The Other Stages

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

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

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

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

Now, where was I…. oh, yes:

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

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

 

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

Quit My Bellyaching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pondering the Lack of a Last Step

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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Waiting for Rosie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

In Search of POE

waitressI was fortunate to take a mini-vacation this past week.  Four and a half days of fun, sun, sand and surf in Florida. It was lovely and restorative. I could use this post to go on a diatribe about how too many of us don’t take enough time off to refresh and reboot, and how important it is to occasionally unwind.  But I’ll hold off until I’m successful in taking my own advice and manage to take any further days off in coming months.

I could also wax on about how every sunrise, even over the ocean, is fresh and new and different, and how we need to take those hints as to how we should live our lives… but sunrises are deeply personal and amazing things we all need to experience and consider on our own.

I will instead offer up a topic that is more relatable no matter whether on vacation or not, because it has to do with personal interactions. One of the activities we do while on vacation that my family rarely does in our regular lives, is go out to eat.  In our day to day lives, eating out was one of those things that was taken off our list of normal routines in an effort to save both our budgets and our waistlines. But when on vacation, other than stopping at a local market to pick up a few things for the mini-fridge in the hotel room, pretty much every meal is eaten in some form of restaurant.  With some form of wait staff.

The restaurant business is hard. Waiting on tables and patrons is not for the faint of heart, nor really is any form of direct customer service.  Yet that interaction between customer and service provider can totally make or break an experience – not to mention greatly effect tips.  In the space of just four days, we interacted with the good, the bad, and the….huh?!

We had lunch at a sidewalk café on a beautiful weather day, in a cute touristy town.  The waiter, who’s name I have long since forgotten, could not have made it more obvious that the last place he wanted to be was there assisting us with our meal.  He did not smile, not even once.  And rather than look at us, even when speaking, he would gaze out at the road seemingly planning his escape route.  Mind you, the group I was with, all modesty aside, is a fun, friendly group.  We have ALL played roles in customer service at some point in our lives. We are all tippers.  We all appreciate what it takes to do what these folks do every day.  You know, things like energy, desire and enthusiasm. None of which this guy exhibited.

Then there was Technology Woman on Speed.  We went to one of our favorite seafood restaurants for supper, expecting a delicious meal and great service.  We did get the delicious meal.  And the Server was friendly and polite enough… however she was in rush mode, speaking at 100 miles an hour as if she needed us to hurray up with our decisions.  She was armed with a handheld digital ordering device, which I dread to be the next generation of dining interaction, and which I suppose added to her need for speed as it was likely her direct link to the kitchen. She focused completely on her electronics and didn’t attempt any eye contact with us.  Apparently looking at customers has become optional. She literally said “hold on” when she had to swipe, type, swipe, type to make a correction.  I felt like I was trying to talk to the new robot that roams around my grocery store beeping and checking stock.

There are times of course when no matter how hard the Server tries, they just can’t save a bad experience. Such was the case with the woman trying to serve us lunch at a local chain restaurant.  She tried her best, including being pleasant, accommodating and honest. She took back one meal when it was undercooked.  She sent out someone from the kitchen who attempted to convince us that rubbery, hard, inedible chunks in our conch fritters were supposed to be there. She reduced our bill.  She eventually commiserated with us that her friends won’t even come in because of all the bad Yelp reviews they’ve been seeing. Oh, sweetie, time to find a new job.

Happily, not all of our dining adventures were unpleasant.  A crew of amazing women were serving up breakfast at one cute café, with friendliness, energy, humor, and efficiency.  They made us feel welcome and comfortable. They were real women on a mission to treat their customers like they themselves would want to be treated. Imagine that.

The other stand-out was a young man by the name of Miguel, our server at a BBQ place. He was everything a waiter should be: friendly, accommodating, attentive, could make recommendations, and was efficient without rushing. He happily took our group photo when we requested it.  At one point I called him a secret ninja waiter because I had just finished my last sip of my beverage when he magically appeared asking if any of us needed a refill.

We women especially appreciate great service because it is such a treat for us to sit and be waited on, rather than be the one doing the running around taking care of people.  Trust us, we know what it is like to be tired, have sore feet, deal with difficult people, and be counted on to provide what everyone needs and expects.  It can be a fabulous thing to be on the other side of that.

There, I believe, is the secret that all great waitstaff know.  As with any variety of customer service, strength lies in POE:  The Power of Empathy.  Every person, alone or in a group, who walks through that door, is there for a reason.  It could be a celebration like a birthday, anniversary, or wedding shower.  It could be a reconnection of friends or family, a vacation, or a nervous first date.  It could be someone in mourning, stopping in after a funeral, or grieving over a break up. It could simply be someone who’s had a really long exhausting day who just doesn’t have the strength or desire to cook a meal. The reason doesn’t matter, what does matter is that they need help. Not just for someone to robotically bring them food, but to be human and kind.

This is true in every part of our lives. That person who sat at your table, walked into your business, met you on the street or even came into your home is there because their sunrise that morning started them on a journey that led them to you.  That journey could have been happy and delightful or more likely, challenging and tiring.  Because we are all on our own sunrise-directed journeys.  And a little POE can go a long way to serving up some warmth.

sunrise

Posted in assisting, celebrations, communication, Entertainment, family, Food, friends, Helping others, meals, moods, Professions, routines, stress, travel, Uncategorized, Vacation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Food For Thought

grapesWe all know that food memories are surprisingly strong.  The smell of something cooking can transport us to a past moment in time.  A mention of an ingredient can make us remember a special meal at a great restaurant, and we can all probably name our top three favorite foods from our childhood.  (For me, that would be fluffernutter sandwiches, chicken in a basket, and chocolate covered graham crackers)

But what is most fascinating is that food memories link us directly to certain people – usually other Real Women, both past and present.  For example, a bowl of grapes. Instantly I think of the multiple road trip car rides when we were kids, and mom would pack a bag of grapes as a trip snack. In her ever practical mind, she thought it was a great way to “wet our whistles” without loading the kids up with liquids that would require multiple stops at the next available restrooms. Nothing says snack desperation like a warm bag of grapes that sat perched on the dashboard before getting passed around. I told this story to a friend, and she said now she thinks of me and my mom every time she eats grapes.

The food-to-person memories are usually very specific.  Ironically it usually isn’t the fancy, complicated meals we remember. Sure, you may have an Aunt that could cook an amazing Beef Bourguignon, or a Grandma who spent all day creating the perfect sauce.  But it tends to be the more simple yet comforting food that sticks in our heads, hearts, and taste buds.  Oatmeal raisin cookies make me think of a woman who used to care for my Grandmother, and her cookies were always the best. When asked what her secret was, she said in a whisper with a wink “I put the raisins in upside down.”  A concoction of creamed corn and hot dogs makes me think of mom and dad getting ready to go out, because that was a quick meal mom would prep for us before they left.  Salmon on the grill links me to my Dad and Stepmother – yet it is raspberry sorbet that is my son’s immediate link to Grammy. When I cook with peppers and onions, I think of my sister who said all good meals start with that as a base.

It isn’t even necessarily expert cooking skills that conjure up these beloved partnerships.  When anyone mentions cupcakes, I think of one of my BFFs who loves them, and with whom I have had serious ratings discussions on various samples. When I shop for bananas, I think of my brother who completely believed that the best tasting bananas were long, straight and slightly green. Another of my BFFs is a great cook, yet my food connection to her is the massive Reese’s Pieces Sundaes we shared in our teens (oh, how I miss those days.)

Most amazing is how our Fond Food & People Memories last for generations, and stretch to people beyond those originally involved.  Similar to how my grape story now sticks with someone who never had the pleasure of meeting my mom, the food connections not only continue, but grow.  Whenever we make tuna sandwiches in our house, either my husband or I say “toast it lightly and spread it thinly” because that’s how his Stepmom (a woman I never met) used to do it.  I felt a surge of pride when I made some Italian Wedding Soup that apparently rivaled that of his best friend’s mother, another memory from his youth.  We are confident that in our family, future generations will grow up eating “Queen Mary’s”, a creation my mother developed as a child involving an english muffin, strawberry jam and bacon, and knowing the story behind it.  If we all stop to think about the various connections of confections we have in our lives, the threads, or shall I say ingredients, that weave the treat tales is fascinating. And it always, one way or another, leads back to a person who had something special to share.

This weekend as I was trying out new recipes, and making some of my old standby’s like chocolate chip cookies, I thought about how when our older boys come to visit, they tend to request certain foods that they seem to associate with being home.  As time progresses, those associations and memories just naturally happen. I wondered what the Fond Food Memories will be for my son, and grandchildren, that they will identify with me. Will it be for my chopped salads? My comfort food?  My baked goods? Or something as funny as road trip grapes?  Only time will tell.

We all like to think we will leave some lasting legacy for future generations.  Some big thing, like a published work, a business venture, or even a financial estate.  Yet to me, “legacy” means anything that comes with a good story, and creates feelings of pride, happiness, comfort, and wanting to make the world a better place in memory of a loved one.  It doesn’t have to be huge, it just has to be something wonderful that keeps living on through future generations.

Like a warm oatmeal cookie with upside down raisins.

 

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How About Now?

window sunDuring my usual morning routine today, with my brain running through my classic million or so worries, ponderings and plannings, I paused to flip open a lovely little book given to me by one of my RW BFFs last year: The Promise of a New Day by Karen Casey. Today’s WOW (Words of Wisdom) was an entry about living in present moments.  “We love to fantasize about the past and the future… But we get into trouble when we forget that “the past” and “the future” are inventions; the only reality is the present.  Yes, past events contribute to our now; yes, the present will help to determine the future. But we can’t do anything about them; the past and the future are out of our reach.”  Appropriately enough, this caused my muddled head to pause a moment and say “huh.”

We have just come through one of the busiest times of the year where people all over go into overdrive to get ready for Christmas, spending weeks if not months looking forward to the big day.  We finally stop for a few days of celebration and hopefully appreciate and enjoy our present moments… until BAM, here’s New Year’s Eve!   We tell tales of the past, and begin more planning and thinking about the future. We make resolutions about things we want to change, or do in the months ahead.  At work, we kick into plans for the year ahead, developing calendars, projects, budgets and set up deadlines to be reached.  Personally, we start planning events, activities, trips.   How many times have we made plans with friends and said “oh good, now I have something to look forward to?”  It is all about looking ahead.  Because we don’t want to admit that both the past and the future are out of our reach.  We R.W.’s especially don’t like to relinquish control, right?

In my own little world right now, sadly I have both a human loved one and a pet who are navigating their ways through their end phases of life… meandering towards that bridge to a peaceful place in the land of “whatever comes next”, leaving behind those of us who really don’t want them to go.  And through this process, I find that I am pretty well obsessed with what’s coming next.  Worrying whether I’m doing enough for them, am I preparing them, and myself, and my other loved ones, for the end.. how is it going to happen?  How much longer do we have? What do I do next?  I told my husband last night that I felt like all I am doing is waiting for horrible things to happen.

Because apparently that is what I’m doing. And I shouldn’t be.  Why are we so trained to focus on what in many ways is out of our hands, out of our control?  Why can’t we live for the present, and enjoy and appreciate what is happening right this very minute?  Instead of trying to plan when I’m going to clean my dirty windows, why don’t I just enjoy the way the sun is beaming through them?  Why don’t I stop and just watch the birds visiting the feeder in my garden?  Shouldn’t we all relish the moment when we share a laugh with a co-worker, or get a much-needed hug, savor a sip of cocoa, enjoy the smell of the top of a pet’s head, or get totally engulfed in a really good book?  Why can’t we be content with “right now, my time with this person, or this pet, is good and fine and lovely”?

The answer is we can — I think it is truly just a matter of re-programming, training ourselves, and having Faith.  We have to force ourselves to slow down and stop thinking ahead ALL the time, OR trying to relive past events.  And for goodness sakes, RW’s, slow down the worrying!   It is all we do.  We can’t enjoy the present if we are too wound up with worry about what’s ahead or what has already gone by.

I rarely make New Year Resolutions. Making a promise in January about some kind of change in my life is too much pressure – I’d rather set up goals as I move along.  But this time, thanks to that one little excerpt I read this morning, I do have one: to live in the present far more.  It can’t be that hard.  And I’ll bet it will feel a whole lot better.

Just like that famous tag line, we should ask ourselves:  Do you hear me now?  The answer: Yes, as long as we are listening.

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