I can’t believe I survived.

I was conceived and born in the late ‘60’s. You know the time. Hippies and free love. Woodstock (I secretly harbor some resentment toward my parents for not having the desire to attend) and Mama Cass.

I was a child in the 70’s which meant our parents weren’t neurotic. Or overprotective.

A bike ride didn’t come complete with a helmet and a mom following behind in her car. Half the time we didn’t even wear shoes, running the risk of scraping the tops of our feet on asphalt, practically exposing bone. Somehow, that injury never deterred us from continuing the practice.

If we wanted to go to a friend’s house that wasn’t within biking distance, we had to figure out how to get there. Like the remote control, “Mom’s Taxi” had yet to be discovered.

My mother had no idea where we were half the time. The general rule was to head home when the street lights came on. I mostly stuck to that rule although I do recall once breaking it. I never did that again because punishments were of the corporal kind and were not taken lightly.

Last week my daughter had the distinct pleasure of encountering a mother who actually apologized to her young child for embarrassing her by scolding her in public for looking under my daughter’s dressing room curtain.

And when I say “scold” I don’t mean a smack on the butt like I would have received had I done that. I mean a “oh honey you shouldn’t do that” kind of scolding.

Sorry, I’m veering off-topic.

Just going to the playground could have meant a death sentence.

Playgrounds came equipped with merry-go-rounds. If you didn’t hang on for dear life, you could be catapulted to a concussion. There was always a “Who Can Spin The Merry-Go-Round Faster?” competition. Extra points for every kid who got flung off.

This could very well be the very merry-go-round from our neighborhood playground. Photo courtesy of Pinterest.

Teeter-totters were based on the honor system. You relied on your partner to not jump ship. And if they did, it always resulted in a teeth-rattling landing.

Let’s not forget about the steel slides that could potentially give all exposed body parts — from your behind down — third degree burns.

We played on arsenic-treated wood and for sure did not have anything soft to land on when we fell. And falling was almost always certain. We went home with more bumps and bruises than Mohamed Ali after twelve rounds in the ring.

Even with the introduction of Atari and Pac-Man, we didn’t stay inside. Our mothers preferred us out-of-doors regardless of the weather. We were thrown out to the wolves, potential child abductors, and dangerous playground equipment. Left to our own devices to make good decisions.

We were surrounded by danger. And it was the best time ever. I wouldn’t trade my childhood for anything. I feel a little sad for these kids today with their helicopter parents (guilty as charged) and cushioned playgrounds. They’ll never know what it’s like to live life on the edge.

Unless you count the times a storm knocked out their WiFi. In that case, never mind.

It’s time for a respite.

We all need one. I don’t care who you are. And it doesn’t matter how or where you do it. We all need a break from the craziness of life. For some — just having your work world turned off for a few days and sleeping late, leisurely and unapologetically lazing around the house, maybe planning some local day trips — is just what the doctor ordered.

For me, the perfect place to turn off the world is at the beach. It’s sitting my ass — the same ass that sits in an office chair for 40 hours a week — in a beach chair with a good book. And if I’m lucky enough to have good weather, my ass will also sit in that beach chair for 40 hours during that week. Maybe more.

Yes, I will wear sunscreen.

I love to travel and I feel like I have had my fair share. But most times, traveling requires every minute planned. And — depending on your mood — that just doesn’t fit the bill.

This is where the beach comes in.

Humans are said to be 60% water, that’s why so many of us are attracted to the sea. It may be nonsense, but in my world I believe it. I can’t imagine not being able to get to the ocean within a couple of hours.

When I sit on the beach my blood pressure immediately drops. When I inhale the briny salt water of the ocean I feel like I am receiving a dose of therapy. I feel like I am home. The sand beneath my feet is like a shag carpet. Luxurious and soft. The more sand between my toes, the better.

I’m on vacation. A beach vacation. Mere feet of the salty water that beckons me. I hear nothing but seagulls and waves.

When I’m working, I have a habit of asking Alexa to play the sounds of the ocean when things get too stressful. And although it has a positive affect on me, it’s not the same. No amount of closing my eyes and meditating can make it real.

This is real. This is just what MY doctor has ordered.

It is the last full day of our vacation as I write this. I always feel a little melancholy when a vacation is over. This time especially because it was surrounded by my family. Quality time with my daughter and future son-in-law. Time with my husband away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It just makes it that much harder to leave this place. To head back to reality.

Monday I start back to work after a ten day break, but I will be ready. My mind will be clear. My stress levels will have declined.

Until Tuesday.

But have no fear! The ocean isn’t going anywhere, so I will return. Maybe in a month, maybe in a year. It always calls me back. And back is where I shall go.

I’m alive.

Sorry I haven’t been around. Been dealing with an issue of the health variety in my family and I’ve been in a sort of funk. You know, since the diagnosis of the issue of the health variety. In addition to that, my menopause has kicked up about ten thousand notches.

To sum things up, I have been listless and with bad attitude. Which in turn has made me have zero interest in writing or reading or doing pretty much anything other than playing 6,467 games of Wordscapes.

Note: Contrary to popular and scientific belief, playing 6,467 games of Wordscapes does not — let me repeat — does NOT improve memory. Just ask my plants who I forget to water.

Aside from the issue of the health variety, I was diagnosed with acute “You Can Have A Stroke At Any Time If You Don’t Lower Your Cholesterol Now” Syndrome. You know, just to add insult to injury because life wasn’t already fun enough.

So, while I am battling hot flashes so severe I’m sure they will kill me before anything else by pure and simple combustion, I can now add a medication to my life — Lipitor. This is the very first continuous daily medication I have ever had to take. Which has a totally different look and feel from the One-A-Day Women’s 50+ and Pepcid I ingest everyday by choice.

I gained another grey hair uttering that sentence just now in case you were wondering.

The good new is I have been making sure I exercise five to six days a week.

The bad news is it hasn’t really done much to help lower my cholesterol.

The worse news is although I FEEL better, all this exercise does not make me LOOK better.

My skin has taken on a crepey sheen and my muscles have left the building. I mean, I can feel them, they just don’t want to show themselves.

My skin has taken on the appearance of what I can only compare to an elephant. So, be forewarned my female friends. There is a ton of fun coming up in your future. On the bright side, who will need a trip to Disney ever again?

This is pretty much what my knees look like these days. Except I do shave on occassion. (Photo courtesy of fineartamerica.com.)

Also, my daily trips to social media world have been limited. I have kind of lost interest in all that. I go on Facebook to wish someone a “Happy Birthday” and visit Instagram to watch the “stories.”

Talking about Instagram stories should make me feel young but somehow it doesn’t.

Anyway, if any of you are offended by my lack of interaction on your posts, please forgive me and try not to take it personally. Like my muscles, I have left the building.

That’s about it. I’m pulling myself up by the bootstraps and getting back in the game.

Maybe.

Now to go delete that Wordscapes app. Although I believe I may need an intervention.

An Appliance Tale

Thank you for coming to story time. Buckle up and enjoy. Just make sure your seatbelt isn’t from Maytag.

We had a complete kitchen renovation done less than ten years ago. What comes with a complete kitchen renovation? Brand new, sparkling, stainless steel appliances. Everymom’s wet dream.

Might I add they were not cheap.

In the last nine years, we have had to replace the dishwasher twice.

The microwave required a repair precisely one month after the 5-year warranty ran out. A coincidence that I believe was put into place by the powers that be at KitchenAid.

It still gives us trouble from time to time. If we know an electrical storm is coming we have to go into the basement and shut down the circuit breaker to avoid the error of death.

The oven takes no less than thirty minutes to reach the desired temperature, sometimes never even reaching its destination.

The stovetop has one burner that consistently tells us it’s hot even though it has indeed cooled down. Thank god because my hand would otherwise look like my aunt’s Buster Brown pot roast by now.

“HE” stand for Hot Element, not what pronoun it prefers.

The fridge is still going. Although I will admit that once in a while it lets out a groan that is very similar to the sound I make while trying to get up off the floor from a sitting position.

Within the last two years we had to replace our front-loading washer and dryer as well. I’m not really sure why we continue to buy front-loading machines. They are about as overrated as adulting.

Anyway, two days ago the dryer crapped the bed. Why? Who knows. Maybe it was suffering from FOMO. Just so you know, a handy husband and YouTube make a great combination.

Our currently displaced, nonworking, less than two year old dryer.

In the meantime, we cannot kill mom’s 1968 Harvest Gold appliances if we tried. When we bought this house, that oven is exactly what was in the wall. It was still breathing when we yanked it out to replace it with its three times removed distant cousin.

I’m not sure what happened to the gene pool, but there has been a contamination. Makes me want to alert the CDC.

At the rate we are going, I’m ready to break out the washboard and galvanized bucket. I may as well go bang some rocks together and light a fire in the backyard while I’m at it.

Our ancestors may have worked hard and died at a young age because of it, but darn. At least they never ran the risk of a faulty wire.

The Christmas That Wasn’t. Again.

I was an army brat for the first twelve years of my life. That meant living far away from extended family. Mostly, our Christmases were quiet and included just the five of us. It’s pretty much all I knew, but it was always nice because our parents made Christmas special for us.

The very few Christmases we were able to spend with extended family were great. My memories of those years are filled with midnight mass and decorating my grandparents tree on Christmas Eve, while classical Christmas standards filled the air.

In my fifty-four years I have not missed a Christmas. I did have a kidney stone once a few days before the big day, but I rallied and was able to join in the festivities.

Then along came the pandemic. Covid-19 came upon us, sunk its rotten teeth into our flesh, and hung on for dear life. Here we are nearly two years later and still feeling its effects.

When it first hit, we were all fairly certain it would be cleared out within a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Memorial Day parades and BBQs were cancelled. Fourth of July fireworks were not set off. Thanksgiving dinner was spent with whoever lived under your roof with you at the time. Christmas and New Year’s were FaceTime sessions with friends and family.

As much as it sucked, we accepted it. Although I was disappointed we couldn’t spend Christmas with any family, it was what it was. The entire world was in the same boat.

2021 was a new year and filled with promise. We had the vaccine. People were joyous. Senior citizens were brought to tears at the prospect of seeing family for the first time in a year. Life would get back to normal.

And “normal” it became. As normal as it could get with the new accessory called a “mask” and with elbow bumping replacing hugs. Yet, birthday parties were planned, Memorial Day picnics commenced, Thanksgiving was spent with all the family and friends you could fit into your dining room.

Christmas Eve and Day plans were set back into motion. Invitations were sent out. Christmas was in the air. The Spirit of the season returned.

Things were going as planned. And then it happened.

Pretty much everyone in our over-sized family was exposed in some way to Covid. Omicron decided Christmas wouldn’t happen after all. To make things worse, a stomach bug struck those who weren’t exposed to the new variant.

The realization that this Christmas would be a repeat of last year hit. And it hit hard.

It wasn’t just our family, I know this was happening everywhere. But somehow, this time it hurt. I woke up Christmas morning with my poor, sick husband in the other room, trying to convince myself it was just another Saturday. I decided I was going to continue my pity party from the night before with spiked eggnog and leftover holiday cookies.

Then I started thinking about our wonderful “Fakemas” we were fortunate to celebrate just this past Tuesday (if you missed my Family Christmas letter, click here) and how wonderful it was.

We had Christmas. We had a fabulous Christmas. It was just celebrated a little early. Some don’t even have that. Some are ill, others maybe don’t have family, some perhaps suffered a great loss, or other circumstances that didn’t allow them to celebrate in the usual way.

Instead I turned my disappointment into gratefulness. I put on my big girl pants with the elastic waistband and poured more eggnog. Except this time I drank to gratitude.

Did I miss my extended family? Yes, I did. Am I still sad? A little. But it’s ok. There is always next year.

Our Family Christmas Letter — Volume 8

I don’t really suffer from OCD, but the fact that I mislabeled my Christmas letters somewhere along the way is making me twitch. I was going to give you a long, drawn out story about how it happened but the details don’t matter. I’m making the executive decision to label this #8 although it probably should be #9.

I’m not very good at keeping a journal, so I have probably forgotten some details of the year. But like the way I live, I am going to fly by the seat of my pants. Enjoy.

2021 brought the second year of this pandemic. That meant more working from home, more online schooling, more gathering outside to see friends even when it was 27 degrees, and my favorite: fighting complete strangers for the last Covid-19 Vaccination appointment.

I truly believe we are going to be the new “Great Depression” survivors. I have become somewhat of a hoarder and I’m not embarrassed about it. Except depression glass has been replaced by toilet paper and gold has been replaced by paper towels.

The Kid graduated from nursing school in May. Aside from the fact that I couldn’t sit next to DH because we had to social distance with even each other and we sat so far away from the stage that we were in a different time zone, we got to have an in-person graduation.

I still cried and my heart still swelled with pride. Pandemic or not, that kid persevered and accomplished what she wanted even in the midst of a global shitshow.

DH bought a fancy blue sports car. Not just any car. A car that I lovingly refer to as “The Lost Lobster.” Maybe it means it should be red. Maybe it means it should be a 900-square foot cottage by the sea.

As for me, I’ve become so accustomed to online shopping that there is a delivery truck in my driveway approximately every eight minutes on any given day. I would invite the drivers in for dinner, but at this rate I would be feeding an army and I can hardly handle feeding the people who already live here.

I’m still not in the office. It has been twenty-one months since I’ve seen my co-workers. I mean, I’ve seen them over video. But it’s not the same. Somehow I forget and end up doing something stupid, like picking my nose or failing to brush my hair.

Although, putting yourself on mute so you can yell expletives is a nice perk. Until the time comes when you neglect to put yourself on mute to yell expletives. That was fun.

Another perk about not being in the office is not having accessibility to the office cafeteria eight hours a day/five days a week to get in the way of my diet.

The good news is I lost seventeen pounds while working from home. The bad news is I gained nineteen. Not sure how that happened, but thank god a new year is coming. I was worried I wouldn’t have a resolution to break.

This year we celebrated Christmas four days early because The Kid has to work. We have dubbed our new holiday “The Winter Equinox Fakemas” and it will probably make an appearance many times over the next several years.

The problem with hospitals is they don’t get to close on Christmas Day like the mall does. I would like to say I liked it better when she worked at Aerie, but that would make me sound selfish.

Overall, the year was pretty good in spite of Covid. Everyone stayed healthy and I’m hoping it stays that way. In the meantime, like toilet paper, I have stocked up on those at-home rapid tests.

I’ve always wanted to be a collector of something, but who would have thought it would consist of nasal swabs and paper goods?

Anyway, I wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Here’s to hoping Covid-19 finally takes a hint and skips town. It sure does bring a whole new meaning to the phrase, “overstay your welcome” though, doesn’t it?

Halloween or Bust

What happened to Halloween?

Maybe I can’t speak for everyone’s neighborhood, but in mine it is pretty much non-existent. This year we had TWO children come to our door. They were siblings, so that really only counts as one. Had we known our doorbell would receive one measly ring all evening, it would have been those kids’ lucky night.

We did better during the pandemic. Hell, we did better when Halloween was cancelled after the October storm of 2011 that knocked out power for seven days. Forcing us to live like common prairie people.

We live in a nice neighborhood with seventeen well-spread out houses, and trees, and a wide street. It’s safe as far as neighborhoods go. So what gives?

I have been scratching my head and the only thing I could come up with is it’s just too much work for so little candy. After all, they could go to the lakeside community just a few miles away where they would make out like present-day Ma Barkers.

A friend of mine who lives in this neighborhood boasted on Facebook the next morning, “we got 69 children!” Am I offended? Maybe a little jealous? Perhaps. But you have to give credit where credit is due. Kids these days are smart.

I took my child trick-or-treating on our seventeen-house street when she was small. Her little, orange, plastic pumpkin would barely be filled yet she was as excited as The Pointer Sisters. I can still hear her sweet cherub voice, “mommy, look how much candy I have!” with as much enthusiasm as she would have on that magical holiday morning just a mere two months later.

“Yes, sweetie, I see! Wow you really made out!” was usually my reply. All the while sniggering to myself, knowing full-well she was being duped. If she had really known what a lot of candy looked like, she probably would have requested emancipation from her parents.

In my day, “a lot of candy” looked like a worn-out pillow case coming apart at the seams. Which is probably what “a lot of candy” looks like to the lakeside trick-or-treaters five miles away.

Does that make us bad parents? Nah. She has wonderful memories of Halloween’s Past. I think so, anyway. I guess I should ask her. It’s too late for an emancipation, right?

Now, we have enough candy left over to feed the entirety of that lakeside community. Candy that would put that little, orange, plastic pumpkin to shame. Candy that I have hit nightly, but doesn’t seem to make a dent.

In case you were wondering, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups go nicely with a bottle of Chianti.

It’s Chianti, I tell you!

Next year I’ll have to buy less, I suppose. Oh, who am I kidding? You just never know who will show up. Next Halloween those siblings will hit the mother-lode. That is, of course, if they haven’t smartened up by then.

Checking Up or Checking Out

I’m not gonna lie…I always thought my parents were a little over the top with their doctors’ appointments. They will not allow anything to come between them and their beloved providers.

Kind of like Calvin’s except these Calvin’s wear a white coat.

Hell could be freezing over but dammit, they will make that appointment. Like Superman during a blizzard. Over tall buildings and faster than a speeding bullet. Nothing will stop them.

The year before the pandemic, I decided I probably should start going for annual skin checks. 2019 went off without a hitch, then the pandemic hit and I was forced to cancel my appointment for 2020.

One that I didn’t reschedule.

Until recently, when I discovered that two friends of mine were diagnosed with melanoma. Skin cancer. One was caught early. The other, not so much.

Was this a sign? Maybe. But that was all I needed to get on the horn and call my doctor.

It wasn’t even mid-August and the next available appointment with my derm — who I love almost as much as my firstborn — wasn’t available until four days before Christmas.

Am I panicking? Not totally.

But what if? I won’t let my brain go there because I tend to be a bit of a hypochondriac. Just make sure my ashes are thrown in the Atlantic, mmmkay?

Will this burn from 2017 come back to bite me in the chest?

Anyway, I think I now get what my parents mean. There is nothing that can make me cancel that appointment. Except maybe death. And it will have to be my own. If it’s anyone else’s they will have to wait.

I jest.

Kind of.

Is this another by-product of aging? This sudden need to have all the things checked?

ALL the things between the hair on my head and the bottoms of my toes? Inside and out?

Gone are the carefree days of having to only worry about skidding out on your bicycle and scraping a knee.

Oh my god. Knee scrapes can’t turn into cancer…can they?

The Jog-less Jogger

When did joggers, leggings, sweatpants, and oversized cardigan sweaters (“are you wearing your [pause for dramatic effect] robe?” asked a friend recently when he last saw me out and about) become not only a part of my wardrobe, but the wardrobe?

I’ll tell you when: March 13, 2020.

In the last sixteen months, I have accumulated so much in the way of “casual” clothes my drawers and closet look like spaces that will put you into a coma at the mere sight of them.

I have two full-to-the-brim dresser drawers of these clothes and a closet that is beginning to look like there was a fight between my oversized cardigans and my work blouses. If shredded polyester looks like that stuff inside cheap pillows then I think I know who won.

I remember the time when my jeans and work clothes severely outnumbered my “workout” clothes, but like applying makeup I’m not even sure I would remember how to wear them anymore. Do we still put on jeans one leg at a time? Or do you just commit and go full hog by hopping in with both feet?

Thanks, abi dickson. You took the words right out of my mouth.

Let’s not discuss if I will even remember how to fasten a button. My new wardrobe consists of drawstrings and elastic waistbands. From what I can remember, buttoning buttons requires some dexterity. Tasks using my fingers have been limited to opening a bottle of wine and games of Candy Crush.

What happens when the office opens back up and I have to dig out my work clothes? Will I recognize them? Will I be excited like when you move houses and unpack all your wares and act completely surprised as if you’ve never seen your favorite soup bowl before in your life?

Or like when you pull out the Christmas decorations and look at all the baubles and bows as if it’s been centuries since you’ve last met. (“Oh! Remember this ornament we bought when we first got married?” Even though it has hung on a tree in your living room for one month out of every year since 1992.)

I’ll just start slow. Like learning how to walk. Or maybe it will be like riding a bike.

Do I sound dramatic? You can blame Outlander for that one. I mean, come on. Who has pectorals like that?

Update: I went into the office one day last week and I survived putting on pants with buttons. It was confining and I rate wearing real pants a 2 out of 10. Like the bra, pants should also be burned.

The Ladies’ Liberation

I went into the city with a couple of friends the other day and we were shocked and appalled at the number of braless young ladies walking around. They were everywhere. So many, in fact, I was sure this was a new trend. A quick text to my twenty-three year old daughter confirmed my suspicion.

The inner old lady in me was secretly wagging a finger at them. I had a strong desire to throw a blanket over their shoulders and phone their mothers.

My internal young and wild side wanted to join them in liberation. That crazy side of me felt the urge to plan an impromptu “Burning Of the Bra” ceremony in front of the Victoria’s Secret on 5th & 12th and watch in joyful glee while underwire, elastic, and eye hooks all went up in flames. Joined together as sisters by our eternal hatred for the torture chamber that is called a Brassiere. But it was obvious they already did that because, as I said, there was ne’er a bra to be seen.

The bra I was wearing that day felt overly confining in the mid-June heat of the city. It didn’t take long for it to be soaked with my perspiration. I am fairly well endowed so there is always too much fabric and this fabric was suffocating all things from shoulders to ribcage. Making its presence irritatingly known more than ever.

I daydreamed about the end of the day when I could sit in the privacy of my own home and pull it off in a frenzied fury, disrobing so my girls could be free at last. The thought of walking down Park Avenue sans bra was deliciously tempting. Unfortunately, not only am I well endowed but time and elasticity — or lack thereof — have not been kind to me.

Seen on Pinterest somewhere

Whereas these lovely ladies only had the risk of having a nipple poke through the fabric of their shirts, I was afraid mine would end up at the waistline of my shorts.

As much as I wanted to throw my bra to the concrete jungle right then and there, I just knew it couldn’t be. I very well could have been the subject of a viral photo warning the public, “large, middle aged breasts on the loose. If seen, please throw them a blanket and call their mother.”

As I stared at these ladies in wonder, I was transported back to 1968 when the first bra burning took place. I know I was only one at the time and it would be another twelve years before I got my first training bra, but I could have been there.

Ok, so maybe it wasn’t possible, but I have seen pictures so it was like I was there.

By the way, who named it a “training” bra anyway? They aren’t called beasts, they are called breasts. You can’t just train them to sit, beg, bark or fetch a ball on command.

Full disclosure: I always thought a training bra was to keep our breasts up, to prevent them from drooping. But upon a quick google search I discovered the dreaded training bra is to train us and not our breasts. You know, so we can get used to wearing them.

I have been wearing a bra of some sort for over forty years and I am about as used to them as I am used to a full-on hot flash in the middle of August.

It is said purchasing your first training bra is a rite of passage.

If you believe that standing in the middle of Caldor with your mother thrusting a glorified tank top in your face, yelling at you to pull it on over your shirt in the middle of the toy aisle is a rite of passage, then the Brooklyn Bridge belongs to me and I’m going to sell it to you.

By the end of my day in the city I had gotten so used to seeing this, my disgust turned to envy. These ladies were on to something. This may be one of the best trends to hit the streets of New York City since the Croc.

But as usual I am a dollar short and three breasts sizes too late.