That's NEAT

Mr. Gaelic's office provides employees at a certain level or higher, and their spouses, with free extensive wellness programs including annual physicals, mammograms, colonoscopies, heart stress tests, hearing screenings, eye exams, complete blood work (amounting to over ten pages of reports), pap smears, skin cancer screening, and nutritional and physical coaches to keep you on track. As part of that, they recently emailed a video about how some people seem to be more metabolically advantaged than other people. You know the sort -- those people who can eat whatever they want and never gain an ounce.

I have to fight to keep my weight in check. Sure I'm at the gym or the ballet studio almost every day. But that's because I have the appetite of a teenage boy. Of course the opposite could be true that I have the appetite of a teenage boy because I work out so often.

Either way, I'm not sure I buy into the theory that my wellness clinic is putting forth. The latest video suggests that people who fidget have better weight management because of something called NEAT: non-exercise activity thermo-genesis. So for those of us, who pace the floor, tap our fingers, bounce our feet, and shift our weight when standing, all of that extra activity throughout the day can really add up. Some days on the treadmill it seems like an eternity to burn just 10 calories. That's like a couple of Tic-Tacs.

If I start bouncing off the walls and not sitting still, maybe I can become one of those metabolically advantaged people. Then I won't worry how many minutes I need to be on the rowing machine to make up for my Phish Food indiscretion the night before.


Say Goodnight, Gaelic

That urge just gets worse. It grows and can’t be silenced. It craves attention. Agitated. Anxious. Apprehensive. It insists that you answer to its demands right effing now. You need a fix.

Even fits of nostalgia can bring on that same intensity of need. The need to feel part of a place and time that doesn’t exist anymore. With age, the memories of places fade. The need to reestablish those sights and sounds and tastes and smells rises up within you. Being the oldest generation you have no one to ask. Sadness begins to sink in with the realization of loss.

But wait! There’s hope! What about that guy from your hometown who knew everybody and everybody’s family tree? Let’s ask Mikey! He’ll know!

“Hey Mikey! What was the name of that burger place on Avenue ‘C’ on the way to ‘A’ City?”

Suddenly, others chime in. “It was ‘M’ Burger.”

“Then what was the burger joint on 4th Street?”

“It was 3rd Street not 4th and it was ‘DK’. The one on 4th was ‘KK’,” Mikey corrects.

At which people exclaim, “Wow, what a memory you have!” While others kid, “You know how it is with people that age … they can remember stuff from way back but can’t remember what they had for breakfast.”

Mikey complains, “Hmmm … “

Then someone pipes up, “I thought it was ‘C’ Burger.”

Mikey goes on, “That was the name of the place that moved in after ‘DK’ closed.”

You decide to explain, “I can’t remember way back or breakfast either. I can’t remember my children’s names when I’m calling them. I must have Alzheimer’s.” But you immediately forge ahead with, “Here’s a toughie: what was the soft-serve ice cream place near ‘JJ’ grocery store at US ## and ‘R’ Drive?”

“Oh, that was ‘CK’,” someone chirps in.

Mikey complains, “I have a hard enough time keeping up with ‘A’, much less ‘R’ City!”

You kindly say, “Thanks, everyone! I needed a nostalgia fix.”

Until someone else offers up, “What about ‘T’ Burger? That was my favorite … 5 for $1 hamburgers!”

Mikey’s back in with, “I still have a picture I took of the ‘T’ Burger before it closed. Yeah, I liked going there too. But my FAVORITE burger place was ‘R’ next door to The ‘P’ Theatre.”

You draw a blank and retort, “Darn it! Which one was that one?”

Mikey reminds you, “’T’ Burger was by the viaduct in ‘A’, close to your house.”

You cover yourself with, “I told y’all I can’t remember anything! What street did I live on?”

Mikey, either exasperated or joking, deadpans, “’H’ Avenue.”

You close with, “Mr. Gaelic says they used too much blonde the last time they did my hair. Goodnight, Gracie,” half expecting someone to ask, “Who’s Gracie?"


Talk of the Noun

Confucius say, “A single conversation across the table with a wise person is worth a month’s study of books.” It may not have been Confucius; but, it is a Chinese proverb. It’s funny how on-target proverbs can be. Even if the conversation is across the ‘net rather than a table.

There’s this friend with whom I text message and IM quite a bit. This is the type friend that you can talk to about anything and everything and nothing. Until the cows come home and even after that. The last time we were chatting online, we were discussing keeping loaded guns in your house. Somehow that led to a comment of calling me a Menshevik. Don’t ask; it’s too convoluted to try to explain.

I asked for, but did not receive, a definition of the word. “You’ll remember it better if you look it up.” Dammit. I felt like a school girl being chided by her teacher.

After googling Menshevik, I felt even sillier. I swear I had many a history class in college. My major was International Relations. I felt about this big [holding pointer finger and thumb about a millimeter apart]. In my defense, my area of interest was Western Europe with a concentration on England from the Angevins to the Tudors, *not* Russian and Soviet history. My love of 19th century Russian literature couldn’t help me either.

Having friends challenge you to be a better version of yourself is a great thing. Having friends that you can attempt an intellectual jab at in some future conversation is priceless.


My Sob Story

The fits of crying began in earnest over my decaf latte and the morning newspaper.  And the crying jags became a constant as the day wore on.

The world isn't in such a mess that reading about the state of things provoked tears.  Even worse than that!  It was a love story sixty years in the making.  Buried near the back of the Sunday Style section are the wedding, engagement, and anniversary announcements.  Usually people only read those if someone they know is in the paper.  But as a genealogist, reading about births, marriages, and deaths is a daily occurrence.

The article that brought tears to my eyes was about a couple who couldn't get married.  No, not star-crossed lovers or two people in other marriages.  Two men.  In earlier years, they circumvented laws of inheritance and privacy by having one legally adopt the other.  Then something happened.  All of a sudden it was legal for gays and lesbians to marry.  (They annulled the adoption well before the wedding.)  Their lives have been rich and full and they plan to remain together forever.  Even after death, their ashes will be placed side by side in Arlington National Cemetery, both having served our country during World War II.

The next hankie soaker did not take me so much by surprise.  Enough people had told me that Toy Story 3 is a real tear-jerker.  Waterproof mascara to the rescue!  Sure enough.  The tears started rolling early in the movie.  Without giving too much away, it should be safe to say that Andy is heading off to college in this threequel.  With my eldest heading off to college herself in two months, the movie took on a new gravity as seen through the eyes of a mother about to watch as her first baby leaves home.  My critique of the movie?  Three thumbs way up.

Both heartwarming stories.  Both stories of the power of love and devotion.  To answer my youngest when she asked if you can cry tears of joy.  Emphatically.  Yes!


In My (Real) Life

Facebook is the number one online social network in the world. Truth in advertising – I use Facebook as well. I have over 400 “friends” on Facebook. Some of my “friends” have well over 1,000 of their own friends. In actual reality, I have about twenty friends. Of those twenty, only three do I consider close friends.

I can tell when my friends or I am taking a mental vacay because I (like them) am very apt to take inane quizzes such as “Which Sex and the City Girl Are You?” Or “What Decade Are You?” Other folks tend toward Farmville or Sorority Life or some other virtual reality game. Secretly, I love when my friends post their game updates. There’s a way to hide those updates on the news feed but only when they show up in your news feed first.

As of late, I’ve been using Facebook as a news aggregator. I get my news updates and fixes from my select organizations. But the problem is that those pesky “friend” updates get in the way of the newsy updates. Like the guy that went to my high school but graduated two years after me. Or my daughter’s former lacrosse team member’s mother. It’s not that I’m easy and can’t say no. It’s that I was a closet “friend” collector, trying to fulfill the saying that “She who dies with the most friends wins.” In my old age, I’m becoming more like Thoreau and his three chairs.

My conclusion? I plan to ruthlessly unfriend many of my Facebook “friends”. My cousin’s high school sweetheart? Gone. My former co-worker who now lives in Greece? Gone. Two friends from actual reality who have since passed away? As much as I love their memories, their Facebook pages have become remembrances by people who can’t seem to come to grips with their own mortality. Gone.

After all, as Samuel Johnston said, True happiness consists not in the multitude of friends, but in their worth and choice.


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Truth

What happens when your eldest child is accepted into her first-choice Ivy League college?  You let her know that you'll do everything in your power to make it happen.

The requisite college t-shirt has been bought.  The housing questionnaire has been returned.  The summer reading list has begun.  Come late August, she'll be off to Massachusetts for orientation. 

For anyone who hasn't been through the college application and admission process lately, tuition costs have outpaced the cost of living.  It's not unusual for top-tier universities to charge $50,000 per year.  When a student graduates, that's close to a quarter million dollars invested in his education. 

Perhaps it's because I grew up in a small Southern town of 7,000 where only four other people in my graduating class went away to a four-year college.  Perhaps it's because my school counselor advised me that "girls don't apply to the Naval Academy" and offered me no assistance in finding out about Advanced Placement tests or even how to register for the SAT.  But with my children, my eldest, I've taken her (with the others tagging along) to schools that I would have dearly loved to have even been aware of when I was applying to colleges.  I've offered her suggestions on when and how to take the SAT. 

Exposing her to such things stirred her desire to apply to "reach schools" as well as "safety schools".  Her reach schools weren't as much of a reach as I had worried they would be.  Which now means that she's heading off to a school she fell in love with.  Good for her!

Now we have to figure out how to pay for it. 

That's when we call in the cavalry.  That would be me.  I've been a full-time mother since before my third child was born.  I am the one that is the security blanket in case Hubby was ever laid off, disabled, or had to take a lesser paying job.  Now, with the economy (at least where I live) on the upswing, it shouldn't be a problem to find something, anything to help cover the cost of college.  Except that I haven't been in the paying workforce for 13 years and, according to a professional career counselor, my resume "is crap".

There's one other problem with the grand plan.  I absolutely love the job I currently have.  As my time in my current position grows short, I find myself developing a bit of melancholy.  I'll miss the life I lead.  I know that working for pay is yet another way of supporting my children and their desires and dreams.  (Especially since the second is already looking at private universities and the third already has her heart set on one particular private college.) 

In the end, I'll rise to the occasion of being the best mother my children could have.  I'll pull on nylons every day and commute to an office.  Perhaps between now and September I can find the perfect job for me -- Professional Mom and Wife.  Stranger things have happened.