Monday, February 29, 2016

Barbara vs. The Machines (round 2)

This blog comes to you from my brand new MacBook laptop. If this were paper instead of electronics, and if I’d handwritten instead of typed, you would throw the paper down, horrified at the anxiety and torment reeking from the paper itself. You’d think, “Look at her handwriting; it’s so tortured.” The paper might even be hot.

Okay, I’m exaggerating. (Friends used to call it the Brown Correction Curve.) But this has not been an easy transition.

First there were the multiple visits to the Apple Store to make sure I was choosing the right laptop. Then there were the multiple visits to Costco and Best Buy to check out the cheaper alternatives for accessories (mouse, monitor). Then it was back to the Apple Store to see if the alternatives were the “right” ones.
Yes, I always shop like this. It’s why I remain minimum consumptive. This was a big shopping weekend. In addition to the laptop, I bought new hiking boots and a new mattress pad. Those were also demanding consumer expeditions; I could tell you a lot about mattress pads…. I think I’m happy with the hiking boots, but I have a long history of shoe regret. This is why almost everything I own is on its Third Third, too.
Meanwhile, the blog was becoming impossible on the old iMac. According to the Apple guys, my old computer had enough memory to turn the computer on … barely. Loading my blog was turning into a long slog every night. But my old computer had all the brains where I liked them, where I was used to seeing them.

So I paid the Apple guys to migrate old brains onto new laptop, which they did. And they promised me it would look exactly the same as my old computer. It does.

The problem? My scanner didn’t recognize the new kid in town. So I had to download more stuff. Except that the download site didn’t recognize my scanner, my new computer, or me. It told me my computer “was bought by a different user.” Different from me? Where’s their credit card? Where’s the “not OK” button?
[Pause for little attack of stress.]

I had a whole bunch of updates to download. The first said it would take 3 days! The scanner one said it would take 9 hours, then 4 hours. I started it, but it kept quitting at the halfway mark on the little bar and a message would say “Can’t install the software.” I did this over and over, thinking if I watched it, it wouldn’t fail. Ha!

Yesterday’s illustrations? They had to be scanned from Tim’s computer, which he then emailed to me. At this very moment, on my fifth try, the download has passed the halfway mark. We’ve been at it for four hours. There are six minutes left.  Four. Hooray, it made it!

Scanner doesn’t work. It needs the update, the one I just finished installing.

[Beyond pause. I am quitting for the night. I will see the Apple Geniuses in the morning.]

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Can you solve it?

My friend Jinnie-the-artist (who has finally accepted that she can label herself that way) gathers a group of us every few months to show off our art projects. They’re always in answer to some sort of challenge; we’ve made artist trading cards, things of certain dimensions, challenges like that. Occasionally we get together to play with each other’s supplies and try out New Things.

This month, it was Inchies, things an inch square. But since we like to be easy on ourselves, we said we could do up to an inch-and-a-half. Everyone else knows a lot about various artistic techniques and media, and they turn out really beautiful projects. Pam (new to the group) showed a tiny fabric landscape – a miniature quilt – that was such a good idea I want to try something like it, too. Kathy did something with a new-to-me pigment powder, Betty carved up the Mona Lisa, and Jane helped me with what kind of glue I might try on a project. Once again, Jinnie did something fascinating with textures on paper and showed us a book she made of muslin cloth coated in dry wall mud. She tries things like that all the time, and the texture was incredible. I want to make a mud book!

I think back to why I created this blog. I needed the discipline of structure, something that would demand I face the Blank Page every day. It has been totally successful in that way. But it has limited my creativity in that the art I’m creating is pretty exclusively blog art, illustrations. I’m not doing much experimenting so the art challenges serve a purpose for me.

Usually, I dawdle around, sometimes not getting to them. This time, though, I had An Idea.

I wanted to do puzzles. On puzzle pieces.
So I went to the thrift store and bought a used jigsaw puzzle for little kids for 25¢. Then I painted and decorated some paper and glued the puzzle pieces on it. When I cut them out with a knife, I had brand new puzzle pieces.
I wrote a puzzle on each. It’s from a long list of similar brain teaser type things which I’ve had for about 30 years. Yes, another find from my adventures in de-cluttering. Now it lives again as a puzzle piece.
See if you can figure them out. Maybe this will be your New Thing for today. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The other side of de-cluttering

With all our Third Third talk of de-cluttering, we might lose sight of the occasional pleasure in coming across some bit of nostalgia. So there I was, sorting through a box to clear the area for the Great Carpet Tear Up, and I came across some glorious stuff: original newspaper stories about Woodstock (I was there!); letters I’d written home from college and from my first job; even notes left for me by a Secret Santa in college. I found a whole packet of photos of my sisters and me shoveling snow from the driveway on Long Island – just in time for me to take them back and show them.
But the thing that sent me right to the scanner to send it off to my sister, Allison, is the “test” I gave for members of our secret club. She and I were the only members. It was a “women only” club so it would exclude my brother, and our younger sister was still too young to join. The club was named the “Subconchental Club,” which is not how I remember pronouncing it, but that’s what it says on the test.

The test covered things like our “12-letter passage,” our secret signal, our secret names, and our “chief game.” But this is the thing that cracks me up: Not only was I the one who created the test, I was the one who scored it. I always gave myself points for good answers and marked “X” on Allison’s sheet so she didn’t get credit.

Oh, did I mention I was the older sister?

For example, the test says, “Make up an arts and crafts thing. Something to do with our hands. (worth 20 points).”
    Barbara’s answer: We can make pinwheels to give little children (little drawing of pinwheel)    GOOD IDEA, 20 points
    Allison’s answer: Origami like we did in summer school. Example: swan, house, fox and so on.    XXXXX, no points

“Name three projects we can work on in our club. Helpful ones.”

  1. Learn how to plant flowers. XXXXX, no points
  2. Make things to make the house look pretty. XXXXX, no points
  3. Clean the house to help #2. XXXXX, no points
Now I probably wouldn’t have even noticed this except for the score sheets from Sark. Sark is a word game with a deck of letter cards. Letters are drawn and you try to make words for points. My parents played this game, and there are still score sheets with their names, my grandfather’s name, my aunt’s.
When we first played with Sophie, she loved going through the old score sheets. Except she noticed that I gave myself points for non-words and didn’t count my sister Allison’s words:

“NAMS is not a word, but you gave yourself five points! And FLA is not a word and you gave yourself three points! You cheated!”

