Service and a smile?

“Thank you, please come again” in my mind is what servers might say to a table when they bring the check at a restaurant.  It seems that what he or she might utter under their breath is “Why the *** would you come out to dinner if you are going to be rude and leave a BAD tip??!!  Stay home jerk!” 

A friend of ours is in the bar and restaurant business and shared a terrible story on Friday night; that a big group of patrons at one table was rude, demanding, and difficult, and proceeded to leave a ONE DOLLAR $ tip on a $230 bill.  This saddened me in such a big way…here at the Jersey shore, while it is true MANY contractors and service workers and “essential” people have had one of the best seasons in years, service workers in bars and restaurants were out of work for a long time, and I had hoped, truly deeply believed, that after pretty much a year of self-reflection, and watching so much sickness and death and ruin play out in towns and states and countries around our planet, humans would come out better on the other side…That people would think, how lucky that I did not get Covid or how lucky that I did not lose my job or how lucky that my town had so little virus spread…or something, something good, better than before…it was perhaps just a silly wish…

We went out to dinner on Saturday night and our server was not very good, at all.  She might have been new, the restaurant is new, so perhaps she did not know the menu well, however it was a VERY small menu, literally one side of one piece of paper (that kind of restaurant, where the chef knows what he wants to make and here are your five choices…it was one page that included appetizer, salad, and entrée, and she did have one special to tell us about) but anyway, she was not a very good server in that she did not bring us water, did not offer to open our wine (but we have not had alcohol in 103 days so it was twist off Welch’s sparkling grape) she did not take our used utensils away after our salad, she did not seem to know the menu at all, and was slow…BUT we were kind to her, and friendly, and when the bill came we left a $30 tip on an $89 bill because WE ARE FINALLY OUT OF THE WOE OF A PANDEMIC SITUATION WHERE MANY PEOPLE WERE SCARED TO GO OUT AND IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO, TO BE KIND TO PEOPLE, EVEN IF IT WAS NOT JUST A YEAR OF NEAR LOCK-DOWN AND my PSA is this, DO NOT GO OUT TO DINNER IF YOU ARE GOING TO BE A JERK.

If you and those at your table wish to be cruel and difficult to a server doing his job, or obnoxious and demanding to a bartender trying to keep her station organized and all of her customers served, don’t go out, stay home and be miserable in your own house!!  Don’t bring your meanness out into the world! The world is hard enough for some people, why add to it by being an awful human?? I guess my point, if there is one, which honestly there often isn’t one that is clear, is that one should elevate people, rather than deflate them. The server we had could have said to herself, they were so nice to me, even though I know I should have done ___ blank…or wow, I am glad I was so friendly, they left a nice tip…if she went home that night feeling good and happy then her confidence might improve for the next night she works and she will get better and better…if like those jerks at my friend’s business, we left a rude and hurtful $1 tip, she might have gone home feeling so low and blue and that NEVER MAKES ANYONE BETTER!

Our “jobs” when we are out in public should be to bring goodness and light and kindness into the world…if people want to be awful under their own roof, so be it, but when you are OUT in the space occupied by others, be nice, just be nice. How is that hard to do??

Wages for not dying

For some reason a “living wage,” or the idea of implementing one, is horrifying to about half of the population of our country. If we called them ‘wages so people don’t die’ or ‘wages so people have a roof’ would that make $15 an hour more palatable to these people? In my town, the price for a one bedroom apartment is about $1210 a month. When my dad married my mom in June of 1966 he made $100 a week working as a carpenter and his rent was $100 a month for their apartment on Long Beach Island. My dad was 24 and my mom was 22 and one week of my dad’s pay was their rent for the month. My mom had a job too. They were a two income household and only one paycheck, of the eight that came in each month, was needed for the rent. By this math, a 24 year old man getting married in June to his 22 year old girlfriend would have to make $30.50 an hour for one of his paychecks a month to be their rent right here right now in south Jersey. Do you know any local young carpenters making $30.50 an hour? I don’t.

Why was it “okay” for a 24 year old to make a paycheck in 1966 that was in keeping with the expenses of living, but now in 2021 it is not okay for a 24 year old to make a paycheck that is in keeping with the expenses of living?? My nephew just turned 24. My dad had turned 24 in February and married my mom that June. My nephew works at a local apartment complex and has a good job doing appliance repair and property maintenance. He works for a well respected company and even with having a great employer and even making at present well over the current minimum wage, he would need TWO and a Half Paychecks to pay one month of rent if he chose to rent one of the apartments in which he works! I am not an economist and I don’t study labor or income statistics, but what I do know is the math of my life…why was it “fair” that in the time of my mom and dad’s start of life together one week of pay paid for one month of rent for a young couple starting out and for some reason, it now is “outrageous” to some that one month of rent would be paid by one week’s pay for a young couple starting out now???? WHERE did it go wrong?? WHEN did it change?? WHY is it some sort of flighty fantasy that wages should grow with expenses in a civil and just society??

When I have tried to talk to some people about why I think a minimum wage of $15 an hour is reasonable in this time, I have been told “it’s ridiculous that somebody working at Burger King would make $15 an hour.” When I then ask why, I never get an answer. Someone has to make the food and serve the food…someone has to scan the celery at Aldi, someone has to sweep the floor at the mall, there are jobs that are done every single day in every single town by people who never miss a day of work and those very same people can’t live where they work and can’t have the kind of life my mom and dad were able to have…If a person has a full time job at Burger King, or Aldi, or the mall, where should that person live? Where could that person live? If they were a 24 year old recently married man, if he lived in my town, two full weeks of pay would still not be enough to pay for one month of rent of his apartment. When my mom and dad got married they had a car, car insurance, fuel for the car, food, electricity, and money enough left over every month to start making a life together, and money enough left over each month to start SAVING MONEY TO BUY A HOUSE. If you have to use two full paychecks to make your rent, then that leaves less than two full paychecks for car insurance, fuel for the car, food, electricity, and THERE IS NEVER ANY MONEY LEFT OVER TO START SAVING FOR ANYTHING…well, you see where I am going with this…why do people think it was fine for young couples to make a living wage in 1966, by this I mean, wages were such that they were in keeping with the expenses of life, so that a young couple in their twenties could get married, afford their rent, afford to then buy a house, and then afford to have babies, and then keep on moving “up in the world” but that young couples today should not make wages that would afford them those same life experiences and opportunities?? To be able to live in this world now, and have money left over each month to save to keep moving up in the world, should not be seen as extreme. There is nothing “fair” about an entire generation that has to work just as hard as their grandparents but can never, and will never, be able to afford the kind of life their grandparents did.

I think it is fantastic that Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world, his company literally has changed all of our lives for the better, but what good is it to be the richest man in the world if the people who pack orders in your warehouses can’t afford to live in the town where they work?? There is an Amazon fulfillment center out near Trenton and a one bedroom apartment is about $1600 a month there, so you can work there in Florence, NJ but can you really live there if you work in a warehouse for Amazon? Why is it perfectly acceptable for Jeff Bezos to make $33,000 a week, but not okay for Jim Smith or Jane Jones to make at least $600?? I don’t see how we the people are ever going to be less divided if the gap between the haves and the have nots does not narrow some.

I took enough classes in college in economics, statistics, history, criminal justice, feminist theory, and accounting, to understand that there will always be poor people and always be rich people and that there will always be a huge gap between the richest and the poorest but what is wrong with the middle, the in-between, the regular people, being able to earn a wage that makes a life that is livable? Should a person have to spend their whole adult life struggling even when they work full time?? Should hard working people have to worry every single month of their entire adult lives that they will have enough money to pay all of their expenses every month, month after month until they die??? That is what it’s like living paycheck to paycheck…some months taking from your right hand to pay your left hand, AND for many millions of adults RIGHT NOW IN YOUR OWN NEIGHBORHOOD ON YOUR OWN STREET, people who have never been out of work are out of work…people who have never been to a food pantry or collected unemployment are getting food from local food pantries and collecting unemployment. Now is not a time for greed, now is a time for humanity, civility, and a desire to see hard working people thriving in this country and not suffering. I am making a sweeping generalization here, but I think that there is no thriving to be had when one is worried every single day about living. If one works full time and still does not earn or have enough money to live, I imagine there is little to look forward to, when it is so glaringly obvious that life can’t seem to get better, when it appears that there is not any way to ever get ahead, life is terrifying. Where is there any joy to grow as a person when there is fear and worry day in and day out???

Should the man who helps to bathe your father in the hospital, or the woman who helps get him to his lung scan in the radiology department have to work all day and then go work at a night job just to afford rent and a car and basic items for living?? It seems cruel, for someone to work so hard and have no way whatsoever to get ahead. In New Jersey right now a certified nurse assistant makes an average of $29,700 a year and by that math three paychecks a month are needed to pay one month of rent. This is not a person sitting around the house all day watching crap television or playing video games…this is a person who went to school for training for a job to work in a hospital and care for our sick and dying family and neighbors and working in that hospital full time does not even afford her the opportunity to go home after work to get a shower and rest her feet and maybe share a meal or laugh with her kids…I don’t know how to change the world and I don’t know how to make the world better but I believe in my heart that a person who works full time should not have to be terrified of homelessness.

I well understand that in a society there will always been wealthy people and there will always be poor people. There will always be drug addicts sleeping under overpasses, and there will always be mentally disturbed people who are homeless, and there will always be criminals in and out of the prison system. I am well aware that there are always going to be folks on the fringe of society, but what is a society when the hard working people who make up more than half of it work and work and work and never get ahead??? I am more than willing to pay $0.50 cents more for a gallon of Tide if it meant that the person stocking the shelf at Target did not have to work two full time jobs just to afford his rent. I am more than willing to pay $1.00 a month more in car insurance so that person doing the data entry work at Allstate doesn’t have to then go to her night job at Wawa just to afford her rent. I am more than willing to pay another $0.10 cents a cup for coffee if it means that the person making the coffee can work full time at her job and have a stable home. These are very small changes in a society, in an economy, that benefit everybody. Wouldn’t you feel better at night knowing that most of your neighbors were okay?? Wouldn’t you feel better at night knowing that the bank teller who does your deposit on Friday and the young man pumping your gas on Saturday are thriving in the community in which you all live??

I don’t write any of this because I have any answers at all, but I do write this because we as a society need answers, and we as a society should care, a lot about the people in our neighborhoods, and I truly believe that if at least we ask the questions we can discuss options, and find ways to make a place that is more fair for all. There has to be a way for the majority to thrive and prosper, and if we have to pay a little bit more for Tide and car insurance, bread and Netflix, then so be it. SOMEWHERE there has to be a kink in the chain that we can smooth out, so that 30 year olds don’t have to live in the basement of their childhood home, and so that families can eat dinner together and not have one or both parents working two full time jobs just to keep a roof over them all. I do not have a magic wand to fix what I think needs fixing, but I think that if qualified and capable people put their heads together, in an effort to make life better for the bulk of the people, all of us people will benefit. Failure to thrive doesn’t do any good to anybody.

Purple People

It is only right that purple is my favorite color. It is the mix of red and blue, hot and cold, fire and rain. I am a blue woman from a red family who lives in a red town in a red county in a blue state, purple is me. Long before the orange one, as I will forever now call him, I wrote and said that it is very hard being a liberal when you grow up in a conservative family and community. My ideas and concerns were often mocked, and I was teased at times that I was a “pinko commie” and while it was sometimes funny, it was most of the time not funny at all, because my ideas and concerns did not feel, or seem radical in any way whatsoever. My ideas and concerns seemed to always come from a deep well of kindness to others and an empathy for those who did not have what I had.

We all, well 81,283,485 of us, are in agreement that wanting justice for all, and quality affordable healthcare for all, and equal opportunities for all, and not to want to be an embarrassment to the rest of the modern world is not radical, it is human, it is decent. We all, well 81,283,485 of us, are in agreement that empathy and compassion for those less fortunate, or for those who did not have the same opportunities we did, and a desire to help them in basic, civil, humanitarian ways is not radical, it is human. We all, well 81,283,485 of us, think that “people are people” and that lying to them day after day, and convincing them to believe provably false information does not a lick of good for any of us or any of them.

I had the television on at the house where I was working last week, so I listened in real time as the son of the orange one tried to get an angry crowd angrier. He told many lies in a revved up way and even through a television screen, 200 miles away, I could feel the tension growing…then later I watched and listened to the orange one tell lots of angry people more lies to make them more angry, and then he told them to fight…if you tell a person a lie, over and over and over, and they begin to believe the lie, it is my opinion that they will do anything to continue to believe it, even when there is plenty of evidence to prove it untrue.

It is sort of like a bad husband; if he cheats on his wife, over and over and over, but swears that he didn’t, and brings her flowers and keeps her in a nice house and tells her she is imagining things, and that he loves her and would never hurt her, she will allow herself to believe that even when her AT&T text log on her bill shows her otherwise…she wants to believe that he loves her and is true to her. It is exactly this, in my opinion, that has happened to 74,223,744 registered voters in the United States…They were told that brown people were taking their jobs and raping their daughters and were criminals costing them money, and they were told that black people were ruining their neighborhoods and bringing down their real estate appraisals, and they were told that he was great, and was going to make the country great and that he had tremendous ideas because he was a tremendous business man and was going to make them all winners…AND SO EVEN WHEN THEIR OWN EYES AND OWN EARS SHOWED THEM EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY, THEY BELIEVED HIM.

I have felt, over these last four years, that “it” could not get much worse, and then, sometimes daily it felt exactly that; worse than the day before. I have felt, over these last four years, that people I deeply cared about and liked very much, neighbors, friends, and family, would read what I read, heard what I heard, and saw what I saw and realize that they were being bamboozled…but that is not what happened. Every day to and from work I saw more bumper stickers and flags and signs in my red town in my red county in my blue state, telling me that these neighbors, friends, and family were not reading what I was reading nor hearing what I was hearing and definitely were not seeing what I was seeing…how could they?? If they were, they could not possibly still be thinking that the orange one was great, or that he was doing a tremendous job, or that he cared at all about them in any way whatsoever. To write that I have felt sad these last years is terribly understated. It is totally fine to live in a family where I like mint chocolate chip and everybody else likes vanilla, or I like bar-b-q pork and they all only like chicken…those are differences that don’t matter in the scheme of things, but when your ideas and beliefs are in such total opposition really, it means that you don’t talk about current events together, you don’t laugh about a news story together, you don’t discuss policy or laws or court cases together, and as a purple person for whom these things matter, this has been very sad to me.

Today starts the last weekend of the administration of the orange one and I believe in my heart and soul that all of the world will be better off without the full-of-himself liar in the white house. I believe in my heart and soul that all of the world will be better off with the husband of a bright and smart and educated woman, who seems to be genuinely happy and in love with her and their family. I believe in my heart and soul that the world will be better off with a man who truly seems to have empathy for people less fortunate or who have suffered loss or hardships, and who can articulate a clear plan for a path forward out of the mess that has been these last four years. These are character traits one would look for in a mate. Would YOU WANT a husband who is a known cheater, liar, and bankrupted multiple times?? Would you want a husband who thinks that white supremacy isn’t a problem?? Would you want a husband who makes fun of a disabled reporter and who has had multiple charges or sexual misconduct spoken against him?? Call me too picky, but I would not want that man as my husband and I absolutely would not want him as my president…yet many people did…so what does that say about people?? I will move forward the only way I know how…I will know in my heart that my assessment of this person was spot on from the beginning, and I will hope that the next four years are bright and healthy for us all, and I will forgive those who were so misguided and duped because people are people and we all have flaws and I will simply hope that they choose better next time…purple people are like that…we want a mix of blue and red that makes the world more beautiful.

People are people, so why should it be, You and I should get along so awfully? So we’re different colours and we’re different creeds, And different people have different needs. It’s obvious you hate me though I’ve done nothing wrong & I’ve never even met you, so what could I have done? I can’t understand
What makes a man Hate another man Help me understand…And now you’re punching and you’re kicking and you’re shouting at me, I’m relying on your common decency, So far, it hasn’t surfaced but I’m sure it exists, It just take a while to travel from your head to your fist…People are people, so why should it be You and I should get along so awfully?

” Nous sommes nos cicatrices ” We are our scars…

“I’d never want to fully erase what makes me me.”  I read this sentence recently and realized the writer truly expressed, albeit briefly, what I have been blogging about for the last 13 years…I neither speak French nor read it, but she shared this phrase that spoke to me and I love the truth of it, …Nous sommes nos cicatricesI have many scars, countless really if you added them all up as I am now a 53 year old woman.  Many scars, most probably, are because of terrible decision making on my part, several are indeed from unfortunate events, a few, thank goodness,  from the hand of another…  2020 seems to have scarred many people in many different ways and some of those scars are so deep they will become wounds that never heal…regardless of the scar; emotional, financial, physical, we own them forever and it sometimes can take more than our lifetime allows to heal them, but we all still try, don’t we?  To heal…

I know many scarred people.  I know many scarred people who have deeper scars than I do.  The depth of their wounds does not diminish the pain of mine, and the lightness of mine does not make theirs any worse, we can’t compare pain and suffering really, it’s too subjective.  What hurts my boyfriend is not what hurts me.  What hurts my mother or my sister or my daughter is not necessarily what hurts me, but all of our scars and pain are valid and they shape, like it or not, the person we ARE, and too often, the person we spend our life trying to get away from or not to be.  Some people wear masks and costumes to hide them…the flawless diamond wedding band and the big house with the wrap around porch and the shiny Jaguar in the driveway and the Louboutin heels in the walk-in-closet can be good cover for a crappy marriage to a cheating husband who is a jerk and a liar …the jacked up truck loaded with flags and bumper stickers, oh “don’t tread on me” can be a cover up for feelings leftover from a verbally abusive and emasculating father…masks come in many forms.   “Masks” are like a band-aid, & the wound is still there and the scar will never go away…but people still try.

I feel like in this new year ahead, knowing full well that so many people are suffering, it is as good a time as any to give our own selves a break.  It feels awful to think this, “well look at his life, gosh mine doesn’t seem so bad now”  however, when it is time to go easy on yourself, sometimes that sort of compare and contrast is needed.  Come to terms with the scars we have, accept that everybody we know has them too, and be okay with all of them.  They have formed us over time to be THE PEOPLE WE NOW ARE.  If you are happy with yourself, your choices, your behaviors, your beliefs and ideologies by all means, keep doing what you are doing, but if like many of us, there are things you do not like about your self, your person, or your life, well, what better time than a new year to make the changes that you wish to make. 

There are children suffering so terribly right now that I can’t even think too hard about it without crying…there are families terrified right this second that because they have not been able to pay their rent for months on end they are about to be planning to live in their car, and there are families right now who have been fighting and arguing over money every day for nine months now that their kids can’t remember the last time anybody laughed or smiled…there is so much that is amiss in the country around us that if you have the good fortune to be employed, housed, fed, and secure in your life, you should not be thinking about any of your scars right now at all…you should be just feeling lucky and happy and try as hard as you can to spread those positive feelings because I swear there is somebody who needs them desperately.  Yes, we are our scars, but we are also our healing, and if you are not suffering right now I beg of you to spread some joy and some light and some peace, in any way that you can, because it spreads and it grows and there are people all around whose scars are making their lives so terribly dark, your little ray of light might truly make a difference, how ever so small, and help them to heal…

When hope becomes a love story…

“You make loving fun” might be a lyric from a Fleetwood Mac, song but it could be the anthem for the last eight years of my life…the universe tossed me a Filet Mignon, when really I might have been happy with a Stouffer’s salisbury steak tv dinner!!  I was “done” with relationships, and thought that it would be fine if I was not again ever part of a couple, but then, suddenly, my heart was all aflutter.  When you say “I’m done,” when referring to relationships, you don’t always mean you are done…perhaps you mean that you are done with the months long debacle of gas-lighting that you had recently ended.  Or perhaps you mean you are done with the long term relationship that you ended before that, that was filled with kindness and friendship, but was not the kind of love you had always imagined for yourself or believed you deserved…Perhaps saying “I’m done,” one early summer night, full of woeful contemplation, sitting on your favorite south facing step and counting stars, is really pleading, praying if you will,  “Please universe, show me something…throw me a bone here!”  I sometimes like to think about the spell that the girls make in Practical Magic…I sometimes like to think that I had anything to do with the magic man who came into my life, but really, I don’t think I did anything but hope…

I was done, and to be honest with myself, I had been less than happy for a long time.  For years I wanted someone to look at me like Edward looked at Bella.  For years I wanted someone to help me be the fullest version of myself like Felipe did for Elizabeth.  For years I wanted someone to make me feel like I had found my true match like Mr. Ferrars did to Elinor.  When reading has been a great pleasure of your life, there becomes a strange craving if you will,  for real life to be like something you’ve read…I would sometimes grin while reading and think; if a character exists in these pages, he could exist in real life…magic happened for me, with the spark and butterflies, just like in a love story, where unexpectedly a woman whose soul needs to be unfurled meets a handsome, high-energy drummer, with a smile that lights up her spine and makes her toes tingle, as he arrives for a first date that simply never ends…when hope becomes a love story IS my story, our story, the story…

This handsome and fun musician will tell you that I chickened out three times on planned meetings.  It is harsh to write that I stood him up, but that is what I did, three times, yes I was sorry, but maybe another time…he could have thought me too much trouble but yet, he persisted, and it still makes me smile to think that he did not give up on me, give up on the potential for an ‘us.’  I had said I was done but it seems that I didn’t mean it after all.  This handsome and fun musician will agree that we’ve had our ups and downs, both of us have our share of Mea Culpa moments, but both of us will say that we feel that we’ve created a friendship, and romantic relationship, that is solid, and that the good times have been 99% and the bad times only one…We might very well grow old together, or we might not be together by next July, both things are possible.  We might get to travel in our later years, or I might be run over by a pie wagon this weekend, both things are possible.  Everything we might have ever hoped for is possible.  AND also none of it could happen.  Every day together we hope for another day together tomorrow.  When you do not give up hope, anything is possible.




Is this love?

My mom and dad had their 54th wedding anniversary yesterday.  There are things and people I liked five, 10, and 15 years ago, that I don’t like now…I think it’s fabulous that my mom and dad have loved each other for 54 years…how did they do it??  I am SOoooo different in so many ways now at 52 than I was at 25, and I can not imagine how life would have been had I fell in love with a boy and got married at 21, as my mom was, and at 75 was still married to him and still loved him deeply as my mom is…This is a poorly constructed thought, but I have been having a terrible time trying to get my brain and the thoughts and the words to all sync up.  I simply find it marvelous, and also believe it mighty difficult to achieve; to want to keep loving a person for 54 years, because really, it’s a gargantuan feat, what my parents did, are doing, will be doing, until death parts them…

A handful of my friends from high school are still married to their teenage sweethearts, and a handful of my friends from high school still have parents who are still married…both groups of people are rather small…it’s big, to have love that lasts isn’t it??  I think about that song by Van Halen, “I want the best of both worlds”…in the beginning couples want fun and laughter, and physical attraction, but later they also want stability and security and peace of mind…I feel like having the best of both worlds is what is so unattainable for most of us…the boys who I found attractive were never the ones who would be good husbands or fathers or “providers,” and I have heard many men woefully lament that the “hot chicks” were good to look at but they could not hold a significantly meaningful conversation and were not good cooks…These are indeed sweeping generalizations, and totally gender stereotypes which I don’t like to perpetuate, but the fact is, lasting relationships are not easy to create and nurture and I suspect they are not at all common…I feel like most people I know have been divorced, which I suppose is the norm, and figuring out HOW to make love last, and HOW to continue to care about a person as you both change and age, and HOW to handle the stumbles and errors of being human, AND at the end of the day STILL CHOOSE THIS ONE PERSON, is a life trick that not many of us know…

I am certain that there are things about my mother that drive my dad crazy, but you would not ever know of it…his eyes sparkle when he laughs with her and he has never said an unkind word to her.  He STILL chuckles and says, “she’s the best wife I ever had” whenever I make a snarky remark about something that irked me…he fell in love with her and he chose her and he promised to love her for all of his life and he has done so…what woman would not feel blessed and lucky to have that in a father.  My mother has said for all of the years of my life that she was friends with all the local guys but they all went to the bars on Friday after work with their paychecks and cursed, and they were not what she wanted in a husband…I know enough women who grew up with terrible fathers to know that my gratitude is not misplaced;  that my mother had the good sense to choose a good man to create a family with IS A GIFT.  My sister and I do not agree on very much, but on this, I would guess we are in complete harmony.

I have said it to them and to others, that no two people seem more perfect for each other than my mom and dad. I find being around fussy eaters VERY ANNOYING but my parents are both fussy eaters and literally eat the same food every day, at the same time.  THIS would be a total deal breaker for me in a relationship but for them, it is just another thing that makes their relationship seem easy.  They both love their house and their yard and the same music, they are both homebodies, and seem perfectly content with their lifestyle. My love of home is a characteristic that I do get from them, but I also love to go out to dinner, or to dinner parties, or to try new things for dinner, or to meet new people at a dinner party or to chat up a couple at a bar, or go to a concert, or to…or to…or to…which is not at all like either of my parents.  We used to have a sign in our house, in the hallway, when I was a teenager that read, The greatest gift a man can give his children is to love their mother, and even though I am going to be 53 years old this fall, I can tell you, it is probably the truest statement…the love that my parents have for each other is one of the greatest gifts they ever gave me…to be part of a loving family for all of my life, Yes, that is love.


Any day, or every day, is Mother’s Day

I have a friend who is grieving, her mother died three weeks ago.  I have many friends who have been missing their mothers for many years.  I live with a man who has missed his mother since he was only 15, and yet my father had his mother until he was 75.  Some of my friends miss their mothers with the rawness and ache now, years later, that they felt initially when their mothers died, it has not eased for them, the missing…It is a rare day for me to go 24 hours without talking to, or texting with, mine.  I know women who wanted to be mothers but couldn’t make it happen.  I know women who did not want to be mothers and were diligent to never let it happen.  I know women who had good, generous, loving mothers, and I know women who had cruel, harsh, and hard mothers.  I have known men who were, or are,  practically best friends with their mothers, and I have known men whose relationships with their mothers were minimal, or required formality at best. I know many women my age who are well aware that their time with their mothers is coming to an end, sooner rather than later…that’s a hard pill to swallow, the knowing, but we do all know that we do all die, sometime, someway… I didn’t want to be a mother, at the time it was happening to me, it’s painful to be honest, but nothing was “right” about any of it, but when I heard the words, “it’s a girl,’ it’s what I wanted most in the world…to be this girl’s mother.  It is still, all these decades later, one of the greatest joys of my life; knowing her, this woman, my neighbor, my daughter, my dearest one…

There are so many different kinds of mothers and ways in which they perform the job of mothering, and when you really think about it, we all just end up with the one we get…some have been very lucky and some have not.  I have heard stories over the years, as I know people who are teachers and nurses, about children who desperately needed a good mother, but didn’t have one.  I have also heard stories about mothers who are so good at the “job” that they should, or could, offer classes!  Not every woman who becomes a mother should be one, this is a fact that we all well know.  Some learn by doing from the first hour, their animal instinct kicks in, and some have learned by doing from the time they were ten and started babysitting, or had helped with a younger sibling.  Some women are cut out for it and some just find their way through it.  It is, just like as in life, different for everyone.

I don’t know one woman who is a good mother who has not exasperatedly wailed in wonder, “what did I get myself into?” and I don’t know one woman who is a good mother who has not looked upon the sleeping face of her child and sighed in gratitude, “what did I do to deserve this level of love?”  My heart hurts this time of year for those who are missing their mothers, or who wished to be mothers, or had bad ones…I am not any of these people.  I have a mom, I got to be a mom, and my mom and I navigated life pretty well and my daughter and I navigated life pretty well, and she is navigating life pretty well with her own girls…Like most “holidays” I think they are profit related, created for the economy, because a day like Mother’s Day is a bit silly…when you are one, you ARE ONE EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.  When you have a good mother, you appreciate it for every single day of your life, and I suspect, if you’ve had a bad one you care not to think of her on mother’s day, or most days for that matter.

My mom and I disagree about a lot of things.  We agree about a lot of things too.  I think that finding the balance, as I always say, finding common ground, is how we best get through life now, now that she is a great-grandmother, their GG, and I am a Nana, as we watch my daughter start to manage the rough years, as we both remember all too well.  My daughter’s girls are soon to be 15 and 13; to keep loving them hard and raising them with love and rules, and yet letting them explore living and growing on their own, making their own mistakes and taking responsibility for their actions and their choices, picking them up and dusting them off when they stumble, oh it is so hard…the hardest bits of motherhood, as most any mother will tell you, are for my daughter, coming now…it is really hard to love a person so much when you don’t like a lot of things that they do, or that they say, but still we keep loving them, and if you are lucky, like we were…you end up someplace where there is an ease, as we have found in our own family…my mom and I get along quite well now, we don’t talk much about that which divides us and I focus on what I love about her, and she focuses on what she loves about me, and we try not to let the “other stuff” color our world too much.  My daughter is one of my favorite people and her daughters are the sunshine of my life.  Every day is mother’s day in our family because “mothering” is a ‘job’ that never gets a day off, never has a vacation, never has closed office hours, never too busy to be bothered, never not available…we are FOR EACH OTHER, for every minute of every day for the rest of our breaths.  That is just the way it is.  Mother’s Day is every single day when you love the women who are your women.

Out of my mind and also mindful

Some things have changed for EVERY single one of us, and EVERYthing has changed for some of us.  I have had so much on my mind since the end of February, and so much to say, but have tried to keep from going out of my mind and just tried to remain mindful.  I listened to doctors and government officials from China in January and I listened to doctors and government officials from Italy in February.  I listened for weeks as most of the whole world paid attention to what was happening on the planet, yet far from here and wondered, time after time, when “here” was going to pay attention.  I am a devoted listener to NPR and I contribute annually to WHYY in Philadelphia, my local NPR station, and count on BBC World News as one of my many sources of information.  I like facts and data and then try, very hard at times, to form my own opinion about the facts and the data that have been presented to me.  I formed many opinions in February about what seemed to be happening, and my significant other and I had many conversations about world news and world happenings over the many weeks before mid March.  And then in mid March everything changed.

Anyone who follows my blog, or read any of my writings back in 2016, knows full well how I feel about the current president and administration in the United States.  I am thankful that purple is my favorite color as I am a blue woman from a red family who lives in a red town in a blue state…my whole life seems to be filled with differences of opinion which is why, in general, and with the people to whom I am related in particular, I seldom talk about things that make me separate from the people I know.  A friend of mine wrote the other day, about the current president, “I hate him with the white hot hate of 1,000 burning suns” and that is a sufficient summation for me to share here.  I have neither the energy nor the interest in reiterating that which is already known…BUT what is unknown is “what now?”  Where do we go from here?  This place, this scenario, none of us wanted to be in, and yet are experiencing every day…what happens now is the question that makes me go both out of my mind and keeps me mindful every single day.

How much longer do I have to wait to wrap my arms around my granddaughters??  How much longer do I have to wait to sit at my dining room table and share a bottle of wine with my daughter??  How much longer do I have to wait to be on my yoga mat in the yoga studio that I love??  How much longer do I have to wait to share a meal at a table with our friends??  THESE are the questions that I have right now…but you know what keeps me mindful??  “How much longer will my husband be on the ventilator?”  “How many more days of half a meal a day do my kids have to have before I get my first unemployment check?”  “How high does my grandmother’s temperature have to get before she calls an ambulance?”  “How many days will my brother have to wait to see if his test comes back positive?” …those questions that OTHERS are asking…so many people are scared and so many people are suffering.  At present I am not one of them, and for that I feel both grateful and guilty.  EVERY day I say to myself, “if I had gotten my dream job in the prosecutor’s office back in the 90’s I would be unemployed now”  EVERY day I ask myself, ‘what would I do if I was a single waitress and had three school aged children’  …my effort to give thanks every day is grounded by the knowledge that I know people who have tested positive for this virus, and I know people who know people who have died from this virus, and I know people who are terrified about what the next weeks will be like because of all the changes in our work and social lives that have come to be from this virus.  AND EVERY day I wonder how it has come to be that the universe sees fit, thus far, that I have no suffering, no upset, and no worry from this virus…yet.

I tried to donate money multiple times to the NJ relief fund, during and after the concert on Wednesday and the web site and the phone lines were jammed up each time I tried, so I went to ACME instead and bought $100 worth of food that I am going to drop off to a local food bank on Monday morning.  I put together two days worth of breakfast/lunch/ and dinner for a family of four.  I feel like it is the least I could do, for somebody who is suffering when I am not suffering.  I ordered masks from my neighbor’s nephew in Baltimore who put his business on hold to make them.  I feel like it is the least I could do, for somebody who had to stop doing their job when I didn’t have to stop doing mine.  My daughter is a school teacher and her husband is a builder, her ex-husband is a mail carrier and his wife works for a law office, all four of them are still able to do their jobs, and get paid and feel that sense of security that so many, too many, have lost.  My parents and my aunt and uncle, all nearing age 80 and all retired and all so far healthy; the four closest members of my family are so far avoiding all of the worry that many older people have.  They may vote for republicans, which I hate, but they are not unwell, which I love.  I don’t know how I’ll feel later today about anything…I do know that right now how I feel is thankful, that so little in my life has changed, and I guess I just want to let the world know how sad I am, and mindful of that, while so many are going out of their minds with terrible uncertainty.  Many people have said and written, we are in this together, but we are not…some of us are inexplicably lucky and some of us are devastatingly suffering.  I guess mostly I just want to write that we should try, harder when necessary, to be kind to those who need it, because the truth is, tomorrow could change everything for every single one of us…


Swiffers or Steam…a lesson perhaps on what is on the surface is not necessarily as important as what is underneath…

On the surface, one might think my parents and I have nothing in common, other than DNA.  We do not watch the same news channels or listen to the same talk radio station. They do not like to try new foods and I will literally try any food, any time, at least once.  They vote red and I vote blue.  On the outside we appear to be completely different, but below the surface we are so much alike…my strong work ethic is because of my parents, my ability to find a missing $0.03 three cents over the course of a year while balancing my checkbooks is because of my parents, sewing on a button when it has fallen off, or doing the chores at hand at home when they need doing, and trying not to put things off, that whole “stitch in time saves nine” way of life, is because of my parents.  When I find myself with any income more than my standard monthly budget,  where some women might go to Nordstrom for a shopping spree, I put it right towards my mortgage principal.  I am certain these sorts of behaviors, the deeper parts of me, are because of my parents. We disagree on MANY, oh so very many things, but it isn’t everything, it is just a portion of the whole…

A Valentine to the world if you will, is this; we must find a way to have common ground with our families, our neighbors, and our acquaintances.  Steam cleaning gets to the ground-in dirt, and swiffers get rid of the dusty top-surface-layer…life is deep, love and friendship is too, and common ground is where things matter…not in the dusty top-surface-layers.  We must try to find those things which join us, and bring us joy together, rather than focus on those things which make us bicker and feel disconnected.  We can absolutely loathe a policy, an administration, and a president, but we should not loathe our families, our neighbors, and our acquaintances because they don’t think as we do about these things.  It has not always been this way, and it won’t always be this way; much like in years or decades of the past when the policies, administration, and president was one we loved and supported or favored, but they didn’t.  It can’t be ‘you are wrong and I am not wrong’ all of the time, always one direction.  I think they are wrong now, and they thought I was wrong then, but now is not forever…this feeling of being on one side or the other does not last… we are, like it or not, all on the same side as occupants of planet earth and members of the human race…we are in this together.

My daughter loves country music.  I do not like it at all.  You know what we both like?  Jewelry and Sangria.  We don’t argue about the fact that she really loves country music and I really hate it, in fact we don’t talk about it at all.  In the big picture, her love of country music and how I loathe it, has nothing to do with our relationship.  My neighbor on the corner has a red MAGA flag on her fence and I have a yard filled with Buddha sculptures of all shapes and sizes, we have almost nothing in common, so it would seem, this lady and I, but come summer time you will see that we both love flowers and tending to our properties, because it’s obvious from how our yards look that we both care, a lot, about where we live…her surface and my surface are not alike, but I try to see that the deeper part of who she is and what matters to her, is more like me than different from me.  From the bottom of my heart, I beg you to care less about what you are seeing and hearing on the surface, and to try to smile on your brother and try to love one another…

I can talk or write about ALL the many things I do not like about the current president, the policies, the things I have heard with my own ears and read with my own eyes, and those who love him and the things he says will simply counter with all that they believe to be true, and they will point out where they think I have been misinformed.  I can show them all the fact-checking data that has been gathered, over these years and show them where they are being terribly misled, and are by choice “believing provably false information.”  I can do all these things, and it will not matter because they like the president they like and they believe what they want to believe.  Period.  JUST LIKE I LIKED the presidents I liked, and the policies that I thought were smart and good, and I too believe what I want to believe.  It goes both ways.  We can’t make people think the way that we want them to think, about anything, because those beliefs and ideologies are like cement; theirs are theirs and mine are mine, and I have learned that most people, when they have come to adulthood, are not easily swayed to “another side” no matter what.  I know I certainly could not be, and they know they could not be.  Period.  I have come to understand that this is, in the simplest terms,  no different than the fact that I think mint chip ice cream is the BEST ICE CREAM, believe me, it is better than all the other flavors, it is the best there is available, it is a perfect flavor.  I know this, and I want them to know this.  BUT…they like vanilla, they don’t believe me that mint chip is better, or the best, or the better choice than the one they are choosing.  It’s okay.  We don’t have to argue about it every day, or every time we are together, or stop talking about other things because they like vanilla and I don’t.  I don’t have to daily share data that clearly demonstrates that vanilla is not in fact the best, that, when compared to other flavors it’s not even mediocre.  The fact that I think it’s awful and have data to support my argument that there are MANY choices that are MUCH better, doesn’t matter because they like what they like and I like what I like, AND I don’t have to make them like what I like in order to like them.

At yoga class, despite listening to music about peace and truth, and being one with one another, and hearing readings by Thich Nhat Hanh and Buddha, I am pretty confident that not every person in class has the same likes and dislikes that I do. I am certain that as strongly as I feel about the right a woman has to choose whether or not to maintain or terminate a pregnancy, there is probably a woman in class who believes just as strongly that I am wrong, and that her ideas about when “life begins” is the only truth that matters, because it matters to her…but get this, when she is breathing next to me, and we are both trying to maintain a difficult pose, her opinion about my thoughts on feminist theory and planned parenthood funding has nothing to do with my thoughts about her anti-choice agenda, our common ground at that moment is that we are both working very hard to not fall over.  In a perfect world we would all think that the same things matter, but the world is not perfect and we humans are not perfect.  THIS is my love letter to all…we don’t have to like the same things to like each other.  We don’t have to believe that the same things are important in order to be friendly to people.  Those ideas that we do share, those activities that we do all enjoy, those situations that make us all laugh, these are the meaningful solid ground, common ground things that matter, not the surface ‘dust’ that can easily be erased by a sweep of a swiffer.

Where it’s at

Where it’s at…Turns out,  it’s on my mat…A few weeks ago one of my yoga teachers was struggling with a difficult decision and she commented that sometimes “life gets lifey,” and for her, reconnecting her brain and body and getting on her mat is where she most feels revived.  I realized that, while I am very new to the practice of yoga, it’s holding true for me too.  I feel most “right” anymore when I am in the yoga studio.  I think to myself, EVERY time I leave a class, “if I could spend hours a day doing this, I would”  THAT is how good it feels to me; my brain and my body equally, and I feel like if I didn’t have to work I would be there every day, and believe me, there are few places I EVER want to be other than in my house!!  We ALL, no matter our gender, wealth, job, or family, have moments when life gets lifey don’t we?? To my ears, and way of thinking, it was one of the best expressions I might have ever heard…it made me think about how important it is to have a place where you feel GOOD when life gets lifey…

Our teachers often read aloud to us at yoga and I love for a class to begin this way because then, if I find my mind wandering during our 75 minutes together, when I go back to my breath, I also go back to the words that were read, and I like thinking about them and what they might mean to me, or for me, or often, how they might alter the way I interact with others. Recently the text was something about “being” where you want to be; living the life you feel proud of, or glad for, or intend to live.  Perhaps it was about authenticity, as I suppose we all read into the readings because we color the words with our own desires or regrets or understanding. We can only comprehend from where we are.  The teacher asked about, and I’m paraphrasing here, “if you were to die today, were you living the life you wanted to be living” and I realized that there is very little that is not what I want it to be…what an amazing thing to think about during the weeks of a new year and after the weeks of thanks, and giving; this time of a year, Thanksgiving and Christmas and then the fresh start of a new calendar page often feels like a jumble of just this, gratitude and generosity.  I have both in abundance.

I have moved into a zone of womanhood that for most of my adult life seemed unattainable or unavailable, and “having it all” sounds so grandiose and I don’t mean it to be…but the reading at yoga made me think really hard about where I am right now, and honestly it’s where there is really very little that needs to change, and what does need changing is totally within my control.  The things I want to be different in my life are things that I have the power to make different.  I am well aware that this makes me unfairly lucky.  I know two very dear friends who right now WANT things to change NOW, in a BIG way, but the circumstances are that these things can’t change, no matter how much they wish otherwise, there is nothing either of them can do to make that happen…it is a feeling of “guilt” that I have sometimes when I speak to both of these women…that they are utterly exhausted from having to deal with difficult circumstances and here I am going to yoga and feeling healed by crystal bowls, taking granddaughters to dance and cheer, coming and going as I please, just flowing through an unfairly easy mid-life at the moment…How marvelous for me, when so many do not have that luxury…too many people are in situations, many through no fault of their own, that they don’t want to be in and can’t fix…how lucky I feel that I am not, at present, one of them.  It makes me deeply empathetic and so grateful…What an extraordinary place to find oneself at mid life.  I am however, WELL aware that at any moment, on any day, this can change…I might feel free at this hour, in this house, but in a split second things could be very different and very uneasy…which I suppose is yet another reason I feel so lucky to enjoy the lovely moments as they come and go through the days of my life.

When life got lifey in my teens and twenties I used to write, feverishly so, for hours in my journals if I needed to, until my mind felt “right” again.  In my thirties and forties I used to do aerobics and kick boxing, and sometimes punch and kick that bag with the ferociousness of a crazy person until my mind felt “right” again.  Here I am now, starting the years of my 50’s and discovering yoga makes my mind feel “right” again even on days when it doesn’t feel wrong in any way at all! Thinking and breathing are two things that we HAVE to do to stay alive and I feel pretty strongly that if I can find a way to do both of them better, that’s a good thing!!! I honestly did not expect to like yoga at all when I first joined, and I had no idea that there would be days that I was dripping with so much sweat my feet and hands would slip&slide, or that I would be strengthening my core and biceps just as much as I used to doing high impact cardio, or as a dancer or cheerleader when I was young.  I had no idea that the minutes of meditation and stillness would be as beneficial as the movement and flow.  I had no idea what yoga classes involved, or that it would help create such changes in me. 

Our family motto about “tomorrow you could be run over by a pie wagon” is something of a joke, but it turns out, by joking about it, I live it. If I died today I would feel pretty great about how hard I loved the people I love, and how hard I worked for the people who employ me, and how hard I tried to be a good daughter, good mother, and good nana…those roles that I have taken very seriously, I think I have performed them well, and with good intentions…I no longer really ever wish to be better than anybody but the me I was yesterday.  When the yoga teacher asked if we were living the life we intended to live, I felt really good about answering, “yes.”  I feel good about the life I am living.  If today was my last day I would feel like I didn’t need to apologize to anybody, or ask for forgiveness for anything, or suffer with the fullness of deep regrets.  What freedom.  What a gift. What magic.  What a thing to discover; the life you are living is a good life.  The values you’ve thought were important to build your moral compass make you feel like you have been responsible for the goodness in your life.  Reflecting on that, on my mat, breath in-breath out, is magic.

My home has always been something of a sanctuary where I feel most right and most true; when my house gets disrupted or things are not where I want them, or how I want them, I feel it physically…I get a splitting headache and I get anxious when I start to sense that the disorder around me is growing and I don’t feel “good” until I fix it.  This might sound odd but it is perfectly normal for me, but these last two years it turns out that on my back, on my mat, is another place where I truly feel “good” and find that I am totally comfortable, and it’s where I feel like I belong…this is a big deal, to me.  We live in a world where it’s often all want-want-want me-me-me busy-busy-busy…on to the next thing…go-go-go…on the mat, breathing, it’s about nothing but being on the mat, breathing. One can be consumed with worries about TOO MANY things to count, one can be consumed with upsets about TOO MANY things to count, but when one is listening to the Sat Nam mantra there is nothing…It loosely translates into being your own truth, and finding that you are at peace with the life you have created when your teacher asks, “if you were to die today,” is a most splendid place to find yourself as you’ve recently started another trip around the sun and a year has ended and a new one has begun.  “I can’t believe I am this old and having this much joy” is a frequent thought for me.  That’s magic. That’s good medicine. I’ve often been told that I seem to always look on the bright side, so maybe that is part of the equation that makes life hard to solve for some people…silver lining seeking 101 might be a more necessary study for us all!