Friday, May 28, 2010

Happy Anniversary to ME! One Year a Blogger

What a difference a year makes. It was May of last year that I began posting blogs that shared bits and pieces of my life. At first I was resistant to the idea; who would want to read what I wrote? Did I want anyone to? And the most pressing question of all, would I be able to keep up on it if I commit? The answer to all of the above is YES!

It was the last part that I most worried about. I am not consist at anything. I have great ideas, start numerous projects, love the exercise programs I begin – but I end up ending everything I start because I get distracted so easily. I am one of those enthusiastic doers. It has taken me years to accept the fact that I have a very short attention span; they call it Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder these days.

I have, to give myself a break, followed through on a few things. I finished three college degree programs. I raised my children and continue to be a major part of their lives. I have stayed married for nearly 25 years. And, I have continually written at least once a week and published my blog, only missing a week or two.

Usually when I stop doing a routine for even a couple of days, be it exercise or writing, I drop the activity all together. Not this time. My need to write, like my need to talk, has not diminished. In fact, both are so important to me that I get anxious when I have a lapse in the practice. And since that first post a year ago, I have reaped many benefits that motivate me to keep writing, posting, publishing and telling my story.

When I first began writing with the intent on making money from the practice; this was way back in the 1980s, I was just a novice. It was too much effort for such little return. I continued to write but rarely submitted anything for publication and when I did always received the dreaded rejection letter months after it was sent. I have had a few published successes: local newspaper guest editorials and columns, a short story in a college literary magazine, and once I actually got paid to have my story published in a magazine big enough to be listed in Writer’s Market.

Since I’ve started my blog, however, I enjoy greater exposure, receive instant acknowledgment, and I have become a much more consistent writer. Here’s what writing my blog has garnered me:  
  • An invitation by Vibrant Nation to be one of their blog circle writers
  • Contributor to More Magazine online
  • Followers and visitors who read my blog from all over the U.S. and the world: Spain, the Philippines, Malaysia, England, Korea, Italy, and more
  • My name is frequently accessed through the search engine Google
  • This June, a newly published book, To Daddy with Love, will include the complicated story of my father’s influence in my life.
With this one year anniversary recap, I am able to see that being consistent, putting in a little effort on a regular basis can, and does, reap wonderful benefits. I am grateful to the friend who pushed me to begin this journey, grateful to all who have stopped by for a quick read and those who are loyal followers. Mostly, I am pleased with myself for sticking with the dream that has been in my heart for so many years and that has never died, and grateful for the venue in which I can express myself.
I can hardly wait to see what the next year brings.
 Happy Anniversary to This Gioia’s Chronicles.  Here is to many more!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I Wanna Dance All Night........., Without Having a Heart Attack

I finally got to go dancing again and I had a blast! A group of women got together to say farewell to a friend leaving town and the place was a local hotspot for the older crowd – that includes me, I am shocked to say.
Yellow Brick Road is a local band that plays “classic rock.”

I’ve wanted to see them and go dancing but darned if I don’t because they don’t start playing until past my bedtime! So I welcomed the excuse to stay up late just once and have a night out. I didn’t get home until nearly 2:00 am; haven’t done that for a while. I am so glad I did it. During the evening, however I came up with a few revelations (always thinking, never able to just enjoy the moment!). Here’s what they are.

I am getting old. The first song I danced to, “I wanna rock ‘n roll all night, and party every day….” caused my chest to constrict and my breath to catch that I (ashamed to say) had to leave the floor before the dance was over! I had to pace myself, picking songs with breaks in between and not bop around the dance floor like I used to do in my heyday. I vowed to get back to the gym the next day.
“This is what fifty looks like!”

The other revelation I had was one that made me feel much better about myself. I looked around the room and was comforted by the company I was in. Not only were the women I had come with enthusiastically dancing with abandon, the floor was filled with men and women of all shapes, sizes, ages and dance moves. Almost all were lip syncing to the songs. Some were with partners and you could just tell by the way they moved together that this was foreplay for them. Others didn’t need a partner; they couldn’t resist that draw of a particular song that took them back in time and they danced all on their own along with many other single dancers. I said to myself, “This is what fifty looks like!” For the first time since I acknowledged that I am indeed middle-aged, I felt comfortable in my own skin and middle-aged body.

