The Other Stages

sunsetstagesAt the risk of sounding like a Debbie Downer and having many of you avoid reading this full post (but I hope you will hang in here with me), I’m going to state the obvious: Death, rather unfortunately, is an inevitable part of life. No matter how you slice it, it is going to happen. None of us will live forever.  But we all want to live as long as possible, and even more so, we want those we love to live for as long as possible right alongside us.

This past month, I’ve experienced a double-whammy of loss.  My oldest brother, after a long history of health issues, passed away. Nine days later, we were forced to help our beloved fur-son, our dog, cross the Rainbow Bridge.  We’ve all heard about, and likely experienced, the “official” stages of grief that envelope us after the death of a loved one. No matter the relationship, at least some of those stages are going to hit us – shock, pain, anger, depression… These losses in my life were not the first, and I’ve felt these pains before.  What was different this time is that for both, I was the main point of contact, or the main caregiver.   Post-life-first-responder, if you will.  And I now realize there are other stages to grief that many of us R.W.’s will at some point in our lives have to work through if we haven’t already. And we may not expect them.

  1. Immediate Decision Making.Whether we are present at the time of the passing or not, after we’ve had our moments of saying good bye, we must somehow pull ourselves together enough to make some decisions. Calling immediate family, reaching out to a Funeral Home, determining what is to happen with the body, calling out of work – all things that need to happen within minutes or hours of the event, while our heart is split into pieces.  This is the time to take that Wonder Woman cape out of the closet and put it on – except this time it is black, and we really don’t want to wear it.
  2. Zombie mode.  After the initial burst of activity, we reach a brief stage where there’s nothing really to do. We are attempting to get our head around what just happened, get a grip on our emotions and deal with total exhaustion because we have just entered Weird and Dark World. We become a zombie – not the kind that comes back from the dead, but the ones left behind because of the dead.  We put one foot in front of the other in a cloudy fog and keep plodding along.
  3. Second-guessing.  Also known as the Guilt stage of grief. No matter how logical we are, no matter how many times we’ve been told we “did all we could do”, the guilt and second-guessing seeps in.   We are women. It is natural to relive every moment of the last few weeks/days/minutes of a loved one’s life and worry about whether we could have done more, said more, comforted more, ya da ya da ya da. Only time and re-assurance will help that stuff fade.
  4. Kicking Into Action.  When that very brief lull of “what now” is over, we take on yet another second/third/fourth job – that of preparing for whatever appropriate ceremony is needed. No matter what our culture or beliefs dictate, there will be an event to help everyone say goodbye and formally send the loved one on their way. What I realized is this is actually kind of similar to planning a wedding or birthday celebration; except it isn’t for a happy reason, balloons are replaced with lilies, and it all has to be done in days or weeks instead of months. There’s the venue, the program, the invitations/notifications, décor, photos to find, budgets to handle, travel arrangements, etc. Much to be done in a short amount of time. And guess what, this all happens while we are attempting to carry on with some semblance of our regular life. Yeah, that black cape is still tied on.

And here’s where I interrupt my list for an important PSA: Please, we all need to promise that we will take time now, while we are healthy and aware, to leave instructions for the future. Yes, having a Will or Estate plan is vital. But I’m talking about the other, more personal stuff.  My brother kindly left instructions about what he wanted for his funeral, which made that part of my life much easier, and made me feel better that I was doing what he wanted. In the Netflix series The Kominsky Method, a celebrity wife leaves her very specific funeral wishes for her husband, including instructions to find a casket made out of driftwood and having Barbara Streisand sing at the Service. Our wishes will likely not be that extravagant. But got a favorite song to be played?  Want your ashes sprinkled in the ocean?  Got a piece of jewelry to go to a favorite niece?  Whatever it is, no matter how small, those who are left behind will appreciate the guidance, and it will avoid arguments and even more grief. Even if you think you are a grumpy, unlovable old sot, someone is going to care and is going to feel lost and zombie-like. Help them out.  Oh, and make sure someone in your life knows where all your passwords are listed.

Now, where was I…. oh, yes:

  1. Overwhelming gratitude. I know, this sounds weird.  But the love and support and assistance from everyone in our lives, and the lives of the one who has passed, can be mind-blowing and incredibly comforting.  Soak it in. And all of those people who are offering to help in some way really mean it.  We’ve all been in that place before, wanting to help but not knowing quite how.  Even if it is something small like running a quick errand, take advantage of those who want to do their part to help through the journey.  Then thank them profusely.
  2. Phantom limbs. It is said that individuals who have had an amputation experience phantom sensations in the missing limb, most of which are painful. Thankfully I’ve never experienced a physical amputation, but the death of a loved one seems to me to be pretty close. We expect to be able to visit them, expect the dog to greet us at the door, expect to get the loved one’s phone calls, and we automatically think of things to tell them or to do for them…especially if we have been a primary caregiver.  We may even “see” them as if our hearts and eyes are playing mind tricks on us.  I believe this is the most painful part of the whole process, and the one that lingers the longest.  We just plain miss them, and it hurts.
  3. Finding a new normal.There’s no good word for this. The “official” name is acceptance, but I’m not sure that is accurate. We never get “over” the loss. The mourning never ends.  As a matter of fact, it has a nasty way of sneaking up behind us when we least expect it, and wacks us in the back of the head. We don’t go back to normal, because our lives are forever changed – instead we have to adapt to a new normal.  Eventually, however, bit by bit, the zombie mode fades and the pain starts to ease. We start to laugh again, and we find joy in living, even without our loved one – because it is what they’d want us to do.

Best of all at some point all those memories start to bring smiles instead of tears. At that point, we know we’ve survived every stage.

 

Posted in celebrations, communication, death, family, friends, Health, life phases, love, preparation, real women, Relationships, Seasons, self care, skills, stress, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dinner Not Served

The other evening, after sorting some mail and opening a couple of packages that had arrived, I needed to clear off my counters so I could make dinner. I scooped up the mess and moved it all to the most logical place: the dining table. Ah, yes, that horizontal surface that serves as a landing platform for a myriad of things that need a temporary home until our energy and desire prompts us to find more permanent item storage. Or, until we need to use that surface for something else like school craft projects, home repairs, wrapping gifts, or cooling baked goods.  Oh, yeah, and once in a while, for dining.

Clearly times have changed since large families gathered for daily, or regular, formal dinners in the Dining Room.  For those of us who are fans of Downton Abbey, we can’t wait for the movie to come out so we can enjoy great scenes like watching the family dynamics around a ginormous and lavishly laid out dinner table, with diners dressing for dinner and waitstaff serving food and beverage. These days, most families eat in shifts, dishing up their own food, hopefully pausing to sit together around a small kitchen table or in front of the tv.  Some don’t even have dining rooms. And we are lucky if we can get all family members to abide by simple rules like no hats, please wear shirts, and put your phones down.

I remember in my youth, the dining table was used for guests, parties and holidays. Living in an old farm house with a big family, our kitchen table was a big wood round behemoth that allowed for fairly large gatherings. But any time mom and dad decided we needed to kick it up a notch, we moved into the dining room.  Candles came out, fancier serving ware was used, and Mom and Dad ALWAYS sat at the heads of the table. We had our prescribed places, a carry-over from the more formal seating layouts of my grandparent’s day: guest of honor to Dad’s right, the rest of us alternating boy-girl and by age.  There was a swinging door between the kitchen and the dining room, allowing for the mess of the kitchen to be blocked out.

In our house today, 90% of meals are eaten at our kitchen table, which has space for four people, with possibly a fifth wedged in on the corner. There may or may not be placemats, there is likely a variety of styles of silverware, hopefully napkins available in the holder in the center, and depending on the meal, we could be eating off of paper, plastic, or china plates.  You can’t beat the convenience of being 3 steps away from the fridge and 6 steps from the stove and oven.  Which is good because if we have all four seats taken, that means there is likely not enough room on the table for serving dishes, so I serve up the food from the stove and countertops.  The TV is usually on.

