Superman is dead, but Wonder Woman still looks good

Our childhood games involved imaginative scripts with roles as the Bionic Woman, Charlie’s Angels, Batman and Robin, Steve Austin, Wonder Woman, and scores of nefarious criminals that were always beat down by dinner time.  I think of us as the latch-key, TV generation.  While The Brady Bunch clued us in to how “normal” families behaved and how abnormal our own families were by their standards, our super heroes not only survived the mechanizations of evil, but triumphed within one hour.  It wasn’t like we could play Brady Bunch; how boring that would have been.  I faced badness and damaged people in real life and pretending to be Wonder Woman for a few hours was an escape that culminated with the fineness of justice.  And her plane was invisible so all I needed were bracelets and a rope to use as a lasso.  I hated it when the guys played the superhero role because then I got to play a victim of a bad guy, usually tied up.  But, misogynistic tendencies of young boys are a topic for another post, possibly even another blog.

We have been termed “Generation X”, the cynical generation.  My daughter says she finds my generation to be the angry generation.  Well, the rules have changed in our lifetime and TV characters in prime-time are now all flawed.  Our super hero-complex is described perfectly in Jeff Gordinier’s X Saves the World.  The line between good and evil is not only fuzzy, but moves depending on the situation.  Wonder Woman may have snapped a villain’s neck here and there, but their crimes always justified it and I was confident of her inherent goodness.  Today’s heroes quickly become anti-heroes, both in real life and on TV.  There is no shortage of villains, however.  Can the sexed-up versions of the Angels and Wonder Woman empower little girls the way they did me, or will they parody the half-wins that we call justice today?  And how boring would it be for a kid to play act beating up a crooked hedge-fund manager?


Forget about it

Coupled with my Monet-like vision, my hit-and-miss memory makes finding my glasses a frustratingly blind scavenger hunt.  I have adjusted to allow for memory lapses because that is what we humans do.  We work with what we have.  So, I have a designated finder pair of glasses that reside on my dresser.  Sometimes I just have to wear the finder pair if I left my others in an especially well-hidden spot.  In perimenopause an addled thought process is sometimes what we have to work with as waxing and waning estrogen levels that are essential to neurotransmitter and oxygen levels in the brain fluctuate.  Some days I am sharp and can remember and carry out a multitude of detailed tasks that leave me feeling damn good about myself and rather smart.  Other days I am scattered, have to wear my finder glasses, and return to the grocery store for the detergent that I left in the cart.  Adding to my brain drain is the shame of not being on top of my game which is stress-producing for my Wonder Woman alter ego.  Stress, or the inevitable cortisol dump that accompanies it, actually shuts down learning and negatively affects the hippocampus, the memory center.

When my Grandma began showing signs of dementia a couple of years before she died I researched what we could do to make her life less frustrating.  I never thought I would soon employ some of those strategies in order to fake out Wonder Woman fans.  I also use the strategies I learned when placed under increasing pressure to do more and more at work, a common theme in today’s workplace.  I completed a Franklin Covey course titled “FOCUS, Achieving Your Highest Priorities” that seemed tailor-made for my planning/controlling nature.  There is truth to the adage that writing something down gives it POWER and planning requires writing it down.  Working in medical education I became addicted to studies.  Prove it to me; give me some stats or metrics.  Smooth Operators no longer hold sway here in the 5th decade.  So naturally I believe the hundreds of studies that show that multitasking is an inefficient illusion which makes for costly and time-consuming mistakes.  We all know someone who moves at break-neck speed and radiates anxiety, but is not very effective.  I am the friend that has no problem saying, “slow the hell down and identify what is crucial for you to accomplish today”.  The downside is that people get pissed when they are running around while I am calmly asking for identification of priorities.  My satisfaction is that I never spent an hour hunting for pencils the morning of a national inservice exam.  Wonder Woman always keeps her pencils in the same spot because it is a stupid thing to spend time on.  “A place for everything and everything in its place” may seem contradictory for a creative person, but if I spent my time hunting for tools I would have little time to create.

Here are a few other strategies that maximize my unreliable memory and help me focus:

  • Identify the most important goals for a month and work backwards in weekly, and then daily increments and make to-do lists.  Do not forget relationships on these lists.  Just don’t let your husband see that you penciled him in on Wednesday evening.
  • If something unexpected comes up (and when doesn’t it), think about what day’s list it can go on.  Someone freaking out does not necessarily mean it becomes your priority.  Sick kids trump everything, though.  Don’t sweat it.  Rework your lists and try to delegate where possible.
  • Never go to the grocery store without a list that was generated from a menu.  Poll the family while you are making the grocery list and only go off the list if it involves chocolate.
  • Pay with cash.  Not only will you spend less, but you do not have to keep track of several debits, just one withdrawal.
  • Do one thing at a time.  A person who works sequentially is 50% more productive and makes 50% fewer mistakes.  Time is a commodity!
  • Take a five-minute break once per hour to stretch, move about, or talk to someone you like.  Movement sends more oxygen to the brain and restarts the recall center.  You get a good feeling when interacting with someone you like because the brain is dumping those enjoyable hormones like serotonin and dopamine.

Interestingly, Our Bodies Ourselves, the book that granted us the power of knowing where our clitoris resides, just celebrated its 40th anniversary.  This monumental book granted women permission to discuss the taboo subjects of our sexuality by giving us the power of knowledge.  While young women today are prepared for menstruation and openly discuss sex and birth control with their mothers, we still have a long way to go on ridding ourselves of the taboo associated with mid-life female changes.  We have seen the effect of open dialogue and being able to call a vagina a vagina.  In that vein, I welcome you to share some of your strategies for adjusting or minimizing the changes before and during menopause.  If you find yourself trying to put it in what you think of as acceptable terms, just say out loud, “clitoris, vagina, penis, orgasm”.

Wildly Inappropriate

What does inappropriate look like?  According to a young woman travelling from New York to Dublin with her vibrator it looks like a TSA inspection ticket with “Get your freak on girl” scribbled on it.  Travelling alone, Jill Filipovic found the ticket in her luggage while she was unpacking and assumed it referred to the “personal item” in her bag.  She admittedly “died laughing” in her hotel room and was not embarrassed, as evidenced by her posting the note on Twitter and her website, Feministe.  Ms. Filipovic then emailed the Daily Mail about the incident and said she found the incident to be incredibly invasive and creepy.  In my experience searches do tend to be invasive and I assume that anything in my luggage will be perused by someone.   According to her, she could not get her freak on and had to dispose of her vibrator because she “had no idea what he did with it while it was in his possession”.  It is disappointing that a self-proclaimed feminist did not entertain the possibility that the TSA agent may have been a woman, in which case I would have thrown it out, too.  Ms. Filipovic also said the incident was “wildly inappropriate”.

It seems that appropriate and its opposite used to be more easily identified.  I grew up very familiar with what my Mother deemed inappropriate and passed on that knowledge along with my own definition to my Daughter.  But, in today’s transparent and shameless culture, inappropriate is defined by the individual who can often just turn the channel or close the browser.  A perfect example is that I do not believe the TSA agent was wildly inappropriate, but then I love a good joke.  I do think it would be appropriate recompense for the airline to give Ms. Filipovic a gift certificate to her shop of choice for the purchase of a new “personal item” so that she can return to getting her freak on, poor girl.


My afternoon with Occupy Grand Rapids

No bail money was needed at the Occupy Grand Rapids rally this past Saturday, coincidentally located at the tiny Monument Park across a busy street from the Grand Rapids Police Department.  A diverse group of about 30 fed-up people gathered to protest the state of our union and listen to scheduled speakers on topics such as consensus, the legal boundaries of local ordinances in regard to public assembly, and managing various media outlets.  There was an abundance of heart and rebellious attitude in the small group which grew in number as the afternoon wore on.  Several
folks held up signs along the sidewalk, others knelt on the grass listening to speakers, and spontaneous group discussions popped up as people introduced themselves to one another.  Vehicles driving by honked their passive support and a few passers-by yelled out, “Get a job!”  This is a fledgling movement that is in the early organizational stage, which is my way of saying that the Occupy Grand Rapids movement is in need of structure.
Although an organized structure is practical and I think essential, the Occupy movement was born out of frustration and anger, so it may take some time to create long-burning coals from the initial blaze.  Occupy Grand Rapids has a core group that have the potential of long-burning coals, but personal time constraints of even the most devoted highlight a need for a larger group of participants to assist with the organizational aspects.  Children must be cared for, work and college require participation, and personal relationships need attention.

This is all my opinion, on my blog, which is not a voice for the Occupy movement, but rather the voice of a woman in her 40’s musing on life’s changes in the 5th decade.  It
seems that the biggest challenge for this movement will be engaging people like me who want to fight for concrete changes, like campaign and financial institution reform, concepts that some Occupy demonstrators deem as working within The Broken System.  While the majority of Americans are not happy with the direction of our country, we know that a few steps in the right direction can affect our 401k balances, our children’s future, and our employment opportunities.  The 99% consists primarily of working middle and lower-class families who want the America we were raised on, that idealistic democratic model in which our interests are represented.   Perhaps that is a pipe dream, in which case our indoctrination was a huge mistake.

My Boy-Toy in the 5th decade

My husband comfortably residing in his 30’s after I turned 40 was never funny to me, the cougar jokes being unimaginative at best.  What self-respecting cougar chooses a boy-toy only 3 and a half years her junior?  I resisted the urge to lash out at jokesters by reminding myself that he does possess many of the desirable traits of young hotties in the movies, as evidenced by the double-takes he gets when we are out and about.  At one of his office parties a mature female who had rid herself of inhibitions with her tenth drink told me, “Your husband is the guy we all fantasize about”.  I responded that fantasies are best kept private.  I owe her my gratitude, though, for gifting me with something to tease him about for the remainder of our days, especially when he does not feel like a hottie.

I secretly enjoyed his angst over turning 40, but made up for it by not giving him over-the-hill presents, mainly because I knew he would point out that I will always be older.
Using his preoccupation with getting old, I easily convinced him that this landmark birthday demanded a physical examination.  Our doctor told him that he is still young
and in great shape, so my partner may get his next physical when he turns 50 if he can get past the fear of a prostate exam.  He tells me he will need a female physician for that, preferably one with very small hands.  I wonder why the doctor insisted on testing my cholesterol at 35, but told my husband he doesn’t need to be tested now.  Looking like a boy-toy may not work to his advantage in the health arena.

Ten days into his 5th decade my husband has not changed much, although like most women I wonder what is going on in his head while he is staring off into space.  Is
he now considering politics, the economy, or perhaps the Christmas symphony that I
told him about?  His wet towel on the bedroom doorknob tells me that at heart he is still the 23-year-old Marine that revved up my libido all those years ago and is likely thinking about microbrews, football, or and sex.

The value of a good bartender

There is a tavern on the shores of Bois Blanc Island, Michigan that feels like home.  Barb’s Boblo Tavern is a meeting place for island folks where I can hear the surf of
Lake Huron and drinking is not required, but encouraged.  What are island folks?  Well, the island is a different sort of place and likewise attracts many of the uncommon characters in my novel life story.  There are year-rounders, usually about 60 of them, which live and work on the island and travel to the mainland over an ice bridge in the winter.  There are the seasonal islanders, most of which can tell you stories about their ancestor’s primitve adventures on the island.  Looking for a unique perspective?  Head over to Barb’s and I guarantee you will find one that has nothing to do with your rung on the income ladder and everything to do with your philosophy.  There are more interesting stories to be told within this small population than there are bar hours to hear them, many rich with the history of the island which was opened to settlers in 1884 .  The seclusion from mainstream America lends itself to conversations that simply are not heard in polite company (the best kind), yet people have no problem bringing their kids to the tavern for dinner and a game of pool or shuffleboard.  We all just try to limit the cussing when kids are there.

Barb Schlund, the owner of the Boblo Tavern, has created a comfortable place where someone will offer to drive you to your cabin if they see you have imbibed too much and are unlikely to keep your truck between the trees, and new visitors are welcomed like old friends, at least until they prove themselves non-island material by asking, “what is there to do here?”.  There is no sense in making friends with them because they will not be back.  What there is to do is evident to islanders that appreciate the over 30 square miles of undeveloped forest and dirt roads, many of which are only tracks, and it is not shopping.  Our friend, Dan Reynolds, is a singer/songwriter who also plays the guitar and created a CD of island songs titled This Ain’t the Mainland.    My favorite is “Ring that bell”,  a ditty about a red bell in the tavern that sports a sign “Ring the bell, buy the house a round”.  We are fortunate that Dan is a true islander that plays at the tavern without charging us a dime, because he loves being a part of the fabric of Bois Blanc.  Even if he became famous, he would still play at Barb’s and graciously take requests from drunkards that sometimes ask him to play The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald more than once in an evening (sorry, Dan).

My husband and I have been the only islanders in the tavern and have been two in a crowd of dozens, yet received the same excellent service from a team of bartenders that somehow maintain a laid-back friendly demeanor even when rushing to insure no one runs dry and the food is delivered hot and timely.  Barb is a demanding boss whose
team of bartenders says they love their work because they love her and because she works as hard, if not harder, than they do.  From the expansive menu to the anything-but-weak drinks, her attention to detail is as obvious as her desire to provide her patrons with a clean, inviting place to swap stories.  This past Saturday we, along with approximately forty other people, watched the Michigan State versus Michigan NCAA football game at the Boblo tavern.  Barb and Jen fed us while keeping our drinks full, all without breaking a sweat.  They even visited with many, not out of a sense of good business, but just because they seem to genuinely like their customers.  Barb and her team have taught me that the value of a good bartender reaches far beyond serving drinks, into the familiar ground of caring.  A simple gesture – Barb giving me her bar stool earlier this summer when the bar was packed and standing room only – is only one of many that have led me to love Barb, Jen, Courtney, Tom, and Lani, the most talented, fun-loving, and genuine bartenders/island folks I have ever met. 

Landscape Redesign

In my decade old garden the bulbs and perennials cry out for more room and this year I have the time to devote to a redesign.  We will see how far I get once I dig in, because I have learned that projects tend to take longer than anticipated and
although we had temps in the high 70’s this week they are predicting our first snow next week.  A nursery of tried and hardy plants begging to be spread to other garden beds or have their existing homes widened is a wonderful problem to have.  The cost is especially appreciated, as is the lack of volunteer weeds that often accompany new plants purchased from another nursery or a friend’s crowded garden.

Any big attempt deserves a plan and goals that I can visualize.  I like to ask myself, “What does that look like?” when I want something.  A happy garden with blooms throughout spring, summer, and fall is a huge goal with a multitude of necessary steps to get there.  My landscape on paper helped me create a step-by-step garden redesign plan that reminded me of the life plan I drafted recently.  Multiple moves dictate a process of bite-sized goals.   I cannot move the daisies until the blue fescue vacates their current hot home for a cooler semi-shaded bed that is weed-free and double-dug.  This is simpler than the weeding out of negative messages and habits I picked up at work and planted in my persona over the past decade, but I find gardening conducive to reflection and picture some of that refuse in my wheelbarrow along with the crab grass and root-tangled clumps of dirt headed for the village’s burn pile.  I highly recommend gardening for anyone experiencing a life change; creative solutions are born out of creative pursuits.

Planning does not get the job done, however, and although the meteorologists usually predict snow long before it arrives, past seasons have shown that my window is two weeks at most for roots to acclimate and ultimately survive the winter.  Grass invaded my beloved red bee balm, one of the super stars of my garden, and provided another lesson in patience (I recognize a trend in this area).  Because the bee balm roots are
very tender I carefully dug up the root ball and spent three hours teasing the grass roots out.  This tedious exercise provided much-needed motivation for pulling any grass I see in my beds as soon as I spy it from here on.  I started with two bee balm plants and now have six that are so happy they do not have to share nutrients with grass.  They didn’t tell me so, but a gardener knows.

Yesterday I raked the orange and red sugar maple leaves out of the semi-shaded garden area and watered the blue fescue and daisies in anticipation of today’s move.  I could write about my garden redesign for another hour, but with rain moving in this
evening, today is perfect for replanting so it will have to wait for another day.  Goals realized are more interesting to read about, anyway.