Thursday, August 28, 2014

Gratitude Challenge. Part II.

So yesterday I started making a list of things I’m grateful for because I was challenged by my friend, Amy. I was supposed to write down three things every day for five days that I’m grateful for and I was supposed to challenge three additional people every day to do the same thing.

But I didn’t. I was sort of busy last week and it got by me. Oops.

So yesterday I wrote down half my gratitude list in one fell swoop and posted it in my blog. And I didn’t challenge anyone in particular to follow in my footsteps. I didn’t follow the “rules.” That’s me – the Maverick.

Nah, not really. Generally speaking, I’m the epitome of the Rule Follower. I’m a Maverick only in my dreams. 

But I get it. The point is to get more and more people to realize all they have to be thankful for. Sort of like the ice bucket challenge for ALS – or the “Pay it Forward” movement.

I really get it. Because the world would be a much kinder place if we all challenged one another to find gratitude and joy in life rather than in things to complain about.

So I have some more things to add to my Gratitude List:

#8. I’m really grateful that I don’t have to eat kale every day. Vince has decided that kale is “good for us.”  Whenever Vince uses the phrase “good for us,” I cringe. Because it usually means that it won’t necessarily taste good, but we still need to eat it. Sigh. I’ve drawn the line at Brussel sprouts and Kimchi. But to show you what a good wife I am, I added a big handful of kale to our fruit smoothies this morning. Good for me, eh?

#9. I am grateful for running water and working toilets. Hey, don’t scoff. Some people don’t have these “luxuries.” ‘Nuff said. (Oh, except for the fact that I’m grateful I didn’t grow up in the “olden days” when you had to use an outhouse. Yeah, I’m really grateful for that.)

#10. This is going to sound stupid, but I’m grateful for the kind things people do for strangers. I get choked up every time I read about a Random Act of Kindness, even if it’s something as small as paying for the coffee of the person in line behind you. Heck, it makes my whole day when a stranger smiles at me or opens the door for me – so I try to do those little things for other people, too. Because who knows? Maybe I can make their day a little brighter. It does become a little awkward, though, when a stranger and I are both trying to hold the door open for each other at the same time. Then it becomes a little less  an act of kindness and more sort of a power struggle.  (“After you.” “No, please. After you.” “No, no, really…!”) Ah well. It all works out. Eventually.

#11. I’m grateful for chocolate.

#12. I’m grateful that even though I can only hear out of one ear, I can hear perfectly fine out of the other one. And even though my eyesight is horrible and I’m legally blind without corrective lenses, I’m grateful that I can wear corrective lenses and see stuff. And I’m grateful that even though I’m not the absolute sharpest knife in the drawer (oh, be quiet!), I have no complaints about the brain God gave me and the creativity and sense of humor he gifted me with. And, yeah, okay, sometimes my sense of humor gets a little lost, but a little chocolate always helps. (Hence, #11 on my list.)

#13. And, finally, I’m grateful for my brother Andrew. He recently celebrated a birthday and listed on Facebook the top three things in his life – his wife, his dog and his boat. A long conversation ensued where it turned out I was far down the list falling somewhere below his cherished ball of twine. Or something like that. Shows me where I stand with my brother, doesn’t it?! So I wanted to write a special note to him to show him I’m SO GRATEFUL for bratty brothers. But, seriously, Andrew is a kind, giving person and he has a great sense of humor. He’s pretty darn smart and I love him a lot. And just because he’s #13 on the list does NOT mean he’s the last thing I’m grateful for. I said mine were in no particular order except for #1. (This is an especially important point given that I said I was grateful for “toilets” and that is listed above being grateful for my brother Andrew.)

#14. Darn it. I can’t be grateful for just one sibling – I have to include the other two as well. I’m grateful that my brother John is in my life. For whatever issues he has had, the one thing he taught me was how to be generous. John was way better at sharing than the rest of us were.  My mom used to say that John would give you the shirt off his back even if it was the only shirt he had. Personally, I think that’s because John likes to walk around shirtless so he can show off all his tattoos, but that’s just a theory. 