Pretty much the only time we eat in the dining room is if we have more than four or five of us. That table comfortably seats six, with space to wedge in up to 8.  For big crowds, we use the kitchen table for overflow. Remember eating at the kid’s table? Same concept.  I enjoy using the dining table for what it was originally designed.  It means that we have guests visiting — friends, extended family, or co-workers. Conversations are animated and interactive because the TV is in the other room. People tend to linger a bit longer after the meal is through, not because the chairs are comfy (they aren’t, really), but because we are all facing each other, having conversations, have space to breathe, and the dirty dishes and mess can be moved into the kitchen and ignored a bit longer.

Between those events, however, the dining table acts a bit like the Island of Bizarre Collections. At this very moment, in place of a lovely table cloth and pretty place settings, the table is home for some extra bowls and Tupperware, a clock in need of hanging, a décor craft waiting to be completed, manuals and mechanical parts for my husband’s business, an empty hummingbird feeder, cleaning supplies and a box of Ziploc bags (I don’t know why).   On the chairs, rather than guests, are coats that were left there rather than hung in the closet and work bags left in the seats.

This weekend when I go into white tornado mode and clean the house, I will dutifully clear the decks and find the top of that table. I may even spruce it up with a vase of flowers. It will only be a matter of time before it is covered again.  Which is just as well, because soon it will be void of diners for another reason: good weather.  When we aren’t eating at the kitchen table, we will likely be out on the patio or pool side.

Yes, times have changed, but I’m not sad about the shift.  Because even if our fancy dinners are at a minimum, that table holds nearly 20 years of memories including Easter egg coloring with the kids, a platform for the tripod to take family photos, a place to pile Christmas gifts after opening, a surface to hold the cage of a hamster or fish in need of babysitting, a serving area for party foods, the creation of elementary and middle school project posters and sculptures, jewelry exchanges between girlfriends, repairs of jukebox pinbanks, holiday cookie platter organizing, hours of board and card games, business discussions and plans, the work-from-home command center – and best of all, laughter, tears and stories shared at gatherings.

If that table could talk, the tales it could tell would rival anything juicy shared at a Downton dinner.

 

 

 

 

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Look Local

rabbitIt was a cool, rainy day. The dreariness cast a grey mood upon us all.   No, this isn’t the start to a mystery novel or a horror movie script.  It’s the description of the majority of days we’ve experienced in the northeast all spring.  It has been pretty darn ugly, and it is wearing us down.

On this particular dank morning, not unlike at least 40 others previous, I went about my business of getting ready for work and seeing my son and husband off for the day.  I caught snippets of national and world news from the tv and my social feeds.  Like the weather, everything I heard was depressing.  Shootings, environmental crises, plastic in our oceans, endangered species, tariffs, threats of terrorism, war and spying, poverty, illness, political back-stabbing and lies – and lots of anger and frustration. My Pollyanna-Little-Mary-Sunshine fuel tank was headed towards empty in a hurry.  The issues that confront us get so overwhelming, we start to feel defeated before we even step out the door, while at the same time we are racked with worry and guilt about not doing enough to make positive changes.  Of course, as typical RW’s, we carry around the world’s problems all while managing our own microcosm of family and friend needs, issues and challenges.

I looked out the window at the usual light rain and instead of marveling at how lushly green everything had become, I worried about weeding my gardens, and if it would ever be warm and safe enough to plant new annuals and perennials. Then I saw Mr. & Mrs. Bunster.  They are our two wild backyard brown rabbits who I have a hunch have taken up residence under our shed  (which yes I realize means we will have more in the Bunster family very soon).  They were ambling around eating clover, unconcerned about the deluge of bad news and indifferent to the rain.  Mr. Bunster paused and had a brief stare down with the grey squirrel who was on his way for his usual morning routine of trying to navigate up the pole to the bird feeder.  They chose to ignore each other and went on their ways.  Peacefully.  Watching the Bunsters gave me enough of a boost to move on with my day.

Later in the morning, I headed back out (in my raincoat with hood up because many of us have given up on looking good outdoors) for a first consultation appointment with a new Primary Care Physician.  She was perky, friendly, intelligent and absolutely gorgeous.  I will try to not hold any of that against her. She seemed genuinely interested in getting to know me. On the way back to work, I made two other brief stops. First at the bank, where a new Associate (I could tell she was new because of the festive welcome banner her co-workers had strung across her counter) introduced herself to me, told me how happy she was to be at that branch, and wanted to know my name. You know, all the things an ATM doesn’t do.  I was feeling better and the rain was letting up as I made my second stop at a café to pick up some lunch to take back to the office.  I walked in and saw a friend who was there having coffee with another friend. Cozy, relaxed, friendly.

I realized that when we get too absorbed by the big picture, we forget to appreciate the smaller picture. We’ve all heard about Shop Local initiatives, but I think we also need to take the time to Look Local, and Interact Local.  It’s ok to occasionally stop worrying about world events and realize that there are nice, friendly, kind, caring people right in front of us.  We can seek comfort at home, in our town, at work, in our backyards.  As tempting as it is, we can’t stick our heads in the ground and ignore all the scary stuff for the rest of our lives, but there’s no rule that says we can’t take sanity breaks.  When we need it most, there will be someone to smile at us, show interest in what we have to say, or share a laugh or a hug.  And there will be bunnies hopping by to remind us that in our little world, for that moment, everything is just fine and beautiful.

Even more amazing, the sun will come out again.  At some point.  Maybe even tomorrow.

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Posted in beauty, celebrations, family, friends, Health, Helping others, home, life phases, love, moods, Seasons, simplifying, social media, Uncategorized, weather, work, World news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Visibly Invisible

green bowlIn true DIY fashion, for the past few weeks my husband has been doing a refresh of our kitchen. He scraped and repainted the popcorn ceiling (not a project for the faint of heart – messy and no fun for him, and even with tarps used, it still took me two days to clean the fine white powder off every surface in the house), and he has painted the walls and all of the trim. Nearly done, and it looks great.

This morning as I was emptying and rinsing the old ugly plastic bowl for recyclables that lives on my counter, I suddenly realized:  hey, I could be wild and crazy and get something else that actually matches the kitchen and looks nice on the counter!   More than 10 years ago at least, I tossed that green plastic container on the counter to collect recyclables that could then be taken out to the garage and sorted on a daily basis.  It was a bowl I happened to have on hand at the time, was durable and cleanable, so voila! There it has lived on the counter ever since. Something we look at every day, yet it had become invisible.  It in no way matches my sunny yellow-blue-and-white kitchen.  It is in no way attractive. I could have replaced it long ago, yet it apparently took a major surrounding beautification project for me to even notice it.

So this has gotten me thinking about what other things in our lives have become virtually invisible yet are in front of us every day, and could really use some attention.  Maybe it is a burned out light bulb in the bathroom and you’ve gotten used to the slightly dim cast.  Or it could be a pair of pants with a torn hem, that have been pushed to the back of the closet.  Or my favorite, that invisible jar of pickles, salsa or dressing in the fridge that expired 6 months ago.

Even my gym bag is a good example. It actually isn’t a gym bag. It is a ratty old fabric tote bag that about 100 years ago I got as a gift-with-purchase and because it was there, I started using it for carrying around my workout clothes.  I think about replacing it every time I pick it up. Then promptly forget about it as soon as it once again becomes invisible in the corner of the bedroom between uses. No one else would ever give a damn what I carry my workout stuff in, but I hate that bag. It is ugly and too small. And yet – I continue to use it because I apparently can’t be bothered to shop for a real bag.  Or, more likely, it disappears from my view and my thoughts.

I have a strip of “garden” between my front porch and the driveway.  It is an odd area that gets little sun, and lots of snow pile abuse. Ages ago, I had the brilliant idea to plant ivy and pachysandra, thinking it would become a lovely green lush ground cover.  Each year, I have believed “it will fill in more next year.”  15 years later, it is still scraggly.   And, you guessed it, it has become visibly invisible.  I only notice it when the ivy is trying to creep up the wall of the house or out into the driveway, and will give it a hair cut. Otherwise, it is a largely ignored space.  My stepson, who does landscaping part-time, gently mentioned to me recently that the area could probably look better with something else in there.  Clearly it is quite visible to him.  Around the corner from my scraggly ivy patch was an equally scruffy Speria bush that I asked him to help me remove.  I came home from work one day to see the bush gone, leaving a lovely clear ready-to-be-beautified patch of dirt.  I was shocked how good the empty space looked.  Suddenly that invisible ivy patch is as noticeable to me as a neon sign.   It’s gotta go.  I’m planning to tackle it this weekend, and am now researching better shade-loving perennial options that will be lovely and visible.

Understandably, many of our invisibles stop being noticed simply because they would require time, energy and money to change, all three of which are in short supply for any R.W.  Visibly invisible items are some of the lowest on our priority lists.  We have either chosen to ignore them, or are somehow intimidated by them (like my ivy weed patch), or are just so busy taking care of everything else, we just learn to live with things like ugly counter buckets.  I do want to point out, however, that the invisibles in a woman’s life are different then in a man’s life.  Nearly anything and everything that leaves a man’s hand can, and does, become invisible. Dirty socks on the floor, junk mail on the table, tools left on the counter, dishes in the sink – all invisible to the male eye.  Perhaps we RW’s are so busy seeing and taking care of their invisibles that we just gloss over our own.

Until, finally, for some reason something has become so noticeable we decide to take action, and it can be pretty darn exciting.  I’m giddy thinking about a trip to Home Goods for a new recyclables bin.

 

 

Posted in achievements, Chores, cleaning, convenience, DIY, family, home, home chores, housework, men, preparation, routines, skills, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One of Many Firsts

calendarI started my day today feeling a bit off, a little sad.  After all, it was the first holiday, the first Easter, since my older brother passed.  I woke up keenly aware that today there was no Easter basket for him containing white chocolate, a wind-up toy for his collection, and his preferred style of polo shirt. There would be no silly Easter puns, no special requests for dinner, and no traditional family egg-cracking contest.  Ironically, so many of the things that used to run me ragged and annoy me, I now miss.

That’s the thing about loss that we all experience.  There will always be holidays, events, and moments that are “the first since.”  How we handle those “first since” days is a total unknown until they are upon us.  We need to be ready that some of them will be downright miserable. We will be sad, mad, anti-social, and will only want the day to be over.  But then others will be ok, possibly even good – maybe even happy.  We need to believe that wherever we land is ok.  It is what it is.

Any of us who have people in our lives who are going through their “first since” days (and I know a few) need to try to be supportive and understanding. Offer to be with her, but don’t be offended if she just wants to be alone.  Let’s face it, our moods and coping mechanisms during grief are a crapshoot at best. Grief is like an alien being that tries really hard every day to take control of our bodies, our minds, our hearts, and our energy. Some days we are better at beating back that alien, other days we are just too darn tired and we let the alien take the wheel.

For me today ended up being ok – even good. Sure, there were some tears off and on, but the church service this morning was lovely, and the small kiddos in their Easter dresses and bow ties and suspenders were adorable.  The weather cleared enough in the afternoon for me to get in some quiet therapeutic time in my gardens and out on a bike ride. I spent time doing some college planning with my son.  Since this was a planned casual at-home holiday, we decided to hold off and have dinner a bit late, so my stepson who flew into town this evening from a work trip could join us. As expected, he regaled us with stories, because he’s just one of those guys who always has tall tales to tell.  I decided on the menu myself – ham with baked apples, twice-baked potatoes, green beans, cheddar biscuits, and blueberry cream pie for dessert.  Comfort food all the way.  My brother would have been ok with the selection, although he would have preferred mashed potatoes and beets.

It was not like any past Easter.  And that’s the other thing about “first since” days.  They mark the beginning of how things will never be the same, and we have to start navigating through our journey of what to do now.  How to feel, how to act, even what to eat.  Not an easy task, but we can manage. Because we have to.

The most important thing to remember is that no matter whether it is the First Since, or the 20thSince, our loved ones want us to carry on, want us to be happy. They would want us to celebrate the time we had with them and to share memories of them, but to continue to live our lives. Even if it feels a bit awkward at first, and even when we can’t help but have moments when we are focused on their absence. I know for a fact that my brother looked down upon me today and was disappointed that I hadn’t done any colored eggs this year.  My heart just wasn’t in it.  But I think by next year, I’ll be ok with it, and I will re-introduce his beloved egg cracking contest in his honor.

Because as we wade through the First, Second, or Tenth Since, it’s nice to sprinkle in some traditions to make them feel just a bit closer on the tougher days.

 

 

Posted in adults, birthdays, disabilities, celebrations, death, family, Food, Holidays, love, meals, moods, preparation, routines, Seasons, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quit My Bellyaching

Lunch bagI have a love-hate relationship with lunch.   I love to eat.  It is the what & how of it that I hate.  The deciding on what, and the prep of whatever it is, feels like drudgery to me.  Yeah, I know, wah wah, first world problems.  Even worse, I have a fully equipped kitchen at work, so there’s nothing to prevent me (aside from time, energy and desire) to make myself a real meal.  Yet I routinely fall back on my usuals, alternating between salad (the big ugh of morning prep), and “diet” freezer meals… you know, the ones that proclaim to be low in calorie, yet are loaded with sodium, and all end up pretty much tasting the same after being microwaved.  OR, devoid of any other good ideas, I might grab some carrot sticks and pre-made hummus, throw together some cheater chicken and lettuce in a tortilla shell and call it a wrap. You see why I’m bored.

The other morning I was rummaging around in my freezer trying to select my boxed fare du jour, considering if instead I should put some rotisserie chicken pieces (prepared by the grocery store) on a pre-cut bag salad, and I thought about how sad it is that I complain not only about the options I have, but about the convenience.  Oh, geez, I’m going to have to go to the kitchen, follow simple instructions, and wait 7 minutes until my hot meal is ready.  Or warm up some chicken someone else roasted for me.  What a chore.

We are surrounded by prepared foods and time-and-energy-cutting ingredients.  A few weeks ago when my hubby and I were out of town, but our 18-year old stayed home, I prepped some items to make his fairly basic meal cooking skills easier. I actually bought a packet of pre-cooked bacon.  10-seconds in the microwave, and it actually tastes not horrible. I could see, hear and feel my mother (God rest her soul) shaking her head aghast at not only the craziness of the pre-cooked and packaged item, but at the cost to have that convenience.

I thought about what mom would have done years ago when she was tight on time or energy but needed to make a meal happen. Mom did not work outside the home, but she was a busy lady. She took care of a big old farm house with three acres of land, four kids, a working and traveling hubby, and a big messy dog (along with various other animals at some points in our history). She also did volunteer work. So I’m quite sure there were nights when she had to come up with something quick to feed her herd. But of course in those days there were no already prepped by someone else, pre-cut ingredients. The only prepared frozen meals came along later – they were “TV Dinners”, and still needed to be heated in the oven. There was of course no microwave. As for our lunches we took to school, they were almost always a sandwich (Fluffernutters for me) or a combination of foods that could survive not being refrigerated and didn’t need heating. All made by mom.

There are very few fast “cheater” meals I remember from my youth. On the occasions mom and dad would be going out in the evening, before the babysitter came over mom would make what became a beloved combination of creamed corn and pieces of hotdog. It took probably less than 5 minutes to make. And sometimes on a weekend, Dad would make pancakes for supper which we all thought was fascinating and fun. But that’s about it. I guess if mom needed something quick, she would pull out a meal she’d had the foresight and time to have made previously and frozen – although it still needed to be thawed, and cooked by stove or oven. No quick zap in the nuker. And I don’t know about you other RW’s out there, but I’m happy if I can manage to make one dinner meal a day, let alone extras to store in the freezer to make my life easier in the future. As great an idea as that is, it just isn’t going to happen.

What about the earlier generations? I wonder what my grandmother must have done when prep time, and desire, were limited. Granted, in those days, people of means often had a cook or housekeeper to assist, and it was that person’s job to make sure meals were ready. How lovely would that be today? It would be heavenly to have someone else do my grocery shopping, meal planning, and food prep. No such luck. And even back then, many could not afford this luxury… so what options did they have? Sandwiches? Left overs? Soup?   Things that had to be heated up on a heavy, slow to warm stove? I’m guessing “quick and easy” was not in their vocabulary regarding meals. Nor did they have the option to pick up the phone and within 30 minutes have someone deliver a meal to their doorstep.   I think if I came home after a long day, and had to figure out how to reheat some mutton chops after lighting my gas oven or getting a fire going in my pot-bellied stove, I’d decide to go hungry.   Just not worth the effort.

So the next time I dole out some pre-prepped food or open the door of the magic instant heating appliance to warm up leftovers in under 3 minutes, I will pause and think of the women who went before me…they toiled for hours to provide every meal for their family, rather than simply pushing a couple of buttons to make lunch happen. I will endeavor to stop my bellyaching about my food boredom and will be thankful that in our crazy, fast–paced world, I have the option of convenience.

Posted in Chores, convenience, DIY, family, Food, Health, home, home chores, meals, preparation, real women, routines, skills, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pondering the Lack of a Last Step

paper towel rollThere are some questions in life to which we will never really know, or understand, the answers.  We real women hate that.  We like to be in control, know why things happen, and have everything move smoothly.  We can learn to live with not knowing some of the big answers, like the meaning of life, the reason for loss, or why we’ll never be happy with our weight.  But it’s those little things that drive us batty. It would be easy to say the answers lie in a simple truth of sheer laziness. But I really don’t think that’s quite right. It seems to be more an inability to take just one more step.   Let’s look at a few examples.

  • The empty paper towel roll, and it’s cousin, the empty toilet paper roll. Someone used the last piece, the last square, pulling it free of the tube center.  And there it sits, in all of its cardboard nakedness, waiting to be noticed, which will happen when the next person comes along in desperate need of the squares that aren’t there.  Why was a new roll, which is stored nearby, not put into service right away?   No answer. Just a missed step.
  • A sink full of dishes. Not the pile that appears immediately following a big meal – there’s a reason for those. But what of the random bits that show up magically during the course of the day, gathering as if they are having a small dirty dish party?  There they hang out, celebrating the fact that for some reason they were not placed inside the dark depths of the dishwasher which is less than 24” away.  Are they being trained to jump into the washer by themselves?  History would show this is not a successful mission.  Next step abandoned.  Don’t know why.
  • A dropped item left where it fell. This could be anything from an item of dirty laundry dropped in the middle of a floor, an item knocked off a retail shelf, or food spilled in the microwave. It is like the item instantly becomes invisible to the dropper, or the effort to bend over and correct the issue seems insurmountable. Or maybe It is a scientific experiment to see if gravity could truly be reversed.  A misstep.nips1
  • Empty nip bottle litter. They are everywhere, scattered like plastic seeds that will never germinate, or left in a heap along the roadside. SO many unanswered questions here. Why are they there?  Are they all being tossed out a car window?  And by who?  Teens participating in underage partying?  Alcoholics hiding the evidence on the way home?  And why always
    nip sizes?  If one is going to drink 10 nips, wouldn’t buying a full size bottle be more economical?  And why is it almost always Fireball? And most irritating of all, why litter? Can’t the responsible person toss them into a paper bag in the back seat until they get near a trash can?   Epically failed step.
  • Abandoned shopping carts. Just this evening I pulled into a lot at a local market and sure enough, there’s an empty cart hanging out straddling the line between two parking spaces, just one row away from the cart return. Forlornly waiting for a gust of wind so it can gain its own power to go bumping into parked vehicles.  This annoys me almost as much as the discarded nips. The person who used that cart had likely just walked all the way around and through the store, then to their car. Were those last few steps just too much to make?  Quite literally, steps not taken.

We spend most of our time taking extra steps to pick up after others, to keep life rolling along the way we like it to roll.  And that’s the issue.  Some choose to follow a different course, move along a different path, and take different (or fewer) steps. We just need to let it go. If we can’t fix it of course.  My husband and I have a saying we use with each other:  “I’m not a control freak, but let me show you how to do that.”

I guess us non-control freaks should stop looking for answers where there aren’t any.   Or hoping for extra steps.

 

 

 

 

Posted in assisting, Chores, communication, convenience, family, Helping others, home, home chores, real women, Relationships, routines, self care, Style, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Waiting for Rosie

rosieWhen I was a young girl, I liked to watch reruns of The Jetsons with my brother.  At the time, the space-age futuristic inventions and contraptions fascinated me and seemed impossibly cool. I thought they could never happen. While I watched flying cars, a conveyor belt George rode on to get dressed in the morning, and Rosie, the robot maid, I thought life would be so much easier with these nifty innovations.

Now, of course, I marvel that the Hanna-Barbera team could have come up with those concepts back in the 60’s, and how close we are to having so many of them now in the 2000’s. But many of the new, real technologies aren’t giving me warm and fuzzy feelings.  As a matter of fact, lately I’ve been getting more jaded and frustrated with things that are supposed to make life easier.

s&s robotThere is a new robot at my local Stop & Shop supermarket.  It roams the aisles, beeping, apparently looking for spills and hazards in the aisles. It will supposedly eventually be upgraded to be able to check inventory and place orders for missing product, but it can’t do that yet.  I have no idea if it has a name.  My name for it is Useless.  The other day I rounded the corner to aisle 7 and there it was, stopped in the middle of the aisle.  Its lights had changed from blue to blinking white.  It announced, over and over again, in both English and Spanish “Caution, hazard detected.”  Whenever this metal beast detects a perceived threat like spilled produce, not only does it repeat that phrase, but it automatically starts an announcement in the store PA system to say “Clean up needed in Aisle 7.”    I looked down the aisle, and the only issue I saw was one cereal box that was on the floor leaning up against the bottom shelf.  I picked it up and put it back on the shelf, and like an idiot, started talking to the robot.  “It’s ok, you can shut up now and keep going.”  But of course, that doesn’t work.  A store employee must come to the robot and push appropriate buttons to reset it and send it on its way.

So let me get this straight. Unlike Rosie, this robot can’t really do anything, it can only point out issues, then waits for someone to come take care of it.  I don’t need a robot to do that, I have men in my life who have fine-tuned that skill.  I was in the store for only 45 minutes, yet heard the “Clean up in aisle…..” warning no less than four times.  Which means the robot saw something – anything – that could have been an issue, and had to call for human backup.  While Useless was stuck in my aisle, another woman came along and we chatted briefly. She informed me that she heard that the price tag for Useless was $65,000.  Looking around the store, I saw lots of other things I’d spend that money on if it was up to me.  But hey, I’m just the customer, what do I know?   When I made my way up to the front of the store, I watched one staff member hustle over to reset Useless because it had stopped again, this time in Aisle 11.  I asked the cashier if hearing the “clean up” messages drove her crazy.  She sighed and said “It happens All. Day. Long.  Yet another crazy way to try to get rid of us humans.”

And there it is, the fear we all harbor deep inside as technology continues to expand and roll toward a Jestons-onian world… that some day humans will be replaced by machines. Fifty years ago that seemed like a crazy Twilight Zone concept, fodder only for scary movies and nightmares. Yet today we see the potential inching forward.  Self check-out aisles in the store (don’t get me started on that colossally screwed up concept), drones to make deliveries, and digital currency – all very real things, all of which I’ve so far avoided. At restaurants like Panera and McDonalds, we can now ignore the humans behind the counter and tap our orders into a kiosk. My son, who has been working at Panera, said “they can’t get rid of us.. all the old people come to us because they don’t understand how to use the technology, or just don’t even want to try.”  Ok, so I guess I’m in that old person category, because I have no interest in using the machine, I’d much rather talk to a human.

I know my resistance holds no threat to technological advances.  I know that kiosks, robots, and computers will continue to advance and improve until they can do much more, and I will have to accept and welcome future innovations.  I need to assure myself that humans will always be necessary, and some day Rosie will become reality and I will be happy because she will be able to do my dishes for me, take care of my grocery shopping, make me some tea, and even ask me how my day was.  Until then, I need to be patient and accept that we’ve gotta start somewhere – and it’s ok.

So I guess it is a matter of perspective.  As I look around my house, I see where my dear husband has left little piles of projects every where he’s been.  Business paperwork in the kitchen, his work bag in the dining room, shipping boxes on the floor, his laptop and other materials in a pile in the living room, work boots and socks near the door….and I consider that if I had that goofy robot from Stop & Shop in my house, and it was somehow programmed to send communications in a frequency that only my husband could hear and would have to come do clean up and push reset, that could be pretty darn handy.

You know, like a Digital Nag.  I’m warming up to the future already.

 

 

Posted in assisting, Chores, communication, convenience, digital, DIY, Food, Helping others, innovation, life phases, men, moods, real women, routines, shopping, simplifying, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment