Our Epic Stuff

baskets“A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.” – George Carlin

My neighbor BFF and I had what we consider a brilliant idea. This spring we will hold a “Most Epic Tag Sale.” We will combine forces, energy, organizational abilities, and most of all, our unwanted stuff, and have a major two-household clean out.

A few years ago I vowed to never again have a tag sale. (Or a “garage sale”, depending on what part of the country you live in… similar to the debate between grinders, hoagies and subs, or pop and soda… but I digress).   I had decided such sales were a whole lot of work with little reward, and there was always left over stuff that no one wanted. But my BFF swayed me. We will do this one together, planned long in advance, and will have the Salvation Army ready to come and pick up whatever doesn’t sell. Brilliant.

Even more brilliant is the fact that we made this decision literally months in advance, thus giving us all winter to sort through and clean out our homes.   I figured this would be a piece of cake… spend a couple days in the basement, another couple days whipping through the rest of the house, then I could relax and wait for spring.

Silly, silly me. I have already lost track of the hours spent in just my basement, with much more still to go.  We have been in our current home for almost 15 years. Certainly not an eternity, but apparently long enough to fill every nook and cranny with items we really don’t need. I never really thought I was a kleptomaniac or hoarder…but now I’m beginning to wonder.   Some of the items, and quantity of items, I’ve found has truly been eye opening. I have found odd things like small knick-knacks with no true or even emotional value, that for some reason I have not only kept, but packed and moved with me since my teen or college years. I came across a whole box of miscellaneous candles and candle holders; a plastic tub full of mis-matched mugs and cheap glassware; Christmas decorations that I have never put up….and somewhere along the way, I apparently became a basket-aholic. I now have a pile of a dozen baskets to go in the sale, yet still have plenty on my shelf to be kept!

I’m not sure how all of these collections happened while I wasn’t paying attention – because I’m the one who did the collecting. I must have had a hidden personality all these years who felt the need to keep everything, as if I’m channeling a past life of surviving the Great Depression. Well, guess what. Time to meet my new personality: Purge and Clean-out Girl.

Most of us R.W.’s rarely take the time to really clean out our stuff. It can be a painstaking and arduous task, so it generally does not make it onto our list of priorities on our To Do lists, and only happens when we have to pack and move to a new location. Even then, at least in my world, apparently I have gone ahead and moved stuff that I didn’t even need.

What I have discovered, however, is it can be liberating and exhilarating, and in some ways, fascinating.   I am thrilled that I can now much more easily walk through part of my basement. Boxes are getting organized and categorized. What is of no use to me, could be very useful or of interest to someone else. Setting aside so much stuff to go feels great.

As for the fascination….there have been items I have come across that I forgot I had, or that of course immediately bring up fond past memories of my childhood. Even more recently obtained objects hold special meaning, like the bags of stuffed animals my son sorted through with me. He pulled out certain ones that he remembers specifically playing with when he was little, and I pulled out fuzzy critters I remember putting in his crib. I don’t know what if anything we will ever do with the stuffies we decided to keep, but we knew we couldn’t part with them.

That is, after all, the biggest challenge when attempting a clean-out of some magnitude. We are forced to make a decision between keeping something simply for sentimental reasons, or parting with it due to lack of use or need. I know darn well that I am a sentimental old fool, and I will keep several storage boxes of memories. And that’s ok. Its good to cut back, get a bit more lean, do away with useless items. But the items that mean something to us, or claim a part of our histories, no matter how seemingly trivial, are well worth keeping.

Today I opened a box that holds antique linens from past generations, as well as very old, but beautiful, monogramed silver. Will I ever use a silver tea set? Not unless I decide to host a Downton-themed tea party. But tucked in with the silver is a note, written in my mother’s handwriting, that explains how the items were bequeathed to me from my Grandmother (after whom I am named). Priceless.

