Sunday, April 11, 2021

Tina

I am a huge fan of Tina Turner.

She has an amazing voice, with a presence on stage that could move mountains.

She is a singer, songwriter, dancer and actress. Now retired, her career spanned some 6 decades, with well-known early hits including “Proud Mary,” “Better Be Good To Me,” and “Addicted To Love." Later she blew up the charts with “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” “Private Dancer,” and “The Best.” She has won Grammys for Best Song and Best Female Rock Vocal Performer, Lifetime Achievement awards, an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in the motion picture “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” and another 50 or more nominations/awards/accolades for all kinds of work. 

Born Anna May Bullock, she was renamed Tina Turner by Ike, who “discovered” her by giving her a platform to sing right alongside him in his band…and then he took away her voice.

When the recent HBO documentary aired about her, during which she thanked her followers as she bid adieu from the public spotlight after 60 years, I was left heartbroken.

For the 15 years she was married to Ike – and during which they performed and raised children together – he tortured her. She endured emotional, physical, sexual and financial abuse. Her childhood was also very disturbing. Her parents were abusive, and they abandoned her when she was 11. Finally, at age 37, she mustered strength through the study of Buddhism and was able to leave Ike.

It’s hard for me to picture this woman who is bigger than life being a victim and not going after him with all that power she brought to her performances.

One of the most difficult aspects of the abuse, she stated in the documentary, was having to relive it in interviews about their separation, despite repeated requests not to be asked about it.

Yet, questions continued. One that a reporter actually asked was, “When you were married to Ike, what was the worst moment?”

On what planet is that an acceptable question?

It seems so very cruel to ask Tina to go back to that dark place to share her dreadful memories, but I wonder...What is the impact of keeping all this pain and horror private? What does it do to the abused woman? All women? Her child? All children? The abuser? All abusers? To humanity?    

Without talking about it, the abused woman’s daughter could see such acts as permissible, even by a man who supposedly loves her; her son could see this as acceptable behavior for a man, even when he loves a woman; a child could think this is normal behavior for parents, and on and on.

I would hope that the abused victim would be able to open up to someone, learn of her options, get some assistance, and free herself from this harmful reality. She will continue to suffer immeasurably either way—keeping it private or sharing the details—but I have to believe that keeping those emotions simmering within is not the way to go. As for the abuser, he must be held accountable, whatever that entails.

However, since I have not been in her position, I have no idea if I would have been able to talk about such horrendous experiences - during or after.   

I have been using gender-specific pronouns but, in reality, anyone can be an abuser or be the abused.

While I am still cringing at the reporter’s question to Tina, I do think that, as a society, it’s better for us to be aware of the danger that can and may lurk behind closed doors so that the abused in particular knows it doesn’t have to be that way. 


 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Let There Be Songs To Fill The Air

Last week, I wrote about listening to music in the car, but where I hear the most music is in our home, thanks to David, who keeps me entertained all day long.

Whether he is hanging out in his main room downstairs or in a bedroom upstairs, I am always able to get an earful of whatever he has on.

He likes to play a variety of music these days, with jazz topping the list, whereas when I first met him, he was all about the Grateful Dead. This is a band I had judged in my teen/young adult years to have some kind of an underground, cult following, because I had never heard them on the radio, nor were they part of my concert-going scene or of interest to anyone I knew.   

Before I married him, I couldn’t believe that after years of poking fun of Dead Heads, I was going to end up with one. I wasn’t sure how this characteristic would play out in our relationship, given how much of his free time and energy was channeled to the Dead, but the rest of him seemed kind of normal and workable, so I figured…what the heck, I’ll give it a shot 😊

It’s been a fun ride living with a Dead aficionado for lots of reasons, the most intriguing of all is how passionate he and his friends have remained about the Dead for so many years. It’s one thing to be an MLB or March Madness enthusiast with lots of games and players to assess, but it has been over 25 years since Garcia died and the “real” Grateful Dead ended, yet the community and level of interaction among the fans is as strong as ever.

My kids always got a kick out of David’s Dead Head status, which was good for blended family harmony too, so I embraced it. He’d make it a game to ask them to throw out a date, any date, and then he’d name the specific venue the Dead played that night along with the set list (unless they didn’t play). As you would expect, Lauren and Matthew were more advanced with their knowledge and they’d kick off the game by reciting a set list, and then David would announce the corresponding concert location.

It’s all impressive, for sure, but N U T S, too.

He dates his love affair with The Dead to have started in the mid-1970s, when he and his childhood (and adult) friends Roger and Andy spent years in high school and college trekking around the east coast to see Garcia and the Dead wherever they played. Between 1977-1995, they saw about 150 Dead concerts and another 30-40 Garcia and related music concerts.

While they remain deep in the Dead world, these guys – and other friends David has made along the way with the Dead as the ignitor – spend more time talking about non-Dead related things, but they always go back there. What may start as a post on a Dead forum between David and someone he’s never met – he has tons of friends in this category - may quickly become a lively phone conversation with David energetically talking about shows, recordings, new releases, equipment to enhance the music, Garcia’s life and so on.

Over time, he and many of these guys developed an enthusiasm for jazz, which I initially found to be surprising – as well as relieving, I must say – until David explained that the improvisational nature of jazz is similar to the Dead’s improvisation between the written beginning and end of songs.

I welcomed the jazz for the change that it was but found some of it displeasing, as it came across as loud, disorganized, unsettling and not the kind of music I wanted in the background as I was relaxing. But then he introduced other pieces with a greater saxophone, trumpet, trombone and piano presence, and I was hooked. 

One day, I heard the most amazing tune that I recognized as a version of “My Favorite Things” from "The Sound of Music.” It was played by the crazily talented John Coltrane. Let me tell you this song is 14 minutes of heaven.

I was so engaged with it that David made me a CD of just this one song...sound familiar from my post last week about “Ants Marching” by Dave Matthews? I played “My Favorite Things” whenever I was in the car in my typically obsessive way – over and over and over again. I just couldn’t get enough!

This jazz crush of David’s is boding really well for me, because there is an endless amount out there, and so much of it is absolutely fantastic.

He may not have gotten here without the Dead first, so Thank You, Jerry Garcia!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Music To Drive By

For many years, I’ve been driving around with a few bags of CDs, but seldom do they make their way into the CD player.

Lugging them around doesn’t serve much of a purpose other than just in case I might want to listen to them. What gets in the way is the simple fact that I have no interest in hearing a whole CD from any one artist, like his/her greatest hits, or a record label, movie or show tune collection.

David’s been using my SUV regularly because it suits his retired lifestyle better than his own sedan, as he’s often shipping big boxes of music-related equipment or bringing home supplies for various home improvement projects.  

While I’m happy to share my car, I cringe each time he uses it, because he ends up asking me if I ever listen to the CDs that he has to remove from the car to accommodate his own stuff. The answer has never changed: “Rarely.”

This makes no sense to him. He spends a large part of each day focusing on music so why, when I’m in the car alone, would I not choose to hear all this music?

I’ve tried explaining to him that I grow tired of my CDs; other than for a song or 2 on each one, they don’t keep me engaged and actually start to annoy me. Sure, I could skip what I’m not interested in at that moment, but sometimes it’s easier to turn on the radio.

Last week, he brought the CDs from the car into the house and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. He said he will burn “Judy’s Best of the Best” mixed CD(s) with my favs (and then I can leave the CDs inside). Granted, this plan would also clear out those pesky bags that are always in his way, but I’m thinking about the real benefit here…I’ll end up with something awesome that I’ll actually like.

He laid out the plan: I’ll make an initial list of songs, he’ll burn 1, 2 or 3 CDs, I’ll re-evaluate, and then I’ll make the final list. What could be easier (for me)?  

We started the project last weekend, and while I’m having fun assessing how to create my ideal set, I haven’t made any real progress with it other than deleting most of what I initially chose. I know I’m overthinking but, if I don’t, I’ll end up with a zillion songs, which would defeat the purpose.  

My first draft had 65 picks (4 CDs). Some of the classics on it – “The Way We Were” with Barbra Streisand, James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend” or Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence” – did not make the cut and have now been disqualified. Initially I felt guilty to leave them out, but it is for the greater good.

Several days and car trips later, however, I’ve realized that a CD playlist for driving is entirely different than one for relaxing. For the car, I only want music that energizes me; it’s not the place for soft melodies or classical music or sentimental wording…I need to stay pumped.   

On my ride to and from Amy’s apartment – about an hour away – I listened to the fabulous “Ants Marching” by Dave Matthews at least a dozen times.  

Is it possible I only need that song, and a couple others to break it up at times? 

In reality, I will probably add a dozen more that put me in the mood for trucking down the road.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Don't Wake Me Up, I'm Thinking

Several nights ago, I dreamed about my real-life aching knees, brought about by chondromalacia patella, a breakdown of cartilage under the kneecap – with some arthritis thrown in there, too.

The symptoms include discomfort when walking up and down the steps, inability to squat, and any other movements that require bending of the knees. I’ve gone to physical therapy on and off for years which has helped immensely, along with gym and home exercise.  

I’d like to say that this issue is due to marathon running as a teen or young adult, but…I can’t. 

In my dream, I was sitting on a chair and pedaling my legs on a small piece of equipment that simulated the movement on a bike. I recognized it as something my mom had used to manage her knee pain and, in my dream, I told myself that I need to buy one of these so that I can get back to the routine I had before the pandemic, which included 15 minutes on the bike at Planet Fitness.    

When I woke up, I was back to square one. I didn’t recall the dream, even though you might think my stiff knees would’ve been a reminder. As I've done most days, I started to stew about the situation. I wanted to take a walk, but at times that makes the situation worse; I contemplated doing my knee exercises, but I find them soooooooooooo boring. It’s one thing to work out at the gym where I have my pick of apparatus but, on my own with the majority of the workout centered on stretching on the floor, I tend to be so unmotivated.

Meantime, my girlfriend texted me to ask how everything is going. I mentioned my knee dilemma and how frustrated I’ve been not being able to get on the bike regularly, given that I don’t have a stationary bike at home. 

She responded by sharing a scenario about another friend with a similar issue who uses a lightweight and foldable device that has resulted in a positive impact on her joints, which in turn has made her much more comfortable overall. It’s so great in fact, my friend said, that this woman not only benefits from it at home but also travels with it. She commented that I can throw it in my car when I take my next road trip to Florida, although this sounded rather far-fetched that I’m going to want to start traveling with this thing.

And then…DING DING DING…as she spoke, I began to realize that the little contraption she was describing was what I had just dreamed about, 12 hours earlier, that my mom had found so valuable as well. I cannot get over the fact that my brain solved a problem for me…at night while I slept…that my girlfriend echoed with the same solution, during our text exchange the next morning.   

I immediately went online to search for a portable peddling machine and low and behold there were tons to choose from. I ordered one from Amazon for under $45 and have cycled every day since then (nearly a week) for 15-20 minutes per session, with noticeable improvement. It’s actually been fun, too.

I have another issue that needs to be resolved…better go take a nap! 


Sunday, March 14, 2021

The Road Back

‘Tis the wedding season, and I am…p s y c h e d!!!

I love celebrating the joyous union of two people, and it’s always an honor to be one of the selected guests to witness the most important ceremony of their lives.   

When an invitation comes to our mailbox, I rip it open, do a little wedding dance, mark the date on our calendar, and then ask myself the critical question: What am I going to wear?

Last week, we received the first invite of the year, for a May wedding. This time it was David who opened it, but I still did my little dance, we confirmed the date, I thought about my party dress, and then we gave each other “The Look.”

Given that we are still in throes of a pandemic, this once-romantic glance has new meaning these days. We know that this kind of event will require discussion.      

It is unfortunate but true that virus concerns seep into every decision that would require us to step out of our cocoon and mingle with others. We have, after all, been programmed this past year to be as cautious as possible, to live in relative isolation in the hopes of protecting ourselves and our loved ones.

Yet, this invitation to start living it up again has come right to our door. Are we ready?

By the time the wedding takes place, the Coronameter should be continuing to tilt in a favorable direction given that the majority of all who want the vaccine will hopefully have received at least one dose and will, therefore, have some protection. The festivities are scheduled to be outside, and my assumption is that many people will wear masks and socially distance. These are all great things.

While there has been a wide range of opinions about all the recommended dos and don’ts of how to manage the virus, I am so grateful to the scientists who are leading us in the right direction.   

We can all likely agree that returning to normalcy and getting back to our lives as we once knew them will evolve over time.

I, for one, am chomping at the bit.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Just My Imagination

Thanks to all my empty nester friends, I am having some awesome daydreams.

In the past couple of years, dozens of folks have shared with me their plans for starting new chapters in their lives now that they have the opportunity to do so, given that the kids have gone their own way.    

Whenever I hear about a person's intent to downsize and/or relocate, I close my eyes and picture myself in his/her new life, from the digs to the surroundings to the weather and so on. 

It’s a pretty cool trick to be able to try out a variety of lifestyles, from my very own living room couch…with no boxes to unpack…and no stress.    

All it takes is some imagination and practice and, before long, I have become the main character in my fantasy. I’m able to view my life in multiple settings and can then compare options to determine which might be the most appealing for me to try out one day, for real.

Most of the moves seem to have subtle differences among them, such as going from a large suburban residence where many of us raised our families to a smaller, local dwelling in a walkable community, whether in a suburban town or a city.  

These are easy choices to visualize given 1 - I’ve already lived them and 2 – I’d still be close to the important peeps in my life.

More dramatic a change is in the works for my friends contemplating life as snowbirds. They would sell their home to spend winters in Florida and summers either on a New Jersey beach or in close proximity to their current house or grandchildren.   

Along these lines of moving a distance away, I have another friend who is mulling over the purchase of a place in a resort area across the country for a robust life of outdoor activities, culture and fun year-round, while also possibly keeping a residence near where they live today.

The most extreme plan I’ve heard so far relates to a friend and her husband who are living out her longtime goal. They have sold their home in exchange for the purchase of a truck camper, so they can spend all their time on the open road, hiking and camping around the country.    

After decades of staying put to raise children, all of these plans fall within a spectrum of possibilities that I can envision for myself, although I’d have to get David on board.

My guess is that he is happy for me to live vicariously through my daydreams, because he’d be perfectly content staying in our house forever.

As for me, after all these exciting scenarios I’ve played out in my mind, I only know one thing for sure: If/when we do move, our new pad is going to be one level.


Sunday, February 28, 2021

An Afternoon Walk

On a sunny, 55-degree day this past week, I took a fabulously long walk and got back to my neighborhood about 3:30 pm. As I crossed from the main road on to my street, I could see the face of a teenage neighbor in front of her house behind a car, but I could only see the back of the guy she was talking to. 

She looked bigger than I remembered and pretty grown up, compared to the last time I had seen her. She was smiling so much. It made me think about the magic of young love.

As I inched a bit closer but was still a distance away, I saw she was standing on a skateboard, which explained her being taller than I’d have expected. She didn’t take her eyes off the guy, who appeared to be instructing her on skateboarding techniques.

Right away I started to project my own worries on to her parents. The mother in me started to empathize with her poor parents for having to deal with this new hobby of hers. I started to sweat just thinking about all the safety matters that come into play.

Add to that a persuasive boyfriend encouraging it, and the situation is ripe for battles at home, with her parents concerned that she may want to do all kinds of crazy stunts on her skateboard, hang out with other daredevils (or, worse yet, with her skateboard buddy alone) and so on.

I walked to the other side of the street as I approached them since I wasn’t wearing a mask but wanted to say “hi!” to the teen and of course to check out her boyfriend.  

Let me just say … WOA!!!

That “boyfriend” teaching her how to skateboard was…HER DAD!

I was s h o c k e d!!! I had seen him eons of times but usually with a briefcase in hand. I’d never have guessed that he’s a skateboarder and/or that he’d be encouraging her to learn.

But once I thought it through – that he is sharing with his daughter a hobby he enjoyed – I began to feel differently.

I think fathers and daughters often struggle to find common ground, and a mutual appreciation for a hobby can add a wonderful new dimension to their relationship.

By the time I got home – 12 houses down – my thoughts went from “those poor parents” to “that lucky dad…and daughter.”

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

I Can See Clearly Now

About 20 years ago, I started wearing “readers,” those little eyeglasses with magnifying lenses that have become absolutely necessary for me to function if I want to read…anything…and do…almost everything else, within a foot of my face.

I started with a strength of 1.0; although I resisted, over time I moved up in increments of .25 until I got to a 2.0. From there – based on what the store had in stock – I jumped to a 2.5, although I found myself still squinting until I finally succumbed to a 3.0 and boy...what a game changer!

Because I need these glasses so often and misplace them just as much, I have a bunch and place them all over: by my bed, on my desk, in the kitchen drawer, in my purse, in my car. I pick them up whenever I see them at a good price and they fit well, whether at the dollar store, Barnes & Noble or CVS and, most recently, in a pack of 3 at Whole Foods.  

Last week, as I was going through my greeting card stash to find a sentiment that I wanted to give David for his birthday, I reached for a pair of glasses on my desk. I put them on, and everything c h a n g e d.

Within seconds, I could not see normally. I got dizzy and lost my balance. I was afraid I was going to faint. Maybe, I thought, I was in the midst of a stroke.  

Pay attention to the details, I told myself, in case they are important when I get to the hospital.

I leaned against my desk, took off my glasses and 30 seconds later, I felt better. I was eager to discount that bizarre experience - assuming it wouldn't repeat itself - so I went downstairs to reset, starting with a glass of water.

After a few minutes, I went back upstairs, put the glasses on again and started looking through the cards for the second time.  

But, it started to happen again! That very disturbing sensation returned, and I went immediately into panic mode…I wondered…Is the end of the line for me?

I took the readers off once more and was blinded by the glare of the sunlight on one of the lenses…but not on the other.

That’s when I realized that one of the lenses had fallen out of the frame! This meant I was trying to look through a pair of glasses with a large magnifier on one lens and no lens at all for the other eye.

No wonder I couldn’t see straight when I had them on!

Why I didn’t figure that out but instead assumed I was on my way out, is beyond me. 

For some reason, ever since I turned 60, I jump to scenarios that are unnecessarily extreme...yet another reality of aging.

 

 

 

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

Oh where, oh where can my videotapes be???

Yes, those big chunky VHS recordings I took of my kids in the late 1980s and 1990s…

Put that to the tune of “Last Kiss” by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers in 1961, and you’ll get what I’ve been singing to myself on and off for years now.

These babies are MIA.

I can picture where I used to keep them in my old house – EXACTLY where – in the cabinet underneath the TV – and I know that I and I alone packed that area to move into my current house, 17 years ago.

The question is, Where are they now?  

Everything not deemed essential for the kids and the running of the new house from Day #1 went into the attic…so I’ve always believed those videotapes are in hiding up there.

But David, who finds every excuse under the sun to go into the attic and fiddle around, hasn’t seen them, and he’s gone through all the cardboard boxes which I dutifully collected from local supermarkets every morning for months.

The reality is, even though I hate to admit such a lapse on my part, it’s quite possible that I donated the tapes along with others like Disney movies…or trashed them in my packing frenzy…there just aren’t that many possible scenarios, given that I don’t think anyone broke into my house and absconded with them.

And if either of these scenarios is the case, I have no one to blame but myself.

I hate when it boils down to…ME.

So unless we find them, I may never know what really happened.

While obsessing over this, I often think back to the purchase of the camcorder, in 1987. Bob and I decided to invest in one when Michael was an infant. We wanted to record his and our future kids’ every move and milestones, not only for us and for them, but for future generations to enjoy.

I took an entire videotape – some 4 hours – of Michael lying on the couch moving his arm ever-so-slightly so he could get a good look at his fist. It wasn’t easy for me to hold the camcorder for so long given how cumbersome it was to maneuver but since we did buy it for this purpose, I did it for the greater good.  

Later that day, I called Bob’s parents – almost too excited to speak – to tell them what their amazing grandson did that day. I asked if they wanted to come see the recording that weekend. “Of course!” they said. 

A few days later, they indulged us and marveled at his accomplishments just like we did – for hours…bless them – even though he was doing the same thing right next to them, in real time. I remember this like it was yesterday, and that was almost 34 years ago.

I am hopeful that one of these days I will be reunited with the videotapes, given all the effort and good intentions that went into taking them.

Of course, once this stupid pandemic is over, I hope to be creating the next series of recordings, this time on my iPhone.


Sunday, February 7, 2021

It's Snow Beautiful

One night last weekend, I woke up for my nightly bathroom trip around 3 a.m. and, as usual, peeked out the window. The whiteness first blinded me until my eyes adjusted and then it drew me in to the most amazingly beautiful landscape, blanketed with snow. It was like sparkling sugar coated the world and ohhhhh…how sweet it was. 

In the morning, as snow continued to fall, I took SheaDoggy for a walk and basked in the stillness of the moment, the feeling similar to the heavenly aftermath of a full-body massage.  

Throughout the day, I parked myself by various windows so that I could continue to experience that snow-induced serenity – before it was gone – because it never lasts long enough. I suppose that is part of its allure, how fleeting it is.

As nightfall took hold, I had a flashback of ogling a snowstorm not that long ago, with my mom.

She had recently moved into an assisted living community close to me, and her living room window overlooked the courtyard. The location of her 2nd floor apartment was integral to her decision to move there because she saw that she could experience the joys of nature not only from the outside, but from the inside, too.

It was challenging with her wheelchair to get close enough to the window to see flowers and other greenery below but, on this one particular night, the steady flow of snow in combination with the glitz of the holiday season created a fabulous display in the courtyard, from all the viable vantage points.      

I assumed we’d watch from her wonderfully warm and cozy apartment but, true to form, she was eager to rough it in the courtyard. We bundled up and headed outside, where the air felt delightfully crisp. She sat in her wheelchair with her head leaning back so she could see the snowflakes up close, delight in them as they touched her face, and she even stuck her tongue out to taste them, too. I mirrored whatever she did, loving every minute.

After about a half hour, we went back upstairs, pretended we had hot chocolate, and sat by the window to continue watching the show.

When she went to bed, I left. The snow was still coming down, I cleaned off my car and began to relive all the memories that I didn’t want to forget.    

About a minute after I left her complex and turned on to the main road, I saw some activity in my rearview mirror. Those dreaded flashing lights were getting closer and closer until there was nowhere for the car behind me to go. I then realized this guy is coming for me, so I drove over to the shoulder of the road and waited. 

“Show me your license, registration and insurance,” he instructed. I asked why he pulled me over. He said my registration is not up to date, and he gave me a ticket.

Talk about a buzzkill.

My mom called the next morning to thank me for the night before. I decided it best not to mention the ticket because she would’ve been upset for me or about me, because that’s how mothers are.

So, I simply thanked her for a wonderful time too, not realizing that the joyful evening we had just shared…was our last.  

Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Fabric Burrito

A heavy 4’ x 2.5’ box was dropped off on our porch the other day. 

If I didn’t know what was inside, I’d be thinking it’s the umpteenth shelving unit that David received from IKEA that he’s going to put together, or music room equipment – this could be ANYTHING, I couldn’t even begin to guess what – or bulk food for SheaDoggy. Maybe even a small freezer for our bedroom 😊 to indulge my periodic Ben and Jerry’s obsession. 

But a king-sized mattress? No frigging way.

My mom would’ve been horrified that not only did we shop online for such an essential item so important to our well-being but that it came flat as a pancake. She touted a comfortable “firmness” as the be-all and end-all for a quality mattress, just like she spoke about the need for good "supportive” shoes, both of which she believed would lead to proper spine alignment and a healthy life. 

This is our second experience with purchasing a memory foam mattress in under a year. The first was bought for a spare bedroom; this time it was for our bedroom.  

Initially, it was recommended by our kids when we were redoing our upstairs. We followed their suggestion and bought it without too much of our own research other than to compare prices of similar mattresses.

When they came to visit and raved about the good night’s sleep they had, David began to wonder if we too should buy this kind of mattress to alleviate some of his back and hip pain.

Since he had a particular goal in mind, he combed through copious amounts of information to dissect the pros and cons of foam mattresses as well as compare companies that offer similar products, thousands of reviews and very generous return policies.

We decided to go for it. One week later, it arrived.        

With Lauren and Anas’ assistance, we all lifted the old mattress from our bed and started the process of unpacking the new mattress.      

When we opened the box, it looked like a rolled-up fabric burrito, tightly compressed in vacuum-wrapped packaging. We straightened it out, sliced open the plastic and began to shimmy the mattress on to the carpet.

It began to expand, but very slowly. I was a bit nervous at first that it was going to be too thin to provide any comfort or support at all, but then I decided just go with it, trust the process.  

After letting it do its thing for several hours, we then got into bed and...had a glorious night of sleep.  

It’s been this way ever since.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

And Shea Makes Six

Seventeen years ago, I wondered what it’d be like if David and I had had a kid together. We talked about it, but after a new marriage, 5 kids between us, a new house, and a whole new life as a blended family, we didn’t really need to push the envelope.

Plus, I’d have been in my mid-40s by the time that would’ve come to be, and even though my mom was 43 when I was born, I didn’t know if I’d muster the energy to have a 4th with all that other stuff going on.

When SheaDoggy came along, I was 50, and even though life was chaotic and he added to it, he also brought a sense of calm that I hadn’t anticipated.    

He became the baby we adored, bringing us all together as we marveled at his every move, and we impatiently took turns holding him. Overnight, he became the center of our lives. I did my mommy thing, which was to make sure his basic needs were met; David chased him around to play and snuggled with him every chance he had.    

Fast forward 11 years and 4 months…he’s now the only “kid” living at home, he’s become “Uncle Shea” to our grandkids and he's still the perfect housemate for us.

No matter what is going on, he always greets us with excitement, wants to hang out with us, doesn’t complain about what he’s having for dinner, doesn’t stay up past his bedtime and get into any kind of trouble; and so on.

Since we are aware that he is aging (he eats “senior” food now), I wasn’t completely surprised when he appeared reluctant to race up the stairs. I just assumed for some reason that he was either tired – as I was, close to his age in people years – or was developing doggy dementia, which obviously was quite disturbing to contemplate. Rather than fight it, however, I decided as his mom that I’d just carry him when he didn’t seem up to the task.

We also started to see him limp and appear unable to jump up on to the couch or chair as he always had, thereby preventing him from doing what he loved so much: to look out the window and bark at all the doggies and delivery trucks that passed our house. 

I took him to the vet to get checked out and was told after the second visit that he had a torn ACL on top of the first diagnosis of arthritis. After a consult with an orthopedic specialist, we decided that surgery offered the best chance to get Shea back to living the good life.  

On the car ride to the hospital the morning of the surgery, I had a heart-to-heart with my little guy to explain that the doctor is going to fix the pain in his leg. I let him know that we’d pick him up the next day, but that once he gets home, he’ll have limited ability to move around. I prepared him for wearing a cone much of the day and taking a lot of medication, but I assured him that we’d be with him every step of the way.

When we got to the animal hospital and I was handing him off to the woman there, I felt so sad when Shea looked longingly at me like he was trying to say, Mommy where am I going? Why aren’t you following? Are you coming back for me? Are you giving me away?

It’s been 2 weeks since he had a plate and 6 screws inserted around his tiny knee, and little old SheaDoggy has been a real trooper. We are proud of how well he has taken the whole ordeal in stride, seemingly unfazed by the surgery.

In the meantime, we are at our boy’s beck and call.

Fortunately, he doesn’t realize how much he could be taking advantage of us.


Sunday, January 17, 2021

Minna's Bowl

When David makes dinner, he often uses a heavy pink Pyrex mixing bowl to aid in his preparation. He’s one of these guys who cleans up after himself as he’s cooking 😊, usually returning the bowl to the cabinet before it’s time for me to do the dishes.    

On the occasions that I do put it away, I have to reach up as high on my tippy toes as can be to lift the bowl to the second shelf, where it is stored in the larger nesting bowl. This is the main reason I don’t seek it out.    

When it’s my turn to cook and I’m in need of a container of any kind, I always opt for the easiest to get to, even if it’s a big spaghetti pot that I’ve just washed. 

Since Lauren has been staying with us, I’ve put the pink bowl away numerous times, only to see it reappear throughout the day: whenever she cooks/bakes, eats a large salad, warms May’s milk and pureed fruits and vegetables, it’s her preferred equipment.

What’s with the bowl? I finally asked, wondering why she chooses this one so often when there are others more accessible.      

“It’s the perfect bowl…I love it,” was Lauren’s initial response.

Then she said the magic words: “It’s from my childhood.” 

David chimed in: “It’s from my childhood too” and said that his mom Minna, who passed away 31 years ago when he was 28, used it all the time, along with his nana, who lived with them for years.

Thoughts of his mom mixing pancake batter and also grinding meat into it (he wasn’t a vegetarian then), as well as simply picturing it sit on the countertop, fills him with such happy recollections.   

He loves to utilize the same bowl she did, he said, because it helps to keep her alive and close…so why wouldn’t he use the most meaningful one he has, rather than an ordinary one, with no history attached to it. 

Likewise, his grandfather’s phillips head screwdriver with a rubber head brings the past into the present each time David takes it out of the toolbox, for whatever job he has in mind.  

While some people talk about and/or tell stories about loved ones who have passed, for David, it’s about bringing items and memories associated with them to life that truly touches him.     

These purposeful relics have the functionality factor which keeps them in motion, but housing several of his mom’s Hummel figurines also brings him great joy, as he recalls the pleasure she experienced in collecting them.

It’s interesting how everyone refreshes the past in different ways.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Letters to My Mom

Today is the 6th anniversary of my mom’s passing.

With her acutely on my radar, I not only had one of her favorite snacks yesterday of sour cream with bananas and blueberries, but I set aside time to read through letters that she and I had written to one another.  

I also read a ton of poems she wrote for me, as she did for others in her orbit whenever we had a birthday, wedding anniversary, or any other milestone event. Getting her pretty notecards and stationery was always fun for me and a welcomed gift for her, as she liked to present her sentiments of love, pride, and support on quality paper fit for the occasion, which made us all feel special.

There was a period of time, however, when I was in my 20s, that she and I were not in simpatico – even though you’d never know by her poetry – and it made me so sad. I wanted the rift between us to disappear, but I didn’t know how to make that happen, since just wishing it away wasn’t working.

I did, however, think it best to tell her how I felt rather than keep it to myself, in a gentle manner much like the tone of our overall relationship. I was hopeful that once I aired my grievances and she responded, that we could move forward.   

To broach the topic with my mom initially, I had to figure out how to communicate with her: pen and paper, a phone call, or in person? These were my choices in the 1980s, before text and email were the most efficient options.    

I chose the letter-writing route so that I could get her full attention, since I didn’t know if I’d have it otherwise, in light of the harried lives they led solving all the ails of the world.

Upon rereading the first letter of what became an ongoing exchange that lasted for months, I was happy to see that I took the first few paragraphs to tell her how much I loved her, how much she meant to me, and how much I wanted us to resolve the problem. This letter was 4 pages, written in my best handwriting on pretty paper that I too enjoyed using for my most important communication. 

The first round of this back-and-forth with her spanned a few weeks, as it took time for me to step back and compose my thoughts, which then took a couple days of writing and rewriting to get just right (and legible); to take the letter to the mailbox; and a few days to make its way into my mom’s mailbox. By the time I got her letter back, I could see from the postmark that it was some 15-20 days after I made the decision to write to her.     

The discord between us over this matter was never fully put to rest, but at least we understood each other more than before we started the conversation, our relationship was still intact and we were, in fact, able to move on. 

In today’s world, my kids and I often use text and/or email when we have a sensitive/emotional issue that needs to be worked out, but I have at times regretted this, as quickly typed words have the propensity to turn up the heat instead of cool it down, as well as put the relationship at risk.    

When I see that happening, I follow up with a phone call to try to control the damage that just occurred from the texting. 

This is not a good scenario and makes me wonder whether digital communication is a positive or negative when it comes to relationships.

As I look back, I am appreciative of the fact that my mom responded to my letter(s) with thought and sensitivity, on formal paper that demonstrated she heard me and was taking my feelings seriously, even if she disagreed. 

I am also appreciative that all my contact with her during the last years of her life were conducted in person or over the phone (other than her poetry), as smart phones and computers weren’t in her wheelhouse. 

It not only allowed us to keep misunderstandings to a minimum, but it gave me the added benefit of always feeling her love and hearing the soothing sound of her voice.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

January is All Mine

In honor of the New Year, I may as well come clean:  

What I like most about New Year’s Eve is that it jumpstarts the celebration for my birthday, which falls just two weeks after New Year’s Day.

My birthday translates to a lot of attention for me, and not because I messed up something, but because I was born!

I love it all…the phone calls, texts, cards, gifts, cake/cookies/candy (I’m not picky) and yes, even all those Facebook notifications…what’s there not to love? 

Since everyone is juggling a million things, I get that a lot of these gestures won't happen on the day of, or even the week of; therefore, I am viewing my birthday as an event to celebrate all month long.

This may sound self-indulgent and greedy, especially as the world is falling apart, but this year is like every other in this regard, with me eagerly anticipating the festivities to start. Since I am the youngest of 4 siblings and lived in the shadows of everyone else and have also wondered if I was a “mistake” given the age difference between the 3rd sibling and me (compared with the others)…could this be why I crave the spotlight?  

Who knows, who cares, and does it really matter? Not really – well, maybe a tiny bit – and it might explain a few things!   

As for what I am looking forward to as my birthday approaches, it is pretty tame, and maybe lame, too. I have no plans for skydiving, a celebrity birthday greeting doesn’t interest me and so far at least I’m not jonesing for a big slab of meat, doused with mushrooms or blue cheese, two of my favorite toppings.

All I am aiming for right now is to achieve a straight-edged crocheted scarf. I have the crocheting down; neat edges present the added challenge. Perhaps this falls more into the New Year’s resolution category than a birthday wish.

If I could shout from the rooftops how happy I am to still be here for my 61st birthday, and how grateful I am for all the good in my life, that’s what I’d do.

But since I’m afraid of heights, that won’t be happening.

Happy Birthday to all my January friends!