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.
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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.

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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

Of Possums and Men

My husband broke his foot about a week ago. While his friends are encouraging him to say he did it while competing in the Olympics, like most injuries, it was sustained in a far more simple, day to day way – he misjudged the edge of a concrete step.  It sucks, but these things happen. That’s why they are called accidents.  To make matters worse, he then immediately got his first-ever case of gout in the same foot.  His frustration and pain levels have been running at about a level 11.

On the very same day we found out his foot was truly broken, we returned to the house from Urgent Care and while I was letting the dogs out, I discovered a possum in our backyard acting strangely.  I quickly got the dogs inside and decided to check on it again in about 45 minutes.  At that point, the poor thing was wobbling around in circles, surrounded by flies, clearly not right.  I called local Animal Control and found out they only deal with domestic animals. However, a police officer could come over and if the animal had the potential to be rabid, they had authority to dispose of it.

I hated to have to let that happen, as possums are good critters.  While some think they are ugly, I think they are pretty cute.  They are avid tick-eaters, also a big benefit. But I couldn’t risk our dogs going after it, especially if it was ill, and well, the thought of my dog attacking it was a really big ewww.  So the cops came and after observing, put the poor thing out of its misery. We later did some research and determined that possums rarely if ever get rabies or distemper (has something to do with their body temperature, learn something new every day), so we are thinking perhaps he’d been hit by a car and had managed in his disoriented/injured/ill state to get as far as our backyard.  I suppose what we did was the humane thing to do.

The police officers (two of them actually arrived to the scene, must have been a slow day in town) then informed us “we kill it, you bury it.”  I looked at my husband, in his newly acquired crutches and air cast, then at my son, who was already turning green at the thought, and realized that deed would be mine.  I mustered up my ol’ country girl roots, armed myself with boots, mask and bleach and laid the little dude to rest, hoping he had a happy and healthy family in the woods who could carry on without him.

Bad things happen to good critters. And people. It seems really unfair and hurts, but it is part of life.  Sometimes those bad things are as “minor” as a broken foot or the flu, and sometimes they are as horrible as critical illnesses or what the people of Afghanistan and Haiti are dealing with right now.  No matter the perceived level of bad, for those who are affected, it is awful — and all they can focus on is trying to get through the day and hope for some comfort and kindness from others.

I am blessed with overall good health and a pretty high level of patience. (Quick, all of you knock on wood for me, wouldja?)  Somewhere between disposing of the dead animal, picking up meds for my husband, tending to the dogs, and helping take out the trash it dawned on me that life is about balance. Those of us who are able, need to take care of those who are not. My older brother was blind and had a myriad of health issues. Even though he was remarkably independent most of his life, he did rely on those of us who were sighted and more able-bodied to help him when he needed it. In his later years, as his health deteriorated, he relied on me and some amazing folks at various medical and housing facilities to help him live the best he could. Many, many of you out there are caregivers for someone. I believe God keeps some of us healthy and strong when others are not so we can be there for them. To be there not only emotionally and physically, but to be their voice and advocate when they can’t manage by themselves.

That said, being a caregiver can be a bit like being the sober DD at a party.  It comes with a lot of responsibility, it can be annoying, frustrating and exhausting, and sometimes you just want to get away from it all and go home (or my favorite daydream, be on a tropical beach somewhere).  But it is what we do because it is the right thing to do.

Right now, my husband needs me to step up to the plate and do some of his traditional man-stuff around the house, as well as listen to him vent and complain.  If the tables were turned, he’d have to pick up the slack.  I’m sure there are things I’m doing for him that he would do differently, just as I know if it was the other way around, I’d have to be ok with a different level of meal prep and house cleaning.  Sometimes, we just have to let go and just get by. 

Lord knows, anything can happen – like I said, bad things happen to good critters. So if I can be a really good critter, then when I need the help, someone will be there for me too.  Actually, they already are. I have an amazing network of friends and family (mostly RW’s) who I know have my back and help keep me strong and I hope I do the same for them.

Providing care and support doesn’t have to be in the form of grand gestures or cost a lot of money.  The small things can be big things to someone in need.  So if you are one of the healthy, stable, able souls out there, first be grateful.  Then be ready to lend a helping hand (or foot) as needed for a friend, relative or even stranger. Karma will like it.

Some days we are the one who need kindness, care and support.

Other days, we have to be the one to bury the possum.

Posted in adapting, assisting, caregivers, comfort, family, friends, Health, Helping others, home chores, Needs, real women, routines | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Eclectic Wares

Remember when picking out your china pattern was a thing?  Probably not, if you were born in the last two or three decades.  For those of us who are a bit older, brides were encouraged to pick out a pattern or brand of fine china so friends and family could purchase sets of it as wedding gifts.  This of course harkens back to the days when apparently young couples would host large family gatherings and everyone would sit down at a dining table laden with “the good china.”  Sure, wedding registries are still nifty, but I’m doubtful that anyone now is asking for 8 – 10 sets of fine china.  When I got married (the first time) in the 80’s, I dutifully picked out a blue floral pattern from Noritake. It was lovely.  My then-husband and I received several sets and serving pieces and my parents thought it important to purchase any “remaining” pieces so we’d have a full set.

A few months ago, during pandemic purging, I came across a box of the dear ol’ Noritake china. My first husband and I have been divorced for 25+ years. The china was still pretty. Still largely unused. I believe I may have pulled it out literally a handful of times over all those years. Even as “long ago” as the 80’s, very few young married couples ever had more than a handful of people over for a meal, and rarely was it fancy. And for some reason, I had dutifully moved that china several times over the past many years.  Yes, I know, some of you are going to say that I should have just used it as every day plates rather than keeping it in a box. But it was the kind of china with a metal inlay, that could not go in the microwave and shouldn’t go in the dishwasher.  It was far easier and more comfortable for me to take a trip over to Pier 1 every few years and purchase 4 or 6 fun new patterned plates and bowls.  When they got chipped or the glazing crackled, I’d replace some of them. Occasionally I’d get a new patterned plate or cute floral bowl simply because it made me smile. Eventually I created a unique – I prefer to call it eclectic – mix of dishes in my cupboard.  I kind of like having a mix of patterns and colors, and I’ve never had any guest stop and say “hey, my plate doesn’t match yours, what gives?”  Then again, I don’t host any major dignitaries who might even care. 

Meanwhile the fine china stayed in a box.  Until clean out.  I saved a couple large platters and donated the rest.  Perhaps someone else will use it every day and enjoy it.

My diverse collection doesn’t stop with dishes. The glassware cupboard is full of a mélange of cups, mugs and glasses that have accumulated over many years. Everything from engraved beer mugs from my husband’s single days to plastic poolside cups.  It’s a mess, but each item is in there for a reason.  I know I’m not alone in this kind of variety, because I’ve seen similar collections in friends and family’s kitchens. Souvenir mugs from vacations, children’s cups from bygone years, big colorful water goblets sitting next to delicate wine glasses. It’s like a glimpse into a family’s history and lifestyle.  Again, eclectic wares with purpose.

But there’s one area of the kitchen that just completely befuddles me: the silverware drawer.  I recall clearly picking out a big set when I got married to my current hubby. We both were involved in the selection, and to this day my husband prefers to ONLY eat with that same set of forks.  Something about the balance in his hand. What can I say, he’s kinda feng shui about how he eats.

Over the years however, other forks, spoons and knives have snuck into our existence. And I don’t know how or from where they came.  Now, I’m assuming at least a few may have come from past places of employment by accident, and if I could remember from where, or thought it really mattered, I’d return them.  I suppose a couple could have drifted in from inexpensive sets I purchased for camping, or some maybe some I bought for my son to use at college and he didn’t?  But that really doesn’t explain the extensive variety. Just yesterday I was emptying the dishwasher and stopped to layout a handful of silverware and I swear I’ve never seen some of it before.

There is a Facebook group called Grown and Flown; it is made up of parents of children who are moving away from home, either for school, or work or just venturing into the world of adulting. Lately there have been a series of hysterical posts about parents searching for silverware that has disappeared after being used by their teens and 20-somethings. They have found forks and spoons under beds, in duffle bags, even on the front lawn.  I am starting to wonder now if there’s some cosmic force that has made their utensils appear in my drawer.

At some point, unlike with my plates, bowls and glasses, I need to do a major clean out and shop for a new set of silverware. I’m not sure why the assortment of utensils bothers me when everything else in my kitchen is a hodgepodge. But it – pardon the pun – eats at me. One thing for sure is my hubby needs to be involved in the future set selection.  He may not care what the food gets served on, but he certainly cares how it feels to scoop it up.

I know some of you RW’s out there have a very matchy-matchy kitchen, with full sets of everything so your world of eating and entertaining is consistent.  When I visit folks like you, I kind of feel like I’m visiting a grown-up’s house, and I’m still the college kid with hand-me-down pieces stored in milk crates.  I guess having a kitchen that looks like a photo shoot in a cooking magazine is not a priority for me.  It’s more about being comfortable, about how there’s a story behind nearly everything, about having items that carry memories or just make me, and the people who come into my kitchen, happy.  I’m an eclectic-wares kinda gal.

Except for those weird forks and spoons. Those have gotta go.

Posted in decor, Entertainment, family, Food, home, kitchen, meals, real style, real women, Traditions, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just Relax

For a variety of reasons, I’m not having a summer vacation this year. Now before any of you think I’m saying that to garner sympathy, let me mention that we have a lovely pool in our backyard, and we are getting away for some quick weekend visits to see family.  So the “woe is me meter” is low.  Especially compared to those of you out there who haven’t vacationed in years, let alone had two days off in a row.

I have however been working on getting better about play-before-work. It is a subset of all of the other cliches we toss around but don’t always adhere to, like life is short, eat dessert first, and don’t say no to opportunities for fun.  This past weekend, for example, I had my usual to do list ready for my regular chores, and without even really thinking about it, I spent most of my time doing things instead like going for walks, sitting by the pool, getting together with a friend and shopping.  Some of the chores still got done after I’d had fun.  It is not generally like me to operate this way – I am not an avoidance kinda girl when it comes to must-do’s.  I’ve always been more like do it now so I don’t have to later, and ‘I can stop when I’m retired.’  But with effort, I’m adjusting and, surprise surprise, enjoying it.

But the one thing I still have not mastered, and this is where the vacation thing comes in, is relaxing.  The art of slowing down, pushing responsibilities aside, and literally not doing much of anything, other than perhaps reading a good book or watching a movie, or gazing at a lovely view.  Some of you out there have mastered this art, or are at least working on it, and I am proud and inspired by you. Notice I did not say jealous.  Because relaxing is something all of us can learn to do, but it takes practice and ironically, work.  Being able to relax is something to be celebrated.

I’m guessing that the majority of R.W.’s out there are not being successful in the unwind and rest process. Remember when the term “couch potato” was a thing?  Somehow we have all swung too far in the opposite direction.  Now we don’t even visit our couches, let alone live on them.  Unless of course we don’t feel well, and that doesn’t count.  Just the other evening after work I went out for a bike ride (one of my versions of relaxation), and as I cruised by a couple of houses, I saw one woman getting her husband’s help in planting some pretty massive plants and bushes in the front of their house. Another woman was dumping wheelbarrows full of stone along what I assume was a garden or patio. A third had just arrived home and was unloading groceries from her trunk.  Not relaxing.  I thought about what a lot of us other RW’s were probably doing around that same time: getting kids to bed, cleaning up the kitchen, running errands that couldn’t be done during the work day, checking on an elderly loved one, or any of about a thousand other possibilities…none of it slowing down and putting our feet up. 

Part of my particular challenge is I think I’m just genetically predisposed to being active.  My siblings call it scurrying.  I rarely saw my mom relax.  With four kids, various pets and an old farm house to manage, she was always on the go.  And when we did go on vacation as a family, be it to visit family or go camping, she was still “doing.”  Because let’s face it, when you have young children, vacation lacks down time.  And, no offense intended here, but visiting family is not relaxing.  It is lovely, necessary, and good for the soul. But it is not shut-down mode.  My mom and dad would go away one week each summer to go sailing off the Maine coast together, without us kids. Based on lore and sightings like that of the Loch Ness Monster, rumor has it that is when she finally relaxed and recharged.

For me at least, “staycations” don’t work like away-vacations do.  Lord knows we all have had our fill of staycations over the past 15 months or so.  A staycation simply means not doing our usual jobs, hopefully loosening our grip on chores a bit and adding in more activities and fun.  But if I’m in my house, I still feel compelled to do yard work, house projects, food prep, cleaning, laundry, etc.  As much as I adore my home, I don’t truly relax for more than a scheduled hour or two (yes, I actually schedule downtime – like an hour by the pool on a Saturday afternoon) unless I’m not there. Here’s the funny part – getting ready to be away, and returning from away, are the exact opposite of relaxing. Every woman knows there’s a whole lot of work that goes into prepping for departure and then re-entering reality.  But in between, when schedules go out the window, responsibilities are put on pause, and the sole focus is moving slower and only doing what you WANT to do….well, that is when relaxation nirvana can be achieved.

We R.W.’s are a determined bunch. So who knows, with enough practice and effort, maybe we all can get a step closer to having moments of that nirvana in our daily home lives.  There has to be a happy medium between being a sofa spud and a never rester.  I say we all put more effort into making it happen.

In the meantime, I’m going to book a few days away with the hubby this Fall. Just in case.

By the way, a tip for the guys – never tell the woman in your life to “just relax” unless you are ready to deal with the repercussions.  Trust me on this one. She would if she could.

Posted in behavior, Chores, family, habits, Health, home chores, routines, self care, travel, Uncategorized, Vacation | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment