The Slippery Slope of Slothness

lounge feetI’ve always been one of those R.W.’s who likes to be active. I rarely sit still for long. Like most pre-video game, pre-smart-phone little girls, I spent a whole lot of time outside playing, or going for long walks, or biking, or even dancing in my room with my music cranked.   I was not an athletic sports jock, although I am proud to say I was on the first-ever girl’s soccer team in my school during eighth grade. Team sports were not really my thing, but I found plenty of other ways to use my energy. Then in the late 80’s I discovered aerobics, and I was hooked. It didn’t matter what kind it was, dance, step, or water, I was all in. Whenever I wasn’t donning a leotard and headband, I was out hiking or biking.

Over the years, throughout the process of time and age, I have slowed down – at least comparatively. I am nowhere near in the kind of shape I was in my youth. In those days, I had the drive and delusion that I could be as fit as Karen Voight. I’m shokvoightwing my age with that name-drop, but trust me, 25 years ago she was my idol.   I realize now she was one of those rare freaks of nature, but back then, her body and strength seemed attainable.

Now I stay active mostly to fight back weight gain and the aches and pains of maturity. I could run five miles or swim ten laps about as easily now as I could fly to the moon by flapping my arms. It just isn’t going to happen. And I’ve grown to be ok with that. As long as I can still walk and bike, do some strength training, get out of bed without assistance, and not have under-arm waddle, I’m learning to be happy with my level of fitness. I try to do at least something active every day. When I travel, I scope out the nearest fitness center or walking route for my use.

That is, until last week. Last week we were on vacation, and it was one of those rare week-long, truly unplugged and relaxed summer vacations. We were on a cruise, and the sun, the sea, and un-rushed atmosphere took its toll on me. And I was not alone. Everyone else on board seemed to start moving in slow-mo, like a giant herd of chameleons, all changing at the same time to become one with our environment.  Well, ok, maybe there were a few athletic souls. On day one I did venture into the fitness center for a half-hearted attempt at a workout, and there were several other folks there as well. Perhaps they had the ambition to return to that part of the ship throughout the week. I did not. The only other exercise I got all week was doing a few laps around Deck 8 with my hubby…. Which often involved pausing for a view, to take a photo, or to treat ourselves to fruity adult beverages.   By Day 5, I’m fairly certain I looked a bit like this:

sloth sleep

As the week progressed, I began to have a better appreciation for a more sedentary lifestyle. There is certainly something appealing about stretching out in a lounge chair, or sprawling across a sofa, a book in hand, or a nap to be had. As we strolled, slowly, around the ship, we saw several people sound asleep at any hour of the day, stretched out on comfy deck furniture.   It was as if we were like bike tires and someone let our air out, deflating us into heaps of relaxed blobs.   I began to wonder, could it be possible that some day I’ll reach the point where I no longer have the desire and energy to be active?   Could I become truly slothlike, or turn into what we used to call a couch-potato? This concept would have worried me if I…..cared. But for those few days, I really didn’t. I basked in the glow of downtime.

Today, our first full day back home and back to reality, I took my dog for a short walk this morning, packed a salad for lunch, and went to the gym this evening for a workout. I knew it would not be easy to get through the hour of physical activity after about 10 days of not much. It has always amazed me how long it takes to get in shape, yet how quickly we can get out of it. Luckily the pre-vacation-me kicked back in and I got through the workout (albeit not at 100% capacity) and felt good. I wondered how many of my sloth-partners from last week had done the same thing today, working their way back into activity…. Or how many decided to make the lounge-mode their permanent way of life.

It has taken me a lot of years to recognize the fact that sometimes, we R.W.’s need to let ourselves deflate. Sure, there is the risk of not wanting to get up and moving again, but if we are smart, we’ll find the right balance. I no longer need to be that girl who is constantly on the move, striving for 2% body fat and the strength of a small ox. I just need to be healthy. And sometimes that means slowing down.

So, now, if you’ll excuse me, my recliner is calling my name. After all, it’s all about moderation, right?

Preparing to Relax

oceanMost of us Real Women like to think we can be spontaneous. To us, spontaneity means fun, carefree, happy, no stress. We don’t have to weigh ourselves down with pesky and arduous planning and processing, we can just get up and go and do. I know there are a few of you out there who really can do this, and I commend you. As for me, I tend to believe I have not one spontaneous bone in my body. I am a planner through and through, and my hunch is I’ve got a lot of R.W. soul mates.

My family and I are about to depart for a vacation. A real, honest to goodness, get away from it all, seven days of virtually no responsibilities and relaxation, vacation. This is something we have not done in a very long time, and I’d be embarrassed to admit how long we’ve been planning it.   Even more glorious is the fact that a family member is arriving to house-sit and dog-sit for us, so we will have the amazing peace of mind that all will be fine at home while we are gone.   All that is left is to grab our swimsuits and flip-flops and head out the door, right?   Not so fast.

At times, the preparations to depart have felt almost overwhelming, and my mind is swirling with “I have to do all these things before we leave”.   In reality, very few of the items on my “getting ready to relax” list truly, absolutely need to be done. However, I know me, and if I can take care of everything, set everything in order, I will enjoy myself that much more.

Some of the preparations, in hindsight, are really kind of unnecessary, and possibly border on the ridiculous. But I’m fairly certain most of us R.W.’s go through similar procedures:

  • Personal grooming. My husband, my son, and I have all recently had haircuts, I did my color touch-up this morning (also known as the 60-90 Day Grey Hiding Process), and tonight I will get my nails done. We even plan to bathe the dog, who is staying home. I can understand this sort of primping when travelling to visit family or friends. After all, we don’t want them to see us in our worn out and scraggly forms, we want to look good. But this vacation is our first-ever cruise. Which means we will be spending time with thousands of complete strangers, whom we will likely never see again. So why do we care? If anything, this is probably the perfect opportunity to look as slovenly as we want.
  • Shopping. I have participated in a flurry of pre-trip retail excursions to buy things I usually don’t purchase. Travel-size toiletries, extra swim trunks for my son who outgrew the ones he had last year, new pairs of flip-flops, and just yesterday I remembered I want to stop and get some Dramamine. Just in case. Could we buy all these items during the trip? Certainly. But then I won’t feel prepared.
  • Home Cleaning. For as long as I can remember, before going on any trip away from home, no matter the length or distance, I have felt the need to clean. I simply don’t want to come home to a dirty house. Besides, if God forbid someone broke in, or an Emergency Crew had to enter, I can’t have them seeing dirty dishes in the sink.   This time, since we have a house-sitter coming, I especially want it to be clean. Would she really care if it wasn’t? Probably not. But I want her to be comfortable. Not horrified.
  • Lists. Oh, my, the lists. I’ve had lists at work of projects to wrap up before departure, liststrip list of errands to be accomplished, and lists of what needs to be done each evening leading up to the big day. I even have separate lists for my husband and son. There is pure satisfaction in crossing things off. I am assuming my boys will not allow me to bring pen and paper on the trip.
  • Food. One would think that when preparing to be away, there is no need to plan for, or purchase, food. However, tomorrow is my son’s birthday. Gotta have fun food and cake. We have family members coming through town the day before we leave. Can’t let them go hungry. And there must be SOMETHING edible in the house so our houseguest doesn’t have to go grocery shopping right away – although I’m sure she plans to do just that. Then, what about road trip food? We will be on a bus for a couple of hours to get to the departure dock. I have a teen son. Snacks need to come with us, lest he perish – or, start chewing on my arm.
  • Packing. Oh yes, and then there’s this. When it all boils down, the actual packing seems to be the easiest thing. Especially for a summer vacation. Yet, as a true R.W., I will lay out far too much clothing and shoes then start the art of reducing the quantity. I always strive to pack lightly – yet end up over-packing still. Today I saw a forecast for rain, at least on our first day. Oh boy, time to rethink a few things.

I have had a few wise R.W.’s try to talk me off the ledge of over-preparation and the resulting exhaustion by convincing me to slow down long enough to consider what really does NOT need to be done. So I have taken a few things off my list. Really, I have. Like I’m not going to get any ironing done. Wrinkles can wait. My son’s birthday gifts may or may not get all wrapped. The house will be “no-longer-filthy” clean, not “guests-are-coming” clean. May not seem like much, but to me each of these is a fairly major concession.

Each night, as I crawl into bed worn out, I think to myself that I’m one day closer. One day closer to saying “good enough” and finally, truly, relaxing. Who knows, maybe each day of vacation I’ll let lose and be a bit spontaneous. One thing is for sure. I will certainly be prepared for it.

 

Good Morning, Routine

rotaryIn our roles as Home & Family Maintenance Managers, we Real Women know how vital our morning routines are for keeping everything running like clockwork. Rise and shine to all family members by a certain time, take care of the family pet, make sure school work/lunches/briefcases/laptops etc are present and accounted for – the list is extensive, and we slip into drill sergeant mode to make sure all is in order before we head out for our day. Even my dog happily plays obedient soldier, prepared to go out and wait for the bus with my son, and ready to be rewarded with his “wubba” as I leave. That wubba is the most important feature of his morning. Nothing will go right in his world if it is forgotten.

Similarly, on those mornings when there is a necessary break in the routine, we quickly adapt and persevere, but that break can throw us a bit off kilter. An over-sleeping child can mean the laundry doesn’t make it into the dryer, or a pet getting sick can mean a lunch gets forgotten, or no hot water can mean the laptop is left behind. These may seem incongruent, as if one thing shouldn’t have anything to do with the other, but trust us R.W.’s, in the world of routine, they are all linked. Just the other day I was talking with an R.W. co-worker, and she described how just the need to walk her dog at an earlier time than usual that day had caused her to forget her glasses. Yup, I totally get it.

One way or another, however, we keep up the pace and we get out the door to face the rest of the day’s sequences. For those of us who travel to a job outside the home, there is a somehow comforting routine involved in the commute. No matter whether your commute is via mass transit, by foot, or by driving yourself, you see and do the same things every day.

Over the past month or so, I have noticed an R.W. who passes by me, going the other direction, on the same road, at virtually the same point, every day. I’ve noticed her because she drives a yellow Jeep Wrangler, with the words “Country Girl” inscribed above her windshield. I wonder about her. Where is she going? Does she have a new job, because I hadn’t seen her up until recently? What kind of job does Country Girl have? I don’t think it is in Retail, since I see her at approximately 7:50am every day. Does she own a business? Does she have kids? Does she notice she passes me every day?

About once a week, I will take an alternate route so I can treat myself to a stop at Dunkin Donuts. Yet even this diversion has a comforting level of sameness. All Dunkin Donuts smell and look the same. I know, with all certainty, that when I walk in, there will be a coffee klatch of older gentlemen in the corner, telling tales and discussing politics, sports, and local town news. I will step up to the counter and order the same thing: chai tea in the winter, a coolata in the summer. Often, I will run in to one of my R.W. friends there at the same time. She and I will chat briefly about our sons who are besties, then head off to our work places. Routine.

When I take this alternate route, it brings me through something that our town owns as a badge of honor: one of the worst rotaries in the country. I’m not exaggerating. It was included in Ripley’s Believe It or Not. There are seven roads that converge in this spider web-like traffic circle. It was not designed for the faint of heart. Yet, somewhat miraculously, during commuter hours, all of the regulars who navigate this vortex on a daily basis cruise through and it all operates like a well-oiled amusement park ride. But on weekends or off hours, all bets are off. It is easy to pick out the rotary newbies, inching through with a look of terror on their faces. Or the elderly, who enter in a state of confusion and hope for the best. As a matter of fact, when we first moved here, our Realtor who was a spry and funny older woman drove us through the circle and proclaimed “I just close my eyes and go!”  I’m confident this traffic configuration will never change. In 50 years, I expect it to look exactly the same.

I view this rotary as a symbol of our routines and patterns in life. They may be messy and unorganized, or may not make any sense to anyone else, but when we can smoothly move our way through, we come out on the other side saying “ahhh, this is gonna be a good day.” When we have to make a change, or try something new, we get a bit scared and frustrated – yet somehow manage to make it through, relatively unscathed, thinking “huh, that wasn’t so bad.”   And so it goes with our life’s order… when we are forced to make changes, we’ll often decide to embrace them, and make them part of a new routine, a new pattern.

So in that spirit, I think on Monday I’ll try waving to Country Girl.

Who knows, maybe we’ll develop a Good Morning Routine code salute.

 

Trash or Treasure

trash or treasureIn a recent post, I mentioned that I have been prepping to have a tag sale. I’m not exactly looking forward to the event itself, but I am certainly looking forward to cleaning a bunch of stuff out of my home. For several weeks, I have sorted through virtually every nook, cranny, and closet of our house. My basement, which is the holding cell for all things tagged, now looks like a discount retailer’s bargain bin… or, perhaps, an episode of Hoarders. I am a bit aghast that all of that “junk” has been somehow hiding in a house that has very little storage space. I’m beginning to believe that in a past life I was a pack rat.

With only a couple of weeks left, I have come to the point where I must enlist my husband’s assistance in the sorting. Predominately because the areas left to sort contain mostly his accumulations. When I walk into the garage or his workshop, I don’t even know what I’m looking at, let alone whether these are things to be kept or sold. So in order to remain happily married, I must get his input.

Throughout this process, I have determined that we are all collectors for different reasons. Perhaps like any typical Real Woman, I tend to collect items based on emotional attachment. If something has any sort of memory attached to it, I hesitate to get rid of it, even if I haven’t used it or even looked at it for years. For my husband, however, his collections have far more to do with some sort of perceived value. Today, as a matter of fact, he came home with a set of “perfectly good” stereo speakers that someone else was getting rid of. Do we need a set of speakers? No. But in his world, that isn’t the point. If something can be fixed, repaired, or just plain flipped, he’s all in. I believe his secret desire is to travel with Mike and Frank from American Pickers.

Although I have been working on the tag sale sorting for weeks, I thought it best to ease my husband into the process today with something fairly easy: the closet in the basement. Besides being a catch-all for an assortment of oddities, the majority of the content of that closet was a variety of media: books, photo albums, music CD’s, movies, and even record albums. We both easily agreed to just throw away the stacks of VHS tapes. Yes, it’s true, we still had several. I did, however keep one. It is the video of my first wedding. I didn’t keep it to stroll down the memory lane of my first marriage (much to the relief of my husband), but because I know there are loved ones on that tape who are no longer with us — including my parents. For that reason alone, it is worth getting it converted to something watchable.

Next we moved on to our CD’s. I separated them into two piles, his and mine. We each sorted through and filled a box with those we no longer care to keep. Then we moved on to DVD’s. My husband was on a roll now, and was quick to dismiss several movies which I had to pull back out of the pile. Imagine, he was going to toss away Pretty Woman and The Heat.   No self-respecting R.W. tosses out classic Chick Flicks.

When we filled the box to be tagged, I took a quick look and had to laugh. The whole box looks to be an Ode to the 80’s.   It may as well have a neon sign with the title “Middle-Aged Couple Cleaned Out a Closet.”

One of my BFF’s has been reading a book about getting organized and simplifying your life. I of course find it hysterical that she is reading the book, as she loves to be organized. I swear she carries a label maker in her purse and has stock in The Container Store. It would be like Jennifer Aniston reading a book about how to be beautiful.   Nevertheless, she has shared with me a few interesting tidbits from this book, one of which is the theory that the only “stuff” we should keep is stuff that brings us joy. If something doesn’t bring us joy, out it goes. Hmmm. Interesting.

I think on some level, this makes sense. But for someone like me, I think that can be a dangerous premise. As I sit here in my home office, I look around at the “stuff” I have surrounding me. It is all here because it brings me joy. I have tons of photos of family and friends, words about creativity and motivation, and memorabilia from past events. I have antique items inherited from my parents on my bookshelf. I have two shelves loaded with my finished scrapbooks. I have a bulletin board littered with notes, reminders and ideas for the books I’m writing. I have an odd assortment of small trinkets lined up on my desk, each one meaning something to me. For me, I find joy in a whole lot of little things that can easily lead to clutter.

This is why I know that after the tag sale is over, and I have basked in the extra space in my basement, closets and garage, I will also realize that my house is far from empty. I’m sure there is much more I could clean out. Someone else could wonder if I ever got rid of anything in the first place.

But to me, I’ll be down to the bare basics. My husband will still have his best great “picks” stored in Man’s World, and I will still have things like a tiny metal elephant on my desk that used to be my Dad’s. A life of minimalism is just not in our genetic make up.

However, with luck, our tag sale will be successful and we will live up to the quote that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”   And with even more luck, my husband won’t come home with more great deals, and I won’t fall in love with more trinkets and home décor…

Well, at least for a week or so.

