Picnics with the ‘Rents

When I was a little girl (a tomboy, really), my family would take car trips to nearby attractions such as Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Sag Harbor, Bayard Cutting Arboretum, Jones Beach, Gilgo Beach, and Fire Island.

Because we were relatively poor (probably lower middle class, really, with bouts of truly poor thrown in), we usually packed our own lunch into a cooler to take in the car with us. This lunch often consisted of cold sandwiches, fruit, maybe some chips or something sweet, and on really excellent occasions, cold fried chicken, potato or macaroni salad, and wat
ermelon!

But no matter what was on the menu, there was always at least one Thermos® on the trip with us. One was stainless steel and held about two gallons of liquid. The other was red plaid and perhaps a liter or two.  The larger Thermos®14867.1L.png
was filled with fruit punch or lemonade, and the smaller Thermos® held coffee for my parents, who drank coffee the way we drink water these days. They had coffee at every meal, and usually hot, no matter what the weather (though Mom was partial to iced coffee in the dead of summer).

The fruit punch or lemonade was a big deal. No, really, a BIG DEAL. My mother was way ahead of her time when it came to nutrition, vitamins and minerals. My sister and I were never, ever allowed to drink sodas, eat candy, or indulge in sweets (not even on Halloween, when we were allowed to collect money for UNICEF but nary a Tootsie Roll). We took a multivitamin every day for at least the first 17-18 years of our lives along with other supplements deemed necessary. Needless to say, we never had cavities.

But back to the beverages of these long ago picnics… I loved putting my paper cup under the spigot of the big silver Thermos® and watching the magical thirst-quenching punch fill up my cup! Having something with a meal other than 100% USDA Grade A Milk was a treat!

Sometimes, I really miss those family trips, not just for the fun picnics and the interesting destinations, but for the family camaraderie. These trips could be tedious, depending on
the length of the ride, the temperature, and the proximity of my sister to me in the back seat of the car (“her elbow is touching me!”), but overall, for a dysfunctional family, we more or less got along on these trips and there was less tension and friction than usual.

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More than the fried chicken or lemonade,that family dynamic makes me nostalgic for one more family trip. According to eBay, I can buy a vintage Thermos® for about $20.00 USD.

Maybe it’s time for my own road trip!

This post was inspired by fellow blogger, The Inspector Clouseau of Blogging.

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10 Words

He said, “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.” Immediately, I felt sad, alone, foolish, on-guard. How could I not know this? I mean, I knew we’d been struggling for a few months; as a matter of fact, we’d just had a few major discussions about our relationship just 5 or 6 weeks ago. But to tell me he was no longer in love with me? I was crushed. I’m still reeling from it.

“You’re my best friend, and you’re wonderful. Maybe we can redefine our relationship.” I thought, “What??! As what, friends?”

However, after this pronouncement, we talked for another couple of hours, and over the course of our conversation, he decided he didn’t want to end our relationship after all. At least not yet. Ever since our “big talk” in early May, I had really been putting in the effort to build a stronger relationship with him and had even returned to visiting my shrink to work on some of my issues surrounding intimacy and commitment. I really thought we had taken a turn in the right direction, and even got confirmation from him that he thought we were moving in a better direction and that he loved me more than he had previously.

Then, due to assumptions and miscommunication, we had a spat and ended up with those 10 words.

So, because I’m analytical and a researcher by nature, I did what any self-respecting woman would do. I Googled “What does it mean when someone says I love you but I’m not in love with you?” And Google was very helpful (as always!). There were several articles by noted psychiatrists and therapists and of course, I only want to believe the ones that lean in my favor. But the takeaway from all of the articles was the same: either the relationship is on its deathbed, or we need to put the work in to get over this hurdle and enjoy the loving, sparkling relationship we once had (which is what I’ve wanted to do all along).

He said, “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.”

I don’t know what will happen with our relationship, and as I’ve said to him, I certainly don’t want him to stick around simply to avoid hurting my feelings, but we’ve both been sick with serious illnesses in the past 6 months, we’ve both been under a lot of stress and financial worry, and well, life.

He himself admitted that maybe he’s not sure what being in love means and that his idea of love is really more about infatuation and the “honeymoon” period. He said he felt like things moved too quickly at the beginning, that we went from infatuation to “an old married couple” in the blink of any eye, but that was more his doing than mine. He was the first to tell me he loved me and that he was “all in,” even when I wasn’t quite sure yet.

This recent pronouncement worries me for the long-term. If he’s “all in” what does it say if he wants to cut and run when things aren’t going that great? And it certainly plays into my fears of never realizing unconditional love with a partner.

According to one counselor, “Unfortunately, there is no generic answer to the question ‘How do you know when to hang in there and when to cut your losses?’ It is, however, a pretty safe bet that if you don’t feel that you’ve given things your very best shot, then it’s worth hanging in there a bit longer and making that extra effort. Athletes experience what they refer to as a ‘second wind,’ which often occurs after the point at which they feel that they are on the edge of depletion. Being in relationship, as many of us know from our own experience, is not unlike being an endurance athlete or a marathon runner. It may require the willingness to hang in there and go past the point where you feel like quitting and giving up in order to find the hidden strength or energy needed to finish the race.”

I’m often the ambivalent girlfriend or wife in relationships, but I realized, when I thought I was on the verge of losing this relationship a couple of months ago, that I wanted to fight for it.

I want to win this race.

To The Moms: Just Stop It

The Accidental Missionary

I got home after midnight from a business trip last night. That’s probably why I didn’t notice it until the morning. This bag. Alone. On the kitchen table.

Moms bag

Normally, getting my kids to the breakfast table is like trying to coax a couple of cats into a swimming pool. As soon as they wake up, they hide under blankets on the couch and make strange noises. But this morning was a different story.

Audrey came out of the bedroom, wiped the sleep from her eyes, and went right to the table. She sat in front of the bag with a smile on her face.

“What’s the bag for?” I asked as I created my super-duper breakfast parfaits. Colorful layers of yogurt, fruit, and cereal.

“We got it for our end-of-year party yesterday.” She reached into the bag.

“What did you get?”

She started pulling out different items and commenting.

“Goldfish…

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Name Tags for Everyone!

This morning, on my way to work, I stopped at the corner store to buy a Snapple Diet Half and Half (a/k/a an Arnold Palmer). When I came to the counter to pay, the clerk said “Good morning, Lori! How are you today?” I smiled, and said “I’m great, how about Name-Tagyou, Amir?” You see, we were both wearing name tags. Each morning, as I leave for work, I clip my work identity badge to my collar and then leave it on all day as I go about my business.

Amir and I laughed a little at the fact that although we’d never met each other, we now knew each other’s names and had made a personal connection. I suggested to him that the world might be a kinder place and we might all get along better if all of us wore name tags every day. If neither Amir nor I were wearing name tags, we may have had more of an impersonal, casual exchange and frankly, I wouldn’t have remembered him or what he looked like a few days from now. However, because we personalized our encounter by knowing each other’s names, it changed our dynamic.

The next time I go to this corner store, I will look for Amir and his wonderful, sunny smile.

Human Complexity

I find humans endlessly fascinating, and sometimes, a bit annoying.

Several months ago, I broke up with a man I had been dating off and on for six years. I ended our relationship because he wanted a friends-with-benefits type of relationship, for the most part, and I wanted more. I wanted a true, healthy, full, committed relationship. We had broken up before for the same reasons, but something about turning 50 strengthened my resolve to set boundaries and get what I wanted.

Despite telling him clearly that I could no longer date him because I wanted more than he could offer, he has continued to try to “tempt” me into seeing him.

At first, his contact was pretty innocuous, and since I wanted to remain friends, it was nice to maintain contact. He is very intelligent, a MENSA member, a partner in his law firm, and funny as hell.

However, he contacted me recently wanting to get together. I politely declined citing my committed relationship with Jack and my original reasons for ending our relationship.

Today, he contacted me again. Again! He wanted to see if I’d like to get together. Once again, but not as politely as the first time, I told him, in no uncertain terms, that I am not interested in being FWBs with him. I told him I respect myself and the boundaries I’ve set too much to return to a less than satisfactory relationship with him. And just as importantly, I love Jack and the happy, healthy, joyful relationship we’ve developed.

At any rate, I think he finally gets it, though he was miffed and annoyed that I wouldn’t give in.

So, my question is this: why would my ex keep trying? Is it an ego thing? Is he testing my resolve?

Getting to Know You

You know the song, right? From The King and I?

Getting to know you,
Getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you,
Getting to hope you like me.

Getting to know you,
Putting it my way,
But nicely,
You are precisely,
My cup of tea.

I’ve been getting to know someone new the past few weeks and I feel like a teenager. I’m giddy. I can’t stop smiling most of every day, and my face hurts from the effort. There are no red flags, as much as I look for them (yeah, tempting fate). I honestly haven’t felt like this for 20 years. I didn’t feel this giddy about Thing 2 when we were dating (which in hindsight is probably a contributing factor to our eventual separation and divorce, amongst other things)… but I digress.

It’s like I’ve known this man for years, not weeks. I can’t wait to spend time with him; when we part, I don’t want to leave. And you wanna know the kicker? He seems to feel the same way about me! Now that’s something.

He’s got a big heart, he’s thoughtful, generous, affectionate, intelligent, and funny as all get out. When he looks at me, he really looks at me, not through me, not past me, but right at me. He holds my hand all the time and tells me how funny he thinks I am, how smart, how pretty. It’s intoxicating.

Six children share his life, all adopted. Well, four are officially adopted, and the other two live with them because again, he has a big heart. The kids are the only aspect of this relationship that give me pause, but only because I’ve never had children, so it’s hard to imagine what having a close bond with a child, much less six children, would be like. He’s devoted and from what I can tell, a loving, and yet strong father to these kids.

There’s no subterfuge, no games, no drama, no BS. He’s open, transparent, charming, and emotionally communicative. It’s unbelievably refreshing. I know it’s early, I know we will continue to get to know each other, I know that there may be things we find annoying about each other, but not now. Right now, in this moment, it’s so wonderful.

I’m smitten and I don’t want it to end. But, if it does, I’m enjoying the hell out of this journey.

Simplicity

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a happier time in my life, and the reasons that I perceive it to have been a happier time.

The overarching reason is because it was a much simpler time for me in a multitude of ways. From 1983-1991, I lived and worked in Colonial Williamsburg. Although I moved with a fair amount of regularity (as is the case when one is young and living in a college town), one of my favorite periods was when I was living in Mrs. Miller’s boarding house on Richmond Road. Mrs. Miller was an eccentric, nutty, bigoted, pill of a woman, but I loved the room I rented in her boarding house. It’s an old house (still there, but now a single family home and beautifully renovated) with 6 or 7 bedrooms. In the 1980s, the rooms were mostly rented for the semester by students from William & Mary. My own room was large and sunny and I had the benefit of an anteroom that had a small writing desk in it and windows on all sides; I also had the benefit of a private bath which had a claw foot tub and an ancient pedestal sink.

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Mrs. Miller’s Boarding House (601 Richmond Road, Williamsburg, VA 23185)

The room was rented furnished – all I owned were my clothes, my bedding, some books, a fan (no A/C at Mrs. Miller’s), and stationery. No TV, no car, no kitchen, no air conditioning (did I mention there was no A/C at Mrs. Miller’s??).

Because I had no car, I walked everywhere – to and from work, to the laundromat, to the store, to my friends’ apartments and houses – everywhere. I probably clocked about 3-4 miles a day, on average.

In addition, because I didn’t have a TV, I read A LOT and spent time going to the library, writing letters to friends and family, hanging out with friends, and exploring Williamsburg from one end to the other. I knew every crack in the sidewalk practically, between Mrs. Miller’s and the Historic Area.

Although I don’t have any desire to return to such an austere manner of living, I do have a desire to simplify my life and figure out what will bring meaning to me now, at this point in my life, as I face the autumn of life. Brené Brown suggests in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, that we all make a list of the “Ingredients for Joy and Meaning” in our lives. I think I will do that and begin to examine the practices in my life I need to increase and those I need to decrease.

Best. Dog. Ever.

This post will probably annoy a lot of dog owners, but it has to be said. I am the lucky caretaker of the best dog ever. Truly.

Zoey has been in my life for all of her nearly 9 years (I was given her as a gift when she was 9 weeks old, by Thing #2 – best gift he ever gave me), and I’ve always known I’m pretty lucky to have her. She’s a black Labrador Retriever, and she’s beautiful, extraordinarily smart, loving, sweet, playful… all the great qualities one wants in a canine companion.

This week, though, I am reminded why she’s extra special. On Thursday, I noticed what the vet calls a “hot spot” on Zoey’s right hip. A trip to the vet ended with a steroid shot, a shaving and cleaning of the very sore, very tender area, and we were sent home with steroid pills, an antibacterial spray, and a cone of shame. This is the first time Zoey has had anything like this that required so much in the way of take home accouterments.

Now, let me preface the rest of this post by saying before Zoey, I shared my life with two cats, whom I loved very much, one of whom I had for 18 years, until his death in 2004. In their lives, I had to give them pills, ointments, etc., and it was always an ordeal. So when the doctor gave me these Prednisone pills for Zoey, I thought “uh oh, this is going to be an ordeal.” The vet made the usual suggestions – wrap the pill in cheese, wrap it in chicken, use some of the “new” pill wrappers on the market – so I left the vet’s office with some ideas, just in case.

Last night, she was due for her monthly dose of Heartgaard, so I ingeniously cut a hole in the Heartgaard chew and placed the pill inside. Brilliant, right? I really didn’t need to worry, though. Zoey inhaled the Heartgaard chunk with her usual gusto, but the pill fell out in the process! I was worried. Now what would I do? But Zoey, true to form, sniffed the pill, and licked it right up and swallowed it! Yea!

This morning, I thought I would simply try to give it to her, no sugar coating, so to speak. So, as I had done with my cats all those years ago, I firmly grasped her snout in my left hand, and with the pill in my right hand, pushed my fingers between her front teeth, forcing her mouth open. I popped the pill in the back of her throat, rubbed her neck, and presto! She had swallowed it! I was so thrilled!

But next came the more touchy operation. The vet had purposely given me a spray antibacterial so I would not have to touch the affected area which is so sore, Zoey yelps anytime it’s touched. Even when I sprayed her last night she yelped. I’m sure it must sting as the area is raw and a vicious red color. So, this morning, I took out the spray and sprayed her – once. She yelped and ran into the dining room and then looked back at me. I begged her to come back to me, that this was medicine that would help her, etc., etc., but she was not having it.

So, I appealed to her tummy, which is usually what works where Zoey is concerned. I reached in the treat jar, which got her attention and caused her ears to go up. She still wouldn’t come to me, though. So I held up the cookie in one hand and the spray in the other and I said “If you let me spray this on you, you can have this” motioning with the two items. She slowly came toward me as if she completely understood, and offered her right hip to me. I sprayed three times, and she yelped but stayed in place, and she was rewarded with not only the cookie, but lavish praise, too.

And that’s why I think she’s such an extraordinary dog. She made a decision, I believe, and realized that a few seconds of pain was worth the treat. I could see her making that decision. And that’s why she’s the…

Best. Dog. Ever.

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Sisters

I realize Christmas was nearly a month ago, but I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to blog! At the outset, this post might not seem like it’s about Christmas, but hang in there… it is.

Although I’m not quite sure how I feel about the day-to-day duties of my new job yet, I do like it, generally speaking. I especially like the commute, the benefits, my boss, my co-workers, the pay, but I most especially love the holiday schedule. Because I work for an academic healthcare facility, my department operates on an academic holiday schedule. Do you know what that means? It means we get a bunch of holidays! Including nearly two weeks at Christmas!

That lengthy holiday enabled me to go home for an entire week at Christmas, something I haven’t been able to do for years. Being home with my sister and brother-in-law (the only family I have left) was wonderful and Donna and I got to spend some real quality time together, just hanging out. She cooked quite a bit while I was there, and I would either help by chopping things up, or just sit at the kitchen table and look pretty while she did all the work. Either way, we got a lot of talking accomplished – about life, our parents, relationships, work, everything.

My sister is a pretty wonderful woman with lots of qualities that anyone would wish for in a friend or a sister. I feel pretty lucky to have her in my life and I learn from her all the time, especially about patience and understanding and compassion. Qualities, I’m sorry to say, I am sometimes short on.

So, even though I’m not sure about this job yet, I am sure that the holiday schedule is pretty great… because it gave me quality time with my sis.

Donna and Me, 1981
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Donna and Me, 2013Image