Thursday, February 21, 2013


If you know me, you know that my mind often goes foggy. You've been telling me about your crisis and seen a far away look in my eyes (probably wondering if I remembered to change Daffodil's water). If you don't know me, well....yes, you do...if you know any middle aged, active, multitasking woman.  We seem to be all alike and we're good with us. We've earned this period of flakiness.

But we aren't too proud to want to get better. So today I dropped by Rollin' Oats, St. Pete's primo health food store,  to pick up some caffeine tablets. I find that drinking coffee helps me focus and doesn't give me a buzz like it does most people. I can take my last sip of java at bedtime and fall into a peaceful sleep. (I am often maligned as a coffee guzzler but the truth is......I sip a lot but rarely consume more than two cups  a day). So I thought maybe a greater dose would yield a greater result.

Walking into Rollin' Oats can be intimidating.... All those natural looking people milling around becoming healthier by the minute, just by brushing past so many supplements. All I wanted to do was grab my goods and get out before someone noticed I was wearing make-up. But where to start looking? Someone must have recognized my look of bewilderment and approached  me with "How can I help you?"

"I need caffeine!" Suddenly the milling stopped. I think the entire store came to a grinding halt. I know I heard whispering. You'd have thought I had asked for a piece of fried chicken.


When I think of  Boost,  I think of my mother who drinks Boost.

"No, I don't need Boost, I need caffeine" (more whispering). 

"Have you considered Omega-3's?"

"Yes, I already take fish oil."

"B-12?  Exactly what do you hope to accomplish? " I was pressured into confessing that I wanted to try caffeine to help me focus... that aging is taking its toll on my concentration. They should have at least put me in a curtained booth for this, with an ordained health priest on the other side to grant me absolution (They also had many "ab"- solutions in Rollin' Oats but I didn't want those).

I felt publicly humiliated. Where were the other middle aged women at that point? I think I saw one dive behind the organic pineapples. Others were slinking out the door.

Ten minutes of more interrogation and I was on my way with something called  Up Your Gas (I kid you not!)  It has green tea extract in combination with other health food store sounding additives (although we don't use the word "additives " in there). Guess I'll drop by Walgreens wearing a hoodie and dark glasses to pick up my bottle of Bean-O.  Sounds like I'll need it.

Friday, February 8, 2013


Last weekend I went to Bed Bath and Beyond and bought a memory foam mattress pad.  I have still been forgetting things these last few days. I don't think it's working.

It's just another rung in the ladder of extravagance I've been climbing lately. It started with the round rug. Then I bought some interesting museum posters that were a sweet deal, but having them framed negated the bargain.  Then the major spree in BB& B (although I'm happy to say they honored the 20% off coupon that came in my email five days later). All things for the yellow bungalow.

I may be obsessing over it. It is, after all, my dream house. Not because it will ever be featured in House Beautiful, but because it's all vision, my taste, my sanctuary.  It's a musty old book I chose because the words speak to my heart, and now I have the privilege of some editing and revising. Being single affords you the luxury of personal choice. When you mess up, you face the music on your own.  But you also get to have a lot of things your way, and that can feel pretty good. When I moved in just over a year ago, I focused on the big things: knocking down walls, refinishing floors, adding a bath, etc. That was normal, right?

I'm not so sure about now.  I find myself micromanaging the floor mats and taking things on and off the mantel. I think I dust too much. Productive people don't usually dust, do they? Yesterday I bought a house plant whose teal leaves with a streak of pink match the tiles in the guest bath.

Is this the way of retirement?  All that creative energy has to be channeled into something, doesn't it?  I'm not complaining! It's just that my new priorities are glaring at me against the backdrop of last month's teaching.  I do miss being in the trenches but like I said, I don't want to go back. But neither do I want to become shallow, and spend time on things that don't matter or, worse yet, convince myself they do matter.

It's not the moral dilemma I wrote about earlier, not all about what's right or what's wrong. It's about me being happy with me, being interesting to me, having worthwhile issues to contemplate and satisfying contributions to make.

I'm okay at the moment (still doing my music, volunteering, meeting new friends, etc.) But I see how this shopping thing could get way out of control. I see why homemakers have notoriously had to struggle with it. First a rug, then a poster.  What if I become a hoarder? How will I find Daffodil in the debris? Will she insist I go back to work? Nah, she likes this new gourmet cat food I bought her at the trendy pet store.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Back To Work

Taking a break from the homeless dilemma (before you offer me a room, read the previous post),  I spent these last two weeks subbing in the same second grade class every day.  I haven’t taught regularly in nearly three years, but let me assure you that two weeks ago I started strong. Within an hour I had untied myself and established order. Bribes should not be underestimated when the ratio is 17:1 and you’re the 1. They are to the substitute teacher what the swinging watch is to the hypnotist: MIND CONTROL!

I carefully followed all the teacher’s lesson plans when I remembered to look at them…but you know my memory.  I made sure every student’s needs were met, unless they needed to make obnoxious noises during one of my "be responsible"  lectures. Within just a few short days I became……..not attached……not bonded…..but vaguely  familiar with each child.  That’s the best I can say.

I’ve been passionate about teaching since my junior year of college when I realized that being an astronaut would make me throw up. I set my sights on a more noble cause (that’s not sarcasm, it’s true) and I have never regretted my choice.

These last two weeks have been stressful and challenging and I have loved every minute.  I may not have loved them without the bribes, but a great time was had by all.  It’s much like I imagine grandmothering will be….. over-indulgence, over-stimulation, party party,  then "ta ta"  ("God, please don’t let that principal read this"). 

The teacher‘s plans were spotty since she was not expecting to be out so long. So I whipped out some instructional arrows from my quiver of experience and watched them once again hit the mark.  By my last day, every child in the class could subtract one digit from two digits using regrouping (so it will only have to be taught ten or twenty more times before they retain it),  AND they were using the word "scrutinize" on a regular basis with their classmates (as in "Stop scrutinizing everything I do"). That cut down on tattling.

I worked long full days and came home exhausted. It reminded me so much of earlier days. I even caught a gratuitous sore throat and cold. What would teaching be without sniffling and bumming meds?

 So do I want to go back?

I see it like this:  middle age, retirement, widowhood and empty nest all lined up end to end and connected to form a bridge that has taken me from one side of life to the other. It was one of those swinging bridges for sure, scared the bejeebers out of me. It was high as the sky and many times I lost my footing and almost fell like a bomb into the proverbial "abyss" (I love that word "abyss"…… if a bomb explodes in the "abyss" does anyone hear it…..or get blown up?)

Now that I’m on the other side (not to be confused with dead, of course), I feel a sense of past and future both within view but just out of reach. I don’t want to be a full time teacher again. I don’t want to mother young children again. But… I would like to fall in love again…… and be a grandmother ….. and occasionally substitute teach.