And then I always wrote “I won!” on my sheet. Allison had “hee,” but I must have told her that wasn’t a “real” word because she got zero points.
There’s that old joke about Linus thinking he’d have to go to school twice as long to unlearn everything Lucy taught him. Our family used to say that about Allison.

So this is one of the virtues of de-cluttering: you go through the junk that otherwise is just sitting there in a box. And maybe you decide not to toss any of it just yet because this was just too funny to find and it makes you want to phone your sister because there’s no one else in the world who was a member of that secret club. And you think of when you went through stuff with your mother and now her memory is so gone she didn’t even see how funny it all was. And so for now, while you’re still remembering and laughing, this is not the time to toss it.

So the box goes into the closet and maybe you’ll save time when your sister visits to go through it together and hoot and laugh over it.

De-cluttering score: zero
Glorious trip down memory lane: I won!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

What do you put on a burn? Whatever you have.

There we were in my Alaska Literacy Program class, going through the workbook, learning the English words for safety and accident prevention. We were also working on the difference between “should” (see a doctor) and “have to” (go to the hospital). We were describing what had happened in this illustration:
“She burned her hand.” “She should use a mitt.” And then, in those moments I love, the conversation took off.

Irma from Guatemala said she should put eggs on her burn. Rebecca from South Sudan agreed, but she would add sugar and milk to the mixture and make a paste to spread on the burn. I’m not exactly sure of the recipe; ingredients were coming fast and furiously, in a mixture of several languages, with energetic hand motions for emphasis. Irma was “stirring” her eggs for me while Rebecca was “applying” her paste.

But Fioly from the Dominican Republic was busy grating potatoes. Her mother had a terrible burn from a pot of boiling water, but applying grated potatoes meant no scar. So Irma showed me where she’d received a bad burn but the eggs had cured it.

Afele from Samoa got in on the action: “Butter,” he said. “No, no, no,” the women chorused, “Never butter.” I explained the little I knew, that butter continues to cook from the heat of the burn, making a burn worse.

Sandra is from Colombia and found the whole thing hilarious. She said she puts ham and cheese and bread on her arm and then mimed eating her arm. I didn’t think Sandra understood. I thought she wasn’t following the conversation, that she thought it was about eating. It took me a while, but then I got it: she was making a joke. It really seemed like we were putting meals on our burns.
So, of course, I had to get in on the action. I told them what everyone should do when they get a bad burn in Alaska: cover it with snow. I knew that the temperature had to be lowered quickly, and I’d heard stories of miraculous rescues by throwing fire victims in snow banks. But then the women all shouted, “No, not water. No water at all.” They were adamant.

So I came home and Googled “burn remedies.” Well, the first thing that pops up is “No ice.” Ice can damage tissue. Cool water is the top recommendation, but then there’s a whole batch of things: vanilla extract; cold, wet tea bags; milk; oats; raw potato; onion juice; vinegar; and honey (although there’s some debate as to whether it’s only special honey). Some say eggs, some say egg whites. And, after all this food, what else? Mint toothpaste.
Not to be outdone, the National Mustard Museum touts the yellow mustard burn remedy, and the People’s Pharmacy says, “Some people have wondered if brown mustard or fancy Dijon mustard will work as well. From what we hear from readers, cheap yellow mustard works best.”

I’d better tell Sandra her ham and cheese sandwich needs mustard, too.

If most burns in the home happen in the kitchen, I can guess why all these food remedies have emerged: everyone grabs whatever they can find. The mustard solution was only discovered after someone realized soy sauce didn’t work. Soy sauce?

And afterwards, wrap the burn in aluminum foil because the foil delivers “restorative minerals as foil contains aluminum and other regenerative minerals.”

I’d better tell Sandra to wrap her sandwich in aluminum foil.

Okay, after migrating through all these assorted food remedies and Google sites, I finally found something reputable (I think): cool water and aloe vera. So I keep an aloe vera plant in the kitchen. I might try a couple of tea bags because I’ve already been told to keep some of them in the freezer for mosquito bites.

But I still don’t know about snow. Was that just an urban legend I’d picked up? Burns happen all over the world and all over the world, people pick what’s handy in their attempts to treat it. My snow may just be Alaska’s answer to Irma’s eggs and Fioly’s potatoes.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Sick day = Bonus day = Play day

I woke up with a runny nose. This is very unlike me. I didn’t experience my first Common Cold till I was in my 50s. Oh, I had the usual childhood illnesses, and I had the usual mother illnesses (bronchitis and strep, when the child had bronchitis and strep); but other than that, sickness isn’t an occurrence for me. Injury, yes; mental illness, yes. But the thing where people lie in bed for days and complain of aches and pains and congestion? Nope.

So there I was with this runny nose, cough, and limp body. And a really good, really fat book.

So I stayed in bed. I didn’t get dressed, didn’t brush my teeth, didn’t comb my hair.

Ultimately, because I am my mother’s daughter and staying in bed is Not a Thing We Do, I got up, made the bed, and retired to the couch. With the big fat book.

And then I had a great old day! A really great day!
I see now that I am still the accomplish-aholic I thought I was maybe growing beyond. Back in November, I wrote about feeling like a time waster, and my friend Sharon asked, “Have you taken some days to just do nothing?”

Oh, I did spend a whole day doing nothing. Well, nothing except 13 hours of Blacklist, but that was a day of serious depression. No joy in Mudville. I could do without days like that.

But a “mildly sick day” is like a “snow day” – you have permission to do nothing. So why does an adult in her Third Third need permission to do nothing? Because she confuses her self-worth with accomplishments, because she is caught up in “doing” rather than “being,” and because unlearning those things is a tougher nut than we know. If it’s hard to go from zero to 60, it’s also really hard to go from 60 to … less.

I read somewhere that people under stress take a long time to get well when they get sick. They realize that illness had managed to pull them off the treadmill and they’re not willing to get back on.

