Unplanned Blog

January 1, 2021

It all happened so quickly. In fact, I think I was hoodwinked by enemy forces. Was I getting too cocky? Too full of myself? I mean, all those awards. Accolades. The praise. The adulation from my fans and followers. I suppose it enveloped me and I lost a part of myself. I forgot what was important and I became wrapped up in the trappings of being a superstar and it all caught up with me. It isn’t easy being who I am. But it happened. And I am here to show you all – to bare my soul and show that I can throw myself at your mercy to become one of the great unwashed and to beg for YOUR mercy as I admit before friend and foe, that I have failed. Yes, I have failed. How is this possible, you may ask and where in my virtually impeccable example of a life well lived could I have failed? Keep reading, because if I can fail, any of you lesser beings certainly can fail – it’s that scary, folks, it’s just that scary. Let’s not talk about Russian collusion. Let’s talk about me failing – as a Grandma. Please, please. It is not my intention to cause unnecessary angst amongst my people. Nor am I looking for sympathy or more attention. Lord knows I am busy enough fielding the minions and hangers on who seek to walk in my waft, I may need to hire someone. Sigh, the challenges of being so gifted and awesome. But I digress. Please allow me to give you a little back story (Sniff! As if I need to ask permission)

First, one doesn’t just DECIDE to become a grandmother, like one decides to become a Costco member. It’s much more complicated and involves a certain very specific and regimented skill set. Compare it to joining the FBI, if you will. If you don’t pass a long list of rigid requirements, baby, it doesn’t matter how long you have yearned to be a MomMom, if you can’t change a diaper blow out in thirty seconds while the wearer of the blow out is simultaneously blowing out his or her second mass of disgustingness, you are nothing but a wannabe, but don’t you dare call yourself Grandma, because you will be thrown in the brig. If you can’t look lovingly at all the wrongdoings of an errant toddler without the same calling them out like you would their own parents at that age, then you are not worthy my friend and you certainly are no one’s GiGi – just back the hell off!

I had always wanted to be a Grandma, so I started doing my research early. I sent in my initial application, took the physical, drug tests, credit report, background check, glamour shots, you name it. Everything was golden. I aced the interviews with my charm, good looks, and of course, exceptional intellect. In my mind, it was in the bag. And most importantly, I worked hard. My reward was that I graduated at the top of my class and I was so proud when I officially became a grandma with the birth of my first bundle of joy. He was everything to me and I wore my badge of honor with joy and pride.

Now, eight grandchildren later, I bask in the glory of knowing how good I am at it. Just looking at the awards and hearing the testimonials and tributes from around the world as well as from my own grandchildren who tell me how lucky they feel to be in my presence and whose friends feel cheated when they look at their own grandparents – I mean facts are facts, right folks? But this is where it all goes terribly, terribly wrong. For one millisecond I took my eye off the target. As they say in the military, never underestimate the enemy, do NOT become complacent, because it WILL bite you in the ass – EVERY SINGLE TIME. I am here to tell you that it’s happened to me. I suppose I had it coming so I am throwing myself at everyone’s mercy and asking for your understanding. Here goes.

I am well organized when it comes to buying Christmas gifts for my grandchildren. I make lists and get input from the parents, but also utilize a bit of my own imagination. I don’t go overboard. I order online and as items arrive, I highlight on my list – it’s not rocket science. So I had an array of Legos, karaoke machines, books, electronic devices, puzzles, jewelry and the like. Mom of my five-year-old granddaughter had suggested a particular doll from a particular collection that she seemed to have an affinity for – big doe-like eyes, crazy hair, waifish faces, cute outfits and, I suppose some sort of back story that the marketing teams use to goad the parents and grandparents into buying them. The supply seems endless. So, I ordered one and added it to my list to be highlighted in yellow when it was delivered.

Fast forward to the family gathering for Christmas. I have just finished a delicious dinner with my loved ones and we are about to assemble for the time honored practice of opening gifts. Grandchildren are especially excited to see what Grandma has brought them because she usually does a bang-up job and elicits her fair share of oohs and aahs from the peanut gallery. And of course, the oohs and aahs are plentiful because everyone knows Grandma is a Rockstar. I nail it again and again. They love what they receive, pounce on me with hugs, are consumed with excitement and shrieks of joy. It’s Christmas after all with Grandma.

Until it happens. It’s my Grandma fall from grace. My mortification and degradation. I have been Lori Loughlin’ed. And I can’t blame anyone but myself and my own stupidity and negligence. When it happened, it was as if it were in slow motion. My innocent, darling five-year-old sweet, blonde, blue-eyed granddaughter with the most endearing smile picks up my gift to her, you know, the one I ordered from that particular collection she had the affinity for – doe-eyed, crazy hair, you get the picture. She anxiously sits on the floor with her six-year-old equally excited cousin next to her as she rips open the gift, the gift that her Grandma, the one who loves her more than life itself, has given her……..ANNNNNNNND………..WHAT IN HOLY HELL???? It was as if time stopped and no one knew what to do. The look of confusion on my granddaughters’ faces; the stifled utterances of shocked obscenities by me and I am pretty sure my daughter, coupled with laughter and the attempt to somehow normalize the fact that we were looking at a “grown up” version of this doll who in my mind looked like a crack whore version of Barbie just was the frosting on my cake this fine Christmas celebration.

Apparently, I misunderstood my daughter’s instructions and purchased a more “mature” version of this so-called toy. Yikes! Do you remember when Barbie was considered controversial? After we were able to distract the kids and put the stripper pole dancer away never to be seen again and I to wrestle with my guilt that I have somehow sullied my granddaughters’ innocence, it made me angry that the toy companies and the clothing companies too are sexualizing our young girls. Stop it! This hooker in training came with a studded bra, thongs, corset, stripper shoes, black lace stockings and a few other items of “clothing” that most parents would not want their daughters to aspire to wear.

So, I stand before you humbled and contrite. I plan to keep a low profile and no longer proclaim any expertise in grandmadom. I do promise however, to never become complacent again, because that is how a doll dressed as a stripper made its way into my sweet granddaughter’s arms. And that is the day I robbed her of a bit of her innocence and I will go to my grave regretting that.

One final note. Happy New Year. I hope 2021 is a better one for all of us. I did however, stub my toe and bite my tongue this morning. Just saying; just hoping that’s not a harbinger……God bless us all.

In Search of a Miracle

November 29, 2020

I will be honest with you. I have been in a Covid-induced daze and a Corona fog if you will. The viral vicissitudes of 2020 have seriously hindered my efforts when it comes to producing my blog. I figured only I would notice. I was mistaken. Apparently, I have followers. Well, to be fair, I know of seven, because that is the number of individuals who have expressed dismay and/or displeasure at the lack of a new collection of my learned musings since mid-September. Call it what you will. I have been suffering from the proverbial writer’s block. I felt as if I had nothing worth saying, nothing appropriate to contribute, or more likely, given my current malaise, just don’t feel like it. This year has just sucked and I will be so happy when it is in the symbolic rear-view mirror. At the risk of sounding like Chandler Bing (My daughters were teenagers in the 90s; of course, we watched Friends.) with his over-emphasized speech pattern, 2021 canNOT BE any worse, can it? That thought is just unfathomable to me, and I am sure to most people with a modicum of sanity and common sense. So, with that stated, this blog will address some of the events and behaviors I have observed this year. They cover the spectrum from horrific, annoying, ridiculous, stupid, funny, sad to tragic, whatever adjective I deem appropriate. Originally, I planned to devote this blog to my lengthy hospitalization (that’s always fun – unshaved legs and hospital gowns are so alluring) that led to my decision to move south. Next time, I promise. For now, let’s discuss the year that shall forever be remembered as the WORST YEAR EVER – for so many reasons.

I remember sitting at this very laptop with the television on in the next room when a news bulletin announced the death of Kobe Bryant. As a long-time basketball fan and Kobe admirer, I was both shocked and saddened. He was so young and had just begun his second chapter after retiring. There were so many possibilities. It was almost a metaphor for 2020. Little did any of us know that quiet Sunday in January that Kobe Bryant’s tragic passing would become almost nothing but a footnote. At the time, I like many others was convinced that this would be the main reminder of the year. How naïve. With what lay ahead, Kobe would almost be forgotten. In hindsight images of his funeral were an eerie harbinger of what was to come and language that would soon become part of our daily parlance – social distancing and face masks. At the time, no one gave it a thought. But soon, very soon, all that would change and life as we knew it would likely never return to what it was.

When I started jotting down a list of everything that has occurred so far this year, I literally felt dizzy. There’s just so much. I know I am just scratching the surface and that is, to be frank, demoralizing. How many awful things can we bear? None of us have anything to prove by how tough we are. Enough already. And some of us, a lot of us, need to check our egos, our negative attitudes, our bad behaviors, and our lack of kindness and empathy at the door. COME ON! Stop being assholes! Please!

I think we can all agree that PANDEMIC is probably going to be the Time Magazine “entity of the year” or however they want to phrase it. No one on the face of the earth has escaped its wrath. And we all are truly in this together, to use an almost trite saying that has found traction during this crisis. We really are. So, wear the damn mask. Practice social distancing. Quit your bitching. Wash your hands. Just be safe. In so doing you will be helping keep others safe – it’s that simple; we all just need to work together. Additionally, let’s realize how hard the folks on the front lines are working – healthcare workers, first responders, grocery employees, anyone who provides us with our daily necessities. (And, let’s not forget those hardworking liquor store workers 😊) Please try a little patience as well. I have witnessed people who BEGIN with aggressive, nasty, entitled behavior. Seriously? Why? Try being nice. It might just change the whole dynamic. Asshole. (Couldn’t help myself, but don’t you think it actually works here?) None of us knows what that person who cut you off in traffic, possibly inadvertently, is going through at that moment. Maybe his mother died, or he lost his job, or maybe he’s just an insufferable asshole. Just take a moment, have some compassion, and don’t be an asshole.

Australia nearly burned down, tens of millions of acres, 500 million beautiful helpless animals – it was heartbreaking and a reminder to all of us that we need to love our planet. It’s the only one we have. We must respect the land and protect its inhabitants. It’s pretty simple as far as I’m concerned. Sigh….. Other reminders that we are not in control were natural disasters in the form of floods, earthquakes, cyclones, and hurricanes. The hits just kept coming. West Coast fires in the U.S. were thanks to human carelessness and reckless disregard for the land. Unfortunately, I don’t think these idiots will ever learn. Assholes. Selfish, entitled assholes. They seem to think someone else will “handle” it. That’s clearly what makes them assholes.

Anti-semitism, racial unrest, and a level of hatred and ugliness that I will never understand gave birth to a level of physical destruction of property and the human spirit in 2020. I fear that it will take a long time to repair. The unjustified killing of George Floyd was the catalyst and sadly it was only the beginning. While it produced violence and wanton devastation, I hope it also opened eyes even a little bit to what has always existed in this country. We must listen to one another. Respect one another. And teach our children that racism has no place in a free society. And those who use these terrible killings as an excuse to spread even more evil exacerbate the hatred and continue to fan the flames and hurt the vulnerable. I don’t know about you, but I am incredibly tired. Sometimes I feel like I have nothing left to give. So many lives could be saved if we just stopped letting the assholes run amok. Assholes ruin everything. I think I am going to copyright that sentence and print some bumper stickers. And hatred solves absolutely nothing. Does burning, looting, beating someone senseless solve anything except maybe release more asshole endorphins? No, it doesn’t. It makes good people sad.

Which brings me to politics. This year has seen an impeachment, the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the nomination and confirmation of her successor, and finally, the campaign and election. Talk about hatred and ugliness. Posting your political views on social media is fine with me. I choose not to. But, when you use the various platforms to trash those who don’t share your views, and to do so with vitriol so full of rage and spew it over and over and engage in these cruel and malicious displays of animosity JUST because someone doesn’t hold the same opinion is, well, it just goes beyond defending your position. It smacks of bullying, censorship, and suppressing intelligent discussion. Whatever happened to having a polite conversation? There goes my naivete rearing its innocent head again. Agree to disagree and move on. A dear friend of mine and her husband have been essentially disowned by their oldest child because of their political views. This includes not seeing their grandchildren. Really? Have we come to this? And, frankly, the hypocrisy is rampant on so many issues depending on which “side” you are on. I’m going to crawl into a nicely padded hole and stay there with a bottle of wine, some books and a pillow and stay there until the assholes leave social media. Yup, I’m dreaming.

Some other noteworthy but not anything I really give a shit about “events” in 2020: Meghan and Harry left royal life. Don’t care. Good for them. Whatever floats their boat. Honestly, if it makes them happy, then leave them alone and don’t devote any more time or air space to them. Thank you. Murder hornets are coming! I’m not losing any sleep over this, at least not right now. But they do look like little assholes. Have you actually LOOKED at a closeup of their faces? Ugh. Now, we have “Karens.” What the hell? I have several friends named Karen who are lovely people. I feel bad that their moniker has now become synonymous with asshole, although I must admit I have enjoyed watching some of the meltdowns on social media. It’s been an amusing escape from time to time. So, all of my friends named Karen, be strong. This too shall pass. You are good people and shouldn’t be identified with bad behavior simply by virtue of your name. Carry on being your terrific selves. I’m sure some Karens out there are assholes, but not my Karens; they are amazing.

So, in writing this blog, I asked myself if anything worthwhile has transpired in 2020 – anything we can look back on and view favorably? There are a few things worth mentioning. While Covid-19 has been nothing short of a catastrophe on so many levels, devastating lives, families, businesses, the economy, the list goes on, in some small ways it has provided opportunities. I know my daughters have a new appreciation for teachers as they tried to juggle their jobs and distance learning. I propose that teacher salaries be reevaluated and as part of their new package they be provided with a weekly massage and a case of wine. Just sayin.’

During this pandemic, I for one have worn my mask religiously and an offshoot of this practice has been I am saving a fortune on makeup – because why bother? And my daily uniform for the most part consists of sweatpants and a similarly comfortable top. And if I am inside, I am barefoot, because in my life it’s comfort at all costs. And whether they like it or not, families are spending more time together during Covid, so thank you, 2020. I also learned that there are significantly more pet adoptions this year. That bodes well for our four-legged friends. Always adopt, don’t shop. Even if it’s a cat.

And finally, one of the sweetest things to come out of 2020 was the birth of the new panda at the National Zoo. His name is Xiao Qi Ji which means “Little Miracle.” I hope this little guy is a sign that 2021 has wonderful things planned for all of us – things like hope, kindness, peace, and understanding. And oh yeah, significantly fewer assholes. Unfortunately, I am afraid that would take more than a little miracle.

A Pristine Moment

September 16, 2020

This will not be a particularly lengthy blog post, but maybe a bit introspective. Today is a milestone of sorts. It is the fifth anniversary of my husband Frank’s death. I have never used his name in my blogs, but for this one I feel I must. He never liked to be the center of attention, so I have tried to respect that. Five years. So often it feels like a lifetime, but it can also feel like a nanosecond. So much has happened and yet, in other ways, time has stood still. Often, I cannot get out of my own head and I frequently find myself experiencing moments of crippling despair. They creep in at the most inopportune times. Damn you, despair! Please! Just leave me alone. What more do you want from me? Conversely, I have some really, great days. I have days when the realization dawns that I am so blessed with wonderful children, grandchildren, sons-in-law, siblings, friends, and the promise of a new life in North Carolina at the ripe, YOUNG age of 70. Now, if only this pesky COVID would step off and leave all of us to resume our previous existences, life would indeed be grand. Thanks, COVID! Get OUTTA here!

But enough already. Five years ago, at approximately 2:25pm, my daughters and I sat in a dimly lit hospital room in ICU as Frank took his last breath. It was the first time I was present as someone left this world and it was, for lack of a better word, a pristine moment. More about this shortly.

My family has experienced a substantial share of heartache over the years with the deaths of loved ones, both expected – my elderly parents and unexpected – my 27-year-old brother of leukemia in 1987 (He would have celebrated his 60th birthday last week) and my 45-year-old brother of heart failure and other issues in 2004. By far the biggest gut punch, soul-wrenching, life-changing, “I do not think I want to go on” moment was the death of my grandson in 2013. He was just a baby, a sweet, happy, adorable baby who brought so much joy to our family. Why does this happen? I was at a loss and felt so bereft and helpless, both at the grief and pain I felt but also that I could do nothing to help my daughter other than to just “be there.” I still sometimes cannot talk about it without a catch in my voice and a weight on my chest. Worst. Time. In. My. Life. But eventually that death like the others, somehow gets filed away and we “carry on.” Or so we are told.

What these five deaths, parents, brothers, and grandson, have in common, is that I did not witness them. I saw these loved ones “after the fact” so to speak. That experience is different, though the grief and mourning process are similarly acute. I must say, however, being able to witness the death of my husband in the company of the daughters we had together was a wholly precious experience. His health was on a downward spiral and we knew the time was imminent. The critical care staff at the hospital was beyond sensitive and gave us the space we needed to spend time both with the priest administering the last rites as well as sharing our own private family time – just the four of us. It was truly special and allowed us all to share tears, chuckles, hugs, and to comfort one another. And to thank Frank for being who he was, simply a good man. who loved his family. He was a kind man who despised unfairness, treated everyone with respect, loved stupid jokes, and revered those closest to him, especially those grandchildren. After everything was said, we were ready for the inevitable next step. My only request to the nursing staff was that no machines be on to indicate to us when “the moment” would occur. We wanted it to be quiet, peaceful, and organic (I usually hate that word, but it fits in this case.) We sat holding hands, holding Frank’s hands, stroking his face, just watching his peaceful expression. He looked the best he had looked in weeks. On some level, we knew that he knew, and it was transformative. We could see as the physical life slowly began to float away from his body. There was an ethereal essence as his breathing slowed and slowed and slowed until one final expression of shallow air announced that this was indeed his last moment on earth. At that instant we knew, as the color in his face dramatically changed coinciding with the nurse coming in to gently announce what we already knew. Frank was gone – physically – but never gone from our hearts. Five years ago, I had the distinct honor of sending my husband and my children’s father from one threshold to the next. I believe in God and I know he did too and trust that Frank is now blessed with his final reward. Being with him as he died was a gift I will cherish forever. It was and always will be a pristine moment in my life.

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

July 29, 2020

I recently celebrated my 70th birthday. Well, perhaps “celebrate” isn’t the right word. I certainly celebrate the fact that I am on this side of the earth; visiting graves rather than being in the grave, reading obituaries rather than being the subject of an obituary; you get the gist. But I acknowledge my reality when reaching this pretty impressive milestone: I really don’t have that much time left. Time. The great equalizer. Rich, poor, tall, short, whatever the comparison is, when it comes to time, there is no bargaining. Each of us has an allotted amount and when it’s gone it’s gone. And there’s no turning back. So, what are we going to do about it? Whine? Wish things had gone differently in our lives? Wish our parents had been a little less responsible and poured their life savings into Apple or McDonald’s stock? Speaking of stock (like what I did there?) I decided with this blog to take a brief overview of my rather unexceptional life on this planet and craft a checklist if you will of some of my “wouldas,” “couldas,” and “shouldas,” things I wish I HAD done in the younger version of me, and conversely, the things I regret doing. Don’t get too excited. My life = not that exciting. It still isn’t but maybe by writing this I can find insight and so can you. In fact, maybe I can go back and change some of it. You decide. Some is not able to be changed and that’s fine, because it would have required altering the trajectory of my life, such as marrying my husband, whom I loved very much and having two wonderful daughters and the world’s most perfect grandchildren.

First, I want to share some thoughts from a few friends who were willing to provide me with their WCSs. What I find interesting is that they own it and it’s very personal.  

S. is someone I met through a widowed group and she has become a good friend. She shares a very personal regret: “My biggest regret is not having my husband be a stay-at-home dad. Knowing what I know now (that I would be a young widow), it would have been the perfect choice. We did not have our son for very long – about two years – when he died. I know he would have been happier as a stay-at-home father.”

My friend, A., also from my widowed group, laments that he and his wife didn’t travel more. They were saving for retirement when they planned to spend a lot of time traveling but sadly, those plans never came to fruition.

J. also wishes she and her late husband had traveled more. “I regret not showing him places like the Grand Canyon or Banff National Park. Those were things we intended to do in retirement, but he passed suddenly at 56. I had been to those places before I met him and it always seemed like we were saving for a house, college, weddings, etc., so we just didn’t get to it. We had a good life together and raised three great kids. I wish he could have known his grandchildren, too, but I believe he sees them from above.”

None of us knows what the future will bring. Planning is good to a certain degree for sure, but we probably should all take a step back and re-examine choices we have made and the effect they have had on us and others. Some had serious impact and were life altering. Others are mere blips in our memories. Would you change anything? Do you have regrets? Are you satisfied with that one decision or do you wish you had gone in a different direction? Was that hot pink satin prom dress with matching dyed pumps really the best choice? Should you have majored in philosophy or been more practical and chose something with real earning potential? I AM really glad about that stock purchase back in 2008. Buy low, sell high they say.

“Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention…” Frank Sinatra knew how to sing. There was never any trouble understanding what he was singing – because the man knew how to pronounce and enunciate his lyrics, an art lost on some of today’s contemporary artists, save Harry Connick, Jr. and Michael Buble. These words from his classic “My Way” elucidate the dilemma we all face as we look back on our lives wondering how it happened so quickly and how things might have turned out differently given one wrong turn or one missed opportunity.

For me, the year was 1969 August. I was winding up my shift at Howard Johnson’s and preparing to spend a few hours with some friends before heading home to be greeted by my dad who was at the ready to help me count my tips and roll the change. He was vigilant, I will give him that. Here’s a regret and a big fat Coulda and Shoulda – but I didn’t figure it out until my senior year in college. I always handed over every penny and was given a small pittance for spending money each week. My two sisters were a lot smarter. They skimmed off the top before handing their tips to the old man. What an idiot I was. Or maybe they observed my mistakes and acted accordingly when it was their turn to count and roll coins. I am glad to have led the way for them. Anyway, back to that night in August 1969. A few of my friends invited me to go with them to a three-day music festival in New York a couple weeks later. We would camp, bring our own food, and see lots of great acts. And tickets were fairly cheap, about $6 a day. Surely most of you born before 1985 have concluded that the quaint little music festival (which is what we thought) was Woodstock. I expressed excitement and enthusiasm to my posse, but inside I was a cauldron of anxiety, fear, and huge misgivings. I was just out of my freshman year of college, home for the summer earning as much money as I could to defray expenses not covered by loans and scholarships, while still trying to carve out a little time for a social life and being a kid. But my angst was rooted in several factors: I knew my dad would raise hell because I would miss several profitable days of work, he understandably had issues with me taking off to parts unknown with people he really didn’t know, and remember, there were no cell phones in 1969. So, he didn’t totally forbid me from going, but he made it clear that he would be very upset if I did, which in my mind was forbidding me, because he told me in no uncertain terms that he thought I “was a damn fool” for even considering it. In hindsight, he worked his magic, because he knew I wouldn’t go without his blessing. And so, I didn’t. Truth be told, after hearing how conditions were, I would have been miserable because back then I was a timid little mouse without an adventurous bone in my body. If there is no indoor plumbing within 20 yards of where I am sleeping, I will break out in hives. Add in the lack of preparation, resources, crowds that exceeded all expectations and torrential downpours with accompanying mud and I would have been miserable. Throw in the drugs (weed was about as adventurous as I got) and the crazy behavior and I probably would have lost my mind – remember I was a pretty sheltered, Catholic school girl with a crazy Irishman for a father, but in this case, my parentage came in very handy. So, I secretly thanked my dad, while blaming him to my friends. No CWS in this case. Thanks, Dad. You rock.

I always feel like I need to take care of everyone. Perhaps it comes from being the oldest of my siblings and it just sort of went with the territory, but it carried over into adulthood and includes every social situation in which I find myself. I cannot relax unless everyone is having a good time. I have refined the art of conversation to the point that I am sure many people just want me to shut the F up. I talk, and talk, and talk, and talk some more. It’s as if I am afraid there will be a lull in the conversation, and it will somehow be my fault. It’s that Catholic guilt thing and I believe a palpable response to my painful shyness as a child. I can take a simple story and weave a complete subset of intricate plot lines unrelated to the theme of the original story and somehow weave them into an amazingly fluid but also burdensome bunch of bullshit designed to rob the air of oxygen and tick minutes off the clock. I obviously need therapy. So, this is an ongoing issue that I need to deal with – a major Shoulda, dontcha think? I have come to realize, albeit very slowly, that there’s actual beauty in silence. I’m learning to embrace it during lots of time spent alone during this pandemic.

I have some personal regrets in my life that I won’t discuss here, but they have made me grow as a human being and as painful as they were and as complicit as I was in their occurrence, they have opened my eyes into the human condition and our frailties as imperfect beings. I have hurt people but cannot change the past. But what I can do is learn, understand, be a better me and forgive myself. It is also important to forgive those who have hurt me. I have learned that holding grudges is so counterproductive and just letting go of the anger feels great. It is liberating. I don’t think I could have said this even a few years ago. Saying it now is a huge step for me and it feels good. Not that Bob Marley is or ever has been my muse, but I came across a quote of his recently that were I still into cross stitch, I might do it up in bright colors and hang it in my powder room: “Open your eyes, look within. Are you satisfied with the life you’re living?” I have been asking myself that a lot lately. Must be this whole turning 70 thing. Or maybe I am channeling Bob Marley and the next time you see me I will be sporting dreadlocks and my Alexa will be playing reggae. We shall see.

I’m not finished bearing my soul. There are a few WCSs I should probably get out there for discussion among yourselves or just general derision and shaking of your heads in disapproval. I’m a mess, ladies and gentlemen.

Parenting. I think I was a good parent – for the most part. But my daughters, whom I consider my greatest accomplishment, might take exception to some of my methods – you know like locking them in the bathroom when they were fighting. Making them write compositions about their bad behavior. Limiting television. NOT buying them Cabbage Patch dolls when people were lined up for hours. Not catering to their dietary wishes – eat what’s for dinner or don’t eat. You get the picture. But I do wish I were a little less rigid in some areas. It took me years to simply just shut my younger daughter’s bedroom door so as not to see the mess. Instead, I wasted so much energy yelling at her to clean her room and get organized instead of simply appreciating her creativity, fun-loving spirit, and kindness to others. An unmade bed is not a big deal.  I could have made fewer lists during the summer months for my girls. Instead of so many chores, I should have added a couple fun activities to balance out the drudgery.

Typically, I have pretty decent fashion sense. I wear the classics, try to stay away from trends, and look appropriate to the occasion. But that one time, when I thought hot pants with some sort of attached skirt behind them would make me the belle of the ball at a company Christmas party, I had a serious lapse in judgement. That’s a big NO. At the time though, I was thinking I looked ravishing. Another faux pas in the clothing arena included hip hugger bell bottoms with huge daisies covering them. Paired with a bright yellow midriff peasant blouse and platform shoes, I was rocking it, I tell you. It’s when you look at photos years later that you lament: “What the hell was I thinking?” and “Damn, I wish I had that body now!” Good times.

Finally, I will end this tribute to “hindsight is 20/20” with a long-held regret that when I think about it now, I say to myself, “What the hell, girl? Why not, you idiot?” Parents, if you have any horny 17-year-old daughters reading along with you, now would be a good time to have them step away from the device, because I do not want to be responsible for their degradation and bad decisions going forward. Here goes. Why the hell didn’t I “do it” with my high school boyfriend? Looking back, I know for sure it would have been freaking fantastic – after the initial, you know, fumbling and shit, but we would have figured it out and had a grand old time. Sigh. But it wasn’t meant to be. Because, well, you know, Catholic, and fear of Irish tempered father. Greatest sex aversion method of all, bar none.

I have many more WCSs to add to my list, but perhaps for another day, another blog. I do feel oddly cleansed and renewed and will leave you with a quote from psychologist, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross: “It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth – and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up, we will then begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.”  I intend to do just that. Pandemic be damned.

Out of Sadness, a Precious Gift

May 31, 2020

Everything about Little Girl A is big. Her EYES are vibrant blue pools that literally sparkle in the sunlight. They are framed by lashes that, should she ever need glasses, may be problematic because they are so long. Her SMILE is a cliché in that it lights up a room. It is her constant companion and her most important accessory. She knows how to use it to her advantage too. She is the consummate charmer. But it’s genuine. She is happy almost ALL the time and loves everyone. I often wonder if her jaws ever hurt because of the perpetual position her face finds itself. Her PERSONALITY enters the room before she does. You know she is coming. She is not necessarily loud, but she’s definitely enthusiastic. She likes to be in the middle of the excitement because she most likely helped create it. She gives it her all. Her messy disaster of a bedroom is a testament to her going through life like a miniature tornado. She has things to do and no time to deal with unimportant nonsense like making her bed! Little Girl A is also a bit of a drama queen on the rare occasion when she’s not having a good day. Everything is a major production and the tears can flow on command when needed with this one. She’s a bit of a manipulator. Other endearing traits that make her who she is are her love of girly accoutrements like anything pink or purple, wearing a dress, just because, even if she’s bike riding with her buddies, ribbons in her hair, purses, jewelry and the like. She loves nail polish on her toes, but of course, it must be purple. She’s also been known to change her outfit several times a day and unceremoniously deposit the rejected item in the hamper even though it’s been worn for a nano-second. Her older siblings, especially her big brothers, adore her and are very protective of this little one. I am guessing between her daddy and their watchful eyes she and her older sister will never date.

This is the Cliff Notes version of my granddaughter, Little Girl A. (Parents, please explain Cliff Notes to those uninitiated youngsters) She, like all my grandchildren, is the love of my life. She is five years old. She has blonde hair, blue eyes, and a smile that goes on forever. But, the biggest thing about her is a HEART that holds abundant and limitless love. She is just kind, caring and empathetic. She has never met a stranger. She and her cousin of the same age are best friends. She gives the best hugs. She loves to cuddle, always has. She hears my car in the driveway and runs out yelling my name because she is so excited to see me. She will be in another room and suddenly decide she wants to find me to give me one of her famous hugs and proclaim, “I love you, Grandma.” She melts my heart. Every. Single. Time.

So, do I plan to devote a blog to each of my grandchildren? I try to never say “never,” but not likely. Let’s face it: all of us with grandchildren are similarly enamored by these wonderful reminders of why we raise our own children. They give us joy without the responsibilities and they allow us to not so secretly chuckle while watching them drive their parents crazy. I have a specific reason for writing this particular blog and its timing is no accident. You see, this sweet little girl is special on many levels, but one in particular and the focus of this blog. My granddaughter, Little Girl A, is adopted. And this will be the first and last time I write about it, because to me, the circumstances of her birth are not what make her special. What matters to me most is that this little girl is one of my grandchildren and I love her with every ounce of my being. A certain perspective and backstory will provide the needed history as to how she came to us. It also underscores a profound sadness coupled with an incredible feeling of joy at her arrival. It is a conundrum I struggle with frequently.

A little background. My daughter and son-in-law had often discussed adopting a child even after having one, two, even three of their own. They are compassionate, giving people and had felt the pull to provide a home to an unwanted baby. But life and frankly finances got in the way. Private adoptions are not cheap, given legal fees, medical bills, sometimes transportation costs, etc. And, like I said, they had no trouble “making babies.” I also believe, on some level, they knew there were so many couples who were not so fortunate and that they should not potentially take their place in the queue of prospective adoptive parents. And, happily, they realized that they would soon welcome sweet Baby J., their fourth child. Their lives were pretty happy and content and all the grandparents were ecstatic at the birth of their newest little one to spoil.  And then the unthinkable happened. https://widowspique.blog/2019/09/18/the-worst-day/ I have said this before: it does not get easier and I expect it never will. I will NEVER EVER understand WHY. But this blog is not about that day. If you haven’t read about that day, connect to the link above to better understand and gain a better perspective.

Several months after that most painful day, my daughter and son-in-law made the decision to revisit the idea of adoption. Those who didn’t know them as well as their close loved ones would possibly attribute this to their blinding grief and perhaps a misguided attempt to soften their sadness by “replacing” their son. Not so. They discussed their plans and feelings at length and truly felt that their family was not complete and they, kids included, had so much love to share and wanted to honor their son in heaven by bringing a new brother or sister into the family.

The process began. Lawyers, home inspections, social workers, writing a family statement, providing financial information, taking photos of the family, the dog, the home, answering personal questions on religion, their view of the world, what type of homelife they have, etc., were all part of a long and arduous process. And there were no guarantees. Because this was through a private agency, essentially all prospective parents are placed in a data base to which birth parents are given access. It is from here that the birth parents ultimately choose their soon-to-be-born children’s adoptive parents.

There were missteps and frustration along the way. Months, almost a year had passed since Baby J’s death. Finally, my daughter and son-in-law were matched with a birth mom who had chosen them. They were ecstatic that she was set to give birth in a few short months. They planned to be there (a city in the mid-west) for the birth and after a required several days stay, bring home their new son or daughter. Sadly, it was not meant to be. In hindsight, there were many red flags – missed doctor appointments, lack of communication, calls not returned, unsafe behavior, and other troubling circumstances and poor choices that ultimately led to the adoption not occurring. I know I think of that child often and hope that he/she is living a good life with loving parents. This was a setback that left my daughter and son-in-law very discouraged. Their attorney, however, wisely, and I think, prophetically, comforted them by telling them that these things happen often and that their child had not yet been born.

From my vantage point, I felt extremely helpless. My husband was beginning his downward spiral of what would ultimately be the final year of his life. I offered up prayers and encouragement from afar, but my primary attention and all my energies would need to be devoted to my spouse. We hadn’t seen our grandchildren since the early fall, when we joyfully drove to NC to welcome our younger daughter’s first child, and here it was February 2015. One evening, I was with my husband in a rehabilitation facility where he was recovering from his stroke. When I answered my cell phone, it was my daughter saying “Mom, when it rains, it pours.” I guessed right away that there was a baby. And this baby was due in less than two weeks! Everything fell into place. She was born in North Carolina, a few hours from where my daughter lives and because she was born in-state, she was able to go home with Mommy and Daddy the next day. My granddaughter had arrived! Little Girl A was here! She was perfect and the love we all felt for her was instantaneous.

I was chomping at the bit to get my hands on our sweet little girl but had to wait until she was about six weeks old when the whole family drove to Delaware over Easter break. By then, Grandpa was home from the hospital. I will be forever grateful for that visit. We cannot get that time back. It was precious time that possibly foreshadowed his passing in September 2015.

So that is the story of Little Girl A. Make no mistake, she is a much-loved child, as are all my grandchildren, but sometimes when I look at her, as happy as she makes me, I sometimes experience a tinge of sadness. Perhaps what I struggle with the most is that I cannot, under any scenario, imagine my life without her. I love her so much it hurts. I love all my munchkins so much it hurts. What is most painful for me is knowing that Baby J died. I would give anything to have him back in our lives. I will never get over it. But the stark realization is that if Baby J were still with us today, a happy, active, seven-year-old boy, we would never have our sweet little five-year-old girl who has my heart. It is a cruel dilemma that I face every day of my life. As the seventh anniversary of Baby J entering into God’s arms approaches on June 10, the one thing I do hang onto is a feeling of immense gratitude mixed with profound sadness. I will miss Baby J forever, but I am so very grateful to the young woman, who chose to give us the sweetest little girl with blonde hair, big blue eyes, a smile as welcoming as can be, an open heart, who likes to dress up and wear purple nail polish, and who runs into my arms and says “I love you, Grandma.” I can’t thank her enough.

Behind the Mask

April 19, 2020

I don’t know who I am anymore. I’m in a Coronaviral Spiral. I’m a Covid-19 eating machine. I have little or no human contact except for my Zooms and calls from people checking on me (thank you to my daughters and those friends who are aware that I just might run outside naked just to shake things up a bit – including my lily-white thunder thighs.) Just kidding. My mental state is fine, all things considered.  While I prefer the company of people, living alone for the last almost five years has given me some preparation and perspective for this government-imposed period of isolation, in the name of “flattening the curve.” I wish I could say the same for my curves which are doing anything but flattening. If I keep up my current love affair with the refrigerator, my ass is going to need its own zip code.

These last 38 or 549 days, but who’s counting, have given me pause on a lot of things. They have also given me the opportunity for self-examination, self-reflection, a renewed sense of wonder about things I never have thought about or knew anything about and have presented me with lots of questions about some really weird or stupid shit I never in a million years thought I’d be blogging about. But, did I see a pandemic in my future even eight weeks ago? Did the words “social distancing” have any significance in daily conversation? Nope. So here we are. The only places we can go are the so-called “essential” businesses, grocery stores, big box stores, banks, auto repair shops, and liquor stores. Liquor stores should be at the top of the list, even if they don’t sell toilet paper. Apparently in some states, the powers that be decided it was a good idea to declare liquor stores as non-essential and therefore, ordered them closed during this crisis. Apparently, they didn’t consult with the parents of toddlers, the parents of school-aged children, the parents of teenagers, people who don’t have children but have neighbors who do, people who hate children, people who behave like children, and people who just think liquor stores should be open and at their disposal at all times. I, for one, am grateful to live in a state that acknowledges the wisdom of open liquor stores and where one can purchase wine and beer in the grocery store. What a great way to multi-task.

Speaking of the grocery store, maybe it’s because I try to avoid going until I absolutely need to go (and on the off chance that I might be lucky enough to snag that elusive pack of toilet paper), but are you like me and find yourself uncharacteristically putting things into your cart that you never would have considered buying before? Is it that trendy FOMO? (Fear OF Missing Out) Who among us has always yearned for, but erred on the side of fiscal responsibility, giddily picked up a bag of organic seaweed snacks or the equally tantalizing crunchy seasoned peas? Now is the time! When will we ever have another pandemic in our lifetime to excuse such irresponsible behavior? I did hesitate at the soup section when I saw the attractive box emblazoned with the name “Miso Easy.” I had flashbacks from high school and needed to take a deep breath and step away. And to add one final touch of weird irony on my recent shopping trip during this time of world crisis and uncertainty, I spied the following in the frozen food section: the brand was Sweet Earth, such a lovely idea; the product was Borderless Enchiladas. Hmmmm, I think my 10th grade literature teacher would smack me in the face if I couldn’t pick out the irony there. Rest in peace, Sister D.

Home life during this period of uncertainty has taken on its own personality and from what I have ascertained, a lot of it revolves around food, either because we are all eating because we’re bored or we are turning to cooking – because we are bored. I am guilty of both. On Easter Sunday, I decided to cook a good meal – for me, myself, and I (three of my closest friends) and of course, Bruno would also be rewarded for sharing his home with me by benefitting from errant food placement. Note to self: Bruno and baked ham are not a good combination. Enough said. Suffice it to say, me, myself, and I appreciated the effort made on Easter Sunday as well as on other evenings when a genuine attempt to make a decent dinner to show me, myself, and I that I matter (so do me and myself), and that presentation is everything.  This is not to say that on other evenings, I don’t really care how me and myself are feeling and have a rice cake with peanut butter for dinner. And I am not above tearing open a package of Ramen noodles – ah, college memories! Or I will throw together some admittedly weird culinary combinations simply because they are nearing expiration and I hate wasting food. Don’t scoff until you’ve tried scrambled eggs with beets on the side; radishes, sliced cheese, and toast; Multi-grain Cheerios as your entrée and Peeps for dessert; the list goes on.

With nowhere to go, there are lots of options for entertainment from games, puzzles, reading, network television, movies, Netflix, etc. When I first moved to North Carolina last year, I discovered Law & Order: SVU. It’s been around for over 20 years and going strong. Now that I am an Olivia Benson freak, I can catch up pretty much any day of the week.  I am also here to bare my soul, throw myself at your mercy and beg you for your understanding. I started watching the Hallmark Channel. I know. I know. I scoffed and ridiculed the very same people who got sucked in. I promise you. I did not get sucked in, but I did become fascinated by these poorly acted, for the most part, poorly written, thinly plotted but I am guessing lucrative ventures for the network. So, please give me some slack. I attribute my viewership to research. I have learned the following: many of the actors are Canadian. They have a small cadre of actors, being recycled in and out of the annoyingly similar plot lines. You come to prefer certain actors. The themes are formulaic and cover just a few premises: ambitious girl returns to her hometown to save the family business, travels to a small town to shut down a revered family company, is hired to perform a service, write a book, etc. She meets a handsome protagonist. They initially clash. There may or may not be a third party, old boyfriend or girlfriend to create conflict. There is a lie or misunderstanding that creates confusion. About 15 minutes before the movie ends, the couple either has a fight, or fate inexplicably intervenes and it appears that the love is doomed and both crestfallen lovers part ways seemingly to be doomed to a life of cheap vodka, bad decisions, and tragically, without true love. Magically, with three minutes before the closing credits, they are reunited, all is well, and they share a chaste kiss, because in the Hallmark world, these two have never seen each other naked. Have I covered it? Hallmark is a very strange world is all I can tell you.

Many folks have used this down time to get organized, cleaning out closets, assembling photos into digital formats and purging their garages of unwanted items. Charitable organizations will be flush with stuff and hard-pressed to accommodate all the donations coming their way once the virus goes on its way. I, for one, an admitted clothes horse, have thinned the wardrobe considerably filling several bags for donation. Speaking of clothing, I have learned over the last oh so many weeks, that I have very few apparel choices each day – not by necessity, but by choice. Quite simply, do I wear the black sweats or the grey sweats? Do I wear full length or capri length? Do I wear a long sleeve or short sleeve t-shirt? And depending on the temperature, there is only one choice – my ratty, pilled, grey cable misshapen, I don’t care what it looks like, sweater. I have lost all sense of style and purpose. And honestly, I don’t care. It will come back. It’s like riding a bike.

There are days I don’t even look in the mirror. And to be truthful, there are days I don’t shower. My nail technician is going to need hazard pay. My nails look like talons and things are getting lost under them. I have tried to cut them, but I fear only a hacksaw will do the job. Writing this blog has been an exercise in the old hunt and peck method. I have a new respect for women of certain “professions” who wear their nails longer than most for certain aesthetic appeal. My hat is off to you. Speaking of a hat, I haven’t resorted to wearing one yet, but that day is coming soon. The hair is getting longer, difficult to manage, and of course, the tell-tale evidence that I might have a color indicating my status as a senior citizen, is quickly rearing its ugly head – see what I did there? So clever. I recently fired my new hair stylist and had found one who really listened to me, so I can’t wait to renew our new girlmance. This grey hair bullshit is bad for my mojo.  But to show I am not a total philistine, I did put on lipstick this morning before I went to the grocery store, but sadly I had forgotten that I wear a mask, so what’s the point? It’s a shame really. My friendly smile at strangers is now lost as well, because, it’s behind the mask. Behind the mask: I think I just named my blog.

Gratitude and Platitudes

March 16, 2020

The Widow’s Pique has been missing from the blogdom world for several weeks and I was convinced no one would notice. Who cares? It’s nothing more than an insignificant collection of ramblings from a semi-competent woman who can string together words on a variety of topics that hopefully resonate. Apparently, a few of you do care, and while I am appreciative of your texts asking if I am OK and where is the next blog, I must wonder if don’t you have better things to occupy your time?

I just haven’t been feeling it, to exercise a much over-used phrase. Some health issues need my attention, tax papers needed to be gathered, I went on a cruise, I prepared for out of town visitors, and various other things that needed my attention. Simply put, my heart was not in it. I was feeling blue. I have struggled with depression and to a lesser degree, anxiety, for many years, and I usually can manage it, but sometimes it smacks me in the face. Medication helps. Before I moved south almost a year ago, I was seeing a therapist and I recommend it. Having a sense of humor is also something I have honed over the years, in fact, when people learn that I sometimes deal with depression they are surprised, because I am “funny.” The reality is I think I use the humor and my “snarkiness” to help me get through, but also to make people laugh, because it does make me happy. I genuinely like people and I enjoy being with people. But there are also times when I am masking fear, pain and hurt. I am really letting down my guard here. Cue the emotional guitar riff or whatever music of choice here.

But before I descend into a maudlin, “woe is me” jumble of melodrama, I want to raise the level of discourse, because this is not about me. One reason I hesitated to introduce a new blog is the current reality in which we find ourselves. Coronavirus is a word that every human being on the planet has become familiar with and to some degree, has found his or her life affected by, in ways unthinkable just a few short weeks ago. It has given us pause and produced fear, anxiety, turmoil and ugly behavior in many cases. It has shortened our calendars. It has given new meaning to the perceived value of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Washing our hands is at the forefront of polite conversation, though it begs the question, shouldn’t this be second nature? Moms everywhere have been drilling that into their children’s heads since the dawn of time.

Everyone is worried. We don’t know what to expect. And we hope and pray for a quick resolution. One thing I personally hope for is that we, as a nation and as a world, can come together to help each other where it is needed, lend a hand to those unable to take care of themselves, and for God’s sake, can we please just be kind to one another? This is one of the reasons my policy on social media is to restrict discussion to puppies, babies, jokes, and funny videos. To me, trashing a politician or an individual’s stance on an issue serves no purpose, will not change anyone’s mind, and only serves to further exacerbate the vitriol. This might be the perfect opportunity to set aside differences and embrace our “sameness.” I remember two things my parents said (among many) to my siblings and me. My mom, in her sweet way, always found the good in others. One of her catch phrases, “We are all God’s children” was a stark reminder that we are truly more alike than different. My dad, was the realistic one and would give us his “slap in the face” dose of the real world with his “None of us are going to get out of this world alive.” He was right, of course. So, put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Seriously, as we all navigate this weird new reality, I hope we can find some joy and make use of our extended free time, look for ways to help and just be grateful. I will list a few of the things for which I am personally grateful, not just now, but always. I am eternally grateful for my two daughters. They make me proud every day. Not only are they accomplished young women; they are more importantly GOOD people who care about others, and of course they gave me my beautiful grandchildren. And what gives me great joy is that they love each other unconditionally, not only as sisters but as best friends. I am grateful to be living in my new home. Leaving the northeast for the southeast after sixty plus years was TOUGH. I put on my big girl pants and forced myself to step outside my comfort zone and the experience has taught me a lot about myself. I have made some good friends and I love my new Rotary club. Good people are everywhere. I am grateful for my dog, Bruno. His soulful brown eyes and neurotic neediness give me a boost when I need it. He is my love. I dread the day when I will have to say goodbye to him. I am grateful for wine, vodka, books, Howard Stern, and my birdfeeders. I will leave it at that for now. Gratitude is a soothing antidote to the negativity that sometimes overtakes me and all of us. I plan to visit it more often.

