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.

The truth of a tumbleweed

I recently read an interview with Alan Cumming where he talked about how, when he was in the southwest and watched tumbleweeds tumbling by it made him think about how life is like that, like a tumbleweed, and how we pick up bits and pieces of experiences, of the people and the places we see, and carry them around forever…It made me think of how we keep adding to our tumbleweeds as we grow older. We pick up debris from bad relationships, bad jobs, accidents or tragedies, and it piles right up next to the joyful laughter, the excited and upbeat life events, the successes and the good fortune, all together in a tangle that we call our life.

I think if we were to take apart the tumbleweed that is our story, unravel the knot, we would all find some beauty and some beast; no one, at least I am pretty sure no one is, is immune to bad things, we all have had some terrible experience at one time or another…I know people who have suffered childhood abuse, I know people who have suffered accidents, deaths of loved ones, unimaginable recoveries both the mental and the physical, seemingly insurmountable obstacles that somehow they overcame and grew into adults and all of those things are part of their life story…all of those bad things are jammed right next to births of healthy beautiful babies, first homes, fantastic job opportunities, deeply meaningful friendships…REALLY really good stuff rolled around with the REALLY really icky stuff. All in a tumbleweed of who they are. You can’t take yourself out of the equation of what adds up to what has become your life.

The thing about a tumbleweed is that you can’t really see what’s deep inside unless you dissect it. They are jam packed with everything that has gathered up inside of them along the way. Much like the prettiest house that might be on your street, but the inside looks like some kind of insane chaos from Grey Gardens, or the Hollywood beautiful couple whose Instagram is filled with beautiful clothes and meals and trips, but neither of them likes the other and they are bewildered with what happened to their lives, to their plans, to them…The outside is not indicative of the inside. The depths of our tumbleweeds, the core, is really what makes us “US” when you think about it. Our most authentic selves are wrapped up with the deepest parts of our experiences and our pasts. Both the good and the not good events are the basis of who we are, no matter how we might try to run from some of them over the decades of our lives.

I am definitely feeling that I am at a chapter of my life where I have no interest in trying to decipher WHY I think like I do, or WHY things matter to me, I just know what sits right with me, what I think is right and wrong with the world and the people in it and I try to live in a way that does not assault my own soul. I like to lie on my pillow at night and know that I have lived well and cared well and feel at peace with who I am, how I think, and how I interact with those around me. My tumbleweed is filled with knots and clusters of things that happened in my life that have made me think like I do and I don’t really care about the “why” of any of it anymore, I just know what feels “off” to me and what doesn’t and I will go forth with that, doing and thinking what sits right with my spirit, what makes me shine and shimmer, and boy anybody who knows me knows I love the sparkles and the glitters of life, and what feels dull to me, and makes me dreary, or makes me feel clouded, well, it’s a hard ‘no’ now…I’ll pass if I don’t think it will feel good to my mind or my body. This vessel, this tumbleweed, is the only one I have and I want it to last me a while longer, so I will tend to it as best I can. It may just be a weed, but even weeds often have pretty flowers.

…And all your money won’t another minute buy

I have heard a number of interviews on NPR over the years with Norwegians, Swedes, Europeans in general, and also Americans who live and work outside of the United States, and a subject or “issue” that almost always comes up is how Americans work and WORK and W-O-R-K, and seldom use all of their allotted vacation time, or paid and approved sick time, and take some sort of, “sickening pride,” is how the one Danish lady put it in her interview, in being overworked and overtired and how ridiculous it seems to most of the rest of the world!!! Now, just to be clear, I have no allotted vacation time, I have no approved sick time, I have no PTO as I know it’s called. I am self employed, I am single, if I do not go to work I do not get any money. Period. I have no choice but to work until my fingers are raw and my back is breaking, but YOU PEOPLE with employers, benefits, and perks, what’s the deal??!! What is it about “us” that makes some sort of glory out of exhaustion and busy-ness, like it’s a huge compliment to be SO STRESSED and always tired??!! What’s up with that?? It sounds awful.

I took yoga class with my two granddaughters on Valentine’s day morning, we did it in my loft via zoom, we then ran some errands, the soon to be licensed driver drove us around town in my work truck, we visited briefly with their great-grandparents, also known as my mom and dad, and then we decided to go out to the diner for a late lunch. I did not go to work that day. It just did not happen, the day flowed otherwise. In the late afternoon, when I got back to our shared driveway I felt like I could not be any happier than I was, at that moment, watching them run up their porch steps into their house, the house right next door to my own… If I had died in the seconds that it takes to get from their yard to mine, I would have died a happy woman. Yes, I lost a day of pay, but what I gained was an unexpected day with two teenagers who will soon fly their nest and I likely will not see very much in the future…and that time will be here before I know it…I earned no money that day but gained hours of joy.

Time treats us all equally. My clients have just as many hours in a day as people in our neighborhoods who are struggling and live a very unstable life. I work for wealthy people. I take care of their beach houses. Some of them have country houses and mountain houses too, in addition to their main houses, some of which occupy entire floors of NYC skyscrapers. They have more money than you and I do, or ever will, but they don’t get any more time. They unexpectedly get sick too and their plans, just like ours, can be dashed by divorce, pandemic, accidents, death…their bank accounts might be much bigger but their clocks don’t have more hours than ours.

Just like us the super rich and the very poor get 24 hours of their day and 365 of them make a year. My clients of means have very little in common with me, but for our love of their homes, and I never had many, or any girlfriends actually, who were just like me while I was a parent; single, working, mothers, so I have rarely, if ever, been able to have a conversation with someone walking in my shoes. I am okay with that, but I never got to really have a real peer group. Wealthy people can complain together about the devolving of first class service or excessive fees from a fund they decided to turn over, and married women can chat together about what annoys them about their husbands while meanwhile the husband is keeping a roof over their heads, so I never could talk deeply with anyone about how hard my life was when it was so hard. What I do know is that success never happened for me, my dreams were all thwarted by my terrible decisions and dumb choices in my late teens and twenties, so I make my life as good as I can, and for me, as good as I can has a lot to do with stability and self care, as money is not something that I have in abundance, and so it can’t be equated with success…

I don’t have the financial comfort that most of my friends have, and certainly not like my clients have, so I make the absolute best that I can with what I do have, the time I do have…I like a stable life, I like not drowning in debt, I like being responsible with my bills and keeping my credit score high, BUT if I could work less and do more yoga, or more housekeeping, or more yard work, or travel, I would…If I could make the choice to do more of what excites me and work less, I would. What confuses me is people who have more “free” time, or PAID time no less, available to them, to do the things I wish I could, to do self care, to travel, to do yard work, to spend with their granddaughters, and they don’t…well that just never makes a lick of sense to me. All the money they have won’t buy them more time.

If that week of Valentine’s day was my last on earth, those girls are not going to remember about which customer’s decks I got bleached, or which customer’s garage I did a full Marie Kondo on, or which customer got their soffits sanded, no, they would remember our morning yoga class that we enjoyed together, the super fabulous crystal encrusted candles and chakra bracelets they unwrapped from me rather than boxes of candy, and our visit with my parents and our unplanned trip to the diner, and they would remember that Valentine’s Day probably for the rest of their lives. What I might have done that day for work would have earned me some money, but it would’ve been just another random day of pay that would be meaningless to anybody but me & the people who had to pay me for it.

After the mess that has been “the covid years” of 20-21-and now into 22, what can we collectively do as humans to make a real change for the future as to how we define success??? Success can be defined in many ways but I think as Americans it mostly feels like money and material goods…I heard this week from a client who has spent the last month in the hospital and is now going on a more toxic cancer treatment that might kill her before the cancer does so she won’t be able to come down to her beach house at all this spring and probably not at all this summer…she will not get to see the ocean probably at all this season and I can see it every day if I want. It puts so much in perspective for me, what matters to me, what kind of stability matters to me, to appreciate the beauty in nature around me, and how I use my time, because that lady and I have the same number of days this week and I still have a choice, what I can do, and cancer has taken most of her options away. Time passes and there is nothing we can do about it.

Spring cleaning time is upon us, and who does not like a full spring cleaning??!! It’s like a fresh slate when the yard gets cleaned up and the house is refreshed, but how about when we spring clean our thoughts??? THAT is where change in behavior can be found, change in attitude, the realization that what you thought was really important when you were 25 does not seem as important at 52…Sure I can be standing in line at the market with people whose car costs more than my house, who have investments in just one account of their multiple accounts that total more than I could ever earn in my entire lifetime, who have properties in different climates, and whose diamond rings cost more than my truck, BUT their clock is ticking, second by second by second, just like mine…

Do they get to spend a day with and a yoga class with their granddaughters on a random Monday, do they get to drive their youngest granddaughter to school every morning and say that last words she hears before she goes out into the world, “do good work, and be kind,’ do they get to go out for drives with their older granddaughter who is practicing on her permit and running us on as many errands a week as possible??? Do they get to walk just a few hundred feet from their front door and get to hug the people they love most in the world?? How they choose to spend their time and their regrets are not any different than yours or mine. A clean slate for spring might do us all good, the rich and the regular, to rethink what matters.

These people may have much more “success” than I do but can they take a break every day from their job and walk up the dunes to the ocean and breathe in the salt air, feel the sand tickle their face, see the whole world in front of them, and listen to the waves crash against the shore??? All their money won’t another minute buy…I think we could all learn from the Danes and their other Scandinavian neighbors, that being happy has so much more to do with WHAT WE DO than what we have or earn. We can all make changes, changes in how we “judge” success, and I think in the future, it’s going to be that I am onto something…I’m willing to bet success is not going to have as much to do with wealth and assets, as it is to do with health, love, and time well spent.

Mother May I

I’m quick to say that my mom and I have little in common, but I ASK for her opinion about almost everything. Today is her birthday. Today, like most days, I am thankful for her. Off the top of my head, in seconds, I can think of 14 girlfriends who would give EVERYTHING they have to have another day, or week, or year, let alone years, with their moms. I do not take it for granted that I have my mother still, to talk to, or text about wordle every day, or to vent to, or to give me an “atta girl” when I do something fabulous and feel like I want a verbal pat on the back. She has never NOT been there for me when I needed her. That counts for a whole lot in my list of what matters.

My mom and I are sometimes like oil and water, meaning not easily combined, but for the most part we have enough of the same likes, dislikes, and qualities, opinions about things that matter, that we have a pretty good relationship. You know how a good vinaigrette or salad dressing is good because it takes flavors that you might not think go together and it mixes them so that they are delicious and become a brilliant combination?? Well, in many ways that is how I think of me and my mom.

My mom and my sister have so much more in common, but we have enough similarities that we are mostly okay, most of the time. Sure we have had ups and downs, of course every mother/daughter duo does, but now that I am older and she is getting old we really are able to talk about most things. We do not talk about that which divides us, so no politics and no public policy and often no current events…we have learned how much we can tolerate about each other and we work pretty hard to find our common ground…we both love our yards, flowers, a clean house, everything in its place, we both hate unmade beds, dishes left in sinks, or clutter. We are alike in enough ways that we genuinely like each other.

I used to say, when I was younger, that the only thing we had in common was that we loved the same group of people, but that has changed, a lot, over a lot of years, and we do find many things, most days, on which we are in agreement. We do deeply disagree on some HUGE things, but we have enough agreement on enough little things that we are pretty great together, like a unique vinaigrette. If you seek out things to argue about, as a mother/daughter dynamic, you will find things to argue about…if you try to find what you have in common whenever you are together or speaking, well you will find peace in your relationship. It’s too easy to focus on what annoys you or what makes you baffled, so do the hard work of finding the things that bring you closer. Moms are not around forever so you might as well make your relationship the best that you can…this is what my mom and I have done over the years, we have tried to make our relationship the good kind. You know how you might think Myer lemons won’t go with mustard, or sriacha won’t go with lime zest, or soy sauce with raspberry puree, but then when it’s all whisked wildly together it’s fantastic?? That is, at the end of the day, how I think of me and my mom, like the most unlikely salad dressing that shocks you with how delicious it is with all the components mixed together. Mother may I wish you a happy year ahead?? Mother may I tell you that I am grateful for you??

The Weight of Waiting

Failure to thrive is a diagnosis that refers to slow growth or insufficient growth in babies, but it could be tomatoes in your garden, it could be saplings on your Christmas Tree farm, it could be your marriage. Failure to thrive is not your “fault” but needs to be addressed if it’s happening on your watch. You don’t blame a baby for NOT growing at the rate that is healthy for it’s birth weight, and you don’t wait around and do nothing for its weight to improve, or your stunted tomato plants for that matter, you don’t kick at the soil, you don’t crush the sprouts with your boots, you try to identify what is going wrong, what is missing, what kind of nourishment is lacking, what can be improved upon…you don’t just watch and wait for the growth to be sparked by magic, you DO something. It is an active experience, the problem solving, you don’t just wait for something to happen, you make something happen.

I have made countless mistakes and missteps in my adult life, many more than some, fewer indeed than others, and one of them was waiting too long hoping something I wanted to happen might happen…the weight of waiting, for me, has proven to be too problematic, too many times. I am aware that I must have realistic expectations but I am often now a somewhat impatient person. I want results quicker than time and life allows…When a relationship is suffering; be it a marriage, a friendship, the neighbors with whom you are not at all neighborly…you don’t just wait it out, hoping for things to get better do you?? should you?? The weight of that kind of waiting is often unbearable. To me it would be sort of like watching a baby, or a tomato plant, shrivel up and wilt while you sit and wonder what maybe you could be doing differently, or if you ought to be doing anything at all. You could ponder the problems all you want but if you don’t take action, or make an actual effort, I am pretty sure that the results are not going to be what you had hoped or anticipated. Whether it’s your boss, a friend, a neighbor, a romance, an obnoxious teen, your tomatoes…ANY of those relationships can be improved upon if you ACT upon them, and it’s rather likely that none of them will simply get better if you simply wait for them to do so…waiting it out has it’s limits…it’s too heavy…

A new romantic relationship is not much different than a new baby or seedlings…it comes into your life and is all shiny and fresh to you and you have to figure out how you ARE TOGETHER. To GET each other. It does not matter if it’s the 9 pound one ounce perfect pink bundle I brought home from the hospital on a bitter cold January morning in the 80’s, or if it is the tan drummer with the perfect straight smile I met on a hot summer July night nearly a decade ago…there is action that is needed, there are things to be done, to get to know each other, to make a new relationship grow and thrive. I like to think of it this way; that I am an active participant in my life, I am an active participant in my future, my past actions are my history, HERstory, and my past actions are where I learned because I made many mistakes, and later understood where I could have done better…with my baby, with my boyfriend, and actually also with my tomato plants…To live and learn is no joke.

When things have gone wrong in my life I don’t get mad at myself right away, or beat myself up for screwing up, I first identify the problem…projectile vomiting infant in the summer of 1986, angry and sad drummer boyfriend in the summer of 2021, worm infested and wilting tomatoes in just about every summer in between…things have gone VERY wrong in my life VERY many times. I have learned something about my baby, my boyfriend, my tomatoes, at every turn. The weight of waiting, each and every time, was too much for me…I am not so privileged to expect immediate gratification, immediate results, immediate change, and I am not so naive to think that things will improve with no effort on my part. I have had to DO things to MAKE things happen…it is the only way. It is the only way that I myself can thrive.

A number of times in my past I waited too long to do what I knew I needed to do, in my gut I knew that I had to act, and I didn’t. I have learned that being a passive observer of my life does not work for me. Many times I was hopeful that some sort of magic was going to happen, and when changes did not materialize, when there was a failure to thrive, I learned from those less than magical experiences. The weight of the waiting is too heavy for me now, this I have learned as I myself have grown. Maybe you are stronger than I, maybe you have a tougher will than I do, but I can only know myself and my herstory, and, as always, I feel grateful when I think I learned from all of it. When I feel I must act, now that I am past middle age and there is less time to wait, I act.

If you are suffering or struggling right now, know you are not alone, you are never alone…WE ALL have suffered or struggled in some way, at some time, and we all have experienced a failure to thrive scenario at one time or another…anybody who purports that no, no they get it right every time, well, they are full of themselves and self aggrandizing, and probably are not worth your time because they are likely lying to you and nobody needs a liar. If you are feeling the heaviness of wanting something to change, know that many of us get it, we know, we have felt that same way…the urgency, the rush, the knowing that something needs to be done…so like the commercial used to say, just do it. What you feel in your gut should be done, is probably the exact right thing. Action words, verbs, doing…this is the answer. The weight of waiting is too much for most of us, and those of us who have contentment now, because we suffered in the past, AND LEARNED THOSE LESSONS, know this better than anyone…actions are what got us to where we are…we finally understood that we didn’t have time to wait…

Space Invaders

At one of my yoga classes last week, the instructor asked us to think of ten things/people that we loved and hold space for them while we practiced…and it wasn’t until the end of class that I realized, with a jolt, that I had not included myself in the list of ten things I loved. Other people and other things invade my space every day and I suspect yours as well, we, women especially, or so I like to think, put our families and our jobs and our homes and our obligations in front of ourselves countless times a day, so that over the length of a year we have moved our own needs to the bottom of the To-Do lists time and time again. It’s not a bad thing at all to feel profoundly blessed or grateful to have your loved ones but it is a bad thing to consistently put their needs ahead of your own. WE ALL KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE, yet, we do it, year after year.

If you have young children or elderly parents, or a money pit of a house, or a tirelessly bossy boss, then you know that in the 16 or so hours of your awake time in a day those things take up most of your thoughts…add sickness, financial instability, or worry of any other sort into the mix it’s quite likely that you don’t think about yourself, or your needs, AT ALL in the day, but maybe at bed time when you realize that you’ve brushed your teeth but forgotten to take off your mascara, and “oh shit! I forgot to put that load of wash into the dryer!” The space you have made for yourself in the 24 hours of that day turned out to be as thin as a knife’s edge and it’s possible that tomorrow will be exactly the same…

I have made many changes over the last months, and putting myself (my needs, my peace, my happiness, my health) at the top of the To-Do list as often as I can has been the change I most consistently work on. I started making space for someone else when I was only 18 years old and became a mother…the self indulgence of youth and the freedom of being in college and starting “real life” was lost to me on a bitter January morning only months after I became an “adult” so I missed out on ALL of that ME ME ME time, which is not to say that I have never be selfish, but seldom did I ever get the chance…but now, well, things were different then, all is different now…

The grandchildren I helped to raise are 16 & 14 now, and they need me mostly for rides, and on-line ordering, and sometimes Venmo, meaning they don’t need me much at all anymore, and while that leaves a bit of an “emptiness” in my heart, that feeling of being somewhat irrelevant now to them, what is left is space…space I can fill in a way that I choose.

I realized that morning at yoga, before the start of my work day, that for more than 36 years my space has been filled with my daughter, and then her daughters, and boyfriends mixed into my time over the years, and small family or friend kerfuffles, and that MY TIME TO MAKE SPACE FOR ME IS NOW. There is not any starting line, no wait to prep or begin, I won’t get $200 for passing GO, it’s just here now, me time, making space for that which matters to me, more than anything or anybody else. I started painting my house last April and still have two walls and the shed in the back yard to do, THAT matters to me, making the time to finish painting my house matters to me. I started drinking MUCH less over the last year and eating MUCH better these last few months, and making time to improve my health matters to me. I started writing every day again, my attention had waned over these last few years, and making time to feel creative, that matters to me. Getting onto my yoga mat consistently, at least five times a week, matters to me…ME ME ME.

I guess my thought of this morning is, if other things that have seemed very important have invaded your space, please consider making some room for yourself, your needs, your wishes, your dreams…if you have been thinking that maybe you could make some changes for the better, it’s probably true. The people who need us and the people who love us will get used to having us less available, more often, over time. It used to be that we did not know who needed to talk to us during the day until we got home from work and pressed play on our answering machines…now we get phone calls or text messages all day long and feel like we need to attend to them immediately. We don’t.

I can worry about my adult daughter and the changes she is experiencing in her life right now, and I can worry about her teenagers, and I can worry about my aging parents, and my boyfriend, and my friends…I can be concerned for all of these people and still focus on myself…I am learning to compartmentalize my life…there is a bin for everything, a file for everyone, there is a way to organize my thoughts that I can turn off ALL CONCERNS FOR EVERYBODY but me for 9 hours a week of yoga, or for the hours of a week with my playlists loud while at work, there is a way to keep myself at the top of the To-Do list without neglecting my obligations and the way is to recognize that it is NECESSARY. Take some time today my friends to do something just for you…I don’t care if it is for ten minutes or an hour or a day…the space invaders are not going anywhere, take all the time your need…

Time, the body snatcher…

I recently read the interview with Linda Evangelista, about the pain and trauma she is experiencing after a body sculpt procedure, that has been wildly successful for millions of customers, but was not at all successful for her. The story has left me feeling heavy-hearted for a person I don’t even know. She was without a doubt one of my favorites from that era of super models with big hair and long legs, before the rise of what I think they called “heroin chic” which to my eye was never attractive, for the models or the clothes, and certainly did not seem “chic.” I loved that era of the late 80’s and early 90’s and while yes, it was impossible for any average female to identify with, it was beautiful to the eye, and to think that a woman so stupendously successful for being pretty, has chosen to hide away for years after a bad cosmetic procedure has made me so sad. I beat myself up with negative self talk too often; I used to have a flawless forehead with not even a tiny wrinkle and used to have a flat hard belly too, neither of which is the truth now, and the person I see in the mirror has not looked like what I “see” in my mind for decades. At yoga the other day, one of the ladies said, “we all just have to find a way to like what we are now” and I know she is right, but time is a body snatcher and for some, like this former super model, maybe it’s harder to accept than for us regular people. For her, the results of the negative self talk now has her full of pain and regret.

To be honest, if I could afford to have a doctor shoot poison into my forehead to make it wrinkle free, I probably would, it is one of the main reasons I wear head wraps and hats so much, and here is another thing…I can’t afford to DO some of the things that rich people do when they feel Time the body snatcher getting too close! I have no problem at all with plastic surgery or cosmetic procedures, I mean, that lady who has made her face look like a cat is rather disturbing, and the doctor who agreed to her requests should probably not be allowed to practice plastic surgery any more, but I feel like if you have the funds to make things happen that you wish for, WELL GOOD ON YOU! because, most of us can’t afford to fix or change what we would like to fix or change!

Her face on so many of the magazine covers over so many years, and from the beginning of George Michael’s famous video for the song FREEDOM was to me, perfection…her perfect teeth, perfect brows, perfect cheek bones and that perfect forehead with just a wisp of that super funky hair…oh how I love and so miss weird and funky hair from that era! At the time, as a young single mother of a pre-schooler, her face and her body and the clothes it looked built for, well, it was everything I wished for but could not be or could not have. All these years later, while I definitely have more than an inch to pinch and nothing about my face or my body looks like I wish I could make it look, I am in general rather content in my life, extra jiggles and wiggles and wrinkles and all…I felt sad for all her sadness and I suppose it made me recognize that I am glad for my overall happiness. I don’t really like how I look, compared to my younger self, but I am not stuck hiding away or in agony…her story was sad.

I guess what made me the most sad for her is that somebody so spectacularly beautiful could not find peace with the regular pace of aging. It’s life, it’s living, it happens…All the money and all of the success can’t keep Time away…it is a body snatcher. It got me thinking about how much we women often equate our worth and wellness with what we see in the mirror. I do know several women who are in as good, or even better physical shape now, in their fifties and sixties as they were in their twenties, but I know far more women like myself, who have not seen in the mirror what we see in our mind’s eyes, for decades!!!

I suppose if I had spent my life as a super model, being paid for being pretty and being thin, and then found myself feeling both not pretty nor thin, it would be rather traumatizing to my psyche, certainly more than what I believe I “suffer,” which really is just feeling down about myself sometimes, and sometimes filled with mean-talk between my ears, despite all the amazing things my body does every day and how super capable and strong it is! I suppose her mean talk to herself forced her to try something new to “fix” what she thought was in need of fixing. This former super model, is in agony both physically and mentally, and suffering terribly at present, or so it seems from this article, from deep emotional trauma for having tried to get a cosmetic procedure that was supposed to improve that which Time the body snatcher had taken away, and it made me sad for one of the most beautiful people in the world. Body image, body distortion by your own mind, is not uncommon for women, be they “mad fit” or plump! AND here we have a woman our age who infamously would “not get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day” feeling as bad about herself as so many of us “regular” women do, or actually, by both the tone of the article in People magazine and her essay on Instagram, I suspect she feels infinitely worse about herself than I do, or any of us do really!

“All we have to do now, is take these lies and make them true somehow” is how the chorus of that song goes…We women notoriously tell ourselves lies all the time don’t we?? That if we don’t LOOK a certain way we can’t ACT a certain way, or WEAR special things, or don’t DESERVE TO HAVE CERTAIN THINGS or don’t deserve to be TREATED a certain way…Lies, Lies, Lies. Here I am pondering, contemplating, looks?? worth??? value???? the whole world around us is a mess and I can’t stop thinking about this former super-model, of my age, who went to get a cosmetic procedure that was “supposed” to give her the toning results she was looking for, as she aged, to feel better about herself, and sadly for her she is one of the very few for whom the procedure does not work, at all. It has me thinking about contentment and how if we let it, Time the body snatcher will snatch our positive thoughts as well as our youthful bodies…

How we LOOK is not WHO we are. We are WORTH whatever we think we DESERVE or WANT. Our VALUE as a person has nothing to do with what size jeans we wear…I for one have many things about my own body I would like to improve upon, and I will continue to try to keep Time the Body Snatcher from getting too close, but remember friends that we are not what we look like we are what we do, and Time the body snatcher can’t take our goodness away…Talk pretty to yourself today friends, and for today love the body you are in right now, just as you are. Like the tv commercials used to say, “love the skin you’re in” and more importantly, “You’re worth it!”