Ode to Toro

It’s with heaviness in my heart that I tell you about the passing of my dear friend, Toro. My long-snouted companion of 19+ years passed relatively quickly, though not without pain. The grim reaper’s presence was signaled by an unusual grinding and metallic coughing, followed by hiccups and stammering, topped off by a little puff of air and finished with the big kaput.

Goodbye my favorite leaf blower.

His last, pitiful little puff was nothing like the strong wind he was known for in his heyday. He had gone from gale force to barely a breeze in a matter of seconds.

I left the beaten-up old guy splayed out on the deck, right where he was, in hopes that my mechanically-gifted husband might conjure a way to resuscitate him.

When Frank arrived home, I ushered him to where Toro lay helpless, his nose cone still proudly hanging on by the duct tape I had put in place years before. Without any to-do, Frank calmly, and with a surprising lack of emotion, pronounced my Toro dead. Then he threw him in the trash.

“That’s it?” I asked, following him into the house. “You’re not even going to fiddle with it?” He was the king of fiddling.

“There’s nothing I can do,” he said all matter of fact, like a detached surgeon relaying the facts to the shocked family. And with that, my favorite outdoor assistant was gone.

One of the most beautiful features of our old Atlanta neighborhood is the statuesque, mature trees. Our home is surrounded by a canopy of leafy oaks and poplars. The big guys drop enough leaves, acorns and assorted stuff to keep the yard covered, and the Toro busy, seemingly year round.

I bonded with Toro during the nesting phase of my first pregnancy. It was a rock-solid bond that only grew deeper with my second pregnancy and even deeper with my third. Growing a baby is no swift process, so the immediate satisfaction of clearing a leaf-strewn porch, driveway or deck brought me immense, clean, happy, happy, joy.

Shockingly, I have a couple friends who claim there should be a noise ordinance against the peaceful hum of a leaf blower. I still love them, despite their blasphemy. To me, it’s a lovely sound of progress and productivity.

Over the years, Toro saved me from more than messes. He saved the kids from untold accidents, what with the acorns dropping like marbles on the driveway that’s basically an all-sport court for running, scootering, rip-sticking, basketball and anything else you really shouldn’t do on marbles.

Then there was the incident with the snake.

I was working on the back porch, about to pick Emma up from preschool, when I spied the creepiest of all creepies, right there in front of her playhouse. Now don’t go all reptile rights on me, I know they do some good things, like eat yucky vermin in their quest to overcome the whole Biblical, Satan snafu. But still, they were cursed to be our enemy, so my enemy it was.

When I spotted the cold-blooded killer coiled like a cobra right there on the threshold of Emma’s plastic palace, I thought quickly and did what any brave soul would do — I grabbed my Toro. With my heart pounding I plugged in my loyal friend and together we blew that snake to kingdom come, which, in this case, was located at the end of our driveway (determined by the length of my extension cord). The knotted-up, dizzy snake lay in shock, the victim of Toro’s full-throttle power unleashed. It was a beautiful moment.

So goodbye to my trusted compadre. So long you forceful breath of fresh air. Thank you for always giving it your all, until your all was all gone.

Welcome to my mid-career crisis.

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It’s official. I’m having a mid-career crisis. I know this, because I consulted my go-to source of all knowledge: Google. And to no surprise, I met 99% of the checklist items sourced in the gobs of articles on the subject. It seems I’m not in a mild crisis situation, but a full-blown funk. The good news is, at least I’m not alone.

I’m a writer. Always been one — my first article was published in my elementary school newspaper. It was a piece on my trip to Fantasy Island (that’ll date me) where Tattoo greeted me, and Mr. Roarke transformed me into the likes of Nadia Comaneci (quite a fantasy for a gangly girl that could barely manage a handstand). In college, I continued down the writer’s path, finding journalism to be an ideal fit: Mainly because it required the least amount of math. So post-college, with a journalism degree in hand, I marched into the Mobile Press-Register and landed a job as a sports and feature reporter, covering all varieties of high school sports, the weekend police beat and yes, the obituaries. That lasted just over a year, and only because my dad told me I had to show some stick-to-it-iveness.

I moved to Atlanta and quickly found what clicked. For the past couple decades (possibly a quarter century, but that involves math, which I’ve established I’m no good at), I’ve made a living as an advertising copywriter. The first few years were filled with energy, passion and the competitive spirit that’s inherent within the creative department of any given ad agency. Whose script will be chosen so the copywriter and art director can fly to LA or NYC for a week-long shoot? Who can be the cleverest, wittiest, smartest? Who will be most decorated in the annual awards shows? It’s funny, looking back, how much emphasis was put on winning awards for something the rest of the world desperately tries to ignore. Regardless, it was an inspiring place to be in my mid-to-late 20s and I loved being surrounded by talented, creative folks all day.

Then along came Alex, and everything changed. This came as no surprise to anyone but me. I was sure a child wouldn’t derail my career. But this 6-pound, 8-ounce little guy quickly turned things upside down and inside out. It was during an agency trip to Napa (the most beautiful place I didn’t want to be) that I decided to pull the plug and go freelance.

Then along came Ben. And a few years later, along came Emma. My role as a mother had completely swallowed my role as a copywriter, so I stopped going into agencies and toed the strict line that I’d only work from home. To my bewilderment, it worked. I’ve continued to make a decent contribution to the family budget, while working from my home headquarters. But over the past couple years, I’ve slowly felt a unwelcome writer’s discontent sneaking in, demanding something more. So, taking my Google-search advice to heart, it’s time I shook up my career path and tried something new.

I’ve known for some time that the only truly fulfilling writing I’ve done in the longest, is my mostly kid-prompted essays. I’ve written them oh-so sporadically, only when the inspiration hits and the calendar allows (did I mention sporadically?) And while I’ve known I love this type of writing, it doesn’t pay … in cash. But thanks to my mid-career crises, I’ve come to realize that payment comes in many forms, fulfillment being mighty valuable. So, welcome to my blog.

This actually comes as another surprise to me. I’ve avoided blogging for years, preferring to write my essays in a bubble. After all, I’m a classically trained journalist, who pledged allegiance to Strunk & White and vowed to abide by AP Style. I was raised with the mentality that being “published” must be earned to be legit. So I faithfully avoided the everyone’s-a-writer blogging platform and, candidly, considered it more a blahg than anything else. But guess what? In the past year, I’ve discovered the opposite. There are some amazing voices out there in the blogging realm — authentic, thoughtful, unique and talented writers who share their stories in a way that has inspired me to do the same.

Thank you for being a part of my antidote to the dreaded mid-career crisis. I hope you’ll come back and I hope you’ll enjoy something along the way. Who knows, maybe I can inspire you to tell your stories. If you do, don’t forget to share them with me.