Years ago, on one of Tim’s and my first ski dates, I damaged my knee and couldn’t walk for about six months. Two days after that initial injury, I lost my job. The next day, in a freak accident (not my fault!), my good foot was fractured. (None of this is made up.) I got the message: the universe was telling me to slow down. If one broken leg wasn’t enough, eliminate her job. Still not getting the message? Break the other leg. And guess what? I slowed down. It was one of the happiest times of my life. I was newly in love, and all I could ask of myself was that I keep my spirits up. That was it.
I know I need structure to keep from feeling aimless, but I also need free time to maintain creativity. That’s a delicate balance; what’s enough of one or the other? There’s also free time to get and stay fit, free time to have a social life, free time to prepare meals. Oh, no! How easily I’m back at the 27 hours’ worth of intentions for a 24-hour day.
But I really, really liked my day of doing nothing. I didn’t think of all the things I wasn’t doing. My brain stopped whirling and I just felt pleasure. Simple pleasure.

Maybe what I have to do is schedule periodic days of doing nothing. And it’s not really doing nothing because I did read that whole book. Maybe it’s a whole day of “wants” instead of “oughts.” It’s my Third Third; I get to sign my own permission slips.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Unglued and unstuck

I think my definition of “bold and new and adventurous” has gotten a little tame over the years, but my next New Thing is still giving me the shake-up I need. I’ve always wanted to experience a year in New York City or London – going to theater, exploring the streets and sounds, being “in it.” Since it’s so expensive, the plan got shelved unless I found a job there (which I tried). Thinking about it now, I realize when a fantasy lingers but remains unrealized, some low-level disgruntlement can move in. You can ditch the fantasy or get a new one, but if you still dream of it, you can start feeling … deprived (if you are kind of immature and glass-half-empty).

Eventually, a new idea occurred to me: “What about doing it for three months?” This was a pretty revolutionary idea (if you’re pretty black-or-white-no-grays as far as fantasies go). I checked my calendar, but it had commitments sprinkled into the future. I looked again and – amazingly – I found four weeks free. I got online, checked out VRBO, and I have now rented an apartment in Manhattan for a month. In a couple of weeks.

I have to get a laptop. Yikes, I even have to get a cell phone! I have to make plans and plane reservations, tell my mother. I have to sign a contract, pick up keys, set up Wi-Fi in a new place. I have lived – with Tim – in the same house for 25 years; stuff that I once did annually suddenly seems intimidating. Where will I get mail? Will I need to get mail? What if there are bed bugs? I need to renew my driver’s license before I go!
I imagine walking the streets of New York all day, finding little nooks and crannies that intrigue me. Yes, I was born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island, but I can add up all my previous days in New York City on two hands; now I’ll triple that … and I won’t have to head home on the Long Island Rail Road. I get to visit my mother without having to sleep on her couch.

I have friends who have taken off to live in Poland or Malawi or the Peace Corps. I have been the person who takes off to live in Costa Rica. I have loaded my car and moved every year. I have spoken other languages and exchanged currencies. So what is all this ungluing that’s happening over visiting New York for a month? Isn’t this just another vacation? Have I become too set in my ways?

I think the ungluing is about the preparation for visiting New York. I am still congratulating myself over negotiating the VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner). I’m sure they’re laughing in Manhattan over the security precautions that Alaska woman took, making sure she was renting a place that (1) really existed and (2) was really available for rent. (I’ve read stories.) My friend Mimi mentioned that she uses VRBO all the time. Who knows what will become possible after this first-timer hurdle?

I once noticed that when I went on vacation, I drove myself crazy doing nutty stuff like repotting all my house plants before I left. It goes beyond straightening up so it’s all clean for my return; it’s more like stopping time in a moment of supreme orderliness. For all the moments I am gone, order reins in my universe! I conquer entropy!
So, of course, we’re using this time for Tim to rip up the old carpet in my office and studio. That means I have to completely empty the room before I go, disconnect all the electronics, and deal with the clutter-that-can’t-be-tamed. Which means I will return to the utter chaos of an empty room and everything squished into the laundry room in boxes.

I was feeling unglued before we even came up with this idea.

I told Sophie about the apartment, and she said she’d visit and stay with me for two weeks.


Suddenly the fantasy was clearer: to be in New York City without adjusting my plans or bearing responsibility for someone else. It’s not just a regular vacation: it’s a Third Third gift of un-stuck freedom. Freedom means you have to get unglued from the familiar, even from the roles that give you great satisfaction. It might be unsettling, but mostly, I think I will rise to the occasion. I want to feel myself rise to the occasion. I want to see who I am on my own.

So I actually told my daughter, “Five days max.”

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Hooray! I'm a mentor.

If you’re lucky, one of the things you get to do in your Third Third is to be a mentor. If you’re even luckier, someone picks you. They think you can be a help to them in their career, their lives, or their general development. There’s no better affirmation of the fact that you’ve acquired experience, expertise, and maybe even a little wisdom.

I got picked! For many years, I’d arranged mentorships for the participants in Leadership Anchorage. I did workshops on mentorships for the Society for Human Resource Management; I worked with organizations to set up mentoring programs. But be a mentor? Never.

And then Derrick picked me. (Why does that sound like a song?) He picked me at a time when I felt overloaded, not so high in self-esteem, a lot bothered. But I agreed to meet with him, still not sure why he’d picked me – where did he even get my name? – or what I could possibly offer him.
Derrick is a young, black, small businessman. He’s run for political office, is committed to his community, family, and profession. So we met. We talked. It was okay, but finally I asked him, “What do you want? What do you need a mentor for?” And Derrick said, “I feel stuck.”

“Aha! Stuck is good. Stuck is what I can help with. Unsticking is what I do.” So we talked about his Big Goals, what was holding him back, how he could free himself up so he could pursue them. We got pretty specific, talked about passing responsibilities to a partner, saying no to things. Along the way, we talked about thank you notes, about how I think sending thank you notes differentiates you from the crowd.

Within a week, someone called, mentioned that they’d met Derrick, spent some time with him, and then received a thank you note afterwards, wasn’t that nice? Whoa, this guy was quick.

The next time we met, Derrick had made plans to take the law school admission test, had researched law schools, was planning to sell his house and his business. Not just wildly scattershot either; he had made Plans. Once he un-stuck, he moved. He claims I’d helped, but Derrick is a guy with a lot on the ball. He’d even read a book I’d briefly mentioned, and we talked about it.

So then I thought, what else can I offer him from my Third Third to his Second? I know people. If he’s planning on law school, maybe I could arrange some interviews for him to meet folks: the U.S. Attorney, a successful defense attorney, another small businessperson who’d gone on to law school. He’s in the middle of those now, and I’m trying to figure out more ways I can tap into my accumulation of years and experience to help him along his way.

I remember reading somewhere that the real reason Alcoholics Anonymous works is not because people GET support but that, as sponsors, they GIVE support. Finding that they have something to offer is a source of strength for the sponsor and that keeps them sober.

So this was my big discovery: being Derrick’s mentor is also mentoring me. You can’t sit down with someone who has so gloriously un-stuck himself without thinking, “What’s your own Big Idea?” Oh, I have one or two, but too many commitments were already in the way, my calendar filled up. They kept getting back-burnered. Not to mention they just seemed … too much, too complicated, too difficult.

But Derrick was selling his business, looking at law schools!

So I had to do something bold and new and adventurous, too. I’ll tell you more about that next post. The thing is, Derrick is leaping off a big cliff. I am stumbling off a little cliff. But I feel a little persistent stuck-ness has given way.

Here I’d set up all these mentorships for others, telling everyone it would be mutually rewarding, and here I am realizing IT’S TRUE. I may offer Derrick the benefits of my experience, but he’s adding inspiration, gung-ho energy, and a whole different view of the world. My world is richer.

What can I say? Go find someone to mentor. Make it official. Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Do You Know (DYK) Scale

Every two years, my synagogue hosts a retreat down at Girdwood. This past weekend, the theme was Weaving Generations.

So we did some talking about Boomers and Millennials (18-34 year-olds). I’d just finished discovering that it was only in the last months that Millennials finally passed the Boomers in population in the U.S. There may have been more of us, but we’re dying. For many of us, the Millennials are our kids.
What interested me was something called the Do You Know (DYK) Scale. Created by Emory University psychologists Robyn Fivush, Ph.D., and Marshall Duke, Ph.D, the scale involves 20 yes-or-no questions that ask things you wouldn’t know directly about your parents, grandparents, or other relatives. Either you weren’t alive or they were too distant.

So some sample questions are:
  1.     Do you know where some of your grandparents met?

  2.     Do you know some things that happened to your mom or dad when they were in school?

  3.     Do you know some of the jobs that your parents had when they were young?
Higher DYK scores are associated with higher levels of self-esteem, better family functioning, increased resilience, etc. As I looked at the list, I immediately thought two things (in the two directions of the generations): (1) I’d ask these questions to Sophie to see if she knew them, and (2) It is probably too late to get the answers to the questions I don’t know about my parents because of my mother’s now-absent memory.

The authors of the scale say they hear from parents who want to “make sure” their kids know the answers so they’ll have all those good outcomes. But that’s not how it works. Knowing the answers is a reflection of a process within families, the process of telling family stories across generations. It’s that process that yields all those good things, not just knowing the facts of the answers.

Mostly, this storytelling happens at family dinners and family occasions, and mostly it’s the mothers and grandmothers who do the transmitting. I think of family gatherings when I was younger; relatives coming for the day, hooting and laughing and eating. I had batches of cousins and they came with aunts and uncles, and we gathered frequently. So my parents had siblings who told stories on each other, and we kids lapped it up. My DYK score is pretty high.
So then, of course, I wondered whether my daughter would have a high score. When she was young and we’d read bedtime stories, I’d often add a story of when she was little or when I was little. Then those became a ritual, and I can still hear her child’s voice, “Tell me a story from when you were little.”

But recently, when she was paging through my finally-bound book of newspaper columns, reading the entries that told some anecdote about her, she’d laugh out loud and ask, “Did I really do that?” And I realized she doesn’t remember.

But mostly, I wonder about the Alaska factor, the distance from family. We always made sure there were annual visits, but only Tim’s family lives near each other. With my family, it often meant catching one aunt or uncle at a time. I wonder if a friend circle can do the same thing.

The authors say it’s about the development of an “intergenerational self and the personal strength and moral guidance that seem to derive from it.” So I think about what lasts over generations, and it’s family. I hear of sisters moving to be nearer sisters, siblings taking trips together (My friend Judith calls them practice for when they’re widows.).

But at the same time, I wonder if this process is more about simply talking, listening, and sharing. Or even about “warmth stability.” Our family is dinner-eaters. Every night, we ate dinner together. On Junior Nordic nights, it may have been earlier, but it was dinner. So is it an intergenerational self that engenders all these good things or a listened-to-and-shared self? Or a self that simply grew up with regular Thanksgivings and Passover seders and camping trips with friends?

I will see both my mother and Sophie next month. I’ll tell the former she did a great job, and I’ll give the latter a little quiz.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Mis-adventures in liqueur

For those who may have followed my Adventures with Alcohol back in October, I was buying Everclear to turn my bumper crop of raspberries into raspberry liqueur. I was supposed to let the alcohol and the berries sit for 2-4 weeks. So they sat. And sat. Four months later, I was finally ready to tackle The Project.

First I had to get the jar open. That required Tim. I think the lid was fused to the jar. It’s no longer usable as a lid.

Then I had to smoosh the berries and squeeze them through cheesecloth. I squeezed and squeezed. Getting every last drop out of those liquored-up berries was a real bicep workout. Not to mention my indelibly purple-juiced fingers (which defied any sort of scrubbing). I look like a car mechanic with lots of bruises or else like I voted many, many times in Third World elections.
The squeezed-out blobs look pretty gross, but they actually taste pretty good. So I checked with my culinary friend Judith to see if I could use the blobs for something. Not really blobs, more like lumps of coal. She suggested muffins, advising me to use them like nuts or blueberries, just crumbling them in. A project for another day….

So now I had this big bowl of liquored-up raspberry juice. Next step was to filter it through coffee filters. I put one in a funnel and started the process.



How do coffee drinkers do it? I’ve neither tasted coffee (yes, I know, really odd) nor made it, but this was ridiculous. We’d leave the house and come back while it was still working on a funnel load. Finally, after about 18 hours, I was done with that part and my juice was nice and rosy clear. I had to measure the amount – 11 cups – so I would know how much sugar water to add.

I had been working off three recipes because they all had something I liked. One said I should add enough sugar water to equal 1.5 times the amount of liquor juice. So that meant about 15 cups of sugar water.

Sugar water cooled and added.

Uh, oh. The whole thing tasted like plain old raspberry juice. For comparison, I tasted some of my friend Jody’s delicious limoncello; the second it hits my lips, I’m loopy. I re-checked my recipes. Oh, no! One recipe called for 1.5 times liquor to sugar water, the other goes practically one-to-one. From the recipe I used, I have made Kool-Aid.

