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Posts Tagged ‘life’

Dude, where’s my exoskeleton?

In behavior, culture, design, entertainment, life, movies, Technology on August 26, 2013 at 12:51 am

By Caitlin Kelly

Have you seen Elysium yet?

It’s the summer blockbuster starring Matt (swoon) Damon, (who worked out for four hours a day to get ripped for the part) and Jodie Foster, scary-mean in gray silk Armani and speaking excellent French.

The director, Nell Blomkamp, also did District Nine. His vision is dark, terrifying, sardonic.

An electrically powered exoskeleton suit curre...

An electrically powered exoskeleton suit currently in development by Tsukuba University of Japan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One detail I enjoyed was Damon’s exoskeleton, although I confess with no shame that during the gross, gory surgery scene when it’s attached to his body I covered my eyes. The sound effects were bad enough.

I kept muttering: “It’s just the Foley guy. It’s all post-production.”

But once he’s girded with his external hardware, he becomes seriously bad-ass, practically invincible.

Made me think how handy this would be.

We all have — and need — exoskeletons of one sort or another, something external that strengthens and fortifies us for the fight, whether yet another Monday morning or something much nastier and bigger.

Maybe it’s prayer.

Maybe it’s your granny’s wedding ring, worn on a necklace.

Maybe it’s your Dad’s handgun.

Maybe it’s your husband’s hugs.

Maybe it’s yoga.

Maybe it’s playing your cello/guitar/flute really loudly.

Maybe it’s a glance in the mirror at your newly-defined abs, or the curve of your pregnant belly.

Maybe it’s a small hand tucked into yours or a wet, black nose snuffling you awake at 5:30 a.m. to go for a walk, now.

I love, oh, how I love, this poem by Blake, set to music as the glorious hymn “Jerusalem” in 1916. We played it at our wedding:

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

What’s your exoskeleton?

What helps you stay strong when you are scared and feeling small?

Moving across borders for love

In behavior, domestic life, family, immigration, life, love, travel, urban life, US on August 18, 2013 at 3:22 am

By Caitlin Kelly

I fell in love in September 1986 when I opened my downtown Montreal apartment door to a tall, bearded, blue-eyed medical student from New Jersey, whose name, (which I won’t reveal) is shared with a cocktail. (No, not Tom Collins!)

But the week before we met, and we were soon seriously discussing marriage — a first, for me — he had accepted a four-year residency position in New Hampshire, a 3.5 drive south.

Statue of Liberty National Monument, Ellis Isl...

Statue of Liberty National Monument, Ellis Island and Liberty Island, Manhattan, in New York County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oh, and in another country.

I was extremely lucky. As the unmarried child of an American citizen, my mother, I was able to get a green card quickly and easily and move to the United States legally to join him. Even more unlikely, I found a three-month, well-paid journalism job in the  same small town as his program.

English: the forests in new hampshire in autumn

English: the forests in new hampshire in autumn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But after it ended, reality hit. Hard.

I had no friends, family, income, history or job prospects. He was rarely home, and when he was home was exhausted and grouchy. The huge gang of lovely friends he’d made in Montreal? Gone and not replaced with anyone new.

Instead, homesick and bored, I commuted those 3.5 hours north every Monday for three months to teach journalism back in Montreal.

After 18 months of miserable, lonely, broke, isolated and career-threatening rural life, we moved to suburban New York.

We married three years later — and he walked out two years after that.

Anyone who moves to a foreign country for love takes an incredible leap into the unknown.

I know that several Broadside readers have, or are about to, done this. I also know it’s worked out well for two of them, and I have my fingers tightly crossed for Ashana.

But good Lord it’s scary!

Maybe not for other people.

It was for me. I remember, as if it was yesterday, feeling like a raindrop falling into the ocean. At 30, I was leaving a country in which I’d built a good national reputation as a journalist. I was leaving behind dear friends, a culture I knew intimately and liberal social and political values I mostly shared.

I was leaving behind a country whose entire population is that of New York State, barely 10 percent of the United States. How could I ever re-establish an identity or a career?

Seal of New York.

