Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sometimes, try as you might, you just can't have it all

There was a time, "back in the day," when I would have counseled my daughters to go after whatever they wanted: Of course it's possible to be both a princess and and astronaut! It's possible to be president of the United States or CEO of a company or head coach of the Gophers and a wonderful wife and a fabulous mother -- all at the same time. But hindsight again reveals itself as 20-20. I read a story bemoaning the difficulty of retaining women in college coaching positions (click on title for link), and I thought a little about my job. Twenty years ago, I found that balancing this fairly responsible-but-low-profile job here in UST's News Service with a pretty good family life was, well, very satisfying. I felt a little guilty for being an underachiever, though, since all my friends made more money and enjoyed higher career status than I. We were graduates of Women's Colleges. We were Expected to Succeed!

Well, I'm thinking that many of us redefined success, and some of this now means that we have options. But choosing among them isn't something to neglect. Nobody can juggle all those glass balls at once without stopping occasionally to take a look at how pretty they are. I'm very happy that I was able to have three kids, breastfeed all of them, have a flexible family daycare provider, help with homework, attend all their band concerts and show up for playground duty occasionally -- all while finishing graduate school and writing, editing and pitching university news stories to the media. I might not have made too much money, but I have these kids who are marvelous people. Had these other things distracted me too much from being their mother, they might not have turned out that way. Yeah, it can be frustrating juggling all those balls, but some you can drop, and some you can't. You do, someday, have to figure out which ones are most precious and hang on to them. The others, you can always pick up another day.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Take that, you bitch

If I hear about one more friend with breast cancer, I'm gonna ... .

Well, here's a chance to bitch-slap that horrible disease. With a click on my creative headline, you can pledge Debby Godbout's walk in the Breast Cancer 3-Day. She's a friend of my friend Linda, who was diagnosed just before Christmas. This walk is dedicated to Linda, who is now our favorite perky bald chick.

Or, you can make a pledge to someone else or give a gift to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Do it to throw a "bon courage" to longtime Twin Cities journalist Kevyn Burger, who just learned she has breast cancer and is having a mastectomy on Saturday. Here's a special prayer, Kevyn.

Or do it to remember my friend and college classmate Mary Anne, who should be spending her time making the best caramels in Mendota Heights instead of finishing up chemo, or my favorite non-writing gossip columnist Katherine Kortz, who lost her long battle with breast cancer a few summers ago. I think of you, Kathe, whenever I see "your" tree blooming at St. Kate's.

Every dollar can help destroy breast cancer -- so our children and grandbabies don't have to deal with it anymore. There has to be a cure. We just haven't discovered it yet.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

'Fessin' up

Here are a number of things about which I could be embarrassed in person, but to which, here in Blogland, I can just admit:

1. I am addicted to "American Idol."
2. I love White Castle hamburgers, even though those little cardboard boxes that they put them in actually taste better than the burgers themselves.
3. For me, "Days of Our Lives" is a guilty pleasure.
4. Wine has made me fat.
5. I have actually thought about cosmetic surgery. Never done it, mind you, but I'm getting a chicken neck, and it actually bugs me. Maybe I'm listening to FM107 too much. All those self-help gurus, dermatologists, designers and fashionistas are starting to sound rational.
6. I hate every second of working out, even though I make myself do it. Where is this endorphin rush that people talk about? Where is the tightening flesh, the rosy glow? It just makes me sweaty and gives me gas pains. Sigh.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ohhh, say, can you see?

With every passing year, it becomes clearer to me that I will not be able to make enough money to survive retirement. The point was driven home yesterday during a trip to the "vision-care center" to replace my scratched-up specs. Of course, I need "progressive" lenses -- what folks used to call trifocals but which no longer have the little lines that made old people look like old people. Progressives make us look kind of like old people, but without the squint. But I digress.

I love the new glasses that have magnets to attach sunglasses. Except most of the available styles made me look like Miss Richfield or Buddy Holly. So I found another pair that I really liked, although they didn't come with the nifty snap-on sunglasses. I thought I could just buy some clip-ons, but nooooo. These glasses wouldn't accommodate clip-ons. I had to buy separate prescription sunglasses. So I bit the bullet and bought those too. To the tune of nearly $800. This is after they gave me a $200 discount as a return customer. Whew.

About four years ago, I paid $500 for my last pair of glasses, which included clip-on sunglasses. That should mean that with the rate of inflation and rising prices, I should owe a cool million for a pair of glasses when I'm 80. This I cannot afford. If I wear the new glasses and sunglasses that I bought yesterday for four years, they'll cost me about 55 cents a day. My husband is right: I AM high-maintenance.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Baby, oh baby!

So how was my Mother's Day, you ask?

"Why, thank you," I reply. "It was lovely. My son's girlfriend (and her mother -- thanks, Lori) prepared a delicious brunch before we headed to college commencement ceremonies for our youngest child (hip-hip-hooray for the end of tuition payments!). Ceremonies were the usual -- very nice with the requisite amount of boredom so we could chat with our guests. Afterwards we enjoyed a nice get-together with the graduate at Grandma's, the Duluth saloon where we had dinner the night we began this college journey. Good margaritas. Way good."

And then what?

"Well, then I drove my mother back to her home in Virginia."

And then?

"The phone rang. It was Mike with fabulous news: Amy and Kurt are pregnant! Amy is a best-loved niece, and Kurt is her best-loved spouse. They've been married awhile and wanting a baby in the worst way. So in November, we shall have another little grandniece or grandnephew to smother in kisses. I'm so excited that I'm planning a yarn-shop run tonight and digging out the crochet needle. Might as well get going on the baby blanket!"

So it really WAS a Mother's Day, wasn't it?

"It WAS! Whoever thought up that holiday did a bang-up job. I really like Mother's Day."

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The entertainer

Well, the Piano Man did not disappoint. For a 58-year-old dude, he can still outrock and outplay just about anybody. And the guy can still hit all the notes. We had a blast at his concert last night at the Xcel Energy Center. More later.

Monday, May 7, 2007


That was the first word I thought about this morning. For some reason, it just popped into my head, like the voice of God. (Maybe it was, who knows?)

The word was so strong, I even said it aloud, to no one, right after my first sip of coffee.

Contentment is the gift of middle age, I think. I want for nothing, really -- other than a nice hunk of cash to pay off the debts. But do I hunger for success, the basic necessities of life, friends and family, more, more, more? Nope. I'm content. As I was cleaning house this weekend, in fact, I came upon lots of items I could do without -- things that we absolutely yearned for when we bought them. Now even greater contentment could be had in giving some of them away or in pitching them into a solid Dumpster.

So, it's often "contentment" that I seek as I reorder the disorder of the house, straightening piles of papers, discarding old socks, wiping the dust from a table. For me, golden contentment is what drives me to "contend" with the grass-stained mess of living. I think that's why I enjoy a regular weekend in solitude, so I can straighten and sift to my heart's delight.

Which is what I was doing Sunday when the phone rang.

It was son-in-law, calling daughter, who was studying at our house (which has become the library, remember?). Grandson No. 2 had taken a spill and split open his head, requiring a trip to the hospital for stitches. So down the street I headed, to stay with Grandson No. 1 while the others took off for the repair. William and I had a little lunch, chatted about chameleons and bugs in the National Geographic, watched birds ("teet-teets" is what Will calls them) from the kitchen window and listened to the 50 mph winds wailing outside. After the adrenaline rush of his brother's busted head, followed by three bowls of macaroni and cheese and a dead-quiet house, Will was asleep in seconds. With my companion crashed, I had nothing to do for two hours. I had read the paper and magazines of interest, poured myself a swallow of Chardonnay and just sat there. It occurs to me that for me, contentment dresses in an apron and holds the tools. It's task-oriented, requires a purpose, needs the polish of a job completed. I was a little itchy to get home and get something done.

And so, to finish this little tribute to contentment? Later ...

Thursday, May 3, 2007

I won! I won! I won!

Remember the scene in "A Christmas Story," when Darren McGavin's character wins "a major award"? He dances around the room, chanting "I won! I won! I won!" He wins the leg lamp, of course, and he's quite thrilled about it, even though he's not quite a connoisseur of such things. I know the feeling.

A few weeks ago during a bored moment, I visited the St. Paul Pioneer Press' "Contests" page and entered a contest to receive tickets to the May 9 Billy Joel concert at the Xcel Energy Center. Lo and behold, "I won! I won! I won!" So I dutifully dropped into the Pi Press lobby this morning and picked 'em up. Of course, they're not the crème de la crème of seats, but all the seats started at $51.50 or something. So I got at least $200 worth of tickets for a great big fat nuthin'. Very satisfying no matter the outcome.

Is the Piano Man my favorite singer? Nah, but I hear he puts on a great show. Would I pay good money to go to one of his concerts? Probably not. But am I delighted to be going anyway? You bet! It's a little like the rush you get when you find a designer shirt for $5 and it fits. Would you have purchased it for $200? No, but it'd become a favorite item if you got it cheap. So, sing us a song, Billy. We'll see ya next week.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

I now have it on good authority ...

... that our youngest child is really, truly, graduating from college on May 13. I've seen his name on the "marching order," where he's 463rd in line -- so there! I'm quite thrilled for Nate. And now I feel as though I've done my duty as a parent: ensured that he successfully completed a college education and all of that. The rest is up to him now (like paying for a good chunk of it, ugh). He can go ahead and be a bum, even, if he wants. Not that he would or could. At least not before he pays off his student loans ("Ugh, excuse me, Mister Railroad Man? I can't ride off with you in that boxcar until, like, 10 years from now when my loans are paid off. Will you come back and collect me then and take me to that cardboard box down by the river?"). At least now he has a starting point: he can be an educated bum. And no one will ever be able to take that education away from him.