Another Experience

When I decided to retire, I had visions of working at something. What that something was changed from month to month or maybe even more often than that. It usually depended on who gave me some great idea or if I read an article in the NY Times about  some Wall Street executive who one day threw his briefcase in the nearest waterway and bought a pair of Durango boots and started herding cattle on a ranch.

So with my briefcase in the garbage, I entertained the thought of owning a bed and breakfast. Why not, I said. I was a facilities manager for many years so that certainly qualifies me to know how a house runs. I am a good cook and can make a good omelet and home fries. I actually enjoy running a house and making breakfasts.

I probably had this inspiration from remembering the Bob Newhart Show.  This was the show where he ran a B&B in Vermont with his wife and had wacky characters such as the next door neighbors, the Daryls (you know, “this here is my brother Daryl and this is my other brother Daryl” neither of whom spoke). All the characters made for a funny sitcom but in real life, it may not work so well when your maid doesn’t want to clean and the guys next door are scaring the guests. And wait, I have to be there every day! I don’t get a vacation. And all those B&Bs are old and need work!?! How long would it be before I started snarling at the unreasonable guests (as they all would be) and especially at my poor husband who warned me this was a foolhardy idea to begin with. No this luckily did not happen.

Every once in a while, I get a notification that someone I don’t know wants to connect with me on Linkedin. The poor soul thinks I still work and have some connection with the corporate world that can boost their own agenda. Little do they know my days are filled with mahjongg, gym classes and countless runs to the Shoprite as I can’t seem to even put a list together for a full week’s worth of groceries anymore. And I thought I could run a B&B – Ha!

What I have been doing is traveling. This year, for the first time, I cruised. I along with Tony and some good friends (and we are still friends) took the Viking Homeland Ocean Cruise to countries I never had on any list of “Got To See”. I loved it. It was a different experience from touring on land with its local involvement but being on the ship where everything is taken care of ain’t so bad either. A deviation from the norm turned out to be a good thing.

We’re keeping close to home during the summer months as I still love going to the Jersey shore. When we lived in Jersey, our family vacations took us further down the Parkway to Wildwood Crest and Cape May. Now, its Ocean Grove, Spring Lake and Asbury and I’m finding more new experiences that I love.

Ocean Grove

 

 

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Facebook and Me

Before there was Facebook, I was somewhat a technologically-challenged everyday person with some creative writing skills. Facebookers were colleges and university students practicing free speech within their dorms.  I longed for a means of communicating with those outside my immediate circle so, I developed my own forum in order to keep in touch with my cousins who lived in various parts of the world. I use the term cousins loosely as it is an Armenian trait where close friends become relatives, hence I have more cousins than my family produced . So my true cousins Adel and Sue in Greece followed my life through my blog and other true cousins Michael and Julia would read of my travels to Italy and California and would comment – not just like, but comment. And of course, my adopted “cousin” Diane and “cousin” Jennifer would now be in the loop too.

A writer friend (and adopted cousin) introduced me to her blog about her new life as a mother and suburban housewife. She inspired me to write my thoughts and fullfill my creative desires to anyone that would listen.  So in 2007, I started my first blog – “In The Heart of a Former Hippie”. I faithfully posted and even acquired followers that I communicated with through their blog postings.

But then, the horizons opened up and I became a Facebook addict . Somewhere around 2011, for better or worse, I discovered Facebook and it me. So did most of my cousins. They saw my activity, they would post theirs and we had dialogue or at least like each other’s posts with a thumbs up. Within social circles, I would meet one of the mothers on my son’s football team and the next thing I knew,  I got a friend invite. And then another. And so it grew.

Except for my daughter, my two sons did not friend me for several years. Then one day, I was invited. What made them change their minds, I still don’t know. I think it might have been out of pity during when I was going to college in my later years surrounded by kids their age that they thought I earned their FB friending.

It was in my Public Speaking class that I had to put a presentation together where the topic was selling a product. I came up with the idea of selling a fatuous software called “Facemask”. Facemask, I claimed, was an app that would allow you to hide your Facebook posts from those you selected not to see the truth about your online life. As part of my powerpoint, I played this video with the tag line, “Don’t let this happen to you. Be incognito with Facemask”

I got an A in the class and my sons have not de-friended me.

As Long As I Can

Finally its done. The Holidays of 2017 are history with all its great times and some stress. Like other years, its highs and lows rolls up into a memory. Some years blend into the other and inevitably,  I don’t recall what year a vacation occurred. Luckily, I still remember the vacation; just not sure exactly when.

With Christmas decorations put away, the house looked stark and different. I wondered why I picked yellow for the color of the walls in the guest bedroom and basement family room. Two years ago, it must have been the trend. This week it looked wrong and washed out. So with color palette in hand, I decided to change the color of both rooms and, in order to make it easier on the checkbook, paint it myself.

Truthfully, I’m not a good painter. I usually don’t use a drop cloth (just some newspaper strewn on the floor) or cover the furniture. I just hope for the best and usually get more paint in my hair and clothes than anywhere else. Another technique that would send a professional painter cringing is rather than move the furniture, I stand on it as a ladder, inching my way along the wall until I run out of furniture and hopefully the wall. As I do this, I think to myself, “you are getting older. Better not change the color again or I will wind up in serious trouble on the floor”.

Last summer, I fell off a bike, twice. Twice I landed on my left elbow. Luckily, it healed well and I didn’t suffer too much in the aftermath. As a matter of fact, it hardly stopped me. Now I am raising my arm to paint. But one day, I won’t be able to. My concern is will I know when that time comes before I attempt another bike ride or to move a piece of furniture.

Last week, the NY Times had an article entitled “How To Prevent Falls“. As I read the article, a paragraph hit close to home.  In essence it said after standing on the edge of a bathtub in slippers to clean the top tiles,  the author was reminded that a little dirt never hurt anyone but a fall on a tile floor could. That should have made me call the contractor to finish the job but I didn’t. Anyway, it is done and happily no different, except for maybe a little achier,  than before I started.

I’m not out to prove anything. I just like my life with its all its activities and I like my house with its new color walls. The key here is sensibility and calculated risks. I am aging and even if I can’t do what I use to do, I still want to enjoy the rest of what I can do. Sometimes I think living in the northeast with its cold, and ice and snow isn’t right for an aging couple. On the other hand, its too beautiful here to give it up. I’ll just be careful.

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New Year’s Resolutions (aka Lessons Learned)

Gratefully, I, along with my husband, close friends and family, are looking forward to the beginnings of another year. I have never felt that going from December 31 to January 1 resulted in a magical transition from one year to the other recollecting the year’s good times with fond memories while the unpleasant events are relegated to the category of lessons learned, not to do again. So rather than create a list of resolutions for 2018 which may result in failed attempts to reconcile my unpleasant reflections, I am creating a list of things I will never do again or intent to do differently:

  • I will never again go to a mass appeal concert that opens with a start up band that I couldn’t care less about particularly if it is outdoors. One would think that having gone to the 1969 Woodstock, I would have learned then and there that the hype was bigger than the event. As icon as that concert was, it was a weekend of pouring rain, very cold (even in August) nights and no showers (I can’t swim so skinny dipping was out).

In October, my husband and I went to the Formula 1 Race in Austin. After the Saturday race, Justin Timberlake was scheduled to appear. Everyone who attended the race was admitted to the concert however it was all standing room. We paid extra to stand close to the stage. And I do mean stand.

After being on our feet for 3 1/2 hours, shoulder to shoulder in a mass of people in the heat I realized that no one was worth this amount of discomfort. Just before the infamous JT made his appearance, a poor heat struck girl standing behind us passed out and when the medics came to remove her, we followed.

  • As Frank sang, “Regrets, I have a few”. Like throwing out things that are in good condition and expensive to replace thinking “I’ll never use this again”. It is understandable that after spending weeks packing to our new downsized home, it just seemed easier and sensible to toss items out with the thought that I would never use them again (i.e. skis, small items of furniture and tableware I would use for large parties thinking I won’t be entertaining like that again – wrong). Temptation, or just being lazy, got the better of me and now I am spending too much time and money on their replacements.
  • Taking an exercise class where I was the only student with an instructor who was much younger and more agile and let me know it. I hobbled out of the class and cancelled my membership.
  • Buying my husband a blood pressure monitor as a stocking stuffer. He didn’t find it amusing or in good taste. As a matter of fact, he said, “I don’t want it” and compared it to getting me a vacuum as a gift. Next time, I’ll just get him the car part he hinted at wanting.

So the Holidays are over and I am happy to say, it is never to late to learn how life can be improved and how things that seemed like a good idea at one point be not necessarily smart after all. Lessons learned.

Happy New Year to all!

 

City of Two Sides

There is nothing that says the Holidays like New York City especially at night. The glitter of Christmas sparkles in the department store windows turning every adult into a kid again. The white lights wrapped around bare tree branches all over town complement the colored lights of the Rock Center tree. No city speaks Christmas as New York does and it is worth spending a couple of nights to take full advantage of what can be.