Seal of New York. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before I married the first time, (worried on several counts), I consulted a local lawyer — $350/hour in 1992 — to ask what, if anything, I would get in alimony or support if we divorced. Zip! Nada! Rien!

Wow. Since I was very far from home and wasn’t working and didn’t have a place to run back to in case…

Good thing I asked, and demanded a pre-nuptial agreement that allowed me to stay in my home and re-establish myself financially after two years of not working.

Had I not made that scary cross-border leap, I would not have published two books on complex national American issues, written 100+ stories for The New York Times, met my lovely second husband or enjoyed my river-view apartment.

But…it’s been quite a bumpy ride. I’m lucky I still have dear friends back in Toronto and other parts of Canada I’m in close touch with, and visit a few times a year. I am rarely homesick, but I do miss some cultural touchstones and a shared history.

I also still struggle mightily with the power here of the religious right, their relentless assault on women’s reproductive freedoms and laissez-faire American capitalism, which enriches so many so effectively — and buries millions more in low-wage jobs and medical fear and debt.

Have you changed countries for love?

Would you?

How has it turned out?

The secret of a lasting marriage is…

In aging, behavior, domestic life, family, life, love, men, women on August 15, 2013 at 12:43 am
Husband Crèche

Husband Crèche (Photo credit: dullhunk)

By Caitlin Kelly

Forgiveness.

My second wedding anniversary, to my second husband, arrives soon — September 17 – here’s a link to a description of that lovely day, with photos.

We’d been together for 11 years already when we finally tied the knot, in a small wooden 100+ year old church on an island in the harbor of my hometown, Toronto.

I loved him, but just couldn’t imagine taking vows with someone so different from me: Buddhist/Christian; American/Canadian; 30 years at the same employer/self-employed; Hispanic/Anglo; passive/aggressive; meticulous/spontaneous.

For many years, we fought, bitterly — two stubborn mid-life journo’s, both long-divorced with no kids. Two people who arrived in New York from cities far away, both determined to make our mark in the most sharp-elbowed city in the world.

It’s not easy to switch at day’s end from being someone able to beat ferocious competitors all day long to being sweet and pliable at home.

We do have tempers, and we were both well-bullied as teenagers.

It left us wary, hair-trigger, thin-skinned.

This blog post at Salon, written by an American woman who admitted she hit her husband, provoked many comments:

My husband and I weren’t even married yet when I first hit him. Afterward, I tried to rationalize what happened. I told myself I hadn’t hurt him. How could my scrawny 5’4” self actually hurt his strapping 6’2” frame, right? I swore it wouldn’t happen. But it did anyway.

My anger became my biggest secret. Whenever I commiserated with my sister or best friend  about our husbands, I would agree that, yes, men are maddening. But I would always leave out the the part about me hitting or slapping mine. I wasn’t lying exactly. Besides, I’d tell myself, it hardly ever happens.

But I knew it was wrong. Being a child who hits inanimate objects is one thing, but being a grown woman who directs her rages into her husband’s face is something else entirely. Each time it happened, I’d apologize profusely. Each time, my husband would forgive me, and I’d vow it would never happen again. But it always did.

Why is forgiveness top of mind right now?

It might be living in New York — where two prominent local politicians both betrayed their wives and got caught, yet both are running for office again.

It might be reaching mid-life, when some once-egregious and unforgivable sins begin to lose some of their power.

It might be the basic realization that none of us is perfect. We will, inevitably, hurt and disappoint and dismay and embarrass the people who adore us, and vice versa. Without the salve of forgiveness, no wound can heal.

It might watching a couple we introduced at our dinner table now divorce.

rings

Our wedding rings.

Yet Jose and I still spat. It’s not nice.

The other day, after a rough week, we went for lunch in a friend’s garden, and the universe decided to teach us both a lesson.

Within minutes — for the first time since our childhoods — we were both stung by wasps, I on the ring finger of my left hand (where a wedding ring usually goes) and he above his right eye, the one he uses to focus when taking photos.

We were in fucking agony!

But all we could do was fuss and coo, fetching ice and aspirin and trying to soothe one another.

It took a wasp’s venom.

