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

Chaos Through Z Eyes

gen zWe are women. Many of us are also moms, grandmas, aunts, guardians, and caregivers.  It is in our DNA to protect and to worry, while at least attempting to show outwardly that we are calm and in control at all times.  In other words, we are well-trained for this current global crisis.

Absorbing loved ones into our home nests to try to keep them healthy and safe comes completely naturally to us.  I was just texting with another R.W. yesterday who asked me if I thought she was crazy to drive 6 hours each way today to bring her daughter home to work remotely from her house instead of knowing she was alone and on her own.  Although I was concerned for her exhaustion level in doing that trip, not one iota of me thought she was crazy.  It is natural instinct.  It’s what we do.  Worry. Protect. Control.

Yesterday our office temporarily closed and each of us were sent home to work remotely. I am thankful that I still have a job, and have the ability to work from home. So many are not that lucky.  Up until yesterday, while I was not making light of the situation we are all in, I was calm and holding onto a shred of “this will pass soon” hope.  But when my 8-5 life was suddenly adjusted, my safe, normal social work environment changed, my awareness that any investments we have are taking hard falls, and my son got official word that he will not be returning to campus for the rest of this semester,  I felt like “shit just got real.”  For the rest of the day yesterday I battled to stay calm, to push down any rising feelings of panic (because my mantra from the start of this has been “panic solves nothing”), and I was near tears a few times.  And we are some of the lucky healthy ones.

Over the weekend, my son and I had done a round trip back to his campus to get some of his belongings.  Yesterday afternoon, he went with me on some errands.  A “last” trip to the grocery store to see bare shelves, a “last” trip to the pet store to get our dog’s food, and a trip to Kohls where social distancing was not a problem because it was deserted.  During my time with him, I was able to get a glimpse of this turmoil through his eyes, not just my Mom eyes.

I know he’s disappointed, even sad, that he won’t be returning to campus until Fall.  I know he misses some of the activities there and his new independence. The good news is he is a Freshman, so God willing will still have three more years for a college experience. My heart goes out to students who are seniors in high school and college and have been robbed of their senior experiences and I’m sure are filled with worry about next steps.

My son asked me the other day if he could have a couple of friends over to the house.  He has also asked what I thought of him potentially going this weekend to visit a friend who lives a bit of a distance away, as a day trip.  I wasn’t sure how to answer. Do I slip into protective warrior control mode and say no, we all have to hunker in place?  He will be by himself in the car, then visiting one friend while they stay in the friend’s house and watch a movie. Do I allow some limited freedom with the thought that perhaps the potential of cultivating new friendships he has only just begun to make at school is a more “healthy” option?  The truth is he’s legally old enough to make his own decisions.  I appreciate that he’s looking to me for guidance.  But the bad news is that pandemics aren’t in the Mom Rule Book.  I’m just winging it here.

What struck me in our recent outings is his calm and practical view of what we are experiencing. He was fascinated by empty shelves at the stores.  He helped me find a few things and helped me with creative ideas on how we can do without.  When I told him I was wondering if I should go get cash out of the bank to hoard at home he said “Mom, why?  Even if you have it, where would you spend it, everything will be closed.  If you shop online, you’ll use your credit card.”  The new process of excessive hand washing and sanitizing does not bother him.  He lives in the mode of virtual communications already, so if any thing he will teach us how to stay in touch with others. At his very core, he seems to easily focus on now.  We are healthy and safe now.  He does not slip into hyper panic mode. He can find humor in his observations.

Every generation of human has had to deal with unique and challenging circumstances.  From World Wars to Depressions and Recessions, to Watergate and assassinations, to earthquakes and tsunami’s, we have all had our share of life-changing historic events.  Yet it seems to me that this Generation Z has grown up in the most ongoing never-ending bizarre and scary life altering process.  My son was a year old during 9-11.  Since then his generation has coped daily with terrorism, natural disasters, mass shootings, peculiar and ineffective politics, environmental crises, and now… a world-wide viral outbreak and quarantines. As he’s become more mature, and as I’ve watched him roll through the development of coping mechanisms, I wonder….  Is this generation fraught with higher levels of anxiety and depression than ever seen before like the news leads us to believe, or are we raising young adults with more skills of adaptation, resilience, individuality and sensibility than the generations before them?

In all honesty, our world is in a heap of mess right now.  We moms spend sleepless nights worrying about our kids and how they will manage, constantly concerned about their safety, and what their future holds.  Perhaps we should instead spend more time having faith in them.  In feeling reassured that they are our future leaders, and by growing up through turmoil, perhaps they will have the foresight and strength to make things better.  To hope and believe that they, the anti-bullying generation, will inherently know how to take care of each other, and the world we inhabit.

No, we won’t ever stop worrying or trying to protect and control.  But I think the next few weeks or months can be a bit easier and less stressful if we take a page from our Gen Z’s playbooks and take a day at a time, watch out for each other, and be resilient.  This too shall pass, so let’s all be in a good place together when it’s over.

Posted in adults, age, children, college, communication, education, events, family, friends, groceries, Helping others, home, Kids, preparation, Relationships, safety, self care, simplifying, stress, Uncategorized, World news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Embrace the Adventures

packed car for tripDuring this morning’s walk, my puppy and I passed a home where there was much activity in the driveway.  Clearly a family was packing up for a trip.  It appeared to be at least one or two families, plus grandparents. Two vehicles were being filled with bags and skiis, so I can only assume it was a weekend outing to perhaps NH, VT, or Maine.  On our return route past the home again, they had reached the end phase of the preparation for departure. Young children – I counted at least four – were being herded out to the cars.  As the kids circled the vehicles vying for their best seat locations, one excited young voice was repeating what I’m sure he’d heard several times inside the house “Everyone carry your own water bottle!”  I saw a mom walking towards a car with her arms loaded with the last round of items, as a dad was pulling a car seat out of a different car parked further up the drive.  I caught his eye, he waved, and I called out “Have fun!”

The irony is at that very moment, I’m pretty certain none of the adults were having “fun.”  I know without a doubt that mom has spent at least two weeks preparing for this trip, even if it was going to be a three-day getaway.  Coordinating schedules, planning activities, reservations, lodging, packing clothing, toys, necessities, snacks, food, medicines… and of course making appropriate arrangements for home and pet care while they are away.  Dad likely pitched in some too, doing things like setting up light timers and security systems, but we all know the bulk of the planning landed on mom.  This trip, no matter where or to what location, will not be a restful and relaxing event for her.  Trips with young children are not about R&R.  They are about adventures, about experiences, about memories, and about getting great photos.  The parents, especially mom, will return exhausted and looking forward to going back to work to rest up.  But if fun was had, kids were happy, no injuries or illnesses occurred, and sibling fighting was at a minimum, she will mark it down as a resounding success.

Ironically, just last night, my BFF R.W. and I were looking through one of the recent scrapbooks I had completed.  The pages were full of adventures from eight years ago, when my son was 11 – 12 years of age.  Bicycle trips, hikes, outings to Newport, RI and Portland & Bar Harbor, ME, camping excursions, a trip to Niagara Falls, family visits, parties, holidays – all fun things we had done together when my son was young enough to still want to do activities with Mom and Dad. Back when I was that exhausted mom who wanted to do it all and make amazing memories.  And you know what?  We did just that.  In flipping through those pages, my friend and I were struck with bittersweet emotions.  Joy and happiness in the experiences we’ve had (many of them her family and I have shared together), pride in giving our kids great childhood moments, and a contrasting dose of melancholy and sadness that those crazy young-kid-family-togetherness days were in the past, and how incredibly FAST the past couple of decades have sped by.

I realize of course, before any of you admonish us, that life is far from over, and God willing there are many more adventures and memories to be made. In a couple of weeks as a matter of fact, my college freshman son will be joining us on a short vacation trip during his spring break.  This is likely one of the last times he will want to spend his spring break with us, but I know he will still join us for other trips or activities in the future, and certainly holidays and family gatherings.  And, of course, my hubby and I are just starting the next phase of our lives where we will have our own empty-nest adventures with just the two of us, like a new life stage of dating.  But there has still been a big shift, a change in types of activities, and who will be involved in them.  We will never again be introducing our little boy to new child-like wonders and taking him to places like Disney World or Hershey Park or to a kid’s theater or museum.  However, that also means that we will not again deal with packing three bags of stuff just to keep him occupied, managing panic as we attempt to track down the lost stuff toy left at a hotel, or finding the balance of too much activity before hangry tantrums kick in (well, ok, there’s still a bit of that needed when traveling with my husband).

When I think back to that family packing up their cars this morning, I realize that hopefully someday (not too soon!), we will be the cool Grandparents in that scenario.  While in many ways, I wish we could go back in time and re-experience all of those adventures we had when our son was little and we ourselves were younger and more energetic, there is something really appealing about being along for the ride for round two with grandchildren, and giggling a bit to myself as I will watch my son and his future wife take over those trying-to-make-it-perfect-or-at-least wonderful roles.

If there had been time, and I wasn’t afraid that they’d call the cops on this crazy strange woman, I would have paused and approached that young family this morning.  I would have told the mom and dad that they are doing a wonderful thing.  That I knew they were exhausted, probably a bit stressed, and no, they wouldn’t be getting any rest.  Then I would advise them to embrace the chaos. To soak in every up, down, and exhausting moment.  To take a million photos, but then don’t let those photos just sit in their phones and be ignored.  Print them, frame them, share them, maybe even scrapbook them.  Make sure the kids are engaged, and not glued to electronic devices the whole time.  Get them to look out their windows. Touch, feel, and experience their world.  Tell stories and share favorite memories…because it all goes really, really fast.

Then before I left them alone to start their journey, I would have given the grandparents a wink and a high-five and said “and YOU have fun.”

Happy Trails.

 

 

Posted in celebrations, children, Entertainment, events, family, future, Holidays, home, Kids, photos, real women, Relationships, Seasons, Traditions, travel, Uncategorized, Vacation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Walkin Around at Level 2

bed comfy“I’m tired.”  Two words uttered as frequently as Love You, I’m Hungry, and What’s Up.  Let’s face it, we are beings who rarely feel rested and refreshed.  And when we do, it is short lived.  Most of us can probably count on one hand the number of times in the past year we woke up feeling energized and rarin’ to go.  And yet we continue on as if that is normal, swallowing down caffeine and using concealer for our under-eye bags.

Being tired is not just about a lack of sleep (although we all deal with that too, especially as RW’s who are famous for not sleeping well).  With these crazy lives we live, I’ve determined that there are actually different levels, or types, of weariness.

Level 1:  Fun Tired.  This is the rarest form, yet should be the most common. Fun Tired is a result of a great experience, like a terrific day out with friends, an exciting date, a really productive and fulfilling day, a unique travel experience, or even a hardcore workout.   This is the only level when we say “I’m so tired, and it’s awesome.”

Level 2:  InaFunk Tired.  Side effect of being stuck.  Could be “the same old dull routine” (thanks Rupert Holmes) of work/school/relationships, or maybe from being stuck in a long stretch of lousy weather or dealing with chronic pain, or a lack of change of scenery.  Whatever the reason, mojo is depleted and energy is out the window.

Level 3:  Two Wick Tired.   The proverbial, yet constant and common method of burning a candle at both ends. All R.W.’s experience this at some point.  Balancing far too much, multi-tasking because we think we can, packing far too many things into waking hours, and never slowing down.  Yup, that’s Level 3 stuff right there.

Level 4:  Emo Tired.  Unfortunately another unavoidable variety of exhaustion, this one comes from life events that stomp us down and wear our hearts out, like grief, or taking care of sick or elderly loved ones, or dealing with the loss of a relationship.  Whatever is causing it, this level of tiredness is miserable, and we wonder how we’ll ever make it through – yet somehow we do.

A couple of days ago, I woke up in Level 2 with a splash of 3 mixed in.  I had stayed up too late the night before, wrongly believing I’m still the younger me who can do more in her day by giving up on sleep and still feel fine in the morning (classic Level 3 shenanigans).  The weather was a continuation of 4 days of cold, grey, dreary, rainy sleety stuff.  My tendonitis in my wrist had flared up, and my knees ached.  And while I love my job, I don’t love my alarm and the hour in which it goes off, even if it is set as the first few notes of a Michael Buble song.  But like all other RW’s, I resisted my overwhelming desire to pull the covers over my head and stay in bed for the next 4 weeks or so, and forced myself to get up and moving.  Part of my daily ritual includes a morning walk with my doggo.  Although I tend to sigh and grumble occasionally about this, it almost always turns into one of the best parts of my morning routine.  On this particular morning, as we were headed back from our loop, we encountered a man who was putting out his trash.  I recognized him as one of the lead workers of the farm we were passing.

He had Level 2 written all over him. The winter coat with hood up against the elements, the slumped shoulders, and the trudging footsteps as he carried his bags of trash, all were sure signs of his tiredness. For my puppy, however, the sight of this man and his trash was the most divinely exciting thing she had seen yet that morning (besides her breakfast bowl and the squirrel she chased up a tree.)  Her tail started wagging so energetically that her whole back end had to give in to the force.  She simultaneously emitted “oh my gosh, good morning good morning good morning” whines towards the man.  When he acknowledged her with a smile and reached down to pat her, she responded with two full circle twirls and that puppy pose that says “drop everything you are doing and play with me all day.”  He and I shared a chuckle over her antics and I was able to pull her away only after she got distracted by two birds flying overhead.  As she and I walked away I realized that during that brief 30-second interaction, he and I both forgot to be tired.

Try as we might, we can’t all believe that someday we will win the lottery, quit our jobs, and spend our days lazing on a beach.  Nor can we expect that somehow magically our lives will change overnight and we will have no stress, and will be able to sleep late every morning.  No, the only guarantee is that we will be tired. Often. At various levels and for various reasons.  With intermittent bouts of being rested and refreshed.

What we can do, however, is remember that most of the other RW’s we encounter, and even some of the men in our lives too, are walkin’ around in a level.   We can help each other out by sharing a bright moment, offering to lend a hand, or even sharing a cup o’ joe (or, more my speed, a piece of dark chocolate).  Every little gesture or moment can help us forget for a few minutes how tired we are and more importantly, actually appreciate why we are tired. We can be grateful for the routines we get stuck in, and that we have busy lives full of people who need us so we can burn out our candles.  We can be thankful for the special people that we have, or did have, in our lives.

I know I’ll never get myself organized enough to have time for 8 hours of sleep every night. Even if I did, that wouldn’t be a foolproof solution.  The goal I can set, however, is to experience a whole lot more Level 1’s.  I may still have to use concealer under my eyes – but I’ll have a smile on my face.

 

Posted in adults, age, beauty, changes; hibernation, dogs, events, family, Health, Helping others, life phases, moods, real women, self care, stress, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Nothin’ to see here

daisiesAnytime we put a lot of time, money, skill or energy into something, we naturally want to reap the rewards and satisfaction of our efforts.  We want our work to be noticed, appreciated, or admired.  We lose 20 pounds, we are thrilled when someone notices.  We do a major renovation on the house, or a new paint job in a room, we hope someone will ooh and ahh.  We buy a new fabulous outfit or shoes, we wear them with pride and wait for someone to notice. Get a new hair cut or style, and someone is bound to toss out a compliment.  We toil through a major project at work or school or in a community group, and we love to see it all come together or hear a “nice job” or thank you.  Even if we are doing some anonymous community or charity work, it still feels great to see our efforts benefit someone else.

But what of the things that go totally unnoticed?  What about the projects or expenses that are totally necessary but are virtually invisible?   There are plenty of these if you are a homeowner.  Get a new HVAC system?  Yeah, you’ll be happy when it works, but it’s not like anyone is going to go into your basement and say “wow, that’s a beauty.”  (Well, ok, my Dad would have, he was an HVAC engineer… but probably no one else).  Invest in a new roof?  Yup, beats having leaks, which someone would notice, but it’s not like you are going to have a celebratory backyard party and ask everyone to stand back, crane their necks, and bask in the beauty of new shingles.  (You COULD of course do this, but it will likely be the last party invitation anyone would accept.)  You may feel like you accomplished something major (which you did) yet there isn’t anything fun or exciting to show for it. Just an emptier bank account or higher credit balance.  Where’s the celebration?  Where’s the “yay me”?  Where’s the “wow, good for you?”

I had that same feeling today.  After two months, multiple visits, pain and plenty of expense, I finished up a root-canal-tooth-buildup-new crown procedure with my dentist.  My dentist, a great guy who somehow finds joy in what he does, was excited to hand me a small mirror so I could see the final result.  He explained how they had matched the color to my other teeth, it is good and strong, and doesn’t it look great, etc.   The tooth is the last one on my bottom right.  And as I peered in at it with the bright dental overhead light reflecting on its shiny newness, I realized that no one except my dentist, and me when I brush and floss, will ever see it.  But there it is, in all its glory.  If anything, it now makes the other side of my mouth less attractive because there’s a hole towards the back on that side where a problem tooth had to be extracted and I can’t afford the suggested implant.  So I suppose Mr. Nifty New Crown could be getting compliments, or jealousy, from my other teeth.  And yes, it will help me eat.  Yes, it probably will help keep things aligned.  But after literally much pain, time, and expense, I’ve got nothin’ to show.   Similar to the failed backyard roof party, if I opened wide and told friends and family to “check this out!” they’d awkwardly turn down any similar requests in the future.

What else do we have in our lives that we work hard for and have nothing to show?  A healed pulled muscle?   An organized file drawer?  A defrosted freezer?  A simplified email inbox?  Cleaned and re-hung curtains?   Lost 5 pounds?    All awesome accomplishments that no one else will notice.

So I have an idea.  I think every time we have an unnoticeable accomplishment, we should do something simple and noticeable to commemorate it.  Like plant a bunch of daisies in a pot by your front door after the HVAC system is done.  Put down a new rug in your foyer when the roof is completed.  Wear a fabulous scarf when you lost 5 pounds.  Hang a favorite photograph on the wall next to the newly cleaned curtains.  And enjoy responding to the compliments:

“Cool new rug!”  “Thanks, isn’t my new roof beautiful?”

“Wow, pretty flowers!”  “Yeah, my new HVAC system really is awesome.”

“Great shoes?”  “Thanks, yes, my knee is feeling better.”

Sure, we’ll get confused looks, but we will have gotten noticed.

And trust me, complimenting my soon-to-be-purchased fabulous new earrings will be a whole lot less awkward than looking into my mouth.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in achievements, beauty, celebrations, DIY, doctors, family, friends, Health, home, medical, Pride, real style, real women, self care, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Overwhelmed by Options

menu bookDecisions, decisions, decisions.  We all love having a lot of options to choose from, and in this land of excess, we have options galore. In all areas of our lives.  Yet I can’t help but wonder sometimes if we’ve gone a bit overboard.  Especially in restaurants.

I don’t go out to eat often.  I generally cook dinners at home, and pack my breakfast and lunch from home.  So when I do go out, with family or friends, it is a special occasion. It means no cooking, no cleaning, no having to make decisions about what to make for dinner.  But wait.  There are decisions to be made. Far more now than ever.  So many that my husband and son now know that I need to go last when ordering because it will take me the longest to make up my mind.

It’s not that I don’t know what I like or dislike. It’s because there are far too many possibilities presented.  Even at fast food establishments, the selections up on the header board or at the drive-thru have become multi-paneled dissertations on how many different ways they can make a burger or chicken sandwich.  Even the finer establishments, with their trendy menus printed on a large double-sided board that initially looks so elegantly simple, have so much to offer that they need to use small print and provide a separate document for beverages.  By the way – that mature woman in the corner who is breaking out her reading glasses or worse, pulling out the flashlight accessory on her iPhone to read the fine print on the menu in the darkened ambiance – yeah, that’s me.

Last week I caught up with a couple of RW girlfriends and we stopped for a casual meal at Uno’s.  Uno’s used to be a pretty straight-forward pizza chain with fairly basic offerings.  Seemingly in an effort to compete in the ever-over-indulgent lifestyle to which we have all grown accustomed, that has changed. After we settled in to our booth, the waitress kindly handed out multi-page, hard cover novelettes, otherwise known as their menu.  Not only was it lengthy, but it included an addendum of additional specials, plus there was a separate booklet for drinks.  It honestly was overwhelming.  And I’m not picking on just Uno’s.  Pretty much every dining establishment has fallen prey to feeling the need to offer an encyclopedia of edibles.  And now that we all feel the need to know the caloric value of all of the fattening fare, and want even more options like gluten-free, nut-free, meat-free and organic, the descriptions of the plethora of potentials have gotten lengthy as well.

As we laid out the literature, or sat back and held them up so we could no longer see each other, It felt a bit like we were all preparing to read story books to each other.  “Once upon a time, the mozzarella sticks, onion rings and spinach dip decided to form a band called The Appetizers.  They started to recruit more members until they were 20-snacks strong. They had a glorious time together until the Entrée Gang showed up. Bigger, stronger, and more confusing, The Entrée Gang took over….”  Flip, flip, flip, five pages in, we reached the chapter on sides.

We three, as usually happens when women get together for a meal, started discussing what we were considering ordering.  I kid you not that the conversation went something like this:  “I’m thinking of having the Chicago thin crust pizza with two toppings.”   “Wait, what’s the difference between that kind of pizza and the three other kinds of pizza?”  “ooh, maybe I’ll get something from the sandwich section”.  “Hold on, where are you finding that – what page are you on?”   “Where did you read about that special salad, was that in the Addendum?”    The waitress came first to get our drink orders.  She said “if you’d like to review our other drink options, there’s a small book over there on the end of the table you can browse.” Dear God, no, just bring me a diet coke.

It took us far longer to decide on our order than if she had just given us a list of 5 options. And we would have been just as happy.  None of us ordered anything really unusual.  It has gotten to the point that most often, when I am out, I will do my best to whittle down my preferred options to a top 3, then ask the wait staff for their recommendation. I figure, heck, they are the pro’s, and they had to apparently get a Masters Degree in Menu Management in order to learn everything that is included in the 20 chapters you are holding, so why not let them help make the decision?

Once we selected our choices, we closed up our books and handed them back to the waitress who now has to do strength training classes just to carry them around.  The food was fine, we had a fun evening, then when we were finished and she offered to box up left overs, you know what came next: “Would you like to see a dessert menu?”  Oy.

I wonder how we got this far.  I remember eating out was simpler when I was younger.  Menus were predictable, and it mostly meant picking between just a handful of options.  They were generally constructed as tri-folds, and included everything you needed to see in one place: Specials, Apps, Dinners, Desserts, and Beverages.  Select one from each minimal section, and you were done.  Somewhere along the way, apparently we became no longer easily satisfied – or at least the restaurant industry decided we need to be overwhelmed and confused in order to be happy with our experience.  They are all competing for the most unique and memorable food and options.  But I think in many ways, we are going the opposite direction, where everything is just getting diluted into a pool of overload.

Yes, I do enjoy going out to eat from time to time.  But other days I’d rather just grab something easy in my own kitchen where the options are limited, and leave my story-time reading for a real book.   Besides, I need to save my energy for the really important choices – like which shoes I’m going to wear tomorrow.

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

 

 

 

 

Posted in communication, convenience, customer service, discussions, Entertainment, Food, friends, meals, simplifying, Social situations, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Resolutely Positively Real

Woman crossing stepping stones on a riverEvery time I turn on a news program or wade through my social media feeds, I’m bombarded by contradictory messages.  The world is falling apart from politics, military threats, horrendous wild fires, and hate crimes.  But woo-hoo, it’s a new year and a new decade, time to eat better, exercise more, get healthier, volunteer more, and be your best self (thanks Oprah).

It’s kind of schizophrenic and exhausting. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel. Horrified and scared? Strong and brave? Nervous and Exhausted? Hopeful and Determined?  Eeesh… Oh, and while I’m at it, I should be setting my New Year resolutions?

I’ve never been a big resolution setter. Primarily because I’m a classic one for stating my intentions, then promptly forgetting them. Just like I can’t tell you if any birthday cake candle wishes have ever come true, because I don’t remember what I wished for by the time I’m done with my ice cream.

The other reason I’m not a huge fan of setting resolutions is that by doing so, we seem to be stating that we aren’t good enough, and need to make some sort of fairly substantial self-improvements. As if we haven’t just spent the past year busting our butts to stay healthy, pay the bills, take care of family, do our jobs, and overall be good people. Nope. That’s not enough. We must resolve to be better in some way. You know, like by losing 20 pounds, run a marathon, solve global warming, and save all of the Koalas. So even if we do remember our solemn promises, we can then be depressed when we can’t complete our grandiose goals.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have goals, and we shouldn’t do our best to make the world a better place – because Lord knows there’s a lot of improvement needed.  Some of us WILL make massive changes for ourselves and for the world. But for the rest of us, instead of promising to become the next Joanna Gaines, Greta Thunberg, or Christina Koch, we Real Women would be much better off first acknowledging how amazing we are (I mean, come on, we just finished up the year by pulling off Christmas again), then set much more realistic, achievable daily goals. Aren’t there smaller attainable steps we can take to actually feel good about ourselves and our lives, and give us moments of saying “yay me” instead of “oh, crap, I gained three pounds instead of losing ten” ?

Here are a few RR’s (Realistic Resolutions) I’m pondering for this year:

  • Get through winter. Some of you out there adore winter. Good for you. I tolerate it. Sure, some days of fluffy white snow are pretty. But overall winter is cold and dark and I spend most of it waiting for Spring. I vow to fight winter gloominess and grumpiness.
  • Stop sucking in my stomach every morning when looking in the mirror, trying to pretend it doesn’t exist. It does. And it wants to be my forever friend.
  • Find new recipes for dinners that take less than 30 minutes to prepare, use five ingredients or less, and beat back food prep boredom.  (Oh, ok, I suppose I’ll make sure at least a couple of them are fairly healthy.)
  • Be supportive and excited for my college freshman son and not dwell on the fact he is turning 20 and my little boy is gone. Stop sobbing.
  • Crank my tunes in my car and sing. Out loud. More than I already do. Preferably when alone.
  • Try harder to accept my aging body.  Notice I didn’t say love, I’m not that far yet. I still wish my body was 25. But I’m getting there. Instead of being cranky that my arthritic knees hurt, I’ll be thankful I can still walk, bike and garden.  Instead of counting my age spots, I’ll think of my mom every time I see my hands which now look like hers did.  Instead of moaning about new wrinkles, I will try to greet them as signs of a life well-lived and maybe even name them. The one at the top of my nose between my eyes I shall call Gladys.
  • Start picking up trash while on my walks with my dog. I remember doing this as a kid in the 70’s. Sadly, some things like filthy littering pig people don’t change.
  • Don’t let scary sad news prevent me from being positive.  Our world doesn’t need another cranky mean grump-ass.  And it feels so much better to consistently believe that good will win over bad.

Will any of these make me a remarkably changed woman? No. Will any of these solve serious world issues? Nope. But all of the above are attainable. They are realistically positive. And they just might make me, and folks around me, feel a bit better every day.

Ok, your turn. Do tell some of your goals. Sky-diving?  Or just cleaning out your basement.  Becoming a super model?  Or just finding an easy hair style you like.  Let’s head into 2020 cheering each other on with simple positivity.

Not that any of us need improving. We are perfectly real just the way we are.

 

Posted in achievements, celebrations, communication, family, future, Health, Holidays, Kids, love, moods, preparation, real style, real women, Relationships, routines, Seasons, self care, simplifying, social media, Traditions, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy New Year

strong woman

To all of the amazing real women in my life, and to those I have yet to meet:

Thank you for traveling the ups and downs of this past year with me.  In 2020 may we all experience more laughter than tears, more adventures than boredom, more peace than stress, and more love than hate.

I look forward to stopping to smell the roses with each of you.

Happy New Year!

Posted in achievements, beauty, celebrations, Entertainment, friends, Health, Helping others, Holidays, love, real women, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment