Friday, December 30, 2016

Remembering my big brother

While this time of year brings wonderful memories of past holidays and much joy over new experiences, it also makes me a little sad. There is a rip in the fabric of my family and a brother sized hole in my heart. I was the younger sister to a dynamic, smart and manipulative brother whose talents and intellect were praised by family. He was the first born, a son, in the days when that was a very important thing to be. He was the smart one, the charming one, the one who did everything first and did everything well.  At least according to my mom.  My mother constantly pitted us against each other. She would hold one or the other of us up as an example while admonishing the other child to be or not be more like the other. Although we were very close as children, with that kind of parental pressure it's not a surprise that by the time we reached middle school, we could barely stand to be in the same room with each other. With a firm determination to not follow in his footsteps so that I would not, could not be compared to him either favorably or not so favorably, when I entered high school a year behind him, I looked for things he had no interest in...speech, drama, music...and avoided where he excelled...math, art...things he had put his stamp on. Where he was loudly charismatic, I was the quiet one who sought not to make any of my own waves and to keep out of the wake of his. I was the one who went along to get along.

All of this makes it sound as though I resented my brother, when in reality I did not. Following a brilliant but underachieving brother left the door wide open for me to pursue things that ultimately I came to love and excel at. Since my mom was consumed with wrangling my increasingly difficult brother, I was allowed a freedom that under other circumstances I might not have been. With zero pressure to make good grades, I did so easily and without much thought. I had a friend who stressed about each test, quiz or term paper, and who panicked at the thought of not getting an "A", while I did not. I was free to take Speech and Drama, Choir and Journalism. I even took a class called Yearbook Staff where we all got A's for pretty much just showing up. I overheard my mom on the phone one day telling a friend that she could always depend on me. It never occurred to me to be resentful of that dependence. It simply was.

All the way thru high school, not only did our activities and friends not intersect, but neither did the two of us.  I doubt I said more than 100 words to him in his entire senior year and while I was in just about every music program and play the school had for four years, he never attended any performances. I was shocked when, on his first visit home from college, he brought me a charm for my bracelet. Of course he asked for it back the next day because he wanted to give it to his high school girl friend, but I appreciated the thought. For my 18th birthday, the November after I started college, my parents wanted to buy me a proper leather briefcase to take to debate tournaments, but he preempted them by getting me a fun canvas one covered with flowers because, as he put it, I was not a proper leather type of girl. We became pretty good friends after that, mostly because we went to different colleges and only met during holidays. He became a decent student and graduated with a degree in Psychology while I remained focused on Speech and Drama.  We got married the same summer and he and his wife and me and my ex spent quite a bit of time together those first few years until jobs, friends and other interests separated us.

He passed away suddenly from bone cancer in December 2012.  By that time we were once again growing closer as I had relocated to Southern California to spend more time with family. When I think of my brother now, it is not that contentious competitor for my mother's approval, nor the distant and sometimes sullen high schooler, or even the much younger big brother who taught me how to swing a bat and catch a fastball, but the man he became.  A man who loved family and knowledge for its own sake and life. A man who did not believe in putting off until tomorrow the fun to be had today. A man who gathered friends to him as effortlessly as anyone I have ever known. That's the brother I remember and that's the brother I will always miss.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Bullet Proof Coffee

If you have ever googled anything to do with getting healthy, eating responsibly or losing weight, your results have no doubt included at least one link to Paleo or Whole30 or The Wild Diet and from there maybe more than one link to someone touting the benefits of Bullet Proof Coffee. This odd sounding magical brew is said to help with weight loss, boost immunity and calm inflammation. Loyal drinkers say it satisfies their morning hunger and sets them up to eat 'clean' the rest of the day. I am often skeptical of claims I read on the Internet, since 9 times out of 10 the claimers want to sell you something.  But in this case I actually know two people who have tried it. One was my daughter who told me a couple of years ago that she had made it several times and it was yummy. She didn't think it was for me, though, for a couple of reasons (more about that in a moment). Then a week ago at the Thanksgiving table at my good friends the Oliver's house, I sat next to a guest who said that she had recently made the change to drinking it and claimed that, although this was the only change she made, she had dropped 20 lbs in just a couple of months.  Since there was nothing she could possibly be wanting to sell me, I believed her.

Now, as to why my daughter thought the drink was not for me. I like my coffee hot, very hot, like almost can't drink it hot. Hot chocolate is fine lukewarm, ditto soup or chili. But coffee has to be HOT. I also like my coffee black. No sweetener, no cream, no flavorings, no whip, no froth. No macchiatos, mochas, lattes. My order at Starbucks has always been coffee black no room for cream, please.

So what, you ask, exactly is Bullet Proof Coffee? It starts with organic, single sourced coffee, brewed black (so far, so good), then put into a blender and whipped into a frenzy with a tablespoon of grass fed butter and a similar amount of coconut oil. The end result is a frothy, pale brown brew that looks more like a coffee drink than coffee and is not blazing hot. Nope, doesn't sound like me at all. But losing weight, boosting immunity and calming inflammation are all worthy goals, so this morning instead of my regular two ginormous cups of plain old brewed coffee, I buzzed up a blender of BPC. I gave it a sip and it was...interesting.  I was prepared for the frothiness, prepared for the not quite hot enough temperature.  What I wasn't prepared for was how much it tasted like melted butter. Yes, I know I should have been since I clearly added a tablespoon of Kerrygold to the blender. It wasn't sweet at all, a definite plus, and once I zapped it for 30 seconds or so, it was nice and hot. But it was very, very buttery.

