|Photo courtesy of #PieholeWhiskey|
Thursday, September 30, 2021
Wednesday, August 11, 2021
Friday, May 21, 2021
“Over the river, and through the wood, to Grandfather’s house we go.”
---Lydia Maria Child
Yes, we're a long way from Thanksgiving, but finally, with vaccines rolling out, the country is opening up again. I was recently planning a trip because while I don't have grandparents, and neither do my children, I needed to get the heck out of town. It's been a long spell and like everyone else, I was antsy, so I decided to see what was happening in what my kids call "GrannyLand” but is actually Florida. In these early months of venturing out after the lockdowns, how are families reconnecting?
I am by no means a world traveler, but planning a trip is one of my favorite activities. I chose to visit a few places in the Sunshine State, rather than just stay in one area. I could say it was for research purposes, but mostly, it's because I have the patience of a gnat on Red Bull. First stop? Everyone's happy place, Orlando. Home of a famous mouse, and a whole of fun. At the resort where I stayed, it was all condos, and here’s a pro tip: if you’re going to pack up the family to see grandparents, get a condo. That way everyone has their own space. Also, it would help if the resort was awesome, and Bonnet Creek is definitely that. It’s always a gamble when you book something that looks amazing online, and then…isn’t…when you arrive, but staying at Club Wyndham was the best choice. Big rooms, a balcony with a view, and a lazy river on the property? Yes, please!
Think about it, if you’re traveling with younger kids and older relatives that’s a lot of needs to meet in one trip. In my suite, I had plenty of room to spread out, and given the past year, it was glorious. I think we all need a little luxury and space at this point. There was also a quiet pool and a more family-friendly pool because as much as they love them, most grandparents don't want to play Marco Polo with the kiddies for hours in the hot sun. Also, cabanas. Seriously, it’s not just some sunshade thing on the beach. It’s a poolside living room, complete with cable and food service. There’s definitely something for everyone in a cabana, just don’t touch the snacks, those are mine. I’d put one in my backyard, but I doubt it would be the same.
Since grandparents in Florida don't all live at Disneyworld, I hit the road south to Palm Beach and if I ever get to be a granny, I want to live there. It's unlikely unless I hit the Powerball, but seriously, this place is magical. My mother lived there in the 1950s when it was the center of the jet-set café society, and it's easy to see why she loved it so much. The Breakers, the iconic oceanfront hotel, is gorgeous in every way (at least to me) and while I didn't stay there, I spent an evening there and it was
I thought I would see aging Boomers in blue blazers and button-downs, but there were kids, honeymooners, couples, and singles. At the pool, having a cocktail, or just soaking it in, it was a little bit like stepping into a whole other time, just for a few hours. Getting to see our families again means we are just about through a terrible time, and the good parts we've missed will be back. That's what I noticed most on this quick visit to the Breakers. Yes, the food is amazing, the service impeccable, and the surroundings luxurious, but the families having dinner or hanging at the pool? You could see the connection; you could see that it wasn’t just another dinner with the grands. These moments stood out. It was as if everyone was just so glad to be exactly where they were. Of course, if you’re at the Breakers, how can you not be glad, right? Still, it was a family environment that just happens to be fabulous, and we all need a little fabulous right now.
|Seriously, the best drink I've ever had and |
that is saying something
As we move forward and start to resume dinners out and weekend getaways, we need to remember our extended family as well. Parents are exhausted from remote school, working, childcare, and stress. Grandparents have been isolated while trying to stay safe and have missed seeing family. It's the perfect time to plan a multigenerational trip. It might not be over the river and through the wood, but it doesn't have to be Palm Beach and theme parks either. Because I'm a huge nerd, I detoured for one night to the Space Coast. Seriously, that new Space Force we have? It's real! There's now a USSF base in Cocoa Beach. I didn't run into Major Nelson, but there's an "I Dream of Jeannie Lane." There's a pier where you can buy tacky souvenirs and get a drink that comes in a coconut. They sell Apollo 11 moon landing memorabilia and surfboards on every corner, does it get any more multigenerational?
It’s not entirely about where you go, I guess, it’s about who is traveling with you. If you can, go see your family. It’s time.
Thursday, April 29, 2021
“There is no such thing as a guilty pleasure.”
A few days ago, I was running errands with lots of stops to pick up this or that and drop off that or this. When I got hungry, I thought I’d just duck into Mickey Ds, grab some fries, and get on with it. Well, it was more hangry, than just hungry, and the drive up line was kind of long so when I got to the order screen it must have been the starvation mode that made me order a Happy Meal.
Happy Meals were a staple in our family when the kids were growing up. I could get them to do just about anything by dangling a Happy Meal for motivation. The promise of fries, a soda and a toy, was currency when my kids were little. Happy Meals became rewards for going above and beyond, they were reserved only for special treats, and when you’re a 6 year-old, that’s a big deal. So, imagine me, a grown woman, well into middle age, sitting in the car chomping on fries and racing a little plastic cartoon car along the dashboard. Oh, and bonus day, they now have chocolate milk in Happy Meals. Is there anything better, as a busy adult, to get to take 10 minutes out of your day to get chocky milk and nuggs?
Yes, I realize this makes me sound like some unbalanced snack sneaker, with food issues, and while that’s not completely incorrect, it’s also not unique to me. I asked around and almost all of my friends have what are sometimes called “guilty pleasures.” Guilty? Guilty of what? It’s not a crime to love French fries; it’s not a crime to want a little play time, right? I think what the term is supposed to imply is that some treats are taboo. You’re not supposed to like horking down three brownies, you shouldn’t enjoy watching some mindless reality show about overdressed housewives getting drunk and arguing. Those are bad habits; you should be eating salads and watching PBS.
Guess what? Nothing fun happens over a salad. Yes, they’re healthy, and some of them have feta cheese and olives and are wicked good, it’s just that no one savors them. No one says, “OMG, just one more bite of the baby spinach, it’s so good.” No one telling a really funny story about the time they crashed a wedding wants to crunch on some carrots, they need a big fat steak fry to wave around. Think about all the good times you’ve had with friends over the years. Birthday parties, girls’ nights out, Spring Break etc. I’m betting none of those gut busting stories and adventures included a quinoa protein bowl with shoepeg corn and a side of kale. The good times we remember, the laughs, the driving aimlessly with friends on a hot summer night, mostly all included roast beef sandwiches on the beach, ice cream cones that dripped on your shoes, and at least one 3 AM stop at IHOP.
I think many of us are coming out of a long year of lockdowns, social distancing, and in some cases, isolation. With vaccination rates going up and active cases going down, we’re a little like Amish kids on rumpshpringa, just losing our minds over being able to sit at a bar again or see a movie or go to a gathering. Staying home, working at home, going to school at home makes for a lot of togetherness. Day after day after day…I’m betting someone in every family has grabbed the car keys and bolted out of the house, maybe to mail a letter or pick up a gallon of milk and took the long way home. The long way that goes past Dairy Witch, or Five Guys. The long way that maybe involves a stop at a convenience store to buy a few scratch tickets and a slushie and sit in the car slurping and scratching and listening to the 80s station on the radio.
We tend to look around at others, at where they go and how they behave, and compare ourselves to them. All I got during the pandemic were twenty extra pounds and a new office chair. One of my friends started a new business, lost 40 pounds, won an award for her work with a non-profit, and I’m pretty sure she’s in the running to be an astronaut too. She's a perfectly nice person, but I kind of hate her. We might believe that these uber successful people never find themselves in the parking lot of a 7-11, snarfing down pecan rolls and scrolling through YouTube cat videos on their phone just for a few minutes of privacy, but we’d be wrong. I don’t care who you are, you’ve been there. If you got a little pleasure out of a late-night taco run, that isn’t a crime and you’ve no reason to be guilty over it. Life can be hard, so have the fries, or the ice cream, or the taco once in a while.
Thursday, April 8, 2021
"There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million."
My children aren't children anymore, they are young adults, but back in the days of Matchbox cars, training wheels, and playdates, my oldest had to have a daily matinee of a video called, "Road Construction Ahead." Some genius filmmaker made an entire 45-minute video of the construction of a new highway, from blasting the ledge, to steamrolling the tar and painting the lines. There were almost no words in the film, just some catchy stock music that, at least for a little while, was burned into my brain. Andy loved to watch the dynamite blow up, the dump trucks roll and the jackhammers pound away and no matter how many times he watched it, he never got tired of it. Also, it bought me 45 minutes to cook dinner or at least find a takeout menu and dial.
He's a grown man now, living on his own, gainfully employed and completely independent, but I'm betting that now and then if he's sitting in traffic near a construction zone, he looks over at all the trucks, and the equipment and remembers the movie that has to be burned into his memory as well. My middle boy and my daughter were not much different. George loved to tinker with cars, and he'd watch the factory show, "How It's Made" in long binges to see how jet engines were built and furnaces were welded. My daughter loved to watch the trash truck come and smash up all the bags of garbage while the workers hung on to the handles and waved at her. It seems that children just love to watch big machines at work.
So, imagine my surprise the other day when I was sitting at my dining room table, tucking into some work, and a nice blueberry muffin, when I heard the air brakes of a very large truck just a few feet from my window. I have neighbors that are remodeling the home they just purchased, so there's often a crew over there. They've cleared the brush away, put in new windows, a roof, and some other work, but like any construction site, they have a dumpster, and it needs to be emptied regularly. The truck that comes and hauls it away has these pneumatic pumps that slide up, with a system of cables and pulleys that I would probably understand if I hadn't slept through physics class.
I thought back to when my kids were little and how much they would have loved to watch the dumpster get hooked on and hauled up at a 45-degree angle and then set down, flat, without one single piece of trash falling out of it. Then I realized that I'd been gawking at this truck and dumpster for ten minutes and hadn't gotten a bit of work done. There was a deadline looming (when isn't there?) but honestly, the truck and the dumpster were way more interesting.
See, the yard is kind of narrow, and dumpsters are big. This hauler thing had to back into a very small space, precisely in the correct spot to line up the tracks of the dumpster with the bed of the truck. My nose was practically smooshed up against the glass of my kitchen window where I had moved to get a better look.
Yes, it sounds very Gladys Kravitz of me to be noseballing into my neighbor's yard, but it's kind of hard to miss a ginormous truck hauling a dumpster on a wire. Who wouldn't stop to watch that? It went off without a hitch (ha, hitch, see what I did there?) and it was back to work for me, but what a nice break it was. Close order maneuvers with big vehicles always impress me since my parking skills are nearly nonexistent. I couldn't parallel park one of those little kid Cozy Cars; there is no way backing up a 25-foot truck and latching onto a half-ton of dumpster debris would happen for me. A good friend lives in Vermont and has a very long driveway with a lovely lawn on both sides, and it bends a bit towards the end as you get to the street. In the 20 or so years she has lived there, I have never managed to back my little car down the drive without running over the grass on at least one side, usually both. My car has a back-up camera, a rearview mirror, two side mirrors, and a bunch of crash sensors and my tires are still tearing up the grass.
Maybe that's why little kids like to watch big trucks and construction machines? Because it's something they can't do, so it seems magical to them? Who knows, but it kind of makes me want to look for more opportunities to slow down for a few minutes and watch something happen, just for the sake of watching it. Not to fix it, or change it, but just watch something like a boat docking and unloading lobsters at The Landing, or someone flying a drone over Seaside Park. No goal, no task, just sit and look at a cool truck, or a nice boat, or even just the blue jays that dart around my yard and try to dive-bomb the bunnies. I think taking a break and staring at something other than a screen can be a way to wind down and de-stress, so that's going to be my goal. Oh, and if anyone is having a dumpster hauled away anytime soon, call me!
“Don’t rely too much on labels, for too often they are fables.”
--- Charles Spurgeon
We've all heard it, from parenting experts, teachers, grandparents, etc., that you cannot label people. Labels are for wine, they're for cans (but not canned wine, please never that) and they're sticky and hard to remove once applied. Ok, fair enough, we shouldn't sort each other into neat little categories, but then again, how do we define who we are? We all have names, isn't that a label? Of course, that's just for organization, we have to have our family names, and our given names, because otherwise, the registry of motor vehicles would be even more unpleasant than it already is. Once we get past the name though, then what? Are we defined by our jobs and roles? Mom, Dad, husband, wife, student, doctor, person, woman, man, camera are all labels, right? Also, since I just rattled off all that, does that mean I’ve passed some kind of cognitive memory test and I can now tell people to stop calling me Dory?
Labels are problematic, no question. They are needed on cans, bottles, and food containers, of course, because if not, it would just be “Chef’s Surprise” every night for dinner. No one would know until a can is opened whether it’s black beans or evaporated milk, and even I know that makes a difference when making chili. On the other hand, if you had symptoms of constant thirst, fatigue, dizziness, and unexplained weight loss, you’d be pretty happy if a medical professional worked that up and was able to correctly identify it as diabetes. Sure, that’s a label, “diabetic,” but if it means you won’t keep falling over in the street, that’s a good thing, yes?
Lately, there is a lot of talk about identity. Who do we believe we are? Who are we really? Now, I’m not going to go all Zen master here, but a big part of the problem with labels is that the ones we sometimes apply to ourselves don’t match the ones others apply to us. Essentially almost everyone out there is mislabeling each other, and it’s a fine mess in some cases. Whom should I believe? A person who says to me, “Hi I am Anakin, my pronouns are she, her, and hers” or another person who tells me, “Watch out for that one, a real headcase for sure.” Now what? Anakin is just someone I met, maybe we'll be working together or whatever, and it's good that now I know who they feel they are. Does it matter what someone else thinks about Anakin's identity? Not so much, and that's exactly the point. While a knee-jerk response to labels is that they're bad and unhelpful, it's only the wrong labels that truly hurt us.
There’s an expression that says when someone shows you who they are, believe them. This is good advice; most people know themselves better than anyone, why wouldn’t I take a person at their word on who they are? I don’t need someone to pull out an ID unless I’m cashing their check or notarizing their passport documents.
Also, yes, of course, I get it. It's a gross oversimplification to say we just need to take people at their word on who they are; clearly, there are hundreds of situations like medical care and some legal decisions where the details might matter a bit more than they do among family, friends, and coworkers. Honestly though, for the most part, the people we know and care about aren't looking to us for medical or legal needs. They simply want to be known and accepted as who they genuinely are, and here’s a pro tip: no one gets to say who you are but you. My good friend Cindy summed it up when she talked about how it takes a while sometimes to figure it out. She said, "Pearls are beautiful, but at first they are a few grains of silt and sand, and after a period of prolonged irritation, they are suddenly pearls, completely different from how they began." The necklace I was given for college graduation started as a handful of sand. Now it's a treasured family heirloom to be passed on for generations. Isn't that a nice way to think of something that starts one way, but when the course changes a little, there's so much more? That’s what I’m going with, anyway.
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
“The simple fact is that each day you have a choice. You can be a germ and infect people with your negative energy, or you can be a big dose of vitamin C and infuse them with your positive energy.”
---Jon Gordon, author “The Positive Dog”
This is the quote I used just about a year ago when our nationwide nightmare of COVID-19 began. When we all thought it would be two weeks of no school, and then it would be resolved. Well, turns out it wasn't like that at all. Here's what I thought then, and now.
Then: As I'm writing this, I half expect to look out my window and see Negan walking by with his barbed wire bat because it seems like we're all trapped in a bad episode of "The Walking Dead." Now, full disclosure, I am not a scientist or a medical professional. I barely passed high school chemistry, and I have no idea what RNA, cell apoptosis, and virology have to do with the price of toilet paper at Market Basket.
Now: Honestly, some days I still expect Negan to stroll by, but it’s not toilet paper anymore. Or hand sanitizer, or puzzles, or baking supplies. It’s vaccinations. Yes, that is progress, no one is happier than me about it, but now there’s more of a way forward, we can see it, and it makes it that much more difficult to be calm and relaxed, we are so close. Let’s not screw this up now is essentially what I’m hoping, we’ve made it this far, just a little more.
Then: “Wash your hands. It’s basic hygiene, and there shouldn’t have to be a global pandemic to get people to do it. Weren’t we already washing our hands regularly? Please tell me we haven’t all been wandering around dragging our snoogery boogery fingers all over every available surface? The stakes are a little higher now, so we need the reminders. However, there is no need to go to the store and buy 5 cases of water, 400 rolls of toilet paper, and every jug of Purell on the shelf, so you can stack it up in your garage. You’re not making yourself any safer, you just look silly. Cut it out.”
Now: Same goes! I heard a statistic the other day that said flu cases were down, and that many doctors believe it's not just from lockdowns and working at home. The masks, the handwashing, the cautiousness of not getting too close to people, not picking at your nose and face, and yes, wearing the damn mask, seem to have had a bonus benefit of keeping other bugs away too.
Then: Check on your neighbors. Not everyone can run to BJ’s or Costco and bring home a Suburban full of granola bars and canned soup. COVID-19 is especially dangerous for the elderly or those with chronic illnesses like asthma and COPD. Look around; there is likely someone nearby that needs a pot of stew or a pan of lasagna on their doorstep. Call your friends that live alone, chat them up. You know that big square electronic thing most of us have shoved in a pocket? It can make phone calls, so reach out and touch someone, just not with your germy hands.
Now: Yes, you still need to check in on neighbors, again, like handwashing, this shouldn't take a pandemic to be the norm. Taking care of each isn't a "new normal" (hate that expression) it's what should have been happening all along. Snowstorms, power outages, and just regular life can be tough for some of us. Lend a hand, but wash it first, OK?
Then: “Calm the heck down. About everything. Freaking out never solves anything, so chill, if you can. There’s no need to get all bent out of shape unless Netflix goes offline, or we lose power. If that happens, I’m reaching for my bat. In the meantime, try to be as positive as you can. Be well, be nice and be safe.”
Now: Well….I was overreaching on this. figured that by saying calm down to everyone else, I would calm down too. Nope. Didn’t happen, I’m still walking around all stressed up and no one to choke. I’m getting there though, I’ve stopped doom scrolling for hours on CDC guidelines, COVID rates, and testing sites so that’s good. I’ve also stopped telling other people how to feel or what to do…well, in theory anyway. It still kind of happens a lot. Working on it!
So much can change in a year; that has never been more true. There remain some challenges, for sure, but while no one thought last year that this is where we’d be now, if we had been told what it would be like, many would have said, “Oh no, I couldn’t possibly get through that, no way.” Well, if you’re reading this, you made it. So many didn’t, more than could have been imagined. Stand in gratitude that you got through it, and remember everything you learned. Your kids and grandkids will love the stories someday.