Saturday, January 24, 2015

Holiday Remnants

Most of us have moved on from Christmas and other holidays that were celebrated during the last couple of months. I'm trying, but procrastination the busyness of life still leaves me with a naked Christmas tree in my living room, waiting to be disassembled and stored alongside her sister who temporarily resided in the family room. Whose idea was it to have two trees?

My husband and three children love Christmas. My feelings about it necessitate another blog post. Basically, sometimes I feel that I can skip it or do it biennially; at other times, the joy of the season creeps through the frenzy and I'm smiling and happy to be giving and celebrating my blessings. Either way, the actual day is always fun.

This past Christmas, the blessings included dinner with my husband, kids, and dog. My sister-in-law and her family came and so did my brother-in-law – my husband's other sibling. Darling Husband cooked a scrumptious meal that was partially worked off at the ping pong table in the basement before putting it back on with the Jesus cake dessert. The next day we traveled to my parents' home where another traditional dinner was waiting. The girls were glad to see their Uncle Joey, too, complete with checks in hand to their delight.

Another holiday blessing is the reconnecting. A whole year can go by without talking to a family member or friend, but when December rolls around, I always make or receive a call or two… or three. Most of the time, it seems that people are progressing along on the same path. For others, incidents have dictated that they rediscover life in a different way.

Before I digress any further, I have a question for you. What do you do with those family photo Christmas and holiday cards that everyone (except me) seems to be sending out these days? During my annual summer beach trip, I see families all dressed in white, posing against the vast blue ocean for the perfect shot before sunset. "They're getting the card ready," I say.

Every year, there's an increase in the family photo cards we receive, but the Christian, winter, and Santa themed Hallmark (or equivalent) cards are still holding their own. As much as I like the traditional, artsy, professional cards, created by talented artists, designers, and writers, I have to admit that the "choose-your-template, do-it-yourself" cards are getting more viewing time from me. Some of this year's crop include a bride and groom, happy people in pajamas, happy people eating in restaurants, and happy people on family vacations at the Grand Canyon and at one of those huge national parks.

We get the new baby photo cards, the photos where the pet steals the attention, the little kids who've grown another three inches since last year's card, the coordinated sweater shots, the three or four generation family group shot, the sailing, the skiing…

A couple families did what I did one year (my one and only year of attempting to keep up with the Christmas photo-card Joneses): they sent a card with a 4x6 family photo slipped inside. It was relatively easy the year that I did it because we just happened to have a family photo from a summer outing – you know, the one where a stranger volunteers to take the "whole family" because he or she sees you taking pictures of each other in partial combinations. Yes, that one. Anyway, I printed several copies of that shot for the several cards that I intended to send out. Somewhere in a drawer, several copies never left the CVS envelope. Oh well… I tried.

Before I move on, I must mention the 5x7, 4-sided glossy card featuring a preppy family of four in jackets, pearls, and ties… worthy of a portrait in the library of their probable mansion. The inside contained the annual letter and the card back had a picture of the sons tubing in Greece. This card came from one of my husband's rich friends. My friends aren't rich. Hmmm… actually, some are.

Years ago, when I received photo cards,  I placed them in an album – the kind where you peel back the clear protector page and place the photo on the sticky page and then press the protector page back on it. (Remember those?) Surely, I couldn't throw away "a picture" of someone!

It took about three years to fill it. I don't think it would take three years to fill an album nowadays. So what do you do with the photos? Admire, display, and toss? Ours have been accumulating, along with the traditional cards, in a couple of festive baskets. It used to be one basket. One day I had the bright idea of scanning them into a picture file on my computer. One day, I scanned a few. There will be no more scanning.

So the photo cards, in addition to the cookie tins, etc, have to go... eventually. I'll never achieve my semi-minimalist (dream on Anita) status if DH and I continue to keep all the special greetings and gifts that come through our door. However, my sentimental nature lives on. Continue to send us your traditional cards, photo cards, notes, letters, fruit, candy, and cookies. We love it, and we love you.

Do you send Christmas or holiday photo cards, traditional cards, or letters?

Are there any special joys and/or particular challenges you face during the holiday season?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Car Shopping

I'm on my fifth car. The first was bought in 1978, and the current, in 2012 - 36 years of car ownership. I'd say my track record is good; though "good" for some people is buying a new or different car every 2 to 3 years; and for others, owning a car 10 to 20 years. The former are what I call "car people;" giving priority to numerous factors beyond practicality.

Because I'm not a "car person" (until I need one), I'm not an authority on what those factors are. Someone might say, "Niiice car," to someone driving a convertible or a sporty car. Or it could be a conservative, sleek, high-end vehicle; or a truck. I seldom ask people why they chose what they drive.

However, I've had friends throughout the years who have brought up the "new car" conversation and volunteered the rationale for, um, their choices. I'll bet you're not surprised that at least half of the women let their husbands choose or are influenced by another significant male figure in their lives. Mostly, the reasons I hear are: 1) I don't know anything about cars. 2) I don't care what it looks like; I just need something to drive that has air conditioning, heat, and music. 3) My husband loves cars, so I'll let him have fun choosing it. That's what they tell me. I express my congratulations and we move on to the next topic.

Except this one time, B. tells me that her husband surprised her with a new car. Yep – just drove up in a sparkling, navy blue crossover and handed her the keys. She and I had met at the mall (her choice) to walk and talk. When we left, I got a glimpse of the shiny new car; a stand out in the parking lot. At that time, crossovers were the newest trend in vehicles, so I had a few questions for her.  She went from faking happiness to moaning about how part of her rear view was blocked by some part of the car that I can't remember; basically, because of the shape of the car. What could I say? I think I just said, "Awww." What I didn't say, was, "You're stuck with a car that you don't like."

Of my five vehicles, only one eased its way into my possession without the benefit of my choice. Darling Husband fell in love with a mid-sized SUV and went down his list of reasons why we should have it. 1) His very old car was not going to last much longer. 2) It's a well-built vehicle with a good safety record. 3) It's used. 4) It's a niiice car! 5) "You'll look good in it." Flattery.

My response: "We already have an SUV (that I chose) and I'm used to driving it. I don't need another car yet. Why don't you get a car that YOU'D like to drive." And that's what he did.

Not too much time later though, I found myself driving it. Somehow, he began driving the big "old" SUV that was mine; and because I don't like switching cars every other day, I began driving the newer one… until one day, my (now his) huge, chunky, lovable SUV met her demise. (Click HERE and scroll down to the end of the other post if you want to see it.) It was now my turn, again, to make the new car choice. Because we had two cars, I was able to take my time scoping the traffic; seeing what everyone was driving. My decision was months later.

Darling Husband wasn't feeling a van, but… that's what I wanted and that's what I got. Still in the midst of motherhood, it is serving me well – and the rest of the crew, too. When a road trip comes up, everyone insists that we drive the mommy van and is elated to hop in.

How long I'll drive the van? I don't know… probably a while; it's just under 3 years old. I'm still glad to have it, and glad DH has his SUV back again… for the second time. The first time, he intentionally gave it up for me. The second time, he reluctantly gave it up for Girl #1 during her senior year of high school. At that time, he was forced to pull his toy car out of the garage. She went away to college and toy car is back in the garage. Not for long though! Girl #2 is lobbying hard for exclusive rights to the SUV.

I digress. Basically, I like choosing the car that I will drive.

What about you? How was ownership of your vehicle decided upon and is your name on the registration? Does it matter?

Images found here and here.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

au naturel

In the days when my husband's company retreat included the spouses, I'd join the enthusiastic group. One of the places we went to was a 200+ year old, award winning resort. As corporate guests, we were given a list of leisure activities from which we could choose - a freebie. Golf was on the list, a spa treatment, and other things that escape my memory. I chose the spa treatment.  Why not? I was away from home - from motherhood, dish washing, bill paying, and laundry.  I couldn't remember the last time I'd been to a spa. Had I ever been to one? Maybe it was just a hodgepodge of steam rooms and hot tubs at YMCAs and hotel pools. This was the real deal. It had to be worth my time. It had to be a feel-good, relaxing experience.

I showed up at my appointed time and was greeted by a smiling and pleasant woman who verified what my pampering would be and then passed me on to the next attendant who led me to my hot sulfur water bath, complete with the scent of my chosen botanical.

The bath… not fabulous, but nice. I guess it's all about attitude. Anyway…

As this was over 12 years ago, I can't remember if I went into the sauna - I don't think so, though I have a vision of passing by it. Perhaps my memory of all the particulars was usurped by the next step of my treatment.

Attendant number 2 passed me on to attendant number 3 who was waiting for me in a super-sized swiss shower room.  Shower heads and hoses were staring at me from every direction, though only one hose was on and pointed directly at me - the one held and blasted upon me by a woman I'd just met. Somehow, I had found myself without my white, soft, thick, secure and comfy robe, standing naked, 10 feet away and facing this plain faced woman as she directed water over everything from my shoulders down… well, almost everything. It was like she was power washing her deck.

Little did I know then, that I was having a Scotch Spray.

"Okayyy, Hmmm…" I thought. "Step outside of your comfort zone. Be sophisticated."

After I convinced myself that this was normal, I relaxed… well, not really. Where was I supposed to look? Facing her, I had to see her. She was 30ish, short, white, average sized, had short brown hair, and wore khaki pants and shirt. What was she thinking? Seems like a very monotonous job.

"Maybe she's a lesbian; that would probably make it more interesting for her."

"Maybe she's not a lesbian, and that she's having big fun on the job; inwardly laughing hysterically at all the paranoid, Scotch Spray novices who come through; in addition to myriad physical flaws in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

Soon I relaxed… really. I rotated, stood with my asset facing her and thought, "Bring it on!"

Surely the spa staff must get a bit of entertainment from their clients; but that's okay, because when the spa conversation came up at my table during the company dinner, we got the best laughs, too. As for where to look, one woman said she kept her eyes closed.

Recently, I was back at the resort which resurfaced the memory of the "hose me down" experience. (By the way, supposedly it "breaks up toxins and cellular blockage in preparation for a massage.")  It made me think about other times when my naked body is on display; when things are drooping and bulging; when nooks and crannies are in the spotlight. The gyno, the mammo tech, the colonoscopy guy, my husband, my children: they've seen it all and it doesn't faze me in the least. However, there's something about casually walking naked through a locker room that is not in my span of comfort. Over the years, I've seen many women do it. Must be nice to be that confident.

Are you one of the "confident" people or lean toward modesty?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Phase I - One Down, Two to Go

Girl #1, Girl #3, me, Girl #2

Girl #1 graduated high school on June 14. Girl #3 graduated middle school on May 30. Life has been busy.

I miss you all. Be back soon.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Medicine

He called it, "my medicine." Hot burning liquid in a wide flat bottle, slightly concave on one side; it was easy to grip, then pour, and drink. Often, it sat on the kitchen countertop beside the small shot glass, accessible for scheduled times of day. Sometimes I'd see him. I remember the sound of the top being unscrewed and the plop while pouring. He'd stand with one arm akimbo, bring the glass to his mouth with the other hand, throw back his head, swallow, and exhale through his mouth with a simultaneous, "Ahhhh."

Years later, Mom laughed as she told my brother how he imitated Dad's ritual, proclaiming, "This is how you drink liquor." My brother was a young boy then. I thought it was funny, too.

Dad also drank coffee, though I can't remember seeing him make or drink it during those early childhood days. How I know is because of the small, metal percolator that was on top of the stove. There was a basket inside and a glass knob on the top; a contraption hardly used nowadays. Mom said she never drank coffee, so Dad had to be the one using it.

What would Dad have been like without his coffee and his medicine? A World War II veteran born in 1921, he married at 31, later than most of his peers. As a husband and father, he fit in with all the other dads in the neighborhood; working hard during the weekdays to take care of his family, mowing the lawn on Saturday, and going to church on Sunday –  a typical family life.

Was the shot of whiskey typical, too? The Kent cigarettes? When did it begin? As a poor teenaged boy in Norfolk, Virginia? As a young soldier in the Philippines? Re-entering segregated civilian life in the United States? When did it become his medicine?

My thoughts about "feel good" substances didn't start with Dad. Instead, I began with the grateful feeling I had on a dark, rainy day as I held a cup of English Tea in my hand; drinking and relishing the heat that traveled from my mouth to my stomach, warming my body as I anticipated the effects of the caffeine – a mind cleared of cobwebs and a boost of energy. Ahhh Yes… love that late morning cup of tea – my medicine.

When did it begin, my love of tea? I don't remember; probably like most people who don't remember when their love and dependence on coffee began - America's favorite morning beverage. If coffee didn't give me jitters, I'd be drinking it, too. My teenaged kids drink it. Starbucks, the drive-thru at McDonald's, the Keurig brewer – all have contributed to the inception of coffee in their lives, along with the influence of their parents. If my husband treats himself to a coffee, he'll ask the girls if they want one, too, which is usually a foo foo type. I, on the other hand, have contributed to the normalcy of other substances.

"You're still working on that project? Drink a cup of tea; that might help you to stay awake."

"Here's a Benadryl. It'll help with your allergies and stuffy nose. You'll sleep all night."

"You're feeling tense? Drink some hot Chamomile tea."

They are the next generation of medicine takers.

Everyone seems to have their medicines that range from mild to destructive. We have our coffee and tea to get us going; our 4 diet Cokes during the day, our beer after work, our wine for dinner. We eat our sweets, fats, and chips. According to recent news reports, a handful of moms are swiping the kids' ADD medicine that they claim aids in getting through the long list of things to do.

On the other side of the same coin, we take 15 vitamins and herb supplements a day, we run until we run it out, hit the gyms, and do other exercises or sports to the point of obsession. Many say that these are better choices.

The illegal stuff – I don't know much about it and it speaks for itself.

While surfing the NET, I came across a woman who refuted everyone's need for stimuli and/or sedatives. She recalled the life of her grandmother; how she worked hard, ate well, and loved her family and friends, and that that's all she needed. She suggested that we do the same.

What's your "medicine;" if you care or dare to share?

Other thoughts?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Don't Take the Kids

Running on the long, winding road that stretches from one end of my subdivision to the other, I passed the home of "Jan" and "Steve." Fifteen years ago, they invited Darling Husband and me to a party. At the time, we were parents of a three year old and a one year old and chose not to go because we were tired or because we had another commitment or because we didn't feel like going through the hassle of finding a babysitter. I forget.

DH knew Jan and Steve through friends that they had in common. They were, and still are, professionals with interesting careers (who do not have children); people who I would have enjoyed talking to; however, I blew it. When they invited us to their home again, I RSVP'd on their voice mail with a hint request to bring my children.

Mistake. Not good.

We did not hear back from them; nor did they ever invite us again.

It was summer. I envisioned a back yard grill with hot dogs and hamburgers. We had taken the kids along to parties before and it worked out. Cling-ons and lap babies who were satisfied to have a cracker or a juice cup in their mouths while people watching, they never disturbed anyone...

Or did they?

There was an occasion where another couple invited us to their cookout; a couple who knew we had babies and who welcomed them. I seem to recall that there were a few other children there, too. Anyway, the wife of the host couple wanted to hold one of my girls and enjoyed doing so, and the kids were quiet as usual. But... I wonder how the other guests felt.

(By the way, that couple invited us back to next year's cookout and somehow got the message to me that it was for adults only. I appreciated her honesty.)

When I was a new parent, it took a few years for me to figure out that most people prefer that kids be left home; even when it is a casual, outdoor, neighborhood party. They feel that getting away from their own kids and then having to look at some else's, puts a damper on the atmosphere. Others are empty nesters who've gotten away from frequent contact with kids. Also, there are the party goers who want to drink to no end and act accordingly, which includes dropping a few f-bombs.

On a visit to the outskirts of Chicago eight years ago, friends of ours had a party at their home to welcome us, which included the kids. The other guests brought their kids, too, but it was obvious that "the kids" were expected to play outside or in another room and that "the adults" were given free range of the party room - complete with a stone enclosed fireplace, a long table with a feast on it, and a full bar. One of my three daughters, Girl #1, had no interest in playing with the kids and would not be separated from her parents. A male guest seemed to purposely make his point that she was not welcome with constant and overt cursing. A woman noticed "the child" being in "the wrong room," too, and told me that she thought it was good of me to be patient with my daughter by letting her eat with me while I was having conversation with adults.

I think that was her way of saying that she felt sorry for me because I was stuck with my child.

Jogging past Jan and Steve's house often stirs up memories of having young children and the specific challenges they presented. When they come into the world, the metaphorical helicopter begins to fly around them and parents tend to lose perspective.

I don't know if Darling Husband and I were wrong or not in taking our young children to, presumably, adult parties. They were like appendages and we didn't give it much thought; maybe because it wasn't often and because it was typically a "shorts and tee-shirt" setting. Also, other party throwers insisted that we "bring the kids" because they knew the effort and expense of hiring a sitter.

I'm not a "gotta go to the party" person and neither is my husband; though his work lands him at quite a few. When we go, we start with, "We'll go and stay for a short time." Most of the time, we stay much longer and are almost the last to leave. Whether the kids are there or not doesn't seem to matter. If we are there for the pleasure of the conversation (and food) with friends, it seems to work.

Some parties are obviously not meant for children to attend; however, if there is a fine line, do you mind kids being there or would you rather not see any?

Image found at

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Ah-Choo! Ah-Choo!

In the waiting area of the doctor's office, a man sitting with his wife and daughter, 20 feet away, says to me, "God bless you."

Thank you.

At home in the kitchen: Ah-Choo!

Watching TV in the family room, Darling Husband says to me, "Bless you."

Thank you.


DH again: "Bless you."

Thank you.

Susceptible to springtime allergies since forever ago, my sneeze follows me around for a month or two; getting the attention of a family member, friend, or stranger who promptly says, "Bless you," "God bless you," or an occasional "Gesundheit."

When I was a child at home with my parents, I rarely got those responses. More likely, I heard, "Woo, that was a big one!" "Cover you mouth," or Turn your head"...not that Mom didn't want God to bless me. After all, my heart was dangerously stopping and missing a beat each time I sneezed... according to the belief of many.

Always a smidgen of a non-conformist, it occurred to me that I don't have to say "Bless you" every time someone sneezes; though I think it's a kind and personable act. With no expectation of a reprimand, I tried it (silence) when my daughter, Girl#1, who likes attention, sneezed.

"You didn't say anything," she said.

Oh. Bless you.

"Thank you," she responded with a smile of satisfaction.

Dictionary dot com defines tradition as "the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice." Bless you seems to fit.

I began to wonder about other traditions. For instance... When we name a child after a relative - an honor to the deceased or to family unity - do we really like the name? And godparents... When I was little, I was told that a godparent took responsibility of a godchild if something happened to the parents. My children don't have godparents. Hmmm... (I'm counting on DH and I staying alive for awhile.)

I finished another book recently - This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper. A Jewish father dies. His wife and children sit shiva, a tradition of grieving together for seven days. The family in this R rated novel is probably not a good representation of sitting shiva, yet the characters learned some of life's lessons and benefited from it by forming stronger bonds.

Do we benefit from the traditions we follow? Do acts of tradition maintain order, as similar to laws?


Are you a traditional person?

(Rhetorically speaking: Does the bride have to wear white? Does the man have to be the breadwinner? Does the family have to spend holidays and vacations at the same place each year?)