Life Can End In An Instant … My Friend’s Did, This Week

Life is Short

Life is Short

Each of us gets a limited number of days.  Tuesday was the last day Melissa got.  That morning she woke up, dressed, dropped her three children off at school, went to work, then ran some errands before lunch … never knowing it would be the last time she’d ever do any of those things again.  She was having an ordinary day when an extraordinary tragedy took away all the wonderful things she had yet to do.

La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove

It was close to noon when she likely thought herself lucky to find one of the diagonal parking spaces on Girard, in the heart of the village of La Jolla, near the shop where she needed to drop something off before grabbing lunch.  Did she hear the revving engine of the car across the street when she reached into get something out of the car?  She had no reason to suspect she was in any danger.  It wasn’t dark, she wasn’t in a sketchy part of town, there was no reason at all for her senses to be on alert.  But seconds later she was hit, by a 91-year-old woman who inexplicably gunned her car when backing out of her space on the other side of the street, speeding across two lanes of traffic and ramming straight into my friend, pinning her between the two cars.

Before the lunch hour was over, Melissa’s life ended. This beautiful, talented mother, killed on a sunny street in an almost-perfect village on the Pacific Ocean.  Because someone was driving when they shouldn’t have been, Melissa couldn’t pick her children up from school, cook them dinner or help with their homework. Now she won’t see them graduate from high school or help them pick colleges or dance at their weddings or babysit their children. She can’t share her recipes with her daughters when they move off to live on their own, or tell her son how proud she is for the man he has become.  She can’t give me brilliant advice on communicating ideas or hosting events.  She can’t wake to the beams of sunlight streaming in her window or walk along the beach, toes in the sand, watching the sun set as the sky glows orange and purple as she listens to the surf pound against the rocks.

What a sad and brutal reminder that life is short and unpredictable.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately of the importance of living each moment well, of appreciating every day I get to spend on this earth, of leaving my many computer passwords accessible and updating my will and making sure my children know how much I love them. But this week the lesson that I must be mindful and appreciative of each moment came home to me in the worst possible way.

Ocean Beach Pier

I will miss you Melissa. You are loved.

Melissa's Smiling Face

Melissa’s Smiling Face


Ramblings

55 Years

My birthday is still 21 days away and yet my age has been much on my mind.  I’ll be 55.  “Still Alive At 55” with the almost-the-same BeeGee’s “Staying Alive” playing softly in the background would be the theme for this year’s birthday party, if I had the energy to throw one.  I’d have folks come dressed in the fashion of any of the decades that I’ve lived through.  Since I was born with two months left to run in the 1950s, that gives everyone lots of choices when it comes to attire, from bobby socks and saddle shoes to hippie to disco to goth or punk or anything goes.

But almost all of our furniture is staging our home in Poway to help it sell, so we’re “glamping” at the new house and I’m not sure the lack of places to sit is conducive to hosting a party.  On the other hand, there’s lots of space to spread out and mingle, if you don’t mind standing or sitting on the bare floor!  I go back and forth and will let the time flitter away until it’s too late to send out invites and then I’ll wait for another year.  At some point I need to get my act together!

I’m feeling very much my age today.  For some reason out of the blue my back has started killing me this week — so I’m typing this at my stand-up desk and I took two Tylenol but I’m still much worse for the wear.  My husband and I explored our new neighborhood this morning, walking down to the beach that gives Ocean Beach its name, strolling through a little street fair and down to watch the dogs thoroughly enjoying themselves at Dog Beach, then a long walk up and down the OB Pier.

Ocean Beach Pier

It was almost as beautiful during the day as it will be tonight at sunset, and I forgot all about my hurt back while I soaked in the ocean spray and rolling strength of the ocean.  I’m so blessed to live here, where a five-minute drive takes me to this gorgeous gift of nature and a crazy mix of people and stores and bars and apartments and peace and craziness rolled into one.

Yet despite all my blessings I keep finding myself in a funk these days.  I have no energy or passion for what I’m doing and the feeling that “Life’s Too Short” weighs heavily on my mind.  But I know this time in my life is preparing me, pressing me, moving me forward into the next phase of my life, and I just have to reach out and grab hold and GO!


Surviving a Stroke at 33 (and Blogging About It)

Beautiful story of how writing and community worked together to help someone identify and get treatment for a stroke and then focus on what’s important. My 43-year-old friend and fellow big firm attorney had a stroke — one morning she went to log into her work computer to check email before work and couldn’t type in the password. Her husband got home from dropping off the kids at school and she tried to tell him about her difficulties but she couldn’t form the words. Not being able to write or speak coherently is scary for anyone and I imagine that for her– an attorney who depends on her written and verbal advocacy to support her family — it was especially frightening. She has since recovered, left the big firm to work in-house and all is well. But I hadn’t previously thought of stroke happening to someone so young.


Stuck Inside

Howling at the Moon

Howling at the Moon

want to feel uninhibited enough to howl at the moonlight and now worry that folks within hearing distance will think I’ve lost my mind.  I know that if I could get in touch with that wild woman inside me, my writing would be more authentic, more interesting, more raw.  Knowing and doing are, of course, two very different things.  And what could seem simpler, on its face, than letting what’s inside you out?

I signed up for Judy Reeve’s Wild Women writing class and went with eager expectation and no small degree of fear to my first class with the hope that being in the class would allow the part of me that had built up so many walls over the years to relax, and let the “howling at the moon” part of me flow out.  But I couldn’t do it.  Judy light a candle, and we talked, and the mood was right … but the words coming out weren’t from the wild woman, they were just the same old staid expressions of the surface level and I could dig below.

The frightening part was thinking maybe there wasn’t any “wild” inside me to come out.  Maybe I’d never had it.  Maybe it had slowing starved to death.  So I never went back to class.  I had excuses — a busy schedule — but the truth is that I could have made it work.  But to sit there week after week and hear the other women so freely expressing themselves while I was constipated and seemingly unable to get in touch with that part of myself was too daunting a challenge, too depressing for words.

But I live to fight another day.  To fight to dig out under the surface layer and reach the juicy parts inside, to free myself to howl.


Outlander’s Take On TV Sex

Huffington Post had an interesting take on the way sex was portrayed in the Wedding Episode of the Starzz TV adaptation of the Outlander  — click here for the link.  Hopefully it’s just the start of TV and film filming from the female viewpoint, at least some of the time.

I haven’t watched the Wedding episode yet … it’s next in line on my DVR … so can’t say if I agree with the analysis or not but I can say I’m now more excited than ever to see it for myself.  I love the chemistry between Claire and Jamie and after quickly reading all eight books feel like they are old friends.  Hate the way Starzz is making us wait until April to see part 2 of Season 1 but I’ll be glad of it once April rolls around.  To my mind the break in seasons causes drop off in interest in a series but presumably research or data shows otherwise.



Fact or Fiction?

You’ll see on my Goodread’s sidebar that I have several books on my “reading” shelf and they are a mix of Fact (London: A Biography) and Fiction (The Fiery Cross).  Of course those two aren’t that different — one reason I enjoy historic fiction is that I’m learning about history at the same time as I’m enjoying the story about people living during that historic time.  I enjoy mixing it up — and that’s one reason I joined Ann Patchett’s Parnassus bookstore’s First Edition club.  (I’m in Warwick’s First Edition Club as well, but it almost always features fiction, whereas Parnassus mixes it up.

The Parnassus First Edition monthly selection a few month’s ago was In The Kingdom of Ice: The Grand And Terrible Polar Voyage.  I have exactly no interest in ice or the North Pole or voyages thereto, or even the 1880s time period.  So never would I have picked up that book to read.  But dutifully, and trusting Ann’s judgment, I opened to page one and started reading and soon was enthralled by the courage and preparation and adventurous spirit and attitude of those brave men who went forth to find a sea passage to the North Pole and wound up in a place where Northern Siberia — 1,000 miles away — looked like heaven on earth.  In fact I sometimes pick up non-fiction books more often just to try to up our average, after reading that in general after graduation adults read only two non-fiction books for the rest of their lives!!!  Seriously?  Two?  There is so much to learn, and it’s so much fun doing it, I can’t imagine missing out on all the wonderful non-fiction that’s right at our fingertips, thoroughly researched and beautifully written words of wisdom and insight and knowledge.

But after a non-fiction I’m always ready to just have fun with or be scared by someone’s imagination by digging into a good novel.  I’m glad I can move between the two without having to read just one and not the other.  The answer to the Daily Prompt for me, then, is Fact AND Fiction … one right after the other, learning and imagining and enjoying them all!


Mouths Wide Shut … Unless You’ve Got A Hot French Fry Handy

All memory is faulty, so I’m sure I didn’t really eat only french fries as a child … but it sure seems like I did.  Mashed potatoes (my daughter’s favorite) are just a waste of a good fry, in my humble opinion.  And while I do like a good baked potato with a steak or, now, even on its own, there’s still part of me that regrets even as I’m enjoying it that it’s been baked and not cut up and fried.  I definitely qualify to write about today’s Daily Prompt, on picky eaters.

Endless French Fries

Endless French Fries

I’d order a hamburger but eat only the fries.  I skipped breakfast, and I had a sandwich and chips for lunch at school, but dinner almost every night featured crispy, hot, home-made French Fries.  I didn’t like pizza, or Mexican food, or Chinese food, or pretty much anything else and frankly I wasn’t exposed to many types of food growing up in a small East Texas town where it made big news when the IHOP opened.

And my Mother tried.  One day she cut up a cantaloupe and said I couldn’t move from the table until I ate it.

Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe

So I sat.  And sat.  And sat.  Absolutely 100% refusing to touch the thing, even if it meant I never moved from my seat.  It was the one time my stubbornness outlasted my Mom’s, because I finally was able to get up without taking one bite.

Rebellious child refusing to eat

Her next tactic was to fry me so many fries that I’d eat my fill and get so sick of fries that I’d turn to something else.  She bet me that I she could fix more french fries than I could eat.  At first I was in heaven.  Crisp, hot, salted, beautiful french fries to my heart’s delight.  But after I went through the first mountain of fries and looked to my left through the pass through to the kitchen to see my Mom standing at the stove, a new batch frying, and an almost full sack of potatoes still to her left, waiting to be peeled, I admitted defeat.  I could not, in fact, eat french fries non-stop as fast as she could peel and fry them.  But eating until I made myself sick did not, unfortunately, cure me of my obsession.

I’d go out with my friends to the pizza parlor and sit while they ate.  I’d go with my family to the Mexican restaurant and drink water while they ate.  I was actually quite skinny despite the pounds of potatoes because I hardly ate anything else.  One would think I’d venture to taste a bite of something, out of sheer boredom if nothing else.  But no.  I have no idea what I was thinking (or not, as the case may be).

In college I didn’t buy the Meal Plan even though not buying it meant I ate every meal out at a restaurant or in my room by myself.  I had a routine.  Wednesday night was 3C BBQ, barbecue brisket sandwich with fries (yes, I did eat barbecue brisket sandwiches, often at Dubs Barbecue in Tyler, Texas where we sat in wooden school desks with sawdust on the floor and it was heavenly).  I don’t remember the other nights exactly, but it was a rotation of hamburgers and turkey sandwiches and spaghetti.  I missed out on a lot of my college experience and spending time with my friends by not venturing downstairs in my dorm to the cafeteria.  You’d think I’d have at least tried if for that reason, if nothing else.  But I didn’t mind eating by myself, as long as I had a book handy (and I always did).

I eventually expanded to club sandwiches and, finally, pizza and a few other basic food groups, but still nothing one might consider healthy.  Then I moved to California.  Then I met my health-nut, eat-anything husband.  And while I wouldn’t venture to say I’m adventurous in my food choices, nor am I someone who appreciates good food (other than the boiled and triple fried fries I was served in Scotland that were the most amazing fries I’ve ever had in my life and that, as you now know, is saying A LOT), I have expanded my dining options.

Every morning I have breakfast, and for breakfast every morning I have a smoothie with 4 oz of cranberry or pomegranate juice, 2 leaves of kale, 1 carrot, 1 celery stalk, 1/3rd of a cucumber, with some frozen blueberries, strawberries and pineapple thrown in, along with Dr. Lipman’s protein powder.

My breakfast!

My breakfast!

And I limit my fries to once a week and sometimes not even that — not even keeping count just not needing or craving them unless it’s the type of place where you just know you’re going to get a good fry.  I eat spinach salads with strawberries and goat cheese and walnuts and balsamic vinegar and love it.  I had the Restaurant Week special a Puesto in The Headquarters on Friday — a Mexican fruit bowl with two fancy chicken tacos and grilled corn — and raved about it all day.  Sometimes I even try a bite of fish!  But never shellfish.  I can’t eat anything that still looks like the animal it once was because I can’t bear to think about an animal being killed so I can eat it, but boneless skinless chicken breast seems innocuous enough as long as I don’t think too hard about it.  OK I guess that’s another picky food quirk still in my quiver but I’m definitely making progress!


Time sheets

I searched on Google Images for a photograph to illustrate the bane of my existence.  (As an aside, vocabulary.com explains my use of the phrase perfectly: “The noun bane refers to anything that is a cause of harm, ruin, or death. But we often use it for things that aren’t that bad, just feel like it. …The source of this word is Middle and Old English bana, meaning “destroyer, murderer.” … there’s something deliciously archaic about the word bane. It conjures up villages preyed upon by dragons, or witches adding one bane or another to a steaming kettle.”  YES, that’s it, I feel preyed upon by dragons, not by hearing “bane” but by Time Sheets!)

There is no image.  There’s some time sheet prepared by a truck driver noting in what location he/she was when he/she stopped for a meal and I’m sure that’s just as bad in its own way to have to fill out, but mine requires accounting for my day in six-minute increments and describing those six+ minutes in a way that conveys with understanding the work and effort that went into the time, so that the person reading it understands why they should pay an ungodly amount of money for me to have spent my time doing as described.

It’s a horrible system.  When I first started practicing law my firm billed by the hour, at a flat rate, and things were so much easier.  (And the most urgent requests we got were by fax, and that was relatively rare, but that’s another story.)  But clients started wanting a more detailed breakdown, and they wanted to pay junior associates less than senior associates and less than junior partners and less than senior partners so everything was categorized and broken down ultimately into these six-minute increments that I spend hours compiling each day.

It’s not so bad if you have one major task for the day, but my typical day is responding to an email on one project when I’m interrupted by a phone call on a different project and then I remember I was supposed to answer a question from yesterday on a third project and then an associate drops by my office with a question and then it’s time to leave for my meeting … and have to remember “exactly how much time did I spend on that email for project #1 before I was interrupted by the phone call for project #2?” and anyway I don’t have time to write it down because I’m driving to my meeting and by the time I’m back I’ll be completely engulfed in doushing some other fire… hence my hatred of time sheets.

I would love it if my firm would move to a retainer system or a contingency system or any system other than this one.  But for now I’m stuck, and while I’d rather be drafting a blog post and playing around with widgets and telling you all about my trip to Scotland and, before that, the trip to Dordogne way back in October that I have yet to describe, instead I’ll be spending this gorgeous Saturday finishing up last week’s time sheets that I couldn’t bare to complete after an exhausting day of work.

But in my Mindfulness effort I will try to make the best of each moment of completing those damn things and then hopefully find some way to get them done more efficiently next time.  Until next time, then … go out and make it a great day!


10 Minute Challenge

Protecting Myself

Protecting Myself

Go!  But my mind is blank.  Where so many thoughts were only moments ago the immediate pressure to write something NOW for 10 minutes straight has pushed all thought to some hidden recess where it remains out of sight behind a blank wall. It’s getting past that wall — of fear, mainly, of one sort of another — that is the trick of writing something authentic, interesting, meaningful.  And it’s getting past that wall, that I myself, or some part of me, erected, that’s the very hardest thing for me to do.  Even harder than “finding the time” to write.

Time Flies

Time Flies

Where does time go?  It’s always here, always the same, but despite my best intentions I manage to waste plenty of it.  I moved a few months ago to a home that’s 30 minutes closer to my office, thus saving myself at least an hour a day in commuting.  But it isn’t as if I’m an hour more productive, or I’ve “found” an hour that I can now use for my writing, or my errands, or anything else.  Sure I love my new, shorter commute.  But as to what I’ve done with my extra time, I couldn’t begin to tell you.  Despite multiple organizational tools I haven’t managed to better organize myself.  I do make lists to check off, and I remind myself to “Be Mindful” and “Live in the Moment” but so far none of that has helped.  What do you do to make the most of your day?  The most of your life?  That’s what most of us want, isn’t it?  To feel as if we’ve lived the best life we can.  For me, it’s wanting to do God’s will.  To use the talents I’ve been given, whatever those are, to their best purpose.

I watch my newly hatched adult children as they make their way into the world, struggling to know what it is they should be doing, and I cannot help because here I am 30+ years their senior and still struggling with the very same thing.  I have no words of wisdom for them.  Well, that doesn’t stop my from trying to give advice, but I know how easy it is to give advice, and even how easy it is to hear what you know must be good advice and have every intention of living by it but somehow despite those good intentions letting life slip on by without somehow managing to live it the way you really, really intend to live it.  Just making it through the day and giving each moment what you can, even though sometimes you don’t have much at all to give.

Advice

That’s my 10 minutes.  Guess some words escaped over the wall and made it into writing, after all!