Hey – we may as well have fun as we go sliding into old age, right?

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

#ThrowbackThursday! Back to Tully’s pup

#ThrowbackThursday! Back to Tully’s puppy days & the only serious thing she chewed (usually just tissues & socks). She looks so innocent.😆 http://ow.ly/i/2763513-QBSVT4uw

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It’s #WhateverWednesday, and today’s

It’s #WhateverWednesday, and today’s “whatever” is the timeline of how my October novella, Meet Me in the Middle (part of the Falling For You anthology released yesterday) and Nora’s Guy Next Door (Harlequin Superromance) fit together. They both take place in Gallant Lake, NY, and are stand-alone stories. Chronologically in the stories, however, Meet Me in the Middle happens first – it starts in October, and runs into early November. During Thanksgiving Week, Nora meets Asher for the first time in the opening scene of Nora’s Guy Next Door (just a couple weeks after Ben and Sarah “meet in the middle” on a mountain road). There are a couple of characters who show up in each story: Sheriff Dan (although very briefly in Meet Me), and Cathy of Crazy Cathy’s Caffeine Cafe. Those readers with a sharp eye will get a clue in Meet Me of what’s going to happen with the cafe in Nora’s Guy Next Door (what is it Ben spies in Cathy’s window?). Will there be more stories from Gallant Lake – a fictional town in the Catskill Mountains? Absolutely! 😍 http://ow.ly/i/2763513-gOT3s3fG

#MusicMonday – This is one of my favorit

#MusicMonday – This is one of my favorite songs on my playlist – I put it on “Repeat” every time it comes up. I picture this as the goal of every romance hero and heroine – they want to be the one to wreck the other for anyone else. 😍 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQAdI2nqgMA

Most. Expensive. Hot Flash. Ever.

I should have known I was in trouble last Thursday when that pop-up zit appeared on the edge of my lip out of nowhere. Up at 5AM to catch a flight north for work, I stared in disbelief at the mirror. Just when I thought the menopausal acne was behind me… But the road to menopause is full of surprises.

Acne. Mood swings. Bloating. Hot flashes. Mood swings. Exhaustion. Hot flashes.  

Yes, hot flashes can be surprising, as they come and go and change and morph throughout the years leading up to “official” menopause, defined as twelve consecutive months with no “monthly friend” (I’m on a six month roll right now – woo-hoo!!). Not only do hot flashes arrive unexpectedly, but they vary widely in intensity. I’ve had some big ones – rolling heat waves that start in my chest and roll upwards until my scalp was tingling.  I’m talking about strip-off-your-clothes-in-mid-winter major hot flashes (indoors and at home, of course). We’ll be watching television quietly at home, and suddenly I’m flinging off my sweater or sweatshirt in a panic. Poor Hubby barely raises an eyebrow anymore when I start peeling off my clothes. Then the hot flashes will subside for a while, with just the occasional night sweat. Mild night sweats have become fairly routine, but they’ve never been debilitating for me. 

I know I’ve been relatively lucky. I’ve heard stories of horrendous night sweats, where women wake up so drenched they have to change the sheets. Women who had to keep spare outfits in their offices to change into because a hot flash would ruin their clothes. But not me. My hot flashes are just the nuisance type. Annoying, but manageable. Kinda like me. And it was all under control.

After Thursday, I’m not so sure anymore…

It happened at the Charlotte, NC airport Thursday morning. I caught the 6AM puddle-jumper from home to Charlotte (a 50-minute flight) to connect with another flight north to my office, where I was due to attend an important meeting shortly after landing. I was wearing comfortable dress pants and a colorfully patterned, lightweight polyester knit top. I had a 3-hour layover, so there was no hurry as I strolled from one end of the airport to the other. I felt the hot flash begin, and I knew it was a strong one. I was not only hot, I was also very light-headed, felt faint, and my hands were shaking. I stopped, and I started to feel better. Wow. That was a good one. I figured I’d get something cold to drink and I’d be fine, as usual. I stopped by a little tourist shop along the way, mainly because it was extra cool in there. I strolled around a bit, not to buy anything, but just to enjoy the coolness for a minute.

An employee in the shop looked at me rather oddly, and instead of saying “good morning!” or “Can I help you?” he said “Is everything okay this morning, ma’am?” That struck me as an odd thing to say, and then I thought my mega hot flash must have made my face red. I told him I was fine, and decided I’d better go get that cold drink and sit down somewhere.

As I walked out of the shop, I felt something on the side of my face. I put my fingers up to my left temple, and discovered water was running down my face near my scalp. I was covered in sweat. I’m not talking about a soft dewy glow here. I am talking about big drops of water. Dripping down the side of my face. Good lord, the guy must have thought I was crying, or just…well…a crazy lady drenched in sweat at 8:00 AM. I grabbed a tissue and wiped my face. My scalp was sweating. My hair felt damp and limp. Whoa. This was no normal hot flash.

I grabbed a yogurt parfait and a cold drink, and got settled into a seat at a quiet gate. As I sat back against the chair, my back felt cold and clammy. I sat forward and my shirt was clinging to my back. Good grief – I was soaked! I put my hand back there, and sure enough, my shirt was not just damp – it was wet with sweat. The chair was wet. From me. Gross.

I analyzed my options, and wearing this shirt for the rest of the day was not one of them. I had to buy something. I was heading into a meeting less than an hour after landing, and I couldn’t go in wearing a bright t-shirt that said “North Carolina Rocks!” A golf shirt was not dress code compliant. Maybe I could get away with that some other time, but not now – not when I’m trying to convince my employer that I can be away from the home office and still maintain a high level of professionalism.

That left me with two stores: Lacoste (expensive) and Brooks Brothers (more expensive). Lacoste had a sale rack, but nothing on it would work – too clingy, too sheer, too heavy (being warm triggers hot flashes). Why spend $50 on a sale shirt that I know I’ll never wear?

So I went back to Brooks Brothers and spent a ridiculous amount of money on a very nice cotton pinstripe shirt with ¾ sleeves. Beautiful fabric. Lovely tailoring. Very professional. Looks great. It is easily the most expensive shirt I’ve ever purchased. The sales tax brought the total over 3 figures. For a shirt.

All because of a monster hot flash at a really bad time and place.

And that’s the story of my first sweat-through-my-clothes hot flash. I don’t need to have another one. Truly, I don’t. Once is enough.

But just in case, I’ll start keeping an extra dress shirt in my office (and in my carry-on when I’m traveling).  

Because I simply can’t afford any more hot flashes like that one.

Hello, 2012!

I can’t really say that I was sorry to see 2011 leave.  It was stressful year. 

We (finally) sold our house and completed the first phase of our move to North Carolina.  Packing boxes, unpacking boxes, settling into a very temporary rental house that is reminiscent of my first apartment thirty years ago, complete with cheap and/or borrowed furniture.  It’s been an adventure. 

I said good-bye to some dear friends in 2011 – dear friends who were my age or younger – a sobering part of growing older.  These friends all left this earth far too soon.  While I blogged about losing Donna and Billy, just this past week I’ve also said good-bye to both Betty and Steve.  It’s even more tragic that Steve’s death was due to alcoholism.  Younger than I, he just couldn’t defeat the demons that cost him his career, his marriage, and ultimately his life.   

And we added the happy stress of a new puppy, who has unexpectedly grown to the size of a small pony and threatens to become a dog of Marmaduke proportions and adventures.  Even now, as I type, Tully is prodding at my elbow and whining to be taken for a walk, which I’ll have to do if I expect to be able to finish this post, so excuse me……….okay, I’m back.  Welcome to my world since Tully entered my life.  It’s all about her.  All the time.  Really.

I avoid making detailed new year’s resolutions, because they’re just a recipe for failure, depression and frustration.  It’s so easy to rattle off a list of goals on January 1st, and they seem so reasonable at the time.  Lose 20 pounds.  Exercise daily.  Stop eating sweets.  Organize my closet.  But by January 31st, like the vast majority of people, my resolutions have fallen to the wayside, and the mere thought of them makes me feel like a fool.  And who needs that?

