Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Getting moving. Ugh.

At least in my Third Third, I’ve realized that the mood I have upon wakening does not have to be the mood that follows me around all day. I can try distraction (a movie), a good conversation, an activity outdoors. Sometimes a trip to Costco can cheer me up.

So what’s bugging me lately? I think I’m letting my body go down the tubes. I’m not getting enough exercise and seeing my mother’s dementia and knowing that exercise is the best way to hold onto cognitive abilities just makes me freak out about it even more.

So that’s why I’m sitting here writing about it.

Maybe it’s that the weather is transitioning to winter but there’s no snow for skiing. Maybe it’s that problem with my feet; they have some weird hurt. Maybe it’s that I can never remember what the lap swim hours are at the pool. But those aren’t even the issue. The issue is inertia.

[break while I went for a run]

Okay, things aren’t so bleak now. It’s just that physical exercise is low on my personal priority list. Tim has to exercise every day. It’s in his DNA or something. Me? I could lie down and blob out any hour of the day all day. I could idly skim magazines, do a crossword puzzle, make up a grocery list. I could even do laundry over physical exercise. In fact, I often feel highly motivated to do laundry.
I am never highly motivated to move my body. I have to play tricks on myself like getting into running clothes. Once I do that, it will happen. One friend once asked me if I’d be her dog. Friends with dogs have to take the dog out for a walk; maybe that would get us out.
But now, the fear of dementia is overwhelming. Not to mention that my body is starting to look like an old person’s body, and that’s of more immediate concern than dementia. As usual, If nothing changes, nothing changes. So I’m going to try a New Thing.

A few years ago, I came across an article in a magazine about the eight best cocktails in Anchorage. There were colorful photos and clever names for some of them. I don’t even drink, but I said, “Let’s do an Anchorage cocktail tour. We’ll do a different one every Friday.” What an incredible amount of fun! Our group grew every week, and I discovered things like little baby cocktail shakers. I also discovered things like drunk people in bars. Yikes!
Anyhow, at my athletic club, there are all sorts of classes I’ve never taken. Mostly at the athletic club, I take showers. I can’t stand the idea of getting hot and sweaty indoors. But other people do Zumba and Insanity and Cize. I have no idea what those are. I’ve done the machines, but there are new ones. I did do the 30-day Plank Challenge with a friend on Facebook and that kind of worked.

So this is my plan. I’m going to do a Barbara Tour of Exercise Alternatives. Just the idea of being in an overheated room full of sweating people leaves me screaming for an exit, but this is a Mission. A Quest. By saying this publicly, I’ve embarrassed myself into action (I hope). Either that or dementia will nip at my heels. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Old, frightened, and far away

When your 90-year-old mother gets sick and feels afraid to sleep alone at night, none of her four far-flung offspring can sleep either. The last few days have had us telephoning, emailing, researching, investigating, and contacting. Worrying, pacing, talking, and fretting.

But not sleeping.

My sister, Elizabeth, the only one within driving distance, drove down to Long Island. While she tried to sleep in my mother’s living room, my mother repeatedly called out – about every minute or so – “Elizabeth, are you there?” Distraught, Elizabeth checked her time zones and figured it was safe to call me at 1 a.m. It was. I was busy worrying and researching.

My mother knows that something is very wrong with her cognitive abilities and memory. When she’s drifting off to sleep, the problem is worse: she’s not sure when or where she is. Are her parents still alive? Is she home? She gets so frightened, she can’t bear to be alone and has lately taken to wandering the halls, seeking out anyone for human contact.

During the day, she’s alert and active enough to participate in lots of activities. Her assisted living place is friendly, welcoming, and familiar. And there are things going on all the time. But at night, it’s another story.

So what are we to do? If she moved nearer to one of us, she’d lose the familiarity that is the anchor to her comfort right now. She knows where the dining room is, what she gets to do at 10, 11, and the movies at 2. She knows where her bingo chips are stashed and what to look for in her local newspaper. All these things are the bedrock of her functioning, and she doesn’t want to give them up.

But if she’s ill or tired, frightened or upset, we are all hundreds and thousands of miles away. All of us have reached the point where we check Caller I.D. and our hearts lurch if it’s her area code. We exist in a state of waiting for the other shoe to drop. And they seem to be dropping at a faster pace.

Oh, the world offers such promise in exploring wide open spaces, tackling new opportunities in new locations. My mother’s four kids split to the corners of the globe, but now the law of unintended consequences is playing out all over our age group as we deal with far-away, aging parents.
As I vibrate with the anxiety of “what should we do” and have trouble sleeping, Tim says, “That’s why we’re going to move to be nearer our kid.” So the relocation question for us – which had pretty much resolved in favor of the life we like here in Alaska – is now an open question again.

Eventually, I might be an old person. (I must admit, this whole business has me reflecting on just how old I might appreciate getting.) But just like I’m de-cluttering so our daughter won’t have to clear out my accumulated junk, I don’t want her to have these tortured moments of being far away from something that absorbs her emotional energy. So does that mean we move? Or at least get nearer?

Oh, that’ll have to wait. I can fret about decisions for only one old person at a time, and right now, that’s not me.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The parable of the pressure cooker

Every now and then, I attack the reading pile, tearing out magazine pages if anything looks interesting. This one for Butternut Squash Risotto got my attention: “With a pressure cooker, you can make this impressive risotto recipe in just 6 minutes.”

Six minutes! Nothing can be done in six minutes. I made one risotto in my life: who has the time to sit there stirring and stirring? It’s so labor intensive. But six minutes!

So I hauled out my pressure cooker. It was a present to my mother for her wedding, and it’s in its Seventh Seventh. I love pressure cookers: they conserve energy, they allow me to cook my beans even if I forgot to soak them the night before, and they have less salt than if I used canned beans.
So I got started. As the pressure was starting to build, I had to squeeze the handle tightly, jiggle the lid around so the sputtering steam wouldn’t come pouring out. If I can jiggle it to the right spot, it’ll take the seal, and the pressure will build. Then I have to look at the little ruler that pops out the top to make sure it stops at the third line (for 15 pounds of pressure). And then I have to watch it. And watch it.

Yeah, well, I never got to the line. No matter how tightly I squeezed – to the point of finger cramps – or how cleverly I jiggled, the steam never stopped pouring out. Periodically, I’d have to halt the whole operation to mop up all the water on the stove.

I hate that stupid pressure cooker! Instead of being convenient and quick, it takes forever to set the seal. I’ve tried new gaskets – no luck. My six-minute risotto was already a half-hour operation to try to get the pressure cooker to work and it wasn’t.

So I ran to the computer and Googled “pressure cookers.” I could see that America’s Test Kitchen had a really detailed review of the brands, but I had to sign up for a free trial subscription to Cook’s Illustrated so I could view it. I was a woman on a mission! I picked my winning pressure cooker, drove over to Habitat Housewares, plunked down my credit card, and took my Fagor Duo 8-Quart Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker home.
In six minutes, I had the most incredibly delicious risotto!

The old pressure cooker went to Bishop’s Attic. Maybe someone will use it to melt tar for their roof and appreciate it.

What are the lessons for my Third Third I can glean from this?

  1. I spent many years on a decrepit piece of equipment that should have been replaced years earlier. Just because I think things should last for a lifetime doesn’t mean they do it with precision, ease, and vigor. Life’s too short; cut your losses.

  2. The tools exist to make plans (and make informed consumer choices). I didn’t have to do my usual excruciating deliberation, enduring months and months of which pressure cooker to buy. (The vacuum cleaner is another story….)

  3. The world is improving; things are being designed better. My new pressure cooker doesn’t have an obscure little ruler with three lines. It has a lock for the lid, and it’s easy to clean. It even has a grip on the non-handle side so you can lift it easily.

  4. There is no conflict with de-cluttering if when you buy a new item you get rid of the old one. No net accumulation.

  5. Getting rid of the old opens up new possibilities. I am confident that risotto would never have entered my life if my old pressure cooker remained in my kitchen. Today it’s risotto, tomorrow it’s….

Little amendment to this whole story: The risotto did take six minutes; peeling and dicing that rock-hard butternut squash took forever! I almost took off a few fingers trying to cut the stupid thing. Am I supposed to keep an ax in the kitchen?!? (And would a person who cooks dried beans instead of canned really buy already-cut butternut squash? That remains to be seen.) 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

I am the Werd Nerd

I love words! I love their derivations, their histories, their roots, their etymology! And once a year, I love pronouncing them. That happens at the Alaska Literacy Program’s annual BizBee, the adult spelling bee. Rules are different for the grown-ups: spellers compete as teams of three, and they get to confer on the spelling. If they don’t like the word they’re given, they can pay to send that word to a rival team and get a new one. Obviously, this is a fund raiser and obviously, it’s a lot of fun. I used to pronounce for the Alaska State Spelling Bee – the “real” one with the kids – and it was fairly traumatic, with occasional tears. The adults don’t cry, but they also NEVER forget the words they’ve misspelled.

So every year, I make up a story about the night’s action with all the words and their definitions. As unbelievable as it seems, all the words come from Webster’s Third New International Dictionary. And if you think they’re easy, just imagine spelling in front of an audience. Here goes!

You have to worry about a spelling bee when the first word is xylophone, but miraculously, no one went out in the first round. Nevertheless, the TelAlaska team worried about Permian and passed it on to the “Dewey Decimators” of the Anchorage Public Library (in their hard hats and safety vests from Loussac Library construction). Unfortunately, in the second round, Permian was enough to render the librarians extinct.
Round 3 marked the cold-blooded demise of the Literacy Program’s home team with herpetology. The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship just didn’t have the spine to get past notochord, and they fell out soon after.

Something very bizarre happened in Round 4. The man in the iron mask from Arctic Entries #2, “Ye Olde Autocorrekt Team,” stood up – like a crazy man – and shouted some medieval sort of thing to the audience … and went on to spell his word. The outbursts proved epidemic: the Mensa speller announced “menhaden, not to be confused with manhating,” and went on to catch the fish.
Round 5 saw lots of action. No matter how sprightly or playful the scherzo, it knocked the Jewel Lake Parish/Children’s World team out in triple time. ServiceMASTER sensed the drought and passed foggara to United Way, who managed to drown in the desert right after. This was really sad because their team, dubbed “Spell Me Up, Scotty,” came accompanied by cheerleaders who yelled things like, “Make it so, #1!”

The risk in passing a word lies in not knowing its replacement: alas, the doors were closed on ServiceMASTER by their new gatekeeper, durwan.

Three teams couldn’t pluck the strings of pizzicato so they passed it on to “Ye Olde Autocorrekt,” and it would prove their swan song in Round 6. In a four-word tragedy, the Providence “Health Literacy Heroes” passed three words in succession (pogrom, intaglio, and Holi ) only to fall off their skis on vorlage.

In Round 6, First National Bank’s fondness for things Greek went out in the face of philhellenism, but not before they sent zeitgeber on to TelAlaska. That cleaned the biological clocks of the “Telephonics,” but they surprised us all by pulling out their TeamSaver Award. For having sold the most raffle tickets, they held a secret Get-out-of-Jail free card and were back in the game.

Periodically, the Human Dictionary was called upon for a second opinion for those teams not trusting the New York origins of the pronouncer, and the three judges (the “Killer Bees”) – all former and current school board members – took the heat as the bearers of good (“That is correct.”) and bad news (“That is incorrect.”).

Arctic Entries #1 – after a miraculous string of successfully spelling words originating in Sanskrit – suffered redness, itching, and lesions as they went out in Round 8 on eczematous. Ooh, things got heated: the Sons of Norway – the 2013 champions – passed fanfaronade to Mensa, last year’s champions, and it proved fatal in Round 9. Mensa lost all boasting rights; fanfaronade knocked them out. But in the same round, all the reading in the world couldn’t save the Sons of Norway from omnilegent or TelAlaska, buried in soot with fuliginous. What happens when all teams are eliminated in one round? They all come back in.

But TelAlaska couldn’t dig themselves out after hypogeal so that left Mensa and the Sons of Norway. Poor Mensa – faced with the hardest word of the whole evening to pronounce – intussusception – just couldn’t put pieces back together. That left the Sons of Norway to face two words to win: they ate up porcini and didn’t die on the sword of katana. New champions for 2015!
Okay, maybe you have to be a Werd Nerd to find all this remotely interesting, but it sure is a lot of laughs. And think of the value of spelling for our Third Thirds: a way to keep our brains active and our cognitive abilities sharp. But it only works if the words are tough, obscure, and frustrating!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Total Immersion

Years ago, soon after the Alaska SeaLife Center opened, I visited it at night. Very few people were around, and I went downstairs and sat on the bench in front of the big tanks. The lights were dim so the tanks seemed to be glowing, and everything was so quiet. The giant sea lions were swimming around and it was just them and me.

For that time – and I had it all to myself for quite a long time – the SeaLife Center was no longer a sea life center, no longer an aquarium. It was a Temple to the Sea. There was something magical, something spiritual, something incandescent about the experience. I’ve never forgotten it.

Somehow, I had entered the realm of the ocean. If you’d asked me then, I probably would have said I lived in the ocean for that time, felt the water the sea lions felt. Swam smoothly and fluidly. And all I was doing was sitting on a bench.
It was a Golden Moment, those moments I've written about when the universe lets you know that you are in the right place at the right time and all is good with you and the world. In Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog, she says
“…the forward rush of life is crystallized in a brilliant jewel of a moment that knows neither projects nor future, human destiny is rescued from the pale succession of days, glows with light at last and, surpassing time, warms my tranquil heart.”
I live for moments like this! And just last week, I had another.

It was in the Anchorage Museum’s Van Gogh Alive exhibit. Robin and I entered the exhibit and read the introductory panels. It divided Van Gogh’s life into periods and said there would be music to match. I didn’t quite get it, but we sat down in the first room and let the giant slide show happen in front of us. The colors were overwhelming, and the music brought another sense into play. I kept thinking of the Sistine Chapel and how, after restoration, they realized that Michelangelo painted in vibrant colors, that the muted images we were used to were just dust and fading.

But what I really loved was the panel with Van Gogh’s words. He wasn’t just a man of color and paint; he was a man of letters. He expressed himself so well and felt the struggle for the right word the same as the struggle for the right brush stroke.

After a while, I noticed that the other rooms had images, too. I didn’t want to miss anything so I asked the attendant how was I supposed to go through it. She said I should just walk, let each room reach me in a different way. So Robin and I did that. Some rooms filled us up, others gave us a new way to look at the art.
Like the SeaLife Center’s Temple to the Sea, I felt … incorporated into Van Gogh’s world. I can identify with the “otherly mental” of us in the world, and I appreciate the gifts of the double-edged sword. Van Gogh’s creativity was both his pleasure and his pain, and the exhibit was heartbreaking in laying out the evidence of how very good he was … and how bound up that was in his distress and disturbance.

When the mentally ill are only talked about in relation to mass gun deaths, the world can forget the beauty, the poetry, the richness that comes from alternative ways of looking at the world. We need the Van Goghs of the world, and it was just so sad to know that he never felt that. Maybe other people will make that connection, will look at the Van Goghs they know and … accept them, encourage them.

I came right home and started reading Lust for Life, Irving Stone’s book about Van Gogh’s life. The book emphasizes Van Gogh’s social conscience, that he could draw peasants and miners because he felt one with them and their struggles. It was that empathy that was first deemed crazy by his contemporaries.

I’ll go back to the Museum. I’ll sit quietly on the bench, immersed in Van Gogh’s world. I’ll cherish his big, awkward heart, lament the tragedy of his pain, and be grateful for the beauty he left behind.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

De-cluttering Victories

Every now and then, there is a little de-cluttering victory. It could be a closet tackled or a major load taken to recycling, but my personal favorite is the good-home-for-the-odd-item kind of victory. I don’t mean the generic clean-out and the drop-off at Bishop’s Attic or Goodwill; I mean the my-trash-is-really-someone-else’s-treasure kind of transfer.

Years ago, I finally decided the proliferation of water bottles and souvenir soft drink mugs from assorted waterparks, sports events, and Disney Worlds had achieved critical mass. I collected them all up … and took them to an elementary school classroom as rewards for reading. The teacher loved it, and I loved the space vacated and the good deed accomplished.
If things are a step up professionally or particular to women, they might fulfill their mission as donations to Alaska Professional Communicators for the monthly luncheon door prize. I’d forgotten all about one particular donation until Dianne cornered me at a recent lecture. “Barbara,” she said, “I got the witch.” I stared at her long enough for her to realize I had no idea what she was talking about. It had to do with the flying women art I hang from my ceiling, urging me to take flight, I guess. They’re happy and motivating, but I bought one that didn’t have the desired effect. She was kind of creepy, although I’d never thought of her as a witch. After years of sitting in a corner, neglected, she became a donation. Dianne paid for her door prize ticket (win for the organization), she won the ‘witch’ (win for her), and I got satisfaction from engineering the match.

My family in New York had dozens and dozens of board games. We played them when it was too hot and humid and we huddled in the basement trying to stay cool. Since Sophie is the only grandchild, after a while, the board games migrated to our house. But when she turned 13 and the whole family visited for her bat mitzvah, I assembled everyone for the disposition of the no-longer-favorite games. Whatever no one wanted was going to Camp Fire After School.

“You can’t get rid of Candy Land. They don’t even make them with those candies anymore.” “Not Chutes and Ladders!” “Not Careers!” “Not Pooch!” “These old games must be worth a mint on E-Bay!” Those are the cries of confirmed pack rats. So non-rat-Tim snuck out of the room, checked the computer, and reported in: “$3.54 for a mint condition Candy Land.” Oh, they were so well-received at Camp Fire!
But my latest coup has me delirious. Every time I dye my hair, I get a box with a new pair of plastic gloves inside, but I just rinse out one pair and use it over and over again. There are just so many plastic gloves you can use to pick up trash or repair a kayak. At last count, there must have been more than 70 in the bathroom drawer. Mimi to the rescue: “Oh, everyone in the art studio needs plastic gloves when they paint. Want me to take them in?” Hallelujah!
Jazz hands! Jazz hands!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

On edge and sitting there

I woke from an anxiety dream last night. The kind where you have that heart-stopping, throat-closing, stomach-lifting feeling as if you’d dropped off a high-diving board. I don’t remember the dream, but I know why I had it.

I feel like I’m not doing my Third Third right. (It is a positive sign that I’m not saying I’m failing at it, but that’s the feeling.) I have one friend who hopped on a bicycle and has covered the country and is still going. Another who took up photography and is preparing for her first solo exhibition.

And I’m still sitting here.
Okay, I’ve been to Machu Picchu, been back to care for and visit my mother, explored Vermont and Portland. I’m excited by this blog and the creativity it inspires. I thoroughly enjoy the classes I teach as a volunteer, and I’m challenged by a contract I’m presently working on and the problem-solving I need to address for it.

Enough of the floor work is done and things moved back into their places (and dusted and vacuumed!) so that I’m not living in chaos.

So what gives?

In re-loading the bookshelves, I came across the giant envelope full of photos. I put it in the box with all the other unsorted, tossed-in-the-box photos. To work on the floors, I put on a pair of old jeans that needed mending. When I pulled out my sewing supplies, I saw the still-unfinished quilt. I finished browsing a magazine, tearing out a couple pages of recipes I’d like to try, and added them to the pile of many more recipes-I’d-like-to-try. The mint and chives are still unharvested from the garden, and I know it’ll be too late when snow lands on them.

I saw a movie where they said, “Sitting is the new smoking,” and here I sit. My feet developed some odd pain after the Mayor’s Half-Marathon (in June!), and I haven’t been running barely at all since then.
Yes, I know this is whining. This is WHINING. I would be horrified except that I’m making the excuse that if it’s in this blog, maybe other people will identify with it and think they’re not so alone after all. I’m still horrified.

I just don’t like feeling this way. This on-edge, unsatisfied, fidgety, uncentered feeling. Even my clothes feel uncomfortable. I guess I keep hoping for a once-and-for-all resolution to life questions, that I figure it out and I’m good. That things on my list get DONE.

I’d been excited to solve the goose poop problem at Cuddy Park. People had all come together from all different agencies with lots of good ideas. And then they all separated, and I can see that the solution for one is going to create unintended consequences for another and they really need to be brought together to decide on solutions. But I’m only a volunteer. A volunteer amongst volunteers is fine, but no one listens to the volunteer in an interdepartmental crowd. So that’s a fizzle.

I know this is all to be expected in our Third Thirds. That trying new things means some won’t work out, but that failing to try would be the real tragedy. That coming up with too many new things means some – a lot! – won’t get done. As always, I know that “If nothing changes, nothing changes.”

Okay, today I’ll put one foot in front of the other and make an appointment with the podiatrist. (!) The rain has stopped. Maybe first I’ll go out for a run.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (one of my heroes) said, “We are what we pretend to be….” So right now, I’m going to pretend to be a runner with a lift in her legs. Let’s see if that works.

Monday, October 19, 2015

How much of "us" resides in our stuff?

My friend Chris has found herself the caretaker of the personal memorabilia of a man she barely knew. She has his diplomas, photo albums, letters, awards and trophies. It’s all in one box that she acquired when she moved all her mother’s belongings out of Arizona and into her garage.

The man is her mother’s second husband, not Chris’ father. Chris says, “He had no children and his first wife is dead so I guess I feel I have some sort of responsibility for his personal effects.”

As she described this to us – De-Clutterers Anonymous – we said, “Get rid of it.” But this wasn’t really the typical de-cluttering dilemma.

Chris feels it’s like this man’s life, that it deserves more respect than taking it to the dump. That these are all that’s left of a life that was lived, so how should it be … jettisoned?

This is an interesting question with a bunch of different answers. First, I guess, is the “it’s not his life, it’s just stuff” answer. That once our lives end, we are only the memories in whomever’s mind so the stuff is just … stuff. You can’t take it with you because it’s not you. It’s Things.

But there’s another metaphysical aspect to all this: how much of ourselves gets imbued in our physical possessions, the things we choose to save? When does the stuff we save represent “us” and when is it just “stuff”? And isn’t there some intermediate step in there, when it’s “our stuff”?
Is memory a necessary part of that? So if I hold my father’s tools, am I somehow connected to him because they were his and I remember him or is there something of him residing in the tools? What if, like Chris, you don’t even know him or have memories of him; are the objects devoid of meaning? Does it matter that once he had meaning for her mother?

Chris won’t take his stuff to the dump. She thinks she’s going to burn it. The De-Clutterers thought that was fitting. What does burning mean that the dump doesn’t?
As a hard-core recycler, I actually do things like take trophies into trophy places, vases into florists, paper to the recycling center. This could be a way of giving further life to his now-ended life, like donating corneas.

On the one hand, reflecting on all this just makes me want to get rid of more stuff so no one has to fret over how respectful or disrespectful, painful or uncomfortable, disposing of it is. “I’m not there” after all. But on the other hand, I gave my stuff to the library archives so I’d be “somewhere.” Obviously, thinking about all this is complicated and fraught with … feelings. I’m going to bed.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

This post is R-rated

I teach a writing class for OLÉ (Opportunities for Lifelong Education). I titled it “Dangerous Writing,” but on the first day of class, I discovered the title had scared a bunch of folks. Brave souls, they still registered, and we’ve been having a lot of fun.

So one of the assignments was “There are two people in a room who hate each other. Demonstrate that fact in writing without using dialogue or any physical violence.”

Wow, everyone was so creative. We had siblings at their mother’s funeral, roommates (one messy, one neat), a husband accosted by an overbearing, talkative person. Rivals at a 51st reunion. In another, two women were delighted to find each other at a social event, but when their husbands joined them, it was obvious there was bad blood there.

We had tension, passive aggressive behaviors, averted eyes. We had reddened faces, tightened jaws, escapes to an exit. It was a real treat.

The class is mostly retired women and John. I’d guess the ages were 50+ into the 70s. After everyone reads, we all point out what made it real for us, what parts resonated and made the picture vivid. Then it was John’s turn.

His story was an affair gone bad. She’s pretending she doesn’t notice him in a crowded room. He’s shuddering and trying to find an exit; he’ll come back later to get his coat. “She turned and walked slowly toward the coat room, smiling and chatting with people along the way, but moving inexorably toward her destination, her escape. She felt moist, not in a good way. Clammy, nauseated.”

I like the scene. So does the class. “But John,” I say, “I don’t think ‘moist’ is the right word. People aren’t moist; sponges are moist. Clammy is the right word.”

The women – the older women, the class full of women – think ‘moist’ is just right. It has to be ‘moist.’ She’s moist. They stare at me. I stare at them. John attempts to clarify: “But not in a good way.” What does that have to do with it? Quite a few white heads bob at me. “No, ‘moist’ is the right word.”

“Ohhhhh,” I stammer, “moist down there moist???” Yes, that’s exactly what they mean. It’s the real point of the scene. John, whose misfortune it is to be the only man in the room with women who know exactly what he meant, is so beet-red he’s glowing.

“It’s from a Leonard Cohen song,” he says. “‘...and the ladies go moist, and the judge has no choice....’”
This class knows how to do their Third Thirds! The only one who flustered in the face of “danger” was me. So I felt compelled to tell a story; when would I ever get a lead-in like this?
Do you remember the movie The Big Easy? Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin have the steamiest, most incredibly sizzling scene together. Shortly after it came out, my sister and I were visiting my mother on Long Island, and the subject of the movie came up. My sister lives in Berlin and hadn’t seen it yet. I told her about that sexy scene. My mother added, “Oh, Allison, that scene just lubricated my vagina.”

The class roared and exclaimed, “Your mother said that?!” Hey, hadn’t they just taught me about ‘moist’? My mother was in her Third Third, too.

Role models all.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Adventures with alcohol

Lately, I’ve been frequenting the liquor store. Which is kind of odd since I’m basically a teetotaler sort who has even lately discovered that even white wine makes me feel like I’m having a heart attack. But my assorted Quests for New-ness have brought me to the liquor store … often.

It started with a recipe I wanted to try for salmon and it called for ½ cup bourbon. So first I had to Google bourbon to see if I could just use plain old whisky (which I discovered in Googling is different from whiskey-with-an-e). I have lots of plain old whisky because my only foray into hard liquor is our annual party now dubbed the Whisky Sour Party and featuring the most amazing tasting drink.

The bottom line, bourbon has its own taste. Since I didn’t know what bourbon tasted like – but because I cook like a chemist and measure out ingredients exactly – I had to stick with the recipe – no deviations.

I asked the guy at the counter where bourbon was, but those were giant-size bottles. I explained to him that I only needed a half-cup, and he pointed out the cute little baby bottles behind him. Then he checked my I.D.
The salmon was so good that I returned about a month later and asked for the little bottle of bourbon. I wasn’t sure what size I’d gotten last time. “This one,” said the guy, “I remember you.”

I really like that salmon. So about another month later, I was back. This time, I thought I should buy more bourbon because it would be cheaper in quantity. I splurged for the 200 ml size. My liquor guy was not so impressed with my level of splurge.
A little back story here: when I first moved to Alaska 30 years ago, I did all the Alaskan things right off the bat: stocked up on halibut, skied Tincan with skins, and picked high-bush cranberries for cranberry liqueur. My friend Sharon gave me a recipe that called for gin, and I made a whole lot. Which I still have. I rediscovered it after 25 years and it tasted way better.
Anyhow, this year, my raspberry bushes were so prolific that I thought I’d experiment with raspberry liqueur. I had an old recipe that called for a fifth of Everclear. So I headed back to my liquor guy, but there was a new guy at the counter. He pointed me to the Everclear. There were two size bottles: 750 ml and 1.75 liters. “Which of these sizes is called a fifth?” I asked. A customer pointed, and I made my purchase.
In the parking lot, I ran into Pam. “Hey, how ya’ doin’?” she called out. Then, “Oh, I see you’re doing real well.” It turned into one of those special Alaska moments, discussing liqueur recipes in a parking lot with a fifth of Everclear in your hand.

A few weeks ago, I had been looking for a little rubber seal thing that had melted (or dissolved?) on the top of the bottle I once made raspberry vinegar in. I needed to fix that so I could use the bottle for my new liqueur. My quest led me to Arctic Brewing Supply, an incredibly interesting little store with all sorts of little bottles. I got my rubber seal, but now it’s those cute little bottles that I’m going to fill with raspberry liqueur.

Got the raspberries, got the Everclear, got the little bottle supplier. But now I have three recipes for raspberry liqueur, and they’re all different. Some have the raspberries sit for 24 hours by themselves, some have them sit in the Everclear for 3-4 weeks, some for two weeks. Some add more sugar than water, some the other way around. Some filter again after adding the sugar, some not. One adds cinnamon, orange peel, and vanilla bean (really?).

Anyone care to share a tried-and-true recipe? (Oh, wow, will this make us like Julie and Julia?!?)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Mystery of the Corn Fritters

There is a sequel to yesterday’s story of my mother’s fricassee. I didn’t even remember it till I did a search on my computer for “fricassee.” It came up with this 2009 email I sent:
So there we were at a Sugar House in Massachusetts, eating pancakes and corn fritters with fresh maple syrup, and Elizabeth said, “These are different from the corn fritters you make.”

I stare at her. “I never made corn fritters.”

“Yes, you did. Aunt Selma taught you how, and the first batch you made were pretty hard, but the next batch was great.” (or something like that)

I say, “I have never made corn fritters in my life.”

I am on the edge of turning 56, and already I’m denying I ever made fricassee!?!

 I am worried sick. Has anyone else ever eaten corn fritters from my efforts?
My other sister, Allison, replied: “I don’t remember your making corn fritters OFTEN, but in fact I have the nuggets with kernels of corn in them rather clear in my memory and I do remember they were made by you. I don’t remember them being from Aunt Selma. I thought they were from a friend of yours (from high school?).
(supposed to be corn fritters)
It gets worse. The next email is from me again:
       “Okay, who set Mom up? She just called to ask for my recipe for corn fritters so she can bring them to Phyllis’ house for Passover (never mind that they have flour in them, I think.) ‘I think’ because I have never made corn fritters so I don’t know what’s in them!”

Allison denies involvement. She’s still one step back: “I’m still trying to delve deeper into my memory and see if it was really YOU who I associate with the fritters. In my memory they look great.”

And finally, the culprit sister surfaces. Elizabeth emails, “OK, I have to admit it, it was I who put Mom up to it. To tell you the truth, I didn’t think she’d remember to do it, I’m impressed!”

If we’ve reached the point where my mother’s memory is impressive, we’re all in trouble. All I can imagine is that I must have taken my sisters out to Sourdough Mining Company on a visit and those are the corn fritters they’re associating with me. I can’t imagine deep-frying in my mother’s house; she’d have had us cleaning the stove for hours. (Do corn fritters require deep-frying?) And what was Aunt Selma doing in our kitchen anyway?

The thing is, when we were packing up the old house when my mother moved, I came across the large souvenir program from Dreamgirls when it opened on Broadway – with all my little notes and travel directions clipped to it. The startling coincidence: I had just seen it in Anchorage for the very first time. I also came across a paper I’d written, something about existentialism and the writings of Sartre and Kafka. I checked the bibliography; lots and lots of Kafka entries. Yes, I’d done my thesis on Sartre, but I have never read any Kafka. Nothing. Not even the one about the cockroach. 
Tim is making cracks about 50 First Dates, but I’m thinking of all the parallel universes that exist. How one branches off from another and in one, I’ve never done something while in another, I have. And every now and then, the universes overlap and things get confusing. Or one universe for my sisters collides with a universe of mine that doesn’t synch. There is just so much complexity in time and space!

And I do remember reading all of George Orwell, John Steinbeck, and Sartre. Maybe Kafka just isn’t that memorable.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

When a memory disappears, where does it go?

When my mother turned 80, I got my three siblings to make a Memory Jar for her. We each wrote out 91 memories on slips of paper and put them in the jar so my mother could pull out one a day. We had to do them on different color-coded papers because it became clear that each of us had different memories of the same event.
On the Long Island Railroad, heading to my mother’s home for the surprise birthday visit, we read each other’s memories out loud till we were laughing so hard we couldn’t breathe. A piece of paper would trigger the hilarity of the actual memory and soon we had the whole train car in stitches.

My mother loved those memories. She’d pull one out and then phone one of us to laugh over the memory. When she got worried she’d run out of paper slips, we wrote more and added them to the jar.

Just a week before my mother turned 90, I talked with her about the Memory Jar. “The what?” she said. I dug around till I found it, and I pulled out some sample slips. But where before the slips had triggered the memory, now that memory wasn’t there for her. I had to fill in the whole backstory, tell the funny story. My mother laughed and hooted, but she was laughing at the funny story, not at her memory. The memory was gone.

My mother used to make a fricassee that was monumental. She’d save up assorted chicken parts, add meatballs, and simmer it on the stove. We’d come across her counting her meatballs: “122, 123, 124…” Soon she’d have three burners going.

About seven years ago, when my mother visited my brother, he asked her to make her fricassee. “I’ve never made a fricassee,” she said. This sent her offspring into a tailspin. My sister kept calling my mother with descriptions, tales of the fricassees we have known. No dice. When we unpacked the old house, we found the fricassee pot and put it in my mother’s hands. “I never made a fricassee,” she said, “but if I did, I’d use this pot.”
I guess I’d always thought of saving things as a way to trigger the happy memories later in life. That’s why nostalgia and sentiment make for the hardest de-cluttering hurdles. But now I see that when a memory is gone, there’s no triggering it back. We kids could have saved the fricassee pot because we’re the ones who hold that memory, but none of us make fricassee so it was given away, too.

And the Memory Jar? It’s staying put. My mother doesn’t remember those memories, but we kids do, with great hilarity. We remember recording them and presenting our gift. Maybe Sophie will even remember that she’s the one who decorated the jar itself. And sitting down with my mother and telling her the stories behind all the memories, that means the Memory Jar is still creating new memories for all of us.

Marj: On losing one's mind

My friend Marj and I have reconnected over this blog. She jumped wholeheartedly into retirement, relocation, and even grandparenthood while I am still bumbling my way around my Third Third.

So Marj offers advice and experience and leaves me laughing in the process. (She says that when the movie is made, I should insist on Emma Stone playing me. Emma Stone is NOT in her Third Third; Emma Stone hasn’t even entered her Second Third….)

Anyhow, my New Thing for today is to have my first Guest Blogger: Marj. Enjoy!
“Literally everyone I know thinks they are losing their minds. I find that reassuring because if EVERYONE thinks they are losing their mind, that means we are all OK. Because statistically only a percentage of us will lose our minds. But how do we know which group we are in, and how can we tell when it starts?

“I bought some new jeans and decided to cut the tags off and wash them because I had a partial load of laundry almost ready to go.
“But as I was walking thorough the house to the kitchen to get the scissors to cut off the tags, my husband urgently called me to come over to the window – there was a large squirrel playing in our yard. He had told me about the squirrel earlier in the day (as I was reading the newspaper), and now that it was back, he wanted to be sure I saw it. After commenting appreciatively on the squirrel, I continued in the kitchen, having no idea why I was there. I went to the refrigerator and got a diet Coke while I tried to figure it out. Then I saw the jeans lying there and resumed my project.
“Got the tags off, put the jeans in the washing machine, and went to the bedroom to get the laundry basket with the rest of the laundry. On the way to the bedroom, my husband asked if I knew how old the tomatoes were. I went to take a look at them to try to figure it out. It was hours later when I went to the closet to get some shoes that I realized the laundry basket was still there and the jeans were still unwashed in the washing machine.
“I attribute a significant portion of my problem to my husband. He asks random questions at random times, makes irrelevant comments all day long, and feels no guilt for causing me to lose my train of thought. Apparently he HAS to say whatever pops into his mind as it pops into his mind or he will lose it forever. And I HAVE to have him group his comments and questions and save them all until I am not trying to do anything. This is retirement. Ask any woman.”
Marj also told me earlier: “I had no idea you want A Job. My goodness! You and I are so different! When I retired I wanted my husband to get a job – but that didn’t work out for me. Whenever I scanned want ads on his behalf, he always said why would I want to do that? I thought it would be great if he had a place to go all day, and for us (me) to have more money to spend.”

Not to mention, the jeans would get washed….

Friday, October 9, 2015

Not just a floor; it's a symbol

My house is a catastrophe. It has no floors, there’s plastic everywhere (supposedly to keep out the dust), and the oven and refrigerator are in the dining room, facing the walls. Closets had to be emptied, and I can’t reach the sink over all the power tools and scrap. Never mind, it’s covered in plastic anyway. Last night, the air compressor went off at 3 a.m. and I thought a plane had crashed into the house.
When I find a place for something, that is its place for the rest of its useful life. I don’t let things move. If the bath towels are on the third shelf, right side of the closet, they will be there from Day 1 to Day 10,950. All this external order gives me the freedom to have internal disorder (I call it creativity).

Now I am barely holding on to mental stability as I realize everything will have to be put back – once I locate it. Things are in boxes or stacks all over the house. My house is one giant fruit basket upset, and it’s all so DUSTY.

I think I’m hyperventilating. But that may be because this is a love story.

Twenty-six years ago, my husband wooed me with dates and social events, planned outings and invitations. Over the years, somehow social calendaring became my job. Many women friends tell me the same thing happened to them. Tim’s current idea of planning a date is calling at 4:30 and asking, “Are there any good movies?”

Meanwhile, I look for fun things to do, pick out theater events, invite friends over, arrange vacations. Tim is an eager companion, but I am in my Third Third and tired of having to do all the planning and inviting, the discovering of new, fun things. Plane tickets and websites and changing airfares; reservations and loyalty programs and Trip Advisor. And then he just gets to relax and enjoy?

So even though I am supposedly old enough and long-married enough to know better, I can lapse into something like this: Forget it, I am going to stop planning things for the two of us. When he notices that we’re not doing anything together, maybe he’ll plan something.

Maturity is not a requirement to growing older. You can grow older without it.

Which brings me back to the floors. Every night for two weeks, Tim came home from work and ripped carpet and flooring up. Carpet with horrible dust underneath, tenacious staples, and different subsurfaces. He lugged debris outside. He walked around and around, testing for squeaks, eliminating them. He talked to workmen to find out the best way around a problem. When Paul came over and said, “Y’know, now is the best time to level the stairs and make sure they’re all exactly the same height,” I said, “No, no, no! This job is too big!” An hour later, Tim said, “Paul’s right. Now’s the time,” and he shimmed one stair which required adjusting its neighbor which required adjusting that one’s neighbor, on and on. The stairs are now perfect. Each night, Tim would shower off dust and sweat and fall into bed.
I unloaded two bookcases.

Every now and then, I thought maybe I could help and we could do this together, but really, I hated the thought and he didn’t help me plan social events or vacations so why should I…?

And then one day, a light bulb went off. I realized the floors weren’t Tim’s; they were ours.

He was not working on the floors because he loved working on floors.

He was working on the floors because it was his way of building our life together. I’m not talking about a division of labor; it’s not about I-have-my-jobs-and-you-have-yours. It’s about this is our home and we live in it together so it needs to be nice and happy and secure. While I was planning little vendettas, he was … working on the floors.

Many years ago, someone once gave me advice on staying married: Try to remember the gifts you receive, not the ones you don’t.

It wasn’t the floors that reminded me; it was the man working on them.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Drop, Cover, Hold On! Next Thursday

One thing that does NOT bother me about living in Alaska are earthquakes. They bothered me a lot when I lived in San Francisco, and the whole Cascadia thing in Oregon has got me more freaked, but they don’t bother me here.

In San Francisco, I knew friends who checked the time when they got in BART crossing the Bay so they’d know when they reached the halfway point and then which direction to walk in the event of an earthquake. When Sophie moved to San Francisco, I gave her earthquake supply lists, directions about turning off the gas, all that. In San Francisco, earthquake awareness is ever-present, and people are prepared.

I go to all sorts of talks on earthquakes, and I’ve seen the maps that show Alaska completely blackened by the dots that show earthquakes; but here in Alaska, most of my days don’t pose earthquake danger. Maybe a tree will fall on me on the Coastal Trail or the earth open up near Earthquake Park, but I don’t hang out in tall buildings. I guess the Tudor overpass could fall down. Hmmm…

This, of course, is part of the problem: being blasé about earthquakes. I mean, most people were more prepared for Y2K. So last year, I got into my newest earthquake discovery: the Great Alaska ShakeOut, one of the largest earthquake drills ever. October 15 at 10:15 a.m., thousands of people all over the country – all over the world – will be Dropping, Covering, and Holding On. Me, too.
Last year, I got a whole building to do it. I especially loved getting the board members in a Board of Directors meeting to go under tables. It’s incredibly funny to be adults looking at the world from under a table. (It’s incredibly funny to be adults under a table.) At, they even provide audio messages with sound effects to announce the beginning of the earthquake. The big thing is looking around from under the table and noticing what things might fall on you and need bracing or relocating. is full of good information. I just learned that we’re NOT supposed to stand in doorways, that the doorway bit was a myth stemming from photographs of California adobe homes with only a door frame standing. So now I have to find a new safe place.

This year, I’m getting the students, preschoolers, and fellow volunteers at the Alaska Literacy Program to go down under tables. Many of the students there come from other earthquake-prone countries where everyone runs out of their houses. You all know you’re not supposed to do that, right?

Look around you: who can you get under a table? Someone in a suit and tie? Someone in a mini-skirt? Someone with tight pants? High heels? Too funny. Really, this is one of the big reasons I do the ShakeOut. My clothes, despite all my best intentions, are still earthquake-ready. Not only can I get under a table; I can probably crawl out of a crevasse.

Join me and 76,000 other Alaskans. Sign up today.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Of galaxies and glaciers

Not only is the earth not the center of our solar system, but our sun is not even in the center of our galaxy. Today I learned that our Milky Way galaxy is called a “barred spiral” galaxy: in the center is a bar-shape of stars. Our sun isn’t even in the two biggest arms that spiral outward; it’s in a lesser one called the Orion Spur.

We are a teeny-tiny bit amongst billions and billions of stars, and we are back in the wings, on the periphery, not center stage. I find this reassuring.

Right after I moved to Alaska, I went kayaking in Glacier Bay. It was an astounding trip: beautiful, blue glaciers; the stark black-and-white landscape that I love; utter quiet. I stayed out long enough to forget about coming all the way back.

At one point, I spotted a dirty glacier. It was blue, but it had lots of debris and dirt and was really splotched and marred. At first, I felt as if it were some horrible aberration in the universe, a defective glacier. And then I thought, This glacier is so huge, and its stain is so huge, and still it’s powerful. And this is me, and my defects are huge, but compared to that glacier, they are infinitesimal. My problems are insignificant!
I have to remind myself of this every now and then so I check out astronomy, where I am reduced to insignificance again. I am a major fan of the UAA Planetarium; as members, we get to attend the shows for free. What I like is that the shows come with real, live, local scientists who are actually doing research that the films introduce.

I once was a physics major. Eventually, I stopped understanding it but remained in awe of it, so I switched to philosophy of physics. The questions still enthrall me so I take Olé classes taught by Travis, a UAA astrophysics professor. Today, Betsey and I agreed that Travis is so clear and comprehensible, we actually understand general relativity until we get home.

So the current class is about finding life on other planets, and it reminded me of another class with Travis. He had said that life would not look like little green men, but we were looking for the elements and conditions that might support life. He spent a whole class talking about how we might go about categorizing, identifying, finding those elements. Finally, one woman raised her hand and said, “Well maybe that’s not the way to go about it. Maybe we should first figure out what the little green men require and then focus on finding those places that might support them.”
Blows your mind, too, doesn’t it?

Monday, October 5, 2015

...and the other's gold

Years ago, my friend Marj moved to Fort Collins. On a visit back to Alaska, she walked into a local art gallery and a woman recognized her and started a conversation. Marj burst into tears because that never happened in Fort Collins. So when the thought of relocation reared its head, I called Marj.

Right away, Marj said something like, “Erase that story from your memory banks.” It must have been early on because now she has lots of friends and loves her new life. “You will find one thing that interests you. Probably by fluke. That one thing will lead to another, and other people, and then you are off and running, and soon you will have to eliminate some things from your life.”

My friend Julia moved to Denver. Julia takes tons of classes and says she always extends an invitation to have coffee. But both Julia and Marj say the sooner the better. Or, as Tim says, no one wants to be your friend when you’re 80 and in ill health.

I remember a woman moving to Anchorage a few years ago. She said it was hard to get incorporated into friendship circles because most people were overextended already. They were busy with kids or jobs or whatevers and didn’t have time to regularly see the friends they already had. Even Sophie, who has tons of friends in San Francisco between both college friends and new work friends and new friends’ friends, said at one point they were chanting “No new friends!” because they were over-extended socially.

Chris thinks that in our Third Thirds, we aren’t so busy with kids or jobs so we’ll have time to put into those new friendships, and that those friendships will grow out of our new interests. But Mimi says even though his parents moved 30 years ago, their close friends at the end of their lives are still their friends from 30 years before, in the old place.

When I went off to college, I was excited about starting fresh, recreating myself. In a new place, I could be a whole new Barbara because no one knew me. (On the plane, back when they served meals, the flight attendant spilled creamed spinach on my white sweater and I had to meet all the new freshmen with a green splotch on my top. The old Barbara was not to be left behind.) Back then, I wanted a whole new future life – no history.
Relocation in the Third Third offers excitement, challenges. Marj said, “I knew my brain would appreciate the challenge of learning how to find places, learning which restaurants would become my favorites, learning what doctor I wanted to use, learning to ask everyone I met who they go to for eye exams, etc., etc.” I agree with her; I find that deliriously exciting. Tons of New Things to explore!
But when Tim and I visited Portland – and it was exciting – we were anonymous. We could go everywhere and never run into anyone we knew. When I say that Anchorage theaters mean you know everyone during intermission, I don’t mean you’re friends with all of them – maybe some – but that many of them are familiar. Our world is populated with familiarity.

I have been in the same book club for about 20 years. I have friends who were there when I met Tim. I have friends I knew when they were single, when they were pregnant, when they were married to someone else. I have reconnected with old friends when life circumstances changed. I have brand new friends and more recent friends, but they’re planted in a well-tended garden. I don’t think I’m an easy friend-maker, but I am deeply rooted in Alaska because of my friends. Thirty years of a slow and steady gathering together.

So the subject of relocation came up, and Ivy said she hates discussions like that. “But I don’t want to be an old person in Alaska,” I said.

“I’ll bring you casseroles,” Ivy answered.
Yup, that’s a big deal.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Time Wars: Productivity vs Blank Spaces

So there we were, a group of retired, unemployed, women on breaks. Guiltily, we broached the subject of how unproductive we’d become. One woman raised her hand and said, “I’m Sue, and I waste time.” One by one, we raised our hands.

In The Third Chapter, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot’s study of retirement, she writes of one high-powered woman who played online poker endlessly when she retired. Granted, none of us were playing online poker, but we felt just as decadent. Somehow, just as work expands to fill the time available under Parkinson’s Law, not working expands to fill the time available, too.

When I was a super-productive but nuts mother of a young child – working, picking up the kid from child care, getting dinner cooked, spending enriched time with family, child bathed, etc. etc., I stayed up late to write a novel titled “Blank Spaces.” I thought then – and always have – that the best of ourselves emerges in the blank spaces of our lives, the times when we can be contemplative, generous in spirit, and creative. My life had zero blank spaces.
Very soon, I decided I would work reduced work weeks. My whole family could tell the difference between Barbara Monday-through-Wednesday and Barbara-Thursday-through-Sunday. I am a believer in free time!

So why do I spend such a lot of time beating myself up over not utilizing my free time more productively?

My friend Sharon says it took her seven years to “come down” after retiring and give herself permission to enjoy it. (Her husband says it took him seven minutes….) Sharon asked, “Have you taken some days to just do nothing?” Yes, I said, but for a long time I felt terribly anxious about it.
When I unemployed myself, I had three big projects I wanted to complete: a quilt I’d started a couple years ago, mounting all my old Daily News columns in four hand-made volumes, and … I can’t even remember the other one. Or rather, of all the un-done projects facing me, I’m not sure which is the one I put on that list.

I approached my projects with a huge amount of energy and I was a marvel of productivity! And then I wasn’t. They’re 99% done, and then they went on pause while I de-cluttered, fulfilled some contracts, traveled, took a class, taught a class, yarn-bombed. I think now I tend not to “count” what I do accomplish, and even that word makes me nervous because I think I’m an accomplish-aholic.

Enamored with my new spiralizer, I started cooking recipes I’d torn out of magazines. I’ve torn them out for years, but they just accumulated in my big stash. Recently, I started cooking some of them, and they’re terrific! I used to cook to feed hungry mouths. Now I cook to taste flavors.

That’s when I recognize that I’ve found a new rhythm. A Third Third rhythm. It’s so calm, so accepting.

And then I browse through an art book and think, Oh, if I were more productive and used my time better, I’d be able to experiment with this medium or try this technique. And then I write about embroidery and think, “Hmm, why haven’t you done any in a while?”

Way back when, my friend Eric was planning out his ideal day post-graduation: Sleep, eight hours; work + commute, nine hours; exercise, one hour; keeping current on world affairs, one hour. You get the drift. It added up to 27 hours daily. Eric said, “I’ll work it out somehow.” So this is the crux of the problem: we have 27 hours’ worth of intentions and wishes but there are only 24 hours in a day. We’ve never let go of the three hours “lost” from our day. I have LOTS of ideas for those three hours. I have six hours of ideas for those three hours.
One of the things I used to do in workplaces that had become unhealthy is make people go home. I told them they’d lost awareness of what was sustainable, what was do-able in a normal workday. They were killing themselves with overtime and unreasonable expectations, and morale was suffering. See, I told you I was a believer in free time.

So now I have to figure out how to add free time to my free time.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Third Third: an Age or a Stage?

Our friend Bob said he wasn’t really in his Third Third: “I have a 15-year-old,” he said.

“How old are you, Bob?”


“You’re in your Third Third.”
But my friend Carrie had an eloquent description of her Third Third: “I actually refer to this time as my last unchartered chapters. These are the chapters that I write myself rather than parents or bosses giving me a title or direction.”
So where would Jinnie fall? She’s launched her son and started a new life in Art, but she’s only in her 40s.

And Karen said she’s older than her Third Third; she’s in her Seventh Ninth. “Karen,” I said. “It’s all a subset of our Third Third.”

But the funniest – and I’m still laughing over this – is David’s view. Not only did David father a child at 59 – so launch is pretty far off – but he’s survived several near-fatal health issues and still looks great. David says he’s in his Fourth Third.

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