Thursday, July 29, 2010

Top Ways that Menopause is Like the Mob

If you're uncomfortable discussing "womanly" things, stop reading now and head over to YouTube.

Today, we're talking menopause. I'm in the stage medically known as perimenopause which roughly means that the "change" is coming sooner rather than later. (When I say that, I hear Johnny Cash singing Folsum Prison Blues and want to parody the lyrics. "I feel the change a-coming. I'm going round the bend . . ."

I'm not sure how accurate the estimated time frame is for perimenopause, because as near as I can tell, once you hit puberty, you're on the downward side of slope. We're born with a couple of million eggs that naturally die off so that at puberty we're down to about 400,000. After that, we lose about a thousand a month so, really, from the initial two mil, only about 400 ever mature.

However, I've started to have some indications that the time is nigh. I say, "Bring it on." The sooner it starts, the sooner it finishes. I can devote the money spent on tampons to something else. I live in the Florida Keys and the average hot flash can't possibly be more uncomfortable than the heat and humidity of July and August. I might not even notice if I'm outside when one hits.

My body teased me earlier in the year. After a couple of years of significant lessening in my monthly cycle, I skipped two months. I thought, "Okay. We're in full menopause mode." Turns out the cessation of period was more like a comma. I got it again the next month, skipped another month, now it's arrived again -- sort of like bugs in the house. You can exterminate them for awhile, but they always return.

I've been reading up on the whole process. I don't remember my mother's change process being all that big a deal. I recall one hot flash in my presence. Either I was completely oblivious to her journey or she was monumentally discreet about the whole deal. That would have been Mom's way -- go off and experience the misery in private so that she didn't inconvenience anybody.

No matter how bad or how easy a time I have, I'm determined to go through it with a sense of humor. That doesn't mean the whole thing will be a laugh riot, but I'm sure I can find something humorous in even the dark times.

With that in mind, I'm compiling a list of the Top Ways that Menopause is Like the Mob. The first item on the list was obviously inspired by that too-brief respite. I've come up with five and am now throwing open the blog to your suggestions. Leave a comparison in the comments. When this has run its course (pun fully intended), I'll randomly pick a winner from the commenters and send a signed copy of either of my books.

Here's the list so far:
1) Just when you think you’ve quit, it pulls you back in
2) The only thing worse in bed than night sweats is a severed horse’s head
3) Older generations of Sicilians don’t like to talk openly about the Cosa Nostra. (This thing of ours.) Older generations of women don’t like to speak openly of Questo Nostro Cambiamento. (This Change of ours.)
4) In the mob, things get ugly in a snap. Women with severe hormonal fluctuations – likewise.
5)Mobsters and menopause -- both known for "packing heat".

Have at it, readers. Have fun!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Scrabble Rant

Allow me a moment for a slight rant. I love Scrabble. It's my favorite board game. I don't get to play against people very often. Sadly, nobody in my family will play with me. My nephew claims it's humiliating to always get his ass kicked. I'm a little surprised at that 'tude. I've tried to teach them defensive strategies and share other tips. It's not like I did a Scrabble end zone dance that time that I cleared my rack over a Triple Word space, made three new words and scored 90 points in a single turn.

Nobody seems to believe me when I say that success all depends on the letters you happen to have in your rack.

The Scrabble App was the first one I bought for my iPhone. It's a great way to wake up my brain or kill time in a doctor's waiting room or any other place where time needs killin'. I play against the computer in the game. I've noticed something strange in the words that the game accepts. I'm old school Scrabble where you don't use proper names or any word that begins with a capital letter. Imagine my surprise when the computer put down Zaire. I did a quick Google search online and found out that in April of this year one of the game's licensors changed the rules to allow some proper names. (Hasbro has the rights in some countries; Mattel has the rights in others. The App version is by Hasbro.)

Fooey on that, I say, particularly if I can place the F on a Triple Letter space and the Y on a Double Word, thus scoring 38 points. I'd never do that if playing against people on an actual board. However, if the computer can do it, then I am forced to play by its rules.