But I’m paying attention, dammit.

What has saved your marriage?

Twenty things that make me happy

In animals, beauty, behavior, culture, domestic life, life, nature, travel, US on July 20, 2013 at 12:03 am

By Caitlin Kelly

I’ve spent much of my adult life striving, mostly professionally, often socially. I left my native Canada, and a thriving career and dear friends, to follow a man I married, (who walked out after two years of marriage). I’ve survived three recessions since 1989 and four orthopedic surgeries since 2000.

Would I ever have a calmer, steadier life?

Recently, I’ve felt…happy.

OMG!

Dare I even write those words? I feel like I’m tempting fate.

But things have been lovely of late.

I know one reason — the endless crisis/problem-solving/emotional dramas/fear and pain of the past few years are gone. My left hip, which caused me 2.5 years of 24/7 pain, was replaced 18 months ago. My mother, whose crises seemed endless, is now in a nursing home. Work, finally, seems to be much more solid than the terrifying, scraping pennies-from-the-sofa-cushions dips of 2008-9.

Here are some of the things that make me happy:

– Our town’s reservoir, whose landmarks are a cormorant who stands very still and spreads his wings in the sunshine, white swans, duck bums in the air, Queen Ann’s lace and orange lilies by the roadside. Best of all — turtles! There are about a dozen of them, all black and round, who line up along some rubber tubing at the water’s edge.

Queen Ann s Lace 02

Queen Ann s Lace 02 (Photo credit: Macomb Paynes)

– The flowers on our balcony, orange and purple and white and yellow, adding beauty to every day.

– My husband’s kisses.

– My dance classes, jazz and modern. It’s such a delicious relief to leave words and speech behind, to sway and bend and spin and twist with others. To stretch, still touching my palms flat to the floor. I love using a corporeal vocabulary I’ve known for decades: chassees, plies, tendues, battements, ronds de jambes.

– A surprise check at the exact moment I need it.

– An unexpected assignment, two of which showed up this week.

– A full refund, many years later, for a spendy skirt I bought at Nordstrom.

– The pool at our apartment building. On these 95+ degree days, it is such a blessing to plunge in and cool off.

– Freshly-baked banana bread, hot from the oven, that I made.

20130719091812

– A full pot of tea, poured from a white china teapot.

– A big bunch of white flowers.

20130719142148

– Fresh corn.

– Our new tent, which I can put up, alone, within minutes.

– Outdoors antiques fairs and flea markets, where I always find something fantastic — an Edwardian necklace, a Moroccan lantern or some vintage crochet edging.

necklaceblog

Mother of pearl, metal, glass beads and ebony, $55. Score!

– Throwing a party. Tomorrow we’re having about two dozen friends over to celebrate Malled’s publication in China.

– Making new friends.

Flo and Friend 1908

Flo and Friend 1908 (Photo credit: dottygirl)

– Discovering the most unlikely connections with a new friend, like the woman my age with whom I went for lunch to talk about work. She had been a professional ballerina, and danced in productions with Nureyev. I had performed at Lincoln Center in Sleeping Beauty with him in the lead. The odds?!

Lincoln Center

Lincoln Center (Photo credit: Glyn Lowe Photoworks)

– An hour+ long phone chat with a friend who’s known me for decades.

– Helping younger journalists who ask me for advice.

– Having our suburban NY street thick with bushes full of ripe raspberries.

How about you?

What makes you happy these days?

One brick at a time…

In aging, behavior, domestic life, life, love on June 6, 2013 at 12:13 am

By Caitlin Kelly

It’s too funny that these bricks lie in the driveway of my apartment building in suburban New York, since Toronto is my hometown. I have no idea how they ended up here, but they have long been a comfort on homesick days.

20130605173026

Today is my birthday, and a time to reflect on the current state of the union, as it were.

Things are good!

I’m blessed with a loving husband, good friends and health, food in the fridge, money in the bank and work lined up for the next few months. I feel — for the moment! — really relaxed from a terrific two-week vacation in which I made a dozen new friends and colleagues, a bonus. I re-connected with old friends — two lovely women half my age in Tucson. I found some pretty new clothes and had a road trip alone.

