Simply Excited

painted rock1I woke up cranky and emotional yesterday.  I have no license to be that way.  I’m healthy (minus a recent ugly bout with food poisoning).  None of my immediate family members, friends or associates have been stricken ill by Covid.  I am employed and working from home, so we have been able to keep up with our bills.  I am not working on the front lines. I have no young children at home whom I am trying to home school or keep entertained. I have a solid roof over my head and am still getting along well with the other house inhabitants.  Compared to the constant news stream of illness, death and unemployment, I’m lucky. I have it easy.

Yet there it was. The alarm went off, it was grey, cool and foggy out, and it matched my mood.  The fog was especially apropos since we all feel fuzzy, stuck in some weird version of Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day where the date or day of the week no longer matters.  Every time that alarm goes off, we are faced with the same day, same routines, over and over again.  That was my issue. Here I am, drifting somewhere between week 7 and week 8 of quarantine-shelter-in-place-bizarro world with everyone else, and my patience for my routine has run out.  We all have our daily grind which at this point has pushed us to numbness.  For me, my daily routine involves walking the dog, sitting in front of the computer for 8 – 9 hours, fitting in a basement workout, food prep and tv watching.  Rinse and repeat.   The biggest issue is that there is nothing to look forward to. No planned outings and activities with friends, no travel, no parties, no shopping excursions, nothin’.   For those of us who are social, active and huggy people, that’s about the same as a prison sentence.  (Hey, come on, I’m allowed a bit of drama here, let me wallow would ya?)

Weekends are marginally better, because there is time for house projects, yard work, hikes, zoom sessions and calls, and occasionally the true excitement of masked trips to the grocery store, pharmacy or hardware store.  Any form of change in scenery is grounds for giddiness.  One RW told me that she and her family members are having disagreements over who gets to go out and pick up the trash can and recycling bin.  Yes, our level of excitement and fascination has reached new levels.

I have a weekly zoom call with my core group of BFFs.  This is an attempt for us all to preserve our sanity and check in on each other. Once upon a time, our conversations were filled with tales of adventure and fashion.  Our discussions now center around topics like what we cooked for dinner, how to make face masks, whether or not our grocery store has rice or flour, what we are watching on Netflix, and what books we are reading. We’ve started a show and tell, to share any new and exciting thing we have made or purchased in the past week.  These moments of sharing have ranged from the exciting:  home-crafted greeting cards and online orders of a new book or pair of sandals,  to the mundanely appreciated: hair dye, a unique flavor of tic tacs, and a new butter dish.   Yes. This is what has become of us. These are the topics we now find fascinating.

I have discovered that my view of the outside world, and what I find thrilling and exciting, has also changed.  With so many people staying home with time on their hands, I look forward to checking out the updates to yards and gardens during my walks. One family built a lovely wood fence all around their backyard, complete with arbor.  Another family has had a very large back deck with gazebo installed – I was waving good morning to the work crew while it was under construction.  Flowers are popping up in gardens. The garden centers are bursting with plants.  Children’s art work appears on windows and front doors.  And I’m thrilled every time I come across a painted rock someone has artfully placed in a random location to illicit smiles.  Bird watching is now a communal sport, with friends posting sightings on Facebook.  One dear RW in my life is ecstatic that a pair of mourning doves have made a nest and laid two eggs in her herb pot on her patio.  She says it is more riveting to watch than Netflix.   I get it.

The most exciting thing of all at this point is seeing other people, outside of our house-dwellers. Even at a 6+ foot distance, even hiding behind masks, having any form of in-person interaction is like bringing water to someone sitting in the desert.  (I didn’t say I was done with my drama).  We are starved for personal contact, and in the absence of physical contact, just seeing other humans at a distance and sharing kind words makes a huge difference.  Today I stopped into the grocery store, and as I was turning a corner to follow the one-way arrows down the next aisle, a beautiful young girl with smiley eyes looked at me from about 10 feet away and said “I love your mask!”   Although it struck me that her generation will be the one that grew up during the pandemic, where mask style drove fashion trends, she made my day and made me smile.  I wanted to hug her but of course could not. Besides, being hugged by a strange woman in the grocery aisle would have probably terrified her and sent her mom chasing me away brandishing a pack of bagels.

Today that grey foggy cloud lifted, even if for a little while.  I looked for excitement and joy wherever I could find it, like deciding that tonight’s dinner will be a variety of fun not-so-healthy appetizers. Because why not.  And because I’m weary of meal prep.

We may not have much to look forward to now, but at some point, somehow, some way, there will be a break in our new routines, and we will learn again how to find new levels of excitement.  There will be new adventures, and dare I say it – perhaps even gatherings, activities, and travel in some form or another.  We may even, someday, be able to hug each other again.  When those days come, I hope we won’t forget how we learned to be fascinated by simple things like birds, flowers, butter dishes and painted stones.

 

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Lost Skills

ostrichI’ve been hesitant to do any blog writing recently, because it seems there is only one topic any of us are able discuss.  It begins with P and ends in -ic.  It has consumed us in more ways than one, and every one of us, everywhere, is somehow affected by and attempting to deal with the -ic. To be honest, I’m completely weary of thinking about, talking about, and coping with the -ic.  So I’ve been avoiding writing. Which is not the right answer.

I will also admit that for the past two days I have willingly been the proverbial ostrich with her head in the sand. I have not read, listened to, or watched any news.  It’s not that I don’t care, or that I don’t feel the importance of what is going on around us.  But for my own sanity, I needed a break. I think we all need to take breaks from time to time to be able to recharge our coping mechanisms.

As part of this break, the only social media content and information I’ve read are positive posts.  I have scrolled past anything sad, frightening or worrisome. And guess what, the longer we go in this -ic situation, the more positive bits I’m finding. There are so many people out there sewing masks, delivering groceries, raising donations, and showing up at appropriate distances to show support for those on the front lines, it warms the soul and gives hope.

I am one of the very fortunate ones who is not only healthy (knock on wood), but still employed (please knock again), working from home. I am beyond thankful for both of those key points.  However, because I am still working 9+ hours a day, I feel limited in how much I can do to help others.  This is why I jumped at the chance to do one tiny simple thing for a friend. She asked if I could hem her scrubs.  You see she is a pretty amazing Doctor who is still going every day to a medical facility.  She is one of many other essential and incredible humans out there who risk facing the -ic up close every day while I stay safe and albeit stir crazy in my home.

The funny thing is my sewing skills are rusty. But I uncovered ye ol’ sewing machine, was all proud of myself when I remembered not only how to thread the machine but wind a bobbin, and got the scrubs hemmed so my BFF hero can avoid tripping and falling on the job. Did the hems look great? No. Luckily, they are scrubs.  If my sister, who is still a fabulous seamstress, saw my project, she would give me the one-lifted brow that says “really?  You learned better than that.” Then would giggle at me.

As I did my measuring, pinning, cutting, stitching and ironing, I thought about the ways we are all resurrecting lost skills in this time of the -ic.  One trip to a grocery store (with disposable gloves and masks in place) will lead us to believe that a lot of us are cooking and baking far more than usual. We are picking up actual pens and hand-writing letters and cards to those who need a boost. There are young mothers re-learning how to use cloth diapers. We are cleaning with washable rags to save paper towels. We are tackling home projects like painting and carpentry. We are having family game nights and going for hikes. We are playing music to lift spirits. We are making gifts, and calling people to actually talk vs. texting. Lost talents and skills, newly found.  And it’s kinda wonderful.

There is no denying that the -ic is overwhelming and we can easily let it get all-consuming. When we don’t take occasional moments to let ourselves regroup and breathe, everything feels huge and impossible to conquer.  Yet when we let ourselves think about something else – even for a few hours –  we remember that we have skills that have laid a bit dormant during the rush of “normal” life.  Perhaps we can find small little things to help each other fight back against the -ic beast. And feel better in the process.

By the way, did you know that the myth of the ostrich hiding her head in the sand came about because she’s actually tending to her eggs in her ground nest?  So she’s not really hiding and avoiding the world. She’s doing one very skilled, tiny little thing to make her world better.

 

 

 

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Chaos Through Z Eyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Embrace the Adventures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Trails.

 

 

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Walkin Around at Level 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Nothin’ to see here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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Overwhelmed by Options

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

 

 

 

 

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