Saturday, October 24, 2015

What to feel when you don't know how to feel.

Lately, I've been trying to flood my psyche with happiness-inducing memes and stories and quotes, because I figure... sooner or later, something has got to stick with me.   So what have I got to be unhappy about?  If I knew the answer to that question, I might know how to help myself.

I recently figured out that I have a co-dependent personality.   For a little while, this brought some relief.  That there was a root cause for my behavior.  But now, more and more, I realize that I'm sure not going to be cut any slack by anyone based on this revelation.  The only person who can cut me any slack is me.

I have felt unhappy, lonely, and misunderstood for the majority of my life.  It's become very difficult to do anything or make any decision or say anything without second-guessing myself.   Almost impossible, really.  I'm not even sure who I am most of the time.  I think I can be a reasonably pleasant person when I try.  Other times, it feels very difficult and when that happens, I feel defeated by myself and that's when I become the angry, bitchy me.  Which leads to more second-guessing and self-condemnation.  It's a vicious circle.

I read something on Facebook about how people who have committed suicide are wrongly considered to be selfish.  This post went on about how people who are depressed enough to end their own lives truly believe that the people around them would be better off without them in the world.   I'm going to admit that I understand that thinking.  There have been times when I thought that very few people would know or care if I ceased to exist.  And sometimes I wonder .....  how fine is the line between very few people and nobody?

Maybe I just need to start cutting myself some slack.   I mean really, what are the facts?

I am NOT the most challenged, downtrodden person on the face of the earth.  Here are the facts of the past ten years:

Many of my immediate family has dispersed to other states.  Many of our most joyful holiday traditions no longer happen.  Hell, these people have essentially disappeared from my life.  I miss them more than I care to admit.

Three members of my family passed away in the span of 10 months.  One of these people was my mother.  One of these people was a 10-year-old child.  In the years since then I have experienced the deaths of people my age and people I sang with.

Roughly around the same time, I found myself fully engulfed in perimenopause - night sweats and brutal hot flashes.  I now know that my hormones had also rendered me incapable of maintaining an even keel of emotions for more than an hour or two.  Sadly, I was entirely focused on the physical issues and was dwelling on the deaths in my family,  and it took months for me to recognize that I was basically acting bat-shit crazy.

I have identified my co-dependent personality and, as I said, there was relief.  But now reality has set in.  My wacky co-dependent behavior is why I  am sitting home alone on a Saturday night.  Or, that's how it feels at the moment.

So..... what now?

How do I turn erratic behavior into something a bit more consistent - consistent, as in consistently good..... not consistently bitchy?  Hormone patches were a start.  What 's next?

How can I help myself feel more positive about "alone time"?    Since it seems to be a fact of my life,  I need to find a way to put a positive spin on it.

How do I stop beating myself up and second-guessing everything I say and do?  That's the tough one. That's where the whole co-dependent personality thing comes into play.

What is likable about me?  

I am funny - in a sarcastic way, mostly.
I am loyal.
I am creative

.....hmm, I'm sure there's more, but I don't think I'm at the point yet where I can come up with more.

So, I guess this explains why I don't know how I feel about too much these days.  Except that, mostly... I'm just afraid of messing up the rest of my life.  I'm afraid of alienating the people I care about.  I'm afraid of acknowledging that I deserve to be treated as well as I should be treating others.

Basically, I'm just afraid.   So there.   Let's move forward, shall we?

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Startling Self-Revelation

For the record, let it be known that I am NOT an Oprah devotee.  I subscribed to her newsletter, because once every ten e-mails or so, there is something interesting there.  A few days ago, the title of an article caught my eye.  You know, when you're checking off all of junk that's headed for the e-mail "trash" and suddenly.... whoa.... what's that???   The title that grabbed my attention...."The Day My Best Friend Broke Up With Me".   Yikes!   Due to my ever-present paranoia, I felt that I'd better read it, just in case, because you just never know when a useful nugget of information will present itself...
As I read it,  I felt the most weird combination of relief and horror.  This woman was me.  She was absolutely, positively ME.  The woman with a co-dependent personality disorder was her AND me. Of course, the story had an upbeat and hopeful ending, and of course my best friend has NOT broken up with me...but it left me with all sorts of questions.  But after further research, my initial suspicions were confirmed.  I have a co-dependent personality disorder.

This is a difficult thing to communicate.  Most people associate co-dependent personalities with relationships involving substance abuse.  That's what I always thought, anyway.  It seems that this is not always the case.   Now, the other issue is that we all know that it is quite unacceptable these days to blame your problems on your parents and how they raised you.  You hear this all of the time.  Yet, it seems that a lot of people with co-dependent personality issues were raised in environments that were emotionally deficient and/or abusive.  This is what I'm finding out now.  Wow!  After all of these years of trying to not be one of THOSE people, it turns out that I really am.... one of those people.

Where do I go from here?  This explains so much about my whole adult life up to now.  The lack of friends, the low self-esteem, and on and on.  And I can take steps to help myself, starting now.  I can help myself to be a better wife, friend, person... everything.   If I have the guts, that is.  Do I need to go to support group meetings?  They actually exist, come to find out, and practically in my back yard.  Yes, I have some real thinking to do about my next steps.  But at least there is so much more about my behavior that makes sense now.

For anyone who cares to learn more about this journey of self-discovery, here are some links:

This is the story on the Oprah website that started it all:

More interesting info:

Half optimism, half fear......


Monday, August 24, 2015

A Reflection on this Summer

"The Fair closed last night.  It's the end of Summer."  Every year I hear this phrase repeated on the local news broadcast.  For some reason, it always makes me irrationally annoyed.  My theory has always been that it is NOT the end of Summer, at least not according to any calendar I've ever owned.  If people choose to make it be the end of their Summer...well, that's entirely up to them.  But when I heard that inevitable phrase this morning, something felt different.  I found myself silently acknowledging the hidden truth behind it.  Why?  Because this Summer has been an emotional roller coaster for me, with a very clear beginning and a very clear end.

In review...

My daughter, my only child, one of my best friends, moved to New York City to begin a new and challenging life and career.  While I am so very excited for and proud of her, I keep wondering if and when the day will come when I will wake up in the morning and not miss her.  Or at least not miss her so much that my chest hurts,  I see other people whose children have lived elsewhere and have come back to Buffalo, and I know the happiness that they are feeling.  But I don't kid myself that it is a happiness that I will ever feel.  Look, it took Buffalo 100 years to rise into one of the great cities of our country and then decline into a national joke.  I am so proud and happy that we are on the rise again, but I just don't think it will happen fast enough for someone in my daughter's profession.  She is a chef.  Can anyone guess how many new eateries we would have to add before we even come close to New York City or Boston?  If she were in almost any other line of work, I would have hope.  Right now, it all seems very permanent to me.

And speaking of New York City... I traveled with members of my Chorus to sing in various venues around Manhattan over the July 4th holiday.  I will not go into detail about the performances, because I've already done that elsewhere (Five Days in July - making Miracles with Music Notes ).   I will just say that traveling with these people, performing with these people, enduring with these people and celebrating with these people bolstered my faith in humanity.  In a way that nobody or nothing else could have or probably ever will.

It dawns on me as I am composing this that the rest of my summer had a theme of health - my health, both mental and physical.

On the physical side, I was furiously battling some upper respiratory woes in a fight that had been going on since February.  Lesson I've learned - specialists are called "specialists" for a reason.  If you are really suffering and haven't gotten to the bottom of your problem after several visits to your general practitioner, then run -don't walk - to a specialist.  What are you waiting for?  Divine intervention?   I also decided, after seeing some pictures of myself, that I had really just had it with my pudgy, bloated self.  I didn't feel terrific.  I certainly didn't look terrific.  I decided to try a program that I had been reading about off and on for months called Whole30.  Without going into the necessary copious detail needed to really understand it, Whole30 calls for eliminating foods that are known allergens and inflammatories from your diet for 30 days.  It is really about discovering if food is the source of what is ailing you (it usually is), which particular food is ailing you (could be more than one food group) and the shocking discovery that so much of what we are sold in grocery stories - even so-called "healthy" grocery stores- is just plain bad for us sometimes to the point of almost qualifying as poison.  I suspected it all along, but until I experienced feeling about 250% better after completing this 30 day program, all I can say is that I am determined to continue eating this way even though it takes a lot of planning and cooking on the weekends and even though I'm pretty sure it will be even more difficult to execute during the winter months.  No wonder Europe doesn't want anything to do with our food.  Amazing!!

On the mental side, I've really been exploring the major relationships in my life this summer.  I  don't have many of them any more, but the ones that I do have are pretty complex.    It has been a process that started with my daughter making her permanent move to New York City and culminates with this post - although I would be pretty ignorant to think that relationships aren't continually changing - growing, shrinking, morphing, etc...

It started with identifying which relationships were even worth examining.  You know, expending energy on evaluating someone who really adds nothing to your life might not be worth it.  A person isn't necessarily valuable to you just because he or she isn't a detractor.  (Before I go any further,... I am not talking about social media "friends" and other acquaintances here.  I'm talking about truly major relationships created and built due to either blood, time, proximity, experience or any combination of these things.)  So, over the course of this summer, I've thought about these special people in my life - the good aspects, the not-so-good, the downright infuriating stuff, and I've  parsed them down into two groups.

- The "Time for Radical Change" group

 If someone contributes a whole lot more bad than good to me and my mental well-being, it's time to create some distance from that person.  I've heard the term "toxic" relationship being used in print.  That's way too general for my liking.  If two people have any kind of history together, their interactions are usually much more complex than that. No relationship is all bad or all good, unless you're living in some sort of magical fairy world. If it's not possible to physically cut the ties for some reason, then I have to learn how to mentally distance myself from that person.  I'm not sure yet just how I will accomplish this or if I will even be successful at all, but one thing's for sure: if it's coming down to my mental health versus this person's mental health, I'm choosing to fight for my own.

- Relationships worth fighting for.  This was the easy category to identify.

My daughter.  I know that long-distance relationships really can't be the same as the relationships we have with people in our own back yard.  What I have to do is to find a way to be done mourning the "back yard" relationship I had with her and move on to the next phase.  She is, as I said before, one of my best friends - the happy byproduct of successfully helping our children grow into adults.  Social media, for better or for worse, will be our ally, as will text messaging and e-mails.  I will be vigilant in my efforts to keep our lines of communication open, and our visits to the "Big Apple" will be highly valued, and every minute will count.

My husband.  What I have come to realize over this Summer is that he is struggling to adapt just like me.  Three months ago, I wouldn't have thought so.  We just returned from a trip to Toronto.  I had insisted that the trip not be about my birthday.  Mostly because I don't care that much about my birthday any more.  While we were there, though, it was clear that his priority was that I have a good time.  For my birthday and just simply for me.   Not all of the plans worked out as anticipated, but what spoke the loudest to me was that there actually were plans.  I loved that more than anything.  What I came away with is that we will have to grow into our empty nest.  We cannot just snap our fingers and - viola! - everything works.  I'm not sure why I ever thought it would be that easy.

My friends.  What I learned over this Summer is that, as with my daughter, just like long-distance relationships can't pretend to be backyard relationships, so too, backyard relationships can't thrive and grow if they're treated like long-distance relationships.  To me, they're like a flower bed - in your "back yard" (get it?).  You can't water and weed them through the computer or telephone.  Now of course, it's really just not that black and white all the time - is it?    But if the effort is there, the garden will flourish.  There may be a lot more weeds at some times than others, but as long as the weeds aren't allowed to overtake the flowers, everything will be OK.

Maybe the end of the Fair is the end of Summer.  I didn't even go to the Fair this year.  The Greek Festival has often been hailed as the beginning of Summer.  I didn't go to that either.  This is our life. Artificial beginnings and endings have a habit of psyching us all out.  Don't buy into it.  Try creating your own beginnings and endings and see where they take you.

Monday, August 10, 2015

August 10, 2015 Not a Bad Weekend

Checking in today with good news.  We had a nice, confrontation-free weekend.  Of course we were apart all day, both days and only met up at dinnertime.  Rather than analyzing what that might mean, I'll just accept it.   Because...... the last "episode" occurred on a weeknight....

Breathe... and one day at a time.  I am very happy that we are going to Toronto for two days, on a weekend that coincidentally falls on my birthday.  I am really not comfortable with the idea that this trip is "for my birthday".   Bill keeps teasing me that it is.  In my mind, it is NOT.  We try to go to Toronto at least once a summer, and the summer is rapidly disintegrating.  The 22-23rd just happens to be the weekend of which both of us have no other commitments.  This is not a milestone birthday, so I feel really uncomfortable thinking of this getaway as a birthday trip,  He will persist, though, because that way he gets to paint me as the self-centered jerk - at least that's how I feel when he refers to it as a "birthday trip".

<Sigh>....... one thing is for sure.  We are staying in a very cool hotel, and if it's the same type of room as last time, the room is also very cool.  I had the misfortune of getting my period the day we arrived last time.   A crushing disappointment, to say the least.  We had better make up for that misfortune this time around - bring on the wild night!  

Thursday, August 6, 2015

House Rules

I really should post an entry on days when things are going well.  Monday was a good day.  Tuesday was good until approximately 9:00PM or so when, in the interest of sharing, I told Bill about some of my social plans for the what remains of the summer.    You see, I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't.  I'm told that I "don't tell him anything".  I was also accused on Tuesday night of "yelling at him all the time."    Hmmm.... what reason could I possibly have to yell at him, I wonder?  Why would I want to hesitate about telling him things?  It couldn't possibly have to do with the fact that anything I tell him that doesn't directly involve him is met with mockery, insults or incessant grilling and critiquing...

To sum things up, here are our current house rules


 - does not clean up dishes after any meal and hasn't since he started working in the metal shop presumably because he was always "beat".   He no longer works in the metal shop.  Hasn't for months.  This along with never, EVER putting things back where he found them,.

- Plans random activities every weekend with male friend, whenever he isn't sewing insulated blankets.  Informs wife of his activities on a "need to know" basis.  All she needs to know is that he's rarely around on weekends,  He does usually show up for dinner and evening activities.  I'll give him that much.  And if I make plans for both of us, he's there.

- takes care of household tasks and chores on an "as needed" or "emergency" basis.  IE - one of his acquaintances was coming over last night, and he was frantically vacuuming and throwing clutter into bags to be hidden.

- if the wife says anything that he isn't 100% happy with or that he thinks may lead to something that he won't be happy with, he feels entitled to the use of swearing and nasty name-calling.  His idea of an ounce of prevention?  This behavior is usually followed by an extended period of nit-picking every move she makes.

- randomly intersperses periods of  light-heartedness, joking and generosity into all of the above so as to keep the wife off balance at all times.   During these periods is when sex usually occurs, which makes the wife wonder about his motivations.


- cooks and cleans up after because the alternative is to eat out all the time which is expensive and unhealthy.  After a few years of picking up after husband and putting things away, she became totally discouraged and  not only stopped picking up after him but lapsed into his patterns of bad behavior.

- Engages in one outside activity that is very important to her -  important enough to put up with the mockery, insults and critiquing he give her.  Has gotten to the point where she plans activities with friends, tells him, then thumbs her nose at him when he fusses about it.  No point in even trying to be pleasant or diplomatic.

- now feels justified in saying what's on her mind as it comes in to her mind.  Otherwise, she will be accused of "not telling him things".

- No longer holds back her anger when he degenerates into the swearing and name-calling and sometimes responds in kind. She knows that it's wrong, but in the heat of the moment, she doesn't care.

- has decided that if she is such a crashing disappointment as a wife, she might as well respect herself by sticking up for herself when arguments start.  She knows and admits that she is not perfect.  Too bad he can't do the same.

- will continue to go along with the sex as long as it continues to be better than self-gratification.  So far, so good.   They always say men are only good for one thing.  Too bad they feel the need to live down to that saying.

Those are our house rules as of today.  So the question to be answered is this - are we life partners or are we roommates with benefits?    And what happens when you can't tell the difference anymore?

Monday, August 3, 2015

A New Direction for This Blog August 3, 2015

Greetings to all who are still with me on this blog!

A few weeks ago, I started a new blog that I am actively promoting on social media.  I am going through what I will call an "interesting" phase in my life right now, and I've decided that I really need to journal my feelings.   So,  this blog is going to take the shape of a journal, and if you don't know me personally, I will be using names and places that are a part of my personal life, and I won't be bothering with extra descriptions.   If that doesn't appeal to you, then get out now; otherwise....

Mandy moved to New York City in June.  My only child is gone for the foreseeable future.  Please everyone, stop telling me what a great place it is to visit and how so many young people are returning to Western New York.  And, above all, PLEASE stop asking me about when I think she'll come here for a visit! She just started a new job, for Christ's sake!!  We have a visit planned for the end of October, which, today might as well be the end of never..

I've decided that Bill is just as mixed up as I am about our empty nest.  The problem is, he won't talk about it.  So I can't tell if he's still interested in me as his wife and partner, or if he just wants a roommate that cooks.  He seems to only be capable of thinking in terms of "me" and "I" rather than "us" and "we"-  case in point:  this birthday party at the Manor House in September.  When I told him that we might have been been back-doored into sleeping there on Saturday AND Sunday night, his response was "I have to go to work in the morning!!"  These words instantly infuriated me, and I replied "Well what the hell do you think I have planned for Monday morning?  Sitting around eating bon-bons"???  He is like this about everything.  It's like I'm some vague after-thought for him.  Without a dependent child in the mix, I guess he has no reason to think about me at all.  Today my alarm malfunctioned and I was running behind.  Now, he has made it clear that he rolls in to work at 8:30 or 9:00 and is the first one there.  I have to be downtown by 7:30.  So, I'm scrambling around, run downstairs.... and there he is at the stove, making HIS breakfast.  This is not the time he usually makes it, but he decides that today would be a good day to do so,...... because why not make Tina more late than she already is????

My choices, as I see them right now, are to either try to bring him around or to just start doing my own thing without him, just as he seems to be doing. Of course, that is not as easy as it sounds.  Social media is flooded with people posting about vacations and picnics and whatnot, which involves (duh!) groups of  people - as in someone other than me, myself and I.  I am just out of ideas on what to do about this, and maybe writing about it will help me to not turn into a complete basket case.

My mother consciously chose the path of the Lone Wolf.  For quite a few years, it seemed to work for her - until she died bitter and lonely.  Which makes me wonder if she really chose the path or was forced down it by circumstance.  At least while my father was alive, she had a partner who seemed remotely interested in her.  So, in a way, she was better off than me.  This thought does NOT make me feel better.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

More Reaping

Have you ever felt like crap about a situation that you've found yourself in, and you think you've resolved it in your mind until you read something that completely undoes you?  You think you're on the right path of resolution, then someone's perfectly innocent words just put a bulldozer right through it.

My summer sure started out in fantastic fashion.   My trip to New York with my Chorus exceeded all expectations.  The only thing wrong with it was that it was only 5 days.  Five days, and then I had this gaping, yawning hole to fill for the rest of July and August.   On our last day there, a general movement toward getting back home had gripped the group.  I was unreasonably annoyed by it to the point where I had to count to 10 more than once in order to keep myself from saying something I would regret.  I know why I felt this way.  It was simple.  I didn't want to go home.  I didn't want the best part of my summer to end because that would mean that the rest of the summer would have to begin.

Now that I am writing this down, it sounds pathetic, but sometimes the truth ain't pretty.  But there it is.  So, I came home, and I put one foot in front of the other, and I tried to block the coming weeks out of my head.  Then, yesterday I got an invite to a party on Facebook.  It's one of those parties where you are intrigued but you're afraid you won't know anyone there except the host.  So I asked another invitee, a woman around my age, what her thoughts were about attending.  Her answer?   "Saturdays are prime 'home and family' time for us during the summer.  I probably won't go.'"  A perfectly legitimate and forthright answer.  Yet, it reverberated through me to the point that I felt it necessary to write about it.

I wonder what it's like to know that no matter what sort of week you've had, there will always be one day that you can count on to be good?  "Prime Home and Family Day", to be exact.  I think the closest I've ever come to experiencing that was when my mother was still alive and we went to her house for dinner once a week.  I miss that.  I didn't realize how much I missed it until now.   I miss the idea that there are people in the world who care enough about you to carve out a specific time every week for you, and you care enough to do the same for them.   Sacrosanct time.  I can't help but wonder if I will ever know what that feels like again.  

Which leads me back to the ever-present feeling that we reap what we sow in this life that we're given, and somehow I've come to deserve this current experience.  What to do about it?  It really isn't as easy as just "making it happen".  People who've obviously done something right all these years, who already have their "Prime Home and Family Day" always say things like that, along with other unhelpful cliches like "visualize the goal, then work toward making it a reality", etc, etc.   "Making it Happen" is tough when you have no idea where to begin, and worse, when you're not sure if you have anyone to "make it happen" with.

As for that intriguing party, I'm not going to ask anyone else if they're going.  I don't want to hear any more answers like that first one.  You're probably thinking "just go to it."  Ok, and are you the type of person who just goes to parties where there's a 95% chance that you'll know absolutely nobody?  Right.  I didn't think so.  It's pathetic.  Like going to the movies by yourself.  You sit there and try to convince yourself that you're brave and independent, and all along there's this little voice at the back of your head whispering "You're pathetic".  And did I mention that the chances of my husband going are probably 95% negative?   

So, I will resume the task of putting one foot in front of the other, and I will try not to think about the weeks of absolute nothingness that are stretched out in front of me.  Maybe I need to stop reading Facebook so that I won't see the intriguing party invites that I won't accept, and I won't read about other people's family vacations.  But then, if I were to stop reading Facebook, that would just be one more hole to fill.  I don't need one more hole.  I need people for whom I want to set aside "prime home and family" time.   Maybe I can find the witch from Into the Woods, and I can give her the ingredients for her magic potion, and she can grant me my wish, and I can then find out that my wish isn't all that it was cracked up to be.    Maybe there's a positive side to my current situation, and I just have to look for it.  Or maybe not.  Maybe it just is what it is.  Yes, this is a truly pathetic post.  Sometimes, we just have to get it out and get it down in words if we're to have any prayer of moving on.  

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A New Face on an Old Friend

(If this seems like an homage to Janice Okun, it is.  I didn't always agree with her reviews, but I loved reading them.)

This looks a lot more like Christmas than Easter, no?  Yet this was the view today, Easter Sunday 2015, from the back patio of The Public House on the Lake.  This, their opening week - opening with a bang offering brunch on Easter Sunday.   Regardless of wind and weather, the atmosphere inside was warm and cozy.  Fans of the defunct Root Five will be happy to hear that the new owners of TPHOTL have maintained the basic decor and layout of its predecessor.

The service, right from the start, was exemplary.  The companion and I are experienced buffet aficionados, having run the gamut from spreads resembling something one might expect at the chuckwagon, to high-end extravaganzas offering those unpronounceable dishes that make me feel like the peasant that I am.  Nothing puts one off like poor service at a buffet.  Clear the plates, fill the coffee cups.  Very simple.  There were no issues here.  The staff was very eager to please.

On to the main topic:  food and drink.  Our first observation was of a huge and impressive chalkboard menu of craft beers, IPAs and hard ciders.  We reluctantly resisted the urge to indulge in a nontraditional Easter beverage and stuck with coffee.  I know - boring.  But bad coffee can ruin the Easter brunch experience, so I felt obligated to test it here.  This coffee was better than average - not spectacular, but definitely more than adequate.   As we made our way into the main buffet line, we were amused but appreciative of the piles of mixed plate sizes - everything from petite to manly.  The presentation of these plates was oddly charming.  This was a foreshadowing of the offerings to come, I suppose.

Salad lovers would be disappointed.  Only one large bowl of basic green leaf lettuce salad was offered, with one choice of dressing - balsamic vinaigrette.  However, there were quite a few other options for healthy eating.  The yogurt with fruit and granola was delicious.   Anyone who knows me well would be surprised to know that, upon coercion of the companion, I tried and enjoyed the smoked salmon and went back for seconds.  Another healthy option was the offerings of the carving station, with a nice selection of lean turkey, ham and roast beef - all very well prepared.  There was a disappointing lack of condiments offered for the turkey, though.  Gravy is nice, but how about some cranberry mayo or relish?  I am hesitant to offer an opinion on the vegetable medley, but I suppose if you enjoy spinach and yellow squash......  have at it!

On to the other highly enjoyable offerings.  The basic breakfast items were all nicely cooked and seasoned - particularly the scrambled eggs.  Knowing what I do about the egg mixture that most restaurants use for buffets, seasoning is critical, and TPHOTL hits it out of the park.  The companion proclaimed his loaded omelet to be "really, really good".  The pastry table offered a nice selection of muffins and danishes, but ... no bagels, toast or english muffins, so if you're looking to carbo-load on white flour bread products, you're in the wrong place.   Another deviation for me - the grits with shrimp.  I tried this for the shrimp and enjoyed it for both the shrimp and the grits.  Being a northern girl, I can't testify to the authenticity of this dish, but  - again - seasoning is key.  I don't know what was in those grits, but it made them very good indeed.  One downside was the sad offering of Belgian waffles.  One serving tray of cold cut up waffles cannot be considered as an adequate substitute for a waffle station, in my opinion.

The lunch/dinner items were in the range of tasty to divine.   My favorite was the seafood scampi which was an adventure in and of itself.  Scampi with lobster on the first round, scampi with mussels on the second round.  Who knows what was in there before my arrival and after my departure. Anyone who recalls with nostalgia the superb seafood offerings of Root Five will be happy to know that if this seafood scampi is any indication, TPHLTL should more than live up to its predecessor in that regard.

The companion saved his high praise for the cheesecake selection on the dessert table.  In particular, he gushed over the red velvet cheesecake.  Mind you, he comes from a long line of cheesecake lovers, so this might seem trivial to the reader, but it is high praise coming from him.

So there you have it.  In summary, this is a superior brunch for the money ($24.95), may not be for everybody, but definitely bodes well for the success of their regular dinner menu.

4 stars out of 5

Best Dishes:  Seafood Scampi, Omelets
Needs Work:  Belgian Waffles, Green Salad Selection (perhaps a raw vegetable station would be a nice addition.)
Missing: White Bread "stuff", Children's menu.  For future reference, parents:  If you have small children, call ahead and ask.  There were no chicken fingers, hot dogs or macaroni & cheese to be found at this brunch.
Missing but not Missed:  Mayo-based salads.  Who ever thought that picnic salads belonged on a brunch menu anyway?

I am looking forward to many enjoyable meals at this establishment!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tears, and ...... Timers?

Nobody told me about this part.

I fully realize at this point that every woman's peri-menopause experience is unique.  As women, we listen to older women warning us about "the change" in ominous tones of voice.  The focus of the warnings are usually on hot flashes and weight gain.  My mother had hot flashes for years, but her emotions never seemed to get off-keel.  I had night sweats for about a year, followed by off the charts hot flashes for about 9 months.

Then, I launched into crazy world.

I view 2014 as the lost year.  Lost because when I wasn't insane from hot flashes, I was just plain insane.  I feel like it was a non-stop series of crisises that blurred together.  Absolutely everything felt like the end of the world to me.  I was in reactionary mode every minute of every day.   Looking back on that time, I think that the worst part of it was that I knew how I was acting and sounding, but I was like some sort of addict who just could not stop the bad behavior even though I desperately wanted to.   When I wasn't acting crazy, I was profoundly sad and depressed because I felt so out of control.   I finally gave in and asked for hormone therapy.  Hallelujah!  I started to regain my real life.  I still sometimes feel twinges of insanity, but I think (hope.... pray...) that the crazy anger is gone.

STOP!  Not so fast.  That was NOT the end.  I'm now dealing with a new issue which, I'm sure, will be seen as a welcome relief comparatively, but it is, nonetheless, baffling and sometimes downright embarrassing.

Tears.   As children, we received the message loud and clear.  Grownups don't cry.  I think I saw my Mom cry once - and it was not even when my Dad died.  So what happens when you suddenly develop this feeling that you are on the verge of bursting into tears, and you feel this way pretty much all the time.  It started with me about two months ago.  See, I should have known that the "feeling normal" stuff was too good to be true.

They talk about hair loss.  Receding gums.  Nobody talks about tears.  I don't know - is this the opposite of what I was experiencing last year?

Don't get me wrong - I am so beyond relieved to have gotten a grip on my anger insanity. Comparatively speaking, this is nothing.   But, it can definitely be embarrassing, which is why it took me two months to even write about it.  I was hoping that it would go away.  Not yet, I'm afraid.

By now, you're probably wondering where the timer comes in.   I had a particular exercise in my piano book that was giving me fits.  I finally thought I'd mastered it.  I was really anxious to play it at my lesson (for about fifth and hopefully final time, I hoped!) and was proud of myself for not giving up on it.  Well, one of the pitfalls of taking lessons with your best friend as the instructor is that you occasionally start talking and end up talking the lesson away.   I think we have both gotten used to it as just an unavoidable fact of life,  and I often told her that having me as a student was never going to make her rich.  On this particular day, as I said, I really wanted to play this pesky exercise, but ... alas .... it turned out to be one of those days somehow ....  and when I heard her timer go off signifying the end of our lesson time .......  well.... you guessed it.   I remember staring straight ahead at the music and taking very deep breaths.  I was afraid to even look at her.    Somehow I regained my composure, but I drove home with tears rolling down my face.  Now really... what a stupid thing to cry about!!  I mean, really????  Really???  That may be the point at which I realized that this was the next "phase" of "the change" for me.

As I said, I am not complaining, because overall, I feel so much better than I did 8 or 10 or 12 months ago.  I guess I am just sort of bewildered by it and, yes, afraid of embarrassing myself.   Who knows how long THIS phase will last?   I guess I'd better avoid K-Mart like the plague.  There's no telling what the blue light specials could do to me.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Will To Live

Next month will mark the second anniversary of my mother's death.   It's pretty amazing that two years has passed already.  A couple of things have happened in the past week that has made me ponder her life, as well as my place in it.

We visited my cousin - our annual visit so that Bill could prepare her tax return.  She is 16 years older than me.  Many years ago, we were very close.  She was especially close to my mother, and last weekend, we were reminiscing  about her.    All of my older cousins thought that my mother was the best Aunt since, oh I don't know .... Auntie Mame, maybe?  I've had difficulty connecting this woman with the person I knew as my mother, but it finally dawned on me that she was not so different from me.  I love my daughter and wouldn't trade her for the world, but I knew enough to stop at one child, because I knew in my heart of hearts that one child was as much as I could handle, as a mother.  I do not get all mushy with maternal instinct every time I see a baby or toddler.  Babies, much like dogs and cats, seem to sense this in people, and rarely have I held someone else's baby that it hasn't started crying almost immediately.  Conversely, strange dogs and cats are drawn to me like bees to flowers. I do enjoy playing the role of the "fun Aunt" though.  Actually, I love it.  So, in this respect it seems that I am my mother's daughter.

I was in an emergency room today for the first time since my mother passed.  It felt entirely different than the countless times I'd been in the emergency room with her.  Why?  Bill commented to my sweet friend that she should feel honored that I went into the room to be with her, since I dislike emergency rooms so much.  Hmmmm.... well, this got me to thinking.

I suspect that my mother started losing her will to live when our family started fragmenting and drifting apart from one another.  She retreated to the couch in front of the TV and rarely left the house except for church and grocery shopping.  The falls started happening about 5 years before she passed - so many times that I lost count.  It occurred to me today that with the exception of her final fall in the nursing home when she broke her hip, all she ever injured when she fell was her head.  Every single time.  Wouldn't you think she might have sprained or broken something else at least once?  It was like she never had the instinct to break her fall or protect herself in any way.  Of course, this leads inevitably to the question of could I, her only child, have done more for her in her final years?  What could I have done so that she might have felt that she had more to live for?  Well, I'm not sure I could have done much in a different way.  As she so famously told me in a voice mail message once, I needed to "get my head out of my ass, stop living in my own little world, and worry about something besides myself for a change."  Nobody would ever accuse my mother of being a modern parent, that's for sure.

No, today was different, because my best friend wants to live and be healthy and whole.   Since I've known her, any time she has tripped or fallen, her instinct has been to protect herself from a truly serious injury.  I don't know if this is a conscious action or not, but either way, I am grateful for it.  And when I found out which emergency room she was in, that emergency room was the only place I wanted to be.  It was so unlike my past experiences that it was almost a relief or a validation of some sort.

I wonder what my mother thinks of me, now that she is looking down at me from the afterworld?  I no longer feel the burden of trying to gain her approval, and in an odd way, I think that has helped me become someone she would have approved of.  Someone who rushes to the emergency room out of genuine concern rather than dread, fear and obligation.  Perhaps I've almost succeeded in "getting my head out of my ass".      Thank God for giving us free will.    The will to let go of past demons.  The will to learn new skills that end up enhancing our existing skills in ways we never thought possible.  The will to shrivel up and die when we think we have nothing left worth living for.  And, the will to live when we know for certain that we have everything to live for.

Friday, February 13, 2015

In Defense of Fifty Shades

Synopsis #1:  I have just finished reading a trilogy about a man who survived a horribly abusive childhood and went on as a teenager and young adult to use deviant sexual behavior to build a defensive emotional wall between himself and anyone who might care for him.  A young woman falls in love with him and is unsophisticated enough to believe that her love can penetrate that wall.  In trusting him enough to join him in his alternate lifestyle, she in turn, gains his trust and ultimately, his love.  He no longer views the perversions as being necessary for his survival.  She has broken down the wall with her love, her compassion, and her faith in her vision of what she perceives to be the real man hiding inside of him.   They marry, have children and live happily ever after.

Synopsis #2: "When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.”

Would you be surprised if I told you that each of these scenarios describes the same three novels?  It would seem obvious to anyone of average intelligence that the sole purpose of Synopsis #2 is to sell the books to horny middle-aged women.    Synopsis #2 is actually from Amazon, written to - SURPRISE - sell the books.   I won't digress into a discussion regarding the motives of the author, who allowed this type of publicity all the while protesting that the books are truly a love story.   After all, let's face it - sex sells.   And in the spirit of honesty, I admit that I picked up the first book (in a college bookstore, of all places) out of curiosity and the desire for a little titillation.  And I got a lot of titillation, but boy did I get so much more.  Which brings me back to Synopsis #1.

What's the problem?  Here's the problem.   Since the movie hype started, I have read no less than three blogs from "Christian" websites.   Apparently, as a "Christian" woman, I am to avoid these books and the movie at all costs, because they are anti-marriage and they will encourage me to delve into an S&M adulterous relationship with a Christian Grey wannabe.  Furthermore, they will ruin my marriage by making me stray from my husband, even if it is only in my own mind.  Terrible!  It is clear that none of these blog authors actually read the books.  One of them admitted that the only basis for her conclusions was Synopsis #2 above.  Self-assured, self-righteous, prudent (prudish?) Christian women everywhere are chiming in in agreement, shouting bible verses to the skies.  I suppose I'm not surprised.  They condemn it and label it as porn.  Porn.  The penultimate four letter word that bible thumpers everywhere love to label anything they don't understand involving sex. 

