Just Relax

For a variety of reasons, I’m not having a summer vacation this year. Now before any of you think I’m saying that to garner sympathy, let me mention that we have a lovely pool in our backyard, and we are getting away for some quick weekend visits to see family.  So the “woe is me meter” is low.  Especially compared to those of you out there who haven’t vacationed in years, let alone had two days off in a row.

I have however been working on getting better about play-before-work. It is a subset of all of the other cliches we toss around but don’t always adhere to, like life is short, eat dessert first, and don’t say no to opportunities for fun.  This past weekend, for example, I had my usual to do list ready for my regular chores, and without even really thinking about it, I spent most of my time doing things instead like going for walks, sitting by the pool, getting together with a friend and shopping.  Some of the chores still got done after I’d had fun.  It is not generally like me to operate this way – I am not an avoidance kinda girl when it comes to must-do’s.  I’ve always been more like do it now so I don’t have to later, and ‘I can stop when I’m retired.’  But with effort, I’m adjusting and, surprise surprise, enjoying it.

But the one thing I still have not mastered, and this is where the vacation thing comes in, is relaxing.  The art of slowing down, pushing responsibilities aside, and literally not doing much of anything, other than perhaps reading a good book or watching a movie, or gazing at a lovely view.  Some of you out there have mastered this art, or are at least working on it, and I am proud and inspired by you. Notice I did not say jealous.  Because relaxing is something all of us can learn to do, but it takes practice and ironically, work.  Being able to relax is something to be celebrated.

I’m guessing that the majority of R.W.’s out there are not being successful in the unwind and rest process. Remember when the term “couch potato” was a thing?  Somehow we have all swung too far in the opposite direction.  Now we don’t even visit our couches, let alone live on them.  Unless of course we don’t feel well, and that doesn’t count.  Just the other evening after work I went out for a bike ride (one of my versions of relaxation), and as I cruised by a couple of houses, I saw one woman getting her husband’s help in planting some pretty massive plants and bushes in the front of their house. Another woman was dumping wheelbarrows full of stone along what I assume was a garden or patio. A third had just arrived home and was unloading groceries from her trunk.  Not relaxing.  I thought about what a lot of us other RW’s were probably doing around that same time: getting kids to bed, cleaning up the kitchen, running errands that couldn’t be done during the work day, checking on an elderly loved one, or any of about a thousand other possibilities…none of it slowing down and putting our feet up. 

Part of my particular challenge is I think I’m just genetically predisposed to being active.  My siblings call it scurrying.  I rarely saw my mom relax.  With four kids, various pets and an old farm house to manage, she was always on the go.  And when we did go on vacation as a family, be it to visit family or go camping, she was still “doing.”  Because let’s face it, when you have young children, vacation lacks down time.  And, no offense intended here, but visiting family is not relaxing.  It is lovely, necessary, and good for the soul. But it is not shut-down mode.  My mom and dad would go away one week each summer to go sailing off the Maine coast together, without us kids. Based on lore and sightings like that of the Loch Ness Monster, rumor has it that is when she finally relaxed and recharged.

For me at least, “staycations” don’t work like away-vacations do.  Lord knows we all have had our fill of staycations over the past 15 months or so.  A staycation simply means not doing our usual jobs, hopefully loosening our grip on chores a bit and adding in more activities and fun.  But if I’m in my house, I still feel compelled to do yard work, house projects, food prep, cleaning, laundry, etc.  As much as I adore my home, I don’t truly relax for more than a scheduled hour or two (yes, I actually schedule downtime – like an hour by the pool on a Saturday afternoon) unless I’m not there. Here’s the funny part – getting ready to be away, and returning from away, are the exact opposite of relaxing. Every woman knows there’s a whole lot of work that goes into prepping for departure and then re-entering reality.  But in between, when schedules go out the window, responsibilities are put on pause, and the sole focus is moving slower and only doing what you WANT to do….well, that is when relaxation nirvana can be achieved.

We R.W.’s are a determined bunch. So who knows, with enough practice and effort, maybe we all can get a step closer to having moments of that nirvana in our daily home lives.  There has to be a happy medium between being a sofa spud and a never rester.  I say we all put more effort into making it happen.

In the meantime, I’m going to book a few days away with the hubby this Fall. Just in case.

By the way, a tip for the guys – never tell the woman in your life to “just relax” unless you are ready to deal with the repercussions.  Trust me on this one. She would if she could.

Posted in behavior, Chores, family, habits, Health, home chores, routines, self care, travel, Uncategorized, Vacation | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

But Seriously….

I used to be a more “serious” bicyclist.  Cool gear, longer distances, group events, fundraising rides.  Now I’m a pleasure rider, and I’m amused when some of the serious bikers pass me by.  There they are in their color-coordinated bike wear, hunkered down and cruising at a speed I mostly only see now when I go downhill. In comparison, I’m wearing whatever tank shirt and shorts I was just wearing in the garden, moving at a slower pace because I’m nursing a recent minor knee injury and, well, let’s face it, I’m sightseeing, bird watching, and saying hello to any dogs, horses or sheep I pass.  And the best gear I’m sporting now is this helmeted squeaky rubber ducky on my handlebars.  He may be the reason the other bikers don’t always wave back.

I’ve learned that life is too short to always be so serious. Yes, sometimes it is required – like when training for a marathon, battling health concerns or dealing with some legal issue. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to have a serious conversation with someone who won’t stop making jokes.  But the older I get, the less I want to be solemn, and the more I seek out levity.

