August 3, 2011

Because you were wondering...

by Veronica

The downside to not working outside the home is - it really is about me all the time. Am I hungry? Cold? Do I feel like working out? Should I go grocery shopping? And lately, I'm the soul inhabitant here, so things get even more specific...lights on or off? Change the sheets or wait and do it when I wash towels? Sit on this side of the table or that side? Spread out on the couch or curl up in the chair? Tell the blogosphere how ridiculous I am or not? The upside to working at home: all the food in the conference room is mine.

So, Veronica, Jr. is wowing them in NYC. After weeks of organizing the same 2,000 magazines and picking dried milk out from crevices in the office fridge, she was given a big, juicy plum of an assignment: act as personal assistant to the Executive Director flying in from L.A. to oversee a one day shoot with Sarah Silver (photog of the moment) for Swarovski Crystals - to be published in "W" magazine in October, November and December. Veronica, Jr. fetched water, food and walked Ms. Silver's dog. She dropped a net on the model on the count of 3 and hung around until nearly midnight while the model tried to wash off the purple body paint. When we Skyped, not one of her toes was touching the earth; even after a 16 hour day excitement and a sense of the potential future coursed through every fiber of her mind and body. A beautiful sight to see 12 hours and 7,000 miles away.

I sat down to write about how I just ruined tonight's dessert because I suck at reading directions then got sidetracked about how self-absorbed I am which led me to thinking about my daughter and how awesome she is and now I'm over my dessert fiasco and have to go make the pizza dough...which, thankfully, has few steps involved.

July 30, 2011

Cranky Crazy Pants

by Veronica

I think its happening - that descent into menopausal madness. Yesterday someone said the word, "bridge" and I had a momentary flash of "What's that?" Right after I gave out the wrong phone number for my husband, which came after I couldn't remember my own phone number. About a week ago I had my first real hot flash. Thankfully, I kept myself from asking everyone around me, "Is it hot in here or is it just me?" And...I found my first gray hair...down there. Ew.

I remember after my daughter was born, my hormones all askew, I cried at Hallmark commercials (the one with the red-headed sisters re-uniting when one shows up at the other's house? Did they really re-unite, or did the old arguments raise their scabby heads over tea in the kitchen and the sister slammed the door on her way out?) The other day I cried (well, got teary eyed more than cried) at a scene in my audio book (Ken Follett's Fall of Giants) while running on the treadmill. Picture that - a 48 year old woman, huffing away on a treadmill, crying. Ah, well.

Then, I was scheduling some things on my calendar and realized I had written two or three emails to people who hadn't written back. In fact, people I haven't heard from in quite some time and I had the ridiculous notion to make a list of these names. Make a list! And then do what with it? W-A-C-K-O. Except I wouldn't do anything with that list because I'm just too tired - or as the websites label it - I have fatigue. Not all the time, not disabling, but certainly annoying. See that stack of dishes? Not if I leave the kitchen! Laundry? Just don't go in that room either.

Maybe its not fatigue but boredom! Sudden Newsflash Inspiration Thing: I don't think menopausal women have hormonal fluctuations - I think they have Acute Boredom Syndrome. I don't want to do dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, food preparation, dusting, toilet-bowl scrubbing, or cat-box cleaning not because my estrogen is waning like the moon, but because thirty years later, I just feel like doing something else.  I'd like to see some research comparing menopausal symptoms of women who can afford "cleaning ladies" v. those who have to manage their own chores plus a part/full time job. I wish I could get funding for a study like that because I'd hire a cleaning lady and monitor my "fatigue" while she's cleaning and grocery shopping. Then I'd chart my mood swings while laying by the pool or playing tennis before lunch with friends. I'd use the time spent getting a massage or mani/pedi to manage my irritability, dizziness and anxiety. Finally, while curling up with a book before bedtime, and actually staying awake long enough to read more than three sentences - the same three sentences - I'd note whether or not my sleeping habits are disordered.

My over-40-sisters, fear menopause no more! Use paper plates, ignore the dust, and invest in 30 pairs of underwear so you only have to do laundry one day a month. Get outside and read a great book, go for walks or tea with friends; take a cool shower then lay naked in front of a fan, eat ice cream for dinner and do some yoga. And quit reading the news. I'll tell you what's going on: famine, wars, weather related disasters and people are still getting married and having kids.

Yes, our bodies are changing, and so should our priorities. And on that note, I'm off to not feel anxious or care about hot flashes. 

June 24, 2011

This Space for Rent

by Veronica

How terrible that this little blog has been left on its own for so long...this is why I buy fake plants.

Nothing specific to report so I'll give some updates.

Veronica, Jr. is settled in NYC and, despite her one-week-old iPhone 4 being stolen while she was at a free concert, hiking subway stairs in heels, and spending six to eight hours every day doing mindless intern office work, she's living the dream! One thing I like about Veronica, Jr. is she's never quite satisfied. You know the type? They want one thing - and they get it, only to discover it isn't exactly what they wanted and now they're planning for the next step up. That's my kid. Me? I think being one of seven kids (in the middle) made me a "go along, get along" kind of person. I order Diet Coke - no Diet? Okay - whatever you have is fine. Veronica, Jr. wants what she wants and if they don't have her selection then she'll take nothing, thank you very much. And, I'll take the Walmart version of anything (almost). Her? She knows every name brand out there and can spot it at 20 paces facing into the sun.

Mr. Veronica took me to Guam while he was on business. Hong Kong, approximately 35 square miles, has a population of 8 million. Guam is approximately 212 square miles - 178,000 people. I felt like I was in a ghost town when walking down the street, I missed the people! Which is sort of funny, considering how frustrating it can be walking down a street at mid-day in Hong Kong. We arrived early Wednesday morning and left late Sunday night. I managed to work in just over 20 hours of pool/beach time. Not too shabby, eh? The beaches are beautiful - some of the sand is pink and the water is always that ridiculously clear blue color that you see in travel brochures. And! I found a small piece of coral in the shape of a heart.

We traveled with another couple, Sue and Bill, Sue works with Mr. Veronica, so Bill and I had some time together. I have met Bill a handful of times, always at dinner at our house or their house, with other coworkers. He's very intelligent - one of those guys that knows a lot about economics and can tell you why we shouldn't print more money to combat the recession in monosyllabic words; he has a fun sense of humor - just saying "Three Stooges" makes him giggle. Bill and I hung out at the pool, played some tennis, shared a club sandwich and fries. Its an interesting dynamic, getting to know someone of the opposite sex in a strictly platonic situation, and sort of involuntarily. Its awkward at first, trying to find common ground - what do we have to say to each other? We are only together because of our spouses, who aren't actually present. But, over the three days we had together, we found quite a bit to talk about - especially economics and religion. We talked about how we met our spouses and why we fell in love with them. We all returned to HK and within a day or two, Sue was back on the road, leaving Bill alone in HK. He emailed Mr. Veronica about playing tennis (they battled it out this morning and are already planning the next skirmish) and has come to dinner (he brought the salad). And that is how friendships start and, hopefully, last.

Two of my favorite shows are starting their summer seasons, with another starting up soon. Currently playing: Drop Dead Diva and Men of a Certain Age; in the wings: The Closer.

And now, I've watered this little corner of the earth, with whispered promises of more loving attention in the near future.

June 3, 2011

Good News

by Veronica

Veronica, Jr. got an internship in New York City. Yay! She's wrapping up her last week of classes with finals next week. She'll get a few days in Cleveland then her dad will drive her back to NYC. And I will be the proud parent of a woman following her dreams - how lucky am I?!

Growing up, I was one of seven kids - five boys, two girls. My mother told me (and my sister) that she wished she had all boys, she didn't like girls. I know. That's harsh. She was also very close, best friends, in fact, with her mother. She and I just sort of co-existed. When my grandmother died, my mother said, "I hope you and I can be good friends like my mother and I were." I was seventeen at the time and had resigned myself to the fact that there really wasn't any way for us to be "friends." We had some very bumpy times, my mother and I. But you know, I went to therapy, dealt with the crap and moved on. By the end of her days, we had a genuine love for and appreciation of each other.

(When she died I had this amazing dream. I don't know if you're like this, but after someone close to me dies, I always dream about them coming back - not like resurrecting from the dead, but coming back to see me and talk to me. I've lost two brothers along the way and in both cases the dreams have been just social. For example, Terry showed up in a park and we hugged and hugged and then sat on a bench and talked and talked. Such a beautiful dream. So, I wondered what it would be like when my mother came back to me. I've never dreamed anything like this: I'm standing by an open window and a steady breeze blows into the room and it turns into a strong current that begins to solidify and wrap itself around me from head to toe; it undulates around me and courses through me. I'm completely taken over by the force of this wind - I can feel my hair blowing around my head, my breath is caught up and taken away, I am enveloped. This wind, this energy, this is my mother. She is surrounding me, filling me, giving me her energy and life force. In the human world she had multiple sclerosis and was physically incapacitated for the last twenty years of her life. But mentally, she was rock solid. She had so much energy and life, she had so much left that she passed it on to me.)

