Friday, September 29, 2017

COUNTDOWN TO 50 - The Last Friday Night of a Decade



Here it is, my last Friday night in my 40s. My sparkly 50th Birthday tiara is sitting on my desk, all ready for Monday (it’s been there for almost the month), next to the glass of wine I’m celebrating this final Friday with.

The combination of anything sparkly (OOH, SPAAAHKLEY!) and the wine had already distracted me for a good ten minutes – once I noticed the reflection of the tiara in the wine. And then I had to take a picture (the staging of which took another ten minutes or so). I may or may not have tried taking a picture of the tiara ON the glass, resulting in flecks of glitter floating on top of the wine.

(I guess I’m going to sparkle on the inside as well!)

50! I can’t get over that. Since it’s so late in the year, most of my friends have already turned this particular corner. They now look down on me with the disdain of those a decade older (those who have ‘been there’ and ‘done that’), the look partially mitigated by a condescending smile – the same look I give to ‘kids’ in their 30s.

But I’m okay with that; that will be me next week.

One of my cats just jumped up onto my desk. He doesn’t give a shit about The Big Event coming next week – and I think he likes the sounds my computer makes when he sits his ass on my keyboard. I think he’s older than me, too, judging by the look he gave me after he sniffed the tiara (he already knows better than to go near the wine).



I had so much to say this week, so many things I planned to write about, but right now I’m just enjoying the wine and the night. And the wine. And 49.

And the wine.

As always on the last few days of September, everyone around me becomes just as excited for my birthday as I am – probably just because they can’t wait for me to shut up about it. But, hey, they’re still excited with me.

I love debating the common “Just Another Day” birthday theory. Uh, I don’t think so. The day itself is a gift; I have many friends who didn’t and won’t receive as many as I’ve had right now. You can be as blasé about birthdays as you want but you have to realize that it doesn’t have to be about anything special, just being ‘another’ day is a blessing.


Come Monday, I will have received 18,250 such blessings. I'm a lucky girl. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

COUNTDOWN TO 50 – No More 40-anything

When I turned 49 I realized that I’d have to change the name of my blog. A number of people told me I should still keep the name, but it would honestly bug me to be writing under 40-something when I was 50-something. That actually sent me into a bit of a panic; I loved 40-something Breck Girl, and I would miss her. Now, I know I’m still the same person, but I’m also aware of the changes I’ve gone through all my life up until this point. 

The Un-40-something Breck Girl; the same thing only different.

It was only last week that I finally decided to keep the blog name and just remove the ’40-something’ part (I couldn’t just change it to 50-something; that didn’t have the same flow – and where’s the imagination in that?) but I realized I have blogs with Wordpress and Medium, and Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts (and probably a few more) that are all under the 40-something Breck Girl name.
There’s also the problem (for me) that if I just change the account names the old stuff will be mixed with the new – and I can’t have that!

Two days ago, I finally decided to go with ‘Former 40-something Breck Girl’. I know; it’s not much of a change, but I’m happy with it. I’ll have to create new accounts with the new name now, too. It was my father pointing out something that cinched the name for me when he said that I could keep that ‘former’ name forever because I would always be that. It became clear to me that I should have been aware that any blog name would be temporary; not just because I had an age in the title, but because they were just titles. The books I write and am writing are published under my real name, and once I got more into that I was going to be writing everything under my real name, anyway. That actually took a lot of the pressure off of me!

Whew!

So, very soon I will have my own set of web pages under my own domain name (sueroulusonis.com) and I will link all of my accounts and publications to it.

I can’t even begin to say how happy I am about my upcoming birthday. I love that I’m turning 50! I can feel the changes coming (not just menopausal) and I’m really looking forward to these next ten years.

That’s not to dismiss everything that has happened and has been happening; I just feel like I’m finally coming into my own, and it’s pretty exciting!

In case I forget to mention this (like I almost forgot to write out today’s thoughts), I want to thank all of you who’ve followed along here. I love the comments and feedback, too.