So, for the past few years, I’ve gone to setting “themes” – one-word goals that I try to frame my year around.  I’ve used “de-clutter” (moderately successful), “focus” (moderately successful), and last year it was “finish” (not so successful).  But the joy of one word resolutions is that failure isn’t glaringly obvious, and they can still help me set and meet smaller goals through-out the year.  I don’t know if I’m any better at finishing things than I was a year ago.  But give me a break – it’s tough to change a life-long habit of being a starter. 

Today’s the day I have to set my theme for 2012. 

Drum roll, please – the word for this year (for me) is – “fearless”. 

2012 will be a year full of changes.  Moving out of state.  A new career (and possibly a job hunt for a new employer – yikes!).  Making new friends in a North Carolina.  Leaving dear friends behind in New York.  Settling finally into our new home.  Maybe even starting a business of my own.  Or writing more (for money).   

This year – I will be FEARLESS!  I will push myself to do things that scare me.  I will push myself out of my comfort zone.  I will do my best to not worry about failure.  And if I fail at something, I’ll just get back up and FEARLESSLY try something else.  One example is the new look for the blog – a change was long overdue.  Hope you like it!  I’ll admit that’s a baby step when it comes to change, but it’s only the first day of the year.  Give me time to build momentum.

I tend to not be terribly bold in general.  Some people might find that surprising, because I can fake it pretty well.  But I have that female-born-in-the-fifties angst about drawing attention to myself and being in charge of my own fate.  Too much Ozzie and Harriet when I was growing up, perhaps.

Will it be scary to act so boldly?  Yup. 

Setting a resolution of “fearless” doesn’t mean “fear-free”.  It means acting fearless, taking bold action.  And I can do that.  I’ll reinvent myself, or better yet, find my true self, in a new home in a new state.  Instead of struggling to finish that first novel, I’m going to start a new one, and the story is already kicking around in my head, getting ready to hit the page.  I’ll figure out how to make a living somehow, in a way that doesn’t stifle me. 

How?  No clue.  But I’ll figure it out as I go.

So tell me – what would you do in 2012 if you were truly fearless?  And what’s stopping you?

Dreaming of Boxes….

I see boxes in my dreams.  Big boxes.  Little boxes.  Boxes overflowing with crumpled newspapers and bubble wrap.  Stacked boxes.  Flat boxes.  Empty boxes.  Heavy boxes.  Piles of boxes.  Everywhere, boxes.

My life reduced to boxes....

While shopping the other day, I heard the sound of someone using clear packing tape – that scratchy, screechy sound it makes coming off the roll – and I shuddered.  

Perhaps it’s my own personal form of PTSD – the result of moving.  Twice.  In two weeks.  Including to another state.  It’s a horrifying fact of life for many Boomers as we downsize and head to warmer climes.  And the current housing crisis is not really helping (but then again, it kinda is).

A long, long time ago (2008), we bought a house

in warm and wonderful North Carolina.  We’d fallen in love with the area while owning a small vacation condo there, and the glut on the housing market was perfect for buying a nice home at a really nice price.  All we had to do was quickly sell our New York house and we’d be heading into the warm sunset of southern living.  Well, that was the plan.  But you know what they say about plans….  The same buyer’s market that gave us a wonderful house in North Carolina made it next to impossible to sell our New York home, which went on the market early in 2009. 

We waited, and we waited, and we waited.  We dropped the price.  We packed away every family photo and cherished knickknack to ‘depersonalize’ the house as everyone tells you to do.  We changed realtors.  I staged the house.  We dropped the price.  We hired a professional stager to reorganize the layout.  We changed realtors.  Again.  We dropped the price.  Again.  We gave up and said “screw it” and put the furniture where we wanted it and let it looked lived in.  We dropped the price.  Again.  And, after a mere 2 ½ years, we FINALLY sold the house.

