Friday, May 29, 2009

It All Started With Jello

Sometimes, the strangest thing brings a family together. 

Mom and Dave knew each other over the years simply by living in the same small town.  They didn't really "know" each other but they were familiar and said hello in passing.  Fast forward many years and both were single-- Mom in her late 50s, Dave in his late 60s.

On their third date, they decided to get married!  When Mom called to tell me she was marrying Dave, I blurted out "Who the hell is Dave?".  Not a terribly joyful response, I know, but come on-- Three weeks?  Was she crazy?

Our whole family was pretty freaked out.  I have four siblings and let me tell you-- We burned up the phone lines the night we all got the wedding news.  I lived in San Francisco at the time and booked a flight to Ohio the following weekend to check this guy out!

You see, my Mom was a great catch-- Beautiful, successful, independent, a fabulous cook, the works.  I thought for sure she'd hit her head and was suffering from temporary insanity. That was the only logical explanation!  And Dave-- well, he must have swept her off her feet in her compromised state and was really looking for a live-in maid-- not a great love.   

Not on my watch!

When I arrived at the airport, there stood my beaming mother and a sweet looking guy I assumed was Dave.  I hugged Mom warmly to send the message I was "protective" of her. Then, while I was giving him the once-over, Dave gave me a big hug like we were long lost friends.  Oh, so that's the way it's going to be, huh?  We'll see about that.

When we got to the parking lot, Dave put my luggage down and opened our car doors, then, dealt with the bags.  The whole 40 minute drive home, Dave was friendly and chatty and well, I thought--  You gotta love a guy for trying-- but I wasn't buying it. 

Mom didn't move when the car stopped in the driveway and told me to "stay put". Dave hopped out and came around to the passenger side, opened our doors and helped us both out.  Then he carried my very heavy bags up the stairs and placed them in the guest room.  Try as he may, it will take more than a few manners to soften me up.

The next day was Saturday and Mom ran the town's Farmer's Market.  She was up at 4:30AM and I heard a car pull in the drive way shortly thereafter.  It was Dave picking her up!  He would help with set-up and keep Mom company at the Market. I'll admit, 4:30AM is not my favorite time of day so I really thought-- you gotta love a guy for trying.

Around noon I walked down to the Market.  While Mom was busy, I cornered Dave and started firing questions at him-- Who, what, when, where and W H Y my Mother? He was lovely and sweet and gracious and funny and, damn-- really, really nice as he answered my questions. And everyone at the Market knew he was my Mom's boyfriend! Apparently my sibs and I were the last to know.  

Later that night, Dave was cooking a big, meet-the-family-dinner to "officially celebrate" their engagement.   My family is a very loud crowd.  In fact, I suspect you might have heard a sonic boom when we're all in the same place at the same time. Tonight was no exception, except for when we said Grace.

Mom has us hold hands around the dinner table to say Grace before each meal.  The difference this time was that Dave led the prayer.  This was Mom's "territory" and I couldn't believe she was cutting her fave part of the meal loose after less than a month! Yikes, she must have really hit her head something fierce.

As soon as my brother took one bite of Dave's pot roast he was sold and suddenly the guy's new best friend.  My youngest sister caved when she realized the biscuits were from scratch.  

My other two sisters and I were holding our ground and playing 20 Questions with good old Dave.  But he won my oldest sister over when she realized he also had 5 kids of his own, and my middle sister folded with his dog lover comment-- the suckers. But not me!  I was there to defend our Mother's honor and get to the bottom of this guy's motives.

Mom played the whole thing very cool.  I caught her winking a few times at Dave for moral support but she didn't bail him out of any tough questions.  Honestly, Dave was going toe-to-toe with me and again, all I could say was-- you gotta love a guy for trying, but enough was enough!  There simply had to be a "catch".

After clearing the dishes, Dave settled us all back at the table so he could "present" Mom with a special dessert. Ha!  There wasn't a snowball's chance in hell Dave would come up with a perfect dessert for our Mom.   He simply had not been around long enough to know Mom's favorite (and unusual) "dessert" foods-- The things she loves the most but you'd never know unless you spent a LOT of time with her.  Mom will finally come out of her crazy, love-stuck spell!

And then he did it!

Dave walked out of the kitchen with Jello!  Not just any Jello either.  Dave found a recipe that used 1) Jello  2) Cool Whip  3) Cream Cheese and 4) Pretzels.  ALL of Mom's favorite treats! Seriously, if she had her way, Mom would live on these four foods alone and Dave had a recipe that used them all at once-- And it was G O O D !

That night, with our very loud family gathered around Mom's dining table, eating Jello Salad, I knew I really loved Dave for not only trying, but for succeeding at making our Mom happy.  

That dinner was more than 20 years ago.

What brings your family together?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor  -  Joanna

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tag Anyone?

Blame it on Diane!  Really, it's all her fault.  I was minding my own business just cooking blind one day and poof, there she was with this game of Tag.  I tried to pretend I didn't get the message but there was simply no denying it. 

I wondered if something sinister might happen if I didn't play along.  You know, like with those chain letters saying to just add glitter and stir within the next 15 minutes or the chain will be broken and things will go to hell faster than you can say Green-Eyed Momster.  I'm afraid not to play along so please humor me.  I promise this is cheaper than therapy and no one will get hurt.

I'm supposed to write an entertaining story to make you laugh, cry, holler, Etcetera, Etc., but frankly that might take me 365 days and well, Blah, blah, blah, blog, time's short.  I've got a bus to catch before the crazy lady on road 80 drops by to discuss her countless chocolate covered daydreams.  She might be the coolest mom on the block but frankly, I don't give a Rat Sass today.  I really need to pick up some yooper yarns before Jane at the Garden Gate closes at 5pm.

You see, when Gran speaks, I listen, and since her queen size funny bone is acting up, I need to take care of the "to do" list she gave before the the sun sets and all the nanny goats in panties are scooped up never to be seen again.

Goats, you say?  Yes, goats.  Your mom knows but won't tell you the reason my Gramma 2 many is so desperate to get her hands on those goats, but I will.  It's simple really.  Gran doesn't give a rootietoot about the goats, it's the panties made of yooper yarns that she wants.  Yes, the panties!

Rumor has it, the panties are part of Annie's Travel Treasures, not the Rockefeller's treasures or any of their relatives, and that is what makes them extremely valuable!  Apparently, when wearing the special panties, people feel ticklish from a distance and are apt to tell you the secret that's in the sauce!  And that's a very big deal, especially if you are lost and found in India.

You see, Gran's going to India soon and even though Diet Coke rocks, you can't get any in India if you don't know the secret is in the sauce-- And it's not curry baby.  That's why I need to catch the bus because Gran won't stop screaming while I'm driving, especially if I'm under the influence of Diet Coke!

Oh jeez, now there's a car coming up the driveway.  All this suburb sanity is starting to get to me.  It's nearly noon and I've been at work, at play, at home all day and not gotten to Gran's "to-do" list yet.  I may be loving Annie but I'm sneaking out the back door.  Please don't tell her.  I'll swing by Lulu's Sandbar for a quick bite of seasonality, run to Beetle's for some goat food and then stop at Lilly's Life for my daily dose of TLC before I gather up a couple of goats in panties for Granny.

Don't take it personally if I missed your blog in this jumbled mess.  LindanJake might be mad they weren't included but I know Lucky 13 and counting will be relieved she doesn't have this game of Tag to play with her house full of kids.  As for the rest of you, I know, I know, you'll play this game of Tag when pigs fly.

