Friday, August 31, 2007

Blogging is for the Birds

The ways of blogging may often seem strange and mysterious, especially to new bloggers seeking traffic, popularity and fame. Oh sure, there are plenty of websites that give advice on how to increase your traffic, how to get links and page rank, but in my experience I have found that it's the oddest and quirkiest things that will generate the traffic that you never expected.

I have another blog, Nedfulthings, that I created a few years ago and filled mostly with creative writing, along with the occasional story of the type I write here. My regular visitors consisted mostly of other writers and poets - they did, that is, until one fateful post.

On November 5, 2005, I wrote a post called Bird Omens. It was a little story about a true occurrence, a bird that had flown into a mirrored window. The incident gave me cause to reflect on the meanings we give everyday events and what they may show us about how we are navigating the course of our lives. Naturally, I gave a brief dissertation on what my mother had told me about bird omens (my mother had something to say about everything).

I only recently returned to that blog after an absence of about a year. Much to my surprise, traffic is still pretty high on that blog, especially considering the fact that it lay dormant for so long. But what surprised me most of all was that most of the hits, every day without fail, are on my nearly two-year-old post about that dazed bird. The number of Google searches for "bird omens" and "birds flying into windows" is amazing.

So my advice to anyone looking to build traffic is simple. Write on any topic you like... just make sure that somewhere in the course of your article, a bird smacks itself into a window.

Read Bird Omens

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Boy and The Crab

It's something we all felt as children, that indescribable need to explore nature's wonders, to examine the intricate and interwoven patterns of life on earth, to learn more about other creatures with whom we share our planet.

Of course, it usually took the form of a couple of grasshoppers that we shared the back yard with and put in a glass jar.

I have been horrified a few times lately by The Boy and his incessant need to capture living things and keep them as pets. He has brought home frogs in his lunch box, snails in a paper cup, and inchworms in a pencil case (I won't discuss the dead goldfish in his pocket).

As he slumbers in the next room, a small plastic fish tank holds a few inches of sand and water and a hermit crab, stolen away from his marine home at low tide on some unknown beach.

This crab is one of a gift of two from a friend who apparently spent the day at the beach collecting all sorts of defenseless marine animals and placing them in a bucket for transportation home. Over the course of the evening this crab became the sole occupant of the tank after said friend pulled the other hermit crab out of his shell, because she felt it was too small for it. Of course, in the process she killed it.
I detected no remorse.

And that's the problem. Where does empathy begin? Do we live in some state of blind selfishness and then one day, at some point in our lives suddenly realize that it's wrong to keep grasshoppers in a jar? At what point do we start to assign to other creatures a right to life?

Okay, I will admit it's not easy with insects. Most of the insects we come into contact with daily are annoyances or worse. Everyone will swat a mosquito without a moment's hesitation.

But I don't want The Boy to grow up heartless when it comes to creatures who can easily be put at his mercy. Yes, that is what I want. A feeling of mercy, empathy, some recognition that his need to experience is second to another's right to live unmolested by little boys' hands.

Maybe I should just get him a dog. A big one.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Don't Tell Me to Have a Nice Day!

I had to bite the bullet and go to the grocery store today. Somewhere in my book of parenting rules, it says I should feed my family. Honestly, I hate the trip to the supermarket and today it appealed even less than usual because I have some quirky injury to my right leg. I wasn't actually sure I could manage to shop, even with the help of the shopping trolley to hold onto, but my sister was going and I had to take the ride when I could get it as driving is out of the question until my leg heals.

Right down the street from me is a store that has a huge selection, a bakery with the most delectable cakes, pastries and fresh-from-the-oven bread, and also boasts the lowest prices in town. It has too much of one thing, though. Customers. I swear everyone within a ten-mile radius shops at this store.

The parking lot is jam- packed a full 20 minutes before they open each day and each night there are customers still rolling their shopping carts down aisles for just a few more items as the voice on the loudspeaker urges them to cash out as it's closing time.