Within some of the piles and boxes lie small mysteries. I came across a small wooden house with a removable roof. I don’t remember where it came from, or why I have it, but in some recess in my mind, I feel like it has some sort of significance. So I left it on a shelf and made a note to ask my siblings about it. Similarly, in that box of antiques, I came across kitchen linens, on which my mother had written “Pantry. 1939.”   I don’t know why she would write the location and year on kitchen towels, but I’d love to find out. Too bad I can’t go back in time to see her do it and ask her why.       linens

Yes, it is a very good thing that our Most Epic Tag Sale is not happening next weekend. For each corner, closet, box, shelf and cabinet holds intrigue. Some items are easily price-tagged and stacked to go; others are worth a hearty laugh and a “Really? Why have I kept this all these years?” before getting added to the pile. And still others are worth a few minutes of stopping to remember, smile, and maybe even shed a tear before they are careful re-wrapped and stored, or cleaned up and brought out into the open to be enjoyed.

Epic indeed.

 

Polar Side Effects


winter optimismSide Effect
– noun. Any accompanying or consequential and usually detrimental effect.

It is safe to say that a majority of people across the country at this point are tired of winter. Sure, some hearty souls still claim to be enjoying the season, and I commend them for their enthusiasm. As for the rest of us, however, we are eagerly waiting for a seasonal shift – not just because we would desperately like to hang up our shovels for a few months, but because of the rather bizarre side effects this season forces upon us.

For those in more temperate climates, you may have experienced a touch of cold and ice and maybe even some snow this year, but for the most part you don’t experience the same on-going consequences as those of us in northern climes. Battling these side effects is what wears us down. Allow me to give a few examples:

  • Outer Wear Fashion Goes Out the Window.   Early in the season, when we first feel a chill in the air, and thrill at the first pretty snow flakes falling from the sky, we giddily get out our cute winter coats, our trendy scarves and our girly gloves. However, after several weeks of frigid temperatures and piles of frozen precipitation, we abandon how we look when heading out the door. Our focus shifts to only the two most important factors: staying warm and dry, and attempting to stay upright and avoid falling. Out come the big clunky (yet warm and safe) boots, and the practical layers. I have a walking outfit that is fairly hideous. My fellow lunch-time walking co-workers can attest to this. I layer up with heavy sweatpants, a fuzzy fleece top, thick yet truly ugly mittens, and a head wrap scarf that I affectionately call my babushka. Not one item matches any other item. And I don’t care. I can look cute and trendy in the Spring.
  • Buh-Bye Barefeet. From approximately November through March, our feet are never uncovered. While we were previously frolicking barefoot, or donning adorable sandals, our feet now do not see the light of day. They go from socks to shoes to boots… and even after returning home, it is too cold to go bare, and we shove our feet into fuzzy slippers. There is no sense in getting pedi’s and coloring our toes until daffodils sprout in the garden. Unless, of course, it gives us the same small thrill as wearing a pretty new pair of panties that no one will see.
  • Cruddy Camouflage. We are not the only ones looking a bit blah by now. Our cars are too. Every vehicle on the road is the same color: grey. It is too cold to wash them, and even if we did, they will be grey again within 24 hours. Inside the car is no better. Grit and grime everywhere. Along with, likely, spilled coffee or hot cocoa.
  • Pothole Dodging. This season brings with it a game to test our reflexes and dexterity as the roads on which we travel disintegrate. I’m not talking about minor bumps and cracks – oh no. There are frost heaves the size of small mountains, lanes of crumbled pavement, and holes large enough to swallow a Mini Cooper. I’m sure a structural or chemical engineer could explain why something so seemingly durable as asphalt can not stand up to the brutality of winter…. I will just assume that the combination of bitter cold and heavy snowplows is mostly at fault. No matter the reason, smooth rides are no longer an option. And as we worry about the possible damage to our vehicles, we Real Women must remember something vitally important: under no circumstances get behind the wheel with a full bladder.
  • The Other Kind of Cracks and Crumbles. There is not enough moisturizer in the country to successfully combat winter dry skin. The cold crisp air devoid of any humidity, along with dry indoor heat, combine to create the perfect storm for our complexions. Our tone gets paler, our lines get deeper, and we are able to carry on complex conversations about the benefits of any number of lotions and serums. Like being on a deserted island, R.W.’s need three things to survive the season: food, water and hand cream.
  • Helpless Infatuations With Starch and Sugar. Like a mama bear in hibernation mode, we R.W.’s crave, search for, and create comfort foods. If a dish is warm, tasty, filling and satisfying, we dive in.   Gone are the carrot sticks and popsicles of the summer; they are replaced with bread sticks, mashed potatoes and cake. We know we are gaining weight by seeking solace in sweets and savories, yet we don’t stop until the temperatures warm and we are forced to shed our heavy layers to reveal the damage done.
  • Patience, Where Art Thou? Small inconveniences and minor challenges become huge hurdles and ugly aggravations after several weeks of winter. Our patience has departed, likely hopping a plane for the tropics. We are left to try to manage with minimal coping skills, even if we are normally very capable, strong women. The other day I stepped out my front door to my carefully shoveled steps and walkway, only to find that the snow my husband had shoveled off the porch roof to keep us safe, had landed in heaps in my path. The same path I cleared after every snowfall was now filled with two feet of hard- packed mass. I went inside and had a full-blown I-hate-winter meltdown. In reality, my husband easily cleared the way later that night with the snow-blower. But at that moment, that morning, my patience had evaporated. I do believe I threw a shovel into a snowbank. Ah well, we’ll find it in the spring.

