What Happens When You Stop Making Plans

Back in 2010 when I moved back to Pennsylvania, post divorce, I spent a lot of time with family.  My brother Bob, who was semi-retired at that time and I would occasionally go for walks, and he’d start reflecting back on his life.  He’d ask me things like what I wanted to be remembered for.

I kept thinking,  What the hell! I’m only 55, do I have to reflect already? I’m just getting started on my new life. I want to make plans, not reflect! I thought he was getting really morbid and it worried me. But he was sort of semi-retired after a very fulfilling career as a successful president of a company and he was in his reflecting phase.

Fast forward to today – guess who’s reflecting now? I think finally turning the age when a person can successfully apply for Social Security is what’s made me princess of the dark side.  Plus, working in a place filled with nubile 20-somethings sometimes inspires you, and sometimes makes you want to drag your withering corpse to the crypt already.

I’ve been torn recently, between making plans for the success I still feel like I haven’t achieved, and saying terrible things to myself about what the point is now anyway. After all, the painful truth is I’m closer to death than birth, unless I live to be 125.

But, you know me. I sometimes slip into a funk, but I always spring back because I know a powerful truth.  When you stop making plans and following dreams, you die.  I watched that happen to my ex mother-in-law and I know it’s true.

Life is just a series of goals you set for yourself. Some goals you reach, some take you down paths you never even imagined, and some never materialize. But pursuing them is what gives you a reason to get up every morning. And achieving them makes you feel amazing. And there are a ton of people who found amazing success when they were older. You can never give up the dream of being one of them.

So, maybe it’s crazy to want to finish this screenplay, or keep pursuing the other goals I’ve set, but the alternative is so much crazier. How could a totally healthy woman, with tons of energy, in one of the best countries in the world, with limitless possibilities at my fingertips, not set goals? That would be much crazier.

The Academy Awards of Cleaning

“And the Oscar goes to (your name here) for the cleanest house in the world.”

You’ll never hear those words in your life, so for God’s sake, put down the Swiffer and go have some fun while there’s still some summer left. Or better yet, write that book/screenplay/blog post, take that class, dance in the kitchen, or climb a mountain because no one is ever going to say, “Wow didn’t we have fun at (your name here)’s house last summer. It was so clean – I could have admired her floors all day long!”

I’m really writing this to myself.  I make mental notes of things that are dirty as I walk past, then they weigh on me until I take care of them.  What kind of crap is that? Who is responsible for this ridiculous behavior?

Apparently it’s hereditary because my father’s grandmother, Carolina was over the top about a clean house. It’s somewhat comforting to know heredity’s to blame although you couldn’t tell by my kids rooms.

In my observations,  Italian women come in two types, Clean and surgically clean.  The surgically clean ones cover every conceivable surface in plastic. It was a nightmare in the 60’s. Your skin peeled  off on the plastic, if you dared sit on the living room couch of a surgically clean woman

The bottom line is, I won’t make more money if I’m clean.  I won’t have more friends, neither my kids nor my dog will love me more, and statues won’t be erected memorializing my amazing cleaning arm — dust cloth in hand — raised to get that last cobweb. I will have wasted precious time that I could have spent doing more important things than cleaning.

I’ve never dumped a true friend over cleanliness, and I have to believe people don’t care about mine either.  So I’m trying to stop worrying about it. It doesn’t matter. I have yet to see a talk show host ask to interview someone because she or he has great cleaning habits. And I’ve never seen a tombstone that said, “Here lies Sponge Girl, she won the Academy Award for the cleanest house in the universe.”

As my mom once said, “Da hell witta da houza work.  Wenna you’re dead, da houze willa still be dirty.” And she was so right. Enjoy your summer, there’s only one month left!

 

 

I Can’t Shut Up Anymore!

I know, most of you are saying, “Wait, when have you ever shut up?” But I do sometimes edit what I say here for fear of offending some readers, but I just can’t worry about it anymore!  I just watched “Chasing Coral,” a multi-award winning documentary on Netflix and was so affected witnessing the devastation of our coral reefs, I whipped into action. I am not a diver and I’m a barely capable swimmer, but this isn’t about saving coral reefs just because they’re beautiful to look at, the death of coral reefs is a very serious threat to our planet and it’s been going on for decades.

“Chasing Coral,” is all about the impact global warming is having on our coral reefs. They’re dying because the temperature of the ocean is rising. Some sources say the earth has lost half of it’s coral reefs in the last 30 years. The documentary was created and researched with the help of some outstanding scientists and marine biologists and they all agree, coral is a fundamental part of a huge ecosystem.

If there’s one thing science teaches us it’s that all life is connected. If you get rid of one thing “you” might not consider important, it affects everything else.  I’ll pick something annoying like mosquitoes. Everyone hates them. Let’s say we eradicated all mosquitoes — then what would creatures like birds and bats eat? Pretty soon all sorts of species would die, just because of stupid annoying mosquitoes. That’s the way it is with coral reefs, which are neither stupid,nor annoying. They are gorgeous and they’re home to an amazing number of fish and sea animals. If you think their death isn’t going to affect sea life, and you, you are badly mistaken. Continue reading

Tomato Fever

Summer in Pennsylvania meant stepping downstairs to a kitchen table overflowing with tomatoes.  It taught me to both love tomatoes and wonder when they were going to take over the household and squeeze me out of my room.