I could only get a few items, I couldn't walk or stand up long enough to get too many. I forgot to get some bottled water and made the selfish decision to forego walking back three aisles for it. "Let them drink tap water", I grumbled. I ended up with some absolutely necessary items (chips and soda) and a few meals worth of food. Not too many items but more than the 12-item limit at the express line. Did I mention that I am so stupidly honest that I wouldn't ever think of getting into the express line with more than 12 items?

The rule goes like this: "If you pick the shortest line, you will wait the longest to be served". This rule holds true in every store and fast food restaurant in the world and the wait time is doubled at any customer service counter.

The guy in line ahead of me glanced at me sideways once or twice. I could see him weighing his options as he noticed that I was devolving into a creature that could no longer stand erect. In fact, I was losing height by the minute as my legs gave way little by little. I didn't have very many items, but then neither did he - in fact, he could have slipped through the express check-out unnoticed. But he chose to stand his place, after all, he was next. Ha! we soon saw how little good that did him.

The woman who was currently being checked out had an amazing array of groceries and although the cashier at this line wasn't going to win any prizes for speed, the tallying of the bill was not going too slowly. That's when I saw them.


The woman had a fistful of 'em. The cashier sorted through and tried to scan them. The very first one she tried refused to be counted no matter how many attempts she made or what mysterious codes she entered into the register. Finally, in desperation she called over a supervisor who unlocked the baffled register with a key and entered the secret code that means "I am a manager, reset yourself". During this time, the woman had pulled out checkbook and pen, written everything on the check but the total, applied her lipstick and combed her hair. I was turning into a sideshow freak and she was fixing her makeup! The poor cashier had to call the supervisor over three more times to assert authority over the cash register and override the fact that one of the coupons wasn't for anything this women had purchased. By this time, even the store just wanted her gone and to accomplish it, they gave her 35 cents off.

When I finally got to the register, with my unglamorous and full-price cartload, I was completely unable to return the weak smile of the harried girl running the register. She mumbled something at me in a quiet and meek voice. "What?" I nearly shouted, in a slightly too startled voice, as if I had been awoken from an engrossing dream. "How are you today?" she asked in the store-prescribed manner.

I am ashamed to say, I told her exactly how I was.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Ben Franklin Never Had a Mom

The sun is shining brightly outside my window, so brightly in fact, that it's hard to see the computer monitor. Whoever would have thought that I would come to prefer dim rooms with little light for the sake of reading words from a little screen?

Despite the bright sunshine the weather forecast promises thunderstorms. Now thunderstorms are the bane of the computer addict - close and severe storms mean powering down to protect your machine. Separation anxiety can overcome you within minutes.

But thunderstorms are greeted in my house with as little fanfare as possible. I don't want to have the children overly-anxious about lightning as I was when I was a child. A healthy respect for its power and the dangers it possesses is fine, but my mother knew how to instill deep and lasting fear.

Most people know how to avoid the most obvious dangers during a thunderstorm - turn off the computer, maybe turn off the TV, don't talk on the cordless phone, don't take a bath. Don't try to emulate Benjamin Franklin's lightning rod experiments. But my mother had much more detailed rules.

Windows all had to be closed. No one was allowed near windows or doors. We weren't allowed to tread upon the carpet as it might contain wool fibers, and she was convinced that wool was a great conductor of electricity. For similar reasons, we weren't allowed to pet the dog, not even if she was dry. She felt that dog hair was probably as good a conductor of electricity as the carpet. So we were a family of 5 sitting on the couch with our legs crossed under us, yelling furiously at the dog to go out to the kitchen until such time as the storm had passed.

They say the odds of getting struck by lightning are about one in nine million. Strangely, although I don't know nearly nine million people, I personally know three who have been struck by lightning. None of them were walking on the carpet or petting the dog.

My rules for thunderstorms are a little more lax than my mother's. No playing outside in the rain when there's lightning, no holding steel rods out the windows. You can watch TV if you sit on a chair a good distance from it until the power cuts out. If there is more than one crack of lightning in a row that sounds like it just blew up your garage, it's probably best not to sit too close to an open window. If the power goes out, only the mother can light the candles and no, you can't take one to bed with you.

The truth of the matter is, if you don't do anything really stupid, the chances of being struck by lightning are one in nine million. Let's face it, if it's gonna get you, it's gonna get you. Might as well watch the end of American Idol.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Where's My Febreeze?

The Boy has an embarrassing social problem. It's become so bad that even he is aware of it. There are times he doesn't want to be in the same room with himself. Not to be too delicate about it, basically, The Boy's feet stink!

And I mean stink. This is no slight sweaty gym sock scent but full-out nostril-searing stench. I have tried to fix the problem in any way I can think of. We have washed his sneakers, washed his feet in fragranced soap, creamed and powdered them. But the smell lives on.

He's far too active riding his bike, skateboarding and just generally doing boy things to wear sandals. He nearly lost a toe that way. I have just scrubbed the feet clean and applied sweet-smelling lotion. I am washing the sneakers right now. I am waiting until the very last second before I buy him a new pair of shoes for school or they too, will suffer the summer stink.

That's the problem. It's summer. His feet just excrete sweat madly during hot weather. What's worse is that even though he leaves for summer camp with clean socks on, he comes back without them every day. His feet swelter and sweat inside those sneakers and the result is that when he takes his shoes off in a room full of people, it is like employing biological warfare.

I don't think I can put off buying new shoes much longer. School is still two weeks away and any minute now I expect the haz-mat team to show up in my driveway.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

High School Musical 2

Well, it finally arrived. The premiere night of Disney's High School Musical 2. I am glad if only because it means that I won't have to endure yet another showing of High School Musical 1. The Girl is a brand-new teen, having reached that distinction only a couple of months ago. The Boy just wants to dance like Corbin Bleu. They are both totally entranced by this offering from Disney. One of the few things they both like equally.

It's great in a way. Although I tire of the constantly blaring soundtrack, at least it's a Disney musical featuring real kids in a real situation instead of cartoon mermaids and princesses. It's nice to see musicals make a comeback, and for Tweens and Teens no less.

Some of their friends were attending High School Musical 2 parties, where a group of kids got together to watch. I wish I had thought of that, The Girl would have idolized me for years. Unfortunately, I didn't think of it and it probably wouldn't have been much of a draw: "Come watch the premiere of the most anticipated new movie in years on a 20 inch TV screen!"

Ah well, I will find ways to be a good mother about it. We'll buy the soundtrack, download the lyrics, read about it, talk about it and watch it until the tubes in the television fizzle out. By that time there will be a whole new crop of Disney teen stars (teen stars tend to grow up and need replacing often) and The Girl will be too old and cool to care about Disney anymore.

That sounds nice, but it's what comes next that worries me. I think I would rather listen to High School Musical 1 and 2 soundtracks for as long as possible if I can stave off the more serious problems of teenhood: dating, drugs, etc.

Let's sing: "We're all in this together..."

What's in a Name?

The way I see it, my kids are lucky I am a nobody. As much as they wish their mother was rich and famous, a fabulous film or TV star, they are much better off with boring, old me.

If you are born to a celebrity these days, you could end up with a name like Pilot Inspektor, Jason Lee's son's name. You'd think it was a good thing to be Nicholas Cage's kid, but you'd have to go through life with a name from the planet Krypton. He named his kid Kal-El, Superman's real name. Can you imagine going through life with a name like the one Shannyn Sossamon bestowed on her child? How do you work up the guts to introduce yourself as Audio Science?

Compared to these, Gwenyth Paltrow and Chris Martin calling their daughter Apple seems normal and commonplace.

Okay, so The Boy and The Girl don't have exciting, exotic names and we're not invited to exclusive New York society parties. The limo is a little smaller than standard with a few dings and dents. There's no chauffeur but me, and a trip to a fancy restaurant means that we went to the new McDonalds with the sports decor.

But at least when they tell someone their name, they don't have to listen to a lot of giggling.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

There Goes the Bride - Again

The Boy was 6 when he walked into the kitchen one day and said to me "Mom, I like girls". It was very matter-of-fact. I nodded, a little short on words since I didn't know if this was just a declaration or the beginning of one of "those" chats. I simply said "That's good, glad to hear it".

Now there's no doubt he's a handsome little thing with a shock of dark blonde hair that glistens with natural streaks of gold, big blue eyes and a winning smile. But The Boy is only 7 and he's been engaged twice and married once.

Oh yeah, he got married. His first fiancé, who is 8 years old, moved to another town and he was quite distressed at first. But it didn't take him long to replace her with a new neighbor who is also 8. The kid's got a thing for older women.

The wedding was sprung on me without advance warning. The Girl got busy making cupcakes for the occasion, filled the house with stuffed animal guests and they all got dressed up. The Boy wore a shirt and tie - he knows how to impress a lady. I was commissioned to play the wedding march on the keyboard and they marched through the house to a lovely outdoor ceremony after which they were taken away in a red wagon. It was a lovely wedding.

Now the wife is moving across town, and will be attending a different school. At 7 and 8, I don't think long-distance relationships survive very long. I don't think I will survive if I am called upon to transport him daily to visit her.

On the other hand, I don't think I am ready for yet another engagement or a second marriage. Besides, who will get custody of the wagon?

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Monday Rant

It was one of those days. Well, of course, it was a Monday.

I rolled out of bed at least an hour later than I needed to, still exhausted.

I accomplished nothing on the net because it took so long for the coffee to kick in. My eyes refused to open and focus. Hard to blog when you can't see the screen.

I wore the clothes that were clean and closest and didn't need ironing. I had no time for hairdos so I rolled it up in a bunch and stuck a few pins in it. My face was devoid of artistic endeavor (I meant to put my makeup on after I got to work but I never got around to it).

Somehow I summoned the will to make lunches. The Boy wasn't a bundle of energy either. I think he woke up about a half hour after I left him at his summer day camp. Sometimes that's a good thing because he decides every morning that he hates summer camp. When I pick him up at 5:30 and ask about his day, he proclaims it was "Awesome". Better to skip the whiny morning part, everyone feels that way in the morning.

So here I was, wandering about the office; slightly unkempt, unimpressive in every way. It's Monday, I am tired and look terrible.

But the worst part of my day was when a co-worker told me I looked better this week than I did last week.

Aarrrgghhh! I hate Mondays.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Boys, Bumps & Bikes

The Boy is growing up. I guess I still think of him as someone who wants Batman pyjamas and Spiderman shaped snacks, but little by little he's eliminating those icons of boyhood with items that are "cool". We were looking together for a skateboard online, and I was quoting him the specs of the ones we could afford. I later overheard him telling a friend, with a sad resignation in his voice, "I have to get the Spongebob one".

A few weeks ago, the kid couldn't even ride a scooter. I have to hand it to him, he practiced for hours in the driveway, a few feet of coasting at a time. He was out there regardless of whether the sun was beating down on his fair face or whether rain was dripping off his hair into his eyes. And - he mastered it.

The next thing was the daily harangue to take the training wheels off his bicycle. I told him it had to wait for a weekend, when I would have time to come out and help him learn to ride it, relating serious stories of the dangers involved - learning to steer, falling down, collisions, injuries, crashing into solid objects. He was unmoved. Alas, he had outgrown his bike and it was in bad shape so taking the training wheels off didn't make a difference, the bike was unrideable. Not one to be easily defeated, he opted to try the girl neighbor's pink bike. The kid rode it easily on the first try, he didn't fall once. I guess all that practice on the scooter had already honed his balance.

Now he has a new bike - larger and more manly in red and black. He is obsessed with riding his bike the way he was obsessed with mastering the scooter. He rides the bike every moment he can, thinking up ways to go faster, looking for objects to run over and plotting tricks and risky maneuvers with which to frighten his mother.

I am nervously biting my nails and biding my time over this one. I know the obsession with the bike will cool and eventually his bike-riding will be just one of many things he likes to do. I know that his skill on the bike will increase and so far, I have managed to keep him from ditching his helmet (although I have my doubts about its future, it has Power Rangers on it).

I wonder if one day The Boy will be grown up enough that I won't worry about his high interest level in dangerous activities.

I doubt it.

I think I'm going to need a lifetime enrollment at the nail salon.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Smells Like Massachusetts

It's the annual tax-free weekend here in my home state of Taxachusetts Massachusetts. As usual, it comes at a time when I haven't got any money to take advantage of making large purchases and saving oodles of money on the sales tax.

A friend of mine and I were grocery shopping yesterday and discussing the bad timing of the weekend as we are both broke.

"What am I gonna save any money on?" she complained.

"Well, you could buy your laundry detergent tax-free tomorrow, that's gonna save you at least ten cents", I replied.

I thought about what I had bought that might have been cheaper had I waited a day. The only non-food items I got were toilet paper and paper towels.

"They don't charge tax on toilet paper do they?" I asked.

"Well, you don't eat it or wear it", she answered. "So, it's taxed."

I checked my receipt and sure enough, she was right. There was this big "T" for tax next to the toilet paper. How low-down desperate are they for tax revenue that they tax you for - excuse my frank language - wiping your behind?

I always thought they excluded the most necessary items from the sales tax, like food and clothes, and only taxed convenience items. At a grocery store you pay tax only on cleaning supplies, etc. But toilet paper? Excuse me, but I don't consider toilet paper a convenience, I consider it a necessary item.

After an exhaustive search of the tax code (trust me, tax codes are exhausting things to read) I found many items that I not only think should not be taxed but ought to be mandated by law, such as deodorants and antiperspirants.

Maybe we should all revolt by boycotting toilet paper and deodorant until the state stinks so bad that lawmakers have to relent and remove the sales tax from these items. But even the most dedicated radical might wilt at the idea of marching in protest with hundreds of others who have nothing but nature's scent under their armpits and have neglected the hygiene of their nether regions. And when they slip over the border to tax-free New Hampshire to purchase these items, local residents will be alerted to their approach.

"Put on your gas masks guys, smells like Massachusetts out there."

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Dying to be Beautiful?

A study published today in the Annals of Plastic Surgery says that women who get breast implants are three times as likely to commit suicide as other women.

The researchers said the increased risk of suicide was not apparent for ten years.

Actually, that makes sense. Many women get implants because of low self-esteem linked to body image. Today's society puts such a premium on having the perfect body, some women will never feel that they are good enough.

It probably takes ten years for them to see that having the surgery didn't really change their lives for the better. If a woman's main reason for getting implants is to try to achieve that elusive - but so necessary to her esteem - perfect body image, then ten years will hold many disappointments.

What happens when tiny lines start to appear around the eyes and mouth? How will she feel when she has to pluck that first grey hair? Other parts of the body will start to sag, spread and generally suffer the ravages of time. Over ten years, that kind of realization can be depressing - and it's worse in some decades than others.

I don't think there is anything wrong with having any kind of plastic surgery as long as the expectations are not unrealistic. But if people think that changing some aspect of their body that they dislike is going to be a fix for everything that is wrong in their lives, then they are going to be in for some serious disappointments.

I saw a tabloid the other day that had pictures of famous women's hips, bellies and behinds. Every one of them had loose-curd cottage cheese butts and thighs. The teaser was that they covered the face and you had to buy the magazine to see inside and find out which ugly body belonged to which famous celebrity.

It's that kind of thing that makes women fear. And who is to blame?

I think we are.

Women are. Men aren't standing in the checkout line eyeing that tabloid and saying "see, I knew she was older than she looks". Let's face it. We rage and accuse the media of setting us up by using bone-thin models and airbrushing photos but the truth is, they are only selling. We're the ones who are buying.

There's only one way to stop it.

Don't buy it.


Monday, August 6, 2007

Saved From Television

I don't watch TV anymore. It's a conscious choice now, but it started when my cable bill became too exorbitant to budget about three or four years ago and for the next two years we didn't have television in our house. The reception these days is so weak, an antenna provided nothing more than snow.

After the cable went off, I bought the first of what turned out to be a series of cheap DVD players and invested in movies and children's shows for the kids to watch. A membership in the local video store provided the newer films that we couldn't afford to buy. Besides, once the kids have watched a movie about 25 times or so, they lose interest. Of course, once they have watched it 25 times or so, you have lost brain cells. By the way, you don't get those back.

I noticed how well-behaved and engaged the children were when we visited relatives with cable. They would turn on Disney or Nickolodeon and sit transfixed before the flickering screen. Foolishly, I thought that if I relented and got them real television at home, it would have the same effect. So, in an effort to avail myself of an electronic babysitter, I got satellite TV with not just one Disney channel, but two! East coast and west coast so they could watch everything twice if they wanted to.

I never re-entered the world of television viewing myself. I kept up with all the news I needed on the net and threw myself into blogging - a brave new world. The internet had taken up all the slots in my prime-time.

As I traverse the blogosphere I find I don't actually need a TV to keep up with all the latest shows. There are entire blogs dedicated to sitcoms, reality shows and soap operas (although these are starting to lose popularity).

As for the kids, they tire of television easily now. My grand scheme to pay a monthly fee and secure a few moments of quiet for myself hasn't really panned out. These days, they would much rather play outside, ride scooters, run and scream and get deliciously dirty.

Sometimes, they make me proud.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

I Love Coffee

First let me say, I love coffee. I have an unnatural affection for coffee. Over the years I have gone from cream and 2 sugars to half-and-half with saccharine and thence all the way - yes, I drink it black.

I savor every bitter drop. I like every kind of coffee, from the most mundane store brand to the richest espresso. Each has its place in the day. For me, coffee is more than just a way to keep alert, although with a full-time job and two kids, I can use all the alertness I can get. Coffee is more than just a way to keep going, it's a comforting, warm companion.

It's 10:17pm and I am drinking a cup of coffee as I write this. Yes, that is probably far too late in the evening to be drinking coffee, but you see, I am an addict.

I am more than an addict - I actually proselytize. I preach coffee to others. I have heard so many say to me "oh, drinking coffee is so bad for you". But is it? What major diseases, other than acid stomach, are directly related to coffee drinking? None that I know of. I even read of a study in the Lancet that recommended it for cardiovascular health.

In fact, I know of several ways coffee is good for you. It's been shown to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, colon cancer and even cavities. The best part is, you need to drink lots of it, not just that tiny teacupful in the morning. These are the facts I quote to all who question my devotion to my java.

Today I read that a review of 10 studies seems to prove that coffee also prevents liver cancer. Coffee drinkers were 41% less likely to get liver cancer than those who abstain from coffee. Just another good thing to come from coffee. And another great statistic to throw at those who sneer at my addiction.

Friday, August 3, 2007

I asked my mother one question...

Genetics is a science. Like all sciences, genetics follows mathematical equations and set parameters. If you are a geneticist, you know that aside from the occasional mutation, all gene combinations are going to fit within these parameters.

Yes well, all those theories and equations work fine until you get to my mother.