This is a new way of tagging people. It's a short story, and if you want to join be my guest. If you can find a reference that relates to you, consider yourself tagged-- or not.  You don't have to link to anyone, or go to anyone else's page. But you have to come up with an entertaining story including tags of your friends.  Like I said, blame it on Diane-- but for me, it was fun trying to use as many blog names that I could.  Thanks to Diane at Cooking Blind for the idea. 

Welcome to The Fifty Factor  -  Joanna

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What Do You Do?

Oh the dreaded dinner party conversation-- The topic that always come up, especially when men are doing the talking--  The "What Do You Do?" for a living conversation.

My husband and I regularly make the rounds on the "rubber chicken" circuit.  You know, the charity fund raising dinners and the business award banquets where you find yourself at a table full of strangers trying to make chit chat while some perky event chairperson on stage is asking people to take their seats, so the dreadfully long presentations can get started-- before the "rubber chicken" is served.  

In the year since I've retired, we've attended about a dozen such events and they all pretty much end up being the same thing.  That thing, in my case, is defeat.

For starters, the meals always costs at least $200 a plate-- All usually to a charitable cause, but still, $200 is $200!  And, the dinners often take way to long from start to finish, before you can then stand in the crowded valet parking line to get the heck out of there, before your feet-- in your "2 hour, 4-inch heels" self implode, because you've been wearing them for over 3 hours and your "comfortable shoes quota" has been met for the night.  

I've done so many of these dinners over the years, mostly at the same two or three hotel ballrooms, that I know what the entree will is based on which salad is served-- Caesar salad is followed by lemon chicken, unidentifiable vegetable puree and flourless chocolate cake.  Mix greens with edible flowers (What is that about anyway?) comes with chicken Marsala, whipped potatoes and a trio of sorbets and cookies.  And if you are lucky enough to get the greens with citrus wedges, you'll also get grilled chicken with the tiniest fillet of beef you've ever seen, along with creme brulee and fresh berries.  Trust me on this, I get around.

Once everyone is finally seated, guests start dodging the white-gloved waiters serving the salad dressing over our shoulders, while the idol chit chat starts up.  Seating is almost always alternating boy - girl, which means some full-of-himself man is usually sitting next to me-- Most often either a young, hip entertainment Agent or an older, very distinguished, stuffed shirt executive.  

When it's a business related dinner, these men have "worked the table" to sit next to someone equal to his intelligence and job stature.  I'm not kidding, you can see the jockeying-- Their wife/date is popping up and down in various seats around the table so the man can get the seat next to the table's "power player".  It's funny to watch, and since I don't really care who I sit with, I plop down in a seat that allows me to see the stage, in case by some lucky change, there is actually good entertainment at the soiree.  I save the seat next to me for my husband who's also off "working the room".  

And there I sit--  Fifty-something and retired, looking a bit like an over the hill trophy wife (which I am not-- a trophy wife, I mean.)   But, since I refuse to (Or is it, no longer have to?) play this game, I often feel like all the table jockeying is similar to being the last kid picked for the team in elementary school.

Anyway, since I don't engage in this kind of table hockey anymore, the man "stuck" next to me has dismissed me before the introductions have even begun, and is totally ignoring me and my overtures to chat.  If I can't get his attention to pass the dinner rolls, I know it's going to be a long night.

Eventually the man to my left, will reach his hand in front of me to introduce himself to my husband.  Since my husband has heard me complain about this ritual on more than one occasion, he immediately introduces me to the rude guy with his elbow in my face.  I don't mention that he's just dragged his tuxedo sleeve through my salad dressing.  He can figure that out on his own.

We all chat pretty much about nothing and then get back to our salads.  As plates are being cleared my seat mate starts up with the "What do you do?" questioning.  It took me a while to figure this one out.  In the beginning, I proudly proclaim that I recently retired.  But I started noticing the most annoying response--  The men's eyes would roll to the back of their head, followed by a fast scan of the table for an empty, "better" seat to change too.  In other words, the men seated next to me act like they got a lemon for a seat mate-- an empty headed woman that brought absolutely nothing to the party--their party.  It's as if I've became instantly invisible and totally irrelevant.  I kid you not!  

About the third time this happened, I thought maybe I should make up some bazaar job or life adventure to answer the predictable line of questioning.  But, that seemed like too much work.  Afterall, I didn't turn stupid simply because I'd earned the right to retire.  And, I live a very full life by the way.  Sure, I don't actually enjoy retirement, but I do a ton of meaningful charity work to take the place of my former career.  Apparently that doesn't count-- at least not at most banquet tables.

I've noticed a couple of other things about these men too.  If they are a young Agent, they usually have a lovely, usually wannabe actress, as a date.  Young Agents are usually too busy to be married.  And the older execs, always have a lovely wife by their side, who rarely speaks-- or is spoken to.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  It's just a trend I've noticed.

So what's my beef?  I think it's all tied to my angst over being 50-something and feeling invisible.  50 and retirement at the same time was probably not my best idea. Retirement with this huge chip on my shoulder, not so smart either.  But how to cope with these two major life changes escapes me.  

At 49 I would have described myself as a successful business woman with a well rounded life.  Actually, if asked "what I did" I would have said I was an advertising executive-- Something most table mates found interesting.   And that's probably the core of the problem. I identified myself too closely by "what I did" in my job, rather than "who I am" as a person.  Since I am no longer working, I'm not sure who I am or who I'm supposed to be anymore.  

I know "complaining" about retirement in these tough economic times is not politically correct.  And honestly, if retirement was on the table today, I'd have never done it specifically because of these economic times.  But I did and that's that.  Now it seems, my full time job is trying to figure out how to make this transition a successful one.   It's a journey and I am definitely open to suggestions!

As for all those fund raisers we attend-- My all time favorite entertainment industry fund raiser was The No Show Ball.  I loved that one.  Their beautiful invitations arrived each year-- oh so clever and inviting.  All you had to do was send the charity your loot and you got to stay home and eat hot dogs (or what ever you wanted) in your jammies-- guilt free!  That's my kind of gala.  And there's none of the annoying chit chat.

How do you identify yourself?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor  -  Joanna

Monday, May 25, 2009

This Will Make Me Sound Old-- Butt...

What is it with guys and their pants?  To be more specific, what is it with their underwear and their butt cracks showing?  

I recently attended a high school graduation party with a bunch of teenage guys who were oh so cool with their low, baggy jeans-- all gangsta style, hip and full of attitude.  I understand peer pressure and the need to fit in, which means how they dress plays a part.  But I also know the day will come, in their middle-age, when they'll cringe at photos from their past-- kind of like I do with the wild perms and big hair photos of my youth.  At least I hope they'll be cringing rather than still wearing the same hideous look as adults.

It's just so hard for my 50-something brain to wrap around this fashion trend and how shopping works.  Do guys buy jeans in their waist size or their butt size? And, what about the length-- Is it based on the jeans pulled up or falling down?  And how do the pants actually stay up. Most teenage boys I know don't even have a butt!  What gives?

Back in my day, if someone saw I guy's underwear showing it meant he'd get a wedgie until the underwear elastic was torn off.  When did things change so drastically?  Are the underwear showing teens of today the off-spring of the poor guys from high school who always used to get underwear wedgies?

Have you noticed many of these guys parade around public in their pajamas too-- You know the elastic-waisted flannel sweats.  Even in their pajamas they seem to think it's imperative we all still see their underwear and butts!  Why?  But what I'd really like to know is-- when they're alone at home (in front of their mother!), do they walk around in their pajamas with their butts showing or, do they finally pull their britches up? 

I know, I know, if I'm asking these questions I'm too old to understand.  All I can say is thank gawd I only had to worry about wild hair trends and bad perms in my day because my parents would not have let me leave the house with my butt showing.  Never.  Ever.

Fortunately, by the time I was into the ripped sweatshirt fashion trend ala Flashdance, I was already in my own apartment.  Mom would have had a fit over that fashion statement too.

What was the fashion statement (mistakes?) of your youth?
Welcome to  -  Joanna  -  Inspired by my friend Jane @ Jane at the Garden Gate

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Little Miss Muffin Top

I knew it was time to retire during an important business meeting with a group of twenty-something Vice Presidents.  I had just pitched a totally hip and very irreverent movie campaign targeted to 18 year old guys. My clients loved it!  

It was a done deal and I nearly jumped up to belly slam the VPs.  (Kidding, but I was excited.)  Then I heard the 25 year old Sr. VP say, in her too sweet, squeaky voice say, "I can't believe YOU came up with this idea!"  The YOU she meant was ME-- a then nearly 50 year old ME! Translation:  I was old enough to be her mother and couldn't possible be that cool.

Talk about a buzz kill.  She called me O L D -- To my face. In front of a room full of other 20-something people. Who thought it was funny.  Damn!  

Was I gracious about her "old age" implications?  No, actually, I wasn't.  I remained silent and let her dig her embarrassed, muffin-topped ass out of the conversation, while I mentally calculated how much more I was going to charge her for the campaign she loved so much.

I was 49 1/2 at the time and will never forget that day.  It felt like the beginning of the end.  Everywhere I turned, 50 was screaming at me with all it's ugly, over the hill, implications.  I was not happy.

But wait!  When I turned 50 I could retire if I wanted to!   That's a big deal!  Not everyone can kick back before Social Security kicks in.  I'd reached a milestone, a huge accomplishment, the American Dream for crying out loud.  So why did I feel so bad?

I did not like being viewed as, "the old dog on the porch". I fancied myself as hip, in touch and still at the top of my game.  But dealing with ever-younger executives was, frankly, exhausting.  

I thought long and hard about retirement.  The last thing I wanted to do was walk away from a successful business for all the wrong reasons.  But as the months passed, I knew it was the right decision for me.

So I phased out my business and jumped into retirement.  
And hated it!  

No longer working 12 hour days left me with a lot of time on my hands.  The silence nearly killed me.  The sheer boredom, despite a ton of charity work and a mile long "to-do" list, was painful.  And, the lack of focus and purpose nearly drove me nuts.  This is not what I had planned.

It's been a little over a year since I retired.  Although I'm still trying to find my way, I have to admit, being bored out of my mind is still way better than doing business with 20-somethings all day long.

Have you ever had the "old dog on the porch" feeling?
Welcome to  -  Joanna

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mystery Man in Milan

The days when companies few their exec First Class are long gone-- at least in my universe, but I am grateful for one particular First Class flight from Milan, Italy to Los Angeles more than 20 years ago.  

After two grueling weeks at a major business gathering located inside what looked like a bomb shelter-type bunker, with no windows and sometimes, it seemed, no air, I was ready to fly back to Los Angeles and sleep in my own bed.  I was exhausted and looked it.

My flight was one of those early morning ones, where you had to be up at the ungodly hour of 4am, to get to the airport in time for the three hour check in procedure, even though you could cut to the chase and enter the First Class Club for this airline and speed through the process in 30 minutes.  

I'd dragged my sorry self out of the very warm but uncomfortable hotel bed, threw on a big sweater, leggings and a pair of red sneakers.   (Yes, leggings-- It was the late 80s.)  My hair was pulled in a ponytail and the only make-up I wore was lipstick-- Not my usual professional attire but I was exhausted. Leaving a day early from the conference, I felt fairly confident I wouldn't be running into any business associates looking like a tired tiny-bopper.  Plus, at that hour of the morning, I didn't really care.

When I arrived at the airport, it was surprisingly empty. Sure it was still dawn, but it was a ghost town in there. As I made my way to the First Class Club, I hoped it wasn't too crowded either so I could stretch out on a sofa and wait the 2 1/2 hours before our flight.

The First Class Club was waiting for us.  Uh-oh....   The airline knew they had mistakenly confirmed the wrong flight time to about a dozen First Class passengers the day before.   They were sorry about the mistake, but we were at the airport 8 1/2 hours before the scheduled departure time.  I nearly wept.   

I was traveling with a co-worker, Harvey, who took it all in stride.  Me?  Not so happy. So we got some danish and juice from the buffet and parked on the far side of the room, well away from all the other unhappy passengers.  

As I bitched to Harvey about the delay, a man walked into the Club and I instantly knew, without a doubt, that my life had just changed forever.  I froze and stopped talking mid-sentence to stare.  I had no idea who he was or what just happened.  All I could do was pray--  Please god let him be American!  

No, it was not love at first sight or even lust for that matter.  It was nothing like that.  It was a strange, make the hair on the back of my neck stand up, kind of overwhelming feeling that life as I knew it was going to be totally different from that moment forward.  My brain raced trying to piece my feelings and emotions together.  

I was not the kind of girl that ever swooned over guys or longed for a man to call my own.  Nor did I need or desire to be "married with children".  That was all the furthest thing from this focused, career woman's mind.  I had my eye on a corner office not a white picket fence. So what the hell was happening?

Harvey followed my stunned gaze to the man across the room. Lucky for me, he knew the mystery man and invited him to join us.   Dear Harvey was a seasoned salesman and chatted him up, which was a good thing, since I was still trying to regain my composure.  Nothing like this had ever happened to me before and let me tell you-- I was freaking out inside!

After a short while, the receptionist came over with good news. The airline was taking us off the airport grounds for lunch. Okay with me, I thought, as long as the mystery man goes.  I'd follow him anywhere.

About ten of us rode a big, fancy, luxury bus out into the country, to a gorgeous villa, where we were fed mountains of food and endless wine.  The three of us sat together, and all through the meal, Harvey was asking probing questions to find out if mystery man was single or married.  Try as he may, mystery man pretty much stuck to business chatter and we knew little about his personal life when we left the villa to return to the airport.

When we finally boarded the plane, mystery man was four rows behind use so I asked-- okay I shamelessly begged, Harvey to get to the bottom of his "availability" while I slept.  I was blurry-eyed by this point (no thanks to drinking wine at 9am) and wanted to catch a nap.   Harvey agreed and I was asleep before the plane took off.

The next thing I knew, Harvey was nose-to-nose with me. I opened my eyes and with much enthusiasm he said, "I have great news.  He's getting a divorce!" 

Harvey babe-- Do I look like I was born yesterday?  Do you know how many times I've heard THAT line from a guy before? Get back there and find out exactly what "getting divorced" means and don't wake me up until you can bring me DETAILS!   I know, kinda bitchy, but I was so tired and slightly hungover.

Bless his heart, a few hours later, Harvey was shaking my arm to wake up.  Turns out mystery man really was getting divorced. He'd been out of the house for well over a year and was just waiting on the papers to be finalized. Thank gawd!   I was a happy girl again.

With a wink, Harvey was gone and got mystery man to sit next to me!  We spent the next several hours talking and laughing, all the while the "life changing" feelings I had continued to grow.   Just before the flight landed, he and Harvey switched back to their original seats.  

Being a salesman, Harvey asked if I'd "closed the deal" and had a date with mystery man back in Los Angeles.  I did not. Damn.

The three of us walked to baggage claim together and said our good-byes like any other business travelers would-- casually and rushed, as we looked for our bags and grabbed taxis home.  My heart sank.

We woked in the same industry, and I had a high profile job, so mystery man would be able to find me-- if he wanted to.  But I wasn't taking any chances.  That night, I mailed  him a note with my business card, telling him how much I enjoyed our conversation.  Let me tell you-- I was sweating bullets the morning I knew he would get that card.  So you can imagine the excitement when my assistant asked if I'd take his call.  Hell yes!

It was the first Monday in November, 1988.  We made a date for that Friday.  Since I'd looked like an exhausted wreck when we flew together, I made a big point to look my best on Friday night. When I opened the door for mystery man, I caught him doing a double take to check that he was at the right apartment.  There I was in my best "big hair, short skirt, high heeled look-- like I said, it was the late 80s.

That was our first date.  Our second date was the next night; third date the night after that.  And the rest, as they say, is history.  

By the way, my life did change in just about every imaginable way.  Swear to god.... true story.  I'm a lucky girl.

Now, if you asked my husband about our life-changing encounter at the Milan Airport he'd simply say --  "She picked me up."

Have you had a life changing moment?

Welcome to TheFiftyFactor  -  Joanna

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Graduation Dilemma

Is your mailbox full of them?  Mine sure it.  It's graduation season and let me tell you, apparently I know some very proud parents!  Six more graduation announcements arrived in the mail today and I'm not just talking about high school and college either.

Today I got an announcement for a 5th grade "Culmination"-- Because apparently, making it through the 5th grade and on to middle school is a major, life altering accomplishment. It's a lovely, professionally printed announcement, complete with a photo of Junior. It includes an RSVP card to the "reception in his honor". Huh?  Am I missing something?  Is it standard operating procedure these days to book the Four Seasons for 5th graders?   No your eyes are not failing you-- It's at The Four Seasons Hotel!

Another was not so professional looking and obviously hand addressed by the 8th grade "graduate"; who had made it through middle school but missed the class on how to address an envelope.   This announcement was from the child of a long lost friend I hadn't talked to since the baby shower-- for the "graduate".  

Making it to high school is another milestone lost on me. Who knew finishing eight grades of early education was such a big deal?  Or is it?  I have no idea.

Then there were two announcements from kids actually graduating from high school.  That's an accomplishment in my book and cause for celebration!  You've seen their announcements before--  Embossed in the school colors with swirly type, an envelope inside a bigger envelope with the little tissue paper separating them.  Both arrived with just the announcement-- No photo, no note, nothing.  No handwriting on the envelopes either-- just printed labels with me name spelled wrong.

And the last two received today were from college grads which is a very big deal.  One was addressed in beautiful calligraphy and included a photo of the party girl graduate who took five, instead of four years, to graduate-- you know, so she had enough time to like, party.  

The last was from a grad I actually know and love and included a fun family photo and a lovely hand written note thanking me for always keeping in touch with her while she was out of state at college.

And those are just the ones I received today.  At last count, I've received 14 graduation announcements if you include the ones sent by-- Facebook!  Yes, I was actually Facebooked with three graduation announcements by proud business associates.

In the interest of full disclosure, I do not have kids of my own and therefore cannot relate to the magnitude of a child's graduation like a parent might.  However, I'm pretty sure galas for 5th graders and announcements for 8th graders are a little over the top-- Especially since I have absolutely no idea why I'm even on their announcement list radar in the first place.

So my question is simple.  Am I supposed to send all of these kids graduation gifts?  Is there a "grade level" rule, a "friendship" rule, a "business courtesy" rule, or a time frame for the "last contact" rule?  Where does one draw the line with proud parents and gifts for their, err, um, brilliant, deserving, accomplished children?  I want to do the right thing here and I'm totally lost.

I'm not trying to be cheap either, really I'm not.  It's just that I don't recall ever getting this many announcements before-- mostly from people I've barely communicated with in years, and never for elementary and middle school students.  

Yes, I know I need to acknowledge some of the grads and their parents that I have a relationship with.  But the long lost friends? The business associates who barely do business with me?  The party girls who will never work a day in their lives?  What about them?  And do I have to send a 5th grader a gift if I don't go to the Four Seasons reception?  

So bring it on my dear blog friends.  I have checkbook in hand-- What's a girl to do with so many graduation announcements and so little experience in the matter?

PS  All bets are off for kindergarten "graduations". Those are so stinking cute I wouldn't dream of missing one!  

Welcome to TheFiftyFactor  -  Joanna

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I. Hate. Earthquakes.

Note:  Update - It's now Tuesday around 3:55pm PT - and we had another one on the same fault line.  This was a 4.1 with a big jolt!   Grrrrrr!!!!!!

We interrupt this blog for an earthquake.

So hear I sit, trying not to hyperventilate, because we just has a fairly big earthquake in Los Angeles.  For the record-- I.  Hate. Earthquakes!

It's Sunday night, so all the local news networks have their "B" teams working.  Only one is actually even broadcasting at the moment.  Gawd forbid, local news interrupts national prime-time programming to report live breaking news.  (It's about 8:45pm PT).  Nothing against them, but it's a skeleton crew and they haven't said anything other than-- "Whoa!  Did you feel that shaker!"  Seriously, that's what the Sunday night news anchor had to say.   It was not comforting.

Ten minutes later, I still know NOTHING.  Not how big, where it was centered or the size of the aftershocks. What do I know? Well, I know it lasted 15 seconds (that feels like 2 hours in earthquake time) and started with a grumble that turned into what sounded like a helicopter hovering over our house-- A weird, vibrating feeling and not an earthquake noise I've heard before.  

My husband was upstairs and he said it was really swaying up there.  Down here it vibrated so instantly-- and for so long, that I actually yelped.  (Yes, I yelped, and no, I'm not embarrassed for being such a wimp.)  In the past several months we've had a lot of earthquake activity and well, damn it!  I'm not liking it.

I was raised in Ohio where earthquakes are rare (as in-- never in my lifetime) so you can imagine how much fun this is for me.  I lived in Los Angeles in 1994 when we had the last really big ass one-- The 6.9 or 7.2 shaker depending on who you're talking to. It was nasty and our house broke.  After that one, I spent two weeks sitting in my wide open back yard away from anything that could fall on me (again).  If I wasn't a brand new newlywed at the time, I'd have pried open our garage door, gotten in my car and driven East as fast as I could.

Did I mention I.  Hate.  Earthquakes?

Oh, now the girl on the news announced it was a 5.0 quake. Crap.  That's big, although she's calling it "moderate".   I'm sitting in my tv room, looking across the hall.  All of my hanging pictures (big paintings) are cock-eyed and crooked.  My husband is running around the house checking for cracks and object on edges (object bounce off shelves in earthquakes).   I gave up checking for cracks years ago. There is no such thing as "crack-free" walls in Los Angeles.

Crap-- There's another aftershock-- A slow roller.  I feel seasick. Grrrrr.  And the 5.0 was centered 10 miles from here.  Dang!

So now the tv news girl is getting all fired up and using words like "violent shaking", "dramatic vibrations", "frightened, mortified, hysterical callers into the tv station" (No, not me). Oh, really now,  she's not helping at all.  I need to find another channel.  Nothing.  I'm turning the tv off-- And thinking god we still have power. There is nothing worse than an earthquake at night with no lights!  

Ahh, that's better, I turned  on a portable radio and am sitting in the back yard.  It's freezing outside but I feel better now.  The old guy working the Sunday night radio shift has been through this a lot and is so calming.  I can almost breathe again.

Shit--  Another aftershock!  The aftershock mentioned about was a 3.1, this one feels a little smaller.  Phew.  

Why on earth I'm blogging is beyond me, but I somehow feel safer since my husband has LEFT ME ALONE  in the back yard to poke around in the basement.  Don't worry about me honey!

There's a caller on the radio talking to the old guy.  She's upset about her Winnie the Pooh plate collection falling off the shelf in the earthquake.  I don't know if I should laugh or cry.

Great-- They just lowered the rating to a 4.7 earthquake,not a 5.0.  Why is that not more comforting to me?!?

It's been about 5o minutes now.  The radio guy is saying no injuries reported so that's great.  Maybe it's okay to go back in the house-- To put on all my cloths, my sneakers, my coat and my hard hat, along with my emergency whistle around my neck. Then I'll try to settle in and get some sleep..... Or not.

Thanks for keeping me company.  

Welcome to TheFiftyFactor  -  Joanna

Friday, May 15, 2009

What Happened To Patriotism?

Did you ever NOT speak up when you really wanted to rip into someone?  Then, after keeping your mouth shut, you gave yourself a good talking to about it for days, because you SHOULD have spoken up at that moment no matter how crazy things were or what the consequences might have been?  Well, I had one of those moments last week and I'm still mad at myself about it!

I take a round-trip Continental Airlines flight between Los Angeles and Cleveland several times a year.  In the past three months I've taken it three times; but for last week's trip I was nervous about the Swine Flu.   Yes, I was the only paranoid passenger wearing a surgical mask and wiping down my tray table with disinfectant.   People were looking at me like I was a nut case but I figured better safe than sorry.   But my mask was not what made this flight so unusual.  

This flight was packed-- really packed, especially for a Monday afternoon.  Before long, the overhead compartments were filled with business men's carry-on suitcases and their briefcases-- Because gawd forbid anything ever went under the seat in front of a businessman

When businessmen are traveling together, it's pretty easy to tell who the "Boss Man" is and who the "Worker Bees" are.  Translation-- the Boss is usually a pompous jerk who wants everyone around him to know that HE'S "the boss" while the Worker Bees are bowing and trying to please his sorry ass.  This flight was no exception.

(Of course not all businessmen are this way but I've known and seen more than my share over the years so I'm pointing the finger at them in relationship to this story.  I know there are some really great businessmen out there too.)

Back to the flight...

We had a perky, 50-something flight attendant with short reddish-brown pixie hair and super strong arms and legs.  I knew they were strong because she was slinging suitcases and climbing on seats to push bags around in the overhead bins like they were filled with feathers.  But the more bags she shuffled, the louder her "I'm not loving my job" attitude came across. 

She stood out from the the attendants in part because her dress was too short and we saw way more of her than we needed to see-- if you catch my drift, and in part, because she was, well, bitchy-- in a perky kind of way. When the overhead bins were full she'd slam them shut and gave anyone who tried to open them the evil eye before directing them to an open bin instead.  

Anyway, on this flight, was a very polite, very nice, and very young, United States Marine traveling with his Dress Blues uniform in a special hanging bag that left no doubt it was "official" in United States Marine Corps. packaging.  You've seen these fancy uniforms before in a military color-guard or other special military events. Their high collars, crisply pressed with striking trim, are very Proud-To-Be-An-American looking.  These aren't the every-day uniforms and you take notice when you see a Marine wearing one-- or carrying one.

Our young Marine carried his Dress Blues with great respect like it was fine crystal.  So you can only imagine how very careful and thoughtful he was about where he placed his Dress Blues in the overhead bin.  He scoped out the perfect spot after everyone else had stashed their carry-ons and after Miss Bitchy-Perky flight attendant had closed the overhead bins declaring them full.  Then he carefully opened the perfect bin with room to spare, and without moving anyone else's gear, gently laid his uniform bag on top before closing the bin, which happened to be directly over my head.  I literally saw him breathe a sigh of relief when his Dress Blues were in a safe place.  Phew!  Thank gawd Miss Bitchy-Perky hadn't see him.

Do you think that was the end of it?  Not even close.  

One of the very last passengers to board was a pain in the butt Boss Man traveling with a Worker Bee.   The Boss primped and strutted his way to the back of the plane making sure everyone knew that he usually flies First Class but "his" Worker Bee (as if he owned him) had screwed up his reservation and he had to sit in the "cheap seats" with the rest of us peasants.   He stopped at the empty seat in front of me and almost smacked right into Miss Bitchy-Perky; who told him to turn around and check his bag at the door.  All bins were full. 

Check his bag?  Over his dead body!

Boss Man treated Bitchy-Perky like she was invisible and proceed to open the full bin with the Dress Blues, directly above my head.   He started shoving and pushing bags around, pulling other people's stuff out, and then slung his way-too-big-to-even-be-on-the-plane-suitcase directly on top of the United States Marine's Dress Blues uniform bag. 


Then, before the poor Marine could fly out of his seat, three rows back, to save his Dress Blues, Boss Man barked at Worker Bee to hand him his briefcase (which the Worker Bee was actually carrying for him along with all his own crap!) and tried to cram the briefcase in on top of the Dress Blues too!

Well, you can imagine the tizzy Miss Bitchy-Perky flew into over Boss Man's bags.  At the moment she happened to be carrying an arm load of blankets over her head (Why they were over her head, I do not know.).  She did one of those things you see two years olds do in a temper tantrum-- She dropped her arms like wet noodles and let the blankets fall-- on my head. (Ewwww-- those things are nasty and I was sure the Swine Flu was all over me! Thank gawd for the mask and wipes!)  Then she started pointing her finger and yelling at Boss Man-- who yelled back.  Meanwhile the poor U.S. Marine was all "Sir and "Ma'am" trying to get to his uniform out of the middle of all this before his perfectly pressed Dress Blues looked like an old dish rag.

Miss Bitchy-Perky was really bitchy now and pulled the uniform bag from under Boss Man's suitcase, crushing it over her arm.  When the polite United State Marine asked for the uniform, Bitchy-Perky did the exact same thing with his uniform that she did with the blankets. She dropped it on the floor!!!!  

Oh!  My!  Gawd!  

Still sitting in my seat and without saying a word, I picked up the uniform to hand it to the Marine and Bitchy-Perky actually snatched it out of my hands and, after yelling at Boss Man one more time, threw the Dress Blues on the floor again!  And deliberately stood on it!

By now our Marine was about to pop his poor shaved head off with politeness and a massive dose of urgency-- PPPLLLEEEEAAASSSEEEE  MA'AM--  It's my DRESS UNIFORM!

Finally, major back-up was coming from every direction with the other two flight attendants and the gate attendant RUNNING down the aisle towards us.  Boss Man was raging, Marine was nearly in tears, Bitchy-Perky was beyond crazy rude and I was sitting silently in the middle, wearing a surgical mask, trying to get the United States Marine's Dress Blues out from under the bitch's firmly planted foot.  

It took seconds for the back-up staff to settle matters and people scattered.  In the end, butt head Boss Man got all of his crap in the overhead storage bins.  The poor Marine actually had to check-- in the belly of the plane-- his Dress Blues that were stored in a safe place way before Boss Man ever stepped foot on the plane.  (Turns out he was wearing his Dress Blues at a military funeral the next day.)  And Miss Bitchy-Perky was never seen again-- EVER.  I don't know if she got off the plane or if she hid in the galley, but she was G O N E.

Maybe it's a good thing she went missing in action, because if she's passed me a bag of nuts and a cold drink mid-flight, I would have had a few choice words for her. By then things had calmed down enough for me adjust my surgical mask,  gather my thoughts and, instead of being stunned by her horrible behavior, I was just plain pissed off.  I'd have let her have it in a calm enough fashion that I doubt I would have been arrested when we landed in Los Angeles-- but I would have made the point that her disrespect to the United States Marine and his Dress Blues uniform was totally unacceptable. 

I was angry because we weren't talking about a little league baseball uniform, a Girl Scout uniform or a Mickey Mouse costume.  It was clearly a United States Marine's Dress Blues uniform.  There was no doubt about that fact.  If you can't show respect for our enlisted man or woman, who the hell can you show respect for-- especially in this day and age?!?

But at the time, it happened all so fast and I didn't say a word.   I'm still thinking about that Marine and the funeral he was participating in wearing the crushed uniform the next day.  It burns me up that 2 minutes and 2 idiots could shatter something so small yet so major all at the same time.

I'm no shrinking violet.  In fact, my "strong personality" has been pointed out to me many times in the past.  But at that moment, the opportunity to stand up to a bully passed.

I know, I know-- Day late and a dollar short.  It won't happen again.

Welcome to TheFiftyFactor  -  Joanna

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I've Become My Grandmother

In memory of my dear friend Shirle C who taught me grace and patience.

It was her morning ritual.  With coffee and toast, Grandma would read the obituaries in the local paper and plan her day-- around funerals and calling hours for people she knew and cared about.  

We lived in a small town and there were usually three or four announcements in the local newspaper every day. Grandma had lived in the town her entire life and well, she knew folks, lots of folks, and it was her intention to pay her last respects to everyone of them.  It's just what you did for your friends.

As a young girl, I thought this was strange-- planning your day around "calling hours" at the "Funeral Parlor". But I liked the idea of sending your friends off to heaven in a respectful and loving manner.  

After Grandma finished her coffee, she'd often baked a cake or make a Jello mold to take to the family of the deceased.  Her apple cake was legendary and her Jello was always a favorite in the summertime.  Folks appreciated her cakes and her kindness.

When someone in our family passed away, the whole town would do the same thing Grandma did for everyone else.  They'd bake cakes, bring Jello and pay their respects at our house. Apparently they had the same morning ritual of reading the newspaper's obituaries.

When I was grown and moved to the "big city", I never read the death notices in the city newspaper.  I didn't know anyone that would pass away in the city without me knowing before I read about it.  And, I found it strange that in major newspapers, only famous people had Obits written for them, the rest of the people had to buy the announcements that were always printed in tiny type.  That doesn't seem right to me.

But now, well, times have changed.  I'm fifty-something and I'm slowly losing friends and attending more funerals.  It's made me realize that I've started my Grandmother's morning ritual.  I now read the Obituaries in the Los Angeles Times, The New Times  and Variety and I often know people who have passed away.

It's sad, I know, writing about this.  But it strikes me as coming full circle.  Today I'll bake my Grandmother's apple cake to take to the family of a very dear friend who passed away after a short battle with cancer.   I am heart-broken over their loss and I hope the cake, in some small way, brings them comfort.  

It's just what you do for your friends.  

Welcome to TheFiftyFactor  -  Joanna
If you liked this post you might also like my friend Jane's blog-- Jane at the Garden Gate

Monday, May 11, 2009

Online Dating: Chapter One

Like it or not, online dating is here to stay.  Add that to speed dating and online sexting, and you know times have changed, especially for the single, over-fifty crowd.

Men and women "of a certain age" are joining dating sites faster than you can say "let's meet for coffee". Honestly, I'm not sure I could ever "put myself out there" like that, but then again, I'm a big fat chicken.  I admire the ones who can and live vicariously through friends' blind dating escapades.

Over the past couple of years, my gal pals have dated guys like Al Bundy (bowling anyone?), Bernie Madoff (jail bird), a couple of Wild And Crazy Guys (ala Saturday Night Live), a surfer dude (think flip flops), countless wannabe actors, and even Osama bin Laden.

Yes, my friend Rita-- a gorgeous fifty-something babe, was hooked up with Osama bin Laden on an online dating site!  It was more like his identical twin brother, not actually him, but he was a very scary look-alike, and definitely NOT, someone she could ever bring home to meet the family.

Newly divorced, Rita found her first venture into online dating a little embarrassing, so she didn't dish about it with our more experienced gal pals.  

After hours of painstakingly completing her personal profile to sound interesting, entertaining and like a "new 40-something", Rita clicked the "register" button and waited for possible mates to fill her inbox.  She waited. And waited.  Finally, after two extremely long weeks without a single "match", the photo of her one and only "dream connection" with a huge "98% compatibility rating", started to download on her computer.  His screen name was "No Batteries Required", her expectations soared.

Rita still has a slow dial-up connection, the kind where the picture starts loading from the top of the page down, one, slow, quarter inch, at a time.  As she waited for her Battery Boy's picture to appear, she wondered what the missing 2% might be in their compatibility connection. 

Would he be a rich Republican, would he be poor trailer park trash, I answered Que Sera Sera....

The picture grew and grew until it filled the screen in full living color.  Holy crap!  Was this a joke?  Could it be the guy the United States Army and everyone else has been looking for?

She swore Osama bin Laden was staring at her from cyberspace.  HE was Rita's perfect love connection? Damn! 

It's true, Mr. 98% Compatible was a nasty guy who looked like he'd been living in a cave in Afghanistan for years, crusty beard, dirty turban and all.  This is not the online date Rita had in mind.

Panic stricken, she called me wondering what the hell happened! Her dating dreams were shattered and it was all over a creepy looking guy she'd never even met.  She wanted to cancel her registration and throw her laptop out the window.

I immediately talked her down off the ledge and conferenced in a few of our friends who'd successfully navigated the online dating scene.  Their advice was unanimous...

First step:  Always register on multiple dating sites and sign up for their "free trial" offers, but don't post your photo-- yet. You'll get the lay of the land and see which site you like best before you spend all that time writing your profile and letting the world know you're available.

Second step:  Search the 25 mile radius from your zip code and see which guys turn up repeatedly.  You'd be surprised how many guys are on multiple sites and aren't afraid to show it. Don't they realize it's a great way for you to see if your potential "connection" is "connected" or just wasting your time and working the Internet for love?  Note:  Avoid these guys. 

Third step:  Watch out for bozos.  You know, the guys with the goofy pictures of themselves as a baby, or doing something abnormally macho, or using a fake picture that he thinks will drive women wild.  Kick them to the curb unless you like pranksters.  They're just playing with you.

Forth step:  Check to see when and how often a guy is reviewing his online profile-- Yes, dating sites actually tell you stuff like that!  This helps weed out the desperate, obsessive, and/or possible stalkers.  If a guy is online, day and night, checking to see who loves him, it's a red flag.

In Rita's case, Mr. bin Laden was actually the humor-deprived loser with the fake photo.  Bastard!  He scared the daylights out of her.

Our experienced gal pals said this guy's been around for years! Battery Boy bin Laden's real name is Mickey, and he'd sent them Hell's Angels and George W. Bush pictures.  Apparently he's a legend-- in his own mind-- and keeps doing this to women because he's yet to find his comedic companion.

Rita felt somewhat better knowing a friend of the Access of Evil was not really living in her zip code.  But, even with a 98% compatibility rating, she hit the delete button and erased him from her screen.

Instead of crying over her dating predicament, she decided to "play the field" and registered for trials on multiple dating sites. Rita is now sorting through the bozos and working the system in search of her true love connection.  Two can play this game!

What are your online dating tips?
Welcome to TheFiftyFactor  -  Joanna

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day To All You Moms Out There!

xxoo  Joanna

Thursday, May 7, 2009

At the Intersection of Foggy and Forgetful

Am I losing my mind or what?!?!

Today I was in such a fog that I didn't remember about plans to meet friends for dinner at a restaurant this evening. I mean, I completely forgot even though my husband and I had discussed the details at breakfast! And what do you think I did right after breakfast? I went grocery shopping to buy food, to make for dinner, at home, tonight! Let me tell you, when I finished shopping and schlepping and putting food away and then getting food out to start cooking, I was exhausted.

About an hour after the spareribs had been slow cooking in the oven, my husband asked what I was doing? Actually, he looked at me like I had three heads and asked WTF???? As I stared back at him blankly, he knew it had happened again. And-- he knew to slowly back out of the kitchen, without saying another word, so no one would get hurt.

I'd forgotten about dinner out. I hate when I forget things-- and it happens all the time!

Several months ago my memory had really gotten out of hand. I was sure I was loosing my mind and well on my way to Alzheimer's, so I talked to my doc and she recommended a full battery of neuropsych tests to see if, in fact, at age 50, dementia was setting in. Holy crap! I was so stinking scared.

So off I went for 8 straight hours of testing at a major University hospital, with a psychiatrist, in a small office, asking millions of questions that made absolutely no sense to me. I mean, I knew what he was asking, I just didn't know WHY and what on earth they could possibly have to do with my memory loss.

He started by telling me to remember the numbers 29, 18, 62, 91 and 6. I knew this test was coming so I seriously tried to remember them. That was followed by lots of picture drawing, card playing, pattern making and simple math. I was feeling pretty good because it was all so elementary and simple, and my memory was great; plus I remembered 29,18,62, 91 and 6.

After lunch, Dr. Freud stepped things up big time. I realized, to my shock and horror, that I wasn't having memory problems-- Apparently, I just an idiot!

For example, he gave me a pretty high level math test-- that was timed. And I couldn't use a calculator! When was the last time you did three dozen calculus problems without a calculator-- in 5 minutes-- while you're trying to remember 29, 18, 62, 91 and 6? To be honest, I never even took calculus in school but I guarantee you, if I had, there would definitely have been a calculator in my hand!

Then, after freaking out over the math, Dr. Freud started asking me random questions like who's the Queen of England (duh), Marco Polo (I had to think about him for a minute.), where the Grand Canyon was located, stuff like "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?". I was holding my own, right up until he asked me to name the Continents-- You know, North America, South America, Antarctica, Australia, Africa, Asia and Europe.

Sadly, at that very moment, and for the next painful few hours, despite being asked at least 30 more times, all I could think when asked to name the Continents was-- Poughkeepsie, New York! What was that about!?!?! Oh, and I remembered 29, 18, 62, 91 and friggin 6!

This type of memory loss-- the kind where information just falls out of my brain never to be seen again-- was exactly the type of memory loss that brought me to the neuropsych test in the first place! I know the Continents; I've even been to four of them for crying out loud. But as upset, and frankly embarrassed, as I was about it, I found comfort in the knowledge that finally the doc would feel my pain and understand my memory loss dilemma.

Not exactly. Dr. Freud wasn't buying it. A mental block with Poughkeepsie, NY flashing in my head was not on his memory loss radar. He thought I was just plan stupid. I know because he kept flipping back to the page with my education information listed and asked where I went to school-- As if I'd lied and it was a trick question-- And then he'd ask me to name the Continents again. Damn! I must have had loser written all over my forehead.

The testing continued for two more difficult hours. It got tougher and the questions were way out of my league! I did not remember what year Lincoln was elected president, how far the Wright Brothers flew, or how to convert inches into centimeters; and I'm not sure I ever really did. It's not the kind of dinner conversation that would stay on the tip of my tongue for decades. Nor was I able to count cards for sequencing, or retell stories with extensive details. But I did know 29, 18, 62, 91 and 6.

I felt more and more defeated as we pressed on and frankly, pretty sure I was on my way to assisted living behind locked doors in the very near future. At the end of the day, Doc sent me home with instructions not to worry and that he'd be in touch.

Two weeks later, there I was again, across the desk from Dr. Freud. He gave me my test results and assured me that I was "just fine". Alzheimer's, dementia, memory loss, whatever was concerning me was NOT an issue. Phew!

But here's the kicker-- Doc explained in way to much detail, that I am an average middle-aged woman (I cringed at his words.) with an average middle-aged education, (See, I told you he thought I was stupid), living an average middle-aged life (I need to get out more!) with an average middle-aged memory.


And I was suppose to feel better about that! Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled I'm not on the fast-track to Alzheimer's but what's with all the AVERAGE, MIDDLE-AGED crap?

I pressed him for more details and he politely and a bit condescendingly pointed out that "at my age" I was just fine. But if I was say, 70 years old, well then I'd be below average. And if I was 30, I'd be above average. And that was supposed to make me feel better? It did not.

Doc went on to say that my "strengths" would make me a great quilter and I have good recall for faces (but not names). Eureka! My new middle- ged career chould be making face quilts! Who knew! He also said I'm an "alpha-dog" and a "bit of a rebel". Really? Dr. Freud lost me on that so I asked which tests I took proving my, um, "strong qualities". Apparently they had to do with the card games we played-- The card games we played where I always lost!


I hadn't talked to my gal pals about the testing in advance but now that I wasn't "losing it", I told them about my situation and the very expensive "I chould be an average middle aged quilter" tip from Dr. Freud. Apparently this type of thing is common with them too! Not the testing, the memory loss. They blamed it on menopause and had a good-hearted laugh at my expense. They called it "the fog" and "meno-brain" and I felt better. Sort of.

So now that my house smells of delicious spare ribs that we won't be eating until tomorrow night, and since I know I do not have Alzheimer's, the only thing I do know is 29, 18, 62, 91 and 6.

And you know what else? Dr. Freud never, ever, ask me to repeat those numbers back to him.

What are you forgeting?
Welcome to TheFiftyFactor - Joanna

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Not Your Typical Las Vegas Wedding

It's not everyday a loved one calls to say they are eloping-- in Las Vegas!  After my initial shock and excitement that these two love birds were finally tying the knot, I admit, my next thoughts turned to fat Elvis ministers, drive thru chapels and tacky plastic flowers. Not a pretty picture but I figured whatever works for them, works for me.

Since Las Vegas is just a hop, skip and jump away; and since I truly love the Bride and Groom with all my heart; hubby and I jumped in the car and decided to crash their wedding.  We made the 5 hour drive in under 4 1/2 hours and boy were they surprised to see us-- In a good way!  Phew.

We stayed at the beautiful Wynn Hotel-- What a great place; comfy beds, lush pillows and huge bathrooms! Ahhhh.  We needed a little vacation or at least that was my excuse to my husband for making the spur of the moment trip.

To celebrate the occasion, I finagled a last minute dinner reservation at the fully booked SW Steak House by mentioning the wedding about to take place and well, a waterfront table was immediately available for us!  

Moments after being seated, champagne was flowing and a fantastic water and light show with-- and this will sound crazy-- a beautiful, giant, tropical frog lip syncing "What a Wonderful World" began!  I know, I know, Vegas Baby, but it was really spectacular, and that was just the beginning of the music and lights and giant dancing puppets while we dined.  The Bride and Groom were thrilled and there was nothing tacky about it. Honest!  

The next day was "the big day" and something really amazing happened.  Instead of the usual, and totally normal, pre-wedding jitters, the Bride and Groom weren't the least bit stressed, nervous or anxious!  There was no matri-mania, no bridezilla, no freaking out, no meltdowns and not an ounce of drama!  Instead, we all had a huge breakfast together and they laughed and giggled like a couple of teenagers going to the Prom!  It was the greatest thing EVER!  

But the really surprising part was the Groom.  Somewhere over the last several years spent with his lovely Bride, this 40-something guy became a hopeless romantic; a gushy, mushy, love-struck hunk, who is head over heels in love and not afraid to show it.  It was seriously impressive and incredibly sweet. After my shock and awe at this revelation, I realized that, since meeting his Bride, our Groom had become a better man. I love that and I'm so proud of him.

The Bride, also madly in love, was relaxed, calm and absolutely radiant!  She was 1000% confident that the two were meant for each other and couldn't wait to meet the preacher!  

But this was not your stereotypical Las Vegas "Quickie Wedding".  Oh no, no, no!  There were having none of the often joked about tacky weddings in Nevada.

Instead, a stretch limo picked us up and drove about an hour out of town to the Valley of Fire State Park.  We drove up and over the hills and turns, deep into the Park, before we stopped at Rainbow Ridge.   And there-- right there-- in the distance, was the Grand Canyon in all her glory!  On that very ridge, surrounded by gorgeous red rocks and a spectacular view, the Bride and Groom exchanged wedding vows at sunset before a minister that reminded me of Andy Griffith.   

She wept with joy; he beamed with love; we took a few hundred pictures and a video to show the family back home in Ohio.  It was all so beautiful, so glorious, so loving and so joyful that I am now a confirmed fan of Las Vegas weddings!  Swear to gawd, I'd get married in Las Vegas if I had it to do all over again-- And so would my husband!  It was that perfect.

Yes, next weekend they are having a big gathering back home with family and friends to celebrate their marriage. Everyone is very excited and happy for them. They'll show the video and pictures and share their special day with everyone.  But on the actual day of their wedding, it was just the way they wanted-- simple, stress-free and all about LOVE.  

I've talked to the happy couple several times in their first six days of marriage.  You can tell by their voices that they are still blissfully happy!  

Did I mention they've been together for nearly eight years-- living together for the past four?  The Bride says she didn't expect things to "feel different" now that they are married, but she says they do-- She says they feel GREAT, happier, and just plain MORE or everything.    

And they'll live happily ever-after!
Welcome to TheFiftyFactor  -  Joanna

Monday, May 4, 2009

Is It Loud In Here Or Am I Just Old?

Imagine a cross between a jack hammer in Time Square and a sold out heavy metal concert at Madison Square Garden. Painfully loud, right?  Well, that's how loud it was in the restaurant we dined in tonight.  Deafening is the only way to describe it.

We pulled up to the curbside Valet and thought there must be some kind of ruckus nearby.  There wasn't.  The loud chaos was coming from inside the restaurant-- The restaurant behind closed doors.  

Six of us gathered at a new "in" spot for gourmet pizza and fancy salads. We'd read about it in a local magazine and decided to give it a try.  The review raved about the food, the service and the decor; and they were right.  It was all great.  But nowhere in the article did they mention a single word about the ungodly noise level.

I've heard the saying "If it's too loud, You're too old." and well, dang, I guess that makes all six of use total geezers.  It was so loud we skipped coffee and practically ran out of the place for peace and quiet.  Our ears and heads hurt from yelling over the blaring music as it bounced off the cement walls and floor!

I can't remember the last time I ate in an upscale restaurant that you could carry on an actual conversation with the person sitting next to you, let alone across the table.  Is that too much to ask? Imagine how nice a meal would be if you weren't saying "What?, Huh?, Say that again?" all night long.

My question is WHY?  What is the point of restaurants where you have to yell directly into the waiter's ear to place your order-- Then repeat your order multiple times because even he-- the much younger person-- can't hear you!  I don't get it, and I think I'm not the only one.

I swear, if I opened a restaurant in Los Angeles called Shhhhhh, it would be packed every night with happy people, talking at a reasonable level, without music blaring, who were enjoying their meals. Most people would friggin love it whether they're "old" like me, on a romantic date, or just hanging out with friends of any age! Diners could actually talk to each other without sign language, lip reading or texting each other.

Someday, maybe restaurateurs will get it and turn down the music, lay some carpet and add noise panels..... You now, for us old folks.

How's the noise working for you?
Welcome to TheFiftyFactor  -  Joanna

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Dermatologist To The Stars

It just so happens that my dermatologist is the same doctor several well known movie stars and some very tall, very sleek, supermodels use.  I didn't plan it that way, it just happened.  

I won't name names but, trust me, you'd be star-struck and sorry you arrived that day with zero make-up on for your skin check-up.  

How do I know a tabloid baby is in 'da house. Paparazzi. Everywhere! And they aren't taking my picture.
I've seen this several times at my doc to the stars.  You know an VIP is arriving because their perfectly coiffed "people" enter the office first, scoping out the joint to make sure no photographers are hiding in the very chic waiting room.  Then they carefully scan the room to make sure people like me don't have cell phones at the ready to snap a picture.   Ha! Don't they know I'm too cool for that?  I don't need no stinking pictures! Besides, I can see them in People Magazine next week.

Once the celebrity's "people" arrive, the usually sweet office staff turns cold and, well, kind of bossy as they quickly usher me to my exam room with the snap of a finger, the door slamming shut behind me.  Did I just hear a deadbolt lock?  Mine, I might add, is an exam room at the very far end of the office away from even a whiff of the Sexiest Man Alive.

Out the frosted window, I once saw a massive Cadillac SUV with super tinted windows pull up to the curb.  Out jumped two gorilla type bodyguards.  The back door opened and in a flash, the stunning super model strutted her stuff up the runway and into the office.

Once a star is "in the building", things get really intense.  The first time this happened I thought the President of the United States had arrived with a full SWAT team.  Staff practically carries the showbiz idol into the HUGE exam room in the front of the office.  The exam room door closes ever so gently, and then, silence.  It's as if no one else was in the office-- Except for the now very loud rock music in the hallway to drown out any conversation with the star that could possibly be heard by the outside world. The muscle men and assistants are outside the room standing guard and texting on their Blackberries.   

Now the doc and his staff are all in the exam room with the super star, so I twiddle my thumbs, in my tiny exam room filled with dusty file boxes and old laser equipment, as my head pounds to the beat of the music and wait.  Just my luck to have an appointment the same day as the latest tabloid sensation.  

After an hour of waiting past my scheduled time, I once cracked open the door and, shouted over the blaring music, to ask, "Is anyone home?".  The body guard glared while the receptionist jumped up and handed me a warm bottled water, assuring me it wouldn't be much longer. By the time the star exits and the doc arrives for my appointment, I could have completed an entire season of Friends on DVD.    

My exam then lasts, oh, about four minutes, start to finish.  I'm packed up with a prescription for a bleaching cream and enough skin care samples to last a lifetime.  As I arrange for my follow-up visit, I explain to the receptionist that I really can make friends but I'd prefer to avoid them at my next appointment.

Oh the price of vanity!

Welcome to TheFiftyFactor  -  Joanna