Pause and Observe

humingbirdsSome of us scurry our way through life, busy every moment, seemingly in high gear all the time. Others are plodders, going through life at their own pace, taking the time for thoughtful consideration in everything they do, and everything around them.

Two points to those of you who guess which category I land in. Hint: I’m riding in a car on a road trip and rather than gaze out the window, I have read two magazines, returned phone calls and am now having quality time with my laptop.

There are some misconceptions about those of us who tend to move quickly through our days. Plodders sadly shake their heads at us, concerned that we are missing too much, that we aren’t stopping to smell the roses. On the contrary… pausing long enough to take notice of certain things throughout our days is like a quick moment of fascination. While we are buzzing around, we are absorbing, observing, wondering and appreciating.

Some things we see are simple and beautiful. Others give us pause long enough to make us go “huh” and cause us to try to reason them out.

Here’s a smattering of the random things I have taken notice of this week:

  • I can no longer park my car straight. I don’t know why. I’ve had the same car for four years. I used to find it easy to dock her evenly. Yet lately, even with basic pull-in parking spaces, I notoriously have to back up and straighten out, or I think I’m fine but step out of the car to see I’m firmly on, or over, a line. Funny thing, my husband seems to have the same issue lately. Maybe it is the car. She’s a rebel, wanting to live outside the lines.
  • Mirrors lie, cameras are harsh. How is it that we can get dressed, look at ourselves in the mirror, and say “yes, this works, lookin’ good, on with my day.” Then someone snaps a photo, plops it on Facebook and you see yourself and think “good Lord, what was I thinking? This top makes me look as big as a house!” Is the mirror trying to fool us and lull us into a confident yet false sense of security? Or does Facebook add ten pounds? Darn that Mark Zuckerberg.
  • Happiness spreads. There is a gentleman who acts as a greeter at my local Costco. No matter what day or time I go, this man is there, casually checking for membership cards, and saying hello. He is in his senior years, and I’ve noticed that he now greets from a wheel chair. A couple of days ago I ran in there to get some items for a work event, and sure enough, there he is. And he was singing “Oh What a Beautiful Morning.” With a surprisingly strong and pleasant voice. Naturally, he made me smile. Even if he’d had a horrendous voice, I would have smiled. It doesn’t matter what you do for a job, or how you spend your day. Spread happy. It works.
  • Pets are magical. Sure, we all know our dogs and cats give us unconditional love, and long after the others in the family have stopped running to greet us at the door when we come home, our pets are there for us. Wagging tail, or rubbing and purring, or smiling and panting. But pets are also the great equalizer. No matter who you are talking to, what kind of mood or attitude someone may have, or if you are trying to get to know someone knew, the topic of a pet smooths everything out and perks up a conversation. Within minutes you are swapping stories and sharing photos. Magical.
  • We are not so different from our feathered friends. Last weekend my son had a large group of friends over for a pool party. As my husband and I relaxed and watched their antics, at one point they all, en mass, exited the pool, all at the same time. It was apparently time to go play Frisbee football. The traveled as a group. I looked at my husband and said “they are like a flock of birds.”   And now, during my little family road trip today, we stopped at a Service area to stretch. My son and I treated ourselves to Coolatas. You know, those drinks that contain about a week’s worth of sugar? As I got back in the car and took a sip, I said to my husband, “want to try some of my hummingbird nectar?”

And there I found my metaphor. We hurrying scurrying types are like hummingbirds. We zip, we dodge, we do, we seem busy-busy-busy. But we really are pausing along the way to sip our nectar, to appreciate the beauty of a flower, to be thankful for the little things in life, and to ponder the things we don’t understand. You just have to be quick to notice us doing it.

 

 

 

Posted in Chores, home, home chores, moods, pet, real women, Style, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

It’s Not Alright

tumblr_m00th68iki1qfxp4vo1_500Since the news broke of the tragedy in Orlando, I haven’t known what to say. Imagine that. Me, the wordy one, at a loss.  Tributes, emotional pleas, and tirades have flowed across social media and the news. I have not added any of my own thoughts, because they are a jumble in my head. Sadness, shock, horror, anger, frustration, desperation, sympathy… it’s all there. Tears come to my eyes just thinking about it, and it certainly isn’t the first time.

Last night during dinner my family and I talked about the latest updates and developments around the story. My son had read some articles and was sharing the details he had read or heard, and adding his thoughts. He is about to turn 16. That means he was a year old when 9-11 happened. That means terror attacks have been recurring events his entire life. He has grown up hearing stories about San Bernadardino, Paris, Sandy Hook, the London Bombing, the Boston Marathon Bombing, Charleston, Fort Hood, and now Orlando… the list goes on and on. When he was younger, I used to shield him from some of the news, and would try hard to come up with the “mommy way” of explaining what was happening. Now he’s old enough to absorb events and form his own opinions.

I am thankful that my son has a passion and love for his country. I am thankful that he is compassionate and sympathetic. I am thankful that he understands right from wrong, and appreciate that he gets frustrated and feels anger when bad people do bad things. I am impressed that he tries to rationally consider the various aspects of these events, tries to reason the how, the why, and the what should we do topics. I am thankful that he still sees the good in people, still believes in God, and has managed to avoid living in fear. He is not afraid to leave the house every day to go to school, even after the Sandy Hook (which is less than two hours from where we live). He steps out into the world with as much confidence as a 16-year old can muster, even when deep down I am slightly terrified to let him out of my sight every time.

The one thing that is missing with my son is shock. Because he’s never known a time when these horrifying tragedies were not happening on a regular basis. Of course, we adults have lived through wars and other acts of violence or disaster – things have never been all rosey and easy… yet this all seems different. And while we are amazed and astonished every time we wake up to hear of another despicable act of hatred, for my son and the rest of his generation, it is just another sad, scary and ugly event.   There is no shock. It’s the state of the world he knows. And that’s not ok.

It’s just not ok.

 

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Supposed to be Easier

inboxMy son asked me the other night if life was easier and less stressful when I was a teenager than it is now?  I thought about it and told him that I didn’t think life was easier, we had our own challenges, but life was…simpler. It flowed at a different pace. Without things like mobile technology and social media, life didn’t seem quite so immediate and complicated all the time.

It’s funny that he would ask me this, because lately I’ve been ruminating about how so much of “how” we do things now is designed to make things easier, more efficient, less stressful – yet often the results are the opposite. I realize what I’m about to say makes me sound dangerously close to an old cranky grandma rocking on the front porch spouting off about how things were “done in my day”…. But, as another R.W. in my life often says, hear me out:

  • A few days ago, I was taking to heart the lessons I’ve learned in a ‘dangers of multi-tasking’ workshop and decided to set aside a chunk of my morning at work to focus only on catching up on a few projects and to-do’s from the previous couple of days. One by one, I tackled them and got them done and cleaned up. When I went back to my email inbox a couple of hours later, I saw that I had received 34 new emails. So much for feeling caught up. I wondered, before email, what would have happened here? Well, first of all, the requests, needs and questions would have been fewer – because in those days we didn’t expect immediate replies. We grouped our topics and questions and handled them either via phone, in person, or possibly via regular mail. We never would have considered the “stream of consciousness” communications that we seem to be mired in now. We planned ahead, and we waited. Urgency was the exception, not the rule.
  • One of my girlfriends is currently job hunting. She has shared with me how the job applications are all done online. One would think that would be easy and speedy. Upload your resume and cover letter with one click, done. Oh, no, not so fast. The forms to be completed and filled out (after, of course, assigning yourself a sign-on name and password) are lengthy and time consuming. She frequently has to plug in all of the information that is on her resume, into that particular company’s online form, of course duplicating her efforts. One application she came across was for a position funded by the state, so there were lots of extra questions regarding drug use and disabilities. Some of the applications have taken her a couple of hours to complete. After which she receives a generic email indicating she was successful in submitting – but don’t call us, we’ll call you.   Used to be that the longest part of the process was picking out the perfect paper on which to print our resumes, or editing our cover letters. Pop ‘em in an envelope, mail ‘em, follow up with a phone call, done. Then wait and hope. That part hasn’t changed.
  • I recently attempted to help my brother by submitting an update for his health insurance. He is in the process of moving, so we needed to update his address and phone number on the annual renewal form. A form, by the way, that was sent out in paper format by US Mail. I had three options for returning it: fax, online, or US Mail. Since I have one of the few remaining dinosaur fax machines outside my office, I figured: brilliant. quick and easy. Until three tries later, I was still getting the “NG” symbol and a notice of “poor line condition.” So, the next day I opted for choice number 2: online. Similar to my friend’s experiences with her job hunt, the first step was to, you guessed it, create an account, username, and password. Got through that and was faced with yet more information that was required. Nowhere could I find an option to only update an address and phone, I would have to go through and update all of his current status, health information, doctors, etc. Not only did I not have all of that information on hand, I did not have the time to schlog through it. So, in the end, I did what I should have done in the first place, and would have done in the old days. Sent it off in the mail. Which, had I done that as option #1, it would have already reached its destination by then.
  • My son will soon be celebrating his 16th birthday. He is inviting lots of friends over for a pool party. He is too old and too cool to give out or mail any written invitations. The preferred method now is via word of mouth, Snapchat, or Instagram.   So, being the cool mom I pretend to be, I wanted to create a graphic file with the pertinent information on it (date, time, location – you know, the things a teen boy would likely leave out) so he could just send it off to his friends. Long story short, I couldn’t figure out how to do it. Any files I created and tried to text to him failed and would not send.  (He rarely uses email — that would have been too simple).  Eventually I just sent him a basic text of words, with a stock image I found online. The next morning, I had a brainstorm, went to my laptop, created the invitation the way I wanted it to look, then took a photo of it on the screen, with my iPhone, and texted it to him. Ah, success, I’m the coolest. Before he went out to catch the school bus, I told him I had resent something to him that was much better than my previous text. He said “that’s ok mom, I edited what you sent me last night and already got it out to everyone.”   I’m sure it took him about 3 minutes or less to do so.

So maybe, just maybe, my frustrations over modern inefficiencies have less to do with the technology and method, and much more to do with… well, me.

If that’s the case, I better go claim my rocking chair on the front porch and start telling my stories to the wind. No technology needed. Easy.

 

 

 

Posted in age, communication, friends, Helping others, Kids, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I Can, Because They Did

FullSizeRender-16I took a real, honest-to-goodness, day off today. Like so many other real women, this is a rarity. I’m usually running around trying to play the game of beat the clock, fitting far too much into my day. (My siblings call it scurrying). Today there was none of that. I stayed in my jammies until 11am. I took a leisurely walk with my dog (I’m sure he was thrilled and shocked that mom was not rushing him). I got in an awesome bike ride, pausing to take some photos along the way. I relaxed and caught up on some magazines, gave myself a mani/pedi, and even fit in some writing time. Dinner was simple and relaxed with my family. It was a great day.

I did this day this way because I can. Because we live in an amazing country where we are free. We have free will, freedom of speech, we are free to do what we want, where we want, and say what we want (within reason, of course). I can sit in my backyard and look at the trees, listen to the birds, and just breathe…and I can feel safe doing so.

I can do all of this, or in my case today I can do “nothing”, due in large part to the men and women who dedicate themselves to protecting our country, and all of us within it. They aren’t staying in their jammies half the day, or taking the day off. They are on high alert. Those individuals in the armed services are not quite like the rest of us. Their focus, drive, determination, and bravery astonish me. I fully believe they bleed red, white and blue.

