Resisting the “No!”

resisting the nofbnotesIt is so easy to say, “no” to things — particularly “things” that require getting out of bed, schlepping somewhere, or putting on pants; in some cases, all three. Activities outside the home, particularly ones that involve other humans, require effort. More and more, as opportunities that involve these herculean tasks, specifically the donning of pants, present themselves, my initial reaction is to say, “Thanks, but no thanks!”.

I have a physically demanding and mentally stressful job that requires me to do all of the above AND to interact with people all damn day. Quite frankly, I am tired by day’s end and, more often than not, have had my fill of people. Thus, rationalizing the “no” comes easily at the end of a long shift.

Following the schlep home, all I want to do, all I feel that I can successfully achieve, is to take off my pants and to crawl back under the covers. Where I am safe. Where no one is making demands of me. Where no one is criticizing me.

I have learned, though, to take a beat before responding in the negative, to think about what, exactly, I am saying “no” to (or for). Once I have gotten over the hurdles that include, but are not limited to, leaving my bedroom, throwing on some clothes, and transporting myself elsewhere — and, really, sometimes “elsewhere” is just up the block! — I am always pleased that I resisted the urge to beg off.

Still, the “no” comes more naturally. The “yes” has to fight for top billing.

Recently, because I said “yes”, I was able to enjoy the latest incarnation of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” on Broadway and, in the same week!, I was entertained by Chinese acrobats. All because I agreed to put on pants.

I enjoyed the play and the acrobats. Truly, Jessica Lange’s performance in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” was mesmerizing; and those Chinese acrobats were something else! Even so, these outings were about more than just the events.

I enjoyed the company, the camaraderie, of the people that I was with. Because they were not just any old “people”, they were “my” people — people who I have chosen, people who have chosen me.

I am not in their lives to fetch them straws or to make them some cockamamie drink. They are not sitting in judgment of my job performance in light of the fact that I spilled a ramekin of butter on a guest. They appreciate my eye-rolling and sighing, welcome it, even.

When I am at work I feel as though I am the subject in the most recent installment of a little game show that I like to call “Let’s Build a Better Employee”. I am not sure which is worse: knowing that I am the subject or knowing that I am not the best possible choice of contestant.

There was a time when I would have been the perfect contestant. That time was not all that long ago, it may, in fact, have been last week. But, now? This week? It seems that I am getting so few things right.

Getting all of the answers wrong takes all the fun out of the game. I go home at the end of every shift feeling uneasy, anxious, and, defeated. When I have been made to feel like I have no value, slipping into a pair of pajamas and sliding into bed seems the best course of action.

It is not. Surrounding myself with “my” people; saying “yes” to them is, in fact, the better choice, the antidote, to all of the other bullshit that life throws at you.

What I have discovered is that when I am around “my” people, I am almost instantly transformed into a person who has value. I feel, not only valued, but truly loved and appreciated. For that feeling I will resist the urge to go to bed at 7:00 PM. For that feeling I will schlep to wherever I need to schlep. For that feeling I will put on pants.







Tales From “The Annoying Bar & Grill”: Have More Fun At Work!


Until I was recently and pleasantly reminded of it, I had forgotten that it is possible to enjoy myself while at work. One of the reasons that I do what I do, why I all those years ago made the decision to continue to wait tables and/or tend bar, rather than opting for a “real job”, was not solely because doing so allowed me the opportunity to schedule my work life around my personal life. Certainly that, combined with the fact that I get to go home with cash on a daily basis, was its biggest selling point. While the hours and the money may have been the primary reason that I continued in this line of work, they were not the only reasons.

Less quantifiable, perhaps, but certainly significant, another reason that I remained slinging hash and mixing up daiquiris is because of the people with whom I get to work. Restaurant workers tend to be a friendly, funny bunch. Some of us, myself included, may even be slightly north of crazy. I would argue however that our individual brands of crazy— and our ability to recognize and to tolerate them in each other — may well be, in addition to our shared experiences, what bonds us to each other. After all, it’s a scientific fact that “like” attracts “like”. By and large, I like the sort of people that are drawn to restaurant work.

I was not working down at “The Annoying Bar & Grill” when I had my “V-8 moment” about enjoying myself in the workplace. I have another job now — one where the camaraderie feels far more organic. It is less about survival, more about creating a comfortable atmosphere — for ourselves and for the customers. I love it.

More often than not, my interactions with my coworkers down at “The Annoying Bar & Grill” have a desperate, edgy quality to them. If you look closely enough, you’ll note a lean, hungry look in our eyes. This is a look that would put one in mind of POWs, prisoners, or folks who are making vain attempts to muddle through severe cases of PTSD — people who are just trying to make the best of a bad situation. Luckily, being in possession of the personality traits that drew us to this business in the first place, we are able to do just that. Still, down there it feels at times as if we are all just trying to stay off the prison guard’s radar, to do our time, to survive until the meds kick in.

Over at the new place the owners and the managers actually seem to want you to be happy. Imagine that? If they see you laughing, their first instinct isn’t to find you something to scrub with a toothbrush, sweep with a broom, or polish with a cloth. Instead, they want “in” on the joke. It really is like a whole other world.

Sadly, I was only able to get a few shifts a week at the new place. It is not possible for me to fully resign my position at “The Annoying Bar & Grill” quite yet. I have been able to cut back on some of my hours there, though. While I am hopeful that reducing my shifts will make working there more palatable, I fear that the opposite will be true.

What I’ve realized, though, is that I don’t have to play into that fear. I have had an epiphany of sorts — one which has led me to believe that I may, in fact, be able to steer the ship — or at least my ship —in another direction. To that end, I have decided that I am going to do my best to take some of the lessons that I have learned from the other place and apply them to “The Annoying Bar & Grill”. Having been recently reminded that laughter truly is the best medicine, I am going to give enjoying myself — everywhere that I work — the old college try.

You’re welcome, co-workers! You’re welcome, customers! You’re welcome, America!

This piece is dedicated to my friend, John, who never fails to make me smile. His gift to me — and to the world — is his ability not only to recognize, but to put into perspective the folly that exists in our daily lives. He has the uncanny ability to point out, in the funniest ways possible, that there are only a few things that truly matter. Friendship, love, and laughter top his list. His renewed  presence in my life has reminded me that I, too, once had this same ability. He has inspired me to find it again. For this I am truly grateful. I love you, dude!


© Jacqueline Tierney DeMuro and Ambling & Rambling (, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jacqueline Tierney DeMuro and Ambling & Rambling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

I Hope She Wasn’t Wearing a Skirt!

NaBloPoMo14DayNine After posting two recipes on two consecutive days, I received a message from a friend — a nonblogger who has never felt the pressure of NaBloPoMo — in which she accused me of “cheating”. As if recipes weren’t writing. I would argue that mine are.

Normally this accusation would be akin to “fightin’ words”, but she followed up with something along the lines of, “I suppose we’re all entitled to a bad day. I spent mine without panties.” I was intrigued. And hysterical.

Once you’re laughing your ass off and imagining the circumstances whereby your friend was rendered underwearless on a lovely Autumn Saturday, it’s difficult to sustain mild annoyance with her, never mind anger. She never revealed why, exactly, she spent the day without panties, I asked — of course I asked! She got sidetracked discussing other details of her day.

Outside of why she had gone “commando”, I wasn’t all that interested in what else she had been up to. Can you blame me? Would you have been? Because I never did find out, I have had to content myself with a few theories, some of which may or may not be drawn from my own experiences.

They were too small, circulation-constricting small, like, maybe, they belonged to someone else in her house. Someone like her young daughter, perhaps. Wait. She doesn’t have any daughters, so, no, that couldn’t be the reason. At least it couldn’t be HER reason for ditching that pair of ill-fitting Power Puff Girl briefs.

She took them off proactively to avoid the embarrassment that would be the likely result of a wardrobe malfunction. You know, because the elastic was torn around the waistband AND the leg — they were hanging on, in other words, by a wing and a prayer. Perhaps she feared they would unravel altogether and shoot down her pant leg. How would she explain such a thing to the table that she was waiting on? Oh, wait. She’s not a waitress. That must have happened to someone else I know.

She just plum forgot. This, knowing her, is the most likely explanation for her lack of drawers. It’s not that exciting, though. Unless, of course, she was wearing a skirt. Yeah. That makes for a MUCH better story. Trust me. That’s a humdinger of a tale.

A shout out to “Mrs. G” for inspiring this post. If more of my friends are as generous with their embarrassing stories as she was with hers, I may not have to publish any more recipes this month.

My “Movie Date”

NaBloPoMoDayTwoI went to the movies the other night. I know. I know. People do that sort of thing all the time. I am not one of these people. My being at the movies is an exception, rather than the rule. Or, you know, a sign of the apocalypse. Okay, so THAT didn’t happen. But it could have.

Going to the movies requires that I leave the house. And put on pants. Outside of going to work where, sadly, they require me to wear pants or to the grocery store, where one can play fast and loose with the definition of “pants” (and I often do), I don’t make plans for my down time that involve clothes with zippers and/or buttons.

I made an exception the other night, though. Because a friend invited me. She is what I consider a “pants-worthy” friend. She is also my new “movie date”. She proved herself worthy of that, too.

I’ll bet you’d like to know how she proved this, wouldn’t you? It’s very simple, really. She agreed to see the taped version of the live stage play of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The one with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller. Yeah. Instead of what we had planned on seeing, which was St. Vincent, she got all Masterpiece Theatre with me and we saw Frankenstein instead.

And you know what? It was great. And it was different. It was something that we would not have otherwise had the opportunity to see, considering we live pretty far from London’s West End. (And, really, do you think I’d fly across the Atlantic Ocean to see a play? Me? The woman who barely leaves the house because she doesn’t want to put on pants?)

Guess what we’re doing next week? We’re going to see a taped performance of the recent Broadway version of Of Mice and Men. The one with James Franco and Chris O’Dowd.

I know what some of you are thinking. You’re thinking, “Doesn’t she live near Manhattan?” Yes. Yes, I do. But I never got there to see this play, even though I really wanted to. It was on my radar, but I was busy. And it was expensive. So, now, I’ll get to see it for $18, plus no one will know that I’m wearing pants without a zipper. No one will “shush” me or admonish me in any way when I open up my bag of Twizzlers, either. That’s a bonus. Yeah. I’m really looking forward to it.

I may just become one of those, what do you call them? Moviegoers?

This one’s for you, Rhea! Thanks for being the best movie date EVER!

Who Says An Old Dog Can’t Learn New Tricks?

Taking chances, putting yourself “out there”, so to speak, isn’t easy at any age. I would contend that it’s more difficult as we get older. At least for me it is. I’m kind of set in my ways. I found out recently though, that even this old dog can learn new tricks.

No, I haven’t run off and joined the circus, even I’m not THAT crazy. Nothing in this life can ever entirely be ruled out, of course, but it’s a pretty safe bet that I’ll never do anything that requires me to walk on a wire that’s suspended more than an inch off the ground — and even that may be too high — hang out with clowns, or travel with lions. The lion thing, that’s reason enough for me not to ATTEND a circus, let alone WORK for one. My fear of heights has nothing on my lion phobia. (I’m not a big fan of tigers or bears, either).

You’d be more likely to find me walking a tightrope under the big top than choosing to be in close proximity to any sort of wild animal, though. At least tightrope walkers get to wear sparkly costumes. If I fell from a great height and was lying dead, no doubt in a heap on a floor strewn with elephant urine-encrusted straw, there is some comfort in knowing that I would look fabulous doing so. I daresay that there’s even a good chance that my lip gloss would still be intact.

I wouldn’t even want to know what a person who meets their demise by being mauled by a lion looks like. I’m guessing not pretty. Undoubtedly, the first thing my mauler would do would probably involve licking off my lip gloss on his way to eating my face off. If I had to choose a method of “death by circus”, I think I’d rather be crushed by a rampaging elephant. I’m sure I wouldn’t look my best then either, but at least it would be quick. Cats, on the other hand, like to play with their food.

I have a friend who travels to Africa every year. He goes there for humanitarian purposes, but always manages to fit in a safari. He is forever encouraging me to join him on one of his adventures. He uses the safari as a “selling point”. I don’t have the heart to tell him that I’d rather stay behind and dig some more latrines at the school he built than to sleep out on the savannah with just a piece of canvas and a fire for protection from whatever herds of giant, hungry animals are roaming around on the African plains — looking, I’m sure, for their next meal.

I’ll bet it wouldn’t even take something as ferocious as a lion to kill you on safari. I’m thinking that even an animal with a reputation for grace and reticence, like a gazelle, for example, could do some real damage to the average human. I wouldn’t rule out an attack by a couple of hungry prairie dogs, either. I won’t even get into the venomous snakes who make their home there, too.

No, thanks. Let me just write you a check. Buy some books for your school. Or some toilet paper. I don’t care.

What I’d really like is for him to PLEASE stop asking me to get into a big hunk of tin and fly halfway around the world to be killed by African fauna. And, that’s assuming I would survive the plane trip, which is never a certainty. I’ve told him time and time again that if he has some overwhelming desire to scare the pants off of me, all he has to do is sneak up behind me. I’m an easy target, what with the fact that I never pay a stick of attention and all.

If he wants to bear witness to my death, he could just watch me cross the street up on the main drag here in town. I’ve been known to jaywalk and try to dodge the cars, in Frogger-like fashion, during the morning rush hour. All he has to do is walk out of his office on the right morning. Death by sleepy Honda driver is likely how I’ll go. This is a far more efficient and cost-effective plan, if his plan is to watch me die, than having to haul me to another continent. Different method, same result.

I’ll bet that if one were to perish on an international journey, their return ticket wouldn’t cover the expenses associated with transporting their dead body. I’m sure live bodies cost less to handle than dead ones. I wonder if my husband would pony up the additional monies that the airline would require to return my mauled body here to the States? Or, would he, in a final cost-saving effort, just leave my detritus out on the veldt? Ashes to ashes, dust to dust and all that. Fang can be very biblical.

As if the thought of actually being killed — in any manner — out on the savannah isn’t bad enough, the idea of decomposing there, of being left there for all eternity? That’s even worse. And, let’s face it, Fang can be tight with a buck.

Every year when this trip is in its planning stages, my friend asks me to come along. He talks about the progress they’ve made at the school and the impact it’s had on the community. He tells me how much I would enjoy the people — getting to know them and learning about their culture. He tells me how much “fun” I’d have if I were to join him and his gaggle of do-gooders on their yearly excursion.

Some people have an altogether different definition of “fun” than I do. That’s for damn sure! My idea of “fun” is a good book and a nap.

I don’t doubt for a moment that I would thoroughly enjoy the social aspects of such a journey, from an anthropological and a historical perspective, especially. I do like that sort of thing — and he knows it. I remind him, though, that we now have the NatGeo channel.

I tell him that I have a television in my bedroom, so that I can watch OTHER people interact with various cultures. NatGeo cuts out the boring bits, too — like the zillion hours it took them to get there. I can learn about far away lands — their customs, their language, their social hierarchies — while I’m wrapped in my Snuggie, eating peanut butter cookies in bed (don’t tell Fang!), rather than being draped in a harsh, woolen Daftiki as I’m inevitably served roasted goat by the kind and welcoming tribeswomen. I explain to him that, you know, I’m good with that. I remind him that nothing had to be ritually sacrificed for the Nutter Butter — or the Snuggie. (Acrylic being something that, as far as I know, doesn’t occur in nature.) While I like to wear things made from goats (cashmere, my friends, cashmere), I don’t imagine I’d enjoy eating goat.

Old friends, even those who encourage you to do crazy things, even those who seem to think that you’d enjoy tooling around with them and their happy band of jetsetting philanthropists, even those who give you pause to wonder whether they actually know you at all (he’s always surprised at my “hell, no” response to his requests that I sign on to be part of his “team”), even those who think that digging into an undercooked goat while wearing a Daftiki and scanning the landscape for deranged beavers, is an experience that you need to have, are a treasure. I wouldn’t trade them for the world. Even if I could, who would I trade them FOR? New friends? Where do you find those at my age?

Well, if you’re open to it, if you put yourself “out there”, opportunities to make new friends do, indeed, exist. I learned recently that even an old curmudgeon such as myself can recognize a kindred spirit, meet her for breakfast, and come away from the experience intact and secure in the knowledge that new adventures don’t always require globe trotting.

Sometimes, the local pancake house is as far as you have to travel to enjoy some delightful conversation and begin, unless I severely overestimated our connection, what will be a long friendship. As a bonus, there was no goat on the menu nor were there any lions in sight!

May I Cut In?

coupledancingI’d like to take this opportunity to thank a few of the “good deed doers” that I encountered this morning — the ones that were placed, as if by serendipity, in my path on my early morning “fly-by” at the local market. It goes without saying that I thanked them profusely amidst their good deed doing — I even kissed one of them (I knew him, though — the others were virtual strangers, so no PDAs for them!). I just wanted to put my gratitude in writing — on the outside chance that they happen to be readers of this blog — hey, you never know! That’s how serendipity works. She’s a-crazy that way!

In one of those, unfortunately for me, not so rare collisions of a lack of time on my part and a lack of planning on Fangette’s part, I had to make an early morning dash to our little local market for strawberries, bananas (“No, Mom, I can’t have one of the ten yogurts that are in the fridge that contain these fruits. I can’t have dairy before practice! Are you crazy? Don’t you EVER listen?”), turkey, a feminine hygiene product, and, of course, the “build-your-own” salad. (“Just greens, grilled chicken, fresh mozzarella, and CUCUMBERS this time, Mom! CUCUMBERS, Mom! NOT tomatoes. I HATE TOMATOES. WHY CAN’T YOU REMEMBER THAT?”)

I ran in for FIVE items. FIVE. I didn’t think I needed A LIST, for God’s sake. And, really, I had NO time to fool with pen and paper, anyway.

Of course, when I got out to the car I realized that I only had FOUR items — I didn’t get the “build-your-own” salad. Really, that’s a misnomer. Because you don’t actually get to build the salad yourself. You choose a prepackaged bowl of greens — there are several delightful choices for the discriminating lettuce lover, we usually opt for the mesculin mix — and then the guy at the deli counter places your “add-ons” atop the crunchy bed of fresh salad greens. (They’ll even toss it, with or without dressing, upon request, but we don’t go in for THAT sort of thing!)

On my first foray through the market, I decided to just grab the pre-packaged turkey, as I didn’t have time to wait at the deli — there was a gentleman in front of me who looked like he was in no hurry at all and only the one worker behind the counter — this type of staffing and this sort of shopper is to be expected, I suppose, at the crack of dawn. I thought, by opting for the turkey that someone had thoughtfully pre-sliced, that I had “beaten the system”, shaved off a few of those precious morning minutes. The obvious flaw in my plan was, of course, my failure to take into account the whole “build-your-own-salad” business.

On my return trip, which was only about three minutes later, guess what I encountered over in deli? The same older man getting his cold cuts sliced, the same single employee working the slicer. It appeared that I would have to wait. I tried to be patient, but time just began ticking away and, like I said before, the gentleman did not seem to be in any hurry at all. Also, he apparently enjoys ham — in just the time I stood there he ordered a quarter of a pound of three different varieties of this fine meat product. There were several bags of what appeared to be sliced meats in his hand. I’m no novice to the ways of the deli counter — I knew what that meant. He hadn’t even gotten to the cheese portion of the event yet.

This was when I did something that I never do. I asked him, as nicely as I could, if I could possibly “borrow” HIS worker for forty-five seconds. I explained how I just needed someone to plop three little items — grilled chicken, fresh mozz, and diced cucumbers — on top of this here plastic bowl of rabbit food. (This is where I held up my container of greens as a visual aid, in the event that he was not familiar with the whole “build-your-own-salad” concept!) Not only did he immediately AGREE to help me out of a jam, HE actually APOLOGIZED to me — explaining as he did so that he was retired and, therefore, in no rush. “Sadly”, he said, “I have nowhere to be but here. I remember having the kind of day you’re having, though! I sure do! Please, go ahead of me!” I took a moment to be sad for him and his predicament before I pounced on his deli worker.

Initially the young man behind the deli counter was confused by this turn of events. The nice gentleman, the one who, just moments before, I had been judging for his sodium intake, kindly explained to the befuddled worker that he was “letting me ‘cut in’.” I liked this turn of phrase. It put me in mind of some 1940’s dance hall love triangle.

Salad in hand, gratitude on my lips, I left my new friend to carry on with his relaxing day. I think it’s safe to say that we both envied the pace of each other’s lives.

When I got to the check-out area I realized that, of course, there was only one register open. There were two people in front of me. The woman directly ahead of me had a few bagels in a bag. The woman who was currently in the midst of checking out had far more. And she had something else. Some kind of a problem. A problem that, apparently, could only be solved by a “price check”. I sighed. Audibly. “Bagel woman” turned to me and said, “If you’re in a hurry, you can go ahead of me.” I just shook my head in the negative. What would have been the point? SHE wasn’t the problem.

I thanked her for her offer and tried to quietly explain that my stress level was at about a ten. (I didn’t want “price check lady” to feel in any way responsible for my craziness!) I admitted that while I understood the other woman’s need for a price check, this delay felt like another “wrench in the works” of my already anxiety-filled morning. “It’s not”, I shrilly replied, “anyone’s fault but my own!” Even as I said this, I knew it wasn’t true. So, I clarified, for “bagel lady” — I thought I owed her at least that!

“Actually”, I whined, “it’s not really MY fault. Well, yeah, the forgetting the salad portion of the festivities is my fault, but if I’m being honest, and why wouldn’t I be? The rest of it — the rest of it is ALL my kid’s fault. Her failure to plan ALWAYS becomes my emergency. Know what I mean? It makes me crazy. CRAZY, I tell ya! One more year, though. ONE MORE YEAR and she’ll be off to college. She’ll be out of the nest. She’ll have FLOWN THE COOP! (This is where I began gesturing, like a bird taking flight, with the “build-your-own-salad”.) I can’t wait. I CAN NOT WAIT, I’LL TELL YOU THAT MUCH!” Sensing that I had a sympathetic ear in “bagel lady”, I continued, “Sure”, I said, a little more loudly than I, or probably anyone within earshot would have liked, “I’ll miss her, she’s a good kid, really. But, I’ll tell ya what I won’t miss — THIS kind of nonsense. I WILL NOT miss these SHENANIGANS! No, Ma’am, I WILL NOT miss this kind of tomfoolery at THE CRACK OF DAWN!”

“Bagel lady”, God bless her, just listened, shook her head in agreement, and put her hand on my arm — you know, to calm me. I can’t be certain, but I think the soothing hand on the arm thing was as much for self-preservation as it was a show of sympathy. She may have feared that the very real possibility existed that a shower of “build-your-own-salad” could be in her future if I were allowed to continue gesturing wildly. Whatever her reasons, it did the trick. I was beginning to “come down” from my “anxiety high”.

This is about the time that I heard a laughing voice from somewhere close by say, “Oh, I should have known it was you when I heard all the ruckus!” I knew immediately that it was my friend, Tim. He worked his way in behind me. Put his hand on my shoulder and gave me a quick “How ya doin’?” peck on the cheek. We shared a brief hug, a couple of sighs, and a laugh. (We’re Irish, we practically hold the patent on sighing!) He asked me what I was all worked up about. I told him that it was just the usual, the same old, same old — KIDS! And time — or lack thereof. He just eyed me knowingly, reminded me that I’d “been through worse” than a bad morning at the market and told me to “keep my chin up!” He also told me that I looked “great” — he was lying or at least intimating that he’s seen me look far worse, which he has. (He knew me “when” — when I was more of a hot mess than I am now!) I definitely did NOT look anything even remotely close to “great”. I looked like a crazy person who had just rolled out of bed and found herself in the middle of a kidnapping plot. (When I got home, I realized that I had gone out wearing one brown flip-flop and one black flip-flop. That’s how “great” I did NOT look!)

I sure appreciated his kind words, though. Yes, I did. I also appreciated that he, much like the nice gentleman in the deli and the “bagel lady” before him, took time out of their lives to commiserate with the high-strung and possibly deranged woman who was carrying on about her life as if she were the center of the universe. I don’t know what-all the others have accomplished in their lives, but I know how Tim spends some of his time. His resume is pretty impressive.

His most recent achievement, through his role as a NJ Assemblyman, is that he authored and managed to have signed into law earlier this week — by Republican Governor Christie, no less — a bill that makes “gay re-education camps” against New Jersey law. He has been active in town politics here in our little burg for many years. He served as our Mayor for two terms and as a Councilman for many years prior to moving on to the NJ Assembly. He is a successful chiropractor and an active member of The Rotary Club. Through this organization he and his partner have been instrumental in building, funding, and maintaining a school in Kenya — they, their children, and other community and Rotary members, visit every year — bringing with them books, supplies, and hope to countless young men and women who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to realize their full potential.

His mere presence forced me to put my morning mayhem in perspective. I also felt a little bit ridiculous — in a good way. And I told him so. I said something like, “Thank you. Thank you, Tim. You work so hard. You’ve done and continue to do so many amazing things with your life. Congratulations on the bill, by the way! I feel like all I do is schlep food to the ungrateful — both at work and in my regular life. So, thanks. Thanks for making me feel slightly ridiculous this morning. I needed that!” His response? “Everybody has a role, Jack. We need people to “schlep food” just as much as we need people who do the things that I do. Don’t beat yourself up about it! Feel good about yourself!”

And you know what? For a few minutes I did just that. I felt good about myself. At least, that is, until I got home and took note of the fact that I was, and not for the first time, wearing two different shoes.

photo credit: couple dancing

Related posts (mostly related to mismatched footwear):
Here’s to Hoping for the Best
Focus on Footwear

My Bucket Brigade

friendsIt hit me square in the face the other night — midlife has changed me. It has sanded my rough edges into more rounded corners and provided me with opportunities for greater awareness. I had one of those “Aha!” moments that I’ve heard people speak of — okay, I’ve mainly heard Oprah speak of such epiphanies, but still, I had one! I can safely say that I do not think I had been open to this sort of thing until recently. Instead of being annoyed and bored while attending a fundraising event, in lieu of my usual whining and kvetching, I took some time amidst the chaos to make some observations, to reach some conclusions.

Of course the meal was lousy. The diet soda was flat and no doubt some off-label brand. (“Diet Smoke” maybe?) The coffee might have been drinkable, if the creamer had not arrived on a much, much later train.

The number of people that they had managed to pack into such a small space gave me a new appreciation for my ancestors — the Irish ones who came to America in steerage. I have a strange habit — I often admonish myself in “brogue”. Silently and in my best Irish accent, I kept hearing my inner voice say “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Eileen! What the feck are ya doin’ here?”

Twelve of us were squished at a table that was probably meant for eight. A tin horn and a megaphone, neither of which I thought to throw in my purse, would have come in handy just for making simple requests — requests like, “Can you please plop some more of that there “Diet Smoke” into my thimble-sized glass? Thanks a million!” Engaging in any type of meaningful conversation with some of my oldest and dearest friends — the friends who had convinced me how much fun I would have throwing tickets into prize baskets for things I neither want nor have any use for — was, quite simply, out of the question.

When my number was drawn, it wasn’t me who noticed. Had it not been for one of my more alert companions, someone else would be enjoying “A Free Evening of Bingo!” in the future. And that’s when it hit me. That’s when I looked around the table and thought about how we’ve always had each other’s backs. Always.

I’ve known these women going on fifteen years and there has never been a time when we’ve let each other down. Not once. Not ever. It wouldn’t occur to us to do so.

We’ve been through a lot together. We’ve dealt with things like divorce, disease, addiction, legal trouble, caring for aging parents. Some of us have lost a parent or someone equally dear to us. We have all struggled with raising our children. Most of our career paths have changed. Many of us have experienced altered fortunes — some for the better, some for the worse. We have leaned on each other, spoken up for one who couldn’t or wouldn’t speak up for herself, cried with and for each other, and, most importantly, laughed with each other.

Truthfully, we have even good-naturedly laughed AT each other! There is almost nothing funnier than imagining your friend, once you know she wasn’t seriously injured, laying in a heap at the bottom of the basement stairs covered in dirty laundry. Being able to conjure this image each and every time you see her hobbling along in her lovely orthopedic boot? Hysterical.

Or the time that another friend in what I can only imagine was a moment of extreme haste and/or a dire mirror shortage, showed up at our children’s school wearing EVERY single color of the rainbow. Every single one. Explaining to her, as kindly as possible, that it was not, in fact, “ROYGBIV Day”, while trying NOT to turn your white sweatpants urine-colored? Priceless.

Don’t worry. They laugh at me, too. Mostly, though, they laugh with me.

When I was first married someone told me that the key to a successful marriage lies in finding balance. To elucidate this point, I was told to imagine that we were given two buckets — one full, one empty. In a good marriage, the person with the full bucket will cede half of its contents to the person with the empty bucket. Over time, one bucket might become fuller, the other emptier — the job of the person with the fuller bucket should always be to fill the other person’s bucket to the halfway line. In a good marriage, both parties should be generous givers and grateful recipients. This may well be the best piece of advice I have ever been given.

I have always taken notice of how the “bucket theory” applies to all of the relationships in my life. Over the years I’ve had to cut some people loose — the ones who are willing to extract the last drop from my bucket, the ones who are unable to part with any measure of theirs, or the ones who simply never noticed how empty mine had become. When I looked around the table the other night, it occurred to me that we had managed, not only through our ability to sense when someone else’s bucket has been in need of replenishment, but through our willingness to share the contents of our own, to create something miraculous — the lasting, enduring, and lifelong friendship.

It occurs to me now that I should have lifted my glass of “Diet Smoke” the other night and toasted these women. That I should have celebrated them by reciting my own version of The Irish Blessing. It would have gone something like this:

Here’s to you,
My dear and fabulous friends.
My very own “bucket brigade”.
Long may we live and laugh and cherish each other!

May I be there should you fall.
May mine be the hand you reach for
or the shoulder you lean on.’

Yours are the voices I want to hear
When times are trying.
Yours are the joyful faces I want to see
When the news is good.

Here’s to knowing that our buckets will never run dry!

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