Friday, February 28, 2020

Smile An Everlasting Smile. A Smile Can Bring You Near To Me.

 Working at Wrinkle City, I met some pretty fascinating men and women. One of my all-time favorites was a vivacious woman who won two Olympic medals for swimming and hadn’t missed a day in the pool in over five decades. We pitched her to Corporate Marketing to use in our ads for the great independent lifestyle we offered.  They agreed...until the close-up of her very crooked teeth put her out of Marketing medal contention. The only picture used showed her in the pool. At a distance. With her teeth photoshopped to look better.

Having crooked teeth only works if you’re a British actor. Hugh Grant gets away with it. So did Matthew Lewis as the Harry Potter character Neville Longbottom. And even Kiera Knightly doesn’t get any grief from Johnny Depp for her mouth of crowded teeth since he has a snaggletooth of his own.

My childhood dentist use to say that he couldn’t make any money off of my parents since my teeth were so straight. Straight, but soft. The poor old guy shouldn’t have retired because he could’ve made a fortune off of me now. In the past year alone, I had two teeth with childhood silver fillings deteriorate, which led to root canals which led to crowns. I could have gone to Europe for a couple of weeks for that. Or for sure he could have.

Wingman had much better teeth than me, and use to flip out when I came home with dental bills every six months. One year right before Christmas, I broke a prominent almost-front-tooth and the oral surgeon proposed a necessary implant to the tune of $4500. When I told Wingman the cost, I was shocked that he actually endorsed it...until he realized that I was talking about a tooth and not the only thing men associate with implants: breast augmentation. From the bone graft, to the titanium post, to the final tooth screw-in, I had to live with his snide comments that if I had gone for breast implants, no one would have noticed the gaping hole in my mouth.

For the past few years, I’ve noticed that, much like the pool lady at Wrinkle City,  my bottom teeth have started to look like a whiter shade of Stonehenge.  Grinding my teeth from stress may have had something to do with it. After all, Wingman's death and Superstorm Sandy within three months didn’t help. Losing a few jobs through the recession certainly added to that. But my dentist assured me that it’s “natural aging,” and offered a $4000 opportunity to give me back my 1980's smile with clear aligners. If Wingman's company stock had been worth what he/we thought we'd get when it finally sold, I'd have the aligners and probably the implants he envisioned. Instead, I went to Ireland, where I drank, sang and danced without caring what my smile or any other part of me looked like.

Last month, a TV commercial caught my eye while I was making my New Years resolutions. In between vowing to get up to enjoy more sunrises and deciding not to go on any more diets, I made an appointment at a pop-up shop in a local drug store. There, this perky little Millennial bitch who said “Wow, I’ve never had anyone as old as you want to do this” signed me up for aligners. About two weeks later, they arrived in the mail, and for the last three weeks I have lisped my way into my future perfect smile.

My resolutions included more trips which don't include passports, and at least for this year, my smile is my vacation.  But next year don't expect to see any photos of beautiful waterfalls or sunsets or beaches.  Because every picture is going to show nothing but teeth. Mine.

Friday, January 31, 2020

There's So Many Dreams I've Yet To Find

A long time ago, the Platters had a hit with singing "The Great Pretender".  Too bad there's only three syllables in pretender because substituting  "PROCRASTINATOR" fits me so much better. I'm always planning things I want or need to do, and then waiting until the last minute to implement them. I've scammed a lot of people thinking that I've got my act together.

Take for example, a recent chili cookoff. I had a recipe for what I thought would be award winning, but since I was immersed all day watching Hallmark movies, I was late making it. Since I didn't get there until everyone had eaten and voted, I had to drag home what I brought and freeze it. So now I have to eat at least one container every week to be done with it by summer.

Wingman was Type A (totally anal) in our marriage. He could move a manual sprinkler around the yard every hour to achieve a carpet-like lawn.  Mine only got somewhat that way after I installed sprinklers, and only because the sprinklers went off on a timer. His garden was lush. My under-watered tomato plants were an embarrassment even to me.

I'm admittedly horrible at finishing what I've started. I've got a whole closet of yarn and craft materials in one form of completion or another. There are 25 blog entries started that need endings. My passport stands waiting in the file of cruises and trips that intrigue me. And my accountant wants to fire me for always bringing my tax stuff to him late.

So this year, like an old tee shirt my son has that says "the low man sets the bar", I'm going to do some of the many things I dream of doing that don't have hard timelines or deadlines. Things like:

See the sun set.  Pretty easy to do on my way home from work. I can stop by the river and chillax after a tough day.

Watch the sun rise.  This is a little harder because it means I have to get my lazy butt out of bed instead of checking social media. I did it last Sunday-took the dog with me for a long walk as well.  More about that later.

Take rides to towns I've never been to before like Cape May. Smithville. Lancaster.  Nothing that needs a passport. Drop in with a cake or pie or a bottle of wine and see people I only call or text. Visit local food festivals and craft fairs. More crafts? Maybe I'd better just keep driving past those.

Clean out my closet and donate things I don't wear. I can think of more than just a pair of pink jeans that need a new home. In the same respect, I'm going to dress up for no reason. What good was working in retail the last decade if I can't wear those nice things I just had to have? Pink jeans not withstanding.

Try new foods of different ethnicities.  I have Italian down pat, and know my way around grilled meats. But French, Thai, Vietnamese and Indian cuisine?  The worst I can say is I will never eat it again.

Watch documentaries.  I can't say that I'm totally through with Hallmark movies, but really, are there that many good looking widowers out there (with two perfect children) waiting for their ultra-successful single high school sweethearts to come back to their hometown and decide to stay?  The Royal House of Windsor provides the dirt, and Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez makes me realize that all those squeaky-clean single Hallmark guys aren't half-bad after all.

Do random acts of kindness.  Anything as simple as letting a stranger go in front of me at the grocery store or complementing someone who looks frazzled. I bought the cop behind me a cup of coffee at a Dunkin Donuts one Sunday. He pulled me over a couple of minutes later-just to say thanks and I spilled my coffee all over the seat of the car.  Gave a new meaning to warm and fuzzy.

Walk more-by myself or with the dog because both of us can use it.  And remember when I said I took him for a walk to see the sun rise? The boardwalk was a sheet of ice so we had to walk on the grass. We carefully made our way down the ramp UNTIL he got to the grass and lurched because he had to pee.  My feet came out from under me and I landed flat on my back which was not how I intended to watch the sunrise.  I have bruises everywhere except my butt, which I guess isn't as lazy as fat.

So maybe I should think about losing weight. No, that requires the discipline to shop and plan healthy menus. Something that, like Scarlett O'Hara said in Gone With The Wind, follows my procrastination motto:"I will think about it tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day."

Saturday, October 19, 2019

I’ll Be There For You (Cause You’re There For Me Too)

Over Easter vacation my freshman year of high school, my parents sent me to Florida to visit my grandparents. If vacationing with your parents as a teenager is bad, vacationing with your grandparents is the kiss of death.

High school wasn’t an easy transition for me. Race riots in my public high school made my parents choose to send me to the Catholic one in the next town. It was virtually impossible to break into the cliques which were largely determined by which Catholic grade school you came from or the beach club you went to every summer. I was part of the small group of misfits.

Segue back to Florida at Easter: I was absolutely miserable being with these “old” people (reference point: if I was 14, then my grandmother was 56 and her second husband was 46). A couple of days into my hell we went to visit a family from New Jersey where the dad had worked with my grandfather the year before. It turned out that one of the sons was - gasp – the quarterback of my new school’s freshman football team. For the next couple of days whenever the families got together we hung out, until the one day that he had such bad sunburn he couldn’t go outside, so I spent the day talking to his one year older brother.

Back home, I told a girl on the bus about the guys I met. She was excited to tell me that her friend was going out with the older brother. After school that day, she dragged this girl over, who, in her extreme jealousy that I was in Florida with her guy, looked like I was destined to be school bus roadkill.

And that was how my BFF and I met 50 years ago.

Over the past 18,000 + days, we’ve probably talked on the phone close to that many times, laughed double that, cried half as much and had less disagreements than I can count on one hand. We went through our awkward teen years together and because of her, I survived high school and so much more We’ve gone from living in our parents’ homes with bratty brothers, to apartment roomies and meeting our ultimate spouses, to being married with our own sometimes bratty kids. We celebrated each other’s weddings and are godparents to each other’s children. Raised those kids together, and even where her girls and my boys were off doing different things, we always found something to talk and laugh about. We’ve buried three parents and one spouse. She cleaned out my scummy fridge when Wingman died, and helped clean out my muddy house after Sandy.

I will forever say that she has been a better friend to me than I’ve been to her. She’s given me some of my best life advice-even if at the time, I stubbornly refused to take it. When we were younger and single and sometimes liked the same guys, I joke that I did the “animal testing” by going out with them and saving her the aggravation. She ended up with the prize in the Cracker Jack Box-her plus one is a gem.

50 years after we met in that high school parking lot, we were back in almost the exact same spot celebrating her daughter’s marriage at the church next door. No hunter green jumpers with white Peter Pan collared shirts-we donned our Spanks and sparkles and shiny shoes that hurt our bunions to celebrate another life moment with her husband and all our kids in attendance.

In a blink of an eye, we’ve celebrated 50 trips around the sun. I can’t see out parallel course changing in the future, and look forward to always laughing and celebrating with her.

Minus the Spanks and shoes that hurt our bunions. We always were, and always will be bathing suits and flip flops kind of gals.


Friday, October 11, 2019

Birthday Greetings Bottle of Wine

When Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released, my parents were much too busy to notice. They had four kids, a family business, and learned a couple of months after taking the two youngest to Disney, that (oops) Mom was expecting their fifth.  As the oldest and built-in babysitter, needing me and feeding me took on its own meaning.  They needed me to watch the tribe, and for that, they'd feed me.

So this is my last week before the "GOOD-GOD-HOW-DID-I-GET-TO-BE-THIS-OLD?" number. While Paul McCartney hasn't knocked on my door to sing this love ballad, it hasn't stopped me from belting out the lyrics when no one is around to laugh.

I'm older; not losing my hair but not dying it either.  I've gotten the hang of using the brightening shampoo only sparingly so my hair doesn't turn a subtle shade of lavender.  While mentally younger than 64, physically, the jury is still out.  There are moments when I look in the mirror and the face and body that stares back at me is as frightening as Freddy Krueger. My waistline is pictured on milk cartons with the caption "Have you seen me?"  And if that's not enough of a reminder that time is marching on, the new little red, white and blue card that says I'm a ward of the good old USA for basic healthcare sure does.

Staying our till quarter to three is a joke...unless it's three in the afternoon, which is when I locked the door accidentally with no keys to get back in.  Twice.  Still, I made it past my bedtime to see Bruce on Broadway, more than a half-dozen other shows and some of the best local bands on the shore. My age didn't stop me from going to some great theme festivals-Renaissance, Irish, Seafood and Chinese Lantern. The bonus was checking off a Bucket List item by marching two miles in the NYC St. Patrick's Day Parade with Son #1 and his GF.

I downsized to a townhouse, so I have no need to be handy mending a fuse. My new neighbor shared his generator when the lights were gone in a blackout (and G&T's when only a cold drink would do). I knit by the fireside, crochet too, and in doing so, discovered that naps on the couch aren't such a bad thing. Sunday morning, go for a ride to run errands is the new normal. A couple of adventurous Thelma and Louise-type friends even joined on a day trip to the Woodstock Museum. Wingman loved doing the garden and digging the weeds.  Me-not so much.  What I do like is the fig tree in my garden that actually bears fruit.  And when I wanted to channel my inner Martha Stewart, I picked berries for homemade raspberry preserves.  Who could ask for more?

With moving, there was no time to rent a cottage on the Isle of Wight, or even Staten Island, but every weekend I walked a couple of blocks to my own little beach on the river.  I scrimped and saved and went to THREE weddings in ONE weekend-I challenge any of my younger friends to come close to that. I'm still working on being a cool Memom ( bribes of candy help) for the three grandchildren at my knee-a girl and two boys like in the song. Dave is even one of their middle names. Fingers crossed, the fourth should be here at Christmas.

And I'll continue to express my point of view in my own warped musical way with my blog. While no one fills the shoes on mine forever more, I plan to spend my last week of adulthood checking off more boxes, drinking good wine, and singing a new song: “Forever Young.”

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Where Were You When The World Stopped Turnin' That September Day?

Everyone over the age of 25 can tell you where they were on 9/11. I was at Wrinkle City in our usual morning sales meeting when my desk phone started ringing without stopping. That morning, we had some corporate VP's visiting, and the meeting tone was somber.  My Sales Director was nervous that they were there to fire him because sales for the community were flat at best.

One VP was annoyed enough at the disruption that he said to take the call.  It was Wingman-literally screaming into the phone.  He had just gone through the Holland Tunnel on his way to a meeting when he and his associate saw the first plane hit the Tower. "Turn on a TV and call me back and tell me what happened!"

Memories after that were 10 second sound bytes. Crying seniors holding each other watching the news. The guy in the adjoining cubby trying desperately to get in touch with his parents who were en route to Vegas out of Newark. (They were fine). The VP's leaving solemnly to go back to DC after learning what happened at the nearby Pentagon. (My director in fact, did not lose his job).

Because of the limited cell service, I couldn’t reach Wingman. Hours later, I got a call that they were safe but unable to get out of the City.  The boys weren't even aware that he went to NYC that day, so I called the BFF who worked at their high school and asked her to let them know.  Son #1 was OK with the news, but son #2 lost it. As a new freshman, he had two friends whose parents were unaccounted for. Both perished.

One event in the following days moved me more than anything. On that first Friday night, he high school football coach had the JV and Varsity teams stand as honor guards outside the church next to the school. To see Son #1 and the rest of those young men standing silently as people sobbed their way into the church left me speechless. The following week, Son #2 and the freshman team stood as honor guards at one of their teammate’s dad’s wake.

Since then, I’ve met some of the most resilient people who either survived the attack or lost someone that day. I took knitting lessons from a woman who lost her husband just a few months after having her third child, then survived breast cancer which led to writing a book.  The freshman football player who started the junior board of a 9/11 charity after his dad died the first week of school. Then there are happy stories with further tragic twists: the dad of a college teammate of Son #2 who lost his youngest brother in 9/11, was a great supporter of his two athletic sons, then lost the youngest to a brain tumor. A woman who lost her husband, then found a new love only to suddenly lose him the morning that they were to leave on a vacation.

Today is a day to remember. It’s also a day to do something good. It’s a day to honor the memory of those we love no matter how or when they died. It can be as simple as a smile. Today, I choose to be what united us the day after 9/11 rather than what has divided us since. I already have a Dunkin card ready to buy some coffees.

And if you have time, watch this uplifting video of the biggest water rescue in history-that of 9/11. It’s what brought boat owners large and small together on that fateful day.

Friday, July 26, 2019

What Good Is Sitting Alone In Your Room, Come Hear The Music Play

Even before there was a Wingman, I loved music, even though it didn't manifest itself in any talent on my part. I sang in a children's choir where the director said that I had a "special voice" so I sat apart from the rest of the girls. I was in a folk group as a teen, but don’t ask about my tambourine playing.  And because it required no talent, I was the ultimate groupie for a couple of bands that played in local bars at the shore.

I met Wingman at a party after his friend joined one of those bands.  We didn't talk about music the first night-we talked about watching Casablanca and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.  When he asked if I would like to play tennis with him, I eagerly accepted...even though athletics are another one of my Achilles heels. It was just the first of many differences between us.  The quote "opposites attract", was us to a tee. Different upbringings, political stances, and don't even talk about styles of cooking.  The Easter Duck Debacle still resonates loudly.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Fathers Be Good to Your Daughters. Daughters Will Love Like You Do

Of all the Hallmark holidays, Father’s Day doesn’t cost me a dime. No grandfathers, godfather or father-in-law. For the past seven years, not even the father-of-my-children which saves me money not having to buy ugly tank tops and Yankees shirts for the boys to excitedly give him. Father’s Day use to be a testosterone filled, toilet seat in the vertical position, who-is-playing-on-what-field day. It’s anything but that now.

Four years ago, my dad died.  It wasn't totally unexpected.  He had been sick on and off for about a year, with the doctors misdiagnosing his pulmonary fibrosis.  He died three days after Wingman's birthday, and I literally WILLED him to stay alive at least a day past that so I wouldn't be forced to say "Yep, today is Wingman's birthday and the day Dad died.” It may not have been as much my will as his final wish to see his great granddaughter one more time before he died. I guess I know where I get my stubbornness from.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Time Grabs You By The Wrist, Directs You Where To Go...

When I worked at Wrinkle City, I gave lectures at our sales luncheons about the wonderful quality of life one would have living there.  I would admonish everyone however, that because they would be downsizing, they couldn't move in with everything they had in their big houses. In my 12 years working there, I don't think one person ever listened to me.

Moving into my smaller townhouse, I didn't listen to me either.

Monday, March 18, 2019

We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, If It's The Last Thing We Ever Do

When I babysit my grandkids, they love to be read to before nap time, and they usually bring out the biggest books in the pile.  One of the most beautifully illustrated is a book of fairy tales which I always enjoy reading plus oohing and aahing over the pictures.

All except Hansel and Gretel.  I hate that story. Because while I'm waiting on my condo to close, I'm living the "fattening up the kids" part with my mother. In just six short weeks I've put on five pounds.  That's all I'm admitting to and the scale will never tell it's version of the truth.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Good Luck Movin' On 'Cause I'm Movin' Out

According to Science Daily, the average time from ovulation to giving birth is 268 days. According to MLS, the time between the day I listed my home, sold it and moved out was 6 days short of that at 262 days. Unlike any of my pregnancies, there was nothing “magical” or exciting about trying to keep the house clean and look like I didn't live there with an adult son with allergies to vacuum cleaners and a big old hairy dog. Having the home inspection was similar to the unfounded fears in amniocentesis and praying the buyers didn't find anything majorly wrong. And just like a woman whose water breaks unexpectedly in the grocery store and goes into quick labor, I got a call that the buyers wanted to close in just two short weeks after waiting 5 months for them to get a contract. Delivering my 10 pound, 12 ounce second son without an epidural was less painful.

Monday, December 31, 2018

And So This Is Christmas, And What Have You Done?

This year, I overcame my compulsion to create the “perfect” Christmas. For too many years, I over-bought, over-wrapped, over-decorated and over-everything-ed, attempting to over-compensate for Wingman’s dislike of my Uber-Christmases and his drinking. Every year we were like two speeding Polar Express freight trains heading towards each other with the same disastrous results.

Smile An Everlasting Smile. A Smile Can Bring You Near To Me.

 Working at Wrinkle City, I met some pretty fascinating men and women. One of my all-time favorites was a vivacious woman who won two O...