As much as I’m in awe of those who serve, I’m also terrified for them. The threat of injury, the physical, emotional and mental disabilities that plague so many is heart breaking. And, like far, far too many that we especially honor today, they paid the price, the ultimate sacrifice, all to keep the rest of us safe and free.

I suppose I can’t truly imagine what Memorial Day is like for the families who have lost a loved one due to military action. Loss of life is excruciating no matter the cause, but when it is in uniform, serving our country, I have to believe there are even more difficult mixed emotions. How do these families reconcile their anger and sadness with their pride and honor? Do they take comfort in knowing that their loved one took on a role that the majority of the rest of us could never be brave enough to attempt? Do they feel resentful seeing so many of us using this day for fun, or do they understand that their special person laid down their life so the rest of us could continue to celebrate ours?  I don’t know.

All I can do is say a prayer for them all, and most importantly, for every second of this beautiful day, I can be grateful.

I can say Thank You.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in family, Health, Helping others, home, Pride, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Perfect Storm of Perseverance

Origami-craneWe all have someone in our lives who is just a bit more unique, more challenging, and more special than most others. For me, that person is my oldest brother.

He is the Perfect Storm of health challenges and disability. When he was very young, he developed a brain tumor. In those days, medical technology was not as advanced as today and in order to remove the tumor, his optic nerve was severed. Related issues with other tumors and years of medications has led to the fact that his disability has become the least of his issues. You name it, he struggles with it – pituitary issues, diabetes, short-term memory loss, arthritis & vertigo which has decreased his mobility, severe sleep apnea and bizarre issues with his body temperature and sodium levels – truly the Perfect Storm.

About ten years ago, he moved closer to me. At the time, he was still fairly independent. As time has progressed, and his health has continued to deteriorate, I have become his primary contact, Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, and middle-of-the-night-phone-call-recipient.   As so many of you out there know, being the primary caregiver can be exhausting, stressful and frustrating. It is like having a second full-time job that is full of emergency deadlines, scary decisions, aggravating red tape and fear of the unknown – all for no pay. But we do it because someone needs us.

Amazingly, my brother throughout his life has found a way to laugh, to make puns, to sing, to master the art of origami, and somehow, to not give up. When he was a child, the doctors predicted he wouldn’t live past his teen years. Quite literally against all odds, and throughout some very serious episodes in which we nearly lost him, he has proven us all wrong. Today is his 60th birthday.

With a twist of bitter irony, he is celebrating his birthday in the hospital. The whole family came into town for the weekend as a surprise — we had fun activities and gifts planned, but his body had other plans. We visited with him in the hospital and we took him a few gifts, but somehow the excitement fades when one has to open a gift and hand it back to the giver to take home, and when cake and ice cream have to come off the menu. Rather than having fun today, he is a blind man sitting bored and lonely in the hospital waiting to hear if he has to get a pacemaker. Even after putting on my pretend Super Woman Cape, and waving my virtual magic wand, I couldn’t make today not suck for him. We Real Women don’t like to admit this, but some things are just plain out of our control.

I talked to him several times throughout the day, and this afternoon he apologized to me for being down, frustrated and depressed. He apologized for not being perky and happy during a crappy experience. I thought about how any of us would feel having to celebrate a milestone birthday in the hospital for any reason, let alone with his issues. And I had one of those moments when my own frustrations and exhaustion over his on-going needs seemed to pale.

Tonight I’ve been thinking about what my brother has taught me over the years. I’ve learned to never, ever take our health and abilities for granted. I’ve learned patience. A whole lot of it. I’ve learned more medical terminology than I ever thought I’d need to know. I’ve learned how to be pushy and forceful when necessary to get answers. I’ve learned to be thankful for good days. And most of all, I’ve learned that no matter how bad a day I’m having, there is always going to be someone else who’s having a harder day with much greater challenges.

I’ve promised my brother a “do-over” birthday celebration when he’s out of the hospital. It won’t be as festive as what we originally had planned, but miraculously we will once again have an extra reason to celebrate: another day on this earth.

 

 

 

Posted in age, birthdays, disabilities, family, Health, Helping others, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

They Didn’t Get to Cheat

pot pieLast night was one of those evenings when I got home late. I had forgotten to get anything out to thaw for dinner. My son had already eaten something (being a teen, he eats pretty much every couple hours) so he was not particularly interested in having anything else for a late dinner. That left my husband and I to do that dance of roaming around opening cupboards, the fridge, and the freezer trying to determine what to eat. As if something perfect would magically appear before our eyes, cooked and ready.

Eventually he decided on a pre-made chicken pot pie. When he realized the instructions indicated it would take an hour to heat in the oven, he opted for the microwave option. Not as good, but 8 minutes is better than 60. I took out a bag of pre-cooked-pre-cut, pre-seasoned chicken breast pieces, warmed them up, added some veggies, threw them in a soft tortilla and called it a wrap.

As we sat down for our ready-in-10-minutes, far-from-gourmet-but-still-food dinner, I thought about what my mother would have done in this same situation years ago. Mom did not work outside the home, but she was a busy lady. She took care of a big old farm house with three acres of land, four kids, a working and traveling hubby, and a big messy dog (along with various other animals at some points in our history). She also did volunteer work. So I’m quite sure there were nights when she had to come up with something quick to feed her herd. But of course in those days there was no pre-cooked, pre-cut cheater chicken. The only prepared frozen meals came along later – they were “TV Dinners”, and still needed to be heated in the oven. There was of course no microwave. I do remember as a teen, mom started stocking frozen pizzas which were a wonderful new treat available from the store… but those were intended more for late-night snacking with friends than for a family dinner.

There are very few fast “cheater” meals I remember from my youth. On the occasions Mom and Dad would be going out in the evening, before the babysitter came over mom would make what became a beloved combination of creamed corn and pieces of hotdog. It took probably less than 5 minutes to make. And sometimes on a weekend, Dad would make pancakes for supper which we all thought was fascinating and fun. But that’s about it. I guess if mom needed something quick, she would pull out a meal she’d had the foresight and time to have made previously and frozen – although it still needed to be thawed, and cooked by stove or oven. No quick zap in the nuker. And I don’t know about you other RW’s out there, but I’m happy if I can manage to make one dinner meal a day, let alone extras to store in the freezer to make my life easier in the future. As great an idea as that is, it just isn’t going to happen.

What about the earlier generations? I wonder what my grandmother must have done when time and energy were limited. Granted, in those days, people of means often had a cook or housekeeper to assist, and it was that person’s job to make sure meals were ready. How lovely would that be today? It would be heavenly to have someone else do my grocery shopping, meal planning, and food prep. No such luck. And even back then, not everyone could afford this luxury… so what options did they have? Sandwiches? Left overs? Soup?   Things that had to be heated up on a heavy, slow to warm stove? I’m guessing “quick and easy” was not in their vocabulary regarding meals. Nor did they have the option to pick up the phone and within 30 minutes have someone deliver a meal to their doorstep.   I think if I came home after a long day, and had to figure out how to reheat some mutton chops after lighting my gas oven or getting a fire going in my pot-bellied stove, I’d decide to go hungry.   Just not worth the effort.

So the next time we opt for a Cheater Meal, and I reach for some sort of pre-made, packaged food and open the door of the magic instant heating appliance, I will pause and think of the women who went before me…they toiled for hours to provide a meal for their family, rather than simply pushing a couple of buttons to make it happen. I appreciate and respect them for their efforts day in and day out.  And rather than complain about the lack of flavor or worry about the possible health consequences of my “fake” food, I will pause mid-chew and be thankful that in our crazy, fast–paced world, some days I have the option to cheat.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Chores, family, Food, home, home chores, housework, meals | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Facing Style Reality

flapper-women
It would appear that last year I was still in denial. I apparently was still clinging to the hope that the 25-Year-Old-Body Fairy was going to visit at any moment, or that the world of physics could reverse the effects of gravity, or that it made sense to hold on to some item for over 20 years “just in case.”

Those are the only reasons I can come up with for finding some of the special pieces I’ve come across while digging out my summer clothing.

As I pack away my heavy, bulky winter clothes and excitedly look toward lighter wear (ignoring the fact it is currently 40 degrees and raining outside), I have decided to take a harder look at what I have, and what truly belongs in the donation pile.

I have to release my grip on denial and accept that I am a mature woman. I remember my mom had certain “rules” about how mature women should look and dress. The one rule of hers I still don’t agree with was that no woman over 40 should have long hair. I never quite understood that one.

However, I have started my own rules, or shall I say have started my list of the Must Let Go’s:

  1. Spaghetti-strap Tank Tops with Built In Bra’s. Even if I could still fit the girls into
    these tops, the allure is somehow lost between gravitational pull, spag strap tankside-boob-bulge, and back fat.   Let’s go with the looser, larger strap tanks, please.
  2. Bedazzled or ruffled skirts that fall more than an inch above the knee.   No one wants to see spider veins, cellulite or knee wrinkles trying to be young underneath sparkles and fluff.
  3. Cropped Tops. I am short waisted, so crop tops used to be the perfect option when I wanted a shirt to end at my waist. There comes a time when no woman wants a shirt to end at her waist. It needs to extend to give the allusion of a waist, while still hiding a muffin tops.
  4. Shorts with 2” or less of an inseam. See reason #2, but add in more cellulite. short shorts
  5. Ties at the Waist. Let’s face it, after a certain age, our waists are no longer where they used to be, nor the size and shape they used to be. And the high-waisted undwaist tieer-boob tie is even worse of a guessing game. The end result looks much like a rubber band around a hardboiled egg. Not good. And trust me, adding ruffles or poofy short sleeves is not going to help.

 

All of these items aside, I do believe it is vitally important to not totally give up yet. In some moment of weakness or depression in the past year or so, I purchased the dreaded Mom Capri Khaki’s. You know what I’m talking about, the man-cut tops with side pockets, sitting above the waist, straight and boring pant legs, in a blah color, landing at a weird pseudo-capri length. Please, no offense to any of you out there who have these in your closet. I get it, they are easy. They are comfortable. But fess up, there is nothing attractive about these pants. They scream “I’ve given up and have become my mother.” Don’t do it. As difficult as it is, we must find that balance between “my daughter should wear this” and “I give up.”   I have now placed those Khaki’s in the Must Go pile. And it made me feel marginally better.

fuzzy sweaterWe have to be realistic about the other type of seasonal clothing as well. While putting away my winter gear, I came across a box of sweaters. None of which I’ve worn in at least 3 years. Really, can ANY woman who’s at any stage of menopause, even LOOK at this sweater without breaking out in a hot flash??   Buh-bye.

 

I realize that some of you mature women out there have been nauseatingly successful in keeping the body of your youth, or at least close to it, OR are braver and more daring than I. Just the other day, a woman who was working at a local gift shop and assisting in cashing me out, was wearing leopard print leggings, a black cropped, bedazzled top, and heels. I guesstimated her as being approximately 10 years older than me. You know what? Bravo to her. I could never pull off that level of confidence, but if she felt good reaching into her “younger me” section of her closet, then go for it.

In the meantime, I will continue to clean out. And I will take heart in the knowledge that some other woman, somewhere, likely much younger and perkier than I, will get some use out of my “Must Go’s”, and will look amazing in them. And she probably needs fuzzy warm sweaters too.

While she’s getting her gently-used bargains, I will resume my quest for the perfect Facing Reality Yet Still Funky wardrobe additions. I’m sure they are out there…Right next to the Still Sexy But Not So High and Comfortable shoes.

 

 

Posted in age, beauty, clothing, real style, Seasons, Style, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment