Category Archives: Friendship

Laugh Everlasting

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buffett

My friend Jeanette would have turned 54 today.

Professionally, Jeanette devoted her life to being a Catholic Educator. When she died suddenly in May, she was finishing her 32nd year with the Diocese.

She was a Teacher, Coach, and Principal. Her commitment to her students extended beyond the school bell. I don’t think she missed a School or Parish function.  If students were at risk for missing school, she’d been known to pick them up on her way to work.

While she was serious about education,  I have no doubt she made learning fun. Jeanette was all about fun. She was born the third of five children in a close family that truly enjoys each other and life. She adored her nieces and nephew, and loved making things fun for them.

She loved road trips, the Purdue Boilermakers, Jimmy Buffett, tanning poolside, and theme parties. She was game for anything, and celebrating everything.

As I looked through the photo boards on display at the funeral home, I was amazed at all the good times I had forgotten about over the last four decades. Thanks to her (and her family’s) consistent picture taking, her joy and love of  life was well documented.

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30th Birthdays in Vegas

One thing was obvious:  She made everything an event.

Jeanette also loved a good laugh, and she certainly had the most memorable and distinctive one.

Her laugh began with a deep and throaty “oh-ho-ho-my-hy-gosh” and ended with a high pitched “hee-hee-hee” covering the entire range of the vocal scale in between. It was loud, musical, joyful and infectious.

When necessary, Jeanette had a good poker face. She could initiate and carry out harmless, but hilarious practical jokes, and no one laughed harder than she did at the result.

I enjoyed the sound of her laugh for 40 years. Usually she was laughing with me, but frequently she was laughing at me.

If something awful or embarrassing happened, Jeanette was the perfect person to tell. While she always had a sympathetic ear, she often had no control over that laugh. She’d easily find the humor in every blunder, fumble and stumble.

She was able to do this because life is a mixture of emotions. Happy and sad, tragic and ridiculous are not always mutually exclusive. I experienced this phenomenon the day of Jeanette’s funeral.

Her beautiful Funeral Mass was held at the parish where she was Principal. It was an area of town I wasn’t familiar with – especially since I hadn’t lived there for most of my adult life.

Funeral processions are treated with a special kind of reverence in my hometown. Cars, (including those traveling in the opposite direction) pull to the side of the road to let a funeral procession pass. I’ve seen men stand with a hand over their heart, folks bow their heads in prayer, and Catholic school children kneel on the playground.

As I tearfully departed the church parking lot, my friend Nancy was following in the car behind me. Nancy’s 50-year friendship with Jeanette began at the age of 3, when her family moved into a house three doors from Jeanette’s family.

Under the direction of the funeral home personnel and with police escorts, our cars with headlights on and hazard lights flashing, moved slowly but steadily along. Nancy and I were on the phone, talking safely, hands-free as we drove. Nothing look familiar to either of us.

As we passed through an intersection, the gentleman in the SUV in front of me suddenly turned off his hazard lights, and then quickly sped off. I looked ahead at an empty street.  Wait, where is Jeanette’s hearse? The limo? The family cars? 

I realized the front of the funeral procession must have turned right and for some reason the gentleman in the SUV in front of me had bailed out of the procession and gone straight.  Did he have to get back to the office? Did he have diarrhea? What happened?

I didn’t have time to ponder this.

“OH NO!!” I screamed to Nancy, as I realized I was now the lead car in a runaway funeral procession…and I didn’t know the way to the Catholic Cemetery.

Nancy began to laugh.

“It’s not funny!” I yelled.

“Where are the police escorts?” I continued.

Anxiety set in. “Nancy, I can’t be the lead car, I don’t know where we are!”

I was so rattled I couldn’t Google Map it.

Nancy,  had suddenly turned into Jeanette. She was laughing so hard she could barely speak. She managed to utter “They turned right. Just turn right as soon as you can.”

I was beyond horrified. I looked in my rearview mirror at the long line of headlights and flashing hazards behind me. I was sweating.

I took the next right.

After two more turns, and by the Grace of God, we made it to the cemetery.

Unfortunately, we arrived before the front of the funeral procession, causing a bit of a traffic jam, and additional challenge for the police.

Unbeknownst to me, the police were managing two funeral processions arriving simultaneously at the cemetery, and my runaway procession created an unexpected third group, on a street partially closed due to road construction.

Thankfully, despite the entire debacle we were there to lay Jeanette to rest.

Later that afternoon, we considered that maybe the funeral fiasco was heaven sent from Jeanette, for one last laugh. Whether she was responsible or not, I had no doubt she was laughing.

The thought of not hearing her laugh again made me sad.

But now I don’t think there was a last laugh.

Because somehow, I still hear her laugh so clearly.

While Jeanette is so dearly missed by so many today, I hope she is being remembered with all sorts of proper celebrations.

Her laugh is now eternal, and oh, how full of joy and fun Heaven must be today.

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Bean!

xo

 

 

Manic Mondays & Fashion Faux Pas

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Manic Monday wasn’t just a 1985 hit for The Bangles.

It’s a real thing. It occurs after the weekend knocks us out of the groove. As we try to slog through the early Monday morning routine, the result can be chaos:  Forgotten gym clothes, lunch money, homework, and signed permission slips. No gas in the car.

A niece of mine was only 4 years old when Manic Monday was in the Top 40. She mistakenly thought Susanna Hoffs was singing, “Just another man naked Monday” Understandable, innocent and adorable.

Thankfully, nudity hasn’t been an issue for for me, but a Manic Monday can result in a fashion faux pas or wardrobe malfunction.

One lovely Spring morning, I wore a brand new purple cardigan embellished with a ruffle down the front. I felt so smartly dressed all day.  I returned home and pulled in the garage. As I removed my seatbelt, it caught the edge of something. What is that? I thought.

I realized my new sweater still had the size tape running along the front. I ran to a mirror, and took in the full view. From just below my left shoulder, it went over my left breast right down to my stomach. A string of evenly spaced scarlet L’s, .

I mentally reviewed my day, the five sales appointments, all the customers I had spoken with. No one had mentioned a word. I’m pretty sure I would have preferred someone seeing something and saying something. Or would I?

A friend went line dancing at a cowboy bar in brand new jeans. She was feelin’ like a fine filly… until her dance pardner spotted the Size 8   8    8    8   8  tape running the length of her thigh – and ripped it right off her leg. In the middle of the dance floor. He twirled it above his head, lasso-style. Clearly, a do-si-don’t.

What could be worse than forgetting to remove the size tag from new duds? I’ll tell you what.

Polka dot blouse. Nude pumps with a bow. I was channeling my inner Chanel. However since I’m more Costco than Coco, rather than the Chanel Boutique, my blouse was from Old Navy.  Again after a full day of appointments, I arrived home to discover I had violated Coco’s cardinal rule: I was over-accessorized. I failed to remove one item.  I should have kept the  pearls, and ditched the price tag. Seriously, how did I not see or feel this big piece of navy cardboard hanging from the underarm of my featherweight, sheer blouse?

Tag on Blouse

Wardrobe malfunctions are the worst when they occur on the days we want to look our most professional.

It is a proven fact, that I will not spill a drop of coffee out of a to-go cup, until the Monday I wear a white blouse while I am out of town and five minutes from an appointment. Yep, that is the day I will get that dang Starbucks lid/cup combo that mysteriously drips, no matter what you do, or how many napkins you wrap around it.

My friend Pat paired a sharp navy blue suit (skirt and jacket) with navy blue pumps for an important meeting at work. As she sat down in the conference room and crossed her legs, she realized her shoes didn’t match…each other. Not only were the shoes different styles, they were different colors. One was navy blue and the other one was black. One of these things is not like the other!

My sister’s most famous wardrobe malfunction involved shape wear. You can read about it here. She is usually right on trend and sometimes even fashion forward – like the time she was ahead of the “wire-free” bra trend…when one underwire worked its way out of her bra, and like one of those creepy serpent necklaces, snaked its way up her décolletage and right out the top of her sweater.

Photo: Pinterest.com

Photo: Pinterest.com

In regards to her bustline at this point? Again, one of these things was not like the other.

Long before my Mother was officially diagnosed with dementia, she had begun to make uncharacteristic wardrobe and accessory choices. The  colorful, oversized tote she carried to my stepdad’s funeral had gone unnoticed until one of my brothers was shocked to spot it during the service, and asked “Mother….. are you carrying a beach bag?” Everyone within earshot tried to stifle inappropriate giggles. On the bright side, at least her shoes didn’t match her purse.

Men can suffer fashion faux pas, too. Even at funerals.

A family member attended a funeral during the week between Christmas and New Years.  He grabbed his wool coat out of the closet in a rush to get out of the house. The coat felt uncomfortably snug over his suit, but the Polar Vortex prevented him from taking it off. Only when walking into church did he realize he was wearing his wife’s coat. Surely the mourners at Mass must have smiled at the dapper gentleman…..and his festive rhinestone candy cane pin.

Photo Courtesy: vintagevixen etsy.com

Photo Courtesy: vintagevixen
etsy.com

Just last week, Tara Wood of Love Morning Wood, shared a photo on her Facebook page of her OOTD fashion faux pas.

Courtesy of Tara Wood Lovemorningwood.com

Photo courtesy of Tara Wood

She was dressed for a day of running errands. While, I think she is wearing cute rolled up boyfriend jeans, I am positive that is an adhesive nursing pad attached to the bottom of those darling gold sandals. It may look like Tara really stepped in it this time, but mark by word: by next summer this wardrobe malfunction will be reinvented and show up on a clever life hack list:

Travel Life Hack #7 Keep Summer feet clean at the airport by securing (2) adhesive nursing pads on each bare foot before going through TSA checkpoint. Once you get through the body scanner, discard the pads and put your summer kicks back on those clean tootsies!

These goofs are entertaining reminders that we are all just human. Or maybe we’re all trendsetters.

What else would explain brightly colored bra straps exposed, tights worn as pants (without coverage of the critical zone) and the long past its prime…pants on the ground?

Happy Monday!

Family Jewels

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Where it all began

Where it all began

I received some disappointing news last week.

In a few short months, a family-owned jewelry store in my hometown is scheduled to close after nearly seven decades in business. With roots in the “old neighborhood,” five generations of my family, from my grandparents to my great nieces, have worn sparkly things and watches purchased at Freeman Jewelers.

First Holy Communion crosses, add-a-bead necklaces, charm bracelets, rings from Dad, Christmas gifts hidden in tree branches, engagement rings, and custom designs and settings have marked Sacraments, life milestones and special occasions.

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My Mother is no longer able to wear the jewelry she once enjoyed so much. As her dementia progressed, she began throwing her jewelry in the trash. Someday it will be worn and enjoyed again by another generation, but for now, it is safely tucked away.

Her jewelry was purchased from this family owned store. The value of this jewelry is not in the precious metals and stones, it is in the memories. The memory of helping Dad select just the right gift. A tiny, wrapped box hidden on a Christmas tree branch. The memory of Mom’s face when she found it, and the delight when she unwrapped it.

For our family, there has never been another place to purchase jewelry. Or get a new watch battery. The Freeman family has been a constant. They are genuine, friendly and ethical. Their merchandise is beautiful and unique. They catered to every budget. While I am happy for the 2nd generation, sibling owners who will now enjoy some well-deserved retirement relaxation and fun; selfishly, I am sad to see them go.

I feel like we have a shared history, and I will miss them and their store.

Where will we shop now?

I’m not interested in Jane Seymour’s Open Hearts Collection, and I definitely won’t ever say  “I went to Jared’s.”

Buying and receiving jewelry will never be the same.

Another family owned business, a lovely home furnishings and decor store also recently closed its doors after 30+ years in my hometown. Apparently,  the trend towards online purchasing, and folks furnishing their homes with cheaper decor, rather than investment pieces, had resulted in declining sales.

How sad.

I hate that this keeps happening, but I understand how it does.

In our pursuit of paying less, we have moved away from buying from the “little guys.”

We’ve been seduced by perceived savings at national chains, big box stores, and on-line retailers.

The falling prices at Walmart are enticing. Personally, I’ve never felt good walking into a Walmart. I find it rather depressing and avoid it. Now Target on the other hand….

We head to Target for household items. Instead of sticking to our list, we suddenly find $150 in “must-have” purchases.  Come on, who hasn’t looked at their bank statement or credit card bill and thought, What the heck did I buy at Target last month?

A 20% store coupon makes us antsy.  We must to get to the mall before our coupon expires.  We can’t miss the chance to  “save.”

I confess, I recently took a spin on the Old Navy merry-go-round.

They were having a sale.  I went shopping. I earned super cash. I spent the super cash. The next day, everything was 30% off. I shopped again. I earned rewards.

Yippee!!!  I was saving SO MUCH MONEY that my Gap Visa bill was……$500. Wait, What? How did THIS happen? I finally got off that ride.

We sit on the couch, shop online,  and with one click enjoy almost instant gratification. They tell us: folks who bought this, also bought….this. So, we toss that in our virtual shopping cart, too.  Amazon Prime. Free shipping. Brown boxes on the porch.

But, are we really saving anything?

Of course not. We’ve been tricked into buying way too much stuff.

Shame on us.

With all these big box bargains and online deals, we are losing more than just our own cash.

Locally owned businesses are the heart and soul of city. Community means people. These business people are more vested in their community than any big chain could ever be.

Losing the family owned businesses in our communities is also leading to the retail homogenization of America.

Every city and town has shopping centers with Kohls, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Target, Staples, Home Depot, etc. It  is revolving scenery, with only changes in landscape.

We can buy the same stuff in every city.

This is especially evident in department stores.

Macy’s and Bloomingdales INC line will soon have us all looking like these guys:

Some folks thought Star Trek..I think they all bought the INC line.

Some folks thought Star Trek..I think they all bought the INC line.

We are at risk of losing our individual style.

Even worse, communities are losing their individual personality.

What do we often love to stumble upon while traveling?

A charming downtown area. A walkable shopping district. Drinks or dinner followed by checking out the area, on foot. Whether it is a nostalgic or modern vibe, these areas give a destination its personality.

If we purchase a trinket, gadget, Christmas ornament, or article of clothing, it automatically has the memory of the shop where it was purchased and the trip we took, attached to it.

The same can’t be said for items randomly purchased at the mall, or a national chain. It’s just bland stuff.

