Category Archives: Writing

Sleeping in San Francisco

I love a routine.  Take me out of it and my whole world turns upside down.  I eat more, sleep less and growl a lot.  Last week, my routine went south.  I had a series of events I either hosted or attended and since I’m almost 52, I tire easily.

I anticipated the impact my “busy-ness” would have on me and I tried to build in down time.  But inevitably, the adrenalin I generated from one event would prevent me from resting up for the next one.  By the end of the week, I felt ready for the hospital.

Bill Clinton naps

Bill Clinton napping

When I’m feeling insecure, which is just about every day, I view my inability to sustain a brisk pace as a serious character flaw.  I know other women my age and older who run circles around me.  My friend, Alicia, is the managing partner of her law firm, travels almost every week around the country to both glamorous and God-forsaken locations, and has managed to raise three beautiful children.  She also has a full social calendar and a stylish wardrobe, not that I noticed.

My friend, Helga, who is 74 stayed out until 12:30 a.m. on Saturday night.  We attended the same event and I tucked into bed by 10:30 p.m.  I called her the next afternoon and she rightfully crowed about how much she had accomplished that morning, cleaning two bathrooms, changing sheets on multiple beds and baking an apple cake.

I took a nap when I heard this.

If I don’t get enough sleep, look out world.  Just ask my children.  And unfortunately, as I age, sleep is starting to elude me.  I think it’s related to my plummeting hormone levels (TMI!) and I don’t like it one bit.

A good night’s sleep and/or an afternoon nap remain at the top of my list of favorite things to do.  Frankly, I don’t envision any other activities toppling these pursuits.

I view people who need only four hours sleep a night with suspicion.  Bill Clinton, Martha Stewart and Madonna are famous short sleepers.  Bill, of course, is charismatic yet inherently untrustworthy; Martha Stewart went to jail for insider training; and Madonna, well, you can draw your own conclusions.

Sleeping has always been a huge priority in the Crowley house.  My husband does not get enough of it during the week, but does his level best to recapture his lost zzzz’s on the weekends.  I have long admired his ability to turn on the TV and instantly fall asleep.

My teenage children gladly adhere to a 9:30 p.m. bedtime during the week with no prompting from me, although my 17-year-old son finds it increasingly challenging, given the demands of his senior year in high school.  To compensate, he has discovered the joys of napping on the weekends.

I feel a strange sense of pride that my children share my sleeping values.  They are very productive when they are awake and sleep like bears in hibernation when they rest.

Many successful people take pride in not needing much sleep, but they do not impress me.  I’m too busy napping to care.

If you have trouble sleeping, take a moment to listen to Kenny Loggins singing “House at Pooh Corner,” a Crowley family favorite lullaby.  I’m sure it’s everyone else’s too.


Work in Progress

I came across a story yesterday on the Internet about a young, obese woman who is the focus of a new MTV reality series, Chelsea Settles.  Naturally, I was drawn to the story because I wanted to know if Chelsea had lost any weight.  The pretty-faced Chelsea admitted to weighing 324 lbs. and hoped that a move to Los Angeles from her small, oppressive town in Pennsylvania would be the lightning rod for her weight loss plans and a new start in life.

Chelsea Settles

Chelsea Settles

The article did not directly report whether she realized her goals.  You have to tune in to MTV to find out and it’s unlikely that I will, but I was struck by one of the questions that the reporter asked Chelsea.   The reporter wanted to know if Chelsea was still a “work in progress” or was she finished after six episodes.

I am more than twice Chelsea’s age and I doubt I have ever faced the challenges that this young woman has, but let me lay it on the line right now:  I am still a “work in progress.”  I wonder when you ever stop being a “work in progress.”

I am always looking to lose a few extra pounds, say the right thing, improve my vocabulary, learn a new language, dress appropriately, be the “perfect” mother, you know, stuff like that.

Invariably, I fall short, become overwhelmed and decide to take a nap.  There’s nothing like a little sleep to refresh me and sharpen my outlook.  Still, I continue to set goals and try to chip away at them.   This blog remains one of them and I must admit, some days it feels like I set myself up to fail, particularly when my computer screen remains blank after an hour of steady staring.

Do you think Steve Jobs felt he had accomplished everything he wanted to when he died at 56 last week?  Unlikely.  Apparently, Jobs authorized his soon-to-be released biography because, as he told author Walter Isaacson, “I wanted my kids to know me.”  Jobs concluded his final interview with Isaacson by saying, “I wasn’t always there for them (his kids), and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did.”

Personally, I really benefited from Jobs’ commitment to the iPhone and all the technological breakthroughs that he spearheaded.  But I wouldn’t have wanted to be his child.  If you have to read a book about your parent to know him, then I think you were cheated out of some quality time.

