Personal History

When was the last time you wrote a letter?  Not with a keyboard or a touch pad on your phone, but a handwritten letter using pen and paper, then fold it into an envelope, affix a stamp and send it on its way?

The last time I came even close to that was scribbling a two-sentence note in a greeting card. And marveled at how ugly my handwriting has become.

Back when I was in college (yes, it was many moons ago), one of my BFF’s and I used to write each other lengthy letters – each was the length of a novelette – then mailed them back and forth to each other, at least 2-3 times a month, if not weekly. I wonder now what on earth we possibly could have to say that would fill those pages, how I possibly found the time, and how I didn’t get hand cramps.  Of course back then the only option for calling each other was to use one of the dorm phones on the first floor, but it would have been a long-distance call.  Several years later, when I had begun a distance relationship with my now-hubby, there were love letters written back and forth.  Now the “written word” lives in the form of texts, emails or longer digital forms like this blog.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting my Aunt, and spending some time going through some old family treasures she had unearthed. Within the piles were letters. Many, many letters that my grandmother (my father’s mother) had kept in her desk for decades. Letters, folded, still in envelopes, tucked away, that had remained in various drawers of an antique desk until recently found.  Some were letters her mother had written to her when she was traveling. Others were letters from family friends. The letters that most amazed me were a whole stack that my grandmother had written to her brother when she was a teenager and he was in France during the last couple of years of WW1, and even more impressive were several we found folded up together that were between two ancestors back in the 1880’s.  Some of the handwriting is difficult to decipher, but there in our hands were tangible pieces of history.  My sister-in-law and I divided up the letters so with time we can sort and read through, glean any family information or just interesting tidbits, and then preserve the best ones.

The topics covered in the letters may not be of any major historic significance.  The few I have read so far between sister and brother at war are mostly about her day-to-day life, if she’d be allowed to go visit a friend, and how excited they were each time they received a letter from him (unfortunately, none of those were in the stack). Yet to me, they provide a peek into the very personal life of a grandmother I never knew, as she passed before I was born – as well as a glimpse of how life was for a young woman in 1917.  My ancestors held a pen in their hand, and wrote on that very same paper I was holding.  They sent them out, hoping they’d reach their destination, not sure how long they would take to arrive.  (Funny how history does repeat in some ways!)  Yet, unlike now, those letters were the only form of communication.  They couldn’t pick of the phone and call. They couldn’t text “hey how are you” or catch up on Facebook.  

Along with the letters, we found something I adore even more:  old photos.  There is something about the magical beauty of black and white printed photos from decades ago.  They carry a certain beauty and mystery.  Most we found dated back to the 1930’s – 40’s, along with a few that were far older – formal portraits of ancestors.  In those days, being photographed was an event.  The generations before us didn’t take a dozen selfies, choose their favorite and post it on Snapchat only to have it disappear in minutes. Portraits and family photos were planned in advance, the people involved dressed in their best attire (yes, I saw my dad as a boy trying to look happy in wool shorts) and a photographer did their best to capture the essence of the day – then everyone waited weeks to see the results. So photographs were not trivially wasted on subject matter like what you are eating for dinner or 1,000 photos of your dog.  Yet in many ways, I enjoy them more than the colorful, crazy and digitally enhanced photos we all take on a daily basis and get to share immediately. 

My Great-Grandmother, with unidentified grandchildren

The drawback, of course, is it didn’t dawn on most people in those days to label the back of the photos.  Once they had the results, they framed them for display, or possibly put some aside in a desk drawer (thanks grandma).  They certainly knew who was in each photo, so why take the time to indicate a date and identify people?  I’m sure they had no idea that 70 years later some great granddaughter would be holding them in her hand and wondering who’s who, where were they, and what was happening.  Thankfully, between the group of us this weekend, we were able to identify most of the people in the images, and approximate dates. Some still remain a mystery. But we will scan them so they can be shared among all the cousins, and find an appropriate way to preserve them, just like the letters. 

My BFF and I are scrapbookers.  We print out the best of the photos we take, and create arts ‘n crafts kinds of pages with them, labeled with brief commentary, names and dates.  I may never truly catch up (I’m still working on photos from 6 years ago), but it makes us feel good that we are preserving them in a way that makes them fun to look at and browse.  They are big and clunky, and I have warned my son that he better build an extension on his future home to store all of the scrapbooks he will inherit from me. He doesn’t look too thrilled.

 I wonder about our future generations, and how they will be able to access “letters” and photos.  With the way technology advances, the systems we use now will be far outdated.  Will there be a veritable “microfiche” way to read emails and blogs?  Will photos currently living on smartphones and “in the cloud” still be available to view or download or print?  Or will they just be somehow transferred into microchips in our brains to be internally viewed?   Who knows. I do hope that somehow the stories of our lives now will be preserved in some way for future generations. I am sad that I have missed so many stories from the generations before me. I wish I had asked more questions, and recorded more anecdotes from my parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles.  Geneology and family tress can be fascinating – finding out who your ancestors were and where they came from seems to be gaining in popularity, and I’m glad for that.  But it is the personal stories I crave.  Long or short, thought-provoking or funny, they are all significant to me.  The story of how my Aunt wanted to stand next to my Uncle in a grade school photo because she thought he was cute, to how my grandmother saved leftover candles to send to my father on the front lines of the Korean war so the soldiers could use them for light, to how my dad sat in a hotel room in Japan for hours during his one leave during the war, waiting for a call to go through to his fiancé, my mom – the one and only time they spoke while he was away, to learning my grandmother volunteered for the Red Cross Motor Corp… I feel each, personally, in my soul.

The stories, letters and images from the past help us feel connected to those who somehow, in some way, led to creating who each of us is today. Just as who we are and what we do, the stories we create now, will someday be the history someone looks back on.

So go ahead, pick up a pen, write a letter in your own handwriting, even if it is messy.  Take a photo, print it, and label it.  You never know, someday your great granddaughter may be holding it in awe.

Posted in ancestors, communication, family, future, history, love, photography, photos, reading, real women, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Of Possums and Men

My husband broke his foot about a week ago. While his friends are encouraging him to say he did it while competing in the Olympics, like most injuries, it was sustained in a far more simple, day to day way – he misjudged the edge of a concrete step.  It sucks, but these things happen. That’s why they are called accidents.  To make matters worse, he then immediately got his first-ever case of gout in the same foot.  His frustration and pain levels have been running at about a level 11.

On the very same day we found out his foot was truly broken, we returned to the house from Urgent Care and while I was letting the dogs out, I discovered a possum in our backyard acting strangely.  I quickly got the dogs inside and decided to check on it again in about 45 minutes.  At that point, the poor thing was wobbling around in circles, surrounded by flies, clearly not right.  I called local Animal Control and found out they only deal with domestic animals. However, a police officer could come over and if the animal had the potential to be rabid, they had authority to dispose of it.

I hated to have to let that happen, as possums are good critters.  While some think they are ugly, I think they are pretty cute.  They are avid tick-eaters, also a big benefit. But I couldn’t risk our dogs going after it, especially if it was ill, and well, the thought of my dog attacking it was a really big ewww.  So the cops came and after observing, put the poor thing out of its misery. We later did some research and determined that possums rarely if ever get rabies or distemper (has something to do with their body temperature, learn something new every day), so we are thinking perhaps he’d been hit by a car and had managed in his disoriented/injured/ill state to get as far as our backyard.  I suppose what we did was the humane thing to do.

The police officers (two of them actually arrived to the scene, must have been a slow day in town) then informed us “we kill it, you bury it.”  I looked at my husband, in his newly acquired crutches and air cast, then at my son, who was already turning green at the thought, and realized that deed would be mine.  I mustered up my ol’ country girl roots, armed myself with boots, mask and bleach and laid the little dude to rest, hoping he had a happy and healthy family in the woods who could carry on without him.

Bad things happen to good critters. And people. It seems really unfair and hurts, but it is part of life.  Sometimes those bad things are as “minor” as a broken foot or the flu, and sometimes they are as horrible as critical illnesses or what the people of Afghanistan and Haiti are dealing with right now.  No matter the perceived level of bad, for those who are affected, it is awful — and all they can focus on is trying to get through the day and hope for some comfort and kindness from others.

I am blessed with overall good health and a pretty high level of patience. (Quick, all of you knock on wood for me, wouldja?)  Somewhere between disposing of the dead animal, picking up meds for my husband, tending to the dogs, and helping take out the trash it dawned on me that life is about balance. Those of us who are able, need to take care of those who are not. My older brother was blind and had a myriad of health issues. Even though he was remarkably independent most of his life, he did rely on those of us who were sighted and more able-bodied to help him when he needed it. In his later years, as his health deteriorated, he relied on me and some amazing folks at various medical and housing facilities to help him live the best he could. Many, many of you out there are caregivers for someone. I believe God keeps some of us healthy and strong when others are not so we can be there for them. To be there not only emotionally and physically, but to be their voice and advocate when they can’t manage by themselves.

That said, being a caregiver can be a bit like being the sober DD at a party.  It comes with a lot of responsibility, it can be annoying, frustrating and exhausting, and sometimes you just want to get away from it all and go home (or my favorite daydream, be on a tropical beach somewhere).  But it is what we do because it is the right thing to do.

Right now, my husband needs me to step up to the plate and do some of his traditional man-stuff around the house, as well as listen to him vent and complain.  If the tables were turned, he’d have to pick up the slack.  I’m sure there are things I’m doing for him that he would do differently, just as I know if it was the other way around, I’d have to be ok with a different level of meal prep and house cleaning.  Sometimes, we just have to let go and just get by. 

Lord knows, anything can happen – like I said, bad things happen to good critters. So if I can be a really good critter, then when I need the help, someone will be there for me too.  Actually, they already are. I have an amazing network of friends and family (mostly RW’s) who I know have my back and help keep me strong and I hope I do the same for them.

Providing care and support doesn’t have to be in the form of grand gestures or cost a lot of money.  The small things can be big things to someone in need.  So if you are one of the healthy, stable, able souls out there, first be grateful.  Then be ready to lend a helping hand (or foot) as needed for a friend, relative or even stranger. Karma will like it.

Some days we are the one who need kindness, care and support.

Other days, we have to be the one to bury the possum.

Posted in adapting, assisting, caregivers, comfort, family, friends, Health, Helping others, home chores, Needs, real women, routines | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Eclectic Wares

Remember when picking out your china pattern was a thing?  Probably not, if you were born in the last two or three decades.  For those of us who are a bit older, brides were encouraged to pick out a pattern or brand of fine china so friends and family could purchase sets of it as wedding gifts.  This of course harkens back to the days when apparently young couples would host large family gatherings and everyone would sit down at a dining table laden with “the good china.”  Sure, wedding registries are still nifty, but I’m doubtful that anyone now is asking for 8 – 10 sets of fine china.  When I got married (the first time) in the 80’s, I dutifully picked out a blue floral pattern from Noritake. It was lovely.  My then-husband and I received several sets and serving pieces and my parents thought it important to purchase any “remaining” pieces so we’d have a full set.

A few months ago, during pandemic purging, I came across a box of the dear ol’ Noritake china. My first husband and I have been divorced for 25+ years. The china was still pretty. Still largely unused. I believe I may have pulled it out literally a handful of times over all those years. Even as “long ago” as the 80’s, very few young married couples ever had more than a handful of people over for a meal, and rarely was it fancy. And for some reason, I had dutifully moved that china several times over the past many years.  Yes, I know, some of you are going to say that I should have just used it as every day plates rather than keeping it in a box. But it was the kind of china with a metal inlay, that could not go in the microwave and shouldn’t go in the dishwasher.  It was far easier and more comfortable for me to take a trip over to Pier 1 every few years and purchase 4 or 6 fun new patterned plates and bowls.  When they got chipped or the glazing crackled, I’d replace some of them. Occasionally I’d get a new patterned plate or cute floral bowl simply because it made me smile. Eventually I created a unique – I prefer to call it eclectic – mix of dishes in my cupboard.  I kind of like having a mix of patterns and colors, and I’ve never had any guest stop and say “hey, my plate doesn’t match yours, what gives?”  Then again, I don’t host any major dignitaries who might even care. 

Meanwhile the fine china stayed in a box.  Until clean out.  I saved a couple large platters and donated the rest.  Perhaps someone else will use it every day and enjoy it.

My diverse collection doesn’t stop with dishes. The glassware cupboard is full of a mélange of cups, mugs and glasses that have accumulated over many years. Everything from engraved beer mugs from my husband’s single days to plastic poolside cups.  It’s a mess, but each item is in there for a reason.  I know I’m not alone in this kind of variety, because I’ve seen similar collections in friends and family’s kitchens. Souvenir mugs from vacations, children’s cups from bygone years, big colorful water goblets sitting next to delicate wine glasses. It’s like a glimpse into a family’s history and lifestyle.  Again, eclectic wares with purpose.

But there’s one area of the kitchen that just completely befuddles me: the silverware drawer.  I recall clearly picking out a big set when I got married to my current hubby. We both were involved in the selection, and to this day my husband prefers to ONLY eat with that same set of forks.  Something about the balance in his hand. What can I say, he’s kinda feng shui about how he eats.

Over the years however, other forks, spoons and knives have snuck into our existence. And I don’t know how or from where they came.  Now, I’m assuming at least a few may have come from past places of employment by accident, and if I could remember from where, or thought it really mattered, I’d return them.  I suppose a couple could have drifted in from inexpensive sets I purchased for camping, or some maybe some I bought for my son to use at college and he didn’t?  But that really doesn’t explain the extensive variety. Just yesterday I was emptying the dishwasher and stopped to layout a handful of silverware and I swear I’ve never seen some of it before.

There is a Facebook group called Grown and Flown; it is made up of parents of children who are moving away from home, either for school, or work or just venturing into the world of adulting. Lately there have been a series of hysterical posts about parents searching for silverware that has disappeared after being used by their teens and 20-somethings. They have found forks and spoons under beds, in duffle bags, even on the front lawn.  I am starting to wonder now if there’s some cosmic force that has made their utensils appear in my drawer.

At some point, unlike with my plates, bowls and glasses, I need to do a major clean out and shop for a new set of silverware. I’m not sure why the assortment of utensils bothers me when everything else in my kitchen is a hodgepodge. But it – pardon the pun – eats at me. One thing for sure is my hubby needs to be involved in the future set selection.  He may not care what the food gets served on, but he certainly cares how it feels to scoop it up.

I know some of you RW’s out there have a very matchy-matchy kitchen, with full sets of everything so your world of eating and entertaining is consistent.  When I visit folks like you, I kind of feel like I’m visiting a grown-up’s house, and I’m still the college kid with hand-me-down pieces stored in milk crates.  I guess having a kitchen that looks like a photo shoot in a cooking magazine is not a priority for me.  It’s more about being comfortable, about how there’s a story behind nearly everything, about having items that carry memories or just make me, and the people who come into my kitchen, happy.  I’m an eclectic-wares kinda gal.

Except for those weird forks and spoons. Those have gotta go.

Posted in decor, Entertainment, family, Food, home, kitchen, meals, real style, real women, Traditions, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just Relax

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Seriously….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over Under Up or Down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From your upside down glassware.

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

Oasis on Wheels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Thing No One Will See That

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrap Me in Bubblewrap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Need the Twinkle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas!

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