Food Memories

My son came home yesterday for the holiday break. Always an event that makes a Happy Mom.  Over supper, we were chatting about Thanksgiving food, and he shared a memory about his Uncle and an artichoke. You see, my older brother, who passed four years ago, loved artichokes. My son remembered one year when he asked me if I’d cook him one to go with Thanksgiving dinner.  He then went through careful instruction with my son to teach him how to eat one, and my son remembers vividly trying it and thinking “you know what? I don’t hate this.”

My son has no idea how much his sharing of this memory meant to me last night.  The best thing about sharing memories, is that it makes one realize that we aren’t the only holders of them.  When events, or people, pass on, we are left with thoughts and remembrances in our heads and hearts, and some of us RW’s worry that these will fade over time.  When someone else seemingly randomly shares a memory they have of a moment in time, it feels like a happy warm blanket, and helps us keep hope that the legacy of the person or event will live on – and truly meant something to others as well.  No matter how potentially trivial.

Food tends to illicit recollections and memories.  We all have those moments when a smell or flavor will transport us back in time to perhaps a friend’s dinner table, or a grandmother’s kitchen, or a backyard BBQ.  But it is the people and the activities around that food memory that are so special because let’s face it, in a lot of ways, food is social.  And here we are, on the eve of a famously food-focused holiday, and those memories come-a-swirlin’.  Something can spring to mind or conjure a feeling that may not really have as much to do with the food itself as the people involved. Or the setting. Or the weather.  The memory may even be about a table decoration – like the childhood plastic bunny that always held jelly beans that my sibling still puts out every Easter. 

Sure, those RW’s of us who are doing lots of food prep hope for a “this is delicious”, but deep down we know we are more hoping to create memories.  Good AND bad.  Lord knows Epic Food Fails can be really funny years later.  There’s nothing better than having someone share a memory and tell a story that has us laughing and spurting out “I can’t believe you remember that!”  

I’ve spoken to a number of people who this year will be missing some folks around the table for Thanksgiving, due to anything from illness to hospitalization to death to distance.  Missing in person doesn’t mean they will be missing in thoughts and words. Their presence just takes another form.

Memories are best shared spontaneously, out of the blue. Luckily, that is how memories tend to surface – when something someone says or does reminds you of a moment in the past, and truly makes us thankful for having experienced it, no matter how simple or silly it may be. This year, I have a suggestion to us all.  No matter whether you are cooking a feast for a big gathering, a small meal for just a few, making reservations or ordering out for a party of one this week….my wish for you is to pick up the phone, speak up at the table, or write a note to someone to share a “random” memory. 

You never know when a story about an artichoke could make someone’s day.

Happy Thanksgiving and wishes for warm & lovely memories to you all!

Posted in celebrations, communication, Entertainment, events, family, Food, history, Holidays, memories, real women, Relationships, Seasons, Traditions, words | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not Yet.

We New Englanders are fiercely proud of our seasons. Yes, I called them “our” seasons. Given a chance, we will boast to those who live in warmer climes about how we have four of them. We don’t need topics like politics or celebrity drama; we can go on and on and on with detailed descriptions, analysis, comparisons and even debates about seasons and their related weather patterns. Our favorite icebreaker at any party is to be handed an adult beverage and asked “think we’ll get a lot of snow this year?”

Our devotion is only slightly dampered by the inevitable complaints that surface twice a year: mid-summer when it gets above 90 degrees with high humidity, and mid-winter when it is below zero with snow, ice and windchills.  Other than that, any of us will be happy to obnoxiously regale you with why it is so lovely to live here.  We all claim to have a “favorite” season, but the truth is we all agree on one:  Fall is the best.  The problem? It is also the shortest.

The other night my husband and I were, yes, having a seasonal discussion. (In the northeast, that qualifies as pillow talk).  He brought up a really good question – why does this season get to have two names:  Autumn and Fall?  The other three only have one name each. Seems a bit unfair.  That said, I believe Fall, at least in our neck of the woods, has a third name:  the Not Yet season.

As the temperatures drop, especially in the overnight hours, one particular topic pops up on our seasonal discussions.  It generally goes something like this:

“Turned your heat on yet?”

“NO!  Not yet!  It was 52 degrees in the house this morning, but it warmed up enough when the sun came out. No need to turn it on yet.”

“52?  Heck, it hit 49 in our place, had to get the slippers out. But no heat. Not yet.”

Some of us will tell you we are reluctant to turn the heat on because we are saving money. But come on, really, is turning it on for a bit to take off the morning chill, one week earlier than last year, really going to make that big a difference?  No.  The truth is we like to show off our “northeast fortitude.”  We are tough, we don’t need that sissy heat thing – not yet.

Similarly we hold off on getting out our winter coats.  Especially our teens and 20-somethings. “Want to take your fleece coat to school?”.   “Nah, not yet. I’ve got my hoodie.”

Get any of us going on the status of fall foliage, and you’ll hear it again.  “You guys at peak?”  “Nope, not yet. Got some nice reds and yellows, but still plenty of green. I hear up north they are getting near peak. But here? Not yet.”   This is generally followed by an in-depth discussion of foliage quality.  Good year?  Bad year?  If the colors aren’t vibrant, we’ll launch into the “why’s”… lack of water, no really cold crisp nights, the decline of maple trees – you name it, we’ll have our philosophies and myths with a bit of science mixed in.

Another discussion point is the appropriate time to purchase and display pumpkins. Some of us ardently believe that no pumpkins should be purchased until at least the beginning of October.  “Oh, you can’t get a pumpkin, not yet!  What if we get an Indian Summer?  It will just disintegrate and mold all over your front porch, and that’s disgusting.”   {Editorial note:  my apologies for using the old and unsuitable term of ‘Indian Summer’.  Another New England euphemism.  ‘Indigenous People’s Summer’ seems inappropriate as well, so perhaps we should just call them ‘Weirdly Warm Days.’ }

Sometimes the ‘not yet’ syndrome carries a tone of anticipation:  

“Made your first cup of cocoa yet?”   “Not yet, but that sounds great, I think I’ll make some tomorrow morning.”