I object.  I object to these religious nuts trying to tell women what to read.  I object to their pillaging of material that they have not and will not ever read in my lifetime.  I object to someone trying to make me feel immoral because I enjoy this material.  Because if they even tried to read it, they might see that it is a love story.  In which the sexual content is vital to the big picture of the story.  Is the sex a bit overdone?  Yes, I will admit that it is.  But who among us in the real world wasn't a bit obsessed with the physical aspects of their relationship with their significant other during those first few months or years?   The problem here is that none of the people who wrote these blogs or read and bought into them probably have the first clue about how they would respond if they fell in love with a sexual deviant who was a victim of child abuse.   They only know how to react in the typical judgmental fashion that has become the hallmark of the modern "Christian" faith. 

This is just one more reason why I would like to disassociate myself with the term "Christian".   I'm sure it would shock these people to know that I read the books, my husband read the books, I was not tempted to stray, and in fact my own marriage was .....shall we say ..... rejuvenated.  Yes, good upright folk everywhere, my marriage was strengthened by these books.  Not just because of the sex, but because he and I agree that this story is about so much more than sex.   A woman saved a man from a lifetime of living in a deviant emotional void with her love and her faith in the power of that love.  They were married.  They had children.  They were faithful to one another.   I happen to think that this is something that Jesus would approve of.    Please, by all means, tell me that I am un-Christian.  What a compliment that would be.    I may or may not see the movie.  I'm not sure I want to know what direction the producers went with it.   Read the damn books.  Then you can critique them.  Call them poor writing.  Declare the plot to be poorly-developed.  Call them fan fiction.  Just don't call them porn.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

One Day at a Time (Or is this the first day of the rest of my life)

I just read a quote somewhere that went something like "you have no control over yesterday or tomorrow, only today.  Take control now."  

Where to begin.  Where to begin... when you look in the mirror and wonder who's looking back.   When you have to make a conscious effort every waking minute of the day to visualize what your words and actions are going to look and sound like to those around you before you actually speak or act.

How in the world, in the name of everything sacred, did I get to this point?  I know that there have been times in the past when I've been angry or upset for extended periods of time over this or that. You don't go through the majority of your adult life with no real friends to speak of by acting like little Mary sunshine.  I can hardly blame anyone for not wanting to invest their time in a relationship with me.  By some grace of  God, I have a husband and a best friend right now, and I'd like to keep them if at all possible.  So... I just have to be brutally honest with myself about who I am.  I have to do this before I can fix me.

Ok.  Yes, this sounds like I'm bashing myself.   I know that I can be a good friend, a good wife and a valuable human being when I'm not overwhelmed by this awful anger and frustration.   I am generous and compassionate and funny .....  yes, yes I am all of those things... when I'm not angry.  When I'm angry, I become sarcastic, biting, attacking, loud, judgmental, the queen of the rhetorical question, with very high expectations of the people who I perceive as being in the wrong.  I even manage to sound loud when I write angry words.  I'm a Mean Girl.   Yes, in the simplest of terms, I'm a Mean Girl.  Nobody wants to be friends with a Mean Girl.

"Hormones" should be a four-letter word.  How can those magical chemicals that help us to create new life also tip someone like me over the edge of pique?   And yet, they have.  I could just blame them for everything, but I can't let myself off the hook that easy.  In my heart of hearts, I know that this is a problem I've had for my entire life on which perimenopause has aimed a giant magnifying glass.   What is the answer......??

In the long term, I need a release.  Something that I can use both as a prophylactic and that I can turn to when I feel myself careening out of control.   My gut tells me that it should be some sort of physical activity.  When I look back over my life I realize that my worst periods of bad behavior have happened when I wasn't doing any sort of physical activity or exercise.  I need to find this activity and make it fit in with the rest of my schedule - even if I have to fit my schedule around it.

In the short term and the long term, I have to get out of bed each morning and tell myself that this is going to be a day when I don't lash out verbally or non-verbally.  I have to remind myself that I have sent my soapbox on an extended vacation.  It is not necessarily a good combination to be gifted with the written word and to have anger management issues, and I have to measure everything I write to be sure that it has the tone that I envision myself having. So, that is another promise I make to myself every morning now.  When I am engaged in conversation, I have to keep telling myself that I am not waging some un-winnable war with the person I am talking to or talking about.  I've learned that it is an exhausting process to try to edit everything I say and write before my words become reality.  Please, God, tell me that this will eventually become instinctive.  Right now, it feels like I have an addiction that I'm trying to over come.  That sounds crazy, though, the idea that someone could be addicted to anger.  It is crazy, or is it my reality?

Mostly right now, I just feel sad.   I find myself wondering how many people I've alienated over the years that I don't even know about.  I don't want to be the person that people are forced to put up with out of obligation, but I feel that way almost all of the time these days.

I only have control over today.   Every day that I get through on an even keel is a victory.   Every measured, thought-out word that flows from my lips or my pen is a success.   I simply cannot lose the people I care about just because I can't keep it together.

I only have control over today.