My father could never plant less than 20 tomato plants. Our cousin Tony would start seedlings and bring them over, then dad would go buy plants, then someone else would bring plants, so every August, tomatoes covered the basement kitchen table. Yes, basement kitchen table, because in our Italian household, one kitchen was never enough.

Even in the last two years of my dad’s life when he couldn’t plant tomatoes or dig anymore, he supervised. He wasn’t strong enough to help, so he stood in the living room’s picture window, looking out across the grassy backyard, watching me digging in his garden. I remember my hands wrapped around the wooden handle of the hoe on a sweltering July afternoon. I felt compelled to weed around all the tomatoes –grabbing the clumps of weeds with my hands and tossing them aside. I was hot, sweaty and exhausted. I  looked up and he was standing there giving me the OK sign with his hand. Nothing pleased him more than seeing his kids work their guts out. Continue reading

Life’s Magic

I spent the Fourth of July having lunch with a friend, then responsibly cleaning, doing laundry, and ironing the fat pile of clothes that sits in my room staring at me every day. I could have gone to a party, but decided to stay home and get things accomplished.

If I was any more boring, I would have to be dead. Going out would have been fun, but I told myself the same thing my ex-mother-in-law used to say, “Oh, I’ve seen lots of fireworks in my life, I don’t have to see them tonight.”

As the evening wore on, I ironed, watched a movie and a few episodes of Frankie and Grace, then heard the boom of fireworks  and regretted not going out because no matter how old I get, I never get over the thrill of seeing those cascading sparkles against the navy sky. To let in some cool night air, I flung open the short casement window at the top of the stairs and noticed, that if I stood on my tiptoes, I could see flashes and sparkles in the distance. Continue reading

The Audacity to Bloom

Jamal:name.JPGA few months ago, we had some really windy days –the kind that knock down power lines and blow my casement windows open — and a tragic thing happened. Jamal got knocked off our back stairs.

Jamal is a cactus my daughter bought years ago at Ikea. He’s one hell of a cactus. He sat ignored in my daughter’s room for about a year, then got moved to the outside stairs, where he was even more ignored. Occasionally I watered him when I remembered he was even there. But mostly he was forgotten.

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Jamal’s first bloom!

Until one day when I walked past and he had a glorious yellow bloom bursting from the top of his prickly little head. I couldn’t believe it. I took a picture, told my daughter and we were in awe of him for a few days. Then Jamal’s bloom faded and we went back to forgetting him. Continue reading

The Days of Spatula Licking are Almost Over

This week, I baked cookies because someone at work asked me to. I’m pretty easy. All you have to do is flatter me by telling me my cookies are the best you’ve ever had and I’ll bake for you too.

I also baked because one of my young co-workers lost his dad to a sudden heart attack a few weeks ago and the pain is still so raw for him that it breaks my heart. So, baking his favorite chocolate chip cookies couldn’t hurt.

Miss Milena

She had the whole thing licked clean before I could even take the picture.

As I was in the kitchen baking, my daughter was on the comfy, sage colored couch in the living room working on a paper for school. I was cleaning off the beater, wondering if she’d want to lick it like she used to when she was a kid. I hesitated, thinking she might not go for it, then offered it to her. She happily took it like she did when she was three. Continue reading

Women Always Find the Good in Each Other — Garlic helps

Theresa is the first wife of my ex-husband.

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Fran and Theresa the only two members of a very exclusive club.

She rocks.

But for years I didn’t realize that because I was married to my then husband, and his characterizations may not have been completely accurate because pesky emotion was involved.

I should have known better because the son she and my ex had together is absolutely wonderful. You don’t turn out that great if there isn’t someone molding you, and the master molder was Theresa. We only got Brandon a few weekends a month, so we were assistant molders. And I have to say, that my ex was a good dad to Brandon. He loved him completely, Brandon knew it, and that makes a big difference.

But now that my ex is my ex, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Theresa much better. It all started around the time I was getting divorced. I had the massive realization that there were going to be stories out there about me that might be one-sided, colored by emotion and, therefore possibly, not completely true.

I realized then, that for decades, I’d only been getting half the story about her and their relationship.  Much of it was factual, but much was colored by emotion, and we all know emotion is a lousy gauge for accuracy. Continue reading

Six Months of Sitting 8 Hours a Day

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Great Veggie Soup – my vegan friends will be thrilled.

I love my job writing radio commercials. Its’ great because I love writing, and because people at my workplace actually seem to appreciate my work, which will never stop thrilling me. I’ve worked plenty of places where I was not appreciated, so I know this is not the norm.  Being valued makes you shine and want to work really hard.

The tiny downside to this job is that I sit 8 hours a day.  I’m often up and down printing things and I try to walk during my lunch hour, but sitting, not only makes me a little crazy, it’s making me round.  I’ve gained close to 10 pounds since I started. I have the beginnings of what an old boyfriend used to call, “government butt.” Not a very nice term for what government employees develop by sitting all day. Continue reading

Dante vs. Cream of Wheat

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Cream of Wheat with blueberries and candied pecans, drizzled with honey.

I try to be deep, honest I do. I do my best to read classics and ponder life because I aspire to write deep, philosophical blogs. In fact, I’m currently reading Dante’s Inferno — who knew hell could be so icky? But because of the ADHD I keep denying I have, my brain prefers to escape the circles of hell and fixate on something I enjoy more, like food. This week I’m enamored with Cream of Wheat. So,  it’s Philosophy – 0 Food – 1 Continue reading