Sunday, March 26, 2017

Liberation


You’re a good housekeeper, Anita. Complimentary words for most women; stinging for others - like me.

My dear friend smiled as she expressed her opinion of me (hopefully, not her primary opinion) after I described my new cleaning routine inspired by Marie Kondo, the organization guru. Basically, Kondo categorizes an area to tackle and complete before moving on to another. She advises her clients and readers to begin with clothes – throughout the entire house. I attempt to use use the concept to clean, doing one type of weekly chore per day. Monday is fairly easy – bathtubs and showers, including a sporadic drain cleaning when necessary.

So I’m telling my friend, with a slight bit of enthusiasm, talking myself into believing I enjoy my new discovery that makes cleaning not so bad, and that’s when she says it. Ouch! I’ve been reduced to a housekeeper.

Did I lead her on with that slight bit of enthusiasm, subconsciously seeking approval? She who has cleaning help, who doesn’t need advice on how to lessen the drudgery of cleaning shower stalls and toilets. It was not my intent.  In my mind, I’d revised my mission statement after reading Kondo’s book, outlined a strategic plan and was describing the analytical process; proving I had the bandwidth to implement the optimization of housework – a system I can apply to other life issues as well.

Well, no more! (A line stolen from an infomercial.)

It’s now Monday morning. Havoc from the weekend exists. My husband’s jackets are hung on the backs of kitchen chairs. His stack of work papers are on the table, briefcase in the chair, various newspapers and magazines strewn about. My daughter’s backpack and textbooks are in their permanent residency, the window seat adjacent to the table, which is resting place for markers, colored paper, a stapler, a laptop, and miscellaneous supplies used for an assigned class project. Other household areas exhibit similar embellishments.

In the past, I’d begin the straightening routine, a job that was ingrained in my psyche throughout my life by my adoring-adorable mother and practically every woman I’ve met. The subliminal message says: It’s your job and you are judged by the condition of your home’s interior. Conversely, Darling Husband (aka DH) is judged by the exterior.

I never contested this rule; especially when I married, left corporate America, and worked on getting pregnant. The abode was tiny, my time was flexible, and it was just us two. What’s a few dishes to put in the dishwasher and a few loads of laundry to wash? I can do that, plus pay bills, make grocery runs, cook, go see the dentist for my semiannual teeth cleaning… oh, and the gyno. Easy peasy. Well… there was that whole thing, too, of being disoriented while getting acclimated to a new city and married life.

Anyway, Girl #1 didn’t take long at all to get here, but I continued my modus operandi. And then we moved and the square footage increased. And then we had Girl #2 and then Girl #3 two years later and moved again and the square footage ballooned and so did the diapers and chores. And I was almost six years older since the wedding; however, cleaning help (gift from DH) entered the equation, so the surface dirt was removed every two weeks. Still, my modus operandi remained on track, plus some.

To speed up this story: the help lasted ten years, we got a dog, the kids became tweens and teens, the activities increased, the mom taxi became an SUV and then a van, and the husband began to travel more. The presumed cleaning help from the able-bodied, on-the-go kids did not happen in copious amounts. DH got a pass because he did, and still does, his manly job of gardening and easy job of taking out the trash. Actually, he's known to occasionally run the vacuum and pick up a sponge. AND, he takes his turn taking out the dog! Mwah!

We are now down to three residents, except when Girl #1 and Girl #2 are home from college. Things still have to be cleaned so we don’t acquire non-human residents and so the house doesn’t decay and fall apart. I will try to stick stick to my cleaning routine; however, there will be no exasperation over sheets that are due to be changed, shoes scattered everywhere, my messy desk, junk mail and newspapers on multiple surfaces, and sticky stuff on the refrigeration shelf.


There’s something about being on the cusp of entering another decade of life that calls for reassessment. Sixty is approaching. I’ve paid my stay-at-home mom and housekeeper dues. I don’t owe any more. What I give now is when and how I choose. Other things are upon the horizon.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Technology


Cells phones, tablets, laptops, e-readers. Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest. On board? I am… well not on all of the above, but enough to be dangerous.

A friend’s daughter opened a shop on Etsy to sell reproductions of her hand drawn stationery and paintings. Somewhere in the midst of reading her email and looking at her Etsy shop, I stumbled upon her website, and from there, her blog. Curious of course, I clicked my way through the site and came upon paintings of normal sized naked women that reminded me of ancient Greek art, though I had no idea of what they represented or the young woman’s creative process. With her degree in art, I assume the subject matter was part of the curriculum.

Anyway, there were all these little social media buttons at the bottom of the blog post and, you guessed it, I clicked. I chose Pinterest, expecting to be connected to her Pinterest page, account, or whatever. I should have known that you just can’t hop into someone’s private online space without being friends or followers, but I found out. When nothing happened after my click, I had an Aha! moment, along with heat rising through my body. I dashed to my daughter’s room – Girl #2 – to inquire into what just happened, though I was 99.99% certain. I’d posted the naked woman onto my Pinterest page… or would that be, pinned to my board?

During my two second sprint, awkwardness changed to a fit of laughter that lasted at least a minute as I tried to explain what I’d done. Between my tears, snorting, and doubling over, I managed to get the story out. Girl #2 said, “Come on Mommy, let’s see what you’ve done and fix it."

Fortunately, I was able to locate my Pinterest username and password (one of 500 +/- usernames and passwords… an exaggeration, but you get the point), and signed in; whereupon my daughter and I found the naked woman. Because the account is seriously inactive with only three followers, two being my daughters (Girl #2 and Girl #3), I didn’t feel I would have to do any widespread social media damage control. Girl #2 showed me how to delete the image and that was it.

By the way, my young friend’s painting is Art, and definitely not confused with pornography… or there would be no laughing; especially because my third follower is a minor.

I was reminded of this episode while dressing in my bathroom. Our huge mirror over the double sink vanity is a daily poke of life’s imperfections. Today, feeling confident, I was assessing the results of the Christmas cookies. Not too bad, I thought. “Butttt…,” I continued to think, “What you see in a mirror and on a photo is often different,” as I looked at my phone charging near the sink. And then another thought – “Snap a picture to see if your ‘not too bad’ assessment is justified.”

Next thought: “Are you STUPID!!!” Press a wrong button, end up in the cloud, and you’re fried!

How do you feel about technology and social media? Any stories you care to share?

image found here

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Adult Coloring


It used to be a jigsaw puzzle. And I still like jigsaw puzzles. But now it’s a coloring book.

It’s not the coloring book from my past that featured Barbie or TV cartoon characters, but a newly branded adult coloring book with pictures of varied and abstract animals, nature, geometric shapes, and more. With intricate delineations, it begs to be respected by coloring, as we used to say, in the lines.

Back then, the instrument of choice for applying color to the page was a Crayola crayon; preferably from the 64 pack featuring colors like periwinkle, goldenrod, apricot, mulberry, cadet blue, raw umber, and cornflower. Most of these have continued to avoid forced retirement; however, raw umber and mulberry have bitten the dust. The unlikely burnt sienna was saved and is still with us.

My crayons have now stepped aside for the colored pencils - 50 of them - which make me stare and contemplate more than if I only have 8 or 16 to choose from. And when I do choose a pencil, I also use another contrasting or complimentary color because I like the look when coloring small adjacent spaces. Watching the page slowly transform from black and white to vivid hues is like watching the sun rise as life become visible.

So what’s the big deal? I don’t know, but it feels good. Everyone who writes about it calls it a stress reliever; something that makes them relax. For me, it feels more like a creative process - fun, slightly challenging, and a quest for patience. It allows me to join the real artists of the world. As for the relaxation, yes, I’m pretty relaxed, though sometimes when I want a bright picture, as opposed to one that’s more pastel, I bear down with the pencil and that sometimes puts a tightness in my aging arm and shoulder. But when that happens, I just ease up.

During the Thanksgiving weekend I visited my parents and took colored pencils and new dollar store coloring books. (After all, I didn’t know if Mom would want to color or not, so no need to spend ten bucks on one book when I could present her with 3 for $3.00… right?) After we were all stuffed with dinner and dessert, the coloring commenced. I was glad to see my teen-aged nephew grab one of the books because some see this as a girl thing, and it’s not. (Google it.) Pages were torn from another book and shared by my daughters. Mom watched. It was our last day there. We were going home in an hour. Before we left, she said, “Are you leaving my coloring books?"

Yes, I did leave her coloring books. And she’s been coloring - a lot! Whenever she’s plagued with her health issues or trying to help with my stepfather’s health issues and it gets to be time for a time out, she gets the book and pencils. Or instead of giving in to the sofa while watching TV, she sits at the table coloring while glimpsing at the TV. This is turning out to be a nice discovery for both of us. My daughter gave me a nice quality coloring book for Christmas and I can see its addiction potential; like my jigsaw puzzles. “I’ll do one more piece before I go to bed.” And then it’s 20 more pieces. With the coloring, it’s one more leaf, or the shoes, or the eyes...

I sound like an expert, right? Ha! I’m only on my third page.

But… the coloring book is a keeper. I might need it as we board the next bus that begins our travels through 2017 and beyond. Hoping the ride will be smooth so that I will stay inside the lines.


What do you do to unwind? Have you tried coloring?

My daughter, Girl #3, prefers coloring with markers. I'll try markers soon.

Art by Girl #3

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Just Me


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

It’s a sunny day in Nags Head, North Carolina – 86 degrees. I’m back at the three-level rental house after spending a blissful morning and early afternoon sitting on my little chair under my beach umbrella on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. While there, I read, completed a Sudoku puzzle, wrote in my book journal, snacked, people-watched, and nodded off. The decompression had started.

I’m here two more days; an unexpected treat. My daughter and her friends are enjoying beach week at this house and wherever else they’re hanging out. While planning a few months ago, they discovered they needed an adult to rent the place and to be responsible for it. After a slew of emails was dispersed among all the potential responsible adults, the six girls agreed to give up one of the four bedrooms to a series of three moms, which was nicely secluded on the third level; hence, my little treat. I’m responsible adult #2. When I leave on Friday, responsible adult #3 will take over.

Anyway, the Decompression…

May and June… Will these months ever calm down?! After my youngest child graduates from college – maybe?  I won’t bore you with the list of things I have to do for my kids, other peoples’ kids (which is reciprocal), friends, my husband, and my parents, but will just say that it happens in abundance in May and June. And this year included two funerals.

Right… the Decompression…

I am so relaxed and content. The beach girls and I are on different schedules and don’t see much of each other, and that is perfectly fine. I’m sure they feel the same.

The Quiet…

I am relishing it. There is no one to take care of. At home, even when everyone’s gone, my sweet little epileptic dog is there: needing a pill five times a day, needing a potty break, needing a walk, needing the ball thrown to her. Here, at the moment, I’m sitting on the bed with my cup of tea on the night table, Ellen on the TV. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a complete show of hers; and actually, not seeing it now because I’m writing this blog post, reflecting on the quiet.

Ping!

It’s a text from my friend back at home.

“What’cha doin’?”

“Sitting on the bed, relaxing,” I text to her.

(Back and forth we text for a couple minutes; she asks, I answer.)

“Are you going to shop, nap, or see a movie?”

(She has suggestions for each activity.)

“Ohhh, I might go to the shopping center that’s close by. But you know I don’t like to shop, so it would be a short trip, just to see the area.”

Then she asks, “Does it feel strange to be alone?”

(I can tell that she doesn’t get it. Maybe you don’t either.)

“No,” I text back, as I laugh out loud.

(I feel that I need to explain my weirdness, so I send another text.)

“I can be such a recluse sometimes,” with a smiley face emoji.

(Actually, I’m not weird. I simply enjoy solitude.)

When I worked for corporate America twenty-one years ago and beyond, I joined my co-workers in taking personality tests and playing personality games. One game had us walking around to each other to write on paper that was attached to our backs; a word that we thought described the person’s personality type. Once the fun chaos was over, we pulled the paper from our backs to see what others in the group thought of us.

Initially interesting, eventually annoying, these tests were supposed to aid in improving our work environment, career development, and company productivity. I understood the intent; however, it always seemed to end with people sizing each other up. I learned to reject labels on myself; too confining.

But recently, a personality book caught my attention. It’s called, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I liked the inclusion of the words power and quiet in the title, along with introvert, a word that seems to have a negative connotation. These words together and the contents of the book, made me reconsider my ban on personality tests and literature. I doubt that I’ll ever take another personality test; however the book is multifaceted and enlightening.

I never thought introvert was a bad label, but I didn’t readily embrace it. This trip and things that I’m reading in this book, however, are telling me to own it! I’ve confirmed that introvert and shy are not necessarily synonymous. And I’ve realized that I don’t have to apologize for not missing my husband or children if they’re away or if I’m away. (This little trip might inspire me to pack my bags more often.)

I am an introvert… most of the time.

Epilogue:

In addition to beach time, I visited the sand dunes at Jockey's Ridge State Park. Ever since I saw a picture of blog friend Abby's trip to the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, I've kept the fascinating image in my mind. Who knew that I'd have the experience in North Carolina! I also spent time at the Wright Brothers National Memorial, another nature-girl thing to do.




Sand Dunes at Jockey's Ridge State Park



Wright Brothers National Memorial

Care to share things about your personality or temperament? Do you spend time alone?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Phase I - Two Down, One to Go




Girl #1, Me, Girl # 2, Girl #3

Girl #2 graduated high school on June 17.
Life has been busy... again (click on "again")

I miss you all. Be back soon.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Beyond Celebritydom


Kelly and Michael. If you don’t recognize these paired names, then you are not a Celebritydom visitor.

One of my visits happen at 10 a.m. two or three times a week. I sit at my kitchen high chair, sideways to the counter, with my 15 inch TV in front of me as I eat my breakfast. I don’t usually stay for the entire show – unless the kitchen needs major cleaning - but I always make it through the host chat.

Like a lot of people, I bought the chemistry between the two of them; the “TV wife” that Michael referred to her as, and how he called her “my lady” while telling her to cover her coffee mug before they shook their confetti sticks.  When I heard that he’s leaving, I gasped with disappointed surprise. Why? His position, which was likely approved by Kelly, a job that catapulted him into the big league, beyond the “already successful” status that he was enjoying before LiveWhy? Doesn’t he owe more than four years?

Does he? Or is it my selfish desire to be entertained while I eat my cereal and fruit, or on a ravenous day, my bacon, eggs, and toast? Yes… that’s what it is. My charming and personable breakfast companion is leaving me.

As the days passed and each gossip TV show added more to the debacle (the snubbing of Kelly from the powers that be), my thoughts and interest grew along with them; especially during the highly anticipated re-entry of Kelly to the show after a few steam-filled days off. She’d be back on Tuesday, everyone was saying… which just happened to be the morning of my mammogram.

Umph! I’ll have to record it!

Funny… I never did watch it; didn’t have to. Every time the TV was on, someone was showing a clip of Kelly’s angry, yet composed, speech. Between her and Prince, I sacrificed Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy to watch ET and Inside Edition.

Anyway… As I watched, I sensed a vulnerability in this woman who reportedly earns $15 or $20 million a year. And then it hit me… All that money, and her power is limited. She’s at the mercy of the men at the top of the pyramid; the men who took one of theirs – fellow male specie, Michael – and placed him in a position where they presume he’ll make more money for them. And I’m sure they paid him a boatload to do so.

So yes, this goes beyond celebritydom. This is business; real life. How did this happen to, I assume, the smart and savvy Kelly? I can’t help but see her in another light now – still confident and funny, however different. It may sound like I’m blaming the victim, but I’m not. Quite the opposite, actually. Someone else’s disrespect has cast a shadow on her; albeit, temporarily, I’m sure. But Kelly, like regular worker bees, has to watch her back from now on. And Michael – aside from the money – I understand why he’s moving on. He has an opportunity to move beyond his sports job and his play job to GMA, where his proximity to serious issues and a different kind of production will add another dimension to his career. Best wishes to both of them.

Always be prepared for your next act.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Body Shaming

It’s not what you think.  Well, maybe it is. I had my first overt experience with it a few days ago; this newly coined phrase that defines messages used to tell people that his or her body is not what it should look like. Based on my brief encounters with media explanations, i.e. Internet, TV, and tabloid magazines while standing in the grocery store line, the majority of the opinions express disgust with a person’s weight; what they feel is an abundance of it. But I’ve also heard body parts being honed in on, like height, breast and/or butt size, facial features, and hair. On rare occasions, I hear or read of a thin person getting a lashing. And it seems that the recipients are mostly women.

I love food. Currently, I’m having an affair with avocados and Tostito corn chips. It’s my overly snacked snack of the day, times 3. Another soul mate is buttery shortbread cookies. It’s the dessert of the day - a treat after lunch. I decide how many I’m having, eat them (2), and then return for more. Both of these pleasures surely don’t appeal to everyone, but I’ll bet you have something that you love experiencing on the taste buds of your tongue, too!

So I get it… the hardship of resisting something that makes us happy, if only for a few minutes, that may have unwanted consequences.

Those of you who know me are saying, “What are you talking about, Anita!” And those of you who don’t, are either sympathizing with me or formulating your opinion or feedback. So this is what happened:

My dog has a sore on her belly. I take her to the vet and like humans, the first thing done is the weigh-in. Little Layla steps onto the scale and the vet announces, “21 pounds.” (I always wonder if they translate the kilograms correctly, but that’s beside the point.) I say, “She’s plump,” to which the vet responds in an austere tone, “She’s plump-ER. She was 20 pounds the last time she was here.”
 
What can I say? I was hoping Layla would have been less weight or at least the same, but I know the vet is right.  I let the comment go. (Maybe I shouldn’t refer to her as Little Layla.)

After shaving around the wound, cleaning and lancing it, the vet decides to staple the quarter sized sore. Tool in hand, assistant standing by to help, she squeezes Layla’s skin, but it won’t come together enough for the narrow-width tool to clamp over it.

I'm thinking that she's putting on the demonstration purposely, knowing that it won't fit, just so she can (and does) say, “Her belly is too big to stretch the skin any more than it already is.”

Gotcha, you horrible dog abuser! How dare you overfeed her and put her in this shape.

No she didn’t say that, but in my mind, that’s what I hear, so I whine my explanation:

“Ever since she had to take prednisone, her appetite has been so big. She seems hungry all the time. She bangs on the pantry door and it drives us crazy! Do you think the meds she takes now make her hungry?”

That garners a little sympathy from the vet:

“With her neurological issues,” she says as she gestures the cuckoo sign near Layla’s head, “she might be begging as a habit, or she’s confused. Or possibly, she has thyroid issues. She’s going to need blood work soon.”

Tired after sitting in the waiting room over a half hour in a place that causes me mental anguish, my thought is, “Whatever.” I’ve been here so many times over the last fourteen months… but that’s another blog post.

Anyway, I gather up my sweet little porker, pay the 200 plus bucks, and proceed home to begin her treatment of antibiotics, ear drops (oh yeah, she has ear infections), ear flush, and pain pills (that she doesn’t need.)

Did the body shaming work? For right now, yes. We’ve started the diet for the tenth time. I’m measuring her food, substituting green beans for snacks, and trying to limit my trips to the kitchen which is Layla’s signal to ask (paw my ankles) for food. Wish us luck!

Thoughts? regarding people, animals, or both
Fill in the hole with more squiggly hairs and it is a replica of what Layla ate during one of her prednisone induced hunger attacks about a year ago. My friend and I took our dogs on their poopy walk and parts of this, color included, exited Layla's rear. After our initial Ewwww, we came to the conclusion that worms are not lime green.

image found here