A smile is the least expensive accessory you can wear, and yet, the most valuable…

You can go to Dr. Wexler and get a perfect facial buffing peel and some Botox to smooth out those bothersome forehead lines,  you can go to Sally Hershberger for the perfect hair cut and Chris McMillan for the perfect highlights, you can go to Anastasia for perfectly sculpted & shaped & flattering face-framing brows, you can go to Dr. Fisher for luscious bee stung lips, you can go to Dr. Daniels for the perfect breast implants, you can buy Frette sheets and Bottega Veneta handbags from Italy, and insist that you only wear 7 For All Mankind jeans, BUT… if you’re not nice, if you lack empathy, if you begrudge the joy of others, if your heart is cold and you harshly judge people, or worse, you can’t differentiate between to, two, and too, or bare/bear, what good is it to be pretty?

I spent the day yesterday with eight women, women who have been friends for a LONG time; some who have been on vacations together, some have held each other over heartaches, some have rocked and comforted each others babies, some have wiped each others tears while they buried their mothers, they have deeply meaningful relationships among their group, and I was included for the day in their tribe.  It was a gift for which I am profoundly appreciative.  I’ve often written of my two ‘best friends,’ but in no way does that diminish the significance of the friendships I’ve formed during these adult years of my life.  While it’s true that my first friend from 1st grade is my longest running relationship, and my other friend from 9th grade gym class is my second longest running relationship, I realized last night while I was driving home, full on wine & laughter, that each of those eight women, while not as close to me as some other friends, I bet, if I called, or emailed, or texted any one of those women during a crisis, I felt strongly that they would “be there” or “do something” or “step up” if I asked for help, or needed them…and I hoped that they felt that same way about me.

It’s not always easy to make grown-up-friends.  We might become acquainted with our neighbors or our coworkers, or maybe the wives of our partner’s friends, but not all women easily make friends on their own once they are women, and perhaps it is that way for men as well, but how would I know?  I know what it is like to be a little girl; you admire the rainbow handlebar streamers on your new neighbor’s bike and suddenly you have somebody to play Barbies with, or go on adventures with, and BOOM, there is your new friend!  But I also know what it is like to be a woman, in a new state, knowing nobody, starting a new job, knowing nobody, and feeling terrified that when you walk in the door there are going to be people there who are, from first glance, going to like you or not.  Going to a new gym after years of neglecting your body and ignoring your increasing weight, going to a new salon after years of letting yourself fall into a category that can only be described  as “low maintenance,” going to a bar or a club or an event after the end of a decades long relationship and being ‘single’ again…all of these things are when you feel a little bit scared and a whole lot of vulnerable, and you want to be well received…you want to feel that some other woman “gets” you…

Our rented limo, for which we all pitched in our equal share, held a diversity to be applauded…smart & funny singletons, divorced, long-time marrieds, childless by choice, grandparent, and kids ranging in age from 7 to 30…some of us struggling to make our monthly bills and some of us planning our next vacation, some of us trying to consolidate debt and some of us trying to diversify our mutual funds, some of us who like to buy our purses from TJMaxx and some of us who prefer Bloomingdales…none of it mattered.  Some of us just in need of wine and laughter and frolicking, and a desire to be out of the house, away from work, away from laundry, away from loved ones and their needs…to just be free for a day…I can only write for myself, but am willing to bet that not one of us thought of one negative thing yesterday, not one bad thought of some issue looming over our heads…it was truly a day of freedom and bliss.

As we emptied another bottle of wine on our two-hour journey home we blasted an iphone & sang 80’s songs and we laughed with no inhibitions.  I think each one of us at any  time during the ride home felt as peaceful and invincible as we did at 14, with not a care in the world…that’s some good medicine.  Not once yesterday did I wonder if my Spanx were making my butt and thighs smooth enough in my skirt, I did not think twice about having another piece of cheese or shortbread, “more wine?”  ‘sure!’  it was like a great date, where you just have total confidence and unlimited joy, and we all were smiling all day long.  I felt so fulfilled when I got in my truck to go home, and I suspect that each of the women with whom I spent the day, felt exactly the same…life might some days be hard, some days it might be very complicated, some days it might be terribly scary, but hey, I’ve got a limo filled with women who’d have my back in a heartbeat.

 

 

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billion year old carbon

Do you ever watch those shows on PBS that are about the Cosmos?  Have you sat slack-jawed as Carl Sagan or Neil deGrasse Tyson explained so clearly and in such detail how VERY SMALL WE ARE, and how VERY LITTLE WE ACTUALLY MATTER in our galaxy in this universe?  …and that’s only the universe that “we” have observed, that we know.  “…set my soul free.  We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon, And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden”

The boy who holds much of my heart has been practicing songs for a potential new job, going back to what I think he does best, which is make music and be amazing and creative, and the songs are all for a Crosby Stills Nash and Young tribute band.  They are, most of which, songs I’ve heard on the radio for years, some of which I know well, but most of which I don’t.  The lyrics to every one I have listened to, 23 of them to be precise, are powerful in many ways, and many are filled with deeply moving words that should (well I think some of them should) make one think about deeply moving subject matter.

I was thinking about this, how small and how insignificant we are, everyone of us, last night as I watched some of the Republican debate on CNN.  Anyone who knows me or reads me should know by now that I am not a republican, have never voted republican, and often consider myself a social liberal and a fiscal conservative and rarely if ever vote for a person I feel represents ALL OF ME, or all of what matters to me, and frankly I think I write for us all when I share that in general I vote for the person who I most agree with on most topics, and who to me is the lesser of the two evils.  It is also common knowledge to those who know me or read me that I am the proverbial black sheep of my entire family.  I come from a family filled with love but extremely conservative views about most things, so we have, for years, agreed to disagree and seldom if ever do I have the joy of talking about things that matter to me with the people who matter to me.  SO I spent years talking about what matters to me with other people, none of whom are related to me, and I finally, after years of struggling with this, accepted it; it is simply how it is…but in the scheme of things, none of it matters, much at all…we think differently about the same things and so what?

It matters to me, a lot, to feel that I’m well-informed and well-rounded; I try to learn about all sides of all things before I form an opinion of anything.  So I watched the debate.  What struck me the most, in the hour and 40 minutes that I gave myself to it, was how for me personally, SO LITTLE mattered…so little of what was talked about has any meaning whatsoever to my life; my little house, my little business, my little family…I got to thinking about how small I am in the big scheme of things…how small every thing is that has to do with me, in the big scheme of things.  When you are white and part of the working class or middle class in America it is rather easy to get bogged down with upsetting thoughts, like, I forgot to put a stamp on my Nordstrom bill and now my payment is going to be late, or I have to get my new jeans hemmed, or my high-speed internet is slow, or my tire has a leak and my truck is overdue for an oil change, or, or, or…to us they could be a big deal, but really?  Really, in the big THING that is US, LIFE, the world, the galaxy, the universe, does any of what “upsets” us matter?

So last night I finished a wonderful novel called The Nightingale that took place during World War II and my heart was heavy, I mean, what deeply moving subject matter right?!  I had listened to CSN&Y songs a bit after work, as they are on a constant shuffle lately, while the magic of a musician’s brain learns them in his head, I had watched almost two hours of the debates, and I closed my eyes and had the most simple thought…everything is probably going to be fine in my life, and in yours, and I am nothing but billion year old carbon, and I slept better than I have slept in a very long time…

Best Laid Plans

Because I did not renew my XM subscription in June, I’ve been listening to NPR in my truck every day, just like back in the 90’s before I had satellite radio, and I’m finding myself so grateful, more and more every day, for even the shittiest days of my life…There is a crisis throughout the European Union that is not reported nearly as much in our media as it is on the BBC, and it is heartbreaking and tear inducing, every day when I listen on my way to work.  People like you and me, JUST LIKE YOU & ME, but who happen to have been born and raised in Syria or Afghanistan, are desperately trying to get out of their war ravaged countries and to any number of European countries, and thousands and thousands are stuck, in limbo, in purgatory, in this half-way point, not home & not settled, that they can’t get out of, they are out of their home and their country but nowhere they wish to be…they are in the streets on islands, they are at train stations, they are stranded…

…and every day I listen to BBC news in my truck, I think to myself, that even on my very worst day of my entire life thus far, my life is and has been so much better than that of these scared and desperate people, and why?  Why am I the lucky one who got to be born white, in the USA, to middle class parents?  The interviews with some of these refugees rip my heart out, every day, but I still listen, every day…I want to know, I want to know what is happening, how are they making out, will they get to Germany, to Iceland, to Sweden…do they have relatives somewhere who will take them in, have they got anything to eat, are their babies sick…I want to know…These are educated women and men.  These are people who owned businesses, who worked for law firms, and as doctors or nurses in hospitals, and taught school, and drove delivery trucks…they had birthday parties for their kids, they had dinner parties with their friends, they had date nights with their husbands and their wives…and now, because their ability to live and thrive and raise their children with any semblance of peace or contentment in Syria, or wherever,  had become near impossible, they risked everything they had to try to find a better life somewhere else…they left their jobs, their houses, their older family members and took what they could carry in  a suitcase, or they took nothing, and took whatever money they had, and left the only life they knew…brave, desperate, hopeful, hopeless?  I think you have to be every one of these things to do this seemingly impossible thing, flee your life…

I watch the news early in the morning and most often at night here at home, and having listened during  the morning, can’t help but think about myself…how so many of the plans I had, the wishes I wished, the dreams I dreamed, did not come to fruition, and wonder, how dare I feel even a bit blue?!  When I think about these Syrians or Afghans, these men and women who had loving parents just like I did, who came from a lovely home and stable family just like I did, who went to college just like I did, who worked hard to own a home and make ends meet just like I did, and now, through no fault of their own have had to give up all that they knew and all they had to try to find a  new life…

These refugees are far more educated than I; they speak English, AND one or more other languages.  These refugees are far more brave than I; they left all that they knew with nothing but uncertainty and dreams for something better.  These refugees are far more resilient than I; they have had no full meal, no shower, no toilet,  for days on end, and they press on…and I say to myself, how dare I complain about ANYTHING?!  I work for people whose biggest problem of this weekend might be that one of their ice makers is on the fritz, or the caterer brings fewer plates than are needed, or the landscapers cut the wrong tree limbs, or the pool filter is too noisy…the news brings an oft needed reality check to my life…what life could be like, what it IS like, for so many and holy cow am I lucky or what?!

I have joked with several of my customers over the years, that here I am, graduated first in my class in college, and cleaning bathrooms of rich people and painting their bedrooms.  Not complaining at all, but recognizing that my plans for my life and my future did not work out, at all.  I planned to get a job with the Prosecutor’s office, or a prestigious law firm, or some sort of women’s advocacy organization, or with the county pretrial intervention department, but not one of my plans worked out…I applied for job after job after job…I kept wondering, how do they not want ME?!  My parents and my friends would wonder the same thing; how can so and so get hired and not you?!  Who would not want a woman who was a single mother, who worked full time, who put herself through college, who got straight A’s?!  Who would not want a woman like THIS?!  But nobody did…and I have held onto that hurt for so many years, that not one of my plans for my life worked out…I worked so hard to do well in college, and for what?!  Now I plant gardens and clean houses and paint siding for millionaires, and I think about it often…how what I planned did not work out at all…AND it can be so easy to get sucked into that state of woe, any of us can get sucked into it…how woeful when your best laid plans don’t pan out…and then I listen to the news and I watch the news and my reality check is presented to me…and think, how dare I feel blue or rueful??!!   These people are not much different from me or you…they worked hard, they studied, they did well in school to have a career, they did what they had to do to buy a home and now…this…talk about plans not working out?!  In not one of the interviews have I heard a woman say, “why me?”  or “what did I do wrong?” …NONE of that sorrowful talk…just bewilderment that this is their now, that this is what is happening to them right now, and they are tired and hungry and thirsty and scared, but they just keep looking ahead to what will come and pray it will be okay…undaunted, resolute…I am amazed by their bravery…So here I am in my air-conditioned office, at my computer, sipping coffee, getting ready to head out the door to my job, and realizing how very good and easy my life is, when I look at the bigger picture…