Monday, June 27, 2016

They Say You Can’t Go Home Again (But You Can Have a Very Nice Dinner There)

I am writing this at the end of my vacation. That time of year where you pack everyone up and head out for a few days of relaxation, fun and ‘together’ time. And boy did we have fun! Not too sure about the relaxation part, we stayed on the go constantly. Now we are home though and worn out! And isn’t unpacking just the worse? Or is it just me?? But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  

When I was a child my parents really didn’t do vacations. They tried once when I was around 4; a trip to the mountains. But I tried to drive their car off the side of that mountain and for some reason they were never again inclined to take me too far from home. That was one thing I sorta regretted about growing up, so when I had kids, I vowed to take them somewhere every year.

Now, as a single parent, my finances were limited, so our vacations might not have amounted to much by the standards of others. But we always took a trip each summer. I loved every one.  As they grew older I was dreading the day when they were adults and out of the house and family vacations would no longer take place.  In fact, about a month before I moved to where I currently reside, we took what I thought would be our last family vacation since my oldest was not moving with me. I tried to remember everything. And while it was a great trip, I discovered an even greater truth……I didn’t have to stop having vacations with my children. Turns out, they like hanging out with Mom… even as adults…. when they don’t have to!

So last week marked approximately 25 years worth of family vacations. And they get better each year. I’ve added a grandson and a son-in-law. And next year, there will be two grandsons! I am realistic enough to understand it will be difficult to always maintain this tradition, but I’m going to keep trying. In the meantime, I continue to treasure each one.

Now I am already 300+ words into my entry, and honestly, family vacations was not the topic. I am just waxing a little emotional, so I threw that part in for free.

No, what I really wanted to share with you was my dinner date on my first night in town. You see it turns out one of my old flames lives near the little seaside town we picked to vacation. And by old I mean, this goes back to high school.

I met John (no, not his real name) when we were teenagers. He was dating one of my good friends. I didn’t spend too much time around him, but I did always have a bit of a secret crush on him. He never knew, they broke up, life happens, everyone went their separate ways. Fast forward about 15 years. I was on a dating site (big surprise, right?) and guess who was also single and on a dating site? John! He was recently divorced and living right down the road. We connected and hit it off. It was a little surreal to know someone as a teenager and then the next time you see them, you are both divorced with young kids. There was a lot of catching up to do. For a while we got along great. John was the first guy to introduce me to Harley’s and took me on my first motorcycle ride. I was trying to be cute and wore shorts. Almost immediately I seared my calf on the hot pipes. I was too proud to admit it, so I rode around all afternoon with my leg burned. (I still have that scar.) He was always a great date and we had some fun adventures. We even had blended family time with our kids. It was fun. Unfortunately he was not as ready as I was for a new relationship. His divorce was fresh and still raw. I will admit it hurt when we broke up. There are just some relationships that burrow deeper into your heart than others. But we moved on and took different paths; both eventually leaving that small town and starting new lives many miles apart.

Fast forward another 15 years! John and I have been friends on Facebook for quite a while. Not the daily contact kind of friends, just the ‘I see what you are up to now and then’ kind. So I knew he lived very near the town we had picked for vacation this year. (Ok, for the skeptics, it was a coincidence.) On a whim (a very scary whim) I sent him a message. I told him we were coming into town and asked if he would like to meet for dinner. To my surprise, delight and trepidation, he said yes! He told me to just let him know when and where I was. (Yikes!)

So let me just set the scene for you. It is Friday afternoon. Blazing hot and humid. I make it to town around 3:30. He called to tell me he was off work and to check on my progress. When he learned I was so close, he offered to help me unpack the car. Now I have not seen this guy in 15 years! I get one date with him, so my plan was to check in, shower, and be ready when he got there. I was NOT prepared for him to see me in traveling clothes, sweat pouring down my face with frizzy hair! But what to say? Of course, I told him to come on. I noticed storm clouds in the distance though, so I did manage to get everything in the house. Within 10 minutes of him getting there (looking great, by the way), a terrific thunderstorm rumbles through. We are on the back porch watching the storm and going through clumsy re-introductions, when suddenly we lose power! So here we sit, awkward strangers/exs/friends, in the dark, in the heat. He had plans to take me to dinner at a place on the island, but the entire area is without power. So we decide to wing it, and quickly, as we were both melting. I did change out of my traveling clothes, but glamorous was not on the agenda.

All in all though, it was a great night. I had forgotten what a classy date he was. We went to a waterfront restaurant to have a drink and discuss dinner options. We ended up at a great little Italian restaurant and the food was amazing. We topped it all off with a walk to the beach. It was almost the perfect date in a little coastal town.

Now I know my romantic-at-heart friends are all holding their breaths waiting for the ‘now what’? But there isn’t a now what. And I knew that going in. That is not what it was about, and I’m ok with that. This was just simply reconnecting with a childhood friend (and yes, former boyfriend) and reminiscing 30 years worth of memories. We laughed and caught up. Told ‘remember when’ stories and ‘how proud of our kids we are’ stories. There were a few uncomfortable silences. Words maybe floating around in the air above us that neither wanted to say. I guess that is to be expected on these occasions. But at the end of the night, I could not have asked for better.

At our rate of communication I guess we will meet again at a retirement dinner. But I suppose that is not necessarily a bad thing. To have someone you have known your entire life, where you can pick up and spend a few hours together. Like you’ve never been apart. It was nice. Very nice.  

Thank you John! You felt like home. Maybe only for a few hours, but still like home.

Hope Out!     

Monday, June 13, 2016

Smile.....You're on Candid Camera (Literally, Everywhere!)

Picture taking has come a very long way in just a few short years. Not that long ago, if we wanted to have a memorialized photo of an event or trip, we had to carry a bulky camera around with us. Some of them were instant cameras where the Polaroid picture came out still damp and had to be shaken dry. I remember having a camera and buying film that had to be mailed back in tiny pouches. I would wait over a week or longer to see my pictures. And there was no editing. Fuzzy. Dim. Closed eyes. Half a head missing. You got what you took. Period. Of course then the digital age took over and we all had cameras with zoom and editing functions. You could take ten pictures and delete the nine you didn’t like without wasting film. You could crop them and brighten them and send them directly for printing or save on a disc. Then someone figured out that if you turned the camera around at just the right angle YOU could be in the picture! And the Selfie was born. (Useless Trivia Alert – Hollywood cameraman, Lester Wimbrod, claims to be the ‘inventor’ of the selfie way back to the early 80s. He was always running into celebrities and wanted to be in the photo with them. So one day he just decided to hold the camera out with his arm, turn it, and snap the picture. He took so many of them, and became quite famous locally for doing so, that they were originally called ‘Lesters’. He took hundreds and recently compiled them and posted on YouTube.)

Today almost everyone has a cell phone and every cell phone has a camera. So we have now become obsessed with snapping pictures of everything. We take pictures of sunrises and sunsets. Being out with friends. Places we go. We document our work and our hobbies. We take pictures of our food; whether we cooked it or are eating out. And of course, the aforementioned selfie. I googled it, and apparently worldwide there are over 90 million selfies taken every day. That seems a little crazy to me, but then again, I account for at least one or two of them myself. Another piece of Trivia…“Selfie” was the word of the year in 2013.

There are cameras everywhere, not just on our phones. Street corners, stores, traffic lights. It is literally impossible to leave your house and not have your every move documented. And let’s not forget the drones buzzing around overhead. I am not sure who, if anyone, ever really monitors or watches the feed, but make no mistake, it is out there somewhere. (Even more reason to make sure the socks match and the hair is brushed before leaving the house…Ugh. If I am going to end up on QT's camera footage, I have to at least not look like a homeless girl.)

I have to say the oddest use of a camera I saw recently was in a TV commercial for a Samsung Refrigerator. Apparently, with the right appliance, you can now look into your fridge without opening the door. I am not sure how lazy YOU are, but even at the height of me not wanting to move, I can still manage to open the fridge to find out if I have milk for my cereal. In the commercial the husband calls home to find out if they need eggs. The wife (it is just an assumption on my part they were married) is actually IN the kitchen doing something but tells him she can’t check at the moment. But not to despair, he could use the Fridge AP on his PHONE to look INSIDE the refrigerator. Which he does, and what do you know, they have eggs! (Does the light come on inside when you turn the AP on??? Because it is dark in there when the door is closed, right??)

Now, I’m not gonna lie. I have been at the grocery store and wondered if I needed ketchup, or mayo or any number of things really and it would have been quite handy to look at my phone screen and see the inside of my refrigerator. But doesn’t that sound a bit creepy? Or is it just me? What if the AP messes up and you end up looking in your neighbor’s fridge? (That’s why Martha isn’t losing any weight…….Or I thought John said he was a vegetarian…Or Jenny has fallen off the wagon…..) Where will the madness end? Checking the oven to see if the cake is done? Checking the dryer to see if the clothes are ready? Oh, I know…checking the mail box to see if there is anything in there besides junk mail. THAT is an AP I would use!

And while for the most part, the hidden security or strategically placed cameras are useful and maybe even fun, sometimes they can be used for ugly and mean purposes. So we need to be careful of our surroundings and take note if something looks or feels off. One example is the new car dash cam that is growing in popularity now. The advertised purpose is to record what is going on while you are traveling to document who might have been at fault for an accident, or how a particular confrontation might have gone down. The first time I saw one, I was getting into a car recently going on a date with this guy. We had met before, but I had never been inside his car. It took me a minute to figure out what it was, and then I was just a little taken aback. Is it on all the time? Does it record our conversation? Do I need to worry how I sit? (Ok, I know that sounds bad, but seriously, who knows??) I didn’t like it. I am sure it was innocent enough, but I also realize it could be used for non-innocent things.

And while I am on the subject, let me just take a minute and say to my single friends out there, please be careful of the pictures you send through the ‘air waves’. It might sound fun and flirty. And of course everyone has to decide for themselves what to do and where their limits are. But remember, no matter what someone promises you, once the ‘send’ button is pushed; you have lost complete control over that image. I know, I sound like a mother or school marm, but I know sometimes in the moment things sound like a good idea that can end up being regretted.

Ok, enough of that! This world is a beautiful place, and all that beauty should be documented! So go out there and point, press and post! I don’t really care what you ate for dinner, but I’ll scroll through that to see the gorgeous rainbow on your way home, or the new litter of puppies, or your son’s graduation. And the next time you pull up at a gas station or go into Kohls, look up at the cameras and Smile! They will all wonder what you are up to!

Hope Out!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

I Have a Size 4 Personality (Oh wait…wouldn’t a Size 10 be better?)

Ok so today I am going to address the elephant in the room.

Come on….you had to know that was coming.

If you are a female over the age of… let’s go with 15, then you have had moments of doubt about your size. Maybe they were fleeting or maybe they have followed you around for a lifetime. But most of us have fallen prey to the pesky voice in our head that told us that we were just not quite good enough. Unfortunately it is not just in our heads. The voice is also on TV, radio, magazines and the internet. We are bombarded almost daily with before-and-after shots and testimonials. There are healthy eating hacks, quick fixes, miracle pills, shape-shifter-garments, and every gym in town will tell you that it’s better to do it the old fashioned way. If there is an angle to exploit, someone has found it. The entire weight fixated industry is dedicated to making us feel that if we just lost ten more pounds we would finally be happy.

Then there are the soothers. The calm, softer voices that push back. They say you are beautiful just the way you are. Be happy with yourself. Acceptance is the buzz word to calm the madness.

So which side is right?

I think to some extent both sides are.  And honestly I don’t have anything new to add to the conversation. I could point out that a healthy lifestyle is important and will make you feel and look better. You already know that. I could list all the catch phrases for learning to love yourself. You have heard them all before. Shoot… have heard most of them from me right here! I see-saw with myself all the time between vowing to do better and giving myself permission to just be who I am.
So why am I taking up time and space on an over exploited topic?

Probably because of the fact that I have been invited to the first pool party of the summer! Which means I have to open the dreaded bathing suit drawer! You have one of those, right? Filled with every imaginable combination and size of bathing suit. (Or is that just me??) The ones you bought to wear only in your back yard for tanning. The pretty ones for vacation. The functional ones for outings with friends and family. The ones you bought before you had kids (or turned 40) and swear you will wear again……(not very likely…) Ok, maybe I am revealing too much information *wink*, but my point is most of us have a bipolar attitude with the way we look. One moment we are proud to have made it to ‘this age’ and can still dress up and rock it. And the next moment we are hiding in the closet swearing never to be seen in public again. It is a struggle to find the middle ground.

Here is what I think I have learned through the years.

Beauty is Abstract

I used to think that Size 4 and blonde hair was the only way to be alluring. I know….stupid. (But I’m being honest). I now understand that in this great big world we live in, beauty registers with everyone differently. The diverse cultures all over the world, and even in my own city, interpret loveliness on so many levels. Individuality grants us the freedom to be true to ourselves, and that is the greatest beauty of all. Confidence is way more intoxicating than the latest styles or makeup hacks.  I cannot truly say that I am always confident. But I can usually admit to carving my own path. As someone put it to me recently….I may not be everyone’s cup of tea…..but I am learning to be ok with that.

Beauty is More Attitude than Aptitude

Your smile is your best bling. And trust me, I know about bling. I have enough baubles and bangles and beads to decorate a gypsy camp. And while I love wearing them, they become dull and weighty if my eyes are downcast or my walk is halting. Even if we don’t always feel beautiful, we live in a beautiful world. We are loved and blessed. Your gratefulness and appreciation for these things brightens your outlook and gives you a glow. Your laughter is infectious and draws people into your circle. The size of your jeans or the brand of your shoes are insignificant when those around you feel joy in your presence. This is actually often hard for me. I am not particularly social by nature. I tend to gravitate to the outskirts of my surroundings. But I do believe it to be true. My father had the gift of laughter. He really did. And when he laughed everyone around him did too. They couldn’t help themselves. And that is a marvelous and beautiful thing.

On a side note I will also mention that on the occasions where I have had conversations with men regarding weight, size and beauty; I have been surprised to discover that most of them are not as shallow as I had wrongfully believed. I feel a little bad that I may have misjudged some, but it’s nice to know that as we get older we learn to recognize and appreciate what is important.

The bottom line for me is that integrity, decency, kindness and the size of my heart is of higher value than the size on a label tag in my clothing. However that doesn’t excuse me from living the best life I can and taking care of myself. To be sure I want to be around for a very long time. I have grandchildren to spoil and watch grow up.

I can’t wear spanx every day. And I refuse to eat flax seed and celery with every meal. So you know what that means? My personality size AND my dress size may both end up to be the same! And I will do my very best to be proud of and rock both!

Hope Out!