Are You Ready for some FOOTBALL??? Lion Up, Y’all!!

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My favorite pic of me and Gretchen

The relentless summer in the south feels like it never ends. I look at the calendar, and fall seems so far away. Fall may not come until early November depending on the weather gods that rain down sunshine here. The worst time is August. It’s the hottest month of the year unless July rallies and matches its intensity. The thought of more heat for more months is enough to get anybody down. The one thing that makes August bearable for any true southerner is what comes at the very end. It’s entrance onto the social calendar comes quietly, but once its launched, it is full scale party time down here. Are you ready for some football???!!!

When my second husband – a Chicago native – moved down south, he lamented the fact that people down here didn’t care about professional football. He could not understand why college football was such a big deal. “Why does anybody care about college football,” he asked incredulously. I looked at him with great concern and told him that he’d better not bring that up to anybody down here. I heard rumors that LSU starts their season this weekend against a northern team in a dome in Houston. My guess is those Yankees didn’t want to come down here in this brutal heat in August and play outside. I don’t blame them either. But, my focus is on the REAL game around here – Southeastern Louisiana University football. They won the Southland Conference last year and did pretty well in the playoffs. They are predicted to be even better this year if you listen to the hype. I – in my first ever commitment to the sport – purchased season tickets. I had so much fun last year that I couldn’t imagine not being at all of the games this season.

2014 SLU Football Season Hype

My partner-in-crime, Gretchen, and I are already discussing plans for Saturday. I didn’t get into the action last year until around October, so I missed some of the hotter games. Winter came on pretty quick after I started attending, and I remember sitting in the stands in the rain and the freezing cold watching football. My sister finds this wildly laughable. I have never been a football fan. In fact, I’ve never been much of a fan of any sport. For some reason, though, last season was really special. Part of it was getting to know old friends all over again after 30 years, but a lot of it was being a part of something magical. It has been a really long time since Southeastern had a championship team, and the small town school became the football sweetheart of the state. My most read blog ever … in the fabled history of Midlife Moments …. was the one where I chronicled their journey to glory. If you are interested, you can read it here. The season was pure magic. I, for one, cannot resist a dance with magic especially if it includes boys in tight pants.

So, I’m trying to decide what I’m going to wear to the game. Green and gold is the obvious color scheme. I’d love to do a real tailgate this year and even bring a dish like a good southern gal. Last year, I mooched off the Former Football Players’ Association’s offering. But, since I’m a season ticket holder, I think I need to step up to the plate – or the gridiron as the case may be. I hope that the momentum built last year in bringing old players back into the fold will pick up where it left off last year, and we’ll see lots of new faces in the upcoming months. It is the dream of the football coach and the former players association to build a robust community. What better time to get traction than in a winning season?

Last Year’s Runout Video for the Nicholl’s State Game – I just love this LION!!

This is what I love about SLU football games. Strawberry Stadium is a small stadium by big college standards, so it’s cozy. It’s easy to stand at the bottom of the bleachers and wave at your friends on the top row. Tailgating is inexpensive and easy. The alumni organization sets up a tent with food for all alumni and family. A few other groups have tents, but it’s mainly a large yard party in Friendship Circle under the shade of some amazingly beautiful live oak trees. If you don’t have SLU gear, you can walk 50 yards over the university bookstore and purchase what you need. An hour before the game starts, the marching band marches through the circle playing the fight song. They are sometimes accompanied by the team and maybe even some former players. It is reminiscent of quaint little scenes in movie scenes set in the south where living is small, people are simple and friendly and fun is what you make it. I’m already getting excited although I know there will be sweating … lots of sweating …this Saturday.

If you are in the area and have nothing to do this weekend, you should think about bringing your family for the cheapest family football experience around. I’m sure they have created an amazing ‘runout’ video to rally the excitement when the players hit the field, and you can count on some great popcorn and beer. Tickets are cheap, and there will be plenty to be had. If you want to buy your tickets online, you can buy them here. You can find me over by the Former Football Players tent in Friendship Circle when you get there. I know I’m not a former football player.. but… duh ... that’s where the boys are. LION UP, Y’all!!!

 

Country Churches, Gravel Roads and Gospel Music

Elvis' hometown church in Tupelo

Elvis’ hometown church in Tupelo

I asked Michael what I should blog on tonight. He immediately texted back ‘gravel roads, gospel music and country churches.’ Awww … man, I texted back that I didn’t want to take on churches. But, he persuaded me to take on the challenge. I love improvisational blogging, so let’s see what I can do.

The first country church I remember was the little church where I grew up. It’s now a big church, and I’d hardly call the area country anymore. It’s more of a strip mall land with a few rural areas interspersed in between the daiquiri shops, car washes and fast food joints. But I remember the church very well. I didn’t start attending there until I was a teenager when my mother left the Catholic Church due to birth control issues. She had four kids and didn’t want any more, and she couldn’t resolve herself to go to church somewhere when she didn’t follow the doctrine. Actually, the Catholic Church we attended was a little country church, too. It seemed larger than life, but when I drove by the old building as an adult, I realized it was a tiny, little place. But, I digress. We started attending the Methodist Church in my hometown about the time I hit puberty.

I know that church is supposed to be about God, but as a teenager I remember the church being about community… specifically, boys. I knew which boys went to church at which service, and I knew which Sunday School class they attended. And, don’t tell me the other gals weren’t there for boys either. I remember distinctly the length of the dresses I saw, and I know that God would not have approved. There was definitely an ulterior motive. I would go to the morning service with my family, but the one the young people attended was the evening service. I sang in the youth choir. Now, I’m a horrible singer. But, it didn’t matter. As long as you showed up for practice and sang, they’d let you in. At the evening service, we sang a lot of the old time hymns like Morning is Broken and Amazing Grace. I remember those services being very moving, and, even if I went there mainly for boys, I often got religion.

The old church had a room in the back ostensibly for babies, but it really ended up being for young people who came in late and wanted to sleep in the back of the church. It was also a great place to hide from the adults who sat up front and listened to the preacher. One was constantly preaching about the end of the world. It scared the be-Jesus out of me. I just knew I would never grow up because the way it sounded, we were headed for the rapture any moment. I doubted I’d ever even be able to grow up and get out of high school before the four horsemen came and tormented me to death. It was very traumatic for me, and, once I grew up, I remember wondering what ever happened. Did they cancel the end of the world? Because, I tell you… it was definitely happening according to that preacher. And, he had the facts to back it up. There wasn’t a Sunday evening service that teenagers weren’t lining up at the altar to make sure we were covered when it happened. There was crying and sorrow and redemption spilling out the windows every Sunday night.

We had Youth Group on Sunday nights. Now, I imagine the purpose of Youth Group must have been to teach us something about the Bible, but the nights when Youth Group rocked were when we went bowling from midnight to 4 AM or when we took the church bus to MacDonald’s. It was a 15-20 minute trip to Denham Springs, but those bus trips were a lot of fun. Bowling all night was the bomb. It was hard to get an evening away from your parents, and it was cool to be up all night. The trip back on the bus was even cooler. If you were lucky, you spent the evening getting acquainted with one of the local boys. I’d usually manage to get myself kissed a few times on the way home. We learned a lot of things that I don’t think are anywhere in the Bible but they sure seemed to lift my spirits.

The music is what I remember about that little church. There were singing groups and choirs that traveled around the whole country. Some of our young people had phenomenal voices. I was not one of them. My sister and I attended a gospel music concert at Graceland during Elvis week a few years ago in Memphis. Supposedly it was the group that Elvis sang with, and, according to the internet, it was the JD Sumner and the Stamps Quartet. They were amazing. It was that summer that it was so hot all over the south that you could literally fry an egg on your car. We sweated through the 107 degree temperature that morning and rocked to some phenomenal gospel music along with an unbelievable crowd of Elvis fans from all over the world. Elvis, from a little country town in the deep south, loved gospel music, and, surprisingly to a lot of people, he has many gold records with his gospel music albums. Listening to him sing How Great Thou Art brings me back to those Sunday evening services that I remember so fondly. Our choir wasn’t that good, but we did sing that song … and we probably thought we were that good. Who knew?

They’ve apparently moved Elvis’ country church to his birthplace ‘park’ in Tupelo. There are country churches all over this country. I’ve found them on hiking trails in the middle of the woods. I’ve found them down gravel roads. I’ve even seen some in city parks. Some are abandoned and boarded up, hardly recognizable. Others have been preserved to varying extents. I love walking around the old church graveyards to see the names and dates of the people who went to church there. In really old graveyards, there are lots and lots of babies and kids. It always reminds me how lucky we are to have modern medicine. We take it for granted that kids grow up, and women usually survive childbirth. That wasn’t always the case. But, I imagine the churches were the hub of the community. They were the places where people grieved and sang, cultivating hope and love amongst the living. I’m sure they had potluck dinners on Sunday afternoons.  And maybe … just maybe … those old churches were the birthplaces of some teenage romances. I think Jesus is the kind of guy who would like that.

Note to Michael: I know I had to work really hard to get gravel roads in there, but I managed. How’d I do?

Rain: Transforming Heat

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It has been so hot the last week. It seemed like the heat of one day gathered up into the next with an ever increasing intensity. It was like a snowball of fire that kept rolling into itself and getting hotter and hotter until I thought I would melt yesterday. I hardly went outside at all over the weekend. I tried Sunday because my dog was sitting there staring at me like she was going to go crazy if she didn’t get outside. We drove over to City Park and took a slow walk under the shade of the Live Oak trees. But, it was so hot after one little lap around the tennis courts, she ran over to the car and eagerly jumped in. There’s just no way to be out in it right now. We went back to my little cottage and turned the AC way down.

The Storm

I kept checking the weather forecast today because it was supposed to rain, and it was supposed to rain a lot. Please … please … please … let it rain, I prayed. I don’t feel like myself when I can’t get outside. I don’t sleep well when it’s hot, and I don’t want to exercise. I don’t mind walking at 5 AM, but that’s about all I can handle. Running is out of the question. On this morning’s walk, I saw several runners, and I tried to imagine what it would feel like to see if I could push myself to try it. But, it just felt like it would be oppressive. I didn’t dare pick up the pace. The other night the car thermometer registered 102 at 8 PM. It wasn’t really 102 degrees, but it felt like it. I’m just hanging on the hope that it will be over soon so I can resume my normal lifestyle and get back to myself. So, I’ve wanted it to rain for a week at least. The rain brings cooler temperatures in a hurry … much faster than the days on a calendar inching their way into fall.

It started pouring down rain about the time I got home from work. The thunder sounded like a caged animal growling. It rolled and growled between flashes of lightning. I felt a sense of relief come over me. It’s over.. at least for today. I went to acupuncture in the middle of the downpour for my third visit in as many weeks. I told my acupuncturist that I really thought the heat contributed to my insomnia and anxiety. He mentioned that his father told him that when he was young they didn’t even have air conditioning. I laughed and said we didn’t have it when I was a girl. We got a room air conditioner when I was 10 or 11, but we didn’t get central air until I was about 13. The school didn’t have air conditioning at all. He asked how we managed. I told him we were used to it, and we used fans…. lots of fans.

The Puddles

 

When he left the room, I tried to put myself back in that old school in the heat of the day. Of course, we were out of school during most of the summer, but we were back at the end of August, usually the hottest time of the year. I remember sitting in Mrs. Lester’s English class at 6th period… probably the hottest part of the day. The wooden desks with metal frames at varying stages of age sat in rows running parallel to the huge open windows on the outside of the classroom. A hallway on the inside precluded us from having cross-ventilation, but they would leave the doors of school propped open to get as much air flow as possible. This was before the days of school lockdowns. Everybody was welcome. Even the bugs came in. The highest priority was getting more air into the building.