So, last night I logged on for a quick game. We progressed and I spotted the opportunity to build on the computer's word GRAM to make MONDAY and earn a Triple Word. This message popped up: This word is not in the dictionary. Please try again.

What the hell? It's a day of the week. How can Monday not be in the Scrabble dictionary?? On the off chance that alien parasites had invaded my brain and destroyed the spelling sector, I called a friend.

"Spell Monday for me," I said. Dead silence ensued while she tried to reason out whether this was a trick question or the set-up for a joke.


"How do you spell Monday?"

More silence, then a tentative, "As in the Monday that's the day of the week?"

"Yes. THAT Monday."

She complied. Assured that my spelling acumen had not vanished I told her why I wanted confirmation. We agreed that the game was screwed up.

I then checked the minimal rules included with the App. They say that some "offensive or obscure words have been eliminated from the game". Granted, a lot of people don't cartwheel with glee when Monday rolls around, but it's hardly an offensive word.

Obscure? This game allows za (slang for pizza), qi (variant of chi) and qat (variant of khat, an Arabic shrub), but not Monday??

I'm not sure whether to write to Hasbro or EA, but someone needs to fix this problem. It's more than a Scrabble fan and confirmed logophile can stand!

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Eyes Wide Open Side

Have you seen the movie The Blind Side? It was one of my favorite movies last year. I was completely inspired by the story of pro football player Michael Oher. The son of a drug-addicted, empoverished woman, Michael goes through a series of foster homes before a chance meeting at school with the Tuohy family. Sean and Leigh Anne are well-off folks with big hearts. They end up adopting Michael, fighting for him to do better in school, urging him to learn to play football, providing the inspiration and support for him to succeed. It's a story that gets you right in the heart and I'm not surprised that the movie was a sensation.

How many of us have done anything comparable to what the Tuohy family did for that young man? How many of us would? I've heard some more cynical folks suggest that it was easy for them since they had successful businesses and money to spare. I don't care how big someone's bank account might be. Taking someone into your family is an investment of your heart, along with your time, energy and money.

You hear stories about other people who go beyond themselves to truly offer care, shelter and layers of support for people in need. I've seen numerous families like this on Extreme Makover: Home Edition and am thrilled that those people have their goodness repaid with new homes. Still, I'm removed from them, and from the Tuohys. They're people I see on the small and large screen.

Then there's my friend R and his family. (I don't know how he'd feel about me using his name, so I'll keep it simple.) He and my brother met in college and became friends, so I've known him now for most of my life. He has never been anything but warm, kind and loving to me -- even when I was firmly in the pain in the ass younger sister roll. I've gotten to see R enough over the years to have a real friendship.

He impresses me no end. R has three daughters by blood, five other sons and daughters through marriage. I don't think I've ever heard the word "step" applied to any of the kids who came into his life when he married their mothers. They are all kids of his heart. In the last couple of years, the family has grown by one additional youngster who is related by neither blood nor marriage. I think M is a son by need. He needed a family and R and the rest of the clan opened up theirs and made room.

Unlike the Tuohy family of Tennessee, R isn't rolling in money with a near-mansion sized home and a pair of luxurious vehicles in the spacious garage. The four oldest are out on their own -- and amazing women in their own right. (Side note to the ones who read this blog: Yes, this means you! I think you're amazing women and I'm proud to be an honorary aunt.) Even with some of them out of the nest, I don't know how R manages to support the rest, but he does. He provides them with a home, stability, and emotional support, and he models for them admirable, honorable, caring behavior. He's an outspoken proponent of human rights -- whether through Amnesty International or Students for a Free Tibet -- a supporter of the environment, and just an all around good guy.

This week, I feel like he's our own personal Blind Side story. M, that newest son, is heading off to college in the fall and is coming up a little short in financial aid. Determined to help him get what he needs for the upcoming year, R and the family reached out to their friends. I have no doubt that the goal will be met.

I want to thank R for modeling for the rest of us what it means to really open up your heart and your home. The experience of the last 24 hours is a warm, positive, reminder that when we help each other, we truly make the world better for everyone.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Importance of Not Getting Discouraged

I took the boat out today for the first time in several weeks. The winds been blowing a lot down here and we've had some stormy weather off and on. Since I only have the weekends, I've been waiting on Mother Nature. Today, I saw a window of time when the wind light and the sky was mostly sunny, so I lowered the boat, hopped in and cruised off.

It was nice in the harbor and I took my time. I kept an eye on the clouds and realized that they were advancing more quickly than I'd estimated. We weren't expecting any fierce fronts and getting hit with raindrops has never concerned me.

Heading for home, I checked the wind direction, estimating that it was blowing toward my sea wall, so I'd have to adjust the angle and speed with which I approached.

Folks, I totally botched my docking maneuver. I came in a little too slow which allowed the wind to blow me too close to the dock. I had to try to push off so that I could approach the lift. I felt way too out of practice and this made me overreact. Too much power. Oversteering. Not thinking it through. One mistake after the other. Don't worry. Nothing got broken, on me or the boat, or the seawall for that matter.

Still, although physically everything was fine, mentally, I was frazzled and discouraged. I'd never done such a horrid docking. My skills were supposed to be improving, not sliding down. Thank God nobody saw me, or I least I couldn't see anyone watching. Had that been the case, I would have added embarrassment to the list of negative emotions.

Although discouraged, I had no choice but to back out, cruise away from the dock, and try the approach again. Same thing happened with the wind, but instead of doing a bunch of different things, I just stopped and held the boat against the seawall so that I could think it through.

Suddenly, all of the right steps became clear. I adjusted the engines in the right direction, pushed myself off a bit and used one engine's throttle to advance the boat in the right direction, onto the lift. I killed the power and pulled myself in tight, raised the lift, and exhaled. I'd done it.

I learned a lot of lessons in one simple, or not so simple, docking. One, you can do everything right, and outside forces, such as the wind, can push you off course. Two, be prepared to make adjustments. Three, overreacting to a challenge only complicates matters. Four, you might get discouraged, but you can't quit. Five, when something's off, stop and think it through. Finally, be proud of yourself when you succeed.

If you only stopped when you got discouraged, you'd never get to the point where you can rejoice in your success. Now, I'm ready to go out again the next time that weather permits.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

TV Dinners

I'm old enough to remember when frozen dinners were new. Swanson TV dinners came in aluminum foil pans, with the different meal elements in their own sections. A full dinner right out of the freezer, into the oven, and onto your tv tray so you could eat with your eyes glued to the evening news. Nowadays there are hundreds of meals in the freezer section of your supermarket for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snacks, parties, you name it.

That's not the kind of television dinner I'm musing about tonight. I just took a batch of scones out of the oven. With every breath I smell warm cinnamon. I love scones and am pretty pleased that I've learned to make them from scratch. I tried several recipes, without great success. The results were more like cinnamon-raisin biscuits.

Then, a few years ago while on a Jet Blue flight, I saw a show with Mark Bittman visiting Tartine's, a San Francisco bakery. The head pastry chef took him step by step through the process of making their scones. Immediately I saw all that I'd done wrong all those previous times. As soon as I returned home, I Googled the recipe and have been able to make scrumptious scones ever since.

I love watching shows on the Food Network. The competition shows are my favorite. I'm fascinated by trained chefs who can take seemingly random ingredients and create fabulous dishes. While I'm not ready to conjure up a clafoutis, and I don't think I could whip out five beautifully designed dishes in an hour a la the Iron Chefs, I've picked up a few pointers. I'm yet to try to replicate a full meal from any television show.

Some of the best pointers come from Good Eats with Alton Brown. I learned more about filet mignon from him in one hour than in a lifetime of eating that meat.

There are dishes that I've read about in books that I've tried to make at home, most notably some things that Robert B. Parker wrote up in his Spenser series. I have a favorite pasta meal that I can throw together with very little effort thanks to Spenser.

What about you? Do you enjoy watching cooking shows? Which show or chef is your favorite? Have you ever looked at what they make on tv and tried to cook it yourself at home? (Recipe sharing is encouraged!)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Memory Snapshots

Today was the 41st anniversary of the day man first walked on the moon. I remember exactly where I was -- summer camp, New York State. They halted the regular camp activities and gathered all of us in the big dining hall. Long before the days of wide-screen televisions, they'd placed a regular sized black and white set on a ladder so that we all could see that moonwalk.

Thinking about this monumental event today led to discussion of other happenings that are so significant, so major, that we retain a clear memory - captured like a photograph in our memories.

I was five when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. My mother told me the news. A few days later, my brother and some of our neighborhood friends were sitting around a plastic tablecloth in our living room, attention riveted on the small b&w tv, watching when Jack Ruby stepped forward and shot Lee Harvey Oswald. We yelled for Mom who was making us sandwiches in the kitchen. The tablecloth had gold roosters printed on it. I don't remember any other colors from that moment -- not the room, or what any of us were wearing -- just the gold roosters. Seeing someone murdered made quite an impact.

I can still see the face of the 5th grade classmate who told me that RFK had been shot. We were living in France that year and all day long we waited for news. No Internet back then so we didn't find out until Mom picked us up from the school. We pulled up to a streetside newspaper kiosk and saw the headline in bold black letters three inches high - Il Est Mort. (He is dead.)

The pictures are scattered across the years.

The day that Elvis died. The night John Lennon was murdered. I can feel and hear the crunch of snow under my boots when I walked out of an office after learning of the Challenger explosion.

A friend called to tell me that a plane had just flown into one of the World Trade Center towers. I turned on the tv and saw the second plane hit.

In reviewing all of the snapshot memories, I realize many of them are connected to bad and sad things. It's like tragedy locks the frame with sharper, clearer images.

There are, however, many happier standouts. Where I was and who I was with when the Phillies won the World Series in 1980. The phone calls from my mother telling me my nephews had been born. The night I logged online and opened the email from a publisher offering me a contract on my first book. The meeting with my boss when she offered me this job.

In recalling all these things tonight, I also recognized an interesting difference. When I think of all the bad memories, the emotions are muted. For the happy events, I feel everything the way that I did when they first happened. The cheering. The welling of joy in my heart. The mind-blowing excitement. The excited nerves. They're all there, ready to be relived again along with the memories.

What snapshot memories do you carry in your head?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Professional Perspectives

Does everybody notice different things depending on what we do for a living? As a writer, I know that I see things in books that drive me crazy. Things I might not have noticed before, like frequent shifts between the point of view of different characters. I'm re-reading a book right now and it kills me that the copy editor didn't catch (or perhaps is responsible for) all the references to Columbian art. Since I know that the author is not talking about art from Columbia, SC, all those references should be Colombia.

I started pondering this topic early this morning while stretched out in the dentist chair having my teeth cleaned. When a dentist meets someone, do they notice the other person's teeth and smile before anything else? Are hairstylists forever critiquing styles and thinking what would look better on the person in their line of sight? Does an auto mechanic pull up next to a rumbling or pinging car and think, "Jesus, dude, get a tune up?"

Can a good chef ever eat anywhere but a top restaurant? What about those professional stylists who advise people how to dress on What Not to Wear? Can they ever walk down the street in a crowd and not recoil from any egregious fashion faux pas?

Finally, I have to ask. Does a plastic surgeon automatically check out breasts, purely from professional curiosity, and think, "I would have gone a little rounder and up a cup size?"

Does what you do for a living influence how you look at things around you? Let's discuss.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

What Are They Thinking?

Have you ever watched characters in a television or movie show and wondered, "What the &#$& are they thinking?" I think, really, we're saying, "That's stupid. Don't DO that!" We're not only questioning their choices, we're also making a value judgment.

Granted, I think that some of the time, the shows want us to suck in our breath and shout at the screen. They've built the tension on purpose and let us see the danger or uh-oh moment lurking around the corner. While we're questioning choices, we're also wishing we could warn the characters, "Stop! Before it's too late!"

Unfortunately, all too often, the show or movie "jumps the shark" and just makes the characters look like dumbasses. Then I'm more likely to wonder, "What the $#$& and I thinking watching this show?"

Stuff like this happens in real life. We see family members or friends risking heartache, professional snafus, financial messes, and what not and want to jump in with the, hopefully, kinder version of, "What are you thinking? You don't want to do that!"

I've been on both ends of that -- giving that kind of advice as well as receiving it. Understanding how someone implying that I'm out of my mind for considering a particular course of action makes me defensive as hell, I finally wised-up. I think I've gotten much better in the way that I listen to friends and offer suggestions.

Actually, I try to avoid giving suggestions. It isn't my function as their friend to tell them what I think they should do. I'm not the one who will ultimately field the consequences of their decisions and actions. Instead, I try to help them spread out their options and consider the possible results of each.

I'm employing what someone just explained to me as the Platinum Rule. The Golden Rule suggests we treat others as we would like to be treated. The Platinum Rule says treat others the way they want to be treated.

I'm mulling this over right now because it applies to a character I'm developing for a story. Up to the point of the book's beginning, she's lived her life to everybody else's expectations. For several excellent reasons, she's broken away from that pattern. There are people in her life who don't approve and they're delivering the, "What the #&*@#& are you thinking" message loud and clear.

My character doesn't like this, and at the same time, it's difficult to not feel like she has to justify her choices or consider their displeasure. It's even harder to reject that displeasure and not take the actions that will make them happy.

Difficult, but not impossible. She's learning how and that's all part of her growth.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Some dates sneak up on me sometimes and then I look at the calendar and feel the clench to my heart. Today's one of those days. My father died on this date 27 years ago.

I still miss him. How could I not? Dad was an amazing man. My grandparents had very little money. Grandpa came over from Sicily when he was young and Grandma was born here to Sicilian immigrants. They believed in the American dream that opportunity was available for those who worked hard and reached high.

Dad epitomized the American dream. He worked, studied and excelled. Academic and athletic scholarships meant he could become the first of his family to attend college. He served in the Army in WWII, earning a Bronze Star. The military service qualified him for educational assistance so he could afford graduate school and medical school.

He went to Atlantic City for his internship and residency and that's where he met Mom. They fell in love, married, and eventually had my brother and then me.

Dad was an exceptional doctor, specializing first in OB/GYN. He and his partner delivered most of the babies in the area for several years. In the 60s, recognizing that there was a need for cancer treatment, Dad switched specialties. He and a colleague commuted by train to Philadelphia every morning for three years so Dad could study radiation oncology. He finished off his training in that field with a year at a cancer institute in Paris, France. Oh, what a year we had on our European adventure.

I resembled Dad a lot -- enough so that strangers often stopped and asked me if I was his daughter. Then they'd tell me how he delivered their kids or treated their parents or helped them through one of the charity organizations in which he was involved.

He was revered and loved by his patients, colleagues, friends and, of course, by his family.

My parents were, and remain, my heroes. 27 years later, I still miss him and get choked up writing this post.

Love you, Dad.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Like to Be Under the Sea

Last weekend, friends and I traveled to Dry Tortugas National Park. For those unfamiliar with the Florida Keys, the Dry Tortugas are roughly 70 miles west of Key West and only accessible by boat or seaplane. The islands out there were originally called Los Tortugas because when Ponde de Leon discovered them, he saw an abundance of sea turtles (Tortuga-Turtle). The word "Dry" was added to note that there's no fresh water source on any of the islands.

The day trip is awesome. After leaving home at 5:45 a.m. for the hour drive to Key West, we soon boarded the large Yankee Freedom power catamaran ( for a two hour cruise across breathtakingly beautiful water. Deep clear blues, greens and turquoise like melted gemstones surrounded us. We kept watch for marine life as we sped along and spotted several sea turtles, some traveling dolphins, a few rays and a lot of flying fish.

As we neared the destination, we spotted a variety of birds including stately frigate birds, brown noddies, terns and others flitting and perching, welcoming us with their sounds.

The biggest island is the home of Ft. Jefferson. Built in 1840, the fort was later a Union garrison and prison in the Civil War. Probably the best known prisoner was Dr. Samuel Mudd who was accused of conspiring and assisting John Wilkes Booth.

History is interesting, but to be honest, I was all about the snorkeling. Once on the island, all we had to do was put on our gear and walk off the beach into the cool, glass-clear water. If you look at the picture above, you can see that there's an exterior wall around the island. Beneath the water's surface, that wall is home to a variety of soft and hard corals, aquatic plants, and different species of fish.

When I snorkel, even though I swim at the surface, it feels like I've entered a different world. Sounds from above the water are muffled. I hear only the sound of my own breathing, amplified to Darth Vaderish inhalations, and the crackle and pop of fish eating from the corals and rocks.

Cool water slips like liquid silk over my skin and I glide, buoyant, looking through my mask. Time, worries, and everything else in life are shelved somewhere else. Nothing exists except the water, me, and the beautiful underwater world beneath.

The day was one of the best I've ever experienced. I can't wait to do it again!

What must have been 100,000 or more glass minnows swam beneath me.

Soft corals abound on the outer moat wall.

Fish everywhere, easily seen in the crystalline water.


My friends during a break from snorkeling. Hurrah!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Knots, not Nots

I went to a fishing seminar this evening with a couple of friends. Even though I don't eat fish, I love the activity of going out on a boat, dropping out lines and waiting for the fish to bite. There's a skill to fighting, reeling in and landing your catch. I enjoy the whole experience -- every salty, smelly, gooshy, sometimes bloody bit of it.

Both of my parents loved to fish and started taking us out when we were really young. I'm proud to say that I've never been a squeamish girly girl when it comes to the sport. I cut bait, put bait on the hook, haul in my own catch and remove the fish from the hook. If we're using chum, I have no qualms about sticking my hands in the stuff.

When Dad was alive, he taught me how to tie line onto hooks. Actually, the night before a fishing trip, he and I would tie leader onto lots of hooks so that we'd have a supply ready for the following day. After he passed away and Mom graduated to captain, I continued using the skill.

Unfortunately, I haven't had much opportunity to use it since Mom's death back in 1998. Now I have my own boat and one of my strong goals is to captain it out on fishing trips. I'm doing pretty good on my boat handling skills, and now it's time to brush up on the fishing things.

I don't want others doing things for me. I'm embracing a "Will Do" attitude and am determined to master the skills. It's one thing to know how to throw a line overboard or reel in a yellowtail snapper or big grouper. There's other stuff involved -- like what pound of test line and size hooks are used for what type of fishing. How do you look for and find good fishing spots? Once you get there, if you know that you want the bow of your boat at spot X, and you're in X number of feet of water, how far up tide from spot X should you go to throw in the anchor?

Tonight's seminar focused on knot tying. The young guys teaching were very nice and both have been fishing and taking out charters for most of their lives. To some people, knot tying might seem boringly basic. Tonight for me provided several useful tips.

Tip 1: Instead of resting the but of the rod on the deck when you're ready to tie on a hook or extra line, put it in a rod holder. The holder will act like an extra pair of hands and keep the rod steady. *insert mental head slap* That makes such good sense, I don't know why I never did it that way!

Tip 2: Yellowtail snappers have good eyesight and can be skittish around colored fishing line. So, if your rod and reel have yellow or green line, attach about 20-30 feet of clear line to the end.