Of course when I see the pictures that include me in the shot, I will still cringe at the image. It is very hard not to recall that I used to take much more flattering pictures.

This is the vision of my skinny self I long for

My first reaction to a photo of me now is “Oh my god, look at how fat I am!” But being amongst all of these peers who, when I looked closely I could see the younger version of them, gave me a renewed sense of acceptance. None of us, if we age naturally, is going to look like our much younger selves.

This is me around 1983

And on my 50th birthday

In fact, the happiness I saw on the faces of those dancing to the songs of their own heyday lifted my spirits so much that I was proud to be a member of their age group. For all the bemoaning I do about wanting to be skinny like the celebrities I see on magazine covers I saw one woman who was tiny and truth be told, she looked ancient! I will keep my extra pounds as it fleshes out the wrinkles. (I could do without some of the more jiggly parts, though).

And, I still get picked up by the lead singer!

Lastly, I know that, along with age, comes a determination to be true to oneself. I know why I don’t partake in nights out very often, and it’s not just because I like a full-night’s sleep. I can’t handle the cigarette smoke or the really loud music, especially of the hard-rock variety. Def Leppard, Pink Floyd, and Led Zepplin were not my music mainstays; I am more the Supertramp, Boston, and Elton John variety. The band that night, however, played a little bit of all these and I was quite content, that is until I could longer stand the smell or the sound. So, I said my goodbye, headed to my car, breathed deeply of the fresh air and reveled in the silence of the night. Yes, this is what fifty looks like: a little bit of fun, a little bit of peace and quiet, and a whole lotta memories.

As I intend on dancing for many more years I made good on my vow and went to the gym the next day. I am going now motivated not by how much weight I can lose in an impossible effort to return to a previous version of myself; rather I want to build up stamina so I can dance through an entire song, just like the big guy dressed in overalls and a Hawaiian shirt did! As a matter of fact, I don’t believe he ever left the dance floor! I have some catching up to do.
That's the "Wild Man" on the right!

Yeah, I want to keep dancing so I can keep on having this much fun!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Motherless Only in the Traditional Sense

My two daughters surprised me this past Mother’s Day weekend with an unexpected visit. Of course they brought along their two new babies: Rain who turned one month old while here and Noble just a week past his birth date. Aiden, the protective big brother and cousin came too. What an amazing experience it was to witness my children mothering their own. As beautiful as it was, it was also a painful reminder to me once again how much I missed my own mother. I am not sure “missed” is the right word as I never knew her to miss her. What I guess I mean is that I miss what I believe would have been the memory-making moments that we could have made together, like the moments I created with my own daughters.

When the girls were pregnant I was able to share my own pregnancy stories with them and we compared how similar or different our experiences were. During labor I watched how Adrian breathed through the contractions and didn’t want to be touched as the wave of pain flowed through her. I did the same. The bond created by nursing is one of the most special memories I have and watching the girls provide that sustenance to their own babes brings joy for me because I know they, too, will recall those most intimate moments to their deepest core. It made me wonder, however; did my mom nurse me? I doubt it. Those were the fifties and women just didn’t do that, or so I believe. She also smoked during her pregnancy, I’m pretty sure, if the rare photographs I have of her are evidence.

There are so many questions I had then and continue to have that I wish I could turn to my mother and ask.

I was recently interviewed by a local newspaper reporter who, for the Mother’s Day holiday, wanted to write a different story angle. She highlighted women who have lost their mothers and asked how they handled Mother’s Day. One woman interviewed had been abandoned by her mother when she was young; another woman lost her mom just a few years back when she was only sixteen. As usual, my mother-daughter experience was unique. I feel as though I never had a mother, not in the traditional sense at least, so my portion of the story always adds a bit of a twist. It’s the same when I head up the local chapter of the Motherless Daughters group meetings that I recently became the organizer for.

Just like when I was a child, I am set apart from others due to my unique status as an orphan; a survivor of the domestic violence that took my mother and the suicide that claimed my father all when I was just a year old. Now that’s a story one doesn’t readily share in casual conversation. When I do share my personal experience, as I have been doing since I started to write about it, I find there are so many layers of feelings that I tap into, yet am unable to express. When I am confronted with images and moments, such as when I’m with my girls and their babies, or with the women of my group, I have no way to compare the complicated emotions or thoughts in my head with their experiences. So, I just quietly acknowledge the existence of my thoughts and feel joy in knowing that I am a part of the creation of memories and special moments as the mother and am grateful for that.

As I make my way into another phase of my life, that of aging woman, I once again wish I could turn to the one woman I could ask those intimate questions such as: “How did you experience menopause? What symptoms did you have? How did you feel about growing old? Are you afraid of dying?”

Since my personal journey is one I take without benefit of a mother’s advice and counsel, I will be content with knowing I can be that guide for others. I feel blessed that I am able to have the experience at all, thanks to my own daughters and their need and desire to ask me those same questions.

She may not be with me in the physical form, but in my heart I know my mother is with me, guiding me to be a mother to my children and to her great-grandchildren. I am the conduit and everything she passed down to me came from a place not seen with the human eye but exists nonetheless. And long after I am gone, however I pass from this world, my descendents will carry my unique story and the legacy of my existence with them. It’s a mother-daughter connection that not even death can extinguish.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

And She's Off

I am getting the itch again. I want to travel and I am feeling that anxious restlessness that makes me long for adventure on the road, overseas, or just across the country. If you have followed my blog, you might remember my aborted cross-country trip last July. In my cute little Scion, loaded with one grandson, two dogs, and a trunk full of clothes, I made it just over the Kansas-Missouri border when I turned around and headed back to Las Vegas. Since then, the only trips I have made are the ones to California and back to see my daughters and their new babies. This summer I have big plans to travel and hopefully I will accomplish at least some of them.

In two weeks I will be free from teaching in the classroom and will only have online classes, which I can teach from anywhere I have Internet access. In addition to the frequent trips to southern California, I want to go to New York; I haven’t been home in 2 ½ years. I want to go to Oregon to scope out possible job opportunities and to look for our retirement property. John wants to go visit the northern California property he and his brothers invested in and Europe is calling out for me to come again. I also wish I could make a trip to the southeastern United States to do historical research. I have been teaching History 101 and we just finished up the Civil War section and I so want to visit the historic sites there. It doesn’t help that I’ve been watching the PBS documentary film, The Civil War and the television shows about tracing family histories.

The summer is just so long and I have two new grandbabies and two overwhelmed daughters, I doubt I am going very far over the next few months, but I can dream can’t I?

April 2010 brought into the world my newest loves:
Rain Catharine and Noble Carter

The travel bug hit me early on in life when I left home soon out of high school and discovered the adventures that come with visiting new places.

This little teardrop trailer was just perfect, small but very self-contained

I have never been fearful of the unknown, have often figured things out once I got there, and knock on wood have never had a bad experience.

I lived in this in this for a time when I spent a year in Oregon

My animals make great travel companions.
This is Babe with me on the Applegate River in Oregon, 1979

I love discovering the treasures of new places: regional food, people, and the area’s historic background. One of my favorite places to visit is the local cemetery where I can walk the grounds for hours paying silent tribute to those who have taken up permanent residence in the town where I’m just passing through.

Heaven help my husband who has to stay behind and hold down the fort while I am feeding my wanderlust. We have animals to feed, water and pay attention to.  I take two of the dogs with me when I can. There are plants and trees to water, especially during the summer in Las Vegas where one day missed can bring about the demise of our entire landscape efforts. But John is used to my need for a change of scenery. While he many not express an enthusiastic “Bon Voyage” he does give his blessing with a “See you soon.”

So it’s time for me to plan the next few months out. Stay tuned for my posts from the road, or the plane or the boat; who knows where and how I’ll get to where my next adventure awaits.