November 2nd, 2006

In the right place at the right time, prompt writing, and a drive by...

Those of you who know me know that this story really appeals to me. Replicated here in case the link disappears.

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A Dutch woman, who had meticulously planned her own funeral after the death of her husband last year, died next to the grave in Amsterdam where she wanted to be buried, a newspaper reported.

The 65-year-old widow probably died of a heart attack while she was visiting the family grave where her name, but no date, was already inscribed, De Telegraaf daily reported Wednesday.

The woman was carrying a bag with her containing her will when she died and had already organized details of her funeral including the music she wanted played, the paper said.

I have my music all picked out, too.

I worked from home this morning, and met the book club for lunch. Not a book was discussed.

As soon as I got in the office, "Jackie" called to come pick up my "asset for return." Glad that's done with.

I worked on Mary's edit request until 5:00, and then left for tonight's Prompt Writing Workshop at Southern Village at 6:00PM.

There were only five of us in attendance tonight: Nancy (the leader), Pete, Jane, Joy, and myself.

"The first prompt is: 'Write about a birthday.' Begin."

This is what I wrote. Pete and I didn't read our pieces. Nancy, Jane, and Joy did.

I had this grand idea to take a trip around the world for my next birthday. It's the big one — the Five-Oh-No. My plan was to join this group online — I forget the name of it now, something with "service" in the URL it seems — but the idea is that people sign up to host or to be hosted.  It's an immersion kind of thing, where you stay with someone or a family for 2 or 3 days to see how they live, spend a day at their work with them, and see what they do for fun.

My fantasy was to have five questions with me, which I would ask to each person or family I stayed with — perhaps: (1) What's your most precious possession?  (2) What are your hopes and dreams — either for you or for your children?  (3) Take me to your favorite restaurant or place to eat  tonight — my treat — and tell me how it became your favorite place.  (4) What's the biggest challenge you face each day in your life? and (5) What are your thoughts or beliefs about spirituality? I'd keep a journal of course, or more likely a blog, documenting all of their answers, and I'd have a book when I returned.

There's a website that specializes in trips around the world, letting you create your own places to visit on each continent. I mapped a possible route out, mostly avoiding places I've already been — such as most of Europe — and concentrating on the others. The airfare part of the trip came to around $12K, which didn't seem outrageous.

Then one day, I decided to "pre-retire" — working just two days a week — just because I wanted to, and could. I was curious to see if I could live on one-third of my salary. So far so good. I have taken on a 2nd job — not for the money, but to network for "future work" should I get laid off from IBM or decide to leave there.

So, I'm thinking that this big birthday trip now won't happen, but I'm still in love with the idea of it. Maybe I'll do it for the big double-nickels birthday. To still go next year now is more a matter of time to plan it than to work with my financial planner to tap into my "next egg."

Oh yeah, there is that matter of assuming I'll even make it to my next birthday — that pesky matter of that life line that stops halfway down my palm. I'm already on borrowed time according to it. Speaking of palm-reading, that reminds me of that witch in Germany who was recently ordered to refund one of her clients $1275 because her spell to win back the woman's partner failed. 

"The second prompt is, 'Write about a questionnaire.' Begin."

Each of the five us read our responses to this prompt aloud.

I hate questionnaires that only have answers to select from that don't reflect mine, or others', potential reality. Are you male or female? What if I'm transgendered?

What is your family status? I have children. I do not have children. What if I can't have children? Or have lost a child? Or have chosen not to have children?  I once asked about this on an international discussion forum, and someone from Great Britain said, "I think it's way too personal to provide answers like that — to remind someone they've lost a child — on a questionnaire."

So I asked a friend of mine, who has lost a 16-year-old son how she felt about having such an option as an available response. She said, "I'd welcome it, because it acknowledges my reality. We, parents who have lost children, are all members of a club that none of us wants to be in. But we are. That's our reality."  And it's not like people who have lost a child ever "forget it," such that if they saw it on a form, they'd go, "Oh, thanks a lot for reminding me I've lost a child. I'd completely forgotten."

People like to have themselves acknowledged — it's human nature. The other night, a man next to me in an adjacent booth said to his table, "You watch the guys in a restaurant, or any public place, and whenever a pretty girl wanders in, his eyes will land on her and just follow her. Every one of them.  It's fun to watch them."  And I wanted to say, "You think so? Every one of them? Well my eyes wouldn't land on or follow her -- unless she had a hot boyfriend or husband on her arm, that is." It irritated me to not have the possibility of my reality acknowledged.  But I digress...

So questionnaires — they need some consideration. I hate the single, divorced, or married only choices.  I'm single, albeit because I'm divorced. Living with a partner is a nice choice, but it still doesn't allow me to reflect my reality, as I have a partner, but we don't live together. After all, if we did, wouldn't that be somehow contributing to the "denigration of marriage?" Aren't you supposed to be married before you live together? But I digress once again...

Back to the restaurant: "Bitter? Party of one?  Your table is ready."

"Today's final prompt is, 'Write about the second grade.' Begin."

Each of the five us read our responses to this prompt aloud.

I hate questions about a certain point in my childhood. They're so frustrating, as I have no memories of it. I do know — not because I remember, but because I've been told and have written it down and even posted to my home page — that I went to a different school for all of my first through seventh grades.

You'd think it'd be easy to remember, then. When I was in the first grade, we lived here, and then for the second grade, we lived there. But it wasn't like that. It was more like for the first three-fourths of the first grade we lived here, and for the last-fourth and the first two-thirds of the second grade we lived there, and so on.

Such is the life of a military brat whose dad is moved to the next place that needs a good recruiter, or participates in the Vietnam War not one time, not two times, but three times — no time for which the family is invited to come along.  So, instead, we moved from "Memere's" house to "Vovo's" house to living upstairs from Uncle Frank and Aunt Annette.

This phenomenon of forgotten childhoods is not uncommon among military brats. My brother and sister experience the same thing — and many of the kids I spoke with at my 25th High School Reunion — a "base" school full of military brats — experience the same thing.

I wrote more on this prompt, but it was just filler, as I really didn't have anything else to say on the topic. 

As the meeting wound up, we talked about moving the meetings to another venue, as this one has too many activities going on at the same times we meet, and most of them involve children making a lot of noise.

I drove by UNC Hospital on the way home, and when I was in front of the window where I could see Robert's station, I called him. Unfortunately, he was on dinner break, and I missed him.

I stopped back at the office on the way home, where I worked until 10:30, finishing Mary's edit, and fussing with that damn scanner in order to create a PDF file of my markups to send to her.

Once home, I ate my leftover Seafood Stuffed Broiled Flounder from Tuesday's dinner at Red Lobster. Yummm!

I stayed in tonight and caught up two more days' blog entries.