When Veronica, Jr. came along I was thrilled. I would have the chance to create the relationship with her that I had wanted with my mother. And we are very close. Its a wonderful, trusting relationship that we have worked to develop. We've had our fights, our breakups and makeups. Mostly, though, we've had our laughs. No one makes me laugh like my kid. Here is a prime example of one of our conversations:

Mom: Wow, I can't believe you're going to be 24!
Junior: I know! Me, either! Wait, how old are you going to be?
Mom: 48. Let's not talk about it.
Junior: Oh - wait, is every kid half the age of their parents?
Mom: (thoughtful pause, actually, really considering this question).  I don't know. Wait. What? Well, I don't think so - I mean in a year I'll be 49 and 25 isn't half of 49. Right? I mean, when you were 5 I wasn't 10.
Junior: Oh. Right. Ha! Obviously that doesn't work.

Yes - that's a real conversation between the two of us. And we've had so many ridiculous conversations that I truly believe we'd be a hit on Sirius Radio if we'd ever remember to record these things.

The good news is, I won't miss her when she goes to New York. We've learned to live apart from each other and that makes this moment all the sweeter. Our world has grown to encompass the entire planet (thank you Skype and FB!). We are together no matter where we are and for that I am so thankful.

Way to go, Pookie!

May 27, 2011

Being Neighborly

by Jamie

I love my neighbors across the way, a couple in their 80s who were both born, grew up and raised their family on this hill that we share. We keep an eye on each other and when the weather is good we’ll pause in our gardening to shoot the breeze and swear at the folks driving too fast down our back road. They both have a wicked and wry sense of humor and often the best gossip around, though they are never cruel or petty. I’ll bake cookies for him because he has a sweet tooth. She and I leave mysterious bags of iris rhizomes, tulip bulbs and seed on each other’s doorsteps—trading flowers. They are good, kind, loving, hard working people who live their golden years in a haze of gardening, mowing, family get togethers and grandchildren.

They drove by last week on their way, I thought, to a usual Sunday dinner. I waved and asked where they were off to. She told me over the car engine that her eldest son had come home from the hospital to die. The doctors couldn’t do anything else for him. They were going to lunch at his family’s home.

I looked at their two beautiful and weather-worn faces and felt the true meaning of the word “heartbreak” in my throat. I raised my hand to my face because I realized I was crying as they drove on past.

I finally found them at home a couple of days ago sitting on the porch swing which faces to the north and a spectacular view. As usual both she and I were covered in mud from working in the garden. Her knees now almost useless from arthritis, she crawls and rolls around weeding and planting, then sits for a spell. I gave both of them a hug and said I was so sorry and is there anything I could do to help and that I was keeping their son in my prayers.

Of course, the words “Is there anything I can do?” are usually offered in the kindest manner. But there is nothing I, or anyone, can do to ease their heartache as they watch their son, now in his early 60s--their first baby--die over the next few days. We sat and swung and the breeze wafted over us and she talked quietly about what had happened. He gruffly expressed his grief, as many men will do, through outrage: at the doctors, the hospitals, the way things are done now. Tears would well up in her eyes and I held her hand and we talked about how beautiful her iris are this year. She gets too much sun on this side of the house and they often wilt and die. But the rain has kept them strong and hearty. The colors are lush purples and joyous pinks and yellows.

Their son’s hands shake now as the disease eats his lungs and spine. She goes over every morning and rubs them. “I told him if he doesn’t like it, tough!” she says and laughs and tears spill over her cheeks and she looks out into the achingly beautiful spring afternoon and clasps my hand hard.

As I leave they take me around the garden to look at flowers like we always do. They need the reassurance of the things they’ve always done or perhaps they sense that I do. I ask again is there anything at all I can do. She says just someone to talk to now and then.

Such a little thing when I want to do so much, but I’m off now to do it.

May 25, 2011


by Veronica

I had decided to try online dating after seeing all the happy eHarmony commercials on television. My then-current relationship was ending and I was intrigued by the prospect of meeting a lot of men without trying on ten different outfits, dealing with mascara and trying to dehumidify my curly hair. Also, I was living in a small college town and had no real way of meeting men who would be able to look past all the twenty year old females to see the virtues of dating an over-forty woman.

My memory is vague on this, but I think I joined eHarmony in late January of 2008. Wow. Three years. Okay. So, within a short amount of time, say, six to eight weeks, I met a man named Brian. We emailed back and forth for a few weeks and then moved onto phone calls. Its interesting to watch relationships develop over emails. I don't have his anymore, but when I did and would read them from the beginning, it was better than keeping a journal. His emails, my responses, jokes that developed between us, revealing personal secrets because there is emotional safety in the faceless email; emails that nurtured our silent hopes that we were creating something sturdy from the delicate layering of our stories.

Brian lived about forty-five minutes away. We met halfway on our first date at a barbeque restaurant. You should know I'm not a big believer in "love at first sight." Lust? Yes. Love? No. Except for babies and kittens. Brain was handsome enough; tall, slim, blue eyes, blond hair. Great hands. I love muscular hands on a guy. We had dinner and then he asked if I'd like to sit at the bar for a nightcap. What I remember most is his ability to tell a story. He wasn't clever or loud or boastful, just truthful and unassuming. Eventually we left and said goodnight (hand shake) in the parking lot. I know, but I've turned into quite the germaphobe at this phase of my life and can't imagine kissing a stranger on the lips. Just ew. (I won't share a toothbrush with my husband, either.)

After a few dates it I learned he was only separated and that caused some delays until he had filed for divorce. He had two small children; he and his wife shared parenting - so the kids were with him for a week at a time plus he helped coach their sports leagues. Brian was quite busy being a father and sorting out his life post-divorce. Our dating became weekends at his place because he also had pets that couldn't be left unattended. I didn't mind driving over to his town and getting out of my little house. We went to ballgames, movies, dinner. I helped him move into a new house from his little apartment and we planned a vacation. We discovered we could leave messages for each other over and communicated several times a day. Then, something changed. I don't know what - to this day, I have no idea. We were at my friend's house for dinner and the next morning he showered early, and despite our plans for the day, left without any explanation. I tried not to text, call or email him to death. I had enough self control to be patient. But within a few weeks, he called a halt to the relationship via email.

I was devastated. I had no idea what I had done or didn't do or could have done or should have done. I was baffled and he wasn't going to budge and tell me. I finally gave in and sent the awful begging email that no woman/man should ever send. Its okay to write it, just send it to your best friend so they can stop you from making an ass of yourself. Of course, that just made him clam up and that was the end of that. I had a few other dates and those are noteworthy just for their hilarity - but that's another post. I ended up joining another dating website, and guess what? Within a few weeks I was matched with Brian, again. At this point some months had gone by. We actually got together and it fizzled as fast as it started. Again, I have no idea why. 

I met my husband on eHarmony some time after the last "what just happened here" date with Brian. Mr. Veronica and I met in April of 2009, were married in December, 2009 and moved to HK in September, 2010. Yeah. Wow.

I have promised to be honest on this anonymous blog so here is the deal: I never forgot about Brian. I thought of him often after our two tries. Mostly I wanted him to explain to me what IT was - why didn't things go further? What was the issue and why didn't I get a chance to solve it? Or change it? Make it better? Why was he so reluctant to be honest and straightforward? Here is the gift Brian gave me: I had to let it go. It didn't matter why or what or who. And now, from a distance, I can see all the things you do as a objective observer: he was newly divorced dad of two small kids, he wasn't emotionally ready for something serious and so committed, and - he had terrible communication skills. He could tell a story but he couldn't share his thoughts.

I never contacted him after the last date and he's never contacted me. If you read my last entry there is a brief sentence in which I tell you that I took my daughter shopping for an interview outfit. We happened to be driving from her college town to Cleveland and stopped at a mall halfway between the two places. This mall also happens to be near where Brian lives. As we left one of the stores, we passed two guys (one quite tall, the other clearly younger - my brain registered "son"). The "dad" was staring at me. I mean STARING. Staring like I had one giant eye in the middle of my forehead. I looked right at him, took in his hair, eyes and the very serious look on his face and kept right on walking and talking to my daughter. We got in the car, drove to Cleveland, I flew back to Hong Kong with my husband and it took another day or so for me to realize - it was Brian.

Here's the milestone: I didn't even recognize him and once it registered that it was him, I didn't really care, except to acknowledge I didn't really care

May 20, 2011

What Astrological Sign is the Jackass?

by Veronica

My daughter, Veronica, Jr., is at university and has nearly completed a degree in Visual Communications from a very well known program. She is currently looking for an internship and has decided nothing less than NYC will do - and understandably as she is interested in fashion photography. Daily, hourly, she trolls through websites looking for any kind of photog internship that will get her to NYC for this summer - the summer that begins in just a few weeks.

On a Thursday she got a hit - someone wanted to interview her! In NYC! She exchanged a few emails with this woman - A___ B____ and set up her appointment for Monday at 3pm. Her dad offered to drive her to NYC on Sunday, spend the night, and get her to the interview. Her stepdad and I took her shopping for an outfit for the interview, then drove her home to Cleveland to meet her dad for the ride to NYC. On the way we discussed interview etiquette, possible questions, how to answer the difficult ones. Veronica, Jr. spoke reverently about A.B. and her status in fashion photog land. Veronica, Jr. had done quite a bit of research into A's background and knew where she went to school, what her degrees were, who influenced her work, etc. She recited the job responsibilities verbatim and had brought her laptop in case A. wanted to look at her online portfolio.

Here is the conversation I had with Veronica, Jr. about the interview:

Mom: So - of course, I can't wait to hear everything. Start at the beginning.
Daughter: Well, I was all dressed up and when I got there, she was like, working and in a flannel shirt and jeans, other people were there working and dressed all casual.
Mom: Okay -but still, its important to look professional on interviews...
Daughter: Right, right. So...we started talking and she asked me what my astrological sign was..
Mom: I'm sorry?
Daughter: Yeah - so I said 'Gemini' and she said, "Oh god - not another one! Geminis are so irresponsible.
Daughter: So....then she asked about my portfolio - what online site I used and I said Flickr and she said, "God! I hate Flickr! Why do  you use that?"
Daughter: So then she said, "Well I guess we'll move onto the second part of the interview. I'm going to send you a photo to photoshop and you send it back to me." She said she'd be making her decision very soon, so I don't know what that means.
Mom: How long did this interview last?
Daughter: About 10 minutes all together.
Daughter: Yeah and then Dad was waiting outside and we headed home. Sean drove me back to school....

Now, Dear Reader, you know me well enough at this point to know I'm not really speechless. Except, I am. I'm heartbroken, disgusted, teary-eyed (even now!), disappointed, frustrated, and hateful. Thousands and thousands of dollars spent on tuition, camera equipment, laptops, printers, books, film. Years of study, work and peer/professional reviews of her work. A new interview outfit, people stopping their lives to get this "irresponsible Gemini" to an interview in NYC - after she worked three shifts over the weekend. Imagine this stoopid kid who doesn't understand how the world works. Did I tell you she and this woman exchanged emails? Is it entirely out of the realm of possibility that A.B. could have asked IN THE EMAIL about her astrological sign and saved some time and money?

Ten fucking minutes.

Dark Chocolate Kit Kat Bar

by Veronica

The title of this post has nothing to do with anything other than its my favorite candy bar.

So, I'm back in Hong Kong, my long-awaited visit home now a past event. I had lunch with my friend, H, and we talked about what its like to go home. She now holds the record among my HK friends of who has not been "home" in the longest time. She arrived in August and is scheduled in early June to go home for the summer. She can't wait. I told her that for me it was just what a vacation should be: relaxing, fun, hectic, sleepy, drinky, eaty, chatty, lots of shopping and a few times I asked myself if I really could go back to HK.

While I was home, Mr. Veronica asked me "What are you telling people when they ask you if you like living in Hong Kong?" And I answered him honestly, "I tell them I like it a lot more now, but if I had come home at Christmas, I probably would not have come back to HK." I mean, of course I would have come back, I would have needed to pack and collect my cats. But now I have a life to come back to and that makes for a cozy symmetric feeling for me. I have a life here, I have a life there, Old McDonald would be proud.

I loved driving our car while on vacation, but I missed all the walking we do here in HK.

Oddly, I was sort of creeped out by all the buildings and the lack of population. Yes, two vastly different "urban" areas - ours contains 1.2 million and Cleveland contains 300,000 - still, to run/walk for nearly 50 minutes and not see more than 3 people was bizarre - I should qualify that by saying - lots of cars drove by(!) so I "saw" more than 3 people. We walked on Bowen Road today and saw at least 30 people in less than 50 minutes.

My Dad clipped two articles about Hong Kong and was so excited to ask me about the locations that were mentioned and I was so proud to know where Pedder Building is and the difference between Causeway Bay and Mong Kok.

Because we have HK i.d. cards, when we come back into HK we skip Immigration - we insert our i.d. cards into a reader, step into a booth, place our thumb over the reader, the gate opens and we're on our way to Customs - which is several people in uniforms standing around two exits, "Declarations" and "No Declarations." Sometimes they pull people out of the crowds passing through "No Declarations" but mostly they just scan the incoming folks and chat among themselves.

My friend, H, says that she likes to look at every day as an adventure - its what has kept her going all these months. I'm going to call Year One my "learning-curve" year and anticipate that Year Two will be the Adventure Year. I'll keep you posted...

May 11, 2011

Panic Shmanic

By Veronica

Okay - so you might recall my discussion below about panic attacks. I think I have solved the mystery. There might be some other related issues, but the "attacks" are definitely hormonal. Here's how I know:

I had to fly to Minnesota for business a few weeks back. I arrive at the airport, park the car, check luggage, go through security, find a seat. I'm not the best flyer but after flying 15 hours at a time back and forth to HK, I'm able to be comfortable with the routine.  So, I pull out my book (One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - and that choice was inspired by some list on FB. The kind of list where others have done/read/seen 85% more than you? As if anyone cares whether or not I read this book...but I want to be culturally relevant! For Lisa: UGH!)  Reading my book (strange with weird cover art), I check out other passengers - looking for the "ringer" as my friend, Mary Beth, puts it. The pregnant lady, the priest - the person we need on board to make sure we have a safe trip. Lots of business people and then viola! The pilot flying in uniform. Yay! The Ringer!

Doesn't matter. All of a sudden, I feel a little woozy thing and that's it - I'm on the roller coaster and taking up the whole front seat. No seatbelt, up the first hill I'm climbing, chink chink chink as the car jerks towards the top. I'm frantically pushing down on the imaginary break on the passenger's side of the car, scrambling to find the handbrake, but the car keeps heading for the top. I put my headphones on and listen to BelleRuth's soothing voice, I do deep breathing, I'm fighting as hard as I can....still climbing and now the plane is boarding. I should have been an actress. I'm calm! Look at me casually get my things together while my heart beats its way up my throat. No shaking when I hand the boarding agent my ticket - I even smile at her! Hi! So glad to be here! Walk down the hall to the plane - smile at the flight attendant while my knees start to buckle and everything inside says "RUN."  To my seat (6C- aisle seat), next to a middle-age guy, slim, on his phone. I tuck my backpack and purse under the seat in front of me and now I really am on the roller coaster ride and I'm not going to make it.

I'm slow and deliberate in my movements. I can't have my headphones on during take-off so I must have some sort of distraction. I pull my purse out and start pawing through it - pretending there's something in there I need. Hmmm...what am I looking for? it in this pocket? Frown, hmmm, nope. How 'bout self control - did I pack that in here? What about this envelope - nope, not in there. And now - the flight attendant is shutting the door and its over. I am full on panic. I can't get control of my thoughts, my feelings, and I know I'm going to be the crazy lady on the plane that makes them go back. I think about calling Minnesota and saying my dad just went into the hospital or that inclement weather had us grounded (who cares if they check the Doplar Radar?) No! No! I am fighting in my head. Stay calm, the flight is short, don't give in! The flight attendant won't let you off unless you make  a real scene and then the passengers will tackle you and HATE you!

I pull out my small  notebook and a pen. I slide my purse (the picture of calm!) under the seat in front of me. I flip open my notebook and begin to casually write a to-do list for the next several days. Then the plane begins to taxi and I really think I can't do it! I can't! I start to write a little faster. Now we're speeding up (usually my favorite part!) and I know I'm trapped for the next 90 minutes. 90 MINUTES of psychological warfare with myself. Now my writing is just scribbling and I'm flipping pages as fast as I fill them and I'm sure the man next to me can tell something is wrong. I'm just short of moaning and drooling.

Here is the transcript of what I wrote. Please feel free to laugh as it really is funny:

I think this is what is making me nervous - in my mind the title of consultant - paying this person extra money to be an expert. (The plane wasn't moving when I wrote that's what follows on the next line as the plane taxis) Panic attacks last 10 minutes. they are my flight/fight response over-responding. I can let go of that over-response because I am safe. I will not be sick. I will not have any physical problems. I will relax. I look forward to seeing K___ and A____ and all the others. When we land, I will (flip page) get my bag from the luggage area and find the taxi stand. The hotel is located in Roseville - maybe 30 minutes from the airport? Flying is easy. I like to watch the flight attendants - they know their job and enjoying flying. (flip page) Once I get the cab, I'll give him the address (I feel better already) and I'll relax on the ride to the hotel. I've already packed for Athens and mostly for Savannah - I still need a white bra and shoes for my dress. I'd also like a new jean skirt - something comfy and casual (flip page). I like the feeling of success - not giving into my fear. Flying is safe and relaxing. The flight attendant knows her job and so do the pilots. She is already up and busy. Soon, I'll listen to my iPod! Food and drink - coke and m&ms - I should drink water and save my snack for later(flip page) So, what happened today that had me so panicky? The take-off was smooth - we were at our altitude quickly. I felt worried but writing helped. Listening to BelleRuth - Relaxation - going to try napping.

Okay - so that's all my gibberish. The visual is key - me, writing as fast as the plane is going, not rocking but hunched over in my seat, scribble scribble scribble, page flip, scribble scribble scribble.  As the flight continues, I continue writing - trying to think of all the flying I will be doing in the next few months: back to HK, we're going to Guam in June and Australia in July and back to the U.S. in September! Then I tried to list all of the flights I'd already been on in my lifetime. Finally, I was able to get back to my To Do list, drink my Diet Coke, eat my m&m's and then we were there. The flight attendant knew something was up because she kept engaging me in conversation - eye contact, reassuring smile, she probably has a checklist in her head of Scary Passenger traits....

Back to the hormones - the next day I woke up to my period and guess what? I have felt fine ever since. No panic. No problems on the flight home. Completely calm and rational. Every day has been "normal" and balanced. I did find a replica vitamin, Stress Relief, that is akin to the Nutricalm recommended by Jamie (another poster on this blog) but haven't taken it regularly yet. I had a glass of wine last night that triggered a small bit of woozy/panic but I recovered quickly and was fine.

So, I've opted to get Xanax because despite my alternative methods, I can't go through that again. I'll continue to work on my guided imagery, affirmations, yoga, running, healthy eating, vitamins - but if all of that leaves me helpless in the face of full on panic - I'm gonna have to bring in the big guns. If chemicals are doing me in, then I'll fight back with chemicals. And you know what? Thank God for it - I think of all the women that didn't have the option of Xanax or Valium or whatever. No wonder they had fainting spells.

May 9, 2011

Tin Cans

by Veronica

One of my favorite songs is "Love is in the Air" (listen here).  I'm thinking about my trip home this month and how much love has surrounded it, filled it, and defined it.

When I first arrived, as I shared earlier, my beautiful daughter and my dad greeted me at the airport. Big smiles, lots of hugging, dragging suitcases, talking about the flight and what to do first (eat at Bob Evans then sleep).

The next day I followed my dad into his room so he could show me where to turn on the internet. As I stepped over the threshold he said, "Don't say anything about the room."  Which was my cue to stop and really look around. The bed was the first thing I noticed and did anything about. The white pillow case was nearly black with dirt, the sheets in nearly the same state. My dad is not a slob or unclean; my dad is a widower fighting loneliness and depression. I did not say a word, as promised. That afternoon I went to Target and purchased new sheets (maroon) and five new pillow cases (maroon). I washed the new bedding and then the old bedding (now donated). I made his bed, turning down one corner and left for the evening. In the morning I threw the sheets from my bed into the wash. Dad came into the kitchen and said, "I called your brother last night and told him you disapproved of my lifestyle." I laughed and said, "I don't disapprove, Dad. I think if you walked into your parents' home and saw something mookie going on, you'd do something about as well." He didn't respond. I left for a time and when I returned in the afternoon, he had not only put my bedding in the dryer, but walked it upstairs, made my bed, and turned down one corner.

I shared food and girl talk with my dearest friends. Each time I greeted on of them for the first time, our hugs felt so real and important. Not the "pat pat, good to see you" or "pat pat see you soon" kind of hugs we generally distribute because we know the next time is just a week or two away. I felt myself staring at them, trying to fill my memory with the light in their eyes, the emotion in their voices, the passing of time written on their faces.

Driving in the blossoming greenery of late spring in Ohio has revived me. Although we have plenty of plants, trees and flowers in Hong Kong, it is the familiar pink blossoms of dogwoods, the deepening purple of the lilac and the delicate bursting of tulips that tell me I'm home. I am a creature of the defined season; the murky indecisiveness of Hong Kong's fall, winter and spring leave me flat. I'm not enthusiastic about the subtropical summers that boast highs of 95 and lows of 85. But accept that it might induce me to focus on my writing projects while hiding from the heat.

My brother married the mother of his two small children this past weekend. I could write a thousand pages about the road that led him to this moment - its stomach-clenching twists, fist-crunching turns and fear-inducing loops. I doubted he would actually make it to the alter. But there they stood, with all of my family at his side as groomsmen and audience members, promising to love and support each other, all the days of their lives. He deserves nothing less than a woman who will believe in him, love him and cherish him.

My sister is planning her wedding for the fall. We spent time looking at reception sites, talking with a florist and discussing how to handle cranky in-laws-to-be. I wondered at her future - at 33 there is so much ahead. As I look forward at 48, I have a future too, though less crowded with decisions and dreams and questions. I know the answer to how many children I'll have and what their names will be. I know divorce, single-parenting and remarriage. I know the arc of my career and my mid-life interests. I know to slow down, relax and enjoy because I can! I'm not chasing two small children or helping my husband build his career.

Finally, I have been apart from my husband for nearly 25 days. We are meeting on Thursday in Michigan, prior to a weekend trip to visit his family. He wrote me an email giving me three options. Option One: arrive on Thursday and entertain myself on Friday while he finished up his meetings. Option Two: arrive on Friday after the meetings were over. Option Three: he would quit his job, we would move to the country and he would sell tin cans in our driveway so he could spend all of this time with me.

I chose Option Three.

Love is in the air...

April 26, 2011

Jet Lag

I'm home in the U.S. for a "home visit." A  home visit is when the company pays for the round trip airfare; we get two tickets each year - one per person. Mr. Veronica is scheduled for a week long seminar in Michigan in early May, because his company paid for that trip, we used one of our home visit tickets for me to come visit. And why wait? So, I arrived on Wednesday, April 21st and will see Mr. Veronica on May 13th.

The flight home is about fifteen hours. We fly out of HK directly to Detroit, and then a connecting flight to Cleveland, which is a whopping fifteen minutes. About hour number nine of the first flight I wonder if I can really be on the plane another six hours. HOURS. But, of course, no option to leave, so I focused on watching another movie. On this flight I saw "The Kids Are Alright" with Annette Bening and Julieanne Moore. They play a lesbian couple who's children decide to find the man who was the sperm donor, played by Mark Ruffalo. The movie is interesting but let me warn you: there are some very explicit sex scenes (non-lesbian) and the only reason I warn you is in case you are sitting on a plane, with 200 other people, several in your own row, who can see what's on your screen.

HK is twelve hours ahead of the East Coast, thus I flew back in time as I left Hong Kong at 9am on Wednesday morning, flew 15 hours and arrived in Detroit at noon on Wednesday. My dad and Veronica, Jr. (surprise! I thought she was away at school!) met me at the airport with three dozen roses. My daughter later remarked it should have been Diet Coke, but I let the indiscretion pass.

And so the dance with jetlag began. One piece of advice I heard seems to have worked: stay up until your normal bedtime and get up at your usual waking time. I've also heard its one day for every 2 hours, so about day 6, one should be on schedule. Days 1 - 5 are anybody's guess. Mostly I feel a little wave of disorientation and then I know I need to eat something light and get a nap.

On day 2 (Friday), I had dinner with my darling dearest life-long friend. I took over a pizza and some ice cream (may I recommend the Lavender/Honey from Mitchell's?). I stepped into her back hall, and called out, "Hello? Hong Kong calling!" and I heard her call back, "Hello?" and then she screamed and I screamed and we were hugging and kissing and clutching each other. And that's when it really hit me how much I've missed my family and friends, Cleveland, Ohio, and the United States in general. More about that in another post.

I arrived at 6pm and we talked continuously until 11pm. And let me say, there are more hours of conversation left to be had! The evening came to an end when jetlag had its way with me:

Veronica: So, we went to watch the Super Bowl at Dan Ryan's - a local western-style restaurant. Mr. Veronica wore his (and here my mind starts to whirl and dip a bit) he wore his West Virgi- West Virgini- wait, his West Virginity - Virginity?-Virginity (and now I'm stuck on repeat and looking at my dearest with pleading eyes) Virginity Virginity?

Dearest: University? West Virginia University?

Oh, Mr. Jetlag - you do dance divinely!

April 15, 2011

Fixer Upper

Posted by Jamie

I certainly identify with our beloved Veronica’s post on relationships with “fixer-uppers.” Though some of the men in my past drank too much or drugged a bit, I seem to have a history of attracting men with mental/emotional illness. From the deepest of self-esteem issues to full-blown manic-depression (as it was called in those days) if they had a little crazy goin’ on, I was crazy about them.

Most of them, for the most part, were all good guys, intelligent, with potential. “With potential,” was always my weakness. I’m an artist, an organizer, a fixer. I see a bunch of trash and make a collage. I see a tangle of veggies and make soup. I see a guy with all sorts of diamonds in the rough of severe emotional morass and think: “I know with a little time and love he will be whole and THEN we can live happily ever after.”

In the late 90s when my personal life had hit yet another low, a friend mentioned that one usually attracted the type of person with the approximate level of crazy that you had. As I had been a practicing Buddhist for a few years at that point, I stopped and thought about how that fit in with my spiritual life: Everything in your environment is a perfect reflection of what is inside of you. To change the world you have to change yourself.

Now I’m the kind of girl who wants to help everyone. . .and time got away from me and taking care of myself, learning to love and respect myself, and discovering what makes me happy somehow went to simmer on the backburner as I took sword in hand to vanquish the enemies of friends, family and fellow employees.

 At 44 years old I was destined to be alone and figured I better make myself that special someone in my life. I put a lot of work and struggle into the fixing-up of me, the hardest thing I’ve ever done: Putting myself first. Asking myself what I really want. Quite the challenge for a person who has believed from birth she was put here to “help” people.

Then I cut myself some slack about five years ago when a teacher friend of mine said: “The world is not broken and we are not here to fix it. You are not broken and you do not need to be fixed. You are worthy. We are here to be joyful.” Pivotal life moment!

In a flash I realized there is no one I can “fix” because they are not broken. I’m not a savior or a saint, and a loving relationship is not about “saving” someone or them “saving” you. Attempting to change someone, fix them or please them is an eternal, merciless, and thankless impossible task. People get sane and sober because it is something THEY have a deep desire for, not because I  happen to think they need fixing.

I had confused encouragement and support with (the hint of arrogant) hope that if I carried everything on my shoulders, the payoff would be a guy noticing what a good girl am I. . .and THAT would lead to true love! I began laughing at myself and have continued to ever since when the urge to “fix” becomes confused with offering encouragement.

My life has changed profoundly and in miraculous and happy ways ever since. In fact, a couple years later, after getting into a fulfilling and joyful relationship with myself, the love of my life found me. He’s an amazing person who has his own tools to overcome the demons and dangers of his life. No fixing or heavy lifting needed from me. We just fell in love and continue to love ourselves first, and then each other, happily ever after.

This Is How I Know... (Veronica)

I read a website called The Hairpin. I found it through someone's link on Facebook. The writing is clever, edge-y, hip (if I was 28). One woman wrote a blarticle about why she chose to become an abortion provider. Quite provocative! There are some insider jokes in the comments section ( or maybe you just have to live in NYC and be under 30....) Its mostly women, but guys visit this site and post as well. In fact, Jane Feltes, producer of This American Life on NPR posts regular videos on how to... apply eye makeup, curl your hair, decorate your nails, etc. So, its lively, funny, and entertaining.

There are also advice columns - Ask a Dude, Ask a Lady, and something like Ask a Lady about a Lady. I actually read these columns as, you know, at 47 I don't pretend to have it all figured out. Or do I? Not pretend to, just actually have some stuff figured out. Maybe I'm reading them now so I can snarf at the screen, roll my eyes and think about what I would say, if I was asked. If I wasn't old enough to be their mother. OMG. hahahah - freaky. I'm old enough to be at least their mom's younger sister. So, I'm lurking around some young, hipster website feeling superior because you know, some of their questions are STUPID. And I'm going to give you an example that will have you shaking your head...and if doesn't cause you to shake your head, then you should be reading that website and not this one.

Routinely, and I mean every time one of these advice columns goes up, someone asks about why her boyfriend won't perform (sex alert) cunnilingus on her. And she asks about whether or not she should get a Brazilian, or whatever, if its not enough to just tidy up "down there." Perhaps she is malformed in some way - she's too big, too small, what can she do? And, routinely, people (men and women) respond with: if he won't do it, dump him. That's right! Dump his sorry, selfish, rude ass. Just get rid of that guy! Get another one! Find one who will do IT. Doesn't matter what else is going on this relationship - if he's caring, honest, patient, funny, forthright,, no. If he won't, then you won't, and he should just know to do it and there are no alternatives.  If the sex isn't good now, it won't be later and you'll be sorry to have wasted years on such a loser.

And this is how I know that I am older. I've thought about this advice column nonsense for the last few weeks. I was standing at the sink, doing the dishes (I've had a dishwasher for a total of 5 months in the last 24 years), and thinking about the latest advice column and the usual nonsense about sex and getting rid of the guy who wouldn't/couldn't engage in oral sex. I realized I was sad for that woman who wrote asking for advice, sad for the people who said to break up with him, and sad for the man who was about to get dumped despite "lots of other good qualities."  When I was 28, I was married with a 5 year old daughter and a husband who had just lost his job because of a recession. That's real life, friends. Imagine him and I at the dining room table, talking about what we'll do to meet the mortgage in 30 days, pay the day care and keep the heat on. Then, I say, "You know, there's something else I'd like to talk to you about. I'm tired of you not meeting all of my sexual needs. There's this one thing, that lasts about 5 or 10 minutes and it could happen once or twice a month, but it doesn't happen at all and its ruining my life."

Washing the dishes, thinking about what has transpired since I was 28. So many years, so many layers, so many grooves in my record. I don't begrudge anyone being twenty-something. But this shallow, self-centered, egotistical notion that the world revolves around sexual satisfaction of self above all else is disturbing. I think they should have an advice column over there called Ask A Mother. No one would read it, of course, or they'd read it, roll their eyes and then run their forefinger in circles near their temple because old people are crazy. Old people just don't get it, how difficult and confusing this world is and how uncertain the future is. Nope, we have no idea.

And this is how I know I'm old because I'm complaining about kids these days and how back in my day there was no Internet or email or texting or sexting.

And that's how I know how much I've grown. I realize how much less complicated some parts of my life have become. Other parts continue on in their shadowy, what-to-do fashion, and I've learned that ambiguity is my friend. There are still questions to be answered and unknowns to be solved. For example, what is a Brazilian, exactly?

April 10, 2011

Balancing- Veronica

*****I preface this entry with the notion that I can't write everything I'm thinking otherwise posts would be three miles long. For this blog you should know: I am married. I am insanely happy. I love my life. I love my work. I feel this way 98% of the time. What you are reading is the other 2% of stuff that I reflect on and life questions I ask myself. *******

Before Mr Veronica, I had a light switch relationship (on/off/on/off) with a guy I'll call Sam. Our relationship developed over several months. I can't say we were ever a "couple," although I think many people saw us that way. Sometimes, I wanted us to be a couple. I loved talking with him about a million different things. He would cook us dinner and we'd smoke and drink long into the night. On one occasion he said he had considered asking me to marry him but didn't ask for fear of what the answer would be...and I told him he was right to be worried. Sam was an alcoholic and drug addict, and despite some very strong feelings for him, I wouldn't marry a known disaster.

Here would be a good place to note my first husband also had drug/alcohol issues that he eventually overcame; underlying those issues were the reasons he was self-medicating, and those he could not overcome. During one of our post-divorce arguments he screamed down the phone line that I had abandoned a sick spouse. He said, "That's the kind of woman you are - you abandoned me when I needed you most."

I think about that accusation, about Sam, and I think: where are those boundaries?

I used to think I was the Florence Nightingale of dating. The guys I attracted were the underdogs in some way. Drugs, alcohol, abuse, loneliness, despair, so many broken hearts and lives...all mine for the fixing. And, I thought I could do it! Then they'd be so happy and then I'd be so happy and then we'd be loving partners and dance off into the sunshiney rainbow world drinking 7 UP and flowers would bloom under our bare feet.

Then I got married and as previewed in the above paragraph, it ended in divorce about 12 years later. By the end, I was an emotional disaster. Exhausted, fragile and turned inside out, I didn't know anything other than I felt like I escaped with my life. Nine years later the Universe checked in to see if I had learned anything about myself. And I had! I learned to recognize lecherous men within the first three or four sentences they spoke. I learned to say no when I needed to and I was still tempted by the good-but-troubled man. I like to feel needed, necessary, motherly.

Eventually Sam's life came crashing down around him. I know he's sober now, day by day, via Facebook. There is a part of me that wants to reach out to him, to tell him I still care about him, that I worry about him, that I wish I could be a part of his world in which he feels my support and love. This is where I wonder: what is anyone's role in another person's mental health care and does one do more good or damage by fulfilling their own needs when contemplating a relationship with someone with serious addiction issues?

I would have liked the chance to meet the real Sam, not Sam the addict, Sam the manipulator, Sam the liar. I would have, maybe not married him, but certainly explored a committed relationship with him. It might have led to marriage. There are people that get sober and stay sober. But that seems like a crap shoot. But don't addicts have a right to happiness, love, ...I'm arguing in my head. My other voice, the one that kept me from making this leap says, "They do have rights! But those rights - to be in a romantic relationship, to be intimate with someone's feelings - come when they can prove they can take care of themselves." (Am I just trying to make myself feel better?) Is it right to want a friendship with someone because that's the best I can do? Sam has the same right I do to say "no" to someone or something. I can offer friendship, he can say no, and there we are. I go my way, he goes his way, and I learn a little more about recognizing when things are finished, no tags attached, just finished.

I didn't abandon my spouse. I left because I couldn't take care of myself. I didn't marry Sam because I knew he couldn't take care of himself. People need to be loved and cared for, and it takes a person with a different kind of strength to marry a known addict. I think of a couple I know, not well, and both are recovering addicts. They've been married for many years, now. I often wonder how they keep their balance.

April 8, 2011

A Little Pregnant

I'm not pregnant. Not even a little. There was a time when I was a little pregnant and then I became more pregnant as time went by until Veronica, Jr. was born. And that was the last time I was pg....there may have been an incident or two, but without talking biology here, no other actual positive pg tests were ever achieved after that one time.

Before moving to HK, a good friend of mine and I talked about putting together a writers' group. We planned to Skype once a month or so, and she created a FB group for the members. We are a small but mighty group of 6? (You know who you are!) One of our first writing assignments involved posting a recent grocery shopping list as a way to introduce ourselves and where we were in the lifeline. I pulled out my last grocery list (written in purple ink on a yellow post-it note) and read through each scribbled off line: dry cat food, cat litter, chicken, onions, yogurt (plain), celery, raisins, pg test.

"Pg test?" you may ask. Well, I didn't know what else to think! It had been two months since my p, I felt nauseous, various parts of my body hurt, emotions were all over the place. And I'd heard of late-life pregnancies (and just how late is 47? Okay - in terms of childbearing, it is late...) and there was this little-ish part of me that sort of could see Mr. Veronica and I being parents. Once we worked past the sleepless nights, diapers, bottles, pediatrician visits, not to mention the actual 9 months of pregnancy, labor and delivery....I'm tired just reading about it. Nonetheless, I had momentary daydreams of holding Little Boy's hand, walking through Wanchai Market, watching him play soccer, playing with his cousins... typical, romantic notion stuff that tells you just how far removed from reality I am when it comes to babies, kids - and - I'd be 64 when Little Boy got his driver's license. 64. That's something to consider! And this is all just nonsense because I didn't buy the pg test. I made a doctor's appointment because it had been so long since I'd been to the doctor that I needed the annual maintenance checkup anyway.

There were the usual questions, including, "When was your last p?" I responded, "About 2 months ago," and out came the plastic cup and off I went to fill it. I kept telling myself I wasn't pg, couldn't be pg and that this really is the beginning of a new time in my life. And, the doctor confirmed it. I wasn't and it is.

Its been a bit of a bumpy road, but not awful - yet. When I first started reading about symptoms of peri-menopause, I almost couldn't get out of bed. It sounded life-ending. I thought I'd shrivel up and blow-away with the first strong wind. I'd decompose into a wad of wrinkles and incontinence, too-bright lipstick and eyeshadow highlighting the crevices in my face. I know I'm painting this over-the-top picture, but you also know, I'm kinda right. And, it is kinda scary - things changing. But its also kind of awesome!

For the last two months, despite some very minor physical discomforts, I have been p-free! Meaning, cramp-free, leak-free, bloat-free, responsibility-free! What a delicious, heady feeling! I feel like the world is opening up before me. So many options and opportunities. I've done my time! Soon, I'll never have to wonder, wish, deny, hope, dream about being pg again. Okay - there is some background here, I've known for at least twelve years I couldn't have any more children. And, back then, I did grieve about it. I came from a large family, I understood large families, I wanted to create a large family. "Knowing" I couldn't have more children never really stopped me from hoping, though. And you know what? When my p finally stops for good, then I don't have to hope anymore. The answer is final ("Its final now!" you're yelling at the computer screen. And I'm here to tell you, its not over til its over). And its a good answer. I am so excited to look forward and see months, years of freedom! I get there are physical changes coming, some having arrived already. But they're not the life-ending, heart-breaking disasters I thought they would be.

When I first posted my shopping list for my writers' group, I commented that not having a monthly cycle made me feel out of sync. In my mind I picture a board game, and there are 28 spaces, all in a circle. Every day I advance one space until I have gone all the way around the board. I have spent the last 36 years going in a circle. I knew where I was in the span of time because of what day it was in my cycle. Feel good and sexy? Must be ovulating! Feel fat and furious? Must be pms-ing! Feel average and even-keeled? Must just be a regular day.

But now, as I advance, square by square, there is no circle. The circle lays behind me and there is a straight path before me. I'm free to go forward and explore; to be a part of a different kind of mystery. Really, its like receiving an honor badge! Remember when we first got our periods, people would say, "Oh! You're a woman now!" I think that entering menopause makes you the most woman-est you'll ever be and I wish women would congratulate each other on a job well done! Children, no children, fertility issues, physical anguish, joy, pride, sorrow, loss - the race is done. We've made it. Cheers! Bottoms up! Woo-hoo! On to the victory par-tay!

April 4, 2011

With Your Hands in the Air...

I've always been a spiritual person. Always? Yes, I think so. Raised Catholic, I spent my childhood going to a gigantic church, physically and congregation-wise. This structure was built out of huge slabs of stone and marble. Twin bell towers stood two or three stories over all the other buildings on the block. Inside, deep red marble pillars supported beams stained a dark brown with mysterious symbols painted in gold. Rows and rows of pews (why do they remind me of the tile holders in Scrabble?) faced the enormous alter also made of marble. The physical presence of power, holiness, sacredness was undeniable. From here I get my love of entering a silent church, kneeling down, and praying. I can think of nothing more spiritually satisfying than those moments of feeling close to God in the sacred silence.

Eventually, I left the Catholic church and spent about ten years as one of Jehovah's Witnesses. I actually enjoyed most things about being JW (as we called it) but there were some things I didn't enjoy and ultimately left, which was spiritually difficult for a number of reason. I will summarize by saying, I left without knowing whom I could trust or what I should believe. I was also going through a divorce and that had its own debilitating effects.

For awhile I didn't attend church and I missed it. So, I started venturing out to different churches. It seemed no matter what church I went to, I found the same thing: terrible sermons. Why do we have to have sermons! Let's sing, let's pray, let's meditate! Let's break bread, pass the grape juice, wish each other well and move on.

I also found lots of "contemporary" services - where the organ has been replaced by drums, flutes, guitars, and hymns set aside for "Me and Jesus are FB friends" music. Along with that music comes: people who put their hands in the air, palms wide open, fingers splayed, reaching, swaying, feeling. Oh gosh. I just hate that. I'm sitting alone in my own living room as I type this and can hardly bring myself to make such a display of what? Zealousness? Letting-go-ness? Acceptance? What is this thing about! Why do people do this thing?

Here's what I find odd. Just a few weeks ago I went to an Eagles (yes, Peaceful, Easy Feeling Eagles) concert. They were rocking- so much energy and excitement! And guess what I did? I rocked out! I clapped, I sang along, I swayed, its possible I even put my hands in the air, palms wide open, fingers splayed, reaching, swaying, feeling. That was Friday night. Fast forward to Sunday morning at 11a and I am standing in the pew at church, arms folded, singing along to the words presented in Powerpoint style on the screen above the alter. Not everyone has their hands in the air, but lots of people do. People my age, older, younger. The singers up front are performing the church version of American Idol. They squeeze their eyes shut as they try to convince the microphone they really, really love Jesus. I'm sure they do, I just don't understand why they have to be so exuberant about it. Its sort of overkill - you know? For me.

I want to tell you, however, that I love going to this church! Union Church. For the first time in many, many years, I look forward to going to church. The pastor gives excellent sermons! They make sense. They are timely. They are meaningful. He is human. He is funny. He is serious. He gets what life is like and about. He knows we need guidance - we are strangers in a strange land, on several levels. We are all far from home. So is he! He's from Minnesota. God bless the Midwest!

When I attend the contemporary service, I sometimes toy with the idea of raising my hands in the air (like I don't care). But I do care. I can't lose myself in church - its not a rock concert. Maybe that's part of it...I see my relationship with God as serious (I can write about His humor another time). To me, He is powerful and holy, just like that church I grew up in. I want my worship to reflect that level of seriousness. And that requires me to keep my hands to myself. If I ever do get my hands in the air, I'll let you know. It might be sooner than either of us imagines.

April 2, 2011

Guest Blogger: Rob

As a fellow scribe who strives to become better at my craft as the years go by I have learned there is a vast difference between emotional honesty and The Truth. There is so much ballyhoo and righteousness bandied about concerning The Truth and how important it is and how we must be honest at all times. In honest, true real interactions with other people NOBODY wants you to be 100% honest and truthful with them. No one! And what is The Truth and Honesty? What is true and real for one person can be the polar opposite for another. Facts? History. Read a little, and you will soon see that there are few "facts" that are not fuzzy and foggy, that do not change as time goes by. Science? Fact? Most science is one person's hypothesis and they "prove" it. But what was solid scientific fact 100 or even 5 years ago can be discounted as ridiculous today. Honesty? I've had the skin flayed from my heart by people who felt they HAD to tell me the truth, as they saw it, about me ("I'm just being honest.").

I've come to believe that it's much more honest and truthful to be AUTHENTIC and COMPASSIONATE. Emotional honesty in writing is, I think exactly this: Sharing an authentic emotional situation, feeling. being able to communicate it with words and characters. A "real" name or an alias is not as important as the authenticity of feeling you elicit. Some of the most moving stories in the world (the Quaran, the Bible, the Gosho, the Upanishads) were written down by scribes whose names are lost, whose identities are nebulous and mythical.

Be authentic and compassionate, particularly towards yourself. You have a wonderful gift and thank you for sharing it.

March 31, 2011


Yesterday I had lunch with a group of friends. Its one of those groups that's a mishmash of: I'm friends with her and that lady is one of her friends so now we're all sorta friends as we end up in the same groups doing things together. Which is fine. Which is always an indicator that it isn't really fine. Fine.

In this particular group is a woman whom I like. She's funny and interesting and independent. However, I get the feeling she doesn't like me. Which is....fine. Its one of those funny situations where I like her enough to not care that she doesn't care for me. Is that odd? I don't expect us to be great friends or really even friends. Acquaintances is fine (ha! "fine"). And this all sounds disjointed so here's a little background.

In this world of expat living, I meet new people (women) all the time. And, frankly, there is that little litmus paper test of "do we click or not?" I don't expect to click with every woman I meet and I don't have to in order to have a good time. Mostly, I'm hoping to meet people with whom to go to lunch, have interesting conversations, hike, play tennis, commiserate about the weather, family, visitors, etc. If I was to meet a new friend with whom I really clicked, that would be an added bonus. And I have met a friend like that! So, yay me. Most women, though, fall into the "hey, great to see you, see you again soon" sort of catagory. Including this woman above.

She is friends with people that I am friends with, however, due to whatever circumstances, has actually done more with this group than I have, thus making them closer. So, where they see each other every week, at least once a week, I see these folks almost on accident or only every few weeks, maybe. Where once I was an insider, I'm now a bit of an outsider. In my real world, I wouldn't really care. But in expat world, where I am trying to build a life and find my place, it feels a bit like 7th grade. Awkward and confusing. So odd to be doing this at the age of 47! I worry I'll still be like this at 77. "Does she like me? Will she care if I move my wheelchair closer to hers? Will they let me play gin rummy with them in the Common Room?" Bah!

Where was I? Okay, we have lunch. She's fine, I'm fine, we all talk and laugh and do the usual commiserating and planning for future get togethers. We exit - four of us - and now - 2 of the women who I would say were my "original" friends hug this woman goodbye - see you soon (tomorrow, in fact! Yay!) and each kinda pat me on the shoulder saying, okay - until next time (whenever that might be). Then this woman is ready to go the opposite direction and looks at me and I can see the struggle on her face. She's just hugged these other two goodbye, so now should she hug me goodbye? And she looks to see any sign that I'm going to hug her. And I watch her face as she goes through all the emotions of, "I don't feel the need to hug this person, we're not close, but I've just hugged these other two women and if I don't hug her how will it look? I guess I'll hug her just to be socially not-awkward..."  And I almost say to her, "Hey - we don't have to hug - its fine." (And these hugs are those little shoulder things you do that's friendlier than shaking hands). But she's decided to hug and so I give her a little hug back and she's on her way.

And I have to kinda laugh at the moment. I would totally hug this person! I like her! But her reticence about liking me or whatever the issue is, means it will always be a little awkward - the greeting and the departing. I have to say - I'm not a big hugger - but when the mood strikes and I'm happy - I'll hug anyone. Its a bit unpredictable, but predictable enough to say that physical contact with most people isn't necessary for me. I do have friends with whom I participate in bone crushing hugs! We kiss and hug and swing from side to side. That would be all of one friend.

I remember a woman who was a family member of an ex-in-law. This woman's hugs were so ferocious that we literally tried to avoid her - she'd grab you by the back of the neck and wrench you in good and hard for full body contact. She'd have a big smile on her face, kiss your cheek, and love love love you! Sensory overload in 3...2...1..

I might write a book on hugging etiquette. When, where, how much body contact, when to advance from handshake to hugging, people who hug even on the first introduction to people who don't ever want to hug, hugging on Facebook and in emails. It would be a coffee table book or in-the-basket-by-the-toilet book. I would interview people about their thoughts on hugging and how they determine who they will hug and if they ever feel pressured to hug someone, or if they hug because its socially expected. Which is, you know, fine.

March 28, 2011

Is It the Wine?

I had a panic attack tonight at a volunteer meeting. Of all things. How much less stress can there be at a meeting than one where you are there, voluntarily about something that is strictly voluntary? Oy.

So, because I am free to dance naked on this blog, I will attempt to outline my day and my thoughts in order to start recording these maddening events in hopes of tracing exactly why they happen.

First. I am a 47 (nearly 48) year old woman who is experiencing hormonal fluctuations. Ahem. I have had panic attacks all of my life. In the past they have happened in the middle of the night. I know! Pounding heart, nausea, sweats... I don't even know how often they happened - once a month? I never tied it to my p. before so that could have been! Hmmmm...... 

Anyway, I think I had a major one before moving from Athens, while still living in my little house. I was at work and suddenly felt ill. Very ill. I thought I was coming down with the flu but not exactly the flu. Its very difficult to describe but I literally felt like I was going to just fall over and....? Then what? I couldn't imagine! I don't know. I didn't stop walking until I got to my door. I vegged on the couch and eventually felt fine!

Now in HK, they happen at all times of the day and night. A cold, clammy feeling comes over me. I feel nauseous, closed in, panicky (hahahaha!). Anxious, weirded out, dizzy, out of place. So much fun! I have my little "tricks of the trade" as I call them. If I am on the MTR, I pull out my phone and time the distance between stops. I play games on my iPhone. I read emails and text messages. Anything that is simple and feels natural. If I am at a dinner party, that's a little more complicated! I might try to drink water, focus on the conversation, tell myself to relax and wait it out. One time I really believed I had to leave. HAD TO. But my husband was having fun and talking with other people, and I didn't want to upend everything because of this "fake" thing. I waited it out and eventually, I felt fine. That night as well as tonight, I had a glass of wine. But! I had wine last night at Grappa's at the airport, knowing I was coming home alone on the MTR. No problem! No panic, no dizziness.

Tonight's episode: I'm sitting in an office space, about the size of my living room - so not tiny, but comfortable. There are seven of us sitting around a table. Not squished in, lots of leg and elbow room. There is wine on the table, potato chips, chocolate and cookies. I eat a few single chips, one cookie and two pieces of chocolate. (I also had a large Diet Coke earlier in the day with a late lunch of steamed dumplings, and 2 Reese's pieces.) I have a small, very small! glass of wine. We are talking, everything is amiable, and suddenly I have this little hot flash. I check around the room and others have a little glistening going on as well, so I know it is warm in the room. But then I feel a little dizzy and that's all it takes. I slide down hill fast. My hands get sweaty, I feel the panic rising, I think I might faint or just fall down. I believe I can't even make it to the door. I wonder what people will think or do when I stand up and then crumple, with no explanation. I feel that if I do fall down, I will be paralyzed. Just frozen on the ground and I won't be able to get up and leave. So, now I start to worry about how to get out of the room without making a scene: throwing up, fainting to the ground, dying. Then I realize I'm having a panic attack. I try to calm myself down: I put gum in my mouth, I pretend to check text messages. I see its nearly seven o'clock so I think, if I can't get control, I have been here for an hour, I can use the "somewhere else to be" excuse. I focus on the conversation, feel my stomach turning, time is running out. Something bad is going to happen and it will happen when I try to walk to the door. I give in, signal to the meeting coordinator by tapping my wrist that I have to head out, she smiles understandingly, other people nod their consent, I pick up my jacket and purse and get out the door. I don't stop, though, because this is a small reprieve. I make it down the elevator, down the street and turn onto the main street. Another wave of panic hits again and I debate about taking a cab - I only need to get home and I know I'll be fine. No! I won't take a cab....better not to be stuck in the cab when I throw up, faint, die, etc.  I'll walk, go slow, enjoy the evening air...except now I can't imagine I can walk all the way home. I give in and go to the MTR station which, oddly, seems safe and familiar. I ride one stop, exit and by the time I reach street level again, all is normal. Completely, happily normal. I walk up the hill and stairs to my building. In the door (yay!), up the elevator and into my apartment.

Huh! I'm hungry! What's on television? Washing machine is humming, cats are disdainfully interested in my arrival, and all is well. So, some residual feelings as I type this out and replay my thoughts/feelings. My husband has said, "Why don't you tell me when its happening? I can help you." You know what's funny? I don't know what would happen if I admitted to a panic attack in the middle of a panic attack! I think I might start crying or throwing up or fainting or die.

The other thing I'm supposed to think about is what I was thinking or doing before the P.A. Everything was fine at the volunteer meeting, but before that, I had gotten my hair done along with a manicure and pedicure. The husband says our money is "fine," but I do know that we're just starting to turn a financial corner so I felt slightly guilty for getting the extras (mani/pedi). When I went to pay, the credit card was declined and I was not embarrassed or concerned really, but I did write Mr. Veronica a kinda nasty email. I don't even know why I did it. I knew we had the money. I knew everything was fine. I just had to push a couple of buttons. So, I was guilty about the mani/pedi and then guilty about being mean to Mr. I'm a better person than that and so madly in love with my husband that my behavior is really questionable! I knew it would make him feel bad and I did it any way.

So, a little financial stress, some guilt, a little wine and viola! Panic Attack Day!

March 27, 2011

Flash: Audrey

She swaddles the baby in a clean blanket, just as they showed her at the hospital. She whispers the instructions as she goes.

"First, fold the blanket in a triangle. Then place the baby in the center." She scoops the little bundle into the center of the blue cloth and continues.

"Then take the left corner across the baby's body and tuck it behind." Pulling the blanket across the small body, she pokes the cloth behind its' back.

She strokes one small cheek and reaches for the right corner.  "Across with the right corner, pull up and tuck behind. Now your baby feels safe and secure." A final tuck of the blue fabric and she smiles, satisfied with her work.

Making a cradle of her arms, she carries the quiet bundle to the rocking chair, and sits. To and fro they rock, a gentle reminder of the womb that acted as a swaddling cloth for those many months of one-ness. She gazes at the small face. Eyes closed, mouth a thin line, breath nothing more than a miniscule puff of air. Life, delicate and sturdy, lies in her arms.

She feels drowsy and closes her eyes.  How good this weight feels in her arms. Natural. Motherly.  The rocking slows and stops as sleep overtakes her.

The bundle shifts in her arms and she comes awake, moving through fog and sludge. She does not open her eyes but lets her hand stroke the tiny being's soft, furry face.

Furry face?

Her eyes open and bile rises in her throat. She makes herself look at the baby. Its face is indeed furry. Whiskers poke out from the triangle nose and its green/yellow eyes are narrow slits, gazing back at her.

And then she remembers. Remembers the hospital. The bright lights and pain. And the crying. And the silence. The cancerous silence that started with the baby and spread to the nurses, the doctor, her husband and then her.

She strokes the small kitten's face. She pulls it close to her cheek and lets her tears fall to the sound of the purring of a cat.

Flash: Vivien

Vivien touched the necklace at her throat. Delicate silver loops cupped turquoise droplets. It was the most expensive piece she'd ever purchased and it had been worth the wait to wear it.

She picked up the mirror at the bedside and looked at her face. It seemed softer, rounder now. Her red hair, cut in a shag, framed her face with gentle licks of ginger fire. She pushed the covers down and opened her hospital gown. 

Holding the mirror over her body, she admired her breasts. Curved, not too full, maybe not even as full as she hoped they would be, but that could be adjusted over time with  surgery.  She tenderly teased her left nipple and felt satisfied with its seductive rise between her fingers. Pushing her breasts together with her arms, Vivien admired the obvious cleavage and the way the necklace splayed across her clavicle.

She pushed the covers down further and held the mirror over her groin. Using her left thumb and forefinger, she peeled away the bandage.  The numbness had subsided, leaving a peculiar feeling of black and blue tissue below the surface. Vivien moved her legs so her feet were flat on the bed and her knees made a tent of the white sheet.  Her neck craned, she peered between her legs. Her  bulky penis and testicles had been turned into a sculpted landscape of pink smooth, mounded skin leading to her new vagina.  The beauty of its simplicity caught Vivien off guard. "I am a woman." she said aloud.  She laid down and said it again, "I am a woman."

The truth of her statement clung to her mind and made her heart pound. She put the mirror away, re-arranged her bandages and bedclothes.  Vivien turned on her side, wrapped her arms tightly around herself and whispered, "I am a woman."

Planet Scribe

Just finished an hour long Skype session with my writing group, Planet Scribe. What I love about this group:

*  we live all around the world: Ohio, Washington, Hawaii and Hong Kong
*  everyone shares their thoughts, opinions, ideas - honestly and with great humor
*  I am not intimidated by others' intelligence or my own lack of knowledge
*  I feel productive after the call
*  I could drink wine in the morning with them or mimosas, if I wanted to, and not feel or be judged

We talked about Point of View writing, which was informative. But like most good therapy sessions, the juicy stuff came out in the last 10 minutes of the conversation. I spoke about my reticence of writing too honestly on my other blog and that reticence inspiring me to start The Clothesline. R said it was the honesty of my writing that made reading the blog interesting, which made me feel better (and it is all about making myself feel better).

I can see that writing about day to day stuff is interesting but there is a fine line between interesting for the reader and the self-indulgent contemplation for the author. This blog is that fine line, I think. I like this phrase that came from the conversation: "Life is like that, you know? Sweet and bitter...its the tension of life."

I also question the idea of writing honestly under a pseudonym. How honest is that?! As one of  my online students said, "I need to make changes in babysteps." Writing honestly under "Veronica" while writing guarded under my real name. Actually, that sounds about right as my big life lesson is about how I routinely worry about having others' approval. That's dwindled somewhat. And as R, ever-wise and all-knowing, pointed out - we are different people to different people. I don't tell everyone everything all the time - kinda. I might do that. I think I'm looking for connections between things - things in my life, people in my life. Putting the puzzle together as I learn more about myself and what I'm capable of accomplishing or ignoring.

Good work, Planet Scribe. 

A Brief Explanation

Any time I read a new blog that is of particular interest to me, I search the site for the "inaugural" posting - something that tells me what first inspired the person to start that particular blog. Here is my reason: I've written a couple of different blogs. All have gone by the wayside for some reason, and no doubt, this one will as well.

This blog, however, is different from the others in that it is not for work and it is not an update on living in Hong Kong; its purely for my own amusement and any one else who stumbles upon it and finds something of interest in my writings. I don't want to edit my thoughts or wonder if what I write is of interest to others. I want to write, unencumbered, by my own internal proofreader or external boogeymen and/or boogeywomen.

Happy March 27, 2011.