Blog Archives

Better “buy” the dozen…

A friend of mine recently asked while we were walking, “What is your daily  routine?”  I paused and said, “As in self-care or what jammies do I sleep in?”  She laughed and said, “Any of it. I am pretty bad at it all.”

I pondered her question and realized not everyone has a specific routine or are not as particular as I am about the products they use or even know if they prefer sleeping in crisp cotton vs. an old t-shirt.

I have thought about this since we worked our way to our three mile mark and 7,000 steps.  And I realized there are items I am devoted to and have used for years with only a few new additions.  Even if I was served 500 Instagram ads to switch or abandon them, I would not.

So look out Oprah, you are not the only one who can have “favorite things.”  I am here to contest that.

1.Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser: I have used this for years, morning and night.  Super gentle and great for skin that tends to be red or sensitive. Purchase at Target, any drugstore or on the addictive monster Amazon. Less than $10.

https://www.walgreens.com/store/c/vanicream-gentle-facial-cleanser-for-sensitive-skin/ID=prod6238095-product

2. CeraVe Hyaluronic Serum: Hyaluronic acid is the buzz word in every brand of moisturizers these days. It is really not acidic at all but a naturally occurring moisture locking source in everyone’s skin. I have tried all the expensive brands and this super hydrating serum is by far the best. Often on the top five lists from dermatologists. A light gel cream that doesn’t clog pores or irritate even the most sensitive skins. Use alone or with a heavier moisturizer. Also at Amazon, Target, Ulta or drugstores. $20.

https://www.ulta.com/p/hydrating-hyaluronic-acid-serum-pimprod2002096

3. Thrive Lash Extensions Mascara: As a thin lashed blonde, I have used every mascara known to woman–waterproof, smudge proof, fillers, no fillers. This one hands down is the best by far.  Not only does it thicken and lengthen your lashes even with one coat,  it encourages growth without all the icky chemicals and hormones. And it washes off with soap and water. Added bonus, a portion of proceeds are give to women’s organizations to help women thrive.  A win/win! $24

https://thrivecausemetics.com/products/liquid-lash-extensions-mascara

4. Patchology Flashpatch Rejuvenating Eye Gels:  I have discovered in my over-sixty facial routine, that most eye creams are targeting wrinkles rather than puffiness.  Having the latter as my bigger problem, I realized that wrinkle reducers puff the skin to erase the lines.  So after wasting my money on too many miracle eye creams that gave me puffy eyes, I have landed on these nifty little gel patches that I apply in the morning while I am making tea.  Work like a charm to reduce the overnight puff and moisturize skin.  Also good to perk up eyes before a big night out. Available at Nordstrom, Amazon, Ulta. $35

https://www.ulta.com/p/flashpatch-rejuvenating-eye-gels-xlsImpprod12791007

5. Sisley Stylo Lumiere : This hydrating undereye concealing cream comes in a pen-like wand and is super easy to apply. It covers the puff or wrinkles while brightening eyes. Can be used as a highlighter on other parts of the face if you are a Hollywood type that makes your face “set ready” before you leave the house.  For minimal makeup, I use this under eyes, mascara, lip gloss and a little bronzer. One of my favorite items. Comes in colors. Use #2 if you have pink in your skin and #1 if you have yellow. At most department stores. I get mine at Nordstrom. $75

https://www.nordstrom.com/s/sisley-paris-stylo-lumire-highlighter-pen/5037951

6. Sisley Blur Expert : My other Sisley indulgence is this powder. One color for all skin. It is a silky smooth light powder that literally blurs redness, dark spots, freckles and even a blemish or two into one smooth, even skin texture.  I am not a foundation  person, so this is it for my face, with or without a little bronzer. Invisible on skin and so are the imperfections! $105

https://www.nordstrom.com/sr?origin=keywordsearch&keyword=sisley%20Blur%20Expert

7. Sonia Kashuk Powder Blending Brush: After years of buying way too expensive eye shadow and face brushes, I finally found this brand at Target.  This one works for any face application for me and they have every angle of blush and eye shadow brushes, too. These brushes are easy to clean and don’t flatten like the expensive natural bristle ones. Vegan/Cruelty Free $20

https://www.target.com/p/sonia-kashuk-8482-professional-powder-blending-brush-no-137/-/A-76615600#lnk=sametab

8. Chanel Rouge Coco Lip gloss:  I have been wearing this moisturizing lip gloss rather than lipstick for at least 25 years. I vary the colors with the seasons or as the spirit moves me.  My current favorite is Icing #176.  I keep a tube in my purse as well as most coat pockets.  I love the texture, the amount of shine and most of all, it has zero “flavor.”  Nothing like raspberry vanilla wafting up your nostrils as you are powering through the grocery store. I rarely walk out the door without this gloss and sunglasses. At Nordstrom, Bloomies, Neiman Marcus, Ulta. $32

https://www.bloomingdales.com/shop/product/chanel-rouge-coco-gloss-moisturizing-glossimer?ID=2525259&CategoryID=2921

9. Olaplex Hair Perfector No. 3:  I recently discovered this hair elixir that does way more than condition hair. It magically strengthens and, according to the directions, “bonds” hair strands so that frizz and split ends disappear.  With a weekly ten minute application, your hair will be silky smooth but not flat. Manageable even on the most humid days. Available at Amazon, Sephora, Hair salons $28

https://www.sephora.com/product/olaplex-hair-perfector-no-3-P428224

So, after you have gathered all these miraculous face and hair transforming products, what should you keep them in?  Voila!  Another favorite:

10. Nomi Network Make Up Pouches:  The Nomi Network is a wonderful organization whose mission is to end modern slavery and help the world’s most vulnerable women avoid or survive sex trafficking.  They teach young women skills to empower them to be self-sufficient and less likely to fall prey to exploitation. Their motto says it all, “Buy her bag, not her body.” The bags I love are made in Cambodia from recycled rice bags.  I have them in three sizes: toiletries, make up and medicine pouch.  All come in great vibrant colors. $20-25

https://shop.nominetwork.org/products/medium-accessory-pouch

Whether you are at home, on a business trip, or visiting some exotic land, before you drift off into dreamland, my last two favorites for me are a must.  Cotton jammies and a quiet room.

11. Marigot Collection Pajamas:  Not by design, I have saved my most expensive indulgence for last.  My daughter actually intoduced me to these as a Christmas gift. Ironically they were on one of Oprah’s first favorite things list. I have been wearing them for over 15 years and still actually have my first pair. They are the perfect weight pima cotton printed in playful designs and classic stripes.  I prefer the Lorient prints.  They are great for travel–light yet cozy enough for year-round wear.  I buy a medium for the “borrowed a man’s pj’s” look. My grandsons picked out my last pair.  Yellow squid with black ink. $165

https://marigotcollection.com/collections/new-arrivals/products/lorient-block-print-long-pajama-set-new

12. Serene Evolution White Noise Machine:  I have bought and searched for the most compact but powerful travel-sized white noise machine and this one by far is the winner.  Barely larger than a face powder compact it includes a power plug but can be used with a USB port. This little bit of peaceful sleep is a keeper. Diverse choice of sounds. Use for home or travel. $20

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B095XF8RSZ/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

 

And there you have it! Everything you need to freshen up, get where you are going and sleep well when you get there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love in the time of Covid

Who would have ever thought we’d be on year two of this pandemic? The daily stresses, the emotional and economic costs, the deaths. The dogfights to receive a vaccine, the dogfights about the validity of vaccines. And still two years in, to mask or not to mask remains the question.

This epidemic has been the most divisive of any event I can remember in my lifetime.  And I say that having grown up in the sixties.  I witnessed the civil rights movement, the anger and controversy of the Vietnam War and political assassinations. But I have never experienced or felt the national and international division this pandemic has created.

It has been frightening, confusing and isolating. And most of all, it has left me with a deep sense of grief and loss.

Loss of loved ones, jobs and time.  College graduations, a proverbial rite of passage into adulthood, diminished to a one-by-one square on a computer screen where the sound of Pomp and Circumstance is completely absent, the whooping and cap-in-the-air throwing something a large chunk of this generation will never know. Our local grade school has a wonderful tradition of a bicycle safety exam.  Written and turf tested, it awards second graders the ability to ride their bikes to school alone in third grade. But that tradition, too, was lost to taking virtual courses on iPads in their bedrooms.

So much letting go, from the trivial to life altering. I, for one, have had a double dose of loss and isolation.  In the midst of Covid lockdown, my husband of 45 years decided he wanted a divorce. After a few months of perfunctory marital counseling, leave he did as soon as we stopped wiping down groceries with Lysol and cars were back on the road. He had taken a year off at twenty years into our marriage but we reconciled and renewed our vows.  Recommitted to each other and to raising our kids under one roof, with one set of parents.

But the second he placed his house key on the island, I knew this time was for good.

Rather than go into the gory details of working remotely with attorneys or the laborious division of assets or whose fault this divorce really is and how we got to this point after nearly half a century of being a team, I prefer to address how I have survived the loss of love in the time of Covid.

The isolation has been everywhere for everyone, but facing the fear of this disease, of death, of a life we knew that feels it will never be the same, facing it solo has been daunting to say the least.  I was married when I was barely 20. I did not have my first apartment alone, never bought my first car by myself or supported myself paycheck to paycheck.  I shared all those hallmarks of being an adult with my husband.

In the last year, I have moved through Kubler-Ross’s model of grief–denial, anger, bargaining, depression and I am easing into acceptance.  I am accepting the end of a commitment that I have spent most of my adult life honoring. And that acceptance has not come easily.  It took countless hours of professional guidance and endlessly unloading my tangled emotions on faithful friends who have listened with open hearts and offered hours of support until they, too, probably wanted to divorce me.

If “time heals all wounds” as my mama would say, when this pandemic is over and this divorce is final, I will be just me again.  No Mrs.  No spouse. No guaranteed date for the movies or a getaway trip to anywhere. Being married young and for so long, I have realized that, like those college graduates and third graders,  I have I missed my own rites of passage. And the unexpected luxury of being “just me.”

I have lived much of my life sharing someone else’s dreams. Now it is time to live my own dreams. And slowly but surely I am hearing a persistent, quiet voice inside that knows where I want to go and what I want to do.  I just allowed her to get muffled by my vision of  how life is supposed to be and doing the right thing.

I allowed “me” to get lost in the “we.”

That me, that little girl was born with hopes and visions of her own for the future.  And many of those I have lived.  But I am realizing that a big part of that feisty little girl, who got marched out of church for talking through the sermon most Sundays, is still in there. Fighting to be heard.

One of the most prolific and gifted writers of the 19th Century George ( born Mary Ann) Eliot wrote, “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

And wisely, Eliot started by changing her first name, not her last.

 

 

Birds do it, Bees do it…

I was thrilled she asked to run to the bathroom, being newly potty trained and in the middle of playing with toys at my house she doesn’t see at her own. Mostly she chooses cars, well, always cars.  No dolls.  Just cars.  If you hand her a doll or a stuffed animal, she drives it across the windowsill as though it has wheels making a “vroom vroom” sound.  Our little Danica Patrick.

Still clutching a firetruck, she hopped onto the toilet as only a two-and-a-half-year-old can. When she finished, thinking she would ask me to flush, she leaned forward with the cutest nearly imperceptible lisp you have ever heard and said, “How do you like my dress? ” I swear.  Those words.  Her mother is a stylist, but I have to think it was me being her fashionista Yaya, she just had to share.  I had admired it all day.  The pinkness of the flounce.  The ink black print against the pale cotton but I had not thought about what the tiny creatures were until she asked.  I tidied the skirt a bit and said,”I love it!  Are those squid?  Octopus?”  She looked befuddled.

About that time,  her 6′ 5″ dad walked in, lifted her off the toilet seat like a papa bear grabbing its cub with one paw, and said matter of factly, “Jellyfish, Yaya.  Can’t you see? The tentacles?”  Gathering up her blonde curls and retwisting her scrunchy onto her whimsical little ponytail he scurried her back to the family room with a “play ball” pat on her bottom. Tucked behind a chair in a corner, her brother had hoarded all the cars in the three-minute span she had taken for her potty break. And who wouldn’t?  Who wants to give up their first born status to a sister who not only is the first granddaughter but prefers his cars to dolls and ballet lessons?

Oh, this new world of basketball dads that do scrunchies and moms that pitch baseballs. And children that pick toys and sports they love, not ones we program them for. Gotta love it.

I was out of town for nearly a month and in my absence a couple of robin pairs must have thought my home was an abandoned property because they built not one but two nests right outside my front and back door.  I mean at eye level and touchable.  Well, I think it is two couples unless one male lets these nest-bound ladies think he is on a business trip as he darts from front to back feeding them both and now their babies.

I say babies but in the last week I have become confused if it is the mom or one of the kids giving me the stink eye when I come in or out the doors.  Robins are so good at the one eye west death stare with their beady black eyes. These babies are now indistinguishable from their parents and I wonder if teenaged birds are “Gen Zs” now, too?  I mean, if you are big enough to fill the nest, get off your fat white speckled robin ass, stop the selfies, drop the phone and get on with it. Go from virtual to actual and get out in the world. Get an education or get a job digging worms or a degree in twig choices for nest building and move the hell on.  Make a contribution to your society. These parents are wearing themselves out feeding, guarding , swooping, squawking and keeping the danger at bay while this brood just sits there waiting for DoorDash to fly up with a fresh stack of mealworms or cicada meat.

Watching them I realize that nature has so much to teach us about life in general. And like the world we are raising our children, grandchildren and budding Gen Z’s in, birds in particular not only model admirable shared parenting skills but they are also gender neutral. Many birds raise their babies in same-sex partnerships. Barn owls, house sparrows, even chickens often prefer the company of a same-sex partner. Actually the chickens are easily understandable if you have ever spent any time watching a rooster strut around the barn.

Flamingos are also often in committed same-sex relationships that involve living together and raising their young together. One fifth of all swan couples are gay.  Scientists gave a female penguin couple an abandoned egg and they raised it to adulthood, all a blur of black and white bliss waddling into the sunset.

So to come full circle from my car-loving granddaughter and the shared household and child-rearing duties I watch all my children demonstrating in their marriages, I am impressed. As confusing and often confounding as this brave new world can appear to our generation, I think it is great progress.

Maybe, just maybe, they know more about the birds and the bees than we do.

 

 

Covid Vocab 101

It appears given the days since my last entry, this blog is currently bi-annual.  But with Covid-19 turning most everything we perceived as our reality upside down, I feel I have an excuse for my lapse in sharing my occasional musings. If we have learned nothing else in the last ten or so months, it is that life can turn on a dime. I mean with back flips and more fanfare than we have ever wanted from the vicious, heinous, invader we call Covid-19.

It is an unrelenting enemy.  It will take all it can and then when you think you don’t have another cell left to surrender, it will invade that with a mutated version of itself. This virus has affected our hearts, our souls, our jobs, our schools, our social lives, our politics, our family lives. We can’t take a breath without thinking of it. Take a step without worrying about it.  Our fight or flight instincts are constantly on high alert.  In pre-Covid days, we said “bless you” when someone sneezed.  Now we bolt in the opposite direction and ask if the perpetrator is sick? Have you been swabbed? Is that a N95 mask or is it just your t-shirt pulled over your nose?

But beyond the social distancing, the masks, the hand washing, the constant vigilance to avoid infection, we must remember what we were before this virus entered our lives and what we can be after we are vaccinated and God willing Covid-19 fades into the background or on to future history books.

We will return to being social beings. We will touch, we will hug, we will kiss, we will wipe tears. We will mourn the confounding loss of human life, the families with an empty chair at the dinner table. We will share their loss. Some of us may suffer our own. We will grieve with our friends, we will grieve for strangers, we will grieve for our nation.

But how will we talk? What words will we use?  Our vocabulary is so permeated with Covid-19 jargon, will we ever speak normally again? What will we mitigate if we are mingling freely with no social distance?  Will we go back to flattening the curves with Spanx? Will we ever describe anything as going viral again? Will herd immunity return to a concept for cattle with hoof and mouth disease? Will we ever again think of an aerosol as an air freshener or hairspray?

These questions amuse me on good days but the prospect of using them as we did pre-Covid-19 fills me with hope. Our survival as a nation depends on a world where love, perseverence and doing the right thing for humanity, not just our own selfish needs or political views, prevails over the virus and the chaos we now find ourselves battling in our homes, our cities, our states.

I believe we will get there. But it takes the fortitude to overcome Covid fatigue and avoid 2 a.m. doomsurfing on the web and going back to good old healthy Amazon shopping that we forget by dawn what we bought. It will take ignoring fake news, staying home, wearing masks and continuing our new normal until a new less daunting normal arrives.

But aside from all my optimism that we will get to the other side of this, I know it will never be the same as it was pre-Covid.  And perhaps some of that is good. We will have to face the partisan ideologies and social climate that made this a politcal issue as much as a world health crisis. And if we are ever able to shake hands again, maybe just maybe, there can be some of that across the current divide.

These days I think often of Dickens’ famous opening lines to A Tale of Two Cities.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief…it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

It was a tale of class wars and an eventual spiritual resurrection.

I hope we can follow suit and with an abundance of caution, get there.

I have a particularly precocious and loqucious four-year-old grandson.  When I enter his house he often asks me, “What are you doing here?”  And later “Why are you still here?”  At first, I was taken back by his sassiness.  And then I thought about the fact that I am there to help tutor his older brothers. His whole family are all there, every day. His parents are both working from home (WFH) and his brothers are home schooled virtually. He no longer attends preschool. And I realized he may really be asking what I am doing there, too?

If all of this reversal of familiar norms confounds adults, what does a little guy with only four years under his belt think of our social isolation?  The virus. The constant hand washing. The masked living.  The fear of touching other human beings. The adults around him adjusting to ever-changing guidelines.

So I ask myself, what AM I doing here most of these unprecedented days?

Hanging on by a thread and hoping the spool stays intact.

 

 

Helter Shelter

Like many of you, the last two months have been the most unexpected and unpredictable in my life.  And this is coming from a woman who has experienced a school shooting, stood by as her husband took a marital “vacation” and has seen a son through a couple of cancers.  So my propensity to constantly wait for the other shoe to drop has some merit in reality.  In addition, I inherently have a rather strong fight or flight instinct anyway.  Given that, I am drawn to the familiar.  The more predictable my experiences in life the better.  You will never catch me with a parachute on my back or ice clip hiking in the Alps.  Like my dad, I like the same routes, clear skies and caller ID.

So you give me Covid-19 with all of its unpredictability and confusion and mixed messages and unclear treatments and models of prevention that vary city to city, state to state, country to country, doctor to doctor and I am on tilt.  Like those fruits and numbers that reel by as you wait for a slot machine to land on three images, that’s my brain. While my head feels like someone turned my ninth-grade record player up from 33 rpm to 78, the outside of my body feels like that awful sound when someone rips the vinyl disc out from under the needle and cracks the record over their knee. Again, an allusion to said father if I was listening to music after midnight when he had to get up at 4:30 to provide an album or two and put food on the table.

No the outside of my crazed brain, looks nothing like the album cover I had two months ago. Needing a haircut and highlights (of course I am a natural blonde, I just “augment” it) before self-isolation began, I am three months into facing the real me.    Mousy, unkempt, dark blonde hair, a little paunchy from perhaps more than one glass of wine a night or the fact that most days I just go from my daytime pajamas to my nighttime pajamas. And the kiss of death for any model figure is a drawstring waistband.  To top it off, I have a stye in my right eye which I never get unless my husband has one, which he did, or if I am extremely stressed, which I am.

I swear I have aged ten years in the last couple months.  Either that or the fact that with no distractions beyond Outlander and The Last Dance, I have too much time to notice myself as I pass a mirror. And I refuse to resort to Tiger King to avoid that.

But as we head into month three, or perhaps two years, of uncertainty and masked living, I have a few good things that I have discovered while sheltering in place with my husband, the parking garage CEO.

First of all, as for living daily under the same roof, it has been an unexpected surprise. Before this all began, we had been on a lower dip of the proverbial roller coaster called marriage.  Forty five years is hard enough to navigate alone, much less side by side with a person of the opposite sex. When he stepped out of his role of running a company and stepped back into the shoes of helping me run a household,  because I am a princess and we had a housekeeper before, most days he is a pretty nice guy.  He grocery shops, cooks, helps clean and even feeds my birds. He has learned why I am at war with squirrels and chipmonks on our back patio who destroy those feeders. Has even accepted that I stay up watching “whatever” until after midnight and sleep in the morning to make up for it.

And I, having to listen to his constant Zoom meetings, which cannot be avoided since for some reason he feels he has to speak into a megaphone to be heard, have a better understanding of what he does everyday under more normal circumstances. The challenges, the frustrations, the conflicts. Especially in a world when the entire driving universe came to a screeching halt and garages have stood empty or half full at best for weeks.

We walk almost everyday. We don’t argue over stupid things like we used to.  I guess life seems a little more precious. Or precarious. But it’s been OK for us in general. For the most part.  On most days.

But if the Japanese Killer Hornets, which I just read about this morning, that are the size of small birds and bite the heads off of whole hives of bees and can kill humans with their thumbtack-sized stingers become the pestilence that follows, or accompanies, this pandemic I will most certainly be done with all this perspective.  I will need professional help.

Or begin to model their behavior.  One can only be so perfect for so long.

 

Baby Boomer Denial Among Other Things

Well, at one point I said I would write a blog “once very sometimes.”  Perhaps this one qualifies for “once every pandemic.”  Which God knows, I hope I never write another under that title.  In these unprecedented times I have found myself questioning so many things concerning daily life that we all take for granted in our country. A reasonably healthy economy allowing shopping of all kinds at our fingertips.  Readily available and life-saving health care.  Fresh food, fresh air, freedom of movement.  Just freedom.

It’s rare that we face a situation that we don’t assume we have the resources and intelligence to handle its outcome.

But here we are. Facing a ferocious enemy and scrambling to win our battle. I have spent the last few weeks, glued to the television set, my daily news posts and listening to podcasts. I have abided by the belief that information is power. I have received countless emails from friends offering serious and humorous articles to strengthen our resolve that we will beat this thing or find humor to take a break from its gravity.

One email in particular stood out and completely shifted my perspective. I have thought about it every day since.  It has actually changed my actions and choices. Reading it before my hero, Sanjay Gupta said, ” Stay home and don’t spread the virus,” nothing has hit me as starkly between the eyes as this New Yorker piece by Michael Schulman, March 16, 2020. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/convincing-boomer-parents-to-take-the-coronavirus-seriously

Schulman with earnestness and humor writes about him and his friends trying to convince their boomer parents (born between 1944 and 1964) to stay home. Period. Many of them living where restaurants are still open and the virus has not spread as rapidly, are grocery shopping, playing golf and even going to the office.

As I read and agreed and chuckled especially at the line, “This virus loves boomers as much as boomers love James Taylor,” I had this nagging realization that I accept I am a boomer but refrain from accepting I am 65 or older. Although I was born at the height of the boomer bulge, my older brother and sister were  the “real” boomers.  I feel like a barely boomer. When I went for my flu shot last fall, I refused to take the 65 and older shot reasoning that I am still hovering around 65.  The “old person” shot insulted me and as luck would have it, my doctor only had the regular shot and begrudgingly let me take it probably reasoning it was better than no shot.

My brother used to tell me I gave the illusion of youth in my thoughts and actions.  And I believed him.  I think many of us boomers think that.  In an age of botox and facelifts and extended life expectancy and daily workouts and healthy eating, we have tricked ourselves into thinking we are younger than we are because the mirror and our bodies don’t look like our idea of 65.  If my mom did two leglifts she was exhausted and doing a jumping jack she looked like her hands were not connected to her arms. The idea of “working out” was how she solved a problem not some sort of exercise.  She and dad were Grammy and Papa not some cute name version of the grandparent role like my Yaya title or my friends Gigi and Kiki. My parents accepted aging as a part of living as sure as death and taxes.

But I think I, and many boomers like me, think we are different.  The old rules don’t apply to us. Just look at us! We aren’t old. It’s an attitude, not a number.  Right?

And in part I agree with that.  And that’s what makes me throw away my AARP application every time it arrives and wear my sunglasses into a movie theater to hide the shame of my senior ticket. But the fact that this virus loves boomers made me take a hard look in the mirror and evaluate my daily actions.  That and the fact that all three of my millennial children have called and told me to stay home.  For them and me. Rather than feeling ostracized, I finally heard their words as love and concern.

To drive it home even more, I hit my arm on a door frame and a huge purple ink blot formed on my forearm.  I Dr. Googled it and what do you think it’s called?  A senile purpura.  Not kidding. Look it up, if you dare. Common among the thin-skinned  over sixty crowd.

That ugly blotch made me think about my emotional thin skin and of course my large dose of denial about my role during these uncertain times. So guess what I am doing?

Staying home.  And I hope those of you who love James Taylor as much as I do, will do the same.  For our kids. And ourselves.

Human Kindness

If you watch the evening news, listen to world affairs in the car or read my favorite mini-version email of it all, The Skimm, it’s difficult not to feel that our world is full of division, derision and anger. In our own country, we are inundated with impeachment, Democrats fighting Republicans, Congress fighting the President, the “have nots” fighting the “haves.” For the past months I have been consumed by our  nation’s present political drama, or the media’s depiction of it, and worried it is making a mockery of our government and our values.  But then the global news is filled with social clashes, exits and Brexits, leaders in, leaders out, promises made, promises broken.  Truths and half truths keeping everyone on edge or in the streets in defiance of someone and something that displeases them.

Listening to it all, I found myself wringing my hands and searching the sky for the lightening bolt that would signal the start of the apocalypse. Then I took a road trip to my home in West Virginia which helped me take deep breaths and regain some perspective.  Being in the land of my people always centers me a bit and reminds me that there are plenty of good people, solid, salt-of-the-earth folks left in this world amidst all the publicized drama seekers.

Driving there, my deep breath transformation began with an accident I witnessed on the opposite side of a four lane divided highway I travel often.  The single car mishap must have happened seconds before I drove past because the car was lying on it’s hood, straddling the grassy median, it’s wheels still turning.  There was no driver in sight or the feeling of any movement in the car.  A man just behind the car was out of his vehicle and running toward the upturned car, talking on his cell.  I assumed he was calling 911 as he approached the driver’s side. I thought how brave he was to come to the assistance of a stranger with no idea what he would find when he arrived. If he wasn’t a doctor, nurse or off-duty EMT, what could he do? Would the driver be alive?  Conscious? If so, would he simply console him until medical help or the police arrived? Hold his/her hand?  Just “be” with the victim?

That man’s bravery and expression of human kindness for a total stranger started a domino effect of looking for the best in those around me and trying to invite goodwill rather than negativity. Then flipping through my 10,000 plus iphotos looking for an old snapshot of my kids, I stumbled on the pictured quote. I don’t recall where I saw it but as a person who believes few things happen by chance, I knew why I found it at that moment. I was inspired to focus on the good whenever and wherever possible and reminded that ninety percent of what others spew in our faces is their personal issues, not a reflection of us. I remembered Ann Frank’s famous diary entry, “I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

And as no surprise, I began to receive the positive energy I was sending out. Smiles brought smiles. Engagement with others in the present moment took my day-to-day from black and white to technicolor. Or in millennial speak, from 70 to 300 pixels. Focusing on and inviting the positive helped blur the anger and fear in our society.

Having a three inch snow on Halloween that didn’t keep any of my annual 400 rambunctious trick or treaters indoors, I again thought of the perseverance of the human spirit. So as the leaves fill up my gutters and the overnight temperatures have turned my mums to some sort of brown tumbleweed, we head toward the end of fall. With Thanksgiving and Christmas nearly upon us, I want to keep the joy of the holidays foremost in my mind rather than falling prey to the hustle and bustle of the season, endless lists, long lines, impatient drivers.

I want to concentrate on the magic not the tragic, the hope not the despair.

My grandsons asked me if there is a Santa the other evening as I was tucking them into bed and I heard my mother’s answer spoken as clearly as though she was sitting with us.

“He will come as long as you believe in him,” I replied, kissing their foreheads.

Tis the season to hope. Believe. And be grateful for little boys that want to hold on to the magic of this time of year despite the nine-year-old naysayers that try to convince them otherwise.

A time to stay in the moment.  Live in the present rather than fretting and worrying about the future which seems to be my genetic propensity. A time to surround yourself with people who make you laugh, forget the bad and focus on the good.

A new post every sometimes…

I have been thinking about a post for weeks. Everyday I have thought about writing it.  I mused about it on my nine hour drives to and from West Virginia.  I vowed I would write it there.  A day passed.  The sky was azure blue perfection, the sun casting dancing diamonds on the lake.  A week passed.  I had intentions.  I justified my procrastination by nature’s distractions.

And then I got an email from my favorite blogger, online columnist who has a site entitled Wait but Why.  And his tagline, which says everything about his perspective and his posts is, “A new post every sometimes.”

I felt redeemed. And here I am. With a new sometime.

My mom would have had her 96th birthday a couple weeks ago.  I had been thinking about her a lot lately anyway.  I have found myself wearing my hair “up on the sides” as she did, saying things she might and wishing she was here just being the special human that she was, Sarah Noble.  So missing her, I have been doing some of the Sarah things she was known and loved for.

I made her famous brownies. Something I had not done in years.  Literally.  I remembered, just by watching her hundreds of times, all the ingredients except how much butter.  So I googled Baker’s Squares brownies and who popped up with the recipe but Katharine Hepburn claiming it as her own. How dare she? It was obvious she used the same recipe from the back of the box my mom did. But just because she wore trousers and white turtlenecks and was exquisitely elegant and openly loved Spencer Tracy for 25 years even though he was married, just because she could, she didn’t have to steal my mom’s recipe, too. Hussy.

Anyway, the recipe calls for half a teaspoon of salt and like my mama, and her mama, I measure that in the palm of my hand.  As I took a picture of that I marveled at the accuracy of that method.  But more I saw how much my hands look like my mom’s. A little crooked.  A little veiny. A little older.

Then my mind drifted back to the beautiful, vibrant, engaging, full of love mother of my youth.

My mom was often in a hurry.  In part because she was impetuous, determined and hell-bent for a cause. She pretty much single-handedly stopped the public high school from being built behind our house. Even tore her ACL delivering flyers to mailboxes notifying neighbors of town meetings concerning the matter.  One might think she was athletic, jogging box to box but oh no, not my mom.  She was in her nightie and a trench coat around midnight driving house to house and at one stop stepped out of the car and remembered the flyer but forgot to put the car in park. So she picked up her nightgown, ran after the car in her pink Dearfoams and jumped in as it rolled downhill.  Her knee, not dad’s car God forbid, the sacrifice.

Like many who rush about, my mom was always late.  I read recently that late people are optimists, which she was in spades. Their sunny outlooks give them a false sense of what can be done in a given hour. Or minute or ten. My mom didn’t think there would be traffic, or a bird or a butterfly garden to marvel at along the way and slow her down. So as the clock ticked, she often scrambled.  If company (that’s what our family called “guests”) was ringing the doorbell, mom was sprinkling Comet in the bathtub so if someone used our only bathroom it would appear she started the job and had simply forgotten to finish.  Add clever to her list of attributes.

But on the flipside of my tardy, hard-headed, easily distractable mama, was a person who had the uncanny ability to be totally present with others.  As my son says, she made people feel they were the only person in the room when she spoke to them. She was curious about your life, your dreams, your hopes. And she welcomed you, strangers and loved ones alike, with open arms and an equally open heart.

And most often, when she heard that doorbell from her crouched position at the bathtub, she had time in her magical sense of minutes between tasks, to dash to the kitchen and melt two squares of Baker’s chocolate in a pan, start the kettle for sweet tea and greet whoever had “dropped in” with a hug and the smell of warm chocolate filling the air.

I remember the sound of those chunks of solid cocoa hitting the aluminum pan and can see their thin white paper wrappers crumpled with the Lipton tiny envelopes on the counter and feel like it was yesterday.  And forever ago.

So I have baked. Made dilly bread, meatloaf and cornbread. And everytime I open the oven, a little bit of her wafts out and envelops me, the warmth and aroma taking me home.

Where a little bit of me will always long to be.

 

Mama’s Brownie Recipe

2 ounces (or half a block) Baker’s unsweetened chocolate squares

1/2 stick butter

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup flour

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup or so walnuts or pecans or chocolate chips (optional)

 

Preheat oven to 350.  Butter an 8×8 pan. Melt butter and chocolate on low heat. Remove from heat. Let cool a bit.  In same pan add sugar until well mixed. In another bowl mix eggs and vanilla.  Add to chocolate mixture. Add flour and salt and stir until smooth. Throw in nuts or chips if desired. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of middle with fudgy crumbs. Top should have a thin crust.  DO NOT over bake. Cool a little, cut into squares and serve warm from pan or on a plate.

 

Second Chances

Here we are at the beginning of another new year.  Mind boggling really.  I’m sure 2018 was a typical year.  Some highs.  Some lows. But I’ll be darned if I can remember most of it.  At this point, I feel like my life is passing by at warp speed. Summers jump to fall as swiftly as they both blur into single digit winters with the hope of spring a blink away.  My birthdays are no longer just a number but a reminder of years passing more quickly than I’d like and the realization that life is short and moments are precious.

We said goodbye to 2018 and welcomed 2019 with our youngest daughter’s wedding in Los Angeles. A date choice I balked at for months and then in reality it was a wonderful way to ring in the new year. A new marriage.  New beginnings for our family with another “plus one” welcomed with open arms. More people to love. More joy to share.

Less than a week after the wedding, my husband had hip replacement surgery. (Talk about warp speed.) My son came to the  waiting room to help me pass the hours until we knew all was well.  And we passed those hours talking about one of his favorite subjects.  Movies.

He loves movies. Loves movies of all kinds, shapes and forms. From sappy chick flicks to heroic acts of undaunting courage.  Mary Poppins to Braveheart. He watches trailers like others check the weather.  He quotes movies, and his movie heroes, to answer conversational questions.

Me: Staunton, can you take that trash out?

Staunton: I’m your huckleberry. (Doc Holliday, Tombstone)

Out of the blue, he will send me a text of a movie clip that will lift my spirits or cause me to pause for it’s simple poignance.  I’ll look at my phone and there is Patrick Swayze taking “Baby” out of the corner and jumping off stage to carry her into a new life. Or Nicolas Cage having coffee at the airport with Tea Leoni at the end of  The Family Man, a perennial Christmas favorite for both of us.

On his short list of best movies would be the aforementioned with Shawshank Redemption, It’s a Wonderful Life, Schindler’s List, Lonesome Dove, Pretty Woman, Ghost— just to name a few.

I was thinking as we sat in that crowded hospital waiting room, like all those around us, worried about a loved one and wondering if our news would be good. I thought of all of his favorite films and what they had in common.  Was there a central theme?  Was there a lesson to be learned, a life vision to be gained? And then it came to me.

Second chances.

His heroes and heroines get second chances.  Mary Poppins saves a father and reconnects a family, Nicolas Cage sees his life as it could be, and not as he is living it, and chooses a new start. Andy Dufresne spends 20 years in Shawshank and holds tight to a second chance and through sheer will, ingenuity and against all odds, gets it. George Bailey wants to end his life before his angel Clarence offers him a glimpse of the world without him.  And Bedford Falls looks like home again.

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions.  I think they are a little silly actually and history would prove most often impossible to keep. But this new year, I like the idea of second chances.  For ourselves, for others.  Think of an old friend you have let drift away and call him/her. Forgive someone you thought was unforgivable.  Give yourself a break for a failure or an opportunity that slipped away and go for it again.  Rethink a hard-held belief or opinion, a stereotype or a prejudice and challenge it.  Truth test it again and see if it still holds water.

Everyone deserves a second chance.  Especially ourselves who we seem to be the hardest on. Maybe we were too young or too foolish or too self-absorbed to see a first chance, so why not give it another whirl?

As my son might quote William Wallace towards the end of Braveheart. Fighting for Scotland. His co-patriots all but given up.

William: We’ve got to try. We can’t do this alone. Joining the nobles is the only hope for our people. You know what happens if we don’t take that chance?
Hamish: What?
William: Nothing.

Here’s to a 2019 filled with somethings.

And second chances.

Cohabitation

Some of you may have been wondering where I have been for months and, quite frankly, so have I.  In May, my oldest daughter and her family–three boys eight and under and her husband–moved in with us. It was a temporary thing. A couple months or so while I helped my daughter renovate her recently purchased home.

Well, if you do the math, a couple months turned into six and changing a few faucets and adding a lower level bedroom turned into a literal gut job. Inside and out.  The charm of buying an older home from a “mature” couple is that surprises lurk at every turn.  The house was a safe haven for homeless mice and their families, shower pans leaked as did the roof and the entire back of the house was six inches out of plumb.  In layman’s terms, it was leaning.

So on we forged at renovation and on they stayed in every corner of my home.

Yesterday they left for the other grandparent’s house.  It was the first time in six months I did not have little boys sliding down my banister, dropping legos from the upstairs landing and dripping sippy cups across my kitchen floor.  The toys were in their bins and their beds were made for the next round of babes arriving that day for Thanksgivng. I waved goodbye tearlessly at the front door wishing safe travels.

I turned and what to my wondering eyes did appear but my house. The kitchen drainer had no pint sized water bottles or stacks of medicine measuring cups (children under 10 seem to keep a cold and the cough even longer), the island was clear of homework, rubber bathtub toys and a toddler seat no longer stradled my island stool.  My foyer floor had no toppled boots and the back door was clear of coats, hats and tiny gloves with fingers inside out.

With a huge sigh of relief, I poured a glass of wine, exhaled from the bottom of my toes and fell into my favorite comfy wingback relishing something I had not enjoyed in months.

Silence.

Then, as I took a second sip, I felt something under me.  Leaning to one side, I pulled out a miniature army tank neslted in my seat cushion. Chipped and dented from it’s many times across my window sills or in and out of the two-and-a-half-year-old’s “pack pack” as he calls it, this tiny metal vehicle stopped me in my tracks. I could see his plump little fingers holding it as he bid farewell saying, “Bye bye, Yaya, see you soon. I love you thiiiiissss much!” I envisioned his older brothers nestled on pillows in the “way back seats” of their SUV, waving as they drove away. I thought about the oldest playing the parent by entertaining and pacifiying his brothers, as mom and dad madly packed and tucked their belongings under beds and in closets to make way for the next crew.

And like Grinch, my old cold heart grew three sizes.

Now don’t get me wrong.  The past months have been difficult. For everyone.  Four grown adults and over two generations are not meant to share familial space for this long. No matter what our ancesters and neighbors in Central and South America believe.  No privacy for anyone wears on everyone. Parents and a nanny need to have their own space to juggle what has become the norm in today’s world of two working parents. Marriages need space to breathe and privacy to grow and endure. Children need one set of hovering adults, not two, aiding and guiding their every move.  That’s the natural order of things.  We raise our kids and if they choose, they “cleave” to another as my Methodist Bible would say, and start their own version of a family.

A place that is comfortable for them. And that place should to be under their own roof.

They are moving to their new home next week. And yes, I will miss many things about their stay here.  The joy of a two year old’s giggles and screams the moment I come through the door. Good night kisses and lullabies that bring tears to my tired eyes as the years are just a blur since I sang the same to my own babies.  Spontaneous hugs from an eight year old boy.  A six year old thrilled to show me he can read. Sleepy morning eyes greeting me at dawn and the same drooping ones snuggling into bed at night. I will miss and cherish it all and have faith that my relationship with my grandsons will be stronger, longer and better for their living here.

And I hope that when I am gone and no longer a part of their daily life, these young men will pass a car like mine or take a bite of homemade meatloaf and pause for a second. Perhaps an image will appear and they will remember how much I adore them.  Every single inch.

But it is time now for them to move on. To their own rooms. And the life they need to live with their own parents.  Together as one unit. Their rhythms. Their views out their new windows.

I will be here in my empty, quiet, tidy house. Just as it should be.

Five minutes away.