?`s and ANNEswers

Ten minutes to write. Less time to read.


Three nights ago, a young shortstop named Nicholas Mackie Hoerner (Nico for short) played his first major league game ever. It was in a Cubs uniform against the San Francisco Padres. He is 22.

On his first time at the plate, Nico had a base hit, prompting the sportscaster to say, “This player has a 1000 batting average.” In the following innings, Nico caught more than one ball and lobbed them to the appropriate teammate for the outs. He also drove in six RBIs, including a home run himself.

If you’re not a baseball fan, perhaps none of this seems important. But this is the tail end of a grueling season, a season that is always injury-riddled by September. It’s way too long (except to line the owners’ wallets), so it was refreshing to see someone called up from the minor leagues who played with new energy and excitement. He kept his composure, but you could tell he was just happy to be there.

By the later innings, many in the crowd were chanting, “Nico, Nico.” Which was equally refreshing because the Cubs were playing in California, not in their home stadium. Maybe the kid’s debut was just what baseball needed to remind owners and managers and players what the game is really about.

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For years, a group of us has met regularly for coffee on Tuesday mornings at the local Martin’s Supermarket at 10 AM. Currently there are nine women who may or may not show up on any given Tuesday, depending on what else is occurring in our lives.

I think most of us try to avoid appointments at this time because getting together is more important than having your teeth cleaned or your hair colored during this hour and a half one day a week. I know I usually managed to schedule around this coffee klatch.

But this summer I’ve been missing in action at Martin’s for the past several weeks. There have been travels and house guests and – yes – unavoidable medical appointments, unless I want to wait four or five weeks to get in. I was MIA again at MIT today.

MIT is our acronym for “Martin’s Institute of Therapists,” not to be confused with Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The letters are intentionally the same for the sake of irony. But the ‘therapists’ part is very intentional, because what this group does best is be there for each other.

Every one of us is part of the sandwich generation. So we’ve listened to friends share concerns about their adult children and their aging parents. Concerns about our spouses are on the table as well. We’ve shared tips on everything from choosing a particular doctor to solving a simple sewing project. We’ve wrinkled our brows in thought and shared our words with discretion. It’s never been said, but everything is in confidence.

I must make sure I get there next week.

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Lists Revisited

On September 4, I wrote about my new approach to the daily list. Now, only five days later I realize there’s more to it than what I wrote then.

Then I divided my daily list into two categories: the meat and potatoes and the gravy. The former must be completed on the assigned day to keep life functioning without issues; the latter is optional.

It sounded like a great plan, a prioritizing of daily tasks. But I’ve realized that gravy consists of items that come to mind and need to be written down before they evaporate. In other words, gravy is my memory’s assistant.

It doesn’t mean that today is the deadline. Nor does it mean I have to finish it soon. Rather, it means I have to check on something maybe two weeks down the road. Or in October. But if I don’t commit it to a list, I might forget.

Forgetting is the real reason behind the gravy list. And, at my age, sometimes the gravy is more important than the meat and potatoes.

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Writing Advice

I recently saw something on Facebook that, as a writer, intrigued me. It was a statement that read: “Write drunk, edit sober.”

Basically, it means write with wild abandon but edit with surgical precision. It made me wonder what other ways to say this.

Maybe “Write like there’s all the time in the world. Edit like there’s no tomorrow.”

Or “Write down everything that comes to your mind. Edit as if you are the reader and not the author.”

Or “Write without looking back. Edit without looking forward.”

Or “Write like a house on fire. The edit version is the remains.”

Or “Write without thinking of what you’re doing. Edit by thinking about every word as unnecessary.”

No matter how you say it, I’ve learned from experience that writing with abandon but editing with precision is good advice. That first draft can be everything you want to say, while the edited version is everything you want the reader to cling to.

After pouring over various options, I’ve decided that “Write drunk, edit sober” is more succinct than anything I came up with on the spur of the moment.

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Summer in Review

I’ve alluded several times in recent blogs about various health issues that have cropped up this summer for both Earl and me. Let me share the sunny side of these past three months where we stayed closer to home.

My flower gardens were spectacular. Perennials and annuals joined together to provide a wonderful ongoing splash of color every week. We’ve had blooming plants from the first tulip through the soon-to-arrive mums. And, had we not been here, that wouldn’t have happened; because the well our sprinkler system drew from broke in mid-July. I’ve watered by hand many a night to make sure the flowers were sated.

I enjoyed playing piano without having to prepare for a lesson since I took the summer off as far as formal study was concerned. This means I played what I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted. Or not, as the spirit moved me.

I read and read and read. Got caught up on many of the magazine subscriptions that find their way to our mailbox. Promised myself I’d not re-up. And didn’t.

Earl and I did a jigsaw puzzle a week on average. And a mostly weekly Date Night. Tonight, for instance, we visited Lake Street Eats in Bridgman for hamburgers. Then we came home to watch baseball. Which means summer isn’t actually over, because we’re still rooting for the Chicago Cubs.

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I’d planned it all summer, especially as I went to physical therapy twice a week, endured extra visits to my doctors, and did exercises at home to solve various physical problems.

“IT” was a make-over that included new cosmetics, someone to teach me current techniques in applying them, a haircut and perm, a massage, and a mani/pedi. Oh, and new highlights for my graying hair.

I’m half-way through the process, and what I’ve learned is that it’s time consuming. Granted, purchasing new make-up and getting a perm are one-time events, but learning how to apply concealer and eye shadow take time and practice. The same goes for formerly straight hair that is now markedly curlier. And shorter.

Next week I’m getting my hair colored. The process my stylist uses doesn’t color the gray; rather it adds highlights to what would otherwise be mousy brown where the gray hasn’t intruded. It’s another one-time event, rather than a daily task.

I do this make-over thing every couple years, because styles and colors change. I need to change too, because I don’t want to look like I did in high school. Even if the beehive hair-do returns.

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Being Mortal

One of the two book clubs I belong to meets on the first Thursday of every month. Today we discussed Being Mortal, a non-fiction work by surgeon Atul Gawande. Long story short, the subtitle, Medicine and What Matters in the End, explains the focus of Gawande’s writing.

It studies how medicine has changed over the years, but still doesn’t spend a lot of time acknowledging that dying is part of living. Rather doctors want to solve, then fix and cure in the hope of extending a person’s life. Their patients often want the same thing.

Gawande argues that quality of our days, particularly near the end of life, is more important than quantity. He uses several case studies where either the physician or the patient continued various interventions until they became more overwhelming and more debilitating than the original health issue.

My favorite sentence in the book is: “This is what it means to have autonomy – you may not control life’s circumstances; but getting to be the author of your life means getting to control what you do with them.”

I read this book when it first came out in 2014. At the time I thought to myself, “This is very interesting information for when I’m old.”  Five years and a variety of health issues later, mortality and I are preparing to stare each other down. I’m taking the recommendations in Being Mortal to heart.

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I am an inveterate list maker. Every day that list governs what I hope to do, although I often don’t succeed in completing everything on it. This creates psychological issues too. If I were to finish everything, then my mind tells me I didn’t reach far enough. And if I don’t finish several items, my mind also says I didn’t reach far enough.

I’ve built a trap.

Those of us who are list makers need be aware that the list is a tool and not an absolute. To make sure it functions in the right way, perhaps the list maker needs to subcategorize those items on today’s list that are absolutes and those that are deemed as just getting ahead of the game. It’s the former that need to be addressed. The latter are gravy.

Currently, I’m working on a new plan for my lists. Instead of creating one every day, I’m going for every other day. Which means the things that don’t get done on Day One get relegated to Day Two along with a few additions. Yes, usually the ones that carry over are in the gravy category, but that’s okay.

Because at my age everything seems to take longer on the absolute list in the first place.

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Labor Day

It’s the unofficial end of summer, just as Memorial Day is the unofficial beginning. In between we’ve enjoyed one hundred days of mental vacation with extended daylight, no coats, and overflowing farm stands. What could be better?

Actually, today was better in a couple ways. First, my husband who still works as a Realtor® was on “vacation,” since he held no open houses this weekend. In fact, he had no business calls either. I suspect it was because everyone was enjoying the last day of freedom before the school schedule started in earnest.

Which meant – the second way today was better — we lolled around the house, did a jigsaw puzzle, watched some TV, and managed to do everything except work. I caught up with my garden; he caught up with a program he likes called “The Prophet.” Or maybe it’s “The Profit”; I’m not sure. Regardless, we enjoyed the last vestige of summer to the hilt

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More Food for Thought

Yesterday we went to Arby’s for lunch and the St. Joseph River Yacht Club for dinner. For a Labor Day Weekend, I haven’t labored much in the kitchen.

This is the annual Tri-State Regatta Weekend, where sailors from Chicago compete to arrive first in St. Joseph on the opening leg of a competition. They stay overnight, party, lose sleep, and then sail for Michigan City, IN, and another night of partying and losing sleep before they sail back to Chicago.

We have friends who are avid recreational sailors. They, another couple, Earl, and I went to the yacht club last night for dinner, since it’s the only time the club is open to non-members. It’s been said a sailboat is a hole you throw money into, so we had an opportunity to see how the Upper Class lives. Judging by some of the boats, they have the means to live quite well.

Still, we all paid the same amount for our steaks, corn, pasta salad, Caesar salad, and cookie buffet. We all paid the same for our beverages, and we all enjoyed a gorgeous end-of-summer evening. It’s just that the non-members were ready for bed long before the sailing crews were.

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