After years of “going-to-work-getting-on-the-bus-coming-home”, retirement has afforded us the time to venture to unknown boroughs to see more of the beauty of Christmas outside Rock Center. This year, I found something off the beaten track and dragged everyone to Dyker Heights in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn. It is an residential neighborhood where each house is decorated in over-the-top Christmas lights that make you wonder who lives there and how much their electric bill is. I am taking a wild guess that the inhabitants are Italian and maybe connected (wink, wink). Traveling in a crowded D train plagued with delays and redirections was an effort yet worth it. This square mile of lighted homes all seeming to try to outdo each other was spectacular. I’m grateful to these people for thinking so much of Christmas to do this and for being part of New York.

This was the first time we stayed in a hotel on the upper west side but it offered an opportunity to explore areas around Central Park. Wollman Rink who I have to credit “The Donald” who in 1986 stepped in to lead the renovation of the dilapidated rink allowing it to join the icons of New York tourism.

Yet there was a time when the city was unsafe as when we looked at the vestibule of the Dakota apartment building where on December 8, 1980, John Lennon was assassinated. There were pockets of unsafe places where high rise luxury apartments now exist. It was a time where it was considered foolhardy to walk through any of the green spaces especially at night and ones nicknamed Needle Park. 42nd Street was dictated by drug dealers, hookers and porno shops. And the subways were spray painted with bizarre graffiti and inhabited by homeless. With all that, we mourned the passing of our beloved Beatle and moved on.

The city recovered and it improved. Strawberry Fields was built, the parks and subways were cleaned up and 42nd Street became safe. Last week, Fifth Avenue was glittered up with the Swarovski crystal star hanging near Tiffany’s and the windows of Saks displayed a stunning re-enactment of the Snow White story compete with animated dwarfs.

Then on Monday, a pipe bomb went off at the Port Authority sending scores of people into a panic. Fortunately, the idiot who set it off was the only one hurt. The next day or maybe within hours, it was business as usual. Speeches by the mayor and governor boasted the resilience of New Yorkers claiming these citizens will not be deterred from their daily lives. That is true and has been tested time and time again.

I had a plan to meet my cousin in the meatpacking district where she lives for dinner on Saturday. Once again, I am moving on.

 

Thanksgiving As I Know It

I love Thanksgiving. Yes, it is for all the obvious reasons. The day is filled with wonderful food, it is the beginning of the Christmas Season, and lots of TV viewing that starts with the parade, and ends with a string of NFL games. For better or worse, it is the holiday family and friends gather for all of the above with the expectation of a serene day of peaceful coexistence giving thanks for all the good in your life. I am blessed.  I have the usual cast of characters to be thankful for – my husband who I love waking up to every morning, my kids who continue to want me to be part of their life, and to  the memory of my mother whose strong personality put up with more than she deserved. But there were those that have entered my life that made its impact on me and I am grateful.

Except for a bout with breast cancer fourteen years ago, and some surgeries that have rebuilt my spine and my right shoulder, I have not suffered physically. I have overcome my ailments and at the age of 66, I can say that I am relatively healthy while others much younger than I have not. Some have survived their battles while others I remember for their valiant but futile attempt to overcome their illness. I am thankful to have been one of those who survived and continue to make my life worthwhile but remember that life can change in an instant.

Living in a wonderful community with good friends and and a comfortable lifestyle makes one forget that there are others outside your walls that are less fortunate and maybe always were less entitled. I think of those who were plagued with natural disaster such as the hurricanes that hit this year in Houston and Puerto Rico. Some had the same lifestyle I had before disaster struck and others were never that better off to begin with. Why I am fortunate to be where I am is a mystery to me. Did I do something right or did I just get lucky.

When the Thanksgiving parade is over, and the ballad of “Alice’s Restaurant” by Arlo Guthrie is played and the last of the Thanksgiving dinner is done, I look forward to the Christmas Season. I am thankful for that but think it is time for me to do more to help those who are less fortunate. Not sure what that means yet but will figure it out.

 

 

My Halloween Escape

Tis the Halloween Season and every year I look forward to it. I use to enjoy it more when the kids were younger.  I had total control as to how to dress them up and would go with them running wild on the Halloween friendly-block in the neighborhood where the witch would open the door and the spooky decor would excite them. It was fun for them and for me, but there was one Halloween where I went to a party my office threw which made memories of a scare I am relieved to be able to tell with relief and humor. Here’s how it goes:

It was 17 years ago, at the height of the dot-com era and I was working for a digital marketing firm. The profile of the firm consisted of 20 – 30 somethings, mostly single, who would come to work after 10 AM. They interpreted dress down Fridays as being able to come to work wearing what they went to bed in. In other words, they were not at all like me nor I like them.

I took the job thinking the casual atmosphere would make for an understanding union between creative thinkers and a mother with three kids who came in before 8 but had to leave at 5. That theory was as wrong as wrong could get. Yet, I did have some sympathetic 40 something friends and we stuck together.

Being who this company was, instead of having an office Christmas party, the firm decided it would be more in line with their culture to have a Halloween party at Webster Hall. My friends and I decided to dress so that maybe the rest of the kids would think we weren’t as square as we usually were and could be a fun outside the office. So we pulled together whatever we could and became these “galactic hookers”.

The image was not hard to create; teased up hair, lots of makeup, a red leather jacket, short black skirt, fishnet stockings and red high heels. I have to admit, we were not lonely that night.

The problem was, when the evening ended my friends left for their homes in Manhattan and I failed to make provisions to make it back to Jersey. I got a cab without problem (remember my outfit) to the Port Authority but didn’t realize that it was after midnight and my bus stopped running!!

I am now in the Port Authority it is after midnight and in this building, I am not dressed like a galactic hooker. I am a hooker!! Realizing I am in big trouble, I went to the only restaurant that was open, some hamburger joint, and with fear in my eyes, pleaded to some bewildered server to let me sit somewhere safe so I could call a car service. In a voice of hysterical panic, I implored with the dispatcher to get me out of here as quickly as he could. He did, sending a car within minutes and I was saved.

When I arrived safely home, my husband had no clue the peril I had gotten myself into. Of course, my first mistake was thinking I could get on a bus with that outfit on. We can laugh about my stupidity now but I still wonder how I got out of the city in one piece and can tell the story with humor.

Halloween

Hear Me Roar

Today I found time to sit and watch TV. My choice of shows is usually around the chefs on the Food Network and now Law & Order. But today, without many choices, I found the second movie version of Sex In The City and decided to watch it. Back in the late 90’s, I use to watch the HBO show. I was already married, raising three kids in the suburbs and thinking that everyone but me had a fabulous life in the big city going to parties and staying out late. In the earlier, single days there were fun times but not quite like what was depicted on the show. After marriage and kids, it turned into a  routine of go to work, work, work, work then run to catch the bus home. I only started to enjoy the city when I left it.  This fantasy life that I saw on TV was just that – a figment of an imaginative mind who envisioned sexy women having a grand old time while me, Cinderella, was figuratively mopping the floors.

A half hour into the movie, it was impossible to continue watching it when Charlotte had a hissy fit after her little girls made a mess of her Valentino skirt while she was making cupcakes. “Good for her”, I thought. “What fool makes cupcakes in designer skirts?” In general, the movie fell into absurdity with themes of self-centeredness, aging behavioral patterns and constant sexual glances and dialogues that seemed unnatural.

Given the latest cases of sexual harassment by the Harvey and the parental abuse of the Menendez brothers, I can’t look at this show anymore in the same way. It use to be fun to watch but it just makes me think that the sex thing was taken too lightly. I should not be surprised at abusive behavior as it seems more prevalent than I care to admit. Just because the men and women in my life were respectful, hard-working and kind human beings it should not have led me to believe all the world is like that or should be. I’m not surprised that the abusers considered themselves beyond reproach or that they considered their behavior guiltless or without fear of exposure. I’m surprised they considered their actions acceptable. What kind of people are these?

It took 2 New York publications (first in The New Yorker then in the NY Times) to uncover the Weinstein abuse. What I find interesting is that some of the abused women  tried to report their attacker but were unsupported and left feeling they had no alternative than to suffer in silence. I’m glad Weinstein was exposed. He should be arrested. He represents all that is evil. I can only hope that next time a woman is assaulted with unprovoked sexual attacks, she will not feel helpless.

#MeToo

 

 

My life as I wore it

I came from parents who worked in tailoring and dressmaking, both imposing their style sense on me in different ways. My mother, an excellent seamstress, leaned towards a contemporary styles except with me. My father, a dry cleaner and tailor, was conservative. Every time my mother gave him my skirts to clean, he would lengthen them 2 inches to cover my knees and then some. My mother made my wedding dress which was lovely but modest. In the heat of June, it was long sleeved and up to my neck without a hint of scandalous flesh showing.

My first career was in the garment center of New York. Nothing glamorous, just administrative but at a high profile bathing suit company. Dressing for success was important but on a secretary’s salary, that didn’t amount to much especially when you are surrounded by fashionistas. No dress down Fridays or casual Thursdays in those days. But now that I am a retired, I have a wardrobe of what I use to wear and am in jeans almost every day. I do look for a reason to get dressed up.

I admit, I love clothes, follow trends, and like to shop. I don’t always get it right but there are moments of my life relegated to memory based on what I wore and still have.

The oldest garment I have (other than my baby shoes) is the sweater I wore to Woodstock. A blue ski-style sweater that my mother shoved into my suitcase against my wishes. “Why would I need a sweater in August in upstate New York”. As we all know, the weather was terrible that weekend, cold and rainy, and that sweater was my salvation.

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On the first date I had with my future husband I wore a purple silk blouse which I have to admit was a good color on me. I liked this guy so my follow up dates involved a serious plan of garments  – a knit burgundy dress with a cowl collar when we went to dinner, cargo pants and a silk shirt when we went to a dance club and a red plaid skirt when I wanted to look like the marrying type.

I hated most maternity clothes and it bothered me to spend any money on a garment with a short lifespan and a ridiculous big bow.  Around 1990, pregnant with my youngest I bought a dress in Urban Outfitter in the city that I envisioned as the perfect maternity dress that can be worn after giving birth. My husband calling it my “pumpkin dress” and hated it. A black empire waisted jumper with a full bodice with orange pumpkins all over.  Good grief! Yes, I still have it and is now kept in a Halloween costume box (no surprise).

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Although there are many more memories within the clothes I wore, I have to conclude with a suit I made. I had started to sew and took on projects that included clothes for my children and for myself. At one point, I was looking for a job and decided to make the definitive interviewing outfit. This navy blue suit was the best thing I ever made. I spent good money on good fabric and lots of time on it.  It was made of a silk and had buttons covered with the same fabric.  The jacket and skirt were lined. I considered it a work of art and, although I have no where to wear it, I still keep it.

Surprisingly, many styles I see are the same as years ago but my clothing life has metamorphosed into lots of denim and shopping at H&M. Just before I stopped working, I learned how to dress down on Fridays and wear jeans more often. Its nice to be casual but once in a while, I’ll make my husband take me somewhere where I will wear a more dressy look. I still love the dress and do miss it.

 

 

 

Reflections

Within the last 16 years, a lot has happened yet, it surprises me how I did not notice the evolution. Within that time frame, I transformed from a corporate employee, mother of three and suburban homeowner to a retiree, babysitter and who I was before the madness started.  I was forced to retire when my company moved to Atlanta and I did not. I wasn’t one of those who couldn’t wait to be a grandmother. But when my career evolved to that of a babysitter, I found the time and enjoyment I didn’t have when I was raising my own kids.  The madness stopped when I retired, moved to a town full of farms and good people and I had the time to enjoy what is out my window. My children are now who I love from afar.

During these last 16 years,I have seen all three kids move on to higher ground. Finishing college, getting jobs, managing expenses. My older son is a father. My younger son and daughter are on  good career path. And this week, I saw my daughter handle an escape from the hurricane. My kids are all adults and I sometimes have to remember that.

At the same time, I have evolved into who I always was but did not have time to express. I lost my brother last year and with it, the remains of my life as a child. No kids, no siblings. Just me and my husband. We fill our days with travel, outdoor activities and friends just like us. Not a bad life but it was a long road and with its challenges.

In 16 years, I have become fearful and cautious and at times, a hypochrondiac. I have morned the loss of friends who lost their life over some medical condition that they did nothing to deserve. It make me wonder if I too have something undetected. Did that mosquito bite exposed me to malaria?

I am aware of and have been targeted by scam artists and dishonest people who make a career out of cheating people out of their earnings. I get emails almost weekly by the likes of someone who wants to give me 8 million dollars and all I have to do is give him my bank account number.

Yes, my world has evolved in 16 years. Personally it has gotten better but out there, it is much more of a insecure place. I can never forget how I felt that day on September 11, 2001 as I left the World Financial Center watching Tower 1 come down not knowing what I was seeing.  Did I really see what I thought I saw.

So as I live in my wonderful town I pick up eggs from a bin and leave the money in a lock box on the table. Every weekend in the fall, the roads are clogged with families driving here to pick pumpkins and apples and see the leaves turn. We don’t talk about the Koreans or ISIS. We are aware but move on. Our town is not on the radar of evil.

Sixteen years ago, on September 11, 2001, I went to work at the World Financial Center and saw the buildings come down. I am glad to be safe but will never feel completely safe again.