Last weekend we had some out of town friends come to visit. We took them out to dinner, and our Server was rushed and distracted, possibly stressed, and well…serious. While taking our orders, she ran through the specials and options quickly, barely making eye contact.  One of our friends told her he was having a hard time hearing her because of her mask. Instantly she went on the defensive, explaining she has two young kids at home who aren’t old enough to be vaccinated, and she can’t risk them getting sick, so she has to wear a mask.  Our friend had not at all intended to make some sort of anti-mask statement, he was just honestly telling her he couldn’t understand her.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we, ladies?  When life is feeling just like a bit too much, and you just aren’t feeling positive and friendly.  Perhaps she is a single mom.  Clearly she is worried about her kids because, well, that’s what we do is worry.  Maybe she’s a caregiver for an elderly parent too. Perhaps she had worked several shifts in a row and was just plain tired.  Or had a headache. Or was ridiculously sick of having to wear a mask.  Food Service is a hard job. Even though the dining room wasn’t busy, there was a wedding reception going on in the other area of the restaurant, and maybe she had been earlier pulled into that craziness.  We can never know in an instant all that another person may be carrying around with them. We all understand, however, that it can be really easy to slip into being preoccupied and get lost in a sea of seriousness – and needing some sort of life raft to find lightheartedness again.

Especially when your job responsibilities require being pleasant and approachable, getting stuck in a morass of somber is not a good thing. That night at the restaurant, both my husband and his friend then took her mood on as a challenge, determined to get some pleasantness out of her.  We wouldn’t be able to see if she was smiling, but if we could get her to slow down just a bit and ease the crease between her eyes, it was worth a try.  Eventually it worked.  She discovered our friends were from California, and that was the ice-breaker. Her mom lives on the west coast, and soon she was taking a few minutes to chat about different towns and areas she had visited.  Through the common ground of geography, travel and family, her cloud lifted.

Finding a simple connection can work wonders. Years ago I had a coworker who was on the sales team, and he regularly had meetings with a very brusque, no nonsense customer. She seemed to have no interest in levity or friendliness, and gave out an aura of stuffy seriousness. Until one day it happened – he connected with her about her dogs. It was like the flip of a switch and she became engaged and downright pleasant.  It became a running joke between he and I that he was going to download photos of every breed of dog, cat, guinea pig or even iguana, so he could use pets as the common ground.  “Oh, you have a basset hound?  That’s amazing, so do I!”  swipe-swipe-swipe-swipe – “See?”

Lord knows there’s a lot of tough stuff in our world, and we’ve all been through some really really challenging months. Now it kind of feels like many of us are starting to come out of our cocoons of gloom.  Others of us are still needing a little help in learning how to squint into the sunlight.  Sometimes an unexpected friendly connection, a laugh, or a great story can help remind us to not take EVERYTHING. SO. SERIOUSLY. 

So to those of you who still feel the need to stay tucked in, pedaling hard, pushing against the wind – may the force be with you.  Me and my ducky will be roaming our way towards the sunset.

Posted in behavior, biking, communication, habits, Health, Helping others, moods, real women, routines, self care, Social situations, stress, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Over Under Up or Down

To heck with politics or sports.  You want to get a passionate discussion started, ask any group of people whether the toilet paper roll should be hung with over or under distribution.

I’ve long been fascinated by the similarities and differences among us. We all meet people in our lives who seem to think and act “just like us”.  There’s that warm instant bonding experience when you hit on an “exactly!  Same here!” vibe and quite possibly start down the journey of friends for life.  Then, suddenly, you learn of their unyielding preferences for things like toilet paper direction and you question their loyalty and intelligence.

It’s not just about toilet paper (should be over, by the way), nor even the debate of who does or doesn’t replace an empty roll, and whether or not they actually take the time to put it on the dispenser correctly.  We all have our “right ways” of doing the seemingly most minor activities within our homes.  One would think the dividing line falls somewhere between men and women.  To some extent it may, but in reality, we all have our own methods, which may or may not have any reasons for being. And don’t even try to get us to change our ways.

Let’s take a look inside the dishwasher, shall we?  (Yeah, yeah, I now the debate over who fills and who empties is a topic of its own)… are those knives and forks facing up or down?  I grew up as a put ‘em down person, but that was for a very good reason.  My brother was blind, so it was a safety move to put all pointy things down rather than sticking up where he could get impaled for simply trying to be helpful.  And we kids certainly wanted equal distribution of chores.  But then I married a “points up” kinda guy. His reasoning was that the ends of the utensils get cleaner by being positioned upright. The result is a mishmash of both.  On a recent visit to my sister’s house, I was loading her dishwasher, and my nephew calming walked up, picked out a utensil, flipped it over and said “we do it this way.” 

While we are in the kitchen, how about glassware?  Stored in the cabinet upright, or upside down?

Where is the hand towel kept?  If you want to have some fun, move it to a different location and watch your loved one spin around in a circle with wet hands help up like a surgeon, with panic or anger on their face, shouting “where’s the damn towel?”

Before you go to bed at night, are there dishes in the sink?  Or can you not rest until they are clean and the sink is empty?

And this leads to another fascinating area of discrepancy: the bed.  Are you a daily bed-maker or a leave-it-as-it-is riser?   Some leave it unmade and ruffled, preferring the unkempt inviting coziness of knowing at some point you will be returning.  Others (like me) make it almost immediately. As a matter of fact, I’ve been known to make it while my husband was in the bathroom only to find out his intention was to climb back in.  I even go so far most days to spritz the sheets with a linen spray.  To me, there’s just something more inviting and attractive about a neatly made fresh bed. One R.W. threw me for a loop the other day when she said the making of her bed depends on her mood that day.  I’m not sure I can comprehend that, but fair ‘nuff.

While most of our idiosyncrasies likely won’t garner quite as much of a discussion as ye ol’ TP conundrum, they are still fun fodder for pondering and debate.  Toothpaste tube – push from bottom or center?  Laundry – ok to leave in the dryer, or take out immediately and fold?  Desktop – clear off at end of day or leave as is to pick up again next day?  Pizza – cut pie shape or square?   Ah, the topics are endless.

So the next time you have a virtual or in-person social gathering, launch some of these out for dispute.  Lord knows we have all grown excessively weary of the bigger topics of Covid, politics and health & safety.  Let’s get into the nitty gritty of real life methods and daily habits for fun and amusement.  But a bit of a warning – if you boldly assert to your BFF that it’s your points-up way or the highway, they may sit back aghast and proclaim “I don’t even know who you are anymore.”   Fear not. Just offer them a drink.

From your upside down glassware.

Posted in adapting, behavior, Chores, cleaning, communication, convenience, discussions, family, friends, habits, home, home chores, housework, routines, skills, Traditions | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Oasis on Wheels

My first car was a used 1981 Plymouth Reliant K-Car.  It was ugly, utilitarian and practical. But I didn’t complain, because my parents paid for 95% of the car.  With me being the fourth and youngest child, my parents were well experienced in convenience and practicality and knew it was worth the cost simply so they wouldn’t have to drive the four hours each way every time I wanted or needed to come home from college.

It didn’t win any popularity contests, speed contests or beauty contests, but it was my first taste of freedom, independence and adulting.  I could drive home all by myself from school, as well as to and from summer jobs, listening to the radio on my own preferred stations. From there I graduated to an equally ugly and practical dog-shit brown Subaru wagon. That thing was basically a tank, and kept going far beyond its years. Even after getting rear-ended, the only issue was I needed a block of wood to keep my seat in position.

It wasn’t until I was truly a young adult, married and with my first home and career that I started to purchase and own slightly cooler, more stylish cars, with fancy things like power windows and cassette or CD players. When my parents moved to Maine and I was living in New York State, I remember cruising along the highway on trips to see them, windows down, singing to my tunes, and as my brother used to describe it, arriving sweaty, deaf and windblown – but happy. 

Our cars become our own little worlds, our signature mobile cocoons. Today, more than ever, they have become our methods for escape, change of scenery, and a comforting feeling of safety. When we are alone in our cars, we can take off our masks, crank our music (from a variety of sources, satellite radio, CD, and Bluetooth – oh, how I would have loved to have any of those options in the K-car!) or tune in to a fascinating array of Podcasts. We can make hands-free calls and catch up with others while cruising down the highway.  We can drive to a destination other than our homes and just look out the window at a new view. Our vehicles get us to work, to the store, to our favorite hiking location, and soon – back to the homes of friends and on road trips.  We transport groceries, children, pets and donations from our pandemic purging projects. But our vehicles are not just modes of transportation; we basically move in like they are an extension of our homes and personalities.  We accessorize them with whatever makes us feel comfortable and provides convenience. As one RW in my life recently described it to me, her car is her oasis.

Granted, not all of us have a warm & fuzzy relationship with their vehicle. Men tend to be more interested in the mechanics and style of the car, rather than the organizational set up of the interior living space.  My husband is a technician and his big van is cluttered with all matter of materials, parts, tools and miscellaneous items I could never identify. But his pride and joy classic Corvette is spotless.  Literally, there’s nothing inside it besides a polishing cloth.

We RW’s in contrast have to have everything we need at the ready.  Our consoles contain things like sunglasses, our favorite beverage container, gum and mints, hand sanitizer, and “the place” for our phones.  We take advantage of pockets in the doors for various important items, and the glove compartment likely has all manner of key items like tissues, chapstick and extra masks.

One of my BFFs has a lengthy commute.  The living space of her mobile cocoon is well stocked for any need.  Traveling with her is a bit like the old show Let’s Make a Deal, where women could make cash by producing odd items from their purses. Need an antacid?  Aspirin?  Hand Cream? Bottled water? Extra charging cord?  Umbrella?  Oh, it’s there. Likely alphabetically categorized.

As for me, I have the same requirements in any car I own. I must have a trash receptacle on the floor behind the seat. (Really, it is a must-have or I feel anxious about where to put trash. My sister finds this oddly amusing).  I have at least two kinds of gum and mints, a box of tissues, spare shopping bags, wipes, a towel for my dog, a water bottle or to-go cup, a couple of CDs as back up music in case I get weary of Sirius or my limited playlist, and more than likely my console has a collection of coupons and dry-cleaning slips.

My friend who referred to her car as her oasis has a convenient and adorable to-go tote bag.  Everything she could possibly need is in that bag, so she just grabs it to bring along every time she gets in the car. I love this idea, as it means a far lesser chance of suddenly running out of something, or cluttering up valuable real estate within the arms-reach space of the car interior.

She then shared with me that since the pandemic began, she added one more item that she carries in the back of her car: a portable toilet.  When she told me that, I admit I laughed, thinking she was joking – or perhaps, slightly crazy.  After all, her children are grown adults on their own, so no need for a potty.  But the more we talked, the more I realized how brilliant it truly was.  She has not had to use it, but it is like a silent partner in gotta-go reassurance.  At the height of scary germ concerns, she didn’t want to have to stop and use public toilets in case of a bio-emergency. She even told me she has it all planned as to how to position herself between open doors, and carries a towel for privacy.  I told her that there have been times I worry about massive traffic jams where you could be stuck on the highway for hours – or, let’s face it ladies, the older we get, the less many of us can handle unique restaurant food without gastric distress. Hopefully, she may never need to use it. But her mobile oasis is ready if she does.  

Today I used my car to take my pup to a park, and I was prepared with a sheet over the back seat for her muddy paws, and her mobile water bowl next to mine in the cup holders.  Later in the day, I ran some errands. It felt great each time I got back in the car to reach into my console for my girlie-scented sanitizer, then whip off my mask, open my sunroof for spring air, take a sip of my iced tea, and turn up my music to sing loud because no one could hear me.

Just like that young 20-something me in my old K-car, my mobile world – my oasis – is all mine. It’s a lot more comfortable now, more stylish with more modern features, with more safety, and the driver has a lot more experience behind the wheel.  But more than likely, the music coming out of the speakers is still the same.

Posted in behavior, comfort, driving; cars, friends, men, moods, New Normal, preparation, real women, routines, safety | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Good Thing No One Will See That

We are all in the same boat of desperately craving social in-person activities. Even something as simple as having a few people over for a party has become a sadly distant memory and yearned-for future event.  Yet I don’t know about you all, but lately I’ve looked around my house and thought “it’s a good thing no one else is here to see that.”

I’m back to working from home 4 out of 5 days a week, so our dining table is once again serving as my office space.  Nothing says elegance like a big monitor and a stack ‘o papers.  My husband has been doing some handyman work, for us and for others, and there are regularly odd projects spread out in the living room (especially since the dining room table is N/A).  Right now there’s a big recently constructed utility closet on wheels next to my sofa, waiting to be delivered to it’s real owner, and his tool bag next to his easy chair.  You get the idea – our home is not exactly visitor-ready.

To add to the “don’t look now” theme, I have decided to hop on the popular trend and spend the winter tackling Project: Getting Rid Of Stuff (appropriately: GROS).  Clear the clutter, do away with the piles of stuff we no longer need or use. I’m sick of looking at it all, tired of crowded closets that could be used more efficiently, and find myself occasionally gazing longingly at magazine articles showing clean minimalist homes. (P.S., that will never be me, Minimalist is NOT in my genetic makeup).  Now I realize that given my, and my husband’s, tendencies toward collecting that teeter on the edge of hoarding, one big cleanout will not last.  This is an activity that should happen at least every 5-10 years.  But hey, we have to start somewhere, right?

Now before you get super impressed, I have thus far only managed to clean out two drawers, one cupboard and half a closet. At this rate, I’ll still be purging when the daffodils are sprouting in my garden.  Which in reality is my deadline, because once my gardens are calling, all indoor projects get back-burnered.

In these first few steps I’ve already started asking myself “what were you thinking?”  Like do I really think I need about 20 stained and ratty dishtowels?  Am I ever going to use partially-burned and not particularly lovely scented votives?  Why did I feel the need to hold on to the breast-feeding instructions from the hospital for almost 21 years?   I can see there will be great mysteries uncovered, many of which I may never admit to.  There will be treasures, of course, which will serve as speed bumps in the process. Baby pictures and videos, correspondence from those no longer with us, mementos from past generations – all deserve a pause and a reliving of memories. But then the decision must be made as to what to keep, and what really can be let go.  I was thrilled when I came across an origami mobile made by my brother, now passed, for his then-baby nephew. That of course I will keep, as something my son can remember his Uncle by. But his baby blankets?  Donate.

Even though I’ve just begun the process, I can easily see the mess will get far worse before it gets better.  Right now our guest room (I decided to start from the top of the house and work down) looks like the closet exploded. Which, in a way, it has.  Even walking into the room is slightly hazardous.  Piles that only make sense to me are precariously leaning against each other, awaiting other items still to come off the shelves to join them in their journeys to either donation, sale, or dump.  Lucky for us we have no overnight guests expected any time soon, so no one will see the mess.

The one area that will probably take the most abuse before things get better is our basement.  Last on the list for the clean out, yet the area most in-need, it has already become the holding pen in the GROS process.  Items awaiting new storage arrangements and other things waiting for a trip to either Goodwill or the dump, are all collecting in an already small space.

Speaking of the basement and things that should not be seen…. Like many of you, I have not been able to go to my gym in almost a year. Which means my boredom level for my home basement workouts is at an all-time low. It has gotten to the point where I am randomly selecting free workouts on YouTube to try. Over the past week or so, I’ve been choosing dance workouts.  There I am, watching these 20-something fitness and dance pro’s in their designer crop T’s and leggings, moving in ways I couldn’t do even in my 20’s, while I’m clad in my typical 50-something home workout wear of yoga pants, old Tshirt and discount Avia’s, bumbling my way through their routines.  Add in now the afore-mentioned recently added obstacles, and I could quite likely trip on an old toaster, tumble over a Costco pack of paper towels, or grapevine into my stationery bike.  Again feeling thankful there is no hidden camera recording my activities nor my surroundings.

Perhaps I’m going about it all wrong. Maybe I should make use of the accumulating mess while it lasts and incorporate it into my workouts in a new form of circuit work.  Lunge over the slow cooker, squat over the pack of toilet paper, do pushups off the old set of drawers, and lift the clothing donation box. I could call it GROS Fit.  I could start a new trend.

But still…it’s a really good thing no one will see it.

Posted in adapting, behavior, changes; hibernation, Chores, cleaning, DIY, fitness, Health, home, home chores, housework, preparation, real women, routines, storage, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wrap Me in Bubblewrap

For the first time in 9 months, I traveled last week. Not just to a neighboring town or state, but via commercial airline, halfway across the country.  It wasn’t just for fun and pleasure, but out of necessity due to a death in the family.  I felt pretty confident that I could take necessary precautions and it was worth the risk.  Besides, I figured, the airports and flights would likely be fairly empty – given, you know, the rampant pandemic that is still spiking.

Wrong. I was, well, shocked by how “peopley” it was.  The connecting airports were just as busy as I used to see them when I was traveling more often for work.  I kept thinking, “all of these people can not be either essential workers or in crisis. WTF?”   Let me pause here and apologize if anything I say here offends any of you.  If you are choosing to travel for pleasure right now, that is your right.  But I just don’t get it.  Over 16 million US cases of Covid, 350,000 resulting deaths. I heard an estimate on the news the other night that 1 in 16 Americans will contract the illness. I personally know a few who have had it. Businesses are going back into shut-down mode.  Gatherings of people are discouraged, travel should not be happening unless truly necessary. And yet I saw many families traveling together, couples, and young adults – all seemingly traveling like the good ol’ days, albeit wearing masks.

What I DO totally understand is the rampant frustration and weariness of not being able to be with family and friends. I get it that we just celebrated the holidays, and normally holidays mean being with family. It is achingly painful to be away from each other, and not be able to hug, do all the fun activities we have done in the past. I understand the overwhelming urge to say “screw it, I’m going” and hop in the car or bus or plane and go see people, or have a “real” vacation somewhere.  But guess what. It is scary out there. Really scary. We aren’t at the end of this yet.  And as much as we may hate it, zooming digitally is far safer than zooming via public transportation to a gathering.   

I can’t speak for any other airlines besides the one I used, but they seem to be trying.  The “please be safe” guideline announcements throughout the airport run continuously. Everything seems to be as clean as it can be given the amount of people.  Onboard the planes, certain adjustments have been made, for example when boarding, each traveler is handed a plastic bag containing a small bottle of water, a pack of cookies and a sanitizing wipe. There are no other beverage or food services offered during the flight.  Everyone must be masked in the airport and on the plane.  The flight attendants prowl the aisles throughout the flight to pick up trash, so nothing gets shoved into the seat pockets or left behind. However, at least with American Airlines, and at least when I was onboard, the flights are totally full, with no spare seats or added space between passengers. We were squashed in like a bunch of germophobic sardines.