Most classrooms had huge box fans or those oscillating fans blowing the hot, humid air around so we felt cool. I know I wore jeans most days. I can’t imagine that now. My jeans stay stored until cooler days now. I can’t imagine wearing blue jeans with no air conditioning. What were we thinking? The home economics classroom was right outside Mrs. Lester’s classroom window and so was the baseball field. We could watch friends playing outside in the heat. Voices I’d known all of my life floated over the steady hum of the fans. I was smart, so I actually didn’t pay attention all that much. I got bored. I’d spend a lot of time daydreaming. I was trying to remember today what those dreams were about. I think I wanted to be a Mom and have my high school beau as a husband. I thought it would all be so romantic. But, I also remember dreaming about being famous and speaking in front of crowds. Maybe I knew I was a natural born teacher even in those days. The things I wanted most were to have straight hair and to be liked by a boy. I actually don’t think I cared which boy … any boy would do. Well, he had to be cute. And, both seemed to be impossible for me. But they were my dreams, and for a teenage girl, there is nothing in the past. Life is a blank page waiting to be written.

Water transforms everything. My acupuncturist has water elements in his office.

I remember the rain at school but not nearly as much as the heat. The rain in Louisiana pours as if the water gods are pouring huge pitchers of water down on the already soaked swampland. I can remember it raining for days at a time. I’d get so sick of it. My curly hair was awful in the rain. No matter how much hair spray I put on it, it soaked up the humidity like a sponge and lost all semblance of a style. I felt so ugly and awkward with my curly hair and my boobs that were way too big for my age. I wanted to be skinny and have long straight hair that never changed day after day.

The ground here can’t soak up that much water so it lays in the grass in deep puddles. When we were really little, we’d slip and slide in the puddles in the yard and in the deep ditches that try to siphon the impossible amounts of water into natural waterways. We’d put on our swimsuits and go swimming in the yard. By the end of an hour or so we’d be soaking wet, bits of grass covering our skin and filthy with mud. Even though we probably didn’t know the difference in the temperature, I imagine in some way we were celebrating the break in the heat.

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I looked down at the thermostat in my car on my way home from work today, and it said 74 degrees. It hasn’t been 74 degrees at anytime in the last week. The lows have been 77 or 78 at best. I’m sitting outside at the coffee shop tonight, and it’s cool enough for Ashok to join me. The breeze is blowing, and I’m not even breaking a sweat. I’m already looking forward to a cooler walk in the morning. But, if it’s raining, I’m not going to complain. At this age, I let my hair curl in its natural crazy way, and I really don’t care if boys like me all that much. So much has changed over the years. I still daydream, but I dream as much about the past as I do about the future. As the pages were written, I discovered what was past Springfield Road and the baseball field outside the school window. The world was so much bigger and better and worse than I ever dreamed it would be sitting in my school desk scrawled with graffiti. But, some things don’t change at all. The heat is still oppressive down here, and the rain and the breeze are cause for celebration. I watch Ashok as she runs and plays and drinks from the puddles. She just knows that it feels better. It’s just that simple.

 

Our Assimilation to Violence

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I don’t like to watch the news. Yes, I am uninformed to some extent. But, I hear about mostly everything I need to know. I heard about Robin Williams’ death at my brother’s dinner table. I heard about Jim Foley’s beheading when a friend asked if he could do a guest blog on him as he was a personal friend. I heard about the 9/11 attacks when my boss yelled the news to me in my cubicle at work. It works for me. I get along just fine. I have never liked horror movies, violent movies and even some action-adventure type movies which involve violence. I have been in relationships that are emotionally violent, and I don’t enjoy feeling unsafe … emotionally, physically or spiritually. I don’t enjoy arguing about politics or religion. I like harmony. But, the world is not harmonious.

My friend Elizabeth posted this plea on her Facebook wall this morning:

I am sick and tired of the overblown, reactionary, bullying and insulting liberal-bashing memes out there. I’m pretty tired of the ones making fun of conservatives, too. They just make things worse, people. They make it harder for either side to learn from the other. And you know what? We’re all actually on the SAME FREAKIN’ SIDE!!!! I’m just putting it out there that I’m going to unfriend you if I see any more of these things. Yes, you. I don’t care how long we go back or how much I like you personally or whether you’re bashing the Right or the Left, I get too worked up about these self-righteous, close-minded bits of “humor” that only drive us further apart spiritually and as a nation. Do you have an actual question or an actual point of view about an issue? Want to share an editorial? That’s fine, I can get down with that and I might learn something new. Otherwise, I don’t have time for all this juvenile namecalling.
 

I, for one, have been in a process of blocking friends on Facebook when they post alienating political statements, religious beliefs and any photo that portrays graphic violence. I know most people post those because they are outraged and are looking for support, but I can’t unsee that crap. I saw a particularly graphic photo that keeps popping up in my mind whenever I don’t want it to. It turns my stomach, yes. My main complaint is that I need to have a better view of people than that. I know people are capable of all kinds of evil, and it sucks. But my being outraged or repulsed by it, is not DOING anything about it. It makes me afraid to go out at night. It makes me afraid of meeting new people. It definitely makes me afraid of getting in relationships. The more I see of the sickness and craziness in the world, the less trusting I get. So, if someone posts that stuff, I block them. Unfriending them doesn’t help as that stuff pops up in my news feed anyway. I have to make them disappear … whether I actually like them or not.

This month’s Psychology Today has an article about how it is normal for a person’s behavior to escalate if they get away with smaller crimes. For instance, the guy that steals office supplies and cheats on his expense report regularly will find it much easier to then siphon funds if the opportunity arises. After he does that, he might move onto outright embezzlement. The point is that if he was honest about all of the smaller things, he would be much less likely to embezzle straight away. But, the ‘assimilation’ to dishonest behavior allows him to ‘step up’ to harder crimes. The article had a chart that showed several modern-day criminals’ progression from smaller crimes to much more heinous ones. I’ve often wondered if this is the reason that media impacts the level of violence and irrational behavior in our society. Once my eyes get used to seeing something on a regular basis, I assimilate, and it’s not as horrifying as it once was.

One of the things that scared me about my second marriage was the level of emotional violence that took place. It happened on both sides as we both were not well, and we were fighting for our very sanity. But, I knew in the back of my mind that the journey from emotional violence to physical violence was not a long trip. At times, I could see how partners involved in abusive relationships could murder their spouse and kill themselves. The blindness of rage and the gradual escalation of dysfunctional behavior could easily lead there. It was that thought that scared me most and eventually got me out of there in one instance of further escalating violence. I knew it had to stop there for me. I’d reached my limit.

I talked to an expatriot from Brazil when I was at FedEx. I asked him if he missed his home country. “No,” he said. “There’s so much crime there. If you go out to a restaurant for dinner, there are criminals that will come in the restaurant and rob you at gunpoint.” I had no idea. I talked to another woman in Dallas recently who moved here from South Africa. In answer to the same question, I got the same answer. We are really lucky in this country that we have some semblance of safety. Yes, there is crime. There is more than there needs to be. Yes, there is violence, and none of it is acceptable. But, we are relatively safe here in this country. That, of course, depends on who you are talking to, but I can only speak for myself.

Another article in this month’s magazine was about group narcissism. It explained the phenomena that Elizabeth is talking about in her post. We may not be narcissists as individuals, but when we affiliate with a group, we become very narcissistic – believing anyone that is not with us is against us. Worse than that, we start to believe that anyone that is not on our ‘team’ is stupid, deranged, or dangerous. If I take the data from both articles, why wouldn’t this narcissism increase from emotional violence against others to physical violence. Do we really think that Hitler could have accomplished what he did without first laying the groundwork that the Jews were to be denigrated? And, he did it with emotional violence first and then escalated it to the one of the most heinous and unforgivable acts in history. And, normal people like you and me participated in this. They were not born murderers. They were caught up in a progression that was instigated by a sick governmental leader.

I believe we are all one step away from being somebody we don’t want to be. But, if we keep traveling in that direction by assimilating to ever increasing words of hate, brutal images and deeds, we can move effortlessly to a level where there is no turning back. I imagine there are many who commit heinous crimes that one day look back and wonder how the hell they got there. For many, the violence was in their homes. They were programmed for violence. That’s why abuse runs in families. And I imagine the violence in our world will increase as we get more and more used to it. The generations will assimilate.

If you are born in this country, you won the lottery whether you realize it or not. And the person next to you – whether they are gay or straight, Christian or Muslim, male or female, American or immigrant, Republican or Democrat – is in the same group as you. They are in the human race. Group narcissism? Let’s be narcissistic about the human race and get militant about getting rid of all kinds of violence … starting with your own.

 

 

Seducing Sleep with Chinese Medicine

Me and Marlene ... the Midlife Moments famous Acupuncturist

Me and Marlene … the Midlife Moments famous Acupuncturist

I’ve been having some pretty intense anxiety and insomnia for the last couple of weeks. My brand of insomnia starts with mild anxiety that impacts my sleep. I fall asleep pretty easily, but I wake up at 2 or 3 and can’t go back to sleep. When I wake up in the middle of the night like that, I’m usually in some state of mild to severe panic. I know that it’s my anxiety, so there’s no real danger, but my body is revved up all the same. There’s no amount of prayer or lavender or melatonin or yoga that will help me get relaxed enough to sleep. The longer it goes on, the more I panic when I wake up. I hate insomnia. Being tired all day makes my body feel more anxious which aggravates the whole cycle.

I was at a point last weekend where I decided that I was going to get back on my anti-depressant which helps with my anxiety. I called a friend to talk about it, and she concurred that if I’m thinking about it, I really need to consider it. So, I started considering it, and I remembered that my severe hypoglycemia disappeared after I got off the drug. I really can’t get back on that one again with that side effect. I don’t need blood sugar issues. I’d need to go back to my doctor and see what else is out there. Then, I thought about acupuncture. I’ve used it in the past when I was anxious – even when I was on the medication – and it really helped calm me down. So, I decided I would start a regimen of regular acupuncture treatments for the next couple of weeks along with whatever Chinese herbs they prescribe for me and see if that works. If it doesn’t work, I’m open to trying some new meds. I just hate to get on a long-term solution to a short-term problem.

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I made an appointment with Stewart whose acupuncture practice is in walking distance of my house. I’ve seen him a couple of times, and I really like him. He was a pre-med student who decided to become an acupuncturist. I saw one acupuncturist here who was really pushy and didn’t seem to want me to be a partner in my treatment. It’s really important to me to be given full information so I can make my own decisions about my health care. I’m stubborn anyway, and I don’t like to be told what to do. Tell me my options, and let me decide. Otherwise, I get really grumpy. So, I went in to see Stewart, petted the office dog and told him what I was going through. We talked while he placed the needles in the places where he needed to put them, and then I rested while the needles did their magic. I feel like I’m floating on a cloud when I’m having acupuncture. A lot of people sleep, but I actually get really alert and clear-headed. I feel high. It’s pretty amazing. Before I left, he recommended some herbs and gave me the protocol to take them.

The herbs are pills … big pills. But, they are soft, and I can chew them. They have an earthly flavor that was distasteful at first, but it doesn’t bother me now. I take them 4 times a day, 4 at a time. It cost me $25 for 90 tablets. I felt an immediate change in my temperament after taking them. At first, I would start to feel anxious again before the next dose but as the days passed, I started to feel better all the time. I even started to feel a little lift in my step. I actually was eager to run on Thursday night and felt energetic enough to do some speedwork. I was still waking up in the middle of the night though. I wasn’t panicked, but I still couldn’t relax. I texted my Memphis acupuncturist and asked her for something for sleep. She said she had a ‘kick-ass’ sleeping potion she could make. I jokingly asked her if it was a pill, a tea or if you smoked it. She sent me a customized blend in the mail. It’s called Sleepy #3. The elixir is a powder that you mix into hot water. It makes a somewhat distasteful tea. I received it yesterday, and I followed her instructions to take it two hours before bedtime. An hour after I took it, I started to feel naturally sleepy. It wasn’t a sleeping pill-type sleepy. It was just a natural really sleepy feeling.

I woke up this morning at 5 AM. This is my regular get-up time so I can walk my dog in this unbearable heat. I have to do it before the sun comes up. I wanted to dance with joy! I slept through the night and had amazing dreams. And I didn’t feel groggy at all. On my walk, all I could think about was how much I love Chinese medicine. Here I am a week later feeling no anxiety and sleeping like a baby!! With no drugs!! And no nasty side-effects!! I thought of all the things that those magical needles have cured in me … my depression … anxiety .. a nasty stomach virus … a 5 year old back pain … and even a relentless cold. It’s just amazing.

My new herbs...amazing.

My new herbs…amazing.

Chinese Medicine is thousands of years old. It’s so much older than Western Medicine that it’s not even funny. I think its hilarious that we call it ‘alternative’ medicine. Why is there a ‘primary’ medicine, anyway? Isn’t medicine of any kind medicine? Every acupuncturist I’ve had – and I’ve had 4 – know that Chinese Medicine has some limits, and Western Medicine has a place in any person’s healthcare regimen. Chinese Medicine is designed to help the body heal itself. Natural herbs and energetic healing increase the immune system’s capabilities and help the body do what it does best. But in some cases, a bigger intervention is necessary. That is where Western Medicine is helpful. Why doesn’t Western Medicine realize that it’s not a one size fits all.

My doctor in Memphis was open to ‘alternative’ therapies, but I had to bring them up and seek them out. He had no information to give me. He just did believe it was hogwash. He would offer me a prescription for ‘that’, and I’d push back and tell him that I don’t really want a prescription. I wanted to know what was wrong and what was causing it. I wanted to try a few things before I commit to a prescription. It’s so easy to get a script filled, but when I do that, I’m committing to something that I’m probably going to take for the rest of my life. Of course, I don’t think of it like that when I’m wanting the issue to go away, but it’s a lifetime commitment. I don’t take it lightly. When I was on my Lexapro, I had to go in every 6 months to get a new script. I pushed back and asked that I get a year’s script since I’d been on it so long. My doctor said he couldn’t because if something went wrong and he got sued, he’d have to show in court that he saw me every 6 months to regulate the prescription. So, I had to take time off work every six months to go in, get weighed and look my doctor in the eye. The irony is that all along I had a major side effect of the hypoglycemia and neither of us had any idea. I still wouldn’t know that the medication was causing that if I was still on it.

I asked my acupuncturist if these herbs did the same things for my body as the prescription drugs. He said it should but there was no side effect profile. I didn’t actually believe it would help. I’ve bought all of this stuff at Whole Foods and never really saw much difference. But, these herbs have REALLY helped.

With Western Medicine, I had to make an appointment with my doctor sometimes a month in advance, sit in a waiting room with a lot of sick people, sign a document about who was going to pay for these services along with a threat to sue me if I don’t and then be pushed and prodded through a lot of unnecessary procedures. And, heaven forbid if I forgot to ask him something or had a question afterwards. I’d have to call the nurse’s station, leave a message, wait for hours or sometimes days for a call back and then receive an answer that may or may not answer the question at all. It was like getting in to see the President. With Stewart, I called that day to get an appointment AFTER working hours, sat in the waiting room with his lovely standard poodle, was greeted by Stewart, treated by Stewart and he even made the financial transaction at the end. And I had a question the next day. I called, and he answered the phone and answered my question. It’s just so civilized. I’ve been friends with my acupuncturists – all of them. They want to know ALL about my life because that’s part of the diagnosis process. They share their health journey with me if it’s applicable to my situation. It’s a true partnership, and they’ve even negotiated pricing and rates with me for the financial piece.

The main thing …. the thing that really keeps me coming back … is it works. I would ask Marlene in Memphis to ‘fix this’ and ‘fix that’, and she fixed it all with her Chinese magic. Acupuncture is an art as well as a science. Every practitioner has a different style. The fact that I haven’t seen Marlene in a year, and I could text her to provide me with some kind of amazing sleep elixir that works is astounding. I couldn’t talk to my doctor on the phone …. much less text. That would be blasphemous. Oh yeah, and I would bring Ashok with me to my appointments in Memphis. She knew the word acupuncture meant Marlene. I don’t see that happening at my doctor’s office!

When I got my colonoscopy at 50, the doctor’s office called to get a list of my prescriptions. I told him I was on Lexapro, 10 mg. There was silence. He asked what else. ‘That’s it,” I answered. Crickets. “What? I’m usually here for 15 minutes taking this stuff down,” he laughed. I wish he’d call back today. I’d be the one being silent. “None,” I’d say. “Have a nice day. I’m going for a run.”

Looking for the Grand Adventure: The Elusive Attitude

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I was talking with a girlfriend yesterday who also suffers from generalized anxiety. People who don’t have it just don’t understand how awful it is. No matter how much I try to ‘let go’, ‘cheer up’, ‘count my blessings’ or ‘turn it over’, my body and my mind latches onto an issue or a concern or a fear with a vice grip that cannot easily be released. What I know about the study of the disorder is that it’s not really what’s going on outside of me that’s causing it, it’s a chemical imbalance in my brain that causes an intense physical and emotional reaction to any kind of stress … even normal daily stress. It’s more complicated than it appears to people who don’t suffer with it.

The truth is that anxiety is really painful, and what’s even more painful is the illusion that I’m doing something wrong, and I SHOULD be able to get over it. The truth is that sometimes I can move through it with some talk or support or ‘right-thinking’. But, as often as not, it grabs ahold of me, and nothing I do can make it better. I just have to ride it out. The last week or so, I’ve had insomnia. It’s usually caused by ramped-up anxiety, but then the insomnia makes it worse because my brain chemicals get all out of whack from the lack of sleep. It’s a vicious cycle that takes some pretty regular intervention to break. It won’t be over in a day. It might be over in a week. It may also last 6 months. I never know. And the longer I’m in a state of hyped-up anxiety, the more prone I am to the crash – depression. It’s why I try to do things to keep me on an even keel and keep my brain chemicals balanced on a regular basis. It’s easier to stay out of it than to get rid of it once it’s here. I hate anxiety.

So, I’ve been working with my thougt patterns around some things, and one of the things I’ve been thinking about is what I want to do … be … experience next. In order for me to be happy, I need to have change and variety. The problem is my anxiety doesn’t see change in the same way that my heart does. My anxiety wants to talk about what could go wrong. What if this happens? What if it doesn’t work out? What if it’s the wrong decision? What if you die in your house all alone and get eaten by your cats? A friend of mine who is an ENFP and doesn’t struggle with adventure told me that I had to reframe it and think of life as a grand adventure and how exciting it will all be. I can reframe it every now and again, but my anxiety is relentless. So, I’ve been saying affirmations and trying to shift my thinking in order to step into the power of being who I am and setting out on an adventure without analyzing it to death. Thus, the insomnia ….

I signed up for this daily email called ‘Notes from the Universe’. It’s interesting because you write down what you want more of in your life when you sign up, and I think the ‘messages’ are tailored somewhat for you. So, this morning I got this:

Tell me, when you think of taking consistent action in the general direction of your dreams, Sharon, do you imagine discipline, stamina, work, sacrifice, monotony, courage, and strategies, or are you thinking adventure, discovery, new friends, excitement at the crack of dawn, magic, surprises, fun, laughter, and, on occasion, the Macarena?

Hmmm … I guess there’s a part of me that believes that I don’t deserve my dreams. There’s something inside me that believes that life should be about work and suffering  and practicality and doing the right thing. There’s also a part of me that WANTS to believe that I am worthy of having my dreams, that God created me for a purpose that is much bigger than myself, and that my dreams are the spark that lights the path in that direction. I’m caught in this bloody dance of trying to keep bad things from happening and wanting so much more than that. It just seems like my anxiety keeps me in a place of mitigating damage instead of opening my heart to the possibilities of this beautiful life. I want to feel the explosion of positive energy that propels me into my place of power where I can write and teach and dream and love more than I ever dreamed possible. I pray that this noose of anxiety lets go before I leave this planet so I can take my proper place among the stars. I know God doesn’t want any of us to live small, meaningless, mundane lives. Today I’m going to think of  “adventure, discovery, new friends, excitement at the crack of dawn, magic, surprises, fun , laughter” and maybe even do the Macarena. Anybody game?

Pawpaw’s Watermelons

I don't have a pic of us eating watermelon, but I'm sure we had one after this!

I don’t have a pic of us eating watermelon, but I’m sure we had one after this! That’s Pawpaw on the left.

I sliced up a delicious cantaloupe for dinner tonight as a side dish to my summer veggie omelet. Every time I eat cantaloupe or watermelon, I’m reminded of my Pawpaw King. After he retired from the Standard Oil Co (today’s Exxon), he started a huge garden that took up acres on our property. He grew everything. We ate mounds of veggies all summer long and spent hours shelling peas, shucking corn and picking fruits and veggies for the freezer in the winter. I got so sick of fresh produce. I remember complaining about all the vegetables all the time, and Momma would tell me one day I would appreciate it. I didn’t see how. What I didn’t know is that not everybody had the gift of fresh vegetables, and that’s all we ever had. I never even touched the store-bought stuff until I got out on my own. And, she was right. I would love to have all of those veggies in my back yard now.

He grew all of that stuff for us, but his favorite space in the garden was where he grew his melons. He grew watermelons and cantaloupe. We called cantaloupe mushmelons. We ate our mushmelons with salt and pepper, and our watermelons with salt. Pawpaw was obsessed with watermelons. We ate them twice a day in the summertime. We had a picnic table between our house and theirs, and we had watermelon in the heat of the afternoon and after dinner. On some occasions, we’d cut a third one, too. And if anybody came over, we’d definitely cut a watermelon. We were always icing melons because you know you can’t eat them at room temperature.

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I can still see those watermelon feasts as plain as day. Pawpaw was skinny, skinny and super high energy. Nobody in our family is skinny. But, he was always doing something, and I imagine he burned calories like a furnace. He would wrap his arms around a watermelon and lug it over to the picnic table while we waited for him to cut it. He had a big fat butcher knife, and he’d stab the melon with it. He’d exclaim how pretty it was or be disappointed that it was not ripe. He had plenty so if it wasn’t ripe, we wouldn’t waste time eating it. He’d just get another. After he cut it most of the way, he’d open it up with his hands leaving jagged edges on the sides that weren’t sliced with a knife. No matter how many times we ate watermelon, he always reacted with an expression that made me think he was seeing a watermelon for the first time. When I buy watermelons today, I still feel there’s a great mystery to getting a good one, and I slice it with eager anticipation to see if it’s a good one or one that’s not ripe. I don’t have a garden with plenty of melons. so it’s a huge disappointment if it’s not a good one. I usually ask the produce guy to pick me a ‘good ‘un’.  Pawpaw would probably faint at the price of melons today.

After he’d cut it, he’d slice it into quarters the long way and then slice it again into 8ths. We’d take our butter knives and eat our slice, flicking off seeds and spitting them across the yard. He always told us if we swallowed them, we’d grow watermelons in our stomach. We had our container of Morton salt on the table for handy use. We didn’t use plates or napkins of any kind, and I remember having watermelon juice all over my arms and legs by the end of such a feast. As I got older and more persnickety, that’s the part I hated the most. I didn’t want to get the sticky juice all over me. But, Pawpaw didn’t care. He loved his watermelons, and he could not understand …. and probably didn’t even trust … anyone who didn’t like watermelons.

Once summer got started, Pawpaw would head up to Washington Parish in Louisiana to get a load of watermelons. Washington Parish is famous for its watermelons, and Pawpaw appreciated them enough that he’d make the drive with a little trailer and buy a whole trailer load. Some years he’d make the trip more than once. I imagine he loved talking to the farmers up there about their melons. In the summertime, he never went on any long trip without a trunk-load or a trailer load of his favorite sweet snack. My brothers and sisters and I still laugh about the long trips we’d take to Destin in the summer. Today, the drive is shorter, but back then, there were no interstate highways, and, of course the speed limits were lower. He’ d drive about 35 miles an hour the whole way because he was worried about his watermelons. He’d pull off on the side of the road frequently because he had to ‘shift’ the watermelons. It took us forever to get to the beach, but we damned sure had our watermelons for snacks when the day got long and hot.

My second husband loved watermelons, too. He laughed at me with my salt on my watermelon. And, he would eat small servings. I’d cut my 8th slice and sit down to eat it. and He’d tease me because I was making a pig out of myself. I’ve seen people slice them in round slices. It somehow seems sacrilegious for me not to cut it the same way Pawpaw did. Besides, there’s not the suspense and the ‘pop’ of the melon that precludes the peek inside of that beautiful red fruit. Pawpaw would take a bite of every melon and go on and on about how sweet it was. I used to think that some were sweet and some weren’t, but for some reason, ours were always sweet. I still look for the ones that aren’t sweet. I’ve never really found one. I think Pawpaw just loved the sweetness of that ruby red fruit so much that when it hit the tip of his tongue he was elated every single time.

I don’t buy watermelons all the time now. With one person in the house, they go bad too quickly. But, at least once a summer, I have to buy one. I have to admit when I moved into this house and walked out the squeaky screen door and saw my picnic table, I immediately thought it would be a great place to eat a watermelon. When I do buy them, I invite Pawpaw to have them with me. He always obliges. I have to cut it, but I hear him as clear as day exclaiming, ‘It’s so sweet!’ And I giggle as I slide that salted chilled fruit past my teeth and drip watermelon juice down my arm. This one’s for you, Pawpaw. :)

 

Why the Hell Not, Girlfriend?

Two of my girlfriends just moved cross country to start new life adventures, and one is about to move across the world to start a new adventure in 12 days. We are all over 50 and rocking it. I love the energy they are tapping to make big, wholesale changes and start over. My friend Nancy who is starting a new adventure in North Carolina complete with getting her bachelor’s degree posted this in our little private chat room this morning:

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Damn straight, Nancy girl! Why the hell not? One of my other friends just moved to Charleston to start a writing career. She posted this placard yesterday on Facebook.

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I watch my parents as they have a ball out in Red River NM every year. They are making friends all over the country, and their life continues to be full of adventure and fun even into their 70s. What if they had said they were too old to go try something new 10 years ago when they started going out there and had sat their butts at home in their rockers in Pierre Part? They would have missed so much. They took a chance that it would be great, and it has been. The verdict is still out on my friends who just moved to Nashville and Charleston, but my guess is that they will be the better for it. You can’t help but grow from something as big and exciting as relocating to a beautiful place.

I was searching for something this morning, and I found this article on the ten best cities for single women to live. It just so happens that Charleston and Nashville are on the list. Hmmmmm … wow … that sounds interesting. What if I chose to relocate to a city that is a great place for single women? I never thought about that being a motivator. Why the hell not? Well, my mind of course starts going to last year’s move. Ugh … the expense of it … the hassle of relocating .. the physical aches and pains of packing.. moving .. and setting up a new house. Yeah, maybe it doesn’t sound all that good after all. Plus, there’s the very real issue of finding a job in a new locale. Unless it’s in the cards, it may be pretty darn difficult to do. I was chatting with my friend Lisa who is the new Nashville resident, and she said her move about killed her. What if … I asked her .. we started a moving company for single women over 50?

Hmmm … let me see. If I had my dream moving company for women over 50 – me, to be exact – it would be one that took care of everything.  I think I could call it – Why the hell not, Girlfriend? We could capitalize on the woman newly divorced or tired of the local dating scene or the ones that are just ready for the next step career-wise. They could call 1-800-HELLNot, and one of our perky, happy single women over 50 would answer with ‘Thank you for calling Why the Hell Not, Girlfriend? Are you ready for your next big adventure?’ We could help them with everything from finding a new job in their field to setting up their new profile on Match.com in the new area. Once we secure their high-paying job working with the nicest people in the world, me and my girlfriends who have just moved can send them tip sheets on how to afford moving on a budget OR offer them our services for our high-end ‘Moving as a Vacation Package’. This package includes hot movers who come in and lovingly pack your stuff while they go on and on about how hot you are. They will cook your dinner in between packing boxes and even bring you flowers and Godiva chocolates. They’ll make sure that your moving experience is one of a kind and your every need is met including an extensive stress relief service that includes massages and chilled wine or BlueBell ice cream. Whatever you do on your own time is your business. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!

I actually wish this service existed right now. One of my friends confessed that when she moved last time she moved with a man precisely because it was a ticket out of where she was. There were warning signs all over the place that this was not a long-term relationship, but the adventure took her out of a job she hated and provided a new, presumably exciting future. She described it as “I was waiting at a bus stop, and CRAZY JERK was the bus that came along.” Well, why couldn’t my company provide the bus? There would be no heartbreak afterwards or some crazy male that needs extricating from your abode. The more I think about this, the more sense it makes. I’d love to be a CEO of my own company, and I can look at that list of ten cities and pick one for my next adventure myself. And, if it doesn’t work out, I’ll have my own company that can move me to the next adventure – stress-free!!

I don’t have the phone number up and running yet, so please don’t start calling right away. If you are ready for your next 50-something adventure, you might want to check out this article on re-inventing yourself after 50. I’m sorry, boys, I can’t help you on this one. This is a gender-exclusive service. You’ll have to create your own adventure yourself. I’ve always heard that it’s a man’s world. You’ve had your turn. It’s our turn now. Why the hell not, girlfriend?

 

What’s the Matter with Young People?? Or What’s Wrong with Us Geezers?

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The other day at work, a couple of co-workers were having a discussion about young people these days. We are securing the licensing to use a gaming-type learning activity on managing a budget. It will be available free of charge to all community and technical college students in the state. It’s really cool. The player starts with a monthly budget, and they have just secured an apartment. There are regular expenses, unexpected expenses and social choices to make over money. In one unexpected expense, the player had a great party Saturday night, but in addition to the party expenses, the cops showed up, and they have additional costs associated with that to pay. Uh … oh …now the next few month’s budget is shot. I actually don’t enjoy playing it because it’s too much like real life, but I would have loved to have had it when I first got out of school.

One of my friends made the comment that kids these days know nothing about how much money it takes to live. Well hell, neither did I. We didn’t talk about money growing up. I had no idea how much my Dad made or how much anything cost. I knew how much groceries cost because I would shop with Momma. I knew that it was a lot by the look on her face every time the cash register spit out her receipt. And, I know how mad she got when my brothers would eat most of what she bought the same day she brought it home. I could tell money was something to fret about. I just didn’t what to do about it. When I got my first job after college, I took a reporting job at a newspaper in Harlingen TX for $225 a week. I absolutely had no clue if I could live on that. I was a college graduate, and I just assumed that surely this would be enough. I never even did the math. As soon as my car needed tires, my budget was screwed. And I had to leave during the day during the summer because I couldn’t afford to pay the electricity bill with the A/C running all day. I had no clue about money, either.

