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Category: Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who’s Determined to Kill Me

You Gotta Defy Age While You Still Can


(I wish I’d made this cute cake but alas, I didn’t. found the pic on the internet)

My husband joined AARP. I told him it was a mistake, if for no other reason than a psychological one. Who wants to be lumped in the oldster crowd the minute you crest 50?

(I had to put this picture in–I googled “old man with walker” to pull up a picture of an old man with a walker and THIS is what it shows me?! So I’ll say this is me defying the old man with walker mentality ;-)

Now we get brochures in the mail for nursing homes, which is premature, for one thing. Plus, with this lame economy, don’t they know we’ll be sleeping on park benches by the time we actually need a nursing home? Although by then I envision gulag-style developments where all the broke, aged baby boomers who lost their retirement savings in the real estate bubble will be relegated to wither away during their twilight years, tooling around in half-broken wheelchairs over cracked failing pavement. How’s that for golden years?! If we’re lucky we’ll be housed in all of the default-loan houses that can’t sell because no one can afford to buy them because no one can get jobs because corporations are too busy stockpiling record earnings for the top 1% of their staff to bother hiring anyone else and creating jobs so people can afford to, um, live. Sorry, I got a little off-topic. Back to early aging (although I call dibs on a house in Miami if it comes to my prediction).
My girlfriend, now in her early 50’s, joined the senior’s tennis league because she can happily whip the butts of the much older gals. She thrilled to win and win handily this way, and she’s got a valid point there. So maybe acceding to age isn’t always a mistake–it can be gratifying.

(my friend would not appreciate this picture and what it suggests about older tennis players losing their, um, charms)

I enjoyed a brief phase as a tennis player (not a good one, just serviceable). I’d always wanted to flit about in a cute tennis skirt and the only way you can really get away with that is if you play the sport. So I did, until I kept getting injured and had to stop. So I had to give up my cute skirts. Now they have exercise skirts which I’d so love to don but as a keen observer of what does and does not work in gym wear, I recognize that a) you have to have a rockin’ body to wear exercise skirts and b) you can’t be my age and get away with wearing them unless you’ve run at least ten marathons in the past five years–it’s like a golden ticket pass.
Wise to the cuteness factor of tennis skirts, for years I tried to encourage my girls to play tennis but they would have nothing to do with it. “Think of the cute outfits!” I told them, but it fell on deaf ears. And then my youngest finally got her chance for adorable sportswear last year when she was recruited to pinch-hit for her varsity field hockey team when they needed a goalie. A long-time soccer goalie, she’d never played field hockey before, and I’d never seen a match before, so I naively thought, “At last, she’s going to have a cute uniform, those adorable little plaid skirts! Lucky her!” Imagine my surprise when I showed up at the game to see my daughter in goal looking like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, garbed as she was in boxy padding that essentially hid every hint of her existence. I was happy for her from a safety standpoint, but felt badly she got the short end of the uniform stick.

I saw an exercise skirt today that I really want (but will not succumb to, knowing that it’s the female equivalent of the very large guy on the show Modern Family wearing tight bicycle shorts–a big no no for all involved. My girls forever warn me not to look like that at the gym and I generally take heed. But this girl had on a skirt with back pleats that swished when she walked and darn it, I want to swish when I walk but then I realized I’m not a swisher, never have been, and nearing 50, it’s past the point at which I’m even allowed to swish. You have to recognize your limitations, I always say. But it also doesn’t mean I have to yield to my age and join the AARP, which I won’t, thank you. At least not till I can reap the benefits of the senior citizen discounts, maybe.
Last week my husband got a special gift from AARP. A leather-look vinyl man-purse. Just the thing he needed to complete the loser picture he signed up for. As if it’s not bad enough, it’s emblazoned with the AARP logo, just to seal the deal. I suppose at least it wasn’t a man-skirt.

I dunno, maybe I’m being unfair with this whole AARP thing. Perhaps it’s useful to get the inside scoop on the latest in retirement villages. Even if it is cruel, dangling fancy retirement homes in front of him, considering at this rate we’ll never even be able to sell our house, let alone retire. We might even have to turn it into a retirement apartment or something, at the rate the economy is going.
Jenny Gardiner is the author of the award-winning novel Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, as well as the novels Slim to None and Over the Falls, the novel House of Cards, and the humorous memoir Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who’s Determined to Kill Me. She also has a story in Wade Rouse’s upcoming humorous dog anthology I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship (NAL/Sept ’11), a fundraiser for the Humane Society of the US and selected animal charities.





Drowning in a Sea of Communications

When I was a girl, I waited impatiently each day for the mailman (back then it was always a man) to arrive. Not that I was expecting much of anything (short of some important little nugget of heartthrob news from the David Cassidy Fan Club), but the arrival of mail was such theater in my house that the entertainment factor mattered, if nothing else.
I challenge you to not think of the song "I Think I Love You" when looking at this!
When the mailman tried to thrust the fat bundle of letters through the slot of the door, located at the bottom of a flight of steps on the side of our house, our two (and sometimes three) very large (and otherwise sedate) Labrador retrievers would leap down the stairs and into the door, trying to catch the mail as it fell through the slot, thrashing their heads like sharks feeding on a surfers leg. By the time the mail was all stuffed in (the mailman no doubt saying prayers for the safe return of his fingers each time he stuck another envelope through the hole), it was anybody’s guess how much of it was punctured through with teeth marks, sort of their little doggy time stamp. Amazingly most often the letters were still entirely legible.
Insert mail here
Our mailman didn’t exactly enjoy delivering to our house. Once he brought a package to the door and our dogs lurched toward it thinking they could shred that too. My father had to placate the poor fellow and his trembling hands with a stiff shot of Jack Daniels before he could return to his rounds.
My father, a fastidious mail checker, at some point carried over his mail ritual from his office and incorporated it into our home mail system. Each piece was punched with a date stamp, even junk mail. My family could never quite understand why he was even saving advertising fliers for the Gold Circle Stores super savings of the week, let alone preserving record of their prompt arrival at our home. Eventually, the junk mail hoarder became overwhelmed with the volume of the stuff, piled as it was throughout the house. Nevertheless he logged its arrival with the regularity of a laxative.
When the internet came along and with it email, I was entranced. Gone was the need to wait a full 24 hours for contact from the outside world: any time of the day or night communication from someone unexpected might just come my way, and I was ready for it. Maybe Donny Osmond would finally reply to that love letter I sent him in 1970! (Wait, Donny Osmond? Just joking!)
Trust me, there was no puppy love there
Nevertheless, I stupidly habituated myself to check for new email frequently, something easily done when you’re glued to the computer for work anyhow. This habit was only reinforced with a career as a professional writer, waiting as writers do for contact from agents, editors, and responses to pitches for freelance pieces.
Then came the requisite joining of writing groups online, which involved far too many email group chats (known as list servs) in which mundane ramblings about anything from nagging bunions to menopause was twisted like loathsome kudzu around relevant professional information and networking opportunities. This forced me to weed through myriad email conversations about someone’s grandmother’s bedsores in order to glean necessary facts (and not about grandma).
At first, email came in modest spurts, never anything unmanageable. The list serves added a time-consuming component but still, one in which I could remain ahead of the curve. Then along came social networking sites. MySpace gave way to Facebook, which now duels with Twitter for one’s limited time. Back in the good old days, oh, say, about 2005, a writer could just write. But with the onset of social networking came the aha moment for the publishing industry that <span style=”font-style:italic;”>voila! Authors can do all of their own marketing and publicity and save us bundles.</span>
So I found myself dividing my time between writing, sifting through burgeoning stockpiles of emails–many of which were from professional online groups–mingled with jumping to and from other professional online networking sites, then servicing the demanding gods of Twitter and Facebook. It’s to the point that my working day has been subdivided into one in which writing seems to be continually squeezed out by the ancillary demands of a writer. I’ve become my father, minus the date stamp.
Which finds me now under water with internet communications. Drowning in information about which I barely even care at this point, entirely repelled from that which once fostered and now only distracts me. I feel under siege with email, as if I’m imprisoned by excessive information: I’m Gulliver, securely tied down by the Lilliputians. If I’m gone for a day, unable to check and respond to just emails, I’ve got well over a hundred new messages staring me down from the backlit screen of my laptop, demanding servicing ASAP. That doesn’t even include the Facebook friend invitations, group invitations, messages, comments, and whatever lies in wait from Twitter. It’s enough to make a writer want to, um, how about just write? Which seems a luxury of bygone days, sadly.
I look fondly back on the simpler era when my dogs capably chewed up our daily mail. I could await the mailman’s arrival, and then get back to my life. The good old days when electronic distractions didn’t threaten to unhinge a person. Back when I still held out hope that David Cassidy would write back to me with that marriage proposal I was so certain was coming my way, provided it didn’t get shredded beyond repair. Now that I think about it, some electronic dogs to shred my online correspondence sounds like a grand invention, doesn’t it?

There Are Some Monster Jobs Out There

Plenty of you have found yourselves lately having to seek employment again. It’s a grim reflection of the times. And nothing’s quite so demoralizing as looking for work when there’s not much work to be found.

Over the past several months of job-searching I’ve run the gamut of disses: disgusted, discouraged, dismayed and disenfranchised. Frustrated that despite valuable skills built over a lifetime, I’m left undervalued in the marketplace.

But the more I delve into this job search thing, the more I realize that I’ve been viewing it all wrong. Rather than it being an experience to drag one down, it can be an adventure. Almost like a vacation (because who can afford one anyhow?), without leaving home. Consider it employing your vivid imagination to open yourself up to new (albeit perhaps unwanted) possibilities of who you can be.

Take my experience with Monster.com. After spending too much time filling out forms on the website in order for Monster’s algorithms to find the perfect career opportunity for me, I sat back and waited, trusting that their professional expertise would be put to good use. The next morning an email from Monster awaited me, with my future potential dream job listed on my screen: assistant manager at Spencer’s Gifts.

Now, for those who haven’t spent time lurking in dark corners of shopping malls, Spencer’s is the place you go to for puerile titillation, if you need, say, boob cubes (breast-shaped ice cube molds), or fake dog doo to fool your friends and neighbors. They traffic in schlock. A dream job for your average 14-year old boy, maybe. For me? Not so much.

Now at first, I was insulted by this career pitch, wondering who the jokester was sending me lowbrow job opportunities. Not that there’s anything wrong with the job, mind you, but it’s not exactly the place I imagined my skills would be put to best use. Plus there’s something unseemly about a middle-aged mom ringing up perverted products and re-stocking pop-up pecker lighters and blow-up love dolls.

Although I must admit I thought about trying to land the job, and then pitching a memoir to my literary agent about my year as a purveyor of raunch. Sadly it’s the kind of book that sells nowadays

.

The next day, I got my trusty email from Monster, and realized their insult was nothing personal. Rather Monster hasn’t a clue. Because they suggested yet another job for which I was ill-suited: architect. I’m pretty sure it takes a bit of schooling to become an architect. Plus my mother used to always say to me (with the best of intentions), “Pity the person who has to drive over a bridge you built,” knowing as she did that a career as one who must build things safely was not meant to be in my future.

That suggestion was followed up by one that I apply for a lineman job. And curse them, because Glen Campbell crooning The Wichita Lineman has been stuck on an endless loop in my brain since I saw that listing. The thing is, I have no idea what a lineman is, other than the person who would climb up telephone poles to fix live wires, and with a morbid fear of heights—not to mention electrocution–no go there for moi.

Today Monster suggested I can be an occupational therapist, and once I figure out what that is, I’m pretty sure I’ll learn I needed to have studied something occupation-like in college to qualify. Although perhaps I need an occupational therapist to find work.

I gave up on Monster when they urged me to apply for a position as a senior in vitro neuroscientist/cellular electro physiologist. In Shanghai, no less.

Woe to the singles world if Monster was a dating service.

Craiglist lists a few vague jobs guaranteeing six-figure salaries, yet posts no information about the business. I think you have to meet them on a dark street corner at 3 a.m. to talk more about what they want. Another great career, killed before it began. I applied for a position in which I was then asked to send my credit record and bank information to complete strangers. I might be under-employed, but I’m not stupid.

I’ ve definitely been held back in my ability to exceed our imagination, job-wise, by living in a small town. I can’t fathom the fun job prospects available to shoot down if I lived in a major metropolitan area—maybe working a jackhammer atop a skyscraper, or being a nanny to Donald Trump’s daughter’s impending baby. In the meantime, closer to home, I’ll just have to pretend I can be a forensics fingerprint analyst, an airport ramp operator, a dog groomer, a postdoctoral research fellow, or a mattress deputy (don’t ask). Or the latest well-contemplated recommendation from Monster: driver of a Porta-John truck. I’m not kidding

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Granted, none of these rates high on the list of things I could or should do in my life, but hey, for a minute it’s fun to think I can truly do whatever I want. And actually get paid for it. Now there’s an idea whose time has come.

(just thought I’d add this: I found out about a job for which I was ideally qualified, and only then did I find out it was posted on Monster, but Monster failed to let me know….Go figure)