“Gone apple picking?”  “Ohhh, not yet, but getting together with friends soon to do that and go to the cider mill!”

Or, it can be just another addition to the To Do list:

“Done maintenance on the snow blower?”  “Ugh, not yet, but I better soon. Farmer’s Almanac says we are in for a doozy this year.”  (reference comment above about the party icebreaker).

“I just cleaned out my gardens, have you?”  “Not yet, I still have a few things blooming.”

“Have you switched your closets over?”   “No, not yet, and I really need to – this weekend for sure.”  This one is a source of both joy and pain for most of us R.W.’s.  We are happy to get reacquainted with some favorite sweaters, boots and jeans.  But it also means coming to terms with clothing that needs to be sorted, donated, replaced.  This past weekend I tackled my change of seasons clothing swap. Thanks to weight gain combined with clearing out old items that went out of style at least 5 years ago, I filled several bags for donations and it took me nearly all day.  My husband’s process took about 30 minutes.

And, you know this one is coming at you, if it hasn’t already:  “Started holiday shopping?”  Cue the anxiety behind the response of “not yet.”

Perhaps we all cling to the Not Yet season because we want to make it linger as long as possible. To have our time saying goodbye to summer, and enjoy saying hello to crisp clear air, cool refreshing temperatures, the beauty that surrounds us – and put off just for a bit longer the shortening of daylight, the hint of winter in the air, and the signal that we are in the last quarter of the year.

It makes me think of the big oak trees that are so prevalent around these parts.  (See? Here I go again with talk of foliage!). Inevitably, the oaks are the last to let go of their leaves.  All the other trees will have littered the ground with their colorful confetti, and are left with their dark bare branches bracing for the onslaught of white stuff.  But the oaks, they are a stubborn bunch.  They will hang on to their yellow-brown scalloped-edged flags, resistant to giving in to the end of the season.  A few will wave at us as we walk by and rake up their fallen comrades. 

If you listen closely to the rustling, you’ll hear it.

Not yet.

Posted in autumn, changes; hibernation, events, life phases, memories, routines, Seasons, Social situations, weather | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mundane Adventures

My husband and I ran a couple errands together last weekend.  I know that sounds monotonous, common and uneventful, but in all honesty that is usually not a “together” activity for us.  He has his errand locations:  Home Depot, the auto parts store, the fish market; and I have mine:  Home Goods, the grocery store, the pharmacy.  We generally have no interest in each other’s favorite haunts.  That changes when the destination is Costco.  I mean, come on, any large warehousey looking building that showcases TVs and electronics at the entrance is going to appeal to men.  Any large bulk-shopping building that also offers clothing, household goods, books, toys and food will appeal to RW’s.  The customer base there is made up of the widest variety of people of any of my other usual stops.  Men, women, children, elderly, those with wealth and those without, those with large families, those who are empty nesters – all can be seen roaming the aisles.

Ever since my son was a little boy, this is the one store visit that both he and my husband have been quite willing to not only join me, but to BROWSE.  We know the usual male form of shopping:  get in, get out.  But here there’s an allure of what you might miss if you don’t roam a bit.  Of course the pre-pandemic plethora of free samples used to be a big draw as well.  On the day of our visit, the only samples being offered were a ghastly high-caffeine “natural” energy drink and prepackaged snack biscuits.  Oh how we miss the days of basically eating lunch as we shopped.

High on the mundane level, went in specifically for toilet paper. We get all of our paper products there, and have become TP snobs, preferring only Kirkland brand.  If we get down to my back-up pack of 4 Scott brand rolls, we get into a minor panic that we are totally “out” and must get to Costco.  There are two very important warnings about visiting this retailer:  1.  You will ALWAYS purchase more than you went for and spend more than you expected, and 2.  If you go on a weekend, it will be well- orchestrated chaos of people-hood, resembling the old days of Filene’s Basement on Black Friday.  

We managed to dodge the cart-filled traffic jams to get our beloved TP, two “what a deal” mid-season jackets, a big container of raspberries and a block of batteries.  As we made our way up front towards the throng of shoppers at check out, I suggested he go play in the electronics department and I would wait in line and meet him on the other side. He was quite happy with this arrangement.  I don’t mind the line waiting, because the employees do their best to move people through (my cashier was chugging the aforementioned energy drink), and I like to see what others are buying.  There is always something someone found that I did not see or know was available.  This time I took note of the couple ahead of me who had picked up a cooked roaster chicken that looked far better than the birds I can get at my local grocery chain.

Escaping the crowds, we next paid a quick visit to our local independent pet supply store – another destination that appeals to us both, and another place where it is far too easy to spend more than planned.  We were focused on purchasing dog food and bird seed.  This time it was my hubby who recalled that we would need a new suet feeder for winter, so in the cart that went as well.  As we headed up front, we saw a young boy, perhaps around 4 years old, with is dad. The boy was cradling to his chest what we thought was a plastic toy iguana.  The boy paused and asked “would you like to pet her?”  At that moment we realized said iguana was quite alive, well, and apparently happy to be out for an adventure.  Gotta say I’m not sure I’ve ever pet an iguana before, but I have now.

The last stop was one that I was most trepidatious about. We needed a few things at the grocery store.  My husband has not grocery shopped since pre-pandemic.  This is slightly purposeful. He, like most men, get easily befuddled in the aisles.  In the past, if I have sent him in on his own (yikes) with a list, it was necessary to include notes on specific location, brand and visual cues.  And, again like most men (ps I realize there are some of you out there who are very good at grocery shopping – just understand you are in the minority), he would come home missing a few items, having added in a few of his own and having proudly spent only $40.  Once the pandemic hit, I advised him against taking on this task on any level.  The frustrations of OOS, lack of staff and rapidly increasing costs would merely send him over the edge of reason.  He was perfectly satisfied to be the one to help me unload upon my return home as I regaled him with shopping stories and challenges.

On this foray, he was surprisingly calm as we knocked things off my list. Mind you, I am in there at least weekly.  I hate the grocery task, so my goal is to be as quick and efficient as possible and I know where to find pretty much everything.  What I had forgotten is that doing the grocery store run with a man is not unlike shopping with a teenager. 

A few examples:

At the deli counter, he said “The next time we get ham, can we get swiss cheese instead of provolone? It just tastes better.”  Me:  “Sure, do you want to get more ham now?”  Him: “No.”   Me:  “Did you want to get some swiss now for whatever ham you have left at home?”  Him:  “No.  I’m kind of burned out on all the usuals.” Me:  “Ok…do you want some roast beef this week for a change?”  Him: “No. But that bologna you got last time was good.”

I was nearly at the end of one aisle when I turned back and saw him browsing.  Not sure what he was focused on, could have been something like a can of olives.  Me:  “Did you find something you want?”  Him:  “Huh?  Uh, no.” 

In the cookie/snack aisle, we looked to see if the store brand wafers he likes are back in stock. They are not. Him: “You’d think they’d have plenty of their own brand.”  Me:  “Distribution issues don’t discriminate.”

Another aisle, he pauses to answer a text on his phone. By the time he’s done, he has lost track of me because I’m at the end of the next aisle with my arms full because he has the cart with him.

Last aisle. Him: “Wow, it’s cold over here. Are we almost done?” 

Up at check out.  Him:  “Why are there only two lanes open?  And where are the baggers?”.  Me: “Welcome to my world.”

We returned home feeling for the most part successful in our missions. After bringing in our purchases and getting things put away, we returned to our regularly scheduled programming – him to putter in his workshop, me a walk with the dogs. While strolling, I pondered about how participating in even the most mundane of activities takes on a unique perspective when done with another person.  Be it child, partner, friend, family member, coworker – a different set of eyes, ears and viewpoint can make you pause in your usual tried and true path and notice something in a different light.  Yes, it might slow you down a bit and feel just a bit less efficient.  But chances are you’ll notice something you normally would have cruised right by.  

Ya never know.  It could even be a pet iguana.

Posted in behavior, Chores, groceries, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Digital How You Doin’

It’s hard to escape them.  Even if you unplug and run away, they will be there when you get back. And they will have brought friends.  Lots of them.  Sounds like a cheesy horror flick, but I’m just talking about …email.

It’s hard to remember how we all communicated before email was a thing.  For those of us (ahem) who are old enough to remember using a typewriter in the workplace, our first finger taps into the land of digital communication were tentative and fascinating.

Flash forward a coupla decates and now we can’t escape the flood of messages that fill our inboxes literally faster than we can respond.  We are deluged with the good, the informative, the funny, and of course the bad and the ugly. 

It strikes me that the land of email has become the modern digital equivalent to a packed bar or dance club where everywhere you look, an email is giving you a Joey Tribbiani  “How you doin.”   Like the people we’d meet during a night out at the bar, each email has its own personality, its own goal, and its own level of either attractive pleasantness or sleazy eww-factor.  

The sleaziest of course are the scammers.  These are the kind of scary lookin’ folks hanging out in the corners of the bar or outside near the door, trying to lure you in.  The scam email is either the guy with slicked back hair, way too much jewelry and cologne you can smell from 10 feet away who can’t stand still, OR the drugged out nervous small dude with his hoodie pulled up over his head, shades on, constantly looking over his shoulder. He reeks of pot or body odor.  They ask us to buy them gift cards for an important project, to lend them money to get their cousin out of jail in Peru, or offer a can’t miss deal on Amazon.  As Real Women, we walk by disgusted and tell them to go pound salt, but also spend a lot of time protecting our innocent little sisters or great Aunt Agnes from engaging. We call over the bouncers (email IT nerds) to shut them down or scare them away.

Next up on our bar encounter are the mysterious friends of the scammers.  These are the folks who sneak up, hand you their number (or email address) and say “Call me. I’ll make it worth your while.”  Then disappear.  I literally received an email from one of these strangers today. It read: I would like us to discuss some important business that will benefit both of us. I will send you more details upon your response.   Really?  Who thinks that is going to work?  It’s like making a blind date with a convict.  Again, it is important to hold your little sister’s hand and say “No. Don’t do it.  How many times have I told you not to take a drink from a stranger?”

As we take our seats at the bar and survey the crowd, we cringe when we see the desperate person who asked us out on a date three months ago and still has not gotten the message we aren’t interested.  This is the email that shows up from someone pitching their services or product, or has randomly picked your name out of a hat.  I get many, many of these at work, usually from someone trying to sell me an email list so I can – you got it – email lots and lots of other people who I had to purchase their information from a stranger because I don’t know them personally.  The desperate, hurt, ignored email invariably conveys this message:  “This is my fifth email to you and I still have not received a response.”  Yeah, that’s right. It’s called ghosting.  Go bother someone else.

You know who’s next in our bar encounter.  The ever so perky marketing emailer.  90% of them are retailers or manufacturers who are JUST SO EXCITED TO SHOW YOU A NEW PRODUCT or tell you their CLEARANCE SALE IS ON NOW.  They are energetic, dance all night, literally vibrate when they talk to you and act beyond excited to be in your presence.  I have to admit that in my professional life, I spend a bit of time with this crowd.  I kind of am one of them.  We are all competing to tell our stories the best, be the funniest and cleverest…we passionately believe that we have something you really really need.  We are dressed up in the coolest trends and brightest colors to grab the most attention and we spend the night yelling over the music and buying fruity caffeinated drinks and giving out swag like stickers, pins and koozies for your drinks.  If you ignore us or tell us to go away, that’s ok because 20 minutes later we’ll be in your face again from the other side of the dance floor.  We are ninja-like in tracking you down.  Ironically I love and hate my own kind.  My gmail account gets loaded up every minute of every day with these high energy bar mates.  The only way to get rid of them is to take the time to sit and unsubscribe to each one – kind of like having that “it’s not you, it’s me no wait it’s really you” conversation you hate to have — which I never seem to have the time to do.  And they know it.  

Finally after weaving our way through the mass of bar bodies, we come across the few that make all those emails worthwhile, and the reason we walked into the club in the first place. We find an email from a friend, or a family member who lives too far away to see regularly.  Or the work emails you actually do really need to make your day flow, or those that have answers to your questions.  It could be an email from a new potential romantic partner and you get giggles and butterflies as you plan your ever so important response.  Maybe it is an email from your longtime partner professing love or confirming vacation dates.  It may be an email with a link to a really funny cat video or family photo.  Just when we are feeling like we want to leave and head home, there’s a reason to stay. We sigh, wrap that bar email in a hug, and settle in for a chat and say “let me buy you a drink”.  Suddenly all those others are easier to ignore.  

Sure, we can choose not to enter the bar in the first place. But whether we like it or not, those emails will keep multiplying and vying for our attention.  The only thing we have control over is how we respond… and how quickly we can push delete – or buy another round.

I realize that many of you reading these words are here because an email led you here.  Thank you for pulling up a stool and settling in with a beverage.  The next one is on me.

Posted in communication, digital, discussions, email, Entertainment, friends, innovation, real women, Relationships, Social situations | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Contain Ourselves

My husband was pitching in with kitchen clean up, tackling the variety of items that had collected in the sink. He paused at one point and said to me “you are the container queen.”   He had apparently found my lunch accessories.

It’s true. I have a plethora of small reusable containers that I use to pack my breakfast and lunch food every day.  I love them.  It’s not just that I want to do my part for the environment by limiting the number of plastic bags that end up in the landfill and won’t decompose until my great-great-great-great-grandchildren are senior citizens.  Nor is it because I enjoy hearing my husband grumble about more dirty dishes. Using small boxes and bowls with click-tight tops helps keep my take-with-me meals fresher and avoids things getting mushed. We have all experienced flattened sandwiches, crumby chips and broken cookies and those just make lunch time sad. Not to mention wrapping salads or leftovers in wax paper is just plain unappetizing.

So yes, I’ve accumulated a variety of sizes of food containers. Some are big enough to hold salad, with a side-saddle for dressing, some are tiny enough to hold my daily vitamins. Then there’s the fruit container, the snacks… and you begin to understand why I moved from a lunch bag to a lunch TOTE.

Even though my hubby was giving me some grief at the sink, for my birthday he gifted me a new container system for my lunches from Bentgo.  They are the modern, colorful, non-finger-pinching, non-rusted version of the old metal lunch boxes of my youth.  I was in our work kitchen rinsing out my new containers when one of our Directors came in, glance my way and said “Oh, you have a Bentgo?  Aren’t they great?  I love mine!”.  Suddenly I was one of the cool kids in the lunch room.  

We women love containers. Of all kinds. Decorative baskets, bins, storage tubs, tote bags, fancy boxes – you name it. If it is something we can conveniently put things in, we are happy campers.  Speaking of which, there are amazingly nifty and creative storage devices designed for camping… but I digress.

Some R.W.’s take the art of containing to another level. One lovely RW in my life has individual clear shoe boxes for each of her pair of shoes, neatly stacked in her closet so not only are the shoes clean and well cared for, she can quickly see each pair to decide which to wear on any given day. I am envious of her system and hope she never sees my heap-o’ off-season shoes piled in a large bin in my closet.  Just not quite the same effect.

Another R.W. in my life uses boxes, bins and all sorts of storage pieces throughout her house – but she takes it to the next level because her labeling is on point. Every container has a label – be it food stuffs in her pantry, or memorabilia in her basement, each item is labeled and either alphabetically or chronologically in order.

Some of us strive to use bins or boxes for items in our life that just can’t be contained. How many of you out there attempted to contain lego’s when your children were young?  It just doesn’t work. First, there’s the agonizingly long sorting process, and second,a s soon as the child wants to play with the lego’s they once again get dumped out only to have a few errant pieces run and hide until they can jump out to attack an unprotected adult bare foot. But for the most part, the majority of the “stuff” in our lives can be somehow wrestled into a containment system.

There are systems and holders out there that we don’t even know we “need.”  This, ladies and gentlemen, is the key to the success of the mecca that is The Container Store.  The store is more than just a big box that sells smaller boxes. It (pun intended) contains a beguiling collection of every form of storage, holder, bin, and organizational tool you could possibly ever need – or didn’t know you needed until you encountered it.  Some of my most recent treasures acquired from this R.W. haven include an in-cabinet spice rack that pulls out and lowers down for easy access to multiple levels, an avocado holder to prevent the other half of the avocado from turning brown, and – get this – a container that perfectly holds one serving of carrot sticks and hummus. I mean, how could I, queen of lunch containers, NOT get that?

I know that storing our belongings in handy and attractive containers is more than just an attempt to make our surroundings look tidy.  In many ways, for us R.W.’s, it’s about control and attempting to make order out of chaos. In our busy lives, and in this crazy world, it helps to know that we can gather things, put them neatly away and stack them in a corner, closet or cupboard.  We can choose to ignore them, or access them as needed. 

I wish we could box up all of the horrible things in the world and clamp the tops down tight so they could be hidden away or destroyed (or perhaps sent to Putin’s home).  And wouldn’t it be great if we were able to store the good things too – like special moments and feelings — in containers and access them whenever we need a boost?  A perfect weather day, the feeling of a hug, the smell of your grandmother’s kitchen, a fabulous day with family or friends…neatly preserved and just waiting for us when we need them.  Often when I am in one of my happy places, like standing on a beach with my toes in the water, or pausing by a babbling brook in the woods, or lifting my face to the first warm spring rays of sun, I close my eyes and breathe deep, hoping I can savor the moment and save it for when I’m in a less-than happy place.  How nifty would it be to have a container to store it in.

I suppose we can’t ever have that level of control.  Even The Container Store doesn’t have solutions for that kind of preservation.  So I’ll just be happy with my day to day storage, and take satisfaction in the click of the top coming off my dish of fruit for breakfast and the pop of the seal on my to-go tea mug and pretend that I’m enjoying them at a seaside bistro.  It’s amazing what the right container and a little imagination can do.

Posted in comfort, convenience, Food, habits, home, innovation, kitchen, meals, memories, Needs, real women, routines, safety, simplifying, storage | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Mysterious Marvelous Fourth Drawer

My husband has been working really hard on renovating our basement. For his birthday last week, I gave him an electronic dartboard to hang on the wall when he’s all done.  He thought it was great, and said “remember back when we had a free-standing dart board down there?”

Nope. I don’t. Why?  Because it was 20 years ago, and that file has been purged from my brain storage.

You see I believe all of our memories are stored in a big brain file cabinet. And while the capacity is impressive, from time to time some things have to be purged and removed from the drawers to make room for other more current or important topics.  While others live on forever.  And each drawer has a category and purpose.

The first drawer in the cabinet is all the current stuff that is flying around our brains each day. As women, that drawer is never closed. There are a gazillion files and reference documents pulled in and out in rapid succession all day long.  Things to do and remember for work, family management topics, health issues, pet care, dinner plans, the latest episode of This is Us, it’s all in there. And just when we think we can close it and go to sleep, there’s that one file that didn’t get put away correctly, and it forces that drawer open around 3am to get our brain going on something that makes no sense whatsoever, or to let us know that it was incorrectly filed under “worries.” 

Men are quite capable of closing their first drawer.  The drawer is not as packed as ours, and they pull out one file at a time as needed.  They don’t have 738 files flying back and forth at any given moment.  And when they are all done with the files they need, they shut the drawer. This is why, when you are snuggled up on the sofa, it is quiet, and you ask sweetly “Whatcha thinking about?” he replies “Nothing.”  It’s because he really isn’t thinking about anything.  While you are ruminating about what the forecast is, if you can get into work early before your first meeting in the morning, if you have the energy to change the sheets on the bed, whether you remembered to change your child’s doctor’s appointment, and if last year’s shorts will still fit, he’s thinking of nothing. Because he has closed that top drawer until he needs it again.

The second drawer is important, fairly recent topics that you need to access from time to time, but not necessarily every day.  Loved ones’ birthday dates, upcoming doctor’s appointments, grocery lists, a memorable chapter in a book you are reading, your child’s shoe size, a funny story you want to tell you sister next time you talk – are all files living in that second drawer.  This drawer is tricky though.  It is apt to open and close without warning, causing us to forget what we had intended to access.  We open the drawer when we are upstairs in our bathroom and realize we need to add hairspray to our grocery list.  Then by the time we get back to the kitchen and look at our list, the drawer has shut and we can’t remember what we needed. Or we are trying to tell a friend about a movie and we can’t recall the actor’s name. For men, this drawer closes quickly and often, so for example, they will pick something up, put it down on whatever surface is convenient, their drawer will close and they will walk away and forget the item even exists.  Or that drawer will close and cause them to forget you have plans for the evening.  Or where the scotch tape is kept.

Sadly, that second drawer gets harder and harder to open the older we get.  The contents become more difficult to access, and pretty soon files are being purged whether we want to get rid of them or not. Drawer #2 is both the handiest and the most frustrating part of the cabinet.

Drawer 3 is devoted to older memories.  Herein lies our childhood, the spirit of people who have passed (the sound of their voice, the feel of their hand), first dates, high school or college memories, sibling hijinks, and those old sayings and jokes that make our kids cringe.  This drawer is packed, because it can contain memories and topics from our early years up to about a decade ago.  This, to me, is the part of the cabinet where files need to be tossed out/purged/erased from time to time to make room for more. It can be a bit embarrassing, like if I remember seeing a movie, but not who I was with when I saw it.  Or the name of an old college friend.  Or how to drive a route from the past.  Like the apparent old dartboard in our basement, someone will say “don’t you remember…” and I’ll have to confess to purging.

Interestingly, men seem to be more familiar with their third drawer than we ladies.  Men seem to have the uncanny ability to dredge up memories like high school teacher’s names, the details of their first concert, or a spelling bee they participated in during 4th grade. Sometimes I look at my husband and say “I can’t believe you remember that.”  It’s because he was able to open his third drawer and apparently never throws anything away.

There is one last drawer in our brain file cabinet. The mysterious and somewhat miraculous Drawer Number 4.  This drawer is labeled with just one word: music.  It is easily accessible at any random moment, often when we aren’t even trying to open it.  The other day as I pulled into the parking lot at my work, the Sirius radio station I had on started to play “Every Woman in the World” by Air Supply.  Anyone remember Air Supply?  My brother hated them and called them Gas Attack.  They were the epitome of bubblegum pop of the late 70s- early 80’s, and my young teen self thought they were great. While other kids my age were starting to listen to AC/DC and KISS,  I was the sappy nerd who was all about Billy Joel, Chicago, and lord help us, even England Dan & John Ford Coley.  It wasn’t until I was in college that I got “wild and crazy” and started listening to Styx and Bon Jovi. I was all about story-telling songs.

Anyway, as I parked my car, there I was, transported back to my teen bedroom, singing along with a song I literally have not heard in 40 years. The words still popped into my head and I thought “Why the heck do I still know this song? What random file from that drawer got plucked out when I’m not even thinking about it?”

That fourth drawer is especially full for musicians, or anyone who has been involved with music in their lives.  My husband used to sing with a band, and I still marvel at the lyrics he remembers. The most amazing thing about that last drawer is it never gets purged.  Classic example: Tony Bennett. The man is 95, sadly riddled with Alzheimer’s, yet up until just a year ago he’d get together with Lady Gaga and every note of music, every lyric, came back to him in a heartbeat. There are so many stories of the elderly connecting with music when seemingly everything else failed to make sense to them. It’s mystical.

Of course, there is a danger with this drawer.  Inevitably, when we least expect it, a file will get wedged, causing the drawer to stay ajar juuuuusssttt enough for a song, or even one verse of a song, to get stuck in our heads for days. It isn’t even necessarily a song we enjoy. Even trying to select a different file from that drawer sometimes doesn’t help until that one song gets safely tucked away and out of our active brains.

If there is to be one magical drawer in the cabinet that never fails us, I’m glad it is the one full of music.  The next time drawer number one is exhausting us, drawer number two is frustrating us, and drawer number three makes us melancholy, we’ve got one more option.  No matter if we are in the car, cleaning the kitchen, or blocking out the rest of the world with our headphones, we can make a random selection from drawer number four and sing and dance our heart out.  And for those 3-4 minutes, nothing else exists.

Come on, drawer 4.  Play me a memoryWe’re all in the mood for a melody — And you’ve got us feelin’ alright.

Posted in Entertainment, family, friends, habits, memories, men, music, routines, skills, storage | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Happens When We Stop Listening

Anyone who has read my blog over the years knows that I stay about 8,000 feet away from posting anything that can be remotely considered political or a hot-button issue.  Not because I don’t care about important issues, but simply because we seemed to have lost our ability to let others believe what they want to believe, and vitriol spews forth on social media faster that lava from a volcano.  I grow weary of the drama and anger, and strive to share just light-hearted and amusing quips.  Which would be obvious to anyone who ever scrolled through my daily feed, it is full of puppy and kitty videos.

I’ve been struggling over the past week or so to stay quiet about a topic that has my stomach in knots. Lord knows there’s a lot of news out there that can keep us up at night. But this topic, well, let’s face it. It’s about women. And my blog is about real women. So I’m stepping into danger zone knowing I may lose some of you.

Whenever there is a big news story or issue in our world, my brain automatically tries to simplify it to a real-world relatable level. What is the impact to real humans?  If whatever it is, was happening to me, or my loved ones, what would that mean to us? 

I was 8 years old when the Supreme Court made their decision in the Roe vs Wade case.  I was of course too young at the time to really understand the details. But even then I learned one key thing:  women could make their own decisions about their bodies.

When that ruling was made, it was based on the right to privacy that is protected by the 14th Amendment.  Seems simple enough.  No matter where you land on the concept of abortion, I believe this to be a basic human decency concept that no one – especially white middle-aged men in government – should have the right to decide what a woman does or doesn’t do for her own health and body.  Just as I am sure those same people would never make rulings over what decisions men can make for themselves and their bodies.  Can you imagine if there was ever a proposed law that declared it was illegal for men to have vasectomies?   Would never happen.

The desire to make our own decisions will never change.  But those decisions could get more dangerous.  I’m scared that the very real new potential of rolling back a decision that was made almost 50 years ago – yes, 50 – will create larger health issues…mentally, emotionally and physically.  In the 1950s and 60s, before Roe vs. Wade, the estimated number of illegal abortions in the U.S. ranged from 200,000 to 1.2 million PER YEAR.  And so many of those illegal acts were dangerous and even deadly.  The year after abortion was decriminalized, the maternal mortality rate in New York state alone dropped 45 percent.  Yowzah.

The latest news on this topic has of course re-ignited arguments, protests and a myriad of digital debate. One post I saw on social media this morning hit the nail on the head for me. A portion of it is here:

I’m not pro-murdering babies.

I’m pro-Becky who found out at her 20 week anatomy scan that the infant she had been so excited to bring into this world had developed without life sustaining organs.

I’m pro-Susan who was sexually assaulted on her way home from work, only to come to the horrific realization that her assailant planted his seed in her when she got a positive pregnancy test result a month later.

I’m pro-Theresa who hemorrhaged due to a placental abruption, causing her parents, spouse, and children to have to make the impossible decision on whether to save her or her unborn child.

I’m pro-little Cathy who had her innocence ripped away from her by someone she should have been able to trust and her 11 year old body isn’t mature enough to bear the consequence of that betrayal.

I’m pro-Brittany who realizes that she is in no way financially, emotionally, or physically able to raise a child.

I’m pro-Courtney who just found out she’s already 13 weeks along, but the egg never made it out of her fallopian tube so either she terminates the pregnancy or risks dying from internal bleeding.

You can argue and say that I’m pro-choice all you want, but the truth is:

I’m pro-life. Their lives. Women’s lives. You don’t get to pick and choose which scenarios should be accepted.

None of these examples above are unrealistic or sadly, that unusual.  Heart-wrenching life decisions happen every day for very real women.  I was lucky. I was only pregnant once, it was planned, I was healthy, and I was blessed with a healthy baby boy.  But I have heard stories from very real, very brave women in my life who were nowhere near as lucky as I. And if any of them had been forced to make their decisions in the 60’s, (or possibly in the future), not only would their choices be devastating, but potentially illegal.  No decision about what to do with our own bodies – whether it is a pregnancy or another health issue – is made lightly or easily. And no one should make those decisions for us unless we are totally incapacitated and unable to make them for ourselves. 

Ideally, hard life decisions aren’t made alone – every woman should have the opportunity to talk to people who will truly listen when she is brave enough to do so. Very personal stories can feel too scary to share, and it is easy for women to feel ashamed by their situations. But faced with daunting decisions, women should have the right and opportunity to get recommendations, medical advice, and learn about options. Then consider their own values, beliefs and Faith. They shouldn’t feel they have to hide in a dark alley. Above all, women should be understood and supported and allowed to make their own decisions — not blasted or condemned. The concept that someone who doesn’t even know you or understand your plight is allowed to dictate your personal choices about your own body is unfathomable to me.

What is clearly missing in the minds of the law makers who are pushing to overthrow 50 years worth of support of women’s rights is the ability to truly listen. Have any of them truly talked to, and heard, a woman tell her story of the choices she’s had to make in life?  I doubt it.

I pray that clarity and love will prevail. On this eve of Mother’s Day, let us think about our daughters and grand-daughters and the world we are leaving to them.  Don’t we want them to be able to determine what is best for themselves?  I know some of you won’t agree with my view, and that’s fine. All I ask is that you not start an argument, don’t throw rage and anger into an already difficult time.  Feel free to just move on.  But please, do me a favor.  When the opportunity presents itself, just listen. You may be surprised what a difference it can make.

Posted in discussions, family, future, Health, love, medical, real women, safety, self care, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Blue Pit Crew

I had a scheduled, non-emergency medical procedure this week.  That term “procedure” is so nice, non-threatening and all-encompassing. It could mean anything from a boob job to a colonoscopy. This was neither.  Since this is a blog predominantly about and for women, I will honestly say I had a D&C.  If you are a woman, especially of post-menopausal age, you know exactly what that is.  If you are a man, you may have a rough idea and really don’t want to know any details. And while I could now regale you with my newfound knowledge of teeny tiny cameras and vacuum cleaners, I won’t for two reasons: a., you might be trying to eat your breakfast while reading this, and b., it’s not what this post is about.  This post is about heroes in blue.

That phrase usually connotes police officers. In this case, the fabulous blue people are medical professionals. I spent about 5 hours in the Day Surgery building of my local preferred hospital/medical complex. And in that building, at least on that floor, every medical professional wears blue.  Blue scrubs, blue or white masks, blue caps.  The only differentiation from what I could tell was in their various colors and preferred styles of Dansko’s on their feet, and their designations on their ID’s around their necks. I’m sure they all know immediately who’s a Dr., a nurse, an aesthetician, a student resident…but to me they were all the same level of skilled blue humans.

Because this was not the ER (which is a whole ‘nother level of medical organized chaos), there was no sense of rushing, no signs of stress, no scariness. Yet they all moved like a well-timed play, with various characters taking their cues and showing up exactly when it was their turn to be introduced.  Since some regulations have relaxed, my husband was able to come in and wait with me in pre-op, which helped pass the time (then he had to leave the hospital and was called when it was time to come back and fetch me, and had to meet me at the door. Some guidelines are still confusing).  We commented on the one blue woman who must have done 5 laps past my doorway, each time carrying linens or moving a bed. I’m guessing she gets a whole lot of steps in every day.

We had a bit of time with the first nurse who came in to get me settled and checked in. We learned her name and the fact that she had been there for 28 years. When she found out that my husband was a big fan of Chicago Med and that he has memorized the drug names from TV ads during the morning news, she joked that they may want to hire him.  At one point she had to step away for a few minutes, and when she returned she apologized and explained her child’s school nurse had called. 

And there it is. The reality that no matter what professional role we play, real life and real situations happen.  We had learned that she had met and married her husband through work, and he was also a nurse somewhere in the hospital.  Yet it was she who took the call from school, and she who found another nurse to step in so she could leave to take care of her child in need. #weareallthesame.

Once I was checked in and IV’d, there was a bit of a wait until we got closer to curtain call on the performance.  Like clockwork, one by one each person who would be part of my pit crew in the OR came in to introduce themselves, explain their role, and ask if I had any questions. There were additional nurses, the anesthesiologist, and of course, my doctor.  I realize that each person who stopped by meant more $$ on the bill, but each and every one was kind, calm and comforting.  I knew darn well that as soon as I was wheeled in, situated, and put into slumber town, I’d not see any of them again.  But it was nice to know they would all be there taking care of me.

And guess what. Every single blue person taking care of me that day was a woman.  And it’s not just because of the variety of procedure I was having done.  I think I only saw in passing maybe two men in blue on that floor that day. I have met some fabulous male medical professionals over the years.  But to me, women are just made for these roles.  They are masters of multi-tasking, handlers of stress, have immense coping skills, and above all else, are queens at empathy. Bedside manners come naturally. They get it.  They are efficient, don’t get frustrated by questions, and understand what it feels like to be the patient. They manage to keep their sense of humor when it helps put people at ease. And nothing rattles them or embarrasses them. They’ve seen it all, dealt with it all, and just keep rollin’.

Especially given the past couple of years, I am in awe of people like our nurse who are 20+ years in and are still pleasant, still calm, still… there.  It takes a certain kind of person to not only get through all of the schooling and training required to do the amazing things they do, but survive all of the craziness of a pandemic, and still be just plain nice. We could hear the questions and discussions going on in the pre-op section next to me, the patient was clearly an elderly gentleman with health issues and some memory challenges, and the blue people working with him were calm and respectful.  It reminded me of the many, many, times I would accompany my handicapped brother to multiple health care appointments and hospital stays – and how grateful I was for the professionals who understood his limitations, took the extra time and care he needed, and treated him with dignity.

For so many people, hospital stays can be scary and confusing. Besides having their health needs met, the most important thing is simple yet vital: to feel cared for.  And that’s what those blue people are there to do.  The best ones not only say “we are going to take care of you” but mean it, and do it.  They may wear funky rubber clogs instead of capes, but they are heroes…and I’ll happily have them be my pit crew any day.

Posted in caregivers, comfort, doctors, Health, Helping others, medical, Professions, real women | Tagged , | Leave a comment

International Women’s Day

When I think of all of the amazing women I have had the honor and joy of knowing, both past and present, from family to friends to coworkers to even just brief acquaintances, what stands out for me and has made them memorable is not what they do (or did) for a living, or their age, cultural background, or status. What has made each of them inspiring is their passion, strength, humor, empathy, love, intelligence, talent, respect, and inner beauty. Yes, we need to let young girls know that they can be anything they want to be, from doctor to astronaut to teacher to CEO… but let’s not put pressure on them to believe that WHAT they do is the only way to be memorable and inspiring.

If they want to leave a positive mark on the world and the people around them, WHO they are is the best form of influence — and will be their ultimate legacy. #internationalwomensday

My Mom and Grandma, circa mid-1950’s. Neither of them climbed mountains, became CEO’s or started companies. But their legacies live on.
Posted in achievements, ancestors, family, friends, history, real women | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Earning Our Rings

As I type these words, I am in my comfy jammies, feet up, and have the Winter Olympics on TV.  I am amazed by any elite athletes in any competition, game or exhibition who reach new speeds, new heights, new levels of strength and grace and do the seemingly impossible. When the Olympics come along, we get a front row seat to be awed by the best of the best.

Part of the excitement comes from the fact that there’s always an element of danger or injury. The older I get, and I suppose in part because I’m a mom, that element of danger causes me more anxiety, worry and cringing as these folks willingly throw themselves into wild situations.  There’s something especially jaw-dropping and scary about the Winter version of these games. Many years ago, I had the opportunity to stand at the top of the lower ski jump in Lake Placid, NY.  It was terrifying just standing there, looking down that ridiculously high and steep path (again, I was on the LOWER structure), and I decided right then and there that “Yup. These people are crazy.”  And the heights and challenges have just gotten even more intense since those days. 

Over the weekend we watched luge with guys flying down the ice path at 80+ mph, which is not even as fast as the bobsledders who get up to 100mph flying down tubes of ice in tiny little skating go- carts.  Last night we witnessed  Big Air Shougang freestyle skiing. These women were happily hurdling BACKWARDS on skis down a 165’ slope that is nose-bleed steep, flying off a jump to do twists and turns in the air and land smoothly.  After they landed, they came to a stop, lifted their masks on their helmets and smiled for the camera like they just had the most fun ever. And guess what?  They are all beautiful.  I mean, come on. Really? I just don’t understand. At what point do these smart, strong women who are headed down their life’s journey to do things like go to Yale to study medicine, decide “Hey, ya know what? Downhill skiing is too boring. I’m gonna hurl myself down the side of a mountain and become airborne to do tricks and laugh in the face of death. Just because it looks like fun.”  Insert face palm here.

I enjoy watching, but at the same time it gives me angst.  Can anyone over the age of 20 watch moguls without their own knees aching?  Any time any of these athletes stumble or fall, I physically flinch. I think anyone who just SURVIVES this craziness deserves a metal, let alone focus on out-spinning, flipping or flying past their competitors.  They are just not like us regular people.  No, the rest of us live with much more attainable goals – you know, like getting out of bed and walking downstairs without tripping.

As I sit here in my cozy space, feeling a bit sore from a short post-work 30-minute workout, I’m thinking about my own low-risk daily activity targets. You see, I received an Apple Watch for Christmas. And now I’m fairly obsessed with closing my rings every day.  For those who are not familiar, Apple serves up three rings for each day, helping the wearer meet goals for daily exercise, movement and standing. My ring goals are set low – an hour a day of exercise, standing at least once every hour, and whatever the preset level for calorie-burning movement comes standard.  That’s it. Yet those silly digital reminders are doing exactly what they are designed to do – suck me in, so I feel compelled to close those dang rings every day.  No one sees them but me. No one will know or care if I don’t do it. No one is watching me race down a ski hill and do flips on my way to a gold medal.  Yet there they are, taunting me.

I’m thinking that instead of having to earn rings (or medals), perhaps we should be awarded recognition for getting through what we RW’s already are accomplishing on a daily basis.  Coordinate childcare, school, and work a full 8-hour day?  Here’s a ring.  Get all your laundry done, put it away AND change the sheets on the bed?  Another ring.  Did you manage to have a conversation with your teen that lasted more than 5 minutes and included full sentences?  Nice glowing ring for you. Pick a healthier option on the menu, good for you, here’s a ring.  How about a double ring every time you successfully deal with an insurance company, financial institution or advocate for medical care for an elderly loved one without totally losing your sh-t? 

Granted, I’m all about rewards for going above and beyond, and using your special skills and abilities. So perhaps we could receive lovely medals on ribbons for the bigger things – like getting a promotion at work, coordinating and hosting a big family event, maintaining a new workout plan for at least 6 months, or getting out of debt… All really great accomplishments that otherwise go unrecognized.

Instead of stepping up to a podium and having to look amazing while listening to the National Anthem, our reward celebrations should be held at a margarita bar with other RW’s, wearing our yoga pants, where we can all compare notes on how we got through each day, rings intact. We’ll leave the extreme athleticism and death-defying acts to those Olympians. We’ve got our hands full being amazing in regular ways.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go write up my grocery list. I’m sure that’s worth at least one lovely pink ring.

Posted in achievements, behavior, careers, caregivers, Entertainment, events, fitness, habits, real women, routines | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment