The Other Stages

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

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

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

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

Now, where was I…. oh, yes:

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

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

 

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

Market Fluctuations

self checkout
Well, I did it. I got up my courage, and I made a change. It’s going to take some getting used to, but the die is cast:  I have made the move to a different supermarket.

Shocking, right?  Come on, admit it, all real women understand that making a change like this is perhaps not quite as dramatic as changing hair stylists or doctors or moving to a new state, but it ruffles our feathers and means a fairly substantial change to our routines.  Sure, those of you who perhaps only buy a few items occasionally at several different markets may not appreciate the magnitude of this type of change.  But any of you who consistently shop weekly for a family at your go-to destination can certainly appreciate the repercussions of this decision which can not be made lightly.

I had been shopping at my usual grocery store for nearly 20 years. In a long-term grocery relationship like that, we RW’s get to know the layout of the store like the back of our hands. We know exactly where products are located – not just aisle number, but shelf level and depth. I would write out my shopping list in the order of the store to save time and back-tracking.  We regulars can direct any wayward newbie or man as to where to find an elusive item.  We recognize sale pricing and special deals, and know the best way to download coupons and wrack up rewards points.  We know best days and times to go for inventory and crowds. We even get to know staff members by name.

So making a move away from that comfortable familiarity takes thoughtful consideration, or at least a high enough frustration level with problems and issues to compel us to go through a G.B.  (Grocery Breakup).  For me it was a combination of irritations, poor management choices of “improvements”, a decline of quality, and quite literally an annoying robot that pushed me over the edge.

Like all divorces and relationship breaks, I tried to adapt and be open minded. I worked hard to accept the narrower aisles, the lack of baggers, the long lines at check out, the decline of quality in the produce department.  I even tried to find the humor in Marty, the beeping robot that follows shoppers around looking for spills and the resulting incessant announcements over the PA that Clean Ups were needed in Aisle 14, or Hazards were Detected in the Produce Area. I had conversations with other shoppers who felt freaked out that Marty was following them.  I attempted to drown out the never ending beeping the machine emitted.  I tried to not be angry that I had to routinely bag my own purchases, scurrying back and forth from the end of the check out lane where I was putting my purchases away, to the front of the lane to keep loading goods onto the conveyor belt.  I was greeted with uncomfortable chuckles from the cashiers when I asked for a discount for doing my own work.

The final straw that broke this RW’s back was when a renovation was completed to install far more Self Check-Out pods than regular, human check out lanes. This also coincided with the reduction of regular parking spaces to make room for call-ahead order pick ups. For a Grocery Store.  Neither “improvement in service” is useful at ALL to a woman shopping for a cart’s worth of groceries for her family.

One day, out of interest and for comparison sake, I went across the street to a different store to which I’d only previously stopped in for quick short purchases.  It felt a bit like putting a shirt on backwards because I had no idea where to find things, and the layout was nothing like what I was used to.  But like any new relationship, it felt exciting and appealing.  Brighter, cleaner, wider aisles, better quality produce and deli, no robots, and – get this – friendly and available baggers.  Real humans. Being helpful.

My decision was made, and it was time for my G.B.  Determined to be a thoughtful soon-to-be-ex, I wrote a letter to the corporate office to let them know of my discontent and my departure.  As expected, I received not a word from the headquarters, and instead received a call from the local manager.  I was asked to reconsider and was given a $20 gift card.  Too bad not all breakups in life could be that painless.

So I’m in the honeymoon phase of my new grocery relationship. Pleasant enough, but it’s also a bit awkward and costly as we get to know each other.  Awkward because I’m still finding my way around and searching for my favorite products and brands and trying to understand their philosophy of why, for example, greeting cards are the next aisle over from To Go foods. Perhaps so a shopper can buy a Thinking of You card with a slice of pizza?   It is costly because my new Grocery Partner is more expensive than my Ex.  Simply an example of “get what you pay for.”  And lastly, it is definitely more time consuming – at least for now – as I serpentine my way around the store, muttering things like “iced tea used to be half-way down aisle 6” and “where the hell do they put spices?”  But the pain of transition is eased every time I have a clear path down a wide aisle, have friendly humans assist me at check out, and each time my husband says “their deli ham is so much better!”

