Making “Life” Three Syllables… At Fifty

The Dreaded AARP Card

I’m still two weeks away from the big 5-Oh, but between the AARP card that arrived in the mail and the new progressive-lens eye-wear that were actually ready the same day, denial was  no longer an option. Oh, and the fact that Chris has basically created an advent calendar to remind me, I’ve decided to welcome the day with open arms. Fifty? Bring it! And to celebrate, I thought it might be interesting to resurrect a blog post from April, 2009, titled, How Do You Make Life Three Syllables?, and augment it with a few life adventures previously omitted, and a few I’ve encountered since… Read on…

“…There’s no point in taking stock unless you do something with the stock you’ve taken. Whoa. Heavy. But seriously, how many times have I taken stock of my life, resolved to make changes, edits or revisions, or just to slow down? And I make those changes, edits and revisions, and even slow down, and then find myself facing the same dilemma months or years later.  Taking stock again. So, back to square one, aren’t we. Does that mean that all my angst from previous stock-taking was misplaced? I don’t think so. I just don’t think I let it take. Just didn’t sit with it long enough.

One of those “great” nephews…

So I forced myself to sit with it for a bit tonight. And here’s what I came up with…I’ve knocked myself unconscious in Annie Leibowitz’s bathroom and been brought round again by the photographer herself with the very ice I dumped in her toilet. I’ve fallen 75 feet off the side of a Norwegian Cruise Line cruise ship and lived to tell about it. I’ve served Charlie Rose, Nora Ephron and Tom Brokaw dinner — and all at the same dinner party. I’ve para-sailed into the side of a Winnebego camper and survived unscathed. I’ve knocked on doors every day for a year and a half in Japan as a Mormon missionary offering something outside of the Big Bang theory to a people too kind and gracious to do anything but listen. I’ve understudied Tommy Tune for a July 4th Spectacular at Walt Disney World. I’ve moved 6 times within the last 18 months. (I refuse to update this statement to 2012 on the grounds it may induce an unsurvivable anxiety attack…)

I’ve performed inspirational vocal solos at church meetings where Quarterback Steve Young delivered inspirational talks — all while being asked to leave Brigham Young University for being gay. I’ve worked construction and stepped off the foundation of a house, fallen 15 feet to the concrete floor face-first with minor scratches and landed the rest of the day off. I’ve performed naked on stage for six months in New York City. I’ve been kissed by Sir Ian MacKellen. I’ve worked graveyard shifts at a 7-11 and hosed off the parking lot every night barefoot and loved it — the regulars called me Huck Finn.  I’ve succesfully pitched a multi-million dollar PR program over the phone to a bank executive on a Mexican beach. I’ve lived 22 months at sea. I’ve flown cross-country with two dogs and a bird — all in the cabin and under the seat in front of me — and only downed two drinks to get me through it.

June 22nd!

I’ve helped prep the random likes of Ozzie Osbourne, Sandra Lee, Kathy Gifford, Patrick Sharp, Dhani Jones, Jerry Rice, Solange Knowles, and Charlotte Ronson for media interviews for household brand names like Pepsico, Heinz, Gillette, Alka Seltzer and Absolut. I’ve body-doubled (off the court/on camera) for Utah JAZZ point guard, John Stockton. A la “A Chorus Line,” I’ve blown out my knee at a professional dance audition, and stopped the audition cold. I’ve witnessed wondrous “firsts” like the first African American President of the United States and the first female Secretary of State of the United States. I’ve watched 35 nieces and nephews grow up to become amazing people and bring 39 great-nieces and great-nephews into the world. And I’ve legally married the love of my life — and he’s a man!

Ah, and that’s just the tip of the half-century iceberg.  My  life is definitely three syllables. Nothing monosyllabic about it. And I plan to keep it that way. Hello Fifty! Oh, and Chris? Fifty’s nothing, but payback’s a bitch…

Prescriptive Religion and Other Pain Remedies

Once a year, like clockwork, I can be guaranteed my share of lower back pain. I never know exactly when it will hit, but when it does? God help me. And by God, of course, I mean Percocet, Percodan, Xanax, Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, Wine, Spirits, or the occasional ice pack and dollop of Ben Gay… Or actually any combination of said deity will do. Restores my faith every time. So, what invoked my return to religion this time around? Changing the sheets. Yeah, you heard me. CHANGING THE SHEETS! I played volleyball for two days straight with no issue at all, but when I simply try to pull my weight around the house and get the bedroom in order before heading to work the following Monday morning? I take what felt like a baseball bat to the spine. Snap. Twang. Ouch. Damn fitted sheets.

Now if getting beaten up by 500 count Egyptian cotton wasn’t bad enough (okay, so they were Thomas O’Brien 300 thread count from Target… sue me), I had to add insult to injury with an episode of being taken down by ice cubes. I know, just how tragic am I? I start paying on my long term health care premiums, and suddenly my senior citizen body clock decides my time has come. Next stop the morgue. Anyway, back to the ice cubes episode… Chris is out running an errand, and I’m pathetically gimping around the kitchen trying to pack some zip lock baggies with ice so I can treat my back, when I trip on a Dachshund, grimace in pain, and dump ice all over the kitchen floor. The dogs look at me, I look at them, and we all realize that this is going to be interesting.

After some painful maneuvering, I find myself on the kitchen floor, slowing gathering ice cubes to me in small groups of 3 – 4, and then awkwardly raising myself up with my elbow on the counter to deposit them in the garbage can. It’s at this moment that Chris returns home, breezes into the kitchen, sees my predicament, tosses his head back with glee and let’s loose in a glorious guffaw and boisterous laughter! I mean, we’re talking some serious laughter. Unabashed, shameless, unadulterated and joyous. He hasn’t laughed that hard since he learned about the Mormon planet Kolob watching Stephen Colbert. (Google it. Trust me, it’s a must-see…) And that moment was priceless, too. So, as much as I wanted to be pissed and hurt about it, I had to admit I must have looked pretty pathetic, so gave in and started laughing, too. Unfortunately, that action set off a wave of lower back pain that about killed me, but it was worth it. That, and the fact that every time anything dropped to the floor the rest of the day, Chris would head toward it with a spring in his step, offer to pick it up for me, and proceed to grab the item in a series of squat thrusts (repeated over and over)  just to prove how easy it was for him, and how painful it would be for me. Ah, what a guy. That’s why I love him. And that’s also why I need the Xanax. Long live religion and lower back pain.

Movember Ode to Paul

This Movember post is dedicated to my brother Paul — somewhere past 50 and going strong. Beautiful wife, beautiful kids, beautiful grandkids, and yes, big time survivor. Remember how I mentioned that my family joked about “countdown to cancer”? Well, it wasn’t a joke for Paul. But he’s the one delivering the punch line. Healthy and strong and loving life. I didn’t want to post about his bout with cancer without his permission, but when he emailed me the following, I figured the time was right:

My brother Paul, and sister Cynthia

“You didn’t mention my cancer on your blog (OK, chondro-sarcoma is a little unusual, especially when attached to the septum) I have been cancer free for 20 years now, as of October 2010!  How grateful I am to be alive and to have had the last 20 years to enjoy my kids growing up, grandkids, as well as brothers & sisters and the whole wonderful extended family.”

Paul was misdiagnosed for a while, and after feeling that he’d received more than enough treatment for sinus infections, went to a specialist, and finally received the right diagnosis and the right treatment. So, for all of you tough guys out there “sucking it up” and “getting through it,” spend a little of your damn insurance money and get checked out. That’s why God made flex-spend accounts! You won’t regret it. Paul is proof.

It’s Movember!

Nope. Not misspelled. It’s truly Movember. The month formerly known as November is a moustache growing charity event held during November each year that raises funds and awareness for men’s health — specifically prostate cancer. And I’m in. 4 days in, as a matter of fact. And my is to remember all my uncles fondly and inspire my 5 brothers to stay happy and healthy!

You might think this is a lark, but it’s not. I’m just sorry I didn’t discover the movement sooner. (Chris? Not so much. He’s even offered to pay me NOT to grow a mustache, no matter what the charity. So I’m even MORE in!) I actually come from a family of survivors. Sometimes we joke about us being on a countdown to cancer. I know, it sounds raw, but you have to know my family. We’re good at that stuff. Cancer on my mom’s side of the family is pretty crazy. Her three brothers, Ted, Hal and Don all endured cancer of one type or another (prostate, intestinal, colorectal, melanoma), and eventually, it played a role in their deaths. They were fabulous, funny, wonderful men, and I am so glad I was able to know them. My mom and her two sisters, Margie and Darlene, have all survived breast cancer, and are just as fabulous, funny and wonderful as their brothers, and fortunately, are STILL in my life. So, this Movember, I’m enduring the odd client stares, the grimaces of my other half, and the entertainment of wondering just how gray this sucker is going to be — all in the name of men’s health. Yep, and now comes the shameless plug: JOIN ME!

Go to www.movember.com, select “US” and type “Alan Newbold” into the search feature at the top of the site. You’ll land on My Mo Space page, and be able to donate to a great cause, as well as see my face change fairly regularly. $1, $10, $100 — it doesn’t matter. Or just send me well wishes or razors. It really doesn’t matter. Just getting me, my brothers, and the rest of the world thinking about the men in their life and how to keep them healthy is worth it! So Dave, Paul, Bruce, Mike and Russ? Prepared for the rubber glove and prepare to live long, happy, healthy lives!

 

 

Vacationing Where I Live…

Day one of my vacation… Loving it… And these photos are why I’m perfectly content to stay right here in Minneapolis this week…

Chris at the helm on Lake Minnetonka

On the banks of the Missippi River...

Sam takes over as Captain...

Samson checks the moorings...

Lillypads... For real...

More of the Missippi...

Nothing like late afternoon on the water...

Dachshunds take a breather...

Same time, same lake... tomorrow...

For the Love of Baseball

Photo courtesy of treehugger.com

And I mean that in a good way. Maybe it’s living a block away from the beautiful Target Field. Maybe it’s watching thousands of Twins fans head to the stadium nearly every night. Maybe it’s the fact that even when we turn out the lights, the stadium lights reflect off neighboring buildings through our windows. I don’t know, but I’m feeling the love of baseball. And yes, we have tickets to a Yankees/Twins game in early August. And we’re psyched about it. But back to the baseball love…

I was at drinks with my department last night, and we were sparring about the fact that all the women had gone to see “Sex in the City II,” recently, and didn’t invite us. So, we were discussing what us guys were going to do without them, to get them back. And somehow the fact that we had books written by my brother came about. And then I had to explain that my brother Bruce had written a book about fantasy baseball — but in the literal sense (you have to read it to figure that one out) — and the guys wondered why the CEO and Executive Creative Director (at our table, too) had copies, but none of them did. Um, let’s think about that. Who signs my paycheck? No, really, I shared the book with them as plane fare during our interview process, knowing how much they travel and how often they might be grounded on tarmacs due to storms. But back to the real story…

I decided to give away some copies of the book — The Baseball Box Prophecy —  to they guys I work with, and some other guys around Minneapolis (I told you I was feeling the love… and yes, Bruce, I paid for them. Your publisher will be happy.) with the caveat that when they finish the book, they have to immediately pass it on to another baseball lover or dreamer — someone who will enjoy it as much as they did. And in the front of each book, I wrote a note to every reader, asking them to keep the prophecy alive by sharing the book, and to email me every time the book got passed along. If it takes off, it should prove fairly interesting and fun to see how many other notes get written in the book and how many emails I get from people who read this blog — and have read the book — and do the same. All for the love of baseball!

The Strength of Lyda…

My previous post prompted me to locate my journals from 1997 to capture some of the real essence of that ACL reconstruction period. (And, yes, of course I have journals, I’ve been chronicling my life for my posterity since I could write.) And in doing so, I found my grandma: Lyda Leon Robinson Newbold.

Lyda and the Great-Grandkids... a Memorial Day Weekend

Lyda is my dad’s mom, and she was one of the toughest, kindest, most straightforward women I know. She was the best. After my grandpa died, she and I became even closer. While she could still live in her own home and care for herself, I used to stop by, and we’d head out the front or back doors, carefully make our way down the steps, and walk the length of the driveway together. The goal was three-fold: laugh and talk together, get Grandma some exercise, and lastly — our shared love — check on the peonies, snap dragons, petunias, and chrysanthemums along the way. As she pushed upward in years toward 92, 93 and 94, those walks took longer and longer, and our pace became slower and slower. We got more time to talk together, and Grandma may have leaned on me a bit more toward the end of the drive, but we always walked the full length of the yard. Always.

When I blew out my knee in NYC, I was pretty much all alone. My family was in Utah, most of my friends in the business were out on tour with a show, so the city felt twice as big and twice as daunting. With my only affordable mode of transportation being the subways, I grabbed my crutches and walked to and from the stations, up and down the stairs to the tunnels, my pace painstakingly slow and often exhausting. It reminded me of those walks with Grandma — the careful placing of each step and goal of getting to the end of the drive. So I wrote about it…

June 2,1997…

My world through Grandma’s eyes. People’s kindess everywhere — holding a door, offering a seat, taking my arm.

New York at Grandma’s pace. Seconds stretch to minutes and even longer. I’m always so tired. Jaunts become day-trips. I’ve discovered my own “long walk down the drive.” And I’m just as scared of falling.

She was 94. I’m 34. We’ve 60 years in common. I see her on the subway, at the laundromat, at the grocery. I see her alone in my apartment. I see her patience in all I’m learning.

I see her as I rest on my crutches — wondering why the sidewalk cracks suddenly feel like canyons, and why street curbs have become mountains — resting and wondering why it takes me so long to get back home.

I wonder if that’s how she felt after Grandpa died. Why is it taking so long to get back home?

Thirteen years later, does it feel a little melodramatic? Absolutely. And that’s actually the beauty of it. But there’s also beauty in the raw facts that I took refuge in family — whether in person or in spirit — to get through a really tough period of my life. Lyda would be proud of that… and she also loved a little melodrama.