The Credits Are Rolling

I can’t sleep. I should, but it’s not happening because I can’t shut my brain off just yet.

It’s just after midnight on Thursday, May 15th, and today is the last day of my 30s.

It’s a day I never thought I would actually see. I can’t say I’ve been looking forward to it. It hasn’t seemed real to me, and I don’t feel prepared.

My friends keep telling me it’s no big deal, nothing to be afraid of, but I can’t help but be a bit sad. Because I always get a bit down on my birthday anyway (honestly, it’s the main reason I take the day off work every year; I’m just not that productive), and because this feels like the end of a long movie that I’ve enjoyed watching for all these years. The end credits are rolling and I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do after I leave the theater.

It’s not necessarily “middle age”. If I take after my grandparents, I won’t hit my midway point until 45 or so. I know I look young to some (I still get carded occasionally). I try to count my blessings – I’m in near perfect health, I have few but exceptional friends, I have a beautiful small family, an engaging and challenging career and I live in the house that I used to daydream about owning someday. I am smarter than I’ve ever been, and I am in better shape today than I was at 25.

It’s just that I can’t stop ruminating about the things I had once thought, once hoped, once believed I’d get a chance to do: be uber successful, sow my wild oats, have a second child. Those things are probably not in the cards and I have to accept that. Years ago, when I imagined what turning 40 would be like, I dreaded not just the physical aspects of aging – the wrinkles, the jowls, the deteriorating joints – but things like my career stalling and feeling irrelevant, invisible to the vibrant world. 

I’ve also lately been keenly feeling the loss of my beloved Grandma, my last living grandparent and my favorite relative. She died just before 5pm on New Year’s Eve, right at the end of last year. As I mentioned in a recent speech I gave at Toastmasters, I resemble her, I have a lot of her quirks and mannerisms and a lot of her loves are also mine. When she died, a very real piece of me left with her. Now that she’s gone, someone who truly cared about me and a major presence in my young life has vanished.

A couple of weeks ago, three days after Easter, my cat Bastet also died. I had gotten her the week after I got married, when I was 26. She had been my near-constant companion and another vestige of my youth. More loss, more sorrow, more reminders. It’s all interconnected.

And I loved being in my 30s. During this last decade I:

  • Bought a house
  • Became a blogger
  • Finished my four-year degree
  • Accepted a job at an amazing company
  • Met a slew of interesting people
  • Became a public speaker
  • Became a runner
  • Became a cyclist
  • Became a leader

I should be feeling joy. I understand that. I also know that it’s my prerogative to be a little sad, even though it’s hard to relate to my reasons why. I’ll get over it, I have to. But before I can “smile because it happened” I have to get through the stage where I “cry because it’s over”. 


Mama’s Little Break

Good evening, Toastmasters and honored guests.

I like holidays just as much as the next guy. I love birthdays… Christmas is great. My all-time favorite holiday, for the record, is Halloween. But there are one or two special days I’m just not really into. For example, Arbor Day? Meh, I could take it or leave it.

My least favorite holiday is Mother’s Day. Don’t get me wrong – my dislike of it has absolutely nothing to do with my feelings towards my own mother and everything to do with how the day has treated me in the years since I’ve been a mom. I’ve had things not go as planned, weather not cooperate, child tantrums, husband tantrums, I’ve thrown tantrums… you name it.

Nevertheless, every year I try to have a decent Mother’s Day. Every mom deserves a little break, right? Well, on Mother’s Day 2010 I decided I was going to have my break!

The day before, I was walking home with my son, C. He was 6, almost 7 at the time and we had just had lunch at a new local restaurant near our house. C, for those who haven’t heard my past speeches about him, has ADHD… and I like to say he really puts the ‘H’ in that acronym.

We were about halfway there when C took off RUNNING down Highway 116. I can’t begin to describe for you the panic that arose in me when he did that. My upper mammalian brain shut completely off and my lower reptilian brain took over. I did what came naturally and I ran after him.

Now, it’s often said that women are graceful but that is simply not true for me… if anything, when it comes to things of the physical realm, I am pretty disgraceful.

I almost immediately tripped over a crack and – again, reptilian brain – instinctively did this [put hands out in front]. Then I landed, on my palms and my right knee. BAM!

As you might well imagine, I was really upset… about the possibility that I put a hole in the knee of my pants! Never mind the fact that my knee was the size of a small grapefruit and the palms of my hands looked like ground sirloin. The lucky thing is, C stopped running. In fact, he was pretty much frozen in place. The bad part was… THAT HURT!!

I stood up. No hole in the pants. I did notice that I couldn’t bend or straighten my arms – they were both basically frozen at almost a right angle. How many of you here played with Barbie dolls as a kid? I thought to myself “Oh my God, I have Barbie doll arms!” But I thought, I’m tough, I’ll just walk it off. So I began walking home [sway arms back and forth]. I thought to myself “Man, my arms hurt!” and C walked in front of me.

By the time I got in the front door, pain was radiating up and down both forearms. I yelled for my husband and he came shooting down the stairs. He said “What’s wrong??”

I showed him [demonstrate].

Now, my husband is a teacher but he’s also a firefighter and first responder, so I trusted him when he took a look at me and went “Well, it doesn’t look that bad… try seeing how you feel in the morning.” He said something to the effect of “If you REALLY think you need to go to the ER, we will but I think you’re OK”.

I didn’t really push the issue but instead, I did the first thing that came to mind (again, reptilian brain). I somehow managed to grab my phone out of my purse and posted to Facebook: “Hey everyone! I just fell and now I can’t move my arms… trying to decide whether or not to go to the ER… what do you all think?”

A couple of minutes later, my phone rang. It was my friend L. I barely managed to answer – “Hello?” – when she said, “Do I need to take you to the hospital??”

I hemmed a bit. Should I, or shouldn’t I? She finally told me “I am taking you” and about ten minutes later she showed up at my house.

Since we were going to be there a while, we turned the experience into GIRLS NIGHT OUT.  We sat in the waiting room, we laughed, L took pictures of me with her phone. A couple of hours and several xrays later I walked out of there with the most fabulous accessory a girl could ever want – a nice, shiny (stiff, itchy), white plaster cast, from wrist to mid-bicep.

So, what happened? Quick anatomy refresher: in your forearm are two bones – the radius and the ulna. I’d cracked the very tip of my radius in my arm. In other words, I fractured my elbow. In other words… I got my break! I wasn’t going to be doing housework for a LONG time! (Not that I do it anyway).  I also went home with a bottle of Oxycodone. Wooo-hoo!!

I learned several things that weekend. I learned that, when you’re a parent, there are no days off. I learned that good friends are worth more than their weight in gold. I learned to never, EVER take pain medication on an empty stomach. But, most of all, I learned to be careful what you wish for… you just may get it!

Public Service Announcement (warning: contains graphic images)

One afternoon when I was a sophomore in high school, as I was getting on the bus I suddenly felt a searing, raging pain in my right hand. Looking down, I noticed a stinger, which I promptly asked the driver for help removing.

Within a short period of time, my hand had swollen to three times its normal size and I had red streaks up my arm. After the half hour ride home, I showed my mom, who rushed me to the ER, where I spent another four hours waiting while the allergic reaction increased.

I was extremely lucky – they sent me home with Benadryl and I had no anaphylactic reaction. My husband, years later, still insisted I bring an Epi pen with me on our honeymoon in Europe.

I didn’t get stung again until last Saturday, as I was taking my soon-to-be 10-year-old to the grocery store to shop for food for his birthday party on Sunday. As I grabbed my shopping bag, I felt a sharp “bite” – not anywhere near as intense as the sting twenty plus years ago – and, looking down, saw evidence of some kind of insect on the inside of my arm. There was a guy BBQing meat nearby, so I assume it was a wasp.

The next day, my arm looked like this:


It hurt a bit more than the previous day and was warm to the touch. My mom thought it looked like cellulitis (which can be bad).

On Monday, it hurt worse and was even redder and angrier:


On Wednesday, it looked like this:


By Thursday, things reached a crescendo. My arm itched so badly that cortisone did nothing for it:


That night, I took Benadryl before bed and hoped for the best. The intense itching woke me up yesterday morning. Again, cortisone barely touched it. But the redness started to subside:


Which brings me to today – one full week later. The sting site is a little less red, and I’m actually wearing short sleeves today. I’ve only had to apply anti-itch cream once so far today.

All this to say that, while I already knew I had a bee sting allergy, apparently my body doesn’t care for wasps either. Be careful out there this spring and summer!

Subconscious ESP

I had the strangest dream last night… OK, I have strange dreams every night, but normally, the morning bedlam (alarm clock, cat yowling, husband throwing shoes on the floor or watching TV) causes the fine details to evaporate by the time my eyes are fully open. I really should keep a voice activated recorder by the bed, but I occasionally get lucky, memory-wise, without one.

Anyway. I had a dream last night that I became a doctor, specializing in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), and I got hired as an in-house consulting physician at a startup in the San Francisco Financial District (the company’s major market share was in Japan, for some reason; I don’t remember what their product was, but they had some acronym for it). I hopped on Golden Gate Transit in downtown Santa Rosa to commute to work and the bus was delayed by over an hour. “No problem, ” said my new bosses, “we’re just happy to have you on board!”

It was a luxury bus, and the GGT staff served all us passengers these gourmet sandwiches (they had portobello mushrooms and goat cheese on a baguette) while we waited to get going.

After work, I went to the home of a new colleague I’d befriended. She and her family had moved from the small city I live in to San Francisco and had a cute little apartment down there. I was in her 6-year-old daughter’s room, playing, and gazing at the photo of the Golden Gate Bridge on the wall.

By the time I woke from the dream and was still in that half-asleep state I felt that, sure, earning an M.D. in NLP was completely plausible and maybe I’d look into it one day…

I checked my email a couple of hours later, and there was an email from the NLP & Coaching institute, informing me that a hypnosis certification program is starting up in 2 weeks.

Cute the Twilight Zone theme…

The Greatest Love of All

I want to tell you all about an experience I had when I was a kid. I was about 11, almost 12 years old, and I was in a store with my mom and my younger brother, watching my mom shop for clothing for us. Now, I was pretty pathetic when I was 11; I was about 30 pounds overweight with poor self esteem and my mom had tried to work to reverse some of the self-hate I was continually perpetuating. We were in the store when I heard a song come in over the intercom. The lyrics went something like:

I believe the children are our future,

Teach them well and let them lead the way…

The singer was Whitney Houston, the daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston and then an up-and-coming chanteuse. At that time, I thought, sure, the children are our future. Most children, not me. I used to think “I hate that song!” The lyrics really got to me… “show them all the beauty they possess inside”? Easy for her  to say! She had a fabulous career as a singer and wasn’t stuck in fifth grade hell. Who was she to tell me that I possessed beauty inside? At that time, I didn’t recognize my own self-worth.

I think we all know what happened to Whitney Houston. Nearly twenty years after she married and subsequently divorced Bobby Brown, she was found unconscious in a bathtub in her Beverly Hills hotel room and paramedics couldn’t revive her. The beautiful heart that once asked “How Will I Know?” and crooned “I Will Always Love You” had stopped forever. Whitney Houston was her own victim, having succumbed to years of drug and alcohol abuse.

My theory? Whitney Houston never found The Greatest Love of All. Instead, like so many people in this world, she let others define her worth. This is a mistake, as we’ve been told over and over again. Whitney sang about finding your self-love, your power, but she didn’t live it.

What exactly is this greatest love of all that Whitney Houston sang about? In the 1950s, a psychologist, Erich Fromm, theorized that self-love is the act of caring about oneself, taking responsibility for oneself, respecting oneself, and knowing oneself (e.g. being realistic and honest about one’s strengths and weaknesses).

Why is this important? Two reasons:

1. How many of you have heard of the Law of Attraction? Quite simply, this law states a primary principal known in physics: like attracts like. That is to say, if you project love, you receive love in return. If you project something other than love, you receive that instead.

2. What is the opposite of love? Fear! The opposite of love is fear.

Now, given the law of attraction (like attracts like), would you rather attract fear… or love?

Holding yourself in high esteem doesn’t just benefit you. If that were the case, it wouldn’t be important. Loving yourself is the greatest love of all because it allows you to freely and completely love others. To put it another way, by respeciting yourself, you get out of your own way, and open yourself to the potential of all of life’s riches.

As for me, self-love has been something I’ve struggled with for decades now, and I will probably struggle with it for the rest of my natural life. Is having a healthy self-image easy? No. But it is so worth it. 

By working to learn to be my own best friend, and by then projecting that esteem into the world, I’ve been able to do things such as influence my friends to join Toastmasters, perform random acts of kindness in the community, and raise a son who I hope will grow into a great man.

And that truly is the greatest love of all.

Hi, how are ya?

I’ve had occasion to get to know new people within the last year, either through work or Toastmasters (mainly, but occasionally outside those two) and began thinking about how I could quickly and easily help new folks get to know me and… what I came up with is the ubiquitous “25 things about me” meme.  If I could have these printed on a business card to hand out, people would hardly need to ask me anything about myself – it’s all right there. I’ve done this little exercise on my blog before but haven’t updated it.

Without further ado:

25 Things About Me

  1. I am a Taurus
  2. I love cats
  3. I love chocolate (dark; don’t really care for milk)
  4. Favorite color: green
  5. Favorite radio station: XM Alt Nation (FM favorite: Live105)
  6. Favorite movie: Life is Beautiful
  7. Big fear: spiders
  8. My background: Italian, English,Irish, German, Cherokee and Swedish
  9. My middle name is Lynn
  10. I have two art degrees
  11. I am vegetarian (mostly vegan)
  12. I can sing and dance
  13. I am very self-conscious
  14. I am a published author
  15. Most things I know how to do are self-taught
  16. Favorite number: 16
  17. I have synesthesia (letters and numbers have both colors and genders to me)
  18. I have a wacky sense of humor
  19. I cry easily
  20. I grew up in the Bay Area
  21. I am moderately liberal
  22. I can imitate Droopy Dog (a random one, I know!)
  23. I love to read (mostly non-fiction)
  24. I’m a stickler for spelling and grammar
  25. My personality type is INFP/ENFP

I asked my 9-year-old to tell me 25 things about himself, with hilarious results (7 of his 15 are “I love my Mom”, or “I love everybody!” and 25 things that aren’t true about him include “I am a penguin”, “I am a goat”).

What are your 25?

I’ve got a secret and I can’t explain

First, apologies for the OMD reference. One of my guilty little pleasures on Sunday is to fire up the laptop and take a few minutes to read PostSecret. Over the years, Frank’s staggering art project has made me think, feel every emotion, and wonder what my secret from the world would be, were I to send one in.

The truth is that I have no true “no one in the world knows this about me” secrets.  A handful of people out there know at least one or two things about me that most others don’t, but no one person knows all.

That said, there are a few truths that are normally surprising when I reveal them.

1. I’m an extrovert (kind of). 

You know the Myers-Briggs personality test? I’ve taken various forms of it, several times, and without fail the final three letters that, according to the results make up my personality type, are NFP. Always. The first letter varies, however. Sometimes it’s I and sometimes it’s E. It would seem that I am perfectly balanced between introversion and extroversion.

Most people who get to know me eventually make a correct assumption: I am painfully – painfully – shy. Once they learn more about who I actually am, they’re confused. Some of my hobbies, past and present, include theater and karaoke, and, as a friend pointed out a few weeks ago, I do public speaking for fun.

Shyness and extroversion aren’t mutually exclusive, as it turns out; in fact, the description of a person who “A person who performs well socially, but experiences painful thoughts and feelings” made my breath catch when I first read it. Having this type of personality is most definitely not easy (in jr high I was labeled “stuck up” and one of my closest friends told me a few years ago that she thought back in high school I wouldn’t befriend her). Neither is having more “introverted” days, particularly when you’re called upon to communicate with others or take on a leadership role. I wonder if anyone truly fits into a particular box when it comes to personality type. I recently learned a a great new word: ambivert. That seems to be an apt description of my personality – sometimes outgoing, sometimes more retiring.

2. I’m competitive.

A particular quirk – and annoyance – about being both a woman and a mom is that people seem to assume you have no ambition. They also seem to believe you’re a pushover, easy to overpower, easy to beat, etc. Most people haven’t met me.

I remember playing Wii Sports at a friend/coworker’s house and she and I were the only two women there (we do work in a male-dominated field, so this was only natural). Everyone was taking turns at sword fighting and I was put up against one of the managers – a guy around my age who is a sports fanatic and who just assumed he would wipe the floor with me.

To be fair, I am not a petite little thing. I’m 5’8″ when barefoot and have a little bit of upper body strength. But because I live in stilettos and am not naturally athletic, most guys naturally figure I’d be more concerned with breaking a nail than with winning. Again, most guys would be incorrect.

E and I began swinging our wiimotes furiously and at first he seemed to have victory in the bag. But I was just slightly faster and beat his ass, knocking his Mii straight off a cliff into the ocean below.

E took it like a man, groaning loudly before chuckling and turning to the other guys with a “No WAY!! That must’ve been beginners’ luck… or, uh, something.” Then, to me, “Rematch!” I beat him twice more before he eventually won a match.

I behave similarly during other competitions as well… including, but not limited to: Balderdash, Anomia, Apples to Apples, Trivial Pursuit, Rock Band, Just Dance, Tic-Tac-Toe, and The 20 Minute Challenge. And any and all “let’s see who can design the best page/graphic/whatever” work comes up with. And I have a collection of first place ribbons from Toastmasters.

3. I worry a LOT.

I’m usually pretty good in a crisis. In my life, I’ve had to make a couple of 911 calls, have been through trials ranging from earthquakes to system outages and normally don’t lose my head. This has occasionally been to my detriment, as I’ve had more than one person argue with me that I’m “too calm” and said persons have been known to take offense when I wasn’t reacting in the same fashion.

This is just how I am though. Never in my life have I had blood pressure higher than 120/70 (and that was while sitting at the doctor’s office under a time crunch to get back to work), and only a handful of times have I shown any of the other physical signs of distress: rapid heartbeat, hyperventilation, lightheadedness.

This is not to say I am “easygoing”. I lay awake at night a lot. I do tons of research on things that are on my mind. I send needy texts and emails to my girlfriends or call my mom. I’ve locked myself in rooms to cry or otherwise come unglued and then gotten straight back to business once I’m pulled together.

Some folks have to get their anger out so they can; I have to get my worry out so I can do the same. Because a lot of this happens in private (my relatives and friends generally don’t just call me to ask if I’m OK), I get it out of my system and no one’s the wiser.

So there you have it: a peek into what makes me tick. What are some of your non-secret secrets?