In just a few minutes from now

Speak your wisdom here,
in the mirror; she’s wearing
headphones anyway.
********************************

Well, it has happened. My oldest, a girl, has turned 13. She is a teenager, and I guess that means I am now the parent of a teenager. I have been reading beautiful “letters to my daughter” writings, full of motherly wisdom. They all provide guidance to help their offspring navigate the rocky life ahead. I thought about writing something similar to my girl, but it felt fake. Instead, I’m drawn to write a letter to myself… here goes.

Dear Me,

Hi. So I know you heard the news. Your baby girl is growing up. Yes, she became taller than you several months ago (not a difficult feat, mind you, but a humbling/proud moment nonetheless). And her feet are longer than yours (again, nothing to brag about since your feet stop growing at 32 months).  But now another milestone has been crossed… and with each of those, a little part of you falls away. As someone said to you — or did you make it up yourself — being a parent is ‘one long letting go’, and several feet of holding on just ran between your slack hands.

You have 3 years until she is driving. Not even 6 years to college. And your boy is only 4 years behind her.  You have got to get your shit together, and fast. Here’s my advice to you.

That voice in your head is routing itself to your mouth way too often. It is bad enough that it tortures you with stories of ‘not enough’ and inadequacies.  But it used to be further away, separate from you. Now it seems to have sidled up to you, almost like a lover, pressing closely against you — so close its voice is becoming your voice. And as you allow it external voice, you lose your best self.  But here’s the deal: your best self – even your mediocre, haven’t-showered-in-days PMS-y self — is so much better than that shitbag voice in your head. Quit letting it speak for you and fast.  In 10 years (who am I kidding, in 10 minutes) you are going to hear that voice come out of your 13 year old and your heart will break. Make a change.

Your life is so much better than you allow.   You’ve dressed up longing and are pretending it is a vision board.  Stop. Stop longing for a life where you aren’t tired. Stop longing for a job that fulfills you 100% all the time. Stop longing for that ‘thing’ (artwork, clothing, knowledge, vacation, sheets) and quit deluding yourself that it will cure something, fill in something, create something different in your life. It won’t. And you know why? Because if/then statements are bullshit.  If I (lose weight, make more money, buy a vacation home, cut my hair) … then I will be (content, pretty, zen like, able to…). Blah de blah blah.   You know what isn’t bullshit? The life you have right now.  This is way more than gratitude. This about being present in your life and recognizing how amazing you have it.  You want your teenager to appreciate what you provide? Then you better appreciate what you have, right now, with no if/then, no more accumulation, no numbing out.

Be more mindful of where you are choosing to spend your time.   Take stock every few days… if you’ve read more words on Facebook than your family has shared together… well, perhaps that isn’t your highest choice.   I know you tell yourself that you are relaxing when you surf online, but you and I know that’s crap.   And spending 30 minutes more at work isn’t making you more successful.  Of course you need to do that sometimes, but you allow it to matter when really it doesn’t.   Start paying attention and see whether your choices take you toward the life you want; chances are you’ll easily make another choice.

Midlife has brought you a strong desire to find significance in your life, but all the stuff mentioned above has blinded you to how the everyday moments are chock full of what you seek. Our lives are 99% daily living, 1% extra-special moments. If you think that significance is only in the 1% you are doomed. There is significance all around you. Every day.  Please start looking for it. Because frankly, in just a few minutes from now, a few more years will have passed. Trust me on that one.

Love,
Me

Planes, Trains, Dignity and Lard

I reach for cool-ness
But grasp air, topple, trip, fall.
Story of my life.
———————————–

I am traveling for business and as happens when you travel out of Cincinnati, I found myself in the Atlanta airport. Traveling always provides good Family Haikus fodder. This trip is no different.

I am on the PlaneTrain in Atlanta (the underground train that moves people between terminals). The hottest man about 0-10 years older than me I have ever seen (outside of Frank and Bruce Willis) is casually leaning against one of the poles scattered about the vehicle, checking his phone. Think Richard Gere in Pretty Woman but with more gray.  He is dressed in all black (jeans, sweater, blazer), with cool, understated canvas orange shoes… and you can tell he works out, especially if you stare at his chest for a long time. The PlaneTrain voice-over urges me to “hold on, the train is about to depart the station” but I assume my ass’ grip on the handrail at hip height that I’m leaning against is sufficient.

I am wrong.

I lurch backwards, clawing the air for the pole and sticking my foot out concurrently to stop my rolling bag from becoming a bullet. I catch his eye. “Thought we’d lost you” he purrs. “I always forget they are serious about that handrail bit,” I mutter. I am such a dork.

I have now positioned myself firmly between pole and handrail, assured in my physics that I won’t move again. And I am right. But then I realize that the force with which I have pressed my backside to the rail has my butt-flesh wrapping around it and nearly touching on the other side.

Shoot me. I swear I’ve been working out and have lost nearly 2 dress sizes… yet here is my fat cleaving like the Red Sea around this metal tube.

So I shift my weight to reduce the backward pressure in case uber-cool-hot-gray-hair-muscle man can see through me to my ass.

And the goddamn PlaneTrain comes to an abrupt halt… and once again I lurch with the grace of a toddler on roller skates coated in lard (the skates are coated, not the toddler), nearing losing my bag in the other direction and what was left of my dignity.

He catches my eye again. I just shake my head, smile in a self-deprecating way (men of a certain age like that right?) and say “I will either make this flight or die trying” and I leave.

I didn’t look back but I’m sure he was watching the ass dent pop back out, thinking that maybe he should have made more conversation with me. His loss.

Musical Mid-Life Crisis… Help Needed

Arrow pierced ego
Now wounded… looking to heal.
Need cool doctor, stat.
———————————————–
I did a very parent thing this weekend. I have been enjoying the ‘free’ Sirius radio in my new car… and have pre-selected the following stations: 70’s on 7, 80’s on 8, 90’s on 9, Hits 1 and 20 on 20. These last two are my vain (and I do mean vain) attempt to get myself remotely up to speed on current popular music. It’s been funny to switch between decades and listen to what are screamingly different musical styles and markers. What strikes me most about current pop music is the persistent thump thump of the deep bass… Up until recently I thought that every young person listening to the radio was just playing their music overly loud given I could hear them coming 1/4 mile away. But now I realize that is simply the nature of today’s music.

So I was out with the kids running errands , scanning between stations. I settled on something by the Eagles on the 70s on 7 station and began to sing along… and my 10 year daughter, AP, started sighing loudly. Could you please get off this station mom? I turned it up. Mom, anything in this decade please? I turned it up again. You do realize this is music grandma listened to when she was in her 30’s?  Huh, what??? And then I understood it. My daughter went for the low blow… she translated “old music” into the most abhorrent comparison that could possibly be made at that time. While I was sitting there thinking “why I listened to this when I was your age, dear, and how cool that I still know the words” she reached back  a generation to remind me that my mother (who although not “old” in spirit or frame, has started her journey into her 70’s) listened to this when she was younger than I am today.

Ouch. That hurt, I must admit.  (No offence mom… I know you understand.) I responded as maturely as I could at the time. I turned it up again and told her as long as she complained she wasn’t getting anything close to current music. But it has gotten me thinking that I really do need to update my music library on iTunes. I have no illusion that I will be either mother of the year or the coolest mom in the class, but I want to be interestingly eclectic and fun to be around while still maintaining that mystery known as “she’s a mom… who knows what she’ll do”. That requires me to invest a little.

This is all part of my current foray into a modest mid-life crisis. It started with a weekend away in the fall, alone.  It approached its peak on my 45th birthday in February. It continued with the purchase of a car that I thought made me cooler than I am – a combination of  unusual yet practical (a fire engine red Ford Flex with the Eco Boost engine…this last feature allows me to blow away thumping teenagers at stop lights. Yes, that matters to me; see earlier reference to mid-life crisis).  And it may be topping out with recent purchases of a bucket load of clothes at J Jill and the desire to revamp my iPod playlists. At least I hope it has peaked… I’m going broke.

Here’s the problem. I have no idea what music to buy. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to ask AP for her thoughts. I refuse to show weakness. I just want to slip in a few new songs in the tired playlists I have set up for family listening.

Can you help me? What are some current artists (last 5 years) you recommend I spend time and money getting to know? Really appreciate it.

Lust, or Why I Don’t Care that Bruce Willis Has Aged

Fantasy lusting
emerges soft, dreamily;
the real world at bay…
————————————
Do you have “a list”? You know, the people you and your partner agree you can sleep with and suffer no ill consequences? Typically, they are populated by celebrities or other people you are likely never to meet (the pool boy is NOT allowed)… Mine has but a single name: Bruce Willis.

Date night this weekend featured the latest Die Hard movie: A Good Day to Die Hard. Deep sigh. I was transported. I spent the first few scenes highly aware of his slack jaw and weathered skin, but shortly after that, I no longer noticed. I was 20, he was 33.  I was a hostage in need of rescuing and he was the only man who could do it.

I really do have a thing for that man.

Is it simply that I just turned 45 and my main squeeze is weeks from 50? It is that we celebrate 20 years of marriage in May and I just crossed 23 years with the same company? Is it that my older child just hit double digits, or we refinanced the house to pay it off in 15 years in light of our age?

Check, check, check, check, check and check.

The thing is, Bruce Willis makes me young again. No matter how old he gets, I will always be 20 years old and he’ll always be the rebel with a heart of gold and a charming half-smile that will get him anything he wants. I am a total sucker for that type even though I did not actually get a chance to prove my vulnerability to such a man when I was single. Alas, I managed to meet a good guy with a heart of gold and a great full smile who really will (did) call me the next day.

But that doesn’t make me immune to the idea of Bruce Willis. That he will point that charm at me someday; will stare at me with a penetrating look, a crinkly smile and a machine gun and a fast car and a leather jacket and no place to go but on the road with me and the wind… after he kills all the bad guys threatening me.

Excuse me, I need a cigarette.

The Zen of Chandelier Cleaning

How odd to notice
My hands channeling my mom:
Sweet inheritance.
—————————————-
I have many memories, only some of them fond, of helping my mom clean the gi-normous chandelier that hung in the hallway of the home I grew up in. Once a year or two, she would devote an entire day to cleaning the beast, usually a few weeks preceding Thanksgiving. Here is a picture of a chandelier like it.

A83-52/2MT/24+1  Maria Theresa CHANDELIER Chandeliers, Crystal Chandelier, Crystal Chandeliers, Lighting

Mom would do half at a time, so that she could use the other half as a template. There were at least 10 different prism designs (I would guess 250+ prisms?) and figuring out what went where was a nightmare. The process was long: Remove them to a bucket in stages.  Then, soak the crystals in ammonia and water to clean them before laying them out to dry, with some manual drying assistance. Then back to hang them up before starting the second half. To this day, I can’t smell ammonia without being instantly transported back to Rogers Avenue and a mind-numbingly long day up and down a 10 foot ladder (did I mention the ceilings were 12 feet tall?), nervous the whole time I would drop something.

I have a crystal chandelier in my house, a marriage of two small ones that once hung in that same house. Two and a half years ago when we moved in to our current home, I washed it with loving care… the kind of love present when you first clean things in your new home.  I enjoyed bringing it back to life, as it had been in a box for many years. Today I washed it again, but I discovered something that I hadn’t known before – not the first time I washed this one, nor in any of the times I helped my mom. There is something peaceful and zen-like when you wash a chandelier, and I enjoyed it very much.

I think the main cause of this is the fact that your attention must be 100% focused on what you are doing at that moment in time. Each prism has metal bits (sometimes several), that will snag your cloth easily and go flying away.  Getting each dry with no fingerprints requires dexterity (often carpal-tunnel-inducing). Wiping down the naked fixture, ensuring no dust or cleaner is left behind is a rigorous, meticulous affair. All done on a ladder, your arms raised.

And I loved it. I now feel at peace and satisfied at a job well done. I am sure my blood pressure is lower than when I started.  Granted, my chandelier is small, so I’m not sure this now Mom felt… Here is a picture of mine naked and dirty.

2012-12-26 14.54.41

It only has 72 crystals and 4 swags across its 8 arms and center pillar. Took me about 2-3 hours across the afternoon to complete the work.  Here it is clean and dressed:2012-12-26 16.57.08 

Beautiful! I had been avoiding cleaning it for a while, but next year I will remember how I feel now, and gladly set the time aside. It’s easy to forget the power of being present.

The Power of Giving Up

Peace comes easily
When you listen, act, accept
Truth over worry.
—————————————
It is a little early for Lent, and, well, I’m a little not Catholic, but I’ve been reflecting on the power of giving up. I’m not talking about giving up when the going gets tough. When I’m working out and my arms are begging me to stop yet I know I have 3 more reps in me… I won’t give up. When my daughter complains because everyone else on the basketball team makes baskets but her (not true, by the way), I won’t let her give up.

I’m talking about who gives a shit other than the pissy-little-tyrant-in-my-brain ‘giving up’. I’m learning a lot from this brand of release.

I experienced this a few months ago. A devoted audio book listener, I had heard an enthralling book by David McCullough about the year 1776 in the Revolutionary War. Each night after listening to it during my bedtime bathroom routine, I would crawl into bed and tell my husband how amazing the book was and how I couldn’t believe we actually won the war. This foray into history long forgotten (had I ever learned it?) made me long for more about our Founding Fathers. Up next, Ben Franklin’s biography.

Oh jesus help me. It was horrible. I could have lived through the dry points in the story where it took the author nearly 6 hours to fully describe a few simple things about his early life — that he fled his brother’s apprenticeship for Philadelphia where studiousness , daring and little luck helped him on his way… But the narrator would have made Fifty Shades of Gray un-listenable. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how people like him get and keep these jobs. Doesn’t anyone listen to his work? Have they spent even 5 minutes trying to understand how someone can read a sentence with action and intrigue and still make you want to take your own life?

I was a solid 9 hours into this book (it was 24 hours overall) when something amazing occurred to me. Why did I need to finish it? Who would care? No teacher would scold me. No book report would go un-written. Not a single bad thing would happen.   Yet, if I stopped listening, I realized that several good things would happen. I would no longer want to smash my iPod player. I would stop telling my husband what a horrible listen it was. True, I wouldn’t have any new and interesting tidbits about our earliest years as a country to share with others, but… It just didn’t matter.

So I returned the book to Audible. They gave me a partial credit. No one mocked me. No one sneered. Such new territory I was treading.

Today my daughter asked me, “Mom, have you ever quit a book before?”

I replied that I had… and asked why she brought it up. Given she reads almost nonstop, this was an interesting question.

“I quit a book today,” she said sheepishly. “The Hobbit. Just didn’t want to keep reading.”

“I totally understand. That’s a tough one to get into. There is nothing wrong with quitting a book.” And with that, she was done worrying. Oh to have had that role modeled for me early in life.

So I began reflecting on what else I could just “give up” without anyone noticing or caring. And it came to me. I can give up holiday baking. For many years, I baked away an entire weekend, making tons of cookies and candies for our friends and relatives. But I haven’t really done a mega-baking fest in years yet I allow a ton of guilt to overtake me in early December when I realize I can’t fit in two days of baking in a now kid-filled life.  I feel horrible. So tonight I decided I am no longer a Christmas baker.  I’m done, I’m over it. I will continue to make Bourbon Balls, because frankly it is the only thing everyone remembers about my baking anyway, and it’s fun to get a little tanked while I make them.  And I’ll likely keep making caramels. But I am giving up the rest. All the guilt associated with a  no-longer-relevant tradition is released.

I feel lighter already. I’m serious… this is a joyful feeling. I must explore giving up more things (or more guilt). Try it yourself. Instead of giving something, give up something. Best gift under the tree.

The next best gift under the tree is Bourbon Balls. Recipe below. Enjoy. I plan to in a few weeks.

Bourbon Balls

3 cups finely crushed vanilla wafers (about 75) (one normal sized box)
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup finely chopped pecans
¼ cup cocoa
½ cup bourbon (get the good stuff… and sometimes I do closer to 3/4 cup)
¼ cup light corn syrup
Granulated or powdered sugar

Crush the wafers by putting them in a double layer of zip bags and beating/rolling the crap out of them with a rolling pin. Mix the crushed wafers with the powdered sugar, pecans and cocoa. Stir in bourbon and corn syrup. Shape mixture into 1 inch balls as you watch a good movie. Roll balls in granulated sugar. Eat several as you go, just to be sure they are good enough. Refrigerate the ones you haven’t scarfed down in a tightly covered container several days before serving. Open the fridge a few times a day to get a wiff of the Bourbon and to sample them to be sure they are mellowing nicely. Yield: About 5 dozen cookies minus two dozen or so you have eaten in advance.

Eye-bola

Red is for sunsets
And planets and Feb 14.
My eye disagrees.
————————————-
You know how some people in your life are crap-magnets? No matter what they do, crap is just attracted to them? They swirl in it, stew in it, and at times, seem to relish their unique ability to survive it…?

I am a pink-eye magnet. Find another parent out there right now suffering from it when none of their children have it. Go on, try. I bet you won’t find one.

I’m not sure why this attraction exists. I tend to be from hardy stock, don’t get sick very often, am able to withstand discomfort, etc. etc. (Any laughing you hear right now would be my husband, hysterical at the thought that I’m hardy; don’t listen to him.) But if there is conjunctivitis anywhere near me, say within a 2 mile radius of my current position, it seeks me out.

I could feel it coming on this afternoon. At one point, in the middle of a meeting with someone, I stopped abruptly.

“Is my eye red?” I asked.

“Yes…” she said tentatively…

“Hmmm. I think I have pink eye.” The meeting ended soon after that.

When I lived in England, and contracted this malady, our local GP prescribed the requisite medicine, but then said, in an offhanded way, “You know, just wash your eye with shampoo. That will cure it.” Really? I started to dismiss this piece of advice as slightly ludicrous at worst, and at best driven by socialized medicine’s desire to keep costs down. However, that night, in a strange moment of dread mixed with curiosity sprinkled with repressed mad-scientist tendencies, I tried it.

It hurt like shit. Tear free shampoos (yes, I grabbed the kids’ bottle) is NOT pain-free. Especially if you don’t lather it up and instead simply smear it undiluted into your eyes. My eyes, which seconds earlier had thought me a benevolent hostess, now screamed obscenities at me and tried desperately to beat a hasty retreat only to be betrayed by my brain which wouldn’t get out of the way.  I went to bed convinced I had blinded myself…

And yet… the next morning I was cured. Well I’ll be damned, it worked. And I have used this cure every time I feel pink eye coming on. I have passed this idea on to others, who ponder the concept for a moment before turning slowly away. And sure enough, the next day, they return to tell me how they did it and how it worked.

So tonight, once the kids were in bed, I turned to my trusty cure.  Just a little bit of shampoo, lathered up nicely (this, I found, is a crucial requirement for this cure to move beyond medieval standards), and swished it confidently into both eyes.

Holy crap on a cracker! I forgot my new H&S shampoo has some tingle-y ingredient in it — is it menthol?!? — and that ingredient does not, repeat DOES NOT, agree with my eyes. I continued on — in for a penny, in for a pound — rinsed, and then toweled off.  A return to the mirror revealed two of the angriest eyes I have ever seen. And now, nearly an hour later, they are still pissed at me.  Blinking is rough. The infected eye is throwing off more goop than you can imagine. The healthy eye feels like it is now goop-ing up too.   Could it be my great remedy has gone terribly wrong? Have I damaged myself permanently? I take it as a positive sign that I can see clearly enough to type, but am concerned for what I may find tomorrow.

Stay tuned. The pink eye was fairly far advanced when I washed, perhaps so far gone that my lather approach will fail. Perhaps the offending ingredient is a slow-acting blinding agent… All I know is that I’m not sure working in the office will be a smart idea tomorrow…

Post script. Do not, under any circumstances, Google “pink eye” and click on images. Not only will you be disgusted, you will be amazed at the sheer number of people who have taken pictures of themselves or their kids and posted the image in a searchable location. I was looking for a fun, laughable image to include in this post — in a feeble attempt to increase my odds of being Freshly Pressed — and have come away deciding that an image is not the way to go…

The Teachers’ Lounge

Intimidation
Stops me cold, keeps me standing,
Twenty five years on…
——————————————–

Every year, during parent-teacher conferences, my school’s PTA does a teacher dinner. Warm, home-made sustenance to help them get through repeating 20 minutes of report card hell.

This is one volunteer activity I jump at.  I usually sign up to bring in plastic wrap and forks, or extension cords – easy stuff that either Frank or I can do, usually sourced from current stock – simple. Finally, last year, I ventured into bringing consumables — Chicken Noodle Soup. It was a huge hit and I felt not the slightest amount of guilt showing off the Costco soup container when pressed for the recipe. (Their soup made from roasted chicken is amaaaazing.)

There is only one thing that bothers me: Going into the teachers’ lounge.

You remember it from school, right? The room off the side hall where you couldn’t really see into… where teachers would disappear into, whispering to each other and glancing around furtively. The few times you were told to go there to find another teacher felt like entry into an Egyptian tomb… I was convinced I would be cursed and never spoke of it. It was sacred space. Teachers only.  There was free soda and chips in there. They talked about you in there.

So when I volunteered to do the dinner set up the first year, I had to take a few deep breaths before stepping into the teachers’ lounge. I kept my eyes down. I asked permission before opening drawers. I acted as if the furniture was museum quality and tried desperately not to make a mess of any type.

Net, I was totally taken aback at how the mythological status of the teachers’ lounge remained so many years after my education ended. I know many of the teachers at my kids’ lower school. They are way cooler than any teacher I ever had, not to mention about 3 decades younger. I can honestly say they are — to a person — women I would enjoy hanging out with. But their space? Noooo, can’t do it…

So tomorrow is the dinner. The soup is ready to go, the crock pot is clean and I’ve dug out 40 plastic forks, knives and spoons. But I’ve given up on the set up. I just can’t do it. I am thoroughly convinced Mr. Etheridge or Mrs. Vogt or Mr. Lawson is going to burst around the corner, catch me in there, and ruin my chances of getting into a good college, not to mention whisper about me to another teacher.  I’ll just stay on this side of the door…

Let the Babysitter Fold Your Underwear

Desperation wins
And ego takes a back seat.
Pride mellows when gulped.
——————————————-
A few months ago, my stay-at-home husband returned to the workforce after 8 years. It was a planned event – timed to when our boy started full-time kindergarten. It required us to decide between after-school care or an in-house babysitter for the hours between 3:30 and 6, and we chose a sitter. (Plug here for Care.Com – that’s how I found our sitter; site was very easy to use and they offer loads of support.)

One reason I loved the idea of a sitter was that she would be able to take up some of the house-chore burden, namely laundry and some light cleaning. We have someone coming weekly to clean the house, but I want to make it every other week with our sitter filling in the gap. And the laundry is self-evident — this family of four seems to wear 6 or 7 outfits a day and it piles up.

Here’s the deal: I haven’t been able to ask her to do the cleaning or laundry yet. On the cleaning side, I really haven’t figured out what I want her to do versus the cleaner – just haven’t taken the time to map it out. On the laundry side, it is pure embarrassment: I don’t want her to see my underwear.

For starters, I’m not svelte. Further,  I don’t chose to spend my money on underwear that matches my bras. I have plain old cotton panties in a variety of fruit based colors, and some are so old they would horrify my mom if she saw them (‘what if you get hit by a car and have to go to the hospital?!?’). But this past week our sitter spent the day with our mildly ill daughter, and I asked her if while she was at home she would do some laundry. We had a bunch, I was leaving town in a few days and I figured they were housebound any way. So I took a gulp of my pride and showed her how to work the machine.

When I returned 8 hours later every single bit of clothing was clean. All of it. Folded or hung up.  The baskets empty, the floor visible. I felt like the cobbler the morning after the elves visited. Somewhere, angels sang while violin music gently crescendo’d.