Love,

The Future Former 40-something Breck Girl,

Sue Roulusonis

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

COUNTDOWN TO 50 - Turning 40

Turning 40 felt different than turning 30, and not just because I was older. Technically speaking, I never feel old; I’m older each day of my life, so whatever I feel different is new.

I love this looking back. I’ve almost summed up my thirties for myself, and now I’m thinking about my forties. At 40, I would have said that my thirties were the best ages, but I find myself on the edge of 50 saying the same thing about my forties. I find that unusual because during this past decade I’ve had more negative upheavals - or, rather, changes that were not of my preference – than I had in my thirties, and some of them still hurt even now. Realizing that I enjoyed my forties more despite the bigger traumas says a number of things to me about who I am – things that I am happy to learn about myself in my general outlook and … overall acceptance? (I’ll put all that into words later).

I wrote this next piece minutes into October 2, 2007. I remember thinking how clever I was when I was done!

***

“She took a shower that night, knowing it would be the last time like this. It was strange to think that in a few short hours things would be different. After her shower she decided to blow dry her hair. This was a luxury; with early work hours and children that have to be readied in the morning she would usually let her hair air-dry overnight to save time. But tonight was different; this was to be the last time like this. She stared hard at herself in the mirror, looking to memorize every feature as it was. When she was done with her hair she allowed herself a few moments to admire the end result before brushing her teeth, taking extra time and brushing more carefully, after all (as the thought kept going through her head) this would be the last time like this.

She checked on the kids, who were still sleeping soundly, unaware of the Big Change heading their mother's way. Made sure their clothes were ready for the next day. It seemed strange to her, going through the same motions that she had every night for the past decade as if nothing was different, or nothing was going to be different. But it will be different, she thought.

She looked at the clock. 11:39. Twenty-one minutes left. What else could she do for the last time? She went to the computer and played a couple of games of solitaire. 11:47. She turned off the coffee maker, locked all the doors, turned off all the lights. 11:51. It looked like it was going to happen no matter what. Accepting that there was nothing she could do to stop it, she sat down in front of the clock and waited for it. 11:55...11:56...11:57...11:58...11:59...here it comes, she thought, taking a deep breath.

And then it happened; 12:00 midnight, and...

Nothing.

She waited an extra minute. 12:01. Still nothing. Another minute. 12:02. Again, nothing. She walked back into the bathroom, studying her face in the mirror, looking to see that she still recognized herself. She smiled, feeling a little foolish, but feeling better now that the worst was over.
She went to bed, comforted by the sameness of everything around her, the usual noises inside and outside, the familiar feel of her sheets. As she drifted off to sleep her last thought kept repeating itself through her head.


Funny. I don't feel 40...”

Monday, September 25, 2017

COUNTDOWN TO 50 - The Start of the Countdown and Remembering 30

One week from today I will be turning 50 and will no longer be a 40-something anything. Many things have changed for me this year, not the least of which being the length of my hair - but I will always be a Breck Girl (have no fear, there will be more on that subject this week).
I will start the final countdown with what I wrote for my 30th birthday. I wrote it the night Princess Diana died, caught in a particularly reflective mood thinking about her age and her young children. My oldest daughter was only 3 at the time, and any new mother can tell you all the awful things you find yourself thinking about with the first child. My relationship with her father ended within a year, so that time in general was particularly stressful. I was beginning to learn what I wanted, by learning first what I didn’t want.


So here it is, what I was only just beginning to see and still not able to put into full practice (Baby steps; I’ve come a long way since then, and better at living the ideals I started writing about):


"We Are...Women"

We are children. We are mothers. We are the same, just like you;
But we are unique in so many different ways.
We are not as young as some outside influences say we should want to be ideally, yet we are not so old as to be cast aside and forgotten --as no one at any age should be.
We are old enough to know that which we did not know before, and young enough to realize all that we still have to learn.
We are old enough to know our own shortcomings, and mature enough to take responsibility for them--as well as actions against them,
We are young enough to still make foolish mistakes, and mature enough to be able to laugh at them and our own selves.
We have learned where true beauty lies--And where lasting beauty lives.
We have learned, and are still learning, a truer appreciation and respect for ourselves and our needs, as well as for those around us.
We have reached a point in our lives where we can see the differences between our girlish dreams and aspirations and our adult choices and goals. Although we may mourn the loss of that childish innocence in our hopes for our own futures, we are learning to reconcile the reality of our actual daily lives with what we once wished our lives to be, and at the same time, we are re-learning and re-cultivating a new, child-like enthusiasm in the happy knowledge that our lives are becoming much richer and truer than what they were before, and, as we grow, that pattern will continue.
We know now that we can leave our marks on our corners of the world, and we know how to go about it.
We know now that the older we are, the better we are through our own life experiences,
however painful some may have been.   We are even grateful for those painful events, for through them we've learned our own private strengths, which have given us an added confidence and sense of security in the fact that we are now better armed against future life trials.
With the truths we've learned from our lives up to this point, we are able to stand proudly and face the world, secure in our new strengths, our newer self-confidences, and know that our lives are just beginning---
And we are ready.
We are women.  We are over thirty --
And you can't touch us.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Inspirational Deborah Lane Whalon

I’d known Debbie for many years, but only really got to know her during the last few. A few of my lifetime friends are her lifetime friends; our paths began to cross with regularity more recently, and enough for me to be forever grateful for that exposure.

The word ‘inspiration’ has been used a lot lately among our friends with regard to Debbie – and it’s true, but in more ways than we think. Even the best words can be inadequate when the full meaning behind them becomes lost in translation by overuse and simplified definitions.

I looked up the meaning of ‘inspiration’ and found a few, with slight differences: “A force or influence that inspires someone. The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something. A divine influence directly and immediately exerted upon the mind or soul.”

The first definition is the most simplified. That is the definition we relate to first when we hear or see something that causes us to smile in surprise or awe; when we are shown the good in the bad, or a light in the darkness. I’m going to take the liberty and combine the last two parts of the definitions for the deeper meaning: Inspiration is the divine influence directly and immediately exerted upon the mind and soul that stimulates one to feel something and act on it in some way.

This is what Debbie did. She brought a tribe together, and she will always be there to hold it together. Everyone around her took action in some way, ostensibly for her, but in actuality for all of us together because we are the ones who will continue to benefit from it from now on. Everything we think we did for Debbie at the time served to bring us out of our own selves and closer with each other. Through Debbie, we are more connected.

We post on social media about what our lives are full of. Debbie’s Facebook posts showed that her life to her was more than just about cancer. She incorporated it into her life because she had to, but only allowed it to take up so much space. She never let it define who she was or consume her.

(I have to take a moment to stand up for Debbie here. She had been accused of exposing her illness on Facebook for attention and sympathy, and it bothered her enough to bring it up a few times. To her accusers, let me remind you of one impact of social media: many of us use it frequently, posting pictures and interacting regularly. This actually imposes an odd responsibility in certain cases; someone who posts frequently would get a lot of attention if they just ‘disappeared’ from it - people would start asking questions and making assumptions publicly. There would also be public commentary if pictures showed drastic changes in a person’s appearance. Debbie’s ‘announcement’ nipped the likelihood of that open speculation and scrutiny in the bud, and she did it matter-of-factly, with class.

And to those that could really make that assumption of another in general: you may want to take a look at your own motivations if you truly believe that someone would want to suffer hardship as a means of gain.)

Debbie spoke her mind. She was one of the few people that could actually surprise me with what came out of her mouth. Even if we disagreed, I loved and appreciated her straightforwardness in her beliefs.

Visiting her in the hospital was eye-opening.

(This part, what I’m trying to say right here, is what I’m having the hardest time writing – the part that has had me sitting in front of my computer for hours today alone, and what has prevented me from writing this sooner because I’m afraid I can’t convey what I want to say to the full extent.)

For all intents and purposes, I was visiting a dear friend in the hospital who was very sick – but that’s not what I encountered when I got there. Yes, she was visibly ill, but if you took away all the trappings and signs of that illness, you had Debbie – or even Debbie 2.0. Even sitting in that hospital bed she was still a presence, a force, who seemed to get more of her life done in those few hours than I do in a day. It was almost like Debbie wasn’t sick; she just had many things to attend to and this was only one of them. There are many sayings about inner strength and what causes it to be revealed, but I saw more than that. Her inner strength wasn’t developed by tragic circumstances - it was more like what happens with diamonds, when the pressure brings out the shine of a divinity (yes, I’m using that word, too) that was already there.

And because I still cannot find words that I am happy with, I will rely on the phrase “awe inspiring”. She shone.

I briefly got to witness her interaction with her husband Scott for a little while (I had never met him before). In that short time I saw so many facets of their relationship, of their togetherness and love and mutual support. We talked about her son Tyler, too. Everything they say about a mother’s love was right there in front of me. Tyler, that kind of love will always be there for you.

Scott and Tyler shared Debbie’s last days here with everyone else. (That generosity will never be forgotten.) Even then, while heavily medicated, she made efforts to acknowledge her visitors. I can’t personally consider those obvious efforts a struggle because it was just more of Debbie’s own determination taking charge. It was … impressive.

I’m not the type of person to go to a cemetery to visit someone who’s passed; I visit them whenever I think of them. After the first anniversary of a loved one’s death I ‘forget’ the date and only celebrate their date of birth; this helps to ensure that my memories are happy and my heart is grateful. For me, to dwell on the saddest part of someone’s life does both of us a disservice. A life is full of so much more than what happens at the end. It is human tendency to avoid thinking about what makes us sad; by keeping my thoughts and memories on the happy, I keep them at the forefront of my thoughts – and keep those people with me, all the time. The pictures I save and display are usually of those people in their prime and at the peak of health so that I always think of them that way.

I have pictures of me and Debbie, both before and during her illness. In an unusual turn for me, my favorites are the ones of us together when she was presumably at her worst - pictures taken in the hospital, when she’s not wearing makeup or a hat to cover the hair loss of chemotherapy - because what I felt when I was with her then … what see in her eyes and her smile in those pictures … is Debbie at her most beautiful, her most divine.

And that is truly inspiring.

During my last visit to Debbie while she was in the hospital, she had asked me if I would write her story with her. She mentioned a few things that she wanted me to write about (again, more than just illness), and we set up a plan for how to go about it. That was barely three weeks ago, and two weeks later she was gone … but I am not writing this without her, nor will this be the last piece she influenced – or, rather, inspired.


Thank you Debbie, for the ‘more’ you showed me .

Deborah Lane Whalon
May 31, 1966 - August 7, 2017



Thursday, August 3, 2017

Friends of a Lifetime

I have some very special friends. This year most of us are turning 50 and, as with any milestone birthday, this year comes with a lot of reflection.

Tomorrow, Maryann is taking the plunge. I met Maryann when we were just turning 14, our freshman year of high school in 1981. She sat in front of me in Mr. DeJesus’ Portuguese class, and we were in choir together. I lived vicariously through Maryann – she was so much more ‘worldly’ than I was at that age. After high school we worked together at Sears Surplus; I loved it because we were older and my ‘leash’ was longer once I moved away from home, and I did things with her. She is one solid friend. I think that’s the word that I keep thinking of. When I think about all the things she had to listen to from me … and she still talks to me. She was also the biggest supporter of me following my dreams and writing, even when I pushed it aside.

Next week, Stephanie is jumping into the next decade. I met Stephanie through my first ex in 1992, and was fortunate enough to win her in the divorce. She thinks I’m a nerd and calls me “Adrian” after Talia Shire’s character in Rocky. I like to think it’s just because of the glasses, but she says it’s more than that. Despite that, she knows that she and I are a lot alike. And she still likes me.

I’ll be next, in October (I’ve talked about that enough already, and will do more talking about that later).

Then, in November, it’s Donna’s turn. Donna has been with me since 1973 – I’ve said a lot about her here already, and still haven’t said enough. And she’s pretty much stuck with me (I know too much).

TWENTY YEARS AGO (I love saying that!) we tried to all get together for our 30th birthdays. We smoked cigars to mark the occasion. Donna wasn’t able to make it, but our friend Kim was.




Three friends, from three different periods of my life. All here with me now.

Have you ever ‘mixed’ your friends like that? Do you know how really fun it is to see your friends meet your friends? And how amazing an opportunity it is?

These girls are lifetime friends of mine.

I think about my daughters and their friends, watching who comes and goes and who stays. I hear the same angst in their conversations that I had when I was younger, but now with all this time passed I’m not worried about them and can only reassure them that it will get better as they get older. It takes the age and experience to begin to see the bigger picture about what really matters, and who. Friendships aren’t planned; they happen, and sometimes you don’t even see the beginning until you’re well into it.

I am well ‘into it’ now. And I can look around me and see the wonderful group of people I’m surrounded by. At this age (I love saying that, too!), there are new friends in the picture, too – but they’re not really ‘new’ because I’ve known them for a long time. We built a history together without even realizing it, just by being there, even with the ins and outs and sideways turns of life. Our paths keep crossing.

Whether or not I get to see them a lot, or only a little, I have years’ worth of reminders that make me think of them – probably more regularly than they think. As a part of my history, they are a part of me (the good parts).

Maryann, someday I hope to show you fully how much you mean to me, because I don’t feel that I have adequately. You are still my date for the Oscars when I win Best Screenplay (even if it’s not for my sequel of Mary Poppins).

Stephanie, there’s so much I can’t (and won’t) say here. You know I love you.

Donna … Donna. HAYOU’VEBEENMYFRIENDFORFORTYTHREEYEARS!!!


Happy 50th Birthday, my lifetime friends. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Music for the Massholes (Commonwealth Ave. Construction “Carmageddon 2017” Playlists)

Yesterday’s Globe article written by Sara Salinas opened with the line, “The message from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation is clear: Stay home Monday if you can.” A warning about the impact the construction on Commonwealth Ave. is having on the 'regular' traffic.

As if we can.





While some have said at today’s end that the traffic wasn’t as bad as it could have been, it still wasn’t good.

I sat in that traffic for quite some time this morning, and I was only just going through Boston headed north. I’m one of the lucky ones; I actually enjoy driving, even in traffic – especially now with my brand new car stereo I received as an early 50th birthday gift (Thank you, Dad!).

(No, that doesn’t mean I don’t get annoyed with traffic; it just takes me a little longer to get annoyed.)

During the part of my commute I was actually enjoying, sitting there listening to my music playing loud and drinking my Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, I began to feel bad for the other drivers who clearly weren’t having as good a time as I was.

I came up with a few ideas for music playlists to help ease the extra-heavy commute. Yes, a few – didn’t I mention I was sitting there for quite some time?

The first playlist is the most obvious; the one that mocks the situation, using every song with car, driving, waiting, stuck, etc. references. There is no particular order because you will have plenty of time to listen to each one. Twice.

1.      Highway to Hell – ACDC
2.      Can’t Get There From Here – R.E.M.
3.      Driving My Life Away – Eddie Rabbitt
4.      Traffic Jam – James Taylor
5.      I Can’t Drive 55 – Sammy Hagar
6.      Red Light – Donna Summer
7.      Pull Up to the Bumper – Grace Jones
8.      Turn the Page – Bob Seger
9.      Rush Hour – Jane Wiedlin
10.  No Time Left For You – The Guess Who
11.  Wait – White Lion
12.  Faithfully - Journey
13.  Stuck in the Middle With You – Stealers Wheel
14.  Drive – The Cars
15.  I Drove All Night – Cyndi Lauper
16.  Four’s a Traffic Jam – Peaches and Herb
17.  Gridlock – Warren Zevon
18.  Life is a Highway – Tom Cochrane
19.  I’m Late – The White Rabbit (Disney’s Alice in Wonderland)
20.  Vehicle – The Ides of March
21.  Traffic Jam – “Weird Al” Yankovic
22.  No Parking on the Dance Floor – Midnight Star
23.  On the Road Again – Willie Nelson
24.  Home Sweet Home – Motely Crue
25.  Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen
26.  Drive My Car – The Beatles

Another playlist idea is the Earworm Playlist. One of these songs is bound to get stuck in your head and annoy you so much that you’ll forget about the traffic (it's sort of like stepping hard on someone's foot to make them forget their headache):

1.      Tom’s Diner – Suzanne Vega
2.      Mahna Mahna – The Muppets
3.      The Lion Sleeps Tonight – The Tokens
4.      Hooked on a Feeling (OOGA CHUCKA) – Blue Swede
5.      Who Let the Dogs Out – Baha Men
6.      Whoomp (There It Is) – Tag Team
7.      Hakuna Matata – Timon and Pumbaa (Disney’s The Lion King)
8.      Don’t Worry, Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin
9.      Mambo #5 – Lou Bega
10.  Happy – Pharrel
11.  Gangnam Style - Psy
12.  Achy Breaky Heart – Billy Ray Cyrus
13.  Somebody that I used to Know – Gotye
14.  I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – The Proclaimers
15.  Yellow Submarine – The Beatles
16.  Copacabana – Barry Manilow
17.  Bad Boys – Inner Circle
18.  Fish Heads – Barnes and Barnes
19.  Saturday Night – Bay City Rollers
20.  Tarzan Boy – Baltimora
21.  Da Da Da –Trio
22.  Macarena – Los Del Rio
23.  Mickey – Toni Basel
24.  867-5309 (Jenny) – Tommy Tutone
25.  What Does The Fox Say – Ylvis

This next playlist encourages you to make friends with the people in the cars around you. I call it The Singalong Playlist. Before it gets too hot and people turn the AC on, they will be driving with their windows down. What better way to say “Hello!” and cheer up someone’s day than in inviting them to sing along with you? Roll down your windows and make sure your music is good and loud so you can share it easily. An added benefit is that some of them double as earworm!

1.      Can’t Smile Without You – Barry Manilow
2.      My Girl – The Temptations
3.      Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond (Hell, we’re in Boston!)
4.      867-5309 (Jenny) Tommy Tutone
5.      Don’t Stop Believing - Journey
6.      Macarena – Los Del Rio
7.      Mickey – Toni Basil
8.      Bad Romance – Lady Gaga
9.      Yellow Submarine – The Beatles
10.  Saturday Night – Bay City Rollers
11.  Mony Mony – Tommy James and the Shondells (or Billy Idol’s version)
12.  Copacabana – Barry Manilow
13.  Don’t Worry, Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin
14.  Hakuna Matata – Timon and Pumbaa (Disney’s The Lion King)
15.  Mahna Mahna – The Muppets
16.  Hooked on a Feeling – Blue Swede
17.  We Will Rock You/ We are the Champions – Queen
18.  Jessie’s Girl – Rick Springfield
19.  Mr. Roboto – Styx (Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto!)
20.  Tubthumping – Chumbawumba
21.  The Gambler – Kenny Rogers
22.  Livin’ On a Prayer – Bon Jovi
23.  Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N Roses
24.  Africa – Toto
25.  American Pie – Don McLean

I’m sure you can think of more; the ‘80s was filled with earworm, and how many songs do you know have the word ‘Cruisin’ in the title? If you didn’t get home too late tonight you have time to upload a nice playlist to your MP3 player before you get out there again tomorrow.

A few extra suggestions: Wear your seatbelts. Drive safely. Use your blinkers – and use them properly: turn them on and then look first before changing lanes (the two actions are not supposed to happen simultaneously). Go before you go; nothing makes traffic more uncomfortable than a full bladder (and don’t load up on the coffee or water).

Of course, these are all just suggestions. Make traffic fun, or not – either way you’ll still be sitting in it. Like Guns N Roses sang, “All we need is just a little patience.”

And just think how much easier the normal rush hour commute will be in 3 weeks.