Just a Number

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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. Three weeks out I took a quick straw poll on friend’s availability. Key partners in crime were already booked. Such is life these days, everybody is busy. Kids, causes and not enough advanced planning on my part meant moving the party to the following week and then everyone still couldn’t make it. I should be over it by then. Scrap the party idea.

The past 5 years leave me feeling like time has marched, stomped and dragged its feet across me. I find myself alternately not wanting to look too closely in the mirror and inspecting with a fine toothed comb. What’s the criteria for exiting potential MILF status? Probably advanced ages with a nine in the number.

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Then I start to think of all the marks as signs of success. Like the saying about stretch marks that goes, “Your Body Is Not Ruined, You’re A Tigress Who Earned Her Stripes.” When it comes down to it, my body has withstood some stuff. Every scar tells a story. Unless you’re in the military or the Boy/Girl Scouts though, you don’t get medals or ribbons for the myriad accomplishments and wounds that we rock in this lifetime. As women our walls should be littered with them. Just the keeping other people fed on a daily basis x years should net you a trophy taller than you are.

The pity party came to an abrupt halt when I heard sad news of friends losing loved ones, around the same age I am now, from life robbing sickness. I’m reminded that my own mother’s life ended at age 45. It’s the kick in the ass I need to knock off the whining and ramp up the gratitude.

I don’t have to think hard about how many blessings I have; my health, healthy, lovely daughters, wonderful friends that are really my family, work I am in love with that involves books, shelter, clothing, food on the table, a couple bucks in my pocket, and more.

Late on the eve of the birthday I’ve been dreading, I’m reminded of a quote that I heard years ago and dug. See below. I’m renewed with it as my battle cry, theme and mantra. Eff “the number” and the mirror – Happy Birthday Baby. Bring it.

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Pardon Thanksgiving

I’ve never participated in Black Friday but I certainly don’t begrudge others having their fun with it. No harm, no foul. I like to relax the last few days of November and start prepping for Christmas on December 1st but hey… to each their own. Maybe I’ve just been asleep and didn’t notice that the day after Thanksgiving shopping was turning into the day OF Thanksgiving shopping but it’s undeniable this year. Big advertising dollars have been spent bombarding us with the message that Thanksgiving shopping is ON like Donkey Kong.

Lots of us complain that Christmas comes earlier and earlier. Like in September. I liked a Facebook post where a friend snapped a picture and captioned it “premature decoration.” But opening stores and forcing employees to work on Thanksgiving so other people can shop is taking it too far, in my opinion. I’ve had the friendly debate where it’s suggested that retailers probably ask employees to volunteer for those shifts or pay them holiday or overtime pay and I hope that’s true. But then I read about a guy who worked his way up from being a cook to general manager of a Pizza Hut in Indiana being fired because he didn’t want to open the store on Thanksgiving. For years the only two days his store had been closed was on Thanksgiving and Christmas so employees could spend the time with their families. Seriously?? Who the hell needs pizza on those two days a year? Public backlash may have Pizza Hut re-thinking overestimating their importance in the marketplace.

I don’t get it. Why does the retail industry need to lure people away from their Thanksgiving table? I venture to call it pandering when Old Navy sticks a flyer in my bag offering the first 500 people to line up on Thanksgiving Day a chance to win $1 million dollars. Sensational and over the top for sure. What is the holiday going to be reduced to? Stuffing the gobbler down our gullet to rush off shopping? A turkey sandwich to go? Drive thru Thanksgiving? That’s what it feels like to me, that a perfectly lovely family holiday is being seized by Big Box retail. Move over Black Friday here comes Stanky Thanksgiving!

The corporate motivation is clear – more profit – but what’s the consumer’s? Didn’t we learn from the financial crash that having it all isn’t necessarily where it’s at? Or is it the financial crunch that make us think this is the way to produce the perfect Christmas on a budget? Could this scene from the TV sitcom “The Middle” be funny and have a ring of truth to it?

http://abc.go.com/shows/the-middle/video/PL5539592/_m_VDKA0_hajsxkq7

It’s not too late to save Thanksgiving from being swallowed whole by the jaws of Christmas. It’s simple. Don’t answer the rebel yell of retail and it’s unsavory effort to erode Thanksgiving. Stay home your family instead of fighting the crowd. The payoff is better and so much sweeter.

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What Do You Mean I Don’t Get to Vote?

There’s a ballot measure being voted on in my city today. Pretty sure I can call Stockton my city since I’ve lived here for 45 years. I’ve done everything here. Had a childhood, become a grown-up, paid taxes, started a family, brought up kids through school and sports, and worked on behalf of causes I believe in. So I’m stunned that there is something of great importance being decided for my town that I am ineligible to participate in. What do you mean I don’t get to vote?

I recently moved back to my old neighborhood and it’s been such a great feeling of coming home. A few months ago I started to see lawn signs going up a few streets over about a sales tax measure. Then the public debate over the issue started. In true Stockton fashion the fur began to fly. I started to form an opinion on how I would vote. I patted myself on the back for being on top of things by having changed my address with the Registrar of Voters. During a conversation with someone about the measures, they asked me if I had read my sample ballot yet. I hadn’t received one; maybe I hadn’t done such a great job on the change of address after all. I followed up only to be told that my address had indeed been changed but that I reside in a County district and am ineligible to vote on what is a City initiative.

It seems like something I should say, “Oh well, that’s the way it is. I’ll catch the next issue” but I can’t seem to let it go. It keeps needling me. The explanation by Government officials is that a County “pocket” was formed when the City was smaller and it has since grown out and around it.  There are apparent tax benefits to being in the County vs. the City and I’ve been assured that the shopping center up the street won’t charge increased sales tax if the initiative passes. That somehow doesn’t make it right for me. Maybe it’s because I live smack-dab in the middle of town and consider myself a City resident. Why wouldn’t I? I use the City library that is a few blocks away. I don’t confine my sales taxable activities to that one shopping center so I will be subjected to the outcome of this election, yet I have no input. That seems wrong to me. It feels like taxation without representation, whether it fits the definition or not. The thing is, I’m not against the initiatives, I just want to exercise my right to vote on issues that affect me.

The remedy would be to annex the County pocket over to the City. A proposition not likely to be favorable to the Pocket People. They like their lower utility rates and probably think if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I get that no one wants to pay more taxes but somehow the division of Community doesn’t feel right either. It’s time for Stockton to come together, stand together and move forward TOGETHER. Like any family we get mad, we walk away, we hoard and don’t share, and we talk shit but when the chips are down — and boy have they been down — we’re all one town.

So I’m sad and irritated to be sitting on the sidelines today. Especially when voter turnout is expected to be dismal. It’s projected that approximately 17% of City residents will cast votes thus deciding this issue for the lot of us. I agree with the notion that you don’t get to complain if you didn’t participate. I don’t agree to be muted by outdated City/County districting agreements that haven’t been reviewed for relevancy in God knows how long.

 

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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.

It seems a couple of school districts on the East Coast had nothing better to do (how is that possible?) than to figure out how to eliminate Halloween. Their rationale (using the term loosely) was that wearing Halloween costumes to school should be canceled because “safety is a top priority.” Other reasons cited included “some kids with peanut allergies might eat or come into contact with something peanut-based during the parade and related events.” And the coup de grâce, “Some holidays, like Halloween are viewed as having religious overtones.”  I wonder if it occurred to those educators for a second how much children (the very people they are there to serve) love and look forward to Halloween. The fact that they could take something as innocuous as Halloween and turn it into something to be saved from is the scary part.

It’s  another step in a movement that has begun to homogenize education and the childhood experience. It dovetails nicely with the extinction of games such as dodge ball and the use of swing sets and jump ropes. We expect kids to stand around and do nothing so they don’t get hurt and then everyone gets a trophy just for showing up. This doesn’t remotely prepare them for life in the real world as an adult and where’s the FUN? Being a kid is supposed to be fun. Halloween is the ultimate fun — dressing up in a costume, being in a parade, loading up your bag with candy, and eating enough of it to give you a stomach ache. Kids don’t give a rat’s ass about any of those bogus reasons given to cancel Halloween. How did we survive childhood without all the regulations? We survived it just fine and in fact sometimes it was great. Like playing games using balls with our friends, skinning our knees and elbows on bikes and roller skates all the time, seeing how high we could go on the swing set and then jumping off. You know what we learned? We learned how to get up, brush ourselves off and get back in the game. We didn’t worry about getting hurt or whether we were stepping on anyone’s religious feelings. We were free to learn and have fun because our families were taking care of us without being told what to do by beauracrats.

I think it’s time to call bullshit on eliminating tradition. Being a kid today is tough enough with all the homework, test pressure, and expectation to develop a talent. The least we can do is give them Halloween. And Merry Christmas is not a bad word.

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T Minus 24 Hours to the 30

Tomorrow night at this time I’ll be at my 30 year High School Class Reunion. To use 1983 vernacular — what a trip. What a trip that all this time has passed and so fast, and what a trip that we’ll be in the same room with people we shared the high school experience with and haven’t seen in years; decades even.

Like anything that occurs only in 10 year increments, now accumulating a 30 year shelf life, it’s a milestone. It sounds simple enough; gather everyone from the Class of 1983 together for one evening of reminiscing and catching up on what life’s been like since Graduation. Throw in some dinner and cocktails and winner, winner chicken dinner. I’ve been a big proponent of not letting this occasion go unrecognized. So I’m a bit perplexed at my own reaction as it’s drawn closer.

I’ve been almost bi-polaresque in my approach to this event. First there was looking forward to seeing people in person that I’ve been communicating with on Facebook. Then the question of what to wear came up. Initially I thought a bad ass dress was in order but then it seemed to say “over-kill.” I just wrote a column called Come as You Are so I thought perhaps I’d like to dial it back a skotch. I got that same butterflies in my stomach feeling I had prior to Freshman orientation — what if my clothes are wrong, how awkward is it to walk in alone, what if I have no one to talk to.  And then I had to laugh. How ridiculous is it to entertain this dumb shit 30 years later?

I’ve come full circle to anticipating the interesting evening that lies ahead. Great memories will be shared, perhaps new ones will be made and the age-old question of “does life really progress much past the 12th grade?” shall be revealed. Can we just agree not to say “you remember me don’t you?”

 

 

 

 

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Rollercoaster

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” http://wp.me/p1v3PS-7F). 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.

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Confection

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.

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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

 

 

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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: http://pinterest.com/designsponge/meditation-rooms/

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!

 

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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.

 

 

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