Yep, I am sooooo over the underwear thing.  I might never be able to look her in the eye again, but it is a small price to pay for the lightness it brings.

Journey of a Late Coffee Bloomer

With a lover’s voice
it calls to me; willingly
I follow, unmoored.
————————————————–

I have been caffeine free since around 1995. It was at that time I decided 10 or so cans of Diet Coke a day couldn’t possibly be good for me, so I stopped drinking them and changed exclusively to water and the occasional OJ. Then, about a year ago, in our annual trek to Georgia for Thanksgiving, I ordered coffee to assist me in the late day/night drive.

image from Wikipedia

Wow. When caffeine isn’t part of your life, re-entry has quite an impact. I was up until 2am that morning, having safely made the 9 hour journey with nary a yawn. I made a strategic choice starting then: to use caffeine, specifically coffee, in a pharmaceutical capacity to aid my attentiveness and productivity.

It was amazing. One cup of coffee plus a clear few hours on my calendar resulted in tremendous output. I was able to rebound from sleep-shortened nights quickly.  Sure, I picked up the habit of tapping out a complex drum solo on my desk while reading, and my kids likely noticed that the “after high” was not the best time to be around me. But I could control it. I could turn it off and on.

Or could I? I am now drinking one to two cups a day and I’m ashamed. I feel like I’ve succumbed to a lover from the wrong side of the tracks… the kind good girls like me are attracted to in a “he would never look at me with those brooding eyes but if he did I know I could rock his world” and then “I could change him so that everyone could see that he has a heart of gold” kind of way.  I’ve kept up with my “I use coffee medicinally only” story,  trying to pretend that I’m still caffeine free since 1995, but it’s a lie. I love the burst of speed I get. I love the clarity. I love the little ritual at the Starbucks at work (we have one in the lobby) where I wait patiently to add my cream and 2 Splendas to my coffee. I don’t do anything but a plain cup of brew, as I lack the experience or nerve to take the relationship further. And I refuse to call the small size “tall” out of principle. Otherwise, I feel cool for the first time ever, all because of a drink.

There is only one downside: the vacating colon 90 minutes in. This is not something they talk about in the commercials… there is great marketing synergy there: a joint advertising campaign between Folgers and Charmin, perhaps. Not sure why they don’t test that one out. (The best part of waking up, is Folgers in your cup… and Charmin in the john…)  My coffee habit beginnings coincided with a change of assignment at work, so I’m in a new building with new bathroom rituals (long-suffering followers of this blog well know my fascination with bathrooms and the behaviors and etiquette therein).  So the exploding colon bit has been a little difficult to maneuver.  The good news is that the bathroom is much closer to my office. The bad news is twofold: open offices and only 2 stalls. Do you know how hard it is to disguise the butt-pucker shuffle in cube land?  It’s hard enough to make yourself look normal from the waist up, when passing closed offices with small-windowed doors, but open offices afford the full body view and the quick-paced bottom-tuck position is incredibly noticeable. The only good news is that since people don’t really know me, they might have just assumed I happened to have an unusual gait. And since I’ve varied my flight path unpredictably, and so many people work from home, I’m counting on no one really paying that much attention. The two stall issue is one I just have to suffer through… don’t ask.

So with all these data points — increased productivity and output on one side, colon health (a different type of output) and public embarrassment on the other side — I’m at a cross roads. Should I continue my caffeine-aided lifestyle and just live with the downsides?  Or return to the land of the self-righteous and caffeine free (and slightly less productive)?  I can already see that one to two cups isn’t going to work much longer. Today, my one cup after lunch couldn’t overcome a coma-inducing lunch… So what’s next? A regular second or third cup each day? Where do I stop?

I think I have my answer. I must go back… go back and find that energy source I had before I starting experimenting. The one that exists naturally within me and doesn’t require stealth tactics in my gastrointestinal rituals. I already feel my self-esteem slipping away, as I move away from, as usual, the “in-crowd”, back to the land of the unique and self-proclaimed happy-I’m-different group. I know that is where I belong… but it was good while it lasted.

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