Overworked? Overweary? Overstressed? Take A Day Trip. It Does Wonders.

St. Michael's HarborThere are a plethora of reasons why we need to get away from it all, if only for a few hours. We are overworked, overstressed, overweary, overextended, overtaxed, overstimulated—just plain over it. And thus, the good “doctor,” whomever that may be—a friend, a spouse, a mother, a father, a child, a healthcare provider—tells us to step away from the demanding rigors of our lives and take a day for ourselves. Coincidentally, it also happens that I showed my feature writing class the film “Roman Holiday,” a film in which Audrey Hepburn, playing a princess from a nameless country, decides she’s had enough, and takes her chances as she goes incognito for a play day in Rome. Luckily for her, Gregory Peck is there to help her secure her wishes of being a “regular person” for one 24-hour period. Ah…love and romance in Rome. The problem is, I couldn’t get to Rome. Not for a day over the weekend.

But there are nearby places to go where you can get away. St. Michael’s may not be Rome, but it is the perfect spot to let go of your cares for a few hours. Nestled on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, it is approximately one hour from Annapolis. On a weekend in the fall or spring when Marylanders are typically not heading to the Ocean City, Bethany, Rehoboth, or Lewes beaches, it’s a delightful ride on a pretty stretch of Rt. 50, especially in the fall as the leaves are turning. I could feel my worries and cares lift as soon as we crossed the Bay Bridge. Seeing the mainland of Maryland become more and more distant as the journey continued, I knew I was going to spend an enjoyable afternoon with my family as we shopped, ate, walked the streets, and talked to locals. I am never disappointed in my day trips to St. Michael’s: the town somehow has the power to welcome you with open arms and make you not want to leave.

WickershamThe drive in is absolutely darling. The store-lined streets reflect a sense of care that the people of St. Michael’s feel for their town, replete with merchants and townspeople decorated for the Halloween season. There were witches on brooms hung high in the air propped up into telephone poles, hay bails with pumpkin displays outside the stores, mums and other seasonal flowers adding color and personality to the town, and doors opened wide insisting that patrons come in and peruse the goods.Witch

My daughter and I had a great time going in and out of eclectic shops that boasted jewelry, handbags, scarves, towels, and household goods, while my son and husband shopped in some of the apparel and poster stores. There is something for everyone, including antiques, home goods, artistic boutiques, and candy shops.

Restaurants are in and about the main area, with many receiving four and five-star reviews. From classic American cuisine like that featured at Town Dock restaurant located on the water in the harbor (where we ate on the deck), to Simpatico, an Italian restaurant across from the community center, to the Crab Claw for seafood, there is something for every palate. Justine’s Ice Cream was voted best in town, and St. Michael’s Candy and Gifts is sure to satisfy every sweet tooth.Gazebo

The St. Michael’s Harbor area boasts the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, which charges an entrance fee, but is a working museum that kids will love exploring. Additionally, Patriot Cruises, which launches from the dock adjacent to the museum, takes guests on hourly cruises from the Harbor to the Miles River. These are all great suggestions you can do with your significant other or your family.

BeeHiveJackOLanternHowever, the highlight of our trip yesterday wasn’t anything nautical or historic: it was attending the Pumpkin Carving Contest at the St. Michael’s Community Center. Merchants sponsored enormous pumpkins (and I mean ENORMOUS), and talented individuals showed up between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to carve their pumpkins, each one numbered and then presented for voting. Selected judges awarded prizes, and then it was up to the people to vote. My husband, children and I scoured the place trying to pick the best one, but it was not an easy decision. The magnitude of the talent we witnessed was tremendous—and for someone who preaches to her students about the importance of creativity—I was overwhelmed by the innovation that took place in that room. In the end, I voted for the two women who carved “The Bee Hive,” and we all chatted with them about the event.leaves

It was the first time my children had stepped foot on St. Michael’s soil, and they both enjoyed their day there. My daughter wants to know when we can go back and do some “serious shopping.” My husband and I strolled the streets and recalled sentimental times when we had been there before. I’ve already marked my calendar for “Christmas in St. Michael’s,” an event I’ve wanted to attend for over 20 years.

JohnSmithPart of the fun of St. Michael’s is just strolling the back streets and sneaking peeks at some of the historic homes, the white picket fences, the flowers and landscaping, and the people who reside in picturesque homes that sit on streets lined with brick sidewalks. As someone who loves the water and being near it, the notion of living in a town like St. Michael’s has a great deal of appeal to me. In fact, in my novel, “Beneath the Mimosa Tree,” the grandmother, named Vivi, resides in St. Michael’s and is an active member of the town. I put her in that location because she exuded as much warmth as the town itself does.town

Perhaps when I wrote my novel I was projecting a possible future for myself down the road, imagining that I might someday be a sweet grandmother who would welcome her children and grandchildren for visits. I could certainly see St. Michael’s as a place to live in my retirement; it pretty much has everything I would need. It’s an enchantingly genial community that seems to smile at you and alleviate your over-extended self as soon as you get out of your car.

You Are What You Read

TeddyRI’ve experienced World War II. After my plane went down in the Pacific, I floated on a raft for 47 days, with only rain water to sustain me along with an occasional albatross I’ve killed and eaten and then used as bait to snag fish to skin and eat. I’ve been captured by the Japanese, taken to a POW camp, and been repeatedly abused and demoralized. I felt starvation, and had lice and maggots crawling on me; my foot has been broken, and I think about my family back in California, as I long for the war to end so that I can see their faces—faces that sustain me—again.

I am Louie Zamperini, the main subject of the book “Unbroken.” Angelina Jolie is directing the film by the same name, and it’s scheduled to be released on Christmas Day.

I have also been Stella Bain and Elizabeth Bennet and Mitch Albom and Jane Eyre and Ebenezer Scrooge.

Books do this for us. They allow us to momentarily escape reality and become involved in the lives of others, living vicariously through them as we flip the pages. The results from this type of immersion can vary. Sometimes, we will gain a clearer understanding of the world. Perhaps we’ll transform via an eye-opening revelation. Maybe we’ll have compassion for something we never dreamed we’d have compassion for. Or, maybe, just maybe, we will laugh at the characters, and ourselves, as we realize how ridiculous life can be at times.

I can’t image my life being as full as it is if I didn’t read stories. You are what you read.

“Unbroken” is not a book I would typically pick up. I tend to lean toward romance, relationship stories, contemporary women’s fiction, and an occasional suspense novel. However, at the recommendation of my mother, husband, and members of my book club, I took a leap and read Louie’s story. I have recommended it now on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, to friends I know, and to my students who have heard me tell parts of the story because it’s so remarkable. Now, I am recommending it to those of you who have not yet read this incredible piece of work.

Louis Zamperini

Louis Zamperini

I do my best as a professor to get my students reading outside of classwork. Some of them are excellent readers, with quite a wide variety of interests and genres. Others need a push. But when we read something as amazing as “Unbroken,” we can’t imagine hearing the story in any other way. Laura Hillenbrand, the author, goes about her craft so meticulously and elegantly, revealing the story at a melodic, somewhat haunting pace, that we cannot tear ourselves away from Louie’s predicaments. We are swept up in his story, and at the end, are left marveling at both his incredible journey and Hillenbrand’s grace as a storyteller.Reading

Reading allows us to immerse ourselves into place, culture, dialogue, people, and conflict. It allows us to see things from a new perspective. Having read “Unbroken,” I will never be able to look at a World War II veteran in the same way. I always knew they risked their lives and fought for freedom, but never before did I realize the magnitude in which these men sacrificed themselves. In order make our world a safer place to live, they put themselves in harm’s way; they did it to free people who should not have been enslaved and murdered, and to guarantee the freedom of so many who suffered at the hand of evil and cruelty.

I intend to continue to immerse myself in other places and characters. Right now, I’m in Scotland as Claire Barclay. I’ve been relocated from England; my mother has just remarried after my father’s death several years ago, and we are starting anew. It may be “The Long Way Home” by Robin Pilcher, but it’s home to me already after what I endured in Japan.

I can’t wait to see where the next book takes me after Scotland.

 

Baseball, Baltimore & Boisterous Real Fans: Well Worth the Wait

photo-1

Energized Camden Yards.

As I sat in the Club Level at Camden Yards on Thursday night, excited for Game One of the ALDS to begin between the hometown Baltimore Orioles and the visiting Detroit Tigers, I basked in the atmosphere. The ballpark hummed. Why, it was only a few years ago when it was devoid of Orioles fans while intruders, fans of the successful Red Sox and Yankees, took over the seats during non-glorious seasons. Thursday night was a different story; Camden Yards was cradling 48,000+ energetic fans donned in orange and white and black. The ballpark was smiling.

Two gentlemen in their 20s sat down in front of me. They were both wearing Orioles shirts, and each carried his orange and black rally towel replete with the Angry Bird on it. At the first sign that the team was about to take the field, the two young men stood, ready for the first pitch. As the National Anthem played, they respectfully removed their caps as we listed to an operatic tenor sing in splendid fashion. After Manny Machado threw out the first pitch, it was game time, and they were ready.Rally

All throughout the game, I couldn’t help but notice the two gentlemen, mostly because they involved me in their contagious enthusiasm for the night, the team, and what would be the Orioles first win of the series. At each electric moment, whether there was a hit or a solid fielding play or a run scored, the two of them were on their feet. They were jumping up and down like schoolgirls, not caring about what anyone thought of them. They high-fived each other, and then turned and high-fived all of us: my husband, my son, my daughter, and me. We all danced to the music that blared through the O’s PA system; we chanted “Let’s Go O’s” and “Cruuuuuzzzz”; and we sang “O’Day…O’Day…” together. They never stopped smiling.

Those two guys represented all of us who are real fans—Orioles fans—especially those who have waited years for our team to have a shot at the World Series. Their glee was infectious, as was that of the rest of the folks cheering unrelentlessly in the ballpark.

Real Orioles fans were experiencing a real treat.

Many of us have cheered on our team faithfully during the losses, endured the rebuilding of the team, and continued to attend games at the ballpark proudly wearing our Orioles gear despite the years of half-filled seats and mediocrity.

It doesn’t matter when you are a real fan. It is well worth the wait.

The gentlemen in front of me.

The gentlemen in front of me.

If You Want to Cry, Give These A Try

I’ve found myself in a somewhat melancholy mood over the last week. I learned that a friend of mine—more of an acquaintance, really—passed away unexpectedly. She was close in age to me, but still, news like this has that power to rock your world. It is an all-too vivid reminder that none of us will live forever. When I begin to feel sad about things, I tend to want to pay attention to sad movies or sad books. So, if you need a good cry (which sometimes helps bring us out of the realm of murkiness), I would suggest immersing yourself in some or all of the following:

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars

1: The Fault in Our Stars. Either grab the book or the film, but either way, grab a box of tissues. While unbelievably depressing, the story does remind us of why we need love in our lives, no matter how many years of life we have to live. Hazel, Isaac, and Gus come to life as we bear witness to their daily dilemmas and struggles as cancer patients. I guarantee that it will be tough for you not to cry your eyes out.

The Painted Veil

The Painted Veil

2. The Painted Veil. On the rare occasions that I actually watch television, let alone hold the remote in my hand, if I come across the film The Painted Veil (based on the novel by W. Somerset Maugham), I stop everything. This film, featuring Edward Norton (who hails from Columbia, Maryland, and is a big fan of Cal Ripken) and Naomi Watts, is so deeply beautiful, yet hauntingly devastating, that you can’t help but to become riveted, and saddened. At the heart of the story is the theme of forgiveness, and how holding on to anger or a grudge can taint the way you see people. This husband and wife must learn the hard way about finding forgiveness, and when they do, their few moments of joy are cut short. I adore this film, the acting, the scenery, and the message. If it teaches you anything, it would be not to live with regret.

Unbroken

Unbroken

3. Unbroken. Former Olympic athlete and WWII veteran, Louis “Louie” Zamperini, is the subject of Laura Hillenbrand’s extraordinary non-fiction book. Tracing Louie’s early days as a runner who competes in the Olympics in Germany and who was summoned to meet Adolf Hitler after a stunning race (Hitler is quoted as saying to him: “Ah, you were the boy with the fast finish”), to his time in WWII and as a POW, this mind-blowing story is absolutely riveting. The book is a sweeping, epic tale of one man’s survival—against all odds—and the notion that perseverance, resilience, and faith can guide you. You will feel a tremor of unease and absolute disbelief as you hear Louie’s tale. Read it now before Angelina Jolie releases it in December on the big screen.

Once Upon A Time, There Was Stevie Wonder and 8-Track Tapes

StevieWonderIn my room as a teen, I had a stereo. It consisted of a receiver with a turntable, two speakers, and an 8-Track tape player. I’ve always loved music, and my weekends were often spent writing down each of the songs Casey Kasem played during the American Top 40 Countdown. And when that was over, I loved listening to my 8-Track tapes.

I didn’t have a ton, but I had a handful of them. Soundtracks to some of my favorite movies were in my player, including those from “My Fair Lady,” “Camelot,” and “The Sound of Music.” For funk and rock, Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life” and The Rolling Stones live album recorded in Canada entitled “Love You Live” rocked my room on Pointer Ridge Drive.loveyoulive

In today’s world of techno-music and bland, unimaginative songs that all sound the same, we stand to be blessed with a blast from the past; Stevie Wonder is coming to the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. on November 9, and tickets go on sale tomorrow morning. When I heard this news, I immediately floated back to my apple green room, pink shag wallpaper, large Snoopy stuffed animal on my striped bedspread, and John Travolta’s poster on my wall. I can hear my friends knocking on my door, ready to play air guitar and act out scenes from one of the musicals as we’d put on shows or just dance in my room. Just hearing Wonder’s songs will bring me back to that innocent time when I was younger, carefree, and the sound of my 8-Track player filled the room with songs in the key of my life.

 

Seriously. What Have I Been Missing?

AudioBooksI don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner.

As a reader and writer of stories, as one who loves live theatre and movies on screen, as one who enjoys hearing a compelling story…what the heck has taken me so long to “read” in the car?

Seriously, audiobooks are making my life even more enjoyable than it already is.

Because of my commute to work, which extended by about 10-15 minutes when my family and I moved last year (by our choice), I spend a bit more time in the car. At a gathering of our Book Club, someone asked when I find time to read.

“I don’t,” I said. “During the semester, it’s very hard for me. I’m grading papers, preparing lectures, writing a textbook and a novel, in addition to trying to be a good mom to two great kids and a loving wife.”

It’s then that the light bulb went off. Why didn’t I listen to the books on audio CD?

I’ve discovered audiobooks are quite lovely, and they actually makes me want to get back in the car, so I can “hear” what happens next. I have been swept away to locations with people who come to life as a narrator tells me the story. I love to read—read the printed word—but this audiobook thing is sweeping me off to places when all I’m doing is driving on the Beltway.

At this rate, I will finish a lot of books over the course of the semester. I just finished “Stella Bain” and I’m about to tackle “Unbroken” and “The Goldfinch.” In my CD player in my car right now is Elizabeth Berg’s book from 2013 entitled “Tapestry of Fortunes.” I may listen to “The End of the Affair” just to hear Colin Firth tell me the story.ADBLECRE_2290_ColinFirthZing_v2._V383757663_

I’m quite enjoying them all, and my local library has a vast collection from which you can pick.

For those who try to tell you that listening to audiobooks is not really reading, remember this: it’s not a copout. It’s a way of processing stories. It requires concentration and focus, and it still requires you to paint a picture in your mind. In fact, in research I conducted during my MFA on Charles Dickens, it appears that Dickens not only liked to engage in live readings of his works, but he also wrote his stories for the ear. He wrote them to be read aloud. He gleaned great satisfaction from performing his stories on the stage. He would act out the three ghosts from “A Christmas Carol,” playing all the parts, yet interpreting and reading his own words.

Listening to audiobooks reminds me of the days (before I was born) when folks would gather around the radio and “listen” to fictional stories being broadcast. The stories were narrated, often in a series, and they brought people together. I like that notion a lot better than sitting around a table while everyone stares at their iPhones.

In a piece written by Sharon Grover and Lizette D. Hannegan in 2004 for Book Links about “Integrating Audiobooks into the Classroom,” they write the following:

Children’s and young-adult literature in audiobook format is being produced in record numbers. Outstanding performances by recognized actors, concurrent publication with hardcover releases, and variety and availability all contribute to the growing presence of audiobooks in school and public libraries. Educators, however, know that one of the most important reasons for the increasing interest in audiobooks for young people is the research demonstrating that listening to audiobooks fosters reading comprehension, fluency, language acquisition, vocabulary development, and improved achievement.

For these very reasons, if it works for students, it can work for those of us who just love learning.

I’ve got to go now. Time for my pleasant commute home.

Keep Your Mouth Shut

Churchill

Sir Winston Churchill

An interesting title of my blog post today, but hang with me, and I’ll tell you what I’ve uncovered.

The word “mystery” comes from the Greek verb meaning “keep your mouth shut.”

Sometimes to be effective, we need to keep our mouths shut.

I’m doing some research on “listening” for our textbook, and this is what I found. It’s a part of an article written by Kenny Moore in the Journal for Quality and Participation. What he’s saying is that you can learn a lot from folks by keeping your mouth shut and listening to them.

Good leaders are good listeners, and they can find out more from talking with employees by keeping their mouths shut and hearing what they have to say. It validates the focus group and the importance of gleaning information from those who are in the trenches, those who use a product in advertising, or those who want things to improve in a business setting.

Think about it: Winston Churhill had it right.

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

Make Us Care

While there are so many insightful tips on how to tell a good story, at the core of it all is to make the reader care. In a 17-minute speech on TED, Mr. Andrew Stanton, Academy Award winning screenwriter for such films as “Finding Nemo,” “Toy Story,” and “Wall-E” who also voices the character “Crush” from “Finding Nemo,” explains his wonderful tips on storytelling.

Writers of all kinds should take heed of Mr. Stanton’s advice, which he explains with examples. As my class took notes on his wisdom, I wrote them all down as well; it’s a reminder and a usable checklist that writers can use refer to when evaluating their own work.

His tips are as follows:

1-Make us care (about the plot; about the characters)

2-Make us a promise (deliver us something meaningful)

3-Make us work for our meal–writers do not have to spoon-feed your readers/viewers (we can make our own decisions)

4-Carry a strong theme throughout (the story should always, in some way, be cognizant of the theme)

5-Make us wonder (asking questions is a part of curiosity/intrigue)

6-Use what you know (use your own experiences to tell a good story)

Take a look at his video. I’m so thankful for for Ted.com and the ability to share valuable information we can all learn from.

(Warning: The opening joke in the video is not PG…play it when your young kids are not around).

 

 

 

 

Five Tips for Finding Balance in Your Life

FindBalanceOne of the most difficult things we deal with on a daily basis is striking that desired balance we want to achieve in our lives: the balance of juggling family, friends, work, commitments, exercise, kids activities, healthy eating, and more. It is not easy to “find the time” to do everything we want; therefore, we must learn to prioritize what is important each day.

Tip 1

Plan each activity in your calendar.

A great tip for helping find this state of “balance” is to plan each activity or task into your daily planner. For example, you should write in your planner or your iPhone calendar that Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are days for exercise. Select a time in the day that you want to do that task. Likewise, with other activities or kids activities you engage in, put them in your calendar. We are more apt to “check things off our list” than we are to navigate through those items without a plan.

Tip 2

Don’t overextend yourself.

While the word “no” is typically associated with something negative, use the word “no” to your advantage. Learn to decline things that may send you over the edge with regard to scheduling. If you simply do not have the time or energy in the day, week, month, or year to engage in that particular event or task, simply decline it. Others will step up, and you will have more time to complete things that are more important. This includes social calendars; sometimes we have to pass on something in order to make room for something else. The quote by David Allen, “You can do anything, but not everything,” kind of says it all.DoEverything?

Tip 3

Make room for down time.

In this world of rushing here and there, be sure to make time to relax and enjoy some down time. Take a walk, ride your bike, read a book, watch a movie, or just enjoy appetizers or dessert with family and friends. Making time for ourselves helps clear the mind, and it helps rejuvenate us for the week ahead of work and commitments.

Tip 4

Find a hobby.

Sometimes we are so busy working or going to school that we forget to do some of the things we love. For me, it’s creative writing. For you, it’s probably something else. Taking time to do something we love matters; it helps to satisfy the soul. If we love to paint, paint. If we love to ice skate, go ice skate. If we love our Fantasy Football League, stay involved in it. Whatever it is, we need to have that something that is all ours.

Tip 5

Don’t forget your friends.

Social media has helped us all stay connected in a peripheral sort of way, but it’s not in the same as picking up the phone, writing a letter or dropping a card, or just popping by to say hello to someone you care about. We all need friends in our lives, and staying connected means just that–letting the other person know you care about them. Also, our friends provide us with balance. When we’ve had a difficult day, need a shoulder to cry on, or just need some good old-fashioned girl or guy time to catch up, our friends are there to help us know that we all go through the same things.

Finding balance is not easy. We are bombarded with things to do, places to go, and commitments to work and school. However, if we can break it down and plan accordingly, things will become easier, and we won’t feel as frantic about each week ahead we face.

A Quick Update on “Baseball Girl”

BballGirlBallsCoverIn answer to the question I have been asked a lot recently, “When is your book coming out?”, I thought I would offer a quick update on where I am in the process of writing and completing my second independent novel.

As you know, the semester has started, and life very quickly jumps into high gear, so the amount of time I have available to write and edit dwindles. Likewise, as I mentioned earlier this summer, my two colleagues and I have signed a contract and are in the process of writing an event planning textbook. In fact, this morning, we reviewed what we’ve complied for Chapter 1.

I am extremely excited about writing an academic work; it is something I haven’t done to this extent. It’s a fabulous learning experience, and, quite frankly, as someone who worked in the business world and then transitioned into teaching, academic writing is a completely different animal than creative or journalistic writing.

As for “Baseball Girl,” I can tell you that I finished editing it. I received feedback from several trustworthy pre-readers and have considered all their comments. All of my own edits have been made in either green or red ink, and now the process continues whereby I perfect the actual Word document.editingpage

I have written the back cover description, the dedication page, and have reworked the cover.

With the reality that the Orioles are going to make it to the playoffs, and knowing that I worked for that very team upon which this fictional novel is based (though they are not called the O’s), one would think it might be a good time to release and market a book that features the word “baseball” in its title.

I’m going to plow through it and see what I can do.

Maybe both the O’s and I will see you in October.

White Hot and Passionate

WhiteHot&PassionateI’m one of the lucky ones.

Today, as it often happens when the semester begins, and as I was lecturing about feature writing and discussing the introductory chapter of our textbook, the reality of what I do for a living hit me. It often hits me over the head as a big, huge reminder of how lucky I am to have found my niche, my passion, and a sense of happiness that one doesn’t always feel from a job:

I have a career I love.

Helping students become better writers, more appreciative readers, and better analyzers of the written word makes me happy. As I presented the list of award-winning feature articles we will read this semester, admittedly, I got a little giddy. They don’t know it yet, but some of these articles are going to stay with them for a very long time, maybe even for the rest of their lives.

The fact that I get to share this experience with them, and watch them grow as writers and help them further develop their craft, is worthwhile to me. For years I wondered what my “end career” would be when my children were in school all day. What would I do with myself? How would I spend my time?

What was I passionate about?

Over and over again, it was teaching. In terms of career, and besides writing, it made me tick.

As Roald Dahl says, white hot and passionate is the only thing to be.

Someone get a fire extinguisher.

It’s Your Birthday. You’re only mildly old. Can you read the bottom line?

MeThe morning went something like this.

You got up early to be at the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA)  by 8:30 a.m. to have your license, which expires tomorrow (on your birthday) renewed. You waited until the last minute to get it done. There were too many other things to do this week, like drive your kid to golf many times and take your daughter to the movies. You’ve been writing all week–not Baseball Girl–but the textbook you’re working on with your brilliant colleagues. Nevertheless, you left it to the last minute, as you usually do, and thus suffered the consequences of waiting for almost an hour and a half until your number, B29, was called.

After filling out the necessary paperwork and having your photograph snapped for your new license (which, by the way, is not as flattering a photo as you had taken six years ago, but oh well, you’re never carded and the cops haven’t exactly needed to see it for any reason), the processor begins the line of questioning.

“Ok, Stephanie, now if you could press your forehead to the paper and tell me lines you can read.”

Of course, you could see the top line, the second line, the third line, but the fourth line, well, let’s just say you may have needed a magnifying glass. The one Barney would use.

“You want me to read the fourth line?” you said.

“Yes, if you can,” he said.

“Wow. A real challenge at this hour and it has nothing to do with kick-boxing or running.”

“Can you read the line?”

“Um…”

“Just give it a try.”

You must have done okay, because after you attempted to read it, he said, “Not too bad.”

But then, the worst scenario presented itself. He changed the slide, and now there were three columns in front of you. You could clearly read the first column, you could clearly read the second column, but…

“Can you please read what’s in the third column?” he asked.

“Are you telling me there are letters in the third column?”

“Yes,” he said. “All the way down.”

Your eyes couldn’t see it. There was nothing in the third column. It just looked blank. It was clearly a moment to think, but not say out loud, WTF? Seriously?

“Come on,” he said, trying not to run out of patience. “Give it your best shot.”

You squinted one eye to see if you could see any text at all in the third column. Faintly, something appeared. You gave it your best shot.

He waited.

“Okay, well,” he began. “You wear bifocals, right? And you always wear your contacts when you’re driving right?”

“Of course!” you said. It was the truth. You would never drive a vehicle without your contacts or your glasses. Which now, unfortunately, are bi-focal progressive lenses. Raise your eyes up when wearing the glasses for distance; lower your eyes for reading.

For a moment, you feared he wouldn’t grant you a new license on account of the vacant third column.

But he smiled.

“I put a restriction on there, but you’re good to go. Have a nice day,” he said smiling.

As if that weren’t enough…to be concerned that you couldn’t see…your son had to make two memorable comments.

“So, are you looking forward to your birthday tomorrow?” he asked.

“No. Not at all,” you said. “I’m old.”

“Aw, Mom, you’re not old. You’re only mildly old.”

Ouch. Mildly old. Good Lord. Has it come to that already? But I’m still young!!!!

Not really. You can feel young, but numbers don’t lie.

Then, as he kissed you goodnight, he blessed you with another zinger.

“Goodnight, Mom. Do you realize in six years you can live in GG & Pop-Pop’s community?”

Your mouth went agape. It’s an over-55 community, and the realization hit.

It’s your last year in your forties. Better make it a good one. Better be wild and forty-something-fantastic and do things before you turn 50 and people say you’ve lost your marbles.

Or maybe you’ll slip on the marbles because you simply can’t see them.