Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I just want to repeat an honest question

I know this preacher guy who every time he speaks I can't help but think he is telling on himself, an open air confession of his thoughts, be they pretty or not. I usually get a little squirmy, not because I am convicted, as he might hope, but because I think he's depressed and overwhelmed with life. I'm no psychologist, but I'm thinking the dude needs some help.

And who doesn't?

I heard on the comedy channel the other day George Carlin's "List of Things to Watch Out For." (http://www.totalobscurity.com/smile/carlin/carlin.html) I laughed - loudly - in part because of my own anxiety issues, but also - and mainly - because of the absurdness of it all. We are told so many things every single day. It's no wonder the preacher guy is overwhelmed!

A friend of mine received this "honest question" from an old high school friend the other day. I found it especially moving, if not symbolic of what is occurring across the nation.

Hi "Friends" (individual names replaced!!
I don't know how to go about this but to come right out and ask if I am the only one, but I guess I should preface it by giving you a little insight as to my life.

Well, since I had my heart attack in 2005, I was put on three different medications and I gained 25 pounds. I lost my sex drive, I lost much of my hair. I cry soo much over everything my heart hurts. I went through empty house syndrome when My daughter left. Its like.. It can't get worse. and then it does. My relationship with (my husband) is, like always, up and down. We made a bad financial decision during the housing boom that cost us our life savings. Now my oldest is in (another state) with the love of my life, my grand(child) and I can't go. My other two (children) are never home. I am just so sad all the time because of everything... I decided to get off my meds myself since I finally read up on them and two major side effects was rapid weight gain and the other was rapid hair loss. I hate my 40's, I don't really have friends outside of (my children). They are my life and they are all growing up and moving on.

I guess I just want to say hi! This just isn't the kind of stuff I can say to a neighbor or my mom or (my children), ya know? Nothing like old friends to help you put life in perspective. Anyways all advice is appreciated and thanks for reading and I hope you write back.
(Your Friend)

(Dear Friend),
I think honestly that you and a lot of us have been going through changes. One might say that economic changes, marital status, medical issues, children growing up, and death accompanied by pre-menopause and mid-life crisis could have something to do it (our group age 44 & 45). Together at an Anniversary Party, remember how our small group of girls uttered more than once, "Is this it? " speaking about our lives at that point. I was quite surprised listening to everyone, and since then it has been a common feeling shared by others that were not at the party. My husband, and my (child) swear that I am Menopausal, I am in denial. I just read an article recently that the age 44 was a prime time for woman to start mid life crisis, (and not what we might typically think of) but the tears, sadness, and "Is this all there is?" kind of thinking. (Friend), I think this is a stage in our lives, and probably not the best stage in our lives, but I think things are going to get better, and contentment and happiness will follow. Expectations, disappointments, hormones are probably huge factors in the way we feel.

(Friend), I know you are not in this boat alone, lots of us our experiencing some of the same things. If we could just get together, ride around, swim at (a friend's pool), maybe go dancing, and go back to the simple times. Remember we were going to be together everyday, and then my mother told us that we would all grow up, have our own lives, and we would never see each other. Who knew?

My advice, (Friend) is to take one day at time, pray or meditate spend quiet time, and try to look at all the positive and good things in your life. I have book I love "Simple Abundance" that helped me in my life about 10 years ago, and Sunday morning church always helps to see things in a more positive light.

I have been thinking about you all week.

Your Old Pal

Well, I have been thinking about her, too.

And about this article recently published by ABC News; ABC News: "Middle-Aged Misery: Why 44 Is Worst Age." Not that it is all that uplifting, frankly, but it validates the preacher guy's doom, if not the despair of my friend's friend. It reads:

"Middle age makes you miserable, so don't blame your job, your kids, your spouse, your income or lack of it, suggests an international study of 2 million people from 80 nations.

"Researchers from Great Britain and the USA analyzed data spanning more than 35 years on measures such as depression, anxiety, mental well-being, happiness and life satisfaction.

"They found that men and women in their 40s were more likely to be depressed and weren't as happy as other ages. Middle age is such a low point for well-being that it's at the bottom of a U-shaped curve that indicates greater happiness among the young and old.

"It's midlife per se," says co-author Andrew Oswald, an economist at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England. "It's something deep beyond all the controls in our equation. It's a developing midlife low. It doesn't just happen one year and go away another."

For both sexes, the probability of depression peaks around age 44.

Oswald doesn't have any concrete answers on why such a slump occurs.

"My best conjecture is that people eventually learn to quell their infeasible aspirations," he says. "They manage to get their expectations into line with what they can actually achieve."

The study by Oswald and fellow economist David Blanchflower of Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., being published in the journal Social Science & Medicine found the same U-shape by age for 72 of 80 countries studied.

"You can be almost certain you will follow this U-shaped curve," Oswald says. "If you are finding life tough in your 40s, maybe it's useful to know this is completely normal."

Research by Angus Deaton, a Princeton University economist, has found a similar U-shaped curve in some countries, but he says it doesn't hold true globally.

"Young people are happier in some countries, and in some countries middle-aged are happy. It depends on which country," he says. "In my data, it's true if you look some places, older people are really miserable relative to younger people. It's not U-shaped. (Happiness is) just going down."

Despite the skepticism, Oswald says the age factor appears real.

"We're correlating mental well-being with age, having factored out 100 other influences," Oswald says.

"In 2008, social science can't do better than this."

Great, right?

I am left to ponder a quote I once heard from the great philosopher Cher: "I've been 30 and I have been 40. 30 is better."

And I wanted to blame it on our economy...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Colt the news maker

Listen, Colton has been on my mind a lot lately, not just because he has been laying beside me for the last couple of days trying to recover from the flu. He keeps saying this "stuff" that I have to take a double take on, looking to see if in fact it was him who said this "stuff" or someone who does a darn good impersonation. Of course, it's not an impersonation, but it seems like it should be. I have no idea how this "stuff" lodges in his brain let alone floats out of his mouth. When I look at him in disbelief - actually I am looking deep, deep into his eyes to see if he is for real - he simply stares back at me with that "what??" kind of look. I have to just shake my head...

This morning, 4 am, he screams, "Dad" from his loftbed next door. All I can think is, "Whew, it's not me!" (I know, I am a very loving parent.) Next thing I know they both are in the bathroom, "expelling" the Egg Drop soup from earlier. David sets him up on the floor and by 4:15 is crawling back into bed. 15 minutes later, we hear, "Somebody!" I guess that brought me into the mix and I wondered if in fact David admonished him to call out my name next time, but Colton simply couldn't bring himself to do it. In David's world, "Somebody" means me. He didn't move. I crawl out of bed, walk over Colt's floor bed, and sit on the bathtub to support him... Colt, head in the toilet, says "I hope this isn't the end of the road..." Not sure I heard him right, I say, "End of the road? What do you mean?" He says, "I hope I don't throw up my heart and die." He also asked me if it was possible he could throw up his liver. I told him, I didn't think so - or at least, I had never heard of that happening.

It reminded me of last time he was sick, screaming from the bathroom for his Dad first, then, next time, "Somebody!" In between one of his "expulsions," he said with great exasperation, "Lord, save me from this misery."

He has a wonderful spiritual side to him. Last week, we were saying our bedtime prayers. I typically ask if he has a special request, just in case there is something on his mind. He invariably prays for a classmate's diabetes and sometimes has an unspoken request. That night, it was just Andrew's diabetes. I leave, walk into my room and hear very loudly, "Isn't somebody going to pray with me??" Again, "Somebody."

I calmly go in and remind him that we just prayed two minutes ago, if not less. "Oh, yeah," he says. Clearly, he has something else on his mind. "Soooo, did you have something else you wanted to pray about?"