Judith has told me that she uses vodka in her liqueurs. So I head to the closet with all the old liquor bottles in it. Miraculously, there’s an unopened bottle of Attakiska Alaskan Vodka. I’m pretty sure I got it as a door prize at some event in the 1980s, but according to Google, it’s practically an heirloom.

I pour some in. I taste. I add some more. I taste. I add some more. I can’t tell if I’m loopy from tasting or if my liqueur is finally just right, but eventually, I stop adding. I’m pretty sure I’ve got it right. I meticulously fill 24 little bottles with liqueur. Things are getting pretty sticky, but finally, I have an army of red-filled bottles. Next I’ll make pretty labels, then I’ll give gifts. Look at me: I’m a crafty person, a maker of homemade goods, a DIY-er, a super homemaker! I am beyond proud of myself.

The recipe says my liqueur is “especially delicious straight from the freezer” so I pop a bottle in the freezer.

It freezes solid.

I’m pretty sure that means it’s not alcoholic enough. This is too depressing. I think I have to buy more vodka, empty all those cute little bottles, and re-do.

I think this is how people feel when they say they need a drink.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The restructured life cycle -- with bonus years!

Recently, I was lucky enough to get involved in a conversation with an attorney who’d just quit her job, and we found common ground in our tendency to un-employ ourselves. She was calling her time off “practice retirement,” which really appealed to me since I think I still need more practice. But here’s the kicker: this woman is 37 years old. When I was 37 and un-employed myself, it would never occur to me to call it anything remotely like “retirement,” practice or not.

It reminded me of what Laura Carstensen, director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, says. We’ve added 30 years to our life spans, but all we’ve done is tack them on at the end. She says we should restructure our life cycles, put those extra years where we need them. Maybe simplify life during child rearing, maybe add more education later on, maybe extend careers into later life.
So maybe 37 is a good year for this woman’s first retirement. She’s fit, healthy, unattached, and unencumbered.

She’d had a plan for taking a year off, but she’d since come up with more good ideas, and they’d take longer than a year. Maybe a couple years. She was trying to decide on her money situation.

Because, as we all know, you either have money or you have time. I think next week I’ll talk about money, but today I’ll talk about time.

When Sophie was little, I kept thinking we didn’t try so hard to have a child to spend three hours a day with her. I needed time. So I un-employed myself or rather, took a “practice retirement.” After a while, I took a part-time, non-management position for that period in my life. Laura Carstensen is very big on part-time, too.

This wasn’t my first step off the employment treadmill; it wasn’t just a child rearing issue for me. I’d done it before for travel, for restlessness, for enrichment (on separate occasions). I guess I was taking “practice retirements.”

This reminds me of the two different kinds of hikers: the ones who aim for the destination and get there and the ones who stop for lunch, stop for snacks, stop for rests. The former want to relax at the end; the latter want to keep it pleasurable along the way. At different times, I’ve been both and been annoyed by both, but now, reflecting on the whole span of human lives, I’m thinking maybe taking it in bits is the way to go. If it’s an analogy for our lives, what is the “there” to get to anyway?
I’ve been calling this my Third Third, which supposes that I’ll live till 90 (just supposing). That means I have a whole third before me! That is 30 years – just about the increase in life spans over the century. That’s a lot of time. As Carstensen said, if people just aim for retirement – if that’s their “there,” their destination – that makes for an awful lot of retirement years to fill. (I read somewhere that after ten months of “retirement,” many retirees grow dissatisfied, maybe bored.)

In fact, if we took Carstensen’s ideas to heart, we wouldn’t have a Third Third at all. We’d have Sixths maybe, or Eighths, as we spread ourselves over the full course of our 90 years. She thinks we should aim our peak employment years for our 50s, relax during our child-raising years. Maybe in our Fourth Eighth, we’d go to college again. Maybe in our Fifth Eighth we’d head back into the employment world to the max.

These are the questions I ask: From your perspective now, how would you “restructure your life cycle”? What would you have moved around, delayed, done earlier? How do patience, wisdom, financial resources, and energy levels fit into the mix? And now, how does that apply to your Third Third? Would you add a second college-going interlude, another way of being with children, another bout of heavy-duty employment? What seems like it would have or still will work best for you?

What if those 31 additional years weren’t “extra” but were “integral,” incorporated into the whole? What would our lives look like … and how differently would society have to be organized?
So many questions. If this is what swims around in my head, I guess I can subject you to some of them, too. Let me know your ideas. That’s what the “Comment” form is for. (And for those of us who were wondering where that is, it’s after my last sentence, after the time I posted this. Found it? See, we are not tech dinosaurs!)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Moving muscles: A to Zumba

Way back in October, I publicly announced my plan to try out all sorts of exercise alternatives. I was going to embarrass myself into fitness.

It didn’t work. I had two days of skiing in November, and then I just vegged until I started ice skating. But ice skating the way I do it is outside-in-the-air more than it’s exercise.

Then I signed up and committed to hiking the Chilkoot Trail this summer with a group of women. Not only does that mean 33 miles, Golden Stairs, and a 3000-foot elevation gain, but also a pack on my back. Mostly, my camping involves kayaking or rafting and the boat carries the load. Carrying a pack uphill? This would require Training.
And this scared me into my first Zumba class, last week’s New Thing. The good thing about Zumba is there’s no partner so your errors mean you’re not bumping into and stepping on someone. The bad things about Zumba are that there are choreographed steps and it’s heavy on rights and lefts. If motor coordination is not your thing, then it’s pretty obvious when you’re headed right doing something no one else is doing as they head left. The great thing about Zumba is nobody cares.

The other thing about Zumba is fashion. Yet again, I seem to have missed the world’s fashion instructions. Everyone is wearing stretchy, black, yoga pants. I am wearing my blue running shorts.

So on Monday, Tim and I Zumba-ed around. Then I did some heavy-duty leg lifts and tricep things on the machines. Distance running keeps my legs strong, but while I’m at it, I’d like some Michelle Obama upper arm definition, too. Visions of sleeveless tank tops danced in my head.
Then I came home and couldn’t walk easily for two days. I couldn’t lift my arms to brush my hair.

Uh, oh, this is when you realize you’re not 25 anymore, there are more than 650 muscles in the human body, and a whole batch of them have not been taxed for a very long time. You’re lucky you have six months to get in shape. So on Wednesday, we were back at Zumba again. Except the people looked different, and there were more men there. And the instructor was a guy … who said this was “Insanity.”

Oh, no, not Insanity! I’d seen that through the doors of the athletic club once. Those people were nuts. They didn’t just jump; they leaped two feet into the air. “Don’t worry,” the instructor said, “I’ll modify.” Ha, ha, ha! He didn’t have a speck of fat on his body. He was an anatomical model of pure muscle. If he tried to swim, he’d sink. His “modify” is a whole other vocabulary word from my “modify.”

I actually lasted a half-hour before bailing. Later on, I couldn’t lower myself to a toilet seat without crash landing on it.

A couple days later, I found Zumba again. This time, it felt more like dancing, and I remembered some of the steps. If I just listened to the music, my legs sometimes went where they were supposed to. Nothing is sore in my body any more. I’m trying to map out a calendar of how strong I have to be by when. When do I have to strap on my backpack with weights and do stairs?

Back in the ’80s, I was a big Jazzercise fan, and I still can’t hear Beat It or Jump or Girls Just Wanna Have Fun without moving into aerobics mode. They got imprinted in my head as aerobics songs, and they instantly trigger bouncing. I had a punch card and there were Jazzercise outlets all over town – in churches, schools – and one two doors from my house in San Francisco. I remember when the dancing stopped and we did the abdominals. We’d screech and shriek lying on mats on the floor. Zumba doesn’t have mats on the floor. Hmmm, maybe I’ll have to try Pilates again, too.

Even back then, I missed the world’s fashion instructions. Everyone was wearing leotard-type outfits. I wore my purple running shorts. Why do people wear nice clothes to sweat in?
I hope this isn’t just a burst of fitness that dies. I don’t think so. When you have to make a change, you need inspiration, and sometimes the best inspiration is fear: as in, I’ve got 33 uphill miles ahead of me, and I’d better be ready.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Facing down the Big F

I’d first discovered Brené Brown back in November when I wrote about her work as a “vulnerability researcher.”  So now I’ve just finished her book Daring Greatly, and there’s a couple of things that really resonated with me.
Brené’s daughter was freaked out about having to race breast stroke at a meet, that the breast stroke wasn’t her event, that she’d be the last girl in the water. Brené asked her, “What if your goal for that race isn’t to win or even to get out of the water at the same time as the other girls? What if your goal is to show up and get wet?”

Brené explained that there were many things she’d never tried in her life because she feared failure. As a result, she’d missed out on feeling brave. Her daughter could have scratched, could have avoided the whole contest. Instead, she “got wet,” performed pretty badly, but felt brave afterwards. I guess Brené’s advice is what being a “vulnerability researcher” is all about.

Elsewhere in the book, Brené thinks about the well-known quote, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” And instead she asks this question, “What’s worth doing even if I fail?”
That’s a whole different question! In the first, you’re evaluating your choices while liberated from potential failure; you’re saved from failure in advance. In the second, failure – in all its soul-crushing devastation – descends. The second question forces you to confront the experience of failure, forces you to decide whether to be brave and still do it. It presupposes failure and then asks, “So what will you do with that information?”

Failure is a profound experience. Such a bottoming-out, crushing, unpleasant experience. I failed so badly at graduate school, I think it left me with a stutter for a while: I was afraid of expressing myself and being shot down yet again. But it set in motion a new plan for my life, new paths I’d explore. It helped me define what I wanted and where I’d find it. Mostly I think if I’m happy with my life, even the bumps, the mistakes, and the failures got me here so they all served a purpose.

My mother used to say whatever doesn’t kill you outright makes you stronger (which drove me crazy as a kid). That whole graduate school experience made me a little less fearful of failure. It did something to my self-esteem, too. After a while, I could look at academia and critique it instead of feeling demeaned by it. I could understand the influences I’d let operate on me and instead know that I had to make better choices for myself. I began to know myself as resilient.

But twice (at least) I dodged the bullet, didn’t get in the water. Both involved travel to somewhat risky locales, but I think I exaggerated the risks to justify my fears. I still feel squirmy about them, knowing that I caved, knowing that I missed two extraordinary opportunities.

So what does all this mean for my Third Third? How much of my future planning is constrained by a fear of failure? What if I sat here and said, “Try it. It will all go wrong, but will that matter in the end? Will you feel squirmier for not doing it than you will for trying it?”

The thing about the fear of failure is that you have to dissect it. Is it fear of failure or are you just not interested in pursuing something? Are you just fooling yourself (“Oh, I don’t really want to do that anyway.”) or are you backing away? Sometimes we’ve become so practiced at eliminating options that we don’t even know why they fall off the radar. And sometimes, we just dawdle them away.
So now I’m going to look at my assorted Third Third scenarios and examine them: would I feel brave afterwards? Would I feel squirmy if I didn’t pursue them? “What’s worth doing even if I fail?”

* Special little technological treat that I just discovered from Pogue’s Basics by David Pogue. He has all sorts of handy dandy little tricks, like this one: if you have to write Brené with that accent over the é, and you have a Mac, you hold down the e key and – lo and behold – seven different variations of e show up and you get to pick the one you want! That is my delight of the day!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Lab rat lost in the maze

Today I earned $21.50 as a guinea pig, a lab rat for the university’s Experimental Economics researchers.  I was told I’d earn $5 for participating, but that I could earn more based on the decisions I made during the study. (They said I couldn’t end up losing money.) This was a New Thing with real incentives, real decisions to be made! Plus I’d be furthering economics knowledge.

Since I was thinking so economically, I decided to walk to UAA and save money on parking. I didn’t want my hard-earned $5 to disappear down a meter. See, already I was practicing my economic decision-making.

Ten of us assembled in the Lab. We were told there’d be a bag of 20 poker chips, some black, some green. A roll of a die would determine how many of what color were in the bag. Then we’d have to draw a chip out.

If we drew out a black chip, we’d earn nothing. If we drew out a green chip, we’d earn $20. If we chose not to draw, we’d get $6. Okay, I could see what was happening: would I take the risk for the green chip or play it safe for the $6?
Then we took a little test about the instructions. We’d get 50¢ for each correct answer. Okay, pretty simple.

But then things got complicated. Another person was added to our scenario: if I were the only one who got a green, I’d get $40! If both of us got a green, we’d split the $40. The rules changed again: if he got the green first, my later green wouldn’t even count … and his first draw was secret. Then it was public. There were five scenarios in all, and things got really confusing.

Each time the rules changed, we had another little test about the instructions. Then we were told the statistical probability of each outcome. There were dozens of probabilities: any green chips, how many green chips, who goes first, etc etc. Tiny, little percentage numbers all over the place. I simplified; if I saw a 38% or better number anywhere, I’d go for it. If it were less than that, I’d decline to draw and get my $6.
We were told we could opt out or change any of our decisions, and then they rolled the dice. It came up that the bag was filled with 20 green chips – all green chips – so almost everyone won!

I have no idea why. I am clueless about the whole thing, but I have my little suspicions. In the psychology experiments I did in college, you’d think the test was about response time, and then you’d find out it was really a test about eye contact. Did the people who were granted eye contact by the tester report they found the experience more pleasant? It could be very devious.

I’m not sure what economic decision-making we demonstrated. I’d guess the professor must be a little irritated that the 20-green-chip option came up so he had to pay out lots of $20 bills. But whether any of what I did showed or didn’t show any rationality, I have no idea.

But this is the odd thing. After it was all done, we had to take a little anonymous, demographic survey: age, gender, student status. (I am SURE I was the only Third Thirder in the room.) But there were three additional questions on the survey: (Try your answers in the comments; spoiler alert below.)
  1. If it takes 5 machines to make 5 widgets in 5 minutes, how long does it take to make 100 widgets?
  2. If the lily pads in a lake double in surface area every day, and the lake is totally covered in 48 days, when is the lake half covered?
  3. If a bat and ball cost $1.10 and the bat is $1 more than the ball, how much does the ball cost?
Now why would those questions be there with no names, no identifying numbers? Are they checking if we have minimal intelligence, and why would they do that after we finished the whole green-chip lab?

This is so mysterious to me that on my walk home, I kept wondering about it, rehashing it. Why did they ask those questions afterwards? Why did they also test us on the instructions? I was such a good little lab rat because I didn’t even know what maze I was in. Walking home, pondering, deliberating.

Then it hit me: the stupid ball had to cost 5¢ if the bat was going to be $1 more. $1.05 + 5¢ = $1.10. The only economics question I understood, and I’d gotten it wrong. Was that the test?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Wanted: An all-consuming passion

I’ve just finished reading The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes by Zach Dundas. I read all the Sherlock Holmes’ stories when I was in junior high … except the very last one because I didn’t want to live in a world that had no new Sherlock Holmes.

Little did I know there’d be Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey, Jr., and Elementary.

Dundas was that kind of kid, too. As a preteen, he founded the first Sherlock Holmes fan club for fans under 21. Now, with a young family, he decided to find out what the Sherlock Holmes mystique is all about. He visited the Baker Street Irregulars (New York’s still-active fan club from the 1930s) and London’s Sherlock Holmes Society. He met the editor of the Baker Street Journal, discovered the Baker Street Babes. He read or watched the scripts, plays, and films “starring” Sherlock Holmes. He researched Arthur Conan Doyle’s life, all the derivative literature, the Great Game (scholarly studies about Holmes and Watson). He checked out assorted 221B Baker Streets, the moors of the Baskervilles, London streets. Along the way, he discovered that FDR was a secret fan member and that a whole genre of fanfiction (“fic”) exists (which I think is kind of Sherlock porn).
The book is funny, fascinating, and well-researched, but it’s also something bigger: evidence of a quest, a mission. And I am so jealous.

Here he was with something that interested him so much, he’d invest years in it, drag his family along on his exploratory travels, meet people, attend things, follow up on leads.

I want an interest like that.

Back in 1980, I discovered my first waterslide in Spain. I ran up, slid down, ran up, slid down, all day. Then, when Sophie was 2, we discovered a tiny waterpark in Puerto Vallarta. It was a little bitty thing, but it whisked us out a tube in a whirl of water and splash. I was hooked.
After that, I found waterparks wherever we traveled. I told Sophie that if I ever had a summer off, we’d cross the country by waterpark. So then I got a job with summers off.

I began correspondence with waterpark designers, manufacturers, trade associations. They sent specs, photos, videos. We started mapping out our path across the country. Then, in the summer of 2002, we did the National Waterpark Tour. We drove 10,000 miles, visited 24 waterparks across the United States, wore out three bathing suits, and only had ten stitches to my head. Along the way, I stopped off at public radio stations and delivered commentary. We met with waterpark owners. Where we had family or friends, we’d drag them off to the waterparks, too. Tim met us mid-trip.

At each waterpark, we were the first on line at 9:30, the last out of the water at 8 p.m. Every waterpark was different. Every single one aroused our interest and delight and challenged our fears and courage. It was a summer of pure joy. I could write a book about it – and did (an unfinished one).
For years, I couldn’t go anywhere or do any speaking engagement without people asking, “So tell us, which was your favorite waterpark?”

But that was 14 years ago. And nothing has taken the place of that mission, that passion, that all-encompassing quest, since then. Many, many things interest me, but not to the level of two years of preparation and dream fulfillment. And yes, a major part was the chance to spend that time with 10-year-old Sophie.

I could sit here and tell you waterparks may be a silly passion, a shallow exercise in adrenalin. It’s not saving the world, after all. In fact, it’s right up there with surfers following waves, and they’re at least in nature. But really – the thrill, the cleanliness of water, the absence of my land-clumsiness, the variety in design. I still love a good ride, but another tour? No.

My friend Angelo has been in love with trains his whole life; in his retirement, he’s collecting oral histories of railroad folks. He’s working on a book about it. This passion drives his retirement years. I want that!

You can’t install a mission into your life. It has to develop organically from passion. I do believe you can set yourself up to be receptive, to be open to a new interest, but mostly you just have to be ready to follow passion when it emerges. In the meantime, you have interests and projects, mini-passions and mini-quests.

Where is the Big One? How do I find it?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Memory loss ... or panic?

I know my Third Third brain has more wisdom in it, more experience, more calm reasoning. What it’s missing is retrieval, which makes sense because it’s full of so much more stuff. Sometimes the retrieval problem is a tip of the tongue issue. I know what I need to retrieve, I may even know what letter it begins with, but it’s just … elusive.

Other times, the retrieval problem is a total freeze-up. No sputtering, no flailing around trying out consonants, sounds, and mental images. It’s just a blank. Thought? Gone. I stand there like a hull missing innards.

Billy Collins has a wonderful poem titled “Forgetfulness.” It captures the retrieval problem perfectly:
    “as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
    decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
    to a little fishing village where there are no phones.”
If you haven’t heard it or read the whole poem, click on this right now.

While in New Orleans, we discovered a performance called “You Don’t Know the Half of It,” and it was their fourth anniversary show.  It’s comedy improv with a twist: one person in the on-stage pair has a script, and he follows it. The other person is clueless.
Okay, I’ve acted, I’ve been on stage a lot. I’ve done monologues, I’ve done comedy, but improv? No, that requires synapses that jump, really jump. I don’t think I’ve ever had that. Mostly people think I’m quick because I laugh really loudly at other people’s quick-wittedness.

The show was terrific. I laughed really loudly at everyone’s quick-wittedness. One person would come out knowing he was a refugee from an alien abduction, but his “son” had no clue. He fished around mightily for some thread he could follow, and the hilarity lay in how his efforts mismatched with the scripted actor.

But what was truly hilarious was the woman who hijacked the whole thing. If they didn’t give her a script, she’d create her own world and let the poor scripted guy try to catch her. It was a major ambush, and she pulled it off. I laughed really loudly at her quick-wittedness, too.

So there we were Saturday, our usual group of four women for the Alaska Literacy Program’s annual Scrabblers Scramble. The only relation the evening has to Scrabble is that we use the letter tiles on a board. Each round has a different rule and is only minutes long. Give me a time limit, and it might as well be improv. Jump, synapses, jump!

The first round was World Languages. The only words we could put on the board were World Languages. In five minutes.

Total freeze. We started with Mandarin, and we got Spanish and Dutch. I groped around the world, looking for countries and their languages, but the world had vaporized. Every language that emerged from the vapor required an H, and we only had two of them. Norwegian made it, and some others (which I can’t remember now). We tried frantically to open our mental file cabinets, but the keys were missing. The file room was missing. We tried looking around our interior maps of the world, but our brains had mysteriously emptied.
Of course afterwards, languages floated back. How could we have forgotten Japanese or the Alaska Native languages? Welsh! Persian! Korean! At least this confirmed they were still alive in our memory banks; it was just a retrieval problem. Either that or we were in shock.

I tried it on Tim: “Quick! Come up with any ten-letter word beginning with J.” Amazingly, he answered, “Jambalaya.” How did he do that?

I was surprised, but I did manage to count the letters. “That’s only nine.”

“Jambalayas,” he said.

Ha, ha, ha! (really loudly)

1-2-3-4 left feet. Pause.

After returning from New Orleans, Tim and I found a Zydeco dance workshop as part of the Folk Festival. Saturday morning, that’s where we were.

I do love to dance …

… as long as no choreography is involved. Once there are specific instructions – steps – there’s a problem. In high school, when we did calisthenics, the gym teacher would say, “Will someone take Barbara aside and work with her?” At theater auditions, I’d make it past the acting and the singing, but when the dancing happened, they’d all be stepping left, right, swing, turn, jump, spin, right, left … and I’d be stuck at “what comes after ‘left’?”
During the Jazzercise/aerobics craze of the ’80s, I did learn to do it. I got pretty good at it … as long as I did the same routine over and over again for months.

Even when I took up curling and had to slide with one foot while the other went down as I advanced with the stone, I would have to ask over and over before each turn, “Which foot slides when I put it down?” I’m sure there are people there who still wonder how I walk, period.

So the dancing that I love doing consists of hanging onto Tim’s neck during a slow dance (a la high school cafeteria) or moving to the beat of some Rolling Stones so that the beat makes it all happen without any steps, routines, or motor coordination. (I know people laugh at Elaine’s dancing on Seinfeld, but I’m not really sure what they’re laughing at.) Here’s a hint: the first dance I learned was The Freddie to Freddie & The Dreamers. Do you remember? It was so happy!
I met Tim, and he could dance with twirls where he spun me out and back. He even owned cowboy boots. I was very impressed. So years ago – maybe even before we were married – Tim and I took a swing dance class together. Turns out Tim wasn’t as talented as he’d impressed me, so Marlis, our instructor, tried to straighten us out with “slow-slow-quick-quick.” Class was an hour-and-a-half long, and I think one of our first arguments happened when, after 15 minutes, Tim said, “Okay, one-sixth done.”

Twenty some odd years go by. Lots of dancing, no steps. I dance with abandon and have such a wild time maybe people think it’s some sort of demonic possession rather than dancing. Tim twirls me out and back and there isn’t a slow-slow-quick-quick anywhere. Or rather, we always recite “slow-slow-quick-quick” while we do whatever we want. It’s our little joke.

Fast forward to last Saturday and the Zydeco dance workshop. It looked like it should be incredibly easy: “1-2-3-pause, 1-2-3 pause.” It’s a little unclear whether the foot stays in the air during the pause or comes down, but it sort of looks like shuffling so we’re maintaining. But then it gets complicated: one foot goes back while one goes out to the side. All in turn. Which turn? Which foot? Mirror image of each other or doing the same foot? Still with 1-2-3-pause? Or is now when we switch to “1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8”? And we have to switch hand-holding position, too?!?

As Tim put it, we’re the ones who have trouble clapping along with any musician. We seem to catch it a half-clap behind. Dozens of couples moving around, and we’re mumbling “1-2-3-pause,” bumping into people. We lose the beat and just can’t find the “1-2-3,” let alone the pause. We’re marching to our own drummers, “1-2-pause,” “1-pause-2,” “1-2-3-4.” We’re so coordinated we can say “1-2-3-pause” and do “1-2-pause-3-pause” at the same time. Isn’t that an achievement?
Unfortunately, there are many more women than men so the pairs have to split up. Now we take our ineptitude to the population, like a contagion, a spreading virus. Each time we link back up, we share stories of dancers we have confused, bumped into, or sweat upon. Finally, three-fourths done, we escape. Every now and then, we say “1-2-3-pause” to each other and laugh.

Some New Things are just destined to be fodder for a funny story.

Tonight we’re trying Zumba.

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