Live your life in such a way that when your feet hit the floor in the morning, Satan shudders and says "Oh shit, she's awake."

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My New Years Resolutions...mostly a recycle of last year's list...

Ahhhhhh…New Year’s resolutions, the thing we all love to hate. I am having a hard time deciding what my resolutions will be for 2011. I hate to make promises I am clearly not going to keep. However, there are a few things that I need to work on in 2011, so I will do my best to give you my current list, many of which were on last year's list...who says I'm a quitter???

1. I resolve to not let my ass become the size of a truck. The size of a bicycle is my limit.
2. I resolve to work harder at being patient with stupid people. (After all, patience is what Santa was supposed to have brought me this year - it must be in my stocking SOMEwhere.)
3. I resolve to not sweat the small stuff. Instead, I will obsess only about the really BIG stuff that hasn’t yet occurred.
4. I resolve to monitor my wine/alcohol intake, and keep it at a respectable level. (Now you can take two ways – either I will NOT up my level to that of an alcoholic, OR, I will keep drinking enough to be classified as an alcoholic. Hmmmm…I love when I have wiggle room on these things.)
5. I resolve to not spend more than one hour a day on the Internet. (Of course, I'm not much of a clock watcher.)
6. I resolve to be more appreciative of the little things in life. So, the next time my cockatoo craps on me, I will refer to her “present” as “love drops” instead of “bird sh$t”.
7. I resolve to work with neglected children, namely my daughter.
8. I resolve to stop sending Bill text messages while I am talking to him on the phone.
9. I resolve to give up at least three clothing items that are circa late 1980s to early 1990s.
10. I resolve to buy clothes in another color besides black.
11. I resolve to stop obsessing about any newly formed lines on my face. I can barely deal with the old lines that have accumulated thus far.
12. I resolve to do less laundry and use more deodorant.
13. I resolve to give up chocolate...completely...ok, no I don’t.
14. I resolve to always wear clean underwear, just in case.
15. I resolve to not laugh at anyone who is clearly an idiot.
16. I resolve to spend more time with family, until they irritate me to a point whereas they become completely intolerable.
17. I resolve to stop comparing myself with skinny women under the age of thirty. Instead, I will only compare myself with overweight women over the age of fifty, which is bound to lead to a much healthier level of self-esteem.
18. I resolve to finish every bottle of open shampoo in my house before I go out and buy more. (I probably won’t have to buy shampoo until sometime in 2012.)
19. I resolve to not be a drunken idiot…in public. However, I cannot promise anything as far as what goes on in the comfort of my own home.
20. I resolve to breathe in deeply, exhale slowly, enjoy life more, worry less, stop being obsessive, love passionately, laugh with utter abandon, and dance at least a little, every day, no matter what.

Happy New Year’s…may you be blessed with good health, strong family ties, security, and lots and lots of love.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Three years and counting...

Today is the anniversary of my first date with Bill, and he just sent the most magnificent bouquet of roses, peonies and lilies I have ever received. He’s never sent flowers before, and this one is bigger than most funeral arrangements I have seen in my life. When he does something, he certainly does make a statement. I cried. Flowers always make me cry.

So let me give just a little history. Our relationship was not of the traditional variety, but then again, very little about me is ever traditional. We did not meet in a bar, or at church, or through friends. However, the whole bar thing intrigues me, because Bill's collection of pickup lines is, well, nonexistent. Watching him try to pick me up in a bar would make for some great storytelling, I am sure. But we met online, and we were complete strangers. I had posted a profile on yahoo, mostly for the hell of it, and he had sent me an email, probably also for the hell of it. Why send me an email, you ask? Well, anyone who knows Bill will tell you his very favorite pastime is offshore fishing. I had put in my yahoo blurb that I had been offshore fishing a couple of times, so he just had to send me something, anything, and it was a diatribe. I wish I had saved it, but somehow it disappeared from my emails a while ago. It was a masterpiece though, specifically designed to melt my heart…and it did. I wrote him back, we chatted online, we talked on the phone, and we laughed a LOT. Magic…

The one thing I can remember so very clearly is opening my front door to see him standing there. And it was that first time I saw him that I knew I was in trouble. He was really cute and really really sweet. He was kind, and humble, and such a gentle soul. Me? I was damaged, recovering from a toxic relationship that shattered my trust in men. But he was persistent in his mission to win me over. We ate fried dill pickles, laughed some more, and played some pool. I tried to be coy, but was unsuccessful. I was smitten, and I’m pretty sure he knew it. That was the beginning…

Fast forward to today, this very moment. I can’t stop staring at these flowers. He called a bit ago, and the sound of his voice continues to melt my heart. I am still completely smitten. Our three years together have not been perfect, but they have been the best three years of my life. We rarely argue, and I feel like I’m missing my right arm when he’s not around. We never run out of things to talk about. At the same time, just sitting together with him in silence is better than most any conversation I’ve ever had with anyone. I can imagine myself growing old with him, spending the rest of my life with him. He truly makes me want to be a better woman, a better person.

Every day I am grateful that he sent that email. Some things are just meant to be, I suppose.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

All I want for Christmas is...

Dear Santa,

I hope this letter finds you, Mrs. Claus, the reindeer and your elf staff in good health. I know it must be an awfully tough time of year for you, seeing you’re not getting any younger. I must say, though, I've always admired how you keep that rosy glow in your cheeks. You must let me in on your little secret. The only way I seem to be able to get that sort of glow is an over-abundance of makeup, or a few too many vodka and sodas.

Concerning the matter of my Christmas Wish List, I’d like to say I’ve been on my BEST behavior this year, but I’d be lying. I have, however, been better than in years past, and I feel as though that should at least count for something. I did TRY to behave appropriately, but sometimes situations dictate otherwise, if you know what I mean. That being said, I haven’t been overtly mean to anyone, and I’ve tried to keep the bitchiness factor down to a minimum. Yes, there have been moments, and I do apologize for that. I’m sure Mrs. Claus is not always the picture of gentle femininity either. Lucky for you, you have a workshop full of elves that are probably all too happy to share a few beers with you and lament the challenges of dealing with a spouse who is feeling “less than lovely.” My Bill is very understanding when I have those moments, I must say. I feel very blessed to have such a wonderful and considerate fiancĂ©. I also understand why he drinks.

Anyway, I’ve thought long and hard about what I would like for Christmas this year. (By the way, you can cross off the red cowboy boots, as those are my gift from Bill.) My fondest desire for Christmas this year would be to find a healthy dose of patience under the tree with my name on it. I know you are well aware that I’ve always been a bit challenged in that department, and I have decided that I would really like to work on that, particularly my level of patience with stupid people. Is it my imagination, or do there seem to be WAY more stupid people in the world now than, say, twenty years ago? I don’t know about you, but I am literally TRIPPING daily over clueless people who are not only happy in their ignorance, but seem to revel in it. While I am able to refrain from physical confrontations, such as a well deserved smack upside the head, I seem to be unable to keep my big mouth shut, and often deliver a stinging sarcastic remark, although honestly, they never seem to “get it” anyway. I know not everyone is interested in what I have to say, but I feel compelled to at least try to show these idiots some guidance. I only wish they could see through their stupidity to understand that I only have the best of intentions. Alas, I am often misunderstood in my motives. Do you think if I switched over to the “smack upside the head” approach, I would be more efficient at making my point? You’re right, probably not. It might be fun to try it though. Just sayin…

So please, dear Santa, if you could just spare a LITTLE patience for me to exercise in the coming New Year, I would be so very grateful. And I promise, to use it wisely. Indeed, I will save it for only the very dumbest and most annoying individuals. The rest, well...all I can say is I’ll do my best.

I’ll have the milk and cookies waiting.

Love,
Chris

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Vodka on the rocks...in a snifter please...

Someone who once held a very special place in my heart died a few days ago. We were once the closest of friends, as close as sisters. But betrayal and circumstances showed me a very different side to her, and I let the relationship go. For years I felt anger and resentment, and eventually I felt nothing at all. To be honest, I hadn’t really even thought about her in quite some time. So when I heard the news I was a bit stunned. She was in her late fifties, and had always been the life of the party. But cancer took that life. I felt a bit sad for her family, and maybe a bit of regret that our friendship was never healed. More than anything, though, I still felt nothing.

Her death did give me pause about my own mortality. When you’re in your 40s and people start to pass away on a regular basis, you always stop to think about how many days you have left on this beautiful crazy planet. I hope to have many many days, but we all know there are no guarantees. Tomorrow is promised to none of us. I’ve always said “life is short, order the cheesecake” and I often joke with Bill, telling him if I die he should have me stuffed so he can prop me up in a corner, dressed to the nines with a martini in hand, wearing all of my jewelry and, of course, a really great pair of shoes.

I’m not afraid to die. Watching my father die right before my eyes cured that fear in me. While his death was gut-wrenching and incredibly emotional in ways I never even imagined, the one thing it was not was scary. He simply slipped away, surrounded by the love of my mom, my three siblings and me. His passing changed the way I would look at death from that moment on. But still, when someone moves from the world of the living to the world of the dead, you take a moment to reflect. I worry about my family, my menagerie of animals, but mostly about my Bill and my daughter, Tricia.

I would hate for any of them to cry-- to me that would go against everything I have stood for, and how I have lived my life every single day. I want them to celebrate my life, and the fact that I lived every day on my own terms with no excuses and no regrets. I want the wine to flow and I want the music to be loud. And I want there to be laughter, lots and lots of laughter – the kind that makes your sides hurt, and tears run down your face. Hell, I hope they bring in a comedian for the occasion just so they can roast me like Pamela Anderson. I'm absolutely sure I've provided enough material during my 45 years so far on this earth, and there is bound to be more in the future. I want the people I love to be happy that we had such wonderful times together, and I want that happiness to live forever in their hearts.

I won’t be going to Patricia’s funeral tomorrow. To do that would make me feel like a hypocrite, given the way our relationship ended. But I will have a cocktail in her honor when I’m out this weekend...probably a vodka on the rocks in a snifter glass, since that is what she always drank. Wherever she is, I’m sure she will notice and comment about what a lucky bitch I am that I’m able to enjoy that cocktail.

Safe travels to you Patricia. Cheers.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gobbler Gobbler Gobbler...Neck...

I’ve been reminded by this glorious Thanksgiving season, that turkey gobbler neck on a woman is NOT attractive...ever...

Ok, Chris, put down the Oil of Olay and step away from the mirror. I know you’re probably thinking to yourselves “WOW, she must have taken an overdose of vanity pills this morning!” But seriously, where in the hell did this ugly flap of wobbly skin under my chin come from? I don’t remember it being there last week, last month or last year. But BAM! there it is, mocking me in the mirror this morning as I slather on my five different wrinkle creams and moisturizers, which apparently aren’t working nearly as well as I had hoped. I’m actually considering one of those neck exerciser thingys that I keep seeing on those informercials. Does that sound desperate? Never mind, don’t answer that. While I’m at it, I might as well go ahead and order that Shake Weight to firm up my triceps which are flapping around even more than my neck. Besides, I know Bill has been secretly wishing for me to get a shake weight anyway, just so he can just sit back and watch me use it. I know you know what I’m talking about.

While I understand my wrinkle/flabby neck obsession is a vanity-related issue, I don’t really consider myself a vain person. Yes, I like to look good, and yes, I do spend a considerable amount of time “maintaining the buffet” so to speak. But in my defense, I don’t FEEL 45, so I’m not compelled to ensure that I LOOK 45. My mental age is probably in the 26-30 range, but if I can keep up appearances and be mistaken for a woman in her mid to late thirties, even 40ish, I can certainly live with that. I don’t need to look like I’m half my age. I just don’t want to appear to be twice my age. I believe the rest of the world refers to it as “aging gracefully.”

No matter how you slice it, as a woman, getting older is fraught with moments of self-doubt and lapses in confidence. Some days I wake up, look in the mirror and think to myself “not bad for a middle-aged broad.” Other days, my first thought is “why don’t I have a cosmetic surgery staff on call 24/7?” I’m sure a lot of things factor into it...the bottle of wine I drank the night before, staying up beyond my usual 9:30pm, or perhaps I forgot to dive head first into my jar of Olay Regenerist night cream before slipping between the sheets and drifting off to LaLaLand. Whatever the reason, those are the days I try to cut myself just a bit of slack, reminding myself that no matter how bad I think I look, it’s never as bad as I think. Then I slap on my moisturizer, and apply my MAC heavy duty foundation with a putty knife. Camera ready baby…I’m ready for my screen shot. ;o)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thoughts on thanks...

Every day, I am thankful for so many things in my life - my precocious and fun-loving daughter, my fiancé and one true soul mate forever known as "My Bill", my incredible family and friends, my menagerie of feathered and furry critters. I have good health and a job that I am passionate about every day, and I pretty much do whatever I want exactly when I want to do it. These blessings make my life grand in ways I never imagined, and it is important to me to always remember what a lucky girl I am. That being said, 2010 has not been my easiest year, but it has been a year that has helped me to discover my own inner strength, the value of true friendships, and what really counts with family. I've struck some wonderful new friendships and rekindled some that had faded with time. I've traveled to some extraordinary places and seen things that some never have the opportunity to see. I have also learned some patience with the world around me, a quality I've never been particularly good at showing when it comes to dealing with others. I will say my tolerance for incompetence and idiots is probably still at an all time low, but honestly, I don't see that changing in the foreseeable future. Maybe next year...