#15. And, finally… (No, really, this is the last one I’m going to write down. I swear!) I’m really grateful for my sister Denise. There truly is no one in your life like a sister. She and I shared a room growing up – and even shared a couple residences through the years as adults. I love her so much. She and her husband Joe make the long drive from Milwaukee to Ohio several times every year to spend time with family – and it has given me the chance to be a part of their lives and watch my niece, Chloe, grow up. And for that and so much more, I’m truly grateful.

So there you have it. My Gratitude List. Is this all-encompassing? Nope, not by a long shot. I would’ve had to include my cats, Twinks and Jinx, and a whole slew of other people by name. But it does make me realize that I have much to be grateful for. And even if I don’t write down these lists on a regular basis, it has given me a new perspective.

I guess that means I can’t complain about anything today.

Hmm.


Where’s the chocolate?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

And for Today’s Challenge…

It seems as if everyone on the planet lately has been pouring buckets of ice water over their heads. Not me. I’d far prefer making a donation. I can barely dip my toe into the Atlantic Ocean even in these, the Dog Days of Summer – so I’m not sure I could take a whole bucket of ice water.
 
Nevertheless, this avalanche of Ice Bucket Challenges clogging up Facebook and Twitter feeds has been a good thing since donations have increased significantly for ALS research in the past month or so, particularly compared to the same period last year.  So I say keep on dumping that ice water, people!

But I was recently challenged to do something that was far more do-able. For me, anyway.

Last week, my friend Amy challenged me to write three things for which I’m grateful every day for five days. And each day I was supposed to challenge three more people to do this.

Have I completed this challenge? Um, no. Perhaps a better question would be, “Have I started this challenge?”

But it’s a great idea.  I’m no Mother Teresa and I can definitely use a little more attitude of gratitude.

So instead, I think I’ll write a blog today about some of the things for which I’m grateful. In no particular order (except for number #1, of course!) here is my list:

     #1. I'm grateful for my loving husband, Vince. He is “my person.” (You’ll get that if you’ve ever watched Grey’s Anatomy.) He loves me unconditionally. And sometimes, boy, there are conditions for which he could easily say, “This ‘for better or worse’ stuff is for the birds!” But he doesn’t. And I feel truly grateful that we found each other at this stage in our lives.

#2. For my family. At first I was going to lump “family and friends” in one category, but it’s better to separate them. Why? Well, because we don’t choose our family, for one thing. On the other hand, my family – my parents – did choose me and made me “theirs.”  They chose to take home and love a kid whose birth parents gave her up for adoption. I have never questioned that my family is my family.  I have felt loved always. Even when I was a bratty teenager. Or maybe especially when I was a bratty teenager. (Not that I can really remember that far back.)

#3. I'm grateful for my friends.  I have this annoying belief that friends are for life. Even when we move away or our lives diverge, I still think of a friend as a friend.  Call it being stubborn, if you like. But because of that stubbornness, I have had friendships that have lasted for decades. My friends have helped me get through some rough times. But they’ve also been there with me through the good times. Hopefully I’ve been able to return the favor.  Plus, we’ve pretty much collectively kept the “adult beverage” industry in business. So for all my friends, I’m eternally grateful.

      #4. That even though my foot is all kinds of messed up and I’ve been wearing a clunky boot for a month now, at least I can still get myself from Point A to Point B. I’m clumsy and my footwear is not fashionable in the least, but I can still navigate the way on my own two feet. For this, I’m grateful. Besides, I was clumsy before I started wearing this clunky boot.

      #5.  For living in a country that allows me freedom of choice. I get to choose who to vote for, what religion to follow and I can pretty much wear whatever I want. Some people think our rights are becoming more and more restricted – and in some respects, I don’t disagree – but at least I don’t have a government telling me that because I’m a woman I don’t deserve to be educated. Nor am I required to wear a garment that completely envelopes my face and body when I’m out in public. And, oh sure, there are those humid days when my hair is a frizzy mess and my makeup slides off my face as soon as I apply it that I think it’d be a fine idea to cover up the whole mess, but at least I’d get to make that choice.

        #6.  I'm grateful for my home and my ‘things.’ I know that we shouldn’t value things over people – and I don’t. But ask a homeless person on a frigid day in February if he’d be grateful for a roof over his head. So I’m grateful for that. And I’m grateful that I have a comfortable bed to sleep in every night. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to value “things” less – like that latest designer handbag that at one point I thought I had to have. Instead I value the time I get to spend with my aging parents and the opportunity to return some of the love and kindness they’ve extended to me throughout my entire life.

      Hmmm.  I’m not sure I was supposed to get this chatty on the gratitude thing. So I’m thinkin’ that this blog is not going to make it all the way to 15 things for which I’m grateful.  Hey, this might be something for which you should be grateful. 

Looks like it’ll have to be a two-parter. Egad.

I’m not going to challenge specific people because I don’t want to make anyone feel obligated. But I think it’s a great idea for all of us to at least take a moment out of our busy lives and think about what we’re grateful for. Even if we do end sentences with a preposition. (Is that still a thing?)

And, okay, #7. I’m grateful I had some pretty awesome teachers who taught me enough grammar and spelling that I’m halfway decent at stringing words together to make sentences and paragraphs. Any mistakes I make are not because of them.

Tune back in tomorrow for some more of Jane's Attitude of Gratitude. Same bat time. Same bat channel.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The More Things Stay The Same

When I was growing up, my family had a traditional supper every Saturday of hot dogs, baked beans and coleslaw. 

Every Saturday.

This is the one meal my dad prepared for the family. He may have been a great Metallurgical Engineer, but he was not exactly known for his gourmet cooking skills and I’m guessing the only meal he knew he could prepare for our family of six was hot dogs, baked beans and coleslaw.

But over the years, Dad perfected his Saturday night meal. He liked to tell us that his blend of dressing for the coleslaw was a secret recipe that he couldn’t reveal under threat of death. And he’d always “doctor up” the baked beans with a little ketchup, a squirt of mustard, a pinch of brown sugar, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce.

For a change of pace, he’d sometimes carefully cut the hot dogs down the middle and insert a sliver of Kraft American Cheese in each dog. I’m pretty sure he was able to make a single slice of cheese stretch for the entire family.

Frugal? Oh, yeah. I could tell you stories...

Or he’d toast the buns in the broiler.  This didn’t happen often since broiling is an exact science and we had charred hot dog buns one too many times.  Probably he was working on his secret recipe dressing for the coleslaw and not paying attention to the burning buns.

But my parents were from the era where wasting food was a sin, so we’d have to scrape off the blackened bits from the bun. You can imagine how much we enjoyed eating hot dogs on those nights.  We may have been thinking “Ewww, this is gross!” but we were never bold enough to say it out loud.

Dad still makes hot dogs, baked beans and coleslaw for supper on Saturday night, but he is likely taking a few shortcuts since the meal is only for two nowadays. I doubt the broiler has been used in years and I even spied some store-bought slaw dressing in the fridge the last time I visited. And, fortunately, baked beans come in a variety of flavors now so no “doctoring” is required.

Tonight, we’re having friends over for dinner. And in the Domian tradition, I’m making hot dogs, baked beans and coleslaw for supper.

Now, we have an old-fashioned hot dog griller, so everyone will prepare their own dogs. We’ll have all the fixins’ to make as fancy a dog as one could want – with chili, cheese, chopped onions, sauerkraut and all manner of condiments. 

Our “famous” coleslaw is an Asian coleslaw with crunchies and a delicious sweet and sour dressing.  And I may even “doctor” the baked beans up a bit in honor of Dad.

So I’m looking forward to supper tonight, although I can’t vouch for my guests. They may come to the table thinking, “Ewww, this is gross!” 
But – unlike in Dad’s day – we’re all of legal age and I can make sure to have enough adult beverages on hand that they won’t think too much about the meal.

Now off to the store I go.  Hmmm…I wonder if I can buy a single slice of Kraft American Cheese? 

Yeah, and I might also need to pick up extra strength adult beverages.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Lessons Learned

Like millions of people, I was astonished and so very sad to read about Robin Williams’ death earlier this week. As the days have passed since then, I’ve watched and read tributes to him and watched clips from many of the movies he made through the years. And, I have to admit, I’ve gotten choked up and have shed a few tears, too.

He was only 63. And he had such a gift. Sure, he was a comic genius and was able to make us laugh. But he was also able to make us cry. And to think. 

But I’ve also read many stories about his acts of kindness and generosity. And that, to me, speaks volumes. By all accounts, he was a good man. So even though I was merely a fan and didn’t actually know Robin Williams, the world seems a little dimmer without him in it.

And he was only 63.

Lauren Bacall also died this week. In contrast, she didn’t take her own life, but instead was felled by a stroke. And she was only 89.

Only 89?  I imagine you’re thinking, Surely that was a typo, wasn’t it?

And, okay, I will concede that at 89, Lauren Bacall lived a good, long life. Oh, and stop calling me Shirley.
 
(Yeah, if you get that reference, you might just be old, too!)

But my point is this: While a life well lived is a good life, to Lauren Bacall’s loved ones, eighty-nine is merely a number. And they are no less sad or grief-stricken because she has passed.

My grandmother was 95 was she died. And I was devastated. Not that her death was unexpected since she had been in failing health for a number of years. But I was still devastated. She had lived a good, long life, too. Yet I knew I was going to miss my Nanna for the rest of my life.

Most of the time I’m able to go through my days thinking that I’m going to live forever. Contemplating reality is not all that much fun.  But there are moments when I realize how fleeting life really is.

This week was one of those weeks for me. And I realize how quickly sixty-three years can go by. Or eight-nine. Or almost fifty-five. (Yeah, that would be me.)

There are moments I can’t believe how old I’ve gotten and I wonder where the years went.  And I lament the wrinkles around my eyes or the aches and pains from the arthritis that is beginning to invade my joints.

But in times like this, I need to remind myself to be grateful. To stop focusing on the little annoyances and instead be happy that I’m here. To live. To experience both joy and sadness. And to love – really love – the people with whom I share my little piece of the world.

So my hope is that we all can be a little more grateful and loving and generous with our time and our talents. I mean, the world should be a brighter place with us in it – shouldn’t it?

Thank you Ms. Bacall and Mr. Williams for sharing your talent and your light with us. I hope you’re at peace and are now shining among the stars. 

Say hello to my Nanna for me, will you?




Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Boot


I’ve been given the boot. Sadly, I mean this in both a figurative and literal sense.

We’ll start with the former and get that out of the way. Yes, I recently lost my job. It wasn’t because I wasn’t an excellent employee…but it was more because my boss is in his 70s and I think he’s beginning to look for an exit strategy out of the work world.  His condo in Boca is probably sending its siren song, which has gotten louder and louder over the past year.  We did, after all, have a pretty nasty winter.

No matter his reasoning, he decided to sell the business for which I was primarily working.  I had thought the day might come, but was thinking later rather than sooner. So it took me by surprise and I’ve had to take some time to regroup and deal with the culture shock of not having to get up at the crack of dawn, shower, chug a cup of scalding hot coffee and battle with the masses on my way towards downtown every morning.

And I’m pretty much there.  I especially like that I don’t have to chug my coffee as I’m not fond of first degree burns on the roof of my mouth. And not having to deal with the daily commute is an even nicer perk, not to mention the savings in fuel for my car every week.

But I think it took me a little longer to regroup because of the second boot thing.

That’s where the literal boot comes into play. Yes, I’m wearing a lovely black boot that extends to my knee and has all manner of metal parts and Velcro straps all over it.  This boot was courtesy of my podiatrist.

I can’t believe I actually have to write the words, “my podiatrist.”  I’ve barely come to terms with the fact that I have to go to a general practitioner every year. Having the name and number of a specialist in my phone directory is a bit of a shock.

Nevertheless, I knew the time had come to visit a specialist as I’ve been dealing with heel pain for the past several months and it wasn’t going away on its own.

I valiantly bypassed the free valet parking and walked into the office trying ever so hard not to limp. I was wearing my dressy Anne Klein wedges, which are pretty much the only shoes I can walk in that don’t cause me to hobble.

As I sat there waiting for my name to be called, I noticed all sorts of people shuffling by wearing casts and boots. There were crutches and walkers and canes, oh my! And there were a few poor souls in wheelchairs waiting in that waiting room as well.

I have to admit that I thought to myself, “Oh, thank goodness I was able to get here on my own two feet and don’t have to deal with all that stuff!”
 
And then my name was called.

Before the words “bone spurs” and “Achilles tendon involvement” and the ever-dreaded, “Plantar Fasciitis” were out of the doctor’s mouth, her assistant walked in carrying a massive black boot, which they proceeded to strap around my foot and leg.

I was told to wear it all day every day and to only take it off to shower and sleep.

Yeesh. I was beginning to regret my decision to have my foot checked out by a specialist.  And I definitely regretted not taking advantage of the free valet parking.

Nevertheless, I will wear this boot for however long it takes if I can avoid surgery. So I’m dealing with the boot. Both kinds.

But I’ve got a great support system and a loving husband who is here for me. Even if he does call me “Gimpy.”


Friday, August 8, 2014

Time To Hit the Reset Button

I’m a writer. I’ve always been a writer. As a kid, I remember writing plays to entertain my classmates in grade school. The particular one I’m thinking about was one I wrote in the fourth grade. I don’t remember the plot, but I do remember that the story ended rather abruptly. It wasn’t because I ran out of ideas or couldn’t come up with an ending, but more because I didn’t have access to either a mimeograph or copy machine and I had to hand write copies of the play for all the actors.  I figured my hand would fall off from all that writing if I didn’t end the story pretty quickly.

Back in the day I used to physically write letters. You know – take pen to paper and all that? I do not know how that hasn’t come back to hit me in the carpal tunnel, given that my letters could run on to six pages or more.

Before there were word processors, there were typewriters. But I bypassed the typewriter era and continued to hand write letters to friends and family because, well, mostly because I wanted to avoid sending missives with big blotches of White-Out all over them. Plus, the only typewriter I had was a manual, and it was impossible to keep a halfway decent manicure what with the constant striking of keys with my fingertips.

But once computers came out, boy, I went to town. I wrote letters. Long letters. I wrote a journal, printed it out and kept it in 3-ring binders. I wrote stories. And articles for my college newspaper.  I wrote funny birthday announcements for my department at work and every month I tried to top the previous month by writing something even more clever.

And in the past few years, I’ve written long emails to keep in touch with the people in my life. I’ve written blogs for both work and pleasure. And stories for kids.

So I’m a writer.

But for the past few months, I’ve written very little. Sure, I’d send out the occasional email. But they weren’t like previous notes I’d sent. I didn’t type any letters or send any cards. And I couldn’t even think of a single subject to blog about.


But now I’m thinking it’s time to hit the Reset Button. I need to write. I feel like I’m stagnating. Because, for me, the very act of writing feeds my creativity and then I think of even more things to write about. And my sense of humor flourishes when I look for things to write about that make me laugh. Even if they’re small things.

So it may be that nobody even remembers I used to write a blog called “Jane’s Domain.”  After all, it has been over four months since my last one. I know I’ve gotten some encouraging feedback from loyal readers in the past, so I have to think there may still be some interest.   

Because I have plans for the future that involve writing and I need to start.

Like. Right. Now.  

Um, well…maybe tomorrow. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not procrastinating. Honest. I mean, I really do have another blog in the pipeline already.  It’s just that I can’t put out two blogs in one day. So you’ll have to wait ‘til tomorrow and I promise I’ll post another one. This is called a “tease.”  But come back tomorrow, okay?  Please?!


Thanks, folks.  See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Domestic Goddess Jane Asks, “Where Can I Return the Crown?”

 Despite the special guest appearance by Old Man Winter yesterday who briefly visited and rudely left behind a blanket of snow on the ground, it is spring.

Who made up these equinox rules anyway? Maybe back in ancient times they didn’t have snow, let alone snow in March. Or maybe those wacky calendar inventors drank a little too much grog the day they decided that spring should officially arrive on March 20th. After all, what did they know – they used to think the world was flat.

But I believe everything I read, especially if it’s printed on the Shutterfly calendar my sister prepares for us every year, which has been dubbed “The Chloe Calendar” because it features my most favorite niece Gertrude. Er, I mean, Chloe. My most favorite niece Chloe.

So when I read that spring arrived March 20th, I immediately hauled out the big red bucket, bottle of Spic 'N Span and the mop. I donned those lovely yellow Playtex rubber gloves that flatter no one, although spring chickens might find them rather attractive, I suppose.  And I went to work on scrubbing the winter right out of my home.

Yeah, right. Like I’m that slap-happy about house cleaning. Ever. I tend to revolt, even when Martha Stewart-types wave their Swiffers high in the air, signifying to all domestic goddesses everywhere that Spring Cleaning has begun.

“Start Your Engines,” my foot.

I resist the urge by rolling over and burrowing even deeper under the covers. Hey, I figure if hibernation works for the polar bear, it should work for me, too. Besides, no one could ever mistake me for a “Domestic Goddess.”

Despite my efforts, I apparently came out of hibernation last weekend. I was fooled by the sunshine, even though it was still in the low 30s. So I made a “To Do” list. I started clearing the countertops of all the papers and junk that had accumulated most of the winter. I organized my shoes. I washed, dried and put away multiple loads of laundry. And I hauled out the big red bucket, bottle of Spic 'N Span and the mop and cleaned the floor like nobody’s business.

When I was all done, I heaved a satisfied sigh of relief and put away the mop for another year.

Okay, so I’m fibbing. I hire someone to wash my floors. If I did it, I’d only get halfway through before quitting. And I’d hope that no one could see the clear line of demarcation between pristine and not-so-pristine.

But what I really did was even worse.

I looked down at the tile floor that had been washed only the day before and noticed how dirty the grout was. Big mistake.

And then I found the unused tub of Mr. Clean “Magic Eraser” sponges that I’d bought on a whim the year before to see if they worked on grout.

Really big mistake.  Because they work wonders.

I never knew the grout in my home was supposed to be white. Or at least white-ish.

I could have slapped myself then. Because I realized I couldn’t stop at just a few lines of grout – I would have to clean all the grout. And we have a LOT of it. It’s in our laundry room. And our front hallway that extends in two directions and includes the half bath. And it’s in our rather large kitchen.

We also have three full baths, but I refused to even consider them. Maybe from now on I’ll only extend shower privileges to those guests who can prove that they are legally blind without their corrective lenses. That way I can avoid cleaning the grout in the bathrooms.

Nevertheless, I’d awoken this particular beast and I knew I couldn’t leave those few lines of cleaned grout amid the sea of dirty grout.

It was only then that I realized that (a) we moved into a house with dirty grout because there is no way we could have gotten it that filthy in only a year and nine months, and (b) cleaning grout should have been our first order of business after submitting our change of address card to the post office and renting the U-Haul truck.

I wondered how many people had walked into our home in the past year and nine months and cringed when they saw the dirty grout. Or, perhaps they were like me and were grout oblivious? I could only hope.

So I grumpily knelt down on the hard tile floor and started scrubbing. By the time I finished the laundry room and the entryway, I’d gone through a number of those sponges and realized that one multi-pack was not going to cut it. An imminent trip to Costco was going to be required.

Fortunately, I had reluctant reinforcements the next day and, after our trip to Costco, three of us cleaned the rest of the grout. We managed to get through all those stinking lines of grout with the Magic Erasers, although some areas received a bit less attention than they should have.

But no worries. I can take another pass at it since I still have some Magic Erasers left. And since I’m ignoring those Martha Stewart-types and making up my own Spring Cleaning rules, I’ve decided that Spring Cleaning season is not officially over until the first day of summer. So I’ve got plenty of time.

On the other hand, the next time I get the urge to try on a domestic goddess crown and clean grout, I think I’ll whip up a batch of grog instead. My knees are shot and I’d rather drink than magically erase dirt any day.