Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I keep thinking....

I keep thinking about the conversation I had with my friends at book club last night. They are about my age – maybe a few years younger – and both are professional hard working women – one a doctor and one a writer. And both don’t want to stop working. In fact, they are looking for future careers if they do retire from their current work. Like me they are afraid if they stop they will fall apart – emotionally, intellectually, physically. I know that working every day, getting up to exercise, getting ready for work with the makeup and the hair straightener and the Maxmara suits, then working with hordes of people, and continually making decision after decision keeps me young and with it. It keeps me up not only on the technology involved with my job but with what’s going on around me in my town, my state, my country, my world. I listen to the news on the way to work, I read my New Yorker or listen to the news at the gym, I talk to people about music and the movies and what’s the best place to buy a piece of salmon for dinner. If I stayed at home I wouldn’t have those contacts and opportunities. Like my friends said last night, we’d have no reason to get up and get out and find out about what’s going on in the world. We’d become ignorant and irrelevant. I can’t let that kind of life happen to me.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

No U-turn for me -- Na-ah!

So, yesterday I get called into by boss’ office and he pulls out a large gray envelope. He partially pulls out the contents – I suppose he was trying to prevent me from reading everything he had on the page in front of him – actually, that would be impossible with my old eyes – but, that’s another story altogether. And, he informs me he feels so strongly about my excellent work this year, he wants to give me some money. In fact, he said he already gave me some money and that it would be reflected on my next paycheck – with taxes taken out, of course. But, even with the bonus and the kudos, I can’t stay here.

No. I’m not about to make a U-turn. I’m going to stay on the road that goes toward the exit. In fact, I’ve actually started on it. During my meeting yesterday I asked to be taken off the list of people to work the next big proposal. They had wanted me to work it so I can mentor someone taking a lead position for the first time. Well, I’ll always be available for advice and counsel. That doesn’t mean that I have to do the hard work of the proposal and work the late hours as well.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Back in Manhattan Beach -- yeah!!!!

Before we left Portland yesterday we took the scenic route through the Columbia Gorge – the border between the states of Oregon and Washington and visited several waterfalls. We had to hike about a half mile to see one of them, the Bridal Veil, but it was worth it. Still cold, but not raining, we didn't mind the hilly and rocky canyon road . We also visited the Vista Point but couldn’t stand to be outside there – the wind chill made the temperature less than 10 degrees.
However, the highlight of the trip for me was seeing my friend, Kitty, who I write with at Esalen. It was such a treat to see how she lives. She has chosen to work only 16 hours a week so she can spend the rest of her time writing, painting, going to Esalen, seeing her grandchildren, gardening. Her lifestyle is a huge inspiration to me. Perhaps I can arrange my work life like that – not quit completely but work much fewer hours so I’ll have time to do my creative projects and see friends outside of work, and travel, and and and.....

Kitty's World

From the big round window of her art barn
I can see dense green foliage
and almost blinding rays of light
not usual for Oregon in late Fall.
Her home sits on 10 acres of forest.
I can't relate. That could mean 10 or even
100 miles to me, we live so smack close
to people and houses
on all sides.

My friend truly lives in the country –
her directions say, go past the tavern
and the old fashioned white church,
down a hill and up a little hill
and down a steep
and narrow paved drive
to my house that
you can't see from the road.

Inside the views and the art compete.
Do the pieces by Calder and Dali
and Picasso and Whistler,
sculptures of angels
and monkeys and turkeys,
rugs from China and India and Persia,
a buxom totem in the entryway,
and orchids that re-bloom larger
and larger each year
win out?

No, I don't think so.
Most spectacular are the
views of trees and lush greens
and the quiet haven
she's created
to write and paint in peace.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving -- and two more poems

This is the anniversary of the death of John F. Kennedy. I’ll never forgot the day he was shot in Dallas. I was at work – in old Building 60, in my cubicle. My boss sent his assistant around to tell us he had been shot. We stood by his door as the news came in over the radio, and within minutes we heard Walter Cronkite tell us that our beloved President Kennedy was dead. No more work was done that day.

And this is Thanksgiving Day in Portland. Here's two more poems from our trip:

The Luxury of Leisure Time

I’m reveling in this day already
and it isn’t even half over.
Early morning cuddling
without worrying about where
I need to be next,
a trip to the gym and a walk along Portland’s
main business street,
breakfast of salmon hash
at the elegant Benson hotel
across the street.
And now relaxing on the chaise
watching The View,
women’s TV, for the first time.
What a luxury or
maybe decadent excess
that’s oh so easy to get used to.
I’m not in a hurry to get up
and I have no reason to be.

Breakfast at The Benson -- Again

Through the wood paneled lobby
and down the carpeted stairs
we enter the London Grill.
Its tables covered with crisp
snow-white cloths,
Pachabel’s Canon playing in the background,
we are led to a table for four
near the back.
We’re hungry and order
unapologetically –Belgium waffles,
French toast, and a veggie frittata,
accompanied by toast and sausages.
But, alas, there’s too much for all of us.
We leave, full and warm,
climbing back up those stairs,
carrying those sausages in a little box
for Brendan’s dog, Hank.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The first poem

Like I promised here's the first poem from my Thanksgiving trip -- and not too upbeat at that. I get all excited about traveling, and then get turned off pretty quickly. I think the bottom line is I'm just more comfortable at home.

Flight to Portland

I’m squooshed in the middle seat.
The man to my left keeps
poking his elbow into my side
as he taps on his laptop.
The girl on my right snoozes
after gorging herself
on salted peanuts and chocolate chip cookies.

I’m bummed. One of my Bose earbuds
lost its cushion,
my book is in the overhead bin
along with my computer,
so, I’m using the address side of a magazine
advertisement to write this poem
of flying woes.
At least the baby has stopped screaming
my seatmate’s o.j. didn’t spill into my lap,
and I can still enjoy Neil Young
sing about his old guitar.

Only an hour left to go
on this miserable flight,
that’s getting more and more bumpy
by the second.
I knew I should have stayed home.

But, more than about this trip I want to write about lunch with Shirley yesterday. We really have only known each other peripherally – she’s a good friend of Carole's and the mother of one of Ben’s high school buddies. But, every time we see each other we know we want to get together and talk. We finally made it yesterday, and it was like being with an old long lost friend. Shirley is a psychotherapist, so she knows how to delve down deep. She knows just how to ask why and what do you mean and what does that look like. And I being just as inquisitive got her to talk about herself as well. Never mind what we talked about, it was just a great feeling to have the day off, go to the gym in the morning, run to the shoemaker and post office, and then shower and dress leisurely to get ready in time to drive to Santa Monica for our date. That I could even take the time to go to Santa Monica is almost unheard of for me. What a luxury.
We ate at her son, Josh’s, restaurant, called Rustic Canyon, named for the area of Los Angeles where he grew up. There she is called The Mom. I can relate. I’m always being called Ben’s mom. In fact, one of Shirley’s friends came up to her to say hello and when she heard my name she knew me as Ben’s mom as well.
And the food was delicious – I had a fresh beet salad with hazelnuts, mixed greens and seared ahi tuna. How absolutely decadent.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A detour -- so to speak

If I’m going to write a blog, I have to include my obsession with beauty products. I recently tried out La Mer at Dinah, my facial lady’s suggestion, but I didn’t see any differences in the three months I faithfully used the product. So, when I finished it, I wasn’t really motivated to spend the money again. Now, I’m using Dermalogica’s Age Smart line. It’s only been a week, so I’ll have to wait and see.

Here’s what Nadine, Dara's roommate has to say:
"I don't know very much about Dermalogica's Age Smart line, but I like their products in general and do generally feel that they're worth the money. La Mer, however, is emphatically *not* worth the money if you're looking for a very effective anti-aging cream. As a moisturizer, it's tops, but many women buy it expecting certain results that it's simply not going to deliver. Obagi products are phenomenal, and anything with peptides (such as Strivectin, Olay Regenerist, In an Instant, or the effective but vastly overpriced Perricone Neuropeptide line) will make a visible difference in the texture, clarity, glow and appearance of skin. DDF makes some wonderful products, as does Kinerase."

And, she should know – check out her blog, Jolie in NYC – all about products. She also has a new book out called “Beauty Confidential.” I definitely know the right person to ask.

Also, my friend, Chris, a person I graduated high school with back in Winnetla, IL a million years ago, says she is using a product called Eternity -- developed in Santa Barbara and not on the market yet. She says it's smoothing out all her wrinkles. She's rght. She looks marvelous. I can't wait to get my hands on a little jar of that.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Nine whole days off -- enjoy and rejoice!

I can’t believe how pleasant it is to be home and in my office looking out to my garden. A huge squirrel stopped by for a drink in my lily pond, and just a second ago a gray bird took a sip as well. A new lily leaf is popping up, and the other mature, flat ones serve as little islands for the birds to skim across. Even though the sun isn’t shining, it’s just glorious out there – so calm and green. I feel so blessed to be able to look out my picture window and take it all in, and I feel so cheated when I get so caught up in work that I don’t get the opportunity for days at a time. Which reminds me, I need to get that Buddha. It needs to sit right out there where I can see it and watch it watch over me and my house.

Other to dos while I’m off for the next nine days:

Submit to the Things I Never Told My Mother anthology – due by November 30
Organize my poems for submittal to the 2008 New Women’s Voices Chapbook Competition – due by February 15, 2008
And now for a challenge: write a poem a day while we’re on our Thanksgiving trip to Portland.

And, that’s just about enough pressure. I’ve been under enough for the last 10-1/2 months. It’s time to relax. It’s time to stop waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. It’s time to let it all hang out.

Speaking of poems here's one about another beautiful day:

Normandy Beach

I walk along the beach
on a stone path with huge Norman mansions
shuttered for the winter on my right
and an old brick wall on my left.
The beach is wide – the tide is out.
The sand is clean, white, smooth,
except for little worm-like swirls
and empty mussel shells.

Out near the sea,
are the beached remnants of the floating piers
built in 15 hours for the D-Day landing –
an idea Winston Churchill conceived
to save the allied troops in June, 1944.

Still the sun on my shoulders,
the blue sky streaked with white,
the gentle warm breeze
renind me of a day in Manhattan Beach
and home.

Both places are fine.
Only Normandy is mine for today.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

More of the bucket list

Read all the books that are waiting for me on the shelves in my closet -- starting with "The Golden Notebook"
Spend time outside in my garden
Get a Buddha for my garden
Spend more time in my office
Write some new poems
Take another cruise on the Cunard in the Princess suites to Scandinavia and Russia
Visit my brother and his family in Denver
Go to Virginia to see Anna and Ian – this should probably be first on the list – and while there see the Annie Leibowitz exhibit at the Corcoran
Contact some folks about my blog
After all what’s the sense of having a blog if no one knows about it?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Bucket List

I’ve been thinking about making a list of things I want to do before I die. Like the premise of the new Jack Nicholson film, “the Bucket List,” I could write down everything I want to do before I kick the bucket. But that would be hard. I have the book that lists 1000 places to see before you die to give me traveling suggestions, and I know some things I don’t want to do – like bungee jumping and taking a hot-air balloon ride or going back to Mexico or any island – I’ve already done enough islands in my life. My darling niece, Dara, has put together a list of new things she wants to do during the month of November and she seems to working that off successfully, but putting together a list for the rest of one’s whole life seems way to daunting.
So, I’ll start with a couple:

Climb down into the Grand Canyon
Go to the parts of the United States I haven’t been to yet -- Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, the Carolina's
Get my memoir published
Get a poetry book published

It looks like a theme is emerging. I need to start traveling some more and concentrate more on my writing. Stuff I neglect when I work full time. Thus, I’m back to my original quandary – to quit or not to quit. And, it looks like I’m leaning heavily toward quitting. There is just not enough time to do my things and work. Period.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

So, what's the deal, anyway?

When I went back to work almost four years ago and officially came out of retirement I thought I’d stay on the job for 2 maybe 3 years the most. But in January it will be 4 years and I can see no end in sight. I keep talking about it. I keep thinking about it. I keep writing about it. But I don’t get even close to calling it quits. I want to know what that is all about. Why won’t I let go? Why am I still competing? I say that I don’t care about a career anymore. I say I’m not in competition with anyone, but in reality I still am.
I think it’s the routine that I like. Getting up in the morning to exercise. Coming home and showering and doing my hair and getting dressed in good looking woman executive clothes – that I pay a fortune for – and putting on the makeup. I wonder if I look foolish. Many people say I don’t look I’m as old as I am, but they could just be saying that. Maybe they are just humoring the old fool that I am.
So I wonder if there are other woman my age out there who feel like I do. That we feel that we must keep going or else we’ll lose it all together. I know if I didn’t work, if I didn’t have to keep so many facts in my mind I really would lose it. And if I didn’t have to get up and get dressed every day would I just want to stay in bed or lie on the couch and read and eat and get fat and have to wear a muumuu. I just don’t know. And I’m afraid to find out.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Quit work or not -- the first choice

I think about aging and not using up my last years carelessly. I’m going on 68. Maybe I have 15 good years left until I start to fall apart. I cannot waste those years by staying at a job that leaves me no space for a life. I have a long list of people and things I’ve put off doing because I don’t have enough time to do them. That has got to stop. I need to make the time. I need to free up my time. Life is too short. My end of life time is too short. I need to live the time I have left so that I feel fulfilled and productive but not at the beck and call of a company. That is the balancing act I have to pull off. That is the choice I'm up against.