He went on to tell me that in school that day he learned about purgatory. I see, I say, not knowing much about it due to my non-Catholic upbringing. He tells me that it is a place between earth and heaven where the dead people go and God decides if they go to heaven "or down." He then says people need to pray for them. I say, "Ok, good. Well, let's hit it." He prays a very sweet, thoughtful prayer, ending with "And Lord, I pray that you let all the people in purgatory have good lives in heaven." He is passionate, sincere and very convincing. "Amen," we say together.

I tell him that I don't know a lot about purgatory, but I do know that some people don't believe in it. I added, however, that I know Catholics do. "Oh, I do believe," he said with great enthusiasm. "I believe."

So, tenderly, I ask, "Do you think Grampy is in purgatory," thinking of my Dad who died unexpectedly four years ago. "Nope," he said with great glee. "I just got him out!"

What a joy Colton is to me...

I will end with this, as he lays here beside me on the bed, still recovering ... It's an article that appeared this weekend that quotes him. Beside the Wide Awake Club, I think it is the first time - though I am sure it will not be his last. Please read my PS comment at the end.

Scouts' pancake breakfast provides ray of light, full stomach to needy
Sunday, March 09, 2008
By Beata Mostafavi
FLINT - Ed Hinman took a break from chilly air Saturday morning to enjoy a plate of hot pancakes, sausage links and coffee inside St. Paul Episcopal Church.

The former union carpenter, 40, who lives in a homeless shelter in Flint, said it was nice of the Boy Scouts to spend a day helping the community by providing a free hearty breakfast.

"I think it's good for them, and it's definitely good for us," he said at the Scouts' annual "Feed the Hungry Breakfast." "I wasn't going to eat at all."

More than 30 Cub and Boy Scouts ages 7-18 helped cook and serve roughly 100 pounds of donated food to more than 200 people at the church at 711 S. Saginaw Street.

"I just like helping out," said Joe Latavis, 16, a junior at Swartz Creek High School, as he whipped up pancake batter under a tent outside the church. "At times, it makes me sad to see that so many people are here ... but I like to see the smiles on people's faces."

Wearing a hairnet while dressed in his full blue Cub Scout uniform, Colton Frownfelter scooped up ready-to-serve steamy hot cakes.

"There are a lot of people here, and this could really help the community," said Colton, 10, a fourth grader at St. John Vianney Catholic School.

The efforts definitely helped such residents as Brian Smith, 37, who was happy to see children getting involved.

"I think it's very nice and thoughtful," said Smith, who lives in a Flint homeless shelter after getting laid off from a temporary staffing firm in Brighton.

"I think it's good for them to do that because it teaches them at a young age to be caring about other people and teaches them about humanity.

"Being jobless and homeless and not having adequate funds to eat, this breakfast definitely helps me out."

The breakfast was organized by Tall Pine Scout Council Boy Scouts of America in partnership with the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, along with co-sponsors Great Giant IGA and Country Fresh Dairy.

Erica Hall of Flint Township watched as son Myles, 7, excitedly carried milk and juice cartons through the room.

She said it's a good lesson for him after a fire wrecked their family's home in November.

"A lot of people reached out to help us, so I think it's important that, whenever possible, he help others," she said. "It provides them with a sense of community and involvement with others who are less fortunate."

Anthony Watson, executive of the Tall Pine Council's Baden Powell District, said the experience should give the young men an up-close view of what's happening around them.

"It's important that they understand the necessity of giving back and that we're all interrelated and that it's important to help other people meet their needs," he said.

PS - When I asked Colt about quote, noting how proud I was of him to say such a thing, he just laughed. "I didn't really say it," he said. I immediately assumed he was misquoted or the kid next to him said it instead. "Oh," I ask. "What do you mean? Who said it?" "Well, I said it, but it is actually something I heard someone else say on television."

Who said TV isn't educational??