Tag: Life

The Cutting Edge of Fashion

I should probably be writing about Valentine’s Day (Or as i like to call it, “Single Awareness Day”), but screw it. I want to talk about clothes.

Last night, while snuggling under the covers with my ersatz valentine, my SiriDog, i was reading the latest edition of InStyle. And no, i don’t read it for the articles. I like to keep up on the latest fashion, both the couture art and the stuff that people can actually wear. I won’t spend $2K on a dress, but i will use the latest trends to alter something i found at the thrift store. It also is a good way to gauge if i’ll be able to find t-shirts in the colors i like (For those of you unfamiliar, the fashion illluminati gather at the beginning of every season and determine which colors are “in”, and woe to the shopper who wants something in a color that isn’t on that list!) Plus, let’s face it, the couture stuff is sometimes a great source of chuckles. Also to note,  i have a bit more of an interest this year, as i actually can wear clothes to work now.

So anyway, perused the whole thing yesterday. Then checked the websites.  It’s colder than Delores Umbridge’s heart outside, but in the fashion world, it’s springtime. And apparently, this year, that means the seventies are back with a vengeance.

Normally, in any given season, i can depend on my favorite designers to put out, if not something i actually covet, at least clothes that are pleasing. Then, to top off, there are usually a few other labels that hit a mark with me. Shoes, well, i’m picky, so there will be fewer. And maybe one bag strikes my eye.

I in no way imply that i am a fashion icon. Tho my personality is the lovechild of Mae West and Cher, my wardrobe godmothers are Fran Lebowitz and the lesbian poets of the mid 20th century. I like jeans with blazers, tailored slacks, tank dresses in the summer, and tuxes without shirts underneath (Scandalous!). I will never be on the cover of Vogue, even if i looked like Charlize. But i’m ok with that. My style works for me. I’m comfortable in it. It makes me feel pretty and strong and sexy and badass. Isn’t that what clothes are for?  But even tho my style isn’t as common as some, i can still appreciate fashion that i wouldn’t wear, but would look beautiful on the right person. A gingham bikini on a girly-girl with a sweet face is the sexiest thing in the world, even if that girl isn’t me. I can dig it. Aesthetically, it pleases. But i saw very little like that between the pages last night.

Lots of architectural and sculptured creations. Squared collars. Straight lines. Ruffles you could spread pâté with. As a museum piece, quite striking. As clothing, not so much. Who wants to wear a dress that will cut your arse when you sit in it? This isn’t the Victorian era – There is no need for women to suffer for appearances.  Not that i think Valentino should be invoking comfort law and dressing everyone in mu-mus and pajama pants. Structure is nice. Steel beams in my blouse are not.

Another big trend seems to be the reemergence of the 1975 palette. Burnt orange, avocado green, harvest gold, samsonite blue. It’s as if the discovery of skin tone never happened.  Seriously, do you know anyone who looks good in pepto pink?

Jumpsuits. Really? Only for people who never go to the bathroom.

Shoes and bags? Sharp edged, impractical, and not foot or wallet friendly.

Pompoms. On everything. I’m sorry, but i am not an Airstream.

On a positive note, i do like the return of the airy poet’s caftan. More than one designer had them updated in shorter lengths with beautiful watercolor painted fronts. A perfect thing to pack for the beach-side bar and grill or the first pool party of the season. I may even take a bash at making and painting one myself.

Another bright side, the makeup this season is very light and pretty. Hair, other than the couture shows, very wearable. And the coolest part, a lot of the older houses who have been quiet for a while are putting out some great collections. Brooks Brothers is gorgeous this season (Ok, yes, this is the one case where my fashion sense actually matches a fashion house.) Ralph Lauren has some great fresh takes on Americana. Versace has some amazing choices for the bold and unafraid. On the retail end, White House Black Market, Talbots, and H&M are all showing smart, flattering, wearable clothes. So in spite of my discontent with the majority, there is still a lot to choose from.

Granted, in the magazines and on the web, all these clothes are shown on stick figures. Sexless baby dolls pulled to six feet tall a la Stretch Armstrong. Olive Oyl with expensive makeup. Women of modeling perfection. I wish a magazine would take some of the season’s offerings and put them on real women. Show us how those knife-sharp pleats look on a pizza-fed ass. Most women my age can afford an occasional fashion splurge of some sort, so why not help us find one? That Versace tux with the bandeau top that i am salivating over… Let’s see what it looks like on a woman who weighs more than a prize Thanksgiving turkey. The buttery soft WHBM blazer, would it clear the hips? You can’t tell from the ad because the model is too small to have any. There are more full-figured women, and women of that certain age, on the red carpet than ever before, so we can see what those offerings look like on curvy and gravity-tamed bodies. Yes, real women are sometimes rail thin. Yes, real women are sometimes 20 years old. But not most of us. There is a veritable buffet of body types out there. Can we see your couture creations on them?

Hey, there’s a thought! Let’s take one ubiquitous outfit of the season and put that same outfit on a bunch of women: Thin, thick, boyish, curvy, young, old…. Different sizes and colors… And see how it translates. That would be cool! Sociologically interesting and consumer useful. That Battenburg lace Malandrino sheath dress… What does it look like on a woman like me? Or you? Or my Aunt Julie? Or the woman next door? Because none of us looks like Gigi Hadid. Hell, our names weren’t even mentioned in the socialite pages, never mind nominated for model of the year. But we like pretty dresses, too.

Even those of us who wear tuxes.

Jug Band

I started just now to type, “I have a confession to make…” And then i realized that it isn’t really a confession. It isn’t a sin that i have committed. It isn’t even an accidental mistake. It’s not a bad thing. Well, not usually. Nor is it something i should have to apologize for. It shouldn’t be an issue. But it often is.

I have big boobs.

There. I said it. In all it’s embarrassing glory.

So, as i see it, there are two parts to this, and neither should be an issue in today’s society. Unfortunately, people still have a problem with both parts.

First, the “big” part. I was not given a choice as to the size of my ducks any more than i was given a choice in my height. I am generally a small woman. But i have twice as many chins as i need, and at least twice as much breast. And tho teenage boys may think that sounds like a gold mine, a large set comes with its own problems.

For one thing, it’s hard to find clothes that fit. If i want a button-up shirt, i either have to buy one that is big and flow-y, or i have to buy it in the men’s department. Those pretty blouses the other girls wear strain perilously at the chest buttons. And because bras made in the bigger cup sizes rarely come in the lovely lacy array that the “normal” ones do, it’s not like that gap gives anyone something pretty to look at. And if you give in and unbutton it a bit, you’re a skanky slitch whose momma didn’t teach her to keep ’em covered. So knits it is, and even then, finding one that fits the tits without swimming around the middle (Or worse, fitting at the middle and pulled tight over the top)…. Well, i wish there were a patron saint to invoke while shopping for that!

Oh – exercise clothes? Sports bras? RacerBack tanks? Even YMCA appropriate swimsuits? Fuggeddaboudit. Ain’t gonna happen. No such luck. Not unless you have a fortune to pay some online kevlar broker.

People make assumptions about women with big boobs. That we are daft or “easy”. And because it is hard to hide them, people assume that we are showing them off because we’re proud of them, like they are some crowning achievement akin to moderating Middle Eastern peace talks. News flash to the media: Just like the old adage about men with large shoes, the size of a woman’s chest has no direct OR inverse relationship with the size of her brain. Headline to the rest of the world: Most of us base our fashion choices on what doesn’t make us look dumpy (The scourge of every large-breasted woman), not on the measurement of our cleavage. So please, cut us some slack. And we will try to remember to cut you some on those skin-tight jeggings over your ample bottom.

Issue number two: The “boob” part. When i had my first child, terrifyingly close to three decades ago, for health and financial reasons, i chose to breastfeed. I was lucky enough at that time to be a student at a large university with a student population from all over the world. I learned from some women of other cultures about the miracle of the baby sling. I have no idea if breastfeeding in public was actually illegal at that time, but i knew without a doubt that doing it in the open would get me a lot of unwanted attention. The sling was my answer. I bought one and then fashioned a couple others. I invested in nursing tops. I learned how to nurse in public without showing any of my pink parts to undesiring strangers. It was a pain in the ass, but i felt like it was showing respect. The only time i made  a spectacle of it was during a “nurse in” in protest of the Nestle formula-in-Africa scandals, and i admit, i felt awkward doing it.

Nearly 10 years later, when i had my second child, i was living in Central America. And that was where i learned that vilification of public breastfeeding was largely a U.S. issue. Panamanians felt ALL women should breastfeed, and to that end, encouraged it and held it as part of regular life. Tho i still used a sling, i no longer worried if an errant pink part got flashed. The locals never cared. To the contrary, they delighted that she fed so well! I could sit with a group of women, feed my beautiful child, and never fear scorn or disgust. It was wonderful. It helped me realize that it is social indoctrination that makes public boobage wrong. Ok, maybe intent as well, if you’re out flashing your ladies for scandal or advertisement. But as far as breastfeeding goes, it’s the way we were socialized that makes us uncomfortable with it.

By my third child, while i did not flaunt it while i was nursing, i didn’t run for the closet every time either. I tried to keep politely covered, but i never hid. And yes, i got some dirty looks. Surprisingly, mostly from other women. For some, sister solidarity doesn’t cover boobs. Not to be coarse, but i doubt unmated goats look at nursing goats and think “I wish she’d put her teats away or take it to the stall.” Yes, they are animals, but breastfeeding is mammalian thing. It’s how God/Goddess/Universe intended for us to feed our young. So why should we treat it as a private or criminal act. Believe it or not, there is still one state where it is patently illegal to breastfeed in public. (If a woman breastfeeds in public, and no one complains, is it still illegal???) Other states have statutes that exempt it from indecency laws, but a lot of the general public still cries havoc and lets slip the dogs of war over the ill assumption that breastfeeding is somehow porn. Any woman who has breastfed will tell you, it gives you a whole new appreciation for your boobs, and it has nothing to do with porn.

Boobs are mini (Or, for some of us, not so mini) food factories. They are able to make exactly what our babies need. Even in developing countries where food is limited, breasts will take nutrients out of mom to put in the milk for baby. Amazing! Miraculous! And while those perky supermodel tits in the Victoria Secret catalog might corner the market on sexy one night, and may get lots of stares and judging off the runway the next, don’t you dare judge me on mine. I won’t go around baring them to the general masses, but i won’t hide them either. They are part of who i am. I managed to feed three weedlings with these puppies, and that’s no small feat. So, you may think them too big. You may think them too floppy. You may think them unseemly…

But eff you.

My boobs are awesome.

Old Dog, New Trick

So, six months shy of my 50th birthday, i will embark on a totally new path that has me both excited and terrified.

Every career i have ever had has been one of interpersonal service. Face to face interaction with people who need my help. “Professions”, yes, but with that line-walking professionalism that one can only have when usual social barriers have been broken from the onset. You know, like nakedness and blood. And the people i have worked with share a kind of camaraderie that is only present when there are matters of utmost importance, like human lives, on the line. The uniforms i wear, not sharp and tailored, but chintzy and laundered in chemicals that are made to kill everything but the fabric. Terribly exciting, but also terribly taxing. Irregular hours and daily surprises. But i’m about to become a regular Joe. And i am scared.

Working in a hospital, especially in an area that performs invasive procedures, is rewarding. People come to you in pain, frightened, and sometimes one step shy from death. You get to comfort them. To fix them. To bring them back from death’s edge. It’s a powerful feeling in a multitude of ways. There is a physical power in knowing you have the ability to help save a human body.  There is an emotional power on the occasions where someone is literally brought back to life. There is a spiritual power in knowing you are an important tool for God/Goddess/Universe. But that power comes at a cost.

For every case that doesn’t go as planned. For every patient who gets the bad news that they are too much for us and require major surgery. For every person who we feel we have fixed, only to be proved wrong by GGU the very next day. For each one that we lose the race against the clock. For each time we know in our heart of hearts that the patient isn’t as invested in their health as we are, that they won’t make any changes in their lifestyle, and we know we will be seeing them again and again until there is no more to be done. These things take their toll. I work in invasive cardiology, but i promise you, these same things are true for my brothers and sisters in the emergency room, the operating room, the intensive care units, the paramedic force, and still others. Take a poll. The percentage of us with stress-induced disorders, hypertension, auto-immune issues… I promise you, it’s higher than national average.

But on the bright side, what it takes to do this, day in and day out, is a strength that also exceeds the average. Mentally strong, we have the ability to put our own issues aside when the shit hits the fan. Tho from the entire spectrum of faiths, we are spiritually strong individuals who know that GGU holds the winning cards. Emotionally strong, we can keep on working even when we know we have probably lost. And physically strong – Have you ever seen a size 6 woman do truly effective CPR on a man three times her size? THAT is strength!

All this, i leave behind. And, oh, how i will miss it!

But i am running out of reserve to pay the toll. My health, my life, is starting to wear thin in spots. Perhaps it is because, as i get older, i shed more and more tears as a woman, as a mother, as a human; and these, compounded with the tears that come from my work, are more tears than i have reservoir to produce.  Perhaps it is because each person only has a finite amount of strength, and mine is less than a lifetime’s worth at this pace. Or perhaps it is GGU telling me that it is time i helped humanity in another way.

One of the things that this new work endeavor will give me is the ability to see healthcare from a wider perspective. It will also give me an opportunity to use that insight in areas outside my work and maybe get involved in the issues that i have watched plague our hospitals over the years. I’m not Einstein, but i’ve got a good brain, excellent communication skills, and the anger and determination that is the hallmark of a peri-menopausal woman in the 21st century. I could be a force to be reckoned with, even without my terribly-unflattering scrubs!

But first i must adapt to desk life. To computer life. To Joe life. Hell, it’s been forever since i had a job where i could wear clothes! No more bodies. No more blood. No more fluids and drugs and devices. Just me and a screen and a bunch of tasks to sort. Well, that is, once i learn the language of medical life outside the lab. (Figuratively, i have 4 months to learn Klingon.) Eventually, i will have a baby composed of menus that i can be proud of. And with that baby comes a less zapped me to be momma to my actual babies (Who are no longer babies, but still…) It also comes with a future of unlimited opportunity. A chance to spend my Silver Years (You know, the last couple decades before my Golden Years) continuing to learn and grow and expand my passions in ways i never imagined. A chance to give a different part of myself. And a chance to refill my reservoir.

But this life is something i’ve never had before. I’ve never been a regular Joe. I’ve never been a regular anything. And this is what scares me. Moving my gypsy soul out of a caravan and into a building. Turning the stray cat into a house pet. Editing the R-rated movie for network television. I can’t help but wonder if i am able, you know? Can i do it? My weedlings think i can. My (awesome) coworkers think i can. My friends and family think i can. Obviously GGU thinks i can. I guess that means i should quit my whining and get on with it! Wish me luck! Not yap wa’ Hol !*


*(Klingon for “One language is not enough”)

Cell Phone, Schmell Phone!

Sprint pissed me off. So i fired them. By the next day, i was a swarm of regret as i realized my anger made me rash. But weeks later, i am seeing benefits that i never expected. Kind of like getting lost in the woods and stumbling across a fully loaded blackberry bush. Or being stuck at home alone on a Saturday night and finding there’s a Firefly marathon on free stream. It’s strange how life works sometimes.

My old phone was an iPhone. It was WAY more than what i wanted, but hey, they made it sound essentially free, since the cost was amortized into my monthly bill. All i had to do was keep insurance on it, which also sounded like a good deal. I mean, it covered EVERYTHING! If i dropped it off a park bench and it got chomped by a duck, even… It was covered. I’m a clumsy sort, and on a tight budget to boot, so it seemed like this whole thing was made just for me.

Fast forward 2 years. My contract is finally up, but i am still keeping on the plan. I’ve grown used to it. And my phone. I can do damned near anything except sort my laundry on this phone. It alerts me to everything short of Brangelina’s next adoption. I have shopping apps, crochet apps, cooking apps, coupon apps, quote apps, driving apps, music apps, fashion apps, meditation apps, translation apps, diagnoses apps, and puzzle apps. But the phone was old in techno-years. It was getting slower. It ran hotter. And it developed a frustrating habit of stopping processes before i was finished. I knew it was only a matter of time.

One afternoon, i was trying to post on social media. After half a dozen tries resulting in “Oops! There appears to be a problem connecting” messages, my phone accidentally, but somehow forcefully, flew out of my hands, across the room, and into  a door jamb, where it suffered a rather profound joint fracture.  I picked it up in horror, gathered the little plastic eyeball thing-y that my phone had vomited upon impact, and cursed my bad temper. Thank God for insurance.

The next day, i bring my phone to the Sprint store. I wait the obligatory hour to be seen. The girl at the counter tells me she is pretty sure there is no resurrecting my phone, but they can try. I will just have to pay the copay. But what about a replacement, she asks? Good news! My insurance covers replacement. So she tells me what my choices are for replacement. I tell her i will take whatever is free. She tells me all the ones i’ve selected are free. Again, i just have to pay the copay.

“How much is that?”


“Wait?!?! What?!?!? That isn’t free! How about we just try to repair it?”

“Ok. That is $200.”


“Yes, Ma’am. It would be $600 without the insurance.”

“Um, i know you have no control over this policy. And i appreciate your time. But since my contract is up, i am done here. I’d like to cancel my account.”

“Oh, we can’t do that here. You have to do that online.”

(At this point, i am afraid of what will come out of my mouth. I know it isn’t the clerk’s fault, and i don’t want to take it out on her, so i just nod my head and leave.)

On my way home, i stop at Walmart and get a StraightTalk phone. I pick one that will do what i need and won’t break my bank. Then i return home and sign up for service. The first thing i notice is that i have cut my phone bill nearly in half. The second thing i notice is that my phone is a real pain in the ass to operate. It has none of the frillies that i had grown accustomed to. There is no voice-to-text. I can’t set individual text tones. The keyboard is set up a bit differently. The screen isn’t quite as big. The battery doesn’t last nearly as long. And the camera picture quality is on par with one made by a toy company.

Well, shit.

I think long and hard on this. Make a plus-and-minus sheet which comes to the conclusion that i can swallow my pride and go back to the frillies, or i can save money, make do, and maybe upgrade later to a better phone. Since i’ve never developed a taste for my pride, i opted to stick it out with the lame phone.

Fast forward to now. I still don’t like typing on this phone. As a result, i spend far less time on my phone than i have in years. I am reading more. (Oh, how i love an actual paper-and-print book!) I am doing more around the apartment. And i made 29 Christmas gifts this year. 29! Hours and hours of crochet. Granted, most were not big things, but still! What an accomplishment for me!  I believe whole-heartedly that, had i opted to stay with the fancy phone, i’d have spent a lot of my time playing with it instead of creating things for myself and others.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been times when i can’t make this phone behave, and it has come perilously close to being accidentally on-purpose sent to the same fate as its predecessor. After all, there is no way to sync your temper to your old phone. But i am getting more and more used to the way it used to be. You know, before my phone did everything but make breakfast. And i am happy that i am getting more done. Happy that i am not as tempted to text while driving (Because there is no flipping voice-to-text). Happy that i’m saving a chunk of cash on monthly service. In general, just happier.

I still spend too much time on technology. But i suppose we’ve all gotten into the habit of using our tech to excess. I am far from a Luddite, but i am glad to be on my way to a better balance. Less interface, more face-to-face. Less Words With Friends, more chess with my son. Spend some time making all those projects i pin on Pinterest. Maybe even visit some of those places i visit on Wikipedia.

Then, afterwards, i can log on and have some REALLY good stuff to write about on here.


Jeremy Finds His Sparkly

I’m sitting on my couch waiting for a rat to die. Sounds terrible, doesn’t it? And it is, tho not in the way most would imagine.

Jeremy McRatRat is a good little ratty. We knew he wouldn’t live forever, even with a nice, warm home and a healthy diet. When i went into the weedlings’ bedroom this morning, i knew it wasn’t good. The food i left him the night before was still in his bowl. He didn’t hop up when he saw me. And when i reached into pick him up, he whimpered. I think i probably whimpered too.

So i cuddled him up and took him downstairs. I swaddled him in an old, soft blankie. I fed him water off my fingertips when he wouldn’t take any from the bowl. When he wouldn’t eat a treat, i put some pancake syrup on my finger for him to lick off. A few hours later, he is still hanging in there. He is barely moving. Too weak to stand up fully, he scoots himself on occasion to get more comfortable or change position. I wish i could make him feel better, at least for this final part of his journey. It might not have started pretty, but Jeremy eventually had himself a good life.

One of my daughter’s favorite books growing up was Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. From the first time i read it to her, she said she would someday have a rat of her own. Fast forward to a dozen years later. My daughter is working on weekends and during the summers now and has a little money of her own. She does her research and picks out a good cage – One with plenty of space. She picks out bedding and researches diet. Then we go to the pet store. There were 2 cages of “fancy” rats, the cute and fluffy ones destined to be pets. On a separate stand were the “feeder” rats, the boring looking ones that were destined to become Nagina’s weekly meal. As my daughter cooed over the fancy rats, her eye kept being drawn to the other cage where a plain heather-brown rat was up on his hind legs staring at her. When she inquired and found that the only difference between the cages was a cuteness factor, she picked him. She also picked a pretty rat who looked more like a pet.

They came home with us in their sturdy cardboard carriers. I don’t think my daughter left her room for 2 days – she sat on her floor and played with them, fed them, gave them treats, until they got used to her. She decided to use names from her favorite story. The pretty rat got named Brisby (Frisby was changed to Brisby in the movie version of the story). She wanted another name from NIMH  for the the plain one, but none seemed to fit. Because he was darker, she went with Jeremy, actually the name of a lovable crow in the book. The two pets had enviable little ratty lives. Food that my daughter custom blended, plenty of time outside the cage to play with her, or just cuddle with her while she was studying. Few rats have it better.

When i decided to sell my house the following fall, the ratties came with us to the apartment. Brisby didn’t take the change too well, and passed on shortly after. I buried him under my chocolate-mint in the garden.

Because we were told rats didn’t do well alone, my daughter didn’t waste any time getting Jeremy a new partner. Ramsay was a sweet little thing, but he didn’t take the change from shop to apartment well at all and died in a few days. He now resides under my hosta.

The next partner was Remi. Remi was an asshole. He was the most handsome of all, but he was grouchy. When i saw one day that he had bitten my daughter bad enough to draw blood, he got released into the woods.

All thru this, Jeremy remained his sweet cuddly self. Rather than attempt another partner right away when we released Remi, we decided to let him be king for a while. Surprisingly, he took to it very well. He liked getting all the attention. And he made a playmate in our chi-mix dog. When he got his out-of-cage time, he and Siri-dog would play for ages like best buddies. It was heartwarming to watch the dog, bred to be a ratter, and her bestie, a common rat, play like kids.

When my daughter went off to college, Jeremy remained in his usual spot. My son likes him and did a good job of keeping him fed and watered. I, however, took on the duty of loving. I picked him up and gave him scritchens every day. At least once a week, i let him out to play with Siri for a few hours. When i could, i’d let him cuddle with me while i read or wrote. I’d long since gotten over the creepiness of holding a rat, but the smell still makes me wrinkle my nose. In spite of that, i made sure he felt the love and security of being a “pet”. Rat or not, he is a member of the family and is treated as such.

He is an interesting bloke, this rat. I’m certain he has a bit of Brit in him because if i leave my tea anywhere low while he is out, i catch him dipping his snout into it and taking a good, long pull. He also has a sweet tooth (Just like his momma, my daughter) and will try to do tricks for a piece of frosted breakfast cereal. He will actually smile for a piece of banana. And a cookie? You can get him to dance a rapture for that!  He definitely knows what’s good in life.

He is also ridiculously smart for a rat with no education. When i let him loose, and it’s time to go back to the cage, all i have to do is call his name, and he appears and sits on my foot. He outsmarts the dog at every turn. He is unfailingly charming, popping up on hind legs for any visitor to his corner. And if you cuddle him close, he will lick you in appreciation. Just a lovable little pet. I hate that he is leaving us. He has shown us so much love and taught us so much.

He taught us that you don’t have to be beautiful or fancy to be lovable. That it’s up to each of us to make playmates of our enemies. That it’s ok to eat your favorite stuff first, as long as you also eat the healthy stuff, too. And he taught us that not all rats are vermin, even if they come from the feeder cage. All of this is true for rats, and true for humans, as well.

I will remember these lessons. I hope you will, too. And when we share these lessons with our grand-weedlings and they ask us how we know these things, we can say in total honesty, “A rat told me so.”


“These marks were made by a 1966 Pontiac Tempest”

I can’t believe that it’s almost Thanksgiving. This year has flown by. It’s been a year of learning for me. Of adjusting. Big, honking life lessons, and smaller just-as-important ones. This is some of what I have discovered:

Your weedlings will never cease to amaze you. When my middle child left to start at West Point, I wasn’t sure how I was going to manage without her. She was a teenager and certainly had her share of fun, but she also helped me around the house, played chauffeur for her brother, cheered me up when I was down, encouraged me when I was exhausted, got me moving when I was depressed, and could cook up a mean meal when it was her turn. Losing her from the household was hard, even outside of the emotional upheaval that comes when one of your brood leaves the nest. Even as I was full of pride for her accomplishments, I was worried about managing. I knew my oldest, who has always had more than a bit of caretaker in her, would be there to help me if need be. And she hasn’t let me down. What surprised me was the fact that my barely-teenage son has also stepped up. Getting his chores done without much complaining, sometimes even without asking. Doing for himself and taking meal duty if I am working late. Being as empathetic as a 13 year old boy can. Yes, he still leaves his smelly socks under the coffee table sometimes. But I have been pleasantly surprised at what he has taken on to help without cajoling from me.

You can enjoy things you never thought you could. This is a recent discovery. Coworkers asked me to join them at a haunted house. I can say honestly that I’d have rather rubbed a cheese grater on my face than pay good money to have rubber masked clowns jump out and grab me, but they were so excited, and I didn’t wish to be a party pooper, so I went. And it was fun. Yes, I screamed myself to near-laryngitis. Yes, my jaw is still feeling the sting from being clenched so forcefully. Yes, I’m sure I horrified some people with my repertoire of vulgarities and curse words. Yes, my abs (or what passes for them) are still sore a day and a half later. Yes, I wet my pants. More than once. Stupid animatronic dinosaurs. And no, I doubt I will go again. But I’m glad I went. If for no other reason than to prove to myself I could.

Punting is a viable option. I’ve been in this apartment a year now. In all that time, in spite of dozens of tricks and tries, I haven’t been able to keep my dog from peeing on the landing. Anger, frustration, disgust… These things are not good for one’s blood pressure and peace of mind. Finally, last week, I decided to stop running plays. I punted. Scrubbed the carpet for all of its worth and laid down plastic carpet protector. The first few days, she wouldn’t step on it – she jumped over it to the first stair. Then she tried peeing on it. Apparently that was unsatisfying because now, a week later, she is sticking to her weewee pads like a good little doggie. I’m not a big fan of plastic on the floor, but at least my budget for rug shampoo can be cut.

Letting go of worries gets easier as you go along. This time last year, there were people and things I allowed to consume my thoughts. Finances, exes (OK, really just one of the exes), the pets, the weedlings, the job, aging, change and OH-MY-GOD-THE-FUTURE… My blood pressure escalated, my depression worsened, and I alternated between sticking my head in the sand and letting my head explode like a dead possum in the sun (Yes, that visceral image in your head is exactly what it felt like). I’m not sure what happened. My emotional IQ reached its peak. My therapist started hypnotizing me during sessions. Bath and Bodyworks started replacing my wallflower scents with perfumed Haldol. God/Goddess/Universe intervened. Something. But one day, not too long ago over a cup of afternoon tea, I realized I wasn’t nearly as worried. All the things that normally kept me as tense as a cat hanging from the curtains were starting to lessen. Things slowly but surely were starting to even out. Not that I don’t still get concerned over my bank account or the future of my weedlings, etc., but somehow, in my heart and gut, I know it is going to work out. I know it is getting better, or at least coming to an end. My blood pressure is on the wane. And I feel hopeful. Really hopeful. What a gift!

Don’t get out of the habit of reading and writing. I already knew to keep up my good habits of eating well and exercising. But I had forgotten to keep up the habit of reading. Books provide escape, intellectual stimulation, focus, and a break from technology (At least for me, as I prefer paper books). I may never learn to effectively meditate, but I will always be able to bury myself in a book and turn off the outside world. It really does help. And I often learn something in the process. Not a bad result for a habit that shouldn’t be hard to cultivate. As for the writing, that is a little harder habit to maintain. It requires both intellect and imagination, and stress has a tendency to turn off both in me. But doing it is like leaking a pressure valve. Tension and thoughts that have built up exit my fingers and end up here. Far more effective and beneficial than them staying retained in my jaw. And, hey, someone might get a laugh out of it.

I can’t stomach commercial meat in my house. It’s been coming on for a while, but I have finally gotten to the point where I can’t stomach the thought of something that lives its entire life in terrible conditions and then gets killed for my benefit. I have taken to buying free range eggs, local and/or free range meat, and far less of both than I have before (Which is somewhat a function of economics). I suppose there will come a time when I can’t even stomach that and will give up meat entirely. But for now, I still crave it sometimes. I just eat less of it. Maybe it’s a justification on my part to say that the lamb had a happy life romping around the pasture before slaughter. Maybe it isn’t true that the local farmer doesn’t slam his pigs to death like the videos I have seen posted about large scale farm corporations. If so, don’t tell me. I will work my way there. At least I am making progress in my attempts to be less of a selfish human. I don’t have to be a super human.

Tho not there yet, I am getting closer to being comfortable with my appearance. A little while back, I took an offer for a free consultation with a plastic surgeon here in town. My sagging face really bothers me, and I was curious what it would take to fix it. Apparently the answer to that question is $18,000. Either I am far worse off than I thought, or I am unreasonable in wanting to have my jowls cut off. I mean, I know I am looking my age, and I know my age is getting older. But $18,000 older? That’s at least 3 kick-ass vacations (more, if I go alone) – and I’m thinking the vacations might make me just as happy. Really, it’s all a moot point since I don’t have $18,000 lying around anyway. But still. Time to make peace with my face. I am 49 years old. Obviously, so is my face. New England winters, southern summers, beaches, coffee, a short smoking career, various other ingested chemicals, kids, hormones, a life as fully lived as I could tolerate… These things have left their mark. And tho I spackle and Bond-O and paint and detail every day, it’s still a Tempest and not a Mustang. And that’s ok. No one will be clamoring to restore me to my former glory, but at least I’m forever memorialized by Marissa Tomei.

There is no reason to be afraid. I may not have Underdog, but I still won’t fear. With all I have done, even in cases where my actions and hopes didn’t pan out, I survived. Even if it left me a step or two behind, I was still upright and walking. GGU has blessed me with resilience and resourcefulness. And I am grateful. So why have I kept worrying about the future? Changes in family, in physicality, in work, in life…. BRING IT ON! I may not win the game, but I’ll keep playing til the end. And if it becomes evident that even my best skills aren’t going to win this quarter, well then, I’ll channel the Harlem Globetrotters and play for style and fun. But I will play. I will keep playing. No more bench time for me, and no more forfeited games. I’ll be the most tenacious team in the league, even if I don’t make the playoffs. So bring it, world! BRING IT!

And on that happy note, I wish you all a wonderful day, and I encourage you to look back and see what you’ve learned this year. You just might surprise yourself.

Stream of Consciousness

My therapist has taken to guiding me thru meditation. Because, you know, it’s too frigging difficult for me to figure out. Breathe in… Breathe out. Yah. WAY too difficult. Two flipping steps. Two flipping steps that I can’t manage to master.

I love simplicity. Food, art, architecture, fashion: I love when they are seamless and with clean lines. I am, however, incapable of producing such things. I can’t just fry an egg. I have to glaze the pan with bacon grease first, dose it with smoked sea salt and freshly torn herbs from the garden, lay it on a plate with toast and frou-frou jam and perfectly cooked bacon. Even if you told me you only wanted an egg. I can’t help myself.

I tend to complicate things. As my son pointed out to me earlier in the week, I can’t even just say, “I’m sorry.” I have to apologize profusely and explain the screwed up reasoning that devoured my head and made me think that tossing the condiments in the jumble bin in your car console was a good idea. Even tho you don’t give a shit and have already moved on. I should have moved on with you.

I’m supposed to quiet my mind for 15 minutes a day. This is supposed to bring me one step closer to serenity. I need some serenity. Like, I REALLY need it. I’m wired and frazzled and buzzing with short circuits. Serenity seems about as likely for me as waking up next to Liam Neeson. But I know if I can manage to get some, things will get better. SO WHY THE HELL CAN’T I DO IT?????

I am a smart woman. A resourceful woman. Other than pie crust, I’ve been able to manage everything I’ve set my mind to, sooner or later. I can do and do and do and do. The only thing I can’t do is not do. Apparently, God/Goddess/Universe forgot to give me an “Off” button.

For a lot of my life, it hasn’t been much of a problem. I can multi-task like a champ. I am good with creating things on the fly. I awaken with all the ideas that rushed thru my head during sleep. It has served me well, for the most part. It’s only when I need to reboot that I realize I’m incapable of shutting down.

You know when you go to turn off your computer and it gives you that belligerent pop-up saying “Your Thesaurus program is still running and preventing you from shutting down…” ? Welcome to my head. Words, numbers, lyrics, jingles, memes, every mistake I’ve made that day, did I remember to lock the front door, the possibility that a spider will crawl in my window, into my ear, and lay a new colony, and the realization that there has never been a Weird Al tribute album…. All these things still cycling thru my mind. And the bitch is sitting there in her oversized easy chair telling me to “Breathe in…”

I apologize. She isn’t a bitch. She’s actually one of the better things in my life. She lets me vent and helps me distinguish between things I need to fix and things I need to suck up and walk over. She’s been with me a long time now and she’s kept me out of the bin for all this time. No small feat, I’m sure. So now all she has to do is help me find my power button so I can turn myself off.

“Feel your scalp relaxing… Your face… your neck…” I’m trying to do what she says, but instead I’m becoming acutely aware that NONE of these things is relaxed at all. It’s like straightening your leg when you’ve been sitting on it for an hour. Existential ponytail headache. She has already moved on to my shoulders, arms and fingers, and I’m still focused on the stiffness of my ears.

This isn’t working. I’m never going to be able to do this. I must be an idiot. All I have to do is breathe. WHY CAN’T I DO THIS??? Listen to her voice. Just her voice. Concentrate on that. ‘Breathe in… Breathe out…’ I wonder if this is the voice she uses with her daughter when she is upset? Does she use this voice with her husband? Oh, ick! Get that thought out of your head. Not supposed to be thinking about stuff like that. Supposed to be concentrating on breathing. My right nostril is a little stuffy. Must be the leaf mold. All that rain over the last few weeks. I wonder if it’s going to be a rainy fall. Maybe it will be a snowy winter. Remember that winter a few years back when we actually had snow on Christmas? That was really cool. ‘Feel your toes relaxing…’ Toes? What happened to hips and knees? Have I been talking to myself this whole time? God, I suck at this. “

Maybe I should just give up and accept the fact that my hard drive does NOT turn off. That the lags will get more and more and eventually I will crash. Wait. Bad analogy. Computers that have crashed get replaced. I’m not ready to be replaced. (How awesome it is to finally have reached the point where I don’t want to be replaced!) There must be a way. An emergency switch or something. Maybe she can hypnotize me and give me some magic word or something that will turn me off and reboot me. That might work. Because right now, she’s going “Breathe in…” and I’m thinking that I need to pick up mustard at the grocery.

Got any Grey Poupon?

Ok, session is up. I’ve failed again. Still no off button. Still no reboot. BUT I WANT SERENITY!!!!!!! Sigh. I’m going to make myself a cup of tea. That at least slows me down. It’s possible I am getting better at this meditation thing and just don’t realize it. Maybe I am actually calmer than I was. Maybe the planets will align, i’ll wake up with Liam Neeson, and he’ll hit me with some Valium. Maybe he’ll hit me with a hammer. It’s Hammer Time. Hit me with your best shot… Fire away…

Breathe in…. Breathe out.

Forget it. Where’s my tea?

Where is Willy Wonka When You Need Him?

Every woman knows that when she is feeling depressed, sad, hormonal, lonely, angsty, or just blah, there is one thing that will perk her up instantly. Lots of men know this secret too. And there is science to back it up. Bars, drops, kisses, chips, or even melted in hot milk, chocolate can make you feel better when nothing else will. Your body responds to it with endorphins and good memories and sugar rush. Mr Hershey knew what he was doing when he got into the chocolate biz. It’s not just a commodity, it’s a flat-out need. And there will always be a need.

Chocolate soothes and balms the mind body connection when there is too much hurt or sadness or stress running thru. It is the quintessential happy pill, and used as directed, its only side effect is a few moments of guilt (Maybe a little extra if it happens to be Lent,) when you remember you’re only supposed to consume 1200 calories today. It is perfection. Especially if you skip over the cheap stuff and go straight for the Ghirardelli. Sad no more, your belly and brain share a contented smile as the rich, brown valium-ish diffuses in your cells.

Lately, tho, I’ve been feeling something a bit beyond the usual stress and loneliness. A bit more than the usual undercurrent of my depression water table. Just like the geological water table, the levels rise and fall depending on the length and frequency of the rainstorms passing thru. It’s been raining like hell for a while now, and the well is overwhelmed. Like a good Earth Scientist, I realize these things happen in waves and that eventually the rain will subside and the flowers will be brighter in the spring for it. But one still has to survive the storm.

If the rain were, in fact, a literal thing, i’d be putting up sand-sack barriers, setting out cisterns (to store for later), getting the important things to higher ground. And, if it were reality, true to my own self, i’d be doing it unemotionally and efficiently, making the best of it by making up songs and stories like some comical village shanachie. And when I was ready to sit for a spell, i’d find myself some Reisen or a fudgy brownie with walnuts. And i’d know it was going to be ok.

But in this figurative state, Cadbury won’t cut it.

I need existential chocolate.

I have found things that come close: An outdoor nap, a walk on the beach, puppy and kitty cuddles, pretty much any song by Paul Williams. These come close. Existential Russell Stover, maybe. They soothe a bit, but they don’t quite take the pain away. There is really only one thing that does, and it is rarer than any gemstone.

Real and true love.

The certainty, deep down inside, that another human cares for you, all of you, as much as they do for themselves. That they wish and pray for your happiness as if it is their own. The one whose contact remains electric even when the battery is old and dusty and depleted. The one whose lips, like a metaphoric Hershey’s kiss, take the bucket of the well and reel it back up to the top. The one whose hugs bail bucket after bucket until the water is below your chin. Emblematic M&Ms. Existential chocolate.

If you are lucky enough to have found that one being who can coat all your shorted wires like the best Godiva ganache, then you have found the answer to life, the universe and everything (42 truffles, anyone?). It will protect you from rushing water, elevate you over the floodplain, and fill your tanks for the next drought. And you will know without a doubt that everything will be ok. True Love is existential chocolate. The substance that makes it all better.

That is what I need.

Unfortunately, Target doesn’t sell it. Not even in the candy aisle. No amount of Facebook chain prayers will make it appear. No Amazon sweat shop can fabricate it. I can’t borrow one from Sallie Mae. And it’s not like you can find a used one on eBay. So, no denotative Dove bar for me.

At least not today. Who know what tomorrow holds? For now tho, I must make do with actual chocolate. Not a cure-all, but at least a Band-Aid. And if that isn’t enough to keep my head above water, perhaps I will take the advice of Miracle Max: A nice MLT, when the mutton is nice and lean and the tomatoes are ripe…

I Do Declare!

I, the Mab. In order to form a more perfect soul, establish self-justice, ensure sane tranquility, provide for self-defense, promote my family’s welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for myself and my weedlings, do ordain and establish this constitution of, for, and by myself.

So I was given a writing prompt to try. I’m supposed to write a declaration of independence. Yes, I realize that I stole from the preamble to The Constitution, but lets just excuse the mixed metaphor for now, ok?

My last year before 50. I’ve done a lot in my life, but before I turn my personal clock past half a century, there are things I want to change. I’m not much of one for miracle cures. Rather, I would just try and fail and accept it as fate, or proof that I was incapable. Screw that. Other people do it. Why can’t I? And this year, I will. I will plan and undertake and adjust. I will make my life closer to what I want.

I will adjust my career to get me on the right path towards my eventual goal. I have passed by many opportunities, afraid of being turned down, or believing that I wasn’t worthy. There were some that I passed by because I knew they would require a lot of work. And there were some that I passed on because the logistics seemed impossible. I have opportunities coming my way soon, and I will seize them with both hands and make the move toward a better future. (But I really do wish schools would just accept my 25 year old GRE scores.)

I will take better care of my health. I will eat regularly and healthy. I will walk daily. I will drink water. I will listen to my body and do as it requires: Sleep, Meditation, Exercise, Brainwork. By doing this, I will keep my body and my brain in better condition. Laziness for me becomes an instigator of depression, and I’ve had too much of that already. I may not be able to slay the beast, but I’ll keep him in his cage. And if I’m lucky, he won’t howl too loudly.

I will indulge my spirituality. I will stoke the embers of my faith with books and conversations. I will listen with open mind and open heart. I will accept the wisdom of others. I will let it fill me to the brim so that my self-defeating nonsense has nowhere to reside.

I will cut myself loose of unsolvable worries and excess “stuff”. I will use less and buy less and invest more in time and people. Or time with people. Relationships. Experiences. I have plenty of clothes, movies, coffee cups, gewgaws. (Note: Yarn and books are excluded from the list on purpose. I may be resolved, but I am also realistic.) This is the year to bring out the Buddhist in myself, and I’m not talking about the belly.

I will write more. I will listen more. I will learn more. I will read more.

I will talk less. I will waste less. I will complain less. I will yell less.

I will stop worrying about my possible pending crazy-cat-lady-dom. Lets face it, I’ve already been there and done that, so why fear it? I know I can rock it if I need to. Besides, it will lend some marketing legitimacy to my tarot reading skills.

I will find my long-lost belief in love. I had it once, but it was so long ago that it is probably lying mildewed and moth-eaten in some figurative trunk in the part of my brain that houses the Periodic Table and the rules of backgammon. I just need to find it. And air it out. Darn a hole or two. Repair a seam or three. And bleach the shit out of it. Lots and lots of bleach.

There you have it. I’ve spent too much time as of late playing defense. Time to get offensive! (No, in the other way… I’ve already got that way covered.) Blaze a path toward my quinquagenarian years. (Yes, that is a real word. But I had to look it up.) I cannot guarantee success for myself. All I can do is promise that I will make the effort. God/Goddess/Universe willing, there will be payoff. Regardless, it’s hard to go backward when walking forward. Unless you’re moonwalking. But I can’t think of another pithy phrase to use, so forget about moonwalking. Just believe me when I say that I will put one foot in front of the other and make my way down the path. And I hope you will join me. After all, journeys are much more fun with companions.

The Thirteenth Side

Sometimes there’s a big difference between perception and reality. When you get a text from a friend saying, “Where are you?” and you instantly panic because you think you’ve forgotten something important…. But the reality is, they are hoping you’re at Walmart because they are out of toothpaste and have a hot date in an hour. Or when, at dinner in Naples, you think you are impressing everyone with your foreign language skills by asking for the check in Italian, only to be quietly and politely told by the server that you actually asked for freight charges. (To be fair, we did eat a lot .) We’ve all had moments like this. I personally find them amusing. In fact, I often entertain myself by considering reality versus perception. Since I am both relaxed and chatty this evening, let me show you what I mean…

I’m on my patio sipping a glass of wine while I type. I’m frequently out here this time of day. Usually with a glass of wine (or a toddy in the cooler months). Last night I was crocheting. The time before, I was reading a book. I like to think the passersby are musing to themselves, “Oh look! That lovely cosmopolitan woman is at her café table again. What is she up to this evening? Typing. I wonder what she types? Maybe she is a writer of mysteries or fantasies. Maybe she has a pen name! She looks so chic with her wine glass, sitting in the middle of her little herb garden. One of these days, i’m go to introduce myself to her and her cute little dog.”

But I think there’s a good chance the reality is more like this: “Oh Lord. The wino is outside again. Why does she keep her planters full of weeds? Maybe it is weed. Good grief! And what is it with all the typing??? I’ll bet she’s tattling on all the neighbors. Last night she was out there with her yappy dog and this hideous blanket she is making for some poor bastard. Maybe it’s for the yappy dog. Oh my God, she’s looking this way… Just keep your head down and keep walking.”

Or maybe they are thinking something more like, “There’s the gypsy woman again. Patio covered in herbs and fairy lights. I sometimes see her out there later at night in long, flowy nightgowns. I’ll bet her apartment smells like incense. I wonder what she’s typing? Magic spells? Notes for her next Wiccan gathering? A thesis on Stonehenge? She seems harmless enough. I mean, she caters to that little dog like it’s a child. It’s not like she’s harboring black cats or anything. She could be kind of cool. Maybe we should go say hi.”

Maybe they find me patient and zen. “There’s the woman who lives next to the Moroccans. You know, the noisy ones that hate everybody and stay up all night fighting with each other. I don’t know how she can deal with the caterwauling. She and her dog sit out on the porch in the evening. She sips wine and listens to modern classical music while typing or knitting or whatever. She just seems to ignore the chaos caused by the neighbors. Her dog hates it tho… Always yapping at the kids when they come close to the fence. I see she has a pretty little herb garden. And fairy lights. I love it when she turns the fairy lights on. Makes her patio look so pretty. If it weren’t for her blasted neighbors, i’d go have a glass of wine with her.”

Maybe they enjoy a good story like myself. “There is that crazy dog lady again. Out with her wine and her laptop. I wonder what she’s doing? Probably just cruising Facebook, but wouldn’t it be funny if she were writing porn or something? Like maybe she writes those salacious vampire romance novels. Or gory horror stories. Or violent comic books. She has that great smelling little herb garden and those Christmas lights up, listening to film scores… Kind of reminds me of those eccentric women from Oprah novels. I wonder what she’s doing here? I mean, how did she get here? Do you think she moved here for work? Or maybe she’s on the run from the law. One of these days, we should ask her.”

Or maybe they are caught up in their own lives and the thoughts are far more simple: “There is a woman drinking wine with her dog. I wonder if I have any wine at home?”

They say there are three sides to every story: His side, her side, and the truth. But with enough imagination, there are infinite sides. Some more true than others. Some more entertaining than others. The best stories are the ones that are both true and entertaining. You know what I mean… The kind of story where you have to preface it with, “You can’t make this stuff up…” Except you can. You can make it up. In this stressed out world, very often we need entertainment more than truth. We need imagination more than fact.

So if you pass by my apartment and see me on the patio, wine glass in hand, dog on my lap, the scent of herbs and the sound of The Lord of the Rings surrounding, make up any story you’d like. Make me a spy. Make me a cult fiction writer. Make me a fashion model. (OK, the last one’s a biiiiiiiiiigg stretch.) Make me anything you’d like. Then hop over the fence, grab a chair, and tell me the story. If I like your story better than my reality, maybe I will keep it 😉