I am generally a very social person. But for this trip, I became as close to a recluse as possible. I got my negative test before leaving home. I double-masked, wore my glasses in a hope to shield my eyes, stayed as far away from other humans in the airport as possible. I wore disposable gloves when I got on the plane until I had wiped my area down with a sanitizing wipe, then touched only my book and my water bottle. I brought my own reusable straw for any beverages I purchased. I changed masks for each flight. I was able to wear an N95-level mask for the return flight home.  (P.S., I am once again in awe of medical professionals who wear those constantly – ye gads they are uncomfortable. My nose is still sore.) I had with me, and used, two different hand sanitizers.  When I reached my destinations, both going and coming home, I left my shoes outside until I could use sanitizing spray on them, and immediately showered and washed my clothes.  Paranoid?  Maybe, but I don’t really think so.  The health of my family, both at home and who I was visiting (not to mention my own) was worth adopting OCD tendencies. Now that I’m home, I’m limiting any outings, and working from home until my post-travel Covid test comes back with negative results (fingers crossed and knocking on wood). 

Over the past few years, air travel has become less and less enjoyable. Now there are no redeeming qualities other than the fact that it is faster than driving – although no matter how you slice it, you still spend a full day in transit.

As I observed the other travelers, I was of course relieved that everyone wore a mask. They had to, or else they would not be allowed in the airport or on the plane – or at least would be barred from future flights.  Other than that, however, I really didn’t notice much in the way of different behaviors.  I’m sure there were others like me who were embracing their inner Sheldon tendencies, but I didn’t see them.  Not a lot of distance between folks waiting in lines, no wiping down of surfaces, plenty of people sitting at food court tables eating, hanging out waiting in fairly crowded areas… I did see a few face shields being worn, so bravo to those folks.  I wondered if they were all just being braver than I, or were risk takers, or, to my point above, just couldn’t stand it anymore and “Covid be Damned”?

In the past couple of days, I’ve heard from friends who are either sick or have family members who have contracted the virus – simply by going about their regular lives even when they took precautions.  I feel blessed and thankful that I am showing no symptoms and am hopefully assuming I will get a good report in a few days.  Yet even when I do, I don’t expect to change my current anti-social methods any time soon.  I wonder about the hundreds of people I saw during my travels, and worry about how many of them may sadly be added to those frightening numbers.  I guess only time will tell.

Interestingly, I did see several military personnel traveling – those are folks I’d put on the list of “Essentials who don’t really have a choice”, and I pray they all remain safe.  The one high point I did observe during my experience was when a gentleman in First Class gave up his seat to an Army soldier who had a seat in the back of the plane.  Upon witnessing the exchange, we all gave him a round of applause.

After all, in the scariest and darkest hours, it is the bright and hopeful moments we cling to and appreciate the most.

Please stay safe, so we can look forward to better and brighter journeys in our future.

Posted in adapting, behavior, Covid, Health, routines, safety, self care, travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Need the Twinkle

I took a drive last night.  Not far, with no specific destination in mind.  I just wanted to see some Christmas lights.  I brought my son with me.  He is no longer the toddler to be strapped into his car seat with a sippy cup to go see pretty lights.  He is 20, and home on break.  I’m not sure if he came with me out of a sense of duty or just sheer boredom, but it did my mom-heart good that he joined me. 

We weren’t gone long, maybe 30 – 45 minutes. We roamed around parts of our town and the neighboring town, sharing thoughts on the various displays and creativity. We purposefully ended the loop by a pause at the houses we call the Grisowld’s.  These folks go all out.  It started years ago as two neighboring houses with lots of lights, and each year has grown and expanded. One house transmits music and synchronizes the light display to the holiday tunes. Other houses across the street have jumped in on the festivities, and cars pull over to gawk (like we did) every night.  There are several beautiful, professional lighting displays in our area.  But last night I just had a hankerin’ for neighborhood spirit. 

I’m guessing that a lot of you RW’s out there had the same conflicted thought process early in the season as I did.  No parties, no visitors, no extended family this year… just the three of us in the house, and maybe a couple close friends who have been in our “bubble” throughout the year might stop in.  Did it really make sense to go all out with decorating?  Should we just put up a tree and call it done?  

Right after Thanksgiving, I made the decision to go ahead and get decked out, and told my guys that I especially wanted color outside.  Why?  Because if there was ever a year when we needed some twinkle, it is this year.  One night as I drove home from work admiring the lights surrounding other’s homes, I thought about how there are so many people out there this year who could just use a little brightness and spirit as they drive by.  That 10-second impression could be just the mood-booster bump someone needs. We by no means will ever reach the level of the Griswold’s of the world, but we did add some cute extra lit trees in our front yard. 

For a few nights over the past couple of weeks, I have been the last to head up to bed. (Well, my son is up to all hours, but ensconced in his own room).  I have turned the TV off and just sat and looked at the lights on our tree, and around the house.  I’ve roamed quietly looking at our decorations, just breathing in the peace, quiet and serenity.  And I’ve said prayers for all of the people who can’t do that right now.  Those who are in hospitals or nursing homes, those who are away from home in the armed forces, those who are homeless and cold, or those who have essential jobs and are hard at work while the rest of us are nestled in at home.  My dearest hope is that at some point, be it tomorrow, or on Christmas, or even a month from now, each of those people can have a moment of quiet and peace by twinkling lights.

The beauty of twinkling is that it doesn’t have to be big and bold and fancy.  The four simple candles in an Advent wreath symbolize hope, love, joy and peace. And sometimes just lighting one candle and being mesmerized by the flicker of that flame is enough to calm the soul. 

As you’ve probably heard, there is a “Great Conjunction” expected tonight.  Jupiter and Saturn are going to appear closer together than they have in centuries, and the result is what some are calling a Christmas Star. There are some theories that it was a similar Conjunction that formed the Star of Bethlehem that led the three Wise Men to Jesus. There have been many fascinating theories and scientific studies as to what really made the Star of Bethlehem happen on that special night so long ago.  Or of course, it was only due to Divine Intention. We can all decide for ourselves, but it is pretty awesome to be able to see something remarkable and potentially once-in-a-lifetime in the sky now.  

Unfortunately it is due to be cloudy in my area, but I will be out there, after sunset, looking to the southwest, hoping to see what I like to think of as a Christmas Star.  I hope many of you will join me, in your own backyards, so we can all feel connected for a moment.  No matter what you choose to believe, we could all use a truly heavenly twinkle as a sign of good tidings, peace, love and hope. 

Merry Christmas!

Posted in beauty, celebrations, decor, DIY, Entertainment, events, family, friends, Holidays, home, love, Seasons, self care, simplifying, Traditions, Uncategorized, weather | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Odd is Normal

“The New Normal” has become a trite phrase with no true definition, yet it provokes sighs and eye rolls.  It is a term that combines both hope that some day we will crawl our way out of Covid Craziness, and resignation & frustration that our lives will never be the same as they were less than a year ago. 

Besides the big concerns over things like good health, travel, gatherings, face coverings and hugging (I’m a hugger. Trust me, hugs are a big concern).  I’ve been wondering abut the long-lasting ramifications of some of the new behaviors we’ve all adopted which, let’s face it, initially felt pretty darn odd but are now almost second nature.  Studies have shown that doing something for anywhere between 21 days to two months will turn that behavior into an automatic habit.  If that’s true, then the die is cast, and we can all look forward to a few things no longer being odd: 

Following arrows:  Everywhere we go now, we are instructed to look for arrows and walk in certain directions. The hallways at work, the flow of a retail store, the aisles of a grocery store.  Like my dog chasing a squirrel, we are laser focused on those paths.  If we come across someone going the wrong direction, the masked-face death-stare is employed.  How dare you, can’t you see the arrows?!  But really, we’ve all arrow-cheated, haven’t we?  When we JUST want to get to something that is 3 feet away, and walking 20 yards to get to it seems like such a chore and waste of time, we’ve gotten pretty creative with the arrow law breaking.  There’s the ‘look both ways to make sure there’s no one else in the path’ cheat, kind of like hunting for cops hiding along roadways before gunning it to our destination.  Then there’s the backing up effort which takes some balance and coordination, to show that at least we are facing the right direction, even though we are going against the flow like salmon up stream.  My favorite is the park & sprint, where I will leave my cart at the end of the row and literally run to the shelf, grab the item I need and run back. And come on, admit it, we’ve all done the “oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t see the arrows!” excuse.  Some day when we’ve gotten clearance to walk willy-nilly anywhere we want, we’ll still be looking for those blasted arrows and the acceptance that we are headed in the right direction. 

Trained body parts:  Everything we used to do with our hands we have now trained our elbows, arms, feet and hips to do.  Opening and closing doors, pushing buttons, catching sneezes, even scratching… our hands are permanently on vacation.  Our fingers are saying “oh, you want me to touch that?  Sorry, no can do unless you cover me in vinyl or latex.”  I marvel now at the ingenious ways we’ve found to open doors.  Gone, I believe possibly forever, is shaking hands to greet each other.  Fist bumps may come back, because for some reason we feel that germs on the back of our hands are safer than our palms.  But those elbow taps, foot knocks and air-high-fives, yeah, those are with us forever.  Remember the creative handshakes that only the coolest of the cool could manage easily?  I figure soon we’ll see the foot version, which will look a bit like two people playing hacky sack. 

Goldilocks Sanitizing:  We have by now all developed the fine-tuned skills of applying just the right amount of sanitizer. In early pandemic days, it was a common occurrence to dump far too much sanitizer on our hands, thus creating the sloppy drip onto our pants, or our car seats.  We’ve all experienced the shake-your-hands-out-the-window to get rid of excess move.  The opposite extreme for sanitizer neophytes was not enough, thus providing coverage to only about three fingers.  Not enough, too much, now we’ve got it down to juuuuuuust right.  And p.s., most of us R.W.’s now carry our preferred brand and scent in our purses because we know those industrial tubs of sanitizer that greet us at various establishments feature a horrendous smell that lingers unpleasantly. 

Sweet spot waving:  Sure, we’ve all known how to wave at each other and passersbys. But this is the other kind of waving.  That frustrating hand dance under, and in front of, hands-free faucets and towel dispensers.  It starts with a calm swipe-swipe kind of wave.  Then it gets more animated with a faster side to side and up and down motion.  Then more exuberant. WAVEWAVEWAVE.  Soon we look like we are trying to land a plane, not just wash our hands.  It is only when we are nearly ready to give up that the water mysteriously appears.  Don’t move your hands, or else it will shut off again just when you’ve managed to build a good lather.  Then move on to getting towels, and you look like you are saying Hi to a robot.  Only time, skill and practice has led us to more easily find that sweet spot. 

Brady Bunch Syndrome – Thanks to the never-ending deluge of remote on-line meetings, conversations, and family gatherings, we have grown completely used to seeing each other from shoulders up, in little squares like the start of the Brady Bunch show or Hollywood Squares. We are fascinated by backgrounds, but seem totally unphased by the fact that we have basically become Muppets with no legs. Someday we’ll see each other again in person and may be shocked by how tall everyone is.  But for now, we live in little animated boxes and only need to be concerned about being dressed from the waist up. 

I’ve had conversations with other women about how ironically weird and odd things will seem when we eventually start coming out of this mess. We’ve talked about how nervous we will be to let go of our masks, and to be in crowds and groups again.  It will take time before we are trusting enough to head into whatever our new normal will be.  And I’m guessing it will take even longer for us to stop holding doors open with our feet and looking for arrows to tell us where to go. 

I’m just hoping the new arrows point me towards a sunny beach with a margarita bar. 

Posted in behavior, change, communication, family, future, Health, New Normal, preparation, routines, safety, self care, Social situations, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Adapting to The Beast

A couple of months ago, after my husband indicated a concern over my increased snoring and irregular breathing at night, I visited with a couple of doctors and took an at-home sleep test.  A couple of weeks later I was told the test revealed a mild case of apnea, and boom, faster than a speeding bullet, a CPAP machine was delivered to my door. 

I then proceeded to do the truly adult thing and leave it unopened on my dining table, in a full-on state of denial, for at least a month. I dove into research and online ideas about dealing with apnea that would help me avoid accepting The Beast into my life.  I learned that very likely I do not have the kind of apnea that can be eased by weight loss or sinus surgery… more than likely, mine is Central, meaning it is a neurological thing. In basic terms, it is like my brain, in this jukebox I call a body, is for some reason skipping my breathing record at night instead of letting it play through smoothly.  I tried all sorts of things like different pillows, different sleeping positions, different before-bed routines.  

When it was time for my consultation with my doctor, I used my best Pollyanna voice to tell him that I had found a great wedge pillow that I’ve been using to prop myself up and no longer snore, and am sleeping well, so could I just please return The Beast?  He then explained calmly (to his credit, with little sighing although since we were on the phone, he could have been rolling his eyes and shaking his head at me) that the fact I was not snoring did not mean my apnea was magically going away. He also let me know that at-home sleep tests were not 100% precise, and since it picked up some apnea, I could actually have it on any range from mild to severe. He then explained the health implications (some life-threatening) of apnea – which, by the way, I already knew.  Basically his message was: Yes, Virginia, Santa brought you a CPAP and you must use it. 

My reaction has been one of frustration, out-right crankiness, even tears. I understood that The Beast was quite literally the definition of “for my own good.”  I know hundreds of thousands of other people use them successfully.  Yet with every fiber of my irrationally dramatic being, I didn’t want to accept that.  So like every good RW, I went deep on overthinking and analyzing the situation.  I wanted to work through why I was having this reaction to what should be a simple lifestyle change.  I spent a lot of “really, what is your issue” self discussion time during walks and on my bike – because I do my best, clearest thinking with fresh air and exercise. 

I landed on a few reasons or excuses that needed some recognition.  First is a smattering of PTSD-ish response. My oldest brother, among his myriad of health issues, had severe apnea. And during the last phase of his life, he gave up using it, refusing to bother with it. Over time I saw the effects of the lack of oxygen he was getting as he slept, and what it did to his brain, memory, blood pressure, and more, especially in combination with his other issues. You would think if anything that would push me to eagerly jump into my own CPAP use. But those are still freshly disturbing memories, so I think my knee-jerk reaction was avoidance. 

Next, I knew darn well I have a disdain of discomfort. One of my great daily joys after a busy day is to sink into the total comfort of my bed and pillow and drift off to much-needed rest.  The idea of going through the weeks of uncomfortable adaptation with this thing strapped to my face and nose and having a hose connecting me to a machine is just about last on my list of things I want to do. 

On a related note is that it feels like the last vestiges of feeling sexy at bedtime are out the window.  Gone are the days of slinky lingerie and excitement, replaced with an elephant trunk, distilled water and the low hum of air pushing into my nose which is now encased in a rubber cover.  Oooh baby, let’s snuggle. 

Lastly, I realize this Beast is a symbol of my age and my mortality. Yeah, I know, that sounds dramatic, but that’s the frame of mind I’ve been in.  I’ve always been blessed with good health – minus a couple bouts of flu or other illness, and a short (yet thankfully successful thus far) battle with breast cancer.  I’m usually the smug one who gets a happy thumbs up at doctor’s appointments. I’m not on any medications other than vitamins. I generally feel really good and can cope thus far with minor aches and pains like back aches and knee arthritis.  So to have this diagnosis, to have one thing that says “hey, you aren’t indestructible” is hard to accept. 

Really it is that last point that has me begrudgingly welcoming The Beast into my bedroom. I want to be around to enjoy a someday retirement, and I want to be the cool fun active grandma to my son’s future (hopefully) children.  To do that, I have to keep breathing at night.  My husband, who has been witnessing my CPAP-related mood swings, kindly helped me get it set up, has been trying hard to help me see the light side, and has not yet complained about the look or sound of it.  I have only just begun my journey, but am now up to 4 hours of restless sleep while attached, so I’m making progress. 

I realize now of course, that all of my excuses and reasons lead to one word:  change.  Many of us like to believe that we welcome change, we are adaptable, flexible, spontaneous and all those other great positive adjectives about acceptance.  But the very nature of change is that it makes us uncomfortable. It is challenging and difficult and at times we really don’t like it.  It doesn’t matter what it is, whether it is a move, a job change, the loss of a loved one, a lifestyle alteration, or a health issue – it can make us sad, angry, anxious and can cause us to lose sleep. 

This year we have been on a roller coaster of never-ending change and uncertainty, of fear and anxiety. We have come to just assume every day will bring something else to try to cope with “because, you know, 2020.”   So much so that every new moment or new issue to address feels daunting. Even simple things that in the past would have been met with  “ok, no problem, I’ve got this” now feel like another chink in our armor – one more thing that might bring us to our knees.  This little beast now sitting on my bedside table, that elephant trunk I will now wear each night, is just a symbol of another one of those lifestyle changes, another one of those adaptations to deal with even when we feel like we can’t take on anything else. 

We have to allow ourselves time to be angry. To cry. To feel a wee bit fed up. Then, we get back up off our knees, we give ourselves pep talks as we pedal into the wind, and we know we will adapt and keep going. 

Because it is for our own good. 

Posted in adults, age, change, Health, life phases, routines, safety, self care, stress, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Zooma Zooma Zoom

When I was about 7 years old, there was a popular kid’s show on PBS called Zoom.  The theme song went something like this:  Come on and zoom zoom zooma zoom, Everybody’s doin’ it, Everybody’s movin’ it, everyone’s having a ball YEAH.  

Who knew that nearly 50 years later, everyone really WOULD be Zooming it. Or Skyping it, Microsoft Teaming it, WebExing it, you name it.  Yet I’m pretty sure no one is having a ball. 

It was bad enough that pre-pandemic many of us in the business world had grown pretty accustomed to the challenges of group conference calls.  But now due to the necessity of virtual connections, we’ve taken a step further and have all hopped on the video conferencing bus.  In many ways this technology has been a blessing.  It has been the only way family, friends and various loved ones have been able to see each other in months. The learning curve has been a steep one for those who are not technology savvy, but in a remarkably short amount of time, we’ve all figured it out at least to some extent.  And like the old theme song says, as long as you have a way to make a digital connection, “everybody’s doin’ it.”   Beyond family and friends, we are video conferencing with doctors, teachers, students, financial advisors, vets… even people we would normally just call on the phone, we suddenly feel the need to SEE them when we talk. 

It didn’t take long before we all were enjoying the humor of the fact we can only see the top half of our fellow video callers, leaving the bottom half to our imagination – and sometimes our clear view if the person got up from their seat. There are even TV commercials now making use of this 2020 faux paus.  Check that off the “another weird phenomenon of this year” list. 

At my place of employment, we are all back together in the office – practicing all the appropriate distancing requirements, along with several folks who are still remote due to geographic location or family situations.  Which means that even though most of us are together under one roof, we often still hold video calls and meetings.  And by often, I mean daily. Multiple times daily.   Combine those with my own personal video sessions with friends and family off hours, and I have come to expect certain, shall we say, challenges of this new mode of communication. I’m sure you’ll recognize many: 

  • In and Out.  Living in this modern world does not mean we all have extremely strong wifi connections at all times. Especially with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people connecting all at once. Add in interruptions like natural disasters and weird weather patterns, and we can count on any one of us bouncing in and out of connectivity. So meetings include productive conversations like this: “Hey, there she is!  Ooops, wait. Did we lose her?  I think we lost her. Well, we can keep going – oh, she’s back! Nope. Nope, she’s not.” 
  • To mute or not to mute.  It’s a handy little button, that.  Great for blocking out things like external office noise or when you need to sneeze.  It’s very simple: Click: mute. Click: Unmute.  Yet there is no button that is harder to find and click when the dog starts barking or a family member comes in to ask you what’s for dinner. Conversely, trying to find it and click to unmute yourself when someone else in the meeting has asked you a question for some reason takes upwards of 30 seconds. Even better is when you THINK you have unmuted but you haven’t. There you are, the voiceless talking head like an old silent movie.  Thus creating more riveting meeting dialog: “You are on mute. We can’t here you. You need to unmute.” 
  • We can still see you.  Just as handy as the mute button is the video on/off button. You can still participate in the meeting without being seen live, and instead pop up a lovely posed still photo of yourself. Perfect to use when you are eating or blowing your nose or adjusting your bra strap. Because no one needs to see any of that happening up close. Especially effective is going Double-Dark, by clicking both video off and mute. This is most commonly used, honestly, when we are all trying to multi-task and are only partially paying attention.  Oh, come on, don’t act like you haven’t done this. D-D is perfect for getting up to let out the barking dog, turning around to chat with a co-worker or answer your child’s question about dinner, or respond to emails. Just like talking when muted, however, we have all fallen victim to thinking our video is off when it is not. That’s when others have seen our empty chairs, watched us empty our trash,  totally divert our attention elsewhere, play with a pet, or in some well-documented cases on social media, get up to pour some coffee wearing pajama bottoms. I’m going to be honest here and say I live for these moments. After way too many hours in Video Sessions, these are the humorous real life bits I need.
  • Freeze Frame.  Remember that Wifi issue?  Yeahhhhhh, even better than getting totally kicked off the call is when your video feed freezes.  This never happens when you are looking lovely and peaceful with a pretty smile on your face.  Oh no.  Your video will freeze when your eyes are closed, your mouth open, and your head at an awkward angle because you’ve just flipped your hair back.  And you look like some sort of deranged muppet.  
  • Great Forehead.  We are all using any variety of desktop or mobile devices during our video calls, and we could be anywhere from our desk to our backyard to the kitchen table to the car to propping the laptop up on a chair.  So the angle of view is often not a piece of perfection. We don’t look like a well-staged Hoda Kotb.  I’ve had numerous conversations with people’s foreheads, people who look like Kilroy peering over a counter top, someone who is tilted downhill, or – sometimes briefly, someone’s boobs. There’s a reason Video chats provide your own image mirrored back to you.  We don’t need to look like Hoda, but talking to a body part or piece of a face is kinda spooky. 
  • Good Fakes.  Since all this video craziness began, there has been a big emphasis and fascination on backgrounds. Often more attention is given to someone’s background than to the person themselves.  Any of you who follow RoomRater on Twitter understand the importance of a bowl of fruit or well-placed plant. Now many of the Video formats allow the user to pick a PB – Pretend Background.  I’m a fan of the slightly blurry background because it makes the person look sharp and more 3-D-ish.  Some backgrounds are more realistic than others.  I have been momentarily duped into believing that one of the other meeting participants is calling in from a swanky penthouse apartment, an ornate library, or a tropical rainforest.  Until they move and lose an arm or their hair because it uses the same technology as a green screen.  “HA!  So you really AREN’T at a café in Paris!” 

Good or bad, video conferencing I’m afraid is here to stay, here for the long haul. With time, it will probably continue to improve, and hopefully at some point we won’t all have 5 different services we use (because p.s. the audio connection requires different set ups on each, thus creating my awkward and panicked button pushing to get my headset connected).  

As frustrating as it may be to be interrupted by road noise, or kids crying, or lose that important piece of information thanks to a disconnect, or deal with the embarrassment of an ill-timed yawn or food spill, we need to cut each other some slack. If there’s one thing that video conferencing has reinforced for me is that we are all human.  In this crazy world, we are all doing the best we can to stay connected and to keep our sh-t together.  It’s not easy.  But the next time you see a cat walk across someone’s keyboard or their screen falls and you get a crooked view of their knees, just pause and smile.  It’s the universe’s way of saying we are all in this together. 

Posted in communication, convenience, digital, discussions, family, online, photos, skills, social media, Technology, Uncategorized, Vidoe conferencing, work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment