Friday, October 30, 2015

How Lucky I Am.

I was cleaning out the refrigerator this morning wondering how it could possibly get so dirty so quickly.  Feels like I just cleaned it out the other day. 

In truth, it was probably six months ago, but, y’know, time goes fast.  Especially when you’re doing things you looove – like scrubbing the interior of the fridge.

Yeah, I’m fibbing.  I’d have to be insane to actually enjoy cleaning out the fridge. 

Oh, that’s not nice.  I suppose there is someone out there who enjoys performing those sorts of tasks.  The only enjoyment I get out of it is when it’s done.  Well, that – and when I open the fridge later and am pleasantly surprised by how clean and orderly it is.

But, anyway, I was thinking as I was donning those lovely yellow rubber gloves and dunking my hands in the hot, soapy water, that I’m actually lucky. 

I’m lucky that I can still get the dirt out of both the lowest drawers and the highest shelves in the fridge.  I’m lucky that I have the strength to scrub the parts that need scrubbing. I’m lucky to have the dexterity to pull the glass shelves out and carefully clean them without breaking the glass.

And, even though my vision is far from 20/20, I am lucky to still be able to see every speck of dirt and mysterious splotch of gunk that is in that fridge – and I have the ability to clean it.

Hunh.  Who knew there were reasons to feel lucky about cleaning a fridge?

I suppose I feel luckier to be able to do these sorts of mundane tasks when I realize how many people out there are unable to perform them. 

Like a friend on Facebook who is wheelchair-bound. She recently posted that she dropped a bag of chips onto the floor – and was unable to pick them up.  I loved that she kept her sense of humor and said it was probably a hint that she shouldn’t be eating the chips! 

But it made me realize that if I drop something on the floor and make a mess, instead of being annoyed, I should feel fortunate that I am still able to crawl around on the floor to clean it up.

Guess I’d better make a note and remind myself of that the next time I knock over that mega-sized bag of basmati rice, as I did recently. Instead of the, um, choice words I actually used, I should instead have been muttering, “I’m lucky…I’m lucky…I’m soooo lucky!”

I think we all tend to take our health and abilities for granted and only realize how fortunate we were when those things are gone. 

Take, for example, my parents who recently spent nearly a week with us here in Columbus. We celebrated my mother’s 90th birthday, although she doesn’t remember she’s 90.  Or perhaps she just conveniently forgot that little fact on purpose. Who knows? It’s hard to tell with Mom who has been dealing with Alzheimer’s for the past several years. 

One moment, she will seem like her old self and will carry on an intelligent conversation, and the next moment, she is whispering under her breath about how confused and scared she is.  Each and every time she does the latter, my heart breaks a little more for her.

I try to give her a reassuring hug and casually repeat whatever fact she can’t remember and is stressing over, whether it’s where she left her purse or how old her granddaughter is. But I try to fit it into the conversation so she doesn’t know I’ve heard her.

Mom still tries to pretend she’s that strong, sharp, eagle-eyed woman who never missed a thing.  I’m not sure she realizes how much she has changed or how noticeable it is to the rest of us. 

But no matter what, I try to keep in mind that she is the woman who has loved me my entire life. Who took care of me when I was a baby and didn’t know how to dress or walk or speak.  And when I was confused or frustrated over a simple task like tying my shoes, she was the person who clarified and explained and instructed. She never made me feel stupid for not knowing something.  And she encouraged me every step of the way.  So if I can do those things for her now and still allow her to maintain her dignity, then I am honored to do so.

And then there is my dad.  His macular degeneration has progressed to the point that we wonder how much he actually sees.  He does a great job of pretending around us because, I suspect, he doesn’t want us to intervene and mandate that he and Mom move to an Assisted Living facility. 

He’s much more comfortable in the house they’ve lived in for nearly 50 years. He knows without looking where the silverware and glasses are stored. He knows exactly where in the fridge the milk resides. And he doesn’t have to figure out which remote operates the television and which button mutes the commercials. On the other hand, our complicated system with three different remotes confuses him.

