No Choice in the Matter

Over 50 years of being cousins.

Over 50 years of cousin-hood.

“ You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.”    — Desmond Tutu.

According to Merriam-Webster, Family is defined as a group of people who are related to each other, or a group of persons of common ancestry.   This is appropriately vague, because in our modern world of blended relationships and creative dynamics, the term “family” has wide-reaching meaning. To some, “family” refers to our immediate household members – potentially a spouse, possibly children. To many of us, that simple word, family, casts a far greater net than that, encompassing siblings, parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews. Family can include those not even related by blood and heritage… I consider some of my closest BFF’s to be part of my family, as my sisters. Many others also consider the dearest friendships in their lives to be their family.

Variety is the spice of life with families. Some are small and intimate, with members living near each other throughout generations past and present. Others are large and complex, spread out far and wide. Yet no matter what the format, shape or size, there is some sort of common thread that connects family members. We can drive each other crazy, have differing opinions, and have varying life goals – but somehow, there is still an undeniable connection. If I were to create my own dictionary (move over, M-W!) I’d revise the family definition to read something like “a group of people with bonds that can not be broken by time, distance, personality quirks, opinions, or bad decisions. “

I have one of those spread-out families. I literally have relatives residing everywhere from California to New England. As more time and distance passes, staying in touch has proven to be more and more challenging. I often wish it was easier to see some of my family members on a regular basis, because I know all too well that life is short. Yet gone are the days of frontier living where we all would stay together on the same acreage and take care of the homestead. Now, instead, we are all trying to maintain our own homesteads, far apart, and rather than gathering for a weekly meal at our clan’s ranch, we rely on the internet and social media to stay in touch.

This weekend I had the pure joy of re-connecting, in person, with my cousins from my Dad’s side of the family in what we hope will become an annual reunion. We are all familiar with the phrase that nothing brings family together like weddings and funerals – well, sadly, this group of cousins were all re-acquainted over the past year due to the loss of some dear family members from the generation before us. Even amidst our sadness and despair, we were able to share laughs, hugs, and wonder “why aren’t we spending time together?”

And so, the idea to gather for a happier reason was born. With surprisingly little planning and drama, 25 of us pulled together for what I believe will end up going down in my personal history book as one of my top 10 best weekends. It helped, of course, that the weather was perfect, and the setting (thanks to one generous cousin) was both comfortable and beautiful.

The most remarkable thing about the weekend, besides the blue skies and sunshine, was how effortlessly we all connected even after literally decades of being apart. It took just about a nano-second for each of us to feel that bond, that familial pull.   We compared memories of the past, updates on our current lives, and met faces never yet introduced. Hours flew past over food, beverage, outdoor activities, and best of all: story-telling. Emotions ranged from laughter to near tears, to fascination and hope. And with each re-connection, we learned a bit more about each other – creating friendships to go with that common ancestry.

We glossed over some of the errors and poor choices that may have been made by previous generations that likely attributed to our distances from each other, and instead happily blazed on to forge new connections. One of the greatest moments was watching our children – the next generation of cousins – bond, finding their own common grounds, shared interests, and enjoyment in having time together.

Not only were we all pleasantly surprised how much fun our gathering was, we were all somewhat shocked at how just plain easy it was. There was no awkwardness, no stranger anxiety, no concerns on how to connect. It all just happened.

We came away with high hopes in planning the next gathering as we shared phone numbers, emails and addresses to stay in touch. Life is busy, and we all have experienced the falling off of once-valued relationships, and the ache of empty promises to “stay in touch.”   Yet with certain people in our lives, those promises carry more weight and less doubt. More honesty and less hype. More love and less hollowness.

Certainly not all family gatherings can be as rosy and fun as my experience this weekend. They can be challenging, messy, frustrating and a little bit wild. That still doesn’t change the fact that we R.W.’s need our families, need that piece of string that ties us together. We thrive on the crazy stories that weave us together.

Like it or not, family members feed our souls.

 

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We Still Wanna Be Hot

wolf callI remember as a college student, we girls knew it was a sure sign of spring and early summer when we’d start getting waves, calls and horn honks from the town & construction truck drivers who drove through campus. At the time, that attention made us uncomfortable and embarrassed, and we sought comfort with each other by making comments like “ugh, that’s so disgusting.”

Flash forward about 30 years, and if that happened now I’d smile and wave back with appreciation. Because, let’s face it, as we head into our more mature years, those cat calls and honks come much more infrequently. Ironic, because now is when we need them most for our egos.

There is a great episode of “The King of Queens” when Doug bribes the construction crew down the road to toss catcalls at his wife as she walks by on her way home in the evening. He gave them beer to keep it up, because the result was Carrie came home in a good mood, and he benefited from that. All was great, of course, until she found out he was bribing them.

One of the best things about that episode is that Doug was not at all threatened by the construction guys. He knew she was in no danger, and had no concern that she would suddenly turn around and run off with one of them. He simple figured out it was an easy way for her to feel good about herself.

Recently, one of my R.W. BFF’s, who has been losing weight on a diet, shared with me how much of an ego boost she had received that day because of compliments from two different male associates at her work. Again, she had no illusions of the comments leading to anything. It just felt good that some male, other than her husband, found her attractive.

You see, for us married R.W.’s, we 100% appreciate the fact that we have a supportive and loving hubby or partner at home, who dutifully gives us attention and compliments. But in a way, we feel like that is part of the marriage contract…after the “until death do us part” agreement, there is a “no matter my age or weight, you will tell me I’m beautiful and sexy” addendum. We know they need our confirmations and accolades just as much as we do. It’s just part of the deal.

As the years roll on, however, our confidence in being attractive to anyone other than our life partners dwindles. We start to focus probably too much on our wrinkles, grey hair, body parts pulled south by gravity, and muffin tops.   Those young women we once were, who strode confidently down the street in cute showy outfits now struggle to find something to wear that won’t make us look dumpy, dowdy, and like someone’s mom or grandma. Which is of course what we are.

So when some sort of unexpected attention flows our way, we are downright tickled by it. Of course, there remains a line between creative and creepy, appreciative and harassing. And certainly I’m not condoning objectifying women, or wanting to start a heated debate.  Because of modern day sensitivities, I think many of us, male and female, are hesitant to express harmless comments of admiration for fear of being taken the wrong way. I know most of us R.W.’s avoid saying what we are thinking because we don’t want to come across as Cougars on the prowl. Pity, as I’m sure there are plenty of men of all ages who wouldn’t mind being told they look good or have a nice smile. Instead, we R.W.’s will wait to have safety in numbers during a girls night out, and do some risk-free flirting with an outnumbered waiter, completely embarrassing him and enjoying it.

Thankfully, there are still a few brave souls out there who have seemingly mastered the art of creative and harmless commendations. Shortly after I got my new car, I was maneuvering through a crowded parking lot, attempting to not run over a group of men leaving a restaurant. One of them paused by my window and said “That’s ok, I’d get run over by you any day.” Of course, it wasn’t until an hour later that I thought of a snappy comeback about him being a nice hood ornament.   I will from time to time get some attention when I’m out on my bicycle. One guy who passed me on his motorcycle put his hand out and made a gesture as if he would have squeezed my tushy. As a young girl I would have been offended. Now I laughed.

The attention doesn’t even have to be sexually motivated. Opening a door with a smile is enough to boost our moods. Talking to us like we are the smart and impressive women that we are, works. Unexpectedly recognizing our hard work or efforts does wonders.   Last week my workout coach complimented me on my muscle tone. Of course I realize that I literally PAY him to say things to motivate me. But I don’t care, even if it was B.S., it made me feel good and made me work harder.

One of my R.W. friends told me the nicest story the other day. Her son, a big, burly, handsome young man, had assisted an elderly woman with finding her seat on an airplane. She had been thrilled and appreciative of his kindness, and I’m sure by his looks as well. My friend’s son, when describing this experience to his mother said “She may have been 90, but I saw a 22-year old girl in the sparkle of her eyes. “ How wonderful that comment was. It shows that he understood that no matter how old we get, we still want to be appreciated as women. We still wanna be hot.

So embrace every moment, every compliment.

Yesterday a BFF texted me and said “I got catcalled last night!”  My response: “Woo hoo!”

 

 

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Ninja Skills

female ninjaLast night my family and I happened to tune in to watch a bit of American Ninja Warrior.   We aren’t die-hard fans of the show, but it seems to be on almost every night at this point, and it is oddly compelling. It is easy to get sucked in to watching contestant after contestant try to navigate seemingly physically impossible obstacle courses that require practically non-human upper body strength and agility. As each competitor excitedly steps up to the course, all of us watching cheer him or her on, hoping THIS will be the one who makes it all the way, and doesn’t fall into the pool of water at the bottom.

I ended up keeping the show on for about an hour as I did some other things around the house, and I think in that hour only 3 people made it all the way through the 4-stage journey. The show’s creators of course profile any of the competitors who have overcome diversity to be there, or have trained in some amazing way, just to ensure that we are emotionally invested in what we are watching. I of course root the most for the least likely winners – the oldest competitor, the youngest competitor, the one who has tried for three years prior and never made it all the way, etc etc… I’m impressed and slightly awed by the level of fitness these athletes have achieved to be there, especially since I was watching it after having just pushed myself through a measly one-hour workout session.

This morning, however, as I forced myself out of bed when our ugly alarm went off, cursing the fact I had stayed up too late doing chores, I thought about the challenges and paths we all face. Sure, those Spiderman-like athletes are unrealistically impressive. But what about the American Ninja Real Woman Daily Obstacle Course? Like the Warrior show, our challenges, should we choose to accept them, can be batched into four stages. We do our best to get through them all without falling into the deep end.:

Stage 1: Up and At ‘Em.   After not enough sleep, an alarm, pet, or child gives the Ready Set Go command and the RW is off and running. She has a limited amount of time to accomplish tasks such as pet or child care, breakfast and lunch preparation, answering questions, texts, and emails, and getting herself dressed and presentable. Any number of unexpected obstacles are thrown in, such as dirty dishes, forgotten homework, torn clothing, missing buttons, notes to be written, laundry, and even vomit. If the Ninja RW manages to get through this course without being late to work, and being fully clothed in matching, unwrinkled attire, then she may move on to the next stage.

Stage 2: Mount Workopolus. This is the stage of the course with the greatest variety. Our Ninja R.W.’s step into their public personae to accomplish any number of feats such as caregiving, leading, teaching, customer service, administration, creative development, and even saving lives. They must accomplish this while keeping one hand on the domestic wheel, managing family emergencies, appointments, calls, planning and coordination. Like the Warriors TV show, the R.W. navigates the same obstacle course, and same stages, as their male counterparts. However even when successful, unlike on TV, she will receive on average only 78% of the prize monies offered to the men. She will push her way through anyway, chanting some motivational mantra in her head about needing to pay for vacation, childcare, or a new pair of shoes.  The Ninja R.W. will achieve success in this stage of the course if she meets all deadlines, remains pleasant and professional, and still looks good at the other end. Starting to feel fatigued and battle-weary, she heads on to Stage 3.

Stage 3: The Post-Work-Press. Speed is of the essence with this portion of the challenge. The Ninja R.W. pulls out any remaining multi-tasking resources she has left to run errands, drive the R.W. taxi, care for family and pets, prepare food, repair & clean up any damage done from the first two stages, and wedge in extra chores or quality time with loved ones. At this point, our Ninja is not only battling fatigue, but a sore back, headache, and a lowered level of patience. But she perseveres because she can see the last Stage in front of her and hopeful successful completion.

Stage 4: The Wind Down. With any luck, this Stage allows for a brief rest period for the Ninja R.W., possibly in the form of reading a magazine or book, catching a TV program, or talking with other Ninja R.W. contestants. But the respite is brief, as the preparing for bed process kicks in. While the rest of the family snuggles under the covers, the Ninja R.W. is making the last rounds. Like the TV Warrior competitors trying to climb that last wall or ladder, the R.W. is getting the pet out for a last bio break, putting away dishes, carrying loads of laundry, prepping items for the following day, turning out lights and locking up.

As the Warriors triumphantly reach their end goal and push the big red button and the announcers proclaim their success, the Ninja R.W. gives kisses, brushes her teeth, removes her make-up and turns out the light.

The Warriors on TV receive high praise and a loud cheering and applauding crowd. The lucky R.W. hears a quiet thank you or I love you.

And that is exactly why she is ready to start the challenge all over again in a few short hours.

 

Posted in beauty, Chores, Entertainment, family, Health, home, home chores, housework, Kids, pet, real women | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Own Fascination

woman_question“It is not the question, what am I going to be when I grow up; you should ask the question, who am I going to be when I grow up.” — Goldie Hawn. 

 

There is a current tv ad spot for a car company (sorry, I don’t remember which brand), that shows a young woman driving through a city. She says something like “There are 8,491,079 people in this city. But only one me.”   That is a great line. And beyond all the marketing reasons why that works, it speaks to something we all seem to be fascinated with: ourselves.   We love to research, discuss, and think about what makes us tick, what makes us similar or different from others… in other words, why are we special? Who is that person in the mirror?

Those of us in sales, marketing and media are enthralled with the Generational discussion. We analyze our differences based on when we were born and how our life experiences have shaped us. Are you from the Greatest Generation? A Baby Boomer? A Gen X? A Milennial? We wear our Generation with pride. What if you are on the cusp in between? Does that give you an identity crisis? How does this relate to our “pecking order” in our own families? Were you the oldest, the middle child, the youngest? In the fairly wide spread range of ages in the average work force, there’s a whole lot of discussion about how these groups work together. How should the “older generations” work with the younger digitally-focused Milennials? Ugh, please give me a moment now while I go take my Geritol, grab my walker and try to figure out how to use this new fangled contraption on my desk…

Speaking of the working world, many of us have taken part in various personality assessments or workshops, like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Interesting stuff, giving us the goal to understand why we work and think the way we do, and how to work effectively with other “types.”   (ENFJ, at your service!) This is also handy in our personal lives. I find it fascinating that so much effort and focus has been placed on this, and for nearly 100 years since this philosophy was developed. Leave it to two women (Katherine and Isabel) to take a Swiss psychiatrist’s theory and take it even further. We women love this stuff.

And there’s the other area of fascination: Men vs Women, Mars vs. Venus. There’s no limit to the analysis of the differences here. We R.W.’s can spend hours discussing what is right or wrong with men, and why we are so different from them. Really, we can fill a whole evening or even a whole weekend on this topic. I’m sure men discuss it too. But for them, it goes more like this:

“Man, she’s just driving me crazy.”

“Yeah, chick’s just don’t get it.”

“No, and we sure as hell don’t get them either.”

“You said it. Want a beer?”

When we haven’t been able to find all our answers via scientists or friends, we can of course turn to FaceBook. There is a plethora of almost daily quizzes we can all take to supposedly learn more about ourselves: Which TV Mom Are You? Who Are You in One Word? Who is Your Past Life Boyfriend? What Breed of Cat Are You? Which Inspirational Quote Fits You Best? Which Minion Are You? Although they are all fairly ridiculous, something compels us to take a few minutes away from what we are supposed to be doing with our time, to find out what our answers to the odd questions say about us.   Then we post our results. Because for whatever reason, we feel our friends need to know that our Hippie Name would be Flower Petal.

We collect all of these nuggets like clues to some great personal mystery. We want to know we aren’t crazy because we hate mushrooms, or because we cry at AT&T ads, or because we’d rather live on a deserted island than have an argument. We are driven to learn if we are emotional or intellectual or a thrill-seeker, and who our perfect soul mate could be. In short, we want someone to tell us we are unique and awesome.

It is amazing, isn’t it, that we can be really similar to others – like twins, sisters, BFFs… but there are still some features and characteristics that make us our own person. Just the fact that we can wonder about all this is kind of amazing. We could have been created as a much more simple species, like dogs, who contemplate only their immediate needs, like food, play time, sleeping, and unconditional love. But for some reason, we were bestowed with the abilities to do a whole lot more.

Lucky for us we’ve had brilliant minds like Myers, Briggs, and the FaceBook Quiz people to help us in our journey.

 

 

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A Place for Everything

kitchen drawerA place for everything, everything in its place. – Benjamin Franklin

Some of us are more organized than others. Some alphabetize and color-code everything in their lives, while others live a bit more haphazardly. Those who like to keep their belongings neat and tidy view anything else as utter chaos. I know Real Women on both sides of this fence. Yet no matter our styles, we all have our systems. A place for everything, that for some reason, makes sense to us. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at our kitchens.

The biggest challenge for most of us is that we have a limited amount of space, and likely far too many tools, gadgets and appliances to store. There’s no reason for me to own at least half a dozen rubber spatulas, and yet, I do. My old blender, circa 1970’s, which no matter which button I push blends at the same speed and consistency now, is still in my cupboard. That giant roasting pan I’ve used only twice, which is too large to fit anywhere, could still come in handy some day. And so we often need to get a bit creative with our systems. We put things away in a manner that we think is utterly logical.

However, invite a friend over who wants to help prepare a meal or clean up after a party, and soon we see that our layout likely makes no sense to anyone else in the world. Something as simple as finding out which cupboard holds the glassware can turn into an episode of Indiana Jones in search of the golden idol.  Have a seemingly helpful visitor, or really anyone else in your home, empty the dishwasher, and suddenly things disappear into a vortex of mystery. After all, we all have our own concepts of what is the most logical approach for storage. For example, the fact that our house the headache and pain medications are stored in the same cabinet as dog treats, seems reasonable to me. Just like I find it perfectly rational that my hand-mixer lives on top of my bread machine, yet the blades for it are on the other side of the room in a drawer. Common sense, no?

Some items are perennially misplaced. In my kitchen, we are regularly on the hunt for the “good” cheese knife. It can end up in any of four drawers, or in the dish-drainer, depending on who put it away. My son is regularly trying to find the ice cream scoop, another tricky little devil that likes to hide. We are so conditioned to go to the “right” place where “something is always kept” that if it is missing, we go into a moment of annoyed paralysis. “Where is it?! It was JUST here yesterday! I can’t possibly use something ELSE!” Followed by the useless shout to other inhabitants: “Does anyone know where the can opener is?!”

There seems to especially be a difference in the place-for-everything-systems between men and women. One of my R.W. friends was telling me recently about how her husband had been helpful in putting away the dishes. When she came home, she found a corncob holder on the counter near the basket of car keys. She took this to be a clue that something was amiss, and decided to try to think like her husband. Sure enough, she opened a drawer that holds tongs and long-handled utensils to see the other corncob holders wedged in alongside and in back of the drawer. Apparently the one on the counter was odd man out, no room at the new corncob inn. A woman would have stored them in a pre-planned location in a bottom drawer, where infrequently used items are categorized. A man, however, just seeks available space. Wherever that may be.

The other night while I was making dinner, my husband was in search of the lime press. I rationally opened the drawer which holds items like the peeler and grater and handed it to him. His reply: “oh. That’s where you put it. It is supposed to live over here, in the bar drawer.”  I really couldn’t fight his logic this time. He uses the tool to make Mojitos.

Storage conflicts are not always an issue. We each have our own private spaces where we can organize and categorize to our hearts content with no interference. My husband never needs to try to find anything in my writing desk area, just as I never need to venture into his workshop. If he wants to put nails in a tin can along with duct tape and place it on a shelf next to owners manuals, go for it. If I want to stack inspirational notes next to my paper clips, no one else will care. But when it comes to common ground, we must be prepared for a certain level of frustration that can interrupt our smooth routines.

Once in a while, we can be forced into making a change. A few days ago, the shelf in one of my kitchen cabinets gave out. (I guess too many years of overloaded weight took its toll.) Until my husband can get to the hardware store to pick up the parts necessary for repair, I’ve had to pull out several of my baking dishes. I couldn’t stack them on my dining table, as I needed to use it for dinner with guests, so those baking dishes had to get temporarily stored in the basement. I’m quite sure I will forget they are down there when I reach in to the “usual place” to grab one. I will have that temporary angry paralysis and blame someone else for moving them until I remember it was me. Then, when the shelf is repaired, I will be forced to do a clean-out and re-org. Truth be told, it has been a long time in coming. My fear, of course, is this will lead to a domino effect of finding new places to put everything throughout the kitchen.

Then it could be months before we find that cheese knife.

 

 

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The Slippery Slope of Slothness

lounge feetI’ve always been one of those R.W.’s who likes to be active. I rarely sit still for long. Like most pre-video game, pre-smart-phone little girls, I spent a whole lot of time outside playing, or going for long walks, or biking, or even dancing in my room with my music cranked.   I was not an athletic sports jock, although I am proud to say I was on the first-ever girl’s soccer team in my school during eighth grade. Team sports were not really my thing, but I found plenty of other ways to use my energy. Then in the late 80’s I discovered aerobics, and I was hooked. It didn’t matter what kind it was, dance, step, or water, I was all in. Whenever I wasn’t donning a leotard and headband, I was out hiking or biking.

Over the years, throughout the process of time and age, I have slowed down – at least comparatively. I am nowhere near in the kind of shape I was in my youth. In those days, I had the drive and delusion that I could be as fit as Karen Voight. I’m shokvoightwing my age with that name-drop, but trust me, 25 years ago she was my idol.   I realize now she was one of those rare freaks of nature, but back then, her body and strength seemed attainable.

Now I stay active mostly to fight back weight gain and the aches and pains of maturity. I could run five miles or swim ten laps about as easily now as I could fly to the moon by flapping my arms. It just isn’t going to happen. And I’ve grown to be ok with that. As long as I can still walk and bike, do some strength training, get out of bed without assistance, and not have under-arm waddle, I’m learning to be happy with my level of fitness. I try to do at least something active every day. When I travel, I scope out the nearest fitness center or walking route for my use.

That is, until last week. Last week we were on vacation, and it was one of those rare week-long, truly unplugged and relaxed summer vacations. We were on a cruise, and the sun, the sea, and un-rushed atmosphere took its toll on me. And I was not alone. Everyone else on board seemed to start moving in slow-mo, like a giant herd of chameleons, all changing at the same time to become one with our environment.  Well, ok, maybe there were a few athletic souls. On day one I did venture into the fitness center for a half-hearted attempt at a workout, and there were several other folks there as well. Perhaps they had the ambition to return to that part of the ship throughout the week. I did not. The only other exercise I got all week was doing a few laps around Deck 8 with my hubby…. Which often involved pausing for a view, to take a photo, or to treat ourselves to fruity adult beverages.   By Day 5, I’m fairly certain I looked a bit like this:

sloth sleep

As the week progressed, I began to have a better appreciation for a more sedentary lifestyle. There is certainly something appealing about stretching out in a lounge chair, or sprawling across a sofa, a book in hand, or a nap to be had. As we strolled, slowly, around the ship, we saw several people sound asleep at any hour of the day, stretched out on comfy deck furniture.   It was as if we were like bike tires and someone let our air out, deflating us into heaps of relaxed blobs.   I began to wonder, could it be possible that some day I’ll reach the point where I no longer have the desire and energy to be active?   Could I become truly slothlike, or turn into what we used to call a couch-potato? This concept would have worried me if I…..cared. But for those few days, I really didn’t. I basked in the glow of downtime.

Today, our first full day back home and back to reality, I took my dog for a short walk this morning, packed a salad for lunch, and went to the gym this evening for a workout. I knew it would not be easy to get through the hour of physical activity after about 10 days of not much. It has always amazed me how long it takes to get in shape, yet how quickly we can get out of it. Luckily the pre-vacation-me kicked back in and I got through the workout (albeit not at 100% capacity) and felt good. I wondered how many of my sloth-partners from last week had done the same thing today, working their way back into activity…. Or how many decided to make the lounge-mode their permanent way of life.

It has taken me a lot of years to recognize the fact that sometimes, we R.W.’s need to let ourselves deflate. Sure, there is the risk of not wanting to get up and moving again, but if we are smart, we’ll find the right balance. I no longer need to be that girl who is constantly on the move, striving for 2% body fat and the strength of a small ox. I just need to be healthy. And sometimes that means slowing down.

So, now, if you’ll excuse me, my recliner is calling my name. After all, it’s all about moderation, right?

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Preparing to Relax

oceanMost of us Real Women like to think we can be spontaneous. To us, spontaneity means fun, carefree, happy, no stress. We don’t have to weigh ourselves down with pesky and arduous planning and processing, we can just get up and go and do. I know there are a few of you out there who really can do this, and I commend you. As for me, I tend to believe I have not one spontaneous bone in my body. I am a planner through and through, and my hunch is I’ve got a lot of R.W. soul mates.

My family and I are about to depart for a vacation. A real, honest to goodness, get away from it all, seven days of virtually no responsibilities and relaxation, vacation. This is something we have not done in a very long time, and I’d be embarrassed to admit how long we’ve been planning it.   Even more glorious is the fact that a family member is arriving to house-sit and dog-sit for us, so we will have the amazing peace of mind that all will be fine at home while we are gone.   All that is left is to grab our swimsuits and flip-flops and head out the door, right?   Not so fast.

At times, the preparations to depart have felt almost overwhelming, and my mind is swirling with “I have to do all these things before we leave”.   In reality, very few of the items on my “getting ready to relax” list truly, absolutely need to be done. However, I know me, and if I can take care of everything, set everything in order, I will enjoy myself that much more.

Some of the preparations, in hindsight, are really kind of unnecessary, and possibly border on the ridiculous. But I’m fairly certain most of us R.W.’s go through similar procedures:

  • Personal grooming. My husband, my son, and I have all recently had haircuts, I did my color touch-up this morning (also known as the 60-90 Day Grey Hiding Process), and tonight I will get my nails done. We even plan to bathe the dog, who is staying home. I can understand this sort of primping when travelling to visit family or friends. After all, we don’t want them to see us in our worn out and scraggly forms, we want to look good. But this vacation is our first-ever cruise. Which means we will be spending time with thousands of complete strangers, whom we will likely never see again. So why do we care? If anything, this is probably the perfect opportunity to look as slovenly as we want.
  • Shopping. I have participated in a flurry of pre-trip retail excursions to buy things I usually don’t purchase. Travel-size toiletries, extra swim trunks for my son who outgrew the ones he had last year, new pairs of flip-flops, and just yesterday I remembered I want to stop and get some Dramamine. Just in case. Could we buy all these items during the trip? Certainly. But then I won’t feel prepared.
  • Home Cleaning. For as long as I can remember, before going on any trip away from home, no matter the length or distance, I have felt the need to clean. I simply don’t want to come home to a dirty house. Besides, if God forbid someone broke in, or an Emergency Crew had to enter, I can’t have them seeing dirty dishes in the sink.   This time, since we have a house-sitter coming, I especially want it to be clean. Would she really care if it wasn’t? Probably not. But I want her to be comfortable. Not horrified.
  • Lists. Oh, my, the lists. I’ve had lists at work of projects to wrap up before departure, liststrip list of errands to be accomplished, and lists of what needs to be done each evening leading up to the big day. I even have separate lists for my husband and son. There is pure satisfaction in crossing things off. I am assuming my boys will not allow me to bring pen and paper on the trip.
  • Food. One would think that when preparing to be away, there is no need to plan for, or purchase, food. However, tomorrow is my son’s birthday. Gotta have fun food and cake. We have family members coming through town the day before we leave. Can’t let them go hungry. And there must be SOMETHING edible in the house so our houseguest doesn’t have to go grocery shopping right away – although I’m sure she plans to do just that. Then, what about road trip food? We will be on a bus for a couple of hours to get to the departure dock. I have a teen son. Snacks need to come with us, lest he perish – or, start chewing on my arm.
  • Packing. Oh yes, and then there’s this. When it all boils down, the actual packing seems to be the easiest thing. Especially for a summer vacation. Yet, as a true R.W., I will lay out far too much clothing and shoes then start the art of reducing the quantity. I always strive to pack lightly – yet end up over-packing still. Today I saw a forecast for rain, at least on our first day. Oh boy, time to rethink a few things.

I have had a few wise R.W.’s try to talk me off the ledge of over-preparation and the resulting exhaustion by convincing me to slow down long enough to consider what really does NOT need to be done. So I have taken a few things off my list. Really, I have. Like I’m not going to get any ironing done. Wrinkles can wait. My son’s birthday gifts may or may not get all wrapped. The house will be “no-longer-filthy” clean, not “guests-are-coming” clean. May not seem like much, but to me each of these is a fairly major concession.

Each night, as I crawl into bed worn out, I think to myself that I’m one day closer. One day closer to saying “good enough” and finally, truly, relaxing. Who knows, maybe each day of vacation I’ll let lose and be a bit spontaneous. One thing is for sure. I will certainly be prepared for it.

 

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