Executive Decision

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Have any of you done anything impulsively because you had made a decision, and it made sense in that moment?   Would I do it again?  Probably not.  In the meantime, I got rid of about 250 CDs.  I wasn’t smart enough to sell them on Ebay or Craigslist.  I didn’t donate them to some worthy organization.  I put them in our building’s common area where people put stuff to share, discard and get rid of.  Within a matter of probably less than thirty minutes they were all gone.  Nothing was left, not even the shopping bags I had put them in.  Someone “made out like a bandit” as my mother would have remarked.

The back story….and then you be the judge.  Probably a week or so before the event, my FHB and I had a discussion.  That generally means I have an idea, and I convey it to him and in his pleasant but half to one quarter listening mode of interaction, I told him that since we were giving some of our furniture to one of our kids, we needed to rearrange things.  I was fairly nondescript in my definition of “things” and when the day came, I moved like lightning and emptied, sorted and discarded our CDs into bags and boxes.  I felt rather victorious, much like I imagine Napoleon did until Waterloo.  My FHB helped me bring the initial group of CDs downstairs.  They included the oldies, the show tunes, classical, rock, classical rock (e.g. the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys), music from Frank and Dean and the Eagles and The Doobie Brothers.  It was a virtual CD bloodbath.  I couldn’t stop myself.  The jazz was gone and so was the salsa and tango music.  Oddly enough, I saved all the holiday music we own(ed).  We still have a CD player. Now we can play Silent Night and Carol of the Bells in summer if we want.  That’s about all that’s left.

A few days after (C)D-Day,  my FHB, who had taken the second wave of discs down to the second floor, remarked that he had been listening to the music we had danced to many moons ago, in the parking lot of a New Hampshire State Liquor Store. Back then it was a night in December,  and he put the CD on (Barbra Streisand) and opened the moon roof and we danced to a couple of songs while the music filled the cold night air.  We had been together for only a short time and those were the zany beginnings of our ongoing love affair.  He would take us to some random place to park and we would dance to the music. When he told me this,   I initially was unclear about what exactly he meant.  I think I said “what exactly do you mean?” At this point, he told me that he sorted through some of my discards and rescued them.  He looked at me reproachfully and said “why did you get rid of our music?”  That was the moment I realized I had not quite thought this process through.

My victory turned to ashes.  I asked where those rescued CDs were.  Apparently they are  safely stored in his car.  Different car, but still has a moon roof.  I can’t get the CDs back but with a little bit of luck, on a cold December night, we will dance under the moonlight.

Below …find someone, find a parking lot and dance….

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Inge at 18

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We called her “Mommy”. It was often hard to imagine her at 18, a year and a day after Pearl Harbor.  She already had met the man who would become her life partner, and our father.  According to urban legend (her memory of her 17th birthday), as F.D. R. gave his speech one year earlier, her boss (our father), turned to her, as the workers all listened to the radio broadcast, and mouthed the words “Happy Birthday”.  This was quite the romantic story.  They wrote letters back and forth while he was in the army.  My sister and I found them among her possessions, when we packed up the apartment almost ten years ago after she passed away.  She was 83.  Today she would have been 94.

She had good legs and an eye for fashion.  She had hoped to become a fashion designer but things changed for her and her family.  Her father died in 1941, so she left school to work and bring in money for her mother.  She did return to finish high school and almost twenty years later (after fifteen years of working on her business degree) she finished with a BBA at Baruch College, at the City University of New York.  I was there at her graduation,  and pretty bored, and didn’t realize the magnitude of her stubborn determination to finish college.

She lived a pretty typical life as a wife and mother in the 50s and 60s.  She didn’t actually “take” to that life.  She longed to be working and she did go back to work when we were fairly young.  That was her comfort zone.  Stay at home mom, not so much.  Work defined her more than motherhood.  In retrospect I believe I understand that now, having followed a similar path and the desire to be out and about in a work environment.  She never actually retired and worked part time for several businesses.  She was good with figures and had a very probing mind and was a problem solver.  She was precise in her work but less so in things that mattered little to her.  As I type, I again am amazed at some of the parallels.  She loved her husband dearly and they had a deep friendship and synergy that was palpable when you saw them together.

I like to imagine her as that 18 year old in the photo, on the brink of something undefined.  Even when you know someone for fifty-five years, you don’t know your parent in many iterations.  A mother’s role in a child’s life shifts as that child grows up and on.  The child may not always look back to see who is there. The parent tends to look forward to see the child become the adult, and look back to remember when she was that child’s world.  Sometimes now, I wish I knew to look behind, to let her know I challenged her at many junctures, but appreciated her being a constant beacon in ways that mattered.

Happy Birthday, Inge!

Just a hobo in a skirt

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Vagabonds, hobos and bums…. riding the rails to everywhere and nowhere.  I forgot the magic of trains.  I stepped on to a southbound train heading toward Connecticut and left my worries and stress on the platform.  My intention was to put my head back, shut my eyes and let the clip clop of the train riding the track lull me to sleep.  And then, I looked out the window.  I was transformed by the landscape as it flew by.  It was as though I found something I had hidden away from myself and rediscovered, like a gift.

The subways in New York City and the elevated trains never had the mystique of the Northeast Regional Corridor,  at any time.  The seats were neither comfortable or often, not available.  The view was often obscured by the hulking body of someone too close for comfort, and required your holding your breath, because breathing was toxic.  Then came Amtrak and the world opened up to new vistas.  It was a step into a perceived level of  elegance.  Driving from New Bedford toward New York is something that I have done hundreds of time.  It holds few charms.  Taking a train allows me to see the coast and a different view.

Traveling down the coast made me want to stay on the train, instead of getting off at my stop.  I thought that it might be a great way to see the country.  Of course, not getting off at my destination probably, in this day and age, would have created a new layer of problems.  So I got off the train.  I imagine that travelling on a freight train might have its challenges, not the least of which would probably be that I am not good at climbing up and down those ladders, which are relegated to the engineer, brakemen and firemen who work on the trains or the occasional hobo who sneaks on.

A dayscape allowed me to travel a distance, leaving the navigation to someone else, and return safely with little wear and tear.  Leaving in sunlight and returning by moonlight makes for an adventure of a sort.  I sat in the quiet car, after assuring the conductor that I could actually be quiet.  You travel with your thoughts and there is less wonder what the man across the aisle might be thinking.  The space between us is modest but not intrusive.  Of planes, trains and automobiles I will relax and take to the tracks.  Clip clop. Goodnight moon.

Little Face in the Window

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Last week, while we were driving to run some errands, we had left the loft and took our usual route through neighboring streets.  We live in a gritty part of New Bedford, with triple deckers, and houses in disrepair, in need of painting.  There’s little beauty, little green, to break up the neglected facades of the buildings.  It was a bright, sunny afternoon. I shielded my eyes and reached up to bring the visor down.  I glanced out my window and saw a face from the second floor of a yellow sided building,looking down.  It was a little boy’s face looking through the screen. He was staring out.  We drove past. His face somehow was etched in my mind.

He might have been five or six.  He had his hand pressed on the screen.  He was expressionless.  Maybe that is why it lives in my head.  It was two in the afternoon.  I thought he should be outside in the fresh air.  I thought, who is watching him, and who would watch him on the street to keep him safe.  I wondered what his surroundings look like and is he hungry.  Does he have a bed and does he have blankets and covers.  I worried about him.  Does he have toys.  Is the window his view of the world, his world and his life.

All week, as I looked at the faces of the students I talk to, I wondered if they had a younger sibling.  I looked at their faces and saw sadness, struggle and frustration.  I felt tired and a little burnt out.  I never mind hard work but sometimes the work is especially hard.  This morning I was reading an email at work and getting ready to respond when I was startled by a girl’s voice saying hi.  I turned and she smiled and said “did I scare you?” and I said that I was just deep in thought reading and invited her in.  I asked her what was going on and she said “I just wanted to see my best person” and invited herself in and took a seat.  I shut the door and smiled.  We had met within the first weeks of school.  She had been a reluctant visitor to my office since her sister, and another friend, had brought me some texts she had written the night before, or maybe it was early morning, that said she was planning on killing herself and that they shouldn’t tell anyone.  Gratefully, they told, she and I  talked, and somehow, from an angry demeanor and initial emotional barricade, she began to stop in  weekly, and talk a bit. We talk of families and disappointments and trust and nail salons.  We talk about banana splits and boyfriends and falling in love.  From sullen and disengaged, comes eye contact and laughter.

I drove home tonight in the darkness.  I don’t like the darkness.  The little boy’s face is still in my head.  Once kid at a time. One face at a time.

All day long I’d biddy biddy bum

 

crownIt’s been a long week.  I am cognizant that it is Monday.  Feels like Friday. Not a good beginning.  I did not participate in Cyber Monday because that just might have pushed me over the edge. And really, what could I possibly need even if things are 110% off and they will pay me to take them off of their inventory.  I watched the nightly news and saw that there will be a new princess soon, although I am not sure she will carry that title.  I like seeing couples getting all dreamy and starry eyed.  I came to the realization that had I not taken the path I have been on, I probably statistically had a better chance of being eaten by a shark while struck by lightening, than had an opportunity to meet a prince and become a princess.  I have dealt with that disappointment,  and frankly, in light of the obligations of the royal life, I could see that it might not be all it is cracked up to be.  I wish them well.

However, sometimes I wonder what other careers or opportunities might have netted me the time to do some of the things I enjoy.  I like to bake, but not enough to own a bakery, unless it came with a baker so I wouldn’t have to get up early, and that would require a lot of dough.  I know that was awful.  Owning a bookstore was always something that conjured up rows of books, an obligatory and lovely cat that curled up in the sunshine , who purred for the customers, even the ones that didn’t like cats and had allergies.  I would probably want to just look through the books and order the ones I thought I might love and somehow forget about the mission of sales.  I would like talking books to customers, but that too might not be the best thing for business.  Always about the bottom line.  I thought about being a research librarian and now there is a lot of pushback from research librarians who say that Google has nothing on them.  I would want to avoid that conflict and the truth be told, Google is my muse.  I love the idea of being a dogwalker but that also is fraught with the possibility of getting caught up in the leashes, and being wrapped like a stuffed grapeleaf with dogs going wild.  Probably a lot of liability.

I wonder if there are any  wealthy people who might want to adopt me because I am caring and could be a good daughter again and their current children are mean and not caring.  That could also go badly since when my adopted parent goes south (and I don’t mean Florida), the mean kids could just cut me out of the will and I wouldn’t have the financial resources to contest that, even if I was the nicest daughter he or she might have had.  Again, not a good plan at this point.

Tomorrow is my FHB’s birthday.  We had a good conversation over the weekend.  I told him that I liked our marriage and the arrangement we had. I reminded  that it was good that we both agreed that we wouldn’t kill one another while the other one was sleeping.  He said I was a whack job.  That’s my prince.  I guess that makes me a princess.  Strange how things work.  Talking about work, I guess tomorrow I’ll do what I do even if I am not in the mood. That’s what princesses do.

Life’s Puzzles

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I hate puzzles.  Not the puzzles of life, as those intrigue me.  The ones in the box that have a thousand pieces that all look the same, except for the edge ones, which almost look the same.  Who has patience for assembling a perfectly nice enough picture that some sadist decided to cut up into a thousand pieces and throw into a box for the sole purpose of reassembling it, to make the picture whole again? Kind of a sick game, if you ask me.  And yet, I will admit that going away for a few days to Maine two weekends ago, provoked that sort of nostalgic feeling of sitting around a table with someone I love and working on a puzzle together.  Hence, I bought a puzzle which was started in our little cottage in Maine and  because we didn’t have, in my estimation, about 14 years, to complete it, was disassembled and travelled back to the loft.  Upon our return, my FHB brought the box of pieces to the dining room table and began his journey toward his idea of nirvana, in the form of a puzzle.  Thanksgiving is coming in three days.  We are having guests who apparently will sit at one end of the table while the puzzle takes up the other half.  Perhaps in 2018, the table will be available to a larger crowd.  I’m not optimistic.

The irony is that as I pick up pieces from the floor that the cat plays hockey with, I use my keen eagle eyesight and find the critical pieces that my FHB spent two hours looking for.  When I find them, and place them, his response is not “Thank you!” but rather “Son of a bitch, I just spent hours looking for them and didn’t sleep last night wondering whether the box had only 998 pieces!”.  Where is the normal in that statement?  I hoped for gracious appreciation.  Perhaps another time, in another galaxy, far, far away.

Hoping that the pieces all come together as we join with our family on Thursday.   When the day unfolds, I will be full of grace and gratitude for all that surrounds me….all 1000 pieces and those that I love.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Birth Daze

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On the way home from my birthday dinner with my FHB, I read an article (to him) that I found in the New York Times about supercentenarians. These are people who live to over 110 years old.  What I took away from the article is that anecdotally, those folks report that it is a combination of factors including morning walks, chocolate and not being devastatingly sick and remaining healthy until they die.  Therein is the key.  The research into the secret of longevity, as my father would say, is to not die.  Well actually, it has to do with your DNA or my DNA.  People who live long have good genetic codes.  One can only hope.

It’s been a good day filled with lots of greetings from all over the country and the world.  The year behind always leaves me a message, although sometimes I don’t pick it up right away and then there it is, in front of me.  This year the message was  that to look good on the outside, you have to take care of the inside.  Healthy bodies are more important than ever.  I have gotten that message,  loud and clear.  My FHB and I are finding out how to eat better and about the richness of vegetables, every day.  We just jumped into a new way of recognizing what is good for us nutritionally.  Like every adventure anyone tries with the hope of a positive outcome there are several key components you have to have for success or at least successive approximation.   They are the right equipment, the desire for finding out what is on the other side of your goal, and having the right people in your life to accompany you and others to cheer you on from the sidelines.  I am blessed with the knowledge that I have all of those things and more.  I agree with Dr. Einstein that to age is natural and what you want is that to occur in  the best way possible.  However a childlike curiosity spurs us on to challenge ourselves  to seek new information day by day, and to know that one adventure leads to another.

I also discovered that the Beatles were correct in their song “When I’m 64?”  My FHB has made it clear that he really will still love me when I’m 64.  So, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.