I’m sure my life could be improved in some ways, but not in any way that is meaningful. I could have a lavish, large and luxurious house, but that would be more to clean, and at this point in my life, I'd rather do anything but clean. I’ve got a jewelry box full of baubles I hardly ever wear, so the crown jewels would be wasted on me. More money? Please, I’d spend my last dime on a fabulous pair of Jimmy Choo shoes. More money equals more shoes, and Bill has stated on several occasions I am approaching my shoe limit. Personally, I’m not sure such a thing exists. I think he’s just busting my chops because he has wide feet and wears ugly man shoes, while I am blessed with very small dainty feet that look good in just about everything, especially a pair of mile high stilettos. He really should look at it from the perspective that at least I have good taste in shoes. I could be walking around in Birkenstocks with white ankle socks, a look which by the way, I would NEVER be caught dead in on any occasion. But I digress…

To me, it is so valuable to stop and take the time to reflect on how fortunate any one of us is at any given moment. Life is imperfect, to be sure. I certainly have suffered my share of ups and downs, and mostly of my own doing, although sometimes life just throws you a curve ball when you are least expecting. Most of the time it is simply life trying to teach you something you haven’t learned, or may have forgotten along the way. I understand that some days are better than others, but any day you wake up and your name isn’t listed on the obituary page is a good day in my book. Yes, I do, on occasion, check to make sure.

I wish you a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving. Cheers!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My Christmas Affliction...

I have a confession to make. Now I know some of you will shake your head, and some of you will wonder if I’m hitting the crack pipe, but a few of you will simply nod in understanding. You know who you are, and don’t try to pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about. Apparently I am not the only one afflicted with this type of disorder. Ok, here it goes…I have a sort of twisted obsession with all things Christmas, particularly decorations. Every year, sometime after the first of November, like some sort of sick Martha Stewart groupie, I begin to fantasize about Christmas trees, Christmas ornaments, fluffy flocked Christmas tablescapes, candles scented with peppermint and cinnamon, trips to Merrifield Garden Center (the true MECCA of Christmas decorating enthusiasts in the DC area), fifty different kinds of cookies in every shape and size, bite-size cheesecakes and brownies, and several dozen varieties of other holiday confections, all of which I should just glue directly on my ass. I walk through craft stores, envisioning myself making more splendid holiday decorations (which anyone who knows me will tell you I CLEARLY do not need.) Just seeing the jars of brightly colored glitter and self-adhesive Swarovski crystals can make my eyes glaze over like some sort of wacko on a psychotic mission. Bill is still marvelling at my “Christmas affliction” although he will be the first to tell you he loves the finished product.

When I was a little girl, Christmas really was pure magic. Like many of my friends back in Northeastern PA, I grew up in a middle class blue collar home with parents who gave everything to make sure that my sister, my brothers, and I had the most wonderful Christmases. We didn’t have a lot of money, and I know Mom and Dad gave up many items for themselves so they could make our holidays every kid’s dream…and indeed they were. But more than the gifts, those holidays was filled with family moments of decorating the tree, sitting around the living room on Christmas Eve exchanging presents between us, and holiday open houses with neighbors and friends. I will never forget those times. They are etched permanently into my memory, and represent everything that Christmas is supposed to be. I try to give my daughter Tricia those same memories as best that I can. It’s a tall order to live up to because Mom and Dad were masters at this feat. I fear I will always fall short of my expectations.

And every year, our family would make its annual pilgrimage to Raves Garden Center to see the holiday displays. I was in complete awe of such Christmas splendour. I would study every themed tree, sometimes even critiquing in my mind how they could have improved the subject matter (to me it was truly an art form.) I couldn’t believe that there were Christmas trees in the world that were so beautiful. By the time I was a teenager, I had vowed to myself that someday, I too would have a themed Christmas tree, even better than the trees at Raves. And so it began…

By my mid-twenties, I had acquired countless boxes of ornaments, all themed and scarily coordinated. My tree was shades of pastel blue and white, and most of the decorations came in the form of angels. To this day I still have many of them. I would spend hours planning how I would decorate the tree, what I would invest in to add to the tree for that year, and how many lights I could put on said tree before it started to drain too much from the Washington, DC power grid. I would invite friends over to help me decorate my tree, although mostly they would just sit and drink margaritas or wine, because inevitably, they never put any of the ornaments in the right place. (I hope they have since forgiven me for that.) I would have special decorations for the fireplace mantle, the coffee table, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, doors, windows, even small decorations for my bird’s cage. It was all very matchy matchy, but I loved it.

As I hit my thirties and I married, I decided it was time to make the jump…to three trees. Now mind you, none of these beauties were “tabletop” size. These were three fully decorated, fully lit trees standing at six feet or more, each with its own theme. The living room tree had maintained its “angel” theme, although somehow a lot of seashore related items, as well as birds, had crept into the mix. Still, it was all shades of blue, with blue, teal and green lights, and iridescent “fluffy stuff” which was sprinkled all over the branches. It was a marvel indeed. The basement tree, which would shelter all of Santa’s gifts for my young daughter, was an ode to childhood memories…toy soldiers, candy-themed ornaments, blue, red and gold balls, musical instruments, and tons of novelty ornaments (you know, the ones you find in the Hallmark store.) Around it was a Dept. 56 Dickens village (completely lit) and teeny tiny people seemingly walking through its snow-covered streets (I actually took the time to build a platform for this.) For a long time, this tree was my personal favorite. When I divorced, I picked out my favourite ornaments and decorations, and left the rest for my ex-husband, so he’d be able to decorate something, although I was never sure what that would be. He does his best every year. Honestly, he should call me for some assistance.

My “dining room” tree was actually a 6 foot spiral topiary (I can’t even believe I actually found such a thing) decorated in whimsical fashion with tropical fish, tropical colored balls, tropical colored lights, and topped with a HUMONGOUS bow that can only be described as the colors of an LSD trip. I often describe this tree as being decorated by “elves on acid.” Truly, you needed sunglasses to even look it. As I have gotten older, this tree theme has become my favorite, probably because I have bad eyesight, and it is the easiest to see at a distance. Believe me, you could not miss it.

So here it is, November 10th, and yes, I’m yet again imagining how my beloved Christmas collection will grow. In recent years, I have seen the error of my ways (through therapy, meds, and a well thought out selection of self help books) and have managed to pare it down to two full size trees, a tasteful tablescape on the dining room table and miscellaneous decorations scattered throughout the house. And yes, I do have Christmas china…it makes its appearance every year at Thanksgiving and is put away New Year’s Day. I’m actually not big on outside decorations, but I’m contemplating asking Bill to put up some lights on the bushes in front of the house – not sure how this will go over, so stay tuned. I have vowed to never put anything in my yard that requires its own wind generator though. The trees are still the showpieces, and indeed, would rival anything Martha could put together. The living room tree has evolved into mostly birds, birds’ nests, and shore-themed ornaments. The lights are now all white, and, ohhhhh, when the living room is dark and the tree is plugged in, it is pure heaven. You’ll often find me lounging on the sofa with the lights off, the tree on, a glass of wine in my hand, and Nat King Cole playing in the background.

The basement tree is now the study in color therapy, and I’ve managed to add peacock feathers, sparkly branches, and even more bows and ribbon, along with an ever growing collection of brightly colored fish (don’t ask me where the fish thing comes from, I have no idea.) I’ve also managed to start a collection of fairies that reside under this tree, although I’m not sure how the fish are feeling about this. I think they would have preferred something more “fish/water oriented.” But the fairies are equally colourful, although a few of them more closely resemble fairy hookers, or at the very least, fairies with very loose morals. I didn’t intend for that to be the case. One should never shop for fairies after drinking a bottle of wine, or vodka.

I’m already counting my pennies for my trip to the Merrifield Garden Center’s Christmas Shop Extravaganza… it’s going to be a great holiday season, I can just tell. Somewhere in the back of mind, I see myself as an old woman, sitting in my house with all my Christmas trees (I’ll probably be up to five or six by then) like Miss Havisham and her wedding cake. I’ll be too old to take them down, so I’ll just leave them up all year, periodically knocking the dust off them. My family will all think I’ve lost my marbles, but I’ll be in my glory, and every day will be Christmas. What a nice thought.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

You really can go home...

I’m going home this weekend…not home as in my home nestled in Old Town Manassas Virginia, but home, to that small gem of a town in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania…back to Tunkhannock. I don’t go home very often these days, but this weekend I am meeting a group of folks from high school for dinner and drinks. We seem to be doing this more frequently as we move closer to middle age (I refuse to believe I’m there yet) and truly, I wish I had known each of them in high school on the level I have gotten to know them over the past several years.

For a while, I thought it was “just a facebook thing” but lately, there are phone conversations and long emails, dinners and social gatherings. We laugh together, marvel at each other’s kids, argue about politics, and cry together. It’s been so heartwarming to hear about their personal journeys. Some have found great success on their chosen path…others are still searching for that "thing" that will lead them down the path to the life they’ve always dreamed of for themselves. Some journeys just take longer than others, and I’m speaking from personal experience. One thing that has become abundantly clear – there is more that binds us together than sets us apart. Perhaps it’s that small town northeastern PA mentality that keeps us entertwined. Whatever it is, I’m thankful that I share that common thread with so many. It makes me feel like I truly belong to something wonderful…a fraternity of people with the same memories…Memorial Day parades down Tioga Street, Friday night football games, dawn til dusk movie night at the drive-in, plodding through Gay Murray’s on a Saturday morning with Dad looking for nothing in particular, donuts from Gable’s bakery, the list goes on and on. I treasure each one of those memories.

Last night I had a phone conversation with a former high school classmate who reminded me that we didn’t really know each other in high school, and her words rang so true. We didn’t hang out. In fact, other than passing her in the hall or seeing her on the football field (she was the cute cheerleader and I was a geeky band member) we never even really spoke. I thought I knew a lot about her, but apparently, I didn’t know anything about her at all. After chatting for half an hour, I was amazed at how similar our life experiences were, and it warmed my heart. Suddenly I wondered why I hated high school so much, and why I never really bothered to interact more with those around me. Was my entire high school experience something I made up in my head? I wonder about that sometimes. Maybe high school seemed so awful because I chose for it to be that way. Who was I in high school anyway? I can tell you who I thought I was. I was the girl who always considered herself just a little weird and who often said the wrong thing at the wrong time, soliciting strange looks for those around her. I was the girl with the bad skin, red hair and considered myself fat and homely. I was the girl who was sure she'd be a virgin FOREVER. I didn’t hang out with the “cool” people, and I wasn’t confident enough to push myself to test my limits and boundaries. I was mostly just miserable. It wasn’t until about four years ago when a friend posted a photo of me taken on prom night that I realized I was never any of those things that plagued my memory. I was cute, I had great hair, and most importantly, I was a nice person. I was dumbfounded by how much I actually liked that girl in the photo, and for the first time, I felt as though I had really sold myself short. I should have spent more time being me, instead of being who I though I was supposed to be, or the person people expected me to be. I try to explain that to my daughter as she approaches her teenage years. Is she listening? Probably not, but I would love it if her high school experience was something more positive than mine.

I believe the whole experience of high school would have been much more pleasant, the memories would have been so much sweeter, if we had taken a moment to really learn something about the person sitting next to us in Mr. Podloski’s geometry class, or invited that one person who seemed so alone to sit at our table during lunch. But kids are kids – self-centered and unthinking in their interaction with others, careless in their words and deeds, seemingly invincible and crazy in their actions, and sometimes downright stupid. I know that I never really took the time to get to know a lot of people back then, but what I have discovered in recent years is truly extraordinary…those same people from high school that I now know just a bit better are caring, compassionate, opinionated, occasionally annoying, but mostly, some of the most witty and intelligent people I have ever known. These semi-annual gatherings of miscellaneous classmates have become very important to me, as they provide me with a touchstone and true reminder of what it was like “back in the day” when I had not a real care in the world. Back then, I believed that mostly everyone was good, that no one REALLY meant to hurt anyone, and the two smartest people in my life were my mom and my dad. I truly miss those days. God, I sound old.

I've traveled my own long, winding, and sometimes exhausting path in my life and I consider it an honor to share so many experiences with those I now call “friends.” I hope they realize that if I take a moment to post something on their wall or photos, or let them know in some simple way that they are on my mind, it is because, no matter how inconsequential that moment may seem, they are an important part of my life. Most of them will never know how much true satisfaction I get in knowing that they are all safe and sound (at least for the most part) and happily ensconced in their lives with their families and loved ones. I love to hear their stories, fawn over photos of their children and grandchildren and beloved pets, and share a bit of time together even though most of us are running at light speed every day. Taking time to step back and reflect, and share, is what makes life grand.

I'm not sure who will read this, maybe not a soul, but it's been written with all the sincerity I have in my heart. To those of you I’ve mentioned (and you know who you are) thank you for every morsel you have added to this really delicious chocolate chip cookie of a life...one that is rich in really great friendships, lots of love and laughter, and more happiness that I had ever hoped for…ever. I’m such a lucky girl.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I didn't vote...so shoot me...

My day has been replete with people commanding that I go vote – on Facebook, on TV, the radio, even my future mother-in-law asked if I was voting. My simple answer? I am not. It isn’t that I am indifferent, or apathetic. At this point, I consider myself to be one of the disenfranchised who is simply beyond disgusted by the behavior of these people who claim to be servants of the people. Pffffffft…you’re joking right? I mean seriously, where do you even start with these bozos? And for the record, I’m not even that pissed at Obama. On the list of idiots who piss me off, he is WAY down on the list. He was handed a Congress full of out and out dishonest cretins and dimwits. He didn’t have much to work with.

