How did this happen?



Not a word that you use just every day.

But, I know you know what it means.  Just think squat-bodied room fan whirring in the corner blowing papers off the desk , ruffling the retriever’s coat,moving onto pushing the dust bunnies under the sofa.  Got the picture?  Yep, oscillating– to move from side to side rhythmically or to waver from one extreme to another. 

I bring up this fun-to-say word, oscillating, because I heard a podcast wherein renowned neuroscientist Richard Davidson noted that people don’t really multi-task; instead, they oscillate.  Davidson contends that the brain is not really handling multiple tasks at once.  Rather the brain, like the oscillating room fan, is moving from one task to the next never pausing long enough for something drastic like, coherent thought.

That explains why my life as a mulit-tasker, I mean oscillator, is sometimes fraught with mishap.  Like the time I threw away my car keys while depositing the water bottle in the drink holder, moving the trash container to the curb and adjusting my I-pod.  For a brief shining moment, I knew that my key ring should stay hooked to my index finger but that was before the cranium wavering blew my focus to my untied sneaker.  Without that cool breeze of attention, the car keys were dropped onto the discarded meatloaf inside the 3-ply trash bag stuffed at the bottom of the maroon trash bin .

 Davidson’s explanation of brain function relieved my guilt at being a failed multi-tasker.  So, the next time I forget who I called because I was put on hold and began humming along with the Barry Manilow instrumental, I’ll just say, “Pardon me, I was oscillating.”


 It just sneaks up on you. 

 One day you’re rushing through the “to do” list confident in the knowledge that you’re master of the universe when, wham, the earth tilts on its axis and the downhill slide begins. 

This graphic loss of footing occurred for me recently while listening to National Public Radio, which in itself should have shielded me from all suffering.  The mellow-toned announcer was explaining that I could access my favorite episodes of “Car Talk” and “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” through various mediums including the internet and podcasts.  Smugness wafted over me because I knew how to download and access all these electronic treasures. 

Then, came the words that sent me tumbling into mid-life crisis.  The now evil NPR announcer of doom intoned, “Or, you can even listen the old-fashioned way via analog radio.” 

“What!” I screamed to the clock radio crouching beneath the kitchen cabinet.  “You’ve betrayed me; you’re old fashioned. “

I stormed across the room ready to yank this  turn-a -dial symbol of decay off the wall mount brackets and cast it into the basement alongside the decrepit hand held calculators and PC towers. 

But, alas, just then I heard Tom Magiiozzi, one of the Car Guys, laugh deeply at one of his brother’s jokes.  Chuckling, I turned what used to be known as the volume knob higher and decided to be old fashioned for just a little while longer.

A Bad Day Retired

Have you seen the bumper sticker that says, “A bad day fishing is better than a good day working”?

While my retired life seems blissful, I find myself pausing during a Silver Sneakers exercise class to ponder,  “Is this life really better than those stimulating days when I could point to work projects marked off the “to do” list?” 

Oh, I see you worker bees out there buzzing at the thought of a bad day of leisure.  But that would be ignoring the pressure I confront often, well maybe occasionally.   

Like when the line at Starbucks is two deep at 2pm.  Of course, there was the really bad time when the afternoon Colorado Rockies baseball game was rained out.   Then I had to go to some Blake Street watering hole and test various hoppy beverages.   And, don’t forget the frustration I felt when the library didn’t have the Stieg Larson book…again. 

When I analyze my retiree frustration, I find that it sometimes involves noticing things I never had time to see during those 70 hour work weeks, like Democrats … and Republicans.   Or Geraldo and  Nancy Graceless. Dust bunnies large enough to lift the sofa off the hardwood floor and closets still home to clothes the kids outgrew in 1980 round out the list of “Umm, when did that happen.”

Traveling can also be a pain for the retiree.  Like when the Master Card can’t sustain yet another grandchild visit.  Or, in order to cash in my Rapidly Free Flight points, I slowly flew to Phoenix, El Paso, and Wichita Falls before landing in New Orleans.   And then there’s the airport TSA agents whose policy manuals strictly prohibit smiling but do allow mild snickering when someone’s cellulited thighs create an aurora borealis of images on their x-ray machines.

While I could continue these graphic descriptions of my retiree life pressures, I’d rather go fishing.  Say howdy to my friends at work.

 I’ll be honest.  Focus has never been my strong point. 

When I was younger, I loved restaurant dining because I eavesdropped on so many great conversations while listening to what was going on at the table where I was seated.  Well, sorta listened.

As a random thinker, I was so pleased when the term multi-tasking was created to legitimize my penchant for chasing numerous shiny objects simultaneously and catching none.  But, if I claimed I was multi-tasking, I sounded sophisticated and overworked rather than clueless and disorganized. 

Early in my marriage, my husband figured out that my multi-tasking occasionally led to disastrous results including saucepan bottoms burned off when I forgot about the water boiling for tea on the electric range. 

But as a young mother and working wife, this talent for multi-tasking became an asset, if not a necessity.  I could drive the kids to baseball practice, plan the next day’s meeting, and grade papers all within the space of a coffee break. 

Oh sure, there were still occasional mishaps when  I was trying to talk on my early 21st century handheld speaker phone while  driving my stick shift and drinking Slim-Fast.  That was one of those “I really didn’t want to wear this outfit, turn around to home days.”

But now that I can euphemistically call myself a mid-life boomer, multi-tasking seems to be a practice that I should shed like those extra wavers attached to my upper arms.  Focus is advised by the aging brain expert.  And, I have noticed more gas tank caps dangling for miles, credit cards left to be shared by all at the checkout stands, and water running on the locust tree overnight or several nights if truth be told. 

So, I’m focusing on focusing from now on.  Consequently, I’ll end this so that I can text a message before the car needs to be shifted into third and my latte gets too cold.

There She is Again!

 There she is again.

Recently, while looking at digitized images that my camera ready husband has posted, there is an older lady in the group photo posed in front of the David’s statue in Florence and at the botanical gardens in Delaware.  I wonder who she is and marvel at the repeated coincidental sightings.   She’s a pleasant looking older woman looking serenely happy replete with white blond hair and line carved face.  Even in family photos, the mystery woman has joined my family ogling the newborn grandson. 

She looks vaguely familiar. Maybe, it’s because I’ve also caught glimpses of her passing the tri-fold mirrors at T J Max.  I think that I’ve even seen her downtown while passing the plate glass windows of the kitchen gadgets store. 

Interestingly, she could be my older sister.  She’s a little shorter than me and her slight potbelly reminds me of my grandmother’s.  Her hair is similar to mine, but I note its thinning around her freckled face.  When I study her image, I wonder if my eyelids will droop like hers when I am older. 

Yet, she looks like she’s reveling in an active life full of travel, adventure, and, most importantly, family.  I can only hope that I look that happy in photos as I age.  Except, maybe I’ll remember not to wear that sleeveless dress that advertises deltoids long gone.

Mind Games

Recently, while punching the remote  and trying to decide whether to tune in Crime Scene microbial evidence in LA or Miami, I saw  snatches of a Public Broadcasting  show called “Super Brain Power” or  maybe it was “Your Old Brain” or “How to Not Look Like You Have Dementia”.  Pausing just long enough from the CSI murder trail, I learned from the brain gurus that people of a “certain age” should do four things to keep their brains active.  One of these things is give your brain challenging tasks, another is … oh, I can’t remember. 

Anyway, back to the challenging tasks.  I’m not positive but I think this is the reason that sales of Sudoku books have rocketed over the past several years.  That is if you ignore the fact that some Stanford math nerd just invented this diabolical game in 1996 and gave it some old school Japanese sounding moniker that the folks at PBS liked.

Like me, you may have been suckered into thinking that working with Sudokuian numbers one through nine couldn’t be that hard.  But hold on Gridlock Breath;  these things are hard.  Oh sure, some of the game squares have numbers filled in, but I have yet to see one Sudoku where I only have to write in oh, say one or maybe  two numbers.  How unfair is that!

So, in my quest to stay at the peak of my mental prowess, (I heard that whisper: “This is her peak?”), I elected to turn my back on those mathematical grids and pursue another mind game. Fearing that controlling all  NASDAQ transactions would land me in trouble with the SEC or those Word Find puzzle books might look a little juvenile while sipping a latte at Starbucks, I landed on the crossword puzzle. 

I started with that familiar yellow clad series “101 Crossword Puzzles for Dummies”.  The only thing I could fill in was my name on the front cover.  Not wanting to be daunted by a few mysterious foreign word clues, I dropped down to a slightly more accessible crossword version.  And, you know if you wrap the ”Easy Crosswords for a Fifth Grader” in a brown paper sack, hardly anyone at Starbucks laughs at me…maybe a few snickers, but rarely do they point and laugh.  Besides, I know I’m connecting those brain synpases while struggling with the three letter synonym for ancient.

Second Chance Plea

 Aw, c’mon, gimme a second chance.

Do over!

Ah, let’s just consider that a mulligan.

Ever said these words about an errant golf drive, a traffic violation, or a credit card slightly late fee?

 I’ve pleaded, cajoled, and lobbied for second chances throughout my boomer’s life.  Especially on the sports field.  You see, my joints and muscles aren’t connected; heck, they’re not even in the same time zone.  I’ve always needed one more chance to run the 50 yard dash in less than 23 days or to master the intricacies of a springboard dive so that people’s eardrums weren’t burst by the belly flop explosion.  So, I’ve asked, no begged for second chances numerous times through my decades of life and jumpstarting what has been this dormant blog is one more chance for me to find the reset button.

And, I’m in good company.  Think Napoleon, Churchill, Ted Kennedy, Kiefer Sutherland.  Well, don’t think about them too much; you might never give me a second chance to blog about mid-life chuckles given that kind of company. 

But, one of the many advantages of aging, beside reduced admission to the Cinemax, is perfectionism has been discarded as an attainable goal.  I need do-overs all the time. Warm chocolate chip cookies inevitably cook up reasons to start the diet tomorrow, again.  After sitting through an “All You Need to Know about Social Media” class I invariably re-enroll for a second… or third time so that I can figure out where “the Wall” is or what button Andrew Weiner’s  tweet used. 

So despite your vague memory about Tricky Dick Nixon losing a presidential race, a California governor’s race, and even a homeowner’s association chairmanship only to later lead a nation through raucous enemy list shenanigans, he did some good things with those second chances.  Like, open China so that they can now hold the promissory note for our current financial misdeeds.  Or, make an architecturally ugly D.C. building famous.

With your indulgence, I ask that you look for more Chuckling Boomers blogs in the near future and tell me about some of the good things second chances have brought you.  Meanwhile, I have to go help my good friend Lindsay Lohan find her “Get Out of Jail” card one more time.