Valentine. Schmalentine.

broken-heart-1175724_1280Once upon a time, the phrase ‘single Awareness Day’ seemed a pretty cool gotcha. When Valentines Day becomes a neon sign to solos that screams “Nope, not you”, re-framing the holiday doesn’t feel like that bad an idea. Depending on your frame of mind, this celebration of love can seem sensational, saccharine, or just plain sad.  This holiday of hearts can be a real kicker when you’re single. Valentine’s Day could use a slight makeover.

People exchange nearly 150 million Valentine’s Day cards a year, making heart day second only to Christmas in card-sending popularity. Legend has it that  Valentine was a martyred saint, which might have something to do with why the holiday seems especially sucky for a widow. It’s said the tradition of love greetings came began when the day’s namesake signed a note to a young girl he pined for ‘from your Valentine’. Ever since, kings, friends and lovers have exchanged tokens of affection. I’m quite sure, though, all those loving notes cost significantly less than $5.00 a pop ready-made.

Like everything else, Valentine’s Day was once a simpler — and cheaper time. I can still remember those tacky school mailboxes we glued together with bits of felt and wrapping paper to stuff cheery class cards in. Those were the days. We painstakingly wrote, what seemed like a million little cards to every classmate; then waited nervously for our own return windfall.

The love drama starts early. Continue reading

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Super Bowl Madness? meh

gallery-1454361908-footballdonutsNo hot chicken wings. No nachos. No hair-on-fire chili graced my house this past weekend. Super Bowl Sunday was a non-starter. I do admit to some cheese, but then there’s ALWAYS cheese. I don’t have one piece of licensed sports apparel and am completely guilt-free. The only yelling at the TV  heard in my house were knee-jerk reactions to political reporting (which pretty much happens every day.) As both the most un-athletic fan in the room and a self-described renegade, the whole concept of the Super Bowl excites me as much as a Zombie Apocalypse. The hallowed sports day happened – it just didn’t happen here.

Super Bowl Sunday has become one of America’s biggest unofficial holidays. For weeks before the big game, commercials remind us to stock up for the event. Some even throw in a few ads that urge us to buy a spanking new flat-screen to watch that revered game on – just for good measure. You can’t be too over-the-top on this momentous day. Super Bowl parties, however, to us non-football fans, are just lame. They’ve become as American as Easter Egg hunts but with play by play narration. Did you know Super Bowl Sunday, overflowing with beer and obscene amounts of snacks, is second in consumption only after Thanksgiving? Uh huh.

With my lack of Super Bowl enthusiasm, it’s a wonder I’ve ever gotten a single invite to those galas yet I still receive them. And I feel more than a little guilty about that. I’m a decided football party-pooper, knowing from the minute I get a call-to-party, my mind races to conjure up a suitable excuse to skip the fete. Would a date with my trusty Waterpik sound reasonable? Continue reading

If You Could See Me Now . . .

14064-woman-sunset-girl-arms-blue-sky-clouds-silhouette.1200w.tnWhat am I saying? Of COURSE, you can see me! An ol’ newsman who never met a story he didn’t want to write or tell? I’m quite sure I’ve been in your sights since the night you died. The question is, what do you think? You’ve been gone more than two years so I’m sure, as usual, you have plenty to say as you watch me traipsing through life each day. You knew me really well, as I knew you, but since that night you left, we’ve had way different journeys and I’m at a little disadvantage. Hanging out in the ethernet, I’m guessing you know more about what my trip looks like than I do yours.

Anyway, you may have noticed that I’ve developed a kind of (even more) offbeat way of being, of maneuvering the world on my own. In those first awful months, it was just about staying afloat, treading very dark waters until I found my rhythm. And though rhythm always jazzed us both, this tune was hardly something dance to. I could hardly envision how I would ever get through without-you life but somehow, I’m still here. When you’re dropped in water over your head, you sink or swim — and I’m swimming. (or something like it. I’m no Michael Phelps).

You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you

Here I am,  hanging out in this world and ‘adulting’, as our granddaughter would say. Like all people on the planet, I’m just doing the best I can, with what I have, if you include a personal weird spin. Have you been critiquing this reluctant reinvention? A sweet widow friend you may not have met, echoed that same thought last week, as we joke-texted one night about our packing up Christmas decorations antics. As she wistfully considered her late husband’s appreciative laughter at her fight with her own fake fir, I decided our imagining must be ‘a thing’. That said, if you, my other half, if your new career is ‘wife watch’, here are a few highlights to consider: Continue reading

Eat Dessert First

6d6e7a1682cdcf39ca17251d23435e7d-4047b61f6b501f5c23fa52da330400edIt’s been said that the only thing certain – is uncertainty. That’s as good a reason as any to hoover the rest of that cheesecake before dinner. Or maybe even make it dinner. But it doesn’t solve every problem, like say, those last five pounds you’ve been trying to lose. We’ve all learned, that even if we treat ourselves now, it won’t fill that cavern in pit of our stomach called ‘uncertainty’. That echoing vacuum has nothing to do with a yummy dessert or new pair of really great earrings (although they would be tempting). We try to fill the spaces, albeit temporarily, while we wait for the other shoe to drop.

And, somehow, drop it usually does.

Talking about that ‘other shoe’ was something I did a lot, because it usually fell – a lot. I’ve realized, after all these years and a lot of shoes, that some of that falling footgear was not always a crisis or a negative but a necessary. When Ernestine Ulmer quipped that “Life is uncertain; eat dessert first” I wonder where she was in her life. I’m pretty sure, wherever she was, the realization that everything in life is uncertain was pretty clear. Or maybe she just really loved dessert.

There are some things in our control and a whole lot that’s not. Control is an illusion. We can’t control the weather, the traffic, or someone else’s behavior. We can’t control cancer outcomes or pretty much anything really important. We buy insurance, we carry umbrellas and chug vitamins but nothing really cements a feeling of certainty. It’s a constant pervasive source of anxiety, and frustration. We start a new job, a new business. We become pregnant. We get married. Uncertainty is just one decision away. Continue reading

Count Your Blessings

Praise the lord

Each one of us have been dealt an iffy hand in this life. Often more than one. Sometimes we get a straight flush; others force us to cash in the chips. (I don’t play cards so I’m winging it here) In the game of life, it sucks to lose but when you stack up all your cards, you might be relieved to take back your own.

There will be times that being thankful is a stretch. When you’re in that lowest of low places, gratitude is a foreign word. It’s easy to be thankful for stuff that makes us happy, makes us feel good. Being grateful for more complicated things is a bit more challenging.

The struggle ends, when gratitude begins. Neale Donald Walsh

Before you think I have this gratitude thing nailed down, I don’t. There are days I rant with the best of them. There are nights when pity parties reign. My writing is often just as much a reminder and inspiration to me — as to anyone else. That being said, in a nanosecond I can still write a list of 10 things I’m grateful. They would probably have a lot in common with your own list – family, friends, health, a home come easily to mind. These days, there’s a world in turmoil beyond our small periphery.

There are reminders everywhere that so much of this world cannot take safety or stability for granted. In many places outside our safe bubbles,  there are no nearby megastores packed with an overwhelming variety of food, clothing and things we don’t even really need. There’s no Uber; no HBO. It’s hard to be immersed in gratitude in the face of poverty, terrorism, war and loss of life, either of our loved one or of other people’s loved ones around the world. Yet, an attitude of gratitude is pretty global and somehow exists in the midst of the worst of human experiences. Continue reading

The Year That Was

71623963 - girls jump to the new year 2018 at sunset.

2017 is in the rear view mirror —  I’m really not sorry to see that crazy year go. You? From historic wildfires, horrific terrorist attacks and political scandals, to the solar eclipse, 2017 was a doozy. Walls and bans were touted and torch-carrying white nationalists marched freely. In stark contrast, across the world people walked in never before seen numbers in peaceful Womens Marches. Symbols of hate were toppled and guns continued to flourish with little constraint. Harvey and Irma decimated tropical oases and long overdue awareness of sexual harassment gave birth to the #MeToo movement. The rich have gotten richer still while the poor get poorer.

Yup, 2017 was really a whopper – and not always in a good way.

Even in the worst of times, (and this year ranks in the top ten) we can grow, be humbled and learn. Looking back, I need to unwrap and process a few things about last year before I throw the door wide open on the new one. While I still write 2017 on checks, my oh-so beautiful Christmas tree stubbornly still stands and too many sweets linger. But, if my pharmacy’s shelves, stuffed with hearts and candy boxes, are any indication, apparently Valentines Day is around the corner. Knowing I’ll have to make peace with the old before I can welcome in the new, here are a few tiny reflections on the year that just left the building:

• Awareness. Before last year, I was literally a political sleepwalker. I never watched or read political thought, and my voting behavior consisted of little more than flipping all the switches on the family party of choice. It wasn’t until my granddaughter cast her first vote 5 years ago, that I stopped short. It was a shock to realize just how blithely I had ‘opted out’ of wanting to know. My sweet girl’s interest in learning about issues that affected all of us ignited my shame at never having given that mature move a thought! In that election, I left ‘mother may I’ far behind and reading, listening, discussing have become part of my persona. MSNBC is my go-to TV, NPR in the car and I’m as aghast as anyone else at what has become the ‘norm’ in our political theater. Ignorance is no longer an option. Vive la resistance! Continue reading

Merry, Moving Memories

christmas_movieBy the time the clock strikes Christmas Eve in a few days, most of us have watched more than our fair share of holiday movies. Thanksgiving weekend alone, the annual kickoff for all things merry, aired enough sugary Christmas movies to replace the pecan pie. The year I binge-watched Hallmark Countdown to Christmas on a snowy weekend, I vowed, that from then on, to set limits on the saccharine sweet bits that populate the season like sprinkles on a sundae. There’s just so much of that stuff you can inhale before your sugar high propels you to la la land.

“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.” A Christmas Carol

When my kids were small, we nailed all the prerequisite family holiday movies, Rudolph, Frosty to Charlie Brown Christmas. We watched them all – from animated fun to traditional Yuletide schmaltz. We cheered the Grinch’s change of heart and Rudolph’s blinking red badge of individuality. But, like anything else, an overdose of sweet can put your teeth on edge. Maybe that’s why Christmas movies come only once a year. You need time to regroup before getting your annual fix of contrived cheer.

As I grew older and kids flew the coop, shows like Santa is Coming to Town — left. Grown-up shows rang in the season but didn’t always ring my bells. My house didn’t quite measure up to the Martha Stewart-like holiday décor that draped over every available space in every Hallmark movie. All that perfection can be exhausting.  My Christmas lights would never measure up to Clark Griswold and my slowly morphing monochrome color schemed house (think coastal, remember?) would disappoint any self respecting North Pole resident.

I was beginning to like letting my not-so-inner graphic designer out,  the kid with a ‘more white space’ and Pantone color palette in mind. Still, I’d watch those Hallmark movies with a certain amount of wistfulness — and curiosity. Did you ever notice how that snow, that fell artfully on coats and hats never melted? Somehow, hairdos that were pelted with the white stuff never ended up with the wilted, wet dog look I got after snow showered me. And those dollhouse movie towns, bedecked in snow globe perfection. Doesn’t everything seem just a little too blindingly bright, a little too magical? Any resemblance to the world I live in is purely coincidental.

“Welcome, Christmas, while we stand, heart to heart and hand in hand.” How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Living in a less than picture perfect world is not a bad thing; it’s a real thing. Unlike a Hallmark holiday-wrapped movie, life isn’t perfect but it’s mostly good, even blessed, not with fairy dust but cookie crumbs, crayon marks, dog hairs and milk (or wine) spills. Still, those Christmas movies, heartfelt or cheesy, come with something for everyone, including a good shot of holiday spirit. Forget the recycled plots and inexorably happy endings. It’s the life lessons, the timeless moral fables that sucker me back in each Christmas season. Continue reading