According to those who have tried and love it, to optimize its effectiveness, this has to be the only thing you consume for breakfast and you have to give it a goodly amount of time to work for you. So, I'm thinking a week sounds goodly. I once went 36 hours without sleep when I was 6 months pregnant.  How hard can it be to go a week drinking something that tastes and smells like melted butter?  Check back with me in a week and I'll let you know.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Is this the last move for me?

I move around a lot. My friends shake their heads at my gypsy ways and my children think I am nuts, but in the past 5 years I have moved 4 times, and if you count back to 1988 add 10 more. I have promised them this is the last stop for me, but the jury is out on whether or not they believe me.  This feels like a final state to state move, but perhaps not a final in city move. I am hoping at some point in the not too distant future to buy a house, but that remains to be seen. For the moment I am in a great apartment with a really functional floorplan and a terrific view.

There have been moves when I have hired moving companies, and ones when I have rented UHauls and done it myself. The professional moves have their own quirks and oddities, but you can't beat a do it yourself move for laughs.

At some point my ex had acquired some large, round cardboard barrels with metal lids that fastened with clamps. They originally had rice in them and were virtually indestructible. Once packed, they are also virtually impossible to pick up without a forklift. Each time I tried to move one with a dolly, it somehow managed to roll right off. At one point one rolled down the driveway and had started down the street before the kids chased it down and rolled it back. Due to their indestructability, it seemed a good idea to pack more fragile items in them, and I have to admit there wasn't any breakage when I unpacked. The problem was I couldn't reach the bottom half of the barrels and had to tip them over and practically crawl inside to unpack them. After that move I declined to be involved with any barrels, indestructible or otherwise.

Another diy move involved 3 bikes standing upright, secured by a complicated system of bungie cords and rope to a homemade trailer, pulled by our station wagon driven by me. Things were going swimmingly until too many curves in the winding road had them all listing to the side. I pulled over to assess the situation, wondering if I could make it to our new house or if I should try to shove them upright on the trailer, at which point they slid gently and rather gracefully to the side of the road.  As I stared at the tangled pile of bikes and cords and rope on the ground, I glanced at the car to see my sleeping children and wondered fleetingly if anyone would miss them if I chucked them over the side of the mountain...the bikes, not the children. My 7 year old son took that moment to pop up from the back of the car and enthusiastically offer to ride on the trailer and hold onto them. I thanked him for his offer but managed to load them back onto the trailer, although I refused to stand them up, and strapped them all back on. This was the same trip that's become known as the time I almost left my son at a gas station. Not intentionally, of course, but still. After I filled up the tank, I started the car and began to pull away when my 10 year old daughter looked into the backseat and asked where her brother was. Slamming on the breaks, I leaned over the back of the seat and threw the covers and pillows around, because I apparently thought he was the size of a hamster. I ran into the gas station and asked the gal behind the counter if she had seen a little redheaded boy come thru.  She pointed to the attached bar and there was my little guy, kneeling on a barstool, asking the bartender if he could have an orange soda.

A memorable move involved me, an enormous drive it yourself truck and my best pal, Marilyn. I was a little short of cash, so elected to rent the biggest truck the company had, hire a couple of guys to pack it up, then road trip to California. Marilyn had planned on visiting her family and they were close to where I was going, so we set off, me and my dog in my car and her driving the behemoth of a van. I am still in awe of how she managed it, since I drove it exactly once and vowed never again. Once we got to our destination, she realized she had left her coin purse and one of my credit cards at a McDonald's about 200 miles behind us. A phone call later, my friend had convinced one of the gals behind the counter to not only look for the little purse, but to mail my card to me.  Once we reached our destination, I rolled up the door at the back of the truck and things had shifted so badly during the trek across the states that stuff started falling out, including a set of dumbbells.  I instinctively threw myself in front of the tumbling items to try to block their fall, because heaven forbid heavy, bulky, metal things fall onto the street. One of them crashed into my lower leg and I had a bruise the size of a saucer for about a month.

For this recently completed move I hired professionals, but I am not sure they did any better job. The guys who unloaded my stuff acted like they were luggage handlers at the airport, dropping boxes from a couple of feet off the ground. When I expressed concern to one of the men over his dropping a box, he replied "it was heavy". No kidding, that's why I hired professionals, you nitwit. They also were oblivious to the fact that they were stacking heavy boxes on boxes that were damaged and/or collapsing. I was surprised there wasn't a lot of breakage, but if I do one thing well, it's pack.

This move is over for now and it may indeed be my last one.  Just a day ago I unpacked my very last box and for the first time, didn't flatten the empty boxes to save for the next move. I sucked up my courage and recycled the lot of them. That's a big step for me. Maybe the first step on the road to staying put for more than a year. We'll see.
The view from my south facing deck


Friday, September 23, 2016

Early to bed, early to that still a thing?

Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.  Does it?  Does it really?  Sometimes early to bed means you miss a lot of good stuff, like Monday night football and late night Ben and Jerry's Pfish Food binges. Early to rise sounds good, but unless you live alone, instead of making you healthy, etc, it could just make you annoying. I suppose you could live with another irritatingly early riser, but what are the chances of that happening? The people I know who smugly announce that they get up at the crack of dawn and have a gazillion things accomplished by breakfast, all have suffering housemates who would roll their eyes at them if they weren't so frickin' tired all the time from all that early morning racket.  I used to pretend I was an early riser, but actually I was just a woman who got woken up by her dog who thought the neighborhood was in dire need of policing before the sun rose. If I had been a true dyed in the wool early riser, I would have gotten up waaay before him and had a big go cup of hot, liquid energy to sip along the way. That never happened. Instead, I would stagger along behind his happily wagging tail as he sniffed his way around the block for the umpteenth time, chanting coffee, coffee, coffee (he sniffed, I chanted). So no, not an early riser. That's one of the perks of working from home. Don't have to be chipper or smiling or even coherent at 6 in the morning, or 7 or noon. I mentioned once to my daughter how annoying it was to have people want to talk to me in the morning and did she have that problem. No, she said...people around her know better. Amazing woman, my daughter. She has this ability to tell people to stop talking to her and no one gets offended. She says it so pleasantly. When I try it, people go all wide eyed on me. Perhaps I snarl it. People are so easily irritated (insert eye roll here).

And what about that early to bed thing?  How early is early? 6? 8? Earlier? I could never manage that. While it is sometimes fun to be the first one awake, it is much more fun to be the last one. I get all my best reading done after 10pm. There is just something about a quiet, dark house and a well written book that seem to go together. Ditto for good movies. If you are a marathon Netflixer, you know what I mean. Pajamas, movie/book, wine. Three of my favorite things blended together.

Bill Maher once said the reason he became a comedian was because of the hours. He stayed up all night and slept all day and got paid at the end of the week. I can understand that. One summer, when I was 21, I worked 3-11pm at the front desk of the Disneyland Hotel. Employees got into the Park free after 10pm, so I would badge me and my then husband in and we would wander around until way after it closed. We would sometimes not get home until after 2am, when I would fall into bed and not budge until just before I had to go to work again. My entire summer was spent either sleeping or working. It wasn't really a sustainable schedule. Being young helped. Having no kids helped. Getting to wear a uniform and not having to think about clothes really helped. Once I started back to school in the Fall, I had to quit, but it was a great summer.  Could I do that now?  Probably not. I might be up at midnight, but I am in pajamas with the whole movie/book/wine thing going on, not smiling at people as they checked out of the hotel, happily wishing them a good rest of the evening.

So not an early to riser nor early to bedder. More of an up by 8 and in bed around midnighter. As a result I am healthy, tho not wealthy, and only occasionally wise. It's a fair trade off.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Looking thru love goggles

I have a small abrasion on my eyelid, so have foregone wearing makeup for the past several days, something I rarely do. I decided what the heck, I work from home, there's no one to scare, I'll give my hair a break, too.  So instead of blowdrying my hair every morning, meticulously taming it with a round brush and the occasional touch of the flatiron, I have just been letting it air dry. Because I hate the feeling of wet hair on my neck, and because my hair is neither straight nor curly but is fairly thick, air drying it involves a lot of me roughing it up with my hands to let air circulate. I considered just putting it up wet in a clip, but recalled an horrific story my niece told me about her college roommate's hair growing mold from being bundled up into a bun while still wet. Yikes! With my not-straight-and-not-curly hair drying in wild abandon, I look like the Wild Woman of Borneo. Actually, without a speck of makeup on, more like the Wild Woman after pulling an all nighter.

So there I was this morning, sitting on the patio, my hair all wild about my head, looking and feeling every one of my 60+ years, thinking there might not be enough coffee in the world to fully kick myself into gear, and my mom comes out, looks at me and says "Your hair is so pretty.  I think you should grow it out longer."  What?? I wondered by what stretch of her imagination does this mess on top of my head look pretty, and why on earth would I want more of it? That's it, I thought, her mind has either finally jumped the tracks or her cataracts have completely grown back overnight. I gaped up at her smiling face and realized...this woman has seen this hair before. Before the years turned me middle aged, before kids, before college or high school or even grade school, this woman has seen this hair before.  She used to wash it, comb thru the tangles, brush it dry, then braid it into two perfect plaits tied with ribbon. She knows this hair...she loves this hair...she loves me. And she is looking at me thru her love goggles.  They are kind of like beer goggles, except they are in place all the time, not just at closing time at the bar. Everything she sees when she looks at me is filtered thru these goggles. When she looks at me she sees not just the adult I am but the child I was and always will be to her. 

What a precious and unexpected gift. On a sunny Wednesday morning, sitting on a patio, feeling like be looked at with love goggles. Maybe I'll embrace that Wild Woman and let my hair, which I was considering chopping off, grow out a few more inches. Maybe I'll stop being so (I can admit it) anal about letting people see me sans makeup. And maybe, just maybe I'll look at myself the same way my mom still looks at me...thru love goggles. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Not the best idea I ever had...or was it?

After realizing that life here in the Southland was way too expensive (not to mention crowded and hot), I was in the middle of packing for a return to Montana when the roof fell in (see the last blog). At the same time, my 87 yr old mum had come to the realization that she could no longer ignore the fact that her back was a mess.  Not only does she have a curvature of the spine, but she slipped and fell several times, several years ago and despite needing physical therapy for the cracks/breaks/muscle pulls from the falls, did not pursue it beyond the initial assessment at her doctor's office. She had lots of reasons, none of them very good, for why she didn't get help for her back, ranging from she was too busy to it was too far to drive. But eventually, years later, she has realized that the problem is not just going to go away on its own. She has gradually gone from sometimes using a cane to always using a cane and frankly, should probably be using a walker. With this new found realization of the joys of physical therapy looming, she asked if I would delay my return to Montana to help her out by moving in with her while she begins her treatments.  And so I finished packing up my apartment, directed the movers to put my things in storage for 3 months, and moved into my mom's guest room, all the while thinking, this is not the best idea I have ever had.

You know those people who, from the moment you walk in to their house, just seem to have the knack for making you feel at home?  That's not my mom.  She has a knack for making you feel oddly unwelcome, even while she is smiling and inviting you in. She is one of those people who would give you the shirt off her back...and then remind you (often) that you were wearing her favorite, irreplaceable shirt that is very precious to her, but would refuse to take the darn thing back because it was probably stretched all out of shape and stained.

Sometimes the things she does, like reloading the dishwasher because the small saucers go on the right side, not the left, make me want to laugh.  Sometimes, like when she digs thru the garbage and recycle bins in 100 degree weather to make sure I haven't thrown anything priceless away, they make me want to scream. I have rolled my eyes at her so many times over the past month that I am amazed they aren't permanently lodged sideways in their sockets.

Then one evening while I was multitasking, searching Craigslist for rentals while simultaneously rolling my eyes (no mean feat, that), something odd happened.  My son turned to my mom and said, "When we move back to Montana, why don't you move with us?"  I stared at him, too aghast for words, thinking (hoping) my mom would surely burst out with an emphatic NO, followed by "don't be ridiculous" and "Montana is too cold". Instead she looked pensive, intrigued and finally she said "How would that work?" And he proceeded to tell her, in great detail and with a lot of enthusiasm, just exactly how it would and could work. Before I knew it, the two of them were on the Missoula MLS site picking out potential houses she and I would buy together. I poured myself a big glass of wine, ready to jump in at an opportune moment to squash this nonsense.
Instead, I listened to my son explain about separation of space and full basements with outside entrances and double car garages and big decks with Montana sky views and found myself, if not totally in love with the idea, not totally hating it, either.

I poured another glass of wine and watched these two people, who I love dearly but who are sometimes so at odds with each other you imagine they will never speak civilized words again, sitting side by side at the kitchen counter, flipping thru pictures, oohing and aahing over this kitchen and that fireplace, debating the advantages of being in town vs slightly out of town, a small lot or room for a big garden. And I found myself wondering "How will this work"?

Friday, August 12, 2016

Not the best idea I ever had...Part 1

When people say 'you can't go home again', I think they really mean 'you shouldn't go home again'. 

Last year, while contemplating a move back to the Seattle area to take a full time, in-office job, I spent a month visiting my mom in Southern California.  After being around family for about a week, I was suddenly struck by the idea that I should move not to WA but back to CA!  I grabbed my sister in law and went in search of apartments. Something close, but not too close. A place that would allow me to visit my mom, but not encourage her to drop by every day. I loved the apartment we found and was packed and moved a month later. It had everything I was looking for, a great floorplan, a cozy patio, a huge master bedroom closet and a beautifully landscaped setting just across from Victoria Gardens, one of my favorite shopping destinations. It even had a fenced dog park, which was very important at the time. I loved it so much that I completely ignored the fact that the word "affordable" was not on the list of amenities. Yes, I could cover the monthly rent, but only by doing extensive surgery on my already cut-to-the-bone budget. I spent the first 8 months hosting family get togethers, wine on the patio, holiday buffets, luncheons and birthday parties. It was lovely. Then reality set in. Yes, I was around family and making some new friends, but as my savings dwindled and I found myself turning down invitations to meet for dinner or the movies and struggling to meet my bills, I woke up and realized that, as much as I loved the little apartment, I could not afford it. I did the adult thing, gave 60 days notice, and made plans to move.

A little sad, without a clear destination in mind and therefore not terribly motivated, I dragged my stash of boxes out of the garage and began the slow process of dismantling my apartment. And then, the roof fell in. Well, not really, but kind of. It started with a slow leak in my hallway that rapidly turned into a deluge, not something you expect when you live on the ground floor of a 3 story building. It seems the people in the apartment above me had a portable bidet (who knew that was a thing?), which had to have water constantly running thru it. The hose hooked up to the sink managed to work itself loose and quickly filled the apartment with water. Gravity being what it is, my apartment was next in line.  By the time maintenance got back from lunch and ambled over to investigate (yes, he ambled into my apartment, no doubt expecting the message I had left on his cell phone containing the words "water" "pouring in" and "flooding" was hyperbolic in nature and not factual) water was not only gushing from the hall ceiling, but also trickling out of the electrical outlets and seeping thru the walls.  I had to evacuate immediately.  Management put me up in a lovely hotel with a 2 room suite for 4 days. It was a super nice, business oriented hotel with a full desk, free wi-fi, two huge flat screen TVs, hot breakfast buffet and freshly baked afternoon cookies. If I hadn't been worried about the looming deadline of the moving van arriving at the water logged apartment, I might even have wanted to stay longer.

Four days after I had packed my suitcase and skedaddled, I got the call that the disaster mitigation company had finished its work, the apartment was livable and I could move back in. I bid the hotel adieu and drove right over. Livable is clearly in the eye of the beholder and what my eyes beheld was not even close to livable.  There was no flooring in the entry, kitchen or bathroom, the carpet had been pulled up and the wet pad removed, but only in spots so it was weirdly lumpy. There were exposed beams in some of the ceilings and huge chunks missing from the drywall. All the crown molding was gone as well as the baseboards and about half of the light fixtures were missing. They had unplugged the fridge and pulled it out into the middle of the kitchen (spoiled food anyone?), ditto the oven.  But the best part was that the workers had relocated all of my furniture along with the boxes I had packed to the sides of the rooms, stacking things on top of each other, balancing them like a giant Jenga puzzle.

As I stood in the living room gaping at the 'livable' apartment, I had two thoughts. I can't believe I'm paying money to live here and the movers will be here in 10 days.

End of Part 1.  Next up: Where do I go from here?

The hallway ceiling.  I expected things to drop on me every time I had to pass under the gaping wound. I tried not to stare too long into the depths, because you know, the Abyss thing.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

First thing up, last thing down

I have a little ritual when I move.  Ok, in reality I have a whole bunch of rituals, but I'm only going to share this one.  I learned long ago that if I do not put my keys in exactly the same spot each and every time I enter the house, I will never, ever remember where they are. This led to me buying a cute little key rack that hangs near my front door. Which then led to me buying an even cuter little sister key rack to hang by the back door. The very minute I enter the house, my keys go immediately to one of the hooks on the closest rack. It's such an automatic move for me, that, upon arriving at someone else's house, I look to see where their rack is and am vaguely disappointed when there isn't one. I am a little worried that one day, I will enter a friend's house, see no key hook nearby, and by virtue of old age dissolving the filter between my brain and my mouth, I will shout out WHERE IS THE KEY RACK, YOU IDIOTS? I will be so appalled at myself that I will immediately add I BROUGHT WINE! Because a nice bottle of wine says "I am happy to be here" whereas a shouted key rack rant perhaps does not. Just in case that dissolving thing kicks in before my 80s, I never arrive at anyone's house without wine.

Whenever I move out of an apartment, one of the little racks is the last thing off the wall. It travels with me in the car, because yes, I will even lose my keys in a virtually empty apartment. Once in my new digs, one of the very first things I do is hang the rack on the wall. I'm not saying I am OCD about this, but yeah, I kind of am. It's the last thing down, first thing up. I also travel with my favorite coffee cup and 2 wine glasses, but in a pinch those can be packed. Because Starbucks has cups and wine goes down quite nicely when drunk (drank? guzzled?) from a plastic Solo cup. I suppose that if worse came to worse, I could just hammer in a nail and call it good, but that seems so uncivilized in a concrete block bookcase, bare bulb hanging from the ceiling way.

It's a little ritual that might not make sense to anyone else but me, and one that is definitely not important to anyone else but me, but it's my little ritual and I'm keeping it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The person I was always meant to be

Like many women my age, my life doesn't look quite like I thought it would. Growing up my world was pretty simple, filled with playing baseball in the street, day dreaming, Trixie Belden books, skate keys and comic books. When I took the time to think about what the future held, which frankly wasn't often, I imagined a life that was pretty much more of the same. I would marry a fabulous man, raise some fabulous kids, work at a job I loved (which was fabulous), then happily retire at 55 with plenty of money, and grandkids running around my perfectly manicured, fabulously landscaped yard. I married at 20, had my first child at 25, bought a house, two dogs and a station wagon and was headed down the suburban road. Any glitches or hitches in that perfectly imagined and well executed life were smoothed over or smothered, buried deep where they could not see the light of day. Life was good, wasn't it?  Until one day when I looked around and realized, it was not. Don't worry, this isn't one of those stories where the mom runs off and leaves her babies in the care of others while she moves to a commune in Oregon where they throw pots and weave clothing from corn silk. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfeld would say, but no, that's not what happened.

What happened is this. After almost 30 years of living the life I had planned (or perhaps had fallen into) I looked around one day and realized that this life was not the life I wanted. You might say I woke up, wondering how did I get here living a life that I don't like the looks of? It was not a bad life by any stretch of the imagination. But it didn't I had outgrown my life and I was finished pretending that I hadn't.

So at the age of 51, after nearly 30 years of marriage, I hitched up my courage and asked very politely if I could please find the exit. I agonized over the confrontation, imagining different scenarios with varying degrees of angst. That's something I do all the time.  Not a confrontational person by nature, I find it very useful to run thru scenes, if you will, where I say this and you say that and then I say and then you say, etc. That way, hopefully, I am not flummoxed by a response I am not expecting. That's the theory, anyway, but it doesn't always turn out how I think it will. Without getting too deeply into the TMI area, there was no agonizing or wailing or moaning or gnashing of teeth.  I didn't really expect that last one, but you never know. Although he didn't or couldn't articulate it at the time, my ex was feeling much the same way...trapped by 30 years of life where his ideas and my ideas and his values and my values just did not mesh.  Frankly, I am not sure they ever did, but I'm a little stubborn and having decided on that long ago day in 70s that my life and his life intersected nicely and therefore should be forever joined, I was determined that I would not admit defeat. It took me 30 years to understand that changing my life was not admitting defeat, it was thoughtfully choosing a different life than the one I was living.

My ex and I remained friends thru the dissolution (or what Gwenyth Paltrow called the conscious uncoupling!) of our life together. There was no name calling, no casting of blame, no asking our grown children to take sides, because we are just not that kind of people and because, frankly, not living together was and is a big relief to each of us. We got along so well, in fact, that several years after the Big D, one friend asked facetiously when we were getting remarried. I believe we decided on the 12th of Never.

This past Mother's Day, when my daughter and her husband, my ex and I all found ourselves in the same state for the first time in years, we all spent the day together at my ex's sister's house. My mom and his mom even came, and I am happy to report that no blood was shed by either of them. We had, of course, all been together at my daughter's wedding where there was also no bloodshed, but there was just something about gathering around a table sharing a delicious dinner (with plenty of wine), that made me feel...this is good.  This is how things are supposed to be. This is the very essence of family.

We may not be together any more but we are still family. We share memories and kids. We knew each other as teenagers, young adults, struggling first time parents and beyond to middle age. We were friends when we began this journey and we are friends now. I feel as though both my former husband (sounds better than 'my ex', doesn't it!) and I are now the people we were supposed to be. The future is mine...and it looks pretty good.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Going to the movies with my mom

I don't often go to movies any more. I find I much prefer to watch them in my pajamas and slippers, and theaters frown on that. I also like the option of pausing for sufficient bathroom breaks. The fact that I like my movies accompanied by a glass of wine may also play a part. But last weekend my mom (who also does not go to movies) texted me and said "I haven't been to the movies in eons. Why don't we go to a matinee". Of course, being my mom, she then had to text "You probably go all the time and don't want to go with me and that's ok". Yes, that's an exact quote. After assuring her that no, I don't go all the time and yes, I'd love to go with her, I had to search for something she might like to see. No scifi, no horror, no movies based on comic books, no animated features, nothing with nudity or a lot of 'bad' language, no movies that are part of a series, and absolutely nothing with a lot of blood.  So what did that leave?  The Meddler with Susan Sarandon and Rose Byrne.

First, the venue. We went to a multiplex near her that had been recently remodeled, adding reclining seats. Wow, what a nice feature! The key is to not recline them all the way, otherwise it is way too easy to nod off...which my mom did midway thru the movie. She had thought she wanted popcorn until she saw the ridiculous price of $6.59 for a small! Really? Popcorn has got to be one of the cheapest foods there is and they charge more than a 6 piece Chick-fil-A meal. More than a bottle of Rex Goliath cabernet wine. More than 5 hot dogs at Der Weinerschnitzel. Yes, I know they dropped the 'der' years ago, but at our house it always includes the 'der'. In fact, that's what we call it on those very rare occasions when a cheap hot dog is necessary...Der. So, no to the popcorn. Also no to the overpriced water, the silly expensive candy and a definite no to the pawn-your-jewelry nachos. Fortunately for my mom, who absolutely cannot watch any movie without food, she had a bag Hershey's kisses and Tootsie Rolls in her purse. I was a little surprised that she didn't pull out a bottle of water, but she had only taken her small purse and what with her Bible, address book and ginormous container of pills/Tylenol/vitamin E capsules, there was just no room. I made her leave her iPhone in the car and you would have thought I had asked her to cough up her liver.

Now, the movie. I. Loved. It. It was funny and sweet and true and incredibly well acted. Even the smaller parts had name actors, like Michael McKean (who I have loved since LaVerne and Shirley days) and Jason Ritter (who has his daddy's smile and a ton of talent) and Cecily Strong (my favorite gal on SNL). There was even a cameo by Harry Hamlin...and can I just say Yowza? But the hunk of the movie was JK Simmons of the deep and sexy voice and the dimples you just want to dive into. I am reading a book right now with a character named Pendergast whose voice in the book is described as 'bourbon and buttermilk'. Oh, yes, that is JK Simmons all day. My mom was similarly smitten and remarked out loud more than once...ok, a lot more than once..."he's so cute!" Yes, he was, and paired with Susan Sarandon, he moved right into adorable. I won't spoil the movie for you, because I hope you'll see it and it needs to unfold for you the way it unfolded for me. You won't be sorry.

Finally, the previews.  Good heavens, were there ever previews!  Just when you thought they were over, they rolled out yet another one. Normally I like previews, the more the better.  But when you watch them with my mom, they become painful. She comments on all of them. All. Of. Them. "Who is that? That's a weird one. Who is in that movie? What else is she in? Why on earth would they make a movie about that? I'm not going to see that one...or that one...or that one...and definitely not that one!" The only way to respond is by saying 'not sure'. I've tried ignoring her comments, responding to her comments, and shushing her. But a 'not sure' stops her questions...until the next preview.

And finally finally, the fun. Because it was. More fun than I expected. Despite the sticker shock snacks, the plethora of coming attractions, and falling asleep in the middle, my mom had so much fun watching the movie and, I hope, being with me, and I had a delightful time watching her have fun. We enjoyed the evening and each other so much we went out to dinner and had even more fun. So much more fun, I think I'll save that for another blog. Because eating out with my mom is ridiculous and annoying be continued.

This may have been the first time we had been to movies together in eons, as she put it, but it won't be the last. Time laughing with my mother is precious...and I need more precious in my life.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

For all the quirky, fussy, hilarious moms out there, bless their hearts

My mom is funny.  At 86 years she is the only person I know who prefers a store bought cookie to a homemade one, packaged white bread to a fresh loaf, and a drive thru hamburger to one right off my grill. She likes veggies that come in a can but won't eat a tomato that isn't homegrown. She is highly suspicious of any lettuce that is not iceberg and only eats dressing that comes in a bottle with a photo of a happy farm on it. She is not a very good everyday cook, but makes the most amazing stuffing at Thanksgiving and the drop dead best meatloaf in the world.

She wears exclusively one brand of separates and is currently having a feud with Macy's as they are phasing it out of their stores. She seems to think the clerks have some control over this (and that they care) and corners them any chance she gets so she can quiz them about where they have hidden the clothes, because she knows they are in a back room somewhere. She has every suit she ever wore to work (even though she retired in 1988), along with the matching heels she will never wear again.

She is a voracious reader and downloads books from Amazon by the dozen. She owns 2 Kindles and when they run out of juice, she reads books on her iPad. She says that she is going to cut down on her reading but knows she won't. She fully embraces technology, loves email and texting, gets impatient with people her age who claim they are just too old to learn how to do that, but yells NO THANK YOU and STOP ASKING ME THAT at Siri when she offers to help her.

She is a stacker and any flat surface is likely to hold 3 or more weeks worth of mail, countless notepads, pens, lists and whatever else she is worried that if she puts away will be lost forever. She keeps every receipt and every tag off of every product she buys along with the original packaging.  She is a slapdash gardener who is always surprised when the plants she waters religiously the first week, then ignores, die. She leaves their sad, dried remains in their hanging baskets and asks me regularly if I think they are coming back to life.

She loves Days of Our Lives, The Walking Dead and reruns of The Golden Girls.  She doesn't trust restaurants whose menus don't have photos of the food and is shocked when what she orders isn't as pictured.  She once sent my daughter's pancakes back 3 times until they exactly matched the cat with ears shown on the children's menu.

I adore my mom even though...or maybe because...she regularly drives me bonkers.  She is this quirky, cranky, often hilarious woman who is shrinking before my eyes and who I sometimes cannot bear to be around for more than 10 minutes, bless her heart.

But she is my mom...and I wouldn't trade her for any other Mom around.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Go out and be a blessing

When I first started working in Real Estate, my broker used to end every staff meeting with the same phrase..."Go out and be a blessing". When I asked him one day over coffee why he always sent us off with those words, he told me that it was his goal to try as hard as he could to leave the people he interacted with during the day happy to have seen him. Not only was it good business practice, but it's just the right thing to do. He said you don't have to be gushy, and for heaven's sake don't tell everyone you meet to have a nice day. Just be kind to everyone you meet and find a way to help someone else every single day. Such a simple a blessing...but one I remember to this day and have always tried to follow.  Some days it's easy.  Open a door for someone, thank the someone who opens one for you, tell the kid bagging your groceries that he did a good job. Some days it devolves into waving cheerily at whoever that is in the car behind me gesturing and honking her horn. And yes, some days you have to really, really dig down deep to be anything approaching a blessing.

There was a series of commercials that recently aired where people were amazed by others who did little things during the day, like picking up a child's toy that fell from a stroller or running after someone who had left their briefcase at the diner. They went on to pay it forward by doing something nice for someone else. I refuse to believe that people are shocked by little courtesies. In my world, Polyanna and I believe in the goodness of people and that, given the chance, they want to be nice or at least courteous. I truly believe that people respond in kind to how they are treated. And when you think about it, what is the alternative?  To go thru your day scowling at people, assuming they are all out to get you?

With that in mind, go out and be a blessing. And if that involves being in the Starbucks drive thru and paying for the coffee of the person behind you, good on you. If that person is a redhead driving a Subaru Forester, I prefer grande bold, no cream.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

I just want a hug

There is a commercial being aired right now where two friends are walking along and one tells the other that her son is using drugs. The other woman looks at her and gives her a hug. The voice over says something to the effect that we know what to do about drug use but others don't. I don't like that commercial. I know that they are trying to sell their services, but in doing so they are negating a very important part of our support system, the power of a hug. 

I freely admit I'm a hugger. I hug people I meet, people I know, people I don't know but maybe want to. I hug people back who hug me first and the other way 'round. I hug people who barely put their arms around me and people who hug so tight I can't breathe. I hug dogs and kids and stuffed animals. I tried to hug a cat once...I don't recommend that. I hug pillows and flowers and quilts. I hug to say I'm happy to see you, and I'm sorry to see you go. I hug to say you are not alone, someone cares about you. I hug to say I recognize the need for human contact and am willing to share some.

But most of all, I hug to say I may not know exactly what to say to ease your pain, and I may not have the answer to your problem, but I can do this little, very important thing...I can hug you.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

My daughter told me to do it...the real reason I blog

I started writing this blog for no other reason than my daughter said I should.  She is a wise and insightful woman whose advice I generally try and follow.  Unless she is advising me to "for heaven's sake stay in one place for more than 2 years", in which case I blithely ignore her. I had just opened my Etsy store, for which she designed the logo, the background and the business cards, and she said "You should write a blog". Hmmm, I thought. What would I blog about? "Duh, Mom, it should be about your jewelry", she said. The Duh was really just implied, not stated out loud, but I often hear it in my head when she answers questions from me. She said I (and by that she meant her amazingly talented and helpful hubby) could set it up, link it to my store and even have it hosted on said hubby's server.  I spared a moment to marvel at the fact that I have a son in law who has his own server, admitting that I don't really know what that means, then said OK, I'll write a blog.  It started out to be about jewelry but I realized that while I love making jewelry, there really isn't very much I have to say about it. Then it moved into crafting in general, but I still struggled with content that wasn't brain numbingly boring. Not to mention that there are some truly interesting and instructional blogs that describe the creative crafting process much better than I ever could.  I am more a 'throw things together and hope it turns out right' kind of gal, than a 'take a picture of each step then describe what you are doing' person. Although I have to admit I would definitely watch a video done by someone who does hit or miss crafts. Especially if there was alcohol involved, and why wouldn't there be? Sort of Drunk History meets Martha Stewart.

Then one day, it struck me. This was my blog, right?  So why couldn't I write about anything I wanted?  Why couldn't I write about drinking wine or eating chocolate or vacuuming my carpet? The answer was yes, I could. Of course, I was perfectly aware that my pool of readers was no doubt minuscule to begin with (if they existed at all), and that by writing an essay blog rather than a chatty crafty one I was skewing that minuscule bunch down to the microscopic realm.  But, hey, it's my blog, right?  And so it began.  Over the years I have written about whatever struck my fancy, whether that be my dog, my shoes, my friends, travels, relatives, surroundings, and yes, even about drinking wine and eating chocolate.  I have yet to write about vacuuming, but did write one about socks, so there's that.

You want to hear a secret? I love writing this blog. It's not great literature or terribly important or sometimes even very good.  But it's mine and I find I really like getting stuff down on paper (Ha!). Every time I finish an entry and click the publish button I am ridiculously proud that something I wrote appears online.  When I look at the stats and see that someone in Australia or Connecticut or Alaska read something I wrote, I am astonished and humbled and silly happy.

Truth be told, even if nobody but me ever reads another word I write, I would still write that word. And I would still be silly happy that I did.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Just say Thank You

By the time you reach adulthood, I would think that you would have acquired some basic pleasantries that can be, if not used everyday, at least trotted out for special occasions.  Things like "no, I wasn't watching that show, go ahead and change the channel" or "I love that color on you" or "that's ok, you can have the last bite of cheesecake". At a minimum you should know how to respond appropriately when someone gives you a gift.  If you love it, it's easy to say "Best Gift Ever!!!"  But even if you momentarily go blind opening that horrid puce sweater/socks/afghan set Aunt Ethel back in Baltimore knitted you, how difficult is it to say "Thank you for thinking of me. It was very thoughtful". It's called The Receiving of Gifts Etiquette, and frankly, some people suck at it.

I read a book this summer that I really, really enjoyed and immediately bought several copies to give as Christmas gifts to friends/family members who are always on the lookout for a good read.  Imagine my surprise, then, when one person (let's call her my boss) emailed me to say that judging from the cover the book doesn't appear to be anything she would like, and oh, by the way, if I ever send her a book again, would I send it to her electronically as she likes to read on her Kindle.

I realize that everyone's tastes are different and not everyone will appreciate what I have chosen for them. I am ok with that because the reverse is also true.  I have gotten things I have truly wondered what on earth the giver had in mind when he/she bought it, or how many times has this been re-gifted to end up with my name on it, or where am I going to stash this until Aunt Ethel visits. But for all the sometimes weird/ugly/unwanted gifts I have gotten, I can't imagine any response other than "Thank you, this is very thoughtful". Because I am an adult with adult words and adult sensitivities. For all my faults, and I am sure they are legion, I truly cannot conceive of telling someone I don't think I will like this gift, next time try to do better.  How about next time I don't give you a gift at all, how does that work for you? 

But of course I will because of the whole being an adult thing. Whether it be the candle my boss gave me this year that looks exactly like the one she gave me last year, or something I gave my mom 2 years ago that she had forgotten came from me and has now wrapped and given back to me (yes, she really does that), I will say "Thank you, this is very thoughtful".

Growing up is easy, sometimes being an adult is tough.