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Tag Archives: middle age

Absence Makes the Heart Go Wander

I feel so bad that I haven’t been posting here on my blog lately. I’d been doing so well with my strict schedule of a new post every three to four days.  I miss everyone here as well, so I thought I’d drop you a post to let you know I’m still alive.

I’ve been so busy with life, work, kids, two blogs, the election, wondering about life and death, doubting that it is possible to ever find true love, rediscovering old friendships, feeling pains of doubt, paranoia, insecurity, fear, seeking solace in going shopping, seeking solace in going to the eye doctor, blah, blah, blah. As you can see, I’ve been busy. With life. I know that none of this is relevant to any of you, but the more excuses I list the better I feel about not having written an official post here in such a long time.

Today I finally got tough with me, and told myself that I have to write something here tonight! It has been a week since my last post, and as with many things in life….you can become out of habit with things. Even things you love. Life is work, and so is this blog. But nothing in life comes easy, I guess.

Now I’m sure I sound like I’ve been dipping into the chardonnay….but I assure you I haven’t. I’m just in the midst of my usual midlife crisis-mode. With a touch of sadness. And a whisper of exhaustion…actually a great big loud yell of exhaustion.

In summary, it’s been a long day, and this post is making even me depressed! I’ll have a better post soon, if I can fit it in after the eye doctors and before I take my mom out on errands. But whenever it happens, it will DEFINITELY be before the chardonnay. Or not.

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Music Television Saved My Life!

It was when I was in seventh grade that I first heard about a miraculous invention called “cable television.” In those early days everyone just watched television for free. We caught it right out of the air with an antenna that was attached to our television. It was like a magic that I didn’t understand, but accepted as part of normal, everyday life. The television we had in my house was tiny by today’s standards. Smaller, even, than my current computer monitor. We had a 13-inch black and white television that you actually had to put your hands on to change the channel or volume. Oh, it’s true! You had to stand on your feet and walk over to it. But this was not likely to happen, however. Since there were only a few TV channels in existence, you pretty much knew you weren’t missing anything on the other four stations. Evening television viewing consisted of watching channel seven for an hour and a half and then going to bed.

Now, back to seventh grade. I just started junior high school and was feeling all mixed up about my emotions. Wearing an alligator sweater and Jordache jeans with a Lady Diana haircut and a hair comb in my back pocket put a lot of stress on my psyche. It was not normal or natural for me to do any of these things. I wasn’t sure who I was supposed to be, so I just did what the other kids in my home room were doing. It wasn’t in any way enjoyable for me to comb my hair and feather it every five minutes, but I did what I had to do to get by. Thankfully, I never went so far as to use a curling iron and hair spray on my hair to maintain its feathered and curled look. That was for the seriously troubled youth:

One day, my best friend told me about something called “cable television.” I thought it must be something from Europe, because it sounded as foreign to me as the metric system. She went on to talk about a show called “Fraggle Rock.” I was immediately incensed, because this was obviously a knock off of my  beloved “The Muppet Show.” I would not tolerate cheap imitations, and remained unconvinced that cable television was in any way going to change my life. However, one day I went over to her house and her television was on. Like a drug dealer trying to hook me on crack, she immediately put a channel on called MTV* (*Music Television, as it was known at the time), so I could get a feeling for this “cable television” that she constantly raved about.  There before me, I saw a band called “The Police” singing a song called “Roxanne.” I stood there mesmerized and wondered what else was out there in the world that I didn’t know anything about.

After seeing that one video, my whole perspective about my place in the world changed. I realized people in other countries were singing songs in musical styles that I knew nothing about. I started focusing more  of my attention on listening to music than I did on fashion, or what the other kids in my home room were doing, wearing or combing. In a way, cable television did change my world. I started identifying more with the culture of music than the dull regular people I knew in my everyday life. I sought out others who were also “into” the music scene and my fashion followed suit. No more Jordache jeans, alligator sweaters, Lady Diana hairstyles or hair combing for me forever. Well, I do still try to at least comb my hair as needed on a fairly regular schedule.

From that point on I became interested in bands such as Blondie, Madness and the B52’s. I became sort of crazed to see these bands singing their songs in videos. I craved that feeling of visual  music. And seeing the musicians in action. They looked a lot cooler and more interesting than the kids in my home room, that’s for sure. I started spending more and more time at my friend’s television. I was hooked. When I couldn’t be there, at her MTV, I was at the record store in the poster section. Or flipping through racks of record albums. Realizing each band had videos was almost too exciting to think about.

In all this new music video frenzy, we still didn’t have cable television at my house. I accepted it as part of life. On a good night, if the wind was right, and there was enough foil on the antenna, and it was after 11 p.m., and it was a Friday, I could pull in a station that broadcasted a show called “Friday Night Videos.” That was seriously like a drug to me. Especially when they had good bands on. But at the time I wasn’t picky. Any music video would do.