Tip 3: To make the most of Tip 2, the guy showed us how to tie clear, lower pound test line onto the main line of a rod using a "no name" knot.

Years ago, my father showed me one particular knot for fastening line to hook. I asked one of the guys if I could show him the knot so he could tell me when it should be used. It's been 12 years since I tied this knot, but I guess muscle memory doesn't forget. Not only did I get it right the first time, but the guy immediately recognized it as the uni knot!

Tip 4: Use the fisherman's knot (easy) or the uni knot (a little harder to tie but the strongest knot) for most hooks. If you're using a circle hook that needs to move more, use a loop knot.

The same guy answered my questions about anchoring. After he said that in 50 feet of water, I should use about 100 feet of line, I think he was surprised when I said, "So a 2-1 scope will do."

My friends and I practiced each knot a few times to make sure we had the techniques down solid. One of the instructors walked by our table. He looked at us, sucked in a breath, winked and said, "Ladies tying their own knots to go fishing. That's hot." I have at least 20 years on him, but I laughed and replied, "Even hotter -- I have my own boat."

Not to belabor the point of knots, I'll tie up this post with a simple conclusion. When we really want to learn something, the knowledge is out there, ready to be acquired. The failure is in not trying, not Knot Tying.

Monday, July 05, 2010


The Philadelphia Phillies are playing the Atlanta Braves while I write this post. In 2007, the Phillies won the NL East and then got swept by the Rockies in the division series. In 2008, they won the National League pennant and went on to win the World Series. Last year, they repeated the pennant win but lost to the Yankees in the series. Since the 2009 season ended, the expectation has been that the Phillies will win the National League Championship for the third year in a row and return to the World Series.

Several weeks ago, the team was leading the NL East. Then all of a sudden, the team couldn't score runs enough to win. Then their pitchers couldn't put away the other team's batters. Now the team is in the middle of the division and 5 games out of first.

What about those expectations now? I think it has to be more difficult when you and everyone around you expects you to achieve a specific level of success. What pressure. It has to be worse when you play it out in the eyes of your hometown fans and baseball fans everywhere.

When I was in school, I always struggled with math courses. I got a D in Geometry in high school, that's how bad I was. No lie, my Nana helped me raise that to an A in summer school. I'd never have managed it without her. An algebra teacher once wrote that my work was "consistently mediocre". In grade school, I was so relieved to get a C in math. My father, not so much. I can still hear him in my memory. "C is only average. Your intelligence is not only average. I expect better."

Is it a greater challenge to live up to the expectations of others, or to satisfy the expectations we put on ourselves? Why is it that so often we cannot be truly satisfied, or feel an authentic sense of our own accomplishments if someone else things we don't quite measure up? At what point in our lives, and to what purpose, did we decide that someone else's opinion matters more than our own?

I suspect it starts in childhood because of our roles or position in the family in relation to our older, more powerful parents. We instinctively seek their approval and validation. At some point in our development, we should learn to self-validate, but a lot of us don't -- or don't to the necessary, healthy degree. Instead, we transfer that approval seeking to bosses, to bosses, to (fill in the blank).

Where's the healthy middle-ground? To some extent, with relationships and connections come expectations. A boss has a right to expect you to do your job and earn your pay. A lover or spouse can reasonably expect certain behavior, compromise, cooperation, etc. The utility company expects to get paid for providing electricity.

What do we expect of ourselves and what happens when only one person in a relationship is meeting the expectations?

I'm exploring this topic for a story I'm working on in which the main character is a woman who has always lived according to other people's expectations. Finally, she's teaching herself to live up to her own wants, needs, and satisfactions. It is not an easy lesson. In fact, it's damned difficult to unlearn the old patterns. Lots of reflex emotions bubble to the surface if we fail to meet expectations. Guilt, disappointment, eroded self-esteem and respect, fear, panic. What a pile.

What do you think? What's one thing that you expect of yourself and one thing that you expect of your relationship partner?