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As I trained managers over the past 10 years, the subject of today’s young people has come up over and over. Their tendency to change jobs frequently has boomer managers shaking their heads as the old theory of staying in a job for an extended length of time was some kind of proof of … of what … ??? I don’t know, but for some reason it was seen as desirable. And, I still hear it. They move around too much. They just quit if they don’t like the job. They leave if they can’t get promoted quickly. And, what is the problem with that exactly? I know this. In the past 25 years of my work life, employers had no issue letting people go if it didn’t suit their needs. When I first started working at Whirlpool, I was part of a class of 25 that started on the same day. It was a great job with a great company. We went through a 6 week new hire orientation, and two weeks after we got out, they laid off half the class. Now, most of these people quit other jobs for this two month stint for nothing. It wasn’t proof of anything bad about Whirlpool. It was business. Why would it be bad for an employee to leave a job that’s not a good fit for them? That’s business, too.  Why keep investing in something that is not working? I never had much empathy for these managers and their outdated ideas about these ‘young people.’ I basically told them that the boomers are retiring. If you need people in jobs, you are going to have to learn to adjust. If not, they don’t lose – we do.

I actually wish I was born in this generation. I never did fit the baby boomer mold of wanting to work all the time, forsaking my personal life. The same people complaining about young people are the same ones that raised them. When I bring that up, they say they didn’t raise theirs that way. Well, somebody did. Or, maybe nobody did – or maybe their ex did – and maybe that’s the problem. One of the things that boomers don’t like is that ‘kids these days don’t want to work’. Well, I’ll tell you I’ve seen them work their butt off but it’s a different mode of working than what I do. I was struggling to put together a guide when I was in FedEx. It wasn’t my strong suit, and I found the research laborious. We brought in this intern, and in literally a week, she had that thing done. They can tear up research and technology. They know how to navigate it in a way that I will probably never understand. And, who says that the number of hours somebody works makes them a better worker. How many of us boomers and Gen X-ers regret our long hours and intense focus on career-building to the detriment of relationships? These kids are the ones that were left at home. No wonder long hours are not attractive to them. They were the ones without Moms and Dads while the mighty dollar consumed their attention. To be fair, jobs were scarcer back then, and you had to do it to make it, but it was not preferable. I imagine we’re just jealous that we didn’t get to live our lives they way they will get to.

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I’ve also heard from several people about the number of questions they ask. When I went to work, I didn’t ask questions. I felt like if I asked questions, it showed I didn’t know how to do the job, and there was this unapproachable image about ‘authority’. It’s still there in most workplaces. Workers in our generation feel like when you’ve made it to a certain level you’ve paid your dues, and you are owed respect. No matter if you are an unbelievably incompetent asshole. It doesn’t matter. Because of your position, you are owed reverence. These kids don’t see that. They’ve been brought up in worlds where information is accessible. They either don’t have to ask anybody, or they see authority figures as resources. If they have a question, they ask. And they expect you, too. The passive-aggressive style of ‘testing’ people to see if they can figure it out doesn’t fly with them. If you want something, you ask. Otherwise, they will move along to a place where they are respected for their skills. I actually really like that approach. It just seems so much more human.

We have to remember that this generation has never and will never have job security. With the state of the economy, they will probably have a much lower standard of living than we do. My generation actually never had job security either, but we had the illusion that we should. This generation has no illusions about that. A job …. is a job … is a job… and there’s more where this one came from – or they’ll make their own. My friend Jessica doesn’t even think about getting an employer. She’s going to do her own thing in her own way. She’s often said she’s glad she doesn’t have to worry about putting up the workplace BS that I do. In my mind, I can’t imagine that, but I really wish I’d had that mindset … or could even find it now. In my field, we look at employment trends 10 years out so we can prepare the workplace. The boomers are moving on. And there were a lot of ‘em. There will be vacancies and lost organizational knowledge everywhere. It’s just starting to happen, but we’re not anywhere near the bubble. We will need these young people desperately, and we will need them to have business knowledge to run our world. We have no choice but to work with them and deal with them on their level. Our arrogance will only hurt us and the economy, and that’s not a very good legacy.

I’m glad the world is changing. There were outdated dysfunctional beliefs in the workplace that crushed innovation, and in some instances killed companies. Know who should have been the Amazon of our time? Think about it. Who had regional centers all over the country? Who was able to sell products as diverse as pre-fabricated homes via the US Mail? Who had long-standing relationships with manufacturers with all kinds of goods? Who had that institutional knowledge of serving customers all over the country? Who had generational relationships with families in this country? What ever happened to Sears and Roebuck? That’s where my Grandfather bought all kinds of stuff. They knew how to do it. But, when the internet came out, their board was populated with people who were older and could not fathom the sustainability of technology, and they didn’t want to re-invent themselves. Too top-heavy with boomers and traditionalists, they watched the internet move onto to newer and younger people who had the courage to change the world. I feel really sad when I see Sears because they should have been great still. Arrogance kills so many of our great companies. I hope our youth with their new-fangled ideas will show us stuff we can’t even imagine, and I can’t wait to cheer them on.

TGIF … What the Crap?

This morning I walked outside to my car, and it looked like The Birds (from Alfred Hitchcock) fame camped out in the tree above my car. It was covered … .I mean covered … in bird doo-d00. It was disgusting, and it was all over the handle, too. I drove over to the gas station near me and paid the $5 to get the quickie cheap car wash. I drove through, and half of the car was clean but there was a wide swath up the hood and on the roof that was still completely shat on. So, I drove around again and put the code in. No go. I drove over by the store and went in and asked the young lady if I could have another code because the car wash didn’t clean my car. “No,” she said. “I can’t get another code.” “Well, you go look at my car. I’m not paying $5 for that crappy car wash,” I told her. She proceeded to give me my $5 back. Why she didn’t do the cheaper option and give me another freaking code, I have no clue. But, I thought as I left, I hope this isn’t a sign this is going to be a ‘crappy’ day.

Things did get better from there, but they took a little doing. I eventually got the car washed again, and there’s a little crap left on it but not much. My acupuncturist sold me a new herb called Calm Spirit, and I’m going to credit my laid back, positive mood on those herbs. Also, my friend Gretchen cheered me up by sending me this unbelievably cute and upbeat video about a very, very creative pig. I hope it makes you laugh out loud – even if you got crapped on today, too.