I know that my visits will not always be rosy, and the shine will wear off. After all, I still kind of hate grocery shopping, and I’m already realizing they don’t carry certain products I’m accustomed to purchasing from the old place. But these are clearly First World Problems, and I will courageously adapt to my new surroundings.  And once in a while I may pop back in to see if anything has improved in my old stomping grounds and for reassurance that I did the right thing.

Besides, I’m sure Marty misses me.

marty

 

Posted in assisting, convenience, customer service, DIY, Food, groceries, meals, real women, shopping, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chasing Walnuts

black-walnut-treeHalloween used to be a fun way to celebrate the Fall season.  Now somehow it is the Ready-Set-Go kick off to the holiday season.

Facebook is full of “60 (or fewer) Days Until Christmas” count downs. The media is warning us there are fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. We are already feeling the panic of “what do you mean you haven’t planned your Thanksgiving meal or done your shopping yet?” The retail shops have had HallowThanksMas décor on the shelves since September.  Today I heard that the Holly channel on Sirius starts up again this Friday. Ugh.

I’ve been so proud of myself over the past couple of months because I finally took the time to slow down and enjoy Fall.  I’ve been on hikes, I’ve visited a few festivals, I’ve taken photos of fall foliage, I’ve had time with friends, gotten in some bike rides, and I’ve taken my puppy on some adventures. I’ve filled my lungs with fresh air, enjoyed views and appreciated the season. For several years, I’ve been “too busy” to do any of this. Autumn flew by, obscured by responsibilities, chores, work, care-giving, mom duties, yard work, whatever else I at the time believed had to take priority. Granted, a few things in my life have shifted this year making it a wee bit easier to adjust my responsibilities, but really, I could have made some adjustments long ago.

But now – BAM! – suddenly I’m feeling the pressure to kick into high gear and rush into holiday prep, hopping on that race track towards a December finish line.  Because we women always seem to be focused on successfully meeting our goals, celebrating our achievements on a high note, and yes, let’s be honest, subtly trying to out-do each other.

Clarity can sometimes come in unexpected ways. We’ve been going through a transition at my church, searching for a new Rector. Our Interim Pastor just finished her time with us this past weekend, and during her last sermon she shared a piece of a poem by the poet Rumi from way back in the 1200’s.  It is the story of a man who climbed a walnut tree:

The waterhole is deep. A thirsty man climbs

a walnut tree growing next to the pool 

and drops walnuts one by one into 

the beautiful place.

He listens carefully 

to the sound as they hit and watches

the bubbles. A more rational man gives advice,

“You’ll regret doing this. You’re so far

from the water that by the time you get down

to gather walnuts, the water will have 

carried them away.”

He replies, “I’m not 

here for walnuts.”

I love this. I love that I can envision the sound and sight of the walnuts plunking into the water. I love that a passing man wants to tell him that he’s doing it wrong, whatever “it” is. Full disclosure, when I first heard/read this poem, my immediate gut reaction was ‘what a waste of good walnuts’.  What can I say, I was raised by an exceedingly practical and realistic mother. But then his response is perfect.  It embodies for me the need for more of us to appreciate the experiences in life, and not be focused completely on the end game.

Yes, it is important to have goals. It is necessary to have plans.  At work, we need to meet our sales budgets or accomplish our strategic initiatives, or whatever it is we strive for.  Personally, we have other ambitions or objectives that we are driven to meet.  For example, pulling off memorable and wonderful holidays with of course perfect food, gifts, and décor.

But what happened to enjoying the process, the journey, just daily life stuff?  When we are children, the anticipation and build up to any event is deliciously mixed with an exuberance and fascination of every day. Why do we lose that so easily in adulthood?   Shouldn’t we more often be like the man that notices a beautiful tree by a pond and decides to take a detour to experience the wonder of nature? (Is it any wonder it is a man in the story, not a woman, because she would have run by the tree on her way to accomplish a dozen different errands.) I’m sure the man was headed somewhere else initially.  He didn’t plan when he got up that morning to climb a tree.  He had no interest, or need, to gather walnuts.

I proved to myself that it was possible to slow down and have a few wonderful experiences this Fall.  I don’t want to lose that capability now.  I love the holidays, I really do. But aren’t there 50-something other potentially amazing days to experience in the meantime?

I’m setting new goals for myself.  They won’t be easy. It comes very naturally to me (like with so many other women)  to get into rush mode, to scurry, to hurry, to worry, to stress over getting things done. I’m actually hoping someone will notice that perhaps I’m going for a walk rather than rushing off to the grocery store, or playing in the snow with my dog instead of cleaning the house, or that it will take me 2 weeks to get the house decorated, and I’ll still be shopping two days before Christmas. I’m hoping that someone will be compelled to point out to me that I’m “not doing it right”, or that I’m “not going to be done in time”.

Because then I can tell them that I’m not in it for the walnuts.

Let them figure it out.

Posted in beauty, changes; hibernation, events, Holidays, moods, preparation, real women, Seasons, simplifying, stress, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Aren’t They All Special?

calendar flipI’m pretty ambivalent about non-holiday special days and months.  I’m not sure why we need one particular day each year to remember to love and respect our mothers, our fathers, our dogs… shouldn’t those be every day?  And then there’s apparently National Singles Awareness Day, National Accordion Month, and National Yo-Yo Day?  Really? Although some of the unique days I can appreciate, like Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, Blueberry Muffin Day, and Garden Meditation Day.  I could get behind all of those with enthusiasm. For the most part though, I let the myriad of proclaimed special days go by with little to no fanfare.

I feel I would be remiss, however, if I let this big Pink Month go by without a post or at least some acknowledgement.  I would need a hundred blog posts to come close to fulfilling my diatribe about all cancers in general.  My passionate hatred of the disease in all forms is profound. I’ve lost far too many loved ones due to some form of the ugly beast.  But for now, I will reign it in and give some focused attention to October’s Breast Cancer Awareness month. Not just because I am a Real Woman who writes for and about all Real Women, but because 1 in 8 women will be affected by the disease.  1 in 8.  Staggering.

Five years ago I was one of the many too many women who find themselves sitting in a doctor’s exam room, receiving the dreaded and immediately terrifying news. As I’ve said so many times since, I was lucky.  It was caught very early thanks to regular and detailed mammograms. It was still condensed into one duct where the evil cells were giving birth to each other. I had a lumpectomy by an extremely skilled surgeon, (my girls no longer point in exactly the same direction, but otherwise they look fairly normal for a middle-aged chick), followed by a pretty easy recuperation. I then had several weeks of radiation, administered by kind and calm women with whom I had frequent shoe conversations. I had the expected side effects of exhaustion and skin reactions, but neither were debilitating. At the end of those weeks, I rang the bell, got my hug and my certificate of completion, went home with my calendula cream and started my five-year relationship with Tamoxifen. That relationship went pretty smoothly too, with the also predicted could-be-real-or-could-be-fake menopausal symptoms. I took my last pill this past May. Which I suppose was a reason to celebrate, but it was also a bit scary. I felt like I was letting go of my invisible shield or my security blanket that was helping protect me from a return visit from the evil monster.  I’ve been extremely healthy since (that sound you hear is me knocking on wood.)  As I said, I was very lucky.

There are SO many women out there who have had, or are now experiencing, far more difficult fights. Not just the famous celebrities who reveal their diagnosis and treatments, but the very real women in all of our lives.  One RW in my life was diagnosed 3 years before me and had a much harder journey that included radiation and the brutality of chemotherapy. She made it through, but still has scar tissue in her lungs from her treatments.  Another had a similar diagnosis as mine, yet dealt with horrible blisters and rashes from the radiation.  One amazing RW in my life had a return of the damn disease and bravely had a double mastectomy. I’d like to say that if I was faced with that situation, it would be a no brainer.  Healthy life vs. boobs, easy decision, right?  I don’t think so, more like excruciating decision.  Like it or not, these things tend to help define who we are.  Some of us nurse our children with them. Some of us choose our styles based on them. They tend to be a symbol of our sex appeal. No matter our relationship with our breasts, they are part of our bodies, and the choice to remove them to live longer and healthier is one that only the strongest can handle.