On the other hand, I have always been there for my kids.  In fact, I think it’s safe to say that I could have helped Steve Jobs invent the iPhone if I wasn’t carpooling or making grilled cheese sandwiches.   Since I’m still a “work in progress,” there’s hope yet.

Old Friends

Last week, I took a walk in the fog on my blog.  To be truthful, I do enjoy my walk, but I really didn’t like my post.   It had good descriptive qualities, but it lacked honesty.  I appreciated the positive feedback I received, but I felt unsettled.

Then, I received an e-mail from Sarah, one of my oldest friends, (not age, mind you, but length of friendship.)  “Wow,” she wrote, “I want to go for a long walk on the beach and talk to the birds…and you, of course.”  Boom!   Nothing like an old, true friend bringing me down to earth.  I laughed so hard I cried.

Some of my old friends

Some of my old friends

You see, I wrote about the birds and the names of the avenues and the surfers out of obligation.  Don’t get me wrong.  These are all things worth noticing.  I know this because I’ve read many books on writing that tell me I should notice everything and be specific as possible.  Therefore, I included an explanation and some thoughts on the endangered snowy plover.

But how much do I really think about the snowy plover on my walk?  When I have to meet my self-imposed blogging deadline, the snowy plover takes on a sense of urgency.  Otherwise, I barely notice any birds other than to duck and cover when they fly by in packs.

Most of the time, I walk with my friend Janet who I’ve known since the third grade and doesn’t want to be mentioned in my blog.  Suffice to say, we yack the entire four miles and by the time we’re done, I’ve barely noticed that time has elapsed let alone the snowy plover and the surfers.

This brings me back to Sarah.  Sarah and I were born around the same time and shared space in the nursery at St. Mary’s Hospital.  Although our parents knew each other, we did not become acquainted until we were 13.  We’re almost 52 so we’ve known each other well for almost 40 years.

I don’t get to see Sarah as often as I’d like as she lives two hours away.   It doesn’t matter.  When I see her, we pick up where we left off and she dishes me in a way that only someone who has known me for 40 years can do, ribbing me in her e-mail about a previous walk we shared on the Santa Cruz beach where I donned a blue terrycloth jogging suit that I accessorized with penny loafers and an Italian satchel draped across my body.  Of course, I give it right back to her, but her wit often trumps mine.

I feel very lucky to have a good number of old friends.  Although I’ve grown up in a large city, I’ve lived in a small community where so many of my schoolmates still reside.  I went to college across the Bay and made new friends who, because of my advanced age, are my old friends now.  And I treasure them.

Old friends sparkle like diamonds.  They light up the room in a party and I am immediately drawn to them.  My old friends absolutely judge me and tell me what they think to my face.   We celebrate milestones together because we’re roughly the same age.   I don’t have to explain that I am the youngest of six children; they know the names of my brothers and sisters, my parents, my late aunt Margie, my husband and my children.  They know that I don’t like vegetables and that a long time ago, I drank like a fish.  They get my humor and I relish theirs.

As I said before, I feel very lucky.  I have new friends, too, folks that I have known only 15 or 20 years and or maybe just 15 or 20 months.  I love them dearly, but they really only know the “adult” Nancy and sometimes, I just want to go back to that time when I was young and didn’t have a care in the world.

When my mother turned 70, my sister threw my mom a birthday party and invited all of her old girlfriends.  I remember my mom being asked how she felt now that she had reached 70 years of age.  She answered, “I feel like I just turned 13.”

Why wouldn’t she?  She was celebrating her birthday with her old friends.

My Brush with 9/11

I feel a little like Forrest Gump.  If you saw the movie, the simple-minded Forrest had an uncanny ability to be present at every major world event.  I was not visiting New York during 9/11 so the parallel isn’t exactly straight, but my husband, F.X., had just arrived in Manhattan a day earlier.

I had talked to F.X. on 9/10 and all seemed well.  He was staying in mid-Manhattan at the Edison Hotel, having traveled to New York on business.

The phone rang early the morning of September 11 and I answered it, expecting a wake-up call from my husband.   My brother-in-law Joe, F.X.’s oldest brother, said hello and immediately asked me if F.X. was OK.  “Yes, of course,” I replied.  “Why?”

9.11 New York skyline

9.11 New York skyline

“Because two planes just crashed into the World Trade Center,” he said.

The last time I had visited New York had been in college so I had little understanding of Manhattan geography.   I knew F.X. had a meeting that morning, but I did not know where.  When I told Joe that F.X. was staying in Midtown, he concluded that F.X. was probably not in danger.

I hung up and began shaking violently.  My three-year-old daughter slept soundly in F.X.’s spot, next to me in bed.   I called for my son and turned on the TV.  The news unfolded in front of me and I became distraught, jarring my little daughter awake.  I dialed F.X.’s cell phone number repeatedly to no avail.  “All circuits are busy,” droned the operator.  F.X. also carried a pager so I tried paging him, over and over and over again.  My children gathered close to me, sensing my fear and began to cry and call for Daddy.  I tried to be strong, but failed miserably.

About a half hour later in what seemed like an eternity, F.X. miraculously got through to me on his cell phone and explained that he was about four and a half miles removed from this enormous catastrophe.   Once I heard from my husband, my children recovered instantly and went about their business.  My two older stepchildren called in a desperate panic and I vowed to them that their Dad was safe.  I had recovered my adult self and appeared in control again, even though I really did not feel that way.

Over the course of the next 24 hours, F.X. was able to call me and report on events.  He observed thousands upon thousands of New Yorkers retreating from downtown on foot covered in debris and soot, like refugees from a war.  His meetings were obviously cancelled, which left him with nothing to do and nowhere to go.  He walked the streets, visiting a nearby fire house and offering condolences.  He talked to me on the phone as he ventured closer to the Financial District and began coughing and choking on the toxic, putrid air.

I urged him to turn back, get in a car since planes weren’t flying and come home.   I worried about biological warfare.  My overactive mind went crazy with endless and lethal possibilities.

F.X. remained calm and resolved to wait it out until the planes resumed flying.  He connected with friends, Tom Rocca and John Meyer, who also were stranded in New York on business.  They kept each other company for a day and then attempted to board a plane at JFK on Thursday to return home when the airports presumably had opened.

Machine gun-toting National Guardsmen ran security that day.  A trip to the bathroom turned into a police lineup with suspicious riflemen poised to fire over one false move.   Several hours later, the F.B.I. arrested the co-pilot and the flight was cancelled.  The scheduled take-off had evolved into a snare to smoke out more suspects.

This final experience convinced F.X. and his friends to rent a car and flee New York.  I’ll never forget when he called me for the umpteenth time that week and reported that he had crossed the George Washington Bridge and had merged onto Interstate 80 West heading home.   I had held it together once I knew F.X. seemed safe, but my sense of relief at his departure from New York was palpable.

He and Tommy and John rented a blue Ford LTD, slapped an American flag on the side window, and drove 1,600 miles straight in 25 hours, landing in Denver where the airport had just re-opened.  Wheedling their way onto the first flight out of Denver to San Francisco the next morning, F.X. and his friends made it home safely on Saturday morning.

My son had a scheduled soccer game at Larsen Park on 19th Avenue in San Francisco at 10 a.m., which F.X. was determined to attend and he did.  Our family felt overwhelmed and lucky and grateful and deliriously happy that F.X. had finally come home to us from work.

Tragically, 2,977 people did not receive this same consideration on 9/11.

Falling off the Wagon

Officially, I began my no-sugar pledge on July 11 but announced it to the world, or 30 or so of my friends, with my new blog on July 14 (authenticated by blog stats).  I had so much fun along the way primarily because I wrote about it.

I enjoy writing, but rarely take the opportunity to write about my experiences.  I read a book about writing that encouraged me to find and write about a corner of the world that I knew intimately so I chose sugar.  I am no expert on the subject; I just ate a lot of sugar and knew that if I continued to do so, I wouldn’t be able to tie my shoes one day.

I have delighted in the ride.  I wrote about things that dominate my brain – chocolate, fashion, eating when I’m upset, my mother.  And then, I privately welcomed the end because I only committed to 30 days.

I jumped off the wagon Saturday evening with a trip to the yogurt store near my home for a chocolate frozen yogurt.  I really missed the chewy texture of chocolate chips so I topped off my dessert with about a cup of chips.

Once you begin your descent into sugarland, you slide fast.

Late Sunday afternoon, I returned from a movie with my husband, hungry and prepared to make dinner.  In my absence, my daughter had baked a plate of the most delectable chocolate chip cookies, which she thoughtfully displayed on the kitchen island for my inspection.   I didn’t want to disappoint her so I ate two cookies for hors d’oeuvres and two for dessert.

Lindsay Lohan mug shot

Lindsay Lohan

Have I learned nothing?

I have had treats in my house over the last month, but avoided them because I felt accountable on some level.  Once the deadline lifted, I wasted no time in returning to my old ways.  I have become the Lindsay Lohan of sugar addicts.

I did not plan to write this ending.   I wanted to tell you what a great experience the past 30 days has been and talk ad nauseam about how much I benefited from it.  But no one likes self-righteousness, least of all me, so I guess I feel better that it ends this way.  Or is it just the beginning?

I hope so.  I don’t know how long I can continue to mine the subject of sugar and diet for blog postings although at times, the possibilities seem endless.  I do know I want to continue to write about life experiences:  past, present and future.

I invite you to read along and tell me how you feel.  Did I miss the mark?  Do you have a suggestion or comment?  I thank you for your support thus far and look forward to hearing from you.

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