Pet Peeves . . . And Other World Problems.

Public service announcement: your pet peeves are meh. Shocking, I know but most things are relative and sometimes even our riffs with relatives don’t register on life’s Richter scale. My son, brilliant, handsome guy that he is, (but I’m not prejudiced) nailed it perfectly one day when he termed offhanded laments about the obvious lack of beautiful weather as ‘first world problems’. Duh. That term alone puts a lot of things in stark perspective.

The Urban dictionary defines first world problems as those “trivial or minor frustrations from living in a wealthy, industrialized nation that third-worlders would probably roll their eyes at.” Point taken, especially when you realize a British survey listed a runny nose as tops in the peevish category. When you envision all the outpost clinics in third world countries where children still die from such things as cholera and measles, a runny nose is a pretty benign annoyance. Yet, our list of every day annoyances seem valid, right? They still tick us off, still irritate and prickle our days. Hey, why wouldn’t you get annoyed with:

  • Finding no toilet paper in a public bathroom stall.
  • Uber annoying year round postnasal drip
  • Spam callers, spam mail and okay, spam period.
  • Drivers who somehow can’t find their turn signal
  • Spam calls
  • No WiFi. Phones that run out of charge. Password amnesia.  Boohoo.
  • That kid who kicks the back of your plane seat.
  • Papercuts
  • Friends who are late . . . for the 300th time.
  • People who don’t cover their mouths when they cough, or shut phones off in a theater.

We each have our own, plenty in fact. On any given day, our list of peeves could fill a spiral notebook. The incendiary political climate alone these days can easily send blood pressures soaring. If we’re lucky, though, we remember: Life. Is. Short. All of us who walked through that long valley of grief, know that fact all too well yet even we get sucked into the vortex of every day detritus. Continue reading

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To Have and To Hold

The beauty of love never gets old. This past Saturday, it walked like a boss with my stunning grandgirl, straight down a grassy aisle to tie the knot with her sweetheart. It shined in the eyes of my first born daughter who now stood as mother of the bride. And it filled the soul of this grandma as I watched my only granddaughter get married.

Love is love. But it gets even more unconditional, bountiful and expansive when you become a grandparent. The ties that bind two people in marriage also tie generations together. This weekend I celebrated this young woman who made me a (very young) first time grandma as she entered into another family circle — her own. Yet, the circle is wide, and peopled with ancestors none of us have ever met. And in the circle, the faces, the personalities of our children will one day exist in grandchildren of theirs.

“Grandchildren connect the dots from one generation to another.”

A sparkling pair of my favorite earrings danced in the light as her wedding ‘borrowed; an intricate lace gown vintage new.  ‘Something blue’ was the ‘missing’ felt by both bride and groom of their cherished grandparents, loved and lost. Somehow, I just knew, though, that amidst the ‘eat, drink and be merry’, the grandpa who taught her to drive and shared her love of Broadway was hangin’ out, wishing he could sneak some cake. Continue reading

Out of Touch

Spoiler alert: I miss being hugged. These last years, I’ve adjusted, redesigned, and redefined life as I found it yet, I’m not gonna lie, being hugged is a major miss. It’s one of those things that get lost in the storm and, it’s only when the winds die down and the skies clear that you see  what left the building.

Amid the sunny day to day, we are often too busy to even notice how often we touch one another in one way or another. No, I’m not talking about big cinematic smooches or lift off your feet bear hugs. I’m thinking of those little touches on the shoulder, small of the back, the grab of a hand. Maybe you remember when familiar hands smoothed sunscreen on your back, or fastened a necklace you couldn’t reach. In those moments, few of us ever imagine that one day those moments would become a billboard in your memory.

It’s been said “Americans suffer from skin hunger”. When you realize more of us live alone than ever before and have more intimacy with our cell phones than each other, it makes sad sense. Our American culture makes us more restrained than countries like Greece, France, Spain and Italy, where they hug and kiss – a lot. Today’s culture also makes us cautious about touch, of it being misunderstood, being thought uninvited, or worse, harassment. Our restraint, our ‘aloneness’ have cost us the essence of human connection.

Remember that guy who offered free hugs on the street? Juan Mann, the founder of the “Free Hugs” movement, understood the innate impact of meaningful human contact. The very fact that our culture has given birth to professional cuddlers (yes, it’s a thing) who spread affection through workshops to the touch deprived, should give us pause. The Japanese even designed a chair, with soft, floppy arms that wrap you in a fluffy embrace as an answer to touch hungry souls. Sadly, that’s not an alternative fact.

“Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.”  Charles Dickens Continue reading

The Butterfly Effect

Do-overs — what a concept. Unfortunately, life doesn’t dole out too many of those. Something good happens when we expect the worst, and we’re over the moon. Something terrible happens and we say ‘What the?’.  If we’re lucky, we get the chance to change direction, which may change the outcome – or not. Remember when you stuffed yourself dinner and became so green with a stomachache you had to ditch that Broadway show? Or how about when you bluffed on your resume, forgetting you’d be actually be expected to KNOW what you said you did. There are a million things, big and small, unimportant and critical, even tragic, that we’d love to wriggle our Bewitched-nose and change. Sorry, that only happens on TV.

If you ask any widow, whose love story suddenly ended or a parent who’s lost a precious child, if they would have cancelled the devastation those losses brought, their answers would be a resounding ‘yes’. But, if it meant they would also have to cancel all that went before, would any of us still choose to pass?

I think not.

Small things can have big effects. A tiny grain of sand can alter history and shape destiny. The smallest things can have the biggest impact somewhere we may never know.  Even if we don’t see the change, it can happen in our own lives, our friend’s, even in those of people we’ve never met. Scientists say that everything is interconnected. One single action can trip off something completely different in the future.

It’s been said that something as small as the flutter of butterfly’s wings can cause a typhoon halfway around the world.  Chaos Theory

In 1963, Edward Lorenz proposed that a butterfly flapping his wings can cause a hurricane somewhere in the world. Admittedly, that sounds a bit outer limits. But, by the 1990’s, physics professors, working together, proved the theory true and accurate. It can be hard to understand how seemingly random changes can effect the course of your life, but even small ones can cause huge changes in another time and place. Continue reading

What’s in YOUR wallet?

I admit it. Guys have us beat in the travel light department. Wallet? Check. Money? Credit card? Check. Ask me if I’ve ever left the house with only a wallet in tow and you’d get a resounding heck, no. I don’t even take a walk without phone, tissues, reading glasses (just in case) and whatever else might make me emergency ready. So, when it comes to my purse, I may be just a wee bit over prepared.

“You always got to be prepared but you never know for what.” Bob Dylan

I don’t have a huge bag; it’s just methodically packed. Why do you think I bought one with so many handy zippered compartments? Okay, well, partly because the color was awesome but all those little pockets sold it. As often as I try to pare down, it seems to fill up without my permission.

A woman’s bag is a puzzle. Pieced together, each item reveals her personality. Toting only bare necessities might nail you as a no-nonsense kinda girl who keeps her car spotless, desk organized and house neat as a pin. There’s obviously never any expired yogurts in your fridge. One of my role models fits that bill exactly, carrying only what fits in the palm of her hand. When I grow up, I’m going to be just like her.

Then there is the gal who stashes everything but her bedroom in her larger than life bag. Shoes, every receipt from the last two months, a Tide stick, a mini medicine cabinet, nail polish and enough makeup to rival a cosmetic counter. If she happens to be a mom, add diapers, baby wipes, baby Tylenol and all things sticky to the traveling bottomless pit of ‘stuff’. This prepared woman’s bag, which gets larger with each replacement, becomes an alternate dimension, like stepping through the door of the Lion, Witch and Wardrobe. But she’s ready for anything. She’s just not going anywhere fast.

Handbags speak louder than words.

True to my Libra need for balance, I hover in the middle. Most of my bag’s contents make perfect sense, at least to me. Why wouldn’t I need two pair of glasses – for sun and reading? Wallet, phone, checkbook (yes, on occasion you need to write a check, right?), tissues, pens, comb, Purell, keys (complete with furry pompoms) and business cards. Then I veer off into kooky with a few herbal tea bags, some supplements I never leave home without, a phone charger, 3 or 4 (or more) makeup basics and on any given day, snacks for grandkids; nuts for grandma.

Maybe it’s my Catholic school training about “a cluttered purse is a cluttered mind’ but at the end of the day, I try to weed through the detritus. I pitch an occasional string cheese wrapper, unused coupons and completed to-do-lists. I reassure myself that I’m not paranoid; just prepared. I could stuff things in an even smaller bag – but why? Continue reading

Those Damn Little Things.

Pollyanna had a Pity Party. Just when I thought I had this grief thing down to manageable pieces, just when I thought I stuck the landing — I landed on my butt.  There was no big crisis; nothing I could say “Oh, geez, now why did THAT happen.” Nope. There was just an avalanche of little teeny things that crept up and smacked me upside the head. Was I oblivious or just naive enough to think I had grief nailed.

Boohoo.

I almost didn’t write this post. I didn’t want to burst the bouncy bubble of my usual optimistic posts but into every life some rain must fall and we have all had our share of floods. As I’ve said before, I might talk a good game but no one would accuse me of having it all together. That said, put on your slickers, kids, here we go.

Life is hardly predictable or neat. Each time we think it might be, things pop up, like a gophers in a mine field, and knock you on your keister. All the things and people that once made us so happy are the very things that can take us down when they are no longer there, simply because — they are no longer there. Sure, those sweet spirits will eventually bring only healing memories, smiles and warm, fuzzy feelings but until then, things can be iffy.

Trauma creates changes we don’t choose. Healing is about creating change we do choose.

This fall, It will be 3 years since Elvis (otherwise known as my husband) left the building. It’s hard to believe all that time has past, yet here I am, folks. Just me. And sure, I’m doing okay, or as fine as you can be after your life went off a cliff. Every person who’s ever had a rude coupling with loss gets it, boy, do they get it. After loss, you may be under construction for awhile; you might even need a few critical renovations. Still, as time goes by, tears become less copious, days become less brutally empty and even laughter sneaks back when you’re not looking. Slowly, you find a new normal but even then, there are always those days some dopey ‘little things’ pop up. They use their inside voice to say, “hey, remember how it used to be?” and then your new normal becomes a freak show. Now isn’t that special. Continue reading