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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.

Learn to Speak “ESPN”, Ladies!

Fenway Park, Home of the Boston Red Sox

I have come to the conclusion that in business, talking sports can be a really good idea for women.  Before I go any further, let me throw out a few disclaimers here.  Rest assured that I am NOT a proponent for women “acting like a man” to get ahead in business.  I think women bring their own special gifts to the workplace, and that we can succeed just fine by acting like ourselves.  Don’t allow anyone to patronize you or dismiss you in any way.  And yes, I understand that there are plenty of men who could care less about sports, and that’s just fine, too.    

But business is all about relationships, and the best way to build a relationship is to find areas you have in common with the other person.  When you’re a woman in the business world, sports is usually a great ice-breaker.  I discovered this by accident years ago.  I always was a sports fan to a certain degree.  I am particularly enamored with NASCAR racing.  People are always surprised by that – I refer to myself as a “closet redneck”.  I’m watching the race in Pocono as I type this.  Seriously.

Anyhow…I was sitting in the break room at the large call center where I was a manager about ten years ago, having lunch with some of the male managers there.  It was a Monday, and one of the guys mentioned the weekend’s auto race.  He said something disparaging about “my” driver’s involvement in an accident, and I jumped in with a detailed rebuttal explaining why it was really some other guy’s fault.  Along with the surprised looks of “hey, she knows NASCAR!”, I saw something else in the eyes of these guys who were always polite but never exactly friends.  They were looking at me like I suddenly existed.  If you’re a working woman, you know what I mean.  When I saw them looking at me with that strange expression (“Who is this woman?” “Why didn’t we know she was cool before?”), a light bulb went off. 

But not all guys love NASCAR, so I decided to experiment.  I’d sit with the guys and jump into their conversations about baseball, football, basketball, whatever was the sports du jour.  And here’s what I learned then, and since then.

1.        Don’t fake it.  There may be times when you can fake it with men (get your mind out of the bedroom – I’m talking about the times we refer to our brand new shoes as “what, these old things?”).  Sports isn’t one of those times when you can fake it.  Don’t say you saw the fantastic play they’re talking about unless you really saw it (even if it was just in highlights).  It’s okay to say “Yeah, I heard about that catch – they said it was awesome!”.  Don’t gush about what a great game it was just because you saw the score and the home team won.  It’s embarrassing to find out that the win came at the cost of the best player being injured, or that they blew a 10-point lead and barely hung on for the win.  Yes, it’s a win, but it’s what’s referred to as “an ugly win”.  You don’t brag about ugly wins.  You breathe sighs of relief that the team pulled it off.  Learn the lingo, ladies.

2.       Pick a team to cheer for.  You’ll look like an idiot if you rave about how much you love baseball, and then, when one of the guys asks you which team you follow, you gush “oh, I love them all!”  Only dweebs say that.  You’d be much better off saying you don’t follow the sport.  It’s always a safe bet to back the hometown team.  But don’t say you follow them if you’re not ready to do at least a little homework (learn a few names, watch the local scores, etc.).  If you really want to stand out and be bold, then follow a different team than everyone else.  But if you’re going to do that, be ready to take the heat and the “trash talk” (that’s sports lingo for someone belittling you and everything you stand for to throw you off your game).  And also be ready to step it up – you’d better really know your stuff if you’re going to be a Red Sox fan in Yankee country.  Trust me, I know this first-hand. 

3.       Watch ESPN. Really.  You don’t have watch it 24/7.  You don’t have to watch entire games.  But watch “SportsCenter”.  The show runs basically all the time.  Not exactly, but it seems that way – they’ve run more than 30,000 episodes.  It’s on and off throughout the day (and night).  It’s the “CliffNotes” version of the sports world, and you can learn a lot in just one 10 minute segment.  If you want to know enough sports to sound authentic, just watch 10 – 20 minutes of “SportsCenter” every morning.  The show quickly runs through multiple sports headlines, and shows the best and worst plays of the day/week/whatever in their “Top Ten” and “Not Top Ten” clips.  A nice plus is that it’s also pretty entertaining, with some good humor.  Watching it won’t kill any brain cells, I promise.

4.       Be prepared to surprise yourself.  As I’ve mentioned, I never considered myself a true sports fan – other than the stock car thing.  Okay – I’ve always loved the beautiful corny poetry of American baseball in general (confession: “Field of Dreams” is my favorite movie ever), but I really didn’t follow specific teams.  When I met my Boston-raised husband, I was instantly brought into the world of Red Sox baseball, Patriots football, and Celtics basketball (I just can’t get into hockey…).  So those became “my teams” when I wanted to talk sports.  I don’t live in Boston.  I live in New York.  So I have taken a fair amount of heat.  I had to keep up with the teams to hold my own.  And a funny thing happened.  I started to really enjoy it!   Okay, it helps that all three teams have won at least one championship in the past few years (the best way to shut up the trash talk is to win), but even in the tough years, I’m still having fun.

I have learned that guys aren’t aliens when they start talking sports.  Sports can be cool.  Don’t just walk away when the sports talk starts, or when ESPN pops up on the television screen.  And, if you want to learn how to open conversations at work, or in any public setting where you want to build relationships (like the corner bar…), learn at least a little bit about sports.  Keep yourself up to date by scanning the headlines and watching a little “SportsCenter” .  You’ll be surprised what some sports knowledge can do for you, and you may even find yourself liking it!

On Being a Baby Baby Boomer

My family is a microcosm of the span of the famed “Baby Boomer” generation.   Having met at a USO in Chicago during World War II, my parents married after the war and began their family.  My brother was born in 1948, in the early years of the post-war Baby Boom.  For another 17 years, there were enough babies born every year (lots and lots) to count as the Baby Boomers, even though “the war” was long past.  I was born in 1958, near the end of the boom, which officially closed in 1964. 

Every time those first Baby Boomers hit a milestone, it makes news.  “Boomers Turn 40!”  “Boomers Turn 50!”  Boomers Turn 60!”  “Boomers Retire!” 

Well, when the afore-mentioned Boomers were turning 40 and facing their burgeoning mid-life crises, I was hitting 30 feeling footloose and fancy-free.  When they reached 50 and changed the cosmetics market forever in a panic to stay young, I was just heading into my 40’s with a new husband and a soon-to-be blossoming career.  And, while older Boomers are now retiring in droves, I’m still stuck in job-land for another 10 years or so.  

I’m a ‘baby’ Baby Boomer.  I was shaped by the 1960’s, but via the television screen, not a college campus.  One of my earliest memories is watching the JFK funeral on a small black & white TV while my mom cried.  I was five.  In 1968, my brother (the Old Boomer) paid my best friend and I fifty cents each to tear all the Bobby Kennedy campaign banners from his car the day after Bobby was killed.  At 20 and involved in his first presidential campaign, he was too heartbroken to do it himself. 

My view of those years was skewed by looking through the prism of how they affected him.  I paid attention to the war in Vietnam because my big brother was eligible for the draft.  I watched violent college protests on TV because he was headed off to college on the other side of the country (Mom’s advice – “do whatever you want out there, but don’t ever let me see your face on the national news!”).   I was 12 when four students were killed by the National Guard at Kent State.  I couldn’t understand it, and I worried that my brother would be shot on his college campus.  

Our childhoods were so very different.  He grew up with Andy and Opie.  I grew up with Laugh-In.  He was an Eagle Scout with a stay-at-home mom in a one car family.  They had a fishing boat and went tent camping in the Adirondacks for vacation.  He played Little League on a small local diamond (that’s still there).  I had a working mom in a family that boasted two cars, three snowmobiles, two boats, and a camper.  We went to New York City for vacation and stayed at the McAlpin (not quite the Waldorf, but almost right next door).  I showed horses for fun.  Yeah – being ten in 1968 was a whole lot different than being ten in 1958.

1958 was full of hope.  Ten-year-olds didn’t have a care in the world then.  1958 was Sputnik, Elvis, Alaska, de Gaulle and Eisenhower.  Yes, Castro and Khrushchev made a little noise, but that stuff rarely made it into the family living room.  Good grief, the musical hero of the year was Van Cliburn.  

1968 was a whole lot more complicated, and the news of the day was in our living room in living color.  It was LBJ, Vietnam, Nixon and hijackings.  Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were both gunned down.  Campuses burned, and Led Zeppelin rocked the radio while Hair rocked Broadway.  In ten short years, the world had turned upside down. 

My mom often says she feels like she raised two “only children”.  I thought she meant it was just because we were ten years apart – he was an only child for ten years, then I came along, then he was off to college with I was only eight.  But I wonder now if her statement also covers the fact that she raised two children in two such completely different eras. 

Some studies show that young Boomers like me don’t like being called “Baby Boomers”.  That’s probably a knee-jerk reaction to wanting to clarify that we’re not as old as those other guys.  But I don’t mind it.  Being a Boomer is cool.  We’re part of the generation that changed the world.  We may not be the “greatest generation” like our parents, but we were the 500 lb. gorilla that had to be dealt with.  We changed everything – politics, entertainment, fashion, civil rights.  We rocked the workplace, and powered the economy as we set aside our hippy beads (well, the old Boomers had more of those than us…), and we went into the workforce – men and women.  As we’ve aged (we’ll all be over 50 within 4 years), we continue to throw our collective weight around, for good and for not-so-good.  We’re spending Social Security dollars faster than our children can replenish them.  Senior living centers are springing up everywhere.  Powered wheelchairs now come in bright colors and stylish shapes.  We’ll need more doctors and nurses as we all begin to fall apart.  We’ve got another good 40 or maybe even 50 years of making our mark on society.  Sorry, kids!

Why would I want to be called the “X” “Y” or “Z” generation?  What does that even mean, anyway?  It’s lame.

Nope, call me a Baby Boomer, and I’ll take the name with pride.  Just don’t mix me up with those really old Boomers like my brother.  I’ll stick with being a Baby Baby Boomer, thank you very much!

Abuse Is Never Funny.

