Sunday, August 31, 2014

Accentuate the Positive

It is early Sunday morning.

The cat has taken up his morning spot on one of the deck chair cushions, placed specifically for him. A squirrel is cursing me for interrupting his breakfast by moving a finch feeder. The One Million cicadas in the back yard have brought the decibels down to intermission levels.

I am sitting at the patio table, a cup of coffee cooling beside me – which is pretty impressive considering the 100% humidity.

I am looking forward at a pool party, a family bbq and two more days of downtime.

Labor Day Weekend on the Coast of Illinois.



But, across the river, in a very big hospital is a tiny little girl, the daughter of a co-worker.I have only met this cutie a couple of times but she is the person I have been thinking the most of the past few days.

She is facing a very big test. It is not the sort of test which Dora the Explorer or the Bubble Guppies could begin to help her prepare for.

Nor is it the sort of test that falls in the miscellaneous category at the back of parenting books.

There is very little grading curve. But she is one tough little cookie.

Positive is the word of the day.



As a rule, I try to use this forum for happy, silly thoughts. I don't want to compromise anyone else with my ramblings. And I certainly don't want to be that person who seeks to gain from another's difficulty.

But as a nurse, I know how important positive thinking is.

Which is why today, I am challenging you.


From this point on – for the next 24 hours – I challenge you to think and speak only positive thoughts.

No complaints.

No excuses.

And NO WHINING.



Let there be a tidal wave of positive thoughts, prayers and energy crash onto the Coast.



Have a safe and happy holiday weekend.

Laura.
(9-1-14 UPDATE - Little Girl passed her first big test and is moving forward  to be placed on the heart transplant list. Not an easy thing to do for a tiny 4 year old. Keep those positive vibes coming!)


"Accentuate The Positive"

You've got to accentuate the positive
eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
But don't mess with mister inbetween

You've got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
have faith, a pandemonium
Libel to walk up on the scene

To illustrate my last remark
Jonah in the Whale, Noah in the ark
What did they do
just when everything looked so dark

They said we better
accentuate the positive
eliminate the negative
latch on to the affirmative
But don't mess with mister inbetween
(Sam Cooke)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Happy Place

It has been a rather down and depressing week here on the Coast of Illinois. Extreme heat. Extreme storm. Extreme civil unrest.

I don't like to use this blog as a place to debate anything but happy thoughts. However, I would like to take the opportunity to say this:

St. Louis is a wonderful town. The people who live here are kind and thoughtful and try to do the right thing. Of course, there are those who live outside the Golden Rule. But we can not let them overshadow what is good about our city.

The weather likes to play by it's own rules.

So I am traveling back to a happy place.
The year is 1985ish.
Picture a young woman in a stylish khaki jumpsuit and enormous Sally Jessi Rapheal-ish glasses and a young man channeling Billy Joel, in a white button down shirt, faded jeans and white Nikes. They are out on the town for dinner at their favorite Italian restaurant. 

Yes. I stole a menu. It is hanging in my kitchen. I believe statute of limitations is up on this one.
 Rossino's no longer exists. But it was one of our first and favorite places to eat. The actual restaurant was in the basement of a rickety building on the edge of a questionable neighborhood. The tables were barely a foot apart, which made for a whole lot of crowd interaction as you were taken to your favorite booth. If you were tall, as the fifty year old head waiter was, you actually had to duck to keep from knocking yourself out on the pipes which ran along the ceiling.
Bart and I would go there when we wanted a 'fancy' dinner. Or just dinner.
Most expensive item: Strip steak for $12.50. including a crisp dinner salad, french fries or spaghetti and a glass of wine.

We always had Mateus. (Which went for $7.50 a bottle, but as noted above was included in the cost of the meal.)
He usually ordered the chicken parm or the pizza.
I ordered the spaghetti ala Natalie or the spaghetti ala Thomas. Both were baked pasta dishes. Both were in a brown butter sauce and covered in melted provolone cheese. Natalie came with two enormous meatballs under the melted cheese. Which seems sort of odd as Natalie is a girl name and these were ENORMOUS balls...
Anyway...

This was the first sit down restaurant we took our small children too. We didn't want to be that couple with the shrieking children who ruined everyone's dinner. And it was clear, from the look on the hostess's face that she didn't want this either. But our kids have always been well behaved in public and they rose to the occasion, gobbling up every bite of their kid size portions, which while not on the menu, was offered by the hunched over waiter. And as we left, the nervous hostess complimented us on our lovely children and offered them each a fortune cookie from the jar by the door. (Why an Italian restaurant had a huge jar of fortune cookies is a mystery which will never be solved.)

Cleaning your plate was VERY important here.
Bart and I ate dinner one evening before attending a concert at a nearby theater. The servings were always more than generous and while we tried our best, neither of us cleaned our plates. Normally, we took the left overs home but it was summer and we didn't want to leave melted provolone, butter sauce and chicken to ferment in our car. So, when the seventy year old hunched over waiter came to clear our plates we declined the doggy bag.
"You didn't like your food?" he asked.
"Oh no. Delicious as always" we replied.
"Then let me bag it for you. Take it home. Don't waste it." His disapproving shadow loomed over our wasteful, guilty plates.
"Thanks, but we don't want to leave it in the car." We avoided all eye contact.
"No problem. I'll but it in our refrigerator. You pick it up on the way home." He smiled. Conversation over.
We picked up the food on our way home.

Years later, we took our now teen age kids and one of our son's buddies back for dinner. We warned Zac that he would be reprimanded for not finishing his food. He looked as us in his 'You parents are so goofy' way.
And then we began to order.
Our daughter ordered the chef salad. She was informed by the now ninety year old, hunched over waiter, that that was an awfully large salad for such a tiny girl.
Zac's eyes widened.
At the end of the dinner, as the waiter cleared our table, he looked at Zac's half eaten plate of pasta and said, "you ARE taking the rest home, aren't you." (I am punctuating this with a period as there was really no question to it.)
Zac never doubted us again.

And then suddenly, Rossino's closed.
Never mind that it had been opened for a million years and the waiter was now one hundred years old, could only see his shows as his back was now unable to straighten without surgical intervention and he was clearly the only waiter working there.
I was sad.

Until Bart came home one day with a surprise. He had been working up in the neighborhood and passed the restaurant site. A construction crew was busy gutting the building, prepping it for condos. He stopped and chatted with one of the guys, reminiscing about what a wonderful place Rossino's had been. He carefully asked if maybe there was something he could take home as a keep sake for his wife.
This is what he brought home: 
I know it is difficult to see here but this baby measures 4 feet by 2.5 feet.And it is steel.
There are many great Italian restaurants in St. Louis. We have a new favorite in a different part of town. I can make a mean chick parm at home. And you can actually buy a bottle of Mateus for less than the bottle price on that old menu.
But to this day, there will never be another Rossino's.


Everyone has a favorite restaurant. But what about those places that only exist in your memories? What is your favorite of those old places? 




Saturday, August 16, 2014

Like My Butt Depends on It...

For the sake of Full Disclosure:
This is NOT a sponsored post.
(although, come on, if this subtle thing doesn't start working...)
and
This IS a blatant Self Promotion
so, please, click HERE and VOTE
you will know who's life depends on it by the end of this post.

This is how you wind up making a 17 foot long main sail:

First – marry a man who's Dad was in the South Pacific during WWII.
The South Pacific was never safer.

Okay. In all fairness, these guys were probably all of 19 years old. They made these boats with odds and ends of wood and parachute scraps.
 Second – allow your children to grow up, no longer requiring weekend trips to the zoo and the
                   park, thus giving you and your husband too much free time.
They look like their father.
 Then – Buy a satellite radio receiver which is permanently tuned to Margaritaville Radio, thus causing both you and your spouse to become inadvertent Parrotheads.
Truck sailing is mandatory at all Jimmy Buffett concerts.

After which – the above husband reads ALL the books about sailing.
I think my favorite is the one titled 'A Speck on the Sea'.
And – you foolishly convince the book reading, son of a sailor, to MAKE the wooden mast as it will look so totally awesome with the rest of the wooden boat.
This is called scarfing. Or as I refer to it - trying not to sand the crap out of your fingers.

23 feet. That is one big toothpick.

This is the very top end. That hole is where the lines for the sails thread through.
 While – you both read and re-read The Old Man and the Sea.
Think how much more popular the story would have been with the addition of ZOMBIES!

After which – the delusional husband tries to sweet talk you into MAKING a sail for the awesome wooden boat, and when that doesn't work he shows you how much more buying a sail would cost.

So – you order a sail making kit from Sailrite.
Sure. Simple...
And – you spend approximately six weekends rearranging tables, oiling the twenty-eight year old Kenmore machine, zig-zagging weird plastic-feeling fabric. And when it gets too big, you roll it and make the &*^^%^* husband help feed it through the tiny machine which until now has only made a few items of clothing, some curtains, an 8th grade dance dress and several outfits for Barbie. 
I think this is actually a picture of me working on the jib. Which was smaller. Barely.
 But when it is finished, and the bleeding has stopped (from a thumb piercing needle injury) -
You get to sail your beautiful, completely hand made boat in the Gulf of Mexico!
(Well, the Choctawhatchee Bay, which is pretty salty and very tide-y.)
That's your basic salt water splash right there.

Which shortly after – you realize that your fifty-three year old butt needs some cushions. And Sailrite also sells fabric for cushions.

So – Please! Click on the link below and VOTE.And then, take a minute to go to their website and look around. They have everything for sails as well as out door furniture cushions and so much more!
                                      SailRite Photo Contest

My butt will thank you.
After I finish cursing you and everyone else who aided in me being forced to make the cushions. So, technically, no one will die. 
Probably.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

And God said, "She shall have uncontrollable tear ducts and then I shall cut off her hormonal control."And it was so. It WAS NOT GOOD.

First off:

WARNING!

If you ARE NOT a Peri-menopausal Woman

or

If you have NEVER heard the word Peri-menopausal

or

If you are a male of ANY species

DO NOT read this post.

INSTEAD, click HERE for an appropriately MALE picture which should wipe out any possible memory of any unpleasant images the word Peri-menopausal has put into your brain.



There. Now that that's done.



I recently conversed with my GYN and it was decided that, perhaps, I should start tapering off on my hormone replacement patches. I have been on these patches for heading up on eight years, ever since one brisk November day when I walked into work so drenched in sweat that I had to change clothes. My GYN and weighed the pros and cons and determined the benefits out-weighed the risks.

One year ago, my sweet GYN suggested I try this weaning process. But she made the mistake of asking how things in my life were. Upon hearing about our oldest moving into his first grownup apartment and our youngest graduating college and moving home, We weighed the pros and cons. It was determined that 2013 was not the optimum time for decreasing my hormone stability.
2014 seemed to be much more conducive to a hormone vacation. Everyone in my little family unit is reasonably content. I have some fun plans throughout the year to look forward too and apparently I have 'amazingly firm' internal abdominal muscles. (As I have an extra twenty pounds camouflaging my external abs and this declaration was from my GYN doc, I will let you figure out how she came to this conclusion.)



So on Sunday, it was with NO very little trepidation, that I slapped on my half strength hormone patch. Sundays are such pleasant days. I spent the better part of this day on the deck, reading my stack of magazines. I told myself it is a good three months before they start playing those tear-jerking Hallmark and Folgers holiday commercials and the television gods haven't shown a clip of a newly shorn Anne Hathaway singing about the shambles that is her life in almost a year. It got a little dicey when the House Hunting couple had words over whether closer to city center was better than a large backyard, but all in all, Sunday was a good day.



And then the alarm clock went off to Monday.

My first thought: Bart seriously needs to step up his lottery ticket purchases.

This was followed by a entire fleet of thoughts flying around my head:

how cute the kids were on their first days of school

how sweet our first family dog was

how much I miss that sweet dog

which led to reminiscing about everyone I know who has passed away over the years

and how dangerous Bart's job once was

and what would I ever do without him...

By the time I got to work I was one dropped M&M away from a cry-fest.



But, I held it together.

Until I actually had to start working.



I should mention here that many of my patients receive extremely devastating news in the recovery room. And some receive extremely happy news. Either way, people start crying. I can usually maintain a quiet, supportive composure.

But not today. It went something like this:

Patient got good news.

Husband begins to cry with relief.

I hand him some tissues, offer a comforting hand on his shoulder.

I take the tissues away from him to blow MY nose, wipe my eyes and excuse myself to the bathroom.



At lunch I read a blog by one of my favorite writer/cooks.

It was about a wedding and how she began crying the minute the bride walked down the aisle.

I joined her in tears.

Sort of an emotional Band of Weeping Uteruses.



And so the day progressed.



I called Bart as I was walking to my car to give him a heads up that I was leaving work and was so relieved to hear his voice that I had to choke back a sob.

And for fun, I stepped on the bathroom scale. Because nothing says comfort like those enormous numbers which haven't budged in two months. (Unless you have been counting calories so long you sound like Rainman as you examine the cupboard for an evening snack.)


Now, it is 9:45pm.

As I sit here writing this post I have before me one half of a Figgy Piggy calzone, the last drops of Cabernet in the bottle which has been on the counter for a week and the last three hormone patches in the box.

Okay. It is an empty box.



I have weighed the pros and cons. 

Yes. Figgy Piggy. It is applewood bacon, figs and marscapone cheese wrapped in a delicious crust. Weird combo? No doubt. Delish? YES!  This delightful weirdness is from Sauce on the Side.


On a semi-related note: I have recently begun an association with two wonderful websites devoted to the journey that is Middle Age. Please take the time to check them out. They are only a click away! 
                                 Adventures of the Empty Nesters
                    (thanks for adding me to your contributors!)
                                       Midlife Boulevard
(and thank you for adding me to your on-line, facebook community!) 

I should also mention that NONE of the links or products or stores mentioned here are paid endorsements. But I will freely admit to liking them all.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Please Let There Be Nametags...

I got an invitation to a 35th High School Reunion the other day.

Let that sink in.

35th High School Reunion.



Here's the rub.

I didn't actually graduate from this particular school.

I moved away in 6th grade.

Which would actually make this my 42nd Sixth Grade Class Reunion.

(This is not helping.)



To be honest, I knew this was coming. I had a phone message about a month ago from one of the organizers, asking for a current address.

If this particular guy had called my house back in 1971 I would have had a heart attack in the "OMG! Jake* called ME! Not Francie*! But ME!" vein of heart attacks.

(of course, we didn't say OMG when I was in 6th grade. In fact, I can't think of an actual exclamation we made back then. Probably because my brain is 42 years older than it was in 1971.)



Yet, this pre-warning did nothing to fend off the shock of seeing all those names of all those people whom I haven't seen in....well...42 years. In my head I could place a face to every name. Granted, the faces were from the tiny postage stamp trading photos from picture day...(say it with me) 42 years ago.

Which is pretty good considering that I can't remember my husband's cell phone number.



What I do remember are the slumber parties-many, the seances-in which we once conjured Lincoln's ghost, the Saturday afternoons spent at the roller rink-drinking suicides. (You know, where the snack guy puts a spritz of each soda into a cup of ice.) We planned a surprise party for our 4th grade teacher. We were acutely aware of Mrs. Mose's love of Lysol spray and endured her varicose vein stories-of which I should have taken heed.

And why is that?

I suppose these people were my very first friends. Boys and Girls together. When I moved away, we had not quite entered that girls on one side of the gym, boys on the other, stage. We all liked Batman and Johnny Quest and the Monkees and the Brady Bunch.We played dodge ball and square danced.

(Stop it. There is a certain athleticism to square dancing.)

((You know I am talking to you, Bart.))



When junior high and high school happened I was one hundred miles away, experiencing the trials teendom with a whole new set of friends. I kept in touch with a couple of the girls from my first school, but we drifted apart as our life's began to revolve around other things.



And now it is 42 years later. These people have lived entire lives separate from me, as I have from them.

There is a call for photos on the invitation.

My high school photos are not theirs.



Should I send them a pic from 6th grade?

Should I even go to the reunion?

Will I be 'that weird girl with the curly hair who moved away in 6th grade'?



There is a part of me that wants to crumble the invitation up in a ball and throw it away.

But this girl:

Clearly, cheer leading has come a long way...



Really wants to say 'HI!' to Jake*, in person...





*Names have, of course, been changed to protect their pride. Mine is terminally wounded.

Monday, July 28, 2014

How I Pack for A Weekend...This IS NOT a Public Service

You have all seen them. Those color-coordinated pictures of stacks of clothing under the heading 'How To Pack for a Wedding Weekend' or 'How to Pack for a Weekend Getaway' or (my personal favorite) 'How to Pack Two Weeks Worth of Clothes in ONE Carry One Bag'.

You want to know how I pack for a weekend?

yes, it does look like a pile of laundry, what's your point?

