Just Bitchin’ About the Weather

barnLike most people, I have a short memory. I always forget, while I’m bitching and moaning about how cold it still is in April, how much I despise the Summer.

I’ve got a great deal to do today and a very small window in which to do it. I have to accomplish several Herculean tasks while the weather cooperates — before it gets so hot and sticky that all I can do is concentrate on remaining as still as possible while still managing to meet my family’s basic needs. The summer, at least for me, becomes an exercise in time and clothing management.

Like a farmer, I try to avoid doing anything strenuous after noon. Activities that involve heavy lifting — like laundry and vacuuming — simply must be ticked off the list by mid-morning. I no longer garden, but when I did, I had to rise before the cock crowed to tend to the tomatoes and the green beans.

Because of my aversion to sweating and all of the discomfort that accompanies it, cooking in the summertime is problematic. We tend to eat a lot of salad. My husband used to barbecue, but that went by the wayside when we moved here — there’s just no place for a grill. And, really, that’s just fine with me. Barbecuing is far more trouble than it’s worth — particularly because it’s my husband’s milieu. Honestly, all he ever did was stand over the grill and burn whatever meat product was on the menu — I did, pretty much, everything else.

I was almost always forced to take on the role of “barbecue assistant”, which entailed handing Fang whichever tool he deemed necessary to the task at hand. Anyone who ever watched us barbecue was probably put in mind of one of those medical dramas — Fang played the role of the competent, yet surprisingly handsome, surgeon while I was cast as his efficient O.R. nurse. Substitute “spatula” for “scalpel”, “tongs” for “Kelly clamp” and, well, you get the picture.

The main problem with this analogy, though, would be in my manner of dress. My barbecue attire was closer to scantily clad magician’s assistant than to O.R. nurse. I tend to kiss modesty up to God in the summertime. I try to wear as little as possible. Though I try to guard against it, I often look like a hooker on her way to the corner or someone who has just managed to escape her captors. And I don’t care. Because I’m hot.

I’m ALWAYS hot and I ALWAYS have been. Poor Fangette also got the “hot gene”. I like to blame my severe dislike of heat and humidity on my Irish and my Dutch ancestry. “My people”, I like to say, “were not made for this weather!” Given the wide array of Western European blood that pours through my veins, I don’t have a spit of Mediterranean blood — not one drop. I thought my daughter might have a fighting chance at avoiding the “hot gene”, given that my husband is 100% Italian, but she seems to have been unlucky in this area.

She also didn’t get his aquiline nose — my husband has THE FINEST Roman nose I have ever seen! It’s really something. If they ever lose all images of Caesar or his descendants and they have to find a nose, you know, for sculpting purposes, all they have to do is come to New Jersey and seek him out. Frankly, I’m surprised that my husband hasn’t been stopped on the street by a world-renowned plastic surgeon who would finally, upon stumbling upon Fang outside of, say, the supermarket or the car wash, be able to end their lifelong quest for the perfect nose. It’s that good.

Almost the first thing I did, upon meeting Fangette, after counting up all of her fingers and toes, was to check her nose. I knew right away she was doomed. Doomed to go through life with my pug. I was pleased that she got his chin though — she hit the genetic lottery there — because I barely have a chin at all. Well, I HAVE one, but it’s, let’s just say, vaguely defined. My husband and my daughter, though, they have great chins. Chiseled chins. They have delightful chins. Their chins are a constant source of envy for me, the nearly chinless.

Being challenged in the chin department is made more difficult as one enters midlife. Because of the developing wattle. It’s one thing to have the beginnings of a wattle when you have a chin — less noticeable that way — but when you are already chinless? That’s tough. In the wintertime I am able to camouflage my deformity by wearing turtlenecks — I find the drapey kind work best. Tank tops and camisoles, my “go-to” summer top choices, do nothing to hide the emerging wattle. My only hope is that people focus on my cleavage rather than on my chinlessness.

I’m really looking forward to the next couple of months — to dressing like a streetwalker, to getting up at the crack of dawn, and to eating like a rabbit. I can’t wait. It’s not too early to be looking forward to Winter, is it?

photo credit: barn

My “Relaxing” Weekend Off!

file0001456444395I kept fairly calm at work this weekend, which may have been a direct result of not actually having been there either Friday or Saturday evening. There was only one really annoying guy on Sunday night, but I refrained from sticking my foot up his ass (it was difficult, but I managed). Don’t worry though, I found some other things to whine about this fine Monday morning.

I should have felt like the Queen of England, having two unplanned weekend nights off in a row! (We were severely overstaffed and I took full advantage!) I did not, however, engage in any Queen of England-type activities — unless you think Lizzie pops over to the local Ikea, drags (very heavy!) boxes into the car and up the stairs, and then proceeds to spend her Saturday evening hobnobbing with her cat whilst putting together rather large shelving units and waxing freshly painted tables.

I purchased one of those 16-cube Ikea storage units. (Sadly, the 24-unit job won’t fit!) As I laid it out and began to assemble it, the cube-like nature of the beast attracted the other beast that lives in my house — the cat. The second anyone in this house (usually that would be me) commences any sort of project that requires tools and concentration, The Great Fananini emerges from under my daughter’s bed. It’s not in his nature to be unobtrusive, either. He doesn’t just sit there and observe or supervise (generally that’s Fang’s job). The Great Fanganini enjoys getting involved in projects! As I was attempting to put this thing together, to maintain it’s squareness, to insure that the pieces were correctly and securely united, the cat seized the opportunity to jump from one cube to another — like he was having his own personal game of hopscotch.

No amount of “shooing” nor my half-hearted and feeble attempts at engaging him in his other favorite activity — the fetching of hair elastics — could dissuade him from hunkering down in one cube and springing into the next one — not even the use of the rubber mallet. Cats, and The Great Fanganini is no exception, are not big fans of loud noises. Normally, once any sort of banging begins, which includes the opening and closing of a cabinet door, he makes a beeline for the safety and security of his lair. Not this time, though. No. Apparently, so intrigued was he by the cubes that he was able to ignore the noise that the rubber mallet was making as it drove the shelves together.

It would have been fine, really, if he just played his little game in the cubes that had already been assembled. This would have allowed me to at least go about my business. But, no. Instead and because he’s old and tires easily (I can sympathize!) he continually got “stuck” in the cubes. He’s also ginormous. (He outweighs both of my friends little yippy dogs combined!) As a result, I had to keep stopping in order to extricate him from the cube — and then listen to him whine when he couldn’t get back into the next cube. Being the idiot that I am, rather than ignore his pathetic mewling, I “helped” him play his game. This required me to stop what I was doing and “place” him into the next cube. This added an element of difficulty to what was already an annoying enterprise.

Needless to say, construction of the shelf unit took far longer, from start to finish, than it should have. Far longer. By the time I had completed the task, removed the cat, and lifted the foolish thing to an upright position, my daughter was heading off to work. “Wait!”, I cried. “I need you to help me push this stupid thing up against the wall before you go!” From my tone, the ever helpful Fangette knew better than to deny me. She and I pushed it up against the wall — the wall where Fang, prior to skipping out for a weekend down the shore with “the boys”, insists it go.

Of course it doesn’t fit on that wall. Why? Because I have a GIANT treadmill that resides (and operates as a handy “catch-all” for coats, scarves, the odd glove, and other cast-off foul weather gear) on that wall. A treadmill that, if it weren’t for it’s capacity to hold unneeded outerwear, would, I’m certain, be covered in the amount of dust that one would normally associate with the sealed burial sites of long-dead Egyptian Pharoahs.

The presence of the treadmill as a focal point in my living room has been a bone of contention for Fang and I for quite some time. Before the hovel purge and the redecorating began, it was simply an eyesore, but now that things are starting to come together here, it just has to go. (Black plastic and chrome do not lend themselves to my “shabby chic” design scheme!) It needs to find a new home — preferably one not in this zip code. I told Fang that if he didn’t allocate space in his closet (maybe near the golf clubs that he never uses?) for the foolish thing, that the new location might just be his side of the bed — and I don’t just mean adjacent to the bed, in front of his table — I mean ON the actual bed where HE actually sleeps. If I could lift the damn thing and if I could bear to see it resting upon my beautiful toile quilt, I would have done it already. Maybe if I cover it in cubes, I might be able to enlist the cat’s help.

The ever optimistic Fang holds out some small kernel of hope that he will use the treadmill again. He won’t. It’s old and it’s worn out. Even my workout crazed daughter won’t go near it. Fangette claims it barely moves; Fang contends that it just needs a little oil. (I refuse to even comment on whether it might be the dust or a stray mitten that may, in fact, be clogging up the works!) Regardless of its condition, I am finished with it. Even if it were brand spanking new — pristine, even — I would want it gone. Because we do NOT have room for it. (We never did!)

Tomorrow is Fang’s birthday. Guess what I’m getting him? A gym membership! I understand that this is where people who do not have room for home exercise equipment go to stay in shape. (In Fang’s case, that would be pear-shaped.) I hear they have modern, working treadmills at those places. I understand that folks actually use them for, you know, treading — not as we use ours, you know, for storage and dust collecting.

Between the cat, the treadmill, and some of the problems I encountered with “dark wax” — problems that I do not have the wherewithal to get into right now, but let’s just say it has not lent the desired effect to the tables that I have worked long and hard on — I realized something this weekend. It occurred to me that even though I didn’t work and regardless of the fact that my husband and daughter were not even here, I still found a way to become annoyed, to maintain an increased stress level and to engage in manual labor. I have reached the stunning conclusion that, perhaps, it’s not the rest of the world that drives me crazy — perhaps I’m simply wired this way.

photo credit:

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!

photo credit:

My Fountain of Youth

Ponce de Leon and The Fountain of Youth

Ponce de Leon and The Fountain of Youth

Ponce de Leon thought, upon arriving in St. Augustine, Florida, that he had discovered the “Fountain of Youth”. Senor de Leon would undoubtedly be shocked to discover that Florida has become NOT the place to maintain one’s youth but, instead and for many, the final destination before the grave. It’s a veritable “hot spot” for The Grim Reaper! Why should he haul that heavy scythe all over creation when he can knock off, in a manner of speaking, most of his “to-do” list with a short jaunt to sunny Florida? I have no personal experience with The GR myself, but one would think that, having made his career in the business of death throughout the whole history of humankind, he would appreciate the kind of one-stop shopping and increased productivity that a place like Florida could afford him.

I have been giving this whole idea of a more youthful appearance a great deal of thought lately. I have been toying with the idea of disposing of the boxes of hair dye that are currently taking up space in my closet. These boxes are my own version of “The Fountain of Youth”. You didn’t really think I was going to write about Ponce de Leon and The Grim Reaper, did you?

I’ve been graying since my twenties. It’s hereditary. My father had a full head of gray hair by the time he was forty. He likes to blame it on having four daughters, but we know better now. Studies have shown that gray hair, like baldness, hirsuteness, and most other physical (and mental) characteristics, are marked on our DNA. In other words, many of us are just plain doomed by our faulty genetics.

No one wants to be “marked” as old at the age of twenty-five. And, let’s be honest, gray hair is synonymous with old age. Nothing, and I mean nothing, screams “you’re aging!” quite like gray hair. Unlike losing one’s hair or having so much body hair that one could be mistaken in the dark for a Sasquatch, those of us who suffer from premature graying can just throw a box of hair dye into our shopping carts and painlessly (unless you get it in your eye!) and fairly quickly, solve the problem. Unlike our hairless or our excessively hairy friends, we don’t need daily doses of expensive prescription salves to halt our hair loss; we don’t need to subject our bodies to painful waxes or electrolysis treatments to rid ourselves of the extra coat of fur that our prehistoric ancestors needed for warmth but that is now, here in the 21st Century, just plain unsightly. I suppose, put in perspective, those of us whose afflictions can be solved with a six-dollar box of hair dye have it relatively easy.

At some point, usually by the time we reach our forties, graying ceases to be “premature” and gives way to just plain graying. Our friends and coworkers catch up to those of us who have suffered long and, usually, in silence. I knew this was the case when, beginning a few years ago, I could not run into one of my cohorts in the grocery store, the drug store, or, even the local Target, without spying the box of hair dye in their shopping cart. If I looked closely, (and I did!) I could almost always find it — usually hidden amongst other necessities like eggs, anti-perspirant, or that cute pair of trendy flats! (Why they thought they needed to engage in shopping cart subterfuge, I’ll never know.)

Sure, there are always a few women who don’t buy into covering up their graying locks. These women, generally speaking, tend to fall into two categories. They are either the bland and dowdy types who shop for the few cosmetics that they carelessly apply (only on special occasions!) at the dollar store (even I don’t buy make-up at the dollar store!) or they are the environmentally-conscious health food nuts who wouldn’t dream of putting chemicals on their heads (so close to their brains!). Either way, they’re not “my peeps”. These women are definitely NOT the ones with the leopard-print flats in their Target cart. More likely, they’re hiding things like support hose or flax seed oil in those bright red baskets. I’m no statistician, but I would, based on my own vast experience, go out on a limb and make the claim that these fortyish hair dye eschewing/support hose wearing/flax seed ingesting consumers are the exception, not the rule!

Lately, though, I have been thinking more and more about joining them. No. I haven’t taken up granola-crunching, but I did, just recently, begin a flax seed regimen (because of my dry eyes!). You won’t find me shopping for outdated Maybelline at the dollar store anytime soon and I think I’ll hold off on the support hose, at least for a few more years, but it may be time to throw in the towel where the hair dye is concerned. It’s become, quite frankly, a very time, energy, and money sucking battle with the bottle — one that I am, by the way, losing. (Already having lost one battle with the bottle, I simply may not have it in me to lose another!)

Part of the reason I haven’t, thus far, just done it already is because I am, and I’m not ashamed to admit this, vain. I don’t want to look older than I already am. I don’t consider forty-seven to be all that old, but it’s not all that young either. While I certainly understand that age is relative, I also work in a very youthful environment. At the end of a long shift I have a tendency to grow tired and lose my patience. On some level we all do, regardless of our ages, but my fear is that IF I stop dying my hair I will be perceived NOT just as fatigued and exasperated, but as old and cranky. I’m not saying that I’m NOT old and cranky. I’m saying that I don’t want OTHER people, YOUNGER people (who, by the way, I can still run circles around) to perceive me as such.

The other decision that I must make, IF I decide to stop dyeing my hair, is whether to dye my whole prodigious head of hair gray or to cut off the rather large and very long portion of my hair that is still brownish (as a result of various bottles of Miss Clairol, L’Oreal, or whatever brand was on sale). I know that the “ombre” look is “in”, but the gray on the top, brown on the bottom variation that I am currently sporting is more “two-tone” than it is “ombre”. I love Pepe LePew as much as the next gal. I do not, however, want to LOOK like him. (Nor would I want to smell like him, but that’s a whole other subject!) In order to avoid this — the looking like Pepe, NOT the smelling like Pepe — I must choose between two styles: The Jamie Leigh Curtis or The Emmylou Harris.

Jamie Leigh manages her style because she has such fine bone structure and because, let’s face it, she’s thin. Thin, successful actresses can wear almost any hairstyle. Emmylou pulls it off because she’s a musician. Those musicians can get away with almost anything. Also, she’s got the aging hippie thing going on. That doesn’t hurt. I am neither thin nor successful. I’m not Hollywood royalty, nor am I a world-renowned singer-songwriter. While I like to think of myself as a free spirit, it’s safe to say that no one would ever describe me as a hippie (or, come to think of it, hip).

Me! Or, Pepe --- you decide!

Me! Or, Pepe — you decide!

Jamie Leigh --- look at that chin! I'd kill for that chin!

Jamie Leigh — look at that chin! I’d kill for that chin!

Emmylou --- she's not dowdy at all!

Emmylou — she’s not dowdy at all!

So, it’s a dilemma. To dye or not to dye. To cut or not to cut. Maybe I should just move to Florida now. I could shave my head and invest in a couple of wigs. Because I don’t even want to get into with you what tropic-like humidity does to my hair. I know. I know. Florida is not “technically” the tropics, but still — two words spring to mind: Roseanne Roseannadanna.

My hair + humidity = Roseanne Roseannadanna

My hair + humidity = Roseanne Roseannadanna

genfablogoThis piece is also appearing on the NEW! GenFab website. There’s bound to be a great deal of incredible writing over there — grab another cup of coffee and read the day away. The laundry can wait. So can the dishes. Show these ladies some love!

photo credits:
The Fountain of Youth
Jamie Leigh
Roseanne Roseannadanna