But, to be fair, they confuse me, too. So it’s not necessarily about age or diminishing vision.

Yet, Dad cannot see the dirt in the refrigerator shelves or the mysterious splotch of gunk at the bottom of the vegetable drawer – so my sister and I surreptitiously clean it when he’s not around. 

Or I off-handedly mention that I’m doing laundry and will wash his sweater that has stains from food that fell off his fork at dinner the night before. When he does laundry, he cannot see the spots requiring pre-treatment, so their clothes come out of the dryer still stained. And to see my once-dignified, capable, and always-in-control parents wearing stained clothing makes me so sad.

So, yes, I’m lucky that I can still scrub a tub or clean the floor or wash the inside of the fridge.  I’m lucky that I can do laundry and our clothes are clean and (relatively) free of permanent stains. And I’m lucky that I still know how old my niece is or where I left my purse – even if I sometimes have those brief lapses when I forget where I left my keys.

Ah, but doesn't it look clean and organized?!
Aging happens to the best of us, despite every attempt we make at staying young. So today, especially, I’m reminding myself that I am lucky.  I may not wake up full of energy and completely pain-free (and unwrinkled) as I did in my younger years, but I woke up capable of accomplishing most of the things on my to-do list.  

Well, except perhaps the one thing on my list. Replacing the burned out light bulb in the 15 foot ceiling in the living room might just be beyond my capabilities today. But, hey, I never claimed to be Superwoman!

And instead of sighing as I haul yet another load of clothes from the dryer to the bedroom to fold and hang and put away, I am taking a moment to look at the canvas print in my laundry room that reads: “Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”

Hmmm.  Truer words…

So however you spend your day, take time to appreciate and enjoy it. For these ARE the big things. 

And, yes, even the cleaning out the fridge thing. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Siren Song of Sephora

A few days ago my friend Sesame and I went to the mall to get a pedicure.  That was as far as we’d planned, so I figured that I’d be home in a few short hours – even after factoring in lunch at California Pizza Kitchen once the shiny color on our tootsies dried.

I had a neighborhood Oktoberfest to attend later that evening, and I was in charge of decorations, so I knew I had to be home in time to set up. 

I planned to get ready for the evening after I returned home from my pedicure, so before I left the house to head to the mall, I put very little effort into applying makeup or fixing my hair. 

I simply pulled my hair back in a clip and then slapped on a little lip color, eyeliner and some pressed powder to hide the worst of my flaws and took off to meet my friend.

I didn’t even bother with mascara – and that’s something I rarely leave home without. I just figured it would be easier to apply it one time later that evening than to remove it first and then re-apply it. For those unschooled on mascara, it isn’t so much the application that’s the hassle, it’s the removal of it. Especially when the waterproof variety is involved.

At any rate, like most of my ingenious ideas, I was not home anywhere near “a couple hours.”

The pedicure morphed into an all-day shopping extravaganza, which culminated with a makeover at Sephora. 

And, sure, I’d love to blame Sesame for the Sephora stop, but it was all my idea. 

I hadn’t even really intended to go into Sephora.  One could spend the better part of a paycheck there and since I no longer earn a paycheck, I figure it’s best to avoid even eye contact with the perky, perfectly-made-up Sephora girl. You know the one – wearing all that head-to-toe très chic black standing at the entrance of the store ready to hand you that little cloth bucket in which to stash all your new makeup until you get to the cash register. 

Trust me, I know her siren song. 

So whenever I have to walk through the mall, I usually avert my eyes as I approach the store with the black-and-white striped walls. Sometimes I even cross to the other side of the mall just to be safe.

But I guess my defenses were down on Saturday and I told Sesame I needed some new eye shadow. But that was all I needed. 

Ah, what wondrous items does this bag hold?!
Yeah, right.  Anyone who is a fan of Sephora knows you may walk into the store intending to purchase only one thing, but you walk out with a bagful. A small bagful, mind you, which costs you an arm and a leg, but a bagful nonetheless.

You know how there is a rule of not going into a grocery store to buy food when you’ve skipped lunch?  

Well, I think the rule at Sephora should be that before you go, you must take – at a minimum – a full hour to carefully apply your makeup.  Think of it as if you’re getting ready for a photo shoot for the cover of a magazine.  

That way, when you walk into Sephora, you’ll think you already look pretty darn good and don’t need all those shiny pots and potions awaiting you inside. You can dash in, pick up the one item you need, and rush to the sales counter to pay for that one item. 

And those perky sales girls…er, excuse me – “expert makeup consultants” – will pretty much leave you alone seeing as how you clearly have a full case of makeup at home already.

But did I follow my own rule?  Nooooo.

Thus, I walked into Sephora at a great disadvantage.

I told the clerk what I wanted, and she suggested that one of their makeup experts could help me.  She signed me up for a “mini-makeover.”  But because it was Homecoming season and there were all sorts of high school girls with perfect skin and wrinkle-free eyelids getting made up for their big night, we were told there would be a wait. 

So Sesame and I started playing around with makeup on our own.  We were having loads of fun trying new colors on our eyes and cheeks and knowing we could walk out of there without purchasing a single item – when a young woman with gauged ears, lip and eyebrow piercings and green (green?!) face makeup came over and said, “Jane?  You need a makeover?”

By this point, I could easily have lied.  And probably I should have.  How would she have known my name was Jane unless she heard the cash register girl call me by name after she swiped my card?

But, alas, I didn’t.

Oh, and by the way, this is how intimidating it is to walk into Sephora in the first place.  I didn’t even ask her why she was wearing green face makeup.  Could it have been a Halloween thing?  Or was it just her normal look?  Who knows.

Anyway, I told her all about my makeup woes and why I was even looking for new eye shadow – so she listened carefully and then selected a handful of products and steered me toward the makeup table.

There she removed what pathetically little eye makeup I was wearing and proceeded to paint me up. She used Corrector. Lots of Corrector.  She used under-eye concealer. She used eyeliner and eyeshadow base and eyeshadow color. She rolled and swirled and patted and swiped with all manner of brushes and pencils. And then she finished with a swipe of mascara.

She intended to do only one eye and then I was to recreate her masterpiece on the other eye, but I implored her to do both.  It’s not that I don’t love a good challenge, but I wasn’t up to all that swirling and swiping just then.
Fortunately, not the look she gave me!

Fortunately for me, she did.  And she did a great job, too. When she was all finished, my eyes looked brighter, which was the look I was going for.  And I didn't look like an aging drag queen or anything! (Or at least no one said so to my face.)  

But I was even more thrilled that she made both eyes match because when I glanced down at my watch, I was horrified to see it was nearly time to start decorating for the Oktoberfest!

So we paid for the makeup and dashed out.

I was able to get home to pick up the decorations and then head to the end of the cul-de-sac just in time since the decorating crew had already set up the tables and were waiting for me to bring the tablecloths and centerpieces.

So. Whew. 

But next time I go to the mall for a simple pedicure?  I’ll have to force myself to stay far away from those utterly tempting black and white Sephora walls.

Oh, and incidentally, have I been able to recreate the makeup look she gave me? Hahaha. No. No, I haven’t.  

But there are a couple things I'm grateful for.  One is that she didn't make me look like that dreaded aging drag queen.  

And two?  She didn’t paint my face green. 

Even if it was a Halloween thing. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Now…What was I Doing?

I watched an old Ellen DeGeneres comedy clip about procrastination. About how she sat down to write on her computer and, before she even started, noticed how dusty her desk was.  So she went downstairs to get a cleaning rag, but stopped to pet the cat.  Which took forever, of course, because cats have a tendency to act all cute when you give them some attention. And then she noticed how disorganized her CD collection was, so…

…well, you know how the rest goes.

I laughed, of course, because I recognized certain behaviors I had in common.  Most of us do – right?

Except that I also thought, but I’m not that bad.

And then I went into the kitchen to make myself a salad for lunch.

But first I had to clean up the dishes from breakfast because, God knows, you can’t make a mess when there’s already a mess in there. 

After that, I had to make a pit stop because, well, running water does that to me.  And I noticed the sheets were off the bed, which reminded me they were in the washing machine.  So after I went to the bathroom, I walked over to the washer and dryer.  The clothes in the dryer were dry, so I hauled the load out and put them on the bed to fold and put away. 

But then I remembered I was making a salad for lunch, so I went back to the kitchen and washed the lettuce leaves and tore them up for my salad.

Realizing I had left the door to the dryer open – and the wet sheets were still sitting in the washing machine not getting any drier – I went back to the washing machine and moved the load to the dryer and started it.

Finally, I got back to the kitchen to work on my salad.  I cut up vegetables and threw in some dried cranberries and slivered almonds, but decided the salad needed a few garbanzo beans.  So I went to the pantry to get some.  While in there, I noticed how disorganized it was after our last shopping trip, so I started turning cans face front and grouping like items and…

…and then it hit me.  Egad – I AM that bad a procrastinator!

It took me an entire hour to make a salad that would normally take about 5-10 minutes, tops!

Vince says this is ADD behavior.  He says he’s just as bad.  He gets on the computer to do one thing and then, forty-five minutes later, he can’t remember why he sat down in front of the computer in the first place.  Because it couldn’t possibly have been to watch all those old Tim Conway clips from The Carol Burnett Show.

So now I’m wondering if I‘m a procrastinator or if I simply have a touch of ADD.

…aaaand I just spent 20 minutes online looking up the differences between the two.  Ack!  Plus, my research didn’t really answer the question as it was mostly amateurs giving their opinions on the subject.

I have a theory that with the proliferation of information at our fingertips, we all tend to get more distracted these days. Used to be if you wondered about something, you either had to look it up in the dictionary or encyclopedia (if your family was lucky enough to own a set), or you had to take a trip to the local library to find out.  So it had to be a subject you were really interested in learning about.

Now, we just hit up Google over any little musing and then, before we even type in our query, we’re distracted by something else.

Right now, I have about five projects partly completed and awaiting my attention. And those are just the projects staring me in the face.  I have lots of other ideas of projects I want to accomplish.  Some of them may just take months and/or years to come to fruition.

Fortunately for me, I will eventually focus and get them all done.

Like this blog, for instance.  Just because it has taken me four hours to write (well, maybe forty minutes to write and three hours and twenty minutes of procrastination as my attention was diverted by other things), but I will finish it.

But it isn’t without some level of stress as I wonder why I can’t just start one project, finish it and then move on to the next one.

I guess it all just makes me human. And I’m in decent company.  After all, Ellen DeGeneres has managed to do pretty well for herself. 

So I…oh look!  There’s Twinks.  She’s looking all cute curled up on the chair next to me, so I need to pet her furry little bell…

Oh, never mind.  Go ahead and call me a procrastinator. Tell me I have ADD. I can take it.

(But I DID finish this blog. So there!)

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Old Dining Room Table

Just last night we had delivered to our home an old, slightly battered dining room table.  It arrived from its former residence in Wareham, Massachusetts.

It was a drop-leaf dining room table that my grandparents had made back in 1952 when they built their summer cottage on Cape Cod. 

At first, I imagine my grandparents only had to lift one leaf to make room for themselves and their two daughters. And then when my mother and her sister both married, the table had to be enlarged to include their husbands.

Eventually, my parents had four children and my aunt and uncle had five children.  Neither the table nor the cottage, for that matter, could handle that large a group, so each family started visiting my grandparents separately. 

My family had the last two weeks in August for our annual vacation to the Cape.  There we played in the ocean every day and each evening we moved that table, lifted the leaves on either side, and opened it up for my grandparents, parents, and the four of us children to fit around and eat our evening meal together.

There were countless family lobster-fests held at that dining room table with the table completely covered with lobsters and bowls of butter and platters filled with ears of corn on the cob.

And even if we got lost in the magic that is summer at the beach, we would always know it was Saturday because – without fail – we would be called to the table for dinner and there would be hot dogs, baked beans and coleslaw awaiting us. Well, the hot dogs were one clue; the other was that we had to attend the 6:30 Saturday evening Mass.  And that was without fail, too.

In the mornings, we weren’t quite as formal and usually ate breakfast in shifts, so both leaves of the table remained down.  Some of us would eat our toast or bowl of cereal out on the porch anxiously awaiting the moment when we were allowed to grab out towels and head to the beach.

I remember many years sitting at that table writing out postcards to friends. For years we’d watch Nanna writing out her grocery list while sitting at the table and then, years later after Nanna was no longer with us, we’d watch Mom handling the same chore.

And I can remember many evenings sitting around the table playing cards and board games with my sister and brothers. 

One year, when I was in college, I remember watching my grandmother, aunt and mother sitting around the table after dinner one night drinking Southern Comfort and getting a little silly and even, I dare say, a little tipsy. But later, whenever I’d mention the tipsy part to my mother, she’d get defensive and offended that I’d even make such an accusation.  But, c’mon.  I was in college by then.  I knew tipsy when I saw it.  Yet it’s a memory that makes me smile even today.

I imagine when the table was new, it was shiny and clean and unmarked.  And despite all attempts at protecting it with tablecloths and place mats, the decades have taken their toll on that old table and it is a little marred and a little less shiny now.

So when the time came to sell the cottage this summer, my elderly parents didn’t want the hassle of getting rid of the furniture, so they opted to sell the place “as is.”  My brother and I went up there in July to clean the cottage and clear out my parents’ personal belongings, but were leaving the furniture. 

When we met with the realtor, I told her that the one piece of furniture I’d like to have was that dining room table.  Knowing, of course, that it would never fit in my little red Audi, I wondered how I would get it to Ohio.

My brother thought he might return to the cottage for one last weekend with his wife and some friends later in the summer, and I knew that table would fit easily in his truck.  And it would have, but when it came to making the decision to revisit the cottage one last time, he decided that he’d already said his last goodbyes to the place, and he changed his mind.  So I thought I had lost my chance.

I was tempted to just let it go – much as we had let go of the cottage itself – but Vince convinced me that it was worth a couple hundred dollars to have the table shipped to us. 

And so, with the help of the realtor, we did just that. 

True, it’s not a valuable heirloom. It wouldn’t fetch thousands of dollars on that Antiques Roadshow program. And it would never be featured in a House Beautiful publication.

But that old, slightly battered dining room table is – to me – priceless.  I’ve walked by it a half a dozen times today and each time I do, I smile just looking at it.

I also smile knowing that I’m married to a caring husband who recognized the value of that scarred old table.  And I know that new memories will be made around that table. 

Even if it isn’t sitting in our dining room.  

And even if  we don’t eat hot dogs and baked beans and cole slaw every Saturday night.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Something Good Comes from Something Evil

I was in Alliance last weekend visiting my parents and two of my three siblings and their spouses. It was nice to all be together, although we missed my sister and her family.  And Vince wasn't able to join us either since he was working.

But it’s sort of a good thing that there weren’t four additional people crammed into my parents’ family room.  Our collective body heat would have sent the temperature inside the house soaring to near triple digits. 

I know I recently wrote a blog complaining about the heat at my parents' house, but I’m telling you, my mother has the thermostat set so high I’m fearful one day one of us might spontaneously combust.

And with my luck, it would probably be me.

Fortunately, my brother Andrew and I decided to get away from the inferno by taking a little trip to the Carnation mall.  It’s not like we were trying to relive our youth by hanging out at the mall hoping to see some of our high school friends; we actually had a purpose for going there.  Besides, that mall wasn’t even around in our youth.

No, what we were doing was attending an event my good friend Diana created in honor of her late dog, Sampson.  It was the inaugural debut of the Sampson’s Salvation Adopt-a-thon

Sampson was an 11-year-old border collie/chow mix and a cherished member of Diana’s family, but when he wandered off their property a couple years ago, he was senselessly shot, killed and then buried by someone living nearby.  It was a horrific act that sent Diana and her husband and daughter into a tailspin. This individual was tried and fined and sentenced to jail for 30 days, which is a mere slap on the wrist for something so heinous.  But at least he didn’t get away with it without any repercussions whatsoever. 

Since that time, Diana has spent many hours volunteering at shelters, walking dogs and advocating for the rights of animals.  And Sampson’s Salvation Adopt-a-thon was her first effort at helping various shelters raise money and awareness of their adoption and foster programs – all in memory of her beloved pet.

So my brother and I first stopped at a pet store and picked up a gargantuan bag of dog food to donate to one of the shelters.  Fortunately, Andrew was there to haul the bag around as I probably would’ve needed surgery to repair my broken shoulder after trying to lift the bag.  Those suckers are heavy!

This worked in Andrew’s favor, however, as he is the one who brought it to the donation table and then filled out his name and address as an entry for one of the door prizes (even though we split the cost of the bag of dog food).

But I suppose if you do the heavy lifting, you should be the one to reap the benefits.  (This is me trying to be all adult-like and mature - right?)

Diana’s husband, daughter and siblings were all there in support of her event as were a couple high school friends – so it was fun to talk and catch up and take some photos.

There were tables set up and manned by various local rescue and shelter organizations and lots of gift baskets that were being raffled off with the donations to benefit the shelters. 

And there were dogs and cats on-site hoping to be adopted into good homes. 

It was a fantastic effort and I was even more impressed when I learned that Diana put together this entire event in only three short weeks. 

When it was over, all of the animals on-site had completed adoption applications and I am hopeful that they have all since gone to live in happy homes.

And that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?  Animals have an incredible capacity to love their humans – even if some humans don’t deserve such love. 

But for the majority of us (I’m thinking positively here), we cherish our pets – so much so that they truly become part of our families. 

I have never understood how someone could adopt a pet – and then leave them out in the cold or give them up or not take care of them properly.  Because those animals almost certainly love their humans unconditionally.

It’s so easy to love a pet.  Sure, there are messes sometimes.  Take our cat Twinklebelle, for instance. She regularly yaks up hairballs that require heavy-duty cleaning, particularly when she decides the white carpet in the living room is the perfect place for her hairball donation.  And she tends to take flying leaps off our laps whenever she gets startled, which can leave vicious claw-marks on our legs. 

And I can't imagine there is anyone out there who really likes cleaning the litter box.  Or who loves following their dog around with a pooper scooper. 

But our Twinks is the most lovable kitty, and purrs like a race car when you give her even a tiny bit of attention. 

And, in my book, that makes every hairball clean-up worth it.  Besides, I never did like that white carpet all that much anyway.

So I just wanted to give a Jane’s Domain “shout-out” (do people even say that anymore?!) to Diana for her successful event – and cheer her on for next year’s Second Annual Sampson’s Salvation Adopt-a-thon. I’ve already promised to give her a hand – and I know she’ll take me up on it.  When it comes to our furry friends, they have no greater champion than Diana.

Go Di!!

Oh, and PS, my brother ended up winning the prize for the dog food donation. But, I, too, was lucky and I won the Ohio State Gift Basket.  I'd say that's a win-win all around - for our furry friends and for us!