Just like the warning labels on the side of medicine bottles indicate, side effects may vary. And I will admit that not all consequences of the season are bad. As winter wears on, we all begin to rally around each other, to commiserate about our plight, and to try to find ways to cope and be positive. We remind each other that at some point, spring will come. The snow will melt. Temperatures will go back above the freezing mark. This winter will become a memory, something to tell stories about, and the detrimental side effects will fade.

Today on my way home from work, I passed a house obviously inhabited by those with either a keen sense of humor or a whole lot of optimism. There, perched on top of a big snow pile in the front yard, were two colorful lawn chairs, a surfboard, and a case of beer.   The sight made my day and helped me remember: this too shall pass.

 

 

Natural Beauty

20s beautyThe other night I was watching TV and a few women were referred to as “natural beauties.” The women on the receiving end of these compliments were on the red carpet, glammed from head to toe. Their hair was coiffed, make-up perfect, and they were adorned with gowns and jewels. And I wondered what was so natural about any of it?

I asked myself a similar question the other morning when I was getting prepped for a usual weekday at work. It all starts in the shower, with bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash that promise to make me smoother, cleaner, more vibrant, fragrant and younger. As soon as I stepped out, I reached for a squirt of hair mousse, followed by my daily routine of creams and moisturizers. All this happened before I even began to apply any make-up. I paused and thought about how so many of us go through these motions to look “naturally beautiful” and I marveled at the multitude of products literally at our finger tips that allow us to do this every day.

The generations of Real Women before us didn’t have the ease of simply stopping by CVS on their way home to arm themselves with every product imaginable, or the ability to log on to the internet to have the next best most promising anti-aging cream delivered to their door.   Through the years, of course, the images of beauty have varied. In the early 1900’s, pale skin was a sign of beauty and class, tans were for those of a “lower class.” Heavy make-up was reserved for only those who were stage performers. Yet, real women still wanted to look their best – but for many years, they had to rely on home remedies, by using rice powder, beet juice, squeezing their cheeks for some color, or, amazingly, using lemon juice to lighten their skin.   The thought of applying lemon juice has my cheeks screaming in terror.

