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."

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 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 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.