Naturally, after all this time on the market, the buyer wanted in right away.  So we started packing.  And we packed.  And we packed.  Every waking minute of every day, we packed.  While I was at work, Hubby packed.   Box after box after box after box after box.  How the heck did two people accumulate so much crap?!  Our time frame made sorting a challenge, so we ended up moving a lot of stuff that we certainly didn’t need to keep.

The day the movers arrived in North Carolina with our belongings, the heat index was 108 degrees.  Hubby went golfing (with my blessing).  Landscapers were pruning our shrubs with power clippers.  Our dog was barking non-stop in protest of being shut in a room (which she escaped from several times).  Lowes showed up to deliver new appliances.  And the moving guys were coming through the door in rapid succession, constantly asking the question “where do you want this?”  After several hours, I thought of several graphic suggestions for them, but I kept them to myself.  I definitely felt too old for this effort.

The tipping point came sometime around noon, while all this was happening, and I was suddenly acutely aware of the pandemonium around me and the sweat pouring down my body.  I had a choice of running from the property screaming at the top of my lungs…..or coping.  I took a deep breath, and told myself “This is one day out of your life, Joanne – that’s all.  Just one day, and you can cope with one day.”

As the afternoon ground on, I told one of the movers firmly that I didn’t want him to bring any more boxes into the house.  Boxes were piled everywhere, and there was barely room to move (did I mention that the kitchen and family room were in the midst of a total remodel?).  The poor guy looked at me and wasn’t sure if I was kidding.  He said “But there are more boxes on the truck!”  I calmly explained that those boxes must belong to someone else, because we surely didn’t own enough stuff to fill all these boxes.  He was still staring at me in confusion as I said “those boxes can’t be ours!”  With a smile, he looked at me and said “Lady, you’re the last delivery – it’s all yours.”  I cussed, laughed, and went back to work.

Once everyone left, and Hubby returned, I sat and looked in amazement at how much junk we owned.  And how sore and tired I felt.  And how much I smelled (I was in the shower shortly after that). 

The next morning, we started UNpacking.  And that was only slightly more fun than packing.  Because it involved boxes.  And boxes.  And decisions to be made.  Where to put things. Whether to keep things.  What to give away.  Where to put the empty boxes.  A-r-g-h!  Those damned boxes!!!

Four days later, we were headed back to New York.  Remember I said we moved twice?  The second move involved clothes (way too many) and a very few possessions to a partially furnished rental house in our hometown.  We’re not fulltime southerners yet.  Why?  Well, with all those price cuts on the hosue, I can’t exactly walk away from my steady paycheck to go freelance right now.  So after partially settling things in North Carolina, we came right back to start unpacking BOXES in the rental house.  More freakin’ boxes.  Everywhere.  Including in my dreams.    

I refer to this as the beginning of phase 2 of our “master plan”.  It’s a temporary phase.  Within a year, we’ll be starting a new life in North Carolina.  And this will all be just a fuzzy, messy, exhausting, and box-filled memory.

Finding Christmas…

I’ve struggled to come up with a Christmas message this year.  In fact, I’ve struggled quite a bit with Christmas in general this year.  I have friends and co-workers who have told me they feel the same “funk” about this Christmas.

I’m blaming the news.  We’ve had 18 months of relentlessly bad news, a particularly obnoxious election season, terrorist threats, and most recently, miserable weather basically around the globe.  It’s getting harder and harder to feel warm and fuzzy and Christmas-y.  Banks are going belly-up, homes are being repossessed, people can’t find jobs, gasoline is going through the roof….bah-humbug. 

As a Christian, it shouldn’t be this difficult for me.  After all, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”, “Put Christ Back in Christmas” and all that.  But frankly, knowing that and feeling that are two very different things.  In fact, just the idea of putting Christ in Christmas has taken a bit of a militant edge this year, with people getting way overworked about the phrase “happy holidays” in stores.  I’ve never taken offense to it, or considered it some kind of anti-Christian rhetoric.  After all, “holiday” means “holy day”.  But the talking heads took aim at it as if it were part of a vast left-wing conspiracy, and some folks are going a little nutty about it.  A very rational co-worker proudly exclaimed that they “won’t buy anything from any store where employees say ‘happy holidays’ instead of ‘merry Christmas’…”  That’s their choice, I suppose. 

But worse was the mall shopper who approached my friend while she was ringing bells for the Salvation Army donation kettle.  The shopper looked at the big red kettle and all the signs and said “Does it say ‘Merry Christmas’ anywhere here?”  Surprised, she responded that she didn’t think so, and the shopper turned away and said “Then you’re not getting my money!” 

Seriously?  Not giving to the Salvation Army, a religious charity, because the signage doesn’t say “Merry Christmas”?  It doesn’t say “Happy Holidays”, either!  It just says “Salvation Army”.  How ridiculous can you get?  Some Christian spirit there, huh? 

Juggling holiday travel, family pressures, work pressures, money pressures, and the struggle to get the perfect gifts – it’s a lot to process.  Why are we doing this?   How did the celebration of the birth of the Christ-child evolve into this?  Have we come full circle?  Christians adopted and transformed pagan holidays through the centuries, and now our decidedly Christian holiday seems to be becoming more pagan in many ways.  We are worshipping the same golden calf of materialism, pride and greed that Moses destroyed. 

Time to step back.  Time to remember that I believe in a tiny child born 2000 years ago, and in the love He brought to the world.  And I do believe.  I do choose to believe in the birth of Christ.    

That belief is pretty out of character for me.  I’m generally very skeptical and yes, cynical in many ways.  If something sounds too good to be true, then I know it probably is.  I’ve been betrayed by people I’ve trusted.  I’ve seen people I’ve known for years end up inexplicably on the wrong side of the law.  I’ve seen loved ones die far too young.  As you work your way through decades of life on this earth, you learn to shield your heart and use your head.  And yet…I believe that a child was born in a stable, laid in a manger, and was worshipped there by shepherds, angels and kings.  I believe that He grew to become a teacher, to bring God to earth, to flesh, and to death.  It’s the ultimate “too good to be true” situation, and yet, I believe without question. 

Christmas is  about belief in the incredible, the unbelievable.  For children, it’s the wonder of flying reindeer and a jolly old elf dressed in red.  For adults, it’s the miracle of God-on-earth in the form of a baby.  Of course, it’s more than a baby.  It’s what that baby represents – the rest of the story that transformed the world.  We know the end of the story, we’ve read the final chapter, and yet we can’t wait to read it all over again every Christmas.  We need to look at that pretty nativity on our mantle and remember that it’s not just a decoration – it’s the start of a wonderful story.  It’s the birth of Love. 

Because I believe in the story of Jesus, I am able to believe in the inherent goodness of human beings, despite evidence to the contrary.  I may get discouraged, but I am not broken by the constant stream of negative news.  I have faith in my fellow man.  I have faith in this “grand experiment” that is the United States.  I have faith in my husband and in his love for me.  I have faith that the bad times will pass. 

Because I am able to wonder and worship, I am able to feel awe at the tiny, perfect fingers of a newborn baby.  At the incredible beauty of a 90 year old woman singing in church.  At the musical laughter of children.  At the power of tears, and the power of a touch.

Do I forget to believe and wonder?  Sometimes.  I sometimes have to force myself to sit still in silence and just ponder it all.  I have to dust off the Bible and refresh my spirit with the Story.  It is a story that makes me weep in awe and joy when I’m able to silence the screaming rush of the world.

Christmas is not about presents and parties and decorations and outdoing the neighbors and baking cookies and getting the latest video game.  Those things can be fun in moderation, but they’re not Christmas.  Christmas is a baby laid in a straw-filled manger, lulled to sleep by angels.  Nothing more.  Nothing less. 

And that’s all we really need to know, to believe, to trust.  The rest will take care of itself, so just let it go.

My wish for you is that you have a very Merry Christmas, and that you are able to feel wonder and magic and joy in your heart.

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