Ladies Who Drive Me Nuts

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A woman walked into the supermarket the other day around dinner time. Her hair was perfect, she was wearing 4-inch spike heels, skinny white jeans and a peasant top. She had an air that screamed, “I’m just a little bit superior.”

OK, maybe it was just me. My hair was a mess, and I was wearing a golf skirt (never a particularly good look) with a few golf balls bulging in the pockets. The FlyLady (Finally Loving Yourself) would frown; she advises followers to always fix their hair and face and dress to shoes before leaving the house.

I shared this with the Kale Queen and she confessed to dressing up to grocery shop. As a professional and a bit of a minor local celebrity (she’s the former town attorney), she doesn’t want to encounter people looking like a schlump. I understand. But I don’t care what I look like in the supermarket. I don’t notice people food shopping unless it’s an adult wearing pajama pants.

This got me thinking. There are a bunch of things that women do that baffle and well, drive me a little nuts. See if any resonate with you.

  • The Supermarket Strutter: See above.
  • The Speed Racer: There’s an unwritten code in pushing supermarket carts. I don’t know how we learn the correct pace, but it’s not fast or aggressive. Today, a Speed Racer nearly knocked me over whizzing through the aisle. Not cool.
  • The Inconsiderate Shopper: Is there anything more maddening than gazing at kitchen cabinet polishers from a distance and having shoppers walk right in front of you without excusing themselves? When I walk through someone’s line of vision, you can bet I’m saying “excuse me.” It’s just common courtesy.
  • The Compliment Taker: The woman whose dress you compliment at a wedding to be polite. She stares at you and says, “Thanks,” never returning the compliment.
  • Fake-Shy Women: Women who are aloof at parties. When you complain to your spouse that they’re unfriendly, he says they’re shy. They’re not shy. They’ve got a lot to say, just not to you.
  • Buttinsky Moms: Women who butt into their kids’ relationships with other kids. We’re all tempted sometimes, but it’s important to remember it’s kid stuff. As they used to say in preschool, let them work it out.
  • One-Way Facebook/Instagram Friends: You like their posts and they never give you a like or heart. Meanwhile, they’re liking all their other “friends” and “followers.” You wonder why they don’t like you.
  • The Interrogators: Women who ask, “Are you working yet? Well, why don’t you write a blog?” Uh, I am. “How many followers do you have?”
  • Thoughtless Party Guests:  You invite them to parties for 10 years and they never reciprocate. You send them invitations or Evites and they don’t RSVP.
  • The Inexplicable Inviters: Come to the bridal shower, not the wedding. When did this start?
  • The Obnoxious Shoppers: Women who bark at cashiers and other store workers. I was at Ikea one day with my kids and a woman threatened to bring a kitchen trash can full of waste to the cashier’s station because she forgot to buy the top the previous day and he said she couldn’t buy just the top. You know it’s bad when even your kids say so. I have a lot of sympathy for store workers since working at Sears Service Center in college. I was the one who called people after they stayed home waiting for the service guy and told them he wasn’t coming. Most people took it pretty well, but there were exceptions.
  • The Break Seekers: Mothers who show up at the playground looking for a nap around 3 p.m. when the second shift of parenting begins. They park their car, let their kids out and have other moms watch them while they sleep. Yes, this happened to me.
  • Loud Breathers/Moaners in Yoga: Instead of your breath, you’re focused on,  “When is it going to stop?”
  • Excessive Workplace Cleavage: The female body is a work of art. But some women flaunt cleavage in professional settings. This happened at a cross country meet. A female trainer gave my husband and every other guy a free show while she tended to an injured runner. They loved it, but it made me very uncomfortable.
  • Bathroom Talkers: Women who conduct business in public restrooms with total disregard to where they are or who else is in the room.
  • Supermarket Snubbers: That moment when you see someone you know and she avoids eye contact and slips into the next aisle. I’m guilty too, but what’s the big deal? Just smile, nod or say hi.
  • Rude Play Date Makers: This is one of my biggest pet peeves. You’re at the pre-school playground with your 4-year-old daughter and a clutch of women plan their next playdate in front of you. Can you say social outcast?
  • The Scolders: Sorry, but after you’ve run your own ship, moms don’t want to be scolded by other women. This happened to me the other day when a woman upbraided me over the phone. The mom in me responded, “I really don’t appreciate your tone.”
  • The Proud Mommies: Women who share their kids’ entire academic records, including how many honors and AP classes they’re in, on the sidelines of a sporting event.
  • Calamity Janes: Women who call their friends every day and launch into monologues about their problems without asking how you are.
  • Ungrateful Organizers: Women who ask for help the day before an event and then give you the grunt work while they do all the fun stuff.
  • Perfect Moms: You want to commiserate, but can’t because their kids are perfect and they’ve never been bored or stressed staying home with kids.
  • Abusive Moms: These are the women who make you think, “If she’s like this in public, what’s she like at home?”
  • Advice Seekers Who Ignore Your Advice: Women who ask for your input and ignore your advice all the time. A friend complained about this the other day. Her friend always asks for parenting advice, but never listens.
  • Sour Pusses: The Curmudgeon gave me the head’s up on this one. He was at a law school lecture and a prominent criminal defense attorney advised: Never pick a female juror with a mouth like a chicken’s ass.
  • Oblivious Mothers: Women who shop and look unfazed while their infants or children scream or throw tantrums, disrupting the entire store for what seems like eternity. Ditto for church. That’s why there are crying rooms.

 

Things I Wish I Taught My Kids

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My kids’ toothpaste tube.

My son returned to college and my daughter’s back at high school. I realized over the summer that I failed to teach them a lot of things. Here’s a partial list:

  • When a sack of your good clothing is missing for two months, ask the friend who you went away with if he’s seen it. When he finds it in his trunk and brings it over on the day you’re leaving, don’t leave the smelly towels in the hamper.
  • If you ignore my pleas to do your summer reading, I’ll ignore yours to set up the appointment for your learner’s permit test at the DMV.
  • Always wear a shirt when cooking chicken cutlets in oil. Actually, always wear a shirt when cooking.
  • You can’t eat two McDonald’s chicken sandwiches at 5 p.m. and expect to be hungry for dinner.
  • Make your own hair appointments. I have no idea if your hair stylist is on vacation.
  • Put the milk back in the refrigerator and top back on the jelly.
  • Clean the sink after shaving.
  • Squeeze the toothpaste tube from the bottom.
  • Close dog food bag after feeding the dog.
  • “Cleaning the kitchen” includes wiping down the stove and counters.
  • Garbage cans and the recycling bin can’t sit in the driveway for four days before being returned to the garage.
  • Clean the ping pong table after an unauthorized night of beer pong.
  • Don’t let your friends sleep in our bed. No matter how much I like them, some things are sacred.
  • Turn down the car radio before you drive into the neighborhood. I can hear you from a mile away.
  • Don’t get mad at me when I correctly name a Drake song “Passionfruit” and insist it’s “Passionate.” Are we seriously arguing over this?
  • Don’t fight over whether tennis or running is harder. They’re both challenging in their own way.
  • You can wear clothes more than once before throwing them in the hamper.
  • Use the hamper.
  • Your (actually my) jeans are always tight after laundering. That’s why there are deep knee bends.
  • The left lane of the highway is the passing lane. Return to the right lane after passing cars so they don’t cut us off. It’s not the car’s fault it has only 4 cylinders.
  • It’s not polite to tell your mother she has a lousy singing voice.
  • It’s not a good idea to have conversations with girls in the car next to you while you’re driving on the highway. That’s not a good excuse for missing your exit.
  • Don’t wait until you’re on 1 percent to charge your phone. And please, don’t unplug my phone because yours is dead.
  • I have no idea where your charger is.
  • You can’t always rely on GPS. You need a general idea where you’re going and how to get home.
  • Keep track of your wallet. I have no clue where your credit card is.
  • Don’t let clothes sit in laundry baskets for six weeks.
  • Don’t douse a DuraFlame with water after a bonfire and expect it not to reignite all night.
  • Cleaning your room doesn’t mean putting all the junk in another room.
  • You can’t do all your laundry for college in one day. You can’t bring wet clothes to school and dry them there.
  • I have first dibs on Dad’s loose change for Coinstar. It’s OK if you’re taking it this time to buy my birthday present.
  • Don’t call or text Dad every day without throwing me an occasional bone.
  • Don’t stare at me blankly when I mention stationery. It’s for writing letters.
  • Don’t call me from camp and tell me your head hurts so much you can’t go to the infirmary. I will be tempted to either drive two hours to pick you up or send an ambulance.
  • When I say dinner is at 8, it’s not OK to begin a workout at 7:50.
  • Setting the table means napkins too.
  • Yes, hamburgers are supposed to emit red juice when you’re cooking them.
  • Don’t come home from working as a camp counselor and complain that you’re exhausted from the kids. Welcome to my world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Life in the CSA

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EAT YOUR GREENS: ONE WEEK’S CSA SHARE

When you’re in the same CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) with four sisters, the conversation invariably turns to produce.

Q: What do you do with three radishes? A: Cut into matchsticks and toss on a salad. Q: Mountains of kale? Pesto!  Assorted greens that you can’t identify? Smoothie!

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The thing about our CSA from Livy’s Lettuce & Greens in Prospect, CT., is there’s always an element of surprise. Though we’re knee deep in tomatoes in Connecticut, we’ve only received a few in our weekly shares. (Our share czar Christina is equally baffled by the scores of green tomatoes clinging to vines, promising a bumper crop in a few weeks.) But we’ve received tons of bok choy, kale, rhubarb and lettuce, with carrots, beets, scallions and even free-range eggs tossed in.

Being in a CSA means every week is an adventure. Digging through your share is like tearing into an Easter basket, discovering little surprises  (say, three radishes) hidden in the fake green grass. In honor of our produce sisterhood, I’m making Wednesdays CSA Day. My sibs (and yours truly) will share recipes inspired by our shares. And yes, we get veggies in the winter. They’re grown in hydroponic greenhouses.

A few tips for anyone joining a CSA:

  • Clean out your refrigerator’s produce drawers before CSA pick-up to accommodate your share. This requires way more space than a typical supermarket run.
  • Sort outside if possible. Dirt, wilted leaves, stems and other mysterious debris litter counters after sorting.
  • For maximum preservation, use Debbie Meyer GreenBags. My sister Janet recommended them and they’re a game changer. I bought a 20-bag packet at Bed, Bath & Beyond. They work and are reusable.
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KALE

JOANNE, THE KALE QUEEN

My CSA life began a few years ago. I was at a garden center to replenish
my annuals. At check-out, I saw a large cooler in back with a sign, “CSA pick-up.” I’d
read about CSAs, but the up-front commitment deterred me in the past. I asked the
young cashier about the cooler and she told me she grew the vegetables and threw
open the top. It was early spring and I was awed at the sight—fresh unblemished
spinach, arugula and perfect heads of Boston lettuce. She gave me handfuls of the
greens to take home and refused payment. I was thrilled to find a source of
plentiful, local fresh greens so early in the season. Within days, I signed up for a
share after my husband and I calculated that the price for our half share ($25/week)
was well below what we paid at the supermarket and the quality far superior.
We’ve faithfully renewed our membership even though at times the
quantity has been a challenge to incorporate. There’s no doubt our vegetable
consumption has increased dramatically as a result. We probably now eat
vegetarian 4 nights out of 7. And, I very much like that I’m supporting local
farming and agriculture, know where the seeds come from and what’s in the soil.

MY BIG KALE SMOOTHIE RECIPE:
Christina, who runs the CSA, always gives me a lot of kale. It started as “You’re the
person who makes smoothies with the kale.” (I wasn’t.) And now it’s because one of
my sisters told her she doesn’t like kale, so I have inherited her portion. I actually
think I get three times more kale than everyone else, which is great when my
children are home because as urban hipsters kale is their salad green of choice (or is
it now Brussels sprouts?), but other times requires some brainstorming. To make a
dent in it, I became the person who makes smoothies with kale. My recipe
is more art than science and takes well to improvisation. In the summer, I
have this most every morning:

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Packed with nutrients, this breakfast smoothie is a winner.

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup rolled oatmeal
1 TB ground flaxseed
½ ripe banana
½ fruit of choice (apple, peach—whatever is in season)
a handful of frozen blueberries or pineapple
½ to 1 cup low-fat plain yogurt or nondairy alternative, such as silken tofu or Kite
Hill plant-based yogurt
2 TB walnuts
approximately ½ cup kale (three large stemmed leaves)
a sprig of orange mint if I’m in the mood to pick some from my garden
Optional: a few shakes of cinnamon or ginger
Whirl in a heavy duty blender (such as Vitamix, Nutribullet or Ninja) at gradually
higher speed (the noise annoys my husband, so I usually prolong this step). If the
consistency is too thick, add one-quarter cup or more of milk, orange juice,
water/ice, or coconut or nondairy milk. My preferred consistency is similar to a
milkshake. Pour into a tall glass, admire its beauty and retreat outside with the
paper or your preferred electronic device, and feel virtuous with the recognition that by 8 a.m. you’ve consumed close to half the daily nutrients that are
recommended to live to 100.

NEXT WEEK: Two takes on pesto.

 

 

 

 

Bad Ass #2

I talked about my definition of a bad ass is in yesterday’s blog entry. Today, I get to pass the “Tell the Darkness to Get Lost” award onto other bloggers who inspire, amuse or educate me with their writing. I’m nominating a few blogging newbies (Sarah and Linda) because they’re friends and everyone needs some help getting started.

First, I’d like to recommend a book for anyone who is creative (everyone) and feeling blocked. It’s The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. This book is fantastic for anyone who is creative, but having trouble tapping into it. How do you know you’re blocked besides staring at a blank screen, wringing your hands and hyperventilating? If you’re jealous of someone who’s writing and thinking, “I could have done that” or “She’s such a dip.” Or someone tells you they have a gallery opening and you think, “My photos or paintings are just as good as hers. What’s so special about her?” Julia cuts away your ego, helping you tap into your inner child that’s at the heart of creativity. Through daily journaling, artist’s dates and other exercises, she helps fire up your creativity. I’ve seen other writers use her tips on their websites (do repetitive exercises like swimming, jogging, walking or even scrubbing) without attribution. But it’s all Julia and she deserves the credit.

Here are my nominations:

https://snoozingonthesofa.com/ A married guy with three young kids shares tales of domestic life with wit and sincerity. I loved his recent piece about a copper frying pan he bought in the “As Seen on TV” aisle in the supermarket.

http://priscillamartel.com/ Priscilla Martel: Living the Flavorful Life. Priscilla was my food blogging teacher at Gateway Community College in New Haven, CT., so you can blame her for this blog. I took the course because a blogger boss told me I knew nothing about writing and how dare I not write in her voice. Priscilla set me straight. With her background as a chef and restaurant owner, she guided us through food-related writing prompts, memoirs and restaurant reviews. She’s a very classy bad ass, cookbook author and expert on almonds.

http://www.nodandhoney.com/This blog is written by Sarah, a stay-at-home mom I met in my food blogging class. We met on the first day of class, carpooled together and even got scolded for laughing in class. Sarah and I believe we were destined to meet. As a matter of fact, I bumped into her at the vet and we’re meeting for coffee next week. How weird is that?

https://lindasobolewski.wordpress.com/ The mother of two grown daughters, Linda is an amateur photographer who has just launched her blog in hopes of becoming a professional. Her portraits and Connecticut coastline scenics are gorgeous. More importantly, she’s raised two beautiful young adults, including my daughter’s favorite babysitter Kelly.

https://longreads.com/blog/The next time someone complains that there’s nothing great on the Internet, direct them to Longreads. Joanna Petrone’s recent first-person account of her ectopic pregnancy was gripping, poignant and masterfully written. If you haven’t read it, do so.

THE AWARD

The “Tell the Darkness to Get Lost” award was created to celebrate the rock stars who were kicked in the teeth by life and kept going anyway. It is also for those who inspire me to pick myself back up when I all I want to do is stay down.  It’s my tribute to the bad ass gem of a human I see in you.  You remind me to keep the faith, to keep going, and to never give in to the darkness.  Your light brightens my world and gives me strength to tell the darkness to get lost.  I celebrate you, I thank you, and I adore you.

Rules for accepting the award:

  1.  To me, awards and rules shouldn’t be paired together.  It’s like a great book and a forced book report.  It goes from fun reading to work.  So these are suggestions and ideas.  You do what you feel inspired to do.  If you change it wildly, that’s awesome!  As I said before, you’re a bad ass.  I would love to see what coolness you instill in this, but this whole thing is an optional gig.  You’re a bad ass no matter what.
  2.  Share one thing about you that is funny, interesting, or unique.  Ideally tell something that you haven’t shared before, but again, it’s your call.
  3.  You may display the award or not.  It’s your blog, so I’m not going to dictate website aesthetics.
  4.  You may nominate 5 or more or less other bad asses whom you believe deserve this award.  I don’t know how many I listed below, but I wanted to include countless more.  We all feel inspired by others and sometimes it’s beautiful to tell them how much their words have helped you when you needed it most.
  5.  Tell those people who you have tagged why they matter even if it’s just a word.  Kindness, bravery, resilience, laughter, quirkiness.  Whatever comes to mind.  Just tell them why you thought of them when you decided to share this with them.
  6.  Know how much I genuinely appreciate you.  You matter.  This world is infinitely better because you are in it.

 

Bad Asses Unite

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 Pounding the track to prep for New Haven’s 13.1 Road Race on Labor Day. I hoped to cross the finish line with these bad asses, but then reality – and a hip injury – sidelined me. I’ll be there to root them on though. I have utmost respect for them and coaches Maureen and Gary.

Remember first semester in college when you hung out with freshmen from (or near) your hometown? You had little else in common but geography and mutual friends, so you clung to the familiar?

That’s how I feel about fellow blogger “Waking Up on the Wrong Side of 50.” We’re both newbies to blogging central, which is as crowded and chaotic as Times Square on New Year’s Eve. We launched our blogs about the same time, and we read and comment on each other’s posts. Only time will tell if our relationship will last, but for now we’re blogging buds.

“Waking” is a natural-born writer. I felt as if I knew her the first time I read her blog. She writes every day, and she just hit the 100-post mark. She’s built up her readership while I’ve hung back in the corner like a shy 7th-grader.

That’s OK though. “Waking” hasn’t forgotten me. Though she has other “friend groups,” she’s loyal. In fact, she’s nominated me for the “Tell the Darkness to Get Lost” Award! (The blogging world is a little like Hollywood, with awards for lots of things.) I told The Curmudgeon about it and he asked, “Who the hell is nominating you? Other bloggers? Gimme a break.”

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At this point, I’ll take what I can get. This award was created to celebrate the rock stars who were kicked in the teeth by life and kept going anyway. OK, I’ll take rock star.

To be fair, I’ve never actually been kicked in the teeth, but I’ve had my share of difficulties. One of the worst was my 10-year struggle with infertility. I got the phone call about our adoption placement the same day another fertility treatment failed. I had been disappointed so many times that I told only my parents, so sure the adoption would fall through.

I was lucky enough to become a mother twice through Catholic Family Services. I got to know my social worker, and still keep in touch with her today.  The day after I adopted my daughter, I told an editor that I was frazzled because I just brought home a 6-day-old girl.  “I’m adopted!” she announced. I had no idea. Our relationship developed into a friendship, and she’s offered adoption-related advice ever since.

I’m convinced that God puts people into our lives for a reason. Most of the time, it’s not readily apparent, but when you look back you understand. At least that’s my take on it.

I feel a kinship with “Waking” because she’s in her ’50s, no-nonsense and expresses her opinions. She takes a stand and presents her points with humor, grace and clarity.  She’s the kind of woman I’d meet for lunch in New York City.  That is, if I was the type of woman who went to NYC for lunch and didn’t think I’d be accused of cyberstalking.

As part of the award, you have to accept that someone considers you a “bad ass” and that your attitude inspires others to lean toward the light. All I can say is I’ve lived through some things I never imagined and I’m still here. Bad assess know you can’t get through life alone. You need God, family, friends and strangers in as Prince said, “This thing called life.”

So what is a bad ass?  It’s being there for the people you love. It’s bending when you don’t want to, showing up when you say you will and forgiving when it’s the last thing you want to do. It’s pressing on after losing a job or a love, applying for the second mortgage to pay college tuition and not putting other people down.

It’s letting your kid spend a year (or a semester or six weeks) in Europe, enduring a double mastectomy and chemo and having half of your pelvis removed because of cancer. It’s having a stem cell transplant to fight multiple myeloma, raising two legally blind special needs kids when you’re legally blind, having a child with cancer, living with Parkinson’s disease and launching a fund-raising group after your husband dies of leukemia.

It’s leading an anti-drug crusade after your son dies of a heroin overdose, working as an EMT, doctor or nurse, and going to a crummy job to pay the bills. It’s running to lose 100 pounds, training for your second half-marathon at age 47 and going to AA meetings every day for 25 years.

It’s single mothers (or fathers), taking drugs despite possible side effects, and having part of your colon removed when the cancer returns. It’s waiting seven years for a heart transplant, carrying on after your child is paralyzed, visiting a parent or friend with Alzheimer’s and accepting your child’s sexual and gender preference.

It’s financially supporting your elderly parents, quitting drugs and working with what you’ve got. It’s competing in cycling races after you’ve lost your legs to disease or war, serving in the armed forces, and taking in foster kids when you should be done with parenting. It’s helping your kid battle depression, fighting the system when your sister’s murderer is released from prison and getting the second or third opinion when the prognosis is grim.

I know a lot of people who are way badder asses than I am. They’ve been dealt horrible hands and not only endured, but have flourished. In the face of adversity, they found a crack of light, a glimmer of hope that things would get better. And they did or they adjusted to a new normal.

As my father once told me, “As long as you’re alive there is hope.”

As part of this award, you’re supposed to tell something about yourself that’s never been revealed. Here it is: The Fitbit on my right wrist hasn’t been charged for two months. It’s new. I have no idea how to sync it and my tech wizard is back at college.

Click here for “Waking’s” blog: https://wakinguponthewrongsideof50.wordpress.com/

Tomorrow: My nominees for the Bad Ass award.

 

 

 

59 More Things I’ve Learned

DSC_0516.jpgFirst off, thanks to all my Facebook friends for your birthday wishes. It’s great to hear from all of you and reminds me of all the wonderful people I’ve been lucky enough to know, work, love and laugh with over the years. Here are a few other things I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Don’t skip the wedding ceremony and just go to the reception.
  2. Some people can pull things off better than others. Messy buns, peasant tops and skin-tight skirts come to mind.
  3. Women are divided into two camps: those who buy outfits and those who buy separates.
  4. Golf is much more enjoyable when you don’t keep score.
  5. Gluten-free pizza is awful.
  6. It’s best to learn to body surf when you’re a kid.
  7. Letting your kid pack his own things for college is probably a mistake.
  8. This is a great year for Washington State cherries.
  9. Good sheets and towels are worth every penny.
  10. Smart cars are adorable.
  11. Men’s sleeping sounds grow louder and more annoying with age.
  12. You can never have too much toilet paper or olive oil.
  13. Shirts with cartoon characters should not be worn by adults.
  14. Unless it’s Snoopy.
  15. If you like something, it’s the most expensive thing in the store.
  16. No one wants to empty the dishwasher.
  17. Or take out the garbage.
  18. Diamond studs (real or fake) are always in style.
  19. If you want the truth about anything, ask a 19-year-old.
  20. Flicking your lights at oncoming drivers to warn about speed traps is the decent thing to do.
  21. Kids and adults have different standards of clean.
  22. Whole belly fried clams are a must on Cape Cod.
  23. Whoever thought of putting anti-bacterial wipes near grocery carts is a genius.
  24. It’s OK to eat the entire bag of movie popcorn before the film begins.
  25. It should be illegal to unwrap hard candy in a theater.
  26.  A cookout is a lot more work than it seems.
  27. Some people wear Fitbits that aren’t charged.
  28. Everyone who has a party asks “what the hell did I get myself into?” before it.
  29. If you’re invited to a party, RSVP. If you say you’re coming and change your mind, don’t call the hostess an hour before to say you’re not coming.
  30. Costo shoppers feel they have every right to examine the contents of your cart.
  31. Men always look pleased with themselves when they buy roses at the supermarket.
  32. No one wants to see tropical vacation photos on Facebook in January.
  33. Everyone’s house has its own distinct scent. Everyone hopes theirs isn’t “dog.”
  34. If you are going to post on Facebook that you’re in the emergency room, please say why and provide an update to let us know you’re OK.
  35. A dog crate fan isn’t necessary.
  36. It’s OK to whisper into your voice-activated TV remote if you’re embarrassed about what you’re watching.
  37. Women can be unspeakably mean to other women for no reason.
  38. You can know some people for 30 years and feel like you’re never gaining ground.
  39. Everyone over  50 wonders how the hell they got to be their age.
  40. Making your bed instantly improves things.
  41. Everyone is bored when you brag about your kids.
  42. Everyone fears they’re a “humble-bragger.”
  43. It’s upsetting when you think your dog is having a bad dream.
  44. When they’re not surly or sleeping, college kids are hysterical.
  45. If you decide to go to a movie, nothing good will be playing.
  46. How kids and adults become popular is one of life’s great mysteries.
  47. When you’re invited to a party, you will get two invitations to events on the same night.
  48. Reusable Keurig cups don’t work well.
  49. Cheeseburgers are OK for dinner three times a week in the summer.
  50. People who are annoyed by other people’s children have short memories.
  51. QuickWash (25 minutes) is the best wash cycle ever invented.
  52. It’s OK to pull down a side street if you don’t want a cop driving behind you.
  53. Older people rarely rush.
  54. People who seem to have it all together don’t.
  55. Some people have a real knack for choosing paint colors.
  56. Most people over 30 think “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” are dumb.
  57. Everyone dreads going to the DMV.
  58. You’re under no obligation to explain what you do all day.
  59. Everything tastes better when someone else prepares it.
  60. No more birthday lists until next year.

59 Things I’ve Learned

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Cake created by JC Cakes in North Branford, CT. The BEST cupcakes on the Shoreline.

Today is my 59th birthday (I know, I can’t believe it either.) In honor of this milestone, I’m following the lead of other bloggers and posting 59 things I’ve learned.

  1. Money doesn’t make people happy. People do.
  2. You can’t buy good taste.
  3. You will never be able to blow dry your hair as well as your hair stylist.
  4. Don’t buy generic for certain items. Diapers and kitchen trash bags come to mind.
  5. If you’re planning an outdoor party in June, it will rain.
  6. Faith becomes increasingly important with age.
  7. Forgiving is one of the hardest, but most important, things in life.
  8. There is a profound emptiness in your house after losing a pet.
  9. If your shirts or sweaters are missing, check your daughter’s room.
  10. Someone will always leave an empty half-gallon of milk in the refrigerator.
  11. You can never have too much ketchup.
  12. Or coffee.
  13. Lukewarm coffee is awful.
  14. Marriage is like a marathon. You’ve got to dig deep to handle the hills.
  15. Go to the wake or funeral.
  16. There will always be one woman at the pool who’s worked out all winter and is thoroughly pleased with herself.
  17. Italian Sunday dinners at 2 p.m. are the best.
  18. It’s OK to have ice cream or frozen yogurt for lunch.
  19. Corn on the cob should be served with ear plugs.
  20. There is nothing more fascinating than watching a 2-year-old play.
  21. You will never look as fit as your spinning teacher.
  22. Being a mother is the most rewarding job on the planet.
  23. And the most difficult.
  24. One of the best things about having little children is going to kids’ movies like “Toy Story” and “Cars.”
  25. A good gardener keeps track of time based on when plants are in bloom and vegetables are ripe.
  26. Cars with passenger-side brakes should be available to every parent teaching teen-agers to drive.
  27. You will get sugar ants on your kitchen counters in August.
  28. No one looks good in cycling shorts or helmets.
  29. Shirts with cut-out shoulders are the most puzzling fashion trend in the last 10 years.
  30. Clip-in bike shoes are worth every penny.
  31. No one wants to take medicine.
  32. Going outside changes things.
  33. No one enjoys losing.
  34. There will always be some people who don’t like you.
  35. A lot of people are actually quite funny.
  36. If your kids and grandkids are healthy, you’re blessed.
  37. Your dog will walk on the wet floor the second you put away the mop.
  38. Cleaning windows without streaks is an art.
  39. When in doubt, shower.
  40. You can say anything you want to siblings and they eventually will forgive you. In-laws, not so much.
  41. There will be one couple who won’t give you a wedding present.
  42. Most people mean well.
  43. The house will be messy while the kids are on their summer school break.
  44. Sheets dried on a clothesline smell so very sweet.
  45. Puppies are baby dogs.
  46. Having a child with head lice is horrendous.
  47. Church is an irresistible place to people watch.
  48. Most people who walk their dogs off leash shouldn’t.
  49. Instead of “good morning,” you ask your spouse “are you as exhausted as I am?” every morning.
  50. Your kid will drink in college.
  51. If your house phone rings, it’s a solicitor, the pharmacy about your refill or the oil company about scheduling your furnace cleaning.
  52. You shouldn’t be better dressed or groomed than your children.
  53. Nice surprises are fewer and farther between with age.
  54. Drinking during the day isn’t a good idea.
  55. You’re never too old for a mother’s embrace.
  56. No one tells you how hard it is to lose a parent.
  57. Or to send a kid off to college.
  58. There are more back-to-work programs for inmates and addicts than for stay-at-home mothers.
  59. Celebrating another birthday is a gift.

The Boy In The Band

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Before heading out the Memorial Day parade senior year.

I live in a town where kids have to take band, orchestra or chorus in 5th and 6th grades.

Like a lot of boys, my son chose the trumpet or saxophone. He got the trombone. (“It was my third choice,” he said, “and I only put it down because that was the only other instrument I could think of.”)

Although it was bigger than he was, he (and we) eventually got used to its sound, which is a bit like a goose with flatulence. There were memorable moments: the time he played a piece on Smart Music (a computer practice program) 50 times before submitting a 70. The night I marched around the kitchen holding sheet music to prepare him for his first parade and tripped over the dishwasher door. The concert where we cringed every time he moved his slide, afraid he’d hit the kid in front of him.

After two years, he had the option of continuing to play the trombone, shifting to another music elective or study hall. This is where I turned into my fiercest Tiger Mom, urging (well, pleading) him to stay in band. As a parent, I love band. It represents Mom, apple pie, Chevrolet, the American way. Just listening to a John Phillip Sousa march puts a kick in my step.

Though sports often polarize parents and bring out the worst in us, band unites. We’re relaxed watching concerts and parades, knowing if our kid fakes it or screws up, no one will notice or care. No one grouses that certain kids get to do solos, introduce songs or give the conductor roses. We’re awed rather than suspect of kids in Honor Band and Jazz Ensemble, the band’s version of the Travel Team.

Band is democratic and mostly based on skill and merit. There’s a place for every kid, whether it’s holding the high school banner, tinkling the triangle or banging the bass drum. Everyone wears the same dorky outfits without complaint. Everyone sweats and tries to stay in step during the Memorial Day parade. Band says: “We’re all in this together.”

There’s not a lot you can criticize about band, except concerts usually fall at the busiest times of the year (Christmas and the end of school). There’s also the slight agitation that comes with eating dinner at 9:30 p.m., and watching parents slip out after chorus or orchestra performances. I’m sure I’m not the only parent who thinks, “You’re kidding right? I listened to your kid sing and now you’re leaving? Oh no you don’t!”

For the most part though, band is all good.

It teaches focus, discipline, commitment, multi-tasking, cooperation, marching in step and endurance. It also teaches humility, patience and perseverance because you don’t get better without practice. And some kids are so incredibly talented. I still remember the drum solo by a 6th grader in an Hawaiian shirt playing “Wipeout.”

Here are my other reasons for loving band:

  1. The band director is smart, sincere and genuine. It’s hard to even imagine kids acting up in his class.
  2. It’s an easy way to get a good grade. Show up, do your work and practice. Done.
  3. It teaches important life lessons. Alone, you and your instrument don’t sound like much. Together, you create beautiful music and bring joy to people.
  4. Everyone looks great in a uniform.
  5. Kids listen, follow directions, take turns and work collaboratively. Makes me wish I had a conductor’s baton when I taught CCD.
  6. Playing trombone comes in handy at college tailgate parties. Everyone loves a good fight song at half time.
  7. Playing trombone may help you get into a college. Every school has a band. It’s doubtful they’ll need you, but you never know.
  8. Band sheds light on human growth. While waiting for the concert to begin, parents scan the crowd and notice some 6th grade girls are taller than the teacher. Some 8th grade boys are 6′ 3″ and have their learner’s permit. Some 7th grade boys have adorable little feet while others have hooves bigger than my husband.
  9. Women love musicians.
  10. Playing trombone could come in handy if you want to join a garage band in your 50s.

My son played through high school, marching in town parades and concerts. He hasn’t picked up the trombone since high school and that’s OK. There’s a new sound in the house. My 16-year-old daughter plays percussion and loves to bang on her snare drum in her bedroom. Three more years of forgotten stick bags, music folders and uniforms that must be dropped off in the front office. I can’t wait.

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The middle school band during the Memorial Day parade.

 

 

Wooden Salad Bowl

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You never know which bridal gifts will stick it out through the marriage. Here are a few that did, including my tattered copy of the The Doubleday Cookbook.

<a href="https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/willy-nilly/">Willy-nilly</a>

I recently read an article about bridal gifts encouraging people to use the registry because engaged couples put so much time and thought into them.

I get it. I was once a bride. But I often leave gift buying to the last minute. And the last time I went shower shopping, I refused to buy a kitchen garbage can or dish rack. There’s a reason they were still kicking around – no one else wanted to give them either.

I decided to skip the registry, buying a wooden salad bowl and a picture frame for a portrait I had taken of the engaged couple with the groom’s family. I’ve reached the age where I can’t help myself. I’ve become one of those insufferable matrons who thinks they know what’s best.

I’m blessed that my family and friends humor and still love me, though I suspect there’s eye rolling behind my back. No one likes a know-it-all. Still, women over 50 want to share their wisdom with others. Unsuspecting brides, new mothers, college students and young co-workers are often our targets.

It goes something like this: “You don’t realize it yet, but everyone needs a wooden salad bowl. They’re not only great for salad, but for nuts, popcorn, chips, gourds and  ornaments. One day, you’ll thank me for giving you this bowl instead of that ridiculous garbage can.”

I forget who gave me my wooden salad bowl as a shower gift nearly 34 years ago, but that woman knew her stuff. I still have the bowl. I’ve received compliments about it at dinner parties, with one friend remarking: “I’ve always wanted a bowl like this.” (Bed, Bath and Beyond, $50.)

In honor of the bowl and my need to share willy-nilly, here’s a list of other shower/wedding gifts that I still love. (Feel free to eye roll as needed):

  • The Doubleday Cookbook: So what if it’s missing its cover, binding and is split into five pieces? Sometimes food websites are confusing and you need a cooking bible to clear things up.
  • Silver-plated cordial cups: I got six from a former co-worker and still polish  them for special occasions. Perfect for an after-dinner drink.
  • Pewter tea kettle: Pretty, decorative, useful, classy. Still on my kitchen shelf.
  • Pewter salad servers: Given to me by one of my oldest friends, they’re solid, funky and a conversation piece. They’re also great for pounding meat.
  • Oven-safe casserole with lid: From holding the Thanksgiving stuffing to the  corned beef for my St. Patrick’s Day party, it’s a workhorse.
  • Linens: My mother is horrified when I tell her that I still have sheets from when I first got married – (“You must not wash them very often,” she says) –  but I do. They’re threadbare, but hold sentimental value. One of the top sheets is on my bed right now. No, it doesn’t match the fitted sheet.
  • Plastic champagne glasses: I know, this sounds like a completely useless gift and I’ve never used them, but they’re on my shelf just in case. They were included in a picnic basket that I received as a shower gift. You’d think I would have sipped champagne on the beach by now, but I haven’t. Bucket list.
  • Hand-thrown salad bowls: Crafted by my husband’s Aunt Joyce, they’re pretty, practical and perfect for holding nuts, candy or dips.
  •  Hippo piggy bank: Given to us by my husband’s great aunt, it’s whimsical, decorative and just plain fun.
  • Christmas ornaments: A fantastic and unexpected gift from one of our ushers. We still hang them on our tree and they remind us of our first Christmas together.
  • 8-piece dinner set: Instead of registering for fine china, I opted for a nice set of everyday dishes. I still use them.
  • Champagne glasses: Their fluted-design makes them impossible to clean, but they’re still great for special occasions like Thanksgiving and anniversaries.

When you’re at your shower or opening wedding gifts, you never know what will stand the test of time. Like a lot of things in life, including marriage itself, their true value reveals itself with the passage of time.

Surprised by any enduring shower/wedding gifts? Let me hear about them.

 

Taxi Driver

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Slowing down gives you a chance to notice little things that are just a blur when you’re rushing around.

Did you ever notice that adults act like kids the minute they’re without cars?

The Curmudgeon attended a conference in New York City on Friday and opted to take the train from New Haven, CT.  I dropped him off at the station at 6 a.m. and set him loose. I didn’t hear from him for the rest of the day. I later learned he dined with two business associates in Tribeca before a few nightcaps in an Irish pub.

It sounded fun, or at least more enjoyable than spending three hours assembling IKEA furniture with my kids in a stuffy room as his birthday surprise. We survived, but not without cursing and wrestling over the power drill. I’d like to say it was a great family bonding experience, but it wasn’t. It was just something that needed to be done, like flossing or getting the furnace cleaned.

The Curmudgeon seemed to have a kick in his step and the adrenaline rush that occurs when a suburbanite ventures out of his sleepy environs and is thrust into the harried pace of city life. I was happy for him, because he’s always been a little leery of New York (“Too crowded, too dirty, too busy, too expensive.”)

And then the call came.

“I’m getting the noon train at Grand Central and it’s getting into New Haven at 2:08,” he announced. “Can you please pick me up?”

Of course. But first, I wanted to eat lunch and watch an episode of “The League,” my latest Netflix find. I ended up leaving 5 minutes later than I planned, but figured I’d arrive within a few minutes of the train. I foolishly failed to account for I-95 traffic on a Saturday.

The next call came at 2:08. “Where the *&^$ are you?” The Curmudgeon demanded. “I told you the train was getting in at 2:08. I’m exhausted and I’m starving. We’re stopping at the deli on the way home so I can get something to eat.”

“I left a few minutes late and there’s traffic,” I said. “Entertain yourself for a few minutes. Read the newspaper or check your phone. Or just wait. I’ll be there.”

In the interest of full disclosure, it was his birthday so I should have left earlier. My bad. But I-Phones and their various clones have turned kids (and the occasional adult) into tyrants. If you’re one minute late, you can expect a call or text asking where you are. If you don’t answer your phone, you may even get the dreaded Find My I-Phone ping.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m as attached to my phone as the next person. But they’ve come at a price. Instead of giving us more time and freedom, they’ve made us more demanding and fixated on time.

They’ve eliminated the notion of a grace period, a cooling of heels or just chilling out. It’s no wonder everyone’s stressed out and pressed for time. We’re on the clock all day every day.

When I didn’t return a text from an acquaintance for almost two hours, he wrote: “Is everything OK with you? Why aren’t you responding?”

I barely know this person and I appreciate his concern for my welfare, but I was in a place where cellphones must be silenced. And to be honest, I was a tiny bit miffed that a stranger wanted to know my whereabouts on a Saturday afternoon.

That text makes me long for the days of the pink phone message slips where you wrote in a caller’s name, the reason for the call and whether or not it was urgent. If it was an important call, you made a point to call the person right back. If not, you might wait a few hours or call the next day and no one blinked.

My kids are the worst. I pick up my daughter nearly every day after school and I’ve never forgotten her. Yet every evening when I’m five minutes away,  the call comes in. Before she can speak, I say: “Be there in 5 minutes” or “Pulling into the lot right now.”

My son is no better. When I pick him up for school breaks, it goes something like this: “Pick me up at noon.” An hour later, the call comes in. “You know, make it 12:10. I’ve got a paper to drop off. I’ll get my stuff and we’ll leave at 12:20.”

“But after 90 minutes in the car, I was hoping to stretch my legs and grab one of those great chopped salads,” I’ll say. “OK, I guess you can do that. But I want to get back by 3 because I’m working at 4.”

And let us not forgot the tag team call. When I’m talking to someone and don’t put her on hold when my son calls, he calls my daughter to tell me that he’s trying to reach me. I can’t imagine doing that with my parents, who believed in the great divide between kids and adults. If you approached my mother while she was on the phone, she’d wave you away like she was swatting flies.

I think a little waiting is good. It allows time to breathe, pause, reflect, exist. It gives time to look at the sky, sit on a  bench or ponder your navel. Waiting makes you appreciate the ride and more importantly, the person behind the wheel.