While the survival rate from breast cancer when caught early is very good, the story is not always of success. I was just speaking with an RW on Sunday who lost her sister to breast cancer, and she now helps annually with fund raisers and awareness campaigns.  That’s the thing about every RW who deals with her version of these stories.  The inner strength they have to cope and keep going is amazing and beautiful.  And every one is different.  We who are part of “the club” can sympathize, encourage, support, and maybe even compare notes and stories. But we can’t completely understand what each woman is going through because every cancer battle has its own challenges.

I’ve read view points on various social media platforms in the past couple of weeks from women who are offended by some of the activities, messages and “celebrations” around breast cancer, as if perhaps it is not being taken seriously.  As I said, everyone is different.  I don’t care if men want to jump on the bandwagon and wear “Save the Tatas” tshirts, or people want to wear fluorescent pink, go for huge fundraising walks, take pictures of their dogs wearing pink balloons strapped to their chests, or tie pink ribbons to their doors.  All I care is that some event, some comment, some photo, some story, causes us all to do two things:

First, take care of yourself. GET YOUR MAMMOGRAMS. Do your self-evaluations.  Make healthy choices.  The one annual appointment I have never put off is with my Ob/Gyn and for my mammograms. No, they are not fun.  But they are vitally important. A few minutes of squeezing and squashing discomfort is worth it to save your life.  It is easy to forget or avoid doing self-exams, I know, I get it.  I often wonder if I’d ever recognize an issue if I felt one, since I didn’t detect it previously.  Plus (here’s where any men still reading this may get more uncomfortable), I, like many women, have dense fiberous breasts. AKA: Lumpy boobs.  Makes it tough to know what I’m feeling.  But hey, I’m willing to do my best and ask questions if anything feels wonky.

Secondly, appreciate every day.  Take nothing for granted. Be kind to yourself, or even better, be kind to someone else. Be supportive. Remember those numbers, 1 in 8.  That means the odds are really, really good that a woman you pass by today is fighting the fight, or is worried about a loved one who is in the middle of it, or is feeling like shit and is pushing herself to carry on her normal day anyway.

I say go ahead and recognize this month anyway you want. With quiet thoughts, prayers, or big and bold events and activities. Don’t just limit yourself to this month. Keep it going. If we can convince any woman to go get an exam and mammogram, then all that pink hoopla is worth it. It means more people can have more healthy days in their lives.

After all, every day is special, isn’t it?

 

Posted in celebrations, communication, death, doctors, family, Health, Helping others, Holidays, love, real women, self care, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Strength Without Glamour

mtmI was 15 years old when the original 9 to 5 Movie released.  I grew up watching the Mary Tyler Moore Show. I was just heading out into the working world after college when the movie Working Girl came out.  I was drawn to the women in each, because they were smart, clever, skilled, and strong, even when faced with a lack of respect.  They dressed up to go to work, where there was a community of other strong women and apparently very wacky and often incapable men.

My mom didn’t work outside the home, but she managed a house and family of six plus many others who flowed in and out of our lives. She did volunteer work, she was a Cub Scout Den mother and a 4-H leader.  She too was smart, clever, skilled and strong. My sister, 7 years my elder, went off to college and never looked back – she charged into the excitement of the fashion industry, traveling the world, and is also, of course, smart, clever, skilled and strong.

In my youth, the thought of combining all of that with the perceived glamour of being a career working world woman had huge appeal.  I didn’t know what I was going to do with my professional adult self.  I knew I wouldn’t be an astronaut like Sally Ride, or a Justice like Sandra Day O’Connor.  My dreams of being a professional cowgirl were dashed when I realized that would mean actually taking care of, and training, the horse.  My dreams of being on Broadway ended with my lack of singing and dancing skills.  My desire to be a Vet dwindled because I hated seeing animals in pain and couldn’t handle blood and guts.  But being one of those dressed up sassy office working women?  I could do that!

Role models were different in those days, and women in the workplace were still struggling in many ways, but to me there was never a doubt in my mind about our abilities and strength. I was going to take on the world in my double-breasted suit and shoulder pads.

In my very early work years doing summer jobs, co-op, and my first real job out of college, I learned how to act professionally. I learned how to get to work on time.  I learned how to deal with older creepy flirting men. I learned how to be respectful and earn respect. I learned how to make mistakes and try to fix them.  I learned what layoffs were.  In those early years, my mom was totally supportive even though I was venturing into a type of lifestyle she hadn’t led. Her no nonsense practical advice was invaluable in any environment.  I remember coming home abruptly mid-morning one day from my first summer job (I inspected microchips for a local factory) because my period had arrived unexpectedly and I had bled through my light summer pants.  I was mortified, I was in tears, I wanted to hide from the rest of the world.  My mother told me to get cleaned up and changed, and to head back to work.  It was the last thing I wanted to do simply because of sheer embarrassment. Then she told me that first of all, very few people probably even noticed. Then she said that every other woman there had been in a similar situation at least once in their lives, and understood. And every man there was thanking God he wasn’t a woman because we woman deal with situations like that and keep going.

As time went on, I did get to wear those “fancy” corporate outfits – suits, dresses, pumps, nylons. I have sat in on big meetings, made presentations, traveled, participated, managed projects and people… all of the things that seemed so exciting in my youth.  I found out it isn’t glamorous, and it is a lot of hard work. It meant early mornings, late nights, and stress and anxiety before I was mature enough to know how to manage stress and anxiety. Yes, there were a whole lot of high points and some amazing life-long friends and associates made, but it never was quite like I had expected back when I was watching Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Melanie Griffith.

Contrary to what I thought I wanted in those early years, I never did become a CEO of a large corporate conglomerate in a skyscraper in a big city.  I instead found jobs and employers, or perhaps they found me, who were better suited for who I am, and who I became.   The irony now is that 30 years after starting my adulting climb up that supposed corporate ladder, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been working for a small company, doing what I love, where we can wear jeans and flats every day.

We go through so many phases in our real women working lives. I see young women like I was, fresh out of college, all energy and eagerness, ready to prove themselves, ready to take on the world, ready to climb to whatever heights they want.  I’ve reached the stage where I’m happy to pass the baton.  Let them learn to be professional, learn how to get to work on time, learn respect, make mistakes and improve on them, let them figure out their paths and find their role models. Some will become CEOs, some will become Broadway stars, some will become stay at home moms, some will be doctors, some may even become astronauts.  If they want to, they will wear suits with shoulder pads, or scrubs, or robes, or jeans.

I’m not saying I’m done learning, working, growing, making mistakes, and finding new paths.  But I’m pretty much done wearing shoulder pads and nylons (unless for special occasions) and feeling like I have to prove I have a brain.  My energy is spent not on climbing a ladder, but putting the most I can into enjoying my days, at work, with co-workers, with family and friends, and in making a difference, no matter how small.

My wish for those “I was them once” women is that their journeys have more ups than downs, that they learn the art of handling stress, they find a bit of glamour, and most of all that they know they are smart, clever, skilled and strong.  Just like Mary Tyler Moore.

 

 

 

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Organizing a Black Hole

swipe magicSwipe. Swipe. Swipe. Pause. Like. Swipe. Swipe. Swipe. Swipe. Pause. Share. Swipe. Post.

And so goes the great time sucker, Social Media.

As a classic mid-life female and mom, my go-to Social platform is still Facebook.  It is the network in which my 19-year old son has no interest because it is for “old people”, and when I excitedly show him something I saw on there, he glances at it, and with disdain says “yeah, I saw that about a month ago.”  Ok, fine. You go be young & trendy on your own social feeds, leave me to my black hole of never-ending ridiculousness.

The other day when I was swiping through the most recent digital pile of fodder on a couple of different platforms (I do vary from FB occasionally) for the usual only-5-minutes-that-turned-into-20, I realized that I really do spend a lot of time swiping past things I don’t care about.  And I realized that we moms and real women with busy schedules could possibly suggest some organizational changes to the Zuke.  (That’s me being hip calling him by a nickname. Hey, its better than me saying “that nice rich young man in a hoodie”).

What if, besides the existing groups and pages, there was a menu of Categories, and all like-minded posts ran in the appropriate categories?   First up would be the network for those with poor grammatical skills and misspellings.  That would spare those of us who are hyper-sensitive to errors from the agonizing and frustrating impulse to make corrections.  Next up would need to be the category for the Angry and Venting. Oh, so much crankiness.  All the irritated posters can hang out together in their own unhappy world.  Next door to that of course, would be Political Posturing, which is closely related (especially lately) to the Angry sharers.  Other categories to visit, review and post would be:  Animals (for all of those great goat, dog and kitten videos), Nature (for all the budding photographers), Kids (just like the Animals network but human), News (real and fake), Inspirational and Thought Provoking (for all those deep thoughts), Selfie City (for the young ladies who need to show how they look so different right now compared to an hour ago), The Obscure (for those posts that make absolutely no sense to the rest of us), Just Plain Funny (which would be the most likely to be shared content) and, let us not forget, FOOD.  Oh, and please, please, let’s have a separate category for the Ambiguous and Leading… you know, the posts with no detail but plenty of drama like “Such a hard day.”  And “I should have known better.”

Think how great it would be to be able to select which type of posts you feel like viewing at any moment. Someone cut you off in traffic? Swipe to Angry and Venting.  Need a lift?  Click on Inspirational or Just Plain Funny.  Not sure what to make for dinner?  Slide over to Food.  Kind of like Pinterest, but more organized.

Can you imagine if we could categorize other areas in our lives?  How about swipe-selections for driving.  Those in a rush and suffering from road rage?  You drive over in those lanes where there are big soft cushions (like on bumper car courses) to help with all the accidents you’ll cause, and feel free to yell creative obscenities out the windows at each other — no one will be offended because you are all cranky together.   Those of you who are over the age of 70 or enjoy Sunday drives?  We have a lovely country- side view over here in the Slow-Mo lanes.  Mom taxies, here’s your straight-shot-don’t-get-in-my way route.  Confused and Lost drivers?  Head for the lanes with no rotaries, and giant large-type signs with neon arrows.

We could even do this in grocery stores.  Full-scale full-cart shoppers?  Here are your wide aisles with bulk sales and helpful baggers.  Speedy I-just-need-three-things Rushers?  Here’s your race-track aisles free of clutter and extraneous products.  Social Shoppers?  Here are lanes with lounge areas so you can have a seat and chat instead of blocking the center of the aisles.  And let’s be sure to add the section for Confused Men, with helpers to point out the brands their partners have requested, to explain what the heck cardamom is, and where to find dried fruit or cling wrap.

Sure, I get it, as much as we may want to, swiping past certain people and situations in real life is not possible or appropriate.  But you’ve gotta admit that saving some time in the digital world to more easily find what matters to us is appealing.  Pretty soon that “oops, I didn’t mean to spend half an hour looking at celebrity gossip” could be whittled down to “ahh, 4 minutes of a beach-goer saving a sea turtle. I feel better.”

Oh, geez, I just realized I missed a vital category: the Put Your Feet Up and Read Blog Posts network.  Thanks for visiting. You may now commence swiping.

 

Posted in communication, convenience, digital, discussions, Entertainment, Food, friends, innovation, online, photography, photos, politics, routines, simplifying, skills, social media, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NSNF Month

summer fallIt is September.  That month that is not really summer and not really fall.  Unless you live in the southwest, and it is hot-as-hades-stop-talking-about-sweaters season.

But here in the Northeast, school has started, pumpkins and mums are available at farm stands, pumpkin-flavored-everything is everywhere, pools are begrudgingly being closed, county fairs are active, evenings are chilly, afternoons are warm, Halloween décor has been in the stores for weeks, and trees are just starting to consider changing.

And we have begun to ponder the important challenging topics of the season:

What do I wear so I don’t freeze going to work in the morning, and don’t sweat on the way home?

Can I wear sandals?

Is it too soon for boots?

Is it too early to be eating comfort foods, or should I still be grilling burgers and making salad?

Should I take down the hummingbird feeder?

Why are the stores only carrying clothing in the colors of tangerine, gold, burgundy, mustard, olive green, or leopard print, all colors that only look good on about 4% of the population?

ACK, do I need to start my holiday shopping already?

How soon can I start drinking hot cocoa?  Or should I make more lemonade?

Oh, sure, sure, we are thinking about important world news and life events too, but really…  this is the month for these daily real life quandaries…. Kind of like March, but in reverse.  After all these years, I for one still don’t really have any of these things figured out.

My gardens are looking spotty.  Some flowers and plants are long gone, others are clinging on with bits of color.  I will soon buy a few mums to plant because they will be hardy enough to last a few more weeks, and just might come back next year.  While I’m buying the mums, I’ll be tempted to purchase a pumpkin for our front steps. But that’s too soon, because the Weather Dude on TV said we’ll be back in the 80’s later this month, then I’ll just have orange rotted goo to clean up.  While I’m at it, should I be putting away my pink flamingo pillows that are on the porch chairs and get out the blanket throws in the living room?   This is one of the many reasons I don’t live in warmer climates. If I’m this confused now, could you imagine me if I had cactus or palm trees in the winter?

Every Fall I am shocked and dismayed by the shrinking hours of daylight, as if I’ve never experienced it every previous year. No longer do I have the luxury of knowing I can do gardening, or walk the dog, or go for a bike ride after dinner.  Nope, gotta get it all done before 7pm.  Same goes for the morning.  Getting up with the puppy for that early morning pee now feels like I’m roaming the backyard in the middle of the night.  And by the way, good thing no one can see me, because now I wear my fluffy bathrobe and garden clogs at that hour because it is too cold for shorts and bare feet.  As I stand there, flashlight in-hand, while she does her business and happily sniffs around the yard, I cringe at the thought that in the not too distant future I’ll have to make the move into a winter coat and boots for our little outings.

Speaking of temperature, the inside of buildings this time of year battle for variable comfort, as if they too are going through menopause.  One place may still be blasting the a/c, another may have it shut off and opted for windows open for anything from chilly air to warm breezes, and another may actually have the heat turned on.  Layers of clothing are the only option this month.  We become better at adding or removing clothing than superman in his phone booth.  In September, the casual-wear uniform is either shorts and a sweatshirt, or jeans with Tshirt and jacket.  Anything else, and we’ll end up freezing or roasting.

All this confusion aside, September is one of my favorite months.  The days are clinging to the last rays of summer, yet there’s the promise of crisp colorful beauty on the horizon.  Crowds in popular scenic areas are less, and going for walks and hikes is superb. The air smells fresh, and for a few weeks I can ignore the fact that winter is coming.

So in the days to come, I’ll embrace the wackiness of NSNF (Not Summer Not Fall) Month.  I will open all my windows in the house, roam around in shorts and sweatshirt. I will go for a hike.  I will drink hot chai tea in the morning and iced tea in the afternoon.  I will put out my Fall floral arrangements but not my pumpkins. I will plant mums and cut back my daisies. We will grill something simple for dinner, but then I’ll bake pumpkin bread.  I will sweat on a bike ride, but be burrowed under a blanket in the evening while I flip channels searching for any of my favorite returning TV shows.  We will giggle about a 45 degree temperature change in 12 hours. I may pack away my white shorts and a few tank tops, but the capri’s and T’s stay for now. I will try not to complain about not knowing what to wear.  I may do a bit of shopping… I won’t buy anything in olive green/mustard/leopard print, but a Fall purse may tickle my fancy.

Most of all, I will attempt to let this month linger.  I’ll put my face up to the warm sun, and I’ll pick up the first perfect yellow-orange maple leave I find on the ground.  Let’s all make a pact to transition together in a bit of slo-mo.  The hurry-scurry world of the holidays will sneak up all to soon.  Let’s stop to breathe a bit first.

 

 

 

Posted in beauty, changes; hibernation, clothing, decor, fashion, Health, preparation, Seasons, Uncategorized, weather | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Next Good Thing

looking forward sunsetWe women are trained to be Queen Copers. Granted, some of us are better at coping than others, but for the most part we all do the best we can.  We can all identify with this definition of Cope:

Verb, to deal effectively with something difficult.  Synonyms: manage, survive, subsist, look after oneself,  stand on one’s own two feet, carry on, get through, get on, get along, get by, muddle through, muddle along, scrape by, bear up, make the grade, come through, hold one’s own, keep one’s end up, keep one’s head above water, keep the wolf from the door, weather the storm.

Sounds familiar, right?

Whether tiny or huge, we find ways to deal with life’s up and downs.  One of my key coping tools is looking forward to the next good thing.  It is something I’ve done all my life.

When we are young, looking forward to things is what we do all the time. It’s all about the next cool or fun activity.  The next new experience, playdate, or celebration.  We spend so much time looking forward to “what’s next” as children, that we beg for time to go faster.

As young adults, we are neck deep in looking ahead to what’s next.  First jobs, new relationships, first homes, marriages, travel, babies… you name it.  We are in a speeding vortex of happenings that keep us so busy we don’t have time to dwell on the invariable bad speed bumps that happen along the way.  If something ugly comes up, we juggle it around, find a solution, and move on.

When we get older, our coping needs change.  First, those challenges, difficulties and ugly speed bumps happen a bit more often or are bigger and harder.  Secondly, we no longer want time to go fast – if anything, we are praying for it to slow down.  We need the next good thing to be just ahead of us, where we can easily focus on it and let it help us slow down a bit and appreciate every day rather than wish it away.

I am constantly on the hunt for what I can look forward to, and can always find something, even if small.  Wearing a new shirt or scarf will help me get moving and ready for work. The expectation of a yummy lunch will get me through a long meeting.  Going for a bike ride or walk on a beautiful day will help me get my work and chores done, as will the prospect of watching a good movie or settling in for a great page-turning book. A get-together with friends will help me through any hard or challenging duties I have to get through first.  Of course an upcoming family visit, a trip, or a vacation is definitely enough to put pep in my step.  Heck, even something like knowing I can have some ice cream after oral surgery can be a glimmer of goodness to focus on.

Looking forward can help ease pain or sadness over big stuff too.  When my brother’s health was failing, he and I would talk about the next theater show he wanted me to take him to in Boston. There was no need to discuss the fact that he’d never make it there, just the joy of talking about it, thinking about it, discussing past outings together, gave him a little boost and something positive to think about.

In four days, we will be moving my son into his college dorm for his Freshman year.  That boy who for the past 19 years has been an integral part of most of my looking forwards will no longer be just down the hall in the house.  Stopping in to his room to catch up on the day’s events is no longer something I can look forward to each day.  He has grown from his baby days of being totally dependent on us for everything, and a young boy who needed us for all his events, activities, trips and celebrations, to now starting his own journey of life apart from us as a young adult. I know he’s anxious yet excited too, and I hope I have taught him how to look forward every time he hits one of those bumps in his road.

As for me, I’m struggling a bit more this time trying to be a Queen Coper. I’m trying to be excited for him, but I’m inherently sad. I find myself already looking forward to when he comes back for a visit for a long weekend, or for the holidays. But that comes dangerously close to wishing time would go fast, and I really don’t want that either.  And so I need to make a shift to focus on other immediate future good things, like getting together with friends, enjoying the last of the summer weather, and having some of my favorite Netflix shows start up for the Fall season. (See? Even little things count).

On my morning walk today, something else started to appear on my horizon that I hadn’t really been considering.  My husband and I have never had “just us” time. When he came into my life, I got the family package deal.  Starting my life with him also meant starting life with my two stepsons, who kept us hopping long before the youngest was even a glimmer in our eyes. Now, with both stepsons grown and on their own, and our son starting college, it will for the first time be just me and my hubby.  (And our mid-life-empty-nest puppy.)  After 25 years, we can start dating.  Imagine that.

My cousin recently gave me the sage advice to have something planned for the evening we get back from dropping my son off, so I have something else to focus on. In her way, she was reminding me to use my coping skills. Today I realized with that little glimmer of a boost to help me through my sadness, that I can start planning my first date with my husband.

Because it is never too late to look forward.

 

Posted in achievements, age, celebrations, changes; hibernation, children, Chores, college, communication, events, family, friends, future, Kids, love, men, moods, preparation, Relationships, school, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment