Contain Ourselves

My husband was pitching in with kitchen clean up, tackling the variety of items that had collected in the sink. He paused at one point and said to me “you are the container queen.”   He had apparently found my lunch accessories.

It’s true. I have a plethora of small reusable containers that I use to pack my breakfast and lunch food every day.  I love them.  It’s not just that I want to do my part for the environment by limiting the number of plastic bags that end up in the landfill and won’t decompose until my great-great-great-great-grandchildren are senior citizens.  Nor is it because I enjoy hearing my husband grumble about more dirty dishes. Using small boxes and bowls with click-tight tops helps keep my take-with-me meals fresher and avoids things getting mushed. We have all experienced flattened sandwiches, crumby chips and broken cookies and those just make lunch time sad. Not to mention wrapping salads or leftovers in wax paper is just plain unappetizing.

So yes, I’ve accumulated a variety of sizes of food containers. Some are big enough to hold salad, with a side-saddle for dressing, some are tiny enough to hold my daily vitamins. Then there’s the fruit container, the snacks… and you begin to understand why I moved from a lunch bag to a lunch TOTE.

Even though my hubby was giving me some grief at the sink, for my birthday he gifted me a new container system for my lunches from Bentgo.  They are the modern, colorful, non-finger-pinching, non-rusted version of the old metal lunch boxes of my youth.  I was in our work kitchen rinsing out my new containers when one of our Directors came in, glance my way and said “Oh, you have a Bentgo?  Aren’t they great?  I love mine!”.  Suddenly I was one of the cool kids in the lunch room.  

We women love containers. Of all kinds. Decorative baskets, bins, storage tubs, tote bags, fancy boxes – you name it. If it is something we can conveniently put things in, we are happy campers.  Speaking of which, there are amazingly nifty and creative storage devices designed for camping… but I digress.

Some R.W.’s take the art of containing to another level. One lovely RW in my life has individual clear shoe boxes for each of her pair of shoes, neatly stacked in her closet so not only are the shoes clean and well cared for, she can quickly see each pair to decide which to wear on any given day. I am envious of her system and hope she never sees my heap-o’ off-season shoes piled in a large bin in my closet.  Just not quite the same effect.

Another R.W. in my life uses boxes, bins and all sorts of storage pieces throughout her house – but she takes it to the next level because her labeling is on point. Every container has a label – be it food stuffs in her pantry, or memorabilia in her basement, each item is labeled and either alphabetically or chronologically in order.

Some of us strive to use bins or boxes for items in our life that just can’t be contained. How many of you out there attempted to contain lego’s when your children were young?  It just doesn’t work. First, there’s the agonizingly long sorting process, and second,a s soon as the child wants to play with the lego’s they once again get dumped out only to have a few errant pieces run and hide until they can jump out to attack an unprotected adult bare foot. But for the most part, the majority of the “stuff” in our lives can be somehow wrestled into a containment system.

There are systems and holders out there that we don’t even know we “need.”  This, ladies and gentlemen, is the key to the success of the mecca that is The Container Store.  The store is more than just a big box that sells smaller boxes. It (pun intended) contains a beguiling collection of every form of storage, holder, bin, and organizational tool you could possibly ever need – or didn’t know you needed until you encountered it.  Some of my most recent treasures acquired from this R.W. haven include an in-cabinet spice rack that pulls out and lowers down for easy access to multiple levels, an avocado holder to prevent the other half of the avocado from turning brown, and – get this – a container that perfectly holds one serving of carrot sticks and hummus. I mean, how could I, queen of lunch containers, NOT get that?

I know that storing our belongings in handy and attractive containers is more than just an attempt to make our surroundings look tidy.  In many ways, for us R.W.’s, it’s about control and attempting to make order out of chaos. In our busy lives, and in this crazy world, it helps to know that we can gather things, put them neatly away and stack them in a corner, closet or cupboard.  We can choose to ignore them, or access them as needed. 

I wish we could box up all of the horrible things in the world and clamp the tops down tight so they could be hidden away or destroyed (or perhaps sent to Putin’s home).  And wouldn’t it be great if we were able to store the good things too – like special moments and feelings — in containers and access them whenever we need a boost?  A perfect weather day, the feeling of a hug, the smell of your grandmother’s kitchen, a fabulous day with family or friends…neatly preserved and just waiting for us when we need them.  Often when I am in one of my happy places, like standing on a beach with my toes in the water, or pausing by a babbling brook in the woods, or lifting my face to the first warm spring rays of sun, I close my eyes and breathe deep, hoping I can savor the moment and save it for when I’m in a less-than happy place.  How nifty would it be to have a container to store it in.

I suppose we can’t ever have that level of control.  Even The Container Store doesn’t have solutions for that kind of preservation.  So I’ll just be happy with my day to day storage, and take satisfaction in the click of the top coming off my dish of fruit for breakfast and the pop of the seal on my to-go tea mug and pretend that I’m enjoying them at a seaside bistro.  It’s amazing what the right container and a little imagination can do.

Posted in comfort, convenience, Food, habits, home, innovation, kitchen, meals, memories, Needs, real women, routines, safety, simplifying, storage | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Mysterious Marvelous Fourth Drawer

My husband has been working really hard on renovating our basement. For his birthday last week, I gave him an electronic dartboard to hang on the wall when he’s all done.  He thought it was great, and said “remember back when we had a free-standing dart board down there?”

Nope. I don’t. Why?  Because it was 20 years ago, and that file has been purged from my brain storage.

You see I believe all of our memories are stored in a big brain file cabinet. And while the capacity is impressive, from time to time some things have to be purged and removed from the drawers to make room for other more current or important topics.  While others live on forever.  And each drawer has a category and purpose.

The first drawer in the cabinet is all the current stuff that is flying around our brains each day. As women, that drawer is never closed. There are a gazillion files and reference documents pulled in and out in rapid succession all day long.  Things to do and remember for work, family management topics, health issues, pet care, dinner plans, the latest episode of This is Us, it’s all in there. And just when we think we can close it and go to sleep, there’s that one file that didn’t get put away correctly, and it forces that drawer open around 3am to get our brain going on something that makes no sense whatsoever, or to let us know that it was incorrectly filed under “worries.” 

Men are quite capable of closing their first drawer.  The drawer is not as packed as ours, and they pull out one file at a time as needed.  They don’t have 738 files flying back and forth at any given moment.  And when they are all done with the files they need, they shut the drawer. This is why, when you are snuggled up on the sofa, it is quiet, and you ask sweetly “Whatcha thinking about?” he replies “Nothing.”  It’s because he really isn’t thinking about anything.  While you are ruminating about what the forecast is, if you can get into work early before your first meeting in the morning, if you have the energy to change the sheets on the bed, whether you remembered to change your child’s doctor’s appointment, and if last year’s shorts will still fit, he’s thinking of nothing. Because he has closed that top drawer until he needs it again.

The second drawer is important, fairly recent topics that you need to access from time to time, but not necessarily every day.  Loved ones’ birthday dates, upcoming doctor’s appointments, grocery lists, a memorable chapter in a book you are reading, your child’s shoe size, a funny story you want to tell you sister next time you talk – are all files living in that second drawer.  This drawer is tricky though.  It is apt to open and close without warning, causing us to forget what we had intended to access.  We open the drawer when we are upstairs in our bathroom and realize we need to add hairspray to our grocery list.  Then by the time we get back to the kitchen and look at our list, the drawer has shut and we can’t remember what we needed. Or we are trying to tell a friend about a movie and we can’t recall the actor’s name. For men, this drawer closes quickly and often, so for example, they will pick something up, put it down on whatever surface is convenient, their drawer will close and they will walk away and forget the item even exists.  Or that drawer will close and cause them to forget you have plans for the evening.  Or where the scotch tape is kept.

Sadly, that second drawer gets harder and harder to open the older we get.  The contents become more difficult to access, and pretty soon files are being purged whether we want to get rid of them or not. Drawer #2 is both the handiest and the most frustrating part of the cabinet.

Drawer 3 is devoted to older memories.  Herein lies our childhood, the spirit of people who have passed (the sound of their voice, the feel of their hand), first dates, high school or college memories, sibling hijinks, and those old sayings and jokes that make our kids cringe.  This drawer is packed, because it can contain memories and topics from our early years up to about a decade ago.  This, to me, is the part of the cabinet where files need to be tossed out/purged/erased from time to time to make room for more. It can be a bit embarrassing, like if I remember seeing a movie, but not who I was with when I saw it.  Or the name of an old college friend.  Or how to drive a route from the past.  Like the apparent old dartboard in our basement, someone will say “don’t you remember…” and I’ll have to confess to purging.

Interestingly, men seem to be more familiar with their third drawer than we ladies.  Men seem to have the uncanny ability to dredge up memories like high school teacher’s names, the details of their first concert, or a spelling bee they participated in during 4th grade. Sometimes I look at my husband and say “I can’t believe you remember that.”  It’s because he was able to open his third drawer and apparently never throws anything away.

There is one last drawer in our brain file cabinet. The mysterious and somewhat miraculous Drawer Number 4.  This drawer is labeled with just one word: music.  It is easily accessible at any random moment, often when we aren’t even trying to open it.  The other day as I pulled into the parking lot at my work, the Sirius radio station I had on started to play “Every Woman in the World” by Air Supply.  Anyone remember Air Supply?  My brother hated them and called them Gas Attack.  They were the epitome of bubblegum pop of the late 70s- early 80’s, and my young teen self thought they were great. While other kids my age were starting to listen to AC/DC and KISS,  I was the sappy nerd who was all about Billy Joel, Chicago, and lord help us, even England Dan & John Ford Coley.  It wasn’t until I was in college that I got “wild and crazy” and started listening to Styx and Bon Jovi. I was all about story-telling songs.

Anyway, as I parked my car, there I was, transported back to my teen bedroom, singing along with a song I literally have not heard in 40 years. The words still popped into my head and I thought “Why the heck do I still know this song? What random file from that drawer got plucked out when I’m not even thinking about it?”

That fourth drawer is especially full for musicians, or anyone who has been involved with music in their lives.  My husband used to sing with a band, and I still marvel at the lyrics he remembers. The most amazing thing about that last drawer is it never gets purged.  Classic example: Tony Bennett. The man is 95, sadly riddled with Alzheimer’s, yet up until just a year ago he’d get together with Lady Gaga and every note of music, every lyric, came back to him in a heartbeat. There are so many stories of the elderly connecting with music when seemingly everything else failed to make sense to them. It’s mystical.

Of course, there is a danger with this drawer.  Inevitably, when we least expect it, a file will get wedged, causing the drawer to stay ajar juuuuusssttt enough for a song, or even one verse of a song, to get stuck in our heads for days. It isn’t even necessarily a song we enjoy. Even trying to select a different file from that drawer sometimes doesn’t help until that one song gets safely tucked away and out of our active brains.

If there is to be one magical drawer in the cabinet that never fails us, I’m glad it is the one full of music.  The next time drawer number one is exhausting us, drawer number two is frustrating us, and drawer number three makes us melancholy, we’ve got one more option.  No matter if we are in the car, cleaning the kitchen, or blocking out the rest of the world with our headphones, we can make a random selection from drawer number four and sing and dance our heart out.  And for those 3-4 minutes, nothing else exists.

Come on, drawer 4.  Play me a memoryWe’re all in the mood for a melody — And you’ve got us feelin’ alright.

Posted in Entertainment, family, friends, habits, memories, men, music, routines, skills, storage | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Happens When We Stop Listening

Anyone who has read my blog over the years knows that I stay about 8,000 feet away from posting anything that can be remotely considered political or a hot-button issue.  Not because I don’t care about important issues, but simply because we seemed to have lost our ability to let others believe what they want to believe, and vitriol spews forth on social media faster that lava from a volcano.  I grow weary of the drama and anger, and strive to share just light-hearted and amusing quips.  Which would be obvious to anyone who ever scrolled through my daily feed, it is full of puppy and kitty videos.

I’ve been struggling over the past week or so to stay quiet about a topic that has my stomach in knots. Lord knows there’s a lot of news out there that can keep us up at night. But this topic, well, let’s face it. It’s about women. And my blog is about real women. So I’m stepping into danger zone knowing I may lose some of you.

Whenever there is a big news story or issue in our world, my brain automatically tries to simplify it to a real-world relatable level. What is the impact to real humans?  If whatever it is, was happening to me, or my loved ones, what would that mean to us? 

I was 8 years old when the Supreme Court made their decision in the Roe vs Wade case.  I was of course too young at the time to really understand the details. But even then I learned one key thing:  women could make their own decisions about their bodies.

When that ruling was made, it was based on the right to privacy that is protected by the 14th Amendment.  Seems simple enough.  No matter where you land on the concept of abortion, I believe this to be a basic human decency concept that no one – especially white middle-aged men in government – should have the right to decide what a woman does or doesn’t do for her own health and body.  Just as I am sure those same people would never make rulings over what decisions men can make for themselves and their bodies.  Can you imagine if there was ever a proposed law that declared it was illegal for men to have vasectomies?   Would never happen.

The desire to make our own decisions will never change.  But those decisions could get more dangerous.  I’m scared that the very real new potential of rolling back a decision that was made almost 50 years ago – yes, 50 – will create larger health issues…mentally, emotionally and physically.  In the 1950s and 60s, before Roe vs. Wade, the estimated number of illegal abortions in the U.S. ranged from 200,000 to 1.2 million PER YEAR.  And so many of those illegal acts were dangerous and even deadly.  The year after abortion was decriminalized, the maternal mortality rate in New York state alone dropped 45 percent.  Yowzah.

The latest news on this topic has of course re-ignited arguments, protests and a myriad of digital debate. One post I saw on social media this morning hit the nail on the head for me. A portion of it is here:

I’m not pro-murdering babies.

I’m pro-Becky who found out at her 20 week anatomy scan that the infant she had been so excited to bring into this world had developed without life sustaining organs.

I’m pro-Susan who was sexually assaulted on her way home from work, only to come to the horrific realization that her assailant planted his seed in her when she got a positive pregnancy test result a month later.

I’m pro-Theresa who hemorrhaged due to a placental abruption, causing her parents, spouse, and children to have to make the impossible decision on whether to save her or her unborn child.

I’m pro-little Cathy who had her innocence ripped away from her by someone she should have been able to trust and her 11 year old body isn’t mature enough to bear the consequence of that betrayal.

I’m pro-Brittany who realizes that she is in no way financially, emotionally, or physically able to raise a child.

I’m pro-Courtney who just found out she’s already 13 weeks along, but the egg never made it out of her fallopian tube so either she terminates the pregnancy or risks dying from internal bleeding.

You can argue and say that I’m pro-choice all you want, but the truth is:

I’m pro-life. Their lives. Women’s lives. You don’t get to pick and choose which scenarios should be accepted.

None of these examples above are unrealistic or sadly, that unusual.  Heart-wrenching life decisions happen every day for very real women.  I was lucky. I was only pregnant once, it was planned, I was healthy, and I was blessed with a healthy baby boy.  But I have heard stories from very real, very brave women in my life who were nowhere near as lucky as I. And if any of them had been forced to make their decisions in the 60’s, (or possibly in the future), not only would their choices be devastating, but potentially illegal.  No decision about what to do with our own bodies – whether it is a pregnancy or another health issue – is made lightly or easily. And no one should make those decisions for us unless we are totally incapacitated and unable to make them for ourselves. 

Ideally, hard life decisions aren’t made alone – every woman should have the opportunity to talk to people who will truly listen when she is brave enough to do so. Very personal stories can feel too scary to share, and it is easy for women to feel ashamed by their situations. But faced with daunting decisions, women should have the right and opportunity to get recommendations, medical advice, and learn about options. Then consider their own values, beliefs and Faith. They shouldn’t feel they have to hide in a dark alley. Above all, women should be understood and supported and allowed to make their own decisions — not blasted or condemned. The concept that someone who doesn’t even know you or understand your plight is allowed to dictate your personal choices about your own body is unfathomable to me.

What is clearly missing in the minds of the law makers who are pushing to overthrow 50 years worth of support of women’s rights is the ability to truly listen. Have any of them truly talked to, and heard, a woman tell her story of the choices she’s had to make in life?  I doubt it.

I pray that clarity and love will prevail. On this eve of Mother’s Day, let us think about our daughters and grand-daughters and the world we are leaving to them.  Don’t we want them to be able to determine what is best for themselves?  I know some of you won’t agree with my view, and that’s fine. All I ask is that you not start an argument, don’t throw rage and anger into an already difficult time.  Feel free to just move on.  But please, do me a favor.  When the opportunity presents itself, just listen. You may be surprised what a difference it can make.

Posted in discussions, family, future, Health, love, medical, real women, safety, self care, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Blue Pit Crew

I had a scheduled, non-emergency medical procedure this week.  That term “procedure” is so nice, non-threatening and all-encompassing. It could mean anything from a boob job to a colonoscopy. This was neither.  Since this is a blog predominantly about and for women, I will honestly say I had a D&C.  If you are a woman, especially of post-menopausal age, you know exactly what that is.  If you are a man, you may have a rough idea and really don’t want to know any details. And while I could now regale you with my newfound knowledge of teeny tiny cameras and vacuum cleaners, I won’t for two reasons: a., you might be trying to eat your breakfast while reading this, and b., it’s not what this post is about.  This post is about heroes in blue.

That phrase usually connotes police officers. In this case, the fabulous blue people are medical professionals. I spent about 5 hours in the Day Surgery building of my local preferred hospital/medical complex. And in that building, at least on that floor, every medical professional wears blue.  Blue scrubs, blue or white masks, blue caps.  The only differentiation from what I could tell was in their various colors and preferred styles of Dansko’s on their feet, and their designations on their ID’s around their necks. I’m sure they all know immediately who’s a Dr., a nurse, an aesthetician, a student resident…but to me they were all the same level of skilled blue humans.

Because this was not the ER (which is a whole ‘nother level of medical organized chaos), there was no sense of rushing, no signs of stress, no scariness. Yet they all moved like a well-timed play, with various characters taking their cues and showing up exactly when it was their turn to be introduced.  Since some regulations have relaxed, my husband was able to come in and wait with me in pre-op, which helped pass the time (then he had to leave the hospital and was called when it was time to come back and fetch me, and had to meet me at the door. Some guidelines are still confusing).  We commented on the one blue woman who must have done 5 laps past my doorway, each time carrying linens or moving a bed. I’m guessing she gets a whole lot of steps in every day.

We had a bit of time with the first nurse who came in to get me settled and checked in. We learned her name and the fact that she had been there for 28 years. When she found out that my husband was a big fan of Chicago Med and that he has memorized the drug names from TV ads during the morning news, she joked that they may want to hire him.  At one point she had to step away for a few minutes, and when she returned she apologized and explained her child’s school nurse had called. 

And there it is. The reality that no matter what professional role we play, real life and real situations happen.  We had learned that she had met and married her husband through work, and he was also a nurse somewhere in the hospital.  Yet it was she who took the call from school, and she who found another nurse to step in so she could leave to take care of her child in need. #weareallthesame.

Once I was checked in and IV’d, there was a bit of a wait until we got closer to curtain call on the performance.  Like clockwork, one by one each person who would be part of my pit crew in the OR came in to introduce themselves, explain their role, and ask if I had any questions. There were additional nurses, the anesthesiologist, and of course, my doctor.  I realize that each person who stopped by meant more $$ on the bill, but each and every one was kind, calm and comforting.  I knew darn well that as soon as I was wheeled in, situated, and put into slumber town, I’d not see any of them again.  But it was nice to know they would all be there taking care of me.

And guess what. Every single blue person taking care of me that day was a woman.  And it’s not just because of the variety of procedure I was having done.  I think I only saw in passing maybe two men in blue on that floor that day. I have met some fabulous male medical professionals over the years.  But to me, women are just made for these roles.  They are masters of multi-tasking, handlers of stress, have immense coping skills, and above all else, are queens at empathy. Bedside manners come naturally. They get it.  They are efficient, don’t get frustrated by questions, and understand what it feels like to be the patient. They manage to keep their sense of humor when it helps put people at ease. And nothing rattles them or embarrasses them. They’ve seen it all, dealt with it all, and just keep rollin’.

Especially given the past couple of years, I am in awe of people like our nurse who are 20+ years in and are still pleasant, still calm, still… there.  It takes a certain kind of person to not only get through all of the schooling and training required to do the amazing things they do, but survive all of the craziness of a pandemic, and still be just plain nice. We could hear the questions and discussions going on in the pre-op section next to me, the patient was clearly an elderly gentleman with health issues and some memory challenges, and the blue people working with him were calm and respectful.  It reminded me of the many, many, times I would accompany my handicapped brother to multiple health care appointments and hospital stays – and how grateful I was for the professionals who understood his limitations, took the extra time and care he needed, and treated him with dignity.

For so many people, hospital stays can be scary and confusing. Besides having their health needs met, the most important thing is simple yet vital: to feel cared for.  And that’s what those blue people are there to do.  The best ones not only say “we are going to take care of you” but mean it, and do it.  They may wear funky rubber clogs instead of capes, but they are heroes…and I’ll happily have them be my pit crew any day.

Posted in caregivers, comfort, doctors, Health, Helping others, medical, Professions, real women | Tagged , | Leave a comment

International Women’s Day

When I think of all of the amazing women I have had the honor and joy of knowing, both past and present, from family to friends to coworkers to even just brief acquaintances, what stands out for me and has made them memorable is not what they do (or did) for a living, or their age, cultural background, or status. What has made each of them inspiring is their passion, strength, humor, empathy, love, intelligence, talent, respect, and inner beauty. Yes, we need to let young girls know that they can be anything they want to be, from doctor to astronaut to teacher to CEO… but let’s not put pressure on them to believe that WHAT they do is the only way to be memorable and inspiring.

If they want to leave a positive mark on the world and the people around them, WHO they are is the best form of influence — and will be their ultimate legacy. #internationalwomensday

My Mom and Grandma, circa mid-1950’s. Neither of them climbed mountains, became CEO’s or started companies. But their legacies live on.
Posted in achievements, ancestors, family, friends, history, real women | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Earning Our Rings

As I type these words, I am in my comfy jammies, feet up, and have the Winter Olympics on TV.  I am amazed by any elite athletes in any competition, game or exhibition who reach new speeds, new heights, new levels of strength and grace and do the seemingly impossible. When the Olympics come along, we get a front row seat to be awed by the best of the best.

Part of the excitement comes from the fact that there’s always an element of danger or injury. The older I get, and I suppose in part because I’m a mom, that element of danger causes me more anxiety, worry and cringing as these folks willingly throw themselves into wild situations.  There’s something especially jaw-dropping and scary about the Winter version of these games. Many years ago, I had the opportunity to stand at the top of the lower ski jump in Lake Placid, NY.  It was terrifying just standing there, looking down that ridiculously high and steep path (again, I was on the LOWER structure), and I decided right then and there that “Yup. These people are crazy.”  And the heights and challenges have just gotten even more intense since those days. 

Over the weekend we watched luge with guys flying down the ice path at 80+ mph, which is not even as fast as the bobsledders who get up to 100mph flying down tubes of ice in tiny little skating go- carts.  Last night we witnessed  Big Air Shougang freestyle skiing. These women were happily hurdling BACKWARDS on skis down a 165’ slope that is nose-bleed steep, flying off a jump to do twists and turns in the air and land smoothly.  After they landed, they came to a stop, lifted their masks on their helmets and smiled for the camera like they just had the most fun ever. And guess what?  They are all beautiful.  I mean, come on. Really? I just don’t understand. At what point do these smart, strong women who are headed down their life’s journey to do things like go to Yale to study medicine, decide “Hey, ya know what? Downhill skiing is too boring. I’m gonna hurl myself down the side of a mountain and become airborne to do tricks and laugh in the face of death. Just because it looks like fun.”  Insert face palm here.

I enjoy watching, but at the same time it gives me angst.  Can anyone over the age of 20 watch moguls without their own knees aching?  Any time any of these athletes stumble or fall, I physically flinch. I think anyone who just SURVIVES this craziness deserves a metal, let alone focus on out-spinning, flipping or flying past their competitors.  They are just not like us regular people.  No, the rest of us live with much more attainable goals – you know, like getting out of bed and walking downstairs without tripping.

As I sit here in my cozy space, feeling a bit sore from a short post-work 30-minute workout, I’m thinking about my own low-risk daily activity targets. You see, I received an Apple Watch for Christmas. And now I’m fairly obsessed with closing my rings every day.  For those who are not familiar, Apple serves up three rings for each day, helping the wearer meet goals for daily exercise, movement and standing. My ring goals are set low – an hour a day of exercise, standing at least once every hour, and whatever the preset level for calorie-burning movement comes standard.  That’s it. Yet those silly digital reminders are doing exactly what they are designed to do – suck me in, so I feel compelled to close those dang rings every day.  No one sees them but me. No one will know or care if I don’t do it. No one is watching me race down a ski hill and do flips on my way to a gold medal.  Yet there they are, taunting me.

I’m thinking that instead of having to earn rings (or medals), perhaps we should be awarded recognition for getting through what we RW’s already are accomplishing on a daily basis.  Coordinate childcare, school, and work a full 8-hour day?  Here’s a ring.  Get all your laundry done, put it away AND change the sheets on the bed?  Another ring.  Did you manage to have a conversation with your teen that lasted more than 5 minutes and included full sentences?  Nice glowing ring for you. Pick a healthier option on the menu, good for you, here’s a ring.  How about a double ring every time you successfully deal with an insurance company, financial institution or advocate for medical care for an elderly loved one without totally losing your sh-t? 

Granted, I’m all about rewards for going above and beyond, and using your special skills and abilities. So perhaps we could receive lovely medals on ribbons for the bigger things – like getting a promotion at work, coordinating and hosting a big family event, maintaining a new workout plan for at least 6 months, or getting out of debt… All really great accomplishments that otherwise go unrecognized.

Instead of stepping up to a podium and having to look amazing while listening to the National Anthem, our reward celebrations should be held at a margarita bar with other RW’s, wearing our yoga pants, where we can all compare notes on how we got through each day, rings intact. We’ll leave the extreme athleticism and death-defying acts to those Olympians. We’ve got our hands full being amazing in regular ways.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go write up my grocery list. I’m sure that’s worth at least one lovely pink ring.

Posted in achievements, behavior, careers, caregivers, Entertainment, events, fitness, habits, real women, routines | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Meh to Mystery

It is New Year’s Day, 2022.  I’ve spent much of the day giving myself pep talks.

The holidays this year, for many of us, have been….ok.  The replies I’ve received most often from other RW’s when asked how their Christmas (or other Holiday celebrated) has been, are:  Good. Fine. Nice. Quiet.  As a matter of fact, I have yet to hear “awesome” or “fabulous” or even “excellent.”  I know for me, the prep as always was exhausting.  The day itself was quiet.  I was of course exceedingly thankful that I do not currently have a loved one fighting for their life in a hospital, my house is not burning down, I don’t have to worry about an imminent threat of an invasion from Russia, we are not facing unemployment, or any of the other million things we hear about every day that others are suffering through, and that cause us to lay awake at night.  So the fact that I had my son home from college and he and my hubby and I spent the day hanging out comfortably in our warm home in our jammies is beautiful enough. But we, like so many of you, had no visitors, no trips, no parties…. And I think we all have to be ok with admitting that for many of us, the holidays this year were just “meh.”  We RW’s go overboard thinking the holidays have to be perfect. And when they don’t quite live up to the ideal in our heads, it can be a hard nut to crack, kind of like the bowl of walnuts on my dining table now going stale.  But really, it’s ok to admit to blah. Just like we can admit that 2021 was not a stellar improvement over the prior year. A whole year of meh.

If any of us can name at least 6 good things that happened in our lives in ’21, then we should count our blessings. It is because of that I believe there was less excitement, less hoopla, less giddy hope this time around for New Year’s Eve.

In our household, we rang in the New Year in the most lackluster unexciting manner possible. Sickness has crept into our four walls and without giving details I can say it is requiring quarantining and togetherness while feeling kinda crappy and short-tempered.  Did I mention also that we haven’t seen sunshine in about 5 days?  You can see why my need for SPTs (Self Pep Talks) today.

This afternoon, my antsy-pansty dogs had just about enough of this moping around thing, so I loaded them in the car and took them to one of our favorite short walking trails around what is usually a beautiful pond.  The weather is grey and drizzly, and since this location is at a fairly high elevation, by the time we arrived it was socked in by fog. Appropriate for my mood, we set out on our walk – because I’ve always been on outdoor-kinda gal.  I look for clarity and peace in nature, and Mom Nature always delivers.   

The pond is not a large one. We can walk around the entire thing in about 30 minutes, and that includes the doggo pause-to-sniff-and-pee moments.  We paused at a big rock at the edge of the pond that we frequently stand or sit on to enjoy the view, and today beyond the rock was a vastness of grey.  The fog was so thick it was impossible to see where water, land and sky met. It of course got me thinking about perspective.  Perhaps instead of trying to see the future, or figure it out (because we RW’s always want to know what’s next), and wax on and on about “will 2022 finally be a GOOD year??” — just maybe we should accept the mystery of what lies ahead.  Maybe we aren’t meant to know it all, and we can only focus on what is immediately ahead of us. What if we look ahead more like Nancy Drew on her next epic adventure, unraveling the mystery of life bit by bit?  Perhaps then we can accept each day with interest instead of dread.

We moved on, the dogs fascinated by every rock, root and lump of mud, dipping their toes and noses into the pond at every opportunity.  At one point, after climbing a hill deeper into the woods, one of my pups stopped.  She wasn’t pulling at the lead to chase down a big scent, or begging for a treat, or whining to go another direction. She just paused to look, listen, and smell.  So I stopped too.  My other pup, who is just goofy and follows our lead stopped and just looked at us.  It was so quiet, all we could hear, beyond the very distant hum of cars on a road, was the dripping of moisture off the trees landing on the wet leaves below.  That was it. No birds chirping, no squirrels rustling, no wind, no other people.  We three just stopped for a couple of minutes to just be.  I took a few deep breaths and relished the peace. 

It’s uncanny, really, how my dogs seem to know what I need, even when I don’t want to admit it initially (my goal for the afternoon was to work on undecorating the house).  But that damp walk in the woods letting the mystery of the foggy day envelope us, was the shift in perspective I needed.  It was the next story in my SPT to help me understand how to walk the path out of the grey.

Of course I hope that 2022 improves, and that much of the sadness and challenges around us ease and we feel more joy, better health, and above all – get back to treating each other with good old fashioned kindness.  I’ve decided to lower expectations a bit; we all need to ease up on our anxiety of perfection.  We can’t assume flipping the calendar to a new year will solve all of our problems. But by taking one step through the fog at a time, stopping to appreciate the good we can find around us, and look toward the mystery of the future with good anticipation instead of dread, we just might set ourselves up for a year of Yay instead of Meh.

Happy New Year!

Posted in change, comfort, dogs, future, Health, love, moods, Needs, real women, routines, Seasons, self care, weather | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Celebrate Daily

Let’s face it ladies.  We are about to enter overload season.  Whether you love the holidays or hate them, whether you will be surrounded by friends and family or solo, whether you’ll be crafting ginormous meals and going all out decking the halls or ordering pizza and begrudgingly putting up a Charlie Brown tree or cardboard Menorah, the holidays are stressful.  We women do stuff.  A lot of stuff.  And this time of year, we heap on more stuff.

For those who know me, this is truly an example of that old adage, the pot calling the kettle black.  I’m kind of a “doer” on turbo.  But I’m in good company. One of my BFFs is currently going through the stressful time in life that we all hit at some point, where she is regularly concerned about her aging mother. She admitted the other day that she is “compensating for worrying about mom by over-committing to everything else in my life.”   Sound familiar?  The kicker is, whether you are actively and physically “doing” a lot is only half (or less than half) of the story.  Because our brains are always “doing.”  We are thinking, planning, worrying, all the time.  And that “stuff” we heap on from November through January adds to our already full brains and emotions.

It has taken me a lifetime so far to come to terms with how I roll and have made some decisions. I’ve stopped making the pledge that “this year will be different.”  I’ve stopped making my annual false promises to myself that this year I’ll cut back and simplify, or this year I’ll get all of my shopping done earlier so I can just lay around and do nothing, or this year I’ll run away to a tropical island.  Because I do love the holidays, in all their craziness.  It’s just that I’m getting older and more tired and less up for the stress. So while I’ll very likely still be doing just a much HEO (Holiday Extra Overload) on top of my usual life activities, I’ve determine there is one small, simple thing that I must do. Every day.

I must do one daily thing just for me.  One thing that is NOT work, chores, caretaking, volunteering, holiday prep, whatever.  As far as we know, we only go around in this life, in this body, at this time, once.  So shouldn’t we do at least one thing each day that celebrates this life and who we are while we can, and put a bit more enjoyment into it?   Whether you are in a really good place in your life right now, or are really struggling through dark times, we all need a moment every day that isn’t on the list of “gotta do’s”.   Yeah, I know…. You just snorted and said “like any of us have time for that”, or “right, I WISH, I’m just too busy – you said every DAY?!” 

Yes, I did say every day, and trust me, I’m usually the first one with that snort thing happening.  I’ve felt the pang of jealousy every time I hear of an RW who is spending the afternoon watching chick flicks, or has spent the day plowing through a great novel, or goes every week for a massage.  Bravo to any of you who can accomplish that level of regular self-care.  Once I got past my jealousy and sarcasm, I realized it is all about scale.  Doing one thing does not have to be grand, or time consuming.  Nor should it be the very last thing you squeeze in at the end of the day when you are exhausted and can’t keep your eyes open to appreciate your mini you-moment.  Small daily life-and-me (L&M) celebrations can be as simple as going for a 15-minute walk on a beautiful day, or going for a drive with the windows open and your favorite tunes playing. It can be finding a quiet corner to stare out the window and eat a chocolate bar.  Or having a 6-minute dance party for one, blasting your favorite music and shaking your booty while no one’s watching. Some can harness the art of a 10-minute meditation. For others, it can be watching half an hour of your guilty pleasure reality tv, cooking competition, or Hallmark drivel.  Beware though, don’t be like me and determine that if you are sitting in front of the tv you MUST be multi-tasking and doing something productive at the same time… at least not during your L&M moment. 

It can be really really hard for RW’s to break away from responsibilities and the other people in our lives to give ourselves a short time out.  With careful consideration, some L&M celebrations can benefit others – like if you can take an afternoon for lunch and shopping with a good friend, then you both win. Yesterday I did a short outing at lunch to a lovely hilltop view not far from my house.  I took the dogs with me, so the walk benefited them too.  But the key here is to only invite others into our L&M celebrations if it still is giving us responsibility-free joy. If not, then go ahead and be selfish and carve out even a few minutes of time with no one else.  They will all survive without you long enough to breathe and just be for a few moments.

I will be honest that on my newly focused daily quest, sometimes I just don’t make it happen.  There are going to be those days, and plenty of them. But I figure if we all try hard now to carve out short breaks for ourselves, we will create a habit that just might help us get through the coming weeks feeling a wee bit less stressed.  Today was one of those days for me where I struggled to find that free moment in time.  But the weather was beautiful, so on my lunch break while running fairly boring errands, I put the windows down in my car, put on my shades, turned up the radio, and took the longer way back to the office.  It wasn’t much, but it was something.  Like I said, it is all about scale, and some days we just have to carve out what we can get.

So tell me, what’s your L&M celebration going to be today?

Posted in behavior, caregivers, celebrations, Entertainment, family, habits, Health, home chores, moods, real women, routines, self care, stress | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Word Up.

Not surprisingly, I love words.  Both real words and creatively made-up phrases.  There are lots of supposedly official words that are virtually unknown but are super fun.  Like ferrule, the small piece of metal that separates the pencil from the eraser, or zarfs, those cardboard sleeves that go around to-go coffee cups, and even phloem bundles, which are those long white strings on bananas under the skin when you peel them.  Are these really “real” words?  Well, if we believe words to be “real” when they’ve been added to the dictionary, then maybe…. but it depends which dictionary you consider the ruler of all.  Most go by ye ol’ Merriam-Webster (who, by the way does not seem to recognize zarf). Interestingly, the determination as to when a word earns the right to be added to the pages of Merriam-Webster basically comes down to usage.  The more often a word gets used, the better the chance it will find its way into the Official Word Hall of Fame. 

When I was a kid, my brother’s best friend coined the word gription, as a combo between grip and traction. If you are slip-sliding across a slippery surface, you don’t have enough gription.  He and my brother used the word so matter-of-factly that I think I was probably 16 before I realized it wasn’t a universally accepted real word. 

Lately I’ve been considering the myriad of instances and everyday occurrences in all R.W.’s lives that really deserve to have their own words.  It would be so handy to just have a simple term to help identify moments that might otherwise be described as “you know, I was trying to do that thing…”   

Let me give an example. A few evenings ago, I attempted to take the full trash bag out of my plastic kitchen garbage can.  And as happens so many times, there was some sort of magical force of friction (perhaps gription?) holding that bag in place.  We’ve all been in that situation, where now with two hands, and maybe a foot, we are trying to push down on the can, pull up on the bag, wiggling it back and forth and likely cussing until finally it releases, hopefully without spilling the contents. I’m sure there is some technical term in Physics to describe this phenomenon, but I now call this Garbgrab.

Similarly, how about standing in the produce aisle of the grocery store, attempting to open those dang thin produce bags which by virtue of coming off tight rolls (and perhaps produced by someone with an evil sense of humor) leave one fumbling to find an opening. Eventually you start debating whether to just throw the loose tomatoes into your cart since you’ll be washing them at home anyway, and cursing that you left your re-usable cloth produce bags in your trunk, all while you rub the bag back and forth between your hands like you are trying to start a fire.  I believe you are experiencing polystration.

When cohabitating with others, there are some common issues that crop up that deserve their own terms.   Like when you watch a man put something down, walk away and forget it is there, so whatever that item is, will now live in that location forever –you are living with someone who suffers from invisaforgeta.   And how many of us experience that horrible malady of not knowing what to have for dinner (or lunch for that matter) —  and you ask your partner for ideas, only to get no helpful response, and you open and close the refrigerator door or cupboards over and over, just hoping inspiration will strike or something perfect to eat will appear because nothing is appealing at the moment – whew…. Let’s call all that nonsense FooWhut.

Dog parents out there – ya know those nose and slobber prints that get all over your windows both in your home or car, and show up especially well when the sun comes in just right and you are hosting visitors?  Yeahhhh that stuff is Snerf.  Closely related to dog or cat vomit, Gerf, and the drool puddles called Dralf. We all deal with it, may as well reference it in the same way so we can commiserate.  “I had my mother-in-law over for tea, and imagine my horror when the sun came streaming in and the patio door was covered in snerf!”  Or “Watch out, I was cutting up meat, so don’t slip on the dralf!”

And ladies, let’s admit to some of those aggravating issues that crop up when we are just trying to get ready for our day, and agree on words to describe them.  Like even though we’ve put our bras on a gazillion times, there’s always that occasional morning, either when you are running late, or you are down to your oldest bra, when for whatever reason it takes about 20 tries to get the darn thing fastened, and you finally groan in frustration and move it around to the front to see what is going on.  That’s Brasternation.   For those of you out there who wear contacts, how about those moments when a teeny tiny piece of hair or dust gets on a contact and you have to keep taking it out, rinsing it, reinserting it, until your eye is runny and red and you wish you liked better how you look in your glasses —  ooooh then you are fighting anticontactism.

I realize none of these will catch on like wildfire and become the next Merriam-Webster entry.  But if enough of us experience the same things, and start using common terminology, perhaps we’ll create our own dictionary of helpful, expressive vocabulary.  After all, the men in our lives already claim to not understand us, so it can’t hurt to have our own language from time to time, right?Let’s continue to be creative with ways to connect over shared experiences.  We can start now, with recognition of the season that is upon us.  That’s right, in about a week’s time, we will all have odd small collections of treats that no one really wants to eat after picking out all the good stuff. Generally speaking this includes such gems as tootsie rolls, malt balls and lollipops and we will be faced with the dilemma of finding opportunities to get rid of them without being wasteful.  Let’s face it, we’ve got canduds.   Never heard of them?  Well go ahead, look it up. 

It might not be in Merriam-Webster, but it sure could be in the Real Women Real Words Dictionary.   

Posted in behavior, communication, discussions, family, habits, innovation, language, reading, real women, routines, words, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Personal History

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Great-Grandmother, with unidentified grandchildren

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

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

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

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

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

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