Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Life I Want

It seems to be the irony of my life that the only way to get me to stop moving was to put me in a neck brace for 4 weeks. On day 2 after my spinal surgery I was already ready to blow my brains out. I knew it would be bad, but just how much awful can television get if the only thing I can find on a Friday night is a rerun of the 1972 version of the Heartbreak Kid. I’m not good at this laying low thing, but through the magic of organization, it can be a time to review the past and become hopeful for a great future.

It started on day 3. Beginning small, I sorted out and clipped together the business cards of restaurants I have been to into the states of the union, their neighborhoods and those that I have not been to but want to try. I next attacked the larger, challenging, travel file drawer, which is divided into travels past, travel in the near future and travel done and gone.

The travels past drawer includes the local information and restaurants we went to on our vacations (Italy, California, Southwest and Greece, et al). This collection of ticket stubs, town maps and event schedules that dates back too long to be relevant makes me think of whether I should continue to keep them. Until I have no room, I’ll keep them for the sake of good memories. Travel of the near future holds newspaper clippings and magazine articles on places yet to see (Austin, Berlin, New Orleans. Machu Picchu, et al). There is a sub-folder in the works for areas in upstate New York that my husband and I may consider retiring to. That folder also includes St. Augustine, Florida. All of these represent things to come but the retirement one is just so hard to commit to at this time. Then there is the folder of places I visited doing things I will never do again. After having spinal surgery for the second time, I probably have to give up skiing. I love it, skiing is great but if I fall, it could be a real end to do alot more. It saddens me to do so, but I look at my brochures from Banff and Whistler and know I skied in some of the best places ever. I wish I skied Aspen or Vail, but I didn’t and won’t. But I will surely live, literally. The travel collection just represents what I want to live for but it is my health that I want the most. My restaurant visits and travel days rely on my being able to eat anything I want, go anywhere I can and to keep my money (and make more of it) so I can afford it all. Aside from relieving me of my pain, I had this operation in the hopes that I could go on to lead the life I want. Last night, I booked a flight to Belize in October; something different and maybe a new door. I learned to ski at 50. I might learn to swim at 60, or I might not. It just matters that I have my health and I can try.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Inside Anthony

There are things that people do in life that makes sense to them but that others do not understand . These are individuals who put themselves out of their comfort zone, take chances and work to achieve their goals with all the mental and physical strength they have. Prepared, they go to battle to conquer their chosen task, worried about the outcome yet willing to take the risk. That is my son, Anthony.

Those who know Anthony, would describe him as a kind soul who puts the feelings of others ahead of his own. Much like the superheroes of movies and books that come to the rescue of those in trouble, Anthony is the one his friends and family call when they need help, advise or a good ear. He supports them and is there for them. But there is another side of him, the competitive side that pushes him beyond that self imposed Maginot Line. When he sets out to do something, watch out. He is in it to win and nothing or no one will divert him from his focus.

He got interested in boxing. First reading about it, to the point of becoming almost authoritative. He then went on to training at boxing gyms and not those glossy ones in the city for $200 a month. The ones in Paterson for five bucks at a time with experienced boxing trainers. Religiously, he trained every week and then on to sparing. And then, much to my concern, competing in the Golden Gloves.

I should not have been surprised when he told me he was going after the Golden Gloves. It was the natural path of action for Anthony. Many times, people talk about today’s young adults, called either the 20-Somethings or Generation Next, as slackers whose sense of accomplishment is in the thrill of the battle against the MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game) of World of Warcraft. It is not in Anthony's character to watch from afar. He needed to be in the game and do it himself.

Watching Anthony put himself out on the front line is thrilling to follow. From the moment he is in the game, he is focused on the techniques of boxing and how to apply them. His study of he game is analytical, viewing others before him, learning from their technique and then using the knowledge in the ring. It is almost better to watch the progression rather than the fight, which, given my peace, love and understanding background, I find difficult.

On the surface, the sport of boxing seems so uncharacteristic of Anthony. He goes out of his way not to harm those he loves or cares about. If you show him respect, he will pay you back with the same and more. If it is a choice between sacrificing his own comfort or enjoyment at the sake of his friend or family member, he will take the hit. Having said that, however I have known him to come home after a bar fight that always seemed to end in his favor. It is not in his nature to hurt anyone, yet he will stand up for what is right. Maybe he should have been born in an earlier time – during WWII perhaps.

Anthony fought two Golden Glove matches. He won the first one easily with a unanimous decision. Last night, he lost the second bout and his hope of attaining the title has eluded him. As the old saying goes, “he might have lost the battle, but he won the war”. I know, the battle he fought was not in the ring. It was his inward battle to overcome his fears. He put himself on the line, away from the comfort zone, in front of others. He is recognized, respected and loved by friends and family for all that. As is his nature, he will go on to find another challenge, leaving behind those fears. There might have been a more easier, less painful route, but that is not who he is. He takes the hard road, learning as he goes. It is more interesting and more rewarding. Because he is Anthony.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Growing Old and Growing Young

It has been 8 weeks since my daughter Christine moved to Miami. It was a good thing. With the help of a new loving friend, she decided to pull together all the things she loves and make a new life on her terms. I give her credit for being so sure of herself and be willing to leave her comfort zone. It was the natural thing to do - to take the plunge when you are young enough to recover. The problem was how those left behind, me, go on. We have been through hard times, my daughter and I. She was a rebellious kid during her middle school and high school years and I was a busy mom. It would have been nice if she took the straight path while I tended to the things that I needed to do. Plan their activities, cook their meals, and be the mom. It seemed to be a simple request but it was not to be. She was experimental and I had lots more to do but much more to learn. She was growing up and I needed to grow down. I needed to learn to understand what it was like to be part of her world. Life is funny and many times, you make up the rules as you go along. As it turned out, I taught her to be mature, and she taught me to be young. I often said I did not want to be one of those mothers that complained about the music of the day, that technology was too challenging and the current fashion styles were not for me. Somewhere in the early 90s, shirts were not tucked into the waistband anymore and jeans were constructed with lycra (that eliminated the bags in your ass). It was not until the day my daughter said to me "don't be afraid of the new styles, mom. They are your friend". Her words made sense. I was wearing baggy ass jeans with boring tops, tucked into the waist band. This was 1995 and time to free myself of the suburban housewife standard costume of sweatpants, sweatshirts and sneakers. Enter the straight leg, lycra blend jeans with a "huckapoo" style shirt, untucked topped with a purple suede jacket. Yes, thanks to my daughter, I was released. In the course of raising children, I discover how my daughter matured to a sensible woman. She then raised me to be part of the 21st Century. I started shopping at Express and Anthropology (within reason) as an alternative to Ann Taylor. I learned you can get something from each of these stores and not become the stereotype of a person who gave up fashion to be boring. My younger co-workers love that I dress a little youthful but with a sense of style. My daughter brought that to me. She reminded me of who I was before I was a mom. As I said, she is living in Miami now. I am surrounded by my boys. They tease me, make me laugh and love me. But to them, I am their mother. To my daughter, I was her mother but also her companion. It is a different relationship. Each are great, but each are different. Today, I wore a white bra under a white T-shirt. I was not sure it looked right but I wore it to work anyway. At work, I asked a young girl in my department if she thought it looked alright. She commented, in a polite way, that she thought I could get away with it. My daughter would have told me the truth. I'm glad she went but I miss her.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Why I Am In School

I have been involved in facilities management since I started working over 30 years ago. Beginning as the secretary to the manager of the services group, taking hot and cold calls, as they are known, from employees who were either too hot or too cold or in my view, just being a pain the ass. It was not a friendly world being in facilities during the 70s and 80s especially when you were not in a state of the art building. As a matter of fact, the offices where I worked had window air conditioners, linoleum flooring and ugly desks - and people were allowed to smoke. That was at a magazine where the writers wrote, the cartoonists drew and they didn't care what I did as long as I made them comfortable quietly and at little expense. That was my first job. I had no experience, no college education but I was ambitious and willing to learn. Many of my friends were not college grads going straight to a job out of high school and working out of a secretarial position to that of your bosses. I knew I wanted to do something more than just listen to these people complain, about their lack of comfort (why didn't they just work and put on a sweater). So I just kept at it and when my boss left, I took the position. During the 7 years I was the manger, I took classes in Facilities Management, asked questions and relied on my vendors to get me through the projects. Sooner than later, I became very confident in what I was doing, thinking I would be fine in my career as long as I worked my tail off and kept learning. That was then, when one could climb the ladder by outworking everyone else. It wasn't now. I left the workforce to have children and then went back around 1991. I was lucky as I got my old job back but things changed and while I wanted to go back to work, that old fire was not as bright as it was the first time around. The offices were better maintained with facility planning more of a engineering art than before. Offices were smoke-free (thank heavens) and it was important to know how to work through a real estate contract to know what you could or couldn't do. Again, I learned by diving into it loving this new professional way of handling the property. Facilities work, however isn't understanding of motherhood. I could no longer work till whenever. I had kids and I wanted to go home and have a life. I was mommy first and the job was a means of getting what I wanted out of life. I would have been fine, except there were others who were fresh out of college and would be able to work the hours I use to and suck up to the boss, like I use to. Between a young, enthusiastic college grade and me, the sleep deprived mother of 3, well after a 5 year run, I got laid off. Even then, I thought I could get by without that college degree. I was still able to find work, but in bad economic times, if the ax was to fall, it was usually on me. At first, I welcomed the opportunity to stay home with the kids and collecting unemployment. I was able to be that girl scout leader, run car pools and participate in school events. But when I wanted to go back to work, it wasn't always that easy. I had to go back to facilities work as it was all I knew, but the competition from those with engineering or architectural degrees was fierce. The final blow came when in my last job, my position was eliminated and I was told to find another job within the company. I was working as a project manager for construction and did lease administration too. They didn't want that position any more and, as I found out, the skills did not translate to another so easily. I was older and did not have the energy to go out and find another job. I took a lesser position within the company just to stay. I was now working in the accounting group. I realized then, I never really did what I wanted to do - just what I had to do. It finally got to me. The working world did not care if you had the skills they were looking for. They wanted that degree plus the skills. Fed up and mad, I signed on to an online college. It was great. I did well and 18 months later got my associates degree and a promotion. Still in accounting but working at something I really wanted - that degree. I was in my mid-50s. Last year was the first time I actually stepped into a classroom. I was the oldest person in the class, maybe in the student body. As I took other courses at the school, I came to find out, the teachers like me. I am not shy so I raise my hand and create dialogue with them and the class. I bring historical experience to the class and they bring the insight into today's world to me. I have learned all about online video gaming through my Media and Technology course (ask me about Everquest, Madden and Farmville). Having never traveled much domestically, I became aware of the beauty of the national parks and the sinister pollution of the Hudson River in the 70s through my environmental science course. I have read about the illegal alien problem that dates back to the early 1800s leading up to today. I am not done but getting there and I refuse to be one of those people my age who does not get what this new technology is all about. Tomorrow is my first day of class for this new semester. I am a third year student at a local state college working towards a Communication Arts degree in writing. I use to work for a company. Now, I am working for me.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Shakespeare In The Park

You must know that being a avid New York fan, the event that I so look forward to every year is the annual Shakespeare In The Park performance. Every summer, the Public Theater puts on 2 plays, usually by Shakespeare but not always, that are performed in the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Part of the reason I go is because I enjoy watching the play but it is also because it is a New York experience that you give up a pound of flesh and a deal of wonder to get these free tickets. Yet, I always go. This year, the repertoire included The Merchant of Venice and the role of Shylock is performed by Al Pacino. If New York is my city, Al Pacino is my actor. I absolutely have to go. Last time I went to the play in the park, I saw Hair (see post of August 5, 2008). While the play is the thing, the wait on line (not internet online, physically sitting on a line) before copping the tickets can actually amount to a pleasant way to spend 6 hours (weather permitting). You meet people, like you, that have sacrificed sleep, their morning and the rest of the day to do this. Once you take your place, if you have planned your day right, your time is productive and well spent. You read all those periodicals and news articles that were piling up, you take a nap and talk to your line neighbors about other NY events. I look around at the people walking or jogging through the park who look at me and my line mates not understanding the determination. I look back wondering why they aren't at work. This year, since the show was enhanced with a star, the line was longer and started earlier. Central Park doesn't open until 6 am so, thinking I was safe to leave the house at 5 am, I arrived to find the line started outside the park entrance of 82nd Street and went for about 6 blocks. Unfettered, I took my place and entered the park along with everyone else and found myself further away than I had ever been. The line monitor (security guy) pointed out, however that we were in front of the "Rock of Hope", where those in front of this point had a chance of getting tickets. I had already taken the day off, had all my reading material and my comfy sand chair with me. I took the chance and stayed. So did everyone else. Alas, things have changed since Hair. Taking a break from my spot, I walked up to the beginning of the line to see who occupied the "sure to get tickets". Strangely, they didn't look like the usual sleepy eyed, rumply clothed theater goers I typically saw. In fact, I questioning whether they really were here for the play or if they thought this was the line for a soup kitchen. A distinct odor of unsanitary sorts permeated the air as I passed them and one of them looked like this: Even with my liberal, somewhat Pollyanna attitude, I knew, this guy couldn't be here for Shakespeare or Pacino. No. I found out he was one of 10 homeless men hired by what you could call a manager of sorts to wait in line, and get tickets that the manager then sells for a couple of hundred dollars. They slept outside the park (which is what they do most nights anyway), got their tickets and received a percentage of the sale from the manager. Well it is now 1 pm and the distribution of tickets starts. My neighbors and I know it will be close but we rubbed the Rock of Hope wishing it had the magical powers to help us. We get close. We can't believe they are still giving out tickets. We start to believe and then are stopped. It is over, the monitor announces there are no more tickets. I am deflated - and then realize, we were just 10 people away.

Monday, July 5, 2010

It's always NY

With all the travels I have been doing or have done, I still can't avoid feeling there is no place for me other than New York City. It gnaws at me. Every time I think I want to live somewhere else, I find there is no where else. I blend here. I find myself being who I want to be because I can be in NYC. Don't kid yourself, the city is not necessarily for just the young and beautiful. It is for all. It is for those who are young and beautiful who go to the best clubs and lounges (like Anthony & Christine), or for the NBA Store (like Thomas) or for those that want the culture, free Shakespeare in the Park, the latest costume exhibit at the Met or brunch and a French foreign film at the Film Forum (like me). For Tony, well it just has traffic but when he gets to a place that has a great brunch and a lot of interest, he is happy. Yesterday, July 4th, it had fireworks. Theeee fireworks - the Macy's fireworks on the Hudson. We were up on the roof top deck of my cousin's apartment overlooking the Hudson. My cousin, over 60, living in the city and blending. We have the city in common if nothing else. We have been to the free concerts in Central Park with the Philharmonic, plays that have included Patti Lupone in Evita and Richard Burton in Equus. It has always been our common denominator. I have her and she has me. We blend in the city. And on July 13th, we have the concert in the park with Tchaikovsky and fireworks to look forward to. And every year, we have the Macy's fireworks on July 4th.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Tequila Sunrise

Vacations are a very personal thing. There are those who are looking for total relaxation, some want entertainment ala Vegas style, some seek lifestyle differences from what they have like a northeastern going to the southwest. For me, I like to do all of the above. With so little time and so much I want to do, taking a vacation involves planning to get the most of the trip within a limited amount of time. Starting in February, I started planning the trip of the year. This year, we considered the south of France, the beaches of Greece and the southwest states of America. While I am never one who considers the logical aspects of travel; economics of the time, the threat of attack, the latest in geological disasters, or the value of the dollar, I go where my heart tells me to go. My husband, however lives by facts and figures and decided it was the wrong time to go to Europe. We decided on the southwest end of America. I have to say, I am pretty good at planning a vacation. That is because I know what we like and how to pack in the most of a vacation without jumping from one hotel to another every night and finding what suits us. I also do not travel with kids (mine or anyone elses) or with other couples unless it is to a single place like the Jersey shore where all we do is sun bath, eat and drink which is not a bad time but different from traveling where you are always on the go. The "on the go" vacation should be made with limited personnel (a tip for those approaching the life without kids era of travel) who enjoy time with each other. I started with one itinerary but in the final 3 weeks, completely changed it. My philosophy, as it has developed, is that money isn't as important as being in the first class Presidential car of the Durango train where Roosevelt, Truman, and Ford sat. I thank my friends Gary and Kristen for not only helping me find the right course but costing me an additional $700 for the flight change and train ride - but it was worth it . Kristen said I should consider going to Santa Fe, a place she hadn't been but said was worth going. Why I trusted this logic doesn't make sense on paper but it worked in reality. Gary, my photography buddy, said I had to go to Durango where riding the train to Silverton through the Colorado Rockies was an amazing adventure. The bullet holes in the taverns of Silverton left standing from the good old days where the town's only activities consisted of mining and brothels was the coolest thing on earth. It has been proven that the best planned trips were when I trusted those with knowledge or some experience. I admit, both my friends were right. We flew into Albuquerque, drove to Santa Fe where we stayed for 3 days then on to Durango for another 3 days then to Sedona for 3 days. It ended in Scottsdale where we visited my cousin and her husband who live in the "house of toys" (will explain later). What I loved about the trip: everything. Most think of the southwest as a flat, dry desert which most of the area is - and then you hit Monument Valley. Shown in all those John Ford/John Wayne movies, this amazingly, sculptured landscape was a freak of nature that is the southwest's answer to the NY skyline. I loved it. Then there was Los Alamos where they built the first atomic bomb. In an area so serene, calm and desolate, a group of scientists developed the most deadly weapon of all time making the area more glamorous than it was. But the Aha Moment, by all means, was on the road from Santa Fe to Durango where a section of land was the inspiration of Georgia O'Keefe's paintings. It was the most underrated place I have ever seen with its beautiful landscape and garden of fossil remains. Why isn't this place listed as one of the top 10 places to see in New Mexico (duhhhh). So the Durango train. What is it about trains that attract everyone. Starting with kids under the age of 10, it becomes an obsession. They love it, they sometimes leave it for a few years but if you start out with trains, you end up with trains. Husband Tony started with trains when his father collected Lionels in the 50s. Father said it was for his son but Tony never was allowed near them until his father died and he fought to get them back. When he did, like those who built rooms in their home to accommodate their needs with wine cellars or bomb shelters, we built a 20x15' room in the basement of our first house which became the "train room". It was an attraction in our neighborhood that boy scout and girl scout troops planned outings to. I have to say, it was very cool. And so was the Durango train. It was on that train we met people, like us, traveling the country. Some retired, some who bought RVs and decided to travel around the country to where ever they wanted, whenever they wanted. It made us feel like we have so much to do, in so little time. It was great talking to those our age about our life, past and present and the Stetson hats and cowboy boots we would be buying after the ride. Oh, and I can't forget the "House of Toys". Always the collector, my cousin Lucy and her husband relocated from NJ to Scottsdale adding on to their collection of toys and other great stuff. I think the next sequel to Toy Story has to made with them in mind. It is great being with them. I was curious about how she made the transition from NJ to Scottsdale. My big fear leaving my comfort zone is where I will be lonely. Always a excellent quilter and crafter, Lucy told me she made friends by joining clubs and her husband, being a sports car fanatic, found friends through his interests too. The formula to enjoying life in the later years - have interests and be interesting. They make retirement and aging look good. People ask what was my favorite place. I can't be that specific. The reason I plan these vacations is to get a little city (Santa Fe), a little country (Sedona), and a little adventure (Durango). I got what I wanted, except for the cowboy boots which I am still hoping to get. They did look great on those women dancing to that country western band in Durango. But then, the dancers to the Cuban band in Santa Fe looked cool too even without the boots. Maybe I really could live away from NYC. For now, I just want to keep traveling.