Sunday, August 31, 2014

Cool As Cool Can Be

By now, everyone reading this probably knows my mom just celebrated her 97th birthday.

And I have to tell you, she is one cool chick.

Here are the top 10 reasons why, in no particular order:

1 - It is important to her to become an involved member of the community in which she lives.  Even though I think she is rather shy, as the newcomer at  Spring Hills Assisted Living, she carries herself as she always has - with a very friendly demeanor - smiling, saying "hello," and extending her hand to everyone.

2 - She makes everyone feel special.  She tells her visitors that she's glad they came, thanks them for helping her and tells them she is looking forward to their next visit.  She also asks everyone how they're doing.  It matters to her what the answers are.

3 - She loves to experience the simple pleasures of life on a daily basis:  a good shower, satisfying meals, a large-print library book, a taste of the outdoors - to soak in the sun, feel the breeze on her face, and try to identify flower species and birds - while kicking back and relaxing.   

4 - She has goals for herself. She wants to walk again and not rely on her wheelchair as her primary means of transportation.  She's a bit impatient about his, but I get it.  She has never been one to sit and watch life go by. 

5 - She's not afraid to make a fashion statement. If she wants to wear something, regardless of the look, she wears it.  She doesn't get caught up in what others might think. For example, she's OK with her jeans having an elastic waist band. She's OK with wearing whatever shoes and sneakers she wants, regardless of the outfit.  She's OK with wearing fall or winter sweaters in the summer and summer tops in the winter.

6 - She is open-minded about life.  She delves into the opportunity to try new things and cultivate new talents.  She was in her mid-80s when she became a painter and focused on writing poetry and getting it published.    

7 -  She is a product of all she's lived through and as such is an amazing wealth of information and heart.  Her life story is riveting.

8 - She cares.  She has spent her life working for the betterment of people and fighting for everyone's rights.  At the Watermark in Philly, where she lived last, she was president of Grannies for Peace.  

9 - She says there's nothing like a good sense of humor.  
10 - Mom's always ready for a new adventure, and this one at Spring Hills has just begun...

Stay tuned!  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Not So Fast

Are you kidding me?  Halloween decorations NOW?

I saw costumes advertised in a storefront window last week and pumpkins on the cover of a catalog that came in my mailbox yesterday.        

It can't possibly make sense to anyone to jump ahead 2 months.  Do we really need to begin planning now - before Labor Day - for a fall "holiday?"   

It's one thing if it's cold and wintry and we see signs of brighter days in the not-too-distant future with the arrival of spring fashion, which then takes our thoughts to summertime and a relaxed and re-energized state of mind.  Looking ahead in this case makes me feel better.

But jonesing for the beach and realizing I have limited chances left to get there and soon it will be Halloween, Thanksgiving and then a deep dark hole of darkness that long, snowy winters tend to create does NOT make me feel better.

Perhaps if I enjoyed home decorating, I'd be happy to jump from one season to the next.  I'd appreciate the opportunity to transform the day's woes into a festive train of thoughts with the creation of exciting new visuals.  That in itself is a good reason to embrace this kind of hobby.

It's far more likely, however, that I'll always be protective of summertime, and anything that treads on its pretty toes will have to answer to me first. 

So...Back off, Halloween!  Get in line and wait your turn.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Him or Her?

The other night as David and I sat on our 3rd floor porch overlooking Boothbay Harbor in Maine, all was right with the world.  The air was crisp, the moon illuminated the sky and lights outlining the sailboats and footbridge reflected in the water.  It couldn't have been a more peaceful and romantic setting.        

As we snuggled up to one another on the loveseat, a car pulled up on to the gravel at our B&B.  First we heard a door open, and then we heard this:    

"Why can't you ever let me drive?  I want to drive, just like you do.  Do you know how that makes me feel, that you always say NO?" and so on until a minute or two later, when the couple came upstairs and saw us sitting outside the bedroom next to theirs.  Surprised, she said hello and they scurried inside.  
I was glad that they saw us, hoping that signaled an end to her fury, but once they closed the door, her irritation with his not allowing her to drive morphed into more.  They probably didn't realize or care that their windows were open, and if it weren't for David watching a ball game on his iPad, I would've heard every word. 

"Why did you ask me to pack a clean outfit every day when I haven't seen you change your shirt every day this whole week?" the woman asked.  She said if she could ask Louise, his former wife of 18 years, Louise would say he didn't change every day either.  I wasn't sure what the relevance was of bringing up his ex-wife or his dressing pattern other than to express the resentment she feels about Louise, the fact that he wouldn't let her drive because he was a control freak or a million other things.  

He didn't say much until she brought Louise into their argument, which is when he fired back.  "All you do is 'yap yap yap' and I'm sick of hearing you yap yap yap....You drank too much at dinner.  You're a gold digger....yap yap yap...stop talking, you talk too much...yap yap yap."  Yes, she did prove herself to be an incessant talker, but it also seemed that she had valid complaints about his offending her whereas from my perspective by his very nature he was arrogant and condescending.  Even though I was drawn to listening to this play out, it was disturbing that what I was hearing could well be a marriage on the rocks.     

After 10 or 15 minutes of back-and-forth mud-slinging, there was total silence, which lasted for the rest of the night.  I found this even more disconcerting than their arguing. 

I assumed when I whispered to David that this guy is a real jerk, he'd add his own expletive remarks, but that's not how he responded.  First, he told me to stop eavesdropping.  Then he said she talks way too much and he wouldn't be able to tolerate her either.    

Yikes!  How is it possible that we heard the exact same exchange and got such different vibes?  Or is this the way it plays out most of the time; that women align themselves with women and men with men? 

That calmness I felt gazing into the harbor was gone; I became upset and worried.  I was not only disgusted with the husband's patronizing ways but was so alarmed by the sudden quiet that I pictured something awful having happened.  What if we saw only one of them at breakfast?  If it would've been him, I'd be forever mad at myself that I didn't intervene; if she was alone, I'd have to suggest a good lawyer.  I also realized I wouldn't recognize either one of them by their faces, only by their voices, so I hoped one or both would speak up to make his/her presence known.   
Hours later while awaiting breakfast, I heard an enthusiastic "Good Morning!" tinged with a southern drawl. I knew her voice instantaneously.  I was relieved when she walked in and proud of her grand entrance, with her head held up high, despite the challenges of having such an impossible husband.  I felt validated that I'd been right and David wrong; she exuded positive energy and the CEO - as she referred to him in the midst of their heated argument - appeared just the opposite: miserable and grumpy, following behind her, not making eye contact with anyone, his tail between his legs.

Just as he did every morning, Phil, our B&B host, gave us a preview of the breakfast menu.  He asked if everyone was OK with French Toast covered with blueberries and Maple Syrup.

There were lots of "oohs and aahs" and then each guest - about 10 of us - replied individually with an appreciative "Yes, please" until I heard HER voice again.  "Just bring us one plate of food and we'll share," she told Phil.  He replied by joking that he's made enough for everyone to have their own plate.  She insisted that they wanted just one plate for the two of them and that would be plenty.  Again, the CEO was silent.

And then my loyalties suddenly switched.  She was grating on MY nerves at this point. What a nag she was!  Why couldn't she just be quiet and let Phil do what he wanted to do, which was bring each of them a plate, let the CEO have whatever he wanted and she could eat or not eat as well.   I was now in agreement with David's comment from the night before, that neither one of us would be able to tolerate her.  What a control freak she turned out to be!

Normally if David and I leave the dining room before the others, I'd be sure to make my signature comment, "Have a great day!" but I couldn't bring myself to even look in their direction.  I was too frustrated with each of them and so agitated as well that it wasn't clear who the jerk really was.  The CEO or the yapper?  Which one was the victim?  It was a big blur to me with my heart but untrained eyes and ears dictating my reactions.

I walked away exhausted by the complexity of relationships.  What really happened between them the night before?  Was their exchange merely harmless banter, or did it eat away at the core of their marriage?

And then I decided that David's approach had been a good one:  Just increase the volume of the ball game and call it a night.  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Woo Hoo!

I’m on vacation!

That means I have a bona fide excuse to leave behind my To-Do List and conduct myself as if I don’t have one, even though just days ago I was obsessed with crossing things off it.

Right?  Easier said than done.

I was hoping to take a hiatus from those lingering concerns I carry with me in everyday life in time for check-in at the Belmont Inn, a lovely B&B on the coast of Maine that David and I have visited a few times over the years. I gave myself 5 hours door-to-door to make this transition to vacation mode, the most pressing matter on my To-Do List at that time.  After all, vacationing is serious business, and I didn’t want to waste a minute of this precious getaway.

Every year I seem to find the need to give myself a pep talk about learning to let go for one week out of 52, how lucky I am to be in a place I love with the man I love, how much fun we have indulging on big fat juicy lobsters and how wonderful it is to hang out at the marina or do nothing at all.     
Most of all, I remind myself that life is more than the summation of my To-Do List accomplishments.

As I would’ve guessed, I fell a bit short of my goal; I didn’t taste freedom as quickly as I’d wanted; that is, until I cracked open that second lobster, when the only thing left “To-Do” was to truly enjoy it. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014


"Are you 1404's daughter?"

"Are you 1404's daughter?

After the second time, I looked around to see who was saying this and to whom she was saying it to.

Then I realized she was talking to me.

I was in the elevator of my mom's apartment building.  I've been called many things in my life, but this was a first. 

When I said, "Oh yes, I am her daughter," the woman said to me, "Your mom is so nice. She always smiles at me."  This made me smile inside (and maybe outside) all day long.

For the 10 years my mom's been there, I've often been asked,  "Are you Florence's daughter?" and each time I get a flashback of all the times I've been called something...the Councilman's daughter, so-and-so's sister/sister-in-law (take your pick), so-and-so's wife (again, take your pick) and so-and-so's mom (take your pick once more and don't forget Shea Doggy),  etc. etc.

In my younger years I used to wonder why can't I just be ME? Why are people always intent on making a connection?    

These days, I see connections as gifts that fall from the sky. They often bring to mind important relationships, provide opportunities to hear stories about people I care about, or inspire flashbacks that take me to places I haven't visited in a long time.         

One of the more emotional connections occurred recently at the Promenade shops in Marlton, where I was signing a receipt - as Judy MINCHES.  The saleswoman asked me if I have a son.  I wasn't sure what to say.  Yes, I have a son named Mike, whose last name is Heiman, but she saw me write Minches, so that's what she was referring to.  And yes, I have a stepson, Matthew Minches...I was a bit uneasy as to where this was headed, yet I knew the exchange would be touching and memorable.  She proceeded to tell me a heartwarming story about Matthew, when he was her son's camp counselor the summer he got sick.  

Even though tears streamed down my face without warning - so startling to her that she switched gears immediately and started talking about how much she liked my eyeglasses - I felt truly lucky that I happened to stop into a store I rarely go to on that particular day.              

It's amazing how just a few words from someone we don't know about someone we do know can give us knowledge we may not have and take us to places we might not otherwise go.