Shame on me. Shame on you. Shame on us all.

September 13, 2021

We have all done it. None of us is immune unless we are close to perfect and that’s just not possible. You’re at a social event, your high school reunion, or maybe a family gathering seeing distant relatives you either feel ambivalent about or are related to by marriage. In other words, you don’t have a lot invested emotionally. Suddenly you find yourself sidled up to the bar or comfortably ensconced in a corner whispering with your bestie of the moment as you toss back some adult beverages. “Wow, did you see HER?? She looks like she’s been rode hard and put away wet! Someone needs to tell her that that’s not a good look for her. Did she NOT look in the mirror before she walked out the door today? Holy Mother of God, she looks like a whore in that dress. The years have NOT been kind! Has she heard of Spanx? Moisturizer? Sunscreen? Did she get her date at ‘rent a dude?’ Those kids of hers are such brats. I would never allow mine to behave that way. OMG!”

We all seem to feel comfortable voicing our opinions about people’s personal choices, lifestyles, appearances, possessions, political viewpoints, likes and dislikes, you name it. If we are in the safe cocoon of friends and the “non-judgment zone” even though that is exactly what we are doing, we feel empowered to cast aspersions with free rein and lots of well-targeted venom. The irony is that we will turn on our most obsequious smiles when in the presence of the individual whom we were trashing just moments ago, because we would never deign to be so mean to their faces. That wouldn’t be nice, would it? So instead, we fawn all over them and act phony. Keeps things simple, peaceful, and fake. Not that I am advocating hurting people’s feelings by making snide comments to them. I suppose I am trying to understand why we do it. Because we all do it. Some more frequently and viciously than others. Maybe it’s to make ourselves feel better about our own inadequacies. They say the biggest bullies are those with the biggest insecurities. But at least bullies are open about their disdain. The so-called silent offenders just do it among themselves because they think it’s funny and they likely believe it’s harmless.

Fat shaming is probably the worst. Fat shaming is a dangerous precedent that is noticed by young children, particularly girls as early as toddler age. Often without thinking we women bemoan the pounds we need to lose, the girth around our mid sections, our big butts, heavy thighs, whatever our offending body parts are. Believe me, children’s ears are acutely aware of everything, and the bullying begins early. It’s sad really when a three-year-old comes home from pre-school to tell her mommy that so and so accosted her with those hateful words “you have a big bubble butt!” Why should a little one need to even be aware of what he or she looks like at this point in life? God knows there’s plenty of time for self-loathing. Right now, let’s leave these kids to enjoy Legos and other innocent pursuits. But unfortunately, they are learning early to be critical of things they shouldn’t worry about and also they are learning that it’s OK to shame others, which is a deeper problem for our society. I have been subtly fat shamed and it’s not fun. For me though, it occurred as an adult. I was always quite slender as a child and young adult. Then life happened and the pounds overtook me. I could feel the disapproval when I got on a plane or into a booth at a restaurant or struggled to get out of said booth. But I used my sharp humor and self-deprecating attitude to deflect. It worked. But it didn’t ease the pain I felt internally. Then I lost the weight. Then life happened again with the death of my husband and other ancillary family issues. I gained back some of the weight, not a lot, but enough to make me and yes, others take notice. I like myself, but of course I don’t like the pounds. But I will never allow myself to feel ashamed of who I am, and I also will never hurt someone through words or actions due to their appearance. For the record, when my weight was at its highest and I needed to fly, as soon as I got on the plane, I immediately asked the flight crew for a seat belt extension. I did so directly and without shame, even would make a joke. I also always engaged my seat mate with the “well sucks to be you today, you get the fat girl. But I am adorable and charming and funny as hell.” The joke never fell flat and every time, I made a friend. Own it and it won’t own you.

Shaming occurs due to other triggers for the shamers. A lot has to do with simply not understanding the choices someone makes, choices as simple as a haircut or clothing. In college, for a short time I dated a guy with shoulder length hair. My father went ballistic. No matter that the dude was brilliant, getting his Ph.D. in English Lit, Dad couldn’t get past the hair. My mother, God bless her, could. She said three simple words: “It’s just hair.” I never forgot that. If we all approached life and our differences with an openness to the other individual, to look beyond the superficial, wouldn’t it make the bigger problems so much easier to tackle? Maybe I am being naïve, but I truly believe a lot of the world’s problems are blown out of proportion due to meaningless prejudices.

Passing judgment on parents with unruly children is a big one. We have all seen it – at the mall, in a busy restaurant, at church, or in a social situation – a child out of control, running amok, screaming, backtalking, ignoring his or her parents, being destructive, rude, petulant, you name it. And of course, we make assumptions and are quick to puff up our imaginary feathers and holier than thou attitude of our superior parenting skills and nod knowingly to other parents of the same ilk. The eye contact says it all: “My children are SO well behaved and would never do what that little monster is doing. My child is just perfect.” Back it up princess. Maybe your child doesn’t have autism. Maybe your child doesn’t have an endocrine problem or a chromosomal disorder or any number of deficiencies or issues that don’t come with a cheat sheet to readily explain to outraged onlookers what the harried parents and these special children are experiencing. So maybe we should just give them a break and instead of looking askance at them with indignation and condemnation, we could look at them with concern and maybe offer to help. Just a thought.

Making fun of someone or showing our disapproval either blatantly or through subtle looks or behaviors simply because they are perceived as not pretty enough, handsome enough, didn’t benefit from cosmetic surgery, orthodontia, dermatological assistance or had Daddy’s credit card to buy the latest fashions. This is just not cool. I am having a flashback to high school when loudmouth popular girl shamed me in front of multiple classmates for wearing the same dress multiple times at school events – sorry sweetheart, my parents had ten children; they did the best they could. As an aside, I know my and other large families experienced our fair share of side eye, snide comments, judgmental attitudes, even a little pity for space we occupied in the world. Too damn bad. We were fed, and very well I might add. We were educated – private school, thank you very much. We were clothed; not a lot of clothes, witness this paragraph, but they were clean, well taken care of and stylish. And we were taught values. And for the record, I had the best mom in the world. I don’t hold a candle to her. I miss her every day. By the way, I think I looked slammin’ in that dress, despite the fact I wore it a lot. So, I am sorry if it bored you by its repetitiveness, loudmouth popular girl. Bitch.

Shaming can be inadvertent and unintended to cause discomfort for the recipient. I know I have been guilty of it on more than one occasion. I do try to be aware of the words coming out of my mouth or the facial expressions this mug makes. I am definitely a work in progress. But I can say with certainty that I would never intentionally cause anyone pain and if you are reading this and I have, shame on me. Please seek me out and I will offer you the appropriate mea culpas. All of us are worthy of respect for who we are. I have a huge ass and I am proud of it. Shame on you if you think otherwise. Bitch. Let’s all of us do better.

“You can still love people even if they don’t believe the same things you believe or act the way you act.”

– Danny Gokey

Sing

Sing, sing a song
Sing out loud
Sing out strong
Sing of good things not bad
Sing of happy not sad

Sing, sing a song
Make it simple to last
Your whole life long
Don’t worry that it’s not
Good enough for anyone
Else to hear
Just sing, sing a song

-The Carpenters

Traveling, Tributes, Truckers, and the Trots

July 10, 2021

A few weeks ago, I set out on a trip to meet up with family to pay tribute to my cousin, Ron, who passed away in April. His life celebration had been postponed a few months because of timing and weather. He lived in the Adirondacks on Rainbow Lake. It was still cold and snowy up there and having it further south enabled more of us to attend and pay tribute to a truly remarkable human being. It also served as a long overdue family reunion of sorts with some of my crazy cousins whom I adore. We’re all getting older and some of us are beginning to show signs of aging and all of its accompanying afflictions. Not I, of course. Wink, wink. So, this blog will serve two purposes. First, I will talk about Ron and why we honor him and the life he led. I will also mention the family members who would be insulted if I did not. And then, I will sink into the depths of degradation I endured, bare it all, and describe the trip from hell that brought me to Frederick, Maryland, the location of the family gathering. It wasn’t pretty and I am giving you fair warning.

Ron was a big bear of a man. It was somehow fitting that he and his bride, Corinne, achieved their dream of moving to the Adirondacks over twenty years ago because of his love of the land, an area replete with bears and other wildlife and where he brought many Boy Scouts on adventure trips. He loved life and he loved people and it was never more evident than in his huge bellowing laugh and giant hugs. Those hugs. They literally enveloped you. If you weren’t prepared, you needed to be warned, because you might break a rib. And given his Slavic roots, his hugs were not complete without the kiss. That kiss. He was not afraid to plant one right. on. your. mouth. The first time I introduced my then fiancé to Ron, I may have “accidentally” forgotten to mention to him that Ron was a “kisser.” The look of utter shock, fear, and consternation was one for the books. One of my fondest, laugh-inducing memories involving Ron and my husband (other than “the kiss”) was when we were visiting in the Adirondacks staying around the corner from Ron and Corinne with my cousin, Bill, who also had a home there. It was getting dark. We got a call that Ron and my brother were out on the lake and the boat had run out of gas (something my brother had warned Ron about prior to setting out) So, I guess the plan was that Bill and Frank were going to “rescue” them somehow. Bill reaches into the kitchen drawer and pulls out two medium-sized, serrated knives and hands one to Frank who inquires “what’s this for?” Bill’s response: “It’s bear season.” Frank uttered a couple well-placed expletives and said something to the effect of “No way in hell. If there are bears, my ass is going in the other direction.” Too funny and luckily, the bears stayed away.

Ron was a lifelong educator, teaching high school science, developing award winning STEM programs, heading departments, working with NIH and NIST and later as an adjunct professor. Teaching was in his blood and his legacy has been passed to his only daughter, Michelle, who herself is an accomplished teacher with the same joy and light as her father.  She delivered a beautiful and uplifting tribute to her dad at the Life Celebration. No one could have done it better. Ron is someone we will always hold dear and our memories of him will always make us smile, because he always had a smile. This will sustain us when we are sad at the loss. I suppose for me, the one thing that I can’t forgive however is something I discovered the day of the life celebration. It was Ron’s allegiance to Sheetz. Seriously, Ron? What the ever loving hell? Did I not know you at all? Sheetz? Was everything I knew and respected about you a lie? How can you possibly call yourself a human being and espouse the sludge they call coffee and the pitiful MTOs they call sandwiches? I am going to need a moment because my whole belief system has come into question. It’s as if I don’t know who I am anymore and for sure I don’t know you or what you stood for. Anyone with an iota of common sense knows that the only establishment worth discussion is Wawa. Good coffee, clean restrooms, outstanding sandwiches, excellent service, end of discussion. Ron, I love you, but I’m a little upset right now. I forgive you, but you have hurt me. Please take some time up there in heaven to reflect on what you have done.

A few quick words about my other cousins. Some of them I haven’t seen since almost six years ago at my husband’s funeral. I suppose this is what our lives have become. We gather for funerals now. We all voiced our concerns that we cannot let this be our norm. We need to make every moment count. But life seems to get in the way. One cousin is dealing with some troublesome health issues that require frequent doctor visits. He uses a walker which is not pleasant to see. But as is typical for my family, his sense of humor is intact. When I said to him “what’s up with the walker?” his response was “it’s either the walker or I keep falling on my ass.” This cousin is one of four brothers, all of whom are now in various stages of “disrepair,” using canes, walkers, or stooped over with stenosis, etc. These are the same guys who at every family wedding would do a rousing if clumsy version of the YMCA. Always a hilarious highlight. I told them they should resurrect it at the next wedding with an updated version this time using their canes and walkers in a rhythmic version clicking and twirling and using carefully enunciated grunts and groans along with spotters should they fall. All in all, seeing everyone as we celebrated the life of one of the good ones was good for my soul. RIP Ron. And Sheetz sucks.

So, let’s turn back the clock 24 hours. The plan was to meet my sister and brother and families the day before the Life Celebration. We’d check into a hotel, have a nice leisurely dinner and enjoy the evening. I had a physical therapy appointment early that morning and planned to hit the road immediately after and arrive in Frederick in the early afternoon. It would be an easy trip – just 254 miles, at the most four and a half hours driving the speed limit, okay exceeding it a smidge, EXCEPT in Brunswick County, Virginia. Side note: never ever ever speed in Brunswick County, Virginia. You will be caught. You will be pulled over. You will pay a hefty fine. You will receive NO MERCY. A month after my Frank died, I shamefully used his death as an excuse for being distracted and therefore having a lead foot. Apparently, the officer had no soul. He looked me straight in the eye, with I swear the slightest sneer, said “sorry for your loss” and issued me a three-figure ticket. No remorse, no guilt. I think my ticket got him the microwave for that month’s quota. My predilection for speed is something that I don’t realize half the time, because I have been stopped twice in Brunswick County, but not lately. Now I am very aware when I cross into that zone of capitalistic opportunism and put my Camry into legal cruise control, about three miles over the speed limit, sweating bullets until I can escape. Now the other counties I confess that my cruise control is set just “a bit” higher.

So, back to the trip. I finished PT, stopped for some coffee and hit the road. As I blithely started listening to satellite radio and enjoying the fact that there was hardly any traffic (pay attention, the no traffic mention is SO IRONIC) I noticed a small SUV about six car lengths ahead in the right lane. I was in the left. This idiot apparently thought transporting two, very long canoes on top with no type of rack or any other mechanism to stabilize said canoes was a good idea. He seemed to have attached them with what appeared to be a couple of bungee cords. I’m not an engineer, but even with my limited reasoning abilities, I knew this did not bode well. It didn’t take long before bad things started to happen, seemingly in slow motion. Canoe #1 on the driver’s side suddenly began to slide forward and down impeding idiot driver’s vision. I instinctively began avoidance measures, and as I had stated, there was little traffic.  I braked, slowed and prepared to stop. I was more worried about the car directly behind idiot with the small SUV (makes for a catchy movie title, eh?) Somehow as the long canoe began to fall onto the road, idiot driver exhibited some remarkable reflexive action, pulled onto shoulder and jump out of car. Driver number two managed to veer around canoe pulling over to the shoulder and ran onto road to assist idiot with the small SUV in retrieving the canoe from the road. Did I mention that canoe #2 was beginning to slide off the roof at this point? I was, by then safely past the craziness and thankful nothing truly bad happened but wondered how the idiot solved his initial problem of getting the canoes from point A to point B, because clearly, his first plan sucked. All this occurred the first 15 minutes into my trip. Surely, the rest of my travels would be uneventful, right? Ah, such a sweet, naïve, unsuspecting lamb was I. Let the games begin. I should have carbo loaded because I was going into beast mode and didn’t know it. So, I cranked up the Motown channel, enjoyed the beautiful Carolina sky and continued on my way to Frederick. About 15 minutes later, I saw the first sign for the rest area in two miles. No worries. I didn’t need the rest area at this time but given my gastrointestinal “issues” I always like, (read NEED to know where the next one is — always) But, after two miles as I approached the rest area that I didn’t need, I did experience a pang of anxiety as I saw barricades and signage announcing that this particular rest area was CLOSED. Was this a harbinger of things to come? Were all subsequent rest areas on Route 85 going to be closed? All 124 miles on this stretch of Route 85? What if I had an immediate need, which, without being too graphic or detailed is my typical scenario. As I stated, I have “issues,” and these “issues” do not bargain. They are in charge. I am at their mercy. There is no negotiation. There is no postponing. There is no ignoring. There is simply acceptance, surrender, acquiescence, because I am never in charge. Never. I repeat: Never. Ever.

A shit show of bad luck was about to begin and there was nothing I could do but accept it. When you are at the mercy of construction, crashes, congestion, and your colon, you simply surrender. I am a mere mortal. I have no other worldly powers to rescue me from things over which I have no control. The things and events that were about to happen were a curious amalgam of the curious, ridiculous, the funny, and the “are you freaking kidding me???” Let us begin.

As I could have predicted, within ten miles of passing the “Rest Area is Closed” Rest Area, you guessed it: my innards began doing an Irish Jig while simultaneously humming a John Philip Sousa March, all the while my colon was taunting me with its evil gibes, daring me to outrun it. I have never assigned a gender to my colon, thinking it would somehow make it a living, feeling “being,” which it is not. It is evil incarnate. As the tiny beads of sweat began collecting over my brow as I saw the sign saying there was another eight miles until reaching my porcelain land of release, I began my deep breathing exercises. These, coupled with a type of light meditation, were not unlike what I learned in my childbirth classes. I focused as much as I could, slow deep breaths, watch the road, stay in the right lane, attempt, though futilely to ignore the growing anger in my abdomen and suddenly get very religious despite my years of not attending Mass. Please dear God, let me make it to the rest room at the rest area. Please dear God, do not let what we know my colon is capable of doing happen in my pants. Please dear God, have mercy on me, my car, my clothes, my underwear, my sanity. Please dear God. Please. And most of all, please dear God, PLEASE make sure this rest area is open unlike the first one. Please dear God. Just please. God heard me or just had a good laugh at my discomfort and suffering. The rest area was open, I bolted out of my car and waddled as quickly as I could in my weakened state into the building and without a moment to spare took care of business. You don’t need any additional description. Use your imagination if you are so inclined. Having a chronic gastrointestinal illness is no fun but writing about it is. Cheers. Refreshed and renewed I left the building to return to my vehicle only to be accosted by what could only be described as the spawn of Charles Manson asking me for money. I occasionally will give some of the downtrodden a few bucks, because even if I am getting scammed, I figure at least I have good intentions. Not this time. This guy was nothing but a creep. I said, “sorry, I don’t carry cash” and kept walking. Got into my car, checked my phone, took a few minutes to regroup and began to pull out. As I am pulling away, another panhandler, this time a female, who was better dressed than I, trots up to my window and motions for me to open it. I went against my better judgment and let it down about half-way. She gave me sob story #26 about how her husband lost his job and they need to get enough money to get to some town for the night. I gave her the same “sorry, I don’t carry cash” excuse and she informed me rather firmly that I could go back into the welcome center and use the ATM. Uh, no. See ya. I must have vulnerable old lady written all over me. I drove off, grateful that I wasn’t stabbed that day. I suppose I should have mentioned earlier that while I was planning to wear a lovely dress to the life celebration, my footwear was going to be well, not so fashionable. The reason I was going to PT and continue to go is that I have Lymphedema and am undergoing treatment – not painful, just uncomfortable, especially during the hot temperatures. The PT tightly wraps my feet and legs in layers upon layers of gauze and bandages and I wear lovely medical “boots.” I think some men with shall we say certain weird predilections, find them kind of kinky. Just sayin’. Walking is difficult and fraught with hazards. Good times. I am a catch.

So off I go again. Fifty miles later, another attack of explosive diarrhea, exhortations to the Lord, and a dead cell phone. This time, I leave the turnpike and find a truck stop which is always an iffy proposition. Again, the Lord heard my prayers, both in the “please don’t let me shit my pants” department as well as please don’t let me get murdered and let me find a phone charger. All prayers answered, praise Jesus. I think living in the south has changed me. And note to self. Truck stops, at least this one, have nice rest rooms. Plus there was actual hot water.

From here on in, once I left the truck stop the rest of the story is simple. What should have been a four, at the most five-hour drive, turned into a ten-hour drive. A combination of weekend traffic, multiple construction projects, and as Google Maps kept telling me, several crashes. Even the Express Lane was slow, that’s how pathetic things were. Even the Google Maps lady sounded stressed. There was a sense of alarm in her voice as she alerted me to trouble ahead. “Traffic is getting worse (Oh my!) Crash ahead (Oh my!) Practice caution (Oh my!)” I swear her voice quavered.  My legs were cramping, my back was screaming, and I was petrified that my southern regions were going to rise in revolt again as I sat in bumper-to-bumper standstill traffic. For those keeping score, I did stop again – three more times, but I was always able to reach my digestive salvation in the nick of time. I think I am going to start going to church again. Couldn’t hurt.

What I encountered on the road: a young father taking his adorable baby, likely eight months old out of her car seat and walking along the shoulder with her. Yes, folks, that’s how bad it was. We were stopped. At one point, I was looking at my cell phone and didn’t realize that traffic had moved – twelve feet – and the jack wagon behind me beeped his horn at me. I don’t know what that extra twelve feet meant to him, but I hope beeping his horn made him feel manly and somehow increased his testosterone level that day. Bite me asshole. And then there was the other asshole, among the thousands I am sure were on the road that day, who when traffic was moving, was doing the “I’m a classic tool” dance with his Ford sedan. Speeding up, changing lanes at breakneck speed, darting back and forth between lanes, tailgating, you know the type. First of all honey you’re driving a Ford. It’s not a Maserati. Nobody cares. This is not to cast aspersions on Fords or the people who drive them. It’s just in this particular case, the jerk of the moment happened to be driving one.  We all witnessed several crashes as reported by Google Maps; fortunately, from my vantage point none appeared to be serious or life threatening. The last eighty miles I began talking to Siri as if she were human. Hey, when you’ve been stuck in a car for close to ten hours your mind starts to play tricks. I was so over I-95, I was ready to leave my car by the side of the road and hire a hot-air balloon, an irrational plan, but I.was.done. So I asked Siri to get me to Frederick the quickest route possible other than I-95. She instructed me to get off at an exit three miles down the road and I had a relatively easy drive the rest of the way to the hotel.

My intention the next day was to leave after the luncheon following the life celebration to head back to North Carolina. When I hit more traffic, nothing as bad as the previous day, but enough to tire me out and my eyes became heavy and I realized how dangerous that could be I stopped for the night and after three attempts, found a hotel and slept like a baby. And by digestive system the next day on the way home was remarkably quiet. Praise the Lord. I should mention when I arrived home and exited the car, I reached into the backseat to retrieve my bag. At that very moment, a large bird flew overhead and deposited his lovely, difficult to remove white excrement on my Camry leaving my roof, window and door well represented in the assault. I was fortunately spared. The metaphor was not lost on me. What a weekend. Shit happens, I guess.

Time is a Four-Letter Word

May 24, 2021

The last few weeks have caused a jumble of emotions for me. I am still trying to sort things out and understand why things happen the way they do. And I doubt I will ever know, because knowing why is not in my wheelhouse. I am, after all, a mere mortal. The unfolding of events and the impact they have on my friends, loved ones, acquaintances and people I don’t know have hit home for me in a palpable way. The “stuff” that’s occurred has been a kick in the proverbial teeth and has given me pause about so many things. First, let me tell you about my friend, Patrick. He died last week. He was handsome, sensitive, kind, selfless, and brooding, despite his friendly, smiling demeanor. He was only 32. And he was an addict. He had been successful at being clean for several years and was working hard at staying that way. For some reason, he and I connected and he saw me as a mother figure. We shared some pretty heavy conversations and I hope during the relatively short time I knew him (he was one of the first people I met when I moved south two years ago) that I added something to his life. All I know is that when I heard the news of his passing, I was devastated and unrealistically wished that somehow I could have done something to prevent his tragic choice on the last day of his worldly life.  For now I can just look at old texts and photos and smile. I am glad Patrick was in my life. His life mattered. It mattered to me and I will never forget him. Unfortunately, my gene pool and that of my husband is filled with people, living and deceased, who are possessed of addictive personalities and many have struggled with substance abuse. I pray every day that those who continue to fight their demons can find the strength and resolve to win the battle, to wake up every morning and know that “TODAY I am going to win.”

I have heard from other friends and family who have lost loved ones in the last month and I have extended my sympathies or condolences or whatever words of comfort that feel so incredibly inadequate in easing the pain of loss. It’s really all we have, but it’s a gesture and these gestures actually mean a lot. I know because I have experienced it first-hand. I urge anyone who is hesitating – DON’T. Life is just so damn precious.  A friend found out the hard way that she and poison ivy are mortal enemies. She is finally rounding the bend of a severe reaction, just after having major electrical damage to her home after a storm. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger eh? All I could do, as a friend, was offer assistance, if needed, and frequent encouragement. I hope it helped. For me, my challenges the last month pale by comparison: four-figure car repairs, three-figure veterinarian bill and another estimated close to four-figure veterinary procedure, and then my dentist tells me with that concerned look, which I am convinced is taught in dental and medical schools, that I need to see a periodontist. (Maybe it’s time to master the art of gumming my food.) As I reflected on these happenings, never bemoaning the fact that I chose to spend my career in the non-profit world, but still doing the math and I wondered at least a little, what might have been had I enjoyed a more lucrative field during my peak earning years.

One thing that my friend, Patrick, used to say to me when I would put on the mom hat and chastise him for being an idiot over some stupid behavior, was the much-used cliché, “You only live once.” Despite his untimely death, I know he was on to something. And while I have been thinking a lot about my life since I turned 70 last year, lately I have really been honing in on it. What do I want to do with what’s left of my allotted time? LIFE. It’s a simple four-letter word that speaks volumes and it covers so many things. It’s not about how big your bank account is or how many pairs of shoes you have or what your zip code is. It’s about your existence. LIFE. It’s about how you choose to spend your TIME, a finite grouping of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years. It’s how you choose to live and spend that time. Will you be a solitary soul or will you seek out a kindred spirit? Will you marry? Stay single? Will you have a family? What will you do that gives you joy?

For me, it’s all about time. I don’t want to waste any more time. If I had a bottomless bank account, I would travel the world, with my high school friend, Joanne, as my guide. She is my hero. But since I don’t, I plan to make it a point to take at least a few trips a year. My girls cruise is already booked and my feelers are out for another trip in the not so distant future. I cannot sit at home and waste my time. I am not a television person – unless I need to fall asleep. I plan to continue seeking out new projects with my Rotary Club. Helping in my community gives me a sense of satisfaction. What I won’t do anymore is stress over things which I cannot control. I find that when I worry about stupid shit, it really affects me physically as well as emotionally and when people in my life do the same, it puts me in a bad mood. Think about it. In the overall scheme of things, does it really matter if there’s a place for everything and everything in its place? Do you HAVE to have the latest fashion and designer purses? Doesn’t the $8.00 bottle of shampoo do the same job as the $30.00? Be honest. Will you be remembered for that fancy car you drove or more for the fact that you took the time to pick up the phone and call someone who might need a kind word?  I am purging “stuff” out of my life. I have enough clothes, shoes, purses, jewelry, household gadgets, artwork, etc. It is such a feeling of freedom to relieve myself of all the crap that doesn’t mean as much to me as it used to. And it frees me up to spend my time on me and the people I care about, especially my grandchildren who are growing up before my eyes.

Which brings me to the physical me. I look in the mirror every day. I see a 70-year-old woman who isn’t grotesque by most standards, but in all honesty, I can acknowledge that time hasn’t been kind in some areas of my physical being. There are obvious indications that gravity has reared its ugly head. I have bags under my eyes and bags over my eyes that I suspect any day will overtake my eyelids and drop down to my cheeks. My ass is the size of Rhode Island. My granddaughter loves to jiggle my upper arms. My massive heaving bosoms are kept aloft by virtue of well-made bras with seemingly indestructible underwires. Sorry for the visual. All I can tell you is that if said underwires suddenly failed and my “girls” were to become unfurled, chances are they could take out a small child. My stomach is beyond help. No number of sit-ups will flatten this gelatinous mass of flaccid flesh. My fourteen chins are here to stay. Would I ever consider plastic surgery to erase what time has wrought? In a word, no. I recently downloaded Justine Bateman’s book, “Face – One Square Foot of Skin.” She lays bare the hypocrisy in Hollywood and the unnerving pressure women “in the industry” experience on a daily basis to fool Mother Nature by regularly going under the knife. I personally could not do it. Altering my face to the point that the skin is so tight that it’s unrecognizable is some scary shit in my opinion. If it makes you happy by all means go for it. Bateman makes the case for just embracing the natural aging process. And she has faced much criticism and bullying for doing just that, with some cruel comments about how “awful” she looks. People can be so unkind. And the obsession with weight is out of hand. I don’t want my granddaughters worried about numbers on a scale. You would be surprised at how much they and other kids their age pick up when they overhear adult conversation. The self-deprecating comments about one’s weight—it makes an impression and sometimes a lifelong obsession. Instead of subtracting time, I am looking to add time to my life. I try not to eat bread or sugar, mainly because they make me feel sluggish, not because I want to weigh a certain number. As for plastic surgery, I wouldn’t object to maybe a little microdermabrasion or a chemical peel now and then. But, there will be no cutting and tugging and lifting anything on this old girl’s visage. Take it or leave it. I’m proud of where this face has been. Plus, I don’t want to waste time. I want to use my TIME well. I want to LIVE my LIFE.

To my friends and loved ones who have experienced loss these last several weeks, I am sorry. To my friends and loved ones dealing with misfortune or illness, I am thinking of you. All these things are a reminder that time stops for no one. They are a reminder that none of us can predict the future. They are a not so gentle prompt that NOW is the TIME to LIVE your LIFE. So, I for one am getting rid of the things in my life that are unnecessarily tying me down and keeping me from utilizing MY TIME to its fullest potential. This may or may not include people too. I am weary at being the person on the giving end often not being reciprocated. Not a complaint, just an observation. Perhaps it’s time for me to divest myself of folks who don’t make time for me. I know on whom I can depend and whom I can’t. It’s OK. Just saying it is therapeutic. TIME’s a wasting. I need to LIVE my LIFE. Because as proven by my friend, Patrick, whose life ended at age 32, there is just never enough time. You only live once.

Snippets

April 8, 2021

Do you have recurring dreams? I have two that intermittently wend their way into my psyche – and they make no sense to me at all. I’m pretty sure that’s their purpose; but more about them later. I decided to use this blog to discuss what I like to call the many “snippets” in my life, little moments that I can’t shake, that I remember for whatever reason, often at the most inopportune times. Some are obvious in that they represent seminal moments and predictably have shaped who I am and who I have become. Others are simply fragments of time that happened to me, little occurrences that, inexplicably, have stuck around as little reminders of my past. To me, they have no real significance, yet I remember them again and again. They are my snippets. Other memories, which take up more than a few minutes and traverse an abiding intrusion on my time, I have decided to call my “snuppets,” because they are larger than a snippet, but equally hard to understand in terms of why they are such a part of my mind and soul. Don’t bother checking, snuppet is not in the dictionary. I have considered delving into the writings of Drs. Freud and Jung to see if any of what I am experiencing has an actual name or condition, or if I am, as I fear, just simply weird. So, if you’re game, bear with me on this review of my snippets and snuppets. I will try to make it snappy. None of this will be in any type of chronological order. It’s not supposed to be. That would make too much sense.

Snakes are scary.

I had seen the snake a few days earlier. He had slithered into the garage. Any self-respecting husband would have killed the MFer. Not my self-respecting husband. He simply gently guided him out of the garage. A few days later, as I blithely walk inside the house from the garage, there he is half coiled, half upright, looking at me from a doorway with those beady eyes full of attitude as if to say “you didn’t expect me to stay away did you?” They say adrenaline provides one with an exceptional boost of strength. I am here to tell you it’s true. I dropped my purse and keys, with my left hand grabbed the railing and with seemingly the strength of a bodybuilder somehow flipped my terrified self around the corner and up nine steps in what I swear was one leap – at least that’s what my recollection was. A neighbor rescued me and took care of the errant reptile. I think this story qualifies as a snuppet. It needed to be told. I still quiver when thinking about it.

The pain of losing the ones you love never goes away.

I have lost both my parents (expected), two brothers, one at 27, the other at 45, my husband and my grandson. I think of them all and have specific memories/snippets about each constantly. I have a particular “Michael Moment” when I think about my brother who died of leukemia at age 27. Whenever I reach a certain intersection, without fail, he comes rushing to mind and invariably I will have a rush of memories, shed a tear as I remember a conversation, etc. I don’t know why. It’s sad but it’s also comforting and it does help with the mourning process. A “sub-snippet” that still kicks me right in the gut was the phone call from my daughter telling me through wrenching sobs that my grandson had died. I will never forget the anguish in her voice and I will never get over the sorrow of my husband questioning why God took that baby instead of him. It was a pain like no other. This snippet is replayed over and over. And it sucks. And I cry every.single.time.

Was I destined for prison or hell?

Another snuppet. Picture this if you will: I was four years old. We were living in Manhattan and I was supposed to be napping but what I was really doing was surreptitiously chewing a piece of Dentine gum and hiding the rest of the pack under my pillow. It’s pretty well known that four-year-olds are not exactly sophisticated in the criminal behavior department. You see, I had stolen, yes stolen that pack of gum earlier that day at the neighborhood market while out with my mother and two siblings. When my eagle-eyed mommy noticed my fidgeting and confronted me, I folded like a deck of cards with the ensuing tears and the dreaded “wait until your father gets home.” (As an aside, I am proud that I never used that threat with my kids. They were equally afraid of me as their father.) So, Daddy comes home. Mommy apprises him of my dastardly deed, and I am sure that I will be spanked, dinner will be withheld and no cartoons for me. What other punishment would I face? Little did I know that I would be tested to within an inch of my little four-year-old life. It would be a frightening prospect that would scare this little girl straight. Come on people. It was a nickel pack of gum for God’s sake. Pay attention to the word “God.” So, off we go to the grocery store to confess to the manager and to return the opened package as well as a nickel out of my little piggy bank. I was appropriately contrite and solemn. We left the market and began to walk home when suddenly, Daddy spied a police officer on the corner. He chose to stop and tell him of my evil deed. Mr. Police Officer was suitably horrified and explained to me in his stern manner that every criminal sitting in prison started somewhere, maybe just like me – with that one little pack of Dentine. I listened intently, but dry-eyed. I was thinking, “OK, I can get through this. We’re almost home.” Not so fast, little one. We were half a block from home when Daddy said, “I want you to tell Father What’s His Name what you did this morning.” This is when the hysterics ensued. I begged, cried, pleaded, “PLEASE DADDY, I learned my lesson, PLEASE DON’T MAKE me!!!!!” I was traumatized. Of course, Daddy, the stubborn Irishman, was undeterred. He dragged my screaming crying ass up the steps of the church where I had to tell Father What’s His Name my terrible sin in between my hiccups, snot, tears, gasping for air and general mental distress. Today I have TMJ and can’t chew gum at all, but I still have this damn snuppet. Ugh. Thanks, Dad.

Was I invisible or just insignificant?

Most people who meet me in adulthood refuse to believe that I am basically shy. I was painfully shy – withdrawn – as a child. I was so ill at ease that I would do everything I could to escape scrutiny. My comfort zone was being a helper – to my mother, teachers, neighbors, siblings. I was not comfortable in social settings, in my own skin. Conversation with adults and peers was painful. I just did not have the tools to master the skill. Today, you cannot shut me up. I am not sure where or when I turned the corner. Maybe I needed to grow up – or experience a few unpleasant moments that have since manifested themselves into my basket of snippets that continue to remind me of who I once was. There was that time when I was three years old. This was before we were living in Manhattan. We were living in the Finger Lakes region in Waterloo, NY. I even remember vividly what I was wearing – a red and navy plaid two-piece toddler ensemble, very fashionable I am sure, along with complementary red sneakers. I was leaning over my mother’s shoulder as she was feeding my newborn sister. In hindsight, I am guessing my mom was exhausted and urged me to go play across the street with my “friend,” Cindy. Cindy was the Alpha in the relationship, and I was her willing lapdog. She had beautiful blonde curls and I worshipped her. So, I blithely skipped across the street to visit my queen. I knocked on the door, giddy with anticipation. Cindy’s mom answered the door, alerted Cindy to my arrival and I waited outside preparing to soak up the greatness that was Cindy. Nope. Nope. Nope. Cindy sashayed to the door in all her four-year-old perceived haughtiness, stared down at me as if I were dog excrement, and told me in no uncertain terms that she was playing with so and so and she didn’t like me anymore and proceeded to slam the door in my face. What makes this story all the more pathetic (I was such a loser) is that my mom witnessed the whole sad scenario from our doorway. I stood there for what seemed like an interminable amount of time just staring at the door and shifting my weight, thinking I suppose that somehow, my Queen would have a change of heart and that I was just dreaming when I heard her say that she didn’t like me anymore. Surely this wasn’t happening. Years later my mom told me how she wanted to rush over and hug me, because I looked so sad and pathetic. What a loser.

Then there was that one Christmas. I was about nine years old. Some of my friends have heard this story. But the pain remains, and it bears repeating. Certain slights that have morphed into snippets, or in this case, a snuppet, leave a mark that smarts. I think I may have mentioned this to my therapist once or twice as well. I remember it well. It started in August. I told my mom that all I wanted for Christmas was a Patty Play Pal doll. For the uninitiated, a Patty Play Pal doll was a life-size doll which could wear clothing the average two to three-year-old could wear. I dreamt about the one I wanted. She had honey brown long, straight hair with bangs. She had freckles. She was so cute. I would be her nurturing Mommy. We would have a magical relationship. There were other PPP dolls, but honey brown hair was the one for me. Despite being from a large family, I was confident that my wish would be granted, because my parents were good about providing us kids with a good Christmas each year. Fast forward to December 25. We all waited with giddy anticipation to enter the living room where Mom and Dad and Santa had dutifully arranged all the gifts into well-organized piles around the tree. When we were finally permitted to enter, I turned the corner and saw with joy that my wish had been granted. There she was! Patty Play Pal with the beautiful honey brown hair stood in the corner in a pink and white pinafore waiting for me to embrace her! I was filled with joy as I ran towards her! In fact, there was another PPP too, her sister with short curly blonde hair, I suppose for my middle sister, six-years-old, who may have, in passing, mentioned to Mom, that she wanted the doll for Christmas too. Wait! What were those words I was hearing? “That’s not for you, dear. Your gifts are over here.” My mother motioned to a gift area on the other side of the room. But, there must be some mistake. There was no Patty Play Pal doll here. Instead, there was a record player, which apparently was deemed more appropriate. MY Patty Play Pal was given to my three-year-old sister, who was understandably over the moon with happiness. How could I squelch her joy by making a scene? So, I kept my mouth shut. I was devastated. No one ever knew. I hated confrontation and I didn’t want to cause trouble. But it still haunts me. Hence it is part of my snippets and snuppets. Sigh. I never got over it.

A quick snippet. My parents were entertaining some relative(s), whom I don’t recall. It was chaos as usual. We were grilling steaks, which was a treat for sure. The food was getting passed around and somehow, I kept getting bypassed because I was helping Mom with the little kids. I never got any steak or potatoes. The only thing left was some tomatoes and lettuce. And I was starving. No one noticed. I think I am starting to sound like a martyr. Stop it.

My first and only experience as a bully – and it changed the course of my life.

All the studies on bullying suggest that the bullies are in pain, have been bullied themselves and are insecure. I am certainly not an expert, but from my brief time as a bully, I think I can safely say that it’s true. When I started high school, I was still suffering from shyness and insecurity. I was a total dork – skinny as a rail, braces, no discernible sense of style, limp hair, zits, and no social skills. So, where do I go to high school? That’s right: an exclusive, upscale all-girls, Catholic school attended by many upper crusty young ladies. I obviously was not one of them. I was not to the manor born. I was a poor schmuck from the burbs – and did I mention I was a total dork? But, I must say, I for the most part enjoyed my time there – for the most part. After four years, I managed to carve out an existence, make my mark, find a group of good friends and get a good education. It was difficult in the beginning, but I managed. It was that whole insecurity, shyness thing. One day in the cafeteria, I demonstrated the classic bully behavior. I chose to make myself feel better by victimizing someone weaker than myself. It was almost too easy. She sat alone as she often did. She was hunched over, eating her lunch, her eyes downcast. She was likely very similar in her demeanor as I, insecure and shy times ten. Physically she wasn’t attractive by common standards – swarthy complexion, the dreaded unibrow, hairy arms and legs. And her uniform had a huge ink stain on the blouse portion. As we stood in line next to her table, which is a shy kid’s worst nightmare, being forced to be the center of attention, I felt and heard the words coming out of my mouth. I don’t recall exactly what I said, but I know they were sarcastic, snarky, unkind, and hurtful. And they were designed to embarrass her. And to make me feel important. Well, let me tell you, it didn’t work. In fact, before the words even crossed my tongue, I had instant regret. I KNEW it was wrong. I KNEW they were sarcastic, snarky, unkind, and hurtful. And I KNEW they were designed to embarrass her. And they didn’t make me feel important. They made me feel awful. They made me feel like a jerk. But the thing that surprised me the most was her reaction. Her reaction? Her reaction was NO REACTION. She just kept eating her sandwich as if nothing had happened. Was it because she was used to this type of treatment and had learned to simply tune it out? I will never know. But what I do know is that that moment in time changed me forever. It taught me so much. It taught me to treat others as I wish to be treated and to be empathetic. I raised my children with the Golden Rule as their standard and to stop and count to ten before they consider treating someone badly. That day changed me forever. (If any of my classmates from high school want more information, contact me privately)

Keep reading. That day in the cafeteria didn’t end my “relationship” with that young girl. Who knew that irony was going to kick me in the ass sixteen years later? John Belushi had just died. My second child was sixteen months old and had been admitted to the hospital with a serious bacterial infection and was dangerously dehydrated. As the nursing staff and various physicians were ushering me out of the room to prepare to hook my screaming daughter up to IV fluids, I am approached by the attending physician who was there to explain to me what was next in a very calming and professional manner. She was quiet, dignified, and obviously very caring. She made me feel better immediately. I looked into her eyes. There was something familiar about her that I could not put my finger on. It would come to me. Right now, I had to concentrate on ensuring my daughter’s well-being. Over the three days of my daughter’s hospitalization, my husband and I were both impressed by this doctor and her care of our baby girl. She established an instant rapport with her. She had a soft, melodic voice and achieved a level of trust that is difficult to describe but suffice it to say in a 16-month-old’s world, she was her buddy. She spoke to us at every juncture of treatment and always kept us informed. She was kind, friendly and had a beautiful smile. And then it hit me. She was my bullying victim from high school. She had grown into her looks, was quite pretty and was someone who obviously had more compassion and empathy that I could even hope to possess. As this realization washed over me, I realized I had to say something. But what? On the day of discharge, when things were less rushed, I simply asked her if she had been a student at our mutual high school, knowing full well what her answer would be. She acknowledged she had but stated she transferred to another school in her junior year. That was it. I struggled for several years over whether I should have used that moment to apologize to her for my horrible behavior back in tenth grade. I still don’t know what the right answer is. I will, however, be forever grateful for her kindness to my daughter.

This blog is getting a little long-winded, eh?

Nobody picks this girl’s pocket and gets away with it. Hell no!

So, then there was the time I was in college. It was a Friday night. We had cheap tickets to some off-Broadway show. We were getting on the subway and it was mobbed with people. I always try to be aware of my surroundings. As I am getting on I “just knew.” I had a purse on my left shoulder and it suddenly felt lighter. I turned around and the “gentleman” behind me is suddenly turning around in the crowded train, making a U-turn and making his exit. Without a thought, I grab his arm and in a loud, but ever so polite voice, say “Excuse me, sir, may I please have my wallet back?” My roommate is shocked and muttering “what the hell?” My other friends and passengers are all wondering what is going on and stop screwing around and the nearby cop is approaching. This is all taking place in a matter of seconds. The thief is dressed in a suit and has a coat over his arm. He reaches under his coat and at that moment I am flinching because I am convinced he’s either going to shoot or stab me. But this dude needs to understand that my father will be REALLY PISSED if I lose my wallet. I don’t need that kind of bullshit right now. It’s far easier to deal with a pickpocket than the ire of my pain in the ass Irish dad. So, the hand comes out from under the coat, holding not a gun, not a switchblade, but my wallet, which only had two bucks in it, because earlier I had taken the twenty-dollar bill and put it in the front pocket of my jeans. Anyway, lesson learned; now I only buy purses with zippered tops.

Another empathy-teaching moment

I am not sure if it was this specific order of nuns, but the sisters that taught me in grade school were, I am convinced, particularly cruel and in the cases of some problematic students, often borderline sadistic. One snippet in my memory occurred in the fourth grade. There was a boy in my class who was clearly troubled on so many levels. Thinking back and utilizing what we know in today’s jargon, I would say that he was on the spectrum. He was also overweight, awkward, and a poor student, but overall, a likeable, sweet, and sensitive kid. I always had a soft spot for him. He sat behind me in class. On our first day back to school after Christmas, he was fidgeting with the new watch he had received instead of paying attention. Without warning, Sister Mary Inflict Pain walked over to his desk, raised her ¼ inch thick yardstick and wielded it over her head in all her angry sexually repressed fury and brought it down in one fell swoop onto that poor boy’s watch, shattering it, all the while screeching at him in her Irish brogue. I will never forget his bereft cries and later the look on his face as I turned around to help him clean up, after the bitch walked away. He was just so sad. I couldn’t understand why a so-called person of God would do that.  I often wondered what became of my classmate. If he became a serial killer, I think the nun would have some explaining to do. What a cruel human being.

A few final thoughts – maybe call these snippettes?

That time I got hammered with then Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell. That dude can drink. It was at a function where his then wife and several other people, including a friend of mine were being honored. I had the good luck of being seated at the same table. A good time was had by all. He and I were the life of the party.

That time I inadvertently insulted an 83-year-old woman on an elevator on a cruise ship implying that my eyesight was better than hers, (because I was younger) when attempting to see the buttons. A textbook case of open mouth insert foot. She was pissed off, rightfully so, and boy did she let me know it too. I was appropriately embarrassed and made a half-hearted attempt at an apology. Sometimes I just don’t think. I keep telling myself that I wasn’t trying to hurt her feelings. I just engaged the mouth before the brain. It wasn’t the first time and sadly I predict it won’t be the last.

Recurring dreams – what do they mean?

At the beginning of what I believe is my longest blog to date, I mentioned that I have two recurring dreams. I have no idea what they mean. Anyone with any experience in the study of dreams (Oneirology) and who has a theory about these two, very different scenarios, please reach out. The first is pretty benign. I’m young, under ten, in Riverside Park in NYC and a Good Humor truck drives in and my mom buys me a Creamsicle. That’s it -pretty uncomplicated. The second is a lot darker, much, much darker. In fact, it’s downright disturbing. In this dream I find myself in the middle of the Charles Manson murders of actress Sharon Tate and her friends in 1969. But I am upstairs, in bed, reading. I hear the commotion, have the presence of mind to turn out the light, remove the sheets, unscrew the light bulb and stuff myself and the sheets and hide under the bed to escape the slaughter. Does anyone have an answer? Was I destined for greatness somehow and wasted my life or am I just a weirdo?

I am questioning myself a lot these days. Decisions I have made, what my future holds, what more I want to accomplish in the time I have left. What I do know is that revisiting my snippets (really, I don’t have a choice, because they are always with me) provide me with some clarity, but always some questions too. If you read this long blog through to the end, I thank you for your patience and indulgence. This has been one of my more personal endeavors which I have found strangely cathartic. Thanks for reading/listening. Now, where is the bourbon?

Never Ever Flush an Apple Down the Toilet

February 15, 2021

When I first moved to North Carolina, aside from my daughters and their families, I knew no one. That was tough for me, because I am someone who needs people in my life, specifically now that I was a widow and attempting to navigate my life without my husband of 41 years. It was particularly difficult because I had moved 360 miles from my comfort zone where I had an abundance of wonderful friends who gave me comfort when I needed it, made me laugh, kicked me in the ass if necessary and just overall were the warm and all enveloping cushion of reassurance and encouragement I needed from time to time to just get through the day. So, here I was, suddenly cast into unfamiliar geography, weird accents, and an abiding need to establish myself into a new community and find new friends. It became my purpose‑‑to see what was out there and what would work for me. After a few missteps, I am thankful to say that I am happily ensconced in a wonderful international community service organization, which I have been a member of for many years and simply transferred my membership to my new home state. I have made many new friends in my new club and am thrilled to be able to give back to the community again.

On a personal level, I have found the most delightful group of friends in a widowed group who have truly given me a new lease on life. I felt welcomed the first time I joined them for a get together.  It is a no pressure, no judgment environment and everyone truly just “gets it.” We all have different stories, situations, backgrounds, coping mechanisms, and views of the world, but one thing we all seem to share is a mutual respect and commonality which is quite refreshing given the strife that exists in today’s world. Due to Covid, our social events have been relegated to Zoom for now, but our coordinator is our Queen. Without her dedication to our group, I believe we would fail. She makes our gatherings fun and always plans innovative “events.” Once a week, we have a happy hour, which doesn’t require alcohol, though truth be told, most of us imbibe. Sometimes we play Scattergories or Jeopardy, or we simply just talk and enjoy each other’s company. There is never a lull, I promise you.

So, if you are wondering about the title of this blog, there is an actual method to my purple prose. A new member of our group, I’ll call her D, is a very engaging, joy-filled woman who always has a story to tell the group. Whether she is sharing that evening’s dinner menu, pulling her dog onto her lap, or discussing her church activities, D is, in a word, entertaining. She has a beautiful smile, an uplifting personality, and a raucous laugh. Our group never knows what to expect when D has the floor, but we all know she won’t disappoint. A few weeks ago, she told us about a recent household catastrophe she experienced that left all of us with jaws dropped and heads shaking. D took a bite from an apple, decided she didn’t like the taste, and proceeded to flush it down the toilet. Most of you can probably predict what happened next. NOT D. As the apple tried valiantly to make its way down through the pipes and plumbing system, those scary noises, clamors, and rumbles began letting their presence be known. All of us on the Zoom call made similar sounds along the lines of incredulous groans as if to communicate to D – “WHY D??? WHY DID YOU FLUSH AN APPLE DOWN THE TOILET?” What made even more problematic for us was D’s reaction to our reaction. She had a look of sheer incredulity. She simply didn’t understand why we were so aghast! She saw NO problem with her actions, even as the bathroom flooded, even as her son attempted plunging, even as same son asked the same question we asked, yada, yada, yada. Even after a plumber was called and she was $125 poorer. (On the bright side, she received a military discount, so there’s that.) As D related this story to her new friends in the widowed group, she never lost her sense of humor and we hope she did learn something, that apples and the narrow pipes of a drainage system are probably not a good match. And no matter what, we, her widowed friends will always support her even when she makes bad decisions.

I thought a lot about the apple in the toilet title of this blog and figured maybe I could turn it into a metaphor for different junctures in our lives. Why not? Does the apple symbolize our bad decisions? Are we walking away from them by simply flushing them away? Like the toilet though, ultimately you can’t escape them. One way or another, you WILL pay the piper, or the plumber, or the person you have wronged, or the obstacles you are avoiding.

That one bite taken out of that apple – is it your fear of something? You tried it, decided you couldn’t do it or didn’t want to do it, so you gave up and flushed it away. Instead of taking a deep breath, another bite, and another and another until you finish the entire apple and ultimately conquer your fear and achieve a goal and prove to yourself that you CAN do it. Remember the Nike slogan? I hope you have noticed here that I have not used the apple as it was used in the forbidden fruit Garden of Eden allegory. That’s definitely not in my wheelhouse and something I don’t feel worthy discussing as I am a sinner and only God knows what would happen if I took a step down that path! Pray for me.

I have enjoyed writing this blog. Even though our new friend, D, understood (we hope) the error of her ways in terms of discarding food items, we hope she never loses her sense of joy and wonderment. She has had a great loss in her life as all of us in our group have, but it appears that she has chosen to turn that loss into living her life with purpose. While she may not always make sensible decisions, she does so with no ill intent. I wouldn’t be surprised if her middle name is Pollyanna. We need more people like her in the world.

One final suggestion: protect your plumbing. Put your uneaten fruit and vegetables in a compost bin.

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.