Real women in our past truly did rely more on their natural beauty. Today, in contrast, there is a multi-billion dollar industry in the world of cosmetics. Just a stroll down two aisles at Target can be a mind-numbing experience of choosing between half a dozen different brands and shelves of products of which we are too embarrassed to ask “what does this one do?”   There are, of course, R.W.’s today who go the natural route, with no make-up or extra creams and lotions. There are some who have that enviable flawless natural beauty so they look amazing as soon as they wake up in the morning. I kind of hate those of you who fit into that category, but applaud you as well.

My mom, a natural beauty.

My mom, a natural beauty.

My mother was one of the naturals. The only make-up she wore was lipstick. I remember how every evening, a few minutes before Dad was due home from work, she would stop to brush out her hair and put on some fresh lipstick. That’s it. If she and Dad got dressed up to go out, or hosted a party, she would apply just a bit of mascara and blush. I look at photos of her in her youth, and she is gorgeous – with no cosmetic assistance.

In contrast, thanks to having a fair & ruddy complexion, if I ever venture out with little to no make-up, others will ask if I’m exhausted or ill. Even on weekends when I may or may not venture out of the house, I still apply at least some lotion and base cosmetics so I look healthy and awake. So the “natural beauty” route is not for me.

But I do believe that there is another definition for “natural beauty”, and it has absolutely nothing to do with staying clear of manufactured enhancements or cosmetics. It has everything to do with a real woman’s fundamental presence. When I think of the real women in my life, I think of their smiles that can brighten up a whole room, the twinkle in their eye that can mean fun and mischief, their infectious laughter, the caring and love they exude, the energy that seems to vibrate out of them, and the determination and strength that shows through in everything they do. My first thoughts when I see these amazing people are not about the cool new green eye shadow they are wearing, or the color of their hair highlights, or whether or not the anti-wrinkle neck cream they are trying is working. What I see is the natural beauty of who they are and how they make the people around them feel.

If we feel better about ourselves by reaching for those products on our counters every morning, then fine, let’s go for it, let’s enhance our surface beauty. I’m all for appearing healthy and awake. But let’s not get too hung up on which lip color is the best option…because in reality, the smile itself is where it’s at.

 

 

 

 

We’re All In This Together

A grocery sea of humanity

A grocery sea of humanity

Weekends are what we look forward to all week, with illusions of extra sleep and relaxation dancing in our heads. Yet all R.W.’s know that at least a portion of our days off will require the inevitable, dreaded, time-consuming activity: running errands.  I believe that many of the men in our lives have a misconception of this duty. Often I’ve heard a man say “she is off shopping again”, with a bewildered roll of the eyes. Gentlemen, let me set the record straight: errands and shopping are two very different things. Errands happen ALL. THE. TIME. They are about as much fun as having a tooth slowly drilled at the dentist. Shopping is a fun, social activity which happens much less frequently. You can easily tell the difference by our moods when we return home. Are we frazzled, tired, and mumbling about playing beat the clock? Then we were out doing errands. Do we come back happy, refreshed and downright easy to be around? Then we’ve been out pleasure shopping.   The other way to illustrate this to the men in our lives is to invite them to join us for a round of errands. It will likely be the last time they accept the offer.

Like clockwork, we R.W.’s head out to do all of the things we don’t have time for during our work hours, and we try valiantly to fit them all in within as short a time frame as possible. This is such a common practice that if you’ve lived in the same town for any period of time, you will invariably see other R.W.’s out and about who you know – neighbors, friends, associates. Because we are all out doing the same thing. No matter whether it is the drug store, post office, pet supply store, hardware store, grocery store, discount department store or bank, at any location we are likely to see a couple of women pausing to have a conversation and catch up after running into each other.   A few years ago, I had my son with me running errands, and in the aisle of the drug store we stopped to chat with my good friend and neighbor. As we walked away, my son asked “why do we always see her everywhere?” and I replied: “Because We Live The Same Life.”   Ever since then, anytime we are in the same place at the same time (it happened twice today), we say to each other “WLTSL”.

Those of you R.W.’s who live in temperate climates do miss out on one phenomenon that takes the common errand day to a whole new level: the day before a winter storm. Even though we live in modern day, with highly effective snow removal equipment, and experienced power crews, if the forecast calls for a substantial amount of snow, the world erupts with people running every conceivable errand possible before being “snowed in.”   On those days, our Real Women stomping grounds are infiltrated by those who normally would not be out and about: senior citizens, young frightened couples, bored children, and men who have been sent out with a list and a prayer.

The result is a bit of madness, and a lesson in patience. Today was such a day. With the forecasters promising anywhere from 8 – 15 inches more of the white stuff over the next couple of days, the roads and stores were packed with people. I had to venture out for my usual round of errands. It didn’t matter whether tomorrow was 8 degrees and snowing or 80 degrees and sunny, I would be out today, along with the usual other R.W.’s, doing the exact same errands. Not so with all the “extra” folks. One element of a day like today that will test everyone’s patience is lines.   Lines everywhere. Lines of traffic, and lines of people. At every stop. I’m truly not sure what the correlation is between getting a package mailed or a prescription picked up before the snow starts, but there were lines of people waiting to do so.

And then, the pièce de résistance: the grocery store. I dread going to the grocery store on any normal day. Today, I knew it would be a whole new level of drudgery.   Sure enough, the parking lot was full, cars and people splashing through snow and slush to find an available cold wet cart to push around the store with what seemed like hundreds of other people. I was proud of myself, I kept my mood light as I wound my way around the store, dodging other carts, waiting to get around others to grab what I needed from the shelves. I was proud of the managers who had clearly planned ahead and had everything well-stocked. (Although once again I marveled at how milk is always the first item cleaned out). I was even in aisle 13 before my first hot flash hit, so that was a bonus.

Then of course came the worst part. Checking out. Moving up to the front of the store was like being a salmon attempting to leap up stream. It was a veritable sea of humanity, everyone now sweating in their heavy winter coats and boots, trying to jockey for the shortest line, of which there was none. As we all waited, various conversations popped up. Two elderly gentlemen marveled at how full my cart was. A mature woman ahead of me in line asked who would be helping me bring it all in at home. Other conversations sprouted up, about the storm, about certain in-store sales, about celebrity gossip on the magazines staring at us from the end-caps, and about the contents in our carts.   We were strangers all connected by the same circumstances, all in this together.

When it was finally my turn at the conveyor belt, I felt my mood plummet when I realized the cashier was Betty. God love her, Betty moves at only one speed: slow and methodical. At one point, when Betty paused part way through my order to slowly unwrap a hard candy for herself, I turned to the R.W. behind me and took deep breaths and said “patience, patience.” She smiled and said “I get it.”   Because she does. We were in it together. At one point, Betty, who was now 15 minutes past her break time, handed me her “closed” sign and asked if there was anyone in line after the woman behind me. I looked back and said, “well, yes, there’s a line that extends all the way back to produce. But I’m not sure they are all waiting for you, just any line to get out.”

Thirty minutes after getting in line, I emerged sweaty but triumphant on the other end, and hightailed it to my car. Of course I still had another stop to make before I could head home, but my errands were nearing the end for the day. I glanced at the clock. Another mental game we R.W.’s play is to try to estimate how long our duties will take us. Every time, reality adds at least an hour. Happily, I did make it home before dark, and before the storm started.

After getting everything put away, and getting changed into my comfy clothes, I of course thought of two or three other things I could have/should have accomplished while out and about. With a sigh, I jotted them down on a note for next time. After all, as certain as it is that tomorrow is another day, as certain as it is that a storm of some sort will arrive, I will again venture forth with my fellow R.W.’s for a round of errands….after we shovel out.

 

 

Paralysis or Puppies

pupppyThis morning the highlights on the national news included a train wreck in New York, a plane crash in Taiwan, a horrific death at the hands of Isis, and more brutal cold and snow for much of the country. Within five minutes, I was reminded that all over the world, very real people are experiencing very unreal, devastating circumstances.

I’m pretty certain that I speak for many Real Women when I say that news like this sends me into a moment of what I call mental and emotional paralysis. Like rapid phases of grief, we quickly ran through a host of feelings and thoughts. First of course come the waves of sadness, shock, horror, and fear. Especially when we hear of the brutality and incomprehensible evil at the hands of terrorists, we are frozen not knowing quite how to react or even comprehend what we are hearing. Next comes the feeling of thankfulness for what we have in our lives – our safety, our homes, our loved ones, our health. And finally, surprisingly: guilt. I found myself thinking “Really? Was I just grumbling about trying to figure out what to wear to work? What do I have to complain about? Why is it that I deserve to live such a comfortable happy life when so many others are suffering?”   At some point, we are brought back to our current reality. We find ourselves sitting on the edge of the bed, the dog staring at us, our socks still gripped in our hands and not on our feet, and we have to work our way out of that paralysis and figure out how to go about our day.

I remember in the days following 9/11, I was, like all of America, glued to the news, crying, trying to wrap my mind around what had happened. I remember also holding my then 17-month old son in my arms, thankful that he was too young to understand what was happening, knowing our lives would never be the same, and fearing about what kind of world he was coming in to. Now my son is old enough to have very honest conversations about world events, as we both grapple over the meaning behind many of them.

Yes, there are horrible and scary things happening out there. Yet when we stop to consider what the generations before us went through, perhaps we can take some comfort in the strength of humanity to continue. Our relatives and ancestors dealt with multiple wars, economic depressions, frighteningly powerful dictators, and catastrophic plagues. There is no doubt in my mind that they were just as, or even more, terrified as we are by certain events. In those days, life-changing events had more far reaching effects. They didn’t just hear an update about a war on TV, then head off to their usual routines. They were all part of the war effort. They didn’t just hear about a stock decline and make a note to call their Accountant. They got in soup lines. But they still sought out happiness and enjoyment in life wherever they could.

As always, we can learn lessons from our previous generations. Rather than become immersed in fear or guilt, we can take action. We can volunteer to help others, donate to relief efforts, even do something as simple as give someone who’s hurting a hug. We can remember and honor those who have suffered by continuing to live our lives.

Ok, sure, sounds good. But when we start our day with such depressing and scary news, how do we shake off our paralysis and not spend the rest of the day in the dumps? Any way we can. By sharing a laugh with friends, or appreciating a sunny day, or cranking a favorite song on the way to work. One of the accounts I follow on Twitter is “Cute Emergency.” Their sole purpose is to quite prolifically tweet out pictures of insanely cute puppies, kittens, or any other appropriately adorable animals. It is hard to swipe through a dozen or so images of puppy faces and not experience a mood boost.

Our Minister at my church often gives us a send off that resonates with me every time: Life is short. We don’t have much time to gladden the hearts of others. So be swift to love, and make haste to be kind. I cling to those words and try to carry them with me.

So, we have choices to make. We can become paralyzed by the news that surrounds us, or we can enjoy every moment of the lives we have and try to make a difference in the lives of others. And make sure to take in a daily dose of puppy faces.

 

 

 

 

A Little Glam, A Bit of Escape

pretty womanIt is award show season — that time of year when celebrities get together to try to out-shine each other and get bestowed upon with accolades and statues. I like to tune in to some of these shows to see the gowns and tuxedos and listen to them talk about their roles and accomplishments. After all, a national R.W. past-time is to review and critique celebrities on the red carpet, and discuss who looks fabulous and who looks “terrible.” I’m particularly amused by the question “who are you wearing?” and the discussion that ensues around the designer gowns, shoes, and jewelry. My BFF’s and I like play this same game, and respond with “I’m wearing Target, Dress Barn and Kohl’s.”

Speaking of designer shoes, the other day I was flipping through Self magazine and there was a layout showing some lovely strappy high-heel sandals.   The prices for them ranged from $735 to $1020. I asked out loud to no one in particular, “who spends $1000 on a pair of shoes!?” Keep in mind I am a shoe fanatic. Yet I firmly believe that even if I had that kind of disposable income, I couldn’t bring myself to spend it on one pair of sandals. In watching the red carpet however, I realize that any of those gowned women would likely purchase those shoes. But am I to believe that they read Self? Does JLo really sit down in her sweats and fuzzy socks and look through this magazine (of which she happens to be on the cover and in the feature article) for tips on how to better herself? I doubt it. So if not her, then what readers do the editors really think will see that shoe spread and say “oh, I have to get me some of those”?

But I digress….Each year, awards are given out for movies that I have not seen and in many cases have not even heard of. Every time, I wonder if I live under a rock, and make a promise to myself to see at least the top award-winners. This promise is rarely completed. I may see one or two if I’m lucky, usually experiencing them far after the general population’s excitement over them has passed.

This is not due to lack of desire. I very much enjoy watching movies. I am drawn in by the cinematography, the costuming, the story lines, the music, the characters; all of the parts that make for a good film. For some reason, I just seem to lack the free time to devote to 2+ hours of escapism on a regular basis. And when I do finally carve out that time, I’m going to go for the type of movie I know I’m going to enjoy, rather than live life on the edge and try something completely out of my preferred genre.

We each have a “type” of movie, or even TV show, that we most prefer. Of the R.W.’s in my life, I can think of one who loves old movies, one who is fascinated by forensic investigative stories, one who wants gory thrillers, and another one who wants to watch end-of-the-world zombie apocalypses. There is a genre for everyone. Ever wonder who watches those formulaic, romantic, unrealistic fluff Chick Flicks?   Me. Yup, I admit it. Go ahead, roll your eyes. I know that Chick Flicks all pretty much follow the same plot and formula, in a very predictable format, but I love them all.

Last weekend, a couple of my BFFs came over to visit and have some afternoon downtime. We decided to watch a movie, and rather than default to Netflix, I browsed my own DVD collection for a few options. Within 5 minutes I had an armload of over a dozen Chick Flicks. I placed them on the table, my husband glanced at them, and I said “it’s a sickness.”

The funny thing is that when it comes to our favorites, we will watch certain movies over and over again. My husband for example has watched The GodFather, Deer Hunter and Slingblade dozens of times. Conversely, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched You’ve Got Mail, While You Were Sleeping, and Pretty Woman. If our beloved movies come on TV, we can’t help but pause and watch, again and again.  There are plenty of movies I’ve seen outside of my preferred type, and many have been excellent. But I have no desire to see them again; in my mind, they are one and done. I will not be committing every detail to memory through multiple viewings like I have with, for example, Sleepless in Seattle.

I think our taste in movies says a little bit about ourselves. I don’t expect my fellow R.W.’s to desperately want to live in the black & white 50’s, see the world taken over by zombies, or watch a bad guy’s head get chopped off in real life…but their entertainment preferences may mean they enjoy history, have analytical minds, are thrill seekers, or like to solve complex problems. Does my penchant for Chick Flicks mean I’m a hopeless romantic? Maybe yes, maybe no…but I’m pretty sure it does mean I like happy endings in life.

So bring on the parade of stars and award shows. For without them, we wouldn’t have these other worlds for our escape, characters to fall in love with, and complex plots to interpret.   They give us outlets for our imaginations and our emotions, and help us travel to other lands and meet new people without leaving our comfy seats. What’s not to love about that?   During the next Award Show, I think I’ll take notes of movies worth watching for future reference. If I’m really lucky, there will be a new romantic comedy to add to my collection.

And if nothing really appeals to me, then I’ll just refocus my attention and try to figure out who’s wearing those $1000 shoes.

 

Our Battle for Control

juke faceReal Women like to be in control. Come on ladies, it is ok to admit it. After all, this doesn’t come as a surprise to the men in our lives.

Sure, there are a few of us out there who thrive on chaos and spontaneity, those who flow through life seemingly directed by whichever way the wind blows. But for the majority of the rest of us, we like to play it a bit safer. We are in our comfort zones when we can feel in control of our surroundings, our actions, our activities, even the people in our lives.

We like it when our environments are organized in a way that makes sense to us, with everything in its place. We like to keep track the activities of our family members, and take care of our loved ones the way we know best. We want everything to follow a certain schedule or have everything go “according to plan”, which really is our plan. We strive to control how we look, how we act, and even have the silly notion that we can control our emotions. (How’s that working for ya?)

Yes, we like to have fun and go wild and crazy from time to time, but really when it comes down to it, we like our routines. We like it when we have a smooth morning, get everyone off to school and arrive to work on time and wearing matching socks. We like it when our kitchen is cleaned up and the dishes are done. We feel in control when the kids are settled in to bed and we can have a few minutes to ourselves. When our personal planets are aligned, we are happy campers.

But life happens. We get pushed out of our comfort zones by things we have no control over. Deadlines move. Illness strikes. Basements flood. Cars break down. Jobs change. The weather turns ugly. Someone needs our help.   In the blink of an eye, we have lost a bit of our control and our routines are uprooted. Our lovely little plans are thrown out the window.

No one understands and relies upon routines more than a pet dog. These creatures live by daily expectations of meal time, activity time, when the humans come and go, and who will give them care and love. It’s simple, and for them, it works.

This past weekend, I headed out for a walk with my yellow Lab. After all, in his eyes, if mom is home in the afternoon, then we go for a walk. It’s just what we do. On this particular day, however, we humans in the family had some place we had to be at a certain time. My day had gotten away from me (due to the usual chores and playing a game of “beat the clock” to see how much I could fit in to a Saturday). This meant that I had limited time for our walk. We would not be able to complete our usual loop.

About a third of the way around our usual path, after my pup had stopped to investigate one of his favorite bushes, I attempted to turn around to head home. And got nowhere. My furry son at the other end of the leash had put his brakes on. He literally had stopped in the road, braced his 90-pound frame on all four feet, and was pulling towards the opposite direction. I could practically hear his thoughts “Nope, that’s not right. We go this way. Always. Remember? I have things to sniff and pee on in that direction. We can’t go back yet.” No pulling or cajoling was working in my favor. I started to feel my stress level rise, as I mentally calculated how quickly we could possibly continue around the full loop, how much time I could shave off my own preparations to go out, and knew there was no way I could do it in time. I knew one option would be that I could turn into Nasty Dog Owner and yell and haul on him with all my strength, but it really wasn’t his fault. I was disrupting his beloved routine. Instead, I found myself standing in the middle of an intersection, bent over, face to face in a discussion with my dog. I did my best to explain and rationalize, promising a longer walk next time. Of course I was pretending he could understand every word I said, rather than the likely reality that he was only hearing the same noise made by the adults in old Peanuts cartoons. I stroked his big goofy head and told him that mommy was sorry, but we just had to go home. Finally, with a few more tugs on the leash, he padded back up the road we had already travelled. Within minutes, he was back to his perky ears-up-happy-to-live-a-dog’s-world pace, watching for squirrels and sniffing random objects.

Our short struggle made me think about how we all handle interruptions in our routines. Every day we plan to head a certain direction on our well-travelled roads. We are in our content, controlled environments, ready for our expected outcomes. Then in a flash, a quick moment, plans change and we have to put on our brakes and consider other alternatives. We can refuse to budge, we can complain, we can have a stress meltdown…. Or, we can adjust and carry on.

Relaxing our hold on our imagined control means being uncomfortable, perhaps frustrated, worried, or anxious. We R.W’s don’t always take kindly to having to release our grip on our plans. Yet each time we do it, we seem to come out ok on the other end.

And just maybe, if we are lucky, we find new exciting smells and more squirrels to chase along the way.