We Make it Happen

Christmas sparkleIn my last post, I suggested that we all cut ourselves a little slack, because whether we feel “ready” or not, Christmas is going to come no matter what. And that is true. Because we women make it happen. When the Grinch found out that Christmas arrived “Somehow or other…it came just the same…”, I can guarantee it was the women of Whoville who got their families up, organized, happy and singing that day.

Without Real Women, Christmas wouldn’t happen.

Let’s go back to the beginning, shall we?   Mary, a very young and unsuspecting Real Woman was engaged to be married to a nice yet humble Carpenter. Then Lo and Behold (literally) she finds out that she is about to become pregnant. She will give birth to a son. Not just any son. The Son of God. Huh. No pressure there. Even better, while she is in her final stages of pregnancy, she will have to endure days traveling on the back of a camel, trusting her new husband. Then give birth in a barn. That’s a whole lot of strength and Faith. Because of Mary, we celebrate the birth of Jesus every December. And oh boy, we do it up big.

In her honor, we Real Women kick into over-drive. And the men in our lives? Well, a bit like Joseph, they plod along, trying to be supportive and not really knowing what to do, while we do all the work. Sure, there are some exceptions to the rule out there, but for the most part here is how it goes: We women do the gift planning, shopping, wrapping, decorating, card preparation and distribution, hosting of parties and events, baking, and meal planning. The men do some yard decorating, taste-testing, tree hauling and in the last week before the big day, go out to purchase gifts for the one or two people they have to shop for. Namely, the women in their lives. Lucky for Joseph, he had others who provided the gifts while he stood back dumbfounded at what his new bride had just accomplished.

Do any of us really need to go to the extent that we do? Probably not. But we are driven to provide memorable holidays for our kids, our families, our friends. And for the most part, we love doing it. My husband kindly thanks me and compliments me on the decorating I do, and marvels at the cookies I produce. I paused the other night and said “you know, I really do love doing this. I just get stressed because of the lack of time I have available to do it.” Its not like we can put the rest of our lives, work, family responsibilities, etc., on hold to prep for Christmas. Although wouldn’t that be wonderful?   We just have to add on our Make-it-Happen role to our already busy days.

We have sleepless nights when our brains won’t shut off, yammering away about our to do lists… yet the men in our lives sleep peacefully, visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. Why? Because they know we will make it happen. At some point, along about 3am, some of us wonder what would happen if we didn’t do it all. What would Christmas be like? My guess: There would be a tree of some sort set up in our homes with a handful of decorations. There would be a few gifts, likely stuffed into gift bags. The gifts would be practical tools and housewares. There would either be a meal cooked on the grill, or an outing to the local Chinese food restaurant. And there would be lots of laying around relaxing.   So yes, Grinch, it would come somehow….minus a whole lot of glitz and glamour. It would be manly.

We women just do things differently, and on a grand scale. We feel compelled to honor Mary for the Gift she gave us. We are all in, and we make it happen.

My sister has a sign on her desk that I love. It reads:

Three Wise Women would have asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, brought practical gifts, cleaned the stable, made a casserole – and there would be Peace on earth!

So to my sisterhood of exhausted Real Women out there: Thank You for making the holidays sparkle.

 

 

 

 

Hyper Prep

dog and lightsAh, yes. Cyber Monday. The digital shopping day that embodies the holiday spirit of getting it done easier, faster, sooner. We real women start preparing for the winter holidays weeks, if not months, in advance. This is mostly due to the fact that we already try to fit so much into our daily lives, that the addition of prepping for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah or whatever our year-end festivities include, could push us over the edge if we waited until last minute.

So by Black Friday, we are hitting the stores with our shopping lists, hoping to not only get the best deals, but to cross names off our list. Decorations that seem to magically pop up overnight are not the work of elves, but of exhausted and driven women and their long-suffering spouses. Some of the ambitious real women out there have their holiday cards ordered well before Thanksgiving, and have already wrapped and hidden most of their gifts before the calendar flips to December.   They take great pride in sharing with family, friends or co-workers as soon as they “are done.”   When did Christmas become a competition?

We have no one to blame, of course, but ourselves. We are constantly driven to do more, do better, handle it all – in all aspects of our lives.   So when the opportunity comes to shift those efforts into overdrive during the holidays, we jump at the chance. We search for the perfect gifts, try to come up with the prettiest or most heart-warming cards, plan the most special food, bake the best cookies, and decorate our houses as if we are all either Griswold-wannabe’s or want to be highlighted on Pinterest.

I’m just as bad about this as any other real woman. I’m determined that my house look like something out of a Norman Rockwell illustration, that I have a gazillion different types of cookies to give out, and that I remember all the special people in my life with some sort of gift.   Would the world stop turning, or would we crush anyone’s spirits if we didn’t send cards? If we went with simple décor for a change? If we (gasp) only made a couple of batches of cookies? No, of course not.

While I find myself scurrying around, trying to be the Martha Stewart of the holidays, I hear a small voice in my head, echoing the truth from the Grinch: “How could it be so? It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags!….. He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming, it came. Somehow or other… it came just the same….”  And I try to force myself to slow down and breathe. If something doesn’t get done to perfection, so be it. Christmas will come, and be wonderful, just the same.   Well, at least I’m trying to believe that and find ways to cut myself some slack.

One thing I have vowed to do for myself is cut back on the stress of “being done early.” It just will not happen. I got an early start, and for that I should pat myself on the back. But will I be one of you R.W.’s who can sit back next weekend and say “yay, all done, I’m putting my feet up and relaxing now?” Nope.   And I’m learning to be ok with that. After all, this is the season of Advent. This is the time to prepare. This is the time to slow down enough to actually enjoy picking out special gifts, or decorating, or baking. It is the time to be thankful, remember what the season is all about. It is not the time for resentment, for anger, for extra stress.   We get enough of that at other times in our lives, don’t we?

So please join me in trying to remember to relax. It will get done. One way or another, the holiday will be here, whether we feel we are truly “ready” or not.   No one else will ever know what those items were on our to do lists that don’t end up getting completed. No one will care, or remember, that some of the lights were out on the tree, that a gift was hastily placed in a gift bag instead of wrapped tight with a bow, that a gift card was purchased when time ran out to complete the handcrafted present, that pizza was served at a party, or that a personal note doesn’t accompany every card. What the people in our lives will remember is time spent together, fun experiences we can have, the music we share, and the smiles on our faces.

And none of that can be rushed and “done early.”

 

Milk and Bread

milk and breadMost of the talk around the office today, as well as on the news and throughout social media, was focused on two events: Thanksgiving, and the impending snow storm here in the East. For the past two days, we’ve had downright balmy temperatures. Quite literally overnight that all changes and we are due to have our first snow storm of the season, with predictions of anywhere between 6 – 10 inches of snow falling by Thanksgiving morning. The combination of the holiday and the weather seemed to create two issues of urgent concern on everyone’s mind: travel and food shopping.

The issue of travel is of course a biggie, since people’s safety is at stake. As this is one of the largest travel times of the entire year, having thousands of folks out on the road during a storm is less than ideal. So in a flurry of scurrying and re-planning, I’m assuming many families have made some adjustments to leave either earlier or later than originally intended. We had already planned to travel Tuesday evening, and of course ended up having plenty of company.

The other urgent matter, food shopping, is what I find more fascinating, and in some cases, frightening. This holiday is one in which a primary focus is food preparation and eating.   Therefore in the days leading up to the holiday, the grocery stores are full of people shopping for turkeys, potatoes, pie filling and more. I ventured into my local store on Sunday and it was buzzing with activity. The aisles were crowded with each of us trying to navigate full carts around each other and displays. Some shoppers were polite and pleasant, while others exhibited a scowl on their face and steely determination in their eyes. Yet as busy as it was, there was no feeling of panic or urgency beyond the usual “get me the heck out of here” atmosphere…. Because at this point we had not heard about The Storm.

Twenty-four hours later, the predictions were rolling in…. terms like “plowable event”, “potentially hazardous road conditions” and “inches per hour” came back into our vocabulary after being pleasantly suppressed since spring. And the need to get to the grocery store became paramount. Now we weren’t just shopping for turkey, we had to get extra milk and bread!! One of my real women co-workers had to unfortunately venture forth during lunchtime today to get the side items she was assigned for her family gathering on Thursday. She survived the excursion, but reported it was not pleasant. Parking was a challenge, and the store was packed with people. She said it was a combination of angry and stressed-looking shoppers rushing through the aisles narrowly running over others with their carts, and somewhat bewildered seniors who usually have the place to themselves for their regular mid-day outings and social time.  As a true seasoned real woman shopper, she dodged her way through the throngs, grabbed what she needed, eye-balled the cashiers to find the young man who was notoriously speedy, and escaped relatively unscathed.

Of course this time we have the double whammy with the holiday, and many of us are hosting loved ones who will expect to eat more than peanut butter and jelly, regardless of some nasty weather. Those who planned ahead and purchased their Thanksgiving dinner ingredients a few days ago are all set. Really. No need to go back out and storm shop. Trust me, you’ve got enough food to get through it. Those who didn’t plan ahead, well, you just might have to get creative.

In our modern day world, it is rare that we would be completely snowed in for more than 24 hours. Exceptions to this rule do exist, as we saw most recently with those poor souls in Buffalo. And yes, we all have stories of one or two Nor-easters that had us blocked in and without power for a few days. But for the most part, for your average run-of-the-mill snow storm, we likely all have enough provisions in our homes to survive a day until we are plowed or dug out.   So why, I ask, do we still have that overwhelming desire to get out and stock up as soon as we hear the forecast?   And why is it usually the milk and bread that gets cleaned off the shelves first? Surely we could survive by consuming other things. Personally, if I were to be snowed in, I’d want to make sure I have a hefty supply of chocolate, pasta, and adult beverages.

We are just at the very beginning of winter. There will no doubt be several more forecasts that come to us with predictions of snow, ice, and yuck. Perhaps with this first storm, we can all work to get our milk-and-bread-food-panic out of our system and plan to be realistically prepared for the months ahead.

For example, without getting worked up, I can take comfort in knowing that right now in my house I have oreos, m&m’s, spaghetti, sauce, and Baileys. I even have a few veggies in the freezer to be healthy. Snow? Bring it on.

 

 

A Blink and a Dream

My bestie and me in the Wax Museum at Niagara Falls.

My bestie and me in the Wax Museum at Niagara Falls.

As little girls, most of us had favorite storybook or TV and movie characters who we admired and emulated. We dreamed of being those amazing people when we grew up. The beauty of being a child with a vivid imagination is that it just didn’t dawn on any of us that we couldn’t become Nancy Drew, Harriet the Spy, Samantha (Bewitched) Stephens or Glinda the Good Witch. Those were attainable goals, and with a bit of practice and a great wardrobe, we could be those women.

If you ask any real woman who her favorite character was when she was young, she will likely be able to immediately and passionately name her favorite, and why. It is fun to now think about those fictional “role models” and wonder what it was that we liked so much about them, and consider if perhaps it says a little bit about who we really have become in our adult lives.

For me, my favorites were Wonder Woman and Jeannie. Did I really think I could become one of them? Well, probably not Wonder Woman, I mean NOBODY could be like her!   But Jeannie? You betcha – I used to roam around the house with my arms crossed, blinking and nodding and trying to make things move. Just ask my brother who considered me to be crazy. Hmpf, this from the boy who used to run around the house with a cape announcing he was Under Dog.

Thinking back now, I remember that I loved Wonder Woman because she was strong, athletic, and those bullet-deflecting cuffs were totally cool. She really was in a man’s world, having to fight bad guys with the rest of the Justice League, and work in partnership with some pretty big ego’s like Superman and Artemis.   Yet she was taken seriously as one of the gang. Eventually she had her own TV show, starring Lynda Carter. I still believed her to be larger than life, and even at that age, I admired her awesome boots and that her hair still looked great even after chasing and catching crooks.

As for Jeannie…. She had the cute and slightly clueless blonde factor. But she really wasn’t helpless, because she had that whole blinking thing going for her. How handy and time efficient it would be to be able to blink and clean the house, or blink and move something. She was sweet, and consistently happy and cheerful. Everyone adored her, no matter how much trouble she created. And even though she had to live inside a bottle, that bottle was pretty darn groovy, with its circular velour purple couch and all those throw pillows. Who wouldn’t like a comfy little hideaway like that every now and then?

So…flash forward. I’m no amazon, and I certainly don’t look like, or have the body of, a young Lynda Carter. But I do try to be fit and strong, and I have spent much of my adult life working in male-dominated industries. I’ve worked hard to gain the respect of my peers, and I like to try to look good at the same time.   I don’t wear my hair in a pony tail on the top of my head, or have to call anyone Master, but I am blonde and tend to be a positive and happy person. However I still have not, unfortunately, mastered the art of doing the dishes by simply nodding my head.

Maybe when we are young, we aren’t quite so crazy to think we can become like our favorite characters. It certainly can be argued that young girls today have stronger, smarter and more successful fictional role models than we did as kids. And that’s a good thing. It should also be pointed out that of course these beloved characters don’t need to be any particular gender or even species. Fiona is an ogre, but she knows how to kick butt.   As long as these imaginary heroes get active minds dreaming and believing that the world is wide open to possibility, then Bravo.

So…. Who was your childhood favorite?

Decisions, decisions, decisions

menu decisionsIn the labyrinth that we navigate every day, there are a myriad of twists and turns. At each bend or intersection, there are decisions to be made. Unlike the board game of Life, real life doesn’t give us a colorful wheel to spin and cards to tell us what to do. When it comes to the big decisions in life, about relationships, family, careers, finances and home, I’ve often thought it would be tremendously handy to have that pile of cards to give us direction. How often have any of us in frustration thought “I wish there was someone who could just tell me what to do!”

Alas, that is not the way it goes, and we must do our own research, weigh the pro’s and con’s, and make our own decisions, hoping for the best. For the most part, we come out ok. We make the big choices and move on. However, as real women, there are about a million little decisions and choices we make every day. We have ongoing narratives in our heads about even the most seemingly trivial matters in life. Men don’t seem to have as much of an issue. For them, their decisions are mostly based on a) what they want to do, and b) what won’t make their wife or partner angry. But for us women? We have to analyze the dickens out of everything, as if we have those proverbial little spirits, the angel and devil, hanging out on our shoulders and whispering in our ears.

Let’s look at a few examples of how some of these internal dialogues go:

  • Should I push the snooze alarm, or get up? I’m so tired, maybe just a few more minutes. But then I’ll probably fall back to sleep even harder, and it will be worse when the alarm goes off again. Plus those 9 minutes will mess up my whole morning routine. Oh, but this bed feels so good
  • I want those cute new boots. I don’t need new boots. Well, I kind of do, because those would go great with a couple of my outfits. I shouldn’t spend the money. But that is a pretty darn good price. Then after purchase: Do I tell my husband about what a great deal I got? Or do I sneak these into the closet and pretend they’ve been there all along?
  • Gotta go to workout. I’ll feel so much better. Ugh, it is so dark and cold out, I just want to go home and wrap up in a blanket and watch TV. But then I’ll feel like a schlub. These ten pounds aren’t going to magically melt off on their own. Come on, get your butt moving. Do I have to?
  • That’s it, I’m done with this extra weight. Time to get back on the diet. Knock out those sweets, bulk up on the veggies and fiber… you know you feel so much better when you are eating right. Wait, did someone just suggest pizza for lunch? Wow, that would taste awesome right now…after all, life is short.  No, got get a glass of water and an apple instead. My body is my temple. Hmmm, winter is coming, I have a craving for comfort food. I should bake some brownies tonight.
  • My partner and I haven’t had playtime in a while…I really should make it happen tonight. Oh, geez, that means I should shave…and I was really looking forward to reading before bed…and I’m exhausted. But it is kind of like going to the gym, once I get there I’ll be glad I did. But look, my favorite ugly old jammies are clean and waiting for me.. 
  • This outfit? Or that one? Maybe if I add a scarf.. no, too much. How about a jacket? Wait, does this make me look frumpy now? Ok, change again. Add some heels…now I look like I’m trying too hard. Back to the first outfit. Maybe I should just go out in my sweats.

Remarkably, we all are able to come to some conclusions on each of these mini life choices in a matter of minutes. Which is a good thing, because there will be ten more decisions to make at the next bend in life’s road. Perhaps it was easier when we were babies and all decisions were made for us…or, perhaps it would be easier if we were men and didn’t question every move we make. But really, wouldn’t that just take all the fun out of it?

 

 

 

Legacy Lessons

SunsetI had the honor today of joining loved ones to bid adieux to a pretty amazing Real Woman. My Aunt was 87 when she passed, and heaven is lucky to have her now — even though we weren’t ready to give her up.

Really, that is what grieving is all about. Even for lives long-lived, death still comes as a shock. We want to keep everyone here with us, and we don’t want to let them go, even if they feel ready to move on themselves. But, as the song reminds us, such is the Circle of Life, and we have to let go at some point, pray that they are headed to some place wonderful, and cling to the memories they leave behind.

As I move into my mid-years, and experience the loss of older loved ones, I’ve learned a few lessons that we Real Women should consider…. these are simple steps we can take now, while we are healthy, alive and perky, to help our younger generations – our kids, grandkids, nephews, nieces, friends – be able to cope better when it is our time to move on.

  • Say Cheese: We real women tend to be shy in front of a camera. We see someone hold up a camera and we duck out of the way, or say “ugh, no, I look awful!”. We only oblige when we can primp and pose, or be in total control with selfies. We need to stop that. Let ourselves be photo’d while interacting with others, doing simple daily life events, participating in our favorite activities – because these are the images others will cherish in the future.   I saw some of the most adorable, fun photos of my Aunt today, they made us both smile and cry – but in a good way. I have a scrapbook I work on from time to time with photos of my mom. My favorite images of her show her doing things like setting up a picnic for us kids, going bird-watching with binoculars around her neck, or skiing over mounds of snow in the backyard. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many of those – classic mom, she was behind the camera more than in front of it. We all need to step around to the front of the lens more often…Who cares if you don’t have on any makeup, or are in your dirtiest jeans and sweatshirt? Some of those real life images are what others will love the most because they will remind them of the real you.
  • Tell Stories: We have to remember to share the goofy stories of our past experiences with the younger generation… better yet, write them down or do audio recordings. Talk about our childhoods, or siblings, how we met our spouses, any traveling we did, or jobs we’ve had. I realized too late in life that I should have been paying more attention when my Mom and Dad, grandparents, or my Aunts and Uncles would start talking about their life experiences. I started writing some of my Dad’s stories down, but I wish I had started much sooner.   Those tales are literally living history – and once the storyteller is gone, so are those legends.
  • Leave a Trail: Got a special piece of jewelry that you inherited from your grandmother? Or a fabulous portrait of you with your BFF’s? How about a beautiful vase you bought on your trip to Europe?   We can’t assume that those who may some day inherit these artifacts will remember the history of them, or recognize faces or places. Jot down brief notes to either go on the back of the items, or in a file.   My mother was pretty good at this – I have some clue, thanks to her quick notes, about the history on some of the things I now have, and it makes them even more special to me. I know that a pendant I have was given to my grandmother from grandpa when he bought it for her in Switzerland.   An oil painting portrait of an ancestor had a very handy note taped to the back explaining who the painted man was, and how we are related.   On the flip side, my cousin and I tried to decipher some engraved initials on pieces of silver they found in her mom’s possessions. We have no clue who’s initials they are, or the story of their existence. I have several other family pieces that are equally cloaked in mystery. Let’s not leave too many mysteries for our kids. And one more tip? Handwrite some of the notes. You know, with an actual pen and paper. It is remarkable how much seeing someone’s handwriting can bring back fond memories.
  • Stay in Touch: On one hand, this step has become increasingly difficult, yet on the other, it has gotten easier. We live in a world where our relatives have gotten more and more geographically spread out, living all across the country, maybe even overseas. The days of the whole family staying in the same town, or even the same state, are dwindling.   We all get busy with our lives, and our immediate families. We rarely all gather in one place on a regular basis. We start to lose touch, and literally go years without seeing each other in person, gathering only for weddings or funerals. However, behold modern day technology – we have so many ways now to reconnect, at least virtually. Email, FaceBook, Instagram – you name it, we can find each other and share photos, updates and just friendly hello’s.   We can’t forget the importance of family; these are the people we reach out to for comfort and understanding when needed.
  • Be Memorable:   Good news, this is the easiest step of all. Sure, many of us would like to leave some remarkable legacy for future generations – like a successful business, a legendary invention, celebrity status, or maybe even author a best-selling book. But in reality, those things really aren’t that important…which is a good thing, because they are not attainable for most of us.   Our legacy is who we are, how we act, our personalities, our appreciation and love for others in our lives. Not only do these traits move on through heredity (we know we all at some point start to look or act like our moms), but they are what stick in our heads forever about those who have passed. My mom passed away over 20 years ago, but I still have friends who will from time to time share a memory of her with me, simply because she was a memorable woman in their lives. The same goes for my Aunt who we honored today. She is indelibly in our heads and hearts – not necessarily for her life accomplishments, but for her humor, her character, he energy, and her unique outlooks on life.

We all would like to be here on this earth pretty much forever to keep experiencing all life has to offer….but it just doesn’t work that way. Instead, we have to squeeze all the experiences we can out of the time we have, and make a difference in the lives of those with whom we share our time.

How incredible will it be to know that many years from now, somewhere in the future, the generations who follow us will share stories, memories, love and laughter about each of us?

That’s a legacy I know I can be happy with.

 

Red, White and Blue Tradition

vote markI am not a political junkie. I don’t thrive on excitement over elections. I am not “in the know” about every nuance of our local, regional, or national government. I avoid political discussions or getting into arguments about candidates and partisanship. As a matter of fact, I am an independent, unaffiliated voter.

This doesn’t mean I don’t care. And I do completely believe that voting is not only our right, but our duty and an honor.   Perhaps because I am not deeply involved or particularly politically active, I find the whole voting process rather fascinating. There is comfort and pride in this oh-so-American tradition.

First, of course, are the weeks or months of hearing from, and about, the candidates. The campaigns are truly my least favorite part. If they could just stick to a handful of debates, and basic statements of their positions, I’d be happy. But no. The ads flood our TVs and radios, the mud-slinging and slander pre-empts any real information, and the phone rings off the hook with automated calls from people we’ve never heard of. This morning I did a happy dance, not because it was time to cast our ballots, but because we’ll finally get a break from the noise.

Voting is one of the only American activities that the majority of the population can participate in, where everyone is on the same level playing field. As we real people go to our voting places, we are all equal, and the actions we take while there all carry the same weight. It doesn’t matter if you are a seasoned CEO of a Corporation with years of voting experience, or a young adult scraping by on minimum wage, still new to the voting process – we all stand in the same lines and take our turns with the exact same ballot forms.

Tonight, as always, my husband and I had our “voting date.” Each election, we wait until we are both home from work, go to the polling place together, check in, vote, then head home. Each time, the experience is the same.   Our polling place is the Middle School, which happens to be my son’s current school. We followed the line of cars and pulled into a parking spot just vacated by someone else. We headed in the same door that we just weeks ago had entered for the school Open House. We walked into the gym – but this time we weren’t there to cheer on a team or attend a school presentation or a book fair.

We had the same discussion as every time, because we apparently have short term memories and can never remember what Precinct we are in. He says 4, I say 3, we go to the first table and find out hubby was right. So we get in line with the rest of the 4’s. The room is full of other town residents and inevitably we see a neighbor or parents of school friends and stop to chat. Some parents have brought their children, other folks are clearly on their way home from work. I remember as a young girl, going to a polling place with my mother, and being fascinated by the mystery of it all. I watch a couple of younger folks and wonder if this is their first time voting, and want to say “yay you!”

The check-in tables are staffed by seniors, who are volunteering their time to ask for your street and your name, make a big red check-mark next to you on the list, hand you a ballot and remind you to read and complete both sides. My co-worker today said that when she voted this morning, there were several people reminding all voters to complete both sides of the ballot. It made us wonder, has there been a rash of people submitting incomplete sheets?   Why would you not think to look at both sides?

Once we have ballots in hand, we wait for our turn to go to little mini-tables with three-sided pop-up walls on them, and a black pen on a string. I miss the old days when we used to go into a booth, pull the lever for an old curtain to close us in to our private chamber, and flip switches on the wall in front of us.   Somehow the magic is lost by leaning on a little desk and filling in circles.

As a dutiful good girl, I review and consider the candidates and issues on the ballot before venturing out to vote. But I still re-read the information, because I’m worried I’ll get confused and indicate a no when I meant yes, and vice versa – so hubby always finishes before me and waits and people watches until I’m done.

The last step of course is to head over to the ballot-eating machine, with a friendly person leaning against it to make sure we actually put the sheet in the right way, and feed in our papers. We then stop at the check out table with a senior couple who are practically identical to those we saw at the start of the line, sitting with identical town list and red pens. I wonder if they ever really do compare the check-in and check-out papers at the end of the night. Is there ever anyone who got missed at check out? Do they scour the now-empty gymnasium to see if anyone is hiding behind the bleachers, afraid to give up their ballot?

Hubby and I walk out hand-in-hand to head home, talking about any of the friends we saw along the way. We wait until we are safely in the car to discuss our decisions and votes.

Invariably, even though I thought I did my homework, there are some candidates on the ballot that I have never heard of – and I have to make my best educated guess, or hope for some mystical vibe to come to me simply by virtue of someone’s name.  Tonight there were apparently three candidates for Treasurer. At risk of offending them, I had no idea who any of them were. Since I am not married to one party or the other, I had no strong feelings based on their affiliations. When hubby and I got into the car, I came clean and made a confession. I told him I voted for the guy with the last name of Heffernan, because the name reminded me of the character Doug Heffernan on King of Queens, a show and character I loved. My husband looked at me and started laughing, and said “me too!”  Then he said “hey, I didn’t get a sticker.”

As we go to bed tonight, we’ll tune in to see the early results on the news, all of which will be confirmed at least 50 times on the morning broadcast. We will either be pleased or concerned by who is officially elected, and by the final decisions made on the issues presented.   In the end, all we can do is hope for the best, that the decisions that were made are good ones and that the newly elected officials really will act with all of our best interests at heart.   And most of all, we can take pride in having been part of it. Sure, it is hard to believe that one little black filled-in circle can make any kind of difference. But looking around at all of the real people in that gym tonight, each taking that paper and black pen in hand, and knowing that the exact same thing at the same time was happening all across the country… well, that is pretty powerful.

Besides, now that we’ve done our duties….we will be rewarded by getting a break from the campaigning…. aaahhhh. In my view, that makes it all worth it.