Nana next door

These last 13 years have been counted by skinned knees, thorns and splinters, belly laughs, trampoline flips and cartwheels, jelly fish and bee stings, greenhead bites, training wheels to rollerskates, scars & bumps and bruises…they don’t get skinned knees anymore, nobody bounces on the trampoline anymore…nobody plays store, plays orphanage, plays detective, plays salon, or plays school anymore…the imaginative make believe magic of childhood has not happened in these walls for a couple of years now…nobody dances on the bench anymore, watching herself in the mirror across the room with pretend microphones in their hands…these girls have watched their mother go from bank teller to college student to teacher, and watched her unravel and reboot through two divorces…inside these four walls and under this silver roof, my home has been a place for peace for my granddaughters, through every upset that went on in their walls, and disturbed their peace under their roof next door, my home has been a place for them to find solace…for all intents and purposes, “childhood” as we all define it, for these girls who are the center of my world, is over…

The “baby” of this family, whose nickname has always been “Bug” and who I often call The Little Blonde Wonder who seems to thrive on straight A grades and learning, starts her freshman year of high school, made the varsity cheerleading squad, and is now the tallest of us all. Her sister, the first “baby,” the brunette bombshell who I call Sweet-Ti who was a dancer, until the pandemic, and used to dance like her life depended on it, will be in 12th grade, is contemplating what kind of career she might enjoy working towards, and is going to be driving them to school…a senior and a freshman, finally in the same school again, and for the last time…

The walk down the long driveway to catch the bus as the sun rose each morning behind the cedar trees beyond the bay, and my truck idling at the base of the driveway in the late afternoons to greet smiling little girls, joyfully waving an art project, or an A+ test paper, as they leaped from the bus at the end of the school day, is no longer going to be part of my life…my parting morning words of affirmation, every day, year after year, “Do good work, and be kind” is silenced this year. What I have tried to instill into these girls either has become part of the fabric of who they are or it fell on deaf ears. Time will tell. I am the Nana next door and my “job” is just about over.

As I started to clean the upstairs bathroom in the loft the other day I had a moment of confusion, when I said to myself, “why is the step stool up here” beside the vanity…and in that split second my brain reminded me that I had the second step stool up there because when the children slept over they needed it to reach the sink to brush their teeth…it’s not that I have not noticed the step stool still there over these last years, it’s just that, I suppose I did not think about the fact that not one foot had stepped upon it for years every time I picked it up when I vacuumed…it just was under the sink waiting for a little girl to need it, and that day I took it out to the garage. It’s those little things that kick me in the gut sometimes, the finality of it all…

I went through ALL of the books in the loft a few years ago and again a few weeks ago…some I simply just could not part with and won’t…some were mine from when I was little, some my daughter’s, and some just so beautifully illustrated and with words like magic, I just can’t imagine them in some other house or a recycle bin, so they will remain on the bookshelf until I am dead I suppose. I have gone through the crayons, colored pencils, and markers…I have gone through the pads of drawing paper and coloring books and I have emptied my upstairs of all that I can handle, some of the remnants of childhood just need to remain, though I’m not sure why… maybe because it makes me feel younger than I am…

I know women my age who have children younger than my grandchildren, so I know that I am not old, but some days I feel it…like this weekend, a heavy feeling, a loss if you will, that my Nana-ing duties are rapidly coming to an end and then what am I?? My years of being a Nana Next Door were, are, probably the most important years of my life, so it begs the questions, “what will you do, who will you be, in these next chapters of YOUR life??” I have spent nearly 37 years mothering…my daughter will soon be 37 and if my mom reads this she will chuckle and think, “what the heck?! how do you think I feel I have been mothering for almost 55 years!!” caring for another, others, putting the needs of other people ahead of my own…the women’s unpaid work of this life, doing and doing and doing for people because you love them, and are, at least when it involves the children, trying to help them to blossom into their full potential, trying to guide them by your words and by your examples of how to be the best possible human they can be…

It’s so much on my mind, this uncertainty…and I am well aware, I am still often needed, there are things that the girls and my daughter will need of me and need me to do FOR them, it’s not that I feel useless in any way, but this particular role, this event that happened to me, becoming a Nana to these girls, was, it turns out, one of the best things that ever happened to me…If I open my mind to possibilities that I had not really before considered, perhaps it is soon time for me to blossom into my own full potential, that maybe I had put my own blossoming on the back burner while I was so busy mothering and nana-ing…THIS is a rather exciting revelation…that as the children next door need me less and less, perhaps I can become me more and more…

carousels of time

I am well aware that autumn is not arriving until September 22, but if you have ever been a parent, or around children, or know people who are teachers, you know that Labor Day, especially here at the Jersey shore, marks, for the most part, the end of the summer…and Labor Day is this week and so to me the end of summer is now…It is not time for pumpkins & clove & spice, but it is time for summer to be over…Last night, hours ahead of time, I turned my wall calendar to September and I was feeling pretty excited to be honest, to just be done with this summer…I have not been once to the beach, or watched a sunset or a sunrise, and other than seeing Elton John, no special nights that go down in my HERstory as ones to remember fondly…This was not a good summer and it is fine by me to say “ta-ta” to it!

I did not once walk to the edge of the sand and look out at the horizon line and remind myself that I am very small, my life and my problems are very small, and the world is so big, and so many people I know have big problems and worries that I myself do not. I did not once walk into the crashing waves that smack into your shins with so much force that you have to adjust your balance and squeeze your toes. I did not once take a walk along the shore line and step on sharp unseen broken shells. I did not once fall asleep under the bright sun in my rusty, but useful, beach chair. I did not once utter my pretend narrative, to try to save my $10 for the daily fee by saying, “oh my husband has the beach badges and is walking down to meet me shortly” which, every past season that I say it, makes me feel bad for lying, as I have neither a husband nor a beach badge, but I also hate to spend $10 to sit for three hours in the sun at the beach!

I know people who this summer suffered terrible health scares and diagnoses with frighteningly uncertain outcomes, I know people who unexpectedly had to move, I know people who were blindsided by divorce and break-ups, I know people who found out secret bad things about people they care for & I know people who lost loved ones…I know people who have real problems, big problems, that I myself do not. I am a very “bright minded” person in that I am forever looking for silver linings, the positive perspective, the good in others and in difficult situations or bleak circumstances…always optimistic, always looking for some smidgen of joy, but still, even bright and silver and positive people can sometimes feel bad, and it’s okay.

Today’s blog is a permission slip of sorts; If you feel bad or sad or mad, then feel it. You have permission to feel blah or blue or bereft, even if you normally are a silver lining seeker such as I. You can’t hide from those feelings, those emotions will find a way to creep in and around all of your up-beat-ness, so you might as well address the feelings when they come upon your spirit because the carousel of time just keeps turning and spinning and going round and round, and ignoring the heavy feelings that you feel does not make them “less” or lighter. I think it’s far better to acknowledge the feelings such as, “I think like this has been a really shit of a summer” and work around the thoughts that make you feel this way and then move on from them. You want to let the feelings enter, wash them clean, and then send them right out the door…they are not welcome to linger in your home/head space.

My work is as busy as ever and I work for extraordinarily lovely people, my health is good despite post hysterectomy middle-aged overweightness, I have really good friends and so many different levels of friendships from all different corners of my world, the yoga studios did not close, I got to swim in my daughter’s beautiful pool and lay in the sun a couple of times with her and have great conversations, my home is beautiful and pretty well maintained, despite the fact that I still have two back sides of the house and garage and the shed still to paint, to the eyes of the Amazon delivery van driver and my new UPS delivery man, the house is pretty well maintained and beautiful, but that’s a whole different blog…how the house painter does not get her house painted!! anyway…I got to see the hummingbirds eat at my dining room window feeder every day, I got to see baby deer and bunnies day after day in my west side yard, and luna moths and butterflies & dragonflies of many colors in and out of my shrubs, bushes, flowers, and trees…all things that make me happy about this little neck of woods near the bay that I call home. AND SO it’s not been any one thing that feels bad, or is bad, about this summer, no definitive event or experience or relationship that has been sour, but I did not walk the boardwalk, I did not go to a festival or a fair, I did not go to a bar-b-q, I did no memory making and here at the shore, memories are made in the summer because the winters can be so bitter and gray and so really the overall feeling for me is this; I am glad summer is over and I am looking forward to the next season of my life…I am going to make the very best of what the fall and winter has to offer me and I am glad this chapter will soon come to a close, and I won’t wish to reread it.

Fear Factors

As I shook a little pink Himalayan salt into my apple cider vinegar water yesterday morning I realized that I was actually feeling scared…“scared of going to a yoga class?” asked the pretty reasonable part of my brain…“YES! Quite!” answered the anxiety ridden portion of my amygdala. It is no secret to anyone who actually knows me that joining yoga after my 50th birthday has been one of the best things I have ever done for myself, but I generally take classes that are sort of slow and flow-y and stretch-y, but yesterday I had signed up for one called HOT POWER and I was nervous.

My body’s ability to sense even a half of degree of temperature change is fascinating science really, I literally can walk into my house and in less than a minute feel that my boyfriend has adjusted the thermostat, AND there I was, shaking some salt into my ice water with the advance knowledge that I was shortly going to walk into a room full of people that has the thermostat set to 90 degrees and then do power yoga. I was a little bit scared that I would not be able to keep up, and frankly was a lot of bit scared that I might faint!!!

Now, to be clear, I work outside quite a bit all summer…I have left landscaping jobs where my shorts are soaked as wet as a bathing suit, but that is just part of my job that is expected on a hot sunny day, but to purposefully, on my day off, go to a yoga studio knowing that I am going to be dripping with sweat had me thinking that perhaps I had recently lost a few marbles…However, I have been to this particular studio before, and when I have been in the foyer waiting for my “happy hips” class to begin, the kind of class that is slow and stretchy and mellow I suppose I could write, I have watched as the HOT POWER class ended, how every single person who poured out of the room was smiling, sweat pouring into all of their eyeballs and flinging off of their bodies, very wet with sweat from their heads to their toes, but smiling, wide smiles and joyful faces, every time I was there to witness the exit from the class, and so I often asked myself, how scary could it be if everybody leaves there smiling?? …but still I resisted trying something new…scared I would fall on my face doing some kind of balance pose on sweaty feet, scared I would fall on my face because my sweaty foot slipped, scared that because I would be “new,” everybody would notice if I could not do something they could do…fears, all of them silly, but fears nonetheless.

…AND so on Saturday morning when some people are still asleep, I was shaking pink salt into my Yeti with a slightly shaking hand preparing to do something that scared me. I have read quotes over the years that are supposed to be inspiring that say things like “do one thing a day that scares you” but they never inspire me, and instead make me quite rather appreciate my relatively boring life with very few experiences, activities, or events that could be described as frightening in any way whatsoever!! But, yesterday, I chose to do one thing that scared me…AND you know what?? it was FABULOUS!!! The girl to my left was half my size with the most toned arms I have ever seen, and the lady in front of me was able to bend and move her body like a baker twisting a hot Philly pretzel, and I still felt fabulous…I did not feel “less than” because I was not as limber, or feel “bad” because I have weight to lose, I felt so good because I was doing something new, for myself.

I don’t know if I have ever sweated quite so much in 75 minutes and I am 100% certain that my yoga mat has never been so wet, and my glasses were slipping off my face and the sweat was soaking through my headband and stinging my eyes, but I did not stop, I worked very hard to keep up with the teacher’s calls and I did not quit. My sports bra broke 15 minutes into class and still I kept on going, I was at that moment more “afraid” of stopping my momentum than I was of untamed titties! She called out what to do and I did it. She reminded us to come back to our breath and I did it. She said to do a standing split and then lift our arm and twist and I just did everything I was told and the enthusiasm I felt was odd and exciting, to be so hot and so sweaty, but so on fire!!! I felt like the best version of myself for those 75 minutes …AND if there is a real thing as a “runner’s high” which I have read about but never experienced, I got it, doing hot power yoga on a Saturday morning!! I drove home feeling a buzz, a zing, a pulse like a high I never had…it was euphoric. I liked the experience so much that I am going to do it again next week, and I am pretty sure the week after, and quite possibly, unless it’s a Saturday I have to work, from that day forward, forever, till death do us part. I suppose I might still feel a little hesitant and worried that I can’t keep up with the “regulars” if she starts calling out tricks, but it will be totally worth it, to feel again like I felt after class was over…no fear, no worries, just POWER. I felt strong, I felt confident, I felt fearless. “that’s hot!” and I think I got hooked after one dose!

Dig deep

The depths of disappointment can be bottomless if you don’t catch yourself from falling…dig deep, dive into that which brings you peace and joy…this is what I was thinking yesterday morning as I was watering the planters on my decks…people and news are terrible and if we let ourselves pay too much attention too often to the terrible people and the terrible news it’s easy to find yourself thinking terrible thoughts. Let’s all agree on this, thinking terrible thoughts makes you feel terrible and makes it easy to think that life is terrible. To be fair, for some it is very VERY shitty, but I would venture to guess that there is always something to be glad for or some good to be found, if you make the effort to look.

I am totally aware that some people are depressed, they have a medical condition that means even if things look good to us, looking in, for them everything is heavy…I am all about positivity and light, I mean, I try, day after day after day, to find, and focus on, that which is lovely, but I know that mindset of optimism and high hopes is hard for some people to achieve. I also know that for a person suffering from depression, no matter how feverishly they shovel, they can never dig deep enough to get to the good stuff. I still try to share my light, even with those who keep getting sucked back into the dark.

My life has been very dark, very many times. If I knew how I managed to get “out” I could probably write a self-help book and finally be successful!!! BUT, the truth is, I really don’t know what I did or how I did it… that despite the really hard, very bad periods of my life, I kept thinking “things can only get better” and then things got better…It is certainly obvious that life can’t be terrific and happy and perfect and easy ALL THE TIME, but by that point it can’t be SAD, SCARY, and STINKY all the time. Up and down, in and out, high and low, light and dark…that seems perfectly normal to me, but I understand, and with deep sympathy, that for a person who suffers often from low feelings, it can feel like grim is the new normal, and that makes my heart hurt for those people because grim does not feel very good.

I know people who have been treated terribly by those they loved or trusted, I know people who have been betrayed, I know people who have been hurt in ways I can’t even imagine, and for some of them they have found comfort in food, in alcohol, in drugs, in therapy, in cutting, but I also have know some who have found comfort in music, running, yoga, dance, meditation, singing…THERE is always a way out, even if we don’t see it clearly. I find so much joy from organizing and cleaning things, crocheting baby blankets, reading, watching bees and butterflies in the yard, listening to music, really simple things make me feel really happy. If could bottle the feelings I had yesterday morning, watching the hummingbird moths and butterflies on the butterfly bush and watching the bees on the lavender, and seeing how plump the figs are getting, I would share it with the world, but I have no way to share the joy other to write that you have to at least try to find it. I walked outside to water the planters yesterday and made the choice to wander around the yard before it got too hot, and just take notice of all that was fabulous, all that made me smile, I LOOKED ON PURPOSE for the good, made a choice to find the light. Dig deep, with any kind of shovel you can find, and find a way out of the disappointment. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

Hurry Up! …oh, no wait…slow down, please…

How many times, over my years as the Nana-Next-Door, did I exasperatedly say, likely in a raised voice, “hurry up” or “get your shoes on” or “I told you to get your coat” or any of these sorts of expressions that parents and grandparents utter in the days of the years that make a life…but today, no, today is different… I feel sorry for rushing, sorry for often being in a hurry, or annoyed or fussing over time, and a clock…back then, did it really matter if we were late for the pre-school drop off?? I did then, I do now, work for myself, there was no time clock for me to punch, there was no boss waiting for me to open the doors, if we were late for pre-school drop off and then I was late to drop off the little one to my mom and dad’s house after, back in those days, before I then went to work, who really cared?? What did it really matter?? NOW it’s too late…all of my rushing and worry and hurry, what was it good for?? Today I think, slow down please, and I am sorry for rushing you when I rushed you because now I want you to slow down for me, but you are all revved up with a whole world in front of you…

Today the girl I call SWEET-Ti is 17 years old. SO many songs about 17…Young and Sweet only seventeen and a dancing queen, just like a white winged dove on the edge of seventeen, and the way she looks is way beyond compare, and seriously, whatever you do, don’t listen to the one by Winger, ‘She’s only 17’ or you will want to lock your child (or grandchild) in the attic, and Janis Ian’s song “Seventeen” will break your heart… Julie Andrews had it right, ‘Eager young lads and rogues and cads will offer you food and wine’ …oh, it’s both a happy and weary day for me today. I can still remember so clearly, driving down to North Carolina after work on a Thursday in later spring, or maybe early summer of 2005 to paint the nursery where this baby was going to sleep, and as I got onto I95 north that Sunday, after a weekend of painting and baby’s-bedroom preparations, late in the afternoon, as the sun began to move around to my driver’s side window, tears flowing until I got to Virginia…I just could not even believe that this baby was going to be living in North Carolina and I was going to be here in south Jersey…How would I be able to live with a grandbaby 8 hours away??!!

AND so, I took a month off of work, in July no less, my only busy time of year, to go tend to things when she was born…I wanted to help my daughter fall into motherhood, and I figured it would help her young marriage, to not have the stress, sleeplessness, and worries and exhaustion that newborn infants bring, but mostly I wanted to bond with that baby. The way I saw it was this; if I am the one who gives her her night time feedings and talks to her in the dark on the sofa, and puts her in soft fresh clothes, & eases her discomfort and soothes her tummy burps, then she will know who I am, even if she only sees me a couple times a year…this was my train of thought, to help with her first four weeks of life so that somehow her body and her brain would KNOW me for all of her life. I remember thinking that once she was a few months old I would have my daughter call me and I would read out loud to the baby over the phone at bedtime, reading after bath and before bed was a ritual I had with my daughter until she was practically in middle school and something that mattered, still matters to me, and I thought that I would be fine with reading over the phone to her for all of my life. Little did I know that three years later I would be her next door neighbor! Then I never could have even dreamed of this amazing experience, to be a Nana-Next-Door, oh!!! how many nights, over how many years, I walked a few hundred feet down the driveway to read to her at bedtime…truly one of the greatest joys of my adult life!

She gets her driver’s license tomorrow, and I will be, for the most part, just a person in her periphery. I understand this, this is part of the plan, the role I played was to help my daughter raise her daughters, that was why we built our houses next door to each other, and so I knew the day was coming that she would be off on her own, but it still feels heavy in my heart. I suppose much of my “job” is done, again. We have talked about very important things, and deeply discussed the often uncomfortable discussions and have as open a narrative as one could wish for with a young woman in today’s world, so there’s that. We don’t like much of the same music, but we do like a lot of the same food, and we both love lying in the sun and the beach, and a good yoga session, and she has recently, after a long break, fallen back in love with reading…so we have much in common and I hope that lasts for all of my years left on this earth.

Her eyes are still the same chestnut brown as they were at birth, and she has that same caramel skin, and her snaggle tooth that was so precious as a toddler, grew into a perfect smile, with the help of a local and well loved orthodontist, and when I look at her face I still see the face I used to see in the dark, with the moon shimmering through the sheers on the windows, as we sat on the sofa in the wee hours, for those four weeks, figuring each other out…the face is the same, just matured now I guess, changed but not, that face I could not stop gazing upon for hours and hours and hours during her first month here on earth… It’s a little bit funny, when I think of that first month knowing her, I was in no rush whatsoever to do anything…all I did was dote on her needs and delight in her existence.

I was in no hurry to have her fall asleep, or eat, or get bathed, or burp, or poop, or whatever kinds of things you want an infant to get on with, so you can get on with your day, or get back to bed and try to get some sleep, when you are the mother…no, when you are the Nana of a newborn you really have plenty of time…all the time in the world…and I suppose I am regretting all the times I rushed her during the last many years, but will try now, today at least, to be present in today and I’ll focus my attention to the first 31 days she existed when I gave her every second of my time, and every ounce of my energy, and every beat of my heart. She was my whole world for a whole month, and even though I am not all that important to her now, I think it is still deep within her, that knowledge of knowing how deeply I loved her and still love her. Sometimes when she looks at me, and is not rolling her eyes, or bothered by my old fashioned comments, I feel like she remembers our bonding hours all those years ago, like it’s deep within the cells of who she is, our time together became a part of who she is…All the times I rushed her to hurry up, I just did not realize I guess, that the time I would wish her to slow down would be here so quickly…

Weak week

Today is the “anniversary” of one of the worst days of my life. Three weeks after I graduated high school, on a soft flannel blanket atop a cold steel table, I was told that I was about three weeks “more along” than I thought, because although I got the monthly biological evidence over three cycles that everything was functioning normally and was fine…nothing was fine. I got myself unraveled from the paper gown and got dressed and the kind lady with the kind eyes at the front desk handed me back my $400 and I waited out front on the curb for three hours because my girlfriend was told at 9 o’clock, when she dropped me off, to come back for me at two…she was at the mall, cell phones had not yet been invented, and so for three hours on a hot curb on a hot July afternoon on Route 9 in New Jersey I vacillated between whether or not I should just walk into the busy four lanes of traffic or something else. I did not really have a “something else” but I also had never been one of those suicidal tendencies types of teens. I had not had anything to eat or drink since 6 pm the night before, and to write that I was feeling about as low as a teenage girl, with her whole life ahead of her, and with dreams bigger than her brain could hold, could feel, is quite the understatement.

This July day is 37 years away from that July day, but the feelings that I have about the day are exactly the same. It was one of the worst weeks of my entire life because when you are imagining the life you are going to create for yourself when you finally are “an adult,” and in one afternoon all of your dreams you had for yourself are quashed by a biological mishap, there is very little to happily remember. If you have never wanted an abortion, or never had one, you might have a very specific opinion about them, but that is all they are, your opinion, and your opinion should not have ANYTHING to do with some other female body. I have never had lung cancer, I have never had lupus, I have never had a broken leg, and my opinion on how to treat lung cancer, lupus, and leg bones should have NOTHING to do with your lung cancer, your lupus, or your leg, and in fact, the CORRECT THING FOR ME TO THINK ABOUT THINGS THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH ME, is that I want your lung cancer, your lupus, and your leg bones to be treated with the kind of medical care that you desire and that will be BEST FOR YOU. See, my feelings about things which have nothing to do with my own body, are that I want what is best for you and your body. I have no business thinking that my opinions about what is going on inside of your vessel has anything whatsoever to do with me, you see, I hope you or your loved ones get the care that they wish for…see how that works?? My opinions about chemotherapy and radiation, immunosuppressants, and bone resetting should have no weight, whatsoever, about your care…and yet millions of people think that their opinion about clusters of cells, dividing inside the uteruses of females across the country, is their business. My anger, my fear, and my rage, FRAGE as it is now called, over these last days is valid.

When I say and when I write that I love my daughter with all of my heart, that is not a lie. When I write and when I say that I did not want a baby, or to be pregnant, or to be a mother, that is the truth. I did not ever imagine “my baby” with the kinds of “feel good” feelings most expectant mothers have, until literally the first seconds that she arrived on this earth in human form and I heard my sister say, “it’s a girl.” THAT moment is when I decided that I could find a way to be happy with the situation I was in and wanted to be a mother to that baby. THAT moment was my own. If I had said at that moment, no, I don’t want to be a mother to this baby, and asked that it be put up for adoption, THAT moment would have been my own. AND if I had had the biological clues that I ought to take a pregnancy test three weeks sooner than I did, and gotten a girlfriend to take me to the abortion clinic three weeks earlier than I did, THAT would have been my choice too. MINE. Your opinion about it lacks merit, BUT LOOK AT WHAT HAS HAPPENED…because of the opinions of others, tens of thousands of women and girls are scrambling to find care, far from where they live, in many cases hundreds of miles away, because in one day the opinions of some wiped out the options of many. There is nothing kind or caring about it in any way, the cruelty of it is unforgivable.

July 9, 1985 was a summer day that, as far as I know, most of my friends were having fun in the sun at the shore, with their whole lives ahead of them. That week of July was the weakest I had ever felt before and perhaps since…I felt completely defeated by biology and by my body. I hold anger still, nearly 40 years later, that that doctor wouldn’t help me that day. Yes I love my daughter and yes I did the best I could and yes I made the best of a bad situation, but that does not erase my anger and the constant gnawing in my mind of what my life might had been had I not been married, a mother, and divorced all before my 20th birthday. EVERY single thing I had wished about my future, EVERY single thing I had imagined and dreamed about my adult life, was erased, POOF! GONE! Bye-Bye DREAMS!…in one afternoon. I will hug my grown up 36 year-old daughter today, because I do love her, and it is true, had that doctor helped me that July day 37 years ago, she would not be here on this earth, but I would have been a different person too, and the anger has eaten away little bites at a time at me for all of these years, what might I have expected of myself and expected life to be like, if I was not expecting a baby at 17…I imagine a totally different life for myself every day, but also every day I try to make the best of the life I have. This is the truth of who I am, however, it is my own. AND it is partly why a RIGHT TO CHOOSE is so important to me…there is nothing just or fair or compassionate about taking away a choice. Unless you are in fact pregnant and do not want to be it should be no business of any other person but you and the doctor who will help you. The cruelty of this court, which disgusts me, to limit bodily autonomy has literally made me sick…I don’t even have a uterus anymore, but I am sick for all of the little girls and women who live in states where their choices in the matter are gone…I am horrified and I am angry and I wish I could find a way to channel my anger in a way that is not making me sick, but I am working on that…

WHY do some people think that their opinion about a woman’s choice to have an abortion, or to maintain a pregnancy, or a girl’s option to clean out her tiny uterus from the poison of a rapist, or worse, a trusted family member, is any of their business?? I think to myself, unless you have ever had a weak week of your own, get off of your high horse and shut your mouth. Your opinions have caused an event that, as of now, has, or could completely, ruined the lives of thousands of girls and women in your own country, the country that you so boldly claim your patriotism and love and wave your flags for, and so dearly want your guns to protect, well step off, back up, and mind your own business. We have work to do…

Costs, Worths, and Values

What something costs and what we are willing to pay is directly related to what it’s worth to us, how we rate its value I guess you could say. I guess this is rather true both literally and figuratively as I once read a quote that said something like, “if it costs you your peace of mind then the price is too high” and I know that has nothing to do with dollars and cents…I suppose what I mean is that for some people having a luxury car with a monthly lease payment that costs a lot is “worth it,” because they value the prestige of driving a fancy vehicle or they really like all those bells and whistles, whereas somebody else might want a far less costly vehicle that they own outright after four years because the fancy/luxury factor is not worth it to that person who values practicality. Certainly both vehicles deliver each person from PointA to PointB, and their costs are not at all the same, but their worth IS the same to each person, because as I see it, as individuals, we all have a very different opinion about value.

When I built my small house I considered how much it costs to heat and cool a larger space, and the difference in what my materials costs were for things like lumber, sheetrock, plywood, nails, etc., well it all adds up for more square footage, and to me it was not worth the added expense to have a bigger home, whereas lots of people desire huge houses, often with rooms they don’t even use, or fully furnish, and to them the cost to heat and cool empty space is worth it to have a big house, it is something that they value. This is not to imply that one is better than the other in any way, it’s just totally subjective, worth and value, how we each justify all of the costs that make up living a life, how we determine what we will and won’t pay, and why, that you simply can’t really compare any scenarios at all.

How much something costs and what we feel it’s worth to us is as unique as our finger prints. For example my new yoga mat was recently delivered, and it COST so much more than any of my other mats that I already own, and so much more than the ones that they sell at Target or Dicks, but to me it was WORTH every penny because it is purple, with rainbow stripes and a mandala & personalized RSTAR!!! I value the joy that it brought me more than the practicality of just using the mats I already own. Also, I could very well do yoga for free, on my television with YouTube, but for me, the cost of a monthly membership to be in the studio, and the friendships I have made, and the ways that different teachers bring out different parts of me, and different classes make different parts of me stronger and longer, is worth the price. I value the experience…every single dollar that has anything to do with my yoga practice is worth it to me.

I think cost is what we pay for something and worth is the value we get from it. These might be totally wrong definitions, and I am not looking them up for clarification, but it’s something I think about a lot. Like my favorite chair; from the time I was a little girl I knew I wanted an authentic HermanMiller Eames chair and ottoman and it is the first piece of furniture I bought during construction, before I even moved in to this house I had ordered it, and to some, spending that kind of money on a chair and ottoman would be positively ridiculous, outlandish even, but to me the cost was worth every penny. EVERYthing has a price and EVERYthing has a value and it is up to each of us to make those choices every day as to the relationship between cost and worth. There are some silly little things too, for example I do not buy ‘no name brand’ aluminum foil. I have, in the past, tried lesser priced brands and I hate them, so I only buy Reynolds. I like Italian canned tuna packed in oil, which costs a lot more than the big brand cans, but I don’t care because for the number of times I eat canned tuna over a year, the cost of the kind I like best is worth it to me. Some people spend a lot of money every week on bottled water, but I have a well and I love my tap water and I never buy bottled water. Some people buy Advil and I buy the no name brand and the headache is eased as quickly for one quarter the price. EVERY day we make these kinds of cost-worth-value expressions and EVERY one is different for EVERY person.

This expression is not only applicable to material, tangible items…relationships have a cost and worth and value as well. I come from a deeply conservative family whose ideas and beliefs and thoughts on current events in general, and some people in the news in particular, are not in any sort of alignment or agreement with mine at all, in any way whatsoever. It literally makes my head ache (thank goodness for my UpandUp brand of ibuprofen) that we are so disconnected. We are on totally opposite sides of just about all the things. The divide between me and my family is mind-blowingly painful for me. The cost to me is too great to deal with any of it…it is not worth it, to me, to harm the relationships I have with my family, and so I do not talk about REALLY DEEPLY IMPORTANT issues, with any of them if I can help it. It is a very difficult part of my adult life, to feel such an insurmountable split between myself and my family, BUT it’s my reality, AND I have so many great friends and good acquaintances that I do not ever feel lonely or alone. I make the experience of having friends, and keeping friends, and cultivating those relationships, a VERY important part of my world, because I value, deeply, those interactions where I enjoy like-minded and open-minded people, and we connect on so many levels and we talk about really big things, and when we disagree it is discussed with sound reason, and facts and backed by reputable sources, so when I am wrong I admit it, and when my friends are wrong they admit it, and we move forward, both of us growing in knowledge. It’s meaningful discourse and makes me remember how much I loved being in college. Cultivating these great friendships keeps me sane when I don’t have family with whom I can talk about that which matters to me.

I keep my family in one part of my brain and my friends in another. I value the relationships I have with my family and so the cost to discuss most current events, most of the time, is simply not something I am willing to pay. I accept them as they are, and I accept that that is often incompatible with my growth and that’s okay…they in turn have to accept me where I am too… For as conservative as they are, it has a very much “Free to be you and me vibe” doesn’t it?? They taught me to work hard and not be in debt, they taught me how to keep house and build one, they have been the bank of mom and dad with low interest loans for all of my adult life, they helped me raise my child, they are generous and loving, and because they are a good family and good to me, I do not let divisive things divide us.

Cost and worth is a relationship that goes beyond cars or yoga mats or cans of tuna, it’s something we must reevaluate every day. Every day we make a choice. I choose to love my family and accept that the way that they think about most things is not at all the way that I think about most things and we all just have to accept it if we are going to choose to stay a loving family & I choose to buy aluminum foil that costs twice as much as other brands and pain medication that costs 1/4 of the name brands…choices choices choices…I go through the maths every day and every equation is different but it equals peace of mind and to me that is, at this time of my life, what I value the most.

Got FRAGE??

Fear + Rage… Yesterday a woman I follow on Instagram, her name is Nadia Bolz-Weber, who is an ordained Lutheran Pastor, and founder of a church called House for All Sinners & Saints in Colorado, and an author of three memoirs, all of which I have read, said that she was filled with fear and rage, and called it FRAGE and I realized at that moment that it is a perfect word for this less than perfect feeling in my gut and brain that literally made me dizzy with anger most of the day yesterday. I stole her word and will use it.

I have so many angry words rolling around in my head and I am almost scared to write them, although my fingers are blasting wildly on this keyboard because they know what I want to say and that I am afraid…you see I love my family, deeply love my generous and kind family but what kills me and makes me filled with FRAGE is how they time and time again choose to vote for those who do not, and never did, have MY best interest in mind. I vote every time for the person whose views and ideas and visions for us all seems to most align with my own, and the tragedy of my life is that I come from a family who claims to do this too, vote for those who seem to say and think the same things they do, and it is NEVER THE SAME FOR US BOTH. It takes a lot of nerve for people to claim that they are “christians” and love their daughters and granddaughters and great-granddaughters so very much, and “value the family” and yet purposefully vote for people who actually tell us in advance that they want to repeal the affordable care act, for many the only opportunity for some people to ever have been able to obtain health insurance, and take away the federal protection for a woman to choose a safe and legal and affordable abortion when she finds herself pregnant and does not want to be…

…but what if it is not a woman, what if it is a girl?? THIS is what kills me, and what short sighted people fail to understand, at least that is how it appears to me, I mean HOW can you say you understand anything and then vote for these people?? If a child is being victimized sexually by, say for example the boyfriend of her mother, or husband of her grandmother, or best friend of her uncle, any of those sickening scenarios that happen every fucking day in this country, even in your own neighborhood, or your own family, for all you know…and let’s say that little girl does not know who to tell, or what to tell, or how to stop it from happening, or how to keep that man away from her, and let’s say that when she is eight he still does not stop, and then she is ten, and then she is 11, and then she reaches puberty and this victimized scared to death 11 year old girl does not understand why her belly aches one day and why she feels nauseated the last few mornings after breakfast and her school nurse finds her in the office, again, and suddenly, sickeningly thinks “oh for god’s sake no” when it dawns on her that “could this little girl be pregnant?” and so the nurse tenderly asks her if she understands about sexual intercourse or has someone hurt her and the little 11 year old girl sobbing with relief “FINALLY someone will help her” she thinks, and that school nurse has to call the mother and tell her that her 11 year old daughter has been the victim of childhood sexual assault and also that she is pregnant, probably about seven weeks based on the density of her abdomen, and then because she lives in Louisiana, or Texas, or Alabama, or Kentucky or any number of the states that as of YESTERDAY HAVE TOTALLY BANNED ABORTIONS, that 11 year old girl is going to have to carry a pregnancy to term and birth a baby, just not much more than a baby herself, because no one protected her from a man who chose to sexually victimize her and now she will be victimized by her own country that has taken away the right for her mother to get her a safe, legal, and affordable abortion…her mother, who works two jobs as it is and neither of which provides health insurance, and because she works two jobs she makes too much money to qualify for medicaid and even with the affordable care act, the $136 a month it was going to cost for her and her daughter to have the bronze plan, which is the shittiest plan on the healthcare.gov market, but it least it was better than nothing, was still $136 a month that went to the electric bill instead, or the car insurance, or the gas for the car to get the mother to her two jobs…it is a cycle of tragedy in this country that fills me with FRAGE and because so many republicans are so short sighted, and say “oh a life is value” and vote against a woman’s right to choose what is best for her and her future, this hypothetical little girl, will have no future, or it will be forever shattered because she was forced to carry a cluster of dividing cells that had lodged into her tiny uterus, because she was sexually victimized by a family member, and people of this country voted for people who wanted to take away this basic human right, what to fucking do with your own fucking body, her life, this little girl who is pretend in my head BUT IS LIKELY ALIVE AND REAL & LIVING THIS NIGHTMARE RIGHT NOW IN EVERY SINGLE STATE IN THIS COUNTRY, will suffer forever because someone thinks a cluster of dividing cells, a parasite really, is more important than she is…FRAGE FRAGE FRAGE!!!!!!!!!

Many people make New Jersey jokes because they have seen the Sopranos and Newark airport, but New Jersey is, at least where I live, beautiful. I can walk to the bay beach from where I live but yet my house is in the woods, I have beautiful breezes and such diverse flora and every time I pull into my yard I feel lucky…the “problem” with where I live in south Jersey is that it is the most “red” county in our whole state, according to the board of elections data, and by the ridiculously laughable number of trump flags in my town and on people’s cars, it is a town and county that has been totally bamboozled BUT the state itself is densely populated and generally remains “blue” most of the time, and so for now, I have never been so grateful to live in New Jersey where, for now, a woman’s right to choose what is best for herself, her family, and her life, remains legal and safe and affordable, and protected by law. If that changes, and either of my granddaughters has to suffer because of it, the FRAGE I will feel will be indescribable.

ACCIDENTS HAPPEN. I was on birth control pills for almost 30 years. In my life I have had five unwanted pregnancies. One of which resulted in the birth of a daughter when I was only 18 years old and four over the following 28 years resulted in a few hours of rest after a safe, legal, and affordable abortion. If you start having sex at 17 and go through menopause in your mid fifties, there are well over 1,100 opportunities for pregnancy to occur, which is glorious if you want to have a baby, and an “accident” if you don’t. A positive pregnancy test is only a blessing if you want to be a mother. Period. It is a disaster, an accident, awful, this sucks, ANY words of woe that you can think of are what it is when you do not want to be a mother and have a baby, end of story.

Accidents happen all the time, condoms break, you forget to take your pill one night and double up the next day, or diaphragms slip, frankly it shocks me that more women don’t get accidentally pregnant, or maybe they do but they don’t talk about it. Well I always did and always will. LADIES, if you are reading this, talk about it. It is time for people to speak up and speak out. Women and girls died for years because of abortions being illegal. Women and girls will die now in 2022, this modern world, because abortions are now illegal in many states. There is no shame in having an accidental pregnancy and making a choice to have an abortion for any reason you want. For me personally it was the easiest decision, I had a daughter, I had a full time job, and could not afford another child ever. Period. There was no feeling whatsoever of anything but relief that I found myself pregnant and did not want to be, and could affordably and safely terminate this cluster of dividing cells, and that was all there was to it. Whether I was in love, dating, married, flinging, it makes no difference, my dating status had nothing to do with the fact that I had no health insurance and already had one child and even if I wished for a husband and babies and a white picket fence, none of that was my reality. My reality was that I found myself accidentally pregnant and did not want to be. HOW can anyone think that their opinion on abortion should have anything to do with me and my body. If you don’t want an abortion then please do not have one ever, but how should it be that your opinion on the matter can now completely ruin the lives of millions of girls and women in this country?????!!!!! FRAGE to the Nth degree. FRAGE FRAGE FRAGE!

What is your return policy???

Today is my mom and dad’s 56th Anniversary. On Thursday my mom told me about the start of the summer of 66…that she had turned 21 that March, and she and my dad had known each other for several years (he was a guy whose parents had a summer house here at the shore and she was a girl who lived on the island) and that they went out for one of the first of their “official” dates that Easter Sunday, to walk the boardwalk in Atlantic City, and that by May 8th they had decided that they wanted to get married…and so they did, on June 11th. In that short period of time two people, in their early twenties committed to this decision together…Last year I bought a pair of boots that I LOVED. I do not like country music at all but I really love cowboy boots, and I put them on and fell in love. They were charcoal gray and they had a star embroidered on the calf and they were so perfect for me, and I was so excited…and then, well, I did not have any occasion to wear them, and then I did not wear them out, and then when I tried them on again my pinky toes were really squished & I realized I did not really care about them as much as I had thought, and before the summer solstice I decided that I was probably never going to wear them and I could put that $268 towards something far more useful or important and so I called the store and asked what was their return policy…in a time period longer than it took my parents to start dating and get married I decided that those boots were not going to work out for me and ended the relationship. My parents somehow did what has seemed to me, always, to be the impossible…find THE ONE WHO IS RIGHT FOR YOU.

I have returned boots, heels, fancy skirts, ill chosen dressy shirts…thinking they were PERFECT for that party or event or simply just perfect for me, and realized they were not. How in less time my parents could decide on such a HUGE investment, in each other, to start a life together and then MAKE a life together, will forever be one of the things about my mom and dad that I admire the most. It was, to be VERY clear, a different time then…two people could earn enough money at their jobs to pay for rent, electricity, gas for their car, food, and have money left over EVERY MONTH TO SAVE, to buy a house, to put away for emergencies, for their future. I don’t know the last time you met a 24 year old man/boy who could afford his own house, alone, to rent, and then afford to get married, and then within 18 months have a new baby and own a house!!! Did their marriage last because “times were different?” That is an expression that I think of a lot when I think of how my parents did this…times were different.

I worked at a high end shop for more than twenty years on that same island. We had exquisite hand blown goblets, flutes, highball glasses, and these were often wedding gifts that we would carefully package and wrap beautifully for our customers who wanted to give something “more than just money” was what they often would say, as a special gift for a couple to have for always. I remember one time a customer came in and apologized for returning such an expensive gift, we only gave store credit anyway, not refunds, but she had bought 12 gorgeous high-ball handblown glasses, this was long before there were places like TJMaxx or Marshalls, this is when stores sold special handmade things, when times were different I suppose, but anyway, she had not given the gift yet, the parents were having a big celebration for the couple’s first anniversary where they were going to eat the top tier of the cake and look at pictures from the wedding and just celebrate the first year, and that is when this lady was going to give the gift of these $240 glasses…but the couple did not make it to year one, she had received notice that the party was off, and so she was returning the glasses and was going to treat herself to some earrings instead! I share this story because at the time the bride (who did not make even one full year of marriage) was also a customer as was her mother, and I knew from the mother that the wedding had cost them over $80,000 and this was in 1992 or so! THAT WAS A LOT OF MONEY to spend on a wedding on a couple that did not even make it to their first anniversary. AND I think of that story almost every June when I think of my mom and dad’s anniversary.

My parents did the impossible, well not impossible, lots of people get married and stay married and have happy lives, but statistically we are told that more than half of all marriages end in divorce. That I am THIS old and still have parents who are healthy and in love is not lost on me. I have heard people say, “I would never want a marriage like my parents had” men and women alike, and it always made me feel so sad for them, because for all of my adult life that has been what I wished for most, and never got…The gratitude I feel for my mom and dad every day is indescribable. I don’t know many people who had the same kind of childhood that I did or the same kind of parents and I know how lucky I am. My parents and I disagree on a lot, so many things you can’t imagine, but we don’t talk about divisive things or upsetting things, or the news channel and talk radio station they like, which are not, you might guess, the news channel or talk radio station I like…we talk about what connects us and we work (sometimes very hard) at having a good relationship. That my daughter still has both of her grandparents and they still love each other and that her daughters have their great-grandparents and that they still love each other is a big deal to me…some kids don’t even have grandparents, let alone great-grandparents, and that are healthy and vibrant and generous, and in love, still, is just such a beautiful thing.

My mom and dad fell in love and decided to get married in a time frame shorter than I committed to owning some boots, and in which that lady bought some highball glasses, and while it might seem silly to compare, it is not silly to me…it is BIG LOVE that I grew up with, and that I am still surrounded with. “She’s the best wife I ever had” is a joke my dad says often with a grin, as of course he was 24 years old when they got married and there was not any other wife, and when I tease my mom sometimes, like asking her what exactly she does for my father, because he does EVERYTHING for us, she will laugh and say “I let him rub my feet!” and we all laugh, because it’s true. He is so good to her that there has never been a word for it. “I am the daughter of a great romance” is a line from a song that I love and it IS my life. I am the daughter of people who chose, time and time again, to be in love, to support each other, and to be each other’s THE ONE, and here they are, 56 years later, still the one for each other…there are no two people more well suited for each other than my mom and dad; fussy eaters both, they have the same opinions about the same things, they like the same music, they find joy in their home and their yard and their chores and don’t need to travel or go to dinner or out to parties or gather with friends…they like their life just as it is, and they never needed to find out what kind of return policy came with their purchase…

Others, elsewhere

Barnegat Light is not Parkland Florida, Brant Beach is not Virginia Tech, Beach Haven is not Uvalde Texas, and North Beach is not Newtown Connecticut…it’s always other people, somewhere else, according to the people in my neighborhood here at the Jersey Shore. I live in an area of south Jersey that is one of the “reddest” in a blue state. I am a blue woman from a red family in a red town in a red county in a blue state…it’s not easy to find your tribe in this sort of situation. In the area where I live there are numerous trucks that have “We the people” stickers on the back window, and maga flags hanging off a pole on the tailgate and I see too many nra and “freedom” bumper stickers on vehicles in the parking lots of the stores where I shop…the thing that makes me chuckle, but also feel gobsmacked with disbelief, is that I am willing to bet if I were to interview EVERY single person who drives one of these vehicles, the number of them who know the words that come AFTER “we the people” would be very small. I suspect that the ones with the nra stickers are neither constitutional scholars nor do they know the words that make up the second amendment or the historical intention of said amendment. These last days have felt hard and felt heavy…for me, an other, elsewhere…I can’t even imagine for one moment the devastation I might feel if I was one of them, there…

I think some of these people are so woefully misinformed about so much that they think it somehow makes them look more patriotic to have these stickers and flags and hats…I can tell you I love that I was born in the United States of America. I can also tell you that we are not very united and that makes me sad. There is not much recognition of a “greater good,” a “for the people” mindset…there is them, and there is us. That does not look like the kind of “United” states that I once felt so proud to live in. Do their stickers and flags and banners make them think that it “shows” people that they care about this country more than I do? Does voting for people who continue to NOT be concerned about the greater good, the majority of the people, seem patriotic to you??????? It certainly seems not to me, an other, elsewhere…

People who hunt for food and use guns to do so should want only other responsible people to have access to guns. People who work in law enforcement and carry guns should want only other responsible people to have access to guns. People who shoot guns for sporting should want only other responsible people to have access to guns. Yes, yes, yes…tell me about how criminals can still get, and will get guns, even if we make guns harder to get, yes, that is true, a criminal might always be able to still find a gun to buy illegally or to steal, but WHAT IS THE HARM IN MAKING LAWS THAT MAKE GUNS HARDER TO GET IN THE FIRST PLACE IF IT KEEPS ONE WRONG PERSON FROM GETTING ACCESS TO A WEAPON AND KILLING INNOCENT PEOPLE??????? Common sense gun reform seems like basic common sense and most of the rest of the planet has modeled systems that seem to work for the most part. Most people who live in the “United States of America” think that there should be some changes in how easy it is in some places to buy guns. Period.

I feel pretty sure that any of these local people in my area who shoot guns for sport or hunting, or who are so fearful of “others” that they feel they need them for protection, well I feel rather confident that even with background checks, common sense would tell you that a person who wants to have a gun ought to at the very least have a background check, most of them, indeed probably a huge majority, would still be permitted to purchase and own a gun and they should want that for other people too!!! It is so basic to me that it’s embarrassing to even write it…when I applied to work as a substitute teacher in two local school systems in my area back in the 1990’s the number of hoops I had to jump through and the depth of the background check, to make $75 a day and work at a school, was shocking…to purchase and then own a gun that can kill, in minutes, all of the children in one of the classrooms I was tending, ought to have the same rigorous background checks as I had to go through to be there to try to protect them, no??!! Someday it might not be others, elsewhere, it might be your grandchild, here.