Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Unexpected Sandwich Generation

As with many other people my age, I’ve recently gone from being a member of the glorious, perhaps infamous, Baby Boom Generation to being a member of the Sandwich Generation. I spent some time in this generation 15 years ago when my mother was terminally ill and I’m back in it again with my mother-in-law. We still have four children living at home and now we also have my mother-in-law living with us. I have spent the morning sitting by her bedside – talking with her, reading to her and listening to a CD of her own mother’s piano music. It’s been a tough morning, but just as we revel in the opportunity to care for our children, I am also finding the act of sitting here, caring for my mother-in-law, to be an opportunity to be relished. Being sandwiched between generations is, for sure, a tough ordeal, but the chance to help my husband’s mother, who has always been a wonderful mother-in-law, brings me, in some strange way, an unusual sense of peace and joy. It is an unexpectedly sweet sandwich.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Something New -- Las Vegas, Faux or Real?

A few years ago I gave my husband the book, 1000 Places to See Before You Die. The gift was not just the actual book, but the promise to travel with him to see many of the places. This year for Christmas my husband turned the table and gave me a four day trip to Las Vegas where we stayed at The Bellagio, one of the 1000 places. This was our first time in Las Vegas and we were both amazed by how unreal so much of the city seemed. There was the obvious – girls with fake this and fake that; the less obvious – a hotel hallway to our room that we later learned had taken us to a completely different building over a block away. There’s a fake New York and a fake Paris. We watched a highly touted water show, but it, too, seemed fake when compared to our experience of watching Old Faithful’s real geyser spewing up and meeting with a lightning bolt coming down. However, there has also been the real – breakfast “off the strip” at a place full of locals, the miracle of Hoover Dam, dinner conversations that belie our thirty-plus years together. On our last night in town we had dinner at a restaurant overlooking the faux lake in front of our hotel. We had what we considered to be the best table in Las Vegas – outside, next to the railing with the lights of the city as a backdrop to the lake. Every thirty minutes the water show, even though faux, would entertain us. When the accompanying music was the song, Proud to be an American, the tears running down my cheeks were real. It was a wonderful trip and, while I don’t think I need to visit Vegas again anytime soon, we did have a great time. I guess it doesn’t matter whether the surroundings are faux or real – what matters is that I know I am real.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Something New -- Tattoo!

I recently read about a local writer, Marc Acito, who did something new everyday for 365 days. It’s exhausting to think about how one would go about thinking up something new to do everyday, but I like the idea of continually trying new activities, of keeping my mind open to new ideas. After his 365 days were over, Marc said he’d go on trying new things, but not on a daily basis – perhaps weekly. For me, I think even weekly might be too stressful, so I’m thinking that I’ll just try to keep this idea in the forefront of my mind; I’ll try to remember to try something new on a regular basis, but without a firm commitment to the timing.

Along this line, I did something new yesterday, though not as a result of this challenge. Yesterday, after years of thinking about it, I became a tattooed lady. A friend’s 20 year-old daughter and I went together, along with a cheering section, and we both got tattoos. I won’t tell you where hers is, that’s her business, but mine is on my lower back and the image is two small, intertwined hearts – the same image that we used on all of our correspondence for our 30th anniversary celebration a year-and-a-half ago.

I’ve wanted a tattoo for many years, but for a long time I couldn’t figure out what image I’d use. Should it be a rose (for Portland), Mickey Mouse ears, something to do with the University of Oregon? I just couldn’t decide. However, once we started using the intertwined hearts I knew that was what I wanted. Then there was the matter of the pain. I’d heard from several people that getting a tattoo is a painful experience. I’m not very interested in exposing myself to pain, so that hindrance was an obvious reason to delay. This past summer when my friend’s daughter started talking about getting a tattoo, I knew that going with her would be the best way to get this done. So, we decided to schedule the appointment for her winter break and Friday was the day. It was a bit painful, but my image is so small that the actual time to apply the tattoo was only about five or six minutes. I handled it fine, I accomplished something I’ve wanted to do and now I’m thinking about what “something new” I’ll do next.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year - Year Two

One year ago today I began writing this blog. This morning I re-read that first entry; I wanted to see where I was one year ago. Overall, I’m pleased with what I’ve done this past year and writing this blog has been a big part of how I feel about 2008. I have been told that topics I’ve written about have touched people’s hearts or have been inspirational. I have been told that friends feel they know me better from what I have written. I have found the act of writing to be soothing to me personally; thinking about what I will write has helped me to be more aware of what is happening around me. I’ve tried to keep my topics positive, as much as possible; this helps keep my own outlook positive. When I’ve found myself feeling down, writing has helped to turn my mood around. I had also hoped to find more time for myself this past year and writing this blog has helped me eek out a little more time for myself, though I must admit that it’s not really that much time and it will probably be years before I quit dreaming of more.

Last New Year’s Day I also wrote that I wanted to learn to play the drums. Well, I haven’t mastered the drums, but I did force myself to participate in the Ladies’ Rock Band weekend in October (see my October archive for more information). It was such an incredible experience that I’m dragging my future daughter-in-law along and going back for more this October. I was really nervous about that weekend so I feel more of a sense of accomplishment for having done it than for finally sitting down at the drums and picking up my sticks.

The other area where I was looking for improvement was in weight loss and control – well, I guess nobody’s perfect. I gained instead of lost. Exercise is, and always will be, part of my daily life, but weight loss doesn’t just happen from working out. I figured out late in the year that stress and medication were affecting my metabolism, so I’m back on the weight loss bandwagon.

Overall, though, I’m really very happy with how this transitional year turned out. I approached fifty with gusto and excitement. My birthday was a wonderful day full of friendship and love. I feel good when I tell people I’m fifty (and even better if they act shocked). I have plans for this coming year that I know will be fun, help me grow and bring me joy. I know that there will be days of stress and frustration, but that’s okay. Whether my day is full of joy or overcast with stress, I have a wonderful support system in my husband, family and friends and I can always sit down here and organize my thoughts in my blog.