Friday, April 30, 2010

Unexpected blooms

It's been a funny week. Well, a funny couple of weeks. I've been working as a contractor at HP off and on for almost 8 years. In that job I've worn the hat of agency site lead, writer, editor, business systems analyst, and party organizer.

Today the agency I work for finished up its contract with HP for the work done by me and most of the other contactors. It was bittersweet. I've begun to take my writing to a different audience, and HP has changed into a place that I barely recognize anymore. The peers and immediate managers I worked with are great, and I will miss them - the upper echelon, not so much.

As I was wrapping up things with HP last week, I reinjured my shoulder. I had fallen last October while taking seizure-ridden Alex outside. In an attempt to keep him from falling down the stairs, I took the fall for him. X-rays at the ER showed no breaks so I was sent home with exercises and an ice bag.

The shoulder has never been completely back to its pre-October days, and it's been regressing in the past week. So, I made an appointment with my PCP, Dr. Feldman.

The good doctor is not very traditional. She does "traditional" medicine (with some great holistic advice on the side), but her personality is not so traditional. Years ago, she and I connected over books and our somewhat irreverent, wiseass senses of humor. She's been very supportive of me and my CFS struggles even though she admits she can't fix it.

After we discussed my shoulder, she asked about the CFS and said I looked brighter than the last time she saw me. I told her about the non-technical writing career I'm finding myself falling into and was obviously beaming.

We wrapped things up but she turned as she was headed out the door. "Bloom where you're planted," she said. I smiled and thought about it. "You know how sometimes you'll be walking along and you'll see a flower in a place where there are no others? Or in soil that you never thought would grow anything?," she continued.

"Well, that's you," she said. "Bloom where you're planted." And then she walked away.

It was perfect timing in a week of transitions for me. And it gave me some frame of reference for my 7+ year struggle with CFS. My life might not always be a bed of roses, but I'm somehow still finding a way to blossom.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The old stigmas

I was out card shopping the other day with a long list of upcoming birthdays, anniversaries, and weddings. Most of the birthday cards were for women and those are so much fun to choose. The wording on each one is usually very heartfelt and sentimental. Feelings are expressed openly and without restraint - especially if the card is woman-to-woman.

After I made my way through the "For Her" section of the cards, I got to the section of my list that was "For Him". I needed to get cards for a nephew and two of Ron's brothers (May is a big birthday month in Ron's family. February must be a pretty romantic month for those conservative Canadiens.)

The first thing I noticed was that there were very few cards for male birthdays. It was a one-size-fits-all sort of affair. And all the cards had pictures of boats, golf courses, fishing rods, or mountains on them. No pictures of men with arms around anyone - even, God forbid, other men. In fact, I can't remember seeing a card with any living thing on it at all.

When I opened all of these generic-looking cards, the writing told an even bigger story. In place of the heartfelt words and open feelings were a few lines about "taking it easy", a "job well done", and, my personal favorite, "I know we don't talk much, but...."

Missing were words like "love", "affection", and "heart". I found it to be a pretty sad statement on gender evolution. The 60s and 70s were going to change all this, weren't they? I see changes all around me when it comes to fathers and their relationship with their children. Men seem so much more involved with their kids than before, even when it's time for a tea party or dance lesson with their girls.

I did find a couple of cards that had at least some sentiment and bought them. But, still, I shook my head. Why don't greeting cards encourage, or even allow for, the expression of feelings to and between men? It doesn't have to be all flowers and cupids. But how wonderful would it be for a man to walk into a card store and pick up a card to his brother that says "I love you" - right there in print?

I worry that cards like that wouldn't sell. That men would still buy the "job well done" card and continue the stigma. I find that most men still don't know how to talk about their feelings - and it's not just my generation and older. Maybe Hallmark has done some market research and found that it's not worth the money to print "gushy" cards for men.

If so, how sad.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


One of my pet peeves is the misuse of the word "synchronicity". Sting got it right. Others use it as a substitute for the word "synchronous". Since I'm a Carl Jung fan, the misuse makes me even crazier.

To quote Wikipedia: Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated occurring together in a meaningful manner. To count as synchronicity, the events should be unlikely to occur together by chance.

The concept of synchronicity popped into my head this afternoon as I sat on my deck. It is a gorgeous spring day and I dug out my lawn chair for the sole purpose of sitting in the sun and watching the birds at the feeder.

Ron joined me with the newspaper in hand. I was content to just listen and watch nature. I heard a russling in the woods next to my house. It was my reclusive, elderly neighbor. He spends a lot of time picking through and pruning the woods behind his house. Both of our homes abut conservation land and we seem to appreciate the serenity of it.

I thought about what a lonely life he has. Cloistered in his house. Hardly ever mingling with any of the neighbors. His house is surrounded by trees and shrubs to the point of being engulfed by them. I'm told that he never married and I've never seen any visitors at his house.

As I contemplated my neighbor's solitude, Ron leaned over and said "Pssst". I looked his way as he pointed to a wild turkey that has been hanging out in our yard on occasion. There it was, poking its way through our yard, headed to the bird feeder.

I watched it for a long time. It slowly made its way back into the woods behind our house where it sat and groomed itself. I was drawn to watching my neighbor at the same time. Both of these creatures at home alone in nature. How similar are their lives, I wondered.

I've never seen this turkey with any other turkeys. Not even little baby turkeys. My neighbor and the turkey didn't appear to know the other was there. But maybe they did and are used to each other by now. Pecking their way through the natural world, content to be alone together.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Checks and balances

As I walked into the local supermarket today, I was approached by a man with a clipboard. "Are you a registered MA voter?" I said I was. "Then could you sign nomination paperwork so a candidate can get on the ballot in November?"

I always sign. Unless it's Lyndon LaRouche. This time, the candidate is an Independent. I am listed as Unenrolled but sign regardless of the candidate's party. Though, truthfully, I lean toward the Democrats 90% of the time.

Last week, I was at lunch with some rather liberal fellow UUs. More liberal than me, at least. The topic of signing papers for a Republican candidate came up. Several of my friends were quite passionate about how they would never sign nomination papers for any Republican, and they even get into arguments with the signature seekers.

They were surprised when I disagreed with them. My philosophy is that what makes this country great is that any citizen can run for elected office. If I don't agree with you, I won't vote for you. But you should always have the right and opportunity to present your thoughts. I wouldn't want to live in a country where only one side of the story is heard all the time.

We have that in the MA State House right now. It's a one-party controlled state. And how's that working out for everyone? Right. Thought so.

Every government, like every person, needs to have an opposing opinion if only to make them think objectively. I love to play devil's advocate which drives a lot of my friends insane. Personally, I am not offended when someone does that to, or rather, for me. I'd rather be forced into thinking logically and checking in with my heart than make a move toward something that is not true to who I am.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thoreau, I am not

I took a short walk this morning. It started out as an exercise kind of walk. Trying to lose the remaining 19 pounds to reach my Weight Watcher goal (and fit into an old dress that I loved and would like to wear to a wedding in June).

It's a perfect Spring day in Westford. Barely a cloud in the sky, 60s temps, and a gentle breeze. The walk I chose was one I've done in the past. It's probably my favorite walk in my area.

There's a 4-H fairground near my house and it sits on Heart Pond that straddles Westford and Chelmsford. It's not a very big pond but how big does a pond have to be to be appreciated?

I walked briskly for 15 minutes until I reached the pond, then took a little break by the water to listen and watch. There was a swan near the shore. I didn't know what it was at first because all I saw was this lump of white on the water. Moments later, the swan came up for air and there was that lovely long neck.

Watching the sun, so welcome after a long winter, play off the ever so slight ripples in the water was a jewel to behold. Red winged blackbirds called out to each other, no doubt reporting the progress on their nest-building.

Behind me, I heard the sound of a hammer. There were a few 4-H members there getting the site ready for the season. I don't know about other New Englanders, but I love living in a place where there are four distinct seasons. Sure we all complain about the dog days of August and the hold-your-breath sort of cold we get in January. But boy, do Spring and Autumn make up for those moments of extremes.

I thought as I walked back to the house that I am no Thoreau. After having spent a short time communing with nature, I understand the appeal of sitting alone with your thoughts and taking in the beauty of the natural world. Thoreau, however, seemed to miss the lesson that alone in nature is not where we are meant to be all the time.

Our community is our neighbors. And I don't define neighbor as someone who lives near me. Our neighbors are the whole world. How can we understand ourselves if we never interact with others? I don't think I would be as empathetic as I am if I spent all of my time communing with nature (and living in my own head).

That's why I'm one of the few nature lovers and English majors I know who really doesn't have any use for Thoreau. I lump him in the same category as Salinger. Reclusive and out of touch.

As beautiful and pure as nature is, it is not a substitute for human interaction. If you're a human, that's where you need to focus. It's wonderful to get away from the world for a while and reflect, but let's not forget who our neighbors are.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The stars are aligning

Just back from the Career Center in Lowell. I didn't realize what a great resource they are for career advice. I figured they were just focused on giving you the tools to get re-employed and not to do any serious career counseling. I was SO wrong.

I met with a wonderful advisor, Gerri, who's been there for 30 years. We are about the same age and we've both been at our careers for the same amount of time (yes, I'm that old). 

We talked about my resume that sells my technical background and she suggested I could make some changes there. But I also told her how I'd like to eventually get out of the iffy-ness of the tech biz and focus on more creative writing.

She gave me some great ideas. The Career Center also has a monthly workshop on starting your own business but April's is already full. I have no clue what it takes to be a freelance writer (taxes, marketing, etc.) and would like to go to next month's session.

It's exciting and scary at the same time, this going out on my own move. But I feel like the universe is sort of leading me in this direction and I had better not miss my opportunity. There are those who say we are coming upon the Age of Aquarius in 2012 - the beginning of a new astrological era. A time of change for humanity.

So, maybe, since my astrological sign happens to be Aquarius, this is my time for change as well. I can only go with my gut and trust the universe. Those two things have gotten me this far already, so I feel that I have no choice but to continue.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Alex and Brit

Here's a picture of Alex and Brit for those who read the Globe column. Brit is on the left (still wet from a bath) and Alex is on the right. They are snuggling on our bed as they did every night before we turned off the light. They were quite the pair.


After many years of trying to do some sort of writing that doesn't include technical boredom, I was published in the Boston Globe magazine today. It's like a whole new world is opening up to me.

Here's the link if you'd like to read it:

Thanks to all my loyal readers and posters for keeping me motivated to write.

Friday, April 9, 2010


No, not that kind of space - the new-frontiers type of space. I'm talking about space as it relates to allowable, personal, comfortable space between strangers. As I was walking into the post office today, a man was ahead of me by quite a few steps. He opened the door, looked around to see if anyone was behind him, saw me, smiled and let the door close behind him. I wasn't on his heels by any means so was not offended. But I thought that I would have held the door for him had he been as far away as I was.

One of my high school classes did an exercise in personal space. Two random students stood at the front of the class and the teacher had one of us move closer to the other student, one small step at a time. The student who was being approached had to say "Stop" when they started to feel uncomfortable.

It was an interesting exercise. One that I never forgot. Every person had their own personal space requirements. Some kids never said "Stop" and were fine having other students breathing down on them - even if they weren't friends. Some said "Stop" after the first step.

Not sure if my fellow post office customer was doing the personal space test or not. Maybe he felt funny holding the door for someone who was so far away from him. Or maybe he thought it would be an awkward waiting period. Maybe he didn't want me to feel that I had to run so that he wasn't left holding the door for a long time. Who knows.

Got me wondering, though, about etiquette between strangers. And not a gender-specific etiquette. I don't think men are more required (is that grammatically correct?) than women to hold doors for others.

What do you do in a situation like this? How long would you have heald the door and why? The comments feature is enabled. Jump in anytime!