I’ve had enough bland stuff. I’m hungry for local flavor. I want locally owned businesses to come back…STRONG.

Make a plan to celebrate Small Business Saturday on November 29th.

Stay away from the mall madness and the big chains.

Plot out some locally-owned shops to check out.

Support a hometown artisan and enjoy the added benefit of buying American made.

I bet you’ll find some unexpected treasures.

If shopping isn’t on your agenda, you can still participate.

Start your weekend by grabbing breakfast at a Mom & Pop coffee shop.

Visit your local hardware or paint store while working through your “honey-do” list.

Instead of watching the game at a chain sports bar, grab a beer at a locally-owned joint.

If dining out isn’t in the budget, hit the butcher shop and dine in.

Shop small on November 29th.

And then, make a habit of it.

Locally owned businesses are the precious gems in our community settings.

Let’s do what we can to make sure they continue to SHINE.

shop small

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pssst…I’m on PST… So Shhhh…

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On Sunday, at 7:50 p.m. PST, I checked Facebook and saw a status update from my friend, Nancy that read:

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She was referring to a central character in the CBS drama, The Good Wife. The writers’ decision to kill off Will Gardner was unexpected. It was a stunning plot twist.

It was especially shocking to me, because I live in the Pacific Standard Time zone. It would be another two hours before Will would meet his demise here on the West Coast.

What was Nancy thinking? How could she spoil this? She was pulling Oprah’s old trick: Revealing a crucial plot detail of every book or movie she featured on her show, thereby spoiling it for the rest of us.

Never mind Will Gardner, I wanted to kill Nancy – for just a second. First, I put my caps lock on and yelled at her.

Then I found it hysterically funny. The truth is, I had my DVR programmed and wouldn’t watch it until the following night, anyway.

I thought of all Nancy’s Facebook friends reading her simple, four-word post. I envisioned dozens of people groaning, yelling and swearing because, either they were in a different time zone, or they thought Will was alive and well on their DVRs.

It became tragically funny the next day, when I realized my DVR failed to record The Good Wife.

Of all weeks. I couldn’t believe it.

I sent a text to Nancy, telling her of my misfortune.

She replied with three words: Well, Will died. 

She’s funny, that one.

Sure, television viewing in the PST zone has its benefits. It is fantastic for coverage that airs live: major sporting events, (especially Superbowl Sunday); The Academy Awards; Election Night; and Presidential speeches.

While these events air live in prime time on the East Coast, we don’t even have dinner started here on the West Coast. We can actually stay awake to view these shows in their entirety, and we don’t feel exhausted at work the following morning.

However, it sort of stinks every other day of the year. We might not be the last to know; but we ARE the last to see the show.

AOL was the first problem. Even back when we were still dialing up, logging in meant diverting your eyes away from the headlines on the home screen; for fear of seeing a recap of of your favorite TV show.

I’m guessing with the proliferation of DVRs in combination with Twitter and Facebook, everyone has at some point been a victim of the stink from a spoiled storyline, or results of a reality competition.

Twitter and Facebook buzz about each episode of American Idol, The Voice, The Biggest Loser, The Amazing Race, Survivor, The Bachelor, and DWTS. 

Traditional media and social media have made spoilers a way of life.

We don’t even have to wait for Superbowl Sunday for the reveal of the clever commercials. They can be seen all over television and websites the week before the game.

News outlets even took all the surprise out of The Winter Olympics. Truly spoiled sports.

I can deal with this.

It is ABC’s Scandal that I worry about.

It is my guilty pleasure. Maybe an obsession.

Partly because of the fantastic writing, and partly because I just wish I could lounge like Olivia Pope: dressed head-to-toe in cream-colored cashmere, while drinking red wine in a balloon goblet, and never spill a drop.

While it is pure fiction, it probably more accurately portrays the happenings in our Nation’s Capitol, than any news coverage.

However, I can’t stay awake to watch it.

Which by the way, begs the question:  Forget Obama, Why can’t President Fitzgerald Grant air at 5:00 p.m. PST?

I DVR Scandal, and then save it for 2 or 3 days, trying to decide when I will sit down and savor the episode.

Each week brings a shocking plot twist, and I could use anti-anxiety meds to get through the episode.

It’s a good thing Nancy doesn’t watch Scandal, because if she “talked” and compromised the security of the contents of my DVR, I would have to call Pope & Associates.

It would be my duty as a good Patriot.

Spoiler alert:

She’d learn about Affordable Healthcare, in the form of free dental work.

From Huck.

Or B6-13.

Who is really working for whom in that show?

Shhhh….don’t tell me.

 

Good Grief…It’s On Facebook

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I’ll say it. Facebook can be irritating. Invitations to play games we don’t have time for. Fattening recipes we don’t need. False promises of free iPads and gift cards.

Who hasn’t been guilty of a little eye rolling when scanning through their newsfeed? There are the over-sharers. The boastin’ postin’.  Sometimes Facebook seems to be a perpetual version of one of those Christmas card letters.

Even with its annoyances, it has become a Godsend in some ways.

What began as a place for college students to connect, has grown into a place to reconnect and share joyful or funny news. It has now evolved into something even more. In times of trouble, we can let others know we are supporting them in thought and prayer.

Like many Facebook users, I have followed cancer and recovery-to-health journeys of people I don’t even know. This isn’t voyeuristic.  It is an example of our connection as human beings, which compels us to pray for and root for these friends of our friends.

In times of tragedy and loss, Facebook can be a place to share our grief, and ultimately comfort one another.

Nicole, a classmate of mine, lost her daughter Leah in 2012. I never met Leah, but I got to “know” her through several months of Nicole’s posts on Facebook. The posts were sometimes upbeat or sweet and funny, and often raw and heartbreaking. They were always beautiful because of her family’s fierce love. This love was apparent in every post. Nicole’s generosity in sharing Leah’s journey, allowed countless people to “know” Leah and to pray for her.

Several months after Leah died, I asked Nicole if Leah’s Facebook page made her sad and if it would remain intact. She said, “Leah’s Facebook page will remain alive for as long as I live. Dozens of people post public and private messages almost every week.”

How comforting it must be for Nicole to have the warm reminders that Leah is thought of, and missed by, so many people.

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If joy shared is joy multiplied; then is grief shared, while not lessened, perhaps at least made more bearable?  I think so.

Four of my  Facebook friends passed away in the last few years.  After watching what has unfolded on their Facebook pages, I began to think: Will Facebook evolve into a online memorial garden – especially for the generation who never knew a world without Facebook?

Mike passed away in July of 2011 after triumphantly living with ALS for over ten years. I miss his wickedly funny and irreverent wit. Without Facebook, I would have missed seeing this beautiful photo, posted by Mike’s nephew. It captures what is perhaps the most fitting and perfectly placed memorial stone I have ever seen:  stunning in its simplicity, meaning, and setting, for a true outdoorsman.

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Kathey died in August of  2011. She kept much of her 10-year breast cancer fight sort of private. She didn’t want to be sick, act sick or have anyone think of her as sick. I couldn’t bring myself to write “Happy Birthday”on her Facebook wall the last two years. “Birthday” would have looked pitiful. Kathey would hate that. She made a BIG deal of ALL birthdays. She would have celebrated another birthday this weekend.  She wasn’t a very active Facebooker, but it makes me smile to peek at her wall, read a post and see that someone is thinking of her. I miss her terribly, but will once again find some Happy in her Birthday.

Tom, was the king of the perfectly placed one-liner. He was usually the first to alert me to the news of a recently deceased celebrity.  The news flash was in the form of an always funny, and sometimes, heartwarming commentary. Speculation (and yes, sometimes wagering) about which celebrity would be the next to go, soon followed. Naturally, we counted them off in the requisite groups of three. What? Doesn’t everyone do this?

Tom passed away last January. This memory stone, with names of some of  Tom’s nephews and a niece is pure sweetness. It made me smile. Without Facebook, I would never have seen this treasure created in memory of a beloved uncle.

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It occurred to me that cemeteries may become less important for the next generations. Maybe this had already started. I live in an area where choosing cremation and The Neptune Society is common practice. Personally, I’m not a frequent cemetery visitor, and I don’t know too many people who are. I admit, I had never really felt a tremendous connection to the final resting places of my loved ones.

Then my cousin Jennie died.

A 42-year old wife and mother, she fought  breast and brain cancer for 18 months. Learning her final resting place would be next to my Dad, who died nearly 30 years ago, was a moment full of emotion. Suddenly the cold cemetery seemed a little warmer. I know their souls have left their earthly bodies, but somehow, it is comforting to know my Dad finally has “company next door” after all these years, and that Jennie has her Uncle Art to watch over her.

However, I still think a cemetery can be a stark reminder of a death, and a visit to one may mean grieving in solitude. But, a visit to a Facebook page can be a shared celebration of life. It is a community venue for showing support, sharing warm remembrances and ongoing tributes.

Jennie’s wall contains sweet memories, photos of haircuts and donations to “Locks of Love,”and inspirational quotes.

“Leah’s Day Of Love” was organized as a Facebook Event and observed on the 1st Anniversary of her death. Lovely, random acts of kindness were documented in joyful photos. What a beautiful day dreamed up by Leah’s cousin.

Tom’s page has memories of March Madness. All their pages are filled with birthday wishes, photos of happy moments, and sentiments about missed friends.

It doesn’t matter what your beliefs are about eternal life, or how you feel about headstones and scattered ashes. If you’ve lost a friend, visit their Facebook page and see how their spirit lives on in their family and friends.

Join the celebration. Share a story.

Cultivate a memory garden and watch it grow.

Time Travelers

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ImageFor the first time in 50 years, I had an argument with my Mother.

We were chatting on the phone and reminiscing, when the subject turned to my Dad being mad at me.

“You know what you should do?” She said.

 “What?” I could not imagine what she was about to say.

“You should apologize to your Dad.” she said in a matter of  fact tone.

“Apologize?  For What?”

“Just apologize. He’ll like that.”

Then, in a sing-songy voice she continued, “When he gets home, why don’t you just say:  Dad…I’m really sorry…I didn’t mean to make you so mad. Will you forgive me?”

Instantly, I flamed. I could feel my blood pressure rising.

“Mom! I have NOTHING to apologize for!”

“Just do it.”she suggested.

“I didn’t do anything WRONG, Mother!”

“Come on, just apologize!”she said oh-so-very-sweetly.

“NO! Absolutely NOT. I am NOT apologizing to him!”

I stood my ground.

This is embarrassing because my Mother has advanced dementia. And my Dad passed away in 1986.

So yes, I had an argument with my 83-year old Mother….and refused to apologize for something that happened when I was 19… to my Dad who has been dead nearly 30 years.

Ridiculous, I know, and certainly not my proudest moment.

I dialed up my friend Nancy.

She was familiar with  my loving, but head-butting relationship with my Dad, and she is actively dealing with two aging parents . It’s a full circle friendship. I knew she would understand, and most importantly, laugh with me about the absurdity.

“What is wrong with me?” I asked her, after we had finished laughing.

Nancy said, “It’s those damn letters!  You read all those letters, and now YOU’RE  back in the 80’s with Lois!”

Maybe she was onto to something.

I had recently found a box of old letters, written to me throughout both terms of the Reagan Presidency. Letters from high school friends, college friends, and several family members.

I scanned the letters from my girlfriends, and emailed copies to the authors. (More on that, later.)

I also read the letters – all except the dozens from my Mom. I bundled those up and tucked them away for another day. I’ve gotten used to the  current version of my Mother, and I don’t want to reacquaint myself  just yet, with the previous version of her that I miss so terribly.

The event my Mom and I we were reminiscing about during our phone conversation was a coming of age moment for me, in the early 80’s. My Dad was not adjusting too well to my increasing independence, and during our debate of the day, I had outfoxed him for the first time.

He was openly furious.  I was silently victorious. Mom was secretly amused.

It has been one of my Mother’s favorite stories. The former version of my Mother would re-enact the conversation with me and we would have a good giggle.

However the current version of my Mother, who’s  mind was  somewhere back in the 1980’s  during our phone conversation, viewed it differently.

As Nancy had so insightfully pointed out, just maybe those old letters had opened a portal to emotional time travel for me, too.

So during the phone call, there I was, transported back to that summer evening, only to discover my Mom had switched  sides. I had no ally. Like the  cheese in the dell, I  stood alone.

Dementia can be magical thinking. It’s also a trickster, and it certainly keeps you on your toes. As such, our phone conversation quickly turned, and suddenly we were  back to the current day.

My Mom quizzed me.

“Where are you?”

“When did you move?”

“How old am I?”

“How old is your Dad?”

“How old are you?”

I answered truthfully (except for the teensy fib about Dad still being alive.)

She was shocked: “I can’t believe  you’re 50. Well, at least you’re not older than me, yet!”

Magical thinking indeed.

We began to wrap up our phone conversation.

Dad would be home from work soon, and she needed to get home to make dinner. She told me there wasn’t much in the fridge, so she planned to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

We said our “I love you’s” and hung up.

I admit, I was still  a bit miffed.

Hmmmphh. I thought smugly.

I should apologize?  I don’t think so.

SHE is the one who should be  apologizing…for that menu.

That’ll be the first and last time Dad eats a PB & J sandwich for dinner. 

Listen, sister…

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Isn't she just the NEATEST??

Isn’t she just the NEATEST??

Every girl needs a sister. Secret-keeper. Fashion advisor. Cohort. Sous chef. Problem solver. Cheerleader.

If you were lucky enough to grow up with a sister,  you know there is no relationship like the one between sisters.

Women who never had a sister or have lost a sister, often find a sister bond with a girlfriend.

Look at the devoted sister-friends in pop culture: Oprah Winfrey & Gayle King, Drew Barrymore & Cameron Diaz, Tina Fey & Amy Poehler. Oh, I’m sure there are sister-friend duos in the actual arts and the field of science – however, since I live close to the TMZ, I can only speak of what I know.

The sister bond is powerful. I am blessed to have grown up with a sister of my own, and today is her birthday.

For ten years she was the only girl. A rose among 3 thorns. Apple of her daddy’s eye. Princess in her own bedroom.

Then natural family planning resulted in my unexpected arrival. From that day forward, she shared her royal quarters with a lady in waiting; until one day, a prince of a guy stole married her and made her his Queen.

I was crushed that she was leaving. I had a nervous stomach the week prior to her wedding. I floated through my junior bridesmaid duties on her wedding day,  thanks to the valium Mom gave me. Hey, it’s not like we lived in The Valley Of The Dolls, but it was the 1970’s. “Mother’s little helper” helped me make it through the night.

What would I do without her? She taught me to shave my legs. Watched Mary Tyler Moore with me. Campaigned for my rights……to pierced ears. Made the best popcorn.  Bought me my first perfume (Windsong, of course). I didn’t want my own room, because everything was more fun with her – even show tunes.

Sisters....Sisters....There were never such devoted sisters....

Sisters….Sisters….There were never such devoted sisters….

I eventually got used to her married life. During my high school and college years, she birthed three babies.  I spent countless hours in her happy little home.

Our difference in age meant we never fought over clothes, make-up, or the bathroom. Naturally, our age difference is no longer noticeable. Even so, in our 50 years together, we’ve never had an argument. (Scrabble squabbles don’t count.)

Not one fight.  Not even when I poured boiling water on her hand while draining pasta, or when she squirted lavender dish soap in my soon-to-be-mashed potatoes.

However, she has accused me of stealing her identity. We look and sound a little bit alike, although I am taller and she is skinnier. I caused a kerfluffle during one visit to my hometown, when I unknowingly snubbed a woman while walking through a restaurant. The woman’s husband worked with my sister’s husband.

I am now under strict orders to strike up a cheery conversation with anyone who merely glances my way. I’m not sure my constant babbling to strangers is helping her reputation.

Our slightly similar appearance confuses the very old and the very young. During my recent visits with our Mother, she insists I am my sister:  the “well-behaved daughter.” My sister’s 19-month old granddaughter calls me Nana, despite all attempts to teach her to say my name. Hopefully this changes soon, or the real Nana will be mad at me for the first time, ever.

We think alike, and often say the same thing simultaneously. Several years ago, we were banned from playing on the same Pictionary team, after I began my turn by drawing a straight line, and my sister immediately correctly guessed a phrase that had nothing to do with a straight line. Sometimes I open my mouth to speak, and she interrupts me with, “I know what you’re gonna say.”

She is a dedicated and resourceful volunteer with a built-in business savvy. She is hilarious. She is a Nana like no other. A caretaker by nature.

My Mom rarely leaves the care facility where she lives, but my sister makes sure she has cute clothes and her hair is colored. She thoughtfully adds a decorator touch to Mom’s room for each holiday. She shows the same patient and sweet affection for our Mother that she shows to her Grandchildren.

We now live 2,000 miles apart. Technology keeps us connected. She is always quick to lend an ear, and frankly, she can only lend one – the left ear can’t hear a thing. We are the Seinfeld of sisters: we can talk for hours about..nothing.

We’ve watched developing TV news stories together…over the phone. We can pick an outfit and cook via Facetime and shop via text messages and photos.

We share new recipes, hot tips, and great shopping finds.

We also share a funny bone, a sweet tooth, boobs that are too big for our liking,  and unfortunate-looking knees.

We also share an appreciation of how blessed we are to have each other.

My cousin Jennie passed away 2 weeks ago. While, she is missed terribly by her parents, her husband, 4 children and a large extended family and many friends; her passing also left my cousin Julie without a sister.

On the morning of Jennie’s funeral, my sister said, “We’re adopting Julie, right?” I knew what she was thinking:  Every girl needs a sister. Of course we would happily adopt her as our 3rd sister.

Our sweet cousin Judy beat us to it. She knows firsthand, the strength, comfort, and power of sisterhood. Sisters make the happiest times more joyous and the tough times, bearable.

So yes, today is a landmark birthday for my hilarious sister. I won’t say exactly how old she is, but I will say that I celebrated my 50th birthday this year. She tells me I am lucky to have her as my window to the future, because I can see how I will look in 10 years.

I think I am luckiest to have found a friend in my sister. I don’t know what I would do without her.

Everything is still more fun with her,

My hilarious sister and me

My hilarious sister and me

And, hey, if I look like her in 10 years, that’s cool, too.

P.S. In observance of Breast Cancer awareness month and in memory of my cousin Jennie, grab your sisters and sister-friends and schedule your mammograms. We need our sisters and sister-friends.

Girls Gone 50

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IMG_4462I snore like a freight train. Who wants to sleep with me?

Hey, I get up to pee 3 times a night.

Well, I fart, so no one will want to sleep with me.

No pretense here.

Just a few details discussed in a series of emails between 3 high school girlfriends and me as we planned a 50th birthday weekend last February.

We would spend two days in Napa and two days in San Francisco. Two of us were 50, and two of us would soon be 50.  Two prefer a well-planned, make the most of our time kind of itinerary, and two lean towards a  stumble upon serendipity travel philosophy. Two offered to be the designated driver, and two…did not.

All four of us were wearing happy faces and party shoes when we gathered at our girlfriend Jan’s San Francisco home. After our first afternoon together, her 16-year-old son Trevor said, “Mom, your friends are just so…..loud.” Girlfriends spend no time getting reacquainted. We hit the ground running. Figuratively, of course, because one bad hip and an arthritic foot prevented us from literally running.

We sorted out our sleeping arrangements based on our nighttime habits. The next morning, one of us divulged that her roommate may have sleep apnea. By the second morning she had recorded the apnea episodes on her phone. We listened to the recordings in the car and screamed with laughter. True girlfriends lovingly harass you all the way to a future night’s stay  in a sleep clinic…

A great sport to send me the photo AND let me use it.

A great sport to send me the photo AND let me use it.

We had fancy pants accommodations in a private cottage at a Napa resort. We enjoyed great wine &  food. We saw the sights in the city. We shopped, we gabbed and we laughed til our abs hurt.

Jen has a ridiculous talent. Mention any word or phrase during conversation and she will  break out in a song with lyrics that match whatever has just been said.  It annoys her college-aged children.  It amuses 50-year-old girlfriends.

We met four adorable 20-somethings from Boston at the first winery we visited. Three sisters and a good-natured boyfriend. They thought it was wicked cool that ladies were doing wine country to celebrate turning 50. Ladies?  We are GIRLfriends. Two nights later, we walked into an Irish bar in San Francisco to find those Bostonians kneeling on barstools, waving wildly and screaming over the crowd,  “It’s our ladies!” Again, with the Ladies? Better than old ladies, I guess.

We saw a great band and made friends with the sharp dressed frontman. 

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Full disclosure:  We left right after this photo was taken because the place was “stinky” (translation: it smelled like….a bar)

Despite our differences, we had only one disagreement. After our final dinner, the ole “tip vs. don’t tip on the tax” debate erupted. Our server politely returned the check twice.  We didn’t have enough to cover the bill…before tip. Thirty years ago, math with absolute numbers could be difficult. At 50, math with Absolut vodka is nearly impossible.

It was a footloose weekend, it passed much too quickly, and we weren’t finished celebrating.

The celebration continued in August. Eleven girlfriends took time away from work, summer vacation, husbands and 34 children. We gathered at our girlfriend Jackie’s Michigan lake cottage to celebrate our 50th birthdays. We’ve been together in various combinations over the years, but it had been two decades since I had laid eyes on a few of these girls.

I forgot how much time we spent together as teenagers. The memories came back when I saw the photographic evidence of our escapades in the late 70’s and early 80’s. No wonder I enjoy these girls so much.

We once borrowed clothes. Now we borrowed readers to look at photos of those clothes, hairstyles and the fashions. As Catholic school girls,  we wore uniforms. Outside of school, we were apparently dressed by Nancy Reagan’s stylist:  All buttoned up and tied with a bow. It is hard to imagine teenage girls dressing like that today.

There was a boat ride and dancing, and dancing during the boat ride. New cocktail recipes, savory hors d’oeuvres, and a chocolate display literally so sinful, we should have said an Act of Contrition. Splits, yoga positions, a cheer routine, wedding photos, unplanned matching pajamas and goodie bags.

I broke a wine glass. Julie broke a toe. It was a gabfest until 5 a.m.

We talked about e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.  While our friendship was built on a foundation of four years of high school, we definitely weren’t reliving the past.  I can’t remember details from three decades ago anyway. Besides, these Girls Have All Gone 50.

Unlike Girls Gone Wild, Girls Gone 50 have it together. They are comfortable in their own skin. They explore new interests, do some incredible things, and become even more interesting. They are more carefree and independent. Their kids are doing really cool things. They have so much to talk about. They are wiser, and they are still a whole lotta fun.

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Sure, midlife may not be all sunshine and rainbows, and might include challenges. These girls are facing those challenges with grace and humor and great faith. There is not a whiner in the bunch.

While midlife issues sometimes require putting on “big girl panties,” one of us shared that she hates the feeling of underwear. She unapologetically stated that she simply no longer bothers with it. Ever. Nothin’ scandalous here,  she’s just literally comfortable in her own skin.

The freedom of Girls Gone 50 takes all forms.

Bladder control can be an annoyance, and it may have sent a few of us running for the bathroom. It is easy to see the silver lining here:  Still finding things that are pee-your-pants-funny.

We enjoyed 3 hours of sleep,  awoke with that slumber party feeling, made coffee, cleaned the kitchen for our gracious hostess..and kept talking on that rainy day until nearly dinnertime. Even then, we weren’t really talked out. It seems girlfriends don’t tire of listening to each other, so we started planning our next get together. I can’t wait.

This was a girls only event, but there was one male to bear witness to our gathering.  A former teacher and coach, turned principal after we graduated, was present… in the form of a bobble head.

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Thankfully, he isn’t talking.