The news has recently been full of stories about women being abused and treated like property, culminating in the tragic death of Yeardley Love, a beautiful and talented 22 year old college student in Virginia.  As someone who’s been in an abusive relationship (many years ago), these stories cause me a tremendous amount of anger and frustration.  As much as I intend this to be a light-hearted blog, I feel forced to get serious for a moment.

There’s no way to understand what was in the heads of Ben Roethlisberger’s body guards as they blithely allowed a drunk 20-year-old girl to be led behind closed doors by Roethlisberger.  Maybe they thought he was trying to help her get a career in sports broadcasting?  And her girlfriends?  As worried as they were, and for all their reported efforts to check on her, apparently no one had a cell phone that could have been used to call police.  And the father and brother of another girl who was reportedly abused by Roethlisberger (if true) must be so proud that they convinced her not to file a complaint.  It’s nice to know the men in our lives have our backs, right? 

Yeardley Love’s relationship with the fellow college athlete who killed her was filled with warning signs.  Some of them were giant neon blinking ones – yet it seems that no one saw this coming.  The young couple fought and argued – sometimes violently.  She described him as “aggressive”.  He attacked another young man who he suspected of kissing Yeardley.  Even his buddies describe him as an angry, violent drunk.  The night she was killed, he was reportedly smashing bottles before he stalked off to “get her back”, according to some reports.  How did no one see this coming?!?

But, of course, I’m looking at this from my vantage point of experience and years.  My years have taught me that not only can bad things happen to good people, but that “good” people are capable of doing really terrible things.  That a smiling face and smooth manner in public do not guaranty that kind of behavior behind closed doors.  Once we hit 50, we’ve seen plenty of people we thought were “good” surprise us with their utter lack of goodness (or at the very least, lack of good common sense). 

Forgive us Baby Boomers for our skepticism, but it’s founded in experience.  After all, we grew up watching a president being impeached and run out of office for a third-rate burglary gone bad.   The clean-cut, charming and so-talented Pete Rose was accused of not just gambling, but gambling on his own baseball games.  A blonde, blue-eyed skating champion, Tanya Harding, was involved in a crazy attack on one of her competitors.   Another president carried on sexual affairs with women in the White House.  Squeaky-clean cyclists in the Tour de France were forever tainted by accusations of doping.  Corporate giant Enron bilked retirees out of every penny they had.   More recently, Bernie Madoff did his own brand of damage, largely to charities and pension funds.  Catholic priests are making not-nice headlines, along with more evangelist preachers than I can list.  Even sports’ golden boy, Tiger Woods, recently showed himself to be not just a cheater, but an absolute cad.

Yes, those of us who’ve reached a certain age know how badly things can go wrong.  Little surprises us, really.  But the people partying with Ben Roethlisberger, and the college friends of Yeardley Love apparently don’t know what we know.  They don’t realize that when people, like Love’s accused killer George Huguely, give us those little momentary glimpses of their not-so-nice sides, they are offering us the opportunity to prevent a tragedy.

PLEASE – if you see a friend or relative in a relationship where one partner (usually the male, but not always) is a total control freak, is completely possessive, is wildly jealous, is quick to anger – take action.  These behaviors aren’t cute, or temporary, or mistakes.  They are warning flags.  Does every jealous person turn into a killer?  Of course not.  But combine jealousy with possessiveness, absolute control, paranoia, rage, and alcohol or drugs – well, chances are, something bad is going to happen.  Not always murder.  But some form of physical or mental violence is likely.  The victim, at the very least, will be made to feel stupid, weak, trapped, and responsible for every bad thing that happens (“if only you hadn’t looked at him”; “you made me do it”; “you asked for it”). 

Help your friend/relative get out of that relationship as quickly and safely as possible.  If there is any threat of violence, get them somewhere safe (keep yourself safe as well), make sure they are never alone, and don’t let them convince you that “he won’t really do anything” or that everyone is over-reacting.  If you see a very drunk young friend allow herself to be led away by anyone, even a famous personality – call the cops.  If you see a drunk young man smashing bottles in a rage, and then saying he’s going off to get his ex-girlfriend back – don’t laugh and hope for the best.  Call the cops.  Or, at the very least, go with him.  Don’t shrug and tell your friends he’s a “good guy” or that he’ll “snap out of it.” 

If you yourself are in a relationship with someone like this – GET OUT.  I know he’s supremely and magically charming, funny and loving when things are good.  I know you think you can “fix” him.  I know he’s convinced you that his temper tantrums are your fault.  That he’s sorry.  That he’ll never do it again.  If you are with a man who has harmed you in any way in a rage – run.  Seriously – get out.  It will not change.  He will always be sorry, but he will continue to hurt you.  If you really, truly think he can change (as a Christian, I have to say that nothing’s completely impossible), then let him do it while you are at a safe distance.   And don’t take him back until you know he’s gone through some serious counseling for his issues. 

We can stop young girls from making terrible mistakes in an effort to please.  We can stop young men from causing harm because of their own insecurities.   But we have to take action and get involved.  If your only action is to forward this, or to print it and leave it anonymously for someone who might need to see it, then that’s at least a step in the right direction.

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