Still Standing: The Story of...

I’ve started to write my story several times. Encouraged by my closest sister who often said that I should write a book. These conversations usually occurred around some disaster that was blowing up my life. “Who would want to read about this,” I’d say.

I have experienced a lot of life’s challenges. Perhaps it would be cathartic to write it all down. I kept thinking I’d have to get to the happy ending of the story, where all the trials (one is a literal reference) culminated in a happily-ever-after, tied up with a pretty pink bow. I see now that it’s not going to work that way. I mean hell, I could be 80 years old and have forgotten the story by then.

It occurs to me that the fact that I’m still standing is perhaps what the story is about. And the good (?) news is that the majority of the people surrounding my story are either deceased or not speaking to me so no headache there.  

Stay tuned.


"Do you have a rewards card?" Don't we hear this nearly every time we make a purchase? And by rote we drone out our telephone number.  Rarely,  I get a small discount. After repeating my phone number for the fourth time recently while running errands, I thought what reward am I really getting? What is it about this routine that we think is of value? I think reward programs have sold us an inflated bill of goods.

I started looking at my receipts to see how being a rewards card holder was bettering my world -- 10 points of 10,000 needed to next reward. Whaat? At this rate I'll have to bequeath my points to my daughter to use after I die. Despite presenting my BevMo rewards card every time I make a purchase, I've yet to receive any reward or discount. This is one establishment that should have recognized me as a marquis customer. 

Not only do I have a wallet full of cards, I often have to put in multiple phone numbers to land on the right one. Is it my cell phone, my first ex-husband's landline number or the phone number before that? I can feel the customers behind me in line staring an irritated hole in me while I run through the list, all for just about nothing.

I have to recognize what a great marketing ploy and example of subliminal messaging rewards programs are but I think I'm done playing. I might even get a bit of secret pleasure answering 'no' the next time I'm asked for my rewards card. Individuality will be my reward.

Do you have a rewards card?

My Freshman Year as an Empty Nester a.k.a The Year of the Sloth

My daughter just finished her first year of college. It felt like my Freshman year of being an empty nester. In some ways I can't believe it's already been 9 months. In equal measure I feel like I. Can't. Believe. We. Made. It.!!  Even amid the nearly daily phone calls that ranged every degree of human emotion, my life lacked the structure of being a Mom and skidded to the other end of the spectrum.

The slide into Slothness was a slow one. The first few days she was gone the house felt cavernous. And weird. Not good.  I had to learn how to eat dinner for one.  I found myself buying frozen meals. I mean, the size was right and the names... Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine, Amy's Practically Perfect in Every Way food, made it seem like a good idea.  They looked delicious on the package (when was the last time I'd had anything Alfredo). Sanity quickly poked her head in and suggested it was time to get it together and stop eating frozen, shit food. Still, many nights were popcorn or a grilled cheese sandwich, but at least I had to get a pan out and "cook."  My eating habits perked up when I realized I could drive through Panera or run through Chipolte for dinner as much as I wanted.  It felt a little naughty to eat out so often, but it picked up my spirit to be so fancy-free.

I noticed early on that I could leave dishes in the sink for nearly a week, never make my bed, and leave the house with the bathroom or my bedroom looking like a bomb went off. At first is was concerning. As it would be for any Type A person. Had I let myself go? Was this the beginning of a menopausal slide?

[Side bar: this menopause deal is a roller coaster. I basically try and pretend it's not happening. My Sister would say, "I think we're getting Peri-menopausal." I would looked shocked and say, "I don't know about you. But I'm not doing THAT."  I find if you ride it lightly, you don't get stuck in it.]

Truth be told, gradually, it felt freeing. It took one less stress off and again, felt a bit naughty. You know the feeling you're getting away with something and it gives you a little smirk on your face?  That kind of naughty.

My daughter would come home after just the right amount of alone time and I would pick her up from the train on Friday and have dinner together while watching our favorite DVR-ed shows before her boyfriend got off work. After that she was pretty busy for the rest of the weekend. It worked out fine because then I could see my boyfriend out of town and Daughter could take care of the dog.

Both my daughter and I have been brave about her becoming a grown-up. New activities we're on the table and I think we both handled them with respect, understanding and a sense of humor. We've become the closest we've ever been and it's true... being with your grown-up children IS the pleasure you've read or heard about. 

And so as life does when things seem to to be bumping along fine, change is in motion. Daughter is moving home to stay and attend a different school in the Fall and together we'll be moving to a new house next week. We like where we've been for the past 5 years but the landlord wants his house back. So with mixed to sad feelings, we've been working on packing. The sun came out when Daughter said recently, "It's going to be fresh start for us both." How can you not smile and feel better at the thought of that?

Daughter has become quite organized and neat this year away from home. And well, you know now how I've been. I wonder how she'll like living with a Sloth.

Ghosts of Romance Past

Ghosts of Romance Past

February 14th with a Valentine optional, I began to reflect on ghosts of romance past. What a parade!

Like the movies where the calendar pages fly off, I land on my first real boyfriend.  A friend brought him to my Sweet Sixteen birthday party and he was beautiful. A Swedish exchange student who had turned 18 the day before, he was 6’2, sandy blonde hair and had the bluest eyes I’d ever seen.

Just a Number

Just a Number

I’ve been staring down the barrel of my birthday for the past couple of weeks. It’s not a decade year but very close. Too close for my comfort. Trying to get with the very wise words “it’s just a number” but it’s not coming easy. Since my birthday falls on a Saturday, I thought perhaps I’d have a party. Some friends, food and cocktails would surely help the day go down better.

Canceling Halloween is LAME

Canceling Halloween is LAME

I’ve not thought much until now about diluting Christmas by calling it “Happy Holidays.” At first pass it seems fine and PC to encompass all religions and their beliefs (or none). But now I’m wondering if accepting that concept has led to the ridiculous decision of some schools to do away with Halloween. Really?? Canceling Halloween is LAME.


I recently let a situation turn into a rollercoaster ride. It's lasted two weeks. Without even thinking twice I slid into the front car of what might as well have been called "The Cyclone." It was a bigun'. The kind with all the thrills - climbing slowly uphill, inching along feeling like you could slide backwards, then getting to the top where you're hanging, perilously perched on the peak right before you--WHOOSH--go screaming downward, losing your stomach, feeling like you're gonna crash. Then the loop-de-loops corkscrew you upside down and around until finally you're right-side up, cruise back into the station and get off feeling nauseous and shaky.

What caused this impromptu spin? The usual. Things and stuff. It was one of those deals that had all the bells and whistles that can cause hysteria; great need, an application, approvals, underwriting, West coast-East coast time difference, signatures, a contract, overnight Fed-Ex delivery. Just another kind of situation I've successfully navigated before. But I totally forgot that. It wasn't life or death. No one was sick, no organs or limbs were in peril. It just felt dire and desperate and I let it take me for a wild ride.

Why do we do that to ourselves? I know better (see "When it's Right it Rolls" I write this not to elicit sympathy but because I know I'm not alone. These times seem to create a whirling dervish that can cut quite a path. We have to turn to each other to find our balance and perspective. Sometimes that's a soothing conversation about keeping the faith and sometimes it's a bracing, loudly delivered wake-up call that it's time to cowgirl up because tough times don't last but tough people do. I'm grateful for them both; for someone to step in when my ability to reason stepped out.

I hope that when the next challenge comes I'll decline the rollercoaster ride in favor of better management skills. If not, I know two fabulous Broads who will set me straight.


Confection - kənˈfekSHən/ noun: a dish or delicacy made with sweet ingredients.

Just so you know right off the top, this post is all fluff. There's nothing intellectually deep here. It's all sensory. I went to sleep last night and woke up thinking about a delightful confection that quite possibly may have the power to change your mood or your mind and take you straight to bliss. How could I keep that kind of information to myself? Besides, sometimes what we need is just a little confection to make our world right.

I have a new love affair. With macarons. Do you know them? I can't believe I've lived my whole life up until now without them. I'd seen them around but dismissed them as a funny little colored hamburger looking cookie that probably tasted weird. I passed them over time and again for the same old cookies and brownies. Anything oozing chocolate overshadows everything else in the bakery case. Chocolate is king, right? Until one day a couple of months ago when a girlfriend and I found ourselves in a café and bakery in San Francisco looking for an espresso to make our way home with. What's coffee without something sweet, so I found myself laboring over the minor decision of what to select. I scanned the bakery case, saw the multi-colored macarons and thought my usual, "no, those are weird" but couldn't land on something I wanted. Finally as a last resort I figured what the hell, I'll give the macarons a try. They did come in pretty colors after all. One chocolate, one caramel, one raspberry and one vanilla went into the bag and off we went. A ways down the road I decided to dig into my bakery bag. I fished out a macaron and held it up for inspection. I looked at it from all sides skeptical about its ability to please me. "Here goes" I thought as I took that first bite preparing myself to toss it back in the bag. It's a good thing I wasn't doing the driving because I think I would have slammed on the brakes as that first bite yielded unexpected deliciousness. I swear I heard the hallelujah chorus as I experienced the light, spongy, faint crunch of the macaron followed by the perfection of filling that flooded my senses. "WOW, these are amazing," I thought digging in for another bite. The beauty (one of - there are many) of the macaron is in three bites at the most, it's over. It's like being sprinkled with little fairy dust and then it's gone. Their fabulousness can hardly be denied when offered in flavors such as Lavender Poppy, Persian Rose, Salted Caramel, Dark Chocolate, Almond Amaretto and Red Velvet.

In that instant macarons and me became a thing. It was like overlooking the great guy that had been there all along. I made the ones from San Francisco last for a couple of days but then how was I going to get my fix? Some weeks later while perusing the freezer case at Trader Joe's for a dessert to bring to a BBQ there they were - Macarons à la Parisienne - chocolate and vanilla, 12 of them. Not long after that they started stocking the pretty flavored kind. They're not as good as the bakery but in a pinch, when I'm feeling pinched, they are as close as my freezer and are the magic salve that makes me feel pampered, sated and smiley. I've shared them like a treasured secret with my closest friends who were equally as impressed with the delight of them.

I'm looking forward to a long and lovely future of searching for and experiencing the joy of macarons with the sweetest of people.

When It's Right It Rolls

Why is it so hard to let life flow? Maybe because as women we're wired to Mama Bear our family and be supportive -- of EVERYONE. That includes: mates, spouses, children, siblings, parents, friends, co-workers, our children's teachers, their coaches...I once had my manicurist ask me for a loan - I kid you not.  Where's the flow when key things on our TO DO list like make a home, raise children, have a career, and volunteer demand such high productivity? A river can't flow when it's dammed up and DAMN I'm tired!

I have become acutely aware that when something is right, it rolls. Easily and divinely. I came to this welcome conclusion after many years of following a formula that went: deny, avoid, worry, stress, take action, worry, pray, cross fingers, toes, eyes, hold breath, stress - you get the picture. I've witnessed and experienced how when the right thing is supposed to happen it just does. The yes comes about the job, the house, the money and it doesn't require pushing a boulder uphill. That's not to say you can put your feet up and lounge under the umbrella of "God provides." He may, but he also helps those that help themselves. We've been taught that hard work pays off, and it generally does, but not when we push it as far as shoving a square peg into a round hole.

I struggle with this. I caught myself the other day in the shower banging a bottle against the palm of my hand to extract the last drops of shampoo. It dawned on me that I DO this -- I beat out the last bit of something when there's more to be had. It occurred to me that the only things that should be wrung out are sponges or wash cloths. Not people or experiences.

Once you figure out what you want (no small task in itself) it can be a challenge determining the right amount of work vs. wait to apply. It's usually not static; lots of work then taking your foot off the gas. But it's worth the effort since things can only grow with the right amount of space, air, nourishment and time. Plus life is so much more enjoyable when you're not beating the hell out of it.

To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe. —Anatole France



Finding Zen in Unexpected Places

The criteria that makes up a "perfect" home is always changing. Magazines, catalogs and television channels like HGTV and DIY tell us that not only do we need the sublime open kitchen/great room concept, we should have an outdoor living space. This is a decked out patio replete with rugs, coffee tables and couches with throw pillows. I always think that these areas are outfitted better than my first, second or third apartment. On top of that is the man cave. A blown up clubhouse with a pool table, bar and television with a screen as big as a garage. We women are allocated a space too (see below). Is it me or has the concept of home gone over the top? Don't get me wrong, I would love to have a home full of lovely things but I'm watching HGTV purely for the entertainment value and escapism from everyday life that it offers. If guys have a cave a gal should get a cove; a space to do her thing whether it be scrapbooking, sewing, yoga, mediating, etc. We've been enlightened by Oprah and Pinterest that we should have a sanctuary in our home. Press your nose up against the glass with me and do a little window shop dreaming here:

And then there's us real people, the average Janes and Joan Q. Publics. What do we have? It's the bathroom. And it's far from sanctimonious. It's not even deemed that off-limits to the rest of the world.  If we're lucky the door lock works. But oh, how we make the most of it. For mothers especially it's the only place of respite in an otherwise crazy world. It can be the one location where it's quiet enough to catch our breath, hear ourselves think or read a magazine. If we can steal away long enough we might even get a bubble bath or polish our nails. Sweet luxury! But hey, Zen is where you can find it and if that's in the Loo, so be it. Grab it when you can Girl!


Is Your Partner Still Your Lover?

Far be it for me a 2x divorce recipient to give relationship advice. So let me start by saying that this is not that. However with over 30 years of dating experience I do feel somewhat qualified to comment on affairs of the heart. Several years ago I heard Dr. Laura Schlessinger pose the question to a caller on her radio show, "Are you still your husband's girlfriend?" My ears perked up. What?? What did she mean? How or why would you be a "girlfriend" when you had already attained the sought- after "wife" position? I listened a little closer and then began to notice the concept put into play around me.

We're all familiar with the transition that occurs in romantic relationships from "honeymoon" to "real life."  There's nothing you can do to prevent it, time marches on. It's  a good thing when relationships develop to the next level and grow more serious. But often this other thing happens. We get comfortable enough to think we've got this relationship up and running and now it can cruise on auto-pilot. We don't make as much effort looking nice, doing nice things for and with our beloved or even being nice. I see the last one a lot. You do too, take a look around places like parties and bar-b-ques with other couple friends or even nondescript places like the supermarket. There it is, that uncomfortable experience of seeing one mate disparage the other as you bear witness.

Dis·par·age  /diˈsparij/  Verb: Regard or represent as being of little worth. Synonyms: depreciate - belittle - decry - underestimate.

This is not a judgement, we've all done this. We are all equal in allowing this malady to permeate what is supposed to be the love of our life relationships. This is merely the observation booth from where we can look in and see what we might want to readjust.

I think there's some merit to the idea of continuing to be your partner's lover no matter what the length or status of your relationship is.  I'm not suggesting we go all "Stepford" but how about recalling what made you want this person to be yours and simply doing the things that got them there. Sure big gestures are great but it's really the little things that are relationship glue. Do we really need a date on the calendar that only comes once a year to remind us it's all about the love? Big profit day for Hallmark but kind of lame if we can't figure it out the other 364 days a year.

So what's the suggestion? Keep seeing your partner through the lover-scope lens. Notice, feel and tell them that you think they are beautiful, handsome, smart, funny, creative, incredible in the kitchen, office, community, bedroom, as a mate, friend, parent, lover. Make a date for FUN, play together often. Make a gesture any day of flowers (Trader Joes has great ones - you're there anyway picking up the groceries), cards, notes, text messages, a cookie or a piece of chocolate - anything that says, "Hey, I think you're cool, I'm lucky!" Speak with care in your voice and bite your tongue when you can't. Extend some grace when your partner blows it, because we all do.

It's true that life + relationships = not always easy. In fact, sometimes it's damn hard. Like lots of things it's a dance where balance is required. Just remember, if you step on some toes or fall down there's always make-up sex.



Turning Ho Hum into Ho Ho

And so this is Christmas. It's never really been my holiday. Losing my Mom when I was 18  6 weeks before Christmas seems to have cast a pall over the season for me. I thought that would change when I had children of my own and to some extent it has. I shifted from as close to total avoidance as I could get to orchestrating the best damn Christmas EVER. Still, those holiday memories are a blur of exhaustion and tears - mine and the kids from trying to create the "perfect" holiday of gingerbread houses, breakfast with Santa in the right clothes, the desired presents wrapped with handmade bows, baking several kinds of cookies and plating them up merrily for friends and family, planning, cooking and setting a beautiful table for the dinner. I squeezed us all too tightly trying to have an epic Christmas. And, I never quite acquired that joyful aura I saw in other people or the magic described in Christmas carols or movies. The economic downturn saw expensive gifts, parties and dinners morph into something sweeter and more meaningful. Limited resources made it necessary to identify which things were the most important to make the holiday special thereby creating a natural balance that cut down on the craziness. At first downsizing Christmas can seem like a bummer but in hindsight it made it more special.

This year the Christmas spirit is again elusive. I've decided the holidays can occur on a kind of lighting dimmer switch. With kids I can't turn the holiday lights out completely but I can adjust the focus on the things that make it our kind of Christmas. A tree is a must (I asked the kids if we could do a smaller tree and was told "NO") but I came to the conclusion this year that all the ornaments don't have to make it onto the tree. The favorites and some beautiful new ones made the tree fabulous and done without the angst. Some treasured decorations like the hand print Christmas tree tile and the gold pine cone with pom-poms are a must-see but I didn't feel compelled to find a place for every decoration we own. The Santa's Village didn't get set up this year and that's okay. I made a new decoration with some colorful $5.00 ornaments and every time I pass by the table it sits on, I feel happy.

While I haven't been overcome with Christmas spirit, there have been moments of happiness that have come from letting go of expectations of how the perfect holiday should look. I've enjoyed the peace that comes with only doing the things that I want to do and that I knew would make me feel good. The book "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success" says there is joy in repetition. Sometimes by putting one foot in front of the other and really listening to your heart's desire you'll find that you get through ho-hum to Merry Christmas.