Habits That Don’t Matter

I left clothes in the dryer when I went to bed last night.  I imagine some of you just physically cringed and thought “oh no she didn’t!”.  Others were “Yup. Same.”  To be honest, it is not an uncommon habit of mine. Sometimes they stay in there when I go off to work.  Do they get wrinkled?  Sometimes. Usually I can do a short “freshen up fluffing” cycle and all’s good. 

Yet I can’t leave the house or go to bed with dishes in the sink.  I feel compelled to clean dishes and make sure that porcelain well in the kitchen is free and clear no matter how late it is at night, and before I head out to work in the morning. (How could dishes show up overnight you ask?  I live with men. ‘Nuff said.)

The fact is we all have ways of doing things, habits, that we feel really strongly about how they SHOULD be done. Could be how we were raised, it could be a sign of our busy schedules, or it could just be because that’s how we like it.  The funny part is it really doesn’t matter.  No one else really cares, nor does it necessarily have a huge impact on our lives – outside of the possibility that doing it the wrong way may eat at your psyche all day.

Are you a make-your-bed-daily person, or a leave-it-as-it-is-I’m -just-gonna-be-back-in-it-later believer?  For me, I gotta make it. I even use linen spray so it seems and smells extra fresh.  There’s something about a nicely made bed that seems extra inviting to me.  That, and one of my very first chores I learned as a child was making beds, so I suppose it was ingrained in me early. 

Eat meals at the kitchen table, or in front of the TV in the family room?  Set the table with placemats and utensils, or let everyone fend for themselves?  Likely the majority of us are not royalty entertaining Heads of State and needing the place settings to be perfect. So does it matter if you are eating off of paper plates with plasticware, or if you’ve got matched silverware for everyone?   Not really.  They will all manage to eat.

Going back to the laundry situation, to iron or not to iron?  Years ago, when both my husband and I were dressing more professionally for our jobs (before Casual Every Day became a thing), I would once a week set up the ironing board in front of the TV and iron & hang a big stack of clothes (yes, I realize the irony that I could have saved myself effort with the not leaving-it-in-the-dryer thing).  Now, however, I rarely iron.  The iron lives in my bedroom, and if something really needs it, I’ll do a quick job of getting out the worst of the wrinkles, using my (nicely made) bed as my ironing board. OR there’s the hang it near the shower trick.  Does it matter how you got those wrinkles out?  Nope.

How about your commute?  Wherever it is you go every day, do you always go the same way?  Or do you change it up?  Sure, one particular direction is bound to be quickest, but if you have the time, do you get all wild and crazy and turn left instead of right and take the scenic route?  Do you stop at the same coffee shop on the same day and time and place the same order?  Or do you wing it like the Queen of Spontaneity that you are? Those who ardently believe that variety is the spice of life may say this habit DOES matter.  But really…. It doesn’t.  As long as you get to your destination safely with a smile on your face, it doesn’t matter how it happened.

Do you select your outfit for the next day before going to bed?  I used to, until I realized too many days I was waking up and thinking “gah, I really don’t want to wear that” and changed my mind anyway.  If you don’t make your selection in advance, does it really matter?  It might make your morning 3.5 minutes longer because you weren’t prepared in advance, but it is highly unlikely you’ll head out the door naked. No one will know it was a last minute wardrobe decision.

We tend to laugh at our pets for being extremely routine-oriented. But let’s face it, aren’t we all?  Even those of us who claim to be spontaneous and impulsive still have certain habits we do because… we just do.  Use a spoon or a stir stick?  Use the same glass all day or get out new ones?  Go to sleep always on the left side?  Our habits make us who we are, make that part of our lives predictable and while they don’t matter to anyone else, they matter to us and bring us comfort in some small way.

Sometimes when I’ve watched too many detective shows on TV, and have watched them sneak into a mysterious character’s home to look for clues, always finding some key piece of evidence shoved into a drawer or laying on top of an unmade bed, I wonder what they would think if they came into my house.  “Think she’s on the run, Joe?”.   “Maybe. But she’ll be back.”  “Why do you say that?” 

“She left clothes in the dryer.”

Posted in habits, personalities, routines | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

People Passion

Most people don’t suck. 

I know this may be hard to believe on the days that we listen to too much news, hear about another atrocity, end up in a crowded space that feels just too “peopley” or get a face full of cranky.  Those are the days when we get that overwhelming desire to retreat to our private quiet places of safety, pull our blankets over our heads and groan “I hate people”.  Let’s face it, we got to be pro’s at dwelling far away from each other during the height of Covid, and that skill will never be lost.   

But every now and then, when we emerge from those safe zones and bravely feel ready to interact in person – and not behind a screen – people can actually be…fairly awesome.

It should come as no surprise that I love stories. I especially love the stories of people.  We all carry chapters that have made up who we are.  Just like a suspenseful novel, the good, the bad, the scary, the inspiring, all of those bits and pieces make up our personal stories.  And when I get the chance to get a glimpse of a few of those chapters, I’m enthralled.

I’ve done some traveling over the past couple of weeks.  First for a family event and vacation, second for work.  Both trips took me to Florida. Which allowed me access to lots of stories.

The variety of interactions is a true myriad of humanity.  From travel personnel to restaurant workers to hotel staff to coworkers, customers, fellow travelers, drivers — the opportunities to have even the briefest connections are unending.

Sure, I get it, those initial interactions with strangers can feel kinda awkward.  But there is one simple, surefire way I’ve learned over the years to help make that connection quickly and turn it into something good. Find something the other person is passionate about.  During my work hours, that’s pretty easy – I work for a pet health products company, so as soon as I’ve shown an interest in whatever animal is in the other person’s life, the shoulders relax, the smiles come, and soon we are talking like old buddies.  When I was going through security at the airport, a woman noticed the logo on my backpack and instantly started telling me about her horse rescue organization, and the draft horse they just rescued earlier that week.  I could relate to her apparent level of exhaustion – but underlying that was an unmistakable passion.  And I was awarded with a quick chance to “read” an intro into one of her life’s chapters.

In that same airport, the line at the Starbucks was far longer and slower than I wanted to stand in.  I overheard two friends discussing an independent coffee shop just a few yards away so I stepped out of line, strolled over, found no line at all, and very friendly helpful baristas. I asked what kind of tea they had available and soon entered into a discussion about matcha.  I admitted that I only like small amounts of matcha because too much to me tastes like dead grass.  The barista told me that what she brews and makes into latte was a matcha green tea combo with added sugar (key ingredient), and while Starbuck’s match tea tastes like dead grass, theirs does not. She had me convinced to try it. Soon she handed me a latte that truly was delish. Sure, I didn’t get into any personal conversations, but clearly her passion at work is to steal Starbucks customers and make a great cup’a.  In the process, we shared a couple of giggles.

Every conversation and person I interacted with over my travels was in one way or another fascinating and truly pleasant. When we all take a minute to realize we are in this crazy world together, just regular “real” people, doing the best we can to not only get by but find joy, it is possible to enjoy each other’s company. Imagine that.

In the Convention Center where I spent a couple of days for work, there were hardworking restroom attendants whose responsibilities were to keep the bathrooms clean and functioning throughout many hours of use.  They were doing work that none of us would want to do.  They, to many of us, are virtually invisible. But all it took was an extra few seconds to say hello, share something funny (like the humor of waving our hands to make the soap come out) and we get rewarded with a smile and a chuckle. A 10-second connection made.

Some interactions don’t have to be that brief, and like a great short story, can stick with us long after we’ve parted company.  Such was the case with Ricky the Uber Driver.  Ricky provided my ride to the airport from the hotel for me to catch my flight home.  I enjoy talking with Uber drivers.  They can be great resources of information about the area, and often have amusing stories to share.  I usually start out asking if they have been a lifelong resident of where ever I am at the time, and if not, what brought them there.

In Ricky’s case, he previously worked in DC for a telecommunications company. He moved to FL with that company to pursue a management plan.  But corporate management was not his passion.  Music is.  He found side gigs singing, and soon landed work with Disney in a Motown group.  Then Universal heard him, and hired him as well. He left the office job and was a full-time musician, even doing a couple of years on a Cruise Ship. (Great if you are young, he explained, but it can turn into Groundhog Day.)  Until Covid shut down that industry.

To make ends meet, he became an Uber driver, where he drove 40+ hours a week as an essential driver transporting medical personnel.  I can only imagine the stories he heard and the exhausted people he met.  Eventually he was able to pick back up with music and now has a band, performs out, and picks up gigs for conventions and special events as well.  Yet he has not given up Uber, and won’t.  It puts extra money in his pocket and he truly enjoys it. He can write his own hours, and he enjoys meeting a wide variety of people.  In the 20 minutes we spent together, I got the Cliff Notes version of 20+ years of his life story. I heard about his passion. I flipped through the chapters, wanting more. I wanted to hear his music, I wanted to understand what the Covid essential driving was like.  But that much detail was not meant to be.  Instead I walked away glad to have met him, and ready for my next people, my next stories, my next chance to understand someone’s passions.  We all have them, just like we all have chapters that have brought us to this point in life.   And with a bit of kindness and hope, we can connect because of them.

By the way.  Not once did Ricky say People Suck.

Posted in behavior, communication, discussions, memories, passion, people, Relationships, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It Doesn’t Always Have to Be a Mountain

I cleaned out and sorted my underwear drawer today. Exciting, right?  Perhaps it would have sounded more exciting if I called it my lingerie.  But let’s be real.  I’m a middle-aged woman headed into her 25th year of marriage.  There’s no lingerie.  It’s bras, panties, and socks.  As I was attempting to put clean laundry away, those cluttered waded up messy drawers pushed me to the point of “enough, this is ridiculous” and the purging began.  Out went items that I never wear due to fit and discomfort. Out went items that were even too horrifyingly old and ugly to be donned in the darkness of my own bedroom. I took the time to categorize, gently fold and color code.  I found pairs of socks I didn’t know I owned. I found a bra I’d spent two weeks looking for.  Upon completion, my two drawers now look more like the compartments in a Victoria Secret store and less like bins of Salvation Army castaways.  The whole process took me about 15 minutes and no one else will ever see it or appreciate it. But it felt great. I almost took a photo of the results, but there are some things that just aren’t Instagram-worthy.  I’m also proud to say that I did not add “sort underwear drawer” to my to do list simply for the rush of then crossing it off.  Instead, I considered it a bonus Atta Girl to my day.

We Real Women tend to attack our days, our evenings, and our weekends like we need to scale Mount Everest, give a motivational presentation at the top, then come back down in time to make a meal, organize and put away everything at basecamp while checking in with loved ones to make sure the cat has been fed, the dogs walked, the plants watered and the dishwasher started before we feel we’ve earned the right to put our feet up.

Rumor has it that Confucius once advised: “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”   Had he been writing about women, it would have gone more like this:  “The woman who moves a mountain begins by carrying three bags of boulders, her purse, the dirty laundry, and uses her hips to push past trees as she checks her watch to see how much more she can do before it gets dark.”  

None of us are good at focusing on small stones. As I’ve lugged my share of boulders with the rest of you, and I’ve gotten a bit older, I’ve started to learn that maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t hurt to scale down a bit.  In our 20’s and 30’s, we think nothing of putting in 9-10 hours at work, head to a second job or go do a workout, then get home to kick into gear coping with whatever family needs are clawing at us and complete at least 7 different chores before calling it a day.  Well, my younger friends, I have news. You won’t want to hear this, but that level of rock-hauling is not sustainable for the next 30 – 40 years.

In New England, I think tackling small projects that have been annoyingly gnawing away at our mental to do lists is a bit easier in the winter.  It is cold out and it gets dark early.  We tend to spend more time at home. During these weeks and months, I try to focus on those boulders – err, sorry, stones, that I’ve been ignoring when the sunshine and warmth beckon to me to find other more fun projects.  So you know what else I did this weekend?  I worked on my Will prep. That sounds fun, doesn’t it?  My husband’s and my current wills are over 10 years old.  We finally met with a planner a few weeks ago, and our homework is to get our estate plan in order (which makes me giggle, because when I read the word Estate I envision a grand manor with stone lions at the entry, overseas investment accounts, a ranch of horses and yachts at the marina.  Not a small colonial with a cracked driveway, college debt, project cars in the garage and two goofy dogs in the yard.)

It’s not a 5-minute project. Collecting all the necessary information is surprisingly a bit of a pain in the butt.  Think how horrid it would be for someone in a panic who has no idea where to look. Today I was reminded of my older brother, who had life-long health issues.  He traveled with a piece of paper in his wallet that listed all of his doctors and his medications. He made sure I had an updated version with me as well.  I realized that no one but me knows who my doctors are. So yesterday I started that one tiny piece of the puzzle and wrote down all of my doctors with their contact information. It really is just a small stone in what will soon be a very pretty, organized, pile of rocks.  But it deserved another little Atta Girl.  And a piece of chocolate, the prize in my world for every Atta Girl.

The younger me would have felt compelled to finish our estate planning  in one weekend.  The younger me would have decided my entire closet needed an overhaul in an afternoon.  The younger me would have chastised myself for writing just a blog post instead of 10 chapters for my dream book. The younger me used to think nothing of attempting to climb the whole mountain every day. 

The me of today is learning to be happy with climbing smaller hills on this journey. Yes, some days I still find myself trying to climb too many of those small hills, or I catch myself still trying to carry too many big rocks. And I meet a whole lot of you along the way doing the exact same thing. But we are learning to find satisfaction in the completion of tidbits – even if no one ever notices. Our daily accomplishments don’t have to always be about moving mountains.  Sometimes they can be as minor and boring as sorting bras.

I’ve done enough tidbits today. I’m ready to put my feet up, which is something else my younger self rarely did. While I relax, I’ll ponder what other Atta Girls I can sneak into my days. I think next weekend I’ll pull some furniture away from the walls to vacuum and clean behind them.  It doesn’t get much more exciting than that.  Especially if I find some small pebbles.

Posted in accomplishments, achievements, age, celebrations, Chores, cleaning, comfort, Entertainment, family, friends, Health, home, home chores, housework, life phases, preparation, projects, real women, routines, self care | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Peace of Jammies

A couple of evenings ago, as I hustled in to the gym a few minutes late for workout after a busy work day with visions of last minute holiday to do’s dancing in my head, I said to my coworker and workout partner “You know what I’m most looking forward to about the holiday?  Sitting around in my jammies doing nothing.”

Ok, in all honesty, that’s not 100% true. There are a lot of other things I look forward to as well.  But at that moment, stopping and relaxing was in the top 3.  Let’s face it R.W.’s, no matter what holiday you celebrate around this time of year, any and all preparations become “extra stuff” on top of our already busy days. And most of it lands on us.

I do realize that those of us who celebrate Christmas do tend to go a wee bit overboard.  I’m thinking we should take some lessons from our friends who are halfway through their Hanukkah celebrations. They seem to have it all figured out with low levels of stress.  “8 days?  Pfft, we got this.”

I also realize that I bring this all on myself.  All of the decorating, baking, gift shopping, wrapping, card sending, gatherings – I could scale back.  Someday I will. Someday we will downsize to a smaller house.  Someday I won’t have the energy level I do now. Some years, like in the past, finances will require cutting back.  But for now I’m all in.  Because, as exhausted as I may be, I love doing it.  One recent evening, we were sitting by the tree with my son’s girlfriend giving her a couple of gifts before she traveled out of town to visit family.  She asked me if Christmas was my favorite holiday and time of year.  My son jumped in with a response: “of course it is, just look around!”  Ok, so I guess it’s pretty obvious I’m kind of into it.

All of the hustle and bustle preparations are all part of the holiday for me.  Sparkling lights, cookies in the oven, holiday music, even last-minute gift wrapping all helps build a sense of joy and anticipation.  It is all worth it to see a smile on someone’s face, getting wrapped up in a warm hug, adding some joy to the day, sharing good food (albeit often unhealthy), and especially – for me – experiencing the beauty and peace of candle-filled church services.

For those of us who go barreling through the season running on hot cocoa and adrenaline, it’s important to remember that this is not a happy nor easy time of year for many.  Those battling illness, loneliness, poverty, loss of loved ones, all struggle with the Hallmark-cheer that probably feels bombarding. Add in a whopper of a storm hitting much of the country and the festive positivity in the air can dissipate quickly. Sometimes the most important “extra” we can add to our list is stopping by to pay a visit, picking up the phone to check in, or just plain slowing down enough to be there for someone having a tough time.  

Which brings me back to the slowing down thing. It is very true that one of my most favorite things of all about holiday time is to just “be”.   To think about what the holiday is all about, to stop and gaze at the beauty around us, to stop rushing and doing… on Christmas day, if we are lucky enough to have a house full of people – or even just a couple of us – I like to take moments to just stop, listen and watch.  To appreciate what is happening.  And yes, a small part of that is being happy and proud of the efforts taken to make it all extra special.  Sure, the Grinch found out that Christmas would come no matter what…. But putting extra sparkle into it is really rewarding.

So to my festive R.W. soul sisters out there, my wish for you all is that you are able to slow down. Breathe. Soak in the atmosphere.  Feel some peace. Stay in your jammies a little longer.  Take the time to think about what your holiday means to you.  Have a cup o’ cocoa.  (Your choice if you add a bit of Bailey’s.)  Make a connection with someone and feel the love. You’ve weaved your magic, time to relax and enjoy it.

Happy Holidays to you all – whether you’ve followed my blog for years, or are reading this Real Women post for the very first time, I appreciate you and wish you warmth, peace and holiday enchantment.   

Posted in celebrations, decor, family, Holidays, love, preparation, real women, Seasons | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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