I know some of my friends are reading this and thinking, what the ever-loving F has happened to her? Where IS she? She’s gone all soft!!! Bring back the snarky bitch where she belongs. Calm down. I’m still in here. I am just taking a little breather and “social distancing” from my typical irreverent and jaded self in deference to the folks who are truly suffering from this terrible virus and out of respect to all the healthcare workers and those in positions of knowledge and leadership who are giving their all to end this scourge. I promise you, when this crisis passes and we return to some semblance of normal, I shall revert to my obnoxious, self-deprecating poor excuse for a human being, who will hopefully provide some enjoyment for you – when I’m feeling it. In the meantime, for the love of God, wash your damn hands!

It’s Not My Job, Man!

January 14, 2020

If you watched the short-lived, but charming sit-com, “Chico and the Man” in the Seventies, you met a young actor/comedian named Freddie Prinze, whose character, Chico, had a catch phrase, “It’s not my job, man” which he would comically wisecrack to his boss whenever asked to do a task he found unpleasant. It was all in fun, but it also became part of the social lexicon and seems to be even today. People simply didn’t want to do more than just what is expected, even if it will help everyone reaching for the same goal. As a sad aside, Freddie Prinze, like his sit-com, was short-lived. He died tragically, in his early twenties.

That said, this blog is a little late in coming, because number one, I was sick with a horrendous “bug” which I am pretty sure my adorable, but lethal grandchild gifted to me. Secondly, I had some other obligations I needed (read felt obligated) to tend to. See, that’s my problem, always has been. I have this innate sense of responsibility to others, that they need me. But sometimes it just gets out of hand. Because, you see, unlike Chico, I always feel like everything is my job. Make no mistake, I have always been a nurturer, someone who enjoys helping. As the oldest in a large – ridiculously large – family of ten children, I learned early on that I needed to help, simply to survive, and keep things on an even keel. I always had this sense of empathy, duty, and responsibility particularly for my mother. So, I think it came naturally to lend a hand where needed. So, throughout my life, I was the go-to person, the dependable one, who could always be counted on to get things done, to not disappoint, to rise to the occasion. That’s a big burden to shoulder and I never let on that I sometimes felt the burden wearing me down. I mastered the pretense of always having it together. In school, both high school and college, I was a great team mate on group projects. I would take my portion of the project and run with it. And, truthfully, I would likely absorb some of the work of some less than stellar participants. I served on committees, volunteered in the community and assisted the sick and elderly. It felt good and I was happy to do it. When my children were growing up, I was an active parent, possibly overcompensating, particularly when I went back to work full-time. Despite the many nights I would be exhausted, I gladly drove to their high school to work on the minutiae that defines the after-prom party bullshit. If I never see pastel tissue paper, pipe cleaners or Dupont Tyvek again, it will be too soon. And yet, I soldiered on, because I was afraid to say “no.” I am in a well-known international community service organization, which I absolutely love, but like most volunteer entities, usually about 15% of the people do about 80% of the work. But I want the group to be successful, so I continue to step up.

As time went on, I found that I was able to extend the range of my largesse to my humor and people skills, providing said proficiencies for fun banter and learned discussions to any social situation in which I found myself – whether I felt like it or not. Somehow, it became my duty. Call it guilt, obligation, sympathy, whatever. It was up to me to never let there be a lull in the conversation. I felt the success or failure of a gathering was my responsibility, which, when I am thinking clearly, is clearly ridiculous. And narcissistic. And almost twisted. Well, maybe not that bad. It’s not like I’m a mental case or anything. At least I don’t think so. Hmmmm.

I have some close friends whom I would do anything for and they the same for me. We have known each other for years and as the saying goes, we know each other’s secrets. The planning for this blog was already in the works when two of my close friends came to me with some troubling news meant for my ears only. That has become a pattern with me. A few friends use me as their sounding board and I keep it to myself, which a good friend does. I then offer my sympathies, advice or just an ear. I am happy to do it, but truthfully, it can sometimes be an emotional burden and in some cases will require my added assistance in other areas. Again, I am happy to do it, because I know they would do it for me and in some cases they have. After I talked to each of them this week, I alerted them to the upcoming blog and told them that its subject matter was mere coincidence and not written with anyone in particular in mind and to not get their panties in a wad….they both understood…and laughed. No panty wadding experienced. And neither has ever been a burden to me…except maybe that one time….

This brings me to self-care. My whole life has been one of noblesse oblige. I really can’t help myself. It’s my nature. It’s my nurture – thanks to my upbringing and education and my life’s experiences. I do it because I truly want to, but truthfully, I also do it because I feel compelled out of guilt and fear that it won’t get done. So, as the New Year begins – and the year that I turn 70, I am going to make a concerted effort to put ME first – not always, but sometimes. Have I mentioned that I have cancelled doctors’ appointments and other plans in order to take care of someone else? I am not revealing this to look for accolades, but rather to help you understand where I am coming from and this mindset I have. I have reached the point in my life where I am finally and painfully aware that my time in this universe is short. I want – I NEED – more time for doing things that I don’t have to explain to anyone. I have a finite number of minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years left to pursue what makes me happy and I intend to check at least a few off the list. This doesn’t mean that I am not going to be there for people. I can’t turn off who I am. What it does mean is that I am going to pay closer attention to how I am feeling and not ignore myself. I have learned that it’s not selfish to put myself first sometimes. In fact, it will make me a better friend, sibling, mother, grandmother, or simply stranger on the street. I saw a self-care quote that really spoke to me. It says: “You owe yourself the love that you so freely give others.” I do. I intend to start today. If I start feeling guilty, someone, please smack me.  

This Annoys Me

December 16, 2019

Do seemingly innocuous things just annoy the crap out of you for no apparent reason? Yeah, me too. There is a comedian named Sebastian Maniscalco, whom I saw in Vegas about two years ago. He was just becoming known on the national stage and I paid about $75 for my ticket. I laughed so hard that I had to ask the woman sitting next to me for an Advil because my jaws hurt from laughing so much. Well, now Sebastian has come into his own, as more and more people hear about him and watch his Netflix specials and go to his live shows. Case in point: my sister and I will be seeing him in March—suffice it to say our tickets are significantly higher than what I paid in Vegas. He is hilarious. Sebastian is young, mid forties, but with the sensibilities of someone much older. He has an old soul and appreciates the traditional behaviors of a time gone by and he gets IRRITATED at certain things and becomes quite vocal in his act. He’s an observational comedian who comments on the absurdities of daily living and makes it funny. As a matter of fact, his current tour is called “You Bother Me.” Aptly named. He doesn’t stand on convention, nor does he take any prisoners. He calls it like he sees it. I urge you to see him in person or check him out on YouTube. I think he is my spirit animal.

So, before Christmas arrives (and the reason I am a wee bit late with my latest installment of Widow’s Pique), I plan on dedicating this blog to Sebastian Maniscalco by providing you with a collection of my annoyances. And before some of you get your panties in a wad, your sensitivities in a dither, your feelings hurt, your stances on the state of the world in an uproar, or your sense of decency destroyed, PLEASE just stop and take a chill pill. This is a blog and as you all know, I have a large sarcasm gene and this is all in fun. My opinion means nothing except to me. So, calm the hell down and relax. Eat a Christmas cookie and read the blog unless you are so destroyed and insulted that you can’t handle it and must seek refuge in a gluten-free egg nog. I shall begin.

I am going to attempt to be as organized as possible because generally my annoyances tend to categorize themselves. Please bear with me.

Automotive

  • Pickup truck owners who drive like a bat out of hell (I learned this phrase from my Dad) or conversely drive, often in the left lane ten miles below the speed limit.
  • Still on the pickup truck thread, those with lots of bumper stickers which often don’t speak well of the occupants in terms of their gray matter. A cartoon character who is urinating on an opposing football team or whatever their enemy of the moment is–not funny–just juvenile.
  • Any of the following activities performed while driving: texting – just stop! Your life is not that important, you jerk, that you endanger all of us by texting your girlfriend that tonight’s the night—just stop! Putting on makeup: get up earlier and do it at home you idiot. In fairness, this is usually done while at a red light, but I have seen it in a moving vehicle. I hate stupid people.
  • Parking in handicapped spaces. WHAT gives you the right? WHAT is your excuse? WHY do you think it’s OK? And one final thing: you are a colossal jerk.
  • Parking in front of the store instead of in a parking spot. WHAT gives you the right? WHAT is your excuse? WHY do you think it’s OK? And one final thing: you are a colossal jerk. Unless you are dropping off your physically challenged 85-year-old mother, you are a pitiful excuse for a human being, and, oh yeah, a colossal jerk.
  • Tailgating and flashing your lights at me because apparently you are more important than I. So, listen up nimrod: speed limit=70; my speed=75. You’re not satisfied with that? Tough dingleberries, Jack! Go around. I am not moving. I hate people.
  • Luxury cars as a statement for your other obvious shortcomings. If you can afford a Maserati, have at it. I just don’t get it. I just want a car with decent mileage, no rust and no payment. Works for me. If you do indeed drive a status symbol please avoid the following: speeding past me with your “look at me” attitude AND the greatest sin of all, parking it in two spaces. That is a major asshole move and makes me REALLY annoyed.
  • Conversely, do not put a huge spoiler on a Ford Escort. It won’t improve your chances with the ladies or the cool crowd, I promise you. And it just makes you look extra douchey.
  • Fix your muffler, asshole.
  • People who blare music at traffic stops with their hyper extended bass that makes your hair stand on end and your ears bleed is BEYOND annoying. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE people, unless it’s oldies or ABBA; case closed.
  • And finally, is that extra twenty seconds worth it? Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT block the intersection. When in doubt, stay back. Nothing makes my blood get churning more in a traffic situation than when I see these idiots deliberately speed through the changing light just to avoid the red, only to cause a shit show for the people in the cross traffic. This is a totally obnoxious move and karma is sure to strike you somewhere down the line. Don’t do it. Use that extra time to check your make-up.

Television (a glimpse into the sad state of our society) and the Entertainment Industry

  • Kanye West: Every time he opens his mouth, I want to shut it for him. And yet, he’s a multi-millionaire, and I am not. Please be quiet, Kanye. You’re so annoying. And despite your protestations, you are not that supreme talent you think you are – except when it comes to being annoying.
  • All Things Kardashian – from the mother on down. Please be quiet. They all whine. They all speak in that supremely annoying “upspeak” and they all live in front of cameras. That’s got to be healthy for their kids. Yeah. And yet, they are all multi-millionaires, one is a billionaire, and I am not. And surprise, surprise, one of them is married to Kanye. Let’s keep spreading those annoying genes to the next generation, shall we? Be sure to teach those kids that conspicuous consumption is an admirable lifestyle.
  • Lori Loughlin: she really is clueless, isn’t she? And entitled. As someone who had to work my ass  off to get through school, I’m more than annoyed at her crap. And to plead not guilty? I hope they throw the book at Aunt Becky.
  • Another one who is completely clueless and whenever I see her, even on the newsstand (didn’t she jump the shark about 12 years ago; in fact, didn’t the expression “jump the shark” jump the shark a while ago too?) is the beyond narcissistic, controlling and obnoxious Kate Gosselin, who has somehow bankrolled having a multiple birth into a so-called career, irrevocably damaging her children in the process. This woman should be permanently banned from the airwaves, yet somehow there seems to always be a producer who comes up with a strange premise (Kate learns to basket weave; Kate has a colonoscopy) to add to her bank account. Annoying as hell.
  • Madonna and Johnny Depp. Annoying. Annoying. Annoying squared. From Madonna’s bad plastic surgery to Johnny’s affectations and destructive relationships, I am sick of them both. It’s time for them to retire from public life and poor decisions. But the thing that REALLY aggravates me about these two overrated celebrities? Their phony and contrived accents. Madonna wants you to believe that she is the lady of the manor with her undefined, yet grandiose delivery of the English word. She’s from Detroit! Give me a break! And don’t get me started on Johnny “I’m a Pirate” Depp. Have you seen his Sauvage by Dior commercial? Or as he pronounces it SOW-VODGE pause DEE-OHR like he’s an Earl from Devonshire in all his gilded glory. He’s a good ole boy from Kentucky. Don’t hide your roots, Johnny Boy. Let’s get real! You are both so irritating to me. Phoniness personified. Ugh.
  • Kraft Cheddar Cheese Commercials. The parents are intimidated by their children’s disdain for what’s for dinner (a lovely piece of salmon) by feigning nausea or the little brats’ refusal to finish their broccoli by saying “fine, we’ll sit here all night.” Instead of, in the first scenario, the parents telling the ungrateful little jerk who is writhing around on the floor to take it or leave it, or, in the second, telling the little snots, “fine, sit here all night,” the parents give in to the whims of the small people. WHO is in charge here? I guess I am old school, but commercials like this not only annoy the shit out of me, I think they do serious damage to the sanctity of parenthood. Children need to learn about boundaries and parents need to grow a pair.
  • Rap: pretty much enough said. There are some excellent rap artists, but anything that degrades women, uses gross profanity to the point that it doesn’t add to the “artistry,” really does absolutely nothing for me nor does it contribute anything worthy to the conversation. Annoying.

Trendy turns of phrase, clichés, and platitudes

I am becoming increasingly tired of people’s overuse of certain expressions and phrases that have become such a part of today’s vernacular that they almost sound normal when in fact they are a phenomenon created in just the last few years. Annoying as hell.

  • Journey, as in “I am so happy to be on this journey with my best friend.” May I release my nausea here? These words, often spoken at weddings are so saccharine that I want to hurl. Puh-leeze. Why not just say, “I am happy to be marrying this guy? He’s a wonderful human being.” The end.
  • It is what it is. Yes, it is. And so, it shall be. Until it was what it was. And hopefully will never be again.
  • Take it to the next level. This is so overused. It is used at work. It is used in a parked car between horny teenagers; you name it. All I know is, it’s annoying and vague. Just say what you mean dipshit.
  • At the end of the day. Oh, my God! (NOT OMG!!!) Please stop saying that! It makes me want to slap you! And I shouldn’t have to explain why. So, I won’t. Just think about why that expression is so irritating. Morning, Noon, or night, it’s so damn annoying.
  • Think outside the box. Another pretentious expression that deserves to be put back INSIDE the box and buried in the back yard never to be heard from again. Next.
  • In my safe place. If we all had a safe place it would be nirvana. But we don’t, so stop saying it. You are creating an unrealistic view of the world. Grow the hell up and accept reality. That is all. You are so annoying to me.
  • Everything happens for a reason. As someone who has lost several loved ones over the last ten years, I can assure you, no one wants to hear this. Ever. Stop saying it.
  • YOLO. Yes, you do. If you want that “once” to be shorter, use that expression around me. I will shorten your life considerably, because YOLO makes me livid. And annoyed.
  • I know, right? What the hell does this mean? When did this become acceptable repartee? Please make it stop – now, because I find you extremely annoying, and a bit of an a-hole.

Passive Aggressive and I am Superior to You on all Levels Behavior

These people REALLY twist my panties. And annoy me easily just by their mere existence. See if any sound familiar to you.

  • The svelte-bodied individual in the presence of the person who has struggled with his or her weight seemingly forever: “Oh I really shouldn’t eat anymore. I’m getting to be as big as a house.” Sweetie, you weigh 120 pounds. How dare you. Are you really that clueless or do you take pleasure in making those who aren’t slender like you feel even worse about themselves? You must feel so proud. Go take a selfie.
  • The fresh vs. artificial Christmas tree battle. Who really cares? I don’t think the artificial tree people really care. They just don’t have the dedication or desire to be out in the cold picking the perfect specimen, dragging it back to their car, getting covered in sap and needles, yada, yada, yada. To each his own I say. But some of the fresh aficionados take great umbrage at those who go artificial, passing judgment that somehow the true meaning of the holiday has been destroyed by these usurpers of tradition. Yeah, whatever. You’re so much better than me. And so annoying. This year my tree is an eight-inch Lenox statue. I’m going to hell, obviously.
  • Vegans and Vegetarians. I could easily be a Vegetarian. If I had to give up meat I could. I would miss my occasional steak, but I would survive, but there is no way in hell I could give up cheese. Life would not be worth living. But I digress. I am here to discuss those dietary elitists (in the minority I am sure) who look with polite disdain at the rest of us who eat animals. You know the type. You’re at a gathering and you pick up a plate and he or she will look at you and say “Oh, we are vegetarian/vegan. We brought some lentil stew and beet salad, which is delightful. We just feel so much better since we went completely meatless.” What they are really saying is “HOW can you even consider consuming something that used to have a face, a mother, and tried to get away. YOU, sir, are a MONSTER!” My answer would be, “Cool, more for me!”
  • People who make everything about them. These are the people who don’t really listen to you. They never listen. They nod their heads, but they are just waiting for a chance to jump in with their words of wisdom. Their lives and experiences are SO much more important. They are annoying narcissistic tools. They are also the ones who send out those obnoxious holiday newsletters all about how little five-year-old Johnny is starting college next year. We all know little Johnny will be stealing cars when he’s 15. Annoying.

Everyday Stuff

This will be a mishmash of things I witness and experience but cannot fit into their own unique categories, but because they often irritate the niceness out of me, I feel they deserve a mention in today’s blog. Bear with me please.

  • Hot dogs in 10 packs and hot dog buns in 8 packs (or is it vice-versa?) If we possess the smarts to put a human on the moon, why don’t we possess at least the logic to match up our dogs and our buns? It’s infuriating.
  • Verizon Customer Service. Enough said.
  • People and their carts stopping in the middle of the aisle at the grocery store. Honey, I realize that you are the center of the universe, but last I looked, it was your own little universe, not the one the rest of us reside in. Move over. Thank you, and while you’re at it, stop talking so loudly on your cell phone. I really don’t care what your husband wants for dinner.
  • Speaking of the supermarket – there are still people who write checks instead of using debit cards AND they wait until they are at the checkout AND all their merchandise has been checked when they decide to rummage through their handbag to look for their checkbook. My suggestion: if you insist on writing a check, please have it pre-written before you get to checkout. The only folks I give a pass to here are the elderly. They deserve it.
  • Not using your “ings” Please use your “ing.” It’s looking, not lookin’, eating, not eatin’, loving, not lovin’. This lapse in speaking (not speakin’) well makes my skin crawl. Please speak well and don’t annoy the Widow.
  • Similarly, PLEASE, for the LOVE of God, STOP, STOP, STOP, using the word “like” unless it’s to express fondness for or similarity to something or someone. Do NOT use it in any other way, because it is just plain WRONG, both grammatically and to my sensitive ears. And, if you have noticed a theme throughout this blog, it annoys me.
  • Let’s lump this group together into social graces: bratty, disrespectful children, pushy, entitled adults, condescending people, parents who don’t control their children in public and/or don’t engage them at dinner by allowing devices at the table. Put away the devices and have a conversation; people who don’t hold the door, say please and thank you or don’t wash their hands after using the restroom, people who are chronically late.
  • Fawners and phonies. These are people I truly cannot abide. Sometimes I think they don’t realize they are behaving in such a disingenuous manner. It must be exhausting. The nicest people I know are just themselves. It’s so refreshing. And not annoying at all.
  • Today’s fashion. Some is nice. Some not so nice. Here’s my take: Uggs need to go away. They are just not that cute. If you are over 40, you just should not wear them. I guess they’re kind of cute on high school and college girls, but once you reach a certain age, you’re just trying too hard. Sorry, my opinion. And leggings. I don’t care if you are a supermodel with glutes you can bounce a dime off. Cover the ass area. A nice long sweater or tunic, looks elongating and fashionable, paired with some nice, non-Uggs boots. The only time the butt should be out is at the gym. One comment on the popular quilted parkas with the fur trimmed hoods – why are the hoods so oversized? They impede your line of vision and are just too damn big. Why? Finally, the proverbially low-slung pants with the underwear hanging out – this has been around for some time. Come on guys. Show some respect. And stop being so annoying.
  • Some selfies are cute. I’m talking about the ones that are obviously meant to elicit a reaction – over and over again. They annoy me. And please don’t take them in the bathroom mirror. Enough said about that.
  • Disney freaks. These are the people (you know who you are) who think Disney is the place to go above all other destinations. Here’s a thought. Why not at least TRY another destination. It’s called expanding your horizons. You annoy me.
  • Elf on the Shelf. That little creep was a marketing coup for whomever came up with the idea. I heard someone say that in his day they called it “Belt on the Shelf.” The kids knew they had to behave or else. Now parents rely on this strange little androgynous spy who supposedly scares the kids into behaving a few weeks before Christmas. My attitude is one of pure annoyance. Big surprise there.

I have several other things that I could add to my list but that would be overkill, I think. I want to end this lengthy post with a few serious thoughts on some things that truly bother me, going way beyond mere annoyance. I am bothered by unkindness to others. I am bothered by bullying, especially to the defenseless. I am horrified by cruelty to children, the elderly, and animals. As we approach the holiday season, no matter what your faith or method of getting through life, I hope we can all agree that we are in this together and should just help each other when help is needed or ask for help. Never feel alone.

NOTE: I want to give a special shout out to my friends DB and KJ who provided me with some input on this blog. They annoy me sometimes, especially KJ’s hair, but they’re good people.

North and South

November 7, 2019

After my Rotary Club meeting this morning, instead of going directly home and changing out of my “nice” clothes into what could easily pass for something akin to “urban slob attire,” (I was wearing mascara and earrings after all) I decided to take care of a few items needing my attention. So, I took my car through the car wash. It was heavily coated in salt water residue after sitting adjacent to the ocean for a week and it badly needed attention. Then I decided a quick visit to the supermarket was in order. The market in question is part of a mid-size regional chain, family-owned, and its culture is decidedly quirky. I never know what to expect when I walk through the doors. What I do know I will always find are its constants: smiling faces, helpful attitudes, and people who are either excellent actors or who truly enjoy what they do. Everyone makes eye contact, says “hello,” inquires if I need anything and just generally has a helpful attitude. Among the more endearing features is the aroma of the bread department that greets your olfactory senses as soon as you walk in the door and the regular and fun announcements that “HOT BREAD just out of the oven!” both sure to cause a small stampede to the small, but well stocked bread counter. A few steps away are the bakery, deli, and produce, all overflowing with delectables. If you can escape without sampling, you are a stronger person than I. It is beyond tempting. It will have you in its clutches in seconds. There’s also a sushi chef on staff and you can literally buy your dinner because all sorts of hot entrees are ready for you to take home should you decide to forego cooking. It’s a mouthwatering dilemma. You can pick fresh herbs in any quantity, of course buy beer and wine – and grits – don’t forget the grits. This is the South, after all. I have never seen such a selection of grits. In this particular store, which isn’t large like the big chains, I am estimating there are at least a dozen varieties of grits from which to choose. One day, I will succumb and purchase. For now, I remain a Yankee.

As I wend my way through the aisles, being greeted by probably 90 percent of those I pass with a warm smile or hello, I am suddenly struck by the fact that I have been living here for almost seven months. I have transitioned from the north to the south. I am also keenly aware that there are profound and subtle differences between life in the north and life in the south. These are just my observations. They are not meant to cast aspersions or criticisms on either location. Each has its own charms and identity. So, as I have said before, don’t get your panties in a wad. This is a blog. It’s not the law of the land and will certainly not stand up in a court of law. We are all entitled to our opinions. For entertainment purposes only. Calm down. Isn’t that Taylor Swift’s newest single?

As I stated, the friendliness is what first struck me. I really am amazed at how everyone seems to have taken their happy pill. I have encountered one “snippy” individual who told me to “watch my truck” when apparently I was loading things into my car perilously close to his precious gun rack adorned manhood announcing air pollution inducing pick-up. I smiled sweetly; really, to those who know me, I AM capable of that on rare occasions, and said “of course.” But again, those who know me, know what I was saying under my breath. Insert snarky, no, really bitchy comment here. Other than that guy, I have encountered no unpleasantness. Coupled with that is the proverbial, “Yes ma’am, no ma’am” peppered into most sentences. Initially, I was a little taken aback, but I have come to love it. It’s really quite charming. The facilities people at my complex call me “Miss” followed by my first name but also use the “yes ma’am” etc. I asked someone about it and was told that it’s just the way it is. They are taught at home, in school. It’s a way of life. I will take it. We could use more of this attention to good manners in other parts of the country.

The accent. Some have the quintessential southern accent and some don’t. Lots of transplants here which explains the lack of accent, but even some of the locals don’t have one. Not sure why. I really like the drawl. Several of my fellow Rotarians have it and I enjoy it, y’all. Sweet Tea. It’s everywhere. I still drink unsweetened, but I hear it’s a beautiful thing; so I may have to give it a try.

One thing I have noticed, at least in the region of the south I am living in, is the property zoning, or should I say, lack of property zoning. It’s most noticeable in rural areas. Driving down a secondary road, you will encounter a lovely, upscale home in the $700,000 range. Travel a few hundred yards and you will see a doublewide trailer. To my knowledge, that’s not the norm where I used to live. It doesn’t bother me if it doesn’t bother them; I just find it odd. Coupled with this are “Thank You Jesus” signs. Not sure what these are about, but I am happy for them if they have something for which to be thankful.

Modes of transportation are pretty much the same as up north. What I have noticed, again, at least in my neck of the woods, is a preponderance of Camaros, Mustangs and Firebirds. Not sure why, but I am not complaining. Some of them are vintage and very well maintained. There are also lots of pick-ups which are customized with big wheels and other vestiges of southern living, including lots of bumper stickers with both political and other discussion inducing messages, which make for entertaining time spent at traffic stops.

The weather is better here, but it’s also a little bipolar. One day it’s 80 degrees, the next it’s 50. It can’t seem to decide sometimes. But I am not complaining. I haven’t experienced my first winter yet, but from what I hear, everyone here panics at the mention of snow, so I think I am good. As long as I have food, booze, my dog, and toilet paper, I am good. But let’s talk for a quick minute about the humidity. On some days, I officially have BIG. SOUTHERN. HAIR. It just happens. And the heat can be so bad that you literally must wait several minutes to let the car cool sufficiently before you can touch the steering wheel without sacrificing a layer of skin. Hotter than Hades I tell you.

I will be the first to pronounce that the bugs in the south are huge and scary and I hate them. Centipedes, millipedes, and cockroaches so big you can hear their footsteps on a bare floor – no exaggeration – are the norm here. I am not a fan, but I am proud to say that in the absence of my husband who was my bug-killing guy, I have put on my big girl panties and assumed the mantle of bug killer in my household. I am still terrified, but I get it done. Welcome to the South. They grow these critters big down here. I have noticed, still on the subject of critters, that the north has prettier birds. I have two bird feeders in my back yard and haven’t been able to attract much of a selection of attractive feathered friends. Still waiting.

There are many more differences and similarities to write about, but for now I will stop. I will continue to visit my neighborhood grocery, where they announce the twice daily staff meetings with “It’s show time” and hold them in full view of customers and end each meeting with the chicken dance – how cool is that? They also ask me each time at check out if I need help getting my groceries to my car. That’s Southern Hospitality for you! Or maybe it’s just because I look old. Hmmmm. Until next time.