Sadly, the MTV of today is completely unrecognizable. No more is it a gateway to the music of the world. Shows like “120 Minutes,” hosted by Matt Pinfield, which introduced me to some phenomenal bands, are a thing of the past. I guess advancing your world-view and with art and intelligence is something from another era. Now on MTV you’ll see “Jersey Shore” marathons, and teenagers becoming celebrities for having babies at sixteen. Ever since the first “The Real World” in the early nineties MTV has gone from cultural icon to an absolute sell-out to commercialism. The “M” in today’s MTV can only stand for “mind numbing.” They play anything but music. I think for a while there they even had an MTV 2, which is where you could find music videos if that was your thing. I don’t even know if that is still in existence anymore. Maybe they’ve moved the videos off to an MTV 3 by now.

In closing to my tirade, here is one of the great videos of the early era of Music Television. It is by a band called M singing the classic tune “Pop Muzik.”  The lyrics make no sense, but the originality and excitement is invigorating in this day of dull, talentless, copycat music stars:

Is it Too Late or is it Right on Time?

Too late. It’s too late, actually. That’s  how I feel more and more every day. Too late for what? Too late for chasing dreams? Too late for taking chances? I don’t know, maybe too late for everything.

But that kind of thinking has been with me my whole life. It must have started when I was due to be born in October, then showed up late in early November. The die had been cast. Even when I was a kid I remember thinking I was too old to start ice skating lessons in fourth grade, because all the kids in the Olympics started when they were two. I remember at nineteen years of age talking myself out of modeling school because all the decent models had been in the field since they were fourteen. I finished my first college degree late, at the age of twenty-three, because of being sidetracked by irresponsibility. I got married late at the age of thirty. Then I returned to school for my next degree even later, at the age of thirty-one and considered myself the old lady of the nursing school class. Even though I wasn’t. I just felt that way.

The song “Undun” by the Guess Who was ahead of its time. Actually it was right on time for me, as it was from the year of my birth….1969. Because it is “my song” as I’ll call it, I cling to each lyric as if it speaks to me personally. A prophecy. Is it too late for me? Will this endless lateness eventually make me “come undun?” Even though this spelling for the word “undone” is incorrect, I’ll forgive them because she must also have been too late to worry about grammar. Plus, I’m sure they were hippies.

If you live your whole life feeling like you’ve already missed the boat, what’s the point in ever hoping to get anywhere? That is the million dollar question I’ve asked myself more and more often lately. Especially when it is coming up time for my next birthday. I wonder, what have I done this past year? What did I end up missing out on because I was too late? What can I do this year while I still have time to do it?

This year I’m going to start seeing the glass as half full. Instead of thinking about all the things I’m too late for, I’m going to make myself focus on what I’m RIGHT ON TIME for. So, at my tender age of fortyteen…what am I right on time for? I’m right on time for a slower metabolism, I’m right on time for a midlife crisis, I’m right on time to worry about my retirement, I’m right on time to be the mother of pre-teen boys (and the whole can of worms that comes  along with that), I’m right on time to be part of the sandwich generation and by then I’ll be right on time for another midlife crisis (why stop at one? I’m not a quitter).

So, I can see there is so much left in life that I am at the perfect age to enjoy. I’ll never miss out again on the surprises of life, thinking every opportunity is in my past. “I’m right on time” is what I’ll say as a I pay each bill, as I plan for my future, as I face another car repair or broken furnace. I’m right on time for the minute I’m in. Best of all, I think I’m right on time for a nap.

Killed by the Sandwich

I’m among a generation of other people caught up in the middle of caring for children and parents simultaneously. This generation has become known as “The Sandwich Generation.” Much like those pieces of turkey and cheese, I am being squashed by those two pieces of bread.

It seems like things were easier long ago, when families lived closer to each other in the same towns. Back in the day you would have the support of cousins, aunts, uncles, in-laws, which greatly helped relieve the stresses of people who were taking care of multiple loved ones. Long ago it seemed like neighbors cared more for each other, and communities and families supported each other and were willing to pitch in when times were rough.

My elderly mother’s recent stroke really highlighted the fact that I am all alone in her care. My siblings live in other cities and states. A phone call once a week from them to me or my mother doesn’t do much in the way of relieving the stresses my mother and I both encounter while trying to make sure she is safe, happy and living her golden years in the most fulfilling way possible. Living with the stress and fear that her health and well-being is all on my shoulders alone makes me terrified.

Finding the services and support to care for our elderly in a way that they can stay independent in their homes is an area that is severely lacking in our society. I recently learned that assisted living facilities begin at $2,500 a month. And they don’t take insurance, so this is needed in cash. Some places make you prove your finances ahead of time to show you can pay for two years worth of this cost before they will even consider admitting the elderly person. Medicare facilities, which would pay that cost for the elderly person, are few and far between. And I’m sure the waiting list is incredibly long.

It makes me outraged that the fate of every person will end this way….you work until you retire – if you can afford to do so. Then, you use up the rest of your money living as modestly as you can, and when there is nothing left then you go on Medicare – and hope you can get into a facility that is a decent enough place to live out the rest of your years. It is a sad state of affairs that our golden years ahead may not be so golden after all.

In addition to caring for my mom, I am also raising young kids. They are still at the age where they need me to be there for them for just about everything. And of course I give 150% of myself to them, because I love them and because I am their mother. They do not know how thinly stretched I am also trying to also take care of their grandmother, as well. My elderly mother knows I am her only family member in the area, and she knows I would do as much as I can for her also. But these two forces are pulling in opposite directions making me feel stretched to my limits in the middle.

I know I’m not alone in this struggle of trying to do it all for every family member.  It seems like there are a million silent Generation X’er’s in this same situation. So, where can the Sandwich Generation go for support? We are all quietly struggling to hold our families as close as possible for as long as possible. Considering how many of us there are out here, I’m really surprised this hasn’t received more coverage in the media.

It must be the nurse in me, but I really think there needs to be a way to unite the Sandwich Generation. If our communities and families can’t give us the support we need, perhaps we can give this support to each other. It is amazing how wonderful it can feel just knowing that someone else is out there to listen, support or offer advice or wisdom to you from their own experiences.

Charlie Brown Therapy

What is it about Charlie Brown that is so therapeutic? The same episodes have been playing on TV since before I was even born, yet whenever one of the Peanuts TV shows starts playing  my heart skips a beat. Somehow I shrink back down to an eight year old and my mind empties of all my adult-world stress. Magically, I’m teleported back into my childhood where everything is pure, innocent and safe.

Watching the Peanuts TV specials as an adult, I’m immediately taken by the fact that a whole world could exist of children only. In the Peanuts cartoons, adults are reduced to invisible, unintelligible background noise. Perhaps it was because I grew up watching the Peanuts cartoons, but even to this day I still see most adults in this way – joyless robots who try to enforce their authority with sporadic droning and irritating whining.

Charlie, Lucy, Sally, Linus and the rest of the Peanuts gang have managed to develop their own sophisticated world of social rules and etiquette. Somehow this society of children exists successfully enough to teach us all the errors and ethical issues of our own cruel social behavior. With tact and subtlety, heavy philosophical issues such as religion and social acceptance are brought to light with fun and innocence. We see that these issues are not only found in the adult world – they can weigh just as heavily on the young. We can find our way through them with conscientiousness and honesty.

Everything about the Peanuts kids world is amazing. Beyond their sense of right and wrong, they are always open to learning from each other. They eventually see the error in their ways and make changes for the better.Even though Charlie Brown will always be a Charlie Brown, he is an old soul.  He will always be the heart of the Peanuts gang.

The Peanuts kids have also incorporated the feelings and actions of animals into their own little world. As with any well-loved pet, a dog personified becomes a playmate with adventures all his own. We even able to see things from the point of view of animals – that within our society there are other smaller societies complete with their own social roles, etiquette and sense of right, wrong and fantasy.

The music of The Peanuts cartoons is something I’ve always found just as magical as the stories themselves. The great pianist Vince Guaraldi has created a soundtrack that is uniquely 1960’s – uniting children’s stories with the easygoing coolness of West Coast Jazz. I am such a fan of Vince Guaraldi that I used to play his CD’s for my children when they were babies to help get them to sleep at night. I still listen to his music independently of the shows and have actually gone on to research more about  the West Coast Jazz movement of the time.

Now in my adulthood, it is comforting to know I can always recharge my ethical batteries by watching the same shows that taught me these lessons in my childhood. All too often, these lessons I so easily accepted in my younger years tend to be forgotten in my adult years of sporadic droning and irritating whining. Even listening to the music of Vince Guaraldi is enough to put me in a more peaceful mindset, leaving my brain open to wonder and magic and idealism.

I’ve been watching The Peanuts with my kids today. I’m happy to say that my family enjoys these timeless stories over and over again as much as I do. Even on DVD, year after year, we still hang on to the edge of our seats to see what will happen when Linus runs for election as class president. And we always believe that somewhere out there The Great Pumpkin does exist – and hope that someday Linus will finally get the proof he needs to show The Great Pumpkin to the world.

Thank you for this treasure you left to the world,  Charles M. Schulz.

Mom Update!

Good news! As of today, my mom has regained most of her speech and is, for the most part, back to her feisty self again. Well, she’s about 85% back to where she was. She is being discharged from the hospital tomorrow and will continue her speech, occupational and physical therapy in a long-term rehabilitation facility. It is incredible the high and lows you can find in a single week. You never know ahead of time what roller coaster life has hidden for you within a random minute on an average day.

Finally, I am overwhelmed by all the support, positive thoughts, prayers and encouragement I’ve received from the WordPress community. I can’t even begin to express how much all of your interest in the health and well-being of my mother has meant to me. Usually I like to stew alone in my thoughts, but here I am free to type away without a sentence end in sight. This experience has been very cathartic for me and I really feel like I’m not so alone in all my inner turmoil and stress anymore.

Again, thank you all so much. You are amazing souls!

Cul-de-Sac Dreams

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What is it about cul-de-sacs that create a real estate frenzy? Whenever you see a house that is listed on a cul-de-sac it receives its own special billing. “Colossal Cape Cod on a Cul-De-Sac!” Well, I live on a cul-de-sac and I will tell you a secret. It’s really a dead end.

Viewing a typical cul-de-sac from the top you can see they are designed to trap anything that floats by. Cars, pets, people, ice cream trucks. Perhaps you went out for a stroll one night and before you knew it you were swept away in the adorable architecture of the houses, the absence of traffic, the quaint name of the street or the idea that you are living on your own private island. This might be true initially. This is the lure of the suburbs.

After a while, and once you’ve seen the subdivision planning, you realize that cul-de-sacs are really a way to squeeze more houses in where they don’t belong. They are the creation of a mad genius. Cul-de-sac houses are crammed together so tight that it makes me claustrophobic looking at it from way far away in an aerial photograph. They are a modern solution for using up every available scrap of land – no matter how oddly shaped – to create more tax revenue. Yes, I’m sure this is true. Who else would want to have their house facing six or so other houses head on? Or dedicate their lives to living on a lot that is shaped like an exhausted pizza slice? This is serious.

Even going out to get the mail, or unloading your car, can cause undue stress if you aren’t dressed to the nines. Heaven help you if you stumble or drop something. You are on stage and the critics are taking notes. Or at least that is what you might be doing to them if you have a few minutes to peer out the window as you backtrack in your mind to figure out why the hell you are living here.

Walking along a cul-de-sac is a lot like the way some people live their lives. They go in a circle. Distracted by the view and not realizing it is repeating itself. This could also be similar to the carrot on a stick. Round and round they go, becoming dizzy and tired. No longer having the energy to break free from the circle to find an escape route.

After a while of living on a cul-de-sac you start comparing your life with a tide pool that has trapped various forms of aquatic life. You and your neighbors are growing together in an aquarium. If there is harmony then it is a beautiful microcosm of society. But, if your neighbors are snooty, or like sports too much, then it can become a stage for dysfunction to play out. Every house faces each other. There is no room or tolerance for sub par landscaping, poor home maintenance or garish roofing choices. If you want to go with the flow than you will do what everyone else does and hope to slip under the radar unnoticed until you are someday ready for the nursing home.

Some cul-de-sac folks elect themselves to set an example for the rest of the dead end residents. In their world, if they could be king for a day, here is what they would do: They would wash their brand new SUV in the middle of their front yard, with flood lights on it, while cranking bland eighties hair band music as loud as their stereo would allow. And they would be singing along and taking periodic air guitar breaks. In actuality, they truck in expensive landscaping services every week. The landscapers must be sure and to cut their grass as loudly and thoroughly as possible. Once the lawn is completely mowed they then turn the mower on a 90 degree angle and repeat mowing again over the whole lawn once more.

Furthermore, any new home renovations are always done loudly starting at 7:00 a.m. sharp. Preferably with as many machines and tools and contractors that can be involved as possible. No sense skimping here. It’s almost like a play is being staged called, “The Life and Times of a Cul-De-Sac Dynasty.” I say “Dynasty” because these residents grow their cul-de-sac roots deep. Wish on as many four-leaf shamrocks as you can find, but they will never move. As long as their home can weather the passage of time, plan on their name being on that adorably painted mailbox for a thousand years.

The best way to cope with cul-de-sac life is to go big or go home. If you live here then you are already home, so your next option is to go big. By that I mean be true to yourself. If you want to paint your front door yellow then do so! If you want to turn your front yard into a pile of red rocks and red dirt as your salute to the Mars landing then do it. Just do it well and have pride in your individuality. You might just find other neighbors will start showing their true selves as well. But maybe not –  it depends where you live and who your neighbors are. Well, you can at least always hope it might happen someday. And just like in the end of any great movie, the underdog wins when you are finally recognized and hailed as the real Hero of the Dead End.

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