Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fall Foliage: Special Delivery & Swine Flu Update

Day Seven Swine Flu Update: Attilla's Son-- "Still critical, but getting close to turning the corner." Click here to READ.

Please keep those prayers and kind words coming! They are deeply appreciated and each update from Attila send her sincere thanks. xx Joanna

Here's an update (Day Six) on Attila The Mom's son who's fighting the Swine Flu. In short-- "There is a tiny, tiny improvement in his left lung which has been the worst." A prayer or a few kind words here for Attilla and Big Kid would be greatly appreciated. xo

One of the hardest parts of living in Southern California for me is missing the change of seasons, especially autumn. I miss the the richness of the fall colors so much and usually comment on it when I see a blog post with great fall photos. Our leaves don't change colors like they do in Ohio where I was raised. What few "leaves" we have turn brown over night without even a hint of color.

So imagine how excited I was when I spotted two gorgeous pieces of autumn-themed art by the very talented Sarah Sullivan at Cottage Garden Studio that captured exactly what I was missing so much! I made a small purchase via PayPal and fall arrived at my door step today with all its glorious colors. Yippee!

This one is called, appropriatly, "Leaf Fall". It's colored Pencil and Pen and Ink. I'm having it framed this afternoon.

And this gem is called "Oak Leaves and Acorns". It's an acrylic painting by Sarah. I love how the leaves wrap around the edges.

Both are originals and I feel really blessed to have Sarah's artwork in our home. I'll spend the weekend moving the pieces around until I settle on the perfect spot for each. But for now, I carrying them with me from room-to-room because I'm enjoying them so much.

If you haven't met Sarah, please stop by and show her some love. She has a beautiful blog and a terrific way with words. And if you'd like to have a look around her shop, by all means-- It's a feast for your eyes.

Thanks a million Sarah!

Wishing everyone a Happy and Safe Halloween!

Are you dressing up?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor -- Joanna

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Spoon Full Of Sugar

The sinking pool and deck saga continues but yesterday was a major turning point that reminded me "A spoon full of sugar really does help the medicine go down" or in this case, makes it easier to hear the bad news.

For those of you who don't know, you can read here for the details of our back yard sliding down our hill.

Thomas, our trusted project manager-- kind of like a Top Gun who will oversea all the workers, engineers, geologists and contractors to put the yard back together again--paid us a visit and was so calm and so relaxed and so perfectly English that I felt like I was talking to a male Mary Poppins minus the flying umbrella, and well, it just made the whole scary mess seem so much easier to cope with.

Maybe it was his soothing voice. (I love a British accent.) Maybe it was his kind smile. Maybe it was the way he described the project in "bits and pieces" rather than bulldozers and wrecking balls. Maybe it was because he never once mentioned the dreaded six figure cost. Or maybe it's because he was so nice and reassuring and confident that things will be "wrapped up in no time" that left me feeling like I'd just had a lovely hot fudge sundae with a cherry on top as my "spoon full of sugar".


No, I have not stepped into the Twilight Zone, landed in major denial or had the wool pulled over my eyes. And yes, we have to consider our options, ranging from doing nothing, to several months of massive amounts of soil and pylons and cement being moved around or, simply putting a sign in the front yard that says "Lot For Sale, House Free". Unfortunately there is no easy answer but Thomas had the same soothing effect on me that Mary Poppins did on the children she cared for in the movie.

Again I say, ahhhhhhh.

In short, I feel like we're in good hands with Thomas and a weight has been lifted. After all, the detailed, 40 page, geology report made little sense to me except to leave no doubt we had a major problem on our hands and I didn't know what to do or who to call next. There is not a listing in the yellow pages for "Sinking Pools or Sliding Decks", trust me, I checked.

So Thomas is the man-- the male Mary Poppins who's going to guide us and hold my hand for months, and months, and months as we decide to give our yard a facelift of sorts-- or not. It's not exactly the kind of facelift I had in mind for my 50-something years, but at least I'll have it with cherry on top.

How do you like your "spoon full of sugar"?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna
Photo Credit: Danny Hooks

Sitting Around - UPDATE

Swine Flu UPDATE for Day Five is HERE: Please keep Attila and her son in your prayers. Docs have changed him to a new ventilator in hopes it will help improve his condition. All your prayers are deeply appreciated! Please spread the word. Attila is one of the really good ones in blogland. Thanks, Joanna

Please continue to send prays to Attila The Mom of Cheaper Than Therapy for her son who is in ICU with the Swine Flu. You can read her latest update HERE

Sitting around is not something I do well. I might nap once in a while, but sitting around and doing nothing-- not so much. I'm too Type A, impatient, antsy, busy, hyper, whatever you want to call it, but just sitting around really bugs me. I can't sit still because my mind races with the hundred things I should be doing.

So you can imagine what it was like spending the day at the Apple Store recently-- sitting around, essentially doing nothing, for TEN AND A HALF hours! Yep, I camped out at the Apple Store until a nagging problem with a home video I'd edited on my Mac was finally downloaded properly and onto a DVD. I arrived at 8:45AM and didn't leave until 7:15PM. I was there so long Apple could have charged me rent, but didn't. The parking garage, on the other hand, did. It cost me $21 to get out of the mall!

Long story short, I worked for nine months editing eight hours of family vacation video--from a trip through Eastern Europe-- with 15 family members, speaking three different languages, only one of which I know. The finished movie is two hours long. The last step was to download it and burn DVDs for everyone. But, I am technology-challenged and no matter how hard I tried, it simply was not happening. So after four appointments at Apple, and about 30 hours of trying to follow my instructor's download directions at home, I gave up, made one last appointment with an Apple One-to-One guru, and refused to leave my oh-so-uncomfortable-stool at the store until my movie was on a DVD.

After three hours at the store waiting on the initial download, it failed with 13 minutes remaining, which is exactly what was happening to me at home. The Tech gurus changed to Plan B, then Plan C-- all getting error messages after hours of downloading attempts. Then finally, about the time I thought I would lose my mind sitting around for nothing-- Plan D worked! The Genius Team huddled around my computer and figured out the problem-- Then POOF! In less than an hour, I had my finished movie in hand... at 7:15 at night.

Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with the Apple crew-- Those guys rocks. The Techs held me hand through the long and sometimes painful editing process, and taught me so much that, I now know, without a doubt, I never want to edit vacation video ever again. And, I also know that if my husband volunteers to make a vacation "documentary" HE shoots, I will strangle him in his sleep. The reality is Beloved has a bad habit of volunteering ME to do stuff like that for him.

Being the Type A girl that I am, I arrived at the Apple store bright and early, prepared with things to do for a few hours-- the amount of time it SHOULD have taken to accomplish the DVD transfer. But as the hours dragged on, I also planned a dinner party for 50 to celebrate Beloved's upcoming birthday, including a three page grocery list cross referenced by recipe. I transferred all my important dates in my daytimer from 2009 to a new 2010 book-- Lots of birthdays, anniversaries, school schedules and the likes. And yes, it was color coded since I'm a Type A freak-- as one lovely Apple guy commented when he looked over my shoulder. I also read the latest Oprah, InStyle, Time and Newsweek magazines. Oh, and I played with all the Apple gadgets in the store.

I met a lot of interesting people too. One darling gentleman, think Santa Clause in tweed, came in to learn how to book a vacation. It was a One-to-One class that Apple offers and not only did the trainer help him make the reservation, he also basically planned the entire trip for the guy-- to London for Christmas. Sweet!

And, I found out that Beloved isn't the only one who drops his phone in the toilet. Three people came in with wet phones. One person fessed up to the toilet drop immediately and the Apple employee put on rubber gloves before he touched it. The other two people were teenagers who had both dropped their toys in the toilet at school that day. They blamed it on a mud puddle (from our recent storms) but while the tech was in the back room seeing what could be repaired, they laughed with their friends about the toilet caper. Not cool.

Lots of people come into Apple thinking THEY were the ONLY person with an emergency and thought everyone else with an appointment should get bumped later so they-- without an appointment-- can move to the head of the line. That didn't happen once and I thought the way the Apple staff handled it was great. Their drama did, however, make for interesting people watching.

As the hours wore on at the Apple store, I was finally out of things to do and was forced to "just sit" and wait, watching the blue "percent download" bar creep slowly to completion. I thought of counting sheep, but I was awake and needed to stay that way. I thought of all the other things I could or should be doing and realized I was drumming my finger tips on the table top. And I tried to think about what I would do if "Plan D" did not work.

Since everyone had been so helpful, kicking and screaming was out of the question. Handing the tech my laptop and phone number and telling him to call me when they figured it out would leave me computer-less. And "giving up" is simply not in my Type A's nature.

So instead, I read through my 2009 appointment book to date again-- I do not keep my schedule on a gadget, I'm old fashioned that way-- And I started making notes in all the margins of meaningful things that I remembered based on the events on each day of the nearly 9 1/2 months I'd been keeping the calendar. Before long, two hours had passed and my calendar was not only filled with scribbles and appointments, it was also filled with blessings, memories and countless things I am thankful for.

It left me with a sense of peace, an almost restful feeling as I was surrounded by the buzz of the busy Apple store. I actually think, by the time I'd finished, I was maybe a Type A- or even perhaps a Type B+. I thought that, along with my completed video, was progress.

How do you "stop" and find peace?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna
Photo Credit: Olga Lyubkina

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Dear Blog Friends Near and Far,

Regardless of what you think about the H1N1 "Swine Flu" virus, the endless media "hype", or if it's even a real pandemic or not. And regardless if you think the "bad stuff" you hear on the news only happens to a few people-- Today it hit home for me when I read my dear blog friend Atilla The Mom at Cheaper Than Therapy.

At 4:30 Sunday morning, she wrote a post about her son catching a cold a few days ago. She brought him some cold medicine and he said he was feeling better. Later, when his girlfriend came home from work, she found him unresponsive. He's in the hospital, in septic shock and respiratory failure due to complications from the H1N1 virus. He has pneumonia in both lungs and is on a ventilator.

When I read her updated post HERE I knew I had to do something, anything I could, to reach out to help her son.

I am a firm believer in the power of prayer so I ask you to PLEASE, take a moment, read her update and PRAY for her son.

Thank you.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sunday Roast

Just prior to David McMahon's sign-0ff from Authorblog to work on his novels, he asked me to participate in his Sunday Roast interview segment. Now, the fabulous Eddie Bluelights of Clouds and Silvery Linings has taken over for David and my interview is featured this weekend! I do not like being 51 (years old) but being 87 (in a prestigious list of weekly interviews) has a nice ring to it.

Please stop by and check out my interview. And while you're at it, please scroll down to the next (most recent) post by Eddie to get to know him better. His plate is pretty full these days so show him so love. Eddie was a real gem to work with on this and I'm looking forward to many more Sunday Roasts.

Thanks and have a great weekend. I'm still loving my vacation. I'll be back Tuesday!

Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Meet Christine

While I'm on vacation, I thought I would share a newer blog that I've been following by Dr. Christine Forest. This particular post made a lot of sense to me because it reminded me of what I'd done, in part, with my blog. I feel like I've "found my tribe" in so many of YOU. Thanks a million for your kindness, friendship and support over these past nine months. I appreciate it more than I can say.

So go check out Christine's blog to see what I'm talking about. When you get to her main page, scroll down a little to read "Finding Your Tribe-- Living Well Among Like Minded People".

Hope you're having a great week. Vacation is paradise. And now I'm closing my laptop for the rest of the day. Ahhhhh....

PS Christine painted the above picture!

Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Seven Days

Ahh vacation. Just saying the word makes me relax and breathe deeply.

Beloved and I are off for a week long escape for a little quality time, and peace and quiet away from the office, a sinking pool and deck, computers and telephones. The computer and Blackberry are wishful thinking on my part but I'm hoping we-- translation: Beloved, spends a lot less time working and a lot more time relaxing. I'll be spending minimal time blogging so have a great week everyone and I'll catch up with you when I get back.

Where's your ideal relaxation spot?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna
Photo Credit: © Alex Bramwell -

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sundays In My City #11 - Kiev

Do you know Unknown Mami? She's awesome and she created a fun Sunday theme inviting you to get out and take pictures of your city to share with the rest of us. Click here for details and her logoand click here to see Unknown Mami's City today.

It rained a lot in Los Angeles in the first half of the week and in the second half, Beloved and I went to San Diego for four days to attend a wedding. A year ago this week, we were in Kiev, Ukraine. These are some pictures we took within walking distance of our "downtown" hotel.

The architecture was stunning.

The city was so clean and well maintained.

We thought this would be a nice place to live.

And throughout our walk, we heard these bells on the hour.

The bells were in this tower....

At the top of this church....

Which, because of it's color, reminded me of this! But we didn't see a Tiffany & Co in Kiev.Darn. It would have made a lovely souvenir.

How's your Sunday?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blackberry Bliss

Often proclaiming he can't live without it, my husband takes his Blackberry with him everywhere. And it's a crying shame.

I am in the minority, no doubt, but I despise Beloved's Blackberry with every ounce of its blue-cased being. It spends far more time with him an I do. It commands his complete and undivided attention with a simple hum. And it's never, ever, turned off, no matter how much I beg for silence.

It is also a very old Blackberry purchased oh so many years ago, but Beloved does not like change and, in the case of this Blackberry-- his Blackberry-- Big is better. The screen and type that is. Beloved can read his old Blackberry without his glasses and he doubts that would be likely on a new model so upgrading has always been out of the question.

He emails religiously to clients around the globe or to family in the next room. It's checked during meals, birthdays, weddings and even yard work. I rue the day it entered our home and regularly curse at it's never-ending stream of interruptions.

Once I actually confiscated his little gem for 72 whole hours. I was in paradise. He was in Intensive Care following surgery. Did Beloved ask for pain medication, ice chips, a comforting hand? Hell no. He asked for his Blackberry-- It was drug of choice.

But today, I got my wish. The Blackberry was silenced once and for all.

Beloved dropped it in the toilet.

It was an accident of course. Tragic was the word he used. But into my Toto Toilet it went and all I can say is-- I wish I had been there to see the splash-- And the look on Beloved's face.

Giving credit where credit is due, Beloved did not call me to fish his Blackberry out of the potty. I did not ask, nor do I want to know, how he managed to retrieve his blue baby on his own. All I know is, one minute he was washing up for dinner and the next minute all hell broke loose.

When I arrived at the scene of the crime, all my might was required to erase the smile from my face. A happy dance would not have been appropriate, I saved that for later, in private.

Beloved took apart his precious Blackberry-- there are actually only a few parts, and laid them out neatly on a towel to be cleaned. Lysol, cotton swabs and my favorite pair of Tweezers were involved in the process. Then slowly, and ever so gently, the hair dryer was finally applied to absorb any lingering moisture from its pieces. I watched in silence as Beloved, mumbling a prayer to himself, reassembled his aging gadget. With a deep sigh he turned the device on and-- and-- and...... A great ZZZZZZzzzzzzzZZZZzzzzZZzzzzZ z z z z z z was heard throughout the house.

No it as not the angels singing, although I was sure I'd heard them in my mind. The Blackberry was humming an impatient wail that grew louder as if to rev itself up into working order only to slide back into the aching, tired moan of a fading showgirl.

Being the dutiful wife that I am, I made the appropriate "gee whiz" sad face and whispered a few words of encouragement reminding him the phone store would open again at 10am.

Beloved was distraught, almost paralysed with despair. We had a moment of silence in honor of the bitch he calls Blackberry. Beloved eulogized all the phone calls, business deals, well wishes, and "I'm running late" messages it's sent over the last zillion years. All I could think was "Blah, blah, Blackberry.....".

I was finally able to pull him away from the bathroom repair area. Then we had dinner, in glorious Blackberry-free silence. Ahhhhh. Life was good, if only for one brief evening. Beloved was at the phone store this morning, at 9:45am waiting for the doors to open, so he could get a new annoying gadget.

It was fun while it lasted.

Do you turn your gadgets off?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna
Photo Credit: © Kaitlyn McLachlan -

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pulled Together?

Where are the fashion police when you need them?

I am one of those people who can't pull a "look" together to save my life. Even if I take a designer outfit off a store mannequin, on me, it looks like the clothes belong to someone else. I've always had this problem. Clothes tend to wear me rather than the other way around.

The only outfit I have ever been able to "pull together" was my Brownie uniform, and I wore it all the time. It didn't matter to me if I had a Troop meeting or not, I'd wear that uniform, with its orange neck tie and the brown beanie hat, everyday if my mother let me. Oh, I loved that beanie hat. And, dare I admit, I still have the beanie today. It's tucked in the back of my nightstand drawer.

This picture is on my nightstand too. I insisted on wearing my Brownie uniform in this photograph with my baby sister. She's eight years younger than me.

And today is her birthday!

I'm lucky to have such a great youngest sister. She lies about her age so I can lie about mine. And by the way, she dresses way better than I do. She always looks pulled together even when she's shoveling hay at the horse barn or carpooling her four kids to their countless activities or when she's hard at work at the doctor's office. She's terrific and she's never teased me about my Brownie uniform in this picture, which I think was taken around the time of her first birthday.

As I spent the weekend shopping for a few fall clothes and an upcoming wedding, I realized I've worn a uniform of sorts for as long as I can remember. In high school I was thrilled to wear a cheerleading uniform once a week so there was one less outfit I had to worry about. In the business world, back in the day, I wore annonymous black or gray suits to blend in with the male dominated advertising business. In my 30s, I wore dark, 21-inch skirts with jewel-toned blazers and matching silk tee shirts. Then in my 40s, business attire got much more casual and I wore dark jeans, white blouses and high heels nearly every day. Now in my 50s, I'm still wearing jeans and white blouses as my almost daily uniform, but these days, I mostly wear ballet flats or sandals.

This weekend's hunt for a "casual beach outfit" suitable for an upcoming wedding reminded me that I rarely go outside my very basic fashion comfort zone. I searched for something "other than black" and ended up with a chocolate brown outfit-- not terribly daring but a step in the right direction perhaps? Of course the switch to brown meant I need a new pair of shoes, or at least that was my excuse to browse the shoe department.

The sales woman assure me my new brown outfit was "pulled together" and "accessorized properly" but I guarantee, I will be the most dressed-down person at the wedding. I'm always the most, shall we say, "understated" dresser in the room. Whether we're at a college football game or a black-tie dinner, I tend to blend in.

I would never, for example, buy a red dress, not ever. I love red, but not on me. Trendy cloths? Nope, I have never bought those either-- at least not in the last 25 years. The most daring I've ever been in the name of fashion is with shoes. I do love a great pair of high heels and have them in a variety of colors. But those are on my feet--under my jeans-- and mostly out of sight.

The older I get, the less I worry about fashion trends and keeping up with the latest styles. I'm not sure "classic" would be the way my "look" could be described-- unless "classic" somehow translates to basically the same uniform for the past ten years. But it works for me. And besides I do have a new brown outfit so maybe I'll change things up a bit in the coming year.

So if you happen to be at a beach wedding next weekend you'll be able to spot me-- I'll be wearing brown. Come to think of it, maybe brown is my style. After all, my first fashion statement was a Brownie uniform.

What's your style?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sundays In My City #10 - Run!

Do you know Unknown Mami? She's awesome and she created a fun Sunday theme inviting you to get out and take pictures of your city to share with the rest of us. Click here for details and her logo and click here to see Unknown Mami's City today.

Last week I was inspired by a Sundays In My City post by my friend Christine who participated in a March for Mental Health in Santa Monica, CA. While Christine was marching, I was cheering on a great group of people who participated in the Lupus Race for Life in LaMirada, CA whihc is about 45 minutes south of Los Angeles.

Below are three dynamite little girls--Rosebud, Angelica and BB. They are 6 and 7 years old! Rosebud and Angelica's mom both have lupus and BB's Auntie has the disease. Angelica raced on Team Garcia and Rosebud and BB worked all year long and raised more than $1000 in sponsorships! When I watched the girls run their little legs off in the kid's 3K Race, I cried and cheered and was inspired by their generosity and determination. Looks at those gorgeous faces! Their Mom's are so proud of them and I am too.

In all, nearly 3,000 people ran the race and more than 1,500 kind folks volunteered and joined in to make the event a big success.

It was a crowed starting line filled with people of all shape, sizes and ages. Tons of individuals and families, friends, and law enforcement and fire fighters formed teams to run and raise much needed fund for lupus support groups and research.

As I watched all the enthusiastic runners take off, I choked back sobs. I was diagnosed with lupus 16 years ago and there are times it's totally kicked my butt. "Running" is not an option for me, my body can't take it anymore, but to think so many others got up at dawn to run and raise money for lupus humbled me.

I loved watching the participants. I can't imagine running a 5K carrying that big flag, but he lead his team and they all finished together.

This woman was happy at the starting line and happy at the finish line! The crowd loved her!

This group of officers marched in formation and chanted "gung ho" type songs the entire time! They ran in unison and you could hear their footsteps before you saw them coming up the hill to finish. It was pretty cool.

The California Highway Patrol helped clear the way for runners. Check out the little guy running!

Some of the runners won these for being the fastest or raising the most money.

All the runners got a tee shirt that looked like this.

And lots of groups made their own Team tee shirts.

I especially liked seeing Team shirts honoring lupus survivors.

And when I saw Team shirts like this, my heart broke, and I cried even more.

After the Race, runners were treated to a hot breakfast prepared by an awesome group of LA's first responders.

Everyone ate a lot of pancakes and sausage...

And there was plenty of this to go around!
It was a great but very emotional day for me. Lupus International is the organization I turned to when I was first diagnosed and my husband and I have been involved with them ever since.

A million thanks to Lupus Race For Life participants who helped make it all happen: California Highway Patrol, Los Angeles Sheriff, Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Fire Department, Orange County Fire Authority, and Orange County Sheriff's Department. These men and woman are the greatest and their help was invaluable. And thanks to all the other runners, volunteers and staff at Lupus International. I sincerely appreciate your support. I'll be back again next year to cheer everyone on!

How's your Sunday?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna

Friday, October 9, 2009

In A Word

I am not a woman of few words, my regular readers know that. So when the divine Holly Dietor of Your Mother Knows But Won't Tell You bestowed this cool award on me (THANK YOU!), I was flattered and tried to rise to the one word challenge. Holly's blog is a daily "must read" for me and I think it will be for you too. Please stop by and show her some love.

The idea of the Your Blog Is Over The Top Award is to answer a list of questions using only ONE word! Here's my best shot....

1. Where is your cell phone? Car
2. Your hair?
3. Your mother?
4. Your father?
5. Your favorite food?
6. Your dream last night?
Cows (WTH!?!)
7.Your favorite drink?
8. Your dream/goal? Dream:
Lottery - Goal: Contentment
9. What room are you in?
10. Your hobby?
11. Your fear?
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years?
13. Where were you last night? McDreamy

14. Something that you aren't?
15. Muffins?
16. Wish list item?
17. Where did you grow up?
18. Last thing you did?
Woke up
19. What are you wearing? Glasses

20. Your TV?
21. Your pet?
22. Friends?
23. Your life?
24. Your mood?
25. Missing someone?
26. Vehicle?
27. Something you're not wearing?
28. Your favorite store? Books

29. Your favorite color?
30. When was the last time you laughed?
31. Last time you cried?
32. Your best friend?
33. One place that I go to over and over? Home

34. One person who emails me regularly?
35. Favorite place to eat?

I'm to pass this award along to six Over The Top Blogs that I don't think have participated in this popular meme yet. If you'd like to play along too, feel free to join in. If not, NO pressure.

Jayne at AC's Scrapbook (She has a great giveaway going on too!)
Cut and paste these questions to your post. Please let me know if you play along.

Thanks again Holly. You are my Sister in Snark and I love you!

Is there one word that would describe YOU?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My Mother's Journal

My mother, holding her first granddaughter, 26 years ago.

It was one of those gifts you look at stunned beyond words realizing someone took so much time to make such an amazing gift just for you. It was a gift filled with hopes and dreams and fun and sadness and tears and stories of years gone by. But mostly it was a generous gift of love from my mother.

Mom wrote in a journal every day for three months leading up to my 40th birthday. Each day she wrote at least a full page, in her neat, tiny, and very distinctive hand writing, telling me stories about being her daughter. Some stories I knew by heart already but cherished having them in her handwriting. Some were prayers for my good health and happiness. Some days Mom asked questions about my expectations and dreams for the future. Other times Mom questioned decisions she'd made and the impact they had on the woman I've become. I am my mother's daughter and the journal she wrote for me was, and continues to be, an amazing and cherished gift.

It took me nearly three weeks to read the entire journal cover to cover, although I could have easily done so in an afternoon. At first I read quickly, ending up in a puddle of tears or fits of laughter with each story she told. But the more I read, the more I wanted to stretch my mother's words for as long as possible. So I forced myself to slow down and read only one page at a time, even if the page ended in mid-sentence.

Some of the stories, I suspect, were difficult for Mom to share with me. Others I knew she was smiling as she wrote. As for the stories asking me questions about my life today or my impressions of my childhood, well, I still haven't answered all of them, at least not in writing. We've spoken about many of the stories in the journal but some questions I don't have answers to yet. Not that there are any deep dark secrets to unearth. That's not it at all-- I had a great childhood. It's just that some of life's experiences haven't unfolded completely and aren't finished enough to answer properly.

When I was transferred to San Francisco for my job 24 years ago, I detoured from New York,where I was living at the time, and spent the weekend in Ohio with my family before heading West. It was back when family and friends could walk passengers through security and to the gate when flying. Mom took me to the Cleveland Airport and told the story of how she stood looking out the window for a full 30 minutes after my plane was out of sight. She said she simply could not move and wondered how I was strong enough to make such a bold change.

I remember that day clearly. Mom insisted on coming to the gate instead of dropping me off curbside. She always said she needed to "flap her arms to help the plane take off" and that day was no exception. Saying good-bye, and walking down the ramp and around the corner to the plane was the longest walk of my life. Mom had tears in her eyes and would have understood if I did too, but that's just not "me", so I waved one last time and kept a smile on my face until the plane was in the sky. I was okay, but I was really, really sad to be saying good-bye to her. And the truth is, I was able to make that major life change because Mom raised me to be a strong and independent woman.

Mom's journal also remembered the time Dad brought home a gallon of black olives and told us kids to eat them until they were gone! Dad, frustrated that the black olive dish was always empty before we actually sat down to dinner, thought he'd teach us a lesson by "forcing" use to eat all those olives in one sitting. Ha! There were five kids in my family and a gallon of olives was a drop in the bucket to us. Heck, the first fifty olives went on all our fingertips before we even took a bite! Mom remembered us teasing Dad about that for years.

Mom recalled Saturday nights when, as a young girl, I'd shower and shampoo my hair so she could set it in pin curls to look nice for Sunday School the next morning. She remembered the countless dance recitals she attended, usually on the hottest days of the year, in an auditorium with no air-conditioning. She told me about each of my grandparents and the details of the day I was born. And she told me countless times how much she loved me. But I knew that already and have never doubted that fact a single day in my life.

So this journal, this piece of my mother's heart that I carry with me, means the world to me. There isn't a day that has passed that I haven't looked at, or thought of, the journal, it's that close my heart. Sure, sometimes a month or two has passed in the 11 years since I've received it that I haven't opened to a page and read, but it's right here with me.

This precious gift, my mother's journal to me-- answers the oft-asked question, "If the house were to burn down, what would you take?". My answer would be "my mother" even though she doesn't live with me. I'd take her journal.

What would you take?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pink Shoes

Did you try to adjust the color on your television screen or was that really pink you saw professional football players wearing on Sunday? After all, pink on pro football players usually doesn't happen.

But this week, the NFL got a bit of a makeover and shades of pink were all over the fields. In support of International Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the NFL allowed players to wear pink shoes, gloves, caps, and sweatbands. I even spotted a couple of pink towels on the sidelines too.

Since 1985, October has been designated Breast Cancer Awareness Month to raise awareness of the disease and raise much-needed funds for research and screenings. It is also meant as a major reminder to self-test, and to get your mammograms. (Yes ladies, I'm talking to YOU!)

If pro football players can go a giant step beyond wearing a pink ribbon by lacing up a pair of hot pink cleats, all women "of a certain age" can step up and get checked. I guarantee you, a mammogram is a lot less uncomfortable them a 300 pound linebacker, wearing pink gloves, smashing into you!

When was your last mammogram?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna

Photo: Courtesy of the Internet: Tom Brady was one of many players wearing pink gear this weekend to recognize breast cancer awareness.