But the brick thing is a good analogy.

It’s taken many years to assemble this little wall aka my life. Brick by brick. Short of a Harry Potter wand, you can’t simply will an entire wall, or building, into instant existence. It comes slowly, each brick something you choose (some are defective), lay carefully into place, chink with mortar, align with the others already there. It takes time, and devoted attention, and skill and persistence.

My life has been like that. My 20s were a terrific time for career and friendships and travel — but utter misery romantically.

I moved to Montreal, met the man I would marry (the first time), and had a fantastic apartment cheap — but hated the long frigid winter, missed my Toronto pals and didn’t much like the paper I worked for. The bricks just wouldn’t line up!

Then, after moving to New York, I checked a new bunch of boxes in my early 30s: get married, buy an apartment, re-start my career in journalism.

Then the husband bailed, three recessions hit journalism and I lost my best friend to…who knows what? Our friendship just blew up, never to be re-constituted.

It was a lonely, broke, frustrating few years. I thought they would never end.

Brick by brick.

But I made a few new friends, (and lost a few more along the way). I found a new agent, then another. I got two books published. Built up my reputation as a writer. Did a bunch of volunteer work. Met my second husband.

It is a much slower process than one might prefer. We live in hasty, impatient times — if a website fails to load, or amuse us, within seconds — gone! On-line dating offers us endless (we think) romantic options. When life refuses to race along accordingly, we get pissed and angry and whiny and resentful. We want it all now!

brick

I just hope the next year(s) continue to offer me bricks, mortar and the health with which to keep building…

Failure is not an option

In aging, behavior, business, domestic life, Health, life, women, work on April 11, 2013 at 12:29 am

We shall go on to the end

We will fight with growing confidence

We shall never surrender

— Winston Churchill

Prime Minister Winston Churchill gives the &qu...

Prime Minister Winston Churchill gives the “Victory” sign to crowds in London on Victory in Europe Day. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been asked many times why, when faced with challenge, I don’t just give up.

Fortunately, I’ve never faced sexual assault, chronic or terminal illness, war, famine or poverty. Some of the people who read Broadside have faced these very real traumas, so I don’t begin to suggest my First World problems are terribly compelling, but resilience and tenacity do interest me.

Who cracks and crumples, hysterical, and who soldiers on?

While at university studying Spanish and starting my journalism career, I volunteered as an interpreter for Chileans who had suffered, and/or witnessed, the rape, torture or death of their loved ones, neighbors and fellow citizens, who had fled to Canada and who were claiming refugee status. In that role, I listened carefully to stories so soul-searing I’ve never forgotten them, even when I wanted to. I went to the dentist with one man to see if the X-rays could prove, (which they did not) that his jaw had, in fact, been smashed by a rifle butt. Another told me, in the detail he had to to prove his claim, about watching his wife and daughters raped in front of him.

My personal challenges have included:

– being the only child of a divorced bi-polar alcoholic mother who suffered multiple breakdowns and hospitalizations, some overseas

– her multiple cancer surgeries

– the loss of both grandmothers when I was 18

– putting myself through college, living alone for three years of it

– being attacked by an intruder in my apartment, at 19

– selling my work to national publications, starting at 19

– three recessions since moving to New York in 1989

– moving to, and adapting to, life in Mexico, France and the U.S.

– getting divorced

– becoming the victim of a con artist

– four orthopedic surgeries since 2000, including full left hip replacement in 2012; 18 months’ of pain and exhaustion before the operation

When single, I didn’t give up for practical reasons –  who would have bought the groceries or made the meals? The laundry and dog-walking? Turning to my family for help was rarely an option, for a variety of reasons.

If you fall to bits, who pays the bills?

I’ve always had health insurance — even paying $500/month for it when I lived alone for six years — and with it, access to medical and mental health help when necessary. I know that’s been a huge advantage for me, as has the freedom from the pressing financial and emotional responsibilities of children or grandkids.

Sent to boarding school and summer camp from the age of eight, I learned young to take care of myself, not to ask for help, not to rely on others for aid or comfort. The hardest part has been learning to ask others for help — and being pleasantly surprised and grateful at how willingly some offer it.

At my absolutely lowest points, I still had my health, some savings, a safe, clean home I could  afford. Maybe having lived in Mexico at 14, or having traveled to a number of developing countries, helped me keep a sense of perspective — I was still deeply blessed with what I had, no matter how tough things looked at the time.

And some people still dearly loved me; their faith in me, and their generosity and kindness, helped me keep it together. One woman, after the con man scared the shit out of me and I seriously considered moving back to Toronto, gave me refuge in her home for three weeks there.

The only time I really gave up, and my body made clear I had no choice in the matter, was three days on an IV in March 2007 , hospitalized with pneumonia. I had never just collapsed, (even when I really wanted to), and allowed others to take very good care of me while I rested and recovered.

Here’s a powerful post by tech entrepreneur Brad Feld about his own physical burn-out:

Finally, I do have a full time job and spent the bulk of my time working on that, so all of this other stuff was the extracurricular activity that filled in the cracks around the 60+ hours a week of VC work I was doing during this time.

I had a lot of time to reflect on this last week after I came out of my Vicodin-induced haze. At 47, I realize, more than ever, my mortality. I believe my kidney stone and depression were linked to the way I treated myself physically over the 90 days after my bike accident. While the kidney stone might not have been directly linked to the accident, the culmination of it, the surgery, and my depression was a clear signal to me that I overdid it this time around.

Do you ever just want to give up?

Have you?

What keeps you going?

Here is Winston Churchill, in his own words.

Who’s your cutman?

In behavior, family, life, love on March 8, 2013 at 2:51 am
English: American boxer Jack Dempsey posing in...

English: American boxer Jack Dempsey posing in ring in boxing position (Boyle’s Thirty Acres, Jersey City, N.J.). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love that word.

Technically, it’s the person who is — literally — in your corner of the boxing ring, whose job it is to deal with the cuts and bleeding a boxer endures in a match. To send them back in, ready to keep fighting.

I’m not a boxer, but sometimes life just feels like you’re getting socked in the jaw, really hard, and you stagger back and wonder…now what? Can anyone help me fix any of this?

Mine is a soft-spoken woman a decade younger who lives in a different time zone. Like me, she had a lousy first marriage and a happy second chance. Like me, she works in the publishing industry, albeit on the inside of a major publishing house. We’re both idealists, a little goofy, from families we can’t turn to for help.

I called her the other day, and, in reply to a soft: “How are you?” it all spilled out.

Some people can ask you that question and just start reading the emails on their phone as you begin to answer. It’s a stock phrase and they’re not really very interested, especially if you’re in the middle of a rough patch.

Your cutman cares. More importantly, s/he is, as they say, solutions-oriented, not only able to listen sympathetically, but someone who knows how to bandage you up and get you back into the ring.

I’ve faced a really rough patch recently and, tangled in the thorny vines I only make worse by thrashing, I really needed someone kind and loving and smart to help me cut through them, (a cutman of a different order, if you will.)

In a 45-minute phone call, (yes, during our workdays), I laid out my various issues — a work problem, an exciting new project with some dangerous elements, a family drama of extreme nastiness and my annoyance with an agent who can’t seem to return emails or phone calls.

I hung up, encouraged enough to take some remedial action, grateful as hell for her friendship.

Who’s yours?

What does it cost you to live these days?

In behavior, cities, culture, domestic life, life, Money, travel, urban life, US on January 29, 2013 at 3:09 am
Apartment buildings in the English Bay area of...

Apartment buildings in the English Bay area of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Beautiful but oh so spendy!!! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A recent New York Times article made clear — again — why living in Manhattan is increasingly for the wealthy:

The average Manhattan apartment, at $3,973 a month, costs almost $2,800 more than the average rental nationwide. The average sale price of a home in Manhattan last year was $1.46 million, according to a recent Douglas Elliman report, while the average sale price for a new home in the United States was just under $230,000. The middle class makes up a smaller proportion of the population in New York than elsewhere in the nation. New Yorkers also live in a notably unequal place. Household incomes in Manhattan are about as evenly distributed as they are in Bolivia or Sierra Leone — the wealthiest fifth of Manhattanites make 40 times more than the lowest fifth, according to 2010 census data.

Ask people around the country, “Are you middle-class?” and the answer is likely to be yes. But ask the same question in Manhattan, and people often pause in confusion, unsure exactly what you mean.

What many people outside New York don’t know, necessarily, is that many “New Yorkers”, and I include myself in that bunch, have never lived in The City, as we call Manhattan. It’s too damn expensive!

They live on Staten Island or Queens or the Bronx or Brooklyn or (as we do) in Westchester or New Jersey or Long Island or Connecticut. We waste hours of our lives trading time for money, commuting an hour or more each way.

Since leaving my hometown, Toronto, in 1986 — where real estate is insanely expensive, (only Vancouver is worse), — I’ve lived in Montreal, a small town in New Hampshire and in suburban New York. I’ve seen huge differences of the cost of living firsthand.

In Toronto, rent/mortgage costs are high, almost no matter where you live. In Montreal I rented a stunning apartment — top floor of a 1930s building, with a working fireplace, elegant windows, two bedrooms, dining room, good-sized kitchen — for $600 a month. It was the 1980s, but my then boyfriend was paying $125 a month to share the entire top floor of an apartment building. I didn’t need a car, food and utilities were reasonable, but the taxes! Holy shit. I moved to Montreal with a $10,000 a year raise, and looked forward to extra income. I only kept $200 a month of that, the taxes were so bad. More to the point, I hated the lack of services I got in return — a high crime rate, pot-holed roads, lousy hospitals and libraries. I moved away within 18 months. (Not to mention a winter that lasted from October to May. Non, merci!)

Rural New Hampshire, with the U.S.’s lowest taxes, was cheap enough, but we needed two working vehicles, plus gas, insurance and maintenance, an expense I never needed in Toronto or Montreal.

Moving to suburban New York, where we bought a one-bedroom 1,000 square foot top-floor apartment, with a balcony, pool and tennis court, allowed us a decent monthly payment, thanks to a 30-year mortgage, all we could then afford on one salary, his, a medical resident.

I still live here, now with my second husband, paying $1,800 a month for mortgage and maintenance combined. That may sound like a fortune, but it’s pennies in this part of the world. We could easily spend that for a tiny studio in Manhattan. He pays $250 a month for his train pass to travel a 40-minute trip one-way into Manhattan.

The larger problem?  Our salaries are stagnant, if not falling. I earned more in 2000 freelance than any year since then.

Gas here in New York is just under $4/gallon — it was 89 cents a gallon in 1988 when I came to the U.S. Food is much more expensive than even two years ago, so we spend about $150+ every week for two people. We do eat meat and I work at home, so I often eat three meals a day out of that.

Our cellphone bill is absurdly high and something we need to lower. Electricity is about $75 a month as is the basic land-line bill. We also pay about $100 for a storage locker and $75 a month for our (unheated, unlit, no automatic door opener) garage.

The local YMCA wants $89 a month, (which I think really expensive) for a monthly single membership. One of the worst issues here? Tolls! It costs $4 each way to cross the cheapest bridge to get into the island of Manhattan, and another is $9 each way. Parking, if you choose a garage in the city, is routinely $25-50 for a few hours, while a parking ticket is more than $100.

These smack-in-the-face costs are only bearable, for me, because I’m self-employed as a writer, and can write most of them off as business expenses.

So why stay?

– My husband has a steady, union-protected job with a pension and a decent salary

– He likes his job

– I have ready access to the editors, agents and others in my industry I need to support my writing career. Online is not enough to build profitable relationships, at least for me

– I enjoy New York City a great deal. I love ready access to Broadway, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, fun shops and restaurants and quiet cobble-stoned streets to wander on a fall afternoon

– Where would we go? I have learned (after two deeply disappointing moves to Montreal and New Hampshire) that being happy somewhere is often a complex mix of things: housing (and its cost and quality), access to culture, a liberal (or conservative) environment politically, neighbors who share some of your interests and passions, weather, climate, taxes, government, your job/career/industry.

As several fellow Canadians I know said, “I moved to New York, not the U.S.” I’ve seen a lot of the States, and can appreciate the appeal of many other places here. But almost nowhere has made me feel confident enough to up stakes and start all over again. I was up for a cool job in San Francisco once, but the dotcom collapse ended that. I like L.A. a lot, but Jose refuses. (Next stop? South of France, s’il vous plait!)

– I love the Hudson Valley’s beauty and history

– We have some good friends, finally.

Here’s a fascinating blog post by a Canadian then living in Sardinia, now in the Cayman Islands, about the cost of living there. Many of her followers weighed in, from Hawaii to China.

What are your costs of living these days?

Are you thinking of moving to lower them?

Looking up old boyfriends

In aging, behavior, blogging, domestic life, family, life, love on December 24, 2012 at 12:09 am

The holidays are a time of reflection and connection. But it’s also a time, for some of us, of poignant romantic regrets — the email or text ignored, the phone call or letter you never returned, the first date disaster or months of loneliness.

It’s the time many people look into the new year, only a week hence, and think...hmmmm. Some will wonder, still, about the one who got away.

Thanks to social media, it’s far too easy now to find former beaux (and belles.)

But should you?

Choosing: painting by first husband, George Fr...

I recently thought I’d try again to reach out to Big Name Architect — and found him on LinkedIn — a guy I first met when I was 22 and he was 44. Unbenownst to us that day, (both of us then living with others), we both came away smitten. I wrote a story about him and wandered off into the rest of my life. But he had set up an office near my New York home and, once or twice a year when visiting from Canada, would take me out for dinner.

After my husband walked out in 1994, BNA and I, then both single, flung ourselves into a heady affair, the age difference a little daunting, but perhaps worth a shot.

It got messy very quickly as he proposed marriage within only a few months and I was in that particular form of madness of the about-to-be-divorced,

His proposal was flattering, of course, although I was actually still married, barely separated from my husband after seven years. Rebound city.

It got so intense and overwhelming that I turned to my Dad — the same age as BNA — for advice. He agreed that this was not, despite all the surface glamour, a good fit for me. I do poorly with bossy men. He was, (albeit talented and charismatic), quite bossy.

So BNA promptly found and married someone else. When he replied to my recent email, after years of silence when I wrote emails he wouldn’t reply to, he told me triumphantly (?) he’s still married. Our messy ending still rankles him.

Another sweetie re-found me, or vice versa, on Facebook. Then a gorgeous, muscle-bound would-be Olympic rower at UNC Chapel Hill, we met on a student exchange. He wooed me in ways no one ever had — a huge bouquet of red roses delivered to my door, even giving me a lovely antique gold ring with three tiny diamonds. Losing it felt like losing a piece of my heart. He is remarried, as am I. I always wished the best for him and am so glad he is well and happy.

The man I lived with in my 20s reached out to me about a decade ago, apologizing — AA-style — for his transgressions against me. There actually hadn’t been any. They had been mine. But there he was. We broke up when he wanted, more than anything, to get married, to buy a cashmere overcoat and Make Money. All of which, when I was only 25 and desperate for adventure, seemed really boring.

His later life, and divorce, proved far bumpier and challenging than I’d ever imagined. He’s now working as a PI, which is pretty cool. We caught up last year for a long lunch and it was comforting to touch base with someone I liked very much, and loved, but felt fortunate not to have married.

Then, finally, I re-found my first true love on Facebook, whom I met at University of Toronto, when he was editor of the weekly school newspaper and I the eager young journo five years his junior. I’d sought him in vain for years using social media which he wasn’t using.

We, too, had reconnected right after my divorce, as he was coming out of his own first marriage. Neither of us had kids, but both of us were then still too bitter and angry about our spouses’ betrayals to be much use for one another than a fellow bruised survivor to commiserate with. Not terribly sexy, that.

Nor were we any better suited as long term partners than we had been in our college years.

But he’s still a sweetheart, a talented, interesting and creative person, and I look forward to seeing him again soon in Canada, and introducing him to my second husband. His second wife is an academic superstar and he’s now a late-life Dad. Cool!

Here’s a Canadian blogger’s memories of two ex-boyfriends:

I think of him every once in a blue moon, usually when I’m looking at a calendar. JASON. July, August, September, October, November.

Have you re-connected, successfully or otherwise, with a former love?

How did that work out?

How about Plans C, D and E?

In aging, behavior, books, business, domestic life, family, immigration, journalism, life, love, Media, US, women on December 11, 2012 at 1:50 pm
University College, south side, University of ...

University College, south side, University of Toronto….My alma mater, (Victoria College, actually.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think many of us have a Plan B — or are already living it.

But how many of you have thought far enough ahead about plans C, D and E?

Here’s a recent blog post chosen for Freshly Pressed by a woman who’s 40, in Toronto, the hometown I left in 1986. In it she discusses how it feels to face a life she did not plan for:

Life sure hasn’t gone the way I planned. That’s an understatement. I thought things would be different. As a kid, I used to think that life got easier as you got older. Now here I am pushing 40 and boy was I wrong about that. The older I get, things seem to get more complicated and every decision I have to make feels like the weight of the world.

Being a grown up is hard.

Hell, yes!

I am now at an age that feels absolutely geriatric, 55. Ahead lies a diminishing number of years on this earth, and physical decline. Cool! If I don’t have a few back-up plans (what if I get really sick? what if my husband dies?), I’m toast.

I’m writing this post sitting in a hotel room in Washington, D.C. I came by train from New York on Sunday to compete Monday for a fellowship that, if I win, offers $20,000 for six months to research an issue of interest to me. There are 14 finalists and they’ll pick maybe six.

I have to plan on not winning. Not to be negative, but realistic.

I have so many other ideas I can barely keep track of them all: writing (and I hope selling) two more non-fiction book proposals; three assignments from The New York Times and another which I hope will send me on my next trip; a conference I hope to create next fall; rustling up people to donate their talent for a fund-raiser; planning travel for 2013…

My point is that “planning” your life is truly a fool’s errand, no matter how comforting it appears. You can aim for goals, and likely hit many, if not most. But some you are going to miss.

If you do not grasp this reality, young, you may face a life of tremendous frustration and bitterness.

Some dreams will be snatched out of your grasp. Some people will disappoint you and betray you and lie to you and disappear. Some things are just shitty luck: infertility and/or miscarriage; accidents; disability or chronic illness. You still have to deal!

Here are some of the twists and turns my life took after I chose to leave my hometown of Toronto, age 30:

– Took a newspaper job in Montreal. Hated it! The winter was brutally long, cold and snowy. The crime rate was crazy, and frightening. The paper’s management were…not what I wanted.

– Moved to a small town in New Hampshire to follow the man I planned to marry, an American. I tried harder than I have ever tried in my entire life to make friends, and it proved impossible. He was doing medical training, so he was either gone, exhausted or emotionally withdrawn.

Moved to New York City to make it as a journalist. I was promised a month’s try-out, paid, at Newsweek International. When I called to confirm my start date (after we had moved to NY and bought an apartment and he had changed training programs) they said “Oh, we have an internal candidate. We don’t need you.” I insisted and still did not get the job.

And that’s only the first five years!

My life since 1989 has included a two-year marriage to the doctor; three recessions, four orthopedic surgeries since 2000, losing a few staff jobs, three days in the hospital with pneumonia, dating a convicted criminal…and writing two terrific books, finding a lovely new husband and enjoying my new left hip.

None of this was planned.

Sure, I had some hopes: good journalism jobs (check); get married (check, check); write a book (check, check). So I’m happy with this. But so many things have blown up in my face, metaphorically speaking, along the way as well.

If you are not ready — emotionally, physically and financially — to adapt to whatever life throws at you, you’ll waste a lot of time when things go south in a fog of cognitive dissonance, moaning “What happened?” instead of packing your parachute.

Here’s a great blog post by a young woman writer whose blog I enjoy, about being prepared and knowing she’s not a victim. It is a choice.

How has your life turned out?

As you’d hoped and expected? Or…?

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