Sunday, August 11, 2019

Better Not to Know

Last week my normally predictable husband made an unexpected U-Turn by Whole Foods, where we were headed for lunch at their salad bar, like many other days. When David first turned the car around, I thought uh oh, his mind is going…but then I realized – g a s p – he’s taking us to Friendly’s!     

This was too good to be true!  I had suggested this a few times before, that we stop in for an after-dinner treat. He is right that I can be a bad influence, as I have no shame in getting down and dirty with a sugary delight.     

He wouldn’t have made an about-face had I not mentioned it again that moment, so I was glad I did.  I know he likes making me happy, and this act of spontaneity certainly did, which I told him.  Our afternoon change of plans was off to a fun start. 

As we approached the parking lot, we focused on what we’d have:  for David, a lunch of fried clams, fries and maybe a fribble; for me, either that or a burger. There was no doubt that my meal would include some kind of sundae at the end.    

After David opened the menu, he asked if I noticed the top of it where Friendly’s posted the recommended daily calories for the average person per day:  2,000.  I hadn’t seen it, and I didn’t care about it either. I just wanted to proceed with our indulgence, without too much thinking. 

A few seconds later, I felt myself sliding into a downward spiral.  As I looked around the menu, I noticed that each item had a calorie count.

This was not something I wanted to deal with at Friendly’s.  It’s one thing at Honey Grow or Salad Works or Whole Foods, where the goal is to eat a healthy lunch. It’s altogether different when we want to pig out and chose Friendly’s for that exact reason.

I searched for the fried clam platter and noticed it has a calorie count of 1,720.  WOA.  This was dangerously close to the daily Friendly’s recommended limit of 2,000 calories per day.  It was about 1 p.m. at the time. Did this mean I was done eating until tomorrow, given I had already consumed a few hundred calories for breakfast?  That wasn’t going to happen.

Then I looked for my other option, a cheeseburger, again in a platter format:  the burger is 860 calories, fries 330 or onion rings 270, and the cheese another hundred or two, depending upon the selection. I’d be digesting at least 1,300 calories for this lunch – if I devoured all of it – but better than 1,720.   

A small sundae for dessert would be some 300 calories, so I could have both and end up about where David would be with his fried clam platter alone.  But, if I went for a regular-size hot fudge sundae, that would give me a total lunch count of a couple thousand calories.  At that point, I’d be eating into the next day’s calories, literally.

Before long, all of my happiness in diving into a Friendly’s lunch went out the window.  I would have considered walking out had I not lured David there in the first place, because frankly I had lost my appetite.  The thrill was gone.

What we didn’t get at the time was why on earth would a place like Friendly’s list the calories for each item?  It canceled out the potential fun of going there, and isn’t that the point of it? 
On a side note, during the meal we laughed a lot about the dichotomy. 

When I got home, I googled calorie count on restaurant menus and learned that in recent years it’s become a federal requirement for food establishments to list calories for every item.

The thinking behind this is to create a healthier society by making information readily available for those who would therefore make better decisions.  It comes on the heels of publicizing other ingredients such as trans fats, saturated fats, sodium and so on.  Clearly, the intention is good.

But, I’m still craving that sundae I didn’t have last week…another U-Turn may be in order.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

For Many, the Path is Unclear

“I’m going through an identity crisis,” I recall telling my mom when I was about 14 or 15 years old, some 45 years ago.  

Maybe she wondered what the heck I was talking about but chalked it up to teenage psychobabble that didn’t really mean much although, by that time, my older sister had come out as a lesbian.   

In retrospect, I’m not sure what I was referring to with my “identity crisis” comment. My best guess at this time is that I wanted to find meaning in my life – I was consumed with trying to understand my role in the world – and was expressing these feelings in person or in writing, whenever the opportunity presented itself.

I struggled with all kinds of things as a teen, much the same as many of us I suppose – relationships primarily – but I have always felt free to be me.  I didn’t question my gender or my sexuality and can’t remember anyone else other than my sister choosing his/her own path as a lesbian or gay man, although I remember hearing about a drag show here and there…and not getting it.

Had a child of mine said to me he/she’s having an identity crisis – granted, many years after I said it – I wonder where my thoughts would have gone:  my guess is somewhere along the gender spectrum, which is not only represented with LGBTQ but also non-binary, gender fluid and so on.

I’m not embarrassed to admit I truly don’t get it all, but I’m starting to feel that I should indeed have a better understanding.  The world might be a much more humane place if we could be open to comprehending the struggles so many of us have and extend some compassion to them as well. 

David and I are forever surfing for what we can stream on TV and came across a Netflix mini-series called “Tales of the City,” based on the book series by Armistead Maupin, which first aired on public television in the late 1990s.  It earned a Peabody award for its groundbreaking depiction of the complex lives of the LGBTQ community.     

The current remake, from a show by the same name in the 1990s, centers on the diverse set of inhabitants who live in an apartment / boarding house complex in San Francisco.  There are also heterosexual divorced men and women in the mix, along with multi-cultural couples and basically any scenario you can imagine.     

The roles of the trans landlady is played by Olympia Dukakis; Laura Linney plays a straight woman who returned to the area after abandoning her adopted daughter – played by Ellen Page – decades before.  Linney also reconnects with her ex-husband, played by Paul Gross, who wants to be involved with his neighbor, a woman of color who is half his age.

I can relate to a couple aspects of the characters’ lives, specifically when it comes to divorce, but that’s about it.  The emotions for those transitioning are mind-boggling.  There is a lesbian – in a relationship with a woman – who is transitioning to being a man and, in that process, he finds he’s become attracted to men, no longer to the woman with whom he had been in a relationship when he was a woman.  

Another show we watched several years ago is called “Transparent,” which portrays the story of the family patriarch, played by Jeffrey Tambour, who transitioned from Mort to Maura in the loving but complicated setting of his family – his ex-wife Judith Light and his three grown children.  He spent most of his life confronting his unhappiness of being a man and wanting to be a woman and then began the transitioning process, which changed his friendships and relationships across the board.

Since watching Tales of the City, I have been trying to educate myself more and found what I consider an eye-opening story that addresses the impact of transitioning on mental health:

In this story, 35 people shared their feelings.  The first person interviewed, Ianna Drew Urquhart, stated that coming out and transitioning was like “removing the biggest weight in the world.”  Another interviewee named Sophia said that “before transitioning she felt numb and dead inside; after, even feeling sad was amazing because it meant I was alive.” Each story is heartfelt, compelling and gives me hope.

I am so happy that many individuals, while still facing discrimination unfortunately, have access to information, resources and support online and/or in person.  In addition, I am optimistic that the kids of today will feel comfortable to talk with their parents and that the parents will be open to these wide-ranging and potentially difficult discussions, as well as knowledgeable. 

I am also grateful for programing like Tales of the City and Transparent, and others too, that offer an education for those of us who may not have had first-hand exposure to people dealing with such complicated matters.

Trying to understand all these complexities reminds me how simple life can be for people without gender identity and sexual orientation issues and, honestly, how many worlds I know nothing about.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Every time I go to Rastelli’s, a specialty market nearby, I check out their pre-sliced deli to see if there is anything enticing I can grab and go, without waiting for my turn at the counter.  They have terrific London Broil that I would get in a second if it’s already packaged, but that’s a rare occurrence.  It wasn’t in the bin yesterday either, but I got a treat nonetheless:  a walk down memory lane.   

There it was – almost too exciting to be true:  hard salami.  Any coincidence that I saw it front and center for the first time on the eve of Mother’s Day?   This was one of my mom’s favorite foods.  She didn’t care that chewing and then biting this hard stuff wreaked havoc on her dentures.  She was determined to have it – and enjoy it - regardless.

I assume she liked the flavor, and even the consistency, but I also wonder if it made her feel closer to my dad, because he loved it so much that she’d send hard salamis to him when he was in World War II.  We also had salamis hanging from the ceiling in our basement for months at a time.  I am certain this now sounds gross – as it was 50 years ago too – because when she’d direct me to go downstairs and bring up the hardest salami we had, I had to climb on a ladder to feel each one, and they were very, very greasy.  I’m sure this violated many, if not all, health codes.

Thinking about the hard salami reminded me of the time my mom slapped my hand because I ate a piece of salami – before dinner.  I remember being shocked that she did that, and it seemed totally uncharacteristic given her normal level of tolerance. I must’ve really pissed her off, or maybe I just pushed her over the edge at that time.  After all, I was child number 4. 

I often think about what motherhood was like for my mom, especially given her childhood.

Her mother passed when she was a baby (1917), and she was raised by her grandmother, a single woman who became a bootlegger to take care of her family.  As a teen, my mom was one of her delivery people, traveling around New York City on the subway with hidden bottles of wine that her grandmother made in their basement.   

My mom told me that one day after her subway ride near the customer’s home, she fell, and the bottle broke.  My mom didn’t know what to do; she felt she had failed and sat and cried, with wine having spilled all around her.  She was afraid that the woman would be angry and was even more concerned that she’d come home empty-handed – void of the payment her grandmom was expecting – and the family wouldn’t have the money needed for food.

I don’t know of anyone else who can brag about the fact that his/her great grandparent was a bootlegger (other than my siblings), so I’ll assume my mom had an atypical upbringing.  In turn, I had a different kind of life growing up as compared with my friends whose moms were stay-at-home caregivers.  I wore a red key around my neck, often coming home to an empty house, while my mom worked full-time and dedicated her life to making the world a more just, compassionate and peaceful place for everyone around us.  

Weekends were spent accompanying her on picket lines, watching her run city-wide campaigns from our house for my dad, seeing her stay up all night to write legislation for him to introduce in City Council, etc. etc...but also sharing special time together:  watching Elvis movies, talking about friends and giving people the benefit of the doubt, passing on advice to me such as being sure to dance whenever the opportunity presented itself and so on.      

It's been just over 4 years since my mom passed, and I have recently come to realize that it's the little things – everyday happenings, stories shared, all that I have seen, heard and digested throughout my life - not the big things, that have shaped me. Every one of them has added a piece to my puzzle.

I love that, for me, so many of those pieces involve my mom.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

It's a Long One

So much for aging gracefully.

I knew I’d never look like Jane Fonda with her amazing face and killer body at age 80 for goodness sake, and I certainly didn’t expect to ever have that creamy, soft and smooth complexion that I see on Ponds Face Cream commercials, but…really?   

It’s been an unusual few months for me, with a gamut of emotions all swirling around, most of which have to do with self-image and an unhealthy focus on how I see myself when I look in the mirror.  I credit my eons of free time for feeding into this new obsession.   

Ten years ago, by comparison, David and I would have had five kids plus friends coming in and out of our home on a regular basis, and we were working full-time. I didn’t have a second to think straight, let alone look in the mirror and analyze my findings.

In January, I went for my annual dermatological checkup, and nothing concerning was identified.  The year before, the doctor had taken off several “precancerous” lesions.  She assured me these removals were common; they come with age: the catch-all for everything that changes—and not for the good—over time.  She was nonchalant about it, so I was too.   

Several months after my check-up, and again with lots of time to scrutinize myself in the mirror, I noticed new activity on my face—specifically my left cheek—and it was itchy too.  I assumed that either I was having an allergic reaction to something or maybe my face always looked like this:  freckles and spots everywhere, with rosacea picking up where my acne nightmare left off.  
My face hadn’t calmed down much after a couple of weeks, so I thought it prudent to make an appointment with the dermatologist; however, I also debated (with myself) whether I was being a hypochondriac and should just wait the 8 months until my next checkup.  But I’d never let my kids get away with that; I’d torture them to death if they alluded to waiting so long.

So, I went back.

“Just burn it off like you did before,” I said to my dermatologist matter-of-factly about the area most questionable.  My thoughts went directly to what I’d pick up for dinner when I left the office.  

Not so fast, she said, “I’m going to take a biopsy.”  I shot back with “why?” which was a perfect example of reacting without thinking, because of course I knew the answer.  Once she had the results, she said, she’ll decide how to approach the other areas on my face; perhaps instead of doing multiple biopsies, she would prescribe a cream that, in essence, would present a glow on my face to highlight all my abnormal cells.

I’d probably want to plan to stay in for a week or so because my face will light up, she said...WHAT???  I never heard of such a thing.  I thought she had to be joking, but she had a straight face.  I pictured the Lite Bright toy my kids had or Ross in Friends with his glow-in-the-dark teeth. I wasn’t thinking about dinner anymore but rather stopping on my way home for a comfort drink, which for me would be a milkshake. 

As I was leaving, she told me I’d get a call from the office in a few days informing me of the results.  I tried not to think about it, basically tuning out the fact that I’d find out later in the week whether I would be able to enjoy the beach—a.k.a. my happy place—this summer.

I was sitting in my home office and saw the dermatology number come up three days later.  The woman identified herself in a very businesslike manner.  I got very impatient, thinking enough with the niceties; just get to the point.  

She then said “you have skin cancer.”

I’ve long felt we’re all sitting ducks and that eventually my number would be called, but still, I was shocked.

She proceeded to explain that I have basal cell carcinoma, a relatively simple skin cancer and “a good one” to have because it’s the least serious of the skin cancers. I felt lucky, but I’m not going to lie.  I also wanted to cry.   

She briefly mentioned the procedure called Mohs, named after Frederic Mohs for micrographic surgery that has been utilized with great success removing cancer, and she didn’t miss a beat in giving me the names of dermatological surgeons.  I got an enthusiastic two thumbs up from a few people I spoke with about one woman in particular, some of whom had had skin cancer and went to her, so I scheduled a consult.     

The surgeon explained she wouldn’t know the depth of the cancer until she got in there, and the fact that I had “infiltrative” basal cell carcinoma could make the removal more complex.  Plan to be in the office for several hours, she advised, while assuring me that the Mohs procedure is the most effective out there as it will eradicate my cancer better than any other alternative (over 95% cure rate), while conserving the greatest amount of healthy tissue.  She also looked into my eyes and told me she will do her best to minimize the scar.   

While warm and genuine but matter-of-fact, the doctor had my trust; yet, I couldn’t get past the fact that the conversation centered on cutting my face open. I was mortified wondering if I’d end up looking like Herman Munster.  And then I felt guilty and embarrassed by my thoughts which zoned in on my feelings about how I look vs. my health and how fortunate I happened to be with the treatable nature of this particular kind of cancer.  And, that I have health insurance to cover the surgery. 

I made my appointment for the first date offered:  July 17, which actually made me smile, as it was my middle daughter Allison’s birthday. A few weeks later, I learned that Amy, my youngest, had a job interview that day too. I chose to believe that these two occurrences would funnel positive vibes my way (she got the job, too).

When I got home from my consult, I succumbed to my natural urge of researching online, which I had postponed for as long as I could. I stalked various sites, all the while trying to prevent David from seeing what I was doing, because I knew he’d tell me I wouldn’t be any better off after all my google searches.     

I learned all sorts of things about Mohs, the most interesting part of it being the technique itself:  one layer of skin is taken off at a time so as not to remove more than what is necessary beyond the tumor itself, with clear margins.  The process of removing the cancer takes about 5 or 10 minutes but analyzing it under the microscope takes about an hour, per layer.

Many Mohs websites posted warnings about disturbing photos. Depending on my mood, I ventured further, and indeed those warnings were for good reason: I saw many people with actual holes—no exaggeration—in their faces (before being bandaged up).  This is what I pictured when I closed my eyes at night. 
My appointment time was 7 a.m. on the 17th, and I was there until about noon, in part due to another patient’s emergency.  The surgeon said she had to go to the second layer, but she was able to stop there.  I was relieved, picturing her getting awfully close to my mouth and then interfering with all the dental work I had done in the last few years.

Before she closed me up, the doctor asked if I wanted to look at the surgical site on my cheek.  I wished she hadn’t asked, because that was the last thing I wanted to do, but I didn’t want to come off as a wuss.  Everyone was waiting for me to answer – the surgeon, her assistant, and a couple of others in there with me.  I was stalling. I remember asking if other patients looked.  She said sometimes they do, and sometimes their partners look for them.  Immediately I asked David, who had just returned to my room, if he wanted to look – why not put the hot seat on him instead?  He was brave and said OK (I love this man!)   I watched his expression and he seemed taken aback, but then again, he didn’t get the online preview that I did to see how bizarre the actual site—or hole—could look.  However, he did encourage me NOT to look, and I am thankful for that.

Next, she asked if I wanted to take a look at my scar.  No, I didn’t want to look at that either, but I felt I couldn’t say NO a second time.  Plus, I’d be seeing it up close and personal within a few days anyway I figured, so I might as well get the initial sighting over with. 

The scar was lengthy, from about an inch under my eye (over to the side) to my chin.  It was so much longer than I had imagined.  Again, I wanted to cry.

I went home with a huge bandage that covered the whole left cheek. I was afraid to take it off 2 days later as the instructions stated; I even called the office and asked if it had to come off or whether it could stay on a third day, because I was afraid of what was lurking underneath. We were pleasantly surprised; it wasn’t pretty, but it wasn’t as bad as each of us had envisioned it could be.  

It’s been 12 days, and the improvement is impressive overall, although I’m definitely self-conscious when I venture out.  As of today, I have glue, which was used to close it up (dissolvable stitches underneath), hanging loosely around the site. It’s not that I am embarrassed that I look wounded or odd, but rather that I see people’s eyes go to it and then I feel I should address it. Back to too much free time.      

I’d say all this is behind me, but I have an appointment in a few weeks to look at the other spots on my face.

Since I started this post talking about Jane Fonda, I googled her to see if she had ever had cancer.  She did have breast cancer, and she’s struggled with bulimia and osteoarthritis.

Recently, she developed cancer on her lower lip, which was removed during a biopsy. 

She was scheduled to go on a talk show shortly after the removal.  When entertainment host Ricky Camilleri praised her for being willing to go on camera while still bandaged, she responded, “Well the world is falling apart...what’s a lip, right?”

I always loved her exercise videotapes; they were invaluable when I was home with my babies.

It’s clear that I still have so much more to learn from Jane.   

Sunday, April 1, 2018


This story begins at the Division of Motor Vehicles, where I went to get my driver’s license renewed.

I sat for about 20 minutes as people came and went, all asking each other how long they had been waiting.  The camaraderie among us was strong, mostly because everyone talked about what brought them in that day.  There were also a handful of men and women who were emphatically trading stories about how rude and/or inept the employees always are and that they would rather do anything than come to the DMV. 

Once my Number 80 was called, I walked to the designated desk to process my application. I braced myself to experience the worst.   

The woman I was assigned to, who I will call “Patty” for her St. Patrick’s Day T-shirt, took my paperwork without looking at me.  She turned it from one side to the next a few times.  Here we go, I thought.  My anxiety was mounting.  So, I did the only thing I know how to do in situations where I am at the mercy of someone who, honestly, scares me a little, similar to how I approach the phlebotomist at LabCorp:  I make small talk. 

I asked Patty how her day had been going so far, even as she stared downward at her desk. She replied, actually lifting her face to look at me for the first time. She then asked if I noticed the pink sweater on one of her coworkers.  HUH? That question came out of the blue.  I thought I misheard initially—at a time when I was anticipating her instructions to stand back and smile or don’t smile—whatever the rule is these days—for my license picture. 

I didn’t see a pink sweater and nervously told her; a minute later a woman with a pink sweater made an appearance—I will call her “Pink”—and sat down.  Patty explained that she gave Pink her sweater because of Lent.  What do you mean? I asked.  She said she (Patty) was channeling her efforts during Lent to do something she has dreaded for years:  purging her closets.
We may as well have been having tea somewhere; she sat back in her chair and told me in great detail how awful she used to feel being surrounded by overstuffed closets that prevented her from actually seeing what was inside and how out of sorts she felt in her own home.  She let out a sigh of relief when she told me that she and her daughter get along better these days because they don’t argue so much about the 18-year-old’s clothes: now, those piled on the chair or floor are no longer the easiest to reach.  Patty actually said that purging her closets has changed her life.

I wondered if Patty shared her breakthrough with anyone else. I didn’t see her engage in other personal chatter, but I couldn’t imagine that I was the only one with whom she expressed her newfound joy.  Little did she know, closet organization was right up my alley.  
This recent hobby of mine started several months ago when I began to feel that this country was falling apart.  No matter where I looked, people were hurting one another with venomous words or killing each other with guns.  Nightly, I asked myself what kind of world have I brought my kids and grandkids into?        

This angst became magnified when I’d get into bed, as David was drifting off to sleep in the comfort of his C-pap.  It was in the darkness—when the lights were out, the room was quiet, and I was alone with my thoughts—that I would stew for hours.

Counting sheep as my mom periodically suggested didn’t do the trick; I needed a more potent plan of action to combat these fears.  I began to count backwards from 100 by 3s since it was somewhat challenging initially but over time became boring so I went to counting backwards by 7s which was, I admit, too challenging to be relaxing. I also tried reciting the alphabet backwards because I know my kids can do that but I struggled with that too and gave up. 

And then I figured out the closet trick, and it’s never let me down. It literally works every time.
In a nutshell, once David reaches for his C-pap, I close my eyes and begin strategizing:  How should I set up the clothing in my closet?  Should I group my shirts by color, length or season?  Should tie-dyed shirts stay in the front of the closet or move to the back? Where should I place year-round clothing?  What can I give away, donate, toss?  Should I have a system in place to rotate what I wear so I’m not always seen in the same few outfits?  It’s minutiae at its best, focusing on details that don’t matter, not distressing in the least.  Before long, I’m hearing the birdies…it’s morning in no time.

The beauty of this new practice is twofold:  not only do I fall asleep quickly but I can make practical improvements in my life as a result.       

I wanted to share all this with Patty because I was pretty sure she’d get a kick out of it given that we’re on the same wavelength about our closets and perhaps other aspects of home orderliness as well, but she was so deep into her own storytelling that I didn’t get a chance.   

Who would have ever thought Patty and I would connect on this level, having just met in the DMV?

It goes to show that, on any given day, one never knows what we share with the stranger in front of us. 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

One For All

Being one of four siblings in my childhood home was neither good nor bad.  It was, in a word, predictable.

Dinnertime was a shining example of predictability.  One of the meals in my mom’s regular rotation consisted of broiled chicken made with a host of seasonings – most likely she sprinkled tarragon, oregano, salt, pepper and paprika.  I can smell them now, as I write. 

Once we were all seated at the dinner table, the platter of chicken would be placed in front of the eldest person at the table:  my dad first if he was home or my brother Mark, who was 11 years my senior.  And from there it would be passed in age order.

Yup, I am the youngest of the four.

I often talked myself through this, never questioning the status quo aloud, but asking myself privately why I was always the low man [woman] on the totem pole, why I was always the last one invited to the dinner party.  For parents who touted the democratic way of life, this was…well…undemocratic.  Back then, though, I accepted that this is what happens when you’re the fourth kid.    

For the most part, I was fine with the routine of being the last one to delve into the platter—and it certainly kept me from eating too much—but I did draw the line in my head when it came to hot tea, which my mom offered after dinner. 

“Who wants hot tea?” she’d ask.

This always felt like a trick question. 

Yes, I wanted hot tea, but that wouldn’t be what I was getting when I responded, “I do.”

It would just mean I’d get a cup of something hot but, for me, it would most likely be water; as with the chicken, the tea bag was passed around the table in age order.  Yes, one tea bag for as many as 6 people. 

If my dad was home, he’d get the strongest tea; Mark who always partook would get the second or third strongest; Denis would go next and Sherrie too before me.  For some reason I have blocked out where my mom, a tea drinker, would have fared:  would her tea be brown or clear? 

It was a tall order for that little Lipton’s tea bag to flavor anywhere from 3 to 5 cups of tea before it got to me.

Here’s my attempt at rationalization.

My mom was born in 1917 and lived through the Great Depression in her grand mom’s home; so sadly, her mom passed away from the flu epidemic when my mom was just 6 mos. old.  My grand mom did her best to care for her family and put food on the table by boot legging wine.

I can understand how the Depression changed its survivors.  Life was hard, money was tight or non-existent, there was always the fear that they wouldn’t have enough, wastefulness was incomprehensible.

It’s no wonder, therefore, that my mom seemed to believe that one tea bag for a family of six was appropriate; why “waste” more than one if everyone wants the same thing? 

At times I thought, but didn’t dare say, “How about we switch it up today and let the baby of the family go first?” Even second or third would have been an improvement.      

Old habits die hard, and even though it wasn’t my old habit I’m struggling with but rather my mom’s, the tea bag has tormented me all my life.

I just can’t get the one teabag-per-meal—or was it one-teabag-per-day?—rule out of my head. 
I agree that my mom was right that it’s wasteful to use a tea bag just one time, but by the third or fourth dip, it is flavorless.  So when should I draw the line?  When is it the right time to use a new tea bag?        

I can obsess all I want about this when it’s just me—I can and do use my original tea bag for multiple cups of tea—but the issue is more pronounced when others also want a cup of hot tea.

There is no way in good conscience I could give Amy, the youngest of the bunch, a tea bag that had been used multiple times before I served her tea.  Even if I could, she’d never let me get away with it.     
The other day, Lauren and Amy were both home and said “yes” to my eternal question, “Who wants hot tea?” Right away my thoughts were focused on how I’d handle the tea bag distribution; luckily, I was partially saved from this dilemma, however, when the girls chose different kinds of tea: Lauren wanted decaf and Amy, green. Two varieties call for two tea bags, end of story.  Whew!

But then I saw my mug sitting on the counter with the used green tea bag inside, waiting for my next cup.  Should this be for Amy?  It would be good enough, I was sure, and I could even get another couple uses for myself afterwards.  I’m fairly certain that’s what my mom would have done in this situation.

But I didn’t do that.  I gave Amy a new one, because David was lurking and I wanted to avoid his commenting on my obsession with the tea bag because his general feeling is each person who wants tea should always have his/her own unused bag.

I did cringe an hour later when I threw out all the tea bags.  Did Amy really need her own tea bag, and why didn’t I save it to use later?   

Some things I can do without guilt, like toss the supermarket plastic bags that contained tomatoes or cucumbers or apples, which my mom used to wash with soap and hang up to dry and reuse. That’s another smell I can still remember, and not fondly, either.  

Anyone want to come over for a cup of hot tea?

Better get here early!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Birthday Coupon

I can’t resist coupons, let alone special ones sent to me in honor of my birthday, from local stores I frequent all too often.  

Add a coupon to a clearance item with an additional percentage off this time of year, and wow, that’s a no-brainer purchase.

One afternoon when my birthday month (January) was fresh and new – let’s say January 2—I headed to the Promenade in Marlton, on the hunt to explore one of my favs, J. Jill, coupon in tow. 

A woman with a great big smile and a very pretty top I had seen in the window welcomed me into the store and asked me how my day was going so far.

Her warmth was a quick reminder of some of the reasons I like to shop there:  the sales people are very friendly, forthcoming with sale information, helpful and never pushy.   

After exchanging pleasantries, I went on my merry way to search for the lucky item(s) that would be coming home with me that night.

The woman with the huge smile passed me several times, commenting every few minutes.

“I have that…that looks nice with so many things…try this on!”  She was a little more outgoing than the other women I was used to, but I was fine with it and found her happy mood to be infectious:  now I was walking around with a smile too.        

At one point, confident we had become buds, I told her she looked very nice in her tunic.  She pointed to the section of the store where it was hanging.

She was clearly delighted with the compliment and told me she fell in love with the top at first sight because she knew it would flatter her figure.   

“I don’t know about you, but all my weight is in my back side and thighs,” she said…and then she proceeded to pull up her top to expose her midsection and most of her bra, to her cleavage.

I had a couple thoughts running through my mind:  1 - Is she expecting me to do the same thing, because that’s not happening and 2 - I’ve never seen anyone at J. Jill do this before, and I wonder what her co-workers feel about her sales technique.   

She then pointed to her belly, rubbing her hand up and down and then turning around to show me that her butt and legs were her “problem” areas.

When she finally pulled her tunic back down to where it belonged, I thought to myself she’s pretty bold, showing one of her customers up close and personal what she saw as her body’s flaws.  That is something I wouldn’t have done. 
I continued to collect more to try on from the clearance section while struggling to balance all my items, with hangers digging into my forearm and strangling my wrist, rendering me almost unable to look at other items on the rack.  A serious world problem, for sure.

Usually by now one of the sales people would ask if she could put my items in the dressing room, but my friend was nowhere to be seen and no one else was paying attention to me.   

A minute later there she was again, commenting on the sweater jacket I was reaching up to see.  Just as I started to respond, the jacket fell off the hanger and on to the floor.  I looked at her, she looked at me and then everything came crashing down.           

I could tell my voice was shaky and my tone desperate when I asked if she could help me, but it didn’t matter.  She kept walking. 

I felt abandoned. She had been so eager to disrobe in front of me but couldn’t find it in her heart to lend a hand?  So typical of relationships that fail!  But from a J. Jill salesperson? 

I started to ruminate about what was going on.  Did I offend her by asking for help?  I then felt ashamed that I asked, bordering on paranoid that I had done something wrong.    

About five minutes later, once I had cleaned up my mess on the floor, she came over to me and asked, “Do you think I work here?”  


I didn’t know what to say.  Didn’t SHE think she worked there?

I said “yes…you don’t?”

She said “No, I just like the clothes.”

OK…so she undressed in front of me…why?

I was still feeling rather embarrassed that I thought she was a J. Jill employee, when she was a shopper, just like me. 

I was relieved to go into the dressing room and shut the door, until I heard this:
“Some lady asked me for help because she couldn’t hold all her stuff and she thought I worked here.”      

Now wait just a minute.

I opened my door and saw her standing in the middle of the dressing room area with her arms crossed like a parent about to discipline her children.  

She looked right at me and asked why I thought she worked there, with all the other women in the dressing rooms looking at me too. The pressure was on.

I didn’t even know where to start, so I didn’t.  I closed the door, tried on my pile of clothes and chuckled inside when I heard someone else tell mystery woman she thought she worked there too.   

I left empty-handed; my coupon transformed into entertainment for the afternoon, far better than a sweater that would have gotten lost in my closet anyway.