How I Lost My Husband

How I Lost My Husband

I have to admit, it was probably my own fault, but I really didn’t see it coming. It was Christmas day four years ago when I first introduced them. I should have realized the way he looked at her spelled trouble.It happened slowly, little by little at first, so I barely noticed the difference. Initially, he was his same attentive self, but slowly I noticed his attention wandering more and more.

Before she appeared, we did things together – sometimes dancing or plays, movies or art exhibits, dinner out….Soon though, she seemed to have him mesmerized.

The thing is, I wouldn’t have suspected how spellbound he would become, because she really wasn’t his type …flat in front, but broad, and not really that much to look at, until…. Then, there was no contest.

As far as I could tell, she couldn’t actually do much. Oh she could talk a fine tune about cooking, and she could share all the best recipes by all the most reputable chefs, but you wouldn’t catch her near a frying pan or stove. And she was a wealth of knowledge on fashion, home décor and remodeling, real estate, and any other number of subjects, but heaven forbid she should actually make a move.

The thing is, I just couldn’t compete with her ability to talk about almost any topic ….politics or science, finances or even weather patterns. When she went on and on about news or science fiction, he could barely take his eyes off her. How’s any woman supposed to compete with that?!

When you lose your husband, it’s a nasty little secret you try to hide from friends. But eventually, they pick up on it. You can only offer lame excuses for so long when you’ve both been invited to dinner or a party and only one of you shows up. Eventually it becomes obvious that you’ve been thrown over by another.

So, if I had it to do over again, I would never have brought that d–n widescreen TV into our home.

 

 
Originally written and published as Editor of the BeyondtheNest.com September 21, 2017 Newsletter.
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Happiness and the Glow Effect

Happiness and the Glow Effect

I’m a big fan of Seth Godin.  He’s a prolific writer (his 18 books have been translated into 35 languages), a savvy businessman, and a sought-after consultant. Many business people follow his blog, but if you read it often, you’ll find that it can also serve as a road map for life.

His post the other morning focused on how the brain functions. In “The pleasure/happiness gap,” he explained that while pleasure and happiness feel like the same thing to us, pleasure is a short-term effect that relies on a dopamine drench from receiving. It can be set off by sugar, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, or even the rush you get from “winning” at electronic video games, by betting, by social media, etc.

Happiness is a long-term effect created by serotonin. You can get that from “a mindful series of choices, most of which have to do with seeking out connection and generosity.” I think about this as “the glow effect”: When you’ve done some of the following things that enrich your life, you’ll feel the glow of happiness:

  • Connecting – I have a group of three  close friends with whom I grew up.  We lost contact after high school and recently reconnected through facebook. Every few months, we meet for lunch. Each time we get together, the glow of joy I feel lasts at least the entire week.
  • Projects – Find that glow from working on projects that thrill you. Start a new project. (Pinterest or youtube are great resources for this!)  Or try making gifts, instead of buying them. Not only will you feel the glow of giving a gift you created, the recipient will feel the delight of receiving something unique, made especially for them.
  • Giving – You can feel a glow from giving to others. When my husband was in the hospital, my friends Hank and Elaine prepared meals so that when I rushed home from ICU, I only needed to heat up their delicious dinner, and my daughters and I could sit down and eat. Since then, I’ve done the same for others, It’s amazing that you feel the glow whether you’re the giver or the receiver.
  • Volunteering –  In every community across the U.S., there are hundreds of opportunities to volunteer – from building homes for the homeless, to teaching a class at the local library, and from reading to seniors, to working at a food cupboard. If you love the Arts, most arts organizations value the contribution of volunteering, that you will also enjoy.

 

Written as Editor of BeyondtheNest.com and published in the October 5, 2017 issue.

Symphony of the Season

Symphony of the Season

My friend Dave Sluberski owns West Rush Media, LLC and is senior lecturer at RIT’s School of Film and Animation, where he specializes in sound design and technology. When discussing sound design for documentaries, he often talks about capturing at least a half hour of ambient noise from your surroundings for the film’s environment to sound authentic. He points out that environmental sounds change on an almost-weekly basis, year-round. To me, it seems that is never more true than in late summer and early autumn.

Woven together in a rich  tapestry are the sounds of the cicadas and tree crickets, the buzzing honey bee dipping into purple asters, the whir of lawn mowers punctuated by the occasional dog barking. Add in the coo of morning doves and the chatter of squirrels excited by the abundance of nuts that have dropped with tiny thuds.

If you could listen a little deeper, you might hear the jolting belch of a tractor coming to life, and the rickety rattle of a hay-strewn flatbed preparing to take jolly, laughing apple and pumpkin pickers into the fields on their missions of harvest.

Listen yet a little deeper and you’ll no doubt hear bows being rosined and orchestras tuning for season débuts…sewing machines whirring, paint lapping at flats, and the echo of lines being practiced to empty houses as theaters yawn to life after dormant summers.

Listen even harder, and you might hear the strains of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, as ballet shoes shush across floorboards…or tiny lilting voices reciting Dickens as auditions launch for end-of-year festivities.

Tie all these sounds up with the brilliant and sparkling gold, crimson, burnt orange and forest green ribbons of autumn’s colors, and you have the makings of a magnificent symphony of sound and sight!

Originally written as Editor of BeyondtheNest.com, and published in the September 28, 2017 issue.
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The Evolution of Navigation

The Evolution of Navigation

I have a reputation for being directionally challenged. I blame it on evolution. Men clearly have an edge in the navigation department. If my female ancestors had been hunting buffalo (at long distances) rather than gathering berries (nearby), I bet I’d have a better sense of direction today.

In theory, you’re not lost as long as you have an accurate map and a full tank of gas. In reality, you can waste a lot of time and gas being “not lost.”

So, I’ve learned the hard way to never go anywhere without my GPS. Also, a map, in case of spontaneous GPS combustion or defection.

My initial GPS was named Lee. Lee had a lovely “Outback” Australian accent. When I first got him, he had a full head of — I’m imagining blonde — hair. By the time Lee “retired,” he was bald from pulling it out. “Recalculating” was his favorite word.

I now own a GPS named Barbara. She has a soft, sultry voice and doesn’t even curse when I detour. I have to say, though, she has taken me on some seriously wild goose chases. I can’t figure out whether she suffers from ODDD (Occasional Directional Deficit Disorder), or she takes an occasional nip to deal with my whimsical direction following.

Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do without my GPS…although I must admit I haven’t seen nearly as much of the country as I did when maps were my sole guide. For example, I’m one of only two individuals (both of whom happened to have been in the same car) who can claim the distinction of driving from Rochester, NY to the Pocono Mountains by way of Erie, Pennsylvania.  In my defense, it was night, and we had no GPS. But when I passed a large, well-lit casino that had never been on that route during daylight hours, you’d think I’d have gotten suspicious. We spent an additional 4.5+ hours and 257 miles being “not lost” on that trip from Rochester to the Poconos.

While I do like my GPS, I’m really waiting for the self-driving car. According to an article on autonomous vehicles, there are five levels of automation in self-driving cars, with one being the lowest and with four being, well, “a car you could sleep in.”

If the level five car guarantees you can’t get lost, I’ll be first in line to buy one.

Once I find the dealership.
Originally published as Editor of the August 24, 2017 BeyondtheNest.com Newsletter.

The Kitchen Conspiracy

The Kitchen Conspiracy

ovrphil++2-4-2014-19-40-53It seems my husband and I are attracted to houses of “a certain age,” if you get my drift.  The centerpiece of our last kitchen was a Mary Kay-colored oven.  Alas, it thwarted my attempts to pawn it off on an antique dealer by celebrating Thanksgiving with fireworks followed by turkey tartare.

Our current kitchen if possibly five minutes newer.  I don’t like to brag, but enshrined on its counter is  the very first microwave ever designed. Yes, my kitchen’s vintage, but that’s no reason for this devious obsolescence conspiracy it’s plotting!

It all started with the faucet.  One day it worked perfectly, the next, not.  I suppose I should be grateful…some people pay a lot of money to  have a fountain in their home.

That litle malfunction actually saved me time in the morning.  I could wash the breakfast dishes, shower and water the plants in the hall, all with one twist of the spigot.

Annoying, but no big deal really… until I returned home from my two hour meeting.

You just know there’s a problem when you glance through the windows and see your cats perched in the chandelier.  The neighbors are still refering to our house as Lake Wobegon.

The next thing to join was the microwave.  Have you ever tried to open a microwave  that’s missing its handle? It is  far easier to open a new CD case wearing oven mitts.

Before I knew it, the dishwasher had signed on.  I have to admit, it had a bit  of help.

Did you know that when a 5’11” woman is surprised by an open dishwasher rack to the back of the knees, there will be ample evidence that prongs and thongs do not mix.   I no longer have to mop my kitchen floor.  It’s now self-cleaning when we flip on the dishwasher.

Then came the burners on the stove.  If you have never tried to fix a holiday dinner with only two burners and a microwave (handle affixed by suncatcher suction cups), you just don’t know what you’re missing.  It really took me back to the camping trip where I tried making spaghetti and meatballs in the rain, over a campfire, with only one pot, no colandar and a palmetto leaf as a hot pad.

The most recent appliance to adopt the conspiracy was the coffee pot.  Last week, for no apparent reason, the fancy schmancy carafe-less (also warranty-less) coffee maker barfed inky-colored water all over my kitchen counter that smelled like pond sludge from the Dunkin’ Donuts lagoon.  Thank goodness the cats tracked down its creature, evidenced by the paw prints across the off-white carpet.

Are you seeing a pattern here? With the water I mean?  My husband has  seriously begun to rethink the wisdom of having married a woman born under the water sign.

I’ve finally decided to believe that the kitchen is not really conspiring against us, it’s supporting our nomination for Extreme Makeover: Kitchen Edition.

Nevertheless, I’m wishing I could detach the garage from our house right about now.  It’s a little too close to the kitchen for comfort.  If the garage ever gets wind of this conspiracy, I’m afraid of the results.  As a precaution, we’ve cut off water to that part of the house, but still, there are way too many contraptions out there that could adopt a no-blow, no-mow or no-go policy.  I’d just as soon not be nominated for CMT’s new reality TV show, Trick My Leafblower,  where they run intervention on lawn equipment gone rogue.

 

P.S. Yes, I really did have a pink oven like the one above.

Superpowers We Could Live Without

I recently saw the movie Incredibles 2about a family of superpowered humans, fighting to save the world. In this sequel, Mom (a.k.a. Elastigirl) has been hired by a business mogul to become the PR poster child, showing the world how great superpowers are, and why the Incredibles (Human beings with superpowers) should no  longer be outlawed.

I really do believe most people have a superpower or two. There are just a few we could probably live without.

Take X-ray vision, for example. What parent hasn’t had at least one kid who could ferret out any birthday or Christmas gift ever bought, no matter how high-up or deviously-hidden? And as if that weren’t bad enough, that same kid is usually also endowed with the ability to scale tall closets in one leap, to get them down. A package deal on those two  superpowers should be outlawed.

The more I think about it, I’ve come to realize X-ray vision must be a selective superpower. It’s really too bad it never seems to apply to finding math homework in darkened book bags or stinky gym clothes under beds.

Then there’s that much-envied ability (by those of us who don’t possess it) to appear and disappear at will. I don’t know about you, but come Thanksgiving, I’d sure like to divest a few members of our family of their ability to appear just in time to eat, then vanish into thin air as soon as the pie is devoured. And I haven’t figured out how, but these very same people seem to have the “multiply dirty dishes geometrically” superpower as well.

Alas, none of the rest of us — tasked with cleaning up caked-on mashed potato  mortar  — has developed that much-envied “instant clean up” superpower.

Speaking of cleaning up, I find the “Human Tornado” Superpower one of the most annoying. Studies show this seems to be gender-neutral, and bestowed on at least one member of almost every family (and woe to the family where multiple members possess this power).

Surprisingly, it appears this superpower can be used only when no one is looking. One minute, you’re admiring your immaculate kitchen. The next, you walk out of the room for a micro-instant and BAM! The Human Tornado strikes!

Why, anyone viewing the particularly devastating aftermath of this superpower would mistake it for an especially-vicious episode of Kitchen Wars, where the food is winning!

The problem with these superpowers is that the people who possess them actually use them. I can’t help feeling we’d all be better off if they came “batteries not included.”

Outgrowing Dolly

IMG_3054 DolliesI was on a walk this morning with Mia, our puppy, when I discovered that her beloved Blue Cow, who she insists on bringing on every jaunt, had fallen from my pocket. It gets stowed there when she drops it about a block out from the house and it’s returned to her once we’re almost home.

This morning, we retraced our steps to retrieve Blue Cow.  When Mia saw it lying beside the path, she ran to retrieve it. She walked the five blocks home with it clutched in her mouth, no longer trusting her treasure to my care.

It reminded me of the many times we retraced steps to find a little stuffed doll that has been my daughter’s most cherished possession since my husband and I gave it to her on her first birthday.

Dolly, who was never christened with a more sophisticated name, has been a constant in our lives for the past 11 years. She has been cuddled, dropped, photographed, lost and shipped back, washed and re-sewn any number of times.  She has been on play dates, sleepovers, car and camping trips, stroller, airplane and boat rides …she’s one well-traveled toy.

We’re now on our third iteration of Dolly, the first two having been so well-loved that I tried to replace them with Dolly Number Three. This last turned out to be an imposter. She didn’t “feel the same” as the the prior two whose velveteen has been worn thin by love.

In the beginning, Dolly was a constant companion, never leaving my daughter’s side except for nursery school. Eventually, Dolly transformed into a nighttime-only companion. Until recently, Dolly slept under my daughter’s chin, to be caressed, mushed and fondled throughout the night, even as my daughter slumbered soundly. My husband often teased – never in a critical way – about having to pack Dolly off to college with our daughter.

Lately, I’ve seen Dolly and her almost-identical sister relegated to the foot of my daughter’s bed, anchored in place only by the footboard. Each of these steps attests to my little girl’s ever-increasing self-confidence. She no longer needs the reassurance Dolly once gave her.

As a parent, I am so proud of how far she has come… with her growing courage, burgeoning creativity, ripening sense of humor and blossoming personality that only comes with maturation.  She’s growing up…growing independent.  I wouldn’t change it for the world…But that doesn’t mean I won’t still miss the Dolly Years.

 

Originally published…it feels like a lifetime ago, and only yesterday….