You would suppose that by combining the genes of two completely different people, you would arrive at five offspring whose characteristics would have wide variations within those genes' codes. But, it doesn't always work that way. My mother, for instance, refused to have any children who didn't look just like her.

My mother had genes that were predatory. They seek out and destroy all other genes even to the second generation. And they grow stronger with age.

As I look in the mirror each day I see her face more than I see the face that I used to think was me. I look at my children and see my mother in one and "mini-me" in the other, and I realize that science held no sway over this woman. I suppose if I have to look like someone, I should be happy to look like the woman who conquered genetics.

Time continues to prove my mother right as I notice all my siblings turning into versions of her. In any case, by the time I was an adult, I was sure we only had her genes too. My father seemed to provide only a means of support as my mother sought to spread her genes to future generations.

Which led me once to ask her a strange question.

I must preface this by saying that my mother, though compassionate and fond of animals, often grew tired of pets that refused to follow her rules or whose presence was becoming annoying. I remember being about 8 or 9, standing outside on a porch every night for weeks and calling a cat who never came home only to discover that he had been taken to the ASPCA. A dog disappeared while I was at school, he had just had his third flea infestation and I guess the third time is the charm. Pets disappeared without warning. It gave my childhood that element of surprise and mystery.

But all my life, I had believed that Benny the dog had run away. He was just the kind of dog you would expect to run away, frenzied and impulsive. I believed this, that is, until a few years ago. One evening as my brother and I sat in my mother's kitchen we discussed a dog who had run into the yard a few years after Benny had disappeared. This dog taunted the owners who chased him, turning himself inside out with the joy of his apparent escape. This dog looked and acted so much like Benny that we wondered if he had wandered home to say "hello".

It was then the truth was finally brought out into the open; a confession finally forthcoming from my mother and my eldest sister. All those years before, Benny and another neighborhood dog had been involved in some incident with a neighbor's cat; an incident that ended badly for the cat. My mother had taken the dog and had him put down, never letting on to us children that he had not, in fact, just run away.

It was then, at the scene of this startling revelation that a terrible thought occurred to me. The full impact of the ease with which my mother dispensed with unwanted pets combined with her insistence that all her offspring resemble her, compelled me to turn to her and ask:

"How many children did you really have?"

Office Friendships

I was thinking about a retired co-worker today and brought her name up while talking to a cubicle-mate. We both realized that since she retired, she has never once come to visit her old friends in the office, nor has she contacted anyone. Even the monthly dinner evenings that she always attended seem to have faded into memory, and aren't even organized anymore. The plain truth is, I miss her at times.
But not often. That is, I don't often sit and think "I wish R were here". It's a funny thing about work, you share the major part of each day, five days a week - you share your stories, your life, your kids' school pictures - but are you truly friends or just people in a stressful environment who take solace in shared experiences and affable chit-chat?

The younger employees, those in their early twenties fresh from college and without children, often spend a great deal of time together outside of work. They build friendships that seem rock solid - until one of them quits for a better job, or gets married and has a baby. Suddenly, their shared experiences are reduced to those of the office, and friends become just co-workers again.

Still, after spending five days a week for 20 years with someone, their sudden absence leaves a big hole in the fabric of your life.
The sad thing is that over time it becomes less noticeable, other bits of work and life and even other people are woven into its place. I think that if my retired friend called and wanted everyone to get together for a night out, just about everyone would gladly go. But the conversation would probably be about work - what is the same, what has changed, the latest gossip.

Perhaps she is right. Although you get to know a lot about a person over the years, the only thing you ever really had in common was work. Office friendships are a matter of being thrown together and finding those with whom you can communicate amenably. The friends I see outside of work for the most part, are people I knew before they and I worked together.

I am not sure. I prefer to think that yes, we were friends, but her life is busy and it's simply that she doesn't think to visit because she doesn't have the time or realize we miss her.

I prefer to think that, but I am not sure.