Thursday, June 20, 2013

I Remember The Birds

Every year, for the past five years, my older sister and I have shared a room for at least two weeks straight.  Sometimes 3.  But it's for a full month that the two of us, my mom, Kick, and our friend Mogull  leave our husbands, children, cats, dogs, and gardens and move into a 13th Century Chateau in the South of France.  It's for work, but most people don't see it that way.

We invite up to 20 women, from all over the world, to leave their comfort zones and stay here with us for one full week.  We head out each day to explore some brocante, vide greener, weaver, hat maker or lavender field.  We search for old paper, unusual smalls that no longer exist, embroidered tea towels or torchons, vintage playing cards, holy water fonts, glass bottles with medicinal names we don't know or funny hats we've never seen, and return to the chateau in the evening to aperos in the foyer and an incredible 3-course meal.  I often think about licking my plate at the end of each course, it's that good.  There's a lot of laughing, loud talking, drinking and show & tell of goods found that day. 

We tend to go to bed long after dessert and well after the last great story is told.  We head to our room where we stay up talking with Mogull and Kick until someone finally calls it quits.  Then my sister and I keep on until we can't keep our eyes open any longer or our mouths don't move to make the right words come out.  

Mornings are always an early rise.  We've got someplace to be before the crowds swarm our little find.  We watch the sun come over the nearest bright green hill knowing we'll soon be drinking a cup of hot coffee in bed that Mogull religiously brings us each morning.  The fields are yellow with wheat or yellow with sunflowers, depending on the weather that previous year.  As I sit up and look out the window at the vast expanse of the French countryside, almost instantly the perfectly delicate swallows dive down from their eve-side nests and start to dance with each other in the sky.  I've tried to capture it on video, I've tried to catch it with a still shot, but ultimately, I just remember the birds.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Life Is In The Age Of The Beholder

 Aging is a wonder for our entire lives.  It comes in different forms, of course.
A six year old is in shock and awe over each 1/4 older they get:  I'm-six and one sixteenth and by Christmas I'm gonna be six and a half! How old are you?

At 18, you can barely believe it as you graduate to the next level of adulthood.  Then you're 21 and you're thinking, No way, I'm finally 21!  And then, Ohmygosh, I'm 30!...and this is nothing like I thought it was gonna be.   And that 'thought it was gonna be' runs the gamut from 'I thought I'd be a race car driver' to 'I thought I'd be a lion tamer' to 'I thought everything would be easier'.

Then you near the next wonder and the wonder beyond that and before you know it, you're almost at that "oh-my-god-I-am-almost -(insert whatever 2-digit number now leaves you in awe)".

Now, I'd never given much stressful thought to age, wasn't even sure I had an 'anxiety' number like so many around me seemed to have.

Then, as I neared 40,
turns out,
it was 40.

It's three years later from when I started this post.  Three years, a number of happy times, a number of disappointments and two crushing blows of sadness later, and aging has become less of a wonder and more of an interesting, if not quite balanced dance, between comfort and shock.

I've often heard women older than me lament that feeling of being invisible to anyone under 35.  Since childhood I, myself, have always been entranced by the wit, humor and intelligence of older men and women, so I thought this more of a fear than a reality.  I pooh-poohed it really.  That is, until I attended my first 16 year old's birthday party as someone who is past the 35 mark.  OMG, as the kids say.

Most of my young life, I'd been admired and thought hysterically funny by my niece and her friends.  This is not to sound self-centered, purely an observation.  We've been hanging out together since the day she arrived on earth and having always had a pretty close relationship, almost like friends more than relatives, I was considered the "Cool Aunt".  Over the years, my sister sent me every school paper my niece wrote that mentioned my name and accomplishments, every 'what I want to be when I grow up' report that had my name filling in that blank.

All through elementary and middle school, as her circle of friends grew larger, I was at the car washes, the Halloween parades, the pancake breakfasts, the birthday parties, entertaining the kids and parents alike:  The Funny Aunt, the Wacky Aunt, the Creative Aunt, the Witty Aunt!  My loving and generous niece always made time for me.  I was usually the first person she excitedly introduced as some new friend walked through the door.

Now, maybe I haven't been around as much for the last couple of years, those being her first two years of high school, new school, new friends and next thing you know, here comes 16!  Yesterday was the birthday party. 

Please believe me when I say, I hadn't necessarily anticipated giggling and laughing with her friends, throwing water-balloons, dressing up, doing impromptu dances, and getting into the general silliness we all did when she was a little girl, but I also was nowhere near ready for what I did encounter.
Yes, my incredibly sweet niece came in the door, gave me a huge hug, a big smile and skipped on out to the backyard.  And like a pied piper, or the birthday girl of the day that she was, every girl followed behind her as I watched them file into the house:  24 girls, each one more beautiful than the last, long hair, short shorts, developed bodies, tiny bikinis during the swim-party part of the party, and nary a glance of eye-contact for the first three hours of what was looking to be a very long day.

None of them looked the slightest bit intrigued as to who I was as I set out plates and napkins, drinks and food.  I could have been the pool cleaner for all the interest anyone showed.  I was happy to see them entertaining themselves, chatting away furiously, as if they hadn't spent nearly everyday together for the last 9 months.  I'd been told "at this age, they're either bored in five minutes or too excited to breath."  They looked excited to me.  I didn't even have to sneak away, nor did I sulk off, as I retired to the living room to eat lunch with my sister and brother-in-law.  I couldn't very well mention my surprise or feeling of slight to these two who'd seen it all.  So, I kept it to myself and wondered how I was going to break through, if at all, to this age that looked at me as not much more than 'old'.

Luckily, as we made our way to the next birthday destination, the Roller Rink, I had to take 4 girls in my car and we did talk and laugh and maybe even giggle as we made our way down the road.  Windows wide open, yelling to each other over traffic, everyone's hair but mine whipping in the wind, I started to feel part of something.  Once at the roller rink, I helped a couple girls get their feet up on four wheels and eventually got out on the floor myself!  My older sister and I reverted to our own youth and even managed to keep upright while laughing the whole time.  On the drive home, I took 4 different girls and, in a very short amount of time, we got into some serious topics.  They listened intently as we discussed things they'd only ever heard about, never met anyone who'd experienced it, and somewhere in there, we all had something in common.  They told me that they wished these things were taught at school by someone who 'gets it'. 

I finally felt like that adult.
And I was in awe.

Monday, June 3, 2013

You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile

You're never fully dressed without a smile.
That was the old adage, which I fully believe in.
Back in the day, encouraging people to walk around with a smile seemed a simple enough thing to do. 
But I do think it's time for a new one, to address a serious issue.
I would begin the argument that you never fully have someone's attention while they're holding an iphone.  You can even make it work in the song,
"Whooo caaaares what you're hearing
from facebook, texts and phone
it's what you heeear from eeear to ear
and not from app to app!"

Sometimes I wonder how many passwords I have stored in my head.  Where there used to be ideas and birthdays, I now have letters and numbers that make sense to no one but me.
And then I wonder how did I get here?  (no, not here on in the technology sense)
How is it that I am so totally tuned into an on-line world?
I have passwords and usernames and different passwords and different usernames for about ten billion different online connections.  And while I am not alone, I am very much alone with these things.  I'm calling them "connections" but then why do I feel less connected each time I sign up to connect to one more thing online?

It started with blogging.  Which I faithfully did, daily, for about five years.  It gave me great joy and total serenity to write my thoughts, to share ideas and to get it all down on not-quite-literal paper (many drafts of blog posts were first fleshed out on whatever piece of paper I had handy, from airplane vomit bag to matchbook, before they were electronically executed).  Writing, to me, was like a physically-sedentary form of exercise.  I always felt satiated once a piece was drafted, then edited, completed and then posted.  Some days I wrote five posts at a time, carefully selecting them to appear throughout the week, just so I could make room for the next five stories in my head.

Then I was told by someone who enjoyed my writing that I might look into Twitter.  What would I do with only 140 characters?  I couldn't imagine, but I signed up anyway.  If that's where the people were reading these days, I would go to them.

I joined Facebook purely through years of pressure, for my greeting card business and eventually for myself, and still feel that daily, visual posts are the only way to keep it interesting.

I keep a Flicker site current and curated.

I have a website for my business.
I have a Yelp profile for people and places that clearly, desperately call out for my personal opinion (called "reviews").

I have a number of email accounts:  Some for work, some for personal, some just to sign in to online worlds with.

I opened an Etsy site, then closed it, and am in the process of starting another, totally re-invented.

I started two more blogs, photography mostly, but with an extreme amount of thought, time and layout design invested in them.
Then I got an Iphone, something I'd fought against for years (why did I need anything but my simple, yet working, flip phone?)... texting was already in full swing, and I've bought into it:  hook, line and sinker.

Instagram sucked me in almost, well, instantly.  First it was just a fun idea, a here and there thought, then it became an addiction that I checked into multiple times a day.  It's a continuous love/hate relationship.

After I thought I was on top of all things necessary for my business, the self-employed person's brand, self-promotion, a friend told me that the only way to be truly out-there, involved, and communicating your message is Pinterest.
So, I logged on and started a page.
Are you feeling overwhelmed yet?
If not, trust me, I feel overwhelmed enough for both of us.

And I've found, when I bring this topic up, I am not alone.  When I sit at a table with friends or family, and everyone brings out their phones and places them on the table like an extra fork, to shovel in whatever is missing in that moment, or a knife, to cut through the millisecond of silence that befalls even the most gregarious of us, I want to lament the state of interpersonal relationships in this year of 2013.  But, I can't, because my phone starts to ring, or beep, or sound like a doorbell, or the tweet of a bird, or the breaking of glass, or it's making the sound of a train, telling me someone just had a thought, just liked something of mine, just took a photo of their drink, someone just validated someone else doing something out there in the world-wide-ether, and that, in this very moment, seems to take precedent over the simple act of smiling at the person sitting right across from them.