Friday, April 12, 2013

Life as a One-Sided Sandwich

Every now and then it would be nice to romanticize things but let's face it, mostly life is a collection of mundane details. Often these details organize themselves into familiar patterns. But other times they randomly re-sort, introducing chaos.

This has been a week of juggling a set of odd details on many levels...everything from social security to laptop repair (the Apple Store rocks) to how to get the smell of cat pee out of the carpet (yuck). How to interpret a child's diagnosis with ADHD in an era when they seem to face constant distractions in the form of never-ending text messages and social media updates. How to advise a kid trying to figure out which of ten colleges that accepted him to attend, without going into crushing debt in the process (nearly impossible for many).

How to advise an 8th grader how to handle major high school admission disappointments in a big city where such things are decided mostly by lottery. Feeling helpless as her grades fall after years of nearly all A's -- clearly this transition has upended her attention to details at school. Talk about an attention disorder!

After all of that and more on the personal front, there's the work projects -- blogging over and over; while beginning to research some large investigative projects for the first time in many years; cutting back on my "consulting" business that chronically failed to launch anyway.

Everything changes, nothing changes. Some of the harsher edges of recent reality fade as new dilemmas emerge just so the unending roughness can still be there to remind you that we're all screwed in the end.

In the midst of all that, seeing an old friend for the first time in a couple years. Connecting lifts a cloud you didn't even know was enshrouding your demeanor. Talking for hours, catching up, just enjoying each other's company.

Politics, business, family. Stories, writing, options. Government and its follies.

Whatever you think of government, I say Thank God (or at least FDR) for social security. I paid into it for over 40 years and now a bit comes back to me every month, which will help enormously with the ongoing financial stress of being an aging parent with three teens heading to college. With being a writer in an era where we are no longer valued (in terms of money) by a society that pays engineers $180/hour and a blogger something south of the minimum wage.

Not to knock engineers. I write about what they create, with wonder, every week.

I get pitched by PR folks every day. I can only write about a small number of the companies they pitch me, but these pitches cover a wide swath of topics, products, industries, services, ideas and inventions.

The PR reps try very hard to catch the attention of journalists like me. One this week approached me enthusiastically, saying that she was sure I was part of the "sandwich generation," i.e., sandwiched between caring for ailing, aged parents while still raising kids of my own.

Well, wrong on point A but right on point B, I had to point out to her, not so gently. (True to tell, I was flattered that she thought me younger than I am. Or, maybe she is a poor judge of physical age.) Embarrassed, at first she couldn't believe it was true. Then she was sorry it was true and offered to buy me lunch.

You see, I then more gently explained to her, I lost my parents over a decade ago and now *I* am in fact the family elder, on social security, with six children (three teens) and five grandchildren. I suppose that makes me a sandwich with only one slice of bread.

Now, from a certain perspective, you could say I am lucky that I do not have to split my time, money and energy between my own parents and my kids.

But I don't see it that way. I feel like my life would be much richer if my Mom and Dad were still here, regardless of what financial pressure that might entail.

That's because I miss them, as I have every day since they died. I miss our conversations.

This, at base, is what "memoir" consists of. Our memories, especially of others, and of ourselves in relationship to them, once they are lost to us, leaves us feeling like a slice of pastrami with bread still below us but only emptiness above.

Whenever I start feeling hopeless about my own place here in this chaotic world, and wonder whether this world might not be better off without me here, (I can give you 100,000 reasons why), I eventually somehow revisit these emotions. In the immortal words of Smokey Robinson, I "second that emotion," you know, the one about love.

True love. Which is, finally, about loving yourself, stupid!


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Connect Only

Since I was a teenager, I've been acutely aware of how dependent I am on the tools that define a big part of my life. Even though my fantasies were of escaping into nature and living on my own, without any modern tools. (My father had the same fantasy, as I discovered in his writings after he died.) Maybe we all share these ideas and hopes?

Cars for example. Every time one of my cars has suffered a breakdown, my blood pressure has accelerated. The funny thing is that the actual process of getting the car fixed the past 50 years has almost always been a very positive experience, connecting me to those who can get the machine going again.

Getting me back on the road again.

In this era, it is my computer and lately my iPhone that is every bit as important as my scarred old car. I am so joined with my battered laptop that it feels literally like an extension of my body. How could I live without my computer?

It is the main channel through which I remain connected with the world. And the main way (along with NPR and TV News) how I figure out what is going on with the world. Except for the occasional speech or hand-written letter, it is the only way I tell the world my own stories.

Yet today I had to let my computer go. The four year old beast had become practically dysfunctional. Since it is still under warrant, Apple is trying to repair it. We'll see how that goes.

Yet I am back online, recovering my voice, connecting and communicating, thanks to another laptop. That is another story.


Monday, April 08, 2013

Happy Birthday, Son!

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Finally, Soccer Again

Now it feels like spring. My daughter was off school this week for spring break and spent a lot of time with me. We got her new soccer shoes (purple), she dyed her long ponytail (red), and she framed some of her art excuse the flash.)