 

 

A Short Story

shortsAhhh, the unofficial start to summer is unofficially here. In New England, this means packing away most of the cold-weather clothes and breaking out the summer wear.  And for those of us more mature Real Women, that also means once again facing one particularly dreaded wardrobe element: shorts.

Yesterday was a beautiful sunny warm day, and my husband and I, along with many other families, attended an outdoor concert performed by our kids at a local family entertainment center. Shortly before leaving for this event, I pawed through the handful of shorts I have that at this point “sort of” fit. After all, this mamma bear put on a few pounds over the winter, so the available selection has diminished. Not thrilled with my options, I opted for a basic pair of navy shorts and a flowy shirt to hide as many flaws as possible.

During this enjoyable afternoon, as so often happens, I had two fascinating real woman coincidences happen. As I chatted with two separate R.W. friends, they each, without provocation, brought up the same topic: shorts.  One friend was wearing jeans. She shared with me that the jeans were her only option that day – she too, like me, had apparently gained a few pounds over the winter, and her available shorts stock was depleted.  She had attempted to go shopping the day before, and after a couple of hours returned home chagrined and empty handed. Every pair she found in the stores was short. I know, ironic to say that, but I mean really short. We both agreed that except for maybe a handful of freaks of nature, no woman over the age of 40 looks good in short shorts. Honestly, after scanning the crowd that afternoon, I’m willing to say very few women of ANY age look good in short shorts. That style is designed for 16-year old girls who weigh perhaps 85 pounds. No one else.

I concurred with my friend’s frustration, as I have only just begun the hunt for new shorts, and I too have seen styles that I would not even dare to try on, let alone purchase. A few minutes later, my other R.W. friend sat down next to me and she too told me the sad tale of going on a search for decent, wearable shorts. There had to be a happy medium somewhere between the pairs with a 1-inch mid-seam, and… well…. “mom shorts”. You know the style I’m talking about, because we all have them hidden in our drawer somewhere. Generally khaki in color, landing just above the knee, plain, no frills, built with the “comfort waist” to accommodate the muffin top. Let’s face it, Mom Shorts are as bad as Mom Jeans.   My friend made her confession that in order to come out of the store with something wearable, she had settled on – she leaned in to whisper to me — “Gloria Vanderbilt’s”.   Has it come to this? Are our days of fun and funky fashion and comfort in the hot sun over forever?

Men, we know you get weary of seeing the woman you love in capri’s. In all honesty, we get weary of wearing them. But there is a reason. Anything shorter is just…. too much of a challenge.

Speaking of men, they are not immune to the great shorts debate. Once they reach a certain age, some styles no longer work well on them either. The big difference is, they just don’t care as much as we do. If they are comfortable, that’s all that matters. Yet my son has begun to get a bit more vocal about his father’s taste in shorts. First of all, my husband has always loved, and will always love, jean shorts. He was shocked when my son and I tried to gently tell him over dinner the other night that he may be the last man in the country who still wears them.

The other morning, my husband had the day off but was up early, so we both roamed outside as my son was heading out to catch the bus for school. I was in my usual pre-work scary mom wardrobe of some form of sweatpants, tshirt and garden clogs. My son has long since given up on my early morning look, hoping that I simply won’t be in view when the bus arrives. His father this particular morning was preparing to do yard work, so had thrown on one of his oldest, ill-fitting tshirts, old paint-spattered shorts, and work boots. Now, for some reason, for teen girls, short shorts and combat boots is an acceptable, even encouraged style. However, translated to my husband, not so much.  As the bus pulled up, my son cast a sleepy, teen-angst glance at his father and quietly said “Dad. Ya gotta get some longer shorts.” His father said “there’s nothing wrong with these shorts.” Then he glanced at me with an “is there??” look on his face. I have to admit I laughed, not necessarily at him, but for him. Because what choices does he really have? If he tried to wear the long basketball shorts the younger boys wear, he’d look ridiculous. So, like me, he’s faced with two choices: inappropriate, or old man.

We have a family vacation coming up in about a month. I have great hope that within that time frame, both my husband and I will find some summer wear that not only fits, but allows us some modicum of non-dorkiness. If we succeed, our son will be less embarrassed to be seen with us. If we don’t succeed, we can at least take comfort in knowing others of our kind will be in the same predicament. Perhaps we’ll start a club.

And of course, I’ll pack my capri’s.

 

 

Sometimes It Isn’t Easy

Atlas-600We all go through challenging phases in life. When bad, sad, or just plain ugly things seem to pile up around us. I know several folks right now who are trying to make their way through some of those piles. A variety of serious issues arise like the death of loved ones, illnesses, accidents, health concerns, you name it – we’ve all experienced them at some point. Add to that the usual daily strains, like job stress, financial issues, diets, child care, family maintenance, caring for elderly parents, home repairs…the list goes on. Then, because we Real Women never do anything just half way, we pile on global concerns and worries. Every time we connect to our news feeds, we hear about natural disasters, horrible transportation accidents, poverty, and the terrifying threat of Isis. It all starts to feel like it will never end….Soon we feel like our pal Atlas, who was condemned to bear the heavens upon his shoulders; or perhaps we are more like Sisyphus, rolling that blasted heavy bolder up a mountain only to watch it roll back down on us.

We’ve all used some popular phrases when we get into these modes. “Bad things come in 3’s”, “when it rains it pours”, and “if we had no bad luck, we’d have no luck at all.” We start to believe in these loosely prophetic words, and lose our energy. Pretty soon we are contemplating two options: burrow down under a blanket to ignore the world and go into hibernation, or run away. Realistically of course, neither of these are really an option.  So we must trudge on.

I’ve always been a positive, cheerful person. When I was in college, a friend’s mother referred to me as a Pollyanna. I laughed it off, but in all honesty, I was offended and crushed. The last thing I wanted was to come across as being fake or obnoxious. I started to doubt myself – was I not being genuine enough? Was I annoying? Should I tone it down? Then, as I made my way through adulthood, I started to understand life a bit more clearly. Sometimes, it just isn’t easy. Sometimes it is ok to be angry, or sad. It is ok to vent, or cry, or even hide under a blanket and wallow in self-pity. We need to be sensitive to the fact that someone else in our lives, at any moment, could be going through a challenging phase. They could be feeling like the world is on their shoulders, weighing them down; and we need to be sympathetic and supportive.

Long ago I decided that life is too short to spend our time on this earth being miserable. It seems far more pleasant to me to look for the good, to smile more and frown less, to be thankful for all we have. Yet, even me, that humble Pollyanna of the past, has had moments of challenge like everyone else. Those moments where we feel overwhelmed with the bad, and want to yell “enough already!”. Moments where life just isn’t easy.

Still, I believe that if we force ourselves to get up every day and keep plugging along, something is going to break through the crud. A friend will share some good news about her health recovery; a spring day will force us to notice a flower or tree so beautiful it takes our breath away; we will lose five pounds; we will stumble across a favorite movie on tv; someone will make us laugh so hard we snort and pee. Something will give us that light, and that bounce we need. For that minute, we get a break from the yuck. For that instant, we can breathe. We get a brief adjustment in our perspective. And most importantly of all, for that one moment in time, we remember that sometimes, life is easy.

So to all my fellow R.W.’s out there who may be struggling with various challenges, it’s ok to stop and put that world down off your shoulders. Stop pushing that boulder and just lean against it and rest. Find that one little thing in your day that for an instant can make everything else disappear.

Nope, sometimes it’s not easy. But who ever met a Real Woman who wasn’t up for a challenge?

 

 

Proceed with Caution

moose xingOver the past few days, I’ve had the opportunity to travel through some rural areas, for both personal and professional reasons. Truth be told, when time allows, I prefer driving through the country vs. city and highway drives. Certainly, hopping on an interstate is quicker and more efficient, but I find rural vistas much more appealing.

When traveling alone through the countryside however, the usual “pass the time” road trip activities are not as effective. Playing the license plate game proves to be quite boring, as I’m either the only one on the road, or could be following the same vehicle for miles. Catching up with people via phone hands-free is also not a great idea, since cell service can be spotty at best. So, I have three other primary ways to keep myself entertained while enroute: boisterously singing with my favorite music du jour (I DID say I was travelling alone), tracking wildlife sightings (the alive kind, road kill doesn’t count), and reading signs. In rural areas, there are no garish billboards every eighth of a mile. Where country signs may lack in quantity, they make up in variety.   The majority are either yellow caution signs, or local informational marks.   And they often get me thinking about their purpose.

One of my very favorites is the Moose Crossing sign. I’ve only seen a moose in the wild once, when I was a young girl. And I’ve wanted to see more ever since. Whenever I see one of those signs, I start peering into the woods and swamps with excited anticipation that maybe this time I’ll see one of those magnificent yet slightly goofy-looking critters staring back at me. Of course I’d rather not have my next encounter be with one standing in the road as I come around a bend, but rather be able to pull over and watch one wading through a marsh in an ever-so-picturesque way.

I do wonder, though, what qualifications must be met in order for a Moose Crossing sign to be installed? Is it based on number of moose sightings in the past year? If we go by my track record, then that goal number must be pretty low. Oh, look, there’s one! Better get a sign up! Or does it have to do with the number of moose-vehicle collisions? Yikes, I hope not. Or, perhaps, it has more to do with the moose-iness of the surrounding habitat. If that’s the case, what does that checklist look like? Wilderness? Check. Cold Temperatures? Check. Bogs filled with moose-friendly vegetation? Check.   I don’t know. All I do know is I’ll keep looking, as if that black silhouette on a bright yellow board is some kind of promise that I’ll see one.

Interestingly today, just a couple of miles beyond a Moose Crossing sign, I saw a yellow caution sign with one word: Children. I thought this a bit curious, as I was definitely not in a “thickly settled” location. No sidewalks, no playgrounds, no schools, very few homes anywhere near the road. Could they have been using the same guidelines as the moose signs? Was there an old woman living in a shoe up in the hills? Or did Hansel and Gretel have a cottage nearby?   These are the things I ponder as the miles roll on.

One of my other favorites is the long squiggly line with an arrow at the end, indicating a curvy road ahead. Part of me sees that sign and thinks “wheeeeeee!”

And, perhaps best of all, are the local hand-made signs. One I viewed today was simply one word, spray painted in purple on a piece of wood: Logs. With an arrow pointing down a dirt road.   Not firewood, not lumber, not timber. Logs. No price listed, no instructions. Were they offering logs to be made into fences? Were they trying to get rid of large trees recently felled to clear land? Or perhaps was someone wanting logs to be dropped off? Who knows. I would have only found out by taking a detour down that dirt road, and I had not the time nor the need for wood of any kind.

There seems to be a current trend in gift shops for signs with various witty or thought-provoking phrases imprinted on them. I tend to be a sucker for these, and have a few of my own. For example, I have an inspirational list of to-do’s on my home office wall, reminding me to create something every day and to dream big. I have a small plaque hanging in my kitchen which reads “Remember, as far as anyone knows, we are a normal family.” There are many to choose from in gift shops and tourist centers.

Yet after my travels through the countryside, I am thinking that perhaps we are missing an opportunity for caution signs designed for use by Real Women.   Think how handy a yellow sign with the letters PMS printed on it could be for the men in our lives. They can not see that we are bloated, head-achey, back-achey and exhausted… so without having to go so far as to have us start sobbing uncontrollably, or verbally snap their heads off, they’d see the caution sign upon entering the house and would know to tread carefully.

Similarly, a yellow sign with “Hotflash” emblazoned on it would immediately answer the question as to why all of the kitchen windows are open on a cold winter day, and those entering the room would know to avoid shutting those windows until all was safe.

Without fail, when I start to sweep, mop, or vacuum the floors in the house, members of my family suddenly appear. My husband will choose that moment to walk in the house from outside, and will say “wooops, bad timing”, or my dog will decide he needs to lay down in the middle of the floor. So a Vaccuum Crossing sign would be ever so convenient.

And how about those rare nights when mom needs a night off from cooking? When we need to deem an evening a “fend for yourself” night, we could simply put up the yellow board with a fork, plate and knife symbol with a large slash across it.   This would immediately let inhabitants know that they better get out their cereal bowls or make a sandwich.

We could take a few cues from the rural roads of America, and make good use of simple cautionary insignias and informational signs for our own homes and daily activities. Who knows, maybe we could create some excitement by posting a sign showing the outline of a washing machine and an arrow and hope it spurs some activity.

It could happen – just as soon as I see a moose.