I should preface all of this by saying I consider myself a fiscal conservative and moderate to liberal in my social viewpoint. I’ve taken the stupid “what political party are you” quizzes on facebook, and it keeps telling me I am most closely aligned with the Libertarian party. Whatever. I’m me, and that right there is a dichotomy. Do I believe that the government should be bailing out banks? Ummmmm…no, they have to be very very rich if they are collecting the same fees from everyone else as they are from me. Do I think everyone is entitled to health insurance? Maybe. I certainly believe that all children should be covered. Adults? That’s a little more complicated. I hate to see suffering, but I also believe it is hard to help anyone who doesn’t want to help themselves. The real question is how do you distinguish between those who NEED help, and those who just want someone to take care of everything for them. I can remember when I was 25 or 26and living in DC eating candy bars so I could afford to pay my rent, I would go with my $20 to the local grocery store to buy whatever food that would get me for the week. While waiting in line, I would be standing behind someone with five kids, a full cart, salon manicured nails (complete with airbrushing), and a fistful of government issued food stamps. That same individual would then go out to the parking lot, and load their five kids, $400 worth of groceries, and their well-fed ass into a brand new Nissan Pathfinder, complete with custom mud flaps and the ridiculous blinged out grill. Let me note that I did not own a car because I could not afford one on my secretary’s salary. Did it leave a bad taste in my mouth? What do you think?

So there have been a lot of experiences that have formed my political stance over the years. I am finding that as I get older, I’m softening. Suffering of any kind is difficult for me to watch, especially when is because of a truly unfortunate set of circumstances that someone has been handed. The suffering of children or animals is incredibly hard for me to witness. I try to be cognizant of “being green” as much as I can, but I’m not going to walk three miles to and from work every day. I already use way below my quota of fossil fuels, and to be honest, I’m ok with my carbon footprint. It’s a size 5 ½ or 6.

My problem is that I just feel like there is NO ONE running that I trust to do what the job requires – be honest, work for the good of ALL people, and make the tough choices. For me to vote my heart, I’d have to write in my eleven year old daughter, and she’s not old enough to run for office. At least her heart would be in the right place, because the world is a lot simpler through a child’s eyes. I’m pretty sure lobbyists would have little effect on her, because her tolerance for anyone who tries to dissuade her from making anything but what she perceives as the “right” decision would be in for the fight of their lives…that and the fact she’ll pretty much go in the exact opposite direction from any adult telling her what to do. Ask me, I’m her mother. I know these things.

To all of you who will ridicule me for not exercising my constitutional right, or not doing my civic duty, I can promise you this - since I have not voted, I will not bitch about what happens for the next two years. Maybe by then I’ll have someone or something to believe in. Actually the not bitching thing will be easy, as I plan to just sit back and watch how all of this unfolds for all parties involved. I wish I could say I’m hopeful, but I am not. I really do believe that whoever controls the big domed buildings 30 miles from my home, their ability to get ANYTHING done is greatly reduced, because no one knows the meaning of two words – collaboration and compromise. Everyone is too interested in winning, and because of that, no one will win. If nothing else, it will be interesting though, eh? I’m sure it will make for some riveting television. The cable news networks will be in their GLORY.

Pura Vida...I miss you, my friend!

Wow, I cannot believe it’s been almost a year since I felt the sand squishing between my toes at Playa Guiones, or watched the sun set as the local ticos braved overhead waves in search of the perfect ride. I’ve done quite a bit of traveling in my life, and while there is still so much I haven’t seen, my heart keeps begging me to return to the Pacific shores of Costa Rica, to the sleepy village of Nosara. I miss the shell pink sugar sand, the blue morpho butterflies the size of dinner plates floating past my face, the sound of the howler monkeys calling their babies back to the troop…actually I miss everything about it.

Nosara is not the typical lavish touristy destination you would expect. Hell, just getting there can be an adventure, depending on what time of the year you arrive. The roads leading into town are mostly dirt, and occasionally they are washed out from torrential downpours. More than once I have had to cross a river in my beat-up rental SUV because the only bridge was washed out. Like I said, it is an adventure from the moment you get off the plane at Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport, and it is a two and a half hour drive to Nosara from there. But the scenery is incredible, and if you do get lost, the people are more than happy to help you as best they can (although a small amount of Spanish is helpful.)

Upon arrival, you won’t find large resorts filled with infinity pools and tiki bars, along with loads of people looking for the ultimate experience in pampering. While there is a great deal of money there, and a lot of it American, most of the people and hotels are pretty low key and unassuming. On all three of my trips to this hidden gem, I rented a private home buried in the rainforest, but a mere five minute walk to the world’s most pristine beach. Birds of paradise buzz through the lush greenery, and the bellowing of the local monkey population is heard throughout the day, although these dudes are especially vocal in the morning. You’ll also see the occasional scorpion or snake sunning itself, but honestly I’ve never felt fearful…and I HATE snakes.

I mainly stay in what is referred to as “K Section” as it is within walking distance to Playa Guiones. The area is filled with mostly American expatriates who have decided to leave the States behind for their personal slice of heaven. Funny, none of them seem to have any desire to return stateside either. And why would they? They miss strip malls and heavy traffic interspersed with rude people and endless amounts of stress? I can assure you, if I had a check showing up in the mail, I would already be living there. The other beaches – Playa Nosara, Playa Pelada, and Playa Garza all hold their own special charm as well. Playa Pelada is a pink sand beach with tidal pools filled to the brim with puffer fish, starfish, sea urchins, and other amazing wildlife. The waves smash against the large rock outcroppings in grand fashion, leaving you feeling inconsequential in a world of such beauty. Playa Garza is filled with local charter boat captains who, for about US$250 will take you offshore to fish for most anything your heart desires – yellowfin tuna, dorado, roosterfish, and marlin. You can even head to Playa Ostienal at particular times of the year to help the mother sea turtles get to shore so they can lay their eggs, or help the baby sea turtles return to sea after they have hatched. I’ve promised myself that experience will be part of my next trip there.

Among the many things to occupy your time while visiting, are the local bodegas, a handful of small shops, and several surfing schools. No trip to Nosara is complete without a stop at Marlin Bill’s for lunch, or Coconut Harry’s for his latest collection of hilarious t-shirts. You can also venture to Samara, a slightly larger town about 30 minutes away with an extraordinary beach and lots of local color. And if you’re feeling particularly brave, you can drive to Playa Carillo, but don’t forget your passport, as the local police take great pleasure in stopping tourists.

My favorite time though, is simply sitting on the lanai and listening to all the wildlife chattering around me. I am constantly amazed by the things that I see and hear. It reminds me of my place in the grand scheme of life, and how every creature, no matter how big or small, is important to that puzzle. Nosara centers me, and keeps me grounded. Truly, I’ve never felt as much at home as I do there.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Help! I've fallen off my soapbox and i can't get up!

I’ve noticed something…in a world where the word “tolerance” is thrown around in most any situation or discussion, there is very little tolerance in the world. How does that work? I keep mulling this over and trying to come up with some valid explanation for this phenomenon, but….ummmmmmmmmm…hmmmmmmmmm…nope, I’ve got nothing. Tolerance is quickly becoming a thing of the past, like cassettes, and good television.

Maybe I’m wired a bit differently than some people. Maybe that’s how I’ve lived in DC for over 25 years, and never gotten sucked into so much of the drama and politics that lives not only Capitol Hill, but every PTA, homeowners’ association, or other organization in this town. Politics has always been backyard discussion around here, at least since I moved here. People in DC tend to be full of themselves, all with an over-inflated value of self-importance and a need for power of any kind. I thought this character trait was unique to Washington, and indeed, I think a decade or two ago, that may have been the case. Now? It has spread across the country, the world in fact, like some sort of virus, and everybody seems to have caught it. Every day I pray for the vaccine to become available… again…I’ve got nothing.

Seriously, I can’t drive to work on any given day and not see a bunch of people parading in front of some office or business with signs protesting one thing or the other, and this is a DAILY occurrence. Do people have the right to free speech? Absolutely, it’s a constitutional right, and I applaud it. What I can’t understand is how so many people in the world came to the conclusion that everyone else in the world really cares about what they think or believe, or what causes they support. Does everything have to be aired in such a public forum? (Thank you Facebook, I hold you accountable for that one.) Does everyone have to beat the rest of the world about the head with a picket sign or pen their editorial comments in bright lights so they can sway everyone else to their way of thinking? Don’t get me wrong, debate is healthy, and necessary in order to affect change. But so many people are doing nothing short of harassing or bullying anyone who will give them half a second so that they can get on their soapbox and beat their drum. And if they can’t sway a particular individual into their way of thinking? Well, then those people who can’t “see the truth” are subject to nothing short of a smear campaign replete with words such as “mentally unstable”, and “stupid.” For the record, I think I fall into the stupid category a lot with a lot of these drum beaters. That’s cool, I never said I was rocket scientist.

Maybe it’s just me. I am not motivated by politics, or agendas, or the need for my 15 minutes. The closest I come to my “15 minutes” is this blog, and really, writing is more for my own sanity. I get a lot of satisfaction from emptying my brain periodically of all the thoughts and observations that build up – some annoying,some sad, some reflective, some just plain freakin'funny. I just live my life the best I can every day. I recycle, I turn off lights, I try to make a difference. I abhor most politicians because they appear to me to be individuals who derive great pleasure from tearing down someone else so they can make themselves look like the savior of all mankind, or at least their district. Personally, if I know you, I don’t care if you are democrat, republican, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, a fan of NASCAR, or the WWE. If you’re a vegan, good for you. Personally, I think pigs are adorable, the problem is they taste so damn good. What I am concerned about is that you care for others, and you are a true friend to me. I don’t care if you’ve made mistakes (who hasn’t), and I’m not concerned about your religious or political affiliations. I’m not a fan of organized religion, but if you are, then I’m happy that trips your trigger. If you’re an alcoholic, I probably won’t be your first choice as your best friend, because I like to drink on occasion (ok, often), and I’m not giving that up until someone tells me I’ll die from red wine. But I respect anyone’s choice not to drink, as long as you respect my choice to be a wino. It’s all good in my book. Some people would say I’m not “in the know” or “in tune with today’s society.” Truth? I don’t care. I like the bubble I live in and I’m not leaving it. Do I pay attention to what’s going on in the world? Of course I do – with the 24 hour news cycle, it’s hard to miss most things. The point is I try not to let it consume my life. To do that would be taking time away from the people and things in my life that are truly important, and what a tragedy that would be. I don’t want to be on my deathbed thinking “Gee, I really should have spent more time getting to know those candidates in the last election.” or “Wow, I could have really made a difference if I had gone to more homeowners’ association meetings.” And for the record, I absolutely will not be the woman on her deathbed thinking “I really should have ordered the cheesecake after dinner.” Trust me, cheesecake and I are buddies, and always will be.

When I think of how I live my life day to day, I like to think of my relationship with someone I consider a very close friend, whom I won’t name, but she’ll know I’m talking about her. While we have a lot of commonalities, we are mostly on polar opposite ends of the political and social spectrum. She tends to lean WAY left, and I am a professed fiscal conservative and social liberal. We disagree on a lot of things ideologically, but not once has it colored my feelings for her. I love her like my sister, and truly, she is one person I wished lived closer. As it is, she is in Astoria, and I am here in Manassas. I don’t care what she thinks about politics, or religion, or the state of the country as a whole. What I care about is that I know I can call her anytime and we just pick up where we left off. I hope she feels the same about me. I hope she knows how important she is to me.

Like someone once told me, opinions are like a$$holes, everybody has one. I have opinions, lots of them. If someone asks for my opinion, I’ll gladly give it, and I encourage most people to chalk it up in the “for what it’s worth” column. I don’t profess to know everything. I don’t even pretend to know a whole lot about anything. I do have a certain amount of knowledge about certain things that is mostly based on my past experiences – both good and bad. Should someone ask me to pass along my knowledge from these experiences, I will gladly do so. I like to help folks in any way I can, also part of my wiring.

I just enjoy living my life the best I can every single day. I’m not perfect, and I wouldn’t want to be…that would be a hell of a thing to keep up on a daily basis. All I know is I find myself wishing for a kinder, more compassionate time, before the advent of the Internet and Facebook, before everyone became SO important in their own minds, when people picked up the phone to chat about the weather, or stopped by someone’s house just to have a cup of coffee. Maybe I’ll put that one on my list to Santa.

Peace to you all, every day, without exception.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sleepovers? When does the "sleep" part start???

So here I sit, with my glass of truly mediocre wine, trying to figure out why I yet again relented and allowed my beloved daughter to invite her closest BFF's to my home for a...gulp... birthday sleepover. I really need to lay off the crack, as it is apparently affecting my decision-making capabilities.

I should preface this whole scenario with the fact that, as a mother, I have known from the beginning that I will never be awarded Mother of the Year...ever. I fully disclose to you that I am impatient, demanding, controlling, and often speak in a tone similar to that of Gunnery Sargeant Hartmann in Full Metal Jacket. Upon delivery, my daughter was presented with discount coupons for therapy. If I didn't know better, I would swear I saw the labor nurses murmuring "poor dear" under their breath as they handed me my sweet bundle of baby wrapped up in pink. That being said, she is an amazingly grounded and wonderful kid - a bit too dramatic sometimes for my taste, but my mother tells me the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Don't get me wrong, I love Tricia more than anyone in the world, and indeed, I would lay down my life for her. But if that child doesn't learn to stop leaving her room looking as if an F4 tornado just blew through, she won't have to ever worry about learning to drive. She'll never live that long.

Back to the sleepover...here is what I think. I think that instead of sending a child to a sleepover with birthday present in hand, the child should donate a bottle of wine (of at least decent quality) to the hosting mother. If it is a "little girl" sleepover, each child should bring two bottles. How could I forget such giggling, screaming, running through the house, and high-pitched squealing? I think my ears are going to start bleeding any second. And I'm lucky because I love my daughter's friends...truly they are the sweetest little girls ever. But Oh My God, where is the OFF switch???

I know they are having the time of their life. I want her birthday to fun and memorable, and magical. Eleven only happens once in a lifetime, and I know someday I will long for the days when she was eleven and thought I was the best mom ever for letting her have a sleepover. Maybe Mother of the Year isn't such a distant dream after all? Ok, who am I kidding? THAT is never going to happen.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lift Us Up On Angel's Wings

Everyone has that one thing that simply touches his or her heart as nothing else can. For some it is the innocence in the face of a child, for others it is the love and companionship of a canine or cat. I, myself, have an incredibly soft spot for all animals – a trait I like to think I inherited from my father, who was constantly rescuing some animal from certain tragedy. But of all the animals in the world, birds seem to hold the very most special place in my life, particularly cockatoos and parrots.

I “adopted” my first parrot from an exotic bird shop in Key West in 1991. She was a small Jenday parrot who sat shyly on a perch near the floor. Her colors were magnificent and she let me gently pet her on the head. I was smitten. Two hundred dollars later, I smuggled her home on the plane from Miami; she never made a peep the entire ride. From the moment I got her home, she never stopped squawking, loudly I might add. I loved her to pieces and we were fast friends for many years, but unfortunately, my now ex-husband was allergic to her, so I re-homed her to a lonely old woman who was looking for a bird to replace her recently deceased parrot companion. In hindsight, I should have kept the bird and unloaded the ex sooner.

These days I am the proud mommy to a very special flock of feathered critters - an umbrella cockatoo, a blue-headed pionus parrot, and a high-strung cockatiel. I adore them all, although the pionus is clearly my fiance’s bird now, and wants almost no part of me. Such is life with birds. They develop attachments to a person, and the bond is incredibly strong. I accept it. He still lets me scratch him on the head occasionally, and that is fine with me. The cockatiel loves people, but isn’t much of a cuddler. She prefers to have her ongoing love affair with her many mirrors. That leaves my cockatoo—my sweet darling Lola, my heart wrapped in a warm soft pile of feathers. She is always there, waiting for me to play with her, or wrap her in a blanket and let her snuggle with me in bed. She’s an amazing creature with unbelievable intellect and understanding. You look at her and you just KNOW there is a lot going on behind those eyes. And there always is… and some of it isn’t good either – she is very skilled at being very naughty.

So when I heard something this week via Facebook, I was completely stunned by the viciousness and cruelty of the story. A woman named Carol Mayo, posing as a pet sitter, had been offering her services to bird owners. Apparently these birds left in her care were inhumanely plucked of their feathers, tortured, mutilated. Owners were told their birds were missing or stolen, when in fact she had killed the birds, disposed of their bodies, then sold their feathers on ebay or craigslist. Her latest victim, an umbrella cockatoo identical to Lola named Angel, had been brutally killed, although they have yet to find poor Angel's body. Angel was to be with the “pet sitter” for four days while the bird waited to be relinquished to a rescue organization, Broken Wing, in the Phoenix area. The owner, who was living in an apartment, was forced to give up her beloved pet because of her screaming. (Anyone who has spent time with an umbrella cockatoo will tell you, their screams can be deafening.) The owner and rescue organization are pursuing the matter with authorities, and were actually able to rescue a blue and gold macaw from the woman’s residence (with the help of Ms. Mayo's daughter) which was being tortured as well. Unfortunately, there was no rescue for Angel. I’m not sure how this will work out, but certainly this person deserves a stiff punishment for her actions. Personally, I believe that torturing her by pulling off her skin would be appropriate…just saying…

I cried for that bird. If it had happened to Lola, I would have been inconsolable. I don’t understand how such evil can live in a person’s heart unchecked. I need to believe in the human condition, and that deep down, most people are good, but that becomes more and more difficult each day. Where is the humanity? Where is the compassion? I know those qualities must exist somewhere. I do see signs of them every day – sometimes in small ways, sometimes big. But I’m so afraid that the balance is tipping in the wrong direction. Maybe we just hear the stories more, because society is so connected and wired into so many vehicles for information. My personal belief? We are losing our humanity at the hands of our technology, knowledge, greed and ambition. We, as a society, move at lightening fast pace to be bigger, faster, smarter. We are conditioned to look for instant gratification, and too often look past our fellow man in the hope of finding more more more…more money, more gratification, more power. Who loses when acts of cruelty such as this happen, or any act of cruelty for that matter – be it an animal, child, anyone really? We all lose, in ways that you cannot even calculate.

I want more for my daughter, my family, YOUR family. I can say with great pride that my friends and family are extraordinary people with an incomprehensible capacity to give of themselves and never ask for anything in return. I wish that for everyone, I really do.

For some, they may say, “It was just a bird. To that I say that it was a living breathing creature, and it deserved better. We all deserve better.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Grande Bold Pick in a Vente Cup

Anyone who knows me will tell you I am pretty much a creature of habit…not that I can’t be spontaneous – actually I love being spontaneous, compulsive even. But every morning I leave my house at close to the same time and drive 3.3 miles to the office. On the way, I stop at the my favorite Starbucks (the one with the hot barrista) and order my grande bold pick in a vente cup (got to have room for that quart of half and half.) This morning was no exception, and I needed it bad for a number of reasons, which I will not bore you with. Honestly, if I could get my java through an IV, that would be super duper.

So I’m standing in a line three people deep. Everyone had that same, half awake, zombie-like look on their face, alluding to the fact that if given a choice, they would probably have been somewhere else, like back in bed. The woman at the front of the line was buying a veritable grocery order – coffee, a banana, a pound of beans, a bagel, and God knows what else. I think I even saw a plastic bear full of honey in her hand, and I didn’t even know Starbucks sold honey. Suddenly, the lovely drone of the usual Starbucks white noise was disrupted by Grocery Lady (to me she will forever be Grocery Lady) knocking over three Robert Plant cd’s from the rack in front of the register. It startled all of us into a state of “WTF???” Then, it happened…one of the things in the world that is my biggest pet peeve, maybe even one of the things that pisses me off the most. Grocery Lady looked down at the scattered cd’s, and did…NOTHING. I could feel my temperature rising at her complete disregard for something which SHE was clearly responsible for doing. She finished paying for her $500 worth of crap, turned around, looked at the cd’s and everyone in line…AND WALKED AWAY. I couldn’t believe it. I rolled my eyes at her LOUDLY (if that’s possible) as her glance passed over me – sort of the way my 11 year old daughter does when I tell her to clean up her room – in complete and utter contempt and disgust. I could feel the words “lazy bitch” gurgling in my throat, dying to come out. But I didn’t say it. The next person walked up to the register. I stepped forward, picked up the cd’s, and put them back on the rack. I could only hope that Grocery Lady saw me do it, as she was pouring her fifteen sugar packets into her coffee. I hope she chokes on it.

Which brings me to my point. What ever happened to personal responsibility, and common consideration? You really don’t see it much in today’s world. Once in a great while, you see a glimmer of it, but mostly, it is glaringly absent. This woman not only had zero regard for the fact that SHE was the one who knocked over the merchandise (responsibility part), but was completely ignorant of the fact that SOMEONE ELSE would have to clean up after her (the common consideration part.) She gets an “F” for today, since she failed miserably at being a decent human being. Am I overreacting? Maybe, but it’s the little things in life that make all the difference.

I try to instil these attributes in my daughter every day…take a moment to be considerate, always show compassion for people who are less fortunate, always take responsibility for your mistakes. These are simple things, but they seem to be missing from everyday life. It makes me sad. I’ve always lived under the premise that it is part of the human condition to hold these attributes close to your heart and live them every day, but now I’m not so sure that is the case with most people. I have far more respect for the person who is willing to stand up and be accountable for everything in their life. I certainly am not perfect. In fact, I’ve done some incredibly stupid things in my life which have cost me dearly in ways I can’t even explain. But everything--good, bad or otherwise—is mine and I own it. Mistakes suck, but they make us who we are. As long as you learn and move forward in a positive way, then it’s all good.

Ok, so I have had my rant for today. Now I will exercise that OTHER human attribute which is important to remember. I FORGIVE Grocery Lady for not doing the right thing. Hopefully, at some point, she will be in a position where she will be forced to remember those poor Robert Plant cd’s on the floor, and think to herself, “I really should have picked those up and put them back on the rack.” Hope springs eternal I suppose.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Is it really just a number?

Yesterday, I discovered H&M as my new shopping destination...I found their website, and much to my surprise, I loved most of the outfits I saw. Having lost 64 lbs over the past year, I was feeling a bit adventurous about what exactly I want my style to be. I know I need an update - of this much I am acutely aware. Somehow, despite my best effort to be "fashion-forward" a small but integral part of my closet remains firmly planted in the period between 1988 and 1992. I'm not proud of that, just stating a fact.

So there I was, browsing thru their groovy looks - some girly, some bohemian, some eclectic, but all of them DEFINITELY not circa 1990. My palms itched with anticipation as I mused over wearing such outfits. Would I look like I was trying to hard to revisit my youth? Would my friends look at me as if I had lost my mind? Would my 11 year old daughter disown me? I plugged in my zip code and BAM, there was a store within 2 miles of my home and office. Who knew? Certainly not me, since I had given up mall shopping a decade ago. The closest I had come in recent years was a splurge at TJ Maxx, or ordering from Zappos on the internet. I grabbed my keys and headed home for lunch, which no doubt would consist of a salad.

As I was dribbling fat-free dressing on my three lettuce leaves, the phone rang. It was Bill. He was stuck at work, and wouldn't be home for lunch. Fuck it! I dumped the salad in the trash. I'M GOING TO H&M!

Being on my lunch break, I had approximately 30 minutes left before I was expected back at the office. Timing would be key. I knew what pieces I wanted to try - a ruffled top and a military jacket. I called the store on my way to find out exactly where they were located. As I dashed through the mall to my date with 2010's fall fashion line-up, I could feel my heart pounding. God, this was almost better than sex!

BINGO! The store was huge, but I found the pieces I was looking for almost immediately, along with several other things that I was reasonably sure wouldn't make me look like some 45 year old on a mission to recapture her youth. After a small amount of consideration, I decided to go with the next size up from my current favorite fitting size 4 jeans. (After all, this was a store clearly designed for someone of a "lesser age") Would they have 6's? YESSSS!!! I grabbed the pieces I wanted to try, and looked around frantically for the dressing rooms, which were in the back of the store - ughhh - more time lost to getting where I needed to be in the shortest amount of time. I nearly took out an H&M employee as I sprinted through the racks.

For anyone (guys, I would imagine) who has never experienced the anxious moments trying on clothes in a compartment as small as a bathroom stall, it is truly everything that you imagined - bad mirrors, bad lighting, almost no privacy, and somehow you manage to see every imperfection you have ever noticed about yourself all glaring back at you in unison - indeed MOCKING you - as you try to peel off clothes and try on what you hope to be your next fashion statement. I pulled my sweater off and slipped on the first piece, a multi-layered ruffled top that reached mid-thigh. I stood back (well, as much as I could) and surveyed the damage. Not bad! I probably needed the next size up because it was small enough through the rib cage that it made me actually LOOK as if I had boobs, though anyone who knows me will tell you, I do not. I tried on the other pieces. It was a homerun! I loved everything! I didn't look like some MILF trying to pick up on her kid's teenage friends. I looked trendy, maybe a bit younger, definitely more stylish, and dare I say it...I looked HOT! I raced back to the front of the store, pulled everything in size 8's, then headed to the register. Time check? Ten minutes left before my boss's head explodes. Damages? $199 for a coat, two tops, a jacket and leggings. How cool is that??? I was elated.

In the afternoon I, of course, posted my shopping conquest on Facebook. The comments on the thread rolled in, mostly from friends, old schoolmates, and one from a source that shall remain unnamed, who decided the only appropriate thing to do was deflate my ego by telling me I had to jump a size not because H&M's clothes ran small, but because American stores offer "vanity" sizing to accommodate the ever-growing American derierre. I was crushed. I had worked so hard to fit into a small size. Did it mean I was still overweight? Obviously, I could cut off an arm or a leg to make myself LIGHTER but this would not solve the dreaded "SIZE ISSUE." The comments continued to post, and I was buoyed by my friends' responses...if it bugs you, cut out the damn tags. To my friend, Mr. Nameless Source, I say that it IS only a number. For the FIRST time in my life, I am happy with myself and my body, and I cannot lose sight of that. I have come to the realization that what is really important is that we look in that dreaded mirror and love who we see looking back at us. Otherwise, what is it all for? I probably had the best 30 minutes of my entire female shopping "career" and I don't want to mitigate that as being something less than what it was. To all my female friends who have struggled, and you KNOW who you are...screw the Europeans. Are they really all that happy in their teeny tiny sizes with their 24 inch waists? When was the last time they had a REALLY good dessert, or polished of a cheeseburger with utter abandon? I would hate to be on my death bed and think, "gee, I really should have ordered that chocolate lava cake at Bonefish." How sad would that be. Is life about give and take? Absolutely. I spend my weekdays being VERY good about what I eat and getting in some exercise, so I can spend my weekends pretty much doing as I please. It works for me, and I'm good with it.

I guess what I am tryin to say is...not happy with the size of your clothes? Cut out the damn tag! Trust me, you're fabulous!