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“Our House Is a Very Very Fine House”

19 Nov

My husband and I have been running like crazy people the past two weeks.  Aside from work and family activities, we have been moving our office into our home.  I underestimated what a transition this would be.  My husband confessed to some anxiety about this transition, since for the past 40 years he has arisen each morning, dressed and headed to an office.  Now, considering Jim is 63, its apparent “going to the office” has been the thing he has done more of in his life than literally anything else.

While my husband and I are under going this transition in our lives, a thought popped into my head-  So is my house!  I have lived in my house for 30 years this fall.  I say this with a tad bit of chagrin as I fear being regarded as “old lady” on my street, much as I viewed a few of my neighbors the day I moved on to Choctaw Trail.  I was pregnant with my son, who is now in his final year of a Ph.D. program and engaged to be married.

Perhaps I’m feeling a bit nostalgic, even sentimental as I ponder my home and all it has housed in the last 30 years.  It has…

-Welcomed home a new baby

-Cared for my dying mother

-Welcomed my husband and his son, absorbing their belongings and all the emotions accompanying the blending of families

-Endured the joys and tribulations of teenagers transitioning into adults

-Transformed into a kind of commune last year during a sabbatical taken my grad student son, his fiancé, and Labradoodle

And now it is absorbing the relics of yet another transition (desks, awards, office supplies…) as we move toward working “virtually” in our new home offices.  As I approach this Thanksgiving, I’m realizing one of the things I feel grateful for is my home.  My home, its roof and walls, has provided shelter and sanctuary to my family and me.  People often tell me my house looks like a folk art museum with all the color and funky art adorning its walls.  But a quality I think I value the most is my home’s elasticity, as it has expanded and contracted welcoming and saying farewell to the various stages of our lives.

The Not So Empty Nest

16 Sep

It’s the fall, a time when many families face the prospect of empty nests as their young adults depart for college jobs.  Ah, the empty nest…a syndrome that simultaneously fills us with dread and delight.  The prospect of our children leaving home potentially evokes a multitude of anxieties.  (Often this anticipatory anxiety is for naught when our children ricochet back to their rooms when life out of the nest, with it’s pesky responsibilities, thwarts their efforts at independence).  And it seems that is happening a lot lately given the current economic conditions. 

 An article in the New York Times The US Census Bureau reported a 1.2 million increase in adult children moving back into the nest.  Shared households now account for almost 20% of all American households.  The Baby Boomer generation (of which I am a part) is truly the “tweener” generation.  We are sandwiched between parenting our children and tending to aging parents.  (Thirty-one percent of Boomers are helping support older and younger family members).  

I almost fell off my chair laughing when I read a piece from The Crowded Nest Syndrome: Surviving the Return of Adult Children, which takes a critical view of the trend.  Kathleen Shaputis is comically critical of what she has labeled, “CNS”, otherwise known as Crowded Nest Syndrome.  Shaputis says, “Forget Atkins and Weight Watchers”, the Crowded Nest Syndrome Diet will enable one to lose their appetite in no time.  The author opines, “You know you’re living in a crowded nest when…

-Your other car is a U-Haul

You’re on a first name basis with employees at CostCo

You go to your car on Monday morning and the gas tank is empty.

Every time you return from a fast food restaurant, you bring back a job application.

 Tough economic times make demands on our time and pocket books.  Humor in the face of these transitions can serve as an an excellent coping strategy. 

Take a Micro-Vacation

29 Aug

I’m on a 14 day cruise through the western Mediterranean with my husband, my son and his fiancé, and dear friends. I’m experiencing the mind suspension that so often accompanies vacations. I’m spending focused time with seven people I adore; we are immersed in luxury; and our ports of call are the sites of my studies as a Humanities major in college. Our excursions have been rigorous- hiking the hill towns of Cinque Terre; swimming in the turquoise blue waters off Capri; and kayaking around the walls of old city Dubrovnik, Croatia. All of these elements have had a mind stilling effect.

For the first time in months and months I feel like I’m truly “living in the moment”, which is actually the goal of many spiritual and religious practices. To be fully engaged in the present moment is to be at one with God… to have achieved your Godhood. Mosaic edicts command us to love God with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our being. The end result of following this commandment is to be fully present in a singular moment. Eastern religious traditions likewise urge quieting the mind and synchronizing the breath with our thoughts.

Why is it so hard to achieve this kind of absorption in our daily lives? As women particularly, we walk around with day timers imbedded in our brains as we schedule meetings with clients, make appointments for kids, and plan social engagements. I guess the operative word here is “plan”. We are always thinking ahead or reflecting upon yesterday’s moments. Perhaps we are involved in activities that are less than absorbing and we don’t necessarily want to be fully engaged in the moment. I mean really, how exciting is car pooling after all? Can we really expect that fixing meat loaf for the 300th time can really hold our attention for long?

Since most of us don’t have the luxury of taking a two week vacation often (this is the first two week vacation I’ve had in four years) perhaps we can take micro vacations on occasion- a spa treatment for example; a weekend at the beach; a 30 minute meditation; or escaping into a novel. It’s really quite surprising how we can meet ourselves all over again on a vacation. Happy sailing…

Meet Yourself at the Friends Meeting House

13 Jul

My son and I arose early this Sunday morning to attend a Quaker service. I’d not ever been to a Friends Meeting before. There were no pews, no alter, no crucifix, not even a minister per se. Congregants entered the meeting house quietly, taking their seats in straight backed chairs. Taking our cue from those surrounding us, we closed our eyes. Silence enveloped us like soft cushions from a comfy couch. Our bodies, seldom accustomed to stillness, began to fidget. Our spirits, however, empowered by the quiet, urged our bodies to be hushed. Thoughts percolated up from somewhere within, “thoughts” I might prefer to call inspirations. “What should the next chapter of my Lady Boomer’s “Coloring Book” be called?”

The Quaker house is located in a downtown area near where my mother was raised. I was suffused with memories of her- I guess because of the proximity of this place to where she grew up. She died at 50, twenty-seven years ago, when I was 30. My son apparently had been thinking of her as well. He was nine months old and never knew her. Leaving the church, we drove to the house she once lived in with her domineering grandmother. Nuggets of family lore got shared, some of which were memories I’d pushed down for years. I loved the fact he was eager to know more about this side of our family who were of such humble origins. He was moved by the humility of the Quaker service; its stark simplicity. He appreciated the opportunity to listen to himself. He’s just completed five years of graduate school during which time there had been little if any time to commune and contemplate.

We plan to return to this meeting place. I like the idea of meeting myself there. It is somewhat paradoxical that the silence we encounter informs us of our own goodness while the humility prevents us from shouting our greatness aloud.

Call Me…Uh, I don’t think so.

25 Mar

An article in last Sunday’s New York Times caught my attention.  The headline read, “Don’t Call Me, I Won’t Call You”.  Pamela Paul discussed the demise of the telephone, making it sound like a quaint relic to be housed among the Smithsonian’s Pop Culture artifacts.  Teenagers, of course, were at the forefront of this trend, but adults quickly have followed suit.  Landlines, mobile, and voice mail have been replaced by texts and email.  According to Nielsen Media, within the next three years people will be spending more for texting than talking on their cellphones.  Even within people businesses like public relations, executives are more likely to communicate via email than picking up the telephone.  They make appointments to talk.   Many people do not even know how to check their voice mail. 

I, for one, am frankly delighted.  I’m not a fan of the phone.  I like talking with people in person but would much prefer arranging those liaisons via email and text.  According to Judith Martin, alias, Miss Manners, “Phone calls are rude, intrusive and awkward.  I’ve been hammering away at this for decades.  The telephone has a very rude propensity to interrupt people.” 

As much as I don’t like the phone, I do like talking to my adult children who live in other parts of the country.  According to the Times piece, “In our text-heavy world, mothers report yearning for the sound of their teenage and adult children’s voices.”  So..what is your take on this change in social communication? Post a note here and let me know.

Lent- The season of Reflection

21 Mar

When I was growing up the season of Lent meant “giving up something”.  The joke was, “I’m giving up watermelon for Lent, it’s not in season anyway.”  As I’ve grown older I’ve come to view Lent not necessarily as a season of sacrifice, but one of reflection and contemplation.  What emerges from reflection is something gained rather than something lost. 

 Spending time in a state of reflection and contemplation requires withdrawing ourselves from the world.  Withdrawing from the world is not always easy.  As Wayne Muller says in his Sabbath, Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight In our Busy Lives, “To whiz through our obligations and responsibilities without time for a single, mindful breath is the definition in our society of a successful life.”  He goes on to say “telling one another ‘I’m so busy’ is said with no small degree of pride, as if our exhaustion was some kind of trophy.”  The busier we are, the more important we must be.

Withdrawing from the world does not require a whole day or even an afternoon.  It can be a Sabbath hour or a Sabbath walk.  What is important is to consecrate a prescribed amount of time (20 minutes even) and draw a sacred boundary around this time.  No child, work, phone call or spouse should be permitted to penetrate this boundary.  This is your time to listen to yourself.  You might just be surprised at how wise you are.

Baby Boomers Aren’t Going Quietly Into their Later Years

7 Mar

One of my favorite television shows is on Sunday Morning on CBS with Charles Osgood.  Yesterday there was a story about marketing to Baby Boomers and their $3.4 trillion buying power.  Just the sound of that made me feel more powerful.  Baby Boomers are turning 65 this year, and a projected 72 million– one-fifth of the US population will be that age or older by 2030.  The show described how Boomers like us are attempting to arrest the aging process.  One of the ways they are doing it is through exercise regimes.  (Not everyone’s favorite subject or activity, I realize).  “If you don’t keep doing this, soon you won’t be able to do anything” said one man on his exercise workout.  Professor Joseph Coughlin, director of MIT’s Age Lab said, “We’re not willing to go into old age quietly..our greatest contribution might be how we face longevity, which is a legacy we can leave our children and grandchildren”.

I’m a numbers junkie so these statistics really floated my boat.  My husband and I conduct polls and focus groups for a variety of issues.  In fact, I’m currently conducting an online survey of Lady Boomers- women between the ages of 46-65.  I’m really interested in the lifestyles and choices being made by Lady Boomers.   I would really appreciate your clicking on this link to take the survey. (It will only take five minutes)  I plan to include the findings of the survey in a book I’m writing entitled, “Be Brave. Lose the Beige.”  Three $100 prizes will be awarded in a drawing just for taking the survey.  I would so appreciate your help and participation.

New Years Resolution #11-Throw Yourself a Tea Party

29 Dec

This is post 11 of Be Brave. Lose the Beiges 12 days of New Years Resolutions.

The white rabbit in Alice In Wonderland kept muttering…Im late, Im late for a very important dateAnd I say, yes you are! That very important date is with yourself, at least once in a while. Its a great idea to take a break from stress and schedules and invite yourself out to a virtual tea party. If you dont want to actually host a tea party for your self complete with mismatched cups and saucers, tea sandwiches, and one rather toothy cat, why not envision some other kind of afternoon or evening date with yourself. It can be in whatever form you choose – a walk in the park, a shopping expedition, a spa treatment, a museum outing, a movie, rifling through an antique shop – whatever the activity, it should be one of your favorites and it should be done alone. It

s amazing how little time we spend with ourselves and how rejuvenating it can be. Pamper your passions. This is your opportunity to be just a little bit selfish.

Santa’s 12 Tips for Celebrating Christmas

26 Dec

This is post #9 of Be Brave. Lose the Beige’s 12 days of New Years Resolutions.

The 2010 holiday season is waning.  As women, we are prone to feeling responsible for holidays and special occasions. We shop for the perfect gifts and spend countless hours adorning packages with colorful paper and bows; we make endless trips to the grocery store buying food for feasts; we organize tree trimming gatherings, and climb rickety ladders retrieving lights, ornaments and wreathes to decorate inside and out.  We often spend money we don’t have in pursuit of an ideal nestled into our memories leftover from Christmases past.  Sometimes those memories don’t match the reality of the frenzy inherent in the festivities.  Now, let me be quick to add, I LOVE CHRISTMAS.  When I contemplated converting to Judaism in my former marriage, I was perfectly willing to celebrate Rosh Hashanah and spend the day fasting in quiet contemplation on Yom Kippur.  However, giving up Christmas was out of the question. But, why not try envisioning a different kind of holiday for next year, one that might not feel as harried.

1.       Color Your Christmas.  Keep the color and delight in the holiday season. 

2.       Hang Out With Friends-   Spend time with friends and loved ones during this holiday season. 

3.       Do Traditional things- Trim a “real tree” not an artificial one.  Make the holiday authentic.

 4.       Go on Vacation – Use the holiday season as an excuse to take a much needed vacation.

 5.       Enjoy Others’ Traditions – There is Chanukah, Ramadan, Quanza, Boxing Day.  Christmas isn’t the only       celebration occurring during this season. 

6.       Sing Holiday Songs- throw your head back and sing those traditional favorites. 

7.       Eat Forbidden Foods – Take a vacation from dieting during this holiday season.

8.       Give to Others – let generosity be your guide during this holiday season.

9.       Breathe – relax and breathe in the midst of the frenzy and festivities of the season.

10.     Enjoy Your Family – Pause amid the Christmas chaos and spend precious time with those you love.

11.     Ask for Toys – don’t let the kids get all the toys; ask for a few for yourself.

 12.     Toast Yourself for Living Through one of the worse economic years in our history.


New Years Resolution #8- Dump the Diamonds

22 Dec
This is post eight of Be Brave. Lose the Beige’s 12 days of New Year’s Resolutions.
If you don’t have the stomach to dump the diamonds, at least demote them. Put them on the lower tier of your jewelry box or cabinet. Store them in the safe deposit box. What is so great about diamonds? It’s not as though they are all that rare, after all. Ok, I’ll give you the fact they are prisms for an array of color but I still maintain they are basically clear crystals. Yes, I realize they are expensive and you feel loved when your mate buys you a multi-carat, princess cut pair of earrings. But are diamonds really all that interesting? Other gems and stones like jasper, lapis, turquoise and tourmaline possess deeper, richer color, design and shape and are generally less expensive than their South African cousins. Wearing an imperfectly shaped Australian opal communicates you are interesting and unique a little apart from the rest of the maddening crowd.