Yup. This is pretty much what the stack of clothing looks like as I prepare to shove it into my bag for a weekend or a week. One of nearly everything I own; two of each comfy t-shirt.The time frame makes very little difference.
Perhaps it has to do with the weather fluctuations here on the Coast of Illinois. This past weekend the temp went from 97 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity of 233% to a lovely 69 degrees and -78% humidity.
It is impossible to NOT project this weather psychosis onto every destination on Priceline.
Perhaps it has to do with the waistline fluctuations of the 50 something female.
Or the mood fluctuations.
(Which is reportedly more deadly than straight-line winds brought on by the Polar Vortex responsible for our recent temperature change.)

Whatever the cause, I have never been an efficient packer. So, armed with a Pintrest Board of packing tips, I gave 'How to Pack For a Quick Trip to Chicago in May' a try.
This is what I took:
I just don't get the cardigan with everything. Yet I give it a try.


We were in the Windy City for ONE night. The Midwest was experiencing a temperate May. Chicago is only five short cornfield filled hours away from the Coast of Illinois. I wore the jeans and white blouse on the drive up. Comfy and chic for the stop at the airport, stylish for the train ride into the loop.
Bravery from the very beginning.
And then it began to rain.
My 'evening outfit' was to be the orange dress, strappy sandals and if need be, the grey cardigan.
The cardigan looked dumpy but it was too chilly to go without it.
It was too wet for the strappy sandals and I am not hip enough to pull off slip-on tennis shoes with a dress.
I finally wore the white blouse and jeans. Did I mention I had to cuff the bottoms to hide the high water mark from the walk to the hotel?
The concierge took pity on my when I asked 'where can we get dinner...dressed like this...' and set up a reservation at one of the nicer McDonalds.

Six weeks later I found myself again studying packing how-tos for a two night trip to Canada. Fool me once... I KNEW Canada was up north. And I learned my lessons from Chicago.
Here is how I packed:
Again with the cardigan. Like you really need a cardigan if it is warm enough for shorts. In fact, when I was a kid,  wearing long sleeves with shorts was a sure sign that the wearer was...on drugs! not fashion forward.

I wore jeans and a cotton shirt up. Comfortable in the car with the AC blasting. AND – this added a piece to layer should those winds of November come early. My plan was to wear the shorts and kicky cardigan for site seeing, change into the tropical dress for the Trop-Rock concert and dinner and have a spare t-shirt and cardi for the ride home.

Ontario, Canada's average summer temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit which is around 21 degrees Celsius.
The day we were there it was 98.
Celsius.

I prespired through two separate outfits, including a change of underwear.
I had to air out my tropical dress before wearing it to the concert. I didn't even unpack the cardigan.

On our walk to dinner it rained. Actually, it monsooned.
And the temperature promptly dropped back to 10 degrees...Fahrenheit.

I give up.
I have one more trip this year. (BTW-this many trips in one year are rare. The last time I had three trips in a year was back in 2000 when, thanks to friends with condos and an insane grade school teacher who thought it would be a 'great learning experience' to take 80 middle schoolers to Alabama, we took the family skiing, to space camp and to the Gulf of Mexico.)
This final trip is to the Caribbean where my weather app shows the temperature a balmy 82 degrees Fahrenheit, EVERY DAY EVEN WHEN IT RAINS.
According to Pintrest and my husband, all I need to pack are swim suits and a couple beachy dresses.

Sorry Caribbean. You are going to get snow.


(And have you noticed, these 'how to' boards NEVER show shoes or underwear. Do the travelers just not wear shoes or underwear? Do they only wear ONE pair of each? Based upon the number of 'fabu shoe' and 'fancy undies' boards I highly doubt that. STOP LYING TO ME PINTREST!)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Needing a Little Mental Vacation????

Today's regularly scheduled post 'Stop Lying to Me Pintrest or How I pack for a Three Day Weekend'  is being postponed in order to introduce you to the newest PAGE on the Coast of Illinois.
Also, after a good five hours out on the sailboat on Saturday I had only enough energy to sit on the deck and read on Sunday. 
Weekends can be tough. 

 Anyway it occurred to me that as a LandLocked Beach Bum, I needed a page dedicated to being just that. So, when you find yourself in need of a little mental vacation, stop on by and click on the SAILING page. Here you will find video or pictures or maybe a story or two.
This will not be an archived page, as I can't quite figure out how to do that so if you see something you particularly like please let me know. The photos and video will all be my particular brand of photography, unless otherwise noted. I am happy to share but would like a heads up if anyone would like to 'borrow' a photo or two. 

Now, grab a boat drink and click on over to SAILING  (note the new tab at the top of this page)....there's a nice breeze coming for the northwest today...