.” The rest, as they say, is history, and ever after the blanket became the F*cking Pink Blanket.

So, you must understand, there can be no others. Because of my longevity and good nature, I have decided to give you, Other Pink Blanket Owners, a friendly warning.  I understand you must be new to FFF, so please know that I own the FP Blanket and you need to find another blanket to bring. I’m sure you will. Your flimsy, natural fiber blanket won’t last anyway, so I’m saving you a lot trouble. Maybe you can use yours for a sick dog or to cover up your IKEA furniture when you move out of Boston. Need some hints of what else you could bring? Low chairs, sleeping bags, and really any kind of blanket is acceptable. Except pink. That’s my blanket and how people find me, not you. No one wants to sit with you, who has the fake, non-F*cking Pink Blanket. And don’t think for a minute little girl with the square pink blanket that I’m going to go any easier on you than I will on the others. Cute doesn’t play in my town, sister, and make no mistake, this is my town and my FFF. Thank you for attention to this matter, and I look forward to not seeing you next week.

Sincerely,

Sandy, owner of the true and only F*cking Pink Blanket.

Paying It Forward

Another quick one, my chickadees. Yours truly had too much fun this weekend, and you know what that means. The facade I like to cultivate that I’m a dedicated, organized blogger gets blown to Cheeto land. I did get to see my best friend from childhood and her delightful, funny husband. They live in the desert, and I don’t get to see them very much, so that was completely awesome.

Back at work today, I got a text message from the kid to tell me his friends were over again and that they’d used my card to get food. I sighed heavily. They have been frequenting my house several times a week for the past few months. I get it, this is their last summer together before college changes everything. But today I got crabby. Where are the other parents? I muttered to myself. Why is my house where everyone gathers? No one offers to pay for anything. We end up driving everyone one home. Grumble, bitch. I checked my account for the food delivery damage. $60 bucks. Sigh.

But then I thought about my childhood friend. Her house was the gathering house. It had a yard all around it and had the advantage of not having a dad who yelled, like I had at my house. In the summers, we practically lived at her house, showing up before lunch and staying way past sunset to play hide and seek. And all day we inhaled immeasurable amounts of ice cream, Popsicles, sandwiches, snacks, and Kool-Aid. True, there were 7 kids who actually lived there, so what was a couple more, but still. I never heard her mom complain about us being there, sprawling all over the furniture, running around the yard, or consuming mass quantities of food.

So as I sit and listen to the kid and his friends laughing and talking trash (OK, it’s Dungeons & Dragons trash talking), I realize, I’m paying it forward for all those summers of freeloading as only kids can do — freely, without malice, and